Comment by JacekLach on Slack · 2017-10-04T10:39:19.363Z · LW · GW

Yes, this post was very useful as advice to reverse to me. I think it possible now that one of the biggest problems with how I'm living my life today is optimising too hard for slack.

Low-confidence comment disclaimer; while I've had the concept pretty much nailed down before, I never before thought about it as something you might have too much off. After reading this post I realised that some people do not have enough slack in their life, implying you can choose to have less or more slack, implying it's possible too have too much slack.

I don't have abstract 'this is what too much slack looks like' clearly defined right now, but one thing resonates from my own experience. I often find myself with free time, and 'waste it away'. I don't really do anything on most weekends. Having more constraints as guidance for behaviour in free time could likely remediate that; but I seem to be very good at talking myself out of any recurrent commitments, saying that they would reduce my freedom/flexibility/slack.

At the same time, it seems to me that I'm happiest, most 'alive', most in the 'flow', in situations with exactly the kind of binding constraints this post talks of avoiding. The constraints focus you on the present, on the very moment, on being. For me this is clearest in sailing regattas - a clear purpose that acts as a binding constraint (to go as fast as possible while staying safe - a safety margin does not for slack make, since you are not willing to ignore crossing it), consuming all your attention (at least during the time you're responsible for the ship, and often more).

I suppose one can stretch the metaphor and say that having no slack on too many dimensions is likely to squash you; but having slack everywhere leaves you floating around aimlessly. Keeping most constraints slack and choosing only a couple aligned ones to bind against is possibly a way to find purpose.

Comment by JacekLach on [deleted post] 2017-05-30T18:48:13.249Z

TBH I strongly disagree with OP's suggestion that 95% reliability is low / bad, at least read literally. I personally definitely fail verbal 'soft commitments' ("I expect this will be done by end of week") with way more than 5% rate; probably more like 20-30. Part of it is being in business where hidden complexity strikes at any time, and estimating is hard; part of it is because of cultural communication norms.

If you ignore soft commitments, then the easy way to improve reliability is to make less hard commitments. Instead of "I'll definitely be there at 9 am sharp", say "I'll do my best to be there at 9 am". Manage expectations. Then if you have to message them 30 mins before that you're stuck in traffic / running late, your reliability is not impacted.

For stuff with really hard acceptance criteria (you actually have to be there for 9 am, because the plane won't wait), the right way to improve reliability is to build fault tolerant systems; make a soft commitment to be there an hour before, or have more people work on a problem than you expect to be necessary.

Comment by JacekLach on [deleted post] 2017-05-30T18:38:39.226Z

I don't think the goal of OPs proposal is to learn any particular skill. To me it mostly looks like trying to build a tightly-knit group so that each member can use the others as external motivators and close friends to discuss life plans and ideas in detail not really possible between modern colleagues and friends. I.e. the goal is not learning a skill, it's building a mutual support group that actually works.

Comment by JacekLach on [deleted post] 2017-05-30T18:20:50.091Z

You're looking at content, not status (as implied by 'knocking someone down a peg'). My immediate reaction to the top-level comment was: "well, they have some good points, but damn are they embarassing themselves with this language". Possibly shaped by me being generally sceptical about the ideas in the OP.

As far as the bet is about the form of the post, rather than the content, I think Duncan's pretty safe.

Comment by JacekLach on [deleted post] 2017-05-30T17:35:23.798Z

Do you have examples of systems that reach this kind of reliabilty internally?

Most high-9 systems work by taking lots of low-9 components, and relying on not all of them failing at the same time. I.e. if you have 10 95% systems that fail completely independently, and you only need one of them to work, that gets you like eleven nines (99.9{11}%).

Expecting a person to be 99% reliable is ridiculous. That's like two sick days per year, ignoring all other possible causes of failing to make a task. Instead you should build systems and organisations that have slack, so that one person failing at a particular point in time doesn't make a project/org fail.

Comment by JacekLach on If I must eat meat, I eat pork · 2017-01-11T17:44:45.468Z · LW · GW

The initial argument that convinced you to not eat meat seems very strange to me:

Her: why won’t u eat rabbits? Me: because i had them as pets. i know them too well. they’re like people to me.

This reads to me as: I don't think eating rabbits is immoral, but I have an aesthetic aversion to them because of emotional attachment, rather than moral consideration. Is that not the right reading?

Her: i will get you a pet chicken Me: … Me: omg i’m a vegetarian now :-/

So, you've now built extended your emotional attachment towards rabbits to all animals? Or just the possibly-pettable-ones? But firstly, why do you think that's a good thing?

I guess as an instrumental tactic for "I want to become a vegetarian but can't seem to stick to it", 'imagine your favourite pet, but they're ' might work. But it's surprising that without that initial impetus this worked.

Comment by JacekLach on How can I spend money to improve my life? · 2017-01-11T17:39:00.772Z · LW · GW

FWIW (a year later) I read the statistic the same way you initially did, but didn't do the comparison. Sorry! Thanks for doing the maths below and in the edit.

Comment by JacekLach on Rationalist fiction: a Slice of Life IN HELL · 2014-03-28T21:07:22.329Z · LW · GW

Reminds me of talesofmu. Your strategy looks like trying to play the GM, and is likely to get you punished :)

Comment by JacekLach on How can I spend money to improve my life? · 2014-02-06T13:01:40.445Z · LW · GW

For me I don't see any reason to prefer archery over a martial art.

And there might not be any reason to do it for you, but other people might be uncomfortable with hitting other people, concerned about their hands (much easier to break a finger or twist your wrist if you're doing martial arts than archery, I imagine), be looking for a relaxing rather than exciting hobby, etc.

Comment by JacekLach on How can I spend money to improve my life? · 2014-02-06T11:51:02.096Z · LW · GW

Morgan et all (2010) ( estimate 11.1 cyclist deaths per 100000 cyclist-km in London.

Wikipedia ( estimates 8.5 road fatalities per 1 BILLION vehicle-km. claims 125 motorcyclists died in road accidents for every billion miles travelled - the highest rate for all road users but also a year-on-year fall of 11%.

At 41 deaths per billion miles, the mortality rate for pedestrians was just above that of cyclists (35), with the former a year-on-year rise of 10% and the latter a fall of 6%.

Car occupants had by far the lowest mortality rate at four deaths per billion miles travelled.

Comment by JacekLach on Dark Arts of Rationality · 2014-01-25T14:34:57.792Z · LW · GW

Hm, somewhat, yes. What do you believe?

I mean it's not purely at random, of course, but surely you need to go out and meet a lot of people.

Comment by JacekLach on 2013 Survey Results · 2014-01-23T20:47:33.889Z · LW · GW

Isn't there anything you already know but wouldn't like to forget?

Yeah, that's pretty much the problem. Not really. I.e. there are stuff I know that would be inconvenient to forget, because I use this knowledge every day. But since I already use it every day, SR seems unnecessary.

Things I don't use every day are not essential - the cost of looking them up is minuscule since it happens rarely.

I suppose a plausible use case would be birth dates of family members, if I didn't have google calendar to remind me when needed.

Edit: another use case that comes to mind would be names. I'm pretty bad with names (though I've recently begun to suspect that probably I'm as bad with remembering names as anyone else, I just fail to pay attention when people introduce themselves). But asking to take someone's picture 'so that I can put it on a flashcard' seems awkward. Facebook to the rescue, I guess?

(though I don't really meet that many people, so again - possibly not worth the effort in maintaining such a system)

Comment by JacekLach on 2013 Survey Results · 2014-01-23T20:45:09.524Z · LW · GW

I'm a software dev.

In programming this might mean functions in a particular library that you're working with (the C++ STL, for example)

Right. I guess I somewhat do 'spaced repetition' here, just by the fact that every time I interact with a particular library I'm reminded of its function. But that is incidental - I don't really care about remembering libraries that I don't use, and those that I use regularly I don't need SR to maintain.

I suppose medical conditions looks more plausible as a use case - you really need to remember a large set of facts, any of which is actually used very rarely. But that still doesn't seem useful to me personally - I can think of no dataset that'd be worth the effort.

I guess I should just assume I'm an outlier there, and simply keep SR in mind in case I ever find myself needing it.

Comment by JacekLach on Dark Arts of Rationality · 2014-01-23T20:13:06.338Z · LW · GW

You don't enjoy company of most members-of-your-preferred-sex, but are hopeful that there are people out there that you could spend your life with. The problem is that finding them is painful, because you have to spend time with people whose company you won't enjoy during the search.

By hacking yourself to enjoy their company you make the search actually pleasant. Though hopefully your final criteria does not change.

Comment by JacekLach on 2013 Survey Results · 2014-01-23T19:12:00.598Z · LW · GW

People, use spaced repetition! It's been studied academically and been shown to work brilliantly; it's really easy to incorporate in your daily life in comparison to most other LW material etc... Well, I'm comparatively disappointed with these numbers, though I assume they are still far higher than in most other communities

I'm one of the people who have never used spaced repetition, though I've heard of it. I don't doubt it works, but what do you actually need to remember nowadays? I'd probably use it if I was learning a new language (which I don't really plan to do anytime soon)... What other skills work nicely with spaced repetition?

I just don't feel the need to remember things when I have google / wikipedia on my phone.

Comment by JacekLach on On Voting for Third Parties · 2014-01-16T23:29:51.315Z · LW · GW

Wouldn't a better threat be to switch to Bob anyway? (in which case Alice effectively loses 2 votes instead of one)

Comment by JacekLach on Stupid Questions Thread - January 2014 · 2014-01-16T15:40:01.729Z · LW · GW

No, there's no particular reason to think an FAI would be better at learning than an UFAI analogue, at least not as far as I can see.

I believe you have this backwards - the OP is asking whether a FAI would be worse at learning than an UFAI, because of additional constraints on its improvement. If so:

then a non Friendly AI would eventually (possibly quite quickly) become smarter than any FAI built.

Of course one of the first actions of a FAI would be to prevent any UFAI from being built at all.

Comment by JacekLach on Try more things. · 2014-01-14T18:34:17.264Z · LW · GW

Find a service where you can listen to music for free with minimal inconvenience (YouTube and Spotify are usable for me, but just barely)

Grooveshark (! Unless you cannot stomach songs playing out of order, or sometimes being repeated (and even that is getting more rare as they work on improving their indexing).

Open page, type artist name (or select genre), press 'play all'. It stops playing every couple hours (which I enjoy - means I can just put music on in the evening and it'll turn itself off eventually - no need to get up) so you'll have to press a single button to resume.

Comment by JacekLach on Even Odds · 2014-01-14T00:25:19.008Z · LW · GW

Oh, I see. You probably already understood that, but I'll write it up for anyone else who didn't initially grok the process (like me).

Intuitively, the original algorithm incentivises people to post their true estimates by scaling up the opponents investment with your given odds, so that it doesnt pay for you to artificially lower your estimate. The possible wins will be much lower; disproportionately to your investment, if you underestimate your odds. Conversely, the possible losses will not be covered by increased wins if you overestimate your chances.

It does not work if you scale the bets. If A believes he wins the bet half the time, and B believes it will be 90%, with the assumption of B being honest and both players setting the limit at 1 (for ease of calculation):

With A declaring 50%, the investment ratios would be:

A: 0.24
B: 0.56

With the original amount calculation that gives the expected value of

E(A) = (0.5 * 0.56 - 0.5 * 24) = 0.16

Whereas with scaled up bets A puts in 0.43 while B gives 1:

E'(A) = (0.5 * 1 - 0.5 * 0.43) = 0.285

With A declaring 20%, the numbers are:

A: 0.03
B: 0.17
E(A) = 0.5 * (0.17 - 0.03) = 0.07

While with scaled bets (B = 1, A = 0.18)

E'(A) = 0.5 * 1 - 0.5 * 0.18 = 0.41

Note how E(A) goes down if A lies, but E'(A) went way up.

Comment by JacekLach on Even Odds · 2014-01-13T22:11:30.506Z · LW · GW

What's wrong with just using this algorithm to establish ratios between bets, then scaling up to meet whichever limit is hit first?

In your example, it'd be scaled up to 5.12 against 25.

Comment by JacekLach on Even Odds · 2014-01-13T22:02:06.048Z · LW · GW

Neither probability should be <50%, you take the probability that your opinion is the right one, not whether the proposition is true or false.

In your example B would be betting against his beliefs, thus the negative result.

The right calculation: A = 0.6 B = 0.7

A pays: (A ^ 2 - (1 - B) ^ 2) * 25 = (0.36 - 0.09) * 25 = 6.57
B pays: (B ^ 2 - (1 - A) ^ 2) * 25 = (0.49 - 0.16) * 25 = 8.25


actually, it's sufficient that A and B sum to over 1. Since you can always negate the condition, the right calculation here is:

A = 0.4
B = 0.7

A pays: (A ^ 2 - (1 - B) ^ 2) * 25 = (0.16 - 0.09) * 25 = 1.75
B pays: (B ^ 2 - (1 - A) ^ 2) * 25 = (0.49 - 0.36) * 25 = 3.25

Also, apparently I can't use the retract button the way I wanted to use it.

Comment by JacekLach on Some thoughts on having children · 2014-01-10T17:06:25.797Z · LW · GW

Well, it's none of anyone elses business, so I don't see how other people being there is relevant.

If you mean it in the sense of "don't settle for someone who isn't going to help you with kids, no matter how good a match you otherwise are"... Never settle is a brag

Comment by JacekLach on Some thoughts on having children · 2014-01-10T12:10:24.242Z · LW · GW

The guy doesn't want children, but he doesn't mind having children with the woman as long as it's not too bothersome for him. The woman either really wants children, in which case this arrangement is to her benefit, or does not want children that badly, in which case they don't have children.

Comment by JacekLach on 2013 Less Wrong Census/Survey · 2013-11-23T02:19:56.397Z · LW · GW


Now I'm even more confused. How can my answer be useful if they don't know how I interpret the question? Esp. since my answers are pretty much opposite depending on the interpretation...

My bad for not finding that comment. I skimmed through the thread, but didn't see it.

Comment by JacekLach on 2013 Less Wrong Census/Survey · 2013-11-22T21:02:10.669Z · LW · GW

I'm confused by the CFAR questions, in particular the last four. Are they using you as 'the person filling out this survey' or the general you as in a person? "You can always change basic things about the kind of person you are" sounds like the general you. "You are a certain kind of person, and there's not much that can be done either way to really change that" sounds like the specific you.


Comment by JacekLach on Open Thread: How much strategic thinking have you done recently? · 2013-08-28T18:53:54.989Z · LW · GW

I think if you would ask those people they would also say yes, that they are thinking about ways of solving their problems.

Not necessarily. They might say it's too big to solve, or "it's not really a big deal" when it obviously is, or that it's not their responsibility to solve, or any of multum other excuses that validate not changing.

Comment by JacekLach on Rationalist households: What can London learn from its predecessors? · 2013-08-24T16:24:13.772Z · LW · GW

That does sound like a good idea. Browsing the google groups, the next occasion seems to be the CZE outing on 1. Sep. (

Comment by JacekLach on Rationalist households: What can London learn from its predecessors? · 2013-08-23T18:24:19.514Z · LW · GW

Are there requirements other than 'find this thread'?

Comment by JacekLach on Post ridiculous munchkin ideas! · 2013-05-26T16:48:06.451Z · LW · GW

But there is a significant difference between taking a medical formula under doctors supervision and mixing up the most common nutrition ingredients and claiming it to be a cure-all-be-all food. Didn't the guy forget to include iron in his first mixture?

Another 'Soylent' equivalent I know of is Sustagen Hospital Formula.

Comment by JacekLach on Newcomb's Problem and Regret of Rationality · 2012-05-10T15:22:17.260Z · LW · GW

As a 1.4999999999999 boxer (i.e. take a quantum randomness source for [0, 1], take both boxes if 0, one box if 1, one box if something else happens), I don't think scenario C is convincing.

The crucial property of B is that as your thoughts change the contents of the box change. The casualty link goes forward in time. Thus the right decision is to take one box, as by the act of taking one box, you will make it contain the money.

In C however there is no such casualty. The oracle either put money in both boxes, or it did not. Your decision now cannot possibly affect that state. So you cannot base your decision in C on its similarity to B.

A good reason to one box, in my opinion, is that before you encounter the boxes it is clearly preferable to commit to one boxing. This is of course not compatible with taking two boxes when you find them (because the oracle seems to be perfect). So it is rational to make yourself the kind of person that takes one box (because you know this brings you the best benefit, short of using the randomness trick).

Comment by JacekLach on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 15, chapter 84 · 2012-04-11T09:30:50.032Z · LW · GW

It's from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series.

Lord Vetinari also has a strange clock in his waiting-room. While it does keep completely accurate time overall, it sometimes ticks and tocks out of sync (example: "tick, tock... ticktocktick, tock...") and occasionally misses a tick or tock altogether, which has the net effect of turning one's brain "into a sort of porridge". (Feet of Clay, Going Postal).

Comment by JacekLach on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 12 · 2012-03-26T15:14:21.351Z · LW · GW

I think you underestimate the power of the GHD. If Hermione really believed she had to kill Draco or he will, for example, murder every student in Hogwarts the next day, I'm pretty sure she would cold-bloodedly kill him.

Comment by JacekLach on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 11 · 2012-03-23T13:58:16.747Z · LW · GW

Spells that extract the history of spells casted using a wand are canon, afaik (or was that just the most recent spell?)

I would expect they were casted on hermiones wand and the usage was confirmed.

Comment by JacekLach on Absence of Evidence Is Evidence of Absence · 2010-12-08T22:35:50.986Z · LW · GW

Lack of sabotage is obviously evidence for a fifth column trying to lull the government, given the fifth column exists, since the opposite - sabotage occuring - is very strong evidence against that.

However lack of sabotage is still much stronger evidence towards the fifth column not existing.