Open thread, May 29 - June 4, 2017

post by Thomas · 2017-05-29T06:13:51.683Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 85 comments

If it's worth saying, but not worth its own post, then it goes here.

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Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Viliam · 2017-06-02T12:44:59.683Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Imagine a group of scientists who don't care about fame, but care about grant money. Would it make sense for them to pretend to be one super-smart and super-productive person? In other words, could a scientist with e.g. 5x higher productivity get 5x more grant money?

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2017-06-03T16:19:47.146Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In case you think "grant money" means "salary," it doesn't. If one person gets 5x as much grant money, he doesn't get 5x as much salary. If the group pretends to be 1 person, it loses out on the salary money.

Grants are budgeted for specific projects and are mainly used to hire people (grad students, etc). (Often the university hires the professor to teach and the grant buys out the professor's teaching obligation. But only up to the salary set by the university.) So in that sense grants are for salary. You could declare 1 person the professor and the other 4 assistants, but then they'd be getting a lot less salary than if they were professors.

As to the literal question, if one can demonstrate the ability to manage 5x as many projects, it is pretty easy to get 5x as many grants to hire 5x as many people. And I guess scale is mainly a matter of hierarchy, of being able to choose assistants who can do both the research and subsidiary management. And you have assumed this under the hypothesis that the assistants are the real researchers.

I have heard suggested from many people that having a 2 author paper on your CV is worth more than having half of a single-author paper, and thus one should choose a buddy and co-sign all papers.

comment by Viliam · 2017-06-05T12:21:42.739Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

So... now it seems like going in the opposite direction would be the (financially) better way.

Like, if you are a super productive scientist, publish (and get employed) under 5 different identities. For example, use real people who are not scientists, and attribute some of your work to them. Even better, make them co-authors, and your contributions will still be remembered by history.

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2017-06-02T14:29:14.406Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


comment by DragonGod · 2017-06-04T19:00:27.014Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have been a part of this community for over a couple of months now. I follow RAZ with more diligence than I ever did my Bible. I have 0 karma, and as such I cannot post. There are several posts I made on Reddit that I would want to post here to get feedback, but I can't as I have no Karma. FIxing that karma by trying to comment everywhere may work, or it may not. I am more active on my threads and rarely so on others, so I may not have much to say in the way of constructive comments. This is a shameless plea for karma so that I can engage and be a part of the community. Please help me.

comment by Viliam · 2017-06-05T12:24:44.329Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Congratulations on your first three articles! May the rationality be with you!

comment by DragonGod · 2017-06-05T20:01:45.182Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


comment by tcheasdfjkl · 2017-06-01T03:47:27.900Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm new on this site (though I've been in other rationalist spaces) and have some technical questions!

  1. How do I upvote things? I do not see an upvote button. Is something broken or am I missing something?

  2. On mobile (Android), I can type a comment but I cannot submit it (there is no submit button). Is this a known issue, or again, am I missing something?

comment by Viliam · 2017-06-01T09:13:56.675Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You probably need to get some amount of karma (have your comments upvoted by others) for the button to appear.

comment by Elo · 2017-06-05T04:54:16.864Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

also verify your email address

comment by Elo · 2017-06-05T04:11:55.509Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

rotate phone to landscape.

comment by Viliam · 2017-06-05T12:27:56.805Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

and sacrifice a goat to Beelzebub.

(note: sacrifices to Satan are currently disabled by admins, because they were frequently abused in the past.)

comment by morganism · 2017-06-04T21:20:22.295Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

you also need to authorize "Vigilink cdn" in your browser, it's some kind of re-direct, and secure add-on disable it.

comment by Lumifer · 2017-06-04T22:42:25.337Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

No, you don't.

I block Vigilink and LW is fully functional for me.

comment by tristanm · 2017-06-04T16:24:23.365Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

On mobile (Android), I can type a comment but I cannot submit it (there is no submit button). Is this a known issue, or again, am I missing something?

I've gotten around it by typing a comment (long enough that it causes a slider bar on the side of the box to show up) and then clicking on the bottom right corner and sliding it around so that the box resizes. For some reason, this causes the comment button to show up.

comment by lifelonglearner · 2017-06-02T17:21:39.744Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Submission error for Android is also the case for me. I'm guessing it's a known bug.

comment by tristanm · 2017-05-30T16:58:08.685Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do you think that someone who has linguistic genius, but mathematical competency, would come to different epistemological conclusions than someone who has mathematical genius, but linguistic competency?

Here I am making an implicit assumption that there is a qualitative difference between linguistic cognitive processes and mathematical cognitive processes.

As an example of the first type of person, I think Eliezer Yudkowsky is someone who is clearly a linguistic genius but not clearly a mathematical genius. Now, contrast his approach to AI risk with that of Paul Christiano, who is more likely to be a mathematical genius but not clearly a linguistic genius. (Not that either of them have low ability on the weaker trait, they are still likely to be highly competent in both).

Note that "linguistic" ability encompasses much more than having a rich vocabulary or the ability to write amazing poetry or something like that, but is also about the ability to operate on concepts and understand the complex interplay between the rules that govern the concepts. In that regard there is definitely overlap with mathematical ability, but interestingly, it seems that having genius is one domain does not guarantee genius in the other.

But I'm mostly interested in whether or not having mastery in one mode of thinking over the other would actually cause one to converge on different "truths." I only have a slight intuitive predilection that it does, based on reading various philosophers and noting that the more mathematically inclined seem to approach a different set of conclusions than the non-mathematically inclined.

comment by cousin_it · 2017-05-30T18:25:54.182Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm very interested in this question as well. It seems like mathematically talented folks can stay grounded and make progress for longer, while verbally talented folks get lost in their fiction more and more over time. But I say that as a mathy person who's never been good with words, so take it with a grain of salt :-)

comment by tristanm · 2017-06-02T23:41:31.250Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

But the linguistically talented, though they may get lost in their fiction, might use that as a medium for truth-seeking. The fiction itself may act as a sort of "what if this were true" where you can explore counterfactual worlds.

On the other hand, the mathematician seems to explore only the things that are true, and tries to tease out the logical consequences.

comment by Manfred · 2017-06-01T18:09:29.561Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree, but one might need large sample size if you want to apply this to specific issues, particularly subjects of active research like AI alignment. People vary a lot, and that variation is somewhat correlated but not perfectly, and also in research, different people are deliberately working on different solutions to try to explore the possibilities.

comment by tristanm · 2017-06-02T23:47:44.087Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It seems like entire fields in academia are clustered around specific styles of thinking, and the sample size should be large enough to see if there are any serious differences in their respective philosophies.

comment by Viliam · 2017-05-31T09:40:25.489Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Some evidence that seemingly goes again the widely known "Why Our Kind Can't Cooperate" phenomenon:

What is your opinion on this?

My working hypothesis (small certainty, but I have no better explanation at the moment) is that:

  • smart people are better at cooperation;
  • but worse at cooperation with normies than with their own kind;
  • and if they grow up exclusively among normies, their ability to cooperate may be damaged in general.

In other words, the smart people we see in Mensa or various online debates are the smart individuals who were damaged by growing up among normies. The smart people growing up among smart people already have a successful career at university or elsewhere, and don't care that much about places where the former congregate.

comment by Lumifer · 2017-05-31T14:57:43.323Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

but worse at cooperation with normies than with their own kind

That's a good insight.

But I would probably add a caveat that the "smart people" population is quite diverse, in some ways more so than the normies, so "our kind" can cooperate well with others of our kind, but not necessarily with smart people not of our kind.

comment by DragonGod · 2017-05-31T19:35:03.593Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

the smart people we see in Mensa or various online debates are the smart individuals who were damaged by growing up among normies.

Curious why you posit that

comment by Viliam · 2017-06-01T09:10:42.850Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The hypothesis that "growing among normies can damage a high-IQ kid" is more or less based on Terman's research (sorry, too lazy to find a link now) done a century ago, and seems to fit my experience (which of course may be a confirmation bias). Essentially, high-IQ people who have the chance to copy the life strategies of their family and friends are usually successful at life, while high-IQ people who don't have anyone around them to copy in some critical stages of life, tend to become... dissatisfied with their life outcomes.

More generally, when you look at humans, culture is often more important than individual skills. Obvious examples are the "feral children" raised by animals; regardless of their IQ, they often fail at some basic human skills, such as walking straight. Seems to me that high-IQ people growing up without the "high-IQ culture" suffer from something similar. They somewhat learn the normie skills (similarly how children raised by wolves somewhat learn the wolf skills), but they have no one to learn high-IQ skills from. And reinventing civilization from scratch usually doesn't get you too far.

If your parents are e.g. successful professors, and you have high IQ, then pretty much all you need to do is to copy what they did. Also, they can provide you useful advice and other help at every step; because they have been there.

If you are a high-IQ kid that appeared as a weird mutation in the middle of nowhere, your environment is just going to be "you are weird", and in best case it is "oh man, if I were as smart as you, I would certainly do something more awesome than you are doing" and if you ask "what specifically?" you get "dunno, would buy a lottery ticket and win tons of money, or program a new Facebook... you know how to program web pages, right?". In other words, you rarely get actionable advice, and the advice you get is often actvely harmful, or just leads you into blind alleys.

When I look at smart people who succeed in life, seems to me that maybe 4 out of 5 simply do something similar to what their parents did. And they are usually too busy doing their stuff to participate in Mensa or similar.

And when I look around in my local Mensa (which may be specific for my country, dunno), I mostly see people who tried to do their best, exceeded their local environment, only to find out that they still fail at life somehow. And then they construct various hypotheses for why that happened, usually all kinds of bullshit.

I have also seen a few high-IQ people whose lives changed a lot after they met other high-IQ people, realized "oh, I am not the only person like this on Earth, there are also others of my kind", and then started copying each other's successful strategies. This is my most near-mode evidence that presence of similar people is indeed very useful. (And if you turn the sentence around, you get that isolation from similar people is very harmful.) Now some people need to travel across the world to find people like this at a LW meetup. Some people just grow up with parents, and siblings, and neighbors like that. The universe is simply not fair, and I guess we already know this in some sense.

comment by DragonGod · 2017-06-01T10:54:54.875Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for the repply. :) I'm glad to see your hypotheses is actually based on evidence—anecdotal evidence is better than nothing—and not pulled out of your ass or based on stereotypes, and dumb misconceptions. Mensa seems to get a lot of backlash (I'm not a member and there's no presence in my country), but Mensa does sound like an organisation I'd (want to) join if they had a presence in Nigeria, plus I have a friend who's a member.

comment by Viliam · 2017-06-01T11:51:55.023Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I guess Mensa may differ between countries a lot, even if some criticism seems common. example, reading somewhere in Asimov's autobiography about his first visit in Mensa, I just sighed, yeah it would be equally bad here, despite being a different country.

Please note that I don't have bad opinions about people with high IQ in general. Quite the other way round! My hypothesis is that (in some countries?) Mensa is not representative of that group, but rather of its somewhat problematic subgroup.

Officially, Mensa selects for:

  • high IQ.

But de facto, Mensa more or less selects for:

  • high IQ;
  • desire to have your high IQ recognized;
  • lack of other existing projects that would compete for your time with Mensa.

It is the latter two points that are problematic. If you are a high-IQ person well integrated in the high-IQ culture -- for example a computer science professor at a good university -- you are probably not going to join Mensa. Why would you? Your need to interact with smart people is already satisfied at your workplace. And you are too busy learning new stuff, doing research, teaching students, and having non-academic hobbies. On the other hand, if you are a high-IQ person doing some depressing nine-to-five job surrounded by normies, Mensa may seem very attractive. Thus the latter will be overrepresented in Mensa, compared with the base group of high-IQ people in general. What is worse, this may create a feedback loop, where the former will recognize Mensa as a group composed mostly by the latter, and will avoid it on purpose.

I have also seen many Mensans engaging in endless pissing contests. Instead of, dunno, changing the world, they keep bringing yet another puzzle, or in worse (but quite frequent) case, yet another crackpot explanation of theory of relativity and/or quantum physics, without actually being familiar with the very basics. Now again, imagine an actual physics professor joining them for an evening; he or she would run away screaming.

My local Mensa even seems to be sabotaging itself at every step. It's as if they try to keep the membership small. They have no blog; no recruitment; minimum cooperation with Mensas in other countries. It's as if they fear that if too many people join Mensa, the ones already there will stop being special. In a country with 5 mil people, the top 2% equals to 100 000 potential members; of those 10 000 potential members in the capital city. Yet the actual number is maybe 300 members country-wide, which means 10 - 20 of them meeting regularly at one place. If you are a student at a good university, you already have more high-IQ people around you at school! As if these people fail to understand that it's supposed to be about having a wide network.

A few random things I would do as a dictator of my local Mensa:

  • Have an official blog. Probably without comment section, because all the crackpots would immediately go there. Or perhaps a public blog, with a private comment section. This should take like one day to set up. Have some editors filter the content for quality, so it won't be full of e.g. conspiracy theories on youtube, just because an active Mensan happens to be a fan. Hope that one day a cool article will be shared on social networks, and people will want to join you.

  • Have two tiers of membership: paid and unpaid. In other words, if someone passes the IQ test, and wants to be recognized as a Mensa member, keep them in the fucking database, even if they refuse to pay the fee. Because Mensa is a network, and a value of a network generally increases with the number of nodes, even if the nodes don't contribute financially. (Why are people on Facebook? Because other people are on Facebook. Why do you have a phone? Because other people have phones.) Keep the unpaid members in a database, let them select the topics they are interested in, and send them various announcements and invitations -- it doesn't cost you anything extra. Don't let them vote if they don't pay the fees; but keep them connected.

  • Instead of each country playing on its own playground, recognize that the world is connected and people speak foreign languages. Create international websites. Or just use the existing infrastructure, such as Reddit -- create a subreddit with limited membership, when only people certified by their local Mensa can join. But don't make a subreddit per country; make a subreddit per language, with some people in more than one. With enough members, make a subreddit per language and topic. It is utterly stupid for a country with 20 - 50 active Mensans to pretend that the rest of the world doesn't exist.

What I am trying to say here is that my local Mensa seems like they don't even try, and sometimes actively oppose any attempts to change the status quo, which a few years ago was "the same ten people keep meeting once in a month in a room, discussing latest conspiracy theories and crackpot quantum physics", but these days it's more like "once in a few months we invite a speaker from outside Mensa to tell us about some interesting topic" which is a huge improvement, mostly made by 1 very assertive and popular person.

Maybe the situation in other countries is different, but from what I heard, the endless pissing contests (yet another puzzle to solve), crackpot physics, and meta debates about IQ (without knowing the elementary facts about psychometrics, replacing them with random "opinions") seem to be everywhere. Perhaps the difference is that in some countries the member base is large enough that it also includes a few people who actually get things done.

I feel there should be an organization for highly intelligent people. I just think Mensa mostly fails at this goal.

comment by ChristianKl · 2017-06-01T13:58:12.983Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I feel there should be an organization for highly intelligent people. I just think Mensa mostly fails at this goal.

I don't see a reason for the organization to have intelligence as membership criteria. There are people who used to be Mensa members in our local Lesswrong group and according to their impression the IQ according to them most people in our LW group would likely pass the entrance criteria of Mensa.

The Chaos Computer Club would be another organization full of intelligent people. The Chaos Computer Club happens to be a community that doesn't let crackpots on it's stage. I heard there years before the Snowden releases that the NSA has access to German internet traffic and it turned out to be right. Julian Assange whose talks I heard to times at the congress when he could still travel to Berlin (and the congress was in Berlin). You have a bunch of people who can really clearly think about real-politics and who's opinions of political opinions I trust more than the opinion of some random journalist.

As a third group the debating club at university is also full with very smart people. No one of the groups needs IQ as a criteria.

comment by Viliam · 2017-06-01T17:37:02.284Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My idea is that a Mensa-like organisation should essentially do two things.

1) Allow you to easily filter for high intelligence. You have no problem to find e.g. a highly intelligent programmer, because programming and high intelligence are related. But if you want to talk about something different, which is not related to intelligence, but you still prefer talking to highly intelligent people, it could be difficult to find them. But for this to work correctly, you need a lot of members, like thousands. So that for many traits X there is a sufficient subset of "highly intelligent and X".

It is probably easier to explain using the status-quo-reversal technique. Imagine that you live in a country where the average IQ is 70, and only one person in fifty has the IQ of 100 or higher. Do you think it would be useful to create a place for these people to meet each other outside of their professional boundaries?

2) A specialized part of the organisation should spread general information about intelligence, and counter the typical myths. How necessary this seems probably depends on how often you find people believing various myths. I often meet people who are quite hostile towards the idea of intelligence, especially the idea that some students could learn faster than others, and that it would be better to provide them education better adjusted to their abilities and needs. I imagine the organisation should advocate for better education of highly intelligent students.

But of course an organisation with only handful of members and crappy web presence is unable to achieve either of that.

The examples you provided -- yeah, there are places, such as computer science universities, where people are already indirectly filtered by high intelligence. But imagine having the same thing across professions, across social class boundaries, etc. Which more or less was the original idea of Mensa founders.

comment by ChristianKl · 2017-06-01T22:31:47.740Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

1) Allow you to easily filter for high intelligence. You have no problem to find e.g. a highly intelligent programmer, because programming and high intelligence are related. But if you want to talk about something different, which is not related to intelligence, but you still prefer talking to highly intelligent people, it could be difficult to find them.

Neither LessWrong nor the Chaos Computer Club requires people to be programmers and both draw highly intelligent people. In contrast to Mensa (or at least the Mensa that you described that's full of crackpots), they also happen to filter for high epistemic hygiene.

comment by DragonGod · 2017-06-01T12:38:51.120Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for the opinion; it is much appreciated. I cannot give an informed opinion on this, as I'm not a member of MENSA. Since you see a problem, why not work towards fixing it?

comment by Viliam · 2017-06-01T14:14:03.084Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I tried, and failed.

I joined the local Mensa, observed the problem after a few meetups, and proposed some changes. Most people opposed them. Blog is not necessary, because supposedly everyone already knows what Mensa is. We don't need unpaying members; if they are not willing to pay the small fee, they don't deserve to be listed as Mensa members. My disagreement with conspiracy theories on youtube means I am a sheep brainwashed by the mainstream media. And I don't appreciate the new theories on relativity and quantum physics, because I am too stupid to understand them. We don't need to cooperate with Mensas in other countries.

At last, some people agreed that the current web forum was horrible, and that it needed to be changed. But the discussion about possible replacement went exactly according to the Mensa stereotype -- everyone proposed a different weird solution, and threatened to ragequit unless it is done exactly as they want it. And of course no one volunteered to actually do anything. I volunteered to install PHPBB, which at that time seemed like a standard solution, but people voted against me. Also, people insisted that the new forum must be visible only to Mensa members, to make Mensa even more invisible. At the end someone else installed their solution (I think it was the guy who installed the previous forum, so he had all the passwords, and could do it regardless of the opinions of others), with minimal functionality, and made it only for members.

(To compare, during the same time period I started a local Esperanto group with my four friends; we organized a few meetups, including an international one, published a few books, and a promotional multimedia DVD. The difference in productivity was shocking. In our Esperanto group, we had the same goal, and everyone wanted to try things. In the Mensa group, there was no goal, and everyone wanted to signal sophistication by disagreeing.)

Later I made a talk about Less Wrong in Mensa. Explained the cognitive biases, etc. Zero interest.

Then I started going to LW meetups and mostly forgot about Mensa. The LW meetups are much better, and the people there are much smarter. Unfortunately, the LW meetups I attend are in the neighbour country. I organized a local LW meetup for a year or two, but it didn't grow beyond maybe 5 really interested people.

If I could succeed to find 10 rationalists in my country, I would probably try to take over Mensa. Seems simple: if everyone would join Mensa (IQ is not a problem for an average rationalist), we could win the election and make the new rules. Problem is, I haven't succeeded at finding 10 wannabe rationalists in my country yet. (Also, recently I am busy having a small child, not enough time and energy for doing stuff outside my job and home.)

comment by DragonGod · 2017-06-04T18:54:54.303Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would have helped you if I were in your country. It seems like the MENSA in your country is a waste of time, and hardly worth saving. Create a new organisation if you must. Though saving your local MENSA may be the decision with the higher payoff (imagine the possibilities if you showed them the way).

comment by ChristianKl · 2017-05-31T11:00:23.696Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Cooperation can get harder when projects get more complex. The coordination skill that you need to succeed with a project like going drinking at a pub together is a lot less like the coordination skill you need to get a project like Dragon Army working.

comment by Viliam · 2017-05-31T13:14:14.385Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

So... is your hypothesis that high IQ gives more of an advantage in clearly defined mathy situations, such as playing a Prisonners' Dilemma tournament, but less of an advantage in real-life situations where e.g. the coordination skills are more important?

comment by ChristianKl · 2017-06-01T10:43:38.019Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My hypothesis is that smart people try problems where coordination is harder. That means even if they have the same skill level, they will have less success.

comment by demiphillips090 · 2018-08-13T06:26:27.224Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

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comment by JustinSmith · 2018-07-11T07:58:06.038Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

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comment by turchin · 2017-05-29T14:36:08.058Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I want to find the way to preserve information very long-term, to send the message to any future civilisation, which may appear on Earth in next hundred million years.

For it, I would like to know the speed of atom diffusion in metals in millions of years - that is, what is the minimum chunk of metal, which will be able to preserve a bit of information. Any ideas?

comment by Thomas · 2017-05-29T16:05:01.094Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Something dynamic. Like a machine which constantly checks the inside stored data in many copies. Produces a new independent copy every now and then.

Zapps every evolution which occurs in the reachable Universe, manages black holes, stars and so on.

A static solution is too vulnerable.

comment by turchin · 2017-05-29T16:25:31.705Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, I have to add that I explore it as a solution of the x-risks problem, not the way to create new x-risks. :)

The solution is to send for future earthlings civilisation a lot of information about human DNA, global risks and our culture, so they will return us to life and escape our mistakes.

comment by morganism · 2017-05-29T20:33:47.667Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I know the surface of gold actually fluctuates. Prob titanium coated with iridium would be most stable. There are also ongoing studies of using lattice vacancies in diamonds that are pretty far advanced.

This always brings us back to the "communicating with aliens" problem too. Most settle on visual cues, and write it in binary. I still like to think of spectral lines as the most basic communication technique.

Have a story idea about finding an alien vessel that had a catastrophic fire inside, and all the instrumentation and computing storage has been destroyed. All we find inside is a book with iridium pages, that has fantastic theories on cosmology, planetary and stellar mechanics, etc. Turns out it is a childs book, made to be durable!

comment by Thomas · 2017-05-29T16:41:50.558Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As an old saying goes - No x-risks, no fun!

comment by DataPacRat · 2017-06-03T03:00:57.796Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Printing several pages onto one piece of paper?

Embarrassingly silly and small question that I can't seem to find an answer through Google on, and there don't seem any good subreddits for:

I've compiled some notes I want to have handy to refer to into a 16-page PDF. I want to shrink and rearrange those pages, to print 8 per side onto a standard sheet of paper, so that I can cut, staple, and fold it into a pocket-sized booklet. My last-ditch solution would be to hope a photocopy/print shop wouldn't charge much to accomplish that... But does anyone here know how to wrestle my doc into usable shape without having to pay cash?

(My available computer is Linux-based. I'm generating the PDF by fiddling with an HTML doc mostly full of tables and 'printing' it to a file. Some further fiddling is probably going to improve its presentation, but if you've got an auto PDF-to-booklet script handy, or otherwise want to play with it, I've tossed my current draft here.)

comment by garabik · 2017-06-09T22:20:41.155Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

psbook is what I'd use - you might need pdftops to get postscript out of the pdf, or perhaps print to a generic postscript printer directly.

comment by ChristianKl · 2017-06-03T17:05:51.519Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Embarrassingly silly and small question that I can't seem to find an answer through Google on, and there don't seem any good subreddits for:

StackExchange makes more sense then Reddit for this kind of question. When you are on linux, or is likely to give you a good answer/

comment by lifelonglearner · 2017-06-02T17:20:55.741Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I want to get started with some basic budgeting / financial 101.

Are there any good mobile apps / things I may want to check out as a first start?

comment by knb · 2017-06-04T18:15:51.106Z · LW(p) · GW(p) is popular.

comment by lifelonglearner · 2017-06-04T18:48:08.690Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks! This was what I had in mind!

comment by Screwtape · 2017-06-06T20:57:13.170Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is not strictly speaking an app, but it is a thing; if you can do most of your spending using a debit card or paypal or somesuch, I've found making a once-a-month habit to copy last month's expenditures onto the end of an ever-growing CSV gives me a really nice pile of data that can be fed into all sorts of other programs. Excel or Google Spreadsheet alone lets me arrange it in ways that can be helpful. I'm sure budgeting programs can do sorting or analysis that a basic spreadsheet can't, but most of my 'huh, I'm curious about X in my budget' moments can be solved with some basic excel.

The most important benefit for me is being able to simply ask it to make a line chart of the total; that gives me a gut feeling for whether I'm gradually saving more or if I'm losing money over time, and lets me look for regular patterns. Being able to sort last month by cost is also great for just being aware of what's hitting me the hardest so I can prioritize.

(Actually, the most important benefit to me is this nice steadily growing line that feels like winning on a gut level. By some magic I have turned numbers into a motivation that's stronger than my desire to order pizza, and this is very useful voodoo. YMMV.)

comment by lifelonglearner · 2017-06-06T21:25:29.535Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Nice, cool, thanks for the suggestion!

comment by cousin_it · 2017-06-01T09:24:27.191Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Does anyone feel like they reliably distrust dreams that promise too much, and generally feel aware and in control of each of their dreams (instead of following them to wherever)? Is that a good idea?

comment by ChristianKl · 2017-06-01T13:47:42.774Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not sure whether "Is this dream promising too much?" is a good question. It seems to me like any person who starts a startup and things about building a billion dollar company could use this filter to reject his startup idea.

comment by Dagon · 2017-06-01T22:34:09.108Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think it's problematic mostly because it's binary. Dreams with a very large potential payoff are fine, but one should examine whether the value only comes at the end, and only if everything goes right. The dreams to follow are those that promise way too much, but have lots of "failure" paths that promise a positive amount.

Note that the opposite failure mode should be avoided as well; if your dream is easily achieved, you should be asking "does it promise enough"?

comment by cousin_it · 2017-06-01T14:29:13.425Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think it's a good question because dreams that promise too much can seem more feasible than they are, and dialing down the attractiveness might work better than trying to convince yourself than it's not feasible.

comment by ChristianKl · 2017-06-01T22:30:57.743Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Dreams that promise little can also seem more feasible than they are.

comment by cousin_it · 2017-06-01T14:17:17.570Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

And they may be right if starting a startup has negative expected utility. You can't assume it's a good idea by only looking at winners.

comment by whales · 2017-06-01T00:35:48.212Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've started cleaning up and posting some old drafts on my blog. I've drifted away, but some of them may be of interest to people still here. Most directly up this alley so far would be this post recommending people read Trial By Mathematics.

comment by morgan01 · 2017-05-30T05:12:51.106Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I want to try my hand at a story from the perspective of an unaligned AI for the intelligence in literature contest, which I think would be both cool and helpful to the uninitiated in explaining the concept.

Assignment Help UK

comment by Lumifer · 2017-05-30T15:01:15.170Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


comment by morganism · 2017-05-29T21:35:09.153Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Gov doc, i can't open because old cipher. Someone want to take a look ?

comment by morganism · 2017-05-29T20:16:29.755Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Three times we changed our mind about what’s the world’s biggest problem

"Finally, as we saw earlier, the majority of US social interventions probably don’t work. This is because problems facing the poor in rich countries are complex and hard to solve. Moreover, even the most evidence-backed interventions are expensive and have modest effects."

Cost-effectiveness of health interventions as found in the Disease Controls Priorities Project 2. See “The moral imperative towards cost-effectiveness in global health” by Toby Ord for more explanation.

"How to preserve future generations – find the more neglected risks"

Biosecurity: The threat from future disease

Artificial intelligence and the ‘control problem’

How to work out which problems you should focus on"

comment by Thomas · 2017-05-29T06:15:55.793Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A new problem.

comment by username2 · 2017-05-30T06:47:22.685Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Answer to alpha-primes problem".

Or must it have a verb if it has to be a sentence?

comment by Thomas · 2017-05-30T07:50:28.858Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It should be understandable and not ambiguous. This set {2,3,5,7,...,97} should be well defined by it.

comment by Gurkenglas · 2017-05-29T06:45:17.337Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What does describe mean? Does "The set of all primes smaller than 100" count?

comment by Thomas · 2017-05-29T08:20:47.372Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

No, you should define primes, otherwise it is trivial.

comment by Gurkenglas · 2017-05-29T19:37:23.471Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How far do I need to define it? Does "The set of naturals smaller than 100 not divisible by 2, 3, 5 or 7"? count?

comment by Thomas · 2017-05-29T20:05:51.506Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sure it counts. Can you do better? For this one is wrong,

comment by philh · 2017-05-30T16:32:31.057Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do you accept "Naturals below 100 with exactly two divisors"?

Also, are we counting length in words, or characters, or?

comment by Thomas · 2017-05-30T17:10:04.314Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This one is good.

But it would be even better by saying "Naturals below 98 with exactly two divisors"?

One character better. Which is the answer on your second question.

comment by Oscar_Cunningham · 2017-05-31T07:39:24.001Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Naturals below 98 with exactly t̶w̶o̶ 2 divisors

comment by Thomas · 2017-05-31T08:46:37.971Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Naturals below 98 with exactly 2 divisors

first 25 naturals with exactly 2 divisors

comment by philh · 2017-05-31T09:30:00.140Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Marginal: ints 2 to 98 with just 2 divisors

("ints" is only vaguely English; "just" is fine here, but debatable if you don't exclude 1.)

Also marginal: "numbers" instead of "naturals". Less precise, but there's only one sensible interpretation.

comment by Thomas · 2017-05-31T13:31:38.370Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I like your solution. Agree with you on all your points, too.

Can you do even better?

comment by philh · 2017-06-01T11:16:14.597Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, "factors" is shorter than "divisors".

comment by Thomas · 2017-06-01T16:11:29.118Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

first 25 2 factors ints?

comment by Oscar_Cunningham · 2017-06-02T21:11:26.629Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think "first 25 2 factor ints" is more grammatical. Also shorter.

comment by username2 · 2017-06-04T12:42:45.359Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

And if abbreviating "ints" is ok, so too is saving two characters by the use of "1st".

comment by Thomas · 2017-06-04T10:17:26.864Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I guess it's the best way in English to somehow denote primes from 2 to 97.

Except for the "first 25 primes", THYJOKING gave on my site, but was "discouraged" by me as a "trivial solution".

Well, my "solution" or "kind of a solution" is


Shorter. All you have to do, is to convert this decimal number to the base 6:


Viewing this as a binary coded hexadecimal, there is the bitmap for primes up to 99. From left to right.

0011 0101 0001 0100 0101 0001 0000 0101 0000 0100 0101 0001 0000 0100 0001 0100 0001 0001 0100 0001 0001 0000 0100 0000 0100

For this size bitstrings, only one in 100 billion can be processed this way.

comment by Thomas · 2017-06-01T12:06:58.892Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


comment by madhatter · 2017-05-29T20:57:09.748Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, "The set of all primes less than 100" definitely works, so we need to shorten this.

comment by Thomas · 2017-05-29T21:42:01.244Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It doesn't work, it's a trivial solution. Get rid of the word prime. Rephrase!

But even if that was a solution, it's not the shortest one.

comment by username2 · 2017-05-30T12:25:07.703Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Very short solution: "madhatter's answer". Just two words and very clearly refers to "the set of all primes less than 100".

comment by Thomas · 2017-05-30T12:47:58.409Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"solution above" is then even better.

But it doesn't work without the two previous "solutions". No good, sorry.