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Small-Scale Question Sunday for February 18, 2024

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

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

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

Jump in the discussion.

No email address required.

The latest discussion in the Culture War thread about the drug-addicted criminal homeless (in Seattle) made me notice that the ongoing opioid crisis appears to be a uniquely US phenomenon. At least that's my own perception. I have never seen news reports on the growing problem of fatal fentanyl overdoses in, say, Western Europe or Asia, for example. Am I right about this? Are there factors that make US society uniquely vulnerable to such trends?

Numbers are hard to put in context on this, but vibes-wise, I don't know if I'm completely isolated from the affected class of people by my filter bubble, but here in Quebec I don't know a single person taking opioids outside of medical bounds (abusing prescribed or non prescribed). On the other hand the government recently put out a TV ad advising the population that they made an anti-opioid overdose drug available for free in pharmacies and that ad felt to me like a foreign object intruding into my filter bubble.

I don't have much to add to speculation about cultural inoculation against drug use. I will link to some on the ground reporting about the opioid crisis in the Deep South.

Fentanyl hasn't been a problem in India from my anecdotal experience. Opioid overdoses were pretty rare, I can't recall one from my intern days, though I make it a point to stay as far from the ER as possible now. When it happens, it's usually plain old heroin.

If I had to guess why that's the case, well, heroin was enshrined and fentanyl dealers probably couldn't break in, or found selling precursors/smuggling it into wealthier nations more lucrative.

It's not as big a problem in Canada generally, but it is in British Columbia and to a lesser extent Alberta. There is evidence that it spreads through social contact, which would explain how uneven it is. In the US, it's concentrated in the northeast.

The factors

The US healthcare system works differently, in terms of the marketing and advertisement of medical interventions. The opioid crisis is driven not by always-illegal street drugs, but primarily by people getting hooked on prescribed or grey-market pills, which seem safe enough because they are medicine, and then moving to street drugs later on in their addiction.

Whenever I visited the US I was amazed at how their free to air TV advertisements were about drugs. The rest of the western world is not like that.

This is certainly a big narrative point but it doesn't match my experience with boots on the ground seeing patients (which isn't to say it's incorrect, the data is out there, but I want to call out other factors).

Keep in mind that America has additional problems that do not exist elsewhere: our particular brand of inner city life and crime seems to generate a lot of drug addictions (you'd be shocked at how many bangers are also addicts, or maybe not), a lot of the use in the US persists in inner cities that refuse to attempt to solve the problem or economically depressed areas in coal country and so on that don't really exist in the rest of the west I think.

Also research shows that Americans are weirdly pain intolerant in comparison to other countries.

I'd guess that such rust belts are a staple in most First World countries. And I'd be surprised to learn that the US is overall more lenient towards drug crime than other Western countries.

I think what make's the US rust belt different is that it's so large because the country is so damn huge (maybe kinda like Russia in that way?). Canada and Australia are also enormous but much more population focused.

I don't think other countries have something like Kensington in Philadelphia, although I've heard political winds have changed and theirs some thought the situation will be improved soon.

Fair enough. But I'd assume that people getting hooked on prescription pills isn't just an issue in the US.

So, how does a "boss" deal with an organization full of hostile, recalcitrant subordinates actively opposed to his goals, and working to stymie and sabotage all his efforts, when the HR department actively works to make firing employees as difficult as possible?

He looks for a better job.

Or he picks better goals. “Never give an order that won’t be obeyed,” after all.

He looks for a better job.

So the permanent bureaucracy gets to decide who is or isn't an "acceptable" president, regardless of who the voters elect?

Never give an order that won’t be obeyed

So the permanent bureaucracy gets to decide which policies are and aren't "acceptable," regardless of what the electorate voted for?

"You can get the Model T in any color you want, as long as you want it in black," and all that. And people get on my case for saying "Our Democracy" is nothing of the sort.

If the game is simply that rigged against the right, what reason do we really have not to just flip the board?

A boss can only do as much as the owner permits. In this case, Congress (who writes the rules) needs to repeal a bunch of "civil service protection" laws so Trump can just go full Andrew Jackson on the bureaucracy. Everything the dems are doing now to "secure" the bureaucracy is being done purely through the executive, so theoretically Trump could poof it all out of existence on January 21, 2025, but really cleaning house will require Congress.

The bigger issue, which we saw in Trump's first term, is that the Left's stranglehold over the universities, civil service, and other institutions means that there simply aren't enough Republicans competent or interested enough in being a petty bureaucrat to fill the gaps in the short-to-medium-term (particularly if Trump wants to fill the bureaucracy with MAGA-types rather than the centrists and libertarians who currently make up most of the Right's governing class and currently work in the think tanks Trump would need to pull from for staff). This is even more true when you account for the fact that working in Trump's last administration was an absolute shit show and a lot of the people around last time have no interest in returning).

Even explicitly political right-wing nonprofits that are allowed to openly discriminate based on political views struggle to fill out their support roles with ideologically committed fellow travelers.

The only path to victory I can see would be Trump firing as many people as he can at the federal level and devolving their responsibilities to the states. That doesn't solve the root problem with the Left's stranglehold over education, and the state-level bureaucrats are still likely to be at least somewhat hostile to a roght-wing agenda, but it's a hell of a lot easier to find right-wing staff willing to institute your agenda in Talahassee or Cheyenne than in DC.

The only path to victory I can see would be Trump firing as many people as he can at the federal level and devolving their responsibilities to the states. hat doesn't solve the root problem with the Left's stranglehold over education,

I can think of alternative paths, but first, I'm not particularly confident of their odds of working (but then, I don't think the path you've outlined here is at all likely to work either), and second, I'm not sure I'm allowed to lay them out here.

It would make sense to move as many departments away from DC as possible.

In the 21st century, there's zero reason to have Department of Agriculture be based in DC. Better to move it to Kansas City or Des Moines.

Try to move as many departments away from DC as possible, and remove the possibility of remote work. It would save money, and it would revitalize economically underdeveloped areas.

It would make sense to move as many departments away from DC as possible.

I've proposed relocating the CDC from Atlanta to here in Alaska… specifically Attu island. Claim it's about being better-positioned for future COVID-like outbreaks from China, possible Russian bioterror, re-emergence of diseases from permafrost due to climate change…

I like this idea.

I’d actually underestimated how many were concentrated in the DC metroplex. The CDC is in Atlanta, and that’s…almost it.

A priori, that seems like a really weird and surprising situation, I would start by asking why are they doing that and see if maybe you're doing something wrong or can win them over somehow.

or can win them over somehow.

And if you can't?

maybe you're doing something wrong

If by "something wrong" you mean having a different vision for the organization, different goals, different terminal values…?

Perhaps weird comment here as I've just had two bottles of wine for pain relief (not getting into that). But I just wanted to make a comment on EA's bizarre (to me) priorities, with the headline example of malaria nets.

I've had malaria in the DRC, and if I had died, as I came extremely close to doing many times, it would have been about as easy a death as one can get (maybe 1.5/10). By contrast, speaking as someone who gets punched in the face for a living, a bad hit to the liver is 9/10 pain for 30 seconds and if liver disease comes even remotely close in pain levels to that, donating money to cure liver cancer is infinitely more aligned to EA values than, well, basically anything I can think of. I suspect most malaria-net supporters are young enough that they have never experienced actual pain.

Eh, you can get all sorts of bizarre effects if you count negative utility. Accelerationist shit where eliminating humans is the only way to minimize pain in the long run.

On the more sane side, I would guess modern medicine makes liver disease significantly less painful than a liver shot.

Aside form the most drawn-out and excruciating fates, most of the pain related to death is experienced by family and friends, plus the lost investment of society raising someone to that age and then losing productive years.

Are you certain? How many people do you know who have died who can attest to this?

Sounds like EA should work on better pain relievers so folks like you can spare their livers all those bottles of wine. But for real, is supporting the development of better pain relief an EA priority? There's interesting work to be done there, some recent progress being made on sodium channel blockers I think. On top of the whole "make everything less painful for everyone" angle, there's how most of the ongoing opioid trainwreck could have been averted if we had real painkillers that didn't require escalating doses to keep working.

One of Scott's grants has to do with the genetics of altering / removing pain receptors, I belive.

donating money to cure liver cancer is infinitely more aligned to EA values than, well, basically anything I can think of.

If one dollar saved the same number of liver cancer lives as one dollar saved malaria lives, this might be true. It's not. As a reminder, the E in EA stands for "effective". That means do the math, shut up and multiply. One liver cancer death might be worse than one malaria death, but it's not worse than ten malaria deaths, so if you can save ten lives for the same money as one life, you save the ten.

I sometimes too dwell upon this aspect of EA. Your argument is similar to the Utility monster argument. If the goal is to minimize suffering then maybe some neurotics in rich western countries suffer more than Africans, for whom malaria is a tamed aspect of life. But never tried to make it precise.

just had two bottles of wine for pain relief

speaking as someone who gets punched in the face for a living

Log out, Tyson, you need to get ready for your fight with Usyk.

I would rather survive liver disease a thousand times than die of malaria once.

I assume the concern is more around the loss of life (good years not lived) than the dying itself?

How much good will more liver cancer funding do on the margin?

Yeah, malaria nets are cheap and effective, whilst liver cancer research is complicated

I recall reading an article describing how, in contrast to how he's been "whitewashed" by American conservatives, Martin Luther King Jr. was far more radical than how he's often presented in the popular imagination and many of his beliefs were indistinguishable from those of Kendi or Coates. It included quotes from King arguing that, in the absence of racial discrimination, we would expect to see equality in outcomes between blacks and whites.

I can't find the article, can anyone point me in the right direction?

A couple I know is doing IVF. They have the embryos already but they aren't implanted. I suggested they select the one to implant using genetic testing which a few companies offer at wildly varying costs. Does it really work? Are there downsides? If it can do what's advertised, it would seem to be worth the cost, which is several thousand dollars at most.

If they're already doing IVF I strongly advice it. The cost and risks of the IVF itself are a much higher barrier, so I generally don't advice healthy couples to do IVF just for the genetic testing, but the tests themselves are basically all upside with almost no risk.

For pregnancy prescreening the effectiveness of the tests have been called into question. Embryos are different but might suffer from the same issues?

Nothing here suggests the tests are ineffective. For a rare condition correctly predicting the fetus has the condition 15 times out of 100 implies the test must very accurate. It's the same thing where if you have a 99% accurate test for a condition that only 0.1% of the population is affected by then given the test says you have the condition you only have a 10% chance of actually having the condition.

Ineffective was not the right word, but it seems that some of the tests give a lot of false positives. If using it to screen embryos you'd delete a lot of healthy ones. If you have a limited number of embryos or a high rate of failure of embryo to pregnancy it might not be wise to use this as screening criteria.

More information is always better. They could decide to still use all the embryos but just try the best ones first.

That's generally not how these tests are used. Usually your number of embryos is higher than the number you'd actually want to implant, so you have to have some criteria. In many cases, this is still done with first some hard cut-off by deformities, down syndrome, etc., and then of the remaining ones it's either plain random or basically by visual inspection. Further genetic testing can help rank the remaining ones instead so that you can implant the one(s) that actually have a better chance at a healthy life. Nobody forces you to discard more embryos than you want, it's usually just extra information that you can still decide to either use or not.

I would like to know the answer to this as well.

Second entry of this Sunday: can anyone point me to a high quality source regarding genetic differences (or lack thereof) between races regarding alcohol tolerance and propensity for addiction? Googling and yandexing gives me a ton of mainstream news sources insisting any difference is definitely a myth and it’s all cultural but I have a hard time believing this without some better arguments.

For the case of Asian flush, I enjoyed reading which has links to specific genes.

Searching on google scholar turned up a bunch of things that felt like they might be relevant.

I have a strange project.

My parents have a large backyard with a large pond, about 20 feet deep in the middle. The water just inside the shore is mud, and it's waist deep out to about 25 feet from shore.

I want to make a nice space near the shore where I can walk in 6-10 feet and be in water to my neck, about 5.5 feet. I want to prevent it from silting up so I can easily walk in and enjoy the cold water at 5am without stepping on sharp roots or rocks. I have (and can operate) a backhoe. What's the best way to go about it?

I have no experience in pond building, but here are two suggestions anyway. Look into natural pools. — this guy designs and builds them with filtration systems.

Also, what about building a second pond that gets its water pumped in from the first pond instead of the spring and runoff? With the right filtration you can keep it silt free.

You have a backhoe? Nice!!!

Good luck with the project.

You have a backhoe? Nice!!!

I've got access to all kinds of construction equipment, either personally or from friends.

The male fantasy…

Is it a dammed stream, or does it just collect runoff? If it's the latter, it will be filthy no matter what you do. Geotextile + a truckload of pebbles is the usual approach.

It's spring fed, but also collects runoff.

If it's spring-fed, then covering the bottom with geotextile is a bad idea. I would go with pebbles/sand, plus a secondary gravel-filled ditch for filtering runoff

My grandfather set up a similar situation at the local lake. It involved dumping a shitload of sand to make a beach. I understand the challenge was more about keeping plants from growing up underneath it, which would be doubly difficult in a pond. How lively is it? Fish, turtles?

Tons of Koi that are tame, Sunnys, turtles. Geese are the worst.

I want to increase the depth close to the shore. Maybe dig down and then pour a concrete bath kinda thing? But how to keep it clean?

Geese really are the worst.

Before pouring any sand, grandpa put landscaping fabric over the whole beach area. At the shoreline, it was weighted down with a concrete and lumber barrier to slow erosion. Despite all this, the sand immediately spread to cover the bottom out as far as you could see or stand. This was a significant improvement over the mud and leaf litter.

I guess what I’m saying is that sand might work better than concrete. Or it might just get disgusting. Who knows?

Sand or gravel will definitely work better at least for the near to mid term future.

So, what are you reading?

I'm going through Dewey's The Public and its Problems. Still on McGilchrist's The Master and his Emissary. Thoughts below.

Done with King Rat. I really enjoyed that book and would recommend it to all. Cool metaphor between the rats in the latrines and the prisoners in the camp.

I’ve become a bit fixated on Michael Jackson after having watched Leaving Neverland (for the second time) and seeing MJ The Musical. MJ the Musical was…good, not great. The MJ lead was absolutely outstanding, a 10/10 singer, dancer, and impersonator. But the story is flat and the dialogue really causes the show to drag. The musical numbers are, of course, outstanding.

Anyway, I tried researching the existence of a comprehensive biography of MJ, one that comes at it critically, yet truthfully. And what I’ve found…is that there really isn’t one. Not one that the public-at-large considers to be the definitive version. He was just too big and unknowable, it seems, and has been a challenge for all biographers to separate fact from fiction.

I ended up choosing The Genius of Michael Jackson. I’m about 120 pages and it’s good so far. A little short on how Michael actually views the world, but interesting to see his upbringing and rise to stardom. We’ll get to the kid diddling soon, I’m sure.

Started rereading Magician by Feist, and it's blowing me away. Such a good story, it has all the classic epic fantasy elements from Tolkien but with much sparser descriptions, and a far more engaging pace. Feist is an excellent storyteller.

I remembered liking it as a kid and wasn't sure I'd like it coming back to it, but if anything it's even better now that I've slogged through hundreds of other fantasy books that were totally mid.

Also reading Christ in our Midst, a book of letters from a Russian Orthodox monk to his spiritual son. It's quite good so far, lots of very basic but solid wisdom.

I am happy to be able to report that the sequels to Magician are also pretty good! You can never really rely on that in fantasy...

Oh yeah, I've read the whole Chaoswar Saga and attendant books. Excited to dive back in.

Someone here recommend Dungeon crawler Carl a few weeks ago and I really enjoyed listening to it. I have tried other litRPGs/Progression fantasy/cultivation but nothing else I've tried has even come close and are usually very poorly written (maybe the writers are ESL?) and I'm dumbfounded as to why they're popular.

Anyone have any recommendations in this space? Goodreads and Amazon ratings don't seem to mean much.

There's some ESL (especially among cultivation fiction), but the average writer just isn't that good, and the average litRPG/progression fantasy/isekai writer tends to be a little worse than average. That said, some recommendations, with the caveat that they're almost all unfinished serial pieces, starting with the strongest characterization and working down.

  • Forge of Destiny, feminist fantasy cultivation fic. It's not the most original plot or system -- think the protagonists of Kill la Kill go to Wuxia-skinned Hogwarts -- but the characterization is very strong and the style starts decent and quickly works its way up.
  • Beware of Chicken, comedy cultivation/isekai. Main character dropped into the half-dead body of a junior sect member and promptly nopes the fuck out of the rat race, to quickly find a different sort of challenge when he's the biggest fish in a tiny pond, as accidentally uplifts spirit beasts and grows a cultivator-grade rice too valuable for anyone to buy. The original version needed an editing pass like whoa, and it was still worth it; the reworked (though Kindle Unlimited/purchase) version is much cleaner.
  • _The Humble Life of a Skill Trainer, progression fantasy, low-stakes. Main character is a skill trainer, in the sort of system where the line between 'teaching specialized skills' and 'physical and psychological torture' is blurry at best. Mostly focuses on smaller-scale politics and interpersonal stuff than how to best stab the Big Bad Evil Guy. Tone is a little too self-introspection focused, but it mostly works out rather than feeling like a bad Hannibal clone.
  • Delve isekai/progression litRPG. Crushingly realistic take on the everyman-dumped-into-an-abandoned-system-world genre. Somewhat interesting approach to avoid shonen syndrome by making the main character's combat skills very numbers-driven, explicitly. Pacing sometimes suffers, especially if you're reading it 'live', and a few characters are pretty wooden -- Amelia has a lot going on, but you're not really sold to care in the same way that Tallheart's stoicism or Rain's ADHD or even Reese's frustrated cynicism manages to grip -- but there's a lot of serious consideration for how people-as-people would treat a gamified system of this class.

Thanks for the recommendations! Just out of curiosity, what do you mean by feminist in the case of forge? I don't mind female protagonists but I'm not super keen on being preached at, regardless of ideology.

More feminist fantasy in the Mercedes Lackey or Tamora Pierce sense: a large proportion of characters and especially viewpoint characters are female, women's issues pop up in ways that are uncommon in mainstream fiction (even 'mainstream' cultivation fiction), the viewpoint characters are much more self-driven than in typical works for the genre, so on. There's some of the Girl Power! stuff going on, but it's more cultivator-on-cultivator pranking or sabotage than preachy aesop.

I've read a few LitRPGs. The main appeal of them is the clearly defined power system where you get to see number go up and the explosions get quantifiably bigger. Dungeon Crawler Carl honestly is very different from most LitRPG imo, Carl is rarely the super powerful protagonist who smashes people in fights, he wins with clever plotting.

Another LitRPG you might like is Worth the Candle, a story about a normal teenager isekai'd into a kitchen sink fantasy world, with a game interface that lets him rapidly get stronger. But it very much puts a lot of time into its characters and their personalities and relationships. But also gives the standard LitRPG "numbers get bigger" rush.

Thanks, I'll give it a look!

Worth the Candle is unique and memorable, sometimes frustratingly uneven but hard to put down. Much of the kitchen sink world building fell flat for me (but there are some striking inventions); sometimes the story drags (but it rarely feels like the author is losing his grasp on it); some of the characters have odd motivations and aren't especially likeable (but they're consistently and characteristically odd, and their dynamics with each other are well developed, with moments of surprising insight); in all, it's rarely missing on every aspect at the same time, so there's almost always something to keep pulling you along. And the prose is workmanlike throughout, which is saying something because the book just does. not. end. Even the end isn't the end, but if you're still with it by then you won't mind. As the only LitRPG I've read, I can't say with authority that it's way better crafted than most of the genre, but that's certainly the impression I get secondhand, despite it being a Door-Stopping Work of Staggering Self-Indulgence.

I liked most of it a lot, personally my only issue is that I felt the author forced a couple extra arcs in just to display more of his world building. Personally I liked his world building a lot, but eventually it did start dragging on as he'd describe monsters or magic items or whatever that didn't actually have much relevance to the plot at a time when the story should be climaxing.

His other story after it, This Used to be About Dungeons, is like that x10. Just endless descriptions of magic items.

That might have been me. For LitRPG, 'World of Chains' was an enjoyable listen for me (and the compendium, books 1-3 at 45 hours total, is listed as a single audiobook on audible!), but not quite as good as DCC. My bigger recommendation would be the Bobbiverse series, which is technically not considered a progression fantasy and rather just goes under "SciFi". But fundamentally, it follows the trajectory of an initially powerless AI (which is itself just a copy of the mind of the eponymous Bob) towards literally settling the universe, so imo it's conceptually in the same space.

One recurring issue that i note is that characterization is either weak or practically non-existent.

Do these series have real characters other than the main character and is main character acting plausibly within the confines of the established world? I feel this genre has a painful self-insert and infallible MC issues.

Regardless, I'll check them out.

The Bobbiverse kinda sidesteps this issue since the entire point of the series that after a (near) human extinction, the self-replicating AI called Bob becomes it's own spacefaring empire. So there's a decent number of different characters in the main plot, it's just that they're all Bobs. While their values increasingly diverge as he's replicating himself, they generally are recognisably the same kind of nerdy programmer type the original Bob was (and it's implied that some of the latest generations of Bobs diverge even further). On the other hand, it's a book with an unusual lot of sideplots, humans didn't get entirely wiped out and there are a few other species, so there is a small number of non-Bob characters which get okay characterisation. It's sufficiently weird and imo enjoyable to listen to give it a try.

World of Chains is on the other hand a fairly standard Fantasy-RPG setting. One of the main points in the first books is specifically that the MC behaved like an ass to the major of the town he started the game in - which is in the middle of nowhere so he can't go anywhere else - so he has to patch up his relations with the entire town since, unsurprisingly, the major is pretty popular. Most individuals are reasonable people with reasonable motivation, including the major and her supporters. But since it's an RPG in-universe, there are a few enemies that are almost comical archvillain-tier of badness and some oddness around how quests and NPC behaviour/reputation works, but it's explicitly talked about.

Overall both stories regularly have situations where it's implied or explicitly stated that the MC has made a mistake (especially in the bobbiverse, where different Bobs are MCs in different parts of the story and they don't always agree with each other). Admittedly I'd say both stories seem pretty strong on the self-insert - for both Bob and Daniel (WoC's MC) I wouldn't be surprised if their backstory is literally the actual life of their respective authors. And also, both books have a bit stiff prose that is pretty common among nerd writers. And they're very obviously progression fantasies, so while the MCs do make mistakes along the way, they never screw up so badly that they're done for (on the other hand, for Bob this is only true in the aggregate - some Bobs do in fact fail and die).

Do you recommend them as listens or reads? I noticed that WoC is narrated by the soundbooth theatre guys so I assume that is well done.

Listens, for precisely that reason.

Thanks, I'll check them out!

Started in on Jame's Clavell's Tai Pan. Still on the intro but I'm already learning some (pseudo) history about the opium trade that I never knew before, which isn't too hard because all I knew before was that Britain and China had an opium trade and it led to a war.

Are you excited about the new Shogun TV series?

Indeed. I've never seen the original TV show but I've read Shogun twice now.

I thought it was time to try out a second Clavell Asian Saga book, and choosing the next one by internal chronology made sense.

In The Public and its Problems, Dewey argues that government is the outgrowth of people observing each other and noticing the consequences of their actions. Officials arise when people try to indirectly control consequences of behaviour which go beyond the immediate people involved. This is in contrast to "original impulses" claimed to be found in people, like some mystic force which drives us towards an ideal form of government. There's something about this book which makes one pause.

Even yet, however, toleration in matters of judgment and belief is largely a negative matter. We agree to leave one another alone (within limits) more from recognition of evil consequences which have resulted from the opposite course rather than from any profound belief in its positive social beneficence. As long as the latter consequence is not widely perceived, the so-called natural right to private judgment will remain a somewhat precarious rationalization of the moderate amount of toleration which has come into being. Such phenomena as the Ku Klux and legislative activity to regulate science show that the belief in liberty of thought is still superficial.

Now, when I read Kant saying Sapere aude! I wonder how his words might seem if viewed in Dewey's framework. I'm not sure that the world needs more disillusionment, but a more realistic appreciation of principles, or rather the origin of arguments which seem principled, might do us some good in evaluating those who argue that they had no choice but to use heavy-handed means to control people. One must become familiar with his tools if he is to use them effectively. And perhaps the people who we hate are sometimes not so different in all their thought processes from the people who we revere.

The Master and his Emissary continues. In McGilchrist's framework, the left hemisphere is more explicit, the right more implicit, and this sometimes manifests in the terms "verbal" and "non-verbal." However, these words themselves seem inadequate, because metaphor, which is ultimately verbal, is in his account the right hemisphere's domain. McGilchrist might say (I can't remember if he did) that our thinking in these terms is itself a left-brain phenomena. In other words, our very idea of "non-verbal" interaction might be subtly misleading us from something profound.

Being myself, I naturally try to shortcut the investigation of this profundity, and have begun to wonder if the internet needs a passive-aggressive quip system. Imagine a smaller italics label on posts, something like a flair on the bottom, one which says EdenicFaithful did not find it necessary to respond to this commenter.

Do we need more room to praise or display aggression in less direct means? We normally think of this in terms of "body language," but this too might be missing the mark.

Of course my first suggestion seems likely to pour gasoline on the fire, but maybe there's a recognizable format which would allow more implicit expression using the mediums available to the internet, including text. Likes and dislikes are, after all, black-and-white, which is in McGilchrist's account a left hemisphere phenomena. Something obvious may be eluding us.

I've been thinking of Dewey's point as The Riddle of the Flute Children. Its applies quite generally. Cutting and pasting the riddle:

Amartya Sen starts his book The Idea of Justice with a parable about three children and a flute. Who gets the flute? The child who can play it? The child who made it? The child who has nothing else?

The response that gets to the heart of the matter is

Kill the person who asked the question. Once the idea of redistributing flutes takes hold, ambitious men will fight to be Lord High Distributor of Flutes. The fighting will escalate. The flute will be broken and the child who made it will die.

Asking who deserves the flute is self-defeating because the question sets off violence that leaves us without a flute.

Turning aside from political philosophy and turning back to the reading of old books, I notice that Dewey has priority. He made my point in 1927, 96 years before me. But his point and his once popular book have faded and I was unaware of them.

It seems obvious to me that my violent and strident phrasing of the Riddle of the Flute Children is a mistake. The idea gets masked by peoples reaction against the over-the-top expression. I would do better to phrase it in a mild and temperate way. Perhaps

recognition of evil consequences which have resulted from the opposite course

Whoops! That doesn't work either. Only a dark wizard of Ravenclaw would pick up on the profundity of the point being made. How is one supposed to expressive this difficult idea?

🙄 🤓.

EdenicFaithful laughs without comment.

Oh god. I parsed that as one of Pillars of Eternity II's companion reactions.

If you haven't played the game, they're short lines which pop up when a companion has strong opinions about your dialogue choices. Each of them has a variety of things they care about, and there's some randomness, so it does a good bit to liven up the interactions. Most of them are sensible. Others are hilarious.

Does anyone have advice for transitioning from FAANG -> finance/HFT?

I know some c++, but not a ton, so "learn more c++" is the obvious first step. Beyond that, unclear to me what to do. I'd like something fully remote that pays better than FAANG and is less soul crushingly boring. Something with high performance code instead of just tons of business logic.

Relatedly, I'm about halfway from (1-2 years away from) promotion to senior. Worth sticking around to get it, or jump ASAP? Leaning "stick around" to hedge my bets and have time to study.

Does anyone have advice for transitioning from FAANG -> finance/HFT?

Move to where the HFT work is: Chicago or New York City.

Already tried that, got an offer >2x FAANG, doing cool work. Ain't worth it to me. I bought a house I could happily live in, indefinitely, in shorts. Hence, in OP:

something fully remote

Understood. Good luck in your search. Unfortunately, many firms aren't keen on fully remote work.

Mostly unrelated to answering your question. I'm too low IQ for FAANG so yeah.

But is C++ a thing in HFT? I thought most HFT guys were just using Python given the limitation is mostly network latency and not necessarily compute. And given that, shouldn't they just use a more web friendly low level language like Rust or Golang?

I'm always a bit taken aback when I hear of yet another group of people other than game devs or embedded devs torturing themselves with C++ in 2024 when so many equally performant alternatives exist.

HFT operates at such low latencies that they choose where to locate their servers based on length of fibre optic travel. Within the same city. When things are that tight the programming language will matter.

Golang 1.0 came out in 2012 and Rust in 2015. HFT was long established by then, so they already had significant C++ codebases.

Also at the highest performance levels they may be using things like SIMD or CUDA, and the C++ tools for those are much more mature.

I also didn't think that c++ was a quant trading thing. I remember actually that I had a friend at Jane Street that talked a lot about OCaml.

I had a friend at Jane Street that talked a lot about OCaml.

Jane Street is an anomaly. Most firms rely on C++.

Plenty of shops do use C++ for their production code. JS is known for their OCaml but they are unique in choosing that language.

Yup. Blog post if you're curious:

Their podcast, Signals and Threads, is awesome.

I think count is a quant, actually.

Yep, I don't develop prod code with C++ (actually I think it is a terrible language and the future belongs to Rust) but rather all my coding is in the standard data science Python ecosystem of numpy/statsmodels/pandas/sklearn/matplotlib and their variants.

I'm not an expert on C++ or HFT, but I think in short: yes. Very much so. The main thing. When I've interviewed in the past (Citadel, Two Sigma, etc), C++ is a huge topic. Outside finance, I get language agnostic leetcode type things (and usually answer in Python). In finance, details of C++ are the majority of the interview topics. E.g., implement your own shared_ptr class.

I think that while there are finance jobs where Python (no doubt wrapping Pandas or similar, and therefore C++) is adequate, something faster/more customizable/more predictable is usually needed. Golang is garbage collected, so the pauses will ruin your tail latency. "Web friendly" is not relevant at all to HFT.

Rust is an option - it should in general have equal control and performance to C++. But, the institutional knowledge and ecosystem are just not in the same league as C++. The basic rust tradeoff vs C++ is that you get more safety, but it's harder to get anything done. Maybe a sufficiently good Rust programmer can be actually more productive, since the safety lets you avoid thinking about certain things, but there's vastly more adequate C++ programmers than Rust ones.

Idk if "too low IQ for FAANG" was a joke or not, but I think "medium IQ, high conscientiousness, high willingness to be bored for money" is more the requirement. Sure, there are people doing cool shit who need all the IQ they can get, but it ain't most of us. For every engineer optimizing the company-wide database engine, there's thousands shuffling bits from A to B.

If you’re interviewing with Citadel (and presumably didn’t get the offer, hence your question), surely you can just ask them what you were missing that the accepted candidate(s) had?

Almost nowhere I've ever interviewed gives feedback. It's a legal/reputation risk for no gain.

BTW, I personally would recommend against joining Citadel unless you very strongly know the team you are joining is a chill one. That place single handedly generates over half the horror stories you hear about the area.

Their compensation is top notch but it doesn't come for free, you pay in terms of scarring to your heart and soul.

How does that malignancy manifest directly? Is it shitty/abusive management? Long hours? Excess length shifts? Etc.

Curious as someone coming from an unrelated but likely similarly awful field.

Basically all of them. Citadel (Citadel Securities here, I'm not familiar with the hedge fund but I've heard it's even nastier) works you worse and longer without your weekends being protected compared to other firms (of course this all depends on exactly which team you are in but the culture there is not the best, plus as you can probably tell given how different things are between different teams it's very siloed which in my book at least is a significant negative).

I had (multiple) friends who were given offers for internships with Citadel in December only to find that the person who gave them the offer had been fired by the time they started the internship in June. Also things like Citadel Securities having hired close to 5000 people between 2019-2021 when at the end of 2021 it had a total head count of 2500 people. Just goes to show you what the turnover is at that place.

Random story I heard about Citadel (this was gossip so no idea how true it is, but it sounds like the thing Citadel would do):

When the Citadel higher ups are not happy with the performance of a portfolio manager (PM) they want to get rid of him. Naturally it's possible that the dude just had some bad luck recently so they can't be sure firing him is a good idea (because they want the dude to continue to make Citadel money if he is good) but equally they don't want to lose any more money in giving the dude a grace period if he is actually bad.

So instead what they do is secretly cut off his team's access to the real markets and connect it to a mock market instead without informing the person. When the dude thinks he is doing a trade what really happens is that the trade is routed to this fake show market Citadel have created for him. That way the dude keeps thinking he is managing an order book when in reality all that is happening is that he's trading with play money no different to what you can do with one of any dozens of apps on your mobile phone.

This way if the dude is actually bad he doesn't cost Citadel any more money before they fire him. Of course if he is good (less likely than the alternative because only low performers end up in this regime anyways) all his trades where he thought he was making money weren't doing anything so Citadel does loses out on some money. But that's basically fine for Citadel because they can just reduce his bonus down to reflect the real amount he made for Citadel and not the amount he thought he had made because that was what his screens were showing him. Plus he still has his job so as far as they care, he should be happy...

That is hilarious and sad. Thank you for sharing.

If you're in FAANG, don't you already have finance people messaging you every other day on linkedin trying to get you to switch already? Context: I have been in FAANG for 8 years and I personally have these recruiters constantly messaging me, and have had this since year 3 in FAANG.

I assume that when you're talking about getting into finance, you're talking about getting into the software side of quant trading. If that's not what you mean, then maybe it's harder to do than just taking the recruiters up on their offers.

I do have those recruiters, yeah. I've even successfully gotten an 2x FAANG offer, but turned it down because it wasn't remote. I still think there's things I don't know about how to optimize the process, e.g. what pay/companies to aim for, beyond "trust your recruiter."

Software side of quant trading roughly, yeah. I also don't really know what the options are. I don't want go in the SRE/ops direction, probably - my only experience with that at FAANG was more stressful and less interesting than SWE. I have a math bachelors from a top program, which maybe opens up my options slightly. If nothing else, it seems to make companies happier to talk to me.

Well, I don't know too much about switching, then, but I do know that I've seen previous coworkers make the switch, and at least one switched via some sort of special program designed for taking engineers and teaching them what they need for quant trading.

I myself would be very interested in whatever findings you come up with!

DAE get infuriated reading HackerNews comments?

The userbase is sufficiently tech literate to have passable to good discussions about tech. But boy is is jarring when they comment about anything other than tech. Blatantly wrong use of economics/politics/pop-science jargon, extremely naive shitlib or doomer takes, shitty ass model of how things work combined with shitty articulation of said model, Autism so profound most mottizens would want to give them swirlies, I can go on.

The annoying part is the discrepancy in quality post to post. I read an informative and insightful set of comments about the Golang compiler in one post and let my guard down and the comments in the next post would be undifferentiable from a mainstream reddit thread. At least Reddit is garbage through and through and I've primed myself to have 0 expectations from "the discourse".

Reading Hackernews feels like being put in a class full of "smart kids". The kids are clearly smart, but they are a bit high on their own supply. You were one of them too once, but you have grown out of the act (because in the big bad real world, you are probably just a midwit). But they will try to sneak in jargon every chance they get to let everyone know that they know the jargon, If I have to read another comment chain that includes a guy having an orgasm/circlejerk because he found out about GoodHarts Law, I am going to kill someone.

I actually think every forum, or at least every forum I actually visit, has things it's good and bad at.

HN is quite good at deep technical stuff. It's mid I guess at where tech intersects the real world. At purely real-world stuff involving geopolitics and macroeconomics, it's purely Reddit-tier. It does seem to have a noticeable sub-population of extraordinarily weird people, the type who do stuff like attempt to browse the web without Javascript, run their own email servers and use text-based email clients, continue to use IRC, etc, who seem completely unaware that they are far, far outside of the mainstream and get mad that the world doesn't cater to them. I've actually gotten to where I get severely annoyed by the crypto people who insist that all communication must be over E2E-encrypted provably-secure systems and discount all other features, concerns, failures, and attack types.

Reddit is okay for entertaining stories. Some of the smaller or more tightly moderated subs are okay for some types of information or discussion. For anything adjacent to the culture war, it's mostly trash.

But then it's not like the Motte is perfect either. We're mostly okay at reasonable discussion on tough culture war issues. The QCs showcase some of the really gold material that we manage to produce, and I'm proud to have earned a few. Sometimes it can be a bit quokka-ish though. Not a lot of room for stuff I consider fun. There's still a little sense of super weird and sheltered people sometimes, though not nearly as bad as HN.

I sometimes say only half-jokingly that it would be good to somehow require posters in a forum to prove that they can go to a bar in their local area by themselves, hang out and drink for a few hours, have a few decent conversations, and not weird out or piss off everyone around them or get kicked out or something.

I will use exactly the same justification progressives use in favor of censorship and against freedom of speech: information should be open and accessible to all, but only experts should be allowed to comment and be given a platform, lest we suffer from a misinformation contagion propagated by the undereducated.

The issue is that internet made the line between private communication and public communication even murkier than before.

I imagine the process is like this. Step 0. Information is open and accessible, but only vetted experts are allowed to opine on public platforms. Step 1. Me and my friends want to chat about the expert-verified opinions. We set up a private Discord server / Facebook group / Telegram-thing / what young people use today. Step 2. If we are very good (discussion is information-dense, or entertaining, or got some popular people involved), at some point the extrovert friend shares the invite link to his/her friends. Suddenly our group has hundreds of lurkers. Is it still a private discussion group? Step 3. Rinse and repeat. When you hit thousands of members, congratulations, it is a major newsletter.

(Steps 2-3 were accelerated in the old Web of blogs and forums.)

Initially it doesn't feel like you are setting up a major media platform. Most of them never become big. Is there a point where it makes sense to ban them?

Yeah, I feel you. The discussion is very low quality nowadays. HN seemed to have its Eternal September moment during the pandemic.

They could fix it by making people code up FizzBuzz before being allowed to post or comment.

I work with such people all day long. Nice guys and very smart but holy shit I keep the discussion limited to work/sports/kids.

If you ever try to link to JWZ to Hacker News you will be redirected to an image of a hairy testicle in an eggcup with the text. '"Hacker" News a venture capital company's fan club. Finance-obsessed man-children making the world worse'. So he is frustrated too.

I've seen HN comments that threads full of "techies" incorrecting each other and a grayed out downvoted comment with the someone who really knows. I think I've been doing software longer than some of the commentors have existed, and they are occassionally hilariously wrong about tech too. Not infuriated anymore I just don't read the comments that often.

Huge numbers of objectively smart people have very little knowledge of almost everything.

I find Reddit's economics takes so horrible that it's worse, though on most other things I agree that you often expect it to be bad, unlike hacker news.

Reddit's economics takes are amazingly bad. It's common to have comment sections where easily more than 99% of the comments are saying things that are blatantly at odds with the most basic and established economic concepts.

And I get the sense that this represents a large block of people, and politically active ones too! And not merely advocating things that could be bad, but things that would be outright disastrous, like not allowing people to go above a given net worth.

Yes. One of the crazier ones I've seen which is really popular is making it illegal to own an investment property unless it's a purpose built rental. So that's the only that renters would be allowed to live in. Another one is capping the price of food.

Right. The first leads to less building; the second leads to shortages. Neither a lack of homes nor a shortage of food are what they would want.

So reddit is selling data to AI training now according to Bloomberg. [Archive] . Well I for one isn't suprised! A huge bunch mediocre data nicely cleaned up by unpaid mods and community sentiment encoded in the karma. When I left reddit I removed all my posts and comments. I lost my trust way before the API debacle and seeing what is happening now, it just validates me. Anyone else?

While it's not a common sentiment, I agree with you. While it's likely ineffective at really removing your data from the database, mass overwriting and deleting your content is at the very least a middle finger to reddit that makes it worse to use, reducing its value to users and therefore to reddit itself. Trying to poison the dataset is even better.

The best defense, of course, is not to use the site at all. I heartily recommend that to everyone.

When I left reddit I removed all my posts and comments

I think some people have taken this even further. Intentionally poisoning the AI training data with false facts or doing SEO type shenanigans to get it to promote their products.

I don't understand the rationale behind this line of thought. If you are concerned(paranoid) about what data is used to train LLMs, you should also know that PushShift database exists, or that no production database out there in the wild doesn't have multiple replicas of itself at various timestamps.

Why do you not want your comments used to train LLMs anyways?

Why do you not want your comments used to train LLMs anyways?

well my concern isn't around LLMs in itself, it is slightly more abstract possible abuse of this data for behavior modification of crowds. I'm not an AGI doomer but I see the outlines already with inciting compulsive use with various apps like YouTube, TikTok and Instagram where it might be possible to use data like reddits to create similar compulsive loops for text as we have for video. I don't know if it is possible but it might be.

But my comment is more of that I made a decision a couple of years ago and this just proves that don't give a shit of the people who use their service, so I'm patting my own back.