Theology, philosophy, math, science, and random other things

How do you help those kinds of people?

Today is Christmas. I once tried to help a homeless person, in a pretty major way. It was hard, and It didn't go well. Let's just say that it might have been better if I didn't try at all. Which leads me to wonder: how do you help these kinds of people? Homelessness has been […]

Impressions from my trip to Ukraine during the war

(All the pictures in this post can be seen at their full resolution here, and my post about the whole trip in a larger context, including Norway and Moldova, can be found here.) So, how did I end up going to Ukraine during the war? I assure you this was initially not my own idea, […]

What do we want? Reflections on AI and morality

Essentially, these AIs solve all kinds of "how" problems for us. We now know how to play a good game of chess or go, how to reply to any text prompt, and how to create an image from just a text description. This leaves us with the "what" problem. What do we want? What do we value? This is a hard question. Can an AI answer it for us? No, I don't think so. At least not any of the AIs as we have them today. Remember, the fundamental function of all the AIs we've discussed is to take in data, and give us what we said we wanted. So it seems that there's some kind of bootstrapping step missing, in that we have to give the AI "what we want" as an input, but expect "what we REALLY want" as an output.

From "Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri" (1999)

As the Americans learned so painfully in Earth's final century, free flow of information is the only safeguard against tyranny. The once-chained people whose leaders at last lose their grip on information flow will soon burst with freedom and vitality, but the free nation gradually constricting its grip on public discourse has begun its rapid […]

A moral evaluation of abortion

Roe v. Wade was recently overturned. I think this is an opportune time to organize and express my thoughts on abortion. This is my honest attempt to understand the issue. I chose to tackle a controversial topic, take an unpopular position, then moderate it with nuance. I have no illusions about any benefits or harms I may acquire as a result. My only defense is that this is what I really think, after a genuine attempt to get as close as I can to the truth.

What's going on with Gamestop: a simple explanation

This first started as just some market maneuvering around a rising stock, but quickly became much more. It became a story of David vs. Goliath, of little individual investors taking on the big hedge funds. It attracted an international audience and became mainstream news. People spoke of taking on the corrupt financial systems, and discussed the powers and dangers of social media like reddit. Politicians and industry titans got involved. All this attention brought on new stock buyers, driving its price even higher.

Love your enemies

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction. So when Jesus says "Love your enemies," he is setting forth a profound and ultimately inescapable admonition. Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies - or else? The chain reaction of evil - hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars - must be broken or we shall be plunged in to the dark abyss of annihilation.

More unoriginal thoughts about the election

My kingdom is not of this world. (John 18:36)Our citizenship is in heaven. (Phil.3:20)We must obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29)It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. (Ps. 118:8)Do not put your trust in princes; in human beings, who cannot save. (Ps. 146:3)God turns the king's heart […]

Many places can reopen now, but "how" matters more than "when"

Remember, we need to keep R0 under 1. We need enough social distancing, personal protection, disinfecting, and other such measures, so that each infected person causes less than one additional infection. That's the "how". The question of "when" almost doesn't matter in comparison. If we really get the "how" right, much of the country can open now, or very soon. If we get it really wrong, then it won't matter how long we wait - we'll never be able to safely lift the lockdowns. That's why we must reopen very carefully and deliberately.

Re-analyzing the Stanford COVID-19 antibody study

Stanford's antibody study in Santa Clara County [...] reported a population prevalence of 2.5% to 4.2% for COVID-19 antibodies, and a corresponding infection fatality rate of 0.12% to 0.2%. This result, if true, would have huge implications, as the lower fatality rate would dramatically change the calculus on important policy decisions [...]. However, this study has also received numerous criticisms, most notably for the results being inconsistent with the false positive rate of the antibody test. Here, I attempt to derive what the results ought to have been, under a better methodology.
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