• Animal faces

    [Epistemic status: not reflective of the forefront of human undersetanding, or human understanding after any research at all. Animal pictures with speculative questions.]

    Do the facial expressions of animals mean anything like what I’m inclined to take them to mean?




  • Quarantine variety

    Among people sheltering from covid, I think there is a common thought that being stuck in your home for a year begets a certain sameyness, that it will be nice to be done with.

    It’s interesting to me to remember that big chunk of the variety that is missing in life comes from regular encounters with other people, and their mind-blowing tendencies to do and think differently to me, and jump to different conclusions, and not even know what I’m talking about when I mention the most basic of basic assumptions.

    And to remember that many of those people are stuck in similar houses, similarly wishing for variety, but being somewhat tired of a whole different set of behaviors and thoughts and framings and assumptions.

    Which means that the variety is not fully out of safe reach in the way that, say, a big lick-a-stranger party might be. At least some of it is just informationally inaccessible, like finding the correct answer to a hard math problem. If I could somehow spend a day living like a person stuck in their house across the street lives, I would see all kinds of new things. My home itself—especially with its connection to the internet and Amazon—is capable of vastly more variety than I typically see.

  • Why does Applied Divinity Studies think EA hasn't grown since 2015?

    Applied Divinity Studies seeks to explain why the EA community hasn’t grown since 2015. The observations they initially call the EA community not having grown are:

    1. GiveWell money moved increased a lot in 2015, then grew only slightly since then.
    2. Open Phil (I guess money allocated) hasn’t increased since 2017
    3. Google Trends “Effective Altruism” ‘grows quickly starting in 2013, peaks in 2017, then falls back down to around 2015 levels’.

    Looking at the graph they illustrate with, 1) is because GiveWell started receiving a large chunk of money from OpenPhil in 2015, and that chunk remained around the same over the years, while the money not from Open Phil has grown.

    So 1) and 2) are both the observation, “Open Phil has not scaled up its money-moving in recent years”.

    I’m confused about how this observation seems suggestive about the size of the EA community. Open Phil is not a community small-donations collector. You can’t even donate to Open Phil. It is mainly moving Good Ventures’ money, i.e. the money of a single couple: Dustin Moskovitz and Cari Tuna.

  • Sleep math: red clay blue clay

    To me, going to bed often feels more like a tiresome deprivation from life than a welcome rest, or a painless detour through oblivion to morning. When I lack patience for it, I like to think about math puzzles. Other purposeful lines of thought keep me awake or lose me, but math leads me happily into a world of abstraction, from which the trip to dreamland comes naturally.

    (It doesn’t always work. Once I was still awake after seemingly solving two Putnam problems, which is about as well as I did in the actual Putnam contest.)

    A good puzzle for this purpose should be easy to play with in one’s head. For me, that means it should be amenable to simple visualization, and shouldn’t have the kind of description you have to look at multiple times. A handful of blobs is a great subject matter; an infinite arrangement of algebra is not.

    Recently I’ve been going to sleep thinking about the following puzzle. I got several nights of agreeable sleep out of it, but now I think I have a good solution, which I’ll probably post in future.

    Suppose that you have 1 kg of red clay that is 100 degrees and 1 kg of blue clay that is 0 degrees. You can divide and recombine clay freely. If two pieces of clay come into contact, temperature immediately equilibrates—if you put the 1kg of red clay next to 0.5 kg of blue clay, all the clay will immediately become 66 degrees. Other than that the temperature of the clay doesn’t change (i.e. no exchange with air or your hands, no radiation, etc.). Your goal is to end up with all of the blue clay in a single clump that is as hot as possible. How hot can you make it? (Equivalently: how cold can you make the red clay?)

    HT Chelsea Voss via Paul Christiano

  • Arrow grid game


    There’s something I like about having different systems all the time. Apparently.

  • Remarks on morality, shuddering, judging, friendship and the law

    I lately enjoyed listening to Julia Galef and Jonathan Haidt discuss Haidt’s theorized palate of ‘moral foundations’—basic flavors of moral motivation—and how Julia should understand the ones that she doesn’t naturally feel.

    I was interested in Julia’s question of whether she was just using different words to those who for instance would say that incest or consensual cannibalism are ‘morally wrong’.

    She explained that her earlier guest, Michael Sandel, had asked whether she didn’t ‘cringe’ at the thought of consensual cannibalism, as if he thought that was equivalent to finding it immoral. Julia thought she could personally cringe without morally condemning a thing. She had read Megan McArdle similarly observing that ‘liberals’ claim that incest is moral, but meanwhile wouldn’t befriend someone who practices it, so do in fact morally object after all

  • Coffee trucks: a brilliant idea that someone should do?

    I sometimes wonder if the world should have coffee trucks, like ice cream trucks, roaming the street. Especially when half the population is working from home.

    Coffee seems ideal for this because:

    1. you can probably prepare it fresh in a briefly stopping vehicle,
    2. you don’t need much variety,
    3. people are often flexible about when they get it,
    4. they often like to get it as a short break from work in which they bump into other people,
    5. more than half of the US population consumes it at least once every day, so potential demand is radically higher than for most foodstuffs!
    6. most people don’t have the means to make cafe-quality coffee in their home,
    7. it doesn’t go bad easily
  • Oliver Sipple

    The other day I read Wikipedia arguably too much, and consequently came to know the story of Oliver Sipple. Here’s my summary of the story according to these two Wikipedia pages and this page:

    In the September of 1975, Oliver (‘Billy’) Sipple was an ex-marine of thirty-three, injured in Vietnam and living in San Francisco. He was in and out of the veteran’s hospital, six years into civilian life.

    One afternoon, he stood in a crowd of thousands of people to see the visiting President Gerald Ford leave a San Francisco hotel from across the street. Ford stopped to wave. Suddenly, a shot sounded, and Oliver saw a woman nearby adjusting the aim of her revolver. He lunged and grabbed her arm, sending the second bullet into the hotel, injuring a man inside.

    Oliver was thanked for saving the president, and celebrated as a hero by the media. A heroic veteran.

    Soon the media learned that he was in fact a heroic gay veteran.

  • Neck abacus

    My points for anxiety system continued to help, but was encumbered by the friction of getting my phone out to mark points. Thus I have turned to wearable abaci.

    neclace 1

    necklace 2

    I made this necklace according to very roughly this picture, using knitting wool and beads I bought at one point to use as virtual in-house currency and now found in a box in my room. It works well! The beads don’t shift unless I move them, which is easy and pleasing. It seems clearly more convenient than my phone. (Plus, I can show off to those in the know that I have 4 or 6 or 24 or 26 of something!) I am also for now reminded when I look in a mirror to consider whether I can get a point, which is currently a plus.

  • Training sweetness

    (This is my attempt to summarize the ‘Taste & Shaping’ module in a CFAR 2018 participant handbook I have, in order to understand it better (later version available online here). It may be basically a mixture of their content and my misunderstandings. Sorry for any misunderstandings propagated. I also haven’t checked or substantially experimented with most of this, but it seems so far like a good addition to my mental library of concepts.)

    Some things seem nice, and you just automatically do them (or gravitate toward them), and have to put in effort if you don’t want that to happen. Other things seem icky, and even though maybe you know they are good, you won’t get around to them for months even if they would take a minute and you spend more than that long every week glancing at them and deciding to do them later. (In my own dialect, the former are ‘delicious’. As in, ‘oh goody, my delicious book’).

    How delicious things seem is caused by a kind of estimate by your brain of how good that thing will be for the goals it thinks you have.

    Your brain makes these estimates in a funny way, with some non-obvious features:


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