February 2014 Media Thread

by ArisKatsaris1 min read1st Feb 201449 comments


Personal Blog

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 use the comment trees for genres. There is a meta thread for comments about future threads.
  • If you think there should be a thread for a particular genre of media, please post it to the Other Media thread for now, and add a poll to the Meta thread asking if it should be a thread every month.
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Short Online Texts Thread

Weiss & Shanteau, "Decloaking the privileged expert."

When seeking help or advice, one naturally wishes to get that aid from someone who does the task well, from an expert. Determining whether someone merits that label is not trivial, and the judgment can have important consequences. Experts in most domains, from athletes to plumbers, need to exhibit a high level of performance to maintain their status. But there is another group of professionals that is never examined. The expert status of such experts is conferred via criteria such as education or experience. While their credentials may be challenged, their work itself is not seen to bear upon their status. We refer to this group as privileged experts. These experts make assessments or predictions whose correctness is rarely evaluated. Even if prophecy fails, errors are forgiven. We account for this non-evidentiary perspective by positing a widely-held misconception that expertise generalizes. We outline a task-specific, performance-based, limited-term certification scheme that can supplant privilege.

[-][anonymous]8y 0

Things Undone is an alternate-history story about a world where "indexical derivability," a way of finding truth that works radically better than the scientific method, was discovered in the 1400's. Unsettling, entertaining, and memorable.

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Online Videos Thread

Fanfiction Thread

Nonfiction Books Thread

I've read Squat Every Day by Matt Perryman four or five times, and I'm consistently impressed with how much I learn from it each time. The book combines practical strength training advice, history of strength sports, along with discussions on psychology, biology, chaos theory, systems theory, and probability.

I've made my own recommended rationalist reading list, which I give to new initiates of the Conspiracy. No textbooks, popular level work only. Feedback of any sort encouraged.


I would add "The Art of Thinking Clearly" by Rolf Dobelli.

Fiction Books Thread

It's been mentioned before a couple years ago, but I highly recommend The Steerswoman's Road. Definitely what we would consider to be rationalist "fantasy", though as the protagonist applies logic and scientific reasoning, it becomes more of a sci fi.

From a blogger who explains better than I could: "Too much science fiction glorifies mere scientific fact and appeals to scientific authority. Such books are doomed to obsolescence as the state of the art passes them by. Rosemary Kirstein’s books, in contrast, are made timeless by their emphasis on the process of science, which anyone can do. The Steerswoman is a fun work of fantasy fiction with dragons, sword fights, and magic — and also a well-honed work of science fiction, demanding to know the answers to hard questions and the logic behind the magic. The Steerswoman lets the reader watch as the characters use the scientific method to discover the true nature of their world. I cannot recommend this book, and its sequels, highly enough."

Sounds great! I ordered it, even though it isn't available as an e-book.

Ancillary Justice is one of the best debut science fiction novels of 2013. It concerns an AI that used to control a ship with its own humans it had direct control over. There are two alternating narratives, one when the ship is complete and another when the ship has been reduced to a single human. As you can imagine, much of the story involves the identity of beings that control numerous individual bodies.

Ancillary Justice is quite good, and it went on to win the Nebula and Hugo awards for the year.

In addition to AI and identity theory, there is also quite a bit about gender and language, as the dominant empire has no gender in its language and little to no dimorphism, either physically or culturally. The AI tends to guess (with mixed results) when dealing with other languages and cultures.

  • Diaspora, Greg Egan
  • I Am A Cat, Natsume Soseki


  • Oyasumi Punpun (see TvTropes; dark and depressing - worth a reread but not sure I can bring myself to do it)

More enthusiasm for Diaspora-- probably the best sense of wonder science fiction I've read.

I suspect the rule against exponential growth is neither definable nor enforceable, but it kept the book from turning into a series of dreary territorial fights.

I suspect the rule against exponential growth is neither definable nor enforceable, but it kept the book from turning into a series of dreary territorial fights.

Yes, I take that as very similar to Vinge's Zones of Thought - it's almost moronic if you try to take it as any sort of plausible prediction or resolution to the Great Silence, but both reader and author agree to suspend disbelief on that premise in order to keep human-level stories possible.

(At least, I really hope Egan doesn't seriously think that there would be any gentleman's agreement against exponential growth, because his particular multiverse makes the problem of the Great Silence exponentially worse than it already is.)

I don't think an effective gentleman's agreement against exponential growth is conceivable. An actual government might be possible, but that would be a very hard problem, and might have a tendency to take over the story.

Better to handwave, and hope the reader doesn't notice or doesn't care.

All of P. G. Wodehouse's Jeeves stories, in approximate chronological order. (Currently in the middle of The Mating Season.) They are really very fine comic writing indeed.

The Bride of Death by Tim Pratt-- this is an urban fantasy series with a pleasant mixture of wiseass and horror. I just ran into a mention of p-zombies. Anyone know whether Pratt hangs out in rationalist venues?

The Incrementalists by Brust and White. About 200 people who semi-share a memory palace, have immortality of a sort thereby, know a lot about manipulating people, and work to make human society better, bit by bit.

Definitely sf for rationalists. Ends just before the really interesting stuff would start to happen.

Brandon Sanderson's Elantris: engaging, but at times annoying due to a number of idiot plots, more prominent than in his later Mistborn series.

The Martian, by Andy Weir. This was first published chapter-by-chapter on his website and was taken down when he got picked up by a publisher. (I found this out by going to link it on an earlier thread and realizing it wasn't there anymore...)

It is serious, well-researched hard sci-fi: astronaut goes on a Mars mission, basically everything goes wrong, he has to do something with the resources available. (Opening lines: "I'm pretty much fucked. That's my considered opinion. Fucked.")

Television and Movies Thread


  • Computer Chess (great world-building for a plot that did not deserve it)


Her is an interesting take on AGI/human interaction. There is no quick FOOM, but AIs evolve much faster than humans still. It is a drama/romance, so don't expect an AIpocalypse. Well worth watching, though the ending could have been stronger.

Her was superb. If you have seen it already, here's an interesting perspective on the film.


Her is like a two-hour version of that IKEA spot about how directors can screw with audiences’ emotions, just with the explanatory punch line left off.

Outrageous Fortune, a New Zealand TV show available on Netflix Watch Instantly, concerns a lower class white family involved in crime and does an excellent job of portraying low IQ and sociopathic characters.

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Two movies that feel perfect to me in every way: "Primer" and "Assault on Precinct 13". Apart from the fact that they're both low-budget and scored by their respective directors, what else do they have in common, and what other movies should I watch?

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Singularity by the Lisps - it's a song about the singularity.


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I've been listening to Midnight Memories, an album by One Direction. Listening to the music on this album always seems to significantly improve my mood.

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I've been listening to Midnight Memories, an album by One Direction. The music on this album cheers me up when I

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Podcasts Thread

Other Media Thread

[-][anonymous]8y 9

/r/rational is a subreddit originally started by the fans of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. Currently it's dedicated to discussions of "smart fiction", including rationalist fiction and hard scifi.

Go check out The Gamer. It's about a guy who gets magic powers (though he can't reveal them to the public or else the source tries to kill him), and actually behaves sanely (actually thinks "how can I use this to help ordinary people? Probably by focusing on healing magic and becoming a doctor."). Not quite rationalist fiction, but contains non-stupid characters and good humor.

Hc gb fvkgl INT and he still hasn't tried saying "Manual." (or would that be WIS?). Or "Observe"ing the mysterious people, at least.

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Use rot13 for spoilers.

I can't exactly rot13 a number.

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Vg vf cbffvoyr gb ebg guvegrra n ahzore

I realized it just before I decrypted that. Shame on me.

Tower of God is a great webtoon/manhwa for people who like games with simple rules that lead to complex stategies, small group politics, and action. There's a lot of complex world building and lots of twits which makes the plot diffult to explain, but here's a basic overview. The story follows Baam who grew up in a cave with only a single friend, Rachel. One day Rachel decides to excape the caves by climbing the Tower, so that she can see the stars. Each floor of the Tower has a test (or series of tests) you have to pass in order to advance to the next level. People who reach the top of the tower are rewarded with immense supernatual power and social status. Thus many people attemp to climb it even though the second floor alone has a worse than 50% mortality rate and your chances of reaching the top are on par with winning the lottery. Baam attempts to follow her into the tower, but gets seperated from her and dragged into on of the tower's internal politcal stuggles. ETA- The link at the topic is to the official site, but Batoto also has a very high quality fan translation which is quite a bit a head of the official English version (several hundred chapters vs 11).

I have recently started reading the blog Mr.Money Mustache. It is about early retirement, but many of the lessons can be applied to earning to give. The blog makes good use of hedonic psychology and some basic rationality techniques (like actually using math).