A 4-Year-Old Trapped in a Teenager’s Body | The Cut
“I was all of the things people are when they’re 14 or 15” — except a decade younger.
Inside an Armed Bank Raid in Lebanon | Vice News (YouTube)
Banks in Lebanon have put limits on how much money people can withdraw from their own savings so Lebanese depositors - facing one of the worst economic crises in history - are taking matters into their own hands and holding up banks to get their money back.
Why the Media is Honest and Good | Richard Hanania's Newsletter
Hatred of the media is not simply a conservative pastime, however, but is found among others who feel alienated from establishment centrism, including critics of American foreign policy, socialists, and tech entrepreneurs like Balaji Srinivasan and Elon Musk. In fact, it’s hard to think of groups that actually like the American press, other than the press itself, which has in the Trump era taken to advertising its own indispensability for maintaining a democratic society (“Democracy Dies in Darkness”). At most, those on the center left will choose to focus on the flaws of media critics, without offering much in the way of a defense of journalistic institutions themselves.
In this essay, I’m going to argue that everyone is wrong, and the media is actually good and honest. You should be glad it exists, admire those who work in the industry, and hope for its continued influence and success. Scott Alexander recently said that the media very rarely tells explicit lies, a view he got a lot of pushback for. My position is more extreme than his. It’s that while the American media has serious flaws, it is one of the most honest, decent, and fair institutions designed for producing and spreading truth in human history. Like any institution, the press has to be judged according to realistic benchmarks, not simply criticized because it is imperfect or makes mistakes. And if you judge the mainstream media by historical standards, or compare it to anything that competes with it for influence – the right-wing press, popular influencers, social media, foreign sources of news, etc. – the institutions of American journalism come out looking extremely well.
Conspiracies of Cognition, Conspiracies Of Emotion | Astral Codex Ten
Here the “conspiracy” part of the conspiracy theory is secondary. Some believers in the ancient-aliens theory might not think there’s a conspiracy at all; maybe mainstream archaeologists just made an honest mistake. Others might think there’s a minor, almost sympathetic conspiracy - the reality of alien influence is so mind-blowing that archaeologists gibber in horror and repress the evidence for the sake of their own sanity. Most ancient-alien believers don’t have a strong commitment to believe in any particular conspiracy. They might not be especially angry at the conspiracy. It’s just a useful hack for supporting their weird evidence processing style. […]
These conspiracy theories make sense to me. Sometimes I even find them seductive. They usually do a pretty good job presenting their argument, and even when I don’t believe it, I can see why other people would. When I look at these conspiracy theories, I feel like conspiracy theorism is just a flaw in evidence processing. I remember things about how conspiracy theories are linked to schizotypy, schizotypy is linked to schizophrenia, and schizophrenia is a condition of aberrant salience, ie your brain getting confused about how much different facts matter in relation to each other. All of this seems to fit together and I feel like I’m on the verge of understanding the whole phenomenon. […]
But there’s a second type of conspiracy theory. Consider the Elders of Zion, or the Global Adrenochrome Pedophile Cabal. These conspiracies weren’t invented to explain away any facts. Usually believers are more invested in the exact nature of the conspiracy than in any of the facts they supposedly explain; often they’re very angry about the whole situation.
I know what my readers are thinking: this is the point where we admit that people believe conspiracies because they’re biased and stupid and hateful, right? I agree that a true explanation will involve this. Maybe it will look like these things when zoomed out. But I still think it’s worth figuring out the smaller parts these adjectives are made of. If we built an AI, what kind of mistakes might make it believe conspiracy theories, and how might we correct them?
Losing Taiwan Means Losing Japan | The Scholar’s Stage
Taiwan is the keystone of China’s naval containment. Lose Taiwan, and Japan loses the ability to keep the PLA Navy hemmed up against their own coast line. Lose Taiwan, and Japan loses control of its most important supply lanes. Lose Taiwan, and Japan loses the extended island chain defense system that protects its home waters.
Japanese naval leaders understand this. They always have. It is why the Imperial Japanese Navy insisted upon Taiwan’s annexation in 1895, and it is why Taiwan contingencies have been an important part of the Self Defense Force’s thinking since the 1950s. They understand—even if most Japanese civilians do not—that the loss of Taiwan would give the Chinese incredible leverage over Japan.
There are some who believe that America could retreat from the defense of Taiwan while keeping the rest of its alliance system in the Far East intact. This is a fantasy. An argument to retreat from Taiwan is an argument to fatally undermine the defense of Japan. In truth, it is an argument to retreat from East Asia. That argument can be made, but I would prefer to see it made openly.
Religion Is Different | Cliodynamica
Social life of human beings was utterly transformed during the Holocene. Agriculture, large-scale organized warfare, elites, rulers, bureaucracies, writing, and monumental architecture evolved independently in many world regions at markedly different times. These are truly universal features of complex human societies. Moralizing religion is different.
I recently finished writing a chapter for the Seshat History of Moralizing Religion in which I summarize the statistical patterns from the data that the Seshat project gathered on moralizing supernatural punishment/reward (MSP). […] But today I want to write about the historical geography of MSP. I’ve put together this infographic, based on the Seshat data, which depicts the evolution of MSP in time and space.
Our data show that some elements of MSP are found in many different parts of the world and have substantial antiquity. Fully developed MSP, on the other hand, evolved in one particular world region during a period that can reasonably be called the Axial Age.
Romeen Sheth (Twitter)
"What does the rest of the world not get about India?" […]
This list is a must read if you're interested in Indian startups. […]
2. Indian consumers are primarily men.
Less than 7% of the urban female population has independent final income.
This is staggeringly low - for reference, this number is 90%+ in China.
All financial products, credit cards, home loans, investments, etc. are bought by men. […]
4. Focus is a curse word in Indian startups.
India is a big market when you think of the headline numbers, but it's tiny on a per capita consumption basis.
Startups can't become big by focusing on one product or service; the consumer class doesn't have enough monetary depth.
To win in India (as a consumer company), first become a trusted brand:
❌"Focus --> Go Deep to Monetize"
✅"Trust --> Go Wide to Monetize"
After you are trusted, you can enter any market you want and more importantly, you can monetize.
The Intertwining History of the ‘Avatar’ Papyrus Font and the ‘SNL’ Sketch That Spoofed It | The Ringer
It surely is odd that James Cameron chose to use such a ridiculed typeface for his 2009 mega-blockbuster, but he wasn’t exactly acting like a thoughtless child wandering by a garden, yanking leaves along the way
Riddle solved: Why was Roman concrete so durable? | MIT News
An unexpected ancient manufacturing strategy may hold the key to designing concrete that lasts for millennia.
We don't trade with ants | world spirit sock stack
When discussing advanced AI, sometimes the following exchanges happens:
“Perhaps advanced AI won’t kill us. Perhaps it will trade with us”
“We don’t trade with ants”
I think it’s interesting to get clear on exactly why we don’t trade with ants, and whether it is relevant to the AI situation.
When a person says “we don’t trade with ants”, I think the implicit explanation is that humans are so big, powerful and smart compared to ants that we don’t need to trade with them because they have nothing of value and if they did we could just take it; anything they can do we can do better, and we can just walk all over them. Why negotiate when you can steal?
I think this is broadly wrong, and that it is also an interesting case of the classic cognitive error of imagining that trade is about swapping fixed-value objects, rather than creating new value from a confluence of one’s needs and the other’s affordances. It’s only in the imaginary zero-sum world that you can generally replace trade with stealing the other party’s stuff, if the other party is weak enough.
Ants, with their skills, could do a lot that we would plausibly find worth paying for. Some ideas:
Cleaning things that are hard for humans to reach (crevices, buildup in pipes, outsides of tall buildings)
Chasing away other insects, including in agriculture
Surveillance and spying
Building, sculpting, moving, and mending things in hard to reach places and at small scales (e.g. dig tunnels, deliver adhesives to cracks)
Getting out of our houses before we are driven to expend effort killing them, and similarly for all the other places ants conflict with humans (stinging, eating crops, …)
2023 - The End Of The World | AxiA (YouTube)
On January 1st 2023 the 3 most powerful men on the planet, pay a visit to their secret Boss who gives them the general guidelines on how to operate in 2023.
We had a lot of fun putting together this short film! The Deepfake technology allowed us to create a story using real characters in a way that's never been possible.
The T. rex may have been a lot smarter than you thought | Washington Post
The giant dinosaurs were the “primates of their time,” the author of a new paper said
Bank Clerk Who Stole $600K, Got Plastic Surgery, and Went on the Run Caught After 26 Years | Vice
The woman withdrew wads of cash from bank branches around the city, before giving money to her family, ghosting her husband and starting a new life 1,700km away.