Let’s take all the fun out of it

After all, why do you want to marry someone hot? Evolution made you that way because hotness is a proxy for good genetics. Your genes want you to reproduce with someone hot so that you will produce lots of kids (who will have lots of kids). Your parents care who you marry because evolution tuned them to help you reproduce your genes (which are also their genes).

~ “Dynomight” from, https://dynomight.net/hotness/

I truly love when someone does the deep dive trying to figure out “people.” Or dating or marrying or mating… somewhere there’s a popcorn meme. You know, where something is about to happen, and you just know it’s going to be an entertaining train-wreck— wait, why would a train-wreck be entertaining. Let’s go with: …and you just know it’s going to be entertaining to see someone learn just how complicated people are.

Reminder: “Love ya’! You’re one in a million!” …implies there are 8,000 other, equally awesome people that are interchangeable. Although I’d argue you should probably cut that in half based on biological distribution of gender. So, yes, you’re one of 4,000 . . . fine. Fine! I’m heading for the guest room.

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4 things to know

That’s not because Rudin did a bad job. It’s because there ain’t no way to re-write mathematical analysis as a “list”. When you do write a list, you are promising that you’ve figured out a way to cover the subject in that way without losing essential detail. Provided that you deliver on that promise, it’s a powerful thing.

~ “Dynomight” from, https://dynomight.net/lists/
  1. This article makes several (while the article is a list, it’s unnumbered and I’m too lazy to count, you should just be happy I sometimes check my speling) magnificent points about what lists have going for them. There’s a lot. The only problem with lists (generally, on the Internet, These Days™) is that spammers and search–engine–optimizing mouth-breathers have published an insane amount of crap, in list format. It turns out that if you publish great content as a list it’s even better than long–form prose. It turns out that it looks like chapters, sections and sub-sections!
  2. I recently learned a lot about proper use of the three different types of dashes: hyphen (-), en-dash (–), and em-dash (—). Their relative lengths are pretty clear when you see a family portrait like that previous sentence. It turns out that: Compound words, like en-dash and mouth-breathers, are assembled using hyphens. Compound adjectives, like search–engine–optimizing, are assembled with en-dashes. You can use em-dashes—that’s a hyphen in there—to insert gently–parenthetical commentary.
  3. A case can be made—here, I’m making a case—that my weekly email is my way of turning my blog into a list which makes it easier to… oh, just go read the article.

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Variance

However—fourth—over the last century there’s a huge relationship between how rich a country is and the variance in growth. The richest countries have low variance: They all stubbornly keep growing at around the same 1 or 2%. However, middle-income countries vary enormously.

~ “Dynomight” from, https://dynomight.net/gdp/

There’s several different interesting threads in this article. But this point about variance leapt out at me. I’m reminded of how just the other day, a piece about statistics that I mentioned was talking about variance (if you clicked through and read the article.) Variance feels like a sort of second-order thinking that I probably should be doing more often.

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Stingy with positive reinforcement

Here’s something I’ve noticed about myself: If I read something great, I’ll sometimes write a short comment like “This was amazing, you’re the best!” Then I’ll stare at it for 10 seconds and decide that posting it would be lame and humiliating, so I delete it go about my day. But on the rare occasions that I read something that triggers me, I get a strong feeling that I have important insights. Assuming that I’m not uniquely broken in this way, it explains a lot.

~ “Dynomight” from, https://dynomight.net/internet-writing/

I too have this tendency. In recent years I’ve been actively working on my own version of “See something. Say something.” as part of my changes to achieve results. My version is that nice things must be said out loud. No more sitting on the positive thoughts; Yes, I need to squish my incessant critical commentary. Dial that down, please. But I also need to practice letting out the good stuff too. Nice shirt. Smooth movement. This food is delicious. It’s so insanely comfortable here. Thank you for making this come together. If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

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Reasons and persons

You’ve probably heard this scenario before. It originally comes from Derek Parfit’s 1984 book Reasons and Persons, where he actually answers the question. (Though you may not like the answer.) To answer it, he has to go though a set of even weirder scenarios. Here’s most of them, edited aggressively.

~ “Dynomight” from, https://dynomight.net/no-self/

This article turns a number of complicated thought experiments into a disorienting dash through a hall of mirrors. I’ve not read Parfit’s book, but I’ve encountered these sorts of thought experiments before. On one hand I’m drawn to thinking about them because I feel I should be able to have some foundational, (although not necessarily simple,) principles that I can use to answer them. Which is a working definition of, “I want to be rational.” Until I start really digging into the experiments and things get really complicated. Why, it’s as if being a limited-in-resources mind forced to interact with in an intractably complex world, may not be something with a clear, correct, let alone singular, solution.

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Pathways

It’s the relative appeal of the two paths that determines which one you take. You can equalize these by improving the intended path (making public transit better), obstructing the desire path (making driving worse), or a combination.

~ “Dynomight” from, https://dynomight.net/paths/

This article starts with a simple concept and then iteratively goes far into the weeds to see where else it can be applied. I love minds which explore that way. I have so many habits, idiosyncrasies, and ancient brain quirks that it’s a miracle I ever get anything done. Everything figuratively within my reach is wearing down and coming undone, (entropy wins in the end.) I’ll take any opportunity—as this article suggests—to tip things towards my desired path.

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Who is really in charge?

In democracies, policies are correlated with public opinion, but why? The obvious explanation is that people choose representatives, and those representatives give them what they want. But maybe the causal arrow points in the other direction—maybe elites choose policies, and the public gradually figures that since that’s how things are, it must be right.

~ “Dynomight” from, https://dynomight.net/death-penalty/

The death penalty is usually a third-rail—touching it means instant, well, death to reasonable discussion. In this case, the death penalty happens to be a rare topic for which good data exists, and is one upon which nearly everyone has a strong opinion. That combination enables the discussion in that article. It’s not about the death penalty being right, wrong, good, nor bad. Rather, the discussion is asking: Who indeed is really in charge in a democracy.

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Wait wat?

Since around 2009, methamphetamines have been made with phenylacetone (P2P). Is there a chemical different causing schizophrenia?

~ “Dynomight” from, https://dynomight.net/p2p-meth/

As I was reading those two sentences, my world was just fine… until that very last word. I was ready for death, overdose, addiction, and there are probably a dozen more words that I don’t expect would fit there, but which wouldn’t make me go, “wait wat?” So i started reading…

I quickly realized this article is basically the science behind Breaking Bad. There’s also an enormous amount of “this is not good” information in there. For example, an apparently exponential-function graph of deaths is never a good thing. There’s also a bit of industrial chemistry, and a large scale sewerage treatment plant data collection . . . well, it’s worth the read.

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The only rule

What I learned from reading about writing…

~ “Dynomight” from, https://dynomight.net/2021/02/07/writing-as-a-craft/

This was a fun read and is mostly not the usual titles one sees suggested to read on writing. Among many things, I am a writer. I enjoy learning what appears—in others’ view—to be the right way to do things. The more I read, write, and read on writing, the more I’m convinced it’s just like any other mastery practice: The only rule is that there really are no real rules. Understand the best, accepted practices, (often labeled “rules” to get the newbies to start in the correct direction,) and then later move on to do whatever you please.

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Nonequilibrium?

I don’t know if you like parties. I don’t know if you’re organized or punctual. But I bet you don’t like rotting smells or long swims in freezing water. That is to say: People are different, but only in certain ways. What’s the difference?

~ “Dynomight” from, https://dynomight.net/better-personalities/

This article is about personality types, and it goes down the rabbit hole, (in a good way.) We’ve all learned about the theory of evolution, and there are countless examples where it’s used to explain—or at least to try to imagine—how some specific feature of ourselves came to be so.

Way down in that article he mentions in passing that we—us, the people—might not currently be in equilibrium with the current selection pressures. This was a startling thought for me. Evolution can be fast—a gene mutation leading to a significant change in one generation—but I’ve always had the impression that it is most often slow and steady. I’ve always imagined a big-ship with a small-rudder metaphor. And I’ve always had the impression that who we are genetically, (the big ship) has its rudder set for straight-ahead. I’ve imagined that at some point in our distant past, selection pressures made us who we are as a species, and that was then. This is now, when we’ve been on a stable, no-changes evolutionary course for all of recorded history.

What if, let’s say around the time of the invention of the transistor and computers, the social pressures changed drastically. That is to say: Suppose that introduced a major change in the rudder’s position? Suppose we, the big ship with the big pile of DNA-encoded information, are right in the middle of a slow course change. What if right now, important and noticeable features of our biology and psychology are being strongly differentially selected?

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