Apr 23, 2016

Longform read Q1 2016

In addition to the books I read last quarter, I read a fair bit of longform. Some pieces I enjoyed:

  1. Humanism, Science, and the Radical Expansion of the Possible (a) by Marilynne Robinson
    A wordy apology for present-day Christian belief. From what I can understand of it, Robinson is critical of current empirical methods for limiting imagination too much, and of the current cultural mood for fostering a sense of urgency to "get things done." Interesting to read a fiction author I respect doing philosophy. Probably deserves a second, slower read.

  2. Drake Is 2015’s Artist of the Year (a) by Andrew Unterberger
    Drake had a really great 2015. Seeing everything he did in one place drives that home.

  3. The Happiness Code (a) by Jennifer Kahn
    A nytimes reporter profiles the the Center for Applied Rationality. Good to read a take from outside the bubble, though it's an overly critical one.

  4. I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream (a) by Harlan Ellison
    High-quality sci-fi short story about a band of humans trapped in the innards a gigantic, malevolent AI.

  5. Life Is Short (a) by Paul Graham
    I really like Paul Graham's writing. This piece includes a quote which earned a long tenure on my house's common room whiteboard: Relentlessly Prune Bullshit.

  6. Why Video Games Are Essential For Inventing Artificial Intelligence (a) by Julian Togelius
    Decent overview of recent developments in AI and ML, coupled with a proposed path forward that I hadn't encountered before.

  7. Isaac Asimov: Man of 7,560,000 Words (a) by Lewis Nichols
    The amount of writing that Asimov produced is truly difficult to comprehend – 500 books (written or edited) and over 90,000 letters during his lifetime (according to Wikipedia). If you were wondering, that's approximately 7 books written or edited during each of the 72 years of his life, including infancy. Which is under two months per book! So, Asimov is my current upper-bound benchmark for how much writing one person can do in a lifetime. This 1969 nytimes profile gives a good snapshot of his process.

  8. The Path to Convention Chaos (a) by Benjamin Ginsberg
    The prediction market for likelihood of a contested convention has been in a steady slide for the last few weeks. I don't understand what's driving this, especially because Indiana and California are anyone's guess and award a large number of delegates (this 538 tool is useful for playing around with different scenarios to get Trump to the requisite 1237 delegates by convention time). This piece, authored by a lawyer who was involved with the development of the Republican convention rules, is a good overview of how the mechanics of a contested convention would work.

  9. Hits-based Giving (a) by Holden Karnofsky
    Holden outlines the strategy underlying Open Philanthropy grantmaking.

  10. My Year in Startup Hell (a) by Dan Lyons
    A buzz piece for Lyons' book about his time at HubSpot (a company that does something with marketing and sales software? Maybe CRM, like a Salesforce alternative? It's one of those sites where I can't tell what they do at a 10-second glance). Lyons is pretty critical about the culture he encountered at Hubspot (which he then generalizes to all of startup culture). He has some fair points, especially around demographic homogeny, though the dude seems kind of bitter. He did get a book deal and a ton of press out of his year in "hell," after all.

  11. The Unrelenting Specter of Drug-Resistant Malaria (a) by Sarika Bansal
    Drug-resistant malaria is on the rise in Southeast Asia. That could be very bad. A profile of some of the efforts to improve drug regimen compliance and diagnosis in the region.

  12. Eliezer's Facebook Post On the Multiple-Stage Fallacy and Jeff Kaufman's Reply (a1 and a2)
    Eliezer being Eliezer (elucidating and condescending) and Jeff defending himself against a charge of deploying fallacious probability estimates.

(a) = archived version of the page, mostly hosted by the Internet Archive. A new thing I'm trying with an eye towards building Long Content (a).
[rereads: 1, edits: phrasing tweaks]