Posts

Ben Pace's Controversial Picks for the 2020 Review 2021-12-27T18:25:30.417Z
Book Launch: The Engines of Cognition 2021-12-21T07:24:45.170Z
An Idea for a More Communal Petrov Day in 2022 2021-10-21T21:51:15.270Z
Facebook is Simulacra Level 3, Andreessen is Level 4 2021-04-28T17:38:03.981Z
Against "Context-Free Integrity" 2021-04-14T08:20:44.368Z
"Taking your environment as object" vs "Being subject to your environment" 2021-04-11T22:47:04.978Z
I'm from a parallel Earth with much higher coordination: AMA 2021-04-05T22:09:24.033Z
Why We Launched LessWrong.SubStack 2021-04-01T06:34:00.907Z
"Infra-Bayesianism with Vanessa Kosoy" – Watch/Discuss Party 2021-03-22T23:44:19.795Z
"You and Your Research" – Hamming Watch/Discuss Party 2021-03-19T00:16:13.605Z
Review Voting Thread 2020-12-30T03:23:06.075Z
Final Day to Order LW Books by Christmas for US 2020-12-09T23:30:36.877Z
The LessWrong 2018 Book is Available for Pre-order 2020-12-01T08:00:00.000Z
AGI Predictions 2020-11-21T03:46:28.357Z
Rationalist Town Hall: Pandemic Edition 2020-10-21T23:54:03.528Z
Sunday October 25, 12:00PM (PT) — Scott Garrabrant on "Cartesian Frames" 2020-10-21T03:27:12.739Z
Sunday October 18, 12:00PM (PT) — Garden Party 2020-10-17T19:36:52.829Z
Have the lockdowns been worth it? 2020-10-12T23:35:14.835Z
Fermi Challenge: Trains and Air Cargo 2020-10-05T21:51:45.281Z
Postmortem to Petrov Day, 2020 2020-10-03T21:30:56.491Z
Open & Welcome Thread – October 2020 2020-10-01T19:06:45.928Z
What are good rationality exercises? 2020-09-27T21:25:24.574Z
Honoring Petrov Day on LessWrong, in 2020 2020-09-26T08:01:36.838Z
Sunday August 23rd, 12pm (PDT) – Double Crux with Buck Shlegeris and Oliver Habryka on Slow vs. Fast AI Takeoff 2020-08-22T06:37:07.173Z
Forecasting Thread: AI Timelines 2020-08-22T02:33:09.431Z
[Oops, there is actually an event] Notice: No LW event this weekend 2020-08-22T01:26:31.820Z
Highlights from the Blackmail Debate (Robin Hanson vs Zvi Mowshowitz) 2020-08-20T00:49:49.639Z
Survey Results: 10 Fun Questions for LWers 2020-08-19T06:10:55.386Z
10 Fun Questions for LessWrongers 2020-08-18T03:28:05.276Z
Sunday August 16, 12pm (PDT) — talks by Ozzie Gooen, habryka, Ben Pace 2020-08-14T18:32:35.378Z
Is Wirecutter still good? 2020-08-07T21:54:06.141Z
Sunday August 9, 1pm (PDT) — talks by elityre, jacobjacob, Ruby 2020-08-06T22:50:21.550Z
Sunday August 2, 12pm (PDT) — talks by jimrandomh, johnswenthworth, Daniel Filan, Jacobian 2020-07-30T23:55:44.712Z
What Failure Looks Like: Distilling the Discussion 2020-07-29T21:49:17.255Z
"Should Blackmail Be Legal" Hanson/Zvi Debate (Sun July 26th, 3pm PDT) 2020-07-20T04:06:26.275Z
Sunday July 19, 1pm (PDT) — talks by Raemon, ricraz, mr-hire, Jameson Quinn 2020-07-16T20:04:37.974Z
Sunday July 12 — talks by Scott Garrabrant, Alexflint, alexei, Stuart_Armstrong 2020-07-08T00:27:57.876Z
The silence is deafening – Devon Zuegel 2020-07-04T02:30:59.409Z
Inviting Curated Authors to Give 5-Min Online Talks 2020-07-01T01:05:39.794Z
Radical Probabilism [Transcript] 2020-06-26T22:14:13.523Z
Sunday June 28 – talks by johnswentworth, Daniel kokotajlo, Charlie Steiner, TurnTrout 2020-06-26T19:13:23.754Z
DontDoxScottAlexander.com - A Petition 2020-06-25T05:44:50.050Z
Prediction = Compression [Transcript] 2020-06-22T23:54:22.170Z
Online Curated LessWrong Talks 2020-06-19T02:16:14.824Z
Sunday June 21st – talks by Abram Demski, alkjash, orthonormal, eukaryote, Vaniver 2020-06-18T20:10:38.978Z
Superexponential Historic Growth, by David Roodman 2020-06-15T21:49:00.188Z
The one where Quirrell is an egg 2020-04-15T06:02:36.337Z
Coronavirus: Justified Key Insights Thread 2020-04-13T22:40:03.104Z
Hanson & Mowshowitz Debate: COVID-19 Variolation 2020-04-08T00:07:28.315Z
April Fools: Announcing LessWrong 3.0 – Now in VR! 2020-04-01T08:00:15.199Z

Comments

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on Replace yourself before you stop organizing your community. · 2022-01-27T23:46:30.675Z · LW · GW

(What was the prior title?)

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on Search Is All You Need · 2022-01-26T03:57:53.507Z · LW · GW

(I agree with this short post, and enjoyed reading it.)

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on What's Up With Confusingly Pervasive Consequentialism? · 2022-01-24T19:21:54.244Z · LW · GW

"will the first animals that take over the world be able to solve the Riemann hypothesis", and the answer is no because humans intelligence, while general, is still pointed more at civilisation-building-style tasks than mathematics.

Pardon the semantics, but I think the question you want to use here is "will the first animals that take over the world have already solved the Riemann hypothesis". IMO humans do have the ability ("can") to solve the Riemann hypothesis, and the point you're making is just about the ordering in which we've done things.

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on Why haven't we celebrated any major achievements lately? · 2022-01-21T06:07:06.508Z · LW · GW

This post feels like a fantasy description of a better society, one that I would internally label "wish-fulfilment". And yet it is history! So it makes me more hopeful about the world. And thus I find it beautiful.

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on Why haven't we celebrated any major achievements lately? · 2022-01-21T05:55:47.858Z · LW · GW

Just for record-keeping, here is the OWID global death tracker (from google), with the vertical line at the point when the comment was written.

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on "Can you keep this confidential? How do you know?" · 2022-01-19T07:15:58.629Z · LW · GW

Brief review: I think this post represents a realization many people around here have made, and says it clearly. I think it's fine to keep it as a record that people used to be blasé about the ease of secrecy, and later learned that it was much more complex than they thought. I think I'm at +1.

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on Some AI research areas and their relevance to existential safety · 2022-01-19T07:11:20.289Z · LW · GW

My quick two-line review is something like: this post (and its sequel) is an artifact from someone with an interesting perspective on the world looking at the whole problem and trying to communicate their practical perspective. I don't really share this perspective, but it is looking at enough of the real things, and differently enough to the other perspectives I hear, that I am personally glad to have engaged with it. +4.

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on (briefly) RaDVaC and SMTM, two things we should be doing · 2022-01-18T05:55:07.512Z · LW · GW

Most people have not put tens of thousands of deliberate hours of practice into their writing skills so do not have the clarity to be able to say what they think shortly, and this lack of skill is typically why their writing is long. Eliezer has worked hard to be able to write clearly, and also to build a rare skill of being able to expose more of the cognition behind a thought as he writes longer, which is in many important domains more valuable to do than just stating the output of the cognition.

I'm saying: Eliezer's has built the skill to say his thoughts precisely and clearly; but he has also built the next-level skill of being able to expose the cognition behind a thought, and this is the sort of valuable length that he hopes to have in his writing.

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on Search versus design · 2022-01-16T06:58:06.955Z · LW · GW

"Search versus design" explores the basic way we build and trust systems in the world. A few notes: 

  • My favorite part is the definitions about an abstraction layer being an artifact combined with a helpful story about it. It helps me see the world as a series of abstraction layers. We're not actually close to true reality, we are very much living within abstraction layers — the simple stories we are able to tell about the artefacts we build. A world built by AIs will be far less comprehensible than the world we live in today. (Much more like biology is, except made by something that is much smarter and faster than us instead of stupider and slower.)
  • The post puts in the time to bring into the conversation a lot of other work that attempts to help build simple stories about the AI artefacts that we are building, which I appreciate.
  • The post is pretty simply written, for me, and I understand all the examples and arguments.
  • It also attempts to (briefly) describe a novel direction of future work for solving the problem of building untrustworthy systems with selection, and that's exciting.

For looking at the alignment problem clearly and with a subtly different frame than other discussions, one that resonates for me, and that points to new frames for a solution, I am voting this post +9.

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on Book Launch: The Engines of Cognition · 2022-01-14T22:20:31.130Z · LW · GW

Indeed the books are not yet in-stock in Amazon UK.

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on More Is Different for AI · 2022-01-07T19:46:46.499Z · LW · GW

I am also quite interested to read this sequence.

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on Covid 1/6/22: The Blip · 2022-01-07T01:26:12.011Z · LW · GW

I note that I also like "Zeynep's Razor". Seems about as punchy as "Zeynep's Law" without slightly weakening the use of the term 'law'.

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on ARC's first technical report: Eliciting Latent Knowledge · 2022-01-06T08:23:26.756Z · LW · GW

(I did not write a curation notice in time, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get to share why I wanted to curate this post! So I will do that here.)

Typically when I read a post by Paul, it feels like a single ingredient in a recipe, but one where I don’t know what meal the recipe is for. This report felt like one of the first times I was served a full meal, and I got to see how all the prior ingredients come together.

Alternative framing: Normally Paul’s posts feel like the argument step “J -> K” and I’m left wondering how we got to J, and where we’ll go from K. This felt like one of the first times I got to go from A all the way to (say) P. I can see how the pieces fit together, and I have an interest in and a better perspective on where it might go on from P later.

There are many more positive things to say about this post. I am very excited by the way the post takes a relatively simple problem and shows, in trying to solve it, a great deal of the depth of the alignment problem. The smart vault example, story and art is very clear and fun. Explaining the methodology along with the steps of implementing it works really well to show how the methodology works. I love seeing how things like Iterated Amplification fit into the bigger solution. I find it thrilling every time the authors are like "let us make this wildly optimistic assumption, because even then we have a deadly counterargument". I feel like for the first time I got to understand what seems weird and strange and interesting about some of Paul's ideas, even ones that have been discussed before, because I saw them in the larger context, as thoughts that I myself would be very unlikely to think in that context. Etc.

Paul gives a 25% chance that he and Mark will see major progress which qualitatively changes their picture within a year, and seeing this post, the methodology, and all of the creative argumentative steps so far, I share this optimism, within the methodology that is being used here.

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on larger language models may disappoint you [or, an eternally unfinished draft] · 2022-01-06T08:15:23.000Z · LW · GW

Curated. This might be my favorite thing I've read about GPT-3. Ideas about how bigger models might just be finding the same knowledge more effectively, or how it's sensible for longer but then makes the same old-dumb mistakes at the end, really help me understand what GPT-3 is and what it isn't. I wish I had time to write a more thoughtful curation notice, but I'll just repeat I'm very glad you wrote this post, I'd be much more conceptually malnourished about modern AI without it.

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on Scott Alexander 2021 Predictions: Market Prices - Resolution · 2022-01-02T15:34:14.088Z · LW · GW

Woop great post and great thread!

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on AnnaSalamon's Shortform · 2022-01-01T05:48:03.705Z · LW · GW

For me, I only do the former post when I want to really nail something and put loads of work into it (e.g. my common knowledge post).

I do the latter kind when I’ve just thought about a thing for a while and I feel like I got somewhere good. I don’t aim to write a perfect piece on it, I aim to write like I would explain my thinking in conversation. I typically can write such posts in ~2hrs (e.g. my environment post), and that seems worth publishing to me, and then time to move on with my thoughts.

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on Omicron Post #11 · 2021-12-31T20:04:15.366Z · LW · GW

hahaha

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on A non-magical explanation of Jeffrey Epstein · 2021-12-30T22:37:26.701Z · LW · GW

I found this post quite helpful, thank you. I think there’s a 40% chance I would find a sequel very illuminating again.

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on Book Launch: The Engines of Cognition · 2021-12-30T00:03:04.394Z · LW · GW

25% of the value I reckon? You wouldn’t recreate the art or layout or additions content. Would be nice if you did it, I’d certainly learn a new fact based on number of downloads if that was measurable.

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on Ben Pace's Controversial Picks for the 2020 Review · 2021-12-28T23:31:59.534Z · LW · GW

Glad to hear that was helpful. I do recommend reading the rest of the sequence.

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on Protecting Large Projects Against Mazedom · 2021-12-28T15:11:33.727Z · LW · GW

I think the ones I had the strongest negative reactions to were "Do Less Things and Be Smaller" and "Start Again". I had a feeling of "I have no idea how to succeed if I have to do these things", and now I'm like "succeeding at anything is generally easier with these things".

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on Ben Pace's Controversial Picks for the 2020 Review · 2021-12-28T15:07:12.068Z · LW · GW

Fixed.

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on Elephant seal · 2021-12-27T18:44:16.287Z · LW · GW

Elephant seal is a picture of an elephant seal. It has a mysterious Mona Lisa smile that I can't pin down, that shows glee, intent, focus, forward-looking-ness, and satisfaction. It's fat and funny-looking. It looks very happy lying on the sand. I give this post a +4.

(This review is taken from my post Ben Pace's Controversial Picks for the 2020 Review.)

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on The Skewed and the Screwed: When Mating Meets Politics · 2021-12-27T18:43:38.983Z · LW · GW

The Skewed and the Screwed: When Mating Meets Politics is a post that compellingly explains the effects of gender ratios in a social space (a college, a city, etc).

There's lots of simple effects here that I never noticed. For example, if there's a 55/45 split of the two genders (just counting the heterosexual people), then the minority gender gets an edge of selectiveness, which they enjoy (everyone gets to pick someone they like a bit more than they otherwise would have), but for the majority gender, 18% of them do not have a partner. It's really bad for the least liked people in the majority group. Lack of a partner can lead to desperation and all sorts of unpleasant experiences.

This post walks through a bunch of effects like this and explains what's going on in the world. Also it's got lots of diagrams and jokes and is very engagingly written. I learned a lot from it about modern mating dynamics, and I give it a +4.

(This review is taken from my post Ben Pace's Controversial Picks for the 2020 Review.)

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on Can crimes be discussed literally? · 2021-12-27T18:42:20.650Z · LW · GW

Can crimes be discussed literally? makes a short case that when you straightforwardly describe misbehavior and wrongdoing, people commonly criticize the language you use, reading it as an attempt to build a coalition to attack the parties you're talking about. At the time I didn't think that this was my experience, and thought the post was probably wrong and confused. I don't remember when I changed my mind, but nowadays I'm much more aware of requests on me to not talk about what a person or group has done or is doing. I find myself the subject of such requests quite a lot, and I think past versions of myself would have thought these requests reasonable. Anyway, my point is this post was right about something important, so I give is a +4.

(This review is taken from my post Ben Pace's Controversial Picks for the 2020 Review.)

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on What are some beautiful, rationalist artworks? · 2021-12-27T18:41:24.689Z · LW · GW

What are some beautiful, rationalist artworks? has many pieces of art that help me resonate with what rationality is about.

Look at this statue.

A rationalist must rebuild their self and their mind.

That's the first piece, there's many more, that help me have a visual handle on rationality. I give this post a +4.

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on The Four Children of the Seder as the Simulacra Levels · 2021-12-27T18:38:59.414Z · LW · GW

The Four Children of the Seder as the Simulacra Levels is an interpretation of a classic Jewish reading through the lens of simulacra levels. It makes an awful lot of sense to me, helps me understand them better, and also engages the simulacra levels with the perspective of "how should a society deal with these sorts of people/strategies". I feel like I got some wisdom from that, but I'm not sure how to describe it. Anyway, I give this post a +4.

I think "Simulacra Levels and theri Interactions" is the best post on Simulacra levels, and this is the second post to read.

(This review is taken from my post Ben Pace's Controversial Picks for the 2020 Review.)

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on The Bayesian Tyrant · 2021-12-27T18:37:56.774Z · LW · GW

This is an extensions of the Embedded Agency philosophical position. It is a story told using that understanding, and it is fun and fleshes out lots of parts of bayesian rationality. I give it +4.

(This review is taken from my post Ben Pace's Controversial Picks for the 2020 Review.)

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on Radical Probabilism · 2021-12-27T18:36:25.662Z · LW · GW

Radical Probabilism is an extensions of the Embedded Agency philosophical position. I remember reading is and feeling a strong sense that I really got to see a well pinned-down argument using that philosophy. Radical Probabilism might be a +9, will have to re-read, but for now I give it +4.

(This review is taken from my post Ben Pace's Controversial Picks for the 2020 Review.)
 

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on Introduction to Cartesian Frames · 2021-12-27T18:35:27.528Z · LW · GW

Introduction to Cartesian Frames is a piece that also gave me a new philosophical perspective on my life. 

I don't know how to simply describe it. I don't know what even to say here. 

One thing I can say is that the post formalized the idea of having "more agency" or "less agency", in terms of "what facts about the world can I force to be true?". The more I approach the world by stating things that are going to happen, that I can't change, the more I'm boxing-in my agency over the world. The more I treat constraints as things I could fight to change, the more I have power and agency over the world. If I can't imagine a fact being false, I don't have agency over it. (This applies to mathematical and logical claims too, which ties into logical induction and decision theory.)

Writing the last sentence I realize the idea is one with the post I wrote "Taking your environment as object" vs "Being subject to your environment" which is another chunk of this element of growth I've experienced in the last year.

Anyway, that was a big deal — the first few times I read the math of cartesian frames I didn't get the idea at all, then after seeing some examples and reflecting on it, it clicked and helped me understand this whole thing better.

(Also that Scott has formalized it is very valuable and impressive, and even more so is this notion of factorizations of a set and the apparently new sequence he discovered which is insane and can't be true. Factorization of a set seems like the third thing you'd invent about sets once you thought of the idea, and if Scott discovered it in 2020 I'll be like wtaf.)

(But this is not the primary reason I'm endorsing it in the review. The primary reason is that it captures something that seems philosophically important to me.)

In retrospect I'm bumping this up to a +9 for the review. I didn't think about it properly in the early vote, and it's a lot of technical stuff and I forgot about the core concepts I got from it.

(This review is taken from my post Ben Pace's Controversial Picks for the 2020 Review.)

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on An Orthodox Case Against Utility Functions · 2021-12-27T18:34:17.457Z · LW · GW

An Orthodox Case Against Utility Functions was a shocking piece to me. Abram spends the first half of the post laying out a view he suspects people hold, but he thinks is clearly wrong, which is a perspective that approaches things "from the starting-point of the universe". I felt dread reading it, because it was a view I held at the time, and I used as a key background perspective when I discussed bayesian reasoning. The rest of the post lays out an alternative perspective that "starts from the standpoint of the agent". Instead of my beliefs being about the universe, my beliefs are about my experiences and thoughts.

I generally nod along to a lot of the 'scientific' discussion in the 21st century about how the universe works and how reasonable the whole thing is. But I don't feel I knew in-advance to expect the world around me to operate on simple mathematical principles and be so reasonable. I could've woken up in the Harry Potter universe of magic wands and spells. I know I didn't, but if I did, I think I would be able to act in it? I wouldn't constantly be falling over myself because I don't understand how 1 + 1 = 2 anymore? There's some place I'm starting from that builds up to an understanding of the universe, and doesn't sneak it in as an 'assumption'.

And this is what this new perspective does that Abram lays out in technical detail. (I don't follow it all, for instance I don't recall why it's important that the former view assumes that utility is computable.) In conclusion, this piece is a key step from the existing philosophy of agents to the philosophy of embedded agents, or at least it was for me, and it changes my background perspective on rationality. It's the only post in the early vote that I gave +9.

(This review is taken from my post Ben Pace's Controversial Picks for the 2020 Review.)

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on Protecting Large Projects Against Mazedom · 2021-12-27T18:33:21.616Z · LW · GW

Protecting Large Projects Against Mazedom is all key advice that seemed unintuitive to me when I was getting started doing things in the world, but now all the advice seems imperative to me. I've learned a bunch of this by doing it "the hard way" I guess. I give this post +4.

Broader comment on the Mazes sequence as a whole:

The sequence is an extended meditation on a theme, exploring it from lots of perspective, about how large projects and large coordination efforts end up being eaten by Moloch. The specific perspective reminds me a bit of The Screwtape Letters. In The Screwtape Letters, the two devils are focused on causing people to be immoral. The explicit optimization for vices and personal flaws helps highlight (to me) what it looks like when I'm doing something really stupid or harmful within myself.

Similarly, this sequence explores the perspective of large groups of people who live to game a large company, not to actually achieve the goals of the company. What that culture looks like, what is rewarded, what it feels like to be in it. 

I've executed some of these strategies in my life. I don't think I've ever lived the life of the soulless middle-manager stereotyped by the sequence, but I see elements of it in myself, and I'm grateful to the sequence for helping me identify those cognitive patterns. 

Something the sequence really conveys, is not just that individuals can try to game a company, but that a whole company's culture can change such that gaming-behavior is expected and rewarded. It contains a lot of detail about what that culture looks and feels like.

The sequence (including the essay "Motive Ambiguity") has led me see how in such an environment groups of people can end up optimizing for the opposite of their stated purpose.

The sequence doesn't hold together as a whole to me. I don't get the perfect or superperfect competition idea at the top. Some of the claims seem like a stretch or not really argued for, just completing the pattern when riffing on a theme. But I'm not going to review the weaknesses here, my goal is mostly to advocate for the best parts of it that I'd like to see score more highly in the book.

This post is one of my three picks from the sequence, along with The Road to Mazedom, and Protecting Large Projects Against Mazedom. (Also Motive Ambiguity which is not technically part of the sequence.)

(This review is taken from my post Ben Pace's Controversial Picks for the 2020 Review.)

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on Create a Full Alternative Stack · 2021-12-27T18:31:32.988Z · LW · GW

Create a Full Alternative Stack is probably in the top 15 ideas I got from LW in 2020. Thinking through this as an option has helped me decide when and where to engage with "the establishment" in many areas (e.g. academia). Some parts of my life I work with the mazes whilst trying not getting too much of it on me, and some parts of my life I try to build alternative stacks. (Not the full version, I don't have the time to fix all of civilization.) I give it +4.

Broader comment on the Mazes sequence as a whole:

The sequence is an extended meditation on a theme, exploring it from lots of perspective, about how large projects and large coordination efforts end up being eaten by Moloch. The specific perspective reminds me a bit of The Screwtape Letters. In The Screwtape Letters, the two devils are focused on causing people to be immoral. The explicit optimization for vices and personal flaws helps highlight (to me) what it looks like when I'm doing something really stupid or harmful within myself.

Similarly, this sequence explores the perspective of large groups of people who live to game a large company, not to actually achieve the goals of the company. What that culture looks like, what is rewarded, what it feels like to be in it. 

I've executed some of these strategies in my life. I don't think I've ever lived the life of the soulless middle-manager stereotyped by the sequence, but I see elements of it in myself, and I'm grateful to the sequence for helping me identify those cognitive patterns. 

Something the sequence really conveys, is not just that individuals can try to game a company, but that a whole company's culture can change such that gaming-behavior is expected and rewarded. It contains a lot of detail about what that culture looks and feels like.

The sequence (including the essay "Motive Ambiguity") has led me see how in such an environment groups of people can end up optimizing for the opposite of their stated purpose.

The sequence doesn't hold together as a whole to me. I don't get the perfect or superperfect competition idea at the top. Some of the claims seem like a stretch or not really argued for, just completing the pattern when riffing on a theme. But I'm not going to review the weaknesses here, my goal is mostly to advocate for the best parts of it that I'd like to see score more highly in the book.

This post is one of my three picks from the sequence, along with The Road to Mazedom, and Protecting Large Projects Against Mazedom. (Also Motive Ambiguity which is not technically part of the sequence.)

(This review is taken from my post Ben Pace's Controversial Picks for the 2020 Review.)

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on The Road to Mazedom · 2021-12-27T18:30:21.708Z · LW · GW

The best single piece of the whole Mazes sequence. It's the one to read to get all the key points. High in gears, low in detail. I give it +4.

Broader comment on the sequence as a whole:

The sequence is an extended meditation on a theme, exploring it from lots of perspective, about how large projects and large coordination efforts end up being eaten by Moloch. The specific perspective reminds me a bit of The Screwtape Letters. In The Screwtape Letters, the two devils are focused on causing people to be immoral. The explicit optimization for vices and personal flaws helps highlight (to me) what it looks like when I'm doing something really stupid or harmful within myself.

Similarly, this sequence explores the perspective of large groups of people who live to game a large company, not to actually achieve the goals of the company. What that culture looks like, what is rewarded, what it feels like to be in it. 

I've executed some of these strategies in my life. I don't think I've ever lived the life of the soulless middle-manager stereotyped by the sequence, but I see elements of it in myself, and I'm grateful to the sequence for helping me identify those cognitive patterns. 

Something the sequence really conveys, is not just that individuals can try to game a company, but that a whole company's culture can change such that gaming-behavior is expected and rewarded. It contains a lot of detail about what that culture looks and feels like.

The sequence (including the essay "Motive Ambiguity") has led me see how in such an environment groups of people can end up optimizing for the opposite of their stated purpose.

The sequence doesn't hold together as a whole to me. I don't get the perfect or superperfect competition idea at the top. Some of the claims seem like a stretch or not really argued for, just completing the pattern when riffing on a theme. But I'm not going to review the weaknesses here, my goal is mostly to advocate for the best parts of it that I'd like to see score more highly in the book.

This post is one of my three picks from the sequence, along with Create a Full Alternative Stack, and Protecting Large Projects Against Mazedom. (Also Motive Ambiguity which is not technically part of the sequence.)

(This review is taken from my post Ben Pace's Controversial Picks for the 2020 Review.)

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on Crisis and opportunity during coronavirus · 2021-12-27T18:28:36.546Z · LW · GW

Crisis and opportunity during coronavirus seemed cute to me at the time, and now I feel like an idiot for not realizing it more. My point here is "this post was really right in retrospect and I should've listened to it at the time". This post, combined with John's "Making Vaccine", have led me to believe I was in a position to create large amounts of vaccine during the pandemic, at least narrowly for my community, and (more ambitiously) made very large amounts (100k+) in some country with weak regulation where I could have sold it. I'm not going to flesh out the argument here, and it's not airtight, but it was really bad that I didn't seriously consider this until 2021, or other projects at this level of ambitiou. The post was also out very early (March 12th) which I appreciate. I give this a +4.

(This review is taken from my post Ben Pace's Controversial Picks for the 2020 Review.)

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on A Significant Portion of COVID-19 Transmission Is Presymptomatic · 2021-12-27T18:27:35.120Z · LW · GW

A Significant Portion of COVID-19 Transmission is Presymptomatic argued for something that is blindingly obvious now, but a real surprise to me at the time. Covid has an incubation period of up to 2 weeks at the extreme, where you can have no symptoms but still give it to people. This totally changed my threat model, where I didn't need to know if someone was symptomatic, but instead I had to calculate how much risk they took in the last 7-14 days. The author got this point out fast (March 14th) which I really appreciated. I give this +4.

(This review is taken from my post Ben Pace's Controversial Picks for the 2020 Review.)

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on Covid-19: My Current Model · 2021-12-27T18:26:45.924Z · LW · GW

Covid-19: My Current Model was where I got most of my practical Covid updates. It so obvious now, but risk follows a power law (i.e. I should focus on reducing my riskiest 1 or 2 activities), surfaces are mostly harmless (this was when I stopped washing my packages), outdoor activity is relatively harmless (me and my housemates stopped avoiding people on the street around this time), and more. I give this +4.

(This review is taken from my post Ben Pace's Controversial Picks for the 2020 Review.)

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on Get Set, Also Go · 2021-12-25T19:42:29.044Z · LW · GW

Good point.

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on Get Set, Also Go · 2021-12-24T12:12:12.368Z · LW · GW

Hm, I think I changed my mind, Microcovid gives me 630 microcovids wearing the sealed P3/P100, and 1,600 microcovids with the sealed N95. (It’s guessing at 3.5% prevalence near me, which is really high.)

Also I wore the P3 for a few more hours and it’s mostly fine, except around the ears.

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on Omicron Post #9 · 2021-12-24T08:03:09.349Z · LW · GW

My UK experience is Northern Ireland and the ferry to Liverpool, both of which people were very lax about masks. Majority of wait-staff had the masks below the nose, which I would have been very pro about a month ago, but now I'm wearing a P3 thing the whole time that I'm indoors and looking at them a bit skeptically.

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on Book Launch: The Engines of Cognition · 2021-12-24T07:43:03.038Z · LW · GW

Same post! Author changed the name for the book. I'll probs check in with author and then change it on LW too.

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on Get Set, Also Go · 2021-12-24T07:37:46.723Z · LW · GW

Thanks, v helpful. I now plan to use N95 plus tape for the planes.

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on Book Launch: The Engines of Cognition · 2021-12-23T20:38:17.361Z · LW · GW

I agree, sharing all the prompts is fun. I'd like to share them at some point.

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on Book Launch: The Engines of Cognition · 2021-12-23T20:37:55.107Z · LW · GW

Lol, I didn't finish the 2019 page and intentionally didn't change the link to point to it.

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on Get Set, Also Go · 2021-12-23T16:06:49.804Z · LW · GW

I just shaved for it, leaving me looking like 10 years younger, so hopefully the fit is better.

You know the P3 mask I have specifically has movable filters, where if you squeeze them the air flow is cut off, which means I can do a quick check for a perfect fit. It's the best mask I've ever worn for telling if it fits.

I don't think I'm anywhere near as good with the N95 masks I've worn, I expect the fit hasn't been very good, and will continue not to be. But I will try better in future. Could just tape it down. I would feel more comfortable with it taped to my face than 15 hours of this P3 weighing me down.

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on Get Set, Also Go · 2021-12-23T15:18:29.484Z · LW · GW

(Just want to note that I'm reading every one of these Omicron posts, thanks for them all.)

On the 26th I'm flying Manchester UK to SFO California, with a change at NYC. I understand that the flights are way less risky than the airports, but... well, I've got a P3 mask (this one) that I'm planning to wear the whole time except when I'm outside. It cuts into my ears and makes it hard for me to relax. My belief from microcovid.org is that it cuts my risk 20x, similar to (or stronger than) getting a full vaccine.

Anyway, does anyone think I should take it off for the flights, go down to N95, and just wear the P3 in the airport? That'd be a relief but currently I'm expecting sufficiently large numbers of passengers to have Covid (e.g. 5%) that I'm planning to wear it the whole way.

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on 2021 AI Alignment Literature Review and Charity Comparison · 2021-12-23T15:04:12.643Z · LW · GW

Woop, thanks for all of this work, as usual! :)

I want to point out that my org is called "Lightcone Infrastructure", not just "Lightcone". The second word is an important word to us :)

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on Book Launch: The Engines of Cognition · 2021-12-22T23:16:22.728Z · LW · GW

It's very cool that people get the books so quickly this time! Thanks for the comments :)

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on Book Launch: The Engines of Cognition · 2021-12-22T15:24:12.384Z · LW · GW

I'd be surprised if we don't get around to it sometime, but no concrete plans right now.

Comment by Ben Pace (Benito) on Book Launch: The Engines of Cognition · 2021-12-22T10:52:16.807Z · LW · GW

No, it's just in the books.