What risks from vaccines? 2020-11-12T23:32:30.278Z
Large Effects Can't Prove Small Causes 2020-10-06T17:34:24.153Z
2020 predictions 2020-05-01T20:11:04.423Z
COVID-19 growth rates vs interventions 2020-03-27T21:33:25.851Z
[UPDATED] COVID-19 cabin secondary attack rates on Diamond Princess 2020-03-18T22:36:06.099Z
Why such low detected rates of COVID-19 in children? 2020-03-16T16:52:02.508Z
Growth rate of COVID-19 outbreaks 2020-03-09T23:16:51.275Z
Quadratic models and (un)falsified data 2020-03-08T23:34:58.128Z
Bucky's Shortform 2020-03-08T00:08:23.193Z
Rugby & Regression Towards the Mean 2019-10-30T16:36:00.287Z
Age gaps and Birth order: Reanalysis 2019-09-07T19:33:16.174Z
Age gaps and Birth order: Failed reproduction of results 2019-09-07T19:22:55.068Z
What are principled ways for penalising complexity in practice? 2019-06-27T07:28:16.850Z
How is Solomonoff induction calculated in practice? 2019-06-04T10:11:37.310Z
Book review: My Hidden Chimp 2019-03-04T09:55:32.362Z
Who wants to be a Millionaire? 2019-02-01T14:02:52.794Z
Experiences of Self-deception 2018-12-18T11:10:26.965Z
Status model 2018-11-26T15:05:12.105Z
Bayes Questions 2018-11-07T16:54:38.800Z
Good Samaritans in experiments 2018-10-30T23:34:27.153Z
In praise of heuristics 2018-10-24T15:44:47.771Z
The tails coming apart as a strategy for success 2018-10-01T15:18:50.228Z
Defining by opposites 2018-09-18T09:26:38.579Z
Birth order effect found in Nobel Laureates in Physics 2018-09-04T12:17:53.269Z


Comment by bucky on Covid 11/26: Thanksgiving · 2020-11-26T22:10:51.424Z · LW · GW

I did an analysis of how convincing the Oxford-AstraZeneca claim of 90% effectiveness is.

Unfortunately I inferred the numbers of infections in each group incorrectly according to this - the infections were split 3:27 between the half-full group and the full-full group, not 2:28 as I'd calculated. (Note that the naive interpretation of the numbers doesn't come to 90% or 62% effectiveness so I assume they're doing some corrections or something else which alters the result slightly.)

That means the 8:1 Bayes factor I originally calculated (in favour of half-full being more effective vs the two different regimens being equally effective) comes down to 2.9:1. In my book that isn't enough evidence to overcome the prior against the half-full dose regimen being more effective.

The above assumes that everything else about the groups is equal.

Having read the report linked in the OP I think the actual update should be noticeably lower, particularly as the half-full treatment group were younger than the full-full treatment group (or at least only the latter included anyone >55 years old).

(I mean which interpretation will the evidence favor, not on whether they go ahead with the half-full as the standard dose)

Comment by bucky on The (Unofficial) Less Wrong Comment Challenge · 2020-11-25T21:40:57.591Z · LW · GW

Some authors have stated their preferences on this (generally such comments are marginally positive but stating one specific thing you liked is a big improvement).

Comment by bucky on Pain is the unit of Effort · 2020-11-25T10:02:49.297Z · LW · GW

A great example of advice reversal

FWIW I suspect I personally need this advice more than alkjash's advice. I've always had a feeling that most people are doing it wrong (e.g. managers who are always working late instead of learning to delegate) but I'm conscious that I want to be better at committing to things and seeing them through even if they're hard (or just inconvenient!).

Comment by bucky on Bucky's Shortform · 2020-11-24T09:30:02.060Z · LW · GW

I was confused as to why they did this too - alternative guesses I had were to increase number of available doses or to decrease side effect severity. 

However the site you link to has been updated with a link to Reuters who quote AstraZeneca saying it was an accident - they miscalculated and only noticed when side effects were smaller than predicted.

Comment by bucky on Bucky's Shortform · 2020-11-23T22:26:37.867Z · LW · GW

Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine effectiveness

(numbers from here and here, numbers inferred are marked with an asterisk)

Some interesting results from the latest vaccine trial. The treatment group was split in two, one of which received 2 full doses of the vaccine, the other received a half dose followed by a full dose (separated by a month in both cases).

  • In the control group there were 101 COVID infections in ~11,600* participants. 
  • With 2 full doses there were 28* infections in 8,895 participants.
  • In the half first dose condition there were 2* infections in 2,741 participants.

So does having a low first dose actually improve the immune response?

The best I can figure out the evidence is 8:1 Bayes factor in favour of the "low first dose better" hypothesis vs the "It doesn't matter either way" hypothesis.

Not sure what a reasonable prior is on this but I don't think this puts the "low first dose is better" hypothesis as a strong winner on posterior.

On the other hand the evidence is 14:1 in favour of "it doesn't matter either way" vs "both full doses is better" so at the moment it probably makes sense to give a half dose first and have more doses in total.

I'll be interested as to what happens as the data matures - the above is apparently based on protection levels 2 weeks after receiving the second dose.

Comment by bucky on The Mutant Game - Rounds 11 to 30 · 2020-11-23T16:44:45.207Z · LW · GW
  • Bots were passed their own previous move and told it was their opponent's previous move.
  • Bots were always given 0 as the round index instead of the correct positive integer.

I was wondering what the second mistake was - I notice that I am no longer confused :)

Originally I was confused in this game as to why CliqueZviBot started decreasing around round 23 but I guess it is a combination of:

  • getting 300-200 against a_comatose_squirrel, incomprehensibot and KarmaBot which have become a smaller part of the pool.
  • getting 200-300 against A Very Special Bot, Clone wars, episode return 3 and EarlyBirdMimicBot which are becoming a larger part of the pool

(not all of them but probably most, especially the first bullet)

Comment by bucky on The central limit theorem in terms of convolutions · 2020-11-22T13:27:29.116Z · LW · GW

I enjoyed this and had the same experience that when I was taught CLT referring to random variables I didn’t have a proper intuition for it but when I thought about it in terms of convolutions it made it a lot clearer. Looking forward to the next post.

Comment by bucky on The Darwin Game - Rounds 21-500 · 2020-11-21T23:43:37.564Z · LW · GW

One interesting graph would be the average points gained per matchup vs round number which would give a good indication of cooperation level and what kinds of strategies would work. It can kind of be inferred from the bots which are left but seeing a graph would make it easier to picture.

Comment by bucky on The Darwin Game - Rounds 21-500 · 2020-11-21T21:59:27.143Z · LW · GW

I have a theory that ASTB might end up helping EBMB somewhat too as some of ASTB's mass goes to the clones which keeps them alive for longer for EBMB to feed off. Still most should go straight to MB so you'll get the bigger boost, just probably not enough.

Comment by bucky on The Darwin Game - Rounds 21-500 · 2020-11-21T21:21:28.478Z · LW · GW

In the true game with AbstractSpyTreeBot, MeasureBot is going to be eating it at the same time I'm eating the clones, but is it going to be a boost as extreme as this?

Comment by bucky on Embedded Interactive Predictions on LessWrong · 2020-11-21T20:16:31.551Z · LW · GW

Do predictions resolve? (I guess just by the question author)

Comment by bucky on Covid 11/19: Don’t Do Stupid Things · 2020-11-19T19:38:27.107Z · LW · GW

CFR will inevitably be much higher when you don’t have enough tests available.If memory serves NYC had 40-50% positive tests in the early peak. It is now running at 2.9%.

Comment by bucky on Final Babble Challenge (for now): 100 ways to light a candle · 2020-11-18T11:54:16.931Z · LW · GW

I feel like a large number of my ideas wouldn’t leave much candle for being a metaphor for anything but hey-ho.

  1. Match
  2. Cigarette Lighter
  3. Car cigarette lighter
  4. Light off cigarette
  5. Bonfire
  6. Gas hob
  7. Bunsen burner
  8. Kitchen blow torch
  9. Proper blow torch
  10. Focussing sun’s rays
  11. Rubbing sticks together
  12. Wait for it to spontaneously ignite
  13. Sparks from flint
  14. Sparks from metal
  15. Electrical sparks
  16. Throw it in a fusion reactor
  17. Underneath the next Falcon 9 launch
  18. Launch it into the sun
  19. Light a stick from another source, touch to candle
  20. Make candle out of alkaline metal, throw in water
  21. Place on top of a tall building in a thunderstorm
  22. Heat in an oven
  23. Attach to lithium battery and overheat
  24. Move candle fast enough to self-ignite through air friction/compression
  25. Put in path of meteor strike
  26. Attach to front of rocket during re-entry
  27. Rub it very fast
  28. Shine a spotlight on it (you said to light it, right?)
  29. Cut away some of the heavy bits (you said to light it, right?)
  30. Laser pointer
  31. Laser from dvd player
  32. Immerse in oil, light oil
  33. Leave it in a church and wait for someone else to light it
  34. Put it on a cake and tell everyone it’s my birthday
  35. Superman’s laser vision
  36. Attach to firework
  37. Ask someone else to do it
  38. Pay someone else to do it
  39. Threaten someone else if they don’t do it
  40. Swap candles with someone else and light each other’s
  41. Turn it to dust and create dust explosion
  42. Use car spark plugs
  43. Inside an engine’s combustion chamber
  44. Off car bonnet left out in the sun
  45. Off concrete heated by the sun
  46. Attach to nuclear bomb
  47. Off the boiler pilot light
  48. Inside the boiler
  49. In a powerplant
  50. Flamethrower
  51. Cruise missile
  52. Conventional bomb
  53. Out of a jet engine on aircraft
  54. Attach to Bloodhound SSC jet/rocket
  55. Wait until candle goes out, then reverse flow of time
  56. Sell it in a shop – whoever buys it probably wants to light it anyway
  57. Leave in wildfire area
  58. Coat candle in phosphorous and light like a match
  59. Put it in an explosive atmosphere, create spark
  60. Napalm
  61. Gunpowder
  62. Shoot it with explosive round
  63. Shoot it with a tank
  64. Rocket launcher
  65. Grenade
  66. Light it upside down
  67. Go back in time to the big bang, light off that
  68. Leave it in a science classroom
  69. Light it off a splint
  70. Off a bulb filament
  71. Use it to block off a high performance computer’s cooling vent
  72. Rub it between my hands
  73. A very hot radiator 
  74. A personal heater
  75. Electric blanket
  76. Overheat a resistor
  77. Battery spark
  78. Capacitor spark
  79. Use a fake (electric) candle and switch it on
  80. Use a trick self-relighting candle, light it using some method, then blow it out. Let it re-light itself
  81. Superheat the wax
  82. Increase pressure?
  83. Magnesium strip
  84. In a volcano
  85. In a waffle iron
  86. Off a clothes iron
  87. Off the Olympic torch
  88. Off the Bangle’s Eternal flame
  89. TNT
  90. An elaborate timing contraption a la Wallace and Gromit
  91. Minecraft creeper
  92. Light a virtual candle
  93. Off a toy rocket
  94. Toaster
  95. Kettle heating element
  96. In a particle accelerator
  97. Ask the candle nicely to set itself alight
  98. Pray
  99. Write to Santa to ask him to light my candle as a Christmas present
  100. Off another candle (now ask me how I lit that one)
Comment by bucky on Covid 11/12: The Winds of Winter · 2020-11-12T22:54:14.745Z · LW · GW

This norm does seem right to me but it is probably worth noting the asymmetry in audience between a typical personal blog post and these COVID updates. I feel like Zvi has earned the right to do this if he wants but would personally prefer the topics to be separated into different posts.

Comment by bucky on The Darwin Game - Rounds 1 to 2 · 2020-11-11T11:29:58.966Z · LW · GW

It looks like MeasureBot does really well against the silly bots:

  • 0bot, 1bot and 2bot - it assumes after 3 repeated opponent turns of less than 3 that their next turn will be the same and takes advantage accordingly.
  • Folds to 3-bot (and similar attackers) until round 10 (as multicore says, this seems like a good idea)
  • TFT & Invert Bots - I think it probably ends up getting something just under 250:250 which is as good as possible
  • Weird stuff not specifically programmed - it works out if the opponent is crazy and then does its best to account for that, playing a max of 2

I think this is more significant than dominating AbstractSpyTreeBot 500-0 at the moment as they should only be meeting 2% of the time?

Comment by bucky on Three Open Problems in Aging · 2020-11-09T13:31:39.881Z · LW · GW

If someone decided they wanted to fund such a project how much would you estimate it would cost? (Let's say based on the assumption it didn't have to be publication quality, just good enough to persuade you it was likely correct)

Comment by bucky on Covid 11/5: Don’t Mention the War · 2020-11-06T21:33:51.173Z · LW · GW

I did a little digging on schools staying open in Europe and I suspect the decision to keep schools open in Europe has been partly driven by this paper from the ECDC (dated 6th August) which suggests the attack rate in schools is low.

They base this on:

  • Some contact tracing investigations (I think ~6 total) from schools, most of which showed at most 1 onward infection. However they note one study of an Israeli school where 2 index cases ended up being 178 cases in the school and more in the community.
  • Countries which reopened schools without noticeably increasing R and without significant school outbreaks

I do think there is some bias towards wanting to keep schools open (I think they downplay a couple of papers which suggest schools could be causing more infections) but actually the evidence is better than I expected. Of course they could be leaving out other studies completely and I wouldn't know.

Comment by bucky on Teach People to Recognize the Sound of Covid? · 2020-11-06T20:37:42.356Z · LW · GW

From the paper they are actually planning on trying this within a Fortune 100 company so this at least must be allowable.

To that end, we have reached an agreement with a Fortune 100 company to demonstrate the value of our tool as part of their COVID-19 management practices. As we have shown there are cultural and age differences in coughs, future work could focus on tailoring the model to different age groups and regions of the world using the metadata captured, something we would like to test at the company site. 

Comment by bucky on When Money Is Abundant, Knowledge Is The Real Wealth · 2020-11-06T20:19:45.688Z · LW · GW

I think this is true if you're looking for near-perfect scientists but if you're assessing current science to decide who to invest in there are lots of things you can do to get better at performing such assessments (e.g. here).

Comment by bucky on Gifts Which Money Cannot Buy · 2020-11-06T17:34:28.072Z · LW · GW

A couple of examples where I think I’ve met this standard:

Good quality insulated cup

Remote control for house alarm

Transposed musical scores for clarinet

I think I end up succeeding when I buy something the other person just hasn’t thought of how useful it would be.

I’d love to hear examples from other people as I suspect they would give me some ideas for Christmas!

Comment by bucky on Bucky's Shortform · 2020-11-05T12:15:44.928Z · LW · GW

In my 2020 predictions I mentioned that I found the calibration buckets used on e.g. SSC (50%, 60%, 70%, 80%, 90% and 95%) difficult to work with at the top end as there is a large difference in odds ratio between adjacent buckets (2.25 between 80% and 90%, 2.11 between 90% and 95%). This means that when I want to say 85% both buckets are a decent way off.

I suggested at the time using 50%, 65%, 75%, 85%, 91% and 95% to keep the ratios between buckets fairly similar across the range (maximum 1.89) and to work with relatively nice round numbers.

Alternatively I suggested not having a 50% bucket as answers here don't help towards measuring calibration and you could further reduce the gaps between buckets without increasing the number of buckets. 

At the time I couldn't come up with nice round percentage values which would keep the ratios similar. The best numbers I got were 57%, 69%, 79%, 87%, 92%, 95% (max difference of 1.78) which seemed hard to work with as they're difficult to remember. 

An alternative scheme I've come up with is not to use percentage values but to use odds ratios. The buckets would be:

The percentage equivalents are similar to the scheme mentioned previously with the same max difference between buckets. I prefer this as it has a simple pattern to remember and adjacent buckets are easy to compare (e.g. for every 3 times X doesn't occur, would I expect X to occur 7 or 12 times?).

I've tried this out and found it nice to work with (not initially but after getting used to it) but that may just be a personal thing.

Comment by bucky on Babble Challenge: 50 thoughts on stable, cooperative institutions · 2020-11-05T09:56:08.277Z · LW · GW


Root causes of cooperation

  1. Desire for meaning
  2. Desire for community
  3. Desire for status
  4. Cultural expectations
  5. Strong leadership
  6. Friendships
  7. Local reputation
  8. Financial incentives
  9. Individuals fighting within the system to increase cooperation
  10. Desire to help others
  11. Warm fuzzies
  12. National pride
  13. Fear of consequences
  14. Long term rewards
  15. Individual cooperative units (whole institution not necessarily required)
  16. People acting out the part of a model employee
  17. Social pressures
  18. Value creation and trading
  19. Understanding that cooperation is needed for any large project to succeed
  20. Punishment of defectors
  21. Cooperative institutions select for cooperative people, cooperation abounds

Why past was (or looks) better

  1. Low simulacra levels in population
  2. Rose tinted glasses for the good old days
  3. Only success stories lasting (selection bias)
  4. All the old institutions which focussed on the short term are long dead
  5. Becoming less cooperative is easy, becoming more so is hard
  6. Old institutions have had a long time to go down the slippery slope
  7. Comfortable life nowadays incentivizes less care about things
  8. No recent experience of war to bring people together
  9. Increased market competition
  10. Moloch
  11. Financial stresses are lower nowadays
  12. Easier to find a new job so less requirement to optimise in your current one
  13. Reputation is less important than it used to be
  14. Cultural expectations are aimed more towards individual success
  15. Capitalism has generally won over communism
  16. People getting their feelings of self-esteem elsewhere
  17. Internet allows easy escapism
  18. General ease of entertainment means less focus on finding meaning in work
  19. Reputations less linked to friends and neighbours – less social pressure
  20. Non-conformism being an ideal
  21. Families being less unified – less experience of cooperation
  22. Different strengths of unions
  23. Religious ties
  24. Experience of cooperation from religious upbringing
  25. Cooperation seen as a key virtue in the past
  26. Culture was more implicit, less explicit – does implicit perform better?
  27. More homogenous population
  28. More people now in cities, less local knowledge of individuals
  29. Increased partisanship
  30. More anti-heroes in culture – ok to succeed by being bad?
Comment by bucky on Kelly Bet or Update? · 2020-11-03T12:08:21.024Z · LW · GW

Ha, so you did!

Reading it a bit more carefully, I guess for one-sided bets there's a chance that you are already in the position that the bet is not profitable so you already don't need to update. I guess the title threw me off a bit - with two sided bets you have to do one or the other (or both), with one sided you don't.

Comment by bucky on Kelly Bet or Update? · 2020-11-03T09:04:02.415Z · LW · GW

"Bet or update" assumes the possibility of taking either side of the bet. In this case I would happily take the other side of the offered bet.

Comment by bucky on Covid Covid Covid Covid Covid 10/29: All We Ever Talk About · 2020-11-01T23:23:15.114Z · LW · GW

Hmm, that paper references another paper for its >50% infected claim but the paper it references only has a 24% seropositivity rate. It does suggest 53.5% infection but that's based on a naive SIR model which I don't expect to give particularly accurate results for that kind of thing.

Good to see a detailed examination of reinfections though - that's the kind of thing I've been hoping to see.

Another, more recent, paper does find 66% seropositivity in migrant workers (who make up 60% of the population). However the sample seems to have been selected strongly for people who had had Covid as 20% of the sample had already had positive PCR results, compared to ~4% of the total population.

Comment by bucky on Covid Covid Covid Covid Covid 10/29: All We Ever Talk About · 2020-11-01T14:09:59.472Z · LW · GW

Examples? This may update my expectations a fair bit.

Comment by bucky on Covid Covid Covid Covid Covid 10/29: All We Ever Talk About · 2020-10-30T18:48:59.770Z · LW · GW

This matches my impression in Scotland. I also think there’s a fair amount of fatigue of following the rules so most people bend the rules slightly when it suits.

Comment by bucky on The Darwin Game - Round 1 · 2020-10-28T11:04:36.503Z · LW · GW

My confusion is that I don't think the explanation in this post really resolves why CliqueZviBot outscored the clique bot average (multiplicatively) in every round last time out. This should only happen  times for a given bot or  times given 8 bots.

To be fair this is only me reading it off the graphs so I could be wrong with this exact analysis but I do think CliqueZviBot was a very strong and consistent outlier and that this explanation doesn't resolve my confusion as to why.

Comment by bucky on The Darwin Game - Round 1 · 2020-10-28T10:30:24.643Z · LW · GW

I love your "Lucy pulling away the football" ideas and its super impressive that this can outscore tit-for-tat.

I'm fairly sure the first idea is better than the last two if you want to play it even with a large number of clique bots as what matters is not how many times more you're getting than them but how many times more they are losing than you (from the normal 2.5 per round). Idea one forces them to lose 3x more than you and this means its worth it if there are fewer than 3x more clique bots than mimic bots (ignoring all other bots). If DefinitelyNotCollusionBot and PasswordBot played the same tactic against the clique bots it may have been worth it even with 8 clique bots.

Comment by bucky on Does playing hard to get work? AB testing for romance · 2020-10-28T10:11:42.066Z · LW · GW

I think that both effects are likely and that this will add noise to the measure.

Noise is my main concern about your experiment in general - with only 10 samples in each treatment any effect would have to be large to reliably show up. If you were doing a t-test with p<0.05 then you would need Cohen's d of 1.3 to get a significant result. This would be the equivalent of PHTG having the effect of moving a median date to a 90th percentile date which feels unlikely.

Obviously you're being sensible and not being frequentist but the underlying problem is still there - even if PHTG has a decent sized effect the experiment might not show it, or, worse, if PHTG makes things slightly worse it could show up as being good in your experiment.

I would suggest that you try to work out a power calculation (even just by setting up your planned calculation and plugging in some fake numbers to see what happens) - if PHTG is slightly harmful to your chances (say 20% decreased chance of getting a second date) what are the odds that the experiment will lead you to accept PHTG?


As an aside, have you read this on putanumonit? It presents an alternative to PHTG which you might find interesting.

Comment by bucky on Does playing hard to get work? AB testing for romance · 2020-10-27T15:57:34.808Z · LW · GW

If PHTG is successful, do you expect more or less eye contact from your dates? If PHTG raises your status this implies it puts your date at relatively lower status and according to your list they would make less eye contact. However your post suggests that you'll take it as a sign of interest as is usually the case.

Comment by bucky on The Darwin Game - Round 1 · 2020-10-27T09:53:58.528Z · LW · GW

So I notice that I'm still confused as to how CliqueZviBot outperformed the other clique bots so consistently in the previous game (and still is! At least for this one round). I assume that the 300-200 goes in the favour of whoever won the starting tiebreaker. No bot should be able to consistentely win this?

Comment by bucky on Babble challenge: 50 ways of solving a problem in your life · 2020-10-26T16:55:58.681Z · LW · GW

Improving programming / machine learning skills

I have been working on this on and off for a couple of years as a potential career switch but akrasia is a big barrier so most of my suggestions are to combat this.

I found this a lot harder but I do think the practice with the previous exercises helped me on this one to search wider for solutions, especially as I got nearer the end. Some are things I've already done/started but could do more/better.

  1. Schedule fixed times each week
  2. Reminder on phone
  3. Get someone to ask me how it’s going every week
  4. Join learning group
  5. Join and do Kaggle projects
  6. Look for alternatives to Kaggle
  7. Find a mentor
  8. Sign up for a course
  9. Sign up for more expensive courses to motivate me
  10. Beeminder or something
  11. Ask for suggestions on courses
  12. Read up about Akrasia in general
  13. Look up jobs and requirements
  14. Internship
  15. Find low effort content to combine with high effort
  16. Programming camp
  17. Combine with current job
  18. Look to get reassigned to move more towards field
  19. Look for opportunities within current job to use skills
  20. Break down into smaller tasks
  21. Make full list of everything I want to learn, break it into manageable chunks
  22. Delete games / other distractions from phone
  23. Turn off all push notifications
  24. Timelock phone for times I should be learning
  25. Stop being lazy
  26. Just give up (cut my losses)
  27. Choose something else to learn
  28. Be more direct in what I actually need to learn instead of what is suggested in courses
  29. Focus on the bits I actually enjoy
  30. Take a couple of weeks break guilt-free, come back refreshed
  31. Play music whilst working
  32. Look if anyone has made Anki Decks
  33. Read data science blogs
  34. Watch data science youtube stuff
  35. Don’t do too much at once (avoid burnout)
  36. Do lots all at once (Do it when I have the motivation)
  37. Take more regular breaks whilst doing it
  38. Just start and see if I feel like it once I’ve been doing it for 10 minutes
  39. Get more comfy work chair
  40. Get better equipment
  41. Focus on the goal
  42. Get more sleep for better energy
  43. Reward myself after I’ve done something
  44. Talk about my successes with people
  45. Write up what I’ve learnt

Create a fun exercise:

  1. Ex1: Robot raspberry pi
  2. Ex2: Checkers learner
  3. Ex3: Minecraft mod
  4. Ex4: Look up fun projects online
  5. Ex5: Write bot for Darwin game (and then fail to submit it…)
Comment by bucky on The Darwin Game - Rounds 0 to 10 · 2020-10-24T22:25:32.378Z · LW · GW

Eyeballing the graphs it looks to me that CliqueZviBot is outperforming (multiplicatively) the average performance of the other cliquebots in every single round.

This is super odd if this Bot is indeed acting in exactly the same manner as the other clique bots.

ETA: Genuinely curious how this got downvoted even before it turned out to be correct.

Comment by bucky on Babble challenge: 50 ways of hiding Einstein's pen for fifty years · 2020-10-22T20:11:46.166Z · LW · GW

I think compound returns is the wrong model as it stands - logarithmic growth seems more appropriate with the current setup. I would expect completing 5 babble challenges to give 80-90% of the benefit of doing 7.

If we practice both babble and prune then the benefits of the two probably do compound somewhat with each other such that doing 2 babble and 2 prune is significantly better than doing 4 of either but this doesn’t really justify streak measuring.

If consistency rather than direct benefit is the target then streaks make some sense. I would say in that case that I would need to be persuaded that this is the correct exercise to learn consistency. At the moment I would categorise it as definitely worthwhile (hence the 3 out of 4 commitment) but not enough to super-prioritise it enough to make a streak-worthy commitment.

Comment by bucky on Babble challenge: 50 ways of hiding Einstein's pen for fifty years · 2020-10-16T10:20:47.363Z · LW · GW

I like the research on Einstein's pen confirming the presence of time travel

Comment by bucky on Babble challenge: 50 ways of hiding Einstein's pen for fifty years · 2020-10-16T09:01:58.862Z · LW · GW

I hereby commit to doing at least 3 of the remaining 4 of these (I don't know if I'll have time every week).

I don't like measuring things by streaks - if you want to do a list I think doing it by total number of challenges completed is better. Streaks are a less accurate indication of effort put in or potential gains achieved and have more potential to create unhealthy incentives.

(I think this instinct comes from something like Noticing the Taste of Lotus, although I'm not really sure how strongly it applies here)

Comment by bucky on Babble challenge: 50 ways of hiding Einstein's pen for fifty years · 2020-10-16T08:02:09.033Z · LW · GW

Places to hide:

  1. Buried (waterproof box)
  2. Inside a wall cavity
  3. Bank safety deposit box
  4. Attic
  5. Inside hollow tree
  6. Get put in jail, hide pen in wall of cell. Get put back in jail 49.5 years later and recover pen
  7. Give it to someone more responsible than me
  8. Implant into body
  9. Bluff the evil forces – just hide in plain sight, use it every day
  10. Give it to the queen to store with the crown jewels
  11. Turn it into an art sculpture, hide in plain sight
  12. Melt down, remanufacture when required using the melted remains
  13. Keep it in my pocket
  14. Hide it in a sewer
  15. In a crypt
  16. Behind a brick in the great wall of China
  17. Inside Fort Knox (or wherever gold reserves were held at the time!)
  18. Underwater
  19. Sole of a shoe
  20. Get the president to sign something important with it, get it put in a museum under guard
  21. Mould it inside a brick
  22. Hide in the masonry of Pont des Invalides (or other 1855 structure of your choice)
  23. Inside a statue
  24. Inside hollowed out book
  25. Behind false wall
  26. Change appearance of pen (different colour?) as long as it is reversible
  27. Inside a clock

Ways to make sure it gets to him if I die:

  1. Start a conspiracy to keep it
  2. Publicise to world what is happening, bring the evil forces out into the light
  3. Hide it at the end of a treasure hunt with each clue more fiendish than the last. If you die, make sure Einstein gets the first clue, he can take it from there
  4. Hide it in the Bern patent office in a packet with his name on it
  5. Write a set of instructions on how to get the pen, give letter to Western Union to guarantee delivery at the correct time
  6. Go to Colorado, hide addressed envelope with Brachiosaurus fossils and re-cover the fossils, ready for them to be dug up in 1903.

Ways to confound evil forces:

  1. Learn how to lose a tail when on my way to hide the pen
  2. Pretend to hide it in multiple places
  3. Pretend to give it to multiple people so they don’t know who to follow
  4. Go all-out attack on the evil forces
  5. Put booby traps around hiding place
  6. Put booby traps elsewhere to misdirect
  7. Make multiple indistinguishable copies and hide all of them
  8. Ensure evil forces don’t know I ever had it
  9. If unsuccessful, give it to someone else, commit suicide so they can’t find out who I gave it to


  1. Don’t worry about it, he can probably use whatever pen and still get the same result
  2. Otherwise, use magic pen to try to write miracle papers myself
  3. Buy lots of identical pens which will work just as well
  4. Reverse engineer pen if no similar pens available
  5. Apply magical foresight to foresee all attempts at theft and prevent them
  6. Rely on determinism – apparently I already know he will write with this pen
  7. Use my knowledge of modern technology to make loads of money to help with effort
  8. Hide it in one of infinitely many sets each of which contains infinitely many elements, await for Ernst Zermelo to formulate his axiom of choice (1904) to allow me to arbitrarily pick it from the relevant set
Comment by bucky on Babble challenge: 50 ways to escape a locked room · 2020-10-15T13:52:23.755Z · LW · GW

I'm happy to see the effect of stomach acid on metal has been studied scientifically. I didn't really expect this to work but for thin metal it would be surprisingly effective (63% mass reduction of razor blade after 24 hours). Given 10 years...

Comment by bucky on Babble challenge: 50 ways to escape a locked room · 2020-10-14T08:21:05.194Z · LW · GW

Haha, yes, context.

Comment by bucky on Have the lockdowns been worth it? · 2020-10-14T08:19:10.367Z · LW · GW

Global yearly deaths on roads are ~1.35mil (source).

In the US (well, 23 states) there was a 6% drop in the first 6 months of the year (source - see table halfway down). Naive approximation gives 81k lives saved globally if this turns out to be the yearly average.

Alternative calculation: In the max lockdown month(s) deaths were down ~40-70% (Various European countries, Turkey, UK). Assuming 2 months of severe lockdown this would give 124k lives saved.

Comment by bucky on Babble challenge: 50 ways to escape a locked room · 2020-10-13T21:14:05.798Z · LW · GW

For the record you use at least as many bodily fluids as I do!

Comment by bucky on How to reach 80% of your goals. Exactly 80%. · 2020-10-11T19:00:03.623Z · LW · GW

In a previous role I had an informal target of having 50% of our tests fail every year. It was essentially a check that we weren’t getting complacent and just doing what we already knew.

Comment by bucky on Babble challenge: 50 ways to escape a locked room · 2020-10-09T12:10:30.146Z · LW · GW
  1. Smash out through window
  2. Cause overheat in phone battery to explode way out
  3. Chip away at wall with phone
  4. Upload consciousness to phone, escape via wifi
  5. Wrap shirt around fist and punch way out
  6. Use wifi to request help from police
  7. Use wifi to request help from friends
  8. Use wifi to order package to own location, hope delivery man is resourceful
  9. Dig out through floor
  10. Craft phone into lock pick
  11. Kick door in
  12. Use phone part to unscrew hinges
  13. Remove door handle etc to get to lock mechanism
  14. Pray
  15. Use steel from boot toecap to dig through wall
  16. Smash head against wall
  17. Are there lights in the room? If there are I’ll use them somehow
  18. Jump high enough to smash through ceiling
  19. Wait until someone opens the door
  20. Do lots of exercise to become super strong, then smash out
  21. Escape in my dreams
  22. Examine floor, wall, ceiling, use strongest material to smash weakest
  23. Found mega successful company via wifi, use profits to fund search and rescue for me
  24. Become ace hacker, use global surveillance to find location and organise rescue
  25. Ask for ideas on how I should escape in a LW post where I pretend that this is a hypothetical question intended to promote creativity
  26. Use phone part to create laser to bore way out (research this on wifi!)
  27. Shout for help
  28. Boost wifi signal to get attention of anyone passing
  29. Increase power to phone speakers to create sonic wave to knock down walls
  30. Use phone speaker to create resonant frequency for wall to vibrate it down
  31. Find out how air is being replenished – look for weak points
  32. Investigate what weird physical/chemical effect is enabling me and my phone to store so much energy – use this new discovery to power my way out
  33. Plead nicely with the people on the other side of the door
  34. Offer bribes to any guards
  35. Just unlock the door – maybe it doesn’t need a key
  36. If room is small enough, climb up walls by wedging between opposite walls. Escape through ceiling
  37. Chip hand/footholes in the walls to escape through ceiling
  38. Wait for lock/hinges to rust, encourage this by breathing on them
  39. Use phone battery acid to etch way out (can’t believe it took me this long for that one)
  40. Force self to be sick, use stomach acid similarly
  41. Use clothes/poop to create fire (light via phone spark). Burn any vulnerable parts of lock/door
  42. Scrape out using finger/toenails (I have 10 years worth of nails)
  43. If I find myself in this situation I hereby pre-commit myself to using all of my available resources not to escape but to reign down hellfire remotely on whoever put me in there (avoid getting put in this situation in the first place)
  44. Realise that as an introvert I may actually be in a close approximation of heaven and live out the rest of my life in peace
  45. Use zoom/whatsapp to virtually escape, even if physical body is still stuck
  46. Place myself in suspended animation and await rescue
  47. Use belt buckle to dig way out
  48. Try the doorhandle – it is definitely locked, right?
  49. Use glasses to focus light from phone torch to melt way out 
  50. Rub hands together until sore, use saw to cut phone in half, put 2 halves together to make whole, climb out through the hole
Comment by bucky on Fermi Challenge: Trains and Air Cargo · 2020-10-06T18:44:35.488Z · LW · GW

Meta note: Spoilers don’t function correctly on compressed comments on the front page so you get to see the first few words. Generally this isn’t a problem but I can imagine there would be times that it would.

The butler did it

Comment by bucky on Fermi Challenge: Trains and Air Cargo · 2020-10-06T16:21:10.120Z · LW · GW

Argh I'm an idiot I just read magfrump's estimate and realised I forgot to include that most lines are doubles so double my estimate back to 700k! I know, that's cheating so accept my first answer.

Comment by bucky on Fermi Challenge: Trains and Air Cargo · 2020-10-06T16:08:04.167Z · LW · GW


UK railways are I estimate ~6,000 miles

  • Main routes ~2,000 miles 
    • UK is ~600 miles long and 150 miles wide
    • Multiple north-south and east-west lines
  • Minor routes ~4,000 miles
    • Not sure how to estimate these and ended up just doubling the main routes

Assuming miles of railway per capita in the UK is typical of the world this implies 700k miles of lines.

(Miles of railways per land area seems less accurate - e.g. Siberia will have loads of area but relatively few miles of railway.)

I guess the UK is actually higher than average. I think China, Japan, Europe and India have lots of railways but even then possibly less railways per capita. I think US, South America and Africa less.

I'm just going to halve it as most of the effect per capita will be driven by China and India both of which I guess are in that region.

So: 350k miles

Comment by bucky on On Destroying the World · 2020-10-02T22:16:58.723Z · LW · GW

I don’t know how many of the 2000 would do the same thing but switching to GW for the day was fairly obvious to me. On the other hand I use GW on and off so this maybe gave me an advantage but I think the post on surviving the outage suggested doing that too. Short of checking GW traffic I guess it’s hard to know how many did this.

Comment by bucky on On Destroying the World · 2020-09-30T23:04:52.721Z · LW · GW

There’s a lot of stuff I agree with here and some stuff I’d push back on but probably worth waiting for the post-mortem before going deeper.

Comment by bucky on On Destroying the World · 2020-09-30T09:29:52.371Z · LW · GW

We often distinguish between safety critical and non-safety critical components. The latter make up about 95% of components in my business and in general the thing we care most about is average performance.

In safety critical components we care about the worst component (material / manufacturing defect etc.) in e.g. 1,000,000. Otherwise >1 in 1,000,000 brakes fail and the vehicle runs someone over or drives into a canal.

The examples that you give of jokey but serious things are almost all non-safety critical things (except the dominance contest but I think that's quite a different example). If I miss that embedded agency is about something serious then that doesn't really matter - someone who makes that mistake is probably not really who it is important to make understand. The overall effect of the series is the most important thing.

My impression is that the message you sent is great for average performance (and that the most natural way to read it is as you intended) but that it isn't optimised for communicating with the biggest exception in 270. The person who shares the least common knowledge about the ritual or reads the message the fastest or has the prior you mention or a prior that the admins sometimes do pure jokes (e.g. April Fools) or whatever - that person is really the person you need to be writing for. That most people understood it correctly is largely irrelevant.

I feel like this is a huge lesson that this experience hammered home for me.

(The message changed slightly from last year to this - one section I particularly note is:

You’ve all been given the opportunity to show yourselves capable and trustworthy.

in 2019 was changed in 2020 to:

You've all been given the opportunity to not destroy LessWrong.

I'd be curious to know why this was changed as the former seems better optimised for setting expectations.)