nothing is mere

Author Archive: Rob Bensinger

Trump and the world order

_________________________________________________________________________ My co-worker Eliezer Yudkowsky recently made the case on social media that Trump’s candidacy raises national security concerns qualitatively more serious than the sort you see in a normal US presidential race: Every election, the Chicken Littles of both parties make a big deal out of how this year’s election opponent is the Worst Ever …

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Are Musk’s Mars spaceship problems problems?

Elon Musk is planning to start a colony on Mars. Jason Torchinsky proposed some improvements to Musk’s proposed spaceship design, but some commenters on social media questioned Torchinsky’s proposals. I’ve reproduced these comments below, so that I can link to them more easily. Amateur rocket engineer Evan Daniel writes: 1) I’m not sure how luxurious the actual craft will be. …

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Ditch the word “hypocrite”

I try to watch out for inconsistencies in my beliefs (and between my actions and my stated beliefs and goals). Yet I’m not a fan of criticizing people for things like “hypocrisy.” It’s obviously a personal attack, and personal attacks obviously make people defensive, and defensiveness is obviously boring and terrible. But I have four …

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Library of Scott Alexandria

I’ve said before that my favorite blog — and the one that’s shifted my views in the most varied and consequential ways — is Scott Alexander’s Slate Star Codex. Scott has written a lot of good stuff, and it can be hard to know where to begin; so I’ve listed below what I think are …

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Revenge of the Meat People!

Back in November, I argued (in Inhuman Altruism) that rationalists should try to reduce their meat consumption. Here, I’ll update that argument a bit and lay out some of my background assumptions. I was surprised at the time by the popularity of responses on LessWrong like Manfred’s Unfortunately for cows, I think there is an approximately 0% chance …

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Putting love into words

We’re not very good at love yet. Some of the most textured and complex pleasures people experience happen in physically and emotionally intimate relationships — i.e., in the kinds of relationships that occasion some of our most spectacular tragedies and failures. One reason we’re bad at love is that we lack a language, a culture, and an …

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Should we stop punching nerds?

In a December 14 comment on his blog, Scott Aaronson confessed that the idea that he gains privilege from being a man feels ‘alien to his lived experience’. Generalizing from his own story, Aaronson suggested that it makes more sense to think of shy nerdy males as a disprivileged group than as a privileged one, because …

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Which charity does the most good?

What can you do that would have the best chance of making the world a better place? As Scott Siskind puts the question: Most donors say they want to “help people”. If that’s true, they should try to distribute their resources to help people as much as possible. Most people don’t. In the “Buy A Brushstroke” campaign, …

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Rejigger triggers?

From tumblr: The reason why people on tumblr over-use the concept of “trigger” rather than just “thing I don’t like” or “thing that makes me angry” or “thing that makes me sad” is that, literally, in the political/fandom part of tumblr culture are required to establish your right not to read a thing, and you …

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Chaos Altruism

Impulse buying is a thing. We have ready-made clichés for picking it out. Analogously, ‘impulse giving’ is a thing, where you’re spontaneously moved by compassion to help someone out without any advance planning. The problem with most impulse giving is that it gives you the same warm glow and sense of moral license as high-impact giving, without …

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