Open thread, Feb. 9 - Feb. 15, 2015

post by MrMind · 2015-02-09T09:12:46.055Z · score: 6 (7 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 327 comments

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


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327 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by CellBioGuy · 2015-02-09T19:56:45.750Z · score: 15 (15 votes) · LW · GW

I have a problem. I refuse to sleep.

I don't mean I can't sleep. I've done experiments where I go to bed with some audio playing that I know, from say a movie, and the next morning I do not remember anything past 5-10 minutes into it. I mean that I just don't sleep. If I have nothing going on in the morning I will stay up until the wee hours of the morning shortly before sunrise regardless of how much sleep I have gotten lately or when I woke up. The only thing that drives me to go to bed is the knowledge that I simply cannot function and feel horrible on less than three hours of sleep. I can also tell after the fact that I am quite foggy on less than 7 hours, but at the time it doesn't feel terribly odd.

I've been tracking my sleep with a tablet under my pillow for over a year now and I average between just under and just over 5 hours a night, depending on the particular month, but the standard deviation is at least two hours and it varies from 2 to 9 hours a night chaotically with no apparent pattern. Worse, in the last six months I think my age (25) is catching up to me - my productivity on low-sleep days has dropped precipitously, and nights that I used to go with 3 or 4 hours of sleep I have a tendency to oversleep through six alarms and wind up with just under 8. I think my body simply can't get by on as little sleep as I used to give it. This leads to me getting into work late (as a grad student done with class-style instruction and just doing my research and talking with faculty my schedule is quite flexible as long as I put in my time) and staying quite late, phase shifting my schedule and screwing up social aspects of my life and encouraging me to go to bed far too late and repeat the cycle.

Again the problem is not with sleeping itself, the problem is with letting myself stop doing things and actually go to bed. There is always something else I want to be doing, be it more research in the lab or reading or internetisms or talking to people 3 time zones west in California. I used to get by but now it is affecting my work and social life.

Any ideas on how to help fix this? I tried going to my university's counseling services but all they did was make sure I wasn't psychotic and suggest ritalin at which point I cancelled the followup appointment.

comment by Houshalter · 2015-02-09T23:13:21.729Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Artificial lighting (mainly blue light) inhibits melatonin and affects sleeping. Try turning off the lights, dimming screens, using f.lux, or wearing yellow tinted goggles.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2015-02-09T23:55:01.000Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This.

I have a tendency to stay up too late as well.

But I've recently taken to reading on my paperwhite kindle before bed. You can turn down the brightness quite low, and I find myself just getting sleepy and going to bed.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-10T08:28:39.204Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You can just have a shade of gray you prefer with a black background instead of fighting with absolutely retarded brightness anti-features.

It's often called "inverted colors" or whatever other cool name the software manufacturer decided to give it.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2015-02-10T19:53:45.696Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'll give that a try, but haven't the UI people pretty well determined a long time ago that you want to read darker text on a lighter background?

comment by jkaufman · 2015-02-15T16:20:11.179Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

People are pretty attached to things being the way they've always been. White on black could leave readers feeling better, but manufacturers would still default to black on white because that's what seems normal to people from printed books.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-02-15T19:41:37.908Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Ergonomics people have actually studied this.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-02-11T18:37:32.644Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Have they proved that for moderate contrast rather than extreme contrast?

comment by buybuydandavis · 2015-02-11T20:28:16.143Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know what they've proved, but given the sums of money and smart people involved in UI design, I expect they've worked this out. I'm not one to generally trust the authorities, but in this case I don't see any institutional reasons to expect them to get this wrong.

But I'll give it a try on my kindle.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-02-11T20:53:01.900Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You're confusing the question of whether the UI design people have correctly figured out the population average with the question of whether there is wide individual variation around that average.

It's pretty easy to figure out how you, personally, like to read text on a screen.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-11T12:05:13.391Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Why should the UI people make decisions for you? Try it, you won't be disappointed.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2015-02-11T20:29:39.240Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Because lots of money and time are spent by smart people to get this right, and I don't see any reason to doubt that they've gotten this right.

I'll give it a try, though.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-12T05:30:01.458Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

No.

Whatever you do, NEVER let someone else make decisions for you. You can, and should, get as much advice as you feel you need; but never let go of the chance to take it a step further.

You might think I'm being antagonistical but I'm being honest. Turn off the light. Then see if you prefer inverted colors or decreased brightness.

My main problem with brightness controls is that often they're really not as low as they should be. Also, it saves some energy. I've heard that there's also the issue of that being a light source but I've never investigated further.

comment by adamzerner · 2015-02-12T03:27:55.452Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Check out http://www.circadiansleepdisorders.org/info.php for more info.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-10T16:39:34.253Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Have a schelling point for going to bed, get f.lux on your computer, use melatonin a half hour before your schelling point, use an alarm to remind you of your schelling point and use stayfocusd to block your browsing. A combination of these strategies is what worked for me.

comment by gjm · 2015-02-09T22:54:15.352Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Just in case it helps to know you aren't alone: I have a similar problem (and always have, to varying degrees; I'm substantially older than you are). I don't think mine is as severe as yours.

The good news is that it doesn't seem to have wrecked my life too badly. The bad news is that after all these years I haven't fixed it. The good news is that I haven't really tried super-hard. The bad news is that if your character resembles mine in other ways you probably also won't try super-hard. Make of all that what you will.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2015-02-10T09:49:15.472Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Again the problem is not with sleeping itself, the problem is with letting myself stop doing things and actually go to bed.

Maybe you should introduce a non-work step between the work and sleep. Exercise (something easy like yoga) or meditation or whatever. Because then it will not be "from work to sleep" (which is difficult for you now), but "from work to meditation" and "from meditation to sleep" (which could be easier).

comment by James_Miller · 2015-02-10T00:24:52.214Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

(1) Set a bed time for yourself for the next week. (2) Promise to give me $1000 if you do not keep your bed time. (3) If you stick to your bedtime be mindful if you feel happier and more productive. (4) If the answer to (3) is yes then use this to motivate yourself to get to sleep on time in the future.

comment by Vaniver · 2015-02-09T23:11:50.075Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I have an alarm that goes off at 8:30 pm, at which point I begin winding down my computer use, and eventually switch to reading under a red light for approximately 30 minutes, then I go to bed.

There are people who have success taking melatonin 30 minutes before they want to go to bed, because that makes them tired enough to want to go to bed once it kicks in. This does not work for me because my ability to resist fatigue is greater than melatonin's ability to fatigue me, but I expect it's worth trying, and is likely to help with building up the previous suggestion as a habit.

There are general-purpose self-modification techniques to shift your preferences and habits, and I think restedness is important enough to pull out the big guns. (Commitment contacts, daily affirmations, hypnosis, etc.)

comment by Andy_McKenzie · 2015-02-09T23:29:26.444Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Worth noting that a medical prescribing app lots of doctors use (blanking on the specific one, saw it a few months ago, possibly Epocrates) suggests taking melatonin more like 2-4 hours before sleep, so this parameter may be worth experimenting on.

comment by Vaniver · 2015-02-10T00:07:42.354Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I recall Eliezer discussing the MetaMed report for him suggesting taking it 5 hours before he wanted to go to sleep, but that was in large part because of his delayed sleep phase disorder. This Reddit thread suggests that 2 hours and 20-30 minutes are both commonly suggested, so agreed that experimentation is likely a good idea.

comment by MarsColony_in10years · 2015-02-11T18:35:24.614Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I've been lurking for a while and wasn't going to join the discussions until I'd finished the sequences, but it doesn't look like anyone has mentioned the possibility of just switching to a 28 hour sleep cycle. I've wanted to try one for years, but college or work always conflicted.

Basically, you go to sleep 4 hours later each night. Your first bedtime is midnight, then 4AM, then 8AM, etcetera. By the 6^th sleep cycle, you will have slipped back a total of 24 hours. Because of this, the crossover point occurs after 7 days. This means it is possible to maintain a relatively normal schedule, so long as you can leave work early on Mondays, and get to work late on Fridays due to sleep.

Xkcd has a rather nice graphical illustration, and the comic explanation is a bit more thorough than I was.

comment by tut · 2015-02-12T12:37:01.560Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

And this schedule will also drive you stark raving mad.

Shift work, especially work where you have to be up at night sometimes but not always, is associated with heart attacks, weight gain and several different psychiatric conditions that involve being miserable and unproductive etc.

If you want to change your sleep schedule without getting jet lagged you should shift your wake up time by no more than 10 minutes per day. So shifting one hour should take almost a week, four hours the better part of a month.

comment by lmm · 2015-02-14T11:01:37.811Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This isn't traditional shift work; in shift work you shift by 8 hours all at once, and then it takes ~5 days for bodily hormones to adjust. Shifting by 2 hours a day has less of an obvious problem. Do you have a source for that 10 minutes claim? IIRC the body's natural cycle in the absence of external cues tends to be ~25 hours, so I would expect the "no jetlag shift" to be asymmetric.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-02-13T22:13:44.677Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

See also c2's 28 hour day and 36 hour day

I agree with tut that this doesn't work as any kind of regular schedule. Possibly temporary when you are young and have enough extra power to burn.

comment by GuySrinivasan · 2015-02-09T22:30:26.348Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Ways to develop habits: start small, give yourself positive reinforcement, give yourself negative reinforcement, get someone else to force you... Try committing to no matter what go to bed without devices at midnight on Sundays? Try taking short naps at predetermined times and rewarding yourself with chocolate chips when you successfully lie down with an alarm prepped to get you back up? Try putting aside $100 in singles each month and burning one whenever you stay up after thinking "I should go to sleep"? Do you have a roommate? Can you get someone to call you at 11:30 PM each night and stay on the phone until you're tucked in? :) Have you tried reframing sleep to yourself as a productivity booster rather than a time-waster? "Okay present self, you know future you will think you could have gotten more done if you just went to sleep now rather than staying up trying to do things, so hop to bed now"

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-10T00:01:07.691Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not exactly sure about the kind of lab research that you are doing. Are you doing research where it's essential to sometimes work at 3 AM?

If that's not the case you could have a hard rule of not doing research, browsing the internet or talking to people after 12PM.

It quite easy to put scripts on a computer that automatically shut down the computer at a specific time.

comment by michael_b · 2015-02-15T10:02:07.158Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Try to hack your body into feeling more relaxed so your scholarly zeal calms down a bit and lets your mind rest.

I'll tell you what works for me.

  1. Start dimming the lights as you approach bed-time. You can buy electric tea candles (as you may have seen in restaurants) to provide low lighting so you can still get around your home. The candle-like flickering of the light is pretty calming.
  2. Install f.lux (or its ilk) on any PC or mobile device with a screen.
  3. If you listen to music, make sure it's relaxing. Playing nature sounds or whatever YT returns for "meditation music" works pretty well.
  4. Don't underestimate olfactory senses. Buy an aroma diffuser and pick up some essential oils. Grapefruit or ginger scented mist can be seriously relaxing.
  5. Keep some kind of whimsical treatise next to your bed so you have an outlet for what should now be sleepy intellectual curiosity: Godel-Escher-Bach is perfect for this.

Good luck! :)

EDIT: Oh, also what about psychoactive stuff like coffee and alcohol? Coffee in the afternoons can cause tossing and turning at night even though the wakefulness benefits are long gone. Alcohol is considered a CNS depressant but it can still lead to some difficulty sleeping because of other related effects.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-02-13T22:24:27.649Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You are not alone. I also have enough concentration to still work 16 hours straight - if I'm interested. At some point in time it degrades but that can be as late as 4 o'clock and then I'm screwed because my children (which also need less sleep than their age average) will wake me in any case. So my motivation to go to bed is much stronger than yours but nonetheless every now and then I will have to make do with 4.5 hours. Luckily my required average amount of sleep is 6,5 hours a day. I use multiple tricks mostly mentioned in other comments too: Red glasses at a fixed time (22:30) , schelling point at midnight, commitment to get up before 6:50 on the first ringing of the alarm (used simulation recently to make that work). All to varying degress of continuity (I form habits slowly). I guess you have to experiment, live with it or indeed use commitments. Partners can be strong motivator on this.

comment by joaolkf · 2015-02-09T23:38:31.258Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I have had this for the last 10 years. Given that you are a graduate student like me, I think there's no better solution than simply scheduling your day to start in the afternoon. It's far easier to ask that a meeting be held in the afternoon than doing all sorts of crazy stuff to revert your natural sleep cycle. Wiki article on this disorder: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delayed_sleep_phase_disorder

comment by SodaPopinski · 2015-02-09T23:03:20.339Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Are there things we should be doing now to take advantage of future technology. What I mean would be something like people who bank umbilical cord fluid for potential future stem cell usages. Another example would be if we had taken a lot of pictures of a historical building which is now gone, then we could use modern day photogrammetry to make a 3d model of it. A potential current example, suppose we recorded a ton of our day to day vocal communication. Then, some day in the future, a new machine learning algorithm could make use of the data. So what I am looking for is whether there are any potential 'missed opportunity' of this type we should be considering (posted similar question on futurology subreddit).

comment by emr · 2015-02-10T02:47:08.167Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Also consider risks from future technology. For example, we might be able to "deanonymize" various public data records.

comment by Username · 2015-02-12T06:01:29.720Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This is a major reason why I keep a private journal hosted online. Also why I won't lie on any part of my future security clearance application (because I'm sure most of the illicit things I've done are mentioned somewhere on facebook's/skype's servers, outside of my immediate account).

comment by ilzolende · 2015-02-09T23:32:13.982Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Somebody is going to mention cryonics here, so it might as well be me: Cryonic preservation! We don't have the brain scanning technology that would be needed to reproduce someone's mind based on physical access to their brain yet, but we can preserve the brain in good condition such that someone's mind could be reproduced/revived after their death in the future.

Also, about the getting lots of voice data for machine learning purposes: I'm sure the NSA has been doing something like that. If you just want to record yourself, a typical iPod Touch has good storage capacity for hours of audio and can record from inside a bag. The one thing is that some states require 2-party consent before a private conversation can be legally recorded, so even if you consent to record yourself, you might have to ask the other person for permission or stop recording. On the other hand, you probably wouldn't get in trouble for having an illicit audio recording unless you do something with it that leads to you getting caught, so just recording a conversation for personal use and not using it as evidence or posting it online would probably not get you in trouble.

comment by Dagon · 2015-02-10T15:44:27.371Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Use a bunch of resources, with the expectation that future technology will be enough more efficient to clean it all up.

comment by FiftyTwo · 2015-02-10T23:01:43.559Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

In general collecting data is cheap and we're getting better at sorting and using it, so bias towards collecting data

Also focus on developing skills in areas unlikely to be automated anytime soon

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-10T13:52:54.639Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

A potential current example, suppose we recorded a ton of our day to day vocal communication. Then, some day in the future, a new machine learning algorithm could make use of the data.

That's a huge ethical issue is you likely don't have the permission from everyone with whom you are communicating. Storing the recordings safely is also an issue.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-02-09T23:40:26.610Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I've talked with someone who keeps a record of components of his blood. I'm not sure whether he saves blood samples or just numerical records.

His theory is that, since different healthy people can have very large differences in blood factors (sorry, i don't know which ones), he wants a record of his normal in case there's rejuvenation tech.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-02-13T22:35:52.512Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

And the complementary question: What should we not do because it will likely be superfluous in the future?

Examples:

  • Learning all kinds of facts (this is already mostly the case thanks to search engines)

  • Learning any languagse (except possibly a mainstream language like English if you speak only an endangered language)

  • Tagging images on your hard-drive

  • Entring data in a highly structured form for 'easy' retrieval (like person data as firs/last name, age, occupation...)

More can be inferred from http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/lor/discussion_of_concrete_neartomiddle_term_trends/

comment by Username · 2015-02-12T06:01:16.083Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This is a major reason why I keep a private journal hosted online. Also why I won't lie on any part of my future security clearance application (because I'm sure most of the illicit things I've done are mentioned somewhere on facebook's/skype's servers, outside of my immediate account).

comment by CBHacking · 2015-02-09T10:45:21.176Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Kind of a silly question, but it came up in our Sequences reading group yesterday: in EY's An Intuitive Explanation of Bayes' Theorem, we found the following statement:

It's like the experiment in which you ask a second-grader: "If eighteen people get on a bus, and then seven more people get on the bus, how old is the bus driver?" Many second-graders will respond: "Twenty-five."

Anybody have any idea where this finding comes from initially? We found several people who referenced EY's post, including one second-grade teacher who claimed that he'd been largely able to replicate it (a case of guessing the teacher's password, presumably), plus a bunch of "jokes" where the reader is the driver (so the correct answer is the reader's age), but I didn't see an original source for the experimental result. Maybe my Google-fu is weak but I'm curious if anybody knows...

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-02-10T04:06:34.307Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

The original source is Reusser 1986 p25 (26), who reports that 3/4 of first and second graders give a numerical answer. I learned that from Kaplinsky's 2013 replication, not with eight-year-olds, but with eighth graders (video). He credits Merseth 1993 with popularizing it. Kaplinsky via Gwern.

A late descendent of the joke appears in Science Made Stupid (1986), which I highly recommend.

comment by Zubon · 2015-02-14T18:02:19.241Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you feel silly about the particular example or doubt its provenance or application, there is also the New Cuyama sign adding up numbers in an even worse way, the classic riddle where the answer is "you're adding the wrong things," or Scott's latest post with similarly bad math being applied to public policy.

I'm particularly fond of the New Cuyama sign as an illustration of the principle because so much online discourse seems to involve using funny pictures to illustrate points. Your quote works well for a Less Wrong audience, as we seem to be mostly text-based here.

comment by DanielLC · 2015-02-15T01:40:51.034Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Are you sure the sign wasn't a joke?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-10T10:51:57.768Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In the "remarkable coincidence" department, I just saw this morning an advert for a (UK) PhD studentship on this very topic: "Enabling Success on Science and Maths Problems; The Role of Local and Global Processing".

... The student will investigate the relationship between success on maths and science misconceptions (e.g. naive conceptions, scientific misconceptions, perceptual bias, overgeneralisations) and: 1) the ability to inhibit local vs. global misleading information; 2) the ability to adaptively switch between local and global processing.

Full info is at this link (eligibility: UK/EU, application deadline 13 March). I am not affiliated with this research group/institution but thought there was enough potential overlap with LW readership to be worth posting.

comment by adamzerner · 2015-02-14T04:17:17.633Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure how to ask this... but is anyone like really and genuinely happy on a day-to-day basis? Hour-to-hour? I'm curious as to what the upper bounds of human happiness are. In my 22 years experience of observing humans, I can't recall anyone I've ever met who appeared to be "really and genuinely" happy on a day-to-day basis. Everyone I've ever met seems to be what I'd describe as "chugging along".

Another way to possibly pose my thought - assume that I'm average, and consider the top 10% of my experiences to be Happiness. Does anyone's median experience fall within my top 10%?

comment by CAE_Jones · 2015-02-14T14:54:51.447Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I was overall happy with my life up to age 12. This was probably a bad thing.

I managed to replace happiness with smug indignation for the next ~8 years.

Ever since, I've pretty much been waiting for a miracle. Oh, I try and create one from time to time, but it never works. Trying less because it inevitably ends in failure.

I feel like I really do need a miracle or three to be generally happy again. At absolute minimum, a means to defeat Akrasia would go a long way.

comment by Rob Bensinger (RobbBB) · 2015-02-15T11:49:15.593Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'd say I'm very far from 'chugging along' -- I have ups and downs, I'm high-energy, etc. But I do have worries, anxieties, bouts of sadness, so I'm not sure how to quantify how 'truly happy' I am.

I feel 'average' from the inside, but when I compare my external behavior to others', I often look like I have deeper reservoirs of energy, enthusiasm, patience, adaptiveness-to-pain, adaptiveness-to-disaster, etc. That makes me think I'm cognitively and affectively privileged in ways that give me an above-average number of spoons, wherewithal tokens, stamina points, etc.

I would guess that my median experiences are in the top 15% of a typical American's experiences, but I'm not confident because it might be that people are still having a pretty fun time in absolute subjective terms even when they act grumpy.

comment by Ixiel · 2015-02-14T13:52:40.504Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I am. There are exactly zero humans with whom I would seriously consider changing situations under the most charitable of circumstances and I frequently just giggle about how awesome (perhaps not wrath of God literal use of awesome but not these fries are awesome level either) my life is. How can I be of assistance?

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-02-14T15:34:00.835Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Oh no, it's Felix! Get him before he enslaves us all!

(http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=2569)

comment by Ander · 2015-02-19T20:49:02.236Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That comic was an excellent depiction of a 'utility monster'.

comment by adamzerner · 2015-02-14T15:11:42.313Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It sounds like your median experience is somewhere around my 90th percentile experience. So what's your 90th percentile experience like?

comment by Ixiel · 2015-02-14T19:11:41.482Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Oh great question; it's pretty close to my median. There's not much room for improvement, and even my annual top three isn't that far off said median. There's not much cause for me to worry about anything (no known medical problems, been at kids and causes since before I started thinking about finances, just got married) and I am very content going for walks and thinking big thoughts about the world. Sorry,I feel like you were looking for more detail; please feel free to follow up.

comment by Zubon · 2015-02-14T17:36:38.526Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm in a similar range to Ixiel.

I would characterize my 90th percentile experience as a profound sense of peace and contentment, a combination of emotional satisfaction with physical comfort and security. This comes from good brain chemistry (cheerful, optimistic outlook), favorable life circumstances (happily married, no major illnesses, financially stable), and a sustainable enjoyment of katastematic pleasure.

comment by Vaniver · 2015-02-16T15:34:52.337Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I can't recall anyone I've ever met who appeared to be "really and genuinely" happy on a day-to-day basis.

I think I've met at least one man like this, and several women. I describe myself as "content," and having a remarkably narrow emotional range, which seems like it might be cheerier than "chugging along" but perhaps that's the wrong dimension to compare them on.

comment by MrMind · 2015-02-16T08:02:00.077Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I have a stable, comfortable and pretty satisfying life. Overall I feel I'm pretty happy all the time, although there are of course times when I'm worried or a little bit anxious, and when I'm extatic or overly enthusiast with something.

comment by Curiouskid · 2015-02-14T21:10:42.147Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think that I have the capacity to be genuinely happy on a day-to-day basis.

There are times when I'm generally on top of things. I've got my GTD system functioning, I've got an exercise/food/sleep routine that I like. I've "goal-factored" and feel like I know what I'm doing with my life. ETC. All that really remains for me to do in times like these is to DO things.

Though, I would say that I don't feel like this too often. For the past few months, I've felt somewhat anxious/uncertain about what my life plans were. So, I wasn't as happy on a day to day basis. But, I feel like in the long-run, I'll be able to get into the "on top of things" state more consistently.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2015-02-14T15:00:27.708Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There are days when I am more happy, and days whan I am less happy. I can imagine having those good days more frequently, or less frequently. For example during vacation I usually mostly have the good days. Since most of my unhappiness comes from various smaller and greater frustrations at work, I believe that e.g. winning a lottery could improve my life significantly. (There are also other possible solution I could think of; the lottery is just an easy example.)

If I could have more autonomy about how I spend my days, and if I would be rational enough to spend a lot of that time with people I like, I believe I would be genuinely happy on a day-to-day basis.

comment by gjm · 2015-02-14T17:24:18.087Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My impression is that for a lot of people, much of their unhappiness comes from things that happen at work (and from the mere fact of having to do it at all). And yet the available evidence suggests that winning a big lottery prize doesn't typically make people all that much happier.

An obvious explanation is that we get annoyed whenever anything fails to go as we hope it will, and giving up work just means that instead of being frustrated by random inconveniences at work you'd be similarly frustrated by random inconveniences on your yacht, or wherever you were instead of working.

Of course that explanation might be wrong -- but although my experience is comparable to yours, I am inclined to be much less confident that my happiness would be hugely increased by not having to work.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2015-02-16T11:50:46.953Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

By the way, different people may react differently to the same situation. Just talked about it with my girlfriend: When we go on a vacation, we are both very happy on the first day. After a few days, I am still approximately as happy as at the beginning, while her happiness returns to the default state. So, we react differently to the same situation. (Maybe the difference is only a matter of speed, that she returns to the default state in a week, while it could take a month or more for me. Maybe not.)

Another similarity I have noticed between me and some people around me is about spending money. Some people, when they get more money, they find something expensive to spend it on, so even if you double their salary, at the end of the month they have nothing left. My spending does not increase with my income (at least not so quickly); if you double my salary, I will just leave the extra amount in the bank.

I don't know if there is a pattern here or I am just imagining things, but seems to me that both of these differences suggest that I know what I want, and that I am really happy when I achieve it. While other people probably only have a vague idea of "more" and "better", and when they get it, they still want something "more" and "better". Satisficer vs maximizer mentality, maybe?

Seems to me there are things that predictably make my mood better, such as talking with people I like, or taking a walk. When I imagine a day where I would work a few hours on my own project at my own pace, then take a walk, then talk with my friends (or take a walk with my friends and talk while walking), I cannot imagine how such day could make me feel other than happy. (On the other hand, my girlfriend's life is very similar to this, and it did not make her happy. But as I said, there are also other differences between us.) I could imagine that also for me this happiness could hypothetically change in a sufficiently long time, but I believe it would make me happy all day long for at least six months.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2015-02-14T20:43:13.007Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

the available evidence suggests that winning a big lottery prize doesn't typically make people all that much happier.

Maybe typically people use their winnings in a wrong way. For example, they buy an expensive car, go to an expensive vacation, etc. And a year later, there is nothing left. And they know they will probably never win the lottery again.

It would be interesting to have a data on a subset which instead of doing this does something smart, such as retire early. Or some other big change in their life, for example pay for education they didn't have, so even when the money is gone, their everyday life remains different.

comment by gjm · 2015-02-14T21:29:18.505Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I agree: that would be extremely interesting.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-02-11T19:47:09.886Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Just read this article on the double life of chassidic atheists. While I'm aware of this sort of thing previously, an additional thought occurred to me; are we in general underestimating the current sanity water line because there are actually lots of professed irrational beliefs that people don't actually believe?

comment by emr · 2015-02-12T17:37:44.518Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This raises an interesting question: What is a population measure of sanity?

As you point out, stated beliefs might not be a great measurement. And even if a less-than-sane belief is genuine, the belief may be so compartmentalized that it isn't a leading cause of irrational behavior.

A while back, I found this study: pdf which tried to correlate performance on a test of cognitive biases with the likelihood of reporting a bunch of different real-world "bad decisions", like having been in jail or default on a loan. They found some modest correlations after adjusting for SES and an IQ-proxy.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-02-12T17:58:33.771Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This raises an interesting question: What is a population measure of sanity?

The quality of the society and the government.

"Every nation gets the government it deserves." -- Joseph de Maistre

comment by gjm · 2015-02-12T18:07:48.674Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What do you mean by "the quality of the society"? I worry that this will end up being a circular definition or something very like one.

(Some plausible definitions clearly don't work. Imagine two societies with the exact same people, but in countries with very different natural resources. One may be much richer than the other as a result, leading to e.g. better healthcare, better education, less poverty, etc. So if those are part of what "the quality of the society" means then you're basically declaring richer populations as more sane even if they're composed of the same people.)

comment by Lumifer · 2015-02-12T18:19:46.281Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I do not propose my comment as a definition, I propose it as a finger pointing in the general direction of where you want to look.

Note that the original question ("What is a population measure of sanity?") critically depends on the definition of "sanity" which is not at all obvious to start with.

comment by gjm · 2015-02-12T18:31:00.572Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I do not propose my comment as a definition

I know; that's why I said "I worry that this will end up being a circular definition [...]" rather than "I worry that this is".

the original question [...] critically depends on the definition of "sanity"

I took the original question to be partly asking for a definition of "sanity".

comment by Lumifer · 2015-02-12T18:47:57.042Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I took the original question to be partly asking for a definition of "sanity".

Specifically, the sanity of a social group which is a bit different from the sanity of an individual.

One obvious approach is to measure it by the matching of the map and the territory, but that will make "sanity" very highly correlated with scientific and technological progress which probably not what we want.

comment by Salemicus · 2015-02-12T11:48:26.186Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think this is likely.

But I also think you may be overestimating the "sanity water line" because there are lots of professed "rational" beliefs that people don't actually believe.

I don't know whether, on net, that will raise or lower the line.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-02-12T14:14:50.459Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

But I also think you may be overestimating the "sanity water line" because there are lots of professed "rational" beliefs that people don't actually believe.

Example?

comment by Salemicus · 2015-02-12T17:42:06.408Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Some economists tell me, “Yes, all our models, data, and analysis and experience for the last 40 years say fiscal stimulus doesn’t work, but don’t you really believe it anyway?” This is an astonishing attitude. How can a scientist “believe” something different than what he or she spends a career writing and teaching?

Source.

I think a lot of people don't really believe the scientific statements they profess. They know they are supposed to say that "F = ma", for example, but then when you ask them to predict the movement of an object in space, they'll do so based on their intuitive notion that objects slow down unless you keep pushing them. They know very well what the science says, but they don't think it applies to reality. Or to give an example that frustrated me for many years, my father was a neuroscientist, whose day-to-day work relied in part on knowing the shapes of molecules, which of course relies on quantum physics. Yet he said, privately to me, said that quantum physics was all nonsense. He would never have said such a thing publicly, because it would have hurt his career.

Broadly speaking, I think the attitude in the quote is very widespread. The models, data, analysis and experience ('Science') say one thing, so they know they have to profess it. But people secretly believe the opposite, and will look to act on their true beliefs if given the chance. It's not just science, religion too, but I don't want to get into that.

comment by gjm · 2015-02-12T18:29:11.784Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I wonder how many of those "some economists" there really are. I know that, e.g., Paul Krugman, one of Cochrane's leading ideological opponents, vigorously denies that all models, data and experience say fiscal stimulus doesn't work. Cochrane's response is to suggest, inter alia, that Krugman doesn't really believe it either. I suppose he might be correct, but it seems more plausible to me that ideological differences are getting in the way of Cochrane having a good mental model of Krugman and other stimulus proponents. (In a similar way, many theists think, or say they think, that atheists really know that God is real and just don't want to admit it, and many atheists think, or say they think, that theists really know that there are no gods and just don't want to admit it.)

(Note: first link is to an NYT article; may be behind a paywall; if so, you can probably find it by searching for "Few economists saw our current crisis coming" and following the first link.)

comment by Salemicus · 2015-02-12T20:22:49.253Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I wonder how many of those "some economists" there really are. I know that, e.g., Paul Krugman, one of Cochrane's leading ideological opponents, vigorously denies that all models, data and experience say fiscal stimulus doesn't work.

My point was not to argue about fiscal stimulus. Indeed, if you deny that the models, data, etc, say that, then that is an intellectually respectable position, same as with any scientific dispute. But what is definitely not respectable, what is below the sanity waterline, is the attitude in the quote - that science says X, but I don't believe it anyway.

And that is very widespread, in my experience.

comment by gjm · 2015-02-12T22:04:25.511Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I understand that your point wasn't to argue about fiscal stimulus (and you will notice that no part of what I wrote was was arguing about fiscal stimulus, as opposed to about opinions about fiscal stimulus). I'm calling into question how often Cochrane has really heard people say what he describes, as opposed to less transparently irrational things that he interprets that way because he can't or won't believe that his ideological opponents really think as they say they do.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-02-12T18:44:03.242Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My mental model of Krugman is that he used to be smart scientist and then (I think consciously) decided that agitprop is really really important and that he will do more good by being a frontline fighter in ideological wars rather than a chief alchemist of an ivory tower. Unfortunately Krugman's assumed role is not compatible with being a smart scientist...

comment by Lumifer · 2015-02-12T18:10:49.488Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In the case of economists there is also ideology and social signaling in play. You cannot be a member in good standing of the Blue Tribe if you don't profess that more government spending solves problems :-/

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-02-11T21:32:53.481Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Looks like Less Wrong limits password lengths to 20 characters, which makes it hard to use "correct horse battery staple"-style password schemes.

comment by CBHacking · 2015-02-12T09:47:16.925Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

It also raises worrying considerations about how passwords are stored in the database. Passwords should never be stored in plain text, nor with reversible encryption. Instead, each account should store a password verifier value (and a salt, unique to the user).

A password verifier is the result of running a password, its salt, and possibly another input that isn't kept in the DB all through a function that produces some deterministic value that is nigh-impossible to brute force. A property of password verifiers is that they produce output of a constant length, regardless of the input length. This makes it easy to allow arbitrary-length passwords because any actual limit you impose is artificial and exists for some reason other than your database schema.

For those familiar with hash functions: a raw hash, even a long or fancy one like the new SHA3 family, is a bad password verifier function. However, it does exhibit the desired properties with regard to length. In fact, you can build a decent PVF out of cryptographic hash functions; see PBKDF2.

comment by faul_sname · 2015-02-14T02:20:34.111Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The worrying questions have somewhat less worrying answers. Here is the cause of the length limit of 20 (in r2/r2/templates/login/html):

      <input id="passwd_${op}"
             name="passwd_${op}" type="password" maxlength="20"/>

Removing the maxlength="20" restriction on password fields allows longer passwords without a problem (I'm actually unsure why that's there in the first place -- it doesn't actually prevent a malicious actor from sending a 1 GB password, as it's a client-side check).

comment by CBHacking · 2015-02-14T11:37:32.928Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Good to know. I hadn't actually bothered to check; I just used a unique password and email address as a matter of course - but I'm glad anyhow. Of course, that doesn't guarantee they're storing the password verifier, but I certainly could go read the source myself and find out.

Of course, if I was actually concerned about the security of my account here, I wouldn't use the site at all because it's only available unencrypted. Given how easy and cheap (even free) it is to enable TLS these days, I'm honestly surprised this site not only defaults to plaintext but doesn't support encryption at all. Intercepting network traffic is easy (promiscuous mode on open WiFi, run your own hotspot with an expected SSID, ARP spoofing, etc.)

comment by emr · 2015-02-10T03:04:26.238Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Why people find it emotionally difficult to keep secrets?

The dynamic shows up very early in childhood (search for "google: louise ck secret"), it can involve self-sacrifice (confessing to a crime), and people find it relieving to share secrets even in completely anonymous and impersonal ways ("google: the confession bear meme").

comment by MathiasZaman · 2015-02-10T07:57:16.434Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Secrets require cognitive effort. You need to keep track of what you can say to whom. Who told you what and when and why. It often involves lying or omitting information, both of which require additional effort and care in your conversation. I also find that it messes up some interpersonal relationships and habits. I'm not prone to keeping secrets and withholding information to my partner, family or friends, so if friend X tells me not to tell something to friend Y it forces me to act different from what feels natural.

comment by drethelin · 2015-02-12T00:12:04.007Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think it's an evolved mechanism that favors group cooperation. If people feel emotionally motivated to be open and honest with each other, and maintain a history of doing so, they're more trustworthy to each other and can coexist more peacefully and productively

comment by Dahlen · 2015-02-11T18:20:45.364Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Because they enjoy sharing info. Getting things "off their chests". Having an extra mind to think about the issue. Getting help from people, which they are only able to give inasmuch as they are clued in. Having other people relate to the experience, or running a sanity check against them. Difficulty in maintaining the illusion of the contrary; especially when you're lying about something that is essential to other people's understanding of your true self, that's basically life on hard mode. There are plenty of advantages, really, even in spite of incentives to keep some info secret.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-10T02:09:02.541Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Congratulations! Your employer and I have agreed to offer you a bonus week of paid vacation, complete with a personal assistant that handles all your affairs while you’re away at the world’s hottest new resort…Mac’s Wirehead Homestead.

Mac’s Wirehead Homestead is guaranteed to provide a week of pure bliss. No side effects, no addiction, no risks, just happiness.

So, can I sign you up for this free vacation?

[pollid:817]

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-10T13:58:16.754Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know to what extend happiness without side effects makes sense.

comment by MathiasZaman · 2015-02-10T07:49:36.563Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I found it difficult to "feel" the no addiction and no risk things. If I spend a full week on pure bliss, is the rest of my life going to feel drab or painful by comparison? If you do something that makes you happy, you generally want more of that so if Mac's Wirehead Homestead makes you perfectly happy for a week, aren't you going to crave more of it?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-15T21:44:08.605Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The no addiction assumption is included to make clear that the “wanting” part of your brain will not be hijacked; you will only engage in wireheading after the vacation if you make a sober choice to do so. Wanting vs. Liking summarized here:

http://lesswrong.com/lw/4yq/the_neuroscience_of_pleasure/

I agree with your prediction that a person who chooses the vacation will most likely pursue wireheading when he/she returns home.

(Best sex ever + Best joke ever + Best meal ever + Best love ever +… Best whatever ever)^(3^^^3) for a week would make quite an impression.

comment by FiftyTwo · 2015-02-10T23:03:31.591Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I want to say no purely because of my default suspicion of anyone offering me a free vacation.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-10T17:27:08.827Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I would vote no. One of the major benefits of going on a vacation is collecting memories to look back on later. If my vacation consisted only of wireheading, then when I was done, the memory of feeling bliss would be the only thing I gained. Instead of reminiscing "remember that time we went swimming at vacation spot?", the only thing I would have is "remember that chemically induced feeling of pure bliss?"

This doesn't seem like a useful experience to have gained; thinking about an actual event later on could bring back some of that happiness, but reminiscing about the platonic ideal of pure bliss doesn't seem like a valuable use of my time, nor would it rekindle some of that feeling every time I remembered it. If it could, why don't I just think about the feeling of pure bliss right now, and get the same effect without needing to go on the vacation?

Now if the vacation induced pure bliss by simulating an awesome adventure instead of just through chemical means, I would probably say yes. This would be the equivalent to going to see an paid week-long entertaining movie. I could relate this to other people, or think about how awesome it was at a later date and get back some of that feeling. But without an actual substantial memory to go with that feeling, I don't think it would be valuable after it ended. This isn't even considering the standard arguments against wireheading, which I tend to agree with.

comment by adamzerner · 2015-02-12T03:48:34.077Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I agree that good memories are a component of what makes a vacation good, but so is the joy you get from the vacation itself.

comment by Baughn · 2015-02-11T19:56:15.155Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If it could, why don't I just think about the feeling of pure bliss right now, and get the same effect without needing to go on the vacation?

I tried that. It has some effect.

I still wouldn't go on that vacation, no. Actually, I would probably try to outlaw it. :)

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-15T21:59:45.843Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, I would probably try to outlaw it. :)

As of this writing, 51% of voters (37 people) would go on the vacation. It is a bold claim to say they cannot be trusted with the decision. Why do you hold this position?

comment by ilzolende · 2015-02-10T06:37:07.757Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Considering the "no addiction" guarantee, it's hard for me to see the downside. I like sleeping, and a vacation in which I could spend >10 hours/day sleeping sounds nice, but sleep doesn't lead to friendship, or knowledge, or novelty, or any of that other stuff that people typically state that wireheading lacks. Since I don't consider the happiness caused by sleeping to be bad or fake, there's no real reason why I should reject wire-headed bliss as fake. (This is assuming that I don't have important stuff to do, and wireheading isn't dangerous to me.) The main reasons to reject it seem to be rejecting it as a permanent state.

comment by iarwain1 · 2015-02-10T02:31:39.235Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I voted yes, but largely because it will probably have very positive effects on my life after the vacation.

Here's my somewhat related question:

I am offering you the possibility to take the world's greatest year-long vacation. Pure enjoyment and happiness, no side effects or risks. However, when you're finished I'm going to give you this pill here that will make you completely forget the entire thing, and will also completely remove any possible subconscious or physiological benefit you might have otherwise gotten from the vacation. For that matter, for all you know you may have already taken the vacation and the pill and you've just forgotten about it.

Don't like that idea? Well, if you want an alternative I can give you a half-decent one day vacation instead. Not so great, no great life-changing experiences or lifelong memories, but at least you'll probably enjoy it and you will remember it when you're finished.

Which do you prefer?

[pollid:818]

comment by ZankerH · 2015-02-10T09:13:34.324Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Even all else being equal, I'd prefer not to waste one year of my life on something I won't even remember afterwards.

comment by Dagon · 2015-02-10T15:27:17.609Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Doesn't that describe all of life? Why waste years of your life on something you won't even remember afterwards?

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-02-11T21:40:31.780Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I picked the half-decent vacation because I assumed iarwain1 was talking about forgetting the great vacation immediately (i.e. within hours) after it's over; if I had to take the pill several decades later I would have picked the great vacation.

(This means that how much an experience matters to me depends on how long I will remember it, rather than just on whether it ever happened at all and/or on whether I will remember it at t = +∞. Does this have some serious badly counterintuitive consequence that I'm missing?)

comment by wadavis · 2015-02-11T16:39:46.345Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Many philosophies of life fall apart on the cosmic macro scale. Lets not move the goalpost into post-transhumanism, it is clear that is not what ZankerH is talking about.

comment by ZankerH · 2015-02-10T18:25:18.332Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What are you talking about? I don't have a habit of losing memory after long-term activities, and I'm pretty sure that's normal.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-10T18:45:20.358Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Death.

comment by Dagon · 2015-02-10T20:36:35.199Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think you'll lose all your memories sometime in the relatively near future (say, less than 100 years).

comment by Gavin · 2015-02-10T05:46:47.111Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The great vacation sounds to me like it ends with me being killed and another version of me being recognized. I realize that these issues of consciousness and continuity are far from settled, but at this point that's my best guess. Incidentally, if anyone thinks there's a solid argument explaining what does and doesn't count as "me" and why, I'd be interested to hear it. Maybe there's a way to dissolve the question?

In any event, I wasn't able to easily choose between one or the other. Wireheading sounds pretty good to me.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-15T22:12:49.539Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Great vacation for me. I'm a happiness points maximizer.

Even in the worst case scenario described by Gavin, in which I'm killed at the end of the great vacation and a new me is recognized afterwards, I would still choose the great vacation - much more happiness is created.

Very interesting results to this poll.

Edit: Grammar

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-15T18:13:53.921Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I voted for the half-decent one, but then I started thinking about how many things I would be able to do during that awesome year and also deny wholly honestly later... Since obviously, you would have to include my preferences into your planning, to make the time truly great.

Ohh, the visions of daring and mercy... Come on, pay up!

comment by Kindly · 2015-02-10T12:59:48.617Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I voted yes, but largely because it will probably have very positive effects on my life after the vacation.

Really? I voted no, because I couldn't think of any positive effects on my life after the vacation. What did you have in mind?

comment by Dorikka · 2015-02-10T17:57:10.901Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Nah. Bliss sans content doesn't seem fun or interesting.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-02-10T12:39:11.437Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I might be inclined to sample a few seconds of the wirehead machine, but only if it is clear (beyond whatever "guarantees" Mac offers) that people in fact do not find the experience, once sampled, irresistable. Beyond that, absolutely not.

comment by philh · 2015-02-10T09:48:58.003Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

A week, sure. Two weeks, maybe. A month, I could be convinced. A year, no thanks.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2015-02-11T08:08:31.557Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think I would start with one minute. With a precommitment that I will not try another minute during the next month; and a few people to observe me whether I have not lost interest in all non-wireheading activities -- and if I do, they can vote on not allowing me to try another minute for the next year.

My intuition (which is unreliable, especially when talking about fictional stuff) is that one minute of any experience shouldn't damage my brain permanently, but one day already sounds like too much.

comment by wadavis · 2015-02-11T16:53:22.308Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

No. What does a week of bliss give you? Nothing but a fond memory. (I'm assuming you don't gain the mental regroup and recovery affect associated with vacations)

A week of bliss builds nothing, and a wirehead bliss does not improve yourself. You have learnt nothing from that week. As far as future prosperity goes it is the same as a week of work drudgery in which no growth happens.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-15T22:34:10.882Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Agreed, you would not be more capable after the vacation. Your prospects would not improve.

But surely, you must indulge yourself occasionally and Mac’s Wirehead Homestead seems like the best place for that.

comment by wadavis · 2015-02-17T18:18:37.830Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

“The primary thing when you take a sword in your hands is your intention to cut the enemy, whatever the means. Whenever you parry, hit, spring, strike or touch the enemy’s cutting sword, you must cut the enemy in the same movement. It is essential to attain this. If you think only of hitting, springing, striking or touching the enemy, you will not be able actually to cut him. More than anything, you must be thinking of carrying your movement through to cutting him.”

Miyamoto Musashi wrote, in The Book of Five Rings:

Musashi spoke of swordsmanship here, but this applies to any endeavor that aspires to excel. Like an electric train's regenerative brakes charge its batteries, and the exhaust gas of a firearm chambers the next round and cocks the hammer, I expect even my down-time and indulgences to provide future prosperity.

Time is what life is made of, why squander it on something so temporary as a week's bliss. Are you so content that you will delay improving your future for a week?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-20T02:35:51.454Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think we could write a book about our fundamental disagreement, but I’ll just ask one question…

Let’s imagine a machine that improves any of your skills at twice your normal rate of improvement. All you have to do is think of what you want to improve, and then connect your brain to the machine. After one hour connected to the machine, it is as if you practiced that skill for two hours.

Unfortunately, the machine transmits the greatest amount of pain imaginable while it is in use - every inch of your body is a throbbing firecracker of agony.

Would you ever use this machine?

comment by wadavis · 2015-02-20T05:40:58.496Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, as much I could tolerate it.

But yes, we have a fundamental difference of perspectives here.

comment by ctintera · 2015-02-20T02:56:17.780Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That depends -- does it have any other side effects, such as conditioning me against using the skill involved? Deliberate practice is hard, but this machine sounds quite convenient, and some skills that can be extremely useful can be not only inconvenient but also daunting or even dangerous to practice without such a machine.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-10T18:44:50.178Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Lacks a neutral option in the pool. Having a neutral option is quite useful to get good data, where some people don't want to decide.

comment by folkTheory · 2015-02-09T17:24:28.758Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I recently got into practicing meditation, and got a lot out of the old LW posts about it. I was wondering if there is any interest to have a meditation retreat for rationalists?

comment by beoShaffer · 2015-02-10T03:53:57.908Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I know that Val from CfAR at least used to run meditation retreats though they weren't aimed specifically at rationalists.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-10T00:49:10.848Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think it would be interesting but I see no good reason to do a retreat for specifically for rationalists. I'm not sure whether there are people in this community who are at the 10,000 hour skill level. It's probably easier to find that outside.

I'm apologizing in advance for a bit of bit irreducible spirituality. I try to keep it to a minimum.

I have two experiences of group meditations among rationalists. On was last year at the European Community Camp in Berlin. It felt like there was nobody in the room who gave the thing stability. In the dose of 15-20 minutes that's not harmful but I wouldn't expect a few days in that state to be good.

I lead a meditation during the solstice celebration in Leipzig and only used 20 minutes of 30 that I had asked for on the agenda, because that felt enough.

In total that leads me to think that meditation makes a decent agenda item at an LW event but no good program for a complete day. At least without someone to lead the event who really knows what they are doing.

comment by Vaniver · 2015-02-10T23:13:55.140Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think it would be interesting but I see no good reason to do a retreat for specifically for rationalists.

Many meditation retreats are heavy on the woo, and so it may be more pleasant for rationalists to go to one that isn't woo-heavy (and I don't think it'd be easy to judge that from the outside).

I'm not sure whether there are people in this community who are at the 10,000 hour skill level. It's probably easier to find that outside.

This is the more serious concern, I think. Perhaps there is someone with the meditation skill who can quickly drop the woo from the way they describe it? But even if they're an expert at meditation, what you really want is an expert at teaching, and changing around how they can teach could quickly destroy that expertise.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-11T00:16:15.361Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

(and I don't think it'd be easy to judge that from the outside).

There are people in this community who were participants of meditation retreats that you can ask for recommendations. That will likely give you much better information than reading advertisements.

Perhaps there is someone with the meditation skill who can quickly drop the woo from the way they describe it?

This assumes the main issue with way is people describing it. If you as an atheist have a vision of Christ raising from the cross, then the thing you want isn't a person who leads the meditation who doesn't answer questions and says "Trust the process". You want someone to tell you: "Hey, part of meditation is that you can get visions. That doesn't mean they are real. There no good reason to believe in them. I have had plenty of visions during meditation in which I don't believe."

That's how Danis Bois handles the issue. I did a 5 day seminar with him this summer. Each of the days had less than 1 hour of pure meditation. and there was plenty of lecture time.

Some openness to be confronted with things you consider to be very improbable is simply part of the process.

Being treated like a child who's not ready to hear certain things isn't good. Scientology 101 contains no woo at all. Luke wrote about it as a very valuable experience. Later they teach about Xenu. That's not the kind of environment you want as a rationalist.

You want to have questions that you ask honestly answered. I'm okay with not being told things I don't ask, but it no easy area. I also marvel at the ability of Danis to say things where the answer is hidden in plain sight for half of the audience who isn't ready to hear it.

comment by folkTheory · 2015-02-10T03:12:17.452Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Good point, thank you.

comment by Thomas · 2015-02-09T09:37:33.184Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Has anybody else acquired a feeling, that recently the pace of progress in AI field - has increased?

Or it's just me?

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-02-09T10:28:40.000Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Have you been going to AI conferences or reading AI/ML journals recently?

comment by Thomas · 2015-02-09T10:51:45.412Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Reading. It's much more to read than it is possible to attend, anyway.

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-02-09T10:54:15.962Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Neat -- can you give me some pointers on things to read that caused you to become more ?optimistic?. I want to be optimistic, too!

comment by Houshalter · 2015-02-09T13:41:13.062Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I made a list of AI developments in 2014.

comment by Thomas · 2015-02-09T11:22:43.629Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In the case you haven't seen the JoshuaZ's link, it's a good starter:

https://cs.uwaterloo.ca/journals/JIS/colton/joisol.html

The "concept inventor program HR", was able to invent "those numbers, which the numbers of divisors also divides that number".

One million or so human mathematicians in the last 300 years in the field of Number theory all failed to spot it before.

I, myself, recently build an efficient machine for mass producing this:

http://www.critticall.com/cubus_maximus/test.html

Too hard for intelligent humans, too big task for a supercomputers with a brute force approach.

And for the hardware we'll also need.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150202160711.htm

comment by gjm · 2015-02-09T13:46:05.018Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If a "concept inventor program" comes up with some property of numbers that mathematicians have not so far given any thought to, it could mean EITHER

  • that the program has spotted something interesting that mathematicians have missed, OR
  • that the program has spotted something that isn't actually mathematically interesting.

I think it's too early to say whether this notion of "refactorable numbers" is actually useful in number theory, or whether it's a mere curiosity that doesn't go anywhere. My money's on the latter.

comment by Houshalter · 2015-02-09T14:43:11.964Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Too early? It was discovered 16 years ago. Now it has it's own Wikipedia article and some other hits, so someone must have found it interesting.

But yes this is the biggest problem with automated discovery, that there is no definition of "interesting". Automated discovery systems tend to produce random garbage after enough time. One paper defined it as things which are difficult to prove, and so it discards trivial and obvious stuff (EDIT: better paper on this subject.)

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-02-09T17:15:09.376Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Speaking as a mathematician who wrote one of the papers cited there, the concept isn't very interesting at all. It is the sort of recreational mathematics that we enjoy playing with and is fairly natural but it isn't the sort of thing that is going to lead to deep insights or structural mathematics. The bar of being interesting enough to have papers written on it is really low.

comment by gjm · 2015-02-09T16:25:32.763Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Too early? It was discovered 16 years ago.

More like 25, actually; the first paper on these numbers was published in 1990, long before Colton's program. So far as I can tell, in those 25 years no one has found anything else (in pure mathematics or elsewhere) that is made easier, or understood better, as a result of having the notion of "refactorable numbers" available. So perhaps rather than "too early to say", I should say that they've been discovered and found to be nothing more than a curiosity.

But I don't think I should. In mathematics, sometimes quite a long time passes between when a thing is first thought of and when it's first found to be useful. Maybe refactorable numbers will turn out to be a key concept in the proof of the Riemann Hypothesis in 2137. I wouldn't bet on it, though.

Lest I be misunderstood, that doesn't mean I think there's anything wrong with being interested in refactorable numbers or studying their properties for their own sake. But if they're just a curiosity, as seems to be the case, then I'm not so impressed by HR's achievement in finding them. It seems like one could do about equally well by picking (say) ten simply-defined properties of a positive integer (say: number of divisors, sum of divisors, sum of squares of divisors, number of prime factors, sum of prime factors, Euler totient function, number of 1s in binary expansion, Ramanujan tau function, floor of square root, floor of base-2 logarithm), considering all pairs of them and putting a few things like "equals", "divides", "equals square of" in between. I bet that at least 10% of the results will define sets of positive integers that are neither much less new, nor much less interesting, than the refactorable numbers were when HR found them.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-02-10T00:49:18.484Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Can you give an example of something in mathematics that was invented, condemned as boring, and a decade or more later found to be useful?

comment by gjm · 2015-02-10T16:19:50.249Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Embarrassingly: no, not offhand. I have a general impression that this happens sometimes, rather than specific examples. Maybe some of the specialfunctionology used by Louis de Branges to prove the Bieberbach conjecture?

comment by Houshalter · 2015-02-09T23:38:31.949Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Supposedly it did discover some interesting things from it. Like if the sum of the divisors of an integer is prime, then the number of divisors must be prime. That seems interesting, but I'm not a mathematician.

comment by gjm · 2015-02-10T00:09:37.430Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Well, let's see. Sum of divisors is product of 1+p+...+p^k so if that's prime then the number must be a prime power so only one p, and then if the number of terms in that sum is composite you get an obvious nontrivial factor for the sum of divisors, and we're done. I reckon something I can prove in two minutes without making use of the notion of refactorable numbers probably isn't a great argument for the importance of that notion.

Perhaps the point is that this theorem was discovered while thinking about refactorable numbers. I rather doubt it, but in any case the theorem itself seems like a cute curiosity rather than something any number theorist would care much about.

(I am a mathematician, though I've been out of academia for years and was never a number theorist.)

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-02-09T12:25:26.866Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Minor note: the Colton article I linked to is from 1999.

comment by Thomas · 2015-02-09T12:30:53.903Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I have noticed this. And it ain't good, at all!

Until now, it should be a lot of artificially discovered concepts around, but which are nowhere to be seen!

Perhaps it's a low hanging fruit?

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-02-09T14:18:18.308Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I expect that may be the case. Colton and a few others were working on similar stuff in the late 1990s and early 2000s but there's been less interest in the last few years. I expect that will change soon.

comment by Sgeo · 2015-02-11T05:03:46.172Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

What's the deal with General Biotics? They first promised a study on January 15th, then they said it would need 15 more days, and to check back Feb 1st. Feb 1st rolls around, nothing for a few days, then that page is gone, and the home page then says that the study is slated for completion mid year. It would be nice to have an actual record of the constantly changing date, but they've been blocking the Internet Archive (since December 2014 or earlier, which to me does not look as bad as if it was a very recent change): http://web.archive.org/web/20141217104405/http://www.generalbiotics.com/robots.txt

comment by Zian · 2017-02-17T22:54:29.339Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

We can only infer that something bad has happened. In the worst case scenario (as HPMOR is so fond of recommending), the company has been taken over by hostile aliens and is now pumping out poisons to destroy as many humans as possible.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-02-12T18:11:08.633Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

archive.is ignores the robots file.

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2015-02-10T01:32:20.545Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I found this exercise surprising and useful. Supposing we accept the standard model that our utility is logarithmic in money. Let's suppose we're paid $100,000 a year, and somewhat arbitrarily use that as the baseline for our utility calculations. We go out for a meal with 10 people where each spends $20 on food. At the end of the meal, we can either all put in $20 or we can randomize it and have one person pay $200. All other things being equal, how much should we be prepared to pay to avoid randomization?

Take a guess at the rough order of magnitude. Then look at this short Python program until you're happy that it's calculating the amount that you were trying to estimate, and then run it to see how accurate your estimate was.

from math import exp, log
w = 100000
b = 20
k = 10
print w - b - exp(log(w-k*b)/k + log(w)*(1-1.0/k))

Incidentally I discovered this while working out the (trivial) formula for an approximation to this following conversations with Paul Christiano and Benja Fallenstein.

EDITED TO ADD: If you liked this, check out Expectorant by Bethany Soule of Beeminder fame.

comment by emr · 2015-02-10T02:40:41.206Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Conversly, if you'd pay much more than this, you are absurdly risk averse: Here's a pdf of a classic paper by Rabin: Risk Aversion and Expected-Utility Theory: A Calibration Theorem

Abstract:

Within the expected-utility framework, the only explanation for risk aversion is that the utility function for wealth is concave: A person has lower marginal utility for additional wealth when she is wealthy than when she is poor. This paper provides a theorem showing that expected-utility theory is an utterly implausible explanation for apprecia- ble risk aversion over modest stakes: Within expected-utility theory, for any concave utility function, even very little risk aversion over modest stakes implies an absurd degree of risk aversion over large stakes. Illustrative calibrations are provided

comment by Jiro · 2015-02-10T18:53:26.091Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This seems to make an unwarranted assumption about exactly how the marginal utility diminishes.

comment by emr · 2015-02-11T01:37:23.779Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The paper, or my comment? I interpreted the paper as an attack on (explanatory) models of risk aversion that are based on this (quite general) type of utility curve, with the conclusion that observed behavior can't be motivated by such a curve.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-02-10T19:39:06.313Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This is a great example of If It’s Worth Doing, It’s Worth Doing With Made-Up Statistics. If the assumption is your True Rejection, it's worth playing around with alternate models to see if you can get a different answer. The simple truth is that humans are dynamically inconsistent.

comment by Dagon · 2015-02-10T15:40:38.946Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Improper measurements. You can't compare a time-based number (annual income) to a one-time decision (lump sum of $0, $20 or $200). W should be something like "expected future lifetime spending" in order for this to be a reasonable risk-preference calculation. Further comments assume these are quite poor folks who'll only ever consume $100k in the rest of their lives.

I guessed high by about 5x. The choice is even more trivial than I thought. I will continue happily playing credit card roulette :)

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2015-02-10T16:54:34.211Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I agree that measuring by annual income isn't really legit, but I never know what figure to use here, and it seemed at least like a reasonable lower bound.

comment by DanielLC · 2015-02-10T20:03:57.317Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Just say that you have that much money. Or specify that you do this once a year and you don't save money between years.

comment by lmm · 2015-02-14T11:19:30.760Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This seems to disregard time preferences. Losing $200 now hurts a lot more than the joy of earning $200 over the course of the following year.

If I set w to "amount currently in my checking account that I consider available for random impulse buys" - say $400 - then I get an answer that's almost exactly in line with my intuition.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-02-10T19:23:58.711Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Shouldn't your link have "latex" in place of "download"?

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2015-02-12T20:31:32.493Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The key idea to use here is linearization: even if a function is substantially non-linear overall, it is usually going to be linear in the small region around a point. Since the meal price is small compared to income, utility is just a linear function in that region.

If you haven't done the math in a while, it's a good exercise to see that when you do the Taylor approximations for the two functions, they are equal to first order.

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2015-02-13T17:59:36.008Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Right, it was by using the Taylor series around the mean I got the approximation based on the variance. Paul pointed out to me you could do this and presumably did this calculation himself already

comment by DanielLC · 2015-02-10T20:05:29.153Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I tried to follow the link and it asked me to download something. Can you post the formula?

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2015-02-10T22:34:24.564Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry about that. I've applied the fix that Douglas_Knight suggests below, it shouldn't ask you to download now. The formula is simple enough that it's almost a spoiler for the main challenge so I wanted to hide it behind a link.

comment by DanielLC · 2015-02-10T23:57:28.248Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It still asked me to download.

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2015-02-11T00:31:22.959Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Looks like I reverted it somehow, don't know how that happened sorry! It now displays for me.

comment by Larks · 2015-02-10T01:50:17.998Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I got within 10% of the correct answer!

Yeah, people often run arguments like this without actually considering the magnitude.

comment by ike · 2015-02-09T17:44:39.655Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Is there a good way to save all of my browsing data locally? I'd ideally want something that gets anything fetched on my computer, including headers and any signatures needed to prove that a site really sent something. I also want it to be searchable easily by keyword and site.

comment by Vaniver · 2015-02-10T00:09:28.804Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

gwern's approach may be a good place to start.

comment by ike · 2015-02-10T14:18:39.722Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've seen that. He basically looks through his history with a script and then wgets it, as well as submitting to archive systems. That's both wasteful on bandwidth as everything is downloaded twice, and anything not public needs to be done manually with cookies. He also can't prove that they came from a site even if it used https.

I was thinking something like a browser extension that just made sure nothing downloaded was ever deleted. I wonder if chrome has a hook for when it internally deletes something, that a program could instead copy it and convert it to some format?

comment by gwern · 2015-02-10T19:20:37.956Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

That's both wasteful on bandwidth as everything is downloaded twice, and anything not public needs to be done manually with cookies.

But it's dead-simple and robust compared to some sort of in-browser extension which saves the rendered DOM in the background.

He also can't prove that they came from a site even if it used https.

I've never needed to prove that. My concern is usually having a copy at all, and the IA is trusted enough that it's a de facto proof.

But it's possible:

  1. find a download tool which will save the raw bit-level TCP/IP stream of packets when you download a page and save it to an appropriate format like a PCAP file (maybe Wireshark supports this or it could be hooked into something like wget?); this preserves the HTTPS encryption and allows proving that the content came signed with the domain's key (not that this means much), since the crypto can be checked to be valid and the stream replayed.
  2. This doesn't prove it came from the domain at a particular time, but you can get timestamping using a trusted timestamping service such as the Bitcoin blockchain: as soon as the PCP file is closed and the webpage downloaded, take the hash and send a satoshi to the equivalent Bitcoin address. Transaction fees mean that this might get expensive to do for each web page, but there are a lot of ways you could optimize this (such as batching up an entire day's worth of downloads into a single tarball archive, and timestamping that; big savings but also more granular timestamp; there are other schemes). Now you can prove the content came from someone with a particular HTTPS public key and that you downloaded it on or before a particular hour and date (roughly when the Bitcoin block with your transaction will be mined).

If anyone doubts you, they can take the relevant tarball, verify the hash and timestamp to when you say it was, then extract the relevant PCAP, verify the encryption, and then the displayed content.

Good luck.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-02-12T01:40:27.083Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Simply sniffing https packets is worthless. At most it tells you the length of the session. It's exactly the adversary that TLS is designed to foil. You need the session key to decrypt it, so, you need to hook into the TLS implementation.

comment by gwern · 2015-11-05T01:01:01.006Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It seems someone has done the TLS hooking: TLSNotary. Whitepaper:

‘TLSnotary’ allows a client to provide evidence to a third party auditor that certain web traffic occurred between himself and a server. The evidence is irrefutable as long as the auditor trusts the server’s public key. The remainder of this paper describes how TLSnotary allows the auditee to conduct an https session normally with a web server such that the auditor can verify some part of that session (e.g. a single HTML page), by temporarily withholding a small part of the secret data used to set up the https session. The auditee does not at any time reveal any of the session keys to the auditor or anyone else, nor does he render or decrypt any data without authentication. Thus the full security model of the TLS 1.0 session is maintained, modulo some reduction in the entropy of the secrets used to protect it. Notes to the reader: As of this writing, TLSnotary is only compatible with TLS 1.0 and 1.1, not TLS 1.2

...In summary, the purpose of this rather complex sequence of steps is: the auditor withholds some of the secret data from the auditee (acting as client), so that the auditee cannot fabricate traffic from the server (since at the time of making his request, he does not have the server mac write secret). Once the auditee has a made a commitment to the encrypted content of the server’s response to his request, the auditor can provide the auditee with the required secret data in order to construct the server mac write secret. Then, the auditee can safely complete the decryption and authentication steps of the TLS protocol, since at that point he has the full master secret. In this way, the auditee maintains the full TLS security model, although he was prevented from creating a fake version of the post-handshake traffic from the server - something he is always able to do if he has the full master secret in advance.

Seems it requires an active and online auditor server (which is far from ideal), but if someone were to run such a trusted auditor, then you get your HTTPS provability and can timestamp it as before.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-11-05T16:51:55.832Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think that the people who wrote the code are running a server.

I am surprised that it is possible for a browser plug-in to hook so deeply into the browser to accomplish this.

comment by Baughn · 2015-02-13T00:39:51.614Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Or make your own CA, install that certificate in your browser and MITM the connection. Probably easier than changing your browser's code; can easily be done all on a single system.

comment by gwern · 2015-02-12T02:28:02.143Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Knew I forgot something.

comment by ike · 2015-02-10T21:23:35.854Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

But it's simple and robust compared to some sort of in-browser extension which saves the rendered DOM in the background.

It's not robust for saving things like private chats, or anything else you need to be logged in to see. If I read your page correctly you'd need to do each of those manually. Unless the program can automatically take the cookies from a browser, and even then not everything gets saved. I'd want something that saved every element that was downloaded to my computer.

Also, if the page gets deleted fast, your program may miss it.

I've never needed to prove that. My concern is usually having a copy at all, and the IA is trusted enough that it's a de facto proof.

I anticipate needing that, or at least finding it useful. Did you know the Internet Archive will delete based on a request by the website? I'm dealing with a specific domain where people are forging screenshots to prove their side, and something like this would come in handy, I think. Some of the sites are also deleting posts fast, which makes it hard to archive on a schedule.

find a download tool which will save the raw bit-level TCP/IP stream when you download a page and save it to an appropriate format like a PCAP file (maybe Wireshark supports this or it could be hooked into something like wget?); this preserves the HTTPS encryption and allows proving that the content came signed with the domain's key (not that this means much), since the crypto can be checked to be valid and the stream replayed.

Why doesn't it mean much?

For timestamping, doesn't the TCP protocol have timestamps in it, or are those not signed or something? Also, many pages have timestamps embedded in them.

We do have different uses for this, obviously.

Would a proxy be easier to set up, and if so, how would I do that to cache all results?

If there was a program that functioned like I wanted it to, would you prefer it over your solution?

comment by gwern · 2015-02-11T04:48:57.188Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It's not robust for saving things like private chats, or anything else you need to be logged in to see. If I read your page correctly you'd need to do each of those manually.

There are always edge-cases. A simple version of my solution can be coded up and fully implemented in an hour or less by a normal programmer (the hardest part is writing the SQL line for pulling out URLs from Firefox); the full version (a bot or daemon) could probably be done in only a few hours more.

Your desired solution, on the other hand, requires intimate familiarity with browser extensions and internals (if you want to save dynamic content and fancy things like Javascript-based chats, so much for trying to leverage existing solutions like the Mozilla Archive Format extension!).

Pareto.

Did you know the Internet Archive will delete based on a request by the website?

My understanding is that in all cases, these deletions are really more 'marking private', and if it's done via robots.txt, well, one day that robots.txt may be gone.

Some of the sites are also deleting posts fast, which makes it hard to archive on a schedule.

Note the on-demand archiving services used by my archive bot, discussed in my page...

For timestamping, doesn't the TCP protocol have timestamps in it, or are those not signed or something?

I'm not sure. It's possible that the packets have timestamps, but the encrypted content does not, in which case you don't get provable timestamping: the HTTPS encryption can be verified, but one could have modified the packets to read any timestamps one pleases because they're 'around' the encryption, not 'in' it. If it does, then maybe you don't need explicit trusted timestamping, but if it doesn't (or you want to work with any other data sources which don't luckily have timestamps built in just right) then the Bitcoin solution would work.

Also, many pages have timestamps embedded in them.

Now who's satisficing.

If there was a program that functioned like I wanted it to, would you prefer it over your solution?

I would consider it, but I would be somewhat reluctant to switch because I wouldn't trust the tool to not break horribly at some point.

comment by ike · 2015-02-16T05:11:27.432Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Pfft says that this wouldn't work at all for proof due to how TLS works. Is that true? Is there no hope, then?

If correct, it's impossible to prove that any server sent a specific piece of data, because it's encrypted symmetrically, and the only proof you have a zero-knowledge and non-transmissible. (Assuming I'm understanding properly.)

comment by gwern · 2015-02-16T20:02:10.743Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I dunno. I'm not an expert on TLS/HTTPS - I assumed that it would be implemented the natural way (signed and encrypted) where my proposal would work. But the devil is in the details...

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-02-10T19:16:42.171Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Bandwidth is cheap.

There are very few audiences to whom a mathematical proof is more convincing than a screenshot. And those audiences probably don't care about you. But if you really want to do it, you're probably better off modifying a proxy than a browser.

comment by Pfft · 2015-02-11T22:16:19.292Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Hm, reading up a bit about SSL/TLS, it seems this will not work. Apparently it uses a Message Authentication Code to ensure authenticity, not a signature. But that means that even if you have all the data sent by the server, you still can't prove to a third party that you didn't modify it.

I'm not sure, but possibly you could prove that you did an SSL handshake with the server at a given time, so you can prove that the server sent "something", but not necessarily the particular thing you have. :)

comment by CBHacking · 2015-02-12T09:25:02.886Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

One possible solution is to use a proxy. There are a number of specialized HTTP[S] or SOCKS proxies, some of which may be ideally suited for this use or at least easily adaptable to it. The proxy I use most often is called Burp Suite, and is intended for web site testing and isn't really ideal for your use, but it could technically be coerced into doing what you want.

Preserving the actual TLS traffic including authentication and integrity is a bit of a weird/tricky thing to do. You can record it easily enough using any tool capable of packet capture, but unless you store handshake, the traffic, the symmetric (bulk) encryption key, and the integrity metadata, it will be tricky to prove any given server sent that data.

comment by Pfft · 2015-02-11T02:07:21.913Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't have an answer, but I think the idea of leveraging https to get a proof of authenticity is a really good idea. If there isn't a standard utility for doing this, there ought to be!

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-10T16:44:10.655Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's not exactly what you're looking for, but I use evernote for a similar purpose (an easily searchable database of websites I visit sorted by tags and available, locally, on every device, as well as in the cloud.

The difference being you have to choose to save the pages, it's not automatic.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2015-02-13T09:38:54.141Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I am thinking about having a small side income, but without advertising to anyone who types my name in Google. The plan is roughly the following:

I will make computer games and publish them on Google Play and/or Steam. To increase visibility, I will also have a Facebook page, and write a blog about making these games. Just for the sake of experiment, I will also make a Patreon and/or Gratipay account and ask for donations. For these purposes, I will use a pseudonym; the same one for all the platforms, to build brand awareness. I will also use this pseudonym for debating programming and games on Stack Exchange, Reddit, and/or Twitter. I will keep this aspect of my life separated from everything else, because I want this identity to appear as a more or less one-dimensional personality: a simple guy who makes games and has absolutely no controversial opinions (e.g. about politics or religion) ever.

The question is, if you have experience with the services I have mentioned, how much anonymity can I achieve while 100% following their terms of service?

To explain my intentions, following all the terms of services is my highest priority. Because, in a hypothetical chance of huge success, I would hate if suddenly one of those website would delete my account for violations of their rules. The anonymity does not have to be perfect; I would be satisfied with the level Scott Alexander has, although the more the better. (I wouldn't bother using Tor to hide my IP address or anything inconvenient.) I just don't want people who know me to realize that this is my project, unless I tell them; and I don't want people who will play my games to effortlessly find who I am and what other things I do online.

What I found so far: Creating a new GMail account is not a problem. It will not even be inconvenient, because it is easy to switch between multiple google accounts; and I can automatically forward mails from the pseudonymous address to my new address, so I will not miss anything. On the other hand, Google Play recently requires developers to publish their home address. Well, without my name there, I could still pretends it was some neighbor in the (unlikely, in my opinion) case someone would notice. Facebook requires real name when making a user account, but allows creating "business pages" which do not display the owner's name. I am not sure about the other services yet. To explain: I do not mind if the website owners know my real name; I just don't want them to display it to any other user.

Has anyone here tried something similar (building a pseudonymous identity using these websites following their terms of service)? Can you share your experience?

EDIT: Okay, thanks everyone for helping me think about it. Now I realize that "selling to people", "legal", "easy", and "anonymous" are not possible together. Usually one has to disclose their identity to people they do business with. There are ways to cheat here; and there are also complicated ways to do this legally. But since I want to stay within the legal framework, and I don't want to spend too much resources on this, then the anonymity will have to go.

I still have an option to use some pseudonym as a trademark, if I decide so -- there may be good reasons for doing so, for example the pseudonym may sound better, or be easier to remember -- but at the end of the day, my real name will be written somewhere in small letters. Most people will not care, most people may not notice it, but if anyone will want to know, they will know. Okay; I can live with that. Again, thanks everyone!

comment by fubarobfusco · 2015-02-14T06:18:28.985Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't want people who will play my games to effortlessly find who I am and what other things I do online.

Let's flip this around:

I want to get other people to run my software on their computers without them being able to readily find out who I am.

Which sounds fine if you're publishing that software as open-source to people who can inspect it ... but not so great if you're publishing it to people who don't have any way of telling what that software is up to!

(Which isn't to say that you're up to anything bad; just that the market is such that a lot of people are up to something bad, and this leads to market operators taking some measures against eagerly supporting untraceable authors.)

comment by Lumifer · 2015-02-13T15:49:07.733Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You need what's known in the industry as a "threat model". You want to be pseudonymous against whom?

Let me offer you examples of answers:

  • A random person on the 'net
  • Someone with excellent Google-fu
  • An investigative journalist
  • Hackers who are not specifically interested in you
  • Hackers who are specifically interested in you
  • Law enforcement
  • etc.
comment by Viliam_Bur · 2015-02-13T20:47:15.888Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Uhm, probably a random person who has no specific suspicion; they are just curious and decided to spend 10 minutes on google trying to find everything about me. Not an investigative journalist, but let's say an average journalist who has a not very important interview with me on an unrelated topic, and is doing a general background check.

comment by Epictetus · 2015-02-15T03:35:20.026Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The old way is to employ someone to serve as a front man. Everything is in their name, but you run it and collect the paychecks.

For a more modern approach, you can find a country that's happy to host your business and won't ask questions. If you do it right you could obfuscate it enough that one would have to obtain warrants in three different countries to discover your involvement. But unless you're running a drug cartel or terrorist network, it's probably more trouble than its worth.

comment by philh · 2015-02-13T11:25:29.332Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't want people who will play my games to effortlessly find who I am and what other things I do online.

This sounds like more anonymity than Scott Alexander has. Scott's real name is easy to work out from reading his blog. What you can't easily do is google his real name and find SSC.

(OTOH, I suspect it wouldn't be too difficult to go from SA levels of anonymity to the level you want. Someone who didn't know Alexander was a pseudonym could probably read much of SSC without ever realizing. Don't quote news articles about your brother, and don't link to other websites controlled by you, and you're probably safe unless you get a determined stalker.)

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-02-13T12:43:36.445Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Whatever pseudonym you choose, don't say it here.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2015-02-13T19:50:10.050Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Sure.

Okay, this helped me realize that pseudonyms also have a cost. There are people who like me, who would like to try a game made by me, and maybe even support me by showing the game to their friends. These are the customers I will lose. And LessWrong is an international website; it could be a vector to reach many countries, if I would announce the game in the bragging thread. I'll think about it.

(Alternatively, as a way of building plausible deniability, I might start randomly mentioning new indie developers from Slovakia. Here is my friend Vladoft.)

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-02-14T00:33:28.399Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I might start randomly mentioning new indie developers from Slovakia

Bad idea. Then people will get suspicious about the new, great game designer who's conspicuously not being named here.

comment by alienist · 2015-02-14T20:53:25.856Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

How do you know Vladoft isn't actually his alias?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-13T13:52:50.160Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Google Play not only requires a home address but also a credit card for payment (you can't pay with Google Wallet). Credit cards are connected to identities by banks who in turn spend effort into people not having faux cards. There are also laws, that punish you for lying to banks to get credit cards under false names.

I will keep this aspect of my life separated from everything else, because I want this identity to appear as a more or less one-dimensional personality: a simple guy who makes games and has absolutely no controversial opinions (e.g. about politics or religion) ever.

Why? App publishing is mostly anti-fragile against criticism. Scott jobs as a doctor on the other hand isn't anti-fragile, so he has to care about his job not getting messed up by blog articles he writes.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2015-02-13T20:27:51.687Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

As long as Google Play will not display my name on the credit card to users, I am okay with that. Google probably already knows about me more than anyone including myself. The problem with the home address is that according to recent changes in the terms of service, the address is displayed to users. Quoting Google Play Developer Distribution Agreement:

You must supply and maintain valid and accurate contact information that will be displayed in each application detail page on the Store and made available to users for customer support and legal purposes.

Actually, now that I think about it, maybe "valid contact information" also includes my name (assuming I don't have a company). I could use a pseudonym, and write the pseudonym on my mailbox, so the post office would find me (and so would anyone who bothers to come personally to my home, which I don't care about), but if someone would send a registered letter to my pseudonym, I would not be able to take it. Damn.

App publishing is mostly anti-fragile against criticism.

Uhm, reading about GamerGate made me a bit cautious. I am libertarian-ish, and I really hate the authoritarian left. In case of achieving some success selling the games, I would hate to lose a Twitter or Patreon account just because I forgot to bite my tongue, criticized Z.Q. or A.S. somewhere on the internet, and invoked a wrath of their followers. Or anyone else, in a similar situation, five years later. (If I can trust online rumors, a few people have lost their accounts at these websites after stepping on wrong person's toes.) Other than this, I think that any controversy would probably only increase the sales. I don't want to use this strategy; just saying.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-02-15T20:28:59.319Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Do you really need to give google a credit card to be a developer?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-13T20:57:49.560Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

As long as Google Play will not display my name on the credit card to users, I am okay with that. Google probably already knows about me more than anyone including myself. The problem with the home address is that according to recent changes in the terms of service, the address is displayed to users.

Google likely notices when the name on the address and the name on the credit card aren't the same.

Actually, now that I think about it, maybe "valid contact information" also includes my name (assuming I don't have a company).

I don't know the situation in your country but in my own, every website needs to include valid contact information and valid means that you have an address towards which legally binding court orders can be sent.

Other than this, I think that any controversy would probably only increase the sales.

That's my point.

You are making trade-off. You lose something by separating identities. You can't promote your game out of your main identity.

I think that identity separation would only makes sense if you would sell controversial games. Maybe adult content ;)

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2015-02-13T21:26:07.576Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe adult content ;)

Forbidden by Google Play terms of service. ;)

comment by Lumifer · 2015-02-13T21:03:33.172Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

in my own, every website needs to include valid contact information and valid means that you have an address towards which legally binding court orders can be sent.

What does "in my [country]" mean for a website? Do you mean physically hosted on German soil? That's... easy to overcome. Do you mean owned by a German citizen? How would they know?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-13T21:25:25.958Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure to what extend courts are going to judge to which jurisdiction a website belongs but I think most websites owned by German citizens count.

How would they know?

Because you weren't careful about separating your identities. Any competitor can ask a lawyer to send you a cease and desist letter to comply with law of having a proper impressum and that lawyer can bill you for sending that letter.

The German wikipedia does provide a summary: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impressumspflicht

comment by Lumifer · 2015-02-13T20:38:13.958Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The problem with the home address is that according to recent changes in the terms of service, the address is displayed to users.

I think Google Play assumes that most developers will operate from behind the corporate veil: the front-page name and address will belong to a business (even if it has a single owner -- you, and a single employee -- you).

That's a useful idea in general: if you are selling goods to the public, being protected from unlimited liability is a good thing.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-13T20:50:13.973Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think he can register a business in his country without attaching his identity to it.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-02-13T20:58:31.992Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think he can register a business in his country without attaching his identity to it.

Of course, but that's why we're talking about pseudonymity (and not true anonymity) and that's why the thread model comes into it.

The corporate veil is not a protection against e.g. law enforcement (unless you hire smart and expensive lawyers :-D) but is a pretty good protection against casual busybodies.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-13T21:10:55.715Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The corporate veil is not a protection against e.g. law enforcement (unless you hire smart and expensive lawyers :-D) but is a pretty good protection against casual busybodies.

You can look up the ownership of a company on the internet. At least you can where I live.

I would be surprised if the people-search-engine's wouldn't include US corporate ownership.

It might be that living in Slovakia gives him advantages in that regard. A quick search shows:

  1. ABSENCE OF REGISTERED AGENT/SECRETARY The Czech Republic and Slovakia are standard EU jurisdictions which have adopted the EU AML Directive and have transformed it into its domestic legislations. However, the Czech/Slovak corporate law does not recognise any entity which would be licensed for the purpose of administering a company (such as secretaries in UK or Cyprus, or registered agents in other jurisdictions). Therefore, it is only very hard in practice for Czech or Slovak authorities to identify “a respective party” that would be obliged by law to collect and record the information regarding the beneficial owners of a Czech/Slovak company. Usually, requests regarding the identity of a beneficial owner of a particular company are addressed to the company itself and/or to its director(s).
comment by Viliam_Bur · 2015-02-13T21:33:13.945Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You can look up the ownership of a company on the internet.

Yep. Click here, enter the company name on the first line, click the first button... and you get a list of owners' names and addresses.

Unless the company is owned by another company, which is registered in another country, etc.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-02-13T21:41:25.848Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Click here, enter the company name on the first line, click the first button... and you get a list of owners' names and addresses.

Sure. Did that, put in "ALBRECHT, a.s.", got the full documentation including the list of the executive officers of the company and their board of directors. Who owns it? Um, no idea.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-02-13T21:22:59.598Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You can look up the ownership of a company on the internet.

Can you, now?

How about a couple of examples. Tell me who owns:

  • International Business Machines Corporation, 1 New Orchard Road, Armonk, New York 10504-1722, United States
  • Moonlighting Apps, LLC (a company which publishes to Google Play).
comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-13T21:50:37.420Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

As far as the first instance goes I can see that the company was founded in JUNE 16, 1911 via the New York registry and it would cost 5$ to request the documents

Professional corporations must include the name(s) and address(es) of the initial officers, directors, and shareholders in the initial certificate of incorporation, however this information is not recorded and only available by viewing the certificate.

As far as Moonlighting Apps goes, the domain is owned by someone in Argentina. I don't know the Spanish to navigate through that countries registry easily to find how the company is registered.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-02-13T21:52:47.618Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

As far as the first instance goes I can see that the company was founded in JUNE 16, 1911 via the New York registry and it would cost 5$ to request the documents

And how would that registration from 1911 help you? :-)

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-13T22:07:36.481Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, yes it's a bit more complicated but: (The company is a Domestic Business Corporation)

How can I find the names of officers and directors of a corporation or other business entity? Include Text

The Department of State does not require or maintain information regarding the names and addresses of officers or directors of corporations, the members or managers of a limited liability company, the limited partners of a limited partnership or the partners in a limited liability partnership. These records are internal records maintained by the corporation, limited liability company, limited partnership or limited liability partnership.

The Department of State is able to provide the address to which the Secretary of State is required to forward copies of process accepted on behalf of a corporation, limited liability company, limited partnership and limited liability partnership, as well as the name and address of the registered agent, if one has been designated.

The Department's records may include the name and address of the chief executive officer and the principal business location of a business corporation, provided that the business corporation has filed its Biennial Statement as required by Section 408 of the Business Corporation Law.


What is a Biennial Statement for a Business Corporation or Limited Liability Company?

Domestic and foreign business corporations are required by Section 408 of the Business Corporation Law to file a Biennial Statement every two years with the New York Department of State. The Biennial Statement must set forth: (i) the name and business address of its chief executive officer, (ii) the street address of its principal executive office and (iii) the address to which the New York Secretary of State shall forward copies of process accepted on behalf of the corporation.

To me it sounds like you could query that document.

comment by Thecommexokid · 2015-02-12T06:59:10.606Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I have an exercise in "thinking about the problem for 5 minutes before proposing solutions" for everyone.

I am a member of a small group of physics graduate students in charge of a monthly series of public science lectures. The lectures are aimed at local high school students, and we have many high school teachers who encourage their students to attend by offering extra credit. The audience of each talk (typically around 100) is composed almost wholly of students who have come solely because they want a few extra points in chemistry or whatever.

In the current system, we prepare attendance sheets with school and teacher names on the top, and at the conclusion of the lecture, the students who want credit for attending come to the front of the hall and sign their name to the appropriate sheet to prove they were there. Then we photocopy these sheets for our records and mail the originals back to the teachers.

There are a number of issues with this system:

  • Students often don't pay attention to the top of the sheets (where the school and teacher are listed) and write their names on the wrong list.
  • Students who arrive to the lecture very late still receive credit for attending.
  • Unless watched very closely, students can sign the names of friends who did not attend in addition to their own name.
  • Even if watched very closely, they can still do this if they are clever enough to do one name at a time and then loop back around to the end of the line.
  • If many students from a single teacher's classes all attend, there is a huge pile-up at the end around a single sheet.

I am looking to design a new process to eliminate some of these issues. I have something particular in mind (which fixes most of these problems but generates a couple new ones) but I'd like to see what other people have to say.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2015-02-12T08:23:31.555Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Some thoughts —

High schools have logos, mascots, school colors, and the like. Putting the school's logo on the sign-in sheet for that school might help students avoid signing the wrong one.

Students could use some other means to authenticate their attendance to their teacher — such as taking a selfie at the lecture (with the date on a piece of paper) and sending it to their teacher. Doesn't work for all students, though — not everyone can afford a phone.

Take a big group picture of the students in attendance and mail the picture to the teachers; let the teachers work it out. "Everyone who wants credit, stand up by the whiteboard with your classmates."

The late arrivals problem could be fixed by having the sign-in before the lecture. "If you would like to receive extra credit, you must show up 10 minutes early. If you don't, you will not get extra credit."

Hand out index cards (a different color each month) at the entrance. Each student who wants credit puts his or her name, school, and teacher's name on the card, then at the end of the lecture puts it in a box at the exit. (If there are several exits, have several boxes. If you're worried about box tampering, station a host at each exit if you have enough hosts. And yes, you have to bin the cards by school and teacher afterward.)

If the students have class the next day, stamp their hands with a hand-stamp with long-lasting ink. Then they just show up to class the next day and show the teacher they got the stamp.

Enlist one trustworthy student from each class to report their classmates' attendance.

comment by Thecommexokid · 2015-02-12T09:26:26.060Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Hand out index cards (a different color each month) at the entrance. Each student who wants credit puts his or her name, school, and teacher's name on the card, then at the end of the lecture puts it in a box at the exit. (If there are several exits, have several boxes. If you're worried about box tampering, station a host at each exit if you have enough hosts. And yes, you have to bin the cards by school and teacher afterward.)

This is, indeed, essentially the solution I had considered myself. I feel as though I still like it the best even after giving due consideration to your long list of ideas, which did include several ideas I had not thought of. (For instance, I really like the stamp idea; unfortunately our lectures are Saturday mornings at 10 a.m.) I like the cards because they penalize both late arrival and early departure. (Whereas putting the sign-up before the talk only reverses the problem.) And it makes it challenging to slip in the names of students who are not in attendance, because each student receives only one card.

Some issues and possible solutions, for further consideration:

  • Students will not know what to do with an index card handed to them at the door.
    • Possible solution: Use preprinted slips with labeled blanks for name, teacher, and school rather than blank cards.
    • Possible solution: Large instructions on the board indicating what to do.
  • Many students will not have a pen or pencil.
    • Possible solution: A box of 144 golf pencils looks to be very cheap.
  • It is more inconvenient to photocopy the attendance records before mailing them back when the names are all on individual cards.
  • Anyone who leaves the room and comes back in again (e.g. to go to the bathroom) before the lecture starts can get a second card.

And two things which are not problems individually, but are sort of tricky in combination:

  • There's an obvious exploit if the cards are identical every month. This is the reason you suggested different colors.
  • Requires a sufficient surplus of cards that we don't run out if attendance one month is much higher than average.
    • Not a problem by itself, but combined with the necessity of making them different every month, this leads to a lot of waste, since last month's leftovers can't be reused.
comment by Thecommexokid · 2015-02-12T16:51:29.008Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW
  • There's an obvious exploit if the cards are identical every month. This is the reason you suggested different colors.
  • Requires a sufficient surplus of cards that we don't run out if attendance one month is much higher than average.
    • Not a problem by itself, but combined with the necessity of making them different every month, this leads to a lot of waste, since last month's leftovers can't be reused.

After thinking about this problem a while, I thought of the following idea. Instead of making the cards unique every month, simply number the cards consecutively. When handing them out each month, take note of the number of the first card handed out and the last. Then if there are any suspicions of fraud, we can check quite simply that there are no duplicate or errant numbers on the cards we got back.

  • Anyone who leaves the room and comes back in again (e.g. to go to the bathroom) before the lecture starts can get a second card.

Possible solution: Hand out the cards as the students enter the building, rather than as they enter the lecture hall. (Easy in this case because the lectures are on a weekend and the building doors are locked except the one we open.)

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-12T13:11:40.701Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think an optimal system is resources are no issue is to have an app that allows the teacher to ask every student in attendance questions.

It creates makes the teaching process more interactive and it also requires attendance.

comment by Thecommexokid · 2015-02-12T17:58:21.895Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think an optimal system if resources are no issue

What resources would be required for this?

an app

On what platform? As I commented on another reply, many of our student attendees come from poor districts so I don't want to assume every student has a smartphone.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-13T12:28:31.965Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The cheapest android phone I can find seems to be sold for 32.17$ (Rs. 1,999) in India (http://gadgets.ndtv.com/mobiles/news/jivi-launches-cheapest-android-based-smartphone-in-india-at-rs-1999-594264).

On what platform?

Likely Android and IOS.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-02-13T15:53:28.145Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The cheapest android phone I can find

The cheapest android phone you can find is used, a few years old, and your neighbour is selling it for 5 euros...

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-13T16:52:57.801Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The cheapest android phone you can find is used, a few years old, and your neighbour is selling it for 5 euros...

I wouldn't know where to buy 100 phones for 5€ each.

comment by gjm · 2015-02-13T13:51:29.240Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The Amazon reviews suggest that it's a really terrible phone.

(It's also worth noting that in many cases most of the cost of owning a smartphone isn't in the nominal price of the device but in what you pay for network service. If you buy that smartphone, how much more do you have to pay to make it actually connect to the internet?)

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-13T16:08:48.878Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you buy that smartphone, how much more do you have to pay to make it actually connect to the internet?)

I think most universities do have WLan in which devices can login.

The Amazon reviews suggest that it's a really terrible phone.

On Amazon.com there LG Realm for 40$ and Kyocera Event for 30$. The LG Realm has 4.4 out of 5 stars average on Amazon.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-02-13T15:54:33.623Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Unless you treat that smartphone as not a phone, but a tiny computer. Wi-Fi is free, usually.

comment by MrMind · 2015-02-12T11:36:00.619Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've thought of this solution, it requires coding and a somewhat elaborate technical setup, but also eliminates lots of waste, both in time and paper.
Have a webform / app where student can sign in with their name, school and teacher. Upon signing, the system gives the student a unique id.
Where the lecture is given, setup a free wifi from which students must log in with their unique id at the beginning and at the end of the lecture.
Attendance can then be checked in this way: students that attended are only those whose unique id is present at the beginning and at the end of the lecture, according to time stamps and wi-fi origin.
Students can still comunicate each other their unique id and forge their attendance, but you can setup incentives against cooperation: indeed, make credits transferable, so that if one student knows more than one id, s/he can rob other students and give the credits to him/her.

comment by Thecommexokid · 2015-02-12T17:56:00.980Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Where the lecture is given, setup a free wifi from which students must log in with their unique id at the beginning and at the end of the lecture.

Log in on what? Many of our student attendees come from poor districts so I would hesitate to choose a solution that, for instance, assumes every student has a smartphone.

comment by MrMind · 2015-02-13T08:00:36.194Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You could still provide a couple of laptops so they could login if they don't have a smartphone.

comment by MrMind · 2015-02-11T08:34:48.473Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I've had a (not so) weird dream yesterday, I need to share it here.
Undoubtably it was primed, just before going to bed, by seeing the 17th episode of the 3rd season of Person of Interest, where Fnznevgna vf nobhg gb or npgvingrq (no spoiler, please).
I basically dreamed that China had won the AI race, and at the beginning I dreamt in a bird's-eye view, just like the Machine has, of Chinese ideograms overriding the programming of Russian's and American's satellites, granting them access to the global nuclear arsenal, thereby imposing a sort of Chinese 'pax romana' to the world.
The second move was imposing a sort of cultural unification to other countries, instituting rieducation camps where people were forced rather subtly but also brutally to accept a Chinese culture made of self-sacrifice and devotion to the Mother Country.
The dream revolved around me and some of my friends shipped to one of these camps, and the impact it had on us. I was preaching "submit and cooperate", while one of my friend was rebelling right away (he was dealt with accordingly).
The alarm clock woke me before I could dream further developement...

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-02-11T12:34:27.854Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Write that novel, please.

comment by Manfred · 2015-02-11T17:42:43.309Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Have you read China Mountain Zhang?

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-02-12T00:19:46.425Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

No. But it looks interesting.

comment by sediment · 2015-02-13T09:20:34.776Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I seem to recall a discussion thread about ways one can spend money to save time (e.g. paying to get one's laundry done), together with estimates for their respective dollar/hour rates. I'm moving from unemployed to full-time employment this week, so the appropriate dollar value of my time is about to shift dramatically, and as such, I'd like to give this thread another look over, but I can't find it. Can anyone else remember what I'm talking about and/or provide a link? Thanks.

comment by gjm · 2015-02-15T23:25:28.376Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps "Collating widely available time/money trades" from November 2012?

comment by sediment · 2015-02-21T20:52:01.296Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That's the ticket! Thanks so much.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2015-02-15T00:09:23.872Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Don't see it, but this might be inspiring: http://fourhourworkweek.com/outsourcing-life/

comment by sediment · 2015-02-15T14:57:33.842Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Weird; I'm starting to wonder whether I imagined the whole thing. Your link helps, at least, though. Thanks.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2015-02-15T22:23:08.020Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

no, I recall a discussion along those lines at some point.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-02-13T15:40:30.905Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Social media -- do you feel lucky, punk?

comment by tut · 2015-02-15T18:51:58.474Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Both your description and the title sound like clickbait. Would you mind adding one sentence saying what the linked thing is about?

comment by Lumifer · 2015-02-19T16:21:21.509Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Sure. One way to say it is that the linked article is about low-probability major-consequences risk of linking your real, legal, meatspace, True Name to social media accounts. Another way to look at it is that it is about the habits of internet mobs and the post-traumatic stress syndrome of those trampled by them.

comment by adamzerner · 2015-02-12T03:23:49.594Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Does anyone have any tips or advice on how to handle anger and frustration? Particularly anger and frustration from dealing with stupid people. I try to just keep reminding myself that it's simply an optimization problem.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2015-02-12T08:25:27.020Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Have you read "Errors vs. Bugs and the End of Stupidity"?

comment by adamzerner · 2015-02-12T15:01:10.756Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I have now. I agree that there are more precise ways of labeling people, but I think that generalizations like "x is stupid" are still useful.

comment by ilzolende · 2015-02-13T01:40:57.543Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

When the state is genuinely counterproductive to your goals, remind yourself of that while suppressing it. If you're worried about lashing out and yelling at people, try to redirect your anger towards your irritating endocrine system that was involved in you being angry even though you don't want to be. Pretending that reductionism implies more than it does is useful: the mantra "just because I'm in a physical state associated with anger doesn't mean I have to be angry" is pretty good for suppressing reactions.

This still holds when the people in question are harming you, as long as anger is genuinely counterproductive. I used this method when an opposing team was cheating and purposefully running out the clock during a Mock Trial scrimmage. I had every right to be angry, but my anger was only impairing my competitive ability, so I just told myself that I needed to shut down this anger, and even though I had trouble trying to tone down my physical reactions (heart rate), I managed to stay calm and compete well.

If the anger is partially productive, trying to suppress all of it will not work because you are incentivized to fail. Try to suppress the parts that are problematic, and tell yourself things like "I'm allowed to be angry in this situation, but I'm not allowed to have [problem-causing component of anger], because it's just counterproductive."

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-13T19:08:11.644Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

When the state is genuinely counterproductive to your goals, remind yourself of that while suppressing it.

Suppressing emotions is generally unhealthy. Living with suppressed anger is stressful. Either funnel the emotion into action or release it.

comment by ilzolende · 2015-02-16T01:25:10.371Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My goal is not to live with it, my goal is to remain stable until I can leave the situation. Long-term suppression is bad, but the alternatives to short-term suppression are generally worse.

I have funneled the emotion into action when possible (I am quite possibly the only teenager who configured FileVault in the middle of an angry argument), but sometimes you just need to appear calm.

comment by emr · 2015-02-12T17:42:13.840Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Do you mean in casual social situations? Or is this people doing stupid things that directly harm you (e.g an incompetent coworker you still need to rely on; a roommate that keeps destroying stuff)?

comment by adamzerner · 2015-02-13T01:03:13.596Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Both. But more particularly the second.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-12T13:03:47.640Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Focusing by Eugene T. Gendlin is a good framework of handling emotions.

I try to just keep reminding myself that it's simply an optimization problem.

Dealing with your own emotions as an optimization issue is seldom the best approach.

comment by adamzerner · 2015-02-12T14:42:25.398Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry, I meant that the situation is an optimization problem. Like I'm trying to get something out of the people.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2015-02-13T04:45:52.679Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Here are some different descriptions of a scenario:

  • That person is stupid.
  • That person is making a mistake.
  • That person is not doing what I want them to do.
  • I and that person are failing to come to terms that would be mutually beneficial to us.

Do these elicit different reactions?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-13T00:27:07.259Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Like I'm trying to get something out of the people.

That's likely your problem.

comment by beoShaffer · 2015-02-15T00:28:33.790Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The Luminosity sequence has some stuff on this, though its been long enough since I read it that I don't remember the details very well. Acceptance and commitment therapy has some really good stuff on dealing with anger/frustration (I recommend the book Get Out of Your Mind and into Your Life). Learning acceptance and commitment for just this problem is probably overkill, on the other hand its pretty useful for life in general.

comment by Epictetus · 2015-02-12T21:23:18.672Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Depends on the purpose of the interaction. In general, accept that stupid people exist and that it is not in your power to change them. That viewpoint saves much effort.

Is there anything specific you had in mind?

comment by adamzerner · 2015-02-13T01:15:17.007Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

....

comment by fubarobfusco · 2015-02-13T04:42:23.700Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

(Redacted.)

comment by adamzerner · 2015-02-13T04:57:39.030Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-02-13T15:40:32.970Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

One reason they might not be considering you for a higher-level entry is that they are not considering anyone for such a position, because they do not have one to offer. What they need right now is to fill a hole at the level they are offering. They are addressing their needs, not your wants.

comment by MrMind · 2015-02-12T08:22:48.662Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

How about trying to make some of them less stupid? Educating people through blog articles, lectures or simply informed discussions helped me with the same problem.

comment by adamzerner · 2015-02-12T15:04:24.479Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In my experience, the overwhelming majority of the time people don't respond well. Example - people commit the Fallacy of Gray all the time. I haven't had much success when pointing this out and trying to explain it. But I do agree that it's something to strive towards.

comment by mwengler · 2015-02-12T18:58:18.299Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Try to figure out a way to kill them and get away with it. It will distract you from your anger.

comment by Curiouskid · 2015-02-14T21:13:17.462Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

How many gigabytes of text is LW? I guess it'd probably be under a terabyte, and therefore, fairly cheap for even a lay person to backup.

comment by gjm · 2015-02-14T22:12:10.611Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Back of envelope: suppose one 200-byte comment/post per minute every day for 5 years (I guess 200b is below mean length, 1/minute is above mean frequency, and I think LW is older than 5 years but younger than 10). That's 5 x 365 x 24 x 60 x 200 bytes. Round everything off to powers of 2 and 5: 5 x 400 x 25 x 50 x 200 = 500MB. So, less than a gigabyte, never mind a terabyte.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-15T02:35:04.201Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The English Wikipedia is less than 10 Gigabyte.

Size of LW won't be an issue. The issue is rather having a friendly script that transfers the data.

comment by ike · 2015-02-15T16:46:31.194Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That's compressed, real size is more like 50GB.

comment by G0W51 · 2015-02-14T15:57:42.645Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's worthwhile discussing why most individuals don't learn about rationality, as once we learn this, we could potentially address it, which would result in more people learning about it. Does anyone have any ideas?

comment by Epictetus · 2015-02-15T13:56:15.985Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It takes a lot of effort and you don't see immediate results. I'm sure most people have encountered book-smart individuals with neither common sense nor social skills. Or pretentious types who read a few chapters of Kant and feel the urge to let everyone know how philosophical they are. There are loads of people who learn a little rationality and act as though they are perfectly logical beings. Pedantry, arrogance, and pretentiousness trap many a beginner; such types make poor ambassadors. This essay, for example, got me to really reflect on my writing style and how I was presenting myself.

In short, people are liable to generalize from bad examples and associate rationality with quarrelsome pedants spewing forth incomprehensible jargon.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-15T02:36:33.106Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think getting people to learn about rationality is even a goal. We rather want people to learn to be more rational.

comment by G0W51 · 2015-02-15T02:55:05.937Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I misspoke. That's what I meant.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-15T11:39:07.170Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Do you have an idea about the causes for misspeaking?

comment by G0W51 · 2015-02-15T18:26:29.965Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think I do. In this case, I made the mistake of assuming that learning about rationality entailed becoming more rational.

comment by Algernoq · 2015-02-14T02:26:36.398Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Did Elon Musk give a nod to LessWrong in this interview?

"You should take the approach that...you the entrepreneur are wrong. Your goal is to be less wrong."

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-02-13T23:47:46.785Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I have a question regarding Rejection Therapy. I see that this is advertized as a self-help method for social fears and there are quite a few LW results for this. This is also related to CFARs CoZE unit. My question is: What is the empirical base for this. Does it work? Why and when does it work? I ask because I can't find any serious references.

comment by gwern · 2015-02-13T20:57:24.953Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Confidence levels inside and outside an argument: in doing a quick analysis of the veracity of a database leak, is the probability of a particular test coming out as it did 0.00000000019323% or... 90%?

Well, that will depend on how true your assumption of independent samples is! See

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-02-12T15:11:16.181Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There's a lot of attention to self-driving cars in the US, but it seems worth noting that similar work is being done in other places. There's a recent test of a Dutch self-driving truck reported here and South Australia is discussing making self-driving cars legal there.

comment by mwengler · 2015-02-12T16:09:55.883Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Actually Audi and Mercedes (German) also have very far advanced self-driving programs. In January 2015 an Audi drove itself from the middle of Palo Alto, California, to the convention center in the middle of Las Vegas, Nevada, a distance of about 870 km. Reporters took turns sitting behind the wheel doing nothing.

comment by shminux · 2015-02-10T22:24:08.264Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

What do you know, HuffPost actually has something good to say about the 50 Shades book/movie. Finally someone pointed out that Christian Grey was written from a totally female perspective. Most reviews just drone on through the standard faux-feminist talking points.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2015-02-11T08:26:05.629Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

The review sounds to me like: "He is an abusive psycho, but he is commited and pays attention. Guys, you should learn from him, because this is cool."

Okay, this is a dangerous territory, but this review is a part of what I hate: media sending mixed messages to men, demanding contradictory things, then criticizing men for failing to do the contradictory things. On Monday, you are told to make sure that your t-shirt is politically correct, never invite a woman to a coffee, and stop being an entitled whiny nice guy. On Tuesday, you are told to look at this charming psycho and realize how inferior you are compared with him.

The solution for me is to ignore what media say, which probably is a generally good strategy.

comment by emr · 2015-02-11T17:18:59.154Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Many ideological problems boil down to an error of expansive domain:

So a X=Marxist can talk intelligently about certain large-scale economic patterns. But there's no reason to expect good career advice from a Marxist. Despite this, some Marxists are perfectly happy to reason "having a career is related to economics, and my theory of proletarian revolution is related to economics, and so clearly my theory of the proletarian revolution is related to giving good career advice!". And then the critics of Marxism are happy to attack Marxism as a whole, but only by pointing out that the theory fails when applied to the problem of giving good career advice.

I think this maps directly to certain controversies over feminism. Feminism is about patterns X, Y, and Z in gender relations. But you shouldn't expect a particular feminist framework to apply to literally every problem involving gender, despite the willingness of many proponents and critics to debate accept these misapplications as if they were meaningful. In particular, I would map "Marxist giving career advice" to "Feminist giving dating advice".

Note that this position is consistent with supporting the underlying ideological framework: I could be a fervent Marxist, while still accepting that Marxism might have limited, or at least very complicated, relevance to your current job search.

comment by passive_fist · 2015-02-15T20:55:32.004Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The problem is that people generally don't know what they want and are unable to express what they think they want. It's the difference between having a utility function, being conscious of that utility function, and being able to communicate that utility function -- highly different abilities requiring progressively more introspective and analytic ability.

The surest test to find out what people are actually after is to observe what they go after, instead of listening to what they say they are after.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2015-02-16T13:39:12.717Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Seems like a difference between wanting and liking. What you want is not the same as what will make you happy when you get it, because humans are not utility maximizers. For example, you may not like being an addict, but you still want the drug. Not making a difference between wanting and liking makes talking about humans confused.

Similarly (warning: getting into the politically dangerous territory again), there is a difference between what (stereotypical, heterosexual, etc.) women like, and what they want. Politically correct people deny the "wanting". PUAs deny the reality of "liking". Fact is, humans are messed up in many aspects, female sexual attraction being just one of many examples.

Women don't like being abused, just like alcoholics don't like the hangovers. Yet some women cannot resist the abusive guys, just like some alcoholics cannot resist taking a drink. Both things can be true at the same time. (It would be crazy to deny that alcoholics wants to drink, but it would be also crazy to say that alcoholics actually enjoy the hangovers and only pretend to hate them because they are socially expected to.)

A sane adult human should recognize the difference between their liking and wanting, and act accordingly. Media usually do not act as promoters of sanity. They do not have an incentive to be even consistent. On Monday, media will tell you horror stories about alcoholics. On Tuesday, media will tell you that alcohol is fun. Media don't care about fucking up your life if you listen to their stories. They care about profit; and sometimes the profitable thing is something that will fuck up your life as a side effect.

But it is not fair to blame the bartender, if you put him into "damnned if you do, damned if you don't" situation. You are already drunk, and you want yet another drink. If he gives you as much alcohol as you can drink, you will end up in hospital, and your family will write angry blogs about the bartender. But if he refuses to give you another drink, then you will go to another bar and you will write an angry blog about him. Okay, we could agree that the bartender who gives people more drinks than they can handle is a bad guy, and he should lose his license and go to jail. But putting one bartender in jail will not fix your alcoholism. If you blame half of the bartenders for giving you another drink, and another half for not giving you another drink... maybe you should stop focusing on what the bartenders are doing wrong, and start reflecting on yourself; maybe with some professional help. No, media advice is not professional help, and people liking and sharing your blogs on facebook is not a proof of your sanity.

(In a way, even the media is just a meta-bartender. If they stop publishing stories that fuck up your life, you will probably become bored and switch to their competition.)

comment by gjm · 2015-02-10T23:20:33.329Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Most of the complaints I've heard about it have nothing much to do with feminism (unless you define that term really broadly). The complaints are (1) that it's really badly written and (2) that it appears to celebrate abuse in the guise of BDSM. (I am told that actual BDSM folks are generally very, very careful about consent, for obvious reasons.)

I am not endorsing either criticism, not least because I haven't read the book. (It seems to me that #2 might be an unfair criticism, on the grounds that FSOG shouldn't be thought of as a book about domination fantasies and how people play them out, but as a domination fantasy itself.) But unless "sexual abuse and rape are bad" has become a specifically feminist (or even faux-feminist) claim now, I don't see that feminism should get either credit or blame for these criticisms.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-11T18:40:35.124Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Given the weird nature of broad political categories like feminism, I wouldn't think it's almost ever fair to claim this is feminism or this isn't feminism. It seeems to me to be one of the most ambiguous terms in politics.

comment by zedzed · 2015-02-11T05:38:34.407Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I believe that the people who attribute criticism #2 to feminism believe that feminists conflate "story about abuse" with "story encouraging abuse." If feminists are indeed doing this (I'm unsure whether they are), then criticism #2 ought to be attributed to feminism; the general population seems to have no problem with stories that portray unacceptable-in-reality sex (for instance, "NonConsent/Reluctance" is a major story tag on Literotica.)

comment by philh · 2015-02-12T00:42:25.653Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I have seen self-identified feminists criticising the book (and preemptively the movie) for #2.

But I don't think it's as simple as making that conflation. A closer version might be that the book portrays an abusive relationship sympathetically. (I haven't read it, I don't know if this is an accurate criticism.) Thomas Covenant in Lord Foul's Bane and Howard Roark in The Fountainhead are both the protagonists of their stories, and both rapists; but only one of their authors appears to disapprove of their rape.

(It still feels like an unfair criticism, to me.)

And on a similar note, people in the kink scene are upset that kink is being portrayed in a light that they don't find particularly sympathetic, and they're worried about the effects this is going to have on their community.

comment by emr · 2015-02-11T15:35:09.248Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There's a content-neutral signaling dynamic too: Some BDSM fans (for lack of a better term?) are signaling sophistication by loudly complaining out that the recent "pop music hit" is crap. So there's an opportunity for hipster counter-signaling if anyone with in-group credibility defends some aspect of the book.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-10T14:55:12.349Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

CBHacking isn't the only one with silly questions here. Here's another one!

What's the best way to make a facebook account? What can I do in order to not look like one of those silly dating sites profiles we all know and laughed about? I have a feeling photos are basically key here - so what's the best way to have a good photo? The goal is to make a minimalistically attractive facebook profile. Minimalistically because I like minimalism and because it's a fresh profile, so I won't have too much content to put on.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-10T20:45:56.203Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Facebook isn't a dating website. It would be strange for a facebook profile to look like a dating profile as that suggests you don't have a social life. A facebook profile normally grows organically over time.

There are three main photos:

(1) Your Avatar/profile picture. It should show your face. Humans use the availability heuristic. Make it easy to recognize yourself on the small thumbnails in conversations.

The avatar is placed at the left of the screen. As a result it makes sense that the body is turned towards the right, in the direction of the text.

Have open body language. You don't want to be turned inward but you want to be turned outward. It's good if the facial muscles are relaxed. It might be worthwhile to spend 30 minutes before taking the photo to get into a good physical state.

Wear clothes that signal what you want to signal. Logos can signal tribal affiliations. Depending on who you are and who you want to express different choices can make sense.

(2) Cover photo. I don't have a good idea and probably will soon choose a new one for myself. A good strategy would be to illustrating a hobby or value that you have.

(3) General tagging. Go to a few social events that produce photos. Get photos of you participating in any hobby that you like. Photos are often made for event promotion.

Salsa Congress for example usually have a photographer that posts pictures on facebook that show of that the event is cool.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-23T18:33:43.907Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yo! Thanks for the long post.

Facebook isn't a dating website.

Not for dating, just to keep up with stuff I otherwise couldn't and some women here and there.

A facebook profile normally grows organically over time.

Yeah, that's what my mind statistics way, too.

Taking the rest to heart. Got an idea for the cover photo?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-24T09:54:26.364Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Not for dating, just to keep up with stuff I otherwise couldn't and some women here and there.

The point is that a profile that looks like it's a dating profile would be strange.

After thinking about the act of creating a new facebook profile, I would recommend to make the friend list invisible if the friend count is <100.

Got an idea for the cover photo?

I don't have a strong opinion about picking a cover photo. My own picture is from dancing.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-02-11T19:14:23.512Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

What's the best way to make a facebook account?

Define "best". What are you specific goals for having a FB account? An "attractive facebook profile" -- attractive to whom? potential dates? employers? random stalkers? NSA?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-12T06:44:19.266Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Define "best"

Good observation; sorry for being vague.

On my terms, "best" would mean a profile that would allow me to connect to people I could not reach at all or reach them in very non-productive situations.

"Give me your facebook and we'll talk about this later", as I commonly hear.

If I was honest though, that simply implies just having a facebook account. But at the same time I feel like it's a job interview - how I could I prevent my resume from being tossed into the bin? There has to be a way - some way - in order to maximize my chances of connecting to other people, just as there's must be a way of making a better resume that'll get me the job instead of some other person (well, a resume isn't everything, but it certainly helps, and it would be foolish to not optimize it if not maximizing it)

comment by Lumifer · 2015-02-12T18:06:41.644Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That's one step, you need to take more -- "connect to people" is too vague as people you might want to connect to are likely different and could be interested in you for different reasons.

Let's try approaching it from another direction. A FB account projects a certain public (and semi-private) image. Which characteristics and qualities you would like to project and which ones you would like to avoid? Note that generalities ("smart, beautiful, rich, and lucky") are not going to be particularly useful here :-/

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-23T18:45:41.639Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If I'm honest I'd probably go for getting my sense of humor there. I'll have to do it myself though. It's going to be hilarious.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-16T15:49:31.131Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If you put it that way, "connect to people" is more like a purpose rather than a step.

Good way to word it; I'll have to think about it.

comment by Dahlen · 2015-02-11T19:02:11.528Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

My two cents -- don't.

But if you're hellbent on selling out just to look cool to others, well. If you're physically attractive, play up the photos. And, importantly, if you're not, downplay them. Try to have all or most pics taken by someone other than you, even if it's just the camera on a tripod and a timer. Save the "Like" button for stuff you really truly like; any four-digit Likes number is one or two orders of magnitude too much. Refrain from drama-queen status updates. Limit the number of pictures of random crap to about 15% as many as those of you. Don't pull ridiculous or self-conscious poses or faces in photos; try to look natural, relaxed, and as if you're having fun. (A workable alternative is the aloof bitchface they make models put on in photoshoots, but I don't have you figured for a model, lad.) Have a selection of photos to choose from, and pick the most flattering for the profile. Untag yourself (is that possible? I don't know) from unflattering or embarrassing photos of you your true and loyal friends have kindly made available to the general public. Expose little of yourself; you have no idea how much you can learn about someone just by regularly stalking something seemingly innocuous such as their public Recent Likes. Facebook is not a place to pour your heart out; everything you do leaves the digital analogue (ahem) of fingerprints. Emphasize instead the more impressive parts of yourself. Got a lot of books you read and liked? Great, put them all in there.

If you're good at online image management, Facebook can take you far, perhaps farther still than your meatspace self. That's probably the only reason I've ever considered making an account (the other would be access to everything beyond the Great Wall of Friends-Only Data), but it first has to lose the fight against the fear of surrendering personal data, forever, to a company I sure as fuck don't trust. Of course -- if you're bad at that, it's nothing but a new venue for making a fool of yourself.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-12T07:06:37.862Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My two cents -- don't.

Young men just wanna have fun, I guess. I'll adress this in a later paragraph, though.

Most of your advice is simply great not only because it's a common sense advice but because I wholeheartedly agree with it. With a bit of self-reflection though, assuming we are truly thinking of the same thing, it sounds more like shallowness-prevention. Nice touch on the last security-conscious bit, too. Are you Bruce Schneier?

As for the second paragraph I said I'll respond to, Facebook is not going to be my social front, but simply means to an end. It seems incredibly useful, despite my misgivings with it. My experience with Facebook is that's it's quite similar to a common-man's 4chan. I'll leave the implications to you..

comment by ilzolende · 2015-02-11T01:58:22.864Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In terms of photos, I use a self-portrait that is artistically edited to the point of near-unrecognizability (and is unsearchable via Google Images) for my profile picture, and used to use a silhouette. My cover/background picture is something I made in Apophysis and Photoshop that I thought looked nice. You may not actually need a photo at all. If you want a less artificial cover/background image, take a nice close-up photo of some plant or something else visually appealing in your area, then edit it a bit.

For a "good photo", you may want to take a passable photo, apply the basic touch-ups (the Spot Healing brush is great for acne, small cuts, and out-of-place hair), and then perhaps overexpose or otherwise apply a visually appealing edit to the image such that it looks like you, but obviously edited. (Here's an overexposed picture.) It's hard to go too wrong with taking a shower and wearing some of your nicer clothing, standing in front of a white wall, and getting a friend to take a picture while you smile a bit.

Your avatar/profile pic should look good at small scales. You want your face, not your body.

You don't need to post a lot of pictures: just enough to make people know who you are, and using a real name with a location should be sufficient for that.

In terms of other content: you don't care about listing what movies/books/games you like, just write a good description of yourself. Follow some accounts you like, join groups that you participate in IRL. Post interesting links with commentary occasionally. Don't use the account to get into too many comment-section arguments.

comment by Dahlen · 2015-02-11T18:33:28.597Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

For a "good photo", you may want to take a passable photo, apply the basic touch-ups (the Spot Healing brush is great for acne, small cuts, and out-of-place hair), and then perhaps overexpose or otherwise apply a visually appealing edit to the image such that it looks like you, but obviously edited.

Hello. Person experienced with Photoshop here. Most of the time that stuff looks positively painful, and an honest picture of a pimple isn't nearly as bothersome as bad editing. And human vision isn't fooled easily; consider for instance when you edit a stray hair strand out of existence. You see it beginning at the hairline, disappear across the area of interest (say, face), then continue down the neckline. Ouch.

I've even seen moderately decent photo edits that, to the experienced eye, have Surface Blur written all over them (Gaussian Blurring skin is for newbs, by the way). Even cosmetics print ads have understood sometime during the last two decades that pores are a good idea. If you don't know what you're doing, don't do it.

The only non-horrid edits I've seen applied by amateurs to photos are subtly applied color actions, and if your only tool is Picasa even those get boring after the first 200 or so photos.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-02-11T19:06:40.306Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I concur that you need some basic competency in photo editing before you start to photoshop your face :-)

Surface Blur, I think, is good either in subtle amounts (you DO want to sharpen the skin differently from e.g. eyes or hair) or -- since we are talking about "artistic edits" -- you can go completely overboard and make a fully plastic face. That is also fine as long as you understand this is going to be an in-your-face :-) image and not the I-tried-to-look-pretty-and-failed one.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-02-11T19:01:51.892Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's hard to go too wrong with taking a shower and wearing some of your nicer clothing, standing in front of a white wall, and getting a friend to take a picture while you smile a bit.

That's actually a pretty standard way of doing it wrong. You end up with a passport picture, basically, suitable for official documents but not for much else.

Especially if you want to get creative with filters or do a barely-recognizable semi-abstract.

The goal here is make an interesting picture, not that resembles the one on your driver's license.

comment by ilzolende · 2015-02-11T23:51:21.638Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Clearly, I do not understand the goal here. It would be useful to know not only the point of a profile picture but also UnrequitedHope's goal in creating a Facebook account.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-02-12T17:30:40.824Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It would be useful to know not only the point of a profile picture but also UnrequitedHope's goal in creating a Facebook account.

On a social media platform, the purpose of a profile picture is to be a picture of your personality, as you wish it to be perceived.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-19T12:10:49.030Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think that's the only purpose. It's also to become familiar to people. If people frequently see your picture, you feel familiar to them. That's easier with a picture where you are easy to recognise. That means a profile picture that doesn't show much more than your face and thus doesn't leave much room for personality signaling.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-02-19T14:54:38.856Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This theory does not survive cursory browsing of Facebook profile pics. We visually express personality mainly through the face. A profile picture that doesn't show much more than your face still has all of that room for personality.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-19T15:26:49.148Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This theory does not survive cursory browsing of Facebook profile pics. We visually express personality mainly through the face.

It depends what you mean with expressing personality. A facebook photo that shows you engaging in a certain hobby does show a certain value of your personality. Face only pictures don't have much room for that.

comment by Anders_H · 2015-02-15T20:21:02.439Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I recently re-read some old Less Wrong posts on status. It struck me that none of them really capture what I mean by the word.

I have been wondering if it makes sense to operationalize status as a measure of the extent to which other individuals have a rational self-interest in cooperating with you. Specifically, if you want to know the status of an individual, you estimate the probability that an arbitrarily chosen member of the group will get higher utility from cooperating than defecting in a two-player game.

I have been thinking about writing a full post on this. Before I start writing, does anyone have any thoughts on whether this definition has been proposed before, and on whether it captures your intuition behind what “status” is? Or any ideas about which aspects of this definition you would like to see discussed in a write-up?

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-02-18T14:45:00.943Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My view: status is what social species organizing along feudal lines feels like from the inside. I think your definition does not capture the dominance/submission or perhaps vassal/liege aspect of status.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-18T14:33:12.244Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Your definition looks like an economics heuristic. There are advantages to that frame but it's worth remembering that the human brain doesn't run on rational self-interest. There are a lot of

Status in bamboo tribes get's investigated by scientists by looking at eye gazes. Which bamboo looks at which one for how long.

Humans quite frequently use heuristics driven by who would win a physical conflict even if that's not important in the context where they want to judge status.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2015-02-16T13:58:59.740Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Status is social.

There are things you prefer. Positive things like "I like ice cream" and negative things like "I hope that strong guy will not kill me". This is the individual level.

But there are social aspects, such as "people like this thing, so even if I personally do not like it, it is useful to trade", or "people are afraid of this guy, so even if I personally do not care about him, if I make him angry, I will make a lot of additional enemies". When people perceive each others' perceptions, on a social level the perceptions become 1-place words: "this is nice" (they say, although I personally do not like it), "this is respected" (generally, although I personally do not respect it), etc.

But even this was just an explanation on a game-theoretical level. This is how a paperclip maximizer trying to trade with humans would perceive the situation. "I will collect these golden coins, althouth they are meaningless, because I can trade them with humans for paperclip-making tools. I will respect human gods, because otherwise humans will get angry and will destroy many paperclips to punish me." As a social species we have instincts for this. We feel the status (that is: our heuristics evaluate it quickly and provide us the result). For some people this instinct works better, for other people it works worse. In some situations, the heuristics fail.

comment by Gram_Stone · 2015-02-15T04:53:13.945Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

For the expression ~(A & B), B ∴ ~A, I came up with the following truth table, where a '+' indicates a column of truth values for a premise:

A B ~ (A & B) , B ~A
T T F T T F
F T T F T T
T F T F F F
F F T F F F
+ +

The solution in the book, however lists the conclusion in the fourth row is true rather than false:

A B ~ (A & B) , B ~A
T T F T T F
F T T F T T
T F T F F F
F F T F F T
+ +

Have I made a mistake or is this an error?

comment by Gram_Stone · 2015-02-15T04:44:31.720Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

For the expression ~(A & B), B ∴ ~A, I came up with the following truth table, where a '+' indicates a column of truth values for a premise:

A B ~ (A & B) , B ∴ ~A

T T F T T F F T T F T T T F T F F F F F T F F F

             +                         +

The solution in the book, however lists the conclusion in the fourth row is true rather than false:

A B ~ (A & B) , B ∴ ~A

T T F T T F F T T F T T T F T F F F F F T F F T

             +                         +

Have I made a mistake or is this an error?

comment by Gram_Stone · 2015-02-13T20:00:52.082Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The idea for a set of posts on 'Rationality and Memetics' popped into my head this afternoon. I figure that's pretty important if you want rationalism to become a common thing. I'm reading the Sequences in chronological order and I just got to the meat of the posts that were later reorganized into the 'The Simple Math of Evolution' minor sequence. I want to get this out there in case I'm wasting my time, but nevertheless I'm really not ready to write it quite yet because:

1) I want to know more about the existing works on memetics, and of course, evolutionary biology and psychology, so that I'm not making amateur mistakes (I expect that I've made a ton, I know next to nothing about these subjects);

2) I want more time to see if there are places where the 'rationality as cultural adaptation nearly on a par with the evolution of human intelligence' analogy breaks down, as I suspect that such places exist, especially since more is probably possible;

3) I feel like I might think of more content or of better titles; after all, I thought of all of these things in a few hours; and,

4) It looks to me like I have more than one definition for 'adaptation/adaptive.' I need to tease out the difference between memes that are representative of reality, memes that satisfy lots of preferences for people that have them, memes that satisfy lots of preferences in societies where their frequency is high, memes that are memetically reproductively fit, and memes that increase the genetic reproductive fitness (or just their ability to survive; i.e. life extension and no preference for children) of their 'hosts,' as they are sometimes called.

Sort of like lukeprog's No-Nonsense Metaethics, I feel like all of the posts that would be in this sequence are all largely unthought knowns, and I wouldn't be the first to think them up, so much as the first to write them down and frame them in this way; or things that have already been written down but haven't been framed in this way. Once again, I'd also like to know if this seems like a waste of time, or not that important.

Here's a preliminary outline:

Rationality as Adaptation and Convergent Memetic Evolution

Rationalist memes cause adaptive behaviors. (Here, in the sense of satisfying the person's preferences, rather than in the sense of reproductive fitness. This is the problem with multiple definitions that I talked about. Something for the future.) Rationalist memes are likely to arise spontaneously and repeatedly because they are more entangled with reality than other memes. Related to rationality as systematized winning and Schelling points).

Adaptive Non-rationalist Memes as Repurposed Adaptations

Although memes with non-rationalist origins can also be adaptive, they are sometimes less so than rationalist memes. Where complex non-rationalist memes are not the product of simpler rationalist memes, their continued fitness advantage can be rationally justified, in the same way that adaptations for aerodynamic jumping can lead to flight without the blind, idiot god ever realizing that flight is possible. Related to everything ever about how epistemically irrational beliefs can be instrumentally rational. (Not sure about this one; technically the function often remains the same.)

Non-rationalists as a Threatened Species (I don't like the sound of this title. I am not seeking to exterminate people who don't share my beliefs.)

Rationalist memes exert selection pressures on existing memes that fill rationality's niches, which may be intolerably high in the long run. Examples: astronomy, cosmology, biology, etc. (Side note: How come linguists never get any flak for falsifying the Tower of Babel hypothesis?) Related to Religion's Claim to Be Non-Disprovable.

Bayesian Rationality as Complexity Threshold

Complex memes about rationality can't be understood without simpler memes about rationality. Memes about rationality tend to correct their own errors. 'Bayesian' rationality may be a complexity threshold in that it serves both as an excellent error-correcting mechanism and is a 'simple' adaptation that allows for the existence of more complex adaptations; 'Bayesian' rationality greatly shifts upward the equilibrium of adaptive complexity. Related to Evolutions Are Stupid (But Work Anyway).

Sequencing Memomes for Fun and Profit

A memome is the set of all memes that an individual possesses; compare to genome. To figure out how to splice the memes that code for rationalist adaptations into non-rationalists such that they express the adaptations correctly, we have to sequence their memomes and see what enabling memes they're missing. Related to inferential distance.

Fake Meme Splicing

Some people really are too stupid to understand ideas of a certain complexity, just like no matter how hard we try, we could probably never make a chimp conceive of how or why skyscrapers come to be. However, it's unlikely that humans have reached the end of their cultural evolution (without cognitive enhancement), and it's quite likely that you have not tried hard enough. Partially inspired by a recent incident in which I was able to inform where others failed to, not because I was the most knowledgeable, but because I was the most persistent.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality as Well-replicated Memeplex

(Be forewarned: I haven't actually read a word of HP:MoR. I think I can still infer things about it. I might read some so that I'm not flying blind.) Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality has been far more successful than the Sequences in spreading rationalist memes. This is because it represents knowledge more efficiently, isn't missing the simpler memes that are necessary to understand the more complex memes, repurposes the Harry Potter memeplex for rationalist adaptations, and is reproductively fit in other ways than causing adaptive behavior. There is much to be gleaned from the success of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

Hopefully there's at least one useful thing here.

comment by Dahlen · 2015-02-12T13:24:51.957Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Would it be possible to include an archive of the posts in Main or Discussion by year and then by month somewhere on the site, as featured on some blogging platforms? Many interesting things get discussed on LW, but it's a pity that there's no easy way to browse past discussions, other than endlessly clicking on Next/Previous buttons.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-02-15T20:03:57.621Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Here are lists of articles, sorted by date, 250 per page: main discussion.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-12T13:30:44.368Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The closest thing I could find is a list of all the posts by year which can be found in the sidebar of the wiki, of all places. I don't know if a subdivision by month exists.

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-02-09T16:00:31.241Z · score: -3 (23 votes) · LW · GW

I wonder how libertarians can believe in both the gold standard and in the cornucopianism of natural resources. These ideas make contradictory assumptions, otherwise you have to justify why element 79 in the Periodic Table deserves a special Malthusian status that doesn't apply to all the other elements.

You see this contradiction in Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged, where the Operating Objectivists can create mountains of goods - copper, coal, steel, petroleum, wheat, etc. - when they live under a proper political order. But they mysteriously can't seem to do this trick for gold.

comment by WalterL · 2015-02-09T17:45:30.187Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think its super fair to use works of fiction to illustrate supposed contradictions in belief systems, particularly since libertarians aren't objectivists.

comment by Salemicus · 2015-02-09T16:54:08.871Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Firstly, I'm not sure what libertarianism has to do with an alleged incompatibility between the gold standard and cornucopianism. It is perfectly possible to be a cornucopian supporter of the gold standard without being a libertarian. You seem to have a hobby-horse of bringing libertarianism into questions where it is irrelevant. I have been unable to find survey data of libertarian views on the gold standard, but the monetary policy views I most closely associate with libertarianism are Monetarism and Free Banking.

Secondly, your alleged contradiction doesn't seem to work, or at least, is insufficiently developed. Why would it be a problem for a hypothetical gold standard if in the future we have mountains of gold alongside our mountains of copper, wheat, etc? As long as improvements in gold output track the improvements in all other goods, that would imply a constant price level, and the gold standard is vindicated. The major drawback of the gold standard is precisely the opposite worry - that there might be changes in gold output not reflected in the output of other goods, resulting in unanticipated shocks to the price level. But this is equally true in cornucopian and Malthusian worlds, and defenders of the gold standard nevertheless think that this policy is the best available option. So I really don't see how the addition of a cornucopian belief creates any added (dis)advantages for support for the gold standard.

comment by knb · 2015-02-09T22:39:25.177Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I think you've missed an important distinction in libertarian groups. Goldbugs tend to be more Malthusian than Cornucopian. In fact, Goldbugs are usually bulls on all commodities and perma-bears on everything else. Goldbugs tend to be paleo-libertarians like Mises Institute/Lew Rockwell etc. The Cornucopian libertarians tend to be cosmotarians like Reason Foundation/Cato Institute, etc. E.g. Julian Simon was a member of Cato.

comment by Thomas · 2015-02-09T16:25:34.816Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps, because you need two fast rotating neutron stars to brush one against the other. Only this creates gold, a simple supernova explosion isn't enough. ;-)

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2015-02-10T11:17:20.075Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

two fast rotating neutron stars to brush one against the other

That's what a proper Randian hero would do in a week with bare hands, if he only could get rid of all the bureaucratic obstacles.

(Sorry, couldn't resist. I was watching Atlas Shrugged 3 yesterday, and the memories are still fresh.)

comment by passive_fist · 2015-02-10T02:37:17.087Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Historically, gold had a lot of attractive properties for use as currency:

  1. Compactness: high value/volume ratio.
  2. Low upkeep/maintenance cost (due to chemical unreactivity)
  3. Difficulty to counterfeit. This applies to all the elements really, although you could in theory produce sub-Nickel elements economically through nuclear reactions. However physical law prevents this for heavier elements.
  4. Ease of verification (distinctive color plus chemical resistance allows easy 'field tests')
  5. Inherent value independent of legal status as currency (jewellry, electronics, etc.)

Even today I doubt you could find an element that combines all these properties together. Platinum and a few others might qualify.

These properties make gold attractive as currency when a stable currency-issuing government doesn't exist, even today. This is why it fits in well with libertarian philosophy, since it's based on the assumption of small and limited government.

About your second question, I don't see the contradiction. Gold can also be produced, and in fact it has to do so in a growing economy based on the gold standard. The key phrase is 'proper political order.' The idea is to have a currency that can grow when things are good but be immune to things going bad.

By the way, I am most definitely not a libertarian, but the gold standard is hardly the biggest issue with libertarianism. The current monetary system might be better than the gold standard but that's only because the political climate is much different.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-02-09T18:09:21.232Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm a libertarian, and I think you've got an interesting question there. Libertarianism was developed when technology wasn't changing as fast as it is now, and the gold standard is a solution to a real problem of serious inflation.

I've still not sure it makes sense that people need to be fooled(?) into making sensible purchases and investments though mild inflation.

However, cheap oil does support the cornucopean hythpothesis, and it didn't take a libertarian society-- just modern tech and governments that aren't extremely oppressive.

Anyway, I don't know if there's a libertarian consensus about gold these days, or whether an electronic currency is a reasonable substitute.

Before the big drop in the price of oil, I saw people doubting peak oil (the idea was that exploration is regulating by the expectation of returns, so it wasn't going to look as though there was more than 30 years worth of oil), but I didn't see anyone predicting cheap oil. Has anyone seen that sort of prediction?

Incidentally, there's oil from shale in Atlas Shrugged-- with no hint of what tech would be needed to get the oil out.

comment by knb · 2015-02-09T23:00:01.867Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Libertarianism was developed when technology wasn't changing as fast as it is now, and the gold standard is a solution to a real problem of serious inflation.

When do you consider libertarianism to have been developed? I think of libertarianism (in the modern American sense) as originating around the early 20th century with HL Mencken and Albert Jay Nock. If anything that seems to be near the historical peak of technological progress.

comment by Vaniver · 2015-02-10T00:20:11.325Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

When do you consider libertarianism to have been developed? I think of libertarianism (in the modern American sense) as originating around the early 20th century with HL Mencken and Albert Jay Nock.

Lao Tzu, section 75 of the Tao Te Ching, written in the sixth century B.C.:

The people starve because those above them eat too much tax-grain. That is the only reason why they starve. The people are difficult to keep in order because those above them interfere. That is the only reason why they are so difficult to keep in order.

I'd disagree with him as a matter of fact, of course, but historians of libertarianism typically put him as one of the earliest examples, and there seem to be lots of strong intellectual connections that may or may not be known well today. (I know some people who tout Lysander Spooner as the bridge between the libertarians before and after him who were previously thought unconnected, for example, but I don't know enough to say whether or not that's true.)

comment by fubarobfusco · 2015-02-10T02:06:02.433Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

We may as well call Laozi an "anarchist" as a "libertarian"; he seems rather more interested in a classless society than a market-driven one. Or we could call him a "reactionary", since he writes about a supposed lost golden age in which society operated harmoniously.

Put another way — We should be careful about pattern-matching ancient authors onto modern ideologies, because we are likely to make useless but contentious claims.

We should also be careful to distinguish between political ideologies and movements. The difference is similar to that between religious creeds and churches: one is a collection of beliefs, while the other is a collection of participants with some sort of continuity between them.

Lots of people like to find old forerunners to their modern beliefs! I'm rather fond of the notion that Adam Weishaupt (1748-1830) of the Bavarian Illuminati, would support the LW and CFAR mission of rationality education. But that's pretty different from saying that LW and CFAR are part of the Illuminati.

comment by gwern · 2015-02-10T02:24:47.294Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I once read a book which made a pretty convincing case that the Tao Te Ching was written as a mystically-worded manual of statecraft for a totalitarian regime, pointing out the context of the times (the pre-unification period offering many other works like that), translation issues, and similarities of the passages about keeping the people ignorant and simple to other passages in statecraft manuals like the Book of Lord Shang. Ever since, I've been a bit dubious about how well we can understand classical Chinese thought...

comment by Vaniver · 2015-02-10T14:43:23.409Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

We may as well call Laozi an "anarchist" as a "libertarian"; he seems rather more interested in a classless society than a market-driven one.

I think that anarchists are contained within libertarianism; yes, he doesn't look like an anarchocapitalist or a minarchist or so on, but that doesn't mean he's not libertarian. (I don't think it's quite fair to say "libertarianism in the modern American sense means anarchocapitalism," but that may be because I'm more familiar with the variation in the modern strands of American libertarianism than the median American.)

Lots of people like to find old forerunners to their modern beliefs!

Well, I think that's because there are lots of old forerunners to modern beliefs. Ecclesiastes has it almost right:

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

There is a cottage industry in going back to old academic works and finding the ideas that were before their time--that is, 'modern' discoveries that were discovered before and not recognized as important (or underdeveloped in some crucial way). It seems to me that we should suspect similar, if not greater, levels of reinvention in philosophy as math, and that we should also be unsurprised when it's direct influence instead of reinvention.

comment by Epictetus · 2015-02-09T17:29:39.482Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Libertarians are opposed to fiat money, in line with their general dislike of government regulation. If you reject paper money, where to next? Gold has a lot of very nice properties that made it useful as a medium of exchange in the past, so why not go back to something that worked? If you can explain away the problems with the old gold standard as a consequence of poor financial planning, then the rational choice seems to be the gold standard. Electronic currencies, like Bitcoin, have various issues of security and not really "existing" that just don't apply to physical objects.

How to resolve this with cornucopianism of natural resources? Honestly, I haven't seen any libertarian works addressing this question. It seems to me that the big push for gold has mostly historical reasons.

You see this contradiction in Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged, where the Operating Objectivists can create mountains of goods - copper, coal, steel, petroleum, wheat, etc. - when they live under a proper political order. But they mysteriously can't seem to do this trick for gold.

The gold standard has an interesting history. The World Wars and the Great Depression uncovered many practical problems with the gold standard and Rand lived to see the various debates and policy shifts that arose during this time. The emphasis on gold in Atlas Shrugged is likely a yearning for the good old days before contemporary politicians mucked everything up.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-02-13T16:15:57.377Z · score: -4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

"On February 14th, Kakumei-teki himote doumei (革命的非モテ同盟) — literally, “Revolutionary Alliance of Men That Woman Are Not Attracted To”– will gather in Shibuya, an area of Tokyo popular with young couples, to protest Valentine’s Day and its roots in what they call “romantic capitalist oppression.” (source)

Think this needs a US branch? :-D

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-02-11T16:40:03.862Z · score: -19 (23 votes) · LW · GW

I think I've figured out why atheists have to deny the existence of unicorns:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2015/02/11/creationist-group-to-doubt-the-existence-of-unicorns-in-the-bible-is-to-demean-gods-word/

They don't want unicorns to hold them accountable for their failure to get into sexual relationships. ; )