Open thread, Dec. 12 - Dec. 18, 2016

post by MrMind · 2016-12-12T07:56:23.929Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 141 comments

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

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comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2016-12-12T23:45:38.614Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This thought made me more sympathetic to other political factions:

A good way to understand the difference between the three main American political tribes is to look at their attitude towards the problem of social irresponsibility, which let's define for the sake of argument to be when someone makes a big Life Mistake and thereby causes a lot of damage, most of which borne by the individual in question but part of which is borne by society. Consider as example 1) a single mother of three kids by three different deadbeat dads, who relies on government handouts to get by 2) The kid who went to college and racked up a bunch of debt, but played too many video games and smoked too much weed, so he dropped out, and now wants debt forgiveness 3) The typical couch potato who ate too much junk food and was too lazy to exercise, so is now diabetic and morbidly obese and so needs lots of expensive health care 4) the unwisely promiscuous person who had lots of unprotected sex, contracted HIV, and now also needs expensive drug cocktails.

The three political orientations can be understood by their instinctual response to this problem. The social conservatives want to prevent social irresponsibility by force, law, or regulation. That, in their view, not only protects society from having to pick up a huge tab, but also protects the individuals themselves. The liberals reason that the individual has suffered enough already, and society should step in and help to ease the suffering. After all, Western societies are fairly wealthy and can afford to help out those in need. The libertarians want to build fences. The problem in their view is just the issue of "splash damage"; if a person wants to screw up his own life he should be allowed to do so, as long as he doesn't screw up anyone else's. Thus libertarians don't want government intervention in individual liberty, but also don't want to have to pay high taxes to clean up the problems somebody else created.

Framed in this way, I personally can see the appeal and wisdom of each of the three tendencies, so I wanted to offer this idea to LW. It might help people win ideological Turing Tests. Let's not debate which tendency is actually "correct".

Replies from: MrMind, bogus, username2
comment by MrMind · 2016-12-13T16:04:59.243Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This reminds me of the "survive / thrive" theory of political tribes at SSC.

comment by bogus · 2016-12-14T12:34:49.026Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The libertarians want to build fences. The problem in their view is just the issue of "splash damage"; if a person wants to screw up his own life he should be allowed to do so, as long as he doesn't screw up anyone else's.

The libertarian's propensity towards "building fences" is not just or even mostly about shielding society from "splash damage" though; there is an element of giving people good incentives and clearly defined 'rules of the game'. After all, many libertarians acknowledge that society will be forced to bear some burden from bad individual choices, partly because we do want to step in and ease the suffering, as the liberal would say. There is thus an element of deep skepticism towards the social conservative view that we should "prevent social irresponsibility" by engineering the right sort of policies and social influences; the only intervention that has a chance of working is one that's closely targeted to be about the misbehavior itself, and about the sorts of consequences that we choose to attach to it.

You can definitely see this in the sort of policies that libertarian promote in practice: the single mother seeking handouts for her kids? We should give her a handout - heck, let's give everyone a handout, but make it conditional on her taking good care of the kids. The folks who took poor care of their health and ended up with diabetes or HIV? Make sure they can take care of themselves, by promoting HSA's and HMO's and even a Singaporean model for healthcare. Clearly this sort of thinking is not just about 'everyone for themselves', there's a lot of societal support involved.

comment by username2 · 2016-12-13T20:54:36.857Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Why was the diversity of political viewpoints narrowed down to a somewhat arbitrary 3?

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2016-12-13T22:39:50.441Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There's been a lot of discussion about Trump. But I think the actual most important aspect is one that I havn't seen discussed in any depth anywhere - there seems to be speculation that Peter Theil will be advise Trump on tech issues.

The president's (unofficial?) technology advisor will be someone who has donated to miri/open ai/life extension. This is great news, and I would argue far more important than any other factor except nuclear war. This comes at a time when AI risk seems to be starting go mainstream, when Obama has had discussions on AI risk (that he did not seem to understand).

So, I'd like to see discussion on what this could lead to, whether there is a possibility that the US government might start funding life extension/AI risk research. One factor that does seem a little worrying is that, with any other president, I might be wondering whether MIRI might be able to apply for government funding or receive official recognition or be incorporated into a government body in some way. (does the US government do that sort of thing?) But given the horrific things that EY has said about Trump and the Borderer-descended people who voted for him, I doubt that's possible anymore.

Oh well. I suppose there are other people who can be pointed to as experts on AI risk - Bostrom for instance - although he isn't a US citizen.

Replies from: Turgurth, bogus
comment by Turgurth · 2016-12-17T19:15:17.358Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Check out this FDA speculation.

Scott Alexander comments here.

comment by bogus · 2016-12-14T12:40:13.575Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is great news, and I would argue far more important than any other factor except nuclear war.

What I'm most worried about is conventional war. Yes I know Hillary would've been terrible too, that's not the point. Let's just say that our latest Republican president doesn't have a very good track record in that area.

Replies from: Lumifer, skeptical_lurker
comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-14T15:44:10.105Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Huh? Trump has a track record in conventional war?

Replies from: username2
comment by username2 · 2016-12-16T06:01:49.496Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

He was talking about Bush the younger.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2016-12-14T13:04:57.788Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I too would like a more pacifist president, but realistically neither the libertarians or the greens were going to win. But this is more because of the huge amount of money spent on the military. A conventional war would be bad, but I don't see that it would be disastrous. NATO would easily beat Russia, and I'm not sure who would win in a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, but it would be over quickly - the decisive factor is largely naval, and naval battles are over quickly. Neither country can deploy a large fraction of their army against the other as they are constrained by the number of troop ships and the distance involved.

As for bombing middle eastern countries, well that's been going on since 2001 and will probably continue for the foreseeable future, regardless of who wins in 2020.

comment by James_Miller · 2016-12-12T22:54:20.787Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am searching for readings I can assign for my Smith College game theory class that I will teach this spring. The course has a one semester calculus requirement. An ideal article would be available for free on the internet, and would use game theory to explain something interesting. Suggestions?

Replies from: g_pepper, username2, Hal
comment by g_pepper · 2016-12-13T02:44:08.585Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Its a bit old (1976), but in The Selfish Gene Richard Dawkins uses game theory to describe animal aggression (in chapter 5) and altruism and cooperation (particularly in chapters 10 and 12).

There are a few free downloads of the book out there, e.g. here.

Replies from: SodaPopinski
comment by SodaPopinski · 2016-12-13T17:49:12.444Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In the same vein, I would highly recommend John Maynard Smith's "Evolution and the Theory of Games". It has many highly motivated examples of Game Theory in Biology by a real biologist. The later chapters get dense but the first half is readable with a basic knowledge of calculus (which was in fact my background when I first picked up this book).

comment by Hal · 2016-12-13T01:40:28.574Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not sure about the level of rigor you're looking for; whether this is supposed to be a fun, short assignment, or something less accessible. This doesn't really go into any mathematics, but shows the interesting and even entertaining side of game theory pretty well:

There're also Douglas Hofstadter's writings on game theory, which, like pretty much everything of his, are a joy to read (for me, at least). I wouldn't quite say he uses game theory to "explain something," but whatever he does do achieves a similar goal. Unfortunately, the only PDF I could find (not that I looked very hard) is very poorly formatted; I recommend searching it for "Dilemmas for Superrational Thinkers" or going for the Post Scriptum starting on page 31, as those are both particularly interesting parts (in different ways).

I hope one of these was helpful.

comment by Viliam · 2016-12-14T10:59:55.766Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Here is a problem I have with LW user interface, please tell me if there is a simple solution I have not noticed:

Suppose someone posted a link post, a few weeks ago, and I have posted a comment below that article. Today I come to LW and a red icon tells me I got a reply in the discussion.

I want to display all the comments in the discussion below that link post, so that all yet unseen comments are marked as new. But the post is a bit old, and I don't want to browse through the Discussion pages to find it. I would like to somehow get there from my inbox. But without destroying the information about which comments were already seen in the process.

How to achieve this?

Below the reply in the inbox is the "Context" link. Clicking it will only display the reply to my comment, but will mark all comments below the article as seen. This is not what I want.

With non-link posts I usually do the following trick: I click on the name of the user who wrote the reply. Hopefully their reply is on the first page of their recent comment, with a header saying "In response to comment by Viliam on ." Clicking on the article name displays the whole debate, with all unseen comments markes as unseen.

Unfortunately, with link posts, clicking on the article name leads to the linked article, not to the LW debate. So this solution is not available.

Replies from: Sarunas, morganism
comment by Sarunas · 2016-12-14T17:20:30.494Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A clunky solution: right click on "context" in your inbox, select "copy link location", paste it into your browser's address bar, trim the URL and press enter. At least that's what I do.

comment by morganism · 2016-12-17T03:56:48.303Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Click on the :"Comments" line underneath the Link header on the discussion page....?

Replies from: Viliam
comment by Viliam · 2016-12-17T10:00:07.928Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks, didn't know about that!

comment by gwern · 2016-12-16T16:22:04.187Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Here is a little idea I had at today's FHI workshop on how encryption & zero-knowledge proof-style approaches might help reduce risks from AI arms races, by using homomorphic encryption to allow safe comparison of countries' respective AI prowess.

In an AI arms race between two large countries (say, China & the USA), lack of information about each other's capabilities is highly destabilizing. Overestimates and underestimates can both lead to precipitate actions. One way to defuse tensions would be something equivalent to a nuclear arms inspection regime. But while plutonium & uranium cores and rockets can, with care, be inspected & verified to exist & verifiably destroyed without revealing too many secrets, it's harder to see how any such arrangement could exist for AI. After all, AI software leaves no radionuclides in the environment to be detected, nor does it emit radiation, nor are the raw materials produced only in very bulky, expensive, and noticeable facilities like nuclear power plants. AI software, on the other hand, only emits waste heat. In general, one is able to prove possession of a cutting-edge AI (simply provide a copy of the software and let the other person run it on their computers) but one is not able to prove the absence. And proving possession is itself problematic since if your AI is better, you certainly don't want to just hand it to the enemy.

One thought that came to mind about this: we could use cryptography to arrange head-to-head comparisons between countries' best AIs without leaking source code or the size of the delta.

In the millionaires' protocol, two millionaires wish to compare their wealth numbers w1 and w2 without revealing any data other than if w1>w2 or vice-versa. In our problem, we could consider the numbers w1 and w2 as being the two AI's losses on a particular suite of tasks. This avoids leaking the exact losses and performance of each. But what about being forced to reveal the AIs themselves?

NN AIs are based on simple primitives which can be handled efficiently, and turn out to be feasible to run under homomorphic encryption: "CryptoNets: Applying Neural Networks to Encrypted Data with High Throughput and Accuracy". The data in the test suite (itself encrypted) probably shouldn't be specified ahead of time due to overfitting concerns, but can be verifiably randomly generated on the fly using hash precommitment & XORing together a random seed from each country and using it in a PRNG. Since it's all homomorphically encrypted, both countries can run their own copy of the testing and not need trust the other to report the results truthfully.

So the full protocol could be: each country provides a homomorphic encrypted version of their best AI to the other, which they will run on a test suite of problems and loss functions computed (again, homomorphically/encrypted), and the comparison of the losses is the only result - revealing which country has a better or worse AI without revealing exactly how much, or anything about the AI implementation.

What about incentives?

A country which doesn't participate learns nothing about the other, and vice-versa.

A country could submit a lousy AI, but then it will probably learn the result 'worse' - but what does this mean? If the second country submits its best AI, then this result is uninformative because the first country was already almost certain that a lousy AI is worse than the second country's best; and if the second country submitted its best, then it is likewise uninformative. If it submits its best AI, however, and it learns the result 'worse', then it has learned something very important: that the second country has at least one AI, and possibly many AIs, which are better than its best, and the first country should avoid war. If it learns 'better', then it could be ahead (if the second country submitted its best) but also might not be (if the second country submitted its worst). Thus, the first country learns something useful only if it submits its best AI. And the same reasoning symmetrically holds for the second country as well. So one might expect both to participate honestly, submit their best AIs, learn who is ahead, more accurately gauge their relative strengths, and reduce the uncertainty & risk of war rather than a peaceful accommodation.

Of course, a country reasoning like this could try to submit a deliberately bad AI while expecting the other to submit their best AI, to trick the other country into overconfidence, but it does so at the risk of that overconfidence starting a war and also denying itself the chance to check how well the other country has done - it assumes that it already knows how well the other country is doing and doesn't need the information, but if it has so accurately gauged the other country, the other country probably knows that the first country knows that the second country is doing much worse, and so the first country has no need to participate in the AI arms measure and any 'victory' is just trickery (and maybe it shouldn't bother participating at all).

So overall, it looks like countries are better off participating honestly than not participating, and not participating than participating dishonestly, and the effects are pro-peace.

Replies from: Vaniver, Lumifer
comment by Vaniver · 2016-12-16T21:08:39.634Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Interesting, but unclear that the sort of benchmarking useful for this is also the sort of thing that determines AI military usefulness.

NN AIs are based on simple primitives which can be handled efficiently, and turn out to be feasible to run under .

I think you've got a malformed link here.

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2016-12-17T15:25:46.215Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think you've got a malformed link here.

Yeah, looks like my accidental Wikipedia interwiki broke the next link.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-16T17:16:21.524Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Two comments.

One, do you think a "a homomorphic encrypted version of their best AI" is a viable thing? As far as I know homomorphic-encrypted software is very very very slow. By the time a homomorphic-encrypted version completes its AI-level tests, it might well be obsolete.

Second, nuclear inspection regimes and such have the goal of veryfing the cap on capabilities. Usually you are not allowed to have more than X missiles or Y kg of enriched uranium. But that's not the information which Yao's problem provides. Imagine that during the Cold War all the US and the USSR could know was whether one side's nuclear arsenal was better than the other side's. That doesn't sound stabilizing at all to me.

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2016-12-16T19:53:41.746Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

One, do you think a "a homomorphic encrypted version of their best AI" is a viable thing?

Yes. See the reference. Even a 10 or 100x computation cost increase would be acceptable for top-level national security purposes like this.

Imagine that during the Cold War all the US and the USSR could know was whether one side's nuclear arsenal was better than the other side's.

That sounds very stabilizing to me. 'We must prevent a missile gap!'

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-16T21:48:33.744Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Which reference? I'm not talking about the millionaires' problem, I'm talking about executing homomorphic code.

'We must prevent a missile gap!'

One side thinks this and so accelerates the arms race. The other side thinks "This is our chance! We must strike while we know we're ahead!" :-/

comment by [deleted] · 2016-12-18T11:56:32.777Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It would be cool if somebody wrote a post on what, exactly, should be the high standards of LW posts. 'Intelligent discussion' reads to me like a stopper. I mean, it's easy to imagine at least a bunch of things we shouldn't do, but not the other way round.

Replies from: MrMind
comment by MrMind · 2016-12-19T08:49:58.696Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, writing an intelligent discussion is like an NP problem: easy to verify, hard to solve ;-)

comment by Sithlord_Bayesian · 2016-12-13T08:02:14.827Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've noticed that I've become quite handicapped by the fact that I get weakly triggered by having to interact with things that aren't, but could plausibly be, dirty. This fear goes away once I wash my hands, but I've found that I'm wasting lots of time washing my hands, and that I've stopped e.g. gratitude journaling because I have to pick up a pen to journal, and the pen might be dirty and I'd have to wash my hands after, which hurts me because I seem to get lots out of gratitude journaling. I've also stopped drinking tea (which I enjoy) because, even though I clean my microwave and sink handles often enough, it's possible that a roommate touched them with dirty hands, which means that I'd have to wash my hands after, which sounds effortful, and that knowing that having to wash my hands would require effort makes getting up to have tea much harder.

I won't go on, but I assure you that my system 1 is making a bigger deal of this cluster of cleanliness-related things than it should.

Mostly, I'm looking for suggestions, and also mushy emotional verificatioin that, while I'm not being bad, it's not necessary to be so paranoid.

It's not so much the case that I have unanswered factual questions about cleanliness, with the exception that I am unsure if (say) touching a doorknob, then touching my phone, then washing my hands and touching phone again makes them dirty. I will say that my System 1 thinks that my hands are always either in a binary "dirty" or "not dirty", which is perhaps a bit silly.

Anyhow, thank you all very much. It seems like having to interact with dirty things on a daily basis might have acted as some sort of exposure therapy, but it seems like I've just gotten more System 1-paranoid over time. Suggestions are quite welcome. <3

Replies from: Pimgd, Lumifer, None, siIver
comment by Pimgd · 2016-12-13T10:33:29.583Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have this but different!

It's not dirty - it's static electricity for me. Worked at a place that had carpet, and I had to work with poorly grounded cameras. Got zapped EVERY SINGLE DARN TIME.

Now I tend to pull my sleeve over my hand before touching something.

... You could try wearing gloves (there's fingerless gloves, if you get some thin ones, they can be for comfy winter use).

You could try chaining various events - e.g. "when do your hands need to be clean?" and then everything that is "eh" dirty is okay to handle for that time. So, grab the pen, do the journaling, make some tea, do this, do that, etc etc etc, then wash your hands, then start making dinner.

You don't actually need clean hands until you start preparing food, so to say.

Replies from: Sithlord_Bayesian
comment by Sithlord_Bayesian · 2016-12-13T23:34:12.864Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is especially helpful! I think I developed the habit of washing my hands so much while working in an insufficiently safe chemistry lab, with lots of students who were less than safe.

You don't actually need clean hands until you start preparing food, so to say.

Hearing this does provide me with some needed system 1 verification that I'm allowed to be less paranoid. I treat myself as I must have clean hands for doing anything that won't get them dirty.

I've experimented with chaining various events, too, and that's a good strategy. One thing I might try in the future is doing chains of things where I need clean hands, and sneaking in a couple things that sound like they might get my hands dirty, but actually wouldn't, like having tea. Like a sort of exposure therapy, maybe.


comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-13T15:34:40.473Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You have OCD -- it's up to you to decide whether it screws up your life (="clinically significant") enough to go see a psych{ologist|iatrist} about it.

comment by [deleted] · 2016-12-13T09:21:49.825Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

maybe you could dictate your notes? Though that would still require touching, for example, a phone screen.

Replies from: gjm
comment by gjm · 2016-12-13T14:51:13.752Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Being able to cope with touching possibly-dirty things seems like a useful enough skill that fixing that problem -- if it's at all possible -- would do Sithlord_Bayesian a lot more good than merely finding a way to make notes.

(SB, if you're reading this, here is some mushy emotional verification that it's not necessary to be so paranoid, and also that you're not being Bad for feeling that way.)

Replies from: Sithlord_Bayesian
comment by Sithlord_Bayesian · 2016-12-13T23:14:19.437Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

here is some mushy emotional verification

Yes yes yes, you are the best LessWronger. Thanks for that, and hugs if you like. <3

comment by siIver · 2016-12-13T10:29:06.481Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Can't you, at some points, try to avoid touching things directly, by using e.g. your sleeves? I do that on handles of public bathrooms. Unless you wouldn't consider that clean, either.

comment by Bobertron · 2016-12-18T10:56:26.424Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Here are some things that I, as an infrequent reader, find annoying about the LW interface.

  • The split between main and discussion doesn't make any sense to me. I always browse /r/all. I think there shouldn't be such a distinction.
  • My feed is filled with notices about meetups in faraway places that are pretty much guaranteed to be irrelevant to me.
  • I find the most recent open thread to be pretty difficult to find on the side bar. For a minute I thought it just wasn't there. I'd like it if the recent open thread and rationality quotes were sticked at the top of r/discussion.
Replies from: MrMind
comment by MrMind · 2016-12-19T08:48:38.398Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I find the most recent open thread to be pretty difficult to find on the side bar

To alleviate this partly, you could search for the open_thread tag, it's quite rare for an open thread not to have it.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-12-13T20:03:03.715Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What's going to happen to Taiwan?

On the one hand Trump signaled less willingness to defend the interests of other countries with the US military. On the other hand he provokes the Chinese by speaking directly with Taiwanese leaders.

What are the probabilities that China will attempt to take over Taiwan during Trump's term?

Replies from: username2, username2, knb
comment by username2 · 2016-12-13T21:53:18.746Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What are the probabilities that China will attempt to take over Taiwan during Trump's term?

You say this as if China was not already preparing to do exactly this during Obama's presidency. If anything the signals Trump is sending now is defensive of Taiwan and acting to protect Taiwan from PRC aggression.

The last time the mainland seriously threatened to invade Taiwan was the mid 90's when the PRC conducted a series of missile tests in the waters around the island. This was Taiwan's version of the cuban missile crisis. Bill Clinton sent two carrier groups to the Taiwan straights in the largest American demonstration of military strength in East Asia since the Vietnam war, and enough nuclear missile boats to bomb the PRC into the stone age. The point, which got across, was although the USA would go along with whatever diplomatic One China double-speak nonsense at the UN and Olympics or whatever, the US will go to war over Taiwan. If the PRC invades Taiwan, it'll be fighting the US army, navy, and air force in what can only be described as World War 3. This was a red line never to be crossed. Officially the US agreed with the "One China" policy, but in reality the US would go to war to defend the two-China status quo. From then in '96 though Clinton's second term, and both terms of George W. Bush, Taiwan was secure & growing economically.

Then Obama signalled support for a One-China solution early in his first term. Not "yeah, yeah whatever" one-China policy status quo, but hints at full you're-on-your-own-Taiwan, let's-be-best-buddies-with-the-mainland policy. What followed over the last eight years is steady escalation on the Chinese side: artificial island expansion into the south China sea, harsher crackdowns of unrest on the mainland, direct meddling in Hong Kong electoral policy in violation of international agreements, and most recently an attempt at a diplomatic one-state solution. All this time during this escalation both the PRC and the ROC have been looking for a US response and getting basically nothing in terms of assurance of their continued support of Taiwan.

This culminated in a free-trade agreement between the ROC and PRC that was ostensibly for economic reasons, but would have set Taiwan on a Hong Kong like reunification pathway because of the unification of key financial, IT, and defence-critical industries. You can't wage war when you opponent has backdoored your entire infrastructure. Then something happened the PRC did not expect: the Sunflower Student Movement, aka "Occupy Taiwan." This massive student protest uprising had at its peak a hundred thousand people in the streets, stormed the executive and legislature, and ultimately led to the downfall of not just the free trade deal that would have crippled Taiwan, but the nationalist government as well. The anti-unification, pro-independence green party now holds power.

So where does that lead us with Trump? You comment makes it sound like Trump is not willing to defend Taiwan. But if anything his actions so far have indicated otherwise -- Trump has been very vocally anti-China (mainland). Trump is business focused and Taiwan is a strong economic ally of the USA. Trump's preference to speak to the pro-independence leaders of Taiwan before talking to China indicates support for the island nation.

China is reacting to this in a huge way, yes. Because it is a reversal of the pro-PRC Obama policy, and a probable reversion to the Bill Clinton policy of putting a red line across the Taiwan straights: go too far, and the US will not hesitate to fight in the defence of Chinese democracy.

The big unknown here isn't Trump. It's domestic Taiwanese politics. The green party is a mess and absolutely destroying the country. They're spending more time squabbling over whether they should rename monuments and change history textbooks than actually governing the country, and the party is corrupt. Furthermore, if they actually carried through on independence and established a Taiwan that is explicitly not "China", then that would negate the Clinton-era ideological justification the USA has for protecting Taiwan as Chinese-democracy-in-exile.

In my own humble but informed opinion, control over the future trajectory of Taiwan lies more with Ms. Tsai Ingwen than Mr. Donald Trump.

Replies from: MrMind, ChristianKl, bogus
comment by MrMind · 2016-12-14T08:51:51.557Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would not upvote an anonymous account whenever possible, but this should deserve it. It's an informed and balanced analysis, and although it's dangerous to speculate from past intentions and words, it's not the first that I hear about how Trump actually is defending Taiwan more than Obama did.

Replies from: sohois, username2
comment by sohois · 2016-12-14T12:04:39.483Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The main flaw with the argument presented is that it makes a huge leap from 'Obama shows support for the One-China policy' to 'China uses this as evidence that it can do whatever it wants'.

The far greater change within China was the ascendance of Xi Jinping, not anything that America does (ironically, exactly what the user ends up suggesting you look at for Taiwan)

I don't really follow official statements from the US government, but can anyone who does say that the statement linked in the argument represents some major departure from US policy? Could it not simply be standard diplomacy talk? I think it's a major stretch to go from that statement to 'Obama's Pro-PRC policy'.

Replies from: username2
comment by username2 · 2016-12-14T19:33:49.732Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It was reported on at the time as unusual, and created a bit of a row between Taiwan and USA. The critical part of the white house statement is this:

President Obama on various occasions has reiterated that the U.S. side adheres to the one-China policy, abides by the three Sino-U.S. joint communiqués, and respects China's sovereignty and the territorial integrity when it comes to the Taiwan question and other matters.

In the terms of China/Taiwan relations, this is effectively carte blanche for China to do as it pleases. "Respects China's sovereignty and the territorial integrity" means "we won't intervene." And it calls out Taiwan specifically.

Under the old status quo this might have been phrased as "concurs that Taiwan is a province of China" or some such. The key words here are "sovereignty" and "territorial integrity" which means interference would be interpreted as an international incident.

comment by username2 · 2016-12-14T19:34:40.882Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would not upvote an anonymous account whenever possible

That's a strange rule. Why?

Replies from: tut, MrMind
comment by tut · 2016-12-15T17:18:05.314Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

By using the anon account you choose not to connect your own account to this comment. So the usual reason to upvote presumably doesn't apply. But if the common account gets a lot of karma somebody will use it for mass downvoting.

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-15T17:33:52.201Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

By using the anon account you choose not to connect your own account to this comment. So the usual reason to upvote presumably doesn't apply.

The usual reason for upvoting is to promote the comment and not provide the commenter with resources in the form of karma.

Replies from: MrMind, Good_Burning_Plastic
comment by MrMind · 2016-12-16T08:13:42.961Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't know if that's the norm, but the code behind this site doesn't give karma to a comment, but to an account also. Whenever you upvote something, you're giving two points: one to the comment and one to the author.
Since I'm not able to separate the two, I prefer to abstain in the case of a throwaway account, while I'm usually very liberal in the upvote I give.

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2016-12-16T09:19:38.129Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Both are usual. (Which doesn't necessarily means both are equally useful.)

comment by MrMind · 2016-12-16T08:11:38.603Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

When I upvote a comment I'm enabling the identity connected to that account. Obviously, if there's nobody behind an account, I don't feel the need to enable him or her.

Replies from: username2
comment by username2 · 2016-12-16T16:17:47.646Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

So opinion and arguments don't matter if there isn't a name attached to them? Or maybe I'm misunderstanding what you mean by 'enable' which isn't very clear.

Replies from: Vaniver
comment by Vaniver · 2016-12-16T21:18:14.684Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Or maybe I'm misunderstanding what you mean by 'enable' which isn't very clear.

On sites like StackOverflow, and to some extent LessWrong, what actions an account can take is determined by its karma, and so upvoting an account is saying "this account should be able to do more," which is problematic if it's an open account. There's also an implicit version of this, where people check out an unknown account's karma to influence how they think about it.

I just changed username2 to have a 0x vote multiplier, so it can be used for anonymous commenting but not anonymous voting.

Replies from: username2
comment by username2 · 2016-12-17T04:16:03.715Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The account username2 can only vote once in a poll.

What other permissions? The ability to make new top level posts? That seems like something you want an anonymous account to do.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-12-14T18:19:42.710Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Trump's preference to speak to the pro-independence leaders of Taiwan before talking to China indicates support for the island nation.

If he would be the usual politician that would be true. On the other hand he isn't.

He's a person who said that Japan and South Korea should not count on the US defending them but maybe develop their own nukes.

Trump builds up a bargaining position. It's not certain how much consists of bluffing and what's serious. It's not clear what he wants from China or from Taiwan.

comment by bogus · 2016-12-14T12:46:45.850Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Officially the US agreed with the "One China" policy, but in reality the US would go to war to defend the two-China status quo.

Um, this is emphatically not what 'One-China' is about. The Taiwanese leadership agrees that "there's only one China"; they just disagree about what the 'One-China' principle means! You're ignoring all sorts of nuances here. This by the way is also why Trump's statement was so puzzling in the first place, and why the PRC leadership found it so easy to dismiss it as pointless and childish.

Replies from: username2
comment by username2 · 2016-12-14T16:28:20.813Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"One China" is purposefully and diplomatically vague. I cover at least three different interpretations in my post.

While getting hung up on definitions, you missed the point I was trying to make in that Clinton and Bush administrations had a de facto two Chinas policy while paying lip service to the one China idea.

Replies from: bogus
comment by bogus · 2016-12-14T16:58:41.265Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"One China" is purposefully and diplomatically vague. I cover at least three different interpretations in my post.

Sure, but what seemed to be missing in your comment is any acknowledgement that the Taiwan leadership itself has agreed and even insisted on the "One China" principle in the past - or at least, some version of it. Of course, this may or may not change in the future, given that the political party now leading Taiwanese internal politics is known to lean towards some sort of 'independence' for the island, but even then, we're still quite far from any kind of real shift.

Replies from: username2
comment by username2 · 2016-12-14T18:08:14.401Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I took it as assumed background information, and it was implied by the fact that the nationalist government was moving into a one-state solution with the free trade deals. However only the now-deposed nationalist party in Taiwan held a one China policy. The current government is pro-independence (which isn't quite the same thing as two Chinas). They don't lean towards independence, they ARE the independence party. They pretty much let themselves be fully defined by their stance on this one single issue. And it's a dangerous stance to take given that all it does is provoke an aggressor while simultaneously giving up justifications for allies to come to its aid.

comment by username2 · 2016-12-16T19:03:11.331Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

China is testing the US's interpretation of the south china sea situation:

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-16T19:12:22.234Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Wrong forum for discussing current political hot topics.

Replies from: username2
comment by username2 · 2016-12-17T04:07:06.443Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How had the topic become different in any way from what ChristianKI asked about? If this is an actual rule (is it?) it seems to be selectively applied here.

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-20T16:07:38.108Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

LW doesn't have many "actual rules", but discussing current politics is discouraged (for these reasons). As to ChristianKl, he should know better.

comment by knb · 2016-12-16T01:46:03.585Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The signal sent by Trump is that he will take a call from whomever he wants; the Chinese don't get to dictate with whom he speaks. The idea that it makes China more likely to attack Taiwan is ridiculous.

Replies from: ChristianKl
comment by ChristianKl · 2016-12-18T09:00:20.208Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The signal sent by Trump is that he will take a call from whomever he wants

That doesn't change anything about the fact that it creates strong internal pressure on Chinese decision makers to answer the action in a way that doesn't result in them losing face in front of their citizens.

Replies from: knb
comment by knb · 2016-12-20T02:14:44.641Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If true that's mainly an argument against making pointless precommitments you can't possibly enforce. As it happens, I doubt Chinese pay all that much attention to these kinds of diplomatic bugbears.

Replies from: ChristianKl
comment by ChristianKl · 2016-12-20T07:06:28.583Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As it happens, I doubt Chinese pay all that much attention to these kinds of diplomatic bugbears.

Why do you doubt it?

The fact that they took a US military drone in tit-for-tat, suggests that they do pay attention.

If the Chinese wanted it they could leak all those background checks for the US security clearances to Wikileaks or do any number of actions to retaliate more forcefully than just taking a drone as a symbolic action against the symbolic action of a phone call.

Replies from: knb
comment by knb · 2016-12-25T03:40:12.494Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I meant the Chinese public. The actual public of most countries is not all that engaged in the ins and outs of these things.

Replies from: ChristianKl
comment by ChristianKl · 2016-12-25T10:08:39.477Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The Chinese public knows what the Chinese media tells them. It's also very nationalistic.

comment by Thomas · 2016-12-13T12:07:28.525Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have deviced a math problem, can you solve it?

Replies from: philh, HungryHobo
comment by philh · 2016-12-14T13:20:35.972Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I haven't checked, but it seems like this works: va onfr o (jurer o vf ng yrnfg gjb), qvtvg q ercerfragf gur bcrengvba "zhygvcyl ol q naq nqq o".

Replies from: Thomas
comment by Thomas · 2016-12-15T09:42:10.510Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well .. No.

But rather try to solve this one:

Replies from: philh
comment by philh · 2016-12-16T16:13:08.383Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh, I mistyped, that was supposed to be "zhygvcyl ol o naq nqq q".

Replies from: Thomas
comment by Thomas · 2016-12-17T19:02:05.900Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


Still waiting for somebody to solve the geometry problem.

comment by HungryHobo · 2016-12-13T13:35:31.839Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"You may take ternary numeral system (base 3) and three basic instructions"

Wait, are we supposed to make up arbitrary operations for higher bases?

Replies from: Thomas
comment by Thomas · 2016-12-13T13:43:32.146Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes. You can use any well defined function. EXP, LOG, SQRT .. or even LOG(A+1/A). Even something much more complicated.

comment by siIver · 2016-12-12T18:36:22.252Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'll cross-post this from here because no-one responded and I'm still interested in an answer.

There is a question in this rationality test which goes like this:

Question 11 of 21: Imagine that a fast food company called BurgerCorp has launched a new sandwich called the BacoNation: a bacon patty slathered in bacon jack cheese, pork drippings, and bacon-fat-fried onions, served on a bacon-bran bun.

The BacoNation was introduced in March of this year. So far, its per-month sales revenues have been inconsistent:

March: $55.0 million

April: $43.8 million

May: $59.4 million

June: $49.6 million

July: $46.1 million

August: $54.9 million

September: $44.5 million

As BurgerCorp heads into the holidays, its executives hope to boost sales of the BacoNation by having their advertising team create an ad campaign featuring a wacky animated mascot called the BacoNutcase—a wild-eyed bacon fanatic who is willing to commit unspeakably immoral and degrading acts in the pursuit of BacoNation sandwiches.

BurgerCorp launches the BacoNutcase ad campaign at the beginning of October. When the sales figures come in at the end of the month, the executives are ecstatic: it turns out that the BacoNation sandwich earned $60.5 million in sales during the month of October. This figure represents an increase of $16 million over the September sales figure, and a new record high for the sandwich.

How likely is it that the introduction of the BacoNutcase largely caused the increase in the BacoNation's sales?

They claim that the correct answer is "somewhat likely," arguing that the prize has fluctuated as much in past months as it did from September to October, therefore there is no strong evidence for the ads to have contributed. I think this is plain wrong, because

  • the a priori chance of ads increasing sales is high
  • October beat the past 7 months, therefore Bayesian updating increases the odds further

The way I see it, their explanation would possibly be correct if we only knew that there was a 50% probability that the ad campaign had taken place, and were to decide whether or not it did based on the results. But since we already know that it did take place, the correct answer seems to be "very likely."

Who is correct? The test or me? (I'm asking because if I'm wrong I really want to know why).

Replies from: HungryHobo, ChristianKl, Lumifer, NatashaRostova, ChristianKl
comment by HungryHobo · 2016-12-13T13:28:05.616Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

ok, there's not really enough data points to do proper stats but lets give it a go anyway.

Lets consider the possibility that the ad campaign did nothing. Some ad campaigns are actually damaging so lets try to get an idea of how much it varies from month to month.

Mean = 50.5 Standard Deviation = 6.05

So about 1 and 2/3rds SD's above the mean.

Sure, October is a little higher than normal but not by much.

Or put another way, imagine that the ad campaign had been put into effect in April but actually did absolutely nothing. They would have seen an increase of 15.6 million along with a new record high.

The priori chance of ads increasing sales is high for good ad campaigns but as countless dot com bubble companies learned: it's entirely possible for advertising to get you absolutely nothing.

Remember that the priori is a fancy way of encoding your expectations into how you do calculations.

If you're trying to decide whether an ad campaign you've paid for actually worked a system of assessment which involves saying "well, I believed it should work in principle so I spent money on doing it in the first place and now I can confirm it worked partly because I believe it should work in principle"

Replies from: siIver
comment by siIver · 2016-12-13T14:54:23.722Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hm, thanks. It seems like I was misinformed about ads – I had the belief that they increase sales almost all of the time, which, based on what you said and a quick search. appears to have been totally false. With that and the 'largely' I missed, I'd now say the test was mostly correct.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-12-12T21:21:49.411Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would advocate for rot13. There's no reason to feature the test questions in the open.

Replies from: username2
comment by username2 · 2016-12-13T20:55:57.199Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


Replies from: ChristianKl
comment by ChristianKl · 2016-12-13T20:59:29.137Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It reduces the accuracy of the test if people read the test questions before tacking it. In general ClearThinking is a valuble project, where I don't think we act in a way to reduce their accuracy.

Replies from: username2
comment by username2 · 2016-12-13T22:01:58.664Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would buy that argument if this is a ClearThinking forum. But it is not. rot13 just gets in the way, prevents search from working properly, etc. We shouldn't have an obligation to complicate our discussions for whatever small potential increase in accuracy.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-12T18:56:03.163Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In the question there is a key word: "largely". I interpret the question to mean "Was the ad campaign responsible for most of the increase in October?" and specifically NOT to mean "Did the ad campaign have any positive effect on the sales?".

The answer to the latter question is "very likely", but to the former is merely "somewhat likely" because you have high variation in monthly revenues and just on the basis of data provided you cannot confidently assert that the difference between September and October was driven by the ad campaign.

comment by NatashaRostova · 2016-12-12T22:39:15.242Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's a stupid question. It wouldn't be too hard to give 10 methodologists this question, then tell them the side to support, and watch them all build great cases. Obviously that's an assertion, I can't imagine evidence then claim it proves me right :P, but I strongly suspect this would be true.

The question is so dumb. Even if they got rid of the business story-line, and abstracted it to pure statistics, it's still stupid. What distribution characterizes it? If they got rid of the business, gave the data, AND gave info on the generative distribution, AND made it a numerical answer... Then I guess it's a fair question, but at that point it's just a pure stats question.

Replies from: MrMind
comment by MrMind · 2016-12-13T16:10:42.501Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think it's not stupid. Often in real cases and applied rationality you don't have cleanly cooked up priors and distributions. You only have data like the series above, and it's up to you to draw conclusions.
Success happens when you are modest in your suppositions and able to change idea based on future evidence.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-12-12T21:28:22.251Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Gurer ab fgngrzrag gung vzcyvrf gung gur pbzcnal qvqa'g eha nal nqf orsber Bpgbore naq gung gurl eha enqvpnyyl zber nqf.

comment by Pimgd · 2016-12-12T13:12:10.787Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How do you prevent or stop the creation of an "ugh field"?


There's a game I play which uses real money - Entropia Universe. In this game, I am a trader - though most of my activity is reselling resources (stackable items). I buy large stacks of various resources, and then split these up into smaller stacks which are more affordable for the regular buyer. I then list these smaller stacks on the in-game auction.

There is an app for this game. Using this app, I can see which stacks have sold and how much I have left of each item. The app also also me to place bids on auction items (such as large stacks with which I resupply my stock), and the app allows me to list stacks on auction.

The only thing I can't do in the app is split a larger stack into smaller stacks. Thus, I have to login to the game on my PC, go to my inventory, and perform the menial task of looking at what items I have and which items I need to split up. I have to do this about once every 20 days, give or take 5. I could put some effort into increasing my stockpile, increasing the time that goes between moments at which I have to login, but this is hard, since if there is a shortage, I can't stockpile all resources equally high and I have to make a tradeoff between restocking as soon I'm out of 1 resource or restocking once I'm out of multiple resources (decreasing my earnings in between due to selling less). So 20 days plusminus 5 is about the best I can do there.

I find that logging into the app is a bit of a bother, since it is boring work, but it pays reasonably well (5 minutes a day of time which I can plop down in any segment - such as during lunch break or when waiting for something). And if I don't do it, well, I can do it the next day.

But logging into the game on my PC is turning into a hassle for me. I keep postponing it, since there is no actual need to login and split stacks until I am running out of stacks to sell of a certain resource. When I do login, there is naturally lots of work to do - it can take up to 45 minutes to do all the things I have to do (take stock of inventory, make a list of stuff I need to buy, announce buy offer in trade chat, split stacks off the stuff I already have, make trades with the people who are willing to sell me the stuff I need, buy stacks off auction if nobody is willing to sell to me, make stacks out of the stuff people sold me, check if I did everything properly - then, log out of the game on the PC, login on the mobile app, and clear the notification list there so I don't double list something).

And I'm starting to notice that I find the IDEA of having to do this work more annoying than the actual work itself. The actual work itself is quite simple, there's no heavy lifting involved, just some clicking. I put on some music during that work, and it's quite pleasant. But the idea of "ugh, I have to remember to login tonight because I'm almost running out of X" frustrates me. It also doesn't help that I sometimes forget and have to make the choice to do it now (where now means stop watching the series you're watching right now, log in, do the work, log out, go to bed because it's bedtime) or postpone it until tomorrow.


I spend 5 minutes a day making money via a phone app. After about 2 to 4 weeks, I have to do a task which takes 45 minutes on my PC at home to enable the ability to make money via the phone app. The phone app task feels easy, but the idea of having to do the 45-minute task at home is a burden. The actual work in the 45 minute task is pretty light.


How do I prevent a task which I have to do on a irregular basis in my leisure time from becoming an ugh field?

I'd like to keep doing the actual tasks - I earn about 2 to 3 euro in those 5 minutes a day. The 45 minute task itself doesn't earn me anything directly, but good performance (such as paying attention to the trade chat and spotting a deal) does improve how much I can get with the 5 minute daily work on my phone. Suggesting I drop the whole thing together IS an idea, but I feel I'm making an adequate trade of time for money with these tasks.

I also can't automate the task, mostly because modding the game is not allowed and because there's quite a bit of thinking involved which makes the whole thing non-trivial. Plus the game has to communicate with the servers before it will let you make another change (such as creating a new stack of x units and reducing another stack by x units), so even if the clicking was automated I'd still have to sit there.

Replies from: gjm, ChristianKl, Hal, WalterL
comment by gjm · 2016-12-13T15:18:33.782Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Can you turn the 45-minute task into a larger number of smaller less intimidating tasks?

Replies from: Pimgd
comment by Pimgd · 2016-12-13T15:35:20.393Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, I could convert it into a daily 5 minute task, or a weekly 30 minute task. This leads to some overhead, though. Most of the work is identifying how much I need of what - making 2 stacks instead of 8 just means I have to click a bit less.

... So I had an idea just now, there's the ability to get a html table of all my items - I could probably parse this with some tool, which could help me with doing the work. I'd still have to do all the clicking, but some of the stock taking could be automated like that, and this could help me with structuring and organizing the task as such that it's less uncertain.

Replies from: gjm, Gurkenglas
comment by gjm · 2016-12-14T01:46:43.207Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It feels like there might be more benefit (if it's possible) in separating the task into genuinely different subtasks rather than just "smaller" ones. It depends on whether the task is ugh-ish (1) just because there's too much of it to feel (in anticipation) like fun or (2) because it produces that "aargh, I don't even know where to start with this damn thing" feeling. If #1, just splitting it into smaller bits might suffice. If #2, it needs splitting into simpler bits.

(Yes, splitting it will probably make it less efficient. But it may be better to have something inefficient that you will actually do than something efficient that you won't.)

But if you can automate part of it so that there's just less to do, as your second paragraph suggests, that sounds really promising.

Replies from: Pimgd
comment by Pimgd · 2016-12-14T09:13:36.851Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The task itself is annoying because everything takes too long. Because it's a game, you have to walk over to storage and you have to walk over to auction and basically when you see something for cheap in the auction, answering the question "how much of that do I have already" takes 30 seconds. Then to get back to the auction and the listing you were looking at takes probably another 15 seconds. This makes the whole process feel like bleh because, well, it's...

It's like using a slow and unresponsive website.

Here's a link to a youtube video which explains how to use the auction - I don't know of its quality, but point of interest is the gold/black list of stuff and the blue grid on the right. The gold/black list is the auction interface, the blue grid is your inventory. There's another box somewhere else in that room he's standing in, that's your storage. It contains another blue-grid style inventory.

The sizes of items in the grid layout can change with updates (sometimes intended, sometimes unintended). The icons for items in the grid can change with updates (most of them unintended and thus undocumented). And lastly, I'm not sure bots are allowed. I know external information tools are allowed, like things that read game chat and filter it for you or read the game's message log to display a map of waypoints, but I don't think the actual input is allowed to be done by botting.

Replies from: gjm
comment by gjm · 2016-12-14T11:29:34.895Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is there a way you can keep your own records of what stuff you have so that you don't need to keep walking over to storage in-game to check?

Replies from: Pimgd
comment by Pimgd · 2016-12-14T12:57:50.531Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, and I can probably include that in the automation. I already have a list of my own records, but updating it is a pain and as a result I tend to just head over to storage. Reducing the workload to keep the list updated should resolve some of those troubles as well.

comment by Gurkenglas · 2016-12-14T01:55:47.403Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Why not automate the clicking as well? Replace yourself by a script, then go find another arbitrage to exploit.

Replies from: Pimgd
comment by Pimgd · 2016-12-14T09:00:20.242Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Because automating the clicking is pretty hard and subject to needing maintenance every time the game updates (which is about every 2 months or so)... and automating the "what do I need" part is easy and can probably be done in 2-3 hours.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-12-12T22:57:08.506Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Can you shedule it to a fixed date every two weeks? Maybe it's easier if it happens at a fixed shedule than if you have to decide whether or not to do it every evening.

Replies from: Pimgd
comment by Pimgd · 2016-12-13T10:20:37.153Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think I could try this. I had thought of this solution myself, but ... I don't know why I dismissed it. Maybe because I hadn't done the proper thinking in regards to how much time there is being having to restock, so there was no period to schedule it for (so the objection was "It's unschedulable" which is no longer true).

comment by Hal · 2016-12-13T03:33:44.089Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Some more standard advice would be to make some kind of public commitment to it, so there's somebody else to hold you accountable. This could be kind of difficult when it's something as unimportant as a video game, as that might make you look pretty weird (depending on your friends and your relationships with them), but you could do it very casually; even just mentioning the task in passing in a conversation would probably help. I also find that making a "public" commitment helps even when it's not actually public; just consciously focusing on the subject and committing to hold yourself accountable for doing it at a certain time can be surprisingly effective (I like to say it out loud, as this seems to help, but I talk to myself a lot anyway so it might just be a personal thing). I can't really vouch for this method's effectiveness, though; I've never really tried to permanently solve a recurring problem like the one you describe with it, I've only used it as a band-aid to get past the "ugh field" a few times. It may lose its effectiveness with repetition, if it even ever works at all for you. A last possibility in this category, depending on how serious you are about this, would be to try something like Beeminder that would ideally give you the motivation to push past the "ugh field" and get used to doing what you need to do. Since I don't yet know how to embed links in words, here it is:

For something more fun, if probably less practical, you could try to drug yourself into forming a habit. You've probably heard of people trying to use reinforcement learning on themselves, basically -- allowing themselves to eat candy (or some other kind of reward) when they do the target activity. I'm really doubtful that this is actually useful for most people (though I haven't looked much into it -- I just have a vague, bad feeling about it; it's probably worth investigating). Luckily, though, you can try something better: using nicotine to turbo-boost your habit formation. This is probably wildly irresponsible, and I don't really recommend it, but it's worth hearing about, at least. Of course, you'll need to take into account the extra cost of getting nicotine gum (or patches -- just don't smoke, that's definitely not worth it), as well as whatever psychological costs the chance of getting addicted to the drug might entail. I'm not going to go into specifics, but instead just show you to the source of the idea (which I just discovered fairly recently, which is probably a large part of the reason I'm bringing up nicotine at all):

Replies from: Pimgd
comment by Pimgd · 2016-12-13T10:26:53.448Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am NOT going to drug myself into forming a habit. This is a ~25 euro/hour, 1 hour per week side hobby, which I could miss without any problems. ... Maybe that's the wrong counterargument but I feel it's too dangerous for the rewards involved. (I wouldn't try smoking if you gave me money because I hear from people that it's hard to quit.)

The public commitment thing is something I use myself from time to time, and I can make use of it - I will make use of it a bit more (I even used this post as a sort of public commitment) but the whole idea of a "real money game" is already pretty weird to my co-workers (They're more comfortable with the explanation "It's a casino styled like an mmo and I make money via arbitrage over the chips") so it's kind of hard to weave into the conversation. But I can talk about it with family or someone - not like I have to discuss it in detail with them, more like a casual mention. Worth trying, at least.

Replies from: taygetea
comment by taygetea · 2016-12-16T02:51:34.999Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Nicotine use and smoking are not at all the same thing. Did you read the link?

Replies from: Pimgd
comment by Pimgd · 2016-12-16T09:08:16.624Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I did not read the link.

But I also think that drugging myself like that for this is not OK.

comment by WalterL · 2016-12-12T18:42:51.482Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Can you multitask it? Just do it while you watch whatever series. Presumably most of the clicking is mindless. When there is a part where you have to think, just pause the stream and spend a few seconds pondering, then kick it back off.

Replies from: Pimgd
comment by Pimgd · 2016-12-13T10:17:13.010Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have tried this. I find that neither task (the watching of the series AND the work) gets done properly. I miss half the jokes or only get them half and end up half-smiling rather than laughing... and I'm constantly busy with switching contexts. Listening to music on the other hand works fine, which is what I'm doing now. The music turns the boring task into something okay-ish (I'd rather be doing a full-time fun activity like playing some game, though once I started I don't mind because I'm enjoying the music).

comment by Ixiel · 2016-12-13T18:02:55.655Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Of people who are more than two years out of school: What was your average bed time last week?


I've heard more grown adults stay up extremely late than I'd assumed. First time trying to do a poll; there may well be errors.

Replies from: Good_Burning_Plastic, satt, Lumifer, username2
comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2016-12-13T23:23:40.618Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

After 23 is extremely late?

Replies from: justsomeoldnick, Ixiel, WhySpace_duplicate0.9261692129075527
comment by justsomeoldnick · 2016-12-16T13:32:28.974Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Given that I need to get up at 5 in order to get to the gym at 6:30 (too much timewasting in the morning) so that I am at work at 9, everything after 21 is too late.

It's called being a parent. The kids must sleep at 20:00 anyway and at that point there is not much reason to stay to up much longer. A bit of putting things into order, a drink with wife, a quick chat then sleep.

comment by Ixiel · 2016-12-14T11:51:24.717Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

To me, yes. I don't personally know many adults who stay up into the double digits more than occasionally, but it was brought to my attention that does not exactly mirror the global situation.

Replies from: Lumifer, entirelyuseless
comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-14T15:42:26.418Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would expect there to be a significant city / country divide. People in the country are more tied to natural daylight and tend to rise early (and so go to bed early). People in cities tend to go to bed late (because all the fun stuff happens in the evening / night) and rise late.

Replies from: Ixiel
comment by Ixiel · 2016-12-14T18:41:02.148Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It appears so. I sometimes sleep past sunrise since retiring, but I almost never did when I worked at the bank.

All in all, mission success, priors updated :)

comment by entirelyuseless · 2016-12-14T14:08:48.051Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think the statistics here for LW may be significantly different from the global situation as well.

comment by WhySpace_duplicate0.9261692129075527 · 2016-12-14T04:08:27.494Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Precisely my reaction. I aim for midnight-1:00, but consider 2:00 or 3:00 a mistake. 4:00 or 5:00 is regret incarnate.

comment by satt · 2016-12-14T00:24:15.103Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Might want to clarify whether you literally mean school by "school", or school & university. In context I'm guessing the first?

Replies from: Ixiel, Good_Burning_Plastic
comment by Ixiel · 2016-12-14T11:49:54.862Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Meant college, if one went to college, and whatever schooling one had if not.

College kids staying up into the double digits every night for parties and/or homework is not really what I was wondering about.

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2016-12-14T10:33:16.965Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Good point. As a postdoc I considered myself "out of school" but probably wouldn't have as an undergrad.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-13T22:14:27.775Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Keep in mind that people who go to work each morning generally have fixed schedules -- that is, their bed time is set by the time they have to wake up in the morning + their sleep requirement.

comment by username2 · 2016-12-13T21:58:38.352Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Whether one has kids is an important factor here.

Replies from: username2
comment by username2 · 2016-12-14T09:14:31.169Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not if you lost custody!

Replies from: username2
comment by username2 · 2016-12-14T09:23:47.293Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm sorry :(

comment by niceguyanon · 2016-12-14T15:38:14.165Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

So the last survey has me a little surprised and confused regarding the amount of people who strongly disagree with entering great stagnation and strongly agree with basic income, all across the board.

Can someone shed some light on why this might be? I'm surprised because I would expect strong supporters of basic income to have some belief in the coming technological automation unemployment. You see this all the time in r/futurology, where they are always posting up articles talking about how jobs are going away and not coming back.

I'm not saying they are right, but the point goes to show that these two beliefs sorta go hand in hand, or at least from what I've seen. So what about LW made the survey so different? Is it that I have the wrong idea about what the great stagnation is?

Replies from: Lumifer, ChristianKl
comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-14T15:57:18.856Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As far as I understand the Great Stagnation, it's basically this. I think that a belief in "the coming technological automation" is perfectly consistent with the belief that the stagnation will end because robots are oh so much more productive.

Replies from: niceguyanon
comment by niceguyanon · 2016-12-14T16:04:46.420Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

But the surveyed belief was about entering the great stagflation.

EDIT: I mean stagnation

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-14T16:32:22.173Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's not stagflation (which is the combination of low economic growth and high inflation) and the actual survey question said:

Do you believe we are currently in or entering a "Great Stagnation", as proposed by Tyler Cowen and Peter Thiel, during which technological growth slows drastically? See for more information

Replies from: niceguyanon
comment by niceguyanon · 2016-12-14T17:09:45.909Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Damn it, that was the worst time to make a typo. I meant Stagnation. But back to the point, I'm not following how someone could believe in the Great stagnation as presented in wikipedia to not having it be a motivating factor to support basic income.

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-14T17:12:27.242Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Why do you think that believing this claim

The main thesis is that economic growth has slowed in the United States and in other advanced economies, as a result of falling rates of innovation.

should be a motivating factor to support basic income? How do you get from point A to point B?

Replies from: niceguyanon
comment by niceguyanon · 2016-12-14T17:54:41.375Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'll try: The main thesis is that economic growth has slowed in the United States and in other advanced economies, as a result of falling rates of innovation >>> belief that further advancing automation will not raise wages and stagnant wages will persist, >>>support basic income.

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-14T18:05:15.323Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you think that the economic growth and wages will continue to stall, this implies that the living standards and general economic well-being will continue to be roughly the same (as opposed to the case of rapid economic growth when the living standards also rise rapidly). Why the idea of economic well-being remaining the same supports the basic income proposal?

Replies from: niceguyanon
comment by niceguyanon · 2016-12-14T18:16:44.721Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Why the idea of economic well-being remaining the same supports the basic income proposal?

Wait isn't that the point? I'm not saying basic income will or will not work, just that the idea of economic well-being remaining the same or perhaps worse, might already be an undesirable outcome for those that strongly support basic income?

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-14T18:28:05.805Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hold on. Rewind.

You originally said that you are

a little surprised and confused regarding the amount of people who strongly disagree with entering great stagnation and strongly agree with basic income

People who disagree with Great Stagnation presumably think that the economic growth will pick up and be high. This means you're surprised that people who think that the economic growth will be high are strong supporters of basic income.

I can propose a simple linkage as to why this is so: the no-stagnation people are (technological) optimists. They believe that in the near future there will be plenty of value/money/goods -- enough for everyone. If so, in this environment of plenty it makes sense to provide a UBI to everyone.

To me, though, it seems that Great Stagnation and UBI are orthogonal issues and having a position on one does not imply a particular position on the other.

Replies from: niceguyanon, niceguyanon
comment by niceguyanon · 2016-12-14T19:06:47.973Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This means you're surprised that people who think that the economic growth will be high are strong supporters of basic income.


I can propose a simple linkage as to why this is so: the no-stagnation people are (technological) optimists. They believe that in the near future there will be plenty of value/money/goods -- enough for everyone. If so, in this environment of plenty it makes sense to provide a UBI to everyone.

That is what I am trying to figure out; is this what they think? I have never encountered that way of thinking before, hence why I would be confused. It would seem to me that technological optimists predicting a future of plenty for everyone, would think it makes no sense to provide UBI.

Replies from: Lumifer, hairyfigment
comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-14T19:31:34.267Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It would seem to me that technological optimists predicting a future of plenty for everyone, would think it makes no sense to provide UBI

Ah, but you're missing the sociopolitical aspects. See, if we don't do anything the greedy conniving capitalists will just steal all the gains for themselves and leave nothing for the working man and women and any other gender that someone might wish to identify as (cf. people like Piketty and Krugman, the key words are something like "real median wages").

We need to fleece the fat cats and equally distribute the fur! Econo-technological optimism merely provides assurances that there will enough fur to distribute.

In a bit less snide manner, UBI is redistribution of wealth from more productive members of society to less productive ones. To be able to afford it, the society has to be wealthy. If you believe we are entering the post-scarcity era, UBI is no big deal (economically) since there is enough wealth for everyone, we just need to spread it out a bit more evenly. But if you believe we are not economically growing, there is a debt overhang, and things generally aren't getting better fast enough, why, UBI might be a luxury we can't afford.

Replies from: niceguyanon
comment by niceguyanon · 2016-12-14T20:15:14.443Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well it would certainly help me if all these Econo-technological optimists who took that survey speak up and tell me what they think about UBI please!

But I thank you for your simple linkage.

comment by hairyfigment · 2016-12-14T19:23:13.198Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not sure I'm defending the UBI, but: we already have enough food to feed everyone on Earth. Plainly social factors can interfere with this rosy prediction.

Replies from: entirelyuseless
comment by entirelyuseless · 2016-12-14T21:44:47.137Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Everyone on earth has also eaten at least fairly recently.

comment by niceguyanon · 2016-12-14T19:08:38.088Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This means you're surprised that people who think that the economic growth will be high are strong supporters of basic income.


I can propose a simple linkage as to why this is so: the no-stagnation people are (technological) optimists. They believe that in the near future there will be plenty of value/money/goods -- enough for everyone. If so, in this environment of plenty it makes sense to provide a UBI to everyone.

That is what I am trying to figure out; is this what they think? I have never encountered that way of thinking before, hence why I would be confused. It would seem to me that technological optimists predicting a future of plenty for everyone, would think it makes no sense to provide UBI.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-12-14T19:38:17.207Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

People in r/futurology consider whether or not robots take away jobs a central political question. Most people don't.

For most people the decision about whether basic income is a good idea is about whether they believe that people are more likely to engage in productive work if they are forced to search for a job and apply to jobs because they otherwise don't get government assistance.

But even if we look at whether technology produces unemployement the fact that there's technological advancement means that it's possible to employ people to produce new products.

comment by BeyondTheBorg · 2016-12-14T14:05:43.106Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

IRC and Study Hall lurker here, thought I'd post a Reddit-tier ramble not up to par with the rest of this site. Without further ado, my first post:

I've been all over the spectrum. I'm highly skeptical of big corporate capitalism these days, but I do believe in free markets. The rules of classical economics are logically sound, but they're not very humane.

The sad truth is that employees are expendable, and only paid as much as there are people able and willing to do the job. Today's job shortage and labor surplus means low wages and benefits for those lucky enough to land a position. If there were no minimum wage, as there isn't in much of the so-called "third world", McDonald's employees would be paid less than dirt - that is the true market value of unskilled labor in the 21st Century.

At UMass Amherst, I had the pleasure of attending a live seminar featuring economist Thomas Piketty, who popularized an important truth about wealth today: r > g. That is, returns on capital exceed economic growth.

At the time of its $1B acquisition by Facebook, Instagram had just 13 employees. Can you really blame firms and startups for trending toward minimalism? They're reaping megacorporate profits on their capital without any of the dehumanizing bureaucracy of a staff exceeding Dunbar's Number. HR lied to you, you're nowhere close to your company's "greatest asset". This is r > g in the real world: when employees go from being an asset, to a liability.

Today's wealth trends toward massive consolidation into the hands of monopolies or duopolies like Apple, Google, Walmart and Amazon. These companies are so lucrative, so productive that we should be living in an age of abundance, but we're not. Expendable employees work more hours than ever for less reward.

I believe we might actually be on the verge of realizing the dream of Marxist utopia, but not in the way you might expect. When Americans think of socialism or communism, they think of authoritarian interpretations like Bolshevism, Maoism, Nazism, or Juche. They don't think of more libertarian interpretations like prehistoric tribes, Nordic countries, The Venus Project, or Bernie Sanders.

I'm a proponent of "Fully Automated Luxury Communism" with relatively free markets. I wish for a society where people work not because they have to, but because they want to, whether for profit, or for self-actualization and fulfillment. Personally, I want more of the latter out of my work, because profit is often funneled directly into consumption.

I find society's overconsumption quite disgusting - obesity, environmental damage, conspicuous consumption, resource depletion, you name it. We slaughter 9.08 billion chickens every year in America alone to satisfy the population's craving for McNuggets, and that's not even getting into how wasteful beef is. I don't know if we'll ever see an end to such detritus, but I'm somewhat hopeful for virtual reality and lab-grown meat to be able to fulfill people's desires more sustainably.

We don't have the tech or resources to automate every unfulfilling, expendable "job" right now, but we probably will by midcentury. The question is, will society opt to adopt something like Basic Income, or will we continue to romanticize manufacturing and revert to the way "we've always done it"? Trump makes me unoptimistic.

Replies from: BeyondTheBorg
comment by BeyondTheBorg · 2016-12-14T15:50:28.722Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oops, turns out I confused r > g with something else I heard. Going to retract, maybe I can salvage this and rewrite for the next open thread.

Replies from: Viliam, Douglas_Knight
comment by Viliam · 2016-12-14T20:02:27.520Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I generally agree with you, but the part "when Americans think of socialism or communism, they think of authoritarian interpretations" has some good reasons. By the way, I am not an American, but that statement is still true for me, maybe even more so: I remember the regime where I grew up, and I imagine that the same humans would most likely produce the same outcome. I am not saying it's inevitable; only that the burden of proof is on the people who say "trust me, this time it will be completely different".

I have the impression that when people propose something called "socialism", they usually don't even think about how specifically they would design the system to prevent the standard historical outcome (a few million people killed or starved to death). They just optimistically assume that this time the problem will magically solve itself. Because they are nice people, or something. (Like that would change something; there were also many nice people in Soviet Russia, but they were not able to stop Stalin.)

It's like talking with a guy who already built three nuclear power plants, and within a month each of them exploded and killed everyone around. But the guy just shrugs, says it was probably some irelevant random technical issue, and then proposes to build another nuclear power plant on your backyard. Giving the previous failures some thought is the least one can do in such situation.

Another thing that feeds my distrust is that when groups who want to build some kind of "socialism" contain more than dozen members, they usually already have some authoritarian personalities in their positions of power. The corruption is already there, even while their power is almost zero compared to what they aim to achieve, and they cannot fix it now, but they believe the problem will disappear later. It works exactly the other way round: the more power you get, the more psychopaths will be attracted to join you and climb to the top.

Similarly, if someone talks how free speech is bad and wrongthinkers should be silenced, it seems to me quite likely that the same people (or the worse ones who would replace them when the group gains more power) would be okay with imprisoning, torturing, or killing people for the crime of disagreeing. (And of course, the actions done against the wrongthinkers would be on the list of the things one cannot discuss publicly.)

The short version is that designing a society that doesn't quickly end up completely horribly is already fucking difficult. We see how even the most successful examples are quite disappointing. Civilization is frustrating almost by definition; it goes against our instinct, and doesn't make things magically perfect. And our instincts keep screaming at us that if we would just drop all the civilized behavior, find the right group of friends, and kill everyone who tries to stop us from doing what we want, everything would be great. Because that's what worked well for our ape ancestors. But civilization is a fragile house; when you kick too hard, it falls down, and suddenly you find yourself with no food, because all that kicking and killing destroyed the standard production chains. And now you have to keep killing everyone, because now there are too many people out there who really want to kill you if they only could get the smallest chance.

Think about it this way: what prevents a standard capitalist society from simply gradually evolving to the perfect society? Well, maybe there are some genuinely evil guys who want to prevent this outcome, because they enjoy e.g. making their billions by producing weapons that kill random innocent people. And what happens when the country becomes socialist? The very same people will most likely end up in positions of power of the ruling Socialist or Communist Party. Or will be the ones who pull the strings and decide who gets on the top within the party. They are not going to simply disappear overnight. They are experts at survival and power games.

prehistoric tribes, Nordic countries, The Venus Project, or Bernie Sanders.

"Prehistoric tribes" is the same category as fairy tales. Like, we mostly imagine nice things about them. Yeah, they didn't drop bombs, because they didn't have bombs. And they didn't spy on everyone on the internet, because they didn't have the internet. But within their technical options, the strong people oppressed the weak, and the fraction of people that died by murder was an order of magnitude higher than today.

I'm not familiar with the Venus Project. Nordic countries and Bernie Sanders sound like gradual improvements to the current system. Which is IMHO the only way to go. But the Nordic countries seem to already have some problems. I would totally vote for Bernie Sanders if I were an American, but I would expect to be disappointed by the outcome, simply because the society is too complex, and some forces are going to fight back. He could do an improvement or two, and maybe gradually, after having dozen such presidents, things could improve visibly.

Trump makes me unoptimistic.

Same here, but remember it was actually Clinton who defeated Sanders. :(

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2016-12-16T15:38:23.900Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not only are your examples different from r > g, they imply g > r.

comment by root · 2016-12-13T18:35:22.591Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

POSSIBLY POLITICAL (MINDKILLING) WARNING: WEED, also I can't get the asterisks at the bottom to work correctly, what the hell happened to WYSIWYG?

So recently I've been acquainted with a few smokers. It's not really about the smoking itself but rather it's my overall disposition toward it.

Maybe it's some sort of blind spot on my hand, I'd appreciate if maybe the nootropics guys can help me with this. But I can't seem to wrap my head around what are the:

  1. Benefits*
  2. Drawbacks**
  3. Placebo

Obligatory warning that I'm not really knowledgeable nor experienced with any mind-altering substance.

** Most of the benefits I found are usually related to diseases, like cancer and Parkinson's but anxiety is also commonly mentioned. The diseases part seems interesting, but it's interesting in the same way that learning that there's gold under your house. It becomes a question of "How much?". As for anxiety, it's part of life and learning to deal with it on your own is better than turning it down. Maybe "What are the benefits random dude #0 could gain from smoking weed?" is a better question.

** Addiction? General brain harm? Money spent? Opportunity cost? I really want to rule addiction out but sometimes it feels like they NEED it in their system, which fits the criteria. Obvious anecdote, but a honest one. Not really sure about brain damage, and damage is a much more powerful description than "long term effects". As for money, it feels like it already correlates with opportunity cost here, not like they aren't correlated anyway. My imperfect reasoning system says that after X amount of days I would rather have M amount of money with me than without me but I imagine it also discards the effects in those moments. (Being hungry and buying a small snack, versus staying hungry and keeping the money, the hunger could be annoying at the time but long-term insight suggests that I'm quite likely to find myself a satisfying meal, so should I bear with the hunger?)

Replies from: morganism, Vaniver, justsomeoldnick
comment by morganism · 2016-12-17T04:21:23.522Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There was a doc who did autopsies, that showed a correlation of enlarged heart, and cardiac death, tied to weed. LA i think.

and there is a new disease going around, a stomach thing, that smokers have intense vomiting., Very limited set, but they are trying to get the word out to other emergency docs..

comment by Vaniver · 2016-12-16T21:20:47.025Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I can't get the asterisks at the bottom to work correctly, what the hell happened to WYSIWYG?

We use Markdown, which isn't WYSIWYG. If you want to escape a special character, use a \ in front of it, like so:

\* Version *A*.

* Version A.

* Version *B*.
  • Version B.
comment by justsomeoldnick · 2016-12-16T13:34:37.077Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Add personaltity change. This is completely anecdotal but I do hear stories about personality changes. More mellow, sure, but also less motivated and less likely to accept responsibility.