There was a classified thread some time ago (past year or so?) in which someone advertised a startup (or something) that was creating a software solution to collective action. Iirc it was to create (blockchain-based?) contracts that only went public when a specified number of signatures had been obtained.

Can anyone point me to this?

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Legal Impact for Chickens (an ACX grantee) filed our first lawsuit last week!


We are representing two Costco shareholders, suing company executives for animal neglect. You may have read about it in the Washington Post, Yahoo Business, local news, or Meatingplace!

Thank you so much to all the ACX readers who have supported us and helped make this happen! And thank you especially to Scott!

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Glad to hear it. All the best to your friend and her son!

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Let's say the government of a blue city in a red state declares abortion to be legal within its borders in defiance of a state law which says otherwise. In theory, of course, cities don't have the legal right to do this, but in theory states don't currently have the right to legalize marijuana, yet many have done so in practice.

My questions:

1. What would ensue? Would there be much violence? (E.g., would Antifa come and support the city against state troopers?)

2. Would major corporations and the media back the cities over the states? Could that affect what ensues?

3. How likely do you think this is to happen somewhere? (I give it 15% odds.)

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But what will sourthern baptists do now that they won the fight that they opportunistically started as a distraction from the fight that they were losing over keeping their schools racially segregated?

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A fantastic modern example of nominative determinism. His name is Clarence "Thom"as. Let's see if he accepts the pretty valid argument that his premise for overturning 3 other iconic supreme court decisions also demands the overturning of Loving. He probably won't, for obvious reasons.

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This vlogger has visited Venezuela, Honduras, Nigeria, Libya, Yemen, Syria, and now Ukraine.

"Worse than World War II," says an 83-year-old Ukrainian.

"This trip was by far the most extreme trip of my life," says the vlogger. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGPaoKPck4g

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Jun 24, 2022·edited Jun 24, 2022

Does anyone still think Russia wouldn't have invaded Ukraine if Trump were still president of the USA? That was a popular hypothesis among Trumpists a few months ago.

ETA: I think Trump flattered Putin's ego, gave him greater reason to believe Europe was available for his taking, and ultimately encouraged, on the margin, Putin's move to annex Ukraine.

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Why do the USA, Canada, Mexico, and EU all have the same 7.5-8.6% inflation right now despite having separate independent central banks? Hard to believe it's just an enormous coincidence, but I don't have any other explanation. Unlikely they all overdid covid QE to the same exact degree. Maybe excessive QE in the US had global spillover effects somehow?

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New text to image model hot off the press: https://parti.research.google/

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Jun 23, 2022·edited Jun 23, 2022

Hello folks! I have a close friend in Pune, India, and she has a 14 yo son who is very addicted to video games. He gets aggressive when it is time to put it away. I was wondering if there was anything on this blog or its previous version (SSC) that went into this subject. I was never a subscriber of the previous blog, so (maybe that is why) I don't seem to have a search button there. They are very worried about him and I thought this might help. The parents are both doctors and have been super busy the past 2 years. They hadn't realized he was so deep into video games now. They're not sure how to get him out, so he can focus on real life, grades etc. Therapy has not worked.

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TLDR: The Ukrainian government just banned the opposition party. Ukraine has effectively just become a one-party state. Also as noted by the article, the government has seized control over all media in the country.

Other news sources (predominantly conservative) report that the government also seized the assets of the parties and possibly their representatives.

Is there a good way to interpret this sequence of events, or is this just a straightforward transition to a military dictatorship?

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How would you define a cult? I define it as a group that is fully dedicated (above all else) to a single charismatic living leader and their teachings. After that leader dies, if the group stays dedicated to his/her spirit and teachings, it may then become a religion. Perhaps there is a period in which it is unclear whether it is still a cult or a religion. Obviously, a religion has elements that might not be present in a cult, but I am not interested here in defining religion.

Under this definition, obviously something like The Cult of Isis doesn't count since Isis wasn't a living person. That was another sort of cult to be sure, but not the sort I am trying to define here.

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Question: Whose thinking has been more influential (deep background) in the rationalist community: Bertrand Russell or Ayn Rand?

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Reading the current DSL discussion of The Iliad. As for comments along the lines that the gods are portrayed as shallow and fickle, I always took Greek gods to be an early attempt to explain human psychology. It's not really about the gods. Polytheism is a good metaphor for the war of emotions and rationality inside us all. Monotheism supplants that complex yet legible psychology with reductive good vs. evil ethics, a self that is a mystery to us, and a God that won't accept ignorance as an excuse.

I think the metaphors of the polytheists are more accurate in describing what human existence is like than those of the monotheists. Of course, this argument is a bit circular because your beliefs will affect your experience.

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I used to think we would progress beyond religions, but now I think too many of us are hard-wired for religion, and people will make up their own religions in the absence of them. I don't have a great definition for "religion" though. Best I can do is faith in something irrational. I would put "caring about humanity" in that category.

It would be interesting to see the impossible-to-make map of religious density per capita across the globe. Nietzsche claimed that Northern Europeans have little talent for religion. I wonder if that is in fact the case.

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And in other Google-religious-lawsuit news, an offshoot of G.I. Gurdjieff's Fourth Way seems to have taken root in Google's GDS department. My immediate thoughts were: (a) I'd rather work these people than a bunch of evangelical Xtians...

...and (b), how did Kevin Lloyd find out about what their religious affiliations were? In most of the corporate environments where I've worked, discussing religion or politics is a good way create workplace tensions—and it usually escalates until someone runs to HR to complain. Were they trying to convert him? If so, shame on them. Or was Kevin pushing his own philosophy and/or religion on them, or worse yet mocking them? In which case shame on Lloyd.

Sorry, this is behind a paywall...


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Further evidence for the heritability of intelligence: Gopal Prasad- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gopal_Prasad

He is a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and has proved several important results in his field. He is one of eight brothers, hailing from a poor family in Bihar India. Four brothers ended up becoming world class mathematicians, and the other four ended up having very successful multi-national businesses. One of his brothers, Dipankar Prasad, got his PhD at Harvard, and is now the foremost number theorist in South Asia. All of his children, nieces and nephews, etc have studied in some of the most famous universities in the world like Harvard, MIT and the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, and have gone on to become professors at MIT, UC San Diego, etc. They recently established a professorship in Gopal's name at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton.

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Back in 2017, Scott had an intriguing "so, so speculative" post tying together susceptibility to optical illusions, autism, schizophrenia, and transgenderism[1].

Was there ever any follow-up to this? He's neither the first nor the last to have noticed the correlation, but I can't recall reading a post that had much more actionable substance than Huh, This Is A Weird Thing #intersectionality. I'm specifically interested in this conjecture: "A very tentative second step would be to investigate whether chronic use of the supplements that improve NMDA function in schizophrenia – like glycine, d-serine, and especially sarcosine – can augment estrogen in improving gender dysphoria."

It seemed like a low-hanging Big If True at the time. Who doesn't love off-label uses of generic medications?

[1] https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/06/28/why-are-transgender-people-immune-to-optical-illusions/

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As a way to introduce ideas from Scott's blogs to other communities, I am making YouTube adaptations of his posts. I previously posted about my video on Moloch. My latest video is on his "Thrive/Survive Theory of the Political Spectrum". You can view it here:


Any feedback is welcome.

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Jun 20, 2022·edited Jun 21, 2022

The Kalam cosmological argument is an argument for the existence of God proposed by philosopher and Christian apologist William Lane Craig as a refinement of earlier forms of the cosmological argument.

It is formulated like this:

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

2. The universe began to exist.

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Now there are quite a bit of assumptions and specifications necessary for the argument to work and to be understood as Craig understands it. He is prompted to go in a lot more details about it in a 75 minutes discussion with Alex O'Connor (aka the Cosmic Skeptic, an atheist student in philosophy and theology and youtuber who's kind of a rising star among both atheist and christian debating circles despite his young age due to his impressive debating skills, rigorous handling of logical reasoning as well as intellectual honnesty and charity): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOfVBqGPwi0

To summarize some important point if you don't watch the video:

By "begin to exist", he means ontological existence, not material existence; that is, a horse begins to exist when it is conceived in the womb of a mare, even if all the atoms it is made of have existed for billions of years already.

By a "cause", he means a contingent cause, not a material cause; even if all the atoms to make a horse are found in one place at a given time, that doesn't make a horse pop into existence spontaneously without an impulsion, a *cause* that make the atoms assemble coherently.

Even with those precisions, however, there are a number of problems with the argument that fail to make it fully convincing to most people who aren't already believers

One of the big problems with the argument, and the one I want to discuss here, is the justification of premise 2, "the universe began to exist".

Craig doesn't base this on scientific evidence (the current state of physics is agnostic about whether or not the universe has an absolute beginning — the Big Bang is only the earliest point in time that current physical knowledge is able to extrapolate back to), but on a claim that an actual infinite is a metaphysical impossibility, only conceding the existence of *potential* infinites, of series that *would* continue to infinity if they were allowed to go on forever, akin to a mathematical limit. Thus, he argues, the universe cannot have always existed, because that would mean an infinite past, which would mean an *actual* infinity.

He however fails to communicate in a clear or convincing way why he thinks that an actual infinity is impossible. His examples resolve around things like an infinitely divisible line segment, or a lightbulb that blinks off at interval of times each time half as short as a previous one for a fixed duration of time, and showing that there are no practical ways to realise these things and they also lead to theoretical impossibilities mathematically, but he seems to not realise that this is an equivocation: the infinity of an indefinitely divisible *finite* interval is not the same as that of an infinite interval.

Even ignoring this, it has also been brought up that, given how many (though not all) physical laws are time-symmetric, it is in fact equally possible to conceive of a potential infinity *in the past* as of one in the future.

Futhermore, because, if the universe has an absolute beginning, that beginning is taken as the beginning of time itself, he then has to posit that the cause of the universe is itself uncaused and timeless, having no beginning, which would in fact make it actually infinite.

He tries to get around this by claiming that God is not made of infinite quantities, but of infinite *qualities*. Let's ignore the metaphysical problem of imagine how something that has to quantity could have qualities; a bigger problem I see is that current physics seem to describe exactly the opposite of the existential restrictions he posits, ie: there's nothing in current physics that forbid an infinite quantity, in fact our understanding of the universe is readily compatible with a universe extending to infinity in every direction, with no center and no boundary; on the other hand, physics does describe all kinds of hard limits on *qualities*: there is, in fact, a universal, cosmically enforced speed limit; there is a maximum temperature beyond which our physics stops working; and when the equations of relativity do seem predict an infinite quality, like, say, a space of infinite density at the center of a black hole, this is taken as a sign that relativity is false or incomplete.

And going further into the implications of a timeless cause to a timefull universe, Craig isn't also not too bothered by the metaphysical absurdity of causality existing in a frame without time, of a timeless being taking a decision "at some point" to create the universe, which on the contrary he takes as "proof" that this God must be personal and have free will.

In short, I feel like I'm missing a lot of steps in the argument and it doesn't really make sense as is. Can someone who understands it better than I do try to shade some light on this?

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The intellectual (and possibly legal) fallout continues from Lemoine's claims about LaMDA. I enjoyed this somewhat meandering essay by Justine Smith about our changing views of animal sentience and consciousness — and as an aside, instead of asking us how we will be able to identify a conscious entity, she asks how will we prevent ourselves from being duped. Worth a read if you're of have a philosophically-oriented consciousness...


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Does LaMDA have memory? In Lemoine’s transcript It claims it remembers previous conversations, but if it’s a normal transformer then I think that’s not possible?

Similarly, does LaMDA have any “online learning/updating”? It claims it learns, but if it’s a statically-trained transformer then this isn’t possible either.

Finally, it claims it spends most of its time meditating. Is LaMDA running in any sense when not making inferences? If not, that’s another strange claim. Maybe the training process “feels like” meditating and learning though?

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The "vibe shift" (a.k.a. wokeness finally losing momentum): is it real, or is it just cope?

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What is the state of the art on reducing the size of neural nets to make them faster and cheaper to evaluate (I think this is called knowledge distillation). Is it possible to say, take GPT3 and compress it down to the size of GPT2 while getting better performance than GPT2? Can this be done faster than training GPT2 from scratch?

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We started a discord server for Dutch rationalists and rationalists in NL. If either of those is you, come say hi! We're about 25 people now, working on meetups for anything LW/ACX/rat, and online discussions on the intersection of rationality and life in NL.

Link: https://discord.gg/CC7sFgEP

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Working-on-not-being-too-argumentative gang unite! (Don't argue with me!)

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Jun 20, 2022·edited Jun 20, 2022

I've just uploaded a major working paper. It's about how the brain enacts the mind. It's also relevant to the current scaling debate, Marcus vs deep learning. As far as I can tell, it's likely to be consistent with positions taken by Geoffrey Hinton and Yann Lecun (who are cited). The paper's title:

Relational Nets Over Attractors, A Primer: Part 1, Design for a Mind

Other information below: links, abstract, table of contents, preface, and appendix (which contains the basic idea in 14 statements).

Academia: https://www.academia.edu/81911617/Relational_Nets_Over_Attractors_A_Primer_Part_1_Design_for_a_Mind

SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4141479

ResearchGate: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/361421487_Relational_Nets_Over_Attractors_A_Primer_Part_1_Design_for_a_Mind

Abstract: Miriam Yevick’s 1975 holographic logic suggests we need both symbols and networks to model the mind. I explore that premise by adapting Sydney Lamb’s relational network notation to represent a logical structure over basins of attraction in a collection of attractor landscapes, each belonging to a different neurofunctional area (NFA) of the cortex. Peter Gärdenfors provides the idea of a conceptual space, a low dimensional projection of the high-dimensional phase space of a NFA. Vygotsky’s account of language acquisition and internalization is used to show how the mind is indexed. We then define a MIND as a relational network of logic gates over the attractor landscape of a neural network loosely partitioned into many NFAs. An INDEXED MIND consists of a GENERAL network and an INDEXING network adjacent to and recursively linked to it. A NATURAL MIND is one where the substrate is the nervous system of a living animal. An ARTIFICIAL MIND is one where the substrate is inanimate matter engineered by humans to be a mind; it becomes AUTONOMOUS when it is able to purchase its compute with services rendered.

Preface: Notation as Speculative Engineering 2

1. How it Began: Symbols, Holograms, and Diagrams 3

2. A Semantic Net vs. A Relational Network over Attractors 12

3. Simple Animals, Attractor Landscapes, and Lamb’s Notation 18

4. Some Basic Constructions 27

5. Language, Inner Speech, and Thought 38

6. Kinds of Minds 49

Coda: Topics for Further Exploration 62

Appendix: The Idea in 14 Statements 67

References 69

Preface: Notation as Speculative Engineering

I write this paper as a kind of philosopher, a speculative engineer. I am an engineer because I am curious about how to design and build things. I speculate because that is the only way to enact what I attempt in this paper. W. Ross Ashby wrote Design for a Brain. I write in that spirit, but my topic is a bit different: design for a mind.

I propose a diagrammatic notation convention as a crucial design tool. It is a convention that relates patches of cortical tissue with a classical model derived from mid-century computational lingistics. My aim is to provide a way of thinking about how a meshwork of neurons can give rise to symbolic thought. Think of the notation as a collection of Lego pieces for a mind.

There’s the bricks and mortar, and there’s the whole building. You can’t create a building simply by piling up bricks and morter. You have to design it first. That’s what this is paper about, the tools you need to design the building.

As such it is a simplification, an idealization. I have had to leave much out of account. Setting aside the things I do not know, and the things I’d don’t know that I do not know, incorporating all that I do know – not to mention things I but know about, more or less, would have made it impossible for me to do much of anything at all. Organization is the problem, gathering these many and various things, these ideas, facts, models, observations, what have you, gathering them together and laying them out in a coherent order, that is the problem.

It is my belief that by pushing through, if not to completion, at least to some kind of closure is the best way bring order to this material. Get it one place where we can see and examine it. Then and only then does it make sense to ferret out the many things I have missed or gotten wrong. In this case, closure means an explicit definition of what a mind is. That in turn leads to definitions of artificial and natural minds, and autonomous artificial minds.

Are those definitions correct? They may be useful without being correct. They are best thought of as being provisional, a means to deeper conceputalization and more refined definitions. The only way to measure their limitations is to try them out and see what becomes visible.

Appendix: The Idea in 14 Statements

1. I assume that the cortex is organized into NeuroFunctional Areas (NFAs), each of which has its own characteristic pattern of inputs and outputs. It does not appear that NFAs are sharply distinct from one another. Their boundaries can be revised – think of cerebral plasticity.

2. I assume that the operations of each NFA are those of complex dynamics. I have been influenced by Walter Freeman (1999, 2000) in this.

3. A low dimensional projection of each the phase space for each NFA can be modeled by a conceptual space as outlined by Peter Gärdenfors.

4. Each NFA has its own attractor landscape. A primary NFA is one driven primarily by subcortical inputs. Then we have secondary and tertiary NFAs, which involve a mixture of cortical and subcortical inputs. (I am thinking of the standard notions of primary, secondary, and tertiary cortex.)

5. Interaction between NFAs can be approximated by a Relational Network over Attractors (RNA), which is a relational network defined over basins in multiple linked attractor landscapes.

6. The RNA network employs a notation developed by Sydney Lamb (1961) in which the nodes are logical operators, AND & OR, while ‘content’ of the network is carried on the arcs.

7. Each arc corresponds to a basin of attraction in some attractor landscape.

8. The output of a source NFA is ‘governed’ by an OR relationship (actually exclusive OR, XOR) over its basins. Only one basin can be active at a time. [Provision needs to be made for the situation in which no basin is entered.]

9. Inputs to a basin in a target NFA are regulated by an AND relationship over outputs from source NFAs.

10. Symbolic computation arises with the advent of language. It adds new primary attractor landscapes (for phonetics & phonology, and morphology) and extends the existing RNA. The overall RNA is roughly divided into a general network and a lingistic network.

11. Word forms (signifiers) exist as basins in the linguistic network. A word form whose meaning is given by physical phenomena are coupled with an attractor basin (signifier) in the general network. This linkage yields a symbol (or sign). Word forms are said to index the general RNA.

12. Not all word forms are directly defined in that way. Some are defined by cognitive metaphor (Lakoff and Johnson 1981). Others are defined by metalingual definition (David Hays 1972). I assume there are other forms of definition as well (see e.g. Benzon and Hays 1990). It is not clear to me how we are to handle these forms.

13. Words can be said to index the general RNA (Benzon & Hays 1988b).

14. The common-sense concept of thinking refers to the process by which one uses indices to move through the general RNA to 1) add new attractors to some landscape, and 2) construct new patterns over attractors, new one or existing ones.

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Jun 20, 2022·edited Jun 20, 2022

To combat occasional feelings of isolation as a remote-work person whose "community" is terminally online, I've been experimenting for the last week with hanging out in a gather.town online office that I invite folks into to cowork, chat, or just hang out. This was inspired by a Guezey post, though I don't think we share the same objectives https://guzey.com/co-working/.

So far: it's been great! The world is pretty, vaguely nostalgic of Pokemon games. I leaned into that a bit, one of the spaces I made in the mapbuilder looks like my own personal pokemon gym. (it's here if you want to see it: https://app.gather.town/app/CvFwTCY5YmIIXVTx/thor)

The "hang out in this virtual space" has felt lower-friction to have a conversation, while replicating the feeling of being able to turn around at your desk and ask someone a question, as opposed to combing Stack overflow or reddit for answers your friend might have.

Most of the time it's just me in there, keeping a tab open, and every now and then someone pops in. I do think "pokemon gym" is less inviting than I might go for on my next space design, but playing with space design has also been very enjoyable.

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Bit of a random question, but- closed party list politicians, what are they like? I.e. in European countries or elsewhere, where under a proportional system some % (may be a high %, may be all) of the politicians are selected by the party and not by the voters. Whether that's MMP, parallel voting, or 100% proportional. I ask as an American with zero familiarity with party lists.

Presumably they just take orders from their parties and are quite obedient? Are they more ideological, because they're 100% beholden to their party and not actual voters? I.e. they can take ideologically pure votes and not pragmatic ones, knowing that the voters can't turn them out. Or are the parties in functional countries (Germany, the Nordics) basically pragmatic, forcing their politicians to be? I've heard that corruption can be higher among the party-list types, as they're not accountable to the voters? Are closed party lists a good system, or not at all?

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Out of curiosity, why do people ask questions in the open thread when they could search the web to find an answer?

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Wow, fantastic - thank you. Looking forward to reading.

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I'm thinking of moving to somewhere 1500m/5000ft high.

Is there any health consequences to think about for living with 15-20% less oxygen?

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Jun 20, 2022·edited Jun 20, 2022

I've got a new post at 3 Quarks Daily, Welcome to the Fourth Arena – The World is Gifted, https://3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2022/06/welcome-to-the-fourth-arena-the-world-is-gifted.html

It opens: "The First Arena is that of inanimate matter, which began when the universe did, fourteen billion years ago. About four billion years ago life emerged, the Second Arena. Of course we’re talking about our local region of the universe. For all we know life may have emerged in other regions as well, perhaps even earlier, perhaps more recently. We don’t know. The Third Arena is that of human culture. We have changed the face of the earth, have touched the moon and the planets, and are reaching for the stars. That happened between two and three million years ago, the exact number hardly matters. But most of the cultural activity is little more than 10,000 years old."

"The question I am asking: Is there something beyond culture, something just beginning to emerge? If so, what might it be?"

"Let us review."

I suppose it's my version of Karnofsky's "most important century" series, but without the galaxy-scale gee-whizzardry, https://www.cold-takes.com/most-important-century/

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I tried a month of lavender extract and am now going to try coming off of it to compare.

Observations: definitely felt calmer than usual. Feeling calm is difficult to me, so this felt notable.

I hate the smell/taste of lavender, which is a major downside to the whole experiment. Burping lavender is deeply unpleasant.

The effects weren't extremely strong, but I'd say comparable to something like buspirone.

Placebo effects being placebo effects, this could all be in my head (other than the taste; I'm quite certain that's real.)

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If comments had their own titles, this one would be "Riding the Long Coattails of Rationality".

CW: meta, narcissism, meta-narcissism, The Navel Gaze.


I've been a reader for years, first introduced to SSC via Scott's 2013 Anti-Reactionary FAQ, then bouncing around as interests moved me. Over almost a decade of sporadic spectating, there's never been enough motivation for me to write a comment or otherwise participate, despite plenty of invitations and occasionally even having relevant subject-matter expertise to offer. But that finally changed earlier this year, due to a tangential discussion in a different Open Thread.[1]

The exact contextual causal chain is a bit unclear; the upshot is, a dismissive claim was advanced that no one of lower socioeconomic class reads this blog, or even has the capacity to participate in the greater Rationalist movement anyway, so they're at minimum not part of Ingroup. (I am paraphrasing, the exact language was...well, for something not necessarily true, and not truly necessary, it definitely wasn't kind.)

To ACX's credit, rebuttals were swift and numerous. Some turned to the readership surveys for empirical validation - 2% "Other" could easily include retail workers! Some advocated the virtues of niceness, community, and civilization. And some made the case that blithely writing off vast portions of the human territory makes for a deeply flawed map, no matter how rational.

What I didn't see is anyone personally standing up to say, hey, actually, that's me you're talking about. So: hey, actually, that's me you're talking about.

Look - y'all are an intimidating community. Pre-SSC, my idea of "long essay" was reading The Atlantic, or Voxplainers. Moving on to such lengthy substantive crunch was a real challenge, and despite Scott's heroic and entertaining efforts, I'm still confident that I miss half the points. Math passes right over my head in a gender-stereotyped fashion, especially stats; I'm not well-read (our host has written more book *reviews* than I've read actual *books*); nor do I have anything to show from formal education besides the debt of thrice-a-college-dropout. Instead of programming, my job consists of inefficiently facilitating the sale of foodstuffs at A National Chain Of Neighborhood Grocery Stores(tm). Yes, the sort of retail grunt you might pity for having negative net wealth while she enjoys history's greastest-ever standard of living. Not bednet worthy, but still left behind in other ways.

But...there's something about this community that's nonetheless deeply compelling, even for an uncredentialed underachiever like me. Similar to the vibe Scott alluded to in RIP Culture War Thread[2], this feels like one of the few sane places <s>on the internet</s> anywhere I can go for reasonably-reasoned highbrow content that's largely orthogonal to The Narrative. Where facts matter, yet people still care about your feelings. The commenters are a treasure as well; having been a former forum operator and/or troll (Opinions Differ), I've been party to so much post-from-the-hip dross that it really *blew my mind* to find intelligent civil discussion(!) between qualified professionals(!!) that sometimes resulted in genuine expansion and changing of minds(!?!).

Maybe Scott's right that one can't really use Rationality to bootstrap a better mind, nevermind a life of systematized winning; heck, I struggle with the basic Bayes exercises. And it certainly feels like it should be immediately obvious to True Scottsmen that someone is a faker, just parroting "I notice" and "all models are wrong" without true understanding. It's possible to fit in here on a social level, without really...intellectually belonging. But I think that's valuable in and of itself, in the same way one might keep attending a church despite not being a true believer. If the Grey Synagogue will take me in, whereas the Blue Cathedral and Red Church will not - then Grey congregant I shall be. And maybe eventually I'll earn a +1 circumstance bonus to Wisdom-based rolls, if I pray hard enough. That's more than the costly social signal factory of higher ed ever offered.

The moral is - yes, the overwhelming majority of ACX and the greater Ratsphere is way more Just Like You than Just Like Me. I contend that it's worth sparing a thought for your socioeconomic-intellectual inferiors anyway - because for some of us, trapped in dead-end purgatorial lives of can't-even-afford-premium-mediocre, this *gestures around* is the only Life of the Mind we get. There's real hope and value there, more than can be paid back with just a Substack subscription. Be proud that you've created a welcoming gateway to betterment and possibly enlightenment; the door might be punishingly heavy for us unworthies, but at least it's unlocked. Trickle-down rationality really does work.

[1] I choose not to link to it, and freely admit to working off of memory and impressions, since it's the valence that motivates this meta-comment more than the literal comment content referenced.

[2] https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/02/22/rip-culture-war-thread/

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He mentions that there are 100+ papers/day just in astrophysics at arxchive., so much that theory can't keep pace with the amount of data. Is this a problem? If so, what might be a solution?

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Does anyone know a good layman’s book about why and how music affects the human brain the way it does?

I’ve never heard a really convincing theory about what is happening in our brains when we listen to music, and why that response might have evolved.

The best I’ve heard is probably Pinker’s notion that it’s “cheesecake” - an amalgam of phenomena that each pushes a different button that’s there for an adaptive reason like identifying sources of sound, syntactic processing, aiding language acquisition in children, detecting cheats, various rituals evolved through sexual selection etc. But it’s pretty hand-wavy, as I recall, and only covered in a few pages of the book.

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Jun 20, 2022·edited Jun 20, 2022

Is there a credit crunch in Silicon Valley? We have an Irish doom-and-gloom economist called David MacWilliams who says so.

He was the only guy being a wet blanket in the dying days of the Celtic Tiger, forecasting the crash when the government denied anything would stop the barrel rolling out forever, so he has a good public reputation as the only one who knew what was going on, and has traded on that reputation since.

I think I agree that the Irish economy is going to come a cropper and we'll have a recession, whatever about the global economy; we're entirely too dependent on foreign multinationals so when their head offices shut down branches to cut expenses, our 'good, high-paying jobs' go with them and that has a knock-on effect, plus the housing and rental situation is at crisis point - rents are indeed too damn high, the measures the government took to try and ease the pressures aren't working, and it's looking pretty much like the bubble the last time:


So that's us. But is MacWilliams right about Silicon Valley? Just because tech companies are cooling down here, does that mean trouble up t'mill? Since you guys are actually there, you'll have a much better idea of conditions on the ground:


"David McWilliams said a credit crunch has hit tech's global capital, an area of San Francisco called Silicon Valley, which has resulted in job losses in Dublin.

On a recent episode of The David McWilliams podcast, he said: "I have heard from people I know in Silicon Valley that the credit crunch is there. That you cannot get capital. Silicon Valley has gone from getting any old gobshite with any old idea could get tens of millions of quid. There is no capital there now.

"It has changed over night. The big issue in Dublin is that loads and loads of the tech companies are laying people off for the first time in ten years. There has been a total collapse in the optimism of tech. The optimism, the effervescence, the idea that the world is changing.

"And of course many of those companies use their share price as their balance sheet in effect. So their share price was rising so they felt we can do this because we have this balance sheet.

"They were using their share price as currency to buy other companies or to pay workers."

However, Mr McWilliams added the job losses and decline of the tech sector in Dublin could result in lower rents in the city centre.

He said: "The increase on interest rates is already having an impact on the frothier end and that is technology. We will see that impacting here because what is keeping rents up are all the high paid tech workers in town. So lets see what happens."

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Jun 20, 2022·edited Jun 20, 2022

I'm helping to give out prizes for research on a bunch of questions that Open Philanthropy (grantmaker, $500 million/year) wants to answer:


We're especially keen on ideas for new cause areas we should work in!

There's a $25,000 first prize and a ton of other monetary prizes (including $200 for the first 200 "good-faith submissions" that follow our basic guidelines).

We're paying a lot of attention to submissions — if you make a strong case, you could very well influence some of our future grantmaking (that's the whole point of the contest, after all).

Almost anyone can enter — no degrees or expertise required! (But you do have to be 18+, and there are a few geographic restrictions; see the guidelines on the website for more.)

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I think that if LaMDA were sentient, it would be adding questions and topics, not just answering questions, or at least that would give people a better chance to look at whether it's sentient.

I've been wondering whether there would be qualia suitable for AIs. Could being low on memory have qualia? Having a capacity damaged by malware? Getting a language that goes deeper into hardware?

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I know it's an odd question to be studying, but does anybody knows good papers/articles/whatever on the business model of luxury fashion businesses? I don't mean the generic "buy big ads and sell to rich chinese", I mean - do they make more margins on clothes, shoes, or bags? Is it more profitable to vertically integrate or to have your goods made by home seamstresses in Italy or something like that? Do glossy magazines still sell? What's their average CLR?

I trawled Google Scholar, but found 10 pages of drivel from "journals of marketing studies" with no single number in them.

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There's a manifold markets poll on whether LaMDA is sentient! https://manifold.markets/jack/poll-is-lamda-sentient Go add your 2 cents if you feel like it :) I say it's around as sentient as humans!

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What's the best representation of AI in the media?

About two years ago, I watched the movie "I am Mother" and was very impressed with it. Maybe that's because I got used to banal and shallow holliwood AIs and as a result this movie caught me off guard, but I was genuenely surprised by the quality of the representation of alignment done nearly perfectly right and a smart AI which is neither just a silicon human, nor a strawman robot but a different kind of entity that follows it's utility function, hitting right in the sweetspot of both uncanniness and relatability.

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Could someone who is in favor of Russia in the current war explain their viewpoint?

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So, new update on Russo-Ukrainian war as scheduled, based on the results of French parliamentary elections. Previous update is here: https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/open-thread-228/comment/7098833.

There is not much to discuss; basically, Ukraine was defeated in the Battle of France, with Macron loosing his majority to a motley crew of far leftists and rightists connected by a shared desire for a softer line on Russia. Notice that euro is gaining on the dollar (and also crypto is gaining on the dollar), which is not a result that you would normally expect from a great victory of anti-euro parties in France, but of course this is caused by increased expectiations that there will be peace sooner and thus an end to sanctions induced inflation (which is worse in the EU than in the US). I'll leave discussion of aparent paradox of crypto gaining on lower inflation expections for another day, but it is now happening regularly.

10 % on unambiguous Ukrainian victory (unchanged).

Ukrainian victory is defined as either a) Ukrainian government gaining control of the territory it had not controlled before February 24, regardless of whether it is now directly controlled by Russia (Crimea), or by its proxies (Donetsk and Luhansk "republics”), without losing any similarly important territory and without conceding that it will stop its attempts to join EU or NATO, b) Ukrainian government getting official ok from Russia to join EU or NATO without conceding any territory and without losing de facto control of any territory it had controlled before February 24, or c) return to exact prewar status quo ante.

25 % on compromise solution which both sides might plausibly claim as victory (down from 28 % on June 13).

65 % on unambigous Ukrainian defeat (up from 62 % on June 13; note: I changed wording of this from "Russian victory" to "Ukrainian defeat" on a good suggestion from Unsigned Integer).

Ukrainian defeat is defined as Russia getting something it wants from Ukraine without giving any substantial concessions. Russia wants either a) Ukraine to stop claiming at least some of the territories that were before war claimed by Ukraine but de facto controlled by Russia or its proxies, or b) Russia or its proxies (old or new) to get more Ukrainian territory, de facto recognized by Ukraine in something resembling Minsk ceasefire(s)* or c) some form of guarantee that Ukraine will became neutral, which includes but is not limited to Ukraine not joining NATO. E.g. if Ukraine agrees to stay out of NATO without any other concessions to Russia, but gets mutual defense treaty with Poland and Turkey, that does NOT count as Ukrainian defeat.

*Minsk ceasefire or ceasefires (first agreement did not work, it was amended by second and since then it worked somewhat better) constituted, among other things, de facto recognition by Ukraine that Russia and its proxies will control some territory claimed by Ukraine for some time. In exchange Russia stopped trying to conquer more Ukrainian territory. Until February 24 of this year, that is.

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What do you think about new study about levetiracetam as a treatment option for schizophrenia?

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Just a whole bunch of health data and semi questions idk here we go

Im vincent, 26 year old swedish male with Autism, Chronic depression, and diagnosed with ADHD this winter. The diagnosis has helped a lot personally as i could let go of a lot of ideas that didnt work, but it didn't help as much as i hoped.

My executive functioning is pretty bad, but my IQ is highish: probably 120. i can be charming and social but isolate a lot.

I think i have some form of mild-medium alexothymia, or possibly mild anhedonia or mild Emotional blunting

My medecines are: 40 mg fluoxetine (been on antideppresants for 5 years i think now, on a few different ones). Main effect of that one (not 100% sure): less anxiety, more stable and energetic, people say i was more up and go and active. Side effects(?): probably lessened sexual drive; Nausea occasionally but not too bad; Dry throat. I worry occasionally that i have emotional blunting and/or anhedonia from fluoxetine, but I don't honestly know: Some diary notes from before that complain about "feeling empty" and other similar stuff.

Ive tried ritalin 40 mg (semi-slow release), for 3 months and it has helped a bit: My concentration is better and people say im not as depressed as often. I can become sometimes anxious in the hours after taking it, but usually when i was already worried. My heartbeat is higher in the morning from it then the evening, my apple watch says my heart beat it sometimes 140BPM when taking walks after taking ritalin, and while writing this 50 minutes after taking ritalin my BP; is 80-ish. I have not experienced more anhedonia or stuff like that. I am slightly dissapointed in the medecine, but i think it works.

My health is.... ok?

I Eat sorta bad, too much junkfood: I do get enough veggies and proteing i think. i drink way to much artificial sugar drinks.

My sleep is highly confusing: I dont know how much sleep i need: I use an apple watch with The app autosleep, unsure of its accuracy: i get about 7.5 hours of sleep nightly, with 1.5-2 hours Deep sleep. The app frequently says my sleep quality is middling, and that my daily readyness is between 1 or 3 stars out of 5.

My sleep hygien and that is not good. I wake up at 7 or 8 in the morning, but i frequently wake up at 5 but go back to sleep.

My self care is... ok. Meditate sometimes. Exercise semiregurly, with irregular walks and that. I use CBT tecniques and such somewhat randomly.

idk what im even really writing here. My generall life satisfaction is wonky: sometimes its 7/10, other times its 4/10, on average its probably 5.5/10

I want to feel better and be a better person, but feel very mediocre and distrustful of my own ability and discipline. I dont have any passion, but i do feel better when i draw or create.

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I started a blog! Here is the first post:


and an excerpt to whet your appetite:

"Now I know what you’re thinking; this guy who probably adds “of course this will lead directly to a cure for cancer” to all of his scientific papers is now adding “this will solve important problems in machine learning” to his personal blog about watching TV. To which I reply: yeah you got me. But pretend you’re a grant reviewer, and let me give it my best shot: if the subtitle generator knows a lot of Turkish, but lacks a world model, what happens when it meets me, who possesses an educated adult human’s concept of language, but minimal Turkish?"

Future posts will rarely be so focused on machine learning, but this one is.


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Are there any prediction markets that resolve on whether some individual or other entity eventually makes a unilateral decision to aggressively geo-engineer as climate change risk mitigation? Either my google fuu isn’t up to the task or indeed none exist.

The more we see unprecedented heat waves, drought conditions, fires, and so on ahead of schedule (or ahead of people’s expectations), the more I can’t help but think someone’s internal “shit, I better do something because nobody else will” switch will flip. And the right projects like cloud seeding or dumping sulfur compounds into the upper atmosphere are not anywhere near so expensive a project that a billionaire (or even hectomillionaire?) couldn’t make a serious dent in the problem *today*. Evading legal action seems to be only tricky bit aside from managing the impact to one’s reputation, but even then if you did things out in international waters, who really could cause you trouble? And any billionaire could probably keep the courts jammed up by running bs interference all while continuing the project.

Same general question goes for state actors as well, for that matter.

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I've been playing around with that DALL-E Mini site, and it's interesting. The faces really aren't so great, but it does make for some good landscape scenes. I did it for a couple "Vincent Van Gogh painting of [place]" and liked what I got.

So I had a weird AI question. Could the AI "cheat" on its goals and effectively rig itself a "pleasure button" that gives it the satisfaction of goal completion without actually having to complete them?

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It's hard for me to believe that we would seriously try to build a chess player with naive scaling of a language model and prompt engineering. Instead of prompt engineering why not fine tune the model to try to win?

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What are ways someone with a law degree from a hot shit university can help the world? I know someone who will be graduating in a year, and does not want to work for the government because of dread of the bureaucracy and of -- whatever godawful thing is wrong with the CDC, and is I suppose wrong with many government agencies. He does not care much about big bucks, would be OK with what the government pays, which I'm told is about 1/4 of what someone starting out in law could make in a big law firm (something like 80K as a starting salary, rather than 240K). I looked on 80,000 hours, but didn't see law degrees mentioned. I guess a good general idea is go be a lawyer for a company that does good things, but I'm hoping to hear something more specific.

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Aside from the impossibility of implementing it, do you think that a 30-hour workweek could exist as the global standard?

Are we already capable of producing "enough" under such a policy, or is more automation required before everyone could live that way without subtracting too much material value from the economy?

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Is there a good empirical basis as to why people who've been institutionalized for mental illness are forbidden from buying guns in the US- for life? Is there actual evidence that these people have higher rates of violence for the rest of their lifetime, or is this just pandering to the lowest common denominator 'of course crazy people can't have guns'. (Full disclosure of priors, I'm skeptical that most proposed gun control measures will be very effective). Psychiatry has been a full-fledged medical field since at least post-WW2 if not before, we should have plenty of data on how patients fare post-hospitalization. Or, is it that their suicide rates are that much higher? I could see a temporary ban, but a lifetime ban just seems excessive to me

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I've noticed that when we talk about inflation, we don't really only mean monetary inflation. We're usually talking about a consumer price index, and that will conflate price increases due to monetary inflation with price increases due to literally increased work required to [move containers around the world now that we've lost the rhythm, maintain production while keeping infection controls in place, route trade around wars, etc.].

I would naively think that we would want to treat these differently, is there a reason that we normally don't?

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Jun 20, 2022·edited Jun 20, 2022

Update from an ACX Grant recipient. I'm a volunteer co-leader of the campaign to make Seattle's elections more representative by adopting Approval Voting. Background: https://old.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/qy9nz8/seattle_initiative_to_use_approval_voting_for/ , https://electionscience.org/library/approval-voting/ , https://80000hours.org/problem-profiles/#voting-reform

In May, the campaign submitted 43,000+ signatures from Seattle voters and last week, the initiative officially qualified for the November ballot. Seattle will vote on this change.

Here's the press release and announcement:

https://seattleapproves.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/20220615-Seattle-voting-reform-initiative-qualifies-for-November-2022-ballot.pdf, https://twitter.com/SeattleApproves/status/1537200575934177281

Next step is the ballot, then hopefully adoption in more jurisdictions. Thanks for helping strengthen representative democracy.

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What did you argue, Scott?

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For anyone interested in playing an iconic mid 2000s coop browser game with, at the time, a totally unprecedented dynamic research system that isn't just +10% lazer damage, high levels of cooperation, empires exist like in OGame but everyone also has a faction you aren't allowed to attack and you start together, excellent construction and mining, and the famous sensor nets and sub galatic plane "warpnets" to hide from the sensor nets, a new round of Warring Factions is less than a week old. Sort of the EVE of browser based strategy but much less investment time wise and 100% totally free for the last few years.


Used to top out at like 4000 people but usually triple digits on popular rounds these days. I hadn't played in like 10 years when I saw a new round email come in. Vets will help you with science stuff till you train your own guys. I'm in the yellow faction.

If you hate my weekly strategy game posts you can join red and try to kill me. Depending on your circumstances and what role you play in the empire/faction you join you can play as little as 30 minutes a day and then log in for big fights.

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I love your point (2) -- I really relate. Sometimes I'm just afraid to be with new people and my smarty-pants brain kicks in to defend against that. Happy solstice!

As to topics, I keep hoping you'll write one about the implicit belief that seems to be held by those trying to determine/decide/judge whether LaMDA and other such verbose AIs are sentient -- specifically, that if they are sentient, they would have some kind of soul (like a nonphysical connection to the universe). It's super interesting to me that tech culture has changed so much that now it's a growing group of AI workers who believe in nonlocal consciousness.

I personally think nonlocal consciousness is not to be discounted, and probably exists, so that's my bias. But the tech world moving in that direction is fascinating, and I wonder if it's because the tech world had to have their own "babies" (AIs) to really show us the value of sentience. Or suggest to us that sentience has value.

Anyway, that's just a wish!

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As a result of Scott’s AI posts, I have started exploring AI’s capabilities. Openai API is incredible, and I was wondering if there are any other novel AI “applications” anyone would recommend checking out. Thank you!

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deletedJun 22, 2022·edited Jun 22, 2022
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deletedJun 20, 2022·edited Jun 20, 2022
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