642 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?

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Not actually a bass singer, but this is different enough from the standard renditions it might be interesting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tL25rbnvM4o

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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).

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I worked for an insurance company for a while. I don't opt for the actuarial track but several coworker analysis did. Our company wasn't known for the highest pay but their actuarial trainee programs paid for the tests past the first one and provided paid study time and test taking time. The company also supported other insurance education, such as CPCU.

The actuarial trainees ranged from young out of college analysis to career switching phds and former CPAs. Consider finding a job of that kind, if you aren't already.

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Yeah from what I understand that’s industry standard at this point. Passing exams is often a decades long process, and it’s part of your job if you’re in the actuarial department. Up to the first credential, at least. Very few people actually finish the entire exam ladder, it’s extremely difficult, akin to a math PhD. The company I work for now pays for exams and all study materials. I’ve only passed the first two at this point, but got hired in my first job after passing my first exam last January, then passed my 2nd in October, which they covered.

So I’m in the field already, have a great job at an amazing company, and am studying for my next exam in May. I’m just wondering long term, if the skills I develop can open doors outside of the narrow niche of the actuarial dept of an insurance company/consulting firm.

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

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Have you looked into Sage Manifolds? It's much slower than Mathematica but it's free. I used it for a while in my research (stopped because it was too slow and my group uses Mathematica), but I really enjoyed it.

https://sagemanifolds.obspm.fr/

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Thanks! It looks really cool!

Would you also know a software that's good for abstract computations? In some sense, I don't want to specify the exact metric, but want to simplify complicated tensorial expressions, etc

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I checked the indexes of Numerical Recipes in C, Numerical Methods for Scientists and Engineers and a Vector Space Approach to Geometry. Afraid I can’t help you with this.

I did a lot of analytic geometry and linear algebra stuff when I was writing code to render medical images, but I am but a humble engineer, not a theoretical mathematician.

Edit: okay, out of pure obsessiveness I checked Knuth’s Seminumerical Algorithms. No dice.

Another edit:

But… GitHub has some repositories:

https://github.com/topics/riemannian-geometry

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Feb 3·edited Feb 3

I'm a mathematician; I know a little geometry (although more algebraic than analytic, so depending on how deep or specialist your problem is I may not be able to help). what do you want to calculate?

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I want to write mathematica programs that can compute a wide variety of Riemannian invariants for a given metric. Are you aware of people who have done something like that?

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I'm afraid not, and annoyingly while I do use mathematica I only have access to it at work, not on my personal computer (IIRC last time I checked it was jaw-droppingly expensive, even for a personal copy), which I think would make helping virtually impossible - sorry.

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The ‘Home and Hobby’ version goes for $399 US. I don’t know if it is crippled though.

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How many calculations can it perform before the DRM shuts it down?

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Good question.

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No problem! Thanks anyway for your interest. Let me know if you're ever in the New Jersey area, and I'd love to show you around (assuming you're not from there).

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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.

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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?

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I am not even sure how happiness could be measured and compared, even if you could interview people and if they were 100% sincere.

By what actually happened? The same thing will have a different impact on different people, depending on how important it is for them, what they are used to, what they expected, and what they expect to happen in the future.

By their reactions? Some people are hysterical over trivialities, other people have good self-control (but they may be approaching the point where they break down), some people may be good at stoicism (which may or may not be powered by depression).

Also, it can change day to day, or hour to hour. One day your wife/kids make you happy, the next day it is as if they are trying to drive you insane. You may hate your job, but it provides a stable solid income; or you may be passionate about your work but also tired and always on the edge of bankruptcy. Are we measuring the average happiness, or its peaks?

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I would guess hobbies, things they do for fun not profit. Married with kids is a social status thing, they could just be tolerating it for appearance's sake.

...also complaints? If someone never complains they're probably putting up a social mask.

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You never know. See ‘Richard Cory’

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Cory

Either the Edwin Arlington Robinson poem or the Simon and Garfunkel version.

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From the article:

".. the United States economy was still suffering from the severe depression of the Panic of 1893, during which people often subsisted on day-old bread .."

Wow! Bread a whole day old? Imagine the unspeakable horror. It must have been green with mold and crawling with weavils and maggots after all that time! :-)

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founding

I would assume bread was not as shelf stable in 1893 as it is today

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Homemade day old bread is much better than modern grocery store bread. I think they had higher standards - it’s one of the few places where things get worse with national wealth, I think due to rising cost of labor.

Source: have done the experiment. With 15th c. recipes even!

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Well, no, not exactly the siege of Stalingrad.

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Those poor guys probably had a two days old bread there, and some vodka from the last week.

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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?

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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/

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Shame they lock you into whatever difficulty you picked, the easy version was too easy; one can solve them without looking at the words.

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I had a look. Perhaps the project isn’t fully baked. Jeff Chen is the main developer. He creates a lot of good XWords. Apparently he learned JavaScript and CSS over a couple months to to develop the game.

I’m subscribed to XWordInfo.com and got an email announcement about the game a couple days ago.

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Okay, the final puzzle for Harder mode was fun; the puzzle words had multiple solutions and you had to recognize the meta-word to get the actual correct answer. Solved the puzzle, then had to unsolve about half of it and find second solutions because the meta made no sense.

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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

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

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Feb 1·edited Feb 1

One of the fictional ones - probably Hector. By my pretty much any modern moral standards - and certainly by mine - the real ones were all monsters, but because Hector wasn't a monarch, little enough is specified about him that if we choose to imagine him as not having been we're probably not violating much of the letter of the canon.

Genuinely worthy people didn't become successful war-leaders in pre-modern societies.

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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.

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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.

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Excellent point. Reining in food prices seems like it would be an obvious political win, although I don't know enough about policy to know what the government could do to actually effect that, or what the countervailing incentives might be.

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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.

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You replaced "free will" with "agency" without defining "agency".

The *experience of* some kind of free will or agency is part of out daily existence, but that doesn't mean agency per se is.

It's contradictory to say the "experience of experience i9s an illusion" but it's not contradictory to say "the experience of X is an illusion for any other X. Hence it is not contradictory to say "the experience of agency is an illusion".

"No person or system has complete access to ALL information"

Determinism also needs to be distinguished from predictability. A universe that unfolds deterministically is a universe that can be predicted by an omniscient being which can both capture a snapshot of all the causally relevant events, and have a perfect knowledge of the laws of physics.

The existence of such a predictor, known as a Laplace's demon is not a prerequisite for the actual existence of determinism, it is just a way of explaining the concept. It is not contradictory to assert that the universe is deterministic but unpredictable. But there is a relationship between determinism and predictability: predictability is the main evidence for determinism.

Nonetheless, determinism itself is the crux, in arguments for free will, and predictability only features indirectly as evidence for it. Determinism is the crux, because it removes the ability to have done otherwise, which seems to be important for moral responsibility; and also removes the ability to shape the future with present choices.

If determinism is an objective fact, then the only approximation to indeterminism that could exist would be based on lack of knowledge (Knightian uncertainty). But the argument is circular: you have to assume that determinism is objectively true , to infer that all indeterminism (really all unpredicted) is caused by lack of knowledge...so that deteminism is objectively true!

A Laplace's Daemon needs to have a one way relationship with the universe ..it needs to be able to read all the data, but if it outputs anything that could have a causal effect, that would create a strange loop.

That's what's basically happening in your scenario , when your LD tells you it's prediction

In-principle predictability needs to be distinguished from in-practice predictability.

Humans are not perfect, omniscient observers like Laplace's deamon, and therefore cannot make perfect predictions about everything, even in a deterministic universe. The prevailing situation where the human ability to make predictions exists, but is imperfect, is compatible with both complete determinism, and partial indeterminism, which is why the whole question of determinism versus indeterminism is still fraught.

"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. "

So if a Laplace's Demons springs into being, everyone loses their free will -- without changing in any way.

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First: Determined does not imply known, just unavoidable. Just as I don't necessarily know how a movie or book will end when I start it, but accept that the ending was determined long before I ever started (and I can still value the experience). Or like there might be a large meteor headed for Earth in this very moment that nobody knows about, but impact has been unavoidable since… well, a long time.

Second, I'm not sure that I understand you correctly, but you seem to say that the source of free will is the "fuzziness" in the system – which I take to mean the uneven distribution of knowledge, or even the idea that not everything can be known. But if knowledge were the whole game, that would imply that two agents with perfect information would necessarily have the same will (determined by having all the facts), but that's not necessarily true. It is perfectly possible to have the same knowledge, but diverging interests.

As for Sam Harris: In order to understand his view of free will (and maybe not get annoyed by it), it really helps to see it in context of 1) his moral philosophy, 2) his experience with meditation, and 3) his atheistic activism. The combo sets him a bit apart from many others who discuss free will.

In his discussions about 1), his moral philosophy, you see that he accepts the crucial distinction between agency and free will. He doesn't deny that there's a difference between doing something because you have a gun to your head, or doing something because you get the impulse to do it. We can use our agency to navigate between suffering and well-being, even if we're not the ultimate captains of that agency. Others who think like this often consider themselves compatibalists – there's no free will on the most fundamental level, but we have an experience of free will that is almost the same in everyday life.

He rejects that, however, for a couple of important and quite persuasive reasons:

From 2), his experience as a meditator, he gets that you can't really control your mind. You have about as much control over what thoughts and impulses enter your consciousness, as you have over which sounds you hear in a crowded café or what light reaches your eyes at any given moment. In fact, among all the ideas, there's not even a distinct "you" that could be said to be in charge. There's no place where "will" can rest and be free. So the experience of having a free will that compatibalists rely on, evaporates for him, even as he preserves the sense of agency. You don't have to meditate for very long to understand where he's coming from.

Both of those have implications for 3), his opposition to a lot of religious doctrine. If you don't have ultimate control over your mind, your options, your knowledge, your neurology (because they are all determined by things like genetics, environment, upbringing, or even randomness), then you can't have free will in the sense that pretty much all religions presuppose. A God that will punish or reward you for eternity for something that's out of your control is not great, and not worth worshiping even if you believe in him. Perpetuating the idea of any kind of free will, then, helps prop up belief in religions that cause evil and suffering.

He has written and said a lot of words about this, so this is hardly a complete description – just an attempt at contextualizing his particular views on free will in terms of some other beliefs he is known for. Also, I'm not necessarily asking or expecting you to agree, but it might make it less annoying if you see it in the bigger picture.

In any case: Many people seem to suggest that it's dangerous to take away people's sense of free will, as it might also rob them of agency, and turn them into something like nihilists. However, I think it can be dangerous to have people living the lie that they have free will, too, if it flips the switch in their mind that makes them fly planes into buildings or throw their fellow citizens under the bus.

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It strikes me this can serve as a pretty good argument against determinism.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2qnx3yVGzg

Just its existence.

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I think it helps to be more specific about what exactly are we asking when talking about "free will".

Can I my predict my own future actions 100% reliably? No.

Can others predict my future actions 100% reliably? In practice, no.

Could they, hypothetically speaking, if they knew everything about all particles in my body (and the particles in the environment I will be interacting with)? In principle, yes. Minus the inevitable quantum noise.

Are my actions determined by the particles outside of me? Well, they are determined by the particles outside *and* inside of me. Unless we go back in time before I was born, in which case yes, my actions are determined by the particles, and the inevitable quantum noise.

Can the "quantum noise" be considered a "free will" in some sense? Nope, not in any meaningful sense. It is not some kind of anthropomorphic intelligent agent; it is pure noise. (It would be like insisting that a noise in television signal is the television's "free will".) If there are universes without quantum physics where conscious life can arise, the notes about quantum noise would not apply in those universes.

But we don't know how consciousness works, and most of us don't know how quantum physics works, therefore... obviously, those two must be connected, right? -- Haha, nope, it doesn't work that way. (It's like trying to translate from one language you don't speak to another language you don't speak by assigning the words randomly, under the assumption that if I don't know what X means, and if I don't know what Y means, then X could be a translation of Y. Sure, it could be, but it also could be anything else.)

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"Can the "quantum noise" be considered a "free will" in some sense? Nope, not in any meaningful sense. It is not some kind of anthropomorphic intelligent agent; it is pure noise. "

It doesn't have to be an agent in itself, just part of an agent. An agent that uses quantum indeterminism has one of the ingredients of libertarian free will,freedom from determinism, but doesn't have to be purely random, and therefore doesn't have to lack other desireable features , such as rationality, and a relationship between actions and desires.

The Dilemma argument has it that libertarian free will is impossible , because it is a) incompatible with determinism, which allows no elbow room or could-have-done-otherwise; and b) incompatible with randomness, which allows no control, relation to desires, etc.

"Free will is actually more than an illusion (or less), in that it cannot be made

conceptually coherent. Either our wills are determined by prior causes and we

are not responsible for them, or they are the product of chance and we are not

responsible for them. If a man’s choice to shoot the president is determined by a certain pattern of neural activity, which is in turn the product of prior causes—

perhaps an unfortunate coincidence of bad genes, an unhappy childhood, lost

sleep, and cosmic-ray bombardment—what can it possibly mean to say that his will is “free”? No one has ever described a way in which mental and physical processes could arise that would attest to the existence of such freedom." - Sam Harris

The Dilemma argument is a false dichotomy.

It is uncontensious that complete randomness is not a kind of free will worth having or worthy the name...but complete randomness is not the only alternative to complete determinism. The logical alternative to complete determinism is mostly some mixture or partial determinism..which isn't as obviously inimical to free will. So the dilemma argument has to juggle both senses of "not determined".

To demonstrate the concept that determinism-randomnrss is a scale, nott a binary:-

A million line computer programme that makes one call to to rand() is almost deterministc,..but a bit less than a million line programme that makes two calls to rand (), and so on. So it's a scale, not a dichotomy.

It is uncontensious that complete randomness is not a kind of free will worth having or worthy the name...but complete randomness is not the only alternative to complete determinism. The logical alternative to complete determinism is mostly some mixture or partial determinism..which isn't as obviously inimical to free will. So the dilemma argument has to juggle both senses of "not determined".

If you have something that's actually tri state , you can make it bivalent by merging two of the states. The problem is that people rarely do so consistently. Sometimes (some and none) are opposed to (all), sometimes (some and all) are opposed to (none).

To demonstrate the concept that determinism<->randomness is a scale, not a binary:-

A million line computer programme that makes one call to to rand() is almost deterministc,..but a bit less than a million line programme that makes two calls to rand (), and so on. So it's a scale, not a dichotomy.

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If a deterministic algorithm does not satisfy your intuition about "free will", is this problem really fixed by adding a few calls to rand()?

If you later replaced the random number generator with a high-quality pseudorandom generator, would the robot lose its free will? Would it lose the *feeling* of having free will?

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It would obviously lose libertarian free will. It might or might not lose the feeling of free will. But why would the actual existence of FW depend on the feeling?

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> But why would the actual existence of FW depend on the feeling?

The reason why people talk about "free will" is that they have a feeling/experience of, basically, "I could realistically do X, and I could also realistically do Y, and it is difficult for me to make a reliable prediction which one will I ultimately do".

And the debate is basically about how can such feeling (seemingly supported by experience) arise in a universe where people are made out of atoms, and the atoms follow a few mechanical rules.

If we ignore the feelings of "free will" as important data, we are on the way to the "philosophical zombies" territory.

If the robot can lose free will, while fully retaining the feeling of free will, then... maybe we are such robots, too? How would we know?

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> The reason why people talk about "free will" is that they have a feeling/experience of, basically, "I could realistically do X, and I could also realistically do Y, and it is difficult for me to make a reliable prediction which one will I ultimately do".

The feeling is evidence of free will, not a cause of free will.

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Jan 31·edited Jan 31

...What does knowledge have anything to do with free will? The whole point is that this world is deterministic. Any decision that a human makes is completely dependent on the past, operating on consistent physical rules. Therefore, saying that humans have "free will" is about as ridiculous as saying a domino fell of its free will. Human knowledge is just statistical association formed by neurons; there's no reason to believe it affects anything beyond the outcome of calculations made by the brain. So... I don't even understand what point you're trying to make.

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That definition of free will isn’t really the colloquial or legal version, where (as an example) if a man has a gun to his head while he is driving a criminal to rob a bank then he has no free will, if he chooses to do it then he has. In this version the external agent forcing him to do something violates his free will.

Without an external agent who or what is the person or agent who is stoping a person or agent from having free will - why the person himself!

Which obviously isn’t the same thing. So point one to philosophers - change your terminology. Maybe - “not perfect agency” or something.

It’s also naive to assume that there’s some kind of lower level determinism at the level of the neurons. That’s not true of software and the CPU, it won’t be true of AGI, and it isn’t true of conscious beings either. If free will exists or doesn’t exist it will exist or not exist at the level of the software, or mind.

If AGI ever comes about - and although definitions are fuzzy, I take that to mean an AI that is conscious or has agency - then how do we define or differentiate it from an AI without that agency if nothing ever has free will?

Or are we going to say the only AGI has free will? Or that humans, AGI, procedural expert systems from the 80s, and toasters are the same thing?

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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.

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I took a double take when I read that it was found out Hall was "assigned female at birth", as if someone found the birth certificate or something. I presume that that's a weird euphemism and that what was actually found out was that Hall was female. Contemporary US culture can be rather interesting.

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That was changed by some IPv6 in 2017:

https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Murray_Hall_(politician)&diff=prev&oldid=790933057

If you want, you could undo that change and see what happens. Will it be rejected? Reverted? Will you trigger the most boring edit war of the year? Or will the whole Wikipedia continue thinking "meh, whatever"?

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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.

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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?

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Your wife is in on the plan, right? Her part in this project is going to be a bit more work than yours. Yeah a joke

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Lookup what NOVOS Protocol and Blueprint (Bryan Johnson) are doing, they've generally got the best recommendations.

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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?

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Hmm 65 and semi-retired. I got fired from my dream tech job in 2019. I've been working 25-30 hours a week as a prep cook at the nearby restaurant, and I like it. I'd go crazy without some type of work to do, and if you've got enough money you can always find some job to do. Do you have any hobbies or pastimes you enjoy? (I like cooking.)

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Interesting. Thank you! I have 102 things I would love to do but the job doesn't leave enough energy for most.

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I don't have a personal experience, nor do I know anyone who has, so the following is just a guess:

The work provides certain discipline, without which your daily rhythm can fall apart. Just the fact that you need to wake up at certain time and go to some place... without it, some people stay in bed until 10 or 11AM, then they slowly prepare and eat breakfast, etc., oops, half the day is over and you haven't done anything yet, and it's time to think about lunch, oops, it's evening already, well maybe next day...

Another thing is that if you don't have a job, you need to actively think about socialization. Maybe there is a club for people who have the same hobby. But if they aren't early-retired, they will probably meet in the afternoon.

So your schedule could be something like: wake up in the morning, take a short walk (the physical activity and sunshine will wake up your brain), return home and do the work you want to do, then either go to a club or enjoy your afternoon otherwise. (By the way, lunch, are you going to cook it or someone else will? Because even if you have the time, and you don't mind cooking, it will still interfere with your work.)

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There are whole communities based around financial independence and early retirement. If you are looking for whole forums to talk with, then try https://www.choosefi.com/community/ and https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/. Keep in mind, you will definitely get a positive bias at those sites.

I would say that whether or not you should retire early is a very personal decision. It changes not just your finances, but also your social life and self-image. I used to read a lot about it when I was working towards financial independence and would periodically come across stories of people being bored and depressed after leaving their job. Most people that retire early don't struggle with the financial side (barring a catastrophe) because they would already have to be disciplined to get to that point in the first place.

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Thank you very much. I am a bit less interested in the financial aspect than seeing if anything resonated in the the emotional/mental journey of others who quit work.

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Someone else covered the social aspect of retiring early quite well, so I'll touch a little bit more on the self-image part of quitting work.

What people do in many ways represents who we are, both socially and mentally. You went to school to be a scientist. When you meet people, you say you are a scientist, and you talk about science. You met many of your friends and colleagues through science. You spend much of your free time thinking about your field of study. Science is how you functionally contribute to society.

When you retire early and stop being a scientist, you need to be able to adjust the mindset of what you are. If your self-image stays tied to your career, then you will not be happy. You don't want to see yourself as an out of work scientist, you want your self-image to be something new and positive. You need to be able to almost reinvent yourself and find a new passion or you will be bored and depressed and end up watching TV or Youtube 10 hours a day more than before.

There was also an early retirement blogger that ended up hating it when he finally got there. His writing on his experience is: https://livingafi.com/2016/04/01/early-retirement-bites/

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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?

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Wasn't there an ancient Greek state which had a principle that if someone proposed a law and this was voted down, then the proposer got the chop, literally! Now _that_ would soon simplify the regulations, provided proposals to eliminate laws were not similarly treated.

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Depends how one defines "laws" and such. A law can be establishing a negative right. As an obvious example, proposing a law to make slavery illegal would be a a negative right granted. One could say that's "a regulation that restricts someone's freedom" And there's the rub. While I suspect based on your post we share a similar "libertarian" mind state, people who propose laws and regulation will always argue there law is protecting someone's freedom from someone else who would violate it.

I.e., environmental regulations, you're right not be poisoned by the commons.

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An analysis (https://admiralcloudberg.medium.com/warnings-unheard-warnings-unheeded-the-story-of-the-2019-alaska-mid-air-collision-89a3444fe7d7) by Admiral Cloudberg by of a mid-air collision in Alaska cited a Trump executive order mandating one-regulation-enters-two-regulations-leave as a reason why the FAA was slow to adopt an NTSB regulation that might have avoided the collision. It's already the case that the FAA does not rubber-stamp NTSB recommendations, but it seems reasonable that the executive order was particularly problematic as applied to aircraft safety rules.

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That's an interesting read. I'd like to point out that the SMS regulation, which was blocked by the one-regulation-enters-two-regulations-leave policy, only enters the scene after a miscommunication about a different regulation had already introduced (and the government paid for the installation of) a fatal downgrade of the safety systems.

"However, in 2012, the FAA proposed to upgrade the ADS-B equipment that it previously supplied to Alaskan operators. For this purpose, the FAA drew up a technical standard order, or TSO, listing the design requirements for the new equipment. This TSO didn’t include a requirement for a conflict alerting capability, even though plenty of systems in use at the time had this feature."

...

"The FAA’s position on the issue was that manufacturers could include a conflict alerting capability if they wanted, but should not be required to do so."

...

"In response to an NTSB request for comment, representatives of FreeFlight Systems (which designed the RANGR 978 transceiver) stated that they understood the FAA to discourage manufacturers from including capabilities that weren’t in the TSO. As a result, in 2015 the Garmin GDL 90 transceiver on N959PA was replaced by a new, FAA-supplied FreeFlight RANGR 978 that met the TSO’s specifications but didn’t include a conflict alerting capability."

So the government said "you must have AT LEAST these features" and the company thought they meant "you may have ONLY these features". Strangely, I've heard of this exact thing happening before. I wonder if it's a common failure mode?

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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?

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No idea... I'm going to guess no gravity, but just angular momentum and the distribution of mass/ energy in the system. (Search agrees... https://arxiv.org/pdf/2310.08484.pdf)

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Jan 31·edited Jan 31

Thanks. I found another good reference with a web search. (With Google, my habit until recently has been to try and "spoon feed" it with a few single words and short phrases in quotes, in the hope that would make things easier for it. But recently I'm finding one seems to get better results by using a natural language question as if it was a person or AI! )

https://physics.stackexchange.com/questions/422590/in-less-technical-language-what-exactly-is-a-gravitational-form-factor

Generally, pretty much as you guessed, it appears from that discussion that a form factor of an object, in relation to a field, is a measure (in terms of a set of parameters or a matrix or something) of how the field's influence on the object is distributed throughout it.

So for example, one can have an electric form factor, which indicates how charge is spread out over it and possibly within it, and a magnetic FF, etc. By analogy, the gravitational form factor is simply a measure of how mass/energy is distributed and, as I guessed, use of that term doesn't imply that gravity is actually having a noticeable effect, unless the object was the size of a planet!

BTW, and I know this is nitpicking and a bit ungracious to mention, as you took the trouble to reply, but with ArXiv results it is better to cite the abstract page rather than a PDF directly, because if the authors release a revised version of the paper then the quoted PDF will become out of date, but the abstract page will show the latest version or in a few cases a retraction! Ideally Google should do this automatically, but one can copy and paste the number ("2310.08484" above) in the Search line on the main page and this brings up:

https://arxiv.org/abs/2310.08484

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Right link rather than pdf. People have tried to measure the neutron electric dipole moment, but still nothing. I love physics, but I always remember what a colleague said once. All this high energy stuff is cool, but not much useful to humans happens above 1 MeV of potential.

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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

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That was a fun read. Subscribed!

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Welcome and thank you, more stories of the peninsula coming soon!

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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

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I'm not saying you personally have this bias, but there seems to be a common unspoken assumption these days that every idea, belief, or attitude that feels modern, liberal, or progressive was invented sometime after like 1967--i catch myself making this mistake sometimes-- and this can make it quite jarring to read material written before that time, especially from ca. the 1890s through the 1950s

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I've caught myself doing exactly what you describe numerous times. The strongest example I can come up with right now was my surprise at learning that quantum mechanics is widely considered to have originated in 1900. Before finding that fact I would've given an estimate of 1945-1950. I wouldn't say it's jarring to read such materials, though, more like mind-opening and humbling

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It’s a good one. You might want to check out his The Perennial Philosophy when you get a chance too.

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Will do, I've seen this book recommended a number of times around here

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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?

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As most politicians start with lower level offices, the natural place to start is with swing-districts. But there are not many of those, because congresscritters have every incentive to gerrymander, and also because red/blue tends to follow rural/urban geography quite closely.

Or I guess you could try going straight for state-wide positions like the Senate or Governor. Who knows, maybe it could work?

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1 and 2 are definitely true. There /are/ "true centrists" in the sense of "politically engaged people with an ideological commitment to policies midway between the two parties across a wide range of issue", but they're massively outnumbered by "average centrists" who come out as "centrist" if you project them onto a one-dimensional left-right axis, but only because they hold a mix of left-wing and right-wing positions (and who often don't care much about politics). And, obviously, someone with a principled ideological commitment to left-wing social values and right-wing economics and someone with a principled ideological commitment to right-wing social values and left-wing economics are not natural bedfellows.

I don't know about 3 or 4 - I think the counterfactual is too large to predict corrolaries like these reliably.

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Two problems that I can see.

One is that centrism as a philosophy does not lead to a lot of coherent positions. For example, at the moment neither party has a serious plan to address the national debt. The 'centrist' midpoint between the two parties would be, I guess, doing nothing?

Secondly, are you interested in centrism as a question of policy? Or centrism as a question of manner? A lot of our politics these days is dominated by sound bites, attacks that are meant to go viral, grandstanding, and generally making a big show of trying to do things rather than actually doing things.

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I think just the usual third party issue would apply: anyone considering voting for a centrist party is going to be told in no uncertain terms by those around them that they're "giving the vote to The Enemy" by letting their party's vote be split.

Even if the centrist party theoretically does manage to be a perfect halfway point between the two parties: that won't really change the dynamics that it's risky for anyone with any sort of tilt at all to vote for a more central option, even if that's my truer preference.

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Plus, viewed from the perspective of parties as just collections of Americans, it's a prisoner's dilemma - both sides cooperate, then we get more even-keeled leadership and not constant back-and-forth swinging from one extreme to the other, but if only one side "defects" (refuses to vote centrist, even if it's their true preference) they win.

But, viewed from the perspective of the parties as real political entities on their own, a third party genuinely a threat to to their power and not something either side has any reason to allow to exist, and something both parties may cooperate to prevent.

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Jan 30·edited Jan 30

Maybe I'm explaining the idea badly: There's no centrist party to vote for so no-one is wasting their vote. There's no stronger-than-normal reason for a centrist to defect (unless they aren't actually a centrist). The existing parties may try to destroy it just because they prefer that no other centres of political power exist, I can see that, but that seems like a general counterargument against all kinds of political organisation ever.

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Jan 30·edited Jan 30

I think the issue is that there are very few "true centrists who have no leaning towards either party and thus wouldn't feel like they're defecting".

I think the far more common case is the "60% Democrat/Republican" who usually votes with one party but will switch their vote, under the right circumstances. If you discount those people as "not actually a centrist", sure, but then I just doubt there's enough left to form a viable political movement.

The other common form of centrist is "Socially X but fiscally Y" and again, I think 'defection' mechanics apply: if I'm a "vote economically in hard times, but socially otherwise" (and I do think this is a very common model) then in economically hard times, I'm going to want to vote for the one that most convincingly promises to fix the economic stuff, not "throw away my vote" by voting for a compromise party.

The better mental model of this voter is perhaps not someone who sits dispassionately in the middle of the political spectrum and would prefer centrist options, but of Jekyll and Hyde. And maybe this voter would throw out the central premise of this argument that a "centrist" position would actually be better for the country: they might genuinely prefer the back and forth between the parties, depending on the current climate.

> The existing parties may try to destroy it just because they prefer that no other centres of political power exist, I can see that, but that seems like a general counterargument against all kinds of political organisation ever.

It's not an argument against all forms of political organization - the parties aren't going to uniformly oppose political organizations like the NRA or Planned Parenthood or [hypothetical non-partisan example that I can't think of here] because they aren't real threats.

But a general argument against third parties - groups that actually risk taking away congress seats or Presidential posts? Yes, exactly. *gestures broadly at the entire history of the United States political system*

EDIT: I realize I'm not really clearly addressing that your idea is not really it's own party but like a negotating block... but if it involves somehow giving over voting power to a group that might use it to vote for "the other" side, I think the same dynamics would occur.

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

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While it can contribute to overeating, distracted eating doesn't seem to be a primary driver of appetite. People who engage in distracted eating will eat about 150 more calories per-meal than someone eating mindfully. I would need to know more about how "distraction" levels have changed over time, but I can't imagine we're that much more distracted than before.

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You could say the same thing about reading or surfing the Internet or having scintillating conversation. I dimly recall seeing studies (and personal experiments) that indicated that eating slowly and mindfully and chewing a lot led to being satiated with less food. But I don't think that explains the entire problem.

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I think the core of the problem is that food is incredibly abundant and cheap, and that our lifestyles no longer require significant amounts of physical movement and labor. BLS.gov shows food making up 46% of household spending in 1900, down to 7.5% today. Jobs are far more sedentary, and overall we hardly do the same kind of personal physical labor at home. Timesaving devices such as washing machines and lawn mowers (not to mention a lot more outsourcing of those types of functions) all reduce the number of calories used to complete daily activities.

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This is the correct answer AFAIK. The hyperpalatability of energy dense foods likely also plays a significant role.

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I am fat and I don't even have a TV, so probably not.

My guess would be it is multiple causes, most of them correlated positively with modern lifestyle. How much you eat, what you eat, how you eat, how much you move. Maybe even something invisible, such as bacteria in the air interacting with your gut flora?

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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.

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Arguably more bacteria in that situation gives the cake eaters' immune systems small samples of species and strains of bacteria they may not have previously encountered, and is thus _more_ healthy for them in the long run!

Aren't a lot of allergies and conditions like asthma said to be due to infants not being exposed to as much bacteria and different kinds of substances as they would have been in the past?

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Let's assume that the correlation between less bacteria exposure and more autoimmune conditions is indeed an indication of a causal relationship. If that's so, then should each child briefly lick the whole cake before the slices are served?

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There would be a limit to the benefits. Small amounts act like a vaccine, while large amounts overwhelm your system and you just get sick.

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We're not aware of any research showing where the threshold is between those two amounts. Nor are we aware of research into whether a 1400% increase in germs eaten has a meaningful impact on infection risk. Are you sure you are looking for equivalent levels of rigor here and in your other comment (https://www.astralcodexten.com/p/open-thread-313/comment/48438558)? The context is the same: what actions do we take, or not take, regarding cake hygiene.

Let's assign 99% probability to some level of germs being worse than some lower level germs in direct impact on infection risk among young children. Let's assign 65% probability to some level of germs being better than some lower level of germs for avoiding the formation of allergies among young children. It seems to me like the rational decision is to avoid the germs when possible, while waiting for more evidence on whether there is some way to expose young children to roughly the correct amount of germs for allergy avoidance. If you think allergy formation is terrible and infections are insignificant, then you will get the opposite answer.

We shouldn't forget that fewer toddlers die of infections than in past eras, where germ exposure was higher and allergies were less common. So even if we someday assign 99% instead of 65% to the allergy hypothesis being true, I think we would want to weigh that against additional toddlers remaining alive in the higher-allergy era.

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I don't really care about the percent increase, which was my point in the comment you quoted. I care about the total viral load. A 1400% increase of a tiny amount may be meaningless. Licking the cake is certainly going to increase the viral load by a lot more than breathing around it or blowing on it.

There's also the question of what actions does a certain train of thought implicate. If breathing on a cake makes it unhealthy, then we might need to consider other types of breathing around other people. Given how conversations work, this may mean not talking to people in person anymore, or a wide variety of currently common activities. Not licking a cake is far easier without disrupting normal activities (for the record I would also discourage people from French kissing a bunch of people at a party as well).

I just fully disagree with your last point, because toddlers mostly died due to lack of antibiotics, not because they were exposed to germs more often. Does better hygiene improve childhood health? Absolutely, but a really small amount compared to better medicine. It also comes with tradeoffs where children aren't exposed to small and manageable amounts of germs that help build their immune systems.

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I apologize for the delay. I've been traveling.

The notion of 'briefly' licking seems to be obstructing us, since we might have very different understandings of 'briefly'. Instead, do you recommend that a 2nd child also blow on the cake?

You might say it's not appropriate to apply this sort of reversal test here, because you're in favor of only a small amount of bacteria exposure. But I don't see how the tentative claims about less germ exposure causing allergies justify any distinction between small numbers of children blowing on the cake.

I have never given any thought to how much of the drastic decrease in toddler deaths is attributable to antibiotics vs hygiene. Infection isn't a subject I read about much, so I tend to think of it in terms of 'What is the expected impact of our specific quick action? Is it worth the effort?' not 'How useless do I expect this specific quick action to be, in comparison to something involving medicine?'

Regarding your second paragraph, we're in agreement. Greater food hygiene doesn't seem like a costly tradeoff, whereas not socializing seems very costly.

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On the one hand, this is clearly an uphill struggle because groups of humans will defend themselves and resist being pushed around by outsiders. (And telling me how I can and can't celebrate my own birthday is as much pushing me around as directly telling me what you want me to do/say/wear/etc.)

On the other hand - (and I apologise for bringing woke-bashing into your nice clean thread) - it's clearly been done successfully at some point, because at some point I woke up to find a large number of people my age and below have adopted a completely alien set of values and preferences, and I would rather like to know how this devilish feat was done.

Maybe you could target the members of your group with a campaign of Tiktok/Twitter/Facebook(delete as approriate) content showing high status attractive people enacting the behaviour you want to see, while unattractive low status people continue to do what you don't like and are made the butt of the joke for it.

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I know it's just an example, but if you're worried about a 1400% increase, it helps to know the baselines. If you go from 10 germs to 150, and it takes 10,000 to get sick, maybe nobody cares. Talking about such a large percentage increase gives the impression that it's suddenly *very unhealthy* compared to the alternative, but it may not actually be so. There's also the question of comparable risks. Maybe being around a person who doesn't live in your household increases your risk of getting sick by 10000%. Even if true, almost everyone is going to continue taking that risk for a variety of reasons - most notably because they literally cannot survive without going to work/grocery store/whatever.

Given how many birthday cakes I've consumed that had been blown on, I feel reasonably sure that continuing to blow on them is fine and that your suggestion is unnecessary even if you're correct on the increase.

My point being - if you're going to make suggestions about how people should change things they do daily, make sure that your information is both correct and relevant.

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Excellent points.

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The opposite of what you're looking for I'm afraid, but there was a semi-viral post of a woman standing in a queue at the airport a few weeks ago that made me think of this. Instead of doing the usual thing where as the person at the front of the line is seen she would shuffle forward approximately one person-length, this woman would stay in place for several people (creating a large gap) and then close say ten person-spaces at once.

People online were FURIOUS (even by online commentary standards). But the woman was right - it makes absolutely no difference as long as you aren't at the front of the queue.

I was extremely struck by exactly what you were saying - it seemed to be the transgression of informal social norms that was the problem, not the reasoning. I wonder maybe if people instinctively reinforce a schelling point of 'stick to social norms in informally coordinating spaces' because everyone benefits from the social norm of 'form an orderly queue', and if we allow that these norms can be broken if there is a good reason for it then we have to spend a lot of energy relitigating these norms every time we enter an informal social space?

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This is actually the correct way to help alleviate a traffic jam where there are multiple lanes, and is effective especially when multiple people do it. However for a single queue I don't think it makes a difference.

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Jan 30·edited Jan 30

It's inviting queue jumpers; if she leaves a large space in front of her, someone can come along, go "oh is this the end of the queue?" and get into that ten person space. At the very tail end of the queue, people are also bunched up because nobody is moving forward. And if you've come along to the tail end of a bunched-up queue, you know how annoying it is when nobody knows "should you go before me or me before you?", especially if it's a long line out the door in the usual beautiful Irish summer weather (rain) and you might be stuck waiting outdoors.

She may *feel* like "hey I'm moving way faster this way", but it's the same time either way and inconveniencing everybody else isn't worth it. If six new people came along and got in front of her in that "ten person space" she left clear, now she's six people more behind than if she had moved ahead, and I for one would think it serves her right to be delayed - if she wasn't delaying *everybody else* waiting in line behind her.

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Jan 30·edited Jan 31

There are rational reasons why the woman's behavior was unhelpful, to other queuers and the airport management. But probably the most annoying thing for those queuing behind her is that psychologically people like to feel the queue is progressing and their distance from the desk is steadily reducing, whereas her antics denied them that satisfaction for long periods.

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If everyone did that the line would become incredibly long and convoluted (and likely no longer be a line, as no one could tell where it was). Whatever benefit she's getting from doing that comes at the expense of everyone else - she's defecting against the rest of the line.

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This.

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>It makes absolutely no difference as long as you aren't at the front of the queue.

On the contrary, leaving an ever-increasing gap in the line gives people the opportunity and implicit permission to cut into it.

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Yeah, this. Also, it kind of screws the people at the very back of the line, because there's usually queuing going on and delays / blockages from the point they check your ticket / passport, so she's making that line less accessible to everyone coming from that queue for basically no reason. AND making the overall security line before that point ~10 people longer because of her lack of consideration. Which undoubtedly causes some mental anguish, if not actually increased wait times.

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You make a good point about the utility of social norms, and the expense of relitigating them. I'd like to see a list of irrational social behaviors that come from well established tradition. My feeling is that most have already been heavily discussed (things like the man buying dinner for his date, or buying christmas presents), or we value those traditions because we grew up with them and they constitute our culture. It is perfectly rational to want birthday candles because you turn down the lights and your face glows while your closest friends sing to you and the smell of wax reminds you of birthdays at your recently deceased grandmothers house. That may be worth a few extra germs to you.

How we dress is always good fodder though. I like to lift weights for about 25 minutes at a time, and rather than change cloths I pop into the gym wearing my full work attire and do some bench press. People think i am nuts, and I've even been told it is not allowed, but they can't articulate why it is not allowed, since I am wearing closed toes shoes. If I had to change I wouldn't have time to work out. And sometimes I jog home fully dressed, and some find a grown man running down the street to be very uncouth.

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Preach it! I can't tell you how many dress shirts or dress pants I've ruined benching or squatting respectively in a quick gym pop-in. Well, I could estimate, it's more than 3 but under a double handful for each...but the real point is, more people should do this.

I also like popping in for a quick 25-50 pullups, though I've never ruined any clothes doing that. And of course, this means you always get your workout in - there's no "oops, left my gym bag / clothes at home" workout skipping, because working out is more important than some lame pair of dress clothes. You have to have *priorities.*

I never got crap for doing this at my work gym, but I'm at the top of leaderboard in the work gym and am moving some noticeable weight, and all the gym attendants know me.

I also used to get weird looks for bike commuting ~18 miles round trip to work in dress clothes.

Re the sweat question, some people just sweat less, or the threshold of exertion to start sweating is way higher than a quick 20-30 minute set or bike ride - I never got sweaty doing either of these things.

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Almost everybody used to cycle in their workwear when cycling was their only transport option.

See Dublin in the 60s.

http://www.thebikecomesfirst.com/dublin-then-and-now-june-1961-2015/

Now people who cycle 5km in Lycra need a shower.

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founding

Yes, I typically cycle ~5km in my work clothes on days I need to go in to the office, and in the morning keep to a non-sweaty pace, no problem. In the afternoon it's warmer and I may be in a hurry to get home, so I might work up a sweat - but then half an hour later I'm home and there's a shower and clean clothes right there.

I do not believe that I own anything Lycra.

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I'm a bike to worker too, and also wear my work clothes. I sometimes bike to work in 90 degree, humid weather, still wearing work clothes, and while they definitely get wet with sweat, I do not stink. I have actually had people I know well check me for b.o. I read somewhere that what stinks is anxiety sweat and old sweat that's been hanging around for a while. That's what I've found to be true for me. When I head in to work I am usually fresh out of the shower, so no old sweat around. As for anxiety sweat -- yeah, mine smells like cat piss. But it's rare for me to be seriously anxious at work.

I'm a woman and wear skirts and nice shoes to work. I bought an English Pashley bike with an internal hub and huge mud guards, and it's great. Even the skirts on my long dresses never get caught in the bike, and I don't get mud-spatters even if the streets are wet.

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Don't you get sweaty? And therefore visibly wet, possibly stinky? After 25 min of weightlifting?

I always wonder how people manage to bike to work in hot climates for the same reason.

Maybe you work somewhere where this is more socially palatable than in the US?

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Jan 30·edited Jan 30

Long, loooong ago, back when I still had a half-decent level of fitness, I had a cycling speed threshold (well exertion threshold, really) above which I would sweat and below which I wouldn't. I could cycle at (say) 12mph average and not sweat, but if I was late for work I'd have to cycle at (say) 18mph average and thus arrive sweaty. I think perhaps it might also help that air-cooling and sweat-evapouration both scale with speed, which maybe provides some wiggle-room.

(The difficult bit was consciously making yourself cycle at just 12mph and letting other cyclists overtake you when you know you *could* go at 18mph and overtake them!)

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understand when something is worth changing or its just you being neurotic. Kids will get sick just being at a party, the cake will not accelerate it. Other health related changes-make sure its worth spending your social capital on it.

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The most obvious and consequential example I can think of is mandatory seat belts. And the solution? Just arrest people who don't comply until it's normalized. Turns out simple problems have simple solutions.

https://web.archive.org/web/20201120224357/https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/before-face-masks-americans-went-to-war-against-seat-belts/ar-BB14CsNG

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You are getting a demonstration of how readily people argue if you present the case against doing something the familiar way. You make clear that the birthday cake situation is just an *example* of the kind of situation you have in mind, but even so people are reflexively and irritably arguing against changing the custom, and against the info you mention about germs etc.

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If you're going to worry about germs on birthday cakes, you should also worry about all those germy people standing or sitting close to you and breathing out germ-laden air that you then have to breathe in. There's such a thing as being too fastidious, and if you're really measuring germ counts on birthday cakes, I think that's verging on being over-anxious.

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Also, germs in someone's breathing outflow would often be more dangerous to breathe in then to eat.

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I guess we could use cakes instead of face masks. 🎂

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When I pied you in the face, it was because I didn't want you to get a respiratory infection! 🥧

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I think the best way to convince a small informal group to change something like that is to present the change as something you need for personal reasons -- so present it as something you can't help being bothered by, even though you know that being bothered maybe isn't clearly justified by the facts. SI would recommend doing that even in situations where your real reason for requesting the change is not that you have a quirk or sensitivity that makes you need it, but that you think the new way of doing things is safer/more efficient/less likely to get the group in legal trouble/whatever. That is by far the best way to get the group to change its behavior, rather than arguing with you.

Of course the price you pay is to present yourself as having a weird sensitivity, or a bit of unmanageable anxiety. Still, once the group shifts to doing the new thing, some may find they like it. And you can occasionally say something that backs up your preference, while still presenting it as an aspect of your sensitivity. For instance, in the birthday cake example: " It's such a relief that we blow the candles out with a fan now. I just could not stop thinking about the spittle and germs that land in the frosting if someone blows them out. I read somewhere that there are 14x as many bacteria on a cake after somebody does that. Who knows whether it's true but that was just such a gross thought."

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Thank you. It hadn't occurred to me that presenting something as a personal sensitivity (even when it isn't) might appeal more to the group than a rationale which applies equally to everyone. That said, I would guess that there is a limit to how often one can get away with relying on pity like this. I suspect that most traditions weren't formed in such a way, either.

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No, it's probably not a good thing to do frequently, but for many of us situations requiring it don't come up all that often. If you crave to ask the group to change its customs a lot of the time when you're in a group, you should try to figure out why that is. Is it the groupiness of groups you don't like -- so you start craving to protests their rituals and standards? Or is there some way things are handled in everyday life where you have very strong views and feel you can't tolerate being around people who don't share them? Maybe you need to be in a group of people who share your views. Or else consider just going with "when in Rome do as the Romans do.." The time you spend in the group, doing things that go against your principles, is probably tiny compared to your time away from it. Deviating from your priniciples for that amount of time is unlikely to make much differnce in the long term outcome for you.

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Right. The first thing to do is to understand the power dynamics of the group and your place in it.

If we all agree to do things your way because your way is better, then we've all just ceded a whole bunch of power and status to you. Unless your way is a whole lot better, then we're pretty reluctant to do that.

By casting it as a personal irrational quirk, you allow us to do you a favour without admitting that your way is actually better; in fact, you're probably giving up some status in exchange for getting things your way.

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Tis called going one down to get

one up.

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Jan 30·edited Jan 30

If you're blowing out candles such that spittle is flying, you're doing it wrong. I think talking about "ooh all the spittle on the cake" is only going to make people think you're turning into Howard Hughes:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mysophobia

In that case, I think it's better to be honest: "Look, I'm sorry about this, but blowing out candles on the cake makes me nervous about germs. I'm not accusing anyone, but if you could humour me it'd be great, thanks?" That is at least understandable as "okay some people are anxious and can't help it, let's accommodate them", whereas going on about spittle and germ counts just makes you sound like an obsessive weirdo.

You could also ask them to cut you a slice of the cake *before* blowing out the candles, that way everyone gets to compromise without losing the tradition.

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Are you immune deficient? If yes, most groups would be easily convinced by the argument that you're trying to avoid extra germs. If not, it doesn't make much sense to worry about.

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The candles-on-cake example isn't important; I used it because almost all readers will be familiar with the tradition. But for anyone curious, this is how I would attempt to convince the group:

'Do we want to eat a germy cake? No. Instead, let's make a tortoise - symbol of long life - from Play-Doh. With several pairs of hands, this should only take 2 minutes. We'll call the tortoise Methuselah. The birthday celebrant blows out candles stuck into Methuselah's shell. Then, you can eat Methuselah if you really want, but the rest of us will eat the cake.'

Compared to just abandoning the tradition, the Methuselah option seems a little more likely to be accepted. But only a little, I think - say 10% vs 5%. My inability to come up with a more compelling suggestion is why I want to read through some anecdotes about successes.

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Ugh. You would not be invited again. On the other hand saying that this tradition causes germ transmission might work. Or replacing the excitement of the candle blowing out with something else as exciting. Maybe the opposite - candles that light up (and maybe sparkle) when the birthday boy or girl presses a button after a countdown or the end of the song.

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Jan 30·edited Jan 30

It's not compelling because most people are going to think "What the hell?" instead of "Wow, this makes so much sense!"

I mean, if you're worried about a germy cake, I regret to inform you that bakeries are not surgical operating theatres or pharmaceutical clean rooms, and that cake has been exposed to the open air and people breathing their noxious germ-laden breath on it before ever it ended up on a table with candles on it.

"Then, you can eat Methuselah if you really want, but the rest of us will eat the cake.'"

I'll tell you what is more likely to happen:

"Hands up everybody who thinks we should leave the candles on the cake and make Squirrels eat the plasticine tortoise? Yes, that's everyone!"

Besides, it should be a turtle, not a tortoise, to symbolise longevity.

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Sorry, but sounds like an excellent way to not get invited to my next birthday party.

Birthday cakes are an instance where the value of the tradition outweighs the minor hygiene risk (unless of course the birthday boy/girl is actively sick, or a guest is severely immunocompromised, or something). The risk posed to my health by a birthday cake is primarily from the butter and sugar which will make me fat, and not from the germs which might have accumulated on top of it.

If you don't think so then you are probably either overvaluing germs or undervaluing tradition relative to normal people, which will put you in conflict with them. If that's a hill you want to die on then okay, but first take the time to understand why people enjoy doing it the current way.

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I would suggest an electronic cover for the cake with light-up "candles" that one can "blow out" guaranteed. You can program however many candles to light up, and sell it as being reusable. Then everyone blows on the plastic and you just need to make the sure the bottom of it is clean when you put it on the cake.

Avoids the whole "you literally make me sick" implication.

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Or one could come up with a fun alternative to extinguishing the candles by blowing on them. Would popping a helium-filled balloon near the cake have a similar effect?

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We light the candles, and then the birthday boy/girl stands at twenty paces and tries to put them all out with the garden hose.

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Or a cake condom.

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Oh dear god, the wax burns from the candles would be horrible.

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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?

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My wife is an acupuncturist, so I have some bias here, but I wanted to share a few things from my experience / exposure to acupuncture. I am not a doctor and not pretending to be one, just offering some perspective.

Anecdotally, I helped out in a clinic overseas with my wife for two weeks where we treated a couple hundred patients (who generally had little to no access to medical care) with acupuncture. We saw the same patients repeatedly for a wide range of conditions, most commonly pain and injuries from a lifetime of hard physical labor, and patients consistently reported to us substantial improvement by the last day of our clinic. Maybe all placebo, but if so, it's a damn good one.

Personally, while I would be the last person to claim it is always effective, I have experienced and seen many cases of striking effectiveness, with anxiety and pain being two things where I have first-hand experienced genuinely immediate relief from due to acupuncture (to be clear, in most cases/situations you would NOT be expected to experience immediate relief). To my mind, it's certainly a preferable first-line treatment for pain compared to pharmaceutical alternatives.

In terms of credibility, Acupuncturists are increasingly working alongside MDs at many of the top hospitals in the U.S. on cases such as managing symptoms of cancer treatments. I know several acupuncturists personally who do this. The fact that Medicare and Health Insurers have expanded coverage for acupuncture should offer some additional reassurance. It is not exactly fringe at this point.

Acupuncture is generally low risk in most cases with few/mild side effects to my knowledge/experience. The biggest risk I am aware of is a pneumothorax, which can occur if an acupuncture needle punctures the lung (rare, and to my understanding generally not fatal unless someone is very frail). If someone is at all competent and following the most basic required procedures, they are using needles that come in sterile packages and are disposed of after a single use, and infection risk should be very low.

Acupuncture, like any profession, has better and worse practitioners. There are plenty of people practicing acupuncture who I would be terrified to to receive it from. In contrast to licensed acupuncturists, who receive substantial training over a couple of years at least, physical therapists (maybe some other professions as well?) often do what amounts to a weekend course to learn "dry needling" (acupuncture needles inserted into the belly of the muscle to stimulate a contraction and release). I would personally never receive acupuncture from someone who was not trained specifically as an acupuncturist, as I would be concerned that they do not have an adequate awareness of risks and best practices (particularly when needling the shoulders/chest/upper back).

I would be curious to hear more about why you oppose acupuncture, if you have a specific reason or just a general sense that it is "woo-woo" or "alternative"?

I hope this proves helpful.

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Several decades ago I tried acupuncture for infertility, on the theory that it couldn’t hurt (I was doing conventional treatment as well). IDuring the period while I was having the acupuncture I had several weeks of unusually bad insomnia. Acupuncturist tried several different insomnia treatments on me over the course of several sessions. When the usual ones had no effect she gave me one so strong she cautioned me to be extra careful driving home. I actually believed her, and was in fact extra careful when ai drove home. But that treatment, like the others, did not have the slightest effect on me. Infertility treatments, combo of conventional plus acupuncture, also were ineffective. Also, when my acupuncturist administered various treatments she sometimes warned me about various odd sensations I might have while the needles were in. I can’t remember what they were now, except that they were state-of-mind things, not sensations from the needles themselves. I could usually feel the needles, though the pain was very minimal, but otherwise never felt a thing out of the ordinary.

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Jan 30·edited Jan 30

Sorry to hear that that was your experience. My general conceptualization is that there are conditions that acupuncture is usually effective for, sometimes effective for, and generally ineffective for, with some overlap with Western Medicine and some conditions that acupuncture is more effective in treating (or equally effective, with much less downside). I have not had a lot of luck with acupuncture for my own insomnia (at times it has made it worse). Unfortunately, depending on the nature of the fertility issues, I suspect that in many cases they are intractable for both Western Medicine and Acupuncture/Oriental approaches, as was your experience. Pain like the original poster mentioned would fall more into the "bread-and-butter" of conditions that acupuncture is often effective for.

In terms of sensations, it is common to have some localized sensation (sometimes painful if they nick a nerve or blood vessel), and not uncommon to have referred pain/sensation elsewhere in the body. However, it isn't totally abnormal to not feel anything, although my understanding is that there is thought to be some relationship between sensation (again, not necessarily painful) and efficacy, with moderate sensation associated with greater efficacy than no sensation.

I am not sure what the acupuncturist you mentioned was referring to in terms of "state-of-mind" things, but there is certainly a subset of acupuncturists with an affinity for approaching the medicine is a "spiritual" way that is a little out there, and as far as I can tell is fairly divorced from the actual mainstream of the medicine (i.e. they bring that baggage with them to the medicine). There are also plenty of level-headed acupuncturists with an affinity for bio-medicine. At least for my wife, her education involved substantial biomedical training from respected MDs, who taught concurrently at medical schools.

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I don't believe you that you are sorry that I had that experience. Why the fuck should you be? You don't even know me, and anyhow I make clear that my failed acupuncture treatment was not distressing or even particularly disappointing or frustrating. Even *I* am not sorry I had that experience. Why start out your post with a bit of insincere empathy?

Oh, one other semi-relevant experience I had: I used to have moderately bad migraines fairly often. They were not the kind where you can stand to do anything but lie in a darkened room. They were just medium-intensity one-sided headaches accompanied my mild vertigo, nausea and sleepiness. If I really had to I could go to work with one. So I read someplace about an acupressure technique said to help with headaches. I can't remember where I read it, but it was either a place I thought was worth taking semi-seriously, or possibly several places. Anyhow, the technique was to press the fleshy area connecting thumb and forefinger. So I worked really hard at getting some mileage out of that. Tried different parts of the area, different amounts of pressure, and for a while had the sense that maybe it was making the head pain recede a bit. Finally settled on keeping a clothespin on the area. I had weakened it so it did not squeeze as hard as clothespins normally do, and I would periodically take it off for a few minutes. Did that for a couple days. Eventually had to face the fact that once the novelty wore off and I was no longer paying attention to the hand sensation my head did not hurt one bit less.

I never did really think acupuncture was likely to make any difference in a health problem, but I did give it a wholehearted attempt with infertility and insomnia, was also wholehearted in how I tried acupressure for migraines. I am now pretty sure acupoke is completely ineffective. Paul Ingraham, at his Pain Science site, has a pretty good takedown of it:

https://www.painscience.com/articles/acupuncture-for-pain.php

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Expressing sympathy over failed fertility treatments is a very normal thing for people to do, and is often done in a legitimately sincere manner, even to strangers.

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Agreed. This was a standard (and arguably obligatory) call-and-response ritual to hearing about someone's loss / disappointment, be they a stranger or a close friend.

Most people would be offended if they *weren't* offered the courtesy of an acknowledgement of their suffering, even if it's merely ritual.

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Eh, I said it was several decades ago, mentioned it in a matter of fact way, and did not say a single word suggesting that the subject is a painful one. Given all that, I think expressing sympathy is way over the top.

In another post on this thread, about AI doom, I wrote that I expected to be dead by the time it comes about, but that my daughter will probably not be, and I hate to think about that. Now *that* is an expression of serious ongoing distress. But even a response to that post that began with an expression of sympathy for my parental worry would have seemed a bit odd to me. Jeez, this isn’t group therapy!

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. I’ve found that people who try that stuff are unpersuadable. You explain to them how the whole basis for the treatment is a bunch of nonsense, and they say well yes but life is complicated and there’s a lot science hasn’t figured out yet and it helped my friend and you are hurting my feelings and making me feel criticized. Acupuncture’s unlikely to harm them. The little needles are probably cheap and I think most practitioners use fresh ones for each person. Just let them realize that oddly enough their facial pain is not getting better from having teeny needles stuck in their belly button and knees

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I know someone who lost a lung and some other valuable parts of her insides as a result of an infection (or maybe multiple simultaneous infections) caused by acupuncture needles. Almost died, but in any event she'll never be the same. The place seemed clean and reputable but shut down and skipped town after this incident when she threatened a lawsuit.

I had never had interest in acupuncture but didn't know this was a serious risk. I looked up the stats and this kind of thing seemed fairly rare but not unheard of. Though it wouldn't surprise me if it was underreported.

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

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You mean beyond the subreddits like r/slatestarcodex, themotte, theschism, and places like that?

There's also the SSC / ACX old-style forum, Data Secrets Lox, and of course old standbys like LessWrong, and on Discord the SSC channel and Outer Haven.

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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.

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What is it that you want to know about? If it's about marketing and selling, then I know nothing at all about that (sadly!). Ditto contracts and attracting authors (don't charge them, I know that much). Hardback, paperback or ebook production, registering ISBNs etc, I have some experience with.

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I have an acquaintance who I can run questions past if you like. She runs a freelance editing business for ELT textbooks but spent a lot of time in house as a managing/production editor. She probably wouldn't be up for a direct connection but I'm sure would be happy to have me proxy your questions and reply on her behalf.

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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.

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What do you think is the ideal institutional setting for your work? Is it people like you displacing other people from academia, or is it a different sort of institution?

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Journals could hire replicators as part of the peer review process. Data editors (who make sure the code runs) are becoming more common, so replicators is the next step.

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Great work, great idea. But if ever you're near a college campus, wear a bulletproof vest.

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I don't have a job for you but this is great work!

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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.

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My read on the situation, for what it’s worth, is that Taylor Swift is *such* a cultural icon right now that everyone, for better or for worse, is trying to shoehorn her into their camp. See also: speculation on whether she is secretly gay. For those of us who don’t base their political views on pop stars, it’s irrelevant. Pop stars have been overwhelming liberal since forever, and the only people who care are college students, who have also been overwhelmingly liberal since forever.

(I know Taylor started out being country music adjacent, which is right wing coded, but she’s long since moved past that into pop queen territory. It’s Michael Jackson/Elvis level of rarefied air she’s breathing.)

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Just for amusement value, the snarkiest thing I've read about Taylor Swift's embrace of the Democrats was: "wait for the break-up album".

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Lol

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founding

Hollywood, yes. Nashville, not so much. Taylor Swift started out as a country music star, and I believe was born and raised in a Rust Belt town. It's not a sure thing, but also not unreasonable to expect that such a person would lean conservative. And, yeah, if ten years ago you'd said "Country music star dating an NFL player", I'd have bet on their having voted for Romney in 2012.

But since then, Taylor has figured out how to make a billion dollars appealing to mostly young women who are disproportionately liberal. And Mitt Romeny has been replaced by Donald Trump. Whatever Taylor Swift's political views may be in private, she isn't likely to be speaking favorably of Republicans any time soon.

That is symptomatic of a problem for the GOP, even if it isn't quite the one Hanania thinks he's seeing.

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Isn't the Republican party's racial composition actually diversifying surprisingly well, at least considering historical expectations? Is the contention that they should appeal less to blue collar people of all ethnic groups (or trying to expand their share of old white people) and try to appeal more to young successful white people? You also don't need to appeal to young people, as long as people become more conservative as they age at a sufficient rate, and party can be consistently successful while appealing disproportionately to the old.

It's also at least debatable if not clearly incorrect that this is some strategic error by the Republican Party. I doubt there's anything the GOP could do to win Swift's vote; I'm guessing she didn't vote for Romney. I doubt there's a Republican moderate enough for her to vote for. While I think it's unfortunate the turn taken by the GOP is unfortunate in an absolute sense, it's not clear that it isn't the optimal strategy for maximizing their share of the vote.

In any case, I think I decided Hanania was overrated a while ago. Some of his early pieces I thought were interesting and he filled a novel niche, but when he's defending some fairly conventional position, he doesn't stand out from all the other millions of pundits arguing the same things in terms of insightfulness, in my opinion. He stands out mainly because of the unusual eclecticism of his opinions, but I'd be hard pressed to name an individual opinion he has that hasn't been better defended by others.

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Hanania wants to focus his political capital on what is important to him. If he spends too much time getting grouped with race/sex/conspiracy crazies he's going to lose a lot of it (easy to dismiss), so he's leaning heavily into creating distance on these issues (even some he might agree with). So he's picking his battles, let's see how this works out for him...

See https://www.richardhanania.com/p/why-i-oppose-eugenics

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It won't work out for him at all. He's a frankly a pro-immigration extremist, which is essentially throwing in his lot with people who hate him and whose policies will end up destroying what little 'political capital' he has left. The future of the right is anti-immigration, and so he has no place in it, and he's already a marked man amongst the left.

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What could probably be said is that white pop stars are near-universally leftists and probably have been for a long time, but historically they were mostly quiet about politics (unlike genre music, much of which is overtly political). Taylor was quiet about politics until, IIRC, the 2018 midterms. And the issue that caused her to speak out was homosexuality, noting that she has a lot of backup dancers that are homosexual.

I would guess that white male athletes lean a bit further right than other college-educated white males of their age. Though they're mostly quiet about it. There are prominent examples of Evangelical athletes, while Evangelicals are unheard of in other forms of secular entertainment.

Though at least in the NFL, white athletes probably lean further left on black racial issues than most other matters, as the job almost requires it. Or at least they have to pretend to.

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In the rock-n-roll era the biggest white stars were pretty political. We're just in another political era.

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Rock and roll is different to pop in very relevant ways.

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Gods damn it, Hanania annoys me so much that, totally uninterested as I am in Taylor Swift, I'm going to have to look this one up.

Ten years ago was 2014. What was Taylor Swift doing in 2014?

She was 25 years of age, and apparently had broken out of being a country(?) starlet into full-fledged rock/pop:

"In March 2014, Swift began living in New York City. She...worked on her fifth studio album ... She promoted the album extensively, including inviting fans to secret album-listening sessions.1989 was released on October 27, 2014, and opened atop the Billboard 200 with 1.28 million copies sold. Its singles "Shake It Off", "Blank Space" and "Bad Blood" reached number one in Australia, Canada and the US, the first two making Swift the first woman to replace herself at the Hot 100 top spot; other singles include "Style", "Wildest Dreams", "Out of the Woods" and "New Romantics". The 1989 World Tour (2015) was the highest-grossing tour of the year with $250 million in total revenue." She also took on Spotify and got back money off Apple.

She may or may not have started out 'conservative' (seemingly she went to school to the nuns as a kid, but that tells us nothing; she moved to Nashville at a young age and built her career starting there but again, how she voted or who she voted for isn't immediately apparent. If she was potentially Republican but is now presumably Democrat (and we don't know for sure), why did she change? On the other hand, she might always have voted Democrat. Being rich and white doesn't mean you're a natural conservative, see all the rich white guys going back years who have never had any problem voting liberal to progressive to vaguely leftist.

Political views, again according to Wikipedia:

"Swift identifies as a pro-choice feminist, and is one of the founding signatories of the Time's Up movement against sexual harassment. She criticized the US Supreme Court's decision to end federal abortion rights in 2022. Swift also advocates for LGBT rights, and has called for the passing of the Equality Act, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity. She performed during WorldPride NYC 2019 at the Stonewall Inn, a gay rights monument, and has donated to the LGBT organizations Tennessee Equality Project and GLAAD."

I don't really see a huge amount of difference there from any views she might have had in 2014; if she's pro-choice now she probably was back then, ditto the gay rights allyship. So to me, Hanania's argument boils down to "ditch the cultural stuff and go with the Zeitgeist, be pro-sex'n'drugs'n'rock and roll, and conservatism then means simply money". And Swift is certainly canny about money, so if that's "voting conservative" then sure - if the Republicans were just like the Democrats in everything but welfare programmes and tax cuts for the rich, she'd vote conservative.

Maybe.

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I know someone smart who's fascinated by her & has dug up all kinds of info about her. For what it's worth, her family of origin was upper middle class.

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I don't have any statistics, but I'd expect that on the whole, white college educated millennials who were socially left in their 20s (pro gay rights, pro choice, etc) are still pretty socially left on those issues, and for abortion at least the Republican party hasn't really updated to accommodate it - which didn't matter when the Boomers were in their 40s, but will matter as the millennials approach their 40s and are still socially left, comparatively.

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Putting taylor swifts name in a tweet is a surefire way to get more views. That explains about 80% of why I think Hanania tweeted that.

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100%

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+1

It's bad on purpose to make you click.

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Because I'd forgotten it, and to save everyone else a trip to "let me google that for you":

https://www.astralcodexten.com/p/its-bad-on-purpose-to-make-you-click

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Maybe if you go back 50-70 years, this would have been true? I do think there was an inflection point 10 years ago on the left, and a series of problems over the last 20 on the right. Maybe a way to save the argument is that there was a type of non-politically-vocal person who would quietly vote conservative, and now they don't? Dunno if that applies to his examples, though.

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I don’t know anything about Taylor Swift’s politics, but she’s very popular with gender nonconforming people, who surely are not mostly right-leaning.

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For the first several years of her career, she refused to talk about politics. Most people thought that made her neutral. But that silence along with her being blond, blue-eyed, and attractive led some neo-Nazis to assume (or at least hope) that she was secretly sympathetic to their cause.

After Trump was elected in 2016, Taylor was so horrified that she decided to begin supporting Democrats more openly. As far as I know, the main policy positions that she's taken are being pro-choice and pro-LGBTQ rights.

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Feb 5·edited Feb 5

>But that silence along with her being blond, blue-eyed, and attractive led some neo-Nazis to assume (or at least hope) that she was secretly sympathetic to their cause.

Not really, more of a meme that exploited her silence rather than genuine belief.

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Good grief, do neo-Nazi's actually put a lot of store by somebody being blond and blue eyed, and think that ups the chances they're Nazis? (Don't they even know that most adults with blond hair are bottle blonds?)

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This was entirely a meme, few if any genuinely believed she held far-right views

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Yeah, OK, I really don't know much about Taylor Swift.

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A quick Google on that indicates that there were more accusations of white supremacist fans than actual white supremacist fans, with a lot of outlets denouncing swift for being white supremacist adjacent.

She wasn’t out of the woods as of last year.

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/taylor-swift-ice-spice-karma-collaboration_n_646f6a21e4b0a7554f3d5b98/amp

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Wow, the one person I know who is fascinated by her is a dark-skinned S Asian trans guy. There is a huge gender-nonconforming faction among her fans. That group has a custom of making friendship bracelets with letters woven in that spell out obscure references to her lyrics and trading them with people sitting nearby. Last concert he went to sounds like almost everyone around where he happened to sit was gay or trans. I'm pretty sure any white supremacist sitting in that area would have either passed out from sheer disgust or ripped off a few heads.

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They literally view the world through a lens of "blonde + blue eyes = genetically superior and good", so it's not far from there to "we're the good guys, so the other definitionally good guys must secretly like us".

Nazis are not particularly smart.

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