Thanks! I won’t add these to the top list but I hope people will scroll down to see the comments. I should mention that there are a whole bunch of Mike Duncan—inspired “History of X” which are of varying quality. I wanted to get into the History of China dude, but I couldn’t give him more than a few episodes due to wincing at his accent, didn’t even get to judge his content. Unfortunately my Chinese isn’t actually good enough to listen to podcasts in Chinese about Chinese history. History of Byzantium is supposedly also good.
Zvi, thank you for writing this. I’ve been working through Baudrillard too and coming to the same conclusion—he is far more insight porn than philosophy, compared to famous scholars with similar metaphysics such as Foucault and Zizek. I’ve got a long post in the pipeline on this as well.
It’s really frustrating that this community has been spinning up an elaborate schema which is a misinterpretation of a sophist, where the original conversants both admitted they had by that point only read the Wikipedia summary of the book. This feels like the opposite of quality scholarship, not that this is entirely Benquo and jessicataylor’s fault, rather how the discussion ended up picking this up and running with it.
The rationalist community’s reading of Baudrillard tries to put some sense back into what is fairly sophisticated. But the main problem both groups make is assuming that Level 1 is some fallen ideal, rather than something progressively achieved. Baudrillard is baking a hotter take—which most rationalist discussion completely misses—that Level 1 is completely vanished and Level 2 is on its way out too. He thinks we live in a postmodern world (surprisingly to rationalists who haven’t read the postmodernists: like most postmodernist scholars he does not actually think this is very good) where meaning is composed wholly of simulacra, which does not actually reference the real world which our bodies live in, although he says the real world sure references it.
This misinterpretation of him is easy to make—partly because it sounds like he developed a philosophy out of being totally dissociated. He hated the Matrix, which the Wachowskis referenced him in, for this reason: in the Matrix the virtual reality can be escaped.
My alternative proposal is to re-ground the discussion in a better take about power relations and social games, noticing which groups throughout history play these games and which don’t. The basic conclusion is people generally converse as if they were in the 2nd order (level), jump up in simulation order whenever their access to resources they don’t produce are at stake, and jump down when they have a hand in producing resources. Global meaning has no particular order, unlike Baudrillard’s claim that it is of the 4th order.
More to come.
Added AskHistorians podcast! Mentioning Coursera inline.
I’ve tried to provide a legitimate alternative to every piratical source I’ve mentioned—if others concur with you I’ll reduce the discussion of piracy sites to just a brief gloss of sci-hub.
Thanks! I can’t build that out all myself, since I am obviously US based, but I will work on reducing US-centric claims and I would love it if others could point out what’s available globally or not.
Thanks! In the same vein,
The inscrutably-organized, subversive, and spasmodic https://the-eye.eu
Faded Page (works that are public domain and legal to upload in Canada but not necessarily elsewhere): https://www.fadedpage.com/index.php
Internet Archive also has https://openlibrary.org/
I should roll some of this back into the main article.
This is incredible. I’d never heard of it; adding it to the research section.
On the bus from NYC to Boston for EAGxBoston 2019 I chanced to sit next to a topology professor. I don’t have any higher math background, but mentioning that I’d recently read the first few books of the Elements opened the door to a long and interesting conversation. I was amazed that something written two thousand years prior compared so favorably with my own 8th grade geometry experience, which despite having a cool teacher managed to teach me only the rudiments of geometry, and nothing substantial about proofs or theorems.) Minus the annoying long s, I’d gift Byrne’s illustrated Elements to any smart kid in a heartbeat—it’s surprisingly cheap on Amazon.
Do you use a separate word for the subjective experience of thought and perception?
Another way to succinctly say this is that two distributions may be cleanly separable via a single immeasurable variable, but overlap when measured on any given measurable variable, such that a representation of the separation achieved by a single immeasurable variable is only achievable through multiple measurable variables.
I think that there are a few plausible theories of the rationalist community and how they relate to the mission:
 Null hypothesis: no connection. This is obviously implausible if you’ve spent 3 seconds around the community or its mission.
1. The community and the mission are the same. Even the less immediately relevant activities create an intellectual and social milieu which is conducive to progress. The ability to engage with other intellectuals at low cost to oneself means that insights are shared between key individuals at faster rate. The community provides high value to the mission by enabling it. The mission provides high value to the community.
2. The community exists at least in part to play interference for the missionaries. Being able to do real thinking means a certain degree of insulation from the real world; having fewer demands on your time, having your basic human needs taken care of, having the ability to en. The community provides medium value to the mission by shielding it. The mission provides low value to the community, because the community’s strength derives from elsewhere. I think this is what you are advocating, and it’s one that I like.
3. The community [in aggregate] puts the minimum effort towards the mission to look convincing because if it were to openly admit that it doesn’t actually care about the mission people would leave. People are all here because pretending to have a shared goal is as good as actually having one in terms of bringing people together. The community provides slightly positive value to the mission, but selfishly. The mission provides high value to the community.
4. The community exists as a social pasttime with no clear purpose. It exists as a space not for real concern about x-risk, but primarily as a social outgrowth of the tech sector, a safe space for weirdness. The community detracts from the mission by exerting, even unintentionally, a social pressure upon missionaries to regress to the mean. The mission provides no value to the community.
I generally agree with the call to action. I have a historical critique.
I think you are mistaken about the nature of villages being automatically bound together; I think this error is survivorship bias. Most settlements that have ever existed did so ephemerally: existing primarily for the extraction of a single resource (mining towns), or for a single goal (military garrisons). What you see as natural cultural bonds and communities are a mark of stability, a historical example of a group that has solved (at least for a little time) the problem that the rationalist community is working through, not one that has inherited it by natural right.
To refactor the analysis with this in mind, we will basically look at what makes those communities stable, and how ours compares. I think it is at least the following:
1. The presence of multiple industries. A typical farming village will grow multiple crops, possess hunters and loggers, millers and bakers; be able to provide for itself and also produce a surplus. Think of it as a diverse basket. We’re narrow on this front. Mostly concentrated in tech and in the mission.
2. A high degree of intermarriage. Maybe polyamory is a good substitute and quick workaround? Despite certain benefits it provides I still doubt polyamory is sustainable on a multigenerational scale.
3. Not being constantly under siege. Strong communities can get through tough times better than weak ones, but not inevitably so. Historically (think Oxford) the solution for intellectuals is to find wealthy patrons and/or government support. Looks like we’ve got the first.
I do not think “culture” is actually a factor here; it’s a weasel word that deserves a taboo in this community. I think “culture” tends to be, at a population level, an adaptation to political and material circumstances that surround that community. Cultures do not tend towards stability. This is once again survivorship bias.
Works which directly informed this:
The Art of Not Being Governed, James C. Scott
The Intentional Community Movement, Marguerite Guzman Bouvard
There is one in progress, which I am helming. I don’t post here much, but I’ve been active in the NYC community for 2 years. I’ve been working on the project for about 6 months and have filmed a substantial amount now (~35 hours guesstimate). I’ve written a brief summary here. You can follow my updates on Discord; message me privately for a link.
From recent releases, I really like Tillie Walden’s ultrasoft scifi On a Sunbeam, (2015-2017), and Kieron Gillen’s The Wicked + The Divine (2014-ongoing), which has a lot of similarity to American Gods.
For something rationalist-adjacent, I’d recommend Blue Delliquanti’s O Human Star (2012-ongoing), which deals with LGBTQ issues in the context of FAI and transhumanism.
Would love to have you in attendance!
Hi, I’m helping to organize this year’s NYC Solstice, as raemon has moved to the Bay Area. I’ve been reading LW, SSC, and rationalist Tumblr since about January and going to NYC meetups semiregularly since April, but haven’t yet posted on here, so I thought I’d make a quick introduction.
My name is Rachel, I’m an undergrad senior at NYU completing a communications major. I’m originally from the Bay Area. On the MBTI, I’m an INTJ. Besides rationality, my passions are graphic novels and cooking. My intellectual interests tend towards things that have a taxonomic character, like biology and linguistics. (I’m also a fan of the way that these subjects keep evading a perfect taxonomy.)
I occasionally wear sandals.