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Comment by alexanderd on Rationality Quotes September 2013 · 2013-09-07T01:10:13.903Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That would be wonderful, world-changing, and unlikely. I hope but do not expect to see it happen.

Comment by alexanderd on Rationality Quotes September 2013 · 2013-09-02T04:28:51.430Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I highly recommend Robert Alter's translation in "The Wisdom Books," if you're interested in reading it.

Comment by alexanderd on Rationality Quotes August 2013 · 2013-08-08T05:24:50.873Z · score: 3 (11 votes) · LW · GW

What the Great Learning teaches is: to illustrate illustrious virtue; to renovate the people; and to rest in the highest excellence.
The point where to rest being known, the object of pursuit is then determined; and, that being determined, a calm unperturbedness may be attained to.
To that calmness there will succeed a tranquil repose. In that repose there may be careful deliberation, and that deliberation will be followed by the attainment of the desired end.
The ancients who wished to illustrate illustrious virtue throughout the world, first ordered well their own States.
Wishing to order well their States, they first regulated their families.
Wishing to regulate their families, they first cultivated their persons.
Wishing to cultivate their persons, they first rectified their hearts.
Wishing to rectify their hearts, they first sought to be sincere in their thoughts.
Wishing to be sincere in their thoughts, they first extended to the utmost of their knowledge.
Such extension of knowledge lay in the investigation of things.
Things being investigated, knowledge became complete.
Their knowledge being complete, their thoughts were sincere.
Their thoughts being sincere, their hearts were then rectified.
Their hearts being rectified, their persons were cultivated.
Their persons being cultivated, their families were regulated.
Their families being regulated, their States were rightly governed.
Their States being rightly governed, the entire world was at peace.
From the Son of Heaven down to the mass of the people, all must consider the cultivation of the person the root of everything besides.
It cannot be, when the root is neglected, that what should spring from it will be well ordered.
It never has been the case that what was of great importance has been slightly cared for, and, at the same time, that what was of slight importance has been greatly cared for.

-The Great Learning, one of the Four Books and Five Classics of Confucian thought.

Comment by alexanderd on Rationality Quotes August 2013 · 2013-08-06T13:57:19.791Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

You are telling me I am wrong, but it is not helpful to me unless you explain why I am wrong.

I thought it made sense. As far as I could tell, the original parable has a miser with two desires: the desire for delicious booze and the desire to save money. The latter desire is by far the more important one to him, so he "fools" his desire for booze by promising himself a booze reward, and then reneging on himself each time. In my interpretation, this still results in an overall positive effect for self-discipline, because the happiness of saving money is so much more important to the miser than the disappointment of missing the booze reward.

The truth of whether this would actually work could be seen in an experiment. I tried to think of one with two rewards that satisfy different desires, and tried to think of a way to slightly disappoint the desire for sugar while strongly rewarding the impulse for money, after the completion of the task. Maybe I should specify that people should be hungry before the task, and tested in the future when they are hungry, to see if they are still willing to complete the task?

Comment by alexanderd on Rationality Quotes August 2013 · 2013-08-06T02:13:19.157Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think you are correct.

The miser knows each time he will not get the reward, and that he will save on food and drink. That is the real reward, and the rest is a kabuki play he puts on for less-important impulses, to temporarily allow him to restrain them in service of his larger goal. The end pleasure of savings will provide strong positive reinforcement.

This could probably be empirically tested, to see if it is true and would work as a technique. I can imagine a test where someone is promised candy, and anticipates it while acting to fulfill a task, and then is rewarded instead with a dollar. Do they learn disappointment, or does the greater pleasure of money outweigh the candy? This is predicated on the idea that they would prefer the money, of course - you would need to tinker with amounts before the experiment might give useful results.

Comment by alexanderd on Why Eat Less Meat? · 2013-07-25T00:48:40.206Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

This seems rather a separate issue, especially since you admit that your choice of "cyborg food" only happened to be vegan. You're an accidental vegan. Next week, you might discover that a powder made from lamb faces had more bio-available iron, and that'd be the end of that.

Unrelated: The Accidental Vegan also sounds like the most boring movie imaginable.

Comment by alexanderd on Why Eat Less Meat? · 2013-07-24T19:14:16.352Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Tofu is a good choice, and can be used in many ways. One secret to tofu is to pay attention to the amount of water in the tofu, as that seriously changes the way it tastes, feels, and acts in dishes. For example, when you are making a stew with tofu, such as the spicy and delicious Korean soup kimchi jiggae, you probably want to choose silken tofu, which is soft and will interact well with the rich broth. But if you are making something like McFoo, a tofu sandwich where you marinate the tofu in select spices until it tastes like junk food, then you want a firm and chewy tofu. You can achieve the latter by pressing your tofu for an hour (there are special things to do this, but a towel, cutting boards, and a brick does just fine). You can make it even firmer and more textured by freezing it first, so most of my tofu goes right into the freezer until I need it.

There are also a few veg-specific things that you almost certainly have never had, such as TVP: textured vegetable protein. Despite the unappetizing sci-fi name, it's actually an amazing thing to include in your diet. The trick to learning to love and use it is not to make the sad mistake of just pretending it's meat. Most fake meat things don't taste anything like meat, but instead have a rank and lingering chemical taste and overwhelming profile of salt and sugar, as they try to mimic what you might have liked about meat. TVP and other decent meat substitutes are different, and they just taste good without trying to taste like meat. So TVP chili is hearty and rich and has a great mouthfeel, giving you that chewiness and resistance that's part of what makes meat good, but it doesn't try to ape meat.

Other things you can make: veggie shepherd's pie (lentils and veggies for the filling), pumpkin mac and cheese (add shredded pumpkin when making mac and cheese; if you use a sharp cheese the tastes blend amazingly), filo-wrapped spinach and veggies (you can buy prepared filo dough), loaded baked potatoes, pizza, calzones, quiches, grilled cheese and chard sandwiches, and lots of variations on curries and stews and things.

Comment by alexanderd on Just One Sentence · 2013-01-05T04:37:26.138Z · score: 16 (16 votes) · LW · GW

I like to think about initial application of this sentence.

"How old is this bread? A week? You fool! Look at how sick he is! Get some two-week bread immediately, and feed it to him as fast as you can! NO TIME FOR CHEWING."

Comment by alexanderd on Ritual Report: NYC Less Wrong Solstice Celebration · 2012-12-24T08:29:14.047Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

As a newcomer who has never been to a meetup - an outsider - I assure you that you are right. It seems surprisingly cultish. I say "surprisingly" because I would never have imagined that LWers would attempt to ape religion and chain awe at the numinous to a specific set of rituals. I suppose in retrospect there is ample precedent, because certainly the Twelve Virtues and the litanies are pseudo-religious (presumably to lend them gravity), but... yipes!

Comment by alexanderd on Gun Control: How would we know? · 2012-12-20T22:16:02.948Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It will probably save time to look at recent research, which might be flawed but might also help answer some immediate questions. This might be a start; I'd quote and comment, but I broke my arm recently and typing is difficult.

Comment by alexanderd on [META] Retributive downvoting: Why? · 2012-11-28T12:20:14.856Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

This seems to me like the best way to do it. I am sure it has been proposed before that downvoting cost a point of karma; why was this alternative not taken? Technical considerations, perhaps?

Comment by alexanderd on Open Thread, November 1-15, 2012 · 2012-11-25T02:14:26.704Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This careful reconsideration of the subject, subsequent apology, and declaration of an intent to change your behavior are admirable - and a bit ironic, in this situation.

Comment by alexanderd on LW Women- Minimizing the Inferential Distance · 2012-11-24T08:28:39.583Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

The socialization of children into gender roles of conciliation and confrontation begins very early, as can be seen in a study by Clearfield and Nelson. Accordingly, it is not surprising (and jibes with our common sense) to note that men and women tend to respond to challenges in different ways. I think it's probably too broad to say that men "always" resort to violence "immediately," which seems like a deliberately weak phrasing. Rather, I'd say that men and women find different solutions, because of their different perspectives.

Comment by alexanderd on LW Women- Minimizing the Inferential Distance · 2012-11-24T02:04:12.609Z · score: 17 (19 votes) · LW · GW

I can't testify as to the actual value of the planting or whether or not this was necessarily the best plan. There are probably many more plans that would be better, including giving them a gold coin. Or perhaps the farmers in the magical world of dark elves who make armed sorties against impoverished serfs could have been better served by a political upheaval and the installation of democracy. Or maybe because the farmers plant only the magical dubbleboo bean, they would have been able to reap a harvest only if they planted before the next evening's full moon.

There are all kinds of factors or problems that might have complicated the additional idea of plowing the field, and we shouldn't forget that this is a bunch of teenagers, so it's probably not whether this idea was really the optimal emaciated-farmer-assistance program. But instead of exploring these and determining what was the best option, the entire avenue of helping the farmers in a domestic sense was blocked off. It was a set of ideas that was unknown and unwelcome, even though it might actually have been interesting to solve that problem, as well.

Yes, these eleventh-graders might not have been practicing an ideal form of aid, and if they had read some literature on rationality and gone to an agricultural program they might not have thought that plowing one field was the best decision. The point, though, is that the narrowness of focus in the adventure precluded exploration of a large set of options. It's not the perfect parable of how value can be found in diverse opinions, because that perfect parable would have the eleventh-grade girl whip out a well-researched proposal on farm aid. But I do think it helps illuminate the problem.

Comment by alexanderd on LW Women- Minimizing the Inferential Distance · 2012-11-24T01:18:54.487Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW · GW

The plan was to sow one field and then kill the dark elves, as far as I can tell. I agree that it would not have been a good idea to just plow their field, since obviously that was what had already not been working, but it also seems to me like a very perceptive insight to realize that even if the elves were killed, the already-emaciated farmers might still die without help on the farm. It's also an insight that appears, within the story, to have derived from the presence of an alternative viewpoint.

Comment by alexanderd on LW Women- Minimizing the Inferential Distance · 2012-11-23T23:51:32.018Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Some of these anecdotes really illustrate the loss suffered when a group is insufficiently diverse. This one in particular struck me as a demonstration of the high value of a range of perspectives:

On this afternoon, our characters are venturing into the countryside and come across two emaciated farmers who tell us their fields are unplowed because dark elves from the forest keep attacking them. “They're going to starve if they don't get a crop in the ground,” I declare. “We've got to plow at least one field.” The boys go along with this plan. ...

“It's rusty too,” intones the Dungeonmaster, “and pieces of it keep breaking off. Look, you're not supposed to be farming. You're supposed to go into the forest and find the dark elves. I don't have anything else about the farmers. The elves are the adventure.” Reluctantly, I give up my agricultural rescue plan and we go into the forest to hack at elves.

All too often, people focus on how gender discrimination is unfair to those who are excluded or minimized, but it's also a loss to the group and its goals as a whole.

Comment by alexanderd on Playing the student: attitudes to learning as social roles · 2012-11-23T04:04:07.247Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You might find an investigation of dramaturgical theory) in sociology to be helpful.

Comment by alexanderd on Rationality Quotes November 2012 · 2012-11-21T20:18:23.857Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I will reply there. Thank you.

Comment by alexanderd on Rationality Quotes November 2012 · 2012-11-21T06:14:53.156Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

To the extent you can agree on a test for race, it will be useful for prediction. Obviously some tests (actual genetic heritage) will be more interesting that others "lol what's ur skin color".

I would suggest that most people do have a common test for race. It is something along the lines of, "To what extent does this person match a small set of specific physical characteristics?" For someone to be "black" in many places in modern America, it means that their skin tone is relatively dark, their lips are big, their nose is wide, and so on. But of course, this tends to fall apart under close scrutiny, and is complicated by a lot of cultural baggage, like the fact that "white" is the default, so those of mixed-race are often identified with (or themselves choose to identify with) their minority identity. A prominent example is President Obama, who has few of the physical characteristics of the stereotypical "black" person. This is why it is a very sloppy and pretty useless label, and even though most people agree on a "test," it remains so.

Saying that race is a good predictor of such things is roughly equivalent to saying "black people are dumb" or whatever (with suitable disclaimers of probabilisticness that really should not be needed on this site). Call that simple minded if you like; I'd rather be right than high-minded.

Of course, it's absolutely better to be right. But it's very difficult to determine whether you are right or wrong without rigorous definition of your terms and inquiry. You think that race correlates with other traits, and I agree - but only with strong caveats and reservations, particularly when it comes to questions of causation. That's why I began by asking: what do you mean by "race"?

EDIT: You appear to be engaged in several other discussions along these lines, so please just let me know if you consider this one is too parallel to the others to be useful. It can be difficult to explain yourself to several people all at the same time, I know.

Comment by alexanderd on Instrumental rationality for overcoming disability and lifestyle failure (a specific case) · 2012-11-20T00:35:29.038Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Finishing his degree is probably the best thing he can do, and so this is good advice. You get very little from having "some college," whereas a college degree (of any sort, regardless of whether he thinks it will be useful) is an indicator of social status and a proven ability to meet deadlines and requirements. I would suggest that directly contacting the school, emphasizing his disability, may make them amenable to working out some sort of distance learning to finish this final credit. The best way to achieve this would be to call them on the phone, if physical meeting is impractical; schools typically employ people to help students in just this sort of way. This might be unpleasant or even humiliating to think about, but that's an ugh field at work.

Depending on his location, there may not be very many resources for the blind in his town, but contacting AFB is probably the best way to find out what is available.

If neither of these pan out, find some sort of employment. Gainful, steady employment is surprisingly effective at improving social skills, life skills, and other diverse aspects of winning.

Comment by alexanderd on Less Wrong NYC: Case Study of a Successful Rationalist Chapter · 2012-11-18T11:49:45.340Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You can find upcoming meetups here.

Comment by alexanderd on Rationality Quotes November 2012 · 2012-11-17T09:01:46.815Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What do you mean by "race?" I notice a lot of discussion below on this topic already, but the term is unclear to me, and I don't see how anyone can usefully disagree or agree without this information. Some people use "race" to indicate loose groupings based around skin color, whereas others mean much more strictly a specific genetic group.

Incidentally, there is no canonical "race," just generally-agreed upon loose labels that vary from person to person. Because of this, it is generally not useful for predicting anything, and should be avoided, I think. A "white person" from Sicily and a "white person" from Iceland do not have much more in common with each other than they might with a disparate other range of people, so it's not a meaningful grouping (except perhaps when speaking of historical things). It is wiser to be more exact.

There's the additional danger that you will be misunderstood, and that someone will (very reasonably) think that you are advocating simple-minded racism of a common sort. Saying "race is a good predictor of things like civilization, intelligence," etc. is a fairly specific sort of social code, and if you don't actually mean that "black people are dumb" or "Asians can't drive," (and I'm not saying that you necessarily do) then you should find another sort of phrasing.

Comment by alexanderd on Reply to Holden on The Singularity Institute · 2012-11-14T07:27:10.998Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It seems to me that the most obvious way to demonstrate the brilliance and excellent outcomes of the applied math of optimization would be to generate large sums of money, rather than seeking endorsements.

The Singularity Institute could begin this at no cost (beyond opportunity cost of staff time) by employing the techniques of rationality in a fake market, for example, if stock opportunities were the chosen venue. After a few months of fake profits, SI could set them up with $1,000. If that kept growing, then a larger investment could be considered.

This has been done, very recently. Someone on Overcoming Bias recently wrote of how they and some friends made about $500 each with a small investment by identifying an opportunity for arbitrage between the markets on InTrade and another prediction market, without any loss.

Money can be made, according to proverb, by being faster, luckier, or smarter. It's impossible to create luck in the market, and in the era of microsecond purchases by Goldman Sachs it's very nearly impossible to be faster, but an organization (or perhaps associated organizations?) devoted to defeating internal biases and mathematically assessing the best choices in the world should be striving to be smarter.

While it seems very interesting and worthwhile to work on existential risk from UFAI directly, it seems like the smarter thing to do might be to devote a decade to making an immense pile of money for the institute and developing the associated infrastructure (hiring money managers, socking a bunch away into Berkshire Hathaway for safety, etc.) Then hire a thousand engineers and mathematicians. And what's more, you'll raise awareness of UFAI an incredibly greater amount than you would have otherwise, plugging along as another $1-2m charity.

I'm sure this must have been addressed somewhere, of course - there is simply way too much written in too many places by too many smart people. But it is odd to me that SI's page on Strategic Insight doesn't have as #1: Become Rich. Maybe if someone notices this comment, they can point me to the argument against it?

Comment by alexanderd on Welcome to Less Wrong! (July 2012) · 2012-11-14T03:28:01.341Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Howdy. My name is Alexander. I've read a lot of LW, but only recently finally registered. I learned about LW from RationalWiki, where I am a mod. I have read most of the sequences, and many of them are insightful, although I am skeptical about the utility of such posts as the Twelve Virtues, which seeks to clothe a bit of good advice in the voluminous trappings of myth. HPMOR is also good. I don't anticipate engaging in much serious criticism of these things, however, because I have little experience in the sciences or mathematics, and often struggle to grasp things that appear easy for those accustomed to equations. The utility of Bayes' Theorem is one good example. I expect to ask questions, often.

My primary interest in LW are practical ones - discussions about AI and the singularity are interesting, but I am focused on improving my analytic ability and making good decisions.