Links 7/17/15

Butterfly cocoon that thinks it’s a snake.

The bouba/kiki effect: cross-cultural agreement in what certain shapes “sound” like.

US Military released bacteria they thought to be harmless onto an American city.  239 times.  Spoiler alert: was not harmless.  Other people have covered the whole “jesus christ the military proved America was vulnerable to biological warfare by committing biological warfare” part, so I’m going to focus on the harmless part.  The US government, and humans in general, have a nasty tendency to say “harmless” when they mean “you can take it.”  Most humans could shake off the bacteria they were using; it was only a problem in a small portion of the population that couldn’t fight it.  I’ve heard the same thing about the pesticides they used to kill mosquitoes to prevent West Nile: totally harmless because the human liver is amazing, hard on those without that super power.

Opportunistic bacteria aren’t all bad though.  Glow in the dark bacteria saved civil war soldiers from septicemia.

UK government spies on children for thought crime, ends up leaving them vulnerable to hackers.  And by hackers, I mean anyone who attempts the password “password.”

Sydney, my co-organizer for Seattle EA, talks about money, class, and effective altruists.  I was part of the problem here: when people talked about discomfort with the emphasis on money in EA, I assumed they meant donations.  The idea that the money spent during meetings would be an issue literally never occurred to me. Also, with God as my witness, I thought going around saying “la la la everyone’s a programmer la la la is anyone here not a programmer? because that would be notable” was helping.  I think I was trying to avoid the problem of claiming there’s more diversity than there is and overcorrected.  I also think this is a specific instance of the general difficult of owning your advantages without rubbing it in, which is made much more difficult by the fact that one of our goals  is giving people a place to brag about giving.

I find most meat gross, but bacon is an exception.  Unfortunately pigs are really smart, to the point I mostly avoid pork even though I eat other animals. Science is helping me out by investing kelpt that tastes like bacon with a better nutritional profile than kale.  I’m skeptical, because nutrition is part of what generates taste so having that many vitamins should make it taste different, and seaweed usually isn’t 50% fat.  But I’m hoping the collective wishing of everyone reading this will make it so.

80,000 hours says few effective altruists should earn to give as their permanent plan.  I’m a little annoyed that it’s framed as “your beliefs about us are inaccurate” when the truth is more like “we changed our minds”, but if you ignore that it’s good context.  My own take on it is that if the idea of EtG sounds like permission, you should do that.  If it sounds like an obligation keeping you from direct work, EtG is a strong default to occupy you until you have the skills and opportunity to do direct work.

This week’s beautiful gang of theory killed by an ugly gang of facts:  You know that woman who was committed for saying Obama followed her on twitter when he actually did follow her?  The truth is more complicated.  I’m embarrassed to admit this didn’t occur to me.