Stupid Questions July 2015

post by Gondolinian · 2015-07-01T19:13:32.373Z · score: 6 (7 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 123 comments

This thread is for asking any questions that might seem obvious, tangential, silly or what-have-you. Don't be shy, everyone has holes in their knowledge, though the fewer and the smaller we can make them, the better.

Please be respectful of other people's admitting ignorance and don't mock them for it, as they're doing a noble thing.

To any future monthly posters of SQ threads, please remember to add the "stupid_questions" tag.

123 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-07-01T19:36:59.210Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I have been trying to meditate and can go about 7 minutes before boredom overwhelms me. Does it get easier?

comment by OrphanWilde · 2015-07-02T14:14:56.728Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

AFAIK boredom means, very roughly, that you're not meditating (at least not the style of meditation I practice, mindful meditation), and instead are sitting there trying not to be bored.

If you notice you're bored, notice that you noticed it, and return your attention to your focus.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-07-02T14:31:55.532Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Focus to what? Breathing?

comment by OrphanWilde · 2015-07-02T18:07:54.689Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Breathing is one option, although it doesn't strictly need to be the focus. The goal is to focus your -entire- mind upon your focal point, leaving no mental space for anything like boredom.

Honestly I'm not sure how applicable mindfulness meditation is to different mental types. Some people seem genuinely incapable of focusing their entire mind on one thing; I'm on the extreme end in the other direction, and am incapable of conscious focus on -more- than one thing at a time, to the point where I can be in extraordinary pain and -simply not notice-, because something else is more interesting. To some extent mindfulness meditation probably just reinforces a habit in me which, while generally desirable, is over-exercised in my case.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-07-02T21:24:25.731Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Breathing is good for beginners.

I would recommend against focusing on an object outside of your body at the beginning for people in the LW cluster.

comment by hyporational · 2015-07-04T19:02:33.195Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

What are you trying to do when you "meditate"?

If by meditation you mean concentrating on the breath and observing whatever sensations arise, when boredom strikes you could try concentrating your attention on the sensations of boredom until it goes away, then returning to breath. Same trick works great with physical pain or itching.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-02T08:53:35.379Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Some people meditate after exercising. Just lie down and imagine their body relaxing, from toes headwards. (Facial muscles are rather confusing, though.) Concentrate also on even breathing - on the count of four, begin exhaling for four 'beats', then hold your breath for four more, then take a prolonged breath, etc. (You can be more comfortable with three at first.) Idon't know about reducing the need for sleep, but it does bring calm and is easier to do for longer than seven minutes (AFA I remember).

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-02T08:21:54.235Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

My experience: posture matters - for example sitting on a pillow is not good enough, I learned I need to sit on the ground with the pillow under my tailbone, my lower back is straighter that way. Recommend going to a Zen center, they teach posture really well. Also esp. how the Mokusho Zen guys do it, facing a white wall and looking 45 degree down, it works better for me than closed eyes or open and looking around.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2015-07-01T19:57:51.534Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yes. I could hardly do even five minutes when I started, eventually managed to stretch that to hours on a good day. (Those good days are rare, but still.)

My experience is that a strong dose of green tea about 10-30 minutes beforehand often helps focus, and was I think instrumental in getting those longer periods for the first time. Though it's been a while since I might misremember.

comment by Dorikka · 2015-07-02T00:17:11.222Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Curious whether, say, 100mg caffeine and 100 mg theanine would have a similar effect.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-07-04T23:06:11.928Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think that totally depends on your receptivity to these substances. Esp. caffeine totally varies from person to person.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-07-01T22:45:07.001Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Does it get easier?

I'm tempted to answer: "Only if you do it wrong". If you go weight-lifting it's hard. If weight-lifting isn't hard you don't put on enough weights. You do get better with practice but that doesn't necessarily mean it's easier.

You will likely both experience easy and harder mediations as you go forward.

My hardest mediation was one last year. It was the first meditation at a 5 day seminar, when I already had years of meditation experience. Nausea raised up in me and there were moment where I was calculated the escape route in case I have to throw up.

comment by niceguyanon · 2015-07-02T11:47:47.521Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/mindfulness-meditation

This helps me, I saved the 9 min guided audio to my phone and use it after the gym.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-01T19:46:36.645Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That's about twice as long as I can last, though I only started about a month ago. I find that my problem isn't boredom so much as worrying about the day's to do list while trying not to think, though. I'm not sure if I'd be bored if I had nothing more pressing to do at the time; is your boredom actually boredom or just the desire to do something else? Actually, is there a difference?

comment by James_Miller · 2015-07-01T19:56:17.014Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It feels like psychic pain from boredom. Some people claim that meditation reduces your need for sleep by an amount greater than what you put into meditation so perhaps you could think of meditation as a way of saving time.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2015-07-02T01:42:23.399Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Some people claim that meditation reduces your need for sleep by an amount greater than what you put into meditation

Curious to know where you got this. The lore I've heard from two meditation instructors is that the reduction of need for sleep is about half of the time meditating — which leads me to wonder whether someone got their factors backwards.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-07-02T02:38:26.890Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Just from people on the web describing their own experiences.

comment by Elo · 2015-07-02T15:50:37.065Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

from readings on the internet; yes it does. Suggestions are approximately; "treat it like a muscle, by training it - it will get stronger" (longer meditations will take less effort to stay in)

I have no real life experience in it; and feel as though I do not currently have a need to meditate, but that's what the writings seem to say about it.

comment by MrMind · 2015-07-02T09:51:58.937Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Guided meditation or image-streaming make meditation a lot easier, and I think the benefits are the same.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-07-02T22:43:08.736Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I need some list of biases for a game of Biased Pandemic for our Meet-Up. Do suitably prepared/formatted lists exist somewhere?

comment by Username · 2015-07-06T10:20:11.501Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This seems the obvious place to start : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases

There exist many tools and screenscrapers for extracting formatted data from Wikipedia. Cut and paste should work well enough to start. The list is not so long that hand-editing is infeasible.

Meta observation: I take the lack of a response to this question for four days in this place as small but indicative evidence of how Things Are Not As Good Here As They Used To Be.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-07-06T13:28:09.391Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sure. I know that list. I will probably do something like that in the absence of preexisting flash cards.

take the lack of a response to this question for four days in this place as small but indicative evidence of how Things Are Not As Good Here As They Used To Be.

Maybe. I also considered the possibility that I posted too late in the thread.

comment by Bryan-san · 2015-07-02T05:06:22.230Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

If you have no interest in eventually procreating, is serious dating worth the massive time and emotional investment necessary?

Edit: part of the reason i am asking is for external belief checking

comment by Elo · 2015-07-02T14:46:01.805Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

A humble suggestion. (Apologies for not answering the specific question you are asking, but asking another one that you revealed when you framed the question in this way)

If you are not motivated to naturally go about "serious dating". Then don't do it. It may be a social norm, but thats usually because people are motivated to do it.

Having said that - if you are trying to convince yourself that it's a waste of time; not this way. It's not.

You don't have to put up a massive investment in order to succeed in dating. A massive investment is something that I would equate to as "risky behaviour". If you start small and grow gradually out of successes - that is how you can limit your risk while also winning at life. (arguments swing each way for "investment" and whether a big investment is needed to really make it big, but that's always something you can chance after some learning)

Good luck :)

comment by Bryan-san · 2015-07-02T17:43:53.873Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I considered spending half an hour crafting my question so that people could understand me perfectly and clearly but sometimes I just throw a question out there and see what sort of responses I get. On the internet people respond more often to short questions than giant blocks of text anyway. (Maybe I should change my policy a bit on LW as compared to other locations? Probably.)

You answered one of the questions within the question that I was asking and thank you for that! People have lots of motivations and my motivations are occasionally different than other people's. I don't have the same hyperintense motivations in this area that other people have.

Your fourth paragraph is something that resonates with my brain a bit and I will be sure to think on.

comment by Elo · 2015-07-03T03:14:23.513Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

On Lesswrong I usually suggest "be more specific". I understand the "open question", and can see how they are useful for times when you might want people to think freely in order to suggest solutions.

I first talked about the other side of the coin when answering an open question. this is the open thread, so answering is a bit more free than in a discussion thread.

I wrote paragraph 4 in such a way that it can be applied to a business decision (or the realms of startups). In that sense - an unmitigated risk might be providing a product that you have not confirmed with the marketplace (they don't want it or they won't pay that much for it). To continue that analogy; that would be to go and get buff to be more appealing to the opposite sex without actually looking at who is around and if they are interested in that gesture. (and continuing further) you can assume that "buff" is a more desired body state generally; but confirming the specific market and response would be ideal to mitigate the risk of invested time. as a contrast; if you looked at the available market and found that they were actually after skills in philosophy, or humour, or happiness, or money making - those too are known desired traits worth investing in.

In terms of emotional investment; you can try really hard, or you can at least be open to it; but not fussed if it doesn't happen.

Sounds like you might like to put in a minimum investment; and relax about the whole thing. Occasionally meet strangers and chat to them; be social for social sake; enjoy life without the focussed lense of purpose towards the goal (which comes with stress).

Good luck (hope this helps more)

comment by atorm · 2015-07-03T15:06:37.925Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Yes. I'm married and have a polyamorous girlfriend, with no intention of reproducing. The relationships are fulfilling and provide social stability. And sex with a partner improves over time, so even if that were your only goal long term relationships might be worth pursuing.

comment by MrMind · 2015-07-06T07:48:49.575Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes. I'm married and have a polyamorous girlfriend

I like that. May I ask you how you were able to achieve this?

comment by atorm · 2015-07-16T14:16:22.703Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Lots of talking with my wife to establish boundaries and make sure everyone was comfortable. A year or so of frustration at the lack of appeal in a married man. A few okcupid girlfriends that didn't work out, and eventually one that has.

comment by MrMind · 2015-07-17T07:54:39.249Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Wonderful!

Thank you very much, short but very effective!

comment by Tem42 · 2015-07-03T20:33:29.737Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Since you have also indicated that you are interested in finding a life partner, and since the value of a life partner is dependent on your personality (and not a hypothetical 'ideal personality'), you may be asking the wrong question. A more relevant question might be "what are ways to reduce the investment cost of finding a life partner?" Once that question is answered, then you will have to decide if it is worth the investment.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-07-02T14:23:09.197Z · score: 3 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Can you seriously not imagine any personal benefits from lifelong companionship and emotional intimacy other than the availability of a uterus?

comment by Bryan-san · 2015-07-02T16:45:39.856Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

This is a stupid question thread and I intentionally asked a question I thought was stupid. I think that lifelong companionship and emotional intimacy would be amazing. However, none of my attempts at achieving those resembled anything like that and when I look at people around me in relationships I don't see it there either.

This doesn't make me bitter or get weird stupid ideas about relationships like completely basing them on sex or abstaining due to not being interested in procreating. It doesn't make me draw any conclusions and it doesn't stop me from wanting a fulfilling relationship with someone else. All it made me do was stop for a second and double check (in a thread for stupid questions) that real, fulfilling relationships are a thing that actually exist within reality, not some sort of Hollywood bullshit, and are worth the effort to obtain and maintain. I can imagine all sorts of things, but checking that this sort of thing is actually real seemed like it could be worth a 30 second forum post.

Additionally, do you have experience of or have evidence that the benefits of companionship and emotional intimacy are worth high emotional and time investment costs? I am genuinely curious.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-07-02T17:14:58.575Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

But why frame the question in terms of childlessness?

comment by Bryan-san · 2015-07-02T17:45:40.887Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW
  1. Because I am occasionally terribile at phrasing questions (though my odd phrasings usually get me the answers I'm searching for anyway)
  2. Because the question was more of a ramblingly phrased question than a highly specific and carefully crafted framing
  3. Because I have no intention of ever having children and the question pertains to me
comment by Creutzer · 2015-07-02T05:17:33.591Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Sure. There are other people who have no interest in eventually procreating!

If you are far enough from the time in life when potential partners will eventually want to procreate and can deal emotionally with the certainty that you will have to break up at least at that point (although realistically you may well break up earlier), there is also a point in dating people outside that group.

EDIT: As an addendum, keep in mind that especially at a young age, people who say they will or might want to have children might do so only as a cultural default. Once exposed to the relevant mindset, they may figure out that they don't actually need to (and shouldn't) have children unless they really, really want to. I therefore suspect that the set of potential partners for child-free people is actually larger than one might think.

comment by CellBioGuy · 2015-07-02T07:53:08.005Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I have been present at the weddings of two couples who have no intention to procreate.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-02T08:25:19.559Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I sort of wonder why people bother marrying in that case. Although even in our case procreation was only 50% of the reason and basically doing a big thank-you ceremony to our parents was another 50%, we felt we owe them a wedding. But I think this is related - the wedding as a thank-you ceremony is a signal of the end of childhood to parents (at 34 it was about high time) but also a signal that we will take over the mantle of child-raising from them from now on, now we take over the job of continuing the family for them. So it had a bit if retiring them as parents, and we do the job of being a parent and doing the duty to the family now. (Nobody actually called it a duty, but it still felt like one generation stepping in the role of the previous one.) So the idea of "thanks parents your job is over" and "we do it now" was related.

comment by Creutzer · 2015-07-02T08:46:52.191Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Off the top of my head, some reasons why people would to marry despite intending not to have children:

  1. residence permits
  2. taxes (a pretty big deal in some countries)
  3. warm fuzzy feeling about cementing a very-long-term relationship in the culturally approved way, signalling commitment
  4. doing the culturally expected thing in a very-long-term relationship and not wanting to advertise their child-free status
comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-02T08:56:09.365Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Or in some cases, "yes I am serious about this stop giving us these looks already".

comment by Ishaan · 2015-07-03T13:57:25.193Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I wouldn't think about it as "dating" in general. It depends on whom you are dating. I think that if you perceive yourself as expending time and emotional energy, rather than acquiring more free time and more emotional energy, then the answer is "no" for that particular person.

This vaguely applies to any investment, doesn't it?

comment by Bryan-san · 2015-07-05T14:56:00.863Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

So there are some relationships where you gain emotional energy from the time you spent with the person? This is different from basic extroversion 'recharging'?

I am very glad I asked this question because I did not realize that was even an option. Thank you very much!

comment by 9eB1 · 2015-07-05T21:54:41.422Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, that is normal in healthy relationships. You should gain emotional energy and emotional stability from them. My girlfriend and I are both introverts, but we can spend hours together with no problem, while if we spend the same amount of time with other people we are very drained. We still do need alone time, but it's not the same as spending the time with other people, even close friends.

comment by Ishaan · 2015-07-06T04:54:49.811Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Right - and you should avoid relationships where both people aren't on net gaining energy and time.

Extrovert/introvert "recharching" works because extroverts/introverts by definition like social activities/solitude. The general principle here is that people are recharged by spending time in a manner which they find simultaneously comfortable and engaging ("flow"?). An intellectual is recharged by thinking, an artist is recharged by creating, a romantic by romance, etc.

Beyond the obvious foundation of mutual love and affection, a good relationship is somehow creating or enhancing these dimension of life that you are energized by. On top of that it should ideally actually seem to free up time, as cooperating with a partner to tackle things generally cuts down work load, but even if it doesn't, if you've got the mutual love and mutual energizing in place I'd count it as a win.

.

comment by EE43026F · 2015-07-02T11:31:34.323Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What are your interests then? Within and without the scope of a relationship? What is your interest in dating? Do you feel compelled to date because it sounds like something everyone should do, and not doing so marks you as abnormal or dysfunctional? If you don't feel particularly compelled to date or enter relationship, then no, it isn't worth it.

Similarly, if you suspect you have interests that would clash with having to seriously date or being in a relationship, then maybe the best compromise is not to get in a relationship. it may also be possible to enter a relationship more suited to your needs, one that can preserve your other interests, time and freedoms, if your drive to date and be in a relationship is strong enough to be unavoidable and compete with your other drives.

Besides, serious "classical" dating (in fact, what do you mean by dating? What kind of activities and investments were you thinking about?) is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for a satisfying relationship.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-07-04T23:40:46.528Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

(after having read your replies to Elo's reply)

Another data point: I'm wondering about this too despite kind of the opposite interests: Relationship without procreation feels like something important missing. I already have four sons so procreation is kind of satisfied. After breaking up I'm feeling kind of freed but I'm also missing company - so why not date to form a new relationship? Sure. But wouldn't that mean that I'd 'exploit' a potential partner - her getting the worse end of the bargain given my children. I'd bet that corresponding calculations are deeply wired into our brains. I notice that I'd at least hesitate in the reverse case. So at the very least having common offspring seems like making even on that - and I'd be happy with that too.

But is that really that kind of 'bargain'? Could it be that there is such a thing as 'care orientation' (see cuddle orientation) and a mutually satisfactory relationship can be found? Maybe. But in any case finding a partner matching this complex (emotional and otherwise) setup is arguably expensive in terms of time and possibly emotions. After quite some excursions in that directions I myself decided to 'cut my losses' or at least change directions. And the direction currently means not actively pursuing relationships.

comment by MrMind · 2015-07-02T09:50:22.131Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think sex with a suitable partner is one of the most fun and engaging activity on the planet.
So I would say yes, unless you're especially challenged in some way.

comment by DanielLC · 2015-07-04T04:57:45.341Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Do you need to date to have regular sex? If that's all you want, aren't there websites for finding other people who only want sex?

comment by MrMind · 2015-07-06T07:44:18.733Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Do you need to date to have regular sex?

Either that or you need to have a lot of money, or you need to be unusually attractive. Besides, sex with a partner that you have intimacy with I found it's much more fulfilling.

If that's all you want, aren't there websites for finding other people who only want sex?

I can only speak for my country, and the answer is no.

comment by Creutzer · 2015-07-04T06:58:48.891Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Do you need to date to have regular sex?

Unless you're in the top 30% or so of attractiveness, I think the answer to that question is "yes".

comment by Bryan-san · 2015-07-02T17:49:50.540Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Do you think the sex alone makes it all worth the time and emotional investment?

Separately (and now we're getting completely hypothetical), what if sex was unavailable or impossible, would it still be worth it to you?

comment by MrMind · 2015-07-03T08:42:28.613Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Do you think the sex alone makes it all worth the time and emotional investment?

Yes, I do. In my opinion, people in general underestimate the sense of emotional fulfilling that good, regular sex has on the male brain (I'm assuming you're male).

Separately (and now we're getting completely hypothetical), what if sex was unavailable or impossible, would it still be worth it to you?

That would depend more on how challenged you are to find a suitable partner, I would still say yes, but in a narrower range of investment.

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2015-07-03T17:34:26.212Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There was recently a lethal heat wave in Karachi.

If you go about 1000 meters below the surface of the ocean, the water gets very cold.

Why don't people try to cool off hot places by piping cold water up from the ocean? Or just bubbling air through the deep water?

comment by Gavin · 2015-07-03T19:31:20.504Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Geothermal or similar cooling requires a pretty significant capital investment in order to work. My guess is that a basic air conditioning unit is a cheaper and simpler fix in most cases.

The problem is that even that fix may be out of the reach of many residents of Karachi.

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2015-07-03T23:48:50.051Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

By "people" I meant governments, companies or NGOs. Sure a basic AC unit is cheaper for one person, but it seems plausible that a piping system like the one I described would be a cheaper way to cool a large area. Note that AC will cool one person's house, but contributes a net heating effect to the city.

comment by CBHacking · 2015-07-05T09:33:40.862Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It's probably a lot more effective to draw the water from ~10m down; the infrastructure costs are far lower, you'll probably not need to insulate the water quite so much for coastal regions (to keep it from warming en route to the surface), you won't need to pump so hard (you won't have a vertical kilometer of buoyancy for your denser-than-shallower-water to fight).

For coastal regions, this might actually work, though those tend to be relatively moderate to start with (courtesy of the water). It would be a ton of infrastructure to get in installed in more than a small, clustered set of buildings / public property, though. For inland regions, you then need to pump cold (it's not permitted to warm up much) corrosive (seawater is a pain) water over a long distance in a hot part of the world. Upon its arrival, you still need to get it into the heat exchangers that you have installed wherever financially practical. Then you have to get rid of the resulting slightly-warmer corrosive seawater.

comment by knb · 2015-07-04T08:03:17.332Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

About a quarter of people in Pakistan regularly practice "open defecation" due to lack of access to basic plumbing infrastructure, which probably causes a much higher casualty rate than lack of access to air conditioning (old people are usually the casualties in heat waves, so the number of QALYs lost is much lower.) I know this isn't directly an answer to your question, but I'm trying to illustrate that there is a huge infrastructure gap in there.

Also, I'm not sure how you envision this working; just having open trenches of cold evaporating saltwater throughout the city?

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2015-07-04T11:58:23.535Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sure, but people don't try this in rich countries either. Places like Texas or Florida would be a lot nicer in the summer if they were 10 degrees cooler.

I'm not sure about the specifics, but there must be some way to get that cold out of the ocean depths and up to where people can benefit from it. People have been transporting large volumes of water since Roman times, and we have huge multibillion dollar oil rigs that drill through the ocean floor.

comment by Izeinwinter · 2015-07-04T16:45:08.445Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Eh.. There is indeed work being done on this. Google seawater greenhouse - Which is basically a way to engineer a cooler, wetter micro-climate and turn a net profit.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-07-04T12:21:37.759Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There's a way to transport water but that doesn't mean it's cost effective.

comment by Jiro · 2015-07-02T19:50:02.248Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

How do you reconcile being transgender with the fact that a lot of our sexual roles are culture-specific? For instance, imagine a MTF who wants to wear a dress. You can't tell this person "stop wearing dresses"; their desire to do so cannot be changed by society telling them no. Yet if they lived in another culture that didn't have dresses at all even for women, we know that when society told them not to wear a dress they would have eagerly gone along with it.

comment by Ishaan · 2015-07-03T14:10:36.593Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

That's a common trans-exclusionary-radical-feminist argument. Wrong because:

1) Would you feel uncomfortable wearing a swastika? Would that send the right message about you? In India swastika is a holy symbol, not a Nazi symbol, the meaning is arbitrary. "Dress" means "I'm feminine" in our culture. It's part of our language.

Suppose in Atlantis, the mouth-sound "love" happens to mean hate and the mouth sound "hate" happens to mean love. It's still acceptable for an English speaking person to want to mouth-sound "I love you" and not "I hate you" even though the meanings of the mouth-sounds are cultural.

2) Things need not be biological to be okay. Culture-induced preferences are valid. (Though, in this case, I think gender expression is probably biological).

comment by Jiro · 2015-07-04T04:07:38.046Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

But I normally understand "I'm feminine" to mean "I want to do (list of things)". If someone wants to do those things because doing those things is feminine, they seem to be saying "I want to do these things because it means something which in turn means that I want to do these things"--it's circular.

comment by Ishaan · 2015-07-05T01:37:49.106Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"I want to do a list of things" includes "I want the people around me to perceive me in a certain way" and "I want to perceive myself a certain way"- which is generally a big drive for clothing, adornments, and body-modification in general.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-07-04T06:51:25.558Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

But I normally understand "I'm feminine" to mean "I want to do (list of things)".

To you really think it's not about self identity?

comment by Jiro · 2015-07-04T14:10:42.402Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure I understand the concept of "self identity as X" that is independent of wanting to do any particular things that X do. If there was such a thing, it would be meaningful to say "I'm feminine but I don't want to do any feminine things" which I'm pretty sure would not be accepted very much. And I can't think of any other cases when we accept that., either.

(I suppose "being treated by others as X" isn't the same as wanting to do X-type things yourself, but it doesn't seem to me that that is what is being talked about. And it's not that differtent anyway.)

comment by fubarobfusco · 2015-07-06T02:25:39.095Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure I understand the concept of "self identity as X" that is independent of wanting to do any particular things that X do.

"being treated by others as X"

Consider X = "medical doctor".

A medical student is not a doctor, and knows they are not a doctor. But they want to be a doctor; that's why they are a medical student. Like most people in societies that have doctors, the medical student has a node in their mental map for "being a doctor", which seems separate from nodes such as "having high social status" and "helping sick people" and "earning more money than a janitor does" and "wearing a white coat".

Sociologists call this "reification": taking a bag of properties and treating them as a real thing. A reified social category such as "doctor" is more than just a shorthand for an arbitrary bag of properties. It represents an actual cluster in social thingspace: there are people whom everyone agrees are doctors. (There are also people who are akin to doctors, but aren't doctors, such as nurses. There are also people whom some think of as being doctors, and others think of as being fake doctors, such as chiropractors.)

But even though "doctor" is a social classification that people basically (collectively) made up, it's one that almost everyone has a remarkable amount of agreement on.

And people can be right or wrong about it. Someone who is a doctor can think "I am a doctor" and be thinking something correct. A medical student can think "I want to be a doctor". A doctor might find herself thinking, "I am a doctor, but people don't act toward me the way they act towards other doctors, because they are weirded out by the idea of a black woman being a doctor. Their immediate (and erroneous) impression of me is that I am a physician's assistant or something. I want to be treated as the doctor that I am."

comment by Jiro · 2015-07-06T09:58:03.734Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

But being a doctor still has a core definition. You're not a doctor if you don't treat sick people or have the ability to treat sick people. There are also peripheral aspects such as how others treat you, or things that most doctors do without this being part of the definition of doctor, but being a doctor is not entirely about those peripheral things. Transsgender (at least in the absence of SRS) doesn't seem to be that way

Or to put it another way, nobody says "I'm a transphysician. I feel like and identify with being a doctor. I want to wear a white coat and have people put "MD" after my name. This makes me a doctor, even though I don't know how to treat sick people."

comment by fubarobfusco · 2015-07-06T16:00:22.734Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry, the analogy isn't that close. I was just trying to get at the idea of there being a "doctor" node which is different from any one particular property of doctors, because it's a socially defined cluster, not a natural kind.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-07-06T10:04:57.448Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You're not a doctor if you don't treat sick people or have the ability to treat sick people.

Nurses also know how to treat sick people and treat sick people. That doesn't seem to be primarily what being a doctor is about.

comment by Jiro · 2015-07-06T15:55:55.644Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If treating people is a necessary but not sufficient condition, that is enough for my point.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-07-07T04:35:44.287Z · score: -5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Or to put it another way, nobody says "I'm a transphysician. I feel like and identify with being a doctor. I want to wear a white coat and have people put "MD" after my name. This makes me a doctor, even though I don't know how to treat sick people."

But a lot of people want the status benefits of being a doctor without having to do the hard work of going throw med school or even knowing how to heal people. Come to think of it, this isn't a bad analogy of transwomen. A man want the status and attention that women get, especially in nerd or SJW circles. Furthermore, these days by declaring himself a "transwoman" he even becomes more special then ordinary women.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-07T08:52:39.336Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The parallel for a transdoctor would be transmother, not transwoman.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-07-02T22:16:51.501Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

No human society is (yet) post-gender. There are always a set of socially recognized marks of gender presentation, and people will seek to express their gender identity according to the customs of the particular culture and/or subculture they feel they belong to.

comment by OrphanWilde · 2015-07-02T19:58:11.058Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Transgenderism is self-identification within a culture, and choosing which groups to identify with. There's not really reconciliation necessary, and although for those of us who regard it [ETA] as problematic [/ETA] including anything unnecessary in your identity at all it may be irksome, it shouldn't be treated any more irksome than non-transgender people choosing to go along with their "default" social identity. (Although personally there's a vague sense that somebody who has considered their identity so much should -know better-, I also know better than to presume that other people's preferences match my own.)

comment by tailcalled · 2015-07-05T15:38:42.581Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

An obvious hypothesis is that trans women follow culture-specific roles (such as wearing dresses) for the same reason cis women follow culture-specific roles.

This would mean that whatever makes us follow culture-specific roles isn't extremely stupid, so it interprets 'women should wear dresses' correctly, rather than 'you shouldn't wear dresses'.

comment by bbleeker · 2015-07-03T12:55:58.574Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

From what I've read, being transgender isn't about clothes and stuff at all, or not mainly anyway. It seems that people are born with a 'body map' in their brains that sometimes doesn't correspond with their actual body, so that they feel there are parts missing that should be there, and other parts that feel like they've been sewn on by Dr. Frankenstein. Of course people who feel like that would want to dress the way that in their culture corresponds with the sex they feel they really are.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-08-02T16:29:58.675Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

From what I've read, being transgender isn't about clothes and stuff at all, or not mainly anyway. It seems that people are born with a 'body map' in their brains that sometimes doesn't correspond with their actual body, so that they feel there are parts missing that should be there, and other parts that feel like they've been sewn on by Dr. Frankenstein.

I've read that too. Is there evidence?

comment by bbleeker · 2015-08-03T09:08:47.331Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

No, alas, I don't know of any official studies or anything, I've just read stories by transsexual people saying that's how they feel.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-07-07T04:27:59.486Z · score: -4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

It seems that people are born with a 'body map' in their brains that sometimes doesn't correspond with their actual body, so that they feel there are parts missing that should be there, and other parts that feel like they've been sewn on by Dr. Frankenstein.

This is a rather dubious explanation. Firstly because it seems unlikely that such a process would mess up only the sexual characteristics that happen to be in the brain. Secondly, many of the high profile "transgendereds" claiming that appear to have been perfectly happy in the bodies they were born with until in became fashionable to declare oneself "transgender".

comment by bbleeker · 2015-07-07T09:43:12.142Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know (don't know of, even) any high-profile transgender people. One of my husbands friends is transgender, but she doesn't like to talk about it, so I don't really know why she had years of hormone treatments (still has, I suppose; you have to take them indefinitely, don't you?) and traveled to Thailand to have major surgery. All I know is that it must have been very important to her to do all that; it's not something you do on a whim! And she's a perfectly normal woman now, not flamboyant at all. Heck, she doesn't even wear skirts most of the time. She still works at the same IT job, and is still as nerdy as before. She just feels more at home in her body, and has become less shy I think (I didn't know her that well before).

For me, the 'body map' explanation I've read about makes perfect sense. In fact, it's the only explanation that makes sense to me. Why else go through years of trouble with hormones and major surgery? Of your private parts? When you could cross-dress instead?

There are also people who have the same sort of feeling about other body parts. That's got to suck even worse; at least transsexuals are starting to become accepted now.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-07-07T18:19:49.197Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know (don't know of, even) any high-profile transgender people.

Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner.

comment by bbleeker · 2015-07-08T08:22:54.488Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Never heard of her, or the other ones you and Stingray have mentioned. Yeah, I am living under a rock (not watching TV/reading the newspaper). I find I'm happier that way.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-07-12T04:20:17.333Z · score: -5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Yet, you somehow know that transgenderism is the fashionable cause du jour.

comment by Stingray · 2015-07-07T20:22:33.489Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Chelsea/Bradley Manning

comment by Robin · 2015-07-30T22:43:45.167Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Wendy/Walter Carlos

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-07-07T11:22:12.363Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Secondly, many of the high profile "transgendereds" claiming that appear to have been perfectly happy in the bodies they were born with until in became fashionable to declare oneself "transgender".

Examples?

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-07-08T02:00:42.365Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Look here.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-07-08T05:47:42.065Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I know there are high-profile transgender people. I was enquiring about your claim that they were

perfectly happy in the bodies they were born with until in became fashionable to declare oneself "transgender".

For two of the examples you linked to this is contradicted by the person's own account. (The third link is just to a picture.)

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-07-08T06:34:40.112Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

For two of the examples you linked to this is contradicted by the person's own account.

Their behavior during this period suggests otherwise.

Here's a clue for you: people lie, especially these kinds of publicity hounds are notorious for rewriting their past if it will give them current publicity.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-07-08T06:36:41.018Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Here's a clue for you: people lie, especially these kinds of publicity hounds are notorious for rewriting their past if it will give them current publicity.

And the absence of sabotage proves the existence of a fifth column. Kthxbye.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-07-08T07:11:02.842Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't see the relevance of the linked article. In this case, a better analogy to your argument is "we have evidence of him attempting sabotage, but he says he isn't a traitor so he can't be a traitor".

Kthxbye.

Well, if you insist on trying to pass non sequiturs off as arguments, goodby.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-07-08T07:26:38.116Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Well, if you insist on trying to pass non sequiturs off as arguments, goodby.

Plus 3 gratituitous downvotes on unrelated comments of mine. Ptui.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-07-08T08:00:37.479Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Plus 3 gratituitous downvotes on unrelated comments of mine.

What, the nonsense you wrote about how priors work in the Pre-history thread. Seriously, if you don't want to get downvoted, stop writing nonsense. Otherwise, don't complain when you are downvoted.

comment by EStokes · 2015-07-21T15:32:25.471Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

When I wasn't exposed to more transgender people and viewpoints, I didn't pay attention and connect the dots I had that pointed at my not being cis, since I'm non-binary with relatively mild dysphoria. So, I'm planning on getting top surgery in a year or two, and wouldn't have if I hadn't introspected and found myself to be not cis. This could be seen as being perfectly happy in the body I was born with until it became fashionable to be transgender, but the connotations are very different.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-07-30T08:07:41.174Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

So why should I prefer your explanation to mine? Especially since mine makes much more sense from a biological point of view and doesn't require a free-floating XML tag (whether one is "really not cis").

comment by EStokes · 2015-08-01T23:32:28.954Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not exactly sure what your explanation is. That transgenderism is status-seeking? In that case, I suppose I'd ask about the existence of transgender people pre-SJ...?

In any case, I disagree with your assessment of cis-ness as unconnected to any real thing (that is what you're saying, no?). Hmm... maybe I'd put it akin to being a goth. Many non-goths would feel uncomfortable if suddenly they were forced to go about their lives clearly dressed as such. It communicates membership of a group they don't identify with.

Does that clarify anything?

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-02T05:00:02.790Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

In that case, I suppose I'd ask about the existence of transgender people pre-SJ...?

Well let's take a look at that shall we. Hey, it appears that they were almost non-existent and largely confined to the subcultures that were the predecessors of SJ.

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-08-03T21:15:55.584Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What about hijras, fa'afafines and the like?

comment by EStokes · 2015-08-02T13:53:37.275Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I suppose that wasn't a good example, then. Of course, my answer is that their greater non-existence was because it was socially unacceptable to be transgender.

So those are like two side of a coin, no? I say that it was socially unacceptable and less so now, so more realize it and come forth, while you say it was sometimes high-status then and more so now, so more say they are this made-up thing. Why do you prefer your explanation, which necessitates a lot of people lying?

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-02T18:43:54.926Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Why do you prefer your explanation, which necessitates a lot of people lying?

Your explanation necessitates even more people lying. The difference is that it is more socially acceptable to assert that people lied in the past than to admit that someone currently around is lying, which is the only reason your claim even sounds vaguely reasonable.

comment by EStokes · 2015-08-03T04:11:54.268Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure I follow. Is the logic that my claim necessitates more lying because people lied about not being transgender in the past (or as I would put it, were unaware or in the closet)? The fact of it being more widely low-status in the past explains that in my explanation as well as yours. Furthermore, if that is what you mean, then do you not also think that the higher amount of openly gay people these days is similar?

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-04T02:31:33.539Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

or as I would put it, were unaware or (..)

So basically what your saying is that it is possible for a man to "really" be a woman even though not only all the physical/biological evidence points that way, but he isn't even aware of it? This raises even more questions whether you definition of "really a woman" corresponds to anything in reality.

The fact of it being more widely low-status in the past explains that in my explanation as well as yours.

So you agree that the claim that my explanation "necessitates a lot of people lying" that you made in the grandparent is BS. That raises the question why did you make it?

Furthermore, if that is what you mean, then do you not also think that the higher amount of openly gay people these days is similar?

It's similar, the difference being that "gay" properly refers to a person's behavior rather than an intrinsic property. And yes, the current attempt to claim that "gayness" is an intrinsic property is similarly problematic.

comment by EStokes · 2015-08-04T23:25:43.437Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

So basically what your saying is that it is possible for a man to "really" be a woman even though not only all the physical/biological evidence points that way, but he isn't even aware of it? This raises even more questions whether you definition of "really a woman" corresponds to anything in reality.

Hm, good question! I'd say: in the same way one might discover one prefers, say, some obscure flavor of ice cream one hadn't tried before to one's previous favorite of chocolate ice cream. Does that mean that the person's favorite wasn't really chocolate before? It was, but also they "actually" preferred something else... I think it comes down to how the individual's narrative of their past or somesuch.

So you agree that the claim that my explanation "necessitates a lot of people lying" that you made in the grandparent is BS. That raises the question why did you make it?

I think we must've talked past each other; I'm having trouble connecting the dots. In any case, to try to elucidate my meaning: In the past, being transgender was more and more widely low-status. If transgenderism isn't real, then it becoming less low-status on average means that more and more people would lie about being transgender. If it is real, then it becoming less low-status on average means that more and more people would be exposed to the concept and feel safer in coming out.

It's similar, the difference being that "gay" properly refers to a person's behavior rather than an intrinsic property. And yes, the current attempt to claim that "gayness" is an intrinsic property is similarly problematic.

I see. I might have a different (though not diametrically opposed) idea on this, but afaict that disagreement doesn't have a bearing on the main idea of this discussion at the moment so for time and clarity's sake I think I'll not take this up, if you're amenable.

comment by CronoDAS · 2015-07-02T17:19:41.572Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

My iPad is running out of space. I want to delete some games but somehow retain their save files in case I want to download and play them again. How can I do this without jailbreaking my iPad?

comment by CBHacking · 2015-07-05T08:43:24.515Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Disclaimer: I don't use iThings except occasionally for work, and those ones are always jailbroken. My knowledge of what Apple does and does not permit the nominal owners of their devices to do is limited.

You may be able to save a backup of your iPad's current state to your computer, with the possibility of future restoration. This would back up both the apps and their data. You could then delete the apps (which deletes their data). If you wanted to play the apps again, you may be able to take a new backup and then restore the old one. Obvious downside here: if you ever do want to revert, you'll have to (at least temporarily) do without the progress you made since the initial backup

Alternatively, delete only those games which sync their progress to an external service, after you perform the aforementioned synchronization. I don't know which games those are, but they exist. Cross-platform ones, and those from major dev houses, are more likely to offer this feature.

... or you could jailbreak. There was a new one just released. You don't have to do much with it except back up your own data, if you want. That's one of the major reasons I rooted my phone.

comment by CronoDAS · 2015-07-07T06:35:05.744Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

IIRC, jailbreaking voids the warranty...

comment by CBHacking · 2015-07-07T07:03:15.484Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That's worth checking (both in terms of what Apple claims, and in terms of what any relevant legal precedents claim; a hardware warranty certainly shouldn't be at risk from a software modification). On the other hand, it should be easy to "un-jailbreak" a device; just restore an un-jailbroken image onto it (for example, from a backup made before jailbreaking), and you can do so before sending the device in for warranty service. If the device is "bricked" to the point that you can't restore it, then Apple probably can't tell that it was jailbroken, either.

comment by Sherincall · 2015-07-07T12:15:24.004Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Tangential:

a hardware warranty certainly shouldn't be at risk from a software modification

While that would definitely be a good clause for the consumers, it's not exactly right. I have personally caused hardware damage to multiple devices just by modifying the software. Plenty of ways to do it.

There's also the case in which the device is bricked in such a way that it can't be fixed even by the manufacturer, while the hardware itself is operating properly. Though, that would likely still count as a software problem.

comment by metatroll · 2015-07-02T07:55:52.868Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Does the Force Majeure clause in the Less Wrong Terms of Use encompass acts of UFAI?

comment by Aiyen · 2015-07-05T18:20:43.641Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Not sure if this is the right place for this; if not I will be happy to move this to a more appropriate location. I just graduated college, and plan on working for a year as a math tutor. After that, I don't really have any fixed plans, and lately I have been wondering about possibly trying to work for MIRI/CFAR/similar organizations. What exactly is needed to get involved? And if this appears feasible, what should I be working on during the gap year to be ready?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-07-05T21:40:38.305Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

As far as CFAR goes read http://rationality.org/hiring/.

For MIRI there's https://intelligence.org/careers/

comment by Aiyen · 2015-07-06T05:29:08.074Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm, could be useful. My biggest concern is that my degree is in geology, so it is obviously not directly applicable. How much opportunity is there to get involved given that my training is fairly irrelevant? I have something of a philosophy background, and math through calculus II, but my formal education isn't going to help.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-07-06T10:00:39.051Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

How you spent your time in formal education isn't that relevant if you have done really awesome things outside of formal training.

Most of skills that are most important for CFAR don't get taught in formal education.

Let's take the first question in the CFAR article:

What traditions (e.g., self-experimentation) do you have to draw on, in helping us invent an art of rationality? We aim to invent a new art of rationality -- something that incorporates Bayesian reasoning, the heuristics and biases literature, etc., but that is more usable, more thorough, and just generally better. Please tell us anything you can about why you are well-positioned to help us. (Do you have background with quantified self? Meditation? Practice changing your own or others’ habits? Tell us about anything like that -- erring on the side of inclusion.)

What's your answer?

For me those answer to that question doesn't have anything to do with what I learned in university. I have answer it briefly with simply checking their boxes of "Do you have background with quantified self? Meditation? Practice changing your own or others’ habits?" it's:

1) I was first person to speak about Quantified Self as a practitioner to the German media, and at the beginning I was one of the leading person to build the German QS community.
2) I first meditated 10 years ago and since roughly three and a half years I meditate in group settings. I also led well received meditations at two LW events.
3) As far as habit change goes, I'm trained in NLP, Hypnosis and been to other coach training programs, I was one of the moderators of a big personal development forum for 4 years

I could also expand and add other things that they don't directly query but which are related to building the art of rationality.


For my impression the easiest way into working with CFAR is likely to do one of their workshops and then apply everything of it in your life and teach the material to other people.

When Valentine was at EU-LWCW he said that only one person who took CFAR workshops really went and hold his own workshops outside of CFAR. If you would show yourself capable of that feat that would demonstrate relevant capacity.

Math tutoring is also building useful skills for CFAR, so the time you spend on it is useful.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-07-04T23:03:59.512Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Someone - I think Brienne - recently blogged about how it feels to have become a rationalist and that we need more insight into how people become rationalists. After the fact being a rationalist feel so normal what we have difficulty understnd what has been different. That we'd need a phenomenology of rationalists or something like that. I wanted to follow-up obn that. but I can't find the post. Maybe it wasn't by Brienne. My google-fu failed me. Does anybody know which post I mean?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-02T01:22:46.712Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Is this the evident interpretation of Quantpedia's visual statistical summary of data on published quantitative trading strategies : Simple strategy, daily, stock strategy based on trading earnings or earning announcement generally outperforms alternatives?

comment by gjm · 2015-07-02T13:57:21.787Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Seems more or less like it. But I'd be really careful.

First of all, one minor correction. According to their graphs, "very complex" strategies have alleged performance even better than "simple" ones. I would be skeptical, though; the more complex a strategy, the greater the opportunities for its apparent performance to be the result of (perhaps accidental) overfitting.

Now, some reasons for being cautious about inferring from their summary data that simple daily earnings-based strategies are best:

Do they define what they mean by "performance" (average annualized returns, or some metric Quantpedia has made up, or what)? If the former, note that what you probably actually care about is some combination of risk and return (if you have a strategy with given expected returns, you can always increase that a lot by taking on huge leverage -- but at the cost of greatly increased risk). If the latter, you'll want to look at whether their metric matches what you care about.

I guess these are reported results of published strategies. This means there's a huge selection effect. No one is going to publish their ingenious new strategy that ... loses 5% per year. That would be OK if selection were on the basis of actual future results, but of course selection is actually on the basis of (something like) results on past data, or simulated guesses at what future data might look like. So now imagine two classes of strategy, one of which performs very consistently and one of which has immensely variable results. 100 people try out each class of strategy. The first one returns between 9% and 111% per year, every time. The second one gives measured returns varying wildly between -90% and +90% per year. Then you throw out the failures, and look at the averages. The second class of strategy is going to look a lot better -- even if actually it's just much higher-risk and will in practice most likely bankrupt you quickly.

It could be that for some reason selection effects are different for different kinds of strategies. Consider, e.g., the following (entirely imaginary) sequence of events.

  • In 1980, someone famous publishes a paper claiming to describe an earnings-trading strategy that returns 25%.
  • Everyone reads this and is very impressed. In the following years, no one will publish an earnings-trading strategy that doesn't perform at least about that well in their tests.
    • (Even though when they find one it may usually actually be the result of luck or defective testing.)
  • For other kinds of strategy, though, less impressive results are still publishable.
  • 20 years later, it's discovered that that 1980 paper was completely bogus.
  • But now the earnings-trading strategies in the literature are all impressive, because of selection effects.
  • So even with the old paper thrown out, a literature survey will give the impression that earnings trading is better than everything else.

Generally, the information they make public is so limited that I would be really scared to let any real money ride on inferences from it.

One final remark: If "daily" means that typical holding times are about one day, or that one typically makes trading decisions once a day, and if "trading earnings" means making decisions based on companies' quarterly earnings announcements ... it seems like "daily" and "trading earnings" are hard to reconcile with one another. But probably I'm misunderstanding their terminology, because "daily" is the only timescale category with anything at 70%, and both "trading earnings" and "earnings announcement" (shouldn't those be the same thing?) have strategies at 70%. Or perhaps the categories aren't exhaustive and some strategies don't have a timescale classification at all?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-06T06:24:40.783Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Is room for more funding zero sum?

If gates foundation see's Effective Altruists are funding something, they're not going to fund it if they use Room for more Funding Reasoning.

It costs EA's proportionally more of their discretionary income than high net worth individuals.

comment by notsonewuser · 2015-07-06T02:18:34.472Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What is the joke behind the title "Highly Advanced Epistemology 101 for Beginners"? I understand that it's redundant, but is that the only reason why it's supposed to be funny, or is there some further underlying joke?

Edit: Or, to be clearer, why was the title not just " Highly Advanced Epistemology 101"? I understand that there may be a separate joke given the juxtaposition of "Highly Advanced" and "101".

comment by ahbwramc · 2015-07-06T02:22:58.642Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Well, it's both redundant and anti-redundant, which I always liked. But I don't think there's anything more to it than that.

comment by LessWrong (LessWrong1) · 2015-07-16T12:15:20.414Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think it's not such a big deviation from the low-hanging fruit posts/comments I occasionally see here but here goes anyway: what are things I shouldn't miss? Books are the only thing on my mind now, but anything can be suggested.

comment by Algon · 2015-07-13T09:12:48.900Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Is MIRI making an FAI only in regards to humans? That is, it would do whatever best aligned itself with what humans want?

If so, what would happen in the case of extra terrestrial contact? All sorts of nasty situations could occur e.g. them having an AI as well, with a fairly different set of goals, so the two AIs might engage in some huge and terrifying conflict. Or maybe they'd just agree to co-operate because the conflict would be too costly.

So have the researchers at MIRI put something like this as a goal?