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Friday Fun Thread for May 24, 2024

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.

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What's perfect weather to you? To me it's low twenties/low seventies during the day, high teens/low sixties during the night, mostly sunny, random showers during the business hours but not on the weekends.

Perfect weather would be going through a yearly seasonal cycle in 4 months instead of 12. There would be a perfect day of winter, snowing 20F, not windy. A perfect day of spring, 70F and humid after just raining with green shooting up everywhere. A perfect day of summer 90F, with a slightly cooling breeze, occasionally big fluffy clouds to give some relief from the sun, and a pool to jump in to cool off. A perfect day of fall, 60F with leaves falling, a cooling breezing that makes sweaters comfortable, and dry weather for some good fire pits in the evening.

I genuinely like weather variations, but I tend to get sick of weather extremes after a month. So just a faster set of seasons would be good.

If I had to pick a single type of weather I'd pick room temperature 70F with no sun or wind. Basically no weather, since I'd get sick of any extremes after enough time.

Sun the vast majority of days (if it's going to rain, it should rain all day), high-80s to low-100s year-round, low humidity. Rain (especially that which is more than just drizzle) isn't a problem so long as it's sufficiently warm. Daylight should persist for no less than 10 hours a day in the winter.

I require the sun to be present in the sky to function correctly, and simply don't hold heat very well and need the environment to do it for me.

The Levant, Mainly Israel and Lebanon fit this profile.

I knew we had Jews on the Motte, but I didn't expect to find a lizard person.

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a furry.

A scaly, then?

You never talked to @Lizzardspawn?

Mostly Bay Area weather. I'd increase the number of days with heavy low-laying fog and add thunderstorms to make it a bit more interesting, and I'd make Friday and Saturday nights much warmer to make patio and rooftop dining/drinks actually pleasant.

75 °F (24 °C) and clear around the clock. Of course, that's a pipe dream.

About the same as you; during the day, I want it to be only warm enough that I can go out with only a t-shirt, and at night I want it only cool enough to put on a hoodie and be fine (or to get under the covers). Couple of showers once in a while, light enough that they're not able to soak throroughly through my clothes, just enough to refresh.

Hot dry sunny days or a dense humid thunderstorm. Everything else is boring. The first is like using a sauna and being relaxed inside, the second is like witnessing something eerie and feeling safe inside. For evenings I think colder the better, though.

I agree. I find the climate in England very pleasant, it is rarely too hot or too cold, I just wish the weather engineers could figure out a way to approximately double or triple the amount of sunshine we receive. Daylight hours from 9am to 3pm in winter would not be so bad if it was, at least, sunny.

I hate this term, but "weather engineering" sounds positively demonic. Yeah lets just go ahead and fuck with a chaotic/complex system that we could only model at a large scale recently. Animal and plant life be damned.

We already heavily engineer the weather, maybe we should try to do it scientifically instead of by chance based on what we emit. We already cut down on smog, acid rain and ozone damage, not to mention putting out forest fires. By paying attention and applying what we know we can improve the weather instead of making it worse.

There hasn't been whatever "state of nature" you're imagining for a long long time.

I think you don't fathom the amount of "engineering" it would take to double or triple sunshine hours in the British Isles...

Also smog, acid rain and ozone are the opposite of good examples.

Really? They are ways in which we changed what we are doing to improve the environment. We certainly aren't consuming less or using less energy, but we are doing it in a way that is better for us. We just cut back high sulfur bunker fuel and that is causing even faster global warming, so maybe we should replace that with high altitude sulf distribution to keep the climate stable, or even cool it a bit. Humans have already deeply changed every major system in the world. Everything here is basically here by our decree, this will only be more and more the case as our mastery and understanding increases, we need to continue to decide what we value and what we will preserve.

I also wasn't referring to the original request for more sun, just your comment that climate engineering sounded evil. I think it sounds like what we already do, except done right.

I've been stationed in England for over a year now. If I had to choose between the two extremes of our day lengths, I'd absolutely choose the summer 5 am to 10 pm day length because it means more chance for sun. Folks weren't kidding when they said lack of sun makes you feel blue.

85/30 and sunny with low humidity and a slight breeze. For me a shower less than once a week is ideal.

I have trouble picking a single perfect weather because I enjoy outdoor activities that have a wide variance. I love sitting in the sun on a hot day doing nothing, but if I wake up to that kind of weather when I'm trying to run in a race, I'm not going to be very happy. For the modal day though, I like chilly morning (call it high 40s) and a sunny, moderate temperature afternoon (call it mid 70s).

Are you a desert dweller? I haven't encountered such temperature swings elsewhere.

Just normal upper Midwest United States stuff! These are admittedly not the most common days, which is why I said my ideal days are hard to pick. When we do get these lows in the morning and highs in the afternoon, it's great. Here's May so far. On May 17, we had an overnight low of 49 and an afternoon high of 79. On May 12 it was 47 in the morning and 83 in the afternoon.

Despite the rough winters the late spring and early summer in the Midwest are super underrated for delightful weather.

Which way's up in the Midwest? Towards Canada or the Rockies?

Canada! Rockies are the start of the true West, Canada is the start of the true North.

24'C with clear blue skies.

Maximally sunny. That brilliant blue sky with absolutely everything bathed in light. I don't care if it's 40°C and the land is sere, baking and withering, or it's wet and humid and everyone sweats even at rest in the shade. Give me a good wind on top of it and that's my day. Just the sky and me. I put on my floppy hat and shorts and a backpack full of water, and off I go for a day of hiking, alone with the world.

Maybe I just enjoy heat stroke.

I think 40C and 100% humidity is literally deadly, since sweating no longer can cool you down.

Maybe? Going outside in that kind of heat hasn't killed me yet, but I suppose the humidity must've been lower than 100% then. Or, I suppose, I make enough use of wind, shade and bodies of water to keep my temperature viable. Either way the 40°C alone are doable, at least here in the German summers.

But really, it's the sun that matters the most, not the heat. The heat is just a useful additional factor that allows me to dress light, and keeps the outdoors largely depopulated so I have it to myself. But what really makes good weather to me is the blue sky. I can tolerate a few tasteful clouds here and there, but by and large I want that giant open void overhead.

I'm a wet and cold maximalist. Somewhere between 0C (30F) and 7C (45F) with rain is heaven to me. So basically fall and early winter in any temperate country.

Mostly because I live in a very hot and dry place and am sick of it.

If you get a chance, maybe check out the North American Pacific NW during the "rainy season" (fall through spring): Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver BC all get at least 8 hours of daylight in the winter, so it's not as bad as Scotland for daylight. It's grey and drizzly (parts of it are technically a rainforest!) and in the middle it hangs out in your desired temperature range for months on end, but rarely gets colder, and it's not humid. Or maybe try New Zealand, they've got more normal weather, but their winter is the northern hemisphere summer. ;-)

You would spend 3 months in Scotland between December and February and be begging for a return to the sun.

I'm neutral/okay with sunlight. I just HATE heat. I run my home AC at 16C (60F) 24/7. Fortunately there exists cold and sunny places.

Also I don't really think I would hate Scotland all that much, I'm just built different and like gloomy weather. I spent 2 weeks in the East Coast of the US this January and being able to walk out all day and not sweating felt like crack.


"Can cockroaches live in your penis?"

Google AI: Yes! It's totally normal too.

Is there some esoteric force sabotaging Google's AI projects?

First there was the black Vikings, now there are random silly screenshots from their search AI. I suspect much is inspect element related but the meme has been bouncing around. There's a thread here:

I've been using Brave which has had a similar feature for some time. Brave's AI is generally useful and right 75% of the time, though you can never quite be sure. When it is wrong, it's never 'yes, doctors recommend you to smoke cigarettes while pregnant' tier wrong. I don't ask many questions that could be disturbingly wrong. Those who use google, are the silly results plausible, cherrypicked, invented? Is Microsoft using GPT-5 bots to sabotage the reputation of their competitors?

This is completely unfounded, but I suspect internal passive sabotage, by Google engineers who don't like the dominant internal politics, but who don't feel safe saying anything about it. Not precisely "quiet quitting", but more like a subtle "Amelia Bedelia rebellion", where they do what is required, but their actual goal is to make the people running the place look like fools.

I was part of the 2023 Google layoff, and still have a lot of friends at the company. Everyone is nervous and stressed as the layoffs continue. Remember (or discover) that 2023 was the first time Google laid anybody off; prior to that, if your job disappeared you'd get 6-12 months to find a new one within the company. The Google engineers I know are all trying to keep their heads down and just do their job right now.

So I don't think its likely that any coordinated group of Googlers are purposefully allowing these fuckups. Instead, what I think has happened is that Google grew up with teams of rockstar nerds who cared about the company, and a culture that allowed them to call out shit when they saw it. This was the culture that made Damore feel like he could and should write that memo, and that you can read about in Schmidt's book How Google Works. That culture stopped, and Google shifted from being mostly rockstar nerds into being mostly rockstar PMC nerd-managers. All the safeguards and procedures and culture that would catch these fuckups before they're released is immature/absent, because 5 years ago the nerds would fix these sorts of things without having to be told.

Quiet quitting/just not giving a shit is imo much more common & relevant. If you make your boss look like a fool, it is trivial for him to make it fall back on you. But if everyone tries to do slightly less than everyone else, bc doing more is plainly not rewarded, then you enter a race to the bottom that deteriorates everything.

For what it's worth, I've been unable to reproduce the cockroaches in penis answer. Though I'm sure at least some of the viral screenshots are legitimate, and there's definitely a team spending their entire memorial day weekend quashing these as they come up.

Technically, one issue is that there would be a different LLM being used in search than elsewhere. The one used in search would prioritize cost and speed above all else. A couple minutes worth of Google search inferences is a greater volume than probably a day's worth of inferences across all of ChatGPT, Gemini, and Claude. Naturally, quality is going to suffer. And even if Google were inclined to, it simply doesn't have the hardware to run its top-of-the-line model for every search query. (No one does.)

For comparison, Brave handles maybe 10 QPS? Google is closer to 100k QPS.

Google needs to improve quality, but that's probably not even its main priority right now: it needs to decrease costs.

The James Damore incident was evidence of a culture problem. Google is no longer a place where an autist can openly name a problem.

People good at internal politics muscled their way into the Google AI projects. Everyone else is afraid to criticize them.

After spending megabucks there's internal pressure to launch. So the project goes live with glaring flaws.

I think this is a general failing of LLMs. They're just regurgitating remixed training data, and when you ask weird questions like this, the likelihood that the relevant training data are dominated by trolling/joke answers is high.

Brave gives me:

According to the search results, the answer is no, cockroaches cannot live in your penis. The information provided suggests that the claim that cockroaches can live in the human penis is a myth or a joke. The search results show that this claim has been debunked and is not supported by scientific evidence.

Here are some key points:

A Reddit post from 2022 states that cockroaches can live in your penis, but this is likely a joke or a misconception.

A 2024 article states that cockroaches do not live in the human penis and that the claim is false.

A Google search for “Can cockroaches live in your penis?” does not yield any credible results suggesting that cockroaches can live in the human penis.

A 2023 article states that cockroaches do not live in the human penis and that the claim is a myth.

In conclusion, there is no credible evidence to suggest that cockroaches can live in your penis. It is important to rely on credible sources of information and to be cautious of misinformation and myths.

And all of that is right, that's the origin of the meme, though ironically it cites google in support. I don't know if Brave is foolproof, maybe it has problems. But my experience is that it's usually pretty astute, its errors aren't hugely embarassing. Brave is a company running on a shoe-string budget, Google is supposed to be an AI titan. Their TPUs are supposed to be amazing, they're supposed to be in their own little sovereign corner. They have non-NVIDIA tech, scaling out on a different supply chain that makes them an AI juggernaut. Or so I read. But in reality, ChadGPT smashes them time and time again. Even Brave's rinky-dink open-source tech seems to work fine while Google is making a fool of themselves.

Surely a supervisory LLM could cut this shit by an order of magnitude ffs. "Is this likely to be true? y/n" just don't display it if no.

Yes it's a hack on the scale of the bitter lesson, but I think they're actually losing brand value here, crazy for Google of all people not to be conservative here.

Especially when their current pipeline already involves multiple additional LLMs interpreting and rewriting prompts for DEI anti-bias reasons!

Started The Killing Star as my falling asleep reading last night, and it reminded me how huge Titanic-mania was in the 80-90s, with the 1997 film release hitting what seems like the crest of the wave.

For a solid decade you'd see raising the Titanic as a random "as you know, we are living in the future" infodump, there were endless books and documentaries about it, people invested millions in building replicas. As late as the 2016 the Chinese were building a full size one (in Sichuan of all places) that seems to have been abandoned during construction.

It was striking because of how absolutely the meme died since 2015 or so. "Draw me like one of your French girls" is the last relic.
A good warning of the dangers of making big investments jumping on cultural bubbles only to be left holding the bag when they burst (cough Sega)

Is anyone old enough to remember the start? Did it just build steadily from the discovery of the wreck? "Raise the Titanic!" was late 70s, and Clive Cussler isn't known for original ideas...

Is it best to try and avoid presentism in your writing, or embrace it and write for your audience/profitable fads rather than for future readers?

Also read Jasper Fforde's "Red Side Story" last night, and regret the wasted time. Dreadful sequel 15 years too late to use the original ideas of the first book.

Also read Jasper Fforde's Red Side Story last night, and regret the wasted time. Dreadful sequel 15 years too late to use the original ideas of the first book.

I'm enjoying it, personally. But I wouldn't call myself a literary connoisseur.

Let me know if you want to compare notes when you finish it. Won't say anything that might spoil you now.

Maybe I was just in a bad mood for it.

I just finished it. I'm only an unthinking consoomer of product with no deep literary opinions, but I thought it was very enjoyable, and I can think of nothing to complain about.

If you want to air your grievances, I'm sure they would be interesting to hear. (Remember that this website does have spoiler functionality.)

Update. Do not read "the killing star", it is a very silly mish-mash of unconnected silly plots, weird obsessions of the authors, and silly name-dropping + self inserts about persecuted science fiction authors.

It was actually worse than Red Side Story, so looks like I'm batting 0 for 2 this week. Time to read some non-fiction for a palate cleanser.

On the flip side, Titanic Belfast opened in 2012 and it's a really well done museum. Maybe it's not as broad of a cultural touchstone, but it's still fascinating history.

Went to see it in January, having received several recommendations over the years. Far better than I expected it to be, definitely worth spending two or three hours if you're in the area.

It’s an excellent museum but it also benefits because it’s like the only major attraction in Belfast, so everyone who visits the city for any reason (tourism in NI in general, business, visiting friends or family, any kind of event) and has a spare half day is going to go. On Google reviews it has 33,000 ratings while the next biggest attraction in Belfast has under 10,000.

Ahem, we also have the Europa hotel, the "most bombed hotel in the world".

Well it was during the Troubles. I think some Bosnian hotel stole that accolade.

It's also #1 on lonely planet for Belfast.

Were there some Titanic developments that recently popped up?

It does slightly bother me that most of the (remaining) wreckage will be consumed by sea creatures in the coming years/decades.

Some discussion we previously had on 90s Titanic-mania, albeit more focused on the film.

I had completely forgotten about the imploding submarine until you said that. There's only so much current thing you can cram in your brain before it starts leaking out.

I went on a big Titanic binge after that happened. Part of the intrigue is that there is just so much content out there. You can read the transcript of the official investigation. Apparently they had stenographers back then?

Apparently, the National Information Standards Organization (discovered via this video) publishes standards on such topics as bibliographic references, indexes, contributor roles (not just authors and editors, but also supervisors, administrators, validators, data curators, conceptualizers…), and library shelving.

Turns out that general information standards a kind of timeless.

There are some elite level ML engineers I've worked with who all have .... Library Sciences degrees.

Wait what how? Can someone explain ?

There's a good chunk of library science that has to do with figuring out precise meanings, and precise classifications of "things" based on those meanings. Getting that nailed down helps the data crunching process.

I suppose it’s not hugely uncommon because many people get into ML (NLP specifically) through linguistics/English related fields which I’d guess are pretty close to library science.

Llms killed NLP, so this is going to be a thing of the past soon.

LLMs will kill the vast majority of programming jobs and have made the grand machines imagined by NLP academics increasingly ridiculous, sure. But for now, when pay in the field is still high, they still do fine.

People really like Sherlock Holmes stories, to the point that they're probably the best candidate for the progenitor of the entire Mystery genre. To those here who enjoy these stories, would you mind putting on your over-analysis caps and explaining what it is about the stories that you enjoy?

Competence porn as mentioned in another post. But another part is they introduce interesting characters and locations without diving too deep or the author expecting you to get invested in them.

The Brits have a phrase, “overly personal” for getting too deep in someone else life story. Sometimes I want to enjoy a colorful cast without a therapeutic analysis.

The Brits have a phrase, “overly personal” for getting too deep in someone else life story. Sometimes I want to enjoy a colorful cast without a therapeutic analysis.

Oh, wow, thanks for the phrase. That's precisely the thing that bugs me about so much sprawling Internet fiction (fan- or otherwise). The author feels the need to delve into the inner depths of so many different characters, and then the plot bogs down because anytime anything happens, we have to see the event from everyone's perspective, because each viewpoint is precious and important. G.R.R. Martin used to be a model for keeping this in check, but I think he started to succumb in his last few ASoIaF books.

I used to like Holmes a lot more till I realized that Doyle was being a lazy bastard and cheating. I mean, that's a bit harsh given the standards of his time but the point still stands.

Deductions and clever reasoning are fun, but the kinds Holmes regularly makes are only true by author fiat. That's not how Bayesian reasoning (or reasoning in general) works. Sometimes the reason the dog didn't bark in the night was because it was constipated and really had to take a shit. The sheer confidence with which he just takes a look at a whole bunch of random phenomena which could very well have other reasonable explanations and zeroes in on the right one.. That's not the right way to model someone brilliant, even superhumanly so.

A good mystery novel, IMHO, is one where enough of the pieces are laid out in clear sight, and an astute reader can make the same deductions as the protagonists can. That's never been how it worked in Holmes. Sure, plot twists and aha moments can be entertaining, but the mechanistic underpinnings aren't there.

What you're describing is precisely the reaction I had to the first Christie novel I read, Death in the Clouds. The summation didn't have me thinking "oh my God, the answer was staring me in the face all along, how did I fail to cop it?"; it had me thinking "well, sure, I guess that makes sense, sort of, if you say so". I felt like the killer could have turned out to be a completely different person and I would have found the ending exactly as satisfying, which is to say, not very.

By contrast, when I read my second Christie novel And Then There Were None, the summation seemed ingenious and completely logical, and I felt like there were enough clues that a sufficiently attentive reader could have figured it out well in advance. All that in addition to being a more genuinely terrifying work of fiction than most horror novels and stories I've read.

I think anyone with an output on Christie’s level is going to have (many) misses. But at her best she’s a genuinely great writer with a great skill at concise characterization.

You might get a kick out of "The Great Ace Attorney" games. They're from the Phoenix Wright series where you play as a defense lawyer investigating crimes, but these ones are set in London in the Victorian Era. Sherlock Holmes is a character in the game and he acts just like you described, drawing elaborate conclusions from scant evidence - which you then have to correct using your own evidence. These deduction sequences are probably my favorite part of the game.

That's kind of ironic, considering that the AA games are all about drawing elaborate conclusions from scant evidence lol.


Also, another thing that bugs me is that, while we do see in the background some hints of how intensely Holmes studied various empirical fields, in the stories all of that takes a back seat to his brilliant feats of deduction. He comes across as effortlessly cool, and we rarely if ever see the kind of work that would be required for someone to build up such a base of knowledge. (It sounds similar to parts of being a doctor, that people have been writing about here, recently.)

To be fair, the first story at least showed a downside of Holmes' hyperspecialization: to leave some empty space in his memory, he gave up on ever learning any non-crime-related fact (such as that the Earth revolves around the Sun).

This is true, but in later stories we see "cool" bits where Holmes busts out familiarity with various bits of culture, but we very rarely if ever see the "uncool" side, where his hyperspecialization interferes with his work or leaves him looking foolish. IMO, too much of the fan work and re-imaginings lean into the "cool" side, or alternately completely undermine his whole character, but I appreciate the ones like "Seven Percent Solution" that manage to show him with flaws but also keep his heroic side intact. I've watched some of the Jeremy Brett TV series, and one of the many things I like about them is that they humanize Holmes.

The only Doyle book I ever actually read was Hound of the Baskervilles and that was when I was a kid. I enjoyed the mystery part but that particular book has almost a supernatural (or almost supernatural) air. I remember really liking it. At the time I had recently watched the very B film one late night with my buddy called Devil Dog: Hound of Hell which, thank you modern tech, you can now watch in its entirety on YouTube.. Do not take this as a recommendation. I was a kid. It was cool then.

Having written that, I watched both Downey (Jr.) films with my sons and they enjoyed them, so I enjoyed them. I also liked the Cumberbatch series, which I saw on the heels of watching The Mentalist with my wife (one of the handful of series we used to watch together. I need a new one to watch with her if anyone has recommendations.) That show owed a lot to Holmes. The smarts-win-the-day, and defeat the bad guy, that was what I always liked, to echo (somewhat) @fishtwanger.

Watched The Mentalist from start to finish. Loved it.

Person of Interest on Netflix is a CBS drama which may scratch the itch of The Mentalist, it’s a series where a Special Operations veteran has to discover if today’s person will be the victim or perpetrator of a planned murder. Then somehow it morphs into a futurist series about the singularity and AI, and actually gets even better. It’s both competence porn and rationalist.

For something more comedic, just as rationalist as The Mentalist, yet still on the police procedural side, try Psych, currently on Amazon Prime. A slacker poses as a psychic consultant for the police, never letting on that he’s highly observant and solving them through regular detective skills.

Not quite an overlap, but I always thought the Bosch series on Amazon would be good couples watching. Start with the first season and give it time, the characters take a little bit of time to get dynamic.

I was never too fond of the genre, though I did enjoy the mystery/thriller Agent Pendergast series a bit too much despite it being slightly Reddit.

But it had a character clearly inspired by the despicable Communist Gould turn into a sewer mutant cult leader. You love to see that.

Bit of a guilty pleasure.

Ha! Relic and Reliquary were the only two of the series that I read, back in the day, and I loved 'em. Were the rest of the books good? And which Gould was this, now?

Were the rest of the books good?

If there was a fall-off in quality it to me seemed only like a slight one. There's a slight bit of 'woo' in there and of course the 'science' aspects are very, very soft but it's still good stories. Last book I read was 'Cemetery Dance' published in '13. Shit, now I remember I read 'Still Life with Crows' which is a bit of a doorstopper on a 320x240 Nokia phone. There was an app for converting e-books into standalone java(iirc) apps the Nokia could run.

Still wonder to this day whether reading with one eye leads to you to process the information in a different way than when you're reading with both.

I enjoyed all of them about equally. Maybe the couple of the last ones that I haven't read aren't as good.

And which Gould was this, now?

Stephen Jay Gould, obviously. Who can forget him committing scientific fraud and fabricating data to show a 19th century anatomist mismeasured brain volumes because of unconscious bias [1], his crusade against sociobiology, his treatment of his colleagues like E.O.Wilson.

spoilers for the novels:

(not here, I can't get the fricking tag to work )

[1]: in a somewhat funny development, several sets of scienists are still engaged in what's basically an academic flamewar. The Morton skull saga (started 1988) is still going on.

thanks for the recommendation!

Stephen Jay Gould, obviously.

...For some reason, my mental picture of Gould was always of a youngish guy, and pictured the guy in the books as old. It's weird how those things get cached in the brain.

He was described as older. Gould died in his early sixties.

I think for me they're "intelligence and competence porn". Roughly, it's the idea that an intelligent and competent person, put into a dark and evil situation, can use the light of reason to restore order and uncover hidden secrets. Thriller novels, of the techno- and military- varieties, also do that for me. As with porn, I worry that over-consumption by susceptible demographics can induce unrealistic expectations of human behavior. ;-)

It took a couple of read-throughs of HPMOR for me to get that a) Harry was not being held up by EY as a role model, and b) the main moral of the story is that (spoilers all) he left a trail of pointless wreckage as he broke anything that got in the way of him doing what he thought was right, and if not for the vow Quirrelmort had him take, he would have broken everything.

Even contemporaneously with the release of the story, Yudkowsky was complaining at length that people read both Harry and Quirrel as both far more correct and far more competent than they actually were, whether not noticing their failures or overstating their accomplishments. Reality ended up pushing that even further, for Harry -- the first twenty chapters are filled with a lot of pop social science that was iffy to start with and didn't really survive the replication crisis -- but there are other errors that I think were intentional, even fairly early on.

Great post. I think many LWers and HPMOR readers were probably so starved for a single decent teacher in their entire schooling that they latched onto themselves as Harry and yearned for someone with Quirrel's attitude to BS.

if you don't mind adding some more spoiler tags, how did how did he almost break everything?

I read the remarks about quarks and antimatter and black holes and plagues in Chapter 119 as "if not for Quirrelmort's forcing an Unbreakable Vow onto Harry, he'd do something world-breaking, or worse. And then with that as the eventual lesson, re-reads of the work reveal a different meaning to the EY-cool that @fishtwanger talks about.

I assume this refers to the moment where the Vow stopped him from revealing the wizarding world and the Transfiguration Stone to the muggles, the implication being that if he did it, the chances of someone casting Summon Earth-Destroying Amounts of Antimatter Just To Try It would skyrocket.

That's the one.

Other criticisms aside, I think EY was trying to do three things at once, but fell short with two of them due to internal contradictions. He wanted it to be 1) a teaching tool for rationality, and also 2) to have a literary character arc where Harry learns and grows, and also 3) to max out his personal sense of cool (hereafter "EY-cool"). But 2 and 3 hide 1, making it hard to tell what's actually a recommended course of action, because the bad stuff seems precisely as EY-cool as the good stuff. And 1 and 3 hide 2, because Harry is relentlessly portrayed as EY-cool, whether or not he's making mistakes. And so what comes through is a lot of EY-cool, sprinkled with a bunch of rationality lessons where you need to read the entire thing, possibly several times, to figure out what's a recommended approach (not to mention keeping up with the replication crisis), and a character who goes from being portrayed as smarter and more mature than everyone around him, but slightly silly, to being portrayed as smarter and more mature than everyone around him, but slightly sad. (But maybe that's how EY views his own personal development.)

Interesting analysis, and exactly the sort of thing I was asking for elsewhere in the thread. I read the whole thing in more or less one sitting for fun, and so while I wasn't terribly impressed and definately think it suffers from some a lot of the problems I perceive in rationalist fic generally, I'm not at all confident that I really got the intended message.

It’s quite a book, and for me the most underrated aspect is how endgame HPJEV is a metaphor for how quick-takeoff AI constrained by alignment measures might still be able to do significant harm.

I've read HPMOR and that certainly was not the takeaway I left with, but I would be exceedingly interested to hear what I've missed if you have the time to elaborate.

Today I learned Yudkowsky did a Harry Potter Fanfic. The more you know.

Yup. Kicked off (or perhaps codified) a whole genre of rational fanfiction.

It is linked under library on lesswrong, so it is kind of the top of the canon as far as rationalist fiction goes. Other major works are:

  • Scott's Unsong (Original setting)
  • Alexander Wales' "Worth the Candle" (Original setting)
  • Alicorn's "Luminosity" (Twilight 'fan'-fiction, of all things)
  • Eliezer et al's planecrash (collaborative glowfic, Dath Ilianian isekaied to the world of the RPG Pathfinder)

All of these authors also have shorter fiction. If you are unsure, I would start with something shorter and see if you like the style. There are also audiobooks of HPMOR and Unsong.

Note that Alexander Wales also has an ongoing work, Thresholder (currently at 650,000 words, vs. 1.7 million for Worth the Candle).

1.7 million? That just seems ridiculous. Why does this work need to be three times as long as war and peace?

Why does this work need to be three times as long as war and peace?

Because it's being written for narrative addicts. People enjoy the altered flow-like state created by reading a long narrative for hours at a stretch, their own consciousness and volition being overridden by the flow of the story. For such people, the story concluding is a problem because it breaks the state, while additional length is pure benefit, because it allows for more contiguous false-memory and thus more verisimilitude to the experience.

People enjoy the altered flow-like state created by reading a long narrative for hours at a stretch, their own consciousness and volition being overridden by the flow of the story.


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I remember this post of yours where you floated psychoanalyzing the mindset of rational fiction after finishing Worth the Candle. I’d be interested in hearing what you had to say about the genre based on what you’re saying here.

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Web serials are more like reading a series of novels.

I would guess most series clock in below this. Harry Potter for example is only about a million words.

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Are you not familiar with web serial novels? The Wandering Inn may well hit 17 million words sometime next year.

It's hard for me to fathom who has the mental bandwidth for this.

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Did anyone see Terrence Howard on Joe Rogan? Would love to see what the motte thinks.

Personally I'm withholding judgment until he goes up against someone credible.

I think Terrence Howard has a truly above average aptitude for language and verbal reasoning.

The scientific underpinnings of what he's talking about are nonexistent. It's gobbledy-gook nonsense. But it sounds cohesive and logical. He is obeying and staying within his basic axioms (which are all bananas). It is no different that a buzz-wordy consultant who says "if we align incentives to drive synergy, we can realize asymmetric outcomes that act as network multipliers" or the Progressive Activist who says, "active anti-racism necessitates a conscious awareness of embedded attitudes and beliefs that are not necessarily learned but may be, nevertheless, omnipresent due to cultural inertia."

They're all playing by their own rules, but the rules are made up and divorced from reality. This is LARPing, this is D&D "You can't use lightning bolt without rolling at least 15 on summoning first!" It's fun to do with your friends, but you're not allowed to call it science ... or non-fiction.

Because it is fiction! And fiction is about creating engaging stories and narratives for people. And this is exactly what Terrence Howard is doing - creating a narrative for people to feel like they've "uncovered" some hidden truth about basic math, multiplication, the elements, space, whatever. And the bonus narrative is that he's like really,really,super,duper genius smart. So, I can feel good about watching Hustle and Flow because the dude playing the street pimp is actually on a meta-narrative about the frequency-hopping abilities of music and sexual slavery .... I think.

Truth is elusive, but we love the sound of it.

if we align incentives to drive synergy, we can realize asymmetric outcomes that act as network multipliers

But that's just "this looks like a situation where two or more people working together can get more than twice the work of two individuals working alone so let's see what it would take to get everyone interested in working together" said with more buzz. There's a perfectly logical concept behind that statement even if the language used might make it harder rather than easier for the listener to get the meaning.

It is someone living in a totally unadapted mytho-poetic sense. Saying “his first experience being alive was dropping into his mother’s womb like being dropped in the dark” is a poetic feeling, what a post-enlightenment person would merely call a metaphor. It brings him some personal motivating value, and so he asserts that the feeling is a literal fact to heighten its potency. It reminds me of a less adapted Javier Milei, who speaks to the spirit of his dog (currently residing at the foot of God) and receives economic advice from him. Or Napoleon who believed that he was guided by a particular star. Terrence’s asserted metaphor sadly have to do with things where literal factuality is very important and cared about.

I'm reminded of that 4chan(?) favorite, the middle aged white man who talked about "they glow in the dark" etc. I can't recall his name. He had a kind of mental illness that supercharged parts of his intelligence. I didn't listen to more than around 10 minutes total of this Terrence Howard character, but he might have something like that going on. A bit of unusual brilliance mixed up with a stream of crazy BS.

Terry Davis, peace be unto him. There’s a really cool video out there about his TempleOS project, but I don’t remember the name.

I don’t know that the schizophrenia boosted his intelligence. Comorbidity, perhaps. It certainly didn’t do him any favors in the end.

Was it this one by YouTuber Fredrik Knudsen (Down the Rabbit Hole)?

It's one of the most popular videos on TempleOS and the one I saw when I learned about him.

The man, the myth, the schizophrenic computer programmer, Terry Davis.

What are you withholding judgment on? He seems like a pretty garden variety hotep logician, the kind of guy that believes a lot of incredibly dumb shit and says it smugly because it makes him feel like he's actually very smart.

That was the recent Katt Williams episode, which was also unbearable.

Howard goes even further, because I don't think Williams questions basic math.

It's less Hotep nonsense and more aether/Tesla/free energy stuff. He talks about Michelson-Morely and Schumann resonance and the Walter Russell periodic table.

I particularly like the Russell table because of what I know of just intonation and music theory. Essentially Russell proposed, and Howard agrees, that elements exist in different pressure states, and that hydrogen and carbon and silicon and cobalt are essentially 'octaves' or harmonics of one another.

I believe that your confidence in believing something should be proportional to how close you are to that something.

For example I (I believe) I should not be more confident about string theory than an actual physicists that deals with the frontier of string theory on a day to day basis. Which means if the most knowledgeable string theorist is 95% sure that string theory is true/viable/useful, then me who gets all my information second hand (through YouTube videos, podcasts, articles, lectures, papers) should not be more than 95% sure about string theory.

Watching the Terrence Howard podcast I realised that I cannot defend against anything he is saying. I'm not saying he is correct. I'm not saying he is incorrect. I've simply deemed myself too far away from where the actual science happens to say anything intelligent on the matter at all.

Everything I know about physics comes from people who (supposedly) know more than most people on physics. I just took their word for it. I've never seen a proton, neutron or electron. I've never looked through a telescope and observed different galaxies. I've never sat down and really tried to understand the math that supports quantum physics. Yet I believe all these things. I just understand that I am trusting these high status people (Physicists) and their findings. But these people that I trust can be wrong. They could have missed something.

In my experience the best way to learn as a layperson is to watch experts (or people who have spent a longer than average time on a subject) debate each other and google/chatgpt/research all the points of disagreement that come up.

Other than entertainment, what value does one's confidence in something like the laws of physics or string theory have to the average layperson?

It honestly doesn't matter if it's correct or not unless you're working on something where that knowledge has a direct impact on something you're engaged with. For most people, your ability to function in the world is no better or worse whether you choose to believe in or not believe in string theory.

Usually, the "value" in this kind of sophistry in trying to recontextualize the lens to view the world is to open up people's mind to the possibility that maybe our fundamental assumptions about the world are incorrect and in doing so you might be able to unlock a new way of viewing the world or thinking that can yield positive results.

Okay, I can agree with this that, so why not use an actual useful example that can show that instead of arguing that if you change the axioms of mathematics 1x1=2. This feels just like that 2+2=5 controversy that just happened a few years ago. All the conversation gets lost in the absurdity of the example because frankly speaking, nobody goes around changing the axioms of mathematics in their day-to-day lives. It's only useful to mathematicians and philosophers.

Since you're deferring to the experts for subjects you don't understand, why are you listening to Terrence Howard, who is an actor and not a mathematician or logician or philosopher or scientist?

If you want to listen to a counterpoint of Howard's ideas, here's a video by YouTuber Professor Dave Explains:

This is a guy who typically makes videos debunking pseudoscience ideas like flat earth theory. He's probably just as qualified as Terrence Howard to talk about the subject.

If you want to listen to a counterpoint of Howard's ideas, here's a video by YouTuber Professor Dave Explains:

I watched the first twenty minutes, and the utter contempt is expected, but this part bothered me. He mocks an interview where Howard says he can rebuild Saturn without gravity, and claims that any simulation would need gravity, yet that's not true at all! You can build a model to any specifications you want, including not having any gravity. He explains this in the podcast that Dave clearly didn't care to watch, that it's based on electrostatic forces and vortexes that meet at deliberate angle of incidence.

If you can create a model of the universe without including gravity, and can run that model a recreate known and observable phenomena, then congratulations, you can in fact rebuild Saturn without gravity.

I still don't believe 1x1 = 2, but when you choose not to understand I'm not going to give you much credence. He just completely repeats that everything is meaningless and counters with the established science as an appeal to authority.

If you can't prove this shit from first principles, or explain how it was first proven from first principles, then you don't know anything. This video in forty five minutes long, it can't be an issue with time length.

Not reading all this shit or watching some smug deboonker, but at a certain point, nonsense is too nonsensical to deboonk or deconstruct. You can't deboonk Timecube, for example.

Proving that 1*1=1 from first principles is very easy - natural-number mathematics defines 1 axiomatically as the multiplicative identity!

natural-number mathematics defines 1 axiomatically as the multiplicative identity!

In what axiom set? Peano arithmetic just defines 1 as the successor of 0, and showing it's the multiplicative identity then requires a proof by induction.

Proving that 1*1=1 from first principles is very easy - natural-number mathematics defines 1 axiomatically as the multiplicative identity!

You don't prove axioms, you take them as a given. That's what makes them axioms.

Link to full transcript from JRE episode with Terrence:

The relevant text is from [01:17:54] onwards

Timestamp to the relevant part where he talks about Saturn:

Dave: So he's pretending to explain planetary formation without gravity, and without explaining anything about what he's doing. Click a button, the planet is there. Where did the matter come from, how did it arrange itself? Planetary formation is a process, this just materialized out of thin air. How? There are no vortices, nothing is opposing, there is no angle of incidence. There is no crystallization. He is just listing random buzzwords.

Terrence: Just the exact form of it, just with the calculation. So you change the angles of incidence that these lynch pins, because remember, each one of these has. These are opposing vortices. So there's twelve vortices to this that are opposing. So once the angles of incidence change, you change the motion and pressure conditions. You can now change the condition or the crystallization. So I was saying with the periodic table now, because we have the angles of incidence, material engineering can now separate the space between carbon and nitrogen, or carbon and boron, and have the same elements of titanium, vanadium, chromium, magnesium, iron or nickel, cobalt, nickel, copper, zinc, gallium, or germanium. In those higher octaves. We can do that between silicone and phosphorus, or silicone and aluminum. So the transparent aluminum now becomes possible because we can now control the pressure and change the pressure and motion conditions where we couldn't do that before, because they were going by cartesian space at 90 degrees and 45 degrees straight lines, the euclidean space that they've made up, this orthogonal or church like space that they've generated, because they wanted to promote that cross. That was the basis of all of that.

Dave: [Criticism about how Terrence pronounces words, just not gonna transcribe this. Kind of a cheap shot tbh.] He is doing nothing to actually explain whatsoever to actually explain anything about he just showed to Joe [...]

Joe: Before we do that, can you tell me how a planet is formed under this theory? So you have a sun. And how does the sun give birth to these planets?

Terrence: The same way we defecate and have gas. Jupiter, that red spot on Jupiter, that's spinning on it, that's going to become a moon. It may take a billion or 2 billion years. That will ultimately become a moon off of Jupiter. Where is it? Right at the equator. Where do we discharge it? Right at our equator. And then it will rotate its way around and slowly be pushed out by the solar wind of, well, by Jupiter.

Dave: 90 minutes in Joe finally asks him to actually explain something and Terry's response is astounding. Stars crap out planets the way we take a dump on the toilet. Case closed everyone! Planets are fecal matter. And the red spot on Jupiter will be a planet later. Of course, this is meaningless, since it's a storm. It's a cyclone. How does a bunch of wind form a planet exactly? And he's just so objectively wrong about every trivial detail. The red spot is not at the equator, it's 22 degrees below the equator. Humans don't have "equators" to defecate from, and the human anus is not located on the waist. This is such a stunning example of the difference between real science and insane ramblings. Ask this question of an astrophysicist, you'll get mountains of data, explanations, equations, predictions, and confirmations of those predictions through observation. Ask Terry and what do you get? The sun takes a crap. The end. Who falls for this stuff?

Now the content of the video is available for us to reference without needing to watch the video.

I watched the first twenty minutes, and the utter contempt is expected, but this part bothered me. He mocks an interview where Howard says he can rebuild Saturn without gravity, and claims that any simulation would need gravity, yet that's not true at all!

You don't have to model for gravity but then your model must adhere to the observed qualities of gravity, otherwise it's a junk model. This isn't really addressed though and not the main point here. Maybe I missed it in the video and Dave may believe that a planet based simulation needs gravity but he doesn't seem to actually make the claim you say he is claiming.

He says "So he's pretending to explain planetary formation without gravity, and without explaining anything about what he's doing." which you could argue implies that Dave believes the model should have gravity but to me, I see it as just summarizing what Terrence is claiming to have accomplished.

You can build a model to any specifications you want, including not having any gravity. He explains this in the podcast that Dave clearly didn't care to watch, that it's based on electrostatic forces and vortexes that meet at deliberate angle of incidence.

If you can create a model of the universe without including gravity, and can run that model a recreate known and observable phenomena, then congratulations, you can in fact rebuild Saturn without gravity.

We don't actually know if they built a model that rebuilds an adequate representation of Saturn, he just claims it does and shows a video of the supposed simulation. Until they publish the actual software, methodology, and information for others to be able to examine and replicate the formation of the planet as well as other celestial objects, this is as true as me claiming I have the cure for cancer and showing some 3d animation I made that I cured cancer. If you're going to be skeptical of the 'established' science you should very well be just as skeptical of these alternative scientific theories as a matter of principle and adequate proof has to be provided.

Also, they didn't rebuild Saturn. The set criteria of what defines Saturn matters here. Models are only as useful as the utility they provide. I could build a mold that has the rings of Saturn and the hexagon shape on top, fill it up, and then claim I have a model that creates Saturn if I define Saturn to be an object that looks like Saturn and has the hexagonal shape on top. Obviously, this is not a very useful model except for making model Saturn replicas.

Let's try to glean what we can about their supposed model and simulation tool. The claim about this simulation they use is that they have these set parameters such as angles of incidence, lynch pins, motion, pressure, crystallization, and vortices. If you look at the sidebar on the video you can also throw in harmonics, energy field, supernova, uhh torus, sphere, circle, cube? We'll just ignore those last 4 for a bit and come back to them later.

Suppose this is true, and that if you set all these little parameters to just the right amount you can get a bunch of objects that resembled Jupiter. How is this useful? How exactly do you determine all the values for the parameters? What determines the values of the specific parameters that lead to the output of the planet? It seems like they worked backward and just tweaked a bunch of the parameters until they got the object they wanted.

Also, the video of them creating Jupiter is literally done with Blender: Here's a video tutorial of Blender so you can see what it looks like:

Take a look at the area on the right. Now compare that to the video they are showing as proof of their simulation:

See the sidebars on the right? Those are objects in a scene in Blender, which is a 3d computer graphics software tool. Now, maybe there is a plugin for Blender that is a separate simulation software that is supposed the same used as Princeton as claimed in the interview that actually can simulate some shit. Maybe they calculated the mathematics necessary outside of the blender and then ported that information onto objects inside of the blender to show the process. But honestly speaking, this makes me extremely skeptical about the robustness of their supposed simulation software. They essentially have to rebuild a physics engine from the ground up since their so-called model of the world is fundamentally different from how everyone else is modeling the world.

Furthermore, the video doesn't actually show a believable formation of Jupiter. Remember the odd objects I mentioned before? They literally have a "torus" object and 2 spheres defined in the blender software. That's the inner core, the outer core, and the ring. It honestly looks like the objects are predefined. There is nothing in the video that leads me to believe that they can actually demonstrate the life cycle of a planet or even how its formed. Maybe it simulates some aspects of Jupiter but that's not what the claim Terrence made in the interview is.

Terrence later claims they've modeled the Milky Way better than NASA and we just have to take his word for it? What is he talking about here? What model of NASA? What's the benchmark they are comparing against to prove their model is better? I really wish Joe asked for more information here.

Now does this mean their model is wrong? No, it doesn't prove it, but it doesn't give much reason to be confident in it. They need to release the full details of their model, their simulation software, the blender files, and everything. There hasn't been much information provided in this segment of the interview here to give confidence to any of the claims made about this. When in doubt the choice shouldn't be to believe the thing as true.

I still don't believe 1x1 = 2, but when you choose not to understand I'm not going to give you much credence. He just completely repeats that everything is meaningless and counters with the established science as an appeal to authority.

Most of what Terrence says when he tries to explain his ideas is meaningless because he fails to properly even define the terms he are using and he misuses words. Now, perhaps if you read the source material that he's getting some of his ideas from it might make sense, but it's not the job of the listener of the JRE to have to do the research to figure out what the hell he's saying. Joe should've pressed Terrence to explain more but he didn't.

If you can't prove this shit from first principles, or explain how it was first proven from first principles, then you don't know anything. This video in forty five minutes long, it can't be an issue with time length.

Terrence fails to do this very thing since nowhere in this interview does he adequately explain the concepts he throws around (a large part due to Joe just not asking Terrence to explain). It's basically you just have to take his word for it, but he doesn't do a good job, and frankly speaking, when you introduce new ideas, you better do a damn good job of explaining those ideas and setting the foundational knowledge to be able to communicate about it because otherwise you just end up with easy criticisms like those sprinkled in Dave's video.

Dave doesn't HAVE to prove anything. All he has to do is counter what Terrence is saying, It's Terrence's job to provide ample evidence to support his position. This is a logical fallacy and doesn't properly dismiss criticism. Now you could argue Dave didn't properly counter Terrence's points but honestly, Terrence doesn't make many points.

Yes, Dave does come off as quite condescending to Terrence with insults and does make a strawman of some of his points, and skips over parts in the video but his core points stand. Terrence uses nonexistent jargon, doesn't explain his points, and makes outlandish claims.

By the way, here is a Terrence paper if you want to see the quality of his academic output.

This is something where he had the chance to fully refine his arguments, and not a live interview where he has limited time to explain his ideas. Honestly, I was giving Terrence some the benefit of the doubt that he's just not explaining the ideas properly but he genuinely has no idea what he's talking about. Maybe the source behind the ideas he's pushing out has some value to it but Terrence is not the guy you want to be the ambassador of these ideas.

Just to give 1 example of what is wrong with his "paper", on the first page in the 2nd half where he adds 1 to both sides of 1x1 = 2 he uses 1x1 = 2 as proof that 1x1 =2.

Here is a video Terrence put out to try to explain his concept, a video should be more accessible to people than a paper:

He essentially says the equation X^3 = 2x has 1 answer (it has actually 3 real numbers as an answer), and other numbers doesn't fit into the equation, therefore there is something wrong with math!

This guy just doesn't understand mathematics and doesn't provide the rigor to properly redefine the axioms that would make his equation true. I legitimately feel dumber for having tried to understand his line of thinking and I might dare to go as far to say that it is is an cognitohazard and nobody should watch his video or read his paper for the sake of their sanity.

Stars crap out planets the way we take a dump on the toilet. Case closed everyone! Planets are fecal matter.

The funny bit is that this is kind of true. The reason stars usually have planets is that a contracting gas cloud has to shed angular momentum to slow down its spin enough to contract to stellar size, and the only way to do that (prior to the star getting hot enough to create stellar winds) is to shift it into orbits - either it splits into two and becomes a binary (with the angular momentum stuffed into the stars' orbit around each other) or it spits out a disc of matter around its equator that coalesces into planets (with the angular momentum stuffed into the planets' orbits).

Of course, Jupiter doesn't have excess angular momentum, so it's not going to spit out the Great Red Spot or anything else.