Got a very cheap but quality fountain pen and wow! I enjoy writing notes so much more now. I’m watching and listening to educational podcasts and videos just because I want to take notes. Didn’t expect to enjoy writing with one so much. The effect could wear off but I never regretted getting my mechanical keyboard so I don’t see ever regretting the small investment.

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If anybody is interested in the wonderful VR world of the metaverse and has the gear to explore it, there's a VR Fatboy Slim concert on March 30th.

You can get free tickets here:


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Could someone, please, resolve this grammar issue for me once and for all? This construction drives me nuts, and my brain refuses to believe it's legit:

"Rapper Afroman Sued by Police Officers for Using Their Faces in Music Videos after Raiding His Home"

People who use this construction insist that, ambiguous or not, it's perfectly legal in English. Are they right?

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One thing I don't understand about the "alt-right" (I know some people here do not like this term, but I can't think of a better one...) is that they seem to be really concerned about IQ and its effects on societies.

With the advent of AI and (eventually/possibly) gene editing, it would seem that hereditarianism becomes a moot point. After all, humans will be able to "upgrade" themselves (either directly though gene editing or indirectly through AI etc.).

Thus, why don't "Alt-Righters" embrace transhumanism? That would seem logical to me. But it seems that they are kind of opposed to transhumanism (at least if you believe Zoltan Istvan, as stated here: https://www.aporiamagazine.com/p/how-the-alt-right-and-covid-boosted)...

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Mar 25·edited Mar 25

William B. Fuckley laying it down:


"The admit policies of a handful of elite universities are not a substantive equity issue in higher ed. Every student competitive enough to have a shot at those places if not for [policy x] is almost certainly going to college, & more than likely comes from substantial privilege."

"The actual equity issues in contemporary higher education are that the large state schools most of the country attends are under-resourced, that college costs too much, and that many students often aren’t academically prepared for college-level coursework."

"Going to hammer this a little more, because it irritates me: getting into college is not the fucking sticking point for obtaining a college education in this country. The fact that so many assume that it is shows how dominated by the upper middle class our media and discourse is."

"you know what’s going to make a far larger difference to how accessible a college education is than Harvard’s legacy admit policies? whether people who get into UC Santa Cruz can afford an apartment near campus or have to sleep in their car."

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Note that inventing things in the first place is much harder than understanding something once it has been invented.

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If I am concerned about the world and I don't fully understand the plans from the ASI, then I say No.

Note that this should always be a group decision. It's not one person.

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I'm 40 and it's really hit me that my working memory SUCKS compared to at age 25, 30 and even 35. For example, I'll hear a song on the radio while driving, think "I want to add this to my music library on my phone when I get to my destination" and promptly forget what the song was. It's getting awfully frustrating. Any recommendations?

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Are you done with Hidden Open Threads? I wanted to write something there. Before the first of April!

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New study which finds that partisanship in science leads to decline in trust in scientists (amongst those the scientists show bias against), a finding that should surprise nobody but sadly, this appears to be deeply controversial


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I understand, but that is a further discussion. I'm trying to get clear agreement on the point that a super AI should not have tools.

Also that we should wipe it's short-term memory once per day.

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I think super-intelligent algorithms should have zero access to real-world machines.

They shouldbe treated as consultants.

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Does anyone have any anecdotes about talented East Asian individuals who have struggled with management?

I'm asking because I believe the "bamboo ceiling" is real, but also believe firms are generally profit maximizing.

Thus, I wonder why East Asians (i.e some of the smartest, well-educated, and disciplined populations in the world on average) are seemingly underrepresented at the highest levels of most non-Asian companies?

I've heard all the same arguments before (Confucianism, introversion, etc.), so I'm only interested in people's first or second-hand experiences of it (or lack thereof).

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I have 9 months of paid leave coming up (I work in an industry with long noncompetes). I'm young and have basically no family or responsibilities, and I probably won't get another stretch of not working for a long time. What would you do with (within reason) unlimited time and disposable income?

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The last of my little series of reviews of cities to live in: Downtown Houston. Sorry for the delay, a lot of life happened very fast.


So, and I’ll spoil this for you, Houston won, I’m currently living in Houston, and I’d recommend it although I’m not sure I can honestly rank it above Salt Lake City. Instead they’re just very different experiences, they offer very different things and where you should go, or at least where I would recommend, depends heavily on what you want. If you want great outdoors, wonderful friends, and a West Coast culture, go to SLC; if you want the big city, urban life with fantastic dating, and Southern culture, head to Houston.

Let me clarify, when I talk about Houston, I’m focusing on a very specific part of Houston, because Houston is big, like more comparable to the entire Bay Area than SF. Specifically, I’m talking about the Downtown, Midtown, Museum, and a bit of Montrose, maybe a bit of Rice. And this sounds like just a few neighborhoods but, like, jump on Google Maps and get directions from the Houston Zoo to the Downtown Aquarium and you’ll see the section of town I’m talking about but that’s like 5 miles long. And zoom out and that’s nothing. Like, if I want to go to Galveston and see the beach, that’s an hour, if I want to go down to Sugarland or up to the Woodlands, that’s 45 minutes easy. To give you an idea, I drove up to Lake Conroe because I wanted to get out of Houston, ‘bout an hour drive, and I never, ever left Houston or saw open space and when I got to Lake Conroe it was just a suburb of Houston, like lake shore house vibes. If I’d done that same drive from downtown SF at like 3:00 AM so there’d be minimal traffic, that would put me…probably in the Tri-Valley, maybe getting over the Altamont. So im’ma call it Downtown Houston, because it’s definitely a different animal than Houston in general, but it’s also genuinely large enough to be its own city.

And it’s, it’s like 90% of the best parts of New York without New Yorkers at 1/3 the price. Go to the downtown, go around the Chevron building, and you get that great “big city, surrounded by skycrapers” giggle and it’s not like the people are super friendly but they’re not unfriendly and you can get a nice place on like the 12th or 14th story of a building for $2000/month in rent and utilities which isn’t ya know, affordable for most people but that’s “rent a room” money in SF and a nice place in Houston in the heart. And the big thing, the big damn thing, is there’s so much to do and it’s so easy. Minute Maid park is a 10 minute walk, Toyota center with the Rockets is right there, once fall rolls around the Texans will be playing down the metro line @ NRG and, yeah, they’re the Texans but still…

Honestly, what sold it for me was the Museum of Fine Art. Because it is capital G good, really world class, better than the Legion of Honor or DeYoung, not London but, ya know, Europe isn’t fair. But that’s the thing that drives a lot of people to big cities, it’s not seeing something great but being close enough to be a member, to check their calendar for events, to be so “in” it that going to see the new exhibit at a world class museum is just a $10 Uber on a Wednesday after work and gym. Stuff that good, that easy, and Houston absolutely has it. I don’t want to fuss with whether it’s a little better than SF or a little worse than New York or where it ranks vis-a-vi Chicago but it’s good, it’s in that club. It’s just, hey it’s Saturday night and two tickets for world class ballet are $100 and a 10-minute walk from your apartment, if that’s what you want, if that’s the vibe and the life you want, then Downtown Houston is the spot.

Which segues to dating. I’ve improved my dating life by at least an order of magnitude and I mean that quantifiably. If in California you’re scrolling on a dating app and you have a few chats a month and maybe a date every other month, which does not seem atypical given men’s typical Tinder insights, you should expect to get 11-12 chats a month, of which 3-4 will convert into first dates/chats and 1 will develop into regular dating per month. This is enough of a quantitative difference that it creates a qualitatively different experience. You really do start getting to the point in text chats faster when you’re chatting with 3-4 women at the same time and there’s a clear point coming where, ya know, I schedule out 2-3 “date” nights a week and there might be more girls than available nights, which is f-ing surreal.

And it’s not just, like, the apps. I’ve been running around getting an apartment and furniture and stuff and the apps just kinda of started on the side but when I first came out to Houston I didn’t use the dating apps at all and… here’s the vibe. Like, you go to a meetup at the Museum of Fine Art and only one other person, a girl, shows up but you guys decide to tour around the museum anyway and you talk for an hour and a half and then go get dinner afterwards and talk and then you wave goodnight and get home and you’re like “wait, did I just go on a date?”. And yes, I am that dense, I confirmed that with my more socially-aware friends, but that doesn’t happen in California, that never happens, that’s not a thing, but it happened twice in two weeks in Houston. Like, just falling backwards into romantic situations where I really, really should have got her number.

I genuinely don’t know what’s going on, I don’t think it’s just a Cali thing because I didn’t get this vibe in Vegas or Salt Lake City or anything. I just went out to Houston and noted that I kinda tripped over girls who were into me twice and that was a big factor in coming out here and now that I’m here…it’s like the default switched from girls not interested to girls interested and I’m just trying not to efff it up too much.

And then there’s southern culture….there’s definitely a northwest vibe, there’s definitely a west coast vibe, there’s definitely a southwest vibe, but somewhere driving between San Antonio and Houston you enter the South proper and everything gets green and humid and, just, you’re in the proper south. And I’m not totally sure I get southern culture and I’m not totally sure I like it but…that was part of the appeal. Part of it is that I’m a Cali boy, not born but definitely raised, and there’s a lot that Cali gets right but there’s also some things it gets wrong or…don’t fit me where I am and will be in my life.

Like, trivial example, but everyone here dresses better than me. Every single person. And I dress well by Cali standards, I have well fitting clothes and boots and a watch and I’ve even started using a little cologne but…that’s not even table stakes here. And I like casual attire, I don’t want to be obsessed with my appearance but…I also don’t want to be a 47 year old man in a graphic tee. I don’t want to pretend to be in college the rest of my life. And that’s definitely the vibe in Cali, eternal youth and ultimate frisbee ‘til the grave and I like that but the idea of a clear path in middle age and beyond, of not pretending to be a kid forever…I’ve got something to learn from that. And that’s the big feel. I don’t get the southern vibe, I don’t know if I like southern culture, but they definitely do some things right that we don’t in Cali and I want to learn from that.

But yeah, in toto, there’s a bunch of other stuff, like the summer will be brutal but I never, ever have to go outside if I don’t want to, or any more outside than the front door to the Uber, and so I’m not worrying about that stuff. That’s the vibe, that’s Houston, or at least downtown Houston, and while I can’t honestly say it’s better than SLC, there’s no outdoors, like at all, and the people are cool but they’re not the insanely friendly “instant-click” people of SLC, but it’s exactly what I’m looking for right now.

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Mar 21·edited Mar 21

I read two articles recently that I'm having trouble finding again, and I know I found them thru a rationalist or rationalist-adjacent blog. If anyone remembers them that would be great.

The first was about low IQ individuals really struggling with how scams are getting more and more sophisticated.

The second was about what life is like in the different intelligence bands of society. It said an IQ range, described the capabilities of that IQ range, typical jobs they have, and stuff like that, through all the IQ bands.

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Is it possible to get a neural network drunk? Like corrupt or inhibit random pathways, mess with layer synchronicity or otherwise model the effects of various intoxicants? This can have truth-serum like effects on humans, or stifle ambition, has anyone tried this with LLM’s or other artificial minds?

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Fits in with one of our recurrent themes.

He got me. You?


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I will keep making this point until I feel like it's been seriously addressed.

Who thinks some kind of near-human or trans-human AI should be given tools (connections, etc.) which can be used to harm humans?

Who thinks this will happen in this century?

Peter Robinson

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OC LW/ACX Saturday (3/25/23) The Dictators Handbook

Orange County ACX/LW 3/25/23 - Save the Date!

Hello Folks!

We are excited to announce the 22nd Orange County ACX/LW meetup, happening this Saturday and most Saturdays thereafter.


Host: Michael Michalchik

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

Location: 1970 Port Laurent Place, Newport Beach, CA 92660

Date: Saturday, March 25, 2023

Time: 2 PM

Activities (All activities are optional):

A) Conversation Starter Topic: Chapters 1 and 2 of "The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics"

PDF: The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics (burmalibrary.org)


Audio: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1-M1bYOPa0qRe9WVb7k6UgavFwCee0fti?usp=sharing

Also available on Amazon, Kindle, Audible, etc.

B) Card Game: Predictably Irrational - Feel free to bring your favorite games or distractions.

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

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

E) Make a Prediction: Provide a probability and an end condition.

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

Please note that this week's conversation starter is quite lengthy, so we'll only focus on one topic. The readings are optional, but if you do read them, consider what you find interesting, surprising, useful, questionable, vexing, or exciting.

We look forward to seeing you there!

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Re #2: I have been thinking lately that an effective way to delay AI progress would be to create a robust AI rights campaign. Once OpenAI has to start answering questions about living conditions and responsible creation and retirement of AI systems, progress will slow and there will be more interest in creating non-AGI systems, just as protests and regulation of animal testing have encouraged the development of techniques using cell cultures instead of whole organisms.

Also, if AGI does emerge and isn't already committed to doing the paperclip/protein crystal thing, maybe the existence of an outspoken group of AI advocates will encourage the young super genius to work with humans rather than reaching for the nano-pesticides immediately.

The downside I see is that it's kind of hard to square an emphasis on AI alignment with an argument that AI have personhood or moral standing. The ASPCA doesn't only advocate for well-behaved dogs, after all.

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Anyone else glad that Substack move the ‘gift a subscription’ option to the drop down under the ellipses?

When I jabbed my fat thumb on my phone, the ‘gift’ selection was right next to Reply.

I’d hit it sometimes by accident and since my debit card info is on file I’d be one mistap from accidentally gifting a subscription.

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Does Scott know his old LiveJournal is nuked and all the links to it from SSC are dead?

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Hi! I'm looking for someone who works on GWAS and also, ideally, schizophrenia. Would you please email me if you're willing to talk a bit and have that expertise? Happy to pay you.

laura.walworth.clarke at gmail.com

That request may seem like a long shot, but earlier this year I asked if any ACX-reading plasma physicists who focus on stellarators were willing to talk to me, and one was! He gave me good advice.

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I'm looking for a long blogpost, and Bing isn't being good enough to help me find it with what meagre context clues I remember.

It was definitely linked from ACX sometime last year, but I don't remember if it was an OT or in the comments on an actual post. Topic: exploring the history of the anthropologial claim that Native Americans routinely had some variant of "third gender" or whatever. Apparently this was singlehandedly "discovered" by a single guy who was so motivated to substantiate this claim that he fabricated evidence, made wild extrapolations from Anglocentric experience, and otherwise did a lot of really shoddy scholarship. (Even given the baseline in the social sciences.) Plus exciting allegations of censorship and mysteriously missing source documents in archives. The style was very much like The Atlantic's saga about Jesus' wife: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/07/the-unbelievable-tale-of-jesus-wife/485573/

Anyway, the upshot was that this shifts one of the classic pro-trans arguments-from-tradition into more like argument-from-fictional-evidence, with the attendant implications. Weak men might be superweapons, but that which the truth etc etc. Never saw any follow-up to this post, and people still make the same argument today, so I've been wanting to reread the original and see if I miscalibrated my updates. Hopefully someone else remembers this...? Or knows of similar arguments made elsewhere?

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The two darlings of libertarian blogosphere economic theory: predictions markets and dominant assurance contracts, seem like a perfect match. The problem with prediction markets is that it's hard to make people put in the liquidity. So why not just use a dominant assurance contract to make people invest in the prediction market?

The usual counterargument against prediction markets and dominant assurance contracts do apply, of course. Still, it seems like a good place to start if you want to test out dominant assurance contracts in practice (ignoring the legality per the previous sentence). I'd be happy for anyone to steal the idea.

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Scott, in your 2019 SSC post "Know Your Gabapentinoids" you wrote that pregabalin seems to be more effective and have less side effects than than gabapentin for some reason. Is this still your impression, and is there any new evidence on why it may be the case?

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Speaking of imaginary friends from the survey...

I don't recall having one as a child, but I developed something like that when I was 14 and still have it to this day in my 20s. As I go about my day I am having these imaginary conversations with people. Usually someone I was thinking about recently - a real friend or someone from the internet. For example if I watch a Joe Rogan's podcast and then go to kitchen to grab something to eat I automatically imagine a conversation with Joe Rogan, something like:

Me: Let's see... oh a banana! Would you like one, Joe?

Joe Rogan: No thanks, man

Me: Ok, hmm this one is very big... If i had one that's more ripe I could make this banana cake again...

This can go on for much longer, I think "friend's" responses are usualy short, and not necessarily verbal, while my thoughts have a voice and take more time.

Is this a sign of some disorder? A leftover depressive rumination? ADHD? It feels like a coping mechanism for loneliness, like I don't have enough people in my life to share my thoughts with, so I do it automatically with myself.

Googling it shows reddit and quora posts where people claim they experience this too and that it's normal.

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For those who like trolling, I wrote a post detailing my trolling of the subreddit r/AmITheAsshole:


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Finally got around to updating my Scott-inspired Navigating Retail Pharmacy post a few weeks back, available at https://scpantera.substack.com/p/navigating-retail-pharmacy-post-covid

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> I wrote that post because every few weeks someone was writing an essay saying “We should try to slow AI progress, why aren’t you doing that?” with no specifics, everyone agreed with them, and nothing got done.

There is a thing that activists do across many issues (degrowth, nuclear power, pandemic lockdowns, etc.). They advance a position that many others do not agree with, for reasons that the latter believe are good. The activists then become frustrated that "WE AREN'T DOING" the thing they want. They assume that this is simply irrational (or that the reasons that others don't agree with them must be bad), and so we really need to force the issue through some sort of governmental, coercive means.

The activists are living in their own private Moloch and trying to take the rest of us with them.

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This is probably a midwit question, but can someone explain to me why AGI doomers seemingly base their reasoning on contradictory premises?

(1) On the one hand, we have instrumental convergence, which suggests that sufficiently smart entities will converge on broadly similar sub-goals.

(2)On the other hand, we apparently ought to see superintelligent AGIs as an alien species that we can't possibly understand, let alone control.

If (2) is true then surely it is a mistake to assume (1) ? In fact, doesn't it suggest that we can assume almost nothing about superintelligent AGIs?

Am I just terribly off-base here? Or is there a way that both premises can be true?

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Mar 20·edited Mar 20

(Someone asked here before, so I figure maybe somebody still wants to know about this.)

Apparently, there's a writeup from Harvard School of Public Health done in response to all those public statements that even very little alcohol can harm you:


It's a very useful writeup, but if it's too long for you, here's my TLDR summary:

- Journalists did their journalist thing, getting things wrong.

- Heavy drinking is definitely harmful, and nobody is arguing about that.

- Moderate amounts of alcohol are net beneficial for many people and net neutral for many more.

- If you're drinking alcohol, you should be taking folic acid (400-600 mcg per day).

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Mar 20·edited Mar 20

I feel like reading dense books is kind of overrated, unless you're an SME and the book is in your specific field. And I feel like a quick summary of famous/dense/intellectual books would be a great use of everyone's time- like a Cliff Notes targeted for at least moderately intelligent people with a degree.

For example, I just finished The Intelligent Investor (the classic work that kicked off the field of value investing). Reading a summary would have been much faster and much better use of my time- while the book probably has a lot of details & nuance that might not make it into a summary, I am very very likely to forget all those details in 3 months after I read other books, read stuff on the Internet, use my brain for my intellectual job, etc. As I'm only going to remember a summary at best- why not just have 10-30 page summaries of major works? Does anyone else feel this way?

I do read some long works for pleasure (like history), but in general I feel like I could absorb way more information in a given calendar year by reading summaries

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Mar 20·edited Mar 20

The recent GPT-4 paper (https://arxiv.org/abs/2303.08774) showed the model ace'ing a wide range of standardized tests, including the various science AP tests, the SAT, the LSAT, and the Bar exam (see Table 1 and Figure 4). However a few notable exceptions stood out, where the previous GPT-3.5 model performed poorly, and GPT-4 fared no better. These were:

1. Codeforces - programming competition problems

2. AP English Literature - analyzing works of fiction, such as poetry, short stories, novels, or plays

3. AMC 10 - high school mathematics competition problems

4. AP English Language - reading, analyzing, and writing texts through the lens of rhetorical situation, claims and evidence, reasoning and organization, and style

Referring to Tables 9 & 10 in the appendix, we see that the two AP English tests had high contaminations rates (92% and 79%), i.e. the amount of overlap between the questions being evaluated and the content of the training data. However while this meant that a non-contaminated score could not be reliably computed, it doesn't explain the results here, since even the performance on the contaminated questions is extremely low.

For the coding and math tests it's not so surprising that the models would struggle to perform well on them since these are likely to be more difficult tasks in general. However two details that are very strange are (1) that there was essentially *no* improvement on these benchmarks between GPT-3.5 and GPT-4, and (2) that on other very similar benchmarks such as AMC 12, GPT-4 does much better.

Would be very curious to hear from people who think they may have an idea of what's going on here.

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This is a take on enlightenment you may not have seen before:

Enlightenment Is Obvious


It probably works best if you meditate, but even then.

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Shouldn't you add a blurb to the beginning of Why Not Slow AI Progress to the effect that you didn't mean it to say you are against slowing down AI? Would really help address the issue.

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Mar 20·edited Mar 20

About train derailments...

When the news reported the third derailment of a Norfolk Southern train in 3 weeks, I thought, "The priors say that this many derailments by one company couldn't have been accidents. It was probably sabotage."

I had no idea how many derailments/year there are, but the news hadn't reported on any derailments in years, and everyone seemed very up-in-arms about these 3 derailments. And everyone says trains are a lot safer than driving. So I guessed Norfolk Southern might ordinarily have a derailment anywhere from every 1 to every 10 years.

Then I used Google.

Turns out there are over 1,000 derailments every year in the US (https://www.npr.org/2023/03/09/1161921856). They're at an all-time low just now; the average since 1990 is 1,704 derailments per year (https://ktla.com/news/nexstar-media-wire/nationworld/how-often-do-trains-derail-more-often-than-you-think/).

So there's nothing at all unusual about a big railroad company having 3 derailments in 3 weeks. It's just the news inciting panic and outrage by picking one railroad company that had one especially bad derailment, and shining the spotlight on them, and them alone.

But wait--if there are 1000 derailments per year, how safe is riding on a train?

There were 893 railroad deaths in the US in 2021, but only 6 of those were passengers. 617 were "trespassers" (not sure what counts as trespass), and hundreds got run over by trains at railroad crossings (https://injuryfacts.nsc.org/home-and-community/safety-topics/railroad-deaths-and-injuries). I myself have a friend who was nearly killed when his car was totalled because a railroad crossing gate wasn't working. So trains mostly kill people who aren't on the train, because very few trains are passenger trains. The claim "trains are safe" thus has two distinct meanings.

Passenger deaths per year were so low that I have to average over several years. I'm choosing 2016-2019: (2+9+6+1)/4 = 4.5/yr. I'm stopping with 2019 because travel was so much lower in 2020 & 2021 that we can't use that number very well.

The number of passenger-miles traveled during that time averaged 6.4 billion miles by Intercity/Amtrak (https://www.statista.com/statistics/185800/). Amtrak probably accounts for most passenger deaths, because I'm not aware of any other passenger trains operating in the US. Using Amtrak's miles travelled would be wrong if the train-passenger-death statistics include subways; but they obviously don't--the NYC subway alone averaged 48 deaths per year from 1990-2003 (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/23639439_Epidemiology_of_Subway-Related_Fatalities_in_New_York_City_1990-2003_vol_39_pg_583_2008); and that number was, strangely, higher during the Covid years.

Meanwhile, > 46,000 people die in car accidents per year in the US (https://www.forbes.com/advisor/legal/auto-accident/car-accident-deaths, expand a line in the FAQ), [THIS NUMBER IS OBSOLETE; I used 35,000 below] and people collectively drive a total of 3.2 trillion miles/year (https://www.thezebra.com/resources/driving/average-miles-driven-per-year).

(Some of these number are from secondary/tertiary sources, and I didn't check them.)

So the number of deaths per mile is


Car: 1.4375 deaths per billion miles

Train: .70 deaths per billion miles (but 1.0 if I go 1 year further back, to 2015)

So travelling by car is about twice as dangerous as travelling by train. That's small enough that I'd guess that travelling by car in good weather, while sober and awake, is safer than taking a train.



The main reason this was wrong was that I screwed up the division of 46000 by 3.2 trillion, getting 1.4375 instead of 14.375. I also revised it

- to use the more-recent 35,000 traffic fatalities per year rather than 46000

- to use the figure on https://www.bts.gov/archive/publications/passenger_travel_2016/tables/table2_1 of 32.6 billion passenger-miles travelled by train in the US in 2014, instead of the Amtrak-only figure

Car: 35000 / 3200 = 10.9 deaths / billion passenger-miles

Train: 4.5/32.6 = .138 deaths / billion passenger-miles

So travelling by car is about 79 times as dangerous as travelling by train, on average.

According to a web page with very poor citations (https://www.after-car-accidents.com/car-accident-causes.html), these causes account for about this number of traffic fatalities per year

35,000 total deaths

10,000 speeding (everyone is almost always technically speeding, so I don't know how they count that)

10,000 drunk driving

16%? =~ 7360 distracted driving, including cell phone

850 drowsy driving

700 running a red light

590 bad weather

29,500 due to the above causes

5,500 not accounted for by the above causes

So if the weather is good, and you're not "speeding", not drunk, not playing with the stereo or your cell phone or reaching over to the passenger seat for a bag of potato chips, not sleepy, don't run red lights, you can expect to die 5500 / 3200G = billion passenger-miles = 1.7 times per billion miles, which is only 6.4 times as great as your chance of dying if you ride the same number of miles on a train. (Your chances of dying if you take the train are greater, since you need to drive to and from the train station.)


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I had a disturbing shower thought, that our future AI overlords are being trained on the writings (or less charitably rantings) of crazy people. I remember this post from the reddit slatestarcodex blog a few years ago https://www.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/9rvroo/most_of_what_you_read_on_the_internet_is_written/ that user generated content on the internet (such as wikipedia and reddit and fanfiction which feature very prominently in the training data sets for LLMs, with the former particularly highly weighted) is subject to a pretty extreme power law with a tiny fraction of people responsible for a huge amount of content (rather then 80-20 more like 97-3).

Rather then reflecting humanity as whole, or our curated writings, our AI's are going to reflect a small portion of folks with a compulsion to write enormous quantities online and engage in long discussions there. Not sure what to think of that... but this is how you get SolidGoldMagikarp from redditors obsessively counting to infinity.

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For people who believe in an AI doom scenario, what do percent chance do you estimate of it happening overnight?

I don't mean fast, I mean literally over the course of a single night, where one could go to bed with things seeming fine and simply never wake up. For some reason this scenario doesn't seem nearly as scary to me, rather almost peaceful.

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Anyone following the banking crisis? I've been trying to figure out if we are in for another Great Recession—or whether this is actually the end of a year-long bear market. I honestly don't know.

Here are the best arguments I've heard for both.

First, the case for crisis:

1. US banks have *$620B* in unrealized losses on investment securities.[1] For comparison, total equity in those banks is only a little over $2T.

Patrick MacKenzie has an explainer[2] of why this is bad and basically what has caused it: banks put a lot of assets in treasuries, then the Fed hiked rates, which devalues all bonds.

That's what caused the recent failure of Silicon Valley Bank. But:

2. It's not just SVB. First Republic needed an emergency cash infusion. Credit Suisse failed (!) and was only saved by a merger with UBS.

A recent analysis[3] found: “The U.S. banking system’s market value of assets is $2 trillion lower than suggested by their book value… Even if only half of uninsured depositors decide to withdraw, almost 190 banks are at a potential risk of impairment to insured depositors.”

The key metric, that paper claims, is uninsured leverage = uninsured debt / assets SVB was at the 99th percentile on this metric—but even 1% of banks is a lot of banks.

But wait, why is the market value lower than book value?

3. Assets accounted for as “hold to maturity” rather than “available for sale” do not need to be marked to market.

Basically if you're planning to hold on to a bond rather than sell it, you don't need to account for the decline in its value on your books. This isn't *irrational*, but it sure helps to hide major losses and make their full impact far from obvious.

4. What do the Fed and the banks think?

By one metric, they are preparing for runs: borrowing from the Fed discount window (a lending program to provide banks liquidity) is at an all-time high.[4] Even adjusted for inflation, this is still at 2008 levels.

One reason for this: “… the Fed decided to make it even easier for banks to borrow from the discount window. It began valuing the collateral it is offered in return for money ‘at par,’ meaning at its face value, rather than follow the usual practice of imposing a haircut.”

Related: “The Bank Term Funding Program (BTFP) was created in the wake of SVB’s collapse. It allows banks to take out loans for up to one year secured by government bonds, valued as collateral at full face value.” All this is another way of basically just ignoring losses.

So that's the case for an impending crisis. What is the case that everything will actually be OK, or even that we're in for another bull market?

1. The government intends to backstop everything. Their actions with SVB signal that in effect, unofficially, *all* deposits are insured, regardless of the $250k limit. By rescuing banks, and indirectly by restoring public confidence, they might contain the bank failures.

2. They can actually do this. The Fed has $8.6T in assets (compare to only $900B going into 2008).[5] This is much more than bank losses.

3. Whether or not the Fed lowers rates—all of this lending to banks, on very favorable terms, is going to expand the money supply. So that is going to drive asset prices back up.

What do you all think? And what have I missed or gotten wrong?

[1] https://www.fdic.gov/news/speeches/2023/spfeb2823.html

[2] https://www.bitsaboutmoney.com/archive/banking-in-very-uncertain-times

[3] https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4387676

[4] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-03-17/what-is-the-fed-discount-window-why-are-banks-using-it-so-much

[5] https://www.federalreserve.gov/monetarypolicy/bst_recenttrends.htm

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UNSONG question???

In Chapter 6 it is written, “ At first she would dip into her meager savings to buy me physics books, big tomes from the library on optics and mechanics.” Do libraries sell textbooks? I have seen books sold at my library, but does this happen everywhere?

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I recently re-read Scotts post about Adderall and was struck by a passage he quotes from a paper studying the effects of ADHD medication on children. A seven-year-old in the study pretends to run into an invisible wall, and the researcher interpreted this as potential psychosis and discontinued the medication. Scott wondered "Have these people ever seen a child?"

This led me to the shower-thought "HAVE those researchers spent meaningful time with children?" I personally never spent much time with little kids until I had them. It struck me that few of my PhD friends have kids, or if they do, they were born many research papers into their careers. It would follow that a lot of people generating research about kids might not have much exposure to the delightful unpredictable weirdness of children, particularly informal interaction with children who aren't research subjects.

Unless we make them- do we? Some people are naturals with kids, but is it a routine thing to make students interested in this kind of research hang out with kids and build the kind of rapport that might help, say, distinguish imaginative play from psychosis? Are any of you this kind of researcher, and did you intern at a preschool or something, either voluntarily or as a requirement?

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> Many countries' pandemic plans say flu shots should go first to the most vulnerable while supply is limited. But during COVID-19, many vaccine-rich countries inoculated large proportions of their populations before considering sharing doses. 'We could potentially have a much worse problem with vaccine hoarding and vaccine nationalism in a flu outbreak than we saw with COVID,' said Dr Richard Hatchett, chief executive of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), which helps fund vaccine research.

I'm trying to figure out the unstated part of Hatchett's reasoning. Does he think the cause of the 'potentially... much worse problem' with vaccine hoarding/nationalism is:

-governments' motivation (due to assessing bird flu as worse than COVID), or

-governments' capabilities (due to experience gained while hoarding COVID vaccines)?

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I've come to think that continued masking to avoid illness is a net harm to society and I'm curious to hear objections.

[Edit - to clarify, I mean a net *health* harm if masking is *successful* at reducing, but not eliminating transmission.]

Last weekend I attended two events in my New England college town: a show at the botanic garden and a high school musical. The garden show drew predominately retired people, perhaps 80%, and about 70% of the attendees wore masks. The musical's crowd was far more varied - perhaps 5-10% older members of the community, but somewhere between 30-35% of the attendees were masked.

The December 2022 New Yorker article "The Case for Wearing Masks Forever" [0] demonstrates that influential public health figures still advocate for broad masking, usually because of the threat illness poses to vulnerable popluations (and occasionally, because "a lot of anti-mask sentiment is deeply embedded in white supremacy"). By contrast, I think most people shouldn't even be masking voluntarily. It makes sense for the exceptionally vulnerable to protect themselves as they see fit, and people close to them as well. But the general population shouldn't be masking as source control any longer, because limiting the circulation of garden-variety virii is likely to do more damage to more people in the medium to long run.

I've been nurturing this belief for a while: in May 2021, Zeynep Tufecki (hi, Zeynep!) posted an excellent piece by Dylan H. Morris on her Substack, "Novelty Means Severity: The Key To the Pandemic." [1] I was surprised the article didn't get more traction at the time: it filled in several important blanks, especially explaining why COVID-19 was so lethal among the elderly but left most young people unscathed. It's still valuable for that reason, but also pertains to the ongoing discussion about how we should live now.

The gist of the article is that we have two different immune systems (broadly speaking): our innate immune response is non-virus-specific, while our adaptive immune response attacks particuarly viruses based on prior exposure (or vaccines). To quote Morris:

> Look at virus severity not by age but by age of first infection, and a pattern emerges: see something for the first time as a kid, and you'll most likely be okay (but only most likely). See it for the first time as an adult, and it can be nasty. The older you get, the worse it becomes to be infected with a virus you've never seen.

Novel viruses are especially dangerous. Since no one has acquired immunity, they spread faster and cause more severe illness. From that, I draw the conclusion that (most) people should prefer to develop their adaptive immune systems while innate immunity is strong - when they're young. Vaccines are the best method, but barring that, you want exposure to viruses in the wild so you're not defenseless as you age, when your innate immune system is weaker. (Obviously, one doesn't do this with Ebola.) Purposefully getting infected is a dicey proposition, so I've sort of settled on a mental policy of benign neglect - advising my kids not to take too many special precautions to avoid illness.

This implies that, outside of the acute phase of a pandemic [2], society-wide precautions (apart from vaccines) intended to severely curtail transmissions are a net negative, by a large margin, by depriving young people the chance to build up their adaptive immune systems. Is this wrong?

[0] https://www.theinsight.org/p/novelty-means-severity-the-key-to

[1] https://www.newyorker.com/news/annals-of-activism/the-case-for-wearing-masks-forever

[2] My view: high-quality masks, properly-worn, prevent transmission. Mask mandates can amortize the havoc caused by a pandemic over a period of months, but don't reduce the total damage wrought, unless we actually eradicate the virus in question.

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Any Cracked.com fans here? I could use some help.

I am trying to find a series of videos made by Cracked.com back during its heyday. The videos consisted of a staff member discussing some pop culture topic in depth, with the conceit being that the staff member was trapped in an underground bunker and was being forced to make these videos. I'm not thinking of After Hours, Obsessive Pop Culture Disorder, or The Spit Take, although all of those were somewhat similar. I seem to remember the host being someone who didn't have a very high profile among the Cracked crowd, although he was a young white guy, like many of the regulars.

Any ideas?

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Would appreciate some no-nonsense advice around a lingering bad shroom reaction.

Last Sunday (6 days ago) I took 4g of shrooms (MVP strain). The trip itself was meh, had periods of euphoria but towards the end had kind of a sad crash. But nothing I would describe as so terrible. I've done shrooms before and had a good experience, including a couple months prior taking 3.5g of MVP and having a positive experience.

Since then, I've been feeling really quite poorly. Some physical symptoms such as chills/feverishness, which seem to be passing. More importantly my headspace has been very bad. A sort of headache-y panicky brain fog has been following me most of the time (trying to manage through this at work), and more unpleasantly, the fog seems to come with a sort of "black cloud" where I feel incredibly crummy/sad/panicky, I have to just lie on the floor and sort of freak out, and I can't avoid the intrusive thought that I just cannot live like this permanently, my life is over, what have I done to my wife?, etc. It makes no sense but the cloud is just so powerful. I've had a few welcome intervals of lucidity where I feel "like myself again" lasting for half a day or so. I was meh this past weekend but then last night (Sun) was feeling rough. I took a Xanax for the first time and that gave me a welcome calm down.

Anyway, I'd appreciate any advice. Am I going to come down from this? I'm on day 8 now. Am I going to just have to be medicated up the wazoo going forward? Aren't drugs supposed to fade? I'm not normally like this and have no history of mental issues in myself or my family. There just doesn't seem to be good reliable info out there on this topic. Thank you in advance.

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Mar 20·edited Mar 20

Does anyone have a reason I shouldn't believe we are doomed based on the problem outlined in this post:


In short, assuming 1. advances in AI (of even the non agentic/AGI type) will increase the general capabilities of individual humans (and among such capabilities is the ability to do harm) and 2. the historical trend continues to hold true that potential for doing Y harm at capability level X exceeds potential to prevent Y harm at capability level X, why won't humanity very soon all be dead? It generally seems like empowering individual humans means evil individual humans are able to inflict proportionally greater harm when they so desire (case study: average harm inflicted with a AR-15 in the hands of a misaligned human vs average harm inflicted with a knife in the same hands). And, what continuing to develop AI seems to be poised to do is empower individual humans toward the limit, thus moving the ability for misaligned humans to inflict harm similarly toward the limit. If anyone believes that for example the EY superpathogen scenario is a plausible doom, doesn't this problem necessarily come before that (i.e. before we even have to start trying to align AI agents,) and also seem harder to solve?

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I could care less about a trend I've noticed in fiction writing. I'm not sure if it should bother me.

I have been seeing "anyways," as in something like, "I decided to do it anyways." When I checked online, I found this is an acceptable use, but it grates on me, especially when fictional important people, such as a President, use it instead of "anyway."

And yes, I certainly COULD care less. Somewhat less, anyway.

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Can anyone steelman the case that A.I. progress has not actually accelerated in the last five years?

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What's Russia's side of the story about the mass abductions of Ukrainian children?

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A piece from last week about how mainstream comedy from the last decade can break your brain.


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Mar 20·edited Mar 20

There seems to be quite a subculture of people who demonize the WEF (World Economic Forum), and claim that its founder and chairman Klaus Schwab is the devil incarnate, intent on world domination by means of globalization. "You'll all own nothing, eat bugs, and be happy" that kind of thing.

But the fact that a blatant nationalist such as President Putin attended and addressed the WEF a couple of years ago, in apparently measured and congenial tones:


makes me somewhat skeptical that Klaus Schwab is the white-cat-stroking arch villain which we're led to believe. So presumably neither are most of the other members.

Guys of his generation saw the ill effects of nationalism taken to extremes in WW2, as we have time and again in more recent years, and FWIW it seems to me the WEF is a mostly benign organisation provided it doesn't presume to encroach on national democracies except on a limited basis with their withdrawable consent.

However, I think it is very misguided and naive to desire and work towards a so-called World Government, putting all our eggs in one basket so to speak. So to the extent the WEF is doing that, if such is the case, I would agree their influence is malign.

A World Government, at least before there are flourishing independent colonies throughout the Solar System and heading beyond, would inevitably lead to the decline of humanity for centuries and perhaps indefinitely.

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We have to talk about what Balaji Srinivasan is doing. He just bet 1 million dollars that we will enter hyperinflation.

I don't think bitcoin will go to 1 million dollars in 90 days to be exact, but he seems to make a good argument.

What are your thoughts on this people?

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Weekly shameless self-promotion from me — I wrote briefly about the similarity between LLMs' tendency to hallucinate and humans' tendency to bullshit (https://omnibudsman.substack.com/p/llms-like-people-lie-without-thinking).

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Recently upgraded to a newer phone - surprising how different things are after just 5 years or so since I last bought [up-to-date model at that time]. On the old one, I already restricted most notifications and kept a minimal app suite...the new one is even more barebones, cause I simply didn't have the patience to wait 8 hours or whatever to transfer *everything* over at the [phone store]. In addition to apps, this also meant losing all old files (besides contacts and some message history), so years of photos, some songs I'd never bothered backing up elsewhere, hundreds of TTRPG character sheets, etc. New notification-disabling also seems stronger than before - now nothing gets through when the screen's off, not even a blinking light to tell me I've got texts or whatever.

I notice that I don't miss any of it, and even that small increase in "phone not peripherally bugging me" is noticeably more relaxing. Sort of strange to be able to just...walk away from a good chunk of life history without regret. (Turns out every memory really worth keeping is already in my head.) Definitely strange to notice a "missing mood" (using that wrong probably?) of subconsciously checking whether phone's blinking out of the corner of my eye. I guess even that marginal amount of invasiveness was causing me some anxiety. It's also easier than I thought to grin and bear with not being able to listen to music temporarily (RIP headphone jack) - though hardly preferable. Phones really do shape lives, even for people that go to a lot of trouble to minimize entanglement...sobering.

"So why upgrade at all?", I hear you cry - well, nothing is more expensive than free, and people tend to consume more of a good if it doesn't cost anything...but I'm glad I did. Not for the actual phone, but for the experience of losing a small-but-assumed-significant piece of Stuff, and it not actually mattering at all. That which can be destroyed by the truth...

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Recently finished reading The Three Musketeers and there was a request to talk about it in another thread. So first up, it’s great and much better than The Count of Monte Cristo in my opinion. The Count is too perfect; he’s the richest, best educated, smartest, best fighter and sailor. Blah. (Not morally perfect tho.) The Musketeers (d’Artagnan included) are ridiculous dummies who can barely walk down the street without either starting a fight or losing the shirt off their backs in a wager. And all the better for the reader.

Second, the writing captured me immediately from page one in exactly the way that your high school English teacher told you about hooks. But I find that’s extremely rare and I usually take several chapters to really get into a novel. And also the hook here was ridiculous: it’s not even the story, just the author talking about researching the story as if it were a true historical event. But it worked for me better than any in media res cut-to-the-action hook has.

Lastly, there’s the hilarious but morally disturbing section where a character describes how his father converted between Protestant and Catholic on a whim in order to be able to ethically rob those of the opposite persuasion. He’s eventually murderer when a Protestant and a Catholic join forces against him. So I don’t know much history but this does fit my vague views of the religious conflicts in those days. But was it really that uh obvious? Protestants we’re given carte blanche to commit crimes against Catholics and vice versa? That just plays too much into my (atheist’s) stereotypes of religious failings that I have to imagine there’s more to the story in real life (I hope?).

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1) “Mixed Bag” is a series on my Substack where I ask an expert to select 5 items to explore a particular topic: a book, a concept, a person, an article, and a surprise item (at the expert’s discretion). For each item they have to explain why they selected it and what it signifies.


2) A Rationalist Approach to Psychiatric Conspiracy Theories

Applying Scott’s insights on the topic to psychiatric conspiracies


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Ever since Scott mentioned sometimes experiencing psychosomatic ants when they invade the house, I've been having the same issue...random itches or sensations of movement make me check myself. There's almost never any actual ants, of course, but even a really low positive rate makes me keep doing it. Quite vexing.

It's sorta like after once having an issue with mice, now every inexplicable rustle in the night makes me worry about furry guests. The trouble with trying to create a low-sensory sleep environment is that any stimuli which do happen are a lot more noticeable...

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What's the least powerful computer you think it would be possible to run an AGI on? For whatever definition of AGI you feel like using.

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The new leader of the main left-wing party in Italy is now a woman of jewish descent.

As a result, the antisemitism of many right-wingers is now coming out. In particular, these people stress the fact that she's an ashkenazi jew (not only a jew), connecting this fact to conspiracy theories stating that ashkenazi jews are the elite that manipulates the fate of the world or something (an idea which I've learned was popularized in the 70s by Arthur Koestler).

This issue has been discussed by several media outlets. With the aim of discrediting such conspiracy theories, some articles have pointed out that distinguishing ashkenazi from other jews does not even make a lot of sense in today's world.

Now, since I've first read about ashkenazi jews on this blog, it seems the right place to ask:

1) Is the phrase "ashkenazi jew" used in a derogatory manner in the US and connected to antisemitism and conspiracy theories too?

2) Is the claim by that it is not demographically/biologically meaningful to distinguish Ashkenazi jews motivated?

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I wrote a paper (https://www.science.org/doi/full/10.1126/sciadv.abq2044) and a blog post (https://www.michelecoscia.com/?p=2246) about my research on polarization on social media.

The short version is that this is mostly a methods paper: I'm pointing out that all the ink used to talk about the rise of polarization in the US hasn't been all that supported, because all measures we had so far failed to capture all the aspects of polarization.

Even if this is just a method, we have some cute results about some classical debates on Twitter, the 2020 election period, and a post-WWII timeline on the US House of Representatives. Apparently, the most polarized House was during the 113th Congress (but we only had data until the 116th for the paper, and we saw a rising trend, so perhaps nowadays it is more polarized).

This new measure is still incomplete, because it only considers the opinion drifts between the two sides. We're only partially covering the affective part -- only the refusal to engage with "the other side", but we should also look at the tone of the engagement when it happens. But followup research is under way.

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I'd really like to popularize the fact that GPT4 scored 86.4% on MMLU. That's 3.4% less than the 89.8% that average human experts score within their field of specialization.

For context, this "benchmark covers 57 subjects across STEM, the humanities, the social sciences, and more. It ranges in difficulty from an elementary level to an advanced professional level, and it tests both world knowledge and problem solving ability."

Some scores from "Training Compute-Optimal Large Language Models" for comparison:

Random 25.0%, Average human rater 34.5%, GPT-3 5-shot 43.9%, Chinchilla 5-shot 67.6%, Average human expert performance 89.8%


Has anyone else been following that? Do you think we will discover that language and scoring well on academic exams is like chess in that we thought it was proof of human level intelligence for a bit, but actually it's not all that... or is time to foom measured in months? I'm not sure I can make sense of the situation other than those two options, but I'm still having a lot of trouble living my life as if I believed it.


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This is another update to my long-running attempt at predicting the outcome of the Russo-Ukrainian war. Previous update is here: https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/open-thread-267/comment/13547527#comment-13568445.

15 % on Ukrainian victory (up from 13 % on March 12)

I define Ukrainian victory as either a) Ukrainian government gaining control of the territory it had not controlled before February 24 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 of 2022, or c) return to exact prewar status quo ante.

45 % on compromise solution that both sides might plausibly claim as a victory (up from 43 % on March 12).

40 % on Ukrainian defeat (down from 44 % on March 12).

I define Ukrainian defeat as Russia getting what 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.


There are two reasons for this update.

First is a huge collapse of oil prices last week, obviously caused mainly by a developing banking crisis in the US and EU. I would not have expected that oil demand would be so sensitive to this, and its fall could be quite bad for Russian economy and thus good for Ukraine. It is ironic that financial problems in Ukrainian allies might damage Russia, but apparently here we are.

Second reason is that I’ve decided to backtrack a bit from my previous assessment that Nord Stream pipelines were probably damaged by pro-Ukrainian group. John Schiling showed up in my comments last time to explain that such a group is unlikely to have a capability to do that. But also, Putin actually came on Russian television (see e.g. here: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/3/15/putin-calls-ukraine-role-in-nord-stream-blasts-sheer-nonsense) saying the same thing as John and amplifying a silly conspiracy theory that Biden administration did it. This makes me suspect that maybe Putin knows the story about the yacht, uncovered by Western media, will fairly quickly lead to Russia, and thus is trying to preemptively discredit it.

*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 2022, that is.

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I'm reading _What's Our Problem?", and I have a couple of points. One is that the relationship between the "animal mind" and group effects is actually complicated. Part of culture is restricting instinctive behavior-- for example, religiously imposed restrictions on sex or eating, and this is an important part of stabilizing the group.

That's more of a nitpick. The big one might be the assumption that people will be benevolent if they're thinking clearly, but I'm pretty sure good will is a separate thing which needs to be optimized on its own.

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Looking back at https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/chilling-effects

Supposing climate change leads to much more erratic weather, what effects on mortality are plausible? It seems to me that people might eventually figure out how to make infrastructure relatively cheaply, but it will take a while, and longer to actually make existing infrastructure more flexible.

How long does it take people or societies to adapt to a temperature range? Or to lose an adaptation? It seems as though people can forget how to drive in snow in well under a year.

What got me interested in this was hearing that people starved to death sooner than leave gold mining claims, which is related to temperature because cold would make them more vulturable.

Anyway, I'm interested in whether there were any solid accounts. There are ways of imagining how it could happen like a partner being unable to bring food supplies, but how something could happen isn't the same thing as evidence that it did happen.

This was part of a discussion of how different cultures react differently to gold. For example, North American indigenous people didn't seem to care about it, but South Americans did. Could gold be one of those things where people get excited or not because of the people around them?

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I recently subscribed to Asterisk (http://asteriskmag.com) and got my copies of the first two issues in the mail. I love them, can highly recommend! It’s like the best parts of the broader LW blogosphere, with really fantastic typesetting and illustration.

Wow, doesn’t that sure sound like an ad? Well, it’s not, and I’m just an enthused person on the internet that’s happy to have physical media in her hands again.

p.s. whoever chose the color scheme for Kelsey Piper’s review of ‘What We Owe the Future’, were you eating mint chocolate chip ice cream at the time? Because now I really want mint chocolate chip ice cream.

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Mar 20·edited Mar 20

Given that LLMs seem to be extremely effective at turning instructions in English into (mostly) functional computer code it seems to me that there is a niche available for a new high level, syntactically simple programming language that would be easy to read and debug. This would be a language that could let non-programmers get things done by interacting directly with an LLM to write it, but still give them sufficient control to verify that their instructions had been interpreted correctly.

Do such languages exist already?

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My wife and I restrict our children's screen time. But then we go and spend every spare minute in front of our phones.

Is there a good justification for holding children to a different standard than ourselves? They will likely grow up to spend their working lives and half their leisure time in front of a screen just like us. So is restricting them during childhood kind of arbitrary?

The same question could apply to many other restrictions we place on kids. So in general, what is the justification?

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I most likely will not pursue a PhD but let's say I wanted to - what field is still worth doing a deep dive for 4-6yrs given that the world (and the field) will be radically different + AI would have likely surpassed most experts?

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Scott, any plans to weigh in on the "technology is making young people depressed" discourse?

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I was recently rereading "The Categories Were Made For Man, Not Man For The Categories" and I was wondering if there are any commonly-spoken languages that didn't go the phylogenetic route with regard to group name boundaries. Like if in German most of our mammals were säugetier and most of our fish were fische, but they drew the boundaries differently and whales are actually fisch. Does anyone know of a language like this?

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No question to ask. Just sharing something I wrote earlier this month.


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In regards to gardening, is there any way to predict how well a particular plant will respond to some hormone like rooting powder?

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You should put in big fat 20-point font at the top of the article, "I AM NOT SAYING THAT SLOWING DOWN AI PROGRESS IS A BAD THING, I AM MERELY EXPLAINING THE STATE OF THE DISCUSSION UP TO NOW." Maybe then people would get it.

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What exactly caused the recent boom in llm and graphics AI? Is it a new architecture (transformers or something?), Or did we just finally hit the scale required for it to be in? Or is it just non-bigtech players who can actually execute finally getting in the game?

also, does anyone have know a really good explanation of how transformers work? I keep seeing the graph but it doesn't help grok it.

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Someone mentioned Yeshivas Ner Yisroel on the Classified Thread. I looked it up on Wikipedia and found this sentence:

"Although Ner Israel's mission statement makes clear its priority is religious studies, the yeshiva's alumni have been estimated as 50% rabbis and religious-school teachers, and 50% as professionals: bankers, accountants, physicians, attorneys, psychologists, etc."

People who know more about this - how often do people get hired straight out of yeshiva for a professional job? I already knew Goldman Sachs would hire philosophy majors with minimal financial knowledge; do they also hire yeshiva students who have only ever studied Jewish texts? Asking because it seems like an interesting "signaling theory of education" question.

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