Alles wat Jan bezig houdt, interesseert en irriteert... en ook een beetje onzin...

dinsdag, oktober 24, 2023

EA’s reasons not to have kids.

Although the latest Michael Lewis book "Going Infinite" seems to me to be his least well written one, it does give several good quotes. As per "the Zvi":

"A lot of EAs chose not to have kids," said George. "It's because of the impact on their own lives. They believe that having kids takes away from their ability to have impact on the world." After all, in the time it took to raise a child to become an effective altruist, you could persuade some unknowably large number of people who were not your children to become effective altruists. "It feels selfish to have a kid. The EA argument for having a kid is that kid equals happiness and happiness equals increased productivity. If they can get there in their head, then maybe they have a kid." (2,261)

So people who practice Effective Altruism (basically a religion for non-believers) have a very weak reason not to have children. 

I can personally think of some much better reasons not to procreate (in no particular order):

What is your favorite reason not to have kids before Armageddon

What was going on in SBF’s mind?

If you've always wanted to know how somebody who thinks himself the best wicked smart but can't feel much empathy thinks, then reading up on SBF might be interesting. 

What surprised Sam, once he himself had unlimited sums of money, was how slowly rich people and corporations had adapted to their new political environment. The US government exerted massive influence on virtually everything under the sun and maybe even a few things over it. In a single four-year term, a president, working with Congress, directed roughly $15 trillion in spending. And yet in 2016, the sum total of spending by all candidates on races for the presidency and Congress came to a mere $6.5 billion. "It just seems like there isn't enough money in politics," said Sam. "People are underdoing it. The weird thing is that Warren Buffett isn't giving two billion dollars a year." 

donderdag, oktober 19, 2023

Political Disinformation and AI

This is the first time in human history that LLM's (rightly or wrongly called "AI's") like ChatGPT and Claude will be used to create realistic sounding and looking content for social media platforms with an eye to influencing elections. 

Seventy-one percent of people living in democracies will vote in a national election between now and the end of next year. Among them: Argentina and Poland in October, Taiwan in January, Indonesia in February, India in April, the European Union and Mexico in June, and the US in November. Nine African democracies, including South Africa, will have elections in 2024. Australia and the UK don't have fixed dates, but elections are likely to occur in 2024.

I know that much the exact sciences is in the middle of a "replication crisis", meaning that long held believes simply cannot be proven when a new experimenter does the same test under the same circumstances. The reasons are very simple, I think. More scientists need to produce more papers because that is how they achieve tenure. Any measurement that is used to grade someone will be malformed until it becomes meaningless. 

Political powers like to undermine their adversaries by influencing their voters. This is also a simply to understand drive. 

Personally I think I'm insulated from most of the direct effects (but not the resulting harm) of these voter-steering-propaganda-channels because I don't watch or ready much on social medias and I also never vote. I've voted once, and that is quite enough, thank you. 

It seems that every new year brings new craziness. Who would have believed that free countries would mandate curfews, QR codes for entry and implement other stringent emergency laws? 

Who knows that 2024 will bring 🤔? 

woensdag, oktober 11, 2023

The Slightly Complicated Theory of Obesity

The science of weight loss hasn't escaped the "sacrifice a goat at full moon and hope for the best phase yet". 

In a sense, nutrition science has maneuvered itself into a corner here. Due to the religious insistence on randomized controlled trials and using a large number of people for studies, it's pretty much impossible to find any solutions unless they apply to everybody.

If we insisted on the same methods as car mechanics, we would have to declare that there is no solution for cars stranded on the side of the road.

After all, we did a large study: we took a sample of 10,000 cars stranded on the side of the road, and we attempted all popular ways of fixing them. We put gas into them, we pumped up their tires, we topped off the oil, and we checked for any engine errors.

Yet not a single one of these repairs made more than 15% of the cars run again!

Clearly, cars cannot be repaired. That's just science. Gasoline in, gasoline out!

On the importance of staring directly into the sun

Here's one of my favorite psychology studies of all time. You bring people into the lab, and you ask them, "Do you know how a toilet works?" And they say "Uhh yes, I'm not an idiot." And then you go "Okay, could you please write down, step by step, how a toilet works." And then you ask them to explain something that requires knowledge of toilets, like "How does pressing the lever on the side of the toilet cause the bowl to empty and then refill again to a certain level?"

What participants learn in this study is that, to their horror, they don't really know how a toilet works, at least not nearly as well as they thought they did. This isn't specific to toilets—you can get it with everything from spray bottles to helicopters.

woensdag, oktober 04, 2023

It’s better to pay then to get a “free” service 🤔

Kendric Tonn: Relatedly, I learned very quickly running my Airbnb to never, ever offer discounts. Guests shopping for discounts were, next-to-universally, disruptive, destructive, and generally the scum of the earth. I will never hit that "run a promotion!" button again.

This is, incidentally, independent of the actual price point. I might manually drop my price 10-20% if it looks like the BnB is likely to go empty, and that's fine: just as long as I don't show up in searches for discounted rooms.

Recently I've been scammed into a subscription by [company that I will not name nor link to because I don't want to give them more airtime than they already have] a satellite and over-the-internet TV provider. The way the scam works is:
  1. Offer a 3 months free trial 
  2. Sent an email that begs a trial user to stay on as paying customer. 
  3. In the background, continue the subscription anyway. 
  4. After one more month start sending threatening emails and texts that will ruin your consumer credit rating if they don't cough up the money (and charge extra for recuperation costs) 
  5. Profit 🤑🤑🤑
Now, they probably see themselves as a service provider and the victims of a non-paying "toxic" customer: me. 

Both they and I would have been happier if I had paid from the very beginning and simply canceled my plan after one disappointing month (the TV app works fine but there is just nothing with watching anymore). 

Keeping a conversation going with zero knowledge?

The old and mostly forgotten dark art of ✨keeping a conversation going✨ can experience a revival if we remember to show genuine interest. 

Don't know how to show interest? This party trick will mimic genuine interest: ask open but related questions. 


Veerasamy: one of my best 'party tricks' is that I can have an interesting conversation with any subject matter expert about anything for an hour despite me having 0 prior knowledge of the thing. core thing is to ask earnest "I'd love to learn more" questions

5 minutes? just ask the person how they got into the thing that they're into. when did you first get into astrology / neuroscience / norse mythology / mongolian throat singing? How did that happen? Wow, no way!! And then? You're kidding. What?? Yea I see it. Damn! How else?

What do newbies like me typically get wrong about X? Why do think that is? What's your favorite thing about X? Why? What's the biggest source of drama in the X community right now? are you on either side or do you see both merits? etc etc. 3 hours have gone by.

"X" here is not shorthand for "the bird app" but for "the topic under discussion". Just saying. 

maandag, oktober 02, 2023

Big Babies: When It Comes to Kids, Many Adults Need to Grow Up

Should babies be allowed to cry, even if it makes adults feel uncomfortable?

The transactional nature of modern life has led many adults to believe that if they are paying for a restaurant meal, an airline seat, or a house in a nice neighbourhood, they should be entitled to dictate the terms of their experience—and to exclude those who disrupt it. 

This is an impoverished and self-defeating perspective. We all begin our lives dependent on the tenderness of adults, and if we're very lucky, we'll grow old enough to rely on others' care again. At any point in between, we may become disabled or ill, or we may experience a mental health crisis, a serious injury, or just a really bad day. It's only temporary good fortune that prevents any of us from becoming the friction in someone else's existence. When we inevitably do, we should hope that others treat us with compassion. Enjoying a serene restaurant meal is nice, but it is in our collective self-interest to cultivate a more tolerant society

zaterdag, september 30, 2023

Woodlands sow the seeds for clouds and rain 🌧️ 🤯

When clouds empty themselves some kilometers inland, they are exhausted and cease to exist. 

So, how on earth do we get rain much farther inland? After all, all the clouds that drift overland from a nearby sea are spent.

Well, forests are the main water transportation mechanism for clouds deeply overland.  Trees release a lot of water vapor, together with oxygen. They also inhale carbon dioxide, so when I walk in a forest and I in- and exhale I'm feeding the trees as much as they are feeding me.  

Now a new discovery show yet one more way in which woodlands can "seed" clouds 🤔 

In a paper published this month in Science Advances, Dada's team establishes a new heavy hitter in cloud creation: a kind of chemical released by trees. Trees emit natural volatiles like isoprene and monoterpenes, which can spark cloud-forming chemical reactions. Dada's new work focuses on an overlooked class of less abundant volatiles called sesquiterpenes, which smell woody, earthy, citrusy, or spicy, depending on the molecule and type of plant or microbe that emits them.
The team shows that sesquiterpenes are more effective than expected for seeding clouds. A mere 1-to-50 ratio of sesquiterpene to other volatiles doubledcloud formation.

Is This the Fourth Turning?

The broader concept that civilizations run in cycles is very old. In 146 BC, Polybius laid out the rough contours of the political cycle -- the"kyklos." 

Polybius' formula is actually better known than Strauss-Howe — you've seen it as the "Hard Times Create Strong Men" meme.

donderdag, september 28, 2023

Volledig lichaam

Ik moet erbij vertellen dat ik, anders dan het gewone volk, veel gemakkelijker overprikkeld raak omdat mijn cognitieve vermogens anders zijn dan jullie, maar dat ik tegelijkertijd verveeld raak als ik weer niet genoeg geprikkeld word. Een meta-millennial, zou je kunnen betogen

Grappig hoe alle millennials zichzelf anders dan anderen vinden. 

Als je met diverse mensen praat ontdek je al snel dat iedereen min of meer hetzelfde is qua bouw. Het verschil zit hem er vooral in hoe het ermee omgaat. 

dinsdag, september 26, 2023

The Musk algorithm

A methodology for shipping faster then most:

  1. Question every requirement.
  2. Delete any part or process you can
  3. Simplify and optimize.
  4. Accelerate cycle time
  5. Automate


dinsdag, augustus 22, 2023

The Mind Of A Bee

So for decades, scientists assumed that bees could not differentiate squares and triangles, because in their experimental paradigms where they asked bees to look at squares and triangles, there was no downside. Bees just blitzed the test to get that sweet, sweet sucrose. Once penalties were introduced for mistakes, bees started performing much better and could easily differentiate squares and triangles.

This illuminates one large problem with measuring cognition in vertebrates and invertebrates. If an animal can't do something in one test, it tells you a lot more about that test than the animals' generalised skillset.

maandag, augustus 21, 2023

Allergies as a modern phenomenon.

Allergies - It's a rather curious fact that allergies are a modern phenomenon. Few people had allergies before the 1950's and they're going up everywhere. 

woensdag, augustus 16, 2023

‘Forever Chemicals’ Are Everywhere. What Are They Doing to Us? - The New York Times

"I've heard some people say, 'Well, if everybody is exposed to PFAS, how come we aren't all dead?'" Jamie DeWitt, a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, told me. In fact, she says, "People actually are dying." DeWitt cited a report in The Lancet that calculated that about nine million people each year die from chronic diseases caused by environmental pollutants of all kinds. "We need prevention," DeWitt says. "And that means acknowledging that environmental exposures lead to diseases."

zaterdag, juli 01, 2023

The Missing Bill Murray Part from “Asteroid City” | The New Yorker

Wes Anderson's new film, "Asteroid City," has a proverbial cast of thousands—Jason Schwartzman! Scarlett Johansson! Tom Hanks! Jeffrey Wright! Edward Norton!—but one stalwart of Anderson's troupe is conspicuously missing: Bill Murray, who has been in the director's last nine features. Murray was originally cast as a motel manager in the desert town where the movie is set, in 1955. "Normally, I don't think it's such a nice idea to tell everyone the person who didn't end up in the movie," Anderson said recently. "But Bill got covid in Ireland, and it was four days before he was supposed to work." 

After viewing this movie trailer, and others like it before, I *really* want to go and watch Asteroid City. But first, I'll view Indiana Jones and The Dail of Destiny this weekend 🤔 

donderdag, juni 29, 2023

6 (onzin)redenen om het salaris niet te vermelden in de vacaturetekst

we willen niet dat mensen alleen bij ons komen werken voor het geld.
Snap ik. Ik werk ook voor mijn plezier. En daarmee betaal ik al mijn rekeningen: mijn hypotheek, mijn brandstof en het brood van de bakker. Vinden ze geen probleem.

zondag, juni 25, 2023

Young People Have No Idea What We Used to Do After Work. Let Me Regale You.

The year the Twin Towers fell (2001) was my last (full) year of school, so, I know I that I must have been working in 2002. The funny thing is, growing up in a world without a mobile phone or without internet at home (and certainly not in your pocket!) was like a totally different world.

How did I meet people? Make plans for the weekend? Plot trips? Mostly, being the shy nerd that I am, I just didn't. I met friends in the Kingdom Hall and we would talk about upcoming movies and make plans to drive there on Saturday nights, and maybe have a burger and a beer afterwards. That was "going out" for me. 

So, although my free time wasn't filled quite as interestingly as others knew how to, I feel very close to these comments on slate:

Rebecca (magazine writer, New York City): There were definitely no emails from bosses or internet checks before going into the office. We didn't get the internet in our apartment until 2004.

Sean: We really would just drive to someone's house and see what they were doing. You and a couple people would be in the car and you'd be like, "Let's go by Brian and Mike's."

Jordana (legal assistant, New York City): My boss gave me a PalmPilot as a bonus instead of money. I rode the subway to work and played Dope Wars on my PalmPilot. I think I only ever used that PalmPilot to play Dope Wars.

This one struck home with me as well, because my first "cellular phone" did not have a mute function. Every time I was on the platform to deliver a talk or in a meeting at work, I was afraid that a friend (some were, like me, a bit earlier and also had cellphones) would make a prank call just to have my phone go off. 

Nicole (public defender, New York City): You would not call someone's cellphone during the workday. Calling someone on their cell in that era was like how our parents thought about long-distance—only if it's very important.

Dan: If you called someone at work on their cellphone, maybe it would ring in a meeting or something. That would be terrible. Cellphones were for emergencies, or for calling people when you were drunk.

To this day I try not to take work home with me. But Teams and Outlook did find their way to my phone for some strange reason 🤔 

Nicole: I never took work home. Sometimes I had a lot to do, so I would just stay late until it was finished.

Dan: I would sometimes stay late to use the good internet at the office. They had DSL.

So, what did they do after work?

Sean: We really would just drive to someone's house and see what they were doing. You and a couple people would be in the car and you'd be like, "Let's go by Brian and Mike's."

Sally: You had to plan more ahead and hope it worked out. People didn't flake as much. There's no option to text someone 10 minutes before, because you knew they were waiting for you.

How do you cancel in a world without cell phones? You don't.

Dan: Even if you didn't feel like it, you just showed up. If you didn't show up, people would stop inviting you out. And then you would have fun! Or maybe it would suck, but next time would be fun.

Nicole: I always carried a book or the New Yorker with me, because in a time before cellphones, no one could call you to tell you they were going to be late, so you had to have something to read.

I am also old enough to have rented video cassettes, and DVD's, I think?

Sean: We rented a ton of movies at Blockbuster. Whoever was currently King of Friends got to decide—you bring them a couple of movies, and they'd decide. Or sometimes you'd just watch a movie you already owned.

For more nostalgia, you can find the whole article at Slate: