Comment by douglas_knight on Personalized Medicine For Real · 2019-04-17T12:52:39.888Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There are a handful of SNPs (mainly in Cytochrome P450) that predict how fast you metabolize drugs. This is a shortcut to dosing drugs. But the big problem is that people don't adjust their doses at all. The much more basic personalized medicine is to experiment with doses. If you aren't doing that, using the SNPs as a shortcut to predict where to start isn't much of an improvement.

Comment by douglas_knight on Excerpts from a larger discussion about simulacra · 2019-04-17T01:44:01.738Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It might be useful to make such requests more explicit.

It might be useful to make explicit how much progress has been made. Most of the discussion has anchored on Baudrillard and the number 4, but it's not clear that you wanted that. Is this even supposed to be a discrete qualitative model, or is it continuous and the stages are just for verbal convenience? ("The system wireheads itself" vs "the system wireheads employees" is the only thing that jumped out at me as object-level qualitatively distinct.)

Comment by douglas_knight on Do you like bullet points? · 2019-03-27T15:58:55.175Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Use the right tool for the job.

If you start with bullet points and then add filler, it's probably worthless filler and the worst of both worlds. I don't trust the people who say that they want complete sentences. They're probably just praising people for going through the motions, not paying attention to whether it's actually easier to read.

Comment by douglas_knight on 800 scientist call out against statistical significance · 2019-03-24T15:40:23.171Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There have been a lot of such manifestos, so it will be pretty hard to isolate the effects of any particular one.

Such manifestos can be divided into two classes: those which set p-values in opposition to confidence intervals and those that describe them as the same. The first class has a positive suggestion: use confidence intervals. It seems to me that positive manifestos are more likely to be adopted than those which merely condemn p-values, but offer no alternative. This manifesto seems to condemn confidence intervals, but makes the very vague suggestion to pay attention to effect sizes. In the end, maybe that amounts to the same thing.

Comment by douglas_knight on Blackmailers are privateers in the war on hypocrisy · 2019-03-18T20:09:29.131Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I reject your examples. Sex and drugs are almost always hypocrisy, not one community trying to impose its standard on another.

Comment by douglas_knight on Blackmailers are privateers in the war on hypocrisy · 2019-03-16T21:47:33.327Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Do we want a War on Hypocrisy?

There are lots of examples where the optimal state has some kind of consistency property (eg, lack of hypocrisy). It's probably always possible to use the failure of consistency of the current state to improve, but I think that there are lots of examples where naively trying to improve consistency makes things worse, not better.

Comment by douglas_knight on Privacy · 2019-03-16T21:44:24.933Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW
I argue in the last piece that it is common even now for people to engineer blackmail material against others and often also against themselves, to allow it to be used as collateral and leverage. That a large part of job interviews is proving that you are vulnerable in these ways.

I don't see anything about existing practices for job interviews in the previous piece.

Comment by douglas_knight on Blackmail · 2019-02-20T19:55:42.059Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This is all so abstract. Does it match how the world works?

Why are we talking about this? Because the National Enquirer knows how to get away with blackmail? What do you think of the hypothesis that blackmail is legal if lawyers get a cut? That sounds to me like the worst of both worlds.

I recently learned that UK politics is openly described in terms of blackmail. There is some equivocation and I'm not sure it's actually true, but it isn't a norm violation.

Comment by douglas_knight on Individual profit-sharing? · 2019-02-17T03:48:51.830Z · score: 6 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Usually this comes up in the context of financing education, where they are sometimes called human capital contracts. This was previously discussed on LW. I left a comment there giving several of education (England, France, Yale) and another example more like this post: "360 deals" in the music industry, where instead of touring existing to promote the album or vice versa, the record label owns a proportion of everything musician does, so that their interests are more aligned. I think that the most famous example is Lady Gaga, who signed such a deal fairly early in her career. (The wikipedia article I link gives as examples even more famous musicians Madonna and Jay-Z, but those were late in their careers and, I guess, maybe in the opposite direction, where the tour promoter buys a chunk of the record.)

Comment by douglas_knight on Is there a.. more exact.. way of scoring a predictor's calibration? · 2019-01-30T03:42:25.892Z · score: 6 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, you should draw calibration curves without binning.

The calibration curve lives in a plane where the x-axis is the probability of the prediction and the y-axis is the actual proportion of outcomes. We can make each prediction live in this plane. A scored prediction is a pair of an outcome, b, either 0 or 1, and the earlier prediction p. The value p belongs on the x-axis. The value b is sort of like a value on the y-axis. Thus (p,b) makes sense on the x-y-plane. It is valuable to plot the scatterplot of this representation of the predictions. The calibration curve is a curve attempting to approximate this scatterplot. A technique for turning a scatter plot into the graph of a function is called a smoother. Every smoother yields a different notion of calibration curve. The most popular general-purpose smoother is loess and it is also the most popular smoother for the specific task of calibration curves without bins. Frank Harrell (2-28) suggests tweaking the algorithm, setting α=1.

Comment by douglas_knight on Open Thread January 2019 · 2019-01-24T22:16:55.668Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I've asserted a lot of things. Should you believe me? You don't know that I'm disinterested (though you should damn well know that 300 pages of advertising copy is very, very interested). But I can provide a different perspective; you can't imagine that anything good is going on, but I can try to widen your imagination.

More broadly and aside from allegations of specific wrongdoing, the claim is that HFT is just shaving the margins of everyone who makes trades more slowly.

The main difference in perspective I want to promote is how you carve up the market. You're carving it into HFT and Everyone. I say that you should carve it into market makers and investors. HFT makes money. It makes money by shaving the margins off of someone. But why think that it's shaving "everyone"? It's competing with market makers and shaving their margins. The market makers are mad about that. That's enough to explain everything that is observed. Maybe something bad is going on beyond that, but no one says what, no one except liars.

I could say more, but I think it would distract from that one point. (Indeed, I think my prior comments made that mistake.)

Comment by douglas_knight on Open Thread January 2019 · 2019-01-16T23:22:43.803Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't read it, but Vanguard wrote about how it loves HFT. A lot of what I know is from Matt Levine, but he is such a fragmentary blogger that he probably doesn't say much in one place and it's hard to find any particular thing he's written.

Your abstractions like "benefit" seem confused to me. Where is money flowing? How?

By the biggest players, I mean investment firms. I thought that the biggest investors are bigger than the exchanges, but maybe they're only equally big. For example, BATS and Fidelity both have a market cap of $60 billion (NASDAQ $14B, NYSE $6B).* HFT firm Virtu has a market cap of $5B. That is, the net present value of the profits Fidelity extracts from its retirement accounts is $60B, while the NPV of the profits BATS extracts from all retirement accounts in the US is about the same. BATS allows (and subsidizes) HFT because it thinks that Fidelity wants it. That's what BATS says and that's what Fidelity says. Maybe they're lying and actually BATS has market power to extract money from Fidelity, but I'll get to that later. [And why would Fidelity go along with such a lie?] [* looking up these numbers again, I find completely different numbers. But they're roughly right if we swap NYSE and BATS.]

Transaction costs are way down. This is easily and objectively measured in terms of bid-ask spreads and trading fees. This is money that is not going to the middlemen, neither exchanges nor market makers, but is saved by the investment firms, which is why they love HFT. There is a more subtle argument that market liquidity is an illusion that will go away "when it matters" and produce flash crashes. I think that this is also false, both painting too rosy a view of the past and exaggerating the damage caused by flash crashes, but it is much harder to argue about rare events.

HFT and running exchanges are not terribly lucrative businesses, not by the standards of Wall Street. HFT makes orders of magnitude less money than market makers made (in aggregate) even 20 years ago. Individual HFT firms make a lot of money, but there used to be a huge number of market makers who specialized in very small numbers of stocks. When HFT first appeared and drove out these people, they reduced the aggregate money going to market makers and the small number of HFT firms have continued to compete away their own profit. This is a pretty simple metric that is exactly opposed to many common stories. It's not that simple because many of the market makers were vertically integrated into firms that did other things, so it's not that easy to aggregate the market makers. In particular, I claim that's what Brad K's old job was (understanding market structure and making money off of the difference between markets, allowing the rest of the firm to think in terms of stocks, not markets). If you buy that, it makes the old market makers look even more bloated and thus the new HFT look even more efficient, but I don't claim that it is obvious.

But are you saying that Lewis is saying that the exchanges are sucking all the profits out of the HFT? I don't think that exchanges are very lucrative (see numbers in beginning). Does he give any numbers? I think that there are only about 4 companies running exchanges in the US (including IEX), which doesn't sound very competitive. But that's because they keep buying out new exchanges, so it can't be that hard to enter the market. And they keep the exchanges around, so they do see value in diversity. IEX being the 12th exchange and the 4th company does make the market more diverse and competitive, but they're probably only fill a small niche. Whereas the dozens of dark pools are already very competitive.

Comment by douglas_knight on Open Thread January 2019 · 2019-01-11T21:32:56.822Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Everything I've ever heard attributed to Michael Lewis on this topic was false. Good ideas shouldn't require lies to sell them. And I can tell it's false because I carefully read the quoted passages. In particular, you conclude from his claim that "the richest people on Wall Street" are angry that they employ HFT algorithms. But that's not at all true. HFT is tiny. If the biggest players on Wall Street are angry, it's because they'd rather trade with HFT than with Brad Katsuyama.*

Is IEX listing a stock a significant milestone? I doubt it. IEX has been selling other stocks for 4 years, first as a dark pool and then for 2 years as an exchange. (But aren't "dark pools" evil incarnate?) IEX claims to be 2.7% of the total volume. I never looked at that number before today. I've previously claimed that IEX was a failure, and I was surprised to see that the number was so high. I welcome experimentation and I'm happy that they've found a niche. But if you thought it was a much better product that would quickly win in the marketplace, maybe you should reconsider this, 2-4 years on.** But the future is long. Maybe IEX listing individual stocks will matter, though you should be suspicious if no one can explain why. And it's hard to rule out the possibility that's it's a much better product that will take a long time to win.

* It was probably a bad idea to use Brad K as metonymy, because he plays two roles. I meant the kind of trader he was at the beginning of the book, who was outcompeted by HFT. I don't mean IEX, the market he now runs. In as much as IEX exists as a place to trade with people like him, it seems like most people wouldn't want to trade there, either, but it has a lot of room to evolve.

** To put the 2.7% in context, there are 12 exchanges, so I think IEX is the smallest, but I don't know. There are dozens of dark pools, so the 1.5+% market share IEX had when it transitioned to exchange was pretty big for a dark pool.

Comment by douglas_knight on Book Recommendations: An Everyone Culture and Moral Mazes · 2019-01-11T18:47:51.162Z · score: 7 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Is there no middle ground? You say that Kegan paints it as a binary ("nothing inside the range of what we think of as a normal workplace"). But you suggest that kaizen is an intermediate. Your summary as two phrases suggests that they are separable ("everyone talks about mistakes and improvements, and where the personal/professional boundaries are broken down").

Also, the negative book is about how things actually work, while the positive book is about the system working as promised. But this could be cherry-picking successes. Is there any reason to believe that DDO is self-correcting? Why shouldn't we expect the worst of both worlds, implementations with the face of a DDO that actually work as describe in Moral Mazes? (which is probably what people insinuate with the word "cult") Does the book make an argument, or does it just profile success stories?

Added: Indeed, "The Western Elite from a Chinese Perspective" talks about the discussion of emotion at business school and implies that people are faking it.

Comment by douglas_knight on What exercises go best with 3 blue 1 brown's Linear Algebra videos? · 2019-01-11T17:39:13.542Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

To add a little on different terminologies being a feature: if you ultimately want to apply linear algebra, you'll have to build a bridge from the theory to the particular application that is probably even more difficult than the bridge between two presentations of the theory. So it's probably good to practice building bridges.

(I'm also suspicious of people who say that the last book that they read on a subject was the best book, because that's when it clicked. How much did the first books prepare them?)

Comment by douglas_knight on Does anti-malaria charity destroy the local anti-malaria industry? · 2019-01-08T04:13:39.582Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know. My claim was based on reasoning from first principles. It was intended as an illustrative example that there could be positive externalities, not to measure them. If you have to triage nets, it's probably the way to go, but if you're triaging nets, you've probably made a bad decision. I can think of so many reasons to concentrate nets in one village, rather than spreading them out and micro-managing the deployments in the villages. One reason is habit formation. Another is the cost of distribution, which is probably low for marginal nets and high for a new village. A third is that there positive externalities compound, at least if you cross over the threshold of locally wiping out malaria. (Under that threshold, I'm not sure.)

Comment by douglas_knight on Does anti-malaria charity destroy the local anti-malaria industry? · 2019-01-07T17:09:11.260Z · score: 12 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Parasites in general and malaria in particular are pretty specific. For example, humans developed immunity shortly after speciation from chimps and malaria only jumped back 30kya (but probably did so multiple times to produce the several species of malaria). It's pretty clear that it doesn't have other hosts in the New World because the strategy of treating all humans in an area for 3 weeks wipes it out. But it's hard to rule out the possibility that it has other hosts in Africa.

Ewald has written lots of great papers. Here (ungated) is a paper summarizing his career. Mostly it's about explaining the past, but he goes on to say that we should design interventions to shape the evolution of infectious agents. His main claim about the past is that malaria is debilitating because it can be passed on from someone who can't move. Thus if we keep the mosquitoes out of beds or out of homes, then malaria will evolve to be less debilitating. But I'm not sure where he says this. Scientific American? TED?

Comment by douglas_knight on Sunscreen. When? Why? Why not? · 2019-01-07T03:33:12.604Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Or you could just look at the weather report, now that you know what to look for.

Comment by douglas_knight on Does anti-malaria charity destroy the local anti-malaria industry? · 2019-01-07T03:02:22.789Z · score: 12 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Between rational and irrational is PD: individually rational, collectively irrational. Lanrian gave two reasons that nets benefit people other than they person paying. One is that they are most valuable for children. The other is that they protect people not using the nets. Probably the most valuable nets are those deployed on people who already have malaria, to prevent it from spreading to mosquitoes, and thus to more people. (See also Paul Ewald.)

Comment by douglas_knight on Sunscreen. When? Why? Why not? · 2019-01-01T20:02:17.124Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If you regularly get sunburn, you should use sunscreen, because sunburn is unpleasant. Death isn't the only thing that matters. If you haven't noticed that you get sunburn or haven't thought about the possibility of using sunscreen or making simple interventions, like buying sunscreen, or putting it near sports gear as a reminder, there are great opportunities for improvement.

Whether to use sunscreen in situations where you won't get sunburn is controversial. But these situations are intermediate and it's probably less important to get them right than the extremes.

Added: maybe this sounds like trivial advice, but it's important to figure out what the typical advice actually means in terms of who it's aimed at (confer).

Comment by douglas_knight on Sunscreen. When? Why? Why not? · 2019-01-01T19:42:36.726Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

SSC's argument that the dermatologists' factual claims are wrong are the least of the problems. Even if the dermatologists really are experts at skin cancer, they aren't expert at the trade-offs.

On the other hand, if SSC is correct, that only eliminates one option that shminux gave. It doesn't necessarily reject the claim that you should stay out of certain sun conditions.

Comment by douglas_knight on How Old is Smallpox? · 2018-12-12T02:17:27.223Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

By "really ancient" you mean bronze age, right?

Classical antiquity definitely has plagues in the modern sense, like the Antonine plague. Indeed, in your paper you endorse the fairly standard claim that it was smallpox. That seems to me worth mentioning here, more than the negative claim about Hippocrates.

Comment by douglas_knight on The Kelly Criterion · 2018-10-16T16:18:47.242Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, if the game has many opportunities for betting, you should focus on the instrumental use of the money, which is via compounding, thus the instrumental value is geometric, and so you should use the Kelly criterion. In particular, if your edge is small (but can be repeated), the only way you can make a lot of money is by compounding, so you should use the Kelly criterion.

Comment by douglas_knight on Fixing science via a basic income · 2018-10-11T19:56:12.941Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · LW · GW

France does this, at least in mathematics. Many people go straight from PhD to a permanent CNRS research position with no responsibilities. Short term postdoctoral funding was only introduced in 2005, but before that a lot of people did foreign postdocs. Alain Connes talks about this here.

But mathematicians are cheap. What can you do in other fields? What does CNRS do?

Comment by douglas_knight on Anti-social Punishment · 2018-10-04T13:50:06.755Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You seem to believe that people who engage in Tall Poppy Syndrome would engage in anti-social punishment in this game. But they don't. They engage in the least anti-social punishment and, by a large margin, the most pro-social punishment.

Comment by douglas_knight on Anti-social Punishment · 2018-10-04T13:40:21.171Z · score: 3 (4 votes) · LW · GW

What does this have to do with Tall Poppy Syndrome? Since the people who engage in Tall Poppy Syndrome don't punish any cooperators in this game, the distinction doesn't matter. If you expected them to do so in this game, it directly falsifies your expectations and there is something very different to learn from it.

Comment by douglas_knight on Anti-social Punishment · 2018-10-04T04:29:39.503Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

How about you comment on the tension between your beliefs and the evidence at hand?

Comment by douglas_knight on Anti-social Punishment · 2018-10-03T16:35:50.940Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Why do you bring up tall poppy syndrome? In the formal context of the game, Melbourne had the most pro-social punishment, and the second-least anti-social punishment. Tall poppy syndrome seems to be people who think that they're doing pro-social punishment, but are excessively suspicious of successful people.

Comment by douglas_knight on Against the barbell strategy · 2018-09-24T01:12:27.586Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think it's fairly common for people who agree with an argument but disagree with its conclusions to title that disagreement "Against X," but I think it would be better to use something like "Taking X Further," or "Beyond X," or, for more hostility, "Taking X Seriously."

Comment by douglas_knight on Zetetic explanation · 2018-09-12T18:52:21.590Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

For chili peppers, I, too, prefer the second explanation. I think that is the more popular one, eg, appearing in wikipedia. More specific than digestion, is the theory that it is to avoid the grinding teeth of mammals. I don't know if the specific case has been studied, but the general topic of how much various fruit-eaters digest seeds has been studied. Presumably there is study of how to select cooperative fruit-eaters over defective fruit-eaters.

I am confused by your first sentence. What are the alternative hypotheses? Protect the seed from what? Fruit are certainly lousy at protecting the seed from yeast. I claim that they protect the seed from specialized seed-eaters by encouraging consumption by specialized fruit-eaters. Yes, the avocado is a pretty weird fruit, but it's still a soft, wet, easily digestible outer coating around a hard, difficult to digest seed. What light does it shine on the question? Your use of the word "but" suggests that it addresses the first question, but I don't see it, perhaps because I don't know what the first question is.

Comment by douglas_knight on Advances in Baby Formula · 2018-09-11T00:02:14.289Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Do you apply this skepticism to all non-blind randomized studies? If people have an opinion on the right thing to do, they don't join the study. And studies do ask people if they followed the instructions.

Comment by douglas_knight on Advances in Baby Formula · 2018-09-10T02:39:51.875Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · LW · GW

There have been a number of randomized trials of breast feeding vs formula. I personally know a mother who was randomized c1980. She was not happy when she learned that the hypothesis being tested was that formula had a (specific) negative effect. Which it didn't. No RCT has found any effect. However, the RCT have been very wasteful. They should treat randomized children as a valuable resource, like a twin registry, to be followed for years and extensively measured, but they don't; indeed, I don't think they're allowed to contact them again.

Comment by douglas_knight on Player of Games · 2018-08-31T21:35:01.475Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Charlie Munger writes on trolls:

Here’s a model that we’ve had trouble with. Maybe you’ll be able to figure it out better. Many markets get down to two or three big competitors—or five or six. And in some of those markets, nobody makes any money to speak of. But in others, everybody does very well.
Over the years, we’ve tried to figure out why the competition in some markets gets sort of rational from the investor’s point of view so that the shareholders do well, and in other markets, there’s destructive competition that destroys shareholder wealth.
[several examples that he does understand]
For example, if you look around at bottler markets, you’ll find many markets where bottlers of Pepsi and Coke both make a lot of money and many others where they destroy most of the profitability of the two franchises. That must get down to the peculiarities of individual adjustment to market capitalism. I think you’d have to know the people involved to fully understand what was happening.
Comment by douglas_knight on Zetetic explanation · 2018-08-30T18:22:15.991Z · score: 9 (5 votes) · LW · GW

There were two details that you left out that bothered me. At first I felt like I was nitpicking, but then they two coalesced and I felt better describing them.

You say that animals have coevolved with plants, but you I think you should have spelled this out more. You say that the plant puts more energy around the seed, but you don't say that this is a fruit. The point of a fruit is not to be higher energy to than a seed, just so that it is more likely to be eaten (Are there any examples of this, outside of agriculture?). The point of a fruit is to separate out the fruit which is to be digested by the animal from the seed which the plant does not want to be digested. Fruits are wet sugar, the easiest thing to digest. An animal that eats a seed is competing for the same energy as the plant, whereas an animal that specializes in eating fruit may not be very efficient at digesting the inner seed. This isn't relevant to the coevolution of wheat, which benefits from humans planting seed corn, not from humans failing to digest the wheat.

You mention two methods of making bread without industrial yeast. One is to just leave out porridge, harvesting yeast from the air or the wheat. Another is to get starter from your neighbor. But I think that the most common method, at least historically, is to put fruit in the porridge. Since fruit is easier to digest than seeds, yeast is more common on fruit than on seeds.

Comment by douglas_knight on Zetetic explanation · 2018-08-30T17:52:56.993Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

From the first site, I think a clearer statement is from this more specific page, which says

Yeast: Wild or Domesticated
The real truth of using wild yeast is it is just going to depend on where your wild yeast comes from. Most folks at cider mills swear by using wild yeast, but that is because the yeast that lives at their apple processing facilities is especially adapted to work with apples. What about the yeast floating around in your kitchen (or bathroom?) You could end up with fantastic cider, horrible cider, or even vinegar (actually made from bacteria, but I digress).
Comment by douglas_knight on How to Build a Lumenator · 2018-08-15T19:06:29.085Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It looks to me like you're paying a substantial premium to get high CRI lights. It looks like the original models used lower CRI. Has anyone compared them, either in pleasantness or efficacy?

I'm happy with 80 CRI Ecosmart (8-pack of warm from amazon, 2-pack of daylight from homedepot) about half of the per-bulb price you linked. The Home Depot web site is confusing and inconsistent, but I think that I was able to get free home delivery of a small order, just a single 2-pack, from that link. But if you live in California, HD may well enforce the ban on such bulbs.

Comment by douglas_knight on Who Wants The Job? · 2018-07-23T17:14:10.845Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe they should be thankful to the applicants who changed the requirements, because there was a good chance that they had misjudged the market and would get zero good applicants.

Comment by douglas_knight on Dissolving the Fermi Paradox, and what reflection it provides · 2018-07-17T18:43:29.899Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Definitely mathematical convenience. In many contexts people do sensitivity analysis instead of bayesian updates. It is good to phrase things as bayesian updates, if only as a different point of view, but when that is the better thing to do (which in this case I do not believe), trumpeting it as right and the other method as wrong is the worst kind of mathematical triumphalism that has destroyed modern science.

Comment by douglas_knight on Why it took so long to do the Fermi calculation right? · 2018-07-17T18:38:27.943Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

But this paper does not talk about "your own parameters." The parameters it uses are the range of published parameters. Saying that people should have used that range is exactly the same as saying that people should not have ignored the extremists. (But I think it's just not true that people ignored the extremists.)

Comment by douglas_knight on Are ethical asymmetries from property rights? · 2018-07-17T18:01:28.292Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Indeed, the large number of people who switch but don't push seem to care enough about strangers to demonstrate the issue.

In the usual hypothetical, the people on the trolley tracks are strangers and thus their importance to you is already about equal. Shouldn't you be asking that we find people whose importance to you is large? Kurzban-DeScioli-Fein (summary table) ask the question in terms of pushing a friend to save five friends and find that this reduces the discrepancy between switch and push. (Well, how do you define the discrepancy? It reduces the additive discrepancy, but not the logit discrepancy.) In a different attempt to isolate consequences from rules, they ask whether they would want someone else in the trolley problem to take the action. They find a discrepancy with pushing, but substantially smaller than the push/switch discrepancy.

Comment by douglas_knight on Dissolving the Fermi Paradox, and what reflection it provides · 2018-07-08T01:55:18.160Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What do you mean by "real point"? Don't you mean that the point of the paper is that someone makes a particular mistake?

I mean the mistake of computing expected number rather than probability. I guess the people in the 60s, like Drake and Sagan probably qualify. They computed an expected number of planets, because that's what they were interested in, but were confused because they mixed it up with probability. But after Hart (1975) emphasizes the possibility that there is no life out there, people ask the right question. Most of them say things like "Maybe I was wrong about the probability of life." That's not the same as doing a full bayesian update, but surely it counts as not making this mistake.

It's true that Patrick asserts this mistake. And maybe the people making vague statements of the form "maybe I was wrong" are confused, but not confused enough to make qualitatively wrong inferences.

Comment by douglas_knight on Dissolving the Fermi Paradox, and what reflection it provides · 2018-07-04T18:25:25.206Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm skeptical that anyone ever made that mistake. Can you point to an example?

The paper doesn't claim anyone did, does it?

Comment by douglas_knight on Why it took so long to do the Fermi calculation right? · 2018-07-04T16:16:51.339Z · score: 1 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Did anyone make a mistake? Did anyone ever consider the "Fermi paradox" a paradox in need of dissolution? Can you point to anyone making any argument that would be improved by this analysis? This community has generally focused on the "Great Filter" framing of the argument, which puts weight on multiple hypotheses, even if not explicit weight.

All this calculation says is that some people say that life is difficult. Did anyone ever say that they knew with great certainty that life is easy? On the contrary, many people have said that it is the key parameter and looking for traces of life on other planets will shed light on the question. Other people have said that it is important to pay attention to panspermia, because the presence of panspermia allows the possibility that life is difficult and happened only once in the universe, and yet spread to many planets, requiring another filter.

(The only paradox I can imagine is: if we don't see any life, then life isn't out there (perhaps first asserted by Hart 1975), so life is practically impossible, so we're practically impossible; So why do we exist? This paradox is resolved by anthropic update (Carter 1983). The phrase "Fermi paradox" only appears around 1975, but I'm not sure that Hart or anyone else reached this paradoxical conclusion. In fact, lots of people complained that it's not a paradox.)

Comment by douglas_knight on Does anyone use advanced media projects? · 2018-06-21T03:13:59.812Z · score: 8 (2 votes) · LW · GW
my life would have been much easier at several junctures if only we could have rolled back to the 60s

Bret Victor gave another talk along those lines: slides+vimeo, youtube.

(Wikipedia's portrait of him is from this talk, in ... costume.)

Comment by douglas_knight on Simplified Poker · 2018-06-17T17:19:26.665Z · score: 7 (1 votes) · LW · GW

FWIW, you aren't playing 50 rounds of one game. You're really playing 25 rounds each of 2 games, so you have half as many parameters to estimate in half as many observations.

Comment by douglas_knight on Monopoly: A Manifesto and Fact Post · 2018-06-04T15:51:52.560Z · score: 15 (3 votes) · LW · GW

That's also true, but why would that have any effect on your belief about whether the government banned AT&T from selling unrelated products?

I was just quoting wikipedia, but googling "at&t 1956" brings up this:

1956: AT&T agreed to a consent decree that ends the [1949] lawsuit. The company agrees to confine its activities to common-carrier communication services and government projects. It promises to only manufacture products needed by the Bell system and agrees to make its existing patents available to anyone without charge.

or, if you don't like pdfs, how about the wsj:

In 1956, AT&T signed a consent decree with the federal government that allowed it to keep its structure under which it sold both phone service and telephones themselves. In exchange, AT&T promised to stay out of other businesses and license its patents freely. AT&T's equipment arm, Western Electric, had to withdraw from selling sound equipment for film producers and movie theaters -- giving up experience in a competitive market that would have proved useful later.
Comment by douglas_knight on Monopoly: A Manifesto and Fact Post · 2018-06-04T15:32:26.678Z · score: 8 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The images are from here, I believe figures 3 and 7, archived here.

Comment by douglas_knight on Monopoly: A Manifesto and Fact Post · 2018-06-04T14:55:57.411Z · score: 13 (2 votes) · LW · GW

AT&T did not sell new products because it was banned from doing so from 1956, and probably effectively from earlier. But, as Vaniver says, it kept pursuing computers because it had a huge internal use for them, to make its telephone system cheaper to run, such as to replace the 300k switchboard operators.

Comment by douglas_knight on Expressive Vocabulary · 2018-06-03T20:20:56.779Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You should stop using the word "slur" because most of the time that people use it they are lying (see the examples in the OP). I don't have a replacement word.

Comment by douglas_knight on Moral frameworks and the Harris/Klein debate · 2018-05-21T18:16:07.368Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think that this is a good example of the problems with the term steelmanning. What is the point of steelmanning? Different people have different meanings, derived from different purposes. You ask if you are "steelmanning them well enough," but I cannot answer that without knowing what you mean and are trying to accomplish.

I see three usages. One is in the middle of a debate. This was the original usage, to "attack a steel man" rather than to "attack a straw man." Fix small holes in your opponent's position rather than making him waste time fixing them himself. More generally, don't reiterate common patterns of back-and-forth; anticipate the response and address it.

A second usage is to ascribe intellectual credit. If someone influenced you, it is good to acknowledge your debts, but take credit for your own ideas. Call it your own "argument" or "analysis," not a steel man of someone else. Failing to do so is an ancient practice and I think that it has always been bad for clarity, such as when stoics attributed all their ideas to Zeno. But the new form has additional problems; the traditional practice was a form of tribute to the master, while the idea of the "steel man" of an opponent reverses the valence. Also, putting words in people's mouths is offensive. (Of course, any debate is a claim of superiority over the enemy, but in practice the term and practice of the steel man is more offensive.)

A third usage is to describe a person or a debate. You can't perfectly represent anything and you should always rephrase things to make sure you mean something, rather than just parrot words. You should patch up small holes in this process. But you shouldn't make radical changes. It is sensible to ask what general principle might the person be following to generate these arguments, but you are probably wrong, so you shouldn't attribute it. Ask your audience to debate that new point, not whether you steelmanned the old point. Ask your audience if you missed other arguments. You seem to say (in the comments) that you consciously noticed that Klein made two arguments and that you completely discarded one as lousy. Surely Klein would not accept this description of himself. If your goal is to recount the debate, you should mention the other argument, if only to dismiss it.

One problem with the second and third is that they blend together. I can't tell which you mean to do, and that affects my judgement of how well you did it. I don't like the term steel man for either one, but that confusion is additional problem.

Perception of the Concrete vs Statistical: Corruption

2016-03-23T01:19:33.856Z · score: 3 (4 votes)

Would you notice if science died?

2016-03-08T04:04:49.587Z · score: 4 (10 votes)

Actually existing prediction markets?

2015-09-02T22:24:45.470Z · score: 10 (10 votes)

The Cold War divided Science

2014-04-05T23:10:38.181Z · score: 20 (22 votes)

Games People Play

2010-11-20T04:41:39.635Z · score: 10 (10 votes)