Links 8/14/15

gamessavedmylife.tumblr.com – a collection of stories from people whose lives were significantly improved by video games.  Interestingly, at least some of these fit the cultural archetype of “addict”, but their stories make it clear that like most addicts, they were self-medicating something worse.

When doctors don’t monitor you and don’t give you the tools to monitor yourself.

Lazy Programmer Excuses

My friend Beth made a fashion blog for women in STEM and called it fibonacci sequins.

Microscopic corkscrews swim through your blood vessels to root out plaque.  Good job science.

I’ve written before about the terror of antibiotic resistance.  Resistance spreads fast because a lone resistant individual will find themselves with a wide open field after antibiotics are used.  But what if we could avoid that?  (Some?) Bacteria absorb iron by releasing tiny molecules to bind to it (siderophores), and then absorbing the larger molecule.  There’s no homing device: the siderophores they absorb are not necessarily the siderophores they released.  You’d think this would lead to free riders (bacteria that produce no siderophores, but it doesn’t, possibly because the bacteria are so closely related.

What if you disabled the siderophores?  The bacteria could mutate new ones, but they won’t necessarily reap the benefits of that because they have no claim on their own siderophores.  The selection pressure for new siderophores won’t be zero, but it will be greatly reduced.  As it turns out, there’s an existing drug used to treat certain cancers that does exactly that, and in a short trial bacteria failed to develop resistance to it (while they did to two common antibiotics).  And this mechanism has nothing to do with existing antibiotics, so resistances won’t develop together (i.e. if a colony ever did develop resistance you could probably take them out with penicillin).   High five science, you’re doing great this week.

Employee of Four Hour Work Week takes modafinil to work 60 hours straight.  No one seems to think this has any bearing on the feasibility of the four hour work week.

“The problem with allowing absolutely no abuse in activist circles, of course, is that this cuts people off from the ability to advocate for themselves, based on the “crime” of surviving abuse without proper follow-up care. I don’t think that’s really what we want to do unless we have no other choice. The people who haven’t been damaged by abuse can’t be the only people with the access to advocate.” –Almost Diamonds.

Things I wish I had written: Reason vs. Evidence in Effective Altruism.  Some people believe cash transfers are better than microcredit because of evidence (RCTs examining the effects of both on identifiable metrics).  Some people believe existential risk is more important than global poverty because of reasoningThey believe that by the time we have concrete evidence, it will be too late.  That’s not necessarily wrong, but it is very different than the proof that cash transfers outperform microcredit.  I guess I lean more to the evidences side but am super glad there are people on the reasoning side.

In that vein, I want us to start distinguishing risky from uncertain.  RIsky implies a low chance of success, but if the potential return is high enough the expected value may still be high.  Uncertain means “we don’t know what success buys us” or “we don’t know what success is.”  Going into a hospital is risky because of the high rate of medical errors and hospital-originating infections.  Investing in unfriendly AI risk is uncertain because who knows how that’s going to work out.

2 thoughts on “Links 8/14/15

  1. Mild objection: “The Four-Hour Workweek” was an unfortunate title for a good book (and a good series of books). The author works hard because it fits his goals; he wants other people to be able to get by working as much or as little as makes sense for them. (I’m guessing he and Charlie both burned out planning that conference, but that was their choice, not a fault of the general idea of “save time through prioritization and delegation”, which is most of 4HWW.)

    I recommend trying Tim Ferris’ podcast, which is more accessible and more up-to-date than his books (if you try a book, start with Chef). For what it’s worth, I’ve listened to a few dozen of his interviews and I read his blog closely, and he seems like a decent person with very good intentions (though he is very much of the Silicon Valley Life-Hacking White Dude genre).

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