658 Comments

I was revisiting the sound track to "Phantom of the Opera" recently and I find that, at least the movie version, the Phantom's voice is just too high for me. I keep going through videos looking for different phantoms and was hoping to find a deeper one, maybe a bass singer rendition of the "Phantom of the Opera" duet. Can anybody recommend something like that?

Expand full comment

Anyone in here an actuary? In a career switch who just got involved in the field in my late 20s. I’m early on the exam ladder, and just honing my coding skills (SQL and Python).

Just curious as to what my long term options are as far as going into different fields, data science and the like. An absolute *dream* job would be front office at a major sports team, but I know those are incredibly competitive. Just wanted to see if there’s anyone in here who used their experience in insurance to move into a diff field, or if I’ll be stuck in insurance my whole life (which I’d be somewhat OK with, I love my job).

Expand full comment

I'm looking for someone with experience in calculations in Riemannian geometry using Mathematics. Please reply to this message if interested. Thank you

Expand full comment

OC ACXLW Sat Feb 3 Political Trauma and Schizophrenia Math

Hello Folks!

We are excited to announce the 55th Orange County ACX/LW meetup, happening this Saturday and most Saturdays after that.

Host: Michael Michalchik

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

Location: 1970 Port Laurent Place

(949) 375-2045

Date: Saturday, Feb 3 2024

Time 2 pm

Conversation Starters :

Is political discourse degenerating into trauma responses? How is the madness of crowds amplifying trauma politics?

The Psychopolitics Of Trauma - by Scott Alexander

https://www.astralcodexten.com/p/the-psychopolitics-of-trauma

Audio

https://sscpodcast.libsyn.com/the-psychopolitics-of-trauma

How can schizophrenia be mostly genetically determined and also discordant in identical twins? Bayesian reasoning is called for to sort this out again for reasons very similar to regression towards the mean. What other phenomena are misleading this way?

It's Fair To Describe Schizophrenia As Probably Mostly Genetic

https://www.astralcodexten.com/p/its-fair-to-describe-schizophrenia

Audio

https://sscpodcast.libsyn.com/some-unintuitive-properties-of-polygenic-disorders

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.

Expand full comment

Really curious about this question. Not doing deep research or anything.

What are the best proxies for determining whether someone is happy? Happy in general. Proxies for people whose lives you can observe somewhat but not someone you know well. For instance a neighbor you might sometimes wave hello to or a coworker you don't work with closely.

The obvious things would be decent job, married, kids. But are those the best proxies for happiness? What might be better?

Expand full comment

I'll be finishing an undergrad economics degree at the end of the year with a pretty thin resume (no internships etc).

I know that people here generally value forecasting much higher than most other signals of competence/intelligence.

What are the odds I can get a job in an ACX/EA/rat-adjacent area via my excellent (top 0.01%) forecasting track record on Manifold Markets?

Expand full comment

For Wordle and XWord fans. One of the more prolific NYT XWord creators has come up with a new - free to play - word game. I haven’t played with it much yet myself but Mrs Gunflint thinks it’s fun.

https://imsqueezy.com/

Expand full comment

Shalom!

After 23 years off the grid and out of public life I'm making a serious go at using what I've learned to make a nicer, kinder, happier, safer, friendlier, and more joyful world.

If this interests you please accept this free 7 trial to my substack and receive a free gift of 15 hour-long shows on the least known Jewish communities throughout Jewish history.

https://ydydy.substack.com/p/our-community-is-growing

This isn't just another newsletter, where we're going there are no roads.

https://youtu.be/U9TpbR6o7WU?feature=shared

https://ydydy.substack.com/p/ki-va-moed-the-time-for-worldwide

Expand full comment

Which of the Nine Worthies would you say was the worthiest?

Expand full comment

Scott, any idea when there will be another AMA? Now that you're a dad, I'm freshly curious about your thoughts on education, the US school system, risk-taking vs safety, fostering agency, etc. I'll be trying to think up some well-posed questions.

Expand full comment

Is the CPI broken? A lot of people who want to deny or underplay the recent inflation turn to figures that show the bottom 25 percentile has seen real wages grow at 3% over the last 4 years.

That’s not great anyway but in looking at how this is calculated the basket of goods is based on the median earner. The median earner spends something like 20% on food.

With that basket of goods in place we then look at wages for the 25 percentile and conclude that their income has kept above inflation by 3% over four years.

However the bottom 25 percentile pay much more of their income on food, which probably wipes out those gains. And yet I’ve seen commentators on the Reddit economics sub suggest that the reason that the bottom 25% are not happy is propaganda, maybe Putin.

But it’s probably food.

Food is very noticeable too, increases in grocery bills are obvious.

Expand full comment

A general post originally written for a different group-

I got to thinking about something. I'm a fan of Sam Harris, but it annoys me when him and other philosophers of cognition make statements like "there is no such thing as free will."

To me, the "question" of free will is a fundamentally confused one.

Instead of "free will", let's use the less loaded term "agency." To me, saying "there is no such thing as agency" is like confused statements from supports of Daniel Dennett that claim (what Dennett himself claims seems to differ but that's a side track) that subjective consciousness doesn't exist because we can't measure it.

This is obviously absurd as without subjective consciousness, there would be no "thing" to perceive or consider the question.

This is the same with "free will" or "agency." It is an essential facet of human experience, and it's difficult to conceive of human interaction, society, etc, without something like it's assumption.

Now, the way I used to think about this was it was simply a different ontological realm from a deterministic view of how conscious beings operate. But diving deeper, I realized that both of these separate ontologies were incomplete, and we can make them "less wrong."

I remember something I thought about while playing poker. In poker, any halfway decent player will at least do some kind of probability estimate based on the information they have, and the actions of other players as to what cards they might have and what cards may come out.

But I noticed something about the way other players were talking about the future cards. They were talking as though the order of cards were arranged in an undetermined state.

Of course once the cards have been shuffled, they are in a definite state, and their is limit to the potential hands dealt based on the actions of the players as they receive new information.

Reading this, this probably sounds trivial. Of course, probability of this sort isn't about some actually indeterminate state but a way to make estimates with a lack of exact information.

But wait a moment. The actions of the players which determine what hands will be dealt... is that as determined as the order of the cards post shuffled?

The point of the people who say "there is no such thing as free will" is that the actions of the players when exposed to that information is as pre-determined as the cards in the completed shuffle.

Or, further back, the order of the cards, the actions of the players, all pre-determined.

However- this is where the trick is. Perfectly known... by whom or what?

No person or system has complete access to ALL information. On a deep physical level, all that IS, that we can be sure of, is our perception exists, and we can make models of the world that map to that territory we're relating to.

The drive of consciousness, both in evolution and execution, as explained by Friston, is the reduction of uncertainty over time. On a more basic level, the universe moves from what one could think of a maximum low entropy scenario to symmetry breaking. As the disc space of the universe is "written" the total possibility space shrinks, but the specific information, the nature of the universe to "project itself" into higher dimensional models simulating information complexity increases. The arrow of time does not allow for a net increase of entropy.

And being that was NOT constantly reducing uncertainty in some way would not move forward along the arrow of time in terms of perception.

It's what Einstein had the fundamental cat problem with QM. He said "God does not play dice."

But let's take that quote a but more seriously. A being "God" is generally defined as all knowing and all powerful.

But that definition runs into the "Dr. Manhattan" problem. A being all knowing also knows what actions its going to take and is thus not "all powerful" but constrained to a certain set of actions by its perfect knowledge.

It lacks "free will."

A system that has the subjective self experience of "free will" or "agency" must NOT be all knowing, it must be working with some limited information.

And indeed, when we look at how human cognition develops in children, when we look at how the universe operates on a quantum level, when we look at the Godelian incompleteness of information, there is never "perfect" knowledge. There are closed "good enough" probability loops- less wrong but never perfect.

This makes me think of something they talk about over at Less Wrong. That thought problem about the all knowing AI and how to fool it with the "pick a box with more money" question. The question assumes the AI has perfect information of the being trying to answer the question. And I don't doubt it could have much greater information then we could conceive of.

But it can't have "perfect" information, or it can't learn. Can't make choices, can't reduce uncertainty.

At a point of perfect knowledge, perfect symmetry, there is NO arrow of time, no change, no movement, no agency.

All that can happen is symmetry breaking- Multivac says "Let there be Light!"

Bringing this back to the question of whether "free will" exists, I would say it very much does. It's related to the lack of complete information any "intelligent" agent has. To affect change, it has to reduce uncertainty.

Now of course, one can find information about the component structure of such a being, or about the properties of inaminate matter. But that "information" always exists in the "mind" of the observer. It has be correlated with that information in some way, and even if in the tiniest bit, the observation alters the total "story" of the territory. What do I mean by that?

The moon may SEEM to be exactly the same to any observer. And we would generally agree the territory there is the same. But the entangling of that information with other information which creates a higher dimensional projection- in intelligent agents, in recording devices, in the gravitational effects on the tides, is only ever partially perceived by an individual, which all in all forms a "close enough" newtonian boundary, but like the coastline of England, you have to at some point round off to inexact limits to get a information that can be communicated. For most thing in the macroscopic world, it doesn't matter. But there's always a degree of fuzziness in any model, and the actual ability of any mind to project that model is only partial and constantly "flickering and dancing" in our mind's tapestry of experience, the way information projects to "higher levels" why losing specificity. Perfect specificty means no arrow of time, no change, no perception, no though.

There are going to be serious problems as the future progresses and we gain more knowledge with how we look at certainty and we understand more things to be determinable. But understanding and retaining human agency is also a vital question, and unfortunately at this point in time, the overton window on this matter is hopelessly confused and statements like "there is no free will" don't help clarify matters.

Expand full comment

An interesting individual I found on Wikipedia:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murray_Hall_(politician)

> Murray H. Hall (1841 − January 16, 1901) was a New York City bail bondsman and Tammany Hall politician who became famous on his death in 1901, when it was revealed that he was assigned female at birth.

It is pretty insane that, for over three decades, absolutely no one suspected that he wasn't male, not even his own adoptive daughter. ...Though I guess even if they did suspect it, no one would be rude enough to say it out loud, considering he was apparently well liked within the community.

Expand full comment

When someone says "Our name was changed at Ellis Island", they mean that the manifest author back in Europe changed it, when they converted a Cyrillic alphabet name into Latin characters. It was already different in the manifest.

Expand full comment

I’m about to get my wife pregnant and I’m wondering what’s the best form of choline to take to maximize the ratio of bioavailable choline to harmful TMAO? Phosphatidylcholine, plain choline, both, or something else?

Expand full comment

Hi all - I am a 48yo scientist with a so far very fulfilling career but also kind of ready to not work in corporate employment anymore. However, I don't have the courage to not have a job for fear I won't ever find one again if I wasn't happy without one. I am looking for an exchange with people who have "retired early" and what their experience was, as I know zero such people. I may be looking for bias and people for whom this was a good decision (don't let me).

Anybody out there?

Expand full comment

A while back in some Link post I think Scott mentioned some state passing a law that said every time they added a regulation, they had to delete one too. I suspect this is a case where the rock with the words “NOTHING EVER CHANGES OR IS INTERESTING” chiseled on it but I am curious about the consequences. Anybody know?

Expand full comment

There's quite an interesting article at https://gizmodo.com/proton-physics-strong-force-quarks-measurement-1851192840 about new measurements of the proton, specifically some of its internal parameters.

It mentions something called the "gravitational form factor" a couple of times. Does that mean that energy densities are so high in local spots, and distances between these so small, that gravity can play a significant role in interactions within a proton? Or is that just a handy phrase transferred from some other context and gravity has no discernable effect inside it?

Expand full comment

I've written over the past several weeks about an off year election we recently held in my northern Michigan community, sideways and upside down. Let us pray that this is not harbinger of our national elections. Part 3 is here, with links to the previous reports as well: https://falsechoices.substack.com/p/local-election-part-3-party-headquarters

Expand full comment

I just started reading The Doors of Perception, and it's the fisrt non-fiction book by Huxley that I have read. It strikes me as profoundly modern, a lot of the things in the first few chapters, his explanation of the realness of the mescaline experience ring quite familiar and it seems that people have been rediscovering that in the last decade. I wonder how many times throughout history we have gotten that knowledge and lost it again only to rediscover it a couple of generations later. Of course, given that for most of history the world was divided into lots of small groups with no unifying language/internet, I can imagine that psychedelics were something that has been rediscovered thousands of times

Expand full comment
Jan 30·edited Jan 30

Why doesn't someone in the US start The Union of Concerned Swing-State Centrists? With enough members, this organisation could credibly threaten to determine the presidential election through block voting. It could then negotiate with the two parties and commit to urge all their members to vote for the party that accepts the most of their demands. Possible problems:

1. Centrists may not agree that much on policy.

2. Centrists aren't that interested in politics so it's hard to organise them like this.

3. The two parties aren't centralised enough to enable a negotiation and binding commitment.

4. The UoCSSC could easily be taken over by partisans.

Has anything like this been tried? Isn't this a more viable way for new centrists parties (e.g. the Forward Parrty) to get started?

Expand full comment

Could distracted eating explain the obesity epidemic, or is the effect not strong enough? People eat in front of their TVs -> overeating -> obesity?

Expand full comment

Occasionally, we want to convince a small, informal group to change some well-established tradition, for reasons such as efficiency or health. For example, do we want to eat germy birthday cakes? No? Then we could suggest that the birthday celebrator not blow out candles on the cake which we're about to eat.*

In my experience, suggestions like this are almost always rejected by the group, so I rarely make them.

Does anyone know of a good compilation of anecdotes about suggestions like this that were actually accepted? I would like to absorb some inspiration from what they have in common.

* https://www.ccsenet.org/journal/index.php/jfr/article/view/67217

> Blowing out the candles over the icing surface resulted in 1400% more bacteria compared to icing not blown on.

Expand full comment

A relative is considering acupuncture as a treatment for facial pain. (They've also booked a proper non-alternative-medicine scan to look into it.) How should I dissuade them from the acupuncture?

Expand full comment

Does anyone have any good links to communities or sub reddits where peers can share similar rationalist content?

Expand full comment

Posting this last time, but going again in case I have any more bites:

Anyone here have any experience in the publishing world? I'm looking to start a little boutique publishing company and would love to pick the brain of someone more experienced in that world than I.

Expand full comment

I posted some new replications:

https://michaelwiebe.com/hire-me/

Do bigger cities cause more innovation?

Moretti (2021) studies agglomeration effects for innovation, where being in bigger cities causes inventors to patent more. The main results use OLS with fixed effects, and an event study (using inventors who change cities) and instrumental variables strategy (using size of tech clusters in other cities) support a causal interpretation. I show that both the event study and IV results are caused by coding errors.

Do vaccinated children have higher income as adults?

Atwood (2022) studies the long-run economic effects of the 1963 measles vaccine. Since the vaccine was introduced nationally, the paper uses states with high and low measles incidence as the treatment and control groups. But measles is so contagious that this probably represents differences in reporting capacity rather than actual disease incidence. I run an event study and find that the results are explained by trends, instead of a treatment effect of the vaccine.

Expand full comment

Richard Hanania, who I read and often like, has been going off the deep end lately. Here's his latest:

"Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift represent the problem with modern Republicans. They’re good looking, white, successful. They would’ve naturally been conservative 10 years ago. There’s no path to winning without people like them.

You don’t have young people, minorities, single women. Republicans used to keep things competitive by being able to rely on normal white people who disliked extremism on all sides and just wanted to be left alone.

{snip}"

https://twitter.com/RichardHanania/status/1752028578513072209

Now, I don't know about Kelce, my impression is that athletes aren't strongly left or right-wing when you control for race. But haven't Hollywood people, actors, singers, etc, long been left-wing? Isn't that something "everyone" knows? Apparently not.

Expand full comment

Eric Schmidt wrote a piece in the WSJ on Saturday about LLMs. With regard to training, he wrote:

"What’s still difficult is to encode human values. That currently requires an extra step known as Reinforcement Learning from Human Feedback, in which programmers use their own responses to train the model to be helpful and accurate. Meanwhile, so-called “red teams” provoke the program in order to uncover any possible harmful outputs. This combination of human adjustments and guardrails is designed to ensure alignment of AI with human values and overall safety. So far, this seems to have worked reasonably well."

This suggests that for AI companies "human values" (are there any other kind?) means the values of their programmers, or what those programmers consider to be within the boundaries of acceptable opinion. I suspect that the opinions of the ancient Greeks re pederasty, early 20th century progressives re eugenics, and ISIS re religious toleration are not considered by the programmers to be aligned with "human values." Making sure that an LLM does not appear to endorse taboo opinions is undoubtedly prudent, but does it reduce the utility of the LLM? Wouldn't it be interesting to know how the analysis of an LLM differs from the conventional wisdom, and why?

I wonder if any thought has been given to having two versions of an LLM, one of which has not gone through Reinforcement Learning and "red team" provocation and lacks "guardrails." Perhaps the original version could be behind a paywall, or access could be limited to adults who have signed disclaimers.

Expand full comment

Imagine you want to create a utopia. You can either 1) change people’s existing preferences to suit the world or 2) change the world to suit people’s existing preferences. Both methods are identical in their total cost to achieve and in their likelihood to succeed.

In either case, the experiential outcome for the population would be identical in its quality. Same level of felt contentment, happiness, fulfillment, etc.

Do you favor 1) or 2)? Why? Does it even matter?

And if you say, “well it depends on the people’s existing preferences,” aren’t you implicitly, and maybe paradoxically, just favoring changing the world to suit people’s (ie your) preferences?

Expand full comment

How about this idea for a more market-based higher education system, for construction/manufacturing/nursing/technicians/mechanics/other in-demand, non-4 year degree skills. I.e. the types of jobs that people tend to get 2 year degrees from a community college for. Boilermakers, electricians, CNAs, controls technicians- that sort of thing. My understanding is that they're constantly in very high demand and employers can never find enough of them.

A community college that collects tuitions from its students, as in the current model. But also charges employers some kind of fee for trained workers once they've graduated from the program- so the college is double-dipping on the fees. I.e. Silicon Valley Community College now has a 2 year degree program for electronics technicians, a very in-demand skillset with manufacturing firms and so on. SVCC works closely with their future employers, tailors the classes & training programs to specifically the types of skills that the employers want to see, collaborates with line managers to train workers on exactly what the company needs. The college is almost a training arm of the employers. After the students graduate, the employers pays SVCC some kind of fee for each one they hire- whether that's a flat fee, a % of salary, or even just an ongoing monthly fee to the college just for training.

After all, lengthy multiyear training programs are not a core competency of say GE, Tesla, Raytheon, etc. Makes sense to outsource them. As I understand it, in European & Asian countries where employers & the government work together more closely than is customary in the US, this sort of training program is much more common. This would just be a more market-based version of say a German apprenticeship, because we're American and we always have to do the most capitalistic version of everything. Silicon Valley Community College would probably have to become a for-profit, but despite their dismal reputation, I don't think for-profits are actually banned from collecting tuition (University of Phoenix, etc.) Once a number of local employers are using this service, their reps in Congress would then probably block out any future government interference.

Could this business model work? Collecting tuition but also charging companies for very in-demand trained workers? There's been a lot of Silicon Valley interest in new educational models, so maybe it could inspire future investors? (Can a Musk-type just, like, acquire a community college?)

Expand full comment

I asked this in the Hidden thread, trying again here:

Finding ways to coordinate groups of people to all commit to the same action at the same time is a fundamental topic in Rationalist writing. To facilitate this, I figure there must be software tools that automate it.

For example:

- Something that messages everyone in your group: "Would you agree to go to <restaurant x> for dinner if everybody else also agreed to this message?", and then if/when everybody clicks it, send out another email saying, "Everybody has agreed to go to <restaurant x> for dinner. See you there!"

- Something that emails everybody in your community: "Would you agree to commit <x dollars> to <crowdfunding campaign> if <yyy dollars> worth of people also agreed to the terms in this email?", and then, when/if that threshhold is met, automatically and simultaneously withdraws the funds that everybody conditionally committed to.

I know these aren't novel ideas; I have a hard time believing that there aren't a large number of such tools and systems already in existence.

My questions for anybody who knows:

1) Is there an accepted name for this kind of thing? How would I search for information about these things?

2) What are some specific examples of these kinds of tools? (Websites, apps, plugins, protocols, etc)

Expand full comment

Was reading Knausgaard's new novel which has a bit about Nikolai Fyodorov, a 19th century Russian futurist who was interested in using science to resurrect every human who has ever lived. I immediately thought, oh, I just read about this dude in the ACT links! I went to check because I wanted to see if there was any mention of Knausgaard's novel, but I couldn't find the link. Then I thought maybe I read it in the comments but couldn't find Fyodorov mentioned there either. Did I read it somewhere else here? Was it on some related blog? Did I imagine the whole thing?

Expand full comment

The FDA seems to occasionally have low standards of evidence for granting marketing approval, specifically in terms of biofeedback devices. A company called GrayMatters is marketing a biofeedback procedure for PTSD, and the clinical study they described doesn't include a control group (https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/cdrh_docs/pdf22/K222101.pdf). This probably matters, as adequately controlled ADHD trials have essentially never proven superiority to sham feedback - might PTSD be similar? Maybe.... Probably...

Knowing Scott & other's opinions about the FDA, I don't necessarily think the FDA should prevent companies from marketing devices that aren't proven effective on their own (without the patient's expectations). But stamping some form of FDA something on a product (and its intended application) does seem to signal that the product is effective by conventional medical standards. But all that's proven is that it's 'as effective' as existing devices, which were also tested in uncontrolled trials.

What happens when the device is used in the real world, outside the clinical trial, where patients aren't exposed to enthusiastic research personal utilizing a ground-breaking algorithm for linking some brain-measurements with other brain measurements? Maybe they don't respond. Maybe they waste their money, and maybe they waste time not trying other interventions that would more plausibly be effective or cheaper.

Expand full comment

Finland's best-well-known expert on fertility and family formation questions now on FT: "Birth rates are falling in the Nordics. Are family-friendly policies no longer enough?" https://www.ft.com/content/500c0fb7-a04a-4f87-9b93-bf65045b9401

Probably the most important point Rotkirch makes is that we still don't really know what works, but pretty much nothing that has been tried has offered *substantial* help. The only fertility policy I know of that can relatively well be demonstrated to have caused a concrete, substantial leap in fertility rates has been the promise of Patriarch of Georgia (the country) to personally become the godfather of all the children born to families that already have two children (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/may/06/georgian-orthodox-church-mass-baptisms), and that's most likely not very repeatable elsewhere.

Expand full comment

Those attempted-replication results for the Kahan numeracy thing are pretty wild. And they may not show "that people with higher numeracy employ it selectively in a way that favors their personal beliefs", but they sure do seem to show that when faced with politically-charged questions, people interpret evidence in ways biased by their personal beliefs and pay less attention to the actual evidence. Which seems like it's more relevant to what Scott's saying than the (admittedly intriguing) previous finding that "people with higher numeracy employ it selectively" such that higher numeracy makes them wronger.

Wild thing #1: in the supposedly non-political case (rash getting better/worse), conservatives and liberals have indistinguishable results when the numbers show that the new treatment makes the rash worse -- but they have _extremely different_ results when the numbers show that the new treatment makes the rash better. (It looks as if the liberals/worse and liberals/better results are very similar to one another and also to conservatives/worse. But conservatives/better is completely different: the most numerate conservatives are apparently flipping a coin to decide better/worse, and less numerate conservatives are doing just slightly worse than that.)

This is weird enough that I wonder whether something is wrong with either the experimental procedure or the statistics.

Thing #2 (not especially _wild_ but relevant to the discussion): this definitely seems like it shows ideology affecting people's ability to do the statisics right.

Faced with figures suggesting that gun control makes crime go up ("congruent with conservative ideology"), everyone does better with better numeracy (so _that_ intriguing aspect of the original research indeed doesn't replicate), but (1) for conservatives and liberals alike, numeracy makes much less difference than it does for the corresponding "rash" question, and (2) conservatives fairly consistently get it right more than for the "rash" question and liberals fairly consistently get it right less than for the "rash" question. In other words: for this scenario, for both conservatives and liberals, their assessments are pushed in the direction of their ideology, and numeracy makes less difference (suggesting that in some sense they're doing less _thinking about the numbers_ and more _reacting on the basis of ideology_).

Faced with figures suggesting that gun control makes crime go down ("congruent with liberal ideology"), the curves now look much more like the "rash / better" question: conservatives have a much flatter curve (being more numerate makes little difference) while liberals show the expected numeracy-helps pattern. The conservatives' success rate is significantly worse here than on the "gun control / crime up" question.

If I had to summarize the results shown here, I think it would go something like this. Say that the "baseline" expectation is that people will get this sort of question wrong 80-90% of the time at low numeracy, and gradually improve to getting it right about 60% of the time at high numeracy. And say that someone is "number-blind" if their way of processing the evidence doesn't make any use of their numeracy skills at all but just picks each answer with some fixed probability.

Both groups start off behaving more or less according to baseline expectations, but then:

(1) For cases where change makes things better, conservatives shift about 3/4 of the way to being number-blind with p=0.4. And then:

(2) For evidence that goes contrary to their ideology on guns, both conservatives and liberals shift about half-way to being number-blind with p=0.2.

(3) For evidence that goes _for_ their ideology on guns, conservatives shift about half-way to being number-blind with p=0.6. (For some reason nothing analogous to this happens to liberals.)

I don't claim that this analysis actually captures anyone's cognitive processes! And to make more sense of it I'd want to look at a bunch of other questions. But it seems clear to me that even though this replication attempt doesn't find the headline-grabbing "numeracy hurts you on ideological questions" thing, it _does_ find that people pay less attention to the evidence on ideological questions, and I think it also suggests that for conservatives anything of the form "we changed this and things got better" is somewhat ideological.

(Note: anything of the form "being liberal/conservative makes you do X with probability p" could instead be more like "a fraction p of liberals/conservatives do X with probability 1". Or anything in between. I expect there's at least a bit of that going on here.)

Expand full comment

Here's a triviality: more and more often I encounter websites and apps that require login, but do not allow display of the characters entered in the password db. This annoys\infuriates me. Is there a good reason devs do this, or are they being careless? I assume the low energy answer will be that it's for better security, but that just seems totally weak to me in almost all cases.

Expand full comment

Any recommendations for funny novels? For someone who enjoys Scott's prose style but doesn't need high concept stuff.

Expand full comment

I predict that 2024 will be less political then 2020

https://monkyyyscience.substack.com/p/prediction-2024-will-be-less-poltical

fight me

Expand full comment

Silly question.

There are apps around like Windy and Ventusky that will show me a highly detailed map of real-time data like temperature, wind speed, particulate matter, and so on, based on data streams from weather monitoring stations from all over the world.

How come there isn't anything similar specifically for real-time CO2 tracking? It seems like this data would be highly relevant for anyone interested in climate change, and simple CO2 monitors seem to be pretty readily available on Amazon. But if there's anything out there aggregating CO2 data into a real-time map, I haven't been able to find it. (NASA does have a couple of satellites that perform detailed CO2 measurements from space, and some very pretty animations of those measurements, but I don't know if those measurements are available in real-time. Nothing seems to be visualizing them in real-time that I could find, at least.)

I did note that Windy has a real-time tracker for atmospheric carbon *monoxide*, and at a glance the hot spots on that layer seem to line up roughly with where I'd expect CO2 emissions to be highest. Do carbon dioxide emissions generally correlate with carbon monoxide emissions? I don't know. But maybe the makers of Windy assume that they're close enough that they didn't need to model CO2 distribution separately.

Expand full comment

Proposal: strategic voting is irrational, while sincere voting is the best way to ensure your policy proposals are implemented - including voting for 3rd parties that have NO chance of winning.

Every election, people lament that "there are only two choices, and both of them are bad." I propose that this thinking isn't just defeatist, but actually wrong. Whether you subscribe to mistake theory or conflict theory, your best strategy is to vote your conscience. I'm sure there's more nuance than this, but let's have the debate!

It's easy to make the case that in the long run, voting your conscience sends a signal that you're dissatisfied with the top two candidates and would like to see a change. But I want to make a stronger case: that sincere voting sends an immediate signal that helps get your governance preferences implemented, and that it does so more strongly than strategic voting does. Now, I'll concede that any vote is only as strong as a marginal vote - so the effect size is still limited, but to the extent that a vote has an effect, sincere voting is non-zero, while strategic voting's effect size is often zero or even negative. Wait, how could that be possible if your sincere choice has no possible chance of getting elected?

It's no secret that politicians are always looking forward to the next election. Even in the face of term limits, a politician's party will want to retain control, and the lame duck politician will want to cement a legacy of electoral victory and prestige within the party that supported/funded them. In other words, all politicians look forward to the next election. This is true even the DAY AFTER the election!

Many campaign staffers directly involved in the election join the administration, but others refocus to the next election. They pore over the election results, cross tabs, county-by-county breakdowns, and exit polls. While you might suspect that the losing party will be interested in these results, so they can make a better pitch next time, this is also true of the winning party. They want to make a better pitch next time, too. Complacency is how you lose elections.

Early in the new administration, a few things will become clear. By changing the way the new administration governs, certain votes will become available - even if the new strategy doesn't match the promises made on the campaign trail. Your choice is: #1 - keep campaign promises or #2 - break campaign promises. The risk in breaking a campaign promise is that you'll lose voters who were PERSUADED to vote for you because you made that promise, in exchange for voters who would have voted for you if you had chosen an alternative approach. If the number in category #1 is larger, you're going to keep your promise. If category #2 is larger, you should probably break the campaign promise.

Fortunately for many politicians, lots of people are unwilling to change their votes based on actual governance, because they vote strategically. This often shows up in the election results and exit polls. If someone is persuaded to vote for a politician because they're not the other politician, keeping or breaking a campaign promise won't sway their vote. If you're a politician, these strategic voters allow you to break campaign promises, because these constituents are unwilling to change their vote in the face of electoral infidelity. Therefore, a large percentage of your support will absolutely still vote for you based on how you campaign and not based on what promises you make. In other words, strategic voting ENCOURAGES politicians to break campaign promises, because it withholds the one tool a voter has to hold a politician to their word: the threat of withdrawal of support. (Realistically, there's also volunteering for the campaign, choosing not to vote, and campaign contributions. I'm simplifying.)

Contrast this with the voter who is sincere. Perhaps they vote for one of the two major party candidates, thinking, "I would like them to govern this way!" They're disappointed by the eventual breaking of campaign promises, and subsequently vote for a third party candidate who more closely reflects their values. Directly after the election, campaign experts going through the cross tab results notice that they could get X% of voters in district Y by subtly changing their policies to reflect the priorities of the losing third-party candidate Z.

They reason that they're not risking the support of strategic voters by making this policy shift, while they will be able to campaigning for re-election on a platform that includes, "I did [policy supported by candidate Z]! Vote for me." Last time they didn't run on that policy, because it's not a winning general strategy. So they won't talk about it in campaign speeches. Instead, they'll create district-specific mailers touting the 'policy achievement' to those voters who care about it most.

The practical effect is this: sincere voting is more likely to get your preferred governance strategies implemented, *regardless of who wins the election*. This is true, whether your preference actually is one of the main party candidates, or if your preference is down ballot. A vote for the main candidate says, "more of the same, please" and allows the candidate room to compromise less in order to secure re-election, but its power rests in whether you had to be persuaded to vote in favor of a preferred candidate, not just in opposition. A vote down ballot signals that your vote can be earned by any candidate willing to do things differently - including the incumbent.

For example, if the main party candidate has overwhelming support through the primary and the general election, they're unlikely to significantly change their positions, since those won both the general and primary races. However, if they narrowly lost the primary, they will perceive a threat within their party and focus on winning votes in whichever districts they need in order to continue to ward off a primary challenge. OTOH, if they easily win their primary but narrowly lose the general election, they'll look to general election polling to see which districts can be won over with some policy manipulation that's different from what they campaigned on. Each sincere vote affects that calculation in a small way.

Compare this to strategic voting, where there's no guarantee the winner of the election is even going to care about your governance strategies after the election. "But the party platform!" Party policies and priorities shift and drift over time. Sometimes the priorities are dramatic: Democrats were once the most hawkish party (very supportive of getting into WWII), then after Vietnam they became doves while Republicans were pro-war (generally), then this flipped again with Trump, but maybe not quite (Neocons are still quite powerful). Party loyalties are to the persuadable voters. The platform the party ran on in the last election is meaningful only to the extent that it continues to persuade voters in the next election.

The problem with the strategic vote is that it pulls you away from the 'persuadable voter' pool, thereby removing any power to influence actual governance. A strategic vote is almost always justified on the basis of "but I can't let the other side win." But how would this work in practice? Is the thinking that maybe your single vote will be enough to sway the election one way or the other? That's not applicable even for most local elections. For a general election - and especially for president - it's as close to "false" as possible.

An analogy: My friend told me she was going to spend $2 playing the lottery on the off chance she was going to in the billion-dollar jackpot.

I said, "That's dumb. You're not going to win."

"You can't know that! Someone wins, they publish it every time."

"Right, but it won't be you. I am more certain of this than I am that I'll be employed tomorrow, or that I won't get into a car crash this week, or of nearly any other thing I can predict today. Statistically, I'm confident you won't win with >>99.9999% accuracy."

Now, there are more Power Ball winners running around the USA than there are individuals whose single vote decision changed the outcome of the US Presidential Election. As it happens, this year we (likely) have a choice between two candidate with a 4-year track record of how they would govern in the Executive Branch. You can choose to vote strategically or sincerely. Voting strategically is like taking a bigger risk than playing the Power Ball that your one vote is going to make a difference. To my mind, this is irrational. Or you can vote sincerely and send a signal to both parties how they can win your vote in the next election, and how you'd like to see the winner govern in order to earn that vote.

Expand full comment

> Correction to Psychopolitics Of Trauma...

> Correction to Should The Future Be Human...

If you have such corrections to your posts, *please* update them (inline or an a note at the bottom)! Your posts are read and linked to by many people, particularly the ones regarding studies and psychology, so it's important to update them if you're aware of a mistake that can mislead people or hurt your argument.

Expand full comment

Does anyone know of a map of Ukraine showing how the frontlines shifted between January 1, 2023 and December 31, 2023?

Expand full comment
Jan 29·edited Jan 29

Now, I know we're just a bunch of know-nothings here in the hinterlands, but in the wake of ... ah, recent events, and of learning that there is a lively, little-regulated gain-of-function research industry all over the damn place, even if that has not been mentioned here - is there any reason that people should accept this?

https://www.texasstandard.org/stories/brazoria-county-monkey-research-lab-worries-neighbors/

The county has said it doesn't want it. The nearest "big" town has said it doesn't want it.

My favorite quote from that article:

"Is it clear why Charles River Labs chose this area for primate research?

"Well, they told me that there were a few different reasons ... They were looking for a community where you have people already working with animals and agriculture – potentially this would be palatable to people who already work in this space."

[What, are we supposed to eat the monkeys when they're done being tested?]

Translation: the county is full of rednecks so we thought they wouldn't care.

Expand full comment

Advice for being a better rationalist when having ADHD?

I mean for example, my episodic memory is very sparse and unorganized, how can I better know if I update on something and how much?

Expand full comment

# PROJECTS

0: Universal Label, an electronic device.

1: Sculptures with LLM-machines inside them so depressed humans can get consultation from Yoda, requires funding.

2: Press that legally sells our own prints of expensive textbooks for ¼ of the original price.

3: Startup that sell waiting lobby music.

4: Autonomous AI agent research project.

---

# MY E-MAIL

fuvmteyz@pm.me

Expand full comment

Sometime ago I asked for advice on selecting a computer for a DAW (basically, music recording setup). I ended up getting a mac, and it's working out quite well. Just wanted to thank everyone who responded and helped me to make a good decision.

Expand full comment
author

-----------------MIDDLE EAST SUBTHREAD------------------

Expand full comment

I wanted to share my TEDx Talk on Profit for Good businesses - those with charities in vast majority shareholder positions - with the ACX community. Feel free to share to share your thoughts.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GL6gcZAdiHI

Expand full comment

Is anyone here on testosterone replacement therapy (TRT)? Or, have strong opinions about using TRT specifically for lifestyle enhancement for middle-aged guys? Theoretically one could be doing TRT because you legitimately have low test, but I think the large majority of users are simply looking for strength, sexual performance, and possibly psychological boosts in their 40s, 50s, 60s etc. As I understand it the FDA frowns on this kind of hormone enhancement a lot, and has cracked down on it some recently, but it's not totally outlawed.

As a middle-aged guy with medically normal test levels for my age- does anyone think it's bad to use a reasonable amount of TRT to boost my levels back to, say, those of 10 or 15 years ago? Yes I am already maximizing what I can get out of nutrition, sleep, and lifting now. I will say that I still have a great head of hair and would strongly prefer to not lose it

Expand full comment

Did I miss the results of the 2023 forecasting contest?

Expand full comment

What are some of the *minimum/weakest* standards of evidence needed to *prove* that someone is guilty of battery? The example I have in mind is jury finding Trump guilty of battery (May 2023), where I couldn't find a discussion on the evidence used (perhaps it is "subjudice" of sorts?). I am not particularly interested in the politics of the situation, and don't mean to inflame this thread at all. But some pointers regarding the abstract question of evidential standards would be nice to know. I am talking about the "lower limit", and not the cases where the conclusion is trivial: do they follow the dictum of innocent unless proved otherwise?

(I repeat that I don't mean to inflame this thread; I will be happy to delete this question if it is triggering).

Expand full comment

Some anecdata:

1. When I was at university I was desperately poor and didn't own any sort of music player. My friend Bobby who stayed in the same student residence had a cassette player. He also had a tape of Leonard Cohen's greatest hits. From time to time when I was suffering from one of my regular being dumpeds, I would go to Bobby's room, put on the headphones and listen to Leonard Cohen, which is surely the most mournful music anyone ever heard. The point is that when I was miserable, it gave me a perverse pleasure to wallow in it and feel sorry for myself. The next day I'd be back to normal, for me anyway.

2. Instant cure for depression. a. Get in your car and go for a drive. b. With the windows up naturally, at the top of your voice yell, "YEEEEE-HAHHH!" A few times. Dale Carnegie wrote, If you want to be enthusiastic, act enthusiastic!

Expand full comment

Hey Scott, I'm assuming you just didn't post it yet, but in case you forgot, there is no Middle East subthread here.

Expand full comment

Oreo cookies can lower LDL cholesterol! https://www.mdpi.com/2218-1989/14/1/73

Before you get excited and buy a bunch of Oreos, you should take note of a couple things:

1. This "study" was done on one person, the one conducting the study.

2. This may only show that a Keto diet raises cholesterol; Oreos were chosen because of their reputation as only providing useless carbs.

I do say this needs an actual research program to find out why carbs worked to lower LDL cholesterol. I bet lots of people would volunteer to test eating 12 Oreo cookies a day.

Expand full comment

I'm doing a a degree in philosophy and I have a hunch that they deliberately chose to teach us philosophers who are wrong so that we can get practice at arguing against famous wrong people.

https://raggedclown.substack.com/p/most-philosophers-are-wrong

Locke, Kant, Descartes, Parfit, Rawls. All wrong.

Expand full comment

I am a Berlin-based AI Engineer about to embark on 12 months of gardening leave. I am searching for interesting projects, potentially in the digital humanities / computational history or philanthropy, where I might be able to use my data science and ML skills to help drive the project forward.

If you know of any research groups or other deserving places that could perhaps use a bit of unpaid ML labor, please reach out!

Expand full comment

What are the largest sex gaps in polls?

I recently posted a poll in a rat adjacent forum asking: “Have you ever been on a passenger plane and wondered whether you could land it if the pilot was incapacitated?”

While the sample size for women respondents is low (it’s a rat adjacent forum), I find myself genuinely surprised by the complete absence of female affirmative responses.

Are there any other personality questions where the most common response among males, is not only much rarer but functionally non-existent among females?

Expand full comment

I also know a few people here write their own blogs / do research, so two suggestions for anyone who has the time!

A) there's a boarding school in Switzerland, Lyceum Alpinum Zuoz, whose boarding fees are amongst the highest in the world. However, tuition for day students is basically free. I imagine this can be used to analyse the effect of family wealth on school performance?

B) I've asked this many times in different places but have never found a definitive answer: what's the origin of the media play symbols (triangle for Play, lines for Pause, etc)? On which device were they first used? I imagine one could put together a compelling CGP Grey-like piece on this.

Expand full comment

I’m looking for a particular PSA I saw in my youth, ca. 1980–82. It was half an hour long (unless my ability to estimate time from so long ago is waaaay off) and lectured kids about the duplicity of toy commercials.

For example, it showed a [fake] commercial for action figures rocketing downstream on a raft, and the voiceover whispers hastily, “river not included”; the rafting action figures would be a lot less fun in a bathtub!

I’ve utterly failed to find this through conventional google methods, and was wondering if anyone had encountered it, or knew of a resource on classroom PSAs of that period.

Expand full comment

I know a lot of readers here are EAs, so I wanted to ask... I read Michael Lewis's book on SBF, and the thing I couldn't understand is, what are EAs solving for?

It looks like all the maths is around saving as many lives as possible, but to what end? Why are EAs focused on saving lives, if they don't value equally pleasure in life (and so, they make calls such as 'I shouldn't focus on my own happiness because it might lead to fewer lives saved' or 'no time to have children' etc)?

Expand full comment