Witticisms, parodies, pointed observations, japeries and/or jocularities, Tom Swifties, nominative determinism, and discursive drollery
humor, psychology, statistics, transhumanism, technology, Silk-Road, Bitcoin, power-analysis, Bayes, insight-porn
2014-04-302019-03-01 in progress certainty: possible importance: 7

Useful sayings

A list of quotes I find my­self reg­u­larly us­ing, not nec­es­sar­ily coined by my­self.


  • “How would the world look differ­ent if X was true?”

  • “What did I ex­pect to see be­fore I saw X?”

  • “Name three ex­am­ples.”

  • “Sim­plic­ity does not pre­cede com­plex­i­ty, but fol­lows it.”

  • “By con­ven­tion sweet is sweet, bit­ter is bit­ter, hot hot, cold cold, and color col­or; but in truth there is only atoms and the void.”

  • “If some­one does not be­lieve in fairies, he does not need to teach his chil­dren ‘There are no fairies’; he can omit to teach them the word ‘fairy’.”

  • “He [O­mar Khayyam] is an athe­ist, but knows how to in­ter­pret in or­tho­dox style the most diffi­cult pas­sages of the Ko­ran; for every ed­u­cated man is a the­olo­gian and faith is no req­ui­site.”

  • “‘I don’t speak’, Bi­jaz said. ‘I op­er­ate a ma­chine called lan­guage. It creaks and groans, but is mine own.’”

  • “I am Loyal to the Group of Sev­en­teen.”

  • “Causes are differ­ences which make a differ­ence.”

  • “The would-be sor­cerer alone has faith in the effi­cacy of pure knowl­edge; ra­tio­nal peo­ple know that things act of them­selves or not at all.”

  • “The en­light­ened man is one with the law of cau­sa­tion.”

  • “Since the be­gin­ning / not one un­usual thing has hap­pened.”

  • “Now, Char­lie, don’t for­get what hap­pened to the man who sud­denly got every­thing he wished for.”


    “He lived hap­pily ever after.”

  • “The fox con­demns the trap, not him­self.”

  • “If the fool would per­sist in his folly he would be­come wise…You never know what is enough un­less you know what is more than enough.”

  • “You think you know when you learn, are more sure when you can write, even more when you can teach, but cer­tain when you can pro­gram.”

  • “In ex­press­ing full func­tion, there are no fixed meth­ods.”

  • Egan’s Law: “It all adds up to nor­mal­i­ty.”



  • “There is a great deal of ruin in a na­tion.”

  • “Proof of Trot­sky’s far­sight­ed­ness is that none of his pre­dic­tions have yet come true.”

  • “The op­ti­mal num­ber of X is not 0.”

  • “Don’t let the per­fect be the en­emy of the good.”

  • “If some­thing is worth do­ing, it’s worth do­ing poor­ly.”

  • “Never rea­son from a price change.”

  • “Dis­agree and com­mit”

  • “All sta­tis­ti­cal prob­lems are de­ci­sion prob­lems.”

  • “When two do the same, it’s not the same.”

  • “Be­liefs are for ac­tions.”

  • “If peo­ple don’t want to come to the ball­park how are you go­ing to stop them?”

  • :

    • The Iron Law of Eval­u­a­tion: “The ex­pected value of any net im­pact as­sess­ment of any large scale so­cial pro­gram is ze­ro.”
    • The Stain­less Steel Law of Eval­u­a­tion: “The bet­ter de­signed the im­pact as­sess­ment of a so­cial pro­gram, the more likely is the re­sult­ing es­ti­mate of net im­pact to be ze­ro.”


  • :

    • “One can’t pro­ceed from the in­for­mal to the for­mal by for­mal means.”
    • “It is eas­ier to write an in­cor­rect pro­gram than un­der­stand a cor­rect one.”
  • “Be­ware of bugs in the above code; I have only proved it cor­rect, not tried it.”

  • “When you have elim­i­nated the im­pos­si­ble, what­ever re­mains is often more im­prob­a­ble than your hav­ing made a mis­take in one of your im­pos­si­bil­ity proofs.”

  • “The com­plex­ity you add to a com­plex sys­tem to pre­vent fail­ure is it­self a ma­jor source of fail­ure.”

  • “At­tacks only get bet­ter.”

  • “Do not sum­mon up that which you can­not put down.”

  • “The strong do what they will, and the weak suffer what they must.”


  • “Every­thing is her­i­ta­ble.”
  • “Or­gan­isms are adap­ta­tion-ex­ecu­tors, not fit­ness-max­i­miz­ers.”


  • Ama­ra’s Law: “We tend to over­es­ti­mate the effect of a tech­nol­ogy in the short run and un­der­es­ti­mate the effect in the long run.”

  • Al­ger­non’s law: “Any sim­ple ma­jor en­hance­ment to hu­man in­tel­li­gence is a net evo­lu­tion­ary dis­ad­van­tage.”

  • Good­hart’s law: “When a mea­sure be­comes a tar­get, it ceases to be a good mea­sure.”

  • Perlis 1982:

    • “One man’s con­stant is an­other man’s vari­able.”
    • “Every­thing should be built top-down, ex­cept the first time.”
    • “Be­ware of the Tur­ing tar-pit in which every­thing is pos­si­ble but noth­ing of in­ter­est is easy.”
    • “Most peo­ple find the con­cept of pro­gram­ming ob­vi­ous, but the do­ing im­pos­si­ble.”
  • “The fu­ture is al­ready here, it’s just un­evenly dis­trib­uted.”

  • Karpa­thy’s warn­ing: “Neural net­works want to work.”

  • The pre­cau­tion­ary vs proac­tionary prin­ci­ples: “He that will not ap­ply new reme­dies must ex­pect new evils; for time is the great­est in­no­va­tor.”


  • Cowen’s Sec­ond Law: “There is a lit­er­a­ture on every­thing.”
  • “Au­thors write things down to for­get them.”
  • “When two thieves meet, they need no in­tro­duc­tion.”
  • “Noth­ing in psy­chol­ogy makes sense but in the light of in­di­vid­ual differ­ences.”


  • “Often, I must cal­cu­late oth­er­wise than I think. That is called diplo­ma­cy.”

  • Sur­pris­ing lin­ear mod­els work at all, when they are the worst func­tional lan­guage ever: only op­er­a­tor *, n vari­ables, n as­sign­ments, & out­put=­sum.

  • When cri­tiquing a pa­per, go for the jugu­lar: any part with the words “pre­sum­ably”, “ob­vi­ously”, “past re­search”, or “stud­ies show”. (If a sen­tence can­not sur­vive hav­ing the word “just” re­moved from it, it does not de­serve to.)

  • Tip: try to read the ap­pen­dixes of re­search pa­pers as well. Sur­pris­ingly often big re­sults, not just caveats & flaws, will be buried in them

  • If your lo­cal meta-an­a­lyst or method­ol­o­gist is not ei­ther an al­co­holic or an in­suffer­able jerk, they may be do­ing it wrong.

  • There’s al­ways some­one who can make a per­pet­ual mo­tion ma­chine com­pli­cated enough that you, per­son­al­ly, can’t fig­ure it out.

  • “Re­mem­ber, cit­i­zens, full­text is our first line of de­fense against sci­ence jour­nal­ism!”

    • We can sleep soundly be­cause rough men stand ready with blogs will­ing to do vi­o­lence to pa­pers on our be­half.1
  • When does mea­sure­ment er­ror mat­ter? If you can’t write “X cor­re­lates with Y” as “X cor­re­lates with scrib­bled sur­vey ask­ing about Y” with­out qualm.

  • The use of con­fi­dence in­ter­vals rather than p-val­ues is a clear im­prove­ment; it makes our diffi­cul­ties van­ish like smoke in a fog.

  • p-value test­ing is weird, but with mul­ti­ple cor­rec­tion, it gets even weird­er: the more you mea­sure & mod­el, the less you know.

  • Power vs er­ror vs sam­ple size: painful trade­off of sta­tis­tics. Sins of omis­sion, com­mis­sion, & risk aver­sion—­painful trade­off of life?

  • Not do­ing power analy­sis with in­for­ma­tive pri­ors is search­ing a haystack of un­known size for a nee­dle which prob­a­bly is­n’t there.

  • Power analy­sis: if there is enough light to find the nee­dles in the haystack; vari­ance com­po­nent analy­sis: if there are any nee­dles at all.

    • Her­i­tabil­ity is like toss­ing a haystack into a fur­nace & frac­tion­at­ing the slag: you know the ra­tio of haystack­:needle; but not where the nee­dles were, how big the haystack was, whether many small nee­dles painted yel­low or a few big spears, how sharp the nee­dles were, or your neigh­bor’s per­cent­ages.
  • It’d be nice if peo­ple cared about sys­tem­atic vs sam­pling er­ror, Bayesian meth­ods, in­for­ma­tive pri­ors & de­sign more than once every 4 years.

  • “If you ever de­cide un­bi­ased­ness is­n’t too high price to pay for sav­ing pos­te­ri­ors from en­tropy, let Bayes know. He’ll be ready.” /人◕‿‿◕人\

  • Re­mem­ber: p-val­ues are not pos­te­rior prob­a­bil­i­ties are not effect sizes are not util­i­ties are not profits are not de­ci­sions.

  • All analy­ses are ul­ti­mately de­ci­sion analy­ses. We can ig­nore that for con­ve­nience, but we must never for­get that.

  • Our be­liefs are con­tin­u­ous, but our ac­tions dis­crete. This leads to analy­sis paral­y­sis; can one ex­e­cute whole­heart­edly on +EV ac­tions with P = 1% just as well as when P = 99%?

  • “Dis­agree and com­mit” to courses of ac­tion— pos­te­rior for solv­ing the of life.

  • Be­ware geeks bear­ing per­cents.

  • To mine for for­got­ten gold in a field, look for its most aus­tere & math­e­mat­i­cal sub­field­—­math­e­mati­cians are ter­ri­ble at mar­ket­ing.

  • RCTs : tra­di­tional West­ern med­i­cine :: Nixon record­ings : pres­i­dents :: DNA test­ing : courts :: priest abuse : Catholic Church :: cell­phones/­body cam­eras : po­lice :: Wik­ileaks : geopol­i­tics :: So­viet archives : es­pi­onage ac­cu­sa­tions :: Snow­den : com­puter se­cu­rity :: GWASes : can­di­date-gene stud­ies : FLOSS :: mi­cro­econ­o­mists : Bit­coin : macro­econ­o­mists :: DL : ML :: coro­n­avirus : …

  • We will know AI has suc­ceeded not when we an­thro­po­mor­phize ma­chi­nes, but when we unan­thro­po­mor­phize hu­mans.

  • The life of a neu­ron in Heb­bian learn­ing is oft nasty, brutish & short; cells must wire & fire to­gether to sur­vive, thus cre­at­ing Lev­AIthan.

  • When I was a lit­tle kid, I thought cars told their dri­vers where to go (us­ing their turn sig­nal­s). It took a while, but even­tu­al­ly, I was right.

  • Why do hu­mans have such large costly brains? Cats and chimps can see or walk as well as us.—Be­cause the de­ci­sions we make least with lit­tle feed­back or re­wards based on big data over a life­time can mat­ter the most. We may be at our most hu­man while fill­ing out the pa­per­work for life in­sur­ance. (With deep learn­ing, the new is not that AI finds hard­est what we find the eas­i­est, but that AI needs to be small­est—NN pa­ra­me­ter coun­t—what we need to be biggest!)

  • The news offers a fixed se­lec­tion of the most ex­treme out­lier (or should that be ‘out­liar’?) dat­a­points, but the global pop­u­la­tion be­comes larger every day. Thus my corol­lary to Lit­tle­wood’s law:

    Hu­man ex­tremes are not only weirder than we sup­pose, they are weirder than we can sup­pose.

  • Sci­ence in­creas­ingly re­quires pre­cise pre­dic­tions which can fail, a will­ing­ness to fail, and shar­ing of the data demon­strat­ing fail­ure. Like hon­esty & sim­plic­i­ty, these are prices the most pres­ti­gious, wealth­i­est, and pow­er­ful find most diffi­cult to pay.

  • “The ‘Just’ Word Fal­lacy”: when some­one tells you “X is just Y”, that tells you than .


  • When­ever I feel maybe the FDA & big blind clin­i­cal tri­als are un­nec­es­sary, I lie down & read Longecity threads un­til the feel­ing pass­es.
  • Count on it: the most hu­mane or­ga­ni­za­tions oft have the most in­hu­mane re­sults. Save us from those who pre­fer be­ing or seem­ing good to do­ing or giv­ing well!
  • Pa­leo? Atkins? Low-carb? Mediter­ranean? Maybe it is time to step back and ask: what should be the epis­te­mol­ogy of food?
  • Cor­re­la­tion ≠ cau­sa­tion: in causal in­fer­ence class­es, the first les­son taught, and the last les­son learnt.
  • Ob­ser­va­tional sci­ence on the cheap is often nei­ther sci­ence nor cheap.
  • Every nor­mal man must be tempted now & then to sharpen knives, hoist a black flag, and run amok, shout­ing “No cau­sa­tion with­out ran­dom­iza­tion!”
  • If you con­sider them in terms of QALYs lost, school is at least as harm­ful to your health as smok­ing—and far more ex­pen­sive.
  • Paul Krug­man notes you can look like an in­sane rav­ing loon just recit­ing eco­nom­ics text­book con­tents in a loud voice; like­wise, .
  • Some ask if be­hav­ioral ge­net­ics has made me ni­hilis­tic and feel­ing all is fu­tile. But I have to be­lieve in free will—my whole fam­ily does.
  • Àrxi vu (/ˈärˌkīv ˈvuː/; n.): when you read a new­ly-pub­lished pa­per and are haunted by the feel­ing you read a longer, bet­ter, ver­sion 2 years ago on ArX­iv/BioRx­iv.
  • On ge­netic en­gi­neer­ing and AI risk, op­ti­mist: “we can’t afford to worry about risks with sur­vivors”; pes­simist: “we can’t afford worry about risks with­out sur­vivors”.
  • Dis­ap­point­ments: when 23, read­ing a pa­per, re­al­iz­ing: “this is Peak Hu­man. You may not like it, but this is it”. I had grown up: now differ­ences were quan­ti­ta­tive, not qual­i­ta­tive. (N­ever again would I see leaps like ob­ject per­ma­nence, the­ory of mind, num­ber­s/­count­ing, read­ing, the fu­ture, death, sar­casm, log­ic, game the­o­ry, pro­gram­ming, sta­tis­tics… All it took to reach the hu­man fron­tier was a mere 20 years.)



  • Max­ims of re­li­able com­plex sys­tems:

    • it is eas­ier to in­vent a buggy “re­li­able” sys­tem than it is to un­der­stand a bugfree re­li­able sys­tem.

      Corol­lary: no one un­der­stands a work­ing com­plex sys­tem.

    • the com­plex­ity you add to a com­plex sys­tem to pre­vent fail­ure is it­self a ma­jor source of fail­ure.

    • Like in se­cu­ri­ty, the worst pos­si­ble state for a power cord, USB ca­ble, or data­base is half work­ing.

    • Prov­ing prop­er­ties about sys­tems re­veals bugs; it does­n’t mat­ter what prop­erty you prove! Sim­i­lar­ly, a lit­tle fuzz test­ing goes a long way: your sys­tem is prob­a­bly not ro­bust even to a cat walk­ing across a key­board.

  • The soul of mod­ern man is so fallen & mu­ti­lated that he can feel de­spair only when trapped in de­pen­dency hell.

  • One pro­gram­mer’s de­pen­dency so­lu­tion is an­oth­er’s ver­sion con­flict.

  • Whether to check pre­con­di­tions be­fore a loop, or after: this is to de­fine san­ity and in­san­i­ty.

  • Pro­gram­mers’ chairs and key­boards cause RSIs of the body; but what RSIs of the mind?

  • Will a just & mer­ci­ful de­vel­oper con­demn good pro­grams to bad smart­phones?

  • We have ab­stracted away from for-loops over ar­rays; but what id­iom will ab­stract away the loops of our lives?

  • Back­ups are con­fronting one’s fal­li­bil­ity & the tran­sience of the world; we should not be sur­prised so few can do it.

  • When was the last time you saw Amer­i­can pro­gram­mers worry about In­di­ans? A les­son there. But don’t ask an In­dian de­vel­oper what, ask an Amer­i­can.

  • The pre-In­ter­net PC was the real Wild West: a lone pro­gram­mer and his com­piler against hordes of quan­daries.

  • A pause on my key­board for thought—and how peace­ful it must be in the CPU, as the nanosec­onds slowly tick by…

  • “Bugs in work­ing code are mo­ments for re­flec­tion: how much we take on faith, be­cause it seems to work!”

  • “Help­ing new­bies re­quires an ac­tive mem­o­ry—of all the times we our­selves failed to read the fuck­ing man­u­al.”

  • Is pro­gram­ming Chris­t­ian or Bud­dhist? Ask your­self how many of your pro­grams have the : , , & .

  • “Once a pro­gram has taken on a defi­nite form, it does not lose it un­til dele­tion.”

  • How can we fear ma­chines will sep­a­rate hu­mans when even in their source code, we can read the stamp of per­son­al­ity & style?

  • “Data, and the for­mats by which data are com­mu­ni­cat­ed, in­evitably cre­ate a sys­tem per­me­ated by il­lu­sions.”

  • “A truck dri­ver may drive for 20 years with­out ever im­prov­ing; it must be con­fessed that many pro­gram­mers do lit­tle bet­ter.”

  • “Any­one sat­is­fied by last year’s code is not learn­ing enough.”

  • “I do not like this al­go­rith­m/lan­guage/­tool.” “Why?” “I am not up to it.”—any­one, ever?

  • “The In­ter­net is em­bar­rassed by the brows­er.”

  • “The HTML page is a stark data for­mat: every­where it goes, there is du­pli­ca­tion of process. It is per­fect for hid­ing in­for­ma­tion.”

  • There is but one con­stant in every pro­gram; and it is [see VM ta­ble en­try 0x000007FEFC831010 → 0x00885ED010 → fault­ing in page…]

  • When you be­come frus­trated with com­put­ers, please re­mem­ber they are only clev­erly arranged sand. (When you be­come frus­trated with peo­ple…)

  • “Up­root your func­tions from their ground and the dan­gling roots will be seen. More func­tions!”

  • “I think there is a world mar­ket for maybe five com­put­er­s—­Google, Ama­zon, Face­book, Mi­crosoft, and Baidu.”

  • A haiku:

    The sum­mer garbage—
    the sole rem­nant of many
    bright en­gi­neers’ dreams

  • All that is nec­es­sary for en­tropy to tri­umph is for good men to do some­thing.

  • We do not go be­cause the traffic light be­comes green; the traffic light be­comes green be­cause we go.


  • To test whether a lan­guage de­spises its users, merely see whether ‘if (a = 1) {…}’ is valid.

  • Web browser de­vel­op­ers are con­demned to rein­vent the OS, poor­ly. What is to be done about this? What could ever have been done about this?

    • …it is clear our tech­nol­ogy ex­ceeded our hu­man­i­ty. I do not know in what W3C stan­dard WWWIII.htm will be writ­ten, but WWIV will be writ­ten in Web As­sem­bler.
  • Mozilla now has its own com­mu­ni­ty, browser, cloud, lan­guage, user­land, and in a fi­nal con­ces­sion to the in­evitable—­Fire­fox OS!

  • Time-shar­ing, mul­ti­-user main­frames, main­frame VMs, PCs, dat­a­cen­ters, dat­a­cen­ter VMs, Dock­er, mi­cro-ser­vices: the Wheel of Rein­car­na­tion yet turns. One must imag­ine Sysad­mi­nus hap­py.

  • C, C#, Go, R, Rust: are these un­search­able names tes­ti­mony to some feet of clay, or tes­ta­ments to mon­strous egos?

  • “Haskellers knows the type of every­thing & the value of noth­ing.” Un­less they’ve turned on ex­ten­sions, then nei­ther

  • C—­fast and effi­cient and for when you don’t have enough mem­ory to re­mem­ber things like why you don’t want to use C.

  • “C pro­gram­mers stay sane by imag­in­ing that all the other in­se­cure buggy pro­grams are thanks to avoid­able un­rep­re­sen­ta­tive rea­sons.”

  • We have made an AI break­through! With Pro­log, we have cre­ated the in­tel­li­gence of a 2-year-old child: “No. No. No. No.”

  • “Cre­at­ing a new good pro­gram­ming lan­guage is so diffi­cult it tends to be only fools who try.”

  • “Just as winds pre­serve seas from stag­na­tion, so also cor­rup­tion in lan­guages is the re­sult of pro­longed calm.”

  • “That code is il­l-writ­ten of which one must re­pent; as long as the PHP bears no evil fruit, the fool thinks it sweet as hon­ey.”

  • Sin­gle-par­a­digm lan­guages are ad­mirable for push­ing un­til it break­s—or does­n’t!; cf Ein­stein & atomic Brown­ian mo­tion; Colum­bus & the “spher­i­cal Earth”.


  • If you find your­self sur­prised by man or mar­ket, re­mem­ber you have learned as much about your own think­ing as them: rev­e­la­tion comes in twos.
  • Bit­coin in­volves no new prim­i­tives or fancy proofs; per­haps cryp­tog­ra­phers should all along have been study­ing so­ci­ol­o­gy, not math­e­mat­ics.
  • The hor­ror of Bit­coin: money re­ally is a so­cial con­struct! & not al­ways by nice-s­melling well-groomed peo­ple in sharp suits.
  • A mod­est pro­pos­al: end tenure for com­puter se­cu­rity & cryp­tog­ra­phy re­searchers. Given the sta­tus quo, if they’re not al­ready rich, they can’t be any good.
  • “What is the price of two satoshis—one cop­per coin? But not a sin­gle satoshi can fall to fees with­out your Eter­nal Blockchain know­ing it.”
  • The brav­ery of in­no­va­tors: what sus­tained Satoshi Nakamoto dur­ing those lonely days in 2009 when no one cared enough even to at­tack Bit­coin?
  • One weird phi­los­o­phy trick for analy­sis! Imag­ine worlds where X failed: “Sure Bit­coin died: a de­fla­tion­ary cur­rency re­quir­ing ever more waste?”
  • Let us hope Karpe­les will not be the of Bit­coin.
  • The op­ti­mal num­ber of dou­ble-spends is not ze­ro.
  • was a ge­nius un­til he was a fool & a knave; Satoshi was a ge­nius un­til…?
  • Once you get locked into a se­ri­ous cryp­tocur­rency in­vest­ment, the ten­dency is to push it as far as pos­si­ble & col­lect all the alts. There is noth­ing in the world more help­less and ir­re­spon­si­ble and de­praved than an early ether in­vestor in the depths of an ICO binge.

Darknet Markets

  • “Ul­bricht, Ul­bricht, Ul­bricht! A mil­lion coins were not enough for Ul­bricht!”
  • We crit­i­cize Ul­bricht for not know­ing when to quit & en­joy life; but what are we our­selves re­fus­ing to quit?
  • Every­thing looks per­ma­nent un­til its se­cret is known. For all too many things, the be­gin­ning of fear is the be­gin­ning of knowl­edge.
  • “A be­gin­ning is the time for tak­ing the most del­i­cate care; this every stu­dent of the OP SECurity knows.”
  • Mod­est pro­pos­al: let’s aban­don the term “OPSEC”. In­stead, let us re­fer to the mis­takes of Ul­bricht, Blake Ben­thall, , etc as “OOPSEC”.
  • Is cryp­to-lib­er­tar­i­an­ism self­-un­der­min­ing? Can we han­dle the sausage fac­tory of the dark­net mar­kets?
  • When a cen­tral­ized es­crow mar­ket claims 1% com­mis­sions, it should ap­pend an as­ter­isk: “and a one-time 100% fee when (not if) hacked or shut down”.
  • vs cen­tral­ized es­crow: proof that con­ve­nience is a drug faster & more ad­dic­tive than the finest hero­in.
  • De­cen­tral­ized Bit­coin mar­kets are the fu­ture of dark­net mar­ket­s—and I fear al­ways will be.
  • Lust for lu­cre is the root of all evil? Alert the the­olo­gians: the num­ber of cen­tral­ized dark­net mar­kets is an in­dex of Sa­tanic ac­tiv­i­ty!


  • Good re­sults fol­low good in­ten­tions even as the .
  • Con­no­ta­tions: ‘thrift’ is achiev­ing one’s goals as cost-effec­tively as pos­si­ble and max­i­miz­ing one’s bang-for-buck; ‘fru­gal­ity’ is choos­ing one’s goals to be as cost-effec­tive as pos­si­ble, and pick­ing a bang which min­i­mizes one’s buck. The for­mer is a virtue; the lat­ter, a vice.
  • If pigs were smart enough to wor­ry: “the hu­mans nei­ther love nor hate you, but you are made of tasty ba­con they can use for some­thing else.”
  • Op­ti­mists: be­lieve every­thing has been se­lected to be as effi­cient as is pos­si­ble to achieve; pes­simists: every­thing is se­lected to be as ter­ri­ble as is pos­si­ble to get away with.
  • is the of eco­nom­ics”: it al­ways seems to be em­ployed by asses upon high.
  • A roll of the dice suc­ceeds 1 time in 6, and stage ma­gi­cians can learn to con­trol rolls, while per­haps 1 in 10 star­tups will be truly a good use of time for the founders & em­ploy­ees and suc­cess rates do not in­crease with ex­pe­ri­ence; per­haps say­ing a startup is ‘as ran­dom as a coin-flip’ and ‘re­ally rolling the dice’ should be taken not as an in­sult but as the high­est of com­pli­ments.
  • ’tis a fool­ish VC who in­vests only in things he’s sure of, and not ad­ven­tures. If a VC does­n’t reg­u­larly look fool­ish, he’s a fool.
  • Mar­ket volatil­ity is ig­no­rance made vis­i­ble.
  • A mod­est pro­pos­al: re­place col­lege with gym mem­ber­ships. Equal sig­nal­ing value for Con­sci­en­tious­ness/­con­for­mi­ty/dis­count­ing; cheap­er; ob­jec­tive; equally (un)­fair; health ben­e­fits; pro­gres­sive, not re­gres­sive; real RCT-verified trans­fer to IQ & cog­ni­tion, not hol­low gains; pos­i­tive ex­ter­nal­i­ties for looks & tax­es; fit­ness knowl­edge in­creas­ingly use­ful in in­creas­ingly mod­ern­ized en­vi­ron­ments & di­ets, rather than less like tra­di­tional school­ing knowl­edge; more eas­ily re­searched & op­ti­mized.
  • Copy­right and tech­nol­ogy are odd­—when I was a kid, it was in­fi­nitely eas­ier for me to get my hands on 1000-year-old clas­si­cal Japan­ese po­etry I wanted than on 1 (or 10) year-old Japan­ese ani­me; and now it’s the re­verse.
  • No re­ward with­out risk? But
  • The past is a Third World coun­try.
  • Prob­lems that can be solved by mon­ey, should be.


Umeshisms (1; see also GPT-3 Umeshisms):

  • If you never lose an eBay auc­tion, you’re bid­ding too much.

  • If you never re­turn an item to the store, you’re buy­ing too few things.

  • If every­one in your class gets an “A”, you’re not teach­ing enough.

    If all fresh­men in a ma­jor earn their de­gree, too few are drop­ping out.

  • If all your ex­per­i­ments work, you’re just fool­ing your­self.

  • If you eat all your food be­fore it goes bad, you’re eat­ing too much bad food.

  • If none of a city’s build­ings col­lapse in an earth­quake, con­struc­tion stan­dards are too cost­ly.

  • If your NASA rover pro­gram is se­ri­ous about “fast and cheap”, 0 is the wrong num­ber of rover fail­ures.

  • If your Proof-of-Work cryp­tocur­rency never has dou­ble-spends, the (min­er) rent is too damn high.

  • If there is­n’t bla­tant waste in an econ­o­my, too many peo­ple are look­ing for waste.

  • If a race car sur­vives the race, it’s over-engi­neered.2

  • If your self­-driv­ing car fleet never runs peo­ple over, it’s be­ing rolled out too slow­ly.

  • If you re­call your cars for every de­fect, you’re re­call­ing too many cars.

  • If your pack­ets are never cor­rupt­ed, you’re wast­ing too much com­pu­ta­tion on er­ror-cor­rec­tion & re­li­a­bil­i­ty.

  • “The op­ti­mal num­ber of falling build­ings in an earth­quake is not ze­ro.”

    • The op­ti­mal num­ber of mask short­ages…
  • If your new AI pro­gram is un­de­feat­able by hu­mans, you waited too long to run the tour­na­ment. (If your su­per­in­tel­li­gence is­n’t rel­a­tively close to hu­man lev­el, you’re hold­ing off too long on turn­ing the earth into com­pu­tro­n­i­um.)

    • If an AGI costs sub­-bil­lion dol­lars to train, you waited too long to scale.
  • Dark Lordisms: if you’re get­ting into pitched bat­tles with he­roes or armies, you’re not us­ing dark enough mag­ic.

  • If you keep go­ing to the fu­ner­als of your en­e­mies, you have too many en­e­mies.

  • The fi­nal Umeshism: If every­thing you do is easy, you’re un­der­achiev­ing.



  • If you’ve never dropped any cours­es, it’s be­cause ed­u­ca­tion is not about hu­man cap­i­tal.

    Han­son­ism: one should never drop any cours­es, be­cause ed­u­ca­tion is not about hu­man cap­i­tal.

  • If you’ve never changed your fa­vorite char­ity based on cost-ben­e­fit, it’s be­cause char­ity is not about help­ing.

    Han­son­ism: …

  • If you’ve never dropped a bad book, it’s be­cause read­ing is­n’t about gain­ing knowl­edge.

  • If you’ve never changed your mind pub­licly, it’s be­cause pol­i­tics is­n’t about pol­i­cy.


38. “The world is not what any­one wished for, but it’s what every­one wished for.”

James Richard­son, Vec­tors: Apho­risms & Ten-Sec­ond Es­says 2001


  • Why do hairdry­ers blow fus­es? Be­cause if they did­n’t, you would buy a hot­ter hairdry­er.
  • Why is it so hard to get com­pe­tent, hard­work­ing, vol­un­teers? Be­cause if they’re any good, they al­ready have too much work to do.
  • If books weren’t so long that they were tir­ing to read, au­thors would make them longer.
  • Why do re­turns di­min­ish? Be­cause if they did­n’t, some­one would rein­vest in earn­ing re­turns in an ex­po­nen­tial spi­ral of wealth un­til they did di­min­ish.
  • Why are worth­while things often so hard to do? Be­cause if things worth do­ing were easy, every­one would do the pleas­ant things and avoid the un­pleas­ant things un­til the hard things were most worth do­ing.
  • Why are in­fec­tions so fa­tal? if the viruses & bac­te­ria did­n’t take risks & en­gage in overkill, they could­n’t get past our adap­tive im­mune sys­tem and would be se­lected against. Why can’t we have sim­ple cheap in­nate im­mune sys­tems? Be­cause then we would be se­lected against by the cur­rent viruses & bac­te­ria…
  • Why are so many of the peo­ple you date cra­zier, uglier, mean­er, or poorer than you’d prefer? Be­cause if they weren’t, they’d al­ready be tak­en.
  • Rumeshism: Why is the rum is gone? Be­cause if there were more rum, peo­ple would drink more rum.



  • Those star­tups who least need VC in­vest­ment & de­liver low­est ex­pected re­turns are those who re­ceive the most VC offers of in­vest­ment.
  • Those who most want a girl­friend are the least suc­cess­ful in ask­ing girls out.
  • Those peo­ple with the most need for Con­sci­en­tious­ness & de­pres­sion treat­ment are those least able to fol­low ther­apy like .
  • Those schiz­o­phren­ics with the most need for med­ica­tion are those least likely to keep tak­ing it.
  • The most ig­no­rant who most need to fol­low ad­vice & in­struc­tions are least likely to un­der­stand their need.
  • Coun­tries which most need to fight cor­rup­tion are least able to do so.
  • …Mer­it-based ad­mis­sions aid/schol­ar­ships; be­ing rich and get­ting a loan; ap­ply­ing for jobs…



  • How would the world look any differ­ent than it does now if X were true? You say “be­cause of X”, but where does X come from?

  • To learn to build sand­cas­tles on the beach is to learn to live and die an athe­ist. (“Here on the level sand…”)

  • “Every­one knows what would be best for them to do—­to­mor­row.”

  • “Neo, what if I told you… every­thing you knew was cor­rect?” (That would be the biggest dis­ap­point­ment ever.)

  • At times, tol­er­ance can be the most rad­i­cal of po­si­tions to take; just watch when a weak group gains pow­er.

  • “Read­ing a flame war: and all you peo­ple must once have been lit­tle chil­dren, who smiled of a sum­mer day.”

  • Imag­ine a world where the just world and fun­da­men­tal at­tri­bu­tion bias were cor­rect, and karma ex­ist­ed. Would­n’t that be un­speak­ably trag­ic?

  • War seeks to mold phys­i­cal con­di­tions as one wish­es; art seeks to mold minds as one wish­es. Both are based on de­cep­tion.

  • Art is often ha­tred: it shows the past, or fu­ture, or far-away but never the present mo­ment. An­ti-art: a TV & cam­era show­ing the view­er.

  • The “fal­lacy of gray” or the “fal­lacy of grey”? My sug­ges­tion “the fal­lacy of græy” was re­jected with­out, I thought, proper con­sid­er­a­tion.

  • I have made progress in my med­i­ta­tions: yes­ter­day I told my­self one truth, and only nine lies.

  • Black­mail is a on hypocrisy, ei­ther per­sonal or so­ci­etal.

  • Adult­hood is ac­cept­ing no one will save you any­more; from this, all else fol­lows.

  • As the global pop­u­la­tion grows, the ex­tremes be­come more ex­treme; they be­come not just weirder than we sup­pose, but weirder than we can sup­pose.

  • “But he was sin­cere”, we say of some­one, when fi­nally no de­fen­si­bil­ity is pos­si­ble than the pos­si­bil­ity of de­fea­si­bil­i­ty.

  • There is no first-per­son pre­sen­t-tense verb for “to be­lieve falsely”, Wittgen­stein notes; like­wise, there is no past tense for re­call­ing bore­dom—un­like many emo­tions (hap­pi­ness, sad­ness), one can re­mem­ber that one was bored, but never the bore­dom it­self.

    This for­get­ful­ness is a bless­ing when we re­mem­ber how much bore­dom there would be to re­mem­ber: from schools, if noth­ing else. Do not be­grudge peo­ple their smart­phones and small mo­ments of obliv­ion.

  • The : “If you find your­self do­ing some­thing 3 times, fix it.”

    If some­thing has come up 3 times al­ready, then it’s prob­a­bly go­ing to come up again. If you rant about or have to ex­plain some­thing 3 times, write it up! If you for­get some­thing 3 times, make . If you make an er­ror 3 times, . If you pro­gram some­thing 3 times, write a li­brary or tool. If you do some­thing highly me­chan­i­cal and te­dious, au­to­mate it. And so on.

  • The prob­lem with just min­i­mal­ism as an es­thetic is that as often it is just anes­thet­ic.


  • An apho­rism is an al­go­rithm, of we know not what in­put, we know not what out­put.
  • “It is eas­ier to write an in­cor­rect epi­gram than un­der­stand a cor­rect one.”
  • Voltaire’s Third Law: for every apho­rism, there is an equal and op­po­site an­ti-apho­rism
  • The epi­gram is a com­pressed, golfed, idea, with all the virtues—and sin­s—of golfed code.
  • If we mea­sure the en­tropy of epi­grams by how many peo­ple un­der­stand them, who is the gzip of epi­grams? The xz? (…the ZPAQ…?)
  • Re­mem­ber! Most strings are in­com­press­ible, most re­als un­com­putable, most the­o­rems un­prov­able, most pro­grams un­de­cid­able.
  • Should lan­guages sup­port the writer’s con­ve­nience or the read­er’s un­der­stand­ing? Frame it as a sta­tus de­bate, and all be­comes clear.
  • Fear not known but un­known pro­pa­gan­da; I have the ut­most re­spect for Pravda or re­search pa­pers re­port­ing p = 0.04—how else will I know what to not be­lieve?
  • Writ­ing down your ideas takes 90% of the time; de­bug­ging code takes an­other 90% of the time; rewrit­ing takes the third 90% of the time…
  • A day with noth­ing un­usual is an un­usual day. Fic­tion writ­ers & GANs must in­clude the im­prob­a­ble to be prob­a­ble. Spend sur­prisal shrewd­ly.
  • Tran­shu­man­is­m’s vic­tory can be seen in how few now bother with the word.
  • The meta “M” hi­er­ar­chy: method­olo­gies over mod­els over ma­te­ri­als (raw data) over mem­o­ries (anec­dotes)
  • Re­mem­ber for later the point of read­ing a man­u­al: it is not to re­mem­ber every­thing that is in it for later but to later re­mem­ber that some­thing is in it.

See Also

Startup ideas

Po­ten­tially profitable late-stage cap­i­tal­ism per­for­mance art pieces:

  • sim­u­la­tor. Email the user once a week with n vari­ants or ac­tions to pick, like di­rected evo­lu­tion games. Graph­i­cal/­plant back­end can be pow­ered by CNN , paint­ing en­gines (eg ), out­sourced hu­man artists in Chi­na, etc. To in­crease rev­enue, kill bon­sai at ran­dom with low prob­a­bil­ity & present memo­r­ial videos of how it evolved over the years, while offer­ing to make a mi­cro­pay­ment to res­ur­rect a ver­sion of it or start grow­ing an­other from its ran­dom seed.

  • cus­tom man­u­fac­tur­ing of ex­tremely dense metal (lead//) ob­jects such as credit card­s/keys/­pass­card­s/etc for elite lux­ury brands: un­ex­pect­edly heavy ob­jects sub­con­sciously sig­nal Qual­i­ty. This is part of why SUVs are so heavy and why de­vices such as Beats head­phones have metal weights in­serted in them.

  • NN GANs for pho­to­re­al­is­tic-but-le­gal child porn; trans­fer learn­ing from West­ern & Japan­ese porn and fine­tune on Dark Web & loli­con cor­pus­es. Startup slo­gan: “we put the AI in waifu and the ANN in husbanndo us­ing our patented hentai”. You know what they say in SV: every good startup breaks at least a few laws…

  • Snapchat/In­sta­gram but for au­dio, with such nov­elty fil­ters as talk­ing in or with he­li­um, and au­dio “style trans­fer” from an ap­proved bank of ad­ver­tis­ing-spon­sored sound & voice sam­ples.

  • Soy­len­tant: a restau­rant serv­ing tast­ing menus of all drinks & bars, with rec­om­men­da­tions from the “soylem­mier”: “Ah, the Au­gust 2016 Soy­lent bar… A fine vin­tage. Usu­al­ly.” Also sells a cook­book for hack­ers: From Zero To Yum.

  • TVTropes+fMRI for ran­dom­ized movies/VR/nov­els which max­i­mize sur­prise/en­gage­ment by be­ing some­what but not too un­pre­dictable, fork­ing paths as nec­es­sary to main­tain in­ter­est at a high lev­el. Aes­thet­i­cal­ly, you want “fa­mil­iar but not too fa­mil­iar”, so there’s a sweet spot in ran­dom­iz­ing trope/­sub­ver­sion (cf Schmid­hu­ber’s the­ory of cre­ativ­ity). There’s prob­a­bly a way to in­fer sur­prise/arousal from (nec­es­sary for VR head­sets to do among other things), so this could be a use­ful tool for VR es­pe­cially in cal­i­brat­ing pac­ing.

  • —in VR.

  • dri­ver’s ed—in VR.

  • mo­tion-track­ing play­ing chase with cat; in­verse re­in­force­ment learn­ing for de­vel­op­ing a cat mod­el; sell as cy­ber-com­pan­ion—in VR. VC fund­ing from Elon Me­owsk. If the con­sumer mar­ket for VR cats is not there yet, piv­ot­ing to up­load­ing cats, sell­ing the re­sult­ing AIs to the DoD or Chi­na, and de­stroy­ing hu­man­i­ty.

  • Uber—­for VR, us­ing Uber. (How often are you us­ing your head­set any­way?)

  • WiFi+blockchain++fa­cial recog­ni­tion CNNs+social net­work­s+­self-driv­ing cars+ride-shar­ing. (A sim­pler ver­sion would just be legally re­quir­ing or pay­ing car man­u­fac­tur­ers like Tesla to run in the back­ground on fa­cial em­bed­dings, and phon­ing home to the po­lice/se­cu­rity agen­cies. This would sell well in China & the UK.) Pri­or­ity or­ders would be ex­e­cuted by drones. The Sam­sung An­droid app will be named “Death Note”.

  • ac­coun­t/­name reser­va­tion: reg­is­ters your fa­vorite user­name on the top 10,000 web­sites so no one can steal it from you.

  • au­to­mate plan­ning of panda bear sex & breed­ing by se­quenc­ing their genomes & pre­serv­ing max­i­mum ge­netic di­ver­si­ty; land a $1b con­tract with Chi­na’s Na­tional Zoo (as pan­das are worth far more than their weight in gold to & zoo rev­enues)

  • cu­ra­tion of & , with util­ity weights from med­ical-e­co­nomic re­search/­sur­veys. -as-a-ser­vice.

  • a startup where the dress code is not hacker slacks or busi­ness suit ca­su­al, but suits, to re­duce office pol­i­tics. Bonus: health pre­mi­ums sav­ings. And if em­ploy­ees re­sist, sim­ply tell them it’s part of a di­ver­si­ty/an­ti-racism pro­gram to make it harder to dis­crim­i­nate based on skin color or ap­pear­ance.

  • dig­i­tize mo­tor­ized into PWAAS (Prayer-Wheel­s-As-A)-Ser­vice: highly par­al­lel head­less cloud servers an­i­mate GIF prayer-wheels. This SASS (spir­i­tu­al­i­ty-as-ser­vice star­tup) can of course ac­cept bit­coins: “Satoshis for Satoris”.

  • not-use­less spelling bee tour­na­ments: tran­scribe & pro­nounce strings. Be care­ful not to go bank­rupt fly­ing in !Kung judges for the na­tional fi­nals.

  • re­vive , build it on all the cryp­to­graphic ser­vices now avail­able (some of which go far be­yond HTTPS in com­plex­i­ty), launch cut-rate cloud host­ing.

  • small drones launched from bazookas to re­duce bat­tery con­sump­tion against other drones (con­sumer-level pric­ing: a rock)

  • An SDK for hack­ing smart­phone speak­ers into emit­ting , by­pass­ing any OS lim­i­ta­tions; can sell to for use on dis­si­dents^W­crim­i­nal-ter­ror­ists.

  • fash­ion-as-ser­vice, NN smart­phone app to tell you “no, that’s hideous!” (eg + etc)

    Some­one sug­gested guide dogs for as­sist­ing their own­ers. Ob­vi­ously that would not work—ev­ery­one knows that dogs are par­tially col­or­blind.

  • Mon­e­tiz­ing pet ill health into rev­enue streams: ex­ploit the tem­po­ral in­con­sis­tency of peo­ple in hav­ing high in pet pur­chase costs3 but ex­treme price in­sen­si­tiv­i­ty/inelas­tic­ity in pur­chas­ing pet med­ical care by giv­ing away sick pets (e­spe­cially ), & get­ting vet kick­backs or di­rect profit-shar­ing. “CarePet­s™: The Pet You Can Care For… And Care For… And Care For…”

    Peo­ple won’t pay up­front for health­ier pets since no emo­tional bonds; but will pay al­most in­defi­nitely once the pets get sick. This is de­spite often know­ing, ei­ther first hand or watch­ing other pet own­ers spend stag­ger­ing sums on vet bills, what will hap­pen. (Inelas­tic­ity is why de­spite to­tal free mar­ket in pet health, costs have ac­tu­ally in­creased faster than hu­man med­i­cine.) This asym­me­try makes them easy to mon­ey-pump, es­pe­cially since the fixed sup­ply of vet­eri­nar­i­ans (like hu­man doc­tors) means it should be fea­si­ble to buy out or con­trol en­tire ge­o­graphic re­gions and cap­ture the in­creased rev­enue.

    To ex­tract the most mon­ey, the dis­ease should be treat­able (risks own­ers opt­ing for eu­thanasia, and pal­lia­tive care is not profitable), dra­matic but not too dis­gust­ing (if it’s re­pul­sive the owner will find it eas­ier to break the emo­tional bond­s), ap­pear within a year or two of adop­tion (to start gen­er­at­ing rev­enue as soon as the emo­tional fet­ters are solidly in place), chronic (to max­i­mize time be­fore need­ing to sup­ply a re­place­men­t), while be­ing con­ve­niently treat­able (as peo­ples’ time can be more scarce than their mon­ey, par­tic­u­larly rich ones) in small steps (to break down the billing into small $10 or $20/­month costs and avoid the own­ers re­al­iz­ing that the To­tal Cost of Own­er­ship will run into the thou­sands of dol­lars, sim­i­lar to sub­scrip­tion billing); and highly her­i­ta­ble, at least in hu­mans (to per­mit easy de­vel­op­ment of a breed with ex­tremely high risk, us­ing well-s­tud­ied hu­man ge­net­ics as a proxy es­ti­mate, and pro­vid­ing cover for the breed­ing pro­gram as a sci­en­tific pro­gram into de­vel­op­ing s for im­por­tant hu­man dis­eases).

    Thus, some­thing like late-life ter­mi­nal can­cer treat­able with a sin­gle ex­pen­sive surgery would not work well be­cause it will be many years be­fore there is any rev­enue and many own­ers will sim­ply opt for eu­thana­sia. The ideal dis­eases in dogs & cats might be epilep­tic seizures and di­a­betes: the epilep­tic seizures are dra­mat­ic, fright­en­ing, but not dis­gust­ing, both dis­eases are life­long chronic dis­eases treat­able by med­i­cine, tend to show up while young but not im­me­di­ate­ly, and are highly her­i­ta­ble in hu­mans. A good med­i­cine cost would be ~$20/­mon­th, which would yield a NPV of eas­ily $5000 (ap­prox­i­mate­ly, ).

    This strat­egy ex­ploits: , , sub­ad­di­tiv­i­ty, mar­ket fail­ures, and virtue sig­nal­ing. would ap­prove great­ly.

  • con­sumer cat ge­nomics: ini­tial hook, an­ces­try & bas­ket of cat psy­choac­tives (cat­nip+­va­le­ri­an+sil­vervine+honey­suck­le+thyme+Buck­bean+…) for re­sponse GWAS & pre­dict al­ter­na­tives to cat­nip. Then one can de­velop larger dataset of health/­do­mes­ti­ca­tion/stress for breed­ing. (Boot­strap­ping from an­ces­try to sim­ple to com­plex traits has been a thus far suc­cess­ful pat­tern for 23andMe and con­sumer dog ge­nomics com­pa­nies like Em­bark, and there are cur­rently zero com­pa­nies in the cat space de­spite cats be­ing the sec­ond most pop­u­lar pet in the USA.)

    Like >95% of cat own­ers have no idea there is any­thing ex­cept cat­nip for cats, and the re­main­der don’t know where to get the al­ter­na­tives: va­ler­ian is not ad­ver­tised much for cats, I have to grow my own thyme, and I have no idea where to get the more ob­scure ones like Zinz­i­ba. So a bun­dle of cat psy­choac­tives is a valu­able way to amor­tize ac­qui­si­tion & re­search costs, and feed­back would quickly in­di­cate which ones ac­tu­ally work too. Com­bined with genomes for GCTA/GWAS, could quickly in­di­cate what can be pre­dict­ed/bred for.

    A suite of ge­nomic tests for the known cat Mendelian dis­eases and also com­plex traits could be valu­able for breed­ers, and also feed into hu­man med­ical re­search, as cats are fairly com­mon an­i­mal mod­els.

  • dy­namic cat toys: the be­hav­ioral study finds cats get bored with stan­dard cat toys be­cause they don’t change after a ‘hunt’, ap­par­ently the sim­ple heuris­tic cats use for de­cid­ing whether hunt­ing the toy is fun; they also found that toys which fell apart were most pop­u­lar of all. (I re­al­ized after read­ing that that the cat toys my own cat found the most in­ter­est­ing were the puz­zle-treat toys, which do in­deed ‘change’ in the sense of re­leas­ing a sin­gle bit of dry cat food.) Can we fix sta­tic cat toys to be more sat­is­fy­ing? To sim­u­late suc­cess­ful hunt con­clu­sion & avoid ha­bit­u­a­tion/­bore­dom—de­tach­able parts, shape-mem­ory al­loy/­plas­tic, LEDs?

  • (TvTropes) mo­bile game but for . -ize the NFL/NBA/MLB/soccer and be­come a bil­lion­aire!

    Fran­chises like ///Girls Front­line demon­strate that the odd­est things can be suc­cess­fully an­thro­po­mor­phized, but their ap­peal is in­her­ently lim­ited to mil­i­tary otaku, when there are things which are far more pop­u­lar—pro­fes­sional sports. There’s no rea­son to not do moe an­thro­po­mor­phiza­tion of sports­ball teams. They write them­selves—­like the Yan­kees are the ou­jo-sama char­ac­ter… (Given the gun/­ship moe con­ven­tion of bust size=­cal­iber, I sug­gest that var­i­ous club­s/teams an­nual bud­gets be used for the rank­ings.)

  • web­site that lists startup ideas.

  • Cut­Fit: a cut­ting-edge new fit­ness fad, ex­ploit­ing the fact that re­pair­ing bi­o­log­i­cal tis­sue after in­jury is en­er­get­i­cally & meta­bol­i­cally ex­pen­sive, re­quir­ing 4. Enough tis­sue dam­age could rep­re­sent a sub­stan­tial caloric sink, and if the scar­ring is vis­i­ble, serve as a costly cred­i­ble sig­nal of com­mit­ment to thin­ness & fit­ness by in­di­cat­ing reg­u­lar weight loss “cuts”, dri­ving out in­fe­rior meth­ods of weight main­te­nance. This need not nec­es­sar­ily in­volve sur­gi­cal re­moval of tis­sue: the slow­ness of re­cov­ery from in­juries & heavy ex­er­cise raises in­ter­est­ing ques­tions about how to op­ti­mally in­flict dam­age on the body so as to trig­ger the ex­er­cise re­spon­se—how much ex­er­cise ben­e­fit is from the cost of re­pair? Are there more effec­tive mus­cle­/­car­dio­vas­cu­lar dam­age meth­ods be­sides ‘run or lift weights’? (Care­fully tar­geted ul­tra­sounds? Hormetic lev­els of poi­sons like al­co­hol? Some­thing elec­tri­cal? Un­usual pos­tures? Phys­i­cal pres­sure? Heat/­cold? Are there ways to raise basal me­tab­o­lis­m/en­ergy ex­pen­di­ture which are safer than fevers, s, or )

  • ride-shar­ing im­prove­ment: find­ing one’s dri­ver or pas­sen­ger can be hard, es­pe­cially in cities or places where many peo­ple are be­ing picked up. One sim­ple way to im­prove things would be to adapt the “flash­light” apps and let the ride-shar­ing app dis­play a solid block of color on the pas­sen­ger & dri­ver’s phones; then they can sim­ply hold the phones up to pro­vide a unique clear­ly-vis­i­ble iden­ti­fier vis­i­ble over long dis­tances. The dri­ver looks for a per­son with a smart­phone broad­cast­ing lime green, for ex­am­ple. If there are too many peo­ple in one place for the rain­bow col­ors to be unique, the color code can be two blocks of col­or, like green-pur­ple or yel­low-blue, and so on.

  • ceil­ing-mounted in­frared beam emit­ter­s+guid­ance in­frared cam­era, steered by seg­ment­ing CNN: it au­to­mat­i­cally de­tects & warms up the bare skin seg­ments of fe­male ob­jects un­til ther­mal equi­lib­rium of 37.5°C is reached, en­sur­ing ther­mal com­fort of women with­out re­quir­ing heavy cloth­ing—thereby re­solv­ing the Great Office Ther­mo­stat Wars once and for all.

  • PGS screen­ing for sports re­cruit­ing: most sports de­pend on too many traits to mean­ing­fully pre­dict any­time soon from ge­net­ics, much less add valu­able in­cre­men­tal va­lid­ity to sim­ple phe­no­typic screen­ing meth­ods (ie “have them play a game and watch”). But there is one big-money sport which de­pends enor­mously on a sin­gle ex­ag­ger­ated high­ly-her­i­ta­ble highly-PGS-predictable trait which can­not eas­ily be phe­no­typ­i­cally pre­dicted years in ad­vance of ado­les­cence: height in bas­ket­ball. Re­cruiters will con­tact ran­dom youth sim­ply be­cause they are very tall, try­ing to re­cruit them; there is an apoc­ryphal sta­tis­tic that some­thing like 10% of all men over 7 foot high in the USA will play in the NBA at some point, which is prob­a­bly not quite true but is touch­ing on a truth. So, a startup could

  • non-med­ical hear­ing aids but for peo­ple with —NNs for (eg “Sound of Pix­els”). Train them to delete sounds like peo­ple chew­ing, pos­si­bly cus­tomized for spe­cific miso­phon­ics, then they can be worn as nec­es­sary in so­cial sit­u­a­tions. (These al­go­rithms are ex­pen­sive to run, which is why they are not used in stan­dard hear­ing aids de­spite hav­ing use­ful hard­ware like di­rec­tional mi­cro­phones, but a spe­cialty de­vice in­tended for spe­cific sit­u­a­tions can afford much shorter bat­tery life and/or larger bat­ter­ies.)

Tom Swifties

“It is not strength, but art, ob­tains the prize, / And to be swifty is less than to be wise.”

Alexan­der P.

Some­times, at night, SSC whis­pers to me, “go and make at every­one you ever loved. Pun it all down.” To ex­or­cise the de­mon, I make GPT-3 write them or I put them here in­stead:

  • “I hope Jared Kush­ner is able to im­prove the gov­ern­men­t’s Mid­dle East­ern pol­i­cy!”, Tom said sun­ni­ly.

  • “All these ran­dom fac­toids just about add up to a hill of beans”, Tom ob­served in a nor­mal tone.

  • “Eu­reka! I’ve fig­ured out how the brain works (a­gain)!”, Tom hinted on­line.

  • “Help, I’ve lost the two sil­ver coins I keep in my pocket and now I’m broke as a Greek!” Tom said par­a­dig­mat­i­cal­ly.

  • “These end­less flag de­bates have made me cross and see­ing red”, Tom said vexed­ly.

  • “Would any­one like some lamb or omelettes for brunch?”, Tom mod­estly pro­posed.

  • “I’m now dead­-broke and un­em­ployed”, Tom said in pub­lic dole­ful­ly.

  • “Darth Vader’s use of cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment is prob­a­bly bad for morale”, Tom said offhand­ed­ly.

  • “Im­pres­sive in­deed, but there’s some­thing I ought to tell you—I am not left­-handed ei­ther”, Tom pointed out offhand­ed­ly.

    “I ac­tu­ally am a skilled du­elist and trick shooter too”, offend­edly shot out Tom offhand­edly

  • “This new male con­tra­cep­tive is a rev­o­lu­tion­ary break­through!” Tom point­lessly ejac­u­lat­ed.

  • “She has an un­pleas­ant de­meanor”, Tom said misog­y­nis­ti­cal­ly.

  • “I won­der if a cer­tain per­son who should not have ate those spe­cial cook­ies”, Tom in­sin­u­at­ed.

  • “I hardly have an ap­petite for this Soy­lent”, Tom said in­sipid­ly.

  • “No, thanks, but I pre­fer caffeinated bev­er­ages”, Tom said tee­to­tal­ing.

  • “They put too many birds into the zoo and it over­flew!” Tom avidly squawked.

  • “Some dog has un­for­tu­nately de­stroyed my flower gar­den, oh well”, said Tom lack­adaisi­cal­ly.

  • “I can’t think of any­thing to write”, Tom said blankly.

    “Why do you ask?”, Tom said queru­lous­ly.

    “Be­cause I can think of lit­tle else than Tom Swifties”, Tom said au­to­log­i­cal­ly.

  • “I refuse to dis­cuss what I do­nate for a liv­ing!”, Tom said spunki­ly.

  • “I got a great deal on my new Ray­bans”, said Tom shadi­ly.

  • “You were sup­posed to get my Chi­nese car­toons in Au­gust!” Tom be­lat­ed.

  • “I should have held onto my oars bet­ter”, Tom tholed.

  • “Our hand­made tra­di­tional ar­ti­sanal cer­ti­fied or­ganic baked goods have a se­cret vi­tal in­gre­di­ent”, Tom said gluti­nous­ly.

  • “I’m not sure I be­lieve the offi­cial story about cur­rant events”, Tom doubted fruit­ful­ly.

  • “I’ve taken up weightlift­ing”, Tom grunt­ed.

    [LATER]: “I’m ab­solutely gut­ted to­day”, Tom belly­ached.

  • “We’re fresh out of wheat flour, but I think that has such a bland fla­vor, don’t you?” Tom said wry­ly.

  • “I am un­able to pro­vide an ex­am­ple of that in my dis­cus­sion”, Tom ab­lat­ed.

  • “I’m dis­gusted watch­ing peo­ple on trains stroke their iPads with those strange ges­tures!”, Tom said spunki­ly.

Nominative determinism

No­ticed in­stances of in the wild:


  • A rid­dle5: “What ac­tiv­ity is this?”

    • "You can do this ac­tiv­ity at the be­gin­ning or end of a horse race but not the mid­dle.
    • This ac­tiv­ity is ac­cept­able to do in pub­lic but un­ac­cept­able in your bed­room.
    • It is il­le­gal to have sex with an an­i­mal be­fore this ac­tiv­i­ty, but le­gal after­wards.
    • Some feel eth­i­cally re­quired to do it, while oth­ers feel re­quired not to.
    • It is eth­i­cal to do it to an an­i­mal, but not to your grand­par­ents.
    • It’s ac­cept­able to do it for your­self or fam­i­ly, but not strangers; how­ev­er, it’s ac­cept­able for strangers to do it for stranger­s/y­ou….
    • You can legally do it re­li­ably and pain­lessly for an­i­mals, but only legally do it un­re­li­ably and ex­tremely painfully for hu­man­s."6
  • Band names in­spired by colds:

    “An­gels & As­pi­ra­tions”; “The Breath Boys”; “Gesünd­heit”; “In­fec­tious Clown Posse”; “Jaw Di­vi­sion”/“Joy Omis­sion”; “Mu­cus Ma­chine”; “The Nasal Di­laters”; “Phlegm Phigh­ters”; “Snot­son and the Boogers”; “Trigem­i­nal Treach­ery”; “Tylenol Tears”; “WBC48”; “Flugees”; “Rage Against The Mu­cus”; “Lemon­tonix”; “Croak­w­erk”; “God Bless You Sick Em­peror”; “This Is Dimetapp”; “And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of DM”; “Ex­plo­sions in the Si­nus”; “Roxy Mu­cus”; “Sneezy Top”; “Amy Be­nadryl”; “Ha­choo-ne Miku”; “Me­gurine Puka”; “Sniffles of a Down”; “Link­in’ Puke”; “Lil Oozy”; “Germs & Blows”; “Hall­s-y”; “Mi­ley Si­nus”; “Justin Sneezer”; “Johnny Cough”; “Milky Chunks”; “Plan Slime From Outer Space”; “Cold­pray”; “The Long Dark Pee­time of the Soul”; “Puke Floyd”; “Honkie and the Blows­niff”

  • Things which sound like war crimes but aren’t: “”; “”; “Eng­lish break­fast”; “

  1. Re­jected sta­tis­tics pro­pa­ganda slo­gans: “To­geth­er, we can do it! Keep­’em sam­pling!” · “Data is a weapon—­don’t waste it.” · “When you write alone, you write with bi­as! Join a data-shar­ing site to­day!” · “Ser­vice on the home front: bug re­ports; doc fix­es; Stack Over­flow an­swers. There’s a job for every Amer­i­can in these civil­ian efforts!” · “Unit­ed, our sta­tis­ti­cal power is strong. Unit­ed, we will win.” · “Men who know say no to sexy press re­leases” · “Tokio Kid say: ‘Much mea­sure­ment er­ror make so-o-o-o hap­py! Sank you!’” · “It is far bet­ter to face the Type I er­rors than to be killed at home by Type IIs. Join a clin­i­cal trial at once.” · “Keep this hor­ror from your home: in­vest 10% in at once.” · “Old sta­tis­ti­cians never die, they just fade away and be­come non-sig­nifi­cant (p > 0.05).” · “I hate ran­dom er­ror as only a sta­tis­ti­cian who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its bru­tal­i­ty, its stu­pid­i­ty.” · “It was close; but that’s the way it is in se­quen­tial tri­als. You win or lose, live or die—and the differ­ence is just an eye­lash.” · “I can­not fore­cast to you the ac­tion of Ran­dom­iza­tion. It is a rid­dle wrapped in a mys­tery in­side an enig­ma.” · “I have noth­ing to offer but Bayes, toil, tears and sweat.” · “Worker threads of the world, unite! You have noth­ing to lose but your Markov chains.” · “I will re­cur.”↩︎

  2. A vari­ant on a say­ing in the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try, along the lines of “The per­fect race car falls apart while cross­ing the fin­ish line” or “The per­fect rac­ing car crosses the fin­ish line first and sub­se­quently falls into its com­po­nent parts” (but there are in­nu­mer­able vari­ants). It has been at­trib­uted to, among oth­ers, , an anony­mous news­pa­per pho­to­graph cap­tion, , and by way of (un­known source):

    …in ’59 I ran out of brakes four times—and I don’t mean they did­n’t work very well, I mean I had none. Like the main oil line had sheared. You know, so that oil, you know, when you put your foot on the floor, the oil just went squirt­ing out into the at­mos­phere. I’d al­ways be­lieved that Colin was close to ge­nius in his de­sign abil­ity and every­thing, if he could just get over this fail­ing of his of mak­ing things too bloody light. I mean, Col­in’s idea of a Grand Prix car was it should win the race and, as it crossed the fin­ish­ing line, it should col­lapse in a heap of bits. If it did­n’t do that, it was built too strong­ly.

    and Pe­ter Dron (2002):

    Chap­man prob­a­bly did die, aged only 54, of a heart at­tack. He had al­ways had weight prob­lems (hence his nick­name), cru­elly iron­i­cal in one so fa­nat­i­cal about light­ness: his the­ory of the per­fect rac­ing car was that, sev­eral yards after tak­ing the che­quered flag for vic­to­ry, it should si­mul­ta­ne­ously run out of petrol and dis­in­te­grate. Those dri­vers who sur­vived when their Lo­tuses crashed rather ear­lier than this, due to com­po­nent fail­ure, some­times felt that he took this prin­ci­ple too far.

  3. This asym­me­try might ex­plain the ap­a­thy of pet own­ers to pay­ing for breed­ing or ge­netic en­gi­neer­ing, in con­trast to farm­ers who are will­ing to pay large sums for the de­vel­op­ment of su­pe­rior va­ri­eties. It is easy to imag­ine the com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment of cat breeds de­vel­oped to be ex­tremely healthy, long-lived, with good tem­pera­ments, cat­nip re­spon­se, no known ge­netic dis­eases (with tests reg­u­larly de­ployed as de­vel­ope­d), the kit­tens raised with op­ti­mal meth­ods such as large amounts of han­dling & ex­po­sure to stres­sors like other cats or dogs dur­ing the crit­i­cal early de­vel­op­men­tal win­dows of plas­tic­i­ty, and sold spayed/neutered to end con­sumers to pro­tect their IP. Such rig­or­ous pro­grams are com­mon in live­stock or plant breed­ing, and the prod­ucts often sold to end con­sumers such as hob­by­ist gar­den­ers. Yet, they are to­tally ab­sent from pet own­er­ship.

    It is strik­ing that most se­lec­tive breed­ing of cats fo­cuses on fur ap­pear­ance, cross­ing do­mes­tic cats with a va­ri­ety of other fe­lid species to pro­duce breeds with ex­otic ap­pear­ances (com­pare sales of the ), or in the case of & Fe­lix Pets, ad­ver­tis­ing (ie sell­ing to those for whom a nor­mal cat would be ex­cru­ci­at­ing & pos­si­bly dan­ger­ous to live with). This lack of in­ter­est in cat breeds op­ti­mized is de­spite the large, and ever es­ca­lat­ing, health­care costs for pets, which im­ply that pay­ing thou­sands of dol­lars for a par­tic­u­larly healthy & long-lived pet could pay off.↩︎

  4. Apell et al 2012:

    The liv­er, brain, heart and kid­neys make up for al­most 70% of this ba­sic meta­bolic rate W but only about 6% of the body mass M To cal­cu­late gross num­bers we can use a food in­take equiv­a­lent to 6 MJ/­day (Ma­han 2000). This cor­re­sponds to an av­er­age power of 70 W or 1 mW/g = 1 pW/ng of body weight. A typ­i­cal cell is around 1 ng in weight giv­ing the pW scale for cell me­tab­o­lism. In phys­i­cal terms wounds need sub­stan­tial en­ergy re­sources when pro­cess­ing the new ma­te­r­ial needed to fill the wound cav­i­ty. In the first in­stance it takes a lot of ex­tra en­ergy to boost the im­mune sys­tem to beat pos­si­ble in­flam­ma­tions and clear up the de­bris. The en­ergy needed for the tis­sue in­growth can be de­com­posed into two parts. The en­ergy stored in the new ma­te­r­ial and struc­tures be­ing built and the one used to main­tain old and new tis­sue. The first one dom­i­nates dur­ing the tis­sue growth process and de­pends nat­u­rally on tis­sue com­po­si­tion. How­ever if we know the frac­tions of fat and pro­teins one can use their heat of com­bus­tion to cal­cu­late a num­ber for the tis­sue con­cerned. This works out to a mean en­ergy re­quire­ment for growth of the or­der of 20 kJ per gram of tis­sue de­posited or 60μJ for an av­er­age cell (3–5 nanograms) (Ma­lina 2004 [Growth, mat­u­ra­tion, and phys­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ty, sec­ond edi­tion]). This cor­re­sponds to a power of 6 watts if con­verted to one hour. Be­ing of the or­der of 10% of the to­tal basal power we see that wound heal­ing has to take days if not to be a too heavy load on the sys­tem. An­other way is to boost the lo­cal me­tab­o­lism where it is well-known that in pe­ri­ods of ill­ness or in­jury we need to in­crease the en­ergy in­take with up to 40–50%. This means in phys­i­cal terms that wounds acts like sub­stan­tial en­ergy sinks…­Tak­ing into ac­count that fi­brob­last cells are one of the ma­jor play­ers in mak­ing new tis­sue we find from Ta­ble I and the en­ergy re­quire­ment above of 20kJ/g to make new tis­sue that a time of the or­der of 10 days will have to elapse to pro­vide the nec­es­sary en­ergy WT. This is defi­nitely in line with mea­sured heal­ing times. No­tice how­ever that this time is ba­si­cally much longer than the typ­i­cal cel­l-dou­bling time or the time it takes a fi­brob­last cell to move 10 times its own size (10h), which is typ­i­cally the dis­tance over which cells have no idea that a wound is present in their neigh­bour­hood.

  5. In­spired by an ex­er­cise on pg5–6 of 2008, On Be­ing Cer­tain: Be­liev­ing You Are Right Even When You’re Not, which is sim­i­lar to per­cep­tual il­lu­sions like :

    To be­gin our dis­cus­sion of the feel­ing of know­ing, read the fol­low­ing ex­cerpt at nor­mal speed. Don’t skim, give up halfway through, or skip to the ex­pla­na­tion. Be­cause this ex­pe­ri­ence can’t be du­pli­cated once you know the ex­pla­na­tion, take a mo­ment to ask your­self how you feel about the para­graph. After read­ing the clar­i­fy­ing word, reread the para­graph. As you do so, please pay close at­ten­tion to the shifts in your men­tal state and your feel­ing about the para­graph.

    A news­pa­per is bet­ter than a mag­a­zine. A seashore is a bet­ter place than the street. At first, it is bet­ter to run than to walk. You may have to try sev­eral times. It takes some skill, but it is easy to learn. Even young chil­dren can en­joy it. Once suc­cess­ful, com­pli­ca­tions are min­i­mal. Birds sel­dom get too close. Rain, how­ev­er, soaks in very fast. Too many peo­ple do­ing the same thing can also cause prob­lems. One needs lots of room. If there are no com­pli­ca­tions, it can be very peace­ful. A rock will serve as an an­chor. If things break loose from it, how­ev­er, you will not get a sec­ond chance.

    Is this para­graph com­pre­hen­si­ble or mean­ing­less? Feel your mind sort through po­ten­tial ex­pla­na­tions. Now watch what hap­pens with the pre­sen­ta­tion of a sin­gle word: kite. As you reread the para­graph, feel the prior dis­com­fort of some­thing amiss shift­ing to a pleas­ing sense of right­ness. Every­thing fits; every sen­tence works and has mean­ing. Reread the para­graph again; it is im­pos­si­ble to re­gain the sense of not un­der­stand­ing. In an in­stant, with­out due con­scious de­lib­er­a­tion, the para­graph has been ir­re­versibly in­fused with a feel­ing of know­ing.

    Try to imag­ine other in­ter­pre­ta­tions for the para­graph. Sup­pose I tell you that this is a col­lab­o­ra­tive poem writ­ten by a third-grade class, or a col­lage of strung-to­gether for­tune cookie quotes. Your mind balks. The pres­ence of this feel­ing of know­ing makes con­tem­plat­ing al­ter­na­tives phys­i­cally diffi­cult.

  6. The an­swer is “eu­thana­sia”. See , and WP on /.↩︎