Posts

Three more stories about causation 2020-11-03T15:51:58.820Z
cousin_it's Shortform 2019-10-26T17:37:44.390Z
Announcement: AI alignment prize round 4 winners 2019-01-20T14:46:47.912Z
Announcement: AI alignment prize round 3 winners and next round 2018-07-15T07:40:20.507Z
How to formalize predictors 2018-06-28T13:08:11.549Z
UDT can learn anthropic probabilities 2018-06-24T18:04:37.262Z
Using the universal prior for logical uncertainty 2018-06-16T14:11:27.000Z
Understanding is translation 2018-05-28T13:56:11.903Z
Announcement: AI alignment prize round 2 winners and next round 2018-04-16T03:08:20.412Z
Using the universal prior for logical uncertainty (retracted) 2018-02-28T13:07:23.644Z
UDT as a Nash Equilibrium 2018-02-06T14:08:30.211Z
Beware arguments from possibility 2018-02-03T10:21:12.914Z
An experiment 2018-01-31T12:20:25.248Z
Biological humans and the rising tide of AI 2018-01-29T16:04:54.749Z
A simpler way to think about positive test bias 2018-01-22T09:38:03.535Z
How the LW2.0 front page could be better at incentivizing good content 2018-01-21T16:11:17.092Z
Beware of black boxes in AI alignment research 2018-01-18T15:07:08.461Z
Announcement: AI alignment prize winners and next round 2018-01-15T14:33:59.892Z
Announcing the AI Alignment Prize 2017-11-04T11:44:19.000Z
Announcing the AI Alignment Prize 2017-11-03T15:47:00.092Z
Announcing the AI Alignment Prize 2017-11-03T15:45:14.810Z
The Limits of Correctness, by Bryan Cantwell Smith [pdf] 2017-08-25T11:36:38.585Z
Using modal fixed points to formalize logical causality 2017-08-24T14:33:09.000Z
Against lone wolf self-improvement 2017-07-07T15:31:46.908Z
Steelmanning the Chinese Room Argument 2017-07-06T09:37:06.760Z
A cheating approach to the tiling agents problem 2017-06-30T13:56:46.000Z
What useless things did you understand recently? 2017-06-28T19:32:20.513Z
Self-modification as a game theory problem 2017-06-26T20:47:54.080Z
Loebian cooperation in the tiling agents problem 2017-06-26T14:52:54.000Z
Thought experiment: coarse-grained VR utopia 2017-06-14T08:03:20.276Z
Bet or update: fixing the will-to-wager assumption 2017-06-07T15:03:23.923Z
Overpaying for happiness? 2015-01-01T12:22:31.833Z
A proof of Löb's theorem in Haskell 2014-09-19T13:01:41.032Z
Consistent extrapolated beliefs about math? 2014-09-04T11:32:06.282Z
Hal Finney has just died. 2014-08-28T19:39:51.866Z
"Follow your dreams" as a case study in incorrect thinking 2014-08-20T13:18:02.863Z
Three questions about source code uncertainty 2014-07-24T13:18:01.363Z
Single player extensive-form games as a model of UDT 2014-02-25T10:43:12.746Z
True numbers and fake numbers 2014-02-06T12:29:08.136Z
Rationality, competitiveness and akrasia 2013-10-02T13:45:31.589Z
Bayesian probability as an approximate theory of uncertainty? 2013-09-26T09:16:04.448Z
Notes on logical priors from the MIRI workshop 2013-09-15T22:43:35.864Z
An argument against indirect normativity 2013-07-24T18:35:04.130Z
"Epiphany addiction" 2012-08-03T17:52:47.311Z
AI cooperation is already studied in academia as "program equilibrium" 2012-07-30T15:22:32.031Z
Should you try to do good work on LW? 2012-07-05T12:36:41.277Z
Bounded versions of Gödel's and Löb's theorems 2012-06-27T18:28:04.744Z
Loebian cooperation, version 2 2012-05-31T18:41:52.131Z
Should logical probabilities be updateless too? 2012-03-28T10:02:09.575Z
Common mistakes people make when thinking about decision theory 2012-03-27T20:03:08.340Z

Comments

Comment by cousin_it on Notes on Endurance · 2020-11-27T15:58:53.013Z · LW · GW

I think endurance can sometimes be to your detriment, if people with power and authority try to manipulate you into enduring something that benefits them, when they don't have to endure much at all. I've often wished to have a little less endurance, more anger, and a stronger sense of self.

Comment by cousin_it on Writing to think · 2020-11-18T14:26:37.870Z · LW · GW

For some reason "writing to think" never worked well for me. I can only figure out stuff with nonverbal thinking and imagination, then try to put it in words.

Comment by cousin_it on Notes on Loyalty · 2020-11-16T16:24:07.896Z · LW · GW

A nice short story about loyalty is Friends in San Rosario by O. Henry.

Comment by cousin_it on When Hindsight Isn't 20/20: Incentive Design With Imperfect Credit Allocation · 2020-11-09T17:12:58.550Z · LW · GW

You could go further and say that when firms are too small, the level of trust is inefficiently low ("fly-by-night"), and when firms are too big, the level of trust is inefficiently high ("managerial feudalism").

Comment by cousin_it on Competitive Universal Basic Services? · 2020-11-09T14:32:53.080Z · LW · GW

The binary is true though: either you bid up the price of a good by subsidizing purchases, or you bid it down by collective bargaining (or you do both and they cancel each other out to some extent). Vouchers, along with measures like college loans, seem to be on the first horn of the dilemma; OP is more interested in the other horn.

Comment by cousin_it on When Hindsight Isn't 20/20: Incentive Design With Imperfect Credit Allocation · 2020-11-09T12:13:45.475Z · LW · GW

Yeah, markets aren't very nice when they have mostly one-shot, fly-by-night interactions. You could fix that with punishments, but a less wasteful alternative is reputation. Sellers of used cars can join into bigger companies that are incentivized to uphold their reputation and provide warranties; workers in critical jobs can bring references from previous jobs where they proved their quality; owners of vacation homes can benefit when Airbnb lets future renters see the reviews written by past renters.

Comment by cousin_it on Where do (did?) stable, cooperative institutions come from? · 2020-11-04T16:38:13.322Z · LW · GW

Is there some number that reflects the decline in cooperation you're seeing?

Comment by cousin_it on Notes on Piety · 2020-11-04T11:22:33.716Z · LW · GW

I think the focus on ultimate values comes from the Christian mindset. It's worth contrasting with the Greek mindset, where piety is more about actions that show respect to your gods, rulers, or parents, with an expectation of good treatment in return.

Comment by cousin_it on Three more stories about causation · 2020-11-03T23:13:31.621Z · LW · GW

The thermostat pattern is everywhere, from biology to econ to climate etc. I learned about it years ago from this article and it affected me a lot.

Comment by cousin_it on Bucket Brigade Singing · 2020-11-03T23:04:27.130Z · LW · GW

True. I've been doing this with the 4XCamera app on iPad, it's clunky and doesn't have live collaboration, but for take by take recording it's ok. I heard Acapella was better, but the subscription model turned me off.

Comment by cousin_it on Three more stories about causation · 2020-11-03T21:15:36.249Z · LW · GW

For most real-world phenomena, the graphs aren’t that regular nor repeating, so there are more hints about direction and lag.

Yeah, though I think "at fourth glance" stands as it is: in the long run any bounded function will have zero correlation with its derivative.

#3 is a communication failure—we forgot to say “compared to what” when we say “increases” risk of death.

Compared to the control group. People often measure the effect of variable X on variable Y by randomly dividing a population into experiment and control groups, intervening on X in the experiment group, and measuring the difference in Y between groups. Well, I tried to show an example where intervening on X in either direction will increase Y.

Comment by cousin_it on Three more stories about causation · 2020-11-03T20:57:05.141Z · LW · GW

Yeah. Thanks for the front door link, I'll take some time learning this!

Maybe to reformulate a bit, in the second sub-scenario my idea was that each person has a kind of "tar thermostat", which sets the desired level of tar and continually adjusts your desire to smoke. If some other factor makes you smoke more or less, it will compensate until your level of tar again matches the "thermostat setting". And the trait that determines someone's "thermostat setting" would also determine their cancer risk. Basically the system would counteract any external noise, making the statistician's job harder (though not impossible, you're right).

The third scenario, about skydiving, hints at a similar idea. The "thermostat" there is the person's desire for thrill, so if you take away skydiving, it will try to find something else.

Comment by cousin_it on Bucket Brigade Singing · 2020-11-03T16:43:30.698Z · LW · GW

Nice! My friend group was looking for just this kind of thing a few weeks ago, ideally with video as well, and saving a multiscreen recording at the end.

Comment by cousin_it on Non Polemic: How do you personally deal with "irrational" people? · 2020-11-03T16:33:24.212Z · LW · GW

One aspect of intelligence/rationality is estimating the productiveness of a conversation before it happens. Another is expressing your views in a way that sounds palatable even to those who disagree. Another is recognizing that on any given topic there are more knowledgeable people than you, and seeking them out. Another is directing most of your effort and emotion toward things you can influence. You can't learn these things from a book though, you have to practice them.

Comment by cousin_it on Notes on Honesty · 2020-11-03T09:40:52.986Z · LW · GW

Recall how he tricked Achilles into dropping his woman disguise (by sounding a war trumpet outside). That's a lie, but I can't seem to find anything wrong with it. It's not an edge case and doesn't need authorial fiat - many people have done similar tricks in reality, like the Sokal hoax.

Comment by cousin_it on Kelly Bet or Update? · 2020-11-03T09:34:41.787Z · LW · GW

“Bet or update” assumes the possibility of taking either side of the bet.

It doesn't. I wrote the "bet or update" post, so I'd know =)

Comment by cousin_it on Kelly Bet or Update? · 2020-11-03T07:59:19.645Z · LW · GW

A fun subtlety about "bet or update" that just came to my mind. If you refuse to bet that X is true, you're supposed to update enough that the bet becomes unprofitable. But that doesn't always mean updating away from X - sometimes you update toward X.

Imagine there's a million doors, with a pot of gold behind one of them. The host indicates one door and asks "would you like to bet a dollar at even odds that the gold is behind this door?" You know the host's algorithm was as follows: he selected the true door with the gold and two other random doors, then selected randomly between the three. Then you would refuse to bet (because you lose a dollar with probability 2/3) and also refuse to update away (in fact you'd update strongly toward the door being the one with the gold, as now it has probability 1/3 instead of 1/million).

Comment by cousin_it on Notes on Honesty · 2020-10-28T08:36:06.976Z · LW · GW

There seem to be two meanings of honesty: the kind that's designed to help you (avoiding boastfulness and such), which was valued by the Greeks, vs. the kind that's designed to help other people at your expense, which comes more from Christian morality. Modern defenses of honesty usually equivocate between the two. Personally I think Odysseus was pretty cool, even though he lied a lot, so a list of virtues that says "you can't be Odysseus" is a no go for me.

Comment by cousin_it on Stupid Questions October 2020 · 2020-10-28T08:08:57.808Z · LW · GW

Imagine a 2D plane where x is space and y is time. Let's say the Earth is stationary at x=0, so its trajectory is the y axis, and the metric of spacetime is "curved" near it.

We can represent the metric visually by sprinkling a bunch of sand near the y axis. Then lines of inertial movement ("geodesics") can be understood in two ways:

  1. Given a pair of points, a geodesic is the line between them with the least sand (this represents the line being shortest according to the metric).

  2. Given a starting point and velocity vector, keep moving so as to keep equal amounts of sand on your nearby left vs. nearby right - in other words, curve toward more sand.

Surprisingly, these two views are equivalent! For example, consider the geodesic from (1,0) to (1,1). It will bulge slightly away from the y axis, to avoid sand, and so at each point it will be curving toward more sand.

Now we can answer your original question. Place an object at (1,0) with velocity vector (0,1) (zero spatial velocity) and let it go. It will keep moving in the positive y direction, but curve toward the y axis where there's more sand, and eventually cross it at an angle. Then it will curve back by symmetry, and so on, oscillating back and forth in the x coordinate while moving forward in time.

Can that really be a shortest line between two points? Why not. Say the object makes one full oscillation, traveling from (1,0) to (-1,1) to (1,2). If you try to "straighten" the line by pulling on the endpoints, the midpoint will be pulled toward the y axis and catch more sand. So it might well be a local minimum.

Comment by cousin_it on Notes on Courage · 2020-10-25T18:27:17.946Z · LW · GW

I think the archetypal form of courage is courage before physical enemies. Can't say I have it permanently, but a few times in my life I managed to muster it and it feels amazing. But I have no idea how you can deliberately develop it in a safe Western country. The boxing ring gives a diluted experience, because you know there are limits and no real enmity. Things like climbing or public speaking are even more diluted, you can be good at them but turn to jelly when a street situation comes up.

Comment by cousin_it on Virtue ethics and why the rationalist community might care about it. · 2020-10-22T19:34:38.164Z · LW · GW

I think this is related to styles and stories. Like how reading Werther can make you more romantic overnight, reading Jane Austen can make you a better conversationalist, etc. It would be interesting to compile a list of stories that are effective at teaching various styles/virtues.

Comment by cousin_it on It's hard to use utility maximization to justify creating new sentient beings · 2020-10-20T11:12:58.565Z · LW · GW

Sure, but there's still a meaningful question whether you'd prefer many moderately happy puppies or few very happy puppies to exist. Maybe tomorrow you'll think of a compelling intuition one way or the other.

Comment by cousin_it on Message Length · 2020-10-20T10:28:56.457Z · LW · GW

You lay it out very nicely. But I'd quibble that as long as your nth-order Markov chain isn't exceptionally small and fully deterministic, there might be room for more explanation. Maybe there's no explanation and the data is genuinely random, but what if it's a binary encoded Russian poem? When you've exhausted all self-contained short theories, that doesn't mean the work of science is done. You also need to exhaust all analogies with everything in the world whose complexity is already "paid for", and then look at that in turn, and so on.

Comment by cousin_it on It's hard to use utility maximization to justify creating new sentient beings · 2020-10-19T23:16:19.194Z · LW · GW

I just thought of an argument that pulls toward average utilitarianism. Imagine I'm about to read a newspaper which will tell me the average happiness of people on Earth: is it 8000 or 9000 "chocolate equivalent units" per person? I'd much rather read the number 9000 rather than 8000. In contrast, if the newspaper is about to tell me whether the Earth's population is 8 or 9 billion people, I don't feel any strong hopes either way.

Of course there's selfish value in living in a more populous world, more people = more ideas. But I suspect the difficulty of finding good ideas rises exponentially with their usefulness, so the benefit you derive from larger population could be merely logarithmic.

Comment by cousin_it on Is Stupidity Expanding? Some Hypotheses. · 2020-10-16T12:10:27.656Z · LW · GW

our modern civilization, or whatever it should be called, asks the average individuals less than it asked in the past (both mentally and physically)

You're probably right about the physical part, but I don't see how the mental part can be true. A few centuries ago most people didn't even read or write, let alone learn algebra in school.

Comment by cousin_it on Industrial literacy · 2020-10-14T10:31:15.138Z · LW · GW

There's no obligation to give up gifts we don't understand - otherwise we'd have to give up sleep, and people before the discovery of oxygen would have to give up breathing. But we do have an obligation to be grateful for such gifts, which may have been the point of the post.

Comment by cousin_it on What should experienced rationalists know? · 2020-10-13T22:22:39.311Z · LW · GW

A note of caution here. Econ is one of those disciplines where many people think they grasp the fundamentals, but actually don't. I think if someone can't give worked examples (with numbers or graphs) for concepts like deadweight loss, comparative advantage, or tax incidence, their intuition probably points in subtly wrong directions, and would benefit from learning this stuff systematically.

Comment by cousin_it on "Zero Sum" is a misnomer. · 2020-10-01T19:12:38.304Z · LW · GW

Unlike "zero-sum game", a meaningful concept that the post carefully analyzes and extends, "negative-sum game" seems to have no meaning at all.

Comment by cousin_it on Against Victimhood · 2020-09-19T11:34:07.831Z · LW · GW

I mostly agree. Though it can be hard for a person to tell when this advice applies, as it's a bit absolutist, like "drink more water". Some kind of reasonable-person criterion could work here, like "if you say this is causing you X worth of problems, but you aren't taking reasonable steps that cost less than X and could help with these problems, then maybe stop complaining so much."

Comment by cousin_it on Maybe Lying Can't Exist?! · 2020-09-16T20:33:06.466Z · LW · GW

Under typical game-theoretic assumptions, we would assume all players to be strategic. In that context, it seems much more natural to suppose that all evil people would also be liars.

Why? Maybe some evil people are ok with kicking puppies but not with lying - that's part of their utility function. (If such differences in utility functions can't exist, then there's no such thing as "good" or "evil" anyway.)

Comment by cousin_it on Open & Welcome Thread - September 2020 · 2020-09-15T15:45:30.304Z · LW · GW

Wouldn't more moral uncertainty make people less certain that Communism or Nazism were wrong?

Comment by cousin_it on Social Capital Paradoxes · 2020-09-11T08:07:01.643Z · LW · GW

A free market isn’t a lawless jungle of arbitrary one-shot interactions. It’s an engineered game where participants can’t be forced into deals and should keep promises. That pushes the great mass of interactions away from “predatory” and toward “positive-sum”.

Comment by cousin_it on Maybe Lying Can't Exist?! · 2020-08-23T09:52:40.044Z · LW · GW

Wait, this doesn't seem right. Say 49% of people are good and truthful, 49% are evil and truthful, and 2% are evil liars. You meet a random person and are deciding whether to be friends with them. Apriori they're about equally likely to be good or evil. You ask "are you good?" They say "yeah". Now they are much more likely to be good than evil. So if the person is in fact an evil liar, their lie had the intended effect on you. It wasn't "priced into the equilibrium" or anything.

The technical explanation is still correct in the narrow sense - the message can be interpreted as "I'm either good or an evil liar", and it does increase the probability of "evil liar". But at the same time it increases the probability of "good" relative to "evil" overall, and often that's what matters.

Comment by cousin_it on "The Conspiracy against the Human Race," by Thomas Ligotti · 2020-08-14T20:24:05.956Z · LW · GW

Sometime ago I tried to come up with a theory to Make Sense Of It All, it went something like this - suffering is a tool of evolution, but in us evolution came up with creatures that can achieve creativity with joy instead of suffering. We're agents who should bring that change about more widely, and also living proofs-of-concept that it's possible.

Comment by cousin_it on No Ultimate Goal and a Small Existential Crisis · 2020-07-26T22:15:11.642Z · LW · GW

Not sure I can give advice on this... it feels different every time, and it probably differs between people as well. You're on your own :-/

Comment by cousin_it on No Ultimate Goal and a Small Existential Crisis · 2020-07-25T23:53:57.495Z · LW · GW

I don't think it makes sense to search for your one true love or one true calling in life. It's more of a mutual process: you encounter a person or calling, ask yourself if it could work out, then invest. There's always a free choice, a leap of faith. Isn't it nice that the world works that way, instead of funneling you to one predetermined answer?

Comment by cousin_it on A Scalable Urban Design and the Single Building City · 2020-07-25T23:05:15.162Z · LW · GW

I spent most of the lockdown in a small town by a lake and loved it. The future I'd like to see is a future where good jobs are less tied to cities, due to remote work tech like this.

Comment by cousin_it on Collection of GPT-3 results · 2020-07-24T19:11:49.457Z · LW · GW

Thank you! It looks very impressive.

Comment by cousin_it on Collection of GPT-3 results · 2020-07-19T21:54:50.553Z · LW · GW

Nono, I meant "talk its way out of the box". Have you tried something like that?

Comment by cousin_it on Collection of GPT-3 results · 2020-07-19T07:51:02.365Z · LW · GW

Has anyone tried to get it to talk itself out of the box yet?

Comment by cousin_it on Atemporal Ethical Obligations · 2020-06-28T10:30:09.583Z · LW · GW

If our children are better than us, I hope they'll offer us the same forgiveness and gratitude as we did to our parents.

Comment by cousin_it on DontDoxScottAlexander.com - A Petition · 2020-06-25T20:17:05.720Z · LW · GW

That list of names is amazing! I realize now how many like-minded people are out there, I'm not as alone as it felt before. Let's not delete it quickly, it's great that we're all able to find each other.

Comment by cousin_it on Open & Welcome Thread - June 2020 · 2020-06-04T12:16:02.369Z · LW · GW

I don't know the US situation firsthand, but it seems like it could get worse toward the election. Maybe move to Europe?

Comment by cousin_it on cousin_it's Shortform · 2020-06-04T05:19:32.041Z · LW · GW

Maybe stochastic matrix?

Comment by cousin_it on Conceptual engineering: the revolution in philosophy you've never heard of · 2020-06-03T13:35:05.869Z · LW · GW

Paper by Chalmers, maybe people will find it a good intro.

Overall I agree with your point and would even go further (not sure if you'll agree or not). My feelings about colloquial language are kind of environmentalist: I think it should be allowed to grow in the traditional way, through folk poetry and individual choices, without foisting academisms or attacking "old" concepts. Otherwise we'll just have a poor and ugly language.

Comment by cousin_it on Updated Hierarchy of Disagreement · 2020-05-29T13:04:04.497Z · LW · GW

I'd add three more levels at the bottom. The first would be about painting a target on someone: "Overheard Bob saying this terrible thing. #PopularHashtag" The next one would be about silencing: "You have been banned." And the last would be a picture of a gun.

Comment by cousin_it on What are objects that have made your life better? · 2020-05-22T07:19:51.097Z · LW · GW

Yeah. A steel string acoustic guitar is "a friend for life" as Mark Knopfler said. Another versatile instrument is the electronic keyboard.

Comment by cousin_it on What are Michael Vassar's beliefs? · 2020-05-18T22:32:39.794Z · LW · GW

I met him once and didn't feel much charisma, he just sounded overconfident about all things. I'm sure it works on some people though.

Comment by cousin_it on Why Artists Study Anatomy · 2020-05-18T22:02:08.029Z · LW · GW

Yeah. For me the aha moment came from Drawing the Head and Hands by Loomis, which is like an extended version of the post you linked. It feels great, you draw a sphere and some helper lines and end up with a realistic head from any angle.

Comment by cousin_it on Movable Housing for Scalable Cities · 2020-05-16T06:51:02.956Z · LW · GW

It seems to me that making people more mobile won't make more people exit from cities, but will instead pull people into cities. Recall how cities grow when there's a high supply of highly mobile people from poorer regions.

That said, even if cities grow a lot, I think it's possible to make rents lower. But it seems more like an economic and political problem.