Comment by jacobian on You Have About Five Words · 2019-03-13T15:58:32.025Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This immediately got me thinking about politics.

How many voters could tell you what Obama's platform was in 2008? But 70,000,000 of them agreed on "Hope and Change". How many could do the same for Trump? But they agreed on "Make America Great Again". McCain, Romney, and Hillary didn't have a four-words-or-less memorable slogan, and so...

Exponential Secretary

2019-03-04T19:47:48.912Z · score: 19 (5 votes)

Cooperation is for Winners

2019-02-15T14:58:08.949Z · score: 23 (8 votes)
Comment by jacobian on Masculine Virtues · 2019-02-12T15:14:46.154Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW
The list of things which involve working on a team and are not straight misery is very short. At the moment I can come up with nothing that isn't competitive.

Marriage and a family, if you do it right. Spouses have very aligned incentives, along with the added bonus of sexual attraction and outside expectations of working together. It's tragic when couples turn marriage from cooperation to competition, but it's not at all inevitable.

Comment by jacobian on Masculine Virtues · 2019-01-31T19:47:06.260Z · score: 9 (5 votes) · LW · GW

This is a good point. In fact, I wrote an essay for Ribbonfarm about avoiding competition where you can, such as in education, careers, and dating.

This is not a contradiction. This post is about building *traits* that let you be competitive. That's why sports is the best place to learn them: it's a very benign and rule-bound form of competition, very unlike cutthroat politics, academia, AI startups etc. Building skills that allow you to compete doesn't mean you have to seek out zero-sum contests to grind your life away at, but it does mean that you won't get scared away from a field if it becomes competitive and starts forming a hierarchy. It lets you choose where to compete.

Example: MIRI can work on AI safety at its leisure because it successfully competed for a high rank in the hierarchy of EA organizations. MIRI has to compete for donations and employees, and sportsmanship values let it do so without destroying other EA orgs along the way.

Comment by jacobian on Masculine Virtues · 2019-01-31T16:19:20.754Z · score: 6 (5 votes) · LW · GW

According to Statista, 10-11% of Americans below the age of 50 have played soccer in the last 12 months. Wikipedia puts that number at 24 million and rising in 2006. There are 4 million players registered with official US Soccer Association, but I play every week and have no idea what that is.

So there are somewhere between 5 million and 30 million people who play soccer *regularly* in the US, and 25,000 were admitted to a hospital for head injuries for a rate of 1/200-1/1200.

I play every week but I don't go flying into the sort of aerial tackles that end up with two players banging heads, as well as being cautious about my cranium in general. If my chance of head injury given this is 1/1000 each year, playing soccer is still worth it.

Masculine Virtues

2019-01-30T16:03:56.000Z · score: 49 (30 votes)
Comment by jacobian on Curing the World of Men · 2019-01-23T18:56:32.652Z · score: 2 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Come on, man. I link to the source that I think would be most relevant for my readers to understand the following discussion. In this case, it's the official APA release on the APA website describing the APA guidelines, it's not like I was linking to some third party account. As for the PDF with the guidelines themselves, I link to it at least twice in my post and it is linked from the release as well.

Curing the World of Men

2019-01-18T20:23:18.006Z · score: -9 (14 votes)
Comment by jacobian on Finance Followups · 2019-01-18T19:48:00.816Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It could be libertarian bias, but I think almost all financial advice would turn into a horrible grotesque if someone turned it into binding law. Politicians are financial idiots, and they will legislate based on what their financial idiot constituents will approve of, not what will make people financially secure in the long term. What politician ever has even the incentive, let alone the knowledge, to do the latter?

Take Social Security for example. It's basically a Ponzi scheme that can only be sustained long-term by doing things that harm everybody, like excess inflation or excluding the people who paid for it (high earners) from receiving it. How is that different from an average financial idiot person taking on credit card debt and then making suboptimal life choices to keep the interest payments at bay? The difference is only in the national scale of the stupidity.

People make bad choices all the time when it comes to money, food and romance. But when politicians jump into those areas they make terrible laws, and those are much worse than mere bad choices.

Comment by jacobian on Some Thoughts on My Psychiatry Practice · 2019-01-18T18:29:47.040Z · score: 11 (8 votes) · LW · GW

If someone will stay in a relationship or job that drives them to the verge of suicide for "identity" reasons, it means that the person/institution providing someone's identity has almost unlimited power over them.

I'm thinking of something like academia, which is used to dealing with people for whom their identity as an "academic" is the most precious thing in the lives. It's not just internal "culty" things like academics having their own friend groups, markers, and even language. It's also how external society sees them, like academics having special social status and even different names ("My name isn't No, it's Doctor No!") that reinforce "academic" as a precious identity. As a result, academia can impose arbitrary rules on its members, overwork and underpay them, and cause them to be depressed and anxious at 6 times the rate of the general public.

Perhaps the antidote to this is to build up an identity that is self-conferred, rather than being dependent on the approval of other people. You can call yourself a "rationalist truth seeker" for example even if the rightful Caliph thinks you're a moron, so that's an identity that doesn't open you to exploitation.

Comment by jacobian on Finance Followups · 2019-01-18T16:53:40.729Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

$1,000 to cover an emergency isn't a measure of wealth, it's a measure of liquidity. For this reason it makes sense to compare it to income. If you have $200,000 in student debt but still have a couple thousand in your checking account in case your car breaks down, you would count as having the money the way the survey was run. Using the word "savings" in that sentence was probably a bad choice on my part.

Comment by jacobian on Finance Followups · 2019-01-18T16:48:39.040Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There's an annoying catch here. I think financial education can help if it comes with really actionable suggestions. Instead of just talking about general principles, the vast majority of people would do better by following some super simple guidelines like:

  • Don't take credit card debt unless it's to save a life.
  • If you have debt at >5%, pay it right away before doing anything else. Devote at least 20% of your income to paying off the debt, regardless of how much you make.
  • After debt is taken care of, put 20% of your income in a global stock index fund 401k each month on autopilot.
  • Whenever you think "I'll buy this thing so that people think I'm cool" consider whether when you see people on the street with the thing you actually think they're cool.

But whenever you write something like that, people will flood you with nitpicks about some convoluted case where the specific advice doesn't apply. In this way, people who understand the math and only need the general principles prevent everyone else from taking the simple and useful advice that would benefit them.

Finance Followups

2019-01-17T17:54:44.256Z · score: 29 (11 votes)

Why Don't Creators Switch to their Own Platforms?

2018-12-23T04:46:47.047Z · score: 45 (16 votes)
Comment by jacobian on In Defense of Finance · 2018-12-19T07:52:46.266Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Well, as a matter of fact it doesn't seem like they do - they want 8%-15%. You could start a bank that promises to stay at e.g. 30% equity, but the market seems to indicate that you'll have a hard time finding investors. Banks work hard to differentiate themselves since they ultimately offer very similar products, and I don't know of any large bank that successfully differentiates by having high equity ratios.

Comment by jacobian on In Defense of Finance · 2018-12-19T07:45:53.616Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Isn't this an argument for encouraging more profitable banking (e.g., by eliminating capital requirements) so that banks could afford to give personalized attention to small borrowers? If banking is restricted, there's only enough banking to go around for the big fish.

Comment by jacobian on In Defense of Finance · 2018-12-18T19:35:53.163Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If we started downvoting silly puns my entire blog would be at -1,000,000 points forever. You got my +2, hang in there, Ryan!

Comment by jacobian on In Defense of Finance · 2018-12-18T19:34:14.351Z · score: 2 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I wasn't trying to sneak in an assumption of bimodality, I just wanted to go through the math for two relevant examples: 10% equity (where banks currently are) and 50% (where Cochrane wants them).

why is there so little demand in the middle?

I think there is - 11.2% is in the middle between 3% (the absolute minimum allowed) or the 6% pre-crisis and 50% (the highest non-joking suggestion). I don't know (I don't think anyone knows) whether 11.2% is the magic right number, but it seems to be in the right range especially compared to the extremes. But today all large banks are above the 6% average of 2007 and in the 8%-15% range (or 11%-17% if you're looking at Tier 1 Cap / RWA) and their balance sheets got more stable and boring.

This is how the system works: the pendulum swings back and forth from boom to crisis and eventually settles on a good equilibrium (for many things, not just capital ratios). This post is mostly an argument against kicking the pendulum viciously in one direction or another.

In Defense of Finance

2018-12-17T16:59:11.149Z · score: 54 (11 votes)

Peanut Butter

2018-12-03T19:30:56.907Z · score: 32 (8 votes)

Trigger Action Planning Workshop

2018-12-03T19:28:19.041Z · score: 7 (1 votes)

deluks917 on Online Weirdos

2018-11-24T17:03:20.474Z · score: 25 (8 votes)
Comment by jacobian on Is Clickbait Destroying Our General Intelligence? · 2018-11-19T16:02:54.204Z · score: 9 (4 votes) · LW · GW
there used to be just a few newspapers serving all the bubbles

I think that this in particular is a positive factor for quality of discourse / general intelligence, at least for large segments of the population.

Monoculture TV was trending towards 20-minute sitcom episodes, but now that we have HBO/Netflix many people choose to watch 10-hour seasons with complex stories. Radio and TV had talk shows with 5-minute interviews, now millions choose to listen to 2-hour podcasts. National magazines for nerds had to appeal to all nerds in the nation, but now I can choose to read LessWrong.

Certainly some people choose simpler and stupider. But when there was no choice, the mass media had to appeal to the common denominator - maybe not the 1st percentile of simplicity and stupidity but at most the 20th, not the 50th. This means that most people get smarter things when they have freedom to choose more niche media.

Comment by jacobian on Mandatory Obsessions · 2018-11-17T20:58:08.198Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · LW · GW
Find your way past the proselytizers to the calmer, more-mature non-evangelist obsessives.

If you write an excellent post about your obsession that gets 196 upvotes on LW, I'll find it even if I don't really share the obsession. That was kinda my point - people discover their own obsessions because they found something important / fascinating, not because someone shamed them into caring about it.

Mandatory Obsessions

2018-11-14T18:19:53.007Z · score: 81 (29 votes)
Comment by jacobian on Rationality of demonstrating & voting · 2018-11-07T22:31:08.589Z · score: 10 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It's interesting that you chose Brexit as the best example of a tight vote on a single issue with clear and massive advantage to one side - the best possible case for voting. And yet, even with Brexit it's easy to make the case for discounting the apparent impact of voting.

$3 trillion gained by remaining in the EU.

$3 trillion gained to whom? A lot of people who voted "Leave" would probably agree that Brexit will lower GDP, but they clearly think that the benefits of leaving (in social cohesion, security, whatever) are greater than the GDP hit. You could say that they're voting selfishly and that the lost GDP accrues to all Europeans and the narrow benefits only to them, but that's a problematic argument - why didn't the Europeans selflessly vote to safeguard the interests of rural Britons? As you noted, even pure altruism often (and unfortunately) stops at a nation's borders.

The half of Britain who voted to leave think that the benefits of leaving to them, and thus to half of Britain, is greater than $3 trillion. If we could sum up actual utils accrued to people, rather than dollars accrued to some national accounts, how certain can you be that the number is even positive given that half the nation disagrees with you?

Many ‘Remainers’ who wish to stay in the EU want a second referendum on the matter; recently, hundreds of thousands of them marched through London to call for one.

So even in the cleanest possible case of a single-issue referendum, the decision that was voted on is yet to be implemented. And when you vote for candidates with a whole list of proposals, the chance that electing the candidate will get the actual proposal implemented is much lower still.

My argument is that doing the math on voting makes it look a lot worse than you'd naively assume, not that the math comes out against voting in every possible case. But this also means that just because the math may barely favor voting on Brexit it doesn't mean that it will for other, dirtier cases.

UBI for President

2018-10-18T15:09:08.463Z · score: 41 (23 votes)
Comment by jacobian on On insecurity as a friend · 2018-10-09T20:22:04.408Z · score: 22 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Said, I hope take comment below as positive, because that is how I mean it. I am trying to honestly communicate my own experience, not pass judgment. This is 100% sincere and unironic.

Said, I have seen a lot of your comments on LW, on my posts and the posts of others. They are, by my standards, high on criticism and low on niceness. I personally formed an impression of you as disagreeable. Even though I have argued myself that LW should optimize for honesty over niceness, still the impression of you disagreeableness was colored negatively in my mind.

But now that you've stated that you're disagreeable on purpose, the negative effect flipped entirely to become positive. Instead of you being disagreeable by accident, it's intentional. I like diversity, and I support people who are on a mission to bring a new flavor to the community. Knowing this also makes it easier to take criticism from you - it's not that you hate me or what I write, it's just that you don't care if someone thinks you hate them and their writing. The Bayesian update in the two cases is very different!

This isn't to say that Kaj is wrong in being more cautious, or that you are wrong in not being cautious. Do your own thing, and own it.

Comment by jacobian on What the Haters Hate · 2018-10-03T17:33:47.072Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Hold on. If you had asked me how this post fares on the rule of three, I would have said "two".

True - I honestly think that the pattern of "someone is against my group so they must be against our stated principles" is both a mistake that people make in their own head, and a rhetorical device they use against the outgroup.

Relevant - Recognizing this pattern can allow people to overcome bias and better understand arguments, outgrouping, and tribal fights in general. Also, I haven't seen this exact idea formulated.

Kind - Nope. I could have chosen to write a bloodless post full of generalities, or a snarky post using Ezra Klein as a salient example. I chose the second option on purpose.

You seem to disagree with the "true" claim. Do you disagree with what I wrote above about the pattern? Or do you think that this wasn't the central point of the article, and that something else is both false and central (such as whether identity/gender/race cleave Americans into two tribes)?

Comment by jacobian on What the Haters Hate · 2018-10-03T14:16:08.938Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for the clarification. That was my impression as well, and I didn't expect this post to be on the frontpage.

With that said: if you remember off the top of your head, can you link to some content that dealt with CW/political issues but still met frontpage standards? Would my Quillette piece meet the standards? The less lazy version of Jacob that you envisioned is discouraged partly because he doesn't know what the standards are for touchy subjects and is worried that even if he tried it won't be on the frontpage.

(To be clear, the real version of Jacob is just too lazy to do major rewrites of posts for LW, it has nothing to do with standard ambiguity).

Comment by jacobian on What the Haters Hate · 2018-10-02T18:42:12.667Z · score: 12 (6 votes) · LW · GW
not something I'd like to see on LW

And also not something I would write on the old LW. But it seems weird to censor out snark when cross-posting things from Putanumonit, although I'm beginning to think that I should have done so.

demon threads are not as inevitable

That's actually part of why I wanted to write this. I've written some moderately controversial stuff on Putanumonit, and yet I hadn't had to moderate any demon threads. And the barrier to participation on LW is even higher than on Putanumonit, with the karma system and the prevailing norms here. My post on Jordan Peterson has >150 comments on LW, and almost all of them are good. It's important to remember that sometimes you can mention a demon by name and the demon *isn't* summoned.

if you wanted to partition the population into two clusters as cleanly as possible

I wouldn't really want to do that, because the US is made up of dozens of clusters who end up in tenuous alliances, not two groups. Some people mostly care about abortion, some about the economy of their small town, some about preserving their Christian/hippie/Pakistani/furry subculture, some about X-risk and climate change, and many don't really care about any policy topic at all, just about fitting in with their friends and neighbors.

A plausible model of Dave Rubin is that he cares about gay rights and free speech, so 10 years ago he was a leftist (because gay rights issues were salient and leftists were his allies), and today he's an anti-leftist (because gay marriage is a done deal, and leftists are now his enemies on free speech). The issues didn't change, but the clusters of alliances did.

Comment by jacobian on What the Haters Hate · 2018-10-02T16:14:00.434Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I agree, "Jihadis act as if they hate American intervention in Muslim countries" or "Jihadis want to consolidate power and support in their communities" is a better model than "Jihadis act as if they hate Americans". My point was that all three are way better models than "Jihadis hate our freedom (tm)".

Comment by jacobian on What the Haters Hate · 2018-10-02T16:10:06.444Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

That quote from Klein seems to me to be paralleled by a Catholic saying: "The divides today that define which side you're really on revolve around issues of the Trinity, the Eucharist, and Papal infallibility". Such a Catholic will not see much difference between a Jew and a Hindu because both disagree with her statements about the Pope.

I was at a party with several rationalists on Saturday and met people who did not who Kavanaugh was, let alone Damore or Sage Sharp or Molyneux. And those are all millenials, how many 60-year-olds spare zero thought to "race, gender, identity, and equality"? It seems strange to claim that the world is divided into pro-X and anti-X when a huge number of people don't know about X, don't want to think about X, or just want everyone else to shut up about X. And if you divide the world into "care about X" vs. "don't care about X" then Klein and Richard Spencer are going to be in the "care about what color Americans are" group, and I'll be in the other.

Comment by jacobian on What the Haters Hate · 2018-10-02T15:47:27.384Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think that the issue here is a more general one, about the structure, purpose, and norms of the new LW.

This is not a LW post, it's a Putanumonit post. I rarely write about culture war on Putanumonit, but I also don't censor myself. Now when it comes to cross-posting on LW, it seems that there are two possible goals for LW that are in conflict:

1. LW being a central hub and one-stop-shop for the entire rationalist diaspora, and all rationalist bloggers are encourage to cross-post everything to it.

2. LW being CW-free, and all members are encouraged to keep politics and culture war entirely out of it.

In terms of what *will* happen, I am happy to follow the will of the LW leadership team. If they ask me to remove this post or change it to a link post, I will.

In terms of what *should* happen, I strongly support #1. There can be a norm that CWish content is kept out of Frontpage and Curated, but I think there's a big benefit to having everything on LW. I write to engage smart people in my ideas, and that's exactly what is happening here. Despite the touchiness of the post's subject, the comments so far are mostly civil and relevant. Rationalists should be able to write non-mind-killed things about CW-related subjects (I hope this one qualifies) and have non-mind-killed conversations about them.

Ultimately, this is a big part of what rationalists *are* talking about: in private blogs, on Reddit, in real life. If LW is our home, there should be a place for those topics on LW, even if with higher standards and stricter norms of discussion.

Comment by jacobian on What the Haters Hate · 2018-10-02T15:29:34.652Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · LW · GW
But the blind spot that you're accusing Klein of is one which implicitly assumes that he thinks in terms of ITTs, tribes which are distinct from ideologies, etc.

Oh, wow. The main point I tried to get across is in fact that Klein *doesn't* think in terms of ITTs and ideology-is-not-movement, and that's why he's led into thinking that Rubin is a reactionary. My fault here isn't falling into my own trap (which the last two paragraphs explicitly address), but unclear writing.

Comment by jacobian on What the Haters Hate · 2018-10-01T21:50:19.313Z · score: 17 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I read this comment five times and I have no idea what you mean. Does "an article" refer to this one, and the irony is that I'm too absorbed in my own ideology? If so, what am I missing: the fact that Klein can pass the IDW's ITT, or the irrelevance of ITTs to the subject, or something else?

What the Haters Hate

2018-10-01T20:29:42.489Z · score: 27 (25 votes)

Hang Out on the Roof

2018-09-18T16:10:27.396Z · score: 6 (1 votes)
Comment by jacobian on The Scent of Bad Psychology · 2018-09-13T17:53:03.847Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I usually cross-post the entire article if:

1. It's related to rationality and the sort of thing I would post to LW if I didn't have Putanumonit.

2. It doesn't have a lot of images and tables I'll have to reload and reformat.

3. I'm not too lazy.

This time, the fault was mostly with #3.

Comment by jacobian on Good Citizenship Is Out Of Date · 2018-09-13T14:18:48.111Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Local communities have also become more fragmented, which makes them a better fit for a lot of people but doesn't involve them in "citizenship". Example: I help organize the NYC rationality meetup, a league soccer team, a group of circlers, Effective Altruism events etc. All of those help me build ties and standing in my focused social groups, but none of them carry any broad reputation benefits in the vein of Mr. Smith.

When Boy Scouts were the only game in town then everyone could agree on the merits of being a scout leader, but also a lot of kids who would have been happier circling or playing soccer or double cruxing were stuck learning knots or whatever.

Comment by jacobian on The Scent of Bad Psychology · 2018-09-11T17:20:18.651Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I never even noticed that those are two different things! This was not a typo, it was a glaring hole in my education. Thank you for filling it up.

Oh, and pedantic correction: you misspelled *silicone* with an extra *l*.

The Scent of Bad Psychology

2018-09-10T18:42:21.682Z · score: 44 (19 votes)
Comment by jacobian on On memetic weapons · 2018-09-07T16:59:42.877Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · LW · GW
This weapon has been deployed to good effect against bad things. 
It's good to dethrone powerful predators. Weinstein should not get to be a Hollywood power-broker.

The weapon is a weapon of connotation, it accuses someone (or something) of being bad by being somehow connected to a category that is known to be bad. But of course, you don't need to do this for things that are actually bad. "Harvey Weinstein has sexually assaulted multiple women and used his power to scare them into silence" is a much more persuasive argument than "Harvey Weinstein is sexist". The Nazis weren't bad because they were "nazis", it's because they committed genocide.

If the only statement you can make about someone is "Person X is Y-ist" without any further argument about what X is doing that's bad and harmful, the weapon is probably not deployed in the service of good.

Comment by jacobian on I am the very model of a self-recursive modeler · 2018-09-07T16:13:56.007Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, it's a bit half baked - a missing syllable here and there, no chorus, not enough lines. If anyone wants to expand this into a fully baked poem, I will be delighted.

Comment by jacobian on I am the very model of a self-recursive modeler · 2018-09-07T16:11:23.926Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There were too many line pairs that could either have 15 syllables or be utterly mangled. I decided to compromise by alternating 16-syllable pairs with 15-syllable pairs and pretending it's on purpose. There's a reason I don't advertise Putanumonit as a poetry blog :)

I am the very model of a self-recursive modeler

2018-09-06T21:45:41.646Z · score: 48 (19 votes)

Social Skills

2018-09-04T16:37:58.044Z · score: 6 (1 votes)

Player of Games

2018-08-29T21:26:37.672Z · score: 54 (21 votes)

Jobs Inside the API

2018-08-21T21:45:08.671Z · score: 62 (32 votes)

Top Left Mood

2018-07-24T14:35:26.170Z · score: 17 (9 votes)

The Biggest Problem in your Life

2018-07-22T14:56:04.244Z · score: 8 (2 votes)
Comment by jacobian on Debt is an Anti-investment · 2018-07-10T22:00:45.381Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

1. Briefly, you'd want to establish some minimum amount to cover emergencies (maybe $10-$20k), because the opportunity cost of not having available cash to deal with an emergency is huge. After that, I'd recommend paying off the debt if you think you'll almost certainly pay it off eventually (rather than declaring bankruptcy).

2. I guess that would be like an investment that's risk-free, but sometimes the money you want to invest in it gets stolen. In any case, my model is about debt/investment trade-offs, not about dealing with scammers. Don't pay scammers, that's the only model I have.

3. I think it's quite useful to assess an actual probability of you declaring bankruptcy, perhaps by multiplying the chance of you not having enough income to cover living expenses over some time frame. I think income also matters a lot more for debt repayment than assets, let alone liquidity.

Polyamory Panel

2018-07-06T20:51:52.498Z · score: 17 (5 votes)

Geoffrey Miller on Polyamory and Mating

2018-07-05T20:01:29.254Z · score: 9 (3 votes)

Debt is an Anti-investment

2018-07-05T20:00:38.267Z · score: 42 (20 votes)

Tau Day

2018-06-28T04:00:52.870Z · score: 14 (2 votes)

Geoffrey Miller on Research and Politics in Psychology

2018-06-19T21:03:44.758Z · score: 7 (4 votes)

Investing and Personal Finance

2018-06-18T22:09:56.586Z · score: 16 (3 votes)

Geoffrey Miller on Effective Altruism and Rationality

2018-06-15T17:05:08.827Z · score: 17 (4 votes)
Comment by jacobian on A Rationalist Argument for Voting · 2018-06-11T15:36:59.836Z · score: 7 (2 votes) · LW · GW

On 1, both candidates suck, and not because someone on the margin votes or doesn't but because of a thousand upstream causes: the personality type required to succeed in politics, the voting system that ensures a two-party lock in, the inability of citizens to comprehend the complexity of modern nation governments, etc.

On 2, let me make my general argument very particular:

1. Polls show that polarization on politics ("Would you let your child marry a Democrat?") is stronger than polarization on any other major alignment.

2. Unlike other things, political party affiliation is mostly a symbolic thing with few physical implications (compared to a job, a sexual orientation, or even being a rationalist). This makes one's interaction with political parties consist mostly of signaling virtue and loyalty by vilifying the other party.

3. Unlike other things, there's an entire industry (news media) that fans the flames of political party mind-kill 24/7.

Some people are willing to die on the Batman-v-Superman-was-better-than-Avengers hill, but not a lot. On the other hand, the Romney-was-better-than-Obama hill is covered in dead bodies ten layers deep. Myside bias and tribalism are bad everywhere, but party politics is the area where they're observably already causing immense harm.

I'm a huge Sixers fan, but I don't hate Celtics fans. We bond over our mutual love of basketball. That's not how party politics works.

Comment by jacobian on A Rationalist Argument for Voting · 2018-06-08T19:45:50.721Z · score: 23 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I've given my own reasons against voting before. I specifically addressed the "altruistic" justification for voting, since nobody thinks they can make a case for selfish voting anymore. My two main arguments:

1. You shouldn't expect to know who the better candidate will be with any confidence, since the policies actually implemented are unpredictable, let alone their effects.

2. Voting contributes to your own mind-kill and to disliking your friends. You will think less clearly about a politician and their supporters once you cast a vote for/against them because of consistency bias, myside bias, confirmation bias etc.

With that said, I actually enjoyed this essay. The X-risk-EA argument presented here actually presents a case that's both novel and would make my two main objections irrelevant. However, there's some evidence that it's not very applicable to real life.

In summer 2016 I heard from several prominent EAs that they think EA orgs should recommend Hillary's campaign as a key cause, and that EAs should donate to it. I have also seen zero attempts at rigorous analysis showing that Trump is a bigger X-risk than Hillary. If we convince ourselves that elections are an EA cause, the false-positive rate for "important" election will quickly approach 100%, and the chance that EAs decide that the Republican candidate is actually safer will approach 0%. The only effect would be losing a lot of resources, friends and mental energy to this nonsensical theater.

Monty Hall in the Wild

2018-06-06T18:03:22.593Z · score: 24 (19 votes)
Comment by jacobian on The Berkeley Community & The Rest Of Us: A Response to Zvi & Benquo · 2018-05-30T20:37:35.075Z · score: 31 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I can understand the frustrations of people like Zvi who don't want to invest in local rationality communities, but I don't think that reaction is inevitable.

I went to a CFAR mentor's workshop in March and it didn't make me sad that the average Tuesday NYC rationality meetup isn't as awesome. It gave me the agency-inspiration to make Tuesdays in NYC more awesome, at least by my own selfish metrics. Since March we've connected with several new people, established a secondary location for meetups in a beautiful penthouse (and have a possible tertiary location), hosted a famous writer, and even forced Zvi to sit through another circle. The personal payoff for investing in the local community isn't just in decades-long friendships, it's also in how cool next Tuesday will be. It pays off fast.

And besides, on a scale of decades people will move in an out of NYC/Berkeley/anywhere else several times anyway as jobs, schools, and residential zoning laws come and go. Several of my best friends, including my wife, came to NYC from the Bay Area. Should the Areans complain that NYC is draining them of wonderful people?

One of my favorite things about this community is that we're all geographically diverse rootless cosmopolitans. I could move to a shack in Montana next year and probably find a couple of people I met at NYC/CFAR/Solstice/Putanumonit to start a meetup with. Losing friends sucks, but it doesn't mean that investing in the local rationality community is pointless.

Quillette: Outgroups, Bias, and the Dark Web

2018-05-25T20:31:54.816Z · score: 13 (3 votes)
Comment by jacobian on LW Update 5/6/2018 – Meta and Moderation · 2018-05-23T15:51:42.956Z · score: 11 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I guess it makes sense. I was coming to this from the selfish perspective of someone who's kinda established as a writer, not the perspective of someone submitting their first post to LW with trembling fingers (which was me four years ago).

Comment by jacobian on LW Update 5/6/2018 – Meta and Moderation · 2018-05-22T22:11:01.061Z · score: 11 (2 votes) · LW · GW
Moderators will move it to the frontpage if it seems appropriate.

Not a big fan of this, as writers now have zero input on whether their posts make it to the frontpage. I suggest at least letting writers choose one of three options for their posts:

1. Submit for frontpage consideration.

2. Allow on frontpage, but not really promoted.

3. Disallow moving to frontpage.

This way moderators could just sift through the queue of things marked #1, (and the occasional #2 post if they stumble upon it and really love it). And if someone really wants their own writing out of the frontpage, they can choose so with #3.

The Context is Conflict

2018-05-18T02:16:51.535Z · score: 47 (17 votes)

Hot Seat

2018-05-15T18:28:43.599Z · score: 6 (2 votes)
Comment by jacobian on Moral frameworks and the Harris/Klein debate · 2018-05-15T17:11:32.375Z · score: 16 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Oh man, I really don't want to be on the other side of that debate. But, I swore allegiance to the cause of local validity, and I must uphold that.

Let's use a simplified model: Total intergroup variance= P*(genetic component of variance) + (1-P)*(environmental component). This is very simplified because genes and environment interact, but it will suffice.

Your logic only works if our prior was: 50% that all the difference is environmental (P=0), 50% that all the difference is genetic (P=1). In this case, finding an environmental difference would disprove the existence of a genetic difference.

But that's not what our prior is. The prior for biological group differences in a highly heritable trait is some bell curve of P, with its peak probably somewhere around P=0.5 (or at least neither P=0 nor P=1). The fact that IQ-affecting environmental differences exist only rules out P=1, which maybe changes the posterior expectation of P from 0.5 to 0.45, but not to 0.

After all, our prior was that we would almost certainly find environmental differences that affect IQ, so finding them can't cause that much of an update.

And if we haven't even proven that the environmental differences affect IQ, only that they exist, then we shouldn't update at all. Our prior for that was basically 1: any two groups will have some environmental difference (food, language, location...), so the existence of those differences can't be evidence either way.

Iterated Distillation and Amplification

2018-05-07T04:05:48.899Z · score: 11 (2 votes)
Comment by jacobian on The 3% Incline (theferrett.com) · 2018-04-29T00:58:24.212Z · score: 5 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yo, the Karate Kid post is awesome. You buried the lede.

Comment by jacobian on The 3% Incline (theferrett.com) · 2018-04-28T20:50:38.074Z · score: 16 (3 votes) · LW · GW

From the OP:

You know what feels crappy? 3% improvement. You busted your ass for a year, trying to get better at dating, at being less of an introvert, at self-soothing your anxiety – and you only managed to get 3% better at it.

The fact that 3% a year feels a bit too long is precisely the point. It's never going to feel good. If the change was visible day-to-day or even month-to-month, people wouldn't have trouble sticking with it. Part of the thing with 3% improvement is that for the first year or two, you just have to trust in the process and what you're doing. Only after a couple of years you start noticing results, and then you become motivated and keep the habit for life. But getting through the first year for just 3% is the hardest part.

The psychology is the same for investments, where you probably shouldn't expect a lot more than 3-4% a year. Some people see no difference between $10,000 now and $10,300 next year. Other people start investing when they're 25, and are a lot richer than the first group when they're 50.

Comment by jacobian on Don't Believe Wrong Things · 2018-04-27T15:21:46.447Z · score: 5 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't have much to add to gjm's description, but I'll add a little bit of flavor to get at Said's situational vs. dispositional dichotomy.

"Having a bad day" means something like experiencing a day in such a way that it causes mental suffering, and being an "angry person" is someone who reacts to mental suffering with violence. My claim is that those things aren't clean categories: they are hard to separate from each other, and they are both situation and dispositional.

If you experience a lot of suffering from some external misfortune, you are more likely to react in a way that makes it worse, and also to build up a subconscious habit of reacting in this way, which in turn creates more chances for you to suffer and get angry and react and reinforce the pattern... eventually you will end up kicking a lot of vending machines.

It doesn't make a lot of sense to draw a circle around something called "bad day" or "angry person" and blame your machine kicking on that. These two things are causes and effects of each other, and of a million other situational and dispositional things. That's what I mean by "bad day" and "angry person" being fake, and the definition of FAE that I googled doesn't quite address this.

Comment by jacobian on Don't Believe Wrong Things · 2018-04-26T04:12:51.415Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Oops, just realized that. Let me try again:

In what way can the process of discovering or realizing these truths about how people work, be reasonably described...

In the way that I just did.

You asked me if this is just FAE, I answer "Kinda, but I like my description better. FAE doesn't capture all of it".

You ask if it this is just getting closer to the truth, I answer "Kinda, but I like my description better. Getting closer to the truth doesn't tell you what mental movement is actually taking place."

If you think you know what I mean but I'm explaining it poorly, you probably won't be able to squeeze a better explanation out of me. This isn't a factual claim, it's a metaphor for a complex mental process. If 4,000 words weren't enough to make this make sense in your head, then go read someone else - the point of non-expert explanation is that everyone can find the one explanation that makes sense for them.

Comment by jacobian on Don't Believe Wrong Things · 2018-04-25T21:08:51.379Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW
...can the process of discovering or realizing these truths about how people work, be reasonably described as...

I mean - yes, I think so, otherwise I would not have written this post.

I'm not sure where this conversation is going. We're not talking about whether X is true, but whether Y is the optimal metaphor that can conceived of to describe X. While I always want to learn how to make my writing more clear and lucid, I don't find this sort of discussion particularly productive.

Comment by jacobian on Don't Believe Wrong Things · 2018-04-25T18:32:15.518Z · score: 5 (1 votes) · LW · GW
it makes you shy away from situations that might disapprove those wrong beliefs

This is another good reason. I was gesturing roughly in that direction when talking about the Christian convert being blocked from learning about new religions.

I think that there's a general concept of being "truth aligned", and being truth aligned is the right choice. Truth-seeking things reinforce each other, and things like lying, bullshitting, learning wrong things, avoiding disconfirming evidence etc. also reinforce each other. Being able to convince yourself of arbitrary belief is an anti-truth skill, and Eliezer suggests you should dis-cultivate it by telling yourself you can't do it.

Your point about spirituality is a major source of conflict about those topics, with non-believers saying "tell us what it is" and the enlightened saying "if I did, you'd misunderstand". I do think that it's at least fair to expect that the spiritual teachers understand the minds of beginners, if not vice versa. This is why I'm much more interested in Val's enlightenment than in Vinay Gupta's.

Comment by jacobian on Don't Believe Wrong Things · 2018-04-25T18:17:19.883Z · score: 5 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Not quite, I think that either of those talks about only a small piece of misunderstanding people's behaviors.

Learning about FAE tells me that the other person kicked the vending machine not because he's an "angry person" but because he had a bad day. But really, "bad day" isn't any more of a basic entity than "angry person" is. A zen master has no "bad days" and also isn't an "angry person", which one is the reason why a zen master doesn't kick vending machines?

Also, the reason I kicked a vending machine isn't just because I had a bad day, but also because 5 minutes ago I was thinking about soccer, and 5 weeks ago I kicked a machine and it gave me a can, and 5 years ago I read a book about the benefits of not suppressing emotions. The causes of a simple act like that are enormously complicated, and FAE is just a step in that direction.

Comment by jacobian on Don't Believe Wrong Things · 2018-04-25T14:54:49.998Z · score: 10 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Good question! Also hard to give a clear cut example of, but I think this is somewhat true of how I understand people's behavior.

  • When I was little, I saw people as having an unchanging character: good person, angry person, mean person.
  • When I grew up I realized that "character" isn't really an immutable part of a person, just the way I see them. I started understanding behavior in terms of following incentives and executing strategies: this person wants X, so he does Y.
  • Now, I have a sense that "a person wants something" is really just an abstraction. People look like they're following goals, but at any given moment we are executing a bunch of routines that are very context-dependent. We do some things driven by system 2, and other things that reenact previous actions or roles, and some things in response to arbitrary stimuli etc. I don't see behavior in the moment, let alone over time, as necessarily being unified or coherent.

This final stage allows me to be more flexible about describing character and behavior, because I see that those aren't ontologically basic. Instead of "this person is tribal" or "this person is signaling group loyalty", I may see someone as executing group signalling routines in a certain social context, and doing that by taking cues from a specific person. If I meet someone new I may form an initial impression of them at the level of character or goals, but it's much easier to add nuance to those or at least to moderate the strength of my predictions about what they may do.

Don't Believe Wrong Things

2018-04-25T03:36:09.557Z · score: 56 (15 votes)

Circling with Expert Guide at Luna Labs

2018-04-25T03:07:33.133Z · score: 5 (1 votes)

Much Ado about Nothing

2018-04-23T14:18:24.399Z · score: 11 (2 votes)

The Minds of Pigeons

2018-04-12T22:53:46.378Z · score: 23 (5 votes)
Comment by jacobian on Is Rhetoric Worth Learning? · 2018-04-12T15:05:02.670Z · score: 12 (3 votes) · LW · GW

A good way to practice pronuntiatio is simply to watch yourself speak. Even without external feedback, you yourself will notice many bad habits in the way you speak and correct them.

I did this as part of a class: each week we would give a short talk on some subject, then watch the video of ourselves talking. For the next talk, it's best to focus on improving just a single thing that went wrong, starting from the mouth and moving outward. For example, on a particular week I would focus on fixing on of the following:

  • Too quiet (usually) or too loud.
  • Too fast (usually) or too slow.
  • Filler words: "umm" and "ahh".
  • Monotone, or tone changes that don't match the context.
  • Eye contact with audience - you want to make brief eye contact that moves around the room, rather than staring at the floor or at a single person.
  • Shoulder posture, arm movement.
  • Body posture, some people tend to sway in the wind.
  • Moving around the room.

At the very end, which came out to our 6th or 7th talk, we went back to the subject of our first lightning speech and tried to deliver the exact same text and compared the videos. The difference was astounding.

I desire U, grpfrt, but I won’t eat U.

2018-04-08T19:19:33.418Z · score: 17 (10 votes)
Comment by jacobian on Local Validity as a Key to Sanity and Civilization · 2018-04-07T15:55:58.644Z · score: 52 (14 votes) · LW · GW

This is critically important, and I want to focus on where our community can establish better norms for local validity. There are some relevant legal issues (is everyone here planning to pay capital gains tax on their Bitcoins?), but our core concern is epistemic.

We usually do a good job of not falling for outright fallacies, but there's always a temptation to sort of glide over them in the pursuit of a good cause. I see this a lot in conversations about effective altruism that go something like this:

Someone: Cash transfers have an even larger impact that the dollar amount itself, because people mostly use it to buy income-generating assets such as a cow or a sowing machine.

Me: Really? I thought most of the money was spent on quality-of-life things like metal roofs and better food.

Someone: What, you think that malnourished people don't deserve to buy a bit of food?

This is different from doubling down and claiming that food is actually an income-generating asset because well-fed people make more money. It's a nimble change of subject that prevents the person from actually admitting that their argument was bad.

I don't think it's as big a problem as some people claim, but I think it's critical for us to get this right. There are huge gains for us to be had as a community from being at 99% argument-validity and honesty as opposed to 95%. If you could trust that every rationalist is both arguing in good faith and is vigilant about bad arguments, we'll be able to learn much more from each other, and with a lot less noise, and build a solid rampart of common knowledge that will serve everyone.

Comment by jacobian on Competition for Power · 2018-04-06T14:03:24.064Z · score: 10 (4 votes) · LW · GW

There ya go.

Comment by jacobian on Internal Diet Crux · 2018-04-03T01:15:07.745Z · score: 16 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I tried after reading your comment. I didn't hear anything. I can't think of a single reason why I wouldn't want to lose 20 pounds, or feel any part hesitating before pressing a magical button that would allow me to do that. If it's there, it's hiding really deep.

Internal Diet Crux

2018-04-02T05:05:52.951Z · score: 90 (24 votes)

New York Rationalist Seder

2018-04-02T00:24:52.026Z · score: 11 (2 votes)

Dating like a Pro

2018-03-16T21:09:00.801Z · score: 38 (11 votes)

Pi Day 2018

2018-03-11T14:59:18.527Z · score: 13 (3 votes)

Welcome to Overcoming Bias New York City

2018-03-11T14:53:07.523Z · score: 4 (1 votes)

The Jordan Peterson Mask

2018-03-03T19:49:20.813Z · score: 89 (42 votes)

Sex, Lies, and Dexamethasone

2018-02-20T19:56:42.149Z · score: 32 (8 votes)

Antiantinatalism

2018-02-09T16:49:05.063Z · score: 13 (5 votes)

The Super Bowl Prop Gambling Game 2018

2018-02-03T18:10:00.413Z · score: 3 (4 votes)

Jacobcoin

2018-01-21T20:50:00.886Z · score: -11 (7 votes)

Plan to Be Lucky

2018-01-16T01:00:00.535Z · score: 29 (11 votes)

Scientist Fiction

2018-01-07T19:50:00.366Z · score: 20 (8 votes)