Desiderata #15: links and commentary
Covid deaths in Sweden, ChatGPT costs, color vision vs. sex, Einstein's aptitude test
The Desiderata series is a monthly roundup of links and thoughts, as well as an open thread and ongoing AMA in the comments for paid subscribers (along with extra links).
1/12. Since the last Desiderata, The Intrinsic Perspective published:
(🔒) Please don't sue the scientists who exposed your papers for containing bad data: “Data analysis just got dangerous”
I want to read your work (call for subscriber writing): Share links to your writing on The Intrinsic Perspective this September.
What the heck happened in 2012? On the year the modern world was invented.
Consciousness is a great mystery. Its definition isn't: In fact, pretty much all the experts agree.
2/12. A debate raged online concerning the excess death numbers of Sweden during Covid, as they never locked down. A new analysis shows that Sweden had minimal excess mortality, at least compared to the previous years leading up to the pandemic. That is, despite not locking down, Swedish excess deaths are actually lower than a lot of Europe (2nd to last, or thereabouts):
Of course, the issue is there are a ton of variables in play: the Swedish population is very healthy (essentially tied for the highest average life expectancy in Europe), has good health care, and their civil structures are well-ordered. I’ll note what I haven’t seen anyone remark upon: Sweden remained neutral during WWII, another unpopular international stance that, regardless of the morality, certainly worked out for Sweden. And during Covid yet again they acted by not acting. Kind of an interesting little historical repeat, in a way.
3/12. According to one report, OpenAI is spending over $700,000 a day to keep ChatGPT running, and also its userbase is allegedly declining. In the grand scheme of things, I expect the company to be fine financially, what with Microsoft funding, but it’s a good reminder that AIs are not cheap and that actually the deployed use-cases for Large Language Models remains low.
4/12. I found this to be an accurate summary of how a writer should respond—nay, must respond—to negative reviews:
5/12. Speaking of books, on Friday I will be doing a salon about The World Behind the World hosted by Interintellect.
Tickets are available here. You don’t need to have read the book to attend, I believe there’s a pdf of a chapter that’s shared to ticket buyers but also we’re mainly just going to talk about the current state of neuroscience. Interintellect events are very fun and casual—basically they are just Zoom events wherein people come together to discuss a subject. In this case, why neuroscience is stuck.
This is actually true—I remember talking about it with the other neuroscientists-to-be in graduate school (there are more public cases—like the woman in San Diego who, appropriately enough, owns an art gallery).
You see colors with the cones of your eyes, and most people have 3 types of cones (red, green, and blue). But some upper estimates have been that 12% of women have a fourth cone. And women can, on average, identify far more colors than men (ah, the classic “Are these pants black or blue?” debate). I found this funny graphic that basically captures the phenomenon:
According to Sciplanet:
Based on Dr. Neitz's estimates, there could be 99 million women in the world with true four-color vision. However, before they pat themselves on the back for their superior evolution, he said, it is important to note that humans are just getting back to where birds, amphibians and reptiles have been for eons.
Those creatures have long had four-color vision, but a main difference is that their fourth type of color detector is in the high-frequency ultraviolet range, beyond where humans can see. In fact, that conclusion allowed scientists to figure out recently why the males of some species of birds did not appear to have brighter plumage than the females, Dr. Neitz said.
The problem was in the observers, not the birds, he said. When those species were viewed through ultraviolet detectors, the males had markedly different feathers than the females.
Fear not men! For despite being excluded from the beautiful colors the rest of the animal kingdom has access to, you can see (again, on average) motion better than your opposite sex. This is why it is the fate of all men to march about oblivious, existing solely in a gray world without color, sensitive only to motion, lumbering around like the Tyrannosauruses in Jurassic Park as our faces become distended, our skin scaly and rough, our arms becoming tinier as our legs and bellies grow huge, and all the while we glare beadily out of our cavernous eye sockets so we can catch, at a glimmer, the smallest of movements. It is only when activated by such a tick of motion that we come alive and can speedily shift our bulk into a killing blow dealt with lethal grace. An athleticism now mostly reserved for flies that get into the house.
7/12. The great quiet of space means that the Fermi paradox remains paradoxical. A recent SETI survey found that:
Based on our observations, we found that there is a high probability (94.0-98.7%) that fewer than ~0.014% of stars earlier than M8 within 100 pc host a transmitter that is detectable in our search.
So. Where is everybody?