Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 393

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. I welcome your suggestions. If you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

This is volume 393, which I find interesting because it only has two factors: 131 and 3.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Some AI thoughts
    • The Waluigi Effect (mega-post) (Cleo Nardo, Less Wrong): “Here’s an example — in 101 Dalmations, we meet a pair of protagonists (Roger and Anita) who love dogs, show compassion, seek simple pleasures, and want a family. Can you guess who will turn up in Act One? Yep, at 13:00 we meet Cruella De Vil — she hates dogs, shows cruelty, seeks money and fur, is a childless spinster, etc. Cruella is the complete inversion of Roger and Anita. She is the waluigi of Roger and Anita. Recall that you expected to meet a character with these traits moreso after meeting the protagonists. Cruella De Vil is not a character you would expect to find outside of the context of a Disney dog story, but once you meet the protagonists you will have that context and then the Cruella becomes a natural and predictable continuation. [And since LLMs are all about continuation, simulated Cruellas emerge predictably.]”
      • This was easily the most interesting thing I read this week. A very clever argument.
    • Why am I not terrified of AI? (Scott Aaronson, personal blog): “In the Orthodox AI-doomers’ own account, the paperclip-maximizing AI would’ve mastered the nuances of human moral philosophy far more completely than any human—the better to deceive the humans, en route to extracting the iron from their bodies to make more paperclips. And yet the AI would never once use all that learning to question its paperclip directive. I acknowledge that this is possible. I deny that it’s trivial.”
      • The author is a CS prof from UT who works at OpenAI
  2. Why the Mental Health of Liberal Girls Sank First and Fastest (Jonathan Haidt, Substack): “We are now 11 years into the largest epidemic of adolescent mental illness ever recorded. I know so many families that have been thrown into fear and turmoil by a child’s suicide attempt. You probably do too, given that the recent CDC report tells us that one in ten adolescents now say they have made an attempt to kill themselves. It is hitting all political and demographic groups. The evidence is abundant that social media is a major cause of the epidemic, and perhaps the major cause. It’s time we started treating social media and other apps designed for ‘engagement’ (i.e., addiction) like alcohol, tobacco, and gambling, or, because they can harm society as well as their users, perhaps like automobiles and firearms.”
    • A well-written and distressing summary of the current state of adolescent and young adult mental health. The author is a social psychologist at NYU.
    • Related: Review of 1,039 studies indicates exercise can be more effective than counselling or medication for depression (Ben Singh, Carol Maher, & Jacinta Brinsley, PsyPost): “When comparing the size of the benefits of exercise to other common treatments for mental health conditions from previous systematic reviews, our findings suggest exercise is around 1.5 times more effective than either medication or cognitive behaviour therapy.”
      • I expect this will be contested in future studies. Fascinating, though. The authors are all at the University of South Australia. The lead author seems to be the Australian equivalent of a MD/PhD.
    • Related: Lynching the Deplorables (Chris Hedges, Substack): “The Jan. 6 protestors were not the first to occupy Congressional offices, including Nancy Pelosi’s office. Young environmental activists from the Sunrise Movement, anti-war activists from Code Pink and even congressional staffers have engaged in numerous occupations of congressional offices and interrupted congressional hearings. What will happen to groups such as Code Pink if they occupy congressional offices with Republicans in control of the White House, the Congress and the courts? Will they be held for years in pretrial detention? Will they be given lengthy prison terms based on dubious interpretations of the law? Will they be considered domestic terrorists? Will protests and civil disobedience become impossible?”
      • This is a sane and sobering essay.
  3. Testing Common Theories on the Relationship Between Premarital Sex and Marital Stability (Jesse Smith and Nicholas H. Wolfinger): “The table below shows the wide range of variables we used to try to explain the relationship between premarital sex partners and divorce. Do any of them matter? The answer is a clear no. Without controls, people with premarital partners are 161% more likely to dissolve their marriages compared to people who tie the knot as virgins. In other words, premarital sex increases the chances of divorce between twofold and threefold. After including the laundry list of covariates shown in the table, the odds of divorce remain 151% higher—in other words, a statistical artifact away from being identical.”
    • This falls into the category of “research which is obviously true but which many people wish to disbelieve”
  4. Some COVID thoughts:
    • Covid backlash hobbles public health and future pandemic response (Lauren Weber and Joel Achenbach, Washington Post): “When the next pandemic sweeps the United States, health officials in Ohio won’t be able to shutter businesses or schools, even if they become epicenters of outbreaks. Nor will they be empowered to force Ohioans who have been exposed to go into quarantine. State officials in North Dakota are barred from directing people to wear masks to slow the spread. Not even the president can force federal agencies toissuevaccination or testing mandates to thwart its march.”
      • America usually comes through in the end. The article is super-angsty about all this, but I view it as an inevitable response to administrative overreach and also a fundamentally good thing. Distributed power is safer power.
    • Related: When a Renegade Church and a Zealous County Health Department Collide (David Zweig, Substack): “…extensive legal documents, totaling more than a thousand pages, reveal a county, and its health department, that went to extraordinary, and potentially unlawful, lengths to enforce its decrees. These efforts include levying more than $2 million in fines against Calvary, and a multi-faceted surveillance program of the church and its members, breathtaking in scope and reminiscent of totalitarian regimes, rather than an American county health department — the spy operation included stakeouts, forced in-person monitoring of prayer groups and other intimate activities, and tracking the cellular mobility data of churchgoers.”
      • The details in here are pretty wild. The comments are interesting — one of the pastors of a neighboring church disputes part of the account, but the author is like, “I’ve read sworn affidavits testifying to the contrary.”
      • So much going on — my main takeaway is that it really was worse in Santa Clara County than almost anywhere else in America. The technocrats felt empowered to an absurd degree.
    • Having said that: Here’s Why the Science Is Clear That Masks Work (Zeynep Tufekci, New York Times): “Brown, who led the Cochrane review’s approval process, told me that mask mandates may not be tenable now, but he has a starkly different feeling about their effects in the first year of a pandemic. ‘Mask mandates, social distancing, the other shutdowns we had in terms of even restaurants and things like that — if places like New York City didn’t do that, the number of deaths would have been much higher,” he told me. “I’m very confident of that statement.’ So the evidence is relatively straightforward: Consistently wearing a mask, preferably a high-quality, well-fitting one, provides protection against the coronavirus.”
  5. Earnings Are Greater and Increasing in Occupations That Require Intellectual Tenacity (Christos Makridis, Louis Hickman & Benjamin Manning, SSRN): “…we identify two broad occupational personality requirements, which we label intellectual tenacity and social adjustment. Intellectual tenacity encompasses achievement/effort, persistence, initiative, analytical thinking, innovation, and independence. Social adjustment encompasses emotion regulation, concern for others, social orientation, cooperation, and stress tolerance. Both occupational personality requirements relate similarly to occupational employment growth between 2007 and 2019. However, among over 10 million respondents to the American Community Survey, jobs requiring intellectual tenacity pay higher wages…”
    • Christos is one of our alumni.
  6. Sam Bankman-Fried is under house arrest at Stanford. Students are obsessed. (Lisa Bonos, Washington Post): “The university seems keen to play down his presence. Officially, the university doesn’t talk about Bankman-Fried. Stanford Law School didn’t respond to requests for comment. When asked whether they could confirm a rumor that a nearby student co-op had attacked the Bankman-Fried home with eggs, Stanford campus police did not respond.”
    • I have unlocked the paywall for this article.
  7. Dropping the SAT Requirement Is a Luxury Belief (Rob K. Henderson, Substack): “Columbia University, has just become the first Ivy League school to permanently abandon the SAT/ACT requirement for college admission. Elite colleges are eliminating standardized tests before they eliminate legacy admissions. Tells you all you need to know.…  Standardized testing should be freely available and compulsory for all high school students.”
    • This is 100% true.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have Stop Being Shocked (Bari Weiss, Tablet): “The hatred we experience on campus has nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s because Jews defy anti-racist ideology simply by existing. So it’s not so much that Zionism is racism. It’s that Jewishness is.“ From volume 272.

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In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world. I pray this email gives you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.


Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent. Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it. If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

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