Comment by childofbaud on People who want to save the world · 2011-05-15T22:53:18.129Z · LW · GW

A Google search for "using world quality as a free variable when optimizing for other purposes" yields... 0 results.

Though a search for "I don't care about the world" yields a respectable 58,600,000. If -cup is introduced in the search query, the result drops by 10,000,000 or so.

In somewhat related news, I'm starting to doubt my own heuristic.

Comment by childofbaud on People who want to save the world · 2011-05-15T22:32:05.065Z · LW · GW

A Google search for "save the world" yields 11,000,000 results. A search for "harm the world" yields 242,000. Also, the top results for the latter are framed as cautionary tales, rather than normative instructions, or communities for how to accomplish the malignant goal.

Saving the world is a very commonly expressed sentiment, which is why compiling a list of people who want to save the world seems a little redundant to me. A list about people who have saved the world might be a tad more useful.

As far as I know, an infinitesimal amount of the world population consciously sets out to be evil, or to do harm to the world. It's more a case of the road to hell being paved with good intentions. I'm pretty sure there have been many studies about this, though I'd have to dig for them again. Perhaps someone else can post them.

Neither the stated desire nor the action implies donating to charities. Even you have admitted to this in the past.

I thought your claim might be based on the replies to your HELP! I want to do good thread. In that case, I thought I should point out that no equivalent "HELP! I want to do bad" or "HELP! I want to be completely benign" threads were ever created.

One could easily verify your claim by making such posts, and counting the replies. If one wanted to be really accurate about it, one could also go through the post history of the respondants, to be sure they're not just being contentious, but truly ill-intentioned.

Extending the survey to the population at large would be similarly trivial. One could tell people on the street about a one-question survey, and if they decide to participate, alternate between: "Do you want to save/improve the world?" and "Do you want to harm the world?"

(This might be a fun exercise for the Toronto LW group, now that I think about it. Both to find the answer out for ourselves, and to get people thinking about the subject. Because thinking often precedes action. Or at least it should... )

Comment by childofbaud on List of compartmentalized people (who both win and fail at truth-seeking) · 2011-05-15T21:13:27.840Z · LW · GW

Darwin lived before Darwin too. Or before Darwinism, at any rate. An epistemic rationalist should explore and be prepared to question even the most established premises.

Comment by childofbaud on People who want to save the world · 2011-05-15T19:31:13.924Z · LW · GW

Obviousness? Exposure to at least one person who has declared their disinclination to save the world?

Point taken. The list likely won't include everyone. :-)

I interpreted the original statement as "the list won't include a significant majority", because of the context it was given in. Perhaps Giles can chip in and say whether I was mistaken.

Comment by childofbaud on People who want to save the world · 2011-05-15T18:58:43.146Z · LW · GW

But equally clearly, the list [of people who want to save the world] will not include everyone.

What are you basing this claim on?

Comment by childofbaud on People who want to save the world · 2011-05-15T18:25:38.380Z · LW · GW

Looks like if you want to save the world, you've gotta accept that you're going to lose some karma.

Seems like the stakes have lessened somewhat. Socrates lost his life doing similar things.

Comment by childofbaud on Learned Blankness · 2011-04-30T07:24:20.257Z · LW · GW

There are domains that I've found through trial and error (mostly error) that I really have no aptitude for.

How long did you try and err while testing out these domains? K. Anders Ericsson, known as the world's foremost expert on expertise, has come up with the benchmark of 10 000 hours, or 10 years, which is said to be the time it takes to achieve world-class expertise in many domains.

I suspect that so-called aptitude refers mainly to habits and skills picked up during early childhood, perhaps accidentally, which we don't remember learning, as early childhood memory is notoriously flawed. An early start towards those 10 000 hours, perhaps.

There probably are a few genetic quirks, such as syntesthesia, which might help within certain fields, such as mathematics, but from what I've read (and experienced), the notions of aptitude and talent are likely rooted in false beliefs and mistaken self-theories. Stanford's Carol Dweck has done much important research on this topic.

Comment by childofbaud on Melbourne Meetup: Friday 6th May, 6pm · 2011-04-30T07:03:18.297Z · LW · GW

I think your modesty is unwarranted. :-)

Meetups have the potential to lead to a lot of updating, positive feedback loops, and other real benefits for the attendees. I suspect that very few comments on this site, even the higher rated ones, can match them in that regard.

A little positive feedback and appreciation for the organizers has the potential to go a long way, so that they have some additional payoff for continuing to deal with the tedious logistics.

Plus, karma stands for a thousand different things already. Adding one more meaning to the list doesn't make much of a difference with such a conflated concept.

Comment by childofbaud on HELP! I want to do good · 2011-04-30T06:51:59.492Z · LW · GW

You would be right if the people at SIAI were so much cleverer than me than I would have literally nothing to contribute to their cause except money. I don't believe this is the case.

I'm not exactly sure what you mean by cleverness, but the folks at SIAI probably have more expertise than you in the "saving the world" domain, at least for now, if your own activities thus far have been limited to donating. Of course, there may be things that you haven't told us yet.

But even if your expertise is currently limited in this particular domain, this does not mean that you won't be able to catch up, or even surpass the SIAI people at some point. But it might take a while. Are you aware of this, and are you ready for that kind of commitment?

Also, I trust them, but I don't yet trust them anything like 100%.

It sounds like you are not ruling out the possibility of trusting them 100% at some point. What are the necessary conditions that must be met for this to happen?

Comment by childofbaud on HELP! I want to do good · 2011-04-30T06:38:11.561Z · LW · GW

Declaring your intention to do good is an excellent way to start. However, I'd like to know what "good" means to you, and whether it reconciles with my conception of "good", before I formally declare my allegiance. I'm looking forward to hearing more in subsequent posts.

One possible path towards improving the world may be to identify people who have already accomplished that goal within their lifetimes, examine their approach, and possibly improve on it. What people would meet this criteria for you?

Comment by childofbaud on Official Less Wrong Redesign: Call for Suggestions · 2011-04-28T03:34:39.085Z · LW · GW

This issue was indirectly addressed before by Emile, and commented on specifically in a reply to the previous by jwhendy. But it's probably an important enough usability problem to warrant its own top-level comment.

Currently the parent should have at least +6 extra upvotes going by that second link, possibly more, assuming the same people didn't upvote both. (I rescinded my vote from before, and I am now upvoting this.)

Comment by childofbaud on Official Less Wrong Redesign: Call for Suggestions · 2011-04-27T06:07:17.662Z · LW · GW

Provide optional notification of nested comment replies to the parent comment's author (beyond the initial reply).

Currently, if there is a reply to one of my comments, I receive a notice. However, if there is a reply to the reply, and so on, I don't. These grandchildren replies are often still relevant and of interest to me, however. Having the option of being notified of them would be nice.

(Alternately, this suggestion would solve the problem also, though that solution would require an additional step from the author.)

Comment by childofbaud on Official Less Wrong Redesign: Call for Suggestions · 2011-04-27T05:57:29.263Z · LW · GW

Ability to disable images in comments.

Comment by childofbaud on The benefits of madness: A positive account of arationality · 2011-04-27T05:19:53.703Z · LW · GW

But our brains can do amazing things if we let them, and are mostly not very good at math.

I think math is the most amazing thing my brain can do. Granted, it's not very good at it, but I bet it can improve with practice.

Comment by childofbaud on Epistle to the New York Less Wrongians · 2011-04-27T05:15:18.469Z · LW · GW

I think I'll lose a lot of friends here if I pollute the main LW board with my particular agenda ;-)

If figuring out how to save the world is your agenda, then I suspect it is a more common one than you think around these parts. Looking forward to your post.

Comment by childofbaud on Rationality Quotes: April 2011 · 2011-04-27T04:56:59.848Z · LW · GW

Not a big fan of this. Seems like you could replace the word "think" with many different adjectives, and it would sound good or bad depending on whether I think the adjective agrees with what I consider my virtue. For instance, replace "think" with "exercise", and I would like if I'm a regular exerciser, but if I'm not I'd wonder why I would want to waste my life exercising.

The cognitive faculties are what makes humans distinct from other species, not any particular proclivity for exercise or any other such feats. A person refusing to think is like a fish refusing to swim.

Furthermore, we often benefit from these faculties even when pursuing interests that seem completely unrelated. Many of the best athletes are also decent thinkers. They have to be able to optimize their training regime, control their diets, cross the road, etc.

Comment by childofbaud on Official Less Wrong Redesign: Call for Suggestions · 2011-04-22T06:17:04.309Z · LW · GW

One of my suggestions seems to be a subset of this one. So, whoever keeps track of these things might want to mentally add any upvotes that one gets to the parent, if they agree.

I think this would be a really neat addition, if done right. It would also lengthen the lifespan of some of the discussion threads, as they wouldn't constantly be pushed back by new, potentially irrelevant ones. (I, for one, rarely navigate beyond the first page, and there are only a few topics that I am interested in.)

This doesn't have to replace the main discussion area, by the way. It should be possible to implement viewing all the separate discussion topics on one page, but still provide the option of finer granularity for those who seek it.

Some additional, potential categories: LW Community Organizers (currently on a Google Group), Sequence Re-runs (currently strewn across the main discussion), Existential Risks, Radical Life Extension, AI Theory/Implementation, etc.

Comment by childofbaud on Official Less Wrong Redesign: Call for Suggestions · 2011-04-21T16:59:02.608Z · LW · GW

A kind of "favourite users" already exists, under the guise of "friends". (Click on PREFERENCES, then click FRIENDS on the re-rendered navigation bar.)

But it sounds like what you're suggesting is a more fine-grained personal ranking of posters. This could be useful, and it could be dangerous. It sounds like it could reinforce confirmation bias, for one.

Comment by childofbaud on Official Less Wrong Redesign: Call for Suggestions · 2011-04-21T16:38:10.168Z · LW · GW

This might be good for newbies on their first visit, but if retention is the ultimate goal, it would quickly become redundant for the regulars to click through a static front page to get to the new content.

The ABOUT link under the header already serves the purpose you suggest.

Comment by childofbaud on Official Less Wrong Redesign: Call for Suggestions · 2011-04-21T16:08:00.296Z · LW · GW

Whatever graphic design changes are performed, users should be able to revert to something resembling the old layout.

Comment by childofbaud on Official Less Wrong Redesign: Call for Suggestions · 2011-04-20T22:16:00.438Z · LW · GW

Currently, there is a way for filtering LW content to view only submissions from people on one's friends list (

This only displays original posts, though. I would like to see this extended to comments as well.

Comment by childofbaud on Official Less Wrong Redesign: Call for Suggestions · 2011-04-20T22:14:36.986Z · LW · GW

Provide separate discussion areas (subreddits?) for geographic subcommunities.

Google Groups and are currently used for this purpose by some, but this is not the most elegant solution. It sprawls LW content beyond the main site, requires learning how to use different interfaces, and puts us at the mercy of outside companies. The possibility of karma would also encourage more discussion among these groups.

Comment by childofbaud on Learned Blankness · 2011-04-20T20:48:31.274Z · LW · GW

I have observed similar behavior in others. Only I called it 'blackboxing', for lack of a better word. I think this might actually be a slightly better term than 'learned blankness', so I hereby submit it for consideration. It's borrowed from the software engineering idea of a black box abstraction.

People tend to create conceptual black boxes around certain processes, which they are remarkably reluctant to look within and explore, even when something does go wrong. This is what seems to have happened with the dishwasher incident. The dishwasher was treated as a black box. Its input was dirty dishes, its output was clean ones. When it malfunctioned, it was hard to see it as anything else. The black box was broken.

Of course, engineers and programmers often go out of their way to design highly opaque black boxes, so it's not surprising that we fall victim to this behavior. This is often said to be done in the name of simplicity (the 'user' is treated as an inept, lazy moron), but I think an additional, more surreptitious reason, is to keep profit margins high. Throwing out a broken dishwasher and buying a new one is far more profitable to a manufacturer than making it easy for the users to pick it apart and fix it themselves.

The open source movement is one of the few prominent exceptions to this that I know of.

Comment by childofbaud on Toronto Meetup, Apr 14 8pm · 2011-04-12T22:34:16.586Z · LW · GW

If noise proves to be a problem, would anyone be up for experimenting with alternate venues for future meetups? I really liked the quiet atmosphere that we had at our last meeting (until that second party showed up, anyway). But that may have been a fluke.

From what I've seen so far, pubs don't seem to be overly conducive to rational discussion, though I am aware that some people have expressed their preference for them. If nothing else, we could compromise and alternate the venue every two weeks, between a pub and something slightly less noisy.

Unfortunately I have no suggestions, since meatspace is not my specialty.

Comment by childofbaud on Rationality Quotes: April 2011 · 2011-04-08T03:48:45.881Z · LW · GW

I've tried and failed to come up with any reasonable interpretation other than my own. Please frontstab me.

Comment by childofbaud on Rationality Quotes: April 2011 · 2011-04-08T02:57:52.811Z · LW · GW

So, what do you think he meant?

I tend to judge quotes on their own merit. I thought that was the point. Do people usually look up detailed contextual information about them?

Comment by childofbaud on Rationality Quotes: April 2011 · 2011-04-08T02:37:19.908Z · LW · GW

I suppose it might be a little ambiguous. Here's my interpretation (I'm curious to hear others).

The practice of backstabbing usually refers to criticizing someone when they're not present, while feigning friendship.

Thus, "frontstabbing" would be to criticize someone openly and honestly, which is often very hard to do. Even, or perhaps especially, among friends. But it seems to be something worth aspiring towards, if one is concerned with rationality and truth.

Comment by childofbaud on Rationality Quotes: April 2011 · 2011-04-08T02:26:03.957Z · LW · GW

Can someone wager a guess why this is being downvoted?

Comment by childofbaud on Rationality Quotes: April 2011 · 2011-04-07T23:10:13.914Z · LW · GW

A domain-neutral interpretation of the same concept:

Entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity.

—William of Ockham

Comment by childofbaud on Rationality Quotes: April 2011 · 2011-04-07T22:54:59.870Z · LW · GW

A true friend stabs you in the front.

—Oscar Wilde

Comment by childofbaud on Rationality Quotes: April 2011 · 2011-04-07T22:52:41.550Z · LW · GW

I think Donald Robert Perry said it more succinctly:

“If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you; but if you really make them think they'll hate you.”

Comment by childofbaud on Rationality Quotes: April 2011 · 2011-04-07T03:46:10.688Z · LW · GW

A domain-specific interpretation of the same concept:

"The real hero of programming is the one who writes negative code."

—Douglas McIlroy

Comment by childofbaud on Rationality Quotes: April 2011 · 2011-04-05T00:07:54.045Z · LW · GW

This one's for you, Clippy:

The specialist makes no small mistakes while moving toward the grand fallacy.

—Marshall McLuhan

Comment by childofbaud on Rationality Quotes: April 2011 · 2011-04-04T20:55:09.427Z · LW · GW

And with that in mind, how would it have affected the sanity waterline if Tony had donated that $135 to an institution that's pursuing the improvement of human rationality?

Comment by childofbaud on Rationality Quotes: April 2011 · 2011-04-04T20:35:37.863Z · LW · GW

Is it bad if you're addicted to good things?

Comment by childofbaud on Toronto Meetup - Thursday, March 31st, 8:00 PM · 2011-03-31T21:42:09.668Z · LW · GW

People taking the TTC: get off at the St. George subway station, walk out the Bedford exit, and head east on Prince Arthur Avenue. The pub is located on the north side. See you there!

Comment by childofbaud on Anki on Android in 60 seconds · 2011-03-19T17:02:34.923Z · LW · GW

Oops! I already have Anki running, so I only skimmed the original post, and I must've missed it. Plus, I've heard of Divia's deck from an alternate source (IRC), so it wasn't intentional redundancy.

Other than Divia's deck, the one Nazgulnarsil is talking about is available by searching for "List of Cognitive Biases and Fallacies". I'm not aware of any others.

On a related note, the titles of your Anki posts seem incomplete. It might be good to mention the LW-specific deck, since you make it part of the instructions and because it could be a major incentive to start using Anki for some of the people here.

Comment by childofbaud on Anki on Android in 60 seconds · 2011-03-19T12:16:04.296Z · LW · GW

There certainly is a bit of an art to learning from textbooks on one reading.

Sounds more like magic to me. I've seen research quoted recently that indicated people retain only about 2% of a book after a month of reading it through once.

Edit: Further elaboration, prompted by the downvote:

How do you reinforce understanding of earlier material without referring back to it?

And if you do refer back to it, can it still be called one reading?

Plus, If you periodically expose yourself to the same information multiple times, it's not much different from using a SRS, though one could claim it's less efficient, especially in the long run.

The sentence I quoted seemed to be making a claim for eidetic memory, hence my skepticism.

Comment by childofbaud on Anki on Android in 60 seconds · 2011-03-19T12:11:59.114Z · LW · GW

Go to File > Download > Shared Deck.

Search for "less wrong".

You should have Divia's deck for the Mysterious Questions sequence come up.

Comment by childofbaud on Less Wrong NYC: Case Study of a Successful Rationalist Chapter · 2011-03-18T14:24:05.622Z · LW · GW

Pickup at the right end of the bell curve looks like this:

"If I were to ask you out, would your answer to that question be the same as the answer to this one?"

(Disclaimer: I didn't make it up. I saw it somewhere else on this site, long time ago.)

Comment by childofbaud on Less Wrong NYC: Case Study of a Successful Rationalist Chapter · 2011-03-18T13:39:26.846Z · LW · GW

A compromise might be to call people by a descriptive term, such as the ones DavidAgain suggests, describe their accomplishments and effect on the external world in detail (much as you have done in your original post), and leave it up to the reader to decide on the magnitude of their impact, and their virtue.

The only downside to this approach is that it wouldn't make for such "good writing" to some.

I guess what I'm really suggesting here is to tone down the rhetoric. I understand that some people might be impelled into action by it, but I think it's approaching Dark Arts territory.

Comment by childofbaud on How to Be Happy · 2011-03-18T13:16:03.764Z · LW · GW

His concerns are valid usability concerns. Then again, so are yours.

I don't think blaming each other is the solution.

Instead, we could blame the shortcomings of the platform we are interacting on. And, if we were technically inclined, fix them.

But at any rate, and with all its flaws, the current platform is still better than nothing. :-)

Comment by childofbaud on Less Wrong NYC: Case Study of a Successful Rationalist Chapter · 2011-03-18T12:55:11.666Z · LW · GW

To be fair, some chefs, doctors, artists and authors are excellent at what they do, some are mediocre, and some may have a downright negative impact.

Comment by childofbaud on Less Wrong NYC: Case Study of a Successful Rationalist Chapter · 2011-03-18T01:43:49.035Z · LW · GW

Real heroes are the sorts of things we expect to find in escapist fantasy, but we live in the real world where promises of status really do get certain people off their duff and acting on important problems.

Okay, but if you strip away all these noble qualities away from a hero, what meaning is there left for the term?

It seems to me that there is some semantic sleight of hand going on here.

On the one hand, you are deflating the term hero of its original meaning. On the other hand, you are still counting on people using it in its original sense, otherwise it wouldn't be a high-status title.

As a result, you are deceiving both this so-called hero, as well as any of his potential followers.

Don't you think using an alternate, more descriptive term would avoid this deception and, at the same time, do away with the implied helplessness of the rest of the participants?

Like, say, I don't know... organizer? :-)

And once again, organizer is not a low status title. Except perhaps when put side by side with the hyperbolic term of hero. But you've just dismissed the latter into the realm of escapist fantasy. So why continue using it in the real world?

Comment by childofbaud on Less Wrong NYC: Case Study of a Successful Rationalist Chapter · 2011-03-18T00:49:01.415Z · LW · GW

Well, someone has to get the ball rolling and, speaking in general, and not about my own particular case, I think calling people who do that hard work by high status titles is a good idea - starting a good community should be thought of as a good and noble thing. OTOH, your point about everyone being potentially useful is true, but as Eliezer talked about in the latest chapter of Methods, the solution is to try to get everyone to be a hero, not to deny the existence of heroes.

But real heroes shouldn't need the promise of a high status title to get the ball rolling.

Isn't one of their many attributed qualities selflessness?

They may even be dissuaded by such high-status titles, since one of their many other positive attributes is modesty.

And what exactly is low status about organizer? It is an extremely crucial role.

Comment by childofbaud on Less Wrong NYC: Case Study of a Successful Rationalist Chapter · 2011-03-17T23:30:39.618Z · LW · GW

Ditto for Toronto.

We're still in the early stages (only two meetups behind us), but things are looking good so far.

Comment by childofbaud on Less Wrong NYC: Case Study of a Successful Rationalist Chapter · 2011-03-17T23:05:25.879Z · LW · GW

I am choosing to interpret this as meaning that you have chosen to be the hero. I'm so glad!

I don't like the designation of hero, because it implies the rest of the participants are helpless and in need of saving. And if we tell that to people, they might just start believing it--or continue believing it. I think we should stick with organizer.

This is not to detract from the accomplishments of these original organizers. Kudos to them, and to the original post, which is both informative and motivational.

(And by the way, I'm sorry to pick on you lukeprog. You were just extending the metaphor established in the OP. But that continuation was what made me notice. )

Comment by childofbaud on How to improve the public perception of the SIAI and LW? · 2011-03-10T04:49:26.156Z · LW · GW

That would undermine whatever value the whole karma system may have at this point. Not punishing, or perhaps even rewarding mediocre posts seems likely to encourage complacency on behalf of the users.

A race to the bottom would likely ensue as well, since new negative achievements would become possible: who can get away with the most trolling? Who can get the most karma with the least effort?

In fact, I think the system, and most people, are far too lenient already, on the whole.

I wonder if posts shouldn't start out with a slight negative value from the outset, to reflect their high potential for introducing arbitrary complexity (noise) into the established information pool (mostly signal... though that may be up for debate) of the site.

Another idea: the more posts a user makes, the greater that initial negative value should be, to reflect the higher standard that is expected of them as time goes by. :-)

Yeah, that would require pretty complex algorithms.

Comment by childofbaud on College Selection Advice · 2011-03-10T04:20:37.340Z · LW · GW

A general suggestion is to not put too much emphasis on money. The good schools will work with you, and if you demonstrate financial need, they will shoulder at least some of the burden.

Furthermore, student loans may seem scary, but graduating from a top tier school with loans is often preferable to graduating from a more mediocre one in the black, because your earning potential will be that much greater. There are websites that track graduate salaries according to alma mater. The difference is often quite large, even more so when you consider how it adds up over the years.

Plus there are all the intangible benefits you will obtain from the more prestigious institutions. Access to world-class faculty and facilities, beneficial social opportunities while on campus and alumni networks afterwards, the brand name of the school, etc.

What do you mean by flexibility?

Comment by childofbaud on Well-done documentary on the singularity: 'Transcendent Man' · 2011-03-07T17:33:43.661Z · LW · GW

There is no evidence that he could get a lot of money differently.

I'm not all that familiar with Yudkowsky's accomplishments, but let's see... He can read, he can write, he can compute. And from what I can tell, he can do all of these things rather well. They may seem basic skills, but it's no coincidence that they make up the three constituent parts of most modern academic standardized tests (GRE, SAT, ACT, etc.). And very few people bother to actually master those skills, or to keep them sharp.

He can bring people together and shape communities (e.g., SIAI, lesswrong). He can do original research. He can synthesize information. He has highly developed skills of elocution and is very good at methodically picking apart people's flawed arguments, while defending his own comparatively sound ones (look him up on He can popularize esoteric and implausible-sounding ideas.

This is likely not an exhaustive list, but it wouldn't be out of the question to monetize even a lesser subset of these skills, if he was so inclined. And if he was really desperate, he could peruse the Optimal Employment thread for inspiration.