My favourite books, blogs and other resources(last updated April 13th 2022)
BooksSuperintelligence by Nick Bostrom. Why Artificial Intelligence that reaches human level capabilities will be so dangerous and very difficult to control. It won't be a Terminator like situation but one where we say "make humans happy" or "solve this hard math problem" and in doing so inadvertently wipes out humanity. How do we embed human values into computer code and can we even come up with a cohesive set of human values?
Symbolic Species by Terrence Deacon. The potential origins of human language, a compelling taxonomy for language, why humans are so smart/unique. This work is now being used to motivate high level thinking about the future direction of AI research.
The Secret of Our Success by Joseph Henrich. Read this for a great book review. I write about some lessons learnt from this book in On Chesterton's Fence. It provides an different take on how humans became so smart and evolved culture and language. Very interesting throughout. Social and cultural interactions and imitation learning are likely to be crucial to developing sophisticated AI. We humans are pretty terrible at innovation, much better at brute force trial and error before copying and retaining the discoveries we have stumbled upon.
On China by Henry Kissinger. This book provides a broad chronological history of China. What is wild is that starting in 1955, it becomes first person with Kissinger saying "and then I said to Chairman Mao...". I think the book highlights a lot of fundamental psychological and cultural differences between China and the West.
The Strategy of Conflict by Thomas Schelling. Game theory considers zero sum games with agents that have symmetric utility functions and constrained forms of communication. Schelling introduces more realistic "mixed motive" games that are positive sum and where both agents would benefit from coming to an agreement. He explores how to win at bargaining, threats and deterrence in these mixed motive games, often by visibly binding and weakening oneself in interesting and creative ways.
Rationality: From AI To Zombies by Eliezer Yudkowsky. Has definitely given me some useful cognitive primitives for aspiring to think rationally about the world and how it operates.
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality by Eliezer Yudkowsky. A friend described this book as one of the few where the protogonist is actually smart. Warning: this book will absolutely wreck your productivity until you finish it! I recommend the audiobook/podcast version.
The Mote in God's Eye by Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven. The most realistic aliens that I've encountered in any sci-fi novel and an important description of evolution at play.
BlogsAstral Codex Ten - witty, rational, in depth analyses of a plethora of topics. See Scott's previous blog Slate Star Codex for lots of additional really interesting content.
Gwern - there is no other blog or site like it on the planet. I certainly don't agree with everything on the site but it is nonetheless thought provoking.
Marginal Revolution - run by probably one of the world's best polymaths Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok, their daily newsletter summarizing all sorts of topics is always informative.
Roots of Progress - a main hub for "Progress Studies" analyzing the historical, political, economic, psychological underpinnings of societal innovation and progress. There is compelling evidence the progress of modern society is lower than it has been in the past; why is this and how can we fix it? This piece on cement is also super cool.
Applied Divinity Studies - anonymous blog with a number of interesting takes on topics ranging from opportunity cost to NFTs.
WebsitesOur World in Data - facts and figures presented elegantly and transparently about so many important topics, from causes of mortality to climate change numbers.
Effective Altruism Forum - if the words "Effective Altruism" don't mean much to you start here. This forum is a great way to track the pulse of the movement with new ideas and discussion.
LessWrong - we are irrational beings and can be pretty terrible at accomplishing our goals. A forum on how to be "less wrong".
Adam Marblestone - from in situ RNA sequencing to implosion fabrication and research at DeepMind, Adam works on so many interesting topics. He has a great series on climate change and his own list of books, papers and other resources I highly recommend.
TextbooksPrinciples of Neural Design - first principles approach using metabolic constraints and information theory to reverse engineer the design of our brain.
Deep Learning - quickly getting out of date but still an excellent fundamental introduction to all of the core components of Deep Learning.
A First Course in Bayesian Statistical Methods - provided me with a helpful foundation in Bayesian Statistics. Statistical Rethinking is also good but less mathematically in depth and as a result less useful for fundamental understanding.
Information Theory, Inference, and Learning Algorithms - I'm only 1/3rd through this textbook (as of March 2021) but it has been excellent so far and I have seen it recommended in so many other places (including here, here and here) that I am very happy recommending it. I also have a running list of some of my favourite problems from the book here
Introduction to Linear Algebra - the video lectures are also really great.
PodcastsConversations with Tyler - Tyler Cowen is excellent at interviewing all sorts of people. He gets straight to the point in a way I haven't seen with any other podcasts except maybe...
Rationally Speaking - Julia Galef is very methodical and rational in her interviewing of all sorts of major guests.
Making Sense - Sam Harris - I think I learn a new word every time I listen to Sam interview someone.
For a full list of everything I've read see my Goodreads.
I am also trying to increase my memory and comprehension of books by writing reviews of each one that will be posted on the blog and under the "Book Review" category.