Open Thread, June 2-15, 2013

post by TimS · 2013-06-02T02:22:15.913Z · score: 5 (6 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 436 comments

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

436 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by gwern · 2013-06-06T21:14:51.822Z · score: 49 (51 votes) · LW · GW

Per a discussion on IRC, I am auctioning off my immortal soul to the highest bidder over the next week. (As an atheist I have no use for it, but it has a market value and so holding onto it is a foolish endowment effect.)

The current top bid is 1btc ($120) by John Wittle.

Details:

  1. I will provide a cryptograpically-signed receipt in explicit terms agreeing to transfer my soul to the highest bidder, signed with my standard public key. (Note that, as far as I know, this is superior to signing in blood since DNA degrades quickly at room temperature, and a matching blood type would both be hard to verify without another sample of my blood and also only weak evidence since many people would share my blood type.)
  2. Payment is preferably in bitcoins, but I will accept Paypal if really needed. (Equivalence will be via the daily MtGox average.) Address: 17twxmShN3p6rsAyYC6UsERfhT5XFs9fUG (existing activity)
  3. The auction will close at 4:40 PM EST, 13 June 2013
  4. My soul is here defined as my supernatural non-material essence as specified by Judeo-Christian philosophers, and not my computational pattern (over which I continue to claim copyright); transfer does not cover any souls of gwerns in alternate branches of the multiverses inasmuch as they have not consented.
  5. There is no reserve price. This is a normal English auction with time limit.
  6. I certify that my soul is intact and has not been employed in any dark rituals such as manufacturing horcruxes; I am also a member in good standing of the Catholic Church, having received confirmation etc. Note that my soul is almost certainly damned inasmuch as I am an apostate and/or an atheist, which I understand to be mortal sins.
  7. I further certify that the transferred soul is mine, has never been anyone else's, has not been involved in any past transactions, sales, purchases, etc. However, note that, despite rich documentation that this is doable, I cannot certify that any supernatural or earthly authorities will respect my attempt to sell my soul or even that I have a soul. It may be better for you to think of this as purchasing a quitclaim to my soul.
  8. Bids can be communicated as replies to this comments, emails to gwern@gwern.net, comments on IRC, or replies on Google+. I will update this comment with the current top bid if/when a new top bid is received.

Suggested uses for my soul include:

  • novelty value
  • pickup lines & icebreakers; eg. Wittle to another person considering selling their soul:

      JohnWittle> ______: "You know, I own gwern's soul.
                          You know, gwern of LessWrong and gwern.net" is a
                          great ice breaker at rationalist meetups and I anticipate
                          it increasing my chances of getting laid by a nonzero amount.
                          Can your soul give me similar results?
    
  • supererogatory ethics: purchasing a soul to redeem it
  • making extra horcruxes
  • as a speculative play on my future earnings or labor in case I reconvert to any religion with the concept of souls and wish to repurchase my soul at any cost. This would constitute a long position with almost unlimited upside and is a unique investment opportunity.

    (Please note that I hold an informational advantage over most/all would-be investors and so souls likely constitute a lemon market.)

  • hedging against Pascal's Wager:

    presumably Satan will accept my soul instead of yours since damnation does not seem to confer property rights inasmuch as the offspring of dictators continue to enjoy their ill-gotten gains and are not evicted by his agents; similarly, one can expect him to honor his bargain with you since, as an immortal he has an infinite horizon of deals he jeopardizes if he welshes on your deal.

    Note that if he won't agree to a full 1:1 swap, you still benefit infinitely by bargaining him down to an agreement like torturing you every day via a process that converges on an indefinitely large but finite total sum of torture while still daily torturing you & fulfilling the requirements of being in Hell.

EDIT: Congratulations to Mr. Wittle.

comment by Jayson_Virissimo · 2013-06-06T21:49:38.048Z · score: 18 (18 votes) · LW · GW

Just increased my subjective probability that John Wittle is Satan.

comment by Elithrion · 2013-06-06T22:55:42.451Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I am really disappointed in you, gwern. Why would you use an English auction when you can use an incentive-compatible one (a second price auction, for example)? You're making it needlessly harder for bidders to come up with valuations!

(But I guess maybe if you're just trying to drive up the price, this may be a good choice. Sneaky.)

comment by gwern · 2013-06-06T23:10:15.863Z · score: 25 (25 votes) · LW · GW

(But I guess maybe if you're just trying to drive up the price, this may be a good choice. Sneaky.)

Having read about auctions before, I am well-aware of the winner's curse and expect coordination to be hard on bidding for this unique item.

Bwa ha ha! Behold - the economics of the damned.

comment by StJohn · 2013-06-07T12:18:03.750Z · score: 10 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry to ruin the fun but I'm afraid this sale is impossible. Gwern lacks the proprietary rights to his own soul. As the apostle St Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthians (chapter 6), "Or know you not, that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost, who is in you, whom you have from God; and you are not your own? For you are bought with a great price. Glorify and bear God in your body." It clearly states that "you are not your own" which at least applies to baptized Christians (and as a confirmed Catholic, it may even apply to a higher degree). Unless gwern provides some scriptural basis for this sale, it cannot proceed. Even when Satan tempted Christ, the only proferred exchange was worship in return for temporal power. There are no cases (even hypothetical ones) of a direct sale of one's soul in the Church's Tradition.

In exchange for ruining this sale, I'll pray for your soul for free.

comment by Plasmon · 2013-06-07T17:32:37.432Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Even when Satan tempted Christ, the only proferred exchange was worship in return for temporal power.

That's because Satan knows there's no such thing as a soul, and he is disinclined to lie.

comment by gwern · 2013-06-07T16:00:44.466Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

For you are bought with a great price.

This seems inapplicable to me; I haven't agreed to sell my soul yet, and so far the bidding hasn't been too active so it will hardly be for 'a great price'.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-07T17:25:39.067Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I believe the "great price" is referring to God sacrificing Jesus to redeem the souls of all humanity, including (presumably) you.

But I'm hardly a biblical scholar; see below, lol.

comment by gwern · 2013-06-08T19:13:46.501Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I believe the "great price" is referring to God sacrificing Jesus to redeem the souls of all humanity, including (presumably) you.

Sure, but presumably I still have control over the disposition of my soul, otherwise that's basically a Calvinist theology, no?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-07T14:01:21.080Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'd like to ruin gwern's sale too, but my misspent youth as a philosophy major just came back to haunt me.

[EDIT: This paragraph is completely wrong; see below. The end of 1 Corin 6:19 does not say "you are not your own"; it literally says "and [it] is not your own" (= καὶ οὐκ ἐστε ἑαυτῶν) with an omitted subject. The only real possibility is the subject of the previous phrase, which you rendered as "your members." (= τὸ σῶμα ὑμῶν) I find this problematic (and not "clearly stated"), because σῶμα means both the Church as a group (usually in the form, "the body of Christ") and the physical body, as it does in e.g. Mat 10:28: "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell."]

Since in context 1 Corin 6:12-20 is about sexual immorality, I find the latter interpretation more compelling.

Regarding the Catholic tradition, time was when the Church claimed the authority to discharge sin from the soul in exchange for money.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2013-06-07T14:55:37.343Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The end of 1 Corin 6:19 does not say "you are not your own"; it literally says "and [it] is not your own" (= καὶ οὐκ ἐστε ἑαυτῶν)

You are wrong about this - here's the inflection of the word: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%CE%B5%E1%BC%B0%CE%BC%CE%AF#Ancient_Greek

"ἐστε" is second person plural ("you are") NOT third person singular ("it is").

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-07T15:24:24.408Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, blast. My biblical Greek is obviously too old. Retracting paragraph.

comment by Vaniver · 2013-06-06T22:36:53.554Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

so souls likely constitute a lemon market.

applause

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2013-06-06T21:29:13.721Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Note that if you can get a high price from Satan on your own soul (e.g. rulership of a country), this is a no-lose arbitrage deal since souls are fungible goods.

comment by Decius · 2013-06-07T03:17:42.514Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

souls are fungible goods.

Reference?

comment by Jayson_Virissimo · 2013-06-07T05:36:53.523Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I tried to find that "all are equal in the eyes of God" verse, but apparently there isn't one. Curious.

comment by FriendlyButConcerned · 2013-06-06T22:08:11.193Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

“Get behind me, Cobra! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of That Which Newcomb's Angel Serves, but merely human concerns.”

comment by James_Miller · 2013-06-07T19:45:51.253Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Because they don't exist?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-07T14:05:17.146Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

you still benefit infinitely by bargaining him down to an agreement like torturing you every day via a process that converges on an indefinitely large but finite total sum of torture while still daily torturing you & fulfilling the requirements of being in Hell.

A tactic that almost definitely should be referred to as "Gabriel's Horn."

comment by shminux · 2013-06-07T00:17:28.527Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I certify that my soul is intact and has not been employed in any dark rituals such as manufacturing horcruxes; I am also a member in good standing of the Catholic Church, having received confirmation etc. Note that my soul is almost certainly damned inasmuch as I am an apostate and/or an atheist, which I understand to be mortal sins.

Not sure how much I can trust the word of a damned. After all, lying is no more of a mortal sin than apostasy. And for an atheist there is no extra divine punishment for lying.

comment by gwern · 2013-06-07T17:22:13.342Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

After all, lying is no more of a mortal sin than apostasy. And for an atheist there is no extra divine punishment for lying.

Ah, but can we take your word for it? IIRC, you are one of my fellow damned...

comment by shminux · 2013-06-07T17:47:21.020Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I am not sure. I have never been baptized, so where my soul ends up depends on whether exclusivism, inclusivism, conditionalism or universalism is true.

comment by gwern · 2013-06-08T02:25:07.927Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm pretty sure that by Catholic dogma, you would count as definitely damned due to lack of baptism and knowing of the Church but refusing to convert to it.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2013-06-11T05:54:26.050Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Huh, reading this made me realize that there's apparently still a small bit of my brain that doesn't alieve in atheism. For a moment I considered whether I should try to get some profit out of selling my soul as well, and then felt uncomfortable over the idea, thinking "I should hold onto it, just in case..."

comment by gwern · 2013-06-13T00:07:58.607Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I actually really decided to do the auction when I thought about the topic and realized that it didn't bother me at all. Might as well profit from my lack of belief/alief.

comment by lukeprog · 2013-06-06T23:55:22.506Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

One person who did this years ago spun the event into a book, a popular blog, and endless speaking gigs.

comment by gwern · 2013-06-07T00:01:16.210Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

That's an interesting comparison, but I'm selling my soul, and it looks like he was just selling his time:

Mehta, an atheist, once held an unusual auction on eBay: the highest bidder could send Mehta to a church of his or her choice. The winner, who paid $504, asked Mehta to attend numerous churches, and this book comprises Mehta's responses to 15 worshipping communities, including such prominent megachurches as Houston's Second Baptist, Ted Haggard's New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Willow Creek in suburban Chicago.

comment by lukeprog · 2013-06-07T00:08:03.099Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Oh right, I was misremembering what he did.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2013-06-07T03:53:25.795Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The quitclaim doesn't help here. It merely quits your claim, which is relevant if ownership is disputed, but it doesn't give any more rights to the buyer than to anyone else (just more documentation of the quit). You should have been suspicious when taterbizkit mentioned that you can sell quitclaim deeds for a single item to multiple buyers.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-07T01:46:46.868Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

conversely, if Satan insists on my soul, I can let Satan have my soul and use yours instead.

comment by gwern · 2017-06-07T18:44:23.403Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

After some unfortunate imperial entanglements, the sale has been completed:

-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
Hash: SHA512

I, the undersigned, do irreversibly sign over to the purchaser possession of my soul, karmic balance, or whatsoever ontologically basic mental system might underly my own consciousness, in the event that we live in a functionally dualistic or monistically spiritual universe, for the sum of $121 USD on this June the Eleventh 2013 (with delayed payment calculated at 9% interest compounded annually), to be paid to the PayPal account identifiable as gwern0@gmail.com If our universe is reductionistic, and yet, some alien agency continues to compute the mental processes of our minds after death, giving us pleasurable or painful experiences based on how optimized our earthly behavior was as measured against some criteria, then I explicitly sign over possession of the weight of all the actions I took in life over to the purchaser, with the resolution of any problems to be determined by the aforementioned alien agent.

This day being the Seventh of June 2017, I now accept payment of $144 from the purchaser such that the above terms are binding.

- --
Gwern Branwen
gwern0@gmail.com
Bitcoin hash: 00000000000000000055b0bee08bfeb235bc60bc22a27951501d78b10883484a
-----BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE-----

iQIcBAEBCgAGBQJZOEisAAoJEH3Oo4eJxYjMVIQP/1q4oFISyLS+4YAPpe5vmZu+
8TWNxX8G00Ix1qduEo/Okg6YTE8jdJk8wIwuuMGp2EeVIdUD8ffPz75TUiCzBpGq
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comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-11T17:24:20.568Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

My soul is here defined as my supernatural non-material essence as specified by Judeo-Christian philosophers, and not my computational pattern (over which I continue to claim copyright); transfer does not cover any souls of gwerns in alternate branches of the multiverses inasmuch as they have not consented.

What? This is lame. The definition of the soul as used by 16th century Catholic theology, which is friendly to information theory, is clearly the common sense interpretation and assumed among reasonable people. Sure some moderns love the definition you use but they are mostly believers of moralistic therapeutic deism, one hardly needs more evidence of their lack of theological expertise.

comment by gwern · 2013-06-13T00:08:38.199Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The definition of the soul as used by 16th century Catholic theology, which is friendly to information theory, is clearly the common sense interpretation and assumed among reasonable people.

None of that seems true to me, although I'll admit I don't know what revolution happened in the 1500s in Catholic theology re souls.

comment by listic · 2013-06-07T13:22:43.935Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You definitely should auction it off in other places, where prospective buyers value such things much higher.

comment by gwern · 2013-06-07T17:14:30.633Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

What other forums might value my soul? As a purchase, it's really most useful for atheists willing to do a simple expected-value calculation and hedge against a tail risk (theism); but for most people, buying a soul is largely otiose.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-07T23:01:07.497Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Wait.... it seems you're suggesting that the expected value of a soul to an atheist exceeds the otiosity threshold. Did I read that right? I'm interested in your reasoning, if so.

Either way: the expected entertainment value to me of purchasing your soul far exceeds the expected value of the soul itself, and I suspect that's not uncommon, so I doubt the theological implications are a primary factor.

comment by gwern · 2013-06-08T19:12:59.964Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Wait.... it seems you're suggesting that the expected value of a soul to an atheist exceeds the otiosity threshold. Did I read that right? I'm interested in your reasoning, if so.

It depends on one's subjective uncertainty. I know there are atheists who have been persuaded by visions or Pascal's wager that they were wrong, so the risk would seem to be real, and given the stakes, $120 seems like chump change for insurance - even if you try to defeat a Pascal's wager by bounded utility, the bound would have to be extremely large to be plausible...

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2013-06-08T23:06:09.134Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

If atheists thinks that there's a small chance that they will turn into theists and be glad to be in possession of a spare soul, then they must think that theists value spare souls. So it would seem more valuable to theists, who don't have to multiply the value of the transaction by the small chance.

There are some differences between typical theists and the hypothetical atheist-turned-theist. In particular, the theist has had a lifetime to keep a clean soul. But many theists think they do a bad job. If the spare soul has tail risk value to an atheist, it should have more value to the bad theists. The other difference is that the atheist is not a believer at the time of the transaction. Perhaps the belief of the theist makes it a greater sin to trade in souls.

But it seems like a lot of details have to go right for it to be a better deal for the atheist than the theist.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-08T19:53:24.131Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Mm. Are you suggesting that the subjective uncertainty of a typical atheist on this question causes expected value to exceed the otiosity threshold? Or merely that there are some atheists for whom this is true? I'll agree with the latter.

Though, thinking about this, surely this would be much more likely for theists, no? So wouldn't the maximum expected value of your soul likely be higher, thereby securing you a higher sale price, in a theist community? (Preferably one with a sense of humor about theology.)

comment by Larks · 2013-06-07T08:58:42.195Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

My soul is here defined as my supernatural non-material essence as specified by Judeo-Christian philosophers, and not my computational pattern

What if these are in fact the same thing, in extension if not intention? Then you would be selling your computational pattern, in contradiction with

(over which I continue to claim copyright)

comment by gwern · 2013-06-07T17:18:10.614Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think that's unlikely enough that I'm willing to risk a tort of fraud if that turns out to be the case and I cannot convey my soul without also selling my personal copyright.

comment by Gnnthkcclqnrx · 2013-06-07T01:45:03.380Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

FYI, according to galactic law, transactions like this are valid only to the extent that the implicit metaphysics of the contract is correct. If you wish to guarantee the property rights of your soul's new owner, you should add a meta clause indicating valid interpretive generalizations of content and intent.

comment by gwern · 2013-06-07T03:48:32.716Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm afraid I can't afford a barrister admitted to the Trantor bar to look over the contractual details, but thanks for the advice.

comment by JohnWittle · 2013-06-10T00:48:07.233Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Heh, I would have bid 0.5btc if I had known I would be the only bidder...

comment by Vaniver · 2013-06-10T00:58:45.412Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This makes this exchange all the more amusing.

comment by FourFire · 2013-06-10T01:47:18.737Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm obviously missing something, but tally ho, I'll find out eventually!

comment by Vaniver · 2013-06-10T03:04:09.130Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

A second-bid auction is one where all bidders submit their maximum willingness to pay, and then the bidder willing to pay the most pays what the second-highest bidder was willing to pay. An English auction is where bidders submit bids which they will have to pay, with the idea that once the second-highest bidder will stop raising the bid once they pass their threshold.

There's a lot of theoretical work showing that second-bid auctions are all-around more efficient. English auctions can encourage the highest bidder to overbid, and the winner's curse refers to the phenomenon that the winner of an auction is generally the person who overestimated its value by the most. Second bid auctions mitigate that by making them pay only the second highest estimate.

If JohnWittle is the only bidder in the auction, then in a second-bid auction he would receive gwern's soul for free, but because this is an English auction, he has to pay his full bid, and so loses out for dramatically overestimating its market value- like gwern planned all along!

comment by badger · 2013-06-10T13:49:38.054Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There's a lot of theoretical work showing that second-bid auctions are all-around more efficient.

I'm don't specialize in auctions, but this sounds wrong. A second-price auction and an English auction are strategically equivalent in most formal models. Nearly all auctions yield identical revenue and allocations when bidders are risk-neutral expected utility maximizers with independent values. Experimentally, the second-price auction tends to generate more revenue than an English auction, at least in the case of private values.

With common or correlated values (where the winner's curse shows up), I'd think sealed bid auctions would lead to more winner overbidding than English or Dutch auctions. In these cases though, you really don't have to worry about efficiency since everyone values the item equally.

comment by Vaniver · 2013-06-10T21:01:12.153Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm don't specialize in auctions, but this sounds wrong. A second-price auction and an English auction are strategically equivalent in most formal models.

I should have been clearer by 'all-around'; I meant that the incentives are lined up correctly, the costs are lower (every person only needs to submit one bid, and does not need to expend any effort monitoring the auction), gets exact results without requiring massive numbers of bids, and more information is conveyed by the end of the auction.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-10T16:49:10.442Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If JohnWittle is the only bidder in the auction, then in a second-bid auction he would receive gwern's soul for free,

Well, yes, technically that's true... but what prevents/discourages gwern (or his accomplice) from submitting an $N-1 bid (where N is the current sole bid amount)?

comment by Vaniver · 2013-06-10T20:40:22.648Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Typically, second-bid auctions are sealed, and all opened at once at the end of the auction, so it won't be known that JohnWittle has bid, or how much he has bid, until the auction is over.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-10T21:06:49.757Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Ah. (nods) That makes sense.

comment by gwern · 2013-06-10T17:20:07.644Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If I were going to do that, I would simply have set a reserve price.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-10T18:49:57.211Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Not the same thing, surely? Submitting an N-1 bid causes the top bidder to pay effectively their bid... in effect turning a second-bid auction into an English auction as defined above. Setting a reserve price sets a floor that has no relationship to the top bidder's bid.

But sure, the fact that you didn't set a reserve price also suggests that you wouldn't take advantage of this loophole in your counterfactual second-bid auction.

comment by CronoDAS · 2013-06-07T03:02:36.803Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

has never been anyone else's

Hindus and some other groups may disagree with that. ;)

comment by Decius · 2013-06-07T03:18:18.930Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

If you can find evidence that they are correct, you could have a fraud claim. However, the contract defines the soul being sold as that described by the Judeo-Christian philosophers.

comment by Zaine · 2013-06-10T07:00:20.893Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My soul is here defined as my supernatural non-material essence as specified by Judeo-Christian philosophers[...]

What do you intend to do with your soul(s) as defined by other schools of philosophy?
By Plato's theory of Ideal Forms, selling your soul would be tantamount to selling bits of the gods - and man has no claim to the gods. I'd advise against this lest you wish to become fate-brothers with Prometheus.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-10T11:58:51.800Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

By Plato's theory of Ideal Forms, selling your soul would be tantamount to selling bits of the gods

What? Citation needed.

comment by Zaine · 2013-06-10T19:18:49.483Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Phaedo 80b.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-10T23:31:04.216Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, Socrates supposes there that the soul is "like the divine" as opposed to the body which is like mortal things. He means that the soul is in the class of things that are unchanging, immutable, invisible, and grasped by the intellect rather than the senses, He doesn't say anything about the soul being a 'part of the gods'. And it doesn't sound like he's thinking of anything like the Prometheus myth, given the things he associates with the soul (ideal, invisible, immutable, etc.).

If you asked Plato about selling your soul, I think he would think you were just being silly.

comment by Zaine · 2013-06-10T23:54:22.225Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If something was divine, then it was under the domain of the gods; I was making a simple extrapolation.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-11T00:00:04.162Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, but that's not a sound inference, given the context. No mention is made there of the gods, and the context pulls wide away from reading 'divine' in terms of traditional Greek mythology. I see no reason to think Socrates (or Plato) thinks any of that stuff was real.

comment by Decius · 2013-06-07T04:05:18.642Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Are you accepting bids in things other than currencies commonly used for exchange? I would like to offer a finely crafted narrative instead of bitcoins.

comment by gwern · 2013-06-07T15:07:40.116Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Hm, is your narrative so compelling that I would accept jam tomorrow instead of bitcoin today?

comment by thomblake · 2013-06-10T19:23:21.285Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Upvoted for the multilayered pun

comment by Decius · 2013-06-07T16:53:51.934Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I offer no guarantees regarding the quality, completeness, or any other details of said narrative (save that it will be a narrative, delivered within 90 days of acceptance of terms, with payment in full due immediately on receipt), although I will accept your input, if you want me to, on length, theme, setting, genre and/or other details.

As for the relative value of narratives and btc, I can say only that I have not written for any commonly recognized currency.

Accepting this offer would subject you to a considerable amount of downside risk, as well as a considerable amount of upside risk. However, people who auction their soul are not typically averse to these types of risk.

comment by gwern · 2013-06-07T17:21:37.092Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Mm, I'm afraid that due to the hyperinflation over the past few decades of narrative and subsequent debasement (>3.2m on FanFiction.net alone), I can't accept any amount of it without guarantees of its quality. Nothing personal - it's the law.

comment by Decius · 2013-06-07T17:26:14.401Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What would you accept as sufficient evidence of quality?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-07T17:31:34.468Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

A Hugo Award, I presume.

comment by gwern · 2013-06-07T17:37:04.279Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Or a Nebula, Locus, or World Fantasy Award. I'd also accept a Nobel or Man Booker (for magical realism).

comment by Decius · 2013-06-07T23:34:57.534Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Which one do you want? I can have a crack team of ninja liberate it from the current owner and deliver it to you, but that will cost significantly more than your soul.

comment by gwern · 2013-06-08T02:24:22.808Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

but that will cost significantly more than your soul.

Well then, I'm afraid we would be unable to reach a mutually beneficial agreement - I would be better off retaining my soul under such a sale.

comment by Decius · 2013-06-08T02:35:27.537Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You could also earn or steal your own frikkin' literature award.

The typical narrative written by a winner of a high-prestige award is worth significantly more than a few btc in straight commercial value. I acknowledge that my narrative will very likely have negative commercial value (it would take more work to sell it than it would be purchased for), or I would be selling narratives and they would be too valuable to me to offer to you.

The thing is, I wouldn't offer anything based on its cash value, because I value your soul only slightly more than you do. My hope was to find something that you would prefer to btc as the price of your soul. A narrative set to music might be particularly appropriate, since it would allow you to say that you sold you soul for a song.

comment by gwern · 2013-06-08T02:55:17.168Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

A narrative set to music might be particularly appropriate, since it would allow you to say that you sold you soul for a song.

While that is tempting, I am sufficiently amused that I will be able to say I sold my soul for bitcoins and - diminishing returns - selling it for a song isn't amusing enough to sell it on the cheap to you. Anyway, it would violate the terms I've already set.

comment by Decius · 2013-06-08T19:56:00.844Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Fair enough. Enjoy your bitcoin.

comment by elharo · 2013-06-07T16:31:24.408Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I flashed back to Bill Wilingham's Proposition Player. Highly recommended for an amusing fantasy take on this particular deal.

comment by Michelle_Z · 2013-06-07T04:26:36.980Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I laughed out loud when I read this. I'm not incredibly surprised someone would bid, but at the same time, disappointed.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-03T21:04:08.209Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I am confused. This Washington Post article appears to describe a preliminary study which suggests that politics is less of a mindkiller if you ask people to bet money on their beliefs.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/06/03/if-you-pay-them-money-partisans-will-tell-you-the-truth/

And I am confused because what appear to be my attempts to find the paper resulted in two papers with entirely different abstracts. And papers. Example:

Abstract 1:

"Our conclusion is that the apparent gulf in factual beliefs between members of different parties may be more illusory than real."

Abstract 2:

"Partisan gaps in correct responding are reduced only moderately when incentives are offered, which constitutes some of the strongest evidence to date that such patterns reflect sincere differences in factual beliefs."

http://huber.research.yale.edu/materials/39_paper.pdf

http://themonkeycage.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/bullockgerberhuber.pdf?343c0a

I realize the dates on the papers are different, but the shifts seem very dramatic. Thoughts?

comment by Lumifer · 2013-06-05T17:47:13.544Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe this will help?

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2013/06/55494.html

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2013-06-04T16:00:50.380Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I scraped the last few hundred pages of comments on Main and Discussion, and made a simple application for pulling the highest TF-IDF-scoring words for any given user.

I'll provide these values for the first ten respondents who want them. [Edit: that's ten]

EDIT: some meta-information - the corpus comprises 23.8 MB, and spans the past 400 comment pages on Main and Discussion (around six months and two and a half months respectively). The most prolific contributor is gwern with ~780kB. Eliezer clocks in at ~280kB.

comment by jkaufman · 2013-06-04T18:00:16.318Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

What about for the site overall?

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2013-06-04T22:12:41.086Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This was my eventual plan, but I haven't settled on a general corpus to compare it to yet.

comment by Kawoomba · 2013-06-06T20:16:32.446Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Can you comment on your methodology - tools, wget scripts or what?

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2013-06-06T23:12:34.959Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Scraping is done with python and lxml, and the scoring is done in Java. It came about as I needed to brush up on my Java for work, and was looking for an extensible project.

I also didn't push it to my personal repo, so all requests will have to wait until I'm back at work.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2013-06-06T10:57:50.690Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'll provide these values for the first ten respondents who want them.

Yes please. I have no idea what they will look like.

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2013-06-06T11:26:04.952Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

suffering -> 25.000
god -> 24.508
does -> 24.383
causal -> 21.584
np -> 21.259
utility -> 20.470
agi -> 20.470
who -> 20.169
pill -> 19.353
bayesian -> 18.965
u1 -> 17.567

The word 'who' seems to come up a lot for the contributors at the more prolific end of the scale. I don't have a satisfactory answer why this should be the case. Your contribution comprises ~170kB of plain text.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-11T17:52:40.516Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If I'm counting the replies correctly, nine respondents requested them so far. I'd like my word values. Thank you!

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2013-06-12T10:09:14.436Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

political -> 28.733
power -> 27.093
moldbug -> 26.135
structural -> 24.192
he -> 24.082
reactionary -> 23.480
blog -> 21.973
good -> 21.373
social -> 20.470
his -> 20.470
very -> 20.169

Your contribution is ~167kB.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2013-06-10T10:48:42.362Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

May I have mine? Thanks.

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2013-06-10T11:46:40.552Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

moral -> 35.017
thread -> 34.250
bob -> 25.163
preferences -> 24.383
eu -> 23.739
column -> 23.537
matrix -> 23.419
mugging -> 22.367
pascals -> 21.479
lord -> 19.515
eg -> 19.266

Your contribution to the corpus is ~100kB.

comment by FiftyTwo · 2013-06-09T20:41:09.403Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

An alternative would be to ask people for donations to Against Malaria Foundation or your preferred charity.

comment by Dorikka · 2013-06-09T19:10:45.614Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'll provide these values for the first ten respondents who want them.

I'd like mine, please.

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2013-06-10T09:08:52.531Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

gvrq -> 9.457
puppies -> 8.784
cute -> 7.141
creprag -> 7.119
gb -> 6.901
rewind -> 6.305
fvatyr -> 5.100
deck -> 4.838
stuff -> 4.816
vf -> 4.739
boom -> 4.221

As mentioned to other respondents, rot13 really messes with TF-IDF. I'm still not sure of the best way to deal with this.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2013-06-11T05:55:04.389Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If someone uses rot13, that is a highly informative. Is there any principled reason to like quoted words showing up, but not liking rot13? Anyhow, I think the disappeal of rot13 for TF-IDF is that it seems like a lower level feature than words. In particular, it is wasteful for it to show up more than once, if you're only doing top 11.

In some sense, I think the reason that the low level feature of rot13 is mixing with the high level feature of words is that you've jumped to the high level by fiat. Before looking a word frequency, you should look at letter frequency. With a sufficiently large corpus, rot13 should show up already there. I doubt that the corpus is big enough to detect the small usage by people here, but I think it might show up in bigrams or trigrams. I don't have a concrete suggestion, but when you look at bigrams, you should use both corpus bigrams and document letter frequencies to decide which document bigrams are surprising.

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2013-06-11T09:52:18.993Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You've already surmised why rot13 words are undesirable. Just to check, are you suggesting I use n-gram frequency to identify rot13 words, or replace TF-IDF with some sort of n-gram frequency metric instead?

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2013-06-12T21:43:41.590Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You could use TF-IDF on n-grams. That's what I was thinking. But when I said to combine combine the local n-gram frequencies and the global n+1-gram frequencies to get a prediction of local n+1-gram frequencies to compare against, you might say it's too complicated to continue calling it TF-IDF.

If all you want to do is recognize rot13 words, then a dictionary and/or bigram frequencies sound pretty reasonable. But don't just eliminate rot13 words from the top 11 list; also include some kind of score of how much people use rot13. For example, you could use turn every word to 0 or 1, depending on rot13, and use TF-IDF. But it would be better to score each word and aggregate the scores, rather than thresholding.

What I was suggesting was a complicated (and unspecified) approach that does not assume knowledge of rot13 ahead of time. The point is to identify strange letter frequencies and bigrams as signs of a different language and then not take as significant words that are rare just because they are part of the other language. I think this would work if someone wrote 50/50 rot13, but if the individual used just a little rot13 that happened to repeat the same word a lot, it probably wouldn't work. (cf. "phyg")

There are two problems here, to distinguish individuals and to communicate to a human how the computer distinguishes. Even if you accept that my suggestion would be a good thing for the computer to do, there's the second step of describing the human the claim that it has identified another language that the individual is using. The computer could report unusual letter frequencies or bigrams, but that wouldn't mean much to the human. It could use the unusual frequencies to generate text, but that would be gibberish. It could find words in the corpus that score highly by the individual's bigrams and low by the corpus bigrams.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2013-06-07T03:04:36.859Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

mine, please.

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2013-06-07T09:17:45.414Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

sats -> 22.952
htt -> 22.810
sat -> 22.157
princeton -> 21.356
mathematicians -> 17.903
crack -> 16.812
harvard -> 16.661
delete -> 16.563
proofs -> 15.745
graph -> 15.565
regressions -> 15.301

Your corpus comprises ~77kB of plain text.

comment by Vaniver · 2013-06-06T22:47:06.826Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'd like mine, please!

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2013-06-07T09:16:09.905Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

because -> 41.241
p -> 38.129
should -> 34.016
sat -> 33.974
much -> 33.113
cholesterol -> 33.056
evidence -> 32.444
iq -> 32.092
comments -> 31.454
scores -> 30.690
clear -> 28.899

Your contribution comprises ~284kB of plain text, and is the thirteenth-largest in the corpus.

comment by Vaniver · 2013-06-07T17:04:54.051Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks!

Interestingly, the only one of those that I recognize as clearly one of my verbal quirks is "clear," which I use a lot in "it's not clear to me that ...", but it barely made it onto the list. I participate in most of the discussions on intelligence testing, so it's no surprise that "sat," "iq," and "scores" are high. "Cholesterol" seems likely to be an artifact from a single detailed conversation about it, and then apparently I like words like "because," "should," and "much" more than normal, which is not that surprising given my general verbosity. I know I use the word "evidence" more than the general population, but am surprised I use it that much more than LW, and "comments" is unclear. Probably meta-discussion?

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2013-06-07T17:23:02.218Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Most incidence of "comments" seems to be in the context of moderator actions. There are 44 occurrences in your contribution to the corpus, which is around 50,000 words.

As for "evidence", there are 70 occurrences in 50,000 words. So on average, every 715th word you say in comments is "evidence".

comment by satt · 2013-06-06T21:36:21.624Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Ooh, go on then.

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2013-06-07T09:13:02.907Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

phd -> 34.505
teleology -> 25.661
maitzens -> 20.402
neutron -> 19.191
fusion -> 17.502
causal -> 17.267
argument -> 16.222
turtle -> 16.137
greenhouse -> 15.736
p1 -> 15.353
might -> 15.353

Your contribution comprises ~116kB.

comment by satt · 2013-06-07T21:07:23.496Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Haha, I should've foreseen "maitzens", "causal", "argument" & "turtle" showing up there. (I'm lucky your corpus didn't go back far enough to capture this never-ending back-and-forth, otherwise my top 10 would probably be nothing but "HIV", "AIDS", "cases", "CDC", "Duesberg", "CD4", and such.) Thanks for running the numbers.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-06T18:53:07.287Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sure, why not? Thanks!

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2013-06-07T09:10:59.107Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

x -> 98.136
confidence -> 87.600
value -> 66.797
agree -> 65.843
endorse -> 63.750
ok -> 60.507
said -> 59.640
evidence -> 54.869
say -> 54.185
bamboozled -> 53.497
values -> 53.122

Your contribution comprises ~420kB of plain text, and is the fifth largest in the corpus.

comment by arundelo · 2013-06-06T16:53:16.727Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Cool! This (judging the relevance of words in documents in a corpus and analogous problems) is a subject I muse about sometimes. Thanks for introducing me to TF-IDF.

I'd like my top scoring words please.

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2013-06-06T16:56:02.419Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

comte -> 17.852
m1 -> 12.664
grumble -> 9.813
altruism -> 8.787
rotating -> 8.442
olive -> 8.150
comtes -> 8.025
m -> 7.383
workshop -> 7.157
egoistic -> 6.916
happiness -> 6.475

Your contribution comprises ~21kB of plain text.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2013-06-06T09:04:56.671Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Curious to hear mine.

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2013-06-06T09:54:37.799Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

intelligence -> 17.119
machine -> 15.353
environments -> 15.052
reference -> 13.546
machines -> 12.304
views -> 12.253
legg -> 12.252
friedman -> 11.417
papers -> 10.792
we -> 10.536
exercises -> 9.532

Your contribution to the corpus amount to ~47kB of plain text. For reference, Eliezer is ~190kB and gwern is ~515kB. The scores are unadjusted for document size and not amazingly meaningful outside of this specific context.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2013-06-06T10:43:04.751Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Huh, that seems different from what I'd have expected - but then again, I'm not sure of what I would have expected. Thanks.

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2013-06-06T10:59:06.093Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I've just fixed a bug in my scraper that was causing it to abandon 25% of the corpus. This has ended up tripling your contribution. Some new values for you:

agi -> 37.328
intelligence -> 22.367
moral -> 21.010
agis -> 20.087
eea -> 18.647
takeoff -> 17.500
credences -> 17.108
machine -> 16.902
our -> 16.222
environments -> 15.919
deer -> 15.761

This retains a similar "flavour" to the previous set, (AGI and ev-psych). The best way I've found to interpret it is "what sort of words describe what I use Less Wrong to talk about?"

As an interesting side-note, rot13 really messes with TF-IDF.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2013-06-06T12:24:04.266Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Okay, that feels like it makes more sense. I'm a little confused about the "deer", though.

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2013-06-06T12:28:44.592Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Blame this comment.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2013-06-06T14:35:04.186Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Hah, okay.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2013-06-06T14:35:13.765Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You're not distinguishing original from quoted text, then?

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2013-06-06T15:37:43.884Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's not obvious to me that I should. TF-IDF is about identifying key terms in a document. Quoted text counts towards that.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2013-06-06T16:14:30.613Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

TF-IDF is about identifying key terms in a document. Quoted text counts towards that.

That depends on what "the document" is. Everything appearing in a posting by a given author, or all of the text written by a given author?

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2013-06-06T16:48:47.687Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"The document" is my wild sample that I've gone out and caught. TF-IDF tells me what it's broadly about. For this purpose, quoted text provides useful information.

If I want to infer personal facts about the author (beyond "what are the key terms in the posts they write"), it would make sense to weight original text higher than quoted text, but it would also make sense to use something other than TF-IDF for that purpose.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2013-06-05T07:14:40.084Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

On BBC Radio 4 this morning I heard of a government initiative, "Books on Prescription". It's a list of self-help books drawn up by some committee as actually having evidence of usefulness, and which are to be made available in all public libraries. They give a list of evidence-based references.

General page for Books on Prescription.

The reading list.

The evidence, a list of scientific studies in the literature.

I have not read any of the books (which is why I'm not posting this in the Media Thread), but I notice from the titles that a lot of them are based on Cognitive Behavioural Techniques, which are generally well thought of on LessWrong.

The site also mentions a set of Mood-boosting Books, "uplifting novels, non-fiction and poetry". These are selected from recommendations made by the general public, so I would say, without having read any of them, of lesser expected value. FWIW, here's the list for 2012 (of which, again, I have read none).

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-06T05:56:46.864Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I notice that almost all of those books are about things that are considered "mental problems" (the exceptions being chronic fatigue, chronic pain, and relationship problems, which are nevertheless specific problems). So if a self-help book isn't about a particular problem (like How to Win Friends and Influence People and The Seven Habits), or the problem it talks about isn't primarily psychological (like Getting Things Done), then it won't appear on that list regardless of how good it is.

(Stating my opinions here so that you won't have to guess: My brother, who seems quite sensible and whom I admire very much, states that all three of the books mentioned here are very good. Getting Things Done taught me one extremely useful lesson, probably among the top five most useful things I have ever learned. I have little evidence, apart from this stuff, that any of these books are useful.)

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2013-06-02T19:53:45.834Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Improving my social skills is going to be my number one priority for a while. I don't see this subject discussed too much on LW, which is strange because it's one of the biggest correlates with happiness and I think we could benefit a lot from a rational discussion in this area. So I was wondering if anyone has any ideas, musings, relevant links, recommendations, etc. that could be useful for this. Stuff that breaks from the traditional narrative of "just be nicer and more confident" is particularly appreciated. (Unless maybe that is all it takes.)

Optional background regarding my personal situation: I am a 19 yo male (as of tomorrow) who is going to enter college in the fall. I'm not atrociously socially inadept, e.g. I can carry on conversations, can be very bold and confident in short bursts sometimes, I have some friends, I've had girlfriends in the past. However, I also find it very hard to make close friends that I can hang out with one on one, I sometimes find myself feeling like I'm taking a very submissive role socially, and I feel nervous or "in my head" a lot in social interactions, among other things. Not to be melodramatic, but I find myself wishing a decent amount that I had more friends and was more popular.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-06-03T05:50:38.262Z · score: 15 (15 votes) · LW · GW

Improving my social skills is going to be my number one priority for a while. I don't see this subject discussed too much on LW, which is strange because it's one of the biggest correlates with happiness and I think we could benefit a lot from a rational discussion in this area.

Discussion on lesswrong on that subject would most likely not be rational. Various forms of idealism result in mind killed advice giving which most decidedly is not optimized for the benefit of the recipient.

Stuff that breaks from the traditional narrative of "just be nicer and more confident" is particularly appreciated. (Unless maybe that is all it takes.)

Get out of your house, go where the people are and interact with them. Do this for 4 hours per day for a year (on top of whatever other incidental interactions your other activities entail). If "number one priority" was not hyperbole that level of exertion is easily justifiable and nearly certain to produce dramatic results. (Obviously supplementing this with a little theory and tweaking the environment chosen and tactics used are potential optimisations. But the active practice part is the key.)

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2013-06-04T02:20:01.643Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Discussion on lesswrong on that subject would most likely not be rational. Various forms of idealism result in mind killed advice giving which most decidedly is not optimized for the benefit of the recipient.

I agree that when social skills are usually discussed, various forms of idealism tend to result in mind killed advice. The standard set of advice in particular seems to mostly ignore the fact that a) status exists, i.e. it is very possible to be liked and not respected, and sometimes the latter overpowers the former and b) some people genuinely have large personality flaws that make them unpleasant to be around.

I was hoping LessWrong would be able to avoid this idealism, as they do in most other areas, which is why I posted here. Do you think that LessWrong would be worse than average in this regard? Why? And do you think there is anywhere I could have a rational discussion about this stuff?

Get out of your house, go where the people are and interact with them. Do this for 4 hours per day for a year (on top of whatever other incidental interactions your other activities entail)

Like I said in another post in this thread, I don't think it's at all a given that if you socialize enough, you will eventually develop good social skills, and I think that reading a bit of stuff on the subject in the last month helped me about as much as all the social experiences I've had in the last year.

But something about the idea of making it a priority to spend x amount of time a day specifically seeking out social interactions makes sense and is appealing to me. I don't know if four hours a day is the right amount - I will have to experiment, but I can very much see myself implementing something like this.

One problem with widely recommending this is that it seems to me like many, if not most people are not at all in a position to reliably be able to follow this advice. But I imagine someone with low to moderate social skills on a college campus probably can.

comment by Vaniver · 2013-06-06T22:51:11.797Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Like I said in another post in this thread, I don't think it's at all a given that if you socialize enough, you will eventually develop good social skills, and I think that reading a bit of stuff on the subject in the last month helped me about as much as all the social experiences I've had in the last year.

Sure, but it should be ~30 minutes of reading a day and ~4 hours of interaction a day. Practice is what leads to skill development, and unpleasantly enough, only hard practice (i.e. focusing on the parts you're bad at, not the parts you're good at) really counts.

comment by drethelin · 2013-06-02T21:20:54.909Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Practice Practice Practice Practice Practice. You have to go out of your way to hang out with people to get any good at being fun to hang out with. WARNING: This does not mean you have to spend time at loud parties or bars or clubs. While they pretend to be areas for socializing, they're not really. It's one thing if you enjoy dancing or drinking, but places that are less loud and crowded are a lot better for conversation.

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2013-06-02T23:33:06.263Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Practice Practice Practice Practice Practice. You have to go out of your way to hang out with people to get any good at being fun to hang out with.

I've done this and it didn't really work. Maybe it worked a little, but not at a very fast rate. To be honest, I think reading a small amount of social skills stuff and thinking about how to solve the problem a little helped much more than all the "practice" I've done in the last year or so.

Obviously you can't take this to the extreme and expect that you can instantly go from Michael Cera to Casanova just by sitting alone reading stuff and watching videos in your room, but I don't think the statement "If you spend enough time in social interactions, you will inevitably develop good social skills" is at all true either.

It's one thing if you enjoy dancing or drinking

I kind of despise the former and love the latter. :\

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-06-03T08:20:37.005Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I kind of despise the former and love the latter.

Did you try dancing lessons?

I hated dancing before I learned it, but I love it now. I am very bad at "learning by copying others", but with good explicit education I became a decent dancer.

(Note: Almost everyone adviced me against explicit learning, because they said it wouldn't be "natural" or "romantic". I ignored all this advice, and now no one complains about the result. Contrary to predictions, learning the steps explicitly helped me to improvise later. Seems like people just have a strong taboo about applying reductionism to romantic activities like dancing.)

comment by Nisan · 2013-06-03T14:45:06.396Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting; no one has ever told me that dancing lessons are a bad idea. I think we live in very different cultures. (Other things you have said in the past have also given me his impression.)

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-06-03T15:39:18.782Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

No, no, no, this was a bad explanation on my part. No one told me that dancing lessons are bad idea per se... only that my specific learning style is.

This is what works best for me: Show me the moves. Now show me those moves again very slowly, beat by beat. Show me separately what feet do; then what hands and head do. Tell me at which moment which leg supports the weight (I don't see it, and it is important). When and how exactly do I signal to my girl what is expected from her. (In some rare situations, to get it, I need to try her movements, too.) I still don't get it, but be patient with me. Let me repeat the first beat, and tell me what was wrong. Again, until it is right. Then the second beat. Etc. Then the whole thing together. Now let's do the same thing again, and again, and again, exactly the same way. Then something "clicks" in my head, and I get the move... and since that moment I can lead, improvise, talk during dance, whatever. -- As a beginner I was blessed with a partner who didn't run away screaming somewhere in the middle of this. Later my learning became faster, partially because I learned to ask the proper questions. And I had a good luck to dancing teacher who was a former engineer, so he was able to comply with my strange demands.

In contrast, this is what seems to me a typical learning process, at the dancing lessons: Teacher shows the steps quickly. Then shows the steps quickly again. And again. At this moment people in the room start getting it, and they do it halfway correctly. And the more they do it, the better they get.

This absolutely does not work for me. I can learn to do things slowly; but I can't learn then quickly, not even approximately. I can progress from "slowly but correctly" to "quickly but correctly", but I can't progress from "incorrectly" to "correctly" at any speed by mere repetition and observation. Most people seem to have this ability to copy each other. I don't. I need to be explained the mechanism, step by step. (And this is not just in dancing. Sorry for touching an irrelevant taboo topic, but the PUA literature did exactly the same thing for me about human relations. Despite all the biases et cetera, that was the only source that told me explicitly what most humans learn by copying and probably never bother to explain in a way comprehensive to me.)

Now, after seeing my learning style, the typical reaction was that I should stop doing that, because my dancing style will be ugly and "robotic", and my partners will feel uncomfotable. Instead I should just do what other people are doing, for a very long time. Wrong in both aspects. First, doing what other people do, just for a longer time, sometimes does not work for me. My head just works differently, or something. Second, after the moment the moves "click" in my head, my dancing becomes okay. If you didn't see me at the beginning, you would not expect I had so much trouble learning that. Actually, I got feedback from new partners that I dance better than average, and that I am very good at leading. I can teach a girl a new dance in 5 minutes and then lead her so that no one expects she is doing this for the first time. -- This is the other side of how my head works: It takes me a lot of time to understand something, but then I can explain it extremely quickly. (Again, this is not just in dancing. I used to teach maths privately, and the results were good. Many people can do math, but can't teach it. Although I didn't have the same kind of problem learning maths, probably because it already is pretty explicit.)

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-09T14:28:31.347Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Now, after seeing my learning style, the typical reaction was that I should stop doing that, because my dancing style will be ugly and "robotic", and my partners will feel uncomfotable.

Now, that's about the only possible way to learn to play anything non-trivial on instruments such as the guitar; therefore, these people

  1. believe that all guitar music is ugly and robotic, or

  2. have no idea of how people learn to play, or

  3. are confused and/or talking through their asses (e.g. some part of them deep down is saying ‘people who cannot learn to dance the way I did don't deserve to get the social status I got from it’)

(not necessarily with probabilities within an order of magnitude of each other).

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-06-09T15:00:29.431Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I completely agree with you (which is why I persisted in my learning style). From my experience it seems to me many people are confused like this.

Possible explanation: We learn some things by copying or early in childhood, and we learn some other things explicitly. I guess this makes many people think that skills are divided to "explicitly teachable" and "explicitly unteachable", using some heuristics, such as: "if it is usually learned at school, it is teachable", "if I tried to learn it and failed, it is unteachable", "it is teachable only if I perfectly understand how it works", etc.

It probably adds to confusion that we don't see how other people learned their skills. Similarly to attribution fallacy, if we see someone good at doing X, it is easier to assume that it is a part of their nature, not a learned skill. (And those people may support us in this opinion, for example because it discourages the competition.) Seems to me this is pretty frequent in art. Also, sometimes the idea of "unteachable skill" is a good excuse for not learning and doing something.

Even those people who learned e.g. playing guitar may not propagate the idea automatically to other aspects of their lives.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2013-06-10T10:19:51.611Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It probably adds to confusion that we don't see how other people learned their skills.

Sometimes people don't see how they themselves learned something. When you ask them, they confabulate empty phrases like "it's a knack", or "eventually you just get it", or the like. They generally suck at explaining. So, ignore them and move on.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-09T20:19:57.290Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It probably adds to confusion that we don't see how other people learned their skills.

I was assuming that those people had themselves learned to dance at some point, so unless it was a very long time ago and/or they suck at introspection they knew how they did it. If you were talking about people who didn't themselves know how to dance, then replace ‘people who cannot learn to dance the way I did don't deserve to get the social status I got from it’ with ‘I'm jealous those people can dance and I can't, but I can't be bothered to learn it myself, so in order to put them down I'll tell them that their grapes are sour’.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-06-10T08:41:12.202Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe there are two learning styles -- copying and explicit -- each of them having their set of advantages and disadvantages. (Perhaps an analogy to System 1 and System 2.)

Learning by copying is faster and it does not require cooperation from the person you copy. On the other hand, copying is imperfect, and you cannot copy what you don't see. Learning explicitly is slower and requires a good explanation; which requires a good introspection from the person who explains.

So maybe this is an instance of "the last will be first". -- People who are good at learning by copying, use learning by copying as their favorite learning style. People who are bad at learning by copying can compensate by focusing on explicit learning.

Under these assumptions, the "copying" people have a fast start, because many activities are simple and can be learned by copying. Then when it comes to more complex activities, they usually continue copying, get some mediocre results, and stop there. And even there, they probably get those mediocre results faster than an "explicit" person. -- They really believe that learning by copying is superior, because this is what worked for them. Learning explicitly is just a strange ritual done at school; and I suspect that even there they try to copy the teachers.

On the other hand, "explicit" people learn slowly and are completely dependent on good learning materials. Sometimes the good materials are available, and allow them to reach mastery in complex things. The whole school system is designed for this. Sometimes the materials are unavailable or misleading (e.g. because the topic is mindkilling), and they are lost. These are the "book smart" people. -- They believe in explicit learning, because this is what worked for them.

These are just extreme descriptions, I guess most people use learning by copying in some areas and explicit learning in other areas. They may have an explanation about which style is better in which situation. There are things that give advantage to one of those styles in a given area: how big inferential distances are there, how visible is the information, how good are available teaching materials. But better teaching materials can be made even in areas where learning by copying has the natural advantage. -- It's just than in a given area, when most people are satisfied with what they learn by copying, developing techniques for explicit learning may seem unnecessary and "wrong". This can be more complicated if saying that the copying does not work for you means advertising your low status, so the defense of explicit techniques itself becomes a low-status thing to do, and insisting that those techniques are completely unnecessary becomes a signal of good copying skills and high status.

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2013-06-04T02:57:09.975Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry for touching an irrelevant taboo topic, but the PUA literature did exactly the same thing for me about human relations. Despite all the biases et cetera, that was the only source that told me explicitly what most humans learn by copying and probably never bother to explain in a way comprehensive to me.

Sorry for only commenting on the irrelevant taboo topic you touched on, but this is interesting to me. I have been reading some PUA stuff lately and it seems to me that the whole point is that it is not describing something that ordinary humans learn naturally, but instead prescribing something extraordinary that you can do to set yourself apart from the crowd in order to attract the hottest girl in the club that every other guy in there is hitting on. And even then it only works via the law of averages, and requires one to override one's natural intense aversion to rejection in order to pursue a more rational strategy adapted for a modern world in which you can talk to someone once and never see them again.

Am I wrong about this?

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-06-04T11:58:11.234Z · score: 9 (13 votes) · LW · GW

These days PUA refers to so many things that I need to be more specific. The sources that helped me were "The Mystery Method" by Mystery, "How To Become An Alpha Male" by Carlos Xuma, "Married Man Sex Life" by Athol Kay. I would also recommend "The Blueprint Decoded" by RSD.

Yes, there are many sources that only tell you "do this, do that, and if it does not work, just do it again". I guess this is what most customers want: "Don't bother me with explanations, just give me a quick fix!" This is how most people approach everything. Well, if there is a demand for something, the market will provide a product. And these days it is a huge business. Ten years ago, it was more like geeks experimenting and sharing their results and opinions... a bit similar to Quantified Self today, just less scientific, and sometimes more narrowly focused.

Overcoming aversion to rejection, doing many approaches to convert given rates of success into greater absolute numbers, doing something extraordinary to stand out of the crowd... those are the fixes. Applied incorrectly they could be even harmful. (Receiving a lot of rejection can make you more resistant, but can also break you. Standing out of the crowd is costly signalling, you need to pay the costs. Doing many approaches may cost you socially.) But there is a theory behind that, and maybe it is not clearly explained, maybe it is not emphasised enough, or maybe it is already obvious to many people, and only a relevation for the most clueless guys like me. (Actually, maybe the explanations are not in the books, but in the related blogs. I don't remember the exact sources of information. I am only sure that "Married Man Sex Life" contains the theory explicitly.) And I guess for a LW reader familiar with status and reductionism, another part is already known.

Here are a few useful ideas; the essence I got from the books and blogs, but the result may be a compilation of various sources, with a bit of LW lingo --

Humans are biological creatures. Attraction is a causal mechanism, not an unexplainable mystery. That does not mean there are no individual preferences. But the shared preferences are also important, and hugely underestimated.

Sometimes the society gives you wrong explanations, for various reasons: People fail at introspection. People optimize their answers for status, not for truth. The inferential distances between socially savvy and socially clueless is too big, so even a honest and good advice gets misunderstood and misapplied. To some degree, sexual mate selection is a zero-sum game, so there is an incentive to spread bad advice. The social advice is optimized for the needs of society (e.g. preserving the social order), which may be misaligned with your needs (e.g. getting from the bottom of the pecking order to the top). -- Of course, if we go more meta, the PUAs also have incentive (status, money) to give you bad advice. Caveat emptor; just don't make this a fully general counterargument.

Reproduction strategies of males and females are different. Some things are universally attractive (health, intelligence), but some things are sex-specific, or at least have different weight for each sex. (Yeah, the mandatory disclaimer: Not all people are heterosexual, even the heterosexual people are not all the same, etc. Just don't miss the forest because some trees are outside of it.) The specifically male preferences are widely known (all those half-naked ladies on the covers of magazines didn't get there by accident). The specifically female preferences are somewhat less known. Why? Consider the incentives: Women prefer to keep this mysterious, because mysterious means higher status. (This is why any attempt to explain the mystery feels like a status attack.) Men who understand them have no incentive to teach it to their competitors. And the men who want to learn, must first get a huge status hit by admitting that they need to learn. (Even worse, the status hit is guaranteed, but the good advice in return is not, and most likely one will not get good advice.) This changed with the internet subculture of low-status males, where admitting to strangers to be low-status does not cost one socially, and thus the usually taboo topics may be freely explored. (With the commercialization of PUA, the status games are back again.)

Specifically: to most heterosexual women, high status men are attractive. A lot of advice is about getting higher status, or about faking some signals that high-status men send. (Actually, getting higher status or faking it, is not a dichotomy. Sometimes status is in the eyes of the beholder: if you convince people that you have high status, you have it. Also, faking the high status can make you more confident, and when you learn to be confident, you will get high status naturally.) Wise people will remind you that becoming a high-status male will also help you in other areas of life, unrelated to seduction, so perhaps instead of becoming better at seduction you should frame it as becoming better at life. -- Add some specific tricks and fixes here, and you have a typical PUA material.

Problem is that the typical PUA material is optimized for short-term relationships. For someone starting from "no relationships" position, that is a huge improvement. But to get a long-term relationship, another lesson has to be learned. Some male traits are attractive for short-term relationships, some male traits are attractive for long-term relationship. The official story says they are the same, which is wrong (but socially useful). Reversing this stupidity, a typical PUA in a valley of bad rationality says they are opposites to each other, which is also wrong. In reality, they are approximately orthogonal. For short-term relationship you need "alpha" traits: to be strong, successful, healthy; in other words, to show you have good genes. For long-term relationships you need "beta" traits: to be kind, reasonable, faithful; in other words, to show you would be a good father. These are not the same, and these are not opposites -- when you fully understand this, everything else is just a commentary. Statistically, young women will put more emphasis on "alpha" traits (which is why PUAs focus on that), but as they get older, they realize the importance of "beta" traits. Men are socially pressed to develop "beta" traits, because that is the part society needs; but having only "beta" traits without "alpha" traits does not make a man attractive.

This is the root of most misunderstandings: When a man asks: "How to become attractive?" he often means that he starts from zero and cannot get even a short-term relationship; which means he needs to work on his "alpha" traits. However, a women hearing this question will typically interpret it as: "How can an already attractive man become even more attractive?", she imagines a typical attractive bad boy, and recommends adding some "beta" traits to that. This is why this kind of communication predictably fails, and then it leads to endless flamewars about whether women really want or don't want "nice guys". The answer is: Women want attractive men to develop "beta" traits; but there is a silent assumption that those men already have "alpha" traits. Women don't want men with zero "alpha" traits, regardless of how much "beta" traits they have.

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2013-06-04T14:21:15.255Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

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comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-09T20:09:36.015Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Considering that in Western society, the man is traditionally the pursuer and the woman the pursued

A more accurate way of putting that is that the man is the first to break plausible deniability. If you also take into account non-verbal, indirect signals (where if the recipient isn't interested they can just pretend to not notice and nothing bad happens), most of the times the very first move is the woman's, both according to this report about Britain and in my experience in both Italy and Ireland: I can't say I can recall ever getting a positive reaction from approaching a woman who wasn't already smiling at me. Now, a guy who has good social skills but poor introspection may only approach women who are smiling at them but not be consciously aware that he's preselecting women that way; likewise, a socially savvy but not introspectively savvy woman may not be consciously aware that she's smiling at the guy she likes; as a result, it feels to them like it's the man who's initiating the interaction, which I guess is the main cause of that confusion.

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2013-06-11T14:28:44.436Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting. Although "if she's smiling at you, she likes you" seems like it wouldn't hold true when you're trying to flirt with acquaintances.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-12T07:16:25.133Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

With people you already know, the kinds of indirect signals (where if the recipient isn't interested they can just pretend to not notice and nothing bad happens) are different (and not all of them are entirely non-verbal), but otherwise the same kind-of applies.

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2013-06-12T22:36:50.514Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Do you know what these indirect signals are? This seems like useful information.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-15T07:08:15.299Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think I know it when I see them (at least some of the time -- there might be more of them that I'm not noticing), but I can't think of a good intensional description of them (and it doesn't seem polite to me to point at extensional examples based on actual people, even in anonymized form).

It probably also depends on what common knowledge exists or does not exist among the two of you, incl. what culture you're in.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-06-04T16:40:00.670Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

To be fair, I have filtered the reasonable parts of PUA. There is also a lot of crap. And most of the focus is on the short-term relationship -- the ending part is based solely on "Married Man Sex Life". (I guess that reflects the needs of a typical customer -- and perhaps even a typical PUA guru. Also, the society does give rather decent advice on "beta" traits; the "alpha" is the missing part, so teaching it is more popular and profitable.)

you seem to be arguing that the core tenet of PUA is "women are attracted to status". The problem is that this isn't a secret at all.

Yeah, this is difficult to explain (so outside view suggests I am prone to rationalization here). I agree with the examples you gave. And yet... the society gives contradictory and incomplete information on this. Consider saying: "If you have an expensive foreign car, you are more likely to get pretty girls." Say it at one place, and you will get: "Duh, news at 11." Say it at another place, and you will get: "You sexist! How dare you! Not all women are like that. Bringing an expensive car would never impress me."

So we have two separate magisteria here. In one universe, you only get girls by being bold and rich. In other universe, you only get girls by being polite and patient. Both messages are given by the society, none of them is literally a secret. Yet they seem contradictory, and how to successfully put them together, that is kind of a secret. Because people living in one universe typically deny the existence of the other universe.

Perhaps the information is all out there, in pieces, but you need some level of social skills to put it all correctly together. Judging by the popularity of PUAs, many people lack this skill. I certainly did.

Everyone knows that the cool jocks get the girls and the nerds don't.

I guess the nerds would appreciate a more precise advice; which parts of jocks' behavior are necessary for the desired effect, and which can be left out. Which is the 20% that brings 80% of the result. Otherwise, the price is too high. PUA explains how to get some of what jocks get, without having to become a full-time jock.

Perhaps the key is to be rational enough to take the next step and actually decide to either become or fake becoming higher status ... Or just deciding that it's not worth the effort.

If you map says that higher status is not actually important, that it is mostly sought by insecure or evil people, and is not really worth sacrificing your life to get it... then the rational choice is to ignore it. If your map says that higher status will improve your life in almost all aspects, and that the first steps to improve it are rather easy... then the rational choice is to go for it. So you need to get your map right to make the right decision.

The problem with PUA is that it all seems very clearly designed for attracting strangers, and consequently uses a high-risk, high-reward strategy.

There is no need to go high-risk all the time. In some situations (a disco with a hundred pretty girls, you don't care about any one in particular, you don't mind dozens of rejections), high-risk, high-reward strategy is the best one. In other situations, tone down appropriately. There will always be some risk, because willingness to risk is an important "alpha" trait. (But keeping the risk reasonably low is an important "beta" trait.)

Basically I wish someone could just tell me the socially acceptable, standard strategy that the people around me use, and then after I gain a better understanding of it, maybe I can tweak it as I see fit.

A new strategy is better tested on strangers. The people who already know you, will not react to your new strategy per se, but to your change. And people usually perceive change negatively; it disrupts social order. The stranger sees your new strategy and thinks this is what you are -- so you get a better response on what your future relationships would be if you became that.

And yes, you have to tweak all the advice to fit your personality. Also, while experimenting, you may discover traits you didn't know you had. Some of them good, some of them bad. You will have to deal with it too.

I would recommend you to find a torrent of "The Blueprint Decoded", watch it, go meet some new people, and do the experiments you feel (emotionally and ethically) comfortable with. Be just a little more courageous than you usually are, and notice how other people react to you, and how you feel inside once you become comfortable with it. Don't try too much at once. For example, if you have problem starting a conversation with a stranger, then during the first week consider successfully starting a conversation a victory. Don't push too far on the first try; you would sabotage yourself by converting every victory to a defeat.

EDIT: As a new environment with lot of girls, may I recommend dancing lessons? ;)

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2013-06-04T23:31:55.645Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

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comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-06-05T12:18:55.492Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I'm going to be starting college in the fall, so that obviously gives me a new environment with lots of girls...

The more incentive to develop the skills before the college. You are right that if you approach ten girls every night in the same environment, sooner or later someone will notice. I would suggest training your skills somewhere else, and use the interaction in college only to maintain the level you already have. -- For example if you are uncomfortable making eye contact, train it somewhere else, but when you become comfortable with it, do it every day at the college to strenghten the habit. -- If you change your college behavior slowly and without obvious effort, people won't notice. It will be just "growing up".

Not to mention that I can't just magically make myself not feel shame.

I recommend two powerful branches of modern magic, called "reductionism" and "conditioning". The first one can literally crush mountains to sand, the second one can be used by a wizard to transform themselves. The most successful school of these branches is CBT.

What exactly makes you feel shame? What words do you hear or what video do you see in your mind when you consider talking to an attractive girl? First step, write it down, in as much detail as you can (not publicly). For example: "If I say 'hello' to a girl, she will run away screaming / start laughing at me / coldly ignore me / call the cops." (Merely writing it down helps to dispell the magic, because you notice how silly it is.) Second step, try to trace when and how did this idea get into your mind, and what evidence do you have about its literal truth. Was it said or suggested to you by someone when you were 10 years old? What is the probability that the person (a) had a correct model of the world, (b) had a motivation at given moment to give you a literally correct information, and (c) you understood and remembered it perfectly? Or it is something that happened to you in the past? Are there some specific things about (a) you, (b) the person you are going to interact with, (c) the environment, that have changed? Third step, make a statistics: Take a notebook, make a specific prediction, do the experiment, note the results. Out of 10 approaches, what happened how often?

If something is difficult, try splitting it into smaller pieces, and train it piece by piece. Asking "what time is it now?" is easier and shorter than having a conversation. Making eye contact and smiling for half a second is even easier. But perhaps smiling at a photograph or an imaginary person could be even easier. Even the smile, or more precisely the causal chain in your brain that naturally makes you smile, can be analyzed. Is there a pleasant thought that is likely to make you smile? (Imagine lying at the beach, observing the wide sky under the warm sun.) Try smiling alone, perhaps lying relaxed on your bed, until you feel pleasant doing it. Then smile at photographs, at real people not looking at you, at real people looking at you, starting with the people you know. (Note: If someone asks you why you smile, just say: "I just have a great day" and stop there.) For a successully completed task, reward yourself with an M&M.

Creepiness is a really hard concept to deal with. ... PUA-y stuff saying "men being passionate and clear about their intentions is attractive" ... poorly socially calibrated might do something creepy like writing someone in his class he's talked to a few times a long Facebook message confessing his feelings for her

I think the essence of creepiness is the victim's (real or perceived) inability to easily stop the interaction. The PUA attitude is like: "girl, if you want, my bed is over there and I don't have any mental problem about doing it like rabbits... but if you don't want, I am perfectly okay with that, too; there are other girls who will be happy to get this offer, and meanwhile, we can talk, but we also don't have to". Of course not using those words; this is just the internal model of the world. Clear about: yes, I am a healthy human male. Clear about: you are given the opportunity, but the choice is yours.

On the other hand "confessing feelings" is probably kind of creepy at almost every context. It works only if the girl is at the given moment 100% sure she wants you (and you are so biased to overestimate this), or if you are a fictional Hollywood hero and her positive response is in the script. Rule of thumb: Don't do it, except if the girl does it first, and even then don't make it stronger than she did. Otherwise it can go like: "Oh, this guy needs me so much, but I am not completely sure about him... and maybe I will later decide I don't want him... and maybe then he will do something creepy... so perhaps I should play it safe and get rid of him before he gets even more attached." Not having an easy opportunity to leave, if you decide to, is also creepy. -- Also, if you make a social mistake, leaving a written proof makes it much worse.

There are some PUA techniques to reduce creepiness, for example by introducing an artificial limit like: "Hi -- oh, I am so sorry I must leave within a minute to catch my train -- but I just noticed you and really wanted to say hello." Properly done, the girl now feels no pressure (unless something else is wrong). Of course, you should then leave as promised. (Advanced version: Or have a very credible excuse.) Also, you can send similar signals with your body language; don't lean towards the girl, don't even turn your body against her, only your head. She must feel free to leave; and if she does, you must accept it calmly, preferably with a smile. To keep your mind in the proper state, relax and congratulate yourself for starting the conversation. And eat an M&M. And remember that if she left without any obstacles, she is more likely to talk with you again, perhaps for a longer time.

Note: Feel free to punch me if I talk about dancing lessons too much, but it is a social activity where it is socially okay and even required to touch girls. ;) The idea is to become comfortable with non-zero contact. Actually, for really good ballroom dancing, rather intimate contact is required; but let the girl decide how much is okay for her. It will still be more than zero. To avoid creepiness, make it obvious you expect only one dance at a time from the girl. Then lead her back to her chair, smile, compliment her dancing, and say: thank you. (Rule of thumb: Don't make her send you away or escape from you; leave first.)

I am sure that there are socially acceptable ways to show a girl your attraction that would 80% of the time end up with you not being given the creepy label, regardless of whether or not she reciprocates.

She does something interesting. You approach her (don't go directly to her, just around her), make eye contact, smile, compliment her on what she did, and leave immediately (if possible, don't go back, continue in approximately the same direction). Repeat 20 times (with different girls, in different situations).

"creepy" is also one of the most common critiques people give of PUA

Selection bias: If a PUA does something wrong, people think: "This was a creepy PUA". If a PUA does something right, people think: "This was a charming young man." Attribution error: If you attend a seminar, then smile at a strange girl and say hello, your friends will think: "He never did this before, but after the seminar he keeps smiling at strange girls and saying hello, that's creepy." Everyone else will think: "He is a nice and happy guy." Confirmation bias: If someone has already decided that you are creepy, anything you do will seem creepy to them. -- Therefore, if you learn and use PUA stuff, don't say it to people around you, because then you will get feedback about their models of PUA, not about what you do. (In the worst case they could start punishing all your social behavior. Like, you would do something nice and social that you would have done before too, and they would say: please stop doing this PUA stuff all the time, it's creepy.)

A thought experiment: Imagine than in another universe I would write here on LW exactly the same information and advice, but I would start with the following disclaimer: -- "Please don't ever do PUA. PUA is creepy and it is for losers. It is evil and should be illegal. How about just naturally being yourself, being nice and polite and attractive? Why are guys so opposed to doing that? Are they afraid that they would lose their masculinity? No, that is a patriachal nonsense. Actually, here is some advice from my feminist friends about how to become a real man: ..." -- and then I would follow with all the PUA advice, just being very careful not to ever mention "PUA" or any PUA slang (e.g. "alpha" and "beta"), and to always frame it like: This is how you become a good man (connotationally: good doggie) and make women happier (because that is the only thing that truly matters). Would such version be more socially acceptable? Oh, it certainly would; it would show everyone that I am a good Blue, not an evil Green. So why don't I do it? Well, I am stubborn; and I consider it intellectually dishonest to use someone's knowledge without giving them the proper credit. I am not saying PUAs invented this all, but they certainly widely popularized it. They are the ones who tried to help the low-status male, before it became profitable. I have no problem with using other sources of information on the same topic, as long as the information is useful; I just didn't find any.

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2013-06-05T14:48:37.753Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

[deleted]

comment by bbleeker · 2013-06-07T14:55:56.536Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe we can charitably extend your definition to include not taking no for an answer, since people feel social pressure to not cut off a conversation halfway through.

Yes, 'not taking "no" for an answer' is very creepy!

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-09T20:48:20.962Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe we can charitably extend your definition to include not taking no for an answer, since people feel social pressure to not cut off a conversation halfway through.

Note also that people vary a lot in their propensity to say no in spite of pressure to the contrary, so if you're someone who hardly ever has much trouble with that and you generalize from one example...

(I've recently seen lots of anecdotal evidence that ‘if she hasn't withdrawn from the interaction, she must be enjoying it’ isn't a viable heuristic for certain people.)

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-06-05T16:54:38.356Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If there is a web discussion about something, people naturally extend the meaning of something. Let's take LW for an obvious example: It started with epistemic rationality, and expanded even to rational toothpaste.

So by the same mechanism, I would expect that if you make a web community discussing "creepiness", the scope will naturally grow. -- The example you linked doesn't seem creepy to me, assuming it was on a dating website. (A context could make it creepy: for example if the same man keeps sending this message repeatedly to the same woman.)

You know, haters gonna hate. Try avoiding the obvious haters, and don't leave written records that could fall in wrong hands.

I guess a proper protocol for dating a schoolmate is to invite them somewhere outside of the school (some interesting place, or for a walk). In school, just be friendly. This way you leave an obvious exit. Also, the girl may appreciate your discretion.

How does talking to a girl for only one minute help you?

If you are nervous about approaching strange girls, the time limit also reduces your stress. Gradually you will start feeling relaxed while doing it. That is the time to approach someone else without using the time limit.

Is this for practice or for results? Am I doing this on strangers or on people I know?

Always start with easy and progress to more difficult. Start complimenting the people you know, and progress to strangers. The more you do it, the more "natural" it will feel to you. (I use scare quotes around "natural", because "natural" simply means: learned and practiced long time ago, and "not natural" means: learned yesterday, have not practice yet. You become "natural" by practice, not by being born with the ability.) At first just practice, but with enough experience you will learn the scale of reactions, when people are just polite and when they are really happy... and then at some moment, when you get a happy reaction, you can ask whether it is okay to talk.

Sorry, the advice ends here -- this is not a PUA forum, and some people don't like this topic. I hope I made you interested, and perhaps provided a good starting map. Many specific answers and new ideas are in the books. As usual, use your brain. If something feels morally wrong or dangerous, don't do it. But if something merely feels uncomfortable, expand your comfort zone; do it slowly, but do it. You can't learn social skills by discussing them online. You have to practice. With practice, it will become easier. Don't mention "PUA" to people, and feel free to ignore any bullshit. Just be aware that a lot of advice you get from traditional sources is also bullshit. Explore the territory, don't just copy other people's maps. Do it sooner rather than later, because then you will have more time to enjoy the gains.

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2013-06-05T23:01:33.785Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I guess a proper protocol for dating a schoolmate is to invite them somewhere outside of the school (some interesting place, or for a walk). In school, just be friendly. This way you leave an obvious exit. Also, the girl may appreciate your discretion.

This actually makes a lot of sense. "Only show attraction to girls outside of school/work, so that they are aware that you compartmentalize your life in such a way that they will not have to deal with the topic of romance with you at school/work if they are not inclined to do so." This is why at a school dance it's okay to go and rub your crotch on the butt of a girl you treat completely non-sexually during the day.

EDIT: And now the concept of sexual harassment in the workplace makes a lot more sense.

Sorry, the advice ends here -- this is not a PUA forum, and some people don't like this topic.

That's fine, I understand that you probably have better things to do. Thank you for the advice/discussion, and good luck in your future endeavors. :)

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-09T20:41:06.915Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"Only show attraction to girls outside of school/work, so that they are aware that you compartmentalize your life in such a way that they will not have to deal with the topic of romance with you at school/work if they are not inclined to do so."

That's pretty much what I do instinctively, except that the compartments are more gerrymandered than that (and they're not much clearer to my System 2 than (say) grammatical rules), and they depend on who the woman is (and, to a lesser extent, on what we're talking about) but not much on where we are (e.g., with some people I'll do the hover hand thing in pictures, with others I'm perfectly comfortable putting a hand on their thigh during class).

(This might be part of a same pattern as Feynman's observation that it's common for European physicists to talk about their work in bars but rare for American physicists.)

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-09T21:07:02.419Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The example you linked doesn't seem creepy to me, assuming it was on a dating website. (A context could make it creepy: for example if the same man keeps sending this message repeatedly to the same woman.)

Actually, I think the lack of context makes it creepier.

Being that explicit so early in a conversation is usually considered impolite. (There's no need to explicitly mention the bedroom -- they're on a dating site, she knows you mean that even if you just say you want to hang out.) Therefore, it demonstrates a lack of familiarity with politeness norms, and possibly with social interactions in general. In more usual contexts, it would instead demonstrate that you can afford flouting politeness rules without much of a status hit, but when you're talking to someone who knows basically nothing about you other than what you're communicating at the moment (for all she knows, you could be a sexual predator, a dork who basically never talks to women in meatspace, or even an uFAI), countersignalling is a bad idea.

Also, it pattern-matches a kind of guy who gets very resentful, sometimes in a scary way, when he doesn't get his way. (And for some reason they seem to always be awful at writing -- “your beautiful”, “knew to the area”...)

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-09T15:06:58.202Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Not to mention that I can't just magically make myself not feel shame.

That just mean that you're too sober. Drink more and try again.

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2013-06-11T14:22:03.365Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But then the next morning you end up with even more shame to deal with. :(

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-13T19:52:19.698Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Not necessarily -- there are things I used to never do when sober because I assumed I would regret them, then I once did them when drunk, noticed that the (social) consequences weren't anywhere near as negative as I had feared and were in fact quite positive, and now I often do them even when I'm sober.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-09T15:02:39.264Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Because people living in one universe typically deny the existence of the other universe.

Do they? Because saying “not all women are like that” has the implicature that some women are.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-09T14:58:58.100Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Considering that in Western society, the man is traditionally the pursuer and the woman the pursued, this seems non-ideal,

What do you care what the traditional roles in Western society are, so long as you're both happy?

and considering that my male friends say stuff like "I'm going to go for Susan tonight"

What fraction of the time do they succeed? (And when they do, how do you know that part of the reason why they had picked Susan rather than Jane in the first place was that on some level they already knew that they had less of a chance with the latter than with the former?)

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2013-06-09T19:07:39.673Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What do you care what the traditional roles in Western society are, so long as you're both happy?

Presumably if women rarely initiate and instead expect men to approach them, a man who frequently approaches women will be much more likely to find sex/a relationship than a man who just waits around for women to do the initiating.

What fraction of the time do they succeed?

I don't know. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't. But I am sure they succeed more than they would if, like me, they never tried.

(And when they do, how do you know that part of the reason why they had picked Susan rather than Jane in the first place was that on some level they already knew that they had less of a chance with the latter than with the former?)

That definitely is part of it.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-09T20:00:12.643Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

OK, I thought you meant something like “I used to be in a relationship, but it had been initiated by the woman, which is untraditional; we were uncomfortable with that, and eventually we broke up as a result”, rather than “I used to be in a relationship, then for whatever reason we broke up, but I hadn't been the one to initiate it so I don't know how to initiate another one”; never mind. (I have heard a few women make the latter complaint before, though none of them mentioned the traditional roles.)

comment by bbleeker · 2013-06-07T15:02:51.464Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

All of my sexual relationships were initiated by the girl, who made her intentions explicitly clear before I did anything.

You must have been doing something right! I bet you'll have great success if you follow Villiam's advice.

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2013-06-07T18:52:34.129Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Haha, I hope so.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-06-04T15:06:58.354Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

All of my sexual relationships were initiated by the girl, who made her intentions explicitly clear before I did anything.

How has this worked out for you?

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2013-06-04T15:13:38.537Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Can you rephrase this question? I'm not sure what you're asking.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-06-04T15:25:18.554Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Are you happy with the number and quality of relationships? Your dubiousness about not initiating seemed to be about it seeming weird rather than practical drawbacks.

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2013-06-04T16:01:13.221Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

[deleted]

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-09T14:50:37.566Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The specifically male preferences are widely known (all those half-naked ladies on the covers of magazines didn't get there by accident). The specifically female preferences are somewhat less known. Why? Consider the incentives: Women prefer to keep this mysterious, because mysterious means higher status. (This is why any attempt to explain the mystery feels like a status attack.) Men who understand them have no incentive to teach it to their competitors. And the men who want to learn, must first get a huge status hit by admitting that they need to learn.

This is not an actual explanation of the asymmetry -- why do men prefer to keep their preference mysterious less than women prefer to keep theirs mysterious? why do women have less of a disincentive to teach men's preferences to their competitors than men do?

Some male traits are attractive for short-term relationships, some male traits are attractive for long-term relationship. The official story says they are the same, which is wrong (but socially useful).

Which official story? People preferring (brutally simplifying while trying to stay polite) to marry older, richer people but to sleep with younger, sexier people isn't that rare a trope as far as I can tell.

comment by sediment · 2013-06-04T08:02:36.201Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

My impression is that there are many different shades with respect to this, ranging from 'explicitly learning social skills which others may learn implicitly' to 'behaviour intended to trick, force, pressure, or otherwise outright manipulate girls into bed with you' - with a great deal in between.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-06-04T04:33:22.525Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

A man's negative take on PUA.

A woman's mostly negative take on PUA, though she thinks that a little PUA can be useful for men who are afraid to talk to women. Getting into the PUA sub-culture can leave men worse off.

Both have put a lot of thought into it.

My take is that PUA seems to be set in a universe where no one likes anyone else.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-06-04T13:11:00.610Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Funny thing is that I agree with the first article, I just have completely different connotations to that.

Yes, the stuff Mystery teaches really is dumbed down. Which is good, because some guys start so dumb that they need this; sometimes they have problems to understand even this. I was there once. And the stuff helped me to get out of there.

It feels to me like saying: "The elementary schools are so dumb, I learned much more at university!" -- Sure, good for you! Also, well-played sir; you gently reminded us of your higher status. The competition among PUA bloggers is strong these days; many authors have to market themself as beyond-PUA to be able to sell their PUA products. (Nothing wrong about that, I would probably do the same thing if I weren't too lazy to blog.)

I also agree with the rest of the article. If you take a mentally unstable person and teach them PUA, you will get a mentally unstable person with some PUA skills. And therefore... I mean, if you take a mentally unstable person and teach them Java programming, you will get a mentally unstable person with some Java skills. Perhaps it is socially unresponsible to teach mentally unstable people anything that increases their powers without fixing their problems first. But that is not a problem specific to PUA industry.

EDIT: Changed my mind about this.

My take is that PUA seems to be set in a universe where no one likes anyone else.

Men helping low-status men to overcome their lack of social skills... is an evidence that no one likes anyone else? (Ten years ago, the help was provided online for free, only later it developed into a profitable industry.)

But they don't focus on liking women, do they? Well, they often don't. To make a fair comparison, how often do seduction (sorry, relationship) articles, magazines, and books for women talk about liking men, respecting their agency, et cetera?

And maybe the people criticizing PUAs just focus too much on the bad parts, and ignore the nicer parts. But I admit the bad parts may be majority of the stuff.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-09T15:30:39.647Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I also agree with the rest of the article. If you take a mentally unstable person and teach them PUA, you will get a mentally unstable person with some PUA skills. And therefore... I mean, if you take a mentally unstable person and teach them Java programming, you will get a mentally unstable person with some Java skills.

And if you take a mentally unstable person and teach them to use a weapon, you will get a mentally unstable person with some weapon-using skills. This may be more undesirable than a mentally unstable person with some Java skills.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-13T20:02:16.565Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This isn't necessarily not less undesirable than a mentally unstable person with some Java skills. [reads again to make sure to have said the right thing without getting farblondjet by the quadruple negation]

On reading that again one month later... I indeed got that wrong. Edited to say it like a normal person.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-06-10T12:32:09.492Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Uhm, you are right about this; my mistake. I focused too much on winning the debate. Apologies to everyone.

I still think that the benefits of publishing PUA advice are probably higher than the costs, but it would be difficult to defend this claim. (We would need to get data: how many clueless frustrated guys finally got their relationships right; how many naive girls were pumped and dumped by mentally unstable guys with pickup skills; the further impact of both on the society; etc. And even then we would have to make a value judgement about how much we care about a damsel in distress versus an expendable low-status male.)

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-06-05T03:11:38.715Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The first link said that PUA could leave people in worse shape than it found them-- and Clarisse Thorn (second link) said the same.

Good point about PUA cultivating friendships between men. I'd missed that part. Still, it doesn't do a good job of encouraging friendliness between romantic/sexual partners.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-06-05T07:50:55.201Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

it doesn't do a good job of encouraging friendliness between romantic/sexual partners.

Compared with... relationship advice for women? (For example: don't call him and rarely return his calls; stop dating him if he doesn't buy you a romantic gift for your birthday or valentine's day; don't see him more than once or twice a week). How much of the PUA criticism -- that it helps narcissist people develop their sense of grandiosity and become emotional vampires -- applies to that, too? Perhaps the narcissism is more socially acceptable for women, because... uhm... yay, women! ?

Could we agree on a gender-neutral version that literature about "success" in relationships typically does not do a good job of encouraging friendliness between romantic/sexual partners? (And of course, there are always a few exceptions.)

(Or perhaps even more generally that literature about maximizing X does not do a good job at maximizing Y?)

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-06-05T13:43:40.102Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

That's a reasonable question. However, I have no idea to what extent women take The Rules seriously, while there's a lot of evidence that some fraction of the men here take PUA very seriously.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-06-05T16:05:29.232Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

How about avoiding labels completely, and asking directly about behavior? Let's make gender-neutral or gender-reversed questions for men and women, taboo all jargon, and see how many of them will report using the given strategy.

For example: "Do you sometimes pretend to be unavailable, even if you have free time, just to make yourself more scarce?" Or: "If the person you are dating becomes too proud of themselves, do you slightly criticize them in order to bring them back to earth?"

A woman can learn gender-reversed versions of some PUA advice from a magazine or hear it from her friends; she does not have to identify with any label. And she does not have to read any specific book, because all the information is already out there. Advice for women about manipulating men is generally not shocking and controversial. "The Rules" is a book that strongly pattern-matches PUA advice (a name similar to "The Game", simplistic bullet-point advice), which was probably intentional, to create controversy and increase sales... but it's not like women never read the specific ideas before in other books and magazines. (Okay, this one is probably new: "Don't Discuss The Rules with Your Therapist".)

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2013-06-04T23:59:58.263Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for the links! I will most likely read the first link at some point, and maybe the second one eventually.

(From the about page of the blog linked to:)

This is a site dedicated to observing and analyzing human behavior and the nature of social interactions. Theories about why we do the things we do in relationships, the workplace, with strangers, in nightclubs and bars or anywhere people socialize and try to get along.

WOW, I have been looking for a website like this for a few months now. Again, thank you!

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-09T21:17:30.787Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

(Other things you have said in the past have also given me his impression.)

Me too.

comment by sediment · 2013-06-03T09:55:29.545Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think the overlap between club-type dancing and the type of dancing that one takes lessons to learn is very large, though.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-06-03T10:52:45.411Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I don't have much experience with club dancing, but at the few occasions, I was there with a girl who I previously danced ballroom-style with, and we mostly danced jive or quickstep or cha-cha, just with shorter steps to take less space and not move across the room. We had fun, and the feedback from other people was positive.

But even with the club-type dancing, somehow it got much easier for me once I became good at ballroom dances. Maybe I got more confident, maybe I learned to follow the rhythm, maybe I started to understand some movement patterns; probably all of that together.

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2013-06-04T02:33:11.106Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, this is what I'm thinking.

A big problem I have with club dancing is that I am 6'6", and I feel (probably at least somewhat accurately) that I am unusually visible and that any move I do is being judged by at least a few people. So I end up just standing there, then immediately realizing "this is much more awkward than dancing really poorly is", then concluding "Oh my god, no matter what I do I am doomed, I have to get out of here right now", then leaving, then sitting alone feeling like there is something very flawed about me.

I will get over this someday by applying a dedicated effort, but right now there are more important self-improvement projects. Until then I just will stay far away from any dance where I can't get drunk beforehand.

comment by sediment · 2013-06-04T07:56:57.418Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I agree that it needn't be at the top of your to-do list. In fact, I'm not sure you need worry about getting over it at all, really. Not enjoying hanging out/dancing in clubs is no serious character defect, and plenty of people share your preference. By the way, happy birthday (or was that yesterday?)

comment by drethelin · 2013-06-03T19:49:48.758Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

club dancing is basically doing whatever you feel like to the beat. This is a lot easier if you have a repertoire of moves from other styles of dance or activity that you can instantiate. Also what Villiam_Bur said.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-02T20:48:43.785Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The best advice I've ever received along these lines is "treat people as though they were already close friends." In my case, that mostly means having conversations with them about topics I actually care about, as opposed to conventional topics.

IME, this weirds a number of people out, who subsequently don't interact with me much, but that's not necessarily a problem.

It also causes people to think I'm coming on to them, which is sometimes a problem, but was less of one when I was in the dating pool.

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2013-06-02T23:49:22.751Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The best advice I've ever received along these lines is "treat people as though they were already close friends." In my case, that mostly means having conversations with them about topics I actually care about, as opposed to conventional topics.

I always interpreted that piece of advice as meaning something more along the lines of "Be as enthusiastic and casual when you're hanging out with a relatively new acquaintance as you would be when you're hanging out with an old friend." This seems like decent advice, but it's very difficult for me to actually put into action, and it also seems like it would make some people very uncomfortable.

But your take on it is interesting. I'm not 100% sure I can picture it, however. Could you maybe give some sort of example of this strategy in use?

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-03T02:30:11.494Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If "enthusiastic and casual" characterizes how you differentially treat your close friends, then sure, I'd say go for that. It doesn't for me, especially.

What I find differentially characterizes my relationships with close friends is that I can start a conversation with whatever has recently been on my mind, however unconventional an opening gambit, and we will mutually engage at a fairly high-bandwidth level. (And vice-versa)

E.g., I recently started a conversation (or, well, replied to "So what's up?") with "I've been thinking a lot lately about how to tell the difference between a lack of motivation that signals lack of genuine interest in doing something, versus a lack of motivation that doesn't, and one thing I'm noticing is that if I ask myself 'Self, are you looking forward to getting out of this slump and being enthused for that project again?' myself sometimes says 'yes!' and sometimes says 'meh.' and I wonder if that's correlated."

And, yes, I agree that it makes some people uncomfortable. I generally operate on the principle that my goal is not to make close friends out of everyone, nor even to make as many close friends as possible, merely to make close friends without wasting a lot of time. If 19 people respond "Oh look I must be going" and the 20th engages with me and we find each other mutually interesting, I generally consider that a win.

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2013-06-04T02:38:18.185Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Do you think by any chance you could give a percentage estimation on how many people respond well, poorly, and neutrally to this strategy? (Or something along those lines.) This is interesting to me.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-04T02:55:40.751Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Offhand, I don't know.

It's most relevant at parties and large social gatherings where I don't know anyone, and I don't really think in terms of percentages-of-people in such situations so much as how quickly I find someone worth talking to.

Over 95% of the time, I'd say the result is a little bit of chitchat followed by the person and I both talking to someone else. Whether that's responding well, poorly, or neutrally I don't know; that seems to be the default condition at parties.

Less than 1% of the time, the result is the other person's eyes lighting up in what I've come to label the "oh look, one of my people!" expression, and I make a new friend. Probably not much less than 1%, though.

(By way of establishing scale, I'd say I try this ~50 times in a given year... I'm not a terribly outgoing guy, and generally prefer to hang out in smaller groups or just stay home with my husband, but I'm reasonably socially ept when I do go out.)

That said, I also have a reputation in my social circle for being kind of intense and a little out there, but interesting to talk to if you're interested in, well, talking. Which also creates a second-order effect, where friends introduce me to friends of theirs who share this trait because we'd really enjoy each other, and more generally where my social environment self-selects.

comment by jooyous · 2013-06-02T20:22:08.559Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It might help to precise-ify some of the language around what you mean by "more friends" and "more popular"? What kind of friends? What kind of popularity? Are there types of friends or popularity you don't want? Also, what kind of people can you usually hang out with one-on-one?

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2013-06-02T20:53:43.765Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think a decent litmus test for a "friend" is someone who you enjoy spending time with, and who you can reliably invite to hang out with you. You could rephrase this I suppose as someone who you enjoy spending time with, who enjoys spending time with you, where this knowledge is mutually available. Right now I only have one friend who clearly meets the criteria for this definition, though I have a few that come close. My tentative goal is to have five such friends, maybe by Thanksgiving break or so in college.

I'll admit that it's hard for me to find people who I genuinely relate to, enjoy spending time with and can feel comfortable "being myself" around, and I'm not sure if this has something to do with my own social strategies or if this is an unchangeable thing.

Popularity is a little more hard to pin down. I think what I want includes a mix of these qualities:

  • In general, people like me
  • In general, people respect me
  • I have a wide range of acquaintances that I can talk to on friendly terms
  • To the extent that my social group resembles a tribe, I have a relatively high level of tribal status. (I'm not sure if college social groups will resemble a tribal hierarchy to the same extent that high school does or this is something people leave behind.)
  • I am seen as high-status, i.e. someone who it is desirable to be friends with.
  • My friends value me - i.e. people will invite me to parties and the like because they will enjoy my presence there.

Obviously some of this is kind of unrealistic and selfish but it's an ideal, I guess.

comment by falenas108 · 2013-06-02T21:31:26.500Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

These goals are not as hard as you'd think to achieve. I've basically gotten all of these by being active in several organizations on campus.

Just doing that gave more opportunities to talk to people, which as drethelin said, is very useful. If you take charge in organizing things, it helps a huge amount with social respect/status. The wide range of acquaintances happens by default.

You do have to make the effort to start hanging out with people outside the regular meetings though. It's pretty easy to do that if the meeting is just before a meal time, because then there's the convenient suggestion of eating together. In other cases, invite them to a party, along with several other people. Being known as the one who organizes groups is very useful for your goals.

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2013-06-02T23:59:38.407Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for the advice!

These goals are not as hard as you'd think to achieve. I've basically gotten all of these by being active in several organizations on campus.

This is comforting.

Out of curiosity, what kind of organizations are you active in? I'm trying to think of stereotypical campus organizations and isolate ones that I would enjoy, and I can't come up with too many. I like chess, so I guess if there's a chess club on campus I'll at least check it out, but that's all I can think of.

comment by BrassLion · 2013-06-03T00:46:06.772Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I speak from experience: Go to something new every week, or every day early when classes are light. As much as you can stand. You figure out what you like by trying things and not going back to lame events.

I am an introvert, and I found it easy to make friends in college in the right clubs. When everyone shares an interest, it's easy repeatedly meet people and interact.

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2013-06-03T01:20:12.238Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I will strongly consider doing this. Thank you.

comment by falenas108 · 2013-06-04T01:40:58.397Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm in Secular Alliance, Queers and Associates, my school's circus club, massage, and our BDSM club. There are a few others that I go to when I can, but those are the main ones.

I second BrassLion's advice. Also, look at all the clubs ones that seem interesting, and sign up for their listhost as a reminder to go to them.

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2013-06-04T01:47:04.486Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

and our BDSM club

Wow, that must be interesting.

comment by falenas108 · 2013-06-04T03:10:14.387Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yep, I enjoy it a lot. Came my first year in college because I was vaguely curious, and it ended up becoming a pretty big part of my life!

comment by syllogism · 2013-06-03T07:48:55.373Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

am a 19 yo male (as of tomorrow)

So, are you trans?

If so, the queer clubs are a slam dunk, if you get along okay with that "type". One thing to bear in mind is, a lot of the opening chatter will be about gender and sexuality issues, which gets a little tiresome. Just accept that this is the new smalltalk for these spaces --- instead of talking about sports or what your major is, young queer kids often ask each other about coming out stories, etc. People are also trying on the role --- it's all new and unfamiliar to them, too. Many are unused to having an in-group, and overdo "tribe signalling".

I guess I'm just advising you to be wary of the fundamental attribution error in these spaces, which can make people seem very narrow.

You can also turn this around and realise that there are ways you can help people avoid making the fundamental attribution error with you, too. For instance, if you're recently transitioning, I imagine that will feel really weird for a while. It's okay to talk about that! You can excuse some of your awkwardness this way, and I expect most of the folks in these spaces will find that quite endearing.

comment by Emile · 2013-06-03T08:58:24.376Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'm pretty sure he meant "19 yo as of tomorrow" and not "male as of tomorrow", though I did consider teasing him about that (which may be what you are doing! Those things can be hard to tell online).

comment by syllogism · 2013-06-03T09:55:50.034Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Well with the username I really thought it more likely he was trans. Shrug.

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-06-03T12:13:23.412Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

This is a nice Bayes learning opportunity. It's reasonable to infer that a female-looking username makes someone more likely to be female, maybe twice as likely (not much more than that; this is the internet and people give themselves weird usernames all the time, and actual women may avoid using female-looking usernames in male-dominated forums to avoid drawing attention to their gender). However, the base rate of transsexualism, even within a community as unusual as LW, is still incredibly low and requires a lot of evidence to overcome (e.g. someone telling you they're transsexual).

comment by syllogism · 2013-06-03T13:16:06.547Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Do you really think 1/3rd of users named gothgirl* would be male? I'd guess something like 1-10%, compared with 1-3% transsexualism on LW: http://lesswrong.com/lw/fp5/2012_survey_results/

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-06-03T14:46:55.793Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

On Less Wrong in particular, I would assign a high likelihood to various permutations of "gothgirl" being ironic, rather than sincere self expression of the user.

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-06-03T15:25:58.368Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, sure. This is the internet. (Acknowledged that the base rate of transsexualism on LW is higher than I had expected.)

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-06-03T15:23:22.705Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Do you really think 1/3rd of users named gothgirl* would be male?

That isn't the relevant number. The likelihood ratio is P(named gothgirl | female) / P(named gothgirl | male), not P(female | named gothgirl) / P(male | named gothgirl).

comment by Emile · 2013-06-03T12:26:20.477Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

(for what it's worth, I didn't reason using base rates, I just remember an early comment by gothgirl420666 saying he was male and only took that name for the lulz)

comment by katydee · 2013-06-04T05:30:49.267Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

not much more than that; this is the internet and people give themselves weird usernames all the time

Oh hey, what's up?

comment by Larks · 2013-06-03T11:51:46.871Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

You thought his username gave you over 13 bits of evidence?

comment by syllogism · 2013-06-03T12:51:06.081Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I needed fewer than 13 bits of evidence: http://lesswrong.com/lw/fp5/2012_survey_results/

I likely committed some level of base-rate fallacy though (regardless of what the truth turns out to be). Trans* is more available to me because I hang out in queer communities, and know multiple transgender people.

comment by BlindIdiotPoster · 2013-08-08T09:10:37.969Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The username contains more than 13 bits of information (being 14 characters long) so this might not be too unreasonable.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2013-08-08T07:52:44.900Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Transsexualism seems way overrepresented in geeky circles: off the top of my head, I could think of seven MtF and two FtM transsexuals within my circle of acquaintances, and there might be a few that I'm forgetting. LW definitely matches the definition of a "geeky community", so assuming a relatively high base rate would have been reasonable to me, based on my experience.

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2013-06-03T12:51:57.934Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, that's what I meant.

comment by Vladimir_Golovin · 2013-06-02T07:36:48.632Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

A lifehack idea: using oxytocin to counteract ugh fields:

  1. Ugh fields might be a form of an amygdala hijack.

  2. Oxytocin is known to dampen amygdala's 'fight, flight or freeze' responses.

  3. Oxytocin production is increased during bonding behaviors (e.g. parent-child, pets, snuggling / Karezza).

If 1, 2 and 3 are true, we could reduce the effect of an ugh field by petting a dog, hugging a baby or snuggling (but not orgasming) with a lover -- before confronting the task that induces the ugh field.

Disclaimer: I am not a brain scientist, so the terminology, logic and the entire idea may be wrong.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-11T17:54:20.954Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

bonding behaviors (e.g. parent-child, pets, snuggling / Karezza)

Playing a team sport. Killing other people with your allies in combat. Being held in captivity and/or abused severely enough.

comment by Vladimir_Golovin · 2013-06-12T11:14:18.262Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm, this is surprising. At first I thought you're providing examples of bonding behaviors that don't raise oxytocin levels, but decided to google anyway, and voila: Oxytocin and the Biopsychology of Performance in Team Sports, Gert-Jan Pepping and Erik J. Timmermans.

The second example, killing others with allies in combat, seems to be similar to team sports. However, the third one, being held in captivity / abused, seems to be different in kind. Do you have any sources on it?

Edit: I wonder if playing a team-based competitive game like Team Fortress 2 has any effect on oxytocin levels, in addition to dopamine effects that are typical for video games?

comment by MixedNuts · 2013-06-04T21:25:06.530Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Do you have a source on oxytocin and sex with vs without orgasm? My understanding was that sex increased oxytocin secretion pretty much the same whether you orgasmed or not.

comment by Vladimir_Golovin · 2013-06-05T06:15:48.541Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Here's the closest one I could find: Specificity of the neuroendocrine response to orgasm during sexual arousal in men. Also, Wikipedia article on oxytocin says that "The relationship between oxytocin and human sexual response is unclear" and cites multiple studies on oxytocin and orgasm, but none of them seem to show any major effect.

So my impression is that oxytocin secretion per se is not heavily affected by orgasm (there is a short-term rise, but that's about it.) However, orgasm significantly affects two other hormones, dopamine and prolactin (also shown in the study I linked above). After an orgasm, dopamine drops and prolactin rises and keeps surging, supposedly for about two weeks (which seems established, but I don't have a source handy.)

Here's a study that shows that prolactin rises after an orgasm in men and women but sex without orgasm doesn't affect prolactin levels: Orgasm-induced prolactin secretion: feedback control of sexual drive?:

This series of studies clearly demonstrated that plasma prolactin (PRL) concentrations are substantially increased for over 1h following orgasm (masturbation and coitus conditions) in both men and women, but unchanged following sexual arousal without orgasm.

My current crude thinking is as follows:

  1. Orgasm leads to low dopamine and high prolactin (oxytocin release is negligible).
  2. Low dopamine means low motivation (is the Coolidge effect a hard-coded exception?).
  3. High prolactin means satiation.
  4. When confronting an ugh field, one needs oxytocin and dopamine, but not prolactin.
  5. Therefore it's better to avoid the post-orgasmic dopamine and prolactin changes.
comment by MixedNuts · 2013-06-05T11:38:12.364Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks!

Moving back from the biological basis to the introspective level, I'd expect the high-prolactin afterglow state to reduce anxiety enough to compensate for decreased motivation. (This might be related to whether one gets wired up or sleepy after sex, which has surprisingly large individual variation.) Easy enough to set up a randomised trial.

comment by Vladimir_Golovin · 2013-06-06T06:20:47.402Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

high-prolactin afterglow

You probably meant high-oxytocin afterglow.

comment by MixedNuts · 2013-06-06T10:36:36.680Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

No. High oxytocin is present whether you orgasm or not, as we just established. I expect this to help productivity. I also expect that orgasm would

  • Hurt productivity, because "so sleepy and satisfied, why do anything?" (from low dopamine, possibly from high prolactin)
  • Help productivity, because "feeling so relaxed, doing things that normally make me so anxious and icky is so easy right now" (from high prolactin; sex without orgasm (high-oxytocin, low-prolactin) does provide some pleasant feelings but not this specific effect)
  • Help productivity overall, relative to sex without orgasm
comment by AspiringRationalist · 2013-06-03T00:07:27.953Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I wonder if taking oxytocin supplements might work even better for this.

I'll definitely be trying it in one way or another, though.

comment by Vladimir_Golovin · 2013-06-03T04:29:16.728Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Alas, oxytocin supplements (there is a nasal spray, if I remember correctly) don't seem to work. When released naturally, it's released where it matters and in precise amounts, while the shotgun approach of the nasal spray makes it easy to miss the correct dosage and delivery location, which may cause various adverse effects.

Warning: my source on the above is a popular book, Cupid's Poisoned Arrow -- but, to their credit, they do cite their scientific sources. If Kindle had a way of copying / quoting text from its books, I'd look up the relevant paragraph for you.

Edit: The sources (had to type them manually):

  • M. Ansseau, et al., "Intranasal Oxytocin in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder", 1987: 231-236.

  • G. Paolisso, et al., "Pharmacological Doses of Oxytocin Affect Plasma Hormone Levels Modulating Glucose Homeostasis in Normal Man", 1988: 10-16.

Edit 2: Here's the relevant part on the nasal spray (had to post it via a screenshot because Kindle does not allow copy/pasting text): http://imgur.com/kyysmbo

comment by wedrifid · 2013-06-03T05:36:01.808Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Edit 2: Here's the relevant part on the nasal spray (had to post it via a screenshot because Kindle does not allow copy/pasting text): http://imgur.com/kyysmbo

For this reason (and in particular for the purpose of text-to-speech) I use calibre and the Kindle plugin to convert my kindle books to a less artificially restricted format.

comment by Vladimir_Golovin · 2013-06-04T06:36:51.361Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've found a way to copy/paste from Kindle! Their software reader, at least the Windows version, allows copying:

You may wonder how researchers did most of the oxytocin experiments related to bonding. They piped it (or drugs that neutralized it) directly into rodents’ brains— onto spots no larger than peppercorns. However, even if you could pipe it into an unloving mate’s brain, you’d have to squirt it in every time you were together. Bonds are only created when oxytocin is consistently released in response to a particular person.

Next time you read about the wonders of oxytocin, keep in mind that the only feasible way to deliver it to anyone’s brain today is by way of a nasal spray— and that is not such a good idea. Such sprays have been used for a long time to induce milk letdown, but the oxytocin ends up all over the brain and circulating in the blood.

In contrast , your body delivers neurochemicals in just the right amount, precisely to the places they are needed, for as long as they are needed, and then quickly disposes of them. A shotgun approach can cause unintended consequences and alter the brain itself. A rise in oxytocin in a minuscule part of a mother rat’s brain causes her to guard her young fiercely. The same rise one-tenth of an inch away makes her passive. 277 Manipulating humans with oxytocin is also dodgy. When scientists tried to relieve symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder long-term, using oxytocin nasal spray, it caused severe memory disturbances, psychotic symptoms, and marked changes in blood sodium levels. 278 In another experiment it brought on high blood sugar (diabetes). 279

At present researchers only use oxytocin nasal sprays for short-term experiments— to learn the kinds of behaviors it influences. In this way it became evident that oxytocin increases trust— by calming the amygdala. 280 Spraying your brain is a fine tactic if you want to trust everyone, including Wall Street bankers, used car salesmen, and politicians. For example, in one experiment, those who took the placebo did not reinvest

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-06T05:46:04.784Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think that common-sense reasoning states that if the idea of doing something makes you uncomfortable, then perhaps you should make yourself comfortable before doing it. To me, this "using oxytocin to counteract ugh fields" idea isn't obviously more credible or more useful than this common-sense idea.

comment by Vladimir_Golovin · 2013-06-06T06:20:02.544Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If an ugh field is indeed a form of an amygdala hijack, one will have a hard time consciously making oneself comfortable with the task, because the amygdala responds faster than the rational brain. A neurochemical hack might work better.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-06T21:33:48.859Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What sort of neurochemical hack? Gwern's page on nicotine suggests it could be used to reward certain behaviors, thus perhaps breaking down ugh fields. I haven't tried that yet (I only read that a few days ago) but I've had a great deal of success using nicotine (specifically snus) to break down my general acedia and aversion to activity.

comment by Vladimir_Golovin · 2013-06-07T14:43:32.437Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I meant the hack I outlined in the original post: increasing oxytocin via bonding behaviors to dampen amygdala's fear response.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-06T06:38:41.644Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What I said was "make yourself comfortable", and it seems to me like petting a dog, hugging a baby, and snuggling are all ways of making oneself comfortable. Maybe I was unclear, though.

comment by Kawoomba · 2013-06-09T18:33:59.543Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Iain Banks is dead.

"They speak very well of you".

-"They speak very well of everybody."

"That so bad?"

-"Yes. It means you can´t trust them."

comment by FiftyTwo · 2013-06-09T20:26:44.499Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Fuck cancer. Fuck mortality. We must work faster.

comment by Larks · 2013-06-07T10:31:57.571Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Suppose the placebo effects exists; if you believe you will get better, then you will indeed get recover.

B(h) -> h

Unfortunately, it only works if you believe you will get better - and it could be hard to see why it'd be rational to believe that in the first place. Fortunately, rationalists have a solution to this problem.

We're scientific sorts of people, so we believe in the placebo effect - that is:

B( B(h) -> h )

and we're also logical sort of people, so we believe lob's theorem

B( B(h) -> h ) -> B(h)

and hence we believe we'll be healed

B(h)

and hence, by the placebo effect,

h

And we're healed!

comment by letter7 · 2013-06-02T14:02:12.828Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I have been constantly thinking recently: Your voice impacts a lot in your presentation, and it's one of those things that people generally take for granted. And it's not just your speak pattern and filler words that I'm referring to, but also intonation, fluency and so on. I would maybe risk saying that it can be as important as your appearance, or even more. (If you stumble every five or ten words, you can't really convey your ideas, can you?)

In this vein, is there a viable alternative for someone who wants to improve his own voice? I already thought about a voice acting tutor, but I generally prefer ways in which I could improve without having to pay a tutor.

comment by TimS · 2013-06-02T14:20:58.724Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I suggest practice in groups. Does Toastmasters charge money, and do they have any meetings near you?

comment by letter7 · 2013-06-02T14:38:14.448Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sadly, no. I'm from Brazil, there are a few Toastmasters in my country, but all of them are a plane travelling distance away.

comment by Turgurth · 2013-06-04T17:00:53.044Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Advice from the Less Wrong archives.

comment by bbleeker · 2013-06-03T10:55:24.527Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You could practice by yourself by reading out loud. I really should do that again myself, too - I have the tendency to speak too fast, and not pause enough for breath, which leads to me *gasp*ing for air a lot. Try to relax and pay attention to your breath. It's a bit weird speaking aloud by yourself, but I think it helps. If you're braver than me, you could even record yourself and listen back, to hear how you'd sound to others.

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2013-06-02T22:35:39.536Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I have wanted to do some sort of speech training for a few years, but can't seem to find an appropriate avenue to investigate. The closest I've found is media training, but it tends to only cater towards corporate clients.

comment by shminux · 2013-06-06T17:14:55.223Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I'm wondering if CFAR ever tried to approach Rowling for a permission to get HPMoR monetized for charitable and transhumanist purposes, on whichever terms.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-06-07T20:35:24.060Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Probably safer to do that after HPMoR is finished. Otherwise there is a chance she would forward the letter to her lawyer, the lawyer would send a cease and desist letter to CFAR, and then what?

If the same thing happens after HPMoR is finished, it can be removed from web and shared among LW members in ways that give plausible deniability to CFAR. But you can't have plausible deniability while Eliezer continues to write new chapters.

comment by shminux · 2013-06-07T21:26:57.162Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Otherwise there is a chance she would forward the letter to her lawyer, the lawyer would send a cease and desist letter to CFAR, and then what?

JKR is on the record as no longer opposing non-slash fanfiction:

For the avoidance of doubt, our clients make no complaint about innocent fan fiction written by genuine Harry Potter fans.

so this is probably a bit paranoid. But I suppose your second paragraph makes sense.

comment by Risto_Saarelma · 2013-06-08T07:49:42.176Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

A big part of the cease-fire between IP holders and fanfic authors is probably the unwritten rule that the fanfic shall not be directly monetized.

comment by gwern · 2013-06-08T18:09:08.886Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Sometimes written, too. For example, in Japanese doujins, we have the Touhou Project/ZUN issuing an explicit license where Touhou creators are given permission to do their thing, but if they want to sell their works outside a convention like Reitaisai or a doujin-focused reseller like Toranoana, they have to contact him and work out a licensing agreement.

comment by ModusPonies · 2013-06-03T12:09:03.929Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Reminder: Boston is hosting a megameetup on July 13-14.

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2013-06-08T06:36:36.411Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

So on the topic of effective altruism, I've been thinking about the benefits of a "can't beat 'em? join 'em" type strategy for improving the world. Examples:

  • Wish South Africa would stop apartheid? Don't protest it, there will be lots of people doing that. Instead, try to gain power within the South African government and become F. W. de Klerk. (Arguably that role is more noble anyway, since you'd be relinquishing power instead of trying to gain power for yourself and people like you.)
  • Want to make China a democracy? Join the communist party and try to be the next Gorbachev.
  • Think XYZ Corp pollutes too much? Join them as an industrial engineer and work on improving their equipment.
  • Want to make the government more efficient? Join the most wasteful government branch you can find, be the plain-spoken, tight-wadded, intelligent, responsive government employee you wish all government employees were, and try to advance to management positions that let you cut the fat off your government branch.
  • Wish academic researchers would stop doing dangerous research that could lead to AGI or brain emulations? Go to grad school, research those topics, gain some acclaim, and then start preaching to your colleagues about potential dangers.
  • Think one of your country's political parties is completely nuts? Fake your way to a position of power within the party, then make a point of always being the most reasonable person in the room.

Thoughts?

comment by drethelin · 2013-06-09T18:18:38.935Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'll say what I said on facebook: The most effective paths historically for the bettering of the human condition are technology and trade. The net effect of the republican party on american well-being, however crazy they are, is way smaller than cheap cellphones or widespread computers or good public transportation. You can spend 20 years getting to a position of power as a republican or you can spend 20 years inventing energy storage systems or cheap and accessible travel or healthy but palatable alternatives to snack foods that are more achievable and have the positive benefit of providing you with experience and connections that aren't based 100 percent on lies.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2013-06-13T02:01:36.287Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

We should ask ourselves, "How much of my impression of what sorts of interventions are effective comes from fact, and how much from the self-promotion of people who would like to solicit my assistance or deter my interference?"

comment by FiftyTwo · 2013-06-09T20:32:01.639Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Depends on your comparative advantage. For many people its easier to become a moderately successful politician than meaningfully change the progress of world technological development.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-06-13T11:46:14.638Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

When it comes to creating public transportation look at the case of the Uber amendment in DC. If you have bad people in political control they won't allow you to set up your cheap and accessible public transportation.

comment by TimS · 2013-06-08T13:14:45.807Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

In practice, desire to implement reform-from-within is a strong negative to promotion to positions that could implement the change. If the organization thought your issue was a problem, they probably would address it without your intervention. Since they don't, that means they don't agree that your issue is a problem.

One could adopt a false persona for years to get the promotions to powerful positions. But you still might not get the promotion. And do you want to be a faithful cog in implementing bad policy in the meantime?

And even if you did, you still might not be in position to make the change you want. With the benefit of hindsight, we know Gorbachev could and did make major reforms. But could he have predicted that at the beginning of his career, even if he wanted to?

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2013-06-11T06:01:53.790Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Also, if you adopt a false persona over a sufficiently long time, there's a risk of that becoming your real persona.

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2013-06-17T07:48:30.620Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Spies do it all the time, right? Maybe this should be called the "infiltration strategy" or something. Sounds sexier.

Although spies do have handlers whose entire career consists of guiding them in their missions, and being a spy is what they are getting paid to do. That seems like a decent amount of social pressure not to defect. I wonder what defection rates for spies are like? What ways are spies selected for low defection probability aside from being citizens of their home country? I've heard that the NSA doesn't like to hire people who have smoked marijuana.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-07T21:53:43.596Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Jaan Tallinn AMA on reddit.

comment by RolfAndreassen · 2013-06-04T19:51:40.205Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It's a bit of a truism that you can't do micropayments to cover the true marginal cost of serving a webpage, adding a user to your service, or other Internet activities, because the gap between free and epsilon is psychologically larger than the gap between epsilon and a dollar. It occurs to me that this curious psychology seems to map onto a logarithmic utility in money: Clearly the difference between lim(x to zero)[log(x)] and log(epsilon) is larger than the difference between log(epsilon) and log(1) for any finite value of epsilon. I'm not sure if this actually explains anything, but I thought it was kind of neat.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2013-06-06T09:01:19.147Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Incidentally, I'm confused over the fact that so few sites or people seem to use Flattr, despite it basically solving this problem. (Well, it's microdonations rather than micropayments, so you can't really require your users to pay anything, but still.)

comment by RolfAndreassen · 2013-06-06T18:23:25.607Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Which came first, the massive user base or the many clients? Looks like a classic chicken-egg problem to me.

Edit to add: Which being said, I just signed up for it as a creator. :)

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-06T12:37:49.081Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I've not noticed websites I like using flattr, so I have no reason to sign up for it.

Very few people use it, so it's not worth it for sites to sign up for it.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-06T18:25:58.327Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

so you can't really require your users to pay anything, but still.

Can you tell where the microdonation comes from? It seems to me that you could pull a kickstarter-like business model and promise goods/services in exchange for a donation up front.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2013-06-11T06:03:10.617Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

People can choose to donate either anonymously or non-anonymously, so I guess that it could work.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-06-05T12:43:12.372Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The interesting thing about that observation is that it's very much about how the internet get's used in the West. In China where a lot of internet use happens in internet cafés where uses pay the internet café by the hour micropayments for virtual goods are used more frequently than in the West.

Additionally transaction costs are a big deal when it comes to micropayments. Paypal's micromayment fee is 5% + $0.05 per transaction. If we would have cheap micropayment there a chance that a greater ecosystem of services that need micropayments can grow.

Bitcoin did promise being cheap but still have some substantial transaction costs. On the other hand Ripple (https://ripple.com/) provides the opportunity of a cost of $0.0001 per transaction.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-06T06:05:16.589Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Regarding Ripple, I thought that in the United States, financial institutions were required to know their users' identities. I don't see how this isn't blatantly illegal.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-06-06T13:27:45.252Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Two nodes in the Ripple network that trade trust each other know their identities. The actual trade happens between those two nodes.

But even if they need to do more know-your-customer formalities I don't see why that should push the price much higher.

Google Ventures does invest in the company behind Ripple, so they seem to believe it's legal.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-09T22:26:30.344Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The inconvenience of setting up a payment method may play some role.

comment by palladias · 2013-06-04T18:23:46.550Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I reviewed A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy at my blog ("Modern Stoicism – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly"). It's a philosophy book that's focused on being actionable, not just a historical survey, but I think it too-casually brushes off some of the unpleasant side effects of stoicism.

The desire to employ your Stoicism on a higher difficulty setting, coupled with the habit of seeing other people as obstacles can make you care less about other people. You root for them to be worse then they are. I used to wish that a girl who had only insulted me might try to hit me, so I could maintain my equanimity in the face of a bigger provocation. If a middle school bully mellowed with age, I would be a little disappointed, as my short bus ride was now wasted time, instead of a training opportunity.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-06-05T13:19:47.100Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You can't control whether or not the girl will hit or insult you. As a result hoping that she would do one of those things goes against stoicist ideals.

It's much better to seek out-of-comfort zone experiences where you can control that you have the experience. Instead of depending on the bully in the bus to provide an experience in which you can grow you can go and have fun dancing in the bus.

A year ago I was in a personal development seminar that's partly about improving one's charisma and finding the courage to do what one likes.

At the end of the day there's live music and most people just sit there listening and watching the musicians. I went and danced in alone in front of >200 people because I felt like dancing. I got a bunch of positive social feedback for it.

Stoicism doesn't have to be about having no fun and doing nothing. It's rather about reducing negative emotions.

comment by drethelin · 2013-06-05T18:05:59.527Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It seems like the actual correct play would be to go and DO HARD THINGS. Those will naturally more negative emotions and also be more useful.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-06-06T13:23:45.980Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It seems like the actual correct play would be to go and DO HARD THINGS.

Hard things where you are still in control.

But the amount of hard things that you can effectively do during a short bus ride is limited.

I personally like standing in the bus without leaning on anything and read a book. All stability that I need gets provided by standing on my own feet.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-06-06T14:03:43.756Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've done this fairly often (I wouldn't call it particularly hard, but I'm used to reading and walking at the same time, so I suppose that probably functions as practice,) but I don't think it functions as useful practice for doing anything else that I might plausibly have reason to do.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-06-06T20:41:01.395Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I've done this fairly often (I wouldn't call it particularly hard, but I'm used to reading and walking at the same time, so I suppose that probably functions as practice,)

It's not super hard but it's harder than what most people do when they travel via a bus. I would guess that it's harder than what most LessWrong readers do when the travel via a bus. Realistically I don't think I will convince people on lesswrong to go dancing in a bus in public transport.

It's an exercise that trains physical stability. I myself could see the difference in my salsa dancing after doing it for a month. At the same time I find that the physical activity makes my mind more alert and I can put more cognitive resources the book better than I would by sitting down in the bus.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2013-06-04T04:20:40.234Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

This suggests that studies about partisan confusion about truth are overblown. I haven't had a chance to look at the actual paper yet, but the upshot is that this study suggests that while there is a lot of prior evidence that people are likely to state strong factual errors supporting their own partisan positions, they are substantially less likely to occur when people are told they will be given money for correct statements. The suggestion is that people know (at some level) that their answers are false and are saying them more as signaling than anything else.

Edit:Clarify

comment by OrphanWilde · 2013-06-04T14:04:02.236Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Alternative explanation: They're shutting up and multiplying.

Most people have gone through the education system. Most people know how to guess the teacher's password. Most people have learned better than to assume their answers will be counted correct just because they have (in their opinions) good reasons for holding those answers.

Does putting an incentive on getting the answers "right" lead to "right" answers, or does it lead to people answering the way they expect you to treat as being right? My own educational history suggests the latter.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-06T06:09:19.542Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I can't parse this bit:

that this study suggests that all the studies about where people are likely to make strong factual errors supporting their own partisan positions are less likely to occur when people are given money for correct answers

Going by the syntax, it seems like you're saying "that this study suggests that all the studies [about certain things] are less likely to occur [under certain circumstances]", i.e. the study you're talking about was about the frequency of other types of studies. This doesn't seem to make sense.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2013-06-06T14:17:26.618Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There are studies which show that people across the political spectrum answer many factual questions in ways that don't reflect the factual data, and they do so in ways that support their own political ideology if they were true. This research shows that this effect goes down a lot when people are told they will be paid for how many correct answers they give.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-06T14:25:18.635Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

nod That doesn't seem to be a possible interpretation of your original sentence.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2013-06-06T15:00:47.297Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Is the edited version better?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-08T03:50:12.012Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, the new version seems quite clear (except that this looks like a typo: "people are likely to make likely to state strong factual errors").

comment by yli · 2013-06-15T15:52:30.189Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

RSS feeds for user's comments seem to be broken with the update to how they display on the page. To see how, just look at eg. http://lesswrong.com/user/Yvain/overview/.rss . It contains a bunch of comments from other people than Yvain. This is pretty annoying, hope it's fixed soon. I'm subscribed to tens of users' comment feeds and it's the main way I read LW. Today all of those feeds got a bunch of spurious updates from the new other-people-comments on everyone's comments page.

Also, some months back there was another change to userpages and it broke all my RSS feeds too, I had to resubscribe to everyone's /user/theirname/comments page where I had previously subscribed to the user/theirname page. I wish updates would never break RSS feeds, I'm sure I'm not the only one who makes significant use of them.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2013-06-15T17:14:01.811Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I've submitted a ticket to the LW bug tracker.

comment by ema · 2013-06-07T19:07:12.401Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The subset of people who are Anki users and members of the competitive conspiracy might be interested in the Anki high score list addon I wrote: Ankichallenge

comment by folkTheory · 2013-06-07T06:19:15.461Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Does anyone know of a way to convert .anki files to .apkg files?

I recently started using anki, but most of the decks I downloaded are .anki, and can't be opened by ankidroid...

comment by Fhyve · 2013-06-04T03:17:16.129Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I want to improve my exposition and writing skills, but whenever I think "what do I know that I can explain to people that isn't explained well elsewhere?" not much comes to mind. I think that happens because it is hard to just do a search of everything that I know. The main topics that I know are math and rationality (mostly LW epistemic rationality, but also a little instrumental and LW moral philosophy). So I ask:

What is a topic in math or rationality that you wish were explained better or explained at a different level (casual, technical, etc.) than what already exists? Like, something that you know now but wish had been explained to you better, something that you don't know but wish you did, or something that you wish you could explain to other people but don't know of any sources to send them to.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2013-06-04T04:28:51.021Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I want to improve my exposition and writing skills, but whenever I think "what do I know that I can explain to people that isn't explained well elsewhere?" not much comes to mind

If improving your skills is your main goal, you should just write, regardless of whether better explanations already exist elsewhere. Actually, such explanations already existing could even be an advantage, as it provides you with feedback: after writing your own, you can look up existing ones and compare what you did better and what you did worse.

comment by Fhyve · 2013-06-04T05:17:18.949Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I see what you are saying, but I would be more motivated if it felt like I was doing useful work, and I don't really know what to write about. So I kind of am looking for inspiration/motivation and ideas.

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-06-06T20:13:33.767Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I would be more motivated if it felt like I was doing useful work

Are you sure? I wish this was what motivated me, but I've learned from writing about math for awhile that what I'm most motivated to write about is precisely what I'm most curious about at the moment. The usefulness of the writing has very little effect on my ability to actually finish it. (For example, I think it would be really useful to write an introduction to some of the material in Jaynes. But this hasn't motivated me to actually do so yet.) You should try writing a few things first, of varying usefulness and curiousness, and see which thing you actually feel motivated to finish.

comment by Manfred · 2013-06-04T08:43:05.216Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What do you really wish someone had explained to you 2 years ago?

comment by Fhyve · 2013-06-04T19:07:15.882Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The two things that come to mind are things that I am still learning. General category theory (rather than category theory for the purpose of x), and a higher level structural and general viewpoint on Bayes (rather than basic articles on how to compute Bayes theorem and what it means). Also something on what actually happens when you extend mathematical logic using Bayesian probability. I could probably start on the second one right now...

comment by maia · 2013-06-07T11:35:24.912Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Writing about things you are still learning would probably be a great idea, actually. It would likely help you learn them better (research shows that in peer-to-peer tutoring, the tutors benefit more than tutees). And you can always leave in placeholders that give you more to write about: "I don't know why this is yet, but I'm going to look it up and write about it later."

You might also have an unfair advantage, in that since you have newly learned it, you'll have a better perspective from which to explain it to people who aren't familiar with the material.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-06T06:12:54.665Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you want to practice writing, but you can't think of any fun (or... fun-like) ways to practice writing, it may be a good idea to practice in a way that isn't fun, instead of waiting for something fun to come along. If lack of motivation turns out to be actually problematic, then searching for a more motivating topic is a potential solution, but there are lots of other, potentially better solutions.

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-06-06T20:09:38.770Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think that happens because it is hard to just do a search of everything that I know.

There are tools you can use to solve this problem! Have you tried mindmapping everything you know, e.g. with FreeMind?

whenever I think "what do I know that I can explain to people that isn't explained well elsewhere?" not much comes to mind.

At least in math, many topics are explained well at some high level but not explained well at a lower level. There's always more work to be done explaining math to the general population; the gulf between what could be explained and what has already been explained is absurd.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-06-04T10:47:21.248Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I want to improve my exposition and writing skills, but whenever I think "what do I know that I can explain to people that isn't explained well elsewhere?" not much comes to mind.

That seems like the wrong question to start with for casual writing. Some version of it might make sense for academic publishing.

Is there some math you're having fun with that you'd like to try explaining?

If you'd like a great big project, how about rationality for people of average intelligence?

comment by Fhyve · 2013-06-04T19:36:08.185Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Why do you think that is a wrong question? I am mostly asking because I want something interesting to write about, that I would be motivated to write.

The math that I am having fun with I don't know thoroughly enough to explain (and I am learning it from a really good piece of exposition).

The rationality one looks like fun, I will see if I can do some of it. First step, hack it into pieces so I am not working on a massive supergoal project, but a small project instead.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-06-05T03:19:51.148Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My guess was that it was a wrong question because it seems to stop you very early.

If having your writing be useful is a primary motivation, then maybe "what do I know well that I can explain to people which they aren't likely to have seen already?" would be better.

Another might be "what's something interesting that I know well that a good many people haven't heard of?".

comment by Zaine · 2013-06-04T20:28:22.079Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Pretend you're to have a conversation with a friend in which you need to explain a topic before proceeding. Write your dialogue.

comment by Thomas · 2013-06-02T07:55:58.642Z · score: 3 (9 votes) · LW · GW

It is the Capitalism Day today. As every first Sunday in June.

I wish you all a nice profit!

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2013-06-02T13:50:44.105Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I wish you all a nice profit!

Thanks, you too!

comment by wedrifid · 2013-06-02T08:00:28.087Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It is the Capitalism Day today. As every first Sunday in June.

Why is Capitalism Day on a weekend? Monday would seem more appropriate...

comment by Thomas · 2013-06-02T08:18:38.288Z · score: 13 (15 votes) · LW · GW

It would be too costly to spoil another business day. Sunday is all right.

comment by Thomas · 2013-06-02T07:29:33.007Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I've started a blog, yesterday.

http://protokol2020.wordpress.com

comment by ZankerH · 2013-06-02T14:31:15.536Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm interested. If you plan on posting semi-regularly or irregularly, please consider adding an RSS feed. It's the only way to follow sites that don't have a regular update schedule.

comment by Thomas · 2013-06-02T18:58:46.743Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I did it, hope it works.

comment by ZankerH · 2013-06-02T21:12:41.215Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Nope, it seems you've added the RSS feed of http://hexahost.com/blogs , http://hexahost.com/blogs/?feed=rss2

comment by Thomas · 2013-06-02T21:39:31.401Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

True, it's a mess right now...

comment by tut · 2013-06-02T12:29:39.154Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Please add it to the list of blogs by LWers in the wiki.

comment by Thomas · 2013-06-02T12:50:07.020Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you, I did.

comment by Bruno_Coelho · 2013-06-02T20:48:06.071Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I've see only a math post. Do you plan to write in what kind of topics?

comment by Thomas · 2013-06-02T21:37:55.900Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Math, physics, coding, strategy games, conflicts, the (near) future as I see it, promoting some contrarian views.

I don't approve many common views, I think I can see through several established misconceptions. Still, I could be wrong now and then.

comment by sanddbox · 2013-06-02T23:36:06.783Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Still, I could be wrong now and then.

If you think you're only wrong "every now and then", then you haven't really learned much from LW.

comment by Thomas · 2013-06-03T07:31:03.889Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Good point. To avoid being wrong, one may restrict himself to write about common accepted things, like 2+2=4. What is boring.

But I will say something very controversial. Like "faster rotating planets are warmer than slowly rotating, everything else equal". Most people "know" it is the other way around. Then I will try to decompose this statement to some well known and thus boring facts.

Risky strategy I know.

comment by sanddbox · 2013-06-03T22:04:30.968Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, don't get me wrong (no pun intended) - I don't think it's a bad thing to be frequently wrong. It's only bad to a) refuse to change your opinion and b) not realize you're wrong.

comment by sanddbox · 2013-06-02T04:26:00.753Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Has anyone on LW compiled a list of books/subjects to read/learn that basically gives brings you through all the ideas discussed on LW?

The sequences are the obvious answer, but it's nice to go into subjects a little more in-depth, plus the sequences are somewhat frustrating to navigate (every article in the sequences has links to plenty of other articles, so it's hard to attack the sequences in linear fashion).

comment by CronoDAS · 2013-06-02T06:15:05.976Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The most linear way to read Eliezer's Sequences is in chronological order by date of original posting, although it might not be the best way.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-06-02T06:21:57.109Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

The most linear way to read Eliezer's Sequences is in chronological order by date of original posting, although it might not be the best way.

Mind you it will be a good approximation of the best way. His posting order was dominated by needing to explain requisite knowledge before explaining later concepts. Perhaps the most obvious optimisation when it comes to reading is just skipping the parts that aren't interesting.

comment by sanddbox · 2013-06-02T22:29:15.705Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Definitely - there's a lot of concepts that seem rather obvious to me, while others take me a lot longer to wrap my head around, so I've been skipping the ones that are really obvious to me.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-02T06:55:02.739Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

this might resemble the kind of list you were looking for:

http://lesswrong.com/lw/2un/references_resources_for_lesswrong/

comment by sanddbox · 2013-06-02T22:29:37.050Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Wow, that's a lot of information. Thanks!

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-15T11:23:26.840Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think I've noticed that I'm more willing to read long texts written in small font sizes than in large ones, and in sans-serif than in serif font.

I might try again to read A Gentle Introduction to Unqualified Reservations, but in a small, sans-serif typeface this time, to test this.

comment by gwern · 2013-06-16T22:32:07.663Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

in sans-serif than in serif font.

FWIW, most of my pages on gwern.net seem like they'd count as 'long texts', but my just concluded font A/B test using 2 sans-serif and 2 serif fonts doesn't see any difference in reading time when you split by serif: http://www.gwern.net/a-b-testing#fonts

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-13T19:08:25.965Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That only tests for the averages AFAICT -- there might well be people who read serif fonts faster and people who read sans-serif fonts faster.

comment by gwern · 2013-07-13T19:48:26.977Z · score: 1 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Since I don't know whether I like the Big Endians or Little Endians, I only care about the average.

comment by diegocaleiro · 2013-06-12T11:03:45.958Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There are people studying the memetics of transhumanism academically. I am writing my Masters so I can't read it. But maybe someone else wants to... (sorry no easy link) http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08949468.2013.754649#.UbhTvRUQ8gQ

comment by elharo · 2013-06-10T19:52:48.845Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I notice I am confused about Godel's theorem, and I'm hoping there are enough mathematically minded folks here to unconfuse me. :-)

My recollection from my undergraduate days is that Godel's theorem states that given any sufficiently powerful formal system (i.e. one powerful to encode Peano arithmetic) there are statements that can be made in that system that can neither be proven true nor proven false. I.e. the system is either incomplete or inconsistent, and generally incomplete is what seems to happen.

Here's what confused me: I've noticed several recent sources stating Godel's theorem as "no consistent system of axioms whose theorems can be listed by an "effective procedure" (e.g., a computer program, but it could be any sort of algorithm) is capable of proving all truths about the relations of the natural numbers (arithmetic). For any such system, there will always be statements about the natural numbers that are true, but that are unprovable within the system." (from Wikipedia). I.e. it's not just that there are statements that can't be proven, but true statements that can't be proven. I am confused about what it means to call a mathematical statement "true" if it can't be proven.

In particular, my recollection was that when you encountered such an unprovable statement you could add either the statement or its negation to your axioms and continue, much as with the parallel postulate in geometry. These results weren't true or false. They were undecidable.

What am I missing? What does it mean in pure mathematics to say a statement is "true" if we can't prove it?

comment by shminux · 2013-06-10T20:44:11.551Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This might be helpful.

These are natural mathematical equivalents of the Godel "true but undecidable" sentence. They can be proved in a larger system which is generally accepted as a valid form of reasoning, but are undecidable in a more limited system such as Peano Arithmetic.

comment by Tenoke · 2013-06-08T14:36:37.869Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

A bit of a long shot but I am a recent Psychology (BSc) Graduate who currently lives in London and is looking for a job. Does anyone know of any positions in the rationality sector (anywhere) or any science/research/anything else like that around London (or not) that I can look into? Or any other general advice, recommendations etc.

comment by cousin_it · 2013-06-06T12:44:38.892Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Naive evo-psych seems to imply that having a big family should make me more attractive, for two reasons: 1) it's evidence that my genes cause many surviving kids, 2) more people will share resources to help my kids survive. But that doesn't seem to work in real life. Why?

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-06-06T20:00:39.371Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

"Real life" doesn't even remotely resemble the ancestral environment. In the modern world, a big family is evidence about your cultural background, especially the relationship between your cultural background and contraception, and that might be a turn-off for some. This is the same kind of phenomenon that makes having extra fat evidence, in the ancestral environment, that you were good at acquiring food and other resources, but in the modern world it's evidence that you're poor or lack access to good food or lack self-control or whatever.

comment by cousin_it · 2013-06-06T21:30:46.848Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, saying "evo-psych doesn't work" is one way to answer my question :-)

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-06-06T21:33:22.616Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I mean, I'd rather say "evo-psych has a certain domain of applicability, and also it's not the only force that shapes human behavior, and also most people who try to apply evo-psych don't understand the evolutionary-cognitive boundary, and..."

It seems a little presumptuous to say "if I naively apply this idea, I get something that looks wrong, therefore this is a dumb idea" instead of saying "if I naively apply this idea, I get something that looks wrong, therefore I may have applied it in a dumb way." Have you read an actual textbook on evolutionary psychology?

comment by cousin_it · 2013-06-06T22:03:25.022Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Nope. I was kind of hoping some expert would answer.

To reformulate the question, is there some easy way to see that my prediction is wrong without going out and checking? The arguments in your first comment apply to all of evo-psych equally. Your second comment mentioned the "evolutionary-cognitive boundary" which doesn't seem to be what I want, unless I'm missing something...

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-06-06T23:16:26.651Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It was an example of how people can incorrectly apply evolutionary psychology. Anyway, despite my previous comment, it's not clear to me that your prediction is in fact wrong.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2013-06-07T03:33:58.560Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Do you (not) observe this both with males and females?

Baboons are supposed to be a good model for human social structure, though not as smart as apes. They are matrilocal, so they don't know how big the male's family was. The female's status is largely determined by alliances, which are made of family blocks. They do get some grooming work out of allies. They might be able to get work out of low status females, who love to hold high status babies, but the mothers don't trust them, perhaps out of fear for the baby, perhaps out of fear of status contagion. Anyhow, since (2) is true, it's hard to measure (1). But it is probably better to look at anthropological evidence than baboons.

Large families mean low infant mortality and low maternal mortality. Low infant mortality might be due to good genes, or good provisioning. A woman from a large family might provide genetic protection against maternal mortality, but not a man from a large family. If infant mortality is due to bad infant genes, siblings testify to this kind of gene, but it might not be different from other kinds of robustness that can be measured in adulthood. If it's paternal provisioning, then maybe it's evidence that the man inherited dad strategy genes (vs cad strategy), but hunter-gatherer couplings probably were not long term so the large family is not highly informative. The farming environment seems like it should select for the behavior you suggest, but people usually assume it didn't last very long so didn't shape much.

comment by TimS · 2013-06-06T18:58:51.572Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Why does evo. psych imply this result? The fact that you can spawn healthy children may make you more attractive to an additional potential mate, but the potential mate must also consider whether you can provide resources to support additional children.

more people will share resources to help my kids survive. (emphasis added)

This seems like the opposite of what evo. psych would predict. Your relatives might be willing to provide you more support if you have more kids, but why would strangers be more willing to support you based on your reproductive fitness? As for relatives of additional potential spouses, the considerations of I discussed above still apply.

comment by moridinamael · 2013-06-06T18:19:01.045Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, the more kids are in a family, the less resources can be allocated to each child, all other things being equal. That said, it isn't obvious to me that your premise is true. I have found that my esteem for somebody grows for some reason when I learn they have siblings.

comment by gwern · 2013-06-05T20:42:37.243Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

MoR and munchkining fans may enjoy this application to Railgun: http://www.reddit.com/r/anime/comments/1fpome/just_a_fanart_of_railgun_characters/cacmewm

comment by endoself · 2013-06-05T09:20:22.135Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

From If Many-Worlds had Come First:

the thought experiment goes: 'Hey, suppose we have a radioactive particle that enters a superposition of decaying and not decaying. Then the particle interacts with a sensor, and the sensor goes into a superposition of going off and not going off. The sensor interacts with an explosive, that goes into a superposition of exploding and not exploding; which interacts with the cat, so the cat goes into a superposition of being alive and dead. Then a human looks at the cat,' and at this point Schrödinger stops, and goes, 'gee, I just can't imagine what could happen next.' So Schrödinger shows this to everyone else, and they're also like 'Wow, I got no idea what could happen at this point, what an amazing paradox'. Until finally you hear about it, and you're like, 'hey, maybe at that point half of the superposition just vanishes, at random, faster than light', and everyone else is like, 'Wow, what a great idea!'"

Obviously this is a parody and Eliezer is making an argument for many worlds. However, this isn't that far from how the thought experiment is presented in introductory books and even popularizations. Why, then, don't more people realize that many worlds is correct? Why aren't tons of bright middle-school children who read science fiction and popular science spontaneously rediscovering many worlds?

comment by shminux · 2013-06-06T17:33:13.571Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Why, then, don't more people realize that many worlds is correct?

Note that you are using Eliezer!correct, not Physics!correct. The former is based on Bayesian reasoning among models with equivalent predictive power, the latter requires different predictive power to discriminate between theories. The problem with the former reasoning is that without experimental validation it is hard to agree on the priors and other assumptions going into the Bayesian calculation for MWI correctness. Additionally, proclaiming MWI "correct" is not instrumentally useful unless one can use it to advance physical knowledge.

'hey, maybe at that point half of the superposition just vanishes, at random, faster than light'

It's worse than that, actually. In some frames it means not just FTL but also back in time. But given that this is unmeasurable, it matters not in the slightest if you adopt the Physics!correct definition.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-06T18:52:05.859Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Note that the OP wasn't asking about physicists, but people... explicitly "bright middle school children" for example.
It's certainly possible that the lack of differential predictive power or experimental validation for MWI explains that, but I'm inclined to doubt it.

comment by shminux · 2013-06-06T19:08:34.507Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Good point, I missed it in my original reading. Certainly "bright middle school children" are unlikely to spontaneously discover the definition of correctness which matches either Eliezer!correct or Physics!correct. Certainly it's still an open issue for adult professionals.

comment by Vratko_Polak · 2013-06-10T20:22:04.889Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Why, then, don't more people realize that many worlds is correct?

I am going to try and provide short answer, as I see it. (Fighting urge to write about different levels of "physical reality".)

Many Words is an Interpretation. An interpretation should translate from mathematical formalism towards practical algorithms, but MWI does not go all the way. Namely, it does not specify the quantum state an Agent should use for computation. One possible state agrees with "Schroedinger's experiment was definitely set up and started", another state implies "cat definitely turned out to be alive", but those certainties cannot occur simultaneously.

Bayesian inference in non-quantum physics also changes (probabilistic) state, but we can interpret it as a mere change of our beliefs, and not a change in the physical system. But in quantum mechanics, upon observation, the "objective" state fitting our knowledge changes. MWI says "fitting our knowledge" is not a good criterion of choosing quantum state to compute with (because no state can be fitting enough, as example with Shroedinger's cat shows) and we should compute with superposition of Agents. MWI may be more "objectively correct", but it does not seem to be more "practical" than Copenhagen interpretation. So physicists do like to cautiously agree with MWI, then wave hands, proclaim "Decoherence!" and at the end use Copenhagen interpretation as before.

Introductory books emphasize experiments, and experimental results do not come in form of superpositioned bits. So before student gets familiar enough with mathematical formalism to think about detectors in superposition, Copenhagen is already occupying slot for Interpretation.

comment by shminux · 2013-06-05T04:13:11.420Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Today I learned that there exist electromagnetic waves in vacuum with electric and magnetic fields parallel to each other. Freaky...

comment by Manfred · 2013-06-09T15:43:05.631Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sure it's not in plasma?

comment by shminux · 2013-06-09T18:30:08.345Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Consider a circularly polarized standing wave with the electric field of the form E=E0cos(kz)(cos(wt)x-hat - sin(wt)y-hat).

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-09T22:49:24.322Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

... oh.

comment by Manfred · 2013-06-09T19:00:24.774Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, I see. They're offset along the z-direction, rather than in the x-y plane.

Huh.

comment by shminux · 2013-06-09T19:18:36.218Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

My mind was blown when I saw it first, so ingrained was the "fact" that E and B are normal to each other for waves in vacuum. I had to recalculate B several times before I believed it. Which makes me worried that some other physics "facts" I now believe unquestioningly have similar holes.

comment by sediment · 2013-06-02T15:20:31.127Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'd like to put out a call for anecdata, if I may:

Lately I've been wondering how much of a causal connection there is between happiness/fulfillment and willpower (or, conversely, akrasia) levels. I feel like I'm not especially fulfilled or happy in my life right now, and I can't help but feel intuitively that this is one cause of the difficulty I seem to have in focusing, concentrating, and putting effort into what I want to. However, I've no idea whether there's actually anything in this.

So: I guess I wondered if anyone has any personal accounts of (medium- to long-term) mood affecting akrasia levels in their own lives? I invite you to share here. (Also welcomed: advice; discussion; pointers to actual, nonanecdotal, study-type data.)

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2013-06-02T17:17:27.673Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This is definitely the case according to my experiences and pretty much every self-help text I've ever read. You might want to check out this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broaden-and-build

comment by sediment · 2013-06-02T17:32:24.983Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'll take a look; thanks pal.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-02T16:13:34.611Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I certainly find that the two are correlated... when my mood is low, I don't get much done compared to when my mood is elevated.
Whether that's because getting things done influences my mood (and something else influences my productivity), or whether my mood influences my productivity (and something else influences my mood), or whether neither is true (and something else influences both), or various combinations, is harder to tease out.
My impression is that all three are true at different times.

comment by sediment · 2013-06-02T16:17:28.614Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Right. It figures that causation would go the other way, at least - that the presence of akrasia would cause bad mood. Indeed, akrasia is pretty much defined as that which makes you unhappy, right?

comment by falenas108 · 2013-06-02T16:04:05.471Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

When I have above usual levels of productivity, I'm moderately happier than the norm. When I have below usual levels, I'm much unhappier than normal.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-06T06:25:26.443Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I've noticed the converse seems to be true in me, at least to a degree: getting useful work done causes me to feel happier. I have not noticed happiness causing me to get more useful work done.

comment by CAE_Jones · 2013-06-06T07:10:00.049Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I have noticed both, but happiness does seem to improve more after the start of useful work than useful work improves after an increase in happiness. I might describe it as certain types of work requiring a threshold level of happiness to initiate, among other requirements.

I've been noticing this tendency for years and trying to use it to my advantage (much to the annoyance of all the mainstream types who only inquire into my methods when they fail). A particular anecdote that comes to mind is how, after weeks of not managing to care enough to complete any assignments for a course that I like so little as to have since given up on, I discovered HPMoR, which I read in one sitting, other than the ten minutes in the middle where I stopped to complete one of these assignments.

Happiness in / Happiness out, so to speak, except that happiness is obviously not the only activation condition, so attempting to use it without the others present just wastes happiness. (The trouble is how one goes about recognizing the necessary activation conditions for useful work and their presence/absence so as to avoid wasting happiness unnecessarily.)

comment by CellBioGuy · 2013-06-02T16:33:36.751Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting. My correlations go in the opposite direction.

comment by maia · 2013-06-02T12:42:52.069Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Anyone have a good idea of where to park an "emergency fund" type account, and especially resources that talk about this? Most of my money is sitting in a checking account right now, which I have realized is not so good, but I want to keep most of it liquid (and the remainder might not be enough to start an index fund account with Vanguard).

comment by ThrustVectoring · 2013-06-02T18:26:00.873Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

You only need an emergency fund if you do not have access to credit at reasonable terms. Investments you don't touch outside of emergencies coupled with open lines of credit should outperform excessive "emergency" savings. After all, lines of credit are typically free when you don't use or need them, while not getting the best rate of return on your savings isn't.

EDIT: I was reminded of a relevant saying: If you’ve never missed a flight, you’re spending too much time in airports.. Similarly, if you never have to borrow money for emergencies, your investments are too liquid.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-02T18:44:48.814Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

You only need an emergency fund if you do not have access to credit at reasonable terms.

Surely the relevant question is whether I'm likely to not have access to credit at reasonable terms during an emergency, no?

comment by ThrustVectoring · 2013-06-03T01:33:11.345Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I don't really see many emergencies that can be handled by cash but not by a loan for cash. If you're solvent and people want dollars later, then they will lend you money. If you're not solvent, then whether your immediate liquidity is in credit or cash doesn't make a big difference since you're still not solvent. If nobody wants dollars later (say, asteroid), then it's unlikely that having dollars now is going to fix any emergencies.

comment by Lumifer · 2013-06-03T19:59:27.430Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If you're solvent and people want dollars later, then they will lend you money.

I don't find that obvious. There is a whole host of issues here, starting with time constraints (e.g. you need money within 24 hours and you can get a loan in five business days) and ending with information asymmetry issues of which lenders are acutely cognizant ("you say you're solvent, but can you prove it?").

If your "access to credit" is a couple of credit cards, yeah, you can get cash fast enough but the terms are rarely what I'd call "reasonable". If you'd actually need a new loan or a line of credit... I don't think I would want to rely on that in an emergency.

comment by ThrustVectoring · 2013-06-04T01:57:34.986Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

How often do you really need money within 24 hours? If you can't get the cash within a day, what bad consequences are going to happen?

If it's a purchase under $5000, then you can handle it with a credit card. You then have 21 days to come up with the money or else pay 20% APR. That's plenty of time if you have, say, stocks you can sell. For larger purchases, you can either save for it with an explicit plan, or negotiate a payment plan.

comment by Lumifer · 2013-06-04T19:57:25.504Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

How often do you really need money within 24 hours?

In an emergency I expect to need money right now, on the time scale of hours.

comment by ThrustVectoring · 2013-06-04T20:06:10.823Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

How many times have you needed money immediately in your life, and how much money have you needed for those incidents? Personally, I do not recall ever spending more than a hundred dollars without at least a day's warning. Then again, I don't own a car, which is a big cause for emergency spending - but really that ought to have it's own fund treated as self-insurance.

comment by Lumifer · 2013-06-04T20:18:05.147Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

How many times have you needed money immediately in your life, and how much money have you needed for those incidents?

Well, if you want to approach this properly... :-)

...then you'll need to evaluate the probability density of situations in your life where not having a certain amount of cash on hand will lead to severely negative outcomes (aka high costs). I expect that you'll have much difficulty in trying to form a reasonable estimate (see Nassim Taleb and the general Black Swan concept). Notably, limited amount of historical data (as in, e.g. your personal experience) is not all that good a basis for estimations.

There is also a whole bunch of other factors in play -- do you have kids? do you travel much? outside of the US? etc. etc.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-06T06:14:41.924Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What sort of emergency do you have in mind?

comment by Lumifer · 2013-06-06T14:28:34.310Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Example 1: medevac.

Example 2: You live up north, it's winter, and your house's heating just died. If you don't fix it by the time the house cools down to below freezing, some of your water pipes will burst.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-08T04:02:18.529Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe you could drain all your pipes in the latter case. But I imagine there are other emergencies, of course.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-03T02:47:31.254Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That's fair. I'd been thinking about the general class of "people who need money now for an emergency," many of whom find it difficult to secure credit, rather than the class of "people who have a lot of wealth in non-liquid forms who need money now for an emergency," who presumably don't.

comment by ThrustVectoring · 2013-06-03T03:55:58.066Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I was thinking more in terms of "there's an expenses function e(t), and a cash availability function s(t), and a cost function f( e(t) - s(t) ), and this cost function is zero at e(t)-s(t) = 0, but is a lot softer at e(t) > s(t) than people fear due to credit cards and lines of credit, and can be quite costly at s(t) >> e(t)"

Except that e(t) and s(t) really should be probability distributions, but that just hurts my head to try and explain coherently. This is literally my fourth attempt at writing up a better description of the reasoning behind my posts.

If e(t) is slightly bigger than s(t), you borrow money from credit cards or other lines of credit at poor interest rates, then pay off those debts in the however many days it takes to get liquid cash from other sources (say, stocks). If e(t) is much bigger than s(t), then you negotiate a payment plan or suffer the consequences of not being able to pay expenses right now.

And of course there's the time costs in optimizing this sort of thing. A percentage point for a thousand dollars over a year comes out to ten dollars, which I roughly approximate as an hour of time. Which means that you probably ought to spend your optimization power on minimizing the amount of work you need to put into your finances. Which, in turn, means automatic bill payment, and regular transfers of excess cash from your checking account into your preferred investment account.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2013-06-02T19:49:26.447Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This is a really good point that I can't believe I never thought of before.

comment by syllogism · 2013-06-04T14:57:39.691Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've been doing this wrong, and this advice will likely save me a few thousand dollars. Thanks.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-04T11:01:44.292Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I have a partly irrational aversion to owing money, which I maybe should edit out of myself.

comment by Lumifer · 2013-06-03T20:05:13.965Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

if you never have to borrow money for emergencies, your investments are too liquid

That assumes there is price for liquidity which you are paying. I am not sure this is the case for most normal people (as opposed to, say, those who invest into private equity) now because other than real estate most other available investments are quite liquid.

Essentially, most of people's investments are bank accounts and market securities (again, real estate is the big exception). Liquidity shouldn't be an issue here.

comment by ThrustVectoring · 2013-06-04T01:52:28.293Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

For recent college graduates, their best investment opportunity is early repayment of their student loans. It's essentially guaranteed 4-5% return (whatever their loan rate happens to be). Note that this "investment" is completely illiquid.

comment by Lumifer · 2013-06-04T20:01:11.523Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

For recent college graduates, their best investment opportunity is early repayment of their student loans.

That's often but not necessarily true, especially on a post-tax basis (and especially if your alternative is putting money into tax-advantaged vehicle like 401(k) or IRA).

comment by gwern · 2013-06-04T08:16:07.000Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Note that this "investment" is completely illiquid.

Hm, is it really? If you're paying back your loans early, couldn't you then, in case of need, cease paying for a time equivalent to how much you paid and then resume paying? You'd just be right back on schedule.

comment by elharo · 2013-06-04T09:46:25.748Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It depends on the terms of the loan. Some loans may allow you to skip payments if you're ahead. Most I've seen don't though. But either way, if you need $5000 cash right now because your significant other ran their car into someone's living room and you need to pay bail and a lawyer, or the levees are collapsing and you have to split town, you can't get the $5000 back from an early repaid loan.

comment by ThrustVectoring · 2013-06-04T15:22:13.123Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Your loan may vary. For me, all it does is give me a few extra dollars a month.

comment by maia · 2013-06-02T18:47:17.093Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

A very good point, and I've considered that. So far I have a very short credit history (I am young and haven't had much time to establish one), so the interest on the credit card I have is quite high and the limit is (relatively) low. There's some possibility I could borrow from my parents, but I'd prefer not to depend on that too much.

comment by ThrustVectoring · 2013-06-03T01:51:24.382Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The particular advice I gave is less relevant to young people, since they have less savings and tend to have better investment opportunities in terms of paying off student loan and other long-term debt. Paying off student loans is effectively an investment that you can never sell back for ready cash, so you'd need savings in something that's actually somewhat liquid.

More on point, if you don't have access to enough emergency credit, that is the perfect reason to essentially have a self-insurance fund. That fund should cover perhaps a couple thousand dollars - anything more than that and you can typically work out a payment plan or tap your less-liquid investments.

comment by elharo · 2013-06-04T09:29:26.287Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Eric Tyson's Personal Finances for Dummies discusses this. He recommends putting your emergency fund into a tax-free money market with check writing privileges. I keep about 2-3% of my liquid assets in such an account, and maybe another 2% in checking and savings accounts at regular banks (one online, plus two local banks in locations where I live and work.) However the percentages aren't as important as the absolute numbers. You need a local account (or a fire-resistant safe that's rated for at least 60 minutes against tools and torch) for when you need a lot of cash right away, and enough cash across your cash accounts for maybe six months of living expenses.

Lines of credit can be useful, but banks do have an annoying habit of cancelling them at the worst possible times; e.g. when the whole economy is imploding as it did in 2008 and clients aren't paying their bills either.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-06-04T10:34:40.181Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Typo: the link doesn't work, and the link title should be "Personal Finance for Dummies".

comment by elharo · 2013-06-04T10:52:29.633Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

fixed. Thanks.

comment by wubbles · 2013-06-02T14:18:25.318Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Some banks offer money market accounts, or even a savings account might be a good idea.

comment by wmorgan · 2013-06-02T17:53:26.824Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I was on the subway the other day and Sovereign Bank had bought up all the ad spots advertising in big print "MONEY MARKET ACCOUNT. 0.6% APY. $100,000 MINIMUM." The interest rate offered on a smaller deposit is presumably less than that, and yet the bank thought this deal would be appealing enough to advertise. This makes a year of "emergency fund" holdings in a money market account approximately worth the change in the couch. I don't see how that's enough of a difference from a checking account to worry about.

comment by huh · 2013-06-02T18:51:28.543Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Capitol One offers savings accounts yielding 0.75% APY with no minimum deposit. I've used them for over 10 years with no hassles. Your general point about low yields still applies, though.

I would estimate an opportunity cost of 3 hours per year to set up the account, shuffle money around, periodically monitor the balance, and pay taxes on the interest. This opportunity cost will vary depending on how efficient one is with paperwork. Whether this is worthwhile depends on the size of the emergency fund and the alternative options for increasing marginal income via an equivalent time investment.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-06T06:22:18.988Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

For what it's worth, a money market fund might also be a good idea. It looks like historically, it has been extremely rare for a money market fund to decrease in value.

comment by Prismattic · 2013-06-30T20:50:25.708Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's been so long since I needed to use it that I've forgotten my Lesswrong password. Is there any password recovery function?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-15T07:44:22.521Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

http://lesswrong.com/user/army1987/comments/ also shows the parents of comments now. Can I disable that? In my preferences there's an option whether to show them in http://lesswrong.com/comments which is unchecked.

comment by niceguyanon · 2013-06-10T19:50:58.213Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Does anyone have anything to say or have any links regarding mortality salience, existentialism, or determinism as a source of motivation? Traditionally these are seen as a hindrance to motivation and may lead to fatalism and existential angst.

This previous post is the type of discussion I am looking for. Can confrontation of mortality and existential catharsis lead to motivation and hack akrasia?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-15T22:43:59.458Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Here's one answer.

In the summer of 1922, the Paris weekly newspaper L'Intrasigeant posed as their "Man on the street" question

"An American scientist announces that the world will end, or at least that such a huge part of the continent will be destroyed, and in such a sudden way, that death will be the certain fate of hundreds of millions of people. If this prediction were confirmed, what do you think would be its effects on people between the time when they acquired the aforementioned certainty and the moment of cataclysm? Finally, as far as you're concerned, what would you do in this last hour?"

The novelist Marcel Proust responded:

"I think that life would suddenly seem wonderful to us if we were threatened to die as you say. Just think of how many projects, travels, love affairs, studies, it -- our life -- hides from us, made invisible by our laziness which, certain of a future, delays them incessantly.

But let all this threaten to become impossible for ever, how beautiful it would become again! Ah! If only the cataclysm doesn't happen this time, we won't miss visiting the new galleries of the Louvre, throwing ourselves at the feet of Miss X, making a trip to India.

The cataclysm doesn't happen, we don't do any of it, because we find ourselves back in the heart of normal life, where negligence deadens desire. And yet we shouldn't have needed the cataclysm to love life today. It would have been enough to think that we are humans, and that death may come this evening."

comment by shminux · 2013-06-10T20:03:27.872Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect that without mortality salience I would have more trouble getting out of bed and doing something useful every morning. Or I would just play games forever.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-06T05:41:24.189Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm wondering if the following statement is true: The word "ought" means whatever we ought to believe that it means.

Now, certainly, that statement could be false. There could be a society whose code of ethics states that you must disagree with the code of ethics. But I'm asking whether or not it is false, for us actual humans. And it might be false if you take "we" to mean someone like Adolf Hitler: perhaps Hitler professed his actual beliefs about ethics, and people nowadays think Hitler was so horrible that if Hitler believed something was right, it was probably wrong, and vice versa; and so it would have been best for Hitler's ethical beliefs to be as wrong as possible, so that people who think Hitler was wrong most of the time will come to the correct conclusions. But by "we", I don't mean "each individual human being who has ever lived and ever will live"; I just mean "human society as a whole".

In theory, if this statement were true, we would be able to take sentences like "we ought to believe that murder is wrong" and use them to conclude sentences like "murder is wrong". In practice, this seems like it would only be rarely useful, because it's hard to determine whether or not we ought to believe that a conduct is wrong unless we already know whether or not it is wrong.

comment by Manfred · 2013-06-09T15:25:30.769Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

For a reflectively consistent person (let's call her Alice), the word "ought" according to Alice means whatever Alice ought according to Alice believe that it means.

comment by Prismattic · 2013-06-05T23:09:11.594Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think this Noah Smith disquisition on "derp" might be a useful thing to refer people to when one gets tired of referring them to PITMK. It crystalizes for me why I find a lot of political commentary unbearable to read/listen to.

comment by Matt_Simpson · 2013-07-22T13:57:32.828Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Politics is the mind killer for a variety of reasons besides ridiculously strong priors that are never swayed by evidence. Strong priors isn't even the entirety of the phenomena to be explained (though it is a big part), let alone a fundamental explanation.

Also, I really like Noah's post (and was about to post it in the current open thread before I found your post). Not only did Noah attach a word to a pretty commonly occurring phenomenon, the word seems to have a great set of connotations attached to it, given some goals about improving discourse.

comment by FiftyTwo · 2013-06-09T20:37:13.224Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

PITMK?

comment by Vaniver · 2013-06-10T01:01:36.776Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Most likely Politics Is The Mind-Killer.

comment by Pablo_Stafforini · 2013-06-05T23:09:07.994Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Of interest to folks close to Oxford only.

Max Tegmark will be giving a talk, "The future of life: a cosmic perspective”, on June 10 at 12:30pm. The event is open to the public and free of charge, and will take place on the Martin Wood Lecture Theatre, Department of Physics, 20 Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PU (Google maps). More details here.

comment by Pablo_Stafforini · 2013-06-11T17:31:10.302Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The talk is now online, here.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-06-05T12:38:03.618Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

For those who believe that the US is a democracy in the sense that public policy is an aggregate of public opinion, how do you deal with the fact that 42% of the US population don't know that Obamacare is actually law?

If the population doesn't even know about the easy facts, how do you expect a democracy in which public policy is driven by public discourse to work?

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-05T17:10:31.571Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm currently in a weeklong design meeting. On Monday, the guy leading the meeting proposed a schedule for what we were doing when, in which my presentation was Monday, a likely followup for my presentation was Friday, and various other things were true. Some people objected, and he changed some stuff, though not those two things. Nobody objected to it, and it's the schedule we're using.

I have no idea what we're going to do this afternoon or tomorrow, and I was surprised by what we did yesterday and this morning. At no time have I ever known, I didn't bother to listen when it was announced. I don't care what we discuss when, as long as I know when my topics are so I can prep.

Still, I'm happy to say that our schedule is an aggregate of public opinion.

Would you disagree?

I approach public policy in a democracy similarly. Sure, most of us don't know anything about anything, but I'm not sure how much that really matters.

That being said, I'm also not sure how much I endorse public policy driven by public discourse. "Worst system in the world except for everything else we've ever tried" comes to mind.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-06-06T13:05:18.339Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Still, I'm happy to say that our schedule is an aggregate of public opinion.

Would you disagree?

By that definition the political decisions in most non-democratic states are also driven by public opinion.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-06T13:39:39.639Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe; I'm not sure.

I mean, these terms are fuzzy, but to continue with my analogy... consider the following (tiny subset of all) possible processes:

  • [A] "the guy leading the meeting proposed a schedule, and that's the schedule we're using; there was no opportunity to object nor any expectation of such an opportunity."
  • [B] "the guy leading the meeting proposed a schedule, some people objected, he changed some stuff, nobody objected, and that's the schedule we're using; most people paid no attention and don't really care"
  • [C] "everyone in the room was asked to propose a schedule, the various proposed schedules were merged in some standardized fashion and a composite schedule was generated; we're using the composite schedule"

I would say there's some property P() for which P(A) < P(B) < P(C) where P() bears some relationship (perhaps partially homologous, perhaps simply analogous) to what we're calling "democracy" here. At some point it's a question of where we draw a fairly arbitrary threshold line.

I'm inclined to draw the line such that B and C are both "democratic" and A is not.
It seems to me that you're drawing the line such that only C is "democratic."

If I'm correct, then I guess my answer to your question is "I don't believe the US is a democracy, nor do I endorse it being one; I can't imagine what a democracy comprising human minds would even look like."

I suspect I'm misunderstanding you, though.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-06-06T23:44:45.879Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm interested in power. A and B describe outcomes.

It makes a difference whether the person who leads the meeting changes the schedule when objections happen because he's nice or because he if forced to change.

When it comes to Obamacare I don't think the issue is that 42% of the US population don't care about it. From my perception of US politics a lot of people in the US care a great deal about the issue.

It's a problem when you can better convince the voting public by buying TV ads then you can convince them through good policy.

comment by Randy_M · 2013-06-07T16:02:37.395Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Could be that your perception is not of the same group of people as don't know it is law when polled.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-06-07T16:19:34.862Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

72% of American seem to believe that it's unconstitutional so they care to some extend about it.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2013-06-07T03:16:19.487Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, I would agree that regardless of what label we assign to the U.S. political system, power is not equally distributed within it, and the people "leading the meeting" are not reliably (or typically) "nice," and policy selected for some goal other than being convincing typically isn't as convincing as well-designed propaganda.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2013-06-06T09:08:22.033Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Note that this isn't particularly specific to the US. The situation is pretty much the same in every country, AFAIK.

comment by Kawoomba · 2013-06-04T13:15:32.074Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

(Usual informational hazard warning to attract attention. Warning before compulsory dedicating your attention: it's only the usual hazard. (Collective disappointed sigh))

Interesting smackd..., ah, discussion, between XiXiDu and Aris Kats Aris. If the link doesn't work, it's the Google+ discussion also linked to from the top of this blog post.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2013-06-04T13:49:15.385Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

between XiXiDu and Aris Kats Aris

A small note: "Katsaris" is my last name and a single word, it doesn't split into "Kats Aris". :-)

comment by Kawoomba · 2013-06-04T14:17:20.975Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Your name is an anagram goldmine ripe for a bonanza. From the litany "as a Sir Tarski" to my "sis, Aria Stark" (works just phonetically), your name implies a role "as AI Risk tsar".

comment by smk · 2013-06-05T21:13:26.111Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'd really like it if someone could explain to me what Aaronson is saying here:

I've often heard the argument which says that not only is there no free will, but the very concept of free will is incoherent. Why? Because either our actions are determined by something, or else they're not determined by anything, in which case they're random. In neither case can we ascribe them to "free will."

For me, the glaring fallacy in the argument lies in the implication Not Determined ⇒ Random. If that was correct, then we couldn't have complexity classes like NP---we could only have BPP. The word "random" means something specific: it means you have a probability distribution over the possible choices. In computer science, we're able to talk perfectly coherently about things that are non-deterministic, but not random.

Look, in computer science we have many different sources of non-determinism. Arguably the most basic source is that we have some algorithm, and we don't know in advance what input it's going to get. If it were always determined in advance what input it was going to get, then we'd just hardwire the answer. Even talking about algorithms in the first place, we've sort of inherently assumed the idea that there's some agent that can freely choose what input to give the algorithm.

-PHYS 771 Lecture

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-06-06T20:05:38.400Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Aaronson is just trying to make the point that it's possible to make a formal distinction between nondeterminism and randomness. Mathematically, a nondeterministic function is a function that returns a set of values rather than a value, and a random function is a function that returns a probability distribution over values rather than a value. The fact that we can make such a formal distinction suggests that we ought to also be able to make an informal distinction.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-06-06T06:33:36.396Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, he's saying that. I don't know which part of this is the part you're having trouble with.

comment by smk · 2013-06-06T10:35:34.415Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I was confused by the way he was using the term "non-determinism". Then I read this:

It's important to understand that computer scientists use the term "nondeterministic" differently from how it's typically used in other sciences. A nondeterministic TM is actually deterministic in the physics sense

-Theoretical Computer Science Stack Exchange

Assuming that person was correct, then it seems like Aaronson is responding to an argument that uses the physics sense of "non-determined", but replying with the CS sense--which I'm thinking makes a difference in this case. But that's just what it seems like to me--I must be misunderstanding something (probably a lot of things).

comment by ESRogs · 2013-06-08T00:51:12.873Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This was my feeling as well, that Aaronson was inappropriately using the technical definition of "nondeterministic" from CS in a context where that wasn't the intended meaning.

comment by B_For_Bandana · 2013-06-04T02:54:01.262Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

People who are nervous and unsure about learning a new skill are often advised to "fake it till you make it." That has never been very helpful for me; I think I concentrate on the "fake" part too much, which just makes me nervous that any moment the jig will be up.

Anyway, there's an older, simpler way to express the same idea, which works much better: I'm practicing. It's not fake, it's just practice. Thinking that way makes me want to get back to work, instead of worry about getting caught; after all, I'm not doing anything wrong.

Fairly banal once I write it down, but it's been helpful.

comment by Omid · 2013-06-02T16:57:37.988Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If I pay $1000 in rent, about how much does my landlord profit after accounting for taxes and the costs of property management?

comment by gwern · 2013-06-02T17:38:59.652Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In a competitive and efficient market, he'll profit on average to the tune of the risk-free interest rate (~2% or so now) but higher since renting is not risk-free. So you could start by figuring out his risks in renting out to you.

comment by AspiringRationalist · 2013-06-03T00:12:39.078Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The real estate market is far from efficient. Transaction costs are very high and good data is hard to come by. I think a bottom-up approach would be far more accurate than an economics-based approach that uses assumptions that are extremely inaccurate for this situation.

comment by RolfAndreassen · 2013-06-04T20:02:14.894Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Hang on, his return on his capital may be the risk-free rate plus risk compensation, but Omid's $1000/month is not the landlord's capital, it's his revenue! Unless you have a good way of mapping rent payments onto the amount of capital tied up in the building, I don't see how your answer is useful.

comment by gwern · 2013-06-05T00:38:50.104Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Revenue from a renter is simply investment income, and we'd expect the income from an apartment-bond to, like any other investment, be squeezed down to equal other investments after adjusting for risk and diversification and taxes etc.

comment by RolfAndreassen · 2013-06-05T03:33:47.438Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes. I do not see how this answers my objection. You still have not provided a way of dividing up the $1000 into money used for maintenance and money taken out as profit, which was the original question. All you've said is that the second component should be equal to 3% or so of the investment; since we have no idea what the investment was, this is unhelpful.

The investment income is the revenue from the renter less expenses in running the building.

comment by ThrustVectoring · 2013-06-02T17:51:39.604Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There's also a non-obvious positive risk, too. Specifically, the appreciation of real estate prices. If the landlord owns a $120k house that they expect to increase in value 1%/year over their mortgage rate, then that's another $100/month that the landlord doesn't have to get in rent.

In other words, the landlord is holding an equity position in the real estate they are leasing to you. This equity position can appreciate, giving a non-rent-collection profit source that increases the price they are willing to pay for the real estate in the first place, lowering their profit as a percentage of capital invested.

comment by gwern · 2013-06-02T20:17:27.653Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

But it can also fall, as we witnessed not too many years ago... Any speculation on real estate will already have been priced in and the expected profit from buying a house minimal.

comment by ThrustVectoring · 2013-06-03T02:05:29.421Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

To borrow your phrasing - in a competitive and efficient market, the expected profit from buying a house is equal to the risk-free interest rate. So my math actually was rather bogus - I should have talked about how the landlord should expect his $20k equity stake to appreciate at the risk-free interest rate (~2%), which would shave $400/year off the amount of collected rent needed to justify the house price in the first place.

comment by Vaniver · 2013-06-02T17:37:43.124Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Based on guidelines I've come across, I would be surprised if it were much more than $50, and that's generally the estimate without taking into account the costs of not renting out the property if you can't find tenants.

comment by Zaine · 2013-06-03T05:56:13.881Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I have a question. Assume that non-profit MIRI develops a fAGI (I like the acronym this way). They realise they can use the fAGI to generate profit. Taking for granted they only wish to make enough profit to sustain the institution free of donor-support, would they then be able to switch to a for-profit institution, despite having created the fAGI while non-profit?

Everyone has found a way around the question; I asked it poorly, so I'll be clearer: if a piece of technology is developed at an institution dependent upon donations from private individuals to operate yet has no obligations to repay those individuals any form of equity - an institution that until this point has been called a 'non-profit' - can that institution then legally start profiting from their technology sans any obligation to their former donors? This may require country-specific answers.

comment by wedrifid · 2013-06-03T06:51:53.830Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I have a question. Assume that non-profit MIRI develops a fAGI (I like the acronym this way). They realise they can use the fAGI to generate profit. Taking for granted they only wish to make enough profit to sustain the institution free of donor-support, would they then be able to switch to a for-profit institution, despite having created the fAGI while non-profit?

If MIRI (or anyone else) create an AGI that is friendly to them they can do whatever they goddamn please.

comment by Larks · 2013-06-03T11:49:27.187Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Nitpick:

they can do whatever they goddamn please

They might not be able to do some things they want to do, but wouldn't want to want to do. But I agree that "making a profit" would no longer be a concern.

comment by drethelin · 2013-06-03T06:47:33.886Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

The assumption is that fAGI would render any questions of profit moot.

comment by RolfAndreassen · 2013-06-04T19:56:51.597Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This does not seem obvious to me. Humans have a strong competitive drive; I do not see why profit should necessarily drop out of a post-Friendly Singularity society, even if what we buy with our Shiny Future Moniez are perhaps status goods. Moreover, considerations of acausal trade to increase the probability of AI being Friendly seem to suggest that its inventors should get some sort of reward. This said, it is of course not clear that such a profit would be taken out in US dollars.

comment by TimS · 2013-06-03T11:52:51.219Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Let's taboo "nonprofit." If a tax deductible charity starts making more than de minimis business profit, the charity is no longer eligible to offer tax deductions. But the purpose and mission of any charity is not tied to its tax status. In fact, there are many charities that haven't procedurally qualified to give tax deduction for donations.

But as others have said, I'm not sure why this would be a problem if MIRI had a foom fAGI.