Comment by FireStormOOO on #4.1: Types of life insurance · 2021-06-17T07:57:26.758Z · LW · GW

It seems a more durable policy has a much greater chance of surviving a bankruptcy, divorce, or other financial upset (far more common in a lifetime that folks care to admit) that could wipe out savings or assets.  We shouldn’t underestimate the value of separation/legal protection for the assets we want to use to fund cryopreservation.  This doesn’t seem to be covered at all in mainstream financial advice and that seems like a mistake.  Specifics are hard to come by, but cash or investment accounts are effectively fair game if you owe anyone money for any reason.  Accounts that have more strings attached on how you can spend the funds (e.g., various tax-sheltered accounts, trusts, presumably life insurance) seem to have proportionally more protection from being seized, at least to a first approximation, but as I said, seems to be very under documented.  I'd be eager to hear about it if someone had more luck hunting down that info than I did.

Comment by FireStormOOO on Everything Okay · 2021-06-15T20:30:16.906Z · LW · GW

I think I've seen the 'J' dynamic before, but also it only "works" because others options are also in common use and so there's denyability of what's happening.

There is one other common case IMO: Monkey see monkey do.  The "I have no idea what to say in the context and feel the need to say something/anything".  Which has some in common with the empty platitudes one but may not be shallow as much as simply can't find words.

Comment by FireStormOOO on Often, enemies really are innately evil. · 2021-06-07T23:56:37.261Z · LW · GW

Maybe, but for modern-ish humans in western cultures cats aren't prey and really never have been.  Certainly never to the extent that torturing non-prey animals for fun has been.  AFAIK that behavoir is currently considered a predictor for escalating to similar abuse against humans.

Contrast that to society's reaction to meat production: don't make them suffer needlessly, or at least don't make me watch/know about it.

Comment by FireStormOOO on Often, enemies really are innately evil. · 2021-06-07T23:36:29.924Z · LW · GW

In the least convenient possible world, everyone has impulses to dominate others and would find that power directly enjoyable because they all have the same brain hardware. Many have the means at some point and try it; those with early failures are deterred, the rest find they like it. Most are ultimately deterred or constrained by some combination of reputational, social, cultural, or moral reasoning – they don’t stop such behavior but do reach equilibrium and stop escalating for lack of actual or perceived means.  The remainder eventually become your serial abusers.  This drive is not easily removed or isolated because it’s integral to how we process status hierarchies and social situations. Society has exhausted all low hanging fruit for pushing the numbers at each state as low as possible.  Any mind we might construct that must process and participate in status higherarcies is suceptable to the same drives.

Here’s to hoping it’s not really quite that bad…

Comment by FireStormOOO on Often, enemies really are innately evil. · 2021-06-07T23:16:28.360Z · LW · GW

Strong upvote as I find this is a very useful lens for parsing this kind of behavior from others and checking such impulses in myself.  Importantly, this also opens a whole other dimension for resisting bullying: One need not be able to win the specific game the bully wants to play (e.g., prove who's stronger and can win fights), mere be able to credibly threaten their status another way.  Framing it as a negotiation over status ties up the strong majority of this behavior IMO.

Mind you, there's still the kid that thinks lighting a cat on fire is delightful fun - whole other league of not right in the head.  I'm not sure the above being 90% right fundamentally alters the main thesis of the post.  There are people who enjoy having absolute power of life or death over something or someone else; I’m not convinced that is truly a different impulse than the one that leads to bullying as much as a matter of degree.

Comment by FireStormOOO on Core Pathways of Aging · 2021-05-31T06:01:42.736Z · LW · GW

Your assertions about that formula don't follow; while it is monotonic it converges to a finite value. E.g.for 'small number'=0.1, 'calendar age'= 30 at reproduction this converges to a base age at birth of 3.333 repeating and base age of 33.333 repeating. Inverse exponential beats linear (and polynomial) functions.

More directly on topic, germ line damage control doesn't need to be all that good to keep aging related damage from building up. Anything under unity converges with that model and anything under about half converges to something reasonable.

Comment by FireStormOOO on Why are people so bad at dating? · 2021-05-24T06:06:08.576Z · LW · GW

That last paragraph has some merit.  Plenty of folks need some help, guidance, or oppertunities in some form or another, but all the largest providers of such help have a perverse incentive to keep people dating longer - it's the only way they retain customers.  To the extent someone tries to run such a business on recurring charges, customer retention will inevitably become a KPI and of course you get what you measure...  Obvious fix to that is flat fee, pay only if successful pricing model (or similar).  At minimum, we need to stop incentivising these services to be as terrible as they can get away with at what is obstensively their main function.

It seems the same incentives exist to a lesser degree with self help books, especially at the publisher level.  If the problem actually gets fixed the customer no longer needs self help books.

Comment by FireStormOOO on What should we expect from ARPA-H? · 2021-05-24T05:40:17.780Z · LW · GW

That seemed like the objection is more, it's going to be a slave to the existing orthodoxy as far as what's important/promising, rather than the politians, and the former is even worse if you're expecting novel thought or research directions.  Not sure to what extent that's actually true but reporting structure does matter; especially the topmost layer that still has strong technical opinions.

Comment by FireStormOOO on Thinking About Generators · 2021-05-17T03:57:24.338Z · LW · GW

Battery backups work well for electronics and small appliances for up to  30-60 min outages, but are likely prohibitively bulky and expensive to run everything.  Presumably on a condo it's possible to convince other owners to pitch in in on a generator for the community, probably through the HOA.

Comment by FireStormOOO on Why I Work on Ads · 2021-05-05T07:33:09.786Z · LW · GW

This is largely discounting the third scenario, advertiser or viewer is actively hostile.  Top comment above goes into the first of those two, but ads are frequently a gateway to all manner of scams, cons, and fraud.  A cost largely born by those far less clever and more vulnerable than those participating in this discussion.  On the other side, you've got things like click fraud.  While not huge relative to ad volume, the costs and externalities are also huge compared to the money changing hands in these transactions normally and probably tips the scale significantly.

Comment by FireStormOOO on Why I Work on Ads · 2021-05-05T07:05:55.125Z · LW · GW

IDK how many repeats you get or if you're looking for tools, but if so, consider setting DNS to one of the public DNS providers (e.g. OpenDNS) that provide some basic web filtering of malicious websites without otherwise breaking the internet too much.  The Ghostery plugin for chrome/edge is also worth a look.  Even without setting it to block ads or analytics, it shuts down shady behavior like multiple redirects that many of those bad ads rely on.  Can be configured to do more but gets progressively higher touch.  Both lowish touch free options.

Comment by FireStormOOO on Why I Work on Ads · 2021-05-05T06:41:21.395Z · LW · GW

Also an IT professional here.  Google is among the less unsavory players in the ad space, but it's a cesspool overall.  Malicious ads seem to be one of the easiest ways to get that crap in front of a huge number of users.  In practice I don't see "reputable" providers directly serving malware: rather it's generally a chain of redirects either implemented by the site they land on (that presumably behaves itself under indexing/due diligence), or by exploiting the ads on the landing site to cause a redirect.  Ultimately lands either on an attacker-controlled site or just a site running an ad network that gives zero fucks or outright caters to cybercrime.

That said I made up my mind on this a while ago and I've been blocking substantially all ads and analytics for 5+ years.  The game of cat and mouse may well have moved on.

I have definitely caught AdSense serving those super dishonest software download ads that pretend to be the download button on file sharing and software sites…

As far as you core concern, are you actually causing significant harm with your work, I really doubt it.  Google has a decent incentive to crush bad actors lest govt. step in and kill their cash cow, and just getting the industry at large to match the mediocere level of ethical standads Google is upholding would still be a huge win.  Ads suck as a solution and cause a fair amount of preventable harm, but harm reduction is a legitimate thing to work on.  Bonus points when you can pressure competitors to shape up and not be too evil.

Comment by FireStormOOO on Sexual Dimorphism in Yudkowsky's Sequences, in Relation to My Gender Problems · 2021-05-05T05:24:12.147Z · LW · GW

Interesting, though I'd be hesitant to read too much into that.  To the extent this rationality project is succeeding, I'd expect people here are more likely to be exposed to the full range (or at least a large range) of human variation, and more likely to correctly determine if they're actually any particular minority group, with people defaulting to not-a-member on priors without significant reflection.  

This seems like a really hard thing to survey consistently that'll be systemically skewed by degree of prior exposure to the topic in question in the survey population.  If you ask someone point blank "do you have [minority quirk they've probabably never heard of]?", they're unlikely to return a meaningful answer in the time surveys have.  Folks spend months or years figuring that out.  I don't see how you avoid measuring P(has unusual quirk & has invested the time and developed self awareness to realize A if true) instead of just P(has unusal quirk).  Speaking very generally as I expect this holds outside of the realm of sex/gender/etc identity issues too.

misc: I didn't check out the specific papers linked.  I recall Scott commenting on one or more of his yearly surveys the degree to which the LW and SSC communities end up being outliers on just about every measure like this (much higher than base rate) but didn't find the specific comments back.

Comment by FireStormOOO on There’s no such thing as a tree (phylogenetically) · 2021-05-05T03:11:40.137Z · LW · GW

If you're at all like me, part of that feeling is definitely having not internalized [genes as lego bricks] rather than [genes as fragile tightly coupled organism recipie].  The notion that the Blind Idiot God invented reusable loosly coupled code and is halfway to a functioning package manager is more than a bit of a shocker.  And crazier yet has had those capabilities long enough that they're fixed in substantially all life on Earth (albiet with serious regressions in animals).

Apparently there's some ideas that are convergent enough substaintially any optimizer finds them eventually.

Comment by FireStormOOO on What topics are on Dath Ilan's civics exam? · 2021-04-28T02:47:09.085Z · LW · GW

I think specifically they're getting at that the "steady state" isn't stable.  As soon as everyone uses the algorithm uniformly it falls apart in a few generations tops.  You'd have to never stop A/B testing the importance of various subjects; your control group for "do/don't teach this subject" could never shrink all the way to zero for roughly the same reason that bayesian probability updates don't work on probabilities 0 and 1.

It sounds like you're counting on natural human variation to temper that, but to the extent the alogithm actually worked with large effect size it's not clear that'd be sufficent.  Undeniably good ideas do have a way of eventually getting fixed in a population.

Comment by FireStormOOO on The Fall of Rome: Why It's Relevant, And Why We're Mistaken · 2021-04-25T01:17:02.345Z · LW · GW

Based on that first chart you're also looking at the trade volue, and presumably GDP, of the empire dropping to 40% of it's original value in the span of just 100 years between 200AD and 300AD and continuing to plummet almost as badly after that.  That chart seems to show an economic rot starting centuries before Rome started seriously loosing wars.

I'll note that the inflection point does largely line up with the transition from the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire.  Far from a complete theory, but also easy to imagine something important was lost in the transition - chief candidate among them a formerly strong tradition for not transfering power via military coups and political assassinations.  Your question is more concerned with "what reversed the progress" rather than "what finally put Rome out of it's missery", so we're probably looking much much earlier than the actual fall.

Comment by FireStormOOO on Why has nuclear power been a flop? · 2021-04-20T01:21:24.698Z · LW · GW

Fair point.  We should be going for government sponsored insurance.  The tax should be inclusive of both the review and premiums for insuring against resonably nessisary disaster cleanup, with the tax expected to pay for this but not generate substantially more revenue than that.

Comment by FireStormOOO on Why has nuclear power been a flop? · 2021-04-20T01:02:33.911Z · LW · GW

Any reactor does that though, and it doesn't even have to be a power reactor; hardly a meaninful differentiator.  

Dirty bombs just require any reasonably short halflife radioactives (~tens to hundereds of year halflife ideally) that can spread the dust over an area.  In some sense the fear is really overblown; they're only effective in the sense that any first world country will predictably overreact to even trace, harmless, radioactive contamination and spend billions on cleanup and have a massive panic.  Thus making it an effective terror weapon even if it was so impotent as to cause no actual harm from radiation.

Comment by FireStormOOO on Open, Free, Safe: Choose Two · 2021-04-09T21:45:18.303Z · LW · GW

I've noticed in consistently good moderation that resists this kind of trolling/power game:

Making drama for the sake of it, even with a pretense, is usually regarded as a more severe infraction that any rudeness or personal attack in the first place.  Creating extra work for the moderation team is frowned upon (don't feed the trolls).  Punish every escalation and provocation, not just the first in the thread.

Escalating conflicts and starting flamewars is a seen as more toxic than any specific mildly/moderately offensive post.  Starting stuff repeatedly, especially with multiple different people is a fast ticket to a permaban.  Anyone consistently and obviously lowering the quality of discussions needs to be removed ASAP.

Comment by FireStormOOO on Thirty-three randomly selected bioethics papers · 2021-04-08T07:30:26.298Z · LW · GW

You're right again I think.  As far as dislike of utilitarianism not entirely without cause in some cases; while "make ethics math" is a really good idea it seems surpisingly difficult to formalize without wierd artifacts - as a not insubstantial volume of posts on this site can attest.  I imagine at least some of that resistance goes away as soon as someone perfects a formalism that doesn't occasionally suggest outlandish behavior and has all the properties we want.

Comment by FireStormOOO on Thirty-three randomly selected bioethics papers · 2021-04-05T07:05:32.125Z · LW · GW

Yeah, that's pretty on the nose.  Even suppose you trust your philosophers and ethicists work through the merits of all the possible ethics frameworks we could use.  Let them pick the best one, specify how different utilities should be framed; they'd still never be the right people to implement it in any specific decision.  Real world ethics problems are still 95% other problem domains and 5% ethics.

The interview does beg more questions than it answers though.  Obviously consequentialist ethics have some traction among philosophy experts.  Is bioethics different for some reason?  Are the vocal people shouting down these (obviously correct given consequentialist ethics) ideas on twitter and in the news even in any relevant field? Does the consensus of the field, if any, bear any relation to public policy whatsoever, or are experts merely being cherry picked to toe the party line as needed and lend credibility after a decision is made?

Comment by FireStormOOO on Thirty-three randomly selected bioethics papers · 2021-04-05T06:21:07.592Z · LW · GW

Speaking specifically to the difference between the newer and older batch of papers.  Neither are good.  In my admitedly breif skim, the older ones have an extra layer of dissonance for the same reason 20 year old TV and movies can come across as unexpectedly cringey.

Comment by FireStormOOO on Thirty-three randomly selected bioethics papers · 2021-03-30T00:22:48.421Z · LW · GW

These papers were mostly unoffensive and not that terrible in contrast to expectations.  At the same time, I do not get any impression of relevant expertise either such that I feel good about this group being in a privileged position regarding any kind of ethics decision.  They aren’t bad, just… not good enough.

I do notice (from comparing to the circa 2000 batch of papers) that value drift makes older papers seem much much worse than they would've seemed at the time.  I expect 80s or 90s era papers would produce the kind of revulsion many folks were expecting.

Comment by FireStormOOO on Another RadVac Testing Update · 2021-03-24T20:54:38.939Z · LW · GW

Effective blinding is definitely more involved if one's both experimenter and test subject.  It's not impossible but an assistant would help a lot.  Controlling for placebo effect does seem one of the big issues at this scale.

Comment by FireStormOOO on Strong Evidence is Common · 2021-03-17T04:25:11.627Z · LW · GW

This is insightful.  The areas where strong evidence is common are largely those areas we don't intuitively think of as governed by probability theory and where classic logic performs well.  

It seems like someone could take this a little further even and show that the limiting case for strong evidence and huge likelihood ratios would just be logic.  This might be fruitful to unpack.  I could see it being the case that our instincts for seeking "certainty" make more sense than we give them credit for.  Gathering enough evidence sometimes allows reasoning to be performed using propositional logic with acceptable results. 

Such logic is many orders of magnitude cheaper to evaluate compute wise vs probabilistic reasoning, especially as we get into larger and larger causal networks.  There’s an obvious tradeoff between the cost to obtain more evidence vs more compute – it’s not always a choice that’s available (e.g., spend time investigating vs. spend time thinking/tinkering with models) but is often enough.

When I think about how I’m using the reasoning skills I’ve picked up here that’s roughly what I’m having to do for real-world problems.  Use probabilistic reasoning to resolve simpler more object level propositions into true/false/maybe, then propositional logic to follow the implications.  Fail back to probabilistic reasoning whenever encountering a paradox or any of the other myriad problems with simple logic – Or just for periodic sanity checking.

Comment by FireStormOOO on Power Buys You Distance From The Crime · 2021-03-10T02:27:07.222Z · LW · GW

Or more completely: In the absence of malice or extreme negligence there's nothing criminal to punish at all and money damages should suffice.  Given a 100x lower occurrence of accidents this should be insurable for ~1% the cost.  The default answer is drivers remain financially responsible for damages (but insurance gets cheaper) and driver can't be criminally negligent short of modifying/damaging the car in an obviously bad way (e.g. failing to fix a safety critical sensor in a reasonable amount of time that would have prevented the crash.  Alternately, bypassing one or more safety features that could have prevented the crash).  Car companies would be smart to lobby to keep it that way as letting every car accident become a product liability thing would be much more expensive. 

Comment by FireStormOOO on Making Vaccine · 2021-02-18T23:35:37.188Z · LW · GW

While it does seem there was a certain amount of shotgun aproach following a few different lines of reasoning, that critism is difficult to square with actually reading the paper.  It looks like the peptide selection was largely empirical and cited.  The decisions about how to actually package that info into a vacine is largely educated guesswork (as you say theory, supported by computer modeling).

"Mapping of linear B-cell epitopes by binding antibodies in convalescent
sera to a library of peptides representing viral antigens. A strong signal in a
linear epitope mapping study does not guarantee that the epitope peptide
in the context of a vaccine will trigger the production of an antibody that
binds to this epitope within the context of the virus. However, it is a good
indicator that this is at least possible."

Or as I understood from elsewhere: present antibodies from recovered people to every possible short peptide sequence and see which ones they actually attacked.  Make the inference that people with less severe infection had better antibodies than those with more severe symptoms in the event antibodies differed.  Package a selection of promising looking pepties into a vacine; choose enough that there's likely multiple effective peptides even if 2/3rds of the choices are duds.

Comment by FireStormOOO on The Parable of Predict-O-Matic · 2021-02-11T06:06:17.546Z · LW · GW

I think it even adds to the horror that this senario is compatible with being a Great Filter that doesn't generate a meaningfully goal oriented successor that would do anything after destroying or stagnating us.  The goal oriented Mesa Optimizer is effectively trapped inside a system that's objective is simplicity and stagnation.

Comment by FireStormOOO on Technological stagnation: Why I came around · 2021-01-26T02:24:54.366Z · LW · GW

Seconded; this should really be a reply post and is a good rebuttal.  Much (though far from all) of the original argument is down to not really appreciating how much sci-fi tech we do have since the 70's

Comment by FireStormOOO on The Treacherous Path to Rationality · 2020-10-29T19:58:33.951Z · LW · GW

FWIW I left a decent job that required regular air travel to deep red "COVID is a liberal hoax" areas of the US based heavily on content here.  I had alternatives lined up but I probably would've stuck it out otherwise and I think that would've been a mistake. 

Comment by FireStormOOO on Message Length · 2020-10-22T04:42:31.336Z · LW · GW

First thing I did before even reading the article is see that it wasn't ASCII or UTF-8 (or at least if it was it wasn't bit-aligned).  Definitely on the short list of things technical folks are going to instinctively check, along with maybe common "magic bytes" at the start of the maybe-a-file.

Comment by FireStormOOO on Are aircraft carriers super vulnerable in a modern war? · 2020-09-20T22:10:09.537Z · LW · GW

Maybe, but very likely still useful. They are vulnerable if they can be directly attacked, but largely in the same ways and for the same reasons as an airfield. Same as for ground based airfields, if fighting is happening around and on top of the carrier things are already going very very badly. Doctorine generally centers on not letting anything hostile get close enough to take a shot at all, and so carriers can be found in the centers of fleets that are spread out to screen the carrier (in addition to the carrier's own air patrols).

As already mentioned, there's an arms race with respect to cruise missiles; missiles have become extremely capable in terms of range and finding a target, and extremely accurate. If one hits it's probably sufficent to sink a ship regardless of size. Point defence seems to be lagging slightly at present, but it seems premature to call the race. Public information on exactly where an arms race like this is usually lags 10-20 years, but I'd consider the success of anti-satilite and anti-balistic-missile programs strong evidence that shooting missiles with other missiles has become reality.

As for drones, keep in mind that cruise missles of the type that can sink a large ship in one hit mass tens of tons; likewise for torpedos. While drones could certainly be a threat, it's unclear they'd represent an asymetric threat (e.g. the carrier could presumably also launch drones too and so respond in kind). Submarines are very much an asymetric threat to carriers, but that's not new, and I'd be skeptical that drones massively alter the balance of power there, given the extreme difficulty communicating with anything underwater - subs require significantly more autonomy than UAVs.

Comment by FireStormOOO on Wrinkles · 2020-03-15T22:55:28.950Z · LW · GW

Our model of rationalists does have to account for them being normal-ish humans who speak the language in common use around them. "Kill" is in common usage for disabling something, temporarily or permanently, without specifying mechanism; e.g. one can kill the lights or the music or wasteful spending or careless use of lanuguage on internet forums. Granted, it'd be quite prudent to avoid such use in Biology contexts. Given this is a rationality forum, what do you think is reasonable likelyhood for misunderstanding caused by sloppy use of language vs major oversights in subject matter research like you're suggesting above? I'd be very surprised if it was less than 10:1. How much does that differ from your estimate elsewhere?

[Genuinely interested in peoples' thought process during an exchange like above from a "how do we manage to talk past eachother even in a good faith rational discourse?" angle]

Comment by FireStormOOO on Credibility of the CDC on SARS-CoV-2 · 2020-03-09T06:11:18.776Z · LW · GW

[Not the origional poster, but I'll give it a shot]

This argument seems to hinge mostly on if the majority of those expected to read this content end up being Less Wrong regulars or not - with the understanding that going viral e.g. reddit hug of death would drastically shift that distribution.

Even accepting everything in the post as true on it's face it's unlikely such info would take the CDC out of the top 5 sources of info on this for the average American, but it's understandable people would come away with a different conclusion if lead here by some sensationalist clickbait headline and primed to do so. That entire line of argument is increadably speculative, but nessisarily so if viral inbound links up your readership two orders of magnitude. Harm and total readership would be very sensitive to the framing and virality of the referer. It's maybe relevant to ask if content on this forum has gone viral previously and if so, to what degree it was helpful/harmful.

I'm not really decided one way or the other, but that private/member only post option sounds like a really good idea. It sounds like there's some substance to this disagreement, but it also has a pascal's mugging character to it that makes me very reluctant to endorse the "info hazard" claim. Harm reductions seems like a reasonable middle ground.