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Book Review: Denial of Death

Setting up comfortable limitations might be partly explained by self-handicapping:

So they chose the harmful drug as an excuse: “Oh, I would have passed the test, only the drug was making me stupid.” As the study points out, this is a win-win situation: if they fail, the drug excuses their failure, and if they succeed it’s doubly impressive that they passed even with a handicap.

My experience at and around MIRI and CFAR (inspired by Zoe Curzi's writeup of experiences at Leverage)

Maybe at Google or some other corporation you'd have a more pleasant time, because many employees view it as "just putting food on the table", which stabilizes things. It has some bureaucratic and Machiavellian stuff for sure, but I think that's less harmful.

Just for disclosure, I was a MIRI research associate for a short time, long ago, remotely, and the experience mostly just passed me by. I only remember lots of email threads about AI strategy, nothing about psychology. There was some talk about having secret research, but when joining I said outright that I wouldn't work on anything secret, so all my math / decision theory stuff is public on LW.

Book Review: Denial of Death

Such a strange hypothesis: we need a "beyond", so we chase a good career, a good spouse and nice kids, success in art and other pursuits. Don't these things bring their own rewards, like physical comfort and social status and nurturing instinct and so on? Do we really need an extra philosophical reason to chase them?

It seems simpler to consider these mundane rewards as primary, and when someone is deprived of them by some equally mundane circumstance, that person is likely to go looking for "beyond". They feel that one side of the explore-exploit tradeoff isn't working out for them, so they switch to the other side for awhile. Hoffer makes the same point: mass movements recruit from those who are materially discontent. There seems no reason to bring Freudian mortality fears into any of this.

Zoe Curzi's Experience with Leverage Research

Good stuff. Very similar to DeMille's interview about Hubbard. As an aside, I love how the post rejects the usual positive language about "openness to experience" and calls the trait what it is: openness to influence.

Building Blocks of Politics: An Overview of Selectorate Theory

Healthcare and public transport yes. Also lower education expanded a lot, make everyone literate. Higher education got free later, and housing was a complicated story all along.

Building Blocks of Politics: An Overview of Selectorate Theory

the amount of public goods is tiny and the amount of private goods big but smaller than in monarchies, the leader extracts the vast majority of people’s wealth and people are extremely poor. Examples: The soviet union

Had free healthcare for everyone, and free higher education for everyone who could pass exams. I benefited from both. Great public transport too. Also theoretically free housing for everyone, though it took years of waiting; I know many people who got it.

Make no mistake, it was quite authoritarian and locked down. But in the typology of the post I'm not sure it fits anywhere.

Without a phone for 10 days

In the past ten years I haven't carried any phone; before that, only a feature phone. Also a couple years ago I unfollowed everyone on Facebook, using it only for messenger on laptop. Basically for me the anxiety of being "always on" outweighs the benefits, even though I like in-person socializing a lot.

What Do GDP Growth Curves Really Mean?

Yeah, that reverse argument doesn't work. You can sell one iphone to a 1960 businessman for the price of a hundred houses, but even in that hypothetical you can't sell a hundred iphones for a hundred houses each. You can go bigger and try to sell literally all tech advances of today, but even then 1960s US won't agree to pay you 100x its total net worth. So the hundredfold growth in GDP is wholly imaginary, no matter from which year you look at it. The only sensible method is the one you don't like: using a bunch of goods that bring about the same amount of happiness in any year, like a spoonful of jam, and measuring other goods compared to that.

(Book Review) The Genetic Lottery: Why DNA Matters for Social Equality

Her book, and much of her research, focuses on how genes affect educational attainment, and for good reason—education and well-being are connected, especially in America... So if you’re concerned about social inequalities, you should be concerned with education.

The inflation of education requirements is due to fewer available jobs, so I'm more concerned with fixing job creation in the economy. Helping everyone send stronger pheromone signals to Mr Employer by educational attainment (measured in years) doesn't solve anything and only makes things worse.

Glen Weyl: "Why I Was Wrong to Demonize Rationalism"

The header font is perfect for "Demonize", maybe "Rationalism" should be changed to Comic Sans for best effect.

While there are obviously close social links between these different contenders despite implausible claims by defenders of Rationalism to the contrary), and I believe also some important intellectual ones, these linkages might better be understood like those that exist among competitors in a niche sport rather than those among teammates. That is, we may see surprising social overlap between NRxers and Rationalists because Rationalists are afraid of losing their audience to NRxers not because they sympathize with them.

I do think the charge of feeding on the same audience as various cranky communities and semi-cults is accurate, and at least a bit worrying.

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