Archive for January, 2013


I’m about a third of the way through “Debt: The First 5,000 Years” by David Graeber, and am enjoying the feeling of ideas shifting around in my head, arranging themselves into more useful patterns. (The last book I read that put together ideas of similar breadth was “Economix: How and Why Our Economy Works” by Goodwin.) “Debt” goes into the origins of debts, as compared to obligations; and related topics, such as exchanges considered beneath economic notice (“Please pass me the salt”), debts too big or unique to be repaid, peaceful versus violent interactions, the endless minor obligations that form the network of social connections, and even the basis of whole societies.

The reason I’m posting about this book here… is that it’s giving me some new perspectives from which to consider the whole cryonics subculture, and, for instance, why it remains just a subculture of a couple of thousand people or so. For example, a standard LessWrong thought experiment is “Is That Your True Rejection?”; and most of the objections people raise to cryonics seem to be off enough that, even if those objections were solved, those particular people still wouldn’t sign up – that is, they feel some fundamental antipathy to the whole idea of cryonics, and unconsciously pick some rationalization that happens to sound reasonable to them to explain it.

Continue reading ‘LessWrong: Cryo and Social Obligations’ »


How much confidence do you place in the scientific theory that ordinary matter is made of discrete units, or ‘atoms’, as opposed to being infinitely divisible?

More than 50%? 90%? 99%? 99.9%? 99.99%? 99.999%? More? If so, how much more? (If describing your answer in percentages is cumbersome, then feel free to use the logarithmic scale of decibans, where 10 decibans corresponds to 90% confidence, 20 to 99%, 30 to 99.9%, etc.)


This question freely acknowledges that there are aspects of physics which the atomic theory does not directly cover, such as conditions of extremely high energy. This question is primarily concerned with that portion of physics in which the atomic theory makes testable predictions.


This question also freely acknowledges that its current phrasing and presentation may not be the best possible to elicit answers from the LessWrong community, and will be happy to accept suggestions for improvement.



Edit: By ‘atomic theory’, this question refers to the century-plus-old theory. A reasonably accurate rewording is: “Do you believe ‘H2O’ is a meaningful description of water?”.


I’m not as smart as I like to think I am. Knowing that, I’ve gotten into a habit of trying to work out as many general principles as I can ahead of time, so that when I actually need to think of something, I’ve already done as much of the work as I can.

What are your most useful cached thoughts?

Continue reading ‘LessWrong: What are your rules of thumb?’ »


“But don’t ask me, I just wrote the song” — Eric Idle.
More about this programme: Professor Brian Cox examines the story of life through physics in a major new series for …


I’ve heard it said that the difference between being a writer, and someone who writes… Is that the former can’t /not/ write.

My computer’s back in the shop to swap out a dodgy hard drive (for a new one 30 times the size), so that I’m keyboardless – my only input device is my phone’s on-screen keyboard, impossible to touch-type with.

Yesterday, I finished visualising a scene, and couldn’t /not/ write it – so, thumb-tap by thumb-tap, managed a couple of thousand words over a couple of hours. Maybe 15 wpm instead of a hundred, but it got typed out. … And one of my pre-readers called it, IIRC, the liveliest in the story yet.

I once owned a clever little butterfly-folding keyboard for a PDA, no bigger than the pocket-sized device itself, but allowing full touch typing. If I ever find something of the sort for my current device, within my budget… I just might turn into that hipster writing his novel at the park, the coffee shop, the bus… 🙂


Happy 2013, for those of you using Gregorian reckoning and not, say, the Tranquility Calendar. 🙂

I’m settling back into a decent writing groove – I’ve been getting at least a thousand words a day down for the last few days, and increasing that number as time goes on. At this rate, in a week or two I’ll finish this non-“Myou’ve” story in good order, post it, and will then be just about ready to jump back into the Myou’ve groove.

Using Google Docs seems to be working reasonably well, too; I’m getting some near-live feedback from interested pre-readers, which is both helping me avoid avoidable plot and narrative blunders, and is helping keep me motivated enough to /keep/ writing daily.