September 2020 Newsletter

Personal

Moved to SF for my freshman year at Minerva. For the first two weeks, I forced myself to have two hour-long 1 on 1s a day with people.

Made a cooking page on my website.

Completed my first ever technical interview! It was for a internship at a computer graphics R&D lab.

Complex Systems

Art

Art as a Cultural System (Geertz)

Argues that understanding a work of art requires knowledge of its cultural context

In the falling snow
A laughing boy holds out his palms
Until they are white

If you only look at formal elements like imagery, you end up with a boring interpretation of this haiku. E.g. “The innocence of childhood blah blah”.

But with cultural context, knowing that this poem was written by an African-American poet during the civil rights movement - the poem takes on a much deeper meaning.

Art is often part of a society-wide conversation, and without cultural context, it’s like you’re listening in on the middle of a conversation where you know none of the words.

Into the Spider-Verse, Leap of Faith Scene
The climactic scene of an amazing movie.

The Sound of the Spider-Verse

A video essay on the soundtrack of “Into the Spider-Verse”

This video focuses on how leitmotifs are used to underscore key moments of the film - stages in the hero’s journey.

Highlight: In the “Leap of Faith” scene, there are 3 musical themes at play.

  1. The use of hip-hop music is present whenever Miles (the main character) is comfortable and feeling like himself.
  2. A slow octave jump up, followed by an octave jump down - which plays whenever Miles encounters something that changes his life. This leitmotif repeats several times in the scene.
  3. The rhythm that plays at the very end of the scene plays whenever a “Spider hero” is on screen - its presence here signals that Miles has completed his transformation as a hero.

Research Reproducibility

The NIPS Experiment

“[At NIPS 2014] 57% of the papers accepted by the first committee were rejected by the second one and vice versa. In other words, most papers at NIPS would be rejected if one reran the conference review process”

What’s Wrong with Social Sciene and How to Fix It: Reflections after Reading 2578 Papers

Replication rates are low across all types of papers

The average replication probability [of the 2578 papers] was 54%

Studies that replicate are cited at the same rate as studies that do not

Journal status and [replication rates] are not very well correlated

Simkin & Roychowdhury venture a guess that as many as 80% of authors citing a paper have not actually read the original

Misc

How This All Happened
What happened to the US economy since World War 2, why the sense of “Whatever this world is, it’s not working!” which fuels Trump’s base came to be, and why it might be here to stay for a while

Medical Advances Mask Epidemic of Violence by Cutting Murder Rate

Some surprising statistics

Murder rates [in the US] would be up to five times higher than they are but for medical developments over the past 40 years.

Without [improved healthcare] technology, we estimate there would be no less than 50,000 and as many as 115,000 homicides annually instead of an actual 15,000 to 20,000

Clearly, there is less perceived need to find common cause on gun control if the perception is that severely wounded victims of knives and automatics are routinely ‘repaired’ and back on the streets in no time.

Futarchy: Vote Values, But Bet Beliefs

In futarchy, democracy would continue to say what we want, but betting markets would now say how to get it.

A Few Rules

Stories, behavior, and what society rewards

The person who tells the most compelling story wins. Not the best idea. Just the story that catches people’s attention and gets them to nod their heads."

Behavior is hard to fix. People say they’ve learned but they underestimate how much of their previous mistake was caused by emotions that will return when faced with the same circumstances.

Being good at something doesn’t promise rewards. It doesn’t even promise a compliment. What’s rewarded in the world is scarcity, so what matters is what you can do that other people are bad at.

What I Wish I Knew In College

Actionable advice for people to make the most of their time in college

Leverage Your Free Time

Your college years are going to give you the most free schedule you are ever likely to have… [This] represents the most important factor to get right.

Sit down right now and write out a list of everything you want to do… When you’re done, look at the list, and think about what’s required to get there… While you are in college, you have a unique opportunity to [accomplish] those things that require lots of time.

Socialize Deliberately

Think about whatever field you’re interested in, and locate the other people [in the city] who have the same ambitions

A critically undervalued resource is the fact that you have unprecedented access to a large number of highly intelligent people – your college professors… Always use a professor’s office hours, you’re likely the only person who will be there! Give them a reason to remember you, and eventually to help you out.