Presentation on Learning 2011-11-17T17:30:56.946Z
Intrapersonal negotiation 2011-01-23T23:02:38.972Z
One Chance (a short flash game) 2010-12-14T22:50:52.864Z


Comment by datadataeverywhere on Open Thread, September 15-30, 2012 · 2012-09-18T04:00:32.496Z · LW · GW

Indeed, I misinterpreted you in multiple ways. My model went something like "Jayson_Virissimo is currently working 60-80 hours a week on his start-up. Once it exceeds ramen-profitability, he intends to scale back his efforts to become a full-time student." How very foolish of me!

Comment by datadataeverywhere on Checking for the Programming Gear · 2012-09-18T02:19:06.098Z · LW · GW

I certainly hope that I'm not confused about my word choice. I write compilers for a living, so I might be in trouble if I don't understand elementary terms.

In all seriousness, my use of the word "scope" was imprecise, because the phenomenon I'm describing is more general than that. I don't know of a better term though, so I don't regret my choice. Perhaps you can help? Students that I've seen have difficulty with variable substitution seem to have difficulty with static scoping as well, and vice versa. To me they feel like different parts of the same confusion.

In a related note, I once took some of my students aside who where having great difficulty getting static scoping, and tried to teach them a bit of a dynamically-scoped LISP. I had miserable results, which is to say that I don't think the idea of dynamic scope resonated with them any more than static scope; I was hoping maybe it would, that there were "dynamic scoping people" and "static scoping people". Maybe there are; my experiment is far from conclusive.

EDIT: Hilariously, right after I wrote this comment the newest story on Hacker News was, "Actually, YOU don't understand lexical scope!". To be honest, the coincidence of the headline gave me a bit of a start.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on Open Thread, September 15-30, 2012 · 2012-09-18T02:04:12.628Z · LW · GW

A little. As your income increases, I expect your consumption to become more expensive in monetary terms, but as your business grows I expect the value of your time to increase and for your consumption patterns to become less expensive in terms of time. College is very expensive in terms of time.

I'm not saying this is a bad choice, but it is one that surprises me. I'm still interested in the answers to my questions. Do you intend to sell your start-up, have it run itself, or abandon it? It seems like those options cover the gamut (I might consider requiring < 40 hours a week of your time to be "running itself"; if you're quite dedicated, you could probably fit being a full-time student in even with the start-up taking 40+ hours of your time, making that an alternative option).

Comment by datadataeverywhere on Checking for the Programming Gear · 2012-09-16T20:19:10.504Z · LW · GW

My post didn't indicate this, but the most common source of scope is functions; calling a function starts a new scope that ends when the function returns. Especially in this case, it does often make sense to use the same variable name:

posterior = ApplyBayes(prior, evidence)
function ApplyBayes(prior, evidence) = { ... }

Will have prior=prior, evidence=evidence, and is a good naming scheme. But in most languages, modifying 'evidence' in the function won't affect the value of 'evidence' outside the scope of the function. This sometimes becomes confusing to students when the function above gets called like so:

posterior = ApplyBayes(prior, evidence1)
posterior = ApplyBayes(posterior, evidence2)
posterior = ApplyBayes(posterior, evidence3)

Because their previous model relied on the names being the same, rather than the coincidence of naming being merely helpful.

Overall, I would say that this is still a fertile source of errors, but in some situations the alternative is to have less readable code, which is also a fertile source of errors and makes fixing them more difficult.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on Open Thread, September 15-30, 2012 · 2012-09-16T03:14:38.871Z · LW · GW

...going back to school to study computer science (if my start-up succeeds before then).

That's amusing. Usually I would say the value of the founder being present is much higher for a successful company than one that has failed. I would actually expect my freedom to pursue other avenues diminish as my success in my current avenue grows.

Do you mean that your start-up, if successful, will pretty much run itself? Or that if it hasn't succeeded /yet/, then you will feel obligated to stay and keep working on it?

Comment by datadataeverywhere on Open Thread, September 15-30, 2012 · 2012-09-16T03:08:03.951Z · LW · GW

Of all my flaws, I currently consider my bias to thought (and study, research, etc.) over action my greatest. I suspect that LessWrong attracts many (a disproportionate number of) such people.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on Checking for the Programming Gear · 2012-09-15T06:44:17.777Z · LW · GW

Not too long ago, I lost a week of work and was able to recompose it in the space of an afternoon. It wasn't the same line-for-line, but it was the same design and probably even used the same names for most things, and was roughly 10k LOC. So if I had recent or substantial experience, I can see expecting a 10x speedup in execution. That's pretty specific though; I don't think I have ever had the need to write something that was substantially similar to anything else I'd ever written.

Domain experience is vital, of course. If you have to spend all your time wading through header files to find out what the API is or discover the subtle bugs in your use of it, writing just a small thing will take painfully long. But even where I never have to think about these things I still pause a lot.

One thing that is different is that I make mistakes often enough that I wait for them; working with one of these people, I noticed that he practiced "optimistic coding"; he would compile and test his code, but by feeding it into a background queue. In that particular project, a build took ~10 minutes, and our test suite took another ~10 minutes. He would launch a build / test every couple of minutes, and had a dbus notification if one failed; once, it did, and he had to go back several (less than 10, I think) commits to fix the problem. He remembered exactly where he was, rebased, and moved on. I couldn't even keep up with him finding the bug, much less fixing it.

The people around here who have a million lines of code in production seem to have that skill, of working without the assistance of a compiler or test harness; their code works the first time. Hell, Rob Pike uses ed. He doesn't even need to refer to his code often enough to make it worthwhile to easily see what he's already written (or go back and change things)---for him, that counts as an abnormal occurrence.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on Checking for the Programming Gear · 2012-09-14T20:59:23.797Z · LW · GW

I don't know about you, but I can't recall 10k LOC from experience even if I had previously written something before; seeing someone produce that much in the space of three hours is phenomenal, especially when I realize that I probably would have required two or three times as much code to do the same thing on my first attempt. If by "reciting from experience" you mean that they have practiced using the kinds of abstractions they employ many times before, then I agree that they're skilled because of that practice; I still don't think it's a level of mastery that I will ever attain.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on Checking for the Programming Gear · 2012-09-12T23:33:18.705Z · LW · GW

In my opinion, almost all of that 50% (that drop out) could program, to some extent, if sufficiently motivated.

A great deal of Computer Science students (half? more than half?) love programming and hit a wall when they come to the theoretical side of computer science. Many of them force themselves through it, graduate, and become successful programmers. Many switch majors to Information Technology, and for better or for worse will end up doing mostly system administration work for their career. Some switch majors entirely, and become engineers. I actually think we do ourselves a disservice by failing to segment Computer Science from Software Engineering; a distinction made at very few institutions, and when made, often to the detriment of Software Engineers, regrettably.

So to answer your question; of the 50% that drop out, I think most end up as sub-par programmers, but 80% of that 50% "have programming gear", to the extent that such a thing exists.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on Checking for the Programming Gear · 2012-09-12T13:04:02.166Z · LW · GW

I've taught courses at various levels, and in introductory courses (where there's no guarantee anyone has seen source code of any form before), I've been again and again horrified by students months into the course who "tell" the computer to do something. For instance, in a C program, they might write a comment to the computer instructing it to remember the value of a variable and print it if it changed. "Wishful" programming, as it were.

In fact, I might describe that as the key difference between the people who clearly would never take another programming course, and those that might---wishful thinking. Some never understood their own code and seemed to write it like monkeys armed with a binary classifier (the compiler & runtime, either running their program, or crashing) banging out Shakespeare. These typically never had a clear idea about what "program state" was; instead of seeing their program as data evolving over time, they saw it as a bunch of characters on the screen, and maybe if the right incantations were put on the screen, the right things would happen when they said Go.

Common errors in this category include:

  • Infinite loops, because "the loop will obviously be done when it has the value I want".
  • Uninitialized variables, because "it's obvious what I'm computing, and that you start at X".
  • Calling functions that don't exist, because, "well, it ought to".
  • NOT calling functions, because "the function is named PrintWhenDone, it should automatically print when the program is done".

These errors would crop up among a minority of students right up until the class was over. They could be well described by a gut-level belief that computers use natural language; but this only covers 2-6% of students in these courses*, whereas my experience is that less than 50% of students who go into a Computer Science major actually graduate with a Computer Science degree; so I think this is only a small part of what keeps people from programming.

*In three courses, with a roughly 50-person class, there were always 1-3 of these students; I suspect the median is therefore somewhere between 2 and 6%, but perhaps wildly different at another institution and far higher in the general population.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on Checking for the Programming Gear · 2012-09-12T12:31:00.028Z · LW · GW

I've taught C, Java and Python at a university and (a little) at the high school level. I have noticed two simple things that people either surmount or get stuck on. The first seems to be even a basic ability to keep a formal system in mind; see the famous Dehnadi and Bornat paper. The second, I have heard less about: in programming, it's the idea of scope.

The idea of scope in almost all modern programming languages goes like this:

  • A scope starts at some time (some place in the code), and ends somewhere later.
  • A scope can start before another ends; if so, it has to end before the "outer" scope.
  • Inside a scope, objects can be created and manipulated; generally even if another scope has started.
  • Unless something special is done, objects no longer exist after a scope ends.
  • Pivotally (this seems to be the hardest part), a objects can be created with one name in an outer scope and be referred to by a different name in an inner scope. Inner scopes can likewise create and manipulate objects with the same names as objects in an outer scope without affecting the objects in that outer scope.

It's really hard for me to think of an analogous skill in the real world to keeping track of N levels of renaming (which may be why it gives students such difficulty?). The closest I can think of is function composition; if you don't have to pick your way through symbolically integrating a composed function where the variables names don't match, I have pretty high confidence that you can manage nested scopes.

EDIT: There are two other, well-known problems. Recursion and pointers. I've heard stories about students who were okay for a year or two of programming courses, but never "got" recursion or, never understood pointers, and had to change majors. I've seen students have enormous difficulty with both; in fact, I've passed students who never figured one or the other out, but managed to grind through my course anyway. I don't know whether they dropped out or figured it out as their classes got harder---or just kept faking it (I had team members through grad school that couldn't handle more than basic recursion). I'm not inclined to classify either as "programming gear" that they didn't have, but I don't have data to back that up.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on Checking for the Programming Gear · 2012-09-12T11:58:42.137Z · LW · GW

For the record, I think programming is so measurable and has such a tight feedback loop that it is one arena in which it's relatively easy to recognize ability that far exceeds your own.

1) Code quality is fairly subjective, and in particular novice (very novice) programmers have difficulty rating code. Most professional programmers seem to be able to recognize it though, and feel awe when they come across beautiful code.

2) Code quantity can be misleading, but if you're on a team and producing a 100-line delta a day, you will notice the odd team member producing 1000-line daily deltas; coupled with even decent ability to tell whether or not that code is maintainable and efficient (in terms of functionality / loc), this is a strong indicator.

3) Actually watching a master write code is fantastic and intimidating. People that code at 60 wpm without even stopping to consider their algorithms, data structures or APIs, but manage at the end of an hour to have a tight, unit-tested, efficient and readable module.

I can think of five people that I know that I would classify as being in discrete levels above me (that is, each of them is distinguishable by me as being either better or worse than the others). I think there are some gaps in there; Jeff Dean is so mindbogglingly skilled that I can't see anyone on my list ever catching up to him, so there are probably a few levels I don't have examples for.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on How to deal with someone in a LessWrong meeting being creepy · 2012-09-12T11:19:16.703Z · LW · GW

I like being hugged from a very small number of people. From everyone else, it's quite unwanted.

This has had an interesting effect; if someone hugs me from behind, I unconsciously either put them in a bucket of people that I like a great deal, or make myself uncomfortable by telling them "don't do that". There's an odd bit of wiggle room in there, where someone might make me like them more by doing something somewhat uncomfortable to me. If this happened more often, I would take more care to address this particular bias; I also suspect there are subtler variants that I haven't recognized (I only just realized the above while reflecting on your post).

Comment by datadataeverywhere on AI timeline predictions: are we getting better? · 2012-09-12T10:41:14.050Z · LW · GW

How many degrees of freedom does your "composition of N theories" theory have? I'm not inclined to guess, since I don't know how you went about this. I just want to point out that 260 is not many data points; clustering is very likely going to give highly non-reproducible results unless you're very careful.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on Things you are supposed to like · 2011-10-22T12:22:26.395Z · LW · GW

I agree (have had the same experience), although I argue that mustard, sauerkraut or other bitter/sour foods are better examples than coffee or beer, simply because drugs change the way we process surrounding stimuli.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on Things you are supposed to like · 2011-10-22T12:15:53.914Z · LW · GW

This also goes some distance to explaining (in an alternate fashion) why repeated exposure to the artwork increases appreciation for it. Assuming the piece really relies on their exposure to related music, extended exposure forces people to have increasingly similar backgrounds.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on [link] SMBC on utilitarianism and vegatarianism. · 2011-10-17T17:23:33.128Z · LW · GW

Torture (not murder) is my stated objection to eating meat.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on Life is Good, More Life is Better · 2011-10-14T20:27:27.714Z · LW · GW

Funny. I feel the opposite way: I'm okay with dying, but don't want other people to die.

While I do tend toward suicidal thoughts, even when I'm feeling pretty great the idea of my life continuing is at best of low value. I would hate to die because I know it would hurt lots of people that I'm close to, and I'm also averse to the pain of the process of dying, but nonexistence is generally an attractive concept to me. If I could get away with dying in a manner that didn't hurt me or others, I probably would.

On the other hand, I would be and have been very pained at the death of others, or even at the thought of them dying. I would react very selfishly to keep people close to me from dying, and attempt to extend that near-mode behavior to far-mode action as well.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on Anti-akrasia tool: like for data nerds · 2011-10-13T21:27:06.953Z · LW · GW

I'd like to weigh in on this, agreeing with pjeby. I joined beeminder, am enjoying it and expect it to be of great use to me. I don't care even a little where the money goes. The amount is a penalty to me, and I like the way it is automatically set. If the money allows you to focus more on improving beeminder, that's great. If it ends up making you rich, that's just evidence you're providing a valuable service.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on Quixey Engineering Screening Questions · 2011-10-01T04:46:04.875Z · LW · GW

I had thought the solution was very simple before you pointed this out. With some difficulty I improved my solution to O(log(log(n)) * log(n)), and it took quite a bit more time for me to get completely constant sized stack frames.

I suspect most people initially come up with the O(log^2(n)) solution and jump next to the O(log(n)) solution without getting stuck in the middle there, but I'm curious if this gave you any problems.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on How good an emulation is required? · 2011-08-14T19:14:59.133Z · LW · GW

I'd imagine weird timing and chemical interactions being used by the brain as it is an adaptable system and might be able adapt to use them if they turn out to be helpful.

Human designers have every reason to work very hard to make sure they understand their own designs and that they are free from weird issues. Chips aren't designed [by humans] to have strange EM interactions, but sometimes they do anyway and that occasionally gets exploited---not often though. On the other hand, evolution has no such motive, so I imagine that weird edge cases are vastly more important in biological brains. It seems quite possible that whereas only a few NES games are rendered unplayable on emulations with less fidelity, humans brains just won't work at all until we represent most of what happens on a lower level.

However, I hope that's not the case, since if it is, we have that much longer to wait for whole-brain emulation. I also suspect we will still have heuristics that perform adequately at speeds many orders-of-magnitude faster than molecular simulations (and that quantum effects are negligible).

Also please ignore the 3Ghz vs 25Mhz comparison, it perpetuates the myth that computational power is about clock speed and not operations per second and memory bandwidth.

If we were comparing clock speeds, I would be more interested in the 3GHz to 1.79MHz (the actual NES processor, rather than the first emulation) comparison.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on Anti-akrasia remote monitoring experiment · 2011-08-08T21:01:45.766Z · LW · GW

Thank you for posting this. I want to do almost exactly this, and set up another task running that will zip up all the images and send them off to my referee.

Unfortunately, I haven't gotten this to work. I'm not very familiar with cron, and I don't know how to debug it. My script works as intended when run manually, but halts (dies? I don't know) when run from cron (at import). I haven't managed to get any error reporting, either by redirecting the script output or the import output. I also haven't been able to get import to run directly from cron, even by using absolute paths and no variables. I suspect these are problems you haven't run across, but if you have, I'd appreciate your advice.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on Optimal Employment · 2011-02-27T22:43:29.239Z · LW · GW

I agree that this scenario is pretty unlikely; it seems at least possible if there was a high-level policy change that hadn't caught up to military funding and structure, but made active troop deployment very unlikely. Your second to last paragraph disagrees with this; does the US military really shrink that much when we have fewer wars going on?

China seems much more the model of a country with a large military that rarely is deployed, and they do seem to match your description; lots of manual labor, disaster relief, building infrastructure, etc., with less competitive pay. I agree that this is the natural balance for a country that's not engaging in wars on a regular basis.

In fact, I think that's what some of the people my age that I know in the service were expecting when they joined in peacetime. Very rare callups for crucial work they felt obligated to do well for the good of the country or world.

This might not have been true, and probably won't be true even once we get back to peace time, but if it was, it seems like a pretty good reason to join, and follows the OPs intention. Still not my recommendation!

Comment by datadataeverywhere on Eutopia is Scary · 2011-02-07T19:47:24.270Z · LW · GW

It didn't; I'm sure RSS also broke during the site transfer. I re-subscribed, and I suspect everything will work again. The re-subscription at least retrieved your two current posts. I really did find your earlier writings interesting and enjoyable. I'm not sure I necessarily need them reposted (I wouldn't classify them as reference material for re-review), but more like that would be appreciated.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on Eutopia is Scary · 2011-02-07T19:29:25.814Z · LW · GW

I've heard that blues originates from a dirtied-down version of swing; at least, I think it's genesis is later. I just got back from an all-weekend blues workshop. Campbell and Chris were two of the instructors, and you can get some idea for what it looks like from the videos on their site. You can see that competition blues often looks a lot like (competition) lindy; maybe a little more varied, but a lot slower, fewer lifts and generally lower energy.

In practice (when dancing for a partner rather than for an audience), blues is generally much smaller and closer. Most dances are usually at least partially danced in close embrace, where the chest to chest and inside thigh to outside thigh connections are the main lead---so it can be a very sensual and intense dance. I've noticed a lot of overlap in the poly and blues communities, in that both are heavily populated by very physically affectionate and openly sexual individuals. Not that those attributes make someone poly any more than they make someone a blues dancer, but there is a strong correlation to each.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on You're in Newcomb's Box · 2011-02-04T18:32:58.991Z · LW · GW

I'm really not trying to be obtuse, but I still don't understand. The other possibilities don't exist. If my actions don't affect the environment that other agents (including my future or other selves) experience, then I should maximize my utility. If, by construction, my actions have the potential of impacting other agents, then yes, I should take that under consideration, and if my algorithm before I see the money needs to decide to one-box in order for the money to be there in the first place, then that is also relevant.

I'm afraid you'll need to be a little more explicit in describing why I shouldn't two-box if I can be sure that doing so will not impact any other agents.

I probably don't need to harp back on this, but the only other reason I can see is that Omega is infallible and wouldn't have put the money in B if we were also going to take A. If we two-box, then there is a paradox; decision theories needn't and can't deal with paradoxes since they don't exist. Either Omega is fallible or B is empty or we will one-box. If Omega is probabilistic, it is still in our best interest to decide to one-box before hand, but if we can get away with taking both, we should (it is more important to commit to one-boxing than it is to be able to break that commitment, but the logic still stands).

That is, if given the opportunity to permanently self-modify to exclusively one-box, I would. But if I appear out of nowhere, and Omega shows me the money but assures me I have already permanently self-modified to one-box, I will take both boxes if it turns out that Omega is wrong (and there are no other consequences to me or other agents).

Comment by datadataeverywhere on You're in Newcomb's Box · 2011-02-04T16:04:53.513Z · LW · GW

Is this a MWI concern? I have observed the money with probability 1. There is no probability distribution. The expected long-run frequency distribution of seeing that money is still unknown, but I don't expect this experiment to be repeated, so that's an abstract concern.

Again, if I have reason to believe that (with reasonable probability) I'm being simulated and won't get to experience the utility of that money (unless I one-box), my decision matrix changes, but then I'm back to having incomplete information.

Likewise, perhaps pre-committing to one-box before you see the money makes sense given the usual setup. But if you can break your commitment once the money is already there, that's the right choice (even though it means Omega failed). If you can't, then too bad, but can't != shouldn't.

Under what circumstances would you one-box if you were certain that this was the only trial you would experience, the money was visible under both boxes, and your decision will not impact the amount of money available to any other agent in any other trial?

Comment by datadataeverywhere on Eutopia is Scary · 2011-02-03T14:36:56.495Z · LW · GW

I was feeling uncomfortable about that myself.

In all likelihood, I shouldn't be using probability at all, because probability theory doesn't capture cause and effect well. Thinking back, what I should have said is just that rationalists are more likely to adopt polyamory than polyamorists are likely to adopt rationalism. The actual ratios of each are less relevant.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on You're in Newcomb's Box · 2011-02-03T00:29:18.663Z · LW · GW

I followed you until

I'm acausally trading with an entity other than Azathoth.

which entity are you trading with? We haven't gone back to talking about Prometheus, have we?

I might like to increase the number of meme-similar persons in my universe, but I don't really care about meme-similar persons in universes that can't influence mine. Even this is something I feel relatively weakly about. It's also just a personal difference in values, and I can reason pretending I share yours.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on Eutopia is Scary · 2011-02-03T00:22:30.818Z · LW · GW

a very large swathe of the poly community is of a new-age and/or neopagan bent

Ugh, agreed.

I think P(newage|poly) - P(newage) > P(rationalist|poly) - P(rationalist) > 0.

I also think P(poly|rationalist) - P(poly) >> P(rationalist|poly) - P(rationalist), which is why we see it as a Common Interest.

As an aside, I've been reading your blog since (I think) before you joined LessWrong; like Wei Dai, you're one of the connections I've made to a different community that has appeared here. I usually read it through RSS, which I think broke. You also appear to have abandoned your earlier blog posts?

Comment by datadataeverywhere on Eutopia is Scary · 2011-02-03T00:07:08.818Z · LW · GW

it really seems like she was just doing it wrong.

No, this is true. However, I would like to stretch your analogy a bit:

Some people are natural dancers, and don't really encounter the problems you're describing. Some people just know they want to dance, and deal with them.

The person in question is more of the former. In dozens of relationships she's never acted jealous before (I've known her for 10 years). She's never seemed to have an issue with it. This time, the first time I've seen her act jealous, she rejected the notion that jealousy could be the source of the problem because she was proud of the fact that she's never jealous.

I'm a dancer too, a really lousy one. By contrast, my other SO is a great dancer. Within six months of starting blues dancing, she was being paid to travel to other states and teach at blues workshops (by the way, if you like swing, you should really try blues). She picks up new dances all the time; I've worked for years on swing dancing and feel barely mediocre. If she encountered a dance style and had our experience with it, she might just give up. She doesn't deal with those difficulties because she doesn't have to.

In poly, I'm somewhere in between, but closer to "natural". I've felt jealous pangs a few times, but never felt them long enough for me to get a chance to talk them over with someone. I always mention them to the person they were regarding after the fact, but they've always gone away before I need to take action to get rid of them. If the next time it happens it lasts a lot longer, I think I'd know what to do, but it would also be so unusual and unpleasant that it could perhaps shake my commitment to poly. If it did and if my self-image was so wrapped up in poly that admitting that was unacceptable---I'd like to think better of myself, but maybe I'd just ignore that instance and move on.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on Eutopia is Scary · 2011-02-02T23:38:32.469Z · LW · GW

and even people who are good at it and enjoy it will get hurt doing it from time to time

This I think is true. The woman in question does polyamory well, and has for a long time, and in my opinion should continue to for her own happiness. However, she definitely wasn't doing it right at that time. To my knowledge, it's the only problem she's had that has stemmed from her.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on Optimal Employment · 2011-02-02T23:35:46.149Z · LW · GW

Your point is well taken. Not only do I not have children or dependents, and not only am I still somewhat in "grad student mode", but I plan on eventually going back to school, so I don't really intended to leave that mode before then.

In fact, I probably have an even more extreme form of this condition. I've never been too bothered too much by signaling low status, but I've actually been pained when I signal high status. My first (and only) car bothered me because while I bought it extremely cheaply, it was still in good shape. I feel like I ought not to be driving a vehicle that has working door handles, heating and A/C. My car certainly doesn't signal high-status, but it doesn't signal low-status as strongly as I'd like.

All of that said, the idea of spending 95% of a $100k salary does not sound instrumentally rational at all even if status is a highly-held value.

I object a bit to

housing costs are very high in all places nice enough to provide a respectable middle class environment for raising kids

My parents together usually made less than $20k/yr. while I was growing up (usually fluctuating around the poverty line). I don't know how much they spent on housing (probably a large fraction of that), but I went to an expensive private high school (on scholarship, of course) and didn't mind bringing home friends that came from $250k income families. I really don't think my housing situation was bad even to their tastes, and it certainly isn't somewhere I'd mind raising my kids.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on You're in Newcomb's Box · 2011-02-02T23:09:53.127Z · LW · GW

If you one-box, then it's likely that in the overwhelming majority of universes you do exist.

This is incorrect, but I understand the spirit of what you're trying to say (that the number of universes that I exist in is overwhelmingly larger---no matter what, I exist in an infinitesimally small number of universes).

Regardless, this interpretation still doesn't make you cease to have ever existed. Maybe you exist less, whatever that means, but you still exist. Personally, I don't care about existing less frequently.

Lastly, do you think this interpretation allows the problem to pertain to evolution? I still don't think so, but the reasons are more nuanced than the reasons I think the original problem doesn't.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on You're in Newcomb's Box · 2011-02-02T18:08:09.047Z · LW · GW

Wow. This actually makes sense, but if this was the intention, nothing in the original post or any previous comment revealed this to me.

So, if the problem is rephrased as: "You might be in Prometheus' simulation, aiding him decide whether to create the real you..." (especially not telling me how many times Prometheus runs the simulation) then I can see the potential utility of doing as Prometheus wants.

I personally don't derive utility from the opportunity to be created in another world, or in the "real world", but I think many people might and do derive quite a lot of utility from it. For those people, in this specific phrasing of the test, I would suggest one-boxing. (I still wouldn't, but I don't mind having my simulation turned off)

I heartily agree with you that if this is the correct interpretation of the puzzle, it has no bearing on Azathoth and how to behave in the real world.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on Approaching Infinity · 2011-02-02T17:32:06.350Z · LW · GW

It is; I misunderstood, although I don't think your notation is blameless.

Basically, in the sequence triangle->square->pentagon->... appears to be a process that approaches circle as the limit of the number of sides tends towards infinity. My first (and second) time reading through the article I missed that (x) is not circle of x, but rather the [x]-gon of x.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on You're in Newcomb's Box · 2011-02-02T03:26:04.378Z · LW · GW

You don't cease to exist, you cease to have ever existed (which might be better or worse than dying, but certainly sounds bad).

You applied this to evolution as if this was a grave concern of yours. Surely you don't believe that the universe will un-exist you for failing to have lots of children?!

The very idea of having never existed makes no sense! In a simulation, the masters could run back time and start again without you, but you still existed in the first run of the simulation. Once you've existed, that's it. You can believe that your future existence is in jeopardy, but I don't see how you can believe that you will cease to never have existed, much less how one can actually cease to have ever existed.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on You're in Newcomb's Box · 2011-02-01T23:47:08.202Z · LW · GW

Well, I definitely am confused. What utility are you gaining or losing?

Is this an issue about your belief that you are created by Prometheus? Is this an issue about your belief in Omega or Prometheus' honesty? I'm very unclear what I can possibly stand to gain or lose by being in a universe where Prometheus is wrong versus one where he is right.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on Approaching Infinity · 2011-02-01T20:05:24.983Z · LW · GW

Count me wrong. You understood correctly the first time. See Vladimir's comment; the notation is confusing, but it is a finite process.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on Approaching Infinity · 2011-02-01T20:03:19.498Z · LW · GW

Hmm, now I think you might be right, and that I misunderstood the poster's original intention. The paragraph currently reads

... I'll spare the next [X] operators, and go right to (X) ("circle-X"). (X) follows the process that took us from triangle to square to pentagon, iterated an additional [X] times.

Is that an edit? I do not remember the phrase following the last comma. The notation is at least confusing, in that triangle->square->pentagon->...->circle ought to represent a limiting process, rather than a finite one.

Thank you. I would ask the op to use a less confusing notation, but I will go ahead and edit my other objections.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on Counterfactual Calculation and Observational Knowledge · 2011-02-01T19:43:21.718Z · LW · GW

I think your final (larger) paragraph is confusing, but your conclusion is correct. That Omega presents you with a counterfactual only provides evidence that Omega is a jerk, not that you chose incorrectly.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on You're in Newcomb's Box · 2011-02-01T17:25:38.827Z · LW · GW

Good question, but permit me to contrast the difference.

You are the hitchhiker; recognizing the peril of your situation, you wisely choose to permanently self-modify yourself to be an agent that will pay the money. Of course, you then pay the money afterward, because that's what kind of an agent you are.

You appear, out of nowhere, and seem to be a hitchhiker that was just brought into town. Omega informs you that you of the above situation. If Omega is telling the truth, you have no choice whether to pay or not, but if you decide not to pay, you cannot undo the fact that Paul picked you up---apparently Omega was wrong.

In the first, you have incomplete information about what will happen. By self-modifying to determine which world you will be in, you resolve that. In the second, you already got to town, and no longer need to appease Paul.

Kavka's toxin is a problem with a somewhat more ambiguous setup, but the same reasoning will apply to the version I think you are talking about.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on You're in Newcomb's Box · 2011-02-01T16:56:25.761Z · LW · GW

Others in this thread have pointed this out, but I will try to articulate my point a little more clearly.

Decision theories that require us to two-box do so because we have incomplete information about the environment. We might be in a universe where Omega thinks that we'll one-box; if we think that Omega is nearly infallible, we increase this probability by choosing to one-box. Note that probability is about our own information, not about the universe. We're not modifying the universe, we're refining our estimates.

If the box is transparent, and we can see the money, we simply don't care what Omega says. As long as we trust that the bottom won't fall out (or any number of other possibilities), we can make our decision because our information (about which universe we are in) is not incomplete.

Likewise, our information about whether we exist is not incomplete; we can't change it by choosing to go against the genes that got us here.

For situations where our knowledge is incomplete, we actually can derive information (about what kind of a world we inhabit) from our desires, but it is evidence, not certainty, and certainly not acasual negotiation. We can easily have evidence that outweighs this relatively meager data.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on You're in Newcomb's Box · 2011-02-01T16:35:20.235Z · LW · GW

Thanks. Unfortunately, now I'm horrendously confused. What's the point of choosing either? Unless Prometheus is apt to feel vengeful (or generous), it doesn't seem like there is any reason to prefer one course of action over another.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on Approaching Infinity · 2011-02-01T16:28:25.100Z · LW · GW

EDIT: I misunderstood the op, as can be seen from this post and the child.

I don't understand why no one else is objecting to treating (2) as a number.

If F(x, s) = {s-sided function of x}, e.g. F(2, 3) = /2\, F(2,5) = [2>, then clearly F(2,x) > 2^x for x > 3.

(2) is the limit of F(2, x) as x approaches infinity; just as 2^x is infinite in the limit, so is (2). I'm not even sure whether ((2)) is well-defined, because we haven't been told how it approaches the limits, and it's not clear to me that all methods yield the same function.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on You're in Newcomb's Box · 2011-02-01T16:10:38.250Z · LW · GW

Either I don't get it, or you are misapplying a cached thought. Please explain to me where my reasoning is wrong (or perhaps where I misunderstand the problem):

When answering Newcomb's problem, we believe Omega is a reliable predictor of what we will do, and based on that prediction places money accordingly.

In this problem, Prometheus always believes (by construction!) that we will one-box, and so will always place money according to that belief. In that case, the allocation of money will be the same for people who one-box (most people, since Prometheus is a good predictor), and the people who two-box.

You could make an alternate argument that even if you want to two-box, Prometheus' near infallibility means you are unlikely to (after all, if everyone did, he would be a terrible predictor), but that's different than answering what you should do in this situation.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on You're in Newcomb's Box · 2011-02-01T16:04:05.535Z · LW · GW

It was not my impression that Prometheus might strike me down for disappointing him. If so, this would definitely change my behavior!

Also, if that was the point, this post applies very badly Azathoth, so I heartily agree with you there.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on You're in Newcomb's Box · 2011-02-01T16:02:35.259Z · LW · GW

But you should only one-box if you think that the prediction of you one-boxing is tied to whether or not there is more money in the box.

In this case, as near as I can tell, Prometheus believes that you will one-box. Go ahead and two-box and collect the money. Unless we think Omega is lying, there's no reason to believe that one-boxing is superior in this problem.

Comment by datadataeverywhere on Approaching Infinity · 2011-02-01T15:34:30.743Z · LW · GW

Those are really big numbers, but while they start out large, the functions /x\, [x], ..., still grow more slowly than A(x,x), and are pitifully small compared to BB(x). I'm not actually sure where S(x) = {x-sided shape of x} fits in, except that it's computable, so still smaller than BB(x) (for all sufficiently large values of x).

EDIT: I misunderstood the definition of (x) as a circle, and thus as the end of a limiting process. The op intended it to be a polygon with [X] sides. The next paragraph is not valid, although the final one is.

However, (x) is not a number, it's a limit, and more importantly it is infinite for x > 1. Since you were in an analysis class, this should have been talked about!

What I'm really confused by is

Imagine drawing a line from that point to one on the near surface of the sun, which represents infinity. (2) lies within the parentheses surrounding that period, and that's an understatement of how close it is to zero.

Not only is (2) an infinite quantity, if it wasn't it could be wherever you wanted to put it on the line. If you're mapping 0 to infinity onto a finite length line, you can approach the limit any way you desire. Why not put 1 at the halfway mark and 2 at the three-quarter mark? That seems to me to be conceptually most simple. It's not like we can have a 1-1 mapping of numerical increase to distance!

Comment by datadataeverywhere on Optimal Employment · 2011-02-01T14:56:23.366Z · LW · GW

Police officers in larger cities make decent scratch to start with (IIRC 60k in some areas of California), and then have significant opportunities for overtime and "moonlighting" as security. In some cases there are Bay Area police making over 120k a year.

Given cost of living adjustments, this is still nowhere near three times as much as soldiers start making.

And as far as "soldiers really don't have to do much". Yeah, I don't wanna get banned here, so let's just say you have no idea of what you're talking about.

I haven't the faintest idea why you'd get banned for correcting me. I'd be happy to have you give me greater clarity. Here's where what I said comes from: I have a (half) brother and two good friends in the US Army; I of course have several other acquaintances in the Army through them. They report "not having to do anything", and have talked about just hanging out all day on base. One friend is a medic; he works out for three hours a day, mans a medical station (where he reads, since people rarely come in) for another three hours a day, and then goes home. My brother maintains equipment, and I gather has a similarly uneventful schedule; I don't know about my other friend, but he has lots of time on his hands and is usually bored and never stressed about work. My SO's brother-in-law is a newer recruit, and currently deployed; he didn't have nearly as much free time prior to his deployment, but he was in training constantly prior to that.

Please note, I'm not talking about danger and fighting! I was talking about a counterfactual world where soldiers are never deployed. This is not our world, and I thought I made it clear that this changes everything! All three men that I'm talking about, and most of their friends have been been deployed for several tours of duty. None of them have significant physical injuries, but all bear serious psychological damage. It's broken their families and torn apart their lives. Each of them knows more people who have committed suicide than I hope to ever know. This is not okay, and not something I recommend as a "low stress" position.