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Author Archives: Scott Alexander

Translating Predictive Coding Into Perceptual Control

Wired wrote a good article about Karl Friston, the neuroscientist whose works I’ve puzzled over here before. Raviv writes: Friston’s free energy principle says that all life…is driven by the same universal imperative…to act in ways that reduce the gulf … Continue reading

Book Review: Inventing The Future

I. They say “don’t judge a book by its cover”. So in case you were withholding judgment: yes, this bright red book covered with left-wing slogans is, in fact, communist. Inventing The Future isn’t technically Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams’ … Continue reading

Gwern’s AI-Generated Poetry

Gwern has answered my prayers and taught GPT-2 poetry. GPT-2 is the language processing system that OpenAI announced a few weeks ago. They are keeping the full version secret, but have released a smaller prototype version. Gwern retrained it on … Continue reading

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Does Reality Drive Straight Lines On Graphs, Or Do Straight Lines On Graphs Drive Reality?

Here’s a graph of US air pollution over time: During the discussion of 90s environmentalism, some people pointed out that this showed the Clean Air Act didn’t matter. The trend is the same before the Act as after it. This … Continue reading

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Puritan Spotting

[Related to: Book Review: Albion’s Seed] [Epistemic status: Not too serious] I realize I’ve been confusing everyone with my use of the word “Puritan”. When I say “That guy is so Puritan!” people object “But he’s not religious!” or “He … Continue reading

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Ketamine: Now By Prescription

Last week the FDA approved esketamine for treatment-resistant depression. Let’s review how the pharmaceutical industry works: a company discovers and patents a potentially exciting new drug. They spend tens of millions of dollars proving safety and efficacy to the FDA. … Continue reading

OT123: Oped Thread

This is the bi-weekly visible open thread (there are also hidden open threads twice a week you can reach through the Open Thread tab on the top of the page). Post about anything you want, but please try to avoid … Continue reading

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Links 3/19: Linkguini

The Obama Presidential Library is starting to come together. It’s very modern-looking, but not in a bad way. Related: did you know that Dan Quayle has the only (?) unofficial vice-presidential library? And that Jefferson Davis has a presidential library … Continue reading

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Prospiracy Theories

[Title from this unrelated story or this unrelated essay] Last week I wrote about how conspiracy theories spread so much faster on Facebook than debunkings of those same theories. A few commenters chimed in to say that of course this … Continue reading

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Meaningful

[With apologies to Putnam, Pope, and all of you] Two children are reading a text written by an AI: The hobbits splashed water in each other’s faces until they were both sopping wet One child says to the other “Wow! … Continue reading

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