Open thread, July 23-29, 2013

post by David_Gerard · 2013-07-22T10:34:12.216Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 200 comments

If it's worth saying, but not worth its own post (even in Discussion), then it goes here.


I think running this for a week worked quite well. Weekly, then? Someone has to remember each Monday.

200 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by MarkL · 2013-07-22T17:23:34.739Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW · GW

I started a meditation blog from a rationalist perspective. 10 posts so far.

http://meditationstuff.wordpress.com/

comment by Risto_Saarelma · 2013-07-23T09:12:07.195Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Really interesting looking stuff here. Thanks for this.

comment by MarkL · 2013-07-23T15:42:55.020Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It's my pleasure. Feedback greatly appreciated--I have over a decade of thinking and doing on this; Help me expand on the parts that people most care about.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-24T06:37:29.099Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

(For the ten or fifteen people who care about Pearl's do-calculus):

There's a new paper on arXiv (54 pages) claiming a graphical method for determining when the effect of an intervention (on a single variable) is or is not identifiable. I've not read the paper in detail, but it is fairly readable (relative to the typical research paper).

Reading that paper led me to discover that the author has written an introduction to the do-calculus (16 pages) which is also quite readable. Lots of nice pictures for wrapping one's head around d-separation and the like.

comment by lukeprog · 2013-07-25T21:04:07.943Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

PROJECT: Inexpensive dry-erase surfaces.

Experiments:

  1. Normal wall-hung whiteboards are the usual solution, but they are usually very expensive per square foot. Leverage Research found some used ones (with minor scuffs) for about $3/sqft at a nearby used office supplies liquidator, but if bought new they're more like $5.50/sqft. Note: paint thinner removes old ghosting from used boards.

  2. "Whiteboard paint" like IdeaPaint lets you turn a whole wall into a whiteboard for about $4.50/sqft, but lots of reviews say it doesn't erase that well, and has other problems. Also, an organization I'm close to tried this and confirmed that IdeaPaint was terrible.

  3. The best-quality (not most popular) "peel and stick" whiteboard appears to be Wall Pops. This has worked surprisingly well during its first week, but I don't know whether it will cling to the wall forever, and one thing to note is that it's so thin that it pics up the texture of the wall you stick it to. You can peel it off the wall and move it to a new location quite easily; it sticks by static. One particular black dry-erase marker didn't dry-erase from this surface hardly at all, for some reason.

  4. Shower board (aka "panel board") from Home Depot (or similar) is the classic solution for cheap whiteboard. Almost every "DIY cheap whiteboard!" blog post out there is about using shower board. But in our test, there was significant ghosting & smearing when erasing stuff more than 4 days old, or when erasing stuff written in the past 60 seconds.

  5. MagnaTag and MyWhiteBoards have solutions for whole-wall whiteboard panels, but they're not particularly cheap.

  6. Our office has lots of large windows, and dry erase markers work just fine on glass, but you really need a white background so that what you have enough contrast to read what you've written. We're looking at drop-down white backgrounds (like you use with a projector) that we might mount in our large wall-windows, but we haven't tested that yet. We also haven't yet tested the liquid chalk markers that are supposedly more readable on glass than normal dry-erase markers.

  7. Clear ones like at Clear Future are classy, but they're not particularly cheap, and you have to solve the same contrast problem as with the windows in (6).

  8. At the July research workshop we resorted to using large Post-It papers rather than whiteboard; this worked okay in a pinch but gets clumsy pretty quickly.

comment by Halfwitz · 2013-07-26T01:19:03.933Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I once made a white board out of one of those transparent office chair mats. I just stapled it to my white wall. I never ended up using it extensively, but it worked pretty well. If you want them professional-looking at more cost and slightly more work, consider just painting the back of a piece of plexi glass white, or just the wall behind it. That's how this institution solved the same problem

(Edit: I researched some more and, due to ghosting issues, acrylic glass (or plexiglass) is not an ideal whiteboard material.) You could make 10 giant white boards for ~1000dollars, according to this website. A cheaper, if less stylish option, buy these 4'x4' panels for ~50 each.

If you want to go even more DIY, here's a list of whiteboard materials:

  1. Melamine

  2. Painted steel

  3. Ceramic (glass) fired onto a steel surface in a kiln. The only material which does not ghost if the ink is left on for long periods of time.

  4. PET, Polyethylene terephthalate-on-steel

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whiteboard#Surface_materials.

Melamine seems like the best bet. Look for melamine-laminated plywood, as it will likely be as high-quality as most store-bought boards. Here's the type of thing you'd want, and it's very cheap. But you'd have to find someone willing to sell it in small quantities.

Note, chalk is an option - and a cheap one. This chalkboard contact paper is very cheap and has excellent reviews:http://goo.gl/samVWk What's that you say? You're too cool for chalkboards? I assure you, you're not. If you do decide to buy the chalk paper, remember it must be applied to a smooth surface - one reviewer recommends masonite board. You cannot stick it directly to a wall, unless the wall is abnormally smooth. Same goes for spray-on chalkboard coating - which works very well, too.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-26T05:01:57.092Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Note, chalk is an option - and a cheap one.

I've much wondered why whiteboards became popular. Admittedly chalk can rub off on your clothes, but it doesn't stain anything, and an arbitrary piece of chalk is guaranteed to work with an arbitrary blackboard -- the same can't be said of whatever dry-erase marker you find lying around.

comment by maia · 2013-07-26T12:14:20.295Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Personally, I just find chalk super unpleasant to use. It leaves weird dust on your hands and makes them feel all dry and weird. shudder

I don't know why anyone else likes whiteboards though.

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2013-07-28T04:06:15.809Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I agree, and I also find using a whiteboard really pleasant, especially with a fresh marker.

comment by taygetea · 2013-07-26T06:05:38.769Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The messiness and potential for really unpleasant sounds, in my mind, far outweighs the need for a specific type of dry-erase marker. Though that might be related to how easily sounds can be unpleasant to me in particular.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-26T06:10:44.635Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

the need for a specific type of dry-erase marker

I meant that it's obvious that a given piece of chalk will work, whereas a given dry-erase marker may have dried up without obviously looking like it's dried up.

comment by taygetea · 2013-07-26T06:15:23.106Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I did say it far outweighed it. Even that's less of an inconvenience in my mind, but that's getting to be very much a personal preference thing.

comment by lukeprog · 2013-07-26T13:01:35.632Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks!

I am definitely worried about the reflection issues with clear plexi glass, especially since we often take photos of our whiteboards. Maybe the white plexi glass you linked to would work, though. I might try that.

The melamine-coated plywood sounds promising! I'll look into that.

Chalk is messy, and our people tend to eat snacks while doing math.

comment by Halfwitz · 2013-07-26T15:21:08.788Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This guy has tested the ghosting properties of a bunch of different types of plastic, and he made himself a pretty good ghosting-free whiteboard that photographs well out of Polypropylene. He says marks can stay on for weeks and still erase completely.

I've done a bit more googling and I found this link. So it looks like melamine-coated plywood is available at hardware stores. It's considerably more expensive than the first link, but still cheap. And at least the minimum order isn't 100 cubic meters! What you might want to do is bring your dry-erase markers to a warehouse hardware store and test them on the melamine and whatever other materials look promising.

Also I forgot to include this in my last post: I used liquid chalk on glass back when I worked at a restaurant. Smiggle is the best brand, and very erasable. Some of the others are hard to erase without window cleaning fluid. I'm not sure if they sell it in the US though.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-07-27T23:08:58.656Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

97x49 for $35 is pretty damn awesome.

comment by Halfwitz · 2013-07-27T23:28:45.239Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

My research OCD has started to kick in again and I've been doing more searches on whiteboards. It seems this ghosting issue is the big problem, and some - though not all - have found it to be a problem on melamine boards. Polypropylene seems like the best bet for a full wall solution. Though for long term heavy use, the ceramic boards are starting to make sense; they last indefinably and have zero ghosting.

Now that I have received my degree in Whiteboard Science from the University of Google, my recommendation for MIRI is this: purchase one or two ceramic whiteboards for heavy daily use and then buy polypropylene (in terms of ghosting, it is almost as good as ceramic) for the remaining walls.

comment by dougclow · 2013-07-29T16:01:35.457Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If you have dry-erase surfaces, I recommend the policy of having only dry-erase markers around - i.e. no permanent markers. That way you make finding a marker to write much easier (you can just grab the nearest marker), and you also drastically reduce the problem of accidental permanent marker on the dry-erase surfaces.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-27T18:27:50.216Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You can build a sexy glass whiteboard from IKEA tabletops. We used these $25.99 table tops at the last startup I was at, mounted on the wall with standard tools:

http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/60221471/

comment by maia · 2013-07-26T12:17:52.201Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I purchased some of these, which you get at about $0.16/sqft:

http://www.amazon.com/National-Brand-Write-On-Static/dp/B0000E2RGH/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1374840990&sr=8-8&keywords=white+board+paper

Unfortunately they also suffer from the problems with not erasing things after a while, although you can still clean them with water after that and it works. Also, they're very thin and tear easily.

EDIT: Also, this thread is making me think that perhaps searching for "clear plastic" on Amazon and buying one of the things that come up to put it on a white surface could also work. Like this. People replace glass with this material to make greenhouses; maybe it would be a good glass replacement for whiteboards, too...

comment by Zaine · 2013-07-25T22:21:08.110Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

For 6: if sunlight positively affects workplace productivity, drop down white backgrounds on windows would have adverse consequences.

Balancing suggestion: install a window on a wall.

comment by lukeprog · 2013-07-25T23:32:11.201Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That solution only works for inner windows, anyway, since we can't pull down things on the outside of our building on the third floor.

comment by Benya (Benja) · 2013-07-26T00:38:39.038Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There are desks behind the inner windows, though, which get what sunlight they get by way of the inner windows. But I would expect the problem to be tolerable if the backgrounds get pulled back up after use...

comment by Zaine · 2013-07-26T00:02:52.241Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, I completely forgot inner windows exist! Sorry about that.

comment by Halfwitz · 2013-12-30T00:04:40.783Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I was reading my old posts and I saw these old comments to you. This got me curious: what was your eventual solution?

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2013-09-11T09:37:11.111Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Replying to this late, but: strongly consider spending the cash on lots of real whiteboards. I have never found an alternative that is anything close to as good.

comment by maia · 2013-07-29T13:38:25.409Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Another useful link: This guy did a comprehensive review of whiteboard materials which you might find helpful.

comment by Username · 2013-07-27T22:19:14.992Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

At my company we use 'expo neon' dry erase markers on windows and mirrors, and they show up extremely clearly, unlike normal dry erase. Something we have also done is used glass-top conference tables as a writing surface during design meetings, which works very well.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2013-07-23T23:23:53.553Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

A new study shows that a major part of the Flynn effect in the US was due to iodine in salt. The study suggests that around 15 points of the non-normalized IQ gain was due to this.

comment by gwern · 2013-07-24T04:21:22.573Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know about Flynn, but this is in large part not new news: that the early 1920s US iodization led to measurable gains in enlistees for WWII has been in papers floating around for a while now; for example, "The Economic Effects of Micronutrient Deficiency: Evidence from Salt Iodization in the United States", Feyrer et al 2008. "The Impact of Iodine Deficiency Eradication on Schooling: Evidence from the Introduction of Iodized Salt in Switzerland", Politi 2010, is also cool. Also maybe even voting patterns.

(Citations borrowed from my iodine page.)

comment by satt · 2013-07-25T02:48:34.741Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

that the early 1920s US iodization led to measurable gains in enlistees for WWII has been in papers floating around for a while now; for example, "The Economic Effects of Micronutrient Deficiency: Evidence from Salt Iodization in the United States", Feyrer et al 2008.

I think the paper JoshuaZ's linked is a completed version of that 2008 draft: the authors are the same and the title & abstract are similar.

Also maybe even voting patterns.

That link doesn't work for me.

comment by gwern · 2013-07-27T18:33:43.151Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe. I haven't read it yet but I copied it over to http://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/182368464/2013-feyrer.pdf

That link doesn't work for me.

Oh, sorry. They redirected the page instead of using a 404 error, grr, no wonder my linkchecker runs didn't pick it up. This link should work: http://web.archive.org/web/20120926070411/http://www.uncg.edu/bae/econ/seminars/2012/Bednar.pdf

comment by satt · 2013-07-27T18:54:24.758Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That's helpful, thanks!

comment by satt · 2013-07-24T03:00:23.623Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I've only read the abstract as the full PDF seems to be paywalled, but the 15 points of gain seem to be limited to "the one quarter of the population most deficient in iodine". The abstract says the estimated gain for the population as a whole was "roughly one decade's worth of the upwardtrend [sic] in IQ in the US", which is 3 points (from memory).

comment by JoshuaZ · 2013-07-24T03:13:31.931Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, thanks for pointing that out. I was aware of that but apparently phrased it really badly in my summary.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-22T19:35:20.014Z · score: 12 (18 votes) · LW · GW

Ranty complaint: Someone always downvotes ONLY my meetup posts with no explanation. (I do not flood the list. My last post included topics for the next NINE meetups). I think whoever-they-are is an asshole.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-07-23T05:06:49.227Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Sites with votes always have a tiny proportion of people who engage in really really weird voting behavior IME.

comment by Oscar_Cunningham · 2013-07-23T01:53:48.365Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps they long-ago stated that they though meetup threads were a bad idea, and they've been downvoting since?

comment by RolfAndreassen · 2013-07-23T03:20:53.084Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

If so, they're being inconsistent about it; I just checked my own meetup thread from a few days ago, and it has no downvotes.

comment by Adele_L · 2013-07-24T15:34:48.463Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Seems likely that it could be someone who had a bad experience at one of these meetups, and is trying to punish you for it.

comment by Suryc11 · 2013-07-23T05:07:57.409Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I posted this comment on how to optimally (in the vast majority of situations) handle a break-up.

Since the parent thread was massively downvoted and my comment itself received relatively positive feedback, I thought it may be beneficial to post a link to the comment here.

Also, I'd like to note that LW massively helped me in getting through my break-up. It seems like a sort of trivial/silly situation to talk about on LW, but (at least for me previously) it's tough to understand just how painful heartbreak can be until it actually happens to you. If it were not for concepts like the Outside View or distinguishing between System 1 and System 2 thinking, I'd be in a worse place than I currently am; so, thank you.

comment by Frood · 2013-07-23T16:59:31.479Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Upvoted the original comment. Is your goal to do a self-hack to eliminate the (now) troublesome feelings towards the SO or to simply 'move on' while maintaining some of those feelings?

comment by Suryc11 · 2013-07-23T18:30:24.051Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks! I actually hadn't thought of it in terms of self-hacking, but that's a really appropriate term for what I've been trying to do.

And I suppose the former. I don't think it's quite possible to fully move on unless I really have no feelings (either positive or negative) about my ex. I drew an analogy between breaking up and withdrawal, and I think it sort of holds here; if there are still feelings lingering, it makes it so much harder to resist the temptation to "relapse," in a similar way to how it's harder to prevent relapsing if one hasn't addressed the underlying triggers/causes of an addiction.

I think part of the reason why No Contact is so effective is that it removes all temptations, in the same way that it's much easier to stay committed to a diet if the foods you're trying to avoid simply aren't in your presence (related to lukeprog's Good News of Situationist Psychology post).

Another intriguing quasi-LW-related aspect of No Contact is that it can be likened to spending a chunk of willpower all at once in the beginning so that you later won't have to expend (more, if aggregated) willpower constantly to, say, not check up on what your ex is up to. It's an investment for your future self.

comment by cousin_it · 2013-07-24T12:43:17.193Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah. I think of it as No Attention rather than No Contact. Out of sight out of mind works.

comment by Suryc11 · 2013-07-24T13:32:23.145Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Right. I should have specified that No Contact, the way I'm using it and have seen it used, doesn't only involve no contact; like you said, No Attention may be a better way to put it.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-07-22T17:23:05.670Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Death Sucks 99

Say you are old, beloved, ninety-nine,
Descendants, partners, and the best of friends,
Garlanded with achievement, all that's fine,
Along comes death and there the whole thing ends...

Now you are gone and everyone will grieve,
And that still sucks like granite through a straw!
It was your very life you had to leave,
If it was good, the better cause for more.

It makes me hopping mad it's so unfair
That everybody has to die and go.
We build a future that we will not share,
Work for a world that we can never know.

Enjoy life while you can, and share the feast.
We all should live a thousand years at least.

--Jo Walton

comment by bramflakes · 2013-07-22T22:24:06.394Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

My Granddad died today at the tragically young age of 72. This is basically what I was thinking but I couldn't articulate it to anyone.

Thanks.

comment by DanielLC · 2013-07-22T18:19:03.834Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Technically it's not unfair. It's equally horrible for everyone.

Although the fact that we last different amounts of time is unfair.

Shouldn't this go on Rationalist Quotes?

comment by Dorikka · 2013-07-23T01:53:40.665Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I would sorta like Rationalist Quotes to be distinguished from Transhumanist Quotes, but probably so.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-26T20:32:20.364Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

(I downvote Rationality Quotes that amount to little more than “boo death!” when I see them.)

comment by mare-of-night · 2013-07-27T12:41:20.538Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Should we make a Transhumanist Quotes thread to encourage that?

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2013-07-28T04:00:39.094Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The song "I Hate You" by Kendrick Lamar is really good and has a similar message. (The title refers to Death). I was surprised to hear such a Yudkowskian view on death coming from a rapper who has Christian themes in his work.

"Let me start off this letter saying I don't like you, scared of you but I will fight you."

comment by Wei_Dai · 2013-07-29T04:30:52.388Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I found an early description of b-money in parable form, which was sent on Jan 16, 1998 to a private mailing list (libtech) run by Nick Szabo. It may still be useful for getting an intuitive understanding of the basic principles behind b-money as well as Bitcoin (to some extent), so it seems a shame to just let it sit in my email archives.

Imagine that you are the first person to contact a previously isolated civilization. You discover that its people have not yet invented either commodity money or fiat money. Yet they do not use direct barter either. Instead everyone simply "remembers" how much money everyone else has. When Alice needs to pay Bob for services rendered, she simply shouts out "I give x dollars to Bob." and everyone else mentally subtracts x dollars from the amount of money Alice has and adds x dollars to the amount of money Bob has. (Everyone in this civilization is always within shouting distance of everyone else.) It is not possible for someone to have negative money, because everyone can easily alter their voice and appearance and create a new identity.

You find that disputes are resolved without any institutions vested with special powers. If Alice has a complaint about Bob, they each shout out their arguments. Everyone else makes a decision about what awards, if any, Bob should pay to Alice. Then they mentally subtract this from the amount of money Bob has and add it to the amount of money Alice has.

In this civilization, money is created around a fire where everyone gathers in the evenings. Anyone who wishes to create money brings some valuable good, which must be traded in a competitive market, and throws it into the fire. Others mentally add the market value of the good to the amount of money that person has.

As you leave this charming civilization, you realize that you forgot to ask some important questions. How do these people decide when to create new money? Do prices generally inflate or deflate? Would there be large scale fraud by established businesses if/when prices rise sharply and suddenly? What would happen if the civilization starts having more regular contact with the outside world? You hope your economist friends can help you out...

comment by gwern · 2013-07-29T22:08:23.071Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This was your message to his list?

comment by Wei_Dai · 2013-07-29T23:19:20.943Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I sent a bunch of messages to the list before and after, but yes that was the main one about b-money. BTW, for anyone interested in the history, looking back at the responses in my libtech archive (which I was not supposed to keep, according to the list rules) it seems clear that Nick already had similar ideas when I posted that message and was trying to solve the "Byzantine Agreement" problem in a practical way, whereas I for some reason confidently stated "an ideal broadcast channel [...] can be implemented with existing cryptographic tools", which probably explains why I made my ideas public first and ended up getting a large share of the credit later. There's probably a rationality lesson here, but I'm not sure what.

comment by gwern · 2013-07-30T01:51:20.385Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting. The story of Bitcoin is increasingly sounding like that parable about the blind men & the elephant plus a cautionary story about priority. :)

comment by gwern · 2013-07-27T21:27:32.866Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I took an hour to draw up a list of personal bets I've made or tried to make with people. The list turns out to be surprisingly short and have resulted in next to no bets, implying that for all that people talk about bets, actual bets are far rarer than I had realized. This is a bit of a pity - so much cheap talk...

comment by Matt_Simpson · 2013-07-28T20:10:37.933Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Well based on your track record there, it seems like a prudent move to avoid making bets with you ;)

(Though I agree with you and should be shaming them rather than defending them.)

comment by PedroCarvalho · 2013-07-24T06:05:39.104Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

So, I just moved to Europe for two years and finally got finantial independence from my (somewhat) Catholic parents and I want to sign up for cryonics. Is there international coverage? Is there anything I should be aware of? Are there any steps I should be taking?

comment by shminux · 2013-07-26T21:07:22.574Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Alcor UK exists. Also, do you count Moscow, Russia as Europe? Then consider KrioRus.

comment by Ben_LandauTaylor · 2013-07-26T20:54:28.637Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It looks like there are no non-US-based providers. Alcor has some information, but the situation doesn't look good. You won't get treated by a perfusion team or anything. Instead they'll try to convince local coroners to literally just freeze you with dry ice and ship you to Arizona for storage, which is incredibly destructive for the obvious reasons, and that's if the locals even cooperate. Not worth the money, IMO. (I say that as a current Alcor member living in the US.) I haven't checked CI's practices, but they're unlikely to be better.

Steps you can take:

—Sign up with a US-based provider

—If you become terminally ill, move to the US

—Don't die suddenly

comment by PedroCarvalho · 2013-07-27T06:12:44.628Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I'm in France (Palaiseau, near Paris) right now, and I'm going to spend two years here. Then I'm returning to Brazil, which makes my prospects even worse? x.x'' From what I've read of CI it's pretty much the same, spending money on having a coroner put you in a bag of ice and ship you to the US... --- Yes I expect I'll do that. --- The US government would have to be a lot more receptive of Brazilians for a terminally ill one to simply be able to move and die there (I'm not sure how much their foreign policies have been changing these past few years, though...) --- I'm pretty sure if anyone could actually predict and prevent that most people wouldn't sign up with any cryonics institute until right before they got terminally ill or very old and cryonics wouldn't be there.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-27T20:37:15.013Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm pretty sure if anyone could actually predict and prevent that most people wouldn't sign up with any cryonics institute until right before they got terminally ill or very old and cryonics wouldn't be there.

Fact is, the more likely you are to die soon the more your life insurance will cost.

comment by pragmatist · 2013-07-23T15:07:28.651Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Does anyone know of an easily-accessible compendium of language-independent programming exercises that are geared towards quickly determining one's mastery of a programming language, rather than testing general programming skill? The ideal here is a set of problems that aren't super challenging, so they can be finished quickly, but that require (or at least reward) knowledge of a wide range of syntactic constructs available in a typical modern high-level language. Bonus points for graded sets of problems that start out testing the more fundamental constructs but then gradually move on to testing knowledge of quite high level operations (like, say, regular expression matching).

Of course, I realize that I could probably just take the problems from, say, a Python textbook, and de-Pythonize them, but I'm wondering if there is a ready-made set of problems of this sort available on the internet.

comment by Slackson · 2013-07-23T02:47:57.619Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Foc.us is a commercially available tDCS system marketed to gamers, and at a price that is almost affordable, depending on the actual benefits of the device. Does anyone here have experience, expertise, our any other insight with regards to this?

comment by gwern · 2013-07-23T02:49:51.821Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

tDCS has come up on LW several times before, and previous comments may help: http://google.com/search?num=100&q=tDCS+site:lesswrong.com

comment by Halfwitz · 2013-07-27T06:21:10.033Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Hey gwern, how much many bitcoins would it cost to commission - for public consumption - a research essay on either tDCS or Dihexa and related compounds?

comment by Ambition · 2013-07-27T04:25:30.356Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

On August 4th, I will be turning 15, and I've decided to initiate a very large project, which for lack of a better name, I will dub "The Plan".

I intend to spend the days leading up to my 15th Birthday by taking information from an enormous variety of sources on what life improvements can be made, what skills are most useful, and what areas should be studied, to reach the ultimate goal of gaining as much benefit possible, as quick as possible.

There's tons of things to consider, even assuming I have a tireless work ethic and can implement this immediately. What types of utility increases are there? Which are more important? Should all time be devoted to the quickest increases in utility, or should energy be set aside for starting some long term goals early? Does it make more sense to improve yourself, so you can make more money? Or to make some money, and use it to improve yourself?

Obviously I'm not going to find a perfect answer, and attempting to plan out my whole life is doomed to fail, but I'd at least like to have a better idea of where to go from here. (Besides, I'll still have learned a lots of useful information.)

So, I pose this question to the LessWrong Community:

If you were me, and turning 15, what would you recommend that I do over the next year, to give me the biggest utility bonus the fastest, both in skill and wealth?

Hopefully, even if it proves an impossible question, we'll see some interesting discussion.

comment by PECOS-9 · 2013-07-28T00:06:24.738Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Once a month, set specific goals for that month. Make sure that it's very easy to verify that you achieved the goal ("improve at programming" is not a good goal, "solve every practice problem in the first chapter of SICP" is a good goal. "solve every practice problem in the first chapter of SICP, or spend at least 2 hours thinking about each problem before giving up and looking up a solution" is even better).

After you've decided on your goals for a given month, don't second-guess whether they're actually the best thing you could be doing or whether you're wasting your time -- it's only one month. If it turns out it wasn't the best goal to try, just take note of it and use that knowledge to pick better goals next month. It's more important that you actually follow through than that you follow the optimal path, and if you keep switching goals every week, you're not gonna follow through.

Also, start using either anki or mnemosyne.

comment by Ambition · 2013-07-28T00:18:43.716Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, so the confidence spiral approach? I've been getting that recommendation a lot lately, which is a good sign that it's effective. Anki is another good point too, I've started using it for memorizing the LessWrong Sequences, and intend to use as a resource for school when that starts, or anything in general that I'd like to memorize.

I appreciate your input, I'll see about trying SICP as well.

comment by mare-of-night · 2013-07-27T12:37:28.891Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

One of the things I most often wish I'd done when I was 15 is study programming. I didn't do that, though, because I hadn't known that programming would be my main breadwinning skill. (I wouldn't have done it even if I had known it would be an important skill for me because I hadn't known that I should ask what my future self would want and be strategic, but you're probably well ahead of 15 year old me in that respect if you're here posting this.) So I think one of your first priorities should be to find out what goals to work toward.

What purposes do you instrumentally value wealth and skill for? It matters mainly because that indicates whether they're time-sensitive, how much risk you should accept, and whether the marginal value of more money tapers off once you have "enough" or not. Also think about what other forms of power you might want - would becoming a famous person be useful to you? (It's good that you're focusing on becoming powerful first - that's usually worthwhile even if you aren't quite sure what you want.)

I guess one thing you could do is research what methods you could use to become wealthy, and then what skills you would need and how you would be spending your time if you followed each of those paths. Look at which options you would enjoy or at least tolerate, and would earn enough money at ("enough" might be "as much as possible", depending on what you want money for), and start learning the skills you would need to pursue those. Prefer skills that are useful for many paths, so you'll be more likely to benefit from them even if you change your mind later.

Social skills and rationality are probably also good things to learn young. You can start using them right away, and you're not likely to be taught them later. (If you learn programming and then major in computer science, you'll probably waste some time being taught programming that you already know. I had to do that for HTML/CSS, and it was pretty unpleasant. I'm still glad that I'd learned it early, but not sitting bored in class for four hours a week is preferable when all else is equal.)

For social skills, it might be worth getting a tutor, especially if you're not above the water line. One of the things that I most appreciate having done early is seeing a speech therapist who also helped me with understanding others' nonverbal signals. (I started that during elementary school, though - it may be harder to learn at 15.) That's probably expensive if you can't have it done through your school or have health insurance pay for it, though. The other way to improve social skills is to spend a lot of time around other people, so that you have to practice a lot.

comment by maia · 2013-07-29T13:42:29.514Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you learn programming and then major in computer science, you'll probably waste some time being taught programming that you already know.

At many universities this is not a big deal, because A) they may offer credit by exam for some courses, and B) it usually doesn't inherently affect your grade if you don't show up to class, or work on other projects during class. So if you already know the material for a course, the main cost is probably paying tuition to certify your knowledge. Source: These things are true at my university.

comment by mare-of-night · 2013-07-31T01:05:16.834Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for weighing in. I guess it depends on the school - I actually didn't think to ask about testing out of the course, but my university usually does take attendance in freshman courses, so I couldn't have gotten out of it that way.

comment by Username · 2013-07-27T22:15:28.953Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You'll want to target anything that compounds over time.

Something I believe you should add to the list is to develop the habit of exercise. You will live longer, have more energy day-to-day, and being attractive is one of life's great cheat codes. The reddit fitness community has a great faq on how to get started.

comment by Ambition · 2013-07-28T00:12:45.745Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Excellent point, I'll definitely want to incorporate compounding actions immediately, and as far as exercise goes, I make it a point to do it every day I can, which is most days.

The reason I started was simply because I didn't want to be out of shape, but then I read spark, which makes the case that exercise not only improves the brain, but also increases happiness and productivity.

I'm assuming you came across the same information, one way or another. Thanks for the input.

comment by PECOS-9 · 2013-07-28T18:33:31.959Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Once you've picked some goals, use this technique to improve your chance of achieving them (taken from "59 Seconds"):

Other researchers have developed “super-strength” visualization tools that aim to combine the motivational effects of imagining yourself doing well with the practical benefits associated with thinking about whatever is required to achieve your aim. Much of this research has been conducted by Gabriele Oettingen at the University of Pennsylvania and involves a little bit of Orwellian doublethink.

In 1984, George Orwell introduced the concept of “doublethink,” describing it as simultaneously holding two opposing beliefs in your mind and yet accepting both. In Orwell’s novel, this technique was used by a totalitarian government to continuously rewrite history and thus control the populace. However, recent research has shown that the same type of idea can be used in a more productive way, helping people to achieve their goals and ambitions. Oettingen speculated that one of the most effective states of mind involves people being optimistic about achieving their goal but also realistic about some of the problems that they may encounter. To investigate, she developed a novel procedure that encouraged people to hold both types of thought in mind, and she then carried out a series of studies to assess its effectiveness. The procedure is simple. People are asked to think about something they want to achieve, such as losing weight, learning a new skill, or changing their drinking habits. Next, they are told to spend a few moments fantasizing about reaching the goal and to note the top two benefits that would flow from such an achievement. After this, they are asked to spend another few moments reflecting on the kinds of barriers and problems that they are likely to encounter if they attempt to fulfill their ambition, and again, make a note of the top two issues. Now comes the doublethink. People are asked to reflect on their first benefit, elaborating on how it would make their life more enjoyable. Immediately afterward, they are asked to think about the biggest hurdle to such success, focusing on what they would do if they encountered the difficulty. Then they repeat the same process for the second positive aspect of achieving their aim and the second potential problem.

In several experiments, Oettingen discovered that this procedure provides the best of both worlds. When people focused on an existing relationship that they wanted to improve, those engaging in doublethink were more successful than those who just fantasized or focused on the negatives. Returning to the theme of romance, she applied the doublethink procedure to students harboring a secret crush. Those who employed the fantasy-reality technique were more successful than those who merely dreamed about their perfect date or dwelled solely on the difficulties of revealing their true feelings. Additional work has used the doublethink procedure to encourage employees to become more involved in training courses; nurses to build better relationships with patients’ family members and show greater commitment to best practice; and middle managers to make better decisions, delegate more effectively, and improve their time-management skills.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-07-27T22:57:11.926Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Keep records, so that you can later evaluate what you achieved (and write about it on LW).

What format of records? Well, if you know what you are going to do, the best would be just writing numbers (for example if your goal is to make money, then how much money you made when), because that's no-nonsense, and you can do monthly statistics and reports. But you are probably going to try many new things, so you don't know yet which variables will seem important. Something like bullet-point diary could be a good compromise. For each day write very short messages, with some numbers if possible. For example: "Read a book XY, pages 150 to 190." "Met a friend Z; discussed business plans." These data can later be processed to graphs.

Once in a week or in a month try writing predictions about what will you achieve during the week or month. At the end make notes what you did and what you didn't do. Also, why is the outcome different from prediction: was there some unexpected situation, did you change your mind, were you just too optimistic, or did your plan lack something?

Should all time be devoted to the quickest increases in utility, or should energy be set aside for starting some long term goals early? Does it make more sense to improve yourself, so you can make more money? Or to make some money, and use it to improve yourself?

This is complicated, and it depends on your specific situation: what skills do you have, how is your family financially, what are your hobbies? Some things require preparation before they pay off. Learning the first lesson of a foreign language or the first lesson of programming does not bring any benefits, so if you focus on short-term maximizing, you will never learn anything like this. On the other hand, long-term plans have less feedback, so you are more likely to delude yourself. For example, you could spend a few months learning a foreign language, only to realize that you actually have no good plan where to use it.

When you are a beginner, getting more skills is better than getting more money, because you will probably not make a lot of money anyway; but until you try using your skills in real-life situations, you may have a bad idea about how good you are, or which parts are important to master. If your parents are okay with paying all the expenses you need, you can ignore the money, but you should have some way to measure your progress. For example you could try to win a competition in what you learn. You should compete even if you don't have a chance to win, because you will get the feedback, and if you try it again later, you will see how much did you actually improve.

what would you recommend that I do over the next year, to give me the biggest utility bonus the fastest, both in skill and wealth?

Really depends on where you are now. If you were my clone, which obviously you are not, I would recommend programming and social skills. For programming, start with Python, and when you can write algorithms (participate in a competition to verify that), learn something that allow you writing mobile applications; that gives you useful skills and allows you to make money in your free time. For social skills, watch The Blueprint Decoded, learn dancing, go to places where you can meet interesting people and talk with them (for example LW meetups). Don't procrastinate online.

I think this is actually enough work for one year; programming will take a lot of time. You also need some free time to meet with friends, read good books, and relax. (Seriously, relaxation is an important skill some people lack; actually it is a part of social skills. Also, try meditation.) Read the Sequences, but don't read all the comments.

comment by Ambition · 2013-07-28T00:34:21.799Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Records definitely sound like a good idea. I've found that I'm very poor at judging how much progress I've made one something, (usually underestimate), and having some solid information sounds like the perfect solution to this problem. In addition, it should let me decide the next course of action off of numbers, rather than vague feelings on the situation.

As for social skills, it's already on my "High Priority" list of things to do. When researching things I try to collect information from a wide range of perspectives, and see what people agree on. Recently I've been looking into Con Artistry, the entire purpose of which is to make friends quickly and effectively, so you can exploit and subtly manipulate them. A very roundabout way of looking into psychology, but a lot of the things I've read on the topic match with demonstrated social experiments.

Programming has been recommended three times now, which marks it as something definitely worth looking into. Perhaps I can eventually get into one of those Prisoner's Dilemma competitions, after a long time studying of course.

Thank you for your advice, I will take it into consideration.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2013-07-25T10:24:05.803Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Here's a recent article by Andrew Gelman on how easy it is to find and publish completely meaningless "significant" results.

The key concept here is "researcher degrees of freedom": all of the things the researcher could have tested, but didn't, or did, but didn't bother to mention as there was no p<0.05 result.

The money quote (albeit buried at the very end of the article):

Even if something is published in the flagship journal of the leading association of research psychologists, there's no reason to believe it. The system of scientific publication is set up to encourage publication of spurious findings.

This is strong stuff too:

Researchers’ decisions about which variables to analyze may make perfect sense, but they indicate the difficulty of taking these p-values at anything like face value. There is no reason to assume the researchers were doing anything nefarious or trying to manipulate the truth. Rather, like sculptors, they were chipping away the pieces of the data that did not fit their story, until they ended up with a beautiful and statistically significant structure that confirmed their views.

On his blog he calls this "the scientific mass production of spurious statistical significance".

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-07-27T23:18:16.669Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If you assume regression to the mean will occur in replication, you should only pay attention to fairly large effect sizes. This has a way of washing out a lot of the noise in areas where previously it seemed hard to draw a conclusion.

comment by RolfAndreassen · 2013-07-23T16:59:21.479Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

A while back I saw a post or comment by someone in the London meetup, offering help to newcomers; I can't find the thread, so I'm posting here in the hope that someone in London will see it. I've been offered a job in London, and would like to ask some questions about prices, commute times, and crime rates, so I can decide whether the pay is reasonable. In particular, the job offer is a postdoc at Imperial; what sort of apartments (for a family of three) can one get in an area that's some combination of

a) Close to the campus b) Not too crime-ridden c) Cheap?

What sort of food, utilities, and entertainment (utilons?) budgets do people in London have?

comment by Zaine · 2013-07-24T06:51:44.760Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think they recommended you join the London meet-up listserv and ask there for a greater quantity of responses.

comment by RolfAndreassen · 2013-07-24T16:41:17.475Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks, I will do so.

comment by ModusPonies · 2013-07-25T01:41:11.261Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

For reference, it's this thread.

comment by David_Gerard · 2013-07-27T14:11:26.399Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This BuzzFeed article is accurate in every detail. (I'm currently the cat in #8.)

comment by BlindIdiotPoster · 2013-07-23T16:41:14.558Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Does anyone here think a Phoenix Wright style game could be useful as a medium for Rationalist fiction?

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-07-27T23:12:29.446Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes. Playing spot the fallacy with mainstream media stuff should be generalizable.

comment by Nornagest · 2013-07-27T23:37:05.989Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That might lead to bad instrumental habits, though it'd help if you required at least some minimal elaboration. It's important to be aware of fallacious reasoning, but pointing out fallacies directly is a good way to lose arguments: even when you're right, people tend to interpret it as sophistry, at least outside of a few specific and unusual venues like LW.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-07-29T06:25:42.074Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This seems to cover far too much. Surely pointing out that a particular argument is flawed is not always terrible. The way it is pointed out can have a huge effect via framing. But that is a separate argument from increasing ones skills at noticing them in the first place. The game should not be played with the understanding that suddenly shouting "ah ha, base rate fallacy" is socially acceptable or effective in real life.

comment by Nornagest · 2013-07-29T06:29:58.707Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't disagree with any of this. All I was trying to establish is precisely that using "foul! Base rate fallacy!" in place of a fully elaborated argument is neither socially acceptable nor effective.

comment by lsparrish · 2013-07-22T18:36:30.288Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Idea: Perhaps animal rights activists could accomplish their goals more efficiently by promoting powder based foods along the lines of Soylent.

It isn't hard to make a cheaper soy based version, and the energy and cognitive benefits appear to still be there. Also, you don't have to directly sell people on the values shift where animal suffering matters in the same way human suffering does, rather you can put them in a position where they no longer feel obliged to defend animal suffering as less significant than human suffering because they just happen to no longer be eating animals.

It appears to have other utilitarian benefits as well, which is part of what makes it a potentially easier sell than ethically motivated veganism.

Speculatively (but reasonably, given the available anecdotal evidence): Higher average IQ in the population (which causes disproportionate economic gains relative to the individual economic benefit of higher IQ), higher economic productivity due to less sleep requirement and better energy levels, easier weight loss due to less exercise resistance.

Less speculatively: Reduced shipping costs (hence CO2) due to lack of water weight for the dry material, reduced heart attack rates due to increased oat flour and olive oil consumption, reduced food preparation time, more balanced/consistent nutrient intake.

comment by kalium · 2013-07-23T00:25:25.084Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

My immediate reaction to this proposal was a feeling of being personally attacked. "Fine, meat's expensive and a pain to cook anyway, but I'll be damned if you take away my French fries too." It also seems that every fad diet, including crazy stuff like juice cleansing, promises increased "energy" and the like; in this context, the anecdotal claims are not persuasive.

Conclusion: could work on people who don't get much pleasure out of food to begin with, but associating with animal rights activism seems likely to be counterproductive. It might also be less irritating if these foods were promoted as, well, foods, rather than the only thing you will ever eat again. I could definitely see a version of Soylent replacing my standard breakfast of instant ramen if the cost were anywhere near competitive.

comment by mare-of-night · 2013-07-27T13:00:44.245Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Based on discussions I've had with people about soylent, this seems about right. It's a really, really appealing idea to someone like me who often thinks of food as a problem to solve rather than an enjoyment, but it appears that a lot of people enjoy food more frequently than I do. It also sounds like there's not much additional benefit to consuming soylent exclusively, so the optimal way to eat it would probably be some mix of soylent and your favorite foods.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-07-27T21:35:14.913Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I would love to have soylent as a backup food. Like, when I care about food, I buy or prepare one, but when I don't care, I can always take soylent from the freezer, and once in a time order another large package.

I can imagine that after some time it would become eating soylent at home or at work, and eating normal food only in social situations.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-07-23T05:08:03.784Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Try Soylent Orange :D

comment by Normal_Anomaly · 2013-07-22T16:10:45.294Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

This is a site functionality question, so I don't know if it goes here. Why can't I see my overview page? I mean the one with my karma and all the comments I've made. When I click on my username, in the top right corner or on a comment, it goes to a blank wiki page. The same thing happens for some other users, but not all of them. For some people it goes to their overview page, for some to the wiki page about them. Is there a way to get my overview page back without deleting my wiki account?

comment by wedrifid · 2013-07-22T18:31:14.610Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I second your question. I have no particular inclination to make myself a wiki page and so mine is blank too. I'd like it to be able to remove it entirely.

I in general find it a minor nuisance that I have an extra page load to do to reach the desired user page. I want to see the comments and posts not a profile. When I want to see interesting profile pages I'll go to OkCupid. (I wonder how long it would take to write a firebug script that took me to the appropriate page by default.)

comment by arundelo · 2013-07-22T16:37:28.518Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

You can still get to your overview page by going to your user page and clicking "OVERVIEW". The user pages of people who don't have same-named wiki accounts default to their overview pages but I don't think there's a way to make yours do this, with the possible exception of deleting your wiki account. You can of course edit your wiki page to have whatever links you want on it.

(By the way, the mapping between LW accounts and LW wiki accounts is not updated in real time. It's maintained by a job that runs once a day or so.)

comment by Normal_Anomaly · 2013-07-23T14:55:58.429Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks! I didn't realize that's how it worked.

comment by Ritalin · 2013-07-23T19:07:29.638Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I just found this delightful illustrated storybook about teaching logical falalcies to children. The art is kinda creepy, but the concept seems sound.

comment by Frood · 2013-07-22T17:54:58.084Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I'm currently reading Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow, and while discussing how System 1 tends to jump to conclusions and the importance of preventing people from influencing each other before revealing their thoughts (in section I.7), he explains that

The principle of independent judgments (and decorrelated errors) has immediate applications for the conduct of meetings. A simple rule can help: before an issue is discussed, all members of the committee should be asked to write a very brief summary of their position. ...The standard practice of open discussion gives too much weight to the opinions of those who speak early and assertively, causing others to line up behind them.

I'm immediately reminded of the Five-Minute Rule. Writing down your position seems a lot like proposing a solution. Kahneman might be thinking that the group members will have already spent time thinking about the problem, but in this case it seems unlikely that they would so easily "line up" behind the first person to speak in the meeting. They'd have already committed themselves to an idea.

I'm confused. It appears to me that Kahneman and Yudkowsky/Maier are in conflict here. I wonder whether it's a choice between rushing to solutions and jumping on the bandwagon. Or perhaps they're not in conflict, and the hold-off-on-proposing-solutions rule can be improved by having group members write down their (non-solution) thoughts beforehand.

comment by drethelin · 2013-07-22T18:27:15.581Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

the writing down of thoughts is or can be part of the 5-minute rule. Part of the 5 minutes of thinking of something is writing down your various ideas of how to solve it. The proposing solutions part is when you're actually talking to other people.

comment by falenas108 · 2013-07-22T12:56:55.738Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Somewhat frequently while talking, either public speaking or just talking to a friend, my mind will suddenly go blank. I won't be able to remember what I'm talking about, and I have to retrace my thoughts to get back to where I was.

Is this something that dual n-back will help with?

(Isomorphic question: Is this a problem of working memory, or something else?)

comment by RolfAndreassen · 2013-07-23T03:24:42.701Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW · GW

This usually indicates a badly-initialised pointer - either it's zero and shouldn't be, or it is fooling a test-for-zero check through being filled with random garbage, and thus preventing program flow from correctly returning to the calling function. Suggest running the debugger to see if the problem goes away - this indicates the second issue, as the debugger will initialise all pointers not given an explicit value to zero; if it persists, you should at least be able to get a stack trace.

comment by twanvl · 2013-07-22T15:46:21.804Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I sometimes have this problem when sleep deprived. Are you getting enough sleep?

comment by falenas108 · 2013-07-22T17:17:46.432Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I usually get between 6-8 hours a night. There are times where I get less, but I haven't noticed it getting worse those days.

Then again, I may be less likely to notice a pattern if I'm tired.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-23T10:02:58.444Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

This happens to me fairly often while public speaking and (much less often) low-stress social settings. Not a complete mind blank, I do not lose awareness of my surroundings and so on, just completely lose my train of thought.

It was enough of a concern that I started keeping a diary of the circumstances. It nearly always boiled down to mind-wandering and its relatives: either focusing on a point I wanted to make down the line and not paying close enough attention to what I was saying at the moment (especially in public speaking), or thinking about something else during a social conversation. Sort of, operating on conversational auto-pilot, which seems to break down as soon as anything goes amiss (I make a spontaneous speech error & need to correct it but then suddenly am unsure of what I was saying; or someone makes an unexpected point and I wasn't paying close enough attention).

In public speaking I reduced this by switching from a highly rehearsed literal approach (writing up a script and then close-to-memorizing it), to something more based on a narrative arc, as in this post on public speaking ... I still get tongue-tied occasionally but not nearly as often, since I am only trying to get to each important point in the narrative but not trying to keep to a specific script.

In social conversation, my diary notes suggested this happened mostly during conversations that I wasn't so engaged with - not really such a concern except for social reasons it's not a great thing to zone out when someone else is talking to you.

So my feeling from an n=1 diary study (confounded with practice effects in public speaking), is that this is not a working memory problem for me, but more about distraction and focus.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-23T15:06:49.509Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The evidence so far suggests that practicing dual n-back will have few effects other than making you better at dual n-back. I wish I had better advice to offer, but right now all I can think of is "be mindful of the problem during conversation in general".

comment by Matt_Simpson · 2013-07-22T14:40:10.114Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I also have this problem and would like to know how to fix it / if dual n-back might help.

comment by Metus · 2013-07-25T15:33:08.622Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I prefer body weight exercises, essentially anything that does not need tools to be performed. Now, most of the 'literature' on how to gain strength is in terms of lifting weights. Is there some kind of chart that allows to translate weight lifted into body-weight exercise performed?

Also, the amount of information on this site is getting overwhelming, as is the content of the open threads. I have no suggestions on how to alleviate this.

comment by Locaha · 2013-07-26T12:47:31.303Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Personally, I find pull-ups, push-ups and squats working fine for me so far. OK, you do need a bar for pull-ups.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-07-26T12:53:03.366Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Personally, I find pull-ups, push-ups and squats working fine for me so far. OK, you do need a bar for pull-ups.

Kids playgrounds work for that.

comment by JayDee · 2013-07-26T03:27:48.152Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've found that preference to be common in Parkour communities, which might be another place to look.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-07-27T23:15:31.362Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You're going to want Building the Gymnastic Body, by the former gymnastics coach of the US national team IIRC. Keep in mind that to advance past a certain stage you will need to start weighting your dips and chin ups. But this can be accomplished in a variety of ways at home. A chin up bar and rings can be had for under $100, assuming you have a good spot for them.

comment by drethelin · 2013-07-28T03:44:39.617Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The reviews on amazon make this book sound terrible. Apparently it references several other books that aren't even published and probably won't be?

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-07-29T06:34:16.910Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I also found the style somewhat grating. But I think overall the progression that he lays out, that is actually used for his athletes, is pretty worthwhile. The issue is that resources like these:

http://www.reddit.com/r/bodyweightfitness/wiki/faq http://www.reddit.com/r/bodyweightfitness/wiki/basic_exercises

tell you how to progress on lots of individual exercises but don't give you much info on how to create an actual program. Most newbies benefit a lot more from a lack of ambiguity and choice at the beginning. "Just do x, and know you'll improve", is highly motivating when you don't have enough background knowledge to differentiate lots of competing claims.

The overcoming gravity program also seems good as an alternative. Both that and Building the Gymnastic Body are...acquirable for review without outlay.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-30T00:06:22.809Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

acquirable for review without outlay.

There's a phrase I need to add to my lexicon. Thanks!

comment by Barry_Cotter · 2013-07-28T11:43:08.845Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The only person on lesswrong who plausibly knows more about general fitness than RomeoStevens is wedrifid. I'd trust his recommendation. Or you could ask the experts at r/bodyweightfitness.

comment by maia · 2013-07-26T12:23:21.804Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Have you checked out r/bodyweightfitness?

comment by wadavis · 2013-07-23T17:45:28.368Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Link to a forum discussion applying bayesian statistics to Magic the Gathering online game data.

Looks like nothing but an interesting exercise at the moment, but it would be interesting to create a MoneyBall-esk drafting strategy for creating high availability build, high effectiveness draft decks.

comment by Dorikka · 2013-07-22T11:48:59.698Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Someone has to remember each Monday.

I will be that person until further notice, if you'd rather not. I also endorse the weekly open threads.

comment by David_Gerard · 2013-07-22T14:09:02.116Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

We'll see who remembers first ;-)

comment by Dorikka · 2013-07-23T01:52:07.856Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Hehe. I think that you'll remember first, given that you posted before I woke up. :) I was just planning to put a recurring note on Google Calendar and get to it sometime that day.

Edited because repeating words can be irksome, even when I'm the one doing it.

comment by bramflakes · 2013-07-29T12:22:57.332Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

My boyfriend tells me that it's a fallacy to evaluate a country's financial activities in the same way that is prudent for an individual's or a business'. Specifically he said that there is no limit to how big the public debt:GDP ratio can be while still having a healthy economy. I don't remember his exact argument, but it had something to do with reducing the real debt with inflation and other monetary policies. On the face of it this seems like some kind of Ponzi scheme, but I know less about economics that he does, and I also may be misremembering his point. Does anyone have a link to a good explanation of how (or whether) good financial management at a country level differs from at a personal level?

comment by Lumifer · 2013-07-29T18:47:10.174Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Well, it's complicated. But let me point out three big differences which should be enough to start you thinking about things.

First, goals. Financial management at the personal level has the goal of having (at some point in the future) more money. Sovereign governments generally don't have a goal of more money in the future. Their goals are multiple and varied ranging from "stay in power for another year" to "help the economy produce the most it can".

Second, money. Countries usually can print their own money (a big exception: the eurozone) and a household cannot. The personal equivalent would be the ability to write "$10" on a piece of paper and have the store accept that piece of paper and give you $10 worth of goods in exchange.

Third, income. Countries can, within reason, decide what their income (aka taxes) would be. The household equivalent would be for you to tell your job "This year I want to be paid $X" and have it happen, just so.

Given all this, I am not at all sure that there is no limit to the debt/GDP ratio. I rather suspect that as that ratio grows, bad things become more likely (this has mostly to do with public expectations). Of course, even if household finances are the wrong metaphor, that claim is not in any way an argument for large debt/GDP ratios.

comment by Larks · 2013-07-29T13:13:15.373Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Steven Landsberg often writes about this very topic

Summary: Either the debt is paid for by taxes in the future or now; because we can save money, it doesn't make any difference. The problem is the level of spending (which affects how much must be paid) not the debt (which merely affects when it must be paid).

comment by lukeprog · 2013-07-28T18:25:26.684Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

A few weeks ago I saw a video of some city's underground car system. IIRC, users can hop in a 2-person tiny car, choose a destination on a touch screen, and get whisked away all the way to their destination without any transfers. Anyone know what I'm talking about? It must have been Singapore or Seoul or something, but I can't find it.

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2013-07-29T13:49:15.795Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Was this an existing or proposed thing? If proposed, it was a city still being built in UAE IIRC - not sure that's much help!

EDIT: This, perhaps?

comment by lukeprog · 2013-07-29T16:58:39.911Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That's it! Thanks.

comment by mare-of-night · 2013-07-27T15:12:57.611Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Where should I go to find a good estimate of the body's nutrition requirements? (I want to make a soylent-like thing. I'd still be eating at least one "real food" meal per day. I'll be preferring whole foods over pure chemicals, when possible.) From a quick look around, I see a lot of people with very different conclusions that they are very sure are correct, and sometimes turning diet into something political or part of their self-image. This makes it really hard to know what is trustworthy.

I'm considering just doing what the USDA says, since that's probably pretty similar to what I was getting when I lived with my parents, and I felt ok then, aside from probably being hypoglycemic. (My diet now is pretty much the same, but with less vegetables and less variety.) Do you know of any better guides I could use? I'm mostly looking for a safe baseline (as in, won't make me feel sick) to adjust from.

comment by khafra · 2013-07-26T14:51:26.409Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Kaj Sotala showed up on Peters Watts' blog (Peter Watts being a SF author who's neck-and-neck with Robin Hanson for dismal but hard-to-refute predictions).

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-07-25T02:15:46.598Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Is research on quantum computing likely to accelerate AGI timelines?

comment by calef · 2013-07-25T03:41:07.851Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Even as a researcher of practical implementations of quantum computers, I'm having difficulty answering this.

I'm tempted to go 50/50 with 1. We have AGI before large scale (more than 40 entangled computational qubit) quantum computers, or 2. Quantum computers will only marginally accelerate AGI timelines.

Large scale quantum computers would greatly accelerate research of a lot of sub-problems in chemistry and physics, but it's hard frame those gains in terms of what we need to do to actually build an AGI. From a fundamental algorithmic-gains perspective, I think quantum computers will remain niche for quite a while even after we can build large ones.

Then again, I think similar pessimism was expressed about digital computers shortly before they permeated just about every part of our culture. I'd be overjoyed if everyone had a quantum computer in their home.

comment by Oligopsony · 2013-07-24T21:37:35.487Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Can Blindsight-style Scramblers employ anthropic reasoning?

comment by BlindIdiotPoster · 2013-07-25T17:33:26.968Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

To the extent that anthropic reasoning works at all, it doesn't seem like sentience should be needed.

To use an analogy, it seems to me that this non-sentient site is sort of using anthropic reasoning.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2013-07-26T20:06:05.708Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

To use an analogy, it seems to me that this non-sentient site is sort of using anthropic reasoning.

So would a rock with the same inscription. Which is to say, it's not the non-sentient site, but the sentient author and reader, who are using reasoning of any sort.

comment by Wei_Dai · 2013-07-29T04:05:05.955Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Not sure what Scramblers are exactly, but in 2001 I came up with some ideas about how AIs could do something like anthropic reasoning, without being sentient (which eventually incorporated into UDT). Here's the original post I wrote, which was titled no need for anthropic reasoning .

comment by Mitchell_Porter · 2013-07-24T07:36:26.689Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Has the invention of the concept of utilitarianism had any significant consequences for the world? If you look at history - events, trends, culture - what are the biggest things of which one can say, that only happened because the idea "utilitarianism" existed, it wouldn't have happened otherwise?

comment by bogus · 2013-07-24T09:11:09.889Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

If you look at history - events, trends, culture - what are the biggest things of which one can say, that only happened because the idea "utilitarianism" existed, it wouldn't have happened otherwise?

If Jeremy Bentham had not come up with utilitarianism, I don't think classical liberalism as we know it would exist today. He came up with a remarkable number of what we now consider "right" answers in the social sciences. And he obviously influenced plenty of important folks, including e.g. John Stuart Mill.

If that hadn't happened, I think other ideas would be more important instead, e.g. natural law and perhaps some vague appeals to egalitarianism.

comment by Adele_L · 2013-07-25T17:24:55.964Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

He came up with a remarkable number of what we now consider "right" answers in the social sciences.

Do you have some specific examples of these?

comment by fubarobfusco · 2013-07-24T08:56:28.070Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Utilitarianism as distinct from consequentialism in general? (Can you narrow down exactly what idea you're asking about?)

comment by Mitchell_Porter · 2013-07-27T20:21:08.723Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The real question is broader - which ideas make a difference, and why.

comment by Kindly · 2013-07-28T21:57:13.386Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

As a starting point, let's try: "None. Ideas such as 'utilitarianism' only serve to justify actions after the fact, and the actual reasons for these actions are more along the lines of personal gain. People in positions of power who espouse utlitarianism as an ethical theory do so to demonstrate their chosen political affiliation."

Are there reasons to believe anything different?

comment by beoShaffer · 2013-07-26T16:26:25.130Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

How would CEV decide who/what counts as human?

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2013-07-27T04:10:14.436Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Programmer-defined if you're asking about what CEV focuses on to extrapolate at start.

comment by shminux · 2013-07-26T19:50:37.824Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

No one knows. First one needs to find a coherent and extrapolatable definition of "human".

comment by Halfwitz · 2013-07-25T21:03:11.197Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Here's a very "interesting" take on this community: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ku9b-fPa1s

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-07-28T11:46:26.822Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

His "no evidence for Bayes, and therefore trusting Bayes is unskeptical" argument seems weak. Don't all ideas of evidence require philosophical underpinnings?

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-07-26T08:38:50.670Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Also discussed here.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-07-25T16:32:47.897Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Meningitis vaccine in Europe-- QALYs and uncertainty.

The vaccine has been cleared for use, but in the face of not knowing what it will cost or how severe an outbreak might be, no government is willing to pay to support the use of the vaccine.

QALYs vary according to the lives people think are worth living, and that's complicated.

comment by Panic_Lobster · 2013-07-24T13:40:31.110Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Just finished reading Neuropath by Scott Bakker. It deals with a radical vision of the reductionistic nature of consciousness, intentionality and personhood and now stands alongside Greg Egan's Permutation City and Diaspora as one of the most philosophically shocking books I have read.

I really don't recommend it to anyone who hasn't been very strongly innoculated against Existential Angst.

If Mitchell Porter has read it or is familiar with Bakker's ideas from other sources I'd be interested in hearing his thoughts, as the philsophy of Neuropath really challenges the credibility of any form of realism regarding qualia.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2013-07-24T15:32:15.462Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps you would like to post this in the latest (July 2013) media thread? When I wonder what book to read next, I might look through the media threads, but not the open threads...

comment by Panic_Lobster · 2013-07-24T19:14:05.909Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Okay, I will be sure to do that next time - but I don't see a reason to start a second thread on Neuropath over there right now. If a mod wants to move this thread over there, that's cool.

comment by Adele_L · 2013-07-25T17:23:15.754Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You just got a good reason for starting a second thread, and I don't think mods can move comment threads (at least not with a reasonable amount of effort).

comment by CellBioGuy · 2013-07-28T20:26:01.854Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I get the description of Permutation City as shocking (I remember when a friend I lent the book to called me up in the middle of the day when he got to one of the wham sentences) but what in Diaspora was shocking?

comment by Risto_Saarelma · 2013-07-24T18:39:54.787Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I might have missed something in Neuropath. What I got from it was mostly a technotriller plot using near-future brain surgery to give people creepier versions of the sorts of Oliver Sacks delusions people already get when they get brain damage. The possibility of doing this doesn't seem like a very radical thesis if you already take it as given that the brain runs on physics.

I'd agree with the description of Permutation City as philosophically shocking, it had a very strange core idea in it that still wasn't obviously wrong.

comment by Panic_Lobster · 2013-07-24T19:06:13.966Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Jryy gur fubpxvat vqrn va Arhebcngu vf gung bhe 'srryvatf' bs univat serr jvyy, bs univat zbeny vaghvgvbaf, bs orvat n fhowrpg jvgu 'dhnyvn' naq bs univat vagragvbanyvgl (cersreraprf, oryvrsf, tbnyf, rgp.) ner whfg xvaqf bs angheny nabfbtabfvnf, dhvexf bs irel fcrpvsvp naq sentvyr arhebculfvbybtvpny qrsvpvgf unaqrq gb hf ol ribyhgvbanel nppvqrag - naq gung rira fznyy inevngvbaf va zvaq qrfvta fcnpr jvyy bzvg gurfr guvatf pbzcyrgryl.

Cbfguhznaf znl irel jryy unir ab 'rkcrevrapr bs dhnyvn' be bs 'serr jvyy' be rira bs orvat vagragvbany flfgrzf - naq guvf jbhyq or qhr abg gb cngubybtl ohg gb qrfvta hctenqrf bire gur jrgjner cebivqrq ol ribyhgvba. Fb ba guvf gurbel, gur cvpgher bs gur shgher tvira va Qvnfcben sbe vafgnapr, jurer cbfguhznaf unir svefg crefba crefcrpgvirf naq fhowrpgvivgl pbhyq or frra nf anviryl bcgvzvfgvp naguebcbzbecuvfz.

comment by Pfft · 2013-07-24T21:22:44.661Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Have you read Blindsight? It explicitly mentions this idea, and is generally very nice.

comment by BlindIdiotPoster · 2013-07-25T17:39:43.114Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If by "nice" you mean "a good book" then I agree.

comment by Panic_Lobster · 2013-07-24T22:26:06.051Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Not coincidentally, that is the next novel on my summer reading list.

comment by ESRogs · 2013-07-28T20:42:05.428Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Vg frrzf vapbafvfgrag gb qrfpevor gur rkpvfvat bs svefg-crefba fhowrpgvivgl nf na hctenqr juvyr nyfb pnyyvat cerqvpgvbaf bs vgf pbagvahrq rkvfgrapr bcgvzvfgvp. (Gubhtu znlor gung'f jul lbh hfrq gur 'anvir' dhnyvsvre?)

Vf gur fpranevb bar jurer jr'q cersre gb xrrc svefg-crefba fhowrpgvivgl, ohg jr'er sbeprq gb tvir vg hc qhr gb fbzr bgure pbafgenvag?

comment by passive_fist · 2013-07-22T22:33:28.672Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Does anyone have any resources/links on research into developing friendly AI by having 3 or more cooperative and competitive superintelligent agents?

comment by ESRogs · 2013-07-28T20:26:52.360Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Not exactly what you're looking for, but possibly helpful if you're not already aware of it: Bostrom's Singleton paper lists some advantages and disadvantages of having a single governing agent.

comment by pinyaka · 2013-07-29T21:17:37.442Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

How do you view saved articles on LessWrong? There's the little floppy/SD icon to save it, but where does it save to?

comment by arundelo · 2013-07-29T21:43:58.959Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

http://lesswrong.com/saved/
http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/saved/

These look different but they apparently show the same things (as opposed to one showing main stuff and the other discussion stuff).

There isn't a link at the top of the main page but there are ones at the tops of recentposts and r/discussion.

comment by pinyaka · 2013-07-29T23:48:05.842Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I see. Thank you for that.

comment by shminux · 2013-07-28T06:53:40.696Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I wonder what is wrong with the SMBC solution to the problem of finite human lifespan? It's certainly cheaper and easier to achieve.

comment by Kawoomba · 2013-07-28T09:21:37.815Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The problem is that your current self probably objects to being modified in such a way.

Consider you were worried about an upcoming exam, and someone offered you a lobotomy, after which you wouldn't give a hoot about the exam anymore.

Your rejection to that probably translates to a rejection of the SMBC solution.

comment by shminux · 2013-07-28T20:06:42.552Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Consider you were worried about an upcoming exam, and someone offered you a lobotomy, after which you wouldn't give a hoot about the exam anymore.

Strawman. Note the stipulation in the comic:

You'd have pretty much the same personality as you do now.

This is not at all like wireheading or lobotomy. Care to do better?

comment by Kawoomba · 2013-07-28T20:22:19.644Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I chose a close hypothetical that wasn't self-contradictory.

Consider "you adopt the firm belief that you can fly, but your personality would pretty much be the same", the two are mutually incompatible. You can of course insist that we not change the hypothetical in any way, in which case there's nothing to be said other than that it's worthless talking about it beyond noting its self-contradictory nature.

A hypothetical which works: "You are given one billion dollars, but your wealth status is otherwise pretty much the same."

A hypothetical which doesn't work: "You are given one billion dollars, but your wealth status is pretty much unchanged". This is what the comic does.

comment by shminux · 2013-07-28T20:39:25.504Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So you are OK with

You'd have pretty much the same personality as you do now, except for the fear of death, you would care about the same things you care about now, but without the mental anguish caused by being aware of your own mortality

?

comment by Kawoomba · 2013-07-28T21:05:23.401Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Would "The explicit personality modification would just affect your fear of death" be an acceptable formulation?

In which case I think my original lobotomy-comparison would be relevant again. If I'd still be "allowed" to update my beliefs, there would be landslide changes originating from the "fear of death removed" change, whether we refer to just the emotion or to our drive of avoiding death. In both of which the former "I" would cease to exist, via lobotomy or via unrecognizable personality.

If someone transplanted a belief of "I can actually fly" into your personality, and an observer compared your actions prior to that belief, and following that belief, don't you think the differences would be so profound as to belie any kind of "personality is pretty much unchanged, other than that" statement?

If you actually believe you can fly, you would simply jump out of a window (at least if noone's looking). After all, you can fly!

Same with the fear of death.

(You could argue that just the emotion gets removed, not your reasoning about death. In which case you would know that dying would forever remove you from your loved ones. However, while you don't fear death (by fiat), you would fear losing your loved ones -- "care about the same things you care about now" -- which would necessarily drive you to avoid dying out of fear. So a scenario in which only your death-related emotions are affected, not your reasoning apparatus, wouldn't change much of anything:

Fear of death as it is is often conferred fear from other things. If you were, however, to disallow any fear (of e.g. losing your loved ones) from also applying to your own death, your emotional makeup wouldn't only be recognizable as (your former) "you", it might barely be recognizable as human.

What would it mean not to fear death but to know all the things, future activities, encounters lost to you if you die? How would you be allowed any feelings about anything period, lest they also transfer to death? A whole lot of reprogramming would be required just to make the "remove fear of death" scenario coherent, even as a hypothetical. I must be missing something.)

comment by shminux · 2013-07-28T21:20:15.723Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Do I understand you correctly that a sapient being with a knowingly finite lifespan must necessarily fear death or (accidentally) suicide? If so, that's a pretty sweeping statement and I can think of several counterexamples.

comment by Kawoomba · 2013-07-28T21:49:39.709Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't see how it would be possible to feel emotions, attachments specifically, to anything without those also translating to emotions regarding death.

Any scheme that prohibits fear in relation to death would either significantly mess with the intricate web of other emotions, modifying e.g. "I originally wanted to be with my loved ones, but I don't want to be with them in the future, since I may be dead then" (or you'll be fearful of not seeing your loved ones again because of dying, which gets conspicuously close to "fear of death"), or just ignore death altogether, to avoid doing the updates that are contingent on death. So it comes close to the statement you attribute to me.

Think about it like a Bayesian belief propagation graph. If you propagate the change, the overall changes would be huge. The only way to avoid them is to cut out the node and pretend it's still there, like beeping out a name whenever it comes out. However, that would lead to the failure mode of what happens when you run across that node while coming to a decision, eventually accidental suicide (it's a rather important node in your day-to-day life).

(As an aside, I remember arguments here on LW that AIXI would accidentally suicide, don't remember the details, unfortunately.)

comment by shminux · 2013-07-28T22:13:54.104Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Just wondering, suppose someone (say, at a meetup) offered you $100 to come up with a counterargument you would find convincing, would you be able to?

comment by Kawoomba · 2013-07-28T22:35:33.516Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's possible that given sufficient reflection my position would change, but that's possible with most any of my beliefs. I could probably find counterarguments to a strict dichotomy of "p-zombie or accidental suicide", and there may be clever ways of stopping the lack of fear of death from propagating while still implementing some "automatic avoid death" reflex, similar to your ankle jerk reflex.

I don't however see how the change could be identity-preserving, other than when the threshold for that is chosen to be sufficiently lax. I'd consider myself a different person, which is why I thought of the lobotomy comparison. (Of course I could be artificially made to feel like the same person, but my present self would still object to that, same as to the endless heroin drip. Gandhi wouldn't take the pill turning him into a mindless killer even if you told him that the killer-Gandhi would think he'd always been that way.)

Why do you ask, if I may ask?

comment by RichardKennaway · 2013-07-28T09:22:31.337Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

It's wireheading, that's what's wrong.

comment by Oscar_Cunningham · 2013-07-29T15:34:58.301Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I wouldn't remove my dislike of dying because then I'd be more likely to die. (It's tautological that I judge the outcome based on my current preferences rather than those I'd hypothetically have when the outcome happens, because my preferences are my current preferences.)

comment by elharo · 2013-07-27T19:51:22.777Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Can someone remind me of the formal name for these fallacies:

a) an event such as a death that happens near you is weighted more heavily than one that happens far away; even if far away there are many more deaths.

b) an event that happens to people more like you is weighted more heavily than one that happens to people less like you.

and in general any other fallacies that cause people to weight the deaths of unrelated people in their own country/culture more heavily than the deaths of people further removed from them. Thanks.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-28T09:12:02.383Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

How's that a fallacy? The utility function is not up for grabs. If I care more about people I know than about people I don't know, I may be evil/selfish/whatever, but I'm not (epistemically) wrong just because of that.

comment by elharo · 2013-07-28T12:51:47.432Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Fair enough. Perhaps it's not technically a "fallacy" though it can easily become so when combined with some other common ideas. But I'm still trying to come up with existing research or common phraseology on these questions.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-28T12:56:21.299Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

But I'm still trying to come up with existing research or common phraseology on these questions.

See this. :-)

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-28T13:59:23.509Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

it can easily become so when combined with some other common ideas

Like what?

comment by elharo · 2013-07-28T16:19:49.837Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Utilitarianism is one example. "All men are created equal" is another.

comment by drethelin · 2013-07-28T03:38:17.647Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Why is that a fallacy? You SHOULD weight deaths that happen to people closer to and more like you more heavily. They're more likely to be indicative of risk of death to yourself, they are more likely to affect you in other ways, and they're more likely to be affect able BY you.

comment by ESRogs · 2013-07-28T20:15:10.611Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

For a) you might partly be thinking of scope insensitivity (wikipedia calls it scope neglect).

comment by elharo · 2013-07-30T03:51:59.938Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you. That's definitely one of the things I'm looking for.

comment by ESRogs · 2013-07-30T04:07:52.108Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You're welcome, happy to help!

comment by ahbwramc · 2013-07-29T12:38:05.560Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

(a) sounds a bit like the Availability Heuristic

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-24T17:29:25.461Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

After reading a number of recent comments noting "Please use the standard font." I'm wondering if a technological block stopping people from using a nonstandard font would be a worthwhile use of programmer time. Thoughts? I myself don't have a strong opinion either way, but I figured the first thing to do was to get a better feel for current opinion.

Edit: Is there a way to correct spelling without destroying a poll?

[pollid:543]

comment by gwern · 2013-07-24T18:04:55.016Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Barring people from using their chosen fonts inhibits me from using a quick crank heuristic to save my time by ignoring them, so I would be against it. We should let them select themselves out of the memepool.

comment by Pfft · 2013-07-24T21:26:32.712Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

On Less Wrong, I guess this heuristic mainly ignores people who wrote their article in MS Word and have not lurked here long enough to be aware of this pitfall. Is that strongly correlated with low quality articles?

comment by ESRogs · 2013-07-25T00:49:25.503Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I believe that is exactly the assumption behind the heuristic -- newcomers' posts are of lower average quality.

comment by Frood · 2013-07-24T23:17:46.108Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect that there are times when it's appropriate to "use nonstandard fonts to good affect". Would it be just as easy to issue a warning with the option to "convert to standard font"? Then everyone wins.

comment by pengvado · 2013-07-25T01:16:18.233Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Is there a benefit from doing that server-side rather than client-side? I've long since configured my web browser to always use my favorite font rather than whatever is suggested by any website.

comment by BlindIdiotPoster · 2013-07-25T17:36:09.437Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm going to agree with this post. Maybe an option to make everything appear in a preferred font would be useful, if the programmers aren't busy with anything else.

comment by Slackson · 2013-07-23T02:48:20.086Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Foc.us is a commercially available tDCS system marketed to gamers, and at a price that is almost affordable, depending on the actual benefits of the device. Does anyone here have experience, expertise, our any other insight with regards to this?

comment by Thomas · 2013-07-22T10:47:42.288Z · score: -8 (16 votes) · LW · GW

Sure, some more annoyance to some: http://www.protokol2020.wordpress.com/2013/07/22/another-myth/

comment by Emile · 2013-07-22T11:10:11.960Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

A boring rant, it just takes some factoids nobody cares about and claims they are myths, without evidence. Like:

Which brings us to the next well guarded myth, with the opposite flavor. That if all insect suddenly died, we would also follow them soon thereafter.