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What's Wrong With Growing Blobs of Brain Tissue? - The Atlantic
These increasingly complex organoids aren't conscious—but we might not know when they cross that line.

I don't know why you would even *want* to do this tbh... What's the application?
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april 2018 by nhaliday
The Western Elite from a Chinese Perspective - American Affairs Journal
I don’t claim to be a modern-day Alexis de Tocqueville, nor do I have much in common with this famous observer of American life. He grew up in Paris, a city renowned for its culture and architecture. I grew up in Shijiazhuang, a city renowned for being the headquarters of the company that produced toxic infant formula. He was a child of aristocrats; I am the child of modest workers.

Nevertheless, I hope my candid observations can provide some insights into the elite institutions of the West. Certain beliefs are as ubiquitous among the people I went to school with as smog was in Shijiazhuang. The doctrines that shape the worldviews and cultural assumptions at elite Western institutions like Cambridge, Stanford, and Goldman Sachs have become almost religious. Nevertheless, I hope that the perspective of a candid Chinese atheist can be of some instruction to them.


So I came to the UK in 2001, when I was 16 years old. Much to my surprise, I found the UK’s exam-focused educational system very similar to the one in China. What is more, in both countries, going to the “right schools” and getting the “right job” are seen as very important by a large group of eager parents. As a result, scoring well on exams and doing well in school interviews—or even the play session for the nursery or pre-prep school—become the most important things in the world. Even at the university level, the undergraduate degree from the University of Cambridge depends on nothing else but an exam at the end of the last year.

On the other hand, although the UK’s university system is considered superior to China’s, with a population that is only one-twentieth the size of my native country, competition, while tough, is less intimidating. For example, about one in ten applicants gets into Oxbridge in the UK, and Stanford and Harvard accept about one in twenty-five applicants. But in Hebei province in China, where I am from, only one in fifteen hundred applicants gets into Peking or Qinghua University.

Still, I found it hard to believe how much easier everything became. I scored first nationwide in the GCSE (high school) math exam, and my photo was printed in a national newspaper. I was admitted into Trinity College, University of Cambridge, once the home of Sir Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, and Prince Charles.

I studied economics at Cambridge, a field which has become more and more mathematical since the 1970s. The goal is always to use a mathematical model to find a closed-form solution to a real-world problem. Looking back, I’m not sure why my professors were so focused on these models. I have since found that the mistake of blindly relying on models is quite widespread in both trading and investing—often with disastrous results, such as the infamous collapse of the hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management. Years later, I discovered the teaching of Warren Buffett: it is better to be approximately right than precisely wrong. But our professors taught us to think of the real world as a math problem.

The culture of Cambridge followed the dogmas of the classroom: a fervent adherence to rules and models established by tradition. For example, at Cambridge, students are forbidden to walk on grass. This right is reserved for professors only. The only exception is for those who achieve first class honors in exams; they are allowed to walk on one area of grass on one day of the year.

The behavior of my British classmates demonstrated an even greater herd mentality than what is often mocked in American MBAs. For example, out of the thirteen economists in my year at Trinity, twelve would go on to join investment banks, and five of us went to work for Goldman Sachs.


To me, Costco represents the best of American capitalism. It is a corporation known for having its customers and employees in mind, while at the same time it has compensated its shareholders handsomely over the years. To the customers, it offers the best combination of quality and low cost. Whenever it manages to reduce costs, it passes the savings on to customers immediately. Achieving a 10 percent gross margin with prices below Amazon’s is truly incredible. After I had been there once, I found it hard to shop elsewhere.

Meanwhile, its salaries are much higher than similar retail jobs. When the recession hit in 2008, the company increased salaries to help employees cope with the difficult environment. From the name tags the staff wear, I have seen that frontline employees work there for decades, something hard to imagine elsewhere.

Stanford was for me a distant second to Costco in terms of the American capitalist experience. Overall, I enjoyed the curriculum at the GSB. Inevitably I found some classes less interesting, but the professors all seemed to be quite understanding, even when they saw me reading my kindle during class.

One class was about strategy. It focused on how corporate mottos and logos could inspire employees. Many of the students had worked for nonprofits or health care or tech companies, all of which had mottos about changing the world, saving lives, saving the planet, etc. The professor seemed to like these mottos. I told him that at Goldman our motto was “be long-term greedy.” The professor couldn’t understand this motto or why it was inspiring. I explained to him that everyone else in the market was short-term greedy and, as a result, we took all their money. Since traders like money, this was inspiring. He asked if perhaps there was another motto or logo that my other classmates might connect with. I told him about the black swan I kept on my desk as a reminder that low probability events happen with high frequency. He didn’t like that motto either and decided to call on another student, who had worked at Pfizer. Their motto was “all people deserve to live healthy lives.” The professor thought this was much better. I didn’t understand how it would motivate employees, but this was exactly why I had come to Stanford: to learn the key lessons of interpersonal communication and leadership.

On the communication and leadership front, I came to the GSB knowing I was not good and hoped to get better. My favorite class was called “Interpersonal Dynamics” or, as students referred to it, “Touchy Feely.” In “Touchy Feely,” students get very candid feedback on how their words and actions affect others in a small group that meets several hours per week for a whole quarter.

We talked about microaggressions and feelings and empathy and listening. Sometimes in class the professor would say things to me like “Puzhong, when Mary said that, I could see you were really feeling something,” or “Puzhong, I could see in your eyes that Peter’s story affected you.” And I would tell them I didn’t feel anything. I was quite confused.

One of the papers we studied mentioned that subjects are often not conscious of their own feelings when fully immersed in a situation. But body indicators such as heart rate would show whether the person is experiencing strong emotions. I thought that I generally didn’t have a lot of emotions and decided that this might be a good way for me to discover my hidden emotions that the professor kept asking about.

So I bought a heart rate monitor and checked my resting heart rate. Right around 78. And when the professor said to me in class “Puzhong, I can see that story brought up some emotions in you,” I rolled up my sleeve and checked my heart rate. It was about 77. And so I said, “nope, no emotion.” The experiment seemed to confirm my prior belief: my heart rate hardly moved, even when I was criticized, though it did jump when I became excited or laughed.

This didn’t land well on some of my classmates. They felt I was not treating these matters with the seriousness that they deserved. The professor was very angry. My takeaway was that my interpersonal skills were so bad that I could easily offend people unintentionally, so I concluded that after graduation I should do something that involved as little human interaction as possible.

Therefore, I decided I needed to return to work in financial markets rather than attempting something else. I went to the career service office and told them that my primary goal after the MBA was to make money. I told them that $500,000 sounded like a good number. They were very confused, though, as they said their goal was to help me find my passion and my calling. I told them that my calling was to make money for my family. They were trying to be helpful, but in my case, their advice didn’t turn out to be very helpful.

Eventually I was able to meet the chief financial officer of my favorite company, Costco. He told me that they don’t hire any MBAs. Everyone starts by pushing trolleys. (I have seriously thought about doing just that. But my wife is strongly against it.) Maybe, I thought, that is why the company is so successful—no MBAs!


Warren Buffett has said that the moment one was born in the United States or another Western country, that person has essentially won a lottery. If someone is born a U.S. citizen, he or she enjoys a huge advantage in almost every aspect of life, including expected wealth, education, health care, environment, safety, etc., when compared to someone born in developing countries. For someone foreign to “purchase” these privileges, the price tag at the moment is $1 million dollars (the rough value of the EB-5 investment visa). Even at this price level, the demand from certain countries routinely exceeds the annual allocated quota, resulting in long waiting times. In that sense, American citizens were born millionaires!

Yet one wonders how long such luck will last. This brings me back to the title of Rubin’s book, his “uncertain world.” In such a world, the vast majority things are outside our control, determined by God or luck. After we have given our best and once the final card is drawn, we should neither become too excited by what we have achieved nor too depressed by what we failed to … [more]
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january 2018 by nhaliday
Will Editors Still Hire You If You Write Both Content and Journalism? - Technology Content Marketing Writer | Jennifer Goforth Gregory - Raleigh Freelance Technology Writer
Interestingly, I have actually found that many editors at journalistic publications are actually comfortable with me using content clips for journalistic assignments. I landed an ongoing gig at Entrpreneuer.com a few years ago using only clips from American Express OPEN Forum. And I got published in the Atlantic.com using clips of features I wrote for a custom publication for Fifth Third Bank, created by the Wall Street Journal Custom Content division. Now, in both of these cases, the content looked very similar (if not identical) to the articles published on both of these sites.
december 2017 by hoboyobo
GOP tax plan would provide major gains for richest 1%, uneven benefits for the middle class, report says - The Washington Post
Trump tweets: For his voters.
Tax plan: Something else entirely.
This is appallingly stupid if accurate


Treasury Removes Paper at Odds With Mnuchin’s Take on Corporate-Tax Cut’s Winners: https://www.wsj.com/articles/treasury-removes-paper-at-odds-with-mnuchins-take-on-corporate-tax-cuts-winners-1506638463

Tax changes for graduate students under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: https://bcide.gitlab.io/post/gop-tax-plan/
H.R.1 – 155th Congress (Tax Cuts and Jobs Act) 1 proposes changes to the US Tax Code that threatens to destroy the finances of STEM graduate students nationwide. The offending provision, 1204(a)(3), strikes section 117(d) 2 of the US Tax Code. This means that under the proposal, tuition waivers are considered taxable income.

For graduate students, this means an increase of thousands of dollars in owed federal taxes. Below I show a calculation for my own situation. The short of it is this: My federal taxes increase from ~7.5% of my income to ~31%. I will owe about $6300 more in federal taxes under this legislation. Like many other STEM students, my choices would be limited to taking on significant debt or quitting my program entirely.

The Republican War on College: https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/11/republican-college/546308/

Trump's plan to tax colleges will harm higher education — but it's still a good idea: http://www.businessinsider.com/trump-tax-plan-taxing-colleges-is-a-good-idea-2017-11
- James Miller

The Republican Tax Plan Is a Disaster for Families With Children: http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/11/the-republican-tax-plan-is-a-disaster-for-families-with-children/
- Kevin Drum

The gains from cutting corporate tax rates: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/11/corporate-taxes-2.html
I’ve been reading in this area on and off since the 1980s, and I really don’t think these are phony results.

Entrepreneurship and State Taxation: https://www.federalreserve.gov/econres/feds/files/2018003pap.pdf
We find that new firm employment is negatively—and disproportionately—affected by corporate tax rates. We find little evidence of an effect of personal and sales taxes on entrepreneurial outcomes.

nobody in the comments section seems to have even considered the comparison with universities

The GOP Tax Bills Are Infrastructure Bills Too. Here’s Why.: http://www.governing.com/topics/transportation-infrastructure/gov-republican-tax-bills-impact-infrastructure.html
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september 2017 by nhaliday
As American as Apple Pie: U.S. Female Converts to Islam - U.S. Studies Online
A recent book, Muslim Women in America: The Challenge of Islamic Identity Today states that, “Surveys conducted through the Council on American Islamic Relations conclude that some 20,000 people convert each year, with women outnumbering men approximately four to one.”[2] Research on U.S. converts to Islam, and women in particular, is crucial because Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world;[3] Muslim Americans are underrepresented and misrepresented in the media and perhaps even in polls; and the majority of U.S. converts to Islam are women.[4] This leaves many Americans questioning who these women are, what they have to say for themselves, and whether they are ‘real Americans’.


As to whether they have a home Muslim community, one woman answered, “No, I do not. There is too much cultural Islam, too much discrimination against women, and too many arrogant men.” Yet another who self-identified as gay and gender non-conforming stated that, “The sense of isolation is chilling and physically painful.” There are numerous internal challenges facing the American Muslim community, but by a large margin, the women participating in the survey see patriarchy, ethnocentrism, racism, and lack of cultural assimilation by many Muslim immigrants as primary obstacles to their sense of belonging as Muslims of American heritage.

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june 2017 by nhaliday
Suspicious Banana on Twitter: ""platonic forms" seem more sinister when you realize that integers were reaching down into his head and giving him city planning advice https://t.co/4qaTdwOlry"
Plato mentions in his Laws that 5040 is a convenient number to use for dividing many things (including both the citizens and the land of a state) into lesser parts. He remarks that this number can be divided by all the (natural) numbers from 1 to 12 with the single exception of 11 (however, it is not the smallest number to have this property; 2520 is). He rectifies this "defect" by suggesting that two families could be subtracted from the citizen body to produce the number 5038, which is divisible by 11. Plato also took notice of the fact that 5040 can be divided by 12 twice over. Indeed, Plato's repeated insistence on the use of 5040 for various state purposes is so evident that it is written, "Plato, writing under Pythagorean influences, seems really to have supposed that the well-being of the city depended almost as much on the number 5040 as on justice and moderation."[1]

"Now for divine begettings there is a period comprehended by a perfect number, and for mortal by the first in which augmentations dominating and dominated when they have attained to three distances and four limits of the assimilating and the dissimilating, the waxing and the waning, render all things conversable and commensurable [546c] with one another, whereof a basal four-thirds wedded to the pempad yields two harmonies at the third augmentation, the one the product of equal factors taken one hundred times, the other of equal length one way but oblong,-one dimension of a hundred numbers determined by the rational diameters of the pempad lacking one in each case, or of the irrational lacking two; the other dimension of a hundred cubes of the triad. And this entire geometrical number is determinative of this thing, of better and inferior births."[3]

Shortly after Plato's time his meaning apparently did not cause puzzlement as Aristotle's casual remark attests.[6] Half a millennium later, however, it was an enigma for the Neoplatonists, who had a somewhat mystic penchant and wrote frequently about it, proposing geometrical and numerical interpretations. Next, for nearly a thousand years, Plato's texts disappeared and it is only in the Renaissance that the enigma briefly resurfaced. During the 19th century, when classical scholars restored original texts, the problem reappeared. Schleiermacher interrupted his edition of Plato for a decade while attempting to make sense of the paragraph. Victor Cousin inserted a note that it has to be skipped in his French translation of Plato's works. In the early 20th century, scholarly findings suggested a Babylonian origin for the topic.[7]


Socrates: Surely we agree nothing more virtuous than sacrificing each newborn infant while reciting the factors of 39,916,800?

Turgidas: Uh

different but interesting: https://aeon.co/essays/can-we-hope-to-understand-how-the-greeks-saw-their-world
Another explanation for the apparent oddness of Greek perception came from the eminent politician and Hellenist William Gladstone, who devoted a chapter of his Studies on Homer and the Homeric Age (1858) to ‘perceptions and use of colour’. He too noticed the vagueness of the green and blue designations in Homer, as well as the absence of words covering the centre of the ‘blue’ area. Where Gladstone differed was in taking as normative the Newtonian list of colours (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet). He interpreted the Greeks’ supposed linguistic poverty as deriving from an imperfect discrimination of prismatic colours. The visual organ of the ancients was still in its infancy, hence their strong sensitivity to light rather than hue, and the related inability to clearly distinguish one hue from another. This argument fit well with the post-Darwinian climate of the late 19th century, and came to be widely believed. Indeed, it prompted Nietzsche’s own judgment, and led to a series of investigations that sought to prove that the Greek chromatic categories do not fit in with modern taxonomies.

Today, no one thinks that there has been a stage in the history of humanity when some colours were ‘not yet’ being perceived. But thanks to our modern ‘anthropological gaze’ it is accepted that every culture has its own way of naming and categorising colours. This is not due to varying anatomical structures of the human eye, but to the fact that different ocular areas are stimulated, which triggers different emotional responses, all according to different cultural contexts.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Assessing the calorific significance of episodes of human cannibalism in the Palaeolithic : Scientific Reports
Results show that humans have a comparable nutritional value to those faunal species that match our typical body weight, but significantly lower than a range of fauna often found in association with anthropogenically modified hominin remains. This could suggest that the motivations behind hominin anthropophagy may not have been purely nutritionally motivated. It is proposed here that the comparatively low nutritional value of hominin cannibalism episodes support more socially or culturally driven narratives in the interpretation of Palaeolithic cannibalism.

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april 2017 by nhaliday
Is America smart enough? A Q&A with Garett Jones on IQ and the 'Hive Mind' - AEI | Pethokoukis Blog » AEIdeas
hmmm, shit:
Well, if we’re looking at the very recent trends over the last couple of decades, there is not much evidence that there’s been a bigger return to IQ than there used to be. I think there’s moderate evidence that there’s actually an increase in return to personality-type skills.

evidence: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:d70bdc68a51c

One of my colleagues one said offhand a line that I think others have said, which is that 90% of success is staying off the Internet. And I think there’s something to this idea that the return to personality-type measures is probably a lot higher than it used to be. Agreeableness, conscientiousness, especially in certain settings. I’ve looked at the normal statistical results and they don’t find an increase in return to IQ in recent decades. But there’s a couple of studies out there that do find an increase in returns to what they call non-cognitive skills.

I think personality might be mattering more. If the robots are going to take some jobs, they’ll probably be taking a lot of brainy type jobs. But they’re going to be a little behind the times when it comes to personality. And a lot of in-person services are going to depend on personality traits.

So Google and its many spinoffs replace a lot of the need for crystallized intelligence. But the need for fluid intelligence is going to be with us for quite some time. The ability to look at a new, novel situation and figure out what’s going on here.

Some pro-IQ supporters, especially on the Internet, tend to think that there’s this some kind of cutoff where above a certain level IQ matters a lot. Below it, it doesn’t matter very much. And I just don’t find evidence of that. I think that there’s a reason why the market pays for IQ, for higher IQ across the range of the scores. It’s because it’s always good to have somebody around who can just look at an ambiguous situation and figure out what’s going on.

another neat comment:
I think the obsession with years of education really needs to end. And there should be an obsession with broad based test scores. If people don’t want to use IQ scores, that’s fine. But they should at least be looking at broad based test scores, things like the NAEPs, other test scores that the US government is quite happy to report on the Department of Education’s website. These should be the measures we look at. We should be looking a lot less at years of education.
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march 2017 by nhaliday
The Trump White House is already cooking the books - The Washington Post
As the Wall Street Journal first reported (and as I’ve independently confirmed through my own sources), the Trump transition team instead ordered CEA staffers to predict sustained economic growth of 3 to 3.5 percent. The staffers were then directed to backfill all the other numbers in their models to produce these growth rates.


Donald Trump is rekindling one of his favorite conspiracy theories: Vaccine safety: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/01/10/donald-trump-is-rekindling-one-of-his-favorite-conspiracy-theories-vaccine-safety/
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february 2017 by nhaliday
Origins of the brain networks for advanced mathematics in expert mathematicians
The origins of human abilities for mathematics are debated: Some theories suggest that they are founded upon evolutionarily ancient brain circuits for number and space and others that they are grounded in language competence. To evaluate what brain systems underlie higher mathematics, we scanned professional mathematicians and mathematically naive subjects of equal academic standing as they evaluated the truth of advanced mathematical and nonmathematical statements. In professional mathematicians only, mathematical statements, whether in algebra, analysis, topology or geometry, activated a reproducible set of bilateral frontal, Intraparietal, and ventrolateral temporal regions. Crucially, these activations spared areas related to language and to general-knowledge semantics. Rather, mathematical judgments were related to an amplification of brain activity at sites that are activated by numbers and formulas in nonmathematicians, with a corresponding reduction in nearby face responses. The evidence suggests that high-level mathematical expertise and basic number sense share common roots in a nonlinguistic brain circuit.
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february 2017 by nhaliday
Shtetl-Optimized » Blog Archive » First they came for the Iranians
pretty damn shite situation
edit: Scott Aaronson got into a lengthy argument w/ Curtis Yarvin (Boldmug), lmao

Ratchets Within Ratchets: http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2017/02/ratchets-within-ratchets.html
i remember on I think scott aaronsons blog? after trump won in the comment section mm was arguing w/ ppl and his most bombastic point was
if you dropped 19th century america in the ocean next to us and gave them wikipedia they would conquer us within the decade
which I remember being hilarious because it was p literally true
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january 2017 by nhaliday

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