What are the most powerful lotuses? 2021-02-20T19:05:59.899Z
Heliocentrism in the ancient era 2021-02-16T08:34:40.133Z
Against butterfly effect 2021-02-09T07:46:44.918Z
The maximally relativistic zeitgeist 2021-01-27T21:41:33.682Z


Comment by forensicoceanography on Avoid Contentious Terms · 2021-02-24T10:11:52.190Z · LW · GW

I agree, and I would extend the advice to all the expressions which are short, fashionable, and somewhat opaque.

In Politics and the English Language, Orwell offered further arguments for avoiding ready-made phrases.

Comment by forensicoceanography on Heliocentrism in the ancient era · 2021-02-23T10:20:25.631Z · LW · GW

Basically, the fact that the sea rises not only in the directions of the Sun and of the Moon, but also in the opposite directions.

If you think that the Sun and the Moon attract just the sea, but that the Earth does not move, then you would expect the water to bulge only towards them, and not also in the opposite direction.

If you instead think that the whole Earth is falling towards the Moon and the Sun, you have to subtract the motion of the center of the Earth, and you will correctly predict to see the water rise in both directions. The center of the Earth is attracted more than the sea in the opposite side, but less than the sea on the side of the Moon/Sun, so when you subtract you see a high tide in both sides.


In the Placita Philosophorum (probably written by Aetius) it is written that (Ps. Plut. Plac. 3.17):

Seleucus the mathematician attributes a motion to the earth; and thus he pronounceth that the moon in its circumlation meets and repels the earth in its motion; between these two, the earth and the moon, there is a vehement wind raised and intercepted, which rushes upon the Atlantic Ocean, and gives us a probable argument that it is the cause the sea is troubled and moved.

Now, this is very unclear (and the English translation does not help - for example πνεύματος is not "a wind", the Stoichs used it to mean a much more abstract kind of influence); Galileo was confused by this passage too. But it looks like Seulecus assumed that the Earth moves in order to explain tides.

Comment by forensicoceanography on What are the most powerful lotuses? · 2021-02-23T09:03:46.100Z · LW · GW

Business (and life) favours completion over perfection. You might have a feel for whether you are underperforming at work but the question is whether others can see that (and especially whether they can quantify it). 

So you are saying that you can still pretend to do a good work if many people do a work just a bat as yours. This is different from saying that your work is decent. 

In the town I grew up in, it is common for people to do not work at all (not because they are sick, but because they do not care). They "can" do it in the sense that they do it and they face no consequences - but we all pay the price, for our public services are terrible to nonexistent.

People are sick all the time. A third of the population is on antidepressants or other psych meds, and script drug addiction is massive. Work still gets done. 

Do you think that the performance of a workforce on antidepressants would be the same as the performance of a drunk workforce? 

In regards to you and B: If you haven't worked at breaking point then you don't know what you're capable of. 

I do not know, but neither do you. I mantain that my output would be terrible (I would not be fired, because of my contract, but it still would be terrible).

Comment by forensicoceanography on What are the most powerful lotuses? · 2021-02-23T08:51:09.210Z · LW · GW

I am not really into the studies, but I know that in 1950/1960 virtually everyone smoked (also, if you read books from that period, is it taken as given that everyone smokes), while now it is quite uncommon for a young person in Italy to smoke.

I think that also in the USA tobacco consumption rate is plummeting, so why are you saying that it does not work?

It may be misleading to conflate all "addictions" together. I can see how this can not work with heroine, but addiction to candies is a different thing.

Comment by forensicoceanography on What are the most powerful lotuses? · 2021-02-22T08:44:02.924Z · LW · GW

Maybe I am making confusion between two claims: 

      A) If it happens that you are sick one day, you can still (with pain) carry out an acceptable amount of work for that day.

      B) You can work in a decent way, in the long run, while being sick most of the time.

Are you saying that (B) is true, or just (A)? I fully concede (A) - I also did it. But (A) does not imply (B). I work as a PhD student (which in Europe is a job: you do not have to attend lessons, but you have to do research), and I am sure that (B) is false for me.

Maybe there are jobs for which (A) implies (B), but my intuition is that they are not the majority. 

Comment by forensicoceanography on What are the most powerful lotuses? · 2021-02-21T20:02:05.645Z · LW · GW

Probably some of them do (at least in the popular imagination); I do not know if this can be checked.

Maybe it is possible estimate drug consumption in a geographical area by enviromental data, for example the amount of cocaine retrieved in the water, and attempt to infer a correlation with income. But I do not know if there is sufficient data available.

Surely not everyone would be like Ogodei Khan.

Comment by forensicoceanography on What are the most powerful lotuses? · 2021-02-21T19:02:22.736Z · LW · GW

I think that Caplan is referring to a scenario in which the UBI is high enough to cause a significant reduction of the employment rate.

1000 $ per month would not achieve this effect.

By the way, here in Italy the state has recently enacted a law to give 780 € per month to unemployed people. The party which proposed this law has been mostly voted by southern Italy, whose ruling classes correctly predicted that it would have had the effect of increasing undeclared work.

Comment by forensicoceanography on What are the most powerful lotuses? · 2021-02-21T16:08:07.104Z · LW · GW

While I agree that the state can not prevent you from becoming obese or drunk (mush less sure about, say, heroine), I think it is legitimate to apply economic incentives to decrease the expected number of people engaging in a given activity. 

Many states apply taxes on tobacco and sugar, and there are advertising and sale restrictions on cigarettes and alcohol.

Comment by forensicoceanography on What are the most powerful lotuses? · 2021-02-21T15:59:04.648Z · LW · GW

I definitely can not work when I am sick. Can I ask what kind of job are you overseeing?

Comment by forensicoceanography on Utility Maximization = Description Length Minimization · 2021-02-21T08:56:10.280Z · LW · GW

This look like a technical statement of the Anna Karenina principle, 

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

But then the problem becomes finding the right M which maximises your utility function.The optimal solution might be very unintuitive and it may require a long description to be understood.  M will not be (in general) a smooth set. 

Comment by forensicoceanography on What are the most powerful lotuses? · 2021-02-21T08:45:51.730Z · LW · GW

As a slightly unrelated question, I would be very interested to hear if you think that the quality of the work you watch over is somehow affected by the workers being addicted, and how much.

Comment by forensicoceanography on Heliocentrism in the ancient era · 2021-02-21T08:34:26.061Z · LW · GW

If the Earth was stationary in an inertial reference frame, no. 

If you want to compute tidal forces in the reference frame of the Earth (i.e., extract the quadrupole term from a painful integral), you have to include an apparent force which accounts for the fact that the Earth is really rotating.

Comment by forensicoceanography on What are the most powerful lotuses? · 2021-02-21T08:29:40.169Z · LW · GW

 If people aren't causing problems, and aren't asking for addiction intervention, then why shouldn't their agency and privacy be respected?

i agree on this principle: making people work to avoid them falling in vice seems definitely an exceedingly patronizing position for the State. However, I can think to two possible answers to your question:

    - many addicted people are not really happy with their addiction, and do not ask for help for pride or because they are costantly believing that are quitting (like the stereotypical smoker that decides avery day to quit smoking). So it would be a net utilitarian harm if more people were addicted.

    - maybe the society could have a legitimate interest in preventing the spreading of addictions. Maybe there are no problems if 10% is high, but there could be trouble on the streets if 80% of the populations was high.

Comment by forensicoceanography on What are the most powerful lotuses? · 2021-02-21T08:07:35.341Z · LW · GW

I understand how this can be very rewarding, but it is also an activity which requires mental effort (you do not just look after a kid the way you can drink a bottle or the way you can scroll your Facebook feed).

 It does not feel to me like the sort of activity in which you can just fall into, while you are planned to do other things. Are there documented cases of pathological dependence by caretaking?

Comment by forensicoceanography on Don't encourage prisoners dilemmas · 2021-02-16T18:27:58.629Z · LW · GW

At first I was convinced by your argument, but then I tought to apply it also to the voters.

Both parties would be probably better with a lower turnout (less undecided voters to convince, less effort required to campaign); but it does not seem correct to conclude that we should not encourage voting. An high level of engagement of the local popolation in politics is supposed to be a good thing for democracies, even if it requires more work.

I do not think that donations to political parties should be tax deductable. But I hesitate on the abstract principle "Do not encourage prisoners dilemmas". Sometimes it is good that everyone makes more effort, because that effort produces something valuable. Two rival pencil companies "play" in opposition to each other (in the estreme case in which the pencil demand is totally inelastic, it would be a zero sum game, because if more people buy pencils from company A, then less people buy pencils from company B). But this does not mean that the state's regulations should encourage monopolies: monopolies are (generally) not good.

Depending on your utility function, there are situations in which you should wish to encourage a prisoner dilemma between two factions, if this yields benefits to you or other people.

Maybe your principle applies when the relevant model really has no third party which gains from A and B fighting. But I can not think to many such situations in the society (even in wars, there is someone (weapon sellers?) who profits if the belligerants fight harder).

Comment by forensicoceanography on The Story of the Reichstag · 2021-02-11T18:41:33.668Z · LW · GW

My understanding is that, even if the parliament had no more effective power, it was still used for ceremonial purposes.

The last time it convened was in 1942, when it formally gave to Hitler supreme power.

Comment by forensicoceanography on Against butterfly effect · 2021-02-11T18:28:39.246Z · LW · GW

I see, but you are talking about an extremely idiosyncratic measure (only two points) on the space of initial conditions. One could as easily find another couple of initial conditions, in which the wing flip prevents the tornado.

If there were a prediction market on tornadoes, its estimations should not change in neither direction after observing the butterfly.

"there is a set of initial conditions such that when butterfly flap = 0 there is no Texas tornado, but when butterfly flap = 1 and no other initial conditions are changed, there is a Texas tornado." 

Phrased this way it is obviously true.  


However, why are you saying that chaos requires determinism? I can think of some Markovian master equations with quite a chaotic behavior.

Comment by forensicoceanography on Against butterfly effect · 2021-02-11T18:21:49.082Z · LW · GW

Strictly speaking, for a chaotic system the magnitude of the differences should be amplified exponentially with time (with rates given by Lyapunov exponents).

Comment by forensicoceanography on Against butterfly effect · 2021-02-09T18:06:21.559Z · LW · GW

Hi, I think I see what you mean. You can certainly say that the flap, as a part of the initial conditions, is part of the causes of the tornado. But this is true in the same sense in which all of the initial conditions are part of the cause of the tornado. The flap caused the tornado together with everything else. All the initial ocean temperatures, the position of the jet streams, the northern annular mode index, everything. If everything is the cause, then "being the cause of the tornado" is a property which carries exactly 0 bits of information, since everything is the cause.

I prefer to think that an event A "caused" another event B if the probability of B, conditioned on A happening, is at least greater than the prior probability of A.

Comment by forensicoceanography on Quadratic, not logarithmic · 2021-02-08T16:08:04.106Z · LW · GW

Maybe the bias comes from the perception that the unknown risk has to be either very low or very large. It would make sense, for example, for low risks such as getting hit by a lightning.

Let us suppose that I am willing to tolerate a certain maximum risk, say <1%.

I do not know the real risk of interacting with people, but I want that Nx < 0.01 (if linear), where N is the number of contacts and x is the unknown risk per contact.

Now, if I am already willing to meet 99 people, this means that I am guessing x < 0.01 / 99. 

I would accept to increase to 100 if x < 0.01 /100. Not wanting to meet 100 people when you already meet 99 means estimating that 

0.01 /100 < x < 0.01 / 99

which would be a weirdly precise claim to make. 

On the other hand, if I am wrong in estimating x < 0.01 / 99, it may be that x>0.1, for example, and then we are outside the linear regime, and the risk of 99 is very similar to the risk of 100 (as they are both close to 1).


 Of course this heuristic fails if the unknown risk is in at intermediate scale probability, neither evident neither extremely low  (like in the case of covid). 

Comment by forensicoceanography on The Upper Limit of Value · 2021-02-08T15:36:09.818Z · LW · GW

Ok, now I get it.

Comment by forensicoceanography on The maximally relativistic zeitgeist · 2021-02-08T15:31:47.421Z · LW · GW

Even without Internet, greek agoras had their deal of mobs, tyrannids and groupthink. Logic is only one of the many weapon of rethoric, but it is an useful weapon (it struck me to notice that even 4chan/pol now has a table of logical fallacies in evidence at the top of the board).

Yes, if we have to be optimistic in the long run cancel culture could help society by developing anticorps.

Comment by forensicoceanography on The Upper Limit of Value · 2021-02-04T07:03:28.896Z · LW · GW

You are saying that you can always redefine the value function to be finite, while maintaining the lexicographic order. 

Fair enough, but then your "value" is no longer a measurement of the amount of effort/money/resources you would be willing to pay for something. It is just a real function with the same order relationship on the set of objects.

It is certainly is possible to construct a "value" function which is finite over all the possible states of the universe, I totally agree. But is this class of functions the only logically possible choice?

Comment by forensicoceanography on The Upper Limit of Value · 2021-01-30T18:35:28.859Z · LW · GW

Hello, thank you for sharing the paper. This is an interesting philosophical point; however, I have the impression that your conclusion is not true for all the possible value functions.

All the examples in your paper assume that the value of a commodity is linear in the amount of it (for example, Plutonium costs 5$/mg). But what happens if the value of a commodity increases with time? For example, a never-ending plutonium speculation bubble could make 1 mg of plutonium cost 1$ x exp(kt), for some k.

I feel that you have a point, but I think that you should axiomatize what properties the "value" function fulfills. If I do not want to sell my stuffed toy for any price, does it mean that it has an infinite price? Does your argument still hold if we replace "value" with "beauty" or any other undefined concept, or is this an argument specific for economic value? If yes, what is your definition of an "economic value" functional?

Maybe you have already answered to this kind of objection and I did not notice it.