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5

This weekly roundup thread is intended for all culture war posts. 'Culture war' is vaguely defined, but it basically means controversial issues that fall along set tribal lines. Arguments over culture war issues generate a lot of heat and little light, and few deeply entrenched people ever change their minds. This thread is for voicing opinions and analyzing the state of the discussion while trying to optimize for light over heat.

Optimistically, we think that engaging with people you disagree with is worth your time, and so is being nice! Pessimistically, there are many dynamics that can lead discussions on Culture War topics to become unproductive. There's a human tendency to divide along tribal lines, praising your ingroup and vilifying your outgroup - and if you think you find it easy to criticize your ingroup, then it may be that your outgroup is not who you think it is. Extremists with opposing positions can feed off each other, highlighting each other's worst points to justify their own angry rhetoric, which becomes in turn a new example of bad behavior for the other side to highlight.

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4

Do you have a dumb question that you're kind of embarrassed to ask in the main thread? Is there something you're just not sure about?

This is your opportunity to ask questions. No question too simple or too silly.

Culture war topics are accepted, and proposals for a better intro post are appreciated.

5

Be advised; this thread is not for serious in depth discussion of weighty topics (we have a link for that), this thread is not for anything Culture War related. This thread is for Fun. You got jokes? Share 'em. You got silly questions? Ask 'em.

Naturally prompted by the current Twitter situation, I've come to the point where I just have to write down my thoughts.

I have no doubt that Elon Musk is a genius, both of thought and action. He can formulate visions and execute them. He has two truly epic feats under his belt - starting a viable car company from scratch (the first since the 1930s) and bringing about the next generation of space technology and exploration, after a long, long winter. This is definitely not the work of an "emerald mine heir, just investing his money."

He is however not an infallible genius, which is particularly noticeable in areas outside of his core expertise. And that includes social networks. In some sense, it might be the kind of venture least amiable to an engineering, top-down approach. The product is made of a fickle, unpredictable human mass and there are no good instruments or levers to make it do what you want.

The first thing about the whole Twitter situation which really gave me a pause was the fact that Musk had apparently waived due diligence as a part of the $44B takeover bid. This is completely incomprehensible to me. From an M&A perspective, it's like a story of someone who picks up a skank at a seedy dive bar and proceeds to raw-dog her. Incredibly irresponsible. Are you sure you don't want to use a condom? Things might seem easier in the moment, but the potential for future regret is rather alarming! The rebuke I've heard was that Dorsey had already told him all the important stuff anyway, but that's just not how the process works. For one, the due diligence could have given him a way out of the bid (and boy, wouldn't that turn out to be handy...) It's not guaranteed, but rare indeed is the DD that doesn't uncover some sort of irregularity or dubious representation that could have served as ammo in the lawsuit. Secondly, the DD would have mapped out the exact internal structure, external relations, responsibilities and exposures. Even if (or rather precisely because) the plan was to mow through the ranks, this would have been extremely useful to have. If you're going in with an axe, you should at least have a map of the areas you intend to clear-cut. The whaling system deployed by Musk might have been effective at selecting for a combination of competence, drive and vision alignment (and/or desperation) - but that's not the same as critical institutional knowledge. Twitter is vast and something like 80% of the people who knew what went where and why are gone. The sole irreplaceable value of Twitter is in its existing user network - but this is inextricable from the pulsing, living IT snarl containing the accounts and their connections, which is in turn inextricable from the human apparatus building it and maintaining it. With cars or rockets, as long as you have the tech packages, you can always just bring in new competent engineers to continue the work. But there isn't any objective singular blueprint of Twitter. No single person has the whole picture. It's dubious whether it can even be successfully cold-reset. It's just... why go about it that way? Why not put on the condom?

The second incident was the checkmark fiasco: 1. Blow up the old and opaque verification system 2. Concoct an $8/month pay-to-play scheme 3. Discover why the verification system had been there in the first place 4. Clumsily return to a variant of the old opaque verification system. I'm sure the advertisers were thrilled. How am I not looking at an impulsive, poorly though-out spiteful action here? There are people stuck with GIANT PENIS handles to this day...

The thirds aspect is Musk ostensibly sleeping over at Twitter HQ, wildly coding into the night with the bros. The problem is that either his ethos of "You can't put in less than 80 hours a week and expect a thing to work." is wrong or Tesla and SpaceX are getting the shaft here. And the stock price sure seems to indicate the belief in the latter. More than half of the value gone, YOY, as of the time of this writing. And heaven knows what's happening to Neuralink or the Boring Company. Precisely to the degree that Musk is an irreplaceable genius, the Twitter stunt is coming at the expense of projects he himself considers vital for the survival of human consciousness. What are the priorities here?

The further unmentioned elephant in the room is stimulant abuse and, even worse, the attendant lack of sleep. At this point, it would take a lot to persuade me he isn't up to his gills in some Chinese designer hyper-opti-MegaAdderall regimen, which just appears as both the likeliest cause and result of his recent actions and decisions.

The historical parallel I'm most reminded of is Napoleon. Certainly no rando of middling qualities - but also somebody who, past his initial bout of success and innovation, slumped into the belief in his own brand of unerring radical decisions, with well-known consequences.

So I'm out. Not that it should matter to anyone in any practical terms, but my confidence in Elon Musk's process and vision is gone. At this point, it mostly looks like the driver's seat is occupied by erratic hyperconfidence. I'm not expecting Twitter to disappear any time soon, in fact I still consider it somewhat more likely than not that the company will ultimately stabilize. It's not that any single action had caused irreparable damage - but the series of unforced errors, starting with the bid itself, isn't inspiring any future confidence in me. I will not be getting on that rocket to Mars, thank you very much.

4

The Wednesday Wellness threads are meant to encourage users to ask for and provide advice and motivation to improve their lives. It isn't intended as a 'containment thread' and any content which could go here could instead be posted in its own thread. You could post:

  • Requests for advice and / or encouragement. On basically any topic and for any scale of problem.

  • Updates to let us know how you are doing. This provides valuable feedback on past advice / encouragement and will hopefully make people feel a little more motivated to follow through. If you want to be reminded to post your update, see the post titled 'update reminders', below.

  • Advice. This can be in response to a request for advice or just something that you think could be generally useful for many people here.

  • Encouragement. Probably best directed at specific users, but if you feel like just encouraging people in general I don't think anyone is going to object. I don't think I really need to say this, but just to be clear; encouragement should have a generally positive tone and not shame people (if people feel that shame might be an effective tool for motivating people, please discuss this so we can form a group consensus on how to use it rather than just trying it).

11

It is in the nature of authority to fear purity more than any sort of corruption.

This review (more like random musings and thoughts) will contain spoilers.

His ideal was drawn upon pure white paper in fresh black ink. Its text was mysterious, and it excluded not only translation but also every critique and commentary.

Runaway Horses is the second book in Mishima's magnum opus, the Sea of Fertility. In the first book, Mishima explored the role of a lover. The young aristocrat Kiyoaki Matsugae, in the pursuit of a forbidden affair, commits himself to an early death. In Runaway Horses, he is reincarnated as a very different man - as the son of Kiyoaki's stern teacher Iinuma, Isao Iinuma pursues a path of self-denial, first as a kendoist, then as a radical Japanese nationalist. Disgusted by the corruption of Japanese society, he seeks what he describes as a pure death - to strike at the materialist elites and then commit suicide, and by his pure example to invoke wider change in the country. Gathering others, he is eventually betrayed to the authorities by his own family, who profess the same disgust with society, but are compromised by their own positions. The senior Iinuma is shamed by Isao's dedication, while his romantic interest Makiko seeks to control him, Lieutenant Hori seeks to maintain his own career, and Honda, a friend of Kiyoaki, cannot comprehend him. Worse than punishment, he is shamed by them. After the trial, Isao goes through with his plan anyway, but alone. He murders a prominent businessman, then takes his own life in a cave - but not before dropping a hint as to his next reincarnation.

The characters in Sea of Fertility are prisoners in their own time. A scene of great importance in Spring Snow explains the struggle - whether the characters rebel against the spirit of their era makes no difference. In the end, they are coopted by history, and will simply be absorbed into whatever generalization future generations choose to make - which could be anything. Kiyoaki rebels against the decadence of his own time by pursuing the one thing forbidden to him. But in the end, Kiyoaki is remembered as just another decadent aristocrat - another disappointing scion of another declining clan. Isao is forced into the same predicament. He seeks to preserve the glory and harmony of Japan against predatory capitalism, militarism, and westernisation. But historically, his nationalism and devotion to the Emperor was recruited by those same corrupt forces. Yukio Mishima could hardly have been unaware of the contradictions of the era - how state Shintoism was deliberately built by the government, of the conflict between Shinto and Buddhist traditions, of how nationalism came to serve militarism that led to the total defeat of Japan. Parallels to our own time are apparent. America Firsters have no interest in foreign adventurism or empire-building, but their values of strength and honor are frequently manipulated into serving neoconservative policy. Further on the right, we find widespread disgust with modern society, but without outlet. Is it really conceivable that such individuals could really alter the course of events, or will history just remember them as antagonists and foils?

One might ask to what degree Isao's beliefs are really his own. The senior Iinuma, after being manipulated and dismissed by Kiyoaki in Spring Snow, formed the Academy of Patriotism to disseminate his own notion of traditional Japanese values - in many ways, an open reaction to his former employer. Raised in such society, Isao could hardly fail to inherit those values, any more than Kiyoaki could avoid inheriting the same values of his own father, the venal, adulterous Marquis Matsugae. But unlike their fathers, who hold those values lightly, Isao and Kiyoaki took them seriously. Kiyoaki dies to satisfy his own romantic desire - Isao can barely think of anything other than to die nobly. The question is posed - how can we transcend the values of the time in which we live, propagated as they are by hypocrites? Both the Marquis and senior Iinuma, in the eleventh hour, attempt to check their sons, but in doing so only push them further down their paths. The senior Iinuma is eventually revealed to be paid off by the very forces of corruption he preaches against. The discovery disillusions Isao - not with his cause, but with the corruption of the world around him.

Isao's ultimate target is Busuke Kurahara, described vaguely as a influential financier. Though many targets among the elite are mentioned, only Kurahara is described with any prominence, but he cuts a familiar figure - a modernist thinker who sees the world in terms of economics and who eloquently talks of sacrificing the tenth to save the nine, and who weeps crocodile tears for those being sacrificed. To Isao, and to perhaps Mishima too, Kurahara is the epitome of the corruption in Japan - a materialism that affects both sentimentality and ruthlessness according to the needs of the moment. Even in his slovenly figure and adoption of Western customs, Kurahara rejects that immaculate Japanese aesthetic.

The inspiration for Isao comes from a pamphlet he reads about the Shinpuren rebellion, a real event when in the early Meiji period, a group of patriots sought to overthrow the government and to put, uh, patriots back in control. A few hundred maniacs with swords fighting against thousands of troops with guns, they predictably lost, and the survivors commit suicide, in what seems to be implausibly romantic circumstances, evoking the same desire in Isao. But Isao is led astray - the booklet also describes the wives of some of the rebels, with ink no less rose-tinted. The wives are totally supportive of their husbands' death wishes and even want to join in. Enter Makiko, Isao's own love interest, an older, divorced woman who gives every appearance of supporting Isao's values, but at the last moment betrays him, then testifies in his defense at court, humiliating him in front of his fellow conspirators. I'm not sure what to make of her beyond an entertaining artifact of Mishima's misogyny - Eternal Woman popping up to frustrate and emasculate Isao's masculine ideals.

Another interesting character is Sawa. A middle-aged man who leaves his family to come to the Academy of Patriotism, he alone among Isao's comrades is given a thorough treatment in the novel. An avid reader of Kodan Club (I can't find much information about this, but it seems to have been a story magazine, possibly a pre-war antecedent to light novels and manga), he eventually manipulates himself into Isao's conspiracy, but he is always treated differently due to his age. For his own part, Sawa seems to be trying to create a second boyhood for himself. I wonder if Sawa is supposed to be self-depreciation on the part of Mishima, who surrounded himself with youths in his own middle age. But what does this suggest - that the business of self-sacrifice and pursuit of purity is only a game for young men? Clearly, Isao, the athletic and popular teenager, is an idealisation of Mishima himself, who struggled with a sense of physical inferiority and was bullied as a teenager, but Mishima has enough awareness to poke fun at this image too.

The last character I'll discuss is Shigekuni Honda. Kiyoaki's teenage friend in Spring Snow, in Runaway Horses he is a 39 year old judge, who has devoted himself to legalism and rationalism. When he comes to believe that Isao is the reincarnation of Kiyoaki, Honda's carefully constructed worldview is crippled. He abandons his position to defend Isao in court, not realizing that his rationalist attitude is at odds with Isao's death wish. Much as with Kiyoaki, Honda cannot really understand Isao or his motives - clouded by his legalism, he views and interacts with the world at a rationalist distance.

Other notes:

In a scene, later in the book, Isao is imprisoned and hears a communist being tortured. His reaction is envious from shame. The right-sympathetic authorities do not conceive of Isao as being a threat to society, but Marxism is. But more than that, Isao's values are a sterile relic. The future struggle will be among the materialists, capitalist and communist. But there is also the creeping suspicion that the materialists are right, or at least, that they are on the right side of history. As a result, Isao's final act feels less like an act of purity and hope, and more like a nihilistic and impotent reaction. Isao is dismissed by everyone, in the end - by allies and comrade, friends and family.

The prose throughout is beautiful. Mishima creates startling and evocative metaphors throughout - of particular note is a kendo match early in the novel, and later on a night-time scene. But even during abstruse philosophical discussion, the words compel the reader to continue. The only down note is the inclusion of the entire text of League of the Divine Wind, the pamphlet that inspires Isao. Feel free to skip to the suicides.

Runaway Horses, more than anything else, sketches out the manner of Mishima's death. Given that Isao fails to inspire change, can it not be determined that Mishima also knew that his 'coup' was doomed to failure? And though he surely knew that many such attempts had come before, did Mishima know that his attempt to revive Vieille Japan was going to be the last such attempt? Much to think on going into the third and fourth books.

There comes a time in every discussion forum user's life that they espouse an unpopular opinion. Not something unpopular in a way that they have broken any rules. But unpopular in a way that many other users want to chime in with their disagreement.

Ratioed

On twitter it is called getting "ratioed" where the unpopular tweets have a higher than normal number of comments relative to likes and retweets. It is viewed as a negative thing to happen when you are on twitter, because saying unpopular things on twitter is seen as bad.

Here on themotte saying unpopular things is not bad. We are here to have discussions with people who have different points of view. If you say something unpopular but not against the rules then you are serving the purpose of themotte. Not only have you not done something bad, you have done something good. You have provided everyone else here with content. There might be some tribal instincts in the back of your head screaming warnings at you "oh no! you have said something unpopular. quick! defend yourself, moderate your position, attack your most aggressive detractors!" These instincts are wrong. Instead, by saying something unpopular you have become the bell of the ball. The star athlete that all the recruiters want. Etc etc. We all want to talk to you!

Death by a thousand cuts

Being the center of attention and wanted by everyone can be stressful, especially when it feels like a form of infamy. There is a common failure mode that we as the mods have to witness happen again and again. The person that is at the center of attention is getting minor attacks that don't rise to the level of moderation. Multiple people might say the equivalent of "I think you are wrong because you aren't smart", or other forms of implied insults. The person at the center of attention will eventually get worn down by all these small cuts and jabs, and they will lash out at someone making the jabs. The lash out often does rise to the level of moderation.

You are the solution

The mods have talked about this phenomenon and we have realized that there isn't a good way to solve this problem through moderation. But! That doesn't mean there is no good solution at all.

These are the strategies I have used when getting ratioed, they've kept me sane, kept me calm, and helped me enjoy my time far more:

  1. Attitude - You are the popular one. Everyone wants to talk with you. Keep these in mind to avoid the tribal anxiety of 'everyone hates me I have to defend myself!'

  2. Match Effort - There are lots of responses flying at you and these responses have varying levels of effort. If someone has a low effort comment I do not respond with a well researched and cited response, I will often try and avoid responding to low effort comments altogether. Remember, you are the bell of the ball, they need to come to you.

  3. Prioritize the Best - Try and respond to your best disagreers first. The ones that bring up the best points, address all the things you said, or are just very polite about how they say it. You should be rewarding their effort, and hopefully signalling to other potential commentors that this is the type of comment you will respond to. This also helps with the next piece of advice:

  4. Refer back to yourself - Don't get frustrated saying the same thing a bunch of times. If you find yourself having the same argument in two different places, then only have it in the place with the better disagreer, and then point the other people to those posts, or just extensively quote yourself. "I addressed your point while talking with [other user], see my comment here(link)".

  5. Limit the back and forth - I will usually only give one response to most users. I will try and match their effort and address their points. I will try and have an extended discussion only with the best disagreers. So many instances of me moderating people happen ten or fifteen comments deep into a conversation, when almost everyone else has stopped reading. Both sides have already said the same thing multiple times, and they just become frustrated at each other "How can you resist the amazing logic and beauty of my arguments! Only a cretin and scum could fail to be convinced!" My suggestion is to just say your point and get out. You should expect to not have the last word when you are getting ratioed, so just embrace that reality up front.

  6. Leave when you are done - Sometimes even with all these strategies you might reach the end of your patience. You just don't want to talk about it anymore. Try and be introspective and recognize when you have reached this point. Once it happens, thank your best disagreer for the good discussion, say you are done with this topic and leave the discussion. Do not feel obligated to respond to additional comments. Your further participation is only likely to get you in trouble. You will likely get more and more frustrated until you lash out.


I also have advice for when you see someone getting ratioed and you want to join in on the dogpile. But that advice is more of a charitable nature, like it would be helpful to the community as a whole, but probably not as much to you personally. If people are interested I'll add it.

13

This weekly roundup thread is intended for all culture war posts. 'Culture war' is vaguely defined, but it basically means controversial issues that fall along set tribal lines. Arguments over culture war issues generate a lot of heat and little light, and few deeply entrenched people ever change their minds. This thread is for voicing opinions and analyzing the state of the discussion while trying to optimize for light over heat.

Optimistically, we think that engaging with people you disagree with is worth your time, and so is being nice! Pessimistically, there are many dynamics that can lead discussions on Culture War topics to become unproductive. There's a human tendency to divide along tribal lines, praising your ingroup and vilifying your outgroup - and if you think you find it easy to criticize your ingroup, then it may be that your outgroup is not who you think it is. Extremists with opposing positions can feed off each other, highlighting each other's worst points to justify their own angry rhetoric, which becomes in turn a new example of bad behavior for the other side to highlight.

We would like to avoid these negative dynamics. Accordingly, we ask that you do not use this thread for waging the Culture War. Examples of waging the Culture War:

  • Shaming.

  • Attempting to 'build consensus' or enforce ideological conformity.

  • Making sweeping generalizations to vilify a group you dislike.

  • Recruiting for a cause.

  • Posting links that could be summarized as 'Boo outgroup!' Basically, if your content is 'Can you believe what Those People did this week?' then you should either refrain from posting, or do some very patient work to contextualize and/or steel-man the relevant viewpoint.

In general, you should argue to understand, not to win. This thread is not territory to be claimed by one group or another; indeed, the aim is to have many different viewpoints represented here. Thus, we also ask that you follow some guidelines:

  • Speak plainly. Avoid sarcasm and mockery. When disagreeing with someone, state your objections explicitly.

  • Be as precise and charitable as you can. Don't paraphrase unflatteringly.

  • Don't imply that someone said something they did not say, even if you think it follows from what they said.

  • Write like everyone is reading and you want them to be included in the discussion.

On an ad hoc basis, the mods will try to compile a list of the best posts/comments from the previous week, posted in Quality Contribution threads and archived at /r/TheThread. You may nominate a comment for this list by clicking on 'report' at the bottom of the post and typing 'Actually a quality contribution' as the report reason.

2

Do you have a dumb question that you're kind of embarrassed to ask in the main thread? Is there something you're just not sure about?

This is your opportunity to ask questions. No question too simple or too silly.

Culture war topics are accepted, and proposals for a better intro post are appreciated.

4

Be advised; this thread is not for serious in depth discussion of weighty topics (we have a link for that), this thread is not for anything Culture War related. This thread is for Fun. You got jokes? Share 'em. You got silly questions? Ask 'em.

5

The Wednesday Wellness threads are meant to encourage users to ask for and provide advice and motivation to improve their lives. It isn't intended as a 'containment thread' and any content which could go here could instead be posted in its own thread. You could post:

  • Requests for advice and / or encouragement. On basically any topic and for any scale of problem.

  • Updates to let us know how you are doing. This provides valuable feedback on past advice / encouragement and will hopefully make people feel a little more motivated to follow through. If you want to be reminded to post your update, see the post titled 'update reminders', below.

  • Advice. This can be in response to a request for advice or just something that you think could be generally useful for many people here.

  • Encouragement. Probably best directed at specific users, but if you feel like just encouraging people in general I don't think anyone is going to object. I don't think I really need to say this, but just to be clear; encouragement should have a generally positive tone and not shame people (if people feel that shame might be an effective tool for motivating people, please discuss this so we can form a group consensus on how to use it rather than just trying it).

4

Edit: I appreciate everyone's feedback, which was generally in favor of staying, partly because leaving a satisfactory home for a new one entails unknown risks with regard to neighbors and/or the building, and partly because my hypothesis that spending more money will be motivating is suspect. Because I have real life friends who reads this website, I have removed the more identifying and/or financial specifics from the original post, and will not disclose which path I ended up taking. Thank you all again!

I have a decision due in about 14 hours, and I'm hoping to benefit from the community wisdom before then. I apologize that my thinking is a bit unstructured here, and it's very possible that I'll benefit more from critique on my thinking in general rather than feedback on the specific decision to move or stay.

Background:

[Redacted] I've been at my apartment for close to [Redacted] years now. It's a great building, I have a great unit, I pay a reasonable price, and I have virtually no complaints. Last year, they increased my rent by [Redacted]% (they originally asked for more but I negotiated it down), which I thought was very reasonable. This year, however, they are raising it by [Redacted]%, and that's after negotiating it down from a much higher original renewal offer. While this is higher than I'd like (I was hoping for something closer to the 8% inflation rate), I'm ok with this.

Spurred by the initially much higher renewal offer, though, I'd looked around and am considering upgrading to a nearby building. Moving there would actually mean my rent going up by [Redacted]% over the renewal rent, or [Redacted]% more than what I pay today. I know that sounds a bit silly given I was looking because my apartment is raising rent, but the move would be a quality upgrade. The building is [Redacted] years newer, the amenities maybe [Redacted]% fancier, and my unit will be [Redacted]% larger. There are also more intangible benefits--it's almost certainly a bit safer by virtue of the higher price point, the residents are probably fancier people (which may not be everyone's cup of tea; I think I have a moderate preference for living among neighbors who are higher socioeconomic class rather than lower), the unit will be a nicer and more convenient place for friends to gather and dates to come over. I also don't go out much and so fully enjoy my abode (as opposed to people who travel for work every other week or go out every other night, for example).

So nominally, the perks seem commensurate with a [Redacted]% premium. Two major drawbacks:

  1. The [Redacted]% premium is after factoring in a bunch of aggressive new resident promos. Once that expires at the end of a [Redacted] month lease, rent goes up by another [Redacted]%. In case all the percentages are confusing, imagine I currently pay $100. Staying means paying $[Redacted] next year at the same apartment. Moving means paying $[Redacted] for the first [Redacted] months at the new place, and $[Redacted] thereafter. Yikes.

  2. Moving costs money and time. Not included above is something like $[Redacted] in various one-time fees, and maybe another $[Redacted] or so in movers. Even with movers, all the packing/unpacking/cleaning/changing addresses etc. will likely lose me a week of time. One of my exes used to happily move once a year to experience new architecture and neighborhood etc., a mindset to which I cannot relate. So while I could just move again after the new resident promos run out in [Redacted] months, it'll be a substantial pain in the butt.

Note that I did look at other buildings. But because my current place is perfectly satisfactory, and because moving is a major hassle to me, none of the other buildings offered sufficiently of an upgrade or discount over my renewal to warrant a change. So I've narrowed down to just two options, pay [Redacted]% more to stay, or pay [Redacted]% more to move (and expect to pay [Redacted]% more after [Redacted] months, or else move again).

One more important factor: I am in a comfortable financial position. [Redacted]

[Redacted] I worry that by staying in my current place, I would be taking a (financially and psychologically) conservative path that allows me to remain less productive than I'd like to be. I'd like to work harder because I do like my work and would appreciate all the perks of great success--more money, prestige, fulfillment, better dating odds, meeting inspiring people etc. I wonder if by moving to the pricier place, the higher rent will light a bit of a fire under my butt and result in faster progress in my work that ends up paying more dividends on a net basis. That might even be true after the first [Redacted]-months when rent will [Redacted].

My worry however is that this is all fanciful, motivated thinking. What if I remain just as unproductive as I am today after moving? Since I won't be homeless anytime soon even after upgrading, any metaphorical fire can be easily rationalized away. And then I'd just be living larger than I need or deserve with nothing more to show for it, plus I'd be volunteering for unnecessary stress associated with moving, when I'm perfectly content with my current place. This may sound silly, but by staying, I could enjoy Black Friday deals on new furniture and appliances, whereas if I move, it wouldn't really make sense to buy stuff only to have to take it apart and move it a month later.

I know I've shared only a sliver of all the possible factors in making an optimal decision, given space and privacy constraints. But I constantly find people here surprise me with their unique perspectives, so thought there is nothing to lose and maybe a lot to learn by posting my thinking and welcoming critiques over the next 14 hours or so. Hope this wasn't too boring.

Highlights

(I was going to wait till Wellness Wednesday to post this as a comment, but the thread's blurb says it's not meant to be a containment and that advice requests can be posted as threads so here we are)

In dating, if you're ghosted, do you a) always move on stoically, b) always give it one more shot, or c) go with a mix of the two depending on circumstances?

After first or second dates, if I text a woman to set up another date and she doesn't reply, I just leave it alone. I sometimes wonder if there is an infinitesimal probability that maybe somehow my text got lost in the pipes, but if she wanted to see me again, she could always text me even if she thought I never contacted her. Sometimes the ghosting can be perplexing, like she'd already messaged me first after the date saying how she had a great time, and then after I respond asking to meet again, I don't hear back. But that's just dating or life in general--many or most people are flaky and undependable. It reminds me of how when I was procuring enterprise software for work that many sales reps don't even reply to requests for a quote. Speaking of sales, I remember reading a negotiation book whereby if you're the one selling, an effective trick to jumpstart wavering/cold leads is to ask them "have you given up on this project". Manipulative, sure, but all is fair in sales, love, and war.

But I occasionally see/hear stories of how some guy was super persistent despite being turned down and would eventually go on to win over the girl. I'm not talking about Hallmark movies from 20 years ago, but wedding announcements in the New York Times from like two weeks ago. But if we do talk about Hallmark, women sure seem to love romance stories featuring love interests who almost always turn down the protagonist the first time around. Reddit loves upvoting stories of how a couple ended up married despite the girl initially swiping left because of some silly reason like she didn't like his hat, but then they somehow met and fell in love. Part of this is probably because Reddit is disproportionately young and single and so wants to believe in second chances, but part of it is we celebrate persistence culturally: in work interviews, a candidate whom the hiring manager is mostly indifferent to but goes above and beyond to change their mind probably gets the job. I've met girls who tell me that guys who don't pursue them more energetically despite not receiving encouraging signals show that they aren't serious, and so disqualify themselves. And a recent ex actually turned me down when I asked her out, but then we hung out as friends a couple of times and she ended up saying yes when I asked a second time.

Now, to be clear, for most of these non-follow-ups I've been subject to, I didn't really think any of them was "the one", or else I likely would have given it another shot. Still, I enjoyed their company and it would have been fun to go out again. And I'd certainly prefer to be the one who decides to "let her go" rather than having her make the decision for me.

So sometimes I look back and wonder if I should have followed up one more time. Maybe go with something simple like "Hey--I really enjoyed meeting you and would love to see you again, but understand if you don't feel the same spark. I wish you the best!". It sounds cheesy and a bit needy, but costs nothing, barring maybe making the girl feel a bit uncomfortable for not taking a super obvious hint. Different women also have different preferences, whereby some will surely respond to "follow ups" more positively than others. And I'm not convinced that ghosting is some kind of self-unselecting filter for women who lack maturity, since there are enough men who take rejections very poorly that it does seem safer to just not reply as a rule of thumb.

So what do you do? Do you have a system for deciding if and when to follow up after not hearing back?

3

A modest idea for those who want to try their hand at AI alignment problem but is deterred by the lack of actual AI to try it on.

Let's consider a simpler (I think?) stepping stone - a multi-billionaire alignment problem. Especially in the aftermath of recent events where different billionaires caused different turmoils in different areas with different results, I think it makes sense to ask ourselves, as a society, whether we can - or should - have some kind of billionaire alignment program, and how we should approach it, before we try the same towards more alien entities such as AIs.

The input is:

  1. We have a bunch on intelligent - but not super-intelligent yet, so the task is easier - entities. For this task we presume human-level intelligence, probably on the higher end of the spectrum but nothing overwhelming.

  2. These entities control resources comparable to the power of middle-of-the-road nation-state, and deploy them with little effective oversight from anyone.

  3. They deploy those resources to achieve their goals, which may go contrary to goals of the other people, and could cause - even when very well intentioned - enormous harm. A misguided economic intervention can lead to an economic collapse of a country, a misguided social policy can make a major city as unlivable as a bombing campaign (maybe more as the effects are more permanent), a misguided medical policy can rob generations of years of life, new modes of communication can destroy social bonds and cause widespread cultural disruptions, etc. etc. Of course, they are also capable of selfishness and outright evil, though we do not presume they are more inclined to it than average human being (or less, either).

  4. For the sake of this task, we do not consider it moral or practical to destroy these entities or their resources, but want to minimize the potential harm caused by them, including unintentional harm, and potentially maximize their benefit to humanity (workable definition of "benefit to humanity" should be included in the solution, but if you eventually will attempt to align the AI, you must have some ideas what you are aligning it to, right?).

  5. We assume, for the sake of the exercise, that there's no magic lever that we could pull (like: "you do this or we destroy you/take your resources/torture you/kill your dog") to instantly put these entities to somebody else's complete control, or that people that are in control of the lever would be likely under the control of at least one of the entities above, and possibly multiple ones.

  6. In the interest of saving time, we declare all the variants of "we just need to have the right people in control of it and everything will be ok" as a non-solution since a) it just changes the personal or collective entity that needs to be aligned and b) it doesn't provide any practical actionable suggestions.

Any ideas how we could approach solving this task?

I made this a top level post because I think people here might want to discuss it but you can remove it if it doesn't meet your standards.

Edit: removed my opinion of Scott from the body

12

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4

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19

You may be familiar with Curtis Yarvin's idea that Covid is science's Chernobyl. Just as Chernobyl was Communism's Chernobyl, and Covid was science's Chernobyl, the FTX disaster is rationalism's Chernobyl.

The people at FTX were the best of the best, Ivy League graduates from academic families, yet free-thinking enough to see through the most egregious of the Cathedral's lies. Market natives, most of them met on Wall Street. Much has been made of the SBF-Effective Altruism connection, but these people have no doubt read the sequences too. FTX was a glimmer of hope in a doomed world, a place where the nerds were in charge and had the funding to do what had to be done, social desirability bias be damned.

They blew everything.

It will be said that "they weren't really EA," and you can point to precepts of effective altruism they violated, but by that standard no one is really EA. Everyone violates some of the precepts some of the time. These people were EA/rationalist to the core. They might not have been part of the Berkley polycules, but they sure tried to recreate them in Nassau. Here's CEO of Alameda Capital Caroline Ellison's Tumblr page, filled with rationalist shibboleths. She would have fit right in on The Motte.

That leaves the $10 billion dollar question: How did this happen? Perhaps they were intellectual frauds just as they were financial frauds, adopting the language and opinions of those who are truly intelligent. That would be the personally flattering option. It leaves open the possibility that if only someone actually smart were involved the whole catastrophe would have been avoided. But what if they really were smart? What if they are millennial versions of Ted Kaczynski, taking the maximum expected-value path towards acquiring the capital to do a pivotal act? If humanity's chances of survival really are best measured in log odds, maybe the FTX team are the only ones with their eyes on the prize?

Changing someone's mind is very difficult, that's why I like puzzles most people get wrong: to try to open their mind. Challenging the claim that 2+2 is unequivocally 4 is one of my favorites to get people to reconsider what they think is true with 100% certainty.

6

The largest GWAS of all time (of all time!) dropped a few weeks ago to little fanfare, at least in these spaces. In a nutshell: 5.4 million participants measuring height and 1.4 million SNPs per participant, so about 7 trillion data points if I’m not mistaken. If you submitted 23andme samples, congratulations! You contributed to the (current) record holder for largest GWAS in history. In total, the study accounts for 40-45% of the phenotypic variance of height, and furthermore, the authors claim this is saturating: adding more samples won’t increase the fraction of heritability that they can account for.

What you can do with this data:

  1. Generate some robust polygenic scores (PGS)

  2. ‘Risk prediction’ if you have a burning desire to know how tall someone will be (with large error bars)

  3. ???

What you can’t do with this data:

  1. Understand the phenomenon of ‘height’ in any meaningful way

  2. Genetic engineering a la Oryx and Crake, which is how most people see using CRISPR to make designer babies.

  3. Develop any kind of treatment or therapeutic that would improve the human condition.

So, to put it in some context: the criticism of GWAS has always been that these studies are large, expensive, rarely teach us anything about the underlying biology and explain little of the actual heritability (‘missing heritability’ problem). The ‘mechanistic’ biologists interested in curing disease or engineering biology generally dislike GWAS. It’s interesting in the way that astrobiology is interesting; good to know that planet XYZ792 150 light years away may have liquid water on it’s surface, but not really of practical use. What they (and I, being very much of this pedigree) missed is that PGS are of use if you’re in the business of embryo selection and I was corrected on that point a few years ago (conversation here if you want to see me being wrong). So if your goal is having really tall (or short!) children, this paper is good news for you, but you’ll probably still be dissatisfied with the current low-throughputness of embryo selection.

That being said, these criticisms are still salient and, to some extent, I think have been validated: saturating the SNP space with an absurd number of samples (for context: there are only 1.5 million Americans with type 1 diabetes! Good luck saturating that GWAS in our lifetime) only explains 45% of the variance, and this number will undoubtedly vary from trait to trait. Presumably the rest is coming from rare variants (the cutoff in this study is a minor allele frequency (MAF) of < 1% which is quite high), structural variants, or some genetic dark matter implying that our heritability estimates are too high or not being driven by DNA (?).

I think this also has something to say about the omnigenic model. Even with a very high-powered study most of the SNPs are still clustering around genes with known functions related to growth, bone structure, etc. About a third aren’t near anything at all and we have no idea what they might be doing. But again, the low heritability explained would argue that rare variants may play a much larger role than previously appreciated, which may hew closer to Jim Lupski’s Clan Genomics model. And, this is much more speculative, but perhaps this is hinting at the biological underpinnings of ‘interindividual variation is larger than population level differences,’ i.e., rare variants (and the rarer end of SNPs) unique to your ‘clan’ have a similar or larger effect size than the very common SNPs shared by populations. Eager to see what people think or if they have any corrections.

By the way, how does one use superscripts around these parts? Would have been useful to clean up some of these asides with footnotes. Also, how to use tilde without getting strikethrough?

3

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3

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