Open questions

Here’s a list of questions that I’m looking for leads on. If you think you can answer any, or are able to point me in the direction of writing that deals with similar issues, please reach out; my contact is suspendedreason(at)

  1. How to conceptualize the relationship (and differences) between lossy compression, dimensionality reduction, and coarse-graining? All seem like useful ways to think about representation and modeling. Are there similar terms or concepts?
  2. Does the “high-context vs low-context culture” distinction just reflect core information-theoretic dynamics, e.g. that the more assumptions (expectation structures) you share with a receiver, the less bits it takes to pass a message to them?
  3. What are the dynamics that give rise to the “diminishing returns” idea (and similar Pareto-type effects, such as “low-hanging fruit,” the 80/20 rule, etc)?
  4. Why is Kantian transcendental psychology an answer to Bourdieusean social-game ontological reductionism?
  5. Is the ontology-epistemology distinction coherent from a pragmatist perspective on representation?
  6. Is it necessary to dive into quantum physics in order to make progress on questions about reality, representation, and truth? My hunch is no, that this is a nerd snipe, but every once in a while I have doubts.
  7. Has anyone reconciled the microsociology or ethnomethodological approaches (developed by Goffman and Garfinkel) with more formal evolutionary or ethological or game-theoretic frameworks?
  8. How should we think about and approach the tensions and tradeoffs involved in e.g. striving for alertness without anxiety, or evolving a thick skin without losing sensitivity? My hunch is that the apparently dichotomous/incompatible concepts need to be broken down into constituent parts, and the desirable aspects (e.g. avoiding misfortune, lower emotional stress) decouples whenever possible, so they can be remixed and recombined in some Pareto efficient way.
  9. Has anyone heard of a “J. Libniz”? I have his name written down on a scrap of paper and no idea why.
  10. How to be think through the tradeoffs involved, when trying to make intellectual progress, between a research-heavy, tradition-indebted approach (that risks suffocating originality with musty frameworks), and an inventive, irreverent approach (that risks reinventing the wheel)?

I’m also looking for:

  1. Rationalist/EA/SV party reports.
  2. Reactionary takes on architectural movements we now see as an unquestionable golden age—e.g. anti-Gothic polemics from when Gothic overtook the Romanesque, or anti-Classical polemics when the Renaissance overtook the Gothic.
  3. Good “modernity is not modern” takes—affinities between the medieval and modern world, arguments that e.g. modern psychological and psychiatric practice resemble medieval medicine, historical examples of societies that saw themselves as modern (but we now view as medieval, primitive, etc)
  4. I’ve heard rumors that there are studies which show significant differences in PTSD among patrol units (world happens to them) versus active mission units (they have to the world). Never been able to locate a source, but I want to research this more if anyone has leads.
  5. Introductory reads on Hindu cosmology and deities. (Edit: I have been enjoying “Myth = Mithya” by Devdutt Pattanaik.)
  6. Overviews of the American Gilded Age.
  7. Reconciliations of realism and pragmatism, or idealism and realism.
  8. Good resources on cats, cat psychology, cat communication.

5 responses to “Open questions”

  1. re: 1, the first thing that stands out is that dimensionality reduction is most often used in service of a human understanding the extradimensional thing (e.g. PCA as a step to visualize an ML problem or one’s attempt to solve) and—unless the visualization produces insights that alter the course of the work—is somewhat ephemeral, whereas the others operate on the model itself, transforming it in a way that’s much more durable and, in the case of compression, often stacks on top of itself or is part of a de- and re-compression process, treating the thing as a palimpsest.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 3. Bruno Latour’s “We Have Never Been Modern” is the take on this idea referenced a lot in various humanities discipilines. its from 1993 though, theres probably more up-to-date texts

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Don’t be afraid to start by spending time with a cat, the rest will follow.


  4. > Has anyone heard of a “J. Libniz”? I have his name written down on a scrap of paper and no idea why.

    That just looks like a misreading/typo of ‘G. Leibniz’.

    > Good resources on cats, cat psychology, cat communication.

    If I may shill my own work, Bradshaw’s book is still the best thing I’ve found:


    1. I think you’re likely right re: Leibniz; in the context of nearby notes, it seemed to be a Twitter account, but given I was never able to find such a handle, your guess is my best bet.

      Thanks for the Bradshaw review link! Think I read some of your cat stuff (earwax, maybe?) years ago but didn’t realize there was more.


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