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eukaryote's Comments

Whipped Cream vs Fancy Butter

I love this take. You're out here living in 3020. Also, I never get to use my eggbeater these days, so I'm excited to try this.

100 Ways To Live Better

As a result of this, I put a post on Nextdoor offering to walk people's dogs for free. I'm hoping someone takes me up on it. Thanks for the brilliant suggestion!

The funnel of human experience

Quick authorial review: This post has brought me the greatest joy from other sources referring to it, including Marginal Revolution ( and the New York Times bestseller "The Uninhabitable Earth". I was kind of hoping to supply a fact about the world that people could use in many different lights, and they have (see those and also like )

An unintentional takeaway from this attention is solidifying my belief that if you're describing a new specific concept, you should make up a name too. For most purposes, this is for reasons like the ones described by Malcolm Ocean here ( But also, sometimes, a New York Times bestseller will cite you, and you'll only find out as you set up Google alerts.

(And then once you make a unique name, set up google alerts for it. The book just cites "eukaryote" rather than my name, and this post rather than the one on my blog. Which I guess goes to show you that you can put anything in a book.)

Anyways, I'm actually a little embarrassed because my data on human populations isn't super accurate - they start at the year 50,000 BCE, when there were humans well before that. But those populations were small, probably not enough to significantly influence the result. I'm not a historian, and really don't want to invest the effort needed for more accurate numbers, although if someone would like to, please go ahead.

But it also shows that people are interested in quantification. I've written a lot of posts that are me trying to find a set of numbers, and making lots and lots of assumptions along the way. But then you have some plausible numbers. It turns out that you can just do this, and don't need a qualification in Counting Animals or whatever, just supply your reasoning and attach the appropriate caveats. There are no experts, but you can become the first one.

As an aside, in the intervening years, I've become more interested in the everyday life of the past - of all of the earlier chunks that made up so much of the funnel. I read an early 1800's housekeeping book, "The Frugal Housewife", which advises mothers to teach their children how to knit starting at age 4, and to keep all members of the family knitting in their downtime. And it's horrifying, but maybe that's what you have to do to keep your family warm in the northeast US winter. No downtime that isn't productive. I've taken up knitting lately and enjoy it, but at the same time, I love that it's a hobby and not a requirement. A lot of human experience must have been at the razor's edge of survival, Darwin's hounds nipping at our heels. I prefer 2020.

If you want a slight taste of everyday life at the midpoint of human experience, you might be interested in the Society for Creative Anachronism. It features swordfighting and court pagentry but also just a lot of everyday crafts - sewing, knitting, brewing, cooking. If you want to learn about medieval soapmaking or forging, they will help you find out.

Spaghetti Towers

A brief authorial take - I think this post has aged well, although as with Caring Less (, this was an abstract piece and I didn't make any particular claims here.

I'm so glad that A) this was popular B) I wasn't making up a new word for a concept that most people already know by a different name, which I think will send you to at least the first layer of Discourse Hell on its own.

I've met at least one person in the community who said they knew and thought about this post a lot, well before they'd met me, which was cool.

I think this website doesn't recognize the value of bad hand-drawn graphics for communicating abstract concepts (except for Garrabrant and assorted other AI safety people, whose posts are too technical for me to read but who I support wholly.) I'm guessing that the graphics helped this piece, or at least got more people to look at it.

I do wish I'd included more examples of spaghetti towers, but I knew that before posting it, and this was an instance of "getting something out is better than making it perfect."

I've planned on doing followups in the same sort of abstract style as this piece, like methods I've run into for getting around spaghetti towers. (Modularization, swailing, documentation.) I hopefully will do that some day. If anyone wants to help brainstorm examples, hit me up and I may or may not get back to you.

Caring less

Hi, I'm pleased to see that this has been nominated and has made a lasting impact.

Do I have any updates? I think it aged well. I'm not making any particular specific claims here, but I still endorse this and think it's an important concept.

I've done very little further thinking on this. I was quietly hoping that others might pick up the mantle and write more on strategies for caring less, as well as cases where this should be argued. I haven't seen this, but I'd love to see more of it.

I've referred to it myself when talking about values that I think people are over-invested in (see, but not extensively.

Finally, while I'm generally pleased with this post's reception, I think nobody appreciated my "why couldn't we care less" joke enough.

Do you get value out of contentless comments?

Yeah! I like getting positive feedback on my work, especially in a rather intimidating forum like here. Anything more specific than "good post" or whatever is better, but even that is more emotionally rewarding than seeing digits in the vote box change.

Eukryt Wrts Blg

I don't like taking complicated variable-probability-based bets. I like "bet you a dollar" or "bet you a drink". I don't like "I'll sell you a $20 bid at 70% odds" or whatever. This is because:

A) I don't really understand the betting payoffs. I do think I have a good internal sense of probabilities, and am well-calibrated. That said, the payoffs are often confusing, and I don't have an internal sense linking "I get 35 dollars if you're right and you give me 10 dollars if I'm not" or whatever, to those probabilities. It seems like a sensible policy that if you're not sure how the structure of a bet works, you shouldn't take it. (Especially if someone else is proposing it.)

B) It's obfuscating the fact that different people value money differently. I'm poorer than most software engineers. Obviously two people are likely to be affected differently by a straightforward $5 bet, but the point of betting is kind of to tie your belief to palpable rewards, and varying amounts of money muddy the waters more.

(Some people do bets like this where you are betting on really small amounts, like 70 cents to another person's 30 cents or whatever. This seems silly to me because the whole point of betting with money is to be trading real value, and the value of the time you spend figuring this out is already not worth collecting on.)

C) Also, I'm kind of risk averse and like bets where I'm surer about the outcome and what's going on. This is especially defensible if you're less financially sound than your betting partner and it's not just enough to come out ahead statistically, you need to come out ahead in real life.

This doesn't seem entirely virtuous, but these are my reasons and I think they're reasonable. If I ever get into prediction markets or stock trading, I'll probably have to learn the skills here, but for now, I'll take simple monetary bets but not weird ones.

Tiddlywiki for organizing notes and research

Sure. It's not much right now.

I put each quote and source combo on their own tiddler, then tag it with a bunch of stuff that might help me find it later. I'll probably refine the system as I start referring back to it more.

How much background technical knowledge do LW readers have?

Wait, do people usually use the phrase "technical knowledge" to mean just math and programming? I'm to understand that you have technical knowledge in any science or tool.

"Rationalizing" and "Sitting Bolt Upright in Alarm."

FWIW, "Alice is systematically wrong [and/or poorly justified] [about X thing]" came to mind as a thing that I think would make me sit up and take note, while having the right implications.

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