Posts

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)

Comments

Comment by douglas_knight on Jeff Hawkins on neuromorphic AGI within 20 years · 2019-08-10T20:21:28.071Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

How does this compare to what he was saying in 2004? Has he changed his mind about the brain or about AI? Maybe these things about the brain are foundational and we shouldn't expect him to change his mind, but surely his beliefs about AI should have changed.

Comment by douglas_knight on Shortform Beta Launch · 2019-07-29T05:37:30.584Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks. I guess I got confused from mainly using greaterwrong, but I did test it before posting.

Comment by douglas_knight on Shortform Beta Launch · 2019-07-29T02:39:34.682Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In the past you (Raemon) have referred to this as the "shortform feed," but in this post you don't. Is this intentional? (But then in the comments, you say "feed" again.)

To me "feed" suggests a chronological order. Have you considered making the shortform posts sort by age of comment, just as lists of posts usually do?

Similarly, when LW migrated from OB, adding nesting and voting, it made the OB posts sort their comments in chronological order, to preserve the conversation structure. With the advent of 2.0, these posts have lost their special status and are sorted by votes, making the comment conversation unreadable (example). If you do implement a default sort nudge, you should apply it to these posts, too.

[I guess this comment should have gone here.]

Comment by douglas_knight on Handshakes, Hi, and What's New: What's Going On With Small Talk? · 2019-07-25T19:23:56.027Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Did your English class distinguish "How do you do?" from "How's it going?" etc?

Katy seems to be making that distinction, but in my experience people eavesdropping on the masses, most people don't treat any of the variants as a question, but are substantially more likely to respond with another greeting, rather than something that can be interpreted as an answer.

Comment by douglas_knight on Self-experiment Protocol: Effect of Chocolate on Sleep · 2019-07-24T15:22:44.854Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You already have lots of fitbit sleep data, right?

You should look at that data first and use it to guide the experiment. Should you study other metrics of sleep quality?

In particular, you should determine the standard deviation in onset times and do a power analysis to see how long the experiment has to run. I guess there's a problem that you might not have labels indicating which days are straight home from work days. You should try to remember that. Even without that, a simple filter like Mondays might be a good choice.

Comment by douglas_knight on When does adding more people reliably make a system better? · 2019-07-19T16:59:26.773Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Who were the other people who tried to short housing in 2004-2005? Does Michael Lewis talk about them?

Comment by douglas_knight on Wolf's Dice · 2019-07-17T22:58:52.879Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

No, really, it was perfectly clear. The problem is that it was wrong.

Comment by douglas_knight on Wolf's Dice · 2019-07-17T21:37:44.331Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Sure, you use a delta function when you want to make a simplifying assumption. But this post is about questioning the assumption. That's exactly when you wouldn't use a delta function. Your third answer flatly contradicts Shminux. No, he does not believe that there are any perfect dice. Sometimes it's right to contradict people, but if you don't notice you're doing it, it's a sign that you're the one who is confused.

Comment by douglas_knight on A Key Power of the President is to Coordinate the Execution of Existing Concrete Plans · 2019-07-17T01:22:48.299Z · score: 13 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The White House spends the vast majority of its resources putting out false press releases. My impression is that that's what Kalil did, too. Probably he shifted things in a positive direction, but the shape of the marginal effort doesn't have much to do with the shape of the total effort. That is, how much time he spent shaping the CDC actions vs NIH funding vs conferences of outsiders doesn't tells us much about how much of his useful actions fell in those categories. He had practically no direct power, so in a sense the CDC and NIH were outsiders to be coordinated, too.

Cummings burnt a lot of bridges by saying important negative things. I'm suspicious of Kalil sounding so positive. The first hour of the podcast gave me an extremely negative view of him, but then he mentioned a lot of trade-offs and strategies that seemed valuable regardless of the average level of government function. Still, I worry that he sold his soul to function in this environment and lost the ability to tell good projects from bad.

Comment by douglas_knight on A Key Power of the President is to Coordinate the Execution of Existing Concrete Plans · 2019-07-16T20:52:14.724Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Before asking how something happened, we should ask if it happened.

Comment by douglas_knight on A Key Power of the President is to Coordinate the Execution of Existing Concrete Plans · 2019-07-16T15:50:43.284Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I highly recommend this piece by Dominic Cummings on how government works in practice. He is certainly optimistic that it could accomplish a lot, but my interpretation of the Kalil quotes is pretty much the opposite of yours. I'll listen to the podcast to get more context.

Comment by douglas_knight on Circle Games · 2019-07-16T02:46:13.472Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

When I think of "drill," I think of arithmetic problems. The feedback does not come from the world, but from the teacher. A large part of that is that the child does not want to learn arithmetic because of not having an application for it. An application might provide better feedback.

The second thing I think of with "drill" is a sports coach making the kids break down the game, rather than just playing. The coach makes them do free throws, which they wouldn't do on their own, but the world provides the feedback and the value of free throws is pretty clear. Erikson says that the coach is right to drill, that it is suboptimal to just play. Even professional players are famous for not practicing free throws. A child at the basketball court alone, unable to just play is unlikely to drill free throws, but is likely to drill layups, which are closer to the standard game and may be a good choice.

Comment by douglas_knight on Please give your links speaking names! · 2019-07-12T15:23:22.682Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW

But there is a tradeoff between different readers. The "bad" version looks better to me for web readers, who are probably the vast majority. Maybe the writer should think about whether it actually is better, on a link-by-link basis, but I think that they will leave it alone. (Writers should also think about phone vs computer, especially if writing is on computer and reading is on phone.)

Here is a compromise: leave the text the same, but also collate a bibliography of works cited. This would provide a new benefit to web readers, while also providing a hint to print readers.

Comment by douglas_knight on Please give your links speaking names! · 2019-07-12T15:08:16.158Z · score: 16 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Try getting the article from greater wrong instead.

Comment by douglas_knight on The funnel of human experience · 2019-07-12T02:42:01.370Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Mendeleev received a доктор degree in 1865. Although cognate to doctor, this is usually translated as habilitation. The PhD is usually considered equivalent to the кандидат (candidate) degree, which he received in 1856.

Comment by douglas_knight on Thank You, Old Man Jevons, For My Job · 2019-07-08T18:11:44.631Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW
Dur­ing the In­dus­trial Revolu­tion in Bri­tain, the effect was big enough that wages dou­bled from 1850-1900.

The Industrial Revolution is not usually dated as beginning in 1850. Often it is dated as ending in 1850. Wages were stagnant 1750-1850. I think it's considered pretty mysterious why wages behaved differently in the two periods.

Comment by douglas_knight on 87,000 Hours or: Thoughts on Home Ownership · 2019-07-08T18:02:55.764Z · score: 9 (3 votes) · LW · GW
The average person spends about 10 years (87k hours) in a house before moving, which already goes against people's tacit models.

It seems to me that this is the key point, which is why you made it the title and the first sentence of the original post, but I feel like it has been lost in the discussion and maybe swamped by the rest of your post. The longer the tenure, the better buying is. 10 years seems pretty short to me, maybe not a mistake for the average buyer, but definitely a mistake for the marginal buyer. I'd expect most buyers to have an explicit model of more than 10 years, not just a tacit model. But translating it into hours seems to lengthen or obfuscate it and distract from the point.

Comment by douglas_knight on What's the best explanation of intellectual generativity? · 2019-07-01T04:25:11.479Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In 1956, AT&T was banned from selling anything other than telecom. I assume that's why Shockley left to found his semiconductor company that year. I'm unclear on whether it could license patents, but its existing patents were all seized and put in the public domain. AT&T still had a lot of internal needs for computers, so it kept funding research.

Comment by douglas_knight on Is AlphaZero any good without the tree search? · 2019-07-01T04:06:55.069Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

But it does use MCTS in training. You might say that it uses MCTS to generate a better player to learn from.

Comment by douglas_knight on Progress review: genome sequencing - June 2019 · 2019-06-29T21:58:28.290Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW
aca­demic and com­mer­cial

I think the main issue is retail vs wholesale. (BGI's $600 probably means volume pricing.) Also, I think NHGRI publishes averages over deployed machines, including old ones, which overestimates the cost of buying a new machine to create new capacity.

Dante is a retail commercial product of $700 for a whole genome. Dante and Veritas had previously had sales of $200 and $300 (which was probably measuring the demand curve and doesn't say much about cost). Two days after writing this comment, Veritas cut its price in half to $600, below Dante.


Comment by douglas_knight on Writing children's picture books · 2019-06-29T21:39:44.327Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW
I think it’s be­cause, if asked for one’s opinions in front of an adult au­di­ence, it’s as­sumed that there is a back­ground un­der­stand­ing of the is­sue, and you have to say some­thing new, and what you de­cide to say says some­thing about you. Whereas, if you’re ex­plain­ing to a child, then you know they lack most of the back­ground un­der­stand­ing, and so it’s ob­vi­ously good to ex­plain that.
With adults, it’s as­sumed there are things that peo­ple act like “ev­ery­one knows”, where it might be con­sid­ered an­noy­ing to restate them, since it’s kind of like talk­ing down to them. Whereas, the illu­sion or re­al­ity that “ev­ery­one knows” is bro­ken when ex­plain­ing to chil­dren.

This doesn't sound quite right to me.

Do you have an example where you made a mistake that would be corrected by this framing?

I suspect that the problem you are thinking of is that of never even reaching the framing "ex­plain­ing and re­fin­ing your opinions" and that the marginal benefit of the children book framing is small. Who is asking for you to write 1000 words of your opinion of global warming in front of an adult audience? "In front of" sounds like real time, allowing much less that 1000 words. Where did the topic come from? Probably you are expected to respond to an ongoing conversation and thus focus on details that have already been brought up, rather than start from scratch. If someone writes a blog post on global warming and you are tempted to write a response, probably it is better to direct that motivation into writing sub specie aeternitatis. But that first decision is the hard one.

Added: I expect that the marginal benefit of the child audience framing to the quality of the explanation and refining to be positive but marginal, but the benefit to motivation more promising. But it's easier to point to an example of writing the wrong thing than an example where of writing nothing.

Comment by douglas_knight on Is there a guide to 'Problems that are too fast to Google'? · 2019-06-21T19:03:29.597Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, exactly, because that's the real meaning of the word "emergency." Thus it is not a useful word for finding sources about the broader topic. Books about "emergency preparedness" are probably going to have more about first aid, but still won't cover situational awareness or dealing with police.

Comment by douglas_knight on Is there a guide to 'Problems that are too fast to Google'? · 2019-06-19T20:35:34.406Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, "emergency" is, in some sense, the right word, but when I google "emergency preparedness" or "types of emergencies," I don't find "unfriendly policemen" on any lists.

Comment by douglas_knight on Is the "business cycle" an actual economic principle? · 2019-06-19T15:44:44.871Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think that this is a misuse of the idea that markets are anti-inductive. That is just a rephrasing of the efficient markets hypothesis, that some markets are efficient. But you definitely don't expect all markets to be efficient, only very liquid ones. The price of Apple's stock may be hard to predict, but the real phenomenon, the number of iphones sold next year is pretty easy to predict, it's just baked into the price. If you know that it's wrong, you can move money from other stocks into it or vice versa. But if you know that the whole market is wrong, it's much harder to fix. So the trajectory of the whole market could be more predictable than that of a single company.

And the business cycle is not about stock market prices. It is about the real economy, the part that has more momentum. Maybe it's about the market for labor, but that market is definitely not efficient. It's not a commodity. People vary widely in their skills, even the same person over the course of a few years. Hiring someone is a long-term risky investment, not so sensitive to the price of labor.

Comment by douglas_knight on Book review: The Sleepwalkers by Arthur Koestler · 2019-06-17T21:01:51.146Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Obviously I disagree. How can you boldly state that they didn't have things? Maybe there's no written record, but someone writing about the Antikythera Mechanism should know the limits of that! Indeed, the Method of Mechanical Theorems was discovered after even the Mechanism. But there is a written record. There's a lot more calculus in Archimedes than the method of exhaustion. That's barely calculus and it's interesting more because it's rigorous than because it's a forerunner to calculus. But the Method is a pretty big chunk of integral calculus.

The missing part is differential calculus; Newton's laws do not appear in the written record. But Vitruvius appears to discuss how the planetary orbits are the result of inertia and centripetal force, so it is really not a big stretch to posit further elaboration.

Comment by douglas_knight on Book review: The Sleepwalkers by Arthur Koestler · 2019-06-16T23:58:43.285Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Koestler says a bunch of contradictory things about Plato. He recognizes that there are a bunch of different time periods to explain, so he seems to recognize that his explanations don't fit together.

One place he says that it's not Plato's fault, but the fault of the Neoplatonists. Maybe that could explain the decline after Ptolemy and the lack of interest of the Byzantines in science, but in the quote above he's talking about decline before Ptolemy, so Plato proper. He specifically notes a gap between Hipparchus and Ptolemy, so he is talking about a fast fall, not decay past Ptolemy.

He recognizes that the Western Dark Age didn't have Plato or Aristotle. He specifically mentions that the West got Aristotle before Plato. In between it got Archimedes and science exploded. Aristotle is generally seen as promoting medieval science (Roger Bacon was a fan), but at the very least he didn't interfere with reading Archimedes. There was a decline of science and civilization generally when Petrarch translated Plato, but I think that's a coincidence, really the fault of the Black Death.

Comment by douglas_knight on Book review: The Sleepwalkers by Arthur Koestler · 2019-06-15T17:34:01.517Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Apollonius introduced epicycles and proved a theorem of the commutativity of addition: a small epicycle about a large orbit appears the same as a large epicycle about a small orbit. This makes it seems like he was using them to represent heliocentrism, not just fitting data.

The Ptolemaic model has an epicycle and an equant for each planet. One of them corresponds to heliocentrism and the other to the non-circularity of an orbit. (That's very vague because the correspondence is different for the inner planets vs the outer planets. The role of epicycle vs deferant gets switched and (thus) which orbit, the planet or the earth's has its non-circularity approximated differs.)

Comment by douglas_knight on Book review: The Sleepwalkers by Arthur Koestler · 2019-06-15T17:25:57.287Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That's reasonable, but most likely the Greeks didn’t know the orbits were ellipses, but just knew them as solutions to Newton’s laws and used calculus to approximate them as deviations from circles.

Comment by douglas_knight on Book review: The Sleepwalkers by Arthur Koestler · 2019-06-15T17:18:52.113Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · LW · GW
“in the year 1500 Europe knew less than Archimedes who died in the year 212 BC.”
In short, the an­swer seems to be Plato and Aris­to­tle (OP)

But Plato and Aristotle came before Archimedes! How is this an answer? Bad ideas can retard progress, but they didn’t hurt Archimedes.

By the end of the third century BC, the heroic period of Greek science was over. From Plato and Aristotle onward, natural science begins to fall into disrepute and decay (Koestler)

This is complete garbage. The Hellenistic period after Aristotle was much better than the “heroic” period before him. Aristotle appears to have created science. While there were some scientific Presocratics (Thales, Democritus), Koestler’s Pythagoras is a fantasy. Aside from inflating the achievements of the Pythagoreans, relying too much on Simplicius a thousand years later, he also gerrymanders the real achievements of real people, arbitrarily crediting the Pythagoreans. Maybe Herakleides was a Pythagorean, but he was also a student of Plato, as Koestler mentions in passing, but fails to credit. Classifying Aristarchus as Pythagorean rather than Hellenistic is crazy.

Hellenistic science didn't decay, but abruptly collapsed, with civil war in Alexandria in 144BC and, more mysteriously, with the peaceful Roman annexation of Pergamon in 133BC.

Comment by douglas_knight on Get Rich Real Slowly · 2019-06-15T02:12:51.134Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That's a quote from Wealthfront. Here's the fine print:

The cash balance in the Cash Account is swept to one or more banks (the “program banks”) where it earns a variable rate of interest and is eligible for FDIC insurance. FDIC insurance is not provided until the funds arrive at the program banks. FDIC insurance coverage is limited to $250,000 per qualified customer account per banking institution. Wealthfront Brokerage uses more than one program bank to ensure FDIC coverage of up to $1 million for your cash deposits.

(edit, days later: apparently this is common)

Comment by douglas_knight on Ramifications of limited positive value, unlimited negative value? · 2019-06-12T16:06:55.514Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You phrased your thought experiments in terms of good and bad lives. But what about the good and bad parts of a life? When you imagine a lot of good lives, you say that the value doesn't add up. But what about the bad parts of those lives? Do you imagine that still accumulates and wipes out the value in the good parts?

Comment by douglas_knight on Moral Mazes and Short Termism · 2019-06-04T19:19:15.565Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe this is just nitpicking, but I found this passage confusing:

On the level of corporations doing this direct from the top, often these actions are a response to the incentives the corporation faces. In those cases, there is no reason to expect such actions to be out-competed.
In other cases, the incentives of the CEO and top management are twisted but the corporation’s incentives are not. One would certainly expect those corporations that avoid this to do better. But these mismatches are the natural consequence of putting someone in charge who does not permanently own the company. Thus, dual class share structures becoming popular to restore skin in the correct game.

Is that last sentence in the wrong paragraph?

Before I get to my reading that suggests that change, a couple things that I found confusing that could have caused me to misread it: What does "in charge" mean? The CEO or the owners? How do corporations face incentives, rather than individuals?

I read the first paragraph about Wall Street and quarterly reports giving bad incentives to the CEO. Dual class shares exist to protect founders from outside investors. So doesn't that sentence belong in the first paragraph, not the second...? (It's a little weird to say that outside investors don't have skin in the game. Maybe you mean that money managers investing other people's money don't have skin in the game. Also, it's more that super shares remove control, rather than add skin. I think that it may be more important that the founders have demonstrated ability to make long-term plans than their incentives. Consider Steve Jobs returning to Apple as a hired-gun CEO.)

What is the other case, the case of the second paragraph? When Wall Street or other owners understands the company, but has to install a hired manager? Then, yes, the misalignment of incentives makes it difficult for the board to hire a CEO. But super shares don't seem relevant to that problem.

Comment by douglas_knight on Editor Mini-Guide · 2019-05-31T23:09:49.534Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think that you mixed them up. When I use the markdown syntax, I get full-width, presumably inline images, not block. Whereas when I follow your other instructions...I can't follow them. When I select text, I don't get an image button, just (Bold, Italic, Underline, Link | Title, Blockquote). Is image supposed to be on that list? If so, that's a simple explanation of the bug.

Comment by douglas_knight on Editor Mini-Guide · 2019-05-31T21:34:10.990Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks, but that doesn't mean anything to me. Is this documented anywhere? Is this page the best documentation for the editor?

Is your comment even intended for users, or is it a hint for debugging?

Comment by douglas_knight on Counterintuitive Comparative Advantage · 2019-05-31T18:44:20.962Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry if I'm belaboring the obvious, but aiming for secrets is an extreme form of comparative advantage. Maybe the framing is important, either by focusing on the tail or on risk or by some purely psychological effect, but the argument is exactly the same.

Comment by douglas_knight on Editor Mini-Guide · 2019-05-31T18:05:17.488Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What's up with images?
I stumbled on advanced image features. I don't mean badly discoverable, but really clearly a UI bug. The features let me resize them and choose between left- and right-justification (and text flowing around them?) and it's a pity that they're not widely available. Specifically, I made this comment. First I switched my account to markdown (is there a way to switch a single comment?). I made the comment with the image. I switched my account to wysiwyg. I edited the comment and accepted the option to switch the comment to wysiwyg. At this point I had the resizing ability, but only for the old markdown image and not for new images I added in wysiwyg, either that comment or a comment that started as wysiwyg (the test comment below).

I replicated this procedure with this comment. It started as markdown and I can resize this image:

but not this one:

Comment by douglas_knight on Double-Dipping in Dunning--Kruger · 2019-05-31T14:11:09.631Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In other words, regression to the mean. The predictions form a line, with a positive slope. Less than 1, but only perfect predictions would have slope 1. The intercept is high, which is overconfidence. But the intercept is a statement about the whole population, not about the lowest bin.

Here are the graphs. A lot of information has been destroyed by binning them, but it doesn't sound like DK thought that information was relevant or made use of it:

The second is different. That better matches the cartoons one finds for an image search for Dunning-Kruger. But I'm not sure it matches this post. (The third could be described as yet another shape, but I'd classify it as a line with a very low positive slope.)

The fourth graph is of a more complicated intervention. It seems like it has the opposite message of this post, namely it finds that the 4th quartile is better calibrated than the 3rd.

Comment by douglas_knight on Von Neumann’s critique of automata theory and logic in computer science · 2019-05-29T16:45:28.795Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think he's saying that error is good. He's saying that ignoring error is bad. And there's a valley of bad rationality in which the error level is low enough that people ignore it, but it still matters. Specifically, he says that black box models that don't include error are bad. You should model error of components and error propagation and design circuits that are robust to error. I'm not sure what this would mean in practice, though. Today we design systems that recover from computers crashing, but recovering from wrong computation is harder.

But this is 1948. In 1956, he showed how to take digital gates with known error rates and build from them digital gates with lower error rates. This opens up the possibility of getting the error low enough that you can ignore it and embrace digital logic. I'm guessing that he changed his mind and rejected the earlier paper, but it would be nice to have an explicit statement.

Comment by douglas_knight on What is required to run a psychology study? · 2019-05-29T16:13:39.116Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

As Jessicata said, the regulations only apply via federal funding. It's that simple.

There are some magic words that turn an oral history into a study, but a poll is already a study. And none of this changes your funding.

Comment by douglas_knight on Hierarchy and wings · 2019-05-26T22:48:01.164Z · score: 15 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Compare: the political spectrum as Rentiers vs Apparatchiks

Comment by douglas_knight on Does the Higgs-boson exist? · 2019-05-23T18:42:44.927Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Eliezer's post is quite compatible with Sabine's. They may have additional positions that are not compatible, and maybe you know that from their other posts. Eliezer claims a very weak version of realism, while Sabine rejects a strong version. Eliezer claims QCD is true because it predicts reality; whereas Sabine says that she doesn't know what it means for quarks to be real. Sabine does not address truth or reality of theories and Eliezer does not address the reality of objects.

I think that your second quote is misleading. She does not claim to reject the truth of theories, only the truth of objects. That seems like an odd word choice, but the third time she uses "true" it is explicitly about constituent objects.

PS — could you switch the link to https?

Comment by douglas_knight on Which scientific discovery was most ahead of its time? · 2019-05-18T17:27:54.595Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Scientific progress is not at all continuous and not systematically forward. There have been many periods of scientific regress. The most famous is the Dark Ages between Antiquity and Modernity, hence Luke's example of Hero.

But regress is all over the place, even in well-known examples of progress, like the Italian Renaissance. People often say that Renaissance art began with Giotto or maybe even so specifically with his invention of perspective. But, actually, most accounts of Renaissance art skip ahead a century from Giotto's death in 1337. In particular, perspective regressed and was reinvented in 1413 by Brunelleschi. And this wasn't even an independent discovery: Brunelleschi could see Giotto's work and knew that better was possible. *

Going back to Hero, "ancient Greece" is a bad category. Hero isn't the pinnacle of ancient Greek science, but a figure of a Roman era of rebirth after a dark age 150 BC – 50 AD during which we know the names of no scientists. In fact, almost everything Hero writes about he attributes to Ctesibius (d. 222 BC). If he is truthful about his sources, then there was a either a 250 year pause in pneumatics or there was more progress that was lost in the interim. In general, a controversial question is whether the rebirth in Roman Alexandria reconstructed and surpassed Hellenistic Alexandria or whether it was only able to understand a few books.

* Lorenzetti (d. 1348) seems to have been pretty good at single buildings, but bad at putting them together. Compare the only city I can find by Giotto.

Comment by douglas_knight on Authoritarian Empiricism · 2019-05-09T18:05:41.924Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That sounds like a totally normal coup, openly seizing power and thus creating a Schelling point for everyone to fall in line behind them. Maybe they lied about having written earlier manifestos that also acted as a Schelling point, but that would just be a single lie; and just a bald assertion, not backed up by the authority of some "info-processing apparatus."

Comment by douglas_knight on Authoritarian Empiricism · 2019-05-09T17:30:18.403Z · score: 10 (2 votes) · LW · GW
This seems related somehow to a thing where they

I think it would be clearer if you said who "they" is, men or women. Having read the post and found that it's all about men, it's pretty clear that it is men, but when I first read it I found it pretty ambiguous and in fact assumed that it was women. On a slightly different note, my failure to understand the relation between the two statements seems like a good example of the writing advice that you should repeat your thesis at the end, because it may be incomprehensible on the first pass. You do have a kind of thesis at the end, but it seems backwards, the more easily comprehended version at the end, rather than the beginning.

Comment by douglas_knight on The Forces of Blandness and the Disagreeable Majority · 2019-04-30T18:19:51.778Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · LW · GW

NYT has good coverage. When I merely google "new knowledge" two of the first page hits are wapo and BI, which whitewash them by only talking about the disinformation campaigns that they admitted to.

Comment by douglas_knight on Asymmetric Justice · 2019-04-26T21:14:19.826Z · score: 10 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What do you mean by "modern experience"? If you mean things happening at new scales, like twitter mobs, probably game theory is not the right way to describe it, but accidental consequences of psychology adapted for smaller settings. Whereas I think Benquo is talking about smaller scales, like office politics, where the resources are near enough to seize. That may well explain irrational behavior at broader scales. (Although I think twitter mobs aren't that asymmetric.)

Comment by douglas_knight on Asymmetric Justice · 2019-04-26T21:09:44.338Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

OK, if praise-gangs don't actually do anything, while destruction gangs actually destroy, then praise-gangs are cheap talk. But that sounds to me like it's just pushing it back another level. Benquo claimed that there was an asymmetry in joining putatively effective gangs. If destruction is 10x as effective as creation, then maybe a pebble promoting creation should get 1/10 as much credit as a pebble promoting destruction.

Comment by douglas_knight on Asymmetric Justice · 2019-04-26T17:06:13.095Z · score: 10 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If that's what people are getting out of it, it's symmetric, and they might as well join praise-gangs, so this fails to explain the asymmetry. You are disagreeing with Benquo just as much as Jimrandomh is.

Comment by douglas_knight on Why does category theory exist? · 2019-04-25T18:27:37.609Z · score: 9 (4 votes) · LW · GW

In the original series of articles by Eilenberg and Mac Lane, they wrote something like:

"Category" has been defined in order to be able to define "functor" and "functor" has been defined in order to be able to define "natural transformation."

The word "natural" has a long history in mathematics. Category theory is a rigorous interpretation of what it means (neither stronger nor weaker than the more obvious notion of canonical). The first example of a natural transformation is the determinant. What does it mean that it is "natural," that is compatible across rings of coefficients?

Comment by douglas_knight on [Answer] Why wasn't science invented in China? · 2019-04-25T02:46:51.333Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This (especially Huff) seems like a very fine-grained question, as if you already know the answers to coarser questions, like why not Rome or the Song dynasty or Roger Bacon? If you see history as a long arc of progress with China a little ahead, then it is natural to ask what happened at the end, a sudden sprint or a stumble. But do you understand history well enough to justify such a question?

History is not monotone. There are definite dips, such as the Western Dark Ages and the chaos between Chinese dynasties. But is each dynasty better than the last? You should try to plot a rough curve, rather than asking the binary of science being invented or not. Trying to explain more bits of information is usually easier.

Progress is not uni-dimensional. The Song was the most commercial dynasty. But should we expect it to be the most scientific? People usually say that the Greeks were better at science, the Romans at engineering. Instead of asking why China failed to progress, ask why Roman regressed, without the obvious cause of a collapse. How is uneven progress possible?