These links are mostly (though not 100%) relevant to themes I've written about fairly recently.
Ten Big Wins for Farm Animals in 2021, from my coworker Lewis Bollard's excellent newsletter on farm animal welfare. I'm sharing this because it's probably some of the year's most significant news about reducing modern-day suffering, and probably hasn't gotten anywhere near proportionate attention.
It is a bit of an open secret that "not reading the paper" is the only feasible strategy for staying on top of the ever-increasing mountain of academic literature. But while everybody knows this, not everybody knows that everybody knows this. On discussion boards, some researchers claim with a straight face to be reading 100 papers per month. Skimming 100 papers per month might be possible, but reading them is not ... Even though scientists don't read papers, the entire edifice does not collapse. How is that? In this post, I will go through some obvious and less obvious problems that come from "not reading the paper", and how those turn out to not be that bad.
I liked the piece! It's got some similar ideas to my past posts reading books vs. engaging with them and Gell-Mann Earworms, but with more specificity about what it's like to be a scientist dealing with a mound of papers to "read."
And here's another approach: read less but read it twice. Not my approach, but in general I'm just super in favor of "What should my strategy be for deciding what to read and how to read it?" discourse - there doesn't seem to be enough of it, and I think "Read interesting-seeming things straight through once" is a bad default.
Bloomberg: Podcasting hasn't produced a new hit in years. Subhed: "The average podcast in the top 10 is more than seven years old." The reason given in the article is that there are just too many podcasts out there for any one of them to grab a lot of market share, which sounds very plausible to me (and is probably going on with TV as well; music and film seem less affected here because you can't just stick with your favorite album/film for 10 years). I'm guessing that 50 years from now, this will color how critics think about which podcasts are "significant," and many will pine for a golden age of podcasting.
Also related to "pining for a golden age":
- This was a good Twitter thread citing old public opinion polling. Counter to some narratives that the US used to be more universally pro-science, it looks like we've always been pretty wary, e.g. going to the moon was pretty unpopular and there was plenty of skepticism about the polio vaccine.
- Eliezer Yudkowsky thinks "all of the talented executives and ops people were in 1950 and now they're dead and there's fewer and fewer surviving descendants of their heritage every year." Anyone know what evidence this is or could be based on?
Claim that I'm not supporting, more curious about: 4 Years After the FCC Repealed Net Neutrality, the Internet Is Better Than Ever. Does anyone know of good analysis on whether the repeal of net neutrality mattered much (my not-particularly-informed current sense is that it didn't), and/or any "I was wrong" takes from people who said it would matter greatly (my sense is that there are no such takes)? I would be very interested in either (via comments or tips). If the repeal didn't end up mattering much, it seems like a significant set of people ought to be talking and thinking about what they got wrong, and if it did, I have things to learn about what's going on with the Internet.
Couple updates on previous Cold Takes posts:
- On October 19, I criticized a Wikipedia page on hunter-gatherers in a post. On November 30, it looks like the things I complained about (which have mostly been there since May 2013) were largely fixed by a Wikipedia editor. Regardless of whether these two events are connected, this is evidence that the system works, IMO.
- Apparently 89 people have made a forecast on Metaculus about the Omicron bet I posted about a few weeks ago. The aggregate forecast has hovered around a 51-54% chance that I win the bet (assuming it isn't a push), which is actually higher than the probability I gave. (I put it at 50%, and we bet at odds implying 40%)
The unweaving of a beautiful thing: a short story submitted to an effective altruism creative writing contest, which I quite liked (and it's short).
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