Category Archives: Related musings

Ideas about this project.

Welcome, fellow Astral Codex Ten readers!

You all must know how grief besets
us at the memory
of bygone times of happiness.
The Marble Cliffs call thee.

My review of Ernst Jünger’s On the Marble Cliffs became a finalist in the Astral Codex Ten 2023 book review contest, and now that the anonymous vote is closed, I can say that. So I got the opportunity to give Scott a link he’d post. This is to introduce my Big Writing Project, and explain why it may be especially interesting to ACX readers in particular.

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Comparing German translations of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”

I translated this great song because of a stupid mistake: I thought there was no German translation. I could only find a “wedding version” that swaps out all of the lyrics except the “Hallelujah” and replaces them with new text about marriage. I’m sure that’s dear to someone’s heart, but it isn’t a translation. So I thought I’d write one, and make it a Christmas gift to my mom.

I later learned there actually are at least two translation already. Since I wrote my own independently, this is an opportunity to compare them. This won’t be biased at all!

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Why Atheists need Ecstasy

tl/dr: This article

  • summarizes what is known about ecstatic and mystical experiences,
  • argues that in order to end (supernaturalist) religion, it is necessary to have a nonreligious appreciation of these experiences and
  • claims these experiences have specific advantageous effects that make them worth having for atheists.

It also contains sex, drugs and Sufi whirling.

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On the significance of Gwern’s poem generator

Vast waves of researchers must crash
on cliffs of ignorance
to grind them down into a stash
of knowledge fine as sands.

I first saw automatically generated poems in 1998. They were randomly arranged picks from a corpus of clichéd goth lines, clearly terrible and presented as a parody on terrible goth poetry. I had run into them because I had just started to study IT and this was one of the first examples of CGI programming that I had happened to find. I played with it for longer than I might have, because I was writing terrible goth poems.

Anyway, I did know about the Turing test (where a machine passes if it cannot be reliably distinguished from a human) and I knew machines were getting better at seeming like humans, because my dad was having way too much fun coding a chatbot and pointing out how it was better than ELIZA. Those terrible poems seemed like the same kind of thing, where machines would inevitably get better at seeming human. And poems are clearly easier to fake than conversation. So, it has been twenty years. Did the machines get better at poetry? Oh yes. Oh hell yes.

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