Open thread, Dec. 05 - Dec. 11, 2016

post by MrMind · 2016-12-05T07:52:15.153Z · score: 4 (5 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 42 comments

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

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comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2016-12-05T11:59:49.712Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I haven’t posted in LW in over a year, because the ratio of interesting-discussion to parochial-weirdness had skewed way too far in the parochial-weirdness direction. There still isn’t a good substitute for LW out there, though. Now it seems there’s some renewed interest in using LW for its original purpose, so I thought I’d wander back, sheepishly raise my hand and see if anyone else is in a similar position.

I’m presumably not the only one to visit the site for the first time in ages because of new, interesting content, so it’s reasonable to assume a bunch of other former LW-users are reading this. What would it take for you to come back and start using the site again?

comment by NatashaRostova · 2016-12-05T20:16:36.707Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not new to this internet sphere, but new to LW. One thing I suggest is users spend less time wondering what would get people back, and more time posting interesting links. Interesting links are somewhat rare, there is lots of lame blogs and annoying quasi-philosophy discussions. Lots of the philosophy posted here is very cringeworthy.

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2016-12-05T21:24:45.636Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The links are a new feature since I was last here, and I can't say I'm overwhelmed by them, tbh.

comment by plethora · 2016-12-07T00:12:56.959Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have a very low bar for 'interesting discussion', since the alternative for what to do with my spare time when there's nothing going on IRL is playing video games that I don't particularly like. But it's been months since I've seen anything that meets it.

It seems like internet people think insight demands originality. This isn't true. If you look at popular long-form 'insight' writers, even Yudkowsky (especially Yudkowsky), most of what they do is find earlier books and file the serial numbers off. It could be a lot easier for us to generate interesting discussion if we read more books and wrote about them, like this.

comment by Tenoke · 2016-12-09T19:37:32.911Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

More quality content (either in terms of discussions or actual posts).

P.S. I do see how that might not be especially helpful.

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2016-12-08T17:41:58.247Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Have you tried Slate Star Codex?

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2016-12-08T22:29:03.336Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've had some luck in open threads on SSC for stuff I would previously have directed to LW, but it's much noisier, and is a far cry from a fully-featured discussion forum.

comment by username2 · 2016-12-11T14:43:47.557Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

In recent months about a half of all SSC discussions were about politics in general and US elections in particular. It was basically the same people repeating the same things over and over again and the level of discussion wasn't nearly as good as I expected from SSC.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-12-07T19:19:50.612Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Keith Stanovich got a $999,376 grant to develop a test of rationality. The grant was supposed to end in December 2015. Does anybody know about the result?

comment by RainbowSpacedancer · 2016-12-08T10:54:01.399Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's called the CART (Comprehensive Assessment of Rational Thinking) and it's described in this book and (PDF Warning) this paper.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-12-08T18:02:13.580Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thank you. Does anybody have any opinions about the quality of the test he developed?

What's the process for a person who wants to take the test or run a study based on the test?

comment by sarahconstantin · 2016-12-06T17:40:02.110Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wonder if there's any way to measure rationality in animals.

Bear with me for a second. The Cognitive Reflection Test is a measure of how well you can avoid the intuitive-but-wrong answer and instead make the more mentally laborious calculation. The Stroop test is also a measure of how well you can avoid making impulsive mistakes and instead force yourself to focus only on what matters. As I recall, the "restrain your impulses and focus your thinking" skill is a fairly "biological" one -- it's consistently associated with activity in particular parts of the brain, influenced by drugs, and impaired in conditions like ADHD.

Could we -- or have we already -- design a variant of this made out of mazes that rats could run through?

I might look into this more carefully myself, but does anyone know off the top of their heads?

comment by pcm · 2016-12-07T17:10:17.919Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

See Rosati et al., The Evolutionary Origins of Human Patience: Temporal Preferences in Chimpanzees, Bonobos, and Human Adults, Current Biology (2007). Similar to the marshmallow test.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-06T18:37:18.504Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You can certainly train animals to override their instincts and then measure how well that goes. I don't know how much would it tell you about "rationality", though...

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2016-12-06T15:03:52.024Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have made a lot of progress in the last two years by developing a suite of simple productivity/life-logging tools for myself. The tools are technologically simple, but because they are customized specifically to me, they are quite useful and useable. Unlike a lot of similar one-size-fits-all tools, my tools have all and only the features I want. The suite includes:

  • TODO list (with a priority calculator that increases the priority of older tasks, so I don't get bogged down)
  • Chore logging (remind me when it's time to get a haircut, clean my bathtub, etc)
  • Finance analysis (download CSV files from my bank account, categorize them semi-automatically, aggregate them)
  • Pomodoro system
  • Activity Log (keep track of what I did each day)
  • Junk Food/Alcohol consumption tracker

I recommend programming-savvy people try out building their own productivity tools. But I wanted also to poll people about whether they would pay me to develop some of these tools for them:


comment by sarahconstantin · 2016-12-06T17:42:24.489Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've been frustrated with available self-tracking tools. (Food trackers are slooooow and interface poorly with exercise trackers; I have never yet found a mood tracker that allows you to look at statistics; various other things like that.)

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2016-12-09T18:06:29.707Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Are the features you want basically simple? Do you have a specific list of features in mind that you want and that other products don't offer, or are you just vaguely dissatisfied with current products?

In my mind a mood tracker app is just a frontend for a simple database table, but am I missing something? Do you have a theory of why the other products didn't get it right?

comment by sarahconstantin · 2016-12-09T20:02:49.628Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, it's very simple. Things that I often find I want:

*a daily tracker that allows me to input a value every day for something I want to track, PLUS a view that allows me to see my past stats over time

*for food tracking, quicker lookups to the database of foods (this is the time-consuming part)

*a food and exercise tracker that has both a database of foods and a database of exercises (MyFitnessPal believes that weight training burns zero calories)

HabitRPG is my main home-base productivity tool but it doesn't allow me to look at stats.

A mood-tracker app on the phone sends randomized reminders and allows you to input a value (your mood) and a word (the activity you're doing at the time). For some reason, I haven't found a happiness tracker that allows you to look at a graph of mood over time.

I imagine that my frustrations with food and exercise trackers are either technical (maybe database lookups are inherently hard) or due to my eccentricities (most people only do cardio). I can't imagine why it's so rare for self-trackers of all kinds to show trends over time.

comment by btrettel · 2016-12-07T01:29:35.728Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've had good experience with MyFitnessPal with respect to speed, and find the features sufficient for my purposes. I manually enter my exercise data, so I can not comment on automatic exercise tracking.

I found FitDay to be annoyingly slow, but I used the site for years before MyFitnessPal.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-06T18:33:58.635Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

What's your hardware/OS platform?

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2016-12-06T18:53:37.980Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It is a webapp with a vanilla Java/Javascript/SQLite stack. Using SQLite instead of a full DB engine makes things a lot simpler, and is appropriate for a single-user/small team use case.

comment by gathaung · 2016-12-10T12:05:31.586Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I recently had a tech-support problem on lw and wanted to post the solution here. Anyone with write permissions on the faq is invited to copy-paste the following there:

Q: I appear to be unable to comment. Once I log in, the comment button vanishes. WTF?

A: Have you verified your email address? Due to spammers, we had to make email verification mandatory before commenting.

Unfortunately, the lesswrong code is currently unable to indicate if your account is still pending email verification. The easiest way to trigger a new attempt at email verification is to go to your account settings and change your email address; then your new email address will immediately receive a new verification mail.

comment by Drea · 2016-12-11T19:02:41.500Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thank you! I needed that work-around.

comment by plethora · 2016-12-07T04:39:09.237Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

1) I'm fairly intelligent, completely unskilled (aside from writing, which I have some experience in, but not the sort that I could realistically put on a resume, especially where I live), and I don't like programming. What skills should I develop for a rewarding career?

2) On a related note, the best hypothetical sales pitch for EA would be that it can provide enough career help (presumably via some combination of statistically-informed directional advice and networking, mostly the latter) to more than make up for the 10% pledge. I don't know how or whether this could be demonstrated, but do EA people think this is worth pursuing, or is their strategy still to use 99% of their members for publicity to attract the odd multi-millionaire?

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-12-07T18:24:17.479Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Giving EA career help is basically the mission of

comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-07T15:49:28.431Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

What skills should I develop for a rewarding career?

My usual triple:

  • Something you like to do
  • Something you are or could become competent at
  • Something that other people are willing to pay you enough money for

Find something that satisfies all three.

fairly intelligent, completely unskilled

That's... an unusual combination unless you're still in high school (or pursuing a liberal-arts major in college :-P).

comment by plethora · 2016-12-08T11:31:54.008Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's... an unusual combination unless you're still in high school (or pursuing a liberal-arts major in college :-P).

Liberal arts major. I can code, but not well enough to get hired for it, and since I haven't managed to get myself to like it enough to level up in it yet, I doubt I will.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-09T15:54:04.220Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

So what happens when you apply your intelligence to the problem of acquiring marketable skills?

comment by plethora · 2016-12-14T00:17:53.027Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I decide that it can't hurt to ask around and see what marketable skills one can acquire outside a job or formal education, other than programming.

comment by morganism · 2016-12-05T23:24:03.485Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

there is some interesting new papers showing RNA splicing and gene replication errors causing lots of age and degenerative disease, and the Tufts study shows a newly isolated protein that affects aging if in high enough concentration.

Uncovering a 'smoking gun' in age-related disease

"called splicing factor 1 (SFA-1) -- a factor also present in humans. In a series of experiments, the researchers demonstrate that this factor plays a key role in pathways related to aging. Remarkably, when SFA-1 is present at abnormally high levels, it is sufficient on its own to extend lifespan."


"The error occurs as copies of three-letter sequences of DNA--known as CAG and CTG triplets--expand and repeat themselves hundreds or even thousands of times, disrupting normal gene sequences." Genetic analyses in baker's yeast now reveal that these large-scale expansions are controlled by genes that have been implicated in a process for repairing DNA breaks, leading the researchers to surmise that the expansions occur while breaks are being healed."

comment by morganism · 2016-12-05T23:48:07.087Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

and a special issue on regenerative medicine

Special Focus Issue: Regenerative medicine: past, present and future - Foreword

comment by Nate_Rausch · 2016-12-09T19:14:35.482Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was re-reading the meditations of moloch the other day, and it dawned on me that our situation is kind of relevant when it comes to information spreading on the internet.

The current state of competition on the internet seems to be quite clearly in disalignment with what we deem as good, like truth or insight. It feels like we are mid-way towards an equilibrium that is far worse. Unless something is done, we should expect the volume of fake narratives, fake news and lies of all sorts to grow going forward. On the positive side, we should expect to see far more information that confirms with our group's opinions and rattles our emotions, especially anger or awe.

And this seem to me to be serious. Beliefs matter. People act on what they think they know about the world. To bring the incentives a bit more back in alignment, we likely need some new institutions. It's unclear to me if we currently have any internet- institutions that is working on verification. Wikipedia might count, but it is quite weak and easily subverted. The factchecker-websites have been helpful, but they seem to be overrun, and mostly used when it confirms a group's beliefs, ironically.

On a website like Quora it feels like total entropy. Like the entire internet is suffering a sort of eternal september, and in some way it is, with 2 out of the 3 billion coming online since 2009. And everywhere you turn, people despair about lies and not knowing who to trust. There is a civilizational need (and perhaps also a market) for truth.

So, I wanted to ask you, how do we fundamentally confirm that something is true? And if we had that method, how would an institution strong enough to actual alter the incentives of online publisers look like?

I can thing a few candidate themes

  1. Source-reputation: how would we go about analyzing and ranking websites for their reputation for truth?
  2. The science method: conjecture, criticism and testing seems viable. Can this be applied universally?
  3. The bayesian method: every time a claim was made, we updated the probability of its truth, weighted for source or strength of information. Unclear if it is viable to boil down texts to essence of the belief or claim, even less clear if comparing is even possible.

(PS: I find myself thinking that I personally, somehow, am a great evaluator of truth. If I really am, or you are. There should be some very simple habit to discover from that, that maybe can be applied widely.

Yet what I do seem mundane. I curate my information sources: SSC, Marginalrevolution, WBW, Overcoming Bias, LW. (But also Reddit, Twitter, Quora.) And I even observe myselfupvoting things I agree with and emotionally engage with on Reddit, without any source-checking. I sort of rely on previous knowledge, I think, critique what I just read using existing knowledge and making a snap judgement.

Do you have personal habits of truth-seeking or evaluation information?)

comment by Viliam · 2016-12-12T09:25:11.447Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's unclear to me if we currently have any internet- institutions that is working on verification.

Sometimes it feels to me that publicly staying away from tribalism is impossible. At the moment you disagree with a sacred belief of some tribe, the tribe members will start calling you a member of the opposite tribe. Even worse, the members of the opposite tribe may take this as an encouragement to join you. If you depend on volunteers, this already disrupt your balance. If you somehow succeed to resist this, and also disagree with a sacred belief of the other tribe, both tribes will simply call you an idiot. And even that may not help you achieve the image of neutrality, because the first tribe may continue to claim that you are deep inside a fan of the second tribe; and the second tribe may continue to claim that you are deep inside a fan of the first tribe. (Because, from inside of a mindkilled person everyone who disagrees has to be, in some way, mindkilled for the enemy.)

I find myself thinking that I personally, somehow, am a great evaluator of truth.

So do I, but various people whom I consider mindkilled in return consider me mindkilled for the opposite site, and I am quite aware that from an outside view this just seems like two people accusing each other of the same thing, so why should I be the one who is right? I take some comfort in knowing that I am accused of many contradictory things, which is a weak evidence that the accusations are bullshit, but this is a kind of reverse-stupidity reasoning.

At the bottom of fact-checking, you need to compare the map with the territory. Just comparing two maps won't do enough. It can tell you which maps are more similar and which are less, perhaps you could do some kind of cluster analysis on them... but you would still need to have deep trust in some specific map, to decide that this cluster is the correct one; or perhaps medium-level trust in a group of independent maps, which you would find belonging to the same cluster, which would tell you that this is the correct one. -- I am not sure if something like this can literally be done, but it feels like a good metaphor for how I evaluate the truth of things where I can't see the territory. Or at least this is what I tell myself.

Do you have personal habits of truth-seeking or evaluation information?

In political debates very rarely, because it's time consuming, and when I already have enough data to make a conclusion, no one cares anymore. And outside of the LW community, almost no one would care about the data anyway. This is a thing I believe contributes a lot to irrationality: changing topics too quickly, so that after you collect some data and make some verification, it's no longer important because the debate has already moved on a different topic. (One of the reasons I think having too much new content on LW is actualy not a good thing. It then becomes more important to respond quickly than to respond correctly.)

Also, some people do the annoying thing when you show them the facts contradicting their beliefs, and they tell you "okay, you are technically right about this detail, but you are still wrong, because..." and then comes a tone argument, or shifting a goalpost, or some kind of mind-reading... simply, even being able to prove facts beyond reasonable doubt doesn't help you win a debate. Yeah, winning debate is not the most important thing, but it would feel nice to receive some reward for doing the fact checking. Instead, the people who were factually wrong still provide each other emotional rewards for being the good guys, despite being technically wrong on some unimportant detail. Well, reinforcements matter; doing rationality alone is difficult.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-12-12T16:38:03.446Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The current state of competition on the internet

You shouldn't think of people (aka internet users) as an undifferentiated mass. There are multiple competitions on the 'net for different population segments. For example, SSC isn't really competing with the see-Kylie-Jenner-naked people. There isn't going to be one single equilibrium.

Like the entire internet is suffering a sort of eternal september

Oh, dear. I hate to break it to you, but...

how do we fundamentally confirm that something is true

In the usual way. You imagine people selling bridges didn't exist before the 'net? What do you think the whole science thing is about? Internet actually makes it a lot easier to check whether something being told to you is a lie.

Yet what I do seem mundane.

Yes, and that's fine. Information hygiene is mundane, like brushing your teeth -- or resisting the urge to burrow into a hospital's infectious-waste trash pile.

Saving the world from bad information is a... dangerous approach.

comment by ingive · 2016-12-06T12:22:56.996Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)


comment by MrMind · 2016-12-07T09:34:15.347Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Interesting. If I'm correct it's a series of training scenario for machine learning replicating classical videogames, through interfaces which are close to what humans get in those games.

comment by [deleted] · 2016-12-07T13:47:17.467Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Uh, help? On pages 26-31 of this issue of The American journal of science published in 1881 there's an article on changes in the length of a 4 m zinc bar. Basically, they measured it, heated it, let it return to its starting temperature and measured it again. And there was a 29 mkm difference between the two measurements. I didn't quite understand what they did, and the Fahrenheit degrees didn't help any, but - what's the catch?..

comment by ingive · 2016-12-10T19:03:54.430Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

MrMind I am still curious what results you had from contacting clickers months ago on the reddit, aka if the click has stayed.

By the way, anyone who has criticism about the 'cult' (crying wolf) and logic nation you're free to debate it on stream with athene/bachir and your argument: you simply go to the discord and ask there with your argument.

I hope some people with rationality and some rhetorical knowledge will speak up.

comment by MrMind · 2016-12-12T11:00:29.593Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I decided to wait more, because the rate of people who have 'clicked' is small and recent, and I want to smooth out the effect of novelty and excitement.

comment by ingive · 2017-01-11T11:12:01.295Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's almost been another month. What about now? By the way, the steps have been updated. Take a look again and try it out if you're interested enough.

comment by MrMind · 2017-01-12T08:11:20.853Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I decided to wait so that a big portion of whom I'm going to question will have at least three months from the moment they 'clicked'. The average time the first time I checked was in the order of days. So you'll have to wati at least another month.

comment by ingive · 2016-12-09T06:18:22.615Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)