Posts

Welcome to Kernel Project (Manchester, UK) [Edit With Your Details] 2018-03-12T06:26:06.039Z · score: 7 (2 votes)
The Craft & The Community - A Post-Mortem & Resurrection 2017-11-02T03:45:46.384Z · score: 103 (62 votes)

Comments

Comment by bendini on Noticing Frame Differences · 2019-09-30T01:57:48.534Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'm interested to find out what worked for you, but I suspect that the root cause of failure in most cases is lacking enough motivation to converge. It takes two to tango, and without a shared purpose that feels more important than losing face, there isn't enough incentive to overcome epistemic complacency.

That being said, better software and social norms for arguing could significantly reduce the motivation threshold.

Comment by bendini on Are there technical/object-level fields that make sense to recruit to LessWrong? · 2019-09-30T00:56:28.481Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Aside from what's already here, I can think of a few "character profiles" of fields that would benefit from LessWrong infrastructure:

  • Hard fields that are in decent epistemic health but could benefit from outsiders and cross pollination with our memeplex (e.g. economics).
  • Object level things where outside experts can perform the skill but the current epistemological foundations are so shaky that procedural instructions work poorly (e.g. home cooking).
  • Things that are very useful where good information exists but finding it requires navigating a lemon market (e.g. personal finance).
  • Fields that have come up regularly as inputs into grand innovations that required knowledge from multiple areas (e.g. anything Elon needed to start his companies)

I don't think the bottleneck is lack of recruitment though, the problem is that content has no place to go. As you rightly point out, things that aren't interesting to the general LW audience get crickets. I have unusual things I really want to show on LessWrong that are on their 5th rewrite because I have to cross so many inferential gaps and somehow make stuff LW doesn't care about appealing enough to stay on the front page.


Comment by bendini on Meetups: Climbing uphill, flowing downhill, and the Uncanny Summit · 2019-09-23T04:31:07.173Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The somewhat cynical take is that open attendance events (meetup.com and LW) are like group projects where organizers are competing for attendees. This makes organizing events a servant role rather than a leadership role, meaning that if you expend the resources to put on an interesting talk and offer free pizza people will think they've done their bit by showing up and adding entropy. Like the way people balk at paying for software now that Google et all have figured out that it's more efficient to take it out of your back pocket via advertising, people treat meetups the same way because organizers have zero leverage when attendees can go to some other meetup with free pizza because it's a recruitment funnel for a tech company.

Fixing this will require more than words alone. Informing attendees that the meetup is a "take it seriously" meetup does not cause them to take it seriously because there's no way at present to give those words credibility.

(Unrelated: I stumbled on this post by happenstance only to see a comment I made form a key part of it. This seems exactly like the sort of thing that should go in a user's notifications)

Comment by bendini on Meetups as Institutions for Intellectual Progress · 2019-09-17T14:02:23.980Z · score: 7 (6 votes) · LW · GW

As someone who has organised meetups outside of the main hubs my experience matches pretty much everything said here. The current format is not ideal for accomplishing anything, so much so that I've stepped down from organising mine because they were providing so little value. It's a sad state of affairs, but from what I can tell the majority are content with them being low-effort social groups.

In terms of coordinating between regional hubs I would suggest opting for LessWrong instead of Facebook. Many people simply won't see the content due to either algorithms or newsfeed blockers plus Facebook no longer maintains the monopoly over everyone's social calendar that it had just 2 years ago.

Comment by bendini on A new rationality YouTube channel emerges · 2019-09-06T05:46:32.830Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Focusing on video quality instead of talking to a webcam is a differentiator, so that should raise your odds of success.

Comment by bendini on A new rationality YouTube channel emerges · 2019-08-30T08:17:34.476Z · score: 14 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I disagree.

If someone specifically asks for criticism and I have something to say, I like to treat them like an adult instead of assuming they're just repeating tribal shibboleths. This also has a bonus of punishing people who are insincere about wanting critisism while rewarding those who honestly seek it.

While it's possible to gain useful skills from a failed project, opportunity costs are real. I don't think people should be risk averse (quite the opposite), but I do think people should put a bit of thought into a viable strategy before commiting the time needed to determine if a project will succeed.

Yes, I'm aware that my comment resembles the snark you get on Hacker News, but there is a distinction: I'm saying "There's a pile of skulls on this mountain, if you are going to climb it, figure out how to avoid making the same mistakes"

Comment by bendini on A new rationality YouTube channel emerges · 2019-08-29T07:40:36.400Z · score: 9 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Critical question : If you've done some cursory research you'll know that you aren't the first person to think of this. There have been somewhere between 10-100 channels started that focused on the Sequences, with only a couple achieving minor success (e.g. Julia Galef's channel). Given this reality, what do you plan to do differently so this doesn't end up as a waste of time?

Comment by bendini on Raemon's Scratchpad · 2019-08-15T14:20:42.476Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The fact that such debates can go on for 500 pages without significant updates from either side point towards a failure to 1) systematically determine which arguments are strong and which ones are distractions 2) restrict the scope of the debate so opponents have to engage directly rather than shift to more comfortable ground.

There are also many simpler topics that could have meaningful progress made on them with current debating technology, but they just don't happen because most people have an aversion to debating.

Comment by bendini on Diversify Your Friendship Portfolio · 2019-07-10T03:04:58.991Z · score: 22 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I see how the idea is sensible for some, but I've never felt satisfied with compartmentalised friendships where I share a small facet of myself with each group.

In addition to diversification being somewhat alienating, there are some benefits of tight-knit groups you'd struggle to replicate in diversified social portfolio:

  • Lowered social transaction costs - when you divide your social time between fewer people you have more time to learn how best to work with each person
  • Easier trust coordination - repeated interactions over a long period of time mean you have a lot of past data to evaluate someone's trustworthiness
  • Emotional investment - loyalty is rational when each person isn't a replaceable commodity. Having tough conversations that will cause friction but pay off in the long run is worth it if there's actually going to be a long run.
Comment by bendini on "Rationalizing" and "Sitting Bolt Upright in Alarm." · 2019-07-09T07:53:07.270Z · score: 12 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Meta beliefs about jargon: There are some benefits to using a new word free of existing connotations, but costs often exceed the benefits. In the first stage only a few insiders know what it means. In the second stage you can use it with most of the community, but you need to translate it for casual members and a general audience. In the third stage the meaning becomes diluted as the community starts using it for everything, so you're basically back where you started.

In addition to the tendency for jargon to be diluted in general, jargon that's shorthand for "I see pattern X and that has very important implications" will be very powerful, so it's almost certain to be misused unless there are real costs (i.e. social punishments) for doing so. A better method may be to use existing phrases that are more linguistically stable.

Some draft proposals:

  • Carl is engaging in motivated cognition -> Carl has a conflict of interest/Carl is deceiving himself/Carl is quite attached to this belief (depending on which one is applicable)
  • Carl is wrong about something and it's influencing others -> Carl is a bad influence
  • Everyone in the community is saying X -> Our community has a systemic bias regarding idea X
  • Alice is "blatantly" wrong about X -> Alice has substantial disagreements with us about X

Most of these proposals sound quite confrontational, but that's inherent to what's being communicated. You can't use jargon for "Alice is saying dangerous things" within earshot of Alice and avoid social repercussions if the meaning is common knowledge.

Comment by bendini on LW authors: How many clusters of norms do you (personally) want? · 2019-07-08T07:07:33.137Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I generally prefer norms that look like sparring - anything that's relevant is fair game, anything on the boundary of personal attack is fair game so long as you can make the case for its relevance.

Personal preferences aside, the biggest norm problem I've encountered is when people make an assertion based on priors that are taboo to discuss but you can't make a solid counterargument without addressing them.

Comment by bendini on Being Wrong Doesn't Mean You're Stupid and Bad (Probably) · 2019-06-30T01:08:56.667Z · score: 9 (7 votes) · LW · GW

This post relies on several assumptions that I believe are false:

1. The rationalist community has managed to avoid bringing in any outside cultural baggage so when someone admits they were wrong about something important (and not making a strategic disclosure) people will only raise their estimate of incompetence by a Bayesian 0.42%.

2. The base rate of being "stupid and bad" by rationalist standards is 5% or lower (The sample has been selected for being better than average, but the implicit standards are much higher)

3. When people say they are worried about being "wrong" and therefore "stupid" and "bad", they are referring to things with standard definitions that are precise enough to do math with.

4. The individuals you're attempting to reassure with this post get enough of a spotlight that their 1 instance of publicly being wrong is balanced by a *salient* memory of the 9 other times they were right.

5. Not being seen as "stupid and bad" in this community is sufficient for someone to get the things they want/avoid the things they don't want.

6. In situations where judgements must be made with limited information (e.g. job interviews) using a small sample of data is worse than defaulting to base rates. (Thought experiment: you're at a tech conference and looking for interesting people to talk to, do you bother approaching anyone wearing a suit on the chance that a few hackers like dressing up?)

Comment by bendini on Discussion Thread: The AI Does Not Hate You by Tom Chivers · 2019-06-19T16:36:57.592Z · score: 14 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Just finished the book today, I'm somewhat impressed by how it came out given the suspicion many people had.

The author managed to take the AI arguments seriously while also striking a balance between writing an honest account of his interactions with the community, keeping it interesting for the typical reader and avoiding lazy potshots against nerds.

My only wish was that there was a section on the practical aspect to rationality, but was widely neglected by many of the hardcore fans, so it's hardly a fair critique of a book about AI safety.


Comment by bendini on The Craft & The Community - A Post-Mortem & Resurrection · 2018-04-27T04:21:32.631Z · score: 11 (9 votes) · LW · GW

The amounts are disputed, due to damages resulting from Greg's personal negligence, and if all points in our counterclaim for damages hold water, you would actually be owing thousands to us. After amounts were disputed, you rebuffed all claims as trivial and gave us 36 hours to pay up or else, since then you have taken this to every platform you could find, including contacting one person's startup team members and potential seed accelerators or another person's immediate family in attempt to pressure them into compliance.

With regards to the vision, please don't pretend to mourn something you actively opposed during the nine months you shared a house with us.

Comment by bendini on Updates from Boston · 2017-12-05T20:26:02.392Z · score: 10 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I like this post, and would like to see more posts like this.

Did you discover why Order of the Sphex failed?

Comment by bendini on Civility Is Never Neutral · 2017-11-26T04:02:02.420Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with the idea that civility norms as they are currently implemented are never neutral, but not that it is humanly impossible.

Incisive questioning of a locally unpopular view is called “being insightful”; the proponent of a locally unpopular view being triggered by it is called “letting your emotions run away with you in a rational discussion” and “blowing up at someone for no reason.” Incisive questioning of a locally popular view is called “uncharitable” and “incredibly rude”; the proponent of a locally popular view being triggered by it is called “a reasonable response to someone else being a jerk.” It all depends on whether the people doing the enforcement find it easier to put themselves in the shoes of the upset person or the person doing the questioning.

It does, if the enforcers see themselves as adjudicators of good taste rather than the people who execute the rules other people have agreed on. I suppose this is one of the few situations where not questioning authority would actually be beneficial.

It's also worth stating that if you want more than just the pretense of civil discourse, a person who retaliates against a harsh but true critisism of their idea has to be reprimanded, not in spite of but because the audence is sympathetic to their emotional reaction.

Conversely, Great-Aunt Bertha skipped school in the fifties to go get drunk with sailors and was the first woman in the Hell’s Angels. Great-Aunt Bertha thinks it is very rude that Great-Aunt Gertrude keeps saying “a-HEM” five times a sentence just because she’s talking the way she normally talks. It’s not polite to interrupt what people are saying by getting offended and storming out. And that whole “sir” and “ma’am” business is actually offensive. Children are people and it is wrong to treat them as if they are subservient to adults.
Great-Aunt Bertha and Great-Aunt Gertrude will have some difficulty agreeing about what is polite behavior at the Thanksgiving table.

I'm not particularly sure if this is true of your tyical Aunt Bertha, but it is my experience that everyone, including the more Bertha-ish types such as myself, agree that politeness means something approximating Aunt Gertrude. The counterpoint is not that politeness is completely subjective but at what point along the continuum between blunt honesty and hyper-politeness is best in a given situation.

This isn't the same for respect, as that is an internal reaction, rather than a consensus based social norm. Many hacker-types will only take the time out of their day to poke holes in an idea if it at least has some parts that are worth saving. This makes critisism a mark of respect in those subcultures, in opposition to almost everywhere else.

On the other hand, many aspects of etiquette have nothing to do with being nice to people but instead are ways of signalling that one is upper-class, or at least a middle-class person with pretensions of same. (Most obviously, anything about what forks one uses; more controversially, rules about greetings, introductions, when to bring gifts, etc.) You wind up excluding poor and less educated people, which people in many spaces don’t want.

I'd like to use this to register an informal complaint that the norms in the rationalist community, including the ones on discourse contain a large proportion of things that suit the aesthetic sensibilities of WASPy middle class intellectuals rather than what's instrumentally rational for acheiving most of our stated goals.

Comment by bendini on Project proposal: Rationality Cookbook · 2017-11-21T17:36:21.124Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

a combination of turnkey systems eg. wiki, docs, spreadsheets during development, we will likely also be using this preregistration database when it is a bit more polished and we have experiements suited for it

Comment by bendini on Project proposal: Rationality Cookbook · 2017-11-21T16:40:09.731Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

edit: whoops, thought you were AndHisHorse, although they are also welcome to contact me if interested in craft rationality

Comment by bendini on The Craft & The Community - A Post-Mortem & Resurrection · 2017-11-20T18:16:48.912Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW
My husband works for Google and AFAICT their policy is "show up on time for important meetings, get your work done, otherwise we don't care."

I am already aware of this, and I'm not sure why it appears as if I'm unaware of how things work at companies like Google? Given the distinction between categories I highlighted in the above comment:

There is a big difference between an employee who works semi-irregular hours and misses irrelevant meetings and one that goes completely off the grid without any warning when they are being relied upon to do a specific task.

Most startup employees are not PR people, and "scheduled news appearance" is a relatively small fraction of what PR people do.

I chose an infrequent but very clearcut scenario in order to function as a good example of someone being relied upon and dropping the ball. Pointing out that it is rare is fighting the hypothetical, like saying you wouldn't pull the lever in a trolley problem because it might get you arrested.

If you find this hypothetical unsuitable, perhaps one of the following would work better:

  • The head programmer on a team taking a spur of the moment vacation the week before the next software release deadline.
  • The sysadmin/whoever not returning phonecalls for a few days when a software bug locks out all users from the app.
  • The team lead who was meant to be giving a presentation to the CEO to show the new design/whatever decides to take a long lunch and is an hour late.
  • The CEO who repeatedly ducks calls from his investors because he is averse to explaining why quarterly growth metrics took a nosedive.
  • The new hire who reads the unlimited vacation spiel and decides to take a three month vacation post-induction so he can "take time to recharge in order to become more productive" on the employer's dime.

I'm not even saying one of these examples will get someone fired, just a repeated pattern of behaviour like this.

There is also the point that people who have these jobs know this on some level, and even if they are unreliable in social situations they do not behave like that when they don't think they can get away with it.

The point I'm making is there are situations where reliablity definitely does matter (e.g. commuity projects/voluteer run events), and a widespread norm of people behaving like it doesn't is greatly hindering the ability of those projects to operate.

Whether reliability matters socially is a little more open to dispute, and I'll grant that it is reasonable to have reached different conclusions, as my attempts to suggest it does are gestures in the direction of There Are Rules Here.

Comment by bendini on The Craft & The Community - A Post-Mortem & Resurrection · 2017-11-20T15:27:01.033Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The key things here are value alignment and implicit norms, Netflix offers employees "unlimited vacation", the quotation marks are there for a reason.

There is a big difference between an employee who works semi-irregular hours and misses irrelevant meetings and one that goes completely off the grid without any warning when they are being relied upon to do a specific task.

If your PR person flaked on a scheduled news appearance because they were in bed redditing, are you telling me the company wouldn't mind because they are pro-autonomy?

Comment by bendini on The Craft & The Community - A Post-Mortem & Resurrection · 2017-11-20T15:03:13.530Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In retrospect, snarkily proving I had paid enough attention to your post to incorporate some of it into my essay was not the best way to make the point. My apologies.

The reason I have not changed the article is that changing that information would require a careful splice to preserve the original feel of the passage, for no informational benefit. Here is why I think this:

The hypothetical journey from Ward Street to Facebook HQ, although insane from my point of view, isn't all that uncommon among tech workers in general.

Public transport, although cheaper than driving due to government subsidies, is slower according to Google maps (if they can't provide accurate info in the commute radius of their top employees, I'll be very suprised). This seems to be in line with the regular gripes that wonder across my tumblr dash about how slow and unreliable it is, something you also point out in that post

The Bay Area’s public transit system is really really good compared to public transit in most of the rest of the country (for one thing, it is possible to get places on it). However, our public transit is certainly inferior to, say, New York City’s. One of the ways this works is that sometimes, based on the Inscrutable Whim of the Train Gods, the train will choose to show up fourteen minutes late.

Looking at the actual data Google gives, we get a estimated commute time of 50m - 1h40m on a typical workday (I used 1h30m as the figure, as a number towards the higher end of the range wouldnt mean the hypothetical person wouldn't be late to work half of the time)

That same journey on public transport, without delays or missed connections from the previous one being late is 1h45m, five minutes longer than the worst case estimate for driving.

Do you have local information that would contradict this?

Comment by bendini on The Craft & The Community - A Post-Mortem & Resurrection · 2017-11-12T06:46:40.883Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There seems to be a difference of opinion on what applied rationality means. In my view, CFAR is at least one step removed from helping you be more rational at life. In a sense, CFAR is the doctor who gives you the antidepressants which you take to improve your own life, rather than the people who improve your life directly - the tools that let you make your own tools.

There's no law of the universe saying if you teach someone literary critisism instead of writing it won't improve their writing skills. The concerns are around how effective it is and whether this will end up causing the curriculum to diverge with reality futher, due to being harder to measure output.

Then there is also the question of bias. There is no control group, no objective measurement, you likely paid thousands of dollars to attend and it was run by people you respect, this is hardly the standard practice of a scientific experiment.

Comment by bendini on The Craft & The Community - A Post-Mortem & Resurrection · 2017-11-11T06:27:14.073Z · score: 8 (3 votes) · LW · GW
The Bay Area has an unusually left-leaning political culture, more so than almost any other place in the U.S. This on the one hand gets you Berkeley's riots, and on the other hand gets you (for example) more queer/trans acceptance than anywhere else in the U.S.
Being in a more politically divided/centrist place might be better in some ways, but it would also be less full of queer community and resources and events, and possibly less accepting too.

This is a very US-centric perspective. That dynamic is just not how it works over here. We don't have a bible belt and most people have been atheist for two generations now. There's a reason Richard Dawkins doesn't preach here.

Manchester has the third highest LGBT percentage after Brighton and London, according to the measures I can find. As such, there are plenty of queer/trans/kink/poly events & resources.

Arguably Manchester is better than the Bay Area for this in some regards e.g. harassment on public transit, which is particularly relevant for nonwhite trans people who don't pass very well.

Comment by bendini on The Craft & The Community - A Post-Mortem & Resurrection · 2017-11-11T05:56:27.408Z · score: 22 (6 votes) · LW · GW

LW2.0 in its current form isn't ideal for creating measurable change in people on the object level, but if it promotes people to read more of the rationality material that isn't currently popular blog posts, that's a force for good.

If I was in charge, I'd divide the site up into cause areas and have things be tagged for which cause area they have relevance to. Possible categories:

  1. Xrisk
  2. Non-Xrisk EA
  3. Craft development
  4. Community meta
  5. Meta insights
  6. Otherwise interesting posts

This would allow multiple cause areas to benefit from a shared audience and mitigate most of the stepping on each other's toes you get when each cause area is competing for dominance over the feed.

I'd also have more focus on wiki-like information distribution. Currently there is little effort being put into wikis and little status awarded for contributing to them, so they are currently inferior to blog posts written by a single author at a specific moment in time, but it doesn't have to stay that way.

Comment by bendini on The Craft & The Community - A Post-Mortem & Resurrection · 2017-11-11T05:27:11.519Z · score: 4 (7 votes) · LW · GW
So there is an enormous cultural failure because no one wrote a blog post containing knowledge that is primarily of interest to Bendini?

Surely I'm not the only one who would want accurate information about an area if I was considering moving to it and not have to play twenty questions with the person who lives there, assuming I know what to ask? (e.g. "do homeless people by any chance defecate on the street?" is not a question I'd intuitively ask, even though the question is quite relevant)

In fact, Bendini did reblog and comment on a post I wrote, In Defense of Unreliability, in which I discussed the fact that I get places through trains and Uberpool. Perhaps he simply assumed I was a very unusual person, or perhaps he forgot, or perhaps he didn't bother to read the post he was commenting on, but either way this doesn't make me very optimistic about the plan where Bay Area rationalist bloggers transform into the Bay Area travel bureau instead of Bendini taking responsibility for not making glaring mistakes.

I did read and reblog that, yes. Consider a passage from your essay:

However, I do want to explain why I myself am quite unreliable and how I benefit from a social norm in which this unreliability is acceptable. (We should also note that I have lived in the Bay for the majority of my adult, actually-socializing life, so I may be unfamiliar with the benefits of a non-flake lifestyle.)

And a passage from mine:

When a negative attribute present in some individuals becomes woven into the cultural fabric, it becomes much more difficult to unravel. Even if it makes the community worse off on the whole, individuals can benefit in ways analogous to special interest groups. People with the trait that was previously frowned upon now get accommodations around it, ranging from a free pass to continue the behaviour, to resources being spent in order to limit its repercussions.

You are welcome to have this mutual "random flaking is allowed" agreement, but a widespread acceptance that this is the way things should be impacts anyone trying to do something important. Imagine a startup trying to operate on a policy of "yeah just come to work whenever you feel like it, don't wory about picking up the phone or respond to emails, just do what you want and we will have to work around it I guess"

This is one of the reasons for-profit things are far more successful, it's not just the ability to get people to do the unglamorous work by paying them money, but the set of norms for what is and isn't acceptable. The problem is that projects not run as for-profit buisnesses flounder because people don't actually follow for-profit norms like showing up when you say you will.

This is bad if you acnowledge the existence of projects which are a poor fit for the for-profit model, as things like this make them far less successful.

Comment by bendini on The Craft & The Community - A Post-Mortem & Resurrection · 2017-11-07T00:18:19.848Z · score: 12 (3 votes) · LW · GW

First of all, the thing I was trying to communicate was what kind of candidate you could get in the UK, the general gist being "someone who doesn't have some limiting-reagent crippling their employment oppertunities to the point that $40k/year in Berkeley is the best offer that highly gifted candidate has". (I have corrected it as such)

I didn't say masters degree, I said masters degree level of general knowledge, big difference.

If you can't tell someone is greatly held back from the details of their work history without asking questions about their mental health, then any mental illness is well-managed enough that it ceases to matter.

It should also go without saying that if you can get someone to do it in Berkeley for $40k, you can get the equivilent here for $15k. If the going rate is $65k+bonus+health insurance, I'd say don't take for granted that someone's promise that "yeah I'll homeschool five kids for $50k minus premesis rent and employment-side costs" will actually happen, and if it does, they won't stay in that role for anywhere near the time you'd want them to.

If your $50k-premisis rent system relies on ingroup friends being given a stipend for a fulltime job, that's fine, but it is not comparable to what we would be able to do i.e. pay someone market rates without it being any kind of favour. If you want me to make estimates using the same degree of optimistic projections then we're looking at around $10k all in if the teacher lived in the homeschool, had two roommates who worked fulltime, didn't have to pay health insurance and just got all their living expenses paid plus a £200/month stipend. It could be done in theory, but it would require every optimistic assumption to be true.

We could shuffle the numbers about a bit, quadruple the class size and offer them $100k. But as a rule, if you wan't to not get blindsided by cost overruns, you need to be quite pessimistic when making financial assumptions.

Comment by bendini on The Craft & The Community - A Post-Mortem & Resurrection · 2017-11-06T05:19:35.937Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure of the details, and it may take a few years to get up and running, but it seems plausible to me that if you could get together five children in a mixed aged class, you've got $50,000 to spend. That amount of money can rent (or mortgage) a 2/3 bedroom house and pay a super-competent teacher/supervisor, given the going rate of mid-career schoolteachers is ~$40,000 and instead of dealing with bureaucracy, mandatory curriculum and resentful state school kids they have a self-directed passion job of teaching only highly gifted and unconventional children.

The difference here is that it isn't a bit of space in a grouphouse while the adults are at work in the daytime, but a dedicated house, as well as the fact that a meaningful job role offering $40k can get you a LOT higher quality applicants at that price here in Manchester than it could in The Bay.

Offering $40k for such a role here could get you a non-ingroup candidate with no job-relevant mental issues, good people skills and a masters degree or higher level of general knowledge communicated in pitch-perfect British English.

What can it get you in Berkeley?

Comment by bendini on The Craft & The Community - A Post-Mortem & Resurrection · 2017-11-05T18:20:52.527Z · score: 8 (3 votes) · LW · GW
I strongly suggest splitting up posts like this into a few more compact posts focusing on comparatively homogenous subsets of the content.

This was intentional, had I done this the first half would spread like wildfire and maybe 10% would read the second half, when really if you want to do something about this, even while staying in Berkeley, the second half is where the useful stuff is.

The thing about turnover could have been made into a standalone post, but it's near-useless when taken out of context

But my sense is that proposing solutions is slightly premature

fully laying the groundwork was and still is beyond my capabilities, I also have the strong intuition that there is little marginal utility in yet another meta-post. I mean, you can get something from them, but when most people are reading it for fun, those people will get little.

I've seen how little the previous discourse around the subject moved the needle, I felt the need to try something a little different.

There's also the issue that I'd have to try to explain the mistakes made that I wouldn't have made (because different intuitions lead to different errors) to people who were prone to said mistakes. And get enough attention towards my blogging that there was widespread common knowledge of the failure mechanisms. These are things I'm pretty confident I could not have done.

we should be confused about why we didn't already notice this, pick up, and move. I don't think it's because the information about cost-of-living differences was simply unavailable.

I don't think we did either, as if that was the limiting factor, spreadsheets would have already been created for this purpose. I think it's because there was little awareness of the non-financial impacts constrained finances have on people and an inability to do anything within the system as a lone individual, plus the crickets you get whenver you try to bring up these sort of object-level topics.*

*Excluding the past few days, which is the only time I've ever seen much attention being given to people talking about personal finance details in the many years I've been around. Finance talk is temporarily shiny, so people are engaging in discourse about it, it will not remain that way.

Coordinating around object-level improvements is a really good idea, but the costs of relocation are quite high, and the costs of talking a bit more are quite low.

Not necessarily, when you factor in oppertunity costs. Talking about things takes time, which depletes the momentum generated by a post like this, and once it is depleted you will have to push it from a new angle in order to overcome social frictions, regardless of if the new angle is actually better.

But I'd like to see a more compact version of this post, focusing on the core beliefs or actions that you think are likely to separate the sort of people who should be in your project, from the ones who shouldn't.

Given that writing costs about an order of magnitude more per word for me than it does for you, it's not in my resource budget. I can however provide a rough answer to the question

Positive traits I'd reccomend to join the project:

  • scientific curiosity, of the extent where you will stop group conversations to research the answer to a question asked that nobody present knows the answers for
  • desire for knowledge overwhelms emotional reaction to negative information
  • direct, no-bullshit communication preferences
  • having priorities that are more important than earning the most money
  • desire to build/make things that aren't presently rewarded by economic incentives
  • highly values deep personal connections
  • low time preference
  • object-level focus

"Negative" trats that I'd advise against moving here with: (but not necessarily avoiding collaboration)

  • Intolerance of Chan/shitpost culture (you don't have to like it, just not hate it)
  • Overly concerned with status/material wealth
  • Strong dislike of me despite agreeing that the project is valuable
  • A preference for believing anything that is untrue
  • Teetotaler (Alcohol and the rituals around it has been a vital bonding tool for a millenia)
  • Lives day to day and felt "this project had a fair bit of buzz so why not?"
Comment by bendini on The Craft & The Community - A Post-Mortem & Resurrection · 2017-11-05T12:10:16.748Z · score: 8 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Okay, here are the list of rationalist relevant projects that I could think of, and what I think went wrong. If you know of any more, I may actually have opinions, but have just forgotten they were part of this category.

CFAR - Originally kinda tried to do the thing, realised it was hard and that it would be a lot of work, ended up doing the meta thing and optimizing for that. As it matured, it basically became Rationality University, with all the connotations that would imply. A lot of people who had been around for a while and absorbed the cultural memes openly admitted they were only shelling out the cash in order to gain access to the alumni network, although in a sense that might not be zero sum much in the same way $5000-a-plate inneffective charity dinners can be - the commitment mechanism increases the group's quality and trust such that it is worth paying the price of admission.

MIRI - Took a while to get organization competence, and in the early days the ops stuff was pretty amateur, and this was pointed out by external evaluations. Since then they have apparently improved, and I take this claim at face value. There still seems to be a few strategic errors, mostly in the signalling department, that are putting up barriers to getting themselves taken seriously. I mean I can understand why Yud wouldn't want to take time out to get a PhD but not obvious easily solvable things like "38 year old men should not have a publicly accessible Facebook profile with a My Little Pony picture in the photos section".

MetaMed - relatively little to say here. it has meta in the name, it was not and never pretended to be object level craft, and that's totally fine. Worth pointing out that they would have greatly benefited from object-level craft existing on effective delegation and marketing so they didn't have to learn it the hard way. As they said, startups failing is a poor signal of anything since it's the expected outcome.

Dragon's army - At least Duncan is trying something different. The unimpressive resume boasts and the lack of prediction as to how bad it would look were certainly points against him. But from the outside, the operations and implementation of the goals originally set out seems to be pretty solid, regardless of how useful that kind of generalism is to Bay Area programmers.

Accelerator - Formally disbanded due to personal events in the leader's life, but while it was operating, I struggle to think of a single thing it was doing right. There was a bit of a norms violation on saying "we're going to work off a consensus of volunteers" but actually operating off of unexplained royal decrees by the person with the most money (but not actually enough money, the capital Eric had available would have covered much less than half of what was needed to execute his plan)

Arbital - I think this failed because they tried to be Wikipedia, but better, run as a startup. Of all the work required to create Wikipedia, the code is essentially the easy part. Sure, it requires talent, but in terms of raw hours it was probably less than 1% of the time involved making Wikipedia the world's knowledge base. I wasn't close enough to observe but I've got a pretty strong feeling that it was almost if not entirely staffed with ingroup members, and that outside people who had valuable connections to volunteers prepared to do the grunt work were overlooked because they didn't have enough "culture fit".

Miscellanious AI groups - I have no specific opinion on their competence, but I'm against the idea that keeps getting thrown about that goes something like "you can't say were not acheiving real things, look! we have [list of 10 AI organizations]" research in this area should happen, but when more than half of rationalist organizations are either directly to do with AI or have it as a focus area, it makes us a bit of a one trick pony. Not to mention that AI was explicitly never meant to be the be all and end all of rationalism.

Leverage research - The thing that "leverage" refers to is the meta level, and basically funds people to sit around in a room thinking of insights on 1-3 meta levels, in the hope that one of them someday will have a spark of brilliance and end up finding something that can be applied to make 100 million to bring the whole operation back out of the red. This is fine, and if you have the financial leverage to implement such an insight, it makes sense to fund something like this.

80K hours - This is probably the closest thing to systemized object level craft that exists on a scale that has much impact. Occasionally ends up implying harmful untrue things like "you should quit your non-replaceable-due-to-quotas job as a doctor to become a charity researcher". A slight shame that they don't just offer career advice impartially, rather than optimizing getting others to be more altruistic.

EA stuff - good that it exists, and varying levels of opinion of their competence, depending on the org. Meta point here that rational charity evaluation and Xrisk research are not the only areas people can or should do systemized winning in.

Consider an individual woman trying to decide whether to move to Manchester from Berkeley. As it stands, you have a not explicitly stated theory of what makes the good kind of rationalist, such that many/most female Berkeley rats do not qualify. Without further information, the woman will conclude that she probably does not qualify, in which case she's definitely not going to move. The only way to fix this is to articulate the theory directly so individuals can check themselves against it.

First of all, the impression that rationalists take ideas seriously enough that the new information brought to light will cause half of Berkeley to vacate to Manchester is simply untrue. Even if the facts implied that they should move, which they don't necessarily depending on your goals. This is not how people work, this isn't even how rationalists work. How many people bothered to systematically and rigarously evaluate moving to Berkeley before doing so? I'd wager less than 10%. So it would make sense that laying out the math to prove they messed up won't actually persuade the other 90% to leave.

I'd be surprised if more than three people who read this in the ~500 person Berkeley community actually decide to up sticks and move in the coming year.

If there are any women thinking of moving, the reaction is likely because their reaction when reading this essay was something like "OMG this is what I've been wanting for years" rather than because I might consider them a real rationalist.

"What does it mean to be a rationalist" is a broad topic and overlaps with questions like "what personality traits do you need to be a rationalist" and I can't say I have a conclusive answer, but if you want a half formed one, something like:

  • has read at least 75% of the sequences
  • strong curiosity about what's true/strong appetite for knowledge
  • tries very hard to put emotions aside when truthseeking
  • contributes towards the advancement of knowledge in some way
Comment by bendini on The Craft & The Community - A Post-Mortem & Resurrection · 2017-11-05T03:24:36.347Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW
I'd be happy to privately contribute salary and CoL numbers to someone's effort to figure out how much people would save.

Thank you. LW 2.0 message system doesn't seem to be working properly, so I have sent a facebook request

https://angel.co/manchester/jobs is a little discouraging; there are Lead Java Developer roles listed for £30-50k , no equity which would pay $150,000-$180,000 base in SF and might well see more than $300k in total compensation.

That might be exaggerating the compensation gap just a little bit. The first senior software engineering position on that list offers £57k-£64k and 2-5% equity. (Also $300k annual compensation would put someone into the top 1% of all US adults, this is not your typical scenario. Even among rationalists, the median non-student income is $75000)

Also, hold on, Silicon Valley hasn't seceded from the US. (Yet.) That $300k after taxes comes out to $185k (£141.5k), as opposed to £60k which comes out to £42.5k here ($55.5k). If we remove only the rent from the living expenses we have around $167k and £39k. If the houses are $1m and £125k respectively then you can buy a house there in 6 years, whereas here it would only take 3.2 years. (And no, houses are not meant to be offloaded to a greater fool when it comes time to sell. Although houses in the area we are buying are rising at ~5%/year due to the central location)

It might be better to target people who want to retire early to Manchester and people not in tech.

This is basically the general point, yes?

The opening line to the economics section:

Not to put too fine a point on it, but basing a community that’s not focused on maximising gross income in the most expensive city in North America doesn’t strike me as particularly rational.

Pointing out that "well actually, if you are a super-talented software dev you can make much more money in SF" is, well, not even wrong.

If all the talk about optimizing for human flourishing didn't make it clear to people, perhaps the general outlook can be approximated by reading SSC Gives A Graduation Speech.

One of the underlying ideas for the project is the cost of living is low enough that you can generate your own basic income.

When you significantly reduce financial constrants, you can do a lot more things. A few that come to mind:

  • writing open-source software that benefits the world but can't be made into a profitable buisness model
  • full-time blogging on a $1000 a month patreon fanbase
  • raising five children with a single breadwinner
  • having 10 partners and enough time to see them all regularly
  • living comfortably off part time work without being a programmer
  • having wild parties three nights a week
  • doing the starving artist thing without actually starving
  • making contributions in any field that doesn't require more than $20k equipment (e.g. math)
  • writing/systemizing rationality material on a grand scale
  • seeing a world in a grain of sand and a heaven in a wild flower

You basically can live like money doesn't matter at a lot lower threshholds.

A reasonable way to estimate gender balance in the Bay might be "count at Solstice, excluding anyone who flew in for Solstice"? (On the Facebook page so far, of the 29 people attending 12 are women, but Facebook pages are very noisy estimates of attendance and the attendance will be an order of magnitude higher than that, so I won't put that much weight on that.)

Accurate information would be good, I can proxy it from second hand anecdotes too. I'm just hesistant to relying on it for anything that matters.

Come to think of it, you've got an uphill battle on gender ratios for another reason, which is that women are on average less likely to do weird things, less likely to be underemployed in their twenties, and likelier to have close social ties preventing moving. I still am confident in my prediction but this general factor might be a stronger contributor than culture-specific ones.

Which is why we aren't trying to bridge the gap by flying them across the Atlantic and instead trying to find them right here, and increasing the conversion rate by omitting the parts that don't make people more rational but nonetheless make women disproportionately feel like "this isn't for me".

Also, dear god, I'm probably the last person that should be running this if the goal is to recruit well-heeled Ivy grad women. But again, that isn't what we're trying to do here. I mean, if it strikes the fancy of a few, that's great, but it isn't our comparative advantage. We can't be everything to everyone.

Comment by bendini on The Craft & The Community - A Post-Mortem & Resurrection · 2017-11-05T01:44:06.232Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This is actually linked by the text "for it"

I will edit this and include more words in the hyperlink, the irony was unintentional.

Comment by bendini on The Craft & The Community - A Post-Mortem & Resurrection · 2017-11-04T07:56:57.783Z · score: 7 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'd rather not lose this exchange to Tumblr's archiving system, so I'll respond to relevent bits here:

I like the people I work with in the Bay. I and most of my social circle work at startups, and there are genuinely a lot of really nice things about working at startups (flexibility, meaningful work, knowing everyone in the company, lack of bureaucracy) which make people willing to take a major paycut compared to big tech companies to work at one. Moving to Manchester would involve a major paycut and not being able to work at a startup, as far as I can tell.
I would definitely lose much, much more in prospective earnings than I would gain in reduced cost of living.

Startups are also a thing here too, just obviously not to the same extent that they are in the startup capital of the world. Good data on startups is very hard to find, but in absolute numbers Manchester is approximately second only to London in the UK.

It is very much true that if you are renting a room in a grouphouse, the pay cut you take here will not be made up for by the significantly reduced cost of living, this does however start to change if you want to buy property (you can buy 3 bedroom houses on the street behind ours, a few miles from downtown, for around £125k) have kids or retire early in a place with rationalists nearby. If people get the data I've been requesting then I should be able to work out exactly how it compares and at which point someone would be better off here.

I like living a short plane flight from my family. If I lived halfway around the world I would almost never see them, which is a significant cost to me now and would be more significant to me if I had children.

Fair point, and something to think about for anyone with ties in the UK/EU

It makes sense that the sort of people who would decide to found a community hub in the cheapest English-speaking location they could find would be extremely frugal people. However, I find extreme frugality stressful

It's worth pointing out that the main frugality nerd in this project is me, everyone else ranges from "unironically premium mediocre" to "simple tastes but doesn't think too strategically about it"

Although everyone has the option to benefit from the fact that my brain treats optimizing spending for X and Y constraints as a game.

Also food is really quite cheap here, partually because supermarkets produce their own branded stuff and it is actually decent quality, so the £60/month you are horrified by is not ramen and water but beef/chicken/pork, butter/olive oil, bread and a small but adequate serving of fruits and vegetables. I wouldn't reccomend it, but you can meet your energy and protein needs with homemade fried chicken for only £25/month.

The writeup by the people who chose Manchester on the benefits of Manchester includes nothing about public transit and some implications that ‘the house shares a car’ is a significant component of transit plans. It seems plausible that in Manchester I would need to drive to get places somewhat frequently. I hate driving. Living anywhere where I need to drive to get around is an absolute dealbreaker.

It might not be mentioned in the doc, but that's because it was written as part of the now-defunct Accelerator project, and its main goal was to convince its leader, Eric Bruylant (yes, that one), not to build a rationalist cult compound in rural Spain. It is however given a nod in this essay, ctrl+f public transport to find it.

Manchester has a much quicker, cheaper and more frequently running public transport system than Berkeley on an mile to mile basis. Hell, in most cases, it's on par with the speed and frequency available from Brooklyn to Manhattan. Go have a play around on Google maps and tell me what you find.

For the ~2.5 hours it takes you to get from Berkeley to San Jose, you can make the 150 mile journey from Manchester to London. (When HS2 arrives, that will be cut down to just over 1 hour)

I currently have free healthcare (through my parents until I’m 26). The writeup claims that healthcare in the UK for Americans is cheaper than U.S. healthcare, but if they’re comparing to U.S. open market healthcare and missing that most Americans do not buy health care on the open market, “cheaper than U.S. healthcare” could still be really expensive. I can’t find numbers for this.

It turns out this is better than I originally thought. People on six month tourist visas still need insurance of an unknown but probably reasonable cost (Update: £60/month according to one commenter) however people on work visas pay just £200 per year for full access to the NHS, permanent residents pay absolutely nothing regardless of their country of origin. (Apparently its also pretty good compared with the US system, too)

I vaguely suspect from the writeup that I would be a bad culture fit. In particular, they seem to really hate the community in the Bay. It seems to me that ‘the Bay community but affordable’ is a great thing to aim for, and they seem to be instead conceiving of their project as “succeed where the Bay failed” and so I doubt we share priorities. They don’t seem to consider effective altruism a priority, which is the most important thing about the rationalist community to me by far.

You probably aren't the ideal culture fit, which is fair. Although I'd point out most people think I'm a lot more agreeable in person, which is relevant as that would be the side of me you'd be dealing with.

As for Effective Altruism being a priority, it isn't for me personally, given my aesthetic aversion to anything that makes me look like a good person. However, there are 2/5 people with GWWC pledges in this house and groundwork being laid to restart the defunct Manchester University EA chapter by Greg and some other locals.

Unfortunately, there's only so many things that we can do with the limited resources we have at the moment.

I predict Manchester will have significantly (10% or greater) worse gender balance than the Bay in five years

First point: What is the gender balance of the Berkeley rationalist community?

This depends entirely on how you measure it. If I was to throw all other goals under the bus for the sake of proving you wrong, I'm pretty sure I could find enough women to nod along to a watered down version. If instead we're going for rationalist Rationalists then a lot of the fandom people wouldn't make the cut and I suspect if we managed to outdo tech, we would be beating The Bay.

Obviously I'm not going to do that, but if we are talking about mission-focused rationalists and excluding the ones that hang around in mostly EA circles, we may actually do better.

Comment by bendini on The Craft & The Community - A Post-Mortem & Resurrection · 2017-11-04T04:17:29.515Z · score: 11 (7 votes) · LW · GW
this post contains too much about external factors that might have impeded the Craft-and-Community project, and not enough on what project work was done, why that work didn't succeed, and/or why it wasn't enough.

In retrospect, this is true, although CFAR got off much more lightly in the final version than the first draft partially because there were only so many hills worth dying on.

I shall give you my thoughts on why the sequences didn't "produce the desired rocket":

  • The vast majority of us weren't even trying to build the rocket. Yud outlined the design and requested that the community go forth and build the rocket, but most of us were space enthusiasts, not engineers. Granted, if we truly cared about getting the task done, we could have took a leaf from Elon's book and started reading through old soviet rocket manuals, but most of us didn't emotionally value rocketbuilding enough to actually do it.
  • Since the group that formed were mostly space enthusiasts, the status hierarchy that formed within the group was "who could describe the desire for interplanetary exploration most vividly", not anything remotely correlated with engineering ability, so few engineers felt welcome in the community since their talents weren't actually valued.
  • The Center For Aerospace Rocketry that was meant to be training people to build rockets contained no actual rocket scientists, nor did it see any point in hiring any. It attempted to develop new techniques for thinking about how to build rockets, but since none of them ever spent much time building rockets the material that ended up being taught to students was how to write vivid space metaphors and vague speculative guesses on how to think about building rockets.
  • Yud warned about the perils of going straight into rocket science teaching after hearing rumours that someone was going to take his rocket design and try to teach people to be rocket scientists with it, the community of space enthusiasts assured him he was talking nonsense and refused to listen to him.
  • Every person who is trying to build the rocket is doing so on their own because the space enthusiasts aren't paying attention. The engineers are hashing out the mechanical properties of various aluminuim alloys which is boooorinnnnngggggg compared to shiny new space metaphors.
  • The people who have taken it upon themselves to create tools to make the rocket builders more effective at building the rockets (physical object level tools, not thinking meta level tools) are routinely asked to explain why on earth they are spending their time on such pointless nonsense.
  • The space enthusiast community that congregated around the rocket design plan gets rather exassperated any time someone interested in engineering points out that they were asked to build the rocket and instead sat around talking about the wonders of spacetravel
  • The widespread attitude that "yeah, obviously someone should build the rocket. But it isn't going to be me, nor am I going to help anyone, or even avoid looking at people trying to build the rocket as kinda crazy"
  • Most of the space enthusiasts believe that the Soviet Robot will be ressurected and build the rocket for them far better than they ever could, so we might as well wait for that to happen.

Building rockets requires so many little components of knowledge that one person or even a small group of people cannot build a rocket on their own. When the people who were supposed to build the rocket instead don't and then passively undermine any attempts to actually build the rocket, no rocket gets built.

Getting back to the object level point

Very little work on the craft was actually ever done. CFAR originally told people they were going to develop craft, but only ever bothered trying to develop meta-craft. The people who wanted craft for themselves made do with externally produced material and sorting through all the nonsense to get to the half-decent stuff.

You want post-mortems of craft development, I can't give you any, because there aren't any goddamn bodies to examine. I tried to do some craft development myself, and did a little bit of it in an ad-hoc way, but putting in the huge amount of time and effort to formally systemize it never happened because the initial response from the audience was "meh, we don't really care or see the value in it" so I went back to doing what I would be rewarded for.

It eventually started bothering me enough that I devised a way to fix the incentive structure so object-level craft development would start happening.

Edit: forgot about Gwern.net which hasn't failed, but has had limited impact and very few focus areas, although the nootropics section is pretty useful.

Comment by bendini on The Craft & The Community - A Post-Mortem & Resurrection · 2017-11-04T00:33:54.568Z · score: 8 (3 votes) · LW · GW
I think I'm still having trouble visualising what it would be like to be part of your community.

In terms of living under my iron fist, I'm aiming to occuply a position thats more like "older brother" than "Big Brother". Duncan's approach of middleschool teacher turned military instructor doesn't really appeal to me. I'm trying to balance the ability to have banter as peers while being able to take charge when the situation calls for it, and so far there have been very few problems with that to my knowledge.

A few features that set us apart is that we've mostly made peace with the idea that things are going to be a work in progress, and we aren't saying "we can deliver the goods 100% of the time" but "we're giving things a shot, and if things work, great, and if not, we all still learn something" as such, we've been prepared to do things like announce n=1 interventions that we think might work, but won't necessarily, and we aren't too worried about looking informal and cobbled together, as that's essentially what we are at the moment. (e.g. this amazingly kludged but still verifiable way to pre-register an experiment prior to a central rationalist database existing for doing so)

As you like your startup analogy, I feel compelled to ask, "What is your plan to scale?"

The startup analogy is appropriate in some places, but not others. When scaling something that has almost zero marginal cost of production, you can scale exponentially. Offline communities have much lower returns to scale (nor do we need to scale. We aren't aiming for an IPO, going beyond 1000 "users" is of little utility to us)

In terms of the logistics of scaling, a house is currently in the process of being bought, and is intended to serve as a social hub, with rented grouphouses surrounding it, as this arrangement allows us to make the most efficient use of the capital available to us.

Comment by bendini on The Craft & The Community - A Post-Mortem & Resurrection · 2017-11-03T22:26:49.231Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

FWIW the accent I have is mostly Smoggie/Teesside, with hints of RP English, making my accent a marked trait to all but ~5,000 bi-cultural Northerners.

(Note: this does not mean I dislike my accent, quite the opposite. But it's a marked trait regardless of this. If I leave the UK it ends up being read as a slightly more colloquial version of the stereotypical British accent, which is seen as positive if not directly high-status)

Comment by bendini on The Craft & The Community - A Post-Mortem & Resurrection · 2017-11-03T17:17:13.360Z · score: 10 (4 votes) · LW · GW
Throw everything we have at drastically altering our demographic makeup
If the tech industry is anything to go by, this is almost certain to fail. Even if it did succeed, there is a good chance the community ceases to be a place where most of us would want to stay.

This was noted, for the record

Comment by bendini on The Craft & The Community - A Post-Mortem & Resurrection · 2017-11-03T03:43:55.109Z · score: 18 (8 votes) · LW · GW
I'm probably not betting on Kernel, though I think it would be great for some people, because I'm taking a more diversified strategy. I'm doing intellectual & technical growth through my job & side projects, and personal growth through my family. I'm not relying on the rationalist community (or, indeed, an offshoot) to provide social closeness, intellectual stimulation, and productive impact on the world. I'm relying on living in a world-class city for that. It's a lot lower risk than trusting a new founder.
If you want to hang out with competent people who will influence you for the better -- a lot of them are right here in the Bay Area, you just haven't met them yet.

The information that would have largely addressed these points never made it into the final essay, partially on structure, partially because you don't always know exactly which models people are already working with.

The way it looks from here is that Berkeley works pretty well for four niches:

  • people with six-figure tech jobs
  • people who run or prefer to work for VC backed startups
  • people with an not-for-profit cause that greatly benefits from face to face meeting with the above two groups (e.g. EA stuff, X-risk work)
  • people who are the financial dependants of the above three groups

Everyone else is basically only there because their friends are there or they never actually bothered to run the numbers before deciding to relocate.

I'm probably not betting on Kernel, though I think it would be great for some people, because I'm taking a more diversified strategy.

A more diversified strategy for you, sure, but as far as diversified strategies go for groups, if those groups contain people who aren't in the four niches listed, they are not best served by being in Berkeley.

It seems that the implication is that moving here would be putting all your eggs in a basket labelled "Kernel". It isn't. This location was picked because it had index-fund-like qualities. At the time of it's formal creation, it was the only project from the bunch of non-Berkeley ones that was set on a location that wouldn't require everyone who moved there to pack up and go home in the event of failure.

Of all the locations in the UK in terms of career paths and general prosperity, Manchester is firmly in second place.

Of all the locations that still have affordable housing, Manchester is undeniably number one.

the Berkeley AI Research group is...in Berkeley. These are the people who brought you Caffe. "Nobody in the town of Berkeley accomplishes anything useful" is just...not the case, at all.

That may have been the impression some people got of what I was saying, but I would be worth highlighting what I actually said in the (admittedly very long) essay:

For those of us on the outside, we are now dealing with the fact that our local communities were hollowed for nothing. That the mission, the instrumental craft could have been years further along by now had Berkeley not redirected people’s talents towards other aims.
I won’t deny there is important work being done in Berkeley, I’d even go as far to say there are some organizations such as MIRI that belong there. My claim, similar to Zvi’s, is that most individuals and rationalist-aligned organizations do not benefit from that location choice.

There also seems to be a massive crux/blindspot on what people seem to think the instrumental craft is. It seems I was reading between the lines a little differently to most but I don't think there is any part of the Sequences that implied developing instrumental craft meant "become a programmer and brute force your way through life problems by throwing money at them" and teaching others to do the same. Granted, it satisfices most things and allows you to deal with most problems while only posessing a very narrow set of skills, but this is only one system of Systemized Winning, and there definitely should be more of them.

Comment by bendini on The Craft & The Community - A Post-Mortem & Resurrection · 2017-11-02T21:54:26.866Z · score: 11 (7 votes) · LW · GW
I would like to correct your claim that people who live in the Bay Aea and want to have children have to buy houses. Currently there are three group houses I'm aware of with children (Nexus, Asgard, and Onward). As far as I am aware all three have solid alloparenting norms, where it is normal and expected that people who are not the child's parents will take care of the child sometimes.

This is true, and something I was aware of when writing this. The general point was not "it's literally impossible for anyone in the bay to have kids" but "it's really difficult and even the couples with a household income at the 90th percentile have to make serious sacrifices in order to do so". People there have gotten so used to a missing stair that it barely registers that most people aren't having to make such giant leaps when going down staircases, nor can most people.

I agree that alloparenting and homeschooling cooperatives are probably superior, the point is that even if they weren't, you'd still have to do them out of necessity.

There are definitely homeshares based around shared love of Harry Potter. This is called the "Harry Potter fandom"

99% of J.K. Rowling fans don't do this, but point taken. I've now changed this to something else lots of people like, but I'm sure someone will point out that there is in fact a houseshare that is held together by rituals around the Aeron chair

who lives in Berkeley and works at Facebook?

No idea, not much is revealed about Berkeley to the outside world

Who drives to work in the Bay Area? This is why God invented trains and commuter buses.

Again, those on the outside have very little information about this, because there are few object-level guides on anything. It's kinda dissapointing that more ink has been spilled over the topic of electron suffering than the day to day realities of living in Berkeley.

I am personally aware of perhaps a dozen people in the Berkeley rationalist community who are being financially supported, either because they are disabled or because they're doing unpaid/ill-paying work

As am I, better hope they never have a falling out. The platonic concubine system creates power dynamics that would simply not exist if the community was centered somewhere with a sane cost of living.

Comment by bendini on The Craft & The Community - A Post-Mortem & Resurrection · 2017-11-02T19:08:23.631Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I've struggled to come up with a one liner that encapsulates enough meaning to be worthwhile having one. Judging by those two examples, you have also struggled to pack enough specific information in to make it more than just a mantra.

I once proposed this as a joke:

"Kernel is a social technology startup. Uber, but for human flourishing"

Comment by bendini on The Craft & The Community - A Post-Mortem & Resurrection · 2017-11-02T07:18:12.267Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I plan to deal with sociopaths the same way I deal with potential car theives - by hiding valuables out of sight. Sociopaths are mostly oppertunistic, you can prevent maybe 95% of problems in this area simply by not giving them oppertunities to exploit.

A healthy amount of distrust for everyone and everything also alerts you to issues before people become embedded and expelling them would cause major community tensions.

I also make heavy use of lime metrics, some of which I've tested on previous sociopaths I knew.

Comment by bendini on I Want To Live In A Baugruppe · 2017-03-17T05:59:58.978Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I am organizing a project that is 95% this, and people are flying to the selected location later this month for a 3-day meetup

My project: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1wmVZJiDjTjxmVshSFSk2rH-b8GLiQ0DJ0Cw1hyOnswM/edit?usp=sharing

Anyone who would be interested in this is welcome to join us

Comment by bendini on 2014 Less Wrong Census/Survey · 2014-10-26T23:33:02.025Z · score: 34 (34 votes) · LW · GW

Done. If I were to make a wager I'd say that the correlation between a low digit ratio and stereotypically masculine traits is fairly weak, based on my own >90th percentile high digit ratio yet high masculinity/low femininity scores on the inventory (as well as anecdotal reports from others corroborating my stereotypically masculine traits)

Comment by bendini on 2013 Survey Results · 2014-01-20T21:19:33.944Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The "did not answer" option seems to be distorting the perception of the results. Perhaps structuring the presentation of the data with those percentages removed would be more straightforward to visualise.

PRIMARY LANGUAGE: English: 1009, 67.8% German: 58, 3.6% Finnish: 29, 1.8% Russian: 25, 1.6% French: 17, 1.0% Dutch: 16, 1.0% Did not answer: 15.2%

Percentages including the non respondents is misleading, at first glance you could be mistaken for thinking there is a significant population of Non-English speakers as less than 70% of people who completed the survey answered English.

Non-respondents removed:

English: 1009, 87% German: 58, 5% Finnish: 29, 3% Russian: 25, 2% French: 17, 2% Dutch: 16, 1% 15.2% of the sample did not answer

This seems like it would be a better representation of the data which could be applied to the other questions.