DIY Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation. Who wants to go first? 2012-03-14T16:58:30.024Z
RAND Health Insurance Experiment critiques 2012-02-18T17:52:59.330Z


Comment by Dustin on Come Build Affordable Housing! · 2021-07-25T16:44:30.056Z · LW · GW

From what I've been told, for someone new to an area to come in and build homes is often prohibitively difficult. Permitting and inspections are often largely about who you know rather than any sort objective measures. Finding reliable contractors who are willing and able to work with someone new is really hard. 

That's not to say it's impossible. Just something to keep in mind!

I have experience in this area, but all of it is small town single-family or small multi-family...right now I'm just about wrapped up building a duplex on an infill lot. Total around 2000sqft built at $50/sqft. The difficulties described above makes the idea of trying what you talk about kind of scary. 

The biggest obstacle for me is probably the cost of living adjustment moving from where we are to there is seem basically insurmountable.  I own a nice 10 year old 2400sqft home. I could get maybe $210,000 out of it now and walk away with $100,000.  Which doesn't sound like it'd go far in Somerville.

Comment by Dustin on The Inside View #4–Sav Sidorov–Learning, Contrarianism and Robotics · 2021-07-22T23:34:09.878Z · LW · GW

I don't have an objection to the usage of that word. I do not relate to the usage of that word. I think that people probably do get whatever they mean by "meaning" from religion or politics or whatever, so I don't think "objection" is the right word.


Actually, now that I've thought some more let me step back and clarify.

The context of what we're talking about here is people wanting meaning, getting it from things outside of themselves, and then corrupting themselves and the things outside of themselves in pursuit of this meaning.  Religion, politics, whatever. People "believing" in these things because in some way it makes them have a point to their life.

What it is that I do not relate to is this overridingly deep wanting to have meaning, not so much the meaning itself. Particularly so deeply that you'll corrupt things (subconsciously?) you care about just to fill this lack of meaning in your life. (Of course, maybe I'm doing this and just don't realize it!)

That I have a point to my life seems only somewhat important to me but way, way less important than what the point is. Maybe this is one of those things where I'm having-a-point-to-my-life privileged to the point that I just can't understand?  

(This is somewhat paradoxical...wouldn't you need to have a point to your life to care about what the point is?) 

It is almost always posited as being nearly completely subconscious in operation, but your description of how you reacted to Michaelangelo's David is exactly it.

However, all that being said, this sentence, if it's an accurate representation about what "meaning of your life" is, makes me question if I even know what it means to have a point to your life.

It's not apparent to me how this relates to having a meaning to your life. Is it that having those feelings becomes the point of your life? That does not sound good or appealing to me. It sounds like addiction or wireheading. I cannot think of any way in which any regular definition of "meaning" or "point" matches having a feeling of awe.

Comment by Dustin on Covid 7/22: Error Correction · 2021-07-22T20:53:57.537Z · LW · GW

With regard to Eliezer's point about early-dated vaccination certificates...

The conformity part can go from "this certificate means person is high-conformity" in liberal areas to "this certificate means person is low-conformity" in conservative areas.

Comment by Dustin on The Inside View #4–Sav Sidorov–Learning, Contrarianism and Robotics · 2021-07-22T19:45:51.258Z · LW · GW

People crave meaning.


I've always struggled to understand the umm...meaning...of the word "meaning" in this context. The sentence "my life has meaning" sounds like "my life has asymptotic pinkness". A nonsense phrase.

Additionally, I struggle to find any commonality between anything inside me and whatever it is that people seem to get out of religion, or (for those whom are are least partially substituting something else for religion) science, or even rationality. 

Am I just a special snowflake (doubtful)? Do I not understand what it is that people get out of those things (I've spent all of my life around deeply religious people so I'm not completely clueless about this I don't think)?

I think some would say it sounds like I have an empty life, but I think that if I could let them experience being me they wouldn't think that. I wept in the presence of Michelangelo's David out of sheer awe. I love my family. I do a lot to help others. I'm not an emotionless robot. 

I don't think the previous paragraph quite gets at what people mean by "meaning", but that just goes to show I don't quite grasp the concept.

I find the whole subject area confusing.

Comment by Dustin on Reflecting on building my own tools from scratch and 'inventing on principle' · 2021-07-18T16:24:08.531Z · LW · GW

I've observed in myself and others that the tools we build for personal usage are often of poor quality in the sense of maintainability or craftsmanship or reproducibility. They're often built in a ramshackle way.

So in one sense, these tools don't deserve any pride cast their way.

However, some of the things that I've built and used the longest fall into this category.  These tools are very needs-fitting. This engenders some sort of pride.

There's a tool I use probably a dozen times a day and has been evolving for 20 years. It's unrecognizable from it's original state. It's nothing groundbreaking and is simple compared to many of the things I do. It's a tool for building tools.

Not long after Windows XP came out 20 years ago I really got into automating my OS. Everything from "this window should always go here" to "when I press this hotkey give me the results of pinging this server".  I wanted it to be simple enough that I could whip up something to do one-off automation of little problems that I might only need to automate for a short time. The code and practices went from C (eww) to AutoIT (ick) to AHK (double ick) back to AutoIT (still icky) and nowadays to Python, but the same principles and purposes have carried through to this day.

To make it "production-ready" by addressing the "maintainability or craftsmanship or reproducibility" mentioned above, I've recently been putting a spit shine on it all, rewriting it, and making it less tailored to me and more general purpose. It's called systa and you can see it here

I'm too involved in it to objectively say if it's a tool that I should have thrown away or not. Other automation tools exist. But I think it's (or is going to be...maybe) better for some use cases than other things that are available out there.

Comment by Dustin on Reflecting on building my own tools from scratch and 'inventing on principle' · 2021-07-17T20:06:57.186Z · LW · GW

20 years ago I always did all of this and actually use some of those tools still today.  I heartily recommend it to everyone who will listen.  There is no better way to really understand, say, web frameworks, then to build one yourself. Nowadays, I don't do this as much because I understand more things and have already built many of  the bespoke things I want/need.

I also heartily recommend throwing your tools in the trash...or at least very seriously considering it.  Once you've understood the problem space, it's very often better to use something battle-tested.  Sometimes you'll have understood the problem space thoroughly enough before you've even finished your own tool (lol at ever finishing a software project). 

On the one hand, you'll be able to use the already-existing tools better and more effectively once you've built your own. You'll be able to take advantage of all the little things that have already been built that are just boring or hard to do yourself.  

On the other hand, sometimes (but not usually) it's harder to make an existing tool to fit exactly what you want to do then it is to build a tool from scratch to do exactly what you want.

On the gripping hand, people who build their own tools often overstate just how special a snowflake they are and just how great and needs-fitting their tools are.

There's two hard things I encounter in this area:  convincing people to build their own tools, and convincing people who've built their own tools to throw away their precious creations.

Comment by Dustin on How will OpenAI + GitHub's Copilot affect programming? · 2021-06-30T21:37:57.702Z · LW · GW

If Copilot improves programming significantly-enough it might be a huge blow to makers of other IDE's and text editors unless they provide an API for others to use. I don't expect re-implementing Copilot-esque prediction is in the wheelhouse of places like Jetbrains or any of the open source editors. 

According to the FAQ they're focusing on VS Code which comes from the same parent company as Github (Microsoft).

Comment by Dustin on How will OpenAI + GitHub's Copilot affect programming? · 2021-06-30T21:28:26.788Z · LW · GW

My gut feeling is that the security vulnerabilities that Copilot introduces here are fairly commonly done by your average JS programmer without Copilot.

  1. Non-https is the URL that tells you to use in its examples. And as johnfuller notes, has a bad https certificate.
  2. I encounter the incorrect usage of body constantly.

I'm not exactly sure what this means for your prediction.

On the one hand, it's wrong code.  On the other hand, there's a lot of unknowns right now. 

  • Will people who would've otherwise written the right code get lulled into complacency and just accept whatever Copilot tells them?  
  • Maybe Copilot will on average write more secure code than the average developer? 
  • If so, maybe that outweighs the number of people lulled into complacency? 
  • Is that snippet suggested because that code base already using in other places or is that just the generic snippet Copilot inserts for doing POSTs?
Comment by Dustin on How will OpenAI + GitHub's Copilot affect programming? · 2021-06-29T20:44:33.822Z · LW · GW

I wonder how much closed-source software is hosted on non-public GH repos? GH Enterprise exists, and seems widely-used.

Comment by Dustin on How will OpenAI + GitHub's Copilot affect programming? · 2021-06-29T19:25:11.470Z · LW · GW

It entirely depends on how good it is.

I gave Kite a real go for a month and kept hoping it would get better.  It didn't and I stopped using it because it hindered more than it helped.


(Also, I bet the folks at Kite are not happy right now!)

Comment by Dustin on Voicing Voice · 2021-06-28T15:50:43.798Z · LW · GW

ne of the most important pillars of happiness is speaking your mind.


I posit that a more accurate statement is "one of the most important pillars of happiness is being in the position where you can speak your mind."

I think that, on net, speaking your mind being happiness-increasing is completely dependent upon your situation in life, the way you relate to others and the current arrangement of your personality. It is a great position to be in wherein you can speak your mind and it increases your happiness.  However, there are costs to keeping your thoughts to yourself and there are costs to speaking your mind and you have to weigh those costs.

I'm a very happy person (some would say irritatingly so), but some of the worst periods of my life come from speaking my mind.

In my current situation and relationships, speaking my mind about almost anything would very likely improve my happiness, but in other periods of my life the costs and benefits did not always tilt that way for all possible things I may have wanted to say.

Comment by Dustin on What precautions should fully-vaccinated people still be taking? · 2021-06-27T20:11:34.876Z · LW · GW

WSJ reported that about half of adults infected in an outbreak of the delta variant in Israel were fully vaccinated with Pfizer,

Isn't that what we'd expect with their high vaccination rates, even if the vaccine was still really effective but not 100% effective?

Comment by Dustin on Why you should try a live reading session · 2021-06-26T18:52:02.104Z · LW · GW

Am I alone in being irritated by having someone read something to me?

I'm not sure what it is exactly but I think a lot of it is out-loud reading is just so much slower than my own reading-to-myself speed.  The feeling is similar to, but not exactly the same as, when watching a not-computer-literate person using a computer or watching other people play a video game.

Comment by Dustin on How do you deal with people cargo culting COVID-19 defense? · 2021-06-24T17:19:58.863Z · LW · GW

It feels like the corollary of of the LW/rationalist thing is cynicism.

Comment by Dustin on Are bread crusts healthier? · 2021-06-18T17:26:22.774Z · LW · GW

For me, at least, the idea that you should eat the bread crusts seems to stem from being scolded about wasting food. Kids often leave the crusts from their sandwiches along with a portion of the non-crust part and adults never like their kids to waste food.

Speculation: I'm not positive that people in general have the thought that crusts are healthier?  But maybe they do, and the don't-waste-food inclination transmorgifies into "crusts are healthier so you should eat them"?

Comment by Dustin on Why do patients in mental institutions get so little attention in the public discourse? · 2021-06-14T17:04:11.970Z · LW · GW

Thought 1: Stars don't love cake

If you were to ask which star loves cake the most, and someone responded with an explanation about the differences between inanimate objects and cake-eating entities, that someone didn't provide the  type of answer you were looking for.

Why doesn't the modern left seem to care so much about patients in mental institutions? Given the resource constraints model I'm pondering: Maybe you've misread how prevalent or important the issue is. Maybe you're asking the wrong question.  Maybe the modern left has less resources available than you thought. 

Thought 2: Actually, it does answer your question

I wouldn't be surprised if "the transaction costs have not been paid" is the answer

ChristianKi: "Dustin, how come you didn't eat lunch out with us today?"

Dustin: "I didn't have any money in my wallet."

I think the money-in-wallet answer is a useful, valid, and expected answer.  However, there are other answers. Cash flow and accounting. Pay rates for people talking on the internet. Childhood causes of future careers and decision making. Government policies affecting food pricing. However, the proximate cause, and often the most useful answer, is "I didn't have any money in my wallet."

Thought 3: It's not so obvious and that has consequences

The triple constraint model "Good, fast, cheap. Choose two." is bandied about because it's not second nature for some (many?) (most?) to keep in mind that there are resources constraints. This is often or usually with concrete physical work in the real world, not some nebulous concept like attentional resources!

I think it's likely that the idea that there are costs to building physical objects like warp drives is more innate to people than the idea that there are limited funds available to pay for the things we can care about. 

An entity that has acknowledged that there are attentional constraints will behave differently from one that has not. Thus, you can gain insight into the entity by observing it's behavior. For example, if you think patients in mental institutions is salient thing for modern left given what the modern left seems to care about, and the modern left isn't paying as much attention to it, then perhaps you've gained insight into the fact that the modern left needs to learn about attentional resources.

Thought 4: Warp drives

NASA didn't take the project management triangle to heart during the course of space shuttle development. 

By observing this, we learn lessons about the challenges we'll face during interstellar travel plans.




As I said, my answer doesn't exactly map onto your question, but I think it's close.

Comment by Dustin on Would you like me to debug your math? · 2021-06-14T00:39:52.703Z · LW · GW

It's good to keep in mind that whomever wrote the code is probably a freakin' liar!

Comment by Dustin on Why do patients in mental institutions get so little attention in the public discourse? · 2021-06-13T23:06:23.247Z · LW · GW

How confident are you in this being the main reason and not other suggested reasons provided in this thread?

I propose that this explanation is orthogonal to the other reasons provided in this thread.  In other words, I propose that this explanation holds true whether or not any of the other explanations are also true and that no matter how true any of the other proposed explanations are, it does not diminish the explanatory power of this explanation. 

I would say all other proposed explanations are just variations on:

Different things probably come to the forefront through quirks of zeitgeist, personal relevance, effective messaging, attentional resources available at the time, and a dozen other subtle and not-so-subtle factors.

For example, let's say that when deluks917 says people do do not care very much about the suffering of the powerless that they've made an accurate description.  That feeds into the attentional price people are willing to pay in my proposed model.

It's too early in my ruminations of applying this model to "public discourse" or however you want to say system-composed-of-people for me to say how confident I am in it's applicability.  I'm somewhat confident that it explains individual people's attention at least some large portion of the time.

My question isn't about the number of people who are up in arms but about understanding the makeup of the modern left.

If my proposed model is true, then the modern left is just a subset of all public discourse and subject to the same attentional economy.

The fact that it gets a lot less attention then other topics in that reference class is what the question is about. 

Yeah, I was trying to get to the fact that my answer is possibly more meta than the answer you're looking for when I joked about me not answering your question with my answer.  However, I think my proposed model doesn't care about reference classes as you seem to be saying. Attention is attention, and everything that would fit in the reference class of injustices against marginalized peoples has to pay it's attention dollars just as each reference class has to pay.

I would answer that systemic issues are more important then the fate of individual people. To the extend that the Amanda Knox case is about the Italian Justice system being bad and in need of reform, that's largely a topic for Italians. 

Sure. I wasn't saying that Amanda Knox was or was not as important as the systemic issues. I was saying that the reason Amanda Knox didn't get more attention is (potentially) the same reason that the mental health issues you're asking about don't get more attention.  People and systems made of people only have so much attention to go around.

More concretely, if my proposed model is accurate, then one explanation of why this issue is not more central to the modern left is that the transactional costs of entering the left's zeitgeist have so far not been paid.  There's lots of injustices and the attentional resources are currently spent on other things.

Comment by Dustin on Would you like me to debug your math? · 2021-06-13T20:07:10.951Z · LW · GW

I'm not disagreeing with you (I don't think?), but just pointing out a mistaken lesson someone new to programming might draw from your comment.

it's more maintainable not just because it is shorter but also because it has decades of theory behind it

Being shorter is way down the list of things you should consider when you're thinking about how to make your code more maintainable.  In fact, longer code is often more maintainable.  As a trivial example, imagine a variable called x and the alternate name for it: seconds_since_midnight

I'm not sure there is a good rule of thumb wherein you say "shorter/longer is more maintainable".  

Comment by Dustin on Why do patients in mental institutions get so little attention in the public discourse? · 2021-06-13T18:03:18.919Z · LW · GW

I remember when there was a lot of attention being given to Amanda Knox here on LW. Someone asked a similar question as you...something along the lines of  "Why aren't more people up in arms about this?"

The answer for me at that time was that I have a certain number of Attention Dollars to spend. People are wrongfully imprisoned all over the world every day.  New video cards are too expensive. Kids are being tortured. McDonald's stopped serving salads during the pandemic.  There's all sorts of things to spend my AD's on. 

Attention to causes and injustices costs AD and there is a high transaction cost to switching which injustices are important to me.  I hypothesize that the complex system that is the-attention-of-public-discourse suffers from the same.  There's only so much capacity for giving attention to different causes, and switching those causes carries a high price.

That's not to say Cause X is wrong or less important, only that I (and, hypothetically, public discourse) can only focus on a limited number of things, there's costs to switching attention, and other things beat Cause X in the race to capture attention. 

Different things probably come to the forefront through quirks of zeitgeist, personal relevance, effective messaging, attentional resources available at the time, and a dozen other subtle and not-so-subtle factors.

Of course, this doesn't really answer your question (and here I am submitting it as an answer)! It only pushes the "why's" to another level. Why can public discourse only focus on a limited number of things? Why, exactly, is it currently focusing on the things it is? Why are the transaction costs to switching attention high? I suspect that the answers are very complicated and unknown.

There is an economy of public attention.  The amount of noise is high, and information asymmetries abound. If you think Cause X is not getting the amount of attention it should then you should work on lowering the information asymmetries and noise level...and recognize that if Cause X gets more attention it'll mean Cause Y that everyone is currently paying attention to will get less attention. (At least if my model holds.)

Also, you say "...suggests that a lot of abuse of power is going on."  I think that this conclusion depends a lot on your priors.  One type of person is going to see a bad seed when they see this story, another type of person is going to see a corrupt institution. This feeds into this hypothetical economy of public attention.

Comment by Dustin on Holidaying and purpose · 2021-06-08T19:30:01.562Z · LW · GW

Yeah, exactly my thoughts.

For anyone considering a cruise, I will note that different cruise lines cater to people looking for different kinds of things.  Some are more aimed at people looking for non-stop partying, others at people looking for a more relaxed on-board atmosphere.

Comment by Dustin on The dumbest kid in the world (joke) · 2021-06-07T01:28:03.397Z · LW · GW

I always find myself confused about the intentions of the joke or the joke teller when they end it in the way you propose.  I'd get it, but then be wondering "did the joke teller get it?" or "was there some other punch line that the joke teller intended me to figure out but I didn't?".

It's similar to most of the tests I took in school.  I'd spend most of the time figuring out what the teacher intended the answer to be rather than actually learning anything new.

Comment by Dustin on The Alignment Forum should have more transparent membership standards · 2021-06-07T01:23:26.956Z · LW · GW

I think part of the problem is that it's not always obvious that you're confused about something. 

If you don't know that the UI has led you to make wrong assumptions about the way it works, you won't even know to go look at the manual.

(Also, as someone who has designed lots of UI's...for many types of UI's, if the user has to go look at the manual it means I've got something to improve in the UI.)

Comment by Dustin on Holidaying and purpose · 2021-06-07T00:38:35.126Z · LW · GW

I try to do a mix of different types of holidays.

I'd say roughly 50% of my holidays over the past 15 years have been very purposeful.  For example, I had an extremely planned-out educational trip to Italy where prior to leaving I did a lot of reading of history and while there went to museums and sites at pre-planned dates and times with specific goals of things to learn and see and do.

25% of my holidays have been very purposeless.  It's not very stylish to say so, but up until Covid Times I'd go on cruises.  I find them to be extremely relaxing and purposeless.  You can sit by the pool or in some quiet corner and read tons of books or people watch or think.  Basically anytime you are hungry you can get decent food without worrying about having money or anything (because you paid for it all as part of your cruise package).  If you're tired of reading, you can swim, or get off and tour a museum, or walk around a new city, etc.

The other 25% are a mix of both of those things.

I enjoy all these types of holidays, but I often find myself thinking I need a vacation after getting back from my very purposeful vacations!

Comment by Dustin on The Alignment Forum should have more transparent membership standards · 2021-06-05T16:09:16.981Z · LW · GW

To be having read the post and comments you do not consider it more closed?

Comment by Dustin on The Alignment Forum should have more transparent membership standards · 2021-06-05T16:07:33.933Z · LW · GW

As a full-stack developer (a term which I kinda hate!) I just want to take this opportunity to mention to people who happen to read this that bug reports can be very helpful!

For any potential bug like Steven Byrnes mentions, there can be many people who experienced it but didn't report it. With small teams of developers and complicated sites there can be many types of bugs that irritate many users but no one who can fix the bugs ends up finding out about the problem for a long time.

I know that in general bug reports can often feel like yelling into the void, but in my experience, they're almost always getting considered by someone.

Comment by Dustin on Thoughts on the Alignment Implications of Scaling Language Models · 2021-06-03T21:56:18.980Z · LW · GW

To be honest I find myself confused by this whole conversation as your phrasing makes it feels like you think you're saying things in contradiction or contrast to what I'm saying and I feel like what you're saying is not really in tension with what I'm saying. I assume it's me not communicating my thoughts clearly or not understanding your point.

Unfortunately this conversation is going to run into a classic problem. I don't have enough care resources to go around on the subject raised mostly as an aside to begin with.  I'll give just one example and then let you have the final words if you so desire:

But physicalism isn't an intuition-free default. And a lot of people don't realise that.

I agree with this 100%.  But I'm very confused that you said it.

If I said "neither chocolate nor vanilla ice cream is the best ice cream" and you said "but vanilla ice cream is not the best ice cream", I would be confused by what you said.

The "but" makes me think that you think your statement is in contrast to the sentence you quoted but I think it's in agreement with the sentence you quoted. 

Let me re-word the sentence you quoted:

"I’m saying it’s not a great argument for one of these positions because it exposes both positions as being based upon intuitions...which is, IMO, by far the most common usage of Mary’s Room."

Comment by Dustin on Thoughts on the Alignment Implications of Scaling Language Models · 2021-06-03T18:12:45.027Z · LW · GW

Of course ... she is supposed to be a super scientist precisely in order to avoid that objection.


Right. And my point is that it doesn't avoid the objection it just says "assume that objection is wrong". 

And that's fine as far as it goes, it's philosophy. It helps expose the hidden assumptions in physicalist and non-physicalist viewpoints. I'm not saying that Mary's Room is bad philosophy, I'm saying it's not a great argument for one of these positions...which is, IMO, by far the most common usage of Mary's Room.

Comment by Dustin on Thoughts on the Alignment Implications of Scaling Language Models · 2021-06-03T16:59:01.431Z · LW · GW

The gist of the point about better language and others of what are, IMO, the best rebuttals, is not that better language saves the physicalist viewpoint, but that the wedge doesn't work.

It's you're using Mary's Room to prove that physicalism is wrong, it fails because you're just re-asserting the point under disagreement.

Physicalist says:

"The reason Mary learns something new is because she didn't learn everything because of insert-physicalist-reasons."

Non-physicalist says:

"The reason Mary learns something new is because she learned everything possible through physical means, but still learned something new."

No matter how much detail the physicalist says Mary learns, the non-physicalist position, within the confines of the thought experiment, is not falsifiable.

Comment by Dustin on If You Want to Find Truth You Need to Step Into Cringe · 2021-06-03T15:31:36.229Z · LW · GW

From this paragraphs it seems like you make the case that you could say and do 90% of what you want to say


Hmm.  I think this highlights a key point.  The word "want" is doing a lot of work here.  I'm not sure I think you usually shouldn't say what you want to say (unless you have some pathological version of want)

I believe things to be true about the world and myself that many people would probably, at minimum, disagree with, maybe even cause me social harm. The phrase "want to say" doesn't capture my feelings about some portion of these things I believe.  I'd be glad to share these thoughts if I thought others (or myself) would benefit from the sharing, but I do not have any want that would be satiated by telling people these thoughts.

That might not be a universal way of feeling, but I think what is universal is that by sharing cringey things, you are trading one good for another. That trade may or may not be a net gain for you. Not a thing I can judge!

Comment by Dustin on Thoughts on the Alignment Implications of Scaling Language Models · 2021-06-02T22:22:08.551Z · LW · GW

Tangential, but the following sentence caused me to think of something...

Language is an extremely good medium for representing complex, abstract concepts compactly and with little noise.

This nicely interleaves with something I've recently been discussing with my 11 year old daughter. 

She's discovered Mary's Room.

On her own she came to this conclusion: (One of?) The reason(s) Mary learns something new when she sees the color red for the first time is because language is bad at conveying mental states.

I think this idea is based upon the same foundation as many of the best rebuttals of Mary having learned something new.

So, I found myself agreeing with the sentence I quoted above, but I'll have to think some more about how to reconcile that with my daughter's thoughts about language being bad.

Comment by Dustin on If You Want to Find Truth You Need to Step Into Cringe · 2021-06-01T20:22:40.870Z · LW · GW

epistemic status: I'm more thinking out loud. I tried to put in a lot of "I think" and "perhaps" and question marks, but if I sound very confident in my phrasing, re-word it as more speculative.

I think this has a lot of truth behind it, but also I think it espouses a too all-encompassing view on the subject and wraps being true to yourself in a not-useful cloak of "seeking truths about reality".

If you honestly seek truth, and if you decide to tell the truth, at some point, you will accept to appear cringe to the eyes of most people.

To more accurately support what I think you mean based upon the rest of your post, I think this could be more accurately stated:

"If you honestly seek truth, and if you decide to tell 100% of the truth you've found, and if you decide to tell 100% of the truth you've found to anyone you can, to become the leader of truth-tellers, to make telling the truth your reason for existence, to make Telling All Of The Truths your livelihood, then you will appear cringe to the eyes of most people".

While true, it does not seem likely to me that this is a useful ideal to aspire to.

It seems likely to me that for most people, most of the time, a better ideal to aspire to is: you can honestly seek truth and yet decide to tell the truth judiciously, selectively (without a requirement of lies!) and thus appear non-cringeworthy to most people.  (Probably cringe to some small subset.)

I think your definition of "reality" conveniently excludes the society we are embedded within, but the society we are embedded within is perhaps the most important part of the reality we need to navigate and influence to meet our goals.

Unfortunately, it seems like much of the rest of your points are built on this foundation.

When seeking truth, you shouldn't worry about if the truths you are discovering would be laughed at and scoffed at if said aloud. You would be like a swordsman who keeps glancing away to see if anyone might be laughing at him. Doing so makes you waste time, and it makes you move or withdraw for the wrong reasons.

I agree that when seeking truth you shouldn't worry about what would happen if you said them aloud, but from the does not seem that is actually the point of this post? It seems like the point of this post is more accurately captured in this re-phrased sentence:

"When speaking truth, you shouldn't worry about if the truths you are revealing will be laughed at."

As described above I do not think this is absolutely true.

You wouldn't be like a swordsman who keeps glancing away to see if anyone might be laughing at him, you'd be like a swordsman weighing which stance to take. And/or building the muscle memory to let the correct stances and moves to "flow". (Or something like that...I'm not a swordsman!)

There isn't a swordsman here, and his opponent there, and other people over there...the other people and the opponent are all one.

Now, I would not argue that people should keep their mouths shut about things just to avoid appearing cringe. Maybe being weeaboo and posting it on the internet is just what you require for happiness.  If so, get out and do that shit! However, be aware that you're trading one useful thing for another useful thing and, unfortunately, sometimes you can't have both useful things.

Acceptance and influence in society is not the be-all and end-all of goal fulfillment.  

But it's also not nothing.

Comment by Dustin on Electric heat pumps (Mini-Splits) vs Natural gas boilers · 2021-05-30T17:50:29.238Z · LW · GW

I watched this video a couple months ago. I came away thinking that the title of the video is roughly correct, but maybe not in all circumstances? However, I barely remember any of the details.  (One of the reasons I don't like watching videos for non-entertainment reasons!) You may want to see if it gives you any more information than what you have.

I will note that I think many people would pay hundreds of dollars per year for the advantages of mini splits that you do not weigh that highly and I think this could easily account for the reason you see many people switching to them. Personally, if the only advantage of mini-splits was getting rid of window A/C units I'd be very tempted to pay that hundreds/year.


Comment by Dustin on Predict responses to the "existential risk from AI" survey · 2021-05-28T02:07:58.510Z · LW · GW

Complete aside here and not a dig on this post at all (which I think is proposing a cool and interesting idea):


I feel like AI researchers must spend 10% of their time answering surveys about the future of AI!

Comment by Dustin on The Argument For Spoilers · 2021-05-22T15:28:48.045Z · LW · GW

So is it the case that everyone would enjoy everything if they just gave it a chance? If not, how do we distinguish between the potential-likers and the rest?

(FWIW, I don't really care about spoilers. All things being equal don't spoil it for me, but I won't give it a second thought if you do...maybe because I'm good at unseeing.)

Comment by Dustin on The Argument For Spoilers · 2021-05-21T22:19:33.986Z · LW · GW

Could you clarify how argument 2 is different from "I haven't experienced disliking chicken livers for lunch so I argue that everyone should like chicken livers?".

Comment by Dustin on [deleted post] 2021-05-21T22:15:57.805Z

I do not have any specific attitude toward public intellectuals.  I try to just evaluate arguments on their merits.  Whether someone has a reputation as a public intellectual does not bear on whether they're making a good argument.

I have negative opinions about the idea of holding someone in high regard because they're a "public intellectual".

On the other hand, holding someone in high regard because they have a history of good arguments and intellectual rigor seems like a fine and good thing.

Basically, I do not understand what the concept of "public intellectual" brings to the table for me.  I mostly find the concept confusing.

Comment by Dustin on How concerned are you about LW reputation management? · 2021-05-19T02:13:15.684Z · LW · GW

A little?  Over the years I've considered making series of "shower thoughts" posts with collections of my not-really-fully-considered ideas.  I really just do not have the time to write the posts I'd like to write, but I also don't really like just letting my thoughts languish in my head.

I've never done it because 1) it feels like wasting other people's time, and 2) what if I post bad ideas?!?!

Comment by Dustin on Thinking About Generators · 2021-05-16T22:04:12.773Z · LW · GW

I've used a gas/propane generator for years.  We also have a manual transfer switch to plug the generator into our house.  

The best thing I can say about it is that there's not much to say about it.  When we have a power outage I can plug it in, flip the transfer switch, start it up and continue living my life. No fussing around.  

The biggest downside is that capacity is limited so you can't run everything that you'd normally run.  I live in the Midwest so if we have a power outage when it's cold enough I have to shut off our water main (can turn it back on for short amounts of time to flush toilets and get drinking water otherwise it can freeze and burst pipes) and confine ourselves to a small section of the house I can heat with space heaters. A generator that would power our central electric heat is prohibitively expensive.  We're considering re-locating to another Midwest location and a key priority for the new place is a gas/propane furnace which will continue to run during a power outage if you have a generator capable of running the blower on the unit. (The blower takes very little power to run)

Apparently, it's important to get an inverter-type of generator if you're wanting to run computers and stuff off of it so that's what I've always used.

Comment by Dustin on The Neuralink Monkey Demo · 2021-05-03T18:43:20.750Z · LW · GW

I'm fairly confident I saw pong being played with a BCI many years ago.  I'm sure you could find some videos without too much trouble, but Rabrg just posted a video of what I think is even more impressive than pong.

Comment by Dustin on The Neuralink Monkey Demo · 2021-05-03T15:01:58.256Z · LW · GW

I assume because Musk put a lot of money into it and got the right people together.

I think that monkey video is the most advanced thing Neuralink has put out.

Comment by Dustin on The Neuralink Monkey Demo · 2021-05-03T03:14:19.700Z · LW · GW

My impression from people who have been working on BCI for a long time is that this isn't that impressive.  Not that the hardware isn't impressive, but that they've done similar-ish things with worse hardware for a long time.

Just a quick Google, I'm not exactly endorsing this article, but it seems to support my impression.

Comment by Dustin on [deleted post] 2021-05-02T16:56:49.626Z

Even just the subset of toxicity which is "pervasive attitudes and comments that demean and dehumanize everyone, but women more so than men", I'll be surprised if it's not a major contributor to the disparity.




When a middle-school girl is teased for asking questions about algebra, I don't much care whether it's leaving or never entering.


Agreed, but I'm not sure how to read the point of you bringing it up as it doesn't seem exactly relevant to my point?

Earl E. Bird said that he thinks the reasons for gender disparity are the same as the reasons women leave tech.  I'm saying that does not necessarily hold true unless the number of women leaving accounts for the gender disparity.

Comment by Dustin on Your Dog is Even Smarter Than You Think · 2021-05-02T16:00:32.172Z · LW · GW

While I haven't done a rigorous study of the effect, my gut feeling is that the vast majority of suggestive and interesting phenomena eventually fall apart due to these exact reasons.

This is why I do not give much thought to this sort of stuff. 

Ideally, I'd do a rigorous study of initially-interesting-but-later-fell-apart-studies or find someone else who has and then maybe I'd be better able to spend my cognitive resources...

Comment by Dustin on [deleted post] 2021-05-02T15:48:22.511Z

Well, moving on from the point of my root comment...

I will say that I would not be surprised if we were to ascertain with some amount of certainty that toxicity is the or one of the main drivers of gender disparity in tech. 

That being said, it would also surprise me if women leaving tech even came close to accounting for the gender disparity and because of that I'm kind of up in the air about how much weight to put on the explanations women give for leaving as an explanation for women never having entered. 

It's certainly possible that tech-is-a-toxic-place-for-women (which I agree it is in many?/most?/all? places) has entered the zeitgeist so thoroughly that women have not entered because of it, I'm just not sure that this is the case.

What's more, historically, there have been much more women in software engineering. It seems that the gender distribution only started to shift towards men once software engineering started to become a lucrative career.

Do you have any good evidence of this?  Like, I'm aware of the fact that historically there were many women doing impressive things in software engineering, but there are also many women doing that today.  I would be interested in seeing some sort of data here. 

Comment by Dustin on [deleted post] 2021-05-02T14:35:26.097Z

But the claim that toxicity against women isn't one of these reasons is false.

In context, I don't think saying "toxicity isn't the reason there aren't more women in tech" is the same thing as saying "no women have ever not entered tech because of toxicity".

Of course, if any woman ever didn't enter into tech because of toxicity, it would literally mean that toxicity was the reason there aren't more women in tech, that doesn't seem to be what the author is saying.

Comment by Dustin on Can you improve IQ by practicing IQ tests? · 2021-04-27T16:37:27.130Z · LW · GW

But there is essentially no reward for doing this



Things people want are are not gated by certified IQ scores. Think of jobs, sexual partners, popularity, etc.  Except in extraordinary circumstances there's just no incentive to do better on IQ tests for any reason other than just being smarter.

For the purpose of bragging rights, its easier to just lie about your score than it is "cheat" by prepping for the test.

Comment by Dustin on Problems of evil · 2021-04-19T21:36:40.929Z · LW · GW

I did not hate this post, but I also spent much of my time thinking it felt like one of the many threads all over the internet discussing would Boromir from LOTR do this particular thing or how come Saruman didn't do this other particular thing.

It just seems, like most theology, a lot of discussion based upon the rules and structures of something that might as well be LOTR. That is not to say I'm just right out asserting some strict atheist position and "lol religion and spirituality". However, this all mostly seems to hang on an a set of conceptions about the world that doesn't obviously seem to least particularly to the most of the audience this essay is going to reach.

Of course, this stems from my point of view that questions the very existence of spirituality as something to be pondered over as anything more than memetic hazards traveling through time and quirks of brain construction.

Comment by Dustin on [deleted post] 2021-04-18T03:10:39.972Z

that the government isn't profit-maximizing. 


I'm saying that that is the case currently and agreeing with ChristianKI that that incentives pressure against that under your regime.

  1. If, as you are proposing, being not-profit-maximizing is the reason USPS hasn't driven FedEx out of business 
  2. and being not-profit-maximizing is the result of current incentives
  3. and someone claims, as ChristianKI does, that the incentives for being not-profit-maximizing change under your proposed take-the-wealth regime
  4. then the evidential weight of USPS not driving FedEx out of business under the current regime is weakened quite a bit since the very thing under question is that that will remain the case.
Comment by Dustin on Could degoogling be a practice run for something more important? · 2021-04-18T00:01:15.619Z · LW · GW

I don't necessarily disagree, but I will note that there are a lot of alternatives to many of Google's tools.  Some are better, some are nearly as good, some are much worse, but I feel like you could get a long way to systems that help humans work together with all of the free and open source replacements that are out there.

In other words, I'm not so sure that Google and other Google-esque companies are a necessary component of tools to help us work together.