Open Thread Feb 16 - Feb 23, 2016

post by Elo · 2016-02-15T02:12:37.805Z · score: 5 (10 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 105 comments

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

Notes for future OT posters:

1. Please add the 'open_thread' tag.

2. Check if there is an active Open Thread before posting a new one. (Immediately before; refresh the list-of-threads page before posting.)

3. Open Threads should be posted in Discussion, and not Main.

4. Open Threads should start on Monday, and end on Sunday.


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by gwern · 2016-02-16T02:58:11.763Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've created a cost-benefit analysis of embryo selection for intelligence:

Turns out to be fairly challenging but ultimately delivers sensible results: modestly profitable but nothing special at current prices/polygenic-scores. But things get more interesting once we get scores from n>360k studies, and the multi-generational consequences are very interesting if we can get boosts like +9 points. Of course, it's mostly all a moot point and academic because of...

CRISPR. I've had a hard time getting prices because they all sound too good to be true.

comment by gwern · 2016-02-29T23:51:37.596Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

To update: I've added estimates of how elites like Harvard undergrads would change in composition under various scenarios; value of information estimates of additional SNP datapoints; a large bibliography of papers on IQ/income/wealth; background on challenges to estimating CRISPR value; implications of being able to create unlimited eggs from stem cells; generalization of embryo selection code; and demonstration of the large gains (>2.8x) from selecting on multiple complex traits and not just IQ.

comment by [deleted] · 2016-02-15T03:42:11.166Z · score: 14 (20 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Clarity's bitching and moaning containment comment

No other top level comment by Clarity will be made in this Open Thread will be made because a considerable portion of LW voters don't give a shit

1. Windows 7 phones are problematic

There is currently no way to remove the auto-fill terms you have accumulated over time asides from hard reseting the phone.

-Windows 7 phone search history can't be deleted...

Seriously, Microsoft? People could find I eschew porn to instead listen to songs that remix in or mashup sounds from porn while going about my daily activities.

2. Can your genes exempt you from an altruistic imperative to donate your organs?

Do our SNP's indicate any exceptions to the duty to donate one's organs? rs17319721(A)'s and Rs429... are associated with kidney related issues. It doesn't appear any others are known to. The implications are unclear.

3. El Chapo's getting desperate.

What would you do in his situation? How does me manage to get to cartel to do his bidding when he's on the run when they could usurp him instead? I assume that other high up Sinoloa cartel people just appreciate his intelligence in planning their operations. And, that incidental helpers opportunistically solicit his favour, bribes and fear his influence without actively making them because of his reputation. Maybe there are some interesting mechanisms in there too, like people he's earmarked as having to die if he is ever caught, or doesn't escape by a certain time, or dies*, like a kind of prediction market. I would imagine such criminals have sophisticated prediction market-esque trustless systems to protect them. I mean, I wouldn't otherwise count on the loyalty or trustworthiness of other criminals...I mean, it would be a lot harder to replicate his actions in more Western countries because of greater structural integrity of social institutions and norms, but I can't help but be in awe of the guy's intelligence and ruthless pursuit of his ends and means.

4. Interesting takeaways from Tim Ferriss’s productivity interview of a former four star US special forces and joint coalition forces general

  • High peer ratings have the highest predictive validity for top-level military leadership appointments and advancement

  • After ww2 they asked combat organisations what was most useful from their training and people said: distance running and pack marches (explained as: because it pushed them) and live fire exercises (he adds, dealing with uncertainty too but that wasn't found from the ww2 survey). I noted that this was said around 48 mins 40 seconds in.

  • watch 3 people - someone senior who you admire, a peer who is doing what you are doing better than you and someone junior who is doing the job you were doing better than you did

5. My sister is such c-word

I wish there were psychologist/therapist gift vouchers for frenemies or people you have to stay in contact with for a long time due to work or familial obligation...

6. Karma pattern analysis

a graph of my karma: Increasingly volatility and controversiality (high scores and low scores). Seems to be alternating clusters of high and low karma. Is that attributable to global variation in sentiment of lesswrong voters or to temporal variation in the karma attractiveness of my posts?

7. Why is psychiatry so weird?

  • What accounts for the discrepancy between reports of suffering by the mentally and neurologically ill, and the sympathy afforded to them? Do estimates for disability or quality of life by mental health patients systematically deviate from observer or physiologically revealed estimates? How about addicts or pain patients?

  • Smoking and schizphrenia confounded by weight control beliefs? If so sz without antipsychotic would smoke less

8. How am I supposed to follow the law if I don't know what the law is?

The AI control problem is a principal-agent problem, just like theattorney problem. Thoughts on radically simplifying the law to re-emphasise personal responsibility, promote leadership against paralysis and law anxiety?

9. How’s democratic information asymmetry working out?

Not too bad.

Ballot papers present a handful of names, a handful of labels and voting process ensues. Why aren’t there more random incompetents elected to public office? This is not to say that they aren’t there, but this system of appearingly intense information asymmetry seems to work out okay.

To be an independent candidate requires lots of voters to nominate you and therefore substantive mass (even if minority(appeal), to be a party candidate requires winning an internal preselection election (by people who tend to vote for people they have existing, long standing elections with) and to win council generally requires a racially appropriate name for the area’s demographic who are like to know you.

This screening process may separate the wheat from the chaff early-on.

10. A movie about an internet drug dealer from da hood gives a lesson in enthusiastic consent

"I'm bored as fuck, how about we play? Lets play mother may I. Do you remember how to play that?... May I take off my clothes?... May I walk over to you?... May I touch you?"

-Female character from Dope (2016 the movie)

I've omitted the guys response since they were more or less 'yes'.

What great, playful elicitation of enthusiastic consent without an awkward, forward question!

11. Fallacy charlatans

Brendan Moynihan, who the author of the Black Swan said wasn't a charlattan unlike most finance book authors, summarises market participation fallacies as internalising what should be external events here onwards. His thesis perplexis me. It's doesn't seem wrong, it seems wronger than wronger, but his case seems very compelling. I smell some darks arts. I wonder if the Black Swan author spoke too soon...

12. 80K for LMIC's

I wrote a haiku:

Teaching to earn

To earn to give

80,000 Hours 2020

Bridging 80,000 Hours with developing world education will kill 3 birds with one stone: earning to give, developing world education and the problem of bridging between schooling and economic opportunity.

13. EA unicode symbol?

How about 'æ'?

14. Is pedo advocacy an undervalued, neglected social cause?

My heart continues to bleed for virtuous pedophiles and the ostracisation that probably encourages surrepticious, unhealthy sexual and romantic relationships between adults and children. I hope more people will pledge public support for groups trying to fight to treat pedos like people. There seem to be advocacy organisations that are above board and I wouldn't be suprised if an increasingly sex positive future society crowns pedo advocates of today with the glory affored to early LGBTI campaigners. Maybe they'll call them LGBTIP one day. I feel ashamed that I should have to disclaim that I am not at all attracted to children (and barely have a sex drive nowadays in general) in order to give extra credibility to this post. I'm also ashamed that when I'm in IRL company I'm given to joining in the group emotion and condemning pedos when the topic comes up, but at least I'm willing to talk about it more uh 'rationally' here.

15. Siblings of low-functioning autistics can have a lot of carer responsibilities. Do they deserve the baggage of carrier stigma too?

Based on the Wikipedia article on the heritability of autism I have concluded that if you're dating someone who has a sibling that is autistic, other than caring for their sibling you should consider having kids early if you intend to, not having kids if the mother has a psychiatric illness but otherwise no worrying too much about passing on the autism. The rate of autism in the general population is 1.47 percent. Prevalence of autism in siblings of autistic children was found to be 1.76% in 2005 Danish study looked at "data from the Danish Psychiatric Central Register and the Danish Civil Registration System.

The risk was twice as high if the mother had been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder. The study also found that "the risk of autism was associated with increasing degree of urbanisation of the child's place of birth and with increasing paternal, but not maternal, age.

However, less authoritative (yahoo answers) sources suggests that the specific etyiology of the autism may affect the chance of inheritence. Allegedly if the autistic family carries fragile X then the chance of inheritence is like 10 percent plus or something. They recommended talking to a genetic counsellor so I reckon the best steps are to do that, or do more thorough research than I've done here about where autism has occured in your mate's family!

comment by Elo · 2016-02-16T16:06:07.599Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)
  1. I wonder if something like "what clarity writes" (about//quality) is variable monthly, maybe inline with any medications or other monthly things - example regular social events with lw'ers or similar groups who encourage you to maybe hone your ideas so there is less bad and more good in a given week.

No other top level comment by Clarity will be made in this Open Thread will be made because a considerable portion of LW voters don't give a shit

I am much happier about this comment than seeing several on an OT. I wouldn't mind seeing 2 a week in this format if it helps you think. Worth adding that you have numbered, titled, bulleted pointed, linked and self-explained your process which I expect adds to your karma score.

with 2, it's hard to respond - especially not knowing the area very well.

1, 3, 4, 5, 7 all seem like comments (or rhetorical with 7) not questions or really asking for response. If you do the same thing next week and get the same sort of response to some of your posts, you might be able to improve your content by filtering for ("things Clarity wants feedback on" | "thing clarity just wants to share") and dividing into two sections (in one comment is fine).

comment by Vaniver · 2016-02-16T13:59:57.919Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Upvoted for being one comment.

I wish there were psychologist/therapist gift vouchers for frenemies or people you have to stay in contact with for a long time due to work or familial obligation...

Sure, it's called The Fountainhead, and it's for you. (That is, your obligation to maintain contact with your family is entirely voluntary.)

But more helpfully there are lots of therapy / self-help books that are full of useful skills that you can sometimes improve a relationship by giving to the other person. This is typically recommended against because a very important variable in the success of interventions is 'therapeutic alliance'--if someone isn't interested in a book, they won't read it, and if someone doesn't want to work with a therapist, they'll sabotage the experience.

It is worth focusing on how you can adjust your behaviors around the difficult people in your life, and this is something that you might want to bring up with a therapist / get books to look into yourself. (When I was dating someone who was anxious, I read self-help books on anxiety, for example.)

Is that attributable to global variation in sentiment of lesswrong voters or to temporal variation in the karma attrativeness of my posts?

Pretty sure it's the latter, but in a moving average sort of way--a bad comment not only is likely to be downvoted itself, but also makes it more likely that other comments posted at around the same time are viewed as bad.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2016-02-23T21:17:42.315Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

My heart continues to bleed for virtuous pedophiles .... Maybe they'll call them LGBTIP one day.

"virtuous pedophiles" who do not act on their desires are to be praised, but should not be lumped in with LBGT, because the LBGT movement advocates that people should act on their desires rather than trying to be straight, which is the exact opposite of "virtuous pedophiles".

The worry is that support for virtuous pedophiles is a slippery slope towards support for practicing pedophiles.

comment by Brillyant · 2016-02-17T14:25:52.842Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Based on the relative karmic outpouring, it seems people like this format more than single comments. Why?

comment by OrphanWilde · 2016-02-17T14:59:26.238Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Because he asked what he could do to improve the reception of his comments, and was told that a major problem was that he spread random ideas across dozens of comments, cluttering threads up, and then proceeded to follow that advice. (Or, in more Less-Wrongian terms, he updated his beliefs, or something.)

People are showing their appreciation for the fact that he listened. Doing so is a great positive reinforcement of community norms, and makes users happy to follow the norms as they get rewarded for doing so, as opposed to the opposing strategy of downvoting deviations from the norm, which might result in resentment, as they would experience only punishment.

comment by [deleted] · 2016-02-16T13:40:26.398Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Re: number 6. My impression is that the "karma attractiveness" of your posts is pretty variable. I'll give it some more thought and see if I can nail down any specific reasons for that impression.

Re: number 5. If you'd like to commiserate about unpleasant family members, let me know. :P I have them in spades.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-02-15T10:01:06.725Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sinoloa creates trust through family ties.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-02-15T10:02:14.650Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If we would apply Elon Musk first principle thinking to the problem of building homes in which we live, how would we build homes? Are there any big companies taken up that challenge?

comment by stoat · 2016-02-15T14:42:15.416Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Michael Vassar makes some observations about this in this chat from about 37:50-40:30. He begins describing something called a "hexayurt tridome", some kind of portable desert structure, and finishes saying "for the cost of engineering the 2016 Toyota Corolla and with the level of engineering skill required to engineer the 2016 Toyota Corolla it would probably be possible to engineer a house that would cost less than a Toyota Corolla and that could be deployed more easily and be adequate for any climate pretty much anywhere in the world where there's a reasonable amount of free space".

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-02-15T15:24:47.086Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think most places where people want to live don't fulfill the criteria of their being "a reasonable amount of free space".

comment by drethelin · 2016-02-16T08:17:30.766Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

And in a lot of places where that space exists it is illegal to live there. You could park a serviceable RV in a lot more places than you are allowed to live, for one example.

comment by devi · 2016-02-17T01:48:10.676Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Where people want to live depends on where other people live. It's possible to move away from bad Nash equilibria by cooperation.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-02-17T11:17:37.297Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

To the extend that people want to live where other people live it's useful to have a high density. Flat buildings aren't optimal for cities even when they are cheap to build.

comment by devi · 2016-02-18T02:09:37.597Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wasn't only referring to wanting to live where there are a lot of people. I was also referring to wanting to live near to very similar/nice people and far from very dissimilar/annoying people. I think the latter, together with the expected ability to scale things down, would make people want to live in smaller, more selected, communities. Even if they were in the middle of nowhere.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-02-18T13:00:57.970Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

People basically want to live where they can find a well-paying job.

In the great leap forward Mao thought that the factories being in cities was simple a coordination problem. He then declared to move them outside of the cities where they were grown organically. It was a disaster.

A big company like Google could theoretically move it's business headquarters to the middle of nowhere. On the other hand that would likely be a very bad business decision. It's employees wouldn't simply want to move to the middle of nowhere.

comment by entirelyuseless · 2016-02-18T16:35:30.317Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

There are also good reasons why "where they can find a well-paying job" usually coincides with "where there are a lot of people."

Generally speaking, a person's salary corresponds to a pretty reasonable estimate of how much good they are doing for society. It's easier to do more good for more people when more people are around, e.g. a restaurant does more benefit to more people by being close to a lot of people, instead of being in the middle of nowhere. So generally people will get paid more if they have jobs closer to a lot of people.

comment by Vaniver · 2016-02-15T21:48:29.156Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Consider the IKEA refugee shelter.

comment by Viliam · 2016-02-18T13:00:07.624Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Rationality for managers, part 374:

If your plans are greater than your capacity to do stuff, you need to set priorities. Prioritizing is a way to achieve some of your goals sooner, at the cost of achieving some other goals later (or not at all). Prioritizing is not a magical tool to achieve all of your goals sooner. If you cannot make an explicit decision to postpone some goals, by definition you are unable to set priorities.

Adding the words "priority: urgent" to a task achieves the desired effect only if there are other tasks without the label "priority: urgent". Giving the label to all your tasks is equivalent to giving it to none of them. For example, if you create a planning spreadsheet or configure a planning software with priorities from 1 (highest) to 5 (lowest) only to find later that each task is assigned a priority 1, then the truth is that your company or division does not have priorities.

Even if you use different priorities, but the tasks labeled "priority: urgent" exceed your capacity to do stuff, then effectively every other label becomes synonymous to "this will never be done", and the label "priority: urgent" itself will mean "this should be done, but we are unable to set priorities for the stuff that should be done". For example, if your priorities are from 1 (highest) to 5 (lowest), but the number of tasks with priority 1 exceeds the capacity of your team, then the tasks with priority 2 will never get done, despite the impression that the number 2 seems better than average on the scale from 1 to 5. And you still have not set priorities within the set of tasks that have priority 1.

Exercise 1: Your team has two employees, each of them working 8 hours a day. To meet the deadline, you would need on average 24 man-hours of work done each remaining day. Instead of hiring another employee, your colleague in management suggests that it would be better to spend that money instead to pay an external company to install an intranet website where managers will be able to assign a priority to each task. Your colleague shows you a research suggesting that tasks with higher priority statistically get completed sooner than tasks with lower priority. Thus, setting a high priority to all your tasks should solve the problem with the deadline. What could possibly go wrong?

Exercise 2: You have an employee working 8 hours a day on an important continuous task that requires 8 hours of their time every day. There is another, less urgent task that needs to be done, that requires only 20 hours of work, once. You assign the second task to the same employee, but specify that this task has lower priority than the original task, because if the original task gets behind the schedule, there would be bad consequences for the company, and then also for the given employee. How many days on average will it take the employee to complete the second task?

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-02-15T15:31:20.232Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have 90% credence that Old_Gold is the new account of Eugine.

comment by gjm · 2016-02-16T12:26:00.841Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

And I have maybe 85% credence that someone is downvoting old comments of mine (in bulk but fairly slowly). It's not hard to guess who, if so.

It seems to me that LW moderators should give serious consideration to undoing all the past votes of Eugine's known accounts, if only to reduce the motivation to do what he does. (And implement a not-too-low karma threshold for downvoting, but that involves actually changing the code rather than "just" tweaking things in the database[1].)

[1] Anyone who has looked at how the DB is organized will understand why I put "just" in quotation marks there.

comment by entirelyuseless · 2016-02-15T16:58:40.471Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, he doesn't even try to disguise the fact by picking a more neutral username.

comment by philh · 2016-02-15T17:02:39.716Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This may be a time to exercise the virtue of silence: if he's trying to hide, perhaps we shouldn't talk publicly about the ways we identify him.

(I'm not sure he is trying to hide.)

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2016-02-16T08:24:07.339Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

(I'm not sure he is trying to hide.)

He most definitely isn't. Otherwise, he would [redacted as per WP:BEANS].

comment by gjm · 2016-02-16T14:19:59.056Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think it's quite WP:BEANS. The things Eugine might do to try to hide aren't stupid in the way shoving beans up your nose is. It's possible he hasn't thought of doing them, but in that case the error is more like "gosh, I hope he doesn't realise he could just hit me over the head and steal all the money in my wallet" than like "and don't stick beans up your nose".

comment by Vaniver · 2016-02-16T15:10:57.659Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am confused why you think that is not an example of WP:BEANS.

comment by gjm · 2016-02-16T15:18:49.314Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

WP:BEANS means not telling X "don't do Y" where Y is something that X would be unwise to do, but might do just to cause trouble, or for fun and with indifference to the consequences.

Telling Eugine "don't sacrifice a chicken to the Privacy Gods" (pretending for the sake of argument that that would enable him to avoid being spotted by LW moderators and the like) doesn't fit that template because (1) avoiding being spotted wouldn't be unwise for him and (2) his interest in not being spotted isn't because he wants to cause trouble but because he has particular goals that he can't achieve as effectively if he's spotted.

It's not far off WP:BEANS, and the difference isn't particularly important, but it doesn't seem to me like it quite fits.

(Note that the example in WP:BEANS is of something that would "crash Wikipedia", not e.g. something that would "allow you to modify any page to say anything you like without risk of having it reverted". It's aiming at carelessness and trollery rather than at purposeful abuse of the system.)

comment by [deleted] · 2016-02-16T02:53:23.721Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Online disinhibition effect

Suler names six primary factors behind why people sometimes act radically differently on the internet from the way they do in normal face-to-face situations:

One of them is 'you don't know me'. I for one value the right to privacy for all LessWrongers, Eugine included.

There are 5 other disinhibiting factors listed on the Wikipedia page. Could we explore those instead?

comment by OrphanWilde · 2016-02-17T15:08:03.147Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hey, it IS just a game.

I mean, there are points and scoring and everything.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-02-15T12:54:48.788Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Top rated questions on the new prediction website metaculus:

Fully autonomous self-driving cars by 2018?
Will "Planet Nine" be discovered in 2016?
In 2016, will an AI player beat a professionally ranked human in the ancient game of Go?
Will the cost of sequencing a human genome fall below $500 by mid 2016?
Experimental tests of quantum effects in cognition?

comment by gwern · 2016-02-15T22:29:52.480Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If anyone is curious about genomes: it's unlikely. Veritas only just started offering a $1k genome; no one is announcing something that'll be ready by June which is in 5 months; and if you want to extrapolate from the historical data, while we're clearly recently jumped to a new regime starting in 2015, but extrapolating from the 2015-2016 data, genomes still shouldn't be <$500 for another 10 months or so:

R> genome <- c(9408739,9047003,8927342,7147571,3063820,1352982,752080,342502,232735,154714,108065,70333,46774,
R> l <- lm(log(I(tail(genome, 3))) ~ I(1:3)); l
# ...Coefficients:
# (Intercept)       I(1:3)  
#  7.3937180   -0.1548441  
R> exp(sapply(1:10, function(t) { 7.3937180 + -0.1548441*t } ))
# [1] 1392.5249652 1192.7654529 1021.6617017  875.1030055  749.5683444  642.0417932  549.9400652
# [8]  471.0504496  403.4776517  345.5982592

(10 rather than 8 because the first 3 time-units, 1-3, have already passed, and the remaining 5 time-units until $471 is in time-units of 2-months, so 2*5=10. I couldn't be bothered to convert the data to more sensible days/months for a quick extrapolation.)

So I would expect any $500 genome to be in 2017 or 2018. Some dark horse could overnight announce a $500 whole-genome at any time... but I wouldn't bet on it, in part because that NHS data may not reflect any such service's existence.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2016-02-19T00:53:40.420Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

There is a small issue that NIH is quoting a wholesale price, while Veritas is quoting a retail price (including customer acquisition, risk of not using all capacity, and profit), so you should expect the NIH price to be lower.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-02-16T17:59:56.586Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

So I would expect any $500 genome to be in 2017 or 2018. Some dark horse could overnight announce a $500 whole-genome at any time... but I wouldn't bet on it, in part because that NHS data may not reflect any such service's existence.

Yes. The metric that's used is NIH data. Given that they brought sequencing machines in the last years and the cost of the sequencing machine's isn't completely included in the year they are brought and the 2016 sequencing budget likely pays for machines brought in 2014 and 2015 even if great new machine get's introduced in 2016.

comment by gwern · 2016-02-16T20:24:01.260Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Right. Great internal validity since you can count on them to not be playing any games with costs like, say, commercial companies such as Illumina; but imperfect external validity which renders down-to-month precision questionable.

comment by [deleted] · 2016-02-19T08:55:18.050Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sorry if this is a stupid question *, but is there any not complicated literature about how mass point geometry is related to, or used to teach more efficiently, or something else, probability theory? I used to fantasize about going through a middle-highschool-level book on MPG with my middle-highschool pupils (with added benefits of reinforcing Newtonian mechanics), and to get them into Bayes law (probability masses as masses and odds as lengths:), but... It was hard to imagine, say, triangles formed by probabilities.

I Googled it up, didn't find "exactly the thing" and moved on.

  • and on the similar note, do we still have them?
comment by Manfred · 2016-02-19T20:58:02.585Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Huh, MPG seems like an interesting trick.

The obvious way to pursue an analogy is that masses are probabilities, but that seems to not work - the distances have no meaning, and there's no advantage over adding and subtracting probabilities of disjoint events.

So what if we make the distances probabilities. Now we can have P(A) be some distance AA', and P(A|B) be AB... No, no good... or if we make the probability the position of a point on the middle, is there anything interesting we can do with the weights of P(A) and P(B) to make P(AB)... So if you fix one endpoint to have mass 1, and the position to be P(A), the value of the other point will be the odds ratio P(A)/P(not-A). But there's no convenient way to multiply values of points...

Not sure there's any way to use all the parts of this buffalo, sorry.

comment by [deleted] · 2016-02-22T06:24:54.554Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well that is rather what I think, too.

It's just that... I mean, I know the next bit is the opposite of rigorous and all that, but since my job is basically to teach kids how to play with shiny toys, I should at least see if they are child-friendly, right?:) so I am asking you as someone who probably has played more.

Suppose we have several - say, 9 - 'tests' we've run daily for two months, covering the turn of spring into summer, and the outcomes of all of them should reasonably change as the seasons progress, but not quite as straightforwardly as the development of foliage, fruit, etc.* Like, test A is 'how much acetone will evaporate from a 40 ml bottle in an open shady space between 12.00 and 12.50?', test B - 'how long will it take for a soaking wet handkerchief to dry to constant weight if hung at 12.15?', ..., test I - 'what percentage of shepherd's purse plants in this patch is blooming?' All the tests are but weakly connected to each other, but it is possible, generally speaking, to assign some measure of 'distance' - for example, A and B are clearly closer to each other than each of them is to I (although it seems that 5 or 6 tests are more realistic to juggle). Then, we draw a nonagon (or 5-, or 6-...) Such that the distances between the vertices equal the 'distances between tests'.

The masses of the vertices are the probabilities that the given outcomes support the hypothesis that the day is Day X. (The question is, of course, 'what day is it?') We are told that X is either 9, or 24, or 35. Now we can find the respective centers of mass for each combination of probabilities for all three hypotheses. Then we obtain a 'cloud' of centers of mass, each of which is 'more or less in favor' of one hypothesis (except, perhaps, one where the probabilities are equal). If we divide the cloud into three layers (one for each H), and have the masses of the points be the p(H), we can find the center of masses for each day. When we plot the 'final day points', we can now see how close they are to which test. Which means...well, in our example, nothing...but if it were something grown-up, perhaps that there are different views on the question depending on what experiments a researcher trusts best, even if they all share the same data from the same set of experiments...

Anyway, sorry for so many words.

*I am going to have the kids track the vegetation development before the 'more random' stuff. Generally, the question will remain 'what day is it?', but the answer will be expressed as an interval, without probabilities assigned.

comment by turchin · 2016-02-15T21:04:58.721Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

What are the best public places to discuss existential risks?

My list in order of quality:


Semi useful:

Almost dead now:

Lifeboat foundation mailing list - almost dead now, but had good discussions before


comment by G0W51 · 2016-02-20T19:25:54.049Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is there a term for a generalization of existential risk that includes the extinction of alien intelligences or the drastic decrease of their potential? Existential risk, that is, the extinction of Earth-originating intelligent life or the drastic decrease of its potential, does not sound nearly as harmful if there are alien civilizations that become sufficiently advanced in place of Earth-originating life. However, an existential risk sounds far more harmful if it compromises all intelligent life in the universe, or if there is no other intelligent life in the universe to begin with. Perhaps this would make physics experiments more concerning than other existential risks, as even if their chance of causing the extincion of Earth-originating life is much smaller than other existential risks, their chance of eliminating all life in the universe may be higher.

comment by _rpd · 2016-02-23T06:36:55.478Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I really like this distinction. The closest I've seen is discussion of existential risk from a non-anthropocentric perspective. I suppose the neologism would be panexistential risk.

comment by G0W51 · 2016-03-06T16:25:24.038Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Panexistential risk is a good, intuitive, name.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2016-02-22T13:44:14.899Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

a generalization of existential risk that includes the extinction of alien intelligences or the drastic decrease of their potential

I think the term is Great Filter.

comment by philh · 2016-02-23T01:56:10.395Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

G0W51 is talking about universal x-risk versus local x-risk. Global thermonuclear war would be relevant for the great filter, but doesn't endanger anyone else in the universe. Whereas if Earth creates UFAI, that's bad for everyone in our light cone.

comment by G0W51 · 2016-02-23T05:32:12.956Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

True. Also, the Great Filter is more akin to an existential catastrophe than to existential risk, that is, the risk of an existential catastrophe.

comment by gwern · 2016-02-19T23:15:06.301Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Decision theory humor, if anyone wants to contribute:

comment by polymathwannabe · 2016-02-19T22:12:12.347Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Events of recent days have made me suspect that I feel less depressed on days when I have little or no beard. But now that I know this hypothesis, I don't know how to test it without priming myself every time I shave. Suggestions?

comment by entirelyuseless · 2016-02-20T04:50:08.212Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It could also be that you feel less like shaving when you feel more depressed.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-02-20T00:32:55.125Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Reformulate your hypothesis as "the act of shaving makes me less depressed for one or two days" and test that. Since the outcome is the state of your own mind, priming doesn't matter.

comment by Elo · 2016-02-21T21:04:51.339Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

consider the idea that "rituals of personal care" are effective at convincing yourself that you value yourself more. (rather than specific to shaving).

Try also:

  • Painting your nails
  • getting a fancy haircut
  • cooking or eating a fancy meal
  • going to a performance of some kind of culture
  • setting aside time for other rituals
comment by ChristianKl · 2016-02-20T09:54:56.201Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If shaving works, doing other rituals to clean both yourself and your flat might also have a similar effect.

comment by CronoDAS · 2016-02-15T18:33:59.294Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Okay, stupid and off-topic question:

I want to get a tablet for a Small Child so she doesn't keep bugging me for mine. The one I got her for her birthday broke in an unexpected manner: The glass is not damaged but the screen is displaying black lines and similar garbage. (It was also working at the beginning of a car ride and failed at the end of it - it couldn't have fallen onto a hard surface.) So I'm looking for a tablet that 1) has access to the apps on the Google Play store I've already bought for her; 2) can survive a tumble down a flight of stairs or being thrown onto uneven asphalt and 3) is as cheap as possible while still meeting criteria 1 and 2. Suggestions?

(She's managed to crack the glass on my iPad once - an iPad without a rugged case is not sturdy enough to survive the abuse I expect this thing to have to take.)

comment by bogus · 2016-02-16T04:33:44.548Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

There are "rugged" tablets for sale but they don't come cheap. OTOH, the failure mode for your tablet suggest that it could be easy to fix by just opening it up and making sure that the internal screen connector is plugged in correctly. Can you find a teardown guide for it on iFixit?

comment by CronoDAS · 2016-02-16T15:48:54.820Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It also doesn't seem to be booting up properly either - I don't see the logo when I turn it on. :(

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-02-15T21:42:36.241Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

How about the Kindle Fire kids edition? You can install Google Play on it.

It has a "Kid-Proof Case" and a two year guarantee that if it breaks for any reason they replace it.

comment by CronoDAS · 2016-02-15T22:13:16.381Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've heard that it's hard to install the Google store on Amazon Kindle tablets, that you have to mess with system files or something... Good suggestion, though.

comment by knb · 2016-02-16T07:11:04.934Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I just installed Google Play on a Kindle Fire tablet using this.

comment by DataPacRat · 2016-02-15T03:48:53.662Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Prediction Markets Going Wrong?

How many ways are there for a prediction market to go wrong?

In my story's current draft, once my protagonist upload has made a few copies of himself, I have him start up a prediction market to try to improve his decision-making, such as the likelihood any given plan will reach a useful goal. (Using currency created ab nihilo via a Bitcoin-like blockchain.) I have his similar copies end up coming to an overconfident consensus, leading to an explosive disaster, leading to attempts to deliberately diversity his copies' mindstates. Initially by simple psychological priming, later by more potentially dubious experimentation.

I only have an interested amateur's understanding of prediction markets, and have nearly no conception of the complications involved, such as what design choices are available when founding one or how many ways one can go wrong (other than the particular item in the previous paragraph). If there's anything you'd like to see in a story with a prediction market, or if you have any advice or references I can read up on, I'd appreciate your input.

(The idea I'm currently pondering: if it would be feasible to use a prediction market to generate answers to the question, "Which rights (or 'rights') should we include in our constitutional Bill of Rights, and which should we leave out?")

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-02-15T10:01:24.455Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It might make sense to read about augur in detail and the justification for their design choices.

It's worth understanding how scoring of predictions work. Do you have a central authority? Do you have something like Augur's reputation?

For abstract goals like reach a useful goal it's quite important who actually puts forward the wording of a specific question.

How can repredictions be judged? Augur has Right/Wrong/Unclear or Immoral. Immoral is particularly interesting. Did a certain person die to fix the prediction market and thus the prediction is an assignation market and should be judged as immoral or isn't it?

What are the mechanics of the crypto-currency? If you take Augur than some bets might be make in complicated currencies like Dai. That currency might crash because the there isn't enough insurance to pay for changing price.

Prediction markets go wrong when there a high inflation in money because the prediction market requires locking up money for a given time. If the goal is somewhere in the future there can be a requirement to pay subventions to counteract the interest someone would earn on money. How liquid is the prediction market and how much money can be gained by effecting the result by buying shares to manipulate the price?

comment by Viliam · 2016-02-15T08:54:33.305Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Prediction markets are driven by money. If someone has more money than the rest of prediction market together, they can burn the money to support a wrong prediction. Why would they do that? Presumably doing this brings them more benefit than the money spent. I can imagine two situations:

a) The prediction markets are new, only a few people bet there, so there is not so much money there. You may have a business that would be endangered by prediction markets becoming popular (e.g. people pay you for providing the expert opinion). Thus you spend money hoping to discredit the very concept of the prediction market.

b) People start trusting prediction markets blindly. For example, if the market predicts that X will become a president, people will not even bother to vote for the competitors, because "what's the point? they're going to lose anyway". In such case, X may be willing to burn a lot of money in order to convince people that he is going to become the president, because that will become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and his sponsors are willing to invest that money. For the sake of story, let's make it dramatic: the person intends to become a dictator, nationalize a lot of stuff, and give it to his sponsors; this is why the sponsors are willing to invest insane amounts of money, because they bet on getting much more in return.

By the way, "prediction market" being right in general doesn't mean that every answer will be correct. There may be answers where most people don't have a clue, and those will attract much less votes (but still some, because people are irrational).

comment by MrMind · 2016-02-15T09:41:38.581Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Two things come to mind, but they are possibly only tangentially related.
First: the second half of McAfee's economic analysis (available online) is devoted to market inefficiencies.
Second: there's a chapter in Jaynes book about group invariance, that is how a piece of information can leave the prediction of a set of agents unchanged. Might be relevant.

comment by LessWrong (LessWrong1) · 2016-02-21T10:17:21.180Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've been reading HPMOR for the past week (currently at TSPE aftermath) and I'd like to recommend it to anyone who hasn't read it yet.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-02-20T13:05:39.762Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

How good is the case for supplementing Vitamin K2 along with Vitamin D3?

comment by polymathwannabe · 2016-02-22T13:41:42.180Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I just happen to have finished a work assignment on that subject. The case is pretty good, it seems.

comment by gjm · 2016-02-18T13:51:32.884Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

[Comment removed because it drew attention to links between online identities of someone who turns out not to want attention drawn to them.]

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2016-02-19T01:47:19.258Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

FWIW, GateOfHeavens started a couple years before aristosophy ended.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-02-18T17:43:37.272Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

There seems to be a facebook account for him, who's friends with a bunch of LW people (from my end there are 13 shared friends). How about simply sending them a message over facebook and a friend request?

As a general rule if you think that the person wants to stay annonymous by using a nickname, why publically write a post about the link between different accounts?

comment by gjm · 2016-02-19T00:24:34.027Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

[Comment removed because like its grandparent it leaked information about a third party's identities.]

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-02-19T11:36:18.552Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

His facebook account itself might be the place where he posts.

comment by Val · 2016-02-17T21:36:29.066Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

What might be the cause of the perceived difference between the atheists/nontheists in Europe and in the USA?

I have the general feeling that the average atheist in the USA, when asked about religion, will be very open about believing religion to be either evil or ridiculously stupid, and will make at least a few remarks about how idiot those lunatics must be who believe that there are invisible people living on the top of the clouds. On the other hand, in Europe you are more likely to hear that "well, I'm not very religious", but many would culturally still identify as a Christian, and will held marriages, child naming ceremonies, funerals etc. in a church, and might even rarely, but occasionally go to church on a bigger festival (like Christmas) because it looks or feels nice.

I wonder why. I know much more Europeans than Americans, so it might be that the louder voices are better heard from a group I have less contact with, or it might be that because in the USA the Christian fundamentalists are louder than in Europe, so the atheist fundamentalists are also louder.

I'm fully aware that I based this observation mostly on people I have contact with, and in at least a small part being influenced by popular culture, but I don't know of any exhaustive research or survey comparing the cultural standpoint of nontheists specifically regarding the differences between Europe and the USA.

comment by Viliam · 2016-02-18T11:24:36.341Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I guess that it is the religious freedom and religious diversity that keeps religions in USA more "alive". Religions compete with each other, try to convert each other's followers, keep the religious memes virulent. People work harder to signal belonging to their religion. And atheists living in the same culture work harder to signal their atheism.

In Europe historically you often had one mandatory religion per country. Without competition, priests got lazy and religion got boring. Some people lost their faith in religion, some people still believed in the religion but also saw the lazyness and corruption of the church, so you got many people who publicly identified as religious, but tried to do as little as possible about it. Those who identify as atheists are quite similar in behavior to the most lazy of those who identify as religious.

Metaphorically, the American religious landscape is a few separated shining colorful dots, atheism being one of them; the traditional European religious landscape is a gray bell curve, atheism being one of the ends. (The people you describe as "culturally still identifying as a Christian" are somewhere at 90% of the curve. There are also real atheists at the end, but they are fewer.)

I imagine that the increase of Islam might change this picture in the future; that the group of "lukewarm Christians" may decrease because (1) there will be attempts to convert them to Islam, and in response to that (2) the Christians may also wake up and start radicalizing their lazier members, and (3) some people will start identifying as atheists because they will dislike both of these options. Then, instead of the bell curve, we will have three separate groups.

comment by currymesurprised · 2016-02-17T23:58:48.221Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

One straightforward theory is that a person who identifies as Christian isn't an atheist, so you're comparing "apples and oranges".

comment by bogus · 2016-02-18T03:02:21.439Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

True, but there are plenty of bona-fide atheists in Eastern Europe (e.g. Czech Republic) and they still don't seem to be very loud or make a big deal of their atheism. So Val's point is still true when we compare these cases.

comment by TheAltar · 2016-02-17T22:24:14.306Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would certainly be interested in seeing data on the phenomenon as well. From what I've personally seen, I would think there's a large distinction between a person who was raised atheist/nontheist and a person who had to intentionally and actively extricate themselves from a religious organization (and more importantly all the religious thought that comes with it).

Removing yourself from a social group has costs to achieve and lots of detriments socially. Removing yourself from a massive set of ways of thinking (all tied together in a convoluted memeplex) that have been embedded into you by intelligent adults since you were a small child has a high cost to pull off, is easily emotionally troublesome, and is liable to distance you quite a bit from the people, ideas, social groups, accepted customs, and general life support you grew up with. (If you don't see an easy way to imagine this, try thinking of how difficult it might be to remove all of Rationality from your own brain. How would you even begin? What kinds of costs would that have on your thoughts, emotions, relationships, social groups, etc.?)

By the time you're done with all of this, then you're going to be less likely to widely respect the organization you removed yourself from and any organizations that are similar. You're likely going to be at least a little bit annoyed at having ever been in a less preferable situation beforehand (do you relish being less rational in the past?) and you're likely to have lost respect for people who are in the previous state that you used to exist in (those poor irrational people out there!). All of this will, of course, vary widely from person to person and some will be able to give up an organization with a weak hold on their thoughts and social contacts (holiday-only catholic churchgoer?) than others will (three times a week charismatic churchgoer?).

Overall I see Europeans existing in the first group (2nd+ generation atheists) while many Americans live in the second (1st generation atheists). This at least matches up to experiences I've seen in friends, though I don't know if it's a dominating reason or as common as I currently imagine.

comment by OrphanWilde · 2016-02-17T21:58:35.414Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

In the US, religion, in particular Christianity, is seen by many atheists as distinctly lower-class, and is associated in particular with the working classes. This makes atheists work overhard at differentiating themselves from Christianity, to the extent of attempting to deny or minimize any cultural influence from religion.

comment by knb · 2016-02-18T12:17:26.487Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, it seems to me that outspoken atheism is often a striver trait. Strivers typically feel the need to draw a sharp distinction between themselves and the lower class they come from.

comment by TheAltar · 2016-02-17T22:33:42.998Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

And even if you're just a later-generation atheist trying to fit in with other atheists, you'll end up attempting to conform to that similar level of original distancing.

comment by Old_Gold · 2016-02-24T06:48:36.285Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

What might be the cause of the perceived difference between the atheists/nontheists in Europe and in the USA?

Where in Europe? Richard Dawkins is from England and organized things like the infamous atheist bus campaign.

Also numerous European countries used to have atheist militants, of the priest-killing or at least send-priests-to-labor-camps variety.

comment by CellBioGuy · 2016-02-17T22:08:32.163Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

On the other hand, in Europe you are more likely to hear that "well, I'm not very religious", but many would culturally still identify as a Christian, and will held marriages, child naming ceremonies, funerals etc. in a church, and might even rarely, but occasionally go to church on a bigger festival (like Christmas) because it looks or feels nice.

I can't speak to Europe. But I have a friend/fellow grad student that moved here from the Caucuses who calls himself wholeheartedly orthodox Christian despite being decidedly along the above-described 'don't-care' to 'nope' spectrum about actual theological claims. Once called it 'an interface for dealing with stuff that every human has to deal with' loosely quoting.

comment by TheAltar · 2016-02-17T22:35:18.417Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I notice in my own brain that I have trouble defining or accepting association with religion as something that isn't a 0 or a 1. I think that's obviously an irrational thought, but I'm not sure how to get around it either. This may also occur with other Americans.

comment by [deleted] · 2016-02-17T14:12:57.207Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

containment thread 2

1. Manipulating financial markets for fun and profit

While emerging market regulators have not identified specific skills sets required of surveillance staff, survey results highlight that the common skills that regulators and exchanges seek in surveillance analysts include data mining and analytical skills and the ability to understand the mechanics of the electronic trading environment, i.e. trade flow and processes and to analyse and evaluate surveillance technology programs and procedures. In addition, maintaining a good contact of networks with the industry in order to draw leads of potential market abuse and facilitate the understanding of market trends and market behaviour is a critical aspect to supplement surveillance efforts.

-Approaches to market surveillance in developing markets by the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) who are practically begging for regulatory capture. Wanna fuck a wealthy investor? Become a regulator!

IOSCO explicitly outlines their recommended investigatory methodology in market manipulation from pg. 12 onwards. This allows for stealth adaptations, and since they also describe their recommended approach to prosecution, dodging the po-lice. Thanks for the how-to guide IOSCO. Oh, did I mention a document on specific technological limitations to policing this kind of thing? Anyone want to rob a banking system?

According to the Australian regulation:

The Market Integrity Enforcement team typically had over 85 matters under investigation at any one time during the relevant period


yet only 3 insider trading, 2 market manipulation, 8 infringment and 2 pecuniary penalty actions where taken overall (table 1). Table 3 shows that 122 inquiries where made into suspicious behaviour. That's a lot of false positives. And this is all really basic stuff. Even batman villain Bane could think of something creative like a terror attack against a stock market to capitalise on it (his client shorted first, presumably). Of course, this doesn't work IRL because terrorists attacks even on the exchange tends to have a rather innocuous short-lived effect, with exceptions like 911. However, an attack on a particular company might be very different.

Insider trading surveillance basically hinges on big money trades (and that's big money from the perspective of hedge funds...) that are subsequently investigated. If you're a regular joe and your friend billy works at the listed company in quesiton and leaks some reliable, market sensitive info to you, you basically get some big wins, pre-empting the market, scot free. What suprises me then is that this not-insignificant profit opportunity doesn't have a bottom-up criminal infrastructure. Where are teh darkweb forums for this kind of deals! Where the stories of shady dealings by your friend Pete! In the meantime, I gotta make me some friends in some listed companies....maybe some biotech peeps working in R&D...

Are 'anonymous' smart contracts, known only by the parties involved plausible? Should they be functional, I envision that insider trading will being unregulatable if conducting via darknet anonymous smartcontracts. Someone could set up a tor site that connects scientists with financiers who then formulate an anonymous smartcontract that binds that scientists to lose $100,000 if the value of a stock is lower after new years day, since the scientist has told the financer (before it has become public knowledge) that the company will announce that they have been granted FDA approval for a drug, or something like that on Christmas. However, if the stock price rises by a threshold amount, they are to receive $1million from the financier. Meanwhile, the financier will invest $2M in the stock and expect an appreciation greater than the amount he will reward the scientist with for his trust. Too easy.

2. Tobacco control undervalued as an opportunity to give?: Only for heretical strands of EA

Tobacco control is undervalued if:

  • you are a total utilitarian, rather than favouring the personal-affecting view, since the mortality is humongous for smoking

  • you don't factor in 'justice' considerations, where you believe 'choice' to start smoking in spite of public health recommendations should be punished with less altruism than otherwise

  • you don't believe GiveWell donors will pay proportional multiplayer game theoretic attention to Development Media International, a standout charity that doesn't make the top 4 cut and promotes avoidance of smoking among other things

  • you give extra value to local problems (e.g. for tractability or sustainability reasons), since smoking is a big issue in the developed world too (unlike deworming)

3. Amateur intelligence analysis

Is there a credible risk that terror attacks on underground storm water drains could bring down buildings, or otherwise causing mass casualties (such as by some consequence to critical drainage infrastructure)? Cross posted at: /r/credibledefence

4. The relative value of contributing to LW vs Wikipedia

Would the time you spent posting here in LessWrong have been better spent posting on Wikipedia?

comment by Vaniver · 2016-02-17T14:19:47.241Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Even batman villain Bane could think of something creative like a terror attack against a stock market to capitalise on it (his client shorted first, presumably). Of course, this doesn't work IRL because terrorists attacks even on the exchange tends to have a rather innocuous short-lived effect, with exceptions like 911. However, an attack on a particular company might be very different.

Also worth pointing out is that the feds investigated everyone who shorted airline stocks before 9/11. (See here; they all turned out to be innocuous.)

comment by PECOS-9 · 2016-02-21T06:25:37.365Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Anyone have recommendations of fiction along the lines of Worm and HPMOR that are also very long (>400k words)?

comment by gjm · 2016-02-22T17:57:38.163Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You probably already know this, but the author of Worm has written another long (though not so long) serial called Pact and is in the middle of another called Twig. If you enjoyed Worm and haven't read those yet, you might give them a try.

comment by drethelin · 2016-02-21T20:03:48.882Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Harry Potter and the Natural 20 has a lot of characters optimizing in interesting ways in response to the constraints of their universe, but their universe's laws are a lot less realistic than Worm or HPMOR. The Ethshar books by Lawrence Watt-Evans are not one coherent story but there are a lot of books set in the same world. Miles Vorkosigan has the whole "cunning main character thinks outside the box to beat impossible odds" dynamic and there are a bunch of books that follow him and his life, although the fact that he ages throughout them gives them a pretty different feel than the chronologically much shorter timespan of HPMOR.

comment by TheAltar · 2016-02-22T17:36:51.707Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

There's a subreddit for rational/rationalist fiction that may interest you or have a longer list of suggestions than here. I think the subreddit was

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2016-02-19T01:28:11.579Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Did someone change the threshold for hiding comments? Didn't it use to be that -4 comments were hidden and now -3 are?

comment by Vaniver · 2016-02-19T02:19:05.376Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, that was recently changed. You can adjust your personal thresholds in the user preferences setting. [Edit: only works for posts.]

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2016-02-19T02:40:54.000Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

As your link explains, the setting is a lie.

comment by Vaniver · 2016-02-19T02:55:48.433Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hmm, you're right. I only tested the posts setting (which does appear to work), not the comments one.

comment by LessWrong (LessWrong1) · 2016-02-17T06:42:53.758Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Marriage: Civilization's BIggest Mistake

Something that bothers me about this is the all-too-common idea that kids are unruly and will cause endless destruction. I remember my parents being anxious to leave me alone at home and me thinking "Umm what? What could I do?" and being proud the house didn't look like whatever's left after a direct hit from a nuke.

Why's that?

comment by Viliam · 2016-02-17T12:30:59.167Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Seems to me that the problem isn't marriage per se, but atomic families. I assume that many people would prefer "spend 50% of time taking care of 4 children, then have 50% free time" to "spend 100% of time taking care of 2 children, no free time". If your sister lives the next door, it's easy to arrange. If you have good relationship with the neighbors who have children of similar age, still possible.

The article is in my opinion rather stupid. It essentially suggests putting kids into institutional care. The author probably never heard anything about what typically happens to children in such institutions. (That's the charitable assumption; the uncharitable one would be that the author just doesn't care.) My Facebook friend list happens to include a person who frequently interacts with such institutions, and after reading all the horror stories, I think almost anything is better than the institutional care; except when the child is abused at home (and I don't mean "microaggressions" or anything like that).

When a kid is in school, one teacher controls 20-30 kids. That is an efficient system, and the teacher probably doesn’t mind the work.

As a former teacher, let me say emphatically: Fuck you!!! The school system only works when the parents gave the kids good upbringing. Otherwise, it quickly becomes dysfunctional. (That's why having classmates from good families is so important when choosing a school for your child. Those will influence whether your kids will be allowed to learn anything at school.) And now we suggest removing the parents from the equation almost completely.

My best guess is that 75% of kids are damaged by bad parenting. Here again I am comparing it to some sort of co-op arrangement in which the kids are never the captive victims of a drunken parent, a stupid parent, a violent parent, a mentally disturbed parent, an unreasonable parent, a too-demanding parent, and so on.

The only problem here is how exactly you put together those 75% of bad parents and turn them into a Friendly co-op. How the people stop being drunk / stupid / violent / mentally disturbed / etc. just because you sort them into groups. If you answer this, we could solve so much social problems -- just sort people into groups, and it's done!

If you don't want to take care about kids, use contraception. Or be strategic, and find trustworthy friends who want to have children at approximately the same time, and would like to share the time with them. But if you rely on institutions, you are an abusive parent, in which case it would be ethically better to not become a parent.

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2016-02-16T04:45:39.553Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Miniature brains seem like they could become very important.

Can they be kept alive for long? Can they be enlarged? Can they be trained? Is the distinction between human neurons and other mammalian neurons significant?

To prompt some discussion, say someone tried to build "self-driving" cars in the following way: put a big brain full of rat neurons in a vat, hook it up to a car, and then train it to navigate.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-02-16T19:01:37.448Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

To prompt some discussion, say someone tried to build "self-driving" cars in the following way: put a big brain full of rat neurons in a vat, hook it up to a car, and then train it to navigate.

I don't think that would solve any of the problems of driverless cars. The problems of driverless cars are about handling a lot of edge cases that don't come up often that a human can solve by having a decent mental model of the situation he's facing.

Why should we expect those rat-brain to have good mental models?

According to Musk self-driving cars while need to have a 10x reduction in traffic accidents to be viable. That won't work if you basically train mouse brains to do the same thing that humans do.

comment by Vaniver · 2016-02-16T14:03:15.105Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is the distinction between human neurons and other mammalian neurons significant?

Mice with human glial cells are smarter. New Scientist, Cell Stem Cell (pretty sure that's the paper, but it might be an earlier one)

comment by Brillyant · 2016-02-15T15:16:48.875Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

How would a Donald Trump presidency effect the probability we achieve friendly AI before Clippy arrives?

Also, it appears OP used Comic Sans. Hm.

comment by [deleted] · 2016-02-15T18:59:34.065Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The Comic Sans thing might be my fault...I may have alerted Elo to widespread distaste for the font.

comment by Elo · 2016-02-16T15:53:07.052Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I knew before, I don't really see the font face any more very much because it's so everywhere...

comment by [deleted] · 2016-02-16T16:44:37.050Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Shh don't take this away from me.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2016-02-23T21:10:02.747Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Increase, as Hillary would store the top-secret AGI code on her personal server.

comment by Elo · 2016-02-16T15:52:37.674Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sorry sorry sorry. Fixed. When I copied the header I forgot to remove the font face that get's pushed to my browser via comic-sans browsing...

comment by gjm · 2016-02-16T17:00:57.784Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

via comic-sans browsing


comment by [deleted] · 2016-02-19T14:06:00.123Z · score: -3 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Why I don’t want to explore storm water drains

*Or, terrifying excerpts from a how-to guide on exploring drains

If there is a protruding wall and you can't get up a shaft in time, get in close to the downstream side of that wall. This is not very safe but it is better than standing in the path of the oncoming maelstrom. Hanging from a grille is not so good either, you will be dumped on (and may lose your grip) but that might be better than being flushed a few km at high speed. Staying out of the flow is mega-priority... nothing can ruin your day like a derilect lawnmower in the back of the head, and there are nastier things in the feeder canals than old 44 gallon drums; roofing beams, bits of rail track, shopping trolleys. The flow smashes them all along, and they are bad news.

Emergency escape tacticsFirst thing to do is keep cool and rational, don't panic. You are in control. Then leave in a hurry. What if you're 2km from the entrance? Well, use your brain. Water heads for the lowest point... so go to the nearest, preferably downstream manhole shaft and climb up it, and wait for the flood to scream by below you. You need not pop the cover, just stay in the shaft, and climb higher than any `bathtub ring' of polystyrene balls and dead grass you see on the shaft wall. Be warned, you may be up there a long time before the raging torrent desists. It will be loud and frightening, but breathe calmly, conserve your airspace.

Ok, so you're up a drain and notice the side tunnel flow increasing a bit. Check the water. Is it dirty? Is it oily? If yes, it is likely to be raining and you're in something far worse than deep shit if you don't do something about it.

Pay attention to what's going onThings to notice when a drain is filling up: the air currents change, as does the noise level. A quiet drain soon gets noisy as the side tunnels and drop junctions start dumping into the main canal. When lots of water goes into a drain, the air is displaced, and you notice big gusts of wind... this is particularly true if the roads were hot when the rain landed on them; the warm water goes into the drain, heats the air above it, which expands, pushing cold air out in front of it.

Rain and the legendary flash floodThe media and authorities point to the alliterative "flash flood' phenomenon quite a lot. Flash flooding - flooding without warning - is bullshit. It does NOT happen. You have between two and four minutes to get out, up a shaft or on a high ledge before the system is primed... IF you know how to read the signals and don't mess about getting to high ground. You can generally tell if the drain you're in has ever flooded to the top, look for polystyrene bits stuck to the roof or bits of plastic and stick protruding from high stepirons or joints in the pipe or walls.

In theory one could conceivably get anything from a sewage overflow into a drain. Cuts are common when one falls over, and people have occasionally ingested runoff unintentionally. VERY nasty things are more common in sewers than stormwater: Leptospirosis, for instance, is contractable via the skin, and can live for 3 weeks in fresh water (but is killed relatively quickly in salt water). Leptospiria icterohaemorragiae, the causative agent, will kill you in a week or so, or at least damage your hepatic and renal systems. Trouble is, it appears as a cold, rapidly degenerates into pneumonia, and then kills you due to fun things like hepatic failure. You have to smash it with antibiotics during its incubation period, after which time it is too late and you tend to die.

Protozoans are rare, the amebiasis and the Toxoplasmosis Gondii pathogens mainly reside in the sewer system. As for the elusive cryptosporidium... who knows. If it can get in your drinking water, you'll probably find it in stormwater too, and if ingested this protozoan will cause diarrhoea and stomach cramps. Giardia is also occasionally found in stormwater.

From the fungi and worm families, one finds the Ctenomyces interdigitalis (tinea) eumycete is uncommon, though the pathogens for ringworm and the favosan tinea dermatomycoses are present usually. Histoplasmosis is a fungi mainly obtained from pigeon shit dust which contains the spores... another reason why these pests are known as the rats of the air. It can become chronic and has permaturely ended lives of cavers, generally knocking the shit out of your lungs first, then ulcerating the respiratory tract, including nose and ears, eventually going for bone marrow.

Faecal Escherichia coli bacterium is common... indeed, most of the waterborne pathogens and parasitic organisms are available to you, including things from the pseudomonas family, the vibrios, the aerobacters, the proteus group, paracolobactrum, salmonella, various tubercelle bacilli... all of these are happy in water and use it as a transmission vector.

Generally it is the microscopic inhabitants which cause trouble. Drains carry significant amounts of sewer overflow, dog shit, rotting plant material and the occasional dead animal. Particularly after rain, drains contain elevated levels of sewer material, since the sewer is built to overflow into the storm drainage system instead of bursting out ino the street where the population can see it and get ill from it. If cut in a drain, attend to it as soon as possible with ethanol or other disinfectant. Deep puncture wounds (stepping on nails, broken glass, etc) are open routes to clostridium tetanii (tetanus).

Occasionally you will meet someone who lives in a drain or abandoned factory and they may consider you a trespasser. Since the economic rationalisation of the mental health system more and more disturbed individuals have been turned loose to fend for themselves. They tend to live in cheap housing such as the places we explore recreationally. When one is a guest, one respects the wishes of the host. If they suggest you should fuck off, don't wait for a stronger invitation. Sometimes, however, they are quite friendly and enjoy a visit.

I have yet to see a saltwater crocodile in a drain but I wouldnt be surprised if such were found in Darwin, where the tides are huge (8 to 10m) and the crocs are plentiful. I could only suggest that you carry a 12-gague shotgun with solid load shells, since crocs are fast, powerful and vicious. They are also patient, and if you go up a shaft will probably wait for you to come down again. These dinosaurs have not lasted for as long as they have by being stupid. Note that discharging a shotgun, pyrotechnic or explosive device in a confined space like a tunnel will significantly damage your hearing if you wear no earplugs, and the smoke from the burnt propellant is a respiratory irritant.

Mosquitoes tend to aggregate in stagnant puddles, they are worth your vigilance due to the pathogens they carry.

Large numbers of hibernating bats are sometimes found on the roof of drains. Some may carry Lyssavirus, which was responsible for a fatality in Queensland in 1996. They will not attack you, just leave them alone. They will do their utmost not to fly into you.

Ok, so you have just popped a cover in the middle of nowhere, and a drain yawns invitingly below you. Now then, is it safe to breathe? You can always lash out on pellistor-detector driven gas analysis systems, (Jaycar sell a kit (KG9178, $35) which picks up carbon monoxide and flammable volatiles, I don't know anything about their accuracy) but usually the average drain explorer will not have these things handy.

Manhole shafts tend to have spiders and cockroaches living in them. These organisms breathe oxygen like us, serving as a useful way to determine if O2 is actually present. Note that they can live on a lot less O2 than we can, and that just because there are a heap of cockies down there it doesn't mean the air is OK. Total lack of it will kill them as well as us, of course.

CockroachesThese guys are pretty tough, and some people are mis-informed as they think when they lift a manhole and see a hundred or so hanging about under the top of the manhole, that the air is OK. The reason they are doing this is because they are trying to get OXYGEN. Don't be conned and think cockroaches mean it is 100% safe.

One of the things the neophyte drainer discovers is that drains are slippery. That is, the surface is either covered in algal slime or is just implicitly smooth due to erosion and wetness. There is a wide variety of conditions, ranging from virgin rough concrete to slimy red brick, cement pipe, plastic, surfaces covered in pebbles, mud, broken glass and assorted members of the slime families. Until one is used to it, one tends to just fall over a lot, usually to the mirth of ones colleagues.