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!"

Quotations V

MINUETTE: So, uh, what are you studying these days?
MOON DANCER: Science, magic, history, economics, pottery. Things like that.
MINUETTE: Yowza! You planning on being a professor or something?
MINUETTE: So you're just ... studying!
MOON DANCER: Can I go now?

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, "Amending Fences"

However, this corresponds to a general pattern of causal relationships: observations on a common consequence of two independent causes tend to render those causes dependent, because information about one of the causes tends to make the other more or less likely, given that the consequence has occurred. This pattern is known as selection bias or Berkson's paradox in the statistical literature (Berkson 1946) and as the explaining away effect in artificial intelligence (Kim and Pearl 1983). For example, if the admission criteria to a certain graduate school call for either high grades as an undergraduate or special musical talents, then these two attributes will be found to be correlated (negatively) in the student population of that school, even if these attributes are uncorrelated in the population at large. Indeed, students with low grades are likely to be exceptionally gifted in music, which explains their admission to the graduate school.

—Judea Pearl, Causality

"It would be nice if implementation languages provided extensible string-indexable arrays as a built in type constructor, but with the exception of awk, Perl, and a few others, they don't. There are several ways to implement such a mechanism.

Modern Compiler Design by Dick Grune, Henri E. Bal, Ceriel J. H. Jacobs, and Koen G. Langendoen (2000)

Continue reading


I should have listened to my model of Aaron Burr, I think in the oneiric methodlessness of my nightmare as the first bullet enters my back. It's not fair that everyone else gets to have all the fun in what they erroneously believe to be their post–involuntary-gender utopia, whereas I'm stuck being that guy pointing out all the cracks in the papier-mâché sky. I never wanted to be—here I hesitate for a moment wondering whether to use an indefinite or the definite article—the guy. No one does. (A second bullet enters my abdomen. A beam of radiation whitens a simple plough.) Why should I be punished for not being delusional about the reason?

"What Can I Do For You?"

"I think we should set aside some time to discuss how I could provide more value to you."

"That's an awfully disingenuous way of proposing a negotiation; you're not that altruistic."

"The function of speech is to convey meaning to the listener. I speak of providing more value to you because that's all you should care about; if it happens that the means by which we arrange that I do so involves you providing more value to me, well, that's as irrelevant as it is obvious."


"You don't get to decide what I am! ... for the same reason that I don't get to decide what I am! 'What I am' is an empirical question to be settled by evidence and reasoning, the answer to which I can exert some limited control over in proportion to the strength of the self-modification techniques I have at my disposal!"


"I'm concerned about the socially-undesirable implications of a model described by this causal graph."

(studying it) "Have you considered that these arrows might point in the socially-desirable direction instead?"

(with exasperation, as if realizing he is doomed to have this conversation dozens of times with everyone who is not a Dark Rationalist corrupted by cruel apprehension of patterns that innocents were not meant to see) "Yes, I have considered that! I consider it extremely implausible!"

Vingean Principle

"I miss you."

"I suspect you miss the idea of me."

"That was an entirely unexpected and yet hauntingly plausible response, which I take as evidence that I miss the real you; my mere idea of you can't do unexpected and plausible at the same time."

Worlds Collide

In the future, instead of the endless runaround war of "I'm offended!" and "I'm offended that you're offended!", our children's children's children will just write down their utility functions and use an off-the-shelf algorithm to merge them and compute the exact, correct tensor of offendedness under the unified consensus social norms.

Missing Books II

A roman à clef about a very religious teenager who gradually figures out that God isn't real around ages 20 and 21, spends the next eight years feeling OK about this, then one day suddenly realizes that God not being real implies that prayers don't work, and freaks the fuck out. His friends (who grew up in the same community but don't share his incredible lack of native talent for hypocrisy) are unsympathetic. "You really thought that would work?" "Yes!" "But didn't you notice that—" (sobbing) "I didn't!"