Comment by itakebets on Is Scott Alexander bad at math? · 2015-05-06T23:20:39.056Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Ok, look, I get that you are trying hard to be a good person, and that's great, but you're not doing such a great job of it right now. And I think that's kind of the crux here: You've somehow gotten the idea that being a Good Person automatically makes you good at it, or should, whatever that means.

You say that you like helping people. I identify with that. I like helping people too. But all that really tells you is how I get my jollies, you know? Other people are not obliged to give me said jollies by being helped, and they may have good reasons not to. Here are some possible reasons:

  • They don't think they need my help.
  • They don't think I am competent to help them, and perhaps are worried that I may make things worse.
  • They suspect that I am optimizing for fuzzies rather than for actually helping, which may cause conflict or poor outcomes from their point of view.
  • They feel disrespected by the implication that I am in a position to help them, and fear loss of status.

Now, you may think some of these reasons are mistaken or irrational (I think any of them might be perfectly sane, myself), but the fact remains that people are quite possibly going to have these concerns, and if I can't address them, I will not be a very good helper. Notice that none of these reasons is "They fail to empathize with me and understand how happy I would be to help them," which is the only concern I see you trying to address here. Why should they care how happy it will make me?

Humility gets a bad rap on LW, but I think in this case it's exactly what's needed, because if you want to help people properly, you've got to remember that helping isn't about you. You have to respect their goals and their autonomy, all the more if they really do need your help and you are in a position of power over them. Love is great and all, but it's not something you ought to force on anyone.

Comment by itakebets on Rationality Quotes Thread March 2015 · 2015-03-07T16:04:55.916Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Any model makes some inaccurate predictions but models can retain utility despite significant propensities for inaccuracy. Inaccurate predictions aid the choice of models for future predictions. Because of this, the central scientific problem in the computational study of the MBH mechanism is not the inaccuracy of the predictions. Rather, it is the absence of any particular prediction at all.

--R. Erik Plata and Daniel A. Singleton, A Case Study of the Mechanism of Alcohol-Mediated Morita Baylis-Hillman Reactions. The Importance of Experimental Observations.

Comment by itakebets on Stupid Questions March 2015 · 2015-03-06T01:51:56.836Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Data: pretty much all male Hollywood stars wear (natural-looking) makeup whenever they appear on camera.

Comment by itakebets on Stupid Questions March 2015 · 2015-03-06T01:49:36.912Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Ask your female hetero friends if Tim Curry was hot in Rocky Horror.

Comment by itakebets on Stupid Questions March 2015 · 2015-03-05T23:38:08.060Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I wear makeup regularly (I am a lady). "Light" makeup usually means natural-looking and easy to apply. The highest-yield stuff would be something to make your skin look smooth and even (foundation, tinted moisturizer or BB creme), something to make your lips pretty (gloss looks natural and is easy to apply although lipstick is longer-lasting and less sticky), and maybe a little eye makeup (this is easier to screw up but not really that hard; start with drugstore mascara and eyeliner pencil and consult Youtube if you want to take it any further). I'm happy to recommend specific products but a lot depends on your complexion.

Edit: Forgot to mention, if you have acne at all, spend money on a good concealer that matches you skin, Dermablend is the shit, this is probably worth it for gents as well as ladies

Comment by itakebets on Stupid Questions March 2015 · 2015-03-05T15:56:48.600Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

How does it look like with American eyes - completely fake? Or normal?

It looks like a very exaggerated version of one particular America. There are shops that sell this kind of merchandise in the Western US, but they sell as much to tourists as to folks who actually dress like this.

What you need to understand is that there is more than one distinctively American subculture in the US. In particular, there are at least two major poor, rural, white American cultures: the high-religiosity country music culture, and the low-religiosity rock/metal culture. Though they can often be found side by side in the same trailer park, the same home, or even sometimes the same individual, there is also some real tension between them. Rock/metal appeals more to teenage rebellion, rejection of responsibility and civilization, rootless adventure. Country is more aspirational and its adherents see themselves as salt-of-the-earth folks who love their family, flag, and God. I guess that doesn't go over so much in Europe, so we mostly export rock culture. (Even in the US, urban upper-middle-class people tend to get the two cultures confused since they both equally reject things like suits and liberal arts degrees and clever hipster music.)

Comment by itakebets on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, March 2015, chapter 114 + chapter 115 · 2015-03-04T21:44:23.327Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I think the only thing that would satisfy me is a legitimate excuse for Voldemort to leave Harry armed. Anything short of that, you may as well leave it as-is for historical reasons.

Comment by itakebets on Open thread, September 15-21, 2014 · 2014-09-19T23:20:41.639Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, thanks, this has been discussed elsewhere. (That said I'll repeat the request to avoid disrespect or patronizingly phrased advice.)

Comment by itakebets on Open thread, September 15-21, 2014 · 2014-09-17T00:18:28.156Z · score: 35 (35 votes) · LW · GW

I'm posting here on behalf of Brent Dill, known here and elsewhere as ialdabaoth-- you may have enjoyed some of his posts. If you read the comments at SSC, you'll recognize him as a contributor of rare honesty and insight. If you'd had the chance to talk with him as much as I have, you'd know he's an awesome guy: clever, resourceful, incisive and deeply moral. Many of you see him as admirable, most as relatable, some as a friend, and more, I hope, as a member of our community.

He could use some help.

Until last Thursday he was gainfully employed as a web developer for a community college in Idaho. Recently, he voluntarily mentioned to his boss that he was concerned that seasonal affective disorder was harming his job performance, who mentioned it to his boss, who suggested in all good faith that Brent should talk to HR to see if they might help through their Employee Assistance Program. In Brent's words: "Instead, HR asked me a lot of pointed questions about when my performance could turn around and whether I wanted to work there, demanded that I come up with all the solutions (after I admitted that I was already out of brainpower and feeling intimidated), and then directed me to turn in my keys and go home, and that HR would call me on Monday to tell me the status of my employment." Now, at the end of the day Tuesday, they still haven't let him know what's happening, but it doesn't look good.

I think we can agree that this is some of the worst horseshit.

On the other hand, he's been wanting to get out of Idaho and into a city with an active rationalist community for a while, so in a sense this is an opportunity. Ways to help: Brent needs, in order of priority: a job, a place to stay, and funds to cover living and moving expenses-- details below. Signal boosts and messages of support are also helpful and appreciated. Ways NOT to help: Patronizing advice/other-optimizing (useful information is of course welcome), variations on 'cool story bro' (the facts here have been corroborated to my satisfaction with hard-to-fake evidence), disrespect in general.

1. Job: Leads and connections would help more than anything else. He's looking to end up, again, in a good-sized city with an active rationalist community. Candidates include the Bay Area, New York, Boston, Columbus, San Diego, maybe DC or Ann Arbor. He has an excessively complete resume here, but, in short: C#/.NET and SQL developer, also computer game development experience, tabletop board/card game design experience, graphic art and user interface experience, and some team leadership / management experience.

2. Crash space: If you are in one of the above cities, do you have/know of a place for a guy and his cat? How much will it cost, and when will it be available? Probably he'll ultimately want a roommate situation, but if you're willing to put him up for a short time that's also useful information.

3. Funds: Brent is not now in immediate danger of going hungry or homeless, but a couple of months will exhaust his savings, and (although it is hard to know in the current state of things) he has been told that the circumstances constitute "cause" sufficient to keep him from drawing unemployment. Moving will almost certainly cost more than he has on hand. There is a possible future in which he runs out of money stranded in Idaho, which would be not good.

If you feel moved to help, he has set up a gofundme account here. (The goal amount is set at his calculated maximum expenses, but any amount at all would help and be greatly appreciated-- he would have preferred not to set a funding goal at all.) Though Brent has pledged to eventually donate double the amount he raises to Effective Altruist causes, we wouldn't like you to confuse contributing here with charitable giving. Rather, you might want to give in order to show your appreciation for his writing, or to express your solidarity in the struggles and stigma around mental illness, or as a gesture of friendship and community, or just to purchase fuzzies. Also, you can make him do stuff on Youtube, you know, if you want.

Thank you so much for your time and kindness. -Elissa Fleming

Comment by itakebets on [ACTIVITY]: Exploratory Visit to the Bay Area · 2014-07-26T20:18:54.184Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Above observe downvotes making things worse

Comment by itakebets on [meta] Policy for dealing with users suspected/guilty of mass-downvote harassment? · 2014-06-08T16:46:24.662Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'd agree that it's a two-edged sword, but 1) Keeping standards high is not our only goal, and being welcoming is good for other purposes, and 2) I think there are better ways to be unwelcoming to low-quality people that cause less collateral unwelcomingness to good people.

Comment by itakebets on [meta] Policy for dealing with users suspected/guilty of mass-downvote harassment? · 2014-06-06T13:22:14.774Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Downvotes are bad. They decrease trust and cause defection spirals. I am confident that the existence of downvotes makes the community less enjoyable, less welcoming and less productive on net.

That said, I'm not sure we should do anything to punish people using them in an extra-bad way.

Comment by itakebets on White Lies · 2014-02-10T02:44:29.511Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, regardless of the reason, they just say that "no suitable donor is available." If pressed, they say they never release potential donors' medical information to recipients, for confidentiality and to protect donors from coercion.

Comment by itakebets on Open Thread for February 3 - 10 · 2014-02-09T22:09:07.881Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

there doesn't have to be any connection with us

Comments mention HPMoR, and letter writer says he read it aloud to her. The Modafinil use is also circumstantial evidence.

Comment by itakebets on Open Thread for February 3 - 10 · 2014-02-08T17:45:28.659Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It appears the letter writer is in or from Sydney, Australia. Does this ring a bell to any Sydney LWers?

Comment by itakebets on Open Thread for February 3 - 10 · 2014-02-08T15:11:54.224Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

So... What do we make of this?


He is a rationalist who is deeply against living by social norms and just sees them as defaults, and is “non-default” about pretty much everything including work path, values etc., as well as lifestyle including cooking (lives off takeaway so as not to spend time grocery shopping and cooking), cleaning (does not have much of a regular cleaning habit – I broke glass in his kitchen a month ago and he said I shouldn’t have to clean it up and it’s still there), sleeping (he has no regular sleep schedule and sleeps when he wants to. The kind of work that he does is largely from home with long deadlines. He ships a prescription anti-narcolepsy from overseas which allows him to stay awake for long stretches on little sleep – although he plans on giving this up soon). He also takes party drugs and for a while, was taking quite high amounts of MDMA on a weekly basis, which pretty much wiped him out the day or two after. I have always been uncomfortable around drugs, although he did not really know the extent of my discomfort, and I can’t take them myself due to mental health. He dropped back to once a month after I expressed concerns about escalation and he acknowledges that he has some susceptibility to addiction, although he is not currently dependent.“

One serious issue we had was that he gave me an STI. He had rationalised that he had a very limited risk of having an STI so despite my repeated requests and despite being informed that a previous partner had been infected, did not get tested. I was furious at his intellectual arrogance and the danger he had put us both in. I lost a week of unpaid time off work and my mum had to nurse me through my allergic reaction to the treatment. I told him I wanted to break up, but we ended up supporting each other through the treatment and ultimately decided to get back together and work things out.

Comment by itakebets on AALWA: Ask any LessWronger anything · 2014-02-03T01:53:18.115Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm a 30-year-old first-year medical student on a full tuition scholarship. I was a super-forecaster in the Good Judgment Project. I plan to donate a kidney in June. I'm a married polyamorous woman.

Comment by itakebets on Question on Medical School and Wage Potential for Earning to Give · 2013-09-27T12:23:05.519Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

These schools tend not to do as well in placements for residencies.

This is a significant understatement-- ~95% of US MD students match into residencies; for foreign grads it's around 50% and likely to fall further. Don't go to med school abroad if you want to practice in the US.

Incidentally, I've just started med school in the US on a full tuition scholarship and am willing to answer questions related to admissions.

Comment by itakebets on High school activities and medical school admissions · 2013-09-13T00:22:16.561Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I would suggest but honestly anyone who has found SDN is probably in pretty good shape as far as medical school admissions advice goes.

Comment by itakebets on Rationality Quotes September 2013 · 2013-09-04T21:00:31.001Z · score: 9 (23 votes) · LW · GW

Q: Why are Unitarians lousy singers? A: They keep reading ahead in the hymnal to see if they agree with it.

Comment by itakebets on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 19, chapter 88-89 · 2013-06-30T19:58:34.993Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I am breaking my "only comment on LW if you expect some benefit" rule because I am in a somewhat unique position to comment on this, and I agree with Eliezer that "penalizing people for sounding certain or uppity or above-the-status-you-assign-them can potentially lead you to ignore people who are actually competent". See, I made this update at an earlier time under not-dissimilar circumstances. (In short, I thought ArisKatsaris was making an overconfident prediction about HPMoR, bet against him, and lost.)

An excerpt from my journal, 3/28/2012:

Well, I lost my bet. But what did I learn? Give less probability mass to “some unknown possibility no one has thought of” when the number of people thinking is sufficiently large. Also, arrogant people may be arrogant because they’re usually right, so be careful of the impulse to smack them down.

So, you know, here's a chance to learn a $30 lesson for free, people.

Comment by itakebets on Applied art of rationality: Richard Feynman steelmanning his mother's concerns · 2013-06-04T19:15:20.675Z · score: 5 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I see someone here has downvoted Thomas. I sincerely hope it was because that person knew penicillin is not effective against M. tb. If so, high five, downvoter! (Thomas: streptomycin.)

Comment by itakebets on Open thread, May 17-31 2013 · 2013-05-18T14:16:11.616Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm teaching some classes for a test prep company in a town 2 hours away. They're paying me fairly for my expenses and travel time, but it still feels like kind of a waste-- it's like 20 hours a week! Of course most productive things cannot safely be done while driving, but listening is a notable exception.

Can anyone recommend some good educational podcasts, or other free downloadable audio that will make me better in some way? I'm working on learning Spanish, so that seems like a good place to start.

Comment by itakebets on Open Thread, May 1-14, 2013 · 2013-05-10T11:39:45.164Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

On Wednesday they awarded me a scholarship covering full in-state tuition, making them probably my least expensive option (since it's easy to establish residency for tuition purposes in Ohio after a year or two). It's an excellent program, but moving would be hard and Columbus is cold and far from both our families.

Comment by itakebets on Open Thread, April 1-15, 2013 · 2013-05-09T17:45:08.833Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I participate and was invited the first season to be a super-forecaster in the second. It is kind of a lot of work and I have been very busy, so I really quit doing anything about it at all pretty early on, but mysteriously have been invited to participate again in the third season.

Comment by itakebets on Open Thread, May 1-14, 2013 · 2013-05-09T16:09:37.248Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks, your advice more or less coincides with what I was planning up until Ohio State confused me again. I certainly have not ruled out international medicine and nonprofit work as some part of my career, but I don't see that any of the schools that has accepted me has a clear advantage on that front.

Comment by itakebets on Open Thread, May 1-14, 2013 · 2013-05-09T05:30:20.727Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I plan on a career in patient care. I will almost certainly do research in medical school, but based on past experience I don't expect to find it extremely compelling or to be extraordinarily good at it. Money concerns me if only for philanthropic purposes. The field that interests me most now (infectious disease) does not pay especially well, but I have decided that I really should seriously consider more lucrative paths that might let me donate enough to save twice as many lives in the developing world.

Both schools seem to have pretty solid clinical training and early patient exposure, to hear the students tell it (though they have little basis for comparison). I don't have a strong preference between their curricula, except my worries about driving around between hospitals in Miami.

Comment by itakebets on Open Thread, May 1-14, 2013 · 2013-05-09T04:00:30.591Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you!

I had just about settled on UF when I was suddenly struck with SERIOUS FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS as Ohio State, the highest-ranked school that accepted me, offered me a scholarship covering full in-state tuition. Ohio is quite easy to establish residency in, so I'd probably only be out of pocket the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition for the first year, but of course I'd have to move, and we'd be far from both our families.

I put together a spreadsheet taking into account the cost of moving, transportation costs, estimated change in rent, tuition and fees, and potential lost wages-- and it looks like OSU could actually be the least expensive of the three, depending on whether I manage to establish residency in time to get in-state tuition my second year (I'm told this is the norm). My estimate for the difference between UF and FIU increased slightly to $40k-$70k. I am not sure what to do about estimated career earnings-- lots of variance there, and I'm having a hard time weighing it against the costs, which I can be much more confident about.

Comment by itakebets on Open Thread, May 1-14, 2013 · 2013-05-08T15:09:23.576Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Fair question. It seems that compensation is determined largely by what Medicare/insurance companies are willing to pay for procedures etc. I believe unfilled fellowship spots aren't really a problem in any field, but the highest-paying subspecialties attract the most applicants. For example, cardiologists are very well-compensated, and cardiology fellowships are among the most competitive.

Comment by itakebets on Open Thread, May 1-14, 2013 · 2013-05-02T19:47:58.025Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Ok, I agree that's probably good advice in general. I've tried to avoid premature closure throughout the process of making this career change, but I'll explicitly list some third options when I journal tonight. The bulk of my probability mass is in these two schools, though, so I am especially interested in advice that would help me choose between them.

Comment by itakebets on Open Thread, May 1-14, 2013 · 2013-05-02T19:25:43.871Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Do you have one in mind? Or are you just advising against medical school, and if so, why?

Comment by itakebets on Open Thread, May 1-14, 2013 · 2013-05-02T16:42:58.506Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Request for advice:

I need to decide in the next two weeks which medical school to attend. My two top candidates are both state universities. The relevant factors to consider are cost (medical school is appallingly expensive), program quality (reputation and resources), and location/convenience.

Florida International University Cost: I have been offered a full tuition scholarship (worth about $125,000 over four years), but this does not cover $8,500/yr in "fees" and the cost of living in Miami is high. The FIU College of Medicine's estimated yearly cost of attendance (including all living expenses) is nearly $69,000; if I multiply that by four years and subtract the value of my scholarship I get about $145,000. However, my husband will continue working during all four years, defraying some of my expenses, so I hope to keep my actual indebtedness at graduation under $100,000 if I attend FIU. Program Quality: This is difficult to gauge, because the program is very new, having only graduated its first class of MDs this year. Their reputation is necessarily unestablished. All of their graduates successfully matched into residencies this year (a few in prestigious hospitals and competitive specialties), but this is reassuring rather than impressive. They only graduated 33 students although they matriculated 40 in their first year; not sure if that represents a worrying rate of attrition or what became of the other students (though I plan to ask). Another consideration is that although FIU is affiliated with many well-known hospitals in South Florida, they do not have a dedicated teaching hospital. Location/convenience: Already mentioned the higher cost of living. Miami is also farther from where we are currently living and working (over 3 hours away vs under 2 for Gainesville). My husband could probably find work in Miami, but it might be less desirable or pay less than his current job, and we would probably need to live apart during the week until he does. Also, the widely-scattered hospitals through which FIU students rotate, as well as South Florida traffic, make me worry about my quality of life during my third year.

The University of Florida Cost: I have been offered $7500 per year in aid. The rest of the $50k/year cost of attendance (including living expenses) would be loans. Again, my husband would continue to work and pay some of my expenses. In all I estimate a $30k-$60k difference in indebtedness at graduation between the two programs (in FIU's favor). Program Quality: UF is Florida's oldest and best-respected medical school, which is to say good but not elite. UF also has a reputable teaching hospital on campus, and a larger research budget, which would help build my resume if I decide to try for a very competitive specialty. They graduate 95% of their students within 4 years (98% in 5 years), and their residency match list looks a bit nicer than FIU's on average. For what it's worth (probably not much), I have a better feeling about this program's "culture" based on the events I've attended. Location/Convenience: Gainesville is closer. It might be feasible for my husband to stay at his current workplace for all four years if we find a good place to live around midway between.

Other advice I have received: Jess Whittlestone at 80,000 Hours suggested I'd do best, impact-wise, to consider which school would maximize my earning-to-give potential. This would mostly depend on the specialty I go into-- based on how I feel now, I'm most likely to try for an Internal Medicine subspecialty, which would mean doing a fellowship after residency. A good residency match would position me well for a fellowship in a competitive field. Physicians whom I have asked for advice tell me that people commonly match into even very competitive residencies from lower-ranked US MD schools, but it takes more work (better test scores, stronger evaluations). They also tend to say "OMG take the money" when I say the words "full tuition scholarship".

You can probably tell that I lean towards UF, but I don't want to make a bad call. What am I missing? What should I be asking the schools? Where should I go?

Comment by itakebets on Open Thread, April 15-30, 2013 · 2013-04-29T02:12:10.008Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Anybody on here ever sold eggs (female human gametes)? Experiences? Advice on how best to do it?

Comment by itakebets on Rationalist fiction brainstorming funtimes · 2013-03-31T15:42:20.590Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If anyone else wants me to I'll probably have time to put something together next month (I'd need to reread the books). I'm not sure there's enough material for a whole sequence though. I don't remember Mansfield Park as very promising, and once you've said "generalizing from fictional evidence" you're probably pretty much done with Northanger Abbey.

Comment by itakebets on Rationalist fiction brainstorming funtimes · 2013-03-31T02:04:40.945Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Well, for starters, Austen was mainly concerned with making good decisions about whom to marry, which for women of her time, place and class was by far the most important thing to worry about ever-- their husbands all but owned them, and divorce was punishable by shunning. If there was an 80,000 Hours for young ladies in Regency England, it would have been called "400,000 hours" or maybe "Literally the Rest of your Life or Until the Bastard Dies," and Jane Austen would have been its founder. People who think Austen wrote romance novels are badly misreading her: in Sense and Sensibility she mercilessly punishes Marianne for following her heart when her heart was stupid, and in Persuasion she vindicates Anne's hard choice to turn down a poor man she loved on the advice of a trusted friend. These books are about winning.

But more than identifying the right problem, Austen actually is quite a keen observer of cognitive biases. She didn't call them that, of course, since they technically hadn't been named yet, but Emma is basically about confirmation bias-- "She had taken up the idea, she supposed, and made every thing bend to it,"-- and the central conflict in Pride and Prejudice is Elizabeth's need to change her mind about Darcy at the cost of appearing inconsistent to her friends and family. Austen isn't interested in stupid or wicked characters, but in intelligent, well-meaning people who make bad decisions for predictable, preventable reasons. There are more examples (I seem to recall a nice planning fallacy in S&S) but I don't want to spend too much time digging up quotes right now.

Comment by itakebets on Rationalist fiction brainstorming funtimes · 2013-03-31T01:06:23.577Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

fighting pride and prejudice

Jane Austen is kind of already "rationalist fiction".

Comment by itakebets on [LINK] The power of fiction for moral instruction · 2013-03-26T14:34:57.395Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I agree, but it may be that the best way to accomplish that end, or at least the route Chekhov has taken, is actually to make wise observations. If we are capable, as a culture, of sometimes recognizing writers whose observations are indeed wise, who help us to simulate the experiences of other people, or better possible selves, with high fidelity, then good literature is probably worth a look. That has been my experience, at least. (Another reason to enjoy reading bleak stories might be an aesthetic appreciation for the beauty of the language, for example.)

Comment by itakebets on [LINK] The power of fiction for moral instruction · 2013-03-26T14:13:49.099Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

A corrective has historically been the concept of good literature. See for example George Eliot, Anton Chekhov, etc.

Reading Anton Chekhov's stories, one feels oneself in a melancholy day of late autumn, when the air is transparent and the outline of naked trees, narrow houses, greyish people, is sharp. Everything is strange, lonely, motionless, helpless. The horizon, blue and empty, melts into the pale sky, and its breath is terribly cold upon the earth, which is covered with frozen mud. The author's mind, like autumn sun, shows up in hard outline the monotonous roads, the crooked streets, the little squalid houses in which tiny, miserable people are stifled by boredom and laziness and fill the houses with an unintelligible, drowsy bustle. ... There passes before one a long file of men and women, slaves of their love, of their stupidity and idleness, of their greed for the good things of life; there walk the slaves of the dark fear of life; they straggle anxiously along, filling life with incoherent words about the future, feeling that in the present there is no place for them. ... In front of that dreary, gray crowd of helpless people there passed a great, wise, and observant man: he looked at all these dreary inhabitants of his country, and, with a sad smile, with a tone of gentle but deep reproach, with anguish in his face and in his heart, in a beautiful and sincere voice, he said to them: "You live badly, my friends. It is shameful to live like that." — Maxim Gorky, Reminiscences of Anton Chekhov (BW Huebsch, 1921)

Comment by itakebets on Looking for some pieces of transhumanist fiction · 2012-11-24T21:08:27.241Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks! That's the one.

Comment by itakebets on Looking for some pieces of transhumanist fiction · 2012-11-24T20:55:57.717Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm trying to find a short story about a guy who has a brain tumor as a kid, receives a high-tech immunological treatment which cures his cancer but turns out to destroy his ability to experience pleasure, and ends up being able to configure his own preferences. Written by a dude, no idea who, probably pretty recently. Help?

Comment by itakebets on SotW: Be Specific · 2012-04-03T23:33:17.107Z · score: 16 (16 votes) · LW · GW

At the risk of escalating the Meta War, I think "be specific" and "be concrete" are themselves too general and abstract to engender good exercises. They look more like "do algebra" than "factor a polynomial". Not that you wouldn't get some interesting responses if you said, "We need ideas for teaching how to do algebra," but most of them probably wouldn't make students better at factoring a polynomial-- analogously, I like the "teach me to sharpen a pencil" game, and it would make a fun and striking activity, but I'm not sure it would help students learn to explain their business plan better in an interview. If you want students to communicate judgements and opinions better, teach them to do that.

In this case, I would unpack "specific" into two parts: concrete and relevant. To make a statement more concrete, you talk about how qualities can be measured or observed ("Yellow is a color" becomes "Yellow is the color of a dandelion" or "yellow is the color of the emission spectrum of sodium"). To make it more relevant, you relate it to a goal or higher-level question ("These scissors are dull" becomes "I can't use these scissors to cut hair").

For a straightforward activity, give students a list of statements, and have them classify them as vague, concrete, relevant, or concrete and relevant. Example:

  • Tom is too short.-- vague
  • Tom is too short to play basketball.-- relevant
  • Tom is 5'6".-- concrete
  • Tom is 4 standard deviations below the mean height of a college basketball player.-- concrete and relevant

For a higher-level activity, give students a vague statement, and ask them to make it concrete and relevant. Example:

Having a car gives me more flexibility. becomes: Having a car lets me get from my home to the southwest corner of town in 30 minutes; other transportation options would take more than an hour and a half. There are many employment opportunities in that part of town, so I have more work options with a car.

Comment by itakebets on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 11 · 2012-03-28T02:18:03.294Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Please PM paypal info.

Comment by itakebets on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 11 · 2012-03-23T19:18:38.272Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I will take this bet, with the following stipulations:

  • I'm putting up $30 against your $70.
  • If Harry merely mentions the debt, you don't win-- it must be a significant part of the solution. (If necessary, "significant" can be decided by a mutually agreed-upon third party.)
  • If Eliezer congratulates you for thinking of a better solution than Harry's, you don't win.
  • If for some reason Mitchell doesn't vouch for me, no one owes anyone anything.
Comment by itakebets on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 11 · 2012-03-23T18:26:41.438Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Your concern is reasonable. The only person on these forums who has any reason to trust me with money is Mitchell_Porter. Would his word be sufficient?

Comment by itakebets on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 11 · 2012-03-23T16:07:38.227Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW


Comment by itakebets on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 11 · 2012-03-23T15:12:40.327Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

How sure are you?

Comment by itakebets on Welcome to Less Wrong! · 2011-12-30T05:32:07.196Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you.

Comment by itakebets on Welcome to Less Wrong! · 2011-12-29T05:25:36.482Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I am interested.

Edit: Putting up $100, regardless of anyone else's participation, and I'm prepared to demonstrate that I'm not Will_Newsome if that is somehow necessary.