Tag Archives: lw

Book Review: Secular Cycles

I. There is a tide in the affairs of men. It cycles with a period of about three hundred years. During its flood, farms and businesses prosper, and great empires enjoy golden ages. During its ebb, war and famine stalk … Continue reading

Book Review: The Secret Of Our Success

[Previously in sequence: Epistemic Learned Helplessness] I. “Culture is the secret of humanity’s success” sounds like the most vapid possible thesis. The Secret Of Our Success by anthropologist Joseph Henrich manages to be an amazing book anyway. Henrich wants to … Continue reading

1960: The Year The Singularity Was Cancelled

[Epistemic status: Very speculative, especially Parts 3 and 4. Like many good things, this post is based on a conversation with Paul Christiano; most of the good ideas are his, any errors are mine.] I. In the 1950s, an Austrian … Continue reading

Rule Thinkers In, Not Out

Imagine a black box which, when you pressed a button, would generate a scientific hypothesis. 50% of its hypotheses are false; 50% are true hypotheses as game-changing and elegant as relativity. Even despite the error rate, it’s easy to see … Continue reading

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Is Science Slowing Down?

[This post was up a few weeks ago before getting taken down for complicated reasons. They have been sorted out and I’m trying again.] Is scientific progress slowing down? I recently got a chance to attend a conference on this … Continue reading

Cognitive Enhancers: Mechanisms And Tradeoffs

[Epistemic status: so, so, so speculative. I do not necessarily endorse taking any of the substances mentioned in this post.] There’s been recent interest in “smart drugs” said to enhance learning and memory. For example, from the Washington Post: When … Continue reading

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Is Science Slowing Down?

[I wrote this after attending a conference six months ago. At the time I was confused about whether and when I was allowed to publish it. I am still confused, but less optimistic about that confusion getting resolved, so I … Continue reading

The Tails Coming Apart As Metaphor For Life

[Epistemic status: Pretty good, but I make no claim this is original] A neglected gem from Less Wrong: Why The Tails Come Apart, by commenter Thrasymachus. It explains why even when two variables are strongly correlated, the most extreme value … Continue reading

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Melatonin: Much More Than You Wanted To Know

[I am not a sleep specialist. Please consult with one before making any drastic changes or trying to treat anything serious.] Van Geiklswijk et al describe supplemental melatonin as “a chronobiotic drug with hypnotic properties”. Using it as a pure … Continue reading

Varieties Of Argumentative Experience

In 2008, Paul Graham wrote How To Disagree Better, ranking arguments on a scale from name-calling to explicitly refuting the other person’s central point. And that’s why, ever since 2008, Internet arguments have generally been civil and productive. Graham’s hierarchy … Continue reading

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