Aaron's Blog
Pigeon Hour
#2 Arjun Panickssery solves books, hobbies, and blogging, but fails to solve the Sleeping Beauty problem because he's wrong on that one
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#2 Arjun Panickssery solves books, hobbies, and blogging, but fails to solve the Sleeping Beauty problem because he's wrong on that one

Transcript

Note: created for free by Assembly AI; very imperfect

AARON

So welcome. Welcome to the Pigeon hour podcast. Where do you see yourself? Wait, hold on. I need to get out of I literally say this every single time. I say this every single time. I always say I need to get out of podcaster mode and into conversation mode. I've said that at the start of every single episode, but it's still true. So what's on your mind?

ARJUN

Oh, you were in the book chat, though. The book rant group chat, right?

AARON

Yeah, I think I might have just not read any of it. So do you want to fill me in on what I should have read?

ARJUN

Yeah, it's group chat of a bunch of people where we were arguing about a bunch of claims related to books. One of them is that most people don't remember pretty much anything from books that they read, right? They read a book and then, like, a few months later, if you ask them about it, they'll just say one page's worth of information or maybe like, a few paragraphs. The other is that what is it exactly? It's that if you read a lot of books, it could be that you just incorporate the information that's important into your existing models and then just forget the information. So it's actually fine. Isn't this what you wrote in your blog post or whatever? I think that's why I added you to that.

AARON

Oh, thank you. I'm sorry I'm such a bad group chat participant. Yeah, honestly, I wrote that a while ago. I don't fully remember exactly what it says, but at least one of the things that it said was and that I still basically stand by, is that it's basically just like it's increasing the salience of a set of ideas more so than just filling your brain with more facts. And I think this is probably true insofar as the facts support a set of common themes or ideas that are kind of like the intellectual core of it. It would be really hard. Okay, so this is not a book, but okay. I've talked about how much I love an 80,000 hours podcast, and I've listened to, I don't think every episode, but at least 100 of the episodes. And no, you're just, like, not going to definitely I've forgotten most of the actual almost all of the actual propositional pieces of information said, but you're just not going to convince me that it's completely not affecting either model of the world or stuff that I know or whatever. I mean, there are facts that I could list. I think maybe I should try.

ARJUN

Sure.

AARON

Yeah. So what's your take on book other long form?

ARJUN

Oh, I don't know. I'm still quite confused or I think the impetus for the group chat's creation was actually Hanania's post where he wrote the case against most books or most was in parentheses or something. I mean, there's a lot of things going on in that post. He just goes off against a bunch of different categories of books that are sort of not closely related. Like, he goes off against great. I mean, this is not the exact take he gives, but it's something like the books that are considered great are considered great literature for some sort of contingent reason, not because they're the best at getting you information that you want.

AARON

This is, like, another topic. But I'm, like, anti great books. In fact, I'm anti great usually just means old and famous. So insofar as that's what we mean by I'm like, I think this is a bad thing, or, like, I don't know, aristotle is basically wrong about everything and stuff like that.

ARJUN

Right, yeah. Wait, we could return to this. I guess this could also be divided into its component categories. He spends more time, though, I think, attacking a certain kind of nonfiction book that he describes as the kind of book that somebody pitches to a publisher and basically expands a single essay's worth of content into with a bunch of anecdotes and stuff. He's like, most of these books are just not very useful to read, I guess. I agree with that.

AARON

Yeah. Is there one that comes to mind as, like, an? Mean, I think of Malcolm Gladwell as, like, the kind of I haven't actually read any of his stuff in a while, but I did, I think, when I started reading nonfiction or with any sort of intent, I read. A bunch of his stuff or whatever and vaguely remember that this is basically what he like for better or.

ARJUN

Um yeah, I guess so. But he's almost, like, trying to do it on purpose. This is the experience that you're getting by reading a Malcolm Gladwell book. It's like talib. Right? It's just him just ranting. I'm thinking, I guess, of books that are about something. So, like, if you have a book that's know negotiation or something, it'll be filled with a bunch of anecdotes that are of dubious usefulness. Or if you get a book that's just about some sort of topic, there'll be historical trivia that's irrelevant. Maybe I can think of an example.

AARON

Yeah. So the last thing I tried to read, maybe I am but haven't in a couple of weeks or whatever, is like, the Derek Parfit biography. And part of this is motivated because I don't even like biographies in general for some reason, I don't know. But I don't know. He's, like, an important guy. Some of the anecdotes that I heard were shockingly close to home for me, or not close to home, but close to my brain or something. So I was like, okay, maybe I'll see if this guy's like the smarter version of Aaron Bergman. And it's not totally true.

ARJUN

Sure, I haven't read the book, but I saw tweet threads about it, as one does, and I saw things that are obviously false. Right. It's the claims that he read, like, a certain number of pages while brushing his teeth. That's, like, anatomically impossible or whatever. Did you get to that part? Or I assumed no, I also saw.

AARON

That tweet and this is not something that I do, but I don't know if it's anatomically impossible. Yeah, it takes a little bit of effort to figure out how to do that, I guess. I don't think that's necessarily false or whatever, but this is probably not the most important.

ARJUN

Maybe it takes long time to brush his teeth.

AARON

Yeah, maybe. Also.

ARJUN

There'S a lot of books, actually.

AARON

And one weird thing. I think I tweeted about this a long time ago, and I think it got, like, one like or, like it's actually surprising how many books there are. Like, if you go into a library, at least I remember at Georgetown, just, like, walking in or whatever. Georgetown? Like the library Georgetown? Yes. No, it's not like a particularly big library, but there's so many books. I can't believe actually somebody wrote all those. It's actually kind of surprising. It kind of breaks my brain a little bit. And so maybe I don't know, maybe people are talking about different sets of books or something like that. And that explains some of the disagreement here.

ARJUN

Sure, I guess. I have a friend who told me once that every time he passes the bookstore, he gets kind of depressed briefly because he's like, wow, look at all these utterly useless books that no one should ever read.

AARON

No. Yeah. I don't know.

ARJUN

I guess there's no reason ever, for anyone, basically, to read most of these books. Also because ultimately, you can only read so many books. Right. Even if you read a book every month, which is more than basically anyone reads in practice, that's what, twelve per year. And then if we each live for another 60 or 70 years, then that gives us definitely less than 1000 books. And so basically, most books are not worth reading at all, right?

AARON

Oh, yeah. Definitely more realistically.

ARJUN

People read, like, five books a year, and then after six years, they get, like, 300 books.

AARON

Yeah, I think it's like, the vast majority of I'm literally just, like, picturing. I think, like, sometimes I'd actually, like, just, like, try to, like, find a random book and yeah, they're on, like, the most random shit ever. It's like, I don't know, like, 1970 is, like, a study of, like or, like, you know, anthropology of, like, some Icelandic, like, motherhood, like, ritual practice or something. Like, I'm totally making this up. But, yeah, maybe not 99.9. Probably 99% of books are not worth reading. But that still leaves, like, I don't know, a lot. A million? Probably not a billion. Several, like, more than 1000. A lot of books. Probably 100,000 or a million or so.

ARJUN

Yeah, I'm not sure. I mean, also, you could just read way more than other people read or whatever. I think the great books of the Western world it's like the thing that you see in libraries are similar. That's like a volume of books in that leather looking thing. If you're familiar. I think that would take, like, a couple of years to read if you read for, like, an hour or two every day. But then most people obviously would never do that.

AARON

Fun facts.

ARJUN

You can't really oh. What?

AARON

I won some award in high school for, like it was for intellectual curiosity. It's like the St. John's College Book Award, and they gave me a bunch of old books, and I think they're under my bed somewhere because I had zero interest whatsoever.

ARJUN

Sorry.

AARON

It's like, neither here nor there.

ARJUN

Oh, wait, st. John's College is that place in Annapolis where they just read old books. Right. Instead of getting normal.

AARON

I'm like, that's, like, the last place I would ever consider.

ARJUN

Yeah, or returning to that topic where you said the great books are bad, the great books are bad, thing becomes or, like, their strongest cases when people actually read mathematical or medicinal or scientific texts that are just out of date for no reason. Right. This is like an absurdity to read Euclid's elements for basically no reason.

AARON

Yeah, I think that's pretty clear. But then for some reason I mean, not just for some reason, for identifiable reasons, I guess once you move into philosophy and even more so, like literature, it just assumed that even above and beyond the historical value of knowing what previous philosophers thought, people just assume, I guess, like Aristotle and Plato. I'm just like naming old people. I don't know who else are just, like, worth reading. I just disagree.

ARJUN

Yeah, I suppose you could divide it into two categories. There are disciplines where people make progress, like mathematics, where it doesn't really make sense to read some sort of old mathematician because he's just going to be worse than a modern mathematician. And then there's disciplines where people make no progress, like philosophy or art or literature.

AARON

I'll fight you on that. I think philosophers make progress.

ARJUN

Okay, maybe. But you agree that whatever novelists don't make so much progress. They just sort of change their so. You know, a book that's really old or a book that's considered, you know, tolstoy is probably just the best, because it's not like between Tolstoy and now, people got really good at doing that kind of thing at whatever. It is that, you know, display human nature in a like I agree that.

AARON

There'S not progress per se, but there's a lot more people and a lot more books. There's, like, the Lindy thing, so maybe it's hard to identify them, but I would be surprised if, just like, the in some sense, most of the best works of literature are, like, at least post 19, I don't know, 1950, 1970 or something. Just because the number presumably.

ARJUN

I guess I could count, but I don't think the most of the great works of literature are past 1950 or like great according to me.

AARON

Great, according to me.

ARJUN

Wait, name some great novelists born after 1950 or who were working after 1950.

AARON

I don't read fiction. You can't put me on the spot like that.

ARJUN

Oh, interesting. Wait, what did you mean by great books then? You meant like Derek Parfit?

AARON

No, what's the word? I forget about the word great. Why do I not read fiction? I don't know. Just because I find narrative nonfiction entertaining. And also, I don't know, I don't read a ton. Anyway, like books, that is. But I could, right? And I still think I would have aesthetic judgments about what books are better than others in all things considered sense. So if I just imagine myself doing that and ranking all of them, probably maybe the average quality is even getting worse over time. But the top 100 are going to be almost uniformly distributed across the space of books, not across the space of time or whatever. And the space of books is really concentrated in the last century at least. Presumably even more so, like post internet, although I'm not sure about that. Yeah.

ARJUN

Maybe relatively speaking.

AARON

Yeah. Should we move on to a more interesting topic?

ARJUN

I guess wait, I guess there are a couple of reasons to read books, right? Or one solution is that you could just pretend to read books. So like wait, I think I count on this in the group chat. There are three reasons to read books, right? One is to signal your high status by just credibly claiming that you read the book or by making references to it that indicate that you're familiar with it or read it. And the second thing is to learn some kind of specific information, the goal for which you decided beforehand. And the third is to just learn lots of stuff miscellaneously and then hope that this helps you. The first one, what would they call it? Goal factoring. You could replace the first one by just sort of pretending that you read these books. I played a lot of Quiz Bowl in university and a lot of my friends there, they read a lot of Wikipedia summaries of books and movies and ultimately in conversation. There's not a huge difference in their ability to make the funny references to such and such person or event in the movie because most people don't remember very much anyway, right?

AARON

Yeah, for sure.

ARJUN

So you could just pretend and then the distinction between the second and third is more puzzling or whatever. Like, Holden has a blog post where he says that he only thinks that reading is useful if you're reading with some sort of hypothesis that you're trying to disprove or get evidence for or some kind of question. Otherwise he just pretty much forgets anything else that he reads. But then, I don't know. There's the thing about just getting more intuitions or impressions or like a better general model even if you forget specific.

AARON

Information, just like, fair warning, I'm going to hop on video, at least for a little while. Let me make hold on. Make sure the right kit. Okay. Hi. Hello. That was dumb. I was going to ask, but can you see me? Obviously you can see me. Yeah, no, I'm pretty sympathetic to Holden's point and actually I was just thinking so one thing I did read that is like, maybe this is actually an exceptional example. So I did read what we owe the future with actually the intent and this actually might still happen, along with 20 gazillion other projects that might still happen. It's like, review what we owe the future. And a lot of it was like, oh yeah, I'm very much convinced by McCaskill, like some of McCaskill's arguments or whatever. But I was especially looking especially because I'm kind of contrarian and my review couldn't just be like, oh yeah, it sounds good, or whatever. Or it could be, but you want to be on the lookout for things that maybe don't check out or whatever. I feel like a lot more stuck with me because of that, because I was reading with an eye out for takes I could jump in with or something.

ARJUN

Yeah, I'm not sure. I used to play a lot of chess, and when you're playing chess, one of the most common way to study probably, or besides doing tactics exercises, is to just review your games in depth. Like to go move by move and think about which moves you could have played instead. Like maybe first by yourself, just taking advantage of having more time than you had in the game. And then afterwards with a computer to see what the actual objectively correct move was, basically. But then another kind of study that people undertake, maybe when they reach the Class A tournament player or something, is to just skim through hundreds of games at a rate of, I don't know, one move per second that's about one game per minute, and just click through them. I've done this for a lot of games and it's like pretty common advice. I think most or a lot of people have done this. And the idea is that you just get an intuition for what move tends to be right or what position tends to be good, and you just click through them.

AARON

I have an idea of actually now all of a sudden, I'm kind of tempted to figure out how to do this because the second thing sounds better than the first. Because I've been like, yeah, because I definitely think building up intuitions via brute force and direct feedback. And direct feedback, I guess in some sense here is coming from knowing who won. Then also just predicting what excellent players play, probably more so the second one. But presumably now you could just play a game where on one side of your screen you have the game and the other side, you have the immediate feedback being the probability that the computer thinks you're going to win based on yeah, and so you can see it moving up and down as you play. And this seems like maybe like the I'm totally epistemically trespassing here because I haven't played chess. I think I've played one game of chess in the last ten years or something, but this maybe seems like a good way to get better. It sounds kind of fun also.

ARJUN

Yeah, this is a common on Leaches, I think there will be a guess the move kind of thing where you play through a game and each move, it just tells you how much worse you were than the best move. I think I haven't done this in a while, but kind of different. But yeah, you're saying something like you just play a game, but then it just tells you whether your move was good or bad without saying what the better move was.

AARON

Or it tells you what your probability or I guess either what the probability is that you're going to win and you see that going up. And then next to that could be the change since previous moves. So it's like 0.6 to one to zero point 62 or whatever, and you see like, oh yeah, that went up, like a decent move or something like that. And then maybe you make a blunder and it goes down or whatever.

ARJUN

Yeah, sure. I mean, then this seems like less feedback than if you just learned which move you should have played, because all you learn is that your move is not good.

AARON

Maybe if you're an excellent player, but if you're not an excellent player, then you're not going to be choosing among choosing among four plausible best moves, and one of them is definitely going to be the best move. It's going to be like you often have a choice of 15 moves or something. And so whether you do the second best or the 15th best.

ARJUN

Those should.

AARON

Be meaningfully, distinguished, I guess.

ARJUN

Wait, say that last part again.

AARON

So you can imagine like 15 possible moves. And if you're like an amateur player, I guess I implicitly am because I don't really play, maybe I should anyway. Yeah, you have the best move or something, which is like ranked one out of 15 and the worst move is ranked 15 out of 15. But you want feedback that distinguishes between making move two out of 15 and move ten out of 15 and move 13 out of 15 and stuff. Like instead of just saying, oh yeah, this is the best move or not the best move.

ARJUN

Yeah, I guess it's a bit like I don't know. I mean, I guess you could do this because I don't know, most of your thinking happens also in important spots. So most of these moves you would sort of be playing the obvious move and then in a few moves you would just want to know which move you should have played, right?

AARON

Yeah. I'm guessing this is probably because you'd have a higher chance than you at the current moment of just playing the best move. And I would think this is, like a rarity rather than a plausible outcome or whatever, because.

ARJUN

Was it a lekin or morphe or somebody? Some journalist asked some world chess champion from the past how many moves he thinks ahead. This is a question people love to ask. How many moves you think ahead? And then usually people like to jokingly answer one because most of the time, they just play the first move that comes into their head or whatever, because it's the only move that seems to make any sense. And it's only occasionally that they have to calculate, whatever, ten moves each ahead, which they're able to do.

AARON

Ten moves? Sounds insane.

ARJUN

Right? Some of those moves will be forced moves, and so they don't actually branch out and stuff like that. Sure, yeah.

AARON

Do you think was chess like an enriching experience or like a dumb signaly experience or both?

ARJUN

I mean, it was pretty good.

AARON

Okay, cool.

ARJUN

Not the best, neither. The worst.

AARON

I don't know. It's the kind of thing that I feel like I'd have a hard time for some reason. Just like I don't know, I feel like I have a hard time getting into it or whatever. It's like, oh, what's the point, dude? Whereas maybe that's not true. I don't know. Maybe I'm like checking stuff out here.

ARJUN

Probably not the optimal hobby.

AARON

I mean no, it's fine. I'm pro hobby. It's fine.

ARJUN

No, I think I like optimal Hobies. Have you read Richard Knows post on the optimal hobby? I could just pull it up and then read from it. But he's trying to pick different Hobies, but he would just like to pick the ones that are best. Some activities are kind of dumb, right. Like, people do ballet as children, but then you can't really do ballet as an adult, and so it just means that it's kind of like a silly choice or whatever, right? I don't know. I played the trombone as a kid, and then it was good to play in marching band. But then I suppose that if I had played the piano, this would have been more practical. I don't even have my trombone with me. It's at my parents house in New York.

AARON

I relate to that. I mean, I played trumpet and stuff. I didn't even like it, but I don't know. Yeah, definitely a waste.

ARJUN

Yeah. Or whatever. And then he talks about sports or whatever, cardio activities, and then he goes through a bunch of them and then rules some of them out, and then he concludes that salsa dancing is the best. Maybe I did cardio activity.

AARON

Yeah. Wait, that sounds like okay. Yeah. I actually respect this type of analysis. I wouldn't go too hard. I wouldn't commit oneself x ante to doing whatever your analysis comes out with. But yeah, this seems like pretty valuable.

ARJUN

Here it is. Here, I can just read a quote from it for some time. Quote at least one of should be a cardio intensive sport for the sake of my health. Some people enjoy running, but I find it very difficult to motivate myself to do endurance sports. I just don't get any runners high. And then he says that he rules out cycling, swimming and rowing because he gets bored or thinks that he has more fast twitch muscles. He says that he could do hiking, scuba diving, kayaking, et cetera, but he doesn't enjoy nature enough for this. The team sports are good, but basketball and volleyball are for tall people, which Richard is not. And then he says that he could play rugby, football or hockey, field hockey. But he says that rugby is too physical for him for his taste. Field hockey is not very common. He might play oh, by football I guess he meant soccer. So he says that he might play soccer casually, but he doesn't want it to be his main sport because if he changes jobs or cities, he would have to find a new team and stuff like that. And second, because he would prefer in the abstract, to have some sort of individual sport where he can take individual responsibility for his win or a loss. He also claims that, thirdly, soccer is not as intense as other sports because you spend most of your time without the ball. That seems kind of a silly take to me, someone who played soccer in high school. He memes on cricket and baseball as just like joke sports. He says he can't imagine himself playing them and then doesn't elaborate. He says that racket sports are good because it's like an individual sport and then you're playing the whole time and so on. Oh, maybe he might have meant, actually, that he's on the bench. That is what he means by not running all the time. Not that he's not running all the time when he's on the field. He says that tennis is the most popular, but quote I never enjoyed it as much as the others because it's easier to hit the ball out, making the average rally significantly shorter. I guess this is a concern, or I don't know, maybe it increases the upfront cost of improvement. He says that squash is his bracket sport of choice, but then after a few decades, he would accumulate knee injuries, so maybe he could play it and then phase it out or something. Then, yeah, water sports and sorry, ice hockey and skiing and stuff, he rules out because it's like he doesn't like these expensive, dangerous, sort of exotic sports that require you to travel to a cold place or water or other strange things. He lists juggling as a cardio sport that he rejects. I'm confused about that. A little bit, but anyway, he ends up with dancing, and then he picks a specific dancing type or whatever you call it based on their prevalence, and then concludes that this is the best thing.

AARON

I'm slightly in the market for a hobby. Not even slightly, I guess, like, moderately. So I'm going to look into salsa dancing now.

ARJUN

You could build AI projects and post them on Twitter.

AARON

That's not a physical. I'm not in need of, like, nerd snipey computer hobbies. I'm in need of actually do something in the world, like touch grass.

ARJUN

Of course, you could pick up the guitar, do some power lifting. Real hobbyists.

AARON

Yeah, true. I was into juggling for a long time, actually. I don't know why. Didn't even give it up. I just sort of stopped doing it gradually or something.

ARJUN

Juggling is not so bad. I can juggle three balls and then do maybe a couple of tricks, like tossing it between my leg or off my head or whatever. I never bother with trying to learn four. I would definitely never bother with trying to learn five because people would not be more impressed. Oh, you could do five.

AARON

No, people are definitely more impressed.

ARJUN

Are they really? I feel like definitely not proportionally to the actual increased difficulty. Maybe they're not even twice as impressed, I feel like. And meanwhile, it's, like, so much harder.

AARON

No, because three is normal. Four is, like, abnormal. I wouldn't be shocked. I'm not that surprised that you can do three. I would be surprised to hear you say you can do four because I don't know, you can't just casually pick up four.

ARJUN

Right, okay. Yeah, maybe you're right.

AARON

I could juggle something up right now. I think I actually tried busking once. Like, $20. It's not worth it over, like, 4 hours or something. This is like in high school.

ARJUN

Yeah. Hobbies. Yeah. Wait, going back to books. Going back to pretending to read books in addition to pretend. So I just said pretending to read them as one way that you could get the social status associated with being a guy who reads lots of books and references them. But I guess you could also optimize for this by reading books that are shorter or like, reading poetry, because poetry is less content. There's less of it.

AARON

Yeah. I don't know. I feel like this is just, like, not people should not I'm pro signaling or signaling is, like, a fact of life. I'm like signaling pills, but people should do less of it. And just, like I wish I don't know. I, like, anti all this.

ARJUN

Fine. Yeah, go ahead.

AARON

Keep going.

ARJUN

Oh, I think I happen to believe that whatever literary or critical rankings of works of literature is basically accurate and not super my I was discussing on Twitter a few weeks ago with somebody about Casablanca, which I rewatched on the train about the degree to which because when I read the Wikipedia page after. It appeared that a bunch of contingent factors made it famous. Like it just happened to be screened at Harvard every year before finals after the war, and this led to people knowing what it was, and then it sort of regained its fame later than after.

AARON

I have, like, zero feel like I've seen posters but never watched it. Don't really know what it's about.

ARJUN

Sure. Wait. I guess the point at the end would have been that this is widely considered the best movie, but then there are a bunch of the plot is kind of OD in some ways, and there are a bunch of factors that seem sort of random that are related to it being famous. Yeah, but I don't think this is true in general. I guess there's a category of books or movies that are famous because they were the first in some respect, and not because they're really good or because they were relevant to some local event that happened around that time, and not because they're really good. Aesthetically. I don't know. I can't think of examples.

AARON

Yeah, I don't know. I feel like for fiction stuff, I'm just extremely in the camp of enjoy whatever you like, don't really care. Maybe you can get into the philosophy of aesthetics and say, but don't really find that that interesting or important. I don't know if you like the movie, it's like you should watch the movie, who cares? Whereas nonfiction, I think, is different. It's like plausibly has externalities in both directions.

ARJUN

Sure. Yeah.

AARON

Are there any nonfiction books that you really do appreciate having read? Or fiction? I guess.

ARJUN

For nonfiction I was going to say the Elephant in the Brain, of course. But then could it have just been a blog post? I mean, I don't know, it's kind of dense, but then I don't know. Some books are dense. Maybe textbooks are the best books. People should just read textbooks. Forget other kinds of books, just read more.

AARON

Yeah, I've never actually done this outside of a class, but I actually kind of think it does, at least for some, for quantitative or I guess formal subjects or whatever, you can't just read them or you probably can't just read them and take notes. Either you need to do stuff or exercises or whatever. I don't know. For some of the social sciences and other stuff. Yeah, it does actually sound I don't know. Yeah, maybe I just should read Intro to Sociology textbook or something. I don't know.

ARJUN

Yeah, there's like an old school less wrong post from like, 2011 or 2013 where the guy tries to curate the best textbooks on every subject and says that reading blog posts about stuff like economics is cringe. You should just read more, like real textbooks.

AARON

I'm pro cringe.

ARJUN

It's a Luke Prague it's a Luke Prague post from 2011 where he's just like he's like, why do you read blog posts, Wikipedia articles, podcast episodes, when you could just read a textbook, do the exercises, and then you would proceed with your life normally.

AARON

Well, okay, so the actual answer to that is that I like listening to podcasts and I don't like reading textbooks, which is like I feel like this is actually very important. I don't know, something that you legit like doing is just like both intrinsically for your quality of life and then also for how much you actually do it is like a huge factor or whatever.

ARJUN

Yeah, I guess so. Yeah, I guess it depends on also whether you're trying to do whether you're trying to consume information with some sort of goal, like whether you're like, oh, I want to learn how to write better. So I'll read a bunch of books on this topic, or I want to understand what Canada is like.

AARON

Yeah, there's different degrees. On one extreme, I have some experience with this from college. There might be part of a class just designed around the content of a book. So one of the books I was made to read that I do appreciate reading was very dense, is a Secular Age by Charles Taylor. I actually didn't read the whole thing, but the class was largely about that book. And then on the other side, you could just have totally undirected, purely aesthetic concerns. And then I guess, I think for me, at least with the things I actually listen to fall in between. I subscribe to things that content I do find generally interesting and I guess useful in some sense. But it's not like super goal directed.

ARJUN

I don't know. Yeah. And then there's the balance, like you said earlier, between optimizing for getting as much information as you can and doing something that's actually pleasant or is compatible with your drive to work or whatever.

AARON

Yeah.

ARJUN

Oh, speaking of audio content, I've been struggling for I'm not struggling anymore. I basically gave up on trying to become an audio content consumer who is always consuming audio content all the time.

AARON

I'm an audio content consumer. Consumer with multiple o's.

ARJUN

Yeah, I was going to say the same thing. I was going to say consumer with multiple o's. It's like oh, look, I'm consuming. But no, I can't seem to get a hang of it. I tried to read listen to audiobooks like novels, but this didn't I don't know, it was just hard to focus or something when I was walking around from place to place or in a car. Even nonfiction was slightly better. Some books are okay, possibly because of the way the book is written or merely because of the way the voice sounds specifically. But I couldn't really get a, um, like, Rob wiflin. I don't listen to his podcast.

AARON

I fucking love the ABK podcast. Okay, keep going.

ARJUN

I got Natural Reader and tried to listen to my daily substack skimming through Natural Reader, and it's like, fine, I guess. I don't know. I can also read faster than I can consume audio content even at like three X.

AARON

Okay, I don't believe that anybody understands audio at three x. I know.

ARJUN

I'm saying that I can read words on page at whatever.

AARON

I wish I was in your position. Honestly, I'm the total opposite. I have no reading comprehension. I have only audio comprehension. That's not literally true, but directionally it is. I don't know, it seems like that's fine. You don't have to consume audio if you don't want to.

ARJUN

But it would be so optimal. I could consume so much. I could just consume all the time.

AARON

I don't know, depends how much walking toward type stuff, right? Probably not all the time.

ARJUN

All the time, right. I could also just sort of but I find podcasts okay to listen to, possibly because podcasts are given in a style that is conducive to listening, like with repetition or certain kinds of speech or something. Or maybe it's just because I'm more tolerant of just not paying close attention to podcasts and not knowing exactly what's going on all the time than I am with a book.

AARON

Yeah, no, I think this is true, but I think it's largely just like our brains are really well designed to pick up conversation and less so. Yeah, books are written not to be read out loud and so there's a fundamental disconnect there.

ARJUN

Yeah, some of it is really like when I first started trying to listen to audio content, it was really tedious to listen to parentheticals that I don't sub vocalize when I read them or whatever. Yeah. Also, I'm pretty sure that when I read text, I jump back right. Briefly, momentarily.

AARON

I'm illiterate. I don't know what you're talking about.

ARJUN

I mean, like when you're reading, your eyes sort of dart back to previous paragraphs or they sort of look at the shape of them or something.

AARON

It's been so long since I've intentionally read something.

ARJUN

Wait, surely you read blogs that you follow at least?

AARON

Which blogs?

ARJUN

Oh, I don't know, I just assumed you were a substac consumer.

AARON

Yes, so I will skim blog posts in terms of actually genuinely making semantic content pass through my brain. It is all in audio form.

ARJUN

Oh, okay. Yeah, well, I was thinking of actually just taking my substac posts when I in the very near future. And this is a commitment post lots in July, and then just sort of say them into a mic. And then a bunch of people said that they would actually consume the content this way when they wouldn't read the post.

AARON

Otherwise I should do this. Actually, maybe I just will today. Like one of them. I don't know. Yeah, no, I also want to keep saying I want to blog more. I don't actually do it. Yeah, I need to figure out how to lower my standards.

ARJUN

Right, that's important because it's like high.

AARON

Quality if I do say so myself.

ARJUN

And so it's like costs are good.

AARON

Yeah, but a lot of this took like, a long time, so it's like a real cost.

ARJUN

People often mention to me my post on taking more stimulants, but not many of the others.

AARON

Do you want to talk about that?

ARJUN

Could I guess? Or maybe after I finish this line, which is that my inclination to write more posts goes up. One, the more I see that posters that are well known or have a lot of followers just write things that are not very good. I can't really think of examples, but I'm just like, I often see post and like, oh, wow, this is it. This is just what he thought up the top of his head and then wrote down. Yeah. And then second, the degree to which I think that it's actually just quantity over quality. If you just post more, you get more clout and it's irrespective of how good they are if you just churn out more. And so I'm like, oh, I should do this. I should just post three times a week. I'll just post a book review every Monday. I mean, I read enough books, I'm sure, or could. Yeah, I don't know. I don't finish books. But if you think of books, like published books, I read a book's length of pages of them pretty frequently. But I think it's good not to finish books because many of them, as we have discussed, are not very useful.

AARON

Oh, wait, we have to talk about the Sleeping Beauty problem. I'm sorry, that's like a requirement. Unless you really don't want to.

ARJUN

Sure, that's fine.

AARON

Okay. But sorry, I was like, pulling up my substac, which is like why that reminded me I cut you off.

ARJUN

Oh, what was I going to say? Oh, yeah, I was going to say yeah, my inclination to post more increases, basically. I mean, it makes sense that it increases as I become more confident that I could do it well, which is increasing because it seems easier than I thought to just post more, be more energetic about it.

AARON

Yeah, I explicitly endorse this.

ARJUN

Yeah. Wait, what if I actually just post tons, right, because people have different kinds. People post insight porn, right, which is where they have some sort of idea that's like novelry and then a toy model of it. But then people also post book reviews. People also post just lists of things that they saw on the Internet that week. Right? And and so if you write these kinds of posts, you can really just churn them out, and then all you need is I mean, you don't need it to be a large percentage of all the people who look at your blog, but even a small percentage of them who just sort of like all of your content and just like hearing you talk, I mean, I like hearing myself talk, so it stands to reason that other people also like hearing me talk.

AARON

Of course, no, but yes. Let me look at what are my top posts? I'm glancing at this right now.

ARJUN

Is it the Ivy League thing? Yeah. Did you see my stuff? I buy and use post. It starts with a really long list of other such posts.

AARON

Wait.

ARJUN

It'S an absurdly long list of every other such post that I found on the Internet.

AARON

Okay. This is such an effort post, though. So this is kind of I mean, it is what it is, right? I guess effort posts, all else equal, are better. Most IB smart students are not at IBT schools. Wait, how many Pews does this substac keeps trying to get me to ask people for money. Nobody wants to pay for my writing?

ARJUN

No, you have to sell them associated products.

AARON

Right?

ARJUN

You have to be like Richard Hanania and charge people $150 to just speak to him for 30 minutes.

AARON

If anybody wants to talk to me for 30 minutes, I will charge only $149.

ARJUN

Wow.

AARON

Actually, realistically, I don't know, I feel like as long as you're willing to accept that I might cancel within an hour before I will charge.

ARJUN

That's the only cost. The only cost is that it might not happen, but otherwise it's free.

AARON

No, honestly? Yes. I don't know, unless it's something where maybe there's another category of things where it's boring or I can actually have reason to squeeze out money or something. And then I would charge like, $30 half an hour or something like that. This has, like 3.4 thousand views. It's just, like, not very many. What's my minimal? I think I see 51. No, but those are podcast things that I just posted subsequent for no reason. 135, 100, and 779. I have 69 views. Yeah, but this is like my second post is, like, terrible. Not deleting it. That's 69 views. Zero new subs. Okay, sorry, this is, like, not relevant. Do you want to talk about Sleeping Beauty problem? And also why I think that my reply to you on my substac was actually bad and wrong, but I'm still right overall.

ARJUN

Okay, yeah. Wait. I posted a comment and you replied, and then I think that the conclusion was something like oh, to simplify if you're the experimenter and then you have two subjects, and then suppose that one of them the coin flips heads, the other one the coin flips tails, and then you take even money on the bet, then you'll just lose money. Because the second person I don't remember which is which in the Sleeping Beauty problem, but the second one will get paid twice, and then you will only get paid once.

AARON

Yes, I think I might have a more formalized response written somewhere, but basically, bettingons just are not the definition of probability in most situations in life, they go together. In this one, they don't. That's like the actual thing I should have said and I made, like, a fake reply. So ignore what I said before, I'm like, actually yes, the coin flip. It's like it's a fair coin. It's like one half, it doesn't really matter. So I think, like the analog I was thinking of, it's like okay, so let's say we have a bet and then I'm going to flip a fair coin right? Now, if it lands, whatever. Basically, you can choose which side you want to bet on. But if you lose, I point a gun at your head and I make you wager twice the amount. Retroactively, it's like, okay, well then it's not fair anymore. The probability is still one half either way, but I could just impose some condition that makes the betting ODS just not work out anymore. And in particular when the outcome is correlated with the amount being wagered, which in this case it effectively is, it just doesn't check out. Sorry. I've also thought way more about this than probably every other thing.

ARJUN

I haven't thought about this very much and I didn't quite follow your remarks just now, but I guess my position would be something like my unconsidered position is something like I'm not sure what exactly probability means, independent of what you would independent of expected utility or whatever, or independent of what you would bet. So if you agree that you wouldn't take even money if you walked into the room and saw somebody wake up, then I'm satisfied with whatever other statements you want to make about the probability.

AARON

I think there's a lot of things besides that. There's the Everettian, so that's like multiverse interpretations, which I think actually works out really well. And there's just like an extremely common sense thing in which yeah, I am expecting it to expecting heads as much as I'm expecting tails deep in my bones. And you know what? You're not going to convince me that's like fake or not. Like a legit. I mean, I don't know about legit, but it's reflecting some real deep fundamental thing about probability. Oh, and also I forgot about this. You just plug it into Bayes formula, get one half just how it works. I don't know, base formula seems pretty good. Or base theorem.

ARJUN

Wait. So to clarify, if you knew how this experiment was being run and that it was being run here in my house and then you came to Berkeley, and then you walked into the room, but you didn't know what day it was. You just walked into the room knowing that the experiment was taking place and that you showed up on either the first day or the second.

AARON

So is this just like the sleeping duty thing where I am sleeping duty.

ARJUN

Or yeah. Wait, this is a simpler way to say it. I was just trying more concrete.

AARON

No, it's fine. Wait. Yeah, I guess the answer to what is my actual belief about the probability that the coin landed heads is wait, this doesn't matter.

ARJUN

Let's say you're participating in the experiment. Yeah, and then you wake up and then I offer you a bet on what day it is.

AARON

Well, where does the bet the bet isn't part of the bet isn't part of the problem.

ARJUN

But then wait, even though it's not part of the problem, could you say what odds you would accept on the bet? You could say that it's one third and then still say that in some other meaningful sense.

AARON

I guess the probability is actually I think that's basically it. That's basically it. But here wait, my comeback is the analog here is that, okay, instead of waking up twice, you wake up once, but if you lose the bet, I just force you to double the amount that is isometric to what is going on in the sleeping Beauty problem. Or like, I force you to double the amount that is wagered if and only if you lose it's. Like, okay, I don't know, what should you what am I even trying to say here? That's definitely analogous in some sense. I'm having a little trouble formalizing it. Like exactly how.

ARJUN

I'm not sure. I haven't thought about this very much. The vague comment that I said earlier that besides the bet question, I'm not sure what the meaningful question is is basically the entirety of my intuition. And then also I guess that third and then third is the answer to that question. So it makes sense to me that it would be the answer to this question.

AARON

Yeah, okay, we're probably not going to solve this. One thing I did find interesting was that people just had the opposite intuition about the infinity or the countable. Actually, somebody pointed out to me the countable infinity thing gets weird because there's like the fact that you never actually wake up or the experiment never actually ends. But if you just say like, okay, no, instead of two versus one wake up days, we used to ten to the ten to the ten wake up days versus one. And some people really have the intuition that, okay, waking up, you should basically be basically just be absolutely certain that it landed tails. Like, that you're in the world in which you're like in one of the ten to the ten to the ten days where you wake up. And I do not share that intuition at all. No, there's some very intuitive sense there's like a one half chance that the coin landed heads and then you're just like in the other world, you're not in the ten to the ten to the ten world. But I don't know, I can't really argue it's hard to argue it in formal or propositional terms.

ARJUN

I guess. Is there a close analogy that I can think of in a matter of seconds that would cause you to have the opposite intuition? I mean, I could try to think of one. Like if there's a 50% chance that I give you a penny and then a 50% chance if the coin flips the other way that I give you, whatever, a million pennies, and then later somebody sees a penny blow out of the room because there's a strong wind that tends to sometimes blow pennies out of the room.

AARON

No, that is not analogous anymore. But that is only analogous if you assume that the world is such that exactly you must at that moment be observing a penny blowing out of the room. Which is like, not true.

ARJUN

But you are well, I mean, in your case, you exist or whatever.

AARON

My brain is, like, tangled up. I don't even remember. I lost track of anything. Okay, philosophical question.

ARJUN

So I made the claim, as I am want to do, I mean, making claims in general, not the specific claim of stimulants, that taking stimulants is arguably one of the best longevity interventions that you could have. Because suppose that each day you spend 90 minutes out of your, whatever, 16 waking hours sort of not really doing anything on purpose. You just sort of wonder where the time went. You're not really getting much done. But then you take some sort of stimulant and then you recover that time in the sense that you're able to act purposefully, to do some sort of thing on purpose that you wanted to do. Then you could argue that essentially your life got 9% longer or whatever. What's, 90 minutes over 16 hours? I think it's like nine, nine and a half. But then some people at this dinner party or similar event had some sort of philosophical objection where they agreed with the facts that I said, but they said that they don't consider their life as being composed of the things that they do on purpose, but just sort of like the fact that they are having experiences.

AARON

Yeah, I think from an altruistic perspective or from an extrinsic perspective, like your effect on the world, like, the former seems right. But no, I share in terms of how long I actually see myself as living. It seems proportional to quality of time, not intentional time. I don't know. But the former is still important for other reasons.

ARJUN

Right. A friend said something like, oh, are there experiences that you routinely have that you would pay that you would accept a very small amount of money to just, whatever, be a p zombie for that time? Suppose that you drive to work for 30 minutes every day and you would accept like, a pretty small amount of money to just, in fact, the opposite.

AARON

Yeah, I would pay for some there's painful bad experiences I would pay to avoid.

ARJUN

Sure. Actually, yeah. So I guess this is a more general situation to put in. So?

AARON

Yeah.

ARJUN

I don't know. But then also, I think this whole measuring longevity based on in a sort of contrived way makes a bunch of other calculations kind of weird. Right?

AARON

Like, there's the mandrived way.

ARJUN

Oh, I mean, like where instead of saying the normal sense in which you live longer by, for example, living to a longer age or like being healthier for a longer age instead, that you effectively live longer because you spend more minutes awake.

AARON

It feels very semantic. It's like I don't know whether you want to call it living longer or just like, I don't know, living better or something.

ARJUN

It's like yeah. Or like there's the Amanda Askel essay somewhere where she says that the way people talk about sleep ignores the huge fact that the more you sleep, the less time you spend awake. Right. If you sleep an hour longer, your life just got 6% shorter. There are benefits to sleeping an hour more, but then you have to weigh them against that. Interventions, sleep interventions in the same light, like, whatever, wearing a sleep mask or sleeping at the same time every day have benefits not only in your quality of life, but also essentially in your lifespan, since you can sleep less hours and sleep fewer hours and get the same sleep quality.

AARON

Yeah, no, I think that checks out. I think that's important. I do wish that I was just like one of the people that could sleep 4 hours or whatever.

ARJUN

Oh, yeah, one of those short sleepers. Yeah. They effectively live 25% longer.

AARON

Damn.

ARJUN

Yeah, that's wild.

AARON

It's wild that some people, in an evolutionary sense that it's possible but not universal, I guess, or something like that.

ARJUN

Sure. I don't know, whatever sense. In another sense, this is sort of just like change, right, Pennies? Because if you sleep 30 minutes more or less, this amounts to, what, a year? What's, 30 minutes a day times 365 days times 60 years divided by 60 minutes per hour divided by one or two years, 24 hours per day divided by yeah, like nothing. I mean, not nothing, but it's like this is overwhelmed by the compounding effects of having your career be slightly better or something. Or your personal development or whatever.

AARON

Yeah. So I can cut this part. I'm, like, slightly running out of steam, so we can also keep recording some other time, but I might say, like, wrapping up and not super long. Is that okay?

ARJUN

Sounds good.

AARON

So are there any topics you're dying ahead or takes you want to get out into the world?

ARJUN

Not really. Yeah, I've been thinking about the book thing and the blogging thing for some.

AARON

Okay, cool. Now I'm making this the thing that everybody, every podcast has to have a thing at the end, they have their special.

ARJUN

Oh, you mean like overrated or underrated?

AARON

Yeah, something like that. As Recline did, like the top books or whatever. So my thing is like, what is your 90% confidence interval on the number of views this episode gets at the limit as time goes to infinity.

ARJUN

Oh, wait, let me pull up your spotify and I can get some data. What is this podcast called? The pigeon pigeon hour. Here it is. Yes.

AARON

What data are you going to get?

ARJUN

Who is going to watch this whole thing anyway?

AARON

Duffy, I think. Matt. Matt from Twitter. Hello. Shout out to everybody who's listening. If you're listening, shout out to the.

ARJUN

Two people we've identified to possibly be listening.

AARON

I think when I checked I checked a couple of days ago, I had like a couple dozen, I think show.

ARJUN

On Spotify how many views it has. But you said that episode, the first episode has a couple.

AARON

Wait, maybe I can just check right now. Yeah, wait, let me just see if I can check for podcast.

ARJUN

Yeah, I mean, I don't know, off the top of my head, I guess there's a pretty long.

AARON

Okay.

ARJUN

Trail at the end.

AARON

32 plays. It is a couple of dozen kind of okay.

ARJUN

Yeah.

AARON

That's only on spotify, though. There are potentially other maybe it's 50 total or something.

ARJUN

Okay, so considering I don't know, I would say ten to 200.

AARON

Yeah, no, I feel like the tail sound good. Yeah, I would say like ten to ten to like 2000 or something.

ARJUN

If your podcast becomes famous, then people will backlash.

AARON

It doesn't have to be that famous to get 2000 Views isn't that much.

ARJUN

Not for the episode. I don't think the episode is going to become viral for any reason. I was saying more that if your podcast yeah.

AARON

For sure. But it doesn't have to become Lunar Society famous to get the boot or to get to 2000 Views or whatever. It could become like mildly other, mildly, slightly better known. Anyway. Okay, it has been a pleasure, Arjun.

ARJUN

Yes, likewise. Yeah. I'll catch you around when I'm in DC. Or you should just move here to the bay.

AARON

Yes, I will maybe do that. Probably not, but maybe. You never know. Okay.

ARJUN

All right, cool. See ya. See ya.

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