Upvote/downvote amounts 2018-01-27T08:00:26.533Z
Principals, agents, negotiation, and precommitments 2012-09-21T03:41:55.923Z


Comment by gwillen on Working With Monsters · 2021-07-20T19:28:00.821Z · LW · GW

I like it, but 95% seems surprisingly high. Surely there are plenty of other people out there with a similar psychological makeup to Red and Judge, or to the protagonist (who can at least be convinced, with a sufficient threat, to listen before punching.) But I shouldn't fight the hypothetical too much...

Comment by gwillen on Why did we wait so long for the threshing machine? · 2021-06-29T21:44:33.784Z · LW · GW

At a slightly different angle: it seems like the reason we couldn't make the thresher is that, first, we had to create "the art of building things precisely enough to make the thresher". That is itself a technology, but it's the sort of technology for which the very concept doesn't really get reified before you have it, so you don't even have general understanding that it's what you're missing.

From the later parts of the post, it seems like that may not be quite right, since it sounds like other places / industries had more of that technology. But I still like the general concept of "a technology that is so abstract we don't really understand that we need it yet", as a prerequisite to some other obviously-desirable thing. "Infrastructure" seems like not quite the thing but having a lot of overlap with it.

Comment by gwillen on Electric heat pumps (Mini-Splits) vs Natural gas boilers · 2021-05-31T17:51:42.891Z · LW · GW

If the outside air temperature gets very low (or high?) I've heard that ground-source heat pumps might be the way to go:

Comment by gwillen on Oracles, Informers, and Controllers · 2021-05-25T19:40:01.291Z · LW · GW

Reminds me of Scott's story from way back when about the Whispering Earring:

(I don't have any specific point, I'm not sure the story has any specific lesson that I endorse, it just seemed interestingly related.)

Comment by gwillen on Finite Factored Sets · 2021-05-25T00:42:04.227Z · LW · GW

That sounds like the right choice, but a part of me is incredibly disappointed that you didn't go for it.

Comment by gwillen on We should probably buy ADA? · 2021-05-25T00:37:48.267Z · LW · GW

This is interesting. There's a lot here, I agree with some but not all of it, and I'm not presently going to comment on most of it (mostly for time reasons.) I am a Bitcoin user and developer, and have looked briefly at Cardano in the past. One thing I'd specifically like to comment on:

"but we already know proof of stake works, this isn't necessary"

We really don't, though. We know for sure that the original proof of stake algorithm was badly broken, in multiple ways. There are now a number of different successors that go by the name "proof of stake". I have no specific reason to believe that Cardano's is not broken in some way. They appear to use a PoS system called "Ouroboros" that they developed themselves, starting in 2017, according to . It looks like the original 2017 paper claims that the system is "provably secure", but judging by the list of papers it's also undergone a number of iterations since then. (That doesn't necessarily imply anything bad, but neither does having "provably secure" in a paper title really prove anything good. I haven't read the paper.) I've been meaning to specifically investigate the ETH 2.0 version of PoS, to see what I think about it, since Vitalik has written about its design at some length; I may have to add this one to the reading list.

Comment by gwillen on Saving Time · 2021-05-19T07:46:26.054Z · LW · GW

agency is time travel

Since time is the direction of increased entropy, this feels like it has some deep connection to the notion of agents as things that reduce entropy (only locally, obviously) to achieve their preferences: (I'm not sure this is 100% on-point to what I mean, but it's the closest thing I could find.)

Since agents can only decrease entropy locally, not globally, I wonder if we could similarly say that they can "reverse the arrow of time" only in some local sense. (Omega can predict me, but I can't predict Omega. And even Omega can't predict everything, because something something second law of thermodynamics.)

Comment by gwillen on Covid 5/6: Vaccine Patent Suspension · 2021-05-08T05:48:15.417Z · LW · GW

The graph in the CNBC tweet seems pretty misleading without context, and I've seen it criticized elsewhere for this reason. Since roughly the start of 2020, NovaVax stock is up 4300%, Moderna is up 730%, and BioNTech is up 460%. (Pfizer is only up 6%, but it's also about an order of magnitude larger, so a single product line would not have the same effect on the stock price.) Three of the four are still higher than they were in just mid-April; NovaVax is about the same as it was. And I'm trying to be conservative here, and attribute all the recent price drops to the patent issue, but the biggest drops happened in the week before 5/5, and are not visible on the graph in the tweet.

Granted, the stock prices have recovered a bit since you wrote this, which is information you didn't have, but even still -- the price drop depicted in that tweet is a pretty minor fluctuation in the context of even a week or two of price movements, and even considering the total drop from most recent peak to now (which has different timing for each stock, so presumably they aren't 100% from a common cause) you're looking at drops of 3-25%, which is obviously not tiny, but it hasn't come anywhere near wiping out the tremendous growth in the value that the market has placed on these companies since the start of COVID. The market doesn't love this news, but it still likes all four companies pretty well regardless.

Comment by gwillen on [link] If something seems unusually hard for you, see if you're missing a minor insight · 2021-05-05T19:34:37.766Z · LW · GW

Meta: The way this post works in the LW interface feels weird to me. The email notification doesn't mention that it's a linkpost at all, and doesn't include the link. And linkposts on LW usually seem to mirror the content of the link, but this one is a summary instead -- which is fine, except that it doesn't feel very obvious. The link is small, in italics, and easy to read right past, especially when it's usually just a link to another copy of the same content.

Comment by gwillen on Don't Sell Your Soul · 2021-04-07T05:49:34.367Z · LW · GW

This seems like a classic Pascal's Wager, and as such probably not a great strategy to follow -- see "Pascal's Mugging" for a discussion of what happens if you start letting people push you around by declaring things to have infinite (or incredibly large) utility in some unlikely scenario.

... but I can't figure out how this comment got down to -9 points on that basis alone. I'm wondering if your username caused a bunch of people to assume -- as I did initially -- that you were a spambot, and thus downvote you extra-harshly after a bare skim of your actual comment.

Comment by gwillen on 2012 Robin Hanson comment on “Intelligence Explosion: Evidence and Import” · 2021-04-02T17:33:47.668Z · LW · GW

I think my immediate objection to Robin's take can be summarized with a classic "shit rationalists say" quote: "You have no idea how BIG mindspace is." Sure, we quibble over how much it's okay to impose our values on our descendants, but those value differences are about (warning: tongue firmly in cheek) relatively trivial things like "what fictional deity to believe in" or "whether it's okay to kill our enemies, and who they are". Granted, Robin talks about acceleration of value change, but value differences like "whether to convert the Earth and its occupants into computronium" seem like a significant discontinuity with previous value differences among generations of humans.

Humans may have different values from their ancestors, but it is not typical for them to have both the capability and the desire (or lack of inhibition) to exterminate those ancestors. If it was, presumably "value totalitarianism" would be a lot more popular. Perhaps Robin doesn't believe that AGI would have such a large value difference with humans; but in that case we've come back into the realm of a factual dispute, rather than a philosophical one.

(It does seem like a very Robin Hanson take to end by saying: Although my opponents advocate committing what I clearly suggest should be considered an atrocity against their descendants, "[e]ven so, I must admit that [it] deserves to be among the range of responses considered to future intergenerational conflicts.")

Comment by gwillen on Core Pathways of Aging · 2021-04-01T05:05:49.891Z · LW · GW

Main upshot of all this: since aging involves changes on a timescale of decades, there must be some component which is out-of-equilibrium on a timescale of decades or longer (i.e. does not turn over significantly across a full human lifespan). These are the components which we’ll call “root causes”. Everything else which changes with age, changes only in response to the root causes.

A quibble: Just because some component turns over frequently, doesn't mean that higher-level structures made from that component aren't degraded in the process. For example, if I accidentally cut off the tip of my finger, the relevant cells will all grow back, but the finger will not; the larger-scale pattern remains degraded for life.

In the case of my fingertip, obviously we would consider that an injury, not an aspect of aging. But it seems hard to be sure that there aren't any aspects of aging that work this way?

Comment by gwillen on Nitric Oxide Spray... a cure for COVID19?? · 2021-03-17T00:49:55.837Z · LW · GW

The linked site appears to be down, which is definitely not making this seem more trustworthy.

EDIT: I guess that's just one random site with the press release.

Interestingly, the clinical trial seems to be pre-registered: Not sure how much I should infer from that about how good it was.

Comment by gwillen on Covid 3/12: New CDC Guidelines Available · 2021-03-16T22:42:06.703Z · LW · GW

One objection to that is that one must not just compare between vaccinating and getting Covid. One must also strive to pick the safest vaccine.

Well, as to the vaccines available right now, I'm not aware of any evidence for one of them being more or less safe than another, so your choices seem limited to "vaccine" or "not". But even if they were different -- getting the safest one is only a usable strategy if it's available, i.e. there is not a vaccine shortage, which there currently is. If your choices are "get whatever vaccine is on offer" and "nothing", you should get whatever vaccine is on offer as long as the expected value of doing so is better than the risk of COVID exposure if you do nothing.

Another objection is that long term effects of any covid vaccine are not yet well-studied and there could be plausible mechanisms by which some of the vaccines could cause long term damage for example due to cumulative effects.

This is definitely the scariest hypothetical, IMO, but I'm not aware of any evidence for it, only a lack of long-term data. How you weigh "unknown unknowns that are hard to measure" against the risks of COVID seems like a very personal choice. (I'm not aware of any past vaccines having hidden long-term side effects that didn't appear at all in trials or early use.)

Comment by gwillen on Covid 3/12: New CDC Guidelines Available · 2021-03-14T21:57:54.210Z · LW · GW

Supposing hypothetically that those 1400 deaths were all caused by the vaccines -- wouldn't the math still be on the side of getting one? (Of course, most likely the relationship is not causal, as discussed by the CDC link below, as well as Zvi's reply, but hypothetically assuming it was.)


"Over 92 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the United States from December 14, 2020, through March 8, 2021. During this time, VAERS received 1,637 reports of death (0.0018%) among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine."

Chance of death from COVID for young healthy people is probably somewhere between 0.05% and 0.1%. (CFR seems to be around 0.2%, but IFR is lower. I'm eyeballing from .) For older people it can be as high as 10-20%. Even if you are in the youngest, healthiest group, making the most optimistic assumptions about the danger of COVID, and the most pessimistic assumptions about the danger of the vaccine, that it caused every single death reported after receiving it -- it seems to me that COVID would still be at least 20x more dangerous. And realistically the difference is much higher than that, and for older people it's going to be orders of magnitude higher.

Of course, if you think you can perfectly avoid exposure to COVID, then you could declare any amount of risk from the vaccine to be too much. But I think most people are both unable and unwilling to do that, and I suspect that most people who ARE able and willing to completely avoid exposure are also more likely to be getting the vaccine, not less.

Comment by gwillen on A whirlwind tour of Ethereum finance · 2021-03-07T13:43:59.234Z · LW · GW

China could just pass a law that says: "It's illegal to sign [certain blocks]. Without a fork that would mean that the Chinese miners are able to have the longest blockchain and thus the official one. I don't see an easy way to fork and invalidate the ability for the Chinese miners to do that either. You would likely need to do things like changing the underlying signing algorithms to invalidate the ASICs.

I agree that you're right about what would initially happen in this scenario (miner majority conspires to censor transactions).

It's worth noting that you can only tighten restrictions this way, not loosen them (e.g. China can't pass a law sending themselves all the coins, miner majority or not, without automatically forcing everyone else into a separate fork.)

The difficulty level of responding to this would depend on the policy goals of the Chinese government, and the level of coordination of the Chinese miners. If they were content to have their own China-Bitcoin fork, it would be easy enough to coordinate to let them go, and nothing as drastic as a PoW change would required. If not, it would certainly get messy, although I think we have some reasonable approaches prepared for this contingency, short of nuclear options.

If a substantial amount of the value of cryptocurrency comes out of the DeFi stuff that will likely mean that a crypto network that allows that stuff will move to the top.

I agree. Whether it's worth the complexity is an interesting open question.

I don't see much difference between Binance losing 40$ million worth of Bitcoin in a hack of their software to a smart contract on the Ethereum network being hacked.

Here I do see a tremendously large difference:

  • First of all, Binance is an exchange which trades both Bitcoin and Ethereum, and holds balances of both. The fact that they lost Bitcoin in the hack, and not Ether, is only because Bitcoin is more popular than Ethereum. There is zero structural advantage for Ethereum here.
  • Binance is a third-party website. I don't know what standard practice in Ethereum is -- hopefully the same -- but it is strongly recommended in the Bitcoin community never to store coins with a third party. By contrast, Parity is one of the standard Ethereum local wallet apps, and the affected contract was the built-in multisig option in that app. "I gave my coins to a third party and they got lost" is very different from "I stored my coins in the official wallet app on my local computer and they got lost."
  • Also, the amount in question was apparently ~7 times as large, in USD terms (or ~4x from another source): . And worse in market cap terms: this single bug destroyed about 1% of all Ether in existence (or 0.5%, according to a different source). The Binance hack represented about 0.03% of the Bitcoin in existence at that time.
  • In point of fact, Binance users did not lose funds -- as far as I can tell, Binance covered all the losses. By contrast, in the Parity multisig incident, all affected user funds were -- as far as I know -- lost irrecoverably.
  • It's also worth noting, if only for amusement value, that the Parity multisig issue was not technically a "hack"; the bug was triggered by accident, and the coins were lost (not taken). (Although the previous incident in the same contract, just 4 months prior was a theft.)

Obviously these points are applicable to these specific examples. There were other Ethereum contract losses where users did realistically know they were putting funds at risk, unlike the Parity incident. And there were other Bitcoin incidents where user funds did get lost, and were not returned (although of course they all involved storage of funds with third parties, not bugs in the standard client software, that I'm aware of.) But the sheer volume, severity, and general nature of the issues seems incomparable to me.

Comment by gwillen on A whirlwind tour of Ethereum finance · 2021-03-06T21:14:08.655Z · LW · GW

Hm, I guess I'm conflating two different things.

One of them is really more about governance than engineering, although it mixes both. The Bitcoin model is "this thing exists, it has to work, we're not going to screw with it unless there is overwhelming consensus to do so." And in fact it is structurally pretty hard to screw with it, absent overwhelming consensus to do so; if you screw it up, you fork the chain. (Realistically, the core devs could probably force something through once, at great reputational cost; but both the core devs themselves, and the user community, are philosophically opposed to that kind of thing.)

Meanwhile, the Ethereum model seems to be "you run what the devs tell you to run." If we want to change the rules, we change the rules. Most people don't even run full nodes; they use a small number of major service providers. And incidents like this are scary: . The devs released new software that changed the rules; major service providers were not given advance notice and did not update; this broke a ton of stuff. Since the devs define the protocol, those service providers were then forced to update.

The last accidental hard fork of the Bitcoin chain, and the only one I'm aware of, was in 2013. . It was due to a bug, and unlike the Ethereum scenario, the clear Bitcoin community consensus was to roll back to the version before the accidental break. Nobody in Bitcoin has the mandate to roll out a breaking change and force everybody to adopt it. (You can definitely argue about the various community splits on breaking change proposals in the past, but IMO this underscores that the community's view of a change IS the critical determining factor; the devs can't just release a breaking change and expect everybody to go along, whereas in Ethereum that's the norm.)

From a more engineering-oriented and less governance-oriented view, I guess my main concern is that Ethereum's scripting model is very complicated compared to Bitcoin's. I'm not aware of a Bitcoin script ever being hacked, granted that this is because Bitcoin scripts are much less capable than Ethereum scripts! Meanwhile, here is a list of Ethereum smart contract postmortems: . It's a long list.

The worst one I'm aware of is . Parity was/is one of the first-party, supported, officially-sanctioned Ethereum nodes/wallets. (It's hard for me to tell whether it's currently the recommended full node to run yourself, because the Ethereum website does not recommend ANY full node software to run yourself, that I can see; only light wallets and third-party hosted wallets. One of the recommended open-source Bitcoin wallets, Bitcoin Core, is a full node.)

In the linked incident, ALL PARITY MULTISIG WALLETS AND THEIR CONTENTS WERE DESTROYED. (And I had forgotten, but that site reminds me, that this was actually the SECOND issue with Parity multisig wallets, and was introduced in the fix to a previous issue. The link to the previous issue is dead, so I don't know whether that also resulted in loss of all funds.)

This isn't a detailed or exhaustive investigation, and of course not all of this can be blamed on Ethereum itself. But generally I would say that my impression is that Ethereum has lower engineering standards than Bitcoin does.

For an example of good engineering on the Bitcoin side: Some Bitcoin devs did exhaustive testing of some of Bitcoin's cryptograpy against OpenSSL, in order to check for bugs in the Bitcoin code. Instead, they found a bug in OpenSSL: (search-in-page for "squaring".) Obviously there could be stuff like this in the Ethereum camp, too, and I wouldn't necessarily know since I mostly only deal with Bitcoin.

Comment by gwillen on A whirlwind tour of Ethereum finance · 2021-03-06T19:16:28.394Z · LW · GW

Meta: did you delete and repost this comment or something? The link to it from the email notification gives me a 404.

For the benefit of the admins, the original link I got was:

which serves a redirect to:

EDIT: Oh, I see the problem. It looks like they broke the comment link redirects. See the doubled first half of the URL.

FURTHER EDIT: Reported as .

Comment by gwillen on A whirlwind tour of Ethereum finance · 2021-03-06T19:13:46.938Z · LW · GW

This is a really good response and it made me think, thanks.

I should disclose (I wasn't meaning to hide it before, but in retrospect it's clearly relevant) that I do have a position in ETH, much smaller than my position in BTC, as a hedge against a scenario like this.

Historically, the correlation between the two has been pretty strong, as has the correlation among all the cryptocurrencies. But if they successfully switch to Ethereum 2.0, that could have a major effect here.

Overall, my sense is that Ethereum has a weaker foundation, engineering-wise, than Bitcoin; but it also obviously has a LOT more features (some of which can be footguns.) And there's no inherent reason that Ethereum can't gradually improve the engineering while retaining the features, and it's definitely been working on doing that. On the other hand, Bitcoin has a fundamental philosophical conservatism that I think makes it a better long-term bet in some ways. Assuming it survives, you can bet that it will still be recognizably Bitcoin well into the future. Who really knows what Ethereum will be -- the governance model allows for a lot more change, which can be good or bad.

Comment by gwillen on A whirlwind tour of Ethereum finance · 2021-03-03T23:17:55.711Z · LW · GW

I work in Bitcoin professionally, have not spent a lot of time looking at Ethereum/DeFi stuff, and found this surprisingly educational.

I will make one broken-record comment, which I always repeat when the topic of DeFi comes up. These things typically require you to lock up some collateral, in a way that subjects you to the price fluctuations of some cryptocurrency on top of whatever DeFi thing you're doing. Your ultimate return may have a lot more more to do with those price fluctuations, than with the DeFi stuff itself.

That may be fine, but make sure you account for it. In the easiest case, you're already holding whatever cryptocurrency you'd be exposed to. In the hardest case, you are using money that was previously in the stock market / your bank account, and exposing it to changes in the market value of some obscure token that nobody's ever heard of. Making 25% APR on your investment in that token is probably meaningless.

(This is VERY not investment advice, but: if you want to go long on "crypto-mania", my first suggestion would be that you (1) buy some Bitcoin, and (2) don't sell it. It's a lot less effort than DeFi, and so far the return has been pretty good. Future returns may not be so good! But the correlations between cryptocurrencies are pretty high, so if Bitcoin does badly, whatever token your DeFi thing uses probably will also do badly, over the medium term at least.)

Comment by gwillen on Your Cheerful Price · 2021-02-13T08:11:21.339Z · LW · GW

Q: Technical objection: Surely if you're asking everybody in the room to name their Cheerful Price for something, you should pay the lowest bidder the second-lowest bid, not pay the lowest bidder their actual bid?""

I chuckled when I got here, because I had just had this thought myself.

It seems like it can't be correct to always do this, because the second-lowest bid could in fact end up above the asker's willingness to pay. However, under the assumption generally made in the post -- that any happy price from anybody you're asking for one will likely be under that threshold, and often way under -- the second-lowest-bid heuristic seems like it could be a good thing to at least consider.

Comment by gwillen on Covid cafes · 2021-02-03T22:47:40.618Z · LW · GW

To a first approximation, nobody is going to great lengths to avoid COVID. Customers don't care. Mostly people have no idea what the difference between indoor and outdoor is, in terms of risk.

That said, I think this varies from place to place, too. My local Starbucks locations have different degrees of "indoorness". One of them had (last I checked) full indoor operations, other than allowing people to sit. Another one, a few months ago, had blocked off almost all the floor are of the store, leaving only a small indoor area big enough for one person to order. Now they've pushed it even further -- the counter is still "indoors", but there's not even enough space to close the door when someone's standing at the counter, ordering or picking up.

And I notice that the Starbucks app recently added an option for whether you want "indoor" or "outdoor" pickup. I haven't tried it yet, but I noticed it because this same franchise (the one whose "indoor" pickup option isn't really indoors anymore) has a sign with an arrow pointing around the corner to the back door, for "outdoor" pickups. I live in Mountain View, in the heart of Silicon Valley; it may be that more people here know about COVID risks and want to take precautions. (Also, the weather is always mild, so indoor space is in less demand.) But I guess this is also evidence against my theory that most people don't care -- this store clearly does, at least.

Comment by gwillen on Making Vaccine · 2021-02-03T21:48:09.774Z · LW · GW

Thanks, I really appreciate you taking the time to respond.

I should probably have clarified my current views / epistemic status in my comment, since I think it sounded more skeptical than I actually am. I would say it's something like: "I expect this is quite possibly a good idea, and most probably at worst a neutral idea. I am interested in trying to elicit anything in the long tail of risks that could change that."

(I guess I did also want to encourage other people to at least briefly consider risks before trying this themselves -- although given the complexity and expense, perhaps I shouldn't worry that anybody might rush to try it.)

Comment by gwillen on Making Vaccine · 2021-02-03T21:23:03.244Z · LW · GW

Thanks, that's helpful (and hilarious.) I am looking through the paper now, and it definitely at least purports to answer some of my questions/concerns. (I haven't had a chance to follow the references to see the details.) I would love to hear more takes from people expert enough to weigh in.

Comment by gwillen on Making Vaccine · 2021-02-03T20:49:53.843Z · LW · GW

Do you have any thoughts on the risks/hazards involved here? To me that's a much more significant consideration than the price. Some thoughts / priors:

  • Snorting chemicals I got from the Internet / mixed up myself without really knowing what I was doing: Superficially, seems potentially pretty risky.
  • Snorting peptides (assuming that the stuff ordered online was what it claimed to be, was pure and not contaminated with anything hazardous, and that I didn't accidentally create anything hazardous in the process): Definitely not as risky as snorting arbitrary unknown substances. Seems unlikely to be directly poisonous (although that's without reading about the other contents of the vaccine.)
  • Snorting COVID-19 peptides, in particular: Should I be worried about things like antibody-dependent enhancement? Are there other possible hazards specific to experimental vaccine administration that I should worry about? I'm sure the paper talks about this stuff, but I'm not a biologist so I can't promise I'd understand it if I read it.
  • Is there a possibility that this vaccine is both ineffective, and interferes in some way with the effectiveness of subsequent administration of a different vaccine?

From a risk perspective, the fact that this is intranasal rather than injected makes it feel safer to self-administer, I expect, but is that feeling really justified? Obviously for this vaccine to work, it has to be creating substantial immune effects, at which point I have to ask: what are the risks involved in creating substantial immune effects in my body using a thing I found on the Internet, which has received comparatively very little testing, and without enough knowledge to really verify any of the claims myself?

Comment by gwillen on Secular Solstice 2020 · 2020-12-21T00:32:47.415Z · LW · GW

Wait, really? Are you highly confident you're thinking of this video, and not the similarly-styled Beautiful Tomorrow video?

As far as I knew, this video didn't play for anybody -- I don't think it loaded for any of the organizers.

Comment by gwillen on [link] The AI Girlfriend Seducing China’s Lonely Men · 2020-12-14T21:07:50.663Z · LW · GW

I usually assume things like this are at least partially fake; an army of low-wage employees is both cheaper and more convincing than the current state of the art in AI. That said, I see that this was originally a Microsoft project, and the Wikipedia article quotes Bill Gates (who I wouldn't expect to directly lie about this intentionally.) Now that it's spun off, it's in other hands, though. I also wouldn't expect that a fake AI would have had to be censored to keep it from talking about politically sensitive topics, which apparently the real one did. (I assume low-wage employees pretending to be an AI would automatically know what topics to stay away from, assuming they are from the same country.) So I'm not sure what to believe.

Comment by gwillen on Working in Virtual Reality: A Review · 2020-11-23T00:04:53.995Z · LW · GW

I have used Immersed for screensharing movies in VR. (We're both mac users, so nothing other than Immersed is possible currently.) It's a bit finicky but you can definitely make it work. I had to lower the resolution of the shared screen until the streaming framerate rose to acceptable levels, but then it was generally great.

The main advantage of this over the more typical approach with a video call is that you can get more of a sense of 'presence' -- you can't see the other person's face, but an avatar can in some ways feel more expressive (you can see their head movements and hand movements.)

However, at least when we tried this, the Immersed screensharing worked much better than the Immersed multiplayer avatars, so we ended up going back to video chat. I expect it's improved since then, though. (The BigScreen avatars are super cool, an incredibly strong sense of presence, but we can't screenshare on BigScreen because that feature is Windows-only. Very frustrating.)

(Disclosure: I made a small investment in Immersed, because I think it's super cool.)

Comment by gwillen on It’s not economically inefficient for a UBI to reduce recipient’s employment · 2020-11-22T23:38:31.143Z · LW · GW

I think you are misunderstanding what 'crazy distortions' paul is referring to (that's on the tax end when you are taking money away, which mainly affects the rich; not the UBI end when you are giving it out, which mainly affects the poor.)

On the UBI end, you should expect to see that creating a UBI will, in equilibrium, cause the cost of living to rise by an amount less than the amount of the UBI. If the cost of producing the goods required to feed everbody requires nearly the entire productive output of society -- as in the medieval scenario you are pointing at -- I believe you should expect a small UBI to have almost no net effect in equilibrium, because (as you observe) it will be almost completely absorbed by rising prices.

It is a mistake to see rising prices as "an indicator of damage". They are an indicator of damage that would be done if all that production ceased, sure. But you're miscounting if you call them an indicator of damage that is done, because the whole value of the price mechanism is that it is not done, because prices rise until production is again adequate to meet demand.

The rise in prices means that the net effect of a UBI is reduced relative to the gross effect, but that's not an "inefficiency". It's not causing any value to be destroyed, it's just a change of accounting. You get some more money, you spend some more money (but less than you get). The real net redistributive effect of the UBI is in the excess you get beyond the increase in what you spend. (And as you observe, if there is not much spare productive capacity, that amount could be small.)

Comment by gwillen on Making the Monte Hall problem weirder but obvious · 2020-09-18T00:47:39.187Z · LW · GW

It seems like something went wrong with the post mirroring here. It's got a bit of it, and then cuts off without any indication that there's more.

Comment by gwillen on Evaluating Opus · 2020-08-09T22:09:39.173Z · LW · GW

Coauthor here: FWIW I also favor eventually switching to the (more reasonable IMO) streaming approach. But this does require a lot more complexity and state on the server side, so I have not yet attempted to implement it to see how much of an improvement it is. Right now the server is an extremely dumb single-threaded Python program with nginx in front of it, which is performant enough to scale to at least 200 clients. (This is using larger than 200 ms windows.) Switching to a websocket (or even webrtc) approach will add probably an order of magnitude in complexity on the server end. (For webRTC, maybe closer to two orders, from my experiments so far.)

Comment by gwillen on [updated] how does gpt2′s training corpus capture internet discussion?  not well · 2020-08-04T02:50:51.351Z · LW · GW

Do you have examples of that kind of output for comparison? (Is it reproducing formatting from an actual forum of some kind, or the additional "abstraction headroom" over GPT-2 allowing GPT-3 to output a forum-type structure without having matching examples in the training set?)

Comment by gwillen on Betting with Mandatory Post-Mortem · 2020-06-25T00:26:31.177Z · LW · GW

I like this a lot. I would also like to hear a post-mortem from the winner in a lot of cases, although of course it's kind of silly to impose it. But I do sometimes see the winner and the loser agree that the bet turned out to be operationalized wrong -- that they didn't end up betting on the thing they thought they were betting on. I'd like to know whether the winner thinks they won the spirit of the bet, as well as the letter.

Comment by gwillen on Covid-19: My Current Model · 2020-06-01T19:05:29.617Z · LW · GW

I am still skeptical of the strength of "MNM" effects. Control systems with huge lag times are infamously unstable. Are most people really able to judge whether they should be scared or not based on the R value from a week or two ago, which they don't even know but have to eyeball from the trend in cases?

Comment by gwillen on Covid-19: My Current Model · 2020-06-01T18:47:28.770Z · LW · GW

Right, I was thinking the same thing -- not just a person, but medical personnel. So you're going from patient 1, to someone's hands, who is then directly touching patient 2, plausibly even patient 2's mucous membranes. That's much more direct than a typical fomite contact, which is more like face-hands-fomite-hands-face (or if you sneeze on a doorknob, face-fomite-hands-face.)

Comment by gwillen on Coronavirus is Here · 2020-04-15T02:49:24.373Z · LW · GW

No, a bet was never made and accepted. You can see my reply to him as to why I didn't accept his offer. He never replied to my counteroffer.

Comment by gwillen on April Coronavirus Open Thread · 2020-04-05T20:04:32.641Z · LW · GW

For what it's worth, I upvoted your comment.

But since you stated that you had a source already, I don't see how it's asking much for you to post a link to the source you already said you had.

[EDIT: After a couple days, I regret the tone of my comments here. I don't want to discourage anybody from writing posts, or asking for help in composing posts. And I think "there oughta be a rule" was a poor summary of my position and sounded pretty hostile. I think it would be nice if people mentioning the existence of sources would link the sources they mention, and in general I'd like it if people linked source more often. But that wasn't really directed at you personally, it was spillover from elsewhere.]

Comment by gwillen on April Coronavirus Open Thread · 2020-04-05T05:47:54.571Z · LW · GW

Cool, thanks for expanding on that. You might want to link this comment in your other comments about this idea, so people have some details to read. It's a lot more informative than the one I was responding to!

Comment by gwillen on April Coronavirus Open Thread · 2020-04-02T20:01:06.258Z · LW · GW

This is an interesting idea but would benefit from more elaboration.

Why the GI tract in particular -- do you have evidence that this will significantly reduce the risk of respiratory symptoms, or just speculation / "common sense"? Is there evidence that the GI tract as the initial site of exposure will produce an infection / an immune response, but with a reduced chance of the infection spreading to the lungs / respiratory tract? Or with it taking longer to get there, similar to Robin Hanson's thoughts about deliberate exposure with a low dose, like variolation of old?

If you have any links/references, please definitely post them. If it's just speculation, it's interesting speculation but tell us what it's based on.

Comment by gwillen on April Coronavirus Open Thread · 2020-04-02T19:57:37.996Z · LW · GW

I have heard, and give some credit to, the theory that silicon valley tech company culture played a role in the bay area's response being relatively early. Tech companies were making contingency plans and sending their employees home, well before there was any kind of government action here. I don't know what fraction of employees / day-to-day interactions that represents. But e.g. all Google employees working from home seems like it could have played a nontrivial role in Mountain View, which was the epicenter of the bay area coronavirus outbreak.

Comment by gwillen on April Coronavirus Open Thread · 2020-04-02T19:50:13.693Z · LW · GW

Can you link whatever you have on this, even before you write it up? Articles, the paper you mentioned, the studies about reducing infections this way, where you get the idea in general?

(Everyone, please do this! It is really helpful, and it's probably easier for you to re-find things than for people to try to find them based on your comment! I wish LW had a rule about doing this!)

Comment by gwillen on March Coronavirus Open Thread · 2020-03-30T07:02:16.491Z · LW · GW

That's extremely interesting. I would love to see someone in our community who I trust to be good at statistics redo the analysis, since all the data is public.

Apparently there are already multiple trials underway, though: . The Science article came out before the paper, so I wonder where the idea struck first.

Apparently the broader pro-immune effects of the BCG vaccine for tuberculosis have been known or suspected for a long time; see e.g "Non-specific effects of BCG vaccine on viral infections",, which is a fucking wild read and I highly recommend reading the whole paper.

Comment by gwillen on [Update: New URL] Today's Online Meetup: We're Using Mozilla Hubs · 2020-03-29T21:18:03.308Z · LW · GW

I tried taking a video to demonstrate the issues, but I seem to have hung the headset. I think the Quest probably just can't do Mozilla Hubs with adequate performance.

It has no trouble at all with similar environments in native apps, so again I wonder if WebVR is to blame.

EDIT: Honestly I wish I could get a video of the truly comedic amount of problems this has caused the headset. First I got a dialog that "Oculus System" had stopped responding, then the dialog separated into two pieces at a jaunty angle to each other and the display froze. Then I tapped the power button, and got a dialog asking if I wanted to power off the headset, but I was unable to click any buttons. One of the controllers seemed to be tracking inverted from reality somehow (pointed along the opposite vector in VR from how the real controller was pointed.) The other one was sort of gently orbiting.

Honestly, I have found VR to be a pretty buggy experience overall, but this is definitely the worst behavior I have ever seen from this platform. It's pretty funny.

Comment by gwillen on [Update: New URL] Today's Online Meetup: We're Using Mozilla Hubs · 2020-03-29T21:15:35.760Z · LW · GW

I finally made it into one of the rooms. I suspect I'm having performance issues? The tutorial room had 4 avatars and very few objects, and loaded fairly promptly. The other environments are more complex with more people in them. I've finally gotten into one of them, but it's ... bad. Audio is almost unusable. A lot of objects are failing to render. Tracking is hopeless. Movement is impossible.

I suppose I could try rebooting the headset and see if anything improves.

Comment by gwillen on [Update: New URL] Today's Online Meetup: We're Using Mozilla Hubs · 2020-03-29T21:12:55.376Z · LW · GW

I am trying to use Hubs through Oculus Quest. So far I am extremely unimpressed. If I manage to enter one of the non-tutorial rooms without a hang, I might get slightly more impressed, but the audio is also pretty crap for me. Lots of weird static and glitchiness. Sometimes when I turn my head I lose tracking and the world jitters. I think WebVR is not a good substitute for native VR apps.

EDIT: Ok, I rebooted the headset (and switched from the Mozilla browser, "Firefox Reality", to the native browser), and it seems to be working smoothly now. Not sure what the cause was of the issues before.

Comment by gwillen on Will grocery stores thwart social distancing, and when should I eat my food stockpile? · 2020-03-29T08:41:22.054Z · LW · GW

Most or all the 24-hour grocery stores here (bay area) have converted to having closing hours, as far as I know, to help them deal with the logistical problems caused by overwhelming demand. You might expect this to happen in your area too, at some point.

Comment by gwillen on Coronavirus Justified Practical Advice Summary · 2020-03-29T08:03:33.391Z · LW · GW

Beware, some of the very thin bare-looking copper wire you will find is "magnet wire", which is actually coated in a thin layer of clear insulation.

Comment by gwillen on What should we do once infected with COVID-19? · 2020-03-28T21:11:31.212Z · LW · GW

Listing / summarizing some things I've seen elsewhere:

This general summary post by Sarah Constantin:

A post by SC specifically on "non-invasive ventilation", meaning CPAP and BiPAP machines (which some people may already have at home), with positive conclusions:

A document by Matt Bell with information about chloroquine phosphate / hydroxychloroquine:

One of the most intriguing things I saw was about "proning":

The author of that post is Josh Farkas, a pulmonologist (i.e. lung specialist) and assistant professor of critical care and pulmonary disease (i.e. lung disease.)

"Prone" here means a face-down lying position, the opposite of "supine" which means face-up. The author says "Typically we prone intubated patients." From context, I am reading "we" to mean his hospital / department, and "prone" to mean "rotate into the prone position for 6-18 hours per day." The commonality of this practice seems to vary among hospitals.

The post, however, is a discussion of proning for awake, non-intubated patients, and concludes that it appears safe and effective. There is a lot of uncertainty around how effective it is, but it looks to me like, if you have pneumonia and hospital treatment is not available to you, there is some evidence that -- perhaps counterintuitively -- you will breathe better lying on your belly, vs. on your back.

(The main counterpoint I have seen to this is that frequently moving around and changing positions is best. I can't tell whether the post is largely about patients who are too out-of-it to do that. I have seen it suggested that, if you're able, sitting up is better than lying down (I have no cite handy for this.) There seems to be overall agreement, at least, on this one point: lying stationary on your back for long periods of time is NOT good when you have lung problems.)

Comment by gwillen on What should we do once infected with COVID-19? · 2020-03-28T20:39:46.874Z · LW · GW

I was under the impression that loss of sense of smell was primarily happening to people who take zinc intranasally. (I don't have numbers handy.)

My impression was that the effect of the zinc was supposed to be on the virus (or the virus's interaction with your cells), not on the body. Which (if true) would seem to imply that prophylactic use shouldn't cause adaptation.

This paper appears to be a discussion of a Cochrane review from 2011, and supports prophylactic use (and also generally supports use, and provides more info):

The 2011 version of the Cochrane review in question: /

(Irritatingly, there have been a number of subsequent versions of the Cochrane review, but several of them have been withdrawn, for reasons that are hard for me to interpret, although one at least involved an accusation of plagiarism from another meta-review on the same topic. It feels to me like there may be some kind of political fight over ownership of this Cochrane review.)

ALSO, while looking through Cochrane reviews, I found this one in favor of Vitamin C for the common cold:

Comment by gwillen on March Coronavirus Open Thread · 2020-03-25T00:36:17.565Z · LW · GW

Thanks, I believe that article is great advice and I fully endorse it -- I saw it a few days ago but never came back here and updated my comment.