An answer to a possible objection to cash-transfer charities 2014-07-01T00:49:10.904Z


Comment by B_For_Bandana on Open thread, Oct. 12 - Oct. 18, 2015 · 2015-10-12T22:46:38.743Z · LW · GW

High school is hard.

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Rationality Quotes Thread April 2015 · 2015-04-04T21:12:44.325Z · LW · GW

So raise your glass if you are wrong in all the right ways!

  • Pink, virtually alone among the pop-singer community in her early endorsement of the post-rationality movement.

(Epistemic status: frivolous wordplay on the different meanings of "wrong.")

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Rationality: From AI to Zombies · 2015-03-13T21:20:03.692Z · LW · GW

The code of the shepherds is terrible and stern. One sheep, one pebble, hang the consequences. They have been known to commit fifteen, and twenty-one, and even even, rather than break it.

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Open thread, Jan. 19 - Jan. 25, 2015 · 2015-01-20T21:36:09.521Z · LW · GW

There were sixteen other students in the class. For all we know, theses about fun things could have been in the majority.

Yeah, maybe.

If you accept what I wrote in the GP, where do you see a contradiction in the four statements? And if you don't, could you try to articulate why?

No, no I don't think you had a contradiction either. I was just saying that you could do the same thing with "fun." And maybe other kids did, as you say.

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Open thread, Jan. 19 - Jan. 25, 2015 · 2015-01-20T18:16:58.331Z · LW · GW

Sure, but the point is that the same argument applies to the flipside: everyone could've written essays like "X is fun" or "Y is fun" without contradiction. But they chose "hard" instead. Why?

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Rationality Quotes January 2015 · 2015-01-05T02:00:47.614Z · LW · GW

I want to climb a mountain, not so I can get to the top, but because I want to hang out at base camp. That seems fun as shit. You sleep in a colorful tent, grow a beard, drink hot chocolate, walk around... ‘Hey, you going to the top?’ . . . ‘Soon.’

  • Mitch Hedberg on fun theory and the complexity of human values.
Comment by B_For_Bandana on Rationality Quotes January 2015 · 2015-01-01T15:06:28.000Z · LW · GW

One of the replies there is,

@RachelHaywire diverse sci/astro ppl I follow, male+female believe far more women driven from phys sci by harassment than men by geekshaming.

Reminds me of Twain's comparison of the two Reigns of Terror.

Edit: Not to mention that we didn't lose Matt Taylor. He still has the same job as a scientist with the ESA.

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Rationality Quotes January 2015 · 2015-01-01T14:30:26.658Z · LW · GW

An escalator can never break -- it can only become stairs. You should never see an "Escalator Temporarily Out Of Order" sign, just "Escalator Temporarily Stairs. Sorry for the convenience. We apologize for the fact that you can still get up there."

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Rationality Quotes January 2015 · 2015-01-01T14:28:18.705Z · LW · GW

Some people seem terribly smug about being right about one thing. It makes me wonder if this is, in fact, the only thing they’ve ever gotten right in their whole lives.


Comment by B_For_Bandana on Open thread, Dec. 15 - Dec. 21, 2014 · 2014-12-20T15:12:41.367Z · LW · GW

For GiveWell in particular, if you do not believe they can do this, why do you think they can evaluate other charities' effectiveness?

Yeah, I think that's right. I'm the same as people who don't want to give to charities who have too much "overhead," leading to perverse incentives, as you say. GiveWell itself can be looked at as overhead for the charities it recommends, even though technically it's a different organization. As such they deserve to be supported too.

Will click "Unrestricted" in the future.

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Entropy and Temperature · 2014-12-17T21:28:06.137Z · LW · GW

I didn't read your comment carefully enough. Yes, we agree.

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Entropy and Temperature · 2014-12-17T21:09:28.718Z · LW · GW

Right, but we don't think of a tennis ball falling in a vacuum as gaining thermal energy or rising in temperature. It is "only" gaining mechanical kinetic energy; a high school student would say that "this is not a thermal energy problem," even though the ball does have an average kinetic energy (kinetic energy, divided by 1 ball). But if temperature of something that we do think of as hot is just average kinetic energy, then there is a sense in which the entire universe is "not a thermal energy problem."

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Open thread, Dec. 15 - Dec. 21, 2014 · 2014-12-17T21:03:17.281Z · LW · GW

When you go to GiveWell's Donate page, one of the questions is,

How should we use your gift? We may use unrestricted gifts to support our operations or to make grants, at our discretion:

And you can choose the options:

  • Grants to recommended charities

  • Unrestricted donation

I notice I'm reluctant to pick "Unrestricted," fearing my donation might be "wasted" on GiveWell's operations, instead of going right to the charity. But that seems kind of strange. Choosing "Unrestricted" gives GiveWell strictly more options than choosing "Grants to recommended charities" because "Unrestricted" allows them to use the money either for their own operations, or just send it to the charities anyway. So as long as I trust GiveWell's decision-making process, "Unrestricted" is the best choice. And I presumably do trust GiveWell's decision-making, since I'm giving away some money based on their say-so. But I'm nevertheless inclined to hit "Grants to recommended charities," despite, like, mathematical proof that that's not the best option.

Can we talk about this a little? How can I get less confused?

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Entropy and Temperature · 2014-12-17T20:33:07.831Z · LW · GW

An alternate phrasing (which I think makes it clearer) would be: "the distinction between mechanical and thermal energy is in the mind, and because we associate temperature with thermal but not mechanical energy, it follows that two observers of the same system can interpret it as having two different temperatures without inconsistency."

In other words, if you fall into the sun, your atoms will be strewn far and wide, yes, but your atoms will be equally strewn far and wide if you fall into an ice-cold mechanical woodchipper. The distinction between the types of energy used for the scattering process is what is subjective.

Comment by B_For_Bandana on October 2014 Media Thread · 2014-10-05T02:51:17.619Z · LW · GW

Whether this is intentional is not clear to me, probably not.

I think it was intentional -- other characters frequently remark on how dumb she is. My impression is that Swan's character was some kind of artistic/political statement by Robinson -- that the adventures of a screwed-up, clueless person are just as valid and meaningful as those of more traditional heroes, or something. I wasn't too impressed by this, but the book's worldbuilding was amazing and that made up for everything else.

Comment by B_For_Bandana on October 2014 Media Thread · 2014-10-04T22:16:32.762Z · LW · GW

Wait a minute, there's such a thing as fan fiction of fan fiction? What a time to be alive.

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Rationality Quotes October 2014 · 2014-10-04T21:57:52.503Z · LW · GW

When you get to a fork in the road, take it.

(I will keep doing this. I have no shame.)

Comment by B_For_Bandana on October 2014 Media Thread · 2014-10-04T21:50:47.537Z · LW · GW

I just finished Red Plenty by Francis Spufford, which I bought because of this review on Slate Star Codex. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting mix of history and fiction about the Soviet Union in the late 1950's and early 1960's, when it was actually plausible to hope that politicians and scientists could get central planning right and build an economy that provided a first-world standard of living to everyone. (Spoiler alert) it doesn't work out, and Red Plenty gives you a good look at how and why it failed.

I'm not usually a person given to intense patriotic emotions; I don't get choked up when "The Star Spangled Banner" is played or anything. But as an interesting side effect of reading this book, I love America a lot right now. I'm in the mood of people who get off planes and kiss the ground.

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Rationality Quotes September 2014 · 2014-09-02T01:25:28.252Z · LW · GW

Always go to other people's funerals; otherwise they won't go to yours.

Yogi Berra, on Timeless Decision Theory.

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Me and M&Ms · 2014-08-04T21:00:36.503Z · LW · GW

That makes sense.

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Me and M&Ms · 2014-08-03T20:51:52.377Z · LW · GW

Can I ask a silly question? My understanding of your situation is that you want to get your work done, but sometimes you don't have the willpower, so you use your M&M system for motivation. But then you are faced with the possibility of just eating a bunch of M&M's without doing anything. And there is no meta-M&M system to motivate you to keep from eating M&M's. So I don't see how this can actually help you. Empirically, it clearly does, but I have trouble understanding how. Why is it easier to keep from eating M&M's "on your own" and leverage that ability to motivate you to do work, than it is to keep doing work "on your own" in the first place?

If I have just ruined the effect, I sincerely apologize...

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Ethics in a Feedback Loop: A Parable · 2014-07-26T15:31:54.404Z · LW · GW

Hang on. I'm a "group" of sapients (a group of one, but a group). Everyone else is another group. Are you saying that I will never be convinced, or should never be convinced, by moral philosophy written by someone else?

And why call the assertions arbitrary? The humans in the story seem to share axioms like "pain is bad, cet par" with the Martians. Neither side is Clippy here.

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Ethics in a Feedback Loop: A Parable · 2014-07-26T12:12:17.797Z · LW · GW

Yes, I meant less than if the green Martian was more cavalier about tickling humans.

And of course, providing value, and getting recognized for providing value, are two completely different things. Each can and do happen without the other happening.

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Ethics in a Feedback Loop: A Parable · 2014-07-25T19:51:54.323Z · LW · GW

His values bring no value to him, or to anyone else.

Well, not quite. The humans really are being stung less.

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Ethics in a Feedback Loop: A Parable · 2014-07-25T19:05:43.828Z · LW · GW

Recruit the subset of rare humans who enjoy green tickling and employ them as tickling punchbags for green Martians to practice on.

The laws of Earth prohibit tickling for pay. Interestingly, the laws of Earth do not prohibit paying a Martian and a human actor to act as if the Martian is zapping the human's brain with a ray gun (which in real life is way worse than tickling, even by a green Martian, and which no humans or Martians actually enjoy doing) and then selling the video. It's weird. [ETA: I misunderstood the analogy. Doing experiments on the mothership for pay is illegal. Tickling for pay is legal in theory, but it would seem weird to most people, so it usually isn't done.]

Your other solutions are worth trying. However, I notice that most of them are blunt physical solutions that depend crucially on tickling being a very simple physical action that we have the technology to modify, and not, say, a stand-in for an interlocking set of horrifyingly complicated social problems involving desire, fear, pain, status, envy, humiliation, hope, joy, resentment, contempt, shame, and, oh yeah, politics. Lucky we're just talking about tickling.

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Jokes Thread · 2014-07-24T18:22:58.961Z · LW · GW

"I lack all conviction," he thought. "Guess I'm the best!"

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Politics is hard mode · 2014-07-23T23:38:34.350Z · LW · GW

then the lone contrarian party gets to decide everything

How often do the center-right and center-left coalitions look the crazy thing the lone contrarian party wants to do, go "lol, nope" and make a centrist compromise with each other? Is that possible/common?

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Rationality Quotes July 2014 · 2014-07-07T17:33:42.782Z · LW · GW

In times like these I really have to wonder why it's never (or at least rarely, to my eye) stressed that self-awareness is probably the single most important component of a healthy life. We're constantly handed very specific definitions of good behavior, complex moral and legal codes, questionable social constructs, and so on. I don't remember ever really being told to take a step back--to step back as far as possible--and look constructively at myself. But increasingly I feel that the only dividing line between being "that guy" and being a net positive to those around you comes out of being able to look at yourself critically and build constructively.

Maybe I'm oversimplifying or assuming that introspection is simple. But for every ten groups explaining religious ideology to me, or telling me why their political candidate is best, I wish one would have told me to get out of my own head as much as possible.

Comment by B_For_Bandana on New organization - Future of Life Institute (FLI) · 2014-06-15T12:09:32.305Z · LW · GW

If we want ease-of-use, the fact that you typed out "backwards-E existence symbol" instead of "∃" isn't encouraging...

Comment by B_For_Bandana on May 2014 Media Thread · 2014-05-03T21:25:01.019Z · LW · GW

An old Ikea commercial gives an amusing example of the difference between fuzzies and utilons:

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Rationality Quotes May 2014 · 2014-05-03T02:28:58.290Z · LW · GW

One afternoon a student said "Roshi, I don't really understand what's going on. I mean, we sit in zazen and we gassho to each other and everything, and Felicia got enlightened when the bottom fell out of her water-bucket, and Todd got enlightened when you popped him one with your staff, and people work on koans and get enlightened, but I've been doing this for two years now, and the koans don't make any sense, and I don't feel enlightened at all! Can you just tell me what's going on?"

"Well you see," Roshi replied, "for most people, and especially for most educated people like you and I, what we perceive and experience is heavily mediated, through language and concepts that are deeply ingrained in our ways of thinking and feeling. Our objective here is to induce in ourselves and in each other a psychological state that involves the unmediated experience of the world, because we believe that that state has certain desirable properties. It's impossible in general to reach that state through any particular form or method, since forms and methods are themselves examples of the mediators that we are trying to avoid. So we employ a variety of ad hoc means, some linguistic like koans and some non-linguistic like zazen, in hopes that for any given student one or more of our methods will, in whatever way, engender the condition of non-mediated experience that is our goal. And since even thinking in terms of mediators and goals tends to reinforce our undesirable dependency on concepts, we actively discourage exactly this kind of analytical discourse."

And the student was enlightened.

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Open Thread April 16 - April 22, 2014 · 2014-04-20T23:16:45.154Z · LW · GW

Yes, of course. I was mostly just trying to be funny. One could keep the joke going and compare the monthly meetups, Winter Solstice meetup, the Effective Altruist movement, the Singularity, and so on to their complements in Christianity.

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Open Thread April 16 - April 22, 2014 · 2014-04-20T00:56:04.484Z · LW · GW

Well, here at LessWrong, we follow a thirty-something bearded Jewish guy who, along with a small group of disciples, has performed seemingly impossible deeds, preaches in parables, plans to rise from the dead and bring with him as many of us as he can, defeat evil, and create a paradise where we can all live happily forever.

So yeah, getting away from Catholic habits of thought may be tough. With work, you'll get there though...

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Rationality Quotes April 2014 · 2014-04-03T00:27:32.396Z · LW · GW

(Edited to add context)

Context: The speakers work for a railroad. An important customer has just fired them in favor of a competitor, the Phoenix-Durango Railroad.

Jim Taggart [Company president, antagonist]: "What does he expect? That we drop all our other shippers, sacrifice the interests of the whole country and give him all our trains?"

Eddie Willers [Junior exec, sympathetic character]: "Why, no. He doesn't expect anything. He just deals with the Phoenix-Durango."

  • Atlas Shrugged

It gets at the idea talked about here sometimes that reality has no obligation to give you tests you can pass; sometimes you just fail and that's it.

ETA: On reflection, what I think the quote really gets at is that Taggart cannot understand that his terminal goals may be only someone else's instrumental goals, that other people are not extensions of himself. Taggart's terminal goal is to run as many trains as possible. If he can help a customer, then the customer is happy to have Taggart carry his freight, and Taggart's terminal goal aligns with the customer's instrumental goal. But the customer's terminal goal is not to give Taggart Inc. business, but just to get his freight shipped. If the customer can find a better alternative, like competing railroad, he'll switch. For Taggart, of course, that is not a better alternative at all, hence his anger and confusion.

(Apologies for lack of context initially).

Comment by B_For_Bandana on What are some science mistakes you made in college? · 2014-03-25T17:32:15.890Z · LW · GW

Yes, my mistake, it was indeed the pole piece. Not something that's supposed to be in close proximity like with an AFM. If I had broken an AFM tip it would've been less of a problem, because those are expected to wear out every so often.

It was a few years ago, but I remember that we were doing e-beam lithography, and that did make it necessary to move the stage around. I think the idea was that our circuit was pre-drawn using software, after which we could just put the diagram into the SEM computer and it would scan around and draw the pattern we wanted. But in order to set this up, it was necessary to precisely locate the initial position of the stage in (x, y, z) so that our pattern would be drawn at the correct location on the silicon. And this meant we had to actually move the stage around, instead of just using the optics to focus on different parts. And due to things like differences in the wafer housing thickness, and other users who had moved the stage, that included moving it up and down.

ETA: All this was done before turning on the electron beam itself, since that would've started burning up the resist. The initial setup was done using a low-power optical microscope inside the SEM.

Comment by B_For_Bandana on What are some science mistakes you made in college? · 2014-03-24T17:41:17.913Z · LW · GW

I once crashed the scanning tip of a scanning electron microscope into the sample when my attention wandered for a few seconds while I was adjusting the focus. The lab techs had made it very, very clear to me beforehand that I was never to let the tip and sample get less than a few centimeters (I forget the exact value, but it was specified) apart, because the scanning tip was very expensive and fragile. My moment of inattention ended up costing the lab $10,000, and me any possible friendships with the lab staff.

One lesson is, "Be careful!" but that is tough to actually put into practice. It's precisely when you're not being careful that you need the advice the most. A more actionable piece of advice might be, "Regard scanning and thinking as two separate tasks. Plan out where you're going to scan, then stop thinking. Then scan. Then think again. Do not think and scan at the same time."

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Rationality Quotes February 2014 · 2014-02-08T00:39:25.686Z · LW · GW

Madolyn: "Why is the last patient of the day always the hardest?"

Costigan: "Because you're tired and you don't give a shit. It's not supernatural."

The Departed

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Open thread for December 24-31, 2013 · 2013-12-26T16:39:36.436Z · LW · GW

Because each step in the food chain involves energy loss, the shorter the chain, the fewer plants need to be killed to support you. Thus being a vegetarian saves plant lives too.

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Open thread for December 9 - 16, 2013 · 2013-12-09T21:25:26.893Z · LW · GW

Today is the thirty-fourth anniversary of the official certification that smallpox had been eradicated worldwide. From Wikipedia,

The global eradication of smallpox was certified, based on intense verification activities in countries, by a commission of eminent scientists on 9 December 1979 and subsequently endorsed by the World Health Assembly on 8 May 1980. The first two sentences of the resolution read:

Having considered the development and results of the global program on smallpox eradication initiated by WHO in 1958 and intensified since 1967 … Declares solemnly that the world and its peoples have won freedom from smallpox, which was a most devastating disease sweeping in epidemic form through many countries since earliest time, leaving death, blindness and disfigurement in its wake and which only a decade ago was rampant in Africa, Asia and South America.

Archaeological evidence shows evidence of smallpox infection in the mummies of Egyptian pharaohs. There was a Hindu goddess of smallpox in ancient India. By the 16th century it was a pandemic throughout the Old World, and epidemics with mortality rates of 30% were common. When smallpox arrived in the New World, there were epidemics among Native Americans with mortality rates of 80-90%. By the 18th century it was pretty much everywhere except Australia and New Zealand, which successfully used intensive screening of travelers and cargo to avoid infection.

The smallpox vaccine was one of the first ever developed, by English physician Edward Jenner in 1798. Vaccination programs in the wealthy countries made a dent in the pandemic, so that by WWI the disease was mostly gone in North America and Europe. The Pan-American Health Organization had eradicated smallpox in the Western hemisphere by 1950, but there were still 50 million cases per year, of which 2 million were fatal, mostly in Africa and India.

In 1959, the World Health Assembly adopted a resolution to eradicate smallpox worldwide. They used ring vaccination to surround and contain outbreaks, and little by little the number of cases dropped. The last naturally-occurring case was found in October 1975, in a two-year-old Bangladeshi girl named Rahima Banu, who recovered after medical attention by a WHO team. For the next four years, the WHO searched for more cases (in vain) before declaring the eradication program successful.

Smallpox scarred, blinded, and killed countless billions of people, on five continents, for hundreds to thousands of years, and now it is gone. It did not go away on its own. Highly trained doctors invented, then perfected a vaccine, other engineers found ways to manufacture it very cheaply, and lots of other serious, dedicated people resolved to vaccinate each vulnerable human being on the surface of the Earth, and then went out and did it.

Because Smallpox Eradication Day marks one of the most heroic events in the history of the human species, it is not surprising that it has become a major global holiday in the past few decades, instead of inexplicably being an obscure piece of trivia I had to look up on Wikipedia. I'm just worried that as time goes on it's going to get too commercialized. If you're going to a raucous SE Day party like I am, have fun and be safe.

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Yet More "Stupid" Questions · 2013-09-15T01:08:47.290Z · LW · GW

I expect them to be less mindkilled than they seem.

(Nods) that's really what I was trying to say, yeah.

Also it's worth an NB that the AAT only applies to epistemic agreement, right? It doesn't prevent groups from competing over resources: we agree that the pie is tasty, which is precisely why we're fighting over it. Of course if you're committed to fighting, then screwing with your enemy's, and partially-committed ally's, models of the world is a valid combat tactic.

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Yet More "Stupid" Questions · 2013-09-10T23:51:29.405Z · LW · GW

Probably an obvious point: epistemically that's an error, but politically it's probably an indispensable tactic. Say you do an honest and perfectly reliable utilitarian analysis, and find that chimpanzees really should not be used in research; the real substantial medical advances are not worth their suffering. But frustratingly the powers that be don't care about chimps as much as they should. Your only hope is to convince them that chimp-using research is nearly useless to humans, so that even their undersized compassion for chimps will convince them to shut the research down.

I have a kind of romantic suspicion that nearly all politically active people are like this, that if you could somehow get them alone and sit them down and ask them what they really think, they'd go, "Yes, congratulations Einstein, you figured it out. Of course if we succeed then it's likely the lives of [some group] will get a lot worse, but, well, omelets and eggs." And then they swear you in and give you a membership card, because if you've gotten this far, then you can also see that they're justified.

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Greatest Philosopher in History · 2013-08-09T20:17:15.233Z · LW · GW

Either the AI itself, or, if the AI is very well-designed, anyone and everyone who would really enjoy being the greatest philosopher in history.

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Rationality Quotes July 2013 · 2013-07-02T01:50:30.341Z · LW · GW

I agree in principle, but I have basically no confidence in my ability to figure out what to do to help people in the future. There are two obstacles: random error and bias. Random error, because predicting the future is hard. And bias, because any policy I decide I like could be justified as being good for the future people, and that assertion couldn't be refuted easily. The promise of helping even an enormous number of people in the future amounts to Pascal's Wager, where donating to this or that charity or working on this or that research is like choosing this or that religion; all the possibilities cancel out and I have no reliable guide to what to actually do.

Admittedly this is all "I failed my art" stuff rather than the other way around, but well, it's still true.

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Newbomb's parabox · 2013-07-01T14:07:56.852Z · LW · GW

This isn't a paradox, the bomb will go off no matter what, assuming Omega is a perfect predictor.

Amusingly, this wouldn't seem like a paradox if something good was guaranteed to happen if Omega guessed right. Like if the problem was that you're locked in a box, and you can only avoid getting a million dollars if you do the opposite of what Omega predicts. Answer: "cool, I get a million dollars!" and you stop thinking. In the problem as stated, you're casting about for an answer that doesn't seem possible, and that feels like thinking about paradoxes, so you think the problem is a paradox. It isn't. You're just trapped in a box with a bomb.

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Some reservations about Singer's child-in-the-pond argument · 2013-06-28T02:15:02.270Z · LW · GW

Well, if it costs anything like $2300, then...

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Do Earths with slower economic growth have a better chance at FAI? · 2013-06-12T23:14:43.311Z · LW · GW

Or are we taking seriously the possibility that the course of the economy is largely driven by quantum randomness?

Isn't everything?

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Rationality Quotes June 2013 · 2013-06-03T01:36:03.485Z · LW · GW

I'm someone who still finds subjective experience mysterious, and I'd like to fix that. Does that book provide a good, gut-level, question-dissolving explanation?

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Rationality Quotes June 2013 · 2013-06-01T20:45:22.969Z · LW · GW

Stepan Arkadyevitch subscribed to a liberal paper, and read it. It was not extreme in those views, but advocated those principles the majority held. And though he was not really interested in science or art or politics, he strongly adhered to such views on all those subjects as the majority, including his paper, advocated, and he changed them only when the majority changed them; or more correctly, he did not change them, but they themselves imperceptibly changed in him.

Stepan Arkadyevitch never chose principles or opinions, but these principles and opinions came to him, just as he never chose the shape of a hat or coat, but took those that others wore. And, living as he did in fashionable society, through the necessity of some mental activity, developing generally in a man's best years, it was as indispensable for him to have views as to have a hat. If there was any reason why he preferred liberal views rather than the conservative direction which many of his circle followed, it was not because he found a liberal tendency more rational, but because he found it better suited to his mode of life.

The liberal party declared that everything in Russia was wretched; and the fact was that Stepan Arkadyevitch had a good many debts and was decidedly short of money. The liberal party said that marriage was a defunct institution and that it needed to be remodeled, and in fact domestic life afforded Stepan Arakadyevitch very little pleasure, and compelled him to lie, and to pretend, which was contrary to his nature. The liberal party said, or rather allowed it to be understood, that religion is only a curb on the barbarous portion of the community, and in fact Stepan Arkadyevitch could not bear the shortest prayer without pain in his knees, and he could not comprehend the necessity of all these high-sounding words about the other world when it was so very pleasant to live in this one.

  • Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

The personal is political!

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Research is polygamous! The importance of what you do needn't be proportional to your awesomeness · 2013-05-27T16:19:23.096Z · LW · GW

You left off the most important point. If you think a topic is important and that someone smarter than you is already working on it, it would seem like your best move is to try and help.

Maybe they already have good lab assistants, and the best way for you to help is to work at the coffee shop that gives them their afternoon caffeine jolt, or the nuclear plant that powers their lab, or the daycare where their kids go -- in other words, have a normal job in the non-research economy. Those kinds of jobs are absolutely necessary to support more blue-sky stuff, so many people will have to do them. Why assume you are so much smarter than that entire group?

Comment by B_For_Bandana on Post ridiculous munchkin ideas! · 2013-05-17T23:55:51.401Z · LW · GW

This isn't much use now (at least not in the northern hemisphere) but in wintertime, an uninsulated attic is effectively a refrigerator your parents don't know about. Whether you use this knowledge to store secret artisanal cheeses, or beer, is up to you.