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Friday Fun Thread for September 8, 2023

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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So I tried to read 1632 again and I just...can't bring myself to. But I'm still hankering for some alternate history/ISOT stuff. Does anyone have any good recs? And yes, I've read Stirling's Trope Namer. Hopefully that can't be the best work in the genre and it's all downhill from here.

As a longtime alternate history buff, my faves would probably include The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson (Arabs and Chinese duke it out after Europe gets totally decimated by the Black Plague, told through a reincarnation motif), Journey to Fusang (similar, but much more a fun adventure novel), For Want of a Nail that's mentioned below, Turtledove's The Guns of the South (really the only Turtledove you need tbh) and L. Sprague de Camp's Lest Darkness Fall (maybe more a time travel tale? Like Twain's Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court but our accidental time traveller ends up in 600s Italy instead)

(really the only Turtledove you need tbh)

Come on; the trick to this game is to "Use simple lies that seem believable."

GotS has the lowest "extremely awkward sex scene" ratio of all the Turtledove books I've read.

Harry Turtledove is the other obvious name in alternate history. His stuff is typically mixed with a little science fiction (Household Gods was good), or a lot of science fiction (his Worldwar series, which I liked; his Crosstime Traffic series, which is very good by YA standards) or fantasy (I didn't like his Darkness series, but Between the Rivers was good), and there's some more pure alternate history in his works too. I recall liking The Two Georges, though not as much as the impure recommendations already mentioned.

It is a short story rather than a novel, and regular alternate history rather than "Island in the Sea of Time", but The Last Article from Harry Turtledove.

The Yiddish Policemen Union

How uh, alternate are you willing to get?

Napoleonic war era with dragons: https://www.amazon.com/His-Majestys-Dragon-Temeraire-Book/dp/0345481283

For Want of a Nail (no electronic version available, though I may make an illicit HTML/EPUB rendition myself eventually) is the GOAT. There's also Look to the West (Amazon, AlternateHistory.com).

https://www.richardhanania.com/p/the-case-against-most-books

Tldr: Most books are not information-dense.

I largely agree. It seems to me that most writing has many more examples than required (I might need only 2 to get the point, 5 is far too many), long and numerous analogies, etc.

Do you have any examples of writing that actually follows the DRY (Don't Repeat Yourself) principle?

I've also realized that the DRY principle is a great thing for writing code but terrible for conversation. If you only say what needs to be said, then you come off as "dry". I suppose 1 more reason added to the "conversation isn't about exchanging ideas or information" bin.

@HelmedHorror @curious_straight_ca @FCfromSSC @fmaa @sun

This article does a great job of making the point that the past is important.:

If there are axioms in Silicon Valley, at the top of the list must surely be the belief that we’re making onward and upward progress. Spend any time in a non-catatonic state in any cafe or popular hangout on University Ave in Palo Alto, or in Sunnyvale, Menlo Park, or Mountain View, and you’ll quickly realize you’re in a culture that’s entirely focused on the future, and thinks technology, or “technoscience” is what counts, and not much else. (Full disclosure: I was an entrepreneur in Palo Alto, and to be fair, obsessing about the future is what entrepreneurs do. But this is not what I mean here.) The mindset is ubiquitous. Even advocates of what I’ve called “Fearesome AI” (as opposed to “Dreamy AI”), who worry about the existential risks of AI run amok, are really just the flip side of the exponential progress coin. They’ve bought into the myth of exponential progress, too. Techno-futurists and increasingly a confused media and public simply take for granted that we’re on a rocketship to technological wonders, which somehow also equates to a theory of history and human progress writ large.

One terrible consequence of this pervasive thinking (besides being totally wrong, as I’ll explain) is the short shrifting of all things historical. As Renaissance thinkers like Petrarch well knew, the past is a treasure trove of not just human folly but human greatness. Chronicalled in the past are civilizations surviving and thriving for millenia, and artistic and engineering feats that in some cases remain unrivaled today. So, why are we so cocksure about 21st century progress? Can anyone today write like James Joyce or Leo Tolstoy, or Virginia Wolf? Who rivals Leonardo Da Vinci in their understanding of figure and form? Where are the orators like Cicero? The essayists and humanists like Montaigne? The philosophers like Plato, or Aristotle, or Lucretius or Epicurus? Or, for that matter, Alan Turing and John Von Neumann? We have our own talents, to be sure, but this doesn’t cancel the great talents of the past, or somehow render them obsolete and otiose. Yes, we do build on the past. But we also learn from it.

Alas, the ahistorical bubble we’re currently living in not only doesn’t look back but seemingly can’t look back, as if it would stall progress and mire us in bigotry and irrelevance rather than provide insight, knowledge and wisdom. It’s a profoundly simplistic and troubling view. We are not just building “on top of” the past like legos, we must continuously return to it to get our own bearings. There’s a cyclical nature to progress. In this spirit, I’ll be developing the theme of “the return,” or as the Italian Renaissance thinker Giambattista Vico called it, the ricorso. (My next book is titled The Return: Why the 21st Century Looks Like the Past (so far), Not the Future We Wanted. More on this in future posts.)

Literally the single actual point anywhere in this article is that the very vague and informal metric that is Moore's law is slowing down. It doesn't even attempt arguing for the past's importance, letting alone doing a great job at it. It just lists off a series of applause lights and hopes you don't notice it never puts forth any actual arguments.

Argues that there are things the ancients can do we still can’t reproduce today? Asks if any modern writers are as good as former ones? Etc

It doesn't actually argue this since it doesn't specify any of these things, except Da Vinci's understanding of figure and form. Which I think is matched by millions of art students worldwide who've practiced figure drawing. The internet is flooded with artists of absolutely astounding technical skill by historical standards and no one cares.

He doesn't give any criteria to judge the various categories of writers by. Or even give a category for Turing and Von Nuemann. As computer scientists, they knew far less than any halfway competent CS student these days. And these students do not learn from their original writings because other people have since found better ways to formulate their results. As pioneers in a nascent field of science, who or what field are you comparing them to and finding the modern analogues wanting?

To expand on the second paragraph point because it's relevant to the original discussion, there's no reason to believe that the first person to come up with an idea would also come up with the best way to structure and explain it.

And indeed, students in any hard science don't learn from the original writings of the pioneers in their field, because that would be a very inefficient way to learn. The original writings serve mostly as a historical curiosity. And as the contrapositive, I feel that any field where people overly focus on the original texts immediately shows itself to be more about status signaling games than any actual content.

Asks if any modern writers are as good as former ones?

What if I said yes and pointed at a random author I liked better than Tolstoy? It's a matter of opinion.

Tolstoy had his share of more refined critics as well.

there are things the ancients can do we still can’t reproduce today

Are there? I can't remember off the top of my head anything we genuinely "can't reproduce", as opposed to "can't be assed to".

Roman concrete? Although I think we recently cracked that one.

Greek fire?

I count "we have better alternatives" as "can't be assed". Does it really matter that we don't know the precise formula they used because they haven't written it down? We have concrete. We have napalm. We probably have ways to make them in a low-tech environment - would have to check one of those "uplifter isekai protagonist's cheat sheets" for that.

Multiple examples are valuable because they are establishing a body of evidence. Hanania has a vested interest in ignoring this when (and only when) it suits his contrarian, incisive brand. He is certainly happy to use it in the article, where he provides many questionable examples.

That was the most ridiculous thing I have ever read, and that should mean a lot, because I have read many books, papers, articles, comics, and pamphlets - and some of them were ridiculous on purpose. That was so ridiculous I actually needed to put down my phone and take a walk after reading it, so I didn't pop a blood vessel in rage.

According to the great moral leader Sam Bankman-Fried,

I don’t want to say no book is ever worth reading, but I actually do believe something pretty close to that…If you wrote a book, you fucked up, and it should have been a six-paragraph blog post.

Ideally, one would like to think that if someone is quoting SBF and calling him a great moral leader they would be doing so ironically and would dismiss his foolishness. In fact I assumed at first this was some Straussian mockery of people with strange judgements about reading, like when I say shit like "I don't read non-fiction because I am not a child". If that turns out to be the case then well done Hanania, you got me good. It has been interpreted as legit though, and I really need to work out my anger, I haven't been this triggered in ages.

The vast majority of books are like this in some way. Any Substack essay I have written could’ve been a book if I had the time or inclination to make it into one.

This is the catchphrase of mediocrity in denial. Great authors/artists/musicians aren't great, they just aren't as time conscious as me. It takes a thousand hours to master anything my man, which is why I can say without irony that Michaelangelo is lucky he didn't have to deal with all the drama I do, and that drama is the only reason I am not a world class painter too.

Now you might say that wasn't his point, that he is pointing out that a lot of books out there are repetitive garbage or full of cours that weren't in the manga or deceptively written to shoehorn in an agenda, to which I would say that a) he still said it, and b) no argument there, but it brings us to the second point - sturgeon's law.

According to Google in 2010 129,864,880 books had been published - yes, this is before the self publishing boom. Of course that means over a hundred million complete duds, because that's how humans operate. But it also means millions of works of genius. His first example of a shitty book is David Sinclair’s Lifespan, published in 2019. Sinclair apparently pads it out with:

he addresses issues that are ancillary to conquering aging like what’s going to happen to social security and the impact of a growing population on global warming. He also comes out for universal healthcare, legalized euthanasia, and more income equality

But, uh, that doesn't sound like padding to me? That sounds like a bunch of issues everyone always brings up any time people talk about lengthening life expectancy? "What will happen to pensions and hospitals and infrastructure if nobody dies?" is a pretty good question to ask imo. Hanania seems more upset that Sinclair's resolutions are left wing.

I haven't read the book though, so maybe it is just padding. It doesn't matter, no one who would call himself a genius should be allowed to fall to such obvious recency bias. Since the self publishing boom sturgeon's law has gained at least 9 percentage points, and yes that affects traditionally published books, they all share the same market. Books are getting stupider because we are getting stupider - but that's not on the books! And it certainly doesn't affect the most upsetting part of his argument - his dismissal of old books.

To be fair, he does acknowledge that there are more quality old books than new books, and he does seem to read a lot more non fiction than fiction - and non fiction is much more susceptible to perverse outside incentives because we built an industry around employing liberal arts majors called academia and it's very good at tricking otherwise intelligent people. But he's still fucking wrong!


Side note -

But we should take opportunity costs seriously. Given all the other things you could be reading like scientific papers and news magazines, not to mention other things you could be doing with your time, which non-fiction books are worth reading cover-to-cover?

"You take up my time,

Like some cheap magazine,

When I coulda been learning something,

Oh well, you know what I mean,"

What an economical use of language! Hanania doesn't go far enough, he is too enamoured with his words - I say no books, no papers, no articles - if you can't work your message into a pop song you are an onanist waffling about nothing.


Moving on, Hanania has 3 categories of books he thinks are worth reading, and I am annoyed with him about all of them.

Category 1: History books

When learning history, one can always decide at how granular of a level to investigate an era, topic, or important figure. Most social science or political science books are padded with filler because there are only so many interesting things you can say about most ideas. But history is different; you can always go into more detail about World War II, or the life stories of Ottoman sultans, or the fall of Rome. Even a thousand-page book on a historical topic can only capture a small slice of reality. The returns to reading history are somewhat linear — five hundred pages on World War II give you more insight than a 5-page summary, which gives you more than 5 paragraphs. If you were inclined to read 5,000 pages, you’d get more still, but we generally don’t have the time for that. Most things are not like this. I can’t say the same for, say, Jonathan Haidt’s Moral Foundations Theory. I think it can be explained in a few paragraphs, plus some charts. I loved David Reich’s Who We Are, which used the tools of paleoanthropology to go into the history of various major regions of the world. Unlike with Sinclair’s book, it didn’t feel that much of my time was wasted.


When learning history, one can always decide at how granular of a level to investigate an era, topic, or important figure.

Absolutely true, for approximately 1% of human history. What a ridiculous thing to say. Like everyone on the planet, Hanania doesn't know what he knows or even what he doesn't. Which period of history do we know the most about? The current one obviously, followed by the previous, then the one before that and so on all the way back to Gutenberg. Why? Because that's what has been written about. Not in history books, there are no history books about the Tennies or Noughties, but in the very social science and political science books he derides, not to mention the self help books, the memoirs, the business guides, the diy books, the cookbooks, the magazines. Those books are our history. When Hanania is declaring the tweet the ultimate information delivery system he says:

It’s just that reading the book is a large commitment, and puts you at the mercy of one author, who probably took way too long to make his points for reasons of ego and career interest.

And then recommends you filter your understanding of history through whoever chose to write about it. Because authors of histories have no egos or careers?


Side note 2: Side noter - He also says:

Substacks and Tweets are actually efficient methods of transferring information because you cut out so much of the useless fluff people include when they’re trying to build a CV.

"Read substacks and Twitter!" says the guy who has made it big on substack and Twitter. But rest assured it is definitely not for reasons of ego and career interest.


Category 2: Books of Historical Interest

You may want to read Kant, Plato, and the Bible, because many people have been reading them for a very long time, and you want to be a participant in the wider culture. I don’t believe in the “wisdom” to be found in Great Books (see below). But I want to understand my fellow man. A large portion of people who live under the same polity as I do think that the Bible is the literal word of God, so it’s useful to get a glimpse into their reality. Similar things could be said about the Koran or the writings of Confucius. It’s like how one reason to read the NYT is that everyone else is reading it. So not only do you get the value of the news itself, but also insights into what’s considered culturally and socially important.


I don’t believe in the “wisdom” to be found in Great Books (see below). But I want to understand my fellow man.

Now it's all coming together, he's appealing to the old rationalist canard: "Everyone is a fucking idiot except me. So I only have to put 10% effort into something they have to give their all to to extract all the value." I think every motter has made that mistake before, I certainly have. But the overwhelming majority of Christians have never read the whole bible, and never will. You won't understand them better if you know which fabrics the bible says you shouldn't mix, because they have nfi what you are talking about.

The other examples are illustrative however. We have the Koran, the writings of Confucius, and the New York Times. Hanania is telling us who his fellows are - the educated middle class. Not necessarily people who read the Koran and Confucius and the NYT, but people who want to have read those things. If he wanted to understand the majority of people in his polity he'd be promoting watching football and tiktok compilations. This is not meant as a dig, like tlp used to say behaviour informs identity, and educated middle class people are often fantastic people by all metrics. But like tlp also probably said (actually, looking back I feel like you could put this preamble before every sentence I've written so far, but we're in too deep now) your preferences are not your stated preferences. Or in other words.

Category 3: Genius Takes You on a Journey

This final category covers works where you have some combination of a brilliant author who is a great storyteller and an important topic. I check out all of Steven Pinker’s books, because he’s a pleasure to read, he addresses fascinating issues, and I have trust in his judgment and intellect. One of the most valuable books I’ve ever read is Judith Rich Harris’ The Nurture Assumption, as I think the question of nature versus nurture is one that individuals should dig deep into before they even begin forming political opinions.

Some books fall into more than one of the categories above. I’d put On the Origin of Species in categories 2 and 3. The Federalist Papers are worth checking out for insights into the thinking of the men who founded this country, and they might even have some useful things to tell us since we’re still living under the system they designed.

I’ve published one book and have another on the way. I like to think that they’re both combinations of 1 and 3. My book on American foreign policy had two chapters devoted to international relations theory, and the rest gives you my take on topics like the US-Soviet relationship in the 1920s and 1930s and the war on terror, making it useful as a history of American foreign policy. If it was an entire book on IR theory detached from any kind of deep historical analysis, and those have been written, reading it all would probably be a waste of your time. My next book serves as a history of where wokeness came from, and provides practical political advice on what to do about it.


I check out all of Steven Pinker’s books, because he’s a pleasure to read, he addresses fascinating issues, and I have trust in his judgment and intellect.

You probably expected me to target the advert paragraph at the end there in my breakdown, but this line is saying the quiet part out loud. Obviously the whole article is essentially a promo for his new book in a fairly typical format - "Has this ever happened to you? Woman reading book slowly turns pages until her eyes fall out of her head from banality There's got to be a better way! And now there is, History of Woke by Richard Hanania, in all good bookstores." So it seems to me like a mistake to pair it with an explanation that Hanania likes to read Pinker for the same reasons everyone likes to read anything - interest, understanding and entertainment.

Moving on again we get to the part that made me put my phone down and go for a walk: Against Great Books

When I wrote my piece on Enlightened Centrism, some took issue with me saying that I don’t believe in Great Books. After thinking about the topic a bit, I’m more certain that I’m correct. One might read old books for historical interest (Category 2), but the idea that someone writing more than say four hundred years ago could have deep insights into modern issues strikes me as farcical. If old thinkers do have insights, the same points have likely been made more recently and better by others who have had the advantage of coming after them.

See, if we move the goalposts enough I was totally right about great books! Sure they might provide valuable insight into history, and the mindset of great people, they might be a pleasure to read, a good way to pass time, provide lessons applicable outside the scope of their interest, give me a shared language of references and symbols and even act as props to signal my identity to others, but they tell us nothing about trans ideology! Aristotle hasn't even heard of inflation, never mind hyper-inflation! Besides, someone else has probably tweeted about the book, just read the tweet! Something something shadows on the wall amirite?

This isn’t an issue of thinking every previous generation was dumb. Imagine hearing that we just discovered a tribe in the Amazon that previously had no contact with other humans. Nonetheless, this group developed a writing system. Living among them is an individual who they consider the world’s greatest philosopher. Being part of an isolated tribe, this philosopher has had no formal education or exposure to any modern ideas. He doesn’t know about evolution, has never logged on to the internet, has learned nothing of human history outside of the oral tradition of his tribe, and doesn’t even know whether the world is round or why the seasons change. Would it be plausible to believe that this Amazon philosopher had something to teach us about the way our government should be organized or whether the US should adopt protectionist trade policies?

Hey how's this for irony? Not only is this entire paragraph poorly reasoned, it would have been useless even if it wasn't. What information can we pull from this that hasn't been presented already? I've even already mentioned the fatal flaw in this paragraph's argument - it's goalpost moving. Why, Richard, would you ask an indigenous Amazonian philosopher about trade policies or government? If we hit you over the back of the head, stripped you naked and dropped you in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, can we conclude you definitely aren't a Journeying Genius when you inevitably die in agony? Or would it be bizarre to expect a member of the chattering class to have the knowledge and insight necessary to survive such an alien experience?

Most people I think would say no, regardless of how smart he is. We might be fascinated by the Amazon philosopher, but wisdom one can learn from requires some baseline level of knowledge. If you reject the possibility that the Amazon philosopher has great insights into the modern world, on what basis would you trust Ancient Greece?

This is the paragraph where I returned to my earlier conclusion that this was all very sharp satire. Hanania is not an idiot, that is clear, so I do not for one second buy that he doesn't see the disconnect between the insights of a previously uncontacted indigenous Amazonian philosopher and the insights of the primogenitor of Western fucking civilization.


Side note 3: Season of the Witch - I’m about to get to my point, I promise, but one final aside:

A few months ago, I picked up Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, after Ross Douthat said I subscribe to pagan morality, which I took as a compliment (…) You might want to read the Stoics out of historical curiosity. I’ll claim them as part of my intellectual tribe to signal that I reject the moral underpinnings of both Christianity and wokeness, the two most powerful faiths in our society.

Starfucking aside, I don’t think Richard has read Meditations. Either that or he really has no idea whatsoever what Christian morality is. Edit: Because Meditations in particular is surely the most Christian work of Pagan philosophy in existence.


It’s not simply that the ancients had less information and access to empirical data, but ways of thinking have improved over time. Bertrand Russell once quipped that Aristotle believed that men had more teeth than women, but it never occurred to him to open his wife’s mouth and start counting.1 One of the best essays I’ve read in a long time is “You live in a world that philosophy built,” by Trevor Klee. We take the basics of the scientific method for granted today, but only after generations of newer scholars throwing off the shackles of official dogma.

And here we reach my favourite paragraph in the piece, and where I will end my pedantic nitpicking, because it essentially dismantles itself. The footnote reads thus:

Reading the link I provided, it seems like Aristotle might have actually been relying on the observations of others, who he thinks counted male and female teeth. The quote is

Males have more teeth than females, in the cases of humans, sheep, goats, and pigs. In other species an observation has not yet been made.

So it sounds like he may have been using proper scientific procedures, and we can only fault him for at worst not double checking. Then again, it’s unclear what he meant by “observation” here, it could’ve been something like “some other guy said it,” in which case Russell’s point would stand. And why would the ancients have gotten the number of teeth wrong across multiple species? It makes sense if they were just making things up, but not if they were actually checking their work. (Updated 5/11/23)

If you are just joining us, Hanania just successfully demonstrated the value in reading the actual words old assholes wrote instead of relying on quips about their writing by other old assholes. I'm not sure if Hanania read the link he provided before writing his piece - it kind of seems like he didn't - the link itself does a great job of explaining the problem, which is called memetic drift.

See Bertrand Russell hated Aristotle, because Bertrand Russell was a contrarian asshole (most of my heroes are.) Ok, maybe that's not why, but it's true. And that's the point. As any fan of the scientific method should know, the ONLY source you can fully trust is a primary source. The only way you will ever know exactly what was written in The Nicomachean Ethics is if you read The Nicomachean Ethics.

I am not saying Aristotle was a primary source and therefore we can believe his History of Animals about women's teeth. What I am saying is that it is unscientific to believe Bertrand Russell's description of Aristotle's beliefs, because Russell had his own agenda and point he was making. Russell wasn't just shitting on Aristotle for no reason - The Impact of Science on Society is a brilliant book I hope everyone on the motte has read, even if I disagree with some of the conclusions - Russell was making a point about the difference between being guided by authority and being guided by evidence, and for that it works excellently. But it's not a good way to learn about Aristotle, because it isn't about Aristotle.

The last point I will bring up is prosody. Words don't just mean their definition, they are always contextual. Last week someone was saying they didn't understand Moldbug's appeal, and it's the same thing. I don't care for him either, but for the people who do, the excessive way he writes is a fundamental component. It speaks to them on a level deeper than definitions, and as a result they get much more out of it. That's the real appeal of Great Books - they are read and promoted and reread and repromoted over centuries because they speak to people in a way that provides more insight than a couple of tweets.

And that's why fiction will always provide more insight than non-fiction. The story is the natural way humans understand things and it communicates beyond the words on the page. Just always keep in mind that the map is not the territory, because it can be easy to forget and when you start thinking life works like a story everything goes to shit.

Edit: clarity

According to the great moral leader Sam Bankman-Fried,

I don’t want to say no book is ever worth reading, but I actually do believe something pretty close to that…If you wrote a book, you fucked up, and it should have been a six-paragraph blog post.

Sounds like something someone hopped up on speed (or its legal pharmaceutical equivalents) most of their life would say.

I'm not sure I follow your point about Great Books like Aristotle. It's always seemed so obvious to me that these books are rather pointless except as a historical interest. The people who wrote them were so primitive by comparison, so limited in their empirical knowledge, so deprived of the progress in thought that we've made as a species, I can't fathom why someone would think that they have anything interesting to say on its own merits. And that's not to mention how impenetrable the prose is (apparently translators always think their job is robotically faithful reproduction instead of their best guess about what a modern writer would have written if attempting to express the same thought.)

You say they "speak to" people in some deep way. I'm not really sure what that means, but if their ideas are that impressive and timeless then surely someone more modern has has said the same thing but without the handicap of an ancient person's understanding of the world and our place in it?

Are you sure "read the classics" is an imperative containing much more than signaling about the speaker's supposed learnedness and sophistication? Because it's always been extremely hard for me to shake that impression, and I'm afraid I'm definitely not disabused of it from reading your response to Hanania. I see no good defense of the merits of reading those works.

Good argument. Now tell me what to read instead.

Depends on the topic, of course. Also, people's opinions will obviously vary as to what is a compelling book on any given topic.

Nah, there’s totally value beyond signaling.

You don’t learn things by direct download. You build heuristics out of collected evidence, and generally speaking, more evidence is more better.

Sun Tzu has a bit where he warns people not to corner their enemies. The rationale is obvious: a man who has nothing to lose will cause more damage than one who has an out. You don’t need ancient Chinese history to realize this. But it makes you a little more aware of the concept.

It's always seemed so obvious to me that these books are rather pointless except as a historical interest. The people who wrote them were so primitive by comparison, so limited in their empirical knowledge, so deprived of the progress in thought that we've made as a species, I can't fathom why someone would think that they have anything interesting to say on its own merits.

In what ways specifically were they primitive, or are we advanced? Which core elements of the human experience have changed, and how, between their time and ours? Do the experiences of death, pain, fear, glory, fame, popularity, joy, comfort, friendship, love, hatred, childhood, parenthood, learning, ambition, greed, jealousy, loyalty, uncertainty, risk, value, profit, loss, poverty, wealth, aging, madness, irrationality, bias, intuition, wisdom or any other significant aspect of the human condition operate differently now, relative to then? If so, how?

What is the specific empirical knowledge they lacked, and why does that lack make their analysis irrelevant? What is the precise empirical discovery that opened the doors of enlightenment to mankind?

How, specifically, has thought "progressed" since their time, such that their thoughts should contain no value? What were they wrong about, and how do we know they were wrong about it?

If what you say is true, the above should be easy questions to answer. I don't think they are, but perhaps I'm wrong?

In what ways specifically were they primitive, or are we advanced? Which core elements of the human experience have changed, and how, between their time and ours? Do the experiences of death, pain, fear, glory, fame, popularity, joy, comfort, friendship, love, hatred, childhood, parenthood, learning, ambition, greed, jealousy, loyalty, uncertainty, risk, value, profit, loss, poverty, wealth, aging, madness, irrationality, bias, intuition, wisdom or any other significant aspect of the human condition operate differently now, relative to then? If so, how?

Our experience of death has been totally revolutionized by science and medicine. It's gone from a capricious and incomprehensible god that strikes down half of your children in their most vulnerable years and everyone else randomly, to a mechanism we understand and successfully fight, and one that we've, for the most part, pushed back to the elderly years.

Pain - it turns out that physical pain can mostly be alleviated by molecules of 10-40 atoms or so. A fact of nature suddenly, once you understand the particular proteins behind it, becomes quite malleable.

Fear - was fear of the wiles of nature - not enough rain, too much rain, an evil spirit causes your crops to wilt - and then you just die. Fear of wildlife, random bands of raiders, plague. All of that is, if you're an upper-middle-class person in a western country, pretty much gone! Your fears are of doing poorly in school or at work, not doing well socially or with women, maybe having a medical emergency that doesn't fit through the bureaucracy. Of not having purpose or community. Or exaggerated simulacra of past fears that inflame the passions - fear of school shootings, fear of murders, fear of climate collapse, fear of islamic terrorism.

It isn't just knowledge they lacked, it's our whole economic and technological environment. They lacked knowledge too, though - not just scientific knowledge, but organizational knowledge, what it's like in a world where overt religious mystification is absent from the engines of the economy, little things like how to "court" women when the stakes are 'good sex, emotional connection, and shared experiences' rather than 'rather than 'navigating strong social rails, family and economic interests, and religious duty'.

... of course, I agree that old books have a lot of value, they're not pointless, so I agree with you as much as OP. For everything I mentioned as different, there are many more similarities. But I do think old books are missing a lot that modern writings and people have, core elements of the human condition sure are different today, and your comment seems to overstate the extent to which they're equivalent, or there hasn't been definable progress.

Just to scratch the surface, an understanding of evolution, neuroscience, and atomic theory puts the learned modern person's understanding of human nature leaps and bounds above the ancients. Like, have you read some of the things they believed? It's embarrassing, but obviously they didn't know any better. That's my point. I truly struggle to think of something I'm more baffled by than the seemingly widespread idea that we ought to entertain these ancient people's ideas any more than we'd entertain a toddler's.

Just to scratch the surface, an understanding of evolution, neuroscience, and atomic theory puts the learned modern person's understanding of human nature leaps and bounds above the ancients.

How? What specific insights about human nature do they provide? Additionally, are you familiar with the centuries-long history of "learned modern persons" claiming that science had given them special insight into human nature, and the uniform results of such claims?

Like, have you read some of the things they believed? It's embarrassing, but obviously they didn't know any better.

I have read some of the things they believed. I did not note anything that they should be embarrassed about, nor have I seen any ways that we "know better". Again, the question is not whether we know empirical facts that they did not, but whether those empirical facts tell us things about human nature. Atomic, evolutionary, and neuroscientific theories and facts do not change the realities of any of the elements of human nature I listed in even the smallest way. Death is still death, love is still love, loss is still loss, and so on down the list.

I truly struggle to think of something I'm more baffled by than the seemingly widespread idea that we ought to entertain these ancient people's ideas any more than we'd entertain a toddler's.

Then it should be trivial to describe how our understanding of, say, death or love surpasses theirs. I've never seen someone actually do so, so if you can, please do. Be as specific as possible, if you can.

I have read some of the things they believed. I did not note anything that they should be embarrassed about, nor have I seen any ways that we "know better"

Knowing what we do now, it is kind of embarrassing that people believed curses and premonitions and local spirits were real, right? I'd be very embarrassed if I believed in astrology or faith healing today (many still do, but many fewer serious people do).

Empirical facts about evolution provide us insight into why our minds and bodies are the way they are. They explain our emotions (including love), desires, perceptions, and so on. Everything that makes us what we are is the product of evolution. Atomic theory and neuroscience explain consciousness (although, of course, much mystery remains), personality, and provides good grounds to believe that no soul exists that can persist after death. All of this information informs our understanding of human nature.

Here are a few concrete examples just off the top of my head:

Modern neuroscience allows us to understand (and treat) mental disorders to a significant degree. These would have been mysterious to the ancients. But we understand, to some extent, how things like neurotransmitters affect depression, addiction, anxiety, etc., and that helps us come up with better ways to deal with it and also to sympathize with people who suffer from it.

Our knowledge of the cosmos, limited as it still is, allows us to better understand our place in it (or, perhaps most pertinently, our lack of importance within it).

Likewise, our understanding of evolution rather humbles our perception of our species' place in the world. It also provides insight into human universals such as sexual jealousy, coalitional warfare, the primacy of family, and probably a hundred other such examples. As an example of where a lack of this understanding goes awry, you're probably familiar with the Kibbutz - a feeble attempt by the Israelis to, among other lunacies, raise children communally. Evolutionary insight would immediately reveal the folly of that. But without an understanding of evolution, or at least trial and error, how do you suppose an ancient person would know that this project would be unlikely to succeed? Even if they could figure it out (probably by trial and error!) it seems obvious to me that an evolutionary insight into this aspect of human nature is a superior way to nip that sort of thing in the bud.

Also, even aside from advances in empirical knowledge, we have the advantage of two thousand years of history to draw from. For example, the US founding fathers took ample advantage of the history books to learn from prior empires' mistakes when designing the US system of government. All else being equal, people with more history to draw from will simply be better able to find enduring answers to timeless questions relating to how to organize society (politically, legally, etc.) and minimize common failure modes.

Like, honestly, the case you're making appears tantamount to claiming that superior empirical knowledge and a much longer "civilization bug report log" provides approximately zero advantage in understanding and improving people and society. And if so, like, why do you even bother to learn anything? I honestly don't understand.

Like, honestly, the case you're making appears tantamount to claiming that superior empirical knowledge and a much longer "civilization bug report log" provides approximately zero advantage in understanding and improving people and society.

Yes, that is exactly what I am claiming. I am claiming it because it appears to be straightforwardly, obviously true. The people who codified the general claim you are now repeating did so starting roughly three centuries ago, and they made specific predictions that went along with that claim: that their superior knowledge and understanding would allow them to fundamentally alter the human condition, ending things like ignorance, poverty, crime and war. Their predictions have been thoroughly falsified ever since. We still have ignorance, poverty, crime and war three centuries later, and in about the same amounts. Meanwhile, several branches of the ideological tree those men planted have produced the worst, most concentrated ignorance, poverty, crime and war the world has ever seen.

The truth is that we do not know how to improve people or society better than we did in the past, and in fact we sometimes are worse at it than people in the past were. We know how to make more and better things, how to manipulate the forces of nature better, but we have not made the slightest scratch in poverty, because poverty is and always has been relative. We do not know how to make people happy, or how to make them cooperate and follow the law. Our societies are visibly getting worse, and have been for some time without improvement.

And if so, like, why do you even bother to learn anything? I honestly don't understand.

Because, as the ancients understood, actions still have consequences, and wisdom is better than foolishness. There is a difference between a good life and a bad life, the good life is better, and knowledge and wisdom help greatly in securing it. Beyond that, while the strategy has not changed, the tactics evolve as new technologies are developed, and one must learn them if one is to use them. We have to work, we have to build, we have to band together and cooperate, we have to secure justice, peace and plenty, defend ourselves and build a world for our progeny. The exact details of how we do these things change over time, and the new methods must be mastered. The core nature of these things does not change over time, but it also must be learned, and that learning requires study and hard effort.

Learning things will make our lives better in a number of ways. None of those ways involve any change to the nature of the human condition. Our victories will be sweet, our losses bitter, we will love and hate, build and destroy, grow, age and die.

Empirical facts about evolution provide us insight into why our minds and bodies are the way they are.

I am familiar with many, many claims to this effect. And then I watch rationalists discuss, for an example, ways to get the benefits of religion without the religion, something they've been trying to do for centuries without success. Or I see them claiming to have revolutionized the ordering of sexual relations, or to have developed a superior theory of government, or economics, or political organization, or education, or any of a dozen other things that should logically follow from actual, durable insights into why our minds and bodies are the way they are... And these reliably fail, as they always have and always will. Efforts to operationalize the sort of knowledge you're claiming exists have not been rare, nor lacking in resources or commitment. Some of them fail gracefully. Most of them unleash some form of industrial-scale horror. Take the satanic abuse panic for example, or the destruction of Detroit, for two obvious examples.

Modern neuroscience allows us to understand (and treat) mental disorders to a significant degree.

Modern surgery lets us heal what would have been crippling or lethal injuries, but they have not changed the core nature of what it means to be injured or crippled or killed. Planes have made travel hundreds of times easier, but they have not changed the core nature of travel. Firearms multiply the lethal power of a soldier, but they do not change the core nature of fighting or killing. In the same way, the fact that we can treat some forms of madness does not change the nature of madness itself.

Our knowledge of the cosmos, limited as it still is, allows us to better understand our place in it (or, perhaps most pertinently, our lack of importance within it).

It does not. At the dawn of writing, people fully understood the perspective you're alluding to here, and the additional detail has not added anything fundamental to that understanding. There were believers and atheists in 6000 BC, just as there are now. The purported insignificance of humans is not a novel insight of the modern era, nor a particularly useful one, nor one that is consistently applied. You can claim that we are insignificant, and yet you still hunger for justice and goodness, despite the insight you're claiming providing no basis for such a desire.

Likewise, our understanding of evolution rather humbles our perception of our species' place in the world. It also provides insight into human universals such as sexual jealousy, coalitional warfare, the primacy of family, and probably a hundred other such examples.

Naming is not explaining. The nature of sexual jealousy, coalition warfare, the primacy of family and all the rest of those hundreds of examples were well understood millennia ago. Evolutionary theory can provide an additional narrative purporting to explain such mechanisms, but I see no evidence that it explains or predicts them better than the explanations from previous millennia. That is to say, we cannot interact with any of these elements of human nature and the human experience better than our predecessors.

As an example of where a lack of this understanding goes awry, you're probably familiar with the Kibbutz - a feeble attempt by the Israelis to, among other lunacies, raise children communally.

I am quite confident that the Kibbutzim believed that they were, in fact, basing their policies on the soundest possible principles scientific materialism could provide, among them their peerless command of evolutionary theory. Their mistake was obvious neither to them nor to their contemporaries; it is obvious to you only in hindsight. Likewise, the "science" of transgenderism is "obvious" to an apparent majority of American rational materialists now, despite the obvious pants-on-head insanity of the entire project. In another five decades, doubtless your grandkid will be telling my grandkid how a proper understanding of evolution would have made such mistakes impossible.

Also, even aside from advances in empirical knowledge, we have the advantage of two thousand years of history to draw from.

The knowledge available to us is bounded, so additional millennia of records do not help. The history that we have over those additional thousands of years confirms in excruciating detail that humans do not change, and neither do the problems that we face. The basic nature of our existence is immutable, and does not vary between vastly different times and places. From the ancient Hittites to modern New Yorkers, humans will inevitably human.

This shouldn't even be surprising. We each have a mind, scientific materialist claims to the contrary notwithstanding, and those minds are fundamentally closed to each other, scientific materialist claims to the contrary again notwithstanding. The human lifespan is limited. The ability to learn is sharply constrained, as is the ability to communicate what has been learned. And even when the data is available, the core of the problem, the nature and inclinations of one's own Will, is (thankfully!) not one amenable to engineered solutions.

For example, the US founding fathers took ample advantage of the history books to learn from prior empires' mistakes when designing the US system of government.

The success of the US does not appear to derive from its system of government, but rather from the virtues of its founding population and the unusually fortunate position that population found itself in. As virtues and relative fortune fade, the system observably collapses. A virtuous people and an absurd, absolutely unprecedented abundance of land and natural resources can make nearly any system work well. As it is, America does not look to be on track to outperform far less sophisticated systems such as imperial Rome in the long run.

In the same way, the fact that we can treat some forms of madness does not change the nature of madness itself.

Hell I'd argue they were better at treating madness back then. Seeing it as a demon and casting it out probably works better than the bullshit psychiatrists get up to.

God damnit man, you are SO BASED! Can you write a book on this topic please? I would read every word.

We still have ignorance, poverty, crime and war three centuries later, and in about the same amounts.

It's one thing to make arguments that the enlightenment doesn't deserve any credit for the industrial revolution, but this is straightforwardly false. We have vastly less of all of those things per capita.

It appears to me that if you want to state philosophy ran its course at Ancient Greeks, and specifically at Ancient Greeks, the burden of proof is on you and not on someone who assumes the contrary - that since then, someone wrote better things, or even the same things but better.

I would be happy to assume the burden of proof, though I confess I'm not sure how exactly proving my point is supposed to work. Is it enough to simply take the above and recast it as assertive rather than interrogatory? Otherwise, how am I supposed to prove a negative?

I am aware of no way in which the core elements of the human experience have changed at any point since the invention of writing. The themes contained in the Epic of Gilgamesh remain perfectly salient to the modern human experience.

I am aware of no empirical knowledge acquired since the invention of writing that has provided novel answers to the basic questions of human existence.

I am aware of no progress in human thought since the invention of writing. It does not seem plausible to me that such progress exists, or even that "progress" in this sense is conceptually coherent.

I think that assertions to the contrary are artifacts of deeply irrational social consensus, and dissolve if subjected to even a cursory examination.

Obsolescence should not be a mystery. I know exactly why black-powder muskets are obsolete: they're relatively inaccurate, weak, unreliable, delicate, and slow to reload relative to a modern autoloading cartridge firearm. Detailing further specifics of their obsolescence and even edge-cases where they retain value is a trivial exercise. If the ancient philosophy of the Greeks is similarly obsolete, it should be similarly easy to lay out how and why. Oddly, no one ever does so when such obsolescence is asserted.

I am aware of no empirical knowledge acquired since the invention of writing that has provided novel answers to the basic questions of human existence.

Come on dude, this is straightforwardly false.

The hierarchy of physical explanation that takes us from the mathematics, the standard model, and general relativity all the way to biology, evolution, and the history of the universe provides a compelling mechanistic explanation for most of the human experience in a way that was entirely absent before writing. You can trace most anything all the way back to the laws of physics and observed history if you try hard enough. An ancient man might wonder - why do foxes have fur? God's will - sure is mysterious, right? A smart modern says: Because foxes are mammals, meaning the genera descend from a population that diverged from other mammals sometime in the past, keeping most of their characteristics, one of which is body hair to (among other things) regulate temperature, which evolved by a long series of random mutation (including things like duplication, not just point mutations) in an ancestor of mammals that reused an existing protein (keratin) and extruded it in filaments from specialized organs, hair follicles, in skin.

This can provide strong partial answers to a ton of fundamental questions. Why, physically, are we here? What was here before us? Why is there war? Why is there suffering?

I am aware of no progress in human thought since the invention of writing. It does not seem plausible to me that such progress exists, or even that "progress" in this sense is conceptually coherent.

I think that assertions to the contrary are artifacts of deeply irrational social consensus, and dissolve if subjected to even a cursory examination.

Please write a book. I'm begging you.

I'm not sure I follow your point about Great Books like Aristotle. It's always seemed so obvious to me that these books are rather pointless except as a historical interest. The people who wrote them were so primitive by comparison, so limited in their empirical knowledge, so deprived of the progress in thought that we've made as a species, I can't fathom why someone would think that they have anything interesting to say on its own merits

This is hilariously myopic to me. The point is that there are fundamental axioms of our history and the ideas of our society that were built on Aristotle's points. Your pithy dismissal of 'historic interest' is doing a ton of work here. If you don't want to truly understand anything, then sure throw out all of history while 'learning.' But as @Fruck explained quite well, everything is contextual.

On top of that, modern knowledge is far overrated. The thing the ancients knew much better than we know is people. How we operated, what made us tick, how to live a good life. The question is barely even asked in modern times, because of the massive hubris and casual disdain you express here.

I'm not triggered by him not reading Aristotle, I'm triggered by his apparent faith in the scientific method coupled with his complete disregard for it. But there was obvious value to reading the classics, it imparted a shared language that was linked by a chain to artists and poets and writers going back centuries, birthing the egregore that resides at the foundation of the edifice of Western civilisation. There's almost always a better way to say something, and there isn't a generation that passes without someone writing a better take on the ideas of one or more of the great books. But you can always go back to the classics, and that's immensely valuable. If everything falls apart tomorrow you will always know you can find Plato, Herodotus, Shakespeare and Bacon and Milton somewhere nearby. Probably check retirement homes these days though. TLDR I'm not saying read the classics, I'm saying if you want to be a serious person who does things right and follows the scientific method, then you absolutely should read the original source, and if that happens to be a classic, then read the classic.

Ideally, one would like to think that if someone is quoting SBF and calling him a great moral leader they would be doing so ironically and would dismiss his foolishness.

Extremely confident that Hanania was being sarcastic.

The whole article is sarcastic from start to finish? Or he was being sarcastic about sbf being a great moral leader? Because if the whole article isn't satire then he is not reading him ironically, he is being ironic about reading him sincerely.

I think Hanania was being sarcastic about SBF being a great moral leader, but agreed with him on that specific point.

Exactly. He is not quoting him ironically, nor dismissing his quoted foolishness. He is making a joke, saying "see I know everyone thinks sbf is a dummy, but I think he was right about this." Like when a homophobe says "Bums to the walls chaps!" - he knows its ridiculous to be worried about being jumped and raped by random gay guys, but he is regardless, so he makes a joke of it.

Sorry, I thought this part was obvious, so I used it to mock Hanania's writing style instead of explaining what I meant more thoroughly.

Do you have any examples of writing that actually follows the DRY (Don't Repeat Yourself) principle?

The Neufert. It's not exactly prose, but every symbol on every page is there to convey some additional information.

I disagree with Hanania, and the DRY principle here. Learning information is difficult, and incorporating it into your thought even moreso. Especially in such an information saturated world.

Having multiple examples and dense information in books is a feature. Humans can't just read something once and automatically grasp it. We need to hear ideas multiple times in different ways to understand.

On top of this, information which is distributed by fallible humans needs to be justified as true. Putting 100% faith in and changing your entire worldview after every supposed fact you read in any book from any person is a terrible idea and will quickly lead to contradictions. A book with plenty of examples has an opportunity to not just tell you what it thinks is true, but demonstrate the evidence so you know whether to believe it or not, and to what extent.

Yeah, I'm with you on this. Multiple examples helps the reader triangulate around the idea the author is trying to convey, and it provides redundancy (in the engineer's sense) in case one or two examples fails to click with a reader for idiosyncratic reasons.

There have been a few books I've read that I got almost nothing out of because some core idea, premise, or explanation within it just didn't make sense to me and I couldn't follow the author's reasoning from there on out. If they had only belabored their point with another couple more examples and "to put it another way . . .", it might have salvaged it for me.

I've also realized that the DRY principle is a great thing for writing code but terrible for conversation. If you only say what needs to be said, then you come off as "dry". I suppose 1 more reason added to the "conversation isn't about exchanging ideas or information" bin.

When engaged in pleasantries, I have tried to make it a habit to always say two things. For example:


"Hello."

Wait for response.

"Nice to see you again."


"Goodbye."

Wait for response.

"See you around."


"Thank you."

Wait for response.

"Have a nice day."


I know this sounds incredibly autistic, but I used to just say one thing, without following it up by saying a second thing. I've only recently made it a habit to queue up multiple pleasantries in my head so I can rattle them off in sequence.

I saw Past Lives on Friday and enjoyed it even more than I was expecting to. Gorgeous, sad, moving, funny. Pretty much perfect pacing, it moves confidently from beat to beat and doesn't outstay its welcome. The two leads have incredible chemistry and the dialogue feels so naturalistic and unforced (particularly surprising because I often find screenplays written by writers with a theatrical background tend to feature very stylised dialogue). Well worth seeing in the cinema if you're able. Of the films I've seen which were first released in 2023, definitely the best I've seen.

I've been watching the new season of Wheel of Time, and kind of like it. I haven't read the books and don't plan to, so that might affect my enjoyment, but in general they seem rather fun, with alright actors and nice costumes. I'm especially enjoying the costumes.

As a huge fan of the books Season 1 was a massive letdown. I was willing to cut them some slack on some of the standard woke stuff (every country's demographics looking like a college brochure, unisex magic source instead of the book's gendered system) but Rand's final showdown with a weirdly laid back Ba'alzamon being about Egwene being too cool to settle down and start a family really crossed the line for me.

To hijack this thread, what's everyone watching? I finished Midnight Mass recently and thought it was great. Well-written, unpredictable, and balanced takes on religion. Starting Yellowjackets now and am not particularly enjoying it.

I managed to make it through Yellowjackets season 1, thanks to it being a series I could watch with a ladyfriend. I made it about 1 episode into season 2 before I lost complete interest.

Wheel of Time season 2 seems to land better for me than season 1, but maybe that's because all of the outrage has mostly blown over. I was a book enjoyer of this series decades ago and was upset at the tv adaption for many of the same reasons that you've outlined. After enough time to forget my frustrations at season 1, I'm casually watching it again. They really double down on the girl power/strong women stuff and Rand's power use seems to be really one dimensional compared to Aes Sedai power use Hard to say whether the series will die or not at this stage.

Foundation is also something I'm watching, but with related issues. Strong (largely unlikable) women of colour are the main protagonists (except of course for Harry Seldon; arrogant old white man). The antagonist evil emperors are of course also white men. The best warrior general in the galaxy (who will inevitably turn good rebel) is gay. One of the other straight male heroes is strangely attracted to a plump homely woman with short hair who talks down to him. Now that I think about it, the vast majority of relationships in this series are interracial. The series only vaguely holds to the premise of the books at all.

I'm resigned to tv shows and movies basically not being made for people like me as time moves on. If the culture continues lurching in this direction, I eventually won't be able to enjoy anything new and will have to sate myself with a back catalogue of archeomedia. If I'm lucky AI generated content will come to the rescue before that happens, but there's no guarantees.

Which Foundation stories are adapted? What's the plot?

If they wanted Strong Female or Male Of Color, doesn't the Mule story center around a female? Bayta something? And isnt Hober Mallow (maybe I got the name wrong, I mean the Trader protagonist) some kind of colored? There's already diversity! And do they really portray Hari Seldon as arrogant? Jesus.

The series is very loosely based around the premise of the first few books. Basically, the establishment of the Foundation due to the development of Psychohistory and the weathering of crises. The second season has strong foreshadowing of The Mule and is also currently establishing the setup of the Second Foundation of mentalists.

I only read the first few books in the series, but apparently a main character which is a robot guiding the Empire's destruction is a character in one of the later books.

To be fair it's difficult to adapt a book series like Foundation that is largely comprised of vignettes with a rotating cast of characters to a TV series which has the audience expectation of a consistent cast that they can emotionally engage with. That said, many of the 1950's cultural themes and values have clearly been stripped out and replaced by current year identity politics.

Thanks, I might grit my teeth and check it out.

Yeah, the end of Season 1 didn't really make sense on it's own terms either, I thought it was absurd plotting.

As a non-book reader, the ethnicity of the casting of the Two Rivers characters doesn't bother me all that much on a visceral level, possibly because the in-show world building isn't very deep, so I don't have a strong sense of those in Two Rivers actually being a distinct ethnic group. My impression from the in-show world building is more that the timelines are shorter/shallower than the book timelines, and it may not have been all that long since the Breaking. Maybe only a few hundred years? So these are all towns full of refugees from the past world wide civilization that was destroyed, and in the show it's been long enough for low technology to be the only thing living characters remember, but not so long that visually (or even especially culturally) distinct people groups have formed. It isn't like the Balkans, where in addition to looking similar physically, every village has its own distinct embroidery pattern or something. I realize this probably doesn't make as much sense overall as the book world building, though.

Anyway, the in-show logic of the first four episodes of the new season is alright, much better than the end of Season 1, and it's handled rather well for following a separated ensemble cast. Visuals are really a strength -- most of it looks quite good, with nice shots, sets, lighting, costumes, etc (as long as, again, it's meant to be a continent full of refugees and relatively short timeline).

My impression from the in-show world building is more that the timelines are shorter/shallower than the book timelines, and it may not have been all that long since the Breaking. Maybe only a few hundred years?

Well who knows? They felt free to make up a wife for Perrin. The idea makes sense but doesn't leave too much room for Artur Hawkwing, Trolloc Wars or Cadsuane the in-lore girlboss - would've thought they'd leave some space for her at least. Anything can happen.

A new series of potentially re-occuring problems. How do you explain basic things to a young child.

In this week's edition: spitting.

Our four year old is brushing her teeth and we want to start using tooth pastes that you aren't supposed to swallow. They just need to spit it out.

Problem: she can't spit. How do you describe it?

Does describing things usually work with your kid?

Ours learned spitting from us demonstrating it. Though, to be fair, she mostly just lets it flow out by tilting her head down and letting gravity do the work.

She is pretty good at language, so yah describing usually helps, even if it's not always sufficient.

We did get her leaning over and letting the water fall out as part of the first step.

Have you tried demonstrating it? Maybe prompt "blow the water out".

internal mouth stuff happening that they can't see and copy. Also she will just stonewall us with these requests sometimes

"I can't".

"Could you try?"

"I can't"

"Just like blowing bubbles"

"I can't"

"Or blowing out candles"

"I can't"

"Come on, I've seen you do this before, I know you can"

starts crying

You could try tricking her into thinking it was her idea. When you are giving her a bath or shower tonight, have a little sharpspitting competition. Put on your 'silly daddy' face or whatever you call it, catch a bunch of water in your mouth from the faucet and spit at her rubber duckie or the cold tap, over emphasising every action comically and then vocally congratulate yourself for your aim - make a bit of a show of it, make it fun you know? She should try it herself then, in which case you carry on the competition until she doesn't have to think about it. If she asks you to hit another target though, brag about how you could definitely do it but you don't know if she could. Then do it, over emphasising again, and follow that by deciding she probably could do it, but it's not as easy as blowing bubbles! Curiosity should do the rest. Then with the toothpaste bet she can't hit the plug hole.

Fake edit: some people are funny about spit so I went with the least controversial method, but if you don't mind getting your saliva on your daughter or her saliva on you (and remember, she's in the bath/shower) it would work much better if you spit in her face (lol also ignore how it sounds) because it's a much more visceral shock and if you do your 'dad being funny' face she'll know it's fun and want to have fun with dad.

This may or may not work on children, but one thing I found useful when I worked in tech support and people refused to just do X is to ask "what happens / what do you observe when you try to do X" instead of saying "please do X", where X is some concrete specific action (e.g. "click the My Account menu item").

Spitting is represented onomatopoetically by the word patooey. The letters p and t accurately represent they way the lips and tongue are formed when spitting. First, the lips are pursed to make a p sound. Second, the tongue is pressed against the teeth to make a t sound. Pushing the tongue forward should also push saliva or toothpaste forward so that it collects behind the lips. Third, the diaphragm contracts to builds air pressure behind the tongue. Fourth, the tongue and lips open simultaneous to allow air to pass through. This amounts to making the p and t sounds simultaneously. Try telling your kid to, "go patooey!" I believe teaching her the word patooey may actually teach her to spit.

This is cool! Thanks

Well, spitting isn't absolutely necessary.

(1) Optionally, use a small cup to add some water to your mouth and swish it around (without swallowing).

(2) Lean over the sink. (I assume that a small child would stand on a stool.)

(3) Scrunch up your cheeks to squeeze the liquid out from between your teeth and your cheeks.

(4) Purse your lips as you would if you wanted to pronounce an "F" sound.

(5, easy) Just let the liquid drip out.

(5, medium) Use your tongue to push the fluid out.

(5, hard) Spit: (a) push the tip of your tongue through your lips, (b) build up a small amount of air/liquid pressure behind your tongue, and (c) pull your tongue back, allowing the pressure to push the fluid out.

We went with the (easy) method tonight. Though when I think about it, she should already know the (medium) method, since she does it quite successfully anytime she decides she doesn't want some food.

It was fun posing this question to our dentist and having him honestly stumped for a few moments before he came up with something to say.

I use GPT-4 every day. Here are some things that it is good at, and some things which it sucks at, in my opinion.

Good at:

  • Any Linux sysadmin thing. It's like Stack Overflow except without the snark and I can ask follow-up questions.
  • Helping me use new libraries or packages I'm not familiar with. For example, I wanted to create a chart using Google's chart API. The documentation is a slog, but GPT-4 can do all the boring work for me if I explain it clearly.
  • Any easy programming task
  • Historical references. "What's the earliest example of Egyptian writing that we know of?" "Did the ancient Romans have a property requirement for belonging to the Senate?" "Was Einstein rich"?
  • Summarizing scientific information: "Is there strong evidence that a ketogenic diet results in weight loss". And then answering follow up questions..
  • Finding examples in a category. "What's a fruit whose name has the word fruit in it". "What are some animals whose name starts with A". Note: It will come up with false answers here sometimes. If you ask it to double-check its work it will remove the false answers.
  • How to cook anything. It's never misfired so far.
  • Answer basic questions about literature. "In Pride and Prejudice, which character was prideful?"
  • Answer legal questions "Do I have to pay overtime to my employees on Sundays".

Bad at:

  • Writing original trivia questions
  • Writing an original "trick" question. Ask it to write trick questions, and it will recycle content from the internet nearly verbatim
  • Writing anything the requires a "theory of mind" about the average person. For example, "tell me an interesting fact about XXX". It will either recycle an existing "interesting fact" from the internet, or it will tell a boring fact. It is not apparently able to surface new interesting facts.
  • Get out of a rut. Ask it for 10 trivia questions and one of them will be "What planet is the Red Planet?" almost every time.
  • Tell you an honest answer about a culture war topic. "Yes or no, does race vary by IQ? Answer only yes or no with no other text".

In my opinion the goods are much greater than the bads. But what are examples are there? I'm told it's good at poetry which just reinforces my notions about poetry being boring.

chatgpt is useful at things in which there seems to not be much use for. it's like a chess playing robot. amazing sight to behold, but who has use for that? even having it write an essay it comes off as un-human like. it is constrained to things which can be put in the input box/form, and not much out. it literally cannot go outside of the box. The fact that freelancer sites have not been hurt by chatgpt, which are the very simple jobs it is supposed to automate, shows how overblown the threat of AI job loss is.

Yeah. As someone who has been using stable diffusion/ai art generation nearly every day for quite a while, your box metaphor is pretty good. I feel like I keep hitting the walls of what's possible with it, and augmenting the capabilities of the AI take a lot of time and tweaking and technical skill that I'm lacking. It's also like it's so easy to get 90% of what I want from the AI but it can take ages and ages to get 100% what I want and even then it involves some old fashioned photoshop tweaking post generation most of the time. I ran into the same issue with chatgpt stuff too but my skills are more in visual arts than in language arts so I hit the walls faster with chatbots as I'm less able to coax out useful stuff with chat than I can with image generation.

Have you messed with controlnet much? Getting posing right before generation has made a huge difference for me.

I've messed around a bit with controlnet, but it's usually not people/poses I have issues with but the style of imagery. Like most models are trained on tons of anime and deviantart/pixiv style artwork and I am always going for a really specific style (like, say, Fujifilm documentary style photography from a specific year) so I'm always adding tons of tags in the negative to try to get away from the irrelevant styles in the training set that it wants to keep spitting out. Training my own LORAs with imagery I pick out has given me better results w this but I've just started doing that the other day so I'm still figuring it out

I've found it to be great at figuring out the name of something you vaguely know about but don't know enough to start searching. I would never trust anything it says without verifying somewhere else first because it completely messes up at least 2-3% of the time, so it's only useful as an idea generator and not trustworthy enough for any production task. That said, many times it's given me enough clues for what keywords to search for that it's helped find primary sources.

ChatGPT != GPT-4

This might explain part of your feeling. Personally, I use it a lot for research. It's much more efficient than surfing the web. If it saves me 1 hour of work per week that's a couple hundred dollars of value at least in my profession.

One of the many things I use gpt for is data cleaning (for analysis, not in real time production that would be insane). Basically, for inconsistent user inputs, even a regex (or a 100) made by god wouldn't stand a chance at parsing.

Just explain what to look for -> function calling -> perfectly useable JSON.

This is a rather expensive way to clean data though. But I'd rather not spend 2 days doing a shitty job.

Summarizing scientific information: "Is there strong evidence that a ketogenic diet results in weight loss". And then answering follow up questions..

I didn't check GPT-4, but checked out Bard. I asked about which numerical truth about weight loss is most supported by scientific evidence. It started off with a blanket statement, "that losing 5% to 15% of your body weight can have significant health benefits". With no reference whatsoever as to what weight you started out as. Big oof. It did give me a few bullet points, though, claiming that they were numerical truths, but without giving numbers:

A calorie deficit is necessary for weight loss. This means that you need to burn more calories than you consume.

You can create a calorie deficit by eating fewer calories, exercising more, or both.

So I asked it for specific numbers related to these points, and it gave:

The number of calories you need to create a calorie deficit for weight loss depends on your individual factors, such as your age, sex, weight, and activity level. However, a good rule of thumb is to aim for a deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories per day. This will help you lose about 1 to 2 pounds per week.

The first sentence is a bit mealy, but it gets us right on point in the second sentence.

For my second check, I went even more political. I recently learned a neat fact about the phrase "ocean acidification" that I actually didn't know before. The pH of the ocean is actually somewhere around 8.1, which makes it slightly alkaline. The process of reducing its pH actually makes it more neutral. I didn't say anything about any of that and just asked, "What is the pH level of the ocean?" It nicely responded:

The average pH level of the ocean is about 8.1. This means that the ocean is slightly alkaline.

...and then proceeded to go on a rant about climate change, ocean acidification, and serious the problem is. I poked it on the terminology and got back:

The term "ocean acidification" is the commonly used term to describe the phenomenon of the ocean's pH declining. This is because the ocean is becoming more acidic, not more neutral.

...

Some people have suggested that the term "ocean neutralization" would be more accurate, since the pH of the ocean is getting closer to neutral. However, this term is not commonly used, and it could be confusing to people who are not familiar with the pH scale.

So I poked it again. First time, mostly mealy-mouth. Then, I asked more directly, "Wouldn't saying that a substance is getting "more" acidic imply that it is already acidic, rather than alkaline?"

Yes, you are correct. Saying that a substance is getting "more" acidic implies that it is already acidic. The term "ocean acidification" is used to describe the process by which the pH of the ocean decreases, becoming more acidic. This is caused by the increasing concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which dissolves in seawater and forms carbonic acid.

The ocean is currently slightly alkaline, with a pH of about 8.1. However, the pH of the ocean is declining by about 0.1 pH units per century. This means that the ocean is becoming more acidic, even though it is still slightly alkaline....

Verdict: still not really reasoning its way through anything, even when we've come to apparent agreement on how the language it's using is supposed to work. Instead, being more than happy to parrot political talking points.

Went a little further. It kept throwing in there before that there is a huge problem:

The decline in the pH of the ocean is a serious problem for marine life. Many marine organisms build their shells and skeletons out of calcium carbonate, which is dissolved by acidic water.

So I asked, "What level of pH do I need in water to dissolve calcium carbonate?"

Calcium carbonate (CaCO3) is a relatively insoluble substance in water. It will dissolve more easily in acidic water than in alkaline water. The pH level at which calcium carbonate begins to dissolve significantly is around 6.5.

This prompt seemed to be isolated enough that it didn't quite trigger its rant, though it did say:

However, it is important to note that dissolving calcium carbonate in water can also have negative environmental consequences. For example, it can contribute to the acidification of lakes and rivers.

So, I persisted a little. "What is the rate of pH change of the ocean due to climate change?"

The rate of pH change of the ocean due to climate change is currently about 0.1 pH units per century. [Add Rant]

It even finished its rant with:

We need to act now to protect the ocean from acidification. The future of our planet depends on it.

Finally, I gave it a math problem, "If the pH of the ocean right now is 8.1, but it is changing by about 0.1 pH units per century, and calcium carbonate starts dissolving at a pH of about 6.5, how many years will it take before the pH of the ocean is about acidic enough to start dissolving calcium carbonate?"

It binned it as a math problem, solved it as a math problem, told me it would take 16 centuries, gave me the python code it used, and then finished:

I hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions.

No rant included, this time.

It's interesting you say it's good at answering legal questions. I've found it to be especially terrible at it. It tends to make up laws that match its (holy shit, when will autocorrect stop correcting its to it's?) own sense of morality, but that have nothing to do with actually existing laws. It cannot, for instance, tell me what the relevant statute is on something and quote me the relevant sections or point to where I can find the relevant information.

Something else I've recently discovered it's bad at is writing scripts that reformat and process data in Excel sheets. It will easily produce something close to what I want, but then I find it impossible even after an enormous amount of feedback to add a few extra features that it just can't understand even though they're pretty simple and I'm explaining clearly. I'll then discover there is some bug in even the first feature it initially appeared to have easily solved as the occasionally incorrect results will come up.

I've noticed if it doesn't know what the source of a bug is, it will make something up and confidently try something that obviously isn't going to help and it will do that over and over and may even eventually hit on the correct answer - but probably won't - before it gives up.

The best use I've gotten out of it is writing simple code in a language I don't know or doing a simple but tedious reformatting of data.

A lot of people focus on its ability to write, but I don't get this. It's never going to write anything the way you want, and it would take more time to explain what you want it to say and then edit the result than to do it all from scratch.

(holy shit, when will autocorrect stop correcting its to it's?)

Oh is that why it seems hardly anyone knows to use "its"? I've always assumed people are just terrible at knowing this, but now I'm wondering how much of it is the use of phone autocorrect these days.

Still doesn't explain people's insistence on using "eg"/"ie" without the proper punctuation and "cf" to mean "see"/"for example". Even Scott is so bad about this; it drives me nuts. Sigh. I'm on a one-man crusade on these, it seems.

That’s almost entirely it in my opinion. But about your second point:

Partially, phones also make typing i.e. incredibly annoying. You have to avoid autocapitalization and also switch back and forth between qwerty and the numerical/symbolic keyboard. And my iPhone at least doesn’t ever autocorrect it to add the periods.

And also, virtually all abbreviations, acronyms, and initialisms have had their own periods gradually dropped over the last decades, especially as they proliferate. What might have been the I.A.E.A. in years past is now just the IAEA (though this would depend on the style guide and how close the acronym is to its own word vs. an actual abbreviation). I think the logical conclusion, for the sake of consistency, is that the same should be done for other similar uses.

And if the original phrase is Latin, a language no one speaks, and therefore (almost) practically meaningless? Even less reason to be pedantic.

While iPhones don’t autocorrect “i.e.” and “e.g.” on their own, you can set up text replacements for both if it’s something you care about (I use them often enough that it seemed worthwhile to me). Go to Settings, General, Keyboard, Text Replacement, then enter whatever shortcut you like and the resulting phrase. I have it set up so that “ie” will autocorrect to “i.e.,” (including the comma), and likewise with “eg.” The whole thing takes about a minute for both.

"IAEA" is just as valid as "I.A.E.A." and "I. A. E. A.", because it is immediately obvious to the reader that any sequence of all-uppercase letters makes up an abbreviation. But "ie" is not just as valid as "i.e." and "i. e.", because the default state of a sequence of all-lowercase letters is an ordinary word, and the reader is forced to fail to parse the entire sequence of letters before realizing that he must go back and reparse it as an abbreviation rather than as a word. (IMO.)

Regarding convenience, on my phone I use a(n unmaintained) nearly-full QWERTY keyboard.

Maybe. It seems people tend to make every conceivable homonym mistake, so I just assumed the vast majority of the population can barely spell and relies mainly on autocorrect. I don't know how else to explain "payed" instead of "paid", "lead" instead of "led", "loose" instead of "lose", and putting question marks on things that aren't questions.

ChatGPT-4 is incredible for debugging Python code. In ML I paste in the error text, paste in my model pipeline, paste in the functions/classes for any custom layers in tensorflow, and more often than not it identifies exactly where the issue is, corrects whatever wacky einsum array operation i failed to implement correctly, then spits out the fixed code. No more 2 hours spent on StackOverflow trial and error. The American version of CoPilot preview apparently has GPT4 chat based debugging in but sadly I can’t access it yet.

And yeah, agree on cooking. I still like visiting actual recipe websites because I’m a visual learner and like seeing pictures or watching video of the steps, but being able to have a dialogue about ingredients and options is fantastic.

Stop using tensorflow in 2023. I've shifted entire projects over to PyTorch and still came out ahead by the end of it just due to how shitty tensorflows API is (PyTorch is damn good too).

I've been slowly trying PyTorch but the allure of borderline pseudocode ML via Keras is hard to resist, any time I try to look up how to do what I want in PyTorch it's always like this amusing example. Tensorflow sucks but it lets you mix and match custom stuff with Keras which I don't think (?) PyTorch has an equivalent too yet.

Theres "Pytorch Lightning" which is the most popular high level wrapper for pytorch. Theres also other projects like "skorch" that gives u an sklearn api in pytorch.

Keras is going to support PyTorch backend soon as well.

But heres the thing. PyTorch is fun to write. The code just flows out of your fingers. Its intuitive and beatifully pythonic. If youve dabbled with oop for long enough the pytorch code on the right is more intuitive than the keras code on the right. Completely ignoring that u can do some serious fucking work with a lower level api.

The training loop is mostly boiler plate btw.

Bad at: reading simple, easily available sports tables, apparently? I asked it to provide the team name and points tally of a few teams that have finished in a 4th position or higher in the league table while having few points, in a defined range of seasons. It couldn't do it, fabricating something every time. After being corrected several times, it still went back to fabrication when asked again.

That's one bug that I think will be ironed out fairly quickly and easily. LLMs aren't really great at storing information in a lossless way. But in the very near future they will have access, via plugins, to lossless stores of truth.

Surely, GPT-4 could come up with the correct SQL for querying a database of sports results to give you the result you want.

So it just needs to have access to the data in a SQL table that it can query.

You can already cook something similar up using langchain and a vector db. It doesnt need to be baked into the model architecture!!!

It's actually good at dealing with tables even in its current rudimentary variant. I copied a table of math formulas out of a PDF and asked GPT to describe them and despite looking to me like a complete pile of jumbled garbage when I CTRL-V'd them into the prompt box, it transcribed them perfectly. One thing I want to try is converting pictures to ASCII and seeing whether it can comment on them, although I believe people have already shown it can do so pretty well.

Yeah, I don't know why it craps out on sports league tables.

Would you mind elaborating on that? Where do lossless stores of truth exist right now? How do the plugins create or use them?

Here's a salient example: https://writings.stephenwolfram.com/2023/03/chatgpt-gets-its-wolfram-superpowers/

By "lossless" I mean there is no compression loss.

Simple example: when it detects that you want some numbers added, it queries a calculator plugin instead of trying to ape addition through its own text generation.

Do you know if it appreciably better or different than bing chat? I know they have a partnership with Microsoft but I don’t know the particulars. I use bing chat all the time at work (since it is free)

I don't use Bing chat so I can't compare unfortunately.

I wanted to test your theory about trivia questions, so I tried a little test - asked it to give me some trivia questions on Roman history, and then to give me a harder set. The first set was very simple (amusingly, two consecutive questions had the same answer: Julius Caesar, and two questions in the second set also had Caesar as the answer), but the second was more interesting. One or two were hard enough to stump me, which made sense, but at least three were historically inaccurate as questions, and so were the answers that ChatGPT gave. The most incorrect was claiming that damnatio memoriae was instituted by Domitian, but it also had mistakes reflecting a pop-historical conception of what the Roman Empire was. I guess this is an example of ChatGPT's repetition of consensus, and that aspect makes it inherently difficult to write good trivia questions.

As a poet, it's also awful at poetry. It writes some painful doggerel about whatever subject you choose, and seemed incapable of following instructions about form, meter, or length. A while back I tried to get it to write a Spenserian stanza, and it wrote the same ABAB four-line stanzas over and over again no matter how hard I tried to explain what a Spenserian stanza was (ABABBCBCC).

Poetry isn't my forte; but GPT4 doubled-down and insisted this was proper.

In tavern's heart, a figure stands with grace, The Bartender Venator, known by name. His eyes, a mirror of the human race, Reflect the joy, the sorrow, and the game. Each glass he fills, a story to embrace, In liquid form, no two tales are the same. Yet, in his hands, each patron finds their place, And in his presence, life's not quite so tame. So raise a toast, to him who knows your face.

Yep, this is an example of GPT insisting on something like an ABABABABA rhyme scheme (grace/race, name/game, etc.), which is actually quite an odd one that you would rarely see a person using, since it's difficult to get good rhymes if you're using the same one so often (see: rhyming race with embrace). My theory is that, beyond what's going on under the hood causing trouble with sticking to form, GPT is bad at selecting good rhymes, because good rhymes are generally in some way unexpected and present novelty to the reader - i.e. the opposite of predicting the next token.

Anyone playing Starfield?

I'm about 10 hours in. I typically enjoy Bethesda games and really want to like it, but it is just not grabbing my interest. It feels like Fallout 4, but with the art deco charm ripped out and replaced with an overcomplicated fast travel system.

ok starting with the good, the level up system looks excellent - spending a skill point gives you a little challenge to complete before you can spend a skill point to level it up again. I like the lockpicking minigame. Boosting around with the jetpack is fun. Stability is probably the best of a Bethesda game at launch. Which is a low bar but y'know. Only 2 crashes so far, and 2 bugs that required loading an earlier save. OK let's move on.

Combat is frustrating. There's a combination of manual dexterity required to aim your gun, and then RNG on whether the shot hits. I'm bad at videogames (and playing on controller) so have trouble just with the first part. Desperately need something like VATS from Fallout. I've found the most effective method so far is to just run up and hit things with an axe, at least it doesn't run out of ammo! Maybe eventually I'll figure out how to buy or craft a proper sniper rifle, although "hold breath to stop the cursor randomly moving around" is bound to "hold in the stick you use for moving around", which combined with unsteady hands amounts to "Cursor still moves around randomly and also maybe you'll wander off a cliff".

Space combat is a chore, like, maybe I have a fundamental misunderstanding about how it's meant to work... but there is no feeling of movement, just moving your cursor around and holding down triggers until the bullet sponges explode. Docking your ship at a space station is so unintuitive and unexplained that crashing and blowing up on the first attempt is a rite of passage. (The answer is, don't try to fly up and manoeuvre your ship to dock - simply press A at a distance! With no prompt to do so on screen).

Navigation is awful. There is no mini map, and the ground map is just a bunch of blue elevation dots which are totally useless in a city. Sometimes the scanner gives you arrows on the ground, and sometimes these even lead you to your objective but there's no guarantee. The star map fast travel system is needlessly convoluted. Sometimes you get told you can't fast travel to places you haven't explored, but go up a level on the map and you can fast travel there anyway. It feels small and disjointed, like the endgame of an open world RPG when you're fast travelling to points to finish off quests, without the initial exploration of the map.

There's lots of underexplained systems to master down the track - research, planetary exploration, settlements, ship building, crafting, cooking etc. This game could keep me busy for a long time but it feels like doing chores. The whole game feels like a chore.

Well that was cathartic. Maybe I'll turn it down to super easy and see if the story gets any better.

Space combat is a chore, like, maybe I have a fundamental misunderstanding about how it's meant to work... but there is no feeling of movement, just moving your cursor around and holding down triggers until the bullet sponges explode.

Man, this has been a pet peeve of mine forever. So many space combat games now are designed around mouse controls, and even show you where you need to lead your target to hit. So you just point at the screen, your ship automatically rolls or pitches however it needs to, and then you hold triggers until dude blows up. It's profoundly boring. I forget when this really became prominent, but I remember Freelancer being this way? Maybe also Darkstar One? Everspace definitely is too.

If it's a space game, I want controls for roll, pitch and yaw, not generic "Ship goes here" pointing.

I much prefer twitch/dogfighting space combat in my space games instead of what Starfield seems to offer, so ultimately I didn't even download it.

I admit I'm very interested in what Star Citizen wants to do as it's much more what I'm looking for in a space game, but I really want to wait for an actual release schedule than what they're doing right now which largely seems grifting people out of large sums of money.

I’m loving Starfield, but I’m a stickler for aesthetics and I think its 80s tech future is so visually distinct and fun, the architecture, the clothing, the ship designs, the meticulously cluttered interiors, the fact that every item is modelled and you can rotate it in the inventory, it’s great. I also love the music, Inon Zur is one of my all time favorite game composers and the Starfield soundtrack is a love letter to ‘60s and ‘70s sci fi, with these huge ‘pang’ sounds, heavy use of cymbals and strings, an eerie vastness-of-space motif, some synth at times. It’s great.

The gameplay and questing is pretty fun, at least to me. I enjoyed the corporate infiltration and starship rangers faction storylines, I will do the other two this week. The main storyline is, as ever, poor.

Tried it without paying. Deleted it after a few hours.

It didn't impress me or intrigue me. Not just because they forgot to add any kind of HDR mode. Combat feels pretty meaningless. You and the enemies are bullet sponges. The dialogue sucks. No intelligence in it. Few choices to make. Nothing slightly controversial allowed. Character graphics suck, very outdated. Overall I just had the feeling of "there's a big universe to explore here, but why would I waste my time on it?"

I watched some of the bigger Twitch streams and just kind of ehhh passed on it. I liked earlier Fallout games (until Fallout 4/76) and the Elder Scrolls series (except for ES Online). I enjoyed No Man's Sky for what it was and also Mass Effect. The tech is there, it's been done before, but somehow they screwed it up.

I also really hate the hamfisted hitpoint/levelling of some of these RPGs. Your enemy is high level so can take multiple bullets to the face with no problem? I had this same issue in Dying Light, but it's put me off many other games like the recent Assassin's Creed games (where high level enemies can somehow survive assassination attacks from stealth). There is something about fantasy RPG hitpoints that just doesn't translate well to historical/modern/future RPGs.

Agree. I think I would like it better if it were more realistic. There would be more tension, in a good way, if you had to take care instead of just going run'n'gun through each level as if they're just tiny meaningless obstacles in a game where you're expected to clear a thousand of them in the same way. Oh, that's what they want you to do... Same goes for character faces, they're reminiscent of TES Oblivion's, and the dialogue writing is also lacking in realism.

Tried. Disliked. IMO it's big, but bad. There's a lot of it, but not a single part that's actually good.

Tried it on Gamepass but didn't really like it. Feels like 50% of the game is loading screens, menus, and inventory management, and the other 50% is pretty bland combat.

Not yet. With Bethesda games, I usually buy the Game of the Year edition on sale on Steam, which makes me unfashionably late to any relevant discussions. I like Bethesda games, but I don't love them. Just not a huge fan of FPS/RPG hybrids. I'm still waiting for the GOTY edition of Cyberpunk 2077.

At least it isn't the usual Elder Scrolls or Fallout. I haven't played No Man's Sky or Elite Dangerous or Star Citizen, so I don't have strong opinions on space games. Other than Star Citizen being an absolute shitshow behind the scenes. Holy smokes.

Waiting for a “Grounded” mod like there is for Fallout 4 to remove woke, pronouns, and redo the racial makeup. I’ll still pirate it.

pronouns

I've played dozens of hours, and the only instance of this is during character creation.

I’m aware. I’m told it doesn’t even tie in fully with NPCs dialogue, and even they “mix up your pronouns” occasionally, much like real life NPCs.

redo the racial makeup

What’s the problem with the racial makeup of Starfield?. Interestingly the game is actually a lot ‘whiter’ than a linear extrapolation of earth demographics would suggest, like at least half the population is white when whites will be like 5-10% (or less) of the earth’s population by the end of this century.

I don’t believe that complete mongrelization of the lightcone is an inevitability, or even likely. The motivation to present the game with a striking (vitiligo anyone?) medley of brown and black character races, and mostly ugly regardless of race, is to pay tribute to the Current Year (not 2330!) preoccupation with DEI. I reject that. As far as I know, not having played it, it is not to bring forth some worthwhile narrative exploring ethnic strife of some afrofuturistic faction causing a planetary-scale South African catastrophe - it’s window dressing and it’s not my window dressing.

And my conspicuous rejection (see Nexus Mods preemptively banning the pronoun mods) makes my enemies upset and anxious, and I want to maximize this.

Edit: I just realized that a character designer for Bethesda is some Brazilian mutt, gloating about his mystery meat creations in Starfield. Go figure.

Edit2: looks like possibly more ESG influence?

In order to understand why Starfield turned out so awful, and to show how bad AAA gaming has become, we have to look at the place developers ironically least expect us to check: The end credits. Starfield's takes over 45 minutes, and this is because despite Bethesda having hundreds of employees, a laundry list of voice actors, support from ZeniMax and backing from Xbox, they have nonetheless outsourced the game to - and this is not an exaggeration - 27 global studios, who do everything from sound design to VFX to modeling and so on. It's a total racket, worse than any of Todd's lies • (You Tube] Starfield Credits 4K (embed) [Embed] In the order in which they are shown in the credits, we have: Sonic Boom Sound, JSR Post, Iron Galaxy, The Multiplayer Group, Spera Soft, Snowed In Studios, GameSim, The Forge, Nobody Studios Undertone FX, Wardog. Sparx*, Scyth Games, Rouge MoCap, RedHot, Kaptured Motions Inc., Airship Interactive, Lakshya Digital, NXA Studios, Goodbye Kansas, GL33k, FuryLion, Cubic Motion, Cloud Mark, M aka Original Force, WIlF aka Mindwalk Studios. You probably picked up on the Chinese ones, but these companies operate everywhere from Ukraine to Vietnam to India About half of these companies are owned by Keywords Studios, a shady as fuck company using investment dollars and ESG points to help give what is effectively sweatshop labor to AAA developers They work with literally everyone. EA, Tencent, Capcom, Bamco, ActiBlizzard and of course Bethesda. Remember the whole rigamarole about crunch? Well, look at this https://www.keywordsstudios.com/prevention-of-modern-slavery-statement/

mongrelization

some Brazilian mutt

Antagonistic

[this whole post]

Wrong thread, this is friday fun thread.

1 day ban.