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Comment author: Sarunas 29 August 2014 10:11:59PM *  7 points [-]

I would also expect that Latvia gives it's minorities certain rights because it's legally obliged to do so under EU law that Ukraine didn't.

This isn't directly relevant to the discussion, but if Russia were ever to attack Latvia, their excuse would probably precisely be the treatment of ethnic Russians. It is, in fact, a recurring theme in Russian media.

The reason for this is that in order to be eligible for a full citizenship one is required to pass Latvian language competency and Latvian history exams. What is more, Latvia allows dual citizenship, but only if the other citizenship is of a country that belongs to the list that is specified by a law. Russia is not on the list.

Citizens of the former USSR who possess neither Latvian nor other citizenship who live in Latvia are eligible for a non-citizen passport. They are allowed to naturalize provided they pass the aforementioned exams. However, for various reasons many are unwilling (few are unable) to do so. For example, traveling to Russia is easier for a non-citizen than a citizen of Latvia. However, it is easier to work and travel in the Schengen Area if one is a non-citizen of Latvia than a citizen of Russia. Thus some people might find it disadvantageous to choose one citizenship (in their day-to-day lives traveling is more important than having the right to vote).

How such an unusual situation came into existence? If I understand correctly, in early 1990s Latvia desperately tried to avoid breakaway regions, because in 1989 only 49% of the non-Latvian population supported the idea of the independence of Latvia (the number of Latvians supporting the idea made up 93%). It should be noted that, according to wikipedia, such situation is not without a precedent:

Peter Van Elsuwege, a scholar in European law at Ghent University, states that the Latvian law is grounded upon the established legal principle that persons who settle under the rule of an occupying power gain no automatic right to nationality. A number of historic precedents support this, according to Van Elsuwege, most notably the case of Alsace-Lorraine when the French on recovering the territory in 1918 did not grant citizenship to German settlers despite Germany having annexed the territory 47 years earlier in 1871.

However, as you can imagine, the fact that these non-citizens (mostly Russians) do not have voting rights is a target of outrage in Russian media. Furthermore, many ethnic Russians in Latvia watch a lot of it and this results in them having different opinions (about e.g. situation in Ukraine) than ethnic Latvians. However, it is not clear whether they would actually support Russia in the case of armed conflict.

Please note that I'm neither Latvian, nor an expert on Latvian law, therefore the story above may contain some inaccuracies. Still, LW readers might find it helpful for their probability estimates of potential wars and/or other events.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 31 August 2014 04:15:56PM 0 points [-]

Thank you. I'd wondered about whether ethnic Russians were actually being mistreated, though this doesn't answer the question of whether they were being mistreated in Ukraine.

The next question is whether they've being treated differently now that Russia is doing some invading.

Comment author: shminux 29 August 2014 05:37:38PM 1 point [-]

Something like that, yes. I was talking about Russian tanks openly rolling across the border. But Putin found a way to do effectively the same without being so brazen. Which was one of the factors I missed.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 31 August 2014 04:11:33PM 0 points [-]

I'll going to look at the rationality skill of being able to tell whether you've anchored on a prototype. Has this already been explored?

Comment author: DanArmak 30 August 2014 10:28:28PM *  3 points [-]

"The stronger must dominate and not mate with the weaker, which would signify the sacrifice of its own higher nature. Only the born weakling can look upon this principle as cruel, and if he does so it is merely because he is of a feebler nature and narrower mind; for if such a law did not direct the process of evolution then the higher development of organic life would not be conceivable at all."

Strip away the slightly overblown rhetoric, and you're left with Social Darwinism: the idea that desirable traits, or "fitness", is strongly heritable on the individual and therefore also the societal level. And racism: the idea that humans can be grouped into discrete categories the differences between which are much greater than the differences between individuals within each group.

Hitler and other Nazi thinkers made a lot of factual errors: mixing genetic/biological and memetic/cultural evolution together and even declaring them inseparable, greatly overstating the discreteness of races, and going against psychometric facts in declaring Jews to be vastly intellectually inferior. But scientific errors, which were not all that glaring given the 1920s state of knowledge and its popularization, and committed by a poorly educated non-scientist, do not make one "deranged" (i.e. crazy in some sense). And very many people in all nations in the 1920s, including some very smart ones, would have agreed with most of his statements, if not necessarily with the specific racial hierarchy he proposed.

The elevation of social Darwinism and racism into an ethical code was also not really unique and certainly I wouldn't call it "deranged", when contrasted with some other popular ideologies and ethical theories of the time (e.g. Communism through revolution, or Anarchism by Propaganda of the Deed, or even the divine right of kings, which only really died in Europe in WW1).

"the personification of the devil as the symbol of all evil assumes the living shape of the Jew."

I don't know whether to call it "deranged" or not. We would need to taboo the word. I do know it is far from original and was a common sentiment among many Christians.

"For how shall we fill people with blind faith in the correctness of a doctrine, if we ourselves spread uncertainty and doubt by constant changes in its outward structure? ...Here, too, we can learn by the example of the Catholic Church. Though its doctrinal edifice, and in part quite superfluously, comes into collision with exact science and research, it is none the less unwilling to sacrifice so much as one little syllable of its dogmas... it is only such dogmas which lend to the whole body the character of a faith."

I really don't see what's wrong here; it's a sound instrumental prescription. Is the entire Catholic Church "deranged" for following this rule?

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 31 August 2014 04:06:04PM 0 points [-]

Strip away the slightly overblown rhetoric, and you're left with Social Darwinism: the idea that desirable traits, or "fitness", is strongly heritable on the individual and therefore also the societal level.

There's at least one more error-- the idea that you can tell in advance what "fitness" is going to be, so that you can select among human traits to optimize for the future.

Comment author: byrnema 29 August 2014 04:21:43PM -1 points [-]

Your comment is well-received. I'm continuing to to think about it and what this means for finding reliable media sources.

My impression of journalists has always been that they would be fairly idealistic about information and communicating that information to be attracted to their profession. I also imagine that their goals are constantly antagonized by the goals of their bosses, that do want to make money, and probably it is the case that the most successful sell-out or find a good trade-off that is not entirely ideal for them or the critical reader.

I'll link this article by Michael Volkmann, a disillusioned journalist.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 29 August 2014 06:21:54PM 1 point [-]

The link is making a different argument-- it says the problem isn't with the journalists or with their bosses, it's that the public isn't paying attention to the stories journalists are risking their necks to get.

Comment author: knb 29 August 2014 10:06:46AM *  8 points [-]

The analogies are much deeper here than merely "he is a guy we don't like, therefore Hitler". Things that happen inside Russia are also very disturbing -- I am trying to ignore politics, and I usually don't care about what happens in Russia, but some news still get to me -- Putin's supporters are openly nationalist, racist, homophobic, pretty much everything you associate with fascism, he has a strong support of the Orthodox Church, journalists who criticize him are assassinated.

All of these things also apply to the other examples I mentioned, and many other countries besides. People said the same things about Saddam, Qaddafi, Assad, etc. Putin is of course saying similar things about his Ukrainian enemies to what you are saying about him. (Admittedly, they make it easy for him.)

There is no shortage of historical examples of historical revanchism, yet the "Hitler in 1939" analogy utterly dominates. So why rely 100% on one analogy. Why insist on using the example that is the closest stand-in for "evil psychopath who cannot be reasoned with, but must be destroyed utterly?"

Probably because you're in the midst of a media driven two-minutes hate. History begins and ends with Hitler, 1939!

(Seriously, your standard for being Hitleresque is being racist, homophobic, and nationalistic? It might be a fun exercise for you to write down a list of 100 historical leaders, determine how many were/were not racist, homophobic, or nationalistic. This will give you your Hitler/non-Hitler ratio. Do you think the ratios of Hitlers : non-Hitlers is greater or less than 1?)

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 29 August 2014 03:29:50PM 0 points [-]

Seriously, your standard for being Hitleresque is being racist, homophobic, and nationalistic?

Not just being nationalistic, not just being expansionist, but actually taking territory.

Comment author: Jurily 27 August 2014 11:10:08PM 1 point [-]

Is there a name for the following pattern?

  • Argument or just noticing confusion
  • "He looks way too confident, he's probably better at the field or has significant information"
  • Catastrophic failure more or less matching my predictions

I seem to run into this a lot lately, but the alternative of assuming I'm correct seems even worse. I'm also often not in a position to ask about the source of their confidence.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 28 August 2014 01:34:46AM 0 points [-]

Would you care to post some predictions?

Comment author: shminux 27 August 2014 11:26:03PM *  3 points [-]

Patrick McKenzie explains a bit more why he hates bitcoin:

My feelings about Bitcoin remind me of a fractal. Its a bad idea, and you zoom in at any part of it and discover new bad ideas, and there is in fact infinite resolution on how bad those ideas get. I have been working on a Why I Dislike Bitcoin For Technical Reasons essay for almost a year and cannot just hit publish because I dont know if ill ever be able to finish it.

Lets talk non-technical reasons.

When will I add support for crypto-currencies? Well, I sell a variety of products and services at price points between $29.95 and $30,000 a week, almost exclusively to professional Americans, with a small portion of the business being B2C and the larger part being B2B. I would accept Bitcoin if it were in demand from my customers. It isnt. It never will be because taking payment for legal products from the global rich is straightforward.

If you, like me, want to sell software, get a Stripe account and youre done. If you cant code sufficiently then use Gumroad or one of the numerous e-commerce systems and youre done. You will, at no point, have to explain to a Kansas schoolteacher (who thinks Internet Explorer is called the blue Googles) what crypto currency is, why she needs to download a new program to pay you, why she needs to give a company shes never heard of which isnt you withdraw access to her bank account to buy Scary Internet Voodoo, or how to process a novel transaction type shes never had to deal with before. You just get her to put in one of the several visa cards she has in her pocket.

But wait Patrick. You routinely transfer tens of thousands of dollars from the US to Japan. Wouldnt Bitcoin make that fast and easy?

No. Wire transfers are fast and easy  annoyingly expensive, to be true ($50 in fees plus the currency slippage), but J->US takes 45 minutes and US->J takes 48 hours. Throwing Bitcoin in the mix introduces numerous sources of risk. The odds-on place to do business for them in Japan  which people told me I should go get a job at (!)  is currently undergoing bankruptcy proceedings after losing about half a billion dollars of depositors money. If one of my $50k transfers had been tied up there, well, thats all she wrote for that, but at least I saved $50 on wire fees?

Asking my clients to acquire Bitcoin and pay me in them, which cuts out Bitcoin exchanges from the value chain, is a poor use of my time. Large companies, like the ones which happily pay $X0,000 invoices, will not do it. Full stop. To the extent that I want to change their minds about processes which are deep in the sinews of their company, it should not be their Accounts Payable department but rather their Marketing department, and after successfully implementing my ideas (which, unlike Bitcoin, will make them a lot of money) I will send in an invoice for a huge amount of money and predictably receive it.

> But Patrick, isnt Bitcoin a great platform for remittances? No, its a terrible platform for remittances because 98% of the problem of remittances is what is called in networks the Last Quarter Mile Problem and Bitcoin has no infrastructure for solving it on either end of the remittance and, even if they did, would not find themselves cost-competitive with Western Union. (The part between the last quarter miles being close-to-free doesnt help. Western Union can transfer money internally for close-to-free. The supermajority of their costs is maintaining an office which someone can go to in abuelitas village. Seriously, check their annual report.)

The above does not apply if you want to acquire nootropics from a questionable source overseas.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 28 August 2014 01:34:00AM 6 points [-]

Most of Patrick's arguments against Bitcoin are actually against offering Bitcoin exclusively rather than against offering Bitcoin as an option, probably with an added fee.

Comment author: cameroncowan 27 August 2014 06:46:57AM 0 points [-]

The actual medical knowledge is still requires but if you know the roots of things you can learn a great deal. The medical knowledge will give you meaning these can be quickly researched. In this day and time the ability to know a great deal of something requires only simple searches. I make a list of things to search all the time regular reading a research is Aristotelian.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 27 August 2014 02:27:03PM *  0 points [-]

Could you unpack that last sentence? I can't make sense of it. Aristotelian?

My procedure for coming up with search terms is to vaguely imagine a boring piece of writing about the subject I'm interested in, and then look for the least common words from it. If that doesn't work, then loosely mull for words inspired by the results that came up in the unsatisfactory searches.

Comment author: cameroncowan 26 August 2014 07:02:41PM 0 points [-]

Why not then just get a working knowledge of those languages? I had classical education and so I took latin and greek. I also speak some german as well as a working and halting conversational knowledge of french. When you have that you can understand the latin root from a word like ambulate or return.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 26 August 2014 08:44:44PM 3 points [-]

A working knowledge of the languages is a much larger project. I'm moderately good at figuring out medical terms, but that doesn't mean I can do more than guessing at translations of text.

Comment author: KnaveOfAllTrades 26 August 2014 01:10:00PM *  5 points [-]

Yep, I find the world a much less confusing place since I learned capitals and location on map. I had (and to some extent still do have) a mental block on geography which was ameliorated by it.

Rundown of positive and negative results:

In a similar but lesser way, I found learning English counties (and to an even lesser extent, Scottish counties) made UK geography a bit less intimidating. I used this deck because it's the only one on the Anki website I found that worked on my old-ass phone; it has a few howlers and throws some cities in there to fuck with you, but I learned to love it.

I suspect that learning the dates of monarchs and Prime Ministers (e.g. of England/UK) would have a similar benefit in contextualising and de-intimidating historical facts, but I never finished those decks and haven't touched them in a while, so never reached the critical mass of knowledge that allowed me to have a good handle on periods of British history. I found it pretty difficult to (for example) keep track of six different Georges and map each to dates, so slow progress put me off. Let me know if you're interested and want to set up a pact, e.g. 'We'll both do at least ten cards from each deck a day and report back to the other regularly' or something. In fact that offer probably stands for any readers.

I installed some decks for learning definitions in areas of math that I didn't know, but found memorising decontextualised definitions hard enough that I wasn't motivated to do it, given everything else I was doing and Anki-ing at the time. I still think repeat exposure to definitions might be a useful developmental strategy for math that nobody seems to be using deliberately and systematically, but I'm not sure Anki is a right way to do it. Or if it is, that shooting so far ahead of my current knowledge was the best way to do it. Similarly a LaTeX deck I got having pretty much never used LaTeX and not practising it while learning the deck.

Canadian provinces/territories I have not yet found useful beyond feeling good for ticking off learning the deck, which was enough for me since I did them in a session or two.

Languages Spoken in Each Country of the World (I was trying to do not just country-->languages but country-->languages with proportions of population speaking the languages) was so difficult and unrewarding in the short term that I lost motivation extremely quickly (this was months ago). The mental association between 'Berber' and 'North Africa' has come up a surprising number of times, though. Most recently yesterday night.

Periodic table (symbol<--->name, name<-->number) took lots of time and hasn't been very useful for me personally (I pretty much just learned it in preparation for a quiz). Learning just which elements are in which groups/sections of the Periodic table might be more useful and a lot quicker (since by far the main difficulty was name<--->number).

I am relatively often wanting for demographic and economic data, e.g. population of countries, population of major world cities, population of UK places, GDP's. Ideally I'd not just do this for major places since I want to get a good intuitive sense of these figures for very large or major places on down to tiny places.

Similarly if one has a hobby horse it could be useful. Examples off the top of my head (not necessarily my hobby horse): Memorising the results from the LessWrong surveys. Memorising the results from the PhilPapers survey. Memorising data about resource costs of meat production vs. other food production. Memorising failed AGI timeline predictions. Etc.

I found starting to learn Booker Prize winners on Memrise has let me have a few 'Ah, I recognise that name and literature seems less opaque to me, yay!' moments, but there's probably higher-priority decks for you to learn unless that's more your area.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 26 August 2014 02:26:57PM *  4 points [-]

What about learning a sense of scale, for both time and space?

planets and stars

replies to most common comments to the previous video

sub-atomic to hypothetical multi-universes-- uses pictures and numbers, no zooming. I hadn't realized how much overlap there is in size between the larger moons and smaller planets, and (in spite of having seen many pictures) hadn't registered that nebulas are much bigger than stars.

I'm going to post this before I spend a while noodling around science videos, but it might also be good to work on time scales and getting oriented among geological and historical time periods, including what things were happening at the same time in different parts of the world.

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