158. On the Virtues of Wiggle Room

Allowing for little bit of “wiggle room” might seem frivolous, but it can have massive implications.

-Links for the Curious-

“Slack,” by Zvi Mowshowitz – thezvi.wordpress.com/2017/09/30/slack/

Some Consequences of Having Too Little (Shah, Mullainathan, & Shafir, 2012) – scholar.harvard.edu/files/sendhil/files/some_consequences_of_having_too_little.pdf

Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much, by Sendhil Mullainathan & Eldar Shafir – smile.amazon.com/Scarcity-Having-Little-Means-Much-ebook/dp/B00BMKOO6S/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1506174951&sr=1-1&keywords=scarcity

“Made of Indestructium,” TV Tropes (Warning: TV Tropes will ruin your life) – tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MadeOfIndestructium

On the Psychology of Scarcity: When Reminders of Resource Scarcity Promote Selfish (and Generous) Behavior (Roux et al, 2015) – goo.gl/GM4yGT

THUNK – 157. Issues with Infinity

Scientists are used to seeing infinity in their equations, but refuse to accept it as an answer to them – why?

-Links for the Curious-

“Singularities & Black Holes,” by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy – plato.stanford.edu/entries/spacetime-singularities/

“Singularities & Black Holes,” by Peter Bokulich – people.bu.edu/pbokulic/blackholes/

Infinite Ethics (Bostrom, 2011) – nickbostrom.com/ethics/infinite.pdf

The Elasticity of Demand for Health Care: A Review of the Literature and Its Application to the Military Health System (Ringel et al, 2002) – www.rand.org/pubs/monograph_reports/MR1355.html

“Price Elasticity of Demand,” by Anderson et al – www.jstor.org/stable/1237232?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

“Taxes & Perfectly Inelastic Demand,” by Khan Academy – www.khanacademy.org/economics-finance-domain/ap-microeconomics/ap-supply-demand-equilibrium/ap-deadweight-loss-tutorial/v/taxes-and-perfectly-inelastic-demand

THUNK – 156. Less Wrong, Rationality, & Logicbros

I focus a lot on improving my critical thinking skills & knowledge of bias, but I may just be honing deadly weapons to be wielded by the mad spectre that sometimes possesses me.

-Links for the Curious-

Reply to Davis-Stober et al.: Violations of rationality in a psychophysical task are not aggregation artifacts (Tsetsos et al, 2016) – www.pnas.org/content/early/2016/07/25/1608989113.long

The Polarizing Impact of Science Literacy and Numeracy on Perceived Climate Change Risks (Braman et al, 2012) – scholarship.law.gwu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1298&context=faculty_publications

“Realism about Rationality,” by Ricraz on LessWrong – www.lesswrong.com/posts/suxvE2ddnYMPJN9HD/realism-about-rationality

@TheSoundDefense on Twitter – twitter.com/thesounddefense/status/986417178864795648?lang=en

Practical Reason (Wallace, 2014) – plato.stanford.edu/entries/practical-reason/#MaxRat
A likely logicbro on imgur – imgur.com/gallery/b9vrd6w

“Adam Ruins Logic,” by Eternal Life Fan – www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8bhBiY-Kgs

“America the Intelligent,” by Peter Moore – today.yougov.com/topics/lifestyle/articles-reports/2014/05/11/intelligence

THUNK – 155. Combinatorial Explosion & Flu Shots

Influenza isn’t complex, but it uses the insane growth rate of f(x) = x! , one of the fastest-growing functions out there. The greatest benefit of the #flushot isn’t keeping *you* healthy, it’s retarding that combinatorial explosion enough to save lives. Get one.

-Links for the Curious-

“Vaccinations & Herd Immunity,” by Health Care Triage – www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuiHFg_nfnE

“Probability & the Birthday Paradox,” by Science Buddies – https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/bring-science-home-probability-birthday-paradox/

Pneumonia and Influenza Mortality Surveillance from the National Center for Health Statistics Mortality Surveillance System – gis.cdc.gov/grasp/fluview/mortality.html
“Exponential Growth Isn’t Cool. Combinatorial Growth Is,” by Tor Bair – medium.com/@TorBair/exponential-growth-isn-t-cool-combinatorial-growth-is-85a0b1fdb6a5

Varicella in Infants After Implementation of the US Varicella Vaccination Program (Chaves et al, 2011) – pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2011/11/22/peds.2011-0017

“Combinatorial Explosions Explained,” by Hexawise – www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_-gKrxMUcw

THUNK – 154. The Ethics of Placebo-Controlled Trials

“Good” medical trials are placebo-controlled, but when might it be immoral to even perform such an experiment?

-Links for the Curious-

The Ethics of Placebo-controlled Trials: Methodological Justifications (Millum & Grady, 2013) _ www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3844122/

The ethics of the placebo in clinical practice (Lichtenberg et al, 2002) – jme.bmj.com/content/30/6/551

The ethics of using placebo in randomised controlled trials: a case study of a Plasmodium vivax antirelapse trial – bmcmedethics.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12910-018-0259-4

“The Morality of A/B Testing” – techcrunch.com/2014/06/29/ethics-in-a-data-driven-world/

“What really helps the poor?” – aeon.co/essays/can-randomised-controlled-trials-test-whether-poverty-relief-works

THUNK – 153. “The Culture” & Hedonism

Iain M. Banks’s “Culture” is a techno-utopia built on hedonism, a concept much more philosophically complex than sex, drugs, & rock n roll.

-Links for the Curious-

“Hedonism,” by the SEP – plato.stanford.edu/entries/hedonism/

“Hedonism,” by the IEP – www.iep.utm.edu/hedonism/

“I Hope This Helps: Hedonism,” by Sam Dresser – aeon.co/videos/great-news-pleasure-is-the-purpose-of-life-bad-news-moderation-is-key

“Hedonism and Pleasure,” by Philosophy Tube – www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZmFDVYolQ4

“How to Live a Happy, Pleasurable Life,” by Philosophy Tube – www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEjaKDX1Xys&t=413s

“Philosophy – Ethics: Hedonism and the Experience Machine,” by Wireless Philosophy – www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJ1dsNauhGE

THUNK – 152. Prediction Markets & Superforecasting

Prediction markets: put your money where your mouth is. (Just don’t bet against the superforecasters.)

-Links for the Curious-

The Good Judgment Project: A Large Scale Test of Different Methods of Combining Expert Predictions (Ungar et al, 2008) – www.aaai.org/ocs/index.php/FSS/FSS12/paper/download/5570/5871

Psychological Strategies for Winning a Geopolitical Forecasting Tournament (Mellers et al, 2014) – journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797614524255

The Promise of Prediction Markets (Arrow et al, 2008) – citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=

Philip Tetlock: Ten Commandments for Aspiring Superforecasters – fs.blog/2015/12/ten-commandments-for-superforecasters/

Forecasting Elections: Comparing Prediction Markets, Polls, and Their Biases (Rothschild, 2009) – researchdmr.com/RothschildPOQ2009

Oct. 23: The Virtues and Vices of Election Prediction Markets

If not polls, then betting markets?

“So You Think You’re Smarter than a CIA Agent?” by Alix Spiegel – www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2014/04/02/297839429/-so-you-think-youre-smarter-than-a-cia-agent

“Putting Crowd Wisdom to Work,” by Bo Cowgill – googleblog.blogspot.com/2005/09/putting-crowd-wisdom-to-work.html

THUNK – 151. Systems, Law, & Rules/Standards

Systems (e.g. checklists, plans, & laws) imbue us with positively superhuman capabilities, both for good & ill.

-Links for the Curious-

“How do we heal medicine?” by Atul Gawande – www.ted.com/talks/atul_gawande_how_do_we_heal_medicine/transcript

Retained surgical sponges, needles and instruments (Hariharan & Lobo, 2013) – www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4098594/#ch1_a5title

Making Hurricane Response More Effective: Lessons from the Private Sector and the Coast Guard during Katrina (Horwitz, 2008) – poseidon01.ssrn.com/delivery.php?ID=524086089074009094103005013086093109027008042043001033103026015095126126031027005103013039002037111125048068097004098115103089052047088034054098006014024127093001118005084001081013095017084008090121005126010114008068085094005125119070066064026075069096&EXT=pdf

“Walmart at Forefront of Hurricane Relief,” by Michael Barbaro and Justin Gillis – www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/05/AR2005090501598.html?noredirect=on

Rule of Law (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy – plato.stanford.edu/entries/rule-of-law/#RuleStan

Wayte vs. United States, No. 83-1292. – scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=1554935737289876560&hl=en&as_sdt=6&as_vis=1&oi=scholarr


THUNK – 150. Mutual & Common Knowledge

Mutual & common knowledge: because simulating someone else simulating you is confusing…perhaps usefully so….

-Links for the Curious-

Common Knowledge & Aumann’s Agreement Theorem, by Scott Aaronson – www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=2410

Common Knowledge (Vanderschraaf & Sillari, 2014) – plato.stanford.edu/entries/common-knowledge/

The Psychology of Common Knowledge & Coordination (Thomas et al, 2014) – dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/14330738/The%20Psychology%20of%20Common%20Knowledge%20and%20Coordination_Thomas%20DeScioli%20Haque%20%26%20Pinker.pdf?sequence=1

Bystander “Apathy” (Latane & Darley, 1969) – greatergood.berkeley.edu/images/uploads/Latane-BystanderApathy.pdf

The logic of indirect speech (Pinker et al, 2008) – stevenpinker.com/publications/logic-indirect-speech


THUNK – 149. Solution Space & Tiling Trees

Challenge: Examine enough potential solutions to a problem to be confident in one. Answer: Tiling trees!

-Links for the Curious-

Rationally Speaking, Episode 212: Ed Boyden – rationallyspeakingpodcast.org/show/rs-212-ed-boyden-on-how-to-invent-game-changing-technologies.html

Transcript: static1.1.sqspcdn.com/static/f/468275/27944421/1531179289400/rs212transcript.pdf?token=TvMGvhsV6k0E6Ao5ze9NYTUURzc%3D

“Get Lucky,” by Bob Holmes – www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0262407915310332

Text available here – archive.org/stream/New_Scientist_August_22_2015/New_Scientist_August_22_2015_djvu.txt

The Philosophy of Problem Space and Solution Space, by Karen Bachmann – blogs.perficient.com/perficientdigital/2011/08/24/the-philosophy-of-problem-space-and-solution-space/

Binary Search Tree (Wikipedia) – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binary_search_tree


THUNK – 148. Aristotle’s Infinite Regress & Intuition

Aristotle found a problem at the foundations of epistemology: an infinite regress of justification.

-Links for the Curious-

Reason & Intuition (Parsons, 1998) – logic.harvard.edu/EFI_Parsons_ReasonAndIntuition.pdf

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Intuition – plato.stanford.edu/entries/intuition/
Aristotle’s Logic – plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-logic/
Foundationalist Theories of Epistemic Justification – plato.stanford.edu/entries/justep-foundational/
Coherentist Theories of Epistemic Justification – plato.stanford.edu/entries/justep-coherence/

“Regress Argument,” on Wikipedia – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regress_argument


THUNK – 147. Grice’s Maxims of Conversation

How exactly does implication work? Philosopher Paul Grice might have had a couple decent ideas.

-Links for the Curious-

Logic & Conversation, lecture by Paul Grice – msu.edu/~orourk51/800-Phil/Handouts/Readings/Phil%20Lang/Grice-Logic&Conversation-WJL-1989.pdf

“What we say vs what we mean: what is conversational implicature?” by Maria Kasmirli – aeon.co/ideas/what-we-say-vs-what-we-mean-what-is-conversational-implicature

Paul Grice, by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy – plato.stanford.edu/entries/grice/#ConvImpl

The Logical Syntax of Language, by Rudolf Carnap – altexploit.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/rudolf-carnap-logical-syntax-of-language-international-library-of-philosophy-2001.pdf

THUNK – 146. Mental Illness & Creativity

Everyone knows you have to be a little bit crazy to be a great artist, right? …right?

-Links for the Curious-

Mental illness, suicide and creativity: 40-Year prospective total population study (Kyaga et al, 2013) – scottbarrykaufman.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Kyaga-et-al.-2012.pdf



Mental Illness Statistics from the NIH – www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness.shtml

“The Madness of Sir Isaac Newton,” by Marina Jones – futurism.com/the-madness-of-sir-isaac-newton/

“11 Historical Geniuses and Their Possible Mental Disorders,” by Kathy Benjamin – mentalfloss.com/article/12500/11-historical-geniuses-and-their-possible-mental-disorders

Wikipedia entry on creativity & mental illness – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creativity_and_mental_illness

“Creativity and Mental Illness,” by Arline Kaplan – pdfs.semanticscholar.org/ea44/ec47e5cf19434565d87ef1517a45db1a3f57.pdf

“What Neuroscience Has To Say About The ‘Tortured Genius’,” by Sarah Klein – www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/02/creativity-mental-illness-health_n_5695887.html

THUNK – 145. Tit for Tat & Zero Determinant Strategies

Tit for Tat: the king of Prisoner’s Dilemma strategies. Its simplicity masks its depth…but it *can* be beaten!

-Links for the Curious-

A fantastic interview with Press about his findings – www.edge.org/conversation/william_h_press-freeman_dyson-on-iterated-prisoners-dilemma-contains-strategies-that

An overview of the various algorithms pitted against each other in Axelrod & Press/Dyson’s battle royale – axelrod.readthedocs.io/en/stable/reference/overview_of_strategies.html


A great summary for PNAS of the ZD strategies & their implications – www.pnas.org/content/109/26/10409?ijkey=bb6675b0fc7e8e43b584727a2ef974e97efde8ef&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha

A summary of ZD strategy extortion – numerical.recipes/whp/StewartPlotkinExtortion2012.pdf

Forbes’s (now dated) piece on the Generous Tit for Tat strategy – www.forbes.com/sites/rogerkay/2011/12/19/generous-tit-for-tat-a-winning-strategy/#e9eff3266eb0

THUNK – 144. Thinking Like a Bayesian

Prediction is a lot like playing poker…so why do we treat it like it was a coin toss? Enter the Bayesians!

-Links for the Curious-

Bayes’ Theorem Illustrated (My Way), by komponisto – www.lesswrong.com/posts/CMt3ijXYuCynhPWXa/bayes-theorem-illustrated-my-way

Conditional probability explained visually (Bayes’ Theorem), by Khan Academy – www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zxm4Xxvzohk

Critical Thinking Fundamentals – Bayes’s Theorem, by Wireless Philosophy – www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqmJhPQYRc8

A visual guide to Bayesian thinking, by Julia Galef – www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrK7X_XlGB8

Newcomb’s Problem: it’s like “Is a hotdog a sandwich?,” but WAY nerdier, with deep implications for rationality.

NOTE: Thanks also to Rob Dufau for his help with this week’s episode!

-Links for the Curious-

Newcomb’s Problem And Two Principles Of Choice (Nozick, 1969) –

“Causal Decision Theory,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2016 – plato.stanford.edu/entries/decision-causal/

“Causation in Decision Theory,” by Jim Joyce – blogs.kent.ac.uk/jonw/files/2015/04/Joyce2008.pdf

Some Counterexamples to Causal Decision Theory (Egan, 2006) – andyegan.net/Andy_Egan/Papers_files/nocdt.2006.06.28.pdf

“Newcomb’s problem, expected utility, and dominance,” by Jeff Speaks – www3.nd.edu/~jspeaks/courses/2007-8/20229/_HANDOUTS/newcomb.pdf

Newcomb’s Problem & the tragedy of rationality, by Julia Galef – www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KxJ6eTY9bA

“Decision Theory FAQ,” by lukeprog & crazy88 via LessWrong – www.lesswrong.com/posts/zEWJBFFMvQ835nq6h/decision-theory-faq

Prisoner’s Dilemma is a Newcomb Problem (Lewis, 1979) – www.andrewmbailey.com/dkl/Prisoners_Dilemma.pdf

THUNK – 142. “Rogue AI’s” of the Present Day

Many people are worried about rogue AI’s of the future, but what about the ones that already exist?

-Links for the Curious-

“Dude, you broke the future!” by Charlie Stross – www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2018/01/dude-you-broke-the-future.html#more

“Artificial Personhood is the Root Cause Why A.I. is Dangerous to Society,” by Carlos E. Perez – medium.com/intuitionmachine/the-dangers-of-artificial-intelligence-is-unavoidable-due-to-flaws-of-human-civilization-f9c131e65e5e

“AI Has Already Taken Over. It’s Called the Corporation,” by Jeremy Lent – www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/ai-has-already-taken-over-its-called-the-corporation_us_5a207b33e4b04dacbc9bd54c

“A Mod for Civilization Makes Rogue AI More Dangerous Than Gandhi’s Nukes,” by Rhett Jones – gizmodo.com/a-mod-for-civilization-makes-rogue-ai-more-dangerous-th-1821815000

Predicting Depression via Social Media (De Choudhury et al, 2013) – www.aaai.org/ocs/index.php/ICWSM/ICWSM13/paper/viewFile/6124/6351

Online Social Networking and Addiction—A Review of the Psychological Literature (Kuss & Griffiths, 2011) – www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/8/9/3528/htm?hc_location=ufi

Algorithmic Entities (LoPucki, 2017) – papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2954173

“Elon Musk’s Freak-Out Over Killer Robots Distracts From Our Real AI Problems,” by Tom Simonite – www.wired.com/story/elon-forget-killer-robots-focus-on-the-real-ai-problems/

THUNK – 141. Von Neumann Probes

-Links for the Curious-

“Theory of Self-Reproducing Automata,” by John Von Neumann, 1966 – www.cs.unm.edu/~mfricke/CS523_2017spring/Readings/Theory_of_Self_Reproducing_Automata.pdf

:Advanced Automation for Space Missions,” edited by Robert A. Freitas, Jr. & William P. Gilbreath, 1980 – ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19830007077.pdf

Self-Replicating Robots and Galactic Domination | Space Time | PBS Digital Studios – www.youtube.com/watch?v=4H55wybU3rI

Additive Construction using Basalt Regolith Fines (Mueller et al, 2015) – ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20150000305.pdf

Michio Kaku: The von Neumann Probe (A Nano Ship to the Stars) – www.youtube.com/watch?v=BN-FU8VPoOc

“Desktop 3D printer presages the future of multi-layer circuit board design,” by Lucas Mearian – www.computerworld.com/article/3195839/3d-printing/desktop-3d-printer-presages-the-future-of-multi-layer-circuit-board-design.html


THUNK – 138. Misinformation

What’s the harm in a little white lie? Well, if you tell enough of them, you may be able to steer an electorate.

-Links for the Curious-


“Cognitive Ability and Vulnerability to Fake News” by David Z. Hambrick, Madeline Marquardt – www.scientificamerican.com/article/cognitive-ability-and-vulnerability-to-fake-news/

‘Fake news’: Incorrect, but hard to correct. The role of cognitive ability on the impact of false information on social impressions (Keersmaecker & Roets, 2017) –


Knowing the Truth is not enough: The Resilience of Discredited Information – citation.allacademic.com/meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/2/0/4/7/2/p204726_index.html

Beliefs Don’t Always Persevere: How political figures are punished when positive information about them is discredited (Cobb et al, 2008) – www.dartmouth.edu/~nyhan/positive-misinformation.pdf

Frequency and the Conference of Referential Validity (Hasher & Goldstein, 1977) – web.archive.org/web/20160515062305/http://www.psych.utoronto.ca/users/hasher/PDF/Frequency%20and%20the%20conference%20Hasher%20et%20al%201977.pdf

“Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion“ by Robert Cialdini – elibrary.bsu.az/books_400/N_232.pdf

“Did Russia Affect The 2016 Election? It’s Now Undeniable” by Molly McKew – www.wired.com/story/did-russia-affect-the-2016-election-its-now-undeniable/


THUNK – 137. Embodied Cognition


Is a brain all you need to have a functional mind? Is the body just peripheral to cognition? Many researchers think so, but advocates of embodied cognition have different ideas.

(Quick note: “Altered Carbon” is racy & gory, but also very good. It doesn’t get particularly hung up on the “Is a copy of my mind REALLY MEEEE?!” question, touches on a lot of interesting problems with technological immortality, & actually has a lot of interesting test cases & scenarios for the concept of embodied cognition.)

-Links for the Curious-

The Metaphorical Structure of the Human Conceptual System (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980) – pdfs.semanticscholar.org/7756/0f155993cf906f0d8077d940f06e40b43cf0.pdf

“A Brief Guide to Embodied Cognition: Why You Are Not Your Brain” by Samuel McNerny –

“Embodied Cognition,” the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy – plato.stanford.edu/entries/embodied-cognition/

“Embodied cognition is not what you think it is” by Andrew D. Wilson* and Sabrina Golonka – www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00058/full

The Poverty of Embodied Cognition (Goldinger et al, 2016) – psychsciencenotes.blogspot.com/2016/02/on-poverty-of-embodied-cognition.html?m=1

“You Think with the World, Not Just Your Brain” by Sam Kriss, a summary of a related phenomenon called “extended cognition” – www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/10/extended-embodied-cognition/542808/?utm_source=yahoo

A Cognitive Study of Happiness Metaphors in Persian and English (Safarnejad et al, 2014) – www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877042814015456

Why You May Want to Stand Like a Superhero”, by Robin S. Rosenberg – www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-superheroes/201107/why-you-may-want-stand-superhero