The best 15 words 2013-10-03T09:08:34.710Z
Open Request for Writing Assistance 2013-04-11T00:53:04.207Z
Applied Rationality: Group Problem Solving Session 2011-02-08T14:06:47.512Z
How to make your intuitions cost-sensitive 2011-02-08T09:59:15.000Z
Information Hazards 2010-11-09T13:53:32.934Z
Utility function estimator 2010-10-02T14:05:35.159Z
Friendly, but Dumb: Why formal Friendliness proofs may not be as safe as they appear 2010-04-19T23:38:29.579Z


Comment by apophenia on The best 15 words · 2013-10-10T06:48:33.960Z · LW · GW

"15 words" is a secretly a verb rather than a noun. I definitely think discussion and clarification is good, although in this particular thread I'm sad to some people engaging solely in that and missing an opportunity to try out the exercise instead.

Comment by apophenia on The best 15 words · 2013-10-06T21:36:44.197Z · LW · GW

Adding a note because I said "quotes don't belong in this thread" elsewhere. However, this quote belongs in this thread, because

I've tried pretty hard to wrap my head around his ideology (he's incredibly long winded) and this is what I got from it

Comment by apophenia on The best 15 words · 2013-10-06T21:34:49.842Z · LW · GW

That would be great, but it would be more in the keeping of this thread to try and condense some section of this site to a dozen or so words. (Not leaving in everything, of course)

Comment by apophenia on The best 15 words · 2013-10-06T21:11:02.389Z · LW · GW

No, quotes don't belong in this thread, your intuition is wrong. This thread is about something closer to learning how to speak in original quotes.

Comment by apophenia on The best 15 words · 2013-10-03T20:24:10.810Z · LW · GW

Great subset to have picked! Are there ways to shorten this style-wise or throw out technical vocabulary to make it accessible? Is some part of it less important than others, so that you can throw out ideas as well?

Comment by apophenia on The best 15 words · 2013-10-03T20:21:40.720Z · LW · GW

Could you break down that intuition? Why?

If you think that because it's short, I STRONGLY disagree--value added is not proportional to length.

If you think that because it's an exercise, I disagree, although that's a stronger case. We happen to be doing original research in exercise form, and evidence shows exercises work better than academic articles.

If you think that for some other reason, or something like the above but not quite, I'd love to hear it!

Comment by apophenia on The best 15 words · 2013-10-03T20:18:49.105Z · LW · GW

thanks, this is exactly the case. a better objection is, it's not strictly true because things can be some complex net of the above cases, and it doesn't always break down into one of the four, but that doesn't fit in "15" words, and it's less important

edit: also it's possible in rare cases for things to be uncorrelated but causally connected

Comment by apophenia on The best 15 words · 2013-10-03T09:11:57.453Z · LW · GW

Chip & Dan Heath, Made to Stick:

Communicate one thing.

Comment by apophenia on The best 15 words · 2013-10-03T09:11:12.028Z · LW · GW

Judea Pearl, Causality:

If two things are correlated, there is causation. Either A causes B, B causes A, they have common cause, or they have a common effect you're conditioning on.

Edit: If two variables are correlated, there is causation. Either A causes B, B causes A, they have common cause, or they have a common effect you're conditioning on.

Comment by apophenia on Post Request Thread · 2013-04-14T04:28:49.448Z · LW · GW


Comment by apophenia on Post Request Thread · 2013-04-11T02:01:48.567Z · LW · GW

I'd be interested in writing this one. I don't your divide is a real one; it's basically the same skill. But it's still worth talking about in that context.

Comment by apophenia on Group Rationality Diary, April 5-14 · 2013-04-11T01:51:44.711Z · LW · GW

I just launched the alpha of, a service for developing habits and recording data in self-experimentation. It texts you on your phone; you text it back. My stereotypical question (and the one I invented it for) is "How happy are you on a scale of 1-10?" Free to minicamp participants; costs a small fee for everyone else (although only enough to pay for the text messages).

Comment by apophenia on Checklist of Rationality Habits · 2012-11-18T00:45:23.099Z · LW · GW

Absolutely. I can give better resources if you can be more specific as to what you're looking for.

I recommend The Checklist Manifesto first as an overview, as well as a basic understanding of akrasia, and trying and failing to make and use some checklists yourself.

The resources I spent most of my time with were very specific to what I was working on, and so I wouldn't recommend them. However, just in case someone finds it useful, Human Factors of Flight-Deck Checklists: The Normal Checklist draws attention to some common failure modes of checklists outside the checklist itself.

Comment by apophenia on Checklist of Rationality Habits · 2012-11-07T22:05:51.637Z · LW · GW

This is awesome. I might remove the examples, print down the rest of the list, and read it every morning when I get up and every night before going to sleep.

Interesting you should say that. About a week ago I simplified this into a more literal checklist designed to be used as part of a nightly wind-down, to see if it could maintain or instill habits. I designed the checklist based largely on empirical results from NASA's review of the factors for effectiveness of pre-flight safety checklists used by pilots, although I chased down a number of other checklist-related resources. I'm currently actively testing effects on myself and others, both trying to test to make sure it would actually be used, and getting the time down to the minimum possible (it's hovering around two minutes).

P.S. I'm not associated with CFAR but the checklist is an experiment on their request.

If you were to test your suggestion for two weeks, I would be interested to hear the results. My prediction (with 80% certainty) is: Lbh jvyy trg cbfvgvir erfhygf sbe n avtug be gjb. Jvguva gra qnlf, lbh jvyy svaq gur yvfg nirefvir / gbb zhpu jbex naq fgbc ernqvat vg, ortva gb tynapr bire vg jvgubhg cebprffvat nalguvat, be npgviryl fgbc gb svk bar bs gur nobir ceboyrzf. (Gur nezl anzr znxrf zr yrff pregnva guna hfhny--zl fgrerbglcr fnlf lbh znl or oberq naq/be qvfpvcyvarq.)

Comment by apophenia on What topics would you like to see more of on LessWrong? · 2011-08-20T09:49:16.082Z · LW · GW

So, let's call the thing I'm talking about "winning". It is EXTREMELY helpful although not logically necessary to think winning is a good idea in order to win. I'm talking about how to convince people of that helpful step, so they can, next, learn how to win, and finally, apply the knowledge and win.

Either you're talking about a rationality that doesn't consist of winning, or I'm hearing: "You cannot use the 'winning' part of their brain to convince them that it is good to win, because the 'winning' part of them already knows that, it's just not in charge." Why on earth should I restrict myself to some arbitrary 'winning' part of their brain, if such a thing existed, to convince them that it's good to win? That sounds silly.

Please let me know if I even make sense.

Comment by apophenia on Exercises to do while alone · 2011-08-07T12:37:39.613Z · LW · GW
  • Figure out your goals, and then make plans for when you get off work to optimize for those. Working as a cashier doesn't seem optimal for almost any purpose--maybe you could start by figuring out how to make money more efficiently, if that's your goal?
  • Learn the major system or memory palace. This would let you store a list of things to think about or do when at work. It's also quite easy to practice while at work, once you get the basics down. I'd recommend this first, if you really won't be allowed to write.
  • Solve problems. See what problem-solving methods work and which don't. See what kinds of problems you are worst/best at, and become better at those. Math problems, world-modeling (prediction and underlying event deduction), and introspection are especially easy to do in your head.
  • Try to figure out why stuff around you is the way it is. (Why did that person buy that item?). Make predictions. Calibrate and get higher accuracy as well.
  • Introspect. Find out why you believe what you believe, and whether you should.
  • Don't improve your rationality, do something else with your time.
  • Optimize your job as a cashier, as much as is possible. Figure out how to do stuff in the least time. Experiment when interacting with customers to see if you can get tips or interesting conversation. Get a different job (manager?) at the same establishment somehow. A useful problem will motivate you more than a non-useful problem.
  • Combine all these.
Comment by apophenia on Exercises to do while alone · 2011-08-07T12:24:13.784Z · LW · GW

Downvoted for "It's probably good for your brain somehow."

Comment by apophenia on Do Humans Want Things? · 2011-08-07T10:37:48.556Z · LW · GW

I can't give another suggestion unless you tell me what's undesirable about watching TED. There's a transcript on the site, but he uses graphics copiously, so I'm curious how useful it is. Less Wrong says it is too long to post as a comment.

Comment by apophenia on What topics would you like to see more of on LessWrong? · 2011-08-07T10:08:53.799Z · LW · GW

I've studied game theory and rationality, and I don't use game theory even when applying rationality to game design! I've used some of the nontechnical results (threats, from Shelling's book) to negotiate and precommit but that's about it. Has someone else used game theory in real life?

Unless someone else responds to this comment, my guess is that this topic is of greater interest to readers than it is of any use.

Comment by apophenia on What topics would you like to see more of on LessWrong? · 2011-08-07T09:47:44.015Z · LW · GW

By "via rationality" I assume you mean "via logical argument or sound science", which is an absurd substitution. Rationalists should win. The Dark Arts therefore are a type of instrumental rationality. That said, I still disagree, at least for some irrational people (let's roughly say anyone I could convince to eating a food that gives them a stomachache).

They can be convinced they should study [instrumental] rationality, it just requires you present unreasonably large amounts of evidence and don't use logical inference or experiments. (And when I say unreasonably large, that's for people in college studying science. For merely average twenty-somethings, you may need to beat them over the head with solid bricks of evidence.) Caveat: I do not often interact with allegedly common people who don't meet the minimum bar of adjusting expectations based on (sufficient) observation, so this comment does not apply to such persons. It is still a useful comment.

I.e. look, I used this thingy called rationality and I made/saved thousands of dollars, got a boyfriend, and fixed significant mental problems. Seemed to work for me okay. You need to go REALLY overkill on the evidence for non-science folks though. Again, beat them over the head with it. Make it something that will help them personally, too. I've found it useful to get people to agree (not verbally and aloud, though that's an interesting experiment) that whatever mysterious method I used to I do that, it would be a good thing to learn, BEFORE I revealed that the answer is something weird or "educational" sounding. This second half is only slightly dark-artsy (consistency bias).

Comment by apophenia on Raise the Age Demographic · 2011-08-07T09:28:56.108Z · LW · GW

Did he say why he thought it was for people your (ChronoDAS's) age?

Comment by apophenia on Do Humans Want Things? · 2011-08-07T09:26:38.774Z · LW · GW

Check out most of behavioral economics. (I recommend Dan Gilbert on Ted, not linked to avoid trivial chances to waste time)

Comment by apophenia on Fighting Akrasia: Incentivising Action · 2011-08-07T09:20:51.580Z · LW · GW

A year ago, I hired Alicorn as a manger, to tell me to do the things I want to do. I am still employing her. I am externally motivated--I don't think we've yet tried giving her authority to pay my "salary" yet. This is mostly because I'm not sure what a reasonable motivational system would look like in that case. If anyone has a suggestion I consider reasonable, I'll give it a try.

Comment by apophenia on Too busy to think about life · 2011-08-07T08:15:56.468Z · LW · GW

In AI, this is known as the exploration/exploitation problem. You could try Googling "Multi-armed bandit" for an extremely theoretical view.

My biggest recommendation is to do a breadth-first search, using fermi calculations for value-of-information. If people would be interested, I could maybe write a guide on how to do this more concretely?

Comment by apophenia on "The True Rejection Challenge" - Thread 2 · 2011-08-07T08:09:55.008Z · LW · GW

I found that what reduced my low-value leisure time most was doing something incredibly fun, by explicitly optimizing for it. Then when I went back to i.e. reading webcomics, it seemed mildly repulsive in that it wasn't actually that fun. I suspect, but am not sure that, having a large amount of fun when you have fun 1) Reduces the amount of time you'll spend having fun, in that it satiates your quota earlier. 2) Causes you to consciously choose how much leisure time to have, because it's hard to default into really fun behaviors as procrastination.

I also tried 1) allowing myself to do anything I wanted, as long as I planned it at least half an hour in advance (if you have a pre-set quitting time this could help?) 2) Setting a timer to interrupt every 15 minutes and ask me what I was doing. One of my main problems was cost-insensitivity to time; playing a computer game for 5 hours did not feel almost any more a waste of time than doing it for 1 hour.

Please let me know if any of these work, so I know whether to recommend them to others in the future.

Comment by apophenia on Teaching Introspection · 2011-08-01T17:18:10.507Z · LW · GW

Meditation seemed useful to me. Other forms of "introspection" (cognitive biases, direct querying of "what would I do in situation X" in my brain, psychology) were more like "extrospection"--I'd infer my thoughts by my behavior. Meditation seemed to have a shorter inferential distance. I don't have a good non-introspective reason to believe this, although it did seem to get me over procrastination for the first time in weeks, and helped me graduate. I'll find out whether this continues to hold true as I resume meditation.

Comment by apophenia on Efficient Charity: Do Unto Others... · 2011-07-23T08:18:11.142Z · LW · GW

I suspect convincing people optimal philanthropy is a good idea is probably one of the most important things one could do. Maybe you should find out?

Comment by apophenia on Procedural Knowledge Gaps · 2011-03-15T08:06:53.088Z · LW · GW

Find a cookbook, which often contains more fleshed-out recipes, instead of searching online. You can of course evaluate a cookbook for this property before you buy one. I find watching Alton Brown (Good Eats) helpful, in that he covers things too simple to be a recipe (eggs), mentions specific problems you might have, explains such things, and of course you can see it being done, which helps. He also explains some of the science behind cooking, which is fun. I assume other cooking shows fix many of these same problems (Julia Child? I haven't watched). I often cook Alicorn's recipes, and can ask her for help if something is underspecified. Finding a somewhat experienced cook to help (preferably in person) might be useful?

German recipes are even worse. They don't specify things like pans, oil, how to combine ingredients, or sometimes even baking temperatures. They're basically a list of ingredients and assume you know... well, more than I do. Plus I don't speak German very well, so I had a nightmare making the one recipe I properly translated.

Comment by apophenia on Rational Repentance · 2011-03-06T00:50:40.986Z · LW · GW

It cost me three willpower points or so not to click the third.

Comment by apophenia on How to make your intuitions cost-sensitive · 2011-02-11T21:47:45.927Z · LW · GW

Oh. Well, I guess I was wrong. Having two methods is still a good idea, since some people can't. In fact, I'd be almost certain that there's still lots of people neither method will work for.

Comment by apophenia on How to make your intuitions cost-sensitive · 2011-02-10T18:30:42.938Z · LW · GW

Edward Tufte makes a similar point in his books ("The Visual Display of Quantitative Information", etc.)

Comment by apophenia on How to make your intuitions cost-sensitive · 2011-02-10T18:27:19.700Z · LW · GW

Oh, so a useful answer for 2: Fix a tradeoff cost for time and money, adjusting for [un]pleasantness of the work. A good starting number for working adults is your hourly pay, especially if you actually have the option to work more or less hours. A good number for students is your future hourly pay.

Comment by apophenia on How to make your intuitions cost-sensitive · 2011-02-09T04:26:44.934Z · LW · GW

This is a good criticism. I'm more aware of the Typical Mind Fallacy than most people because I've switched modes of thinking several times--I'm not currently a visual thinker. I don't think people are good at visualizing, I think they're bad at numbers. I'm a mathematician, and I think other mathematicians I've met are generally bad with numbers. I also tried to make clear that this suffered from high uncertainty via the keywords "I think".

I don't read Discussion any more, but I found it the contents similar to the old monthly discussion threads I read religiously. I posted things to those; I thought this merited a top-level post. I try to keep a very concise style, and I think top-level posts can (and should be) short on occasion.

Comment by apophenia on How to make your intuitions cost-sensitive · 2011-02-08T12:20:25.901Z · LW · GW

There's lots of ways to keep track of expenses. I'd long been doing that in an excel spreadsheet.

Once you have them, you need to look at them in a cost-sensitive way. I don't see how writing down numbers accomplishes that.

Comment by apophenia on Procedural Knowledge Gaps · 2011-02-08T11:48:40.904Z · LW · GW

I think that this sounds like too much work to learn manually, so I am embracing transhumanism and making a compass belt.

Comment by apophenia on How to make your intuitions cost-sensitive · 2011-02-08T09:59:24.474Z · LW · GW

As a side note, I was especially pleased by my motivation to work after I hung this by my work computer, which was better than expected--very little gets me to stop procrastinating. I found it particularly useful to think of myself as "paying off" things I had gotten instead of adding money. This felt a little like a deadline. It was also fun to think of myself as "working on" a particular thing, like a book I had recently purchased. I suppose one could do this in advance, but I am more motivated by things physically present than motential things. This also helped segment the work. I could "work off" one thing at a time, instead of having to dread full time work as a whole. Also, making money had a bigger effect than spending less compared to my guesses, so this also cheered me up when working.

Comment by apophenia on Applied Rationality: Group Problem Solving Session · 2011-02-08T09:38:02.788Z · LW · GW

Here's a problem, for example formatting. Problems can be as easy or hard, and as complex or simple, as you think is reasonable.

Problem: I don't know how to find scientific data. I can get some common-knowledge stuff, but anything controversial (ex. global warming) or hard to locate by keyword (ex. how well normal distributions model actual data) I have a hard time finding. Especially for controversial items, I don't know how to evaluate the soundness of the study. What tools can I use to find and evaluate studies.

Progress/Effort made: I can find studies with specific keywords. My current evaluation strategy is to look at the statistical comparison in the experiment, or to find a blog that mentions reputable papers about a subject. This doesn't work in general, because blogs don't discuss obscure topics, and I have a hard time finding out if a blog writer is a reliable expert.

Parameters/Evaluation: I want to be able to evaluate studies in pharmacology, but I don't want to learn too much about pharmacology in general. The problem will be solved when I can find out whether a scientific issue is solved one way or the other, along with the degree of contention. I would prefer solutions that don't involve personally talking to experts.

Comment by apophenia on A LessWrong "rationality workbook" idea · 2011-01-29T22:10:33.335Z · LW · GW

I have been asking around about this. No one seems to have heard of it. Are you perhaps thinking of Divia's anki cardsets?

Comment by apophenia on Rationality Quotes: January 2011 · 2011-01-05T20:37:43.051Z · LW · GW

Could you give a specific video? This looks like an interesting site.

Comment by apophenia on What can you do with an Unfriendly AI? · 2010-12-26T06:37:11.628Z · LW · GW

The genie can prove a yes answer to SAT, not a no answer (as far as we know about the nature of SAT). Is it allowed to fail? How can you tell if it lies and says no? This allows the communication of choosable bits by the AI.

Comment by apophenia on Rationality Quotes: December 2010 · 2010-12-09T18:54:18.745Z · LW · GW

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.

Arthur Schopenhauer

Comment by apophenia on Radical Honesty · 2010-12-05T05:13:53.464Z · LW · GW

In grade school, I had a policy of telling people "no comment" or "that's classified" on any subject that could be sensitive. This is slightly better from the point of view of actually keeping secrets, since suddenly clamming up if people ask you if you've ever made a bomb is giving a bit too much information.

Comment by apophenia on Rationality Quotes: December 2010 · 2010-12-03T22:32:47.735Z · LW · GW

I think this is a useful way to think of things, so you don't worry about changing and committing another mistake--it's a good way to make yourself cost-sensitive to mistake duration.

Comment by apophenia on Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People · 2010-12-01T17:17:07.901Z · LW · GW

As usual, I wish it was possible to upvote things more than once.

Comment by apophenia on Rationality quotes: October 2010 · 2010-10-09T23:54:34.749Z · LW · GW

"Because this is the Internet, every argument was spun in a centrifuge instantly and reduced down into two wholly enraged, radically incompatible contingents, as opposed to the natural gradient which human beings actually occupy." -Tycho, Penny Arcade

Comment by apophenia on A Request for Open Problems · 2010-09-25T13:36:52.510Z · LW · GW

Ah, you're entirely right. I didn't misremember--I read his blog rather religiously. I just apparently wasn't quite awake when I wrote what he was betting on.

I should also clarify that he didn't have anyone matching even a lesser amount in the case that the paper was indeed unsuccessful (which it appears to be as it stands, but Aaronson's bet gives it a while to correct problems). His goal, which didn't exactly work, was to get people to stop asking him about the paper. I say it didn't work, because he probably got even more people commenting on the bet, and still a large number asking about the paper.

Comment by apophenia on A Request for Open Problems · 2010-09-25T12:46:00.015Z · LW · GW

And, mid-2010, Scott Aaronson also literally put down a large bet that P != NP.

Comment by apophenia on Link: "You're Not Being Reasonable" · 2010-09-15T19:14:34.469Z · LW · GW

A related link: Paul Graham's Disagreement Hierarchy

Comment by apophenia on Book Club Update, Chapter 3 of Probability Theory · 2010-08-26T15:56:30.573Z · LW · GW

I'm interested in continuing. I was working on the exercises you list when the study group started. Since I'm looking at the same stuff as everyone else now, and because it's a little tougher for me, I should be more active from here on out.

Comment by apophenia on Burning Man Meetup: Bayes Camp · 2010-08-25T11:28:47.856Z · LW · GW

I'll be attending as well (A reminder: My real name is Zachary Vance). I will be flying in on the 29th to Reno and leaving the 8th. If anyone wants to meet up for rideshare, I'd be pleased. Post a comment here, or call me: (513) 549-5690.

I hope the costuming is serious. Now I want to wear white noise so people know who I am. P.S. Is there a way to get email notifications for responses to a comment? This would be terribly handy.

Edit: Also, if anyone would care to share a tent, it would be helpful to know today, the 28th. I would save $50 in check-on.