In December 2020, I made 100 probabilistic predictions for 2021. As promised, I’ve come back to evaluate them on two criteria: calibration and personal optimism/pessimism. I also challenged readers to compete with me. More on this later, but first, here are my predictions, color-coded black if they happened and red if they didn't. I. US … Continue reading Grading my 2021 predictions

# Introducing EA-nasir

[Originally posted on the EA Forum] When I ask effective altruists who their hero is, it’s always the same names. Peter Singer. Stanislav Petrov. Jonas Salk. No one ever mentions Ea-nasir, the ancient Sumerian coppersmith and businessman. Which is a shame, really. I guess it makes sense. Most people haven’t heard of him, and those … Continue reading Introducing EA-nasir

# Puzzle: A More Earthly Calendar

This is a re-post of a puzzle I wrote for the 2021 Mathcamp Puzzle Hunt. The difficulty is 5/10 or so (easier than the first puzzle I wrote for this blog, but harder than the second). If you haven’t done these sorts of puzzles before, I recommend starting with e.g. this one or this one … Continue reading Puzzle: A More Earthly Calendar

# Make the tennis service box smaller

Between my posts on marble sports and beauty pageants, luck versus skill in sports seems to be something of a theme of this blog. Today I want to talk about tennis -- but instead of writing descriptively, I want to be prescriptive: I'll advocate for a change to the rules of tennis that would make … Continue reading Make the tennis service box smaller

# Lexeme jest: Eleven excellent genres

Constrained writing is fun; moreover, sometimes it's seriously impressive. This post is a tour of some of my favorite examples of constrained writing and wordplay. Mots d'Heures: Gousses, Rames Listen to this recitation of the French poem Un petit d'un petit, by Luis d'Antin van Rooten. https://youtu.be/b7qiVtVkqDg&start=20&end=38 Sound familiar? Indeed, this poem is a homophonic … Continue reading Lexeme jest: Eleven excellent genres

# Can group identity be a force for good?

Many in the rationalist sphere look down on tribalism and group identity. Paul Graham writes that identity interferes with people's ability to have a productive discussion. Julia Galef seconds this view (though with exceptions), devoting a chapter of Scout Mindset to the ways that identity interferes with clear thinking. Eliezer Yudkowsky makes a similar point … Continue reading Can group identity be a force for good?

# My NYC mayoral ballot

The Democratic primary for mayor of New York City is coming up. Whoever wins the primary will almost certainly be the next mayor. Elections in New York City use instant runoff voting (more commonly called ranked-choice voting by non-nerds). To spell out what this means: Voters rank their choices (in this case, their top 5 … Continue reading My NYC mayoral ballot

# Social behavior curves, equilibria, and radicalism

I. Here are some hypotheticals to consider, with a common theme. Note that in each case I'm asking what you would do, rather than what you should do. In the fall, COVID cases drop to 10% of their current level. You're back to working/studying in person. You're vaccinated, as is everyone else. Mask-wearing isn't required, … Continue reading Social behavior curves, equilibria, and radicalism

# My favorite puzzles from the 2021 MIT Mystery Hunt

Like most social events, puzzle hunts are much better in person. That said, the creators of this year's Mystery Hunt really delivered, creating a hunt that was as good as it could have been under the circumstances.

# Luck and skill in beauty pageants

In middle school I participated in a competition called Mathcounts. In this contest, each state held a competition to determine four people who go on to represent the state at Nationals. I grew up in Maryland, and in 7th and 8th grade I just barely made Maryland's team, getting fourth place both times. If I … Continue reading Luck and skill in beauty pageants