All posts by benquo

Is Veganism Correct?

I’m hearing lots about how it’s an obvious result that Effective Altruists should be vegans. This seems like a possible result to me, but not an obvious one. Here’s why.

Continue reading Is Veganism Correct?

Advertisements

An Appointment With Death

A few months ago, I had an appointment on my calendar marked “Death”. A friend had asked me earlier for help figuring out why she was afraid of death. At first I thought that surely philosophers must have addressed this question, so with my education I ought to be able to provide something relevant and illuminating. But all I could think of was attempts to cure the fear of death, not attempts to explain it.

When I asked my former classmates, they had the same problem. Unless our memories are defective, or unless we simply aren’t as widely read as we think, this is an embarrassment for philosophy, a failure to be curious about a fundamental question. I asked a librarian friend for help, and she turned up some resources, but these were mostly empirical in nature – descriptions of how fear of death is expressed in our and others’ cultures, not a causal explanation of why we fear it.

So I used the last tool in my box. I offered to ask her some clarifying questions and engage in dialogue for an hour. By the end, my thinking on death was clearer too, and I realized that a true understanding of how to think about one’s own death ought to involve answers to these questions:

  • Should I expect to die?
  • How should I compare being dead with being alive?

Continue reading An Appointment With Death

The Meaning of Kol Nidre

Today is Yom Kippur, the last of the ten Days of Awe. The Days of Awe begin with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, the day on which judgments are inscribed in to the Book of Life. Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement and the Day of Judgment, the last chance to repent for the sins of the prior year before the Book of Life is sealed and your judgment is finalized.

In Jewish law there’s something called a Neder, which is a vow any Jew can swear, promising to do anything, that thereby becomes a divine law. This is important because it allows you to take a voluntary act of dedication and consecrate it into a commanded act. (In Judaism, fulfilling obligations gives you more points than doing superfluous stuff.)

In practice this can be disastrous. There’s a carefully worked out legal framework to make sure the received commandments are not onerous, but you can say anything and make it a Neder. This is dramatized in the Book of Judges, with the story of Jephthah:

Continue reading The Meaning of Kol Nidre

Georg^^^Georg

Scott writes:

Okay, the Spiders Georg meme is now even more annoying than doge.

And since I KNOW THE WAY YOU PEOPLE THINK, I want to emphasize that I specifically mean that the median use of Spiders Georg is worse than the median use of doge, and so there is no way outliers could have affected this result.

“median use of Spiders Georg is worse than the median use of doge” factoid actualy just statistical error. median use of Spiders Georg is excellent. Georg Georg, a chatbot that adds the word “Georg” to posts and reposts them randomly 10,000 times each day, is an edge case adn should not have been counted

 

doesn’t match the territory doesn’t match the territory doesn’t match the territory

David: Luke has approved our MIRIx app
Me: Yay!
David: and we are getting posted on the MIRIx page
Me: Nice!
Me: This is possibly more important than being posted on the Map.
Me: Though now at least one DC-based Rationalist Blog is on the Map, sort of.
David: it is?
Me: Compass Rose
Me: I changed my blog’s title
David: ah, right
Me: You know what one does when the map doesn’t match the territory, right?
Me: (One changes the territory.)
David: is that a running thing?
Me: Apparently it’s not even an Eliezer Yudkowsky Fact.
Me: Huh.
David: well, you know what one does when the map about what one does when the map doesn’t match the territory doesn’t match the territory
Me: I’m afraid your map about what I know about what one does when the map about what one does when the map doesn’t match the territory doesn’t match the territory doesn’t match the territory.

Is It Unfair that Social Workers are Underpaid?

Social Work Is Not So Hard

This (via Miri) is a piece by Margo, a social worker, talking about how people talk about social work as being unusually hard, and call social workers “saints.” Margo doesn’t much care for the assumption that social work is unusually hard, and I’m glad I read this, because it will temper the advice I read in this post, suggesting that the universally appreciated response to finding out someone’s profession is to say that their job must be hard:
Continue reading Is It Unfair that Social Workers are Underpaid?

Listening Nonjudgmentally

That thing where a friend wants to talk about their shameful secret
And you listen, ready to be nonjudgmental
When they get past all the perfectly normal parts, to the bit you’ll have to be nonjudgmental about
And then they stop
Because they’re done
And you have no idea what you were supposed to be nonjudgmental about
But you guess if you can’t tell
That means you did it anyway.

For You

Not for what you have ever done for me,
Though you have helped me past what I can pay,
But for the person you appeared to be,
Nor do I for some later help that may,

Though I expect it will, and more than now,
Accrue to me, nor work that I admire,
But that within, the source that could allow
These things to be, is all that I require.

And if you could or would no longer do,
Or be or seem like anyone to see,
Not who you could have been, but just for you,
For you, you now, you then, because to me,

The things you did, the things that I expect,
Themselves are only signs unworth true pride,
They are not beautiful, are but correct.
The beauty is in what is signified.

That which you are, I learned from what you do:
Not yours, not these, not all of this, but you.

Birthday Wish

Dear Friends,

For those of you who were able to come celebrate my birthday with me, thank you. And for those of you who couldn’t make it, you were missed, but not loved the less for it.

On the topic of presents – while none will be turned away, I’m fortunate to mostly have enough things in my life. If you’d like to do something for me to celebrate my birthday, I’m going to ask you to take an action instead. I’m going to ask you to take an action to help others.
Continue reading Birthday Wish