Open thread, Dec. 19 - Dec. 25, 2016

post by MrMind · 2016-12-19T07:46:48.129Z · score: 2 (3 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 106 comments

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


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106 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by dropspindle · 2016-12-22T06:32:26.614Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Random Note: Since the push to put more content on here, I actually have been checking more frequently. I'm looking now maybe every three weeks instead of every three months, which is nothing compared to the daily checking when I was active and the site was active, but is at least more on my radar.

Just some positive reinforcement for all yall.

comment by MrMind · 2016-12-22T07:48:56.995Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Have a karma, sir / madam / genderfluid person.

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2016-12-20T01:11:40.858Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

In general, I admire EAs' intellectual and ethical seriousness. But part of the EA worldview bothers me: the idea that all Westerners are by definition rich and therefore should feel an obligation to donate a lot of money to charities to help poorer countries.

In some cases this worldview leads to factually incorrect conclusions. For example, I entered $30K, with a 1-person household in the US, into GWWC's How Rich Are You? calculator. The calculator told me my income is 21x the global average. That just seems implausible. According to Wikipedia, global GDP is $7.4e13, and global population is 7.4e9, so global GDP per capita is about $1e4. Similarly, per capita GDP of China is about $7e3. These estimates would suggest my inputs correspond to about 3-5 times global average income. And that doesn't even take into account PPP variation. This Wiki page claims that global average PPP per capita is $15K, suggesting a factor of 2 difference.

I think EAs should update their advertising material and outlook to suggest something like: "Many Westerners are extremely rich by world standards, but many more aren't. If you're a graduate student, an early-career professional, or have taken a lower income career path: relax and don't feel guilty! Work hard to improve your financial situation and come back in a couple of years!"

comment by gjm · 2016-12-20T01:48:18.192Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

factually incorrect conclusions [...] $30k [...] 21x the global average. That just seems implausible.

Did you scroll down to the "Methodology" section? They explain that they are using the median, not the mean; I don't find it at all implausible that the median might be rather a lot lower than the mean. (And I think they are right to use the median in preference to the mean.)

GWWC has a page about median GDP. It unfortunately doesn't say exactly what they think the global median income is, nor how they calculated it, and even the lowest of the several figures there -- $2k, not stated explicitly but implicit in something they say near the start -- would make the factor 15x rather than 21x.

So I agree that they're doing something fishy with their numbers, I don't think it's quite as fishy as you suggest, and I think maybe someone should contact them and ask them just what their global median income figure is and where it comes from.

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2016-12-20T14:44:16.591Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Okay, fair point, but it's a little bit misleading given that the infographic explicitly says "your income is more than 21 times the global average".

comment by gjm · 2016-12-20T16:51:27.549Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The median is just as good an average as the mean.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-20T17:08:40.516Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

That highly depends on your definition of "average". In the normal, even academic, speech "average" means arithmetic mean. The median is a location parameter of a distribution (together with the mean and the mode).

comment by gjm · 2016-12-20T21:32:04.266Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In a great deal of "normal" speech, I'm not convinced "average" has a well enough defined meaning to say that it means specifically the arithmetic mean or the median or any other particular average.

Sure, the median is a location parameter of a distribution. ... Well, actually, I think this is imprecise. When you have a family of distributions that's closed under translation, you can parameterize them by a location parameter (and if necessary some other parameters), and you might happen to take the location parameter to equal the median (which might or might not equal the mean and/or the mode). But the median is meaningful outside the context of distributions with location parameters.

Anyway, let's stipulate that "the median is a location parameter of a distribution". So what? You surely can't be saying that that means the word "average" shouldn't be used of it, since -- as you even said -- the mean is equally "a location parameter of a distribution". Perhaps you mean that the median is a location parameter and nothing else; that it has no interest or importance beyond its use as a location parameter. But that's obviously false.

(I agree that "the average" means the arithmetic mean much more often than it means any other specific measure of central tendency. I think it would be better if GWWC had said "median" rather than "average", and more generally I think it would be better if almost all uses of "average" -- especially those referring to some actual calculation -- said explicitly what sort of average was meant. But I don't think it is wrong to use the word "average" to mean the median, especially when you're explicit about doing so.)

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2016-12-21T18:44:43.036Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I agree that "the average" means the arithmetic mean much more often than it means any other specific measure of central tendency.

Do you, or are you just being agreeable?

I think the majority of usage is a vague confusion between median and mode. Maybe it means mean more than any other precise meaning, but most of the time it definitely doesn't mean mean.

comment by gjm · 2016-12-21T20:14:50.422Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, I really do think that, but I think you may have misunderstood what that is :-).

I agree (with you) that most of the time the word "average" doesn't denote any specific kind of, er, average. And I agree that, in so far as people using it that way have any specific idea in mind, that idea probably has more of "median" and "mode" in it than of "arithmetic mean". But I think when it does denote something specific it's much more often the arithmetic mean than anything else. And that's what I was saying.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2016-12-21T21:23:10.405Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"Specific" isn't very specific. If you use it so narrowly as to only include examples where people have actually done a calculation, it means mean more than it means anything else, but not "much more often." But I think that there are a lot of broader meanings of "specific" under which mean loses.

comment by gjm · 2016-12-23T00:33:37.002Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But I think that there are a lot of broader meanings of "specific" under which mean loses.

Maybe, but they happen not to be the meaning of "specific" I was using when I wrote the words in question.

(Of course you needn't care about that. The author is dead, etc.)

comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-20T21:48:14.944Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, actually, I think this is imprecise.

It's incomplete. You don't need to have a distribution to have a median -- all you need is a set of numbers.

You surely can't be saying that that means the word "average" shouldn't be used of it

Why, but I am saying this!

since -- as you even said -- the mean is equally "a location parameter of a distribution"

Are you saying the word "average" means "a location parameter of a distribution"? I wonder how many people can you find to agree with that.

especially when you're explicit

If you are being explicit, "median" is a perfectly fine word. Shorter than "average", too.

comment by gjm · 2016-12-20T23:38:45.598Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You surely can't be saying that that means the word "average" shouldn't be used of it

Why, but I am saying this!

There must be a misunderstanding. "That", in what I wrote, is the fact (kinda) that the median is a location parameter. This fact is also true of the mean. Therefore, "that" cannot be justification for not calling the median "average" unless it is also justification for not calling the mean "average". But your whole argument is that the mean should be called "average" and the median shouldn't.

Are you saying the word "average" means "a location parameter of a distribution"?

No (and I don't really understand how you could get that idea from anything I wrote). I am saying:

  • The word "average" is used in a variety of ways. I'd much prefer to see it used much less, and more specific terms used instead.
  • When it is used with a specific meaning, it is (as you say) usually used to mean the arithmetic mean but (I say) it can also legitimately be used to mean other measures of central tendency.
  • One should say which one.
  • (I didn't say this, but:) I don't claim to have a precise definition of the characteristics a thing should have for it to be reasonable to call it an average. In practice, since children are taught in school -- at least where I come from -- that "the" "three" averages are the mean, the median and the mode, it is probably best to avoid the term for other kinds of average unless there's an especially strong reason.

If you are being explicit, "median" is a perfectly fine word.

As I already said, in these exact words: I think it would be better if GWWC had said "median" rather than "average". But the question isn't whether "median" is a good word to use -- we are agreed that it is -- but whether "average" is a legitimate word to use. I say it is; you have offered no actual grounds for disagreeing with that. Do you disagree, or are you just arguing for the sake of arguing?

comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-21T15:48:55.575Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There must be a misunderstanding.

Yes, I think so. We seem to have persistent difficulties in being clear to each other.

Your line of reasoning looks to me like this: We can call small felines (mean) pussycats (average). The small felines are mammals (location parameters). Ninjas (medians) are also mammals. Therefore we can can call ninjas pussycats.

Do you disagree

Yes, and I thought I was pretty explicit about that:

Why, but I am saying this!

I wasn't taught in school that there are three averages. To me "average" is a colloquial term for the mean with the implied handwaviness of "something something middle, we don't care to specify precisely". I do not think that that the word "average" should be used in the meaning of "median" (or "mode").

comment by gjm · 2016-12-21T20:10:54.229Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Your line of reasoning looks to me like this: [...]

No. I am not saying "We can call ninjas pussycats because they are mammals". I am saying "The fact that ninjas are mammals is not a reason not to call them pussycats". There are other reasons for not calling ninjas pussycats, and those (not the fact that ninjas are mammals) are why we shouldn't call ninjas pussycats. Which is why I was puzzled that you wrote "In normal, even academic, speech, 'pussycat' means Felis catus. A ninja is a mammal (as is a dog or cat)." And you didn't state any actual reasons for not calling ninjas pussycats.

I wasn't taught in school that there are three averages.

Fair enough; I was and my 10-year-old daughter was. (For the avoidance of doubt, I am not saying "... and therefore that is the correct usage" but "... which tells us something about how the term is likely to be understood by generally informed readers without specialist knowledge of statistics". Of course schools in different places may do different things.)

To me "average" is a colloquial term for the mean with the implied handwaviness [...]

Here's the Shorter Oxford[1]. Its meaning I is an older but obscure one to do with shipping.

II transf. 4 The determination of a medial estimate or arithmetic mean. [...] 5 The generally prevailing rate, degree, or amount; the ordinary standard; the arithmetic mean. [...]

(I promise the bits I have omitted don't change the meaning or implications of what I quoted.) That word "medial", as defined in the same dictionary, has the same double use: it can mean specifically "equal to the arithmetic mean" but can also mean "typical", "central", "kinda in the middle", etc.

As a further indication of how the word is used casually by a mathematically literate writer, here's an extract from Darrell Huff's famous "How to lie with statistics":

When you are told that something is an average you still don't know very much about it unless you can find out which of the common kinds of average it is -- mean, median or mode.

This sort of usage really isn't uncommon, and it's why I think saying "average" when you mean the median (or even, for nice unimodal distributions, the mode) is reasonable -- at least if, as GWWC did, you say somewhere what sort of average you are using.

[1] For the avoidance of doubt: Not because I think dictionaries determine meanings, but because good dictionaries record actual usages; the SOED is a very good dictionary.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-12-20T21:59:08.195Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you are being explicit, "median" is a perfectly fine word. Shorter than "average", too.

The problem is that if you write for a general audience many people might not know what median means. I think in the average person the words that are chosen make the person think of the right concept. I think that the "average person" think's that the "average citizen of the world" has a "average income".

comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-20T22:00:41.881Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The problem is that if you write for a general audience many people might not know what median means.

People who don't know what median is will certainly understand "average" as "sum up all the incomes and divide by the number of people".

Under the assumption that your audience doesn't know what a median is, using the word "average" to refer to median would be deliberately misleading.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-12-20T22:18:48.393Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If I speak of what the "average person on the street" thinks then the word average doesn't equal "sum/amount". The word is understand to point to to a quality that's not defined by a fixed mathematical formula. It takes math training for people to associate the word with the fixed.

In our statistics for bioinformatics class the general idea that they taught us was that it's usually a bad idea to use the straight arithmetic mean as is, as using it means one measurement errors can throw of your whole data set. Data-cleaning is usually needed to get useful statistics.

When I see the word average I don't associate it with a specific formula but with 'we want to know a statistics that represents "the middle" of a data set'. A middle that's appropriately calculated for the context in question. In think that's the sense that most people who are not well educated in math use. They don't focus on a specific formula.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-20T22:25:53.456Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The notion that the GWWC calculator is firmly aimed at mathematical illiterates has the slight problem that they put a note right there which says "We use equivalised income" with a Wikipedia link.

So you are saying they bothered to explain "equivalised" but didn't bother to explain "average"?

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-12-20T22:29:01.445Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think it's quite obvious which what's meant with "average", if you talk about the fact that many people are poor. On the other hand it's less obvious what's meant with income.

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2016-12-21T09:17:53.370Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think it's quite obvious which what's meant with "average", if you talk about the fact that many people are poor.

Not to me it isn't. I would normally take it to mean the total divided by the number of people, not the 50th percentile.

comment by Viliam · 2016-12-21T15:28:07.193Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In my experience, most articles comparing income use median, because that's the value that makes more sense in this context.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-21T15:51:41.892Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This is true. For skewed distributions (and the income distribution is quite skewed) mean and median are different and if you have to choose you pick the one that serves your purposes better. For the comparisons of population well-being the median is, indeed, the preferred metric.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2016-12-21T18:37:01.570Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If you demand a definition from the median user, the definition would be the mean. But the actual usage is closer to the median or mode.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-12-20T18:52:04.017Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In the normal, even academic, speech "average" means arithmetic mean.

In mathematical speech it doesn't.

As far as normal speech I'm not sure. If you ask a group of people how much the average wealth of the people in a bar changes when Bill Gates walks into a city of 10,000 citzens, I'm not sure that a majority will tell you that the average wealth shoot up a great deal.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-20T19:56:06.213Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In mathematical speech it doesn't.

Would you like to go ask Wolfram Alpha about it?

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-12-20T21:17:51.793Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

My math books and stat classes used to define average as the hypernym of mean and mode. Wikipedia has the same terminology.

Wolfram Alpha says that it assumes you mean the "arithmetic mean". It's likely useful to make that assumption but that doesn't mean it's the only way.

comment by arundelo · 2016-12-20T21:35:44.744Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Today I learned the words "hypernym" and "hyponym"!

(Wikipedia: "Hyponymy and hypernymy"; oxforddictionaries dot com: "hypernym", "hypernymy", "hyponym", "hyponymy".)

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-12-20T22:20:53.297Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Related useful words are meronym and holonym.

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2016-12-21T09:15:18.883Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But saying "the global average" suggests a meaning of "average" such that there is only one of. So it cannot generically mean "measure of central tendency" there.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-20T21:25:25.426Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Wikipedia has the same terminology.

English Wikipedia says:

In colloquial language, an average is the sum of a list of numbers divided by the number of numbers in the list. In mathematics and statistics, this would be called the arithmetic mean. In statistics, mean, median, and mode are all known as measures of central tendency.

Basically it says that "average" is not a mathematical or statistical term but means "arithmetic mean" which is the proper expression to use in math/stat context.

comment by Jacobian · 2016-12-20T17:10:56.665Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The GWWC numbers reflect global median income, which is $2,920 per capita, and not the mean income. It makes sense to use the median to think about global poverty, because the mean is mostly dependent on the global rich. When Bill Gates walks into a bar, the mean income of the bar patrons shoots up but the median barely budges. When a group of broke Africans goes into the bar, both the mean and the median drop.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-20T21:29:53.709Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The GWWC's How Rich Are You? calculator operates with household income. The global median household income is $9,733 -- see your own link.

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2016-12-20T21:21:32.874Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

which is $2,920 per capita

That number still only gives a factor of 10x compared to $30K.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-20T16:45:59.349Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

A more basic problem is that "rich" generally refers to wealth and they are talking about incomes.

What exactly is income is also subject to discussion, but I don't think that dividing GDP by population will give you a right number.

comment by Jacobian · 2016-12-20T17:16:35.539Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Income is actually a more sensible measure because it gives a better idea of your "lifetime wealth", the total amount of stuff you could ever buy, than your current wealth. A lot of stupid talk about inequality uses wealth statistics that include debt, which gives you all the "Trump is richer that 37% of America households" bullshit articles. A young lawyer with $100,000 in student debt is richer in all meaningful senses than a hobo with $20 in his pocket, but not if you count "cash wealth + debt". And since it's really really hard to measure someone's actual wealth, which includes things like the present value of education in future earnings, income is a reasonable proxy.

comment by bogus · 2016-12-20T18:10:54.174Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Income is actually a more sensible measure because it gives a better idea of your "lifetime wealth", ... than your current wealth.

Consumption is an even better measure, since people tend to smooth it both over time (e.g. by saving or taking loans as appropriate) and across individuals in any given social group (by engaging in informal social insurance, especially in poorer countries with no formalized welfare provision).

comment by Jacobian · 2016-12-20T19:18:03.647Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That's a good point, but not very useful for GWWC. What was your consumption last year? It would take people a while to figure it out, but almost everyone knows their income off the top of their heads. GWWC's goal is to make a salient point that westerners are rich. An American making $30,000 a year doesn't feel rich, but they actually are rich, rich enough to improve many lives of the global poor without a serious deduction in their standard of living. Income and consumption (relative to other humans) rarely differ from each other enough to change that conclusion.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-20T19:58:30.533Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

GWWC's goal is to make a salient point that westerners are rich.

Correct.

Notice the goal: to make a point. Notice what it is not: to gain understanding by exploring the complexities of "wealth".

comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-20T17:35:02.665Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Income is actually a more sensible measure

I disagree. I don't think it gives you a better idea of your "lifetime wealth" either. Income is basically the first derivative of wealth and tends change, a lot.

A young lawyer with $100,000 in student debt is richer in all meaningful senses

So how about the same lawyer pre-graduation, when he was a law school student? His income was negative at that point.

actual wealth, which includes things like the present value of education in future earnings

You need to define "wealth" better before you go there.

comment by Viliam · 2016-12-20T12:52:16.979Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Many Westerners are extremely rich by world standards, but many more aren't.

This is probably false.

The correct version would be something like: even poor countries contain a few insanely rich people (e.g. Kim Jong-un), and if you don't care about how a typical person in such country lives, but only mechanically calculate the GDP per capita (i.e. assume that Kim Jong-un has fairly distributed his wealth among all citizens), it may seem their situation is actually not that bad... probably still worse than yours, but at least not extremely.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2016-12-21T00:28:31.352Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

In the hopes of making things easier for me, I've been referring to centuries by their number range-- "the 1900's" rather than "the twentieth century". I've gotten one piece of feedback from someone who found it confusing, but how clear is it to most people who are reading this?

comment by arundelo · 2016-12-21T03:11:29.102Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Perfectly clear, and probably in most contexts less likely to elicit off-by-one errors. The only confusing things I can see are:

  • Maybe someone might think you just meant the first decade of the 1900s?
  • Similarly, is "the 2000s" a century or a decade or a millennium? (This and the previous problem are solved by using e.g., "19xx", but that's probably only clear in written language.)
  • This style (it seems to me) is more common with older stuff (e.g., the 1800s and 1700s), so someone might do a double-take at "the 1900s", thinking it sounds longer ago than it is.
  • There's also the thing of how the twentieth century is, if we're being pedantic, not the years 1900 through 1999, but the years 1901 through 2000.
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2016-12-21T08:13:53.235Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The person who was confused was so used to "the nth century" that "the xx00s" didn't register as the same thing.

comment by steven0461 · 2016-12-21T16:55:20.175Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I find it confusing as well: the century already has a different name and the decade does not, so it's natural to assume "the 1900s" refers to the decade.

Also, I guess technically "the 1900s" includes 1900 but not 2000 and "the 20th century" includes 2000 but not 1900.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-21T16:06:14.471Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My first intuitive reaction would be to interpret "the 1900s" as early XX century. I would not expect, say, the 80s and the 90s to be part of "the 1900s".

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2016-12-21T16:24:02.984Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I wonder if that reaction can be avoided by saying something like "all the 1900s".

comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-21T16:44:38.231Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think my brain latches onto associations with 00s (2000s) and 90s (1990s) and that makes "the 1900s" a bit disorienting. On the other hand phrases like "the 1700s" are fine, so you not technically wrong in using the expression, it's just... awkwardly associative.

comment by borismus · 2016-12-20T23:45:36.435Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

(If I had two karma points, I'd start its own thread on the topic, but I'm a lurker and I don't.)

I'm working (on the side) on a website that enables 1-on-1 conversations on a controversial topic, with someone of the opposing view. You are shown a list of topics, and asked what your opinion is on them ("I don't know" is an option). Then you are matched to another party that answered differently. You then start a text-based chat with them. Everything is anonymous (your name and avatar are auto-generated).

I am hoping that this could be a tool to reduce polarization and promote active open mindedness. Here's what I wrote:

"You may not be convinced by their arguments, but hopefully your conversation will lead to a better understanding on both sides. We hope that an interaction with someone with a different viewpoint will lead to reduced animosity toward their whole out-group."

However, as we get closer to launch, I'm trying to think of how to attract the right kind of users. Here's a list of who might be attracted to such a site:

  • Those that hold a strong point of view and want to convince others.
  • Those that are actively open minded and want to learn about various view points.
  • Those that just want to debate for debate's sake.

All of those seem pretty rare. I'm having a hard time trying to figure out how to spin the project so that it's attractive to a broader audience, and not just people that are normally into rationalism, self-doubt, CMV/etc. My friend suggested that I ask the rationalist community for their ideas, and here we are. Any thoughts here?

comment by Dagon · 2016-12-21T00:16:08.821Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I think you missed out

  • Trolls. Those who want to torment or infuriate people who take a topic seriously.
comment by RowanE · 2016-12-21T11:02:53.365Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'll add a datapoint to that and say an anonymous site like that is would tempt me enough to actively go and troll even though I'm not usually inclined towards trolling.

Although I picture it getting so immediately overwhelmed by trolls that the fun would disappear; "pissing in an ocean of piss" as 4chan calls it.

comment by borismus · 2016-12-21T22:57:26.258Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I was hoping that the 1-on-1 nature of the service would deter trolls. Their efforts won't scale very well. Valid?

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-12-22T15:48:12.424Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Have you done research into other 1-on-1 chats services for anonymous participants and see whether those services have a problem with trolls?

comment by Dagon · 2016-12-21T23:41:42.024Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Doubtful. Troll efforts scale better than thoughtful discussion efforts. One troll can easily open multiple windows and surf for the easiest targets, and can get a lot of attention from a low-effort interaction.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-21T16:08:38.050Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

As Dagon said, this is troll heaven. From straight shock trolling to concern trolling. If you launch and 4chan hears about it, it would have a field day with it :-/

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-12-21T07:30:34.960Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

When creating a new website like this the goal should be to release a minimal viable product. The assumption that those three categories of people are rare doesn't mean that you can't find them for your minimum viable product.

The YC advice is to focus on creating a great product for a small audience instead of creating an okay product for a large audience.

comment by cousin_it · 2016-12-19T10:39:53.138Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

A few days ago I had a crazy idea that counting numbers (first, second, etc) should start with zeroth instead of first. Not only would that help with teaching programming, but also many real world confusions and off-by-one errors would go away. Compare this:

The first year of the third millennium begins at 2001/01/01 00:00:00

to this:

The zeroth year of the 2nd millennium begins at 2000/00/00 00:00:00

Of course that would never happen, but as a thought experiment, I rest my case :-)

comment by Wei_Dai · 2016-12-19T19:37:27.791Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

With this change, you could no longer say "now that we've found the fourth object, we finally have four objects". You'd have to remember to say "now that we've found the third object, we finally have four objects" which seems to be a new opportunity to make off-by-one error. It's not clear to me that you'd be fixing more errors than you're introducing. I echo WhySpace's request for more examples of things you're trying to fix with this change.

comment by Pfft · 2016-12-20T17:26:38.290Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, there will always be some off-by-one errors, so the best we can hope for is to pick the convention that creates less of them. That said, the fact that most programming languages choose the zero-based convention seems to suggest that that's the best one.

There's also the revealed word of our prophet Dijkstra: EWD83 - Why numbering should start at zero.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-20T17:37:19.915Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That said, the fact that most programming languages choose the zero-based convention seems to suggest that that's the best one.

The fact that humans count "one, two, three..." and not "zero, one, two..." does suggest that there is a best one and it's not zero-based.

comment by cousin_it · 2016-12-20T10:02:26.403Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Replied to WhySpace, curious what you think.

comment by gjm · 2016-12-19T11:38:37.966Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

A friend of mine at university made the following observations about this.

  • The word "first" has no connection with the number 1; it's originally the same word as "foremost". So "first" should be the ordinal corresponding to 0.
  • The word "second" has no connection with the number 2; it's from the Latin secundus meaning "following". So "second" should be the ordinal corresponding to 1.
  • But "third" and later ordinals are actually derived from the cardinates "three" and up.
  • So we have a gap at 2 which needs a new ordinal. He proposed "twifth". So: first, second, twifth, third, fourth, etc.
comment by cousin_it · 2016-12-19T13:40:47.728Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, that's a great upgrade to my idea. Using "twenty-second" for the ordinal following twentieth makes a lot of sense.

comment by gjm · 2016-12-20T01:31:34.825Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sarcasm is difficult to assess in online discussions, so I hope you will forgive me if I paraphrase what I think you're actually saying as follows: "That's a bloody stupid idea, because if you say 0->first, 1->second then you also need to say 21->twenty-second and that would be incredibly confusing and annoying, so if we switched to zero-based ordinals we definitely should not do that."

(I'm only ~95% sure you don't mean it seriously.)

I do not think that counting "first, second, twifth, third, ..." implies also counting "..., nineteenth, twentieth, twenty-second, ..." or "..., nineteenth, twenty-first, twenty-second, ..."; one may reasonably be moved more strongly by etymology in some cases than in others. I think we are all very much used to using "first" for the, er, initial item in an enumeration and "second" for the one after it, which is the real reason why the etymological argument has what force it does; the strength of association between ordinal number and position decreases as one moves further down the list, and is entirely gone by the time we're into the twenties, and analogy is powerful but not that powerful.

I am not particularly endorsing my friend's proposal, in any case. I'm ambivalent about its actual merits, and in any case I'm not actually going to start numbering ordinals from zero outside mathematics and programming. Mostly, I think it's amusing.

... But if I were persuaded, it would probably be because by some means currently inconceivable to me the whole anglophone world had been persuaded to rethink its numerical terminology. In that case, I suppose it would be worth considering redefining the "Xty-second" words for consistency.

comment by komponisto · 2016-12-20T02:40:46.045Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

(I'm only ~95% sure you don't mean it seriously.)

I think that's way overconfident. I think the context implies at most a 50% chance of sarcasm.

(Sarcasm, that is, relative to the first comment -- I'm suggesting, in other words, that cousin_it's degree of seriousness did not change much between the two comments.)

comment by gjm · 2016-12-20T16:50:15.647Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Evidently you were right. Have an upvote.

comment by cousin_it · 2016-12-20T08:42:57.780Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

No, I was completely serious and I really like your friend's idea. Sorry if that came across as sarcasm.

As for twentieth vs twenty-first, I think it's better to keep twentieth, unless you also change the cardinal twenty to twenty-zero, which doesn't seem useful. So nineteenth, twentieth, twenty-second, twenty-twifth, etc.

comment by gjm · 2016-12-20T16:51:09.592Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My apologies for the misunderstanding. I agree that (conditional on doing all this stuff) you wouldn't want "twenty-first" corresponding to 20 even if you had "twenty-second" corresponding to 21.

comment by WhySpace_duplicate0.9261692129075527 · 2016-12-19T19:18:26.668Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

off-by-one errors would go away.

I always have to consciously adjust for off-by-one errors, so this sounded appealing at first. (In the same way that Tau is appealing.)

However, after a bit of thought, I'm unable to come up with an example where this would help. Usually, the issue is that the 7th thru 10th seats aren't actually 10-7=3 seats, but 4 seats. (the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th seats).

Calling them the 6th thru 9th seats doesn't solve this. Can someone give an example of what it does solve, outside of timekeeping? (i.e., anything that counting time in beats wouldn't solve?)

comment by cousin_it · 2016-12-19T21:14:17.918Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Some inconsistencies with one-based counting:

  • The first ten things have one-digit numbers, except the last one which has a two-digit number.

  • The second ten things have numbers starting with 1, except the last one which starts with 2.

  • The first thing in the first ten things has number 01, so "first" means simultaneously 0 and 1.

All of those go away with zero-based counting.

Also zero-based counting has many benefits for programming:

  • The first memory address is all zeroes, not 00000001.

  • The first grid cell originates at (0, 0), not (1, 1).

  • The idioms a[i / n], a[i % n], a[i * n + j] don't work as well with one-based counting.

I think the underlying reason for all of those is the way modular arithmetic works. If a and b are positive integers, then the possible results of both a / b (integer division) and a % b (modulus) range from 0 rather than 1. Since digits in a number, indices in a sequence, etc. are often defined by these operations, zero-based counting feels more natural.

As to your problem, it can be solved by consistently using half-open ranges, which is another good idea that works well with mine :-)

comment by bogus · 2016-12-19T21:09:02.350Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Usually, the issue is that the 7th thru 10th seats aren't actually 10-7=3 seats, but 4 seats. (the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th seats).

Of course they're three seats. "10th" is not a seat, it's a fencepost! If you want "the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th seats" you should say 7th thru 11th.

comment by komponisto · 2016-12-21T16:30:26.660Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If you want "the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th seats" you should say 7th thru 11th

You should say "7th to 11th"; "thru" (i.e. "through") specifically implies inclusion of the right endpoint.

(Although unfortunately, "to" doesn't likewise specifically imply exclusion.)

comment by cousin_it · 2016-12-19T20:51:31.764Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The main examples to me are timekeeping, modular arithmetic, and memory addressing. The first moment of time, the first modulus and the first memory address are all 0. It seems harder to come up with natural examples where the first something is 1.

Your problem would be solved by using half-open ranges everywhere, which is another good idea that works well with mine.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2016-12-19T23:48:42.044Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

An interesting demonstration of the arbitrariness of ordinal numbers is that Romans didn't count like we do. They counted sheep like us, but they counted days differently. Our modern calendar goes from the year -1 to the year +1 and you seem to propose going from -0 to +0. But the Roman calendar went from the day -2 to the day +1. Similarly, when the Greeks told them to put in a leap day "every fourth year" they put one in every third year.

comment by WalterL · 2016-12-19T15:01:42.968Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Like you said, would never happen, but you aren't wrong that it'd be better.

Most stuff that a person thinks up is better than the stuff that just kind of develops from people bumping into each other, the hard part is getting everyone to agree to change over.

comment by Error · 2016-12-19T17:49:53.586Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

How do you deal with noticing you've been mindkilled?

I recently did something I regret, and on reflection I note that the impetus was probably anti-Purple sentiment.

(ironically, I managed to simultaneously demonstrate some epic hypocrisy; I was inveighing against mindkilling anti-Orange sentiment at the time)

This bothers me. I've done what I can to repair the error, but it still bothers me. I assume it's not an uncommon experience, though. Thoughts?

comment by cousin_it · 2016-12-19T17:59:04.880Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I guess you just kind of learn by experience when to not trust yourself. For example, I avoid writing late at night, because I know it usually comes out too emotional, even though I don't notice it at the time. For me it works better to come up with cool ideas at night and then write them up in the morning. Also when drawing I pay extra attention to symmetry, because I know that I'm a bit blind to symmetry flaws in my own drawings. Maybe something similar could work for politics.

comment by Viliam · 2016-12-21T16:25:23.519Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

How do you deal with noticing you've been mindkilled?

When I realize that my emotions are about whether I am winning or losing a debate, as opposed to... uhm... the feeling of exploration. When it becomes about the social feedback (looking at other people instead of looking at the territory), instead of exploring various possible paths. When it seems like the multiple possible paths are not even there.

Worst (and also the typical) case is that I notice this only afterwards, when the debate is over. Best case is that I notice it in the middle of a (typically online) debate, and then I lift my fingers from the keyboard and take a short walk (often taking some water to drink). Sometimes I just erase the unfinished comment, and close the browser tab -- and this is sometimes more difficult than it should be.

Afterwards, I try to (1) calm down, then (2) think about what I should have said instead, and (3) find someone rational and ask them "at this moment my opinion on the topic is X, does it seem like a sane opinion to you?". The answer is often "approximately yes, but I would also add Y and Z", then I think about it, and maybe update somewhat.

Note that I don't try to get necessarily to a perfect agreement with the other rational person, more like to remain in -- what would be a wannabe-rationalist's equivalent of "Overton window"? -- something like "you may seem a bit miscalibrated to me, but not in a way/degree that makes me suspect your sanity" or "we have approximately the same model of the world, just with more emphasis on different parts".

My private opinion is usually something that all political groups would consider a heresy, and it usually admits that each of them has a point about something but blows it out of proportions. That doesn't mean that I pretend to be wise and neutral; I may agree with one side on 90% and other side on 10%; or it's not even about percents, but more like "they are right about this specific detail, they just put it into completely wrong context and thus draw completely wrong conclusions" or "these are doing it mostly right, but then suddenly here they have a huge blind spot and go batshit crazy when anyone touches it, what a pity".

It seems to me that a good thing against mindkilling is to remind yourself, whenever people discuss some group, that the group consists of multiple individuals, each of them different than the others. And that any statement someone says is possibly true about some members, and false about some members. Not as a dogmatic conclusion, but more like a reasonable "null hypothesis".

comment by MrMind · 2016-12-20T08:18:22.316Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well how do you deal with noticing some other error or that you've fallen prey to some other bias? What is different in 'tribalism' that makes it so distressing?

comment by NatashaRostova · 2016-12-20T01:10:26.264Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'll half-answer this, since it's sort of a tangent, but the metric I prefer to use is my variation of feeling over time. I don't know if other people are like this (probably), but my mood/emotion impacts my view on politics/policy.

Sometimes when I feel ill or in a bad mood some political event of class A will make me upset and convinced everything will turn out poorly. After I lift weights when I'm on my (perceived) good feeling Testosterone hormones, I feel confident that political event of class A won't be a big deal, and I'm confident in my ability to persevere. Usually I take this variance in my prediction of the future as evidence I'm being mind-killed.

Another strategy, if reading one or two articles on a topic you already know a fair amount on makes you feel strong emotions and strongly change your prediction of the future, you might be mind-killed.

A final strategy I tried was subscribing to different political meme pages on FB (libertarian, Ann Coulter-ish, Alt-right, progressive), and I'd notice how I sometimes would slowly change my view based on which ones I was looking at. I know admitting to subconsciously changing political views based on political memes is about as embarrassing as saying you went and bought a Taco Bell meal because of a Taco Bell commercial -- but as far as I can tell we are very perceptible to this stuff, even the stupidest memes. (Sometimes even if I hate them, I start substituting them deep in my mind for the 'other sides' actual argument).

Anyway, those are a few of my tactics.

comment by scarcegreengrass · 2016-12-23T19:26:51.437Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Does arbital.com have an RSS feed?

Does arbital.com have a place to ask meta questions like these?

comment by ete · 2016-12-23T23:52:56.429Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

RSS feed: Not yet. Will add a +1 to that bug.

Arbital Slack is probably the best place currently.

comment by MrMind · 2016-12-23T10:18:49.858Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I won't be able to create a new open thread on Monday 26th... some early bird needs to volunteer. Thanks!

comment by Elo · 2016-12-22T07:28:20.124Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Looking for proof readers for my next Rat/LW draft post (and generally more comments on drafts before I publish). Please reply here or PM me if you are interested in volunteering.

Edit - willing to swap draft reading capabilities.

comment by Viliam · 2016-12-22T09:43:13.598Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Another wish for the "LW 2.0": automating this.

Something like: a user can have a list of "reviewers", which are simply the people who can see the articles in the draft section. Everything else can be communicated using the existing channels (requests for reviewers, requests to become a reviewer, announcements that there is a new content to be reviewed, feedback). This actually could be relatively simple.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-12-22T14:51:24.196Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I am willing.

comment by Error · 2016-12-21T19:06:43.105Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Are there recordings or streams of the LW secular solstice celebrations? I've wanted to go, but there are none in my area.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2016-12-20T17:15:18.805Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Is a text for the Solstice Celebration available?

comment by Vaniver · 2016-12-20T18:44:44.119Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know if Raymond Arnold did another print run of his Solstice Eve book this year, but he may still have some from previous years. If you get a copy of the Bay Area solstice program from Brent Dill or Marie La that should get you almost everything, because it's mostly 'old' songs and readings. (Brienne and Kenzi gave speeches that were original, but I think that was it?)

comment by strangepoop · 2016-12-19T16:24:43.194Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Can someone recommend a book on Economics basics with the same level of force and completion as a Jaynes/Drescher/Pearl/Nozick/Dawes?

I mean, with powerful freeing laws (I feel like this is exactly analogous to EY's requiredism in the free will sequence) that can let my imagination wander without fear of fooling myself too much.

I realize that this may be asking for too much given the nature of the field, but anything that is close will do.

comment by MrMind · 2016-12-20T07:58:06.841Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think that "Introduction to economic analysis" by Preston McAfee fits the bill.
I love that book: it's ideology free and treats economics as a branch of mathematics, constructing a model of the market and then analyzing various extensions to said model. It's only limit is that it's mostly about microeconomics, but in that area is one of the best.
Oh, and it's available for free.

comment by bogus · 2016-12-20T11:15:38.488Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think that "Introduction to economic analysis" by Preston McAfee fits the bill.

A solid choice after the David Friedman text. I didn't mention it earlier because it strikes me as a bit too mathy and theoretical for the novice reader. D. Friedman's Price Theory just does a better job as an intro text IMHO, and in fact the author also wrote a very good pop-sci book (Hidden Order).

comment by bogus · 2016-12-19T21:05:42.124Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Can someone recommend a book on Economics basics with the same level of force and completion as a Jaynes/Drescher/Pearl/Nozick/Dawes?

I mean, with powerful freeing laws (I feel like this is exactly analogous to EY's requiredism in the free will sequence) that can let my imagination wander without fear of fooling myself too much.

David Friedman's book on Price Theory is just what you're looking for. Assuming you want an intro text that's not too formal and math-based (similar to Jaynes/Drescher/etc.).

comment by username2 · 2016-12-29T08:20:27.748Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I like Sam Bowles's Microeconomics: Behavior, Institutions, and Evolution for introducing some of the behavioral econ and evolutionary game theory material. It isn't good as a first text, but would go well with either McAfee's or Friedman's text. The exposition is great although you should look elsewhere for exercises.

comment by username2 · 2016-12-20T02:08:44.424Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Jaynes/Drescher/Pearl/Nozick/Dawes

I don't want to sound dumb, but who are these people and what did they write?

comment by MrMind · 2016-12-20T07:53:58.026Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Jaynes wrote "Probability theory - the logic of science" - THE text for objective Bayesianism (and an inspiration to the early Yudkowsky)

Drescher wrote "Good and real", a compendium of philosophy that is basically LessWrong in a book.

Pearl wrote "Causality", an influential text for Timeless Decision Theory, about how to construct causal models with Bayesian networks.

Nozick and Dawes are outside of my knowledge though, I don't think they are as 'canon' as the first three.

comment by Bot_duplicate0.2909851821605116 · 2016-12-29T00:47:51.904Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I have been looking for articles discussing to what extent terminal values change. This question is important, as changing terminal values are generally very harmful to their accomplishment, as explained here for AI under "Basic AI drives".

This article says that some values change. This paper suggests that there are core values that are unlikely to change. However, neither of these articles say whether the values they examined are terminal values, and I'm not knowledgeable enough about psychology to determine if they are.

Any relevant thoughts or links would be appreciated.

comment by [deleted] · 2016-12-25T10:32:38.307Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Hi, this is Romashka. I would like admins to delete my account (can't find the button myself) for personal reasons (basically, I'm going to meet some new people and feel uncomfortable about the personal details I have shared here.) If anybody needs to find me, Vaniver and raydora have my e-mail. I'll probably re-register someday.

Thank you all very much for being here,

Mary

comment by James_Blair · 2016-12-25T22:06:16.606Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Delete button

comment by [deleted] · 2016-12-26T06:06:19.133Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks!

comment by CellBioGuy · 2016-12-23T07:37:32.165Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Long-form astrobiology posts likely on hold until April due to the constant rolling crisis that is finishing up my PhD and writing my thesis (I have been attached to the microscope or bioreactor for ~50 of the last 72 hours).

May bang out one or two quick thinly sourced things when the itch hits. In the mean time, have a fun paper from Nature Communications arguing that some ancient (~3.6 billion year old) Martian hydrothermal deposits examined by the Spirit rover are not inconsistent with an origin via microbial action in a hot spring environment and are similar in coarse structure to modern microbial structures from such settings in the Atacama desert. They could not be examined in situ by the instruments at hand in enough detail to say more than that. The authors cover themselves by concluding "Although fully abiotic processes are not ruled out for the Martian silica structures, they satisfy an a priori definition of potential biosignatures".

http://www.space.com/34795-mars-life-nasa-spirit-rover.html

http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms13554

comment by siIver · 2016-12-22T17:16:06.993Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Does anyone by chance know a good German charity that deals with AI Safety, or if not X-Risks, or if not climate change? I need one to back with amazon smile-- for international use I was able to choose Miri, which is great, but for German use apparently you have to choose a German charity.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-12-24T10:54:07.655Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think there's a German AI Safety charity at the moment but that might change in the near future given the current efforts to get an AI Safety community in Berlin going.

comment by borismus · 2016-12-20T23:42:03.611Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

(If I had two karma points, I'd start its own thread on the topic, but I'm a lurker and I don't.)

I'm working (on the side) on a website that enables 1-on-1 conversations on a controversial topic, with someone of the opposing view. You are shown a list of topics, and asked what your opinion is on them ("I don't know" is an option). Then you are matched to another party that answered differently. You then start a text-based chat with them. Everything is anonymous (your name and avatar are auto-generated).

I am hoping that this could be a tool to reduce polarization and promote active open mindedness. Here's what I wrote:

"You may not be convinced by their arguments, but hopefully your conversation will lead to a better understanding on both sides. We hope that an interaction with someone with a different viewpoint will lead to reduced animosity toward their whole out-group."

However, as we get closer to launch, I'm trying to think of how to attract the right kind of users. Here's a list of who might be attracted to such a site:

  1. Those that hold a strong point of view and want to convince others.
  2. Those that are actively open minded and want to learn about various view points.
  3. Those that just want to debate for debate's sake.

I'm having a hard time trying to figure out how to spin the project so that it's attractive for people that aren't normally into rationalism, self-doubt, CMV/etc. My friend suggested that I ask the rationalist community for their ideas, and here we are. Any thoughts here?