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Introducing Familiar, a quantified reasoning assistant (feedback sought!) 2013-07-24T02:36:45.881Z · score: 19 (20 votes)

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Comment by jamesf on [deleted post] 2017-01-22T20:43:04.565Z

Some of the weird suns are into postrationality, as I would define it, but most of them aren't. (That, or, they keep their affiliation with postrationality secret, which is plausible enough given their commitment to opsec.)

I would add The Timeless Way of Building to the list of primary texts, Chistopher Alexander has been a huge influence for many of us.

Comment by jamesf on December 2014 Media Thread · 2014-12-31T03:28:46.988Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's pretty much exactly what it looks like; multicolored pseudonymous suns that tweet funny and strange and sometimes-insightful stuff to each other, relying heavily on rationalist memes. I think the original was Instance Of Class, then other people made a bunch of similar ones because it's fun, and now it's a whole Thing. The real identities of the suns aren't made public.

Comment by jamesf on December 2014 Media Thread · 2014-12-02T05:35:34.191Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Reminder that Weird Sun Twitter exists.

(Edited link because Unit Of Selection is apparently deactivated)

Comment by jamesf on Simulate and Defer To More Rational Selves · 2014-09-15T00:25:05.307Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think I've been doing something like this for a long time, but imagining the simulated decision-maker as a "Ghost of Agency and Making Things Better" rather than an idealized version of myself. People seemed to find that a lot more confusing than this, though, so I'm going to start describing it this way instead.

Comment by jamesf on Why appearance matters or “to behave as if” · 2014-08-31T22:08:31.497Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

"checking the name of the writer Ooookay, this article about appearance is written by a woman. As was expected. It's probably not worth to read it..."

The best way to get me to actually throw charity out the window, is to imply that I'm likely to throw charity out the window because I explicitly thought a dumb thing relating to your personal characteristics.

Comment by jamesf on Open thread, August 4 - 10, 2014 · 2014-08-04T19:42:53.634Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It gave me mostly psychological and physiological correlates. I'm interested more in behavioral and social/economic things. I suppose you can get from the former to the latter, though with much less confidence than a directly observed correlation.

Your answer is exactly as glib as it should be, but only because I didn't really specify what I'm curious about.

Comment by jamesf on Open thread, August 4 - 10, 2014 · 2014-08-04T17:36:21.432Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Suppose you wanted to find out all the correlates for particular Big Five personality traits. Where would you look, besides the General Social Survey?

Comment by jamesf on [QUESTION]: What are your views on climate change, and how did you form them? · 2014-07-09T04:10:22.478Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Meta: I don't think questions need to have "[QUESTION]" in the title. That's what the question mark does.

Comment by jamesf on Open thread, 11-17 March 2014 · 2014-03-14T00:01:25.639Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I've pretty much hated it in college, but this might just be because of the way the courses are taught.

This was sort of my experience. Buy the right books and build interesting projects in the time you would be spending on classes, and you'll probably enjoy it a lot more. You don't need a degree in computer science to get a job as a software engineer; some experience/projects and the broad, shallow knowledge required to do well in typical interviews (and all those other interviewing skills I suppose) are enough.

You sound like you might enjoy Hacker School, by the way.

Comment by jamesf on Amanda Knox Redux: is Satoshi Nakamoto the real Satoshi Nakamoto? · 2014-03-07T01:40:05.686Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The only writing sample of Dorian Nakamoto I've seen (an email about model trains) is a mismatch

The writing may have been done by another person. The original story was that Satoshi Nakamoto is an unknown, positive number of people; is that a worse hypothesis now?

Comment by jamesf on March 2014 Media Thread · 2014-03-04T02:19:28.751Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Drexler's Nanosystems is very technical and very fun. The first ~half of the book is interesting physics, and the rest is mind-blowing systems design (molecular manufacturing and nanomechanical computers!).

Comment by jamesf on Self-Congratulatory Rationalism · 2014-03-02T03:27:05.996Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What does brevity offer you that makes it worthwhile, even when it impedes communication?

Predicting how communication will fail is generally Really Hard, but it's a good opportunity to refine your models of specific people and groups of people.

Comment by jamesf on [Open Thread] Links (2014-02-14) · 2014-02-15T04:18:23.559Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

A very good post on Ribbonfarm recently: From Cognitive Biases to Institutional Decay.

In totally unrelated news, distributed autonomous economic agents are becoming a Real Thing with Market Capitalization.

Comment by jamesf on Google may be trying to take over the world · 2014-01-28T23:34:30.264Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Peter Norving was a resident at Hacker School while I was there, and we had a brief discussion about existential risks from AI. He basically told me that he predicts AI won't surpass humans in intelligence by so much that we won't be able to coerce it into not ruining everything. It was pretty surprising, if that is what he actually believes.

Comment by jamesf on How Not to Make Money · 2014-01-25T06:32:39.575Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Most people are primarily interested in things that won't go very far in making money, and basically everyone likes to do a lot of things they won't ever get paid for; both are undeniable. "Be interested only in things that do nothing to increase your ability to earn money" is a very good way, indeed just about the best way, to not make money.

Your sarcasm is appreciated :-)

Comment by jamesf on How Not to Make Money · 2014-01-24T21:29:49.443Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Many of these seem false to me, generally the ones that claim understanding things and curiosity will help you not make money. I think more than half of my free-time reading in the last several years has increased my money-making ability in my expected career (software) to some extent, and a sizable portion of that was probably pretty close to optimal among things I could realistically be doing with that time (admittedly, that is a factor in what I choose to read; practicality appeals to me). My infovorism has made me a good technical communicator, and my exposure to decision sciences and cognitive biases right here on LessWrong over the past few years seem to make up a sizable portion of what people learn in an MBA (granted, those are more about signaling and contacts than knowledge), to say nothing of all the computer science and software engineering and statistics knowledge I've accumulated.

One notable counterexample who is not me: Warren Buffett, currently the third wealthiest human.

Warren Buffett says, "I just sit in my office and read all day."

What does that mean? He estimates that he spends 80 percent of his working day reading and thinking.

"You could hardly find a partnership in which two people settle on reading more hours of the day than in ours," Charlie Munger commented.

When asked how to get smarter, Buffett once held up stacks of paper and said he "read 500 pages like this every day. That's how knowledge builds up, like compound interest."

Basically, a lot of your advice is heavily dependent on your interests. You might accidentally find that you have a ton of valuable technical skills and are an effective communicator with surprisingly good decision-making ability if you read the wrong things for too long.

Comment by jamesf on 2013 Survey Results · 2014-01-22T04:44:13.429Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That's kind of the idea. I'm more interested in correlations involving self-perceived attractiveness, particularly the holistic one, than correlations involving measured physical attractiveness. It's a nice proxy for self-esteem.

Anonymity is a bit of a problem, though I suppose a pool of people that are as likely as your average human to know anyone who uses LW could be wrangled with some effort.

Comment by jamesf on 2013 Survey Results · 2014-01-19T18:42:51.187Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I might be willing to call either of those self-quantifying activities. Definitely the first one, if you actually put most activities you do on there rather than just the ones that aren't habit or important enough to definitely not forget. I think the question could be modified to capture the intent. Let's see...

Have you ever made an effort to record personal data for future analysis and stuck with it for >1 month? (Y/N)

Comment by jamesf on 2013 Survey Results · 2014-01-19T17:17:56.958Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Quantified Self examples:

  • Have you attempted and stuck with the recording of personal data for >1 month for any reason? (Y/N)
  • If so, did you find it useful? (Y/N)

Social media example:

  • How many hours per week do you think you spend on social media?

Asking about self-perceived attractiveness tells us little about how attractive a person is, but quite a bit about how they see themselves, and I want to learn how that's correlated with answers to all these other questions.

Maybe the recreational drug use question(s) could be stripped from the public data?

Comment by jamesf on 2013 Survey Results · 2014-01-19T03:32:04.506Z · score: 42 (42 votes) · LW · GW

Next survey, I'd be interested in seeing statistics involving:

  • Recreational drug use
  • Quantified Self-related activities
  • Social media use
  • Self-perceived physical attractiveness on the 1-10 scale
  • Self-perceived holistic attractiveness on the 1-10 scale
  • Personal computer's operating system

Excellent write-up and I look forward to next year's.

Comment by jamesf on Physics grad student: how to build employability in programming & finance · 2014-01-11T04:27:05.499Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Hacker School is totally free (with living expenses paid if you're a woman). I believe five rationalists including myself have done it. Unlike most bootcamps it has basically no official structure--you and all the other hackers/aspiring hackers think of cool stuff to do and then do it. They will help you become a better programmer and find a job. The community is great.

Comment by jamesf on Self-serving meta: Whoever keeps block-downvoting me, is there some way to negotiate peace? · 2013-11-16T16:54:24.141Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

One option would be to make a new account and not publicly acknowledge it's a successor to this one, if you're okay with everything that entails. I've done it before (to change my username) and the reset to zero karma and loss of my precious posting history really didn't affect me at all.

Comment by jamesf on Wolfram's new "Cloud" initiative · 2013-11-14T06:43:57.015Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This is an awful lot of words for talking about something that I don't get to play with yet.

Comment by jamesf on How to choose a country/city? · 2013-11-03T01:47:23.737Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm skeptical of the implicit dichotomy between a successful career and a meaningful life (especially for academics!). I may very well just think that because I'm also from the US. As for my n=1, I live in New York and get to enjoy the rationalist and tech communities here and generally don't interact with any other demographic.

Comment by jamesf on How to choose a country/city? · 2013-11-02T16:50:23.068Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

[the US] isn't that far away from a survival-traditional oriented society

America contains multitudes; by living in the right place and exposing yourself to the right information, you don't really have to be aware of all the people who determined its World Values Survey results. (I suspect this is also true in Brazil...)

the fact [New Zealand] is in the freaking middle of nowhere is very discouraging.

Why? You haven't expressed that living somewhere with high population density or lots of popular nearby attractions is important to you.

Finally, note that you could remove "rationally" from the title and exactly the same meaning would be conveyed, since we're on a blog about rationality.

Comment by jamesf on Confusion about science and technology · 2013-10-26T07:37:04.071Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The market provides a continuous and generally valid test of engineering principles. I think it's more scientific than peer review, in the most meaningful sense of the word "science".

Comment by jamesf on Introducing Familiar, a quantified reasoning assistant (feedback sought!) · 2013-09-13T22:32:41.803Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure. If you're comfortable sharing your data, PM me a link to the contents of your /data folder.

Comment by jamesf on Introducing Familiar, a quantified reasoning assistant (feedback sought!) · 2013-09-13T14:33:11.291Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's an H2 database saved inside /data in your Familiar directory. You can make SQL queries into it with other programs. Exporting to JSON or CSV or something will happen eventually.

Two, technically, I suppose, but I'd probably collect data for a couple of months before I started seriously interpreting correlations involving variables with a resolution of one day. This will be a topic in the more extended documentation.

Comment by jamesf on Introducing Familiar, a quantified reasoning assistant (feedback sought!) · 2013-09-07T05:02:02.446Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There is, though it's not implemented as a neat API function (yet), so if you're using the official release from when this was first posted you can't do it. It looks like this:

(update variable (where {:name "cats"}) (set-fields {:unit "encountered" :fn "non-negative?"}))

This will break preexisting data if the prior validator wasn't a strict subset of the new validator. Converting variables into a new representation sanely and easily is something I plan to add in.

Comment by jamesf on Introducing Familiar, a quantified reasoning assistant (feedback sought!) · 2013-09-07T04:55:58.893Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You want

(change-time (days -1))

if the active time is on the wrong day. The active time being wrong but on the correct day doesn't matter yet since only day-resolution variables are supported. A time zone setting will be added along with variables of arbitrary time resolution.

For percentage variables, use

(num-interval 0 100)

as the validator for a variable. (I will add "percent" as a built-in validator.)

Besides the built-in documentation for all the API functions, the readme on GitHub is the most comprehensive existing documentation. Of course I intend to fix that eventually, probably along with the next release which is going to be the one where there is a GUI.

Thank you for all your feedback!

Comment by jamesf on Useful Habits Repository · 2013-09-03T06:12:50.527Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

At the end of the day, go through the things you did. What did you do and why? How did you feel while you did it? Doing it in writing can be helpful (this is what journaling is). Or even get scientific and quantify things so you can analyze your data later!

cough this software I write for that last thing cough

Comment by jamesf on Open thread, August 26 - September 1, 2013 · 2013-08-27T04:11:46.785Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

She had cardiac arrest and they cooled her down to prevent organ damage. Now that I research it more, probably not enough to completely stop brain activity, though that was the premise of the question and they seemed to understand that part.

Comment by jamesf on Open thread, August 26 - September 1, 2013 · 2013-08-27T01:15:33.673Z · score: 12 (14 votes) · LW · GW

A few days ago I was talking with two people who had "experienced" total brain inactivity for some period of time before (one for a few days on ice!). I tried asking what they thought about the discontinuous experience/identity and associated philosophical issues that e.g. cryonics or other forms of not-being-alive for a while entails, but I couldn't get them to interpret the question as anything besides "what do you think of the personality changes that might happen from such an event?".

I found this miscommunication highly informative.

Comment by jamesf on [LINK] Hyperloop officially announced — predictions, anyone? · 2013-08-13T17:41:07.965Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The description starts at "Section 4.2. Tube" on page 24.

Comment by jamesf on More "Stupid" Questions · 2013-08-03T04:00:57.826Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That would be a good component of an answer to "what have you been doing for the last seven years?", yes.

Comment by jamesf on More "Stupid" Questions · 2013-08-02T17:37:47.852Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The competitive Magic scene may not be your best bet. If it looks like you're not going to make a name for yourself in it, but that's what it would take for you enjoy it, you might be much better off playing with local amateurs and trying to focus on that world instead. Also, it's probably a better way to make friends. I've never stood a chance at playing competitive Team Fortress 2, but finding a public server and carrying the team every now and then is still very fun for me; I pretend pros don't exist and temporarily relish in my superiority over 23 randoms.

I don't have much concrete advice as far as finding a job goes, since there a lot of relevant details that you haven't and possibly shouldn't share, but I'll at least suggest that doing whatever you can to overcome your ugh field around job searching would be extremely valuable in the long run. If you have a large gap in your resume (which sounds like it might be the case), find something you can do that puts an end to it, and can also plausibly retroactively fill in some of the gap. Freelancing of some sort comes to mind.

Comment by jamesf on More "Stupid" Questions · 2013-08-02T01:04:03.937Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Rutgers is a better university than mine. Studying engineering in the honors program I still felt very alone. I'm glad it (sounds like?) you felt like you fit in there somewhat. Still, it's very possible to underestimate the size of the minimum-sized pond you'll be able to flourish in. "Lonely at the top" and all that.

Comment by jamesf on More "Stupid" Questions · 2013-08-01T22:15:32.867Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Anecdote time!

I had the high school resume to get into highly selective universities. For financial reasons, I instead went to my flagship state university. I expected the big fish in small pond effect to play to my advantage, and I did develop a reputation as "(one of) the smartest student(s) in the room" (which I'll at least admit was a boon to my romantic desirability), but the most salient result was extreme loneliness. I wasn't able to find many people I could have stimulating conversation with, and while I did make a few friends, none of them shared my degree of passion for intellectual subjects. This summer I've been at Hacker School, which I think is a correctly-sized pond for me, but the damage to my mood and social expectations from three years of being stuck in too small a pond has definitely impeded my ability to make friends and feel socially engaged. As of right now I'm attempting to find a job as a software developer so I can drop out of college in relative security, because college is that intolerable and I think I have a much better chance of finding more correctly-sized ponds on this path. (Transferring to a more selective university is still not a financial burden I'm willing to accept.)

I guess the takeaway here might be: while a small pond of the right size can have its advantages, larger ponds are much more likely to help you grow more, and ponds that are too small can be absolutely crushing. If finding a smaller pond consists of moving away from your current large pond, be extremely careful that it's not too small.

Comment by jamesf on Introducing Familiar, a quantified reasoning assistant (feedback sought!) · 2013-07-28T00:19:04.733Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I plan on addressing false positives with a combination of sanity-checking/care-checking ("no, drinking tea probably doesn't force me to sleep for exactly 6.5 hours the following night" or "so what if reading non-fiction makes me ravenous for spaghetti?"), and suggesting highest-information-content experimentation when neither of those applies (hopefully one would collect more data to test a hypothesis rather than immediately accept the program's output in most cases). In this specific case, the raw conversation and bodily state data would probably not be nodes in the larger model--only the inferred "thing that really matters", social life, would. Having constant feedback from the "expert", who can choose which raw or derived variables to include in the model and which correlations don't actually matter, seems to change the false positive problem.

Comment by jamesf on Introducing Familiar, a quantified reasoning assistant (feedback sought!) · 2013-07-26T10:58:05.235Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Or, I mean, just use Facebook and other social media activity to identify the formation, strengthening, and slow or abrupt end of friendships and relationships. Many of us do basically already live in that world.

Comment by jamesf on Introducing Familiar, a quantified reasoning assistant (feedback sought!) · 2013-07-26T10:31:54.566Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Hooray, people with credentials! Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

This was my most convincing reason to try to bother implementing the statistical guts myself in the first place; it was pretty easy to put together a little naive Bayes classifier that calculates the maximum likelihood estimate for all your other variables/predicates given the value of one variable/predicate intended to be minimized or maximized, and I'm pretty sure it works mostly correctly, and I'm pretty sure the additional return from using virtually any of the existing more sophisticated ML algorithms that I've yet to hear of won't be nearly as high as the initial return from being able to answer the question "if this is the case, what other stuff was most likely the case?". I'm starting to get the suspicion that the next most useful modeling-related task may be to focus on generating lots and lots of different compound predicates given all your raw variables in some way that doesn't reek of unhelpful combinatorial explosion, then calculating the maximum likelihood and probability of that value for all of them using my existing dumb little classifier, which isn't something I can recall seeing any work on. If that reminds you of something then I will desperately consume whatever resources or names of algorithms that come to your mind.

In the near term, very low-frequency events that have a very clear impact on other variables might be usefully grouped under the raw variable "significant and obvious other things that aren't worthy of their own variable in my opinion", and many of the more useful terminally-valued predicates could imaginably require that variable to take a certain value/range of values. Maybe "rejection by people currently in my social circle" with a holistic, multi-valued rating could be its own variable, if that happens unfortunately often for some people. I don't expect to automate measuring something like this any time soon, but it is undoubtedly important to know about in figuring out optimal conditions for "normal days", which makes me think the manual data entry part will be unavoidable if you want this to be particularly useful.

In the more distant future, I see no reason why such a thing couldn't be learned into a variable that actually does an okay job of carving the important parts of your personal reality at the joints. If you have a software system that knows relationships are important to people, knows which of your relationships are important to you, knows who you were talking to, and knows the valence, arousal, duration, frequency, etc. of your interaction with that person over time, then, yes, something like "ended a relationship today" probably could be inferred. It doesn't sound trivial but it sounds absolutely plausible, given sufficient effort.

Comment by jamesf on Introducing Familiar, a quantified reasoning assistant (feedback sought!) · 2013-07-25T16:34:26.893Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm hesitant to use software licensed under the GPL in my own program, as convenient as that sounds. I'd like to release it under a (even) less restrictive license.

Comment by jamesf on Introducing Familiar, a quantified reasoning assistant (feedback sought!) · 2013-07-25T16:17:34.973Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm researching that right now. Recommendations are welcome.

Comment by jamesf on Introducing Familiar, a quantified reasoning assistant (feedback sought!) · 2013-07-25T01:05:32.815Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That seems extremely sane in retrospect; thankfully I haven't done very much work on the statistics side, and sunk costs are therefore comfortably low if I were to take that path. I'm also not worried about glamour at all in that case, since I'm the one doing the work of "make it something people will actually want to use and that is useful". There are indeed many of them--do you have a specific recommendation?

Comment by jamesf on Introducing Familiar, a quantified reasoning assistant (feedback sought!) · 2013-07-25T00:53:33.118Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, I'm pretty sure this is currently the most significant hurdle to getting people to want to use it (this isn't the '80s!). Adding some kind of browser-based GUI is my current task.

Comment by jamesf on Introducing Familiar, a quantified reasoning assistant (feedback sought!) · 2013-07-25T00:49:25.801Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe some of this is a little far fetched but god would it be fun to dig into.

My sentiment exactly! This seems like the sort of thing that would enable people to seriously improve their lives in a lot of different ways, but there are also many more ways to use it that probably wouldn't help much or at all. That's why I'm trying to focus on ease of use--the more people out there experimenting with measuring different things in combination, the sooner everyone gets to benefit from those methods and combinations of measurements that actually do help.

Comment by jamesf on Introducing Familiar, a quantified reasoning assistant (feedback sought!) · 2013-07-25T00:19:30.410Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

All the ones I've found so far have some combination of the following traits:

  • Proprietary and expensive
  • Steep learning curve/assumes the user will be a technical professional
  • Not designed to use data from other services

I think a program that avoids all of those things simultaneously will be able to fill a useful niche for many people. If you know of a free program that an intelligent layperson could learn to use with minimal effort, and that's made to collect data from a variety of existing Quantified Self apps and devices (or at least be easily amenable to such extension), I'll happily stop development and use that instead.

Comment by jamesf on Introducing Familiar, a quantified reasoning assistant (feedback sought!) · 2013-07-24T13:53:27.266Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It looks like getting editline to talk with my Clojure code would be somewhat non-trivial. Using the Clojure REPL is probably the better alternative for serious use until I get a GUI working.

Reading CSVs is now on the todo list.

Comment by jamesf on Introducing Familiar, a quantified reasoning assistant (feedback sought!) · 2013-07-24T13:46:10.312Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It can take command line arguments and therefore be put into a shell script, if that's what you mean. Here's an example:

java -jar familiar-0.1.0-SNAPSHOT-standalone.jar "(open! some-other-experiment)" "(new-var herons boolean? false)" "(data herons true)"

Comment by jamesf on Introducing Familiar, a quantified reasoning assistant (feedback sought!) · 2013-07-24T13:29:57.424Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Just reading its documentation has been very helpful so far. Thank you!