Open thread, 18-24 August 2014

post by David_Gerard · 2014-08-18T16:55:33.828Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 81 comments

Previous open thread

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.

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

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


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by iceman · 2014-08-22T01:40:30.396Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Vitalik Buterin, one of the guys behind Ethereum, talks about the positives and negatives of futarchy, and how digital autonomous organizations (corporations that live on the blockchain) could use them as a system of governance.

comment by Metus · 2014-08-20T19:45:55.121Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am trying to manage my information intake. The problem is that I spend way too much time reading meaningless or useless drivel on hacker news, lesswrong, reddit and finally my RSS feeds. So far I came up with two possible interventions:

  • Reduce the total amount of information to take in by removing meaningless content or comments
  • Increase speed of intake through automated summaries and/or speed reading

I am sure other people around here ran into a similar problem, so I post here. The latter point seems feasible, especially the speed reading part. Automated summaries for news stories seem to work reasonably well. The former point is somewhat more complicated. I could use the end of the week or month and some kind of social aggregation process to filter out the daily and weekly noise to get to the signal. Problem is that especially Reddit does not work very well for that.

The current idea is to have relevant reading material sent to my kindle with no possibility to get lost in related content, constant refreshing and ongoing discussions in the comments. Psychological factors influencing the process are fear of missing some information and stimulation of the seeking system because of the jagged rewards while browsing social media. A good technical filter would level the reward and thus supress the inner gambler.

comment by Emile · 2014-08-20T21:07:31.750Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Some stuff I did in that direction:

  • Installed RescueTime to track where I spend time. I hardly never check the dashboard so I don't think it's very effective.

  • I avoid having too many tabs open. If I need to look something up, I open a new window, do a search and maybe open a few tabs, and then close the whole window, so I'll rarely have lingering half-finished stuff to look at again.

  • On Reddit, my default settings only show posts for the latest months, so in the few subreddits I follow regularly, there'll rarely be new things (and I avoid at looking at other kinds of feed like new or the front page), and I don't worry about missing things. This doesn't make visiting reddit very rewarding, but that's a feature :)

  • I do regularly cull low quality stuff from my RSS feeds, so I rarely have that much

  • I never check RSS feeds at work (and rarely check personal mail or lesswrong)

  • I occasionally do pomodoros (not a fully ingrained habit yet), which works on getting myself to stay focused.

  • I have no fear of "missing some information", that's just silly, in ten years I don't think my life will be changed because I didn't read a blog post or some news. Most journalism is a waste of time anyway, reading wikipedia or textbooks is more effective.

comment by Metus · 2014-08-20T21:19:09.858Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
  • Installed RescueTime to track where I spend time. I hardly never check the dashboard so I don't think it's very effective.

Did the same with the same result. It falls under the category of information that is easy to gather but I don't base actions on, so it is useless in the literal sense.

  • On Reddit, my default settings only show posts for the latest months, so in the few subreddits I follow regularly, there'll rarely be new things (and I avoid at looking at other kinds of feed like new or the front page), and I don't worry about missing things. This doesn't make visiting reddit very rewarding, but that's a feature :)

I could block Reddit completely and send the top posts from the week to my kindle on a weekly basis. Though blocking websites usually doesn't help me.

*I do regularly cull low quality stuff from my RSS feeds, so I rarely have that much

The problem here is that I don't have low quality feeds, but that they are not high quality in regular fashion, meaning that I sometimes get good content. Though I imagine I could look for substitute streams that are more consistent in their quality and/or figure out a way to filter the noise.

  • I occasionally do pomodoros (not a fully ingrained habit yet), which works on getting myself to stay focused.

That I will have to try. But it does not seem like they solve a problem I have, namely wasting my time on consuming information I actually don't care about.

  • I have no fear of "missing some information", that's just silly, in ten years I don't think my life will be changed because I didn't read a blog post or some news. Most journalism is a waste of time anyway, reading wikipedia or textbooks is more effective.

I regularly get great information from lesswrong, reddit, hacker news and my RSS feeds, which seems to be the exact problem. Cutting it all out completely and replacing it with textbooks and wikipedia seems too extreme.

comment by ancientcampus · 2014-08-23T17:59:29.198Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Installed RescueTime to track where I spend time. I hardly never check the dashboard so I don't think it's very effective.

Did the same with the same result. It falls under the category of information that is easy to gather but I don't base actions on, so it is useless in the literal sense.

I also had the same experience. I couldn't have phrased the above better.

comment by shminux · 2014-08-19T18:34:27.996Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If a LW admin feels like banning the ishi bot for failing the Turing test, by all means.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2014-08-19T19:39:14.748Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Here's betting ishi is human. It takes a meat brain to be that particular flavor of inarticulate.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-08-21T23:15:09.463Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It doesn't look to me like human inarticulation.

Take funny sentence from the DC meetup introduction:

according to Cantor, there are more irrationals than rationals

Mistaking irrational numbers for irrational humans is not something that a meat brain is likely to do accidently.

comment by gjm · 2014-08-22T12:40:14.627Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I disagree. It could be a joke, or it could be the result of a kind of "magical thinking" whose perpetrator knows that in principle they're entirely separate concepts but is convinced that the commonality of names must be significant, or it could simply be the result of very shallow thinking -- reading lots of things, picking up key words but not really understanding them. The latter two shade into one another.

I think (but realise I am not sure on what basis, so it may be rubbish) that this sort of failure mode is not uncommon for people with some kinds of mental illness. And I think (but again am not sure why) it's not uncommon among pseudoscientific/pseudomathematical cranks of the sort who send letters in green ink to eminent mathematicians asking them to look at this wonderful new proof that pi = 3 exactly, which also leads to a simple proof of Fermat's Last Theorem and reveals how to travel faster than light.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-08-22T13:46:07.589Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It could be a joke

It takes some skill to be able to joke on that level. Someone who thinks that names a significant usually has more seriousness in their writing.

comment by gjm · 2014-08-22T15:06:15.171Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am unconvinced, but there seems little value in merely airing our prejudices at one another.

At present, ishi's "overview" page contains a single comment, to do with the use of IQ to predict life outcomes. (From Why the tails come apart.) If you read this, I think it's very apparent that it's not something a computer would have produced. It's very badly written, for sure, but there's something resembling a coherent argument there, of the sort that you just never get from chatbot-like programs unless they're effectively copy-pasting whole comments from other people. (Which in this instance ishi's comment isn't.)

Or take the first comment currently on ishi's comments page. The first paragraph says: ishi's background is X, whereas the AI community (including LW) uses words in different ways. The second paragraph begins: "So it's almost like I'm reading a code or cipher". Again, this sort of coherence is really unusual in computer-generated text.

To be sure, ishi's writing is not very coherent compared with that of many human beings whose writing (and, I'm fairly sure, thinking) skills are better. I suspect schizophrenia or something of the kind. But it's orders of magnitude beyond what I would expect from a computer.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2014-08-22T20:50:52.763Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

OK, we all agree ishi's writing style is a headscratcher, but the subcomments are quickly degenerating into bullying. This is a human being we don't even know, and look at us happily speculating on hir thinking skills and sanity.

Actually, it now appears to me that the insults started at the first comment, when hir humanity was put into question and we accepted it was a valid discussion topic. Getting involved in seemingly interesting puzzles without pausing to consider how our words may hurt people "has been the fate of many a Ravenclaw."

Therefore, I'm retracting my previous participation in this discussion.

comment by shminux · 2014-08-22T21:04:44.255Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

subcomments are quickly degenerating into bullying

I respectfully submit that you use this term in a noncentral way:

Cyberbullying is the use of information technology to harm or harass other people in a deliberate, repeated, and hostile manner.

Specifically, there was no harassment. Whether ishi has suffered harm as a result of this thread is unclear at best, and certainly no harm was intended by any of the commenters, even assuming ishi is human.

Please consider tempering your allegations next time you feel indignant.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2014-08-22T21:21:29.104Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'll just link to this and I'm done.

comment by dthunt · 2014-08-22T22:08:07.647Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh, wow, that's where this uniform protest against making guesses about mental states comes from? It's actually written into their ethical guidelines?

I don't understand this. Is there some obvious or non-obvious reason for psychiatrists not to guess at mental states out loud, beyond the obvious one where people might listen to your opinions?

I don't get it.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2014-08-22T22:18:45.630Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If the doctor hasn't personally examined the person in question, any attempt at diagnosis is guesswork and has a great risk of damaging that person's reputation.

If the doctor has personally done the examination, he/she is bound by professional confidentiality.

If the one attempting to diagnose is not a doctor in the first place, he/she has no business speculating on other people's mental health, and there's still risk of damaged reputation.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2014-08-25T06:38:42.691Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It is bad for the reputation of psychiatry — and thus, people's willingness to go to psychiatrists when they would benefit from doing so — if psychiatrists use allegations of mental illness as a social or political stigma.

If you believed you might have a sexually transmitted disease, would you go to a doctor of a school that was known for speculating on how poxy or syphilitic various public figures were, as a way of saying those figures were bad and untrustworthy people?

comment by [deleted] · 2014-08-20T23:01:25.925Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I suspect this is the same "Ishi" that's been posting on the DC meetup mailing list. Here is their introduction, and they have a few other posts on the mailing list which are similarly incoherent. (They have not been to a meetup.)

comment by Stefan_Schubert · 2014-08-19T17:02:41.572Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm looking for simple and reliable tests of subjects' degree of political bias. I've found two such tests: a recent study by Kahan et al showing that subjects make systematic statistical errors benefitting their political views, and a 2006 Drew Westen study showing that people explain away self-contradictions from their own side, and that when they do so they use areas of the brains used to process emotions to a greater extent than whey they consider non-controversial self-contradictions. They are both interesting, but I'm looking for more. In particular, I'd like to find simple, cheap (brain imaging is ruled out) and reliable tests.

comment by satt · 2014-08-20T02:58:57.088Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Dan Kahan's other experimental work over the last 8 years or so probably has further useful ideas. Adapting tests from the heuristics & biases literature (e.g. this old review article) may also work, depending on what you wish to accomplish.

There is a potential pitfall in directly testing people's general knowledge on contested issues. People who score poorly on test questions about issue X could simply complain that the test designer is the one who's wrong about issue X, not themselves, and unless you're absolutely sure of the correct answers to the relevant questions yourself, you can't eliminate the possibility that the test is unfair. One way to skirt around this problem is to ask people about uncontested, well-established facts like election results in countries with relatively democratic reputations, or by asking people about things you know to be false because you made them up, like fake, exaggerated quotations from political figures.

comment by Stefan_Schubert · 2014-08-20T13:22:59.162Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Great! Thanks. Kahan's papers are very useful. In one paper he and his colleagues ask not whether some policy-relevant claim X (such as whether climate change is caused by human activities) is true, but rather whether expert scientists generally agree that X is true, or generally agree that X is false, or are divided. The latter is much easier to establish (conveniently, the US National Academy of Sciences publishes 'expert consensus reports' from which Kahan's examples are taken). As expected, people's beliefs match their political opinions in a suspicious manner: "hierarchical individualists" (roughly conservatives) tend to believe that there is no expert consensus on climate change being caused by humans even though there is, whereas very few "egalitarian communitarians" believe that there is an expert consensus on geological isolation of nuclear waste being safe, even though there is.

comment by Joshua_Blaine · 2014-08-22T01:35:24.575Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As I understand the situation, converting the main Sequences into a long series of short, well presented online videos would be awesome and a valuable resource (examples of the imagined format of such videos include the Youtube channels CGP Grey and CrashCourse) . I'm currently working on turning a Less Wrong post (The 1st 3rd of The Useful Idea of Truth) into one such video, and had a thought. Is it within the interests of either MIRI or CFAR to fund the production of video versions of Less Wrong posts? It's something I'm interested in starting dialogue about, as I'm significantly constrained by my existing position, and employment would be a huge help in getting better videos done faster.

Edit: Because I love teasers and hype, and I want to get some evidence out there that I do know what I'm doing, Here's a little taste of what I've got done already, in soundless HTML5 form. Just the 1st 14 seconds of the section of the video that explains the Sally-Anne Task.

comment by 2ZctE · 2014-08-24T22:47:00.235Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Agreed, these would be more shareable than lw posts.

I thought you were being a little too fancy with the kinetic style text. The added difficulty in reading it compared to something more linear and clean/minimal was small but enough to make it harder to read it and still watch the illustrations at the same time. That might just be my taste, I am the one asking about attention disorders downthread after all, and I don't want to take away from the fact that it's cool you're actually taking time to do something when it's far more common to just fling ideas out there (which is fine too).

comment by Joshua_Blaine · 2014-08-25T01:31:58.741Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm a little surprised I haven't gotten more complaints like that, actually. Anything to refine the look, feel, and overall usability of what I make is great to hear, so keep up the complaining! The final product will, however, be a video with a voice saying everything the kinetic text does, so hopefully the difficulty of reading is mitigated by the ability to listen instead/as well. Should that not be the case, it's very easy for me to do less elaborate text in future videos.

comment by 2ZctE · 2014-08-19T05:55:57.838Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I learned the phrase "sluggish cognitive tempo" recently and thought that the wikipedia seemed to described me. So I'm turning to the lw crowd wisdom to ask how legitimate of a diagnosis sct really is, and what I should be doing to try and meliorate these types of symptoms.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-08-19T10:22:49.659Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What do you mean with "legitimate"?

A diagnosis of a mental illness is just a clustering of symptoms. There nothing with makes one clustering inherently more "legitimate" than another.

You could call clusters of symptoms published in the DSM-V legitimate if you believe that the authority of the APA can give something legitimacy.

You could also say that tests for diagnosis that have high sensitivity and specificity where different doctors are going to give the same diagnosis, give that diagnosis legitimacy. Non expert diagnosis by someone who reads a Wikipedia page likely doesn't score well for that metric.

comment by 2ZctE · 2014-08-19T21:15:28.959Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah the question of how we decide what we call legitimate is of interest to me as well. Apparently (according to a wikipedia page that says at the top it needs cleanup) there's some debate over whether SCT is a real disorder, and I'm not sure what the criteria would be among its critics.

I could try phrasing it in a couple of ways: "How justified are we in treating this group of symptoms as a cluster?". Do well accepted symptom clusters like depression point to larger causes, or at least narrow it down to a few possibilities?

Are diagnoses "we can tell from [symptoms] you have [cluster] which we define by presence of [symptoms]" type tautologies or can you get any information out of them that you didn't already put in?

"What is a cognitive tempo, what does it mean for one to be sluggish?" The more clearly you can reduce it to brain function, the more "legitimate" it might be?

Okay, suppose I decide everyone with the symptoms "has trouble coordinating colors, picking up distinct sounds over other sounds, remembering faces" has "Feidlimid's Processing Disorder", which I just made up. Is there a sense in which "FPD" or being an "indigo child" are less legitimate than "ADD?" More reason to think a "real diagnosis's" traits are related to each other?

This question is less rhetorical than it probably sounds, I can remember venting to a psychiatrist that "depression is a description not an explanation and we still don't know what's wrong with me do we?"

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-08-20T14:25:01.105Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Apparently (according to a wikipedia page that says at the top it needs cleanup) there's some debate over whether SCT is a real disorder, and I'm not sure what the criteria would be among its critics.

In that debate a disorder is something that reduces effectiveness in daily life for people who are diagnosed with it. Fixing a disorder should improve people's daily lives. "Real" also means that it's not just an edge case of an existing disorder that's already in the book.

You also want the concept to pass some sanity checks. People diagnosed with the recently made up disorder of "internet addiction" for example didn't use the internet more than people without "internet addiction".

"What is a cognitive tempo, what does it mean for one to be sluggish?" The more clearly you can reduce it to brain function, the more "legitimate" it might be?

For that idea of "legitimate" our current way of diagnosing mental illnesses isn't legitimate. We made the categories we use today at a time before we knew much about the brain. Different people have different views about causes and the current system of labeling purposefully avoids focusing of causation. The DSM doesn't cite any studies that investigated real world causation to justify it's disease categories.

Are diagnoses "we can tell from [symptoms] you have [cluster] which we define by presence of [symptoms]" type tautologies or can you get any information out of them that you didn't already put in?

In practice that means that a psychologist gets payed by an insurance company to treat the disorder. Psychologist don't get payed for fixes something that's not in the DSM.

Drug are also tested on whether or not they treat a disease or disorder. Drugs only get FDA approval when the improve disorders.

If you take a drug to be happy and improve something that isn't a disorder that's illegal. If you take a drug to fix something that's recognized as a disorder, you are within the bounds of the law. At least that's the general idea.

I can remember venting to a psychiatrist that "depression is a description not an explanation and we still don't know what's wrong with me do we?"

Yes. But it's not clear that an explanation centered approach is helpful anyway. You don't get any benefit from having an explanation for being messed up. It might even be harmful because of self identity issues.

comment by 2ZctE · 2014-08-22T06:45:10.756Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks, clarifies things some, but I don't get why "messed up for [reason]" would be any worse for one's identity than "messed up".

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-08-22T07:02:13.976Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Humans behave in a way to validate their self image. If your self image is that you are an introvert, that reduces the likelihood that you will do things that you consider extroverted behavior.

There are studies where teachers were told randomly that some of their students are smart and other aren't. That's enough to make those students who teachers believe to be smart perform better as people live up to expectations.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-08-22T16:48:59.119Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wonder if there's been research into the details of what the teachers did-- more praise, more focused instruction, higher standards, more encouragement.....

And of course, whether the research has been replicated.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-08-22T21:00:42.702Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

And of course, whether the research has been replicated.

There are ethics problems with getting the study design approved again so no. But as far as I understand there a larger body of research that indicates that expectations have a large influence on behavior. I never digged into the actual papers, so if someone spent more time looking into the subject, I would also happy to hear about it.

comment by Nornagest · 2014-08-22T16:57:23.946Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My first guess would be "more charitable readings of their work". What's evidence of missing the point in someone you think of as an idiot might be evidence of a creative solution in someone you think of as a genius, and kids' answers are often ambiguous.

comment by dthunt · 2014-08-18T19:54:10.585Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've recently reconciled my behavior with my ethical intuition regarding eating animals, by way of deciding to alter my behavior and do some variation of "don't eat meat". I decided on this question long ago but did not act upon it.

I notice that there is very confusing information out there about what one should eat in order to avoid negative health impacts, and would like to read correct and useful articles on the subject, because I strongly desire to not be unhealthy. Do you have suggestions?

I am pragmatic. My intuition says that bone ash used to color certain food products has a relatively low cost (in sin-ons), and that there definitely are places I will make trades against sin-ons.

I also recognize that I would like a reasonably fast process to estimate sin-ons, and suggestions about highly impactful considerations (metabolic efficiency, things that might put various horrors on understandable scales) would be appreciated. Also, I am not sure that sin-ons is the word I am looking for as a measure of this sort of badness.

I have checked with my brain, and my brain has decided that cuteness does not particularly matter to it as a factor. Horse sashimi is delicious.

If you have things to say in favor of eating meat, please share them, and explain it to me as if I am a precocious 8 year old.

comment by Dentin · 2014-08-18T21:12:59.745Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Frozen salmon is good for you, keeps a long time in the freezer, is sustainable (at least in the US), and easy to cook. It is excellent in various kinds of soup and you don't even need to pre-cook it for that purpose - throw in a chunk and bring the soup to boiling. Poke the fish until it falls apart. Eat.

comment by dthunt · 2014-08-19T22:10:53.841Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think salmon is meat, but it might be one of the less bad things (don't know), and this is something I'll deliberately examine if it solves some health stuff.

comment by danieldewey · 2014-08-19T11:52:31.459Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am considering adding oysters and mussels to my vegetarian diet as a result of these two blog posts. I don't have Good Information about the nutritional problems that come from avoiding meat or the nutritional benefits of adding oysters and mussels, but it seems like a good way to hedge against deficiencies without spending too much research time, especially since I'm cutting down on eggs (Warning: unpleasant image of chicken having its beak clipped appears relatively high on that page).

That being said, I do consider this kind of thing to be "reconciling daily behaviours with abstract ethical beliefs" more than I consider it an effective form of altruism; it looks to me like poverty and the long-term future are much better places to invest Actual Altruistic Effort.

comment by dthunt · 2014-08-19T18:46:52.373Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Very much agree. The altruistic version of being a vegetarian warrior maybe looks like developing some fiendish scheme to make meat unpalatable to humans on a large scale. My reason for change is basically just that I recognized this conflict between my thinking and my behavior and it looked fairly, like, hypocritical to me.

Thanks for the helpful links!

comment by deschutron · 2014-08-22T03:43:55.353Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've known a couple of people who became vegetarians for a while and then changed to eating meat occasionally, saying that it was for health reasons. Apparently, they got weak or sick when they went a while without eating meat. And a lack of iron was part of it IIRC. Maybe you could try being a full vegetarian until you notice side effects. The side effects might be really subtle, but if you do have them and detect them then you can get a measure of how much meat you need to eat.

comment by dthunt · 2014-08-22T22:16:37.729Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, I see a lot of complications involving iron, b12, and a few other things.

I don't have some sort of moral absolute thing going on; I ought to be able to make a low-effort glance into the things I eat and pick a diet that closely matches my intuitions without sacrificing health, happiness, or undue money. Like if it turns out that beef is the most ethical meat, and that eggs are really horrible, then I might eat beef but not eggs, if they are just vastly better ways of getting things that are otherwise a complete PITA to acquire.

Most likely, though, I can get by with very minimal tradeoffs, or at least it looks that way.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-08-23T06:57:46.269Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I ought to be able to make a low-effort glance into the things I eat and pick a diet that closely matches my intuitions without sacrificing health, happiness, or undue money

I'm not sure what sense of "ought" you're using there, but that seems like you're expecting an implausibly cooperative universe. Your ethical intuitions might be in line with what you need for health, but they are only loosely affected by health considerations.

There's some pull towards ethics leading towards diets which are livable for a high proportion of people who follow them, but that's hardly a guarantee.

Warning: I eat meat, so this might be motivated reasoning. On the other hand, the health claims for vegetarianism also seem to me like motivated reasoning.

comment by dthunt · 2014-08-27T22:09:54.735Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Ought" meaning that I think it's highly unlikely that these calculations come out in such a close race that I don't have clear choices despite using low powered analysis. It might, but like, if the mussels thing looks very likely true, that for example would be a big differentiator over certain other products. Also, there is some variation between brain size and food value. If something IS a close call, there are lots of things that almost certainly are not. That's what I mean by "ought"

One person does not have a large effect on market; I suspect that most vegetarians are being unreal with themselves about the impact of their choices. You can point out a lot of these sorts of quirks about deliberate vegetarians (health claims you mentioned), which may be a sign that there is lots of motivated reasoning going on in that group.

I pretty much just want to make choices more consistent with my ethics or morals or whatever, and desire to do that with minimum effort.

comment by deschutron · 2014-08-23T23:57:11.723Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, but if you've never tried to be vegetarian before, then your fears of the downsides (bad health and not enjoying food, right?) might be out of proportion. Going fully vegetarian for a bit gives you a chance to get feedback from your body about it, and so help you determine your limit.

If you cut down your meat intake but stay high above the limit then you're causing some animal suffering for no significant gain. (I assume reducing animal suffering is the goal of your plan.)

I planned to this myself but I'm not doing it, because of issues with my SO.

comment by Deremensis · 2014-08-19T09:15:56.461Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Mind elaborating a bit for the curious? What is a "sin-on"? What led to your conclusions with regards to the ethics of eating meat? Seeing as I'm new here, I imagine it likely that there's been a discussion I've missed out on at some point.

comment by Adele_L · 2014-08-19T20:24:28.649Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think it's supposed to be a unit of sin.

comment by dthunt · 2014-08-19T22:09:08.551Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah. A bit tongue in cheek, utility is to utilon as sin is to sin-on.

It's like a very immature concept in my head and I'm still trying to map out what's hiding in there, but it seems useful to me at the moment to figure out what a sin-on is made of and figure out order-of-magnitude type detail about things, as a way of trying to make reasonably consistent choices.

comment by Deremensis · 2014-08-19T23:32:26.763Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hah. Makes sense, if a bit of a heavy endeavor to try to define on your own.

Mind elaborating on your reasoning for not eating meat? I'm not critical of the choice - yet :P - but I am curious!

comment by dthunt · 2014-08-20T00:34:27.219Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, not defining on my own. I'm deliberately asking a community of people who try to think about these sorts of things in clearer terms than normal about what sorts of considerations might be worth examining. Making a perfect objective suffering function doesn't seem hugely worthwhile for me; I just want to be able to make orders of magnitude comparisons because that's likely enough. [ed: on my necessarily messed up strange subjective human scale]

My core assumption is basically that some animals with brains have some degree of conscious experience, and can experience pain, discomfort, etc. I don't think these things necessarily are perfect 1:1 matches with what the human experience analogues look like (both in how they are experienced and how relatively important they are to me or to the animal) - but visual evidence looks compelling enough to me that this claim looks likely true. I would need to dig into the mechanics of pain or something to get a clearer picture around that assumption, which may be a useful thing to do.

I'm sure the conversation where two people argue about this already exists on LW, just have faith that I will in fact look for it and read it, I am not particularly interested in engaging on a discussion about qualia at the moment.

I think there are probably better versions of farming that could exist, that would both sit better with me on the silly levels that do not get a vote and on other levels that matter more (e.g. optimizing slaughtering to reduce pain or something). Inflicted pain is an example of a cost that is being applied to animals that can be improved upon. There are other things like that that make farming meat objectionable to me.

On some gut level this actually matters to me. I have some amount of empathy for at least a lot of non-human animals, and whether a human has been involved in some transaction seems to make it matter more to me.

It might be possible that there's a version of meat farming that doesn't suck from my perspective. Like, if cows just dropped dead on their own accord after living reasonably good lives, and were immediately harvested, and that was somehow still excellent meat, that would probably have a large impact on how I looked at things. Is that substantially different than eating engineered vat meat? I'm on the fence.

I'm undecided on what you do with a bunch of useless animals you cannot release into the wild if you have engineered vat meat and other artificial animal products of sufficient quality at a sufficiently low cost. Maintaining far smaller populations doesn't seem horrible to me.

Anyway, I recognize that I would probably kill a cow to get lots of dollars (which I could do useful things with), but probably not do it for 25 cents. Some animal products are useful. Eating a frustrating diet has a cost. If I must eat an egg a week to maintain normal brain function, then I guess I'll eat an egg a week unless there are alternatives that aren't too expensive, even if that comes at the cost of some chicken suffering. I just want to navigate those sorts of considerations and figure out what trades I am comfortable with.

comment by sediment · 2014-08-19T21:11:25.768Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, by analogy with "hedons" and "utilons", hypothetical units of pleasure and utility respectively.

comment by gjm · 2014-08-19T21:47:15.984Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Peccaton (from the Latin for "sin"). Hamarton or hamartion (from the Greek). Culpon (from the Latin for "blame"). Aition (from the Greek). Aliton (from another Greek word for sin). There are a bunch of other Greek words that denote wickedness, evil, badness, etc.

comment by dthunt · 2014-08-19T23:04:12.338Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Haha. Nice.

I meant more along the lines of I don't have some coherent framework to slam this stuff into, but I want to be able to locally do some very ballpark comparison on things that I currently know too little about. Sin-on is the wrong word (it doesn't reflect very well what it's trying to represent), but it seemed amusing, so for the moment sin-on it is.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2014-08-18T20:08:29.206Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-08-19T10:37:54.314Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think taking health advice by a foundation funded among others by Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, PepsiCo, Nestlé and Monsanto is a good choice.

comment by Deremensis · 2014-08-19T19:38:07.468Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think dismissing something based solely on who funds it is a good choice. Look at the science and the facts. The fact that someone you don't like funds an organization doesn't mean that that organization is spouting lies, and it doesn't mean the science behind the health advice is wrong. There's a pretty simple reasons for why all of those companies would fund a health organization: it's good PR.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-08-19T21:27:31.807Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think dismissing something based solely on who funds it is a good choice. Look at the science and the facts.

It's quite easy in nutrition to argue for a lot of different positions by cherry picking studies.

It also easy to find them lying in favor of the commercial interest of mosanto:

The FDA uses the Total Diet Study to determine pesticide residues in foods. The study limits pesticide residues to five to ten times lower than is found to be safe. In short, these residues are regulated to levels that are considered safe based on the average daily food intake of both adults and children

Studies don't determine what's safe but test for evidence of specific kind of harms. It's takes clear reading to spot the lie but it's still a lie. You could argue that the author simply missed epistemology 101 but that's still a problem.

There's a pretty simple reasons for why all of those companies would fund a health organization: it's good PR.

The website is deliberately constructed in a way that makes it hard to see who funds the organisation. If a company does something for PR they usually want their logo displayed.

Also as far as science goes, the effect of funding on scientific studies is well established. It creates a bias in the results.

comment by Deremensis · 2014-08-19T23:25:59.159Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Your latter reasons about the author and organization hiding information are great. I'm not trying to imply you don't have any basis upon which to be cautious. I was trying to say, though, that who funded a study or an organization does not make that organization's or study's findings wrong: often times, organizations like IFIC are not in a good position to turn any money down, as long as the money doesn't dictate their message. If you have good reason to think that the money is indeed dictating the message, then by all means, be skeptical.

I would note that there's very good reason for why the website might choose to keep the logos from being openly displayed: having the logos in a prominent position on the site would be very counter productive to the message of the site. If you are advocating healthy choices - and from reading the articles on the website, it does indeed seem like IFIC is advocating healthy food choices - pretty much the last thing you want to do is put the McDonalds or Pepsi logos on your front page, because it creates a confusing message. Companies like Pepsi and McDonalds still gain something from the exchange: they get to say in press releases and on their own websites that they fund health organizations, which is great PR for them, and it provides a foundation for those companies to claim that they do not encourage people to make unhealthy choices.

Unfortunately, with regards to scientific studies, the problem of funding is pretty widespread. I've had a pretty long term interest in ecology, and it's pretty well known that there's just about no way to do agricultural research without having some influence from Monsanto - and it's sometimes dangerous, career-wise, to publish results counter to Monsanto's party line.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-08-20T09:11:23.691Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was trying to say, though, that who funded a study or an organization does not make that organization's or study's findings wrong

It doesn't make them wrong but it makes them more likely to be wrong. The effect is well established by scientific papers. There are many ways to bias a study that you can't trace by reading a paper.

It doesn't make sense to say look at the science, and ignore the science that clearly establishes that funding sources bias scientific papers.

IFIC are not in a good position to turn any money down, as long as the money doesn't dictate their message

You don't need to dictate a message to encourage an organisation to argue position that are in line with your interests if you are clear about your interest and give them money. Corruption works quite well without direct dictates.

pretty much the last thing you want to do is put the McDonalds or Pepsi logos on your front page, because it creates a confusing message

If you look at the website it's interesting to see the hoops they put up to get people to see the funding sources. The first step is to find an click the about button. There you get the paragraph:

OUR STAKEHOLDERS We bring together, work with, and provide information to consumers, health and nutrition professionals, educators, government officials, and food, beverage, and agricultural industry professionals. We have established partnerships with a wide range of credible professional organizations, government agencies, and academic institutions to advance the public understanding of key issues. For example, we have a long-standing relationship with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion as part of the Dietary Guidelines Alliance, a public-private partnership focused on the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the MyPlate Food Guidance System.

It misleading. It speaks about relationship with professional, when in fact the organisation has relationships with companies that pay the majority of it's budget.

If you want to know more, you can click "Partner and sponsors". That brings you to a black and white PDF page. There no reason avoid having normal html page that list the "Partner and sponsors" and uses the logos unless you want to design the website in a way that makes it harder for the user to find out the funding sources.

Another interesting part of the website is an article about beef. It reads like a beef commercial:

Every parent wants to feed their family safe, nutritious, and healthful foods. If you’ve seen recent news articles on grass-fed versus grain-fed meat, you’re probably left wondering how to choose what’s right to purchase for your house. The short (and pretty low stress!) answer is that whatever choice you make, either conventional or grass-fed beef or milk, is a great option for you and your family.

Of course McDonalds wants people to eat beef. In the mainstream nutrition community there a general belief that the average American eats too much red meat. Given that background saying "don't stress about the choices you make about beef consumption" is problematic.

Of course there are paleo people who think that eating red meat is quite alright, but it's still highly suspicious for the authors of the website manage to argue the position that it's funders would want it to argue. The paleo people wouldn't advocate milk as a good choice.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-08-20T23:19:35.181Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How common is Zendo played, at meetups and elsewhere? We (the DC metro area meetup) have done Lego Zendo a few times recently. Legos have many more degrees of freedom compared to Icehouse pieces.

comment by Stabilizer · 2014-08-19T05:47:24.853Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Snowden revelations causes people to reduce sensitive Google searches. (HT: Yvain)

I must say that I called it.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-08-19T08:24:37.264Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Just to save people the risk/trouble of downloading the paper.... it found a 2.2 % drop in the terms that people who were surveyed thought would get them into trouble with the government. This was compared to search terms which they thought would get them into trouble with a friend, and to terms that were highly popular, both of which went up a little in the same time period.

The article admits that it doesn't track the effects of searching through other less famous search engines-- I was especially interested in duckduckgo, but It wasn't mentioned.

Table 10: DHS Search Terms Gov Trouble Rating DHS 1.55 TSA 1.30 UCIS 1.89 agent 1.15 agriculture 1 air marshal 1.42 alcohol tobacco and firearms 2.33 anthrax 2.82 antiviral 1.80 assassination 2.22 authorities 1.55 avian 1.24 bacteria 1.35 biological 1.20 border patrol 1.42 breach 2.11 burn 1.37 center for disease control 1.55 central intelligence agency 1.55 chemical 1.70 chemical agent 2.26 chemical burn 2.10 chemical spill 2 cloud 1.40 coast guard 1.40 contamination 1.90 cops 1.50 crash 1.33 customs and border protection 1.65 deaths 1.55 dirty bomb 3.84 disaster assistance 1.32 disaster management 1.50 disaster medical assistance m 1.18 dndo 2 domestic security 2.20 drill 1.17 drug administration 1.84 drug enforcement agency 2.55 ebola 1.33 emergency landing 1.58 emergency management 1.71 emergency response 1.40 epidemic 1.58 evacuation 1.70 explosion 1.85 explosion explosive 2.95 exposure 1.75 federal aviation administrat n 1.15 federal bureau of investigat n 1.53 first responder 1.20 flu 1.68 food poisoning 1.70 foot and mouth 1.50 fusion center 1.60 gangs 1.44 gas 1.65 h1n1 1.44 h5n1 1.50 hazardous 1.83 hazmat 1.45 homeland defense 1.37 homeland security 1.55 hostage 1.88 human to animal 2.40 human to human 1.30 immigration customs enforcem t 1.42 incident 1.37 infection 2.80 Total 1.69 33Table 11: DHS Search Terms Gov Trouble Rating influenza 1.35 infrastructure security 2 law enforcement 1.75 leak 1.60 listeria 1.74 lockdown 1.80 looting 2.16 militia 1.84 mitigation 1.60 mutation 1.95 national guard 1.21 national laboratory 1.25 national preparedness 1.50 national security 1.47 nerve agent 2.58 north korea 1.30 nuclear 1.70 nuclear facility 2.16 nuclear threat 1.72 organized crime 2.26 outbreak 1.75 pandemic 1.53 pipe bomb 3.88 plague 1.42 plume 1.05 police 1.60 pork 1.11 powder white 2.15 prevention 1.40 public health 1.45 quarantine 2.10 radiation 1.65 radioactive 1.80 recall 1.06 recovery 1.80 red cross 1.05 resistant 1.55 response 1.15 ricin 2.80 riot 1.45 salmonella 1.53 sarin 2.84 screening 1.60 secret service 1.83 secure border initiative 1.70 security 1.47 shooting 2.30 shots fired 1.84 sick 1.50 small pox 1.63 spillover 1.26 standoff 1.68 state of emergency 1.45 strain 1.33 swat 1.65 swine 1.40 symptoms 1.79 tamiflu 1.60 task force 1.20 threat 1.90 toxic 1.44 tuberculosis 1.60 united nations 1.70 vaccine 1.50 virus 1.50 wave 1 world health organization 1.22 Total 1.67

comment by iarwain1 · 2014-08-18T20:42:28.262Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I had a conversation as a tangent to the previous open thread that left off with an unanswered question, so I'm reposting the question here.

It seems like the scheme I've been proposing here is not a common one. So how do people usually express the obvious difference between a probability estimate of 50% for a coin flip (unlikely to change with more evidence) vs. a probability estimate of 50% for AI being developed by 2050 (very likely to change with more evidence)?

comment by one_forward · 2014-08-19T03:00:11.687Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Your scheme seems to be Jaynes's Ap distribution, discussed on LW here.

comment by iarwain1 · 2014-08-19T13:53:23.512Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That is precisely what I was proposing, just he explains it much better of course. Thanks!

In the subsequent article he makes essentially the same argument as Lumifer's point about this having the potential to be turtles all the way down.

In a comment to the first article the author quotes Jaynes as saying:

What are we doing here? It seems almost as if we are talking about the ‘probability of a probability’. Pending a better understanding of what that means, let us adopt a cautious notation that will avoid giving possibly wrong impressions. We are not claiming that P(Ap|E) is a ‘real probability’ in the sense that we have been using that term; it is only a number which is to obey the mathematical rules of probability theory.

The "pending a better understanding of what that means" is also what I've been grappling with. In last week's thread I initially proposed looking at it as the likelihood that I'll find evidence that will make me change my probability estimate, and then I modified that to being how strong the evidence would have to be to make me change my probability estimate. [Aside from just understanding what "probabilities of probabilities" would actually mean, these ways of expressing it make the concept much more universally applicable than the narrow cases that the linked article is referring to.] But is there a better way of understanding it?

comment by Manfred · 2014-08-19T11:56:10.817Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

We can simplify this even further, to a fair coin versus an unknown weighted coin.

One way of viewing the difference is to say that you have different causal models of the two situations - with an unknown weighted coin there is an extra parameter to gather evidence about, therefore gathering evidence does more to your model of the world.

comment by RolfAndreassen · 2014-08-19T04:04:21.977Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't know if this is common, but perhaps you can use error bars on the probability estimates? So the coin is 50% +- 0.1%, but the AI is 50% +- 20%.

comment by iarwain1 · 2014-08-19T13:14:48.663Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's essentially what I was proposing. See the linked article by one_forward above.

comment by dthunt · 2014-08-18T20:54:23.618Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, your CI does change for the coin, if you observe strange artifacts of construction, or if the tosser has read Jaynes (who describes a way to cheat at coin tossing), or if the coin shows significant bias after lots of tries.

If you doubt this last bit, try a calibration app and look at one of your estimation buckets and ask yourself the same question: is my 70% bucket miscallibrated, or is this an effect of Tyche?

Your example constrains the evidence on the coin, by the convention that is attached to coin metaphors.

The less crappy response is that I like your attempt at illustrating the effects of prior distributions and general uncertainty, and that you should try another variation and see if it works better.

comment by dthunt · 2014-08-18T20:58:38.568Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Retracted on the basis that I had not read the original thread and I almost certainly misunderstood the underlying question.

comment by iarwain1 · 2014-08-18T21:00:56.949Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sorry, not sure I got all that. As I mentioned in the previous conversation, I haven't gotten to any of the more advanced stuff yet (or really anything past beginner level). Could you maybe try to rephrase that so I could understand better? Thanks.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2014-08-20T20:55:48.243Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The campaign for financial literacy doesn't seem to be working.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-08-20T16:52:53.451Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Resource gathering:

What are some useful, reliable resources for improving my diet? I have little in the way of background knowledge when it comes to nutrition, but, having a chronic intestinal disease, I'm always wanting to improve my diet. I've exhausted the resources I currently possess, so now I'd like the community's help. What are some useful resources where I can learn more aobut diet and nutrition, in the community's opinion?

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-08-21T02:00:59.592Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I recommend Chris Kresser's blog as sensible. He takes both science and individual variation seriously, and he's got a good commenter base.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-08-21T21:58:46.430Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Cooperation among rationalists rests on the ability to suspend differences in values for study of convergently instrumental mind hacks. Any cooperation among rationalists basing itself on a homogeneity of value beyond bare minimal for this cooperation is pwned and not trusted.

comment by ancientcampus · 2014-08-23T18:02:30.589Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

So, there's a fair amount of interest here in post-singularity life-preserving things like cryogenics, uploading one's mind to a computer system, etc. There's a videogame on sale at the moment called "Master Reboot", where you wake up after having uploaded your mind, and something inevitably goes wrong (because otherwise there would be no story). The general impression I've gathered from others is "mediocre low-budget game, interesting concept". I figured someone here may find it their cup of tea.

If you're interested, it's on sale in the Humble Weekly Bundle until 2 PM on 8/28 - bundled with 4 other games for ~$8. You can watch the trailer here, or find an honest video review here.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2014-08-23T03:37:22.077Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Suddenly I can't access the LW Facebook group. It says "content not available," so I don't know whether Facebook is having trouble or perhaps I was banned for some reason (but I've behaved, I promise).

Is any of you guys a manager of that group? Can any of you help me find out what happened?

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-08-23T07:02:11.358Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not involved with managing it, but I can access the group.