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Author Archives: Scott Alexander

Partial Retraction Of Post On Animal Value And Neural Number

Commenter Tibbar used Mechanical Turk to replicate my survey on how people thought about the moral weights of animals. After getting 263 responses (to my 50), he reports different results: Chicken: 25 Chimpanzee: 2 Cow: 3 Elephant: 1 Lobster: 60 … Continue reading

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[PARTIALLY RETRACTED] Cortical Neuron Number Matches Intuitive Perceptions Of Moral Value Across Animals

[EDIT: No longer confident in this post, see here.] Yesterday’s post reviewed research showing that animals’ intelligence seemed correlated with their number of cortical neurons. If this is true, we could use it to create an absolute scale that puts … Continue reading

Neurons And Intelligence: A Birdbrained Perspective

Elephants have bigger brains than humans, so why aren’t they smarter than we are? The classic answer has been to play down absolute brain size in favor of brain size relative to body. Sometimes people justify this as “it takes … Continue reading

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OT124: Opentatonic 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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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