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April 2016 Media Thread

(Links are to my GoodReads notes about them)

The related books Superforecasting and Future Babble are about predicting the socio-econo-political future - how people usually fail at it, esp. overconfident pundits - and how it doesn't matter because people forget and they get invited again. The contents align nicely with LW-themes (in terms of instrumental rationality, probabilistic reasoning and recognizing biases etc.), and apply them to read-world prediction making. Some people get quite good at foreseeing events.

April 2016 Media Thread

I, for one, really like this section of LW, which has led me to so many interesting reads. It seems there used to be more entries here, is there some other place LW-minded people now put their recommendations?

January 2016 Media Thread

Much agree with that! Both The Three Body Problem and The Dark Forest (links to my GoodReads reviews) are some of my favorite reads in 2015, can't wait for part 3, Death’s End, which should be available (in English) some time this year.

I'm actually not a big HPMOR fan, and I found these books quite different from that.

Creating a Text Shorthand for Uncertainty

Reminds me of the discussion in Through The Language Glass of the Matsés people of the Amazon.

Their language has a built-in concept of evidentiality -- every time they say anything about anything, their language requires them to express the amount of evidence for the statement -- 'seen with my own eyes' until 'mere hearsay' -- paper.

October 2013 Media Thread

"The 48 Anecdotes of Power"? It's a fun read, but sometimes taken a bit too serious (like having 48-laws-themed tattoos...)

September 2013 Media Thread

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith: The Dictator's Handbook

Much liked this book, which is a sort-of modern version of Machiavelli's The Prince. Don't get fooled by its silly title, this book is the general-audience version of Bueno De Mesquita et al's selectorate theory, which describes any kind of power structure in terms of which groups leaders need to please (or can ignore!) in order to stay in power. It's a rather cynical theory, with leaders having staying-in-power as more or less their only goal, and they give a great many example; leaders in democracies and authocracies are more-or-less equivalent, it's only that the former needed to please many more people and thus are induced to play a bit nicer.

Of course, political science is a bit shaky, but the writers do have statistics and analysis (but one needs the more scholarly version of the theory for that) to back it up. Also, esp. Bueno De Mesquita is known for making quite accurate predictions of future events, more so than others. This gives some confidence, esp. against the common theme of theories that can predict anything.

With selectorate theory in hand, the book explains how we could look at e.g. foreign aid, international politics, to make it beneficial to leaders (democratic or not) to be better to their subjects, improve governance, freedoms etc. So, in the end, the cold, hard-nosed cynicism does point to some ways to make the world a better place...

Recommended. I'll be going to watch world events through these lenses, and see how wel it works.

August 2013 Media Thread

Talking about nuclear arms, I much liked Richard Rhodes's two books -- esp. The Making of the Atomic Bomb, but also the "sequel", Dark Sun -- The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb.

The first book focus much on the science (in a non-technical way) and the politics, while the second spends a lot of time of the espionage that helped the Soviets to create a bomb, too.

What are you working on? July 2013

Oh, thanks for sharing this!

What are you working on? July 2013

Oh, that's a really interesting idea! Is the code available somewhere?

July 2013 Media Thread

Jon Ronson - "The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry "

Some light reading about psychopaths (!) --how are people diagnosed to be psychopaths (often using the Hare Psychopathy Checklist), can this 1% of the population be cured (apparently, to a large extent the answer is "no"). In between, the author solves some kind of mystery, discusses some fun therapies from the 70s, and chats with some psychopaths-or-not, and the famous Rosenhan experiment makes an appearance.

Once more, the stereotype of psychiatry as an, at best, proto-scientific field is evoked. Not a bad book, good for a light read on a long flight.

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