Moloch the judger of social credit

8 minute read

This post is long and there’s no summary provided. Waste your time Read of your own volition.

A poem, then, to start:

Moloch whose brief mind is the barrel of gleaming stars! Moloch whose soul is choices of fragrance! Moloch whose framing is glitz and half-cheerios!

Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy judger of men!

Moloch for I don’t believe in god! Moloch who, fought Sins and made Sin out of Sin!

I know what you’re thinking: “He’s lost it. Leon’s gone off the deep end and today’s finally the day I stop reading this site I don’t even know how I got on in the first place and can spend my time more productively elsewhere.” [1]

What if I told you that of the three lines above, one was from a famous poem, and two were from a computer generated language model? Can you guess which two? This article has further examples, which range from humourous to eerie. The main and fascinating point the author has to make is:

But this should be a wake-up call to people who think AGI is impossible, or totally unrelated to current work, or couldn’t happen by accident. In the context of performing their expected tasks, AIs already pick up other abilities that nobody expected them to learn. […] All that stuff you hear about “AIs can only do one thing” or “AIs only learn what you program them to learn” or “Nobody has any idea what an AGI would even look like” are now obsolete.

I think we might live to see a general AI system, and all the “Chinese room” discussions that would entail, which is both fascinating and terrifying. Some great movies to watch on this theme include “Her” and “Ex Machina”

On the topic of learning, does my chess ability [2] carry over into my academic ability? [3] Growing up, a lot of parents seemed to believe in this. This meta-analysis about so-called “far transfer of learning” concludes:

Although cognitive ability correlates with domain specific skills—for example, smarter people are more likely to be stronger chess players and better musicians—there is little evidence that chess or music instruction makes people smarter. Rather, smarter individuals are more likely to engage and excel in these fields.

Caveat that I’m not sure if I’m correctly understanding the main stats table in the paper so read it for yourself. There goes my plan of teaching my children chess, though I’m 10 years too early for that. [4]

What other false beliefs do we have, and why do we have them? This interview discusses misinformation. Select quotes:

Without getting any immediate feedback, without anything going wrong in your life, you can form these kinds of beliefs.

When people were first studying anti-arrhythmic drugs, the question was, “Are these going to reduce heart attacks?” Other scientists asked, “Do they reduce arrhythmia?” Big Pharma funded the latter group. It poured money into scientists asking whether these drugs reduced arrhythmia. In fact, they did. But they also increased heart attacks and were responsible for upward of 100,000 premature deaths by heart attack

If you’re a consumer, you should be looking for scientific articles that aren’t a one-off but rather package a lot of data from various studies.

Getting quick feedback, aligning incentives, and attempting to reduce your confirmation bias, which lines up with opinions I’ve shared before. A case study of something that does the opposite is the MBTI test.

The good news about taking an MBTI test is now you have something to put on your dating profile. The bad news is that the test is flawed to begin with, as described in this paper

Jung likely was trying to figure out the truth behind human psychology, but he was not doing so by creating rigorous theories that could be tested and revised with new knowledge. Indeed, he considered the unscientific nature of his theories to be a strength

In other words he made things up?

The central premises of the MBTI theory include that people belong to a “true” personality “type”, that “type” causes differences in observed behavior, and that “type” is determined at birth. For the MBTI theory to be correct, each of these three claims needs to be supported. However, each has several validity issues.

research on the interaction between intuition and reasoning has shown that they are both ubiquitously operating and not opposites at all […] to the extent that “thinking” (T) and “feeling” (F) are not actually opposites, it does not make sense to say that people are born with a preference for one or the other, since the “or” is no longer meaningful.

Sensing and perceiving patterns are such pervasive and nonconscious processes (e.g., Schneider & Chein, 2003) that is most assuredly the case that both bottom‐up processing and top‐down processing are unavoidable. […] These are all basic features of perception and occur automatically, making the idea that people tend to “prefer” one over the other difficult to reconcile.

So 2 of the 4 dimensions are false opposites (thinking/feeling and sensing/intuition). It would be similar to describing myself as a dancer with either ‘grace’ or ‘control’ when they’re both related and I have neither.

One problem for the MBTI theory’s internal consistency is that it asks those that take it to self‐verify the results. […] This is an internal consistency problem because it cannot be the case that “true” personality is both hidden and not. This is, though, easy to justify from a customer service perspective: Assessment takers are simply happier when they have control over the output of the process

The MBTI theory purports to measure preferences for each of the dichotomies, rather than tendencies or abilities. […] This freedom makes sense from a customer service perspective but not a scientific one.

The conclusion being that MBTI is a business rather than a valid psychological tool and you should now also feel irrationally irate whenever your friends bring it up in conversation. If you are still interested in personality testing though, Big Five seems to replicate better and is scientifically well regarded. Use that to flaunt your sophistication instead.

And what if your personality could be scored on a points system? Reporting on China’s social credit initiative compares it to a real life Black Mirror episode where your points determine your lifestyle. [5] This site explains how most media coverage is wrong. Key points being that:

  • Sesame credit and social credit are completely different things
  • The social credit system generally doesn’t even use scores and is more of an information aggregation attempt
  • The much-feared blacklist is not due to a failing score but from undesirable conduct that was recorded elsewhere

And if you’re trying to live a good life regardless of the point potential, here’s some advice by a guy at Blackstone. I don’t actually know who he is, but I liked most of the advice.

Concentrate on finding a big idea that will make an impact on the people you want to influence

I think the idea of building a personal brand is important, will write more on this in the future

Network intensely. Luck plays a big role in life, and there is no better way to increase your luck than by knowing as many people as possible.

I like meeting interesting people though the feeling never seems mutual…

Get enough sleep

I’ve written before about hard work vs struggle porn. I think the prevalent “oh i worked 100 hour weeks” in XYZ industry is stupid but unfortunately doesn’t seem likely to change. Signaling matters to many. [6]

When someone extends a kindness to you write them a handwritten note

As some of you know I’m a big fan of cards

Every year try doing something you have never done before that is totally out of your comfort zone

I’ve done stupid things because of this principle, but also many fantastic ones. You don’t know if you like/dislike the idea of something vs the thing itself, until you actually try it

When you meet someone new, treat that person as a friend

When seeking a career as you come out of school or making a job change, always take the job that looks like it will be the most enjoyable. If it pays the most, you’re lucky. If it doesn’t, take it anyway,

Never retire. If you work forever, you can live forever.

Not sure how I feel about these three.

Other miscellaneous

  1. I don’t like commenting on the blockchain space, but I think this is worth reading. Bruce Schneier is supposed to be a security expert but I’m not familiar with his other work
  2. I lied, here’s another on 51% blockchain attacks
  3. For people considering non-blockchain related startup life, this guide on equity comp is the most comprehensive I’ve seen
  4. Some life advice that I found myself mostly agreeing with.
  5. I identify more with nyonya dessert than peranakan culture, but here’s an brief history article [7]
  6. Cat ladders


  1. This was more relevant for the email list I was sending this out to
  2. Non-existent. If you were hoping for a chess game demo here’s one by alphazero which is worth watching
  3. Slightly more existent than my chess ability but declining every day
  4. Or 5 years too late, if my mom is to be believed
  5. A fantastic TV series if you haven’t already watched it btw. Start with the second episode if you’re new…
  6. Have been guilty of this myself, and I try to avoid it. Especially since productivity seems to drop off a cliff past a certain weekly load. Caveat I haven’t read the full paper. Signaling (if going beyond just talking about hours worked) is a large enough topic I want to leave for another post
  7. Am I considered peranakan? Are most Singaporeans technically peranakan? Hoping someone can answer this