We like lists because we don’t want to die.
– Umberto Eco


Three ways of relating to a genre, a medium, an art, a school of thought, a field:

  1. Love: to find value in ordinary examples.
  2. Open to: to see the value of the best examples.
  3. Not open to: to struggle to see the value of even the best.

  • Idioms I love
    punk, Latin jazz, statistics & machine learning, black comedy, epistemology, stage magic, informal logic, economic rationality, eclecticism and pluralism, purism and monism, American pragmatism, 'French' liberalism, 'English' liberalism, Afro-futurism, hacker lore, adult swim, synth-pop, hard science-fiction, effective altruism, transhumanism, empiricism of all kinds, competence-porn, lists.

  • Idioms I am open to
    cinema in the arch sense, 4X, linguistics descriptive and prescriptive, hip-hop, free verse, country, trance, analytic philosophy, stimulants, camp, mathematics, qawwali, sketch comedy, body positivity, bodybuilder positivity, gender abolitionism, feminism, mechanical keyboards, mono no aware, Early music, anime/manga, senryu, reggae, folk, drone, ambient, glitch, funk, Romanticism, modernism, Hollywood action films, birdwatching, Art Nouveau, Art Deco.

  • Idioms I am not very open to
    any kind of fashion, depressant chemicals, jurisprudence, house, faith, self-help and pseudo motivation, muscular hypertrophy, artspeak, MFA writing, video monologues (i.e. 90% of Youtube), infographics, enterprise computing, the illiberal left, haute cuisine, primitivism, Neoreaction, phenomenology and critical theory and psychoanalysis, telenovella and soap, ballet and Dance, wuxia, steampunk, haiku, aleatory, fanfiction, period drama tv, continental philosophy, celebrity culture, social theory, typography, education theory, cultural anthropology, noise music.



Only the books I think I will re-read for the rest of my life. Others here.

Ficciones (1944) by Jorge Luis Borges
What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions (2014) by Randall Munroe
Conquest of the Useless: Reflections from the Making of Fitzcarraldo (2004) by Werner Herzog
The Precipice (2020) by Toby Ord
Terra Ignota (2016 - 2021) by Ada Palmer
Brewer's Rogues, Villains & Eccentrics: An A-Z of Roguish Britons Through the Ages (2002) by William Donaldson
Factfulness (2018) by Hans Rosling
Doing Good Better (2015) by William MacAskill
Library of Scott Alexandria (2015) by Scott Alexander
Psychotic Reactions And Carburetor Dung (1987) by Lester Bangs
Poems of the Late T'ang (1965) by A.C. Graham
Oxford Book of Essays (1991) by John Gross
Right Ho, Jeeves (Jeeves, #6) (1934) by P.G. Wodehouse
Famine, Affluence, and Morality (1972) by Peter Singer
Save Yourself, Mammal!: A Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal Collection (2011) by Zach Weinersmith
Incerto: Antifragile, The Black Swan, Fooled by Randomness, The Bed of Procrustes (2011) by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
The God That Failed (1949) by Richard Crossman
Guards! Guards! (Discworld, #8; City Watch #1) (1989) by Terry Pratchett
Tell Me No Lies: Investigative Journalism and its Triumphs (2004) by John Pilger
The Book of Disquiet (1982) by Fernando Pessoa
What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire (1999) by Charles Bukowski
Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning (2006) by Christopher M. Bishop
Stories of Your Life and Others (2002) by Ted Chiang
Tales from Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle, #5) (2001) by Ursula K. Le Guin
The Oxford Companion to Philosophy (1995) by Ted Honderich
Computing machinery and intelligence (1950) by Alan Turing
Hitler's Uranium Club: The Secret Recordings at Farm Hall (1995) by Jeremy Bernstein
Whereabouts: Notes on Being a Foreigner (1987) by Alistair Reid
Blindsight (Firefall, #1) (2006) by Peter Watts
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (1999) by David Foster Wallace
The Hedonistic Imperative (2015) by David Pearce
The Age of Em: Work, Love and Life When Robots Rule the Earth (2016) by Robin Hanson
The Patrick Melrose Novels (2012) by Edward St. Aubyn
Bartleby the Scrivener (1853) by Herman Melville
Infinite Jest (1996) by David Foster Wallace
The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life (2018) by Kevin Simler
Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West (1985) by Cormac McCarthy
The Wind's Twelve Quarters (1975) by Ursula K. Le Guin
What Should We Be Worried About? Real Scenarios That Keep Scientists Up at Night (2014) by John Brockman
Collected Poems (1988) by Czesław Miłosz
How to Actually Change Your Mind (2018) by Eliezer Yudkowsky
Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts (2007) by Clive James
Reliable Essays: The Best of Clive James (2001) by Clive James
Excession (1996) by Iain Banks
Travels With Myself and Another (1979) by Martha Gellhorn
Collected Poems (1988) by Philip Larkin


This subsumes articles, soi-disant blogposts, shitposts, dialogues, conceptual analyses, cost-benefit analyses, certain prose poems.



Subsumes lyrics, libretti, slam.

Short stories

  • 'Affinity' by Lydia Davis
  • 'Exhalation' by Ted Chiang
  • 'The Library of Babel' by Jorge Luis Borges
  • 'Understand' by Ted Chiang
  • 'Sort By Controversial' by Scott Alexander
  • 'Samsara' by Scott Alexander
  • 'The Gattaca Trilogy' by Scott Alexander
  • 'The Feminist' (2019) by Tony Tulathimutte


The software which improves my life most is Roam, Marvin, Sci-Hub, Jekyll, Overleaf, KeePass, git, PrivateInternetAccess, WolframAlpha, FBReader, Daylio, Stronglifts, Goodreads, Netlify, Anki, ChromeDevTools, TablesGenerator, Mathpix.

My favourite UIs are Bloomberg Terminal, Pinta, 4-player Rock Band 2, and Chrome DevTools. My favourite APIs (web and cmd) are Gmaps, Twilio, Spark and leftpad.io.




The best teachers I have had are

  • Glen McIntosh (saxophone; a note don't care who plays it)
  • Gerald R Harrison (moral philosophy; the transformations of reason)
  • Bob Plant (immoral philosophy; more problematic what is left for philosophy to do),
  • Shaomin Lee-Murray (Mandarin; who named me)
  • David Newlands (development economics; the rage inside compassion)
  • Luca Moretti (philosophy of science; stimulants and reality shock)
  • Karen Renaud (cybersecurity; the monkey at the helm)
  • Lewis Mackenzie (low-level computing; the awe of bridging the formal and the physical)
  • Chris W Johnson (safety-critical engineering; man in the machine)
  • John Morrice (software engineering; who taught me how to write these kinds of equations)
  • Tom McGrath (reinforcement learning; the sober leap)
  • Carl Henrik Ek (Bayesian machine learning; the inability to condescend)

The people I have learned the most from, physical proximity be damned:
  • Andrew Gelman (more than stats, though the stats is titanic: what science should be)
  • Scott Alexander ()
  • Gwern Branwen ()
  • Tyler Cowen ()


My favourite people with websites are

Gwern Branwen,
Andrew Gelman,
Toby Ord,
Scott Alexander,
Scott Aaronson,
Rob Nostalgebraist,
Cosma Shalizi,
Paul Christiano,
Kelsey Piper,
Robert Paul Wolff,
Cowen & Tabbarok,
Anders Sandberg,
Bryan Caplan,
Zach Weiner,
David Pearce;
Tom Adamczewski;
Ozy Frantz;
Randall Munroe;
Buck Shlegeris,
Jan Kirchner,
Caspar Oesterheld,
Mark Liberman,
Mike Huemer,
Julia Galef;
Katja Grace,
Greg Lewis;
Sabine Hossenfelder,
Robin Hanson,
Jose Ricon,
Henry Farrell;
Kieran Healy;
Joseph Heath;
Jeremy Kun;
Ben Kuhn,
Luke Muehlhauser,
Philip Trammell,
Jess Riedel,
Piero Scaruffi,
Pablo Stafforini,
Alexey Guzey,
Jamie Brandon,
Eric Schwitzgebel,
Elizabeth van Nostrand,
Jeff Kaufman,
Chris Blattman,
Owen Barder,
David Roodman,
Bruce Schneier,
Dan Luu,
Evolution is Just a Theorem,
John Myles White,
Milan Griffes,
Robert Wiblin,
Zack Davis,
Chris Dillow, Sam Enright

Sorely missed

John Emerson.

http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/ https://smerity.com/articles/articles.html

We could be friends



My favourite philosophers, in terms of substantive agreement, are Hilary Putnam90s (on meta-ethics and language), David Pearce (on animals, biochemicals, the ontology of qualia, the point of science), Mary Midgley (on virtue, culture and on scientism), Rorty (on anything but ontology), Joseph Heath, and Philip Kitcher (on inquiry as a thing). My favourites in terms of style are Epicurus, Hume, Wittgenstein, Taleb, and Nietzsche.

My favourite polemicists are Ernest Gellner, Eliezer Yudkowsky, Charlie Stross, Steve Keen, Camille Paglia, David Stove, Nietzsche. (They are each a complete joy to read, but they may not be good for me.)

People I love, despite having never even met them: Borges, Turing, Scott Alexander, Pessoa.

My favourite aphorists are Nietzsche, Pessoa, Cioran, Gide, Perlis, Gwern. My favourite young dead are Frank Ramsey, D Boon, Aaron Swartz, Niels Abel. My favourite terrible human beings are Taleb, Larkin, Wittgenstein.

My favourite critics: Jonathan Meades, Simon Reynolds, Dave Hickey, Piero Scaruffi, Geoff Dyer, Clive James, Emily Nussbaum, David Foster Wallace, Pierre Bayard, Chuck Klosterman, John Earls. My favourite novelists are Iris Murdoch, Nabokov, Graham Greene, and the David Foster Wallace nub. My favourite Scottish novelists are James Kelman, Iain Banks, Eric Linklater, and Muriel Spark. My favourite sci-fi authors are Greg Egan, Peter Watts, Ted Chiang, Iain Banks, Alfred Bester, China Mieville, Frederik Pohl, Dan Simmons, Neal Stephenson.

My favourite Youtubers are Adam Johnston, Bill Wurtz, Amy Walker, Ogmios, Tim Rogers, Dunkey,


My favourite experimental scientists are Robert Hooke, Daniel Kahneman, Robert Koch, Rutherford, Raymond Davis Jr, Adrian Wenner, Richard Lenski, Benjamin Libet, and Archie Cochrane and therefore Esther Duflo. My favourite theoretical scientists are James Clerk Maxwell, Mendeleev, Feynman, Claude Shannon, Noam Chomsky, and Wolfgang Pauli, the nega-experimentalist. My favourite statisticians are Andrew Gelman, Deborah Mayo, John Tukey, Edwin Jaynes, and David Freedman. My favourite metascientists are Celia Mulrow, James Heathers, Edwin Jaynes, Archie Cochrane, John Ioannidis, Randall Collins, Colin Camerer, Steven Greenberg, Gwern, Jeff Leek, and Joe Simmons and Uri Simonsohn. Note how many of the latter are statisticians.

Computer science

My favourite computer people are Leslie Kaelbling, Cynthia Rudin, Edsger Dijkstra, Michael Rabin, Scott Aaronson, Judea Pearl, and Gwern.

Social science

My favourite economists are Thomas Schelling; Deirdre McCloskey; Esther Duflo; Dani Rodrik; Robin Hanson; Piero Sraffa; Sendhil Mullainathan.

My favourite linguists are Geoff Pullum, Mark Liberman, John Coleman, Noam Chomsky. My favourite psychologists are James Heathers, Jonathan Haidt, Stuart Ritchie, Joshua Greene, and Daniel Gilbert. My favourite historians are Jonathan Meades (and his research crew), Karen Armstrong, Charles Taylor, Isaiah Berlin, and Jonathan Israel. My favourite sociologists are Erving Goffman, Weber, Steve Fuller, André Gorz, Jon Elster, Kieran Healy. My favourite political scientists / developmentalists / area studies / blah people are Chris Blattman, Henry Farrell, William Easterly. My favourite feminists are Barbara Ehrenreich, Gloria Steinem, Iris Marion Young, Germaine Greer, and Adrienne Rich. I only recently realised that I'd missed out anthropologists here; my favourite anthropologists are Ernest Gellner and Richard McElreath. My favourite entrepreneurs are Drew Durbin, Patrick Collison, Holden Karnofsky, Benjamin Todd, and yes Musk.


My favourite mathematicians are very clichéd at the moment. My favourite mathematics are combinatorics, probability theory, group theory, model theory, and category theory.

My favourite machine learning people are: Jeff Leek, John Tukey, Pedro Domingos, Peter Norvig, Ken Cukier, Sebastian Thrun. My favourite 'data "scientists"' are Cathy O'Neil, Peter Hurford, Jake Porway.


My favourite large terrestrial phenomena are rain, clouds (especially cumulo-nimbus); volcanic land formation; axial oscillation; the great iron geodynamo; humans; and the ongoing oxygen catastrophe and its trees. My favourite large celestial phenomena are slingshots; time and time dilation; the possibility of fecund universes and panspermia. My favourite chemical processes are chemolithotrophy (esp. anammox); permineralisation and vitrification; the adenosine and melatonin cycles; hydrocarbon combustion.

My favourite species are gorse/whin/furze; the common starling; the sakura tree; otters; the African elephant; the arum lily; polar bears. My favourite subpopulations are the Metro dogs of Moscow; these capuchins; and the effective altruists of San Francisco and Oxford. My favourite extinct species are the Megatherid ground sloth and the Pinta Island Tortoise. My favourite fictional species are selkies; Vermicious Knids; manbirds; counting pines; and Am Fear Liath Mòr. My favourite species names are the Powerful owl; Preseucoela imallshookupis; the four species listed in the preamble here; Paradisaea guilielmi; amorphophallus titanum; and Psephophorus terrypratchetti.


My favourite languages are German, braid Scots, simplified vernacular Beijing Chinese, Kihaya. (English is not a language, it is my lungs.) My favourite computer languages are Scala, Python, C#, and the humble, unimprovable Markdown. I also get a perverse kick out of bash. My indent style is Pico.


My favourite ridiculous Cold War gambits are Project Pluto ($2 billion: "an unshielded nuclear powered low altitude ramjet that you can’t stop once you start it up") the Salyut-7 heist, Project ORION, Project Oilsand ("nuke Alberta until the oil settles on top"), Project Azorian ($3.8 billion to pick up an entire Russian submarine from the bottom of the ocean).


My favourite units are the MIPS, scoville, the ban (or hartley) and the avabit, the micromort, the nanodijkstra, nebuchadnezzar, talent. My favourite abstract constants are the Cantor set's fractal dimension (log2/log3); the Euler totient constant (zeta(2)*zeta(3))/zeta(6); Chaitin's constant.

My favourite algorithms are git merge, Cooley-Tukey, Baum-Welch, radix sort, RSA. My favourite particular mathematical objects are the Generalised circle, the Carmichael numbers, the Monster group, the long line, abstract nonsense, and hidden Markov models. No real favourite proofs yet, though I enjoyed this bagatelle, and I'd like to be the kind of person who can say that Jaynes on Cox's theorem sent them into raptures. I am shallow in architecture, but some of my favourite buildings are: the Liverpool Metro Cathedral; the Bank of China HQ; Broadway Tower; the Tblisi Central Registry Palace; Zellulosi.


My favourite leftists are Jon Elster, Robert Paul Wolff, Nancy Fraser, David Graeber, and Erik Olin Wright. My favourite left liberals are Martha Nussbaum, Peter Singer, Amartya Sen, Charles Taylor (left communitarian, whatever), and Richard Rorty. My favourite right liberals are Mill, Deirdre McCloskey, Clive James (who is centrist, if anyone is), John Gray (agonistic post-liberal, whatever), and Tyler Cowen. My favourite libertarians are David Friedman, Deirdre, Will Wilkinson, Bryan Caplan, Ken White. I don't think I have any favourites on the far end except I guess Nietzsche - though I wouldn't say he really has a politics anyway. My favourite journalists are Greenwald, Gellhorn, Shane Bauer, Kevin Drum.

Favourite political revolutions: the American, the February, the Haitian, the pre-Weimar. All pale next to the Scientific and the Industrial.

My favourite statespeople on principle are: William Penn, Sun Yatsen, Tony Benn, John Wilkes; my favourite by effects are Dou Yifang (竇猗房), Edmund Burke, Peter the Great, Deng Xiaoping, Jefferson, Attlee; my favourite sitting politicians are Onora O'Neill, John Lewis...



My favourite bands are Half Man Half Biscuit, E Street Band, Wave Pictures, Billie the Vision, Even in Blackouts, and anything with Andrew Falkous in it. My favourite singer/songwriters are Luke Kelly, Iris deMent, Joanna Newsom, John Darnielle, Aimee Mann. My favourite crooners are Neil Hannon, Rufus, Tom Waits, Fiona Apple. My favourite bad singers are Sam Hui, Frank Portman, Dexter Holland, Greig Steak, Jarvis Cocker, Gordon Gano, Howe Gelb, David Byrne, Blake Schwarzenbach.

My favourite punk bands are the Minutemen, Bad Religion, Descendents, Boom Boom Kid, Misfits ('77-83), Fugazi, and Mclusky-Future of the Left. My favourite synth-pop is TNJX, Ratatat, Freezepop, Chairlift. My favourite classical pieces are Appalachian Spring, Sleeping Beauty, the St John Passion, Salome, Chopin's Nocturnes and I am made laughably sentimental by Canon in D'. My favourite thug-hop is Big Pun, Raekwon, Eminem, and duh Jay-Z.

My favourite saxophonists are Colin Stetson, Ornette Coleman, Coltrane, Clarence Clemens and Charlie Parker. My favourite guitarists are Marc Ribot, Robert Quine, David Tattersall, Guy Picciotto, John Perry, Nick Pynn, St Vincent, and yeah John Darnielle. My favourite Latin bandleaders are Desi Arnaz, Gilberto Gil, Xavier Cugat, Tito Puente and Tom Ze. I will have favourite cellists one day. My favourite albums are: * Have One On Me * Mush

My favourite poets are Auden, Crichton Smith, Larkin, Dickinson. My favourite Scottish poets are Crichton, Paterson, MacDiarmid (work only), Naomi Mitchison, and sweet Mackay Brown. My favourite Irish poets are Ciaran Carson, Heaney, Yeats, Sebastian Barry, and Paul Durcan. My favourite Englishers are Auden, Larkin, Clare, Lawrence, Hardy, and I suppose Manley Hopkins or Townshend Warner and that lot. I haven't tried very hard with Welsh people, but I like Thomas, Cowper Powys and Herbert. My favourite North American poets are Whitman, Stevens, Dickinson, Carlos Williams, and Bishop. My favourite poets in translation are Lorca, Milosz, Gombrowicz, Schiller, Catullus, and I will crack on with Chinese soon. My favourite hip-hop is Cannibal Ox, Shabazz Palaces, OutKast, Aesop Rock, and MF Doom. I wish I liked Scott or Tagore but I can't.

My favourite comics are Stewart Lee, Chris Morris, Peter Cook, and Dylan Moran. My favourite humorists are Clive James, PG Wodehouse, Evelyn Waugh, Dorothy Parker, Kurt Vonnegut, HL Mencken, Zach Weiner, and Nigel Blackwell. My favourite actors are Brendan Gleeson, Gene Wilder, Gary Oldman, Juliette Binoche, Klaus Kinski, and Henry Fonda. My least favourite actors are Marina Sirtis, John Barrowman, Marilyn Monroe. (A good joke is to include Nic Cage in both lists.) My favourite directors are Herzog, Lumet, Capra, the Coens, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. My favourite screenwrights are Mike Judge, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Aaron Sorkin, Charlie Kaufman, Stephen Poliakoff, and in a way Herzog. (Maybe Rian Johnson eventually.) My favourite playwrights are Bennett, Pinter, Lochhead, Shakey, and Friel.

My favourite webcomics are Abstruse Goose, SMBC, Hyperbole and a Half, Hark! A Vagrant, Dead Philosophers, and Rice Boy. My favourite cartoons are Harvey Birdman, Adventure Time, Rick and Morty, Futurama, Metalocalypse, anything by Patar and Aubier. My favourite game developers were Team Little Devils/Clover/Platinum, Rareware ('94-'01)/FreeRadical, Nippon Ichi, Firaxis, and Harmonix. My favourite mystics are Baizhang Huaihai, Robert Pirsig, Roger Penrose, James Reid, David Bohm, and Krishnamurti. My favourite possessions are my ten trillion Zimbabwean dollar note, my full-size folding bike, my library, the structure of my e-library, the comment at the bottom of this page, and the 100 notebooks I filled while I was 16 to 25 years old.

I am bad with visual art, but I really like Giorgio de Chirico; Paul Cézanne; Brueghel the Younger; Zinaida Serebriakova; Andrew Wyatt. I am becoming less bigoted. (I like critics more than artists.)


My favourite things per se are talking to people about what ultimately matters to them, novelty, sudden relevance, brevity, the act of publishing, Pakistan green, loving, and lists. My favourite free things: sneezing, libraries, cold water, the contents of Github, Spotify Premium over Pi-hole. The worst things I love are Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, Trailer Park Boys, The Lonely Island, Herzog's narration, chips n curry sauce. The most overrated things are nightclubs, bacon, utopia, parenthood and Freud.