Comment by greylag on Social media: designed to be bad for you & for society · 2021-08-11T16:41:49.684Z · LW · GW

Whales, to use the metaphor used by casinos.

Comment by greylag on Social media: designed to be bad for you & for society · 2021-08-06T06:28:42.472Z · LW · GW

Another aspect: if you built software intended to deliberate on people’s needs and problems and then formulate plans and collect volunteers, the result would look fairly thoroughly not like Facebook. Any system for collating, corralling and organising different opinions and evidence would, also, look not at all like Facebook. You might end up with an argument map[1], or some “garden and the stream”[2] mix of dialogue and accumulated wisdom.

TL;DR: social software intended to avoid or ameliorate the problems we see with Facebook might function very little like Facebook does.



Comment by greylag on Social media: designed to be bad for you & for society · 2021-08-05T12:02:41.633Z · LW · GW

The way echo chambers work seems to be popularly mis-explained.

How’s it’s explained: everyone you encounter agrees with you

How it actually works: everyone you encounter who you disagree with appears to be insane or evil. Next time you encounter someone who disagrees with you, you expect them to be insane or evil, causing you to act in a way that seems to them to be insane or evil. Iterate.

Comment by greylag on Social media: designed to be bad for you & for society · 2021-08-05T11:58:40.187Z · LW · GW

(Epistemic status: guesswork)

Hypothesis: more addictive may well not actually be more profitable. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if social media engagement was Pareto-distributed, with the most active people quite possibly not the most lucrative customers for advertisers to advertise to. This is immaterial if effectiveness-of-advertising is Goodharted into ”page impressions”, but a pile of Nash Equilibria which only works because multiple parties are Goodharting against noisy proxies can collapse abruptly.

Comment by greylag on Covid vaccine safety: how correct are these allegations? · 2021-06-13T10:13:23.318Z · LW · GW

Whether or not this case has merit, the systematic censorship thing seems real to me... when the antivaxxers have a point, the mainstream isn't allowed to admit it


”Social media trying to tackle disinformation with blunt instruments and causing collateral damage” seems to me very much true. Censorship of information about side-effects…? Well, it seems like “the covid vaccine makes you feel terrible 24-48 hours afterwards for some people” seems like common knowledge; I’m sure I’ve been advised after the flu vaccine to stay still & nearby for ten minutes to check I don’t react badly to it. More pointedly, the low-but-detectable-risk-of-blood-clots problems with the adenovirus vaccines resulted in rollout of those vaccines being paused/delayed by some countries for certain demographic groups, and while there was controversy about what was justified (pause vaccine rollout? Only give those vaccines to older people at less risk of blood clots?), “systematic censorship” is not an accurate description of what was happening.

Comment by greylag on ...and then sometimes, for no clear reason, they innately become good. · 2021-06-09T06:18:50.613Z · LW · GW

I can't say he just "grew out of it" because a lot of evil people remain evil as adults

”They grew out of it” isn’t invalidated as a phenomenon because it’s success rate is less than 100%!

“They grew out of it” does appear to be what happens to a lot of high-school bullies, from conventional wisdom & personal experience. I believe many petty criminals, also, grow out of it - opportunistic crimes are primarily a young man’s game. 

Comment by greylag on Is there a term for 'the mistake of making a decision based on averages when you could cherry picked instead'? · 2021-05-26T06:55:26.260Z · LW · GW

Nominate “statisticians’ duck hunt”, after this joke

Three statisticians go duck hunting. They see a duck and the first statistician shoots, hitting two feet to the left of the duck. The second statistician shoots, hitting two feet to the right of the duck. The third statistician leaps up in joy, yelling, "We got it!"

Comment by greylag on Covid cafes · 2021-02-03T08:59:12.001Z · LW · GW

Guess: people are craving normalcy, and aren’t doing the math.

Comment by greylag on Technological stagnation: Why I came around · 2021-01-24T09:09:01.172Z · LW · GW

(Epistemic status: lame pun)

I don't believe 1970 had significant deployment of ... EDM, or probably a bunch of other process I'm forgetting about

It was called “disco” in the 70s

Comment by greylag on Review: The Gioconda Smile · 2021-01-05T18:14:10.877Z · LW · GW


What if you read the story as if you were in the 1920s, and less accustomed to short stories peopled by irredeemable spherical bastards than we now are? (Especially in Real Literature, as opposed to, say, sci-fi or MLP fan fiction)

What if you read it using some sort of Christian ethics (souls, redemption) rather than modern consequentialist philosophy (harm to sentient beings)?

What if you read it as if you were a spectacular chauvinist and view the female characters‘ plight as unworthy of consideration?

Comment by greylag on Can we get people to shut up on public transportation? · 2020-11-28T18:52:03.512Z · LW · GW

Highly addictive smartphone game, playable only when the phone detects (gps, accelerometer, Bluetooth beacons) that the player is on a train/bus/tram (Working title: Pokémon Shut The **** Up). Bonus: game becomes unplayable if phone can hear that people are talking. Bonus bonus: synergistic use of conversation detection alongside Bluetooth “exposure notification“.

Comment by greylag on [deleted post] 2020-11-25T19:39:34.708Z

This is not the bidet I was expecting.

Comment by greylag on Memory reconsolidation for self-affection · 2020-10-28T21:45:11.934Z · LW · GW

Thank you for the comprehensive answer!

Comment by greylag on Memory reconsolidation for self-affection · 2020-10-28T19:14:24.423Z · LW · GW

Last Thursday, I realized that none of the people who ever hurt me did it because there was anything fundamentally wrong with me. I don’t mean that as in “realized intellectually”...



Ok, maybe this is like reversing advice, but that seems like quite a thing to realise. Even on an intellectual level. Unless “fundamentally” is doing a lot of work. I mean, suppose I got into an argument with a family member where I said something abrasive which they took personally then said something hurtful to me. Is this not about me being abrasive? Is being abrasive not something (fundamentally?) wrong with me?

Comment by greylag on Which headlines and narratives are mostly clickbait? · 2020-10-25T19:17:47.461Z · LW · GW

I think the easiest strategy is to look at those people and groups that are defamed and censored. If you know that establishment gatekeeping doesn't want you looking a particular way then there's bound to be something worth looking at there


That... doesn’t feel super-valuable. For a start, sampling the political opinions of people who regard “the establishment“ as the outgroup is going to disagree very strongly with such ideas as ”We live safe and comfortable lives in a world of great privilege and things are only getting better by the day”. 

Other shunned things: alternative medicine? (Vitamin D supplementation is an obvious outlier here, may be very valuable, and is at least cheap and safe).

Comment by greylag on Covid 10/15: Playtime is Over · 2020-10-15T18:10:14.646Z · LW · GW

So if it isn’t ethical to allow the virus to spread, nor is it ethical to lock down your population to stop it, then it’s…

(epistemic status: assuming good faith)

... “test, trace, treat and isolate”?

Comment by greylag on Rationality and Climate Change · 2020-10-07T17:01:15.019Z · LW · GW

I’m surprised at these EROI figures: that solar PV is producing energy at very low levalised cost but utterly pathetic EROEI fails the sniff test. A quick scoot through Wikipedia finds a methodological argument (comments on

Comment by greylag on Rationality and Climate Change · 2020-10-07T16:49:37.034Z · LW · GW

If you impose a large carbon tax, or other effective global policy of austerity that reduces fossil fuel use without replacing that energy somehow, you're just making the whole world poor


For the case that our civilisation’s energy efficiency is substantially below optimal, see  [Factor 4]( (Lovins & Lovins, 1988)

Comment by greylag on Covid 8/27: The Fall of the CDC · 2020-08-27T18:16:30.268Z · LW · GW
Wearing a mask is vital to preventing Covid-19 infection

I’m wearing a mask because I think they are a reasonable intervention and in the hope that me wearing one encourages other people to wear one. (It sounds like they’re more effective at protecting everyone else than protecting the wearer). I‘m not sure which simulacra level this is (1.1, game theoretic axis?)

Comment by greylag on Quantifying Household Transmission of COVID-19 · 2020-07-08T20:01:13.065Z · LW · GW
estimate the chance of being infected by an infected household member as 30%

Given how contagious this disease seems to be, why is this not higher? Am I misunderstanding what this is measuring? Given you are uninfected, and someone in your household is infected, you have a 1 in 3 chance of contracting Covid?

Comment by greylag on Are Humans Fundamentally Good? · 2020-06-22T18:37:06.108Z · LW · GW

This may not be entry-level, but Axelrod’s The Evolution of Co-operation might be an enlightening deep/broad dive.

Comment by greylag on Do Women Like Assholes? · 2020-06-22T17:04:44.665Z · LW · GW

Not sure how relevant this is, but I think it was Lindsay Doe, of Sexplanations, who pointed out how desperately few role models/examples there are of being assertive in negotiating your sexual needs. In fiction it generally happens by authorial fiat. She praised Two Night Stand as a rare exception. You’d think the poly community would have something to say on this. I don’t recall The Ethical Slut having much to say about this.

Comment by greylag on Do Women Like Assholes? · 2020-06-22T16:58:17.815Z · LW · GW

Fantasy isn’t reality. I’ll happily watch Hugh Laurie playing House, M.D, but I’d like my actual doctor to be a better human (or at least to convincingly pretend to be one)

Comment by greylag on Should I self-variolate to COVID-19 · 2020-05-26T17:31:04.879Z · LW · GW

According to Harvard //

We also don't yet know at what point during the course of illness a test becomes positive... you will get a false negative test result [on a swab test] 100% of the time on the day you are exposed to the virus. (There are so few viral particles in your nose or saliva so soon after infection that the test cannot detect them.)... About 40% of the time if you are tested four days after exposure to the virus

So this sounds like, with a smear or swab or saliva test, you’d want to wait up to 4 days after potential exposure, and a false negative remains possible.

I believe I’ve seen elsewhere that the saliva test is comparable to a swab in accuracy, but is more foolproof (because you don’t have to take a sample from your throat).

Comment by greylag on Better name for "Heavy-tailedness of the world?" · 2020-04-18T08:17:11.720Z · LW · GW

I think he calls them ”Mediocristan” and “Extremistan” respectively

Comment by greylag on CO2 Stripper Postmortem Thoughts · 2019-12-01T09:02:57.122Z · LW · GW

Verifying that the thing scrubs CO2 at the expected rate is definitely a good idea. Verifying the behavioural effects is much harder - you’d need to avoid unblinding, and ideally have several different people with varying levels of age, fitness etc, and then you’d get affected by weather, unless your house is very well sealed...

How portable can this scrubber be? If you’re somewhere cold and not getting enough air at night and it’s your house, you could install a heat recovery ventilator. There is evidently a big market for portable air conditioners, despite their inefficiency; the description of this thing (water, air, pumps out sludge) sounds a lot like a washing machine.

Comment by greylag on Elon Musk is wrong: Robotaxis are stupid. We need standardized rented autonomous tugs to move customized owned unpowered wagons. · 2019-11-04T21:04:44.780Z · LW · GW

It's possible that autonomy changes everything, but things somewhat like this have existed or been talked about:

  • "Modular cars" have been attempted
  • There have been various attempts at swapping the *battery* of an electric vehicle, including by Tesla. (As I understand it, obstacles include: the design advantages of making the battery a structural part of the car chassis; sophisticated battery management that involves "plumbing" the battery into the car's HVAC system). Swapping the battery seems a major move in this direction because the battery is a large amount of the *value* of an electric vehicle. (Conversely: while the vehicle is parked, connect the battery to the electrical grid, and the battery can earn money by arbitraging Watt-hours over time)
  • Obviously, such things as RVs and Winnebagos and caravans exist
  • Cargo containers (and truck/tractors/semitrailers) are something a bit like this, but for cargo

In my view, one big disadvantage of a privately-owned car is that that car's shape has to work for journeys in town, long road trips, vacations, etc, where actually you might prefer something small or shared in town (like a microcar, bicycle, or transit bus) and something roomier for a long journey (or bigger still if you're travelling with friends & family).

Comment by greylag on Elon Musk is wrong: Robotaxis are stupid. We need standardized rented autonomous tugs to move customized owned unpowered wagons. · 2019-11-04T20:22:42.164Z · LW · GW

Well, here are some ways robotaxis *could* contribute to solving urban mobility:

  • One limiting factor of cars? Congestion. Robot cars, communicating with each other, don't need the safe headways for slow human reaction times, and can - potentially - co-ordinate themselves around gridlock.
  • Trying to travel around on a bicycle? Dumb meatbag drivers may run into you; will robots be better at that? We certainly *hope* so. Same for walking. Also...
  • Parking space! Robotaxis don't have to park right next to the destination - so robotaxis are at least somewhat compatible with high density development, more so than private cars
  • If single-occupant cars aren't providing adequate density, there's nothing to stop the use of adequate-sized buses - something between the size of a minibus and a transit bus - at least out of downtown to "railheads" (the "last mile" concept alluded to).

How feasible is any of this? Hard to tell, too many hypotheticals. The "radical urbanist" article is only interested in scenarios in which robotaxis are completely ineffective (don't work, too expensive) or completely disastrous (cause ultimate gridlock, which no government is capable of doing anything about).

Comment by greylag on News ⊂ Advertising · 2019-11-04T13:42:09.708Z · LW · GW

There is a lot of commonality between this post and the idea of churnalism, which was coined by a journalist, and appears well substantiated. There may be a difference in emphasis or intent - churnalism isn’t about deliberately manipulating the reader, but PR is, and churnalism enables this.

Comment by greylag on How to Improve Your Sleep · 2019-11-01T19:51:37.399Z · LW · GW

My common-sense understanding: if you have sex and then aren’t sleepy, get up.

I assume “beds are for sexual activity and sleep”, rather than just for sleep, is a concession to practicality and comfort. Similarly, prohibiting masturbation in bed would seem counterproductive.

(I’d imagine some people would be unhappy to forego reading in bed, also, but that’s different)

Comment by greylag on Specificity: Your Brain's Superpower · 2019-09-13T06:48:25.788Z · LW · GW

The ladder of abstraction goes up as well as down.

We spend a lot of time trying to descend it, being more specific (especially if we’re Paul Graham), but at times its better to be more abstract! Canonical example: Newton. The apple falling from the tree, and the Earth orbiting the sun, are specific examples, but the genius is identifying that the same forces are manipulating them on vastly different scales. (It’s also vital not to get stuck believing that the apple is flat, but that’s not important right now).

Dan Dennett has the idea of “greedy reductionism”. Dennett claims, more or less, that people have souls but the souls are made of tiny robots, ie. “neurons” and “souls” are both legitimate concepts. “Souls are JUST tiny robots and don’t really exist” he calls greedy reductionism: proverbially, not seeing the forest for the trees.

Trying to argue better, as in “ladder of inference” or double crux, is very likely to involve moving up and down the ladder of abstraction, between general concepts and specific observations.

Comment by greylag on The Power to Solve Climate Change · 2019-09-12T20:46:40.342Z · LW · GW

“Civilization is in a race between education and catastrophe” — H. G. Wells

Comment by greylag on The Power to Solve Climate Change · 2019-09-12T20:45:30.481Z · LW · GW

cultural norm shift -> ... meeting Paris Agreement target

I don’t think this chain of causes and effect can be ruled out a priori.

Before the Copenhagen agreement banned CFCs, there were activists boycotting aerosol cans! Tesla (and, before them, Toyota, makers of the Prius) benefitted greatly from buyers’ guilty consciences! (And that’s a good thing!) Wind energy was expensive and countercultural in the 70s; hippies did early R&D!

Comment by greylag on The Power to Solve Climate Change · 2019-09-12T20:38:18.477Z · LW · GW

(Epistemic status: guess, gut reaction) Most of what makes this article good does not come from specificity.

Comment by greylag on The Power to Solve Climate Change · 2019-09-12T20:30:46.930Z · LW · GW

me flying less or eating less meat quite plausibly increases prices

That does not sound very plausible, but what DOES is if you then find yourself in the market for long distance rail travel, or meat substitutes (vegetarian meals in restaurants) (because the market for low impact substitutes is smaller than the conventional market, so your effect there is greater).

Comment by greylag on The Power to Solve Climate Change · 2019-09-12T20:25:35.956Z · LW · GW

What you want, as someone taking action against climate change, is ... to be applying pressure somewhere it will have an effect. I want to say “leverage”, but I’m not sure that’s the right concept - let me give an example: funding renewable energy sources that are on a steep segment of their learning curve. The fact that I did this makes the next person who does this’s action more effective.

I think this article mostly implies, rather than flat out states, that there is a coordination problem here, which means, in approximate order: a) political action b) if you’re taking personal action (what you buy, who you work for, ...) you want to be pushing down a steep and oiled learning curve for maximum effect

I think a lot of activist discourse about climate avoids talking about coordination simply because of the likelihood that the reader feels powerless and becomes apathetic. (“Don’t go over there, you’ll fall into the despair event horizon!”)

Comment by greylag on Can we really prevent all warming for less than 10B$ with the mostly side-effect free geoengineering technique of Marine Cloud Brightening? · 2019-08-07T18:18:06.424Z · LW · GW
Large projects behave similarly regardless of whether we are talking civil infrastructure, oil & gas, energy, mining, aerospace...

The industrial aspect of MCB seems to be "numerous, autonomous boats spraying water". Building a lot of adequately-reliable boats doesn't sound like your typical megaproject, but more of an assembly-line job, something like liberty ships. Adequately developing the process of managing large numbers of drone ships might be a pre-requisite, and doubtless has other military and civil applications.

(Of course, whether MCB affects the climate as hoped is another question altogether).

Comment by greylag on Can we really prevent all warming for less than 10B$ with the mostly side-effect free geoengineering technique of Marine Cloud Brightening? · 2019-08-07T06:22:02.303Z · LW · GW

why did you post this in the answers section?

Oh. By accident - sorry! Ah, there is a “move to comments” button. I will press it.

Comment by greylag on Can we really prevent all warming for less than 10B$ with the mostly side-effect free geoengineering technique of Marine Cloud Brightening? · 2019-08-06T12:34:48.261Z · LW · GW

Is there such a thing as “EA, but for carbon offsetting”? I can imagine an organisation that would invest in a weighted mix of direct carbon capture, lobbying, geoengineering, funding renewable energy, research, ...

Comment by greylag on Can we really prevent all warming for less than 10B$ with the mostly side-effect free geoengineering technique of Marine Cloud Brightening? · 2019-08-06T12:32:41.868Z · LW · GW

... public support for any sort of emission control will evaporate the moment geoengineering is realised as a tolerable alternative. Once the public believe, there will never be a quorum of voters willing to sacrifice anything of their own to reduce emissions

More precisely, public support for emission control that requires personal sacrifice. Energy efficiency measures have been estimated to cost “substantially less than the cost of meeting electricity needs with new power plants”, for example.

Comment by greylag on Is there a user's manual to using the internet more efficiently? · 2019-08-06T06:34:24.774Z · LW · GW

I think the more practical ideas in it (custom RSS readers?) are outdated.

Comment by greylag on Is there a user's manual to using the internet more efficiently? · 2019-08-05T05:51:40.976Z · LW · GW

Sound a bit like Howard Rheingold’s Net Smart.

Comment by greylag on Will autonomous cars be more economical/efficient as shared urban transit than busses or trains, and by how much? What's some good research on this? · 2019-07-31T07:05:46.304Z · LW · GW

Autonomy can allow for higher density by:

1) at worst, reducing, at best, eliminating, the headway between vehicles that's needed to allow human drivers to react (@shminux's "zooming in all directions")

2) in busy times and locations, aggregate multiple journeys into multiple-occupancy vehicles running ad-hoc routes. (I think that's what the OECD "shared mobility liveable cities" study is proposing; UberPool is similar; Citymapper's "smart buses" are similar (though all with human drivers))

Comment by greylag on Will autonomous cars be more economical/efficient as shared urban transit than busses or trains, and by how much? What's some good research on this? · 2019-07-31T07:00:35.446Z · LW · GW

@makoyass I think you would be interested in The End of Traffic and the Future of Access . I haven't read it, though I have read some of Levinson's other work; it's a bit on the dry-and-wonkish side, but I expect you would prefer that to "rabid conflict-theorist", and it's covering the right sort of ground.

Comment by greylag on Black hole narratives · 2019-07-08T19:53:25.662Z · LW · GW

In that case, I have completely misunderstood.

Comment by greylag on Black hole narratives · 2019-07-08T07:21:26.195Z · LW · GW

(Epistemic status: improvising wildly)

You are being outdebated because you are arguing with a memeplex evolved for dragging people into paroxysms of ambiguous guilt. (More prosaically, you can be outargued by, say, a car salesman; if they have convinced you to spend much more money than you intended and there is this really good offer available right now, this means they are better at this than you, which is their job).

I suspect the ambiguity is important. As Said said, equivocation; Motte and Bailey is similar.

My problem with all this: sometimes intense guilt IS the appropriate response. There may be an aspect from which your behaviour is, in fact, reprehensible! This seems to rule out hard and fast “well, don’t let people make you feel guilty” heuristics.

In passing, taboo “narrative”. It has least two distinct meanings: a particular story (usually linear), or something more like a worldview, ideology or doctrine.

Comment by greylag on Black hole narratives · 2019-07-08T06:59:45.880Z · LW · GW

(Epistemic status: snowclone in the style of Scott Alexander) “Haters gonna hate,” said Taylor, Swiftly

Comment by greylag on Self-consciousness wants to make everything about itself · 2019-07-04T06:02:25.897Z · LW · GW

Calvinism resembles abusive parenting more than any sort of ethical principle.

I think this might be an important distinction:

“We are all flawed/evil and have to somehow make the best of it” (Calvinism, interpreted charitably)


“YOU are evil/worthless” said to a child by a parent who believes it (abusive parenting, interpreted uncharitably, painted orange and with a bulls eye painted on it)

Comment by greylag on Self-consciousness wants to make everything about itself · 2019-07-04T05:55:52.035Z · LW · GW

I think you get similar answers whether consequentialist or deontological.

Consequentialist: the consequences end up terrible irrespective of your actions.

Deontological: the set of rules and duties is contradictory (as you suggest) or requires superhuman control over your environment/society, or your subconscious mind.

Comment by greylag on Self-consciousness wants to make everything about itself · 2019-07-03T19:11:51.827Z · LW · GW

[F/X: penny drops]. Thank you.