Elliot's Microblogging

Some of the resources our society has for blind people to read books are horrible.

I called NLS to enquire about the process of reading a protected book from archive.org. They had absolutely no clue, and sent me back to the Internet Archive for information, who originally referred me to NLS. So, as this circle was closed, I tried to call the manufacturers of the Victor Reader, which is one of the most popular book reader devices. Though the original FAQ says that protected books can be read using the Victor Reader Stream, it has two versions, the first one from the years when protected books were not available from Archive.org. I wasn’t going to drop a few hundred Dollars to find out that it didn’t work. When I called Humanware, the manufacturer of the Victor Reader, likewise, they didn’t have a clue about Archive.org, and they asked me to call the National Library Service. See above.

Disabled people have to get a special decryption key from the government and then the protected books can’t be accessed on iOS, Android, Mac, PC or Linux – only on expensive specialized hardware from companies like Victor Reader who apparently don’t know how anything works and don’t have any customer service to help disabled people successfully read books.

The reason it’s so much trouble to read these books is DRM.

Here’s an example of a book:

It has “encrypted daisy” download for print-disabled users. That’s the thing which is so much trouble to use even if you sign up with the U.S. government, prove your disability to them, and get a decryption key. (I don’t know if access is possible at all if you aren’t American.)

By contrast, sighted users can make a free account and get a 1 hour or 14 day free library loan and then read the book in a visual viewer on the website (or, for 14 day loans, they can also download encrypted copies that load in Adobe Digital Editions on mainstream computers or devices with any encryption stuff automatically handled by Adobe so the process is user friendly).

Some non-intellectual things that make it harder to think well and learn effectively:

  • drugs (including alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, pot, all drugs claimed/intended to be brain-affecting, mood affecting, psychiatrically helpful, etc.)
  • undersleeping, disrupted sleep, insomnia
  • burnout, routinely trying to fit too much into your schedule
  • dating or living with someone abusive
  • having a lot of stress, drama and disasters routinely instead of a calmer life where it’s easier to make plans and have some predictability
  • ongoing trouble affording rent/food/utilities, financial instability
  • diets with a significant calorie deficit

E.g. if you’re trying to lose a pound a week with a diet, that’s around a 500 calorie per day deficit. That will fuck you up. If you don’t cheat on that diet (most people cheat), you’re starving yourself, it will be super painful, and you shouldn’t be surprised to become moody, anxious, depressed, etc. ( Minnesota Starvation Experiment - Wikipedia )

What’s a reasonable maximum limit on the amount of calories to cut if you want to cut calories? I don’t know exactly. Maybe 10% of what you need to eat to break even.

Note that I don’t think the “calories in, calories out” model is very accurate (also people can’t count the calories they eat as accurately as they believe).

On a related note, my understanding is that the diet industry lobbied to change what BMIs are labelled “healthy”, “overweight”, “obese”, etc. So now some research shows better health outcomes for “overweight” than “healthy”. So if you think you’re overweight, you might just be being lied to and also have seen too many airbrushed instagram pics and skinny TV stars. ( https://www.reddit.com/r/Instagramreality/ )

I think most people would be better off if they avoided the following for the first half of their day:

  • videos, tv, movies, podcasts, entertainment
  • social media
  • news, politics
  • video games
  • EDIT: maybe music too

This is meant for when you have significant control over your schedule. If you have a regular school or work schedule, then it applies to weekends. On days where you spend 8 hours on work/school, you could take the part of the day that is your own (the other 8 hours) and use these guidelines for the first half of those 8 hours (e.g. 1 hour in the morning plus 3 hours after work).

Tip: For health reasons, I suspect over 50% of what you drink should be plain water.

I think that this you say this because you think people are smartest right after they wake up, so if they do the stuff you mention in the first half of their day, then they are wasting their brain power. I recall you’ve written elsewhere that you do your hardest work immediately after waking up.

I think that you think this will be true for almost everyone who is not on caffeine. Am I right?

I was more thinking that doing the most productive stuff first is the best default to fight autopilots taking over your day/life. Once people start watching videos they sometimes don’t stop and are not thoughtful or very aware of how they’re spending their time for the rest of the day.

Doing the important stuff first is a common principle, makes sense in terms of prioritizing, and gives you a reward (watch videos or whatever you want) after you get your stuff done. It gives you something to look forward to and earn in a guilt-free way. (It’s much better to watch some videos and feel good about it than to do it while procrastinating and feeling guilty.) And yeah also people have more energy in the morning. Think/work first, rest after!

And it’s just a simple way to organize some time in your day where you avoid the activities that most often lead to the worst autopilot problems. It has to be really simple to have much chance of working for most people. The kind of person who can implement complex solutions into their life is less in need of this kind of advice.

You can do a similar system with getting stuff done before watching videos, rather than splitting the day into halves by time. That’s more complicated though and takes more skill to set appropriate goals for how much to get done. And it can result in people not finishing their goals all day, so they spend the entire day in work/serious mode and never get to relax/fun mode, which is bad. You’d need some ability to change your goals in the middle of the day when they take shorter or longer than expected. But that’s risky because then you can make excuses for not doing much.

Also, if you do it just by number of hours, it means you will have some time where you gotta figure out what to do and figure out what’d be good to do instead of just taking all the time you can (free time) and putting it straight into entertainment/autopilot. It’s good to sometimes be reflective and think about your goals, schedule, etc. A fixed amount of time to avoid time killers can help you find more goals or activities.

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Makes sense. Thanks.

Are microwaves and cellphones actually safe? On the theme of not trusting the experts, I did 5 minutes of research with google scholar.

Initial conclusions:

Microwaves are safe. The research was done in the 70s or earlier. Looks competent. The radiation is dangerous but the shielding works.

Cellphone research is shoddy and a bunch is industry-funded and biased. We could add cheap shielding to reduce radiation by multiple orders of magnitude, but I think we weren’t doing that as of 2009, presumably to keep phones slightly thinner and lighter (or maybe to keep a better external shape?). So cellphones might be a brain cancer risk. ugh.

This fits with a general theme I’ve noticed: science got worse. Random papers from the 70’s are better than now. Publish or perish is evil and some things have gotten more corruption. Science is having an Eternal September problem and being flooded with mediocre people who are then pressured to publish tons of stuff. Also maybe it’s been bought more by big corporate interests. It was a gradual transition but a very rough guideline is science after 1995 is worse. Also stuff that’s too old is problematic because we knew less in the past (this varies a lot by field). For a lot of topics you have to read stuff from after WWII or later to find work that’s still good today not obsolete.

BTW a lot of meta studies are really low quality – pretty brainless efforts to search some keywords in some databases of papers then categorize the papers with simple metrics. Instead of thinking about explanations, concepts, arguments, what is refuted or not, etc. And this crap is much more common today b/c computers enable it and publish or perish incentivizes it. This is ironic because the “hierarchy of evidence” stuff advocated by some rationality type people says meta studies are the best evidence. What is the Hierarchy of Evidence? | Research Square Reviews are useful when they summarize ideas and talk in terms of concepts and explanations, but I often find just looking at some of the actual research, not meta stuff, is most useful.

A couple thoughts about my initial impressions of science papers/issues:

  1. My initial impressions are positive, negative or neutral. I do all three. I’m not just always pro-science or always pretty near neutral at first until I know more.
  2. I’m good at skimming and have a lot of experience with it.
  3. Sometimes I look at stuff in more depth and I often reach the same conclusion (and if I didn’t, then I’d think about what mislead me, how to do better next time, etc.)
  4. I searched academic papers instead of popular media articles. I think that works better for a lot of topics.

Video (from mainstream perspective, not someone challenging the status quo) says the scientific research says depression is not caused by serotonin imbalance, and we’ve known that for a while. Tons of scientists don’t believe the serotonin-depression hypothesis but the public does (and the drug companies want the public to believe it). This implies that prescribing SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) for anti-depressants is problematic…

Related, do you know what’s a less extreme, dangerous, risky thing to try than brain-affecting drugs like SSRIs? The lion diet. As a diet, it sounds very extreme. And it is. But it’s mild compared to SSRIs, so people should seriously consider trying it before trying SSRIs.

The lion diet is basically just red meat, water and salt. It’s an extreme elimination diet which tries vary hard to eliminate any food that might be contributing to your health problems. It’s not meant to be permanent. The idea is that, after things improve, you can reintroduce foods one by one and see which are OK for you.

I think that “industry-funded” should be irrelevant to your judgement about a study, because it’s non-decisive.

Good people in industry would be interested in knowing whether or not their product is safe, and would therefore be interested in funding (good, unbiased) studies to investigate that.

E.g. You could say that Hank Rearden researched Rearden metal in an “industry-funded” study.

Industry-funded is not decisive alone, but is relevant context which can be used in arguments and explanations. For example, one might find it implausible how many mistakes they made, on the basis that science isn’t that bad (in general), and then search for an explanation.

Part of the current context is widespread badness in large companies and zero companies resembling Rearden’s. That makes references to industry (or mega corporations or other familiar terms) understandable without specifying a qualifier.

atrioc on YT mentioned basically that mark cuban isn’t an impressive businessman. i looked it up.

Cuban suckered Yahoo into super massively overpaying for broadcast.com during the .com bubble. the acquisition failed within 3 years. Cuban did not provide value to his biz partner (yahoo) but become a billionaire from that failure.

but also i found more:

cuban wasn’t the founder. he bought 2% for 10k, then insisted his 2% was non-dillutable, fought with the founder for months, created a bunch of bad blood, interfered with getting other investors, and bullied the founder into giving up.

the founder agreed to keep only 10% of his company. cuban had maybe 50%, idk exactly but it couldn’t be much more than that. so cuban had 5x more than the founder, maybe less.

later when it was sold to yahoo, cuban had over 20x more than the founder. how? by continuing to fight over dilution rules instead of doing dilution evenly. the founder said in the interview that he would have had to bring in outside investment to keep his share at 10% and he went down to under 1% by not finding investors.

the founder was so bullied by Cuban, and such a gentler soul, that he just kinda didn’t care that much and wanted to get distance instead of fight. part of the deal they made, where cuban leveraged his 2% stake into taking over the company, involved the founder not having to report to Cuban, not having Cuban as his direct boss. also Cuban started denying the guy was even one of the founders at all, let alone the original founder 5 years ahead of Cuban. Cuban repeatedly under communicated, didn’t negotiate contract terms, then insisted stuff meant whatever was good for him without consent or agreement.

so many of the famous businessmen today are so awful.

i found the interview after noticing the very unequal dilution based on the numbers on wikipedia. after a couple searches, i was unable to find anything on the internet directly addressing the dilution issue and actually talking about it as something important. like no one seems to have ever written an article about it. the linked interview was the best info i found.

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It’s hard to come up with good guarantees for philosophy consulting or tutoring because people’s progress depends more on them than on me, and they may be dishonest or irrational. I do have a 30 day satisfaction guarantee for digital products.

Tutors in general teach to tests, which is easier than trying to help people actually understand stuff, and they still generally don’t offer guarantees.

Many therapists, psychiatrists and business consultants offer no guarantees and have pretty low success rates, but get hired anyway.

I can guarantee time spent (this is implied with hourly billing btw) or words written or hours of video recorded. But those aren’t the results that clients want. That’s kinda like a programmer making a guarantee about lines of code written instead of about the code working well or, better, the client getting a business outcome that they want (e.g. higher sales).

GOAL: My goal with this post is to react to something Elliot shared and talked about. I would love responses to the questions below but I personally got value just from thinking and writing a bit here.

Why is it not plausible to make some conditional guarantee based on the buyer’s demonstrable learning effort with the product? Something like if you do X, Y, and Z you should at least have result C or better. I’m guessing you have thought of a chain of reasoning with this idea and the problems that come up. What level of engagement is needed to make some measurable/objective progress for a typical person or even a significantly below average person?

Related to this, I was wondering if you would ever want to develop a sort of Khan Academy for Critical Fallibilism? (if that is even possible). What level of resources would you need to consider trying to make something like that?

I know you have talked about not wanting to write a book people because it will be so little understood. What software based learning platforms have you seen that appear to have potential? You have shared some articles by one of the contributors to the quantum country website before. Do you think something like that has potential?

Actually only one article that I can remember.

Do you have a specific example that you think would work?

I make articles and videos because I think those are good formats. I don’t think something else is better. Most philosophy stuff isn’t very visual. Books are fine too. The writing on the CF site is book length already.

META-ISSUE: I don’t think this post is a good response but I think it’s not far off the best that I can do for a casual response with some degree of thoughtfulness. Also, not sure how well, or how much better, I could do if I was working on this response like it was my job.

I don’t have an example of a guarantee that I think would would work. Philosophy seems so open-ended that’s it hard to think of a meaningful guarantee. The point of Stark’s article seemed to be that people can try making extremely limited guarantees that are somewhat meaningful.

I guess I just felt like there should be some level at which something could be guaranteed. Like, if someone memorized your top 50 articles and could give close to verbatim answers to the top 100 FAQs about CF, then that would indicate that they at least understand the basics of CF. That’s not a guarantee though because it’s not specific.

Part of the problem is that I don’t know what someone should be capable of at various levels of philosophy knowledge. With programming or auto-mechanics, there are certain things you should be able to make happen at certain knowledge levels. I’m not sure what the levels are with philosophy or what new things one should be able to make happen at those levels.

Trying to think of guarantees kept leading me to try and come up with tests/diagnostics of philosophy knowledge. That’s what made me start to think of learning platforms for Critical Fallibilism. I have found tests with answers keys to be pretty good for learning. Step-by-step solutions are even better. Immediate interactive response to input seems even better than that. I think you too, have talked about some of that being good.

In addition, I guess I was wondering if there was maybe a negative guarantee, like if you do these 50 things and have not achieved X, Y, or Z, then you are not making progress. Maybe in those cases someone should focus on conventional self-improvement, work, family, friends, and other normal stuff for the next 2 years before trying again or something like that?

Philosophy is about creativity a lot, which clashes with guarantees, worksheets, tests, answer keys, etc. Some skills which build towards philosophy, like making paragraph trees, are less creative, so there’s more consistency and agreement for the answers that different people come up with.

Related to Elliot Shares Links (2022) - #219 by Elliot

I have not researched what’s true, but the basic story claimed here is:

Musk pays Jared Birchall between 1 and 3 million dollars per year. In return, Birchall actually gets stuff done. Musk doesn’t know how to do things; he cheaply hired someone who does.

In other words, Birchall acts as Dagny Taggart to Musk’s James Taggart role. If so, he’s massively underpaid and also shouldn’t do it at all.

But who knows. Maybe Birchall is a shitty leech himself who just socializes with people and then gets underlings to do the real work but takes the credit. I do generally question the competence of whoever is on Musk’s team since the overall result with the Twitter acquisition, and various other projects, has been so bad. But Taggart Transcontinental got a bunch of bad results that weren’t Dagny’s fault. An underpaid competent person could help explain what’s going on with Musk getting so rich despite being so awful.

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