Comment by anna_macdonald on Reasonable Explanations · 2019-06-16T06:31:19.699Z · score: 16 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I was making tea. I poured hot water into a travel mug. The interior sides of the travel mug were silver. The liquid looked yellow. (Before I put the tea bag in.) To see if the yellow contamination had come from the kettle that I had heated over the stove, I poured some of the remaining water into the sink. That water was clear, with no evidence of a yellowish tinge. The mug had been taken from a cupboard of clean dishes. I was fairly certain I had looked in the mug before using it and seen that it was clean. After seeing the yellowish liquid, I still saw no other indication that the mug might have been dirty (no gunk on the inside or outside). Just the mysteriously yellow liquid.

Guvf jnf n onq pnfr bs zbzzl oenva. V cbherq ubarl vagb gur obggbz bs gur zht svefg, gura sbetbg V unq qbar gung ol gur gvzr V cbherq gur jngre va. Gur ubg jngre vzzrqvngryl qvffbyirq gur ubarl, naq vg tnir gur jngre gur lryybjvfu gvatr. V fcrag svir zvahgrf gelvat gb engvbanyyl qvntabfr gur ceboyrz orsber erzrzorevat nobhg gur ubarl.

Comment by anna_macdonald on Generating a novelty scale · 2019-04-22T16:42:40.265Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Conveying that is often worthwhile, but it's situational enough that simply stating the context of what you're doing is probably a better idea than formalizing a novelty scale.

Also, I didn't mention this above, but re-hashing stuff that isn't novel can be highly useful. Penetration of an idea into the population would never happen if people only ever pointed to the original source for an idea without conveying/spreading it themselves. It's helpful to have a million blog posts about the same thing, because each of those blogs is reaching a slightly different audience.

Comment by anna_macdonald on Generating a novelty scale · 2019-04-20T23:43:48.390Z · score: 6 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The problem with a novelty scale is that novelty has a high degree of circumstantial/subjectivity to it. What's new to one person is old hat to another. Millions of people may independently recreate the same wisdom based on their life experiences, and that insight feels new to them, but might not be new to those they share it with. In the modern age, not even a google search can guarantee that an idea hasn't been laid out somewhere by someone.

Comment by anna_macdonald on One Website To Rule Them All? · 2019-03-08T18:20:52.871Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Is the Letters site itself, the project you mention, or was one particular conversation on that page discussing the idea (if so, which one)?

Comment by anna_macdonald on When does introspection avoid the pitfalls of rumination? · 2019-02-20T19:06:39.814Z · score: 7 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Your definition of ruminating includes that you introspect on causes and consequences as opposed to solutions. The techniques you mention may include focusing on causes and consequences, but they are very solution-oriented.

If there is a difference in their successfulness, I think that solution-orientedness is why. People who ruminate are thinking about a problem without trying to solve it. That's, frankly, a depressing thing to do. Feeling like you have a problem that can't be solved is almost the definition of frustration, and just reminding yourself of a problem without any sense of moving forward or making progress will reinforce negative thought patterns without accomplishing anything.

By contrast, people who engage in focusing, IFS, and related techniques have a goal in mind. They're not just reviewing the problem and its causes; they're trying to get somewhere. There's an underlying optimism that is being fostered, especially if it works well enough for people to want to keep trying it.

Comment by anna_macdonald on Perfecting The Motion · 2019-02-12T23:39:03.035Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW
Batch processing and interrupt coalescing basically come down to scheduling the things you have to do in a regular basis in a manner so as to minimize the instances of context-switching, so as to maximize the amount of time spent on one task uninterruptedly.

Is it possible to do this if you have kids (especially little ones)?

Comment by anna_macdonald on One Website To Rule Them All? · 2019-01-23T19:58:26.772Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Those are all concerns I share. I don't have solutions either. I feel like my choice is to either build the website despite the lack of solutions and the high risk—or settle for not having anything that does what I want.

If I tried to do research on how to make websites grow, I would expect to encounter a lot of advice that's based on survivorship bias, and therefore unreliable. (I mostly expect that luck is a/the dominant factor.) Do you think research on that would produce helpful results?

Moderation, on the other hand, is probably something that I could start with some research on, to see what might or might not be possible/helpful.

Comment by anna_macdonald on Finance Followups · 2019-01-18T23:37:19.690Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think everything politicians touch turns to crap. Some, but not all.

"Mandating 401k donations" would probably look a lot like replacing automatic Social Security paycheck withdrawals with automatic 401k paycheck withdrawals. A phase-over plan could include sucking it up and using taxes to pay premiums for people who are already withdrawing SS and people within, say, 10 years of being able to do so, while younger people get the amount that they have already paid into Social Security simply deposited into their 401k for them.

Mandating paying off debt would be trickier to enact, because we don't have the kind of intermediaries who currently handle that. But it might be worth a trial run.

Comment by anna_macdonald on Finance Followups · 2019-01-18T19:28:26.202Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think your second and third bullet points would make great laws. That might not be what most people have in mind when they talk about "finance regulation", but it's an area where the government could force people to act in their own long-term interest instead of responding to shorter-term incentives. (And if people want to nitpick exceptions, many exceptions could be written into the law.)

People's spending (bullet points #1 and #4) might respond to laws that limit advertising, but I don't know what else. I think your #4 is one of those suggestions that doesn't intuitively grasp the scope or nature of the problem, like people who suggest that exhausted parents of newborns sleep when the baby sleeps. People who buy things so that others think they're cool are rarely consciously aware that that's a significant motivation for them, and they aren't going to stop and perform mental gymnastics before purchases. I have a friend who is in debt because shopping makes her feel better when she's stressed. Most purchasing incentives like these are deeply rooted and not easily solved, even with education.

Comment by anna_macdonald on Finance Followups · 2019-01-17T21:15:37.282Z · score: 13 (6 votes) · LW · GW
The only solution to this is financial literacy education

Maybe. But I suspect that financial literacy education will be about as successful at improving people's financial choices as education about diet and exercise are at improving people's weight. (Which is to say, not at all.)

People may not know how much debt they have or how much it's costing them, but they know they have debt and they know it's costing them. They know they should save, but saving doesn't trigger a release of endorphins or dopamine or whatever in the brain that you get from buying a more comfortable car or clothes that you adore or even from donating.

Sure there's a few edge cases, like your friend that wants to invest before paying off loans, that might be helped by some financial education. But chances are good that even he is more influenced by reward structures than by ignorance; investing can feel like gambling, which is risky, and therefore fun to people who like a way that paying off debt obligations is not.

I'm not better at saving than my husband is because I'm more financially literate that he is. He's worked as an accountant; I'm pretty sure he knows more than I do. But I'm better at saving than he is because risk is extremely unpleasant to me, unpleasant enough to override my desire for most things that I want to own. He likes risk more than I do, and so he doesn't have the same incentive to resist the urge to buy things, so he doesn't resist those urges.

Comment by anna_macdonald on One Website To Rule Them All? · 2019-01-17T06:05:29.951Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I...only followed some of what you said here. *Googles slack channel* ... Sure, if you know other people who are interested in a similar concept, that might be worthwhile. How do we go about it?

What is weirdsun?

Comment by anna_macdonald on One Website To Rule Them All? · 2019-01-13T16:50:48.738Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Minimum wage is actually somewhat like diet, since it could be that some places and not others would be better off adopting it, depending on their varied conditions. While values dominate discussions of actions, I think the epistemic questions of what the consequences of those actions are are very important. And "if X, then Y" is a claim of truth.

In the end, I think that both actions and truth-claims rely heavily on both objective truth and on values. Valuing Breitbart or Slate as a reliable source can determine what facts you believe, and it isn't possible to completely divorce questions of truth from values about sources, about what level of evidence is needed before accepting a claim, and such. I would like to make those more explicit.

I do think the diet thing would be the kind of question that would be hardest to succeed at. I think the Site could handle some degree of "different solutions for different situations", but the level of variability in medical questions might be beyond it.

Comment by anna_macdonald on One Website To Rule Them All? · 2019-01-12T23:31:55.240Z · score: 14 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Right off the top of my head, every debate website I've come across so far puts topics into simplified yes/no questions instead of considering multiple possible alternatives next to each other. That's true of Kialo, DebateIsland,,, CreateDebate,, and more.

Comment by anna_macdonald on One Website To Rule Them All? · 2019-01-12T20:35:55.702Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW
What do you think is the minimum subset to build and sustain a userbase?

Really large, which is a major fail point.

I don't think reaching consensus is generally possible for the kind of arguments you're interested in

I think consensus is not possible for some of them; we're not going to "solve" abortion or God. On issues like that, the best that could be accomplished is helping people understand where the other is coming from and reducing animosity a little. (Which I think would be very worthwhile, if that could be accomplished, but even that might not happen.) Some compromise actions might possibly become popular, like privately funding programs for low-income women who might otherwise have abortions.

On other topics, I think we might be able to come much closer to a consensus than we are. Maybe not 100%, but a well-laid-out argument for adopting a different voting system, enacting a particular set of campaign finance reforms, a phase-out plan for eliminating or changing government farm subsidies, or a suggestion for how amazon can increase employee satisfaction without losing profits...those might make it pretty close to consensus.

Pinterest for arguments

That's...a really interesting idea. That might satisfy my desire to quickly find all the important aspects on an issue in one place. You'd have to mentally build the organization between ideas and options yourself, instead of having them visually laid out, but you'd spare yourself the trouble of forcing people to build or agree on that organization. Are you going to build it? Do you think a lot of people would use it if you did?

Comment by anna_macdonald on One Website To Rule Them All? · 2019-01-12T19:47:49.100Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That's a really cool site. I think it only can cover truth-claims from the past (not proposed actions or if-then truth-claims about the future), but it will really excel at those. I'll keep it bookmarked.

Comment by anna_macdonald on One Website To Rule Them All? · 2019-01-12T19:42:27.518Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW
I see no reason to expect that popular voting will lead to the best argument winning out for issues where a lot of evidence has to be understood and set in relation.

Does this mean you think the idea, at root, is not worth it, or that you think it will help with some issues and not with others?

It seems to me a pretty strange decision to want the barrier of entry as low as possible by allowing IP editors.

I expect that a high(er) barrier to entry will produce a self-selected subpopulation that will sometimes miss out on important ideas or points that people outside that subpopulation would have thought of. I'm willing to put up with a great deal of dross in order to make sure that all the good stuff is caught.

Comment by anna_macdonald on One Website To Rule Them All? · 2019-01-11T23:11:12.125Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Yes. It's better than the alternatives I've seen, but it still feels seriously insufficient to me. Some of that is just because Kialo itself isn't large/popular enough to have comprehensive points made on it yet. But my bigger objection is that it feels simplistic. Example. Kialo presents: "Should Governments Ever Limit Free Speech?" with a series of mostly one-sentence points on either side. It doesn't examine different possible ways that governments have or could limit free speech, and the possible or real-life past consequences of each. The arguments on both sides are almost exclusively value-statements with almost no reference to possible facts. (Values should, generally, dominate pro/con arguments about actions, but facts should be appealed to in order to support the claim that an action does/does-not support a value, and more so when claiming expected consequences.)

Kialo doesn't offer a way to break down the question into more specific options (maybe real free speech shouldn't be limited, but political contributions should stop being counted as speech; maybe Germany should limit holocaust-denial speech but the U.S. shouldn't). Kialo's format currently encourages people to post opinions on topics more than it encourages people to think more deeply about topics. It's possible that could be changed with greater participation or with Kialo somehow working to create a culture of deeper thinking. But I don't see that there now.

I also think that logging in to post is a barrier to it growing as a crowd-sourced site. And I dislike showing the Like votes instead of only using them to sort, because I think that encourages people to pay attention to how popular an opinion is, and it makes those with minority opinions painfully aware that they are in the minority.

One Website To Rule Them All?

2019-01-11T19:14:51.445Z · score: 32 (13 votes)
Comment by anna_macdonald on What makes people intellectually active? · 2019-01-02T21:39:01.071Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I've read the (original?) Sequences, and I definitely do not feel qualified to do work in AI Safety, game theory, or decision theory. There are many posts on Less Wrong about those topics that I don't even understand enough to follow, much less enough to contribute or critique them. So yes, I think most people would have to read textbooks on the subject or otherwise do a lot more learning work to significantly contribute. This is not too surprising; enough people have been doing enough work on those topics for enough years that I should not expect to be able to jump into it without some effort to cover what they've done and catch up.

Comment by anna_macdonald on What makes people intellectually active? · 2018-12-30T03:06:45.140Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I think most people stay in "off-the-cuff" territory most of the time. Getting past that usually requires putting in some effort, which requires motivation. That motivation could be internal—that you find the problem very interesting or very bothersome/worrisome on a personal level. Or external—you're getting paid to work on it. If you aren't getting paid and the topic has a primarily academic/abstract feel to it [which is often the case here], you will likely come up with some easy off-the-cuff ideas and stop at precisely that point at which the difficulty of thinking more about it becomes higher than your interest in it.

Comment by anna_macdonald on New edition of "Rationality: From AI to Zombies" · 2018-12-16T00:06:06.113Z · score: 9 (6 votes) · LW · GW

That sounds great.

Out of curiosity, does the glossary include terms that aren't particularly rationality-related, but which may not be familiar to less-scientifically-interested readers? (Examples: light cones, configuration space).

Comment by anna_macdonald on The Bat and Ball Problem Revisited · 2018-12-13T20:43:17.901Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW
However, for the other two I 'just see' the correct answer. Is this common for other people, or do you have a different split?

For all three questions, the wrong answer comes to my mind first*. But especially in the context of expecting a trick question, I second-guess it and come up with the correct answer fairly quickly.

*In the third question, the actual answer "24" does not come to mind first, but the general sense of "half that number" does. My mind does not actually calculate what half of 48 is before finishing thinking through the problem.

Comment by anna_macdonald on What went wrong in this interaction? · 2018-12-13T19:41:54.742Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That is a good point.

Comment by anna_macdonald on What went wrong in this interaction? · 2018-12-12T23:49:12.510Z · score: 17 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Here's my rehash of how your conversation comes across to me:

Benquo: #MeToo is good.

t3tsubo: Here's 3 examples of people who have suffered negative consequences from being falsely accused.

Benquo: Those first two were before #MeToo, not bothering to check the third.

t3tsubo: They still had their lives ruined as part of outrage culture.

Benquo: Broader cultural trends =/= #MeToo, and yeah, I agree there's some problems with broader cultural trends, but I don't think #MeToo has made it any worse.

t3tsubo: So we define #MeToo differently.

---followed by completely talking past each other---

At this point, Disputing Definitions becomes relevant. You are insisting on the claim that (a) #MeToo-alberzle (the broader cultural trend of being more open and accusing towards sexual harassment) has negative downsides.

He is insisting on the claim (b) #MeToo-bargulum (the specific thing started by Milano's tweet in 2017) does not have serious downsides (only some minor ones).

He briefly agreed with you that (a) was true, and you didn't seem to respond to that agreement. He repeatedly protested that your 3 cases—or the 2 he bothered to check—didn't support (not-b). He is correct about that; they only support (a). To move the conversation forward, you needed to stop and think about whether you only want to assert (a), in which case you are both in agreement, yay, conversation over...or whether you also want to assert (not-b), in which case you should come up with some examples that support (not-b).

Comment by anna_macdonald on Jesus Made Me Rational (An Introduction) · 2018-11-29T05:20:29.494Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW
the definition that we have used in the sequence of our problem of pain doesn't allow for potential suffering - only suffering that is actually experienced

Honestly, I feel like you are playing word games, and I think I've lost interest in continuing the conversation.

Comment by anna_macdonald on Jesus Made Me Rational (An Introduction) · 2018-11-26T05:20:57.428Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Both forms of suffering, not-chase-ball and hit-by-car, would be suffering that is endured by B. In that sense, they're both from B's perspective, even though B never experiences hit-by-car, which is the whole point. A is choosing an action which results in less suffering from B's perspective than B will experience if A chooses otherwise, even if B doesn't happen to know that.

If you're using perspective in a different sense, then you're making a different point that I'm not currently following.

Comment by anna_macdonald on Jesus Made Me Rational (An Introduction) · 2018-11-26T04:50:05.529Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, the parent defense.

A imposes suffering (not-chase-ball) in order to prevent a greater suffering (hit-by-car); and it is important that A does not have the option to prevent hit-by-car except by imposing not-chase-ball. Because A didn't create the system in the first place and has outside constraints imposed by reality on A's options. Thus, within A's limits, imposing the lesser suffering is the maximally loving option that A has.

Comment by anna_macdonald on Jesus Made Me Rational (An Introduction) · 2018-11-26T01:01:21.431Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW
If you are happy doing so I would like to focus on this statement first.

I mean, sure, we can focus on that. But I feel like you're doing a lot of inquiring as to my position without giving me even a rough idea of your own. Which is a little frustrating, fyi.

from whose perspective must suffering be reduced?

Mine? I'm not really clear what you're asking. The suffering I want reduced is the suffering experienced from the perspective of the person suffering. I'm the one who's doing the wanting (although the vast majority of sufferers want their suffering reduced as well). I'm not really a moral objectivist, so it's my subjective moral-things-that-I-care-about that I'm asking a hypothetical God to live up to.

Comment by anna_macdonald on Jesus Made Me Rational (An Introduction) · 2018-11-25T04:24:36.683Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

No, I don't want to quantify pain. Honestly, I think it takes optimism to look at the variety and extremes of suffering and decide they might all be worth it in some way. Do you have that optimism? What do you think makes the suffering worth it, if so?

Do people who do not do so become unloving beings?

Some caveats—"less than maximally loving" rather than "unloving", and the aforementioned restriction on "within the being's physical and emotional limits"—but basically, yes, if you can reduce someone's suffering and don't, you're not loving them as much as you could.

I don't think this is the crux of the discussion.

What do you think IS the crux of the discussion?

Comment by anna_macdonald on Jesus Made Me Rational (An Introduction) · 2018-11-24T02:30:38.668Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I was mostly looking for a general indication of which category your response falls into, but sure, I'll formulate my thoughts/version a little more specifically.

There exists emotional pain, much of which does not have enough redeeming side effects to make it preferable over the option of not experiencing it. A loving being would seek to reduce that pain, within their own physical/emotional limits and capability of doing so. If a being is as ultimate as God is described as, especially if it made the whole system in the first place, then reducing that pain is possible and an all-loving God would have done it.

Comment by anna_macdonald on Jesus Made Me Rational (An Introduction) · 2018-11-23T04:48:44.401Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'd say it boils down to the idea that a good God would not allow the kind of suffering that does, in fact, happen.

If you'd feel more comfortable carrying the discussion elsewhere, I'm fine with that. (I haven't noticed an LW rule against giving out my own email address, but I'm not sure if I've looked well enough.)

Comment by anna_macdonald on Jesus Made Me Rational (An Introduction) · 2018-11-22T20:40:19.094Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm ok with being proselytized; I don't think there's a good solution to the problem that doesn't depend on either an optimistic interpretation of events or a way-way-higher-than-I-have valuing of free will for its own sake (which may also involve contradictory interpretations of free will.)

Comment by anna_macdonald on Jesus Made Me Rational (An Introduction) · 2018-11-22T19:44:44.786Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

What's your resolution to the problem of pain?

Comment by anna_macdonald on Rationality Quotes Thread September 2015 · 2015-10-22T03:33:23.978Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Found... Database for registering economic controlled trials and a (unpublished?) paper that suggests economic RCTs have more problems than medical trials.

Comment by anna_macdonald on Rationality Quotes Thread September 2015 · 2015-10-22T00:13:53.382Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Excellent, thank you!

Comment by anna_macdonald on Rationality Quotes Thread September 2015 · 2015-10-21T20:21:59.545Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

microeconomics) can and actually does do a lot of controlled trials.

Do you happen to know anywhere I can read simplified (layman-readable) results of some of these?

Psychology has recently been implicated in the "can't reproduce your results" scandal, suggesting that a lot of the garbage they generate is due, more or less, to pressure to publish, bias towards confirming expectations, and insufficient safeguards. Do microeconomics trials suffer the same problems?

Comment by anna_macdonald on Rationality Quotes Thread September 2015 · 2015-10-21T16:28:06.411Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

if we want economics to be a science

I've been wondering lately whether it is possible for economics to get a more empirical foundation. Clearly, a serious difficulty in the field is our lack of having a way for doing controlled trials. Does anyone know if anyone has tried bribing people to live in small-towns/enclaves (one to serve as control) for a time to see if we can isolate some effects at small levels that may or may not scale up? Or is this just too ridiculously impractical? (Or just too expensive?)

Comment by anna_macdonald on Welcome to Less Wrong! (8th thread, July 2015) · 2015-10-21T16:10:06.860Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My mom was one of 11, my dad one of 4; I am one of 7 myself. It definitely makes having a big family feel more natural.

Comment by anna_macdonald on Welcome to Less Wrong! (8th thread, July 2015) · 2015-10-20T22:54:52.861Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

6... 7 if you count my adult step-daughter (who I didn't really help raise). Ages 12, 11, 9, 7, 5, and 7-months.

Comment by anna_macdonald on Welcome to Less Wrong! (8th thread, July 2015) · 2015-10-17T02:49:29.334Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for the link! I made a (brief, low effort) attempt to find that post earlier, but only came across the census surveys, not the results.

Heck, there's even one survey respondent who has more kids than I do. Cool beans.

Comment by anna_macdonald on Deliberate Grad School · 2015-10-17T02:08:52.163Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

When I was in college, I almost never went to office hours or TA hours... except for one particular class, where the professor was a probably-brilliant guy who was completely incapable of giving a straight explanation or answer to anything. TA hours were packed full; most of the class went, and the TA explained all the stuff the teacher hadn't.

Comment by anna_macdonald on Welcome to Less Wrong! (8th thread, July 2015) · 2015-10-17T00:44:09.019Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Hi LWers.

My brothers got me into HPMOR, I started reading a couple sequences, switched over to reading the full Rationality: AI to Zombies, and recently finished that. The last few days, I've been browsing around LW semi-randomly, reading posts about starting to apply the concepts and about fighting akrasia.

I'm guessing I'm atypical for an LW reader: I'm a stay-at-home mom. Any others of those on here?