Increasingly Competitive College Admissions: Much More Than You Wanted To Know by Scott Alexander – A short history of college admissions, Harvard admissions in particular and professional schools in the USA. Scott wonders how competition has increased over time. Some conclusions: ‘The clearest reason for increasing academic competition in the past ten years is the increasing number of applications per person, enabled by the online Common Application. This has doubled the number of applications sent to top colleges like Harvard despite the applicant pool staying the same size. Some of this apparent increased competition is a statistical illusion, but parts of it may be real due to increased sorting. Other reasons may include increased common knowledge of intense competition making everyone compete more intensely, decreased use of hard-to-game metrics like the SAT in favor of easy-to-game metrics like extracurriculars intensifying gaming efforts.’
Where To Draw The Boundaries by Zack M. Davis – ‘Figuring where to cut reality in order to carve along the joints—figuring which things are similar to each other, which things are clustered together: this is the problem worthy of a rationalist. It is what people should be trying to do, when they set out in search of the floating essence of a word. Once upon a time it was thought that the word “fish” included dolphins …’
Incentives Matter by Ozy – If you reward people for behaving badly towards you then you are going to have a bad time.
Buying Value Not Price by Jacob Falkovich – If one phone costs $250 and the other costs$750 the second phone does not need to give you three times as much value to be worth it. It needs to give you $500 or more dollars worth of additional value.
How To Train Your OpenAI Five by Open AI – ‘OpenAI Five is the first AI to beat the world champions in an esports game, having won two back-to-back games versus the world champion Dota 2 team, OG, at Finals this weekend. Both OpenAI Five and DeepMind’s AlphaStar had previously beaten good pros privately but lost their live pro matches, making this also the first time an AI has beaten esports pros on livestream.’
Our Progress 2018 And Plans 2019 by Open Philanthropy – ‘This post compares our progress with the goals we set forth a year ago, and lays out our plans for the coming year. In brief: We recommended well over $100 million worth of grants in 2018. The bulk of these came from our major current focus areas: potential risks of advanced AI, biosecurity and pandemic preparedness, criminal justice reform, farm animal welfare, scientific research, and effective altruism. Additionally, we recommended ~$70 million in grants to GiveWell’s top charities and incubation grants.’
Identity Norms by Robin Hanson – Hanson tries to explain poll results: ‘Combining these theories and norms we can say that we have a licit and an illicit reason to choose identities: simplifying ourselves and joining coalitions. We often pretend to do the former while we actually do the latter. And when it gets too obvious that we are doing the latter, we try the excuses that they started it or that they aren’t fighting fair. From all this I conclude that we have a limited tolerance for identity politics. The more different features that become a basis for explicit coalitional fights, the less happy we will all become, and the less tolerance we will have for each fight. We can together only handle a few big factional fights at any one time, and so we’ll have to set a high bar for how clear is the evidence in each case that they started it and are not fighting fair. And when we do see justice and fairness as clearly favoring one side of a fight, we’ll want to aid that side, make justice happen, and then end the fight.’
Possible Minds by Waking Up with Sam Harris – ‘Sam Harris introduces John Brockman’s new anthology, “Possible Minds: 25 Ways of Looking at AI,” in conversation with three of its authors: George Dyson, Alison Gopnik, and Stuart Russell.’
An Interview With Putanumonit by Jacob Falkovich – ‘If you’ve ever wondered what Putanumonit will sound like as a podcast, wonder no more! An interview with me was recorded at a public meetup, it started with the basic tenets of rationality and putting numbers on things, then seamlessly segued to audience questions about Israel-Palestine and my sex life.’
On Nationalism, Populism And The State Of America by EconTalk – ‘Lepore argues that we need a new Americanism, a common story we share and tell ourselves. Along the way, topics in the conversation include populism, the rise of globalization, and the challenge of knowing what is true and what is false in the internet era.’