All of kithpendragon's Comments + Replies

I have not seen any increase in spam quality or quantity and I have not spoken to anybody who told me that they have.

I am aware of the fear that the current generation of LLMs could make social engineering attacks much cheaper and more effective, but so far have not encountered so much as a proof of concept.

Use alarms and don't ignore them, ever. Set the alarms to go off at the time when you want to start setting up for the next part of your day; e.g. getting ready for bed instead of lights-out time, setting up your workspace for the day instead of time to be fully productive, checking if you're hungry instead of lunchtime, &c. You can set as many labeled alarms as you like on your phone and many watches, and you can schedule them to repeat regularly. If you don't want to disturb people around you, set the alarm to vibrate and keep the device on your pers... (read more)

I generally agree with this argument, and I endorse and encourage further exploration with the eventual goal of being able to predict the meaning of a ritual from its form and vice versa. The definition of ritual presented in the conclusions and further discussion in 4.1 strike me as a very good start toward that goal.

My biggest concern with the argument as presented is a slightly waffling attitude between the extremely strong (too strong?) statement of immutable motivation presented in track 2.3 and repeated in 3.5 and Conclusions, and the weaker treatmen... (read more)

You homed in exactly on the point where I have theoretical doubts (I need to better think through predictive theories and what they really imply) but I can tell you where I stand as of now. My current idea to resolve this (and I will amend the main text, either to commit to this or to at least avoid contradictory phrasing) is to invoke multiagent models of the mind []: * An agent must indeed have immutable goals to function as an agent * Our mind, on the other hand, is probably better modelled not as an agent but an agora of agents with all sorts of different goals (the usual picture is a competition or a market, but why not cooperation and other interactions as well) * This agora needs to pretend that it is a single agent in order to actually act sometimes. Thus, mind-wide goals are immutable for the duration of an "agentic burst", for as long as a given agent is singled out at the agora -- which could be the duration of a single gesture for very low-level goals, or the typical time span of a coherent self-image for the most high-level ones. * The way that mind-wide goals are changed is not by modifying an agent, but by (1) adding another agent to the agora, typically a predictive model of other people in a certain setting, and (2) providing evidence that this one is a better model of "myself", at least in the current situation. As for biological drives, I'll concede that the word "all" is probably untrue and I wil retract it, though I do mean "the overwhelming majority as soon as the cultural learning machine kicks in". This may be overcorrection in response to sociobiology (which itself was overcorrection in response to blank slate cultural relativism), but I want to try to commit to this and see how far it goes!

... you don't know how it changes your life and relationships to win - it's probably quite positive ...

I seem to remember reading that the overall impact to an individual of winning a large lottery is very frequently overwhelmingly negative; that nearly everybody winning those prizes ends up worse off five or ten years down the road than they were when they started.

... a 5-minute check of the easiest-to-find articles on the subject provides mixed opinions, so grain of salt and all that. But I didn't see any anybody claiming that winning a lottery is all... (read more)

Depends on what I'm doing. My baseline is verbal/auditory, and that is the mode my short-term memory loop utilizes most effectively. Reading printed text is primarily an auditory experience for me.

I don't seem to have an autobiographical narrator as such, but I do a good deal of processing in the verbal mode, increasingly when I am less familiar with a task or process. If I am trying to learn a new task or process, that processing often escapes as a literal verbal output that sometimes makes my kid ask if I'm "talking to YouTube". I guess this is a stronge... (read more)

Somewhere along the line, somebody will have to deal with fewer irate passengers who just missed their trains because the signs were too small and verbose. I would agree that it is unlikely for anybody who can do something about the problem to connect the unfortunate signage with the irate passengers, though.

The text could be further condensed to something like:

Red Line to Ashmont


Everybody knows they are passengers and that they are here for the train so that information is redundant on the sign.

GPT-4 will probably be insane.

Could we drill down on what exactly you mean here?

  • "Insane" as in enormously advanced or impressive?
  • "Insane" as in the legal condition where a person is not responsible for their actions?
  • "Insane" as in mentally unhinged?
  • Something else?
  • All of these?

claim that consequences are unforeseeABLE is bold. That would require "weather is beyond our ken, forever."

Maniac Extreme type argument on a minor semantic point.

We can make some pretty good guesses, but right now we have no effective means to fully and accurately predict the long-term and long-distance meteorological, geological, and hydrological side effects of a project that results in a moderate-to-major change in the annual rainfall of a region. There will be consequences that we are unABLE to forsee. Some of those consequences could be large, some could be negative. Some could be both, maybe we don't get either.

Oh, my apologies - I am happy to concede that "currently unforeseeable" is a reasonable limitation in complex systems; I hadn't noticed that qualifier. And, if you had asked me four years ago "Might our weather models miss some catastrophic downstream consequence, which negates the potential value of returning jungle (now pasture) back to jungle, and preventing California droughts?" I would have given it a decent chance, which would negate the more intrusive, all-or-nothing interventions. Yet - weather modelling is improving rapidly, with neural networks. Google is able to do "now-casting", which forecasts local weather condition at small time scales. That sort of modelling was previously out-of-bounds, because it requires much smaller & more numerous voxels and turbulence could throw everything off due to local traffic conditions or a factory being shut down for maintenance. The fact that we have now-casting, among other steady improvements, lowers my assessment of a catastrophic blunder. Especially if we roll-out in a place like California, such that we return water to its state in the 1960s, which obviously would not be catastrophically disruptive. So, it's true that science misses catastrophe some times, and weather is complex, while very recent improvements in modelling reduce the risk of catastrophic disruption, especially when returning water to climate-change-parched regions, recently wet.

My read suggests that OP is probably less interested in increasing evaporation overall (though it would increase) than controlling where the water enters the atmosphere. There are places that are dry only because there happens to be a mountain in between them and the ocean, for example. Moving the water a long way is something we already know how to do (think oil pipelines, but containing salt water instead of hydrocarbon slurry). If it scales, this could make a substantial difference to such places.

Downside is that weather is the output of an insanely com... (read more)

I've gone into clarifications, as well as running numbers on example build-outs and yields, in the comments below. I just wanted to make a particular point here, though: the difference between "Unintended Consequences" and "Unforeseeable Side-Effects". When I build a bridge to ease traffic, and it leads to suburban sprawl, that's both unintended and unforeseen. When my country's coal particulate drops, because of clean-air regulations, and this removes sulfur and dust that was helping to cool the Earth, we have an unintended consequence: increased global warming, somewhat. Yet! This consequence was not unforeseen. We can use our knowledge of science, along with careful simulation, modeling, prototypes, staged roll-out, user feedback, community engagement, ... to avoid the unforeseen. Even when our actions have a few side-effects we didn't intend. And, in particular, the claim that consequences are unforeseeABLE is bold. That would require "weather is beyond our ken, forever." Instead, weather modeling has improved radically with artificial intelligence, and we are roughly accurate with hurricanes a week in advance, and google does 'now-casting', which has historically been the hardest part of forecasting weather, while long-term models tend to average-out any slight perturbations nicely. SO! Weather is complex, and our actions will always have side-effects which were not included in our hopes - hence, un-intended. Yet, we have the power to test, empirically, and study, to avoid the unforeseen. I wake in cold sweats for the Unforeseeable.
1Gerald Monroe2mo
Fracking has a clear connection between action and reward. Oil company uses fracking -> it's super effective -> oil company pumps oil -> oil sells at a high price. Then the oil company makes some political donations and the government is encouraged to allow it despite any damages to less politically connected people's property (contaminated groundwater, microearthquakes or even the possibility that fracking causes this. This is why fracking is banned in certain states and many EU countries) Desalination has similar action -> reward mapping, as long as the water can be produced for a price that it is profitable to sell the water, it's worth doing. This proposal just generally increases rainfall in the area it's done in. But a lot of the water will just fall on barren desert, and the rainfall is inconsistent, and it's hard to tell how much of the rain is from the seawater evaporation. And it can't be excluded as a good - you can't deny water to people not paying the subscription fee.

How easy is it to change the sheets? I've heard speculation that loft beds are often difficult that way and I'd like to update on a 1st-hand account.

You can't do it from the floor, so it is more annoying than usual, yes

The statue made a rising whine as the lights began to pulse rhythmically. The legs stretched out, probing a bit in random directions for an instant before one found the surface of the floor and the rest immediately followed, each with its own sharp little click. When the machine appeared sure of its footing, it began to slowly push itself up while the weapon on its back glowed a dull red and swiveled around sharply. It was so beautiful! And a bit terrifying. I took a step back, and the statue seemed to notice! I can't say how I knew, but I was sure it look... (read more)

2Alex Beyman4mo
Nooo >:0 The ending has to be bleak, what have you done

I'll agree with that, and I'd add that you need to be sure the index won't change while you're not looking so you can know that each position has been visited. Think of a cop checking parking meters, for a relatively low-stakes example. If they get distracted - say, by some irate motorist a few meters away complaining about a ticket from long ago - it would be easy for them to forget if they had processed the closest meter. If they walk/ride toward the motorist to be heard better, they might easily lose their place entirely. In this example, the cop's phys... (read more)

A recently learned, broadly applicable pattern:

For tasks that look like traversing a list, a durable form of memory is required to assure the entire list is touched.

Can you elaborate a bit on this? For an unchanging list, one only needs a current interior position, and only durable enough to complete the traversal.

Imagine a rope extending from the start of your life to its end through time. This part of the universe being dense with entities, your rope will inevitably meet others. Sometimes they will pass near one another; they may cross; they may crash together and both change direction; they might even twine together and form part of a cable; but eventually your rope and the other will diverge, or one or both will come to its inevitable frayed end. As you move inexorably along through time, you may find that you like having your rope near some other rope or cable,... (read more)

This rhymes with my experiences and thoughts. To say it another (slightly more general) way, it's often the reactions of adults that are traumatizing well beyond anything else that happens to children (and other adults). It isn't always the case that measured response produces a trauma-free experience, and some events tend to leave terrible scars. But where I see people bringing their own feelings into someone else's situation is also where I see far more of lasting psychological trauma.

Parents really need to realize - or be taught - that they are exocortices for their children, one of whose primary roles is to process things that the child cannot and be a sink for big emotions, NOT a source of them. When parents push their own emotions onto a child, that invariably is traumatizing - as in the case of parentification or "emotional incest", or narcissistic abuse, etc. This is another example of that. Arguably, telling a child they ought to feel worse about something that has happened to them is itself a form of abuse.

Yes, he did make a bet at approximately even odds for that date. The problem is that even if you took it on epistemic face value as a prediction of probability greater than 50%, survival past 2030 doesn't mean that Eliezer was wrong, just that we aren't in his worst-case half of scenarios. He does have more crisp predictions, but not about dates.

Proposed heuristic: Any time you hear "don't talk about that", update toward the hypothesis "there is an oppressive regime here"

Especially true if you hear it in your head, rather than hearing it from someone else. Of course, only update on surprising instances - if you expect it, you already know you're in an oppressive regime and shouldn't update further. Note, with sufficiently expansive definition of "regime" to include social norms, and "oppressive" to include any restriction of your impulse to be a jerk on some topics, you're already at (100 - epsilon)%, so the only direction to update is downward, when you feel perfectly free to say something.

I know of a blog you might find interesting: "Small Gods" is a series of portraits of contemporary deities (the author made up) with short explanations of their domains. There are plenty of puns, and also some surprising seriousness. Maybe you'll find it inspiring to explore some other work in the genre?

Belatedly, it occurs to me that all that is for highway driving. Local driving requires a whole different model. Though many of the inputs come from the same places, the processing is often entirely different.

It may be critical to note that tracking estimates of the internal states of other entities often feels like just having a clue about what's going on. If someone asks us how we came to our intuitions, without careful introspection, we might answer with "I just know" or "I pay attention is how!" or similar.

To unpack a mundane example, here's a somewhat rambly account of some of what I'm tracking in my head while I operate a motor vehicle:

When I'm driving, I don't actively scan through all the sounds and smells and tactile events and compare them with past e... (read more)

Driving is the most complex and demanding thing the median US resident does on a regular basis. Some jobs, like playing sports professionally, surgery, courtroom lawyer, high-end chef are probably also demanding, I've never done any of those, but they seem like good examples of needing to monitor all sorts of different things and adjust to changes. No comment on how cognitively taxing they are compared to driving.
Belatedly, it occurs to me that all that is for highway driving. Local driving requires a whole different model. Though many of the inputs come from the same places, the processing is often entirely different.

I appreciate the attempt. I agree that discussing sex more openly, especially with and around children, is likely to be broadly of benefit. I am, however, left with some concerns. Please accept my attempt at a thoughtful critique.

I acknowledge the "draft" status of this story but I don't think this narrative line is very promising, and it notice it falls into at least a few of the cultural potholes I think we'd do well to avoid. The "make love not war" message is fine (if a little abstract) but I don't think it helps support an "easier and lighter tone" or... (read more)

I really appreciate your care in having a supportive tone here - it is a bit heart aching to read some of the more directly critical comments. 1. great point about the non-consentual nature of Ea's actions - it does create a dark undertone to the story, and needs either correcting, or expanding (perhaps framing it as the source of the "shadow of sexuality" - so we might also remember the risks) 2. the heteronormative line I did notice, and I think could generalize straightforwardly - this was just the simplest place to start. I love your suggestion of ""sex" as acting on a body specifically to produce pleasure in that body." 3. And yes, there are definitely many many aspects of sex that can then be addressed within this lore - like rape, consent, STD, procreation, sublimation, psychological impacts, gender, family, etc. Taking the Freudian approach, we could really frame all aspects of human life within this context - could be a fun exercise. 4. I guess the key hypothesis I'm suggesting here is that explaining the many varied aspects of sexuality in terms of a deity could help to clarify all its complexity - just as the pantheon of gods helped early pagan cultures make sense of the world and make some successful predictions / inventions. It could be nicer to have a science-like explanation, but people would have a harder time keeping that straight (and I believe we don't yet have enough consensus in psychology as a science anyway). yeah I don't know how cultural myths like Santa form or where they start - now they are grounded in rituals, but I haven't looked at how they were popularized in the first place.

To restate my argument simply: the more closely a term captures its intended definition, the less work the community will need to do to guard the intended definition of that term. The less interesting a term sounds, the less likely it is to be co-opted for some other purpose. This should be acted on intentionally and documented publicly by those wishing to protect a term. People bringing the term into the conversation should be prepared to point at that documentation.

Going forward, when setting up new language, it might be beneficial to consider choosing terminology that doesn't strongly evoke the feeling that its frequent use in discussion could threaten the integrity of its definition in the first place. Now, the deed is already done here, but I would suggest for the future making sure that terms needing guarded definitions are more descriptive. At a first pass, the procedure might look like:

  • Using an obviously and explicitly temporary word during discussions (e.g. foo, thinggummi), settle on a firm and final defini
... (read more)
I wish we had somehow adopted the practice of using lots of acronyms; I think they probably work much better at 1) preserving technical meanings and 2) not overloading words that people think they already understand. (You weren't using "CIA" for anything before you heard about the Central Intelligence Agency; you probably were using "pivotal" and "act" for something before you heard about pivotal acts.) Like, I think it's relatively unlikely that SEAI will drift in common usage, in part because it seems hard to mistakenly believe that you understand the common meaning of SEAI unless you know what the acronym stands for.
This is doomed. Jargon appears and evolves, and is always context-specific in ways that conflict with other uses. The solution is not to pick less-common sound sequences, that just makes it hard to discuss in technical terms. The solution is to use more words when the context calls for it (like when first using the phrase in a post, note that you mean this technical definition, not the more common layman's interpretation). I haven't actually paid attention to this post, so I don't know if the complaint is that someone used it in the wrong context in a confusing way or if they're somehow expecting people to always have the right context. The answer should be "use more words", not "it always means what I want it to mean".
I think I basically agree with this. I definitely generally think of it as the jargonist's job to come up with jargon that has a decent shot at weathering the forces of conversational pressure, and if you want an oddly specific term it's better to name it something that sounds oddly specific. (This still doesn't reliably work, people will shoehorn the oddly-specific jargon into things to sound smart, but it makes it less plausibly deniable) I like "gigayear impact" or something similar. I do think it's still helpful to have the concept of guarded terms.
Ugh, not sure what happened. Will fix

My partner and I call this heuristic "Don't ask a question with a wrong answer".

There needs to be a reason why nobody else has thought of doing it. A reason why it's not in any of the library books.

These are not necessarily the same.

Real example: When Bell Telephones was split up, the child companies kept the Bell moniker and added the name of a region to differentiate themselves (e.g. Bell Atlantic) for this exact reason.

The awful math poetry's fun But you don't really know if your done If these limericks you find Rattling round in your mind Only then will you know if you've won

✋High five for the best kind of bad poetry! (Or, whatever celebratory gesture we're using these days.)

In this video, Matt Parker and Hannah Fry perform a thought experiment from Bayes's original notes that uses no math at all. After that, they overlay a probability distribution on the experiment and show the certainty increasing, all without worrying about the math. Finally, they show the equation briefly near the end of the video. (Turns out Bayes didn't actually work out the math himself, anyway; Laplace did that work.) They don't really go into the math at all, but rather discuss the idea of updating beliefs based on new information.

The whole video is a... (read more)

So, I'm hearing that you like looking at others but touching by yourself. Sounds ace to me. ;) I think mad has the right of it: seems likely you'd find benefit by exploring the asexual scene and see just how much variation is to be had in what many think of as a tiny slice of sexuality. Even if you eventually decide that label just isn't for you, you'll likely learn a lot and get a better idea how to continue your journey of self discovery (excuse the cliche, but it applies).

It might be helpful to think about sexuality as a set of sliders or volume knobs. Sounds like your desire for partner sex is set pretty low, but your romantic desire is set higher. The two don't necessarily correlate the way the culture tends to suggest [1]. Those settings would fall into the asexual part of the variable space, but not the aromantic part. Likewise, it sounds like you have non-negative feelings toward sex in general, so you probably aren't "sex repulsed" like some asexuals.

Regarding the power fantasies, remember that fantasies are tricky th... (read more)

I guess one thing I want to clarify is that I do feel "sexually attracted" to people, just not in a way that makes me want to have PIV sex with them. I don't know how to carefully define "sexually attracted" here, but like: I think they're hot, I get a boner looking at them, I might think about them when masturbating. Also, the fantasies I have when masturbating do not involve PIV sex, and I also don't feel a strong urge to act out my fantasies with other people. My ex and I did a bit of this, and it did feel good, but I'm mostly reasonably content to keep my fantasies private and just masturbate.

A couple of years ago, I learned that NYC building code requires that many buildings have heating systems capable of keeping up if all the windows are open. At the time, I thought that was exceedingly wasteful. I'll agree with whoever points out that it usually is, but our climate control systems are much more flexible now than they were when large amounts of NYC were being built. Maybe this is something we should consider establishing capability for going forward.

This also depends a lot on the temperature of the outside air: This is requiring far more heating capacity if you want to be able to do it at 40°, than 20°, than 0°.

I hear your concern for our future engineers! They should have the best educational opportunities we can offer them, and I'm not it! Fortunately, I have no plans to go into teaching. Rather, I thought that the context of the discussion up to that point was sufficient to make clear what I meant by "sin^2x + cos^2x = 1", and not imply anything "= 0" that doesn't. Unfortunately, I've noticed the conversation drifting from the point I was trying to make (which I was making an effort to support). I meant to be addressing...

The car does have a speed module that happens to be a good analog for a hypothetical free-will module in humans. The speedometer produces an output based on the internal workings of the vehicle. It is also an excellent example of how maps can give outputs that are not necessarily grounded in the state of the territory.

How many conditions can you think of where a driver should ignore the report of the speedometer?

It sounds like you put a higher weight of probability on "meditators can turn off or ignore a brain module that let's them sense their free will" than "meditators can learn to turn off or ignore a brain module that applies a narrative of free will to a deterministic process".

Is that correct? If so, why?

I don't put any weight of probability (including 0) on either of these. Both depend on presuppositions about brain "modules" that I judge to be so far from making sense that taking either of them seriously would be privileging the hypothesis. Where is the "speed" module in a car?

When performing first aid, you must never leave a patient until you have passed them off to someone more qualified than yourself.

How did I get almost 40 years into my life before encountering these words?! Seems like they should be engraved on the box of every first aid kit ever. I spent a few years with the freaking Boy Scouts, for crying out loud, and nobody ever explicitly taught this!

(I notice I am confused) ... (and a little angry)

It's definitely part of Red Cross CPR and first aid training courses. IIRC part of it is also related to the practical advice to make sure you or someone else has called the proper authorities before you start trying to help someone, because otherwise you'll just be stuck there indefinitely with no one to relieve you and start providing more or better care than you can.
For what it's worth, I am an Eagle Scout and I didn't learn this from Boy Scouts either. I learned it from a firefighter.
This isn't a feature of military first aid either, though on reflection I can't really conceive of a situation where it would be a relevant decision point given the procedures otherwise.
6Radu Floricica1y
The premise you may be missing is that it's a necessary thing to teach. It could be that common sense works in a supermajority of cases. If it was a car accident, it's likely an ambulance will be coming anyways. If they just have a cut finger, you disinfect, bandage and you're done - no need to pass them off. The edge cases where somebody makes a wrong call are probably pretty rare, all things considered.
I am vaguely aware of this norm but don’t really understand it. It seems like it should depend on what sort of help your giving them.

Absent the preferred evidence, we have to work with what we've got. Dentists keep detailed records on their clients, including notes related to their medical situation so that they know e.g. "Alice has [condition] and should get this kind of care but not that.". Look at the state of evidence regarding flossing and gum health: I remember reading that the statement "flossing is good for your gums" is supported by exactly one study that's over 50 years old and followed a dozen people for two weeks, then had them self-report their flossing habits over that tim... (read more)

Or to express it another way, all the people who actually have the expertise in the topic are not interested in publishing anything but rather want to do hands-on-work. That's true. Dentists all over the world are advocating flossing, so flossing seems to be worthwhile. When it comes to interventions such as very regular dental exams that are done much more in the US then in other countries the case is less good. Dentists have large financial incentives to overtreat their patients. Getting the x-ray increases your chances that your dentist will drill into a teeth that doesn't really need drilling. As far as dental interventions oral probiotics is one that a lot of dentists don't recommend but that actually has a few studies on it's side.

To address your clarifications:

Nobody seems to do proper studies on dentistry, so we don't have any gold standard evidence that I've ever seen. But, discounting institutional knowledge out of hand is foolhardy. I'd call the story the dentists tell about this "moderately strong" evidence for a causal connection, but (all together now!) more research is (obviously) needed.

I know a guy who had thyroid cancer. They took the gland out and he has to take a daily pill to replicate the function, but from about two weeks after the surgery I haven't heard him complain in the years since. So, seems manageable from a quality of life angle.

2Randomized, Controlled1y
Is it? I feel like dentistry seems similar to sports science and physiotherapy in addressing super complex evolving gibs of soft and hard tissue. My general impression is that sports and physio research is marginally better than dentistry, which leaves the state of research clear enough to declare it... kind of abysmal. But also to show that a lot of practitioners swear by isn't well supported by evidence. Much of Ingraham's [] is devoted to scrutinizing physio standards of care w/r/t the state of research.. I honestly don't know how to square this with practitioners who always seem confident in their assessments and make rote noises about being evidence based, and then even have reasonable sounding noises when I ask probing questions.

From, new thyroid cancer cases occur at a rate of ~15 cases per 100k people per year, and the disease has a 98+% 5-year survival rate.

Compare that with whatever risk results from needing more invasive repair when your dentist can't detect the cavities as soon, and you can see if there's a net benefit. I'm not seeing any numbers on this in my 5 minutes of searching, but that doesn't mean they're not out there. But I suspect the connection between dental infections and heart disease (that any dentist will tell you all about if you ask) easily exceeds the increased risk from regular x-rays.

2Randomized, Controlled1y
I think this is a pretty compelling point, but: * How well understood is the dental health/heart disease connection? I've heard this assertion before, including from in the classic Interventions for Longevity [] post, but do we know if it's causal? * 98% survivable sounds.. goodish, but: what sort of quality of life hit do you take? As I mentioned above, I'm still leaning towards okaying the imaging, but also think the default policy of every two years they use may be too aggressive for me, given the absence of any cavities up till now.
  1. More logical still would be to have two periods, one marking the end of the quoted sentence and the other the end of the top-level sentence. But that would be redundant and also look ugly.

This style feels much better when the embedded sentence requires a different punctuation type than the parent sentence, such as "Don't you think?". I expect it only looks "ugly" because we don't typically see things done this way.

Big thanks for doing this for large magnitudes!

At a first pass, an improved wording might sound something like this:

If the box contains a diamond,

It is optimal to believe that the box contains a diamond;

If the box does not contain a diamond,

It is optimal to believe that the box does not contain a diamond;

Let me not become identified with beliefs that may not serve well.

The Litany as written does point to something very important. Still, it's possible that it could point more precisely.

Being able to represent accents accurately is definitely a benefit! I'd love to pick up a book and be able to gather information about the writer's cultural background by the way they pronounce words (and without the "mangled" spellings that implies under the current system).

Likewise, I'd like to have the option to write in a neutral voice in order to avoid privileging one group of speakers in the canonical spellings (think, those used in government documents and the like). British and American English both have accents that imply socioeconomic status, and... (read more)

Sure could! That strategy works just fine for recording language exactly as it's heard, and even for mapping phonetic representations with traditional spellings in a many-to-one relationship, but it lacks the ability to encode words with dialectically neutral vowels. That is, IPA forces you to choose an exact vowel; there is no provision I know of to indicate "some vowel in this range", which is needed to neutralize the spellings of most words. Though, it certainly wouldn't be hard to extend the IPA to include that feature if that's the character set you wanted to start with.

The inability to avoid exact phonetic representations would actually be beneficial, imo, because a fluent writer of IPA could then represent their native accent exactly, and a fluent reader could recognize that accent and imagine the author's voice more accurately while reading. It would be useless for deaf people, though - but all written language reforms are, unfortunately.
  1. The same way we recognize those words by ear: through context.
  2. Comparing English and Chinese is difficult because of the different ways the two languages use the melody of speech. I note that you have included the tonal markers on all your "shi"s, which make those words distinct (and, to somebody who has learned to read the language that way, easy to read). Moreover, that representation makes the playfulness of the title obvious, which adds value.

To do an English spelling reform you would need to decide which dialect of English is the correct one to map and which dialects are wrong.

Disagree: a new writing system can be chosen to accommodate certain dialectical variations (the pen/pin and father/bother issues, for example) and simply represent others. (The name John is pronounced Jawn in some regions of the USA. It would be very easy to spell it with that vowel if we expected spelling to match the sounds.) And it can all be done without applying right/wrong labels to anybody's dialect. It's just ... (read more)

In principle, couldn't you start writing in the International Phonetic Alphabet right now, and then right a script with an English dictionary to convert back and forth to standard English? Maybe providing prompts when you run the script to decide which regional dialect/variation you're trying for, and which homophone?

I live near a town with what I think is a similar intersection. The law here is that it is always the pedestrian's "turn" if they choose to enter a crosswalk and there is no traffic light specifically telling them otherwise. In more detail: if the pedestrian wishes to cross at an intersection with a traffic light, they have "right of way" (the legal term that corresponds to your use of "turn") when the light is green for the lane of travel parallel to their crosswalk; if there is no light, the pedestrian always has "right of way". For intersections with no... (read more)

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