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Kaj Sotala
Works at Foundational Research Institute
Attended University of Helsinki
Lives in Helsinki
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Kaj Sotala

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A discussion suddenly made me realize the existence of this contradiction, which obviously someone else had thought of already, but I'm still proud of having been geeky enough to think of it on my own: "Why does an X-Wing have this name when there is no 'X' in the [Star Wars] alphabet?"
I was reading about Galactic Basic Standard, the standard language in Star-Wars. This lead me to the article about Aurebesh, the alphabet that is used to write it, and that is used all over the Sta...
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> If we observe the general behavior of archaic man, we are struck by the following fact: neither the objects of the external world nor human acts, properly speaking, have any autonomous intrinsic value. Objects or acts acquire a value, and in so doing become real, because they participate, after one fashion or another, in a reality that transcends them. [...]

> ... let us turn to human acts - those, of course, which do not arise from pure automatism. Their meaning, their value, are not connected with their crude physical datum but with their property of reproducing a primordial act, of repeating a mythical example. Nutrition is not a simple physiological operation; it renews a communion. Marriage and the collective orgy echo mythical prototypes; they are repeated because they were consecrated in the beginning ("in those days," in illo tempore, ab origine) by gods, ancestors, or heroes.

> In the particulars of his conscious behavior, the "primitive," the archaic man, acknowledges no act which has not been previously posited and lived by someone else, some other being who was not a man. What he does has been done before. His life is the ceaseless repetition of gestures initiated by others.

> This conscious repetition of given paradigmatic gestures reveals an original ontology. The crude product of nature, the object fashioned by the industry of man, acquire their reality, their identity, only to the extent of their participation in a transcendent reality. The gesture acquires meaning, reality, solely to the extent to which it repeats a primordial act.

> Various groups of facts, drawn here and there from different cultures, will help us to identify the structure of this archaic ontology. We have first sought out examples likely to show, as clearly as possible, the mechanism of traditional thought; in other words, facts which help us to understand how and why, for the man of the premodern societies, certain things become real. [...]

> We have distributed our collection of facts under several principal headings:

> 1. Facts which show us that, for archaic man, reality is a function of the imitation of a celestial archetype.

> 2. Facts which show us how reality is conferred through participation in the "symbolism of the Center": cities, temples, houses become real by the fact of being assimilated to the "center of the world."

> 3. Finally, rituals and significant profane gestures which acquire the meaning attributed to them, and materialize that meaning, only because they deliberately repeat such and such acts posited ab origine by gods, heroes, or ancestors.

-- Mircea Eliade: Cosmos and History - The Myth of the Eternal Return
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+Michael-Forest M.​ Yeah, I'm reading/posting this more for cool ideas rather than out of an assumption of it being totally accurate. (I'm prejudiced enough to assume that anthropological scholarship from the 1940s is going to be inaccurate by default. :) )
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> ... I want to emphasize that publication bias is not just about the “file drawer effect,” it’s not just about positive findings being published and zero or negative findings remaining unpublished. It’s also that, within any project, there are so many different results that researchers can decide what to focus on.

> So, yes, sometimes a research team will try an idea and it won’t work and they won’t bother writing it up. Just one more dry hole—but if only the successes are written up and published, we will get a misleading view of reality: we’re seeing a nonrandom sample of results. But it’s more than that. Any study contains within itself so many possibilities that often something can be published that appears to be consistent with some vague theory. Embodied cognition, anyone.

> This “garden of forking paths” is important because it shows how publication bias can occur, even if every study is published and there’s nothing in the file drawer.
Kent Holsinger points to this post by Kevin Drum entitled, “Publication Bias Is Boring. You Should Care About It Anyway,” and writes: I am an evolutionary biologist, not a psychologist, but this article describes a disturbing Scenario concerning oxytocin research that seems plausible. It is also relevant to the reproducibility/publishing issues you have been discussing …
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To quote Bruce Schneier:

> In this article, detailing the Australian and then worldwide investigation of a particularly heinous child-abuse ring, there are a lot of details of the pedophile security practices and the police investigative techniques. The abusers had a detailed manual on how to scrub metadata and avoid detection, but not everyone was perfect. The police used information from a single camera to narrow down the suspects. They also tracked a particular phrase one person used to find him.

> This story shows an increasing sophistication of the police using small technical clues combined with standard detective work to investigate crimes on the Internet. A highly painful read, but interesting nonetheless.
Exclusive: the inside story of a police operation that secretly took over a child abuse forum in a six-month sting, and the stunning breakthrough that led them to snaring Richard Huckle, ‘Britain’s worst-ever paedophile’
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After +Tiina Malinen explained the point of Discordianism to me, I realized that I'd been thinking like that for a long time. I just didn't know that it was a religion.

Since it's now Friday, we are celebrating my newfound Discordianism by having (soy) hot dogs.

On the previous Friday, we celebrated my newfound Discordianism by not having hot dogs.
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Wait, someone explained Discordianism to you? Now I'm jealous. As your pope I command you to explain it to me!

Also I love that you used soy hot dogs -- not only is it more ethical, but also seems more Discordian, since it completly misses the point of the rules. I hope you ate them without buns!
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> There’s one song that’s been sampled far more than any other, according to one measure. The website WhoSampled.com, whose audience obsessively tracks what’s sampled, says that a 1960s track called “Amen, Brother” by The Winstons is the most-sampled track in history, and it’s not particularly close. By its count, more than 2,000 songs have sampled a particular drum beat from “Amen, Brother” that’s now known as the Amen Break. As you play the clip below, you can hear the The Winstons’ drummer, G.C. Coleman, play the kick drums, snare drums and cymbals in a funky four-bar pattern.

> But what is it about a 47-year-old, six-second drum solo from a relatively unknown soul band that’s given it musical immortality? The answer involves the invention of two new musical genres, a new piece of technology and a power blackout.
Fans know that when a new Beyoncé, Kanye or Diplo track drops, it will likely contain a musical sample — an instrumental or vocal nugget from a song of yesteryear. That nugget will be rearran…
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For at least the last 12 years of my life, striving for maximum positive impact on the world has been one of my main goals in life. Unfortunately, while this has caused me to do some beneficial things, it has also led to things such as multiple burnouts, depression, and often neglecting long-term well-being in favor of impact. Even though I've tried to go for maximum impact, in all honesty I don't feel like I've made a very good use of my time and resources, and could probably have accomplished much more if I'd been able to prioritize my own well-being more.

Lately I've been trying to focus more on my own well-being, but even then there has been a strong big-impact focus lurking in the background. For instance, I've been looking more at finding a truly enjoyable job for myself, but the criteria hasn't been so much "find a job that I'd be motivated to do in the long term", but rather "find a big-impact job that I'd be motivated to do in the long term". But since my psychological health is still shaky, the inherent uncertainty of whether any of the potentially really big-impact jobs would actually have that big of an impact has been making it demotivating to do so.

Today I had a radical idea: what if I actually made the conscious decision to focus entirely on getting my head back together and e.g. finding a truly motivating job that made me financially secure, regardless of its impact, and focusing on this as the main priority for however long it took? Meaning that I might potentially spend something like 5+ years mainly just neglecting most of big-impact stuff, and not constantly thinking about how to get myself to do impactful things?

On a rational basis, this feels like it would be a very good idea: given what a struggle it has been to achieve things so far, I'm pretty sure that taking the time to actually get better in every respect would make a lot more effective in the long run. So spending several years just investing in fixing myself would probably pay itself back several times over.

Emotionally on the other hand, this possibility feels as terrifying as it feels exciting. So far I've been driven by a sense of urgency - originally because it felt like AI risk issues were looming and neglected, and later also by a constant knowledge of the fact that there are countless people (and animals) living terrible lives. It feels very emotionally challenging to accept that I'm just going to spend several years not doing anything much to help others, when those years could be spent more usefully.

I just have to come to terms with that.
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Blending "personal sustainability" and impact in the right proportions to maximize long-term effects is nontrivial, and might not even be well-posed. I have found admitting to this and keeping the strategy mix (and impact goals) flexible and gradually updating to work well. Of course, there are the meta-issue of how much flexibility to use, but again being somewhat flexible and adaptive about meta-strategy is also smart. 
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> ACCORDING to Mesopotamian beliefs, the Tigris has its model in the star Anunit and the Euphrates in the star of the Swallow. [...] For the Ural-Altaic peoples the mountains, in the same way, have an ideal prototype in the sky. In Egypt, places and nomes were named after the celestial "fields": first the celestial fields were known, then they were identified in terrestrial geography.

> In Iranian cosmology of the Zarvanitic tradition, "every terrestrial phenomenon, whether abstract or concrete, corresponds to a celestial, transcendent invisible term, to an 'idea' in the Platonic sense. Each thing, each notion presents itself under a double aspect: that of menok and that of getik. There is a visible sky: hence there is also a menok sky which is invisible (Bundahisn, Ch. I). Our earth corresponds to a celestial earth. Each virtue practiced here below, in the getah, has a celestial counterpart which represents true reality" [...]

[list of similar examples from other cultures]

> The world that surrounds us, then, the world in which the presence and the work of man are felt - the mountains that he climbs, populated and cultivated regions, navigable rivers, cities, sanctuaries - all these have an extraterrestrial archetype, be it conceived as a plan, as a form, or purely and simply as a "double" existing on a higher cosmic level. But everything in the world that surrounds us does not have a prototype of this kind. For example, desert regions inhabited by monsters, uncultivated lands, unknown seas on which no navigator has dared to venture, do not share [...] the privilege of a differentiated prototype. They correspond to a mythical model, but of another nature: all these wild, uncultivated regions and the like are assimilated to chaos; they still participate in the undifferentiated, formless modality of pre-Creation. This is why, when possession is taken of a territory - that is, when its exploitation begins - rites are performed that symbolically repeat the act of Creation: the uncultivated zone is first "cosmicized," then inhabited. We shall presently return to the meaning of this ceremonial taking possession of newly discovered countries. For the moment, what we wish to emphasize is the fact that the world which surrounds us, civilized by the hand of man, is accorded no validity beyond that which is due to the extraterrestrial prototype that served as its model. Man constructs according to an archetype. Not only do his city or his temple have celestial models; the same is true of the entire region that he inhabits, with the rivers that water it, the fields that give him his food, etc. The map of Babylon shows the city at the center of a vast circular territory bordered by a river, precisely as the Sumerians envisioned Paradise. This participation by urban cultures in an archetypal model is what gives them their reality and their validity.

> Settlement in a new, unknown, uncultivated country is equivalent to an act of Creation. When the Scandinavian colonists took possession of Iceland, Landnama, and began to cultivate it, they regarded this act neither as an original undertaking nor as human and profane work. Their enterprise was for them only the repetition of a primordial act: the transformation of chaos into cosmos by the divine act of Creation. By cultivating the desert soil, they in fact repeated the act of the gods, who organized chaos by giving it forms and norms. Better still, a territorial conquest does not become real until after - more precisely, through - the ritual of taking possession, which is only a copy of the primordial act of the Creation of the World. In Vedic India the erection of an altar dedicated to Agni constituted legal taking possession of a territory. "One settles (avasyati) when he builds the garhapatya, and whoever are builders of fire-altars are 'settled' (avasitah)" says the Satapatha Brahmana (VII, 1 , 1, 1-4). But the erection of an altar dedicated to Agni is merely the microcosmic imitation of the Creation. Furthermore, any sacrifice is, in turn, the repetition of the act of Creation, as Indian texts explicitly state. It was in the name of Jesus Christ that the Spanish and Portuguese conquistadores took possession of the islands and continents that they had discovered and conquered. The setting up of the Cross was equivalent to a justification and to the consecration of the new country, to a "new birth" thus repeating baptism (act of Creation). In their turn the English navigators took possession of conquered countries in the name of the king of England, new Cosmocrator.

> The importance of the Vedic, Scandinavian, or Roman ceremonials will appear more clearly when we devote a separate examination to the meaning of the repetition of the Creation, the pre-eminently divine act. For the moment, let us keep one fact in view: every territory occupied for the purpose of being inhabited or utilized as Lebensraum is first of all transformed from chaos into cosmos; that is, through the effect of ritual it is given a "form" which makes it become real. Evidently, for the archaic mentality, reality manifests itself as force, effectiveness, and duration. Hence the outstanding reality is the sacred; for only the sacred is in an absolute fashion, acts effectively, creates things and makes them endure. The innumerable gestures of consecration of tracts and territories, of objects, of men, etc. reveal the primitive's obsession with the real, his thirst for being.

-- Mircea Eliade: Cosmos and History - The Myth of the Eternal Return
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Huh. Also interesting comments from other people in response:

> Relevant to the recent discussion of weird childhood memories, does anyone else have sudden-onset childhood amnesia?

> I don’t mean just not being able to remember things that happened when you were very young, which seems to be the standard usage of “childhood amnesia”. I remember a clear dividing line before which there is nothing, and then the lights come on all at once.

> The demarcation point was in the middle of a dream I was having aged 3. I remember waking up and thinking something like “huh, I can’t remember anything ever, maybe I should tell an adult – eh, they probably wouldn’t believe me, whatever”, and not wanting to go to preschool because I wouldn’t know anyone there. I still had language and could recognise my parents, though.

> Does anybody else have a similar amnesia-event memory from childhood, or know what might be behind it? It doesn’t seem to be a common experience looking at Google, so I’m worried I might have had a mini-stroke or something.
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Sorry, knew it was a copypasta but was too hypnoticed with my 3.5" touchscreen to note that my comment wouldn't be seen by him/her:)
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Interesting way of doing a choose-your-own-adventure book:

> The choices are not made from the point of view of any of the characters, but are questions asked of the reader, who is not a character in the story. They concern the player’s preferences, not any kind of story-influencing command, and are often reflective:

> > 2. Figbash scattered cracker crumbs on Hooglyboo.

> > If this makes you uncomfortable, turn to 3.
> > If it doesn’t, turn to 8.

> A number of options seem like complete non-sequiturs: “If you loathe prunes more than you do turnips, turn to 22.” Some are meta-choices: “If you want to keep on with the story, turn to 25. For a meaningful aside, turn to 15.” Most, though, are about the player expressing moral approval or disapproval of what’s happening, even though all the events are much alike. There’s a sense that your agency is being… not even denied, exactly; but the possibility of it mattering is made to seem ridiculous.
Edward Gorey, the author and illustrator probably best-known for macabre alphabet book The Gashlycrumb Tinies, had a prodigious output and an immediately recognisable style, often imitated but almo…
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A 1982 newsgroup discussion in which smileys were invented for the purpose of being "joke markers". Other suggestions for the joke marker included "&" ("surely the funniest character on the keyboard, looks funny like a jolly fat man in convulsions of laughter") and the sequence {#} ("because it looks like two lips with teeth showing between them, the expected result if someone actually laughs their head off").

The idea soon spread beyond the original conversation, such as in this message which explained the concept to others:

> Because you can't see the person who is sending you electronic mail you are sometimes uncertain whether they are serious or joking. Recently, Scott Fahlman at CMU devised a scheme for annotating one's messages to overcome this problem. If you turn your head sideways to look at the three characters :-) they look sort of like a smiling face. Thus, if someone sends you a message that says "Have you stopped beating your wife?:-)" you know they are joking. If they say "I need to talk to you :-(", be prepared for trouble.
19-Sep-82 11:44 Scott E Fahlman :-) From: Scott E Fahlman I propose that the following character sequence for joke markers: :-) Read it sideways. Actually, it is probably more economical to mark things that are NOT jokes, given current trends. For this, use
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> Fastbrick Robotics has just released a new animation video of the Hadrian X, Australia’s next generation one-armed brick laying robot.

> The video features a simulation of the Hadrian X commercial prototype which acts like a giant 3D printer to build a house.

> The Hadrian X is being built to do in an hour what would take two human bricklayers almost a day to complete.

> The truck-mounted, fully-automated bricklaying machine can lay up to 1,000 standard bricks an hour from a 30 metre boom.

> “We actually print a house, layer by layer … almost as if it’s growing out of the ground,” says Fastbrick chief technical officer Mark Pivac.
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Education
  • University of Helsinki
    Cognitive Science (BA), 2006 - 2011
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  • Foundational Research Institute
    Researcher, 2016 - present
  • Machine Intelligence Research Institute
    Research Associate, 2013 - 2016
  • Finn Lectura
    Software Developer, 2013 - 2014
  • Machine Intelligence Research Institute
    Research Fellow, 2012 - 2013
  • Machine Intelligence Research Institute
    Research Associate, 2012 - 2012
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Turku, Finland
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