Open Thread, Jun. 15 - Jun. 21, 2015

post by Gondolinian · 2015-06-15T00:02:50.970Z · score: 5 (6 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 315 comments

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


Notes for future OT posters:

1. Please add the 'open_thread' tag.

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

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

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

315 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Zian · 2015-06-15T00:56:01.736Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW · GW

Since utilions are a unit of caring and Less Wrong (the website) has helped me immensely in making the transition from a somewhat despondent college graduate to a software engineer job with an annual salary + benefits, is there any way I can donate some dollars towards the site's upkeep?

Failing that, and as a more immediate measure, I extend my sincere thanks to everyone on Less Wrong, especially Eliezer Yudkowsky and his works HPMOR & An Intuitive Explanation of Bayes' Theorem for enlightening me.

On a more useful note, it appears that the Java applets at http://www.yudkowsky.net/rational/bayes are now blocked by the current version of the Oracle Java Runtime Environment for Windows.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-15T11:08:41.432Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Since utilions are a unit of caring and Less Wrong (the website) has helped me immensely in making the transition from a somewhat despondent college graduate to a software engineer job with an annual salary + benefits, is there any way I can donate some dollars towards the site's upkeep?

Currently the site is run officially run by MIRI, CFAR and FHI. If you want to donate money to thank for LW's existence donating it to one of those three organisations makes the most sense.

Apart from just donating you can also support CFAR by taking part in a CFAR workshop.

comment by Elo · 2015-06-15T04:17:31.876Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I would like to see a published list of recommended improvements that could be made to lesswrong, (discussed and voted on by people) and then consider using your $$ to put a bounty up to pay someone to implement solutions. Do you think that would work?

I personally dislike the way that discussion posts age. It is doubtfully the most reasoning that can be done on a post where posts seem to die after a week, nor are we getting the most out of them when they are "too far behind us" in about two weeks. Not sure how to solve this, but its been bugging me for a while now.

comment by passive_fist · 2015-06-17T22:15:15.788Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I've been a regular on LW and have obtained a PhD and well-paying job since my time here. I've been wondering, since we have a lot of seemingly-successful people on this site, can't we form some kind of group to bring rational thinking to the masses? Society at large seems extremely mistrustful of scientists and scientific opinion at the moment. It would be great if we could do something meaningful to change that.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-19T14:04:30.369Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

can't we form some kind of group to bring rational thinking to the masses

What exactly is the thing you want to bring to the masses? Why do you believe it has much to do with "rationality" once the masses adopt it?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-19T13:31:25.624Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps something like HPMOR (but way easier to understand) as a point'n'click adventure. A rewrite of "Rationality" in a simpler language could possibly also be worthwhile as suggested elsewhere.

comment by iarwain1 · 2015-06-17T20:08:24.092Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I've wondered for a while now if we could do a Kickstarter and use the money to hire someone to upgrade the site or to implement some of the suggestions that people have been making.

comment by Benito · 2015-06-15T20:44:06.883Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Please take some status for doing this :-)

comment by Alex_Miller · 2015-06-15T19:10:52.239Z · score: 13 (15 votes) · LW · GW

My 4th grade teacher is teaching my class how to write poetry, and this is one of the poems that I wrote:

Where am I?
What is this place?
Is it the darkness of night?
I heard screams
and then I was here
Here, as in nowhere

This place was not nothing
it was less than that.
I didn’t see nothing,
for I had nothing to see with
I didn’t hear nothing,
for I had nothing to hear with

I didn’t feel nothing,
for I had nothing to feel with.
I had slept before, but nothing like this

Was Grandma here?
Did she meet this fate too?
I couldn’t know, for
I had nothing to know with
Even if she was here,
she did not exist for me

They said I would go to the land of the clouds
they said nothing of this place
Even the eternal flame would be better than this
for there they had warmth
and I had less than cold

Why would
anyone
want this fate?
The final sight,
and then less than nothing

I want to see the world

comment by James_Miller · 2015-06-15T19:19:01.104Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I asked my son Alex to post this because I'm proud of his writing skill, but also to show a challenge of raising a child without religion. He is far from obsessed with death, and told me he is thinking of death less than 1% of the time. Still, it would be comforting to be able to honestly tell him that he has nothing to fear from death, although knowing Alex he would use this as a counterargument when I tell him to be safe by, for example, buckling his seat-belt or looking both ways when crossing the street.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-17T10:30:21.255Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

but also to show a challenge of raising a child without religion

Is this considered new? There are people in parts of Europe esp. post-Commie lands where even their grandparents had hardly any, or even their great-grandparents considered it more of a social ritual than personal faith. I was about 8 when one grandfather died, my parents simply said he is with us in our memories and that was it. There was nothing particularly difficult about it. If I may put it this way, I did not get a very optimistic upbringing, we expected life to be hard and rather painful and this was simply one of the pains, to lose loved ones. Also, as a child I was not really able to imagine or care about my own death, my parents usually rather scared me with maiming or disfigurement when I was doing unsafe things like not wanting to buckle the seatbelt or similar things. I don't remember the details, but living ugly or disabled looked far worse than just being dead. There may be a bit of an inferential distance here, so I will try to reword it: the idea of playing a particularly low-status or boring or painful game of life was scary, but simply not playing it anymore was not too scary.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-06-17T14:37:22.288Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting, so the cost of raising a non-religious child is higher the nicer your family's life. Once, when my son was about 4 I told him not to stare at the sun else he go blind. He responded by saying that being blind wouldn't be so bad because he could read using braille. I wonder if a consequence of schools teaching inclusion of the physically disabled is that children don't fear as much becoming disabled themselves and so take more risks.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-17T15:34:14.461Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, but I also have a different suspicion here - you may have already at 4 strongly pushed your son towards intellectual pursuits if he already thought reading is far more important than looking at cute or pretty things. Or people. Even being able to read before school is fairly rare, but already liking it so much more than say drawing, that is really rare.

Our life was nice enough, but I suspect it is more about e.g. American culture being in general optimistic no matter how bad is your life, Eastern Europe more pessimistic no matter how nice is your life.I suspect these come from centuries long historical habits, not about how nice your personal life is.

Quite frankly, I would like to learn to be more optimistic. But it is interesting that one part of me considers that "shallow". That must be a weird sort of rationalization.

comment by Cariyaga · 2015-06-17T22:36:59.473Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That's an interesting thought; I feel just the opposite about the pessimism/optimism spectrum. To me, it seems that to allow the negative to affect your mindset overmuch is a far greater negative than a positive. That's not to say, though, that I think pessimism doesn't have its place, or that optimism is always a good thing; just that as a mindset, it's of greater personal benefit to be an optimist. Interestingly enough, more of my beliefs came from Japan (in the form of video games; the Mother series, and The World Ends With You in particular) than from the US.

I've always felt that to allow oneself to fall to pessimism is the easier path (optimism is a constant struggle for me, though I put on a mien as if it were otherwise), and largely more painful. I used to be quite a bit more pessimistic, but found that, while it's a lot of effort, to push myself toward optimism leads to a higher happiness default point for me. Can you explain your view?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-18T08:13:46.398Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That's an interesting thought; I feel just the opposite about the pessimism/optimism spectrum. To me, it seems that to allow the negative to affect your mindset overmuch is a far greater negative than a positive

Of course, that is why I try to overcome but it still "feels deeper".

Negativity simply tends to "feel deep". And "feel wise". I am an adult, but you see really a lot of it amongst teenagers, goths etc. basically the more angst and cynicism they have "deeper" and "wiser" they feel.

Or for example look at media like Game of Thrones, it is generally the most negative quotes that "feel deep". "Sharp steel and strong arms rule this world, don't ever believe any different." "You're awful." "It is the world that is awful." This sort of stuff tends to "feel deep" far more than something cheery.

Adults have different reasons for being negative (such as habit), but there is still a certain sense of "feeling deep" lurking which impends developing positivity.

Of course pessimism is far easier! But it still "feels deeper". Most people including me are lazy. If something is easy and has some sort of a reward at all (you feel bad, but at least you feel "deep"), we are likely to do it. Why else you think fast-food driven obesity is such a big deal thes days? :-)

Similarly, a very basic human feature is the sour grapes effect. Optimism is hard, so let's find an excuse to not do it. Well, the excuse is that it is "shallow".

I wonder how it is not so for you... perhaps you are of the minority who is not inherently lazy, who does not automatically go for the smallest resistance, the easiest path and then make excuses. But I am.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-06-17T15:41:27.043Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Quite frankly, I would like to learn to be more optimistic.

I don't know if this will work for you, but the possibility of a positive singularity combined with the many-worlds hypothesis makes me optimistic. In most worlds I'm dead after around 50 years, but in a significant percentage I get to live in utopia until the end of the universe, giving me an astronomically high expected utility.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-06-17T15:45:38.359Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

children don't fear as much becoming disabled themselves and so take more risks.

This looks like a counterfactual to me :-) I suspect that children nowadays take considerably less risks than 50 years ago, never mind a hundred or two.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-06-17T16:48:53.182Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

True.

comment by passive_fist · 2015-06-17T22:18:05.052Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You should definitely write about your experiences raising a child as a rationalist. I am not kidding; this would be immensely beneficial to a large number of people.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-06-17T22:27:13.274Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Gwern might disagree. According to studies parents have little effect on their children's deveopment. But I disagree with that. I'd guess that James' parenting is his genes way of ensuring Alex' develops as well as James'. And I'd be very interested to compare mehods.

comment by jacob_cannell · 2015-06-17T06:13:09.924Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I was raised agnostic. The day I learned about mortality was pretty awful; it effected me for quite a while.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-16T07:45:39.262Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for asking him to post that!

comment by Gondolinian · 2015-06-15T20:06:13.782Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

(The line spacing got all wacko, sorry about that)

That prompted me to look up how to make line breaks in Markdown syntax, which I'd been wondering about myself for a while.

Try typing two or more spaces and then hitting enter
whenever you want a new line.

comment by Alex_Miller · 2015-06-16T00:02:48.834Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks; I fixed it up now!

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-06-16T22:00:58.073Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Complexity-Induced Mental Illness by Scott Adams

My personal estimate is that 75% of adults are suffering from some sort of serious mental problem because the human interface to life is broken. In the year 2015, life serves up a level of complexity and unrelenting stimulation that most folks can’t handle it, and I believe it is frying our brains.

This gave me the idea that we might be in the middle of a great filter(ing) right now. Obviously humans are not made for the environment of modern society. Being here is not a stable state. The progression of the behavior of persons or (sub) populations become increasingly erratic. It is contained by societies regulation means but I can imagine that this might collapse - as other such systems did before. Compare also with Jared Diamond's Collapse.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-17T10:40:27.011Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The scandal about /r/fatpeoplehate directed my attention to the obesity problem and its outcomes and one weird angle I figured out is that people are increasingly better at harming themselves with things that considered harmless. For example, we would be horrified if we saw a 8 year old child purchase vodka or drugs, but purchasing chocolate looks entirely innocent and harmless. And yet, it seems, more and more adults can kill themselves with chocolate and pizza.

The interesting thing here is that sugar or similar things do not give such a high as alcohol or most drugs and the health effects are far more visible, a wide girth is more visible and less likely to be hidden by an Ugh Field than a scarred liver.

So it sounds a lot like this is a particularly unlikely form of destructive hedonism, low pay-off and highly visible costs. Why is it becoming so popular then?

The best answer I could figure out was ease. It is simply far easier than finding a drug dealer and less shameful than chugging whiskey I guess.

The lesson is that even in self-destructive hedonism there is a growing trend to go for the easy and not too much fun (chocolate) not the hard and much fun (drugs). I think back in 1968 an acid-dropping hippie would have simply called that lazy or boring.

My point is here a kind of a "not with a bang but with a whimper" kind of outcome, not particularly spectacularly ka-boomish Great Filters but simply the loss of energy and drive.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-06-17T18:05:52.213Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Like I wrote in the Robots program people comment there are lots of failure modes for society - many of these the opposite of spectacular.

comment by Gurkenglas · 2015-06-18T09:13:39.670Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

When considering candidates for the Great Filter, you must keep in mind that it stopped all the to-be universe conquerors in our past light cone. Your suggestion doesn't seem that insurmountable.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-06-18T11:26:53.202Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Agreed. I don't think that much of the filtering strength of the great filter is one specific epoch. But within the epoch of civilizations it may be that a large part of the filter power is right now.

comment by chaosmage · 2015-06-17T15:46:18.911Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Possibly relevant: Festival of Dangerous Ideas: Panel - The Price Of Modern Life Is Depression And Loneliness.

One of the main points I got from that is that it is not at all clear that mental illness is growing, because one thing that has definitely been growing is the sensitivity of diagnosis and if there was any growth of mental illness it'd just be obscured by that.

I'd add that alcoholism can mask a lot of smaller but more complicated mental issues, and since alcoholism is going down, those should be becoming more visible.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-18T19:39:18.286Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Can someone recommend a book on domain theory?

comment by Strangeattractor · 2015-06-21T04:39:49.236Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

For a moment I was all ready to recommend Domain-Driven Design by Eric Evans. Then I realized you meant the topic in mathematics, not the process of consulting domain experts in software development.

comment by CellBioGuy · 2015-06-21T01:50:31.120Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

For now I have less writing to do at work, so about a month ago I set out in my spare time to write up a discussion-level post on the Fermi paradox and what I see as neglected aspects thereof - what we have actually observed and actually have not, and what we can actually exclude and what we cannot, and options for intelligent systems that are neither universal expansion nor destruction. It's coming along, but has ballooned in size drastically. It has become full of what I feel are quite relevant digressions about our place and time in the universe, astrobiology, geochemistry, reasons that SETI candidate signals or lack thereof mean almost nothing, and ecology. This is what happens when you are a biologist who very nearly became an astronomer and grew up around a part-time geologist mother.

Anyways, I just wanted one piece of advice: do people think I should keep everything in one monolithic post, or chop it up into thematically-closer-related bits?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-21T20:55:19.324Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think it's useful to have everything concentrated into one post. That makes it easier for people to link to the post if they consider it to be the best exploration of the topic on the internet.

comment by banx · 2015-06-22T01:12:53.028Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Monolithic posts can be intimidating. You can accomplish close to the same thing with digestible posts that end with a link to the next one.

comment by Dahlen · 2015-06-21T20:22:02.526Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, let's see, what's the current word count?

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2015-06-15T11:46:50.749Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I asked Seán Ó hÉigeartaigh a couple questions about the status of CSER and he took the time to write me an in-depth reply that you can read here. (This isn't me encouraging you to ask him more questions, it's me sharing what he already wrote so he didn't spend his time in vain :P)

comment by Calien · 2015-06-19T14:44:35.067Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Today, I was using someone else's computer and typed "lesswrong" into the search/address bar. Apparently the next most popular search is "lesswrong cult". I started shrieking with laughter, getting a concerned reaction from the owner, which doesn't help our image much.

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-06-19T17:34:33.957Z · score: 5 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Eliezer wants to be a guru. No one calls him on it. There is an enormous amount of unhealthy hero worship. What did you expect, exactly?

Eliezer is constitutionally incapable of doing anything without coming across as hilariously over-the-top arrogant, and at some point instead of fighting it he just turned it into his style so that now it’s kind of hard to tell when he’s joking or not.

-- Yvain on EY.

comment by ahbwramc · 2015-06-19T17:56:28.864Z · score: 15 (15 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know, it feels like I see more people criticizing perceived hero worship of EY than I see actual hero worship. If anything the "in" thing on LW these days seems to be signalling how evolved one is by putting down EY or writing off the sequences as "just a decent popular introduction to cognitive biases, nothing more" or whatever.

comment by CellBioGuy · 2015-06-21T02:10:27.454Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't call it out so much as find it incredibly amusing.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-19T18:13:11.450Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Eliezer wants to be a guru. No one calls him on it. There is an enormous amount of unhealthy hero worship. What did you expect, exactly?

Even if you see Eliezer as a wanna-be-guru, he is not that powerful. The kind of hero worship that you see in real cults is on a different scale.

Very charismatic people who actually get people to follow them through the strength of their charisma don't come across as "hilariously over-the-top arrogant" to people within their in-group.

I also find it hard how you can cite such a paragraph by Yvain and at the same time say with a straight face "Nobody calls EY on it".

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-06-20T12:34:18.479Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I also find it hard how you can cite such a paragraph by Yvain and at the same time say with a straight face "Nobody calls EY on it".

Arrogance is just poor instrumental rationality in interpersonal communication. "Guruhood" is something different, and more dangerous.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-20T20:05:53.446Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know exactly what you mean with "Guruhood" in this context. If you look at a figure like Ayn Rand, someone who would have said what Scott wrote about EY would have been kicked out of Ayn Rand's inner circle. Ayn Rand kicked people out because they had the wrong taste of music.

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-06-22T08:50:04.659Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

It's not enough to not be Hitler, basically.


My model for a thought leader is someone like Richard Feynman. Feynman didn't write epistles or officiate weddings. This did not prevent him from being enormously influential in physics.


The fact of the matter is, EY wants to be a guru, and the community wants him to be a guru, too.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-22T11:28:28.831Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

I don't think a guru being beyond criticism is something unique to a particular group like Ayn Rand's objectivists.

It's not enough to not be Hitler, basically.

I don't think Ayn Rand was Hitler. She wasn't as bad as cult leaders like Jim Jones,

My model for a thought leader is someone like Richard Feynman. Feynman didn't write epistles or officiate weddings. This did not prevent him from being enormously influential in physics.

Do you think that everybody who tries to build a community is a guru?

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-06-22T12:50:38.354Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think Ayn Rand was Hitler. She wasn't as bad as cult leaders like Jim Jones,

My point was, it's not a steelman response to pick a deliberately weak foil (and Rand is a quite weak foil as far as movement leaders are concerned). It's not enough to be ?better? than Rand. There isn't even a total ordering on awfulness. That's what the Anna Karenina quote was about.


Do you think that everybody who tries to build a community is a guru?

No?

But I am not talking about everybody, I am talking about EY. And the relevant feature of EY's is not that he tried (and succeeded) to build a community, it's that he writes epistles, officiates weddings, has something called the Sequences (with a capital S!), etc. etc. etc.

He is not trying to build a community of colleagues/equals, as far as I can tell. If he did, he would act a lot more like Feynman.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-22T13:12:14.564Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My point was, it's not a steelman response to pick a deliberately weak foil (and Rand is a quite weak foil as far as movement leaders are concerned).

Do you use "movement leader" synonymous with "guru"? Feymann isn't a movement leader. Do you object to EY wanting to be a movement leader?

I don't think Ayn Rand is a deliberately weak foil. Jim Jones is a deliberately weak foil. I use Ayn Rand because it's the nearest "rational cult" I can think of.

If I would seek for "rational movement" I could also go for New Atheists. Richard Dawkins is a movement leader. On the other hand I wouldn't call him a guru. Would you?

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-06-22T13:44:54.066Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I use Ayn Rand because it's the nearest "rational cult" I can think of.

Why are you comparing against a negative example, rather than an example to emulate?

I already described what sorts of features of EY's make him a "guru."

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-22T15:46:43.486Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Why are you comparing against a negative example, rather than an example to emulate?

Because you criticise him for being a "guru" and not for not being "XY" (word that describe a positive thing).

That makes it important to understand what you mean with guru and whether you consider someone like Dawkins to be a guru and who you consider to be guru's that aren't "deliberately weak foil".

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2015-06-19T19:07:41.234Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It can make sense to call out borderline cases within your own community, because that gives you the greatest chance of making a difference.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-19T19:56:47.402Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I don't believe in the paradigm of "call out culture". Copying SJW tactics isn't a good idea. In most cases it's more effective to give feedback for improvement privately.

The idea that EY didn't get pushback is completely illusory. He got enough pushback that he now doesn't post on LW. During the last year where UFAI got more of public attention EY didn't seek the spotlight but rather left that role to FHI. To me that reflect an understanding that this decision was in the benefit of the cause.

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2015-06-19T23:43:44.115Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I didn't mention anyone by name.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-20T23:49:46.175Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That still leaves my first paragraph. I don't believe that "calling out" is generally the best technique for making a difference.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-19T18:06:52.675Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Eliezer wants to be a guru. No one calls him on it. There is an enormous amount of unhealthy hero worship. What did you expect, exactly?

Even if you see Eliezer as a wanna-be-guru, he is not that powerful. The kind of hero worship that you see in real cults is on a different scale.

Very charismatic people who actually get people to follow them through the strength of their charisma don't come across as "hilariously over-the-top arrogant" to people within their in-group.

comment by CellBioGuy · 2015-06-19T17:10:12.811Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I am completely unsurprised.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-19T11:05:39.840Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

asd

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-16T02:50:15.906Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

this was an unhelpful comment, removed and replaced by this comment

comment by James_Miller · 2015-06-16T21:16:59.224Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

By some estimates around "one out of every two people who have ever lived have died of malaria." This just might be contributing to the medical community's interest in malaria.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-06-17T00:43:20.199Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know about that... We know how to eradicate malaria -- we posess the knowledge, the tools, we've successfully done it before. Really, the only thing that needs to happen is for the governments of the SubSaharan Africa to get their shit together. That, unfortunately, is not a medical problem.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-17T06:45:37.426Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

this was an unhelpful comment, removed and replaced by this comment

comment by Sarunas · 2015-06-17T08:53:28.975Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

According to this review article, titled "Short History of Malaria and Its Eradication in Italy With Short Notes on the Fight Against the Infection in the Mediterranean Basin",

In Italy at the end of 19th Century, malaria cases amounted to 2 million with 15,000–20,000 deaths per year.

They tried free distribution of quinine, and, as you have mentioned, vector control, which involved draining marshes and spraying DDT and other insecticides:

The campaign for the eradication of malaria from the whole national territory began in 1947 and ended virtually in 1948, with the total interruption of transmission of falciparum malaria. Indoor treatment with DDT (2 g of active ingredient per m2) of houses, stables, shelters, and all other rural structures continued into the mid-1950s and even later in some hyperendemic areas. (Figure 8). The results of the first two years of the year of DDT campaign were communicated by Missiroli in the IV Congress of Tropical Medicine and Malaria in Washington in 1948 under his vice-presidency.32 On that occasion Missiroli received unconditional awards. The continuation of the vector control campaign led to a further lowering of anopheline density and kept the interruption of the transmission of malaria.33 The last endemic focus of P. vivax was reported in the province of Palermo, Sicily, in 1956, followed by sporadic cases in the same province in 1962. The World Health Organization declared Italy free from malaria on November 17, 1970. Since then, almost all reported cases have been imported.

It is curious to note a parallel with a current involvement of philantropists in fight against malaria - back in 1920s and 1930s it was Rockefeller Foundation that funded the creation of Malaria Experimental Station and Institute of Public Health in Italy.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-17T18:48:14.174Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Wow, thanks for that!

comment by Lumifer · 2015-06-17T14:48:56.502Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Not only that, the entire southern US up to and including Washington, DC was a malaria zone. Southern Florida was basically not considered fit for human habitation until malaria was eradicated.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-06-17T18:47:05.343Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

How do you propose to eradicate malaria?

comment by Lumifer · 2015-06-17T18:50:09.956Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The same way it was done in the US. Or even in, say, Sri Lanka -- a country that was having a very long and bloody civil war in the process.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-06-17T19:06:54.266Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Draining swamps is contingent on geography. It is just not an option in Africa.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-06-17T19:10:58.457Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

So, how much malaria is there in the swamps of Everglades and Okeechobee?

Besides, which geography prevents swamp draining in, say, Kenya or Tanzania?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-17T11:01:59.725Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Governments in subsaharan Africa don't use massive amounts of DDT, not because they are incompetent but because of Western pressure.

comment by Sarunas · 2015-06-17T21:43:40.071Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

At least in Mozambique, it seems that DDT have met resistance both from the West and (parts of) local population.

This report from 2000 from BMJ (British Medical Journal) blames foreign donors, although it does not provide any references for its figures:

It is possible that DDT will be used again in Mozambique. Its use there was stopped several decades ago, because 80% of the country's health budget came from donor funds, and donors refused to allow the use of DDT.

But environmental concerns are only a part of the whole picture, and, according to Mozambique's chief of infectious disease control, a smaller one.

DDT is used in indoor residual spraying (IRS) which, along with insecticide treated mosquito nets and Artemisinin Combination Therapies, is one of the three main interventions promoted by World Health Organization. But due to the fact that it has unaesthetic side effects and cannot be done everywhere, in some countries it became associated with social issues:

For IRS to be effective, at least 80% of homes and barns in an area must be sprayed,[4] and if enough residents refuse spraying, the effectiveness of the whole program can be jeopardized. Many residents resist spraying of DDT in particular. This is due to a variety of factors, including its smell[10] and the stains it leaves on the walls.[10][11][12][13] While that stain makes it easier to check whether the room has been sprayed, it causes some villagers to resist the spraying of their homes[13][14][15] or to resurface the wall, which eliminates the residual insecticidal effect.[12][15] Pyrethroid insecticides are reportedly more acceptable since they do not leave visible residues on the walls.[13]

In addition, DDT is not suitable for this type of spraying in Western-style plastered or painted walls, only traditional dwellings with unpainted walls made of mud, sticks, dung, thatch, clay, or cement.[10][15][16] As rural areas of South Africa become more prosperous, there is a shift towards Western style housing, leaving fewer homes suitable for DDT spraying, and necessitating the use of alternative insecticides.[15]

Other villagers object to DDT spraying because it does not kill cockroaches[13] or bedbugs;[12] rather, it excites such pests making them more active,[10][11][14][15] so that often the use of another insecticide is additionally required.[15] Pyrethroids such as deltamethrin and lambdacyhalothrin, on the other hand, are more acceptable to residents because they kill these nuisance insects as well as mosquitoes.[13] DDT has also been known to kill beneficial insects, such as wasps that kill caterpillars that, unchecked, destroy thatched roofs.[14]

As a result, Mozambique's chief of infectious disease control, Avertino Barreto, says that resistance to DDT spraying is "homegrown", not due to "pressure from environmentalists". "They only want us to use DDT on poor, rural black people," he says. "So whoever suggests DDT use, I say, 'Fine, I'll start spraying in your house first.'"[10]

Some Westerners also pattern match it to social issues, and not only environmental ones.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-06-22T03:02:07.677Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Other villagers object to DDT spraying because it does not kill cockroaches[13] or bedbugs;[12]

I'm not sure I believe that. At least residual DDT seems to have done a good job killing bedbugs in the States, at least until it final completely "washed out" of the system a couple of years ago.

Also wikipedia is notoriously unreliable on any vaguely political topic, probably more so then well-known explicitly political topics. The latter attract enough attention that the NPOV policy is actually applied, whereas the former wind up getting "adopted" by some mind-killed administrator with an axe to grind.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-06-17T18:50:26.289Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I have looked for and never found any evidence for this. When pushed, a lot of people retreat to the unfalsifiable claim that it is secret pressure.

Africa does use lots of DDT. It used to use more, until mosquitoes developed resistance. Now it restricts it to the most useful applications in towns, especially residences and bednets.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-06-17T19:08:44.419Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I have looked for and never found any evidence for this.

Any? Really? Here is a result of a 10-second Google search (emphasis mine):

EPA administrator William Ruckelshaus... banned DDT.

The U.S. decision had a rapid effect in the developing sector, where the State Department made U.S. aid contingent on countries not using any pesticide that was banned in the United States. The U.S. Agency for International Development discontinued its support for DDT spraying programs, and instead increased funding for birth control programs.

Other Western nations—Sweden and Norway, for example—also pressured recipient nations to stop the use of DDT. Belize abandoned DDT in 1999, because Mexico, under pressure from the United States and NAFTA, had stopped the manufacture of DDT, which was Belize’s source. Purchases of replacement insecticides would take up nearly 90 percent of Belize’s malaria control budget. Mozambique stopped the use of DDT, “because 80 percent of the country’s health budget came from donor funds, and donors refused to allow the use of DDT,” reported the British Medical Journal (March 11, 2000).

(source)

comment by Sarunas · 2015-06-17T22:31:30.790Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

While the statements you have linked may or may not be correct, they may require double checking, since, according to themselves (p.9) and this, "21st Century Science and Technology" magazine is published by Lyndon LaRouche, whom I know very little about, but who seems to be regarded as a controversial figure. He is also on scientific advisory board of that magazine.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-06-18T01:23:08.078Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, I understand that and tried to not quote the parts where all kinds of bombastic statements are being made, instead focusing on what seems to be simple claims of fact. I am not treating this source as entirely credible, but it was a basic counterpoint to the statement that "I have looked for and never found any evidence for this" (emphasis in the original).

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-06-17T19:30:18.689Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, I have seen such assertions before, but I have tried tracking down these "bans" and as far as I can tell, they are pure fabrications.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-06-17T19:39:46.350Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Are you saying that USAID did fund DDT spraying in the 80s and the 90s..? That large-scale efforts of the environmentalists to reduce usage of DDT had no effect at all?

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-06-17T19:55:20.028Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I do not know in particular about USAID, though I have tracked down examples of false claim that organizations did not use DDT. It appears likely that they did use it.

I see no evidence of large-scale efforts by environmentalists to reduce usage of DDT outside of the west. I have not examined claims like the one you quoted above that environmentalists in the US affected Mexico and thus Belize, but it doesn't seem very plausible since it is easy to get Mexican DDT in America today

comment by James_Miller · 2015-06-17T17:22:26.655Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, and this is an evil comparable to the slave trade.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-06-17T18:50:28.637Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Can you provide any evidence that it is true?

comment by James_Miller · 2015-06-17T19:11:05.663Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm basing it on the large amount of harm that malaria does in Africa and by assuming that Western pressure on Africans to not use DDT has made this harm somewhat worse.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-06-17T19:21:27.013Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It is the existence of Western pressure for which I was asking for evidence.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-06-17T19:30:08.167Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

From NYT's Kristof

"...the U.S. and other rich countries are siding with the mosquitoes against the world's poor -- by opposing the use of DDT...In the 1950's, 60's and early 70's, DDT was used to reduce malaria around the world, even eliminating it in places like Taiwan. But then the growing recognition of the harm DDT can cause in the environment -- threatening the extinction of the bald eagle, for example -- led DDT to be banned in the West and stigmatized worldwide. Ever since, malaria has been on the rise...But most Western aid agencies will not pay for anti-malarial programs that use DDT, and that pretty much ensures that DDT won't be used...."

From Wikipedia

"Greenpeace supports the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, a legally binding international agreement which aims to phase out substances such as DDT. Both the Stockholm Convention and Greenpeace allow DDT to be used for malaria control. However, according to Roger Bate, a libertarian critic of Greenpeace, the organization's campaign to shut down the last major DDT factory in the world located in Cochin, India, would make the eradication of malaria more difficult for poorer countries. Robert Gwadz of the US National Institutes of Health said in 2007, "The ban on DDT may have killed 20 million children."

Although others claim that this isn't true.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-06-17T19:56:45.166Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Your second quote starts with the clear statement that there is no ban and ends with the a death toll due to this non-existent ban. This should make you suspicious that something is very wrong.

It is certainly possible that there is pressure that goes beyond treaties. And Greenpeace certainly counts as Western pressure. But my experience tracking down such examples puts low prior that there was such a plant at all, let alone a protest.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-06-17T20:07:43.627Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

my experience tracking down such examples puts low prior that there was such a plant at all

Sigh. Wikipedia (emphasis mine):

Hindustan Insecticides Limited (HIL) is a Government of India enterprise under the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers. It was incorporated in March 1954 in order to start production of DDT for the National Malaria Eradication Programme. ... HIL is the world's largest producer of DDT. The company has three manufacturing units, located at Udyogamandal, near Cochin (Southern India) and Rasayani near Mumbai(Western India) and Bathinda in Punjab (Northern India).

And here's Greenpeace expressing a profound dislike of this particular factory.

As to Mexican DDT, more from Wikipedia:

...Mexican DDT manufacturing plant ceased production due to lack of demand

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-06-17T23:11:50.353Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Your new quote about Mexican DDT is exactly the opposite of your prior quote. Did the factory close because of falling Mexican demand (because of cheaper alternatives, to supply the context of your quote), or because of pressure from America? Again, why do I find it so easy to find Mexican DDT today in America?

Maybe the abandonment of DDT by rich Mexicans has destroyed economies of scale and thus raised the price to Belize. But that is a completely different matter.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-06-18T01:29:48.304Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Your new quote about Mexican DDT is exactly the opposite of your prior quote.

No, I don't think so. "Lack of demand" is a nice non-committal phrase. Similarly you can say that a guy driven out of business because he wouldn't pay the mafia "closed because he didn't buy fire insurance". I don't know what happened to that factory, but closing due to lack of demand is consistent with US pressure to not use DDT.

Again, why do I find it so easy to find Mexican DDT today in America?

I have no idea. Wikipedia says "India is the only country still manufacturing DDT", but that piece of data seems to be dating back to 2009. Maybe Mexico started again -- it's not a difficult chemical to manufacture.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-06-18T01:45:44.442Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, that short phrase is non-committal, but it is you who cut it out from the very clear context, once from wikipedia, and once after I explicitly restored it. I'm done.

comment by Jiro · 2015-06-18T02:58:43.558Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Wikipedia often doesn't have context where normal text would, since individual sentences or even words could be edited by different people than other sentences or words.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-06-18T03:09:17.328Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sure, multiple authors means that it's more likely to be incoherent or false, but there's still context. Lumifer cut out the context and then complained that about the vagueness that he created.

In fact, the whole sentence comes from the cited source, as I checked before I restored the context.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-06-18T02:02:26.552Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, good.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-17T06:48:29.712Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

this was an unhelpful comment, removed and replaced by this comment

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-06-17T19:04:34.264Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Falciparum (the bad kind) only crossed into humans 5000 years ago (historical time!). But it used to be worse, before the evolution of sickle cell and other defenses (O+ Duffy negative blood, I think). Vivax crossed into humans 35 kya and was probably as bad or worse than falciparum before it evolved to be less virulent.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-16T18:37:04.394Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I think the actions of the Gates Foundation matter more than GiveWell's when it comes to the general public impression that malaria research is important.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-17T06:48:55.357Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

this was an unhelpful comment, removed and replaced by the comment you are now reading

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-06-16T23:47:32.912Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Prestige as viewed by students or professors doesn't match funding provided by NIH, which focuses on diseases that affect Americans, both by mandate and because of lobbying by individuals. Other sources of funding are drug companies that don't have much opportunity to sell to poor people, and disease-specific charities, established by rich people because of relatives who have the diseases of rich people.

Or maybe it has nothing to do with prestige, but the perk of a field trip.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-17T06:44:18.709Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting reframe, I appreciate that

comment by RowanE · 2015-06-16T06:41:16.873Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

One can imagine someone who hears promotion of the AMF but doesn't grok effective altruism deciding that it means they should be researching Malaria. Even without such promotion, Malaria is a big-name disease and I wouldn't be surprised at non-EAs ending up contributing to an oversupply of malaria researchers because they don't realise that some disease that's less of a big deal but has fewer people working on it might be better.

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2015-06-15T11:51:14.886Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This thread is one of the top-voted on the nootropics subreddit & looks like it has a few interesting ideas: How do smart people really think?

comment by raydora · 2015-06-15T13:10:57.931Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I can honestly say that utilizing a memory palace and linking was a significant jump in my life. I started training myself in their use about a year ago, but never had to put them into action in a constrained time frame until recently. It felt wonderful. Currently working on incorporating spaced repetition into my routine. My chief problem is prioritizing lists. Figuring out what needs to be memorized in a subject requires some understanding, and I usually lack that in subjects I'm deeply interested in.

A combination of mnemonic techniques and mental math methods that I'd never encountered in childhood make a huge difference. I wonder why they are not taught in schools.

CARVER encourages tertiary recon to validate whatever data was initially gathered. I'm sure this wouldn't be a problem for a neo-rationalist civilian or SOCOM, but when it's applied in regular Army, the element that's engaged in tertiary recon has incentive to simply agree with the initial report, especially if that's the sort of thing command encourages.

That's about all the topics I have serious familiarity with on that thread. Will check out the rest.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-15T15:47:36.881Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

A combination of mnemonic techniques and mental math methods that I'd never encountered in childhood make a huge difference.

What kind of work do you do that being able to do mental math makes a huge difference?

comment by D_Alex · 2015-06-17T02:49:32.674Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I am sure that there are many jobs where mental math makes a huge difference.

I manage a team of engineers, and though pretty much all of them are head and shoulders above me in their specialisation, they think I really know my stuff because I find errors in their work and zero-in on them on the fly. The skill that I have is doing rough approximations in my head. Then from experience: a factor-of-two difference is commonly confusing kg and lb, a factor of 10 - confusing kg and N, a factor of fifty - mistaking degrees and radians (usually in Excel, where radians are the default mesurement), etc... I get a LOT of mileage from this :). If they did the same, their already good work would be even better. And I imagine any calculation intensive job (finance, economics, science, business...) is similar.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-19T13:54:51.645Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If you don't have to do these kinds of rough calculations many times a day I don't see this as a worthwhile skill (you could simply ask Siri/WolframAlpha, for example), other than perhaps to consolidate one's authority (if you really have to play that game).

comment by Elo · 2015-06-15T22:59:41.782Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

what kinds of things do you have remembered in the repository? (can you make a list?)

comment by raydora · 2015-06-16T23:45:56.406Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

My math skills are probably extremely poor, so it's been easier for me to to make large gains. Most often, this is manifest in three digit multiplication or division, in situations that don't allow for calculators. Small scale logistics (how much fuel do we need for x days in x area? How much food?) and other stuff a middle schooler wouldn't have trouble with. The difference between three minutes and thirty seconds usually doesn't matter, but I'm preparing for worst case scenarios anyway.

Currently, I have memorized nonsense paragraphs for work and basic medical diagnostic algorithms, as well as the pharmacology of drugs I administer most often. Memorizing faces, names, and minor facts concerning people at work is uncommonly useful in getting the job done. Following proper channels is usually nigh impossible, so we rely on a system of favors.

Basic python functions. Any factoid that may inspire fiction.

I am sometimes (about once a month) in situations where I am given a short amount of time to take in specific information, often digits, and there are dozens of checklists. This is where I've seen the most dramatic improvement.

Hrm. I think I've figured it out, purely from writing this reply. I'll just focus on biases, python functions, and mathematical formulas I encounter until I'm ready to take on another major subject.

comment by G0W51 · 2015-06-20T07:17:20.939Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

What are some recommended readings for those who want to decrease existential risk? I know Nick Bostrom's book Superintelligence, How can I reduce existential risk from AI?, and MIRI's article Reducing Long-Term Catastrophic Risks from Artificial Intelligence are useful, but what else? What about non-AI-related existential risks?

comment by RyanCarey · 2015-06-16T00:36:21.295Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

What are good reasons not to create a for-profit AI applied deep-learning startup starting with a team who are concerned about AI risk?

Gaining expertise, reputation and network are valuable, especially if you're concerned about AI risk. Revenue will be higher in worlds where AI advances more quickly, which is altruistically useful. The climate is very favourable for this kind of company to be funded presently, both by angels/VCs and by grant-funding such as FLI's. This would have a chance of growing much faster than MIRI, due to the for-profit company structure, and could be aborted if it was excessively speeding-up AI progress, or was otherwise net harmful.

Why should or shouldn't this be done?

comment by James_Miller · 2015-06-16T17:27:54.579Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Do it if you can.

comment by Strangeattractor · 2015-06-21T04:59:18.040Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If the founders did it, they'd have to be careful to retain control so that shutting down the company would be an option, and a decision they had the authority to make. It's easy for investors and VCs to influence or take over running a company, without extraordinary pushback from founders, especially if the company is making money. "Could be aborted if it was excessively speeding-up AI progress, or was otherwise net harmful" sounds glib to me. Making a plan of how to do that, exactly, and under what conditions it would be done, and putting that into contracts right from the start, would be important. Otherwise, it wouldn't get done.

Studying risk analysis, and failure analysis, and the human factors of how people respond to emergencies would be helpful.

comment by RyanCarey · 2015-06-21T20:23:49.047Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well one would decide whether it was worth doing partially on the basis that investors interested in AI risk, including Jaan Tallinn and Elon Musk were willing to fund it in the early-mid stages. Of course, if you're soliciting funds from people who are already interested in AI risk, then you can't claim to be influencing AI-investors to become interested in AI risk - you can't have your cake and eat it too.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-19T20:28:34.312Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm at the moment writing an LW discussion article in Evernote. It contains links. Is there an easy way to delete all the formatting expect the links?

comment by Manfred · 2015-06-20T02:01:21.097Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

One option might be to paste and save, and then edit the html (by clicking the html button).

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-21T21:02:38.762Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There seem to be quite a lot of div tags. I was hoping for a more straightfoward way.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-17T14:15:35.957Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Does anyone find any benefit to taking notes while reading fiction? I've been keeping a reading journal since the beginning of this year, and I just find it a chore that makes more difficult to decide to read. All my notes just end up being plot summaries anyway, which I can find online. I don't see myself ever re-reading the notes again. Am I missing something, or is it just a terrible idea?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-17T14:50:44.691Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Why did you decide to keep a reading journal in the first place? This might help you come to an answer.

I have taken notes on fiction only a few times when reading for pleasure - mostly in reading sf when some new idea or speculation made me wonder about its further implications and I jotted it down for discussion with other like minded people. That worked fine and I still do it once in a while. I also took notes once or twice when reading fiction as part of a reading group, again with the idea of highlighting discussion points that interested me. But I felt that taking notes detracted from the actual reading and enjoying part of reading - discussion wasn't any different without notes.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-17T15:09:46.262Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think my original reasoning was "to get as much out of the book as possible", but since I'm not getting anything more out of it by taking notes I think I'll just stop. Thanks for the tip!

comment by CellBioGuy · 2015-06-18T03:23:27.170Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It is very necessary when reading certain Greg Egan novels.

Since I have a hard time remembering names (not just of people, I have a huge list of gene names at my desk in the lab) sometimes I need to make a minor-character list for a book.

comment by gjm · 2015-06-17T15:26:41.350Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I have contemplated doing it but never actually done it. The benefit I idly imagine I might get doesn't have anything to do with re-reading the notes later; I hope it might improve the attention I pay and the amount I retain. (I am horrified at the number of books on my shelves that I know I have read but can remember scarcely anything about.) Both of these surely matter less for fiction than for non-fiction.

comment by D_Malik · 2015-06-16T04:46:55.319Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Could Malthusian tragedy be the Great Filter? Meaning, maybe most civilizations, before they develop AGI or space colonization, breed so much that everyone is too busy trying to survive and reproduce to work on AGI or spaceflight, until a supernova or meteor or plague kills them off.

Since humans don't seem to be headed into this trap, alien species who do fall into this trap would have to differ from humans. Some ways this might happen:

  • They're r-selected like insects, i.e. their natural reproduction process involves creating lots of children and then allowing most to die. Once technology makes resources abundant, most of the children survive, leading to an extreme population boom. This seems unlikely, since intelligence is more valuable to species that have few children and invest lots of resources in each child.
  • Their reproduction mechanism does not require a 9-month lead time like humans' do; maybe they take only one day to produce a small egg, which then grows externally to the body. This would mean one wealthy alien that wants a lot of children could very quickly create very many children, rapidly causing the population's mean desire-for-children to skyrocket.
  • Their lifespans are shorter, so evolution more quickly "realizes" that there's an abundance of resources, and thus the aliens evolve to reproduce a lot. The shorter lifespan would also produce a low ceiling on technological progress, since children would have to be brought up to speed on current science before they can discover new science. This seems unlikely because intelligence benefits from long lifespans.
  • Evolution programs them to desperately want to maximize the number of fit children they have, even before they develop civilization. Evolution didn't do this to humans - why not?

Human technological progress doesn't seem to be as fast as it can be, though, which suggests that there's a lot of "slack" time in which civilizations can develop technologically before evolving to be more Malthusian.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-06-16T14:45:58.090Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Your Malthusian collapse seems to be conditional on some particulars of aliens' biology, but the Great Filter has to be very very general and almost universal.

comment by D_Malik · 2015-06-17T08:41:01.830Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Agreed. But the Great Filter could consist of multiple Moderately Great Filters, of which the Malthusian trap could be one. Or perhaps there could be, say, only n Quite Porous Filters which each eliminate only 1/n of civilizations, but that happen to be MECE (mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive), so that together they eliminate all civilizations.

comment by chaosmage · 2015-06-17T16:01:30.743Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That seems correct to me, but it is quite different from your original proposal.

Can you think of other filters that are MECE with the Malthusian trap? I don't see obvious ones. Maybe a good way out of the Malthusian trap would be mechanisms that limit procreation, and those make interplanetary colonization - which is procreation of biospheres - seem immoral? I don't think that sounds very convincing.

comment by estimator · 2015-06-18T07:16:56.266Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Filters don't have to be mutually exclusive, and as for collectively exhaustive part, take all plausible Great Filter candidates.

I don't quite understand that Great Filter hype, by the way; having a single cause for civilization failure seems very implausible (<1%).

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-06-17T02:49:38.101Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

They're r-selected like insects, i.e. their natural reproduction process involves creating lots of children and then allowing most to die.

That doesn't seem like it would lend itself to evolving culture. Specifically, since parents don't invest in their offspring they don't tell them what they've learned. Thus no matter how smart individuals are, knowledge doesn't pass to the next generation.

comment by D_Malik · 2015-06-17T08:47:57.927Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps they create lots of children, let most of them die shortly after being born (perhaps by fighting each other), and then invest heavily in the handful that remain. Once food becomes abundant, some parents elect not to let most of their children die, leading to a population boom.

In fact, if you squint a little, humans already demonstrate this: men produce large numbers of sperm, which compete to reach the egg first. Perhaps that would have led to exactly this Malthusian disaster, if it weren't for the fact that women only have a single egg to be fertilized, and sperm can't grow to adulthood on their own.

comment by Viliam · 2015-06-17T07:30:27.780Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Specifically, since parents don't invest in their offspring they don't tell them what they've learned. Thus no matter how smart individuals are, knowledge doesn't pass to the next generation.

Maybe the alien species has some other form of sharing information. For example the parents may share the knowledge with anyone, and later someone else will tell their children.

comment by Cariyaga · 2015-06-17T22:10:17.200Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Why would they? That would increase the evolutionary fitness of their competitors.

comment by Viliam · 2015-06-18T13:48:35.823Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

They could trade the information.

I am not suggesting a specific mechanism here, rather objecting against the generalization that alien species will have no way to pass knowledge to the next generation unless they do it like we do. There can be other ways.

comment by Toggle · 2015-06-16T13:32:34.417Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I have two somewhat contradictory arguments.

First, this is probably a poor candidate for the great filter because it lacks the quality of comprehensiveness. Remember that a threat is not a candidate for a great filter if it merely exterminates 90%, or 99%, of all sentient species. Under those conditions, it's still quite easy to populate the stars with great and powerful civilizations, and so such a threat fails to explain the silence. Humans seem to have ably evaded the malthusian threat so far, in such a way that is not immediately recognizable as a thermodynamic miracle, so it's reasonable to expect that a nontrivial fraction of all civilizations would do so. At least up to our current stage of development.

Second, I'll point out that bullets two and four are traits possessed by digital intelligences in competition with one another (possibly the first as well), and they supplement it with a bullet you should have included but didn't- functional immortality. These conditions correspond to what Nick Bostrom calls a 'multipolar scenario', a situation in which there exist a number of different superintelligences with contradicting values. And indeed, there are many smart people who think about the dangers of these selection pressures to a sufficiently advancd civilization.

So, malthusian pressures on biological systems are unlikely to explain the apparent lack of spacefaring civilizations. On the other hand, malthusian pressures on technologically optimized digital entities (possibly an obligate stage of civilization) may be much more of a threat, perhaps even one deserving the name 'Great Filter'.

comment by Houshalter · 2015-06-19T08:44:53.067Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This filter applies even before they invent technology. Brains use lots of energy and development time. This is typically selected against. Therefore most organisms only evolve the minimum amount of intelligence they need. And human level intelligence is never an advantage in most environments.

So you need some really weird set of conditions to create an environment that selects for high intelligence, and doesn't select too strongly against energy efficiency or development time. I don't know what these conditions are, but they only occurred once on Earth, over hundreds of millions of years. This suggests these conditions occur very rarely, and we might just be very lucky.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-17T10:50:43.429Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think a too easy reproduction mechanism means not evolving intelligence. The selective pressure for human intelligence could not have came from the environment or else many species would be similarly intelligent like how many species can fly. It was some sort of a competition inside our species, probably sexual. And when reproduction is easy, sexual competition is not so tight. In fact, the most likely answer is that the runaway explosion of intelligence that resulted in us must be probably a mutually reinforcing process: intelligence made reproduction harder, hence more sexual competition, hence more pressure for intelligence.

How did intelligence make reproduction harder? Through big heads making childbirth harder. Frankly I don't know why didn't evolution just came up with the idea of giving women gigantic hips and large vaginas, but what happened instead is that babies are born far too prematurely so that their head size is not too big, and thus require a huge amount of care and investment after birth. This, postnatal maternal investment, then intensified sexual competition and thus pressure for more intelligence.

This really rules out the external eggs.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-06-18T08:46:37.831Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It was some sort of a competition inside our species, probably sexual.

A currently popular theory (at least, at the pop sci level, I don't know how it is regarded by actual scientists) is that intelligence snowballed due to social competition of all against all -- an arms race. The smarter people are, the better they can detect lies, but also the smarter they are, the better they can get away with lying. Everyone needs to be as smart as possible just to keep up, until the process runs into a limit, such as the size of the birth canal. Expanding that by widening the pelvis adversely affects mobility.

But that looks like a just-so story. Why did that process happen to humans and not chimpanzees? To which one answer might be: It could have happened to a different branch of the primates, it just chanced to happen to our ancestors first. Someone had to be first, and they're the only ones smart enough to be having this conversation. Once started, the process was so fast that every other creature that didn't reach take-off has effectively stood still, and in the modern world they stand no chance except by our permission.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-18T09:00:03.874Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think it is not a just-so story, it largely predicts everything it should and fails to predict everything it shouldn't. Runaway processes require feedback, I think this is the key. Look for the thing that intelligence made harder. That thing is birth and babycare. Intelligence makes it hard, this causes X to be stronger, and X causes more intelligence, that is the feedback process. What could X be? Sexual competition. More: http://lesswrong.com/lw/mcj/open_thread_jun_15_jun_21_2015/chju

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-06-18T03:57:59.452Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It was some sort of a competition inside our species, probably sexual.

I'm not sure about that. Be very skeptical of claims that something evolved due to sexual selection, it tends to be the default explanation lazy evo-psy people reach for when they can't immediately think of a better explanation.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-18T08:00:16.536Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Wait, what? What are even the alternatives? The only alternatives are environmental pressure - food, predators etc. But such an environmental pressure affects a lot of species at the same time and for this reason, most traits in the animal kingdom have the expected normal distribution. Such as the ability to swim amongst mammals - many can swim a little, some better, and a few really well. Yet the distribution of intelligence in species does not follow normal distribution. Humans are far, far ahead from the species in the second places (apes, dogs, dolphins). If it was environmental pressure, adult chimpanzees were basically like retarded humans or humans who are stuck at the mental capabilities of a 10 year old. Bonobos would be flipping burgers at McD. (OK some people do claim that certain dogs have the IQ of a 5 year old human but it is really a stretch. Their communication ability and suchlike does not even compare.)

Being so far ahead can mean only one thing - the selective pressure MUST have came from withing the hominid species, not from the environment.

But what could hominids compete for? Not food. Food is also an environmental variable and if we don't see e.g. gorillas compete a lot of for food, we should assume there was enough around.

This gives really only one option left.

Factor in that runaway processes MUST have, I will risk a "per definition" here even though it is not math, a feedback element. Whatever X-factor (lol) pressed humans to get more intelligent, must have been made worse by humans getting more intelligent, so it exerted even more and more pressure or how else could it be such a runaway process.

This is useful, because it suggests we should just look at what was made worse by the evolution of intelligence and we found the feedback factor. And the answer is obvious: reproduction. Childbirth, the physical process of getting the head out, and the babycare.

In my mind it is a fairly strong set of evidence and it not only predicts everything we want it to predict here, it also reliably fails to predict everything it shouldn't and that is what a good theory should do.

For example, if food scarcity was a selective factor, we would have iron stomachs, able to eat everything. In reality, we have shit for stomach, we need to cook our food, we cannot digest most leaves nor grass - the most available resource! - we get ill easily and so on. Sure, human diets have a wide variance, but it seems we are really picky eaters, going for the special stuff, not the easy available stuff: leaves, grass, carcass. What does that suggest? It suggests no food scarcity.

Or say predators. Most animals try to protect themselves from predators with claws and fangs. Again, we have crap in that department. If there was any serious pressure there, we'd kept these around.

So what kind of environmental pressure is left, really?

I am also surprised that it is you who say it, because I had the impression you give some credibility to the set of views that are sometimes called red pill or manosphere. They are 100% based on sexual selection shaping human nature, without that they haven't any chance of getting anything right.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-06-18T23:24:10.171Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Wait, what? What are even the alternatives?

This is what I mean by lazy evo-psych. You dismiss the alternatives using hand waving logic and assert that it must be sexual selection even though one could dismiss sexual selection just as easily by hand waving. Let's go through you comment piece by piece.

The only alternatives are environmental pressure - food, predators etc. But such an environmental pressure affects a lot of species at the same time and for this reason

And different species respond to [edit:similar] environmental pressures in different ways.

most traits in the animal kingdom have the expected normal distribution.

This is the only part of your comment that might be worthwhile, assuming you have data about the traits actually being normally distributed and are not just doing the lazy statistician thing of assuming all distributions are normal. Even then, it's not clear that this doesn't apply to traits that are the result of sexual selection.

Being so far ahead can mean only one thing - the selective pressure MUST have came from withing the hominid species, not from the environment.

I'm not sure what the distinction between environmental and intraspecies selection pressure that you're trying to make here is supposed to be.

But what could hominids compete for? Not food. Food is also an environmental variable and if we don't see e.g. gorillas compete a lot of for food, we should assume there was enough around.

First yes gorillas compete for food. Second the claim that "there was enough around" is silly. If there's enough food around, a species' population generally increases until it either reaches the Malthusian limit or it's stopped by some other factor, e.g., disease.

Factor in that runaway processes MUST have, I will risk a "per definition" here even though it is not math, a feedback element. Whatever X-factor (lol) pressed humans to get more intelligent, must have been made worse by humans getting more intelligent, so it exerted even more and more pressure or how else could it be such a runaway process.

This is useful, because it suggests we should just look at what was made worse by the evolution of intelligence and we found the feedback factor. And the answer is obvious: reproduction. Childbirth, the physical process of getting the head out, and the babycare.

I'm trying to parse the above argument as anything other then a complete non sequitur and failing. Perhaps you can help: Suppose we have a hominid of above average intelligence, how does the above translate into a causal mechanism that leads to him having more decedents?

In my mind it is a fairly strong set of evidence and it not only predicts everything we want it to predict here, it also reliably fails to predict everything it shouldn't and that is what a good theory should do.

In particular if sexually selection is responsible for intelligence, we would expect highly intelligent people to be highly sexually desirable especially when considerations like resource constraints are removed from the picture. We now live in a highly prosperous time, and to say that nerds aren't sex gods would be a gross understatement.

For example, if food scarcity was a selective factor, we would have iron stomachs, able to eat everything.

Why? Yes, iron stomachs are one way to adept to food scarcity, they aren't the only way.

In reality, we have shit for stomach, we need to cook our food,

More interestingly we can cook food, i.e., we can partially pre-digest our food externally, which is another way to adept to food scarcity.

we cannot digest most leaves nor grass - the most available resource! - we get ill easily and so on.

It's actually incredibly hard to digest leaves and grass, that's why cows, etc., need four stomachs.

Most animals try to protect themselves from predators with claws and fangs.

No most animals protect themselves by being really good at running away, or having a hard shell/hide. In fact nearly all animals that have claws or fangs are predators themselves and use their claws and/or fangs for hunting.

I am also surprised that it is you who say it, because I had the impression you give some credibility to the set of views that are sometimes called red pill or manosphere. They are 100% based on sexual selection shaping human nature, without that they haven't any chance of getting anything right.

Just because some aspects of human nature are shaped by sexual selection doesn't mean all aspects are.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-29T07:50:56.361Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure what the distinction between environmental and intraspecies selection pressure that you're trying to make here is supposed to be.

Food is a resource outside the species, sex is a resource inside the species.

Suppose we have a hominid of above average intelligence, how does the above translate into a causal mechanism that leads to him having more decedents?

In particular if sexually selection is responsible for intelligence, we would expect highly intelligent people to be highly sexually desirable especially when considerations like resource constraints are removed from the picture. We now live in a highly prosperous time, and to say that nerds aren't sex gods would be a gross understatement.

Wait a bit here. We are not talking about going from 120 IQ to 140 increases the number of descendants. We are talking about going from 80 to 100 does. On that level the distinction is not between super smart nerds vs. everybody, but more being able to handle normal things vs. shooting yourself in the foot all the time.

Of course, that environment, that social environment was far simpler. Still if you ever hang out with simpler people (e.g. what in the UK is called a flat roof pub ) it is typically the 80 IQ guy who insists on fighting some other guy for no good reason whatsoever and it is the 100 IQ friend who is telling him don't be an idiot he is twice your size and did time for stabbing someone. Or you see how dumber criminals get busted on really trivial mistakes - if all you have is tribal customs instead of laws it probably still works the same way. Or, maybe, the difference between a 80 IQ and 100 IQ tribal warrior is largely that the later does not think "we are the awesomest" is a good enough reason to attack a tribe that has three times as many warriors. In short, while really high IQ does not help with reproduction much, really low IQ provides excellent opportunities to shoot oneself in the foot in a competitive social environment. What we today consider average IQ simply translates to a hominid who is a bit cautious and can assess when to be brave and when to be a coward. Not some super nerdy level of intelligence.

Even today, I would say there is an IQ threshold below which people have lower number of children. I don't think Idiocracy the movie got it exactly right. While the dumbass having 4 kids with 4 different single moms is a popular trope, in really the really dumb guys tend to go in and out of prison or be really ridiculous at pick-ups because they cannot think of anything to say really beyond "nice tits". The charming simpleton with the 4 different single-moms is actually going to be somewhere closer to the average IQ.

Sure, a peacock having a REALLY huge tail may be detrimental to its reproductive success because it cannot even go through a mating dance routine maybe, but that is no evidence wrt to the average sized one not being more useful than the small one. Same for intelligence.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-06-30T00:02:43.002Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Still if you ever hang out with simpler people (e.g. what in the UK is called a flat roof pub ) it is typically the 80 IQ guy who insists on fighting some other guy for no good reason whatsoever and it is the 100 IQ friend who is telling him don't be an idiot he is twice your size and did time for stabbing someone. Or you see how dumber criminals get busted on really trivial mistakes - if all you have is tribal customs instead of laws it probably still works the same way. Or, maybe, the difference between a 80 IQ and 100 IQ tribal warrior is largely that the later does not think "we are the awesomest" is a good enough reason to attack a tribe that has three times as many warriors. In short, while really high IQ does not help with reproduction much, really low IQ provides excellent opportunities to shoot oneself in the foot in a competitive social environment. What we today consider average IQ simply translates to a hominid who is a bit cautious and can assess when to be brave and when to be a coward.

Note that none of your examples are cases of sexual selection.

While the dumbass having 4 kids with 4 different single moms is a popular trope, in really the really dumb guys tend to go in and out of prison

Those don't necessarily interfere with each other.

Sure, a peacock having a REALLY huge tail may be detrimental to its reproductive success because it cannot even go through a mating dance routine maybe,

A REALLY huge tail is detrimental because it makes the peacock more likely to be eaten by a tiger, i.e., non-sexual selection. If peacocks were placed in an environment without tigers females would chose even larger tails. Heck they've done experiments where they glued on extra tail feathers to give a lucky peacock an even larger tail, the result being that females preferred those males to any males with a natural tail.

Heck consider an actual example of sexual selection in humans: Men like women with large breasts. Notice how common ridiculously large breasted women are in everything from advertizing to anime to video games. Heck in ancient times people would worship multi-breasted fertility goddesses. Contrast that with the portrayal of smart men, who must be given an actual "sexy" trait (like being rich or a badass) for women to accept them as "sexy". For example, Q's gadgets contribute to James Bond's (not Q's) sex appeal even though he's not the one developing them.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-30T08:10:27.510Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sexual selection doesn't end at being attractive. It could be everything from killing competing suitors to making sure kids have a good career. Just as every organ is a reproductive organ, drawing the borders of sexual selection is hard. Everything cashes out in reproduction, where I try to draw the line is that the survival of individual animals against the forces outside the population is not, so getting food and getting away from predators is not. But pretty much everything inside the population is. But even getting a lot of food can be an aspect of it... crap. The point is that the traditional/popular views of evolution tend to be "survivalist" and basically this intra-population competition / sexual selection stuff is largely everything else that it is not directly survivalist but is about competition for things beyond the survival of the individual. Be that sexual partners or childrearing.

And yes, in this sense Mr. Dumb taking a knife to the heart in a pub and his girlfriend hooking up with someone else is an example of this intra-species competition...

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-06-30T21:37:02.146Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, you could define "sexual selection" that generarly. However, I don't think a terms that refers to everything is particularly useful.

And yes, in this sense Mr. Dumb taking a knife to the heart in a pub and his girlfriend hooking up with someone else is an example of this intra-species competition...

Yes, but I wouldn't call that sexual selection unless the fight was specifically over the girlfriend.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-06-17T15:27:12.734Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Frankly I don't know why didn't evolution just came up with the idea of giving women gigantic hips

Because a wide pelvis is mechanically worse for bipedal locomotion. You need to be able to run away from lions in between popping out kids...

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2015-06-16T17:37:41.588Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

More generally, you can imagine a lot of failure modes where an alien species evolves to become intelligent, but cannot build technological civilization because it cannot achieve large scale social cooperation.

comment by garabik · 2015-06-17T08:29:56.954Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

E.g. imagine a society where human brains evolved just a little bit differently and >90% of population are dyslectics. This very obviously wouldn't matter until about the time proto-writing changed into true writing, i.e. after urban development and proto-states. But then, such a civilization is trapped.

comment by Houshalter · 2015-06-19T08:49:02.904Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There's actually some evidence humans have made some adaptions to be better at reading, but I can't find a source.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-17T10:59:40.514Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Being able to read would be a valuable advantage and after tens of thousands of years of evolution, more and more people could read.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-06-20T23:40:29.836Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

[Link] The Health Advice Scott Adams Does’t Find Credible.

It's a nice piece on correlation vs. causation e.g.

Married people live longer. The implication is that being married is healthier than being single. Maybe. But you know what else is true?

People don’t like to marry unhealthy-looking people. SO OF COURSE THE UNMARRIED DIE SOONER. THEY WERE LESS HEALTHY TO BEGIN WITH.

And so he goes on with dog owners, light drinkers and first of all exercise. Maybe before you go on to read it you wonder what the correlation may be.

Maybe also consider whether this applies to other Lifestyle interventions to increase longevity.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-21T00:18:53.356Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

That paragraph you quoted doesn't sound smart to me. It seems like it's argues against a strawman. Scientists who studies issues like this usually don't publish raw correlations but try to control for various factors they can think of.

Of course you can still criticise that scientists failed to control for relevant factors but that means you actually have to read the papers.

You can also make general arguments against the usefulness of regression analysis but Scott doesn't make those in that article.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-06-21T07:07:53.857Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think Scott doesn't argue against scientific papers in particular or in general. I think he is raising the sanity waterline. Increase the awareness for these things in general. The specialized scientists may be aware of thse - and probably joke about them. But I was surprised a bit. I could have come up with that - but I didn't. Did you?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-21T12:44:53.446Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If you read "Married people live longer" what does that sentence mean?

The people on the street think it means (A): "We measured the the lifespan of married people and we measured the lifespan of unmarried people. It turns out that the lifespan value we measured for the people who are married is higher."

The problem is that's not what it means. It rather means (B): "We measured a bunch of factors among them lifespan and whether people are married. Then we did run a regression analysis and found that being marriages influences lifespan in a positive way."

Knowing that the sentence means (B) is statistical literacy. Literacy that Scott isn't showing when he assumes that a common factor like income isn't factored out of the question of whether moderate drinking is healthy.

The specialized scientists may be aware of thse - and probably joke about them.

Why do you think they joke about them instead of fixing the issue by controlling for the factors they can think of?

I could have come up with that - but I didn't. Did you?

I'm certainly able to not take the conclusions of observational studies as strong evidence.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-06-21T17:18:07.438Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The problem is that's not what it means. It rather means (B): "We measured a bunch of factors among them lifespan and whether people are married. Then we did run a regression analysis and found that being marriages influences lifespan in a positive way."

"Measuring a bunch of factors etc." is an observational investigation; "being married influences lifespan" is a causal statement. The former absolutely does not mean the latter, although given additional causal information or assumptions you may be able to deduce it from the experiment. Merely controlling for common factors does not fix this.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-21T17:30:32.579Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I didn't want to imply that there's a causal link. Do you have suggestions for another verb to replace "influence" in that sentence?

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-06-21T19:02:28.184Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Do you have suggestions for another verb to replace "influence" in that sentence?

"Is positively associated with." "Tend to be found together with." "Correlates with."

Have statisticians who do not understand causation and philosophers who do not believe in it corrupted the language so much as to make "influence", a purely causal concept in everyday language, be a synonym of "association"?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-21T21:10:31.708Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

To me those options don't feel like they are everyday language.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-06-22T05:49:24.561Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

They do mean the right thing, though. And "tend to be found together with"? Everyday words, all of them, put together in an everyday way. Perhaps it is the concept that is not an everyday one. It needs to be.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-21T00:03:53.574Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That paragraph doesn't sound smart to me. It seems like it's argues against a strawman. Scientists who studies issues like this usually don't publish raw correlations but try to control for various factors they can think of.

Of course you can still criticise that scientists failed to control for relevant factors but that means you actually have to read the papers.

You can also make general arguments against the usefulness of regression analysis but Scott doesn't make those in that article.

comment by shminux · 2015-06-18T07:13:45.209Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Can someone give an extensional definition of free will? Or link to one.

comment by OrphanWilde · 2015-06-22T13:14:04.591Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Presuming free will references something in the first place, it would reference an infinite set, by its nature. I don't think you can have one.

comment by shminux · 2015-06-22T15:24:26.417Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I am not asking for an exhaustive definition, just a fence around the concept.

comment by Leonhart · 2015-06-22T19:53:42.443Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Are you asking for a procedure for identifying acts of free will (the doable kind of extensive definition) or a set of in-out exemplars (ostensive definition)?

comment by shminux · 2015-06-22T20:11:28.480Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

By extensional definition I mean fencing off the notion of free will with a set of reasonably sharp (close to the free will/not free will boundary) examples of not having free will.

A rock not having free will is uncontroversial, but not sharp (very far from the boundary). I am looking for a set of examples where most people would agree that

  1. It is an example of not having free will (uncontroversial)

  2. It is hard to move it toward the "definitely free will" case without major disagreements from others (reasonably sharp).

comment by Leonhart · 2015-06-23T18:07:31.523Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Pretty sure I'm misparsing you somehow, but here are some things I might consider nonfree action :

A) an action is rewarded with a heroin fix; the actor is in withdrawal

B) an action will relieve extreme and urgent pain

C) an action is demanded by reflex (e.g. withdrawal from heat)

D) an action is demanded by an irresistably salient emotional appeal that the agent does not reflectively endorse (release the country-slaying neurotoxin, or I shall shoot your child)

comment by shminux · 2015-06-23T19:48:55.885Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think these are very good examples, I would agree with C), disagree with D), require clarification on B) and have no strong opinion on A). Others might have different opinions. I further think that without amassing a wealth of examples like this and selecting a subset where there is a general agreement on which side of the fence they lie is necessary for a productive discussion of the issue.

comment by Leonhart · 2015-06-23T21:40:36.508Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you intend to try again in the current open thread, feel free to transfer the examples.

Trying to clarify my intuitions re. B:

Consider Paul Atreides undergoing the gom jabbar; he will die unless he keeps his hand in the box. Given that he knows this, I count his success as a freely willed action; if (counterfactually) the pain had been sufficient to overcome him, withdrawing his hand would not have been freely willed, because it is counter to his consciously endorsed values (and, in this case, not subtle or confused values).

However, if (also counterfactually) the threat of death had not been present or known to him, then withdrawing his hand may have been a freely willed act (if the pain built slowly enough to be noticed rather than just triggering a burn-reaction).

comment by hairyfigment · 2015-06-23T18:38:35.288Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It is hard to move it toward the "definitely free will" case without major disagreements from others (reasonably sharp).

And how should I make sense of that? Are you assuming that not only is the boundary fuzzy, but people disagree about the direction of motion there?

A person controlled by Borg implants seems like a good example of 1, but I think you'd find widespread agreement about what changes would make that person more or less free (except among those who insist the boundary is sharp and binary).

comment by shminux · 2015-06-23T19:58:22.580Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The boundary is certainly Sorites-fuzzy, not much can be done about that, I suspect.

people disagree about the direction of motion there?

I did not mean that, no, but who knows.

A person controlled by Borg implants seems like a good example of 1, but I think you'd find widespread agreement about what changes would make that person more or less free (except among those who insist the boundary is sharp and binary).

I tend to agree, but I can imagine a counterargument "but this person can still imagine other choices, and would follow them if not for the implants". By the way, no need to go sci-fi, just replace Borg implants with voices in your head, or being physically restrained, etc.

As I said in my other replies, I don't imagine how the issue of free will can be productively discussed without people agreeing on hat they mean by it in non-central cases.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-06-22T20:39:09.531Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Examples of free will: pretty much all of people's everyday activities.

Examples of non-free will: being asleep.

Borderline examples: the will exercised by a being in a state of endarkenment, e.g. due to the three poisons).

"Free will" is a pleonasm. There are degrees of it, but there is not really such a thing as an unfree will.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-06-22T16:45:42.133Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Eliezer set the problem of dissolving the question of free will as a beginning exercise in the practice of dissolving problems. The link includes a link to his solution, but he recommends solving the problem on one's own before reading his answer.

His solution seems satisfactory to me. I do not know if this solution can already be found in academic philosophy, or what academic philosophers think about it, but in shorter form it is stated in this Zen story.

comment by shminux · 2015-06-22T17:33:17.816Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Eliezer uses a compatibilist definition

sensation of freely choosing

which works well for the central example (mentally competent human in Western culture), but fails at the boundaries (unusual cultures, mental disorders, non-human animals, algorithms). Hence my original question.

He further elaborates

There - now my sensation of freedom indicates something coherent; and most of the time, I will have no reason to doubt the sensation's veracity. I have no problems about saying that I have "free will" appropriately defined; so long as I am out of jail, uncertain of my own future decision, and living in a lawful universe that gave me emotions and morals whose interaction determines my choices.

Yet, in the next paragraph he states

Certainly I do not "lack free will" if that means I am in jail, or never uncertain of my future decisions, or in a brain-state where my emotions and morals fail to determine my actions in the usual way.

which seems to me to contradict the one before, as it expands the definition to include every possible human mind-state.

I do not recall him giving an example of a mind state which is clearly marked as "no free will".

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-06-22T20:34:06.918Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Certainly I do not "lack free will" if that means I am in jail, or never uncertain of my future decisions, or in a brain-state where my emotions and morals fail to determine my actions in the usual way.

which seems to me to contradict the one before, as it expands the definition to include every possible human mind-state.

I don't know what E's sentence is doing there, to the point that I suspect it's been garbled by an editing error. But I don't see why "having free will" should not include pretty much all mind states, short of being asleep or abnormalities such as drug addiction. The phenomenon he is pointing to, whatever its name, is something that human minds do.

comment by hairyfigment · 2015-06-22T19:48:36.682Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm very unclear on your question, and where you think the contradiction lies. Being addicted to a drug that you will reliably seek despite considering it wrong would reduce your "free will," as it would take you closer to being "never uncertain of my future decisions, or in a brain-state where my emotions and morals fail to determine my actions in the usual way."

(I would personally not have included the "uncertain" part before encountering Eliezer's work, but of course other writers do treat it as important.)

comment by shminux · 2015-06-22T20:12:43.232Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Tried to clarify my question again.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-18T04:27:26.126Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

this was an unhelpful comment, removed and replaced by this comment

comment by Vaniver · 2015-06-18T17:11:58.739Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Compare to driving vs. being a passenger in a car driving on a twisty road. I often find the former fun, and the latter decidedly uncomfortable, because the first is a tightly coupled feedback loop and the second is highly varying inputs without much in the way of predictability or control.

"Head-eye" coordination is a thing; the neck muscles and the eye muscles communicate closely, and one would expect that the visual cortex might have access to some of that information as well. Breaking that link will violate expectations on a perceptual level.

comment by knb · 2015-06-18T09:17:10.561Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

POV results in jarring perspective changes and it makes it harder for the viewer to orient themselves and understand what is going on. Historically there were also technical obstacles, but steadicam + digital video make it more feasible. Another problem is it makes staging more difficult for obvious reasons.

A good example of POV film-making is the British comedy Peep Show, which I found almost unwatchable at first because of the jarring shifts in perspective. Still a great show, but the POV is mostly a gimmick you have to get used to rather than a benefit:

Peep Show's unique "point of view" shooting style was one of the reasons for its success, but it also stopped it being a breakout hit, said one of the team behind it.

"It made it feel original and fresh and got it commissioned for a second series, but it stopped it from being a breakout hit and stopped it finding a bigger audience," said Andrew O'Connor, chief executive of production company Objective Productions.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-18T07:24:52.659Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It's likely to result in shakycam or at least large sudden changes in field of view, which I find disorienting.

comment by Elo · 2015-06-19T01:03:53.028Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Agree; shakycam is painful; unless we can stabilise the camera - half the time it sucks to have a camera on someone's face. You know how many video-corrections the brain just "does" without us noticing?! (lots)

(we can stabilise; I have seen algorithms come out; but in the form of research; not for public use)

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-06-18T14:05:00.831Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Not everyone can easily adapt to immersion-style media. The first time I heard surround speakers in a cinema theater, in 1999, I hated it, and I still do to this day; I find it horribly distracting.

comment by iarwain1 · 2015-06-17T20:06:00.947Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm trying to figure out what percentage of a balanced investment portfolio should go towards rental real estate, but I'm having a hard time finding reliable sources of advice on this question.

I have a friend who invests in rental real estate, and he says he can give me a guaranteed 10% ROI if I invest $10,000+ with him, or 15% if I invest $100,000+. From looking around online this does indeed appear reasonable - rental real estate often gives much higher returns than this, so it sounds reasonable that he can guarantee a lower rate and then either pocket the remainder (his reward) or pay up the difference out of pocket (his risk). So it sounds like a pretty decent investment as far as I can tell.

But I don't want to put all my financial eggs in one investment basket - I'm not an expert, but I've always heard that diversification and a "balanced portfolio" are the names of the game. My question is approximately what percentage of my assets should I put into rental property investments like this vs. e.g. a Vanguard targeted retirement fund. As I said, I'm having trouble finding reliable sources of advice on this question.

Anybody here know anything on this subject? Anybody know somewhere I could go to find accurate, reliable, and unbiased advice?

comment by Lumifer · 2015-06-17T20:15:30.077Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

he can give me a guaranteed 10% ROI

Heh. Ask him to actually guarantee it -- that is, structure the transaction as a loan yielding 10% (or 15%) with him fully liable for the principal and the interest. See if he agrees :-/ Don't forget to check that the counterparty (the borrower) has assets to pay you back.

There are financial securities called REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts) which invest in property (sometimes commercial, sometimes rental, read the prospectus) and return the income to you less a haircut. As a sanity check you can take a look at how high returns do they provide.

comment by shminux · 2015-06-18T07:13:09.858Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I have a friend who invests in rental real estate, and he says he can give me a guaranteed 10% ROI if I invest $10,000+ with him, or 15% if I invest $100,000+.

I don't believe it. If he could guarantee it, he would instead borrow from a bank at 3-5% as much as he can (potentially using his house as a collateral) and invest that. Besides, at that rate of return, other investors would flock in, including fund managers, and saturate the market.

comment by 9eB1 · 2015-06-18T07:18:40.848Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Theoretically, the market portfolio, which is the efficient portfolio according to Modern Portfolio Theory should replicate the world's assets weighted by value. For America, household (and non-profit) net worth is ~$85T and the value of real estate holdings is ~$14T (value less mortgages) (source), so about 16% is pretty justifiable. This is all pretty back of the envelope though.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-16T01:47:23.365Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

People working on friendly AI probably assume that the odds of inventing a friendly AI is higher than establishing a world order in which research associated with existential risks is generally banned. Why is that? Is the reasoning that our civilization is likely to end without significant technological progress (due to reasons like nuclear war, climate change and societal collapse), so we should give it at least a try?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-16T08:44:44.456Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

You make the mistake of equating something being generally banned and it not happening. Selling MDMA is generally banned. On the other hand it's still possible to purchase it in many places.

comment by Elo · 2015-06-16T14:11:48.347Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

As a stronger argument to your point - In Australia nearly no one owns guns; its very difficult to get guns and I certainly know of no-one who has one. However I am completely confident that I can call my shadiest friend and he could call his shadiest of friend (and possibly to a 3rd degree - his friend) and within 7 days I could have a gun for the low-low price of "some monetary compensation".

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-16T17:32:00.082Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The fact that bans have a poor track record in human history does not imply that they are impossible, does it?

comment by Lumifer · 2015-06-16T14:35:55.819Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In Australia nearly no one owns guns

I'm sure some people in rural areas do. Wiki says:

As of 2007 about 5.2% of Australian adults (765,000 people) own and use firearms

And that's only people who legally own guns, of course.

comment by Elo · 2015-06-17T06:34:20.961Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

okay yes rural guns exist. That still leaves 20million+ of population without access. Compared to america where there are more guns than people...

comment by Jiro · 2015-06-17T14:49:10.923Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The rural Australia figure is for number of people, not number of guns. But when you're comparing it to America, you're comparing it to number of guns. This compares apples and oranges.

comment by Elo · 2015-06-17T21:59:15.012Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

certainly; this pointless tangent is becoming more of a statement about gun culture than about banning substances.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-16T11:49:06.975Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My thought is that (just as the FAI problem) the problem requires an invention, namely a way to engineer the world order such that this ban is effective (for example by fundamentally altering culture and traditions, by using mass surveillance, by reversing the development and restricting the fabrication of computational resources, or by highly regulating the access to certain commodities and resources required for computation such as electricity and silicon).

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-16T17:27:01.821Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

"I take over the world and create to create a unified totalitarian state" is a solution that comes with it's own existential risks.

comment by Gurkenglas · 2015-06-16T09:57:05.426Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Let's steelman his argument into "Which is more likely to succeed, actually stopping all research associated with existential risk or inventing a Friendly AI?". If you find another reason why the first option wouldn't work, include the desperate effort needed to overcome that problem in the calculation.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-16T11:54:21.238Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think "existential risk research" and "research associated with existential risks" are the same thing.

comment by Gurkenglas · 2015-06-16T12:06:07.266Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, that's what I meant. Let me edit that.

comment by Gurkenglas · 2015-06-25T02:05:53.509Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Me minutes after writing that: "I precommit to post this at most a week from now. I predict someone will give a clever answer along the lines of driving humanity extinct in order to stop existential risk research."

comment by estimator · 2015-06-17T06:54:18.220Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It's extremely hard to ban the research worldwide, and then it's extremely hard to enforce such decision.

Firstly, you'll have to convince all the world's governments (btw, there are >200) to pass such laws.

Then, you'll likely have all powerful nations doing the research secretly, because it provides some powerful weaponry / other ways to acquire power; or just out of fear that some other government will do it first.

And even if you somehow managed to pass the law worldwide, and stopped governments from doing research secretly, how would you stop individual researchers?

The humanity hasn't prevented the use of nuclear bombs, and has barely prevented a full-blown nuclear war; while nuclear bombs require national-level industry to produce, and are available to a few countries only. How can we hope to ban something which can be researched and launched in your basement?

comment by MrMind · 2015-06-16T07:16:51.167Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If society doesn't end first, banning X-risks research worldwide is an effort that must be prolonged indefinitely, always ensuring that nobody ever fiddles with her computer in a way that could create an AGI. This means that with time the probability to enforce successfully the ban always decreases.
Building an FAI instead, is an effort that once accomplished stays so: its probability, however small, might even increase with time.

comment by hairyfigment · 2015-06-16T02:02:58.654Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That last part plays a role in my thinking. But I'd consider the world ban idea if I thought for a second that we could convince, not only China, but every nation-level player that might pose a threat. If you're imagining a UN ban that does the job, you have either a mental picture of AI research or a level of confidence in the UN that I find bizarre.

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-06-15T00:15:00.437Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Zoltan Istvan generated a lot of notice - to himself - with this troll on Huffington Post:

Is it Time for Fast Track Atheist Security Checks at Airports?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/zoltan-istvan/is-it-time-for-fast-track_b_7549062.html

As I noted awhile back, I find his online career interesting to observe because it shows successful self-promotion in action.

Transhumanism related:

EVEN MATERIALISTS CRAVE RELIGION by Wesley J. Smith

http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2015/06/even-materialists-crave-religion

The Church of Transhumanism: Let us Upload by WESLEY J. SMITH

http://www.nationalreview.com/human-exceptionalism/419688/church-transhumanism

Evangelical Christian or Transhumanist? A Quiz Written by J.M. PORUP

http://motherboard.vice.com/read/evangelical-christian-or-transhumanist-a-quiz

comment by Viliam · 2015-06-15T07:59:30.759Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

EVEN MATERIALISTS CRAVE RELIGION

Even materalists crave some things that are traditionally associated with religion.

FTFY.

We should do something about this meme that "meaning" has to be associated with "believing in ontologically basic mental things".

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-15T16:53:14.389Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In his keynote at the LWCW Val of CFAR made the point that caring is an essential part of rationality.

Eliezer also speaks about the value of having something to protect. It's Harry's "The power The Dark Lord knows not".

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-15T11:02:06.685Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

We should do something about this meme that "meaning" has to be associated with "believing in ontologically basic mental things".

That is not easy. The meaning of a sentence equals the intent of the speaker. "The meaning of life" means something somewhere making our lives with an intent, for a purpose. It does not have to be ontologically basic - if it turned out we live in a simulation, brains in vats, in a grand experiment, that would at least explain an immediate intent. However then we would worry about the meaning of the lives of the experimenters themselves, trying to reduce it to some intent outside them. So at the end of the day, the only satisfactory meaning-of-life would be an ontologically basic intent from an ontologically basic mind. Divorcing these two from each other is not easy.

Quite frankly I don't have an optimistic solution. I am a natural pessimitist and felt validated when I realized all this. No, there is no meaning to life at all because nothing has ontologically basic intent out there. The optimistic existentialist stuff, that we can "find" meaning in life is equally invalid, we cannot find something that does not exist. We can try to "put" meaning into life i.e. have intents, have goals, but it will never feel as powerful as the people who believe in an intent outside them (providence, fate, karma) feel about it. Let's just suck it up, there is really no solution here.

The only optimists in this regard are the people who are glad about this all because it means freedom for them. How they decide if something is important still beats me, perhaps they have an internal value function that does not need to borrow terminal goals from an external source.

comment by RowanE · 2015-06-16T09:19:49.756Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I wouldn't feel like the "meaning of life" would be answered if we turned out to be brains in vats or whatever created with a specific purpose in mind. Notwithstanding the fact that they obviously have a lot of power to punish or reward me, why should I even care what they think?

To me it seems the answer would have to be an independent ontologically basic intent, but then I'm not entirely sure I should care about even that. So a satisfactory "meaning of life" might be impossible even in principle, which I think gives a lot more credibility to the existentialists.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-06-15T21:16:13.376Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The only optimists in this regard are the people who are glad about this all because it means freedom for them. How they decide if something is important still beats me, perhaps they have an internal value function that does not need to borrow terminal goals from an external source.

An answer I wrote in response to a related question

Does atheism necessarily lead to nihilism? (I think so, in the grand scheme of things? But the world/our species means something to us, and that's enough, right?)

was:

No. Atheism does remove one set of symbol-behavior-chains in your mind, yes. But a complex mind will most likely lock into another better grounded set of symbol-behavior-chains that is not nihilistic but - depending on your emotional setup - somehow connected to terminal values and acting on that.

In a way you compartmentalize the though if missing meaning away as kind of unhelpful noise (that's how I phrased it on the LWCW). This is not unreasonable (ahem) - after all the search for meaning is itself meaningless for a conscious process that has evolved in this meaningless environment.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-16T08:52:10.570Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Well, this locking does not really seem to work well for me. I know that ideal terminal values should be along the lines of wanting other people to be happy, but I really struggle to go from the fact that some signals in some brains are labelled happiness to the value that these signals matter. Since I have a typically depressive personality, not really caring about myself being happy, I cannot really care about others being happy as well and thus terminal values are not found. The struggle is largely that if certain brain signals like happiness are not inherently marked with little XML tags "yes you should care about this" where does the should, the value come from?

The closest thing I can get is something similar to nationalism extended over all humankind - we all are 22nd cousins or something so let's be allies and face this cold cruel lifeless universe together or something similarly sentimental. But it isn't a terminal value, it is more like a bit of a feeling of affection. A true utilitarian would even care about a sentient computer being happy, or a sentient computer suffering or dying, and I just cannot figure out why.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-06-16T15:05:18.624Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Since I have a typically depressive personality, not really caring about myself being happy, I cannot really care about others being happy as well and thus terminal values are not found.

Well. Thinking about it I realize that for your kind of personality a falling back to carng and following goals indeed doesn't seem necessary. On the other hand the arbitrariness of nihilism isn't that different from the passivity from depression - so in a way maybe you already did lock back into the same pattern anyway?

comment by James_Miller · 2015-06-15T01:17:37.477Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

He is also running to be U.S. President, briefly posted on LW, and wrote an Amazon review of my book. He has managed to get lots of publicity for transhumanism, and I think on net will do tranhumanism lots of good.

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-06-15T02:12:26.404Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I have a problem with how easily people can position themselves as authority figures in social movements which lack competition or standards to vet the candidates. A genuinely capable person might emerge regardless, but more through good luck than through a good process.

For example, Madalyn Murray O'Hair became America's most famous atheist in the 1960's and 1970's because no one else wanted the job, not because she excelled at it compared with competitors. A mediocre but extroverted and opinionated woman willing to take risks could step into the void of the time and assume that title. Even during her life, many other atheists never bought into her cult of personality and considered her a charlatan.

By contrast, in today's world, when many atheists have become minor celebrities, often with best selling books, and when atheists even in hick towns like Tulsa's Seth Andrews can attract followings around the world by setting up websites and uploading podcasts and videos, Madalyn with that kind of competition wouldn't necessarily stand out as particularly noteworthy.

I see a similar situation with today's transhumanist scene. Any newcomer on the make with the right sort of personality (the sort I don't have), willing to exploit social media to present controversial ideas as transhumanist philosophy, could persuade other people into accepting him as a transhumanist authority figure in a relatively short time. It would help if objective standards emerged to assess who deserves this kind of status and who doesn't.

Now, Zoltan Istvan might do something eventually to show that he has the goods. In the meantime I have misgivings about his activities.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-06-15T16:04:53.946Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

How sure are you that O'Hair became the speaker for American atheism because no one else wanted the job rather than because the media focused on her because she was annoying?

comment by Elo · 2015-06-15T04:21:10.698Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

not because she excelled at it compared with competitors. A mediocre but extroverted and opinionated woman willing to take risks could step into the void of the time and assume that title.

Sounds like you described her "excelling at it compared with competitors" exactly one sentence after that sentence. Sure she might not have been the best that the movement could take a hold of but according to that description she did excel at it compared to her competitors.

Can you be more clear about what you meant to say?

Disclaimer: I have no idea who this person is.

comment by knb · 2015-06-15T07:49:29.243Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

O'Hair really is an interesting minor historical figure and also probably was the worst spokesperson American atheism possibly could have had, at least after the death of Jim Jones. She at one point attempted to defect to the Soviet Union because she approved of its official state atheism (which included brutal persecution of Christians, of course.) The Soviets rejected her, having been burned by western militant-atheist defectors before, like the Jonestown crew and of course, Lee Harvey Oswald. She also deliberately antagonized members of the media and publicly disowned her son when he converted to Christianity.

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-06-15T04:45:45.420Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

You have never heard of Madalyn Murray O'Hair?

Okay, think of the movie version of The Blue Lagoon. It doesn't work as a "love story," because with only one boy and one girl on the island, they don't have any alternative. They wind up in a sexual relationship by default, not because the boy has to compete with other boys to seduce the girl.

In Madalyn's case, no one else wanted to become the country's public face of atheism, so she managed to step into that role without having to push anyone else out of the way. And she managed to draw attention to herself afterwards because she lacked social anxiety and she said and did outrageous things which made her news-worthy, like filing harassing lawsuits against local governments for alleged breaches of church-state separation. Her boldness didn't make her especially effective or look very competent. Instead many other atheists considered her a buffoon.

comment by Elo · 2015-06-15T04:50:14.695Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This makes more sense. Less champion and more default.

comment by hairyfigment · 2015-06-15T06:47:56.084Z · score: -1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

filing harassing lawsuits against local governments for alleged breaches of church-state separation.

Can you name one that you think was plainly wrong? Because you're talking about a murder victim, which may explain why "no one wanted" her job.

comment by knb · 2015-06-15T07:33:56.113Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Since she was killed and mutilated by a fellow atheist, are you implying no one wanted her job because so many atheists are killers and associating with fellow atheists is dangerous?

comment by hairyfigment · 2015-06-15T08:47:37.095Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

You mean the ringleader, who the organization initially hired as a typesetter? That would be evidence of atheism, had he not joined with the intent of robbing the place. And he had this to say about his victim, according to this site:

"To simply label Madalyn an atheist, racist, homophobe, anti-Semite, etc., would be a tremendous misnomer. To her dubious credit, Madalyn Mays Murray O'Hair is an equal opportunity bigot, whose loathing of humanity is evenly dispensed without partiality."

But sure, it's not the situation I imagined. Maybe the real lesson is not to trust guys with mother issues.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-20T12:53:22.155Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I found a website called Happier Human.

It's about how to become and stay happier. I've trawled through it.

Here are the best posts in my opinion:

Meditate

Don't worry/overthink/fantasise/compare

Disregard desire

Motivate

Exercise gratitude

Don’t have kids

Buy many small gifts

Trade some happiness for productivity

Set happiness goals

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-20T12:51:23.222Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I found a website called Happier Human.

It's about how to become and stay happier. I've trawled through it.

Here are the best posts in my opinion:

Meditate

Don't worry/overthink/fantasise/compare

Disregard desire

Motivate

Exercise gratitude

Don’t have kids

Buy many small gifts

Trade some happiness for productivity

Set happiness goals

comment by Dahlen · 2015-06-20T01:02:26.165Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

No idea whether it's the website or just me, but please consider maintaining the typed but unposted comments in the text box after a resumed session. It works for other websites and it used to work here too, but now when Firefox crashes while I'm writing a post I lose everything I've typed. At the very most, when it's a top-level comment, the previously typed text shows up instead of "Enter Comment Here" or whatever, and I'm then able to make a screenshot and rewrite my comment, but as soon as I click inside the text box it's of course gone. Please, if someone could look into it... I'm getting sick of constantly losing long posts. What's worse, not even copying the text as I'm writing it seems to work on the first attempt lately, so now I have to pre-write all my comments.

EDIT: Oh for Pete's sake. After carefully copying my retyped post several times as I was writing it, I lost it once again. And I'm definitely not rewriting it a third time. Trying to type something into a comment box seems to erase everything on my clipboard. Also, this is my third time attempting to make this edit. I don't remember whether this problem is common to reddit, but it definitely doesn't happen on any other website I use.

comment by Manfred · 2015-06-20T02:16:07.965Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry about you having to prewrite comments in notebook (or gnuedit or whatever). The easiest resolution might be to resolve your browser-crashing problem. Barring that, best of luck in figuring out where stuff in comment boxes gets saved by the browser, and how to make sure it happens.

comment by Dahlen · 2015-06-20T23:14:46.690Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I know what causes my crashing problems (bad browsing habits, suffice to say), but while I can reduce the chance of occurrence I can never know in advance just when the browser is going to crash. (On LW it seems to correlate with typing speed.) How post-crash text recovery is handled varies with the website, not with anything I can change, and having had this problem for a while, I have come to appreciate more the websites that offer better support for this.

comment by adamzerner · 2015-06-19T18:04:18.518Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Consider the question: why is there such a stigma associated with rationality?

My impression is that it's because rationality is so general. Well, I don't think that's the only reason, but I think it plays a big role.

Think about it:

  • There's no stigma associated with trying to be more knowledgeable by, say studying history.
  • There's no stigma associated with self improvement. Say, wanting to be more confident.
  • There's no stigma associated with... getting in better shape.
  • There's no stigma associated with wanting to help people.

But there is with rationality. Maybe it's because all of those other things are narrow enough that it's not seen as an attempt to be "better" than others. But since rationality is so general, it is seen as an attempt to be "better" than others.

Of course, the term "better" can be broken into components, and it isn't so black and white. But my impression is that other people see it as black and white. Sort of - I think they see it as if there's some sort of threshold where if you cross it, you enter the domain of "better is black and white, and you're trying to be better than everyone else".

comment by Lumifer · 2015-06-19T18:15:30.950Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Consider the question: why is there such a stigma associated with rationality?

I'd start one step earlier: Is there a stigma associated with rationality?

And I would answer "no, there isn't". There is a stigma associated with smart but socially awkward people who try to tell others that their thinking is broken, but that's quite a different thing :-/

comment by adamzerner · 2015-06-19T18:41:40.128Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

How do you interpret the (seemingly hostile) responses to LW/Eliezer on sites like https://news.ycombinator.com/news and reddit? (If you're familiar with it, that is)

comment by Epictetus · 2015-06-19T22:25:53.694Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Hostility towards LW/Eliezer doesn't have any more to do with a general hostility to rationality than does hostility towards Objectivism/Ayn Rand.

Eliezer's treatment of topics like cryonics, friendly AI, transhumanism, and the many world interpretation of quantum mechanics are more than enough to fuel a debate, even if one agrees that rationality is a worthwhile aspiration. People can disagree with you without being enemies of truth or logic.

comment by HBDfan · 2015-06-20T10:20:25.603Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This disaggreement though is people who are enemies of truth or logic.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-19T20:31:48.008Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

LW is weird by mainstream standards. We use inaccessible language. There's advocacy of ideas like cryonics. We build pillow forts. People think incorrectly we believe in the basilisk.

Being different always produces some hostile responses.

comment by adamzerner · 2015-06-19T20:44:55.473Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Being different always produces some hostile responses.

I'm getting a pretty strong impression that there's more to it than simply being different.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-06-19T20:04:11.171Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry, not familiar, I'm not much interested in internet dramas unless they are supremely entertaining.

I am sure there are YC people and redditors who don't like Eliezer and/or LW, but so what?

comment by adamzerner · 2015-06-19T20:46:06.393Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

but so what?

I see it as demonstrating peoples' hostility towards rationality.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-06-19T20:57:18.614Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Really, someone who doesn't like Eliezer or is put off by the LW vibe is suddenly demonstrating "hostility to rationality"?

You think that LW is the sole pure source of rationality in the world? That Eliezer (PBUH) brought True Rationality (tm) into the barbaric world of hoplessly deluded pagans?

comment by adamzerner · 2015-06-19T21:22:11.187Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

No to all of that. Not necessarily the fact that they're put off, but the apparent magnitude + the fact that it seems to be shared by a lot of people.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-06-19T23:38:48.066Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The iffy part is the jump from "people hate LW/EY" to "therefore these people hate rationality". I don't see any reasons for this to be a valid conclusion.

comment by adamzerner · 2015-06-20T04:09:07.508Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Good point. I'm less sure that people hate rationality (or really, that they're put off by it; hate is a strong word). I can't recall any/much explicit evidence, but when I query my memory, but I'm remembering people responding as if they're put off by rationality itself. Like the way people talk on HN is as if they're put off by the concept itself. And that's the way people seem to respond if I mention that I'm interested in/study rationality. Definitely something that could use more evidence and investigation though.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-20T12:26:57.542Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

And that's the way people seem to respond if I mention that I'm interested in/study rationality.

Why do you say that in the first place? In what kind of context do you say that?

comment by adamzerner · 2015-06-20T14:14:49.092Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Well, last night I was hanging out with a friend who I am just starting to get to know. He was noticing how analytical I am and all of that, so in order to clarify, I said that I study rationality and try really really hard to make the best decisions I could, and that rationality helps you do that. I suppose that that situation happens often enough for me. Ie. people noticing my unconventional ways of thinking, and me feeling like I should explain myself a bit.

Alternatively, this happens less often but if I'm in a "deep-ish" conversation and I'm asked some question of the form "what are you interested in" or "what do you care about" or "what are your goals", I answer truthfully, and to answer truthfully I have to mention rationality and give a brief primer. I don't always do this though, it depends on the vibe I get. But in the past month or two, it's actually happened a few times.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-20T15:05:59.574Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

He was noticing how analytical I am and all of that, so in order to clarify, I said that I study rationality and try really really hard to make the best decisions I could, and that rationality helps you do that.

The interesting question is whether the thing that puts people of is nothing how analytical you are (i.e. the evidence of rationality) or whether it's you saying that you try really hard to make the best decisions you can.

Alternatively, this happens less often but if I'm in a "deep-ish" conversation and I'm asked some question of the form "what are you interested in" or "what do you care about" or "what are your goals", I answer truthfully, and to answer truthfully I have to mention rationality and give a brief primer.

If I ask someone "what do you care about" my reaction to the person is likely not directly related to the content but whether the person is passionate in giving the answer.

comment by Sarunas · 2015-06-19T21:17:26.475Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In some cases it is probably the other way round, i.e. some people probably started disliking LW and EY (there are several distinct (in some cases overlapping) reasons why some people might not like LW), and only then started to scoff at any mention of rationality, because it gets associated with a thing they dislike.

If what you have in mind is other meanings of the word "rationality", e.g. what someone who hasn't even heard of LW might think when they hear this word, the explanation, of course, would be different.

comment by Epictetus · 2015-06-19T23:00:00.068Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There's no stigma associated with self improvement. Say, wanting to be more confident.

The sort who can't last five minutes without bringing up how much they improved will find plenty of stigma.

There's no stigma associated with wanting to help people.

Provided you don't become a self-righteous ass about it.

Maybe it's because all of those other things are narrow enough that it's not seen as an attempt to be "better" than others. But since rationality is so general, it is seen as an attempt to be "better" than others.

It's an attitude thing. People will perceive an attempt to be better than others if the individual starts acting the part. Socrates made a lot of enemies with his habit of going around correcting flaws in people's thinking.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-19T19:13:51.461Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There's no stigma associated with trying to be more knowledgeable by, say studying history.

The associated word is nerd. There a stigma for that.

There's no stigma associated with... getting in better shape.

Having the body of a bodybuilder isn't likely to make you seen as high status in an academic conference.

There's no stigma associated with self improvement. Say, wanting to be more confident.

There a huge stigma associated with self help.

why is there such a stigma associated with rationality?

Do you mean "rationality" as defined in the LW-Wiki or rationality as the term is commonly understood out there?

Having just been at the LW Community camp in Berlin it's difficult for me to put a finger on what's connecting this community. There are people who explicitly don't label as rationalist but use phrases like "socially optimal" in normal conversation. It seems that there a clear cluster in which people of this community fall whether or not a person holds various individual beliefs.

comment by HBDfan · 2015-06-20T10:18:45.160Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There is resentment of thinking. You are smarter and you know more so you are offensive to them.

comment by adamzerner · 2015-06-20T12:26:01.271Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My impression is that this isn't true for smartness/knowledge in general. Ex. math, history, business...

comment by Lumifer · 2015-06-20T15:27:48.474Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It's not a function of particular domains, it's a function of particular people.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-19T15:05:05.669Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I compulsively purse my lips, clamp shut my eyelids and sniff. I'm going to change that by the end of the weekend.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-18T02:17:25.795Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

this was an unhelpful comment, removed and replaced by the comment you are now reading

comment by Username · 2015-06-18T03:39:32.976Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes. Why do you want to do this?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-18T04:00:48.628Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

this was an unhelpful comment, removed and replaced by this comment

comment by 9eB1 · 2015-06-18T07:07:39.942Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's not that unusual. I think it's rare that someone would specifically wear 2 t-shirts, but it's extremely common for people to wear a t-shirt over a long-sleeved shirt, or for women to wear a long tank top underneath a shorter tank top (or variations on this theme) for a layering effect, at least in America.

comment by Username · 2015-06-24T17:19:28.536Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I would say two t-shirts is still unusual. To me it would be almost as strange as wearing two button-downs at once. Layering is pretty much always done with two items of clothing that are different, i.e. a t-shirt paired with a long sleeve shirt / sweater / jacket. If you want the t-shirt visible, you could wear a wifebeater underneath or an open-faced long sleeve shirt on top.

I'd disagree with the other commenter that a long sleeve underneath a t-shirt is a good look. I've seen people wear it, but this look is mostly something that I'd expect a middle schooler to wear.

comment by Vaniver · 2015-06-18T14:18:05.127Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I've known a thin guy who would do this to seem bulkier. More common is the thermal long-sleeved undershirt with a t-shirt over it, which is also better on the warmth front.

Ensure that you're good with color coordination, then just do it. It's more likely to be the good kind of unconventional than the weird kind.

comment by Elo · 2015-06-17T09:38:25.569Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Short story followed by question.

I started looking at making an app. So I went to here:

http://developer.android.com/training/index.html

I made a hello world (while getting a bit lost) to the approximation of 5 hours. I consulted my vague and terrible programming skills that have barely been used for 5+ years. And started trying to add in extra magical-powers to my app. I started reading further into the reference (estimate 5 hours)

Eventually figuring I would work up the trees to the top; gain an understanding of what was up there and then route downwards to the specifics. I got to the top of the trees and realised I still did not have what I needed. (estimate 2 hours) So I went higher to here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Object-oriented_programming

And discovered things; branching to the major links in the first paragraph. Now things are starting to make sense. (estimate 30minutes)

I am gradually getting faster at working out when to go upwards or sideways or ask for help. At 30 minutes on my current step I realised all I am doing is building myself a map of the map&territory kind. (class -> object -> process containing things)

Question: Does there exist a map of the what on earth am I looking at variety; so I have any idea what I am trying to understand? Searches for map yield objects of geographical mapping abilities. I want a meta:map of the language or its structure... Does one exist? Where?

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-06-17T23:52:14.991Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Don't read documentation. It is for people who already know the general outlines, not for people who want to know what programming is, or what object-oriented programming is. You need a textbook. There's probably one specific to Android Apps, but it's more important to get a good textbook than one that is precisely tailored to your goals.

comment by Elo · 2015-06-18T01:42:37.697Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I am powering through https://docs.oracle.com/javase/tutorial/java/TOC.html for now, then I should head back to documentation. I think this is about as good as a reasonably-good textbook in the area. I will consider a textbook if I don't feel confident by the end of it.

As with most of my projects; time and focus is limited by my interest. So finding a textbook and then retrieving it will be difficult and probably take longer than my interest in the project allows.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-06-18T02:02:11.138Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I would recommend you don't. You'll give up soon enough and be left with a bad taste in your mouth about programming for a long time. That is not a good outcome.

You actually don't need a textbook -- you need a good intro to programming. Java documentation (shudder) is quite the opposite of that.

comment by Elo · 2015-06-18T02:17:19.904Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I should have clarified more - I am not a beginner programmer; I am (debatably) capable of procedural programming. Been spending the past few days wondering how I managed to go as far as understanding procedural programming and never go any further into OOP. Starting to question both my brain and the sanity of anyone who ever tried to teach me anything relevant to programming; and how we all missed that I was unclear about what OOP is.

I will spend no more than 3 more hours on this reading before trying an alternative like the other textbook suggested by Douglas_Knight; or restart with an intro to programming guide.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-06-18T02:27:41.385Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I am confused about your goals, then. So you have some experience programming in an imperative (procedural) language. You want to figure out the OOP paradigm? That's a good idea, but what in the world are you doing in Java, then?

For figuring out how OOP works I'd actually recommend a more-or-less pure OOP language. Ruby is a good choice. If you have a very twisted mind (it's LW, after all), there is an... unconventional but interesting guide to Ruby written by a person who goes by the name of Why The Lucky Stiff X-)

If you don't want to do Ruby, Python is also fine. Smalltalk is cute, but... is of mostly academic interest by now. In any case I'd avoid Java if you're trying to understand the OOP paradigm and how it's different from imperative.

comment by Elo · 2015-06-18T02:42:19.683Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I too am confused about my goal.

Original goal: make an android app that does something (specific and not particularly important right now).

My path: try to use android studio via developer.android training (as linked in the first comment). Get lost. Try to work out what was going on. Discover what OOP actually is. Read more and more. Roughly get to where I am now.

Important question: Is there are better/smarter/faster/easier way to be making an app? I figured android studio would be the most easy to use (where I was previously not sure how to get an app onto the phone) because its built to go with android devices.

comment by Viliam · 2015-06-18T14:02:40.335Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Just make sure you don't try going too meta too soon, otherwise you may lose touch with reality.

1) The "hello world" app you made -- did you have anyone review your code? Maybe it contains obvious errors you didn't notice. Maybe learning about them could be very beneficial in long term. Having an improvement shown in a program you already spent a lot of time thinking about could be better (more motivating, easier to remember) than reading about a similar technique in a book illustrated with a fictional example.

2) Every time you learn something new -- do you also make another "hello world" app to test this new knowledge? Otherwise you may get a fake understanding. Also, if you learn about cool new techniques, but never use them, you may not understand the trade-offs. By making sample applications you test your new models against the reality.

I figured android studio would be the most easy to use (where I was previously not sure how to get an app onto the phone) because its built to go with android devices.

I agree.

Unless you want to make a game, in which case Unity is probably a better option. It is not Android-specific, but it can compile to Android platform.

EDIT: Feel free to ask me specific things about Java or Android.

comment by Elo · 2015-06-19T00:55:37.567Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks!

  1. it took hours to figure out how to correctly install Android Studio and get it to compile. Including completely starting again; installing extra packages and accepting that some errors will exist.

eventually most of the hello world app was a sample program; so I didn't really write it; just worked out how each part went together and how the files were stored in the weird app-code-files folders.

  1. I will be making test programs along the way hopefully. Thanks

Not a game; shouldn't have to worry about it.

Will ask if I need. Thanks!

comment by Lumifer · 2015-06-18T02:52:11.546Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry, I haven't played in the Android world so I'm useless there.

As a general piece of advice about an easier way of making an app -- find an open-source app that does something in the same ballpark as what you want your app to do, understand how the relevant parts of it work, then modify them to make the app do your stuff.

comment by Elo · 2015-06-18T02:55:17.598Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I tried looking at a bit of github; but found I lacked fundamentals of OOP to make any sense of what I was looking at. I will see if my final construction is within my reach (after some more reading); if not - I will head back to the gits and fork someone else's code.

Also thanks for the help!

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-06-18T01:58:15.710Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If by "reasonably good" you mean at the 50th percentile of textbooks, sure, it's fine. But textbooks that are actually good are rare. And they are valuable. It is worth your time to work through the book that I linked. It would be more valuable to do it before reading about java.

comment by Elo · 2015-06-18T02:06:58.412Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

By reasonably good I mean - good enough for now.

According to the table of contents I already understand up to around chapter 40 of 52 of that book. And I was aiming to learn Java because of its relevance to android studio.

which is coincidentally where I am reading through on the java trail right now

comment by Viliam · 2015-06-17T21:14:16.748Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

You want to learn about programming paradigms, and maybe also design patterns.

Programming paradigms are usually described as traits of programming languages, and sometimes lead to flame wars about which programming language is best. I recommend seeing programming paradigms as obligations you accept, and get some benefits in return. Some languages make those obligations mandatory, but sometimes you can decide to voluntary accept the obligation of some programming paradigm even in a language that doesn't require it naturally. For example, even if you want to program in Java, I would recommend learning some functional languages just to see what advantages those languages offer and how do they achieve it, so that when you return to writing Java code, you will have an option to write it in a way that provides you some of those advantages.

For example: Even in Java you can decide to write functions that don't use global variables. I mean functions that only use the values of their explicit input parameters, and only call other functions which follow the same rule. At first sight, this may seem like an pointless obligation, inconvenient in some situations. However, if you carefully write a part of program like this, you will not have to worry about multithreading: because those functions only use their explicit inputs, you can run them in multiple parallel threads, and there will be no bugs. (Which is not a small thing, because multithreading bugs are sometimes really annoying to find.) People who are not familiar with functional languages and frequently use global variables usually produce multithreaded code full of bugs, which in turn makes them afraid of multithreading. By understanding the trade-offs, you will be able to write code that works well in multithreaded applications, and you will not even have to think too much about it. You will just follow the rules.

The big picture in my opinion is this: You have an idea of a program you want to make. Let's suppose your specification is unambiguous -- if you would tell me, a human, what you want to do, I would be able to do exactly that program without giving you further question. Why can't a sufficiently smart compiler do this? I mean, this would be the ultimate form of programming. It would still be a programmer's duty to give an unambiguous description, but beyond that, anything you do, is merely compensating for imperfections of today's programming languages. (Also, if your description is not unambiguous, a good compiler should tell you that.)

Think about it. Not just like "yeah, I also wish programming was easier", but instead as someone who decided to create such perfect programming language; someone who is ready to do that hard job in the following decades. What problems would you have to solve? Let's ignore parsing natural language; suppose there is a formal syntax and the programmers have to follow it. What you want to avoid is forcing programmers to write unnecessary code; the code that does not contribute to their goals, but is required to solve some technical problem imposed by your language.

For example, let's suppose that you have a list of numbers, and you want to get a list of squares of these numbers. From {10, 20, 30} you want {100, 400, 900}. Compare the following solutions in pseudocode:

1)

a list of (X * X) for X in {10, 20, 30}

2)

a new empty list of integers called L
for each X in {10, 20, 30}:
...  append X * X to L  

3)

for brevity, {10, 20, 30} will be called Z
an integer called N, initially zero
a new list of integers called L, with the same size as Z
while N is smaller than size of Z:
... X is the N-th element of Z
... put X * X into N-th position of L
... increase N by one

The first approach is Python or Perl, the second one is Java, and the third one is C or Basic. All of the pseudocodes were written to accomplish the same goal, but what a difference there is in legibility! (JavaScript would be somewhere between the first and second one; it supports both styles.)

The first one says what needs to be done. The second one must first create an empty list, and then process the values in the existing list, because it lacks brief idioms for converting lists to lists. It's actually worse than it seems: for example, in the second example, the items in the list must be processed sequentially. Imagine that instead of "X X" you would have a difficult function that takes a whole minute to compute. Luckily, you also have three processors available. The first program, hypothetically, could let each processor compute the function for one item (the calculations for individual items are independent), and then put the results together, so the whole computation would only take one minute. But the second program must process the items sequentially, otherwise the "append" commands could be executed in a wrong order. The third program specifies so much it is difficult to see what exactly was the intention* of the programmer -- imagine reading thousands of lines like this.

So, if you want to make a perfect programming language, you should have good idioms for list processing (how about other data structures? which ones? could you devise a fully general approach?), and it would be nice if it could recognize where to use multithreading, so you don't have to write it specifically. This is already rather difficult and we have only touched the surface.

comment by Strangeattractor · 2015-06-21T04:47:32.318Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Learning to program is easier if there is someone you can discuss things with in person. Is there a person or a group near where you are located that you could spend time with?

If not, there are places on the internet, such as Stack Overflow, to ask for programming help.

That would be my recommendation. Find a community. Or, a person.

comment by Elo · 2015-06-22T03:04:08.980Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for this suggestions; I have a number of brilliant programming friends. Its about time I upskilled my programming ability.

I am trying to very delicately ask help at the right times to various people without asking for too much from any one person.

One of the problems I am having is that a task that might take me 5 hours could be done by someone with the skills in under 30 minutes. If I were to achieve the creation (of the app) at the cost of all else; It would be fastest to ask one of my skilled friends to do it for me. But then I don't gain any skills, and pretty soon my friends get sick of me asking favours.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-17T11:03:14.788Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I am not really sure what you are asking here, maybe a rewording could help. But let me add something else. I remember the huge holy wars on Reddit 10 years ago about various programming paradigms, object-oriented being one and functional the other and so on. While today OOP is incredibly popular and widespread, it has its own drawbacks. Detractors say it was mainly made for simulation and it is very easy to get lost in simulational, "what is what" type of problems like X is an subclass of Y or Z, what is the proper type for something or things like that, so these structural issue, instead of doing what programming is arguably about: writing algorithms to process data. Of course I don't want to start those debates over, I just want to say OOP is generally as simulational paradigm. Or you could say OOP is a map. And sometimes simulational approaches are an overkill, and sometimes not the best idea. This was for example one anti-OOP article: http://steve-yegge.blogspot.com/2006/03/execution-in-kingdom-of-nouns.html

My programs are not very complicated, but it is suprising how far I can get with plain simple basic structural programming paradigm. This means basic types, basic data structures like arrays or hashes, and functions that process them. Adding a bit of a functional programming paradigm i.e. instead of looping over arrays, mapping a function or lambda function to them takes it even further.

My point is that one decision is to be done really early: am I more or less simulating something? Then OOP. Am I trying to massage some input data into a different form of output data? Probably structural with a bit of functional does it. If the language itself is OOP like Java, structural programming largely means using public static classes as functional libraries, not instantiating them, just calling their methods as functions. int four = Math.add(2,2) type of approach, that is what is generally called structural here, where the class is just a function library.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-16T16:34:52.042Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

People who hang out with a lot of high-brow people e.g. Bay Area, what are the general trends of sports, exercise and active hobbies? People still do the more repetitive, kinda boring kinds like lifting or running, or they go in the direction of fsck that, you only live once, get your exercise from some fun activity like disc golfing or rollerblading or whatever? What are the trending sporty activities that have a good exercise value and a good self-confidence value as well in high-brow circles? To give a good example of the later, martial arts and dancing tends to be confidence boosters, the first in general and the second sexually, but they are so obvious that anyone knows them, I figure these high-IQ Silicon Valley places have already figured out highly optimized activities that are fun like playing soccer, make you ripped like a convict, make you proud like a boxer and feel sexy like a slick tango dancer? This was done, or not yet? Or generally, what is trending in these circles?

comment by Lumifer · 2015-06-16T16:57:46.153Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What do you want to optimize for? ("everything" is not a good answer)

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-17T05:06:22.903Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Everything :) It is not a good answer if we are about inventing something very new, but my secret hope is reinvent something very old, something that really fits out biological natures but was lost during civilization, and thus solves a lot of problems at once, a lot of problems that all stem of not living in an ancestral env. So I am thinking about somethng as fun as soccer, as fit making as deadlifts, as proud making as boxing and as sexy feeling as tango. Because I am hoping when we are not having fun, are not being fun, being timid or not feeling it will turn out it all comes from not living an ancestral life yet that can be simulated.

I understand it is a bit unlikely, as evolution does not optimze for having made a perfect golden age. But there is a small chance humans did i.e. 100K years ago with similar brain sizes but far simpler env, far fewer variables, they figured ways to live happy, fit, sexy, proud etc.

I mean how else can soccer be so much fun or dancing so sexy etc. if they do not tap into something in the brain that is really old? I don't think they simply overstimulate circuits made for something else, maybe yes, but that is not the only option, the other option is that there were some ur-activities they all derive from.

So there is a hope that this is only a reinvention, hence the "everything".

Even if it not a reinvention, optimizing for "everything" can still be salvaged if we show most elements are synergistic.

Finally, it is about what they are optimizing for, not me. Hence the question what is trending.

comment by Bryan-san · 2015-06-17T16:11:05.191Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know anything about high-brow circles, but I am a big fan of swordfighting and weapon martial arts and would suggest trying that out. There's been some resurfacing of the pasttime/art/practice in historical recreation groups though I got interested in it after getting a quarter of the way through Musashi's Book of Nine Spheres and reading his assertion that it would be impossible to understand his book without practicing swordfighting yourself.

I've tried out rapier-fencing and kali stick fighting (a stick in each hand) and have found it very intellectually stimulating. It's also been interesting to explore the areas of my personality and body that involve high physical activity, mobility, agression, and composure under pressure. Fighting effectively while using a weapon in each hand has been described to me as similar to a combination of chess and tennis. (I don't think it's quite that difficult, but I'm also not the best swordfighter in the world nor do I practice against said greatest swordfighters.)

Exposure to stimuli that add additional perspectives to everyday life helps as well. Real pressure in life doesn't involve a spreadsheet deadline. It involves an angry large human attempting to painfully whack you over the head with a large stick (a remarkably refreshing experience) and attempting to deal with that situation as optimally as possible.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-17T18:59:34.854Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

HEMA/longsword/Fiore/Marozzo.com/Liechtenauer/Wiktenauer.com/hroarr.com? That stuff?

I think it ranks insanely high on the fun level but does it do anything for fitness, self-confidence or feeling sexy?

Also, have you tried empty-handed martial arts like boxing, wing chun, karate or bjj? How would you are empty-hand vs. weapon on these four axes: fun, fitness, feeling confident, feeling sexy?

comment by Bryan-san · 2015-06-18T17:17:01.939Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

HEMA/Fiore is the rapier-fencing stuff that I've been doing. I've enjoyed learning footwork from the more formal setting I've found with the rapier people I know.

The other stuff I've done (which makes up the majority) is more freestyle rattan dual-wielding and freestyle shinai fighting that uses a mix of japanese fighting (less kendo, more musashi), filipino stick fighting, and some HEMA twohanded sword fighting (this stuff is weird). This resembles the dogbrothers videos more than anything else (although we both don't wear much padding and don't hit anywhere near as hard as we could).

I've tried brazilian jiu-jitsu with a focus on very close sparring but I didn't enjoy it very much at all and found it to have limited usefulness. I don't think the place I went to gave very good instruction or had the right focus.

I would rate the above as follows:

Rattan dual-wielding fun 10 (12 if i can go above 10 in the 1-10 scale), fitness 8, feeling confident 9 , feeling sexy 8?,

Rapier fighting fun 7, fitness 6, feeling confident 3 , feeling sexy 6? (dressing in armor probably contributes for 4 points and the other 2 are from actual rapier fencing)

shinai fighting fun 6, fitness 5, feeling confident 4, feeling sexy 3

brazilian jiu-jitsu (unoptimized dojo) fun 1, fitness 3, feeling confident 2, feeling sexy 0

Rattan (kali stick) dual wielding wins by a large margin and is probably the most fun thing I do in my life. It accomplishes the all-important task among sports of creating a strong cardio and muscular activity that is fun to the point that you will do it for hours on end. It has also taught me a great deal about myself physically and about states of mind that I can use to achieve higher functionality when necessary. It has strongly boosted my confidence and gives a strong sense of physical empowerment (you might call this "feeling sexy"?) that has been a refreshing change in my life.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-29T08:09:03.261Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This is fairly awesome. I was actually speculating something like this. For some reason, I feel fencing / armed fighting is "more natural" than unarmed martial arts. This makes no sense - I think it is far more likely that it has no biological basis but simply a specific application of human generic intelligence / tool-using, I don't think have evolved specific circuits for beating things with sticks in a skillful way. Yet, it does feel exactly so. I cannot really tell why, maybe just the effect of too many movies, but it does feel so that a human was "born" for holding a sword much more than for making a fist.

May I ask what makes rattan dual wielding so special? From a fitness point of view, they are lighter than metal weapons / feders ? And what makes it more fun? Is it the coordination thing? From my limited experience, I don't really like that kind of one-handed fencing where I put the other hand behing my back, it is not natural at all. But holding a buckler, or using a two-handed longsword that feels natural enough. I never tried dual-wielding. What it is really like?

comment by Bryan-san · 2015-07-02T05:13:00.279Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Whoops. Forgot to post this:

Dual wielding is strange, cumbersome, uncomfortable, and amazing since all of its starting flaws decrease as you build proficiency over time.

Dual wielding requires coordination and ambidexterity but you build both of them as you practice regularly. I do practice swings with both arms every day independently and then together. When you dual wield you need to be a proficient fighter with each arm independently and with both arms together. When you fight you need to be able to (attack-left defend-right), (attack-right defend-left), (attack-left attack-right), and (defend-left defend-right) with each mode all being the same mode and switched in between seemlessly. This is harder and easier than it sounds. It also has major psychological benefits when fighting someone since any sort of "mode" that gets adjusted to can throw them off significantly when you switch to another.

Idealy every movement involves both arms simultaneously. However,i'm not quite there yet so there's a lot of switching between which arm is my attacking arm (with the other defending) back and forth. (With both arms attacking occasionally or when there's an opening, of course.)

Dual wielding has a reduction in reach compared to a twohanded weapon but it also provides you a constant extra source of defending yourself and harming an opponent which most competent fighters will approriately be very careful against.

The actual experience of fighting with two weapons at once is likely beyond my abilities to describe. It's quite different from everything I've put in my posts and may be very different for me than it would be for you.

comment by Bryan-san · 2015-06-30T15:33:46.021Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Rattan dual wielding is more fun for me personally and complex in a way that is really fun. Kali stick fighting (which i have only learned informally) is interesting because it uses the rattan sticks as a practice weapon that can easily be replaced with something more dangerous (mace, axe, sword, etc.) or anything that you happen to find around you when you need it (pipe, stick, glass bottle, etc.). It builds coordination, control of your off-hand, and allows for a lot of creativity.

The rattan sticks are useful instead of a metal stick due to their light weight, grip, and how easily they bounce off of other rattan sticks. (They also have a very satisfying sound.) Lots of the practice drills i've done involve both people using them and executing repeated patterns (occasionally with slight deviations) over and over and over until you fully engrain the response in System 1 and can do it as an immediate reaction to a given stimuli.

Lots of things make it more fun than the fencing for me(which i haven't done as much of). The extreme coordination, sensation of slashing rather than stabbing, and the strange moves i've learned to do with them are really fun. The creativity, spontaneity, the flow of body movements and impacts, the mental reactions, psychological warfare on the person opposite you (learning how to terrify people with a look or yell is fun), and entire experience is awesome.

The fencing that I've done was more historical in nature rather than modern fencing. It used a rapier and a dagger rather than just a single foil. I don't know if I'd reccomend fencing with a foil. It looks interesting but kind of boring. (I would likely learn it just to know how, but not want to do it often.)

Dual-wielding itself is strange. I will have to write more about it a bit later.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-06-17T14:46:53.415Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I am not a big fan of noble savage theory. Seems to me the lives of ancient humans were more likely to be "solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short" than "happy, fit, sexy, proud". There are still some stone-age tribes around, you can take a look :-/

Going back to sport, there are some primal crossfit versions which basically try to emulate prehistoric "exercise" -- you run, but not on roads or trails, you lift, but boulders instead of iron, you carry logs, climb trees, etc.

However I think you're mixing up different things. There's a hardwired pleasure in movement (which many people managed to suppress quite successfully nowadays); there is the competition aspect into which competitive sports like soccer (or boxing) plug into; there is the general fit = sexy linkage, so weightlifting is popular; and dancing is either pleasure in movement or foreplay with clothes on. You are not going to find a single activity which satisfies everything in here.

comment by gjm · 2015-06-17T15:24:50.212Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There are still some stone-age tribes around, you can take a look :-/

At this point, any tribe still living anything like a stone-age lifestyle is ipso facto very unusual and so shouldn't be expected to be representative of actual stone-age lifestyles back in the Stone Age when everyone was living them.

(This remark is not original to me; I have a vague feeling I saw it years ago in a book by C S Lewis.)

comment by Lumifer · 2015-06-17T15:44:06.580Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

A fair point, though I'm not sure I accept it fully. Yes, certain groups of people progressed to civilization while other groups did not. That, on the face of it, makes them different. However the jump to the conclusion that their lifestyle (and the degree of happiness and sexiness) back in the stone-age days was significantly different looks very tenuous to me.

comment by gjm · 2015-06-17T16:20:39.148Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That conclusion would be both too confident and in the wrong direction. The right conclusion would be: We aren't entitled to much confidence that other groups, back in the Stone Age, had lifestyles similar to theirs now.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-06-17T16:37:07.636Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Hm. At this point I think we'll need to distinguish lifestyle which is observable patterns of behaviour, and intangibles like "happy and proud".

We clearly don't have a clue about those intangibles (other than what we know about generic baseline humans) since we have any data. But lifestyle is largely determined by your surroundings and your technology. If you live, say, in the veldt (like the Bushmen) or in the tropical forest (like the Andamanese) and only have stone-age technology, there isn't much variation on the lifestyle available.

comment by gjm · 2015-06-17T22:22:29.915Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

lifestyle is largely determined by your surroundings and your technology

The same surroundings and technology could be compatible with hunting/gathering or primitive agriculture. With a rigid social structure where everyone has a precisely defined and immutable place or with near-frictionless social mobility. With a society obsessively dedicated to serving and placating ancestral spirits or one unencumbered by such superstitions. With nuclear families, or extended families of several dozen living together, or no overt family structure at all (though the latter is probably psychologically unrealistic). With a culture of working as hard as possible in order to accumulate status-enhancing possessions, or one of doing the least possible and enjoying one's leisure. Etc., etc., etc.

In any case, the point at issue actually was intangibles like "happy and proud", no?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-17T15:41:52.139Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I am not a big fan of it either, but I see a non-zero chance that same brains with simpler environments can sometimes ponder or experiment with some problems more.

Any people who are still in stone age should be considered automatically huge outliers.

Now, as for sports, just from the top of my mind, competitive acrobatic dancing e.g. womens pole dancing would easily satisfy a large chunk of it. This is why I think there is a potential to optimize it.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-06-17T16:00:09.912Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I see a non-zero chance that same brains with simpler environments can sometimes ponder or experiment with some problems more.

Um, the general rule is that simpler environments lead to simpler brains. I don't buy the whole "the current life is making us crazy" argument. Put someone smart in a very simple environment (e.g. an exile to a small village in the boonies) and while there is a non-zero chance he'll write a genius book, I'll bet on him becoming an alcoholic or sinking into the general dumbness.

womens pole dancing

It's not a sport, it's an occupation with the goal of making men stuff money into your underwear X-)

If you want a high-status full-body-development sport, try kite surfing.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-17T19:12:58.588Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you want a high-status full-body-development sport, try kite surfing.

Lumi, you are smarter than this, you must be trolling me now :)

Kitesurfing is a textbook example of the high-investment extreme sports that require the right location, expensive equipment, right weather, high pre-existing fitness and so on. It is not a generic applicable routine.

As a comparison, basketball requires a hoop, a ball, and at least one opponent. It has far more capability there, to be become a universal exercise sport.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-06-17T19:23:58.180Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Let me point out that you didn't ask for a "universal exercise sport". You asked for what kind of fun sport do "high-brow people e.g. Bay Area" do and kite-surfing is a valid answer to this question.

As a low-investment alternative, try parkour? :-)

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-17T19:36:49.718Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This sounds good, actually. Is it popular there?

comment by Lumifer · 2015-06-17T19:46:29.120Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's an urban youth sport with a strong counterculture vibe. Not very beloved by authorities and property owners :-/

A bigger problem is that you're guaranteed cuts and bruises, with broken bones not a particularly unlikely outcome.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-17T19:05:51.086Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Put someone smart in a very simple environment (e.g. an exile to a small village in the boonies) and while there is a non-zero chance he'll write a genius book, I'll bet on him becoming an alcoholic or sinking into the general dumbness.

Or a Buddha / Zen masta :) Let's face it we both are speculating here. There is no evidence either way.

It's not a sport, it's an occupation with the goal of making men stuff money into your underwear X-)

Yeah maybe try to stick to forming opinions about things you actually know about :) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Or-rf8jTvqE

comment by Lumifer · 2015-06-17T19:17:49.964Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There is no evidence either way.

Of course there is. Sending inconvenient (and sometimes smart) people into exile to the far corner of nowhere has been a pretty standard way of doing things at least since the Romans. I am not aware of any study which tried to systematize evidence, but there is data.

As to your video, I would call it "performance art with athletic elements" :-P

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-17T16:26:22.005Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's not a sport, it's an occupation with the goal of making men stuff money into your underwear X-)

That's not true. There are people who do pole dancing as recreational sport.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-17T19:07:39.975Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

For some reason people are often surprised when I link this :) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Or-rf8jTvqE

Says a lot about prejudices and all too fixed priors :)

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-17T23:09:38.947Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I am not a big fan of it either, but I see a non-zero chance that same brains with simpler environments can sometimes ponder or experiment with some problems more.

If you believe that your rain dance has to please the rain god, you won't optimize your rain dance for muscle building or other physical benefits.

It will also be less effective for other people who copy the rain dance without believing in it's significance.

Now, as for sports, just from the top of my mind, competitive acrobatic dancing e.g. womens pole dancing would easily satisfy a large chunk of it. This is why I think there is a potential to optimize it.

Pole dancing isn't ergonomic. It's bad for joints. It doesn't train good movement habits.

If you want acrobatic dancing there's Zouk. Outside of regulated ballroom dances that have rules about feet touching the ground stage dancing also involves a lot of acrobatics.

From your list of goals I don't think "Feeling proud" is a worthwhile goal. It's better than feeling angry but I don't consider it to a clearly positive emotion.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-18T08:04:23.472Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Pole dancing isn't ergonomic. It's bad for joints. It doesn't train good movement habits.

It does not differ too much from standard gymnastics, rings, bars, horse, vault etc. And while I am not sure what makes movement habits good or bad, to me gymnasts look like the kind of people who have perfected the mastery over the body.

From your list of goals I don't think "Feeling proud" is a worthwhile goal. It's better than feeling angry but I don't consider it to a clearly positive emotion.

Healthy level of self-confidence then. "Nerdy" people tend to have far lower than what is healthy. Social anxiety etc.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-18T11:40:22.265Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It does not differ too much from standard gymnastics, rings, bars, horse, vault etc.

Rings are not the same thing as a static pole. Rings move. A pole doesn't.

Having perfect mastery over your body when you are 25 isn't worth having joint issues when you are 50.

But let's look at Svetlana Khorkina who's the top female medalists at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships. The first interview I find is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaJ92uuKjpo . She has little body movement while talking. I think she's simply trained to lock body movement instead of allowing her body to move freely.

Healthy level of self-confidence then.

Proudness is a real emotion and there are people who seek it. Do you understand why I might object to that?

Social anxiety etc.

Once you identify that issue as important a social sport is better than a competitive solo sport.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-18T13:50:08.733Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Proudness is a real emotion and there are people who seek it. Do you understand why I might object to that?

No, unfortunately not. Can you give a real or hypothetical negative example of proudness? I am very much used to everybody being far too timid.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-06-18T16:03:11.867Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Proudness = pride = one of the seven deadly sins in Christianity = antonym of humble, humility.

Maybe you mean self-confidence?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-18T14:34:12.821Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

No, unfortunately not.

Then you shouldn't simply switch to a different word in discussions like this and basically ignore the point of the argument.

I am very much used to everybody being far too timid.

Timid is not the opposite of proudness. It's the opposite of being timid is being confident. Proudness is "Stolz" in German.

Both feeling loved by other people and feeling proud come with being confident.
The person who optimizes for feeling loved usually plays positive sum games while the person who optimizes for feeling proud plays zero sum games.

The hugging at LWCW-EU makes people feel loved. It raises the social confidence of everybody involved. On the other hand someone who comes out of the event feeling proud that he hugged 50 different people is doing everything wrong.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-06-17T12:09:26.689Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

as fun as soccer, as fit making as deadlifts, as proud making as boxing and as sexy feeling as tango

... swimming? It never gets old.

comment by listic · 2015-06-19T18:50:41.136Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Way better for me; tango and soccer are practically dead to me; swimming is fun.

OTOH if you optimize for fitness benefits, I am almost sure swimming is not optimal: e.g. cardio training and weight lifting should be better.

You should really figure out what you wish to optimize for. If you want to optimize for 'everything' you should be fine doing 'anything' that looks like it helps it.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-06-17T13:29:20.983Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

100K years ago with similar brain sizes but far simpler env, far fewer variables, they figured ways to live happy, fit, sexy, proud etc.

I doubt that such a paradise has ever existed. Happy? Fit? Sexy? Proud? Maybe "fit" can be estimated from the fossil record (what does it say?) but for the rest, how would we know?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-17T14:18:44.924Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't find it very probable either, it is just a hope, that if people of similar brain sizes were not overwhelmed by a hugely complex social environment they could figure out a few things we so far didn't.

I mean... do we have any explanation how could people 2500 years ago figure out things we often find insightful even today, such as Buddhism? I would say, it was simply because had a simpler environment and thus could dig deeper in a few things. Could reflect more. Perhaps.

comment by Viliam · 2015-06-17T19:49:31.736Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

do we have any explanation how could people 2500 years ago figure out things we often find insightful even today, such as Buddhism?

Not sure what exactly needs explanation here.

How could people 2500 years ago have insights about life? I guess the same way they do today.

Why do we find those insights interesting? Probably selection bias: those insights that were too culture-dependent were already forgotten, only the more universal ones remained.

Yeah, some people had life simple enough, so they could spend their time meditating about stuff. For example those born in royal families.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-16T07:46:27.165Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

this was an unhelpful comment, removed and replaced by this comment

comment by Elo · 2015-06-19T01:21:18.487Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In kinda answer to your question;

Background: I run a lesswrong group - we are not on meetup. I have run other groups in the past and attend several groups as well.

From another LW group; and something I take to be true; (from the inside of a group) meetup seems to cross promote your group to many many people; whether they are relevant people or not; is not up to meetup to deal with. They then show up; and realise that they are not quite the target; then leave. In the mean-time your group gets diluted while the meetup-style deluge of people appear and disperse.

happen less often than I have expected. From personal experience; trying out a group once does not equal permanent commitment; its worth trying once; if only to see who the are in your town and decide it is in fact worth avoiding them.

From a cost/benefit or utilons perspective; you are burning a few hours for a range of opportunities including meeting new people; finding new good things and learning new things.

comment by TrE · 2015-06-16T14:37:04.598Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

How do you know meetups all meetups attract "losers"? What is - to you - the defining characteristic of such "losers"? How certain are you that your personal experience with one kind of meetup generalizes well to all meetups? How do you know there are fewer or no losers elsewhere, e.g. on the internet?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-17T06:51:10.074Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

this was an unhelpful comment, removed and replaced by this comment

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-17T10:13:16.701Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

By loser, I'm referring to anyone of many negative classes of people in my personal view.

Mind reading over the internet doesn't work well. It's not clear what kind of people do you consider to belong to negative classes.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-17T18:47:45.494Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not expecting you to be clear on that either, just to accept it. I could make it clear, it would just be more effort than I can forsee a worthwhile return on.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-06-16T14:47:27.480Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You seem to have problems with the concept of "losers" in general :-/

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-06-16T17:26:07.325Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The word get's used by different people for different purposes. One person might say "loser" to mean nerdy people with low social skills. Another might say "loser" to mean people who don't have well paying jobs or the prospect of getting them after finishing university.

It's hard to know what someone else means with the term.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-06-17T10:43:15.075Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I think it usually means "people lower status than me" :-)

comment by TrE · 2015-06-16T18:07:35.294Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Exactly - the term's quite loosely defined.

comment by Elo · 2015-06-19T01:15:14.905Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

meta: I neutralised the downvote here but in future you can probably find a way to be more delicate than the use of the word "loser". I understand the sentiment; but maybe there are better words.

Socially inept (genuinely socially inept)

Also there is probably a specific branch of loser that you are avoiding more than others; I for one can tolerate some loser-ish behaviours for limited periods of time. i.e. addictive personalities, a trait I avoid surrounding myself with; but can live with if thats an orthogonal trait to a group I am visiting.