Slate Star Codex Podcast

Audio version of Slate Star Codex. It's just me reading Scott Alexander's Blog Posts.
Gwern has answered my prayers and taught GPT-2 poetry. GPT-2 is the language processing system that OpenAI announced a few weeks ago. They are keeping the full version secret, but have released a smaller prototype version. Gwern retrained it on the Gutenberg Poetry Corpus, a 117 MB collection of...
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Here’s a graph of US air pollution over time:   During the discussion of 90s environmentalism, some people pointed out that this showed the Clean Air Act didn’t matter. The trend is the same before the Act as after it. This kind of argument is common. For example, here’s the libertarian Mercat...
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[Related to: Book Review: Albion’s Seed] [Epistemic status: Not too serious] I realize I’ve been confusing everyone with my use of the word “Puritan”. When I say “That guy is so Puritan!” people object “But he’s not religious!” or “He doesn’t hate fun!” I don’t know what the real word for the...
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I. Albion’s Seed by David Fischer is a history professor’s nine-hundred-page treatise on patterns of early immigration to the Eastern United States. It’s not light reading and not the sort of thing I would normally pick up. I read it anyway on the advice of people who kept telling me it explain...
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Last week the FDA approved esketamine for treatment-resistant depression. Let’s review how the pharmaceutical industry works: a company discovers and patents a potentially exciting new drug. They spend tens of millions of dollars proving safety and efficacy to the FDA. The FDA rewards them with ...
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[Title from this unrelated story or this unrelated essay] Last week I wrote about how conspiracy theories spread so much faster on Facebook than debunkings of those same theories. A few commenters chimed in to say that of course this was true, the conspiracy theories had evolved into an almost-...
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[With apologies to Putnam, Pope, and all of you] Two children are reading a text written by an AI: The hobbits splashed water in each other’s faces until they were both sopping wet One child says to the other “Wow! After reading some text, the AI understands what water is!” The second child s...
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The Verge writes a story (an exposé?) on the Facebook-moderation industry. It goes through the standard ways it maltreats its employees: low pay, limited bathroom breaks, awful managers – and then into some not-so-standard ones. Mods have to read (or watch) all of the worst things people post on...
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Imagine a black box which, when you pressed a button, would generate a scientific hypothesis. 50% of its hypotheses are false; 50% are true hypotheses as game-changing and elegant as relativity. Even despite the error rate, it’s easy to see this box would quickly surpass space capsules, da Vinci...
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[Epistemic status: I am basing this on widely-accepted published research, but I can’t guarantee I’ve understood the research right or managed to emphasize/believe the right people. Some light editing to bring in important points people raised in the comments.] You all know this graph:     Medi...
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[This post is having major technical issues. Some comments may not be appearing. If you can’t comment, please say so on the subreddit.] I. I Come To Praise Caesar, Not To Bury Him Several years ago, an SSC reader made an r/slatestarcodex subreddit for discussion of blog posts here and related t...
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I was going back over yesterday’s post, and something sounded familiar about this paragraph: A very careless plagiarist takes someone else’s work and copies it verbatim: “The mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell”. A more careful plagiarist takes the work and changes a few words around: “T...
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A machine learning researcher writes me in response to yesterday’s post, saying: I still think GPT-2 is a brute-force statistical pattern matcher which blends up the internet and gives you back a slightly unappetizing slurry of it when asked. I resisted the urge to answer “Yeah, well, your mom...
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Last week OpenAI announced its latest breakthrough. GPT-2 is a language model that can write essays to a prompt, answer questions, and summarize longer works. For example (bold prompt is human-written, all other text is the machine-generated response): Prompt: For today’s homework assignment, p...
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I. Chefs. Hundreds of them. Tall chefs, short chefs, black chefs, white chefs. I pushed forward through them, like an explorer hacking away at undergrowth. They muttered curses at me, but I was stronger than they were. I came to a door. I opened it. Sweet empty space. I shut the door behind me, ...
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SSRIs are the most widely used class of psychiatric medications, helpful for depression, anxiety, OCD, panic, PTSD, anger, and certain personality disorders (Why should the same drug treat all these things? Great question!) They’ve been pretty thoroughly studied, but there’s still a lot we don’t...
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I. I don’t know much about gay history, but the heavily mythicized version of it I heard goes like this: At first open homosexuality was totally taboo. A few groups of respectable people with hilariously upper-class names like The Mattachine Society and The Daughters Of Bilitis quietly tried to ...
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I. Zero To One might be the first best-selling business book based on a Tumblr. Stanford student Blake Masters took Peter Thiel’s class on startups. He posted his notes on Tumblr after each lecture. They became a minor sensation. Thiel asked if he wanted to make them into a book together. He di...
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At the beginning of every year, I make predictions. At the end of every year, I score them. So here are a hundred more for 2019. Rules: all predictions about what will be true on January 1, 2020. Any that involve polling will be settled by the top poll or average of polls on Real Clear Politics ...
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Lots of people have asked me to recommend them a psychiatrist or therapist. I’ve done a terrible job responding: it’s a conflict of interest to recommend my own group, and I don’t know many people outside of it. So now I’ve put together a list (by which I mostly mean blatantly copied a similar l...
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