Ran Prieur http://ranprieur.com/#9a417fe513f58988c3b5b1e84cfc57397194a79b 2021-04-19T19:10:31Z Ran Prieur http://ranprieur.com/ ranprieur@gmail.com April 19. http://ranprieur.com/#b49a2abafbd4e6e36fdf653ab92b1583dea0a88d 2021-04-19T19:10:31Z April 19. Negative links! Present Punk is a website arguing "that we are either currently living in a cyberpunk dystopia, or that we are transitioning into one."

Related: The secret ideology hiding in SimCity. The designer of Sim City was inspired by a book with an economic authoritarian agenda, and he put the book's formulas into the game's "black box". Later, the Magnasanti project showed how you can maximize success in the game by building a dystopian nightmare.

More evil tech, Is Facebook Buying Off The New York Times?

Three links on toxicity. Experts are sounding the alarm about the dangers of gas stoves "Over the past four decades, researchers have amassed a large body of scientific evidence linking the use of gas appliances, especially for cooking, with a higher risk of a range of respiratory problems and illnesses."

Rates of Parkinson's disease are exploding. A common chemical may be to blame. It's trichloroethylene, and it's already been banned in the EU and two US states.

And a well-written guide to identifying narcissists online.

Finally, climate catastrophe. Antarctica's Doomsday Glacier close to tipping point. "The glacier acts like a cork in a wine bottle, stopping the rest of the ice in the region from flowing into the sea."

This 2017 article, The Doomsday Glacier, goes into more depth. Bottom line: this stuff is hard to model, but the worst predictions are for 10-13 feet of sea level rise by 2100.

April 16. http://ranprieur.com/#66c8a6edcb1338cba1934c9f652a74a97ec373aa 2021-04-16T16:40:07Z April 16. For the weekend, two happy links. Buildings made with fungi could live, grow, and then biodegrade. Related: Any sufficiently advanced civilization is indistinguishable from nature.

And US suicide rate dropped 6 percent in past year, even amid pandemic. I'm not surprised. This is a simplification: the suicide rate is inversely proportional to the rate of death by other causes. Because death by other causes means that society is facing a challenge that makes life more meaningful, and it means you're not suffering alone.

With summer coming (in the northern temperate zone) I want to recommend a product. It's hard to find a good summer overshirt. By that I mean: 1) You can wear it over a t-shirt. 2) It keeps the sun off. 3) It lets the air through. 4) It looks good. 5) It has good pockets.

I've only found one shirt that does all those things: the Prijouhe kimono. It says they're true to size, but I recommend going big. Here's a photo of me in my earth-tone summer outfit: Uniqlo linen shorts, medium t-shirt, and XXL kimono.

April 14. http://ranprieur.com/#7c9033ceadecd309f8bd88806c00542a0b810cf1 2021-04-14T14:20:07Z April 14. Bunch o' links, starting with a few from the subreddits. Ancient cave painters may have been stoned. More precisely, they would have needed torches, which could have had them tripping on oxygen deprivation. But they didn't know about oxygen, so they probably thought the caves were intrinsically trippy places.

A City for Poets and Pirates is a deep historical piece about some crazy stuff that happened a hundred years ago in Italy:

We cannot understand the events in Fiume (or the subsequent rise of fascism) without making an effort to imagine a world in which hundreds of thousands of young men who had been promised a share in the spoils of victory returned, after years both frightening and exhilarating -- some of them half-blind or deaf, some insomniacs or addicts -- to anxious mothers and wives unwilling to listen to their stories, to jobs in industries where bosses worried about productivity.

Our Brain Typically Overlooks This Brilliant Problem-Solving Strategy: removing things rather than adding them. If, somehow, we could get as good at removing things as we are at adding them, it would greatly prolong the lifespans of our institutions and technologies, which are always getting weighed down and crippled by feature bloat.

Ask Hacker News: What tech job would let me get away with the least real work possible? You can tell our civilization is declining, because the thread is massively upvoted and everyone thinks this is a good idea.

Another Hacker News thread, about a 20% probability for a large satellite collision. It didn't happen this time, but eventually it will, and then we might get a chain reaction satellite apocalypse, where the sky is full of meteors and the TV doesn't work.

This is the best reddit thread I've ever seen about lifehacks. It has everything from how to fight a dog to using chips as kindling.

And I've just done an update of my Favorite Films page, adding a few films and a new interpretation of Terry Gilliam's Tideland.

April 12. http://ranprieur.com/#e5d5b1150a182462bef0869ede1c4e1c6c297388 2021-04-12T12:00:49Z April 12. Lately I've been allergic to social issues, but today I'll dip a toe in, by way of brain wiring. Diablo 2 Resurrected helped me love my brain. The author is unable to make mental maps, which is a perfect fit for a game with procedurally generated maps where it doesn't matter which way you go.

And a reddit thread, Does it happen to you sometimes when you are driving, you suddenly realize that you are driving normally but not aware of what happened in the past minutes? This has never happened to me, because I have no autopilot. This is also why I'm a terrible athlete, and why I'm always bumping into things. My body can't do anything right without fully conscious micromanagement by my head, and I can't micromanage two things at once, or even one thing if it's going too fast.

As an autopilot-impaired person, I see autopilotry everywhere. That's my only explanation for why there aren't a hundred times as many car crashes, or how certain political movements succeed without any rational basis. People are tuning into mysterious signals, going with flows that I can't feel.

At the same time, I'm better at things that require mental micromanagement. So in middle school, where I never got on base in kickball, I was also the best lathe worker in shop class. And we have a long way to go in understanding these differences. I think every homeless person and every prison inmate has a talent that could serve society, if society knew how to find it and work with it.

Related: U.S. church membership dips below 50% for first time. I think this is because churches formed communities based on ancestry and physical location, which worked well in the old days. But now, with cheap travel and the internet, we can form communities based on what kind of person we are.

April 8. http://ranprieur.com/#74912e3a01769da171f5daf1aab9232e23fed360 2021-04-08T20:20:22Z April 8. Another deep non-political piece, a long reddit comment about How actors talk about acting. Being believable is the bare minimum, and then there's stuff like understanding your character's motivation, disappearing into a role, "outside-in" technical stuff, and making interesting choices:

For example, actors seem to love Jeff Goldblum, Nic Cage, and John Malkovich. Even in something like Holy Man, or Rounders, or Wicker Man, where they're giving pretty much objectively bad performances, other actors sometimes love those performances. Choices come up a lot in conversations about these. It's just so amazing to see people who naturally make choices that we have to work towards.

My definition of creativity is making a choice that's unpredictable with foresight, and yet, in hindsight it seems inevitable. And as a writer, I respect small-scale surprises more than large-scale surprises. There's lots of bad popular entertainment, where they surprise you about which character is evil, but every character's emotional reaction to every little event is exactly what you expect.

April 7. http://ranprieur.com/#c4740b679dc8742987a620f7e20e0622941b3a96 2021-04-07T19:10:36Z April 7. Continuing from Monday, this new reddit thread is loaded with good stuff: What's something creepy that happened years ago but to this day you can't figure out why it happened?

It's interesting to look at the responses to these kinds of reports. Some people want to explain it all in terms of stuff we already understand, and some people want to go deeper into the unknown. That decision, which of those things to do, is sub-rational and subconscious. Given the scariness of some of these reports, my decision could be wrong. Some people feel that consensus reality is a fortress -- if you see a crack, you'd better seal it up. And I feel that we're in a prison, and cracks should be widened.

Related, reposts of two reddit threads on the afterlife: Despite what you believe or don’t believe, what do you WISH happens when we die? And if you actually go to a paradise after you die, but the paradise automatically is set up in a way which will be the absolute maximum best and pleasing experience for you, how would your paradise be like?

These threads have so many cool ideas, that I wonder if the purpose of this painful human civilization, is to serve as a platform, from which we can imagine a great variety of places to go next.

Last week I saw Soul, a movie with a radical metaphysical foundation. The idea is, down here is our world, and up there is the Universal, God, whatever you want to call it. And in between, there are other worlds. These worlds are not physical, and also not perfect, and we can come and go from them. In the 1600's, you'd get burned at the stake for saying that, and here it is being released by Disney.

April 5. http://ranprieur.com/#8e63da3059f0783a05e2c0ec227c0c4e1a505e2e 2021-04-05T17:50:32Z April 5. This week I want to continue posting stuff that's thoughtful and not political. Fire in the Sky is about the psychology of exploring weird phenomena.

We seem to have a psychological block that prohibits us from entertaining a class of "strange ideas" outside some personal, identity-based window of acceptable thinking.... Conceptually, the block is related to, but notably different from, the Overton Window, which concerns socially-acceptable speech. Our focus here is not exactly what one can or cannot say for fear of social ostracism, though it likely does contribute to the phenomenon, but is rather what one can or cannot say for actual inability to conceive of a subject.

It's funny, because I'm the opposite. This is probably the one way that I want life to be harder. I'm hungry for stuff that stretches my ability to conceive it, so I've devoured the most challenging woo-woo books I can find, from Charles Fort's The Book of the Damned to Ted Holiday's The Goblin Universe to George Hansen's The Trickster and the Paranormal. My conclusion is that it's our world that's unusual. Reality is a roiling sea of first person perspectives, and we live on an island where the illusion of a third person reality becomes plausible, if you don't look too closely.

Another nice quote from the essay:

On the topic of UFOs, we have often turned to "serious scientists" for understanding, which is our euphemism here for debunking. But "serious scientist" is not a profession, it's a popular identity, and that identity is a plague on knowledge. Why qualify the word "scientist" at all? Presumably one is either doing science, or one is not. One is either a scientist, or one is not. The word "serious" divides inquiry into classes. The prestigious, and popular, is separated from the low, the weird, the socially unacceptable. In this way "serious science" is just a Cerberus that guards consensus reality, and on the question of consensus science is agnostic. Any qualification of the word "science" negates the method, and "serious scientists" are therefore not scientists at all.

April 2. http://ranprieur.com/#2697e8eb7570cf546cc06b13a35049372b01907b 2021-04-02T14:20:38Z April 2. Some feedback on Reiki. A comment in this subreddit thread suggests that it could work on a social level, "by simulating social connections and support, so the body then feels it is worth investing limited resources in healing and immunity." And over email, Alex comments: "Americans generally don't touch each other unless it's fighting, fucking, or obligation. So being touched in a way that can be interpreted as actually caring is a rare thing." It could be like vitamin A, which is good for your eyesight, but only if your eyesight is bad because of a vitamin A deficiency. (Or money, which is only correlated with happiness below a certain income.)

Probably, those factors are stacking with the placebo effect, which works with lots of things other than touch, and remains unexplained. It's interesting that the placebo effect is cultural, and can change. According to this article, placebo responses have been rising in the USA, but not in other places.

If it can change, than it can be trained. Someone who takes a placebo and gets no benefit, can learn to be someone who takes a placebo and gets a huge benefit. So what exactly would you be training in? I said before that it's not belief, but Hani points out that there are levels of belief. Now we're getting into the subconscious. Changing a fully conscious belief is hard enough, and it probably gets harder the deeper you go. And maybe more powerful.

Related: my friend Erik has co-developed a self-improvement practice called Meliora Meditation. Erik has done a lot of work straightening out his own mind and body, and this came out of that. Also, he has a page of good writings on other subjects, Fragments of Pre-History.