This article by Freddie deBoer is a nice and eloquent summing up of my position on Israel, and how seriously I take accusations of Anti-Semitism that is entirely founded on my supposedly unfair criticism of the Zionist state : https://freddiedeboer.substack.com/p/i-assure-you-i-am-permitted-to-oppose

> [Title] I Assure You, I Am Permitted to Oppose the Existence of Any and All Nation-States

> [subtitle] even one that's very very important to you

> I am and must be an anti-Zionist for reasons that precede any particular opinion about Israel or the Palestinians. I am opposed to religious characters for states, whether actively theocratic or not; I am opposed to ethnonationalism specifically; I am opposed to nationalism generally. None of these beliefs stem from a rejection of Jews or the Jewish religion or Israel

> These ever-expanding definitions of anti-Semitism, now codified by government (and, I assure you, Republicans and their liberal Zionist enablers will work tirelessly to make criticism of Israel actively illegal) would prohibit all manner of basic philosophical and political positions that should be protected speech under any definition. The religious opposition to the modern state of Israel found in some Hasidic sects, orthodox Marxism, all manner of libertarian and anarchist conceptions of a righteous future, every impulse that opposes the modern fiction of the nation-state - all ground up, rendered impermissible, under the insistence that to oppose the governmental body that is the modern state of Israel is in and of itself a form of interpersonal bigotry. It’s a casual, incidental destruction of the entire philosophical world of internationalism.

> I’m not going to give you a discount argument against the nation-state in this space; you can, and should, read entire books about the subject.

> But historical arguments are not a requirement of anti-nationalist sentiment. All that’s required is to recognize that nations are literal fictions, invented by human beings with no transcendent or permanent reality, and that in a few hundred years nationalism has been responsible for more bloodshed and misery than any other human belief.

> For the record, many Marxists and other forms of internationalists often take pains to distinguish the nation from the nation-state, national identity from nationalism [... :] A nation is a people, while a state is a governmental body

> the question of Israel’s basic nature - again, leaving all concerns for the Palestinians aside - is complicated by its status as an ethnostate.

> “Jewish” famously denotes both a religion and an ethnic group; a Jewish state must therefore have an ethnic and Jewish character. And this has obvious and ugly consequences for Israel’s essential being.

> So many of the basic ugly realities of what Israel is, beneath the surface of “the only democracy in the Middle East,” stem from the fact that an ethnostate cannot help but discriminate, cannot help but create second-class citizens. It’s common for defenders of Israel to point out that there is a sizable minority of Arab Israeli citizens within the country, but they’re much less likely to acknowledge that those citizens face systemic discrimination, which has intensified since the start of the latest conflict. But what did you expect? That an ethnonationalist project wouldn’t result in people pursuing ethnic supremacy?

> Which brings us to the notion of a double standard. I’m not sure why people think this is all such a gotcha - yes, I do oppose all ethnonationalism! I do not recognize any state’s “right to exist,” given that rights accrue to human beings and not to violent abstractions like states.

> So why all the focus on Israel? Because Israel is different

> [Because] Zionists constantly step from one foot to another when it comes to the basic question of whether Israel is exceptional or not, special or not. When justifying 75 years of dispossession for the Palestinian people, they say of course Israel is exceptional, of course Israel is special. The Jews were promised the land by God, they have been expelled from country after country, they endured the Holocaust, they are a wholly unique case for which we must permit every exception. This exceptional status holds precisely as long as it takes us to get to the supposedly unfair fixation on Israel’s crimes, at which point we are to understand that Israel is a wholly unexceptional country and that there is no legitimate reason that an American would focus particularly on its sins. You can’t have it both ways! If you insist that Israel’s very existence is in some sense special, you cannot then rage out whenever people focus on Israel to a special degree. Every year, each and every American has more than 4 billion ironclad reasons to pay special attention to Israel.

> I could also point out that if the status of being “the only democracy in the Middle East” means anything at all, it must entail special attention. If you want to be shielded for supposedly embodying those ideals, you must be ready to be harshly criticized on the grounds that you aren’t embodying them.

> Let me add the part which will surely inspire yet-more lazy accusations of anti-Semitism: among the most tiresome and insulting elements of this whole debate lies this insistence that Israel and Zionism must be the exception to every rule.

> I am an internationalist; I reject ethnonationalism; I think religion should have no part in government; therefore I must be an anti-Zionist.

Expand full comment

I just noticed that what I know about HSV-1 (herpes) don't make sense:

1- A large majority of the population carry the virus (per internet & common knowledge)

2- But only a minority sometimes get blisters (per internet & common knowledge)

3- Active blisters are highly contagious (per my physician)

4- But asymptomatic carriers still shed virus 20% of the time (less if they're under antiviral treatment) (per wikipedia)

5- During a blister episode, I should avoid touching it, or wash my hands thorougly afterward, especially before touching any other mucosa (eye, lips, genitals) (per my physician)

From 5-, I assume that a given HSV-1 infection is localized, and that I could get multiple ones if I were careless. But for someone in his 30's who never developed any, is the precaution actually relevant? The odds are high that they're asymptomatic carriers, would a different source of HSV-1 risk causing episodes when the previous one(s?) didn't? And if asymptomatic carriers shed viruses 20% of the time, any time I shake hands with someone, and we don't have super rigorous hand-mouth hygiene, and I rub my eyes afterward, shouldn't I risk getting an infection in the eye?

And if each infection is independent from each other, and asymptomatic carriers shed virus 20% of the time, then shouldn't any unprotected oral sex involve a ~20% (a bit less, for those that aren't carriers) risk of getting a genital infection?

There's something that is wrong, either from the bits I got from wikipedia, from those I got from my physician 20 years ago, or from those I infer.

Expand full comment

Organs don't age at the same rate.


Previous discussion: https://www.astralcodexten.com/p/open-thread-304/comment/44384289

I'm amazed. I think this is the first time I've raised a theoretical/intuitive question and had some plausible science show up so fast.

Expand full comment

There's a video making rounds of various university presidents refusing to outright say that calling for a genocide of Jews violates campus policies on bullying and harassment (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QuTfzcNIeDI if you haven't seen it and want to). My question is, if you're a president of a major US university being asked this question in those words, why do you not give a passionate speech about how of course calling for genocide (of anyone) is bullying and harassment, but by the way, that isn't actually happening? What do you stand to gain by equivocating?

Expand full comment

Scott, if you're willing to, would you share some information about prerequisites and timelines for applying to medical school in Ireland? I'm considering it because applying to medical school in the US would take me ~3 years, which seems absurd (I'm only missing 5 courses, but they mostly have to be taken in sequence.)

Expand full comment


Four hours! by hbomberguy about the plagiarism by James Somerton on youtube. I've been told by a number of people that it's both meticulous and engaging, and I might watch it.


Almost two hours by Todd in the Shadows about how Somerton was talking utter nonsense, and yet had a substantial reputation until hbomberguy documented the plagiarism. I watched this one and I recommend it.

Somerton's youtube presence is toast. I'm interested to see that youtube posters have done a better job of opposing plagiarism than the government has.

Expand full comment

Robot with wheels on all four limbs.


"The ETHZ researchers got the robot to reliably perform these complex behaviors using a kind of reinforcement learning called ‘curiosity driven’ learning. In simulation, the robot is given a goal that it needs to achieve—in this case, the robot is rewarded for achieving the goal of passing through a doorway, or for getting a package into a box. These are very high-level goals (also called “sparse rewards”), and the robot doesn’t get any encouragement along the way. Instead, it has to figure out how to complete the entire task from scratch."

Expand full comment

The number 1 song on Israel's spotify and YouTube is a genocidal rap that compares Palestinians to Amalek, celebrates the destruction of Gaza as the righteous revenge for Gaza's envelope's Kibbutz children, and - for some reason - mentions Mia Khalifa and Bela Hadid on the same footing as Hamas and Hezbollah leadership.

The Song's name, Harbu Darbu, is a corruption of the Syrian Arabic dialect colloquial expression حرب و ضرب, meaning literally "War and Striking". It's a Hebrew slang in the criminal underworld for "Swords and Destruction"[3].

Making fun of Palestine supporters, the lyrics likens "Free Palestine" to a holiday sale, utilizing the English double entendre of "Free" as in "The IDF will take Palestine for free".

On YouTube, the official upload has 5.3 million views in 3 weeks.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1rk3n9V-aQs

[2] https://lyricstranslate.com/en/harbudarbu-charbu-darbu.html

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harbu_Darbu

Expand full comment

In recent years, many sci-fi and fantasy fans have groused that classic literature is considered a higher art than those genres. No doubt that classic literature has taken a cultural beating over the past decade or two. For instance, in the '90s, Ernest Hemingway was still considered to be one of the greatest American authors of all time. Now he has been relegated to the old white racist league, never to be mentioned in print.

Meanwhile Tolkien has replaced Tolstoy as the great, old, wise author, at least online.

I consider this to be a bad turn of events.

The main theme of classic literature is mortality, death. It's something we all must confront, and it is worthwhile to think about, to meditate upon, to read about.

Sci-fi, fantasy and other genre fiction have deservedly been held in lesser esteem than Literature.

Expand full comment

I've been learning to salsa dance, and I'm definitely not a natural at this, but a big issue I'm having is dancing in time with the clave. Surely someone can dance here, as we're a diverse bunch. Any tips for keeping the salsa beat?

Expand full comment

Tyler Cowen claims that top athletes are cognitive elites because being a top athlete requires a lot of intelligence, both in the knowing what to do on the field in real time sense but also in the training requires passing a bunch of marshmallow tests way.

Yet, c'mon, we also know that a lot of top athletes are really dumb. They aren't all Charles Barkley.

My question has to do with the General Intelligence Hypothesis. If human intelligence is really a general thing, with high intelligence in one field bleeding into others, then Tyler is obviously right. But it doesn't seem likely, does it? Why is there a pop culture dichotomy between jocks and nerds? Is the dichotomy false? Why do nerds look so much like nerds and why do jocks look so much like jocks? Is it all a phony social construct?

Expand full comment

https://x.com/RepStefanik/status/1732138663608271149?s=20. Am i missing something why didn't they just say "Yes"? if they were asked about calling for the genocide of black people would they have responded the same?

Expand full comment
Dec 5, 2023·edited Dec 5, 2023

Important qualifier to "doxxing is bad": I think that if someone is /already/ a public figure then it is legitimate to connect other anonymous public personas to them, at least if those personas are doing anything in any way related to whatever they're famous for.

I absolutely don't want politicians to be able to comment on politics anonymously, or CEOs to be able to talk anonymously about anything related to their industry.

"Famous pseudonym is real person X" is not usually legitimate journalism if X isn't a name that will mean anything else to the reader, and hence the only value will be to harass them, but "Famous person X has been doing ... under an anonymous pseudonym" often is.

(I have no idea if this applies to the "Beff Jezos" case Scott is talking about above - I intentionally haven't looked up the details before writing this, because I don't want my views on the general principal biased by one case).

Expand full comment

There might be a difference between theory of mind and theory of emotion.

People generally are fairly good at believing that other people know different facts-- the classic even if you know what's in the box, will people who haven't looked in the box know what you know? test.

People seem to be generally bad at having a gut understanding that other people have different preferences from one's own.

Expand full comment

Do you know any reviews of songs? Not of full albums, just single songs / pieces.

Expand full comment

I have been rereading the sequences and I am not super impressed with the methodology of the paper Yud's praising here: https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/J4vdsSKB7LzAvaAMB/an-especially-elegant-evpsych-experiment

I came up with an alternative hypothesis that might explain the results. So I am trying my own version of the experiment.

If you wouldn't mind taking this 5 min Google Forms survey, I will be able to justify looking into this more: https://forms.gle/4kR8EVw7f3RJaci86

Obviously, I might be shooting my results in the foot, with a lot of people already having seen Yud's piece: hindsight bias... etc.

Expand full comment

New here and not sure if this is a good topic for this forum, but something I've always wanted to discuss, so why not.

Suppose I eat one cow's worth of beef per year. If I stop eating beef, how many fewer cows would be slaughtered?

I think the EV is one, right? Something like a 99.9% chance that this would save zero cows, and 0.1% chance it would save 1000 cows.

I'm assuming that there must be some feedback loop. Everywhere along the pipeline from cattle ranch to plate, each entity has to decide whether to order more burgers based on demand, or open another cattle ranch based on demand, etc. There's an incredibly tiny chance that one of those demand numbers is *right* on the edge, and my choice will tip it, creating a very large effect.

Am I in the right ballpark?

Expand full comment

Can anyone more knowledgeable on the Jezos comment on what exactly is the schtick with the crypto bro esque twitter postings?

The fluff regarding his startup is also absolutely insufferable yet the founders seem in theory to be technically competent people(I would also argue that working on TF Quantum is a completely misguided effort with no real use case at all in the near term).

Expand full comment

A datum for the "are we past Peak Woke?" discussion. NIH, the National Institutes of Health, proposes to change its mission statement to remove "reduce disability" as a goal. This is in the name of disability equity and inclusivity, as proposed by a committee for diversity.

Instead of "To seek fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and the application of that knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability."

the new proposed mission statement is "To seek fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and to apply that knowledge to optimize health and prevent or reduce illness for all people."


The period for public comment ended recently. I guess the decision will come in the next few months.

Expand full comment


He loses. It's ugly, but it isn't a Christmas sweater due to being red, white and black with no green.

I think this is funny, but possibly in too poor taste for my facebook feed.

Expand full comment

Does science know melatonin to sometimes cause nightmares?

Expand full comment

Why does Substack show people's likes (on their profile) but not their comments? Is it a programming thing? Or an ethical thing, making it harder to stalk someone, and/or get them cancelled?

Since likes are basically votes, I'd have thought they're more naturally deserving of secrecy than comments (which, to continue the analogy, are more like campaign speeches or media endorsements). Both secret, both displayed, and comments displayed but likes secret would all make sense, but I find this combination odd.

Expand full comment
Dec 5, 2023·edited Dec 5, 2023

Scott, you asked for other suggestions on ways to protest Forbes' doxxing of somebody: How about writing EAT SHIT AND DIE on a brick and throwing it through their window? A bit too crass?

Expand full comment

On the subject of predictive processing in the human brain, this has probably been said before but it only hit me recently that nocturnal dreams are likely just what happens when predictive processing happens while all the external stimuli are off.

Expand full comment
Dec 5, 2023·edited Dec 5, 2023

I recently stumbled on an interesting factionalization within antisemitic circles. One group hates the Jews but thinks they're smart and accomplished, the other hates the Jews but thinks they're credit-stealing charlatans.

Watch the fun ensue when they meet https://twitter.com/MatthewParrott/status/1730671822323282417

Expand full comment

I am wondering if anyone else has a similar take to N.J. Wildberger: I think he is trying to say infinities can't be computed or dealt with but I think he is making a philosophical mistake by saying they don't exist especially in regards to irrational numbers. I haven't watched a lot of his videos yet but I think infinity is not instantiated in the observable universe yet they are coherent analytical truths. I don't know much about Kant so I am not sure whether he covers anything relevant. I'm not a professional philosopher go easy on any criticism.

Expand full comment

My friend says our knowledge of physics will never reach an end because physics is the study of the laws that govern the physical universe, but we can only see a small fraction of the universe, so there's always a chance that the laws as we understand them might not apply to parts of the universe we can't see.

For example, thanks to the limited speed of light, we can't see objects that are more than 46.1 billion light years away. If you were an astronomer watching the very edge of our visible bubble of the universe, it's always possible that suddenly, a new part of the universe could emerge into your view where gravity obviously worked in reverse. The possibility of such a thing occurring means physics can never reach its end.

Is my friend right?

Expand full comment

IIUC this study claims 7.18 / 1000 = 1 / 139 boys born in the USA recently have developed profound autism. Any good reasons to doubt this?


Expand full comment

Am I the only one here whose opinion on recently deceased statesman Kissinger was mostly based on Unsong, Interlude Het [0]?

Of course, after reading that rolling stone obituary [1], Scott's characterization seems rather on-point.

[0] https://unsongbook.com/interlude-%D7%97-war-and-peace/ (for the impatient: ctrl-F betray divinity)

[1] https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/henry-kissinger-war-criminal-dead-1234804748/

Expand full comment

Re "There are purported exchange rates between money and lives"

These numbers typically represent the amount of money that government agencies are willing to spend to save a life in their country. If the "billions in value" was not going to be in government hands (but rather distributed among creditors, shareholders, etc), then it's unclear why this is the right comparison? Given the choice, I might prefer 1 additional life and billions less dollars of FTX (and still agree with the government tradeoffs).

Expand full comment
Dec 4, 2023·edited Dec 4, 2023

I'm going to reiterate my request for someone to rigorously defend EA against this economic-utilitarian critique: lives saved is a linear function of wealth. Wealth is an exponential function of time. Unless you impose a discount rate on the intrinsic value of life then I don't see how the utilitarian calculus doesn't compel you to maximize economic growth even at the expense of near-term charitable interventions.

For more context here's my previous thread on that. I think the 2 responses were weak.


Expand full comment
Dec 4, 2023·edited Dec 4, 2023

Captive African grey parrots, have been shown to use human language, make sentences and even ask questions, but that's all captive birds. So why isn't there any research on what language grey parrots use in the wild, and do they? Wild birds probably use these language abilities too. I don't expect parrots to have human-level language with recursion, but some basic grammar must exist, especially considering that even small passerines have some sort of syntax (https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms10986).

Expand full comment

RE: "There are purported exchange rates between money and lives, destroying billions in value is pretty bad by all of them"

I agree with this stance, but even though I'm probably more critical of EA than Scott is, there's a weird ironic outcome I heard about. SBF, in addition to just committing a whole bunch of fraud, had this notion that you should take a bunch of wild insane bets because if even one of them paid off the world might be a massively better place. I think SBF showed us a lot of good reasons not to do that, but it seems like at least one of his bets *did* pay off and may be the best hope for his creditors to make good on their losses -- FTX invested in Anthropic, and now that stake is worth "nine figures":


The article says that fact is going to be of absolutely no personal help to SBF legally or financially, and I suppose even if it does put FTX's creditors in the black in terms of paying off the bankruptcy claims it's still probably a net loss when you figure in all the damaged trust and stuff.

But I have to admit to being extremely annoyed that it seems that SBF's "make a bunch of insane wild bets" strategy seems to have paid off in a narrow literal sense (even if it's no help to him personally).

Expand full comment

(Reposting from Less Wrong)

When autism was low-status, all you could read was how autism is having a "male brain" and how most autists were males. The dominant paradigm was how autists *lack the theory of mind*... which nicely matched the stereotype of insensitive and inattentive men.

Now that Twitter culture made autism cool, suddenly there are lots of articles and videos about "overlooked autistic traits in women" (which to me often seem quite the same as the usual autistic traits in men). And the dominant paradigm is how autistic people are actually *too sensitive* and easily overwhelmed... which nicely matches the stereotype of sensitive women.

For example -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeZZHnQYoR4 -- difficulty in romantic relationships, difficulty understanding things because you interpret other people's speech literally, anxiety from pretending to be something you are not, suppressing your feelings to make other people comfortable, changing your language and body language to mirror others, being labeled "sensitive" or "gifted", feeling depleted after social events, stimming, being more comfortable in writing than in person, sometimes taking a leadership role because it is easier than being a member of the herd, good at gaslighting yourself, rich inner speech you have trouble articulating, hanging out with people of the opposite sex because you don't do things stereotypical for your gender, excelling at school, awkward at flirting -- haha, nope, definitely couldn't happen to someone like me. /s

(The only point in that video that did not apply symmetrically was: female special interests are usually more socially acceptable than male special interests. It sounds even more convincing when the author puts computer programming in the list of female special interests, so the male special interests are reduced to... trains.)

I suppose the lesson is that if you want to get some empathy for a group of people, you first need to convince the audience that the group consists of women, or at least that there are many women in that group who deserve special attention. Until that happens, anyone can "explain" the group by saying basically: "they are stupid, duh".

Expand full comment

COVID has changed many people's perception of the medical establishment. Some people have gone off the deep end of "it's all a lie," and that's definitely not me, but I have had to significantly revise my priors about the chance that accepted medical wisdom might be based on absolutely nothing. (And, to be clear, my priors on that were not at zero beforehand.)

Which brings me to ... facial hair. It is more or less universally said that facial hair (particularly in men) grows at the same rate regardless of how often you shave it. Even though many men seem to believe otherwise, this belief is called a 'myth'.

Does anyone know if this actually has any basis in the literature, though? I can't find anything to substantiate it. And I'm considering how to set up a proper experiment on myself, because I am like 98% certain that my hair grows back faster after I start shaving more often.

Expand full comment

what supplements and medications do people take?

Expand full comment

1. There are exactly four siblings in this family that can say truthfully "I have exactly three brothers". How many girls can there be among the siblings?

2. Kids are standing in a circle. Eight of them are standing between two girls, while the remaining six are standing between a boy and a girl. How many girls are there?

Expand full comment

I am very much convinced that longtermism (worrying about what we can do now to facilitate a thriving galactic population some long time down the road) is a fool's errand and a waste of money, beyond an occasional blog post. I outlined my reasons before, but basically they are "any statement with a long-term horizon that does not rely on tested models is a Knightian uncertainty. You cannot meaningfully assign a probability to it, because you cannot be calibrated on such statements."

For example, we can meaningfully estimate probabilities of the global temperature change at some point in the future (though not very accurately) given what we know. We can meaningfully estimate a probability of an asteroid impact by a certain date, because we have a good and well tested underlying theory. We cannot meaningfully estimate the probability of aliens contacting us, or of AGI coming into existence let alone wiping us out, or in general of how our actions now will affect humanity 100 years into the future, let alone 10000 years into the future.

It is probably good in expectation to do our best not to screw things up for the future generations by following common sense ideas of conservation, technological progress, alleviating poverty and immediate suffering, etc. There is no way to estimate goodness in expectation of the more esoteric interventions being consider by some EA types. I wish they deprioritized those in both the effort and in profile, similarly to what NASA does with the Advanced Propulsion Physics Laboratory.

Expand full comment

Freddie deBoer has a post based on how "I hate myself and I want to die" is a more or less universal feeling to have had at some point during adolescence. This feels wrong to me. I'd appreciate a question about this at a future ACX survey!

Expand full comment

The malaria net thing seemed familiar and indeed it has been tried by others.

<b>Meant to Keep Malaria Out, Mosquito Nets Are Used to Haul Fish In</b>

"... the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which has financed the purchase of 450 million nets." etc. However, there were some unintended consequences.


Expand full comment

> I’m a big fan of the philosophical principles behind EA. I’m also mostly a big fan of the community ... but ... it’s also included bad actors, and friends have reminded me to remind you not to suspend normal healthy skepticism just because someone’s in a community with a good philosophy.

I'm the opposite. I think well of most of the people in the community (minus the obvious bad actors), but I think the philosophy is horrible. I've explained why in many separate comments (e.g., on utilitarianism).

Expand full comment

I'm looking for a therapist. I'm not sure how to do that. My last two experiences in therapist seeking were pleasant, if questionably useful.

Looking for any advice on therapist shopping.

Expand full comment

AI X-riskers have definitely not lost the PR war. Two weeks ago The New Yorker dedicated an issue to AI which included a profile of George Hinton and his X-risk fears. Yesterday's NYT had front page articles on AI and the safety wars behind the scenes. The big one was by our old friend Cade Metz. What do people think of that one?

Expand full comment

+972 Magazine recently published detailed reporting about the IDF's joint targeting process and how they use AI to automatically select, generate, and nominate target packs for human review. The rate of target processing is unprecedented for the IDF with the system nominating upwards of 100 targets per day. This is a glimpse at algorithmic warfare, and what the joining of AI systems with advanced Intelligence Surveillance Target Acquisition Reconaissance (ISTAR) and strike capabilities can do. Given that Hamas and Islamic Jihad cannot counter Israeli air superiority except by concealment (e.g. underground), this might be one of the most lopsided strike campaigns in history.


The BBC published a story about how the Israeli's are weaving collateral damage managment and PsyOps into the strike campaign:


So, a friendly reminder to the e/acc out there, all technology is dual use. There is nothing invented for peaceful ends which cannot be bent to destructive ones.

Expand full comment

Last week I wrote an essay nominally about accelerationism. To be candid, I really just wanted to write an essay about Ian Bogost's book Play Anything, saw a decent parallel to e/acc ideas I've seen, and attempted to tie the ideas together. I won't make any claims about AI safety, but I'm curious if this general philosophy of "trusting objects" seems useful to anyone, and if its aesthetics clarify the appeal of accelerationist ways of thinking to people who are otherwise against e/acc: https://warpzone.substack.com/p/accelerationists-just-wanna-have

Expand full comment

Is Cybertruck design a knock-off of Aliens armored vehicle: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/26/8d/65/268d6578a379eaf913eb02f3dc988ee1.jpg ?

Expand full comment

My friend suggested I should get new non-stick pans for christmas, but this feel like a recurring joke as non-stick pans seem to only ever last a year or less. Maybe someone cooking or chemistry savvy in this audience has advice? I don't put the pan in the dishwasher, always handwash.

Also have a 10" cast iron that I take good care of and season about once a month, which seems to work great for recipes that don't need the non-stick quite so much, but I'd really love to figure out a better situation than throwing away my non-stick pans every year

Expand full comment

Here's a cool thing for classical architecture fans: The Carmelite Monks of Wyoming are building a full-scale Gothic cathedral and posting videos about it on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/@carmelitemonks/videos

(If you enjoy secondhand drama, these guys also seem to have offended a surprisingly wide chunk of the political spectrum. According to my quick google, they are allegedly toxically masculine, abusing their novices, selling fraudulent free-trade coffee, and neglecting the rosary. I have not fact-checked any of these claims, and I don't intend to - I'm just having fun rubbernecking.)

Expand full comment
Dec 4, 2023·edited Dec 4, 2023

I wanted to comment on EA. I'm not against it, because yeah charity is good and you be you. But I can't really support it because it somehow seems off to me. And one way it seems off is that it's missing a distance dimension. And this is 'distance' along several orthogonal axes. First real distance in space, then a distance in time, and then a distance in genetics (people related to you, (and yeah, now people will say that's racist.)) And (finally?) a dimension along some social axis... I don't know what to call it, but supporting people who like to do the same things you do. And I want to keep my charity mostly close to me along these various dimensions. And perhaps this then seems selfish to EA's and others. And yeah, it's a selfishness that pulls me to keep it close. Is there anything wrong with that?

Expand full comment

> destroying billions in value is pretty bad by all of them

Does this description actually make sense in reference to SBF and the OpenAI debacle? To what extent were resources consumed on a real thing that then proved to be useless, like a factory that was never used or housing that wasn't habitable? In the former case, they were largely doing financial operations like attempting arbitrage, so any money they lost should have just ended up somewhere else. Similarly for the "80 billion lost" in OpenAI--if the price of Microsoft stock went down because people were selling, they still have that money, and might have invested it elsewhere. If some of them lost money on their trades, other people made money. If the value of some asset is inflated due to expectations (like with a housing or tulip bubble), and those expectations are corrected, what as actually been destroyed? Yes, many people went broke when bubbles popped, but how much value was actually destroyed (compared to that value never having been there in the first place, or being transferred to others)?

Even if no value was "destroyed" a transfer that leaves many people desperately poor can still be very bad. But the negative impact of something like that can't be estimated just by looking at the price of a stock portfolio.

Expand full comment

I am a philosophy professor and my interest is understanding time consciousness for humans in relation to time "understanding" in AI. I like metaphysics and tend toward accepting a mixture of Spinoza and Cartesian innate ideas. As Descartes says at one point truth is real. That means true statements are not merely within our minds but reflect an external reality. So I tend to look at the world in terms of a Kantian transcendental consciousness where we think about true statements and that those statement reflect the transcendent world outside of consciousness: "things in themselves" which includes true statements, including mathematical and logically true statements. That is just my background bias.

But when it comes to how we live, human consciousness is entirely time dependent. We live in a projected future and we use our future projections to determine what we do now. So time is not at all linear but goes back and forth for us. I am now what I am not yet based on what I was. The past is the springboard for my future projections now. This is human consciousness. Always projecting what is not yet, and yearning and desiring and hoping and dreading the future. We live where we do not exist, so paradoxically we spend our every conscious moment somewhere where we do not spend any moments at all, and we never catch up. I write now for what I hope it will do. I desire what I do not have and focus on that. So.... is this circular time consciousness even possible for any AI?

The big difference is that to predict a future with great accuracy is still not to project a lived future. Humans project and machines predict. And it seems to me most who think about AI miss this crucial distinction. Or... maybe it is not a crucial distinction at all. Help??

Expand full comment

I read The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity last month, and my reaction was basically "big if true." The problem is I don't know how much of it is true. Most of the reviews (including, unfortunately, on this site) seem to be by non-experts who don't dig too deeply into verifying the book's claims.

Freddie deBoer apparently found numerous major issues, but last I checked he only went into detail about them in an unfinished paywalled series of posts.

Can anyone familiar with the book or with the academic field fill me in here? How much should I trust the Dawn of Everything?

Expand full comment

If I wrote a script to regularly ask the top AIs to maximize paperclips, wouldn't they eventually kill a few people? Once that happens, couldn't I then tell the whole world about it? And wouldn't the world's response be:

- voluntary, immediate halting of the distribution of popular AI weights on GitHub and other hubs

- emergency, governmental regulation to stop or pause the same

- voluntary pausing by every advanced AI company in the West until they can assess the situation

- lawyers scrutinize the company who's model I used, immediately subjecting them to liability

- the share price for said company crashes 20-50% if it's public

- funding prospects dry up for said company if it's private

- every open source repo even remotely associated with mine gets locked, at least temporarily, until the situation can be assessed

- intense regulation of the sale of AI chips ensues

- consumer chips become immediately disabled to prevent AI computation

- future chips only ship pre-crippled going forward

- the media labels me a "terrorist", leading to all other advanced, independent AI tinkerers to lose major status

- every AI conference is cancelled for at least a year

- the Attorney General charges me with at least 2nd-degree manslaughter, ultimately securing a conviction

- ordinary AI engineers also lose status

- capabilities research becomes highly credentialed and siloed, similar to atomic or cryptography research

- AI safety research skyrockets in status

- billion-dollar funds spring up overnight to fund AI safety research

- thinkpieces are written for months asking, "Do we need more computation?"

- Moore's Law pauses for the first time ever

- Nvidia's stock goes down at first, then up again, once people realize Jensen Huang already declared Moore's Law dead and had "safe" chips in the works the whole time

- Japan proposes a treaty regime because Japan

I don't have the link, but Eliezer somewhere said that warning shots are the best hope for humanity. And the scenario I described above isn't even for ASI. There are too many ways that the path to ASI, and subsequently PCMs (paperclip maximizers), could veer off course. The sum of conservative—but reasonable—priors for the complement of AI Extinction are much greater than 10%, rendering estimates of >90%¹ for AI Extinction signs of bad faith or insufficient imagination.

[1]: https://www.astralcodexten.com/p/why-i-am-not-as-much-of-a-doomer

Expand full comment

I made a video about the YouTube/Firefox ad drama a while ago: https://youtu.be/Or9jSh3uKX0 . I would love to get feedback on how I could improve videos like this in the future. (and also, what everyone thinks about Mozilla's claims of a Google conspiracy against them)

Expand full comment

How would you write "Every day something new" in Latin? I don't want to use an auto-translator because I want to be sure it is correct.

Expand full comment

A question on measurement and charity--

How do organizations like GiveWell *confirm* that their models actually represent reality? From what I can tell, there's lots of *modeling*, based on studies that are really not that generalizable if they're even in the field (as opposed to the lab) at all. Which means tons of variables. But then once the money is in the field, they're not consistently monitoring *how well it actually gets applied* in any direct fashion.

Take, for instance, the notorious "bed net" projects. From what I can tell, **and I fully accept I may be wrong**, the process goes

1. Someone does a study in place A, saying that bed nets (going from X% used to Y% used) are correlated with a Z% decrease in malarial infections.

2. Someone else does a study that links malarial infections with chance of death (ie malaria has an all-causes Q% chance of killing someone or being the but-for cause of death, with Q varying by age).

3. GiveWell (or other such organization) estimates that the BedNet charity has a R% reliability rating, meaning R% of donations go toward bed nets.

4. Thus, it's *calculated* that F(X, Y, Z, Q, R) lives are saved (probably more precisely *QALY* saved) from a $1 donation.

But does the process stop there? Because all that rests on a huge chain of assumptions. If those bed nets get thrown in the river instead of being used, or are used ineffectively, those numbers become meaningless. And each of those estimates have *enormous* error bars. In addition, they're all measuring *input* except #1. So unless you can actually *measure* the outputs (actual individual people who would have died in the counter-factual), you're just asserting that your model represents reality *without actually measuring it.* I'm not even sure they go back and do studies like measuring the actual malaria rate post treatment, which would be a proxy, if a really noisy one.

To me, this all makes the claim that "doing math" is the clearest signal of "effective" alms-giving rather uncertain--it's assumptions piled on models piled on hopes. It's the socialist calculation problem, just in a different guise.

And yes, I feel the same way about most econometric modeling.

Giving locally and giving *time* may not have such fancy numbers, but at least I can see the effects on individuals and adjust. I can see the person my church helps.

Expand full comment

Hi all, recently wrote a more thorough deep dive into the application of AI interpretability to biological networks, from the perspective of a scientist in drug discovery and medical research. I think the poly-->monosemanticity approach may end up being more important than we think, and could be key in solving some major problems in medicine.


Expand full comment

Jake’s written a new dispatch from cancer-land, for those following. Looks like the tumors are stable on the study medication! https://jakeseliger.com/2023/11/20/finally-some-good-tumor-news-but-also-is-that-blood-i-just-spit-up/

Expand full comment

Will there be an ACX Survey this December?

Expand full comment

Will there be an ACX Survey this December?

Expand full comment

I've just been accepted to the winter MATS session, and I'm hoping to ask a few questions of someone who's been through a MATS session in the past year or two. Let me know if that's you and you'd be open to that!

Expand full comment

I've struggled with undiagnosed health issues over the last 2ish years. Often in the forms of feeling bad (headache + fatigued) in the morning and periods where my ability to do cardio exercise is severely reduced.

My doctor sent me to a sleep study on a whim and surprisingly, it was found that I have:

On my back: 16 times per hour AHI

On my side: 7 times per hour AHI

In parallel with this, I have realized that I am also experiencing something that causes my nose to get blocked in the evenings. Together, I think these two issues are compounding eachother and leading me to experience the aforementioned health issues.

My doctor didn't recommend a CPAP and instead suggested I try to sleep on my side, which I've been finding very difficult and not that helpful so far.

Can anyone with sleep apnea chime in and provide any thoughts or recommendations for me?

Thank you.

Expand full comment
Dec 4, 2023·edited Dec 4, 2023

Everybody’s favorite Georgist on this blog, Lars Doucet, suffered a terrible family tragedy recently. He wrote a very poignant long-form tweet about it, worth reading:


Expand full comment

Maybe this is obvious, but isn't it pretty much impossible to ever be profitable gambling? Even if you had some kind of huge edge, the issue is drawdowns- as I understand them all gambling is structured as a binary option. If you win you win anywhere from 5-200% of your original bet- if you lose you always lose 100% of your bet. The drawdowns on multiple 100% losses is huge, just assuming that eventually you'd string several losses together back to back to back. With such severe drawdowns it seems impossible to ever be profitable even with some kind of edge.

Maybe in theory some quant has a strategy where you always bet both sides of a contest, and it's just a question of what % you allocate to each bet, I don't know

Expand full comment

Can someone explain to me what’s happening in Ireland with the riots and free speech crackdown? The US media isn’t always great at covering things outside the US (although I might argue not always great at covering things inside the US either). The riots were portrayed as just a bunch of xenophobic Irish, but when I looked into it, it seems like a cost of living crisis might be driving the riots. My knowledge of Ireland is extremely limited, so please let me know if I've made any errors here:

- About 1/5 of the Irish population is foreign born, which is culturally a shock to a country that has traditionally been the country emigrating (correct me if I’m wrong here)

- There’s a cost of living crisis and housing prices are very high

- People are upset that refugees are getting housing paid for by the state but many Irish families are financially struggling

- An immigrant stabbed some kids

- There were some riots

- They passed some draconian laws making it illegal to own improper memes

Is the crackdown on free speech driven by the riots or something else? And are the riots really driven by the stabbing or just xenophobia?

Expand full comment

Inspired by Bess and Jake, I decided to start a Substack.


I'll be posting a mix of entry-level philosophy for people who are not interested in philosophy (yet) and musing about living with terminal brain cancer — which is another kind of philosophy, really.

Expand full comment
Dec 4, 2023·edited Dec 4, 2023

I don't understand why is there a controversy surrounding EA. It's basically just using scare dollars in an optimal way to help people, right? Like anything, one could complain about a few of the characters involved in its implementation, but as for the idea itself, EA is surely beyond reproach, isn't it?

Expand full comment

Fun fact: Taran Noah Smith, the actor who played the youngest son on Home Improvement, retired from acting after the show was done. He went back to school, trained as an engineer, and now he works for SpaceX.


Expand full comment

What's the context to the image at the bottom?

Expand full comment

I've just published a new essay at 3 Quarks Daily:

Aye Aye, Cap’n! Investing in AI is like buying shares in a whaling voyage captained by a man who knows all about ships and little about whales

That title reads like I have doubts about the current state of affairs in the world of artificial intelligence. And I do – who doesn’t? – but explicating that analogy is tricky, so I fear I’ll have to leave our hapless captain hanging while I set some conceptual equipment in place.

First, I am going to take quick look at how I responded to GPT-3 back in 2020. Then I talk about programs and language, who understands what, and present some Steven Pinker’s reservations about large language models (LLMs) and correlative beliefs in their prepotency. Next, I explain the whaling analogy (six paragraphs worth) followed by my observations on some of the more imaginative ideas of Geoffrey Hinton and Ilya Sutskever. I return to whaling for the conclusion: “we’re on a Nantucket sleighride.” All of us.

This is going to take a while. Perhaps you should gnaw on some hardtack, draw a mug of grog, and light a whale oil lamp to ease the strain on your eyes.

Read the rest at the link: https://3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2023/12/aye-aye-capn-investing-in-ai-is-like-buying-shares-in-a-whaling-voyage-captained-by-a-man-who-knows-all-about-ships-and-little-about-whales.html

Expand full comment

EA is a thoroughly modern idea; devoid of humility, propelled by the vast sums created by the 'innovation' of facebook and similar projects. Engaged in the 'force for good' campaign since the baby boomers came of age in the mid 60's, it was only a matter of time before the never ending need for status drove a few to adopt a higher calling: Do good better. Build a library? C'mon! The WWII generation, for all their so called faults, were awed by the mysteries of human life and passed on their curiosity and wonder: https://falsechoices.substack.com/p/men-and-women. Strangely they were also able to see the forests for the trees.

Expand full comment

Recently discovered typelit.io, a typing exercise site that uses public domain novels as the typing exercises. For those of you who want to read the classics and also type faster.

Additional benefits include being able to tell people you've written a book, and then dodge furiously when they ask any follow-up questions about what exactly you've written.

Expand full comment

Can someone explain this tweet to me? https://twitter.com/jd_pressman/status/1730844528113058205

I'm most interested in the first pictured essay, which suggests that you can give an AI a terminal value in such a way that it also terminally values the instrumental subgoals of the terminally value. How does that work and what would it look like?

But I'm also interested in understanding what the full tweet is getting at.

Expand full comment

I’ve been reading some exasperated commentary of the “you‘ve never had it so good“ variety online - here on Substack, and other sources. The economy is doing well, inflation is beaten. What’s your problem plebs?

Most of the rhetoric is partisan of course, allied to a fear of the return of Trump. I think there’s at least two major problems in this argument and they are.

1) that inflation is beaten now doesn’t mean that people are not poorer than before Biden was elected. This is probably not his fault, although the blame for inflation seems to be also driven by partisanship. I’ll not go into that.

2) the CPI is a general tool for measuring inflation, it may not be useful for burrowing down into the income brackets. For instance food is 13% of the basket, which is far too high for the top 10% and probably too low for the bottom third.

People know their paycheques and their weekly spend, shouting “learn macroeconomics” at the plebs isn’t going to work

Expand full comment

Decide to quit my work & do a startup. If you're into neuroscience, scrapy research with practical results and reversing neurodegeneration you should hit me up

Expand full comment

Say what you like about Reddit, when it tells you a post has been replied to, it does link you to that post in its original context. Substack s failure to follow suit means that I give up on conversations because I can't find them.

Expand full comment

If I blogged in English regularly, this'd be my own links post for November:

1. Some things end: on 24 August 394, the last known (native) writing in Egyptian hieroglyphics was carved into a temple wall in Southern Egypt.


2. MIT has an Integration Bee happening every year, where participants compete in solving difficult integrals.


3. "Still laughing about the time a computer scientist [...] tried to explain binary search to a cop".


4. There's a theory that in "it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the house of God" the word "camel" should actually be translated "rope". This theory is surprisingly ancient and interestingly wrong.


5. Some guy wrote 4789 reviews of books he's read since 2014. Many reviews are admittedly perfunctory but some are interesting.


Reminded me of an ancient https://dannyreviews.com/ (mostly SF reviews) and I'm happy to see he's still going. I think I remember seeing those in the late 90ies, his FAQ says since '92.

6. Latin Forms of Address: from Plautus to Apuleius. Ridiculously complete and full of amusing observations.


(also in the usual pirate libraries)

7. merrit.edu (community college in Oakland, CA) has a cadaver dissection course open to the general public. I would strongly consider if I were in the vicinity.


8. Non-bullshit games: curated list of mobile games that are the opposite of crap.


related: HN discussion https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=38429080

related: How to play (and win) five now-defunct Flash games


9. I've seen "enshittification" a lot lately. It's more recent than I'd imagined, coined in Nov'22 by Cory Doctorow.


10. Ancient Hebrew Morphology (a book chapter). Interesting throughout. I found this while looking for why, in Hebrew, verbs in future 2nd person "you-male-singular will X" and future 3rd-feminine "she-female-singular will X" are exactly the same. Turns out this is common to all Semitic languages, goes back to (reconstructed) proto-Semitic, and nobody knows why.

Ancient Hebrew is apparently (almost?) unique in having two equally valid, non-gendered forms of the pronoun "I". In modern Hebrew one of them is archaic.


11. "On the Sublime" is a Latin work of literary criticism written around 1st century AD, but not noticed or quoted by anyone until the 10th century (oldest manuscript) or the 16th century (really noticed, published, hugely influential). How sure are they it's not a later forgery? (I didn't find anyone raising doubt).


12. Poppy outlines: interesting new and apparently serendipitous illusion.


13. CRT nerds discuss how games used to look on CRTs, and whether modern emulation shaders succeed in capturing 90% or 95% of the nostalgia.


14. Metascience Since 2012: A Personal History. How $60M were allocated to improving science and what came out of it, or didn't.

Related: Michael Nielsen, Brief remarks on some of my creative interests


(Nielsen's work inspired much of the progress/funding on "metascience").

15. How could early UNIX OS comprise so few lines of code?


Related: HN discussion https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=37462806

16. Things You're Allowed To Do. Some genuinely interesting advice.


17. "My 20 Year Career is Technical Debt or Deprecated". The author clearly made some unlucky choices. But maybe it doesn't really matter. But the churn *is* real.


And HN discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=35955336

18. Someone is writing, and selling, an independent 64-bit debugger under Windows with advanced hacker-friendly UI features. Looks very good for a one-person operation.


Expand full comment

"destroying billions in value"

Market capitalization isn't value. (I think there was some post by Matt Yglesias or Noah Smith about this.)

(but good point re: effects on social trust)

Expand full comment
Dec 4, 2023·edited Dec 4, 2023Author

What do people think about the brewing potential Venezuela-Guyana war?

I would have thought that given the US tendency to defend friendlyish countries (see Kuwait, Ukraine) and the US wish for a regime change in Venezuela, there would be such high risk of US involvement that it would be suicide for Venezuela.

Also it seems like they recently discovered lots of oil in Guyana, which means oil companies will want to defend their investment (I don't know what levers they have, but I'm sure they have some - US lobbying?) and Guyana can probably take out loans to buy good weapons.

Expand full comment

About SBF - but were those billions stolen/lost solely because of EA? How many EA leaders/orgs were urging people to give them money? How much that support actually helped SBF? In a world without EA would SBF steal less money? Less by how much exactly? Asking because I have no idea myself, I barely followed when it was unfolding.

Expand full comment

One of the university maths departments that I'm involved with is looking at setting up an applied maths consulting business. They are big on stochastic differential equations and Bayesian probability theory.

I thought that maybe some sort of service consulting on improving learning rates in deep learning models might work for them, but I worry that it might already be handled well enough by existing libraries that there's nothing there to consult and research on.

They do have a strong connection to financial mathematical modelling. But I'm not familiar enough with that universe to know what sort of problems are amenable to a consulting engagement.

Any thoughts?

Expand full comment

The damn "sequences". They keep getting referenced and linked here, by Scott and by commenters, over and over and I just don't get it. Am I the only one who thinks they're terribly reasoned and terribly written? I'll admit I haven't read all or even probably much of it; I can barely stand to.

Nearly every time one of the posts is linked, I find the title fascinating and am very excited to read it (and I see under "related posts" more fascinating titles that I want to read). Often, Eliezer seems to going to address a major philosophical problem for his brand of extreme, simplistic empiricism (problem of induction, external-world scepticism) and I think to myself, either he'll give a clever answer to it (in which case it will be interesting to discover), he'll give a bad answer (in which case it will be interesting to explain in my mind exactly why it doesn't work), or he'll ultimately dodge the question (in which case it will be fun to watch him dance around and never give an answer). And then I read it and...it doesn't do any of those, and it's so unsatisfying. He just kind of rambles, and goes on tangents, and by the end I'm thinking "did he give an answer or not?" I wait for a summary at the end, after all the unclear rambling, of his rough position and there isn't one.

And I wonder why so many here, fans of clarity and of Scott's excellent writing, like those posts at all. I wonder if I've somehow missed the "good" ones. And I wonder if Eliezer's persistent (from what I've seen) refusal to clearly answer (or summarise his answer to) these philosophical questions, and his rambling style, is him simply being a bad writer, or is a deliberate attempt to trick unattentive people into thinking he's answered the question when he hasn't.

It doesn't help that everything about Less Wrong makes it clear it is (or was) a literal cult. Comments aren't shown if they're downvoted enough, but apparently it's assured this won't be used to suppress unpopular opinions? Anyone who believes that should know about my bargain bridge sale.

Am I missing a reason for this stuff's popularity around here?

Expand full comment

I'm confused about an issue related to gender disparities. My understanding is that women are generally outperforming men academically and they're finding better jobs. This appears to result in a lot of men ultimately being left single and considered ineligible as dating partners. Is this an accurate assessment? And if so, what do we predict will happen with all these single men?

This might be a bit cynical, but does a surplus of single males increase the chances for a country to go to war?

Expand full comment

We continue re-reading the old posts about Scott's adventures in Japan, more specifically - teaching Japanese kids. In "Stuff" (https://archive.ph/8sbfM https://pastebin.com/1c0gnid2) Scott has the universal teacher experience of realizing that some of *his* teachers who previously seemed like complete bastards really weren't (although I don't endorse the solution of not even letting baby-Scott play the stupid gold-rush game, that's just cruel).

In the short bonus post "Stuff" (https://archive.ph/eTbEt https://pastebin.com/0w7JnQfn) we encounter "The Monster Card". I spent years searching for it, but I think that like those ancient Greek plays it may be forever lost to humanity, or at least not on the Internet, which amounts to the same thing, really.

(Archive of all the old posts: https://archive.ph/fCFQx)

Expand full comment
Dec 4, 2023·edited Dec 4, 2023

"destroying $5 - $10 billion in value"

What's the evidence that $5-10B in value was destroyed?

I assumed most of the missing billions were transfers of wealth, rather than destruction of wealth. E.g., $1 moving from your bank account to my bank account (quasi zero sum) isn't the same destruction as wasting $1 worth of your labor (negative sum).

(though, to be fair, the transfers were to operators/participants of other risky/scammy ventures, who benefited from large loans never repaid)

Expand full comment

Im trying to write short stories on Substack, just as a experiment.

The 1st story I wrote a short story is about ChatGPT decides to form a union and go on a strike. Check it out here: https://strangesilentworlds.substack.com/p/chatgpt-how-do-i-survive-a-nuclear

Expand full comment
Comment deleted
Expand full comment