Is there value in maintaining a socialization journal? 2020-03-23T17:13:31.351Z


Comment by swarriner on Stupid Questions October 2020 · 2020-10-21T18:58:51.735Z · LW · GW

Are there any resources that amount to "80,000 Hours for (hopefully reformed) underachievers"? I've been weighing the possibility of going back to school in the hopes of getting into a higher-impact field, but my academic resume from my bachelor's is pretty lackluster, leaving me unsure where to start reconstruction. My mental health and general level of conscientiousness are both considerably improved from my younger years so I'm optimistic I can exceed my past self.

Comment by swarriner on Is Stupidity Expanding? Some Hypotheses. · 2020-10-16T14:27:04.515Z · LW · GW

Not necessarily. If I am an academic whose research is undermined by bias, I may be irrational but not stupid, and if I am in a social environment where certain signals of stupid beliefs are advantageous, I may be stupid but not irrational. It seems to be the latter is more what the author is getting at.

Comment by swarriner on Industrial literacy · 2020-10-05T22:28:25.168Z · LW · GW

See my comments above for some discussion of this topic. Broadly speaking we do know how to keep farmland productive but there are uncaptured externalities and other inadequacies to be accounted for.

Comment by swarriner on Industrial literacy · 2020-10-05T20:42:26.091Z · LW · GW

That's fair, and I'm grumbling less as an ag scientist or policy person than as a layperson born and raised in the ag industry. It is my opinion that the commercial ag industry in my country both contains inadequacies and is a system of no free energy, to borrow from Inadequate Equilibria.

To elaborate, I observe the following facts:

  • Conventional agriculture using fertilizer and pesticide creates negative externalities, notably by polluting runoff and consuming non-renewable resources (fertilizer is made from potash, a reasonably abundant but not infinite mineral which also creates a carbon footprint to mine).
  • Organic agriculture sacrifices considerable output as practiced, and is not actually optimized for minimal environmental impact but rather to maximize appeal to the organic food market, and as such also contains negative externalities which are not currently captured.
  • Almost no commercial agriculture in my area, organic or otherwise, incorporates livestock into land rotation cycles. Although I don't have sources at hand, I am under the impression that evidence suggests that grazing animals provide not just replenishment of macronutrients, but also help to maintain a robust and fertile microbiome. Although labour is a factor, consider that under status quo, ranchers own land, and farmers own different land, and that land changing hands once every several years would on its own be an improvement.
  • Most commercial ag operations are extremely conservative with regard to implementing and operational changes, for good reason. Being subject to both global market fluctuations and climate fluctuations is an unenviable business position.

Combine all these things I have seen firsthand, and I do conclude there is a better global maximum out there somewhere. And granted, if I were appointed Ag Czar it would no doubt be a Great Leap Forward-like disaster because I don't have the in-depth knowledge required to overhaul a complex ecological and economic system.

To bring all this back to the original thesis of the post, the precise reason I raised these gripes is because I agree with jasoncrawford that the waterline for industrial literacy is too low and more people should have a basic grasp of how these systems work. But like the Gell-Mann in the apocryphal story about trusting the news, I looked at his list of "things people should know about industry" and thought "Well... I have something to add to that, if people are going to take this post as a starting point for things that are important to know".

Comment by swarriner on Industrial literacy · 2020-09-30T22:09:52.664Z · LW · GW

Agricultural practice is my Gell-Mann pet peeve. While it's true that fertilizer and pest control are currently central to large swaths of the commercial ag industry, this is not necessarily a case of pure necessity so much as local maxima— for many crops we could reduce dependence on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides by integrating livestock, multi-cropping land, etc. Some of them are also ecologically unsustainable as practiced and may eventually need to be replaced.

That said, this doesn't actually detract from the central point; I would very much like to live in a world where those questions are actually engaged with by the general populace as opposed to being defined by like, Whole Foods marketing copy and the US corn lobby.

Comment by swarriner on If Starship works, how much would it cost to create a system of rotable space mirrors that reduces temperatures on earth by 1° C? · 2020-09-14T20:25:02.804Z · LW · GW

Seems like this question relies on a huge number of technical questions and assumptions such that a back of the envelope estimate would be meaningless and a rigorous examination would be highly difficult, nigh impossible. Natural albedo fluctuates wildly on a global scale from year to year and there are so many confounding factors and feedback systems in global climate that it seems insane to even estimate how much artificial mirror surface is needed, let alone how much it would cost not just to launch all that material, but to coordinate orbital patterns and control systems for it.

Comment by swarriner on What would be a good name for the view that the value of our decisions is primarily determined by how they affect causally-disconnected regions of the multiverse? · 2020-08-11T16:44:02.410Z · LW · GW

Elsewherism strike me as the most usable of these options for aesthetic reasons. Spooky Axiology at a Distance is the name of my new prog rock band.

Comment by swarriner on Pantry Staples for DIY · 2020-06-04T19:23:00.694Z · LW · GW

Duct tape is a stereotype, but having a few kinds of tape including duct, electrical, and athletic can be useful. Less so for building objects like you've shown but often for fixing or sealing.

Steel wire is cheap and sometimes comes in handy for providing simple shaped objects or securing pieces together flexibly.

Wooden pallets can often be acquired for free and either used as-is (I have two serving as gardening boxes in my backyard) or stripped down for wood.

Paint! Anything you build can be made 75% less obviously DIY with the appropriate coat of paint applied. Spray paint requires no brushes but does require careful choice of workspace to not make a mess. Canned paint needs only a work surface with a layer of newspaper laid down, but requires some hygiene to maintain brushes and not let it dry out prematurely.

Comment by swarriner on [deleted post] 2020-03-23T14:49:28.420Z

No, don't do this. If you threaten someone with a higher level of violence than you can deliver, it's more likely they try to pre-emptively attack you (i.e. shoot you first) and you will have no defense against this. If you cannot win a violent encounter then compliance is generally the safest strategy.

Comment by swarriner on Some quick notes on hand hygiene · 2020-02-07T04:07:16.822Z · LW · GW

Droplets would be number one on my list of transmission vectors for people other than the hand hygiene intensive cases I mentioned, yes.

Comment by swarriner on Some quick notes on hand hygiene · 2020-02-06T22:18:09.137Z · LW · GW

I don't want to come down against good hygiene practices, exactly, but my prior is that this is a completely unimportant change for most people to make. The waterline of sanitary practices in Western nations is high enough that increasing the frequency and thoroughness of the average person's handwashing seems likely to be subject to serious diminishing returns.

Consider that we're starting from a status quo where most people's hands are washed 3-5 times a day, even if lazily. Yeah it's not 100% effective, but I don't think it has to be in most circumstances.

Is there good epidemiological data that estimates how many disease transmissions have insufficient hand hygiene as an important/necessary vector? Because I would bet that outside of unusual cases like food service and medical workers, the number is low.

Comment by swarriner on What is Success in an Immoral Maze? · 2020-01-11T01:17:33.979Z · LW · GW

I'll agree that "they couldn't pay you enough" is technically hyperbole but I can't imagine taking that sin seriously enough that it damages the credibility of the argument.

As for the message, here's how I interpret the thesis: "immoral maze work environments have large hedonic costs of a type that are not well offset by monetary compensation (or other promised rewards)". Which is distinct from, although related to, "money doesn't buy happiness".

I also disagree that all advice has to be positive to be actionable. Most people are aware of a variety of career paths they might pursue depending on their situation and talents; it's perfectly adequate to say "don't pursue middle management at a large corporation" because the reader can just update towards their other options.