Open thread, Dec. 29, 2014 - Jan 04, 2015

post by MrMind · 2014-12-29T11:10:37.187Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 165 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 Timothy Telleen-Lawton (erratim) · 2015-01-02T04:17:48.898Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hi, I've been following LW and the occasional article for a couple years but have never posted any comments. Now I'd like to post an article but I need 20 karma to do so. If you don't mind up-voting this comment to allow me to do that, please do!

If it helps, the post I've drafted is about some of the altruistic eating arguments I've seen in the broader LW network such as:

I use one neoclassical economic and one intuitive appeal to argue that they could all be simpler and more accurate by leaving out elasticities. LW seems like the perfect forum for this discussion!

Happy to share the draft privately before it's posted if that affects your desire to up-vote this comment, or any recommendations as to whether it's more appropriate for Main or Discussion.


Replies from: erratim
comment by Timothy Telleen-Lawton (erratim) · 2015-01-05T15:57:00.896Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks to everyone who granted me karma! I just posted the article here:

comment by a_lurker · 2014-12-29T23:08:22.974Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I’m looking for a mentor who is in the software industry.

About me: I’m studying math at a university in Ohio, and I’ll graduate in May. I’m a mostly self taught programmer, but I’ve also taken a few CS classes at school and on Coursera. My most developed skills are in Python and Django, though I’ve also used C, C#, Haskell, SQL, Javascript and a few other technologies.

My goal is to find a job as a software developer, but I face several challenges:

  • I don’t have any job experience in software.
  • I don’t know many people in the industry.
  • My university’s Career Services isn’t very helpful.

So I’m looking for somebody who can answer some questions and give me advice on getting started in the industry. I know it’s a long shot, but there is no downside to asking. If anybody is willing to help, please PM me.

Replies from: djm, emr, Adele_L
comment by djm · 2014-12-30T13:39:29.652Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Instead of using a name like a_lurker and asking for PM's I would suggest going trying to be a little more public - your goal should be to display to potential employers that you can code. This is actually harder than it sounds, as programmers (especially self taught) are more likely to be introverted and don't like marketing themselves. [from my personal perspective]

Some suggestions would be:

  1. Pick some sort of professional sounding name for yourself (doesn't have to be a business name) that you want to be known as - better if it is rare on google. You will use this name to promote your knowledge and collaboration on many websites

  2. Register a domain - even if it is a .info with a simple About you page, saying you are looking for work and your resume. This website should be in your email signature and plugged on other site below.

  3. Start a github account (learn git first) and publish something - anything that you think was good code [as long as it isn't the answer to any of your course assignments]

  4. Answer questions on Stackoverflow with your professional name - and ask questions. Don't spam it, but don't be afraid to ask stupid questions.

  5. Get a linkedin account and grow your network there

Happy to answer any PM's you have, but you should think about promoting yourself if you want work.



comment by emr · 2015-01-02T08:06:03.588Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not a mentor, but I'm in a similar situation. I have a math degree (with some CS) from a unremarkable school, no work experience, no network, and no web presence. I've had success getting interviews at large tech companies just by applying online. There's usually a job listing aimed at recent graduates. I should mention that I have fairly credible signals of CS skill on my resume (meaning I list some things I've built and say a few words about each), a decent academic record, and a fortunate aptitude for the sort of algorithm questions they like to ask during screening phone interviews.

To be clear, my first onsite interview is coming up, so who knows how it will turn out :) Be careful who you take advice from! Although this is very limited information, it seems I was under-confident that these companies would talk at all to someone who had e.g. no work experience and no referral. I would have told my past self to apply earlier!

comment by Adele_L · 2015-01-01T01:28:16.737Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm in a similiar situation - been studying math, but looking to get a programming job. I've been using the well-accliamed Cracking the Coding Interview book to prepare for interviews. If you're interested, I would be happy to trade advice, review, or questions.

Right now, I think the main thing I need to work on is building up my network. I've done most of djm's suggestions already.

comment by shminux · 2014-12-30T23:21:43.709Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I believe that “the problem of the nerdy heterosexual male” is surely one of the worst social problems today that you can’t even acknowledge as being a problem—the more so, if you weight the problems by how likely academics like me are to know the sufferers and to feel a personal stake in helping them. How to help all the young male nerds I meet who suffer from this problem, in a way that passes feminist muster, and that triggers the world’s sympathy rather than outrage, is a problem that interests me as much as P vs. NP, and that right now seems about equally hard.

Scott Aaronson

Replies from: Viliam_Bur, Sarunas, James_Miller, knb
comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-12-31T16:24:11.750Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Reading debates like this makes me sad. I realize that just like everything else, feminism also is a tool that different people can use for different purposes. Some people can use it to support empathy towards other human beings. Some people use it to deny empathy towards other human beings. Somehow the latter seem more prominent on the internet.

There is something in the impersonal online communication that emphasises sociopathic traits in people. When in real life you see a suffering man, you usually don't see feminists running to him screaming "actually, I have it much worse!". But when you see a man writing about his suffering online, this is what often happens. Maybe it's because behaving like an asshole in real life is likely to bring you a punch in the face or at least a loss of status, while doing the same on internet generates page views and income, if you do it properly.

Like polymathwannabe wrote, there is a meaningful definition of "privilege" (although I would prefer the word "advantage"), which is: "Maybe you are just a lucky person who doesn't have this problem, so you don't think about this problem, and you may even find it unbelievable, but for some other people this is an important factor in their lives." This is the core that makes sense.

The part of the online discource that doesn't make sense is the frequent claim that this "privilege" is unidirectional: "If you separate people into two groups X and Y, exactly one of them will have problems that the other side doesn't see." There is an illogical jump from "group X has on average more problems than group Y" to "problems of the group X are a strict superset of problems of the group Y". This implicit assumption manifests in a debate when people from group Y are told to "check their privilege", but is assumed that people from group X have no provilege to check. (Unless we consider some other dimension, so e.g. people from X1 may have privilege over people from X2, but still never a privilege over Y1.)

Like Sarunas described, the problem is replacing the reality with a simplified multilinear model. First problem, the model depends on which variables are included and which are excluded, which is somewhat an arbitrary decision, so of course people are prone to include the variables which "prove" their oppression, and exclude the variables which "disprove" it. (For example, there is usually a strong emphasis on "male privilege", but very little emphasis on "rich privilege". Which is coincidentally exactly the kind of bias you would expect if the theory is popular among female Harvard students.) Second problem, the multilinear assumption itself may be wrong, even if we include all the relevant variables. Third problem, even if the multilinear model would descibe the averages of groups accurately, individuals are not the averages of their groups. It doesn't make much sense to assume that a random black homeless man has a lot of power and money just because a different individual from the "black male" group happens to be a US president.

Replies from: therufs, therufs
comment by therufs · 2015-01-02T02:20:54.561Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

For example, there is usually a strong emphasis on "male privilege", but very little emphasis on "rich privilege".

This is, in my estimation, a real problem for the sometimes disjunct groups of rationalists and social justice types alike, and one I haven't yet come up with a good solution for other than "talk about class a lot".

Replies from: Viliam_Bur
comment by Viliam_Bur · 2015-01-03T13:47:15.261Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I guess most people who talk about "class" don't actually have a good idea about what it means. We have the approximate idea of "if you have more money and more power, you are a higher class", but most people are completely uncalibrated; they do not know how the power ladder actually works. So, as would be expected of humans, they usually divide the whole society into two classes, US and THEM, where "us" means people who make as much money as me, or less; and "them" means people who make more money than me. So the guy next door who makes twice as much money as I do is put into the same set as the oligarchs who rule the country. Then the oligarchs will make a law that increases the tax for the guy next door, and I will celebrate it.

(For example, the government of Slovakia created a new extra tax for "people with income between 2000 and 3000 euro monthly, except for lawyers" and called it "the millionaire tax". It was depressing to see all the left-wing people celebrating it, because if it is called "the millionaire tax" in the pro-government media, then of course it targets the millionaires, and not just some IT guy next doors. One could naively think that being ruled by Marxists for almost a century should give these people at least some insight into the class fight. But they merely remember the passwords.)

So far the best description of class system I found online is "The 3-ladder system of social class in the U.S." (I guess it pretty much works for other countries, too).

In my opinion, the critical part is to realize that class isn't money, although it correlates. Imagining that people with a lot of money are automatically upper-class, that is confusing the cause and the effect. The real causation is in the opposite direction. The upper-class people have sources of money unavailabble to muggles, but sometimes also an incredibly smart, intelligent and hard-working muggle can accumulate comparable amounts of money using completely different strategies. More articles from the same author:

Rich people are not automatically upper class. Steve Jobs was a billionaire but never entered it; he remained middle-class (in social position, not wealth) his entire life. His children, if they want to enter its lower tier, have a shot. Bill Gates is lower-upper class at best, and has worked very hard to get there. Money alone won’t buy it, and entrepreneurship is (by the standards of the upper class) the least respectable way to acquire wealth. Upper class is about social connections, not wealth or income.

The wealth of the upper class follows from social connection, and not the other way around. Americans frequently make the mistake of believing (especially when misled on issues related to taxation and social justice) that members of the upper class who earn seven- and eight-digit salaries are scaled-up versions of the $400,000-per-year, upper-middle-class neurosurgeon who has been working intensely since age 4. That’s not the case. The hard-working neurosurgeon and the well-connected parasite are diametric opposites, in fact. They have nothing in common and could not stand to be in the same room together, because their values are too much at odds.

Consider two analysts at a prestigious financial firm, both 24 years old and of equal drive, intelligence, and talent. Let’s also assume, for now, that none of their co-workers or managers know either analyst’s family background, except through their behavior. The middle-class kid spends the bulk of his time trying not to offend, not to behave in a way that might jeopardize the job he worked so hard to get and could not easily replace if he lost it. He doesn’t invite himself to meetings, avoids contact with high-ranking executives, and doesn’t offer suggestions when in meetings. Thanks to the fear he experiences on a daily basis, he’s seen as “socially awkward” and “mousy” by higher-ups. ... Even when they are cognitively aware of how to manage authority, the stakes of the career game for a middle-class striver, who will fall into humiliation and possibly poverty if he fails it, are so severe that only the well-trained and steel-nerved few can prevent these calamitously high risks from, at least to some degree, disrupting their game.

The rich kid, on the other hand, relates even to the highest-ranking executives as equals, because he knows that they are his social equals. He’ll answer to them, but with an understanding that his subordination is limited and offered in exchange for mentoring and protection. He views them as partners and colleagues, not judges or potential adversaries. Perhaps this is counterintuitive, but most of his bosses like this. His career advances fast. He respects others and himself and has an uncanny air of effortless “coolness” (by which I mean freedom from anxiety) that enables him to actually get things done. It becomes common knowledge that he’s “up-and-coming”, a rising star in his company. Even if his performance is smack-average or somewhat below, his effortless rise will not be deterred.

This “middle path” between self-defeat and entitled arrogance is narrow– a tightrope, metaphorically speaking. It is, I should note, of equal width and tension for both rich and poor. There is no intentional preference given to one class over the other. The difference is that children of wealth traverse it at a height of one meter over a mattress, while the middle-class and poor traverse it at a height of 20 meters over a lava pit.

I think I might have an advantage of being born in a Communist country, where the class differences not only existed just as strongly as they exist today (despite of what our propaganda was saying back then), but they existed in their raw form -- the power of social connections translated directly into the ability to help or hurt people, unobscured by the red herrings of education, skills and salary. (Education and skills are important to make this world a better place, but the social class is a different topic.)

Replies from: gedymin, Dahlen, emr
comment by gedymin · 2015-01-04T13:02:04.465Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Taxing the upper middle class is a generally good idea; they are the ones most capable and willing to pay taxes. Many European countries apply progressive tax rates. Calling it a millionanaire tax is a misnomer, or course, but otherwise I would support that (I'm from Latvia FYI)

Michael O. Church is certainly an interesting writer, but you should take into account that he basically is a programmer with no academic qualifications. Most of his posts appear to be wild generalizations of experiences personally familiar to him. (Not exclusively his own experiences, of course.) I suspect that he suffers heavily from the narrative fallacy.

Replies from: Viliam_Bur
comment by Viliam_Bur · 2015-01-05T17:52:34.310Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The reason why I like those articles are that they are compatible with my (very limited) experience with what I consider upper-class people. Of course I may be wrong, or me and the author can share the same bias, etc... I am just saying that there is more for me than merely interesting writing.

Taxing the middle class allows the government to get a lot of money easily: those are people who already have enough money that can be taken, but not enough money to defend themselves. From that angle, it is a good idea. On the other hand, the strategy of "taking money where taking money is easy" contributes to increasing the gap between the rich and the poor, and to elimination of the most productive part of the population, which some people would consider a bad idea. Unfortunately, the consequences of getting more tax money come quickly, and the consequences of destroying the middle class take more time.

comment by Dahlen · 2015-01-04T21:40:06.858Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Read Paul Fussell on socioeconomic class. (Kate Fox in her book Watching the English also has some interesting UK-specific commentary on class.) Some of the best stuff out there (that I know of).

Both of them focus on cultural and lifestyle differences, though -- just as a word of warning if that's not what you're looking for.

Gladwell in Outliers also has some interesting things to say on the influence of an upper class background on the skill to forge social connections, specifically in regards to comparing the respective achievements of Robert Oppenheimer (upper class) and Christopher Langan (very high IQ, but lower/middle class).

comment by emr · 2015-01-04T03:29:37.084Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I find the "labor and gentry" division interesting.

There is a sort of conservation argument against the sustainability of elite networks in the absence of the right sorts of coercive power. In addition, our emotion reactions to prestige, which depend more on relative position than absolute power, lead us to exaggerate how much domestic power is actually wielded by elites in a country like Sweden, or even the United States (this includes the self-perceptions of elites). The narrative tone that tends to be used when discussing elites is evidence of this.

Much of the identified elite are the decay products of the former upper echelons of labor and gentry. The known determinants of personal traits make it seem implausible that this group is self-sustaining (as an elite, rather than an upper-middle, group) in the manner that he describes (i.e. shared family environment leading to a dominant personality): And so the cost of valuing an elite appointee in excess of the expected value of their connections (versus investing in a meritocrat) should be large. Unless you can replenish the "wealth" of the network in a non-meritocratic way, this can't last. So this story says that elites are slowly being relieved of their resources down to the value of their non-network traits, knowingly (via donations) or by fitter agents, with the stock of elites being occasionally replenished by the other ladders. The rate of decay might depend on things like the relative growth rate of the elite, their access to corrupt power, and the strategies of other classes (taxation, exile, killing them, etc). We'd prefer the rate of decay to be higher rather than slower.

Does this argument make sense and predict anything useful? I'm not sure.

Replies from: Viliam_Bur
comment by Viliam_Bur · 2015-01-04T09:19:32.373Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, this was too complicated; I am not sure what you are saying. ELI5?

Replies from: emr
comment by emr · 2015-01-04T18:59:02.379Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm thinking about the United States, and what the linked article describes as an "elite" social class. I'm trying to be more explicit that what explains the character of an elite class is the attempt to control the transfer of elite status to the next generation of elites. The linked article doesn't explaining this well, presenting a model without much predictive value. A better model is something like:

People enter the elite class from other backgrounds via raw money and power. The initial entrant might be a military conquerer, a dominant politician, or a self-made billionaire. They will try to transfer their status to their children and friends, who display more the characteristic social traits of the elite. But the traits that initially propel people into the elite class aren't transfered perfectly. Specifically, you see regression on cognitive ability, personality, and luck. A good model of an elite class will be mostly a model of how elites try to prevent this regression on traits from bringing about a regression in social class.

Elites have historically used many strategies, but the best way is to make explicit political appointments. Even here, a society that does too much of this will find itself facing displacement by more meritocratic societies, and a segment of society that does more of this will face pressure from other segments. If an elite is only able to make commercial appointments, it faces an accelerated version of this pressure: The companies that get saddled with too many nth-generation-regressed elites will be eventually be displaced by more meritocratic companies, or more meritocratic internal divisions, or whatever.

The author tells several stories (about young nth generation elites) that exaggerate the ability of family environment to compensate for this regression in traits, and obscure the long term constraints that elites face. Historically, the strategy of elites encouraging the idea that particular social behaviors create elites (and then teaching their children those behaviors) doesn't seem to have much impact once you account for access to direct political appointments. The instant an elite group can no longer pass on special titles or get sinecures in the Royal Navy, we find that the social shibboleths are quickly discarded. It's a strategy based on obscuring the real nature of the transfer.

What he may have in mind, but doesn't say explicitly, is that making commercial appointments is only a sustainable way to transfer elite status if you can use commercial appointments to get some sort political power, and then convert that political power into a non-meritocratic source of further political power or commercial wealth. Not surprisingly, this is what American elites, (who are forced to rely on commercial appointments more than most historic elites), generally do: You mostly can't use political power to make direct political appointments, or use commercial power to give sustainable commercial power to descendants, but you can sort of bounce back and force between the two and hope to get enough edge.

I hope I've expressed that clearer. People have a vague sense of "money and politics" as the central thing in the American elite system, but I don't think they realize that this is simply elites trying to pass on elite status in the face of a reformed political system and commercial pressures that make the older methods less effective. Comparison of the United States to places like Russia are a mixed bag, because while the class system might have the same general form, American elites really are using quite different strategies.

comment by therufs · 2015-01-02T02:19:31.986Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

When in real life you see a suffering man, you usually don't see feminists running to him screaming "actually, I have it much worse!". But when you see a man writing about his suffering online, this is what often happens.

I wonder if this is because the set of visibly suffering men (e.g., most of the panhandlers I pass when driving anywhere in my town) doesn't overlap much with the set of men writing online about their suffering.

Replies from: Viliam_Bur
comment by Viliam_Bur · 2015-01-03T13:54:07.049Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not sure what exactly you wanted to say. It feels to me like unless a man is suffering extremely (unless he is disabled or homeless), it is not real suffering, and he does not deserve compassion. On the other hand, when a damsel is offended by a shirt...

Replies from: therufs
comment by therufs · 2015-01-03T18:22:15.488Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Offering a hypothesis for difference between meatspace and cyberspace behavior based on some informal observations (that isn't "everyone is awful on the internet", which may nevertheless be a better description of the problem).

Replies from: Viliam_Bur
comment by Viliam_Bur · 2015-01-03T20:26:17.532Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh yes, sorry. Yes, "how much people suffer" and "how much people complain about their suffering online" are two different things; most obvious example being the people without internet access.

comment by Sarunas · 2014-12-31T12:45:29.920Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If I understood the story correctly, Scott Aaronson was attacked mostly for paying too little attention to the feminist (well, not only theirs) concept of "privilege". I will try to paraphrase the concept of "privilege" (if I understand it correctly) using the terms of statistics in a way that, I imagine, might lead someone to accept the concept. This way, hopefully, I will be able to clearer express myself.

Suppose you can quantify suffering (let's use the word "suffering" even though in everyday language it is quite strong word, whereas I'll use it to describe even very small annoyances). And suppose you are trying to create a statistical model, that could predict total suffering of an individual without actually measuring his/her suffering without paying attention to a particular situation (just some kind of "total average suffering"), using explanatory variables that are easy to measure. Suppose you decide that you will use belonging to a specific social group of people as your explanatory variables. As you can see, nothing in these terms guarantees that this model will actually be good (i.e. if the error terms are symmetric, etc.), because, for example, it is not clear whether explanatory variables denoting whether a person belongs to a certain group are actually enough to make a model good, etc.

If you try, for example, linear regression, you will obtain something like this: S = a + b_1*x_1 + ... b_n*x_n + e. In addition to that, you can have additional variables of the form x_i*x_j or x_i*(1-x_j) to model interaction between different variables. Here S is total suffering, a is an intercept term, x_i is an expanatory Boolean variable denoting whether a person belongs to an i-th social group (some groups are mutually exclusive, some aren't, for example, let's say that we assign 1 to blue eyed people and 0 to others), and if b_1 is negative, then b_1 could be said to measure "privilege" of people who belong to i-th group. If I understand correctly, people who employ this concept use it this way. Let's denote Ŝ= a + b_1*x_1 + ... b_n*x_n and call it "predicted suffering".

As you can see, claims that privilege is very important and thus everyone must pay a lot of attention to it depend on many assumptions.
The model itself might be unsatisfactory if does not account for many important explanatory variables that are as important (or even more important) than those already in a model. Few people are interested in "testing" the model and justifying the variables, most people simply choose several variables and use them.

Modeling total average suffering without paying attention to a specific situation may be misleading if the values of b_i varies a lot depending on a situation.

Another thing is that it is not clear whether error terms e are actually small. If your model of total suffering fails to account for many sources of suffering, then error terms probably dwarfs predicted suffering. It is my impression that, when people see a linear model, their default thinking is that error terms as smaller (perhaps much smaller) than the conditional mean, unless explicitly stated otherwise. Therefore saying that a model has predictive power without saying that it has huge error terms might mislead a lot of people about what the model says.

Some people might claim that they, for some reason, are only interested in specific types of suffering, i.e. suffering from prejudice, biased institutions, politics, laws, conventions of public life or something like that. That doesn't mean that individual variation and error terms are small. If they aren't, then you cannot neglect their importance.

The values of coefficients b_i may be hard to determine.

But the problem I want to talk about the most is this. If you can observe the value of response variable S (total average suffering of an individual or total average suffering of an individual which is caused by a specific sets of reasons) then focusing on predicted value Ŝ is a mistake, since observation of response variable S screens off the the whole point of making a prediction Ŝ. For example, you can use university degrees to predict the qualifications of a job applicant, but if you can already observe their qualifications, you do not need to make predictions based on those degrees. It is my impression that most people, who talk about privilege, sometimes pay little attention to actual suffering S, but, due to mental habits obtained, perhaps, by reading the literature about the topic, pay a lot of attention to predicted suffering Ŝ. For example, Scott Aaronson describes his individual S in his comment here and gets a response here. The author says she empathizes with Scott Aaronson's story (S), then starts blaming Scott for not talking about Ŝ, and proceeds to talk about average (Ŝ) female and male nerds. Ŝ is not what any individual feels, but it seems to be the only thing some people are able to talk about. If the size of Ŝ does not dwarf model error terms e, then by talking about Ŝ and not talking about S they are throwing away the reality.

In addition to that, there is, If I understand correctly, another source of confusion, and it is ambiguity of the vague concepts "institutional" and "structural". If we are talking, e.g. about suffering from biased institutions, prejudices, structures in society etc. (if for some reason we are paying more attention to only this specific type of suffering), then S (and not Ŝ) is what actually measures it. However, it is my impression that some people use these words to refer to Ŝ only, without error terms e. In this case, they should remember, that S is what actually exists in the world and, if error terms are huge, then there might be very few situations where neglecting them talking about Ŝ instead actually illuminates anything. It is my impression that some people who are interested in things like "privilege" tend to overestimate the size of Ŝ and underestimate the size of e, perhaps due to availability heuristic.

Many people, who argue against feminists, tend to claim that the latter estimate Ŝ incorrectly. This may or may not be true, but I don't think that it is a good way to convince them to pay attention to problems that are different from what they are used to dealing with. Instead, I think that there might be a chance to convince them by emphasizing that S, and not Ŝ is what exists in the real world, emphasizing that error terms e may be huge, and not allowing them to change the topic from S to Ŝ. If you make them concede that a problem X, which their model does not use as a explanatory variable, exists and person_1, person_2, ... person_n suffer from problem X. Perhaps then they will not be hostile to the idea of noticing the pattern. To sum up, it seems to me that feminism tends to explain all things in top-down fashion and model their enemies as being top-down as well. My guess is that making them to think in "bottom-up" style terms may make their thinking somewhat less rigid.

Of course, all this is an attempt to guess how a specific part of a solution (stopping feminists from trying to complicate any kind of solution) might look like

Replies from: bogus, emr, ChristianKl
comment by bogus · 2014-12-31T15:05:51.985Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Privilege" is not really a well-defined concept, but in its most cogent and consistent version, it doesn't really have much to do with suffering at all. It's a rather confusing way of referring to a "biased point of view". Saying that "Person A has privilege" wrt. some issue is a claim that A's overall observations and experiences are unrepresentative, and so she should rely on others' experiences as much as on her own.

It's similar to the argument that truthful Bayesian debaters "can't agree to disagree", except that in the real world, humans don't generally have a clean separation between "different priors" and "different experiences". So, if your priors seem to be somehow different from others', this should make you suspect that something is amiss, because we don't really know of a good reason to reject common priors, if only as an abstract goal.

From this point of view, Scott Aaronson's claim that "privilege" doesn't apply to him is not very meaningful. If anything, a better argument would be that the SJWish folks who have pattern-matched his comment to "Self-proclaimed nice guy(TM) complains about 'feminists', reveals his boorish, entitled attitudes" are showing privilege wrt. nerdy, socially awkward straight males who are expected to navigate the not-altogether-trivial problem of how to interact with women both socially and romantically in a way that's respectful of everyone's autonomy.

Replies from: Cyan, polymathwannabe
comment by Cyan · 2014-12-31T21:44:00.497Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's a rather confusing way of referring to a "biased point of view". Saying that "Person A has privilege" wrt. some issue is a claim that A's overall observations and experiences are unrepresentative, and so she should rely on others' experiences as much as on her own.

That's not quite correct; I think it's best to start with the concept of systematic oppression. Suppose for the sake of argument that some group of people is systematically oppressed, that is, on account of their group identity, the system in which they find themselves denies them access to markets, or subjects them to market power or physical violence, or vilifies them in the public sphere -- you can provide your own examples. The privileged group is just the set complement of the oppressed group. An analogy: systematic oppression is the subject and privilege (in the SJ jargon sense) is the negative space.

The "biased point-of-view" thing follows as a near-corollary because it's human nature to notice one's oppression and to take one's absence-of-oppression for granted as a kind of natural status quo, a background assumption.

Next question: in what way did Aaronson's so-called wealthy white male privilege actually benefit him? To answer this, all we need to do is imagine, say, a similarly terrified poor black trans nerd learning to come out of their shell. Because I've chosen an extreme contrast, it's pretty clear who would have the easier time of it and why. Once you can see it in high contrast, it's pretty easy to relax the contrast and keep track of the relative benefits that privilege conveys.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2014-12-31T15:15:23.408Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Privilege" is [...] a rather confusing way of referring to a "biased point of view".

It's more than that. It refers to unearned advantages that prevent you from empathizing with other people's experiences.

For example, you don't usually think how special it is that you can read and have internet access, but compared to the rest of the world, it's a privilege; acknowledging your class privilege means not forgetting about the lots of people who through no fault of their own don't have those luxuries.

If you're cisgendered, you have the privilege of not being constantly asked to explain your appearance and behavior to others; acknowledging your cis privilege means not forgetting that other people have it harder than you.

If you live in any part of the Americas, you benefit from the systematic displacement and extermination of Native cultures. Even if you didn't personally steal a Native's land, acknowledging your Western privilege means not forgetting that your current standard of life is partly dependent on a historic crime.

Replies from: Kawoomba
comment by Kawoomba · 2014-12-31T15:47:27.256Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Even if you didn't personally steal a Native's land, acknowledging your Western privilege means not forgetting that your current standard of life is partly dependent on a historic crime.

No more than your existence depending on some paternal ancestor raping some maternal ancestor, which stochastically also happened. Being neither a believer in kin liability*, and skeptical at best about collective guilt (for past events, no less), why should I -- or you, or anyone -- feel responsible?

(As an aside, just for the hypothetical: The Natives that were displaced could well be those tribes who previously themselves successfully displaced/replaced other tribes, no? Back the guilt ball rolls, to the first microbe. At least it can't be triggered, not having a brain and all. Then again, that's no protection for Tumblristas either.)

* Excluding otherkin liability, because otherkin are the epitome of what's wrong with the world. When anything wrong happens somewhere in the world, the closest otherkin should be put on a public show-trial, incarcerated and/or have his/her rotary blades removed.

Replies from: polymathwannabe
comment by polymathwannabe · 2014-12-31T16:03:21.805Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

True, collective guilt is a wrong idea. Acknowledging privilege is not about apologizing; it's rather about not taking your good life for granted. You're not supposed to feel liable for the many ancient crimes that gave you your present advantages, but you're expected to be mindful of those who still suffer as a consequence.

Replies from: RichardKennaway, ChristianKl, Kawoomba
comment by RichardKennaway · 2014-12-31T18:16:01.408Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You're not supposed to feel liable for the many ancient crimes that gave you your present advantages, but you're expected to be mindful of those who still suffer as a consequence.

What does this being mindful look like, in concrete terms?

Replies from: therufs
comment by therufs · 2015-01-03T02:38:20.248Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Here is a short list of things I do and some things I have heard suggested:

  • Consume media created by members of disadvantaged groups
  • Notice when members of disadvantaged groups are absent from a particular setting. Ask yourself or others why this might be the case, and whether this serves the desired objectives, or if there's even clarity on what the desired objectives are. (Example: holding a meeting on a college campus that lacks public parking.)
  • If you attend professional conferences, ask organizers what they are doing to ensure all presentation proposals get fair consideration. (If you're so inclined, ask what they are doing to support diversity among presenters.)
  • Update towards the belief that, regardless of your good intentions, members of disadvantaged groups may interpret certain things you say uncharitably. Avoid saying such things, or take pains to avoid offloading your discomfort onto them. For examples of things to watch out for, you may find it helpful to read Derailing for Dummies.

Some addenda:

  • If you have experiences that you feel make you better able to empathize with members of a disadvantaged group, great! When you are with members of the disadvantaged group, do not bring up these experiences unless you are specifically asked.
  • Do not claim to share an identity with members of the disadvantaged group unless explicitly and enthusiastically invited to do so. Even so, this dispensation is good only when you're among the people who extended it to you. (Example: a campus LGBTQA group whose members are persistently and vocally excited about the "and allies!" bit.)
  • If you feel someone is stereotyping you unfairly, consider whether you are the target audience for this piece of media. Do not reply, with a possible exception being for when you are being named specifically (and not referred to by group identity.)
  • Carefully consider the relative magnitude of a wrong you have suffered before airing righteous indignation, even as a group bonding activity.
comment by ChristianKl · 2014-12-31T17:30:21.289Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not sure that the case for being mindful only to those who suffer because of an ancient crime from which you benefit and not towards those who suffer for other reasons is strong.

I rather focus on the people who suffer and how to alleviate suffering than go to much into the historical background of why they might suffer.

Replies from: polymathwannabe
comment by polymathwannabe · 2014-12-31T17:32:33.389Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

and not towards those who suffer for other reasons

I didn't say or imply that.

Replies from: ChristianKl
comment by ChristianKl · 2014-12-31T17:37:14.677Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you would advocate to be empathic towards everyone then why speak about those ancient crimes?

Replies from: polymathwannabe
comment by polymathwannabe · 2014-12-31T17:44:59.653Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The subthread had arrived at a discussion on the definition of privilege, and that's the context where I made those comments. That context required a focus on a specific subset of injustices. I didn't mean or expect it to be understood as a dismissal of all other types of injustices.

Replies from: ChristianKl
comment by ChristianKl · 2014-12-31T17:58:25.066Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Determining suffering and determining injustice are two different strategies.

I can emphatize with a person who's suffering without going into an intellectual analysis of whether his suffering is just or injust. If you think in terms of injustice you need to presume that you understand the plight of the other person well enough to be able to tell whether they are suffering justly.

That means you won't emphatize with people who suffer for reasons you don't understand.

Replies from: polymathwannabe
comment by polymathwannabe · 2014-12-31T18:02:54.472Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

you won't emphatize with people who suffer for reasons you don't understand

That's part of the point I was trying to make. Privilege blinds you to the suffering of people who you may not even know are suffering.

Replies from: ChristianKl
comment by ChristianKl · 2014-12-31T18:58:13.823Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I can see a person suffering without understanding why they are suffering. I don't need to judge the suffering as right or wrong in oder to emphatize.

Knowing about the fact that native Americans get slaughtered hundreds of years ago doesn't allow me to determine whether a native American I'm meeting is suffering. It's quite irrelevant to the question of whether the specific person is suffering.

I do much better by actually engaging in empathic listening. Instead of judging a person based on what happened in the past I can interact with them in the present.

comment by Kawoomba · 2014-12-31T16:16:03.630Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Expected by whom?

Replies from: polymathwannabe
comment by polymathwannabe · 2014-12-31T16:24:06.366Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

By the standards of basic decency.

comment by emr · 2014-12-31T19:57:08.031Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

One root pattern in the set of issues (race, gender, religion) is of between-group variance attracting more attention than within-group variance.

I suspect this pattern has deeper roots than a simple neglect of variance: At least some participants seem to fully accept that a model of suffering based only on group membership may involve too much noise to apply to individuals, but still feel very concerned about the predicted group differences, and don't feel a pressing need to develop better models of individual suffering.

(BTW, this is the heart of my critique of Jonathon Haidt's claim that left-leaning people think predominately along the care/harm axis.)

In any case, we probably care more about group differences for political reasons, and because our group definitions may correspond to "levers" that are easier to pull. Another theory is that group inequality really is a leading cause of suffering, because we've evolved to feel the stigma of belonging to less well-off group as much more painful than the raw difference in non-group-related suffering would predict. Or perhaps we fear that group differences can diverge much more rapidly, and so must be monitored very closely (there is some historical evidence for this).

Finally, we might feel that group membership (in something like race or gender) is not morally assignable to a single member, while the error terms (what I'd call the contributing factors to within-group variance) are morally assignable to individuals. But this is just a restatement of the idea that "fairness" concerns are involved.

This perspective also frames another perennial puzzle of these debates, which is the appearance of both of a critique of stereotypical thinking (which is typically a neglect of within-group variance), and an approach that focuses so heavily on group differences!

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-12-31T13:51:55.677Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If I understood the story correctly, Scott Aaronson was attacked mostly for paying too little attention for the feminist (well, not only theirs) concept of "privilege".

Not, the question is who happens to be privileged:

But I suspect the thought that being a nerdy male might not make me “privileged”—that it might even have put me into one of society’s least privileged classes—is completely alien to your way of seeing things


Because of my fears—my fears of being “outed” as a nerdy heterosexual male, and therefore as a potential creep or sex criminal—I had constant suicidal thoughts. As Bertrand Russell wrote of his own adolescence: “I was put off from suicide only by the desire to learn more mathematics.”


The same girls who I was terrified would pepper-spray me and call the police if I looked in their direction, often responded to the crudest advances of the most Neanderthal of men by accepting those advances. Yet it was I, the nerd, and not the Neanderthals, who needed to check his privilege and examine his hidden entitlement!

comment by James_Miller · 2014-12-31T20:07:05.709Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Although Scott was too modest to point this out, part of the reason he is right is that nerds massively contribute to our economy and defense making anything that harms their (our) productivity significant.

Replies from: ChristianKl, therufs, Nornagest
comment by ChristianKl · 2014-12-31T20:55:51.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Unfortunately it isn't as simple as that. His social troubles made him withdraw into mathematics. If he would have got a girlfriend in his school time he might have spent less time with math.

Replies from: bogus
comment by bogus · 2014-12-31T22:27:04.810Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If he would have got a girlfriend in his school time he might have spent less time with math.

You say that like it's his fault that he didn't try and get one. The whole point of his comment is to explain why that's not the case.

Secondly, yes, there is some tradeoff between cultivating a romantic relationship and pursuing outside interests. But even rare and fleeting romances, if pursued from a position of secure social standing and self-esteem, would've been far preferable to what Scott actually got, which apparently was bad enough to make him wish for meds that would suppress his sex drive.

Replies from: ChristianKl
comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-01T12:58:04.501Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

No, I didn't say that it's his fault. The main point is that if your goal is raising productivity of intellectuals it's not clear that getting them girls is helpful.

There the Xkcd comic about Debian developer productivity:

comment by therufs · 2015-01-03T02:49:57.226Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Would you rephrase this, or expand upon it? I'm having a hard time coming up with an interpretation that isn't "nerd desires should be prioritized above most others' desires", which is both gross and seems difficult to support.

Replies from: James_Miller
comment by James_Miller · 2015-01-03T03:26:51.430Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It is unfair and perhaps gross, but I still think it's true. For utilitarian reasons, U.S. should prioritize the productivity of high math ability people (who are often nerds) over that of the average citizen.

Replies from: therufs
comment by therufs · 2015-01-03T03:46:50.645Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Please justify your claim.

edit: in particular, in light of the average nerd's reliance on lots of non-nerd workers. (I did just envision a lot of infrastructure that incentivizes nerd support, which I admit I kind of like, but not, I'm afraid, for particularly well-thought-out reasons.)

Replies from: James_Miller
comment by James_Miller · 2015-01-03T04:46:09.936Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My claim is that the average nerd creates far more positive externalities through his/her work then the average American does. I do not have rigorous statistics to back this up, but I believe it is probably true because nerds have high IQ and conscientiousness and this is strongly correlated with income (and so taxes paid) and nerds tend to work in STEM fields and these, I believe, have more positive externalties than most fields do, and nerds dominate the software industry and this industry plays a big part in U.S. economic growth and military power. Also, if (like me) you believe that the future of mankind will come down to whether we get friendly AI right, then our species' fate is in the hands of a few ultra-nerds.

comment by Nornagest · 2014-12-31T22:01:34.421Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm actually not sure how true this is on average. Nerds are overrepresented in tech and other abstraction-heavy fields, yes; but not all nerds have a personality or a set of interests that lends itself to such a career, and the nerd package seems to be bad news outside of one. If the set of nerds that successfully go into those careers is small enough relative to the set of nerds at large, then the demographic might not end up being disproportionately economically important, despite what you'd guess from looking at e.g. Bill Gates. I don't think anyone's studied this halfway rigorously, but anecdotally the nerds I know seem to end up with massively bimodal financial outcomes.

Of course, anything that impacts the productivity of any demographic without commensurate gains elsewhere is going to end up being negative, and I'm pretty skeptical about possible gains here.

comment by knb · 2014-12-31T10:25:27.477Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's such a strange comment. It seems like he was an especially sensitive young man who had a weird psychological reaction to reading radical feminist writings.

Here’s the thing: I spent my formative years—basically, from the age of 12 until my mid-20s—feeling not “entitled,” not “privileged,” but terrified. I was terrified that one of my female classmates would somehow find out that I sexually desired her, and that the instant she did, I would be scorned, laughed at, called a creep and a weirdo, maybe even expelled from school or sent to prison.

That's sad, but it surely must be an extremely uncommon problem. Not many young men read radfem tracts to begin with. Having that kind of extreme reaction must be very rare.

Replies from: jkaufman, James_Miller, ChristianKl, Wes_W
comment by jefftk (jkaufman) · 2014-12-31T17:48:11.631Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

surely must be an extremely uncommon problem

Aaronson's description felt very familiar to me, describing my middle and early high school years pretty well. In my case this didn't involve reading radical feminist writing, just paying attention to what adults said about how people were to treat each other.

(And despite having had several relationships and now being married I've still never initiated a relationship, mostly out of really not wanting to come off as creepy.)

comment by James_Miller · 2014-12-31T20:12:11.215Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Scott was probably one of the few people to actually believe what he was told about sexual harassment. For example, if you tell 18-year-old men that they are "bad" if they stare at a beautiful woman whom they are not in a relationship with, most will think you're being silly. If Scott, however, thought this was a commonly held belief I can understand why it would cause him extreme anxiety.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-12-31T14:03:33.121Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think he read radfem with 12. Fear or being scored at when a girl finds out that a low status guy loves her doesn't need any radfem literature.

He read that literature because from his perspective it was the obvious way to deal with the problem.

That's sad, but it surely must be an extremely uncommon problem.

How sure are you of that claim? What percentage would you guess if we would ask a similar percentage at a LW census?

Replies from: knb
comment by knb · 2014-12-31T18:39:02.851Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Nervousness about expressing romantic interest is of course quite common, especially for nerdy/low-status people. But Scott seems to have had highly exaggerated fears (arrest, expelled from school, etc.) His reaction was so extreme that he even sought chemical castration. That was an extreme, abnormal response.

My interpretation was that Scott was blaming feminism for worsening his emotional problems:

Of course, I was smart enough to realize that maybe this was silly, maybe I was overanalyzing things. So I scoured the feminist literature for any statement to the effect that my fears were as silly as I hoped they were. But I didn’t find any. On the contrary: I found reams of text about how even the most ordinary male/female interactions are filled with “microaggressions,” and how even the most “enlightened” males—especially the most “enlightened” males, in fact—are filled with hidden entitlement and privilege and a propensity to sexual violence that could burst forth at any moment.

Because of my fears—my fears of being “outed” as a nerdy heterosexual male, and therefore as a potential creep or sex criminal—I had constant suicidal thoughts.

He does seem to me to be blaming feminism for worsening his problems. I think it's worth pointing out that 99% of the mental torment he went through was baseless. I was a nerdy male and I asked girls out in high school/college with no problems except getting rejected a few times. (The trick is to not ask out girls who are massively higher in status than you.)

Replies from: Wes_W, ChristianKl, Vaniver
comment by Wes_W · 2014-12-31T20:38:24.505Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Nervousness about expressing romantic interest is of course quite common, especially for nerdy/low-status people. But Scott seems to have had highly exaggerated fears (arrest, expelled from school, etc.) His reaction was so extreme that he even sought chemical castration. That was an extreme, abnormal response.

I agree that it's out on the tail of the distribution, but I don't think it's a very wide distribution. Fear of those specific consequences is rare; general fear and anxiety severe enough to seriously impact quality of life, up to and including risk of suicide, is not nearly as rare. Social anxiety is, after all, a relatively common problem. I mean, here we are in a subthread on another website with a pretty small user base, and you have three "me too" responses within 12 hours.

The kind of feminist ideas Scott talks about are really important in the general case. But they are also predictably harmful to people predisposed to a certain kind of anxiety. To steal an analogy I've seen elsewhere: telling a hypochondriac that they should pay more attention to their health is probably harmful, even though that's a good message for the general population. A little more nuance can help - like emphasizing the target ("interact with women as full human beings", "maintain your health"), not just the direction required to reach the target ("worry more about making women uncomfortable", "worry more about possible symptoms"). Because some people have overshot the target, and need to come back the other direction.

This isn't to say "nerdy men should get a free pass on being creeps" or something dumb like that. But it would be great to have more activists/therapists/bloggers/etc that aren't actively, viciously anti-helpful about it.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-12-31T20:25:54.076Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

When faced with an uncertain uncomfortable situation the average nerd seeks out the rules to solve the situation. I don't think he's the only person that starts to reading feminist writing to understand how to behave.

That kind of writing usually doesn't help. It provides quite broad definitions of sexual harrasment and will in many cases increase the fear of acting wrongly.

In most cases it won't get a guy to seek chemical castration, but most kids don't complain when they get into programming at 11 years of age that they got a late start and their peer got it earlier.

Replies from: bogus
comment by bogus · 2014-12-31T21:04:35.727Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

When faced with an uncertain uncomfortable situation the average nerd seeks out the rules to solve the situation. I don't think he's the only person that starts to reading feminist writing to understand how to behave.

There is a genuine tension here. I don't think we get to have the "enthusiastic consent, yes-means-yes!" ethic that most sex-positive feminists would want to apply in these matters, without also having some straightforward guidelines about what sexual scripts are both ethically unproblematic and genuinely likely to be effective. My fear is that sensitive, socially awkward males are the proverbial canary in the coalmine - they're telling us that the whole project in its current form is on track to being a complete failure, with hard-to-foresee but potentially very bad consequences.

(What's somewhat encouraging is that the non-redpill part of the PUA community - yes, it does exist - has been hard at work in crafting these sorts of 'scripts'. However, PUA itself is quite controversial, so outright endorsement of this pursuit has not exactly been forthcoming. The best we can point to is some careful and nuanced assessments from the likes of Clarisse Thorn (see her "Confessions of a Pickup-Artist Chaser").

comment by Vaniver · 2014-12-31T19:29:56.264Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My interpretation was that Scott was blaming feminism for worsening his emotional problems:

So, I think a common underlying model of "feminism," though more specifically of "social justice" in general, is that it goes like "environment -> negative emotions -> better environment." It seems to me pretty obvious that the first link happens.

comment by Wes_W · 2014-12-31T18:13:42.242Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's sad, but it surely must be an extremely uncommon problem.

It sounds like Aaronson had an uncommonly severe version, but the general form of the problem doesn't seem exceptionally rare, among the subpopulation in question.

Figuring out what we can usefully do about it, without trading one problem for another, that's the hard part.

(Part of me also wants to point out that exactly how uncommon it is doesn't matter very much, due to a perhaps irrational fear that someone wants to say "well, it's not common" and then forget the problem exists.)

comment by pan · 2014-12-30T03:27:25.688Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I figured I would throw this out even though it seems exceedingly obvious in retrospect, but took me a while to figure out:

If you use Anki (or other SRS software) you can save a lot of time adding new cards by using screen shots. Not whole screen shots but selecting only important paragraphs/pictures/equations from an ebook or website. On a Mac this is command-control-shift-4 and then drag the part of the screen you want to copy to the clip board. Just paste it into Anki.

This saves me so much time when making cards out of books/papers that I almost exclusively read on my computer now.

Replies from: btrettel
comment by btrettel · 2014-12-30T20:52:02.567Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I disrecommend this practice for text and equations. It will save you a small amount of time up front, but may cost you more overall. First, your ability to search is compromised depending on how much is a graphic. I search fairly frequently, especially when I want to update a card. That's the second disadvantage: you can't update a card so easily now. There's a third disadvantage: Typing up a paragraph from a book (in your own words) has additional learning benefits.

A fourth disadvantage is that different sources may have different notation. I've struggled to keep consistent notation for a number of my decks. You don't have much of a choice in the notation if you just take screenshots. It is a good idea to have multiple notations in your decks, but my suggestion would be to have consistent notation for the main cards and have extra cards about the less common notations.

In my experience, deciding what to add takes much more time than adding it. I make this as easy as possible by noting what I think is important when reading, reviewing, etc. I have lists of text files of things to add along with where to find more information. I have a Beeminder goal to add 3 cards daily that I don't mark as easy right off the bat, and I generally think about what would be most useful to myself and take them from my text files. (What I add tends to be technical, e.g., I am relearning combustion theory at the moment. 3 a day is reasonable for this, but the rate should depend on the subject and how much time you can invest.)

Graphical things are okay to take from books. However, I will frequently make my own graphic for the learning benefits and because I want to tweak/improve what I see.

Replies from: pan
comment by pan · 2014-12-30T22:29:28.300Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

These are good points I'm glad you posted it, it's interesting to see the work flow of someone else.

We apparently have very different philosophies when it comes to SRS, you seem to be more of a 'quality over quantity' person. Where as I find that the biggest barrier to me using SRS at all is entry, and so all of the disadvantages you've mentioned still don't outweigh the advantage of speed for me of using images. I prefer to err on the side of adding too many cards too quickly and just deleting as I go if I find they're trivial.

Just as a side note: notational changes have never been a problem for me as long as I ask the question in the notation of the answer.

Replies from: ChristianKl
comment by ChristianKl · 2014-12-30T22:40:16.954Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How many cards do you have in your deck and for how long do you use it?

Replies from: pan, btrettel
comment by pan · 2014-12-31T19:03:10.394Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have about 300 cards in my deck right now, and I've had this deck for about 6 months. I try to do a few cards each morning without forcing myself to complete all cards that are due (although often I do). This is because I'm trying to build the habit into my work flow and I find if I give myself the option to quit after 3 cards if I'm really busy that it's better than losing the habit altogether for a month.

I want to warn you that I don't think this number (300 in a 6 month time span) very accurately represents how many cards I add when I find something interesting. I'm a PhD student and the last 6 months I've been mostly tweaking a program and writing my thesis (so doing things that I don't get a lot of new knowledge to add into the system). So most of those 300 cards are from short spurts of reading interesting books, rather than what it would be if I were in the midst of researching something new. (I also usually make multiple cards for a single image that I add, asking the question in different ways that emphasize different things I think are important)

For context: I have had larger decks in the past, multiple deck systems, etc etc., but all previous attempts were eventually abandoned because of something like: it takes a long time to add new equations or transcribe text from a book by hand -> therefore I slowly add fewer and fewer cards, and the ones I do are of lower quality because I would cut corners to save time -> the deck becomes less useful because I'm just not adding things that are important -> as the deck becomes less relevant I stop studying it -> once I miss a month of studying catching up seems useless.

Replies from: btrettel, ChristianKl
comment by btrettel · 2015-01-01T22:17:02.682Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm surprised that I've added about twice as many cards as you have (621) in the past 6 months. I too am working on a PhD, but to be fair, I've set aside time especially for Anki.

At the risk of other-optimizing, I might suggest adding a small number of quality cards daily. I used to add cards in bursts, but I've found adding a small number daily to be much easier. I also would recommend revising cards later, rather than starting over.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-12-31T19:23:52.251Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If the problem is only in adding new cards why did you abandon old decks? Reviewing them doesn't need you to add new cards.

Replies from: pan
comment by pan · 2014-12-31T20:23:35.392Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's what I was trying to explain in the last paragraph: before I started using images I would get lazy and either not add cards or the ones I did add were of low quality because I was trying to do them so quickly. In the end instead of deleting large swaths of poorly made cards I just started over.

comment by btrettel · 2014-12-31T18:05:26.964Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wasn't asked, but thought I would answer anyway. I have 802 cards at the moment. 147 are suspended.

I first became aware of SRS in 2005 or so, and I started using it in fall 2009 for a mechanical vibrations course. There was a considerable speed advantage on the exams if you memorized the Laplace transform table and a number of differentiation and integration rules. After that course I fell in and out of the habit. I started using Beeminder to force myself to do my reviews and add new cards regularly in May of this year, and I've added the vast majority of the cards I have since then.

Beeminder and Anki are an amazing combination. I highly recommend this if you are not good about regularly reviewing or adding new cards. Right now I review daily, and I can earn a 1 on Beeminder if I finish all cards (including new ones) or spend half an hour reviewing in total. An average review involves around 50 cards and takes roughly a half hour (the time limit is mostly for when I am very busy, and it is rarely invoked).

comment by Metus · 2014-12-29T18:49:11.272Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A question for specialists on EA.

If I live in a place where I can choose between a standard mix of electricity sources consisting of hydrocarbons, nuclear and renewables, and a "green" mix of renewables exclusively that costs more, should I buy the green mix or buy the cheaper/cheapest mix and donate the difference to GiveWell?

Replies from: jkaufman, polymathwannabe, ChristianKl
comment by jefftk (jkaufman) · 2014-12-30T03:15:26.958Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'd break this down into two questions:

  • Would it be better for you to pay for a neighbor of yours to switch to the green mix or give that money to GiveWell?
  • Is there something special about the energy you use coming from renewable sources as opposed to the energy someone else uses?

For the first question, subsidising renewable energy is probably a good thing, but there's no reason to expect this particular opportunity to be up there with the world's best organizations. For the second it doesn't seem to me that it matters. So I'd say buy the normal stuff and give the difference to the best organization you can find.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2014-12-29T18:54:49.495Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Perhaps you meant hydrocarbons instead of carbohydrates.

Replies from: Metus
comment by Metus · 2014-12-29T19:07:31.416Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Indeed, I run on carbohydrates, not my computer.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-12-31T18:43:27.552Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In Germany I'm not sure that you increase the amount of green energy that get produced by making a choice to be on a plan that "uses" green energy. The German energy market isn't free in the sense that you can raise demand for green energy to raise supply of green energy.

We have laws that everyone who wants to sell green energy into the market gets a gurantee that the energy is brought for a decent price.

Replies from: Aharon
comment by Aharon · 2015-01-03T08:42:55.631Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You can do so, but it takes market knowledge to find such a plan. There are several plans that offer 100% renewable energy, usually certified in some way (example: The certified electricity is usually from hydroelectric power plants which are already 100% depreciated and don't get any surplus from the renewable energy levy.

However, there are some plans (for example that come at a higher price, but also pay for installing new renewable power.

To answer the OP question: I'm not an EA-specialist, but I think that depends on your goals. If you agree with the version of utilitarianism that most EAs hold, buying the cheapest mix and donating the difference to GiveWell is best. If the goal of promoting renewable energy in your country is of similar importance as improving living conditions in developing countries, you should find out if in your country, solutions which actually cause investment in green energy exist and then buy those (the most effective solution would probably be to buy 100% renewable energy from depreciated hydroelectric plants and directly invest the difference in cost to higher-quality labels in green energy projects, but I assume this option isn't available to you).

Replies from: ChristianKl
comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-02T11:18:11.911Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The certified electricity is usually from hydroelectric power plants which are already 100% depreciated and don't get any surplus from the renewable energy levy.

I don't think those hydroelectric power plants would shut down when nobody would pay a premium for green energy.

Replies from: Aharon
comment by Aharon · 2015-02-05T14:15:45.579Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, that's correct. This is why I stated market knowledge is neccessary - if you decide to buy a plan where this kind of energy is supported, you don't reach your goal of heightening the production of renewable energy. The first paragraph was intended as an intro that shows the pit falls. I'm sorry if that wasn't clear.

comment by Princess_Stargirl · 2015-01-03T02:29:02.633Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Does anyone want some free meal Squares?

This obviously requires me sending me your address. But I will ship 3 pakcs (18 total) meal squares to your house free of charge to (up to) the first 4 people who want them. I ordered more meal squares then I really want for myself and I think some people on this site would like to try meal squares?


Seems I have four takers. So offer is prolly closed as enough people already said yes.

Replies from: Leonhart, Dorikka
comment by Leonhart · 2015-01-03T22:27:53.284Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'd love to try them, but am in the UK. Happy to cover the additional postage cost!

Replies from: philh, Princess_Stargirl, John_Maxwell_IV
comment by philh · 2015-01-04T00:43:27.868Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ditto. Possibly cheaper if Stargirl would send two batches to one of us, we split the cost and exchange IRL?

(Do you know if there are any relevant rules about shipping foodstuffs overseas?)

Replies from: Leonhart
comment by Leonhart · 2015-01-04T12:43:13.925Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I checked regs, seems we're all good:

"Providing the food parcel you wish to send is to a private, named individual and contains no meat and meat products, dairy products or any particular restricted products (for example Kava kava, which is not permitted either as a personal import or a commercial import) you may send a reasonable amount for personal consumption."

comment by Princess_Stargirl · 2015-01-04T07:03:19.900Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Unless you two live VERY close I would prefer to just ship it to you individually. I don't want you to have to drive around or anything.

So yeah Leonhart and philh just send me your addresses via pm.

Replies from: philh
comment by philh · 2015-01-04T18:12:35.395Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

We both live in London, and see each other regularly at the meetups, so that isn't a problem.

PM sent, and thank you!

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2015-01-07T10:50:35.866Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hi everyone, just FYI we aren't currently shipping MealSquares internationally. So unfortunately even if you like them we aren't set up to send regular shipments to the UK :(

(also we're working on individual packaging + smaller sample packs so this sort of negotiation isn't required for people who just want a taste, and we read all the feedback in this form, criticism is very welcome)

comment by Dorikka · 2015-01-03T23:48:16.905Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Already have some on the way, so will let people who haven't tried them yet do so. Thanks for the offer though. :)

comment by glarm2 · 2014-12-29T19:27:02.963Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Any LWers in NYC want to do some pair programming with me? It's okay if you don't have much experience and just want to learn -- I like teaching, and learning by working directly on a project with someone more experienced is a great way to learn. Or if you're more experienced, that's great too.

I'm a software developer, but I have a repetitive stress injury so I can't type much.

I have a few ideas for projects we could work on, but I'm also open to other ideas.

Replies from: Gunnar_Zarncke, John_Maxwell_IV
comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2014-12-29T23:02:36.825Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Regarding repetitive strain injury you might consider this thread:

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2014-12-31T09:32:54.532Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This ebook solved my crippling RSI a few years ago, FWIW:

comment by philh · 2014-12-29T18:39:39.907Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Posted in the last thread, but might be useful to more people than saw it there: I made a page that redirects you to whatever the current open thread is (specifically, whatever shows up in the sidebar as the latest open thread, which I assume is based on tags). Link, and source.

Replies from: Viliam_Bur
comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-12-30T10:12:34.647Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Also, one can click on the "Latest Open Thread" in the sidebar.

comment by moridinamael · 2014-12-30T15:40:29.170Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Can anyone recommend any free or inexpensive scenario planning software tools?

comment by dthunt · 2015-01-02T00:41:09.381Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

So I had one of those typical mind fallacy things explode on me recently, and it's caused me to re-evaluate a whole lot of stuff.

Is there a list of high-impact questions people tend to fail to ask about themselves somewhere?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-01-01T14:32:00.627Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think the "logical probability" problem, of "how do I quantify my beliefs about the trillionth digit of \pi" and whatnot, is probably just an issue of domain-theoretic maximum-entropy distributions: each step of computation can give us more information that can be used to concentrate the measure better, and domain theory says how computational results are built out of other results from computations that may not have finished yet.

comment by Sarunas · 2014-12-29T19:29:42.935Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Cognitive Bias research gives us a long list of situations where System 1 may fail to give you the best answer, giving a biased answer instead. Therefore, learning about cognitive biases teaches one to notice if one is in a dangerous situation where they should "halt" one's System 1 and offload their decision making to the System 2. Naturally, the next question is, how to train one's System 1 and System 2 themselves?

How does one train one's System 1? If you spend a lot of time analyzing data in your field, you can develop a domain specific intuition. Is it possible to train your "general intuition" (if such thing exists) or your capability to develop domain-specific intuitions more quickly and more reliably? Mathematicians often talk about beauty, elegance as good guiding principles and importance having a good mathematical taste (e.g. Terence Tao briefly mentions it here). But why do some people have better taste than others? How do you train your taste? Is a good taste (or good taste for ideas) an example of intuition that is somewhat less domain specific? Or is it still too domain specific? By the way, is developing a good taste for art or music helpful for strenghtening your "general intuition" (if such things exists)? If so, a taste for what kind of art is the most helpful for aiding the development of the aforementioned "general intuition"?

Is System 1 simply a shorthand for "everything that isn't System 2" and intuition is a shorthand for " the ability to acquire knowledge without inference or the use of reason", thus you cannot train your System 1 in general, you can only train specific parts of it?

How to train your System 2? There is a famous quote by Alfred North Whitehead:

It is a profoundly erroneous truism, repeated by all copy-books and by eminent people when they are making speeches, that we should cultivate the habit of thinking of what we are doing. The precise opposite is the case. Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them. Operations of thought are like cavalry charges in a battle — they are strictly limited in number, they require fresh horses, and must only be made at decisive moments.

It seems that "finding better ways to organize your knowledge" is one way to train your System 2? Coincidentally, the quote also suggests that we improve our thinking by developing reliable ways to offload mental burden to System 1, therefore the quote is not, strictly speaking, just about System 2 (of course, concepts of "System 1" and "System 2" belong to a map, not a territory). What are other ways to train your System 2, besides the aforementioned "finding better ways to organize your knowledge" and finding ways to reliably offload some of the work to System 1? Developing axiomatic systems? Learning to use logic and Bayesian inference? Are there any others?

Replies from: ChristianKl, dthunt
comment by ChristianKl · 2014-12-29T22:04:44.257Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Therefore, learning about cognitive biases teaches one to notice if one is in a dangerous situation where they should "halt" one's System 1 and offload their decision making to the System 2.

There's no good reason to believe that things work like that. Conscious attempts to block a bias like the Hindsight bias don't work.

Is it possible to train your "general intuition" (if such thing exists) or your capability to develop domain-specific intuitions more quickly and more reliably?

"Noticing" seems to be a skill that's useful whenever you are interacting with intuition. Mindfulness meditation provides also broad benefits for System I processes.

Replies from: Sarunas
comment by Sarunas · 2014-12-30T18:35:40.315Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Conscious attempts to block a bias like the Hindsight bias don't work.

You don't try to correct for a single bias. What I am saying is that if you find yourself in a situation where making correct decision is important and you know that this is the type of situation where your intuitive thinking is particularly likely to be affected by cognitive biases, you should try to make decision using your System 2. Instead of trying to block a single bias that affects System 1, we try to switch to using System 2 (of course, we have to pay a price). For example, suppose you are in a situation where you have to figure out whether a person X was negligent by failing to prepare for a disaster even if they did receive some information that something bad was coming. You notice that this is the kind of case where your ability to make a correct decision is likely to suffer from the hindsight bias. Hence you try to eschew your intuitive reasoning, opting to use deliberate reasoning instead. For similar reasons, while they do not avoid biases altogether, trials by court are strongly preferable to trials by a mob or trials by media as the latter usually do not even attempt to curb their biases, whereas the structure of the former encourages using the type of thinking that employs System 2.

Of course, switching to using System 2 doesn't guarantee that one's decision will be correct. And in some cases, switching from System 1 to System 2 might not be possible.

Replies from: ChristianKl
comment by ChristianKl · 2014-12-30T22:27:12.359Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You notice that this is the kind of case where your ability to make a correct decision is likely to suffer from the hindsight bias. Hence you try to eschew your intuitive reasoning, opting to use deliberate reasoning instead.

And that doesn't work for most people. From Elizers article on the Hindsight bias:

Kamin and Rachlinski (1995) asked two groups to estimate the probability of flood damage caused by blockage of a city-owned drawbridge. The control group was told only the background information known to the city when it decided not to hire a bridge watcher. The experimental group was given this information, plus the fact that a flood had actually occurred. Instructions stated the city was negligent if the foreseeable probability of flooding was greater than 10%. 76% of the control group concluded the flood was so unlikely that no precautions were necessary; 57% of the experimental group concluded the flood was so likely that failure to take precautions was legally negligent. A third experimental group was told the outcome and also explicitly instructed to avoid hindsight bias, which made no difference: 56% concluded the city was legally negligent

You can't escape the bias by simply making a decision to go to system II.

For similar reasons, while they do not avoid biases altogether, trials by court are strongly preferable to trials by a mob or trials by media as the latter usually do not even attempt to curb their biases, whereas the structure of the former encourages using the type of thinking that employs System 2.

I think you confuse cognitive bias with bias interests. A journalist who writes an article does think about the issue with system II. It's just that a fair trial isn't his goal.

Replies from: Sarunas, Jiro
comment by Sarunas · 2014-12-31T09:13:09.098Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You can't escape the bias by simply making a decision to go to system II

System 2 is not enough. But if there is a straw of hope to mitigate the bias in a particular situation where finding a correct solution is important, the only chance to find it is to search for it using your System 2. Suppose have to decide the foreseeable probability of flooding, you know about hindsight bias and you actually care about finding the correct estimate. How should you proceed? Perhaps you have to devise a method that you will use to make estimation in advance of looking at the date. Or perhaps you will make a decision to obtain data from various cities in the same region and use logistic regression to make an estimate. Or perhaps you will use some other estimator. What I am trying to say is that all these methods of deliberate reasoning (decision making algorithms, statistical analysis, etc.) are executed by System 2 and not System 1. I am not trying to say that System 2 guarantees that we will avoid bias. Firstly, in my understanding, System 2 and System 1 aren't separate systems, they are merely two ends of the continuum. Secondly, just because an algorithm is executed by System 2 doesn't mean that that algorithm is good.

As I have said, System 2 seems to be close to necessary, but obviously it is not sufficient (for example, rolling a dice to "determine" the probability of flooding doesn't rely on intuition). Algorithms that are executed by System 2 are usually somewhat more transparent, therefore it is easier to detect their mistakes and biases. This means that it is easier to fix them. Thus there is a chance that at least some of those algorithms are good enough to be good estimators and avoid biases.

Transparency is what makes System 2 preferable to System 1 in this particular situation. In other types of situations or other types of questions, as dthunt noted, feedback loops can be useful to train your intuition to achieve greater accuracy even though intuitive reasoning itself is not necessarily transparent.

Replies from: ChristianKl
comment by ChristianKl · 2014-12-31T14:18:45.751Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

System 2 is not enough. But if there is a straw of hope to mitigate the bias in a particular situation where finding a correct solution is important, the only chance to find it is to search for it using your System 2.

No, you can also take a good night sleep to give your System I more time to anaylse the situation to improve it's output.

You can also do exercises to calibrate your credence. Calibration training for probability estimates is probably one of the best ways to get them right.

comment by Jiro · 2014-12-31T22:34:16.156Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's not hindsight bias. Having a flood is Bayseian evidence in favor of the correct estimate of flooding having been high (and therefore in favor of negligence).

Replies from: JoshuaZ
comment by JoshuaZ · 2014-12-31T22:47:35.497Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, but it is hindsight bias to give that a lot of weight. (This is a common thing for lots of biases: they involve things which are strictly speaking actual Bayesian evidence but where humans frequently massively over-update based on them.)

comment by dthunt · 2014-12-30T16:51:19.633Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you have some sort of decision-making process you do a lot that you expect is going to become a thing you build intuition around later, make sure you have the right feedback loops in place, so that you have something to help keep that intuition calibrated. (This also applies to processes you engineer for others.)

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2014-12-29T14:47:00.476Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What's "Gen 04"? Is LW using a new calendar now, like the French revolutionaries?

Replies from: MrMind, gjm
comment by MrMind · 2014-12-30T09:57:06.729Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

LOL, sorry for that. Yes, obviously I was thinking in Italian. Fixed it.

comment by gjm · 2014-12-29T15:10:36.776Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In Italian, the month we call January is called Gennaio. I wouldn't be surprised if there were other languages whose name for January begins "Gen".

Replies from: MrMind
comment by MrMind · 2014-12-30T10:00:49.950Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Also, Gen (Italian) and Jan (English) are homophonic.

Replies from: gjm
comment by gjm · 2014-12-30T14:40:44.785Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not in the variety of English I speak, unless my knowledge of Italian pronunciation is worse than I think it is. Maybe (almost) in American English, though.

comment by Gram_Stone · 2015-01-01T08:02:58.965Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Just finished the first chapter of Superintelligence. It was a great summary of the history of AI. I thought this was a funny thing:

In the summer of 1956 at Dartmouth College, ten scientists sharing an interest in neural nets, automata theory, and the study of intelligence convened for a six-week workshop. This Dartmouth Summer Project is often regarded as the cockcrow of artificial intelligence as a field of research. Many of the participants would later be recognized as founding figures. The optimistic outlook among the delegates is reflected in the proposal submitted to the Rockefeller Foundation, which provided funding for the event:

We propose that a 2 month, 10 man study of artificial intelligence be carried out…. The study is to proceed on the basis of the conjecture that every aspect of learning or any other feature of intelligence can in principle be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it. An attempt will be made to find how to make machines that use language, form abstractions and concepts, solve kinds of problems now reserved for humans, and improve themselves. We think that a significant advance can be made in one or more of these problems if a carefully selected group of scientists work on it together for a summer.

The ending sounds like it was written by a time traveler with a good sense of humor.

comment by iceman · 2014-12-31T07:18:02.534Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Vitalik Buterin mentions LW in his latest, On Silos:

I consider economics and game theory to be a key part of cryptoeconomic protocol analysis, and consider the primary academic deficit of the cryptocurrency community to be not ignorance of advanced computer science, but rather economics and philosophy. We should reach out to more.

Replies from: ChristianKl
comment by ChristianKl · 2014-12-31T20:55:36.433Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Likely the result of the Harper article that started with an analysis of ethereumand then moved to the LW-space.

comment by iarwain1 · 2014-12-30T00:37:48.222Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

From what I understand, there is a debate in epistemology / philosophy of science regarding the concept of simplicity ("Occam's Razor"). Some hold that there is a justifiable basis for the concept in the sense that it is an indicator of which of a set of possible theories is more likely to be true. Others dispute this and say that there is no justified basis for simplicity arguments in this sense.

In a recent conversation I made the following assertion (more or less):

Those who say that simplicity arguments are unjustified are actually saying that we can never really know the truth about any theory at all, since there are always an infinite number of alternative and more complex theories that account equally for the data. The best we can do is to falsify a theory (as Karl Popper proposed), but beyond that we can never say anything about whether a theory is true.

So (I said), we have only one of two choices. We can either allow for simplicity arguments, or we can give up on ever saying anything positive about the truth (beyond falsifying a few of the infinite possible theories).

Is this correct?

Replies from: passive_fist, Vulture, gedymin, ChristianKl
comment by passive_fist · 2014-12-30T01:19:41.284Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Adding to Vulture's reply (that you can not make absolute positive statements about truth), the modern view of "Occam's razor" (at least in Bayesian thought) is the minimum description length (MDL) principle (, which can be rigorously formalized. In this formalism, it becomes a prior over models. Multiplied with the likelihood over models (derived from data), this gives you a posterior. In this posterior, if you have two models that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is preferred (note that the more complicated one isn't completely rejected; it's just given lower posterior probability).

There are very deep fundamental theoretical considerations for why MDL is a very good way of assigning a prior to beliefs. If someone wants to reject Occam's razor, they would have to give an alternative system and show that under the assumptions of MDL it gives better long-term utility. Or that the assumptions of MDL are unfounded.

Replies from: gedymin
comment by gedymin · 2014-12-31T10:22:08.456Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Perhaps you can comment this opinion that "simpler models are always more likely" is false:

Replies from: passive_fist
comment by passive_fist · 2014-12-31T21:56:13.976Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That paper doesn't seem to be arguing against Occam's razor. Rather it seems to be making the more specific point that model complexity on training data doesn't necessarily mean worse generalization error. I didn't read through the whole article so I can't say if the arguments make sense, but it seems that if you follow the procedure of updating your posteriors as new data arrives, the point is moot. Besides, the complexity prior framework doesn't make that claim at all.

comment by Vulture · 2014-12-30T01:09:02.905Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In the Bayesian view, you can never really make absolute positive statements about truth anyway. Without a simplicity prior you would need some other kind of distribution. Even for computable theories, I don't think you can ever have a uniform distribution over possible explanations (math people, feel free to correct me on this if I'm wrong!); you could have some kind of perverse non-uniform but non-simplicity-based distribution, I suppose, but I would bet some money that it would perform very badly.

Replies from: Vulture, JoshuaZ, Metus
comment by Vulture · 2014-12-30T06:37:25.439Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Damn, I didn't intend to hit that Retract button. Stupid mobile. In case it wasn't clear, I do stand by this comment aside from the corrections offered by JoshuaZ.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2014-12-30T01:23:20.420Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Consistency forces you to have a simplicity based prior if you have a counteable set of non-overlapping hypotheses described using some finite collection of symbols (and some other minor conditions to ensure non-pathology). See prior discussion here. See also here for related issues.

comment by Metus · 2014-12-30T01:24:46.845Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Without a simplicity prior you would need some other kind of distribution.

You can act "as if" by just using the likelihood ratios and not operating with prior and posterior probabilities.

comment by gedymin · 2014-12-31T10:29:14.525Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Why can't there be other criteria to prefer some theories over other theories, besides simplicity?

Replies from: Plasmon
comment by Plasmon · 2014-12-31T12:22:35.106Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Solomonoff induction justifies this : optimal induction uses a prior which weights hypotheses by their simplicity.

Replies from: gedymin
comment by gedymin · 2014-12-31T12:52:28.227Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Let me clarify my question. Why do you and iarwain1 think there are absolutely no other methods that can be used to arrive at the truth, even if they are sub-optimal ones?

Replies from: Plasmon
comment by Plasmon · 2014-12-31T14:24:35.237Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The prior distribution over hypotheses is distribution over programs, which are bit strings, which are integers. The distribution must be normalizable (its sum over all hypotheses must be 1). All distributions on the integers go to 0 for large integers, which corresponds to having lower probability for longer / more complex programs. Thus, all prior distributions over hypotheses have a complexity penalty.

You could conceivably use a criterion like "pick the simplest program that is longer than 100 bits" or "pick the simplest program that starts with 101101", or things like that, but I don't think you can get rid of the complexity penalty altogether.

Replies from: gedymin
comment by gedymin · 2014-12-31T14:41:47.897Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I know what SI is. I'm not even pushing the point that SI not always the best thing to do - I'm not sure if it is, as it's certainly not free of assumptions (such as the choice of the programming language / Turing machine), but let's not go into that discussion.

The point I'm making is different. Imagine a world / universe where nobody has any idea what SI is. Would you be prepared to speak to them, all their scientists, empiricists and thinkers and say that "all your knowledge is purely accidental, you unfortunately have absolutely no methods for determining what the truth is, no reliable methods to sort out unlikely hypotheses from likely ones - while we, incidentally, do have the method and it's called Solomonoff induction"? Because it looks like what iarwain1 is saying implies that. I'm sceptical of this claim.

Replies from: DanielLC
comment by DanielLC · 2015-01-01T04:35:38.384Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You can have more to it than the complexity penalty, but you need a complexity penalty. The number of possibilities increases exponentially with the complexity. If the probability didn't go down faster, the total probability would be infinite. But that's impossible. It has to add to one.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-12-30T13:25:04.687Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The best we can do is to falsify a theory (as Karl Popper proposed), but beyond that we can never say anything about whether a theory is true.

You don't have to go that road, you can also say: "The map is not the territory" and stop looking for true maps but rather value maps based on accuracy or usefulness.

comment by William_S · 2014-12-29T18:23:42.362Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm trying to install a new habit, wondering if anyone had relevant feedback, or if my description of it would be useful to anyone else.

Background: I experience situations where I feel like I "should" try to do X (for example, it's a habit that would produce good results if I kept it up), but feel a lot of resistance to doing X. The conflict between the part of myself enforcing the should and opposing the should isn't very fun. When I don't end up doing X I start down a spiral of self criticism that leads to feeling bad about myself, which leads to me giving up on doing more things, and so on.

The habit formula I'm trying to deal with this situation is:

  1. (Trigger) Noticing an aversion towards doing something that you endorse doing or a though of form "You should do X" coupled with aversion to doing X.
  2. (Action) Take a small step towards doing X (remove a trivial inconvenience, mentally simulate taking the action, try to break down your aversion into smaller pieces)
  3. (Celebrate) Mentally reward yourself for building this habit
  4. (Step Back) Allow yourself to make the choice about whether to give in to the initial impulse, with the "should" part of your mind stepping down in order to let you figure out what you really want to do. It's OK to continue and do X, and it's okay to stop and give in.

This is like Comfort Zone Expansion (trying to split up things you are uncomfortable with) meets B.J. Fogg's TinyHabit program or How habits work and how you may control them.

Although a habit of just the first 3 steps would be more optimal to execute, reassuring myself that I'm committed to following step 4 is the part that prevents my brain from getting into a conflict about whether to follow the habit procedure or not.

Concrete Examples: Social event that I don't feel like going to in the moment, but could turn out to be enjoyable and would be probably good for building social skills => Step towards is to go to the location where the event is held and go it, but be okay with leaving at any time (even immediately), or not talking to people. Think about a habit that I've tried to pick up, but have dropped off doing => Step towards is to carry out the habit, just this once, and be okay with not forming a concrete plan to get myself to do it in the future right now

Has something of this form been tried before? Any thoughts or improvements? I think the difficult parts are a) noticing the trigger in step 1 b) making sure that step 2 is enough to be meaningful (although I think my personality will lead me to do this most of the time) c) long term maintenance. I tentatively feel like this has been helpful, but haven't been working with it for long enough to be certain.

comment by Omid · 2015-01-04T15:17:02.704Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Longshot, but are there any transgender people here who have signed up for cryonics?

comment by pianoforte611 · 2015-01-02T04:24:48.541Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Scott Alexander and Scott Aaronson have described their experiences as shy nerdy heterosexual guys growing up. Both of them felt a crippling paralysis and fear at the thought of asking a girl out.

Since LessWrong fits this demographic pretty well, I'd like to know: how well do their experiences match yours? Only answer if you are a nerdy heterosexual male*. [pollid:806]

Feel free to elaborate.

*For this purpose I would roughly define nerdy as having two of the following characteristics: poor social skills ; a high IQ or ; intense non-mainstream interests (eg. e-sports, comic books, rock collecting). Regarding that last criteria, basically anything you would feel weird talking to your barber about.

Replies from: Alejandro1, Vaniver, pianoforte611, Benito, arundelo, None, Dahlen
comment by Alejandro1 · 2015-01-02T14:36:23.028Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I answered "not at all", even though I was for some years very shy, anxious and fearful about asking girls out, because I never felt anything like the specific fears both Scotts wrote about, of being labelled a creep, sexist, gross, objectifier, etc. It was just "ordinary" shyness and social awkwardness, not related at all to the tangled issues about feminism and gender relations that the current discussion centers on. I interepreted the question as being interested specifically in the intersection of shyness with these issues, otherwise I might have answered "sort of".

Replies from: someonewrongonthenet
comment by someonewrongonthenet · 2015-01-02T18:36:44.480Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yup. I'm pretty sure I was the only one who knew about or cared about feminism during the awkward middle/high school years. Most kids just aren't that ideologically involved. Maybe I just grew up in a medium-IQ bubble (certainly lower than the Scotts), but in my experience the only place feminists really manage to hurt people is via the internet and internet-fueled outrages.

However, even if it's restricted to the 'net it's still important and worth addressing, seeing as that's a main hub of communication now. Besides, nerdy heterosexual males are highly at risk for any damages that may occur via internet exposure.

comment by Vaniver · 2015-01-02T20:03:06.752Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Typically, it's polite to add a "I just want to see the results" option, so that people who don't fit into the class of desired voters can still see the votes without corrupting them.

Replies from: pianoforte611
comment by pianoforte611 · 2015-01-02T20:08:44.134Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've never made a poll before - noted.

comment by pianoforte611 · 2015-01-02T20:15:41.192Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The results so far are 10, 25, 13.

Being a non-frequent commenter, I didn't know that you had to vote to see the results. I'm not in target demographic so I voted not at all. 10, 25, 13 are the correct poll results after tossing out my response.

Well I'm very surprised and grateful to the people who voted. I thought both Scotts were probably significant outliers. But the poll results seem to show that their experiences are not that uncommon.

comment by Ben Pace (Benito) · 2015-01-02T12:27:20.339Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Could you be more specific as to who should respond? If nerdy means high IQ + low social skills, I'm not sure I should respond, because I don't have low social skills, but I am an otherwise... Geeky hetero male.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2015-01-02T13:03:34.625Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Nerdy hetero female. That is rather irrelevant, but perhaps more relevant is that I have a twin sister, also a hetero nerd, also in a PhD program in a closle related field...and she prefers pining after guys to asking them out. Partly because a female zoologist is seen as weird, but married female zoologist is seen as weirder.

Replies from: bogus
comment by bogus · 2015-01-02T14:55:26.171Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

she prefers pining after guys to asking them out.

ISTM that the whole model where we think of "asking a stranger out" as the way to start a romantic relationship (or not a literal stranger, perhaps, but an acquaintance at best) is part of the disease. It seems to be a US-centric phenomenon, and one that many relationship experts seem to object to. Many of these experts put forth a very different model, where your initial goal is not to ask a person out on a "date", but to make the best case for yourself as an intriguing and engaging person. If the other person is interested, you can think about setting up a follow-on meeting. And even then, you're not "dating", you're just hanging out, and may or may not be starting a romantic/sexual relationship. The words "date" and "dating" are superfluous: they do not carve this reality at its joints.

Replies from: someonewrongonthenet, None
comment by someonewrongonthenet · 2015-01-02T19:05:09.404Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The words "date" and "dating" are superfluous: they do not carve this reality at its joints.

For the subset of the population that has no friendly acquaintances that they might be interested in and therefore goes and meets people of the opposite gender specifically for romantic/sexual purposes, with neither party having plausible deniability that this is what they are doing, I think those words do carve reality at its joints. I agree that belonging to said subset is not an optimal situation, but I don't think people necessarily enter that subset by choice.

^Keeping in mind that these words were constructed in a time and place when men and women did not generally socialize as friends.

Replies from: bogus
comment by bogus · 2015-01-02T19:18:42.440Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My point is that a sensible process of "meet[ing] people of the opposite gender specifically for romantic/sexual purposes" involves two substeps: (1) getting socially acquainted with said opposite-gender person, and (2) starting and cultivating an actual sexual/romantic relationship with them. Making a distinction between these substeps strikes me as being critically important, regardless of whether that person was a friendly acquaintance in the first place. The notion of "dating" fails to do that.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-01-02T16:08:54.845Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not sure how successful this might be, but would something like "Well, we've had a few interactions and I think we have a few things in common so I thought we should just hang out a bit and dget to know each other a bit better" Obviously you can change the wording a bit. Saying that you feel instead of think could have some implications but I'm not a lingustics-brain interpretation expert so I can't say I have much evidence to support it but that's just how I feel :) Anyway that hing is just a general guide-line and you could definitely change it a bit depending on the infinity plus one variations you have.

Also what is a relationship expert? Women? Guys that had lots of girlfriends? Lesswrongers analyzing things up the the 0.000%th? I have a general dislike for expertise in certain fields such as this because I often instinctually either agree on stuff I haven't thought about or basically say "oh I know this already" when certain "experts" speak. Not going to discount their effort but I think it's less about the experts and more about people doing stupid stuff.

Also the whole dating thing is broken because it's too structured. I say that a proper date should be like having a map that even if it's accurate you only know the terrain but you still don't know what you'll encounter on your way so it all depends on how well you click with each other. If you feel it's going nowhere just call it quits. Also helps with the silent types if you can read nonverbal actions well enough.

Replies from: bogus
comment by bogus · 2015-01-02T16:34:24.141Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Well, we've had a few interactions and I think we have a few things in common so I thought we should just hang out a bit and dget to know each other a bit better"

Blech. You don't need to apologize for yourself! Just leave it implied that if you're exchanging contact info, it's with the goal of meeting again. At most, you could say something like, "I think you're a really interesting person/I'm impressed by about you, maybe we should hang out again" - if she's not into you, you're not going to change her mind by persuading her. Just deal with that, it's part of the game.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2015-01-02T16:40:56.088Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Fucking hell man that's what I wanted to say to the girl. FUCK THAT BUS.

Also if you're exchanging contact info it's damn well cause I wanna meet again. You get her number but you know you want her, not the damn number.

Also that's exactly what I meant by changing that a bit. A decent guideline. Just change it to how you prefer.

comment by arundelo · 2015-01-05T12:43:44.714Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I answered "sort of", but I've thought about it more and now think "not at all" may have been a better answer. I think the two Scotts are talking about a real problem but the main commonalities between my experience and theirs are:

  1. not particularly successful with women (I was single for most of high school and have been single for long stretches of my adult life)
  2. afraid to let people know I was interested in them
  3. depressed about lack of romantic success

and I don't think it's particularly controversial that those are common straight male nerd experiences (or common experiences for other demographics, especially the second and third things on the list). The controversial thing is whether these problems were caused or worsened by feminist ideas, which in my case was not true at all.

Possibly relevant:

  • I am about ten years older than both Scotts.
  • I did not "go to college" in the sense of earning a degree. (I took a bunch of music classes at a community college -- i.e., a college without dorms. I never attended anything like the sexual-assault prevention workshops Scott Aaronson mentions.)
comment by [deleted] · 2015-01-03T06:10:54.233Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I had zero experience with women in high school, but found I was well ahead of the curve after college. My experience is most single people under 30 have relationship issues to some degree or another. I find just generally being more socialable is the best cure. Trying to specifically get good at relationships without learning the rest of it is setting yourself up for failure.

comment by Dahlen · 2015-01-04T21:28:39.665Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Perhaps a distinction should be made between the different reasons for asking someone out, because there's a gender imbalance in them. Namely, one could desire someone mainly for sex (because the target is one of several attractive people around) or mainly because they want a relationship with that specific person (and none other), i.e. a crush. At least what I get from SSC's account of Aaronson's experience was that the latter was more motivated by sex.

If lonely male nerds are motivated by the first and lonely female nerds (or girls in general) are motivated by the second, and both parties know this, then obviously the guy is going to be rejected. Both the guy and the girl need to have significantly more sexual experience than the typical high schooler in order for the idea of casual sex / friends with benefits to appeal to the girl. (Otherwise, the sex is probably going to suck for her in every way possible, from the burden of contraception to failure of the inexperienced boy to please her sexually.) If both guy and girl were to be looking for a mainly romantic partner (in a relationship that would obviously include sex, if at a later date), then the guy's chances for approaching her would go up.

(That is not to say that they would go up by much above 0 in the given context. Expressing ("that kind of") interest in someone you're not on a chatting basis with, which apparently is how many nerdy guys approach the situation, with is a horrible social move that only the most charming and attractive can pull off. Flirting precedes confessions, people.)

comment by chaosmage · 2014-12-31T22:59:31.304Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I ran into a political/sociological hypothesis was entirely new to me and strangely convincing although not rigorous. Maybe somebody can point me to relevant research?

It goes like this. After a revolutionary change of government, many things will be worse than before for ten to twenty years, and the rewards will only really outweigh this after. So revolutions are carried out by people who are young enough to live past that bad period and make a net gain. And industrialized societies don't have revolutions because they're too full of people who are too old to benefit from them.

I don't see obvious counter-examples.

If that were true, wouldn't it give governmental institutions an incentive against anti-aging research?

Replies from: Nornagest, DanielLC, emr
comment by Nornagest · 2014-12-31T23:20:36.194Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think this quite flies. There's no particular reason to look for adaptations relating to national politics; that's a scale we didn't evolve to handle. (Interpersonal politics, sure, but young people aren't known for playing long games there.) And putting this down to explicit planning doesn't work either; we generally see shorter planning horizons among young people, e.g. in domains like finance, where we'd normally expect analogous arguments to apply. However, a youth bulge does seem to be correlated with social unrest.

So, what's going on there? I'm not totally sure, but I'd start by looking at risk tolerance.

Replies from: chaosmage
comment by chaosmage · 2015-01-01T00:56:44.923Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You don't think we had triibal politics in the ancestral environment? Chimps have them.

Replies from: Nornagest
comment by Nornagest · 2015-01-01T01:10:16.316Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think we had tribal politics. I don't think they're very relevant to revolutionary politics in the sense that you discuss above.

I don't want to make any strong statements about how tribal politics in the EEA worked, since we honestly have very little information about social structure in that context. But I think we can make a few assumptions about them. For example, they're likely to have been stable for timescales of many generations, which means that we're not likely to have evolved intuitions about changing the form of government. Similarly, they're likely to have worked on sub-Dunbar scales, not the scale of a modern nation.

Replies from: chaosmage
comment by chaosmage · 2015-01-01T13:35:14.060Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think revolution has to be about the form of government. It is merely the removal of government without its consent. A military coup d'etat could be a revolution in that sense.

comment by DanielLC · 2015-01-01T04:42:30.846Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm confused. Are you assuming that the revolutionaries are altruistic, but only to people who live during their life? If they're selfish then they wouldn't care how things are for people at large, and if they're altruistic they wouldn't care about their lifespan.

Replies from: chaosmage
comment by chaosmage · 2015-01-04T21:54:42.565Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'd assume that much like everyone else, they care about the people inside their circle of empathy - family, friends, and when they become part of a movement, the people in that movement.

comment by emr · 2015-01-01T00:55:50.807Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not sure that the returns to direct participants in many revolutions have been net-positive (relative to a probability weighted sum of possible non-revolutionary outcomes), even many decades out. Certainly the initial pain that accompanies a revolution will dull, but that's a quite different. At the very least, the accounting becomes difficult enough that a rational-choice theory of revolutions begins to look implausible, unless we modify the theory to assume that young participants are irrationally overconfident that the revolution is going to go well.

Consider the fairly small long term gains of fighter in the American Revolution, relative to a trend that favored the demands of the colonies anyway. Or the Russian Revolution, where the removal of the Czar was inevitable, but where fighting for the more revolutionary path afterwards was a terrible mistake. And also don't forget the large number of thwarted revolutions.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2014-12-29T18:52:35.265Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

With all the good publicity the Bay Area gets here, this piece makes me worry that the benefits may not be for everyone.

As always, what am I missing?

Replies from: bogus
comment by bogus · 2014-12-30T14:42:22.785Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You aren't missing anything, but this is not exactly news - the Bay Area is one of the most expensive places in the US, so its amenities are largely for those who can afford the rent. And, ultimately, most of its benefits are simply reflected in higher real-estate values for landowners. Lower zoning regulations would help, of course - as would getting rid of the insanity known as Prop 13.

Replies from: emr
comment by emr · 2014-12-31T17:29:20.556Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The Bay Area is praised for having a large tech sector, and a history of supporting counter-cultural and otherwise non-normative people. So right away you get lots of geek subcultures (broadly defined), some of which overlap with LW-interests. There might be other overlaps too.

Outside of those factors, I'm quite certain that the Bay Area (or California in general) is not being praised as a model of good governance on things like housing, land use, budgeting, or doing anything in less than three decades, four referendums and five judicial opinions! Within the United States, the region has a mixed reputation. Something like: It's a pretty nice place in spite of itself, (provided you can afford it and don't do something crazy like try to raise children in the area).

With reference to the article, San Francisco has had a fairly unique problem with homelessness for decades (among US cities). The history of this is complicated, but it doesn't seem that a lack of skilled workers or available economic power is a dominant factor, so I'm not optimistic that the latest tech boom will do very much to help the problem.

EDIT: I meant to post this as a direct reply to the OP, outlining the view from inside the US a bit more. I don't disagree with anything you've said.

Replies from: bogus
comment by bogus · 2014-12-31T21:42:44.212Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The tech boom will make scarcity of housing worse, especially for the most vulnerable people in the area - no doubt about it. That's why there were anti-Google protests in SF in the first place. If you want it to be a win-win situation, you gotta have the land-use policies that go with it - which means, having sane property taxation (no Prop 13) and slashing zoning regulations.

Replies from: Izeinwinter
comment by Izeinwinter · 2015-01-02T16:30:10.845Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hope being that if taxed at accurate values and permitted to do so, some of the more desirable locations would morph from houses into condominiums?

Replies from: bogus
comment by bogus · 2015-01-02T17:01:33.324Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Pretty much. Also, increasing liquidity/mobility in the housing market. Prop 13 is an especially foolish and insane policy because it incents real estate owners not to sell, in order to keep their advantaged taxation on the house.

comment by noxSL · 2014-12-29T14:59:34.481Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The map is not the territory in terms of AI

Since AIs will be mapping entities like humans, it is interesting to ponder how they will scientifically verify facts vs fiction. You could imagine a religious AI that read a lot of religious texts and then wants to meet or find god, or maybe replace god or something else. To learn that this is not possible, it would need instruments and real-time data from the world to build a realistic world model, but even then, it might not be enough to dissuade it from believing in religion. In fact I'd say there are millions of things an AI could believe are fact but are not facts, everything from small incidents in raw data from the world up to higly abstract conceptual models of the world - the AI can at any time go down a path that is not correct. Using an algorhithm to find unusual occurrences in data (like cancer on an mri image) is different from connecting that data point to conceptual models to explain it. We could try to limit this functionality but that seems counterproductive since how would we know how such a limitation is harming the AIs capabilities?

comment by MrMind · 2014-12-30T16:20:47.647Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A list of ramblings that could prove useful in extending Solomonoff Induction, or that could well be all false:

  • Kolmogorov complexity is a way to assign to each explanation a natural number

  • assigning a natural number to a program is a way to pidgeon-hole the totality of programs to a well ordered countable set, in such a way that no pidgeon-hole has infinite pidgeons in it

  • if every partion of k^n in m parts has an homogeneous set of size j, then k --> j^n_m

  • let w be omega, n, m finite, then w --> w^n_m (Ramsey theorem)

  • w -/-> w^n_w, on this you can construct Solomonoff induction: partition the set of explanation in such a way that no group of explanation is infinite, then every hypothesis has measure 1/k2^-n, where k is the cardinality of the group and n is the position of the group's pidgeon-hole. No notion of complexity is needed, although complexity is a way to partition explanations

  • but also 2^k -/-> w^2_k, for every cardinal k.

  • This means 2^w -/-> w^2_w, so you could make SI work on infinite explanations too

  • extend to every k --> j^n_m so that j and m are measurable

comment by polymathwannabe · 2014-12-29T18:53:49.591Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

With all the good publicity the Bay Area gets here, this piece makes me worry that the benefits may not be for everyone.

As always, what am I missing?

comment by advancedatheist · 2014-12-29T15:23:21.909Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you have aspirations of living a lot longer than current standards, have you given any thought to what you have taken for granted now that you may have to discard in, say, 300 years?

For example, if the Harry Potter novels meant a great deal to you growing up, how will you relate to people even within your current life expectancy (say, in your 50's) who grew up later than you and didn't read those novels or see the movies because something new came along to replace the Potter phenomenon?

Or consider what could happen over a longer time scale: What if the social ideology of the Enlightenment declines in influence, human societies regress towards the long-term mean, and something like Neoreaction becomes the dominant social model in, say, the 24th Century? If you manage to hang around that long, people much younger than you might want to ask you about your experiences with democracy, equality, feminism and other Enlightenment notions that they read about in historical works, but which they find too alien to relate to.

Replies from: polymathwannabe, shminux, None, skeptical_lurker
comment by shminux · 2014-12-29T15:40:32.225Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Shifts like that also happen on much shorter time scales. Besides, to experience one, just move to a different country and see how you like it.

Replies from: CAE_Jones
comment by CAE_Jones · 2014-12-29T17:46:45.843Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Or just be weird enough and don't go anywhere.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-12-29T18:26:04.795Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hey, if neoreactionaries will dominate in the 24th Century, it means you have to be very good right now and do your utmost to forge a future worth living. Because who knows, they might take our time as their model:))

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2014-12-29T17:03:54.648Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hypothetical future person:

"Oh no, I've woken from cryonic sleep and no-one like Harry Potter! What am I to do with myself? Life without Harry Potter is cold, and void of meaning. I can't live without Harry Potter. Goodbye, cruel world." bang