September 2014 Media Thread

This is the monthly thread for posting media of various types that you've found that you enjoy. Post what you're reading, listening to, watching, and your opinion of it. Post recommendations to blogs. Post whatever media you feel like discussing! To see previous recommendations, check out the older threads.


  • Please avoid downvoting recommendations just because you don't personally like the recommended material; remember that liking is a two-place word. If you can point out a specific flaw in a person's recommendation, consider posting a comment to that effect.
  • If you want to post something that (you know) has been recommended before, but have another recommendation to add, please link to the original, so that the reader has both recommendations.
  • Please post only under one of the already created subthreads, and never directly under the parent media thread.
  • Use the "Other Media" thread if you believe the piece of media you want to discuss doesn't fit under any of the established categories.
  • Use the "Meta" thread if you want to discuss about the monthly media thread itself (e.g. to propose adding/removing/splitting/merging subthreads, or to discuss the type of content properly belonging to each subthread) or for any other question or issue you may have about the thread or the rules.
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August reading roundup; everything is heritable:








The Importance of Wild-Animal Suffering - Somewhat changed my view about the scale of wildlife suffering and the sentience of non-domesticated animal species

Trying to See Through: A Unified Theory of Nerddom - On insight porn and what kind of people LW and the related memeplex tend to attract

The Physics of Information Processing Superobjects: Daily Life Among the Jupiter Brains by Anders Sanberg (1999) - paper discussing what computers up against the limits of physics might look like (skip to the end for some interesting examples)

This ruined a day of work when I stayed up until 5 AM reading through it and the rest of this writer's corpus.

IMO, Metropolitan Man is by a fair amount his best work.

I agree. Their treatment of Terminator was awesome though. I laughed out loud at the name given to the attack modality in the late chapters...

It's a silly thing to be happy about, but I really liked Tree of Time's reference to the SF-88 site in Marin. It's not a well-known place and I've always thought it'd be a great area to film something post-apocalyptic.

I'm going to go ahead and recommend the entire Vorkosigan saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold. I advise reading in chronological timeline order (except for the prequel "Falling Free" which only loosely bears on the rest of the series's events and characters - so start with Shards of Honor). Before I read these books I had heard HPMoR glossed as "Miles Vorkosigan attends Hogwarts", and while this does neither character perfect justice, it was a lot truer than I anticipated.

"The second interesting thing about angels, Mr. Lipwig, is that you only ever get one."

This is an information bounty, in exchange for helping me out I'm offering a half hour of my time (best redeemed through EA, corresponding research or teaching anything you need to know about civil engineering.) Now to the request so unreasonable that I felt compensation was necessary.

I once read a transhumanism short story by Isaac Asimov but have forgot the title and short story collection it was in, I'm trying to find this story again. The plot summary goes as such: A retired businessman is reminiscing about the frontier days of cognitive enhancement where 'chipped' professionals were a high value rarity and his firm was so lucky to have the opportunity to interview two at the same time and he had to choose which one to hire. A key limiter to the 'chipping' was that those professionals were ten times as smart for one tenth the productive lifespan, meaning early onset of senility and retirement. The retired businessman laments that the current generation of 'chipping' is so dialed down and legislated that they are nothing special.

If this rings a bell and you can give me a title to this short story, you will have my eternal gratitude (redeemable for one half hour of time.)

Finished Psycho-Pass (first season on Netflix). Briefly, it's the spiritual successor to Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, directed by Gen Urobuchi (Fate/Zero, Black Lagoon) and animated by Production I.G (GITS, Attack on Titan). Same format as GITS:SAC -- female/male detective team in a somewhat dystopian future investigating a horrific criminal mastermind. The technology level is set slightly lower than GITS -- cyborg bodies are possible but expensive, and it's not possible to emulate a human brain yet.

The titular psycho-pass (which is a pun in Japanese for psychopath) is a metric (associated to a color scale, from white to black) measuring a person's criminal capacity. In this future Japan, everyone's psycho-pass is monitored extremely carefully. People whose psycho-pass becomes "clouded" by stress or mental illness eventually become latent criminals and are contained in isolation until either their psycho-pass clears or they die. Crime still happens, and the criminal justice system uses a combination of inspectors and enforcers to neutralize criminals. Enforcers are latent criminals that have chosen to work in the police force under the close watch of their inspectors. Their weapon of choice is the Dominator, a hand-held electronic pulse weapon that ranges from non-lethal stun gun to complete obliteration in proportion to the threat's criminal coefficient (0-99 = locked; 100-299 = stun; 300+ = lethal).

The first season follows the main duo, Inspector Akane and her enforcer Kougami, as they hunt down a mysterious criminal mastermind who connects latent criminals with the technical expertise they need to commit their crimes, in lieu of committing crimes himself. Akane is a newbie, so we get the standard newbie introduction to the Sibyl system of inspectors and enforcers, and the danger an inspector faces in maintaining their mental health while investigating horrendous crimes. The pattern of tension between a high-ranking newbie with an experienced subordinate occurs multiple times. Naturally, since this is a dystopia, not everything is as it appears.

The animation is high quality, and is especially brutal at times. Both my partner and I cringed several times at some of the fight scenes because they were painful to watch. There are a few filler episodes, but most of the episodes were worth watching, and they are relatively good at avoiding most of the standard Ghost in the Shell tropes (one exception: early on they do a remake of the classic GITS:SAC episode "Chat! Chat! Chat!"). I gave it 8/10, that is, essentially as good (IMO) as the first season of either GITS:SAC or Fate/Zero.

Issues I had with Psycho-Pass:

  • The SYBIL system deciding things such as what career people would be best suited for seems to damage some people so much that they become catatonic, for no apparent reason except to make sure we know it's bad, like Yvain described in the post about dystopias on his old blog. And that's before we find out gur flfgrz vf cbjrerq ol gur oenvaf bs frevny xvyyref.

  • One minor villain is a standard "wanting to be immortal makes you evil" type of character, who notably in a tv interview that shows the public face he hides his evil side with uses a pro-transhumanism argument I've heard from actual transhumanist speakers. Probably the "transhumanists are secretly evil" implication was accidental, but I didn't like it.

  • The main affect I had from watching the show, was that a villain was the viewpoint character during their death scene, I emphasized with them as they were made to feel helpless and then killed, and I then felt annoyed about that feeling.

For those who are tolerant of deathist and dystopian memes, and don't share my personal weirdness, I second the recommendation.

I vaguely object to calling it deathist.

The SYBIL system deciding things such as what career people would be best suited for seems to damage some people so much that they become catatonic, for no apparent reason except to make sure we know it's bad

I don't recall something like this happening. Most of the time -- as far as I remember -- it's other people reacting to psycho-pass information that causes psychological damage. E.g., one character is extensively bullied because of their psycho-pass, one or two characters' psycho-pass degrades the more they obsesses over it, etc.

One minor villain is a standard "wanting to be immortal makes you evil" type of character

I'd say he was more "evil and coincidentally also wanting to be immortal." The only character that really disagrees with living forever is Kougami, whose expected future quality of life is relatively low.

I agree, it's not deathist. It isn't particularly pro-immortalist either, but that doesn't bother me.

This. My biggest issue with Psycho Pass was precisely the frevny xvyyre oenva thing. The writers created an interesting world, posed a variety of interesting questions (fubhyq lbh qrsre gb na ragvgl gung pynvzf gb xabj orggre guna lbh jung jbhyq znkvzvfr lbhe hgvyvgl, jura lbhe orfg rfgvzngr bs gur pbeerpg pbhefr jvyqyl qvfnterrf jvgu vgf bja naq vg qbrf abg rkcynva vgf ernfbavat?), made clear their opinions on the subjects (flovy vf rivy! serrqbz vf n fnperq inyhr!), but justified them with trivial accidents of the setup (frevny xvyyre oenvaf, crbcyr sbeprq vagb boivbhfyl njshy yvsr pubvprf) - those things are not a necessary aspect of the system and it is imagine to consider a less convenient world in which the writers would have had to actually engage with the issues they raise. A pity, because the series is otherwise so good.

  • I was honestly expecting Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun to run out of jokes an episode or two in, but actually it keeps getting better and better - shaping up to be my favourite comedy so far this year.
  • I've been surprisingly taken with Barakamon, a heartwarming slice-of-life. I was expecting a sports-anime style coverage of calligraphy, but actually it's more reminiscent of Usagi Drop or Wolf Children.
  • We've been watching Mahouka for the laughs. It starts out fairly unassuming but rapidly becomes one of those shows that is so dire it's actually comedy gold; the main character is the most blatant Gary Stu I have ever seen, and by ep.10 or so it is reminiscent of North Korean propaganda.

Happened to watch an old film from the 1950s, Three Coins in the Fountain. Actually not that bad. Sort of a silly romantic comedy of manners, and when you get bored with that, you can pay attention to post-WWII Italy and note how privileged Americans were, how women smoked back then, etc. It feels weird to see offices without computers in them - just papers. and phones. Oh, and random monks in the background: the camera just pans across them like they're not there.

August music:

I have a mostly off-topic and very inappropriate question that has been bugging me for a while..

I know you make a point of not posting your personal info online, but in order to understand your recommendations I'd like to ask whether you are a native Japanese speaker. I'm just looking for a yes/no/nocomment answer here, though feel free to elaborate as much as you want.

I'm doing a microeconomics podcast that will teach much of the material of an introductory microeconomics course. It's also on iTunes under Microeconomics Podcast with Professor James Miller.

Finally got around to playing To The Moon, and it is much much better than I expected, to the point where I am now recommending it to everyone. Interactive fiction very much in the spirit if not the mechanics of old point-and-click adventures, it is one of those satisfyingly well-told mysteries where with every reveal you realise all the pieces really were there for you to see whether you managed to put them together or not. Also it is something of a love song to 8-bit RPGs.

Cryonics publicity, and my responses, part 1 of 2:

For $200,000, This Lab Will Swap Your Body's Blood for Antifreeze

And just a few days later:

Bitcoin’s Earliest Adopter Is Cryonically Freezing His Body to See the Future

As usually happens when these sorts of stories go online and people can post comments on them, I notice certain recurrent themes:

  1. Only rich people can afford cryonics.

  2. Signing up for cryonics signals selfishness.

  3. Something spooky happens when the human brain enters the off-state that resists technological interventions and attempts at reversibility.

  4. Cryonics organizations engage in deliberate fraud.

These cover the main points, and they show how badly the idea of cryonics still fails to communicate 50 years after Robert Ettinger published his first book about it, The Prospect of Immortality, in 1964. The people who currently have a say in the cryonics movement (I don’t have that kind of authority – yet – though I have attrition working in my favor) just don’t seem concerned about this, either, which I find worrisome.

I would like to offer my responses to these “objections.”

  1. A few wealthy people have signed up for cryonics. I have met one of them, namely, Mr. Don Laughlin, who founded his own casino and resort business in Laughlin, Nevada. In fact, Mr. Laughlin will host the End Death Cryonics Convention this November:

But in general cryonics attracts a mostly middle-class, mostly male demographic which uses life insurance as the funding mechanism, and this practice makes cryonics affordable. (For some reason this fact doesn’t register when it shows up in plain sight in cryonics news stories.)

And we can see that few wealthy men have signed up because:

a. The things that only wealthy people can afford tend to become status symbols and ways of showing conspicuous consumption; this hasn’t happened to cryonics, at least not yet, despite the envy-based misconceptions about it.

b. Cryonics hasn’t attracted adventuresses. Young, attractive single women with a certain kind of personality can identify congregations of wealthy men, like the ones who own sports franchises, their rich buddies and their well-paid athletes, and they will try to insinuate themselves to see if they can exploit these situations for financial gain. This hasn’t happened to the cryonics community so far; if anything, cryonics acts like “female Kryptonite.”

  1. The “selfishness” claim about cryonics apparently involves the fact that we cryonicists want something very badly which doesn’t exist in our century, so we have to take a metaphorical ambulance ride to the future, at considerable expense (usually paid for with life insurance), to try to reach it. If the people living in, say, the 24th Century, have solved the problems of radical life extension and the revival of cryonauts in a healthy state, and if they have socially normalized this as the current state of health care, they won’t go around complaining about each other’s “selfishness” for taking advantage of these techniques. I doubt they would disparage the revivable cryonauts who have arrived in the cryo-ambulance to their time, either. If anything, they will probably value cryonics, or a successor technology which accomplishes something similar, because they might have to resort to it themselves in case the practitioners of 24th Century medicine can’t treat their diseases and disabilities, and they want to get second opinions from the health care providers in, say, the 27th Century, based on the gamble that they have become capable enough to handle the untreatable medical issues of the 24th Century. You could view cryonicists as early adopters, not only of future standards of health care, but also of the different kind of moral philosophy that this health care will support.

  2. Even many allegedly secular people assume that something spooky happens when the human brain enters the neurological off-state we call “death”; this outcome shows inexorable Fate at work, or something. But this belief only reflects the fact that the so-called “modern” secular philosophies like revived Epicureanism, secular humanism, skepticism, ideological atheism and so forth arose during earlier stages of scientific knowledge. (The literature published by American Atheists still carries Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s credo that “Atheism,” as she capitalized it, derives from “Greek materialism.” Talk about living in the past.) The adherents of these secular philosophies need to catch up to the 21st Century by reading up on the advances in neuroscience promoted by the Brain Preservation Foundation. Fortunately two prominent figures in skeptic circles, Michael Shermer and Susan Blackmore, have associated with the Brain Preservation Foundation as advisers, so these two secular intellectuals at least show a willingness to think like 21st Century people by examining the evidence for ways to turn death from a permanent off-state into a temporary and reversible off-state through applied neuroscience.

  3. Fraud? I’d like to know who has gotten rich off of cryonics. Name that individual.

End of part 1 of 2.

Cryonics publicity, and my responses, part 2 of 2.

  1. Eldritch horrors, or at least dickish Future People, will do mean things to cryonauts upon their revival. (Sounds familiar, for some reason.)

  2. We shouldn't do cryonics because of what happens in dumb popular culture like Idiocracy, Futurama, Star Trek, etc.

  3. You won’t know anyone upon revival in Future World.


  1. The cryonics idea, because in involves an unusual way of talking about “death” (the neurological off-state), pushes people’s terror management buttons. According the Terror Management Theory in psychology, when we learn about our mortality as children, the knowledge causes a kind of chronic traumatic stress disorder which we spend the rest of our lives managing, in a kludgy way, by constructing and maintaining anxiety buffers which deny death: things like self-esteem, beliefs in human exceptionalism, tribal identity, afterlife fantasies and so forth. And we all know that people think badly under the influence of strong emotions, in this case reminders of death which Terror Management theorists call mortality salience. (When denial of death can actually keep people from dying, we call it “effective health care.”) Cryonics offers a strategy for managing our risk instead of our terror, but most people don’t immediately see that without some amount of explanation, often spoon-fed to the slower learners (and even then they may not catch on); so they construct frankly absurd scenarios about all the bad things that they fear might happen to them, assuming revival.

Many of these faux objections sound like expressions of social anxiety to me (I know about social anxiety from my own experiences) – these Advanced Beings in the Future will do horrible things to me, so I would rather die than meet them! I have to wonder if we have social science instruments to correlate people’s reactions to the cryonics idea with measurable anxiety levels and see if we can find less anxious demographics which cryonics organizations could try marketing to.

  1. Unserious people invoke pop culture crap like Futurama, a cartoon series which seemed funny to me for about four or five episodes before I lost interest in it. I don’t even bother engaging such individuals.

The episode in Star Trek: The Next Generation, titled “The Neutral Zone,” brings up an addressable point, however. In this episode, Dr. Crusher revives a cryopreserved financier who gives a performance which makes me wonder if the screenwriters knew a real cryonicist with money and used him as a model. The character’s personality seemed to have a lot of verisimilitude to me, in other words. This character tries to find what had happened to the investments he had set aside in trusts on Earth, only to discover that his wealth has mysteriously disappeared without explanation.

Now, this could happen given some major economic, social or political disruption, I suppose. But in the real world, trusts have lasted for generations without anyone stealing them empty. H.G. Wells even wrote the first story connecting suspended animation and exponentially compounding wealth in trusts early in the 20th Century, both as a short story and as a novel, under the names “When the Sleeper Wakes” and The Sleeper Awakes, respectively. People have left wealth in trusts which have lasted for a century or more where trustees have preserved their assets and faithfully carried out the trustors’ wishes, subject to interpretation in case a trustor leaves ambiguous instructions. And we can point to well known examples of trusts established in the late 17th Century by Benjamin Franklin, and in the 19th Century by Stephen Girard, James Smithson and Alfred Nobel. You could probably include charitable trusts set up early in the 20th Century by John Rockefeller, Henry Ford and Andrew Mellon as additional examples of successful asset preservation across the decades.

In other words, in the real world, trustees generally don’t loot and make trusts disappear just because the trustors died decades ago and they think no one cares any more. So the people who bring up this scenario for the assets cryonicists have set aside in speculative revival trusts, like in the Star Trek episode, simply show their ignorance of trusts’ historical track record.

  1. What happens to people now when they discover that they don’t know anyone? This sounds like another kind of objection to cryonics based on social anxiety. Have they lost their ability to make new friends? I haven’t maintained friendships with anyone I knew in the first 30 years of my life. I’ve also lost several of my relatives already, including all of my grandparents; my 87 year old father could die any day now.

How many people have I at least met who have gone into cryo? Probably more than a dozen, and I got to know David Zubkoff well because we worked together for a year in the late 1990’s.

Do I feel alienated because of all the people I can no longer communicate with? No, because I have made new friends, even in the past couple of years. And no one would characterize me as outgoing or extroverted, by any means. If people have the capacity to make new friends throughout life, then why wouldn’t that continue to operate in the future?

If anything, you might even find it easier to make friends in Future World if the people of that time have enhanced empathy and social skills so that they can pick up on your tells more readily and adjust their responses to you to make you comfortable with them.

If you’ve run across similar ill-considered objections to cryonics, how have you addressed them?

Can we just switch this to the "gwern posts awesome links thread", I feel like it would have much the same effect :).

Please read the rule that says "Please post only under one of the already created subthreads, and never directly under the parent media thread". This should have been under Meta, or in response to one of gwern's comments.

Maybe Gwern should have a site where they put their links on or something...

If people do not like me copying over my link compilations, downvote them and I'll get the message at some point. But I think they're generally interesting, high-quality, and relevant to LWers, so I put them here too for people who don't want to use Google+ (I can sympathize) or sign up for my newsletter.