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Links May – I


I have read a bunch of stuff by Richard Ngo last two weeks. Some of the highlights:

  • Summary of some research about the reason deep learning works 
  • Summary of the arguments for the importance of AI Safety 
  • Reasons to be skeptical of Deep Learning

The /r/Economics FAQ is pretty good:  (can’t say anything of the career advice)
I read a bunch of Scott Alexander’s short stories this month. If you know anything about him you will not be surprised that they are incredibly good:

I first read this story of his last year, it’s also very good

One of the most prominent examples of so called ‚rational fiction’ is ’The Metropolitan Man’ by Alexander Wales. It’s a superman fanfic, focussing on Lex Luther’s reasoning and methods in destroying superman because he thinks he poses a threat to humanity.

Piece by EA Geneva explaining Complexity Science

Darryl Cooper is back! The creator of probably the best history podcast series: ‚Fear and Loathing in the New Jerusalem‘, a history of the establishment of the State of Israel is doing a new series about the Jim Jones. First Episode, Prologue. If you like podcasts like Hardcore History, you are going to love this.

Aella quotes from a pro-slavery publications. The arguments certainly are … interesting


What does it mean to be authentic?

Interesting reframing of private property by Matt Bruenig.

Is the decline of extreme poverty only due to the development of China? Our World in Data answers the question.

Global Extreme Poverty is declining very fast, but for how long is this going to continue? Apparently, not for very long if current trends hold

New Yorker Piece on Bernie Sanders’ approach to foreign policy

Long Piece by Vox’s Alex Ward about Japan’s rising militarism

Preparing for China’s rapid rise and decline

Very cool episode of the Weeds on the Green New Deal. It lays out what theory of political change underlies the push for the Green New Deal and discusses if it’s true. Here is an interesting critique of the Green New Deal by Jerry Taylor from the Niskanen Center.

Fascinating episode of the Ezra Klein Show about the surprising amount of prevalence on the floor of congress leading up to the civil war.

John Nerst dives back in to the Concept of Decoupling to offer a new definition of the Political Right and Left. Part I Part II

Artificial Intelligence

Arxiv Insights with the third part of his series on how neural networks learn

This guy does a good job explaining Machine Learning papers

Great explanation of the way a LSTM network works

Cool series about causal inference and do-calculus (1, 2, 3) There is also an upcoming post on Causal Diagrams, Markov Factorization, Structural Equation Models

He links this paper as a more detailed introduction to do-calculus.

This website contains a bunch of great explanations, mostly of Machine Learning topics. Especially notable are all the beautiful, interactive visualizations.

Other great explanations of topics around deep learning can be found here.


I read ‚Destined for War‘ by Graham Allison this month. It’s about what he calls the Thucydides trap. This is his observation that in a lot of cases in which an established great power is challenged by a rising new power, a war between these two powers is hard to avoid. I plan to write a longer summary of this book, given that it is very important in the conversation about the possible cause area ‚Avoiding Great Power War‘ in effective altruism.

I finished listening to Tyler Cowen’s ‚Big Business: A Love-Letter to an American Anti-Hero‘ on audible. Like most of Tyler’s books this one is concise, to the point and very readable. It’s an interesting and important counterweight to the prevailing negative attitude towards big business and big tech in particular. But disagree with quite a bit and also wasn’t really blown away by the book. 

Another ‚book‘ I finished in the last two weeks is not actually a book but a Great Courses product, ‘Understanding Imperial China: Dynasties, Life, and Culture‘. It’s not really a history of Imperial China, instead it’s a bunch chapters about certain important aspect of life in imperial china through the centuries. He usually only spends on a few sentences on the actual history and focusses mostly on the culture and the individual human experience of the actors. Most of the time the chapters are interesting, but I found that most of that stuff doesn’t really stick. I would recommend this course only for people who already have a solid understanding of the broad outline of China’s history. 


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