Open Thread

This is our monthly place to discuss relevant topics that have not appeared in recent posts.

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  • Dean Jens

    At I read a just-so story about the evolution of facial expressions from defensive postures, and I thought to myself that I tend to prefer my just-so stories from Robin and my fellow acolytes of him. (I’m not sure I have much to contribute, but I hope someone else does.)

  • ShardPhoenix

    You might have already seen this, but I found this old paper by Geoffrey Landis interesting:

    It’s a model for how we might reasonably (given certain assumptions) have not seen evidence of alien civilizations even if they exist and try to establish colonies – it reminds me of a similar sounding model you once posted.

    • IMASBA

      That article seems oddly self-contradictory. In the introduction it states that even one ruthlessly colonizing (ruthless meaning that they won’t leave already inhabited worlds alone) civilization is enough to colonize the whole galaxy and that we can’t expect all the colonies of a civilization to refrain from ruthless colonization over their long existence. So a better explanation for the Fermi paradox is needed. Then it goes on to explain that under the right circumstances (choices of variables that contradict the things stated in the introduction) percolation theory shows that one ruthlessly colonizing civilization actually is not enough to colonize the whole galaxy and that it is possible for outlying colonies to stop colonizing for an indefinite amount of time.

      I’m also curious about the assumption that intelligent life could have existed billions of years ago, as if evolution moves a lot faster on other worlds and/or as if first generation solar systems would have contained the required variety of chemical elements.

  • I have an intuition I’m questioning that claims there are increasing returns to personal qualities we judge others on. For instance, moving from IQ 112 -> 114 affects your life more than 92 -> 94. Similarly an additional inch will affect the perceived height of a 6 foot person more than a 5 for person.

    This doesn’t sit with the economic idea that there are diminishing returns everywhere.

    Maybe this is because we don’t even notice qualities about a person unless they’re very different from average. Something like “her intelligence is worth paying attention to. Oh, she’s very smart.” Or maybe having a lot of a quality makes you more likely to seek situations where there’s a return on that quality. Or maybe it has to do with the inherently competitive effect of signaling.

    Or maybe this is an illusion.

    People act like this is true. The already fit spend far more time in the gym. The naturally smart spend far more time reading.

    What kind of person has dual n-back on their phone? The kind of person who needs it least.

    I’d be curious to see thoughts here.

  • I posted a hypothesis about the foundation of construal-level: “Abstract Construal is Offline Thinking” ( ) Among other foundational matters, I discuss Robin’s homo hypocritus theory.