Against Rationalization II: Sequence Recap 2020-01-16T22:51:20.308Z
Using Expert Disagreement 2020-01-16T22:42:14.980Z
Testing for Rationalization 2020-01-16T08:12:56.444Z
Avoiding Rationalization 2020-01-15T10:55:33.153Z
Red Flags for Rationalization 2020-01-14T07:34:42.821Z
Why a New Rationalization Sequence? 2020-01-13T06:46:33.813Z
dspeyer's Shortform 2019-12-10T07:04:38.725Z
2019 Winter Solstice Collection 2019-12-04T17:25:58.478Z
The Fallacy of Large Numbers 2012-08-12T18:39:47.894Z


Comment by dspeyer on MIRI location optimization (and related topics) discussion · 2021-05-12T07:03:17.823Z · LW · GW

Less of a constraint if matters are arranged such that living in NYC is practical.  Expensive, of course, but no worse than the Bay.  It's a long-ish commute, but not too terrible by mostly-empty train (the full trains will be running the opposite direction).  Easier still if WFH a few days a week is supported.

Comment by dspeyer on MIRI location optimization (and related topics) discussion · 2021-05-12T06:51:19.535Z · LW · GW

This seems like a very confused way of thinking about earthquakes.  

In the past month, there were 4 earthquakes associated with the Juan del Fuca subduction.  All were around Richter 2.5 and no one cared.

While I suppose it's possible for a fault to produce small and large earthquakes both more often than in between, this strikes me as rather unlikely.  Generally an analysis of earthquake risk should begin be deciding what magnitude earthquakes to care about, and then calculate probabilities.

(When we say that the Seattle area is particularly at-risk, that's because architecture standards there contain very little earthquake-resilience.  Which may not be relevant here.  The actual fault line is among the less active on the west coast of North America.)

Comment by dspeyer on MIRI location optimization (and related topics) discussion · 2021-05-09T06:40:23.372Z · LW · GW

I can more easily imagine worlds where some MIRI staff lived and worked in NYC itself, though I think MIRI's first-pass goal would be to have as many staff as possible working in the Peekskill area.

You may be underestimating the mental health benefits of being immersed in a larger community. If you apply the “Comfort In. Dump Out” model of emotional support to the stress of MIRI, having strong relationships with people with less stressful lives is really important.  If MIRIans are living in a little bubble with no one to dump on but each other, stress just builds.

Comment by dspeyer on MIRI location optimization (and related topics) discussion · 2021-05-09T01:03:28.475Z · LW · GW

Seeing as MIRIans will be working outside the city and having fun inside it (regardless of where they live), they won't be traveling with the rush.

Comment by dspeyer on MIRI location optimization (and related topics) discussion · 2021-05-09T00:29:39.885Z · LW · GW

Conflict of interest disclaimer: I live in NYC and think bringing MIRI here would be good for our local community

I would point out that being an hour by train from the city is significantly closer than an hour by car.  An hour by train is an hour of relaxation or productive work (your choice), whereas an hour by car is an hour lost.  An hour by train is also reliably an hour, whereas an hour by car puts your schedule at the mercy of traffic.  Finally, an hour by train is accessible to everyone, whereas an hour by car requires possessing a car, being proficient in its use, and being confident of your ability to focus for the entire ride.

Apart from transit, I'd urge you to take weather seriously.  I lived near Seattle for two years, and going without sunlight for months at a time drained me.  (Going without proper storms messed with me too, but that's probably just me.)  I'm told working at MIRI, staring into how doomed we are on a daily basis, can be depressing. Best not to combine those.

I'll also say that I have more confidence in New York's cultural future.  It's hard to estimate the risk that Seattle will develop anti-epistemic happy death spirals like San Fransisco did.  If I had to handwave it, I'd say 30% within the next 10 years.  NYC's sheer size and internal diversity give it cultural inertia.  Odds of something like that happening here I'd put below 1%.

Comment by dspeyer on Far-Ultraviolet Light in Public Spaces to Fight Pandemic is a Good Idea but Premature · 2020-04-18T17:53:40.355Z · LW · GW

Burns, sunburns, repeated impact, scrapes, abrasion from overuse...

I generally only put a dressing on damaged skin if it's actually bleeding. And even then if the dressing falls off after it clots, I don't worry about it.

Comment by dspeyer on Far-Ultraviolet Light in Public Spaces to Fight Pandemic is a Good Idea but Premature · 2020-04-16T00:46:09.864Z · LW · GW

I'm worried about damaged skin. If I have a patch of surface where the keratin layer is abnormally thin, does that skin mutate, metastasize, and threaten my entire body? I suspect such patches are present in over 1% of individuals under normal circumstances.

Comment by dspeyer on Discontinuous progress in history: an update · 2020-04-15T06:17:58.282Z · LW · GW

What were the 38 trends you studied? How did you select them? How confident are you that the other 28 don't have discontinuities that you missed?

Comment by dspeyer on How to have a happy quarantine · 2020-03-18T04:37:00.737Z · LW · GW is another website with a variety of games has Brass has Through the Ages, both original and updated deck. (Despite the generic name, it's just that one game.)

Words With Friends is imitation Scrabble available as a Facebook app.

Comment by dspeyer on Against Rationalization II: Sequence Recap · 2020-01-17T05:04:33.815Z · LW · GW

So *that's* where that UI lives! I did look for it.

Might go back and convert this into a proper sequence when I get back from Mystery Hunt.

Comment by dspeyer on Propagating Facts into Aesthetics · 2019-12-28T00:36:37.023Z · LW · GW

In addition to modifying the perceived beauty or distastefulness of a given concept, there are knobs you can turn related to the concepts themselves: nudging, splitting, merging, or even destroying (and assigning all remaining aesthetic value to other, related concepts.

Comment by dspeyer on dspeyer's Shortform · 2019-12-10T07:04:39.083Z · LW · GW

This is a public key I wanted to document exists in a rationalist-associated place:

ssh-rsa AAAAB3NzaC1yc2EAAAADAQABAAAAgQDSU/aJmWPV/lHsh5TiePzWimK0/Bj4VlsykTYucHv5PG+b3ogUe8zjcBqzW1Dl0pIJj+KYaEdxk5KYhEEImyaP6umMPnlKvL4VqR3lXebvTAnGxcWN27ZJDqcfgGI/Ilcf1JVEjA6g6DyvEOx3xeqBUH+oPvo8Z/VmyZjAFuuWwQ== dspeyer@dspeyerheim

Comment by dspeyer on 2019 Winter Solstice Collection · 2019-12-04T21:12:40.406Z · LW · GW


December 21st

St Patrick Catholic Church

Comment by dspeyer on 2019 Winter Solstice Collection · 2019-12-04T17:41:21.561Z · LW · GW

Megameetup Pre-Solstice Unconference:

Comment by dspeyer on 2019 Winter Solstice Collection · 2019-12-04T17:33:42.267Z · LW · GW

Bellevue, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

December 14th

Comment by dspeyer on 2019 Winter Solstice Collection · 2019-12-04T17:30:06.533Z · LW · GW

Bay Area

December 15th

Chabot Space & Science Center, Skyline Boulevard, Oakland

With attached West Coast Megameetup?

Comment by dspeyer on 2019 Winter Solstice Collection · 2019-12-04T17:27:23.018Z · LW · GW

New York City

December 21st

Hunter College

Solstice registration link:

East Coast Megameetup registration link:

And FB events, for those who like those:



Comment by dspeyer on What are the open problems in Human Rationality? · 2019-06-03T06:06:52.141Z · LW · GW

Dealing with uncertainty about our own logic. It's a circular sort of problem: any logic I use to deal with my potentially flawed reasoning is itself potentially flawed. It gets worse when you deal with potential rationalization.

Comment by dspeyer on Rationalist Seder: A Story of War · 2017-06-04T21:43:55.027Z · LW · GW

The idea of rationalist seder is to -- carefully! -- use the effect described in "beware fictional evidence" to promote ideas to our awareness.

We know that "the obviously better thing wouldn't be a Nash equilibrium" traps exist, but we have trouble seeing them, and keep seeing malice and power where there is only desperation. We know that stories can give structure to societies (or, at least, we do if we've read Haidt), but we have trouble seeing it, instead seeing madness and gullibility. We know social structures have both costs and benefits which are difficult to weigh against each other, but tend to see only the side that is effecting us right now.

So I wrote this story, this obviously not true story, stripped to its barest bones, so that it could stick in our heads. So that when we should be noticing the things from the preceding paragraph, a spark of recognition fires in our brains and we generate the hypothesis. Once the hypothesis is generated, we can evaluate it with all the tools at our disposal, and this story will (hopefully) get out of the way.

Comment by dspeyer on Rationalist Seder: Dayenu, Lo Dayenu · 2017-06-04T21:29:40.436Z · LW · GW

Two small notes for those who aren't immersed in Judaism:

The "almost has been said" refers to the saying:

Keep two truths in your pocket and take them out according to the need of the moment. Let one be “For my sake the world was created.” And the other: “I am dust and ashes.”

credited to Rabbi Simcha Bunam, a leader of the chassidic movement in the early 19th century. He said, rather than wrote, this, so the exact phrasing may have gotten cleaned up by successive quoters (of which there have been many).

As for the rhythm of dayenu and lo dayenu, that's in the traditional melody (which is itself of uncertain origin, but probably a few centuries old at least). Traditionally, the extra beats are filled in by singing "day-dayenu, day-dayenu, day-dayenu, dayenu, dayenu". Almost as if the melody wanted "lo"s in front of half of the dayenus...

Comment by dspeyer on Rationality Quotes Thread January 2016 · 2016-01-09T19:41:33.977Z · LW · GW

I can't avoid all my problems by drawing squirrels, but when I can, I do.

--Randall Munrow

Comment by dspeyer on Rationality Quotes Thread January 2016 · 2016-01-05T08:17:15.182Z · LW · GW

There's a sort of Gresham's Law of conversations. If a conversation reaches a certain level of incivility, the more thoughtful people start to leave.

--Paul Graham

Comment by dspeyer on Rationality Quotes Thread November 2015 · 2015-12-27T08:28:23.007Z · LW · GW

Reverse causation is not ruled out because diagnosis can be delayed.

It seems entirely plausible to me that it takes several months of worsening depression symptoms (during which time sex drive is effected) before a patient sees a psychiatrist.

I suppose it's ruled out if we separate "depression" and "diagnosed with depression" into separate nodes, but that doesn't rule out anything interesting.

Comment by dspeyer on Rationality Quotes Thread December 2015 · 2015-12-03T05:35:44.839Z · LW · GW

I think the common thread in a lot of these [horrible] relationships is people who have managed to go through their entire lives without realizing that “Person did Thing, which caused me to be upset” is not the same thing as “Person did something wrong”, much less “I have a right to forbid Person from ever doing Thing again”.

--Ozymandias (most of the post is unrelated)

Comment by dspeyer on Rationality Quotes Thread November 2015 · 2015-11-04T23:05:14.575Z · LW · GW

I agree.

The model I use to derive that involves looking at lots of dying people who don't want to die. If we had lots of people lying around saying "I wish I could die; why can't I die?" that same model would conclude the lifespan is too long.

Comment by dspeyer on Rationality Quotes Thread November 2015 · 2015-11-04T10:00:00.947Z · LW · GW

Chronology is evidence of causality, but it's weak evidence. In this case, there are (at least) two problems. First, there could be some other factor (disruption of social network? increase in pro-inflamatory microbiota?) which causes both, but the sex is caused faster. Alternatively, it could be that depression causes low sex drive, but that kicks in immediately whereas it takes months to get a depression diagnosis.

There are good ways to determine causality from observational data, but timing isn't one of them.

Comment by dspeyer on Rationality Quotes Thread November 2015 · 2015-11-04T09:45:53.046Z · LW · GW

Don't trust any model that implies X is too low unless it's also capable of detecting when X would be too high


Comment by dspeyer on Rationality Quotes Thread October 2015 · 2015-10-04T20:02:03.713Z · LW · GW

The smug mask of virtue triumphant could be almost as horrible as the face of wickedness revealed. Almost as horrible, but not quite.

-- Granny Weatherwax. Carpe Jugulum, Terry Pratchett

Comment by dspeyer on Rationality Quotes Thread October 2015 · 2015-10-04T19:57:04.724Z · LW · GW

[T]he kind of mirage that came from modern data-dredging capabilities: if you watch trillions of things, you will often see one-in-a-million coincidences.

-- Vernor Vinge, Rainbows End

Comment by dspeyer on Rationality Quotes Thread September 2015 · 2015-09-02T17:40:55.224Z · LW · GW

Then the most important question for any model would be what domains it's good at.

For example: one model approximates the population as infinite, so it gets decent predictions when the number of agents in each category exceeds five (this is rare).

These requirements to apply the model should be the first thing taught about the model.

Comment by dspeyer on Rationality Quotes Thread September 2015 · 2015-09-02T16:07:24.285Z · LW · GW

I consider that I understand an equation when I can predict the properties of its solutions, without actually solving it.

-- Paul Dirac

Comment by dspeyer on Rationality Quotes Thread July 2015 · 2015-07-02T15:34:48.145Z · LW · GW

There is the world that should be, and the world that is. We live in one.

And must create the other, if it is ever to be.

-- Jim Butcher, Turn Coat

Comment by dspeyer on Rationality Quotes Thread July 2015 · 2015-07-02T06:00:00.275Z · LW · GW

Don’t waste time trying to make him think that [your philosophy] is true! Make him think it is strong, or stark, or courageous — that it is the philosophy of the future. That’s the sort of thing he cares about. The trouble about argument is that it moves the whole struggle onto the Enemy’s own ground. By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient’s reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result?

-- Archfiend Screwtape, The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis

Comment by dspeyer on Rationality Quotes Thread July 2015 · 2015-07-02T05:56:04.671Z · LW · GW

There is another proverb, "As you have made your bed, so you must lie on it"; which again is simply a lie. If I have made my bed uncomfortable, please God I will make it again.

-- G. K. Chesterton

Comment by dspeyer on Taking Effective Altruism Seriously · 2015-06-05T17:19:47.670Z · LW · GW

The population of sub-Saharan Africa is around 950 million people, and growing. They have been a prime target of aid for generations, but it remains the poorest region of the world.

In absolute terms, conditions in sub-Saharan Africa have improved a lot. Saying "poorest" only states that it hasn't caught up with the rest of the world, which is also improving.

Comment by dspeyer on Rationality Quotes Thread June 2015 · 2015-06-01T06:26:33.086Z · LW · GW

As a general rule, 90% of the execution time of your program will be spent in 10% of its code. Profilers are tools that help you identify the 10% of hot spots that constrain the speed of your program. This is a good thing for making it faster.

But in the Unix tradition, profilers have a far more important function. They enable you not to optimize the other 90%! This is good, and not just because it saves you work. The really valuable effect is that not optimizing that 90% holds down global complexity and reduces bugs.

-- Eric Raymond, The Art of Unix Programming

(Applies to optimization in general)

Comment by dspeyer on Rationality Quotes Thread June 2015 · 2015-06-01T06:20:58.934Z · LW · GW

You are probably not cynical enough if you think you could beat seven billion people at cynicism.

--Alicorn? (I'm not sure exactly how authorship of these pages works)

Comment by dspeyer on Rationality Quotes Thread March 2015 · 2015-03-13T04:32:49.628Z · LW · GW

Always take into consideration the fact that you might be dead wrong

--Sam Vimes, Jingo, Terry Pratchett

Comment by dspeyer on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, January 2015, chapter 103 · 2015-03-04T04:10:59.692Z · LW · GW

More immediately relevant:

Even in the world of comic books, the only reason a superhero like Batman even looks successful is that the comic-book readers only notice when Important Named Characters die, not when the Joker shoots some random nameless bystander to show off his villainy.

Comment by dspeyer on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 9 · 2015-02-23T23:04:21.660Z · LW · GW

Either that or followed

Comment by dspeyer on Rationality Quotes Thread February 2015 · 2015-02-19T08:22:37.996Z · LW · GW

This seems to be conflating possessing truth and sharing truth. The former is almost always valuable. The latter is an interesting bit of game theory, that can go either way.

As it has been said, truth may be spoken as events dictate, but should be heard on every occasion.

Comment by dspeyer on Rationalist Storybooks: A Challenge · 2015-02-19T05:55:35.966Z · LW · GW

Alternative moral: "No matter how great you are, there exists a level of pride sufficient to bring you down."

Comment by dspeyer on Respond to what they probably meant · 2015-01-18T15:11:31.005Z · LW · GW

This advice can backfire. If you're applying it and I'm trying to say something you didn't expect, I'm going to get very frustrated -- trying phrasing after phrasing until you hear what I'm actually saying (or I'll walk away).

The advice can also work well.

I think it's necessary to keep per person probabilities for meaning what they say and meaning something novel.

Comment by dspeyer on Rationality Quotes January 2015 · 2015-01-10T00:56:14.549Z · LW · GW

What fields do you have in mind?

Comment by dspeyer on Rationality Quotes January 2015 · 2015-01-06T11:00:40.465Z · LW · GW

One bit of advice: it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree -- make sure you understand the fundamental principles, ie the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.

-- Elon Musk

Comment by dspeyer on 2014 Survey Results · 2015-01-04T10:46:18.947Z · LW · GW

Do I understand correctly that a more masculine finger ratio correlated strongly to support for feminism in both men and women?

I am also amused to note that, despite our extreme sex ratio, our BEM gender masculinity and femininity are almost exactly equal -- way below error.

Comment by dspeyer on Moloch: optimisation, "and" vs "or", information, and sacrificial ems · 2014-12-26T23:39:37.217Z · LW · GW

Here is a source. I can't promise it's the one u/Lumifer meant.

Comment by dspeyer on Rationality Quotes April 2014 · 2014-12-15T18:36:28.403Z · LW · GW

In that case, the questions have complicated answers. The best dieting advice might be "first sequence your personal microbiome then consult this lookup table..."

Comment by dspeyer on Rationality Quotes December 2014 · 2014-12-14T06:22:39.966Z · LW · GW

Better, to Death:

For once, Death appeared not to smile.

He brought his hand down on the strings.

There was no sound.

There was, instead, a cessation of sound, the end of a noise which Susan realized she'd been hearing all along. All the time. All her life. A kind of sound you never notice until it stops . . .

The strings were still.

There are millions of chords. There are millions of numbers. And everyone forgets the one that is a zero. But without the zero, numbers are just arithmetic. Without the empty chord, music is just noise.

Death played the empty chord.

The beat slowed. And began to weaken. The universe spun on, every atom of it. But soon the whirling would end and the dancers would look around and wonder what to do next.

It's not time for THAT! Play something else!

--Soul Music, Terry Pratchett

Comment by dspeyer on You have a set amount of "weirdness points". Spend them wisely. · 2014-11-28T15:56:21.474Z · LW · GW

Have we worked through the game theory here? It feels like negotiating with terrorists.