Stuff I Found Interesting In July
1) Tom Chivers’ piece on the evidence about the advantages of breastfeeding:
The study’s authors found “no benefit of a breastfeeding promotion intervention on overall neurocognitive function. The only beneficial effect was on verbal function at age 16.”
EDIT: Stuart Ritchie has written another great piece on this, as a sort of expansion of Chivers’ original.
2) There has been a fairly interesting debate in the rationalist sphere about whether Lithium is responsible for the increase in the number of obese Americans. As of early July, the ‘it definitely isn’t’ side seem to be winning, see Natália Mendonça’s post here.
3) The 538 midterm model is live!
4) Holden Karnofsky (with help from friends of the blog Misha and Gavin) wrote this great piece about the track record of forecasts by Asimov and others.
5) Are knowledgable voters better voters (caveat - I haven’t read the full paper):
6) The BBC has released an article on Progress Studies here.
7) This old Matt Lucas article in The Guardian about losing his hair as a child is pretty interesting.
8) A few notes on those weird American candy stories in Central London.
9) Friend of the blog James Ozden wrote this post on how EAs can emulate Venture Capitalists.
10) The Sample (referral link) is a great way to find newsletters of interest, which I’ve been enjoying a lot recently.
12) Apple is introducing a ‘lockdown mode’ to make your phone extremely secure against malicious actors, I assume in response to the Pegasus stuff:
13) This ‘absurd trolley problems’ game is just amazing, go and play it if you haven’t already!
14) The Guardian’s release of Uber’s confidential documents is pretty interesting.
15) What is the likelihood that Catherine the Great ever ate a banana, and why does a banana looking like a penis have an impact on the probability?
16) Notes on the origin of the name Jalen:
When Jeanne gave [Jalen Rose] the name that was a combination of his father's (James) and his uncle's (Leonard), there's no doubt the popularity of the name can be tied directly to Rose's fame.
17) Thoughts on the animal welfare costs of eating meat compared to the climate costs:
The broader conclusion that animal welfare costs completely swamp the climate costs of eating meat turns out to be almost unavoidable once you grant that factory-farmed animal lives are net-negative.
18) You’ve seen them already, but the new photographs from the James Webb Space telescope are just incredible:
I guess there is a fairly good chance (~35%) that these images have become a meme of some sort by the time this links round-up goes out. Know that I added this image to the round-up before they were being used in memes everywhere, if that has happened.
19) This piece on the eBay of premier league transfers was pretty interesting, although perhaps not so interesting for American readers.
20) Here is the link to Sam Bankman-Fried’s old blog, which is very much worth browsing:
Ok, well, how about this, then. Say there are two planets, A and B. Right now A is barren and B is a thriving metropolis. They will never communicate. You can push a button and destroy planet B in order to instantaneously make planet A an even more advanced and happy civilization, trading creation for destruction. Do you do it?
Well, as you've probably caught on, this is really just a trolley problem in disguise--and that often the creation and destruction issue is really just an act omission one.
21) This post was fairly interesting for EAs, discussing whether you ought to pass up pay or donate money if you’re working for an EA org in the US.
22) The good people at SlimeMoldTimeMold have made some interesting claims about a diet that consists entirely of potatoes leading to fast weight loss.
23) Claims about Vitamin D and sun exposure that conflict with my assumptions:
When he exposed volunteers to the equivalent of 30 minutes of summer sunlight without sunscreen, their nitric oxide levels went up and their blood pressure went down. Because of its connection to heart disease and strokes, blood pressure is the leading cause of premature death and disease in the world, and the reduction was of a magnitude large enough to prevent millions of deaths on a global level.
24) I’ve long enjoyed Guppy’s Twitter, but his Substack is also fun, here’s one on being ‘vulgar middle class’:
Two days ago I had the misfortune of finding out that an old friend of mine, who I hadn't seen in some years, has done very well for himself. The fact was related to me over dinner, and in such a way that I was expected to congratulate him. He had bought himself a house and — what’s more — in an enviable neighbourhood of London. No sooner had he told me of his success than I began scurrying around my mind looking for immaterial ways in which I might have said to have bettered him.
25) On working the night shift, by James Harris.
26) This seems like it might be a huge problem for political science:
27) A drive through London in 1999, probably mostly of interest to people who have lived in London:
28) Did people used to look older?
It so happens that the fundamental treatises of phenomenology are written in thick, heavy philosophical German. Tradition demands that no examples ever be given of what one is talking about. One day I decided, not without serious misgivings, to publish a paper that was essentially an updating of some paragraphs from a book by Edmund Husserl, with a few examples added. While I was waiting for the worst at the next meeting of the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy, a prominent phenomenologist rushed towards me with a smile on his face. He was full of praise for my paper, and he strongly encouraged me to further develop the novel and original ideas presented in it.
30) This paper claims that cognitive ability predicts economic knowledge better than education or economics courses. I am sceptical, but I haven’t read the full paper.
31) Aella on fancy parties:
I’m surprised to find that many people here aren’t very good at thinking. Like, they’re good, but not very good. I have some deep gut-level belief that successful people have precise thoughts and good at introspection. But it seems like they’re very good at some different kind of skill - good at getting things done in the world. Jungian typology says there’s two types of thinking - internal and external. “Internal thinking” is thinking that’s interested in curiosity “all the way down”, and tends to be precise, very thorough, and interested in puzzles, having fully fleshed out, consistent mental models. “External thinking” is curious to concrete ends - if an intellectual curiosity isn’t directly furthering your goal, you put it to the side. It’s concerned with faster, more effective decision making, provable real-world impacts.
33) Apparently wolf attacks cause people to vote for far-right parties in Germany. They use DiD, but I remain sceptical.
34) Compliments as Utilitarian Praxis:
It seems like people don't get as many compliments as they want, and that getting a compliment greatly enhances the quality of their lives. Some people even report to remember compliments months or even years after they get them and are very happy about them.
This creates a good opportunity for utilitarians (both hedonic and preference) to use otherwise wasted time. Since there is often time where one has nothing to do (e.g waiting at a trainstation, an airport, or while at the checkout line at the grocery store) and that can't be used productively otherwise, a utilitarian could make somebody a compliment in that time.
35) Some discussion on Twitter about Krueger’s $100k paper on Uber, see the back and forth between Salmon and Wolfers:
36) Tomasik on the value of writing.
37) My friend Eli shared an important post on struggling with mental health as part of starting a new EA org. Eli is a really lovely guy and I’m grateful that he wrote about this.
39) Peter Hitchens dialling the moon.