Hi all! I'm here at a table outside, I have a small sign and am wearing a blue and white plaid shirt.
I'm at Empire Cafe for the meetup inside near the back; when you come in, keep walking forward past the cashier area and into the large back room and I've got 4 tables put together and a sign. See y'all soon :)
Hey! We're at Cafe Brasil in the big room to the right of the entrance hall after walking in. I'm in a green shirt and we have a Houston Rationalists sign. Come join us!
Follow-up post for August meetup:
We discussed the ethics and practices of marketing and advertising industries, though admittedly we should have narrowed the questions we were concerned about instead of attempting to make large general claims.
We discussed the US's civic / political process and infrastructure, especially with regard to voting and civic engagement. We also discussed ideal forms of government and political regimes, though we mostly all had different views regarding what such ideal forms might look like. Twas fun :) What is the ideal civilization and how do we get there?
We discussed cybersecurity + free and open source software, especially how both of those things relate to US election security. Plus, we talked about the wannacry ransomware attack, cybersecurity + free and open source software more generally, and programming stuff more generally too.
We talked about Effective Altruism and received a really good overview of what EA does and is about from a member of Effective Altruism UH (https://eauh.wordpress.com/). We talked about cause areas and cause prioritization, common failure modes of charitable giving and charitable organizations, and more! Also discussed the possibility of a Houston-wide Effective Altruism group, though that's still very tentative, still, might we see such a group? Stay tuned for more updates next time!
And that's all for now. I didn't take very good notes this time, I was enjoying the discussions too much and didn't force myself to take notes. If you think I missed something, please comment about that and describe what we discussed!
Follow-up post for July meetup:
We made some musings on existence: this included discussing Aquinas' conception of how to know we exist through knowing God exists, and then went into more materialistic and atheist metaphysics things and also we talked about a number of thinker’s thoughts on the topic; including Plato’s.
quantum mechanics uncertainty principle: https://www.gregegan.net/FOUNDATIONS/04/found04.html#s5;
the first color viewable in visible light spectrum was pink produced by some bacteria: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/jul/09/scientists-discover-worlds-oldest-colour-bright-pink-sahara
We had some conversations about consciousness and its deterministic or lack there of qualities.
Marvin Minsky's article "WHY PROGRAMMING IS A GOOD MEDIUM FOR EXPRESSING POORLY UNDERSTOOD AND SLOPPILYFORMULATED IDEAS": https://web.media.mit.edu/~minsky/papers/Why programming is--.html
Mormon transhumanism: https://www.newyorker.com/tech/annals-of-technology/mormon-transhumanism-and-the-immortality-upgrade
block chain identity thing called keybase (https://keybase.io)
How to allow for deep and far reaching conversations in a social setting that often aren't held elsewhere: see also https://boingboing.net/2017/05/04/the-sandwich-alignment-chart.html and intense discussions around categorizing things.
Discussed potential winter solstice celebration and bonfire thing we could do in Galveston, would be fun.
There were other things too, but these were the things I wrote down.
We're here and have moved to the outside area.
We're at Cafe Brasil outside on the back patio, we have a sign in landscape position that says "LW/SSC/EA Meetup and then Houston Rationalists underneath that". I'm wearing a red t-shirt.
This is a rather behind schedule follow-up message for the June 23 Meetup. First one I've done so far, feels like a good habit to get into. This post is a bit edited from the original email I sent it as, I only left out Houston Rationalists' internal housekeeping and planning type information since that didn't seem relevant for the whole world to see.
NotesWe discussed many things, especially learning and education, here's what I had in my notes, and my elaborations on those notes:(1) Using Anki when you have to memorize a large number of facts, vocabulary, or other things is quite helpful, because Anki lets you build flash card decks (and import decks others built too!) that utilize spaced repetition to automatically time when you should study each card in each deck (you can build as many different decks as you'd like) based on research around the forgetting curve. Don't know what spaced repetition and the forgetting curve are? That's okay! Essentially, we humans seem to remember things better if we encounter the thing we're trying to remember (say, the meaning of "schadenfreude" or some other word or fact) multiple times over a certain period of time; we call that phenomenon the forgetting curve and spaced repetition is essentially practicing memorizing what you want to memorize according to the logic of the forgetting curve. More information and a better explanation can be found at Gwern's website: https://www.gwern.net/Spaced-repetition (2) Research article on "...the feasibility of using computational methods to assist in the design of training procedures that enhance learning". (Discussion section, last paragraph): https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3267874/ ; this is a bit out of my wheelhouse so if anyone has questions please direct them to the group. I'm curious about how one could bridge the gap between a research article like this, its findings, how the findings transfer if at all to human learning and memory training, and crafting a set of memory training / learning curricula based on the new information.(3) Continuing the learning and education theme, it was highly recommended that everyone read through "SSC Gives a Graduation Speech": https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/05/23/ssc-gives-a-graduation-speech/ ; I read it once previously, but skimmed it again before listing it here. Overall I think it's good stuff, and the main point says essentially to ask yourself what you got out of your education (to whatever extent you pursued or received one), was it worth it, etc. The article also spent a lot of time reflecting on universal basic income guarantees (UBI), the potential societal apocalypse we'll have if we don't go UBI, and meanders nicely into discussing how broken the system is, plus the power of kindness. Among other things.(4) If you're feeling like more education things, you can also check out Bryan Caplan's book "The Case against Education: Why the Education System is a Waste of Time and Money". I'd recommend reading Scott's "SSC Gives a Graduation Speech" and other education related articles first though to help give yourself an increased sense of the nuance of the topic: https://slatestarcodex.com/tag/education/. Link to description of Caplan's book here: https://press.princeton.edu/titles/11225.html The book is...acquirable elsewhere...if you need help obtaining a copy please message me directly, assistance may be provided. I did not write summaries or take notes while reading Caplan's book last year sometime.......and don't remember enough to provide commentary, unfortunately. Lesson to self: please write chapter summaries and take notes of books I read, thanks. (5) Topic shift!! We spent a decent amount of time discussing the necessity or lack thereof regarding the usefulness of having "shamans" around to conduct placebo inducing rituals that help you and others feel better afterwards. See chiropractors, meditation, homeopathy, acupuncture, and plenty of other things often gate-kept or officiated by "shamans" that many individuals do and say they feel better after doing/going through. I mildly wonder whether therapy should be included in this category...I lean towards saying: probably. But, therapy feels a bit different, and I'm not sure how to unpack why it feels different (maybe I am too close to it? I've regularly seen a therapist for several years and it does feel quite helpful). Any thoughts? (6) We discussed the usefulness of knowledge, generally. I am afraid I'm unable to recollect enough to offer any specifics besides knowing that I tied these topics/articles to this discussion: Richard Rorty's concept of a "final vocabulary", as defined in his book Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity: "All human beings carry about a set of words which they employ to justify their actions, their beliefs, and their lives. These are the words in which we formulate praise of our friends and contempt for our enemies, our long-term projects, our deepest self-doubts and our highest hopes... A small part of a final vocabulary is made up of thin, flexible, and ubiquitous terms such as 'true', 'good', 'right', and 'beautiful'. The larger part contains thicker, more rigid, and more parochial terms, for example, 'Christ', 'England', ... 'professional standards', ... 'progressive', 'rigorous', 'creative'. The more parochial terms do most of the work. (p. 73)" excerpt quoted from this webpage: http://www.exampler.com/testing-com/writings/final-vocabulary.html; however, you can find more information here: https://www.mdpi.com/2076-0787/2/2/313/htm (having read this review and a bit of Rorty's thought elsewhere, I judge that the excerpted quote I linked from the exampler.com website is reasonably valid, not fake news). I'd like to do a deep dive into Rorty's thought one day, for now though, I've mostly read a few review articles and some of his info at https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/rorty/ and https://www.iep.utm.edu/rorty/; there is one relevant article related to his thought but more centered around postmodernism that I strongly recommend, it's called: Judgements without rules: towards a postmodern ironist concept of research validity; http://garyrolfe.net/documents/judgmentswithoutrules.pdf Fun stuff, I recommend checking it out Yudkowsky's posts Guessing the Teacher's Password (https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/NMoLJuDJEms7Ku9XS/guessing-the-teacher-s-password); and Lawful Uncertainty (https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/msJA6B9ZjiiZxT6EZ/lawful-uncertainty) were also listed as relevant to discussions on the usefulness of knowledge. I can't really tell you specifically how, it's what I wrote down at the time though. It's possible that a central theme could be excavated from everything mentioned here around the usefulness of knowledge, but I'm not prepared to be that archaeologist, not tonight at least. Epistemic confidence in the value of such a pursuit: seems possibly helpful and could be fun. I'm not sure what my mind was cooking at the time when thinking about the things mentioned in (6), but it's a direction I've been trending towards a fair bit for the last few months, and I do think I'd like to make a non-scattered and focused attempt at crafting some sort of point or meaning in that direction. Any thoughts?
Please let me know if you have any questions or would like more information on anything.
My apologies, we were there but I didn't bring a sign. I'll do so next time and going forward :) it'll likely say "LW/SSC/EA Meetup" on it or something similar. We have an email list, discord, and google group in addition to the facebook page since people have different communication preferences; sending you a PM now with more info :)
I'm happy to see that Dallas has a meetup group, best of luck with things, and I hope y'all have fun :)
I schedule meetups for Houston Rationalists and will post about your event on our facebook page ( https://www.facebook.com/groups/1816070091838828/ ) in case any of us happen to be in Dallas at the right time or know someone living in Dallas who might be interested in attending.