# Misc

## Adversarial Collaboration by Daniel Kahnman

• Source of bias in studies is people prefer running experiments in a particular way. This gives them an excuse to dismiss evidence collected by others.
• Replication crisis was somewhat dismissed by priming social scientists. The field is now mainly dead.
• Methodology has improved a lot in psychology, due to the replication process.
• TODO: Apparently there’s \$20M going into adversarial collaborations around consciousness. Sounds interesting, look it up!
• Is society getting smarter? It sounds like we’re becoming more rational, with stuff like adversarial collaboration spreading.

## Orexin and the quest for more waking hours

This post claims that a genetic mutation causes some people to produce more orexin, which reduces the need for sleep. We didn’t evolve this mutation as orexin promotes feeding and energy expenditure, but we don’t really have that problem in the modern world.

### Patenting naturally occurring chemicals

There’s no incentive to use naturally occurring chemicals as medicine, as you can’t patent them.

## The end of Europe’s energy crisis is in sight

This article claims that the massive reduction in gas prices in Europe in winter ’22 is thanks to our “advanced capitalist economies”: we sent a strong price signal, and everyone responded.

## Societies change their minds faster than people do

This article claims that changes in public opinion don’t always come from people changing their minds, but come from older generations being “replaced” by younger generations. This is true for whether communist books should be removed from libraries, legalized abortion, and government spending on black lives. However, legalized gay marriage seems to be due to individuals changing their mind.

(I imagine that newer generations being larger amplifies this effect.)

## Axiology, Morality, Law

This post distinguishes between axiology, morality and law:

• Axiology is kinda like utilitarianism (e.g. donate to save a life)
• Morality is kinda like deontology (e.g. not donating is better than murder).
• Law is, well, the law (e.g. enforce not murdering, don’t enforce donations).

We distinguish between all of these, and should prioritize law-over-mortality-over-axiology. The reason is this order gets a lot of benefits like social trust, and we’re often not smart enough to operate directly in the axiology frame (we should trust our moral instincts!).

### Relation to offsets

The axiology/morality/law framing leads to allowing “offsets” in axiology, but not in morality or law. Killing one person to save another is wrong, but carbon offsets are OK.

## The Demographic Catastrophe

Post.

### Reasons for fertility decline

• Decreased utility from children, as they don’t perform labour.
• People don’t value having children as much, due to shifts in religion & perceiving children as not increasing happiness.
• Decreased fertility, perhaps due to testosterone falling ~25% between 1999 and 2016.
• Broken relationship markets, both men and woman are having less sex since Tinder-like apps were introduced.

### Economic decline

• Global productivity will decrease, as there are less humans.
• Debts will be a bigger fraction of expenditure, as pensions are paid to a bigger portion of the population.
• Income will be smaller, as there are less productive individuals paying taxes.

### Economic intervention

Probably won’t work:

• Countries like Poland & Hungary have tried this with little success.
• Lower income is correlated with higher birth rates.
• Much higher income is correlated with higher birth rates too, but to a much lesser extent (“J curve”).

### Social decline

• A lot of positive social progress might be negatively correlated with reproduction rates (acceptance of gay marriage, egalitarian views towards gender).
• If “higher fitness” cultures don’t have these values, they might disappear.

### Solutions

• Government intervention, but this has shown little success in the past.
• Fertility improvements, could work but is a small part of the problem.
• Artificial wombs, potentially possible and would solve the problem - while creating whole new ones.
• Efficient matchmaking, basically make a better Tinder.
• Cultural innovation, promote values that encourage large families. But if successful, this would also homogenize culture.

From the book review.

• We expect low hanging fruit to be taken due to efficient market hypothesis.
• This often isn’t the case, for example:
• Sometimes there’s no incentive to fix a problem (e.g. you can’t short startups).
• Sometimes there’s imperfect information channels (e.g. best medicines).
• Sometimes you need large coordinated efforts to fix things (e.g. switching social media).
• This relationship extends to inside/outside views:
• Inside view: Reasoning at the object-level about a system.
• Outside view: Looking at averages, general opinion, etc.
• Smart people should take the inside view more often, as the outside view can be wrong.

## The story of Viktor Zhdanov

Article. Viktor Zhdanov convinced WHO to try to eradicate smallpox. This was possible at the time due to (1) vaccines existed and could be easily transported, (2) that smallpox only spreads through humans, (3) that WHO funded this across the world.

## Activated Charcoal for Hangover Prevention

Post.

### Alcohol vs. ethanol

Alcohols are assembled from carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen atoms. When >2 carbons are present, it is an ethanol (aka ethyl alcohol). Ethanol is found in beer, wine, and liquor.

### Digestion cycles

Digestion happens in a cyclic process:

• It goes from the small intestine to the liver.
• If there is still a lot of the drug present, it goes back into the small intestine.

This means that drugs can be digested for a long period of time (hours).

### Ethanol digestion process

• Due to the cyclic process, this can take 6-8 hours from ingestion to full digestion.
• Ethanol is broken down into acetaldehyde (AcH).
• AcH is broken down into acetate.
• Acetate is broken down into carbon dioxide and water.

### What ethanol by-product causes hangovers?

Likely acetate. Acetate induces hangover headaches in mice, and AcH gets metabolized very quickly.

### Methanol

• Produced naturally by fermentation.
• Higher in alcohols commonly associated with hangovers.
• Exists in blood for similar time periods as a hangover.
• Metabolized into formaldehyde, which is metabolized into formic acid - the latter is worse for you.
• Metabolized after ethanol, which explains delayed hangovers + hair-of-the-dog trick.

### Effect of Activated Charcoal

• “Activated” means it is very porous, and thus has a large surface area (bigger than a football pitch!).
• So it can absorb a lot of whatever binds to charcoal.
• Ethanol and methanol don’t bind to charcoal.
• But acetate and formic acid do - which are big culprits for hangover causes!

### Clear vs. dark liquors

Dark liquors have more methanol, and studies show they lead to worse hangovers.

From worst-to-best: brandy, red wine, rum, whisky, white wine, gin, vodka, and pure ethanol.

### Juices in hangovers

• Juices contain a decent amount of methanol.
• But no ethanol, which is metabolized first.
• So juices + ethanol means the ethanol stays in your system longer, leading to a bigger hangover.

## Smallpox

• Case fatality rate is 30%.
• Eradicated in 1977 (see Zhdanov).
• Killed around 500 million people in its last 100 years (400K a year in Europe).
• Characteristic blisters with a small dent in the middle.

## Black death

• Pandemic in Western Eurasia and North Africa.
• From 1347 to 1351.
• Killed 75-200 million people, 30-60% of Europe.
• Spread by fleas and by person-to-person aerosols.
• Europe’s population didn’t recover until the 1500s.
• There was an outbreak in Madagascar in 2017, killing 170 people.

## Heavier-Than-Air Flight Is Impossible

Post. Quotes several prominent thinkers saying that heavier-than-air flight is impossible, and uses this as a motivation to be ambitious.

A challenge to understand sentences where a single word change can resolve ambiguities in different ways. For example:

The city councilmen refused the demonstrators a permit because they feared/advocated violence.

## When to use a semicolon

• Joins two related but independent clauses.
• e.g. “John finished all his homework; Kathleen did not finish hers.”
• Used in place of “, but” / “, and”.
• Or: Use instead of a comma when the two clauses already contain commas.
• Or: Use with conjunctive adverbs.
• e.g. “I needed to go for a walk and get some fresh air; also, I needed to buy milk.”

## The Lottery of Fascinations

Post. Disentangles $$g$$ factor stuff from interests. We draw from the lottery of fascinations, and this determines what drives us and thus what we’re good at.

## Shake Hands with the Devil

### Conflict background

• Tutsi and Hutu tribes live in Rwanda.
• Belgian colonisers put Tutsis in power, largely because they represented Europeans more (taller, lighter skinned).
• Rwanda gained independence in 1962, and a popular uprising drove the Tutsis out of Rwanda.
• Lots of violent “pogroms”, defined as organized massacres of a particular ethnic group.
• Tutsis formed the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) which became capable of facing and defeating the Rwandese Government Forces (RGF).
• Rwandan leadership is under pressure to arrange peace between RPF and RGF, while also facing calls to establish democracy in Rwanda.

Wikipedia. Where having one copy of a gene has better fitness than two (e.g. if it causes a disease) or zero (e.g. provides no advantage).

## The Atomic Bomb Considered As Hungarian High School Science Fair Project | Slate Star Codex

Post.

1890-1920 Budapest produced many scientists that advanced physics through nuclear power & quantumn mechanics. Scott claims this is due to Budapest having a high proportion (25%) of Jewish people, and points to this paper that finds that Ashkenazi Jews have higher intelligence (+1 std!) compared to the general population due to continued repression. Ashkenazi Jews are also susceptible to genetic diseases related to neural growth. This increased intelligence vs. genetic diseases tradeoff could have increased fitness due to repression of Jews.

Opinion: It seems unlikely that we’d see such a large evolution in intelligence over a relatively short period, but I’ve not read the MIT paper.

## Genome size

• ~3.1 billion base pairs.
• ~6GB
• ~8-14% is functional.
• Suggesting the human genome is ~600MB.