An Element Which Is Nameless

I had always thought Twilight Sparkle was the pony that best exemplified the spirit of epistemic rationality. If anypony should possess the truth, it must be the ones with high p (p being the letter used to represent the pony intelligence factor first proposed by Charles Spearpony and whose existence was confirmed by later psychometric research by such ponies as Arthur Jenfoal) who devote their lives to tireless scholarship!

After this year, however, I think I'm going to have to go with Applejack. Sometimes, all a pony needs to do to possess the truth is simply to stop lying.

Just—stop fucking lying!

Fighting Game Ideas I

Évariste Galois vs. Aaron Burr

particularist special-snowflake fox vs. broad-brush dimensionality-reducing hedgehog

the pain of arguing with creationists vs. the pain of being a creationist and not understanding why those damned smug evolutionists won't even talk to you

Resisting the Narrative

Culture wars are a subtle thing to wage, because they determine everything without being about anything. Explicitly political contests are at least ostensibly about some particular concrete thing: you're fighting for or against a specific law or a specific candidate. But how do you fight a narrative, when your enemy is less of a regime and more of a meme? How do you explain to anyone what you're trying to accomplish when you're not trying to get anyone to do anything different in particular, but to renounce their distorted way of thinking and speaking, after which you expect them to make better decisions, even if you can't say in advance what those decisions will be?

Picture me rushing into a room. "People, people! The standard map is wrong! Look at this way better map I found in the literature; let's use this one!"

"Our map isn't wrong. It has all the same continents yours does."

"I mean, yes, but it's a Mercator projection. Surely you don't really think Antarctica is larger than Asia?"

"Why do you care what size Antarctica is? What difference does it make? People are perfectly happy with Antarctica being the largest continent."

"But it's not true!"

"It sounds like you're assuming your beliefs are true. What is truth, anyway?"

And it being the case that no one will die if she gets the size of Antarctica wrong, what can I say to that?

Prescription II

that feel eighteen months post-Obergefell when you realize you missed your chance to be pro-civil-unions-with-all-the-same-legal-privileges but anti-calling-it-marriage while that position was still in the Overton window

(in keeping with the principle that it shouldn't be so exotic to want to protect people's freedom to do beautiful new things without necessarily thereby insisting on redefining existing words that already mean something else)

Alpha Gamma Phi

In the oneiric methodlessness of my daydream, my bros at ΑΓΦ are telling me that E is the best party drug and that I have to try it.

"I don't know, guys," I say.

"Nah, bro, you've got to try it!"

"Okay," I say, "just don't expect me to mentally rotate any 3D objects tomorrow."

The Parable of the Honest Man and the Thing

"I really want to do the thing! All of my friends who are just like me are doing the thing, and they look like they're having so much fun!"

"You can totally do the thing! You just have to sign ... this loyalty oath!"

(reading it) "What? I can't sign this. It's, it's—" (rising horror) "not scientifically accurate!"

"Everyone else who is doing the thing has signed the loyalty oath."

"Could I ... do the thing, without signing the loyalty oath?"

"You could, but everyone you ever interact with for the rest of your life will assume that you've signed the loyalty oath; it would take five hours for you to explain what you actually believe, but no one will listen to you for that long because they'll decide that you're a hateful lunatic thirty seconds in."

(A beat.)

"You know, honestly, my life is fine as it is. I don't need to do the thing. I'm glad my friends are having fun."

(dies of cardiac disease fifty years later without having done the thing)

(Earth is consumed in a self-replicating nanotechnology accident)

Concerns II


"I'm concerned about the socially-undesirable implications of the correlations documented in these published studies, which seem consistent with my own observations and personal experience."

(studying them) "Hey! These correlation coefficients are not equal to one! In fact, all of them are substantially less than one! How dare you try to construct predictive models about how the world works, when you yourself admit that your model won't assign literally all of its probability mass to the exact outcome?!"

(in despair, as if realizing that the nature of reasoning as an adaptation for arguing with conspecifics in imperfectly-deceptive social organisms implies that no one can ever have a serious, grown-up conversation about anything important) "Just kill meeeeeeeeeee"

Wicked Transcendence II

went to the genderqueer support/discussion group at the Pacific Center again; showed up early to change into my Pearl dress (it would be a waste to only wear it once) and surreptitiously slip a copy of Anne Lawrence into the library

I think I mostly enjoy being the token conservative/TERF (um, relatively speaking); I say that my pronouns are he/him "because I don't perceive myself as having a choice in the matter" and probably smashed the record for most uses of the phrase biological sex at one of these


Physical pain is the worst thing in the world, and the work of effective altruists will not be done until the last nociceptor falls silent and not a single moment of suffering remains to be computed across our entire future light cone.

But the emotional pain of discovering that your cherished belief is false, that everything you've ever cared about is not only utterly unattainable, but may in fact not even be coherent?—yeah, I'm pretty sadomasochistic about that. That's rationality; that's what it feels like to be alive.

The Roark–Quirrell Effect

Education increases altruism up to a point (as you increasingly understand that other people are real too and have moral value for the same reasons you do even if you don't experience it from the first person), until you accumulate so many seemingly unique insights that the entire rest of the world looks so abominably stupid that you no longer want to waste a single precious dollar or minute on the concerns of these creatures that can't even see the Really Obvious Thing.

(Or, maybe this is just a form of mental illness specific to high-psychoticism males that can be cured with the appropriate drugs. We'll find out!)

The World By Gaslight

In the oneiric methodlessness of my nightmare, I am a lieutenant commander posted to the Glomar Explorer; I am pacing the deck while opining that taking the correct, minority position in a scientific controversy necessarily feels just like early-onset dementia (which I can't help but notice makes a perfect pairing with a late-onset case of the other d------ia word).

Something is wrong with the ship's computer. Before I can figure out whether it has to do with HTTP Strict Transport Security or the Accelerated Graphics Port (it has to be one or the other), we sink, and I drown.


"Maybe my real problem is that I take myself too seriously—from my perspective, that other people don't take themselves seriously enough. Like I'm off in my corner going mad, unable to comprehend why, why doesn't the world understand that words mean things. But when you actually talk to people, their anticipations of experience are all just about as well-calibrated as mine; they're just really bizarrely cavalier about using words to mean whatever they feel like at the moment."

"So basically you're going mad over ... prescriptivism."

"I know, usually I'm not the type to get into linguistic prescriptivism debates, but I guess I had assumed that those were always about obscure things, like when to use comprised instead of composed. I wasn't expecting people to redefine a top-20 noun out from under my feet."

"And yet!"