The official audio version of Astral Codex Ten, with an archive of posts from Slate Star Codex. It's just me reading Scott Alexander's blog posts.
In Continued Defense Of Effective Altruism
"All you do is cause boardroom drama, and maybe some other things I’m forgetting..." I.
Search “effective altruism” on social media right now, and it’s pretty grim.
Socialists think we’re sociopathic Randroid money-obsessed Silicon Valley hypercapitalists.
But Silicon Valley thinks we’re all overregulation-loving authoritarian communist bureaucrats.
The right thinks we’re all woke SJW extremists.
But the left thinks we’re all fascist white supremacists.
The anti-AI people think we’re the PR arm of AI companies, helping hype their products by saying they’re superintelligent at this very moment.
But the pro-AI people think we want to ban all AI research forever and nationalize all tech companies.
God Help Us, Let's Try To Understand AI Monosemanticity
Inside every AI is a bigger AI, trying to get out You’ve probably heard AI is a “black box”. No one knows how it works. Researchers simulate a weird type of pseudo-neural-tissue, “reward” it a little every time it becomes a little more like the AI they want, and eventually it becomes the AI they want. But God only knows what goes on inside of it.
This is bad for safety. For safety, it would be nice to look inside the AI and see whether it’s executing an algorithm like “do the thing” or more like “trick the humans into thinking I’m doing the thing”. But we can’t. Because we can’t look inside an AI at all.
Until now! Towards Monosemanticity, recently out of big AI company/research lab Anthropic, claims to have gazed inside an AI and seen its soul. It looks like this:
Book Review: I See Satan Fall Like Lightning
The phrase “I see Satan fall like lightning” comes from Luke 10:18. I’d previously encountered it on insane right-wing conspiracy theory websites. You can rephrase it as “I see Satan descend to earth in the form of lightning.” But “lightning” in Hebrew is barak. So the Bible says Satan will descend to Earth in the form of Barak. Seems like a relevant Bible verse for insane right-wing conspiracy theorists!
Philosopher / theologian Rene Girard’s famous book I See Satan Fall Like Lightning isn’t directly about Barack Obama being the Antichrist. It’s an ambitious theory-of-everything for anthropology, mythography, and the Judeo-Christian religion. After solving all of those venerable fields, it will, sort of, loop back to Barack Obama being the Antichrist. But it’ll do it in such an intellectual and polymathic Continental philosophy way that we can’t even get mad.
Does Anaesthesia Prove Ketamine Placebo?
The psychiatric study everyone’s talking about this month is ”Randomized trial of ketamine masked by surgical anesthesia in patients with depression”.
Ketamine is a dissociative drug - it produces weird drug effects like feelings of bodylessness and ego death. Recent research suggests it’s a powerful antidepressant. Usually we would try to run placebo-controlled trials. But it’s hard to run a placebo controlled trial of a dissociative. Either you feel bodylessness and ego death (in which case you know you’re getting the real drug) or you don’t (in which case you know you’re in the placebo group). Sometimes researchers try to use an “active placebo” like midazolam - a drug that makes you feel weird and floaty. But weird and floaty feels different from bodyless and ego-dead.
Followup: Quests And Requests
Thanks to everyone who commented on Quests And Requests.
There was a predictable failure mode: lots of people said “I have relevant expertise and would be willing to help with #X”, and then those comments just sat there. Many fewer people said “I’m going to be team lead on #X and start contacting everyone else who was interested”.
In case it’s not clear: I’m not planning on “picking” people to lead each of these projects (though if you email me at email@example.com asking for help, I might give it to you). I’m just putting them out there as things people might want to self-pick for.
Another predictable failure mode: many people said they were willing to help, and people should contact them, then didn’t leave any contact details. If you’re a would-be project leader, and want to get in touch with one of the help-offerers who didn’t provide an email, you should probably try responding to their comment and seeing if they get a notification. If not, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll find their email in the system, ask them if I have permission to share it with you, and share it with you if they say yes.
Here’s the current status of each project, AFAICT:
Hardball Questions For The Next Debate
[previously in series: 2016, 2020; expansion of this]
MODERATOR: Hello, and welcome to the third Republican primary debate. To shore up declining voter interest, we’ve decided to make things more interesting tonight. In this first round, each candidate will have to avoid using a specific letter of the alphabet in their answer. If they slip up, they forfeit their remaining time, and the next candidate in line gets the floor.
Our candidates who have qualified today are Chris Christie, Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, and Donald Trump. And our first question is: what issue do you think is most important in this election? Chris Christie, let’s start with you.. Your Forbidden Letter is “V”.
CHRISTIE: Nobody told me anything about this forbidden letter thing. I don’t think voters - [microphone shuts off]
MODERATOR: Sorry Chris, there’s a “V” in voters. Our next candidate is Nikki Haley. Nikki, the question is still which issue is most important, and your Forbidden Letter is “K”.
The most interesting podcast.
The content of Scott Alexander’s blog is phenomenal, and the narration is perfect. This is the best podcast.
The best podcast I have ever listened to
I have learned more from this podcast than all others combined. It has been a joy listening to all 500 episodes.
So Happy This Exists
I never write reviews but I’m so incredibly thankful this podcast exists. It’s a joy to be able to listen to SSC on the road, and I Jeremiah (the narrator) has such a lovely way of reading them. The fact that he’s taking on this project is impressive, as is how perfectly he’s pulled it off. Thank you Jeremiah!
Update: Solenoid Entity has (I presume) taken up the task through necessity of recording new episodes. While he’s not quite on Jeremiah’s level of clean speaking, and the audio can get pretty reverby at times, I can’t thank him enough for continuing this good work. Thank you Solenoid Entity!