Books, music, etc. from November 2015



Music I most enjoyed discovering this month:


Ones I really liked, or loved:

Some books I’m looking forward to, November 2015 edition

* = added this round

Books, music, etc. from October 2015



Music I most enjoyed discovering this month:


Ones I really liked, or loved:

Job openings in the EA-sphere, October 2015

There are lots of job openings in the effective altruism world right now. Many of these positions will be hard to fill, and I’m sure the hiring organizations would appreciate you sending their job ads to people who might be a good fit, or sharing the job ad on social media if your followers might be particularly likely to include some candidates who might be good fits.

Most of what you see below is re-organized from a recent EA newsletter. Jobs are listed by organization; organizations are listed alphabetically. Jobs that can be done remotely from any location are marked “(remote),” though I probably missed a few of these.

If you work at an explicitly EA-motivated organization and you have additions or corrections to the job openings listed below, please let me know.


80,000 Hours (Oxford, UK) wants a full-stack web developer with an eye for design. $1000 for successful referrals. Deadline is Oct. 18.

Animal Charity Evaluators (San Diego, USA) wants an Advocacy Research Program Officer. No deadline specified.

The Centre for Effective Altruism (Oxford, UK) wants an Event Manager, a Project Manager, an Office Manager, a Director of US Operations, a Finance Manager, a Full-Stack Marketer, a Strategy Fellow, and a Development Manager. Deadlines are Oct. 18.

The Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (Cambridge, UK) wants four post-docs and an Academic Project Manager to work on extreme technological risk. Deadlines are Nov. 12.

The Future of Life Institute (Boston, USA) wants a Project Coordinator and a News Website Editor. Deadlines not specified.

GiveWell (San Francisco, USA) wants Summer Research Analysts for 2016, Research Analysts, Outreach Associates, Operations Associates, and (remote) Conversation Notes Writers. Deadlines not specified.

Giving What We Can (Oxford, UK) wants a Director of Growth and multiple Research Analysts. Deadlines are Oct. 18.

The Global Priorities Project (Oxford, UK) wants a Director of Policy and multiple Research Fellows. Deadlines are Oct. 18.

The Machine Intelligence Research Institute (Berkeley, USA) wants Research Fellows to work on technical problems related to superintelligence alignment.

The Open Philanthropy Project (San Francisco, USA) wants a Biosecurity Program Officer, Advisors and Senior Advisors for its Life Sciences program category, and (remote) Social Sciences Research Assistants. Deadlines not specified.

Sentience Politics (Basel, Switzerland) wants a Project Manager to establish the organization in Germany. Deadline is Oct. 31.

Some books I’m looking forward to, October 2015 edition

* = added this round

Books, music, etc. from September 2015


I thoroughly enjoyed MacFarquhar’s Strangers Drowning. It does contain at least one error:

[Stephanie] didn’t know what [“bigger” thing she should be doing]… [maybe] preventing malevolent computers from attacking mankind, like the people at the Machine Intelligence Research Institute?


Music I most enjoyed discovering this month:


Ones I really liked, or loved:

Unabashedly emotional or catchy avant-garde music

Holden wrote me a fictional conversation to illustrate his experience of trying to find music that is (1) complex, (2) structurally interesting, and yet (3) listenable / emotional / catchy (at least in some parts):

Holden: I’m bored by pop music. Got anything interesting?

Person: Here, try this 7-second riff played repeatedly for 26 minutes.

Holden: Umm … but what about … something a little more varied?

Person: Check out 38 minutes of somebody screaming incoherently while 5 incompatible instruments play random notes and a monotone voice recites surreal poetry.

Holden: But like … uh … more listenable maybe?

Person: I thought you didn’t want pop bullshit. Well, here’s something middlebrow: a guy playing 3 chords on a guitar who sounds kind of sarcastic.

Holden’s three criteria describe a great deal of my favorite music, much of which is scattered throughout my guides to modern classical music and modern art jazz. So if those criteria sound good to you, too, then I’ve listed below a few musical passages you might like.

Osvaldo Golijov, The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind, I. Agitato, 4:53-7:45

A string quartet + clarinet piece with a distinctly Jewish sound which, in this passage, sounds to me like a scene of building tension and frantic activity until all falls away (6:23) and the clarinet screams prayers of desperation to God (6:59).

Carla Bley, Escalator Over the Hill, Hotel Overture, 6:26-10:30

A circus-music refrain ambles along until things slow down (7:40) and a sax begins to solo (7:45) over repeating fatalistic-sounding chords in a way that, like the clarinet in the passage above, sounds to me like a cry of desperation, one with a cracking voice (e.g. at 8:03 & 8:09), and, at times, non-tonal gargled screaming (8:32), finally fading back into earlier themes from the overture (9:45).

Arvo Pärt, Tabula Rasa, Ludus, 4:10-9:52

Violins swirl around chords that seem to endlessly descend until a period of relative quiet (4:50) accented by bells. The earlier pattern returns (5:26), eventually picking up pace (5:44), until a momentary return to the calm of the bells (6:14). Then another return to the swirling violins (6:55), which again pick up their pace but this time with a thundering crash (7:15) that foreshadows the destruction that lies ahead. The violins ascend to a peak (7:55), and then quiver as they fall — farther and farther — until booming chords (8:44) announce the final desperate race (8:49) to the shattering end (9:36). If this doesn’t move you, you might be dead.

Sergey Kuryokhin, The Sparrow Oratorium, Summer, 0:55-4:36

Squeaky strings wander aimlessly until the piece suddenly jumps into a rollicking riff (1:11) that will be repeated throughout the piece. Variations on this riff continue as a high-gain guitar plays a free jazz solo. The solo ends (2:30), the noise builds, and then suddenly transitions (2:46) to a silly refrain of “zee zee zee zee…” and other vocalizations and then (3:17) a female pop singer with a soaring chorus that bleeds into (4:05) a variation on the original riff with sparse instrumentation which then launches into a louder, fuller-sounding version of the riff (4:20). (To me, this track is more catchy than emotional.)

John Adams, Harmonielehre, 1st movement, 12:19-16:18

Melancholy strings descend, but there is tension in the mood, announced by an ominous trill (12:45), and then another (12:51). But then, the mood lifts with piano and woodwinds (13:03) repeating an optimistic chord. The music accelerates, and takes another tonal shift toward a tense alert (13:22). Booming brass and drums enter (13:41) as things continue to accelerate, and the drums and brass strike again (14:29) and drag the whole piece down with them, in pitch and pace. The strings and horns struggle to rise again until the horns soar free (15:11) . The instruments rise and accelerate again until they break through to the upper atmosphere (15:32). Then they pull back, as if they see something up ahead, and… BOOM (16:04) there are the thundering E minor chords the opened the piece, here again to close the movement.

Tracks or albums pushing musical boundaries

Here’s a playlist of tracks or albums pushing musical boundaries, released in 2012 or later:

This list is exclusive to rock-descended music. My knowledge of jazz and contemporary classical is less comprehensive than my knowledge of rock and its descendents, so I’m less able to tell what is genuinely new for jazz and contemporary classical.

And no, I don’t know why the artists named above all begin with a letter in the first half of the alphabet.

Some books I’m looking forward to, September 2015 edition

* = added this round

Books, music, etc. from August 2015


López’s Dog Whistle Politics was rarely persuasive. A lot of stuff like “Reagan said these two race-baiting things, and then people voted for him and didn’t mind his regressive tax policies, because they were racist and fell for his dog whistle statements.” I assume lots of Americans are fairly racist, and I assume politicians use racist dog whistles from time to time, but I don’t know how important those dog whistles are for American politics, and López didn’t put much effort into supporting his claims on that question.


Music I most enjoyed discovering this month:


Ones I really liked, or loved:

Films I’m looking forward to

  • Swanberg, Digging for Fire (Aug 21, 2015)
  • Perry, Queen of Earth (Aug 26, 2015)
  • Villeneuve, Sicario (Sep 25, 2015)
  • Mendes, Spectre (Nov 6, 2015)
  • Haynes, Carol (Nov 20, 2015)
  • Sohn, The Good Dinosaur (Nov 25, 2015)
  • Abrams, The Force Awakens (Dec 18, 2015)
  • Tarantino, The Hateful Eight (Dec 25, 2015)
  • Russell, Joy (Dec 25, 2015)
  • Iñárritu, The Revenant (Dec 25, 2015)
  • Coen brothers, Hail, Caesar! (Feb 5, 2016)
  • Nichols, Midnight Special (Mar 18, 2016)
  • Stanton, Finding Dory (Jun 17, 2016)
  • Edwards, Rogue One (Dec 16, 2016)
  • Scorsese, Silence (TBD 2016)
  • Reeves, War of the Planet of the Apes (Jul 14, 2017)
  • Cameron, Avatar 2 (Dec 2017)
  • Audiard, Dheepan (TBD)
  • Haneke, Flashmob (TBD)
  • Dardenne brothers, The Unknown Girl (TBD)

Replies to people who argue against worrying about long-term AI safety risks today

More replies will be added here as I remember or discover them. To focus on the “modern” discussion, I’ll somewhat-arbitrarily limit this to replies to comments or articles that were published after the release of Bostrom’s Superintelligence on Sep. 3rd, 2014. Please remind me which ones I’m forgetting.

By me

  • My reply to critics in’s “Myth of AI” discussion. (Timelines, malevolence confusion, convergent instrumental goals.)
  • My reply to AI researcher Andrew Ng. (Timelines, malevolence confusion.)
  • My reply to AI researcher Oren Etzioni. (Timelines, convergent instrumental goals.)
  • My reply to economist Alex Tabarrok. (Timelines, glide scenario.)
  • My reply to AI researcher David Buchanan. (Consciousness confusion.)
  • My reply to physicist Lawrence Krauss. (Power requirements.)
  • My reply to AI researcher Jeff Hawkins. (Self-replication, anthropomorphic AI, intelligence explosion, timelines.)
  • My reply to AI researcher Pedro Domingos. (Consciousness confusion? Not sure.)
  • My reply to AI researcher Yann LeCun. (Timelines, malevolence confusion.)

By others

  • Stuart Russell replies to critics in’s “Myth of AI” discussion. (Convergent instrumental goals.)
  • Rob Bensinger replies to computer scientist Ernest Davis. (Intelligence explosion, AGI capability, value learning.)
  • Rob Bensinger replies to roboticist Rodney Brooks and philosopher John Searle. (Narrow AI, timelines, malevolence confusion.)
  • Scott Alexander replies to technologist and novelist Ramez Naam and others. (Mainstream acceptance of AI risks.)
  • Olle Häggström replies to nuclear security specialist Edward Moore Geist. (Plausibility of superhuman AI, goal content integrity.)


Some books I’m looking forward to, August 2015 edition

* = added this round

Books, music, etc. from July 2015


Minger’s Death by Food Pyramid has some good warnings against the missteps of the nutrition profession, government nutrition recommendations, and fad diets. Minger is mostly excited by Weston Price ideas about nutrition. I haven’t examined that evidence base, but I’d be surprised if e.g. we actually had decent measures of the rates of cancer, etc. in the populations Price visited. His work might elevate some hypotheses to the level of “Okay, we should test this,” in which case my question is “Have we done those RCTs yet?”

Ansari & Klinenberg’s Modern Romance was mildly amusing but not very good.


This month I again listened to dozens of jazz albums while working on my in-progress jazz guide. This month, I started finally got to the stage where I hadn’t heard many of the albums, so I had lots of new encounters with albums I enjoyed a lot:

Albums I liked a lot, from other genres:


Ones I really liked, or loved:

  • Andrey Zvyagintsev, Leviathan (2014)
  • Noah Baumbach, While We’re Young (2014)
  • Abderrahmane Sissako, Timbuktu (2014)
  • Judd Apatow, Trainwreck (2015)

Some books I’m looking forward to, July 2015 edition

Audio music explainers

If I had a lot more time, and the licenses to reproduce extended excerpts from tons of recorded music, the ideal versions of my beginner’s guides to modern classical music and art jazz would actually be audiobooks, with me talking for a bit, and then playing 30 seconds of some piece, and then explaining how it’s different from some other piece, and then playing that piece, and so on.

Such audiobooks do exist, and I’m going to call them audio music explainers — as opposed to e.g. text-based music explainers, like these, or interactive music explainers, like these (sorta).

Below are some examples, with Spotify links when available:

Do you know of others?

July links

Karnofsky, Has violence declined, when large-scale atrocities are systematically included?

Winners of the PROSE awards look fascinating.

Five big myths about techies and philanthropy.

Debate on effective altruism at Boston Review.

The /r/AskHistorians master book list.

How Near-Miss Events Amplify or Attenuate Risky Decision Making.

How do types affect (programming) productivity and correctness? A review of the empirical evidence.

What is your software project’s truck factor? How does it compare to those of popular GitHub applications?

Hacker can send fatal doses to hospital drug pumps. Because by default, everything you connect to the internet is hackable.

Lessons from the crypto wars of the 1990s.


AI stuff

Jacob Steinhardt: Long-Term and Short-Term Challenges to Ensuring the Safety of AI Systems.

New MIRI-relevant paper from Hutter’s lab: Sequential Extensions of Causal and Evidential Decision Theory.

An introduction to autonomy in weapons systems.

The winners of FLI’s grants competition for research on robust and beneficial AI have been announced.

Joshua Greene (Harvard) is seeking students who want to study AGI with him (presumably, AGI safety/values in particular, given Greene’s presence at FLI’s Puerto Rico conference).

New FLI open letter, this time on autonomous weapons.

New FLI FAQ on the AI open letter and the future of AI.

Deepmind runs their Atari player on a massively distributed computing architecture.

Books, music, etc. from June 2015


I’m not Murray’s intended audience for By the People, but I found it pretty interesting after the first couple chapters, even though I probably agree with Murray about very little in the policy space.

I read the first 1/4 of Barzun’s From Dawn to Decadence. It’s fairly good for what it is, but it’s the “bunch of random cool stories about history” kind of macrohistory, not the data-driven kind of macrohistory I prefer, so I gave up on it.


This month I listened to dozens of jazz albums while working on my in-progress jazz guide. I think I had heard most of them before, but it’s hard to remember which ones. My favorite listens I don’t think I’d heard before were:

Music I particularly enjoyed from other genres:


I totally loved Inside Out (2015). It’s one of the contenders for best Pixar film ever.

TV’s Wayward Pines is badly written in some ways, but its 5th episode is one of the most satisfying mystery/puzzle resolutions I’ve ever seen. The first four episodes build up a bunch of bizarre mysteries, and then the 5th episode answers most of them in a way that is surprising and rule-constrained and non-arbitrary (e.g. not magic), which is something I see so rarely I can’t even remember the last time I saw it on film/TV.

June 2015 links, round 2

Authorea actually looks pretty awesome for collaborative research paper writing. (So far I’ve been using Overleaf and sometimes… shudder… Google Docs.)

Abstract of a satirical paper from SIVBOVIK 2014:

Besides myriad philosophical disputes, neither [frequentism nor Bayesianism] accurately describes how ordinary humans make inferences… To remedy this problem, we propose belief-sustaining (BS) inference, which makes no use of the data whatsoever, in order to satisfy what we call “the principle of least embarrassment.” This is a much more accurate description of human behavior. We believe this method should replace Bayesian and frequentist inference for economic and public health reasons.

Understanding statistics through interactive visualizations.

GiveWell shallow investigation of risks from atomically precise manufacturing.

My beginner’s guide to modern classical music is basically finished now, and won’t be changing much in the future.

Effective altruist philosophers.

Peter Singer’s Coursera course on effective altruism.

The top 10 mathematical achievements of the last 5ish years, maybe.

Unfortunate statistical terms.


AI stuff

Open letter on the digital economy, about tech unemployment etc. Carl Shulman comments.

Robot swordsman.

Robots falling down during the latest DARPA Robotics Challenge.

AI Impacts collected all known public predictions of AGI timing, both individual predictions and survey medians. Conclusions here.

Some books I’m looking forward to, June 2015 edition