Elephant seal 2

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What does this post add to the conversation?

Two pictures of elephant seals.

How did this post affect you, your thinking, and your actions?

I am, if not deeply, but certainly affected by this post. I felt some kind of joy looking at these animals. It calmed my anger and made my thoughts somewhat happier. I started to believe the world can become a better place, and I would like to make it happen. This post made me a better person.

Does it make accurate claims? Does it carve reality at the joints? How do you know?

The title says elephant seals 2 and contains 2 pictures of elephant seals, which is accurate. However, I do not think it carves reality because these animals don't have joints. I know it from experimental evidence: I once interacted with a toy model of a seal and it was soft and fluffy and without bones.

Is there a subclaim of this post that you can test?


What followup work would you like to see building on this post?

You wouldn't guess it, but I have an idea...

This followup has really built and added on the previous post and increased my confidence in it. Seeing the full picture, and from two perspectives, helps a lot to clarify what we're looking at. Very exciting direction.

I agree. This seals the deal for me.

The first elephant seal barely didn't make it into the book, but this is our last chance. Will the future readers of LessWrong remember the glory of elephant seal?


The nose eloquently communicates a profound and existential desire to boop it.

Yet the seal's expression suggests that it might not enjoy being booped.

The scenarios which this seal prompts the viewer to imagine contain a nuanced dialogue about the nature of consent.

Also, it says RN2 on the flank of the seal in the second photo.

The asymmetry of identification between the photos lead the viewer to wonder whether or not they are of the same seal, and to inquire how it would be possible to tell two elephant seals apart with just a pair of photos, or confidently demonstrate that two individual photos are of the same seal. Thus, the pictures contain 2,000 words about the nature of identity.

Finally, there is an echo of https://xkcd.com/915/.

(eta: that XKCD was posted on June 22, 2011, at which time it seems that Biden happened to have been picked at random to represent an individual of his demographics. Revisiting it in 2023, the temptation to regard his inclusion as somehow prescient, or just the difference in experience reading the name, seems to gesture toward an interesting and subtle cognitive bias)