"Talks a good game about freedom when out of power, but once he’s in – bam! Everyone's enslaved in the human-flourishing mines."

SSC Meetup: Bay Area 10/14

WHEN: 3 PM on Saturday, October 14

HOW: We haven’t done well with cafes or other more traditional meetup spaces in the past, so we’ll probably just meet outside and sit on the grass. Bring blankets / refreshments iff you want them.

WHERE: Berkeley campus, meet at the open space beside the intersection of West and Free Speech. Please disregard any kabbalistic implications of the meetup cross-streets.

WHO: Special guest Scott Aaronson from Shtetl-Optimized. Also me, Katja Grace, possibly David Friedman, hopefully other people.

WHY: Because Professor Aaronson will be giving a lecture on Black Holes, Firewalls, And The Limits Of Quantum Computers (to which you’re all invited) at Berkeley later in the week and kindly agreed to hang out with us while he was in town.

See you there!

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33 Responses to SSC Meetup: Bay Area 10/14

  1. qt31415926 says:

    The link you posted for the Aaronson lecture seems to have a different date: ‘Oct. 18, 2017 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm’.

  2. mobile says:

    Bring your PM2.5 filter mask. It’s still pretty smoky outside.

  3. Mengsk says:

    Will Aaronson’s lecture be recorded for those of us who like interesting things but live far away from the hub of interestingness?

  4. Yaleocon says:

    “Iff” vs. “If”? Do you usually have problems with too many snacks?

  5. Jonathan says:

    I’m in MTV and dreading an hour drive out to Berkeley. Are there any other South Bay’ers attending that are open to carpooling?

  6. scottaar2 says:

    Just as a warning: I’m in Santa Barbara now; supposed to fly to SFO tomorrow morning, landing shortly after noon. Alas, because of reduced visibility from the smoke from the wildfires, they’re now limiting the number of flights allowed into SFO, and it’s possible that my flight will be delayed or cancelled—in which case, I might be late to the meetup if I make it at all. Will post updates when I know more.

    –Scott Aaronson

    • bean says:

      Have you started looking at other options yet? When facing this kind of situation, it’s always best to know what you want before you get to the agent, because you care a lot more about what happens to you than they do. Specifically, do you have to go into SFO or could you fly to, say, OAK instead?

      • scottaar2 says:

        Yes, I could do Oakland or even Sacramento, no problem. And I could depart from LAX. And if I learn early enough about a cancellation, I might even be able to hitch a ride with a colleague who’s driving there.

        • bean says:

          Your worst-case scenario is probably a will-they won’t-they with you stuck either at the gate or on the tarmac, and I’d think it’s reasonably likely in this case. Particularly if you have status with the airline in question, it might be best to see what you could do to get re-routed early. If the flight cancels, everyone else will be in line too. Try to be there before them. Maybe go up to the gate agent and tell them that you’re flexible and willing to be re-routed to another airport.

    • Scott says:

      (In Professor Farnsworth voice) Good news, everyone! I’m now physically on the plane, and it looks to be on time. So, while I don’t want to count my chickens before they’ve landed(?), it looks like I’ll indeed be there at 3PM. Looking forward!
      –Scott Aaronson

  7. A group of us are carpooling up from the South Bay. Still room if we take my minivan, so if anyone want to join us, call: 408 244-3330. I hope to leave my house around 2:00. 3806 Williams, San Jose, CA.

  8. I’m going to be outside right around 2:15 with a notebook with the words SSC on one side and Meetup on the other. See you all there!

  9. allmrprite says:

    For those driving in to Berkeley, what’s the recommended parking method?

    Is street parking feasible, if so how much is it (free)?

    Or would parking in a parking lot or structure be better?


    • J says:

      I parked on UCB campus, and very nearly got a ~$80 ticket when I came back to my car around 8pm. Apparently city parking is free after 6pm, so I should have parked on the street. For the next meetup it’d be good to announce some parking tips.

  10. lurker3 says:

    I completely forgot about this! How was it?

    Well, in case people from the Bay Area are still reading this, I hope you’ll forgive an off-topic (but locally-focused) post: does anybody know a good doctor for ulnar nerve RSI in the area?

  11. pipsterate says:

    I was in the area and I was able to drop by. A few impressions:

    * Most of the people I spoke to said they rarely or never left comments, which surprised me, because I view attending a meetup as a more significant commitment than posting a comment. Several said that they didn’t feel confident enough to defend their positions online, which was strange to me, because they mostly seemed like very intelligent people, and regardless, you don’t necessarily need to have a strong opinion to leave a comment. (Some people also didn’t like the idea of leaving a long term online trail that might linger for decades, though they could just easily use pseudonyms in that case.)

    * I investigated Scott’s alleged “niceness field superpower” and was slightly disappointed. He seemed like a pretty nice guy, and I felt compelled to be relatively polite around him, but it wasn’t quite what it was described as. Perhaps if you spend most of your time around rude people or on anonymous internet forums, then having a polite face to face interaction feels like a supernatural experience to you. I’m not criticizing Scott here (he is skeptical of his own “superpower,” and pointed out that it only exists according to one redditor) but I am disagreeing with that redditor. To the extent that he does have a “niceness field,” I think I can feel it more strongly online than I can in person. So I think this is less of a case of him having a superpower, and more a case of some people being deficient in normal human empathy when they’re on the internet. The field does exist, there’s just nothing especially unusual about it. (If anyone’s wondering, the other Scott was nice and charming as well, but I didn’t have the background to understand 90% of what he said.)

    * I had a good time and just about everyone was very nice. I did wonder what the heck I was doing around professors and scientists, though. I feel vaguely that I may be part of the same tribe as you people, but I’m not sure what exactly I have to contribute, since I’m just a nerdy guy with no particular expertise or especially high intelligence. If we’re just trying to build a tribe here then I guess I’m useful, but it seems to me like you all have higher aspirations than that. So I’d say that the meetup was fun, but it provoked a minor existential crisis and I’m not sure if I’ll be attending any more.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      “I did wonder what the heck I was doing around professors and scientists, though. I feel vaguely that I may be part of the same tribe as you people, but I’m not sure what exactly I have to contribute.”

      If it makes you feel better, I feel this same way constantly. I’m glad people enjoy my writing, but if I didn’t already know people enjoy my writing I would be basically totally sure I was out of my depth and wasting everyone else’s time. So maybe these sorts of feelings shouldn’t always be trusted?

      • pipsterate says:

        That’s what people tend to say, but the thing is, I don’t think this is mainly a feeling, I think it’s a well reasoned analysis of reality.

        The difference between you and me is that you have actual evidence that it isn’t true. (If I remember right, magna cum laude in philosophy, then med school, then becoming an actual psychiatrist, then having your writing linked to approvingly in publications like Vox, FiveThirtyEight, The Atlantic, and others, while also gaining a following of thousands.) The evidence in your case is different, so your conclusion is different.

        Saying that a certain feeling shouldn’t always be trusted is like saying that, in an algebra problem, X shouldn’t always be equal to 2. That’s true. But, if the problem is 6 = X +4, then, well, X probably is 2 in that case, isn’t it? The fact that you’ve been given a different algebra problem, and calculated a different answer, doesn’t really do much to indicate that my answer isn’t also correct.

        If the evidence ever changes, then my conclusion will likely change as well. Even if it doesn’t, it’s still possible that I might make contributions to the world separate from science or rationality. As long as I’m alive there’s a chance of that, and realistically I can expect to probably be alive for at least four more decades, so I haven’t fully given up hope yet.

        I do appreciate you trying to make me feel better (it actually worked a little bit) but I don’t think your reasoning is entirely correct. I recognize the irony of saying “I’m stupider than you, therefore you’re wrong” but I think it may actually be true for once.

    • aNeopuritan says:

      And this is a problem with every project than involves nerds uniting. An area inhabited by nerds would need some (or all, part-time) nerds to agree to be janitors, to treat janitors with respect/money (for the utility of what they do and the virtue of their behavior, not “intrinsic human value”), and to forego services that can’t be performed by nerds or bought from a distance. Anything else means social dilution, if not planned entryism.

    • Atlas says:

      I had a good time and just about everyone was very nice. I did wonder what the heck I was doing around professors and scientists, though. I feel vaguely that I may be part of the same tribe as you people, but I’m not sure what exactly I have to contribute, since I’m just a nerdy guy with no particular expertise or especially high intelligence.

      That feeling really sucks, and I’m sorry that you had it. Just my 2 cents: I think part of the problem is that Society is not explicit enough about the fact that in many contexts people are evaluated and at least at an ordinal level ranked on their ability to contribute things that other people value to a group. Like, I would say that, ceteris paribus, it is not just equally preferable to be good at sports and not good at sports—-it’s just better to be good at sports. I think people implicitly sort of understand this, but don’t often say/think about it explicitly because it seems really rude to point it out. It’s unfair and it sucks if you’re not, but unfortunately it seems to be How The World Works.

      So my general suggestion, for whatever it’s worth coming from a random guy on the internet, would be to at least think about what/which domain(s) you’re relatively best at doing/creating stuff that other people value. And bonus points for doing something with what Nassim Taleb calls “skin in the game”, where you’re judged by objective metrics and would personally pay a price for being wrong.

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