Sunny's Shortform

post by Sunny from QAD (Evan Rysdam) · 2019-07-28T02:40:05.241Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · LW · GW · 34 comments


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comment by Sunny from QAD (Evan Rysdam) · 2019-07-28T02:40:05.411Z · score: 18 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The ball-on-a-hill model of reputation

This is a model I came up with in middle school to explain why it felt like I was treated differently from others even when I acted the same. I invented it long before I fully understood what models were (which only occurred sometime in the last year) and as such it's something of a "baby's first model" (ha ha) for me. As you'd expect for something authored by a middle schooler regarding their problems, it places minimal blame on myself. However, even nowadays I think there's some truth to it.

Here's the model. Your reputation is a ball on a hill. The valley on one side of the hill corresponds to being revered, and the valley on the other side corresponds to being despised. The ball begins on top of the hill. If you do something that others see as "good" then the ball gets nudged to the good side, and if you do something that others see as "bad" then it gets nudged to the other side.

Here's where the hill comes in. Once your reputation has been nudged one way or the other, it begins to affect how others interpret your actions. If you apologize for something you did wrong and your reputation is positive, you're "being the bigger person and owning up to your mistakes"; if you do the same when your reputation is negative, you're "trying to cover your ass". Once your action has been interpreted according to your current reputation, it is then fed back into the calculation as an update: the rep/+ person who apologized gets a boost, and the rep/- person who apologized gets shoved down even further.

Hence, "once the ball is sufficiently far down the hill, it begins to roll on its own". You can take nothing but neutral actions and your reputation will become a more extreme version of what it already is (assuming it was far-from-center to begin with). This applies to positive reputation as well as negative! I have had the experience of my reputation rolling down the positive side of the hill -- it was great.

There are also other factors that can affect the starting position of the ball, e.g. if you're attractive or if somebody gives you a positively-phrased introduction then you start on the positive side, but if you're ugly or if your current audience has heard bad rumors about you then you start on the negative side.

I'd be curious if anyone else has had this experience and feels this is an accurate model, and I'd be very curious if anyone thinks there is a significant hole in it.

comment by G Gordon Worley III (gworley) · 2019-07-30T18:00:38.038Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This very much matches my own model. Once you are high or low status, it's self reinforcing and people will interpret the evidence to support the existing story, which is why when you are high you can play low and you won't lose status (you're just "slumming it" or something similar) and when you are low you can play high and will not gain any status (you're "reaching above your station).

comment by MakoYass · 2019-07-28T22:59:35.097Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

We used to talk about a "halo effect" here (and sometimes, "negative halo effect"), I like this way of describing it.

I think it might be more valuable to just prefer to use a general model of confirmation bias though. People find whatever they're looking for. They only find the truth if they're really really looking for the truth, whatever it's going to be, and nothing else, and most people aren't, and that captures most of what is happening.

comment by Raemon · 2019-07-28T21:32:59.896Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)
as such it's something of a "baby's first model" (ha ha) for me. As you'd expect for something authored by a middle schooler regarding their problems, it places minimal blame on myself.

Heh, I like this sentence a lot (both for being funny, sort of adorable, and also just actually being a useful epistemic status)

This model certainly seems relevant, but should probably be properly seen as one particular lens, or a facet of a much more complicated equation. (In particular, people can have different kinds of reputation in different domains)

comment by Sunny from QAD (Evan Rysdam) · 2019-07-28T22:28:49.103Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)
(In particular, people can have different kinds of reputation in different domains)

That's true. I didn't notice this as I was writing, but my entire post frames "reputation" as being representable as a number. I think this might have been more or less true for the situations I had in mind, all of which were non-work social groups with no particular aim.

Here's another thought. For other types of reputations that can still be modeled as a ball on a hill, it might be useful to parameterize the slope on each side of the hill.

  • "Social reputation" (the vague stuff that I think I was perceiving in the situations that inspired this model) is one where the rep/+ side is pretty shallow, but the rep/- side is pretty steep. It's not too hard to screw up and lose a good standing — in particular, if the social group gets it in their head they you were "faking it" and that you're "not actually a good/kind/confident/funny person" — but once you're down the well, it's very hard to climb out.
  • "Academic reputation", on the other hand, seems like it might be the reverse. I can imagine that if someone is considered a genius, and then they miss the mark on a few problems in a row, it wouldn't do much to their standing, whereas if the local idiot suddenly pops out and solves an outstanding problem, everyone might change their minds about them. (This is based on minimal experience.)

Of course, it also depends on the group.

I'm curious — do you have any types of reputation in mind that you wouldn't model like this, or any particular extra parts that you would add to it?

comment by Sunny from QAD (Evan Rysdam) · 2019-10-10T00:12:40.476Z · score: 14 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

When you estimate how much mental energy a task will take, you are just as vulnerable to the planning fallacy as when you estimate how much time it will take.

comment by Sunny from QAD (Evan Rysdam) · 2019-08-18T07:17:19.146Z · score: 12 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm told that there was a period of history where only the priests were literate and therefore only they could read the Bible. Or maybe it was written in Latin and only they knew how to read it, or something. Anyway, as a result, they were free to interpret it any way they liked, and they used that power to control the masses.

Goodness me, it's a good thing we Have Science Now and can use it to free ourselves from the overbearing grip of Religion!

Oh, totally unrelatedly, the average modern person is scientifically illiterate and absorbs their knowledge of what is "scientific" through a handful of big news sources and through cultural osmosis.


Moral: Be wary of packages labeled "science" and be especially wary of social pressure to believe implausible-sounding claims just because they're "scientific". There are many ways for that beautiful name to get glued onto random memes.

comment by MathiasKirkBonde · 2019-08-18T07:56:11.720Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Science confirms video games are good" is essentially the same statement as "The bible confirms video games are bad" just with the authority changed. Luckily there remains a closer link between the authroity "Science" and truth than the authority "The bible" and truth so it's still an improvement.

Most people still update their worldview based upon whatever their tribe as agreed upon as their central authority. I'm having a hard time critisising people for doing this, however. This is something we all do! If I see Nick Bostrom writing something slightly crazy that I don't fully understand, I will still give credence to his view simply for being an authority in my worldview.

I feel like my criticism of people blindly believing anything labeled "science" is essentially criticising people for not being smart enough to choose better authorities, but that's a criticism that applies to everyone who doesn't have the smartest authority (who just so happens to be Nick Bostrom, so we're safe).

Maybe there's a point to be made about not blindly trusting any authority, but I'm not smart enough to make that point, so I'll default to someone who is.

comment by Sunny from QAD (Evan Rysdam) · 2019-08-18T18:08:54.886Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)
Most people still update their worldview based upon whatever their tribe as agreed upon as their central authority. I'm having a hard time critisising people for doing this, however. This is something we all do!

Oh yes, that's certainly true! My point is that anybody who has the floor can say that science has proven XYZ when it hasn't, and if their audience isn't scientifically literate then they won't be able to notice. That's why I lead with the Dark Ages example where priests got to interpret the bible however was convenient for them.

comment by Sunny from QAD (Evan Rysdam) · 2019-08-05T17:44:23.702Z · score: 12 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I just saw a funny example of Extremal Goodhart [LW · GW] in the wild: a child was having their picture taken, and kept being told they weren't smiling enough. As a result, they kept screaming "CHEEEESE!!!" louder and louder.

comment by Sunny from QAD (Evan Rysdam) · 2020-04-29T14:18:21.386Z · score: 9 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

When you ask a question to a crowd, the answers you get back have a statistical bias towards overconfidence, because people with higher confidence in their answers are more likely to respond.

comment by Sunny from QAD (Evan Rysdam) · 2019-09-20T21:21:37.859Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I just learned a (rationalist) lesson. I'm taking a course that has some homework that's hosted on a third party site. There was one assignment at the beginning of the semester, a few weeks ago. Then, about a week ago, I was wondering to myself whether there would be any more assignments any time soon. In fact, I even wondered if I had somehow missed a few assignments, since I'd thought they'd be assigned more frequently.

Well, I checked my course's website (different from the site where the homework was hosted) and didn't see any mention of assignments. Then I went to the professor's website, and saw that they said they didn't assign any "formal homework". Finally, I thought back to the in-class discussions, where the third-party homework was never mentioned.

"Ah, good," I thought. "I guess I haven't missed any assignments, and none are coming up any time soon either."

Then, today, the third-party homework was actually mentioned in class, so just now I went to look at the third-party website. I have missed three assignments, and there is another one due on Sunday.

I am not judged by the quality of my reasoning. I am judged by what actually happens, as are we all.

In retrospect (read: "beware that hindsight bias might be responsible for this paragraph") I kind of feel like I wasn't putting my all into figuring out if I was missing any assignments, and was instead just nervously trying to convince myself that I wasn't. Obviously, I would rather have had that unpleasant experience earlier and missed fewer assignments -- aka, if I was missing assignments, then I should have wanted to believe that I was missing assignments.


comment by Raemon · 2019-09-20T21:41:22.483Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Congrats on saying oops!

comment by eigen · 2019-09-24T22:21:03.506Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

How likely is it now that you are going to miss any more assignments? Not likely at all!

comment by Sunny from QAD (Evan Rysdam) · 2019-09-24T23:36:40.623Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yup. And they key thing that I'm reminding myself of is that this can't be achieved by convincing myself that there aren't any assignments to miss. It can only be achieved for sure by knowing whether there are assignments or not.

comment by Sunny from QAD (Evan Rysdam) · 2019-09-22T22:02:02.184Z · score: 7 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

From my personal wiki. Seems appropriate for LessWrong.

The End-product Substitution is a hypothesis proposed by me about my behavior when choosing projects to work on. The hypothesis is that when I am evaluating how much I would like to work on a project, I substitude judgment of how much I will enjoy the end product for judgment of how much I will enjoy the process of creating it. For example, I recently [Sep 2019] considered creating a series of videos mirroring the content of the LessWrong sequences, and found myself fawning over how nice it would be to have created such a series of videos, and not thinking at all about how I would go about creating them, let alone how much I would enjoy doing that.

comment by Sunny from QAD (Evan Rysdam) · 2019-08-18T19:02:12.252Z · score: 4 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Why is it my responsibility to heal the wounds that somebody else dealt to me??

Because if you don't heal your wounds, you will bleed on people who didn't cut you.

comment by mr-hire · 2019-08-18T22:34:37.988Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Alternatively: Because you're the one that hurts if you don't.

comment by Sunny from QAD (Evan Rysdam) · 2019-08-18T19:06:45.351Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

(I see this has been posted elsewhere. I don't know if I invented it independently or if I read it somewhere and then forgot about it until now.)

comment by Sunny from QAD (Evan Rysdam) · 2019-07-31T01:12:59.970Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I just caught myself substituting judgment of representativeness for judgment of probability [LW · GW].

I'm a conlang enthusiast, and specifically I study loglangs, which are a branch of conlangs that are based around predicate logic. My motivation for learning these languages was that I was always bothered by all the strange irregularities in my natural language (like the simple past tense being the same as the past participle, and the word inflammable meaning two opposite things).

Learning languages like these has only drawn my attention to even more natural-language nonsense. Occasionally I explain this to conlang lay-people, and maybe 50% of them are surprised to find that English is irregular. Some of them even deny that it is, and state that it all follows a perfectly normal pattern. This is a perpetual annoyance to me, simply because I spend so much time immersed in this stuff that I've forgotten how hard it is to spot from scratch.

Well, a while ago I wanted to start learning Mandarin from a friend of mine who speaks it as their first language. While introducing the language, they said that things like tenses were expressed as separate words ("did eat") rather than sometimes-irregular modifications of existing words ("ate"). This reminded me of loglangs, so I gave them the spiel that I gave in the two previous paragraphs -- natlangs, irregularities, annoyances, etc.

"Huh," said the friend. They then turned to another native Chinese speaker and asked "Does Chinese have anything like that?"

I said, "I guarantee it does."

This was months ago. Just now I was reflecting on it, and I realized that I have almost no evidence whatsoever that Chinese isn't perfectly regular (or close enough that the thrust of my claim would be wrong).

It's clear to me now that my thought process was something like "Well, just yet another conlang outsider who's stunned and amazed to find that natural languages have problems." That brought to mind all the other times when I'd encountered people surprised to find that their mother tongue (almost always English) had irregularities, and the erroneous conclusion precipitated right out.

comment by Dagon · 2019-07-31T16:19:06.012Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You may also be integrating something you've read and then forgotten you read, and this added weight to your visible-and-suspect though process in order to make a true statement. It would not surprise me to learn that at least some of your study has included examples of irregularity from MANY natural languages, including Chinese. So "I guarantee it does" may be coming from multiple places in your knowledge.

So, was it actually incorrect, or just illegibly-justified?

comment by Sunny from QAD (Evan Rysdam) · 2019-07-31T17:52:18.693Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hmm, good question. I guess I wouldn't be surprised to learn that I'd read about Chinese having irregularities, though the main text I've read about this (The Complete Lojban Language) didn't mention any IIRC.

comment by Michael Chen (michael-chen) · 2019-08-30T20:47:40.734Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wouldn't be surprised if Chinese had no irregularities in the tense system – it's a very isolating language. But here's one irregularity: the negation of 有 is 没有 ("to not have/possess"), but the simple negation of every other verb is 不 + verb. You can negate other verbs with 没, but then it's implied to be 没有 + verb, which makes the verb into something like a present participle. E.g., 没吃 = "to have not eaten".

comment by Sunny from QAD (Evan Rysdam) · 2019-09-15T19:49:15.085Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would appreciate an option to hide the number of votes that posts have. Maybe not hide entirely, but set them to only display at the bottom of a post, and not at the top nor on the front page. With the way votes are currently displayed, I think I'm getting biased for/against certain posts before I even read them, just based on the number of votes they have.

comment by habryka (habryka4) · 2019-09-15T21:13:03.925Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, this was originally known as "Anti-Kibitzer" on the old LessWrong. It isn't something we prioritized, but I think greaterwrong has an implementation of it. Though it would also be pretty easy to create a stylish script for it (this hides it on the frontpage, and makes the color white on the post-page, requiring you to select the text to see the score):

comment by Sunny from QAD (Evan Rysdam) · 2019-09-15T22:40:10.882Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)
pretty easy to create a stylish script for it

Oh, good idea! I don't have Stylish installed, but I have something similar, and I was able to hide it that way. Thanks!

comment by elityre · 2019-09-28T09:30:11.932Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Can you share it?

comment by Sunny from QAD (Evan Rysdam) · 2019-09-28T20:09:37.372Z · score: 7 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sure. The Firefox plugin is Custom Style Sheet and the code is as follows:

.PostsVote-voteScore {
color: #ffffff

.PostsItem2-karma {
color: #ffffff
comment by elityre · 2019-09-28T20:55:04.939Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)


comment by Raemon · 2019-09-15T20:49:01.401Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Presumably you'd prefer them not to appear in post-list-items as well? (i.e. on the frontpage?)

comment by Sunny from QAD (Evan Rysdam) · 2019-09-15T20:58:01.841Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)


and not at the top nor on the front page


comment by Raemon · 2019-09-15T21:29:20.588Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

ah, whoops.

comment by Sunny from QAD (Evan Rysdam) · 2019-08-30T21:48:00.729Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The other day, my roommate mentioned that the bias towards wanting good things for people in your in-group and bad things for those in your out-group can be addressed by including ever more people in your in-group.

Here's a way to do that: take a person you want to move into your in-group, and try to imagine them as the protagonist of a story. What are their desires? What obstacles are they facing right now? How are they trying to overcome them?

I sometimes feel annoyed at a person just by looking at them. I invented this technique just now, but I used it one time on a person pictured in an advertisement, and it worked. I had previously been having a "what's your problem?" feeling, and it was instantly replaced with a loving "I'm rooting for you" feeling.

comment by Sunny from QAD (Evan Rysdam) · 2019-11-12T07:18:01.279Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I just noticed that I've got two similarity clusters in my mind that keep getting called to my attention by wording dichotomies like high-priority and low-priority, but that would themselves be better labeled as big and small. This was causing me to interpret phrases like "doing a string of low-priority tasks" as having a positive affect (!) because what it called to mind was my own activity of doing a string of small, on-average medium-priority tasks.

My thought process might improve overall if I toss out the "big" and "small" similarity clusters and replace them with clusters that really are centered around "high-priority" and "low-priority".