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"The of all humans almost certainly lived in East Asia, which would have given them key access to extremely isolated populations in Australia and the Americas." (

An East Asian dude or dudette, living three to six thousand years ago, is likely the most recent common ancestor to all living humans.

Always blows my mind. 🤯


'While "original divergence" between [human and chimp] populations may have occurred as early as 13 million years ago, hybridization may have been ongoing until as recently as 4 million years ago.'

That is an astonishingly wide range of hybridization! Oh, I'm so jealous of my great-grandkids who will hopefully know so much more details about that evolutionary history!

One of my favorite books is Richard ' *Ancestor's Tale* (& isn't about atheism).

TIL the giant 's ancestors switched to bamboo-only diets more than two million years ago:

By comparison, chimpanzees’ and bonobos’ most recent common ancestor () lived 1.6mya:

And humans’, chimps’, and bonobos’ MRCA lived 6mya.

Pandas been eating only bamboo for a long time!

(The point of the article though is that bamboo is like meat—high protein, low fat—and panda internal still resembles carnivores’. ftw.)

“When I learned poker, in the Stone Age, we frequently played 72 hours or more with only power naps. It was considered essential to play under severe sleep deprivation to become a top player. Sleep deprivation is a euphoriant, and stimulates a different type of learning than well-rested learning. It puts you in touch with parts of your brain normally hidden, that you need to read other people.”
again recently on sleep deprivation and ,

This is just one case study of how to apply epistemic learned helplessness as a layperson and how to use it as motivation for being a better scientist. (Hopefully the conspiracy theory peddlers getting ad revenue from their fake news posts don’t try to defeat epistemic learned helplessness.)

I use the tool every day. I wish I didn’t have to but there it is.

I’d invoke epistemic learned helplessness even before learning about its weak methods—they solicited surveys from parents of trans kids on trans-unsupportive websites?, and their disclaimer had pre-biasing language.

But I’m disappointed in the original study’s authors’s responses to their own peers, who are the true audience of their paper. If they’re failing to convince their peers about the merit of their findings, they should address their concerns, not just stoically “stand by” their work.

But then you have this

a study that showed evidence that gender dysphoria (being trans) like anorexia seems to have social contagion components, and the rebuttal paper by a trans scholar at the same school.

I’d have invoked epistemic learned helplessness in response to the first paper, purporting to show something surprising, especially after religious and politically conservative transphobic crowds embraced the study.

That is, hopefully you’ve learned humility from being wrong often before (finding holes in your own approach), from your seniors teaching to cultivate humility, or from seeing how holes were discovered in past works, and which blind spots past investigators failed to address (seance–alchemy Newton, and epigenetic Lamark are faves).

Humility isn’t some moral nice-to-have but a crucial component in the minimization of inevitable mistakes without letting ego interfere with science.


Epistemic learned helplessness is an important tool for us because often scientists lack humility or perspective, and act more like Atlantis/pseudohistory or conspiracy/ad revenue writers from the initial essay—

You’ve published a paper. You’ve tried to address all the critiques, real and potential, that you can imagine. But hopefully through experience, or from mentors, or through study of history, you expect devastating and unexpected holes to be revealed.

“an awareness of one’s current ignorance and lack of understanding should leave one open to changing one’s mind in response to novel arguments, including in relatively dramatic ways. However, with respect to the rationality of radical belief change, … Particularly when one initially has at least some reason for believing as one does, an awareness of one’s own cognitive limitations might legitimately give rise to some measure of skepticism about arguments that attempt to undermine those beliefs.”

“Plato’s bequeathed at least two compelling ideals to the Western philosophical tradition. On the one hand, there is the ideal of following the argument where it leads. On the other, there is the ideal of appreciating the extent of one’s own ignorance, the respects in which one’s current knowledge and understanding are subject to profound limitations. These two ideals can interact in interesting ways.“
—Thomas Kelly in (via Pinboard’s tweet about ELH)

Scientists!!!, and anyone training to be a scientist—none of this is relevant to your professional work!

Just because your paper may be read by laypeople, or misconstrued into clickbait for ad revenue, you *have* to do literally everything you can to prove or disprove your findings to *yourself*, first and foremost—if there are *any* doubts that you can imagine, you have to address them. Your audience are your peers—you must convince them to replicate your findings.

If there are any Pyrrhonian skeptics in the house, y'all know what I'm talking about. These people found so many pairs of diametrically-opposed but equally-strong arguments, for and against sundry things, that they suspended judgement on everything and found their lives got better. They don't say that the truth doesn't exist—just that they haven't found it yet, and continue seeking.

You don't have to worry that epistemic learned helplessness or Pyrronism is non-science. They aren't.

We desperately need more epistemic learned helplessness. (Or take away everyone's internet.)

We need more people ‘know that a false argument sounds just as convincing as a true argument’ (or at least very close).

To say that ‘unless I am an expert in that particular field… it's hard to take them seriously’ (I removed a typo there).

To acknowledge that it's terrifying that the ‘establishment can be very very wrong’ and to lack ‘good standards by which to decide whether to dismiss it’.

If you're incredulous that I (or Scott Alexander) would say something's wrong with less cognitive bias, more science, more experiments, then good—read the essay, it transmits a tricky argument nicely:

The profligate explosion of conspiracy theories in the last few years, as well as their gaining legitimacy (or at least space in the public sphere) since the Trump candidacy is a direct result in a lapse in epistemic learned helplessness.

Reread that anecdote about Osama.

As background—

Some of you might know that there's a site and an accompanying movement—is it too much to call it a "movement"?—calling for more rationality, in light of cognitive biases and scientific methods and randomized experiments as the only ways towards truth.

One big deal for these CfAR (Center for Applied Rationality) people is *take ideas seriously*—if you accept an argument, live it.

Scott argues in the above that this is a terrible idea for vast majority of people.

I don't dare try to fit epistemic learned helplessness in a toot—it's a subtle and surprising reason for you to *not* take logical arguments and hot new studies seriously.

'If Osama comes up to him with a really good argument for terrorism, he thinks "Oh, there's a good argument for terrorism. I guess I should become a terrorist," as opposed to "Arguments? You can prove anything with arguments. I'll just stay right here and not do something that will get me ostracized and probably killed."'

One of items that's been on my mental mug tree (*) for years is .

I didn't know this until today but that essay (original from LiveJournal) is by the Slate Star Codex dude. (Yeah the same Slate Star Codex that I said I didn't really like a few days ago and quoted an anecdote therefrom which I really liked.)

(*) mug tree: that thing in your kitchen that you hang mugs on and reach for every morning as you're making your morning beverage.

This was timely:

I, and many other, live in the attic of computing. Others live upstairs, some on the first floor, others in the basement.

The amount of information you ask a prospective inhabitant about the various rooms and floors of your house during an interview seems very random.

(I really like Vicki’s latest article too, titled “IT runs Java 8”. I’ll talk about that soon.)

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#MyBrothersHusband (Final)

“I wanted ‘My Brother’s Husband’ to be read and then read again, by a wide age range from kids to adults,” says Tagame. “Most content in Japan that approaches gay themes are represented in (the) boys’ love (genre) or otherwise adult-oriented sexual or romantic plots. However, I didn’t want that. I wanted to write a gay-themed story meant for every age group, because gay issues are clearly not limited to adults; they affect everyone in society.”

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