Open Thread for January 8 - 16 2014

post by tut · 2014-01-08T12:14:41.780Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 347 comments

If it's worth saying but not worth its own thread even in discussion it goes here.


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-13T08:11:02.146Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Once again I am deeply impressed how Yvain can explain things that I have vaguely felt for a long time but couldn't quite put into words.

Specifically the concept of the "safe spaces" and whether only some groups deserve them and other groups don't. And more generally, whether only members of some groups have feelings and can be hurt (or perhaps whether only feelings and pain of some groups matter) or whether we all are to some degree fragile and valueable.

And how the "safe space" of one group sometimes cannot be a "safe space" of another group, and it's okay to simply have both of them. And as a consequence how by insisting that every place must be a "safe space" of group X we de facto say that the group Y should have no "safe space", ever.

comment by ChrisHallquist · 2014-01-12T03:30:38.296Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A few months ago, I re-read HPMOR in its entirety, and had an insight about the Hermione / feminism issue that I'd previously missed when I wrote this comment. I never got around to saying it anywhere, so I'm saying it here:

I'd previously written:

HPMOR kinda feels off because canonically, Hermione is unambiguously the most competent person in Harry's year, and has a good chance of growing up to be the most competent person in the 'verse. Harry is kept at the center of the story by his magical connection to Voldemort. In HPMOR, in contrast, Harry is kept at the center of the story by competence and drive. It's going to be very hard to do that without it feeling like Hermione is getting shafted.

But actually, HPMOR closely parallels cannon on this point: Methods!Hermione got just as much of an intelligence upgrade as Methods!Harry did, so she's still unambiguously more competent than him, at least before repeated use of his mysterious dark side gave him a mental age-up. This is more or less explicitly pointed out in chapter 21:

She'd done better than him in every single class they'd taken. (Except for broomstick riding which was like gym class, it didn't count.) She'd gotten real House points almost every day of their first week, not for weird heroic things, but smart things like learning spells quickly and helping other students. She knew those kinds of House points were better, and the best part was, Harry Potter knew it too. She could see it in his eyes every time she won another real House point.

The that the universe is being grossly unfair to Hermione, and this is hammered home multiple times. E.g. I can't find it at the moment but I think there's a scene where Harry explains to her she can't get house points for telling adults about the secret message in the Sorting Hat. Or there's this exchange in the Self-Actualization arc (emphasis added):

She couldn't find words. She'd never been able to find words. "If you get too near Harry - you get swallowed up, and no one sees you any more, you're just something of his, everyone thinks the whole world revolves around him and..." She didn't have the words.

The old wizard nodded slowly. "It is indeed an unjust world we live in, Miss Granger. All the world now knows that it is I who defeated Grindelwald, and fewer remember Elizabeth Beckett who died opening the way so I could pass through. And yet she is remembered. Harry Potter is the hero of this play, Miss Granger; the world does revolve around him. He is destined for great things; and I ween that in time the name of Albus Dumbledore will be remembered as Harry Potter's mysterious old wizard, more than for anything else I have done. And perhaps the name of Hermione Granger will be remembered as his companion, if you prove worthy of it in your day. For this I tell you true: never will you find more glory on your own, than in Harry Potter's company."

I think what happened is that Eliezer realized how unfair the universe was to Hermione in canon, and decided to keep things that way in HPMOR but comment on it. Which is clever, but looks like Eliezer being unfair to Hermione for no good reason if you don't understand he's commenting on the screwiness of canon.

Related thing I noticed: Hermione is probably the most incredibly brave character in HPMOR. Think about it: she, as a twelve year old girl, is told she has an important job to do helping Harry, and then one of the scariest dark wizards who ever lived tries destroy her, when he doesn't succeed at that, tries to convince her to just run, and she stands her ground. As a twelve year old girl against an ultra-powerful dark wizard. And that's ultimately why she died. Make no mistake about it: she died a hero's death.

Edit: this is relevant.

Replies from: jkaufman
comment by jefftk (jkaufman) · 2014-01-16T20:53:38.450Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Methods!Hermione got just as much of an intelligence upgrade as Methods!Harry did

Harry's upgrade was much larger. At the recent HPMOR meetup in Boston someone asked Eliezer about this, and his response was that Hermione was already smart enough that this would have made her "smarter than the author" and made writing her much too difficult.

This was also discussed in an hpmor thread.

comment by CAE_Jones · 2014-01-08T19:54:53.609Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm planning to meet with my local Department of Services for the Blind tomorrow; the stated purpose of the meeting is to discuss upcoming life changes/needs/etc. This appears to be exactly what I need at the moment, but I'm concerned that I'm not going to be optimally prepared, so I'd like to post some details here to increase the chances of useful feedback.

(For transparency's sake: I'm legally blind, unemployed, living with my parents until they take the necessary steps to get me moved into the place I own, with student loan payments outpacing my SSI benefits by over $200/month, and stuck in the bible belt.)

  • The plan to move out will doubtless frame the conversation.
  • I'm unsure as to whether this conversation will be private (me talking to a DSB representative), or if one of my parents will sit in. Who is in earshot matters, since for all the problems I have with my parents, they are the entirety of my support system at the moment, and the less risk to that relationship the better.
  • Most important topic: Training. My skills across the board are pathetic, yet I've been unable to improve them independently in the time since I've realized this (most of the past year and a half, IIRC). I find myself drawn toward the National Federation of the Blind's training centers, but those involve a hefty time investment (six months), and the prices I've found suggest it would cost ~$3600/month, not to mention travel. This is exactly the sort of thing I would expect DSB to help with, but at the same time, I don't consider it unlikely that I'll be pushed toward cheaper, more local options. (My research over the past several months has reduced my confidence that the more local options are of much value.)
  • I feel I would greatly benefit from a functional Notetaker. The one I was previously using has stopped functioning. I'm worried about this one; I expect that anything for which DSB provides assistance will need directing toward a tangible goal, possibly with a narrower subset than "I can get much more done with it than I could hope to with just a laptop". (I could write an entire post on why I think Notetakers are awesome, but this is already quite lengthy.)

I'm unsure as to how I will approach these topics, or the meeting as a whole, or if there are other issues I've missed/neglected/been mistaken about.

I do not like being a net drain on resources; managing this correctly seems the most viable path to reversing that.

Replies from: CAE_Jones, rhollerith_dot_com, Ben_LandauTaylor
comment by CAE_Jones · 2014-01-09T19:17:59.127Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was absurdly lucky: the counselor I spoke to is new and motivated to put in the necessary effort for everything, and went to high school with my stepmother; it also turns out that the in-state training center has a thirty-day trial period, during which commitment is a non-issue. They also offered to provide any required technology, be it laptops or note takers or whatever. It could start as early as the first week of February, which is early enough that I wouldn't need to worry about security at my property. So on the whole, a surprisingly good day.

Replies from: TheOtherDave, WalterL
comment by TheOtherDave · 2014-01-09T19:57:35.524Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's awesome. Go you!

comment by WalterL · 2014-01-13T19:53:04.394Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Glad to hear it!

comment by rhollerith_dot_com · 2014-01-09T11:57:32.962Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you have not dealt with something the DSB before, you're probably drastically overestimating how much mental effort they are willing to expend to help you. (I dealt with a similar agency, the California Department of Rehabilitation, many years ago.)

Although it is of course good for you to try to estimate how much mental effort they are willing to make in real time during the interview, I suggest the plan you go into the meeting with assume it is low. E.g. you might consider just asking for a notetaker over and over again.

Try to appear a little dumber than you actually are.

I would not risk alienating your parents to try for a deeper conversation with DSB staff.

Replies from: NancyLebovitz
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-09T16:31:38.659Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My impression is that some people want children very much, but the majority have children as a result of liking sex plus being willing to raise children once the children exist plus social pressure.

You do get the occasional sperm substitution scandal which seems like a very pure example of a desire to have children.

Replies from: Vulture
comment by Vulture · 2014-01-09T17:47:55.908Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think you replied to the wrong comment.

Replies from: NancyLebovitz
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-09T18:00:35.267Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You're right.

comment by Ben_LandauTaylor · 2014-01-09T07:32:05.004Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It looks like you've already got a list of things you want to answer in the meeting, so you've already done the most important preparation.

I'm unsure as to whether this conversation will be private (me talking to a DSB representative), or if one of my parents will sit in.

This is probably under your control. I expect you have the right to a private meeting, if you ask the DSB rep. If you're worried about how your parents would react to such a request, maybe try framing it as practicing your independence, or something appropriately harmless and fuzzy-sounding?

comment by moridinamael · 2014-01-09T16:44:28.045Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

After doing a large amount of research, I feel fairly confident saying that high-dose Potassium supplementation was the initial trigger that pushed me into two-year nightmare struggle with migraines which I am still dealing with. I didn't do anything beyond the recommendations that you can find on gwern's page and gwern doesn't really recomend anything that is technically unsafe, but the fact is that (apparently!) some people are migraine prone and these people should probably definitely not do what I did. (To be clear, I'm not blaming gwern in any way, that's merely a "community reference" that a lot of folks refer to.)

Replies from: RomeoStevens, drethelin, Ander
comment by RomeoStevens · 2014-01-10T08:35:43.413Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Interesting, some questions.

  1. What is high dose?
  2. How was the dosing achieved?
  3. What is your sodium and magnesium intake like?
comment by drethelin · 2014-01-09T20:49:25.064Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Can you link to your more important sources from you research? They could be useful to others.

comment by Ander · 2014-01-10T00:41:34.513Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm interested in this as well, can you send us a link of the research that you found linking potassium supplements to migraines? Thanks!

comment by blacktrance · 2014-01-09T15:25:21.313Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

All the productivity posts on LW that I've read, I found mildly disturbing. They all give a sense of excessive regimentation, as well as giving up enjoyable activity - sacrificing a lot for a single goal (or a few goals). I'm sure it's good for getting work done, but there's more to life than work - there's actually enjoying life, having fun, etc.

Replies from: Douglas_Knight, sixes_and_sevens, ephion, chairbender
comment by Douglas_Knight · 2014-01-09T17:55:54.528Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think you're talking about So8res's recent posts, but I think they're exceptional. Most productivity posts are about avoiding spending time web surfing, particularly during time that has been budgeted for work. They do this partly because fragmenting time is bad and partly because there are better ways to have fun.

Replies from: blacktrance, Viliam_Bur
comment by blacktrance · 2014-01-10T00:58:30.679Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I find that doing fun things like web surfing makes unenjoyable work more bearable, even though it takes longer. And I do think that most productivity posts are about more than not spending time on the Internet - there's a lot about how to cut down on social time and "fun" so you can be as productive as possible.

Replies from: chairbender
comment by chairbender · 2014-01-10T03:05:20.195Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I find that doing fun things like web surfing makes unenjoyable work more bearable

If you learn mindfulness, you can learn to detach yourself from an impulsive desire to be entertained constantly, and find flow (and happiness, or at least contentment) in tasks you previously thought were unenjoyable.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-12T05:24:04.112Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Can you or anyone else sketch out some advice on how to achieve this wonderful sounding thing?

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-09T21:34:20.920Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Most productivity posts are about avoiding spending time web surfing

To avoid paradox, it is probably better to print those posts and read them from the paper.

But yes, it is a good advice, which probably brings more productivity gains than any other advice.

Replies from: Douglas_Knight
comment by Douglas_Knight · 2014-01-10T00:18:03.857Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

While the direct advice may be valuable, I don't think it's so common; I'm talking about posts that take it as a given and talk about ways to beat addiction, such as leechblock, pomodoros, and conditioning. Other suggestions, like recording time spent, manually or by browser plugin are about convincing people that they are wasting their time, on the hypothesis that people won't believe the raw claim.

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2014-01-09T17:04:47.639Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Can you give any concrete examples?

Replies from: blacktrance
comment by blacktrance · 2014-01-10T01:39:27.859Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Habitual Productivity

[I]n the end, there wasn't really a compromise. The productivity side just flat-out won: I eventually realized that human interaction is necessary for mental health and that a solid social network is invaluable. I don't mean to imply that I engage in social interaction because I've calculated that it's necessary: I really do enjoy social interaction, and I really want to be able to enjoy it without guilt... I've found an excuse that allows me to both enjoy myself and sate the thirst. That said, it's still difficult for me to disengage sometimes.

The mechanics of my recent productivity

[T]his stint was rough. I experienced far more stress than my norm. I lost a little weight and twice caught myself grinding my teeth in my sleep (a new experience). There were days that I became mentally exhausted, growing obstinate and stubborn as if sleep- or food-deprived.

How I Am Productive (Miscellaneous extreme regimentation)

There are other posts that give me this impression, but I can't find them right now. Also, the "optimal sleep" posts seem to be all about how to sleep as little as possible to be as productive as possible.

Replies from: drethelin
comment by drethelin · 2014-01-10T06:49:52.082Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah all the obsession with polyphasic sleep seems to be about sacrificing quality of life for quantity of "productive" time.

comment by ephion · 2014-01-12T16:27:43.558Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree tentatively. I'm working on maximizing my productivity per hour so that I can spend less hours being productive. Productivity measures are really helpful in that regard, but the temptation to take it too far is problematic.

comment by chairbender · 2014-01-10T02:57:24.663Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Downvoted for proposing a poisonous idea. You're implying a dichotomy between being productive and experiencing positive emotions. You can find productive tasks enjoyable. Hanging out with people is an important part of staying healthy, for example, and is generally enjoyable.

there's more to life than work - there's actually enjoying life, having fun, etc.

Having fun is certainly something that you can do, but that doesn't mean that it is obviously morally optimal.

Replies from: Viliam_Bur, blacktrance, drethelin
comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-10T08:10:18.649Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You're implying a dichotomy between being productive and experiencing positive emotions.

Dichotomy is a strong word, but I expect that the correlation between productivity and positive emotions is generally negative.

Of course the advice here is: go meta, and explore the strategies to make the correlation positive.

Replies from: CAE_Jones
comment by CAE_Jones · 2014-01-10T08:20:37.705Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My experience is the opposite; productivity generally feels awesome, sitting around doing nothing or wandering around the internet is generally depressing. (This is insufficient as a motivator for behavior.)

Replies from: drethelin
comment by drethelin · 2014-01-10T09:00:17.507Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

for these discussions we need to start differentiating meanings of the word "productive". When I get stuff done for an interesting task, or put together a piece of furniture, that''s being productive and usually feels pretty good. When I fill out paperwork for a lease or something, that usually feels boring and not fun, with some good feeling when it's over with. I think both of these fall under the lay definition of "productive". Leisure/fun times trades off against both of these, but my mental image when someone says "it's better to be productive than to spend time doing nothing" usually has me picturing boring homework.

Replies from: Viliam_Bur
comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-10T09:45:41.462Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Exactly. A person's general productivity and procrastination will probably greatly depend on whether most of their "productivity" is going interesting tasks or filling out paperwork.

So the right long-term strategy is probably to find a way to get paid for doing interesting tasks.

Replies from: Ben_LandauTaylor
comment by Ben_LandauTaylor · 2014-01-10T18:59:26.811Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm currently about a quarter of the way through this book, and already it has several actionable insights on how to do that.

Replies from: Viliam_Bur
comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-10T19:52:45.162Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Just reading the book description, this sounds right:

Passion comes after you put in the hard work to become excellent at something valuable, not before.

Maybe the trick is with the "something valuable" part. Some people make money by doing things that are not valuable, or at least some Dilbert-esque process removes a lot of value from their contribution.

So while you shouldn't keep searching until you find something you feel passionate about (because it is your work that creates the passion), you probably should keep searching until you find something valuable, where the value you add isn't destroyed by the process. And then keep doing it.

Replies from: Ben_LandauTaylor
comment by Ben_LandauTaylor · 2014-01-10T20:30:57.965Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah. The author claims you need to find something where (1) you can improve your skills, (2) you believe your work has positive value, and (3) you don't actively dislike the people you're working with. From there, you can increase your skills and prove your value, then barter that value into a position that has the traits which correlate with fulfillment.

Replies from: Creutzer
comment by Creutzer · 2014-01-12T17:07:11.309Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How do you prevent this very strong set of conditions from making you throw up your hands and say "alright, I'm screwed"? I feel like it's what a lot of people would, given their situation, be perfectly justified in doing.

Replies from: Ben_LandauTaylor
comment by Ben_LandauTaylor · 2014-01-13T18:44:27.066Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Short answer: The bad news is, you might in fact be screwed, given the situation. The good news is, it's always possible to change the situation; all it takes is deliberate practice, planning, and a tremendous amount of hard work.

Long answer: Those conditions are rare and valuable things. To get them, you have to offer something rare and valuable in return. Here's how to do that.

First, make sure you're in a situation where you can improve your skills. If your job doesn't use any skills that can be improved, then either take up a hobby, find a new job, or use all your ingenuity to figure out something else. You might have to ignore the other two conditions for now. That sucks, but such is life.

Second, practice. Constantly stretch yourself by working on projects that are just outside your comfort zone. Seek feedback from reality and from experts.

Third, build career capital. This is a combination of demonstrably awesome output plus social proof. It's the thing that people see and realize "this person is good at that thing."

Fourth, use your career capital to get a position that has (more of) the traits you want. From the outside, this will probably look like getting a lucky break. Your career capital makes opportunities available, and if you know what you're looking for, you can do a pretty good job of judging which opportunities are worth following.

Finally, keep doing this. If your skills and career capital keep improving, you can keep improving your position to get more money, more autonomy, more impact on the world, or whatever it is you're optimizing for.

This takes a long time. The examples in the book usually take years. The shortest example I've ever encountered took maybe ten months. With any proposed strategy to reach happiness and fulfillment, you have to ask why everyone else hasn't done it already, and in this case the answer is because it's actually pretty hard. I've done this, though, and I can confidently say it's worth it.

Actually complete version: read the book.

(Disclaimer: I am about halfway through the book so far. There are probably further insights that I haven't read yet.)

comment by blacktrance · 2014-01-10T03:54:32.702Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You certainly can find productive tasks enjoyable, but it's common to find productive tasks unenjoyable. People don't hang out with each other because it's productive (except when networking), they hang out because it's fun. The fact that it's good for your health is a bonus, but isn't and shouldn't be the primary motivation.

Having fun is certainly something that you can do, but that doesn't mean that it is obviously morally optimal.

Not obviously morally optimal, but it is actually morally optimal, for a broad enough sense of "having fun". But I say this as an ethical egoist.

Replies from: chairbender
comment by chairbender · 2014-01-10T04:31:51.349Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

but it is actually morally optimal, for a broad enough sense of "having fun". But I say this as an ethical egoist.

Just because you are an ethical egoist does not mean that ethical egoism is the system by which all moral claims ought to be judged. Have you read the metaethics sequence?

Replies from: blacktrance
comment by blacktrance · 2014-01-10T05:24:19.605Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's true that all moral claims shouldn't be judged by ethical egoism because I believe it, moral claims should be judged by egoism because it's correct. And I have read the metaethics sequence, and found it interesting, though at times lacking. What part of it are you referring to?

Replies from: chairbender
comment by chairbender · 2014-01-10T06:29:19.504Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I do not think that you comprehend the sequence if it makes you conclude that everyone should be selfish. Either way, I certainly don't want to interact with somebody who thinks that way because it really bums me out, so I'm gonna leave this conversation.

comment by drethelin · 2014-01-10T06:47:58.368Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Downvoted for proposing a poisonous idea. There IS an obvious and common dichotomy between being productive and experiencing positive emotions and pretending that it isn't there is bullshit that will only cause people to burn out and be even less productive AND less happy. Yours is the kind of attitude that leads people to say "I can never be as good as this amazing guy so I won't even try". Satisficing morality and happiness separately will get us far more of both.

Replies from: chairbender
comment by chairbender · 2014-01-10T07:22:44.629Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree that productive tasks tend to be less enjoyable, but (at least for me) I still experience SOME positive emotions when I'm being productive, though (and when I'm reflecting on being productive). I just meant that it's possible to be productive and not feel miserable. I started getting more productive when I was able to use mindfulness to detach myself from an impulsive desire to experience happiness. I don't think that's a particularly harmful idea to suggest. I just think it's bad to discourage people from trying to find happiness and contentment in contributing to society (being productive) by implying that it's simply not possible. Also, from a utilitarian standpoint, spending time being productive (making a positive impact on the world) seems better than spending time pursuing individual happiness (to an extent, since you obviously are going to have a hard time being productive if you are miserable). If you value your personal happiness above others (like blacktrance), though, it totally makes sense that you would spend less time trying to make a positive impact on the world. I didn't realize people thought that way when I responded.

I felt sad when you called what I wrote "bullshit", though. I'm new to posting on LW and it makes me feel really depressed and rejected to have one of my first few discussions result in me being insulted like that.

Replies from: drethelin
comment by drethelin · 2014-01-10T07:33:42.902Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Calling something bullshit is less of a slur than calling someone's ideas poisonous. Plenty of things are bullshit. If you can't handle people disagreeing with the truth of your statements or your ethical injunctions maybe you shouldn't go around telling someone that expressing their concerns is a poisonous idea.

Edit- I also don't appreciate your pathetic emotional manipulation, both here and in the related sub-thread.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-09T00:30:40.786Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you're expecting the singularity within a century, does it make sense to put any thought into eugenics except for efforts to make it easy to avoid the worst genetic disorders?

Replies from: David_Gerard, Nornagest, Bakkot, Manfred
comment by David_Gerard · 2014-01-09T11:12:22.099Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This could be generalised to putting any thought into anything. Will the singularity be achieved within one childhood? More smart people may be useful to apply to the problem. If you're smart, make more smart people.

comment by Nornagest · 2014-01-09T01:05:04.085Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That seems to depend on a number of assumptions -- your timeline, whether you expect a soft or a hard takeoff, the centrality of raw intelligence vs. cultural effects to research quality, possible nonlinearity of network effects on intellectual output. But I'd bet that the big one is time: if you think (unrealistically, but run with it) that you can improve a test population's intelligence by 50%, that could be very significant if you're expecting a 2100 singularity but likely won't be if you're expecting one before they graduate from college.

comment by Bakkot · 2014-01-10T01:38:19.041Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Depends on the confidence with which you expect it. If you're 95+% confident, probably not. Lower? Probably yes. Even an intervention with only 10% chance of ever mattering may be worth doing if its value if successful is at least 10x greater than its cost+opportunity cost.

comment by Manfred · 2014-01-09T04:21:36.994Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Good point. The cutoff is not necessarily the singularity, either - once we have sufficiently awesome genetic engineering, there's no point to eugenics.

comment by Stabilizer · 2014-01-13T17:19:54.546Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't see any discussion about this blog post by Mike Travern.

His point is that people trying to solve for Friendly AI are doing so because it's an "easy", abstract problem well into the future. He contends that we are already taking significant damage from artificially created human systems like the financial system, which can be ascribed agency and it's goals are quite different from improving human life. These systems are quite akin to "Hostile AI". This, he contends, is the really hard problem.

Here is a quote from the blogpost (which is from a Facebook comment he made):

I am generally on the side of the critics of Singulitarianism, but now want to provide a bit of support to these so-called rationalists. At some very meta level, they have the right problem — how do we preserve human interests in a world of vast forces and systems that aren’t really all that interested in us? But they have chosen a fantasy version of the problem, when human interests are being fucked over by actual existing systems right now. All that brain-power is being wasted on silly hypotheticals, because those are fun to think about, whereas trying to fix industrial capitalism so it doesn’t wreck the human life-support system is hard, frustrating, and almost certainly doomed to failure.

It's a short post, so you can read it quickly. What do you think about his argument?

Replies from: asr, gwern, Lumifer, CellBioGuy, drethelin
comment by asr · 2014-01-13T18:25:17.814Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's a short post, so you can read it quickly. What do you think about his argument?

I think it's silly. I suspect MIRI and every other singulatarian organization, and every other individual working on the challeges of unfriendly AI, could fit comfortably in a 100-person auditorium.

In contrast, "trying to fix industrial capitalism" is one of the main topics of political dispute everywhere in the world. "How to make markets work better" is one of the main areas of research in economics. The American Economic Association has 18,000 members. We have half a dozen large government agencies, with budgets of hundreds of millions of dollars each, to protecting people from hostile capitalism. (The SEC, the OCC, the FTC, etc etc, are all ultimately about trying to curb capitalist excess. Each of these organizations has a large enforcement bureaucracy, and also a number of full-time salaried researchers.)

The resources and human energy devoted to unfriendly AI are tiny compared to the amount expended on politics and economics. So it's strange to complain about the diversion of resources.

Replies from: Stabilizer, None
comment by Stabilizer · 2014-01-13T18:29:31.702Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Excellent point. I'm surprised this did not occur to me. This reminds me of Scott Aaronson's reply when someone suggested that quantum computational complexity is quite unimportant compared to experimental approaches to quantum computing and therefore shouldn't get much funding:

I find your argument extremely persuasive—assuming, of course, that we’re both talking about Bizarro-World, the place where quantum complexity research commands megabillions and is regularly splashed across magazine covers, while Miley Cyrus’s twerking is studied mostly by a few dozen nerds who can all fit in a seminar room at Dagstuhl.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-14T17:34:29.824Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think it's silly. I suspect MIRI and every other singulatarian organization, and every other individual working on the challeges of unfriendly AI, could fit comfortably in a 100-person auditorium.

It looks to me like the room in this picture contains more than 100 people.

Replies from: asr
comment by asr · 2014-01-14T19:24:44.615Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes. I will revise upwards my impression of how many people are working on Singularity topics. That said, not everybody who showed up at the summit was working on singularity-problems. Some were just interested bystanders.

comment by gwern · 2014-01-13T18:28:15.840Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is this the new 'but what about starving Africans?'

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-13T17:32:06.806Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think that he sounds mind-killed. Calling the financial system a "hostile AI" sounds cool for about half a second until your brain wakes up and goes "Whaaaaat?" :-)

If he really wanted to talk about existing entities with agency and their own interests, well, the notion that the state is one is very very old.

Replies from: Stabilizer
comment by Stabilizer · 2014-01-13T18:03:37.836Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Actually, Mike Travers has a whole sequence of excellent posts on ascribing agency to non-human systems over at Ribbonfarm. See here. I particularly recommend the post Patterns of Refactored Agency.

I don't think ascribing agency to systems like institutions and collections of institutions is too forced. In fact, institutions seem to exist precisely for preserving and propagating values in the face of changing individuals.

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-13T18:07:26.976Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm completely fine with ascribing agency to institutions. I'm not fine with sticking in emotionally-loaded terms and implying that e.g. AI researchers should work on fixing the financial system.

Replies from: Stabilizer
comment by Stabilizer · 2014-01-13T18:27:27.347Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

But I don't think that his point is that AI researchers, in general, should be working on fixing the financial system.

I think his point is that the people at MIRI have chosen AI research because they think that AI is a significant source of threat to human well-being/eixstence from non-human value systems (possibly generated by humans). His claim seems to be that AI may only be a very small part of the problem. Instead, there already exist non-human value systems generated by humans threatening human well-being/existence and we don't know how to fix that.

So, I guess the counter-argument from someone at MIRI would go something like: "while it is true that human institutions can threaten human well-being, no human institution seems to have the power in the near future to threaten human existence. But the technology of self-improving AI, can FOOM and threaten human existence. Thus, we choose to work on preventing this outcome."

Replies from: Lumifer, gjm
comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-13T18:39:08.721Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Instead, there already exist non-human value systems generated by humans threatening human well-being/existence and we don't know how to fix that.

First, I am unaware of evidence (though I am aware of a lot of loud screaming) that human institutions pose an existential risk to humanity. I think the closest we come to that is the capability of US and Russia to launch an all-out nuclear exchange.

Second, the whole "non-human value systems" is much too fuzzy for my liking. Is self-preservation a human value? Let's take an entity, say a large department within a governmental bureaucracy, the major values of which are self-preservation and the accrual of benefits (of various kinds) to its leadership. Is that a "non-human value system"? Should we call it "hostile AI" and be worried about it?

Third, the global financial system (or the "industrial capitalism") is not an institution. It's an ecosystem where many different entities coexist, fight, live, and die. I am not sure ecosystems have agency.

Fourth, it looks to me like his argument would shortcut to either a revolution or more malaria nets.

comment by gjm · 2014-01-13T23:00:43.690Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

OK, fine, unfriendly AIs occupy only a small part of the space of possible non-human agents arising from human action and having value systems different from ours and enough power to do a lot of harm as a result; and businesses and nations and so forth are other possible examples.

Furthermore, non-human agents arising [etc.] occupy only a small part of the space of Bad Things.

It doesn't follow from the latter that people investigating how to arrange for businesses and nations and whatnot to do good rather than harm are making a mistake; and it doesn't follow from the former that people investigating how to arrange for superhuman AIs (if and when they show up) to do good rather than harm are making a mistake.

Why not? Because in each case the more restricted class of entities has particular features that are (hopefully) amenable to particular kinds of study, and that (we fear) pose particular kinds of threat.

A large and important fraction of AI-space is occupied by entities with the following interesting features. They are created deliberately by human researchers; they operate according to clear and explicit (but perhaps monstrously complex) principles; their behaviour is, accordingly, in principle amenable to quite rigorous (but perhaps intractably difficult) analysis. Businesses and nations and religions and sports clubs don't have these features, and there's some hope of developing ways of understanding and/or controlling AIs that don't apply to those other entities.

It is possible (very likely, according to some) that a large fraction of the probability of a superhuman AI turning up in the nearish future comes from scenarios in which the AI goes from being distinctly subhuman and no threat to anyone, to being vastly superhuman and potentially controlling everything that happens on earth, in so short a time that it's not feasible for anyone (including businesses, nations, etc.) to stop it. Businesses and nations and religions and sports clubs mostly have [EDIT: oops, I meant "don't have"] this feature (though you might argue that nuclear war is a bit like a Bad Singularity in some respects), and there might accordingly be a need for much tighter control over potentially superhuman AIs than over businesses and nations and the like.

So one can agree that there are interesting analogies between the danger from unfriendly superhuman AI and the danger from an out-of-control financial system / government / business cartel / religion / whatever, while also thinking that a bunch of people whose interests and expertise lie in the domain of software engineering and pure mathematics might be more effectively used by having them concentrate on AI rather than the financial system.

(There might also be a need for experts in software engineering and pure mathematics to help make the financial system safer -- by keeping an eye on the potential for runaway algorithmic trading systems at banks and hedge funds, for instance. But that's not what Mike Travers is talking about, and actually it's not a million miles away from friendly AI work -- though probably a lot easier because the systems involved are simpler and more limited in power.)

Replies from: Nornagest, Stabilizer
comment by Nornagest · 2014-01-14T17:39:17.092Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Upvoted, but I think you're missing a negation in "Businesses and nations and religions and sports clubs mostly have this feature...".

Replies from: gjm
comment by gjm · 2014-01-14T23:23:58.327Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yup, I was. Edited. Thanks!

[EDITED to fix an inconsequential thinko.]

comment by Stabilizer · 2014-01-14T00:53:00.837Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Excellent summary. Thanks.

comment by CellBioGuy · 2014-01-16T16:32:02.636Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think it's spot on.

Replies from: Stabilizer
comment by Stabilizer · 2014-01-16T16:57:48.293Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How do you factor in the points made by asr and gjm? In particular,

  1. Much effort is already being spent in dealing with the problems posed by industrial capitalism.

  2. It's likely that the amount of resources being spent on countering potentially hostile AI (AI as computer programs, not AI as institutions) is less than or equal to the amount justified by that threat.

comment by drethelin · 2014-01-13T22:39:04.628Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What ASR said, and also this is a totally different domain. There is no code for the global financial system and no coder is going to fix it. There is no code for AGI, but some coder somewhere IS going to write it. The idea that fighting against billions of people and a system supported by all the money in the world is the same kind of activity as trying to prove theorems of friendliness is simply dense.

Replies from: Emile, Lumifer
comment by Emile · 2014-01-17T13:23:19.101Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There is no code for the global financial system and no coder is going to fix it.

How about simulations of various economic/financial/social systems? Those are being done, and require code, and require high-level analysis. I find it perfectly believable that some abstract theoretical computer science / computer simulation work could uncover new insights / new arguments.

(that being said, I agree with asr's comment)

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-17T16:02:21.919Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How about simulations of various economic/financial/social systems? Those are being done, and require code, and require high-level analysis.

They also fail pretty badly and are remarkable useless at the moment.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-17T16:01:38.647Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There is no code for the global financial system and no coder is going to fix it.

Sure there is, it's just that the code is called "laws" and coders are called "legislators".

Replies from: drethelin
comment by drethelin · 2014-01-17T21:03:54.003Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Laws don't behave like code and legislators don't behave like coders.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-01-08T21:15:58.218Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Finally have a core mechanic for my edugame about Bayesian networks. At least on paper.

This should hopefully be my last post before I actually have a playable prototype done, even if a very short one (like the tutorial level or something).

comment by Tenoke · 2014-01-08T16:06:10.053Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

i plan to quit my job and move to an Eastern European country with small costs of living in march. Because of this I am looking for any job that I can do online for around 20 hours a week. I am looking for recommendations on where to look, where to ask, who to contact that might help me, etc. Any help will be appreciated.

Replies from: ChristianKl, Nawth, philh, somervta, drethelin
comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-08T16:19:24.360Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What skills do you have?

Replies from: Tenoke
comment by Tenoke · 2014-01-08T16:28:43.399Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have a degree in Psychology. Worked in Admissions mostly. Can do light coding (planning to spend more time on that during my extra free time) and some statistics (ditto). Can't really think of anything else that might be relevant.

Replies from: ChristianKl
comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-08T16:33:21.307Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How do you rate your own writing abilities?

Replies from: Tenoke
comment by Tenoke · 2014-01-08T16:36:08.897Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

6-7 / 10 depending on the style and subject matter. Currently trying to improve in that department.

comment by Nawth · 2014-01-14T22:09:53.546Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yvain wrote a good thing about this sort of situation here.

I suggest you read the comments too, they have some interesting ideas that aren't in the post proper.

comment by philh · 2014-01-08T23:59:55.144Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have a friend who uses .

Replies from: pragmatist, Tenoke
comment by pragmatist · 2014-01-09T04:42:25.012Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You need to live in US or Canada to work for At least, that's what it says on their application page.

comment by Tenoke · 2014-01-09T11:02:56.295Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This or something similar could be useful. Thanks.

comment by somervta · 2014-01-08T22:54:32.104Z · LW(p) · GW(p) is worthwhile.

comment by drethelin · 2014-01-08T22:39:39.529Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You can play online poker. If you play the numbers you can make a steady profit.

Replies from: Tenoke
comment by Tenoke · 2014-01-08T22:45:13.006Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Been there, done that. I stopped back in 2010 when it became clear that the US will manage to forbid its citizens to play with everyone else as I assumed the games will become even less profitable.

I imagine that things are even worse now but I haven't looked into it for ages, however if you think there's still money in there then maybe I should investigate.

Replies from: RomeoStevens
comment by RomeoStevens · 2014-01-08T23:25:40.396Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Holidays can still be decent. I also hear tell there are bitcoin denominated poker rooms full of relatively bad players.

Replies from: Tenoke
comment by Tenoke · 2014-01-08T23:33:53.272Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

bitcoin denominated poker rooms full of relatively bad players.

What? I thought all btc poker rooms are scams and/or almost void of players. This is awesome if true though, I will check it out.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-01-08T12:35:59.938Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In light of gwern's good experiences with one, I too now have an anonymous feedback form. You can use it to send me feedback on my personality, writing, personal or professional conduct, or anything else.

Replies from: philh, knb, ChrisHallquist, DaFranker, rhollerith_dot_com
comment by knb · 2014-01-10T02:36:42.834Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The CEO of a company I used to work at put up an anonymous feedback form. He was getting a lot of negative feedback, so he removed it.

Problem solved.

Replies from: Alsadius
comment by Alsadius · 2014-01-10T15:19:28.494Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Easy mockery aside, a lot of employees like to gripe, and if the feedback was just the sort of useless whining that 1% of the workforce loves to engage in, then I'd shut it down too(or, possibly more maliciously, leave it up for morale and stop reading it).

Replies from: NancyLebovitz
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-11T00:31:55.840Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's an interesting problem. A small proportion of the complaints might be about something urgent--- how do you sort them out from the minor or irrelevant stuff?

Replies from: Alsadius
comment by Alsadius · 2014-01-11T01:05:28.585Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Get rid of the direct communication, and tell your managers that important stuff should get filtered upwards.

Replies from: NancyLebovitz
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-11T01:16:28.356Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Very funny. Sometimes you can't trust your managers.

Replies from: Alsadius
comment by Alsadius · 2014-01-11T01:17:40.264Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh, it's hardly a perfect solution. But unless you hire a secretary to read the mailbox, it's what will happen. And much of the time it's good enough.

comment by ChrisHallquist · 2014-01-09T21:12:16.936Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks Kaj. This was the nudge I needed to create my own anonymous feedback form.

comment by DaFranker · 2014-01-08T12:54:24.454Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hadn't heard about this until now. That sounds like a great idea, and thanks / props for putting this up!

comment by Prismattic · 2014-01-12T04:12:04.593Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

(My thoughts are still not sufficiently organized that I’m making a top level post about this, but I think it’s worth putting out for discussion.)

A couple of years ago, in a thread I can no longer find, someone argued that they valued the pleasure they got from defecation, and that they would not want to bioengineer away the need to do so. I thought this was ridiculous.

At the same time, I see many Lesswrongers view eating as a chore that they would like to do away with. And yet I also find this ridiculous.

So I was thinking about where there difference lay for me. My working hypothesis is that there are two elements of pleasure: relief and satisfaction. Defecation, or a drink of water when you’re very thirsty bring you relief, but not really satisfaction. Eating a gourmet meal, on the other hand, may or may not bring relief, depending on how hungry you are when you eat it, but it’s very satisfying. The ultimate pleasure is sex, which culminates in a very intense sense of both relief and satisfaction. (Masturbation, at least from a male perspective, can provide the relief but only a tiny fraction of the satisfaction – hence the difference in pleasure from sex.)

I can understand the desire to minimize or eliminate the need for functions that serve only to provide relief, but I think the “let’s subsist on Soylent” people are throwing the satisfaction baby out with the relief bathwater. I suspect lack of awareness of the possibility of satisfaction as well as relief may also explain the comments I’ve seen here from people who are asexual and happy about that (but I’m less confident in this case because the inferential distance is large.)

Replies from: Viliam_Bur, kalium, Creutzer, Kaj_Sotala, CAE_Jones, fubarobfusco
comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-12T14:22:02.918Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would like to drink Soylent when I want to focus on something else, and to eat at a restaurant when I want to feel the pleasure of eating. Or maybe sometimes cook at home... but only when I decide to.

If I may borrow your analogy, it would be like moving from compulsively masturbating three times a day to having great sex once in a while and doing something else the rest of the time.

comment by kalium · 2014-01-12T22:59:00.122Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Some subset of rationalists just don't seem to value pleasure at all. I know one who used to say his only goal in life was the acquisition of information; relief was appreciated in that it eliminated a distraction, but satisfaction just didn't count for anything. Struck me as Puritanical.

comment by Creutzer · 2014-01-12T16:15:39.452Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Interesting distinction, it makes intuitive sense, and it's certainly good to be aware that there is a possible satisfaction component to something - but it's still easily possible to value the satisfaction less than you would value being free from the need for the relief component.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-01-12T13:36:36.329Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Defecation, or a drink of water when you’re very thirsty bring you relief, but not really satisfaction.

I feel that both of these can provide satisfaction as well, though I'm less sure about the water.

I can understand the desire to minimize or eliminate the need for functions that serve only to provide relief, but I think the “let’s subsist on Soylent” people are throwing the satisfaction baby out with the relief bathwater.

Or they just get more satisfaction from other things than eating.

Replies from: NancyLebovitz
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-12T17:38:07.324Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I can enjoy drinking water. I'm not sure where this fits on the relief-satisfaction spectrum, but I seem to be optimally hydrated (in terms of mood) if I keep drinking until drinking is no longer a pleasure-- it's a good bit more water than just taking the edge off.

I've found that when I mention this to people, they're apt to try to get a measurement out of something which is based on sensation.

comment by CAE_Jones · 2014-01-12T13:29:20.239Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would rather get rid of eating but keep defecation, though I don't know that I could say why. The relief/satisfaction thing is certainly interesting.

I once had a conversation in this vein that went like this:

  • Him: In Heaven, pizza grows on trees.
  • Me: In heaven, people wouldn't need to eat.
  • Him: Good point. But maybe eating as a form of pleasure?
  • Me: kinda flabberghasted

If nothing else, the parent got me to evaluate my preferences and realize that I was using them hypocritically in situations such as the above.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2014-01-14T05:44:47.966Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

At the same time, I see many Lesswrongers view eating as a chore that they would like to do away with.

I expect that this is a tiny but expressive minority.

comment by Alsadius · 2014-01-11T05:01:48.231Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm having some trouble keeping myself from browsing to timesink websites at work(And I'm self-employed, so it's not like I'm even getting paid for it). Anyone know of a good Chrome app for blocking websites?

Replies from: Prismattic, hyporational, hyporational, Calvin
comment by Prismattic · 2014-01-12T03:52:02.620Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


Replies from: Alsadius
comment by Alsadius · 2014-01-12T05:57:38.434Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That looks like exactly what I was aiming for. Thanks.

comment by hyporational · 2014-01-13T07:38:33.751Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I recommend StayFocusd, but if it stops working, make a blacklist in your firewall and put it behind a ridiculously long passphrase that scolds you for not working. Use this one device for work and other devices for play.

Oh, and put those other devices in an underground vault 10 miles from your house.

comment by hyporational · 2014-01-13T07:35:10.858Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If stay StayFocusd stops working, make a blacklist in your firewall and put the settings behind a ridiculously long passphrase. After this, use this one device for work and other devices for play.

comment by Calvin · 2014-01-12T04:02:43.572Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was using Leech Block for old fashioned reddit-block for some time, but then I switched to Rescue Time (free version) which tracks time you spend on certain internet sites, and found it much more user friendly. It does not block the sites, but it shows you a percentage estimate of how productive you are today (e.g. Today, 1 hour on internet out of which 30min on Less Wrong - so 50% productive).

comment by Apprentice · 2014-01-09T23:09:55.656Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What are you supposed to do when you've nailed up a post that is generally disliked? I figured that once this got to -5 karma it would disappear from view and be forgotten. But it just keeps going down and it's now at -12. This must mean that someone saw the title of it at -11 karma and thought "Sounds promising! Reading this now will be a good use of my time." And then they read it and went: "Arrgh! This turned out to be a disappointing post. Less like this, please. I'd better downvote it to warn others."

What does etiquette suggest I do here? Am I supposed to delete the post to keep people from falling into the trap of reading it? But I like the discussion it spawned and I'd like to preserve it. I'm at a loss and I can't find relevant advice at the wiki.

Replies from: RomeoStevens, Kaj_Sotala, Lumifer, David_Gerard, ChristianKl, drethelin, hyporational, Viliam_Bur
comment by RomeoStevens · 2014-01-10T08:40:45.809Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

if we don't have downvoted topics some of the time it means we are being too conservative about what we judge will be useful to others. Only worry if too large a fraction of your stuff gets downvoted.

Replies from: Alejandro1
comment by Alejandro1 · 2014-01-12T18:32:23.764Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That is a good example of a true Umeshism.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-01-11T14:20:07.871Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This must mean that someone saw the title of it at -11 karma and thought "Sounds promising! Reading this now will be a good use of my time." And then they read it and went: "Arrgh! This turned out to be a disappointing post. Less like this, please. I'd better downvote it to warn others."

Not necessarily. Seeing a heavily downvoted post seems to trigger some kind of group-norm-reinforcement instinct in me: I often end up wanting to read it in the hopes of it being just as bad as the downvotes imply, so that I could join in the others in downvoting it. And I actually get pleasure out of being able to downvote it.

I'm not very proud of acting on that impulse, especially since I'm not going to be able to objectively evaluate a post's merit if I start reading it while hoping it to be bad. But sometimes I do act on it regardless. (I didn't do that with your post, though.)

Replies from: Apprentice, Vulture
comment by Apprentice · 2014-01-11T15:21:07.810Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I hadn't thought of this either! It does sound like fun to hunt with the group.

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-11T15:44:41.127Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It does sound like fun to hunt with the group.

Don't forget to bring your own torch and pitchfork.

comment by Vulture · 2014-01-12T04:23:00.943Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've noticed myself doing the same thing and I'd like to turn on anti-kibitzing to avoid it, but when I tried it the whole "hiding post authors" thing was so irritating that I stopped.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-10T01:02:47.202Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What are you supposed to do when you've nailed up a post that is generally disliked?

Grin and say "Fuck 'em!"

comment by David_Gerard · 2014-01-09T23:22:30.292Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

-12 points in the discussion section is a pretty trivial karma hit out o.f the 1132 I see you have at this moment. I'd try to do better next time.

Replies from: Apprentice
comment by Apprentice · 2014-01-09T23:32:32.337Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Clearly, the karma as such is no problem. I just don't want to annoy people by having them read a text which they are likely to find annoying and I don't want to violate rules of etiquette I might not know about. But if it is normal procedure just to leave this as is, then, sure, let's do it that way.

It is, of course, somewhat unpleasant to discover that something you wrote is disliked but it also affords an opportunity for learning. Next time I try to get LessWrongers to change diapers, I'll approach it differently.

Replies from: Emile, Lumifer
comment by Emile · 2014-01-10T06:50:29.810Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Eh, if someone clicks on an article at -11, then feels reading it was a waste of time, he should blame himself, not you.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-10T01:00:07.232Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It is, of course, somewhat unpleasant to discover that something you wrote is disliked but it also affords an opportunity for learning.

I don't recommend optimizing for what other people on the 'net like.

Replies from: ChristianKl
comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-10T01:37:16.677Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Don't optimize for it. On the other hand it's still good to understand what other people like if you want to convince them.

I do write post that I expect to be voted down, when I think they have merit. On the other hand if I can write a post in a way that will be voted down or in a way that will find acceptance I go for the way that will find acceptance.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-09T23:36:35.881Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Giving that the post does contain upvoted comments that belong to it deleting it would prevent people from seeing those comments and be bad.

comment by drethelin · 2014-01-10T06:38:28.769Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Just leave it. It can serve as lesson to you in the future but in a month no one but you will remember it as it falls off the scroll.

comment by hyporational · 2014-01-10T21:22:43.382Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, I didn't bother to look this time, but if every bad post got just -5 votes max, the noise would probably unbearable. The extra sting is there for you, not to warn other readers.

Replies from: Apprentice
comment by Apprentice · 2014-01-10T22:17:12.637Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thank you, I hadn't considered that viewpoint.

I actually suspect we have too much sting rather than too little. Compare with this discussion. Furthermore, most of Eliezer's Facebook posts would make good discussion posts or open-thread comments but he posts them there rather than here. I don't know why but maybe he finds it less stressful to post in a system where there are only upvotes and no downvotes.

Also compare with this Oatmeal comic: "How I feel after reading 1,000 insightful, positive comments about my work and one negative one: The whole internet hates me :(" Obviously an exaggeration for effect but I do think most people need a very high ratio of positive to negative feedback to feel good about what they're doing. I admit I do. Many of you, of course, are made of sterner stuff, I don't dispute that.

Replies from: hyporational
comment by hyporational · 2014-01-11T06:06:26.742Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't instinctively like downvotes either, and I suspect it's mostly my personality that magnifies everything negative out of proportion i.e. there's depressive bias. However, if I get downvoted for something really stupid, I find the punishment a very useful deterrent that also works for my personal life. It's the inexplicable votes that bug me the most, but hey, you can't please everyone.

I subscribed to Eliezer's fb feed about a month ago and I'm glad he doesn't post such unpolished ideas here. I think he also posts there because the commenters are better selected and not anonymous. I might be in favor of an upvote only system, if it weren't for the really terrible outlier posters who need to be hidden quickly. For upvotes only , we would need a completely different visibility system.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-11T07:17:25.581Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

One way this is often addressed is replacing downvote with flag, and with enough flags it gets hidden (flags and upvotes aren't inverses of each other).

Replies from: Viliam_Bur
comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-11T09:58:25.940Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That doesn't seem to scale well with the number of readers. Some discussions attract more people than others; so in the less popular discussions almost nothing would be flagged, but in the more popular ones, any slightly controversial comment would be flagged.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-11T17:37:00.865Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You are assuming a fixed cutoff which I was not.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-10T08:03:36.934Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

One possible solution would be to edit the article, add "[Deleted]" to the title, remove all text and replace it by an explanation like: "The article was deleted because it received a lot of downvotes, but the discussion seems worth keeping; please don't vote on the article anymore."

Replies from: David_Gerard, ChristianKl
comment by David_Gerard · 2014-01-10T09:05:49.951Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do that without removing the actual text.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-10T15:03:36.738Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think it worth saying that you remove something because downvotes as the only reason. Either you think that people who disagree have a point or you stand by what you wrote in the past.

comment by pan · 2014-01-10T21:19:14.542Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I see from time to time people mention a 'rationalist house' as though it is somewhere they live, and everyone else seems to know what they're talking about. What are are they talking about? Are there many of these? Are these in some way actually planned places or just an inside joke of some kind?

Replies from: Ben_LandauTaylor, jkaufman
comment by Ben_LandauTaylor · 2014-01-11T00:59:39.203Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

These are group houses where a bunch of rationalists live together. Sometimes they hold events for the wider community or host visiting rationalists from out of town. I know of several that exist in the Bay Area, one in Boston, and one in New York. There are probably others.

comment by jefftk (jkaufman) · 2014-01-16T20:32:32.036Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Expanding on Ben's comment: local lesswrong meetup groups often grow into a communities of people who enjoy spending time together, at which point some of the people might decide to rent a house together.

comment by passive_fist · 2014-01-09T03:44:11.188Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Every single time the subject of overpopulation comes up and I offer my opinion (which is that in some respects the world is overpopulated and that it would benefit us to have a smaller or negative population growth rate), I seem to get one or two negative votes. The negative karma isn't nearly as important to me as the idea that I might be missing some fundamental idea and that those who downvote me are actually right.

Especially, this recent thread: has highlighted this issue for me again.

So, I'm opening my mind, trying to set aside my biases, and hereby asking all those who disagree with me to give me a rational argument for why I'm wrong and why the world needs more people. If I stray from my objective and take a biased viewpoint, I deserve all the negative karma you can throw at me.

Replies from: Lumifer, Manfred, None, Alsadius
comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-09T04:17:37.639Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, let's try to be a bit more specific about this.

First, what does the claim that "the world is overpopulated" mean? It implies a metric of some sort to which we can point and say "this is too high", "this is too low", "this is just right". I am not sure what this metric might be.

The simplest metric used in biology is an imminent population crash -- if the current count of some critters in an ecosystem is pretty sure to rapidly contract soon we'd probably speak of overpopulation. That doesn't seem to be the case with respect to humans now.

Second, the overpopulation claim is necessarily conditional on a specific level of technology. It is pretty clear that the XXI technology can successfully sustain more people than, say, the pre-industrial technology. One implication is that future technological progress is likely to change whatever number we consider to be the sustainable carrying capacity of Earth now.

Third, and here things get a bit controversial, it all depends (as usual) on your terminal goals. If your wish is for peace and comfort of Mother Gaia, well, pretty much any number of humans is overpopulation. But let's take a common (though by no means universal) goal of long-term economic wealth. We want to create value and keep on creating more of it for a long time. Given this, you want more humans since that will accelerate the process up until certain limits. Where these limits are is debatable but I haven't seen much evidence that we are facing them right now.

Fourth, overpopulation is pretty local. Taking the simplest possible measure of land area, it's hard to argue that countries like Russia or Canada or Australia are overpopulated.

Replies from: Luke_A_Somers, RichardKennaway, passive_fist
comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2014-01-09T13:50:12.919Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If your wish is for peace and comfort of Mother Gaia, well, pretty much any number of humans is overpopulation

Not if Mother Gaia is expansionist.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2014-01-09T14:31:18.881Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Fourth, overpopulation is pretty local. Taking the simplest possible measure of land area, it's hard to argue that countries like Russia or Canada or Australia are overpopulated.

There's a reason they don't have many people per square mile. It's really difficult to live in large parts of them.

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-09T15:27:02.644Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Southern Siberia, for example, is pretty benevolent and pretty empty.

comment by passive_fist · 2014-01-09T05:44:12.240Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It implies a metric of some sort to which we can point and say "this is too high", "this is too low", "this is just right". I am not sure what this metric might be.

I agree that a single metric would be hard to define, but I don't see any problem characterizing it as a combination of various metrics. Is not employment rate vs. population one valid metric, for instance? Or what about worldwide (not just USA, but worldwide average) cost of various foodstuffs vs income?

A set of metrics are given in this paper:

Second, the overpopulation claim is necessarily conditional on a specific level of technology. It is pretty clear that the XXI technology can successfully sustain more people than, say, the pre-industrial technology.

Absolutely correct. When I speak of overpopulation, I'm speaking in terms of the present. What is the present population, and what are our current technological capabilities?

I entirely agree with you that future technology could make overpopulation moot. But we don't know enough about future technology and sociology to say for certain.

Third, and here things get a bit controversial, it all depends (as usual) on your terminal goals.

My terminal goal is (if I am allowed to speak in somewhat vague terms here) continuing prosperity for individual human beings. My goal is for individuals to have more wealth and access to more resources, and as we know, increasing wealth is correlated with increasing happiness. Throughout the last couple of centuries, and especially in the last century, the quality of life in the developed world increased by leaps and bounds. But it didn't increase as much in many other places in the world. It increased a little, but not that much. I want that increase in quality of life to continue in the West, and I also want it to occur everywhere else as well.

By the way, this increase in access to resources is only good up to a limit, of course. What that limit is is the subject of another debate, but I think both you and I would agree that as of the present we are safely below the limits.

Fourth, overpopulation is pretty local. Taking the simplest possible measure of land area, it's hard to argue that countries like Russia or Canada or Australia are overpopulated.

True, but if you were to disperse the population of India and China around the world, what would be the case then?

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-09T15:58:41.640Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is not employment rate vs. population one valid metric, for instance?

It is not. Is there any correlation between unemployment and overall population across time? I don't think so. Is there any correlation between local population density and local unemployment? I don't think so. Is the unemployment in Hong Kong hugely greater than in Mongolia or Greenland?

cost of various foodstuffs vs income?

As with unemployment, look at this criterion over the last few centuries. Even during the XX century I believe the percentage of income spent on food has been steadily dropping in the developed countries.

But we don't know enough about future technology and sociology to say for certain.

It's funny how the proponents of the overpopulation thesis have absolutely no problems with linearly extending resource consumption lines far into the future but can't say anything about the future technology and so conveniently assume that it won't change.

My goal is for individuals to have more wealth and access to more resources.

So, that's pretty mainstream. Would you be fine with calling it the total economic wealth of the world?

if you were to disperse the population of India and China around the world

Let's stick to reality.

Replies from: passive_fist
comment by passive_fist · 2014-01-09T23:09:04.524Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

So are you saying that the metrics I suggested aren't valid at all, or simply don't make a case for overpopulation existing?

I believe the percentage of income spent on food has been steadily dropping in the developed countries.

That's why I mentioned the worldwide average, not just developed countries.

Would you be fine with calling it the total economic wealth of the world?

Not total, average.

Anyway, it's no use going back-and-forth like this, because I feel like I'm seriously straying from my goal of being neutral and unbiased. I liked Manfred's response because he explicitly mentioned one well-defined issue he thinks I'm overlooking, rather than trying to overcomplicate the discussion.

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-10T00:55:21.961Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

So are you saying that the metrics I suggested aren't valid at all

Yes, I don't think they have anything to do with overpopulation.

Replies from: passive_fist, passive_fist
comment by passive_fist · 2014-01-10T05:38:33.306Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ok thanks, at least now I know where the disagreement lies.

comment by passive_fist · 2014-01-10T04:23:16.955Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

And now you're down-voting me just because you didn't read my post before replying?

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-10T04:37:13.930Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am not downvoting you. I rarely up- or downvote posts in threads in which I participate, anyway.

Replies from: passive_fist
comment by passive_fist · 2014-01-10T05:38:19.738Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah that came out entirely different to what I had intended to ask. Retracted.

comment by Manfred · 2014-01-09T04:15:52.397Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't recall downvoting you, but I think that there is a very high chance technology makes the problem moot - either by killing us or by alleviating scarcity until a superintelligence happens.

Replies from: passive_fist
comment by passive_fist · 2014-01-09T05:47:04.697Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree with you that future technology will probably allow us to sustain far far greater population than we can now. However, my view concerns problems were are creating at the present, and not all present problems can be retroactively solved with future technology. For instance, if you value biodiversity in the natural world (and there are good, practical reasons to do so), and biodiversity is lost, it's irreversible. Once the gene pool of a species is wiped out it is extremely difficult to restore it again. And sure, even though species go instinct all the time irrespective of human activity, throughout the history of the planet, the long-term trend of biodiversity has been to go up.

Now, as to whether human activity is decreasing biodiversity, it's a complex subject and I don't claim to be very knowledgeable about it. As far as I've heard in the scientific literature, humans are negatively affecting biodiversity.

A very nice review of human activity and socioeconomic progress and their impact on biodiversity is given in this paper:

This book does a nice job of explaining the interrelationships between biodiversity, poverty, and overpopulation:

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-09T04:15:03.879Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I broadly agree with your opinion, provided certain socioeconomic problems resulting from population contraction could be overcome.

Replies from: Gunnar_Zarncke
comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2014-01-09T16:21:16.800Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Then you have to agree in any case as population contraction must happen after hitting the limit (all simulations of the "limits to grows" study show overshoot) and I'd guess that the earlier this is addressed the better.

comment by Alsadius · 2014-01-10T16:18:53.205Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's an argument based on false premises. Limitations on resources have, in past, proven to be fairly meaningless, and there's no particular reason to believe this will change going forward. Every time we think we've hit a wall(running out of wood in the 18th century, whales in the 19th century, food in the 20th century, or oil in the 21st century), we've come up with new technologies to keep going without much trouble(coal, oil, GMOs/agricultural chemistry, and tar sands/fracking respectively). Limitations on space are even less relevant.

Conversely, we've built first-world societies on a governmental safety net that only actually works with an increasing population. If we don't grow, then pension plans will start detonating like someone's carpet-bombing the economy. (Yes, worse than they are already). I think the people who created those pyramid schemes should be taken out behind the woodshed for a posthumous beatdown, but it's a bit late to fix it now.

If you want to know what a negative population growth rate looks like, look at what will happen to China over the next couple decades. It's the biggest demographic time bomb in human history.

Also, if you're bringing sustainability into this, IMO the only truly sustainable option is to advance technology so fast that we can defeat the Second Law somehow. Anything else just delays the inevitable.

Replies from: Lumifer, knb, Kaj_Sotala, NancyLebovitz
comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-10T16:29:20.420Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you want to know what a negative population growth rate looks like, look at what will happen to China over the next couple decades.

Or you can look at Japan right now. Their total workforce has been contracting for the last few years and the only way to go is down. And their amount of government debt is not a coincidence.

Replies from: Alsadius
comment by Alsadius · 2014-01-10T19:54:34.331Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yup, them too. Both were held up as countries that were going to overwhelm the US through their superior economic performance, both are going to suffer long and agonizing collapses as their demography ruins them. I went with the more topical example, but Japan is probably the better one, because they're so much further along.

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-10T20:04:44.204Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

long and agonizing collapses

A "long collapse" is a bit of an oxymoron -- presumably you mean they will collapse and stay collapsed.

But that raises an interesting question -- can a society/country downscale without a collapse? Theoretically, it's perfectly doable -- you population decreases, so does your GDP but not GDP per capita. You just have more space for less people.

In practice, of course, there are issues.

Replies from: lmm, Alsadius
comment by lmm · 2014-01-11T11:33:15.908Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Taking away the pensions of people who've paid a tax that's supposed to fund pensions all their lives would be political suicide.

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-11T15:00:15.850Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It depends on what the alternative is.

If you have nothing to pay pensions with, you have nothing to pay pensions with. See Detroit.

For sovereigns who can print fiat money the situation is a bit more complicated but the same in medium term. The amount of money doesn't matter, what matters is the amount of value that the country produces and which it then redistributes among people. If there is not enough value, printing money will just lead you into an inflationary spiral.

comment by Alsadius · 2014-01-10T20:12:10.141Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't regard "collapse" as referring to something instantaneous. The fall of Rome, for example, could be referred to as a multi-century collapse.

And in principle, yes, it could happen. But in practice, before people die, they get old. And old people suck, economically speaking.

comment by knb · 2014-01-12T03:03:41.702Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's an argument based on false premises. Limitations on resources have, in past, proven to be fairly meaningless, and there's no particular reason to believe this will change going forward.

This isn't even slightly true. Historically the the normal state for humanity was malthusian stagnation. Resource limits were a hard fact of life, with lots of people starving at the margins.

Yes, we've escaped from Malthusian conditions for the time being, but progress is already stagnating. I think planning to limit population growth is a common sense idea, although as a coordination problem, this seems hard to solve (how do we punish defectors, etc.)

Replies from: Alsadius
comment by Alsadius · 2014-01-12T05:33:49.078Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

We are currently producing enough food to feed the highest population the Earth is expected to ever at any point have. We are doing so in perfectly sustainable fashion. Malthus is dead.

Edit: For clarity, the sustainable fashion I refer to may involve shifts to less meat consumption, between different sorts of crops, or the substitution of machinery with more labour, to deal with various future crises. Modern crops and farming knowledge alone, which should both survive even a collapse of civilization largely intact, ought to be enough to feed any projected human population. It's theoretically possible for Mathus to come back, but the conditions that would lead to it are so unlikely that for the purposes of ordinary debate it can safely be said to be a fixed problem.

Replies from: Creutzer, kalium
comment by Creutzer · 2014-01-12T17:36:10.320Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

We are, in point of fact, not feeding that population you are talking about. We are feeding merely a part of it.

Replies from: Alsadius
comment by Alsadius · 2014-01-14T23:48:13.800Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

We're feeding essentially all of it - out of a world population of over 7,000,000,000, about 400,000 die of malnutrition per year. World food production per person is as high as it's ever been, over 2700 calories per person per day(which is really not a starvation diet). The ones who aren't getting fed are dying for logistical, financial, and administrative reasons, not because there's any sort of global food shortage.

comment by kalium · 2014-01-12T22:49:03.081Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Have you read The Mote In God's Eye?

Replies from: Alsadius
comment by Alsadius · 2014-01-14T23:48:24.689Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have not. Summary of the point you're making, please?

Replies from: kalium
comment by kalium · 2014-01-15T02:01:17.179Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That, in the long run, due to natural selection, population will increase to match increased food production. Improvements in farming technology only buy a temporary abundance.

Replies from: Alsadius
comment by Alsadius · 2014-01-15T05:10:27.058Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Our food supplies have been getting more secure for centuries, and we've seen no meaningful selection pressure towards larger families as a result - quite the opposite, in fact. And this isn't a millions-of-years sort of selection, this is the sort that ought to be apparent in a few generations. I don't think that number of children is really a heritable trait - it's a cultural and economic effect, and even if you start speaking of cultural evolution, the economics of having lots of kids are so bad today that there's no selection pressure in that direction.

In principle you're probably right, but by the time we need to worry about Malthus again, the name "Malthus" may well be forgotten.

Replies from: Douglas_Knight
comment by Douglas_Knight · 2014-01-15T16:04:17.071Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

And this isn't a millions-of-years sort of selection, this is the sort that ought to be apparent in a few generations.

How do you know which sort it is?

I don't think that number of children is really a heritable trait - it's a cultural and economic effect,

Heritability depends on the environment. It is quite plausible that it is much more heritable in the modern environment than the pre-modern one.

the economics of having lots of kids are so bad today

I don't want to discuss this, just to suggest that you might be very confused.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-01-11T15:03:01.172Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Limitations on resources have, in past, proven to be fairly meaningless, and there's no particular reason to believe this will change going forward.

As far as I can tell, this argument seems to be the same as "technology has improved before, letting us overcome resource limitations, and there's no particular reason to believe that the new innovations will stop coming".

But that sounds much more suspect. There have been cultures that collapsed due to resource limitations before, and the current trend of very fast growth in our ability to extract more resources or replace them with more easily extractable ones has only been going on for some hundreds of years. "We will always be able to come up with the kinds of innovations that will save us" is a very strong claim, implying that observed cases of diminishing returns in various extraction techniques (e.g. taking advantage of tar sands requires a much larger energy investment and is much less efficient than traditional sources of oil, AFAIK) don't matter since we'll always be able to switch something completely different. There don't seem to be any strong theoretical arguments in support of that, as far as I can tell - only the observation that we've happened to manage it of late.

Replies from: Alsadius
comment by Alsadius · 2014-01-12T05:32:33.368Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's a somewhat weaker claim. Society isn't really dependant on any single resource - oil is the closest we come, and even oil is only really essential in aviation and certain chemical processes(and it can be synthesized for that). My claim is closer to "No essential combination of resources will run out before replacement technology is available". Still strong, admittedly, but weaker.

That said, I will freely agree that we're going to take a financial hit as certain supplies run low. Oil will likely never again be as cheap as it was 20 years ago, because the extraction of our reserve oil supplies is so much more complex and expensive. It won't be pleasant. But our society has a technological mindset, huge diversification, and a larger base of wealth than all of humanity before living memory combined. I think we'll do better than Easter Island did.

And yes, there's no theoretical reason it has to be true. But the accumulated evidence that it generally is is pretty strong. How many of the catastrophes predicted in recent centuries have actually come to pass, if society has had 5+ years to prepare? Peak oil, the population bomb, nuclear war, Y2K, expansionist Germans(twice!), the collapse of the Internet, and on and on. All of those were perfectly real concerns, and had the potential to be devastating if left unchecked. But we saw them coming, took steps to deal with it, and beat back all of them, many so thoroughly that nobody even noticed that they'd been and gone.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-10T18:11:55.267Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

We can beat the pension-based need for more people by vastly increasing productivity and ameliorating the effects of old age and/or automating more of the care of debilitated people

Replies from: Lumifer, Alsadius
comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-10T20:08:37.565Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

by vastly increasing productivity

And how will this happen? The productivity growth has slowed down considerably and shows no signs of picking up, never mind "vastly increasing".

Replies from: Kaj_Sotala
comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-01-11T14:43:22.172Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, there was at least one report suggesting that half of all jobs might be automated over the next two decades.

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-11T15:11:07.888Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You are overstating the report's conclusions -- it said the "jobs might be at risk" which sounds to me like "we want to sound impressive but actually don't have anything to say".

I've paged through the report and wasn't impressed. For example (emphasis mine), "...First, together with a group of ML researchers, we subjectively hand-labelled 70 occupations, assigning 1 if automatable, and 0 if not. ... Our label assignments were based on eyeballing the O∗NET tasks and job description of each occupation." Essentially this a bunch of guesses and opinions with little support in the way of evidence.

comment by Alsadius · 2014-01-10T19:57:52.125Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Productivity, agreed.

Ameliorating the effects of old age, disagree - too many people treat retirement at 65 to be a God-given right for any real bump in the retirement age to solve things any time soon. Remember, this was an age set by Otto von Bismarck, and it's remained unchanged since - we've already had massive increases in quality of life for the elderly, and it's done nothing to improve the financial footings of the pension system(Quite the opposite, really).

Automating the care of the elderly will help some, but you're still left with extremely low workforce participation and a very high dependent ratio. That's not a pleasant situation, even if you don't need millions of people working in nursing homes.

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2014-01-14T07:14:11.224Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Two unrelated things (should I make these in separate posts or...?):

1.) Given recent discussion on social justice advocates and their... I don't know the best way to describe this, sometimes poor epistemological habits? I thought I would post this

Is this it just me, or is this, like, literally the worst concept ever? It literally just means "someone slightly to the right of me" or "someone does anything that could be considering cheering for the other side", backed with a dubious claim that these people are usually acting in bad faith. Is that even a thing people actually do, go on websites with people they disagree with and "troll" by claiming that they mostly agree except on certain issues? Outside of this context I have never seen this or had any reason to consider the possibility. Isn't it more likely, that you know... people mostly agree with you except on certain issues?

"Concern trolling is frequently banned in feminist communities."

"Concern trolling is frequently banned in feminist communities."

"Concern trolling is frequently banned in feminist communities."

I just don't get it. How does a movement with motives so noble become this horrible? I mean, I kind of do get it, but still... fuck.

2.) How can I train myself to speak more eloquently? Like most people my generation, I say "like" every ten words or so (although I've gotten better at avoiding this), say um and other filler sounds a lot, and often say "you know", "you see what I mean", etc. I also tend to repeat phrases for "filler" - I'll say things like "Yeah, I've been, I've been, I've been thinking about this a lot recently." (This looks really weird written out, trust me, it's not that weird in real life.) I want to stop doing this because doing so will let me sound more authoritative, and also I'm kind of disgusted by this pattern of speech even though everyone does it.

Note that I don't want to be one of those people who fetishizes the past and goes around forcing old-timey turns of phrase like "Great Scott!" into conversation and wears (yes) a fedora. I just want to be better at communicating concrete ideas in complete sentences in my daily life.

Replies from: RichardKennaway, Watercressed, Locaha, pragmatist, Randaly, Alejandro1, wadavis, Creutzer, Omid
comment by RichardKennaway · 2014-01-14T13:02:16.118Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Concern trolling is a widespread phenomenon, not specific to feminist communities. The definition given in the first two sentences of that article is the exact concept that the phrase was coined to name:

A concern troll is a person who participates in a debate posing as an actual or potential ally who simply has some concerns they need answered before they will ally themselves with a cause. In reality they are a critic.

The article does then go on to broaden the concept to the point where it can be used as a club to invalidate anyone:

Concern trolls are not always self-aware, they may also view themselves as potential allies

Well, no. The whole point of the concept is that a concern troll is lying. They are, in fact, an enemy deliberately, consciously, intentionally, posing as a friend in order to undermine discourse. Someone who is actually a friend with genuine questions that they actually want to be constructively discussed is not a concern troll, even if those who do not wish the questions to be raised at all call them that.

Replies from: pianoforte611
comment by pianoforte611 · 2014-01-15T01:08:11.799Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do concern trolls actually exist? I've never seen one (or maybe they were subtle enough that I didn't notice).

Replies from: Nornagest, RichardKennaway, lavalamp
comment by Nornagest · 2014-01-15T01:44:09.672Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think there's a Poe's law type thing going on here: looking at behavior alone, it's very difficult to tell the difference between a concern troll and a tentative ally with the right ideological background. That's probably especially true for cultures like social justice that use a lot of endogenous concepts and terminology: within those movements, any concerns that don't speak the language are going to pattern-match to "enemy" on linguistic grounds and suffer from the corresponding horns effect.

With that in mind, I suspect they exist but are pretty rare.

Replies from: Eugine_Nier
comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-15T02:15:20.099Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Incidentally Poe's law is also highly misleading, specifically it's mostly a statement about the person attempting to tell the difference not about the person being parodied.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2014-01-15T09:30:31.227Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've seen them, and unlike Nornagest, I don't think they're at all rare. They're one of the common forms that trolling takes. A certain person who was run out of here on a rail a few months ago fitted the form. (I'm not going to link, but his username in rot13 was WbfuRyqref.)

As for how you tell, well, how do you ever tell pretence from truth?

Replies from: Nornagest
comment by Nornagest · 2014-01-15T21:52:17.384Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Would you mind sharing your evidence that (rot13: WbfuRyqref) was concern trolling, via PM if you'd prefer? I wasn't involved in that little spat, and looking over his comment history it doesn't seem entirely implausible, but on the other hand I've elsewhere seen people with, er, similar opinions posting in what I'm pretty sure is deadly earnest.

Replies from: RichardKennaway
comment by RichardKennaway · 2014-01-16T07:55:23.895Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have only the evidence of his own postings. This comment of mine was about him, and the pattern I describe there, running through all his postings, is a pretty clear sign to me. He appeared out of nowhere, made an unusual claim about himself that no-one in that position would have any good reason to disclose, then sat back and never engaged with anyone, instead trying to keep the pot boiling by muttering disingenuously about forbidden topics. Fortunately it didn't work and he left (or was kicked, I don't know.)

It is possible that he was also what he said he was (although I wouldn't take the "celibate" part on his word), and using the cover of trolling to indulge a desire to talk freely about these things without the danger of being believed.

Of course, none of this is definitive. But we have to make judgements of people's honesty all the time, and do the best we can. This is mine.

comment by lavalamp · 2014-01-15T01:15:52.268Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'd like to agree with you, but how do I know you're not a concern troll?

comment by Watercressed · 2014-01-14T07:50:28.963Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Concern trolling in the false flag political operation sense is a thing that happened

An example of this occurred in 2006 when Tad Furtado, a staffer for then-Congressman Charles Bass (R-NH), was caught posing as a "concerned" supporter of Bass' opponent, Democrat Paul Hodes, on several liberal New Hampshire blogs, using the pseudonyms "IndieNH" or "IndyNH". "IndyNH" expressed concern that Democrats might just be wasting their time or money on Hodes, because Bass was unbeatable.[37][38] Hodes eventually won the election.

comment by Locaha · 2014-01-14T13:05:20.130Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Concern trolling is frequently banned in feminist communities."

It may help if you consider the possibility that some feminist communities do not exist for the sake of rational dispassionate and balanced discussion of feminism. Rather, a feminist community may be a meeting place for the members of a feminist movement of some kind, which exists to achieve its goals. Like any other political movement.

TL;DR. LW is not the real world. In the real world, arguments are always soldiers (even if you pretend them not to be), discussion requires resources, and resources are finite.

Replies from: Viliam_Bur, Lumifer, CellBioGuy
comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-14T13:20:57.016Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Mere fact that the resources are finite is enough reason to use heuristics and -- inevitably -- biases.

If there are hundreds of comments I am not able to fully reaseach, I need to use some filters. Such as "trust the comments from people from the beginning of the alphabet and ignore the comments from people from the end of the alphabet" or "trust the comments from respected long-time users and ignore the comments from unknown new users". Obviously, some of these heuristics are much reliable than the others, but none of them is perfect.

Then, as abstractly thinking people we may play the game on a higher level, inventing meta-heuristics for accepting or rejecting heuristics. Such as: "if a more experienced member of my tribe recommends me a heuristic, I will use it; and I will ignore the heuristics promoted from unknown people or other tribes". Actually, this seems like a decent heuristic; you probably won't find a better one with comparable simplicity. And one of its consequences is that when an experienced member says "ignore concern trolls", you follow that. Plus you need some operational definition of what a concern troll is, which is something like: "expresses concern for our tribe, but does not pattern-match to a typical member of our tribe". There.

It's imperfect because all heuristics are imperfect.

And of course smart people always find a way to abuse it. Because all imperfect rules can be abused creatively. For example some people may start using it as a fully general counteragument against anyone who disagrees with them and happens to have lower status in given community.

And the only way to fix it would be to send all internet users to CFAR's reeducation camps. Which, unfortunately, are still under construction. :P

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-14T17:33:13.277Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

LW is not the real world. In the real world, arguments are always soldiers

This is implies that all discussions are adversarial and cannot be anything else. I do not think this is the case.

Replies from: Locaha
comment by Locaha · 2014-01-14T19:04:46.448Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is implies that all discussions are adversarial and cannot be anything else. I do not think this is the case.

All interactions are adversarial to some extent. Even your post that I'm replying to.

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-14T20:08:50.304Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

All interactions are adversarial to some extent.

Maybe in your world. Not in mine.

Replies from: drethelin
comment by drethelin · 2014-01-14T22:00:17.126Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

said the pacifist to the conqueror

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-14T22:35:01.096Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do I really look like a pacifist to you? :-D

A trivial example: imagine that you have kids. Are all your interactions with them adversarial?

comment by CellBioGuy · 2014-01-16T15:51:22.908Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

LW is not the real world. In the real world, arguments are always soldiers

And they're not here?

Replies from: TheOtherDave, Locaha
comment by TheOtherDave · 2014-01-16T17:58:06.026Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, you tell me: have you seen examples here of people engaging each other in order to learn from each other rather than convince each other of the rightness of their views?

It's not a rhetorical question. When I first joined this site there was rather a lot of that, which was largely what pulled me in. These days it's largely displaced by various other things, and it's quite possible that a new arrival simply won't notice it amidst all the noise. So I'm asking.

Replies from: CellBioGuy
comment by CellBioGuy · 2014-01-18T21:37:05.452Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh there's plenty of people engaging to learn from each other, right alongside a major echo chamber of people pushing a very particular cluster of mythologies and ideologies. I like it here a lot for the former and enjoy watching the latter go on while its participants insist it is something else.

Replies from: TheOtherDave
comment by TheOtherDave · 2014-01-18T23:00:51.609Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

(nods) Ah. So you're agreeing that they're not always soldiers here, you're merely asserting additionally that they are not never soldiers? Yeah, that's certainly true. Thanks for clarifying.

Replies from: CellBioGuy
comment by CellBioGuy · 2014-01-19T22:23:17.522Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

They're also not always soldiers elsewhere.

Replies from: TheOtherDave
comment by TheOtherDave · 2014-01-20T00:25:37.223Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, that's true too.

comment by Locaha · 2014-01-16T16:42:16.899Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

And they're not here?

Hush, you. :-)

comment by pragmatist · 2014-01-14T12:33:57.465Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The site you linked gives a method for detecting concern trollery, so the concept is at least somewhat operationalized:

Concern trolls can be identified primarily because they will retreat from, rather than engage with or be convinced by, answers to the questions they pose. They may repeatedly ask a certain question in feminist discussions without ever absorbing or replying to answers from previous discussions. They will often back into typical anti-feminist arguments, such as expressing concern that an argument is too "extreme" or a feminist too "strident" or even "hysterical". Another common tactic is insisting that some subjects are more important than others, for example, that media depictions of women shouldn't be criticised while violence against women continues.

This seems quite distinct from "someone slightly to the right of me". If this description is correct, then someone who goes into a feminist space and argues forcefully against some tenet of feminism, replying substantively to the feminists' objections (rather than criticizing their tone), would not qualify as a concern troll.

Replies from: Kaj_Sotala, Lumifer
comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-01-14T12:47:56.828Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Pretty sure that LW would also look badly upon people who showed up here and kept repeating the same questions over and over, without ever acknowledging the previous times when people had replied to them.

Replies from: TheOtherDave
comment by TheOtherDave · 2014-01-14T18:19:58.820Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yup. Even more so if they backed into typical anti-rational arguments, such as expressing concern that an argument is too "extreme" or a rationalist too "cold" or even "unfeeling."

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-14T17:35:52.961Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If this description is correct, then someone who goes into a feminist space and argues forcefully against some tenet of feminism, replying substantively to the feminists' objections (rather than criticizing their tone), would not qualify as a concern troll.

Yes, such person would be labeled an outright "enemy" and kicked out even faster than a troll.

Replies from: pragmatist
comment by pragmatist · 2014-01-14T18:00:52.794Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, such person would be labeled an outright "enemy" and kicked out even faster than a troll.

On some feminist websites, yes. On others, no.

(I can provide examples belonging to the latter category, if you're interested.)

comment by Randaly · 2014-01-14T15:59:14.462Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

re: public speaking: There are in person groups like Toastmasters. Alternately, you can record yourself speaking about something and try to give yourself a self-critique.

Here's an exercise I've run before: Person 1 picks a word at random; Person 2 immediately starting speaking about something relevant. At 15 second intervals for 1-2 minutes, Person 1 throws out new words; Person 2 needs to keep speaking about the new words, and to flow smoothly between topics. (You can substitute Wikipedia's random article button for Person 1.)

comment by Alejandro1 · 2014-01-16T16:10:56.070Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Imagine we often saw people coming to LW and saying things like

"Hello. I wholeheartedly agree with the basic goals of LW and I think rationality is awesome! But, if I may make a small criticism, I think LW is being a bit irrational itself in its complete dismissal of religion. Yes, many forms of religion are irrational, but others may not be so, and one must no throw the baby with the bathwater, etc. etc."

If there was a recurring pattern of this happening, with the pro-religion arguments being made by "newbies" and being things we have seen many times before, wouldn't we get impatient with it, give it a label (such as "concern trolling") and apply the label dismissively from then on? Perhaps this is not the most open-minded attitude, and it would be very inappropriate in a forum dedicated to open discussion between theists and atheists. But in a forum where most people have decided to their own satisfaction that these criticisms are incorrect, and are more interested in discussing other topics while taking atheism for granted than in rehashing what they see as basic stuff, can they really be faulted for taking it?

Replies from: Douglas_Knight, MugaSofer
comment by Douglas_Knight · 2014-01-16T20:01:38.418Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You give reasons for having a dismissive label, but the particular label is about other reasons. I think that disconnect is dangerous.

comment by MugaSofer · 2014-01-17T02:56:00.679Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ahm, don't we in fact have a warning against doing exactly that on the FAQ?

(I speak as someone who can wholeheartedly endorse that newbie's statement.)

Replies from: Alejandro1
comment by Alejandro1 · 2014-01-17T03:51:26.358Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I endorse the newbie statement as well! (Kinda, under some interpretations and expansions).

My point was not that the impatient, dismissive reaction is the best one, or the one an ideal truth seeker would take; just that it is understandable for a group of humans with limited time and energy and who are not interested in having a discussion on matters that they perceive as settled. I was reacting against words like "literally the worst concept ever" and "horrible" in the parent comment.

Replies from: MugaSofer
comment by MugaSofer · 2014-01-17T03:59:29.759Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

And it appears that's the option we actually took, in exactly that situation! So all the more kudos to you - I think it puts this discussion in a slightly different light, myself.

comment by wadavis · 2014-01-14T16:05:44.394Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

2.) In my experience, filling your rhetoric with filler words is a result of being uncertain speaking, or not being sure what you want to say.

For the first item, find public speaking practice/training. This does not have to be toastmasters, volunteer or join a club and step into a leadership position. Take a part time job at a tourist attraction and spend an afternoon a week telling stories to groups of strangers. You may be already at home talking to anyone, but if you are not, this will help.

For the second item, find public speaking practice/training. Too often I find myself repeating my last statement and using other filler methods to hold my place in the conversation while I order my thoughts. Take a breath, pause, figure out what you are going to say before you say it. It feels like an eternity to you, but it is only a moment's pause to the listener. Also, instead of holding your place with filler, practice body language, establish through posture and eye contact that you are still talking. Public speaking is again great practice for holding interest by body language alone.

Disclaimer: I'm from a very Wait Culture, results may vary in a Interrupt Culture

Edit for emphasis: Decide what you want to say then say it! You will use more precise language and less filler.

Replies from: gothgirl420666
comment by gothgirl420666 · 2014-01-14T22:22:31.543Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks. I'm a college student so the obvious choice is to be a tour guide, but for some reason this is a really popular job and it's hard to get even though you don't get paid? Maybe I could find some sort of club that would be good for this purpose.

Decide what you want to say then say it! You will use more precise language and less filler.

I've tried to do this but it's a lot easier said than done. Maybe I'll have to redouble my efforts.

EDIT: What culture are you from? The idea of a wait culture sounds very alien to me outside of classroom discussions.

Replies from: wadavis
comment by wadavis · 2014-01-14T23:14:59.914Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

College is full of student groups, find one you like for its own merits and as a side project strive for a role that includes a little bit of audience addressing. I took on a secretary role in my fraternity that involved frequently addressing the whole chapter, and joined the 4-H alumni that volunteered as leaders for 4-H youth events. Unfortunately it is a skill that benefits less from dedicated practice and more from repetition and familiarity.

College is a great opportunity to develop these skills, but it does seem that the low-hanging fruit has been picked over (tour guides, student council, excreta).

I'm from Canada, I hate to reinforce the polite/sorry meme. but ya.

comment by Creutzer · 2014-01-14T09:28:03.122Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ad two: I have no particular expertise in this area, so all I can offer is a few remarks based on what I myself do when I want to change something about my speech (e.g. my accent, but also vocabulary). Basically, it's one of those things where what you need to do is train yourself to pay attention. In order to do this, it's important not to be afraid to speak slowly. There might be an unconscious inhibition to speaking slowly for fear of appearing dumb. If you overcome that, you have time to consciously double-check what you're saying, and to consciously intervene by actively thinking about what you're going to say, and then saying it, or by stopping yourself when you feel that you're about to say something undesirable (like "like").

Also, you couldn't be old-fashioned by wearing a fedora, if I'm correct in deducing from you username that you're a girl. ;-)

Replies from: pragmatist
comment by pragmatist · 2014-01-14T12:28:54.244Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Also, you couldn't be old-fashioned by wearing a fedora, if I'm correct in deducing from you username that you're a girl

Understandable but incorrect deduction, actually. He's a guy. I remember being somewhat confused by this at one point, too.

comment by Omid · 2014-01-14T16:20:03.014Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Despite his nickname, Gothgirl420666 is a cis male. Update his level of credibility on gender issues accordingly.

Replies from: Tenoke, gothgirl420666
comment by Tenoke · 2014-01-15T13:57:39.989Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh, so your ' level of credibility on gender issues' is defined by your gender? That sounds pretty feminist.

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2014-01-14T16:33:33.508Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


comment by drethelin · 2014-01-10T22:50:48.498Z · LW(p) · GW(p) Some thoughts I had on polytheism as a human-implementable moral system rather than as a factual question.

Replies from: CellBioGuy
comment by CellBioGuy · 2014-01-11T04:26:21.043Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Reminds me of my not-quite-awake-dream-state encounters with Q from Star Trek.

Quoting part of an old comment of mine:

I can, though, relay an interesting experience I had in unintentionally constructing some kind of similar mental archetype while dreaming that kind of stuck around in my mind for a while. I didn't reach into any pantheon though, my mind reached to a mythology which has had its claws in my psyche since childhood - star trek. Q is always trolling the crew of the Enterprise for humanity's benefit, in attempts to get them to meet their potential and progress in understanding or test them. He was there, and let's just say I was thoroughly trolled in a dream, in ways that emphasized certain capabilities of mine that I was not using. And just before waking up he specifically told me that he would be watching me with my own eyes since he was actully part of me that normally didn't speak. That sense of part of me watching and making sure I actually did what I was capable of stuck around for over a week.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-12T19:07:46.819Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I just set up the Anki Beeminder plugin + Beeminder on my Android smartphone. It all automatic software and should I forget to do Anki enough the smartphone app will bug me.

I think for anyone doing Anki there no reason not to go down that road. If you want to make sure you can even add a commitment contract to Beeminder.

Replies from: None, Emile
comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-21T21:07:56.396Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

there no reason not to go down that road

I tried Beeminder and it didn't work. Basically, I just ignored it when there were $5 at stake, was briefly motivated by $10 and $30, and then just started lying. So, you need to have at least some self-respect in order to successfully use it. The most funny thing is that I paid them something around $300, before I found out how ineffective Beeminder was for me.

Yay positive reinforcement! (M&M's had helped me with Anki, to some extent (until I started lying :D))

comment by Emile · 2014-01-12T23:09:42.339Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have a reason to not go down that road - I have a solid enough Anki habit as it is, and don't need extra push. Anki doesn't feel like a chore.

Replies from: ChristianKl
comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-13T11:17:33.291Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There are plenty of people who do have a solid habit and then lose the habit after something comes up in their lives.

I put a weekly goal of review cards into Beeminder so it will only start pushing when necessary and not cause troubly otherwise.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-12T14:38:47.683Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My friends keep posting videos of Jacob Barnett, a child genius (TEDx video; YouTube channel) on facebook. I'd like to have your opinion about what kind of a genius precisely he is.

From my short googling, seems to me that the kid has an Asperger syndrom, he probably enjoys reading a lot about maths and physics, he probably does it most of his day, and he seems to have some kind of photographic memory, so he remembers a lot and then goes to impress people. His mother is doing a very good marketing campaign for him. There are videos of him talking about quantum physics, relativity, black holes, and other similar stuff on YouTube. He is believed to have mastered the high-school mathematics in two weeks, or something like that. And there seems to be a lot of comment spam about him on various websites (e.g. over 400 google hits on StackExchange, most of it later deleted). On his webpage, you can buy a book about him (written by his mother) or contribute to a charity for autistic children.

If someone wants to see his videos about physics, I would like to know your opinion whether what he speaks seems correct, and whether it shows deeper understanding, or just repeating something he memorized from the book. (I am not good at physics. The YouTube videos make it difficult to read what he writes; but it wouldn't help me even if I could.) Most people's reactions are: "oh, the kid seems so smart, I don't even understand what he's saying, but it's so smart". So, I'd like to have an opinion of someone who does understand.

Replies from: Oscar_Cunningham, pragmatist
comment by Oscar_Cunningham · 2014-01-13T14:40:56.385Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I watched one of his videos explaining the path integral. It was definitely all correct, and the way he presented it convinces me that he wasn't just repeating something he had memorised from a text book. He was presenting it informally and in his own words. He even had a way of motivating the path integral hat I hadn't seen before. So I'd say that he genuinely does have a deep understanding.

Replies from: Manfred
comment by Manfred · 2014-01-14T10:10:52.048Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Watched the path integral videos as well. The procedure he follows is pretty much straight out of e.g. Altland and Simons. But you can see he knows what the procedure does.

Replies from: Viliam_Bur
comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-14T13:32:28.032Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for saying this!

My first thought after Oscar's reply was: "Well, just because Oscar didn't see it before, that doesn't prove it's not copied from some book."

Then I was ashamed: "Oh, this is a textbook example of motivated thinking. You ask experts to evaluate the claim you are not able to evaluate. If someone told you the kid is fake, you wouldn't doubt it for a second. But when an expert tells you the kid is genuine, you just find a way to ignore the evidence."

Next iteration: "Well, I definitely should increase my probability that the kid really is genius. However, it is not completely unlikely that an autistic kid who spends almost literally all his life reading scientific books could find and remember a book an expert haven't heard about. So I should update, but it's probably okay to update just a little, and wait for more reports."

Now I feel more sane, thank you!

Although, on the second thought, I should have considered not just the probability that the kid read a book Oscar doesn't know about... but also the probability that this would happen to be the first video Oscar randomly chooses to watch. And that is much smaller.

So, at this moment my belief is... well, pretty much what pragmatist wrote: "He knows what he is talking about (which is still only a weak evidence for deep insights)."

Also, I should update that not everything I find in a discussion of out local Mensa is necessarily bullshit.

comment by pragmatist · 2014-01-14T12:59:36.080Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Here's a previous comment I wrote expressing skepticism about the whole Jake Barnett phenomenon (also see here and here). I haven't been keeping up with what the kid has been doing lately, so maybe my concerns are now moot. Briefly skimming some of the recent videos on his channel, he seems to basically know what he is talking about, although there's no evidence of any particularly deep insight into the topics.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-12T02:14:41.871Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Less Wrong contains so much advice that it's impossible to follow even a large fraction of it. How should I decide what advice to actually follow?

Replies from: ChristianKl
comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-12T12:36:26.286Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would start with looking at what are the most important issue that you face at the moment in your life.

comment by VAuroch · 2014-01-09T08:18:50.791Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Recently attempted to read Julian Barbour's The End of Time, primarily on Eliezer's recommendation and found myself stalling out because it wasn't presenting any information which felt new to me. I am currently weighing whether it is worth pushing onward in the hopes of finding meatier material later.

Has anyone else read it after having read the Quantum Physics sequence, and what were their thoughts?

Replies from: VAuroch
comment by VAuroch · 2014-01-16T09:23:05.059Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I recently reread Anathem, and while searching for our world's equivalent of Diax's Rake, found in the online acknowledgements that

Almost every page of Anathem bears some imprint from [Julian Barbour']s more recent The End of Time

So that I had read and taken in his ideas (at that deep level mainly reserved for well-written Conjunction Fallacies), and read the Quantum Physics sequence, probably explains why I found nothing new in the book itself.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-14T06:08:17.061Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My friend will have one month of unemployment in the SF Bay Area and is looking for projects, experiences, and ideas to make zirself awesome. My friend works in the biological sciences, but plans to apply to medical school. Traits include being multilingual (english, mandarin, french), very limited spanish, cooking, sub-power user competent technology use. Not widely read, not x-rational, difficulties with akrasia, drive, self-confidence, public speaking, making friends. No significant knowledge of coding, math beyond calculus II, philosophy, sociology, politics, economics. Normal fitness levels, but does not regularly exercise.

Where should ze look for advice on how to spend a month without work? What kind of activities would be good to pursue? Goals include acceptance to medical school, forming an alternative career, or other non-specified ideas about becoming a better person.

Replies from: Ben_LandauTaylor, aelephant
comment by Ben_LandauTaylor · 2014-01-16T19:40:54.474Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You've listed one concrete goal and two stupendously vague goals. My first suggestion would be for your friend to spend the time figuring out what, exactly, they're trying to achieve with something like "form an alternative career" or "become a better person," then using the resulting knowledge to make an actionable plan. Clarifying goals is often the first step to achieving goals.

Other considerations: How far in the future will this be? How much money, if any, does this person have available for training or travel or the like? Is CFAR running a workshop during the relevant month?

comment by aelephant · 2014-01-14T10:52:43.516Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Wow, how do you master Mandarin AND French with difficulties with akrasia & drive?

Replies from: None, Kaj_Sotala
comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-14T18:55:23.572Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ze speaks Mandarin and English natively. Ze was born in China and moved to USA at a young age. French was learned in high school, then more in college. French is also a relatively easy language to get the basics of if you speak English, and ze spent a year living in France which no doubt helped a great deal.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-01-14T12:57:05.276Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Akrasia doesn't necessarily mean you're incapable of studying everything. It could just mean that you e.g. spend all your time studying languages when you should be working.

Also, three languages isn't that much if you have the right background: I speak Finnish because I live in Finland, Swedish because I had Swedish-speaking relatives and went to a Swedish-speaking elementary school, and English because that was the language most of the most interesting entertainment was in. I don't remember really needing to actively study any of them: I just picked them up via childhood immersion, not unlike many other people from the same background. (Well, I did keep asking my parents about the English terms in video games and such early on, but that never felt like studying.)

comment by badger · 2014-01-12T23:04:47.922Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is there a reason why a second account I made recently is unable to post comments? The top-level comment box and the reply buttons on comments are missing. I hope this isn't affecting all new users.

Replies from: AndekN, Oscar_Cunningham
comment by AndekN · 2014-01-14T11:15:33.346Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I had the same problem couple of months ago. It was about confirming an e-mail address: I received an email asking me to confirm the address I was using, with a link. After that, I could comment normally. Unfortunately I can't remember what I did in order to receive that email: something in preferences, probably.

comment by Oscar_Cunningham · 2014-01-13T14:43:53.576Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think that sufficiently downvoted users are prevented from commenting. Could it be that?

Replies from: badger
comment by badger · 2014-01-13T14:49:41.638Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The account is brand-new and never posted anything.

comment by cousin_it · 2014-01-11T01:20:12.224Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I started reading the Culture novels by Iain M. Banks and can't get over the biggest plot hole: where's the flood of people wanting to immigrate into the Culture, and what happens to them?

Replies from: Dr_Manhattan, Prismattic, WalterL
comment by Dr_Manhattan · 2014-01-11T01:43:15.667Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

He touches on that in "Consider Phlebas". Basically there were other technologically advanced civs with different values, not everyone wanted to join the Culture.

Another possible explanation is that the ship Minds controlled immigration in non-obvious ways (memetic weaponry).

comment by Prismattic · 2014-01-12T03:55:01.206Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Somewhere in the books, I think in Look to Windward, it's pointed out that ambassadors to the Culture end up assimilated and serving unofficially as ambassadors for the Culture instead.

Also, the Culture appears to have trillions of citizens. You could have a large amount of immigration and still not see much of the impact.

comment by WalterL · 2014-01-13T20:13:17.669Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think the Culture accepts immigrants. Why wouldn't it?

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-10T19:12:04.977Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This Washington Post piece discusses motivated reasoning, and how given a grouping of the exact same reforms, you can strongly influence whether or not people think it is a good policy by changing the affiliation of the group that endorses it.

Ergo: 5 reforms, labeled blue solutions to green problems, blues like, greens don't. Same 5 reforms labeled green solutions to blue problem, greens like them and blues don't.

comment by Anatoly_Vorobey · 2014-01-14T19:02:24.474Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What if hosted individual users' blogs? They would live on the user profile page, as a separate tab (perhaps the default one). That (and an RSS feed) would be the primary way to get to them. Public homepage would not aggregate from them, Main and Discussion remaining as they are.

Has this been discussed before? Pros/cons? Would you use this mechanism if it were available?

(technically, under the hood, they'd be easy to implement as just separate individual subreddits, I guess)

Replies from: ChristianKl
comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-15T17:28:59.735Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think there any advantage of individuals to write blogs in that way. Having the blog separate and the links on "RECENT ON RATIONALITY BLOGS" seems to be a good solution.

comment by Chrysophylax · 2014-01-13T14:13:48.331Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A query about threads:

I posted a query in discussion because I didn't know this thread exists. I got my answer and was told that I should have used the Open Thread, so I deleted the main post, which the FAQ seems to be saying will remove it from the list of viewable posts. Is this sufficient?

I also didn't see my post appear under discussion/new before I deleted it. Where did it appear so that other people could look at it?

Replies from: Tenoke
comment by Tenoke · 2014-01-13T17:26:10.913Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, this is sufficient. Well done.

I also didn't see my post appear under discussion/new before I deleted it. Where did it appear so that other people could look at it?

It appeared under Discussion (it is no longer there) and I am not sure why you weren't able to see it there.

comment by NoSuchPlace · 2014-01-12T21:20:22.750Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A while back there was a post linking to videos and a paper about an AI which which can play arbitrary NES games. Since then two more videos about the AI have been uploaded by the author:

Also in the second video the Author briefly addresses concerns about the AI turning into skynet.

comment by ephion · 2014-01-12T16:22:02.748Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am considering a possibly risky financial move, and not sure that it's a good idea.

I am planning on going back to school full time next year (getting a BS Computer Science so I expect to have a big pay raise), and I am considering purchasing a 4br house and renting out two of the bedrooms to cover mortgage payment + maintenance costs. I can do this at well under-market rent pricing (ideally offered to friends or romantic partners), so I don't feel like it'd be taking advantage of people (rent in my city is vastly overpriced and home prices are very cheap). However, I'd need to take out about $100k of debt, and I'm planning on quitting my full time job to focus on school.

I'll be getting student loans to cover living expenses and tuition (planning on living very frugally and saving most of it to pay off when I'm done), plus I'll have enough savings to cover expenses and my credit score is quite good. So I'm convinced that I'll be fine financially, but I'm pretty sure that no bank will give me a mortgage without a full time job. This necessitates tricking the banks into giving me a mortgage and then quitting my job once I'm moved in.

I'm estimating that this will reduce my monthly expenditure by $300 ($7,200 spread out over two years required to get degree). That is more than the fees involved in purchasing a home, and I'll either resell the property or continue to rent it out after I'm done.

Any thoughts on this situation?

Replies from: NancyLebovitz
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-12T17:42:38.063Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You may be underestimating the amount of work involved in being a landlord. If you find financially stable, reliable, non-destructive people, it's a nice income stream. Even so, they will expect you to fix problems sooner than you might get around to doing it for yourself. You probably shouldn't count on having your rooms rented for every month, you might lose a tenant and not have one ready to replace them immediately.

All this is general knowledge. There's probably information somewhere about the expected costs to being a landlord.

It still might make sense to buy the house.

Replies from: ephion
comment by ephion · 2014-01-12T20:41:45.710Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thank you! I'll take those factors into account.

comment by Zian · 2014-01-13T07:10:27.154Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Has there been any update on the Less Wrong survey/census? The original post mentioned something about a "MONETARY REWARD" but it didn't say when to check back for results/etc.

comment by Pentashagon · 2014-01-12T17:47:02.504Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is anyone aware of research into long-term comas as a potential alternative to cryonics? There are small numbers of examples of people in unresponsive comas for over a decade who then awake and are at least basically functional. It seems like it might be possible with perhaps cooling (lowering the body temperature to reduce metabolism and perhaps disease progression) with heart-lung machines to keep one's body alive for an indefinite period if normal life was otherwise about to end.

tl;dr, how long can people just stay on life support?

It seems far more likely to be revived from advanced life support than from cryonics. Given pain management (or even better highly-effetive consciousness suppression) it might be possible to preserve a living brain for many decades. It's obviously going to be quite a bit more expensive than liquid nitrogen, but potentially a batched setup (one large shared bloodstream for example) with a lot more subscribers could be cheaper than current cryonics.

Replies from: CellBioGuy
comment by CellBioGuy · 2014-01-13T00:07:58.317Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Temporary theraputic hypothermia is very useful for treatment of cardiac arrest and other neurological insults, as it reduces reperfusion injury and the slower inflammatory brain damage that happens in the hours and days after a period of ischemia.

As for life support, people can live for decades on tube feeding and artificial ventilation, and years on chemical feed dripped into their blood (at the cost of liver function). That's just letting normal biology proceed though, substituting some of the functions of a fully functional nervous system or other organ systems. If you are looking to try to preserve degrading function longer, or stretch out the time you have to treat something, you would want to try to replicate a state like hibernation, in which temperature and biochemical reaction rates can be lowered while maintaining the presence of actual life and repair functions. The particulars of such a state would dictate if someone who was already ill or damaged in some way stood much of a chance of surviving it. Though a lot of neurological trauma is already treated with artificial comas to reduce the brain's bloodflow and metabolic rate, and there was a recent report of successful treatment for rabies that involved a months-long induced coma.

...Though you really don't want to spend much time with your blood flow moving through tubes outside your body that you don't absolutely have to. It's just asking for infection and all sorts of clotting/embolism problems, either due to anticoagulants giving you bleeds inside your body, or your blood clotting in tubes not lined with endotheial cells and not shaped for near-perfect laminar flow, or microscopic bubbles entering the flow through a crack in the plastic too small to see. There's even indications that a large fraction of people on heart-lung machines for a single surgery have micro-embolisms throughout the brain caused by the blood issues that come about form extracorporial circulation.

comment by Will_Newsome · 2014-01-12T02:33:57.842Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Does anyone here play League? I'm AIXItl.

Replies from: Manfred
comment by Manfred · 2014-01-14T10:15:46.625Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Adding you :P

Replies from: Will_Newsome
comment by Will_Newsome · 2014-01-15T02:15:57.623Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks! Added back. Hopefully you can forgive me for butting heads with you a bit in the past.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-12T00:53:11.471Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The waterbear, a multicellular organism with neurons-- it can be frozen and revived.

Any thoughts about genetic engineering to make cryonics easier?

Replies from: CellBioGuy
comment by CellBioGuy · 2014-01-12T02:15:15.857Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Being small enough to freeze solid quickly is a nonstarter.

Cells filling themselves up with trehalose (disaccharide that in many organisms including waterbears and my lab yeast serves as both a fast-degrading energy store [faster than glycogen] and protection against denaturing proteins during both desiccation and freezing) under stress is more plausible but runs afoul of the fact that large animals only have so much soluble sugar at any given time and can't make sugars from lipids - in many cases of organisms that use it as a protective feature it becomes like 10% or more of their weight.

Trying to eliminate the inflammatory response to hypoxia? No idea if that's plausible without causing immune system issues.

comment by CAE_Jones · 2014-01-10T12:07:22.251Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Again frustrated with being unable to type properly while standing, and remembering how my (no longer usable) braille devices made doing so trivial, I wrote a comment praising the utility of braille input. Then I realized this was dumb, and did an experiment to put my braille typing speed against my qwerty typing speed, using a braille keyboard simulator.

I found that my qwerty speed was over 100WPM; there were no typoes in the test, but I've been known to double-capitalize, drop 'e's, and misplace 'h's quite frequently in the wild.

My braille typing speed was ~76WPM, with an average of one typo every 10 words or so.

I looked up standard typing speeds for qwerty and smart phones, and found that my qwerty speed is above average (80WPM seems to be generally considered impressive), and Typing on Smart Phones is horribly slow, ~25WPM on average (Presumably this was compared with the ~50-70WPM professional qwerty average).

I couldn't find stats on the average typing speed in braille, though this experimental app attempts something similar with touch-screens. See also chorded keyboards.

(I should also note that I'm out of practice with typing quickly in braille; I haven't used a braille input device as a primary device since 2006. I'm also atypically proficient with braille in general. I also expect my qwerty WPM would be lower in the wild than when explicitly tested.)

comment by Creutzer · 2014-01-09T16:37:19.081Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is a request for information. We all know about the force of a first impression on other people, but here's something I'm extremely confused about: how easy is it to spoil somebody's impression of you when you have already known them for a bit? I'm asking this from a male perspective, but with respect to both inter- and intra-gender interactions. I'd appreciate both scientific studies (I'm not aware of any) and personal experience, because I really have no clue. My past interactions with people have been extremely high-variance in this respect, I don't want to generalize from the example of myself, and figuring out the answer in any given individual case to gather more data is not trivial due to the noisiness of signals in social communication and the costs of asking explicitly.

Replies from: None, Lumifer
comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-10T00:59:08.278Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

An interesting case is a behavior that makes an initial good impression, but will sour a relationship when continued. Sharp sarcasm or negative joking is the most common example I've observed.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-09T18:20:36.837Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

how easy is it to spoil somebody's impression of you when you have already known them for a bit?

Spoiling is trivially easy -- just mention that you like to torture kittens in your spare time.

Without such drastic admissions, are you really asking whether someone's opinion of you can radically decrease without you doing anything that seems out of the ordinary to you? I guess, but you also have to keep in mind the difference between what the other person things and what s/he is willing to show.

For example, let's say Alice and Bob meet. Alice doesn't really like Bob but she is polite so she doesn't show it in an obvious fashion plus she hopes that maybe Bob isn't as bad as he looks. After a bit of time Alice's opinion of Bob is still the same but now she sees less reason to be polite and have decided that yes, Bob is as bad as he looks. From the Bob's point of view it looks as if Alice took a sudden dislike to him, but from Alice's point of view she just allowed herself to show her true attitude which didn't change much.

Replies from: Creutzer, Eugine_Nier
comment by Creutzer · 2014-01-09T18:34:50.750Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Without such drastic admissions, are you really asking whether someone's opinion of you can radically decrease without you doing anything that seems out of the ordinary to you?

Essentially, yes. The question wasn't particularly clear, I admit, because I don't know how to phrase it more clearly, except for individual examples, and I want a slightly more general answer.

But, to give one example scenario of the kind I have in mind, take this: we know that appearing confident is important for the first impression. What happens if a person has formed an impression of you as confident, but later you display some clearly non-confident behavior?

There is the fundamental attribution error working against you, but there's also the fact that people in general don't like updating. And as I said, my personal experience shows such high variance that I feel very clueless; I've seen decent people who remain friends with others I would long have thrown out of my social circle, and other people who irredeemably condemn you as soon as you commit the slightest blunder. Somehow the latter group seemed to be more pathological than the first, for independent reasons, but still… I feel a desperate need for data.

I guess, but you also have to keep in mind the difference between what the other person thinks and what s/he is willing to show.

I'm keeping that in mind all the time, which is why I called the signals noisy. They are, to an annoying extreme.

Replies from: ChristianKl, Lumifer
comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-10T14:15:16.900Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That analysis is self centered. It can often be much more useful to ask yourself: "What does this person want? How can I act in a way to help that person to get what they wants?" than to ask yourself: "How will that person judge me for what I do?"

If you interact with me and make a social blunder that makes you appear inconfident, so what if I get the outcome from the interaction that I want?

The outcome might not even be self centered. I like effectively helping someone else improve themselves. If someone asks me advice on something and comes back a week later and tells me he implemented my advice I feel good because something I did had an effect even if it produced no direct personal benefit.

Different people have different goals. One person might want to hang out to avoid being lonely. Another person might want to hang out to with someone have an audience for his jokes. Some people might want to hang out with cool people because then other people will think they are cool.

Traits like confidence do have some effects but you will never make sense of people actions if you don't think about their goals.

Goals also change. Two years ago I engaged in a lot of actions to prove to myself that I'm confident. I satisfied that need and moved on to other topics.

I did things like walking in my dancing course with a 3 people film crew who were filming a documentary about Quantified Self and this was part of a story about how I measure my pulse while dancing Salsa. In some sense that's supposed to be a high status signal.

On the other hands that's not how it works. Having genuine connections with people and caring about what they want matters a lot more than engineering the right status signals and right impressions.

There might be people that you can effectively impress over a long time with a carefully engineered high status first impression but in general that's not the kind of people I want to hang out with. Most people care about whether they have a genuine interaction with you. If you give a high status impression it might they might more likely find the fault at first with them and give you a bit of a benefit of a doubt to develop connection but if no genuine connection develops all your first impression of being confident or otherwise high status won't help you with developing friendships.

Replies from: Creutzer
comment by Creutzer · 2014-01-10T21:45:04.953Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That is a good point. I generally feel very powerless when it comes to figuring out what other people want and providing it. Maybe I should make this more of a focus.

Replies from: ChristianKl
comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-11T14:27:30.225Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In my experience figuring out what other people want get's easier if you have a bit of mental distance and can take the far view. If you are focused on what you can do to achieve a certain objective in the next 5 minutes, it's hard to see deeper goals of other people.

Even if you ask them few people will give you their deepest motivations Someone who's lonely and who core motivation comes from the search for companionship won't admit it as doing so would make him emotionally vulnerable.

If you are all the time worried what first impression you make and how the other person judges you, it's also unlikely that you will understand them on that level.

It can be much more about relaxing and listen to the other person than about trying to do something.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-09T18:48:28.888Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Two reactions to this.

First, I think that the high variance and the noise are just characteristics of real life. People are different AND incoherent AND impulsive AND prone to change their mind.

Even if you manage to gather enough data to form some reasonable central estimates, the variance will remain huge.

Second, it's not clear to me what kind of an answer do you hope to get. Technically you are asking a simple yes/no question and the answer to it is obviously "yes", but between that and a full-blown model of human behavior in relationships I am not sure what are you looking for. Can you give an example of what an answer (not necessarily a correct one) might look like?

Replies from: Creutzer
comment by Creutzer · 2014-01-09T19:03:33.080Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Uhm, technically, I'm asking a degree question, not a yes/no-question…

People are different AND incoherent AND impulsive AND prone to change their mind.

Well, especially the last conjunct is not obvious by any means. :)

Here's an example of a possible "personal experience" answer: "In my experience of so-and-so many years, in this-and-that demographic, people tend to stick to their initial impressions. It takes a certain time or relatively persistent behavior to the contrary for them to change their initial assessment, e.g. for them to judge that you're not as smart or confident as they initially believed you to be. Certain (comparatively rare) individuals are exceptions to this and are, as it were, on the look-out for faults in others. Individuals may be on in one or the other group only for a particular gender-mixture, in particular, they may be of the "forgiving" kind for same-gender interactions, but of the judgmental kind for cross-gender interactions. This is the most common deviation from uniform attitudes."

I admit that I'm having a hard time figuring out what to look for in the way of scientific studies of friendship and relationships that would be relevant to this, which may explain why I didn't find anything on a first cursory search.

So any help in precisifying the question in order to increase answerability is also welcome.

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-09T19:20:26.067Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, I am not you, but I would consider that example answer to be entirely useless. It effectively says that people stick to initial impressions until they don't and, oh, there are exceptions. "Certain time" can be five seconds or five years. And what would be practical implications? That first impressions matter? We already know that.

And that, of course, before considering that various groups and subcultures are likely to have different norms in this respect.

Maybe it's worth shortcutting to a more-terminal goal? Are you looking to be liked? Do you want to control a relationship? Are you trying to forecast which relationships are likely to remain stable and which are not?

Replies from: Creutzer
comment by Creutzer · 2014-01-09T19:31:49.010Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Of course the answer is exceedingly vague, but I wouldn't expect anyone to track their experience in such a fashion as to give actual numbers. Though examples with months would of course be nice, but in any case, it would still be informative. It would tell me that the judgmental ones that immediately flip their judgments are particular exceptional individuals and that this is not normal; it would also tell me that it's the identity of individuals that explains the variation, while individuals don't change their behavior constantly (i.e. if you've seen someone be tolerant with others, you can expect them to be tolerant with you). It would tell me that you wouldn't need to worry about isolated incidents a few weeks or months apart, especially with parties of the same gender.

What I know of first impressions is mostly how rich they are. I'm asking about their resilience. Maybe there is something well-known here that I'm simply unaware of and that you consider obvious.

And that, of course, before considering that various groups and subcultures are likely to have different norms in this respect.

Which is why the answer included "that-and-that demographic"… To be honest, though, I'm not sure that I would actually expect that much variation between groups/subcultures.

Maybe it's worth shortcutting to a more-terminal goal? Are you looking to be liked? Do you want to control a relationship? Are you trying to forecast which relationships are likely to remain stable and which are not?

Good point. It's essentially the last one. This feeling I have of not knowing what's going on and what's normal is a source of anxiety to me (not in the clinical sense of social anxiety, but it makes me worry). Right now, I have some relationships with such low signal-to-noise ratios that I can really only operate on priors about, broadly speaking, humanity in general. (Discarding these relationships in favour of less bothersome one's isn't an option for various reasons.)

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-09T19:48:59.918Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Maybe there is something well-known here that I'm simply unaware of and that you consider obvious.

I think I'm coming from the position that once you have information about a specific person and a specific relationship, general priors are pretty much useless.

To give a simple example, women are, on the average, shorter than men and that would be my prior about the height of someone before seeing her. But once I see her, the prior is completely superseded by the concrete information that I now have.

In the same way when evaluating whether someone specific is likely to change his/her opinion of me, I will rely almost completely on my knowledge of that particular person and not on generic priors.

This feeling I have of not knowing what's going on and what's normal is a source of anxiety to me

Well... I wouldn't worry too much about what's "normal", though I'll point out that e.g. the mainstream picture of women paints them as very emotionally labile in sexually-charged situation.

You might also consider that you are being played games with. Might be for control (to keep you off-balance) or might be just for fun -- some people like drama.

Replies from: Creutzer
comment by Creutzer · 2014-01-09T20:01:03.841Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, maybe the only wisdom to be had here is really that if you don't have much more than priors to go on, tough luck, nothing you can do, live with the uncertainty and hope for the best (because actively asking for evidence is too costly). It's likely that this this doesn't bother you as much as me because you're just better at reading social cues; however the hell one is supposed to learn that, especially if one is an introvert and experiences a consequent poverty of stimulus.

Although sometimes it's not even about observing clues. For example, one might know that it's likely that one will at some point behave in some way that the other person would view unfavorably; and you want to estimate how much you should invest in this relationship. Then the only relevant evidence you can get is how this person behaves in dealing with other people.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-10T04:13:14.407Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Spoiling is trivially easy -- just mention that you like to torture kittens in your spare time.

Depends on who you're talking to, my reply would be along the lines of "cool!"

Replies from: satt, Vulture
comment by satt · 2014-01-10T10:19:28.375Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Presumably not a sincere reply...?

Replies from: ChristianKl
comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-11T14:55:09.219Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Imagine a situation where Bob asks Dave: Dave? Why didn't you come to my birthday party on Monday? Dave replies: "Monday I was busy torturing kittens."

In most cases, if someone would tell me that they torture kittens in their spare time I first impulse wouldn't be to conclude that they are actually torturing kittens.

The kind of person who can openly joke about torturing kittens in their spare time is likely high confidence. In some social contexts that joke will still get you looked down upon. Knowing what kind of jokes are acceptable and having the ability to push to that limit demonstrates social savviness.

comment by Vulture · 2014-01-10T04:38:19.164Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Okay, here's a better one: If the subject of sex comes up, just say "Haha I'm actually a pedophile, though, soo...." Avoid laughing, or even smiling, and maintain expectant eye contact until they respond. If they ask whether you're joking then make an expression like you're about to cry, and then leave the conversation.

Bam, person has an extremely negative opinion of you :)

comment by Lambda · 2014-01-09T05:12:58.529Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've been lurking here for a while, but I'd like to get more actively involved.

By the way, are there any other Yale students here? If so, I'd be interested in founding a rationalist group / LW meetup on campus.

Replies from: Ben_LandauTaylor, protest_boy
comment by Ben_LandauTaylor · 2014-01-09T07:49:33.020Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The standard advice for starting a physical group is to just pick a timeframe and a nice location, then show up with a good book and stay for the duration. Either other people show up and you've got your meetup, or else you spend a couple hours with a good book.

PM me if you want to talk about founding a group. I ran the Boston community for a while, and it was one of the most rewarding things I've ever done.

comment by protest_boy · 2014-01-09T07:17:16.176Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Alum here... glad to hear! You should do that :)

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-08T14:03:29.373Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

English is for my a second language but I probably wrote more words in it than in my native one.

In the last months I frequently found myself forgetting "'s" after "there" or "ït". It not an issue that I remember being there a year ago. Has anyone observed similar things or knows of research that might describe processes like this?

The only explanation I can think of is having reread Korzybski's arguments against the "is of identity".It would be interesting if my unconscious is so opposed to "is" that it censors me from using it whenever I don't pay attention.

Replies from: Tenoke, adbge, None
comment by Tenoke · 2014-01-08T16:46:55.215Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In the last months I frequently found myself forgetting "'s" after "there" or "ït". It not an issue that I remember being there a year ago.

I like how you do what you describe with the very next word after the description of the problem.

comment by adbge · 2014-01-08T17:26:34.237Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There is what Wikipedia calls interference theory, which is when the act of learning new, similar information throws a wrench into the recall of the old information. For example, I never used to have any trouble with the word iniquitous before I learned the word invidious, but now I get them mixed up.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-08T18:46:51.686Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

English is for my a second language

for me


Replies from: RolfAndreassen
comment by RolfAndreassen · 2014-01-09T05:43:07.163Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Come now. If you're going to correct that, why not make the whole sentence more idiomatic and point out that

English is a second language for me

flows better and sounds more natural? Putting the "for me" up front is a very Germanic sentence structure.

comment by ChrisHallquist · 2014-01-14T20:42:54.822Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Looking for advice on cheap / enjoyable caffeine sources.

I currently have a 2-3 energy drink per day caffeine habit, which is a bad thing due to the expense if nothing else. A couple months ago I tried to switch to making my own coffee, but it turns out that's harder than it seems and the drip coffee maker in the App Academy office makes pretty weak coffee that I don't trust to stave off withdrawal symptoms (which I really don't want to have affecting my productivity right now).

So now taking recommendations for caffeine pills / coffee machines / tea brands / whatever else.

Replies from: Nornagest, Stabilizer, bramflakes, Lumifer, kalium
comment by Nornagest · 2014-01-14T20:54:39.615Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, energy drinks don't have that high a caffeine content compared to coffee -- a can of Rockstar has about 160 mg in it, which is comparable to a strong cup of coffee, but it's got somewhere around twice the volume. Red Bull is more like 80mg. So if your office coffee isn't scratching your itch, you're probably craving something other than caffeine, maybe even just sugar. I'd recommend experimenting with that a bit.

If you want to make good coffee easily, though, I recommend a burr grinder + French press or drip cone (I prefer the standalone kind, though a drip coffeemaker won't kill you), and the best-quality beans you can find: Philz is a good Bay Area choice. Toss a couple tablespoons of beans per cup of coffee into your grinder, grind them at a medium-fine setting, transfer to your coffee production system of choice, then add boiling water. French presses tend to make stronger coffee with more complex flavors, but add a timing parameter -- you can oversteep or understeep coffee made with a French press, while drip coffee is pretty idiotproof.

Replies from: ChrisHallquist
comment by ChrisHallquist · 2014-01-15T02:23:57.662Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, energy drinks don't have that high a caffeine content compared to coffee -- a can of Rockstar has about 160 mg in it, which is comparable to a strong cup of coffee, but it's got somewhere around twice the volume. Red Bull is more like 80mg. So if your office coffee isn't scratching your itch, you're probably craving something other than caffeine, maybe even just sugar. I'd recommend experimenting with that a bit.

This issue isn't sugar, because I drink sugar-free energy drinks. On reflection, perceived weakness of office coffee may be in my head / based on my first couple poorly-made cups. So I may just switch back to that.

comment by Stabilizer · 2014-01-18T20:02:33.004Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Espresso is the best for preventing withdrawal. You can buy espresso cans like these. They end up costing around $1-2 per drink.

You can also consider buying a moka pot. Though, moka pot coffee isn't really espresso as it is extracted under much less pressure. But you can make your own and so save money. It tastes quite good.

A single shot of espresso from Starbucks, costs around $1.50. If you want something strong, I recommend a red-eye: a cup of drip coffee with a shot of espresso in it. This usually will keep you caffeinated for a few hours at least.

comment by bramflakes · 2014-01-15T00:59:21.975Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Caffeine pills are cheap, portable, fast-acting, and you can get an exact dose.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-14T20:50:18.423Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The simplest thing is caffeine pills. They're cheap and freely available over-the-counter.

Making yourself some coffee is not hard at all. Drip coffeemakers are ubiquitous and cheap, if you think the coffee is too weak just put more grounds into the basket. Otherwise try Aeropress, it's good. I also like Turkish coffee but most people think it's too muddy. If you want a hobby, buy a proper espresso machine :-)

Tea is even simpler, all you need is tea and boiling water. Experiment with different teas (they are VERY different), figure out what you like. I strongly recommend loose tea over teabags.

comment by kalium · 2014-01-15T02:05:34.862Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Black tea is easier than coffee because boiling water gives good results so you don't have to worry about letting it cool exactly the right amount.

Middle Eastern import stores sell very cheap bulk tea. Often the quality of their cheapest stuff is not high enough for the tea to be very enjoyable without added flavor, so I recommend Earl Grey or, if you don't like bergamot, plain black tea and adding a cinnamon stick or cardamom pod to the pot.

comment by Baruta07 · 2014-01-14T19:00:20.662Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

For my high-school Chemistry course I need to interview an individual involved with the sciences in some professional capacity. Anyone interested?

Replies from: wadavis
comment by wadavis · 2014-01-14T22:05:48.938Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am an engineer practicing in Alberta, of course my trade is closer to math pure and physics than chemistry, but all the same I would be available for a text-based interview.

Replies from: Baruta07
comment by Baruta07 · 2014-01-15T01:51:05.988Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well that's amusing. It's for a Alberta based curriculum. Anyway that would be most agreeable as the assignment is simply to "Interview an individual employed in a 'SCIENCE' based occupation and make special note of the significance of science and technology in their occupation. Record their views on the significance of social responsibilities that pervade their chosen occupation." I'll ask the teachers if you qualify. You should as engineering is based on a very sound understanding of physics.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-12T01:57:52.314Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You're trying to solve a puzzle. Maybe it's a jigsaw puzzle, maybe it's a Sudoku puzzle, maybe it's an interesting math problem. In any case, it's one of those puzzles where you know a solution when you see it, and once it's almost solved, everything falls into place.

At the moment, you're kind of stumped. You've been unable to figure out any more facts using deductive reasoning, so now it's time to resort to trial and error. You have three independent hypotheses about the puzzle. Hypothesis A seems to have an 80% chance of being right, hypothesis B a 50% chance, and hypothesis C a 20% chance. You're going to pick a hypothesis and investigate what seems to happen if this hypothesis is true.

Do you:

  • choose hypothesis A, since it's probably right and so it's likely to lead to the right answer,
  • choose hypothesis B, since this one will yield the most expected information if you figure out whether it's true or false, or
  • choose hypothesis C, since it's probably wrong and so you're likely to find a disproof, thereby giving you more information?

(Of course, assuming that a hypothesis is false is equivalent to assuming that one of these hypotheses is true.)

The answer, of course, is probably "it depends". But what does it depend on, and what's the most likely choice overall?

My first thought is that if it's a really big puzzle, then you'll pretty much only make useful progress by establishing things with certainty (since if you make an assumption you think has a probability of 80% five times, there's only a 33% chance that you were right every time), so your best bet is to assume the hypothesis that is most likely to be falsified, i.e. C. The desire for certainty overrides all other concerns.

But for a really big puzzle, it also makes sense to pick hypothesis B, and try to prove it and to disprove it, because, although you're less likely to come up with a proof, a proof will end up being more useful in this case.

If it's a small puzzle, assuming C is likely to be a waste of time. You might be best off picking hypothesis A, since this is likely to lead you straight to a solution. Or perhaps B is a better option, since now there are four ways it could be useful. You could find that there's no solution where B is true; you could find that there's no solution where B is false; you could find a solution where B is true; or you could find a solution where B is false.

Any thoughts?

Replies from: wadavis, gedymin
comment by wadavis · 2014-01-12T11:28:15.012Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

At one extreme is the weekly sudoku puzzle that is completed for my own enjoyment and I am content with my mastery level. At that extreme I pick A, it is not really a goal to improve my sudoku skill, negative results contribute little.

At the other extreme are your hard coding problems, complex engineering problems, and those little bent steel puzzles that you have to take apart and reassemble in apparently impossible ways; Here the long term goal is not to solve the single problem but to learn and solve the problem type. These problems are either without an A solution, or you want greater mastery of the field so that next time only A or B solutions are on the table instead of the B and C solutions. Eventually your peers start coming to you with their A, B, C dilemmas and you can give them the right answer with 100% confidence. After that you will be known as a guru in your field and reap all the prestige and profit that comes with that (results may vary depending on field).

In short it depends on your goal, A to solve the problem, C to solve the problem type. B is a compromise if you want C but the budget doesn't allow for it.

Replies from: gedymin
comment by gedymin · 2014-01-13T21:25:07.298Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'd select B for the "hard coding problems", as that would give me the most information. (I'm already relatively sure that C won't work, but I may have absolutely no idea whether B would work).

Replies from: wadavis
comment by gedymin · 2014-01-13T21:22:46.235Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do you mean "hypothesis" as something that solves the problem?

If yes, then there's a problem. Either your beliefs are inconsistent (as they don't add up to 100%), or the hypotheses cannot be independent. Assuming your beliefs are consistent, your best best would be to figure out what's the correlation between these hypothesis is between choosing one to test. For example, C could be correlated with A. Choosing to pursue A (or C) would then give information about C (or A) as well.

If no, the amount of the information you'll get from testing them is incomparable. For example, B could be about a relatively minor thing, while A about 99% of the solution.

comment by Metus · 2014-01-08T14:29:00.459Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Assuming the average person's utility function is concave with respect to money and given the current income distribution the simplest and highest utility change is to take a fixed amount from high income people and give it to low income people. This follows from simple economics as the people on the lower end of the distribution know best what it is they need. GiveDirectly is the charity that pioneers this exact scheme and that is why I donate to them.

On the other end of the spectrum, the high income countries, the best people could do is eat healthier and exercise more in terms of DALY won. Though efforts are made in that direction, they seem quite futile. Two other unexplored options are training in rationality (CFAR style) and training in methods of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Obviously CFAR is the go to charity for rationality but what about the latter? How large could the effect be of training young adults in the mentioned techniques in terms of DALY seeing as mental health problems such as anxiety or depression are quite prevalent and increased psychological resilience may even help with the aformentioned goals - not to mention the intangible goods such as improved quality of life, less suffering from external events and 'better' relationships.

Replies from: jaime2000, RomeoStevens, Lumifer
comment by jaime2000 · 2014-01-08T14:51:28.049Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Assuming the average person's utility function is concave with respect to money and given the current income distribution the simplest and highest utility change is to take a fixed amount from high income people and give it to low income people.

When you consider second order consequences, such as the creation and elimination of certain incentives, the effect of currency transfers on utility is not quite so straightforward. Even without those consequences, it is far from obvious that the statement

This follows from simple economics as the people on the lower end of the distribution know best what it is they need.


comment by RomeoStevens · 2014-01-08T23:31:35.372Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would argue most people's revealed preference of utility wrt money is either incoherent or lumpy enough that describing it with a simple curve isn't really valid.

Replies from: Alsadius
comment by Alsadius · 2014-01-10T15:24:11.562Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think most people's revealed preferences are quite coherent once you assume that gambling is as much a purchase of a dream(lotteries) or an entertainment experience(poker, blackjack, etc.) as it is a strictly financial bet.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-08T15:33:47.970Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

the simplest and highest utility change is to take a fixed amount from high income people and give it to low income people.

Let's add the time dimension to this analysis. What you say might be true within an immediate time frame, but it is true in the one year time frame? ten years? a hundred years?

There is also the issue of side effects. Forcibly equalizing income (or wealth) has been tried. Many times.

Replies from: ChristianKl
comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-08T16:03:43.961Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There is also the issue of side effects. Forcibly equalizing income (or wealth) has been tried. Many times.

I don't think he advocates equalizing. It's more an argument for unconditional basic income policies. Even Milton Friedman made proposals that went in that direction.

Replies from: drethelin
comment by drethelin · 2014-01-08T22:40:28.810Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

yeah I think forcible equalization is terrible but the fact remains that you gotta get money from SOMEONE for government spending and the rich have way more of it.

Replies from: CellBioGuy
comment by CellBioGuy · 2014-01-09T00:21:32.292Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

And are hurt FAR less by its removal.

comment by JQuinton · 2014-01-12T01:10:18.564Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am trying to formalize what I think should be solvable by some game theory, but I don't know enough about decision theory to come up with a solution.

Let's say there are twins who live together. For some reason they can only eat when they both are hungry. This would work as long as they are both actually hungry at the same time, but let's say that one twin wants to gain weight since that twin wants to be a body builder, or one twin wants to lose weight since that twin wants to look better in a tuxedo.

At this point it seems like they have conflicting goals, so this seems like an iterated prisoner's dilemma. And it seems like if this is an iterated prisoner's dilemma, then the best strategy over the long run would be to cooperate. Is that correct, or am I wrong about something in this hypothetical?

Replies from: NancyLebovitz, badger
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-12T17:26:39.821Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think it's an exact match for a prisoner's dilemma because (as described) they don't have a shared goal like not going to prison. if they have an overarching shared goal like being happy with each other, the situation is different.

comment by badger · 2014-01-12T23:15:16.101Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree with Nancy that this doesn't look like a prisoner's dilemma.

You could think about this as a dynamic game, but it seems simplest to model it as a static game with two strategies: eat heavily and eat lightly. Both have to choose eat heavily to actually eat enough to gain weight, since it sounds like both have to agree every time they eat. The payoffs then look something like:

.....    Heavily     |     Lightly
Heavily |         1,0     |      0,1   |
Lightly   |         0,1    |     0,1    |

with the bodybuilder as the row player and the model as the column player. Then (Heavily, Lightly) and (Lightly, Lightly) are both Nash Equilibria. Do those payoffs seem to capture the situation you were thinking of?

Replies from: JQuinton
comment by JQuinton · 2014-01-28T22:55:01.070Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't know enough about Game Theory to expect what my Nash Equilibria would look like, but what I'm trying to find out in general is how to split resources when people have to use the same pot at the same time when they have competing or contradictory goals.

So for a real life example that I think captures what I'm trying to illustrate: My brother likes to turn the air conditioner as cold as possible during the summer so that he can bundle up in a lot of blankets when he goes to sleep. I on the other hand prefer to sleep with the a/c at room temperature so that I don't have to bundle up with blankets. Sleeping without bundling up makes my brother uncomfortable, and having to sleep under a lot of blankets so I don't freeze makes me uncomfortable. We both have to use the a/c, but we have contradictory goals even though we're using the same resource at the same time. And the situation is repeated every night during the summer (thankfully I don't live with my brother, but my current new roommate seems to have the same tendency with the a/c).

Replies from: badger
comment by badger · 2014-01-29T17:10:08.854Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That example helps clarify. In the A/C situation, you and your brother aren't really starting with a game. There isn't a natural set of strategies you are each independently choosing from; instead you are selecting one temperature together. You could construct a game to help you two along in that joint decision, though. To solve the overall problem, there are two questions to be answered:

  1. Given a set of outcomes and everyone's preferences over the outcomes, which outcome should be chosen? This is studied in social choice theory, cake-cutting/fair division, and bargaining solutions.
  2. Given an answer to the first question, how do you construct a game that implements the outcome that should be chosen? This is studied in mechanism design.

One possible solution: If everything is symmetric, the result should split the resource equally, either by setting the temperature halfway between your ideal and his ideal or alternating nights where you choose your ideals. With this as a starting point, flip a coin. The winner can either accept the equal split or make a new proposal of a temperature and a payment to the other person. The second person can accept the new proposal or make a new one. Alternate proposals until one is accepted. This is roughly the Rubinstein bargaining game implementing the Nash bargaining solution with transfers.

Another possible solution: Both submit bids between 0 and 1. Suppose the high bid is p. The person with the high bid proposes a temperature. The second person can either accept that outcome or make a new proposal. If the first player doesn't accept the new proposal, the final outcome is the second player's proposal with probability p and the status quo (say alternating nights) with probability 1-p. This is Moulin's implementation of the Kalai-Smorodinsky bargaining solution.

Replies from: JQuinton
comment by JQuinton · 2014-01-29T17:59:16.453Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks! This gives me more resources to study directly instead of hoping to land on what I was looking for randomly.

comment by Locaha · 2014-01-08T20:39:54.971Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

LessWrong is rationalist Reddit.

Where is rationalist 4chan?

Replies from: Kaj_Sotala, drethelin, ZankerH, RomeoStevens, Vulture, Lumifer
comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-01-08T20:56:13.535Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


Replies from: knb, David_Gerard
comment by knb · 2014-01-10T02:32:46.387Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

RationalWiki is more like Encyclopedia Dramatica.

comment by David_Gerard · 2014-01-08T21:17:36.541Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

One day MIRI will get a press officer and you'll forget we exist. You'll see!

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-10T01:43:01.530Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How could I possibly forget that something as ridiculous as RationalWiki exists in this world?

comment by drethelin · 2014-01-08T22:38:03.932Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

.#lesswrong IRC is probably closest.

comment by ZankerH · 2014-01-09T00:59:31.235Z · LW(p) · GW(p) ?

comment by RomeoStevens · 2014-01-08T23:30:17.262Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

so, lower signal to noise, but also more exploration of the edges of the rationalist memeplex? cud b laff.

comment by Vulture · 2014-01-08T20:45:40.611Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Check out this thread for a sense of what a bad idea that would be :)

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-09T01:06:38.221Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Where is rationalist 4chan?

It is traditional to offer certain images as incentives for answers.

Tits or GTFO! :-D

comment by Laoch · 2014-01-08T14:00:13.595Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is anybody interested in enactivism? Does anybody think that there is a cognitivist bias in LessWrong?

Replies from: shminux, ChristianKl, Kaj_Sotala
comment by shminux · 2014-01-08T20:17:49.291Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The wiki entry you linked is extremely unclear. Can you explain what enactivism is in simple words, using the vocabulary like ?

Replies from: polymathwannabe, Laoch
comment by polymathwannabe · 2014-01-11T07:12:45.436Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If I've understood it correctly, it's the idea that the way our mind works is severely constrained by our physical form. For example, one of my pet hypotheses is that, since we are bipeds that grow up vertically, we're conditioned to think that more important things are in a vertically higher position than less important things (our language is littered with such metaphors: superior, inferior, exalted, debased, etc.). It shouldn't be immediately obvious that things farther from the ground have greater value, but I've found it difficult to show to other people that vertical metaphors are metaphors, and that we'd use different ones if our bodies were different.

Replies from: Nisan, RichardKennaway
comment by Nisan · 2014-01-14T07:44:08.526Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You might be interested in Metaphors We Live By by Lakoff and Johnson. It explores cognitive metaphors like HAPPY IS UP, HEALTHY IS UP, etc.

Replies from: polymathwannabe
comment by polymathwannabe · 2014-01-15T00:36:54.084Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thank you.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2014-01-11T08:28:35.372Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

For example, one of my pet hypotheses is that, since we are bipeds that grow up vertically, we're conditioned to think that more important things are in a vertically higher position than less important things

Does this matter, though? A question I have about the whole field of embodied cognition.

Replies from: polymathwannabe
comment by polymathwannabe · 2014-01-11T19:05:27.593Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It keeps a check on our expectations for mutual understanding with alien species. A lot of our idioms and mental habits won't have any meaning for them, and vice versa. This already happens between human cultures, but it will happen even more with species that don't share our biologic history. Ultimately, it will compel us to reconsider how much of our thinking is generalizable, and how much is the contingent product of our evolution.

comment by Laoch · 2014-01-09T09:34:51.239Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

When I get the time surely. I find cognitive science by definition quite unclear, it seems far too young a discipline with many different goals and theories attaching themselves to the moniker Cognitive Science. From a personal perspective and from the formal education I've received the cognitivism which I think lesswrong/tranhumanists endorse make me very uneasy even though I'm a LW and TH.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-08T15:30:17.440Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Does anybody think that there is a cognitivist bias in LessWrong?

Bias is a bad word for core axioms that underly thinking. When discussing on Lesswrong I do accept certain axioms as the basis for the discourse.

There are other occasions where I talk to other people where I use other modes. When I attend a NLP seminar, it can happen that there are four meaningful conversational layers active at the same time. It's highly narrated and things that are said mean thing based on the narrative and context in which they were said.

On of my first 1-on-1 conversation with an NLP trainer was an elevator ride. I drove to the 5th floor to go to the toilet on it. The elevator stopped on the 4th floor and he came in. The 4th floor was the floor in which the seminar was held After assessing the situation he said: "You're intelligent." He was just at the toilet but walked down from the 5th floor to the 4th floor to then drive to the floor, and now I was on the 5th floor again because I drove the elevator there.

On that level the interaction is trivial, but to him I made the appearance of low self esteem nerd, so him as a figure of authority telling telling me me that I'm intelligent was something that was very targeted to what he thought I would need on an emotional level at that moment.

The style of the interaction where meaningful points usually don't get made on the most obvious level of the conversation and depend on context is very different from the kind of intellectual discussion on Lesswrong.

I'm not really able to do both at the same time. Both approaches have there use but I don't it makes much sense to speak in terms of bias. Just different frameworks and mental models with other axioms.

The result of such differences is that a lot of the academic literature on a subject such as hypnosis or NLP is bad because a good NLP trainer has the habit of communicating on a entirely different layer than an academic.

And to be clear, I do consider the NLP paradigm to be a form of enactivism.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-01-08T15:10:13.842Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not familiar with enactivism in particular, but embodied and situated cognition seem like reasonable paradigms. I don't think they really necessarily contradict computationalism or cognitivism, though.

Replies from: Laoch
comment by Laoch · 2014-01-09T09:35:35.299Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Mayhaps not indeed.

comment by Calvin · 2014-01-13T02:22:05.503Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Anyone else sees has a problem with this particular statement taken from Cryonics institute FAQ?

One thing we can guarantee is that if you don't sign up for cryonics is that you will have no chance at all of coming back.

I mean, marketing something as one shot that might hopefully delay (or prevent) death, is hard to swallow, but I can cope with that, but this statement reads like cryonics is the one and only possible way to do that.

Replies from: Fronken
comment by Fronken · 2014-02-05T19:23:36.696Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well ... isn't it? What others are you thinking of? None spring to my mind.

Replies from: MugaSofer
comment by MugaSofer · 2014-02-08T21:25:50.662Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Upvoted, but I think you misinterpreted the grandparent slightly.

If you don't sign up for cryonics, you will have no chance at all of coming back if you die- the claim is literally true - but the grandparent seems to be considering the broader class of "might hopefully delay (or prevent) death" - anti-aging techniques, uploading, even time travel.