How do you Murphyjitsu essentially risky activities? 2020-06-23T21:09:54.593Z
ribbonfarm: A Brief History of Existential Terror 2017-03-01T01:18:52.888Z
Wireheading Done Right: Stay Positive Without Going Insane 2016-11-22T03:16:33.340Z


Comment by 9eB1 on Anatomy of a full school climate strike · 2021-08-23T02:53:38.662Z · LW · GW

It's hard not to fight the hypothetical because these movements are determined by how committed the protesters are. If we assume infinite commitment of 100% of 12-17 year olds I think this would be very likely to succeed. If we assume realistic levels of commitment this would never happen. So it's very sensitive as a hypothetical to your assumptions.

Comment by 9eB1 on The Argument For Spoilers · 2021-05-23T08:10:38.711Z · LW · GW

Seems you are at least missing one if you think telling someone Bill dies at the end of a movie called “Kill Bill” is your last category.

To get overly analytical, you know it’s a possibility Bill dies. In Sixth Sense you may not even consider the possibility what’s-his-name is dead.

Comment by 9eB1 on Arguing from a Gap of Perspective · 2021-05-02T10:51:02.764Z · LW · GW

I think what you've described is most closely related to the Overton window. Often it is discussed in more neutral terms on LessWrong, meaning without the certitude of personal opinions from this post.

Searching for Overton window on LessWrong will turn up more references. If you find this concept interesting, you may also enjoy the Politics is the Mind-killer sequence, which is all about changing your mind on political issues, if you haven't read that.

Comment by 9eB1 on Better air is the easiest way not to die · 2021-04-28T16:13:07.422Z · LW · GW

Only tangentially related, but I found this recent comment thread on Hacker News very interesting. There are carbon scrubbers you can buy and attach to computer fans to completely eliminate odors without using air fresheners, much less incense or candles.

Comment by 9eB1 on Convict Conditioning Book Review · 2021-04-10T00:27:05.353Z · LW · GW

I've read this book and many other calisthenics and weightlifting focused fitness books. I like Convict Conditioning. It was pretty influential in the online fitness community when it came out, and remains so to some extent. That said, the information and programs in the book are somewhat out-of-date compared to more modern thinking.

I would recommend anyone interested in calisthenics to start with the reddit /r/bodyweightfitness FAQ. They have easy defaults (e.g. the Recommended Routine, or the Primer) which come with more battle-tested explanations and progression schemes. Additionally, having a community you can participate in for motivation or asking questions will make it more likely that you'll stick with a program.

Sticking to the program is by far the hardest part of any workout program, though, so the most important thing is to find something that you can fully commit to regularly, especially if it's something you find intrinsically fun or interesting.

Comment by 9eB1 on The best frequently don't rise to the top · 2021-03-26T05:35:19.977Z · LW · GW

I watched a few of the DHH, Eric Normand and Be a Better Dev videos. DHH's videos are very good, actually I was sucked into watching a couple, but he doesn't have very many. Also, your link points to his old channel, and now all those videos are, although he only did one more in that series. The couple Eric Normand videos were pretty good, I could imagine that there are really good ones somewhere in the feed. For Be a Better Dev, the videos seemed pretty low quality, very focused on learning AWS-specific technologies. It gave me the impression that he was just following traffic for what to talk about, the exact opposite of DHH. It's the equivalent of YouTube blogspam.

Comment by 9eB1 on Clubhouse · 2021-03-19T05:23:21.392Z · LW · GW

In the early stages of Quora, it was a legitimately awesome place to get unfiltered answers from people you were interested in. Eventually, the bleeding edge people got bored of it and left it to the vultures, the same people who had SEOed bullshit pages cluttering up google search results. I've never used Clubhouse, but this seems like a risk. Is there some structural reason this won't come to pass?

Comment by 9eB1 on Why does Applied Divinity Studies think EA hasn’t grown since 2015? · 2021-03-09T17:58:36.211Z · LW · GW

ScottAlexander had a very interesting response to this post on reddit

Comment by 9eB1 on Are there good negotiation classes? · 2021-02-24T21:26:38.348Z · LW · GW

I second this. Most negotiation advice is geared toward formal "negotiation" settings, like when you are negotiating sales contracts or business transactions. For those purposes, having negotiation tools is really useful (my favorite is "Bargaining For Advantage" which I learned of from The Personal MBA). But for being a manager, you are almost never explicitly negotiating, and in fact trying to come into your work with that mindset is counterproductive. When you are working with your reports, it would be disastrous. When you are working with other internal teams, it's mostly about informal tit-for-tat kind of long-term favor trading or reputation building (or just getting to fundamental value for the business for both parties and moving forward based on that), not explicit negotiating. These aren't things that are taught under the term "negotiation."

Comment by 9eB1 on Remembering people's name with Anki · 2021-02-15T11:06:36.662Z · LW · GW

I have used Anki to remember names and faces on multiple occasions. It works well, usually I've only used it at the beginning of being in the environment. For the names of famous people I don't think it passes the cost-benefits test. Gwern recommends only adding a card if it will save you 5 minutes over a lifetime, and so memorizing large corpuses where you may only need a handful of them ever is likely to be a bad tradeoff. The difference between these scenarios is that remembering faces and names is something you need to have instant access to, but misremembering famous people is either acceptable in the case of conversations, or can be referenced when it comes up in my writing or thinking.

Comment by 9eB1 on Evening drawing · 2021-01-09T15:05:01.458Z · LW · GW

My guess is head, painting photograph.

First (Head): Lacks the level of detail of the other two examples. A painting would also possibly be drawn from a reference, although I have no idea what even the style of painting you were referencing. The major distinction here is that the cheeks in the the second (painting) photo have mottling that suggests to me a better reference. The proportions also seem just a bit more exaggerated to me than the other two. The neck of the first one seems larger, and the shoulders have some asymmetry which is hard to interpret. It looks a bit as if her left shoulder is closer, but that doesn't exactly fit with the posture of her face.

Second (Painting): Basically by comparison with the others. It feels intermediate in realisticness.

Third (photograph): This seems like the photograph to me because it captures more detail than I would hold in my mind's eye, unlike the other two. In particular, crisp laugh lines and the detailed contrast of the eyes makes it feel like it had the most real-world reference. There is also the detail of the clothing, and I feel like most people wouldn't draw that if they were drawing a face from their imagination. (That's actually an argument for the first being painting and the second being head, though).

Comment by 9eB1 on Reviews as "How should this be improved to meet the bar?" · 2020-12-28T12:16:39.284Z · LW · GW

I have thought about a problem related to this very often. There was an Amazon shareholders letter written by Jeff Bezos that elaborates on their culture of high standards. In particular, it talks about the cost of high standards when writing Amazon's "six-page memos." The idea of having teams with high standards on their written memos resonated with me, but I have not been able to apply it that much in my professional career.

My standards are higher than those of the organization around me, and when it came down to spending the relationship capital to criticize people't documents to the level I felt would make them really high-quality, I just can't do it. Some documents achieve the standard already, so it's not unachievable in general. What it really is is that to provide criticism that feels specific and kind, it feels like I would have to understand the underlying issue at the depth that I want that person to explain to me.

Basically, to get to that level of quality, I have to put in a large fraction of the effort of drafting the document, which I don't have time to do. In some cases, I can point out areas that I feel could offer more elaboration, but sometimes the document feels inadequate and I can't explain why without several hours of concentrated effort.

I feel the same issue could come up here. You can tell a really high quality post because it offers insights that are brilliant but unexpected, or it uncovers primary source data that is neglected and unknown, or it's just a really compelling written explanation. But explaining how to create that out of an average post feels like it requires me to become the expert I want the author to be.

Comment by 9eB1 on What's Wrong with Social Science and How to Fix It: Reflections After Reading 2578 Papers · 2020-09-16T16:18:40.166Z · LW · GW

Why do you think people don't already do this?

They have to do it to some extent, otherwise replicability would be literally uncorrelated with publishability, which probably isn't the case. But because of the outcomes, we can see that people aren't doing it enough at the margin, so encouraging people to move as far in that direction as they can seems like a useful reminder.

There are two models here, one is that everyone is a homo economicus when citing papers, so no amount of persuasion is going to adjust people's citations. They are already making the optimal tradeoff based on their utility function of their personal interests vs. society's interests. The other is that people are subject to biases and blind spots, or just haven't even really considered whether they have the OPTION of not citing something that is questionable, in which case reminding them is a useful affordance.

I'm trying to be charitable to the author here, to recover useful advice. They didn't say things in the way I'm saying them. But they may have been pointing in a useful direction, and I'm trying to steelman that.

"the predators are running wild" does not mean "most people are acting in good faith, but are not competent enough for good faith to be a useful assumption".

Even upon careful rereading of that sentence, I disagree. But to parse this out based on this little sentence is too pointless for me. Like I said, I'm trying to focus on finding useful substance, not nitpicking the author, or you!

Comment by 9eB1 on What's Wrong with Social Science and How to Fix It: Reflections After Reading 2578 Papers · 2020-09-14T23:44:58.105Z · LW · GW

This problem seems to me to have the flavor of Moloch and/or inadequate equilibria. Your criticisms have two parts, the pre-edit part based on your personal experience, in which you state why the personal actions they recommend are actually not possible because of the inadequate equilibria (i.e. because of academic incentives), and the criticism of the author's proposed non-personal actions, which you say is just based on intuition.

I think the author would be unsurprised that the personal actions are not reasonable. They have already said this problem requires government intervention, basically to resolve the incentive problem. But maybe at the margin you can take some of the actions that the author refers to in the personal actions. If a paper is on the cusp of "needing to be cited" but you think it won't replicate, take that into account! Or if reviewing a paper, at least take into account the probability of replication in your decision.

I think you are maybe reading the author's claim to "stop assuming good faith" too literally. In the subsequent sentence they are basically refining that to the idea that most people are acting in good faith, but are not competent enough for good faith to be a useful assumption, which seems reasonable to me.

Comment by 9eB1 on Hierarchy of Evidence · 2020-07-12T18:11:29.427Z · LW · GW

Typo: "Systemic reviews" should read "systematic reviews".

Comment by 9eB1 on What is the scientific status of 'Muscle Memory'? · 2020-07-11T06:12:15.223Z · LW · GW

The article about this on Strengtheory has links to sources (not as footnotes, in the text). May be useful to check out.

Comment by 9eB1 on How do you Murphyjitsu essentially risky activities? · 2020-06-24T17:36:55.532Z · LW · GW

When it comes to problems that are primarily related to motivation, the cost-benefit is so far weighted that the cost of implementing the plan probably doesn't seem relevant to consider, but this is a good point.

I like the idea of using Murphyjitsu for modeling shorter iterations, that's probably generally applicable.

Comment by 9eB1 on How do you Murphyjitsu essentially risky activities? · 2020-06-24T17:34:13.399Z · LW · GW

That seems mostly about the emotional content of a particular plan, while I see Murphyjitsu as a tool for avoiding the planning fallacy, forcing yourself to fully think through the implications of a plan, or getting more realistic predictions from System 1. I haven't viewed it much as an emotional tool, but maybe other people do find it useful for that.

Comment by 9eB1 on Thomas Kwa's Bounty List · 2020-06-19T17:35:04.112Z · LW · GW

Whew, glad I didn't invest more time in this. Seems there is lurking complexity everywhere.

Comment by 9eB1 on Thomas Kwa's Bounty List · 2020-06-13T02:00:34.403Z · LW · GW

At this price point this seems potentially doable. Some ideas in the order I'd try them:

  1. There is a person that has Kickstarted similar projects and you could contact him to see if they are willing to do a custom one-off. They'd probably be willing to just give you advice if you asked, too. Given that their entire Kickstarter was only $7000, at your price point this seems pretty likely.
  2. You can download a 3D model online and find a local machine shop to CNC you one. For example, just googling "tungsten machine shop san francisco" turned up which will probably mill tungsten from CAD.
  3. Same, but find a 3D printing company that can make one for you. There are a few online ( e.g.), and you'd have to request a quote, but it may be a better option if the feedstock for CNC ends up being cost prohibitive. I'm not sure if this kind of place will do individual retail orders.

This is a pretty fun format. Actually, I really like this gomboc idea and briefly considered doing a Kickstarter on it after reading your post. But then I realized that Kickstarter would only really make sense if everyone were willing to pay $800. The market is so niche, that it would have to be a passion project to be worth the hassle I think.

Comment by 9eB1 on Is there any scientific evidence for benefits of meditation? · 2020-05-11T02:14:03.752Z · LW · GW

I admit there might be reasons to invest in meditation practice that are not based on scientifically proven benefits (e.g., curiosity, sense of novelty, sense of belonging to a community). At the same time, I hope that most LW readers attach very little weight to those non-evidence-based reasons to meditate, just like I do.

I suppose I should admit the main reason I started meditating a long time ago was curiosity. I read Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha (reviewed on SSC here) and thought "well, this person sounds like they are explaining mental states that seem pretty unbelievable to me, I wonder if this is all BS." I was/am mentally healthy and emotionally stable more than the average person. I don't meditate that consistently anymore, only when things are more stressful than usual. Having it in the toolbox, like fitness, is enough for me. I did enough practice to know that what MCTB is pointing at is a real phenomenon, but that's it. I actually think that viewing it as a hobby is the healthiest way to approach the kind of serious practice needed for enlightenment.

Let's start with the easy to verify claims that I generalise as...

In my experience, these claims are false. I occasionally tried to use mindfulness to help me with dieting or exercising, since those are also things I do, and it never helped in a way I could discern.

Do you have some sources to back this up? I've heard many declared reasons why people begin their meditation practice, and it was quite a diverse set, none seemed dominant.

Thank you for challenging me on this, that was based only on personal observation, which as I admit above doesn't even square with my own experience! This survey has concrete data on why people meditate in Fig. 1. The top reason is "General wellness and general disease prevention." None of them are specifically happiness related, so maybe that's an overly specific claim.

I don't buy this at all. If the only observable benefit of me meditating is that I used to self-report average well-being of 5.17 out of 10, and now I self-report 7.39 on average

Based on my mental model of meditation, you probably would be dissatisfied with the results. In section IV of the post above, Scott Alexander summarizes thus:

Ingram dedicates himself hard to debunking a lot of the things people would use to fill the gap. Pages 261-328 discuss the various claims Buddhist schools have made about enlightenment, mostly to deny them all. He has nothing but contempt for the obviously silly ones, like how enlightened people can fly around and zap you with their third eyes. But he’s equally dismissive of things that sort of seem like the basics. He denies claims about how enlightened people can’t get angry, or effortlessly resist temptation, or feel universal unconditional love, or things like that. Some of this he supports with stories of enlightened leaders behaving badly; other times he cites himself as an enlightened person who frequently experiences anger, pain, and the like. Once he’s stripped everything else away, he says the only thing one can say about enlightenment is that it grants a powerful true experience of the non-dual nature of the world. [9eb1: I've excluded the possible counterargument here for brevity]

There are external benefits I think meditation has given me that feel like they are real, but the effect size is too small for studies to realistically find them. I can fall asleep reliably by using meditation as a tool. I can tactically break my own rumination thought cycles by meditating as a tool (or I can workout, but sometimes you've already worked out that day). I definitely feel like I am harder to surprise (lack of "jump"), but that's not a particularly practical superpower.

I've meditated for >300 hours (maybe 4 or 5). I don't regret my hours. It is a hobby, it satisfies my curiosity, it makes me happy when I need it. Lack of personal transformation is fine.

To be clear, my values with regard to self-rated wellness are different from yours. I am glad to improve my self-rated wellness even if it has no measurable outward impact on my behavior. My happiness is super important to me. If I move the needle on that, that's great even if I'm still an asshole. I have no interest in being a miserable saint.

There are several characteristics of nutrition and eating that make scientific scrutiny very difficult, and those characteristics are not shared with meditation

Those differences are subsumed in the "high short-term costs" side of my statement. The exact costs are different, that's all. You can tell people not to do all the things you mentioned during a diet study, but they won't follow your instruction.

Comment by 9eB1 on Is there any scientific evidence for benefits of meditation? · 2020-05-10T06:24:53.690Z · LW · GW

I think it is right to be skeptical of the science around meditation. Meditation perfectly fits into the Bermuda triangle of phenomenon for which our current scientific institutions and practices are not well-prepared to study.

It shares with psychological studies the challenge that the thing under investigation is the internal mental state of the subject. When there are studies with objective endpoints, usually the objective endpoint isn't the thing we want to get out of it, it's just a more reliable metric so we know the subjects aren't fooling themselves. As Science-based Medicine says:

But the more concrete and physiological the outcome, the smaller the placebo effect. Survival from serious forms of cancer, for example, has no demonstrable placebo effect. There is a “clinical trial effect,” as described above – being a subject in a trial tends to improve care and compliance, but no placebo effect beyond that. There is no compelling evidence that mood or thought alone can help fight off cancer or any similar disease.

In the case of meditation, people usually begin the practice to have mental well-being or greater happiness, which is among the outcomes least amenable to reliable objective observation. If it happens to also do something that could be reliably measured with a medical instrument, that would be a bit outside the point.

Meditation shares with nutritional science (also a wrecked landscape of low-quality studies that fail to answer our real questions) that performing the study relies on the subjects to reliably do something with a huge, short-term cost and an uncertain, long-term benefit, which humans are bad at.

High-quality studies on nutritional interventions rarely answer the questions that normal fitness-minded folks want answered, because we want the answer to the question "assuming I perfectly adhere to diet X, what results would I obtain." Studies can only measure "assuming we take a random sampling of people with varying levels of conscientiousness and investment in their diet, and tell them to do X, what happens" which is too big a difference to be useful.

Similarly with meditation, what meditators want to know is "is it worth my time meditating if I do it approximately perfectly" not "is it worth someone 'intervening' to tell me about meditation taking into account the possibility that I'm too lazy to really follow through with it." The second has more clinical relevance, but less personal relevance for the kind of people on Less Wrong.

All of that is a long precursor to saying "Is there any scientific evidence for benefits of meditation?" and "Are there good reasons for a typical reader of LessWrong to invest their time and effort into meditation practice?" are subtly different questions, so it would be wrong to literally equate them. The second is the answer we really care about, the first is one input which would, if available, fully resolve the question instead of leaving is in a state of uncertainty. You're entitled to arguments, but not (that particular) proof.

There is objective evidence that meditation does something real (EEG studies of Tibetan monks, for example), but the evidence it does something both real and valuable is probably not up to that standard.

Another, smaller, point I'd like to make is that this post is attempting to perform its own meta-analysis, but with a higher quality bar than academic meta analyses. I don't think crowdsourcing the best studies of meditation is likely to work this way. If you are interested in running a project to identify the top studies of meditation, I think you would need to identify all the relevant studies, get individuals who are interested in your project to review them, then collate the results. Just asking "the crowd" for the best studies they happen to have on hand I think is likely to fail regardless of what the evidence is.

Comment by 9eB1 on What are sensible ways to screen event participants to reduce COVID-19 risk? · 2020-03-04T04:43:32.858Z · LW · GW

As for cutoffs, just look up max healthy forehead temperature, maybe 37.5. More important is to have prominently available hand sanitizer pumps and encourage people to use it before and after the event, and remind them not to touch their faces.

Comment by 9eB1 on In defense of deviousness · 2020-01-15T22:59:34.637Z · LW · GW

There are several sources of spaghetti code that are possible:

  1. A complex domain, as you mention, where a complex entangled mess is the most elegant possible solution.
  2. Resource constraints and temporal tradeoffs. Re-architecting the system after adding each additional functionality is too time expensive, even when a new architecture could simplify the overly complex design. Social forces like "the market" or "grant money" mean it makes more sense to build the feature in the poorly architected way.
  3. Performance optimizations. If you code needs to fit inside a 64kb ROM, you may be very limited in your ability to structure your code cleanly.
  4. Lack of requisite skill. A person may not be able to provide a simple design even though one exists, even given infinite time.

If I had to guess, number 2 is the largest source of spaghetti code that Less Wrong readers are likely to encounter. Number 4 may be account for the largest volume of spaghetti code worldwide, because of the incredible amounts of line-of-business code churned out by major outsourcing companies. But even that is a reflection of economic realities. Therefore, one could say that spaghetti code is primarily an economic problem.

Comment by 9eB1 on Might humans not be the most intelligent animals? · 2020-01-06T14:41:10.885Z · LW · GW

Sorry, I could have been clearer. The empirical evidence I was referring to was the existence of human civilization, which should inform priors about the likelihood of other animals being as intelligent.

I think you are referring to a particular type of "scientific evidence" which is a subset of empirical evidence. It's reasonable to ask for that kind of proof, but sometimes it isn't available. I am reminded of Eliezer's classic post You're Entitled to Arguments, But Not (That Particular) Proof.

To be honest, I think the answer is that there is just no truth to this matter. David Chapman might say that "most intelligent" is nebulous, so while there can be some structure, there is no definite answer as to what constitutes "most intelligent." Even when you try to break down the concept further, to "raw innovative capacity" I think you face the same inherent nebulosity.

Comment by 9eB1 on What will quantum computers be used for? · 2020-01-02T13:31:09.347Z · LW · GW

The database search thing is, according to my understanding, widely misinterpreted. As Wikipedia says:

Although the purpose of Grover's algorithm is usually described as "searching a database", it may be more accurate to describe it as "inverting a function". In fact since the oracle for an unstructured database requires at least linear complexity, the algorithm cannot be used for actual databases.

To actually build Quantum Postgres, you need something that can store an enormous number of qubits, like a hard drive.

Comment by 9eB1 on Might humans not be the most intelligent animals? · 2019-12-24T14:23:16.813Z · LW · GW

Your take is contrarian as I suspect you will admit. There is quite a bit of empirical evidence, and if it turned out that humans were not the most intelligent it would be very surprising. There is probably just enough uncertainty that it's still within the realm of possibility, but only by a small margin.

Comment by 9eB1 on Against Premature Abstraction of Political Issues · 2019-12-19T15:18:56.897Z · LW · GW

This sort of existence argument is reasonable for hypothetical supehuman AIs, but real-world human cognition is extremely sensitive to the structure we can find or make up in the world. Sure, just saying "politics" does not provide a clear reference class, so it would be helpful to understand what you want to avoid about politics and engineer around it. My hunch is that avoiding your highly-technical definition of bad discourse that you are using to replace "politics" just leads to a lot of time spent on your politics analysis, with approximately the same topics avoided as a very simple rule of thumb.

I stopped associating or mentioning LW in real life largely because of the political (maybe some parts cultural as well) baggage of several years ago. Not even because I had any particular problem with the debate on the site or the opinions of everyone in aggregate, but because there was just too much stuff to cherry-pick from in our world of guilt by association. Too many mixed signals for people to judge me by.

Comment by 9eB1 on CO2 Stripper Postmortem Thoughts · 2019-12-08T01:00:28.251Z · LW · GW

I was very confused about your proposed setup after reading the wikipedia article on heat exchangers, since I couldn't figure out what thermal masses you proposed exchanging heat between. But I found this article which resolved my confusion.

Comment by 9eB1 on Do we know if spaced repetition can be used with randomized content? · 2019-11-17T23:14:12.413Z · LW · GW

It is still useful to memorize the flashcards. The terminology provides hooks that will remind you of the conceptual framework later. If you want to practice actually recognizing the design patterns, you could read some of and actively try to recognize design patterns. When you want to learn to do something, it's important to practice a task that is as close as possible to what you are trying to learn.

In real life when a software design pattern comes up, it's usually not as something that you determine from the code. More often it's by talking with the author, reading the documentation, or inferring from variable names.

The strategy described in, assuming you have read that, seems to suggest that just using Anki to cover enough of the topic space probably gives you a lot of benefits, even if you aren't doing the mental calculation.

Comment by 9eB1 on Where should I ask this particular kind of question? · 2019-11-03T14:24:06.650Z · LW · GW

Perhaps the community to ask on mostly doesn't depend on the expertise of the denizens, but your ability to get a response. If so, it matters more whether your question is something that will "hook" the people there, which depends more on the specific topic of the question than on the knowledge required to answer it. For example, if it were about the physics of AI, you'd be likely to get an answer on LessWrong. If it's about academic physics, reddit might be better. If you are using it to write fanfiction, just ask on a fanfiction forum.

It matters quite a bit how hypothetical the scenario is. For example, is it a situation that is actually physically impossible? Does it likely have a specific concrete answer even if you (or anyone) knows it, or will it end up being a matter of interpretation? Would a satisfying answer to the question advance the field of physics or any other field?

Anyway, another option is Twitter. Personally, I'd ask on LessWrong, PhysicsOverflow, or Reddit.

Comment by 9eB1 on On Internal Family Systems and multi-agent minds: a reply to PJ Eby · 2019-10-31T11:31:52.121Z · LW · GW

Yes, that seems like a reasonable perspective. I can see why that would be annoying.

Comment by 9eB1 on On Internal Family Systems and multi-agent minds: a reply to PJ Eby · 2019-10-30T23:18:54.036Z · LW · GW

I really appreciate that this post was on the front page, because I wouldn't have seen it otherwise and it was interesting. From an external viewer perspective on the "status games" aspect of it, I think the front page post didn't seem like a dominance attempt, but read as an attempt at truth seeking. I also don't think that it put your arguments in a negative light. Your comments here, on the other hand, definitely feel to an outside observer to be more status-oriented. My visceral reaction upon reading your comment above this one, for example, was that you were trying to demote IFS because it sounds like you make a living promoting this other non-IFS approach.

That said, I remember reading many of your posts on the old LessWrong and I have occasionally wondered what you had gotten up to, since you had stopped posting.

Comment by 9eB1 on What technical prereqs would I need in order to understand Stuart Armstrong's research agenda? · 2019-09-22T15:02:40.996Z · LW · GW

There appears to be some sort of bug with the editor, I had to switch to markdown mode to fix the comment. Thanks for the heads up.

I use Anki for this purpose and it works well as long as you already have a system to give you a strong daily Anki review habit.

Comment by 9eB1 on What technical prereqs would I need in order to understand Stuart Armstrong's research agenda? · 2019-09-19T04:30:05.093Z · LW · GW

If this is true, then this post by Michael Nielsen may be interesting to the poster. He uses a novel method of understanding a paper by using Anki to learn the areas of the field relevant to, in this case, the AlphaGo paper. I don't have a good reason to do this right now, but this is the strategy I would use if I wanted to understand Stuart's research program.

Comment by 9eB1 on The Hacker Learns to Trust · 2019-06-22T13:10:15.360Z · LW · GW

The phenomenon I was pointing out wasn't exactly that the person's decision was made because of status. It was that a prerequisite for them changing their mind was that they were taken seriously and engaged with respectfully. That said, I do think that its interesting to understand the way status plays into these events.

First, they started the essay with a personality-focused explanation:

To explain how this all happened, and what we can learn from it, I think it’s important to learn a little bit more about my personality and with what kind of attitude and world model I came into this situation.


I have a depressive/paranoid streak, and tend to assume the worst until proven otherwise. At the time I made my first twitter post, it seemed completely plausible in my mind that no one, OpenAI or otherwise, would care or even notice me. Or, even worse, that they would antagonize me."

The narrative that the author themselves is setting up is that they had irrational or emotional reasons for behaving the way they did, then they considered longer and changed their mind. They also specifically call out that their perceived lack of self-status as an influencing factor.

If someone has an irrational, status-focused explanation for their own initial reasoning, and then we see high-status people providing them extensive validation, it doesn't mean that they changed their mind because of the high-status people, but it's suggestive. My real model is that they took those ideas extra seriously because the people were nice and high status.

Imagine a counterfactual world where they posted their model, and all of the responses they received were the same logical argument, but instead made on 4Chan and starting with "hey fuckhead, what are you trying to do, destroy the world?" My priors suggest that this person would have, out of spite, continued to release the model.

The gesture they are making here, not releasing the model, IS purely symbolic. We know the model is not as good as mini-GPT2. Nonetheless, it may be useful to people who aren't being supported by large corporate interests, either for learning or just for understanding ML better for real hackers. Since releasing the model is not a bona fide risk, part of not releasing it is so they can feel like they are part of history. Note the end where they talk about the precedent they are setting now by not releasing it.

I think the fact that the model doesn't actually work is an important aspect of this. Many hackers would have done it as a cool project and released it without pomp, but this person put together a long essay, explicitly touting the importance of what they'd done and the impact it would have on history. Then, it turned out the model did not work, which must have been very embarrassing. It is fairly reasonable to suggest that the person then took the action that made them feel the best about their legacy and status: writing an essay about why they were not releasing the model for good rationalist approved reasons. It is not even necessarily the case that the person is aware that this is influencing the decision, this is a fully Elephant in the Brain situation.

When I read that essay, at least half of it is heavily-laden with status concerns and psychological motivations. But, to reiterate: though pro-social community norms left this person open to having their mind changed by argument, probably the arguments still had to be made.

How you feel about this should probably turn on questions like "Who has the status in this community to have their arguments taken seriously? Do I agree with them?" and "Is it good for only well-funded entities to have access to current state-of-the-art ML models?"

Comment by 9eB1 on The Hacker Learns to Trust · 2019-06-22T05:07:25.669Z · LW · GW

As is always the case, this person changed their mind because they were made to feel valued. The community treated what they'd done with respect (even though, fundamentally, they were unsuccessful and the actual release of the model would have had no impact on the world), and as a result they capitulated.

Comment by 9eB1 on BYOL (Buy Your Own Lunch) · 2018-04-09T01:49:14.812Z · LW · GW

It is not at all rude, at a business lunch, to say "Oh, thank you!" when someone says they will pay for lunch. Especially if you are a founder of a small company and meeting with people at more established companies who will likely be able to expense the meal. Those people don't care, because it's not their money.

If you are meeting with people in a similar position (fellow founders), you can just ask to split which people will either accept or they will offer to pay, in which case see above.

If you are meeting with casual acquaintances, you can also say "Split the check?" and it's totally fine.

The weirdness points of adding that to your e-mail and including a link to this post is far greater than saying "Thank you" when someone else offers to pay, so carefully consider if it's worth spending them this way.

Comment by 9eB1 on Is Rhetoric Worth Learning? · 2018-04-07T04:56:39.448Z · LW · GW

In a best case scenario, a fellow traveler will already have studied rhetoric and will be able to provide the highlights relevant to LWers. In the spirit of offering the "obvious advice" I've heard the "Very Short Introduction" series of books can give you an introduction to the main ideas of a field and maybe that will be helpful for guiding your research beyond the things that are easily googleable.

Comment by 9eB1 on My attempt to explain Looking, insight meditation, and enlightenment in non-mysterious terms · 2018-03-26T07:04:36.709Z · LW · GW

The case of the Vietnamese monk who famously set himself on fire may meet your criteria. The Vietnamese government claimed that he had drugged himself, but it's hard to imagine a drug that would allow you to get out of a car under your own power and walk to a seated position, and then light a match to set yourself on fire but still have no reaction as your flesh burns off.

Comment by 9eB1 on Hammertime Postmortem · 2018-03-25T22:11:58.362Z · LW · GW

It's too bad the link for the referenced *"Focusing," for skeptics* article in your post on the tactic only leads to a 404 now. I wonder if it was taken down intentionally?

Comment by 9eB1 on Feedback on LW 2.0 · 2017-10-01T20:04:25.935Z · LW · GW

I love that the attempt is being made and I hope it works. The main feedback that I have is that the styling of the comment section doesn't work for me. One of the advantages of the existing LessWrong comment section is that the information hierarchy is super clear. The comments are bordered and backgrounded so when you decide to skip a comment your eye can very easily scan down to the next one. At the new site all the comments are relatively undifferentiated so it's much harder to skim them. I also think that the styling of the blockquotes in the new comments needs work. Currently there is not nearly enough difference between blockquoted text and comment text. It needs more spacing and more indenture, and preferably a typographical difference as well.

Comment by 9eB1 on LW 2.0 Strategic Overview · 2017-09-17T14:47:31.887Z · LW · GW


Since then I've thought of a couple more sites that are neither hierarchical nor tag-based. Facebook and eHow style sites.

There is another pattern that is neither hierarchical, tag-based nor search-based, which is the "invitation-only" pattern of a site like pastebin. You can only find content by referral.

Comment by 9eB1 on LW 2.0 Strategic Overview · 2017-09-17T03:13:06.707Z · LW · GW

That is very interesting. An exception might be "Google search pages." Not only is there no hierarchical structure, there is also no explicit tag structure and the main user engagement model is search-only. Internet Archive is similar but with their own stored content.

With respect to TV Tropes, I'd note that while it is nominally organized according to those indexes, the typical usage pattern is as a sort of pure garden path in my experience.

Comment by 9eB1 on Priors Are Useless · 2017-06-21T14:17:15.296Z · LW · GW

Now analyze this in a decision theoretic context where you want to use these probabilities to maximize utility and where gathering information has a utility cost.

Comment by 9eB1 on Change · 2017-05-07T07:14:59.896Z · LW · GW

This was incomprehensible to me.

Comment by 9eB1 on Open thread, Apr. 03 - Apr. 09, 2017 · 2017-04-04T22:15:50.777Z · LW · GW

Bryan Caplan responded to this exchange here

Comment by 9eB1 on Open thread, Apr. 03 - Apr. 09, 2017 · 2017-04-04T16:06:36.654Z · LW · GW

I think no one would argue that the rationality community is at all divorced from the culture that surrounds it. People talk about culture constantly, and are looking for ways to change the culture to better address shared goals. It's sort of silly to say that that means it should be called the "irrationality community." Tyler Cowen is implicitly putting himself at the vantage point of a more objective observer with the criticism, which I find ironic.

Where Tyler is wrong is that it's not JUST another kind of culture. It's a culture with a particular set of shared assumptions, and it's nihilistic to imply that all cultures are equal no matter from what shared assumptions they issue forth. Cultures are not interchangeable. Tyler would also have to admit (and I'm guessing he likely would admit if pressed directly) that his culture of mainstream academic thought is "just another kind of religion" to exactly the same extent that rationality is, it's just less self-aware about that fact.

As an aside, I think Lumifer is a funny name. I always associate it with Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast, and with Lucifer. Basically I always picture your posts as coming from a cross between a cartoon candle and Satan.

Comment by 9eB1 on IQ and Magnus Carlsen, Leo Messi and the Decathlon · 2017-03-29T19:42:26.306Z · LW · GW

You are correct, there are things that can negatively impact someone's IQ. With respect to maximizing, I think the fact that people have been trying for decades to find something that reliably increases IQ, and everything leads to a dead-end means that we are pretty close to what's achievable without revolutionary new technology. Maybe you aren't at 100% of what's achievable, but you're probably at 95% (and of course percentages don't really have any meaning here because there is no metric which grounds IQ in absolute terms).

Comment by 9eB1 on IQ and Magnus Carlsen, Leo Messi and the Decathlon · 2017-03-29T19:23:15.250Z · LW · GW

I agree that IQ is plenty interesting by itself. My goal with this article was to explore the boundaries of that usefulness and explore the ways in which the correlations break down.

The Big 5 personality traits have a correlation with some measures of success which is independent of IQ. For example, in this paper:

Consistent with the zero-order correlations, Conscientiousness was a significant positive predictor of GPA, even controlling for gender and SAT scores, and this finding replicated across all three samples. Thus, personality, in particular the Conscientiousness dimension, and SAT scores have independent effects on both high school and college grades. Indeed, in several cases, Conscientiousness was a slightly stronger predictor of GPA than were SAT scores.

Notably, the Openness factor is the factor that has the strongest correlation with IQ. I'm guessing Gwern has more stuff like this on his website, but if someone makes the claim that IQ is the only thing that matters to success in any given field, they are selling bridges.