Will the growing deer prion epidemic spread to humans? Why not? 2023-06-25T04:31:56.824Z
Who invented knitting? The plot thickens 2023-02-05T00:24:39.706Z
Fiber arts, mysterious dodecahedrons, and waiting on “Eureka!” 2022-08-04T20:37:59.388Z
There’s no such thing as a tree (phylogenetically) 2021-05-03T03:47:48.876Z
Missing dog reasoning 2020-06-26T21:30:00.491Z
A point of clarification on infohazard terminology 2020-02-02T17:43:56.601Z
Eukryt Wrts Blg 2019-09-28T21:42:11.201Z
Tiddlywiki for organizing notes and research 2019-09-01T18:44:57.742Z
How to make a giant whiteboard for $14 (plus nails) 2019-07-07T19:23:38.870Z
Naked mole-rats: A case study in biological weirdness 2019-05-19T18:40:25.203Z
Spaghetti Towers 2018-12-22T05:29:47.551Z
The funnel of human experience 2018-10-10T02:46:02.240Z
Biodiversity for heretics 2018-05-27T13:37:09.314Z
Global insect declines: Why aren't we all dead yet? 2018-04-01T20:38:58.679Z
Caring less 2018-03-13T22:53:22.288Z
Social media probably not a deathtrap 2017-10-07T03:54:36.211Z
Throw a prediction party with your EA/rationality group 2016-12-31T23:02:11.284Z


Comment by eukaryote on Will the growing deer prion epidemic spread to humans? Why not? · 2023-06-29T04:04:12.738Z · LW · GW

Possibly if by "come in contact" we mean like ingesting or injecting or something. That's the going theory for how the Kuru epidemic started - consumption of the brain of a person with sporadic (randomly-naturally-occuring) CJD. Fortunately cannibalism isn't too common so this isn't a usual means of transmission. I think if anything less intensive (say, skin or saliva contact) made CJD transmissible, we would know by now. See also brain contact with contaminated materials e.g. iatrogenic CJD, or Alzheimers which I mention briefly in this piece.

it's possible that FFI genes cause the patient's body to create prions,

Yep! That's how it works. Real brutal.

Comment by eukaryote on Will the growing deer prion epidemic spread to humans? Why not? · 2023-06-25T22:03:16.990Z · LW · GW

Thank you!

Yeah, I mention one or two studies in the article that have to do with altering the host range. There aren't a lot of prion specialists, of course, but there's been quite a bit of interest in understanding how they work and spread, so there is some weird stuff out there.

Comment by eukaryote on Will the growing deer prion epidemic spread to humans? Why not? · 2023-06-25T21:51:25.019Z · LW · GW

Unless the meaning is something akin to "kills within X years of contracting the disease", it can only mean "kills the victim if they don't die of something else first."

The latter is true of every fatal disease, yes? Alzheimer's also has a long fuse til death but people don't recover from it. I'm also told there was a very popular recent television show about a man with terminal cancer who died from other causes.

Wikipedia lists fatal familial insomnia, and two others.

"Infectious" means "transmissible between people". As the name suggests, fatal familial insomnia is a genetic condition. (FFI and the others listed are also prion diseases - the prion just emerges on its own without a source prion and no part of the disease is contagious. This is an interesting trait of prions that could not happen with, say, a disease caused by a virus.)

Scrapie, in sheep, has been known since at least 1732, and isn't thought to spread to humans.

True! I could have talked about scrapie more in this article and didn't for two reasons- 

First, because I looked at some similar transmission tests and it seems to be even less able to convert human PrP. 

Second, because as you mention, it's been around for centuries - if it was going to have spilled over, it probably would have happened by now. CWD, meanwhile, is only a few decades old and has only spread a lot recently- it has more room to explore, so to speak, and some of its possible nearby mutations have never existed around humans before but might now. 

As I say in the piece, I think the risk from CWD is in fact low - but this line of reasoning is why human-disease epidemiologists tend to be more concerned about emerging animal diseases than animal diseases that have been around and stable for ages.

Comment by eukaryote on Open Thread With Experimental Feature: Reactions · 2023-05-26T21:55:28.319Z · LW · GW

There are a bunch of coffee-tasting substitutes made from roasted grain or other stuff! Coffee beans or anything caffeine-producing don't enter the equation at all (as opposed to decaf coffee which is derived from coffee beans), the roasted plant taste is just similar. Chicory or dandelion roots are pretty well-known plant for this. Inka is another grain brand that's good and easy to make, you do it like instant coffee. I've seen others at large natural/health/hippie food type stores.

Comment by eukaryote on [Link] A community alert about Ziz · 2023-02-25T22:25:39.187Z · LW · GW

I get that we all want understanding in a situation like this but let's not go after people's appearances, cripes. Most people look weird in one way or another and are gonna be fine to sit next to on a bus. Come on.

Comment by eukaryote on The male AI alignment solution · 2023-02-22T19:50:10.922Z · LW · GW

I don't think there's much crossover. I hope you know that there are lots and lots of incentives for active deception and responding to deception in various parts of the natural world and evolutionary psychology - if you're interested in the workings of and responses to deception, definitely read more about it. Like, the argument you make for females being interested in "people over things" could also explain the reverse - males are incentivized to deceive females, which you can do better the better you model people, right? I think you are observing something real about relevant preferences, but if that's the extent of your understanding, I'd learn more about evolution and alternate explanations e.g. cultural pressure towards taking on emotional labor.

Anyhow, this example is narrow and specific to a human problem. As you say, the concern about AGI is mainly about intelligence significantly past humans, that do not share a basic substrate or set of biological imperatives. Like, even a person who I think might be lying to me can be modeled as fundamentally human - having limited amounts of information, limited physical strength, needing to eat, fearing death, etc. Heck, if I'm looking for a partner and am concerned that the partner is going to try to deceive me to get sex or whatever from me, I'm already aware of the threat!

The current environment you're asking about people's experience in is also pretty damn different from the ancestral environment evolved for - in as far as resource constraints, information ability, and I guess most other things - so I doubt that this example applies much.

Comment by eukaryote on Prizes for the 2021 Review · 2023-02-14T22:09:45.487Z · LW · GW

Gosh! Thank you, this is an unexpected boon.

Comment by eukaryote on Who invented knitting? The plot thickens · 2023-02-10T03:36:52.048Z · LW · GW

Yes it was, thank you!

Comment by eukaryote on Who invented knitting? The plot thickens · 2023-02-05T20:45:40.383Z · LW · GW

This is a very good point!

Comment by eukaryote on Who invented knitting? The plot thickens · 2023-02-05T20:45:17.485Z · LW · GW

Heheh, thanks. Are you talking about AGI?

Comment by eukaryote on What fact that you know is true but most people aren't ready to accept it? · 2023-02-05T02:54:20.861Z · LW · GW

Recipe blogs look like that (having lots of peripheral text and personal stories before getting to the recipe) because they're blogs. They're not trying to get the recipe to you quickly. The thing you're looking for is a cookbook. 

(Or allrecipes or something, I guess. "But I want something where a good cook has vetted the recipe - " You want a cookbook. Get Joy of Cooking.)

Comment by eukaryote on The True Spirit of Solstice? · 2022-12-16T18:28:48.901Z · LW · GW

Interesting post! It’s cool to see the reasoning you put into it. Reader exercised:

"Is Solstice primarily a rationality holiday? An EA holiday? The broader secular community?"
First 2? I could see it expanding into the broader secular community in an appealing way and generally don’t like things to be insular, but I do think that some of the weird EA prioritization/x-risk/transhumanism is like… very big to my personal worldview and so it’s really nice to bond with other people who agree. 

I do think there's often a useful thing about it for getting new people involved - so maybe, like, don't assume everybody agrees with you or knows what you're on about, but it seems reasonable to assume that many do, and to see it as a chance to sell it.

I just went to the NYC Solstice and, reflecting on it, feel strongly that Solstices are both EA and rationality-themed and anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong. <3

"How essential is the journey from light, into darkness, into light?"

Big to the tone for me. If you replace it with something better or different, I’m interested. If you just ditch the structure, why? It was good!

"Is it okay to have a Solstice where we don't sing Brighter Than Today?"

That’s okay. What’s not okay is having a solstice in which nobody reads the snippet at the end of Matches by Guante (the last chunk at this link) at the end of the moment of darkness. 

“But Eukaryote, nobody does that outside of the Seattle Solstices you’ve been to.” Yeah, and they’re great but they’ve suffered for that obvious mistake.

… Which is to say, apparently having some continuity of Big Moment Content feels important. But perhaps this ship has already sailed re: All Solstices Everywhere, so I guess I’d instead suggest that regional organizers ask around about people’s favorite parts / what they’d miss if it weren’t there, and try to keep those bits for their recurring solstices.

"How important are singalongs vs speeches?"

I think both are good. Singalongs get people involved and also the songs are very nice. To get me emotionally on board you need some speeches with un-lyrical fact-shaped material to drive the point home. Also, it seems good to have a wide variety of content types - different things resonate with different people. Get some narratives in there! Get some lists of facts! Get some poetry in there too! Get some visual art! Whoo! Yeah!

"How important is it for singalongs to sound polished, vs for them to feel like an organic part of the community? Is it appropriate to pay professional musicians?"

I could go either way! Paying professional musicians, if you have the budget and interest, seems great! Some friends noodling around with 0.5 practice is also great. I just like music.

Broader than just music, but if you have artists in your community, I think this is a community thing and it’s good to have some content made by them (music, writing, speeches, other people’s writing that members thought would be good Solstice material, etc, whatever) if you can swing it.

"How important is transhumanism or x-risk?"

Big to me! I could imagine a solstice that was more normal-beliefs-appealing and still struck me as, like, a Solstice, but it’d be different, and, like, if you’re not talking about human extinction or glorious transhuman futures, you’d have set the arc up differently to have it … still mesh with what you think the future will be like. So I’d be disappointed in a solstice that just filed the serial numbers off of x-risk and living forever to be more widely appealing, but I think one designed with a different expectation of the future could be fine. … Also, I do very much like that it’s an affirming event for believing in weird things. Seattle (when I was there) included some wild animal suffering stuff in our solstices, which I think is not common. Depends what the attendees care about.

"Is it good or bad to change lyrics over time?"

I think that’s fine and I kinda like that it happens, and so organically, but also just swapping in topical new songs is fine and cool.

"How important is it to celebrate Solstice on literal astronomical Solstice? If you don't, why are we calling it Solstice? Is it important for the name to be clear?"

Yeah. That’s fine. It’s near the solstice. It’s a metaphor. Come on.

"Is it okay to have one solstice someday with a 'bad ending', where instead of climbing back out of the darkness hopefully, we just... sit with it, and accept that maybe it might be what the future holds?"

...Yeah, I mean, that’s fine to do, could be interesting, but by god you have got to warn people in advance; if I went to a Solstice and got really invested in it and then it didn’t bring me back up by the end, that would mess me up and probably do negative good for the world.

Comment by eukaryote on Fiber arts, mysterious dodecahedrons, and waiting on “Eureka!” · 2022-08-05T17:21:27.876Z · LW · GW

Thanks! What makes you say that? It does unravel fairly quickly if it's torn or in gress, but when you're done knitting, say, a hat, you just thread or tie the end off and it's pretty unlikely that a piece will get loose and unravel a completed garment. I guess it's a bit more of a risk for something that sees more wear, like a sock.

Comment by eukaryote on An Observation of Vavilov Day · 2022-01-08T09:18:28.438Z · LW · GW

I love this, I love Nikolai Vavilov, and I love the holiday concept - I'm going to have to think about doing something similar to commemorate him and his colleagues. I really liked the book The Murder of Nikolai Vavilov by Peter Pringle and recommend it, it's info-dense and well-written. (I haven't intentionally fact-checked it or anything but I did a big research dive into him a few years ago and I don't remember it obviously not holding up against other sources.)

Comment by eukaryote on I'm Sorry Fluttershy · 2021-05-22T21:23:43.029Z · LW · GW

This is a really touching tribute. I'm so sorry.

Comment by eukaryote on There’s no such thing as a tree (phylogenetically) · 2021-05-19T21:06:33.060Z · LW · GW

Very reasonable, noted and thanks for explaining! FWIW my intended vibe there was humorously overhyped - like that I, a stranger, was bursting into your life to tell you about trees - but also definitely see why it would be offputting.

Comment by eukaryote on There’s no such thing as a tree (phylogenetically) · 2021-05-15T18:50:05.936Z · LW · GW

I don't love this thread - your first comment reads like you're correcting me on something or saying I got something important philosophically wrong, and then you just expand on part of what I wrote with fancier language. The actual "correction", if there is one, is down the thread and about a single word used in a minor part of the article, which, by your own findings, I am using in a common way and you are using in an idiosyncratic way. ...It seems like a shoehorn for your pet philosophical stance. (I suppose I do at least appreciate you confining the inevitable "What are Women Really" tie-ins to your own thread, because boy howdy, do I not want that here.)

To be clear, the expansion was in fact good, it's the unsupported framing as a correction that I take issue with. This wouldn't normally bother me enough to remark on, but it's by far the top-rated comment, and you know everyone loves a first-comment correction, so I thought I should put it out there.

Comment by eukaryote on There’s no such thing as a tree (phylogenetically) · 2021-05-13T18:04:09.717Z · LW · GW

Super valid, I appreciate the feedback! For my own future reference, if you have an answer - was it more the general kind of casual/eclectic style, the "antagonistic" bits like what you quoted, or something else?

Comment by eukaryote on [link] If something seems unusually hard for you, see if you're missing a minor insight · 2021-05-06T22:18:57.654Z · LW · GW

Solid advice.

If everything seems unusually hard for you, look into whether you have depression, ADHD, or a nutrient deficiency (get a blood panel at a doctor's for the last one).

Comment by eukaryote on There’s no such thing as a tree (phylogenetically) · 2021-05-04T18:21:28.304Z · LW · GW

Oh, I think you're over-extrapolating what I meant by arbitrary - like I say toward the end of the essay, trees are definitely a meaningful category. Categories being "a little arbitrary" doesn't mean they're not valuable - is there a clear difference between a tree and a shrub? Maybe, but I don't know what it is if so, and it seems like plausibly not. The fruit example is even clearer - is a grape a berry? Is a pumpkin a fruit? Who cares? Probably lots of people, depending on the context? Most common human categories work like this around the edges if you try and pin them down - hence, a little arbitrary.  Seems fine.

I'm standing by "weird." That's definitely weird. I don't think of nature as going in for platonic forms! What's going on here?! Weird as hell.

Comment by eukaryote on There’s no such thing as a tree (phylogenetically) · 2021-05-03T19:48:05.343Z · LW · GW

Thank you so much!
Re: question: Well, they're not "normal" fruits, at least - they're accessory fruits. I don't know much else about the botanical definitions other than that.

Also, the accessibility point is very much appreciated. I've updated the graphic to take that into account - would love your thoughts on the improved one? Either way, I very much appreciate both the raising-the-issue and the suggestions on improvements!

Comment by eukaryote on There’s no such thing as a tree (phylogenetically) · 2021-05-03T06:14:38.692Z · LW · GW

That's a good expanded takeaway of part of it! (Obviously "weird and a little arbitrary" is kind of nebulous, but IME it's a handy heuristic you've neatly formalized in this case.) To be clear, it doesn't sound like we disagree?

Comment by eukaryote on Your Cheerful Price · 2021-02-15T20:35:13.568Z · LW · GW

One cautionary note is that once you invoke this idea, I feel like you're indicating willingness to pay the person some amount to do the thing, if you can both agree on a reasonable (cheerful or just satisfactory) number. 

Like if I'm kind of inclined to bake you a cake for free, and you ask for my cheerful price and I tell you - even if you don't take up the offer at my cheerful price, I'm definitely not going to make the cake for free now. That would be bad business.

Comment by eukaryote on How do you optimize productivity with respect to your menstrual cycle? · 2021-02-09T21:50:53.071Z · LW · GW

 almost certainly the way to maximize productivity is to continue menstruating


OP made a pretty good justification for why the opposite is true, do you have one for this claim?

hormonal birth control is a suspicious deeply American practice. There is a good reason doctors elsewhere don't writing prescriptions for steroids at all.

Hormonal birth control is widespread all over the planet. What are you talking about?

Comment by eukaryote on Eukryt Wrts Blg · 2021-02-08T07:55:45.165Z · LW · GW

Inspired by the failures of WebMD as outlined here, because this was a problem WebMD characteristically failed to help me solve. 

In the spirit of writing up one's findings, and in the off-chance this is useful to someone, here is a research-based but totally uncited list of indications that a sudden musculoskeletal injury is a break rather than a sprain or the like:

  • If there's a visible deformity, e.g. "something is not where it should be". This is a big indication that you need to go to a doctor, whereas if you don't have this you only maybe need medical attention.
    • (if there's a lot of swelling and you can't tell if there's a deformity, if possible, you might try moving it and comparing it to the other side of your body in the same position - this might show if the injured side is clearly doing something that the healthy side isn't.)
    • My impression is that generally, a minor injury can lead to swelling or make certain motions painful but won't physically shift the underlying structure, whereas a break or dislocation - something that always needs medical attention - can do that.
    • (But it won't always. Stay vigilant.)
  • More serious injuries do typically hurt way more than minor injuries.
  • It also generally takes more force to break bone, especially large bones - jogging probably won't break your tibia, but a car crash might.

But sometimes they don't or you're still not sure. A musculoskeletal injury is more likely to be a break if:

  • The pain is worse at night
  • The area has decent flexibility but very little strength
    • (+ esp. if strength doesn't improve over the next few days - sprains don't bounce back instantly, but you'll probably see some kind of improvement.)

Also, if you get the injury in sort of a distinctive fashion you suspect happens a lot - maybe playing sports, or falling - look up something like 'injuries associated with XYZ', because there are a lot of weirdly distinctive types of tissue injuries with well-characterized symptoms, and if you do have one of those, you might be able to save yourself a bunch of time early on.

This is not medical advice! The safest action is probably always to get your weird thing checked out. But this is, uh, the list of findings I wish I had found about a month and a half ago when I was debating over whether my situation actually merited going to urgent care or not. (It very much did... which I realized upon further research about two weeks after it happened.) 

So, learn from my mistakes, friends. On the "upside", my hand is much better now, and I've learned some interesting things about anatomy in the process?

Comment by eukaryote on What are some beautiful, rationalist artworks? · 2020-11-06T20:12:23.668Z · LW · GW
Art by Nicki (Sofhtie on tumblr). Quote is apparently from the  "Not Another D&D Podcast".
Comment by eukaryote on What are some beautiful, rationalist artworks? · 2020-11-06T17:33:17.620Z · LW · GW

This was the version I had saved on my computer, but we actually have a more complete map now. I love this image both by what it represents:

  • Exploring a new world
  • Alien geology
  • Cool maps
  • Including a sense of process (I don't actually know anything about how this image put together, but just looking at it, I'm nearly certain we're looking at a map composited orbits that Cassini took over the source of the planet - like a scanner!)

And from a purely aesthetic perspective:

  • Really simple, strongly contrasting, powerful colors
  • Clean geometry along with the chaotic and organic
Comment by eukaryote on What are some beautiful, rationalist artworks? · 2020-11-06T17:26:00.801Z · LW · GW
False color radar map of Titan's methane & ethane lakes, ~2007? From footage taken by Cassini. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Agenzia Spaziale Italiana / USGS
Comment by eukaryote on What are some beautiful, rationalist artworks? · 2020-11-06T17:19:57.185Z · LW · GW
Venus, Earth, Moon, Mars, Titan, I think by this reddit user
Comment by eukaryote on Postmortem to Petrov Day, 2020 · 2020-10-05T05:12:59.585Z · LW · GW

FWIW, I thought the 'Doomsday phishing' attack was absolutely brilliant. Hey! Sometimes people will deceive you about which things will end the world! May we all stay on our toes.

Comment by eukaryote on My Dating Plan ala Geoffrey Miller · 2020-07-23T19:09:39.771Z · LW · GW

Why would a big driver behind LW's appeal be sexism?

I don't think this currently is true for LW myself, but if a space casually has, say, sexist or racist stuff in it, people looking can be like "oh thank god, a place I can say what I really think [that is sexist or racist] without political correctness stopping me" and then that becomes a selling point for people who want to talk about sexist or racist stuff. Suspect the commenter means something like this.

Comment by eukaryote on My weekly review habit · 2020-06-21T18:55:12.808Z · LW · GW

You might look into bullet journalling - a lot of people find it a pretty helpful and low-mental-effort way to keep to-do lists and record what they do.

Comment by eukaryote on Using a memory palace to memorize a textbook. · 2020-06-19T03:52:10.774Z · LW · GW

This is cool as all hell. How long ago did you do this? If you think of some way to test this, I'd be super curious to learn how much of this you can still remember in a month. I expect it to be pretty decent. I've never just... sat down and tried to do this for a big topic, and I might now.

Comment by eukaryote on Eukryt Wrts Blg · 2020-06-03T22:57:00.696Z · LW · GW

I have a proposal.

Nobody affiliated with LessWrong is allowed to use the word "signalling" for the next six months. 

If you want to write something about signalling, you have to use the word "communication" instead. You can then use other words to clarify what you mean, as long as none of them are "signalling".

I think this will lead to more clarity and a better site culture. Thanks for coming to my talk.

Comment by eukaryote on Eukryt Wrts Blg · 2020-02-05T17:27:16.826Z · LW · GW

I think I agree with mr-hire that this doesn't seem right to me. The site is already public and will turn up when people search your name - or your blog name, in my case - or the idea you're trying to explain.

I don't especially care whether people use their real names or pseudonyms here. If people feel uncomfortable making their work more accessible under their real names, they can use a pseudonym. I suppose there's a perceived difference in professionalism or skin in the game (am I characterizing the motive correctly?), but we're all here for the ideas anyways, right?

Comment by eukaryote on Eukryt Wrts Blg · 2020-02-04T17:28:47.057Z · LW · GW

Yeah, building on more complex ideas - that you really need to read something else to understand - seems like a fine reason to use jargon.

Comment by eukaryote on Eukryt Wrts Blg · 2020-02-03T16:44:31.695Z · LW · GW

In fact, I think that the default should be to not want any given post to be linked, and to spread, far and wide.

Say more?

Comment by eukaryote on Eukryt Wrts Blg · 2020-02-03T06:47:07.271Z · LW · GW

Here's something I believe: You should be trying really hard to write your LessWrong posts in such a way that normal people can read them.

By normal, I mean "people who are not immersed in LessWrong culture or jargon." This is most people. I get that you have to use jargon sometimes. (Technical AI safety people: I do not understand your math, but keep up the good fight.) Or if your post is referring to another post, or is part of a series, then it doesn't have to stand alone. (But maybe the series should stand alone?)

Obviously if you only want your post to be accessible to LWers, ignore this. But do you really want that?

  • If your post provides value to many people on LW, it will probably provide value to people off LW. And making it accessible suddenly means it can be linked and referred to in many other contexts.
  • Your post might be the first time someone new to the site sees particular terms.
  • Even if the jargon is decipherable or the piece doesn't rely on the jargon, it still looks weird, and people don't like reading things where they don't know the words. It signals "this is not for me" and can make them feel dumb for not getting it.
  • (Listen, I was once in a conversation with a real live human being who dropped references to obscure classical literature every third sentence or so. This is the most irritating thing in the universe. Do not be that person.)

On a selfish level,

  • It enables the post to spread beyond the LW memeosphere, potentially bringing you honor and glory.
  • It helps you think and communicate better to translate useful ideas into and out of the original context they appear in.

If you're not going to do this, you can at least: Link jargon to somewhere that explains it.

Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

Comment by eukaryote on A point of clarification on infohazard terminology · 2020-02-02T22:51:14.841Z · LW · GW

What do you think of the change? (I think Bostrom's terms are fine, but it's still useful to have a word for the broad category of "knowing this may hurt you".)

Comment by eukaryote on A point of clarification on infohazard terminology · 2020-02-02T20:52:58.077Z · LW · GW

Update: I have swapped this out. I appreciate your feedback, because the distinction you point to seems like a valuable one, and I don't want to step on a great term. Hopefully this resolves the issue?

Comment by eukaryote on A point of clarification on infohazard terminology · 2020-02-02T20:28:22.395Z · LW · GW

Aw, carp, you're totally right. It had been pointed out to me while I was getting feedback that "memetic hazard" doesn't clearly gesture at the thing, but I hadn't thought of or been aware that there was a coherent and reasonable definition of "memetic hazard" that's the thing it sounds like it should mean.

I do actually have one more term up my sleeve, which is "cognitohazard", which comes about the same way and more clearly indicates the danger. (Which is from thinking / "cognitizing" (?) about it.)

I'm trying to think of a way to switch this out now that doesn't cause people to get confused or think that the [infohazard vs. knowledge that harms the knower] distinction doesn't matter. Hmmm. Let me think if I should just edit these posts now.

Comment by eukaryote on Whipped Cream vs Fancy Butter · 2020-01-21T03:42:25.622Z · LW · GW

I love this take. You're out here living in 3020. Also, I never get to use my eggbeater these days, so I'm excited to try this.

Comment by eukaryote on 100 Ways To Live Better · 2020-01-20T19:31:31.604Z · LW · GW

As a result of this, I put a post on Nextdoor offering to walk people's dogs for free. I'm hoping someone takes me up on it. Thanks for the brilliant suggestion!

Comment by eukaryote on The funnel of human experience · 2020-01-10T02:47:52.291Z · LW · GW

Quick authorial review: This post has brought me the greatest joy from other sources referring to it, including Marginal Revolution ( and the New York Times bestseller "The Uninhabitable Earth". I was kind of hoping to supply a fact about the world that people could use in many different lights, and they have (see those and also like )

An unintentional takeaway from this attention is solidifying my belief that if you're describing a new specific concept, you should make up a name too. For most purposes, this is for reasons like the ones described by Malcolm Ocean here ( But also, sometimes, a New York Times bestseller will cite you, and you'll only find out as you set up Google alerts.

(And then once you make a unique name, set up google alerts for it. The book just cites "eukaryote" rather than my name, and this post rather than the one on my blog. Which I guess goes to show you that you can put anything in a book.)

Anyways, I'm actually a little embarrassed because my data on human populations isn't super accurate - they start at the year 50,000 BCE, when there were humans well before that. But those populations were small, probably not enough to significantly influence the result. I'm not a historian, and really don't want to invest the effort needed for more accurate numbers, although if someone would like to, please go ahead.

But it also shows that people are interested in quantification. I've written a lot of posts that are me trying to find a set of numbers, and making lots and lots of assumptions along the way. But then you have some plausible numbers. It turns out that you can just do this, and don't need a qualification in Counting Animals or whatever, just supply your reasoning and attach the appropriate caveats. There are no experts, but you can become the first one.

As an aside, in the intervening years, I've become more interested in the everyday life of the past - of all of the earlier chunks that made up so much of the funnel. I read an early 1800's housekeeping book, "The Frugal Housewife", which advises mothers to teach their children how to knit starting at age 4, and to keep all members of the family knitting in their downtime. And it's horrifying, but maybe that's what you have to do to keep your family warm in the northeast US winter. No downtime that isn't productive. I've taken up knitting lately and enjoy it, but at the same time, I love that it's a hobby and not a requirement. A lot of human experience must have been at the razor's edge of survival, Darwin's hounds nipping at our heels. I prefer 2020.

If you want a slight taste of everyday life at the midpoint of human experience, you might be interested in the Society for Creative Anachronism. It features swordfighting and court pagentry but also just a lot of everyday crafts - sewing, knitting, brewing, cooking. If you want to learn about medieval soapmaking or forging, they will help you find out.

Comment by eukaryote on Spaghetti Towers · 2020-01-10T02:15:10.078Z · LW · GW

A brief authorial take - I think this post has aged well, although as with Caring Less (, this was an abstract piece and I didn't make any particular claims here.

I'm so glad that A) this was popular B) I wasn't making up a new word for a concept that most people already know by a different name, which I think will send you to at least the first layer of Discourse Hell on its own.

I've met at least one person in the community who said they knew and thought about this post a lot, well before they'd met me, which was cool.

I think this website doesn't recognize the value of bad hand-drawn graphics for communicating abstract concepts (except for Garrabrant and assorted other AI safety people, whose posts are too technical for me to read but who I support wholly.) I'm guessing that the graphics helped this piece, or at least got more people to look at it.

I do wish I'd included more examples of spaghetti towers, but I knew that before posting it, and this was an instance of "getting something out is better than making it perfect."

I've planned on doing followups in the same sort of abstract style as this piece, like methods I've run into for getting around spaghetti towers. (Modularization, swailing, documentation.) I hopefully will do that some day. If anyone wants to help brainstorm examples, hit me up and I may or may not get back to you.

Comment by eukaryote on Caring less · 2020-01-10T01:46:17.935Z · LW · GW

Hi, I'm pleased to see that this has been nominated and has made a lasting impact.

Do I have any updates? I think it aged well. I'm not making any particular specific claims here, but I still endorse this and think it's an important concept.

I've done very little further thinking on this. I was quietly hoping that others might pick up the mantle and write more on strategies for caring less, as well as cases where this should be argued. I haven't seen this, but I'd love to see more of it.

I've referred to it myself when talking about values that I think people are over-invested in (see, but not extensively.

Finally, while I'm generally pleased with this post's reception, I think nobody appreciated my "why couldn't we care less" joke enough.

Comment by eukaryote on Do you get value out of contentless comments? · 2019-12-01T07:10:30.680Z · LW · GW

Yeah! I like getting positive feedback on my work, especially in a rather intimidating forum like here. Anything more specific than "good post" or whatever is better, but even that is more emotionally rewarding than seeing digits in the vote box change.

Comment by eukaryote on Eukryt Wrts Blg · 2019-09-28T21:42:11.381Z · LW · GW

I don't like taking complicated variable-probability-based bets. I like "bet you a dollar" or "bet you a drink". I don't like "I'll sell you a $20 bid at 70% odds" or whatever. This is because:

A) I don't really understand the betting payoffs. I do think I have a good internal sense of probabilities, and am well-calibrated. That said, the payoffs are often confusing, and I don't have an internal sense linking "I get 35 dollars if you're right and you give me 10 dollars if I'm not" or whatever, to those probabilities. It seems like a sensible policy that if you're not sure how the structure of a bet works, you shouldn't take it. (Especially if someone else is proposing it.)

B) It's obfuscating the fact that different people value money differently. I'm poorer than most software engineers. Obviously two people are likely to be affected differently by a straightforward $5 bet, but the point of betting is kind of to tie your belief to palpable rewards, and varying amounts of money muddy the waters more.

(Some people do bets like this where you are betting on really small amounts, like 70 cents to another person's 30 cents or whatever. This seems silly to me because the whole point of betting with money is to be trading real value, and the value of the time you spend figuring this out is already not worth collecting on.)

C) Also, I'm kind of risk averse and like bets where I'm surer about the outcome and what's going on. This is especially defensible if you're less financially sound than your betting partner and it's not just enough to come out ahead statistically, you need to come out ahead in real life.

This doesn't seem entirely virtuous, but these are my reasons and I think they're reasonable. If I ever get into prediction markets or stock trading, I'll probably have to learn the skills here, but for now, I'll take simple monetary bets but not weird ones.

Comment by eukaryote on Tiddlywiki for organizing notes and research · 2019-09-21T02:56:58.796Z · LW · GW

Sure. It's not much right now.

I put each quote and source combo on their own tiddler, then tag it with a bunch of stuff that might help me find it later. I'll probably refine the system as I start referring back to it more.

Comment by eukaryote on How much background technical knowledge do LW readers have? · 2019-07-12T02:19:33.946Z · LW · GW

Wait, do people usually use the phrase "technical knowledge" to mean just math and programming? I'm to understand that you have technical knowledge in any science or tool.