Discover more from Links
Busy week, so not many links — sorry!
Scott was a top undercover agent for the FBI, putting himself in harm's way dozens of times. Now, he’s telling his story for the first time to sound the alarm about the threat of far-right extremists in America.
Fair warning — Heather Heying appears to be an anti-vaxxer who takes ivermectin prophylactically, but she was also previously a tenured biology professor, and as far as I can tell, there is credible science behind these two posts. And the ideas are interesting, even if I don’t entirely agree. (Also, you might remember this ivermectin post from Scott Alexander that concludes it doesn’t work, but is just a little bit understanding of why some people might think it does.)
In college, I had a mixed-sex friend group that skewed male—five guys, and me. We did things that many would view as male-typical: biking fast, jumping off rope swings, exploring new trails, and when inside, playing games—cribbage, backgammon, cards. There was a young woman who was sometimes around, although she didn’t participate with us in our usual activities. One of the guys was interested in her romantically, but she toyed with him—sometimes she was flirtatious, sometimes reticent—and the rest of us didn’t love the dynamic. One day the lot of us were at the guys’ apartment, all of us playing board games except for her. We invited her to play. “I don’t play games,” she announced.
As I remember it, we all laughed out loud at that pronouncement. Of course she played games—she was constantly playing games with our friend. What she didn’t play were structured games with explicit rules laid out in advance. She didn’t play overt games. But many a researcher who was studying game-playing would have taken her at her word, and coded her as not being one who plays games. Yet game-playing is ubiquitous—just as is competition more broadly. It’s everywhere, but that doesn’t mean it always looks the same. Specifically, it rarely looks the same in men and in women.
The picture has been muddied for us by the tendency for men to be used as the standard model. This tendency is hardly unique to the study of competition, however. Let’s consider medicine for a moment. […]
Just as there turns out to be no “typical” presentation of heart attack that is not sex-specific, we should not expect “competition” to look the same in men and women. We differ anatomically and physiologically; so too do we differ behaviorally and socially, due to the many downstream effects of sexual selection. And just as the “classic” warning signs of a heart attack can be more accurately understood as the warning signs of a heart attack if you are male, the question “are you competitive?” tends to come with it an unstated assumption of male-style competition.
The point is this: modernity is confusing for all sorts of reasons, and one of them is that we have thrown out many ancient ways of being. Sometimes we have done so for good reason. Most of the changes that have emancipated women and allowed us the full freedom of choice and opportunity to become our best selves fall into this category. But such changes come with costs that we discuss too rarely. If—as I argue below—male dominance hierarchies have historically been maintained through overt means, and female dominance hierarchies have historically been maintained through covert means, then dropping us into a social stew together, in which males and females are explicitly pitted against each other in a quest for a single currency, to work together while pretending that we all understand and play by the same rules, is to invite discord at best, disaster at worst.
DeepMind’s AI now performs roughly on par with the average computer programming competition participant:
Creating solutions to unforeseen problems is second nature in human intelligence – a result of critical thinking informed by experience. The machine learning community has made tremendous progress in generating and understanding textual data, but advances in problem solving remain limited to relatively simple maths and programming problems, or else retrieving and copying existing solutions. As part of DeepMind’s mission to solve intelligence, we created a system called AlphaCode that writes computer programs at a competitive level. AlphaCode achieved an estimated rank within the top 54% of participants in programming competitions by solving new problems that require a combination of critical thinking, logic, algorithms, coding, and natural language understanding.
Over in the Swedish city of Södertälje, about 30 km southwest of Stockholm, a pilot program is being explored which will enlist crows to clean up discarded cigarette butts. Butts account for over 60% of litter in Sweden, and the per-butt cleanup cost falls between 0.8 and 2 Swedish kronor each. The company behind the project, Corvid Cleaning, estimates the cost will be around 0.2 kronor.
I love these medieval versions of familiar logos by Ilya Stallone, available on his Instagram account.