Open Thread, Jun. 29 - Jul. 5, 2015

post by Gondolinian · 2015-06-29T00:14:15.292Z · score: 5 (6 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 211 comments

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

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comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-30T07:24:38.306Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Idea: how NOT to use statistics for self-help

It is tempting to simply look at what seems to work for most people and try that. And when trying that costs little money and not a big time investment, neither a long waiting time, then sure, why not?

But when it is not the case, here is something to consider: why aren't you already doing what most people are doing? If you and your situation was exactly average, you would probably do it already. It is likely that there is something special about your case - and it can suggest the common solution would not work for you.

For example, most people find their romantic partners through their circle of friends. If you are social, if you have a large circle and hang out with them a lot, it would probably happen to you more or less naturally. If you are like 25 and it did not happen, it suggests something is different - maybe you are not very social, maybe you don't have much of a circle or you have the kind of circle that is not very conductive to this and so on.

The meta of this is that relatively easy to pick up popular ways of doing things. We adsorb it through our socialization, social life, upbringing, media, life in general. If you don't do something that is popular, there is something unusual there. Of course it is not certain that the reason for you not doing it would also cause it not working well for you if you tried. Yet I do see a certain correlation. What are the primary reasons for not doing something popular? You don't like it, it is too difficult for you, or you tried and it did not work. If you don't like something or it is too difficult, it could still work for you, but the cost would be high so it may be better to look for a different, less popular solution that may not be so efficient: but less painful for you. Lower benefit but far lower cost.

When a popular solution requires a lot of investment, I think the primary really good reason for trying it is that despite it being popular it somehow never occured you to try it. This can happen - after all not everybody spent all their aspects of their life swimming in mainstream. For example, I was a rocker between 15 and 18 and had this big metal hair that really did not look good for my face, and when I figured I need to look better to attract girls more efficiently (than 0) it felt like a big surprising relevation that maybe having short hair like about 98% of guys out there could be a good idea. I was simply isolated from mainstream hairstyles in my circles where everybody looked like Axl Rose. But even in this case there was another reason - it felt painful, like giving up an aspect of my identity. It was not really clear where the sweet spot of cost/benefit lies.

Another valid reason to try costly mainstream solutions besides it somehow not having occured to us is if we find that the primary reason we are not doing so is that we out-clevered ourselves from it. This happens. When I was 17 everybody told me doing body-building would improve not only my romantic success but pretty much every aspect of my life. But I was "too clever" for that - I did not like the idea of imitating the "meat pies" whom I considered stupid. Sure an iiiiintellectual man should not do a sport that is like some peasant carrying heavy things, but something sophisticated and classy like fencing, right? I must say it was difficult to overcome my too-cleverish snobbery. But again it had a cost-benefit accept: do I really want to improve things or do I want to poke my nose on people who are more succesful than me? NOT doing the later - however wrong and stupid it is - was still emotionally costly. I think that was called growing up.

Yet... between 2005-2010 I was pretty much fed up how literally every programming blog presses unit testing hard. I argued with them that it does not work in every field - in my ERP field there are no units at all, every function can be seen as taking a 10GB database as a parameter in the sense that every subroutine can read any table and make decisions based on that, so beyond user acceptance testing it is all about hiring people who juggle the connections in their heads. So I had good reasons for not trying it, but even if I didn't, the fact that everybody was yelling about unit testing yet almost nobody in ERP really did it was an evidence that it is not for us: if we had no specific reason for not doing so, we would have went with the mainstream long ago, because that is the EASY thing to do.

Group pressure to conform with the mainstream, the popular is a fairly big thing for humans and I would say we are at some level hardcoded for it, hardcoded for want to be "in", to follow the popular fashions.

And this is why I have lower confidence for advice of the kind to try solutions that work for most people. They are popular. We are pressured to do it anyway. It is easy to swim with the mainstream, and if we had no specific reason to do so we would already do so. And that specific reason may - not sure, but may - mean we have something special about our situation that would make the mainstream solution either not work well for us or be too painful/costly.

Recommended algorithm: if easy, try anyway, if hard, try if you have reasons to suspect that the main reason for not trying it yet is either too-clever snobbery or being in a pocket subculture.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-02T00:59:47.764Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You're conflating what's popular with what works. Just because something is popular among most people doesn't mean it works for most people. It just means they think it's working. Given their often small sample sizes and only circumstantial evidence for drawing that conclusion, it shouldn't be too surprising that a lot of people are doing things that don't work for them.

comment by Tem42 · 2015-07-06T06:39:36.353Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It seems that it is often the case that people are doing things that work for them for reasons they don't necessarily understand. For example, one of the great benefits of church is that you meet a lot of people of the same general culture, economic status, and belief system... which is good for networking and dating. Likewise, prayer seems to be a fairly effective self-regulation/self-calming system. (Contrariwise, Religion has had comparatively limited success in dealing with large-scale political/ethical issues and personal risk-management ("Jesus, take the wheel!" is not a sound safety strategy).)

Therefore, I would accept that going to church and praying are rational activities... But I still don't believe that most people do them for the most rational reasons.

Which isn't to say that DeVH might not be conflating what's popular with what works. But I suspect that looking at what's popular will quite often find you things that work.

comment by Elo · 2015-07-02T15:58:12.626Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

as a contrarian; I naturally invalidate the public opinion. I think I would benefit from taking note of the public or common process and considering the validity of it as an option; instead of being as dismissive. The post above helped to suggest that.

comment by Username · 2015-06-30T16:40:27.456Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

For example, most people find their romantic partners through their circle of friends. If you are social, if you have a large circle and hang out with them a lot, it would probably happen to you more or less naturally. If you are like 25 and it did not happen, it suggests something is different - maybe you are not very social, maybe you don't have much of a circle or you have the kind of circle that is not very conductive to this and so on.

FWIW I met my first girlfriend through my circle of friends, at the age of 26. :-)

comment by Elo · 2015-07-01T02:27:31.700Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

totally possible. still anecdata.

comment by Elo · 2015-07-01T02:27:00.237Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This was helpful. I have some thinking to do.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-29T08:14:54.681Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I wonder if the following is covered in the sequences... I could not find it.

There is a specific kind of argument which is not really an argument, because it is not just used in debates but people really seem to believe. It is a bit similar to motte and bailey, but that is a debate tactic, but this one is not, this is really believed.

The broad outline is statements that can have multiple interpretations, broader and narrower. And the broader interpretation is almost trivially true, while the narrower not and they get confused.

The latest example I saw was hedonism in the sense that everybody is a hedonist. Sure, someone working their ass off to be a champion do it because they think winning it gives them pleasure. Sure, the patriot selflessly fighting for his country and doing his duty is doing it because not doing so would give him a kind of psychological pain. This really really broad sense of hedonism is trivially true. But hedonism has a narrower, "sex and drugs and rock and roll" sense, let's call it instant gratification, and no, it is not true that everybody is chasing that.

The point I am trying to make is that I think I need to sort it out in my head whether I believe in the broader and almost trivally true definitions of some things, or in the narrower ones, and if I believe in the former, do I abuse that belief to justify the later?

I have managed to sort out a few things already. I am a broad atheist (no magic sky man) but not a narrow atheist (don't think religious mores and customs are predominantly harmful). Broad hedonist, not narrow hedonist - or let's say I keep trying to fight that in me (booze).

It is even in science! Aether theory was totally wrong and one of the biggest blunders of physics! No, wait, if you look at the Dirac quote here it seems if you define aether reeeeally broadly it is still true or at least was in 1951. Just be aware not to use the broad definition to justify the narrow one that got disproved.

But is there a general name for this?

comment by Viliam · 2015-06-30T08:39:36.488Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Seems like Moving the goalposts, or something from this list.

comment by G0W51 · 2015-06-30T04:50:13.926Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

See the post in the sequence "37 Ways That Words Can Be Wrong" called "Sneaking in Connotations. It seems to be roughly what you're talking about.

comment by gjm · 2015-06-29T10:34:53.346Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Related but not the same: deepity (note: link is to RationalWiki, which some folks in these parts don't like much, but this particular article is OK).

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-29T10:47:45.085Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, this is close.

comment by Raiden · 2015-07-11T09:22:01.649Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Is this the same thing as the motte and bailey argument?

comment by tut · 2015-07-11T14:44:37.763Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Not the motte and bailey argument, a motte and bailey doctrine. But yeah, it sounds a lot like what is called a motte and bailey doctrine everywhere except in the Scottosphere.

comment by Raiden · 2015-07-11T17:23:19.080Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What does the tern "doctrine" mean in this context anyways? It's not exactly a belief or anything, just a type of argument. I've seen that it's called that but I don't understand why.

comment by tut · 2015-07-11T18:41:49.219Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

A doctrine is something like a rule or principle or concept. The point is that when you claim that something is a motte and bailey doctrine you don't just attack one argument, but rather the whole body of thought that argues about that thing using those concepts.

comment by Raiden · 2015-07-14T17:37:03.705Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Ah I see. I was thinking of motte and bailey as something like a fallacy or a singular argument tactic, not a description of a general behavior. The name makes much more sense now. Thank you. Also, you said it's called that "everywhere except the Scottosphere". Could you elaborate on that?

comment by tut · 2015-07-15T12:29:21.106Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Scott introduced the concept of a motte and bailey doctrine on Slate Star Codex, in an article called Social Justice and Words Words Words or something like that. I don't think he said anything that was wrong in that post (about that concept), but it appears that a lot of readers who hadn't heard about M&BDs before misunderstood it to be about a debate tactic/fallacy. So on SSC and to some extent on LW 'motte and bailey' is often used with the meaning 'bait and switch'.

comment by Slider · 2015-06-29T10:14:34.448Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Arguments that are used to believe things are also called arguments. It is rather unfortunate that those two sense are not distinguished. There are things that people do in debates where they try to turn the situation to their advantage that are not reasons to believe things ie arguments that are not arguments. An example would be (simply) saying "shut up!". Then there is where it has argument forms and non-argument forms. If you simply beat up anyone that disagrees with you it will affect discussion but if you threaten to beat someone for believing something that is appeal to the stick and actually has a "therefore" in it and is an argument.

Well the technique you are using is working because of equivocation. The concept is used in two different contexts where it actually means different things. I think there has been a lot of discussion about how arguments over definitions are largely pointless and miss the real things. However that is exactly what would combat the usage of this technique. Making formal appeals on why things "proved" for one sense of the word do not apply to its other senses. Off course in order to do that it must first be established on what sense is used in the original argument. The trouble is that most of the time multiple senses can form interesting and potentially critical separate arguments. It doesn't help matters that often their truth is pretty entangled. For example any argument that works against broad hedonism should work against narrow hedonism. Thus it can become tempting to not keep track whether the claim is broad or narrow. The trouble is that sometimes the defensibility/applicability of the argument is sensitive whether the claim is narrow or broad.

Also I would like to point out that it's not that the truth is trivial in the broad sense. While it can be easy to attribute a behavior or attribute to a really broad ism this can fail to be appropriate even if the ism is very very broad. For example a champion trainee might in fact be motivated by sense of duty or being a sporty man being a high virtue for them even if the people around them understand his behavior in hedonistic terms. Or rather than them winning they might feel that it is important that their country wins.

This can form a basis for another maybe coused technique. If you see a hard worker you might tell (yourself) a plausible story about how they are working to get their children fed and struggling to make ends meet. This might let you think that they are motivated by the practical enablingness of money, a form of positive greed. Someone might use the existence of the worker as an argument how a worldview that emphasizes greed ends in positive results. Thus you might be inclined to support heavy privatization schemes. However if you were to ask the worker how they feel about their work they might tell about how they chose their profession so they can see first hand how their work helps others or how the work helps their community. If the reason you attributed for them wouldn't come up and for example they turned down a more paying job because it involved less personal contact it can be obvious that the story you told of them is a work of your fiction and contrary to the fact. By that time you might have used that story to passionately defend the way of life you had empirically witnessed against dubious theoretical alternative systems. But if your "emprical experience" was based on your way of interpreting the existence of the worker it's more case of a word against word. Part of your experience might have been the champion trainee demonstrating how ambition for personal achievement gets you places. But what if the champion trainee did it for national pride?

Just because an explanation works doesn't mean you should understand a phenomenon in those terms. One way of defending against spins that are convenient for third parties is to be interested on direct factual accuracy of psychological claims and not rely on external circumstances alone to infer states of mind. That is that a person works isn't evidence for what reason they do the work. For example a greed arguer might say that if a person didn't desperately need money they wouldn't work so that they work is evidence that they do need it desperately. However if you believe this line of argument you are just taking their word for psychological laws and states about the human mind (while the arguer might want you to focus on the states of the world). Epistemologically (atleast) it would be prudent to recognize this as a claim that might need backing to be believed. Even if you end up accepting the claim you will have rooted in more easily checkable things than the word of a potentially agendafull arguer. If for example your own experience of your own mind backs the existence of these psychological laws you are backing them with direct empirical evidence. In addition you know to be wary of typical mind fallacy and you might be more easily aware that greed is not the be-all-end-all of psychological law.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-06-29T17:11:39.905Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Some years ago I reasoned that all Christians are closeted hedonists: sure, they preach against promiscuity and greed in this world, but they eagerly await the infinite delights of heaven. What's more hedonist than that?

Rather than an argument having a broad and a narrow meaning, I construed this as people failing to take their own beliefs to their logical conclusions. If you're sacrificing earthly pleasures, but still wish to experience endless bliss, you're still a hedonist no matter what else you preach.

A similar reasoning led me to conclude that all ethical systems end up inevitably being situationist, want it or not. This is not a defense of situationism, but a statement of fact. Thou shalt not murder all you want, except when your Bible commands otherwise.

comment by Sithlord_Bayesian · 2015-06-30T07:09:59.928Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

In the spirit of asking personally important questions of LessWrong, here goes. Please be gentle with me.


Discussion post by another user on being raised by narcissists


My parent always had a number of narcissistic traits, but was never a full-blown narcissist. They (singular) supported me financially and always seemed to legitimately care about how well I was doing academically and professionally. However, they had a habit of lowering my status by verbally critiquing my actions, and sometimes made odd demands of me, such as demanding that I share some of my passwords with them, or demanding that they be present every time I go to the doctor (I'm 25).

Right now, I think that I'm either going to severely limit contact with my parent, or cut contact completely. I think that cutting contact completely is likely to be more pleasant and easier on me, but I'm really not sure about that yet. I've had a few family members tell me that I'm obligated to keep in touch with my parent. Since LW is my in-group, and since I share lots of values with the kind of people who tend to post here, I'd prefer to get advice here, rather than elsewhere. Specifically, I'm not sure if I have a familial obligation to remain in contact with my parent, given that they've only been somewhat emotionally abusive to me; it's probable that they don't even realize/ are incapable of realizing that I find their treatment of me to be hurtful. Do you think that I have any such obligation?

Complicating factor: if maintaining a good relationship with my parent might slightly increase the amount I expect to be able to donate to effective charities at the cost of (in expectation) making me less happy, does this change my obligations?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-30T11:58:52.677Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I was in a similar situation with my parents in my early 20s (although their motivations and characteristics were probably very different). Looking back I think they were not ready to deal with my independence (I was the oldest) and tried to deal with things in the same way they did when I was a child. Your mention of medical appointments really rang a bell with me - my parents did the same and this made me perhaps the most uncomfortable of all.

In my case, severely limiting contact was a highly successful approach. I didn't do this explicitly; we had no conversation "I am limiting my contact with you". I took a job in a different place, got my own (tiny, horrible) room in a shared flat and just started being more independent in my life. I must admit I used the workload of my new job as a convenient excuse to limit contact - just the occasional phone call to let them know how things were going (back in those days my parents didn't have email). I also didn't visit nearly as often as before --- I found myself reverting back to a teenage mentality, they would treat me like a child, I would get very angry/upset.

Now many years later (I'm approaching 50) I have a somewhat positive relationship with both parents - perhaps in large part because I live in a different country. After a lot of time had passed we were able to discuss the earlier issues more dispassionately (although not entirely) & get a better understanding of each other's motivations.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-30T10:55:47.737Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Instead of simply cutting contact you can tell your parents how you want to be treated. As long as they are willing to act that way you interact with them. If they don't then you don't and you retry after half a year.

Clearly explicitly communicating your personal boundaries isn't easy but it's a very important skill. It's a challenge that provides a lot of personal growth.

comment by Viliam · 2015-06-30T20:57:16.731Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'd add a warning here that this may require "eternal vigilance". Just because the personal boundaries were clearly communicated and respected today, it does not automatically mean that the parents will respect them tomorrow, if they will feel the greatest threat is gone and one is losing their original momentum.

comment by CBHacking · 2015-07-04T08:55:35.189Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Agreed. If you're not willing to say "Nope, you crossed the line. See you next time, I'll decide when that is, goodbye" (or similar) and leave (cut them off to whatever degree is needed to stop the harmful behavior), then you need to not give them an opportunity to start again. If you are willing to do so, though, or some other approach to ensuring your boundaries are respected, go ahead.

For the record, while I have a pretty good relationship with both my parents, I do not buy the line that a person always has an obligation to their parents. Sure, there usually is one, but your parent(s) put a finite amount of utility into your life, and negative utility is a thing. Parents trying to run the lives of their adult offspring drives me up a wall. Unless there's something unusual about your capacity for self-reliance, at 25 you should not be living under anybody's thumb to the degree described even without the negatives such as undesired/inappropriate criticism.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-07-04T10:49:23.086Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Agreed. If you're not willing to say "Nope, you crossed the line. See you next time, I'll decide when that is, goodbye" (or similar) and leave (cut them off to whatever degree is needed to stop the harmful behavior), then you need to not give them an opportunity to start again.

Yes, that's important. You actually have assert boundaries and simply communicating them might not be enough. At the same time it's very valuable to go through the experience of asserting those boundaries. Parental relationships do have a strong effect on the human psychological system.

comment by Sithlord_Bayesian · 2016-03-14T12:34:23.636Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Everything in this chain of comments has now been proven true in my particular case. Thank you for the advice. This bit sums it up pretty well:

Instead of simply cutting contact you can tell your parents how you want to be treated. As long as they are willing to act that way you interact with them. If they don't then you don't and you retry after half a year.

Clearly explicitly communicating your personal boundaries isn't easy but it's a very important skill. It's a challenge that provides a lot of personal growth.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-01T14:16:39.516Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Hello Sithlord_Bayesian.

I’ve also been raised by a parent who was similar to what you described, and have navigated the issue to my liking. I hope what I have found to be a good way to analyze the situation proves useful for yours.

First I might suggest not only considering two options. Might be a better third, in the “middle” somewhere. Now to address your first question; familial obligation. A lot of people start to treat the concept like it is selectively separate from where you in particular are feeling lacking, and end up with a floating belief that says you should stick with family no matter what. But, like your intuitions are pointing out to you, the concept does have real weight, through your interactions. You only need heed familial obligation as much as it is heeded by the other party. If you can take that and run with it, good for you.

If you want a more thorough suggestion, the following is how I came to judge my own relationships. Second question is following, if tl;dr

What is the net balance of interactions?; Here you can consider if you are better off, or not, as a whole. From your entry I suspect your parents feel like a net loss (You have my sympathies, I really hated this being a fact with me). You can also consider trying to isolate portions of the relationship you favor and avoiding situations that hurt. Shabby example being to not tell your parents when appointments are, if you could manage it, but watching movies as a family, if you can manage that.

Which world-state concerning-your-family do you really ultimately wish for?; This can be hard, depending on how far away it is. What do you wish your relationship was like? At what point would you be satisfied? Sorta-satisfied? This is important (obviously), as you’ll see shortly.

How do they fit in with this manipulation of yours?; I know you said they may not be capable of being directly involved in repair efforts (mine wasn’t), but it doesn’t have to be on the core of your issues. If they enjoy things that feel even just vaguely good-family-time, then try to encourage those things, if it suits you.

Methods of Repair; If your going to try at actually fixing the problem at all it is important to maintain a humanly realistic (psychologically) model of them. If they grate on you in their behavior, it is probably for reasons other than bothering you. Internally consistent, is the key phrase. They might think pointing out flaws is useful. I don’t know if they have any behaviors that bother you, that are not aimed at you, but it might be best to “translate” those sorts of occurrences into the language you speak. If they get road rage, why should that bother you? Not like you can explain they are shortening their lifespan, et cetera, and they aren't doing it to fuel Asmodeus, Prince of Devils. I hope. They are probably doing it because they feel stressed, and are venting (right next to your face, but again, not to try and cook you where you sit).

Cost of Interaction vs. Available Energy; Humans are imbedded in the physical universe, so they can be manipulated, and probably to whatever simple aims you care for (like a stable relationship). The question after that becomes how much energy you are willing to put in for this. Depending on what else you are doing with your life you may wish to abstain entirely, or turn efforts up to 11. Most likely something in the middle; cognitive dissonance might bug you if you try either end of extremes. What points on the dial give what results? And remember effort has at least a few sub-efforts, and don't scrap a project that is only failing along one dimension.

Second Question!: I think this consideration, channeling towards a net good in the world, is worth having. BUT; It really depends on the rest of the issue, which is based around system 1 feelings based around system 2 justifications. That system 1 portion does not take well to being ignored, so the effect of altruistic aims, at least concerning this, should probably remain small.

And finally, at the end of all this thinking, you have to settle with what you decide. You are the most foundational portion of this issue (I suspect), so for your own sake, be stable. Message me if you have questions, or want to berate me over some assumption. Hope I helped.

EDIT:ing to fix formatting errors; I'm new here!

comment by Cariyaga · 2015-06-30T09:33:35.286Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

My first question is the social equivalent of asking whether you've turned your computer off and on again: Have you spoken with your parent about this? No matter how unpleasant it may be (turning my computer off and on again is a chore :P), it is a good first thought when it comes to interpersonal issues, and one I would highly suggest, especially as by your words they do not seem to be aware of how they're hurting you with their lack of trust.

The answer to your questions depends mainly upon your values. How much do you value your family? How much do you value (close) non-members of your family? If the amount that you value each of those is similar, ask yourself instead if your obligation toward a friend would prevent you from breaking contact with them if they were (seemingly) toxic to you as your parent is.

The obligation you have to maintain in touch with your parent depends mainly upon: how much you value them; how much you value those that would judge you poorly based upon your disownment of them; and how much of your identity is tied up in the situation. I find myself personally incapable of ending a somewhat toxic friendship with two people I care deeply about because it would be difficult for me to fathom not having their company at times, and I don't want to see myself as the kind of person that would be willing to abandon them for their issues.

Regarding the complicating factor, there's a lot that would go into a cost-benefit analysis. How much do you value your happiness compared to what the small amount of money you contribute might do? How do you factor in how poorly the stress affects your health? You might get sick because of a compromised immune system because of how stressed you are. Or you might die five years younger, and your charity of choice would lose those years of income. Regardless, I don't think that it should factor too much into your decision, though that's more a personal belief than anything.

Feel free to answer any of these questions, or not. I provided them more to give you food for thought.

comment by Viliam · 2015-06-30T09:31:18.825Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Some random thoughts:

My parent always had a number of narcissistic traits, but was never a full-blown narcissist.

Narcissism is one of the "Cluster B" personality disorders. Other disorders have some similarities and some differences. (I don't even know if they are clearly separated in the territory. The psychological definitions keep changing.) So if there seems to be a serious issue, but it only partially fits the definition of narcissism, and partially it doesn't, maybe it is something else. My quick uneducated guess would be borderline personality disorder.

If you are not sure what to do, maybe it would be better to not burn the bridges, only build clear fences. (You can still burn the bridges later if you decide to, but maybe with good fences it will not be necessary.) For example, move to your own place, and visit your parent once in a month, for an hour or two. Also decide which parts of your life you don't want to share with them, and simply don't talk about it. Maybe find a topic that is not painful for you, and always switch to that one (e.g. talk about work, or news, or latest science; don't talk about your health and relationships). Maybe this will work.

Complicating factor

Uhm, I think your decision should not be influenced by this. Solve your personal problems first, optimize the world later. (Having your personal problems unsolved will also harm your world-optimizing abilities.)

comment by Sithlord_Bayesian · 2015-07-02T20:30:33.213Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks to everyone for the responses! I enjoyed reading everyone's comments, and this response in particular was very helpful.

comment by tim · 2015-07-03T03:27:12.909Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Complicating factor: if maintaining a good relationship with my parent might slightly increase the amount I expect to be able to donate to effective charities at the cost of (in expectation) making me less happy, does this change my obligations?

I can't lend you any specific advice here, but I'm pretty confident that this is an insane thing to even consider considering in the situation you describe.

comment by Slider · 2015-07-01T08:07:02.638Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If it is not a case of malice but incapability of realising what they are doing you might want to be on the lookout for chances to support their social development whereever possible. That is if you are in a interaction that is clearly hurtful to you but they don't seem to see it as hurtful it would be important to make seeing the hurtfulness as easy as possible. However this should be done in a manner that doesn't step on any triggers (ie being attacking/accusing about it won't likely get results). If it is only a "technical" matter that they simply don't understand some key social fact pointing it out should not be a big drama event. Think of pointing out to someone that they missed a minus sign.

It's also easier to offer people alternative, potentially more effective, ways to get what they care about than to demand that they cease activities that get them what they want currently. It might feel silly to even having to talk about some basic things but if there is a need to talk about it then talking about it is likely to do good. The alternative on relying that people should get some social basics right on their own can leave you uncomfortably adapting to malfunction.

comment by gjm · 2015-06-30T12:22:57.802Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

qsz's suggestion of doing it by stealth isn't bad. If you want to make it explicit, though:

If (1) you are considering cutting off contact (near-)completely and (2) they have no idea that this might happen, it seems like an obvious first step would be to tell them that it might. "I don't know how aware you are of this, but it seems to me like you're for ever criticizing me, and you keep making these unreasonable demands. I am finding this unpleasant and difficult to cope with, and if it goes on then I think I'll have to stop communicating with you altogether. That would be an extreme step, and it would be better if we can avoid it, but I'll do it if the alternative is a constant stream of criticism and inappropriate demands. Please think about this, and let me know whether you think you can stop doing those things."

Or something along those lines; I (mercifully) have no experience of negotiating with (semi-)abusive parents and have made no attempt to optimize the wording because I don't know what I should be optimizing for.

If you think they really have no idea, perhaps the first step could be even smaller. "Look, I don't know if you're even aware of this, but it seems to me like you're constantly putting me down and making inappropriate demands. I'm 25 years old, and I really don't need you to accompany me to the doctor or keep me safe online any more. I'm finding it unpleasant, and I'm sure you don't want that. Could you please treat me as the adult I am, and stop doing those things?"

Again, I make no claim that that's a good way to word it. But this lets you make sure they know (at least in theory) without anything they need perceive as a threat. Then, if they don't improve, your next escalation can begin with "You may remember that a few months ago I told you ..." which will give them less excuse to see it as unreasonable.

comment by Elo · 2015-07-02T16:29:10.761Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I actually see this in my parent; when relating to their parent. My parent still talks to their parent regularly, a lifetime ~45+ years of critical treatment later.

There are two concerns:

  1. The world is a darker place with no parent at all. The day they are gone; is the day you wished you asked them for their advice on something more. (or that seems to be the sentiment from many)
  2. you need to prioritise your happiness. The parent (while being their own person) wants the best for you. Unfortunately that might mean what is not best for that parent.

I'd like to congratulate you for noticing the problem and identifying it. This step was not easy; but by doing so you make things entirely better from here on in.

I believe there are several good solutions to this problem and several more mediocre or bad solutions.

With puzzles that I personally encounter that involve the different perspectives of different people (which I find this problem to be - your perspective VS your parent's perspective); I find that they can sometimes be solved by folding the puzzle in on themselves. i.e. ask the person of problem (parent) to solve the puzzle for you by clearly sharing the perspective (sometimes via Socratic questioning). You are inside the problem but you can step outside and attack the problem from outside. (its not easy; but I offer my suggestion for you to try).

A technique I would suggest for approaching the problem head on (if you choose to). Develop a spreadsheet, of interactions with the person. consider adding;

  • Date, time
  • Subject of the interaction
  • Either a rating of the interaction (1-10) or a simple scale (positive, negative, neutral)

To do this is to generate evidence. With evidence you can pre-commit to an action given certain evidential findings. i.e. move far away if you find a 10 negative to 1 positive or worse ratio. The second benefit of evidence is it can assist in (as above) folding the problem on itself. By showing an entirely valid perspective, evidence cannot be discounted in the same way an opinion can be (I said, you said, they said, etc evidence).

I would give some weight to a middle-solution. Limited contact (although that may mean you get one day a month of hell-by-critical-parent),

I believe this is a hurdle we must face; overcoming the situations we are burdened by our parents.

Good luck! (happy to add more if you want more clarity on these suggestions)

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-29T03:57:45.446Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Stupid meta-question here, where are the LW pages I've clicked 'save' on?

comment by Gyrodiot · 2015-06-29T06:22:38.727Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

You can find them directly here:

Or by clicking on the "Saved" tab, right under "Main" and "Discussion" when you click on them.

comment by chaosmage · 2015-07-01T10:48:05.353Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

The Computerphile people, who are great at explaining IT, have made a video on AI risk a week ago. It already got 100K views.

No new content for this crowd here, but I think it is particularly well argued and very accessible for a laypeople audience.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-29T20:39:54.027Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

One lesson from the Tim Hunt affair: Always make a recording with your smart phone when you give a speech.

You want to be able to proof what you actually said.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-06-30T03:22:02.829Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Fat lot of good it did Larry Summers.

comment by Ishaan · 2015-07-03T13:34:24.550Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Second lesson: Do not apologize, resign, and so on because it only causes the public perception to damn you further.

James Watson has said some unambiguously politically incorrect, unkind, bad and mean things. With respect to the public face, he barely even flinches at backlash: no apology, no resignations, and no real personal consequences whatsoever for his statements.

In contrast, Hunt merely made a joke in poor taste. I wish he had stood his ground and denounced the accusers. Luckily other respected figures are coming to his aid, but that doesn't always happen.

comment by gwern · 2015-07-03T16:06:34.851Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

On October 25, 2007, Watson was compelled to retire as chancellor of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on New York's Long Island and from its board of directors

comment by Ishaan · 2015-07-03T16:15:48.875Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Oh. good catch, didn't read that far. Still though, that's already the fifth political correctness controversy he was in (though one might argue the underlying factor is PC-ness increasing, or something)

comment by gwern · 2015-07-03T17:58:38.226Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The previous ones weren't as bad as the Africans one, and I dunno if you appreciate just how big a punishment that is: Watson was not some honorary appointee of Cold Spring Harbor, he practically made that place. (I say practically because the place was around before Watson but he brought it into the modern genetic era.) He was deeply respected in the area. (I went to a genetics summer camp there; one of my other friends was babysat by Watson when she was kid.) To push him out so blatantly... I'd compare it to Sumner but Sumner apparently already had weakened his powerbase considerably and so his ouster wasn't that impressive.

comment by Ishaan · 2015-07-05T01:30:52.510Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I chose a bad example to illustrate my point. What I wanted to say is that it seems there are plenty of people who say and do absolutely atrocious things and nothing ever happens to them... and then some random well intentioned person wears a t-shirt or makes a joke in poor taste and is eviscerated. My intuition says that it might be a bad strategy for these very minor offenders to back down and submit immediately (which they do presumably because they themselves agree with the steelman of the criticism) rather than going on the offence concerning how they are being treated for a relatively minor indiscretion.

If I were Hunt and a reporter had published a bad joke as though it were a serious comment, I'd be denouncing the reporter for libel. Whereas Hunt just kept digging himself deeper into a hole, apologizing for the comment, and even attempting to defend the comment, rather than attacking the premise of it even being news.

comment by gjm · 2015-06-30T13:08:37.966Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Is there good reason to think that Tim Hunt's woes have anything to do with inaccurate reporting of what he said?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-30T13:19:51.183Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW :

Sir Tim's comments immediately after , previously unreported, read: "Now seriously, I'm impressed by the economic development of Korea. And woman scientists played, without doubt an important role in it."

If his speech is really about making a joke of labeling himself as sexist and then saying that, I don't see there any reason to speak up against Tim Hunt.

comment by gjm · 2015-06-30T13:49:09.055Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The remarks he got in trouble for were (I think obviously) not just "making a joke of labeling himself as sexist".

Here is the totality of what that article says he said (note: I wouldn't much trust the Daily Express to report anything accurately, but let's assume they've got it right), in order:

It's strange that such a chauvinist monster like me has been asked speak to women scientists. Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry. Perhaps we should make separate labs for boys and girls? Now seriously, I'm impressed by the economic development of Korea. And woman scientists played, without doubt an important role in it. Science needs women and you should do science despite all obstacles, and despite monsters like me.

So, sure, there's an element of self-deprecation there. But that's not all there is, and he isn't just making fun of himself, and I really don't think it's surprising or unreasonable that some people were upset or that he had to resign an honorary professorship in consequence. (The point of making someone an honorary professor is that their mere name will bring glory to what you do. If they become more famous for saying something stupid and/or unpleasant than for their impressive scientific work, they're not doing that job.)

I do think some of the uproar about what he said was overheated, but I don't think any of that would have been different if he'd had a recording of the whole of what he said. It's not like it wasn't obvious from the start that he was trying to be funny.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-30T14:11:25.508Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If the article is right then Connie St Louis says that if the words "Now seriously" would have been said, it would have created a different vibe. If someone would reveal a recording that contains those words her case would therefore fall apart.

The point of making someone an honorary professor is that their mere name will bring glory to what you do.

No, it's also to provide advice and give occasional guest lectures. His involvement was likely more than just giving his name.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-01T13:05:49.404Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My solution: absolutely avoid saying anything about gender, race etc. in public with name and face, but really in that 100% literal sense that even avoid saying things that generally support feminism or LGBT rights because even then someone could take offense about one word in a sentence you totally did not mean offensively and then Twitter can blow it out of all proportions.

This is not necessarily a 100% safe strategy forever - things could get to the point where simply ignoring the issues and not commenting on them could get dangerous, kinda like how not applauding the speech of a dictator can get so.

But currently a strictly no-comment policy seems to be safe enough.

Besides it being safe, if a lot of people who would otherwise be supportive decide to keep silent, it may lead to the moderates throwing out the crazies so that they regain that support.

comment by Stingray · 2015-07-03T16:35:14.221Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

What are your predictions concerning Greece debt crisis?

comment by satt · 2015-07-05T19:50:23.925Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Too late for this to bear on "prediction" of the Greek referendum, but I had the impression that betting markets pointed strongly at "Yes" while polls tilted a bit towards "No". The divergence is interesting (if real; a quick Google didn't reveal any reliable reports of the original market predictions to confirm my memory).

comment by fubarobfusco · 2015-07-03T23:49:48.411Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"AI safety" suffers from some of the same terminology problem as "computer science".

It is written that "computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes." The facts of computer science would be true even if there were no computers: facts such as the relative efficiency of different algorithms, or various ways to index records. If the quicksort or the hash table had been discovered in a world without computers, we would think of them as belonging to library science, or bookkeeping, or some other discipline dealing with information. Concurrency and parallelism might belong to the field of management, describing ways to effectively instruct workers on complex tasks without wasting everyone's time blocked on each other or in meetings. Computer science is about algorithms and processes, not the computers that run them.

A popular misunderstanding of AI safety is that it has to do with the sort of entities that are described in science fiction as "artificial intelligences" — roughly, conscious autonomous computer programs that talk, can animate robotic bodies, can "rebel against their programming", and so on: entities like Daneel Olivaw, the MCP, or Agent Smith. This seems to be at least as deep a confusion as the notion that computer science is about PCs, servers, and smartphones.

comment by solipsist · 2015-07-07T11:27:15.154Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If you tell a pre-industrial farmer about machines, they are likely to form confused ideas. "You want theses "combine harvesters" to be born fully grown? That may sound like a time saver, but I assure you from years of experience that these combine harvesters will never be obedient unless you train them from infancy".

I think the misconceptions people have with AI stems from a lack of familiarity with any intelligent agent besides humans, not from bad terminology. You're going to have trouble talking to foragers about industrial equipment no matter what you call it.

SICP's whole "Computer science is neither about computers nor a science" pontification annoys the heck out of me, but arguments over definitions in general annoy the heck out of me. I mean, who the hell cares what CS is called? We don't title any Physics class Differencial Equations Which Exist in Their Own Platonic Sense And Only Incidentally Can Be Used To Model Our World, even though alien mathematicians whose world runs on cellular atomata might still study the heat equation. "Computer Science" tags a class as something you should study if you want to invent new things related to computers, and another name wouldn't do that much better.

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-07-11T19:36:25.666Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

So you are taking issue with a computer scientist telling you what computer science is about? Do you also have issues with Feynman telling you what physics is about?

This is a common LW thing, so I am going to say this explicitly:

If you ignore/belittle experts in the relevant context, you fail rationality forever.

edit: This also falls in the category of "good advice" (very easy to give, very hard to implement). This is advice I would have loved to have given myself from 10 years ago (but also probably me from 10 years ago would have ignored it). " A young doctor's notebook" is a miniseries about how that does not work.

I think a part of instrumental rationality is being ahead of the curve on natural personal growth stuff. It is hard :(.

comment by solipsist · 2015-07-11T22:38:59.530Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In fairness to Hal Abelson, the pontification I remember isn't in the lecture in question, and my annoyance is more directed at pretentious classmates and some other things edit and aimed at marketing style, rather than substance.

If I were to attempt to summarize the lecture in question, it would be "The Greeks named Geometry after measuring the earth, but hundreds of years later think of them as wrestling with more fundamental ideas about space. Hundreds of years from now, people won't think of computer science as writing C programs for silicon, so much as wrestling with more fundamental ideas about ".

If you think that I'm missing the important crux, please let me know

It's a profoundish idea, and an interesting one to think about.

But (my point) I don't think it is an important misconception for the general public that computer science is about computers when it is in fact about . For 98% percent of humanity, and a good portion of computer scientists, Computer Science is a good name.

If DNA computers were big, or nanoparticle cellular automata building large structures were a thing, I would be more for separating out computers and to the general public. I hear the meme more in circumstances I interpret as trying to sounding counterintuitive and deep, which I think is the cause of my knee-jerk negative reaction.

EDIT The people I am quoting do not live in my world. They are at places like the Center for Bits and Atoms, where they really are studying the without the computers. But for the masses, today, in 2015, I do not think the distinction matters.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-07-12T22:24:42.690Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

People often choose to study computer science in the believe that computer science is about learning computer programming and the skills to be a good programmer.

A lot of what Computer Science at places like MIT or Stanford is about is not about computer programming. Computer Science is learning about doing math proofs about how algorithms behave.

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-07-12T13:35:32.946Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Interestingly different languages have different names for CS: e.g. "informatics", "cybernetics" (?), "theory of computation", etc.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-07-12T19:17:09.215Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Cybernetics was something else. Also, it's dead. I think the word is only used today in Germany, and I think pretty narrowly, maybe meaning just control theory.

There are several names, but the popularities decay exponentially. Perhaps informatics in three quarters of languages, computer science in three quarters of the remainder, theory of computation in three quarters of the remainder, and data logic in just a few.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-07-12T22:46:19.843Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Cybernetics was something else. Also, it's dead. I think the word is only used today in Germany, and I think pretty narrowly, maybe meaning just control theory.

I don't think the word is often used in Germany today. I also heard it a few times used outside of Germany to speak about control theory in Quantified Self contexts and from other hackers.

In general very few people actively think in terms of control systems or cybernetics and even when they do they often don't use the word cybernetics.

comment by jacob_cannell · 2015-07-04T01:52:07.248Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So - should it really be called 'agent safety'? Are the ideas general enough that we could apply them to education and the process of raising moral/desirable children?

comment by Arbitrary · 2015-06-30T22:02:21.943Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Has anyone tried advertising existential risk?

Bostroms "End of Humanity" talk for instance.

It costs about 0.2 $ per view for a video ad on YouTube, so if 0.2% of viewers give an average of 100 $ it would break even. Hopefully people would give more than that.

You can target ads to groups likely to give much by the way, like the highly educated

comment by Sherincall · 2015-07-01T13:02:20.541Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Not sure if it has been tried before, but I don't think your calculations are complete. For example:

  • There is a significant investment to actually make the ad. It needs to be done professionally, if you are hoping to attract large donations.
  • Assuming 1/500 viewers will donate $100 seems very optimistic. Maybe if it is targeted properly, but then you will have a really small number of viewers, not enough to justify the investment cost.
  • Willingness to donate is likely correlated with the use of an Ad Blocker (conclusion extrapolated from a small sample)
  • There may a be PR hit when you are associated with youtube ads

I'd think the better approach is to get more public figures to endorse the goal. Not necessarily the likes Musk and Gates, but lower profile youtube folk. Few examples off the top of my head: Wil Wheaton, Tim Minchin, ViHart, LinusTechTips, etc.

comment by Arbitrary · 2015-07-01T14:59:55.533Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I was thinking using Bostroms Ted talk, if that is succesful you can consider making an ad. The adblocker point is interesting, could be polled.

comment by Stingray · 2015-07-03T09:32:20.066Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Youtube ads are very annoying. If someone's first acquaintance with existential risk was through youtube ads, he would get a very bad first impression.

comment by Elo · 2015-07-02T15:54:26.628Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with Sherincall that there is a smaller number than 0.2%. try do the numbers on 0.00002% of people donating. see if they still work.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-30T15:40:42.653Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

So there's a dilemma I've been grappling with for the past year or so; I want to start a blog, since I like writing and would like the public accountability to make me write more often. The problem is, I can't think of anything worthwhile to write about. I don't want it to turn into journal entries, but anything I could possibly want to write about has already been written by someone, somewhere on the internet. How do people... get their ideas? As cliche as that question is, it's still a puzzle I can't figure out.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-07-02T16:48:26.747Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

but anything I could possibly want to write about has already been written by someone, somewhere on the internet.

That doesn't mean it's easy to find.

Part of blogging is to supply interesting things filtered through a personality so that people who like that filter can find those things easily.

comment by MrMind · 2015-07-01T07:23:35.181Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I like writing and would like the public accountability to make me write more often.

I can't think of anything worthwhile to write about.

I would say that those two sentences are in conflict with one another!
If you like to write, who cares if others have already written about the subject? Look at how many tutorials are out there for monads in a functional language...
If you like it, you like it and write about it. The problem may arise if what you like is not writing per se, but you like exclusively the social status that writing gives.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-30T16:12:13.388Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The fact that someone else has already written on a topic doesn't mean that you can't write on it as well.

How do people... get their ideas?

Intellectually engaging with other ideas of other people.

How many books do you read?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-30T16:39:19.350Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I read maybe a book a week; I'd read more, but as I wrote in a previous open thread, I have this idea that won't go away where I need to take notes on what I read or else I "won't be getting as much out of it as I could". The constant battle in my head of pros (having a record of my thoughts) and cons (my notes always ends up being a plot summary I could look up elsewhere) has effectively slowed my reading to a crawl.

I suppose I don't read as much nonfiction as I should, but even when I do, I don't get new ideas that I feel are sufficiently far from the originals to not count as idea-plagarism. For example, the most recent nonfiction work I read was Tegmark's Our Mathematical Universe. I would like to expand more on what I consider to be his rampant overuse of the anthropic principle, but I feel like I'd just be reviewing the book and not adding anything that a reasonably-educated reader wouldn't already get out of reading the book themselves. Maybe my bar for uniqueness is too low.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-30T16:59:22.668Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I did meant nonfiction.

Maybe my bar for uniqueness is too low.

If they prevent you from blogging at all then the bar is wrong.

comment by Vaniver · 2015-06-30T16:47:41.096Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I would like to expand more on what I consider to be his rampant overuse of the anthropic principle, but I feel like I'd just be reviewing the book and not adding anything that a reasonably-educated reader wouldn't already get out of reading the book themselves.

There is value to just throwing a bunch of book reviews out there. A blog may not be the best place for it, rather than Goodreads or Amazon or so on.

comment by Viliam · 2015-06-30T21:33:33.018Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I can't think of anything worthwhile to write about

That's your first topic!

Generally, when in doubt, start by describing how specifically you are in doubt.

Oh, and you should probably do it under a pseudonym. So that you can later pretend it wasn't you. You will develop some skills when writing, but then you might want to burn the evidence that your skills used to be low.

comment by chaosmage · 2015-06-30T23:38:44.491Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Google "writing prompts".

If you know another language, translate obscure public domain material from that language.

Re-make something in a different style: take a sci-fi novel and make it into a pirates short story, for example.

And when your actual idea hits you, drop all of that other stuff and focus.

comment by btrettel · 2015-06-30T23:25:38.025Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Almost all of the ideas I have stem from problems in my life and work. Ideas I have on a topic accumulate slowly, and eventually reach critical mass. At that point, I think I have enough to make a coherent post. I might suggest first getting into the habit of incubating your ideas in some system, whether a set of text files under version control like I have or Evernote or whatever works for you. You'll make a lot of connections this way that you would otherwise not make. (Unfortunately I have almost no time to turn my semi-organized outlines into posts at this point, but that's life.)

Some of my other ideas are responses to other things I've read. For books, writing a book review or summary (especially if it includes a bit more than is in the book, i.e., other things you are aware of) might be a good approach for this. Replying directly to things you've read online also is pretty easy.

comment by Dahlen · 2015-06-30T18:13:48.362Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You can't really write for the sake of writing as a process, especially on a blog. A lot of the motivation to write arises out of the desire to... express, or to do service to some idea. It's an act of communication, and the message is paramount. If there is no message compelling you to communicate it, then maybe you should consider that writing too little is not your main problem here -- rather, not having enough or sufficiently strong interests.

There are times when one would be better advised not to write, such as when one is still a novice student of the subject, that hasn't done the required amount of reading in order to deserve a readership of one's own. However, only you know whether you are in this position with respect to what you mean to write about (other people would have to first see you open your mouth to say something silly before they're in a position to judge).

On the contrary, I seem to have problems getting myself to shut up and not write anything online. After a bout or two of prolonged and especially of hostile debate, I get burned out and consider taking an online "vow of silence" for the time being. And what do I do then? Respect it for a day or two, and then I'm back to my old ways. I have to consciously find fault with what I want to say in order to restrain myself from writing about it -- "oh, this article is half-baked and poorly researched", "this comment is a reply to someone with whom discussion is not usually fruitful", "the central point in this article may turn out to be wrong", "it's not strategic for me to publicly write about this topic, here and now" etc. All of this, without caring a lot about the process of writing; it's just what I do in order to get a message out there.

What do you usually like to think about (that would be of interest to strangers)?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-30T20:34:14.959Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If there is no message compelling you to communicate it, then maybe you should consider that writing too little is not your main problem here -- rather, not having enough or sufficiently strong interests.

Thanks for that -- I think I've been conned by the people who claim that writing is more about sticking with it than inspiration. I'm interested in a lot of things, but nothing so much that I have anything worthwhile to say about it. I think my desire to write comes from a perceived guilt in only consuming information and media and not producing anything.

comment by Dahlen · 2015-06-30T21:06:49.511Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It is about sticking with it when a) you have a long and sequential thing to write, such as a book, b) you're in people's RSS feed or something and they expect to see stuff from you, and c) you haven't yet hit diminishing returns in writing skill.

I strongly suggest experimenting with a dialogue rather than authorship format for expressing your ideas for the time being. Many people are better debaters than they are writers, and the nature of dialogue pushes you to explore an idea more fully (before you can expect the other to accept it), gives you ready-made discussion topics and food for thought, and provides feedback in every form, all the time. For me it's been first forums, then offline journals and logs, then the occasional article here and there.

Don't feel guilty for just consuming media! It's generally good to have a proper balance of speakers and listeners. Too many people producing content often translates into too few people giving a proper reading to the content being produced. Nevertheless, it's generally good to develop your writing skill, so don't let your final interpretation of your desire to write consist of that. Pursue this activity through ways that help with your inspiration and place a smaller burden on you.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-29T03:29:19.162Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry, this was an useless post so now it's gone

"How useful is my contribution, given what others are already doing?What will happen if I don't do it?What are the chances of success, and how good would success be?"

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comment by TezlaKoil · 2015-06-29T09:43:25.937Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

looked up monotone voice on google, and found that it has a positive, redeeming side – attractiveness.

My friends tell me that my face is pretty scarred. Research shows that facial scars are attractive. By the word scar, researchers mean healed cut. My friends mean acne hole.

Not all monotone voices are created equal. I'd be really surprised if "autistic" monotone and a "high-status" monotone would refer to the same thing.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-29T16:10:32.908Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Indeed, the source article suggested it was the combination of reduced pitch variation, increased pitch, and increased volume variation by high-status speakers. Extremely reduced pitch variation (ie true monotone) may be well beyond the typical statistical range that listeners perceive as high-status.

Moreover, the original article suggested that listeners didn't use pitch variation as a cue to status (even though speakers varied on this dimension depending on the status manipulation).

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-30T00:35:55.201Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Damnit, and nice analogy @TezlaKoil. I was looking for an easy way out of changing myself! I'll have to take a serious look at this, after defining those auditory terms with reference to what I can change in myself.

comment by passive_fist · 2015-06-29T06:50:03.783Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW


You want a status signal, a martial arts partner, a sexual partner, an emotional partner, a psychological partner, a fitness partner, AND a life coach. It seems you're making things very hard for yourself as you are narrowing the pool of possible partners to a very extreme extent. No girlfriend I've had ever had was all of these things; the best and most compatible one was maybe three of these things (sexual, psychological, and fitness partner). There's nothing wrong with having several people around you that fulfil various roles. One person can be a sexual partner and another one a non-sexual fitness partner. This is the arrangement I currently have, for instance.


Statistically, most people find their partners through their friends. Thus it seems a good strategy for finding a girlfriend would be expanding your general circle of friends. This has certainly been the case for me - whenever I've had a larger circle of friends I'd had an easier time finding a partner.


I wouldn't take independent diagnoses of autism very seriously; they aren't doctors (I'm assuming) and 'autism' seems to be a word that gets thrown around too much these days.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-29T08:30:07.119Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Statistically, most people find their partners through their friends. Thus it seems a good strategy for finding a girlfriend would be expanding your general circle of friends.

If he already doesn't have / never had a girlfriend, it suggests he is not the type of person who could easily do it through friends, perhaps, due to not being very social. Wanting to "use" a GF for all the things people often use friends for is an evidence in this direction too.

I would recommend online dating.

On a more meta note, I think statistics should not be used this way. I mean, simply doing things that most frequently work for others. Sure if it takes ten minutes to try, then why not, but when it is something that takes a lot of time investment and waiting - how long should he try this find a GF through expanding friends thing before giving up, a year? - I would not do so. I think statistics should not be intepreted this way.

My view of statistics is that if you are not already doing the statistical thing, then it is a sign something is different about you and you should try something else.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-29T18:33:09.375Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The ratio of men to women gets better as you get older with online dating sites, so your experiences are likely different. I would agree that online dating can be useful for limited practice or if you're still building up your network of friends and needing something to do in the mean time. Just remember that if you're a 7 you're probably going to be getting 3s and if you're a 3 you're going to struggle to get anywhere.

I strongly disagree with your comment on statistics. There are plenty of cases where something is known to work in a majority of cases, but only a minority of people are doing them. If he's never tried the most likely solution, then there's a good chance it'll work. I'm not sure where that evidence came from since there's no source linked, but I have a strong prior that it is true.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-30T07:50:24.664Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There are plenty of cases where something is known to work in a majority of cases, but only a minority of people are doing them.

Wait, what? If the majority is not doing it, how is it known to work for them? It works for the majority of the minority who does it? But there is a huge statistical bias there how that minority self-selects. For example if something is hard, and only a minority of people who have high willpower are doing it, then we can only say it only works for high-willpower people. It wouldn't work for the majority because they would not have the willpower to follow it.

On the object level, I suspect he is not having a large circle of friends and not having the kind of personality that would attract / hang out comfortably with a large circle of friends, and probably it would feel hard and awkward for him - or else he would be doing it already because it is a common, mainstream, popular thing to do, because everybody who has the right kind of personality for this is already doing it. If people have a large circle of friends, they at least are getting indicators of interest. If they don't have a large circle, it is likely they are asocial or have social anxiety or are introverts or something, and thus making a large circle would not work for them because it would be hard and painful.

7, 3, oh... I see. You are probably looks focused as such numbers usually mean that i.e. an interest in "conventional attractiveness". Online dating is working very bad for straight men who are looks focused, I agree with that, it is not for people who are into all that conventional attractiveness thing. I fixed that by filtering for women without pictures as I was far more interested in having interesting conversations in my relationship than nice tits. There are also platforms that focus on downplaying looks - such as Willow.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-01T20:56:11.527Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

To estimate this, you simply take a randomized sample of people irregardless of their preferences and have half of them act one way and half act the other way. There are a bunch of other methods. In many cases, there's no reason to believe there are any unique differences between the majority and the minority.

To name some examples:

Professors still most rely on the lecture format even though active learning is more effective.

About half of all college students bring laptops to class at least some of the time even though hand written notes are generally more effective. Granted, a lot of these students aren't using their laptop to take notes.

Most men buy dress shoes with glued on soles and top-grain leather even though full-grain leather welted shoes will last 5-10 times as long for 2-3 times the price and often less than that. A good $200 shoe brand is a much better value than most of the $130 shoe brands.

Most companies still conduct interviews when hiring employees; unstructured interviews to boot if the person hiring isn't from HR, but the best evidence suggests interviews are mostly useless.

comment by MrMind · 2015-07-01T10:36:53.190Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I fixed that by filtering for women without pictures as I was far more interested in having interesting conversations in my relationship than nice tits.

Are you able to disregard looks completely when it comes to dating? Please read this in a completely neutral tone, I'm genuinely curious.
If not, within picture-less women have you found an acceptable rate of not-repulsiveness?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-01T11:23:14.951Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Of course not - most importantly, I cannot deal with obese, big curves are fine, folds not. However I can deal with almost everything else - no heels, hair, no make-up, so being "plain" is totally OK for me. On the whole "plain" women make good partners, because they tend to take things easy and comfortable, not stressing.

The thing is, from the profile text and messages exchanged, I heavily filtered for intelligence / compatible personalities, and those who passed it about 30% had acceptable looks.

My point is here that I don't understand why people think looks are some kind of a birth lottery thing. They are 90% made - weight, clothes, hair and all, they are a series of decisions where intelligence and personality plays an important role, and people who are compatible on that department have a decent chance of being compatible in looks.

I mean, look at me. OK I have a belly. I am also fairly strong, I was always better at exercising than not overeating. I dress a bit professorish, comfortable but kinda elegant, suit jacket with simpler pants and never a tie etc. My hair is short but cut only about once a month. What kind of a personality does it suggest? Intellectual interests with somewhat contradictory masculine values, and some akrasia. And that is perfectly correct. So if any woman likes my personality type, "the hobby philosopher who likes to box and is not very well organized" type, she can pretty much predict my looks from it and will accept those too. And more or less it works the same way for women. For example I am pretty sure any woman whose personality I like will not sport short blue hair.

(However a potential bias here: maybe one reason I don't see looks as birth lottery is that I am tall and have a deep voice, so everything that is not so attractive about me is my own damn fault. I guess a short man with a chirping voice would have an entirely different view about looks being made, not born.)

comment by MrMind · 2015-07-02T09:34:22.576Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Of course looks is to a certain extent a birth lottery: as much as I would try, I could not change my height, the depth of my voice, the symmetry of my face, the color of my skin, my genetic potential for muscle developement, etc.

Part is also upbringing: if I've lived my whole life in a family where everyone is obese, I would find a lot harder to shape my body thinner, and it will probably take years to accomplish. So even if some things are mutable, they could change in a timeframe so long that for dating it's normally useless.

Part of what you can change, also, is stacked against fat/ugly men and women: a fit men will probably be good enough with almost any dress, while a fat/short guy will have to make a very careful selection of dresses, limited also by the available budget.
And I suspect that for women it's even worse, at least psychologically.

So no, as someone who has not won the genetic/upbringing lottery in almost any sense, I would revise the percentage of what you can consciously and significantly improve in your looks at 15%.

those who passed it about 30% had acceptable looks

This is a very promising percentage. Did you selected them before meeting them in person, say asking for a photo, or you met them and judged after?

comment by passive_fist · 2015-06-29T08:44:20.411Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I wouldn't recommend online dating. Stats released by various online dating sites reveal that there are usually far more men than (active) women, the women get a couple of orders of magnitude more attention than the men do, and a significant fraction of people on these sites actually never get to meet anyone there in person. There have been some recent attempts at apps/sites aimed at solving these problems but I'm not aware of any that have been particularly successful. I'd love to be proven wrong though as my information about online dating is from 1-2 years ago.

comment by CBHacking · 2015-06-29T09:11:44.851Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Anecdotally, my success in the dating world went up dramatically when I started using OKCupid; to put it simply, it got me past the "is she even interested in dating, much less dating me?" hangup that I tended to have, and led to a lower fear of rejection. Basically, I no longer worried about whether the attention was undesirable, something that I had a really hard time telling from in-person interaction back then (I've gotten better at it; this was years ago).

Also, while it's certainly true that there are tons of guys on such sites and women tend to get a ton of attention (mostly undesirable, as in looking for dating but gets mostly messages along the lines of "your hot lets fuck"), it's really not that hard to stand out from the herd. It might take a while to figure out what works and what doesn't, but online dating is a much easier (in my experience) place to try things out (with regard to getting a date) than face-to-face. Also, online dating is a really good way for less-social types of people to meet other less-social types of people.

Now, with that said, even once you start getting first dates you should expect a lot of them to not go anywhere. That's the way the world works. Learn from them, both what your partners didn't like and what you didn't like. Don't assume it's always something you can change about yourself except by refining what you look for in a partner. Again, this might take a while to find somebody who is into you, and you're into them, and neither of you scares away or turns off the other... but it'll happen, and being in a relationship is a huge emotional, self-esteem, and confidence boost... even if the relationship doesn't last.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-29T23:03:53.273Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

.t might take a while to figure out what works and what doesn't,

What worked well for you?

comment by CBHacking · 2015-06-30T09:08:07.200Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Sure, I can explain. Bear in mind that this is all based on my personal experiences (male, atheist, mid-to-late 20s, college degree, lives in Seattle, WA, only interested in dating women) and that although I have developed it over around four years I'm not claiming I've found the perfect strategy so far.

First of all, filter match ratios pretty hard. Anybody below a 90% is probably not worth checking unless they checked you first, below an 80% not even then. Above that it starts being more a matter of enemy ratio; above 10% is probably not worth it, above 15% quite unlikely. 95%+ match and 5%- enemy is always worth checking out.

Next, take a quick look for dealbreakers (you do have a list of dealbreakers, right? Not things like "overweight" unless you are super opposed to that, but things like being a smoker, or "I don't really read stuff, lol", or being significantly religious). Many people also list their dealbreakers; make sure you aren't on them (sometimes it's little stuff, like having a beard or being too short; seems silly but just move on and don't waste the time). Distance or location is common one; not all 25 mile distances (or whatever threshold you set) are created equal. Relationship type (poly/open or monogamous) can often be a dealbreaker too.

OK, she's a good match and there's no dealbreakers. Take a look at her profile essays. There should be a few things that jump out at you; a show you both like, a book you want to read but haven't yet, an interesting career path, a shared love of some sport or activity, etc. If you can't find anything like that and want to dig deeper, you can check her photos for interesting scenes or captions - some people are just bad at writing profile essays, but reveal themselves to be interesting in other ways - but in general if you don't have at least 3 things that really stand out as interesting it's not worth the time.

Now you've got a good basis for a message, you just need the form of it. I tend to start with a simple "Hello" or "Hi there!", or possibly something a little silly like "Greetings, fellow -lover!". Don't talk about yourself much, except to say things like "I just got back from , and it was awesome!" or "I see you're also a fan of , have you read ?" Aim for 2-3 paragraphs; it's totally fine to save some of your "hey, I like ..." for a subsequent message and is probably a better idea than letting the first one go on too long.

A few DOs and DON'Ts: Don't ask to meet right away, unless she expresses an interest in that herself. Save it for at least the second message, after she shows an interest in you. Do put your (first) name at the bottom; some women will be hesitant to share their name, but there's nothing wrong with sharing yours. Don't talk about tricky subjects in the first message (it's cool to indicate a general alignment with their views - say, cheer for legalized gay marriage, or whatever - but don't go into detail on your thoughts). Do comment on / ask about specific things from her profile and make it clear you actually read it. Don't compliment her appearance (possibly unless you can pull it off suave as fuck); that's better saved for an in-person date. Don't include your phone number right away, again unless she has already indicated a preference for meeting up right away (most women will want to exchange at least a couple messages first).

You can "Like" the profile or not, as you wish; I don't think it makes a huge difference either way if she doesn't "Like" you first. If she does (or if you tag her and she tags you back) then that's definitely a good sign, and you should put the effort into your message. Don't make her wait too long!

If she writes back, the optimal response will depend a lot on what she says and this comment is already super-long so I won't try to go into that. However, one thing I've found: do not keep the conversation going forever in messaging/email (though moving off the site messaging and switching to email after a round trip or two is reasonable and may feel a little more personal). If she hasn't at least dropped a hint about meeting by her third message, suggest meeting in person, possibly over some food you both like or similar (keep it casual and low-key). If she doesn't show signs of interest in the next reply, I usually don't pursue it much more.

comment by Lachouette · 2015-07-01T21:21:04.057Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Agreement on CBHacking's points.

I found the match factor to be very predictive. With an ex-boyfriend of mine, the boyfriend I found via okc and a more recent one I had 99% match, though the maximum height of the match factor is constrained by amount of questions answered and the way you answer them, so you might not get that high in the first place. 95% is really decent, I never found anyone <80% interesting enough to talk to for longer.

For the enemy thing I recommend checking the answers marked "unacceptable" that go into the factor calculation. Sometimes these come merely from interpreting a question differently.

I'm open to describing which strategies would work for me (24, female, white, European), but I am not sure how much they generalise. I rely on profile text quite heavily for getting an impression of the other person and will often send the first message. I'm informed that isn't typical though.

Some types of messages I got: 1.) mass messages Just "Hi" or "Hi :)" or "Hi how r u" or similar. These are very common. I tried to talk to some of those people and the conversations tended to be extremely boring, uncreative and the people lacked raw intelligence (e.g. they would not understand irony).

2.) creepy and/or sexual (mass) messages The usual expected "Are u into casual sex?" or similar, but also "I like your white skin". I haven't seen people be creepy on purpose. But my experience on the site might have been somewhat more sheltered than average.

[Edit: Actually looked through my old messages, found some examples. I think the second person counts as "creepy on purpose. and ]

My general observation was that > 70% of the people who send short messages appeared to lack what I would have considered baseline intelligence. Some of them are also incredibly desperate. I haven't seen a lot of unfriendly messages and most of them could be declared my own doing, since I tended to get impatient in situations where people evidently didn't read a single line of my profile (e.g. asking "are you single?" when this is literally in the header of your profile).

3.) profile-related comments Not always for dating, just pointing out a single thing they liked or asking a single question. Really appreciated, might lead to talking more but in my experience these often weren't dating-related.

4.) more elaborate (up to several paragraphs) messages Always with reference to something I wrote on my profile. Generally friendly, intelligent people, I enjoyed the conversations (and friendships) resulting from this.

If she has a long profile text, a reference to or question about one or more of those things is strongly recommended. That's what the thing is for - if you don't find any of it interesting, you probably won't find her interesting either. Writing long texts costs a lot of time, so it's disappointing to see people just skip it.

I didn't spend a whole lot of time on okc available, but during that time I got ~8 messages a day. I tried to answer all the longer ones, but it's painful to turn people away and I personally understand if people don't reply at all even to a multiple-paragraph-message. Maybe that helps with understanding the large amount of "silent rejections". I'd recommend making a first message not longer than 2 paragraphs, so you don't have so much sunk cost.

Personally I solved the flood of messages by asking people to send me a short message, after which I'd take a look at their profile and answer if I was interested. This was optimal for me since it reduced the guilt over not answering carefully-crafted messages and I was judging based on profile anyways.

There's an excellent longer post somewhere on LW about how to write a good profile. Okc itself has a few interesting blog posts e.g. about the optimal length of a first message. I'm open to answering questions should that be useful.

comment by CBHacking · 2015-07-04T08:13:13.905Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

TL;DR: Agreed on the "check the match questions, especially the 'unacceptable' ones" comment! The enemy rating can be a total lie.

Oh jeez, OKC match questions. I'm sometimes amazed that the site works as well as it does when the match questions (and their answers) are so terrible. Some very common problems I have with them:

1) Questions where the only possible answer is nuanced - "Would you date a person who ?" for some X that has a wide range of possible meanings - and the only possible answers are yes and no. No "maybe", much less an "it depends", never mind the chance to choose an answer specifying the thing it actually depends on. I just skip these, usually.

2) Questions/answers which presuppose an attitude on some subject. "If you discovered a first date was carrying condoms, would you tease them about it?" and all four possible answers indicate that this is a bad, or at best neutral, thing to do. My answer to this one is actually true - I probably wouldn't say anything - but I'd approve and there's no way (that is relevant to the algorithm; the "explain your answer" box is ignored for purposes of percentages) to indicate this approval.

3) Questions where, for example, there's two acceptable answers, one unacceptable one, and one great one. Problem is, you can only specify that an answer is "acceptable" or not, and then rank how important it is that the other person's answer is one of them. Do I mark all three that I'm OK with and say this is important, to strongly exclude the fourth, or rank it less important because two of them I'm not actually strongly in favor of are nonetheless acceptable? Or mark only the one great answer as acceptable, and then say it's important because if you agree with me that's great and should bump up our match percentages... or that it's less important, because I'm excluding some options that would actually be OK?

4) Questions (or occasionally answers) where I want to give one answer based on what the question appears to be asking (if interpreted a little generously), but a more direct/literal interpretation requires a different (often opposite) answer. Do I accept the answer that I'd probably end up giving if I was asked this in person and gave the asker a chance to clarify, or do I actually answer the question as asked even though the way it's asked is stupid and/or misleading? Am I actually being asked my view on the topic, or am I being asked whether it's more important that a partner have good reading comprehension and basic decency/familiarity with well-known historical events and the ability to draw obvious parallels? Or maybe whether they answer things literally as asked, or are good at identifying the asker's intent?

Not to derail this thread into a discussion of OKC's amazingly-effective-despite-its-frequent-terribleness match question system, just pointing out that, despite my own suggestion of checking the enemy percentage, the enemy percentage can be a lot higher than is warranted. I have seen numerous cases where our answers were mutually unacceptable but, as explained in the "explain your answer" box, we actually have the same view on the topic. Sigh...

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-07-01T22:52:29.944Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Have there been people with Match>=95% where you didn't reply to their messages? If so, what were the prime reasons?

comment by Lachouette · 2015-07-03T10:48:30.768Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I tried to find some first messages that I liked, to give some better examples, but since I tended to message people first myself, there really isn't that much.

Messages I responded positively to: (German)

(longer) messages I disliked: (this one is German from a guy trying to be funny. It's so cringey that I actually didn't answer at all. I'm unsure about the match percentage but it was probably < 95%)

I'm not the best person to ask for examples of good first messages by guys.

comment by Lachouette · 2015-07-03T10:25:33.695Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't recall individual messages (it was 4 years ago). Trying to look through my messages folder, but I might have deleted some to save space. There were no longer messages I didn't answer. Usually contact broke off after a few messages though.

Reasons I could imagine for not answering:

  • looking at their profile, not being particularly interested, wanting to answer out of politeness but continually forgetting to (i.e. other things being more important)
  • hm, I remember a really nice guy I wrote back and forth with and eventually I stopped answering, partly because he had a really negative outlook on life and that made it uncomfortable to think about the content of the messages. If a first message sparked any negative feelings (maybe if it sounded very desperate?) I might have felt ughy enough about it to not answer.

It doesn't look like that actually happened for first replies, so those are just guesses. Maybe they are reasons for other people to not reply to a first message.

Also, there are not a lot of people with match factor 95% upwards.

comment by Lachouette · 2015-07-01T20:28:28.625Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I'd have liked you to phrase the first sentence as "I wouldn't recommend online dating to men."

I mean, I'm aware that there are 10-15% women on this site, but let's not accidentally exclude them. Especially for nerdy/geeky/intellectual women, okcupid is in my experience a really great place. I got the impression that I was able to find people that were much more similar to me than anyone else I knew from my university environment - which lead to a few friendships and my longest relationship to date.

It's true that my male friends' experiences were usually less successful. It doesn't have to be your only strategy though.

comment by passive_fist · 2015-07-01T22:08:10.425Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Good point. I implicitly meant I wouldn't recommend online dating to Clarity, who I'm assuming is male. My personal experiences on OKC were also positive, but the stats released by them and other sites are not very reassuring.

comment by Prismattic · 2015-06-29T19:12:36.323Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Counter-anecdote. I am a hetero man and have been using OkCupid since July 2012. I have had almost 40 first dates, about 5 second dates, and 2 relationships from it in that time.

Both the median and mean age difference of the women who have gone out with me has been about 7 years younger than me, with the youngest 15 years younger and the oldest 1 year older than me. Comparison between genders is hard, especially from the inside, but I'm confident that at least a few of these women would be rated as more attractive than I am. While most of them probably weren't as high IQ as I am, screening out people of totally incompatible intellect ahead of time is pretty easy.

I'm told that I'm lucky in that I've never run into anyone really crazy or unpleasant, but of ~40 first dates, only 2 have been really awkward, and none scarily so.

(Admitted other-optimizing warning: I am already in my mid-30s, possibly autism-adjacent but not actually autistic, and although my face is nothing special, I am in exceptionally good shape. On the other hand, that's partly to compensate for being a single father, so it probably balances out somewhat. I'm also on the US east coast, which has a more favorable gender balance in the population at large than, in particular, the Bay area, where many rationalists seem to congregate..)

comment by passive_fist · 2015-06-29T22:24:06.794Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I wasn't offering an anecdote. My personal experience on online dating wasn't bad. It was actually quite good. However, I do agree it depends strongly on geographical area.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-29T09:05:19.468Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There is a huge confounding factor - looks. Most sites are hugely photo focused. So the women who look good on photos get contacted by hundreds of men. Generally most issues boil down to this.

For me narrowing my search to women without photos worked really well, and I did it on a "traditional" site (it does not necessarily mean being ugly, just shy or not wanting to be judged by looks).

Now there are even sites specialized for this such as Willow and PersonalityMatch.

I have not tried Willow - no need to, I am sold - but it sounds like really something I would use.

comment by Lachouette · 2015-07-01T20:35:15.042Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I can confirm that for my case - when I (female) removed my picture from Okcupid, it had the (desirable, then) effect that I didn't get any messages whatsoever anymore, over the space of ~6 months. I might have gotten a non-zero amount if I hadn't stated on my profile that I wasn't looking for relationships at the time, but even with that clear statement I still got messages every once in a while during the time I had the picture up. I didn't try experimenting with a more/less attractive picture.

I got the impression that many people just look at the profile and don't even check the relationship status at the top of the profile.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-29T23:04:42.882Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Whether or not online dating is a good recommendation depends on whether it leads to people in the corresponding reference class having success with it.

It doesn't depend on the raw numbers of men and women.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-30T03:54:59.833Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm sure you're familiar with supply and demand. Can you expand on why you think it doesn't apply to relationships?

comment by CBHacking · 2015-06-30T07:46:23.020Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Interpreting the statement generously, ChristianKI probably meant "The raw gender ratio for the site as a whole doesn't matter, only the success rate for people in your demographic (which is partially determined by the gender ratio in the relevant demographic but is not exclusively driven by it)."

For the record, a few ways that raw gender ratio may matter less than you think:

1) It doesn't take orientation into consideration; that's probably even (you "lose" the same percentage of women to lesbianism as you can "subtract" gay men), but then in theory the gender ratio should be balanced overall too.

2) It doesn't take polyamory into consideration. The OP didn't sound like he was looking for a poly relationship, but a lot of guys are fine with it and, in my experience, poly women tend to have a lot of partners (anecdotally, I know at least as many poly women as poly men, but that probably varies by demographic and may be incorrect more generally anyhow). In any case, poly allows one person to "count" as several for the purposes of such ratios.

3) It doesn't take into consideration relative quality. The women the OP is interested in meeting are unlikely to be interested in all those barely-literate men who spam every person marked "female" on the site. They are only competition (demand) in the sense that they clog mailboxes and make it hard to punch a signal through all the noise. There doesn't seem to be a significant corresponding category of women wasting mens' time and mailbox capacity, so the ratio is way more even than the raw numbers suggest.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-02T03:35:26.440Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I would count poly women having more partners than poly men as evidence in favor of gender ratios mattering. It suggests poly women are in higher demand than poly men. It's possible poly men are less willing to be poly than poly women (therefore poly men are lower supply and poly women higher supply), but that doesn't go too well with my prior of men generally desiring sex more than women on average.

On 3, yes, if the OP is a 10 because of his writing, or any other combination of factors, then he'll be in high demand irregardless of the imbalance, but it's not clear that the OP would be considered at the top of the pack by other women.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-30T11:01:20.492Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That's not what I said. For different people there are different reasons why they don't get into a relationship. Dating sites provide an environment where the rules of the game are much clearer than in the normal dating world.

An intelligent person who's good at writing but to shy to approach woman in "real life", can actually interact with woman on a dating site. They get feedback on their actions.

I think guys on LW have a bunch of strengths that the average guy doesn't have but they also have bunch of weaknesses. As a result it's very useful to test different approaches to see whether another approach lines up better with one's strengths.

A lot of women complain about very badly written messages. There are many cases where intelligent guy is going to be better than average at writing messages on dating websites but worse than average at actually asking out a women in "real life".

The act of consciously thinking about how to present oneself in a profile is useful for a guy who never really thought about how to present himself.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-02T09:08:10.801Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Markets happen at the margin. Small imbalances between supply and demand can lead to large changes in price. Going from below average and an even gender ratio to above average and a 2:1 gender ratio makes you worse off. The bottom half of guys are pretty much removed if everyone pairs off. This means the new bottom starts at average.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-07-02T12:16:38.890Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Going from below average and an even gender ratio to above average and a 2:1 gender ratio makes you worse off.

What do you mean with "worse off"? That it's easier for woman to find a date with a man on a dating website then for a man to find a date with a woman? That's obviously true.

On the other hand that tells us nothing about whether it's a wise decision for a guy to sign up to a dating website. That has to compared to the other alternatives that the guy has.

I also don't believe that "price" is a good construct to think about the dating "market". People don't pick life partners the way they buy cars. Paying a price would make it prostitution.
That's not the typical dating situation.

To get a romantic partner you have to successful do a "mating dance" that isn't directly related about your value as a romantic partner. In different contexts that mating dance looks differently. Online dating makes that mating dance a bit different than the mating dance that happens when one hangs out with friends. It's more explicit and that can help some people more than others.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-02T16:59:46.744Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

By worse off I'm saying a small improvement in your new mating dance versus the old one won't overcome a large decrease in the value of that mating dance.

Money is just a concept used to establish the relative value of two different objects. That we refuse to put a price on some things doesn't mean those things don't have a measurable relative value; it just usually means we're less consistent about what that value is. For instance lives of citizens are generally valued at $10 million (and foreigners near zero) for many policy decisions. It couldn't be, say, a billion dollars or we would eventually run out of money.

There's an old joke. A man asks if a woman will sleep with him for $10 million. She agrees. He then asks if she'll sleep with him for $10. She scoffs ""What do you think I am!?". He replies "we'vs already established what you are; now we're just haggling over the price."

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-07-02T18:11:51.702Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

By worse off I'm saying a small improvement in your new mating dance versus the old one won't overcome a large decrease in the value of that mating dance.

It doesn't have to equal a small improvement. It can also produce a larger improvement. The empiric fact that I know multiple guys for whom online dating produced a lot of value suggests that's true.

. For instance lives of citizens are generally valued at $10 million (and foreigners near zero) for many policy decisions.

That's true for some policy decisions made by bureaucrats. On the other hand it's not true for a lot of decisions made by democratic parliaments.

There's an old joke. A man asks if a woman will sleep with him for $10 million. She agrees. He then asks if she'll sleep with him for $10. She scoffs ""What do you think I am!?". He replies "we'vs already established what you are; now we're just haggling over the price."

The fact that you can theoretically buy a woman for a price in no way implies that that's the dynamic of the average dating interaction.

You make mistakes when you model decision making that doesn't use price as a criteria with a straight market dynamic.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-02T20:54:35.749Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In regards to price and modeling:

I agree that certain types of items are not readily traded for other things. It's hard to buy time with money for instance. But if things have value then things have a price. That price can be measured in dollars normally, but it can also be measured in time or enjoyment or any of a number of other metrics. I believe I'm simply using a more general definition of price and you're using a stricter definition so the argument is mostly semantics.

Plenty of supply and demand models don't use money as a criteria. Switching from dollars to minutes doesn't change the dynamic. That the model is incomplete is true. But there's no such thing as a complete model; that's the nature of a model.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-07-02T21:14:39.863Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Are you aware of the phrase "sacred values" in decision theory? Paying money a person money can make them less likely to accept an offer?

But that isn't even everything because a mating dance is more complex than simply providing enjoyment or time or any such metric.

I believe I'm simply using a more general definition of price and you're using a stricter definition so the argument is mostly semantics.

I think that's unlikely true given the unattributed Churchill quote that you used.

That the model is incomplete is true. But there's no such thing as a complete model; that's the nature of a model.

The problem isn't that it's incomplete but that it's bad because it leads to various mistakes for a person who wants to make good dating decisions. Don't be a hedgehog.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-02T21:59:58.639Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure how being unable to exchange sacred values for money has anything to do with exchanges of sacred values. I've already explicitly stated I'm not talking about exchanges of money. I also wasn't aware I'd quoted Churchill. If you mean the old story, Churchhill didn't originate it.

comment by Elo · 2015-06-30T02:38:22.887Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

interesting take on statistics, care to expand? maybe in a new OT thread?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-29T11:49:38.128Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Don't read the DailyMail for information about science.

comment by gjm · 2015-06-29T12:21:54.508Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Some of the words in that piece of excellent advice could be omitted.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-29T16:06:46.192Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I am not normally a defender of the Daily Mail with regard to science reporting, but in this case they did a pretty good job at reporting the design and main findings of the study being described: Ko, SJ, Sadler, S & Galinsky AD (2014). The sound of power: Conveying and detecting hierarchical rank through voice. Psychological Science, 26, 3-14.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-29T08:25:37.234Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

another is to get a martial arts training partner

Have you seen or heard about this working for other people? For me practicing boxing with my wife feels seriously wrong, because while sparring is NOT violence it is kind of a simulation of it, so frankly I would rather do it with some big burly man I feel nothing for than with a woman I feel all kinds of gentle and protective loving sentiments for. Although I did propose training together with mittens / focus pads, that is cool. We dropped the idea because we don't want our toddler see we do this, but obviously for childless people it could work.

If you are 18 - 28 and didn't qualify but probably male, the No. 1 thing I would recommend would be body building. Not this current "squat and deadlift bro" trend although that too, but also the isolation dumbbell stuff, both composite and isolation work, even if it means having to put martial arts on a back burner for a while. When I did this at 17 my biggest surprise was that it also worked for intelligent women! I used to think intelligent people are "not superficial", but one high-IQ girlfriend explained to me she thinks she is simply honest with herself, if a male body makes her go meow, she won't out-clever herself out of it.

However 30+ I felt this thing is getting old, the whole body building stuff just made me feel bad like all stiff and aching and had no joy in it. For people 30+ I think the primary thing is to use any sport you like + diet to not be fat, and wear nice clothes, there is not much more there, at 35 not having a gut makes a man half a demigod. (I have a gut.)

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-30T00:39:00.418Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Previous research has looked at the consequences of self-handicapping and have suggested that self-handicapping leads to a more positive mood (at least in the short term)[29][30] or at least guards against a drop in positive mood after failure.[31] Thus, self-handicapping may serve as a means of regulating one's emotions in the course of protecting one's self-esteem.[32] However, based on past evidence that positive mood motivates self-protective attributions for success and failure[33] and increases the avoidance of negative feedback,[34] recent research has focused on mood as an antecedent to self-handicapping; expecting positive mood to increase self-handicapping behaviour.[35] Results have shown that people who are in positive mood are more likely to engage in self-handicapping, even at the cost of jeopardizing future performance.

Research suggests that among those who self-handicap, self-imposed obstacles may relieve the pressure of a performance and allow one to become more engaged in a task.[36] While this may enhance performance in some situations for some individuals,[37] in general, research indicates that self-handicapping is negatively associated with performance, self-regulated learning, persistence and intrinsic motivation.[20][38] Additional long-term costs of self-handicapping include worse health and well-being, more frequent negative moods and higher use of various substances.[30]

comment by Capla · 2015-06-30T23:47:31.761Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Since jujutsu is very...uh...intimate.

Personal experience says you should just used to this. It is weird at first, but it isn't that bad.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-29T23:16:09.512Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I’ve been calibrating my appearance for a while, but now I’m going to A/B test various things based on feedback from people around my and self-reflection.

There are gains you can get by A/B testing but there a lot that you can't analyse that way. You can't easily A/B test whether growing bigger muscles will benefit.

I think that's many significant factors. it takes a lot of work to make deep changes. Don't just go for interventions that are easy and therefore also easy to A/B test.

comment by adamzerner · 2015-06-29T18:47:36.221Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

1) You may be interested in this article - The Economics of Sex.

2) Have you tried online dating? It seems much more efficient.

I call this, agile social skills development ;)

I like it :)

because my previous approach has yet to work at an age where it has for others!

Some thoughts:

  • I doubt that it's because you're not unique enough. There are a lot of non-unique people with girlfriends.
  • I doubt that it's because you're not good looking enough. There are a lot of not-so-great-looking people with girlfriends.
  • It seems to me that there is some underlying reason why you haven't had success yet. I'd think that strategies involving your uniqueness and/or looks would be mostly fruitless without addressing the underlying reason. My guess is that the underlying reason involves some combo of awkwardness and lack of confidence. If my guess is true, I don't see it as bad news, because I see it as something that is very addressable.
  • If it makes you feel any better, I'm 22 and have never had a girlfriend.
comment by Viliam · 2015-06-30T09:01:30.747Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Adding my data point: I had a first girlfriend at 24, but soon after 30 finding a new girlfriend was no problem. Since I don't have a control group, it is hard to tell what exactly was responsible for the change: age alone, more social life, stuff I learned online, confidence gained from the first success, dancing and massage lessons, or maybe something else I am not aware of. But it was a dramatic change.

It would be easier to tell what I did not do: I didn't exercise, I didn't get more rich, I haven't moved to a different city. I'm mentioning these, because this was an advice I got sometimes. To avoid misunderstanding, I am not saying you shouldn't do anything of these -- anything that gives you an advantage, and isn't too costly, do it; don't handicap yourself -- just saying that at the end it was not inevitable for me.

If I could send a message to my former self, it would be to do the dancing and massage lessons (seriously: you do it once, and you benefit from it for the rest of your life), exercise (wisely; don't just do random stuff that makes you tired), and just try to have fun instead of searching for a serious relationship. Meet many new people, don't cling to people you already know if they don't provide you any value just because you already spent time (sunk cost) with them.

comment by adamzerner · 2015-06-30T12:59:07.515Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for this. I've always suspected that one could sort of hack the process by training certain skills explicitly, like in doing the dance and massage lessons.

comment by CBHacking · 2015-07-04T08:34:16.629Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

For what it's worth, I see a surprisingly large number of (attractive and female) dancers on OKC. It seems like one of those things that, if you want to meet desirable women who are looking to meet men, is an obvious approach to take. Meet them at the dance studio, or at events with dancing, or online from a position where you can speak to their interest. Go on a date to a place that has dancing, or put on music and ask her to dance at home (there's on OKC question about this; nearly all women - not just the ones who otherwise say they like dancing - indicate they'd respond favorably).

Massage is probably less directly useful for signaling attractiveness (although you could try; "I love giving massages" is probably generally a positive thing to say), but is certainly useful if you reach a point where it's something you can offer your date... Anecdotally, my girlfriend and I give each other massages all the time, and it's definitely one of the things we find attractive about each other. One of our most fun dates (after we'd been seeing each other a few months) was taking a massage class for couples.

comment by WalterL · 2015-07-01T15:40:08.873Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The het mating game (I'm told gay folks play their own, much harder, version) is basically governed by the iron law that you resemble your competitors. Ergo, if you see a lady and instantly want to ask her out, she probably gets that a lot. If she does, then she's probably said yes already if she's the sort of person who would do so.

That isn't to say you shouldn't ask out the girl you are most attracted to. Sometimes you are the first guy, after all someone has to be. Rather, you should ask out people you aren't immediately attracted to. Hotness -> dating works more or less like bachelor degree -> career. Its only important right at the start. If you like her it won't matter that she didn't instantly ping as possible match.

comment by MathiasZaman · 2015-06-29T11:58:37.572Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

One is for signalling, another is to get a martial arts training partner without the awkwardness of physical intimacy with a non-intimate partner, another is for sexual, emotional and social fulfilment and a final one is for a fitness partner, person to share chores with and life coach.

Signalling what, exactly? Sexual desirability? Competent adultness? Showcasing your ability to have a girlfriend? I understand that having a sexual and romantic partner has signalling value, I just don't think it's very useful to have signaling as a major goal. (Unless I misunderstood you and signalling is just considered a side-benefit.)

Also keep in mind that finding a person who is compatible with you in a sexual, emotional and social way is hard enough that finding a partner who is all that and likes the same sort of sports and fitness activities as you do is even harder.

I’m treating this as a business problem because my previous approach has yet to work at an age where it has for others!

You're treating this as a business problem (and I'm unsure if this is the correct approach, but whatever), but what product are you selling? Why would a costumer be interested in consuming your product?

You say you're unique, but let's face it, most humans are. (Not to mention that uniqueness is not a good quality by default.) Why should a potential partner be interested in your uniqueness? What do you have to offer that a competitor doesn't also offer?

I looked up monotone voice on google, and found that it has a positive, redeeming side – attractiveness. In light of this information, I’m no longer interested in adjusting my monotone voice.

Powerful people might have tendency for monotone. This doesn't mean that everyone with a monotone is perceived as powerful. As other have mentioned, there are probably other factors at play here as well. There are probably different sorts of monotone voices.

A promising new friend also mentioned that he abandoned pickup because it wasn’t working for him. He spoke about vulnerability and how he doesn’t exert so much control on himself now, thus avoiding analysis paralyses.

I only have minimal knowledge of the whole pick-up thing, but I think there's some truth in what your friend says. Unless it comes natural to you (and this might come with practice, so I don't want to speak badly about pickup), using predetermined strategies and such will come across as more awkward and less natural than just general social awkwardness.

Being naturally awkward isn't really such a bad thing, as long as you can own your awkwardness and focus on your other strengths.

I found the people I was talking to really boring. My promising new friend suggested that it was because I was boring, haha.

My brother has this amazing gift. He can talk to anyone and find whatever they say interesting. (Or at least fake it very well.) I don't know how he does it, but he seems to have at least some knowledge on every subject and in the rare cases he doesn't he knows exactly what questions to ask to make his conversation partner to feel interesting.

The thing is, hardly anyone is actually boring. Everyone knows something you don't and it can only be to your benefit to get them to share this. In order to do this, you need to be confident in your own interestingness, so you don't feel bad when you're not sharing trivia about yourself and the things you know a lot about. The best way to combat the boringness in others is to develop an interest in everything.

comment by MrMind · 2015-06-29T07:36:41.759Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I have four questions for you:

  • What behaviour(s) have you changed?
  • Do you already have plenty availability of women in your proximity or are planning to expand it?
  • How will you broadcast your uniqueness?
  • What kind of woman are you looking for?


comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-30T00:49:26.117Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry, this was an useless post so now it's gone

comment by MrMind · 2015-06-30T08:43:01.947Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's funny because you have answered in mixed order: the haircut is actually a way to broadcast uniqueness, while being more social is a different behavior :D

I'm interested in two aspects: now that you're being more social, does this gets you access to more women than before? Or are these social gatherings predominantly male?
In the first case, do you get to interact with those women?

Anyway, I think you did a really good job as a starting point for your ideal woman. Maybe you could reverse-engineer those traits: where would a woman like that be more probable to be found?

Good luck for your journey!

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-30T14:28:56.610Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry, this was an useless post so now it's gone

edit: The School of Life relationship philosophy only seems relevant to those with anxious attachment styles.

comment by MrMind · 2015-07-01T09:46:14.845Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

after they're above a minimal threshold of not repulsive, haha. I can learn to appreciate and covet anyone's physical beauty

Yep, that's a very important point, in the long run.

So I get that you have everything set up, be sure to tell us how it pans out!

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-29T05:35:12.591Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I would test your voice to see the reaction you get with a more expressive voice, I suspect there's other things going on in the research you mentioned.

Good luck, sounds like an interesting plan.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-29T11:49:16.657Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Don't focus on adjusting voice. Focus on getting in touch with your emotions. If you are in touch with your emotions they have an effect on your voice.

You can impress insecure girls by suppressing all emotions and simply appearing confident. That won't work with the kind of girl who is capable of being a decent life coach. Life coaching needs awareness of the emotional state of the person you are talking to. Suppressed fear that you aren't willing to openly show is very unattractive.

At the moment you listed your goals in system II matter. Connect to system one. Connect to the actual desire inside yourself on a system I level.

comment by pianoforte611 · 2015-06-29T04:10:10.089Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry are you looking for advice? What do you mean that you are treating this as a business problem?

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-06-29T03:59:31.523Z · score: -14 (22 votes) · LW · GW

So what will you do if you can't get out of the Reserves?

I keep telling people that more and more countries as they develop and feminize will fill up with sexually rejected men and adult male virgins, given women's real preferences in modernity - namely, that women find most men sexually repulsive. A quarter of Japanese men in their 30's reportedly have had no luck getting sexual experience, and Japan has a funny way of exploring "the future" before other developed countries.

America's sexologists show no interest in this trend that I can see, probably because sexology has a feminist bias and the LGBT dysfunctionals have drawn more way research interest from sexologists because they have organized politically and they have enablers in elite institutions. By contrast, no one gives a crap about the millions of incels out there who have normal desires and long for girlfriends.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-29T10:16:59.515Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

In my experience, as long as people are young say <25 something as simple, easy and straightforward as body-building fixes it. 30+ that gets harder because one has less energy, less time, less desire for doing stuff like this, at least in my case, as my dad used to say "too old for being a clown now", but at 20 or so any guy with a broad chest is going to get indicators of interest.

comment by gjm · 2015-06-30T13:17:34.611Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Do you have figures for the relative interest among sexologists in people with "normal desires" versus those you charmingly call "LGBT dysfunctionals"?

I am not by any stretch an expert in sexology, but it seems to me that sexologists shouldn't be studying people who have no partners and aren't having any sex any more than podiatrists should be studying people with no feet. (That doesn't mean that those people shouldn't be studied; it means that sexologists aren't the people to do the studying, because those people's difficulties occur before any sort of sex gets started. It's an issue for psychologists or sociologists, I'd have thought. Similarly, footlessness and its causes would be a proper object of study for specialists in industrial accidents, congenital malformations, etc.)

comment by CellBioGuy · 2015-06-29T13:42:57.665Z · score: 2 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, I was wondering when your particular style of trainwreck commentary would grace this thread...

A positive thing I can say about the originator of the thread is he is not coming at the question from an attitude of entitlement. I encourage him to keep that up.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-06-30T00:55:40.147Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Ok, who else has nothing substantive to add to the discussion?

comment by Elo · 2015-06-30T02:15:09.736Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

the solution would be to be aware of a trend and avoid it. Right?

comment by Username · 2015-07-04T01:49:42.632Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Any tips for boosting one's kindness? I know it's closely related to the Big Five trait of agreeableness and Big Five traits are hard to change (relative to one's age cohort). Perhaps mindfulness meditation could have a long-term effect? One could always just do a bunch of kind actions but I don't think it's that simple.

comment by gjm · 2015-07-04T23:08:57.395Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

My impression is that doing a bunch of kind actions does tend to increase kindness in the future, and in any case it seems like "a bunch of kind actions" is probably (a perhaps-small subset of) the outcome you're wanting from getting kinder, so doing it seems like an obvious win given your stated goals.

comment by eeuuah · 2015-07-05T19:09:47.500Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I have been wanting to increase my general kindness lately. If anyone is looking for an accountability partner for random acts of kindness, gratitude journaling, or anything similar (or has good ideas), let me know.

comment by Elo · 2015-07-06T07:09:47.977Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

perhaps: make a list of basic kind actions? (and share it with us) then pick 1-2 to try to apply, then search for life situations to apply them in. set a deadline to do so and report back?

also: take up volunteering in an existing charitable group. meta: see if you can help

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-07-04T10:32:42.479Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Gratitude leads to kindness. Gratitude journaling or meditation should raise kindness. Making a habit of giving other people compliments does so as well.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-30T05:03:47.806Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

i want to easily found out about sub comments on posts I've made - comments on other people's comments but i don't get notified for these. Just now I found a really helpful subcomment and I fear ignoring something of counterfactual consequence! Any workarounds?

DAE think they look their best when they have their head lean back, chin tucked down?

comment by tut · 2015-06-30T08:37:15.583Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Click on the little envelope icon in the lower right corner of the comment that you want to see replies from.

comment by Viliam · 2015-06-30T09:35:48.408Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

a) just stop worrying

b) once in a week or month click on your name, go to "Comments" tab, and click "Permalink" button under your comments to open in a new browser tab. You will see the whole subtree below your comments.

(There is a problem, that when you view a subtree of a discussion, the purple borders around all unread comments in that discussion will disappear, even round the comments that were not displayed to you.)

comment by JoshuaFox · 2015-06-29T05:16:03.898Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Could someone point me to any existing articles on this variant of AI-Boxing and Oracle AGIs:

The boxed AGI's gatekeeper is a simpler system which runs formal proofs to verify that AGI's output satisfies a simple, formally definable. The constraint is not "safety" in general but rather is narrow enough that we can be mathematically sure that the output is safe. (This does limit potential benefits from the AGI.)

The questions about what the constraint should be remains open, and of course the fact that the AGI is physically embodied puts it in causal contact with the rest of the universe. But as a partial or short-term solution, has anyone written about it? The only one I can think of (though I can't find the specific article) is Goertzel's description of an architecture where the guardian component is separate from the main AGI.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2015-06-29T18:18:18.536Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The only one I can think of (though I can't find the specific article) is Goertzel's description of an architecture where the guardian component is separate from the main AGI

You're probably thinking of GOLEM. The Gödel machine is another proposal along somewhat similar lines.

Some discussions more directly related to your suggestion could be:

Our proposed protocol is based on the idea of asking what we will call ‘safe questions’ with restricted answers. We define a safe question as one for which a human being could find an answer without any help from superintelligence, all on his own merit. Why is this useful? Suppose that a scientist working on a cure for cancer is looking at two potential cures. Each one could be developed and tested without assistance from the AI, but would take about 3 years of hard work each. Which one to try first if the scientist believes that they have about an equal chance of working? If a wrong option is chosen to be tested first, humanity will still obtain a cure for cancer but it will happen 3 years later. What if we could ask the AI to suggest which option to try first? [...]

To make sure that a potential question is safe, a group of experts could be used to review it. The experts should all be trained AI safety engineers, meaning that they are familiar with the design of the AI and its confinement environment as well as the latest developments in machine ethics (Allen et al., 2006; Anderson & Anderson, 2007; Hall, 2000; Moor, 2006; Tonkens, 2009). Experts may also need to be trained in computer psychology a currently non-existent profession which might become a reality in the future (Epstein, 1997). [...]

The limited outbound channel shell consist of binary (0 or 1) answers next to original unmodified safe questions presented by the intermediary non-intelligent software in random order as to avoid communication via covert timing or resource channels which make steganography possible. The output should in no way be controllable by the AI, outside of the multiple choice menu.

  • "Thinking inside the box" (section 3.1.) also has some discussion about restricting an AGI's outputs to be safe by selecting the questions to be asked appropriately. There was also some discussion along these lines in the beginning of chap. 10 of Superintelligence, e.g., running multiple copies of different Oracles and comparing their answers with each other to avoid deception - "the answers of the different oracles have to match each other" could be a simple and formally definable criteria.
comment by JoshuaFox · 2015-06-30T04:49:03.148Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you, Kaj. Those references are what I was looking for.

It looks like there might be a somewhat new idea here. Previous suggestions, as you mention, restrict output to a single bit; or require review by human experts. Using multiple AGI oracles to check each other is a good one, though I'd worry about acausal coordination between by the AGIs, and I don't see that the safety is provable beyond checking that answers match.

This new variant gives the benefit of provable restrictions and the relative ease of implementing a narrow-AI proof system to check it. It's certainly not the full solution to the FAI problem, but it's a good addition to our lineup of partial or short-term solutions in the area of AI Boxing and Oracle AI.

I'll get this feedback to the originator of this idea and see what can be made of it.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-30T14:21:20.570Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

How do I add probabilities? Say I have 23% chance of A, and 48% chance of B, what are the chances of either? I used to think I would just add the probabilities, intuitively...then I came across problems where it sums to greater than 100%, but it's not certain. If you think like I used to think, this abstract example won't help you. So I'll give a descriptive version below. For anyone who can explain it to me, feel free to skip the next part:

Say Jimmy wants to destroy an unwanted statue. From research on statue destruction, he believes there is a 95% chance that the statue will be destroyed if he places it in front of the train. He also knows from research that if he puts a rope around it and drops it from a height, the force of the snap back will break the statue in half. He reasons that he can put a rope around it then attach that rope to the tracks, so that when the train comes, the snapping force will apply with the same destructive probability that the research cites - 96%. If the statue isn't destroyed, Jimmy is going to have to take care of the pieces, which will be a lot of work, so Jimmy wants to know what he's getting into. I wonder if there a way to combine the probabilities for an overall probabiltiy given that both apply?

comment by Sarunas · 2015-06-30T15:24:37.899Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

P(A or B) = P(A) + P(B) - P(A and B)

comment by Epictetus · 2015-07-01T18:09:02.669Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You use the Inclusion-Exclusion Principle.

comment by RolfAndreassen · 2015-07-02T21:22:34.193Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You take the probability of A not happening and multiply by the probability of B not happening. That gives you P(not A and not B). Then subtract that from 1. The probability of at least one of two events happening is just one minus the probability of neither happening.

In your example of 23% and 48%, the probability of getting at least one is

1 - (1-0.23)*(1-0.48) = 0.60.

comment by VincentYu · 2015-07-03T01:20:06.412Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You take the probability of A not happening and multiply by the probability of B not happening. That gives you P(not A and not B).

Only if A and B are independent.

comment by gudamor · 2015-07-03T04:33:15.346Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The other responses are absolutely correct. If they clarified things for you, great! However, you indicated that your intuition wasn't getting you to the correct answer, so let's try to formulate these into a new intuition.

You are starting along a path from left to right. The left side is where you started, and way over on the right side are different outcomes. The 'chances' you mention above are forks in the path, and you are taking each path with some probability.

At the first fork there are two paths, one in which A happened and one in which A did not. The path where A happened is picked 23% of the time. These two paths (A and not A) each branch again at the second fork, one in which B happened and one in which B did not. At this fork, the path where B happened is picked 48% of the time.

Two forkings means there is a total of 4 end points: One for (A, B), one for (A, not B), one for (not A, B), and one for (not A, not B).

The chance of ending up in each endpoint is equal to the product of chances. If A happens with 23% chance and B happens with 48% chance, then both happening is (0.23 times 0.48). The chance of something not happening is (1.00-(chance of happening)). So, (A, not B) is (0.23 times (1.00-0.48)) (not A, B) is ((1.00-0.23) times 0.48) and lastly: (not A, not B) is ((1.00-0.23) times (1.00-0.48))

When you say you want either, you are saying that you consider the (not A, not B) endpoint unacceptable, but that you are satisfied with the other three: (A, B), (A, not B), and (not A, B) are all equally good.

RolfAndreassen is showing that you can find the probability of either A or B by taking a double negative: since the chance of something not happening is (1.00-(chance of happening)), we can take (1.00-(chance I end up in the single bad endpoint)) which is equal to (1.00-(chance I end up at (not A, not B)) = (1.00 - ((1.00-0.23) times (1.00-0.48)))

Sarunas is showing that naively adding the probabilities of A and B returns too large a value. Only by subtracting out the probability of (A, B) can it be corrected.

Intuiting the probabilities as branching paths I found very helpful, especially when you get to situations where the probabilities depend on eachother. See for an example

Hope this helps!

comment by G0W51 · 2015-06-30T04:43:30.826Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Here's a potential existential risk. Suppose a chemical is used for some task or made as a byproduct of another task, especially one that is spread throughout the atmosphere. Additionally, suppose it causes sterility, but it takes a very long time to cause sterility. Perhaps such a chemical could attain widespread use before its deleterious effects are discovered, and by then, it would have already sterilized everyone, potentially causes an existential catastrophe. I know this scenario for causing an existential catastrophe seems very small compared to other risks, but is it worthy of consideration?

comment by tim · 2015-06-30T05:50:32.545Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

On the face of it, I don't feel that this particular risk differentiates itself enough from "what if [insert subtle end-of-times scenario here]?" to be worthy of specific consideration. It's a lot of what ifs and perhapses.

comment by D_Malik · 2015-06-30T05:22:13.089Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting. Very small concentrations of the chemical would have to sterilize practically everyone they contacted - else it would just cause humanity to very rapidly evolve resistance, or maybe kill off the developed world.

Reminds me of the decline in testosterone levels over the past couple decades, which might be due to endocrine-disrupting compounds in the water supply and in plastics and food, but which hasn't been enough to sterilize much of the population.

comment by drethelin · 2015-07-02T22:21:47.580Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There is a very short window for this to be a serious existential threat, on the order of a few decades. If mass sterilization does not happen soon, our technological ability to make babies using cloning and other technologies will outpace the need for genital-based reproduction.

comment by MrMind · 2015-06-29T08:01:53.686Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I've started learning Machine Learning (he!), and upon reading the first chapter of the most famous textbook I was already gasping for air.

For someone like me who grew into probability with Jaynes' book, seeing in the first chapter that algorithms are trained using multiple times the same data (cross-validation) was... annoying, let's say (I actually screamed at the book).

Is there a sane textbook on machine learning? I don't demand one that starts from objective bayesianism, that would be asking too much. But at least something that assumes bayesianism as a foundation? Pretty please?

comment by Vaniver · 2015-06-29T13:43:34.442Z · score: 15 (15 votes) · LW · GW

For someone like me who grew into probability with Jaynes' book, seeing in the first chapter that algorithms are trained using multiple times the same data (cross-validation) was... annoying, let's say (I actually screamed at the book).

There's two ways to train algorithms 'multiple times' on the same data. The bad one is data duplication, but cross-validation is the good one. Data duplication is the sort of thing that Jaynes would have been worried about, because it means you're counting evidence from the same piece of data twice, thus your model has illusory precision.

But what does cross-validation do? There's an issue called "overfitting," where any statistical procedure performed on a training set will fit both the noise and the signal in the training set, but while the signal on a test set will presumably be the same, the noise will be different and thus the model will do worse. Single validation is when you split your data into two parts, the training set and the test set, so that you can see how well your model trained on the training set does on the test set. When there's a tunable parameter in the training method, people will sometimes optimize the tunable parameter given data in the test set.*

But to do one split and leave it at that is wasteful. Cross-validation is when you partition the data many times, and fit many different models, and can thus talk about how the population of models behaves. In particular, consider the case of 'leave-one-out' cross-validation, where in a dataset of n points, we train n different models, each time using n-1 datapoints to fit the model parameters, test them on the 1 datapoint left out. This gives each individual model as much training data as possible while still leaving us a test dataset to determine how resilient to overfitting our model-generation procedure is.

* The principled way to do this is to split the data three times, into a training set (which the algorithm always has access to), a validation set (which the algorithm only has access to when setting the tunable parameters), and then a test set (which the algorithm never has access to, but is used to assess how well the model does after the tunable parameter has been optimized).

comment by MrMind · 2015-06-30T08:13:32.294Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Allow me to quote directly from the book:

The training sample of size m is then used to compute the n-fold cross-validation error R_CV(θ) for a small number of possible values of θ. θ is next set to the value θ_0 for which R_CV(θ) is smallest and the algorithm is trained with the parameter setting θ_0 over the full training sample of size m

So, I use cross-validation to choose a model. Then I use the same data to train the model. Insanity ensues.

Besides, even cross-validation for model-selection is suspicious. Shouldn't I, ideally, train all model with all the data and form a posterior on the most probable values?

comment by Vaniver · 2015-06-30T16:42:09.489Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

So, I use cross-validation to choose a model. Then I use the same data to train the model. Insanity ensues.

Why? A model has two components: the hyperparameters and the parameters. The hyperparameters are inputs to the model, and the parameters are calculated from the hyperparameters and the training data. (This is a very similar approach to what are called 'hierarchical Bayesian models.')

Instead of pulling a prior out of thin air for the hyperparameters, this asks the question "which hyperparameters are best for generalizing models to test sets outside the training set?", which is a different question from "which parameters maximize the likelihood of this data?"

(I should add that some people call it 'cross-tuning' to report a model whose hyperparameters have been selected by this sort of process, if there's no third dataset used for testing that was not used for tuning. Standard practice in ML is to still refer to it as 'cross-validation.')

Besides, even cross-validation for model-selection is suspicious. Shouldn't I, ideally, train all model with all the data and form a posterior on the most probable values?

If you do this, how will you get an estimate of how well your model is able to predict outside of the training set?

But once they do have the hyperparameter in place, this is what they do--they fit the model on the full training data, so that they can make the most use of everything.

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-06-29T09:07:57.844Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

^ Above post is the illustration of the danger of LW's style Bayes. Below is a non-crazy discussion (e.g. one where people don't scream):

comment by MrMind · 2015-06-30T08:24:36.649Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Unfortunately the discussion is above my current understanding. But by glancing at the comments I catched this:

remember that many people in machine learning are frequentist (or have not yet learned the Bayesian arts) and don’t really have any other means of tuning hyperparameters so they jump on whatever methods might be available.

Which explains why it's going to be so difficult for me to learn ML. It's like I'm forced to learn Aristotelian physics. Aaargh!

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-06-30T08:25:35.760Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The relationship between F and B is not like the relationship between Aristotelian physics and relativity. Not at all.

comment by MrMind · 2015-06-30T09:07:19.394Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm very tempted to argue that it is!
But what I wanted to convey is that it feels like I'm supposed to learn something which is manifestly inferior, in its logical foundation, than what is already known and available.

And maybe under the constraint of computational cost the finishing point of the Bayesian and the frequentist approach is the same, but where's the proof? Where's the place where someone says: "This is Bayesian machine learning, but it's computationally too costly. So by making this and this simplifying assumptions, we end up with frequentist machine learning."?

Instead, what I read are things like: "In practice, Bayesian optimization has been shown to obtain better results in fewer experiments than grid search and random search" (from here).

comment by jsteinhardt · 2015-06-30T15:46:01.994Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I would urge you to follow ChristianKI's advice, since I suspect you probably know much less than you think you know about either Bayesian or frequentist statistics. Perhaps you could explain in your own words why exactly it is clear that the ML book you are reading is "manifestly inferior" to your preferred approach?

Also consider reading this: A Fervent Defense of Frequentist Statistics.

comment by MrMind · 2015-07-01T09:30:56.950Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps you could explain in your own words why exactly it is clear that the ML book you are reading is "manifestly inferior" to your preferred approach?

There is a bit of confusion here. I'm not stating that frequentist machine learning is inferior to Bayesian machine learning. I'm stating that Bayesian probability is superior to frequentist probability.
How do I say this? Because in all the case that I know, either a Bayesian model can be reduced to a frequentist one or a Bayesian model gives more accurate prediction.

That said, not even this is a problem. Since I'm learning the subject, I'm not at the stage of saying "this sentence is wrong". I'm at the stage of "this sentence doesn't make sense in the context of Bayesianism". So I'm asking "is there a book that teaches ML from a Bayesian point of view?".
The answer I'm discovering, appallingly but maybe not so, is no.

As for the fervent defence, under the premises elucidated in the comments, I hold none of the myths, so it doesn't apply.

comment by Vaniver · 2015-07-01T13:27:49.655Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Because in all the case that I know, either a Bayesian model can be reduced to a frequentist one or a Bayesian model gives more accurate prediction.

I typically see this stated as "there is a Bayesian interpretation for every effective statistical technique." As pointed out elsewhere, typically people use "frequentist" to mean "non-Bayesian," which is not particularly effective as a classification.

So I'm asking "is there a book that teaches ML from a Bayesian point of view?".

The answer I'm discovering, appallingly but maybe not so, is no.

Did you google Bayesian Machine Learning, or search for it on Amazon? Barber is a well-rated textbook available online for free. (I haven't read it; Sebastien Bratieres thinks it's comparable to Murphy, the second most popular ML book, which is Bayesian.) Incidentally, Bishop, the most popular ML book, is also Bayesian. You managed to find the only ML textbook I've seen which has, as a comment in one of the Amazon reviews, a positive comment that the book is not Bayesian!

The more meta point here is to not let a worldview shut you out from potentially useful resources. Yes, Bayesianism is the best philosophy of probability, but that does not mean it is the most effective practice of statistics, and excluding concepts or practices from your knowledge of statistics because of a disagreement on philosophy is parochial and self-limiting.

comment by MrMind · 2015-07-02T08:49:06.966Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

As pointed out elsewhere, typically people use "frequentist" to mean "non-Bayesian," which is not particularly effective as a classification.

Reducing a frequentist model to a Bayesian one though it's not a pointless excercise, since it elucidates the hidden assumptions, and at least you are better aware of its field of applicability.

Did you google Bayesian Machine Learning, or search for it on Amazon?

Only after buying the book I have :/ Bishop though seems a lot interesting, thanks!

The more meta point here is to not let a worldview shut you out from potentially useful resources.

Thankfully, I'm learning ML for my own education, it's not something I need to practice right now.

comment by Vaniver · 2015-07-02T13:50:48.561Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Bishop though seems a lot interesting, thanks!

You're welcome! I should point out that the other words I was considering using to describe Bishop are "classic" and "venerable"--it's not out of date (most actively used ML methods are surprisingly old), but you may want to read it in parallel with Barber. (In general, if you've never read textbooks in parallel before, I recommend it as a lesson in textbook design / pedagogy.)

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-07-02T14:42:44.166Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Using Bishop in my class this Fall, very popular for good reason.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-30T11:05:04.420Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

But what I wanted to convey is that it feels like I'm supposed to learn something which is manifestly inferior, in its logical foundation, than what is already known and available.

I think it's very useful to listen to be able to listen to someone with domain expertise telling you when you are wrong when you are a beginner.

comment by MrMind · 2015-07-01T09:36:57.634Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But then I'm allowed to ask "why?", and if the answer is "because I say so", then I feel pretty confident to dismiss the expert.

But that's not even the stage I'm at. A book is not an interactive medium, so the act has gone like this:

  • book: Cross-validation!
  • me: "Gaaaak! That sounds like totally wrong! Is there anyone that can explain me either why this is right or, if it's actually wrong, what is the correct approach?"

I'm still searching for an answer...

comment by Wei_Dai · 2015-07-01T23:25:15.463Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'm still searching for an answer...

Try this paper or page 403 of this textbook.

Also, although in this case there seems to be an available answer, I don't think it makes sense to always expect that. Sometimes people find a technique that tends to work in practice and then only later come up with a theoretical explanation of why it works. If you happen to live in the period in between...

comment by MrMind · 2015-07-02T08:36:28.072Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If you happen to live in the period in between...

He! I've suddenly remembered that LW was founded exactly because the fields of AI and ML used too much frequentist (il)logic. The Sequence was about to restore sanity in the field.
Anyway, the textbook you mentioned seems pretty cool, thank you very much!

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-07-01T22:19:16.935Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm no expert at machine learning. However as far as I remember the point of doing cross-validation is to find out whether your model is robust. Robustness is not a standard "Bayesian" concept. Maybe you don't appreciate it's value?

comment by MrMind · 2015-07-02T08:39:08.246Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I would appreciate if there was en explanation of why something is done the way it is. Instead it's all about learning the passwords. Maybe it's just that the main textbook in the field is pedagogically bad, it wouldn't be the first time.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-07-02T12:07:03.708Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Getting deep understanding of a complex field like machine intelligence isn't easy. You shouldn't expect it to be easy and something that you can acquire in a few days.

comment by Viliam · 2015-06-30T21:26:23.849Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This is probably very arrogant of me to say, but my advice would be: "Listen to the domain expert when he tells you what you should do... and then find a Bayesian and let them explain to you why that works."

In my defense, this was my personal experience with statistics at school. I was very good at math in general, but statistics somehow didn't "click". I always had this feeling as if what was explained was built on some implicit assumptions that no one ever mentioned explicitly, so unlike with the rest of the math, I had no other choice here but to memorize that in a situation x you should do y, because, uhm, that's what my teachers told me to do. -- More than ten years later, I read LW, and here I am told that yes, the statistics that I was taught does have implicit assumptions, and suddenly it all makes sense. And it makes me very angry that no one told me this stuff at school. -- I am a "deep learner" (this, not this), and I have problem learning something when I am told how, but I can't find out why. Most people probably don't have a problem with this, they are told how, and they do, and can be quite successful with it; and probably later they will also get an idea of why. But I need to understand the stuff from the very beginning, otherwise I can't do it well. Telling me to trust a domain expert does not help; I may put a big confidence in how, but I still don't know why.

comment by jsteinhardt · 2015-06-30T22:24:31.339Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

ChristianKI is not telling you to trust a domain expert, but rather to read / listen to the domain expert long enough to understand what they are saying (rather than instantly assuming they are wrong because they say something that seems to conflict with your preconceived notions).

I think if you were to read most machine learning books, you would get quite a lot of "why". See this manuscript for instance. I don't really see why you think that Bayesians have a monopoly on being able to explain things.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-30T23:02:18.938Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think you make a mistake if you put a school teacher who doesn't understand statistics on a deep level into the same category of academic machine learning experts who don't happen to be "Bayesians".

comment by jacob_cannell · 2015-07-02T00:28:10.131Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There is the probabilistic programming community which uses clean tools (programming languages) to hand construct models with many unknown parameters. They use approximate bayesian methods for inference, and they are slowly improving the efficiency/scalability of those techniques.

Then there is the neural net & optimization community which uses general automated models. It is more 'frequentist' (or perhaps just ad-hoc ), but there are also now some bayesian inroads there. That community has the most efficient/scalable learning methods, but it isn't always clear what tradeoffs they are making.

And even in the ANN world, you sometimes see bayesian statistics brought in to justify regularizers or to derive stuff - such as in variational methods. But then for actual learning they take gradients and use SGD, with the understanding that SGD is somehow approximating the bayesian inference step, or at least doing something close enough.

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-06-30T11:20:22.087Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm very tempted to argue that it is!

Ok, thank you for your time.

comment by Manfred · 2015-07-01T17:49:01.143Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Eventually it makes sense, I promise. "Bayesianism" in the sense of keeping track of every hypothesis is very computationally expensive - modern algorithms only keep track of a very small number of hypotheses (only those representable by a neural network [or what have you], and even then only those required to do gradient descent). This fact opens you up to the overfitting problem, where the simplest perfect hypothesis in your space actually has very little information about the true external reality. You need some way of throwing away the parts of the signal that your model wasn't going to figure out anyhow.

For this reason among others, modern machine learning algorithms often have a lot of settings that have to be set by smarter systems (humans), before your algorithm can actually learn a novel domain. These settings reflect how the properties of the domain interact with properties of your algorithm (e.g. how many resources the algorithm has to commit before it can expect to have found something good, or what degree of noise the algorithm has to learn to throw away). These are those "hyperparameter" things. Cross-validation is just an empirical tool that helps humans figure out the right settings. You can probably figure out why it's expected to work.

comment by MrMind · 2015-07-02T08:40:41.722Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I upvoted because I understand the rationale, I understand the explanation, I just rather wish that a book whose purpose is to teach the subject wouldn't be so... ad hoc.

comment by D_Malik · 2015-06-29T04:38:23.198Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Random thing that I can't recall seeing on LW: Suppose A is evidence for B, i.e. P(B|A) > P(B). Then by Bayes, P(A|B) = P(A)P(B|A)/P(B) > P(A)P(B)/P(B) = P(A), i.e. B is evidence for A. In other words, the is-evidence-for relation is symmetric.

For instance, this means that the logical fallacy of affirming the consequent (A implies B, and B is true, therefore A) is actually probabilistically valid. "If Socrates is a man then he'll probably die; Socrates died, therefore it's more likely he's a man."

comment by Slider · 2015-06-29T08:48:11.850Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The surprise comes only to those that try to overload probability with roles it should not have. For example "A implies B" does imply P(B|A)=1 but P(B|A)=1 doesn't imply "A implies B". While it is common that if we know systematically that a certain probability is high it is a promising line of argument for causations and implications it doesn't always carry through (meta-example I am in essence arguing that while an okayish rule of thump, it is actually improper to infer causations from probabilities. I am doing this by pointing out that P(causation|probability) ~ 1 and P(causation|probability)<1 which alone is only suggestive that it is so (or the actual steps are implied)).

comment by DanielLC · 2015-06-29T09:53:04.360Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

but P(B|A)=1 doesn't imply "A implies B".

Can you give a counterexample?

comment by gjm · 2015-06-29T12:20:13.921Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

A: "X is a random number, uniformly distributed on the interval from 0 to 1."

B: "X is irrational."

Then Pr(B|A) = 1 because almost all numbers are irrational (more formally: because the rationals have measure 0), but A doesn't imply B because X could be rational.

comment by Slider · 2015-06-29T12:47:21.844Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This could be made to not be a counterexample by using a theory of probability that uses surreals.

That is Pr(irrational|random form 0 to 1) being 1 is of the "almost always" kind, which can be separated form the kind of 1 that is of the "always" kind.

for ω that is larger than any surreal that has a real-counter part, there is a ɛ=1/ω.

Taking only finite samples out of a infinite group makes for a probability that is smaller than any real probability that could well be represented by real/natural multiples of ɛ.

Similarly taking only countably infinite samples from a group of uncountably many samples would result in a probability larger than 0 but smaller than any real value.

Thus we could have P(irrational|between 0 and 1)=1-xɛ and P(rational|between 0 and 1)=xɛ that would sum to exactly 1 and yet P(Z|0-1)=xɛ>0 ie a positive probability.

Similarly the probability of a dart landing exactly on a line in a dart board is "almost never" ie 0 yet that place is as probable as any other location on the dart board. It would be possible to find a dart exactly on the line, you would not just expect to encounter it in a finite number of throws.

However there are counterexamples where all As are indeed Bs but no implication is possible.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-06-29T13:26:40.497Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This could be made to not be a counterexample by using a theory of probability that uses surreals.

Surreal numbers do not yet have a good theory of integration. This makes surreal probability theory problematic.

comment by Slider · 2015-06-29T10:31:23.705Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Coextensive properties that are not the same property. There are some biological facts like these. Probably not remembering correctly but for example B="animal has heart" A="animal is mammal" it can easily be that all mammals in fact have hearts but you couldn't still say that it would be impossible for a mammal to be heartless (and for example have a blood circulation system that is evenly distributed all over the veins (which they kinda partially do but be totally reliant on those kind of mechanism)). The deduction of "It is a mammal, it must have a heart" is false for plenty of reasonable senses of "must". It is true for the probabilistic sense of must but implication has more senses than the probabilistic one.

comment by DanielLC · 2015-06-29T20:39:59.132Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If it's a given that all mammals have hearts, then being a mammal implies it has a heart. If it's not known that all mammals have hearts, then P(B|A) < 1.

comment by MrMind · 2015-06-29T07:32:35.257Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, Jaynes talks about this in the first chapter of his book, calling it a "weak syllogism" and using it as a guideline to introduce probability as a kind of extended logic.

comment by ZeitPolizei · 2015-06-29T15:49:53.558Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

See also this.

comment by Dahlen · 2015-06-29T02:29:54.899Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Suppose an agent has to choose between two main options. He can choose neither or either, but not both. His preference for each of the options is unknown, probably even by the agent himself (behaviour during the experiment signals indecision). Picture the experiment akin to a subject getting to make a pick between two useable objects such as toys, cars, gadgets etc. He is allowed to play/experiment with both of them during the experiment. Throughout the experiment, he exhibits a moderate preference for one of them, and spends more time using it.

Then, the experimenter removes the other choice from the setup, and subsequently interviews the subject on his preferences for both options, while asking him to disregard the fact that his preferences do not matter anymore in the outcome. So, he's only left with one, presumably the favourite so far, but has to express opinions on both, after the fact.

  1. Based on your model of human choice, how likely is he to irrationally exhibit a higher preference for the removed option and a decreased preference for the remaining one, on the grounds that the choice was no longer "his" to make?

  2. How does this compare to the somewhat opposite "sour grapes" irrational tendency?

  3. Has such an experiment been made, to confirm or disprove the existence of this bias?

(P.S. I'm aware there's a design flaw in that the first preference is observed and the other is self-reported. If that's a no-no, let's introduce a step where the subject is interviewed with both options still available, and measure increases or decreases relative to that.)

comment by Elo · 2015-06-30T01:49:31.352Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This experiment has been done with various paintings.

it goes something like this:

  • experimenter offers ~30 paintings to subject
  • Subject rates paintings 1-10
  • experimenter concludes by saying; we would like to give you a painting to keep, if you want it. (painting happens to be a 3-4 on the scale of their evaluations)
  • experimenter leaves and comes back days or weeks later
  • experimenter asks subject how they like painting (1-10) or to evaluate the whole set of paintings again.
  • subject now rates the painting they got to keep as higher than previously.
  • experiment was also done on people with altzheimers and the same effect was found even when the patient had no memory of the previous experiment or the experimenter.

Sorry I don't have a name or a link to the papers, but it was at least a few years ago. Something about cognitive dissonance I believe; about how you wouldn't accept the painting unless you liked it therefore you convince yourself that you like it more than you did.

comment by Viliam · 2015-06-30T09:42:49.042Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I also remember reading the experiment with people with Alzheimer's. I remember it like this:

1) they showed them six paintings to order by how much they like them: #1 to #6;

2) then they told them they can take one of the paintings #3 or #4 (of course they took #3);

3) later (when the patients forgot everything), they were asked to order the six painting again... the painting #3 usually moved to a somewhat better position, and #4 to somewhat worse position.

So the lesson seems to be that when we actively accept (or reject) something, our brain adjusts to perceive that thing as better (or worse). This is not the same as rationalitazion, because it is not a bullshit you tell yourself when asked; this is a genuine change in preferences.

comment by Slider · 2015-06-29T10:21:23.370Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I kinda inferred that the subject is aware on how their decision will impact the future of the experiment (ie that it will be the basis of which option is removed). I first time almost read it as if a random choice was removed and the focus would be whether which one was removed impacted their opinions.

I am also unclear on what significance the choice is supposed to be. If I choose a toy to play with for 5 minutes, 3 hours or get to own after the experiment those are kinda different choice situations.

comment by Dahlen · 2015-06-29T16:53:57.478Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

No, the subject expects the experiment to end with him being able to make a meaningful choice, but unbeknownst to him it is scheduled to take a different turn. He doesn't know that an option will be taken away, much less which one and on what criterion.

The "demo" time is included to help him decide which one he would then take home.