Want to be on TV? 2013-03-26T23:00:56.142Z · score: 7 (17 votes)
Post-college: changing nature of friend interactions 2013-01-09T22:26:00.032Z · score: 19 (21 votes)
Evaporative cooling of group beliefs: current example 2011-12-31T21:21:22.949Z · score: 19 (22 votes)
Political impasse as result of different odds ratios 2011-11-19T20:01:36.818Z · score: 5 (11 votes)
Planning fallacy in the NYTimes 2011-09-16T22:57:18.409Z · score: 4 (7 votes)
Counting upvotes/downvotes 2011-08-07T04:37:37.523Z · score: 17 (19 votes)
Selecting optimal group projects and roles 2011-08-06T17:50:36.561Z · score: 2 (21 votes)
Raise the Age Demographic 2011-08-06T17:10:08.420Z · score: 4 (32 votes)
Searching for: Patri's post on abandoning violent revolution 2011-06-27T16:44:13.107Z · score: 1 (2 votes)
Community roles: committees and leadership 2011-06-23T15:54:31.060Z · score: 7 (21 votes)
Community roles: teachers and auxiliaries 2011-06-22T10:52:57.206Z · score: 7 (25 votes)
The elephant in the room, AMA 2011-05-12T14:59:41.657Z · score: 22 (48 votes)
Designing Rationalist Projects 2011-05-12T03:38:21.206Z · score: 30 (51 votes)
Holy Books (Or Rationalist Sequences) Don’t Implement Themselves 2011-05-10T07:15:54.207Z · score: 32 (54 votes)
Building rationalist communities: a series overview 2011-05-09T15:15:34.190Z · score: 21 (33 votes)
Building rationalist communities: lessons from the Latter-day Saints 2011-05-09T15:14:53.295Z · score: 15 (40 votes)


Comment by calcsam on Living accommodations for my possibly deconverted Mormon friend · 2012-09-19T00:33:07.940Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

His parents seem rather judgmental, and typically returning early isn't well received in the Mormon community in general either. Is he in need of people to bounce ideas off of, who understand where he's coming from?

I would be happy to talk to him, or meet him in person if he's still in CA (I'm in the Bay Area). I'm Mormon but have had lots of struggles with my own faith and am quite comfortable talking with (listening to) doubters on their own terms -- or atheists, see any of my LW posts.

If he'd like to talk to me, I don't come here often, but my e-mail is my username

The most extensively I've written on my struggles with faith is here:

Comment by calcsam on [Draft] How to Run a Successful Less Wrong Meetup · 2012-03-30T07:59:56.003Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It's good to see someone organize the relevant information and make it actionable. Good job lukeprog and Kaj_Sotala!

Comment by calcsam on Political impasse as result of different odds ratios · 2011-11-27T19:40:04.035Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks. My model is this, though that is more about election than governance.

Comment by calcsam on What mathematics to learn · 2011-11-25T01:02:13.825Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The main question which is important here: why do you want to learn mathematics?

Comment by calcsam on Might I ask for some advice? · 2011-11-18T10:12:41.020Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I suggest reading this Paul Graham essay:

Do you think Shakespeare was gritting his teeth and diligently trying to write Great Literature? Of course not. He was having fun. That's why he's so good.

If you want to do good work, what you need is a great curiosity about a promising question. The critical moment for Einstein was when he looked at Maxwell's equations and said, what the hell is going on here?

It can take years to zero in on a productive question, because it can take years to figure out what a subject is really about....The way to get a big idea to appear in your head is not to hunt for big ideas, but to put in a lot of time on work that interests you, and in the process keep your mind open enough that a big idea can take roost

Comment by calcsam on How to Build Your Post · 2011-10-26T23:45:38.414Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you are measuring Flesch-Kincaid on Word it often only goes up to 12.0, so if you are getting that for Word, all you know is that you are at the top of the grade-level scale.

When I was an editor for my college newspaper I would show this tool to my writers, and encourage them to aim for like 10 or 9.

Comment by calcsam on Resetting my perception of something · 2011-10-18T23:49:53.967Z · score: 5 (11 votes) · LW · GW

This might sound obvious, but:

Spending time frequently with different groups of friends with different value systems, each of which (you believe) has an accurate map of different parts of the world.

My experience:

My rationalist friends help me inject more empiricism/anti-happy-death-spiral memes into my church experience; my church friends help me keep other memes like "non-smart people are still worthwhile," "actions perceived as demonstrating character and virtue aren't all just signalling," and of course the "no sex, no drugs" purity meme.

I am in favor of all of the preceding memes but tend to forget each of them over time if I spend too long in a community that doesn't observe them.

Comment by calcsam on Morality is not about willpower · 2011-10-08T06:46:12.293Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This seems to be the crux of your distinction.

Under the willpower theory, morality means the struggle to consistently implement a known set of rules and actions.

Whereas under the taste theory, morality is a journey to discover and/or create a lifestyle fitting your personal ethical inclinations.

We should not ask "which is right?" but "but how much is each right? In what areas?"

I'm not sure of the answer to that question.

Comment by calcsam on The effects of religion (draft) · 2011-09-29T23:52:44.901Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You're correct.

Comment by calcsam on The effects of religion (draft) · 2011-09-29T23:18:37.604Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

One good study on religion and charitable giving is Arthur C. Brooks, Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism.

Comment by calcsam on Which Fields Are Underserved? · 2011-09-15T18:39:07.977Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Consider Le Corbusier, Robert Moses, etc. These men combined methods which claimed to be scientific. Corbusier tried to maximize population density; Moses, to maximize road construction.

But they were working in very intricate, complicated systems and ignored the effects that maximizing their favorite metric would have on everything else. They dictated everything from the center and ignored local knowledge.

This is what we call dangerous knowledge.

The failure of these methods -- "the projects" housing inspired by Corbusier, Moses's neighborhood destruction, helped trigger -- as far as I understand -- the current focus on aesthetics and intuition. It's a reaction to that, a "risk-averse" strategy to picking the wrong metrics and trying to maximize/minimize them.

A parallel example might be Robert McNamara and the whiz kids turning into the Best and the Brightest in Vietnam.

Comment by calcsam on Tool ideology · 2011-09-09T23:05:08.736Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW


Exchanges are easier to follow if you bold the person speaking.

Comment by calcsam on Safety can be dangerous · 2011-09-07T05:39:23.020Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Also, this is technically not correct:

The FDA is supposed to approve new drugs and procedures if the expected benefits outweigh the expected costs. If they actually did this, the number of people saved by new drugs would be roughly equal to the number killed by them

Actually, if the FDA really did this the marginal -- in this case, most-dangerous -- drug approved should kill as many people as it save. But since every drug before that would save more people as it killed, on net there should be more people saved than killed.

Comment by calcsam on Safety can be dangerous · 2011-09-07T05:35:01.495Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

[libertarian alert]

I'm not sure the drug example is a safety problems per se, it looks more like an incentive problem to me.

If an FDA official approves a bad drug that kills 1000 people/year, he probably gets canned. If he rejects a good drug that would have saved 1000 lives/year...well, no one including him will actually know how many lives it would have saved, and he will take his paycheck home and sleep soundly at night.

Can you come up with an example that doesn't involve government?

Comment by calcsam on [LINK] People are biased against creativity · 2011-09-06T05:40:04.897Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The rationalist viewpoint seems to add a key point that is missing in the acutal article: the motivation why people would say they desire creativity. Signalling, of course.

Comment by calcsam on What Direct Instruction is · 2011-09-05T05:57:08.937Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

You're right, writing concisely is definitely a learned skill.

I became pretty good at it, but that's only through practice and helpful editors at my college student newspaper and a couple of newspaper internships. If you want to improve your professional writing skills, find a place where you can practice and people will point out your flaws so you can improve. LessWrong can definitely serve that function.

Glad you have a thick skin, glad you could start a useful conversation, and hope to see more of you in the future!

Comment by calcsam on Human Evil and Muddled Thinking · 2011-08-27T16:01:26.607Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

:The German text of the taped police examination, each page corrected and approved by EIchmann, constitutes a veritable gold mine for a psychologist - provided he is wise enough to understand that the horrible can be not only ludicrous but outright funny. Some of the comedy cannot be conveyed in English, because it lies in Eichmann's heroic fight with the Germna language, which invariably defeats him. It is funny when he speaks, passim, of "winged words" (geflugelte Worte, a Gemran colloquialism of famous quotes from the classics) when we means stock phrases, Redensarten, or slogans, Schlagworte....

Dimly aware of a defect that much have plagued him even in school, he apologized, saying "Officialese [Amtssprache] is my own language. But the point here is that officialese became his language because he was genuinely incapable of uttering a single sentence that was not a cliche...

Eichmann's mind was filled to the brim with such statements.....his memory proved to be quite unreliable about what had actually happen; the [reason], of course, was that Eichmann remembered the turning points in his own career rather well, but they did not necessarily correspond to the turning points in the Jewish extermination or, as a matter of fact, with a lot of the turning points in the history....

But the point of the matter is that he had not forgotten a single one of his sentences that at one time or another had served to give him 'elation'. Hence, whenever, during the cross-examination, the judged tried to appeal to his conscience, they were met with 'elation,' and they were outrage and disconcerted when they learned that at his disposal he had a different elating cliche for each period of his life and each of his activities..." (Eichmann in Jerusalem, Hannah Arendt, Chapter III)

Comment by calcsam on Polyhacking · 2011-08-27T15:16:21.516Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting. Very vivid insight into how the hacking was accomplished. A question I have from the outside looking in is about motivation, what makes people want to be poly in the first place?

Alicorn, you said that your primary motivation was MBlume. (Or generalized, 'a specific person.') MBlume, what was your primary motivation?

Other poly people please feel free to reply also.

Comment by calcsam on A History of Bayes' Theorem · 2011-08-26T21:55:52.665Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That is helpful, thanks!

Not necessarily these specific examples, but some complex example.

I'm not sure if I would buy a textbook, but I would definitely read a link. Others likely fall into this category.

Comment by calcsam on A History of Bayes' Theorem · 2011-08-25T18:29:42.863Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Alan Turing used it to decode the German Enigma cipher and arguably save the Allies from losing the Second World War; the U.S. Navy used it to search for a missing H-bomb and to locate Soviet subs; RAND Corporation used it to assess the likelihood of a nuclear accident; and Harvard and Chicago researchers used it to verify the authorship of the Federalist Papers.

I haven't seen any explanation of how these kinds of things were done, including calculations. Eliezer's Intuitive Explanation is good, of course, but the examples are very basic. Anything that is notable, even if it's just a published paper, would (I presume) involve data sets and more complex calculations. Does anyone have any good links to complex examples where they actually go through the math and make it easy to follow?

(I would like to understand this better; plus my father, a molecular biologist, asked me to explain Bayes' Theorem and how to use it to him.)

Comment by calcsam on LessWrong as place for scientifically literate advice · 2011-08-19T16:57:32.307Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I would be unable to tell that you weren't a native speaker upon cursory reading, if you didn't mention it.

Comment by calcsam on The Goal of the Bayesian Conspiracy · 2011-08-16T05:03:53.812Z · score: 2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

We have neither the numbers, the organizational skill, nor the social skills to be good at this. There is a joke that organizing libertarians is like herding cats and the same principle seems to be partly true here for the same reason: Lw draws a lot of smart contrarian people. Unless there is a technological way to conquer the world, say the Singularity, but that demands an entirely different organizational strategy, namely channeling all efforts into FAI.

Comment by calcsam on The Goal of the Bayesian Conspiracy · 2011-08-16T00:59:12.706Z · score: 8 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Not feasible. Let's aim for a more modest goal, say, better PR and functional communities.

Moreover, not this community's comparative advantage. Why do we think we'd be any better than anyone else at running the world? And why wouldn't we be subject to free-riders, power-seekers, and rationalists-of-fortune if we started winning?

Comment by calcsam on Selecting optimal group projects and roles · 2011-08-10T06:57:28.335Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This thread illustrates my point.

Comment by calcsam on Raise the Age Demographic · 2011-08-07T16:51:04.333Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, that makes sense. I guess we were just using the same word to refer to different things ^.^

Comment by calcsam on Raise the Age Demographic · 2011-08-07T14:47:26.273Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

the latter requires a lot more effort from the inductee

I object here. I can't comment on all religions, but here are the things we would ask people to do, mandatory if they wanted to join the LDS church:

  • No premarital/extramarital sex (one woman we helped work through a really messy divorce to a man she was separated from and marry her boyfriend who she was living with.)
  • No porn
  • No tea/coffee (and everyone in India is addicted to this)
  • No alcohol
  • No smoking
  • Give tithing, ie, 10% of your income
  • Resolve any job time conflicts so you can come to church on Sundays

...and more, but the other ones weren't mandatory, and some like treating wives as equals, were more difficult to enforce.

Comment by calcsam on Raise the Age Demographic · 2011-08-07T14:39:20.033Z · score: 5 (13 votes) · LW · GW

The whole reason I'm writing this series is that I believe LessWrong is providing them with value, and I want it to continue doing so. However, if it doesn't grow it will be unable to do so. People have made the comment in regard to specific tactics I suggested that they would cause the group to stop adding value, which I think is a legitimate counterargument. Do you have a specific argument here you would like to outline?

Being this suspicious of the motives of people who come to your group is not a great way to encourage growth, either.

Comment by calcsam on Raise the Age Demographic · 2011-08-07T03:42:07.084Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That was my parents' reaction, too (at Tortuga). My father is a molecular biology professor.

Comment by calcsam on Raise the Age Demographic · 2011-08-07T02:13:33.696Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Shannon Friedman helps host the Tortuga meetups, and she is married to patrissimo.

Comment by calcsam on Selecting optimal group projects and roles · 2011-08-07T01:50:48.330Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This could be true, but I don't think so. In my experience, church size is much more strongly influenced by other factors, like how leadership draws the boundary lines between church units, and which geographic area people who are already current members decide to move into. That said, you have the perfect test.

Comment by calcsam on Book of Mormon Discussion · 2011-08-04T05:24:07.775Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Story resolution: Arandur and I will discuss the Book of Mormon together with an atheist columnist friend of mine, practicing Examining Your Belief's Real Weak Points, Crisis of Faith, etc, etc. Problem solved.

Comment by calcsam on Stanford Intro to AI course to be taught for free online · 2011-07-30T21:26:23.430Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think a lot of learning comes in the assignments here...I have vivid memories of friends pulling all-nighters every night to finish their assignments for this class.

Comment by calcsam on Am I obligated to reread the Book of Mormon? · 2011-07-30T03:00:30.982Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I thought he was on blog-reading hiatus?

Comment by calcsam on Am I obligated to reread the Book of Mormon? · 2011-07-29T07:29:25.531Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Unrelated to the current question but for the sociological record, I would like to point out that there are three Mormons on this blog (me, JohnF, and Arandur), none of us no each other in real life, and I detect no active, believing members of any other religion on LessWrong. (Swimmer963 doesn't believe so she doesn't count.)

If you want to compromise, read Alma 32 verses 21-46, 2 Nephi 2, Alma 7, Alma 42, and Moroni 10. They are probably the most interesting chapters from an intellectual perspective, and total about 8 pages of a 520-page book.

Comment by calcsam on Developing Empathy · 2011-07-24T15:51:36.613Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Active listening: specifically, the restating part; when someone expresses something, replying, "So you're feeling X because of Y." The act of doing this puts you in their shoes because you're trying to put their emotions in your words.

Comment by calcsam on The limits of introspection · 2011-07-18T03:26:46.650Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Get it. Thanks. Good question.

Comment by calcsam on The limits of introspection · 2011-07-17T14:29:01.452Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Confused, could you elaborate?

Comment by calcsam on The limits of introspection · 2011-07-16T23:56:34.721Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Solution: use large N by watching for recurring patterns in oneself, instead of trying to say too much about any particular data point.

Comment by calcsam on Rationalist approach to developing Writing skills · 2011-07-14T22:13:49.034Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Someone of equal or greater ability who can clearly explain their judgments.

Editors in a formal journalistic setting carry responsibility; if something is difficult to understand, wrong, or badly worded they're on the hook. Whereas a friend is more likely to say 'Oh that's nice' for fear of offending you.

Comment by calcsam on Rationalist approach to developing Writing skills · 2011-07-14T16:58:21.924Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Also, if anyone wants to try this out, I can probably hook you up with one of the internships I did. It's a pretty sweet gig, you will learn a lot with a great editor in a small office. The only qualification is being reasonably intelligent. PM me.

Comment by calcsam on Rationalist approach to developing Writing skills · 2011-07-14T16:42:17.192Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In a nutshell: write a lot for helpful editors.

For two years, several hours a week, I wrote or edited for my college newspaper (The Stanford Daily) and then spent eight months working full-time in journalism internships.

I was exploring a career path but my writing skills ended up far, far better. As one commenter noted, my style tends toward "plain," "simple" and "concise." This is a reflection of my journalistic training.

My newspaper writings.

Comment by calcsam on An Outside View on Less Wrong's Advice · 2011-07-04T13:19:12.846Z · score: 15 (15 votes) · LW · GW

It would be really convenient if rationality, the meme-cluster that we most enjoy and are best-equipped to participate in, also happened to be the best for winning at life.

I think this is the strongest point in the whole argument.

Data point: I brought my parents to a Mountain View LW meetup. My parents aren't religious, and my dad is a biochemist that studies DNA repair mechanisms; they define themselves by their skepticism and emphasis on science. So the perfect target audience. But they seemed unenthusiastic, that it was by and for tech-savvy smart young adults but not really for the population as a whole.

This is the most coherent argument I\ve seen against memeticizing Less Wrong. Thank you.

Comment by calcsam on Community roles: committees and leadership · 2011-06-27T16:32:06.996Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Point taken, thanks.

Comment by calcsam on Community roles: teachers and auxiliaries · 2011-06-23T05:19:54.391Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

This looks to me to be a recipe for adhering to a standard set of documents and roles, not a recipe for empirically investigating reality as it is, together with other investigators.

Reasonable. However, this doesn't make it unuseful as an example. The set of instructions on how to run a McDonalds, for example, is an exceedingly efficient piece of, essentially, software. (Which can be seen in how widely it has propagated.) Likewise here.

Comment by calcsam on Discussion: Socially Awkward Penguin as a tool for unraveling social enigmas · 2011-06-23T02:20:11.446Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I've been reading Keith Johnstone's book on drama which has some great examples of this. Highly recommended. Since then, from time to time I ask, "What would a high-status person do here?" and do it. Sometimes I want to lower my status and reverse the question.

Comment by calcsam on Foma: Beliefs that Cause Themselves to be True · 2011-06-23T02:10:51.192Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I should have been more specific.

I think you are right, pertaining to purely intellectual topics such as asymmetric cryptography.

But with social interaction where most of the stuff goes on under the conscious level and we have lots of built-in heuristics, I think being around people who are good at skill X is very useful, as long as you observe them and frequently ask, how did you do that?

Comment by calcsam on Foma: Beliefs that Cause Themselves to be True · 2011-06-21T16:12:33.490Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe the more pressing problem is not making LW look bad, but that this may not be a particularly effective way to learn social skills.

The easiest way to learn pattern of behavior X is to spend lots of time around people who exhibit a high level of X.

(Social skills, or character traits like generosity or patience, recovery from addictive behaviors, etc.)

Comment by calcsam on The genetic cost of tyranny · 2011-06-12T23:57:39.791Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Consider intelligence. Different people have different levels of intelligence. A lot of the difference is genetic. Research has progressed far enough that we can approximate the (standard deviation/mean) ratio.

What about altruism?

Comment by calcsam on Teachable Rationality Skills · 2011-06-04T22:28:23.543Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I am actually reading that book now. Thanks!

Comment by calcsam on The elephant in the room, AMA · 2011-06-02T17:25:03.833Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Probably the emphasis on Hinduism, Buddhism, etc are correlated with the amount of time the religion has been around. When William James wrote his landmark treatise, there were like ~300,000 Mormons concentrated in an isolated territory in the American West.

This is a pretty good article on the subject. It is called "Spiritual Experiences as a Basis for Belief and Commitment."

When we approach people who are not LDS and ask them to consider what we have to offer, we don't suggest that we offer a superior theology of axioms and propositions (though I would suggest we have a compelling and beautiful theology and we may even share with them our best take on how our theology works for us). And we don't try to persuade them through arguments from scripture that we can read the Bible better than they can, or that we have the best reading of scripture based on the most recent biblical scholarship (though we definitely will share our scriptures with them and will do our best to get them to read scripture, and I believe we have a persuasive reading of the texts). In fact, the last thing on earth we would do is send out a bunch of 19 year olds to argue with people about the Bible if that's what we were serious about. Now, we don't try to persuade them that we have overwhelming empirical evidence to demonstrate that we're right (though we may offer them empirical evidence). Rather, what we offer is a way to enter into an interpersonal relationship directly with God to get answers directly from God. We don't say, "Trust me and my brain and how well I can argue;" we say, "Despite the fact that I'm not such a great instrument, you can get it for yourself and you don't have to rely on me."

We are rather like the first disciples in the Gospel of John who, when they met Jesus and saw, went to their closest friends and family members and said, simply, "Come and see."