Showing posts from March, 2018

What I've Been Reading/Watching/Listening to:

Audiobooks: Jane Eyre —Regarded as one of the first psychological novels, it follows a young woman's journey through 18th century England. I find it remarkably similar to Wuthering Heights  by Brontë's sister and also found antecedents of parts of recent works ( Harry Potter and Beauty and The Beast ). The Bhagavad Gita— I've been meaning to read the great works of the world's most common religions. The Bhagavad Gita is captivating in its beauty and wisdom. From my lay understanding, it seems to anticipate a lot of modern ideas in psychology and physics. TV: How to Get Away with Murder —I love this show. How had I not seen it yet? The plot is salacious, and the characters pop off the screen.  Film: Love, Simon —Finally a gay movie with a happy ending. I had hoped Call Me By Your Name  would be it, but it wanted an Oscar. I hope there will be many more light, good-but-not-great movies like this. The General —I'm trying to work through some of the top film di

The Largest Randomized Controlled Trial in History

The list of authors alone is inspiring. Chinese researchers released what appears to be the largest experiment in history , with over a thousand researchers involved. The authors list alone is dumbfounding. The study is on the diffusion of modern scientific agricultural techniques in China. There is so much to ponder here that I can barely get started, but a few things: (1) This shows an inspiring, awesomely grand application of the most rigorous social science tool and should expand the horizons of what's possible. (2) This shows the growing power of China in combination with social science. I don't quite understand how this worked, but it seems like the type of thing that has got to be far more difficult in a democracy. That makes it somewhat disturbing, but it also raises the question of what interesting findings will come out of China. (3) This study might worry those concerned about animal agriculture. It's not directly connected, but such efficiency when ap

Why Can't Steven Pinker and AI Safety Altruists Get Along?

There are few bo oks that have more influenced to my thinking than Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature . The book makes a powerful case for effective altruism by showing that much of what effective altruists try to spread—reason and empathy, chiefly—has led to a sweeping decline in virtually every form of human violence over the course of human history. At the same time, I think that Pinker's thesis and evidence in that book are compatible with an understanding that tail risks to human civilization, such as catastrophic risks, may have increased, and animal suffering, has clearly increased in recent history. (Humans' moral views on the latter do clearly seem to be improving , thoug h.)  I've found it puzzling, then, that to coincide with the publication of his book Enlightenment Now , Pinker has been publishing multiple articles criticizing altruists who are focused on addressing long-term risks, primarily from artificial general intelligence. Pinker