Comment by aa.oswald on Changing my life in 2021, halfway through · 2021-06-10T16:31:41.254Z · LW · GW

For personal finance, I have found and recommend reddit's /r/personalfinance to be a great boon. Their flowchart is essentially "correct". 

Comment by aa.oswald on [Prediction] What war between the USA and China would look like in 2050 · 2021-05-27T20:49:53.314Z · LW · GW

My initial reaction to this comment was that tungsten rods are science fiction and that we don't have the capabilities or willingness to put the rods in space... but it now occurs to me that Starship makes the possibility of tungsten rods much more believable. 

Comment by aa.oswald on We need a career path for invention · 2021-04-30T13:59:22.572Z · LW · GW

Jason does have a post where he briefly tackles the low-hanging fruit hypothesis [here]. It isn't 100% compelling, but the idea is that there are "multiple orchards" and we go through one after another. The conceit doesn't include the possibility of "barren earth orchards" though. 

Comment by aa.oswald on We need a career path for invention · 2021-04-29T21:26:22.322Z · LW · GW

I definitely agree that the idea of unconstrained "invention" is not well supported in society, but the hypothesis makes me go "huh?"

Science discovers new knowledge; invention creates useful machines, chemicals, processes, or other products; and business produces and distributes these products in a scalable, self-sustaining way.

Is the place you use the word "invention" not engineering? For most types of engineering, undergrad students are taught science for two years (it is new knowledge to them), they're taught how to usefully apply that knowledge for a year and a half, and then they have a final semester or two explaining how that knowledge can be used to achieve some business goals. 

In other words, "career that applies scientific knowledge to make up stuff" seems to be engineers. 

When I ctrl+f-replace "inventors" with "engineers" in my head, I personally see your career path theory making more sense given that engineers do have a career path, which is mostly to become well-degreed technicians, financiers, or tenture-track-warriors. They ought to becoming inventors, but the existing paths divert them.

Corporate research is largely not as ambitious and long-term as it used to be.

A large part of this may be that there is increasing pressure on CEOs to focus on short-term earnings at the expense of long term earnings. 

Comment by aa.oswald on Facebook is Simulacra Level 3, Andreessen is Level 4 · 2021-04-29T15:41:49.189Z · LW · GW

I like the note that titles are a "nominally-infinite resource" because there is a limit to them. Namely, they're sticky. With Zuckerberg's org, if he really, really, really needs to inflate a person's title, he can do it. He has the option to pull an Andreessen if he needs to, but the opposite isn't true. 

Comment by aa.oswald on [Book Review] Destiny Disrupted · 2021-03-22T16:07:32.313Z · LW · GW

Destiny Disrupted was critical history reading for me, and helped break me out of a Eurocentric viewing of the world before college. I've tried very, very hard to find a history book from Chinese, Russian, or Indian authors that has the same insider's point of view but written in accessible, plain English. 

Aside from wanting to read similar books about other cultures/civilizations, I am reminded that it seemed a bit steeped in "post-9/11ism". 

Comment by aa.oswald on How to Write Like Kaj Sotala · 2021-01-08T18:42:45.727Z · LW · GW

Are there examples of Kaj's writing that you find particularly salient/useful? 

Comment by aa.oswald on Predictions for 2021 (+ a template for yours) · 2021-01-05T15:43:24.046Z · LW · GW

Why new year's predictions? Why not new day's predictions, or new week's predictions?

In general, it is easier to make a list of predictions and gauge uncertainty at one time. It takes a lot of effort, and so is generally done sparingly. The beginning of the calendar year makes a good Schelling point to do that work, especially given that there are lots of other "new year" rituals it folds into. 

Couldn't you do better? Should you carry notebooks with you everywhere all the time, prepared to write predictions? Should you use an interval timer to force you to make a prediction whenever it rings?

There is probably a market outside of Less Wrong (definitely within Less Wrong and the ratcom) for some sort of app or service that reminds people to make predictions, gauge uncertainty, and then update those predictions at time intervals. Think "Anki cards" but for predictions. The biggest hinderance is mental effort and the fact that the rewards are so nebulous ("oh wow, I've become good at gauging uncertainty thats [socially] useful for... what exactly?")

Comment by aa.oswald on In Addition to Ragebait and Doomscrolling · 2020-12-04T18:24:46.510Z · LW · GW

I would say that Sneer Culture is a subset of "scornporn". Sneer Culture is generally about "X licensing" whereas scornporn is about "Contempt generating content that makes you feel higher on the social hierarchy." 

Comment by aa.oswald on In Addition to Ragebait and Doomscrolling · 2020-12-04T18:20:19.318Z · LW · GW

I wonder if that is because /r/TTC couldn't figured out how to differentiate cringe from irony and post-irony, or if it just got big enough that /r/all converted it ?

Comment by aa.oswald on Evading Mind Control · 2020-11-25T20:10:56.174Z · LW · GW

Ferris is probably coming from a place of the LINDY Effect- why read new books, when books that are older definitively are more useful because if they hadn't been useful they wouldn't have lasted as long.

New content and timely content is more of a bet than a sure thing.

Comment by aa.oswald on What would a world of widespread statistical numeracy look like? · 2020-11-19T16:51:02.679Z · LW · GW

I guess the question is "how much of people choosing one mode of transit over another is caused by innumeracy?" Planes are several times less risky than cars, but planes are also highly, highly regulated. If you took those regulations away, let anybody who wants to build and fly a plane, and then completely remove the TSA prechecks, you lower the cost of the planes, lower the non-travel time commitment, and presumably raise the risk of flying.

But would it beat a car? Would they reach equilibrium?

Comment by aa.oswald on What would a world of widespread statistical numeracy look like? · 2020-11-18T19:41:43.692Z · LW · GW

Well, obviously Covid wouldn't have happened. People would drive less, take public transit (especially planes) more (alternatively, planes would be massively deregulated and become incredibly cheap to fly). People who feel even a bit sick would wear masks.

I would imagine that this type of numeracy would extend into the personal realm to include things like personal finance and personal productivity. They would cook their own meals more, eat healthier, and possibly buy less luxury goods.

They would push for the end of coal plants (24 deaths per TWh compared to .02/TWh for solar), decreasing the amount of funding the military gets for anti-terrorism activities, and charging the leadership team of Boeing and the FAA for criminal negligence

Comment by aa.oswald on Anatomy of a Gear · 2020-11-17T15:31:36.460Z · LW · GW

I just want to say that any good mechanical engineer designing a new system with some tolerances and known limitations but making use of novel gears, like on a rocket engine, will probably be running those gears through finite element analysis

That indicates to me that the "lowest-level component in a model" question is not just "what makes a good model" but "what is the lowest-level component I can get away with".  

Comment by aa.oswald on SubOnlyStackFans · 2020-11-06T17:19:52.055Z · LW · GW

Paul Graham also has a recent essay exhorting his readers to produce content.

Most people don't even reach the stage of making something they're embarrassed by, let alone continue past it. They're too frightened even to start.

Content creation has two ends: the reward for doing it, and the punishment for doing it*. You've outlined the reasons to do it above, Jacobian, but it seems like you haven't tackled the punishment for doing it? (Maybe I've missed another blog post). The Big Yud's concept of "hero licensing" comes into play here: a little voice inside people's heads that says, "who are you to try to fill in Scott Alexander's shoes?"

But fuck it, Jacobian, you and Zvi are the only two people trying and I hereby give every reader of this comment a license to be the new SSC.  

*(It might also have another two ends, the rewards for not doing it and the punishment for not doing it).

Comment by aa.oswald on Surface Thoughts Suck · 2020-11-02T16:31:49.834Z · LW · GW

One of the heuristics you see in the business world that attempt to get at this is the "5 Whys?" It's very easy to look at some graph- stock value, sales, whatever- and create a just-so answer for why something is the way it is. It's a lot harder but more useful to go ahead and interrogate the just-so answer again. 

Of course, the hardness of doing a "5 Whys?" exercise is also the reason that nobody does it unless they're getting paid to or they've joined an online cult of critical thinking. 

Comment by aa.oswald on Non Polemic: How do you personally deal with "irrational" people? · 2020-11-02T16:22:49.585Z · LW · GW

When a person changes their way of thinking radically, it is normal for them to want to tell everybody about them. This happens even if the change is what people here might consider irrational- think becoming religious. There's even a Wikitionary phrase for it, "passion of a convert".

So, the first thing I would say to your anger phase is, "Don't worry, you'll get over it."

If you want to speed up getting over it, it might be useful to practice two things. The first is to really focus on personal improvement and realize you're still a newb. The second is to deeply empathize with why other people do and believe the things they do, and realize that you were that way even a few weeks, months, years ago.

A sophomore in engineering can't feel angry that an undecided freshmen doesn't know calculus. A senior in aerospace engineering can't feel angry that a senior in mechanical engineering doesn't know anything about wing design. Who are you to get angry that a person hasn't memorized when you can't even differentiate the Many Worlds interpretation from the Copenhagen interpretation? 

Everybody is still building out their map, and just because you've luckily found yourself on a part of elevated territory and you're able to make a better map, doesn't mean those with a lesser view are worse

Secondly, it would help to read about how people come to their world views, and also specifically read about how people came to the rat-community. Basically, read people's personal "testimonies" and you'll find that a lot of it is driven by a mixture of personal and cultural facts. Also read testimonies of people that converted into different religions, or even the testimonies of people who didn't convert at all. 

For example, I have a Jehovah's Witness friend. She got very close to deconversion 10 years ago to the point of listing out reasons that the JWs were wrong. Yet, last I saw on Instagram she was going to the JW headquarters and performing missionary work. Her family, her extended family, and most of her friends were all religious. Can I really be angry that her brain said, "Yeah, I'm going to believe what gives me massive amounts of comfort or am I going to believe something that could literally cause my death?"

As far as books, I would encourage reading Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind. The book attempts to look at the evolutionary background for humans' moral systems, and is very good at injecting a large dose of empathy into its readers.  

Comment by aa.oswald on Why indoor lighting is hard to get right and how to fix it · 2020-10-28T14:35:10.682Z · LW · GW

One thing to consider is not just the effect that lighting has on you, but what it has on others. For example, when I think of the quality of different friends and family members' houses, one of the defining components is how and how well they are lit. My aunt with giant windows and balanced, bright lights easily beats out my friend who has two reading lamps and a kitchen light that get turned on during game nights. 

One thing I would ask, Richard, is how do you manage your lights? My current set up has me turn on four different pairs of lights across my room (plus a giant window which I leave always open). Turning the lights off at night is easy- I just go down in temperature because otherwise it makes the TV/monitors annoying to look at- but actually turning on four different lights when I wake up is hard to do. I'm tired.

Buying is easy! Managing is hard!

Comment by aa.oswald on September 2020 newsletter · 2020-10-28T13:59:23.536Z · LW · GW

I don't know why I enjoy link posts so much, especially Gwern's, Scott's, and Jake Seliger's. Tyler Cowen's daily linkposts are good as well. I think it's because they're curated and often have things that are so bizarre and interesting (here Gwern's Blueberry Earth link is in that category) that I can send the links in them to random friends and harvest some stolen internet valor. 

Comment by aa.oswald on The bads of ads · 2020-10-24T22:27:21.183Z · LW · GW

Yeah, that's exactly what I'm saying. Ads are, at the very most basic, just broadcasts of information with the intention of changing some behavior. Prosperity requires different actors in the economy to do what is most efficient, but often it isn't efficient for actors to actually go and track down their own suppliers. Instead, suppliers go and track down their buyers by broadcasting ads.

The Internet has certainly changed that: my search history and browsing history effectively broadcast to suppliers, "I need a new car", and then the algorithms present me with information concerning that need (ads on instagram for Jeeps). Yet, the vast majority of people live in a pre-Internet situation for their most basic needs, where broadcasting from the supplier is still important. 

Without this mechanism of "supplier broadcast", a lot of buyers would simply not be able to meet their needs because they don't have the bandwidth to go and fulfill their needs. The problem that Katja really should be getting at is when the supplier broadcast goes wrong- generating need when there isn't any, or broadcasting so much that it swamps out more important signals, etc. 

Comment by aa.oswald on The bads of ads · 2020-10-23T19:41:55.997Z · LW · GW

Haha, it is definitely both. There's nothing to advertise! But there's nothing to advertise because the activities that benefit from advertising are illegal! 

Comment by aa.oswald on The bads of ads · 2020-10-23T14:30:32.174Z · LW · GW

I would encourage Katja to try to flip some of these negatives of advertising on their head. After all, the growth of advertising is directly related to the greatest of human prosperity ever. The two are connected. For me, personally, the farthest I have ever been from public, corporate advertising was when I toured Havana, Cuba. 

Comment by aa.oswald on Stupid Questions October 2020 · 2020-10-21T20:46:09.148Z · LW · GW

80k has changed the general plan that they push (People took "earning to give" too seriously). This post here is probably the article that you're looking for with regards to "what should I do now?"

Comment by aa.oswald on What posts do you want written? · 2020-10-21T13:52:15.840Z · LW · GW

I would like to see lukeprogs happiness sequences updated for 2020

Comment by aa.oswald on What posts do you want written? · 2020-10-21T13:47:11.458Z · LW · GW

Honestly, I would like to see this for pretty much any pop-science psychology book that trends in the rationality sphere. 

Comment by aa.oswald on What hard science fiction stories also got the social sciences right? · 2020-09-28T20:19:32.566Z · LW · GW

Contagion is a hard science fiction story about a world stopping virus, and it got every single social phenomena correct.