Is voting theory important? An attempt to check my bias. 2019-02-17T23:45:57.960Z · score: 42 (14 votes)
EA grants available (to individuals) 2019-02-07T15:17:38.921Z · score: 35 (12 votes)
Does the EA community do "basic science" grants? How do I get one? 2019-02-06T18:10:00.827Z · score: 8 (3 votes)
A Rationalist Argument for Voting 2018-06-07T17:05:42.668Z · score: 13 (8 votes)
The Devil's Advocate: when is it right to be wrong? 2018-05-15T17:12:16.681Z · score: 16 (3 votes)
Upvotes, knowledge, stocks, and flows 2018-05-10T14:18:15.087Z · score: 44 (10 votes)
Multi-winner Voting: a question of Alignment 2018-04-17T18:51:09.062Z · score: 63 (16 votes)
5 general voting pathologies: lesser names of Moloch 2018-04-13T18:38:41.279Z · score: 104 (33 votes)
A voting theory primer for rationalists 2018-04-12T15:15:23.823Z · score: 238 (77 votes)


Comment by jameson-quinn on 2018 Review: Voting Results! · 2020-01-24T03:47:47.153Z · score: 11 (6 votes) · LW · GW

On a self-interested note: you listed the top 15, but it appears my post, A Voting Theory Primer for Rationalists, was tied for 15th place, and yet was left off of the list. If that reflects some implicit tie-breaker, I'd like to know what it is. And — speaking purely as the author, not as a voting theorist — I'd suggest maybe you should just include my post in the list.

I'll make a separate post with some analysis ideas later.

Comment by jameson-quinn on Improving Group Decision Making · 2020-01-24T02:24:03.089Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm glad to see that EA is engaging with social choice theory. But I don't find this paper particularly interesting. To me, it centers on the sleight-of-hand redefinition of Approval voting into "UNV", which is basically just "approval voting, but we assume the ballots are full expressions of the voters' preferences". That redefinition is necessary to cram approval into the procrustean bed of the Arrovian axioms; but to me, if the axioms don't fit a method without such ridiculous assumptions, we should find new axioms.

This is probably not the place for a more-lengthy engagement with these ideas and/or an attempt to situate them within my larger vision of the state of social choice theory. But I'd be interested to talk to Prasad, especially if I get the grant I've sought to pursue voting theory research over the next months.

Comment by jameson-quinn on Theory of Causal Models with Dynamic Structure? · 2020-01-23T23:42:11.947Z · score: 16 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Pyro can do this for certain technical reasons:

  • because it uses backwards-mode automatic differentiation based on pytorch, which (unlike other major python AD packages) creates its execution graphs on-the-fly.
  • Because pyro is primarily designed for variational inference, not MCMC. The problem with dynamic structure in MCMC is that it's inherently discrete: either the model has this structure, or it has that one. That makes it tough to do MCMC with, especially in high dimensions, because these days it's clear that making high-dimensional MCMC practical requires at least some use of the tricks of HMC, which means differentiating the likelihood with respect to the parameters, which means you need continuous parameters.

However: variational inference doesn't actually work well with complex dynamic structure, because the variational approximations themselves are usually "smooth" in ways that a correct posterior of a dynamic model would not be.

In other words: although it would not be hard to create a syntax / notation for expressing dynamic models, the reason there is not yet a standard syntax/notation for that is that the methods for fitting such models, or, to the same purpose, sampling from their posterior... are still mostly lacking.

It seems to me this is a fundamentally hard problem overall, so I don't expect it will be fully solved even in the next 5-10 years, but I do expect to see significant progress. PPLs are getting better by leaps and bounds now, and I'd expect something like Gen.jl to usefully cover at least some special cases of dynamic models, and to have a clearer syntax for at least talking about those models it still struggles to cover, in even just the 1-2 year time frame.

Comment by jameson-quinn on Moloch Hasn’t Won · 2020-01-18T09:00:07.988Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Exactly, thank you.

Comment by jameson-quinn on Moloch Hasn’t Won · 2020-01-18T00:48:54.525Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think that I am probably inside the set you'd consider "target audience", though not a central member. To me, when you say "strong no" it sounds somewhat like "if somebody misunderstands me, it's their fault," which I'd think is a bad reaction.

I realize that what I'm asking for could be considered SJW virtue-signaling, and I understand that one possible reaction to such a request is "ew, no, that's not my tribe." However, I think there's reasons aside from signaling or counter-signaling to consider my request.

To me, one goal of a summary section like the one in question is to allow the reader to grasp the basic flavor of the argument in question without too much mental work. That might, in some cases, mean it's worth explicitly saying things that were implicit in the unabridged original, because the quicker read might leave such implicit ideas less obvious. In particular, to me, it's important that these "physical limitations" don't actually remove the badness of the equilibrium, they just moderate it slightly. That flows obviously to me when reading Scott's full original; with your summary, it's still obvious, but in a way that breaks the flow and requires me to stop and think "there's something left unsaid here". In a summary section, such a break in the flow seems better avoided.

Comment by jameson-quinn on Conclusion to the sequence on value learning · 2020-01-18T00:34:00.865Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm. I went back and reread you carefully, and I cannot find the part where you said the thing that I was "responding" to above. So I think I'm probably actually responding to my poor model of what you would say, not to what you actually did say. Sorry. I'll leave my above comment but strike out the parts where it refers to what "you" say.

Comment by jameson-quinn on Conclusion to the sequence on value learning · 2020-01-16T20:52:04.962Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Seems as if there's some sleight-of-hand going on here Yes, we can show that any policy that is invulnerable to dutch-booking is equivalent to optimizing some utility function. But you've also shown earlier that "equivalent to optimizing some utility function" is a nearly-vacuous concept. There are plenty of un-dutch-bookable policies which still don't end up paving the universe in utilitronium, for ANY utility function.

Furthermore, I find it easy to imagine human-like value systems which are in fact dutch-bookable; e.g., "I like to play peekaboo with babies" is dutch-bookable between "eyes covered" and "eyes uncovered". So the generalization at the outset of this chapter seems over-broad.

Comment by jameson-quinn on Moloch Hasn’t Won · 2020-01-16T17:06:35.379Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I strongly suggest you rewrite your summary of "physical limitations". The original was slightly problematic; your summary is, to me, a train-wreck.

Scott's original point was, I believe, "slavery itself may be an example of a bad collective equilibrium, but work-people-to-death antebellum southern slavery was even worse than that." He spent so much effort showing how the WPTD version was inefficient that he forgot to reiterate the obvious point that both versions are morally bad; and since he was contrasting the two, it would be possible to infer that he's actually saying that non-WPTD slavery is not so bad morally; but he clearly deserves the benefit of the doubt on that, and anybody who's read that far is likely to give it to him.

Your summary is shorter, so it's easier to misinterpret, and "people unlikely to give you the benefit of the doubt" are more likely to read it. Furthermore, using "you" to mean slavers makes it actually worse than Scott's version. I, for one, really don't want to be asked to put myself into slavers' shoes unless it's crucial to the point being made, and in this case it clearly isn't.

I suggest you remove the "you" phrasing, and also explicitly say that even non-WPTD slavery is bad; that this is an example of physical limitations slightly ameliorating a bad equilibrium, but not removing it altogether. You can, I believe, safely imply that that's what Scott believes too, even though he doesn't explicitly say it.

Comment by jameson-quinn on The Tails Coming Apart As Metaphor For Life · 2020-01-15T22:50:01.399Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The expectation of X is "regressed towards the mean" when an extreme Y is used as a predictor, and vice versa. Thus, to my mind, this post's target phenomenon is a straightforward special case of RTM.

Comment by jameson-quinn on Research: Rescuers during the Holocaust · 2020-01-15T22:48:38.021Z · score: 9 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think we should encourage posts which are well-delimited and research based; "here's a question I had, and how I answered it in a finite amount of time" rather than "here's something I've been thinking about for a long time, and here's where I've gotten with it".

Also, this is an engaging topic and well-written.

I feel the "final thoughts" section could be tightened up/shortened, as to me it's not the heart of the piece.

Comment by jameson-quinn on The Tails Coming Apart As Metaphor For Life · 2020-01-15T21:51:22.445Z · score: 7 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This phenomenon is closely related to "regression towards the mean". It is important, when discussing something like this, to include such jargon names, because there is a lot of existing writing and thought on the topic. Don't reinvent the wheel.

Other than that, it's a fine article.

Comment by jameson-quinn on Argument, intuition, and recursion · 2020-01-15T19:24:41.650Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This is a nice, simple model for thinking. But I notice that both logic and empiricism sometimes have "shortcuts" — non-obvious ways to shorten, or otherwise substantially robustify, the chain of (logic/evidence). It's reasonable to imagine that intuition/rationality would also have various shortcuts; some that would correspond to logical/empirical shortcuts, and some that would be different. Communication is more difficult when two people are using chains of reasoning that differ substantially in what shortcuts they use. You could get two valid arguments on a question, and be able to recognize the validity of each, but be almost completely at a loss when trying to combine those two into an overall judgement.

Oops, I guess that was more of a comment than a review. At review-level, what I meant to say was: nice foundation, but it's clear this doesn't exhaust the question. Which is good.

Comment by jameson-quinn on Expressive Vocabulary · 2020-01-15T19:11:45.895Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Basic politeness rules, explained well for people who don't find them obvious, yay!

Comment by jameson-quinn on A Sketch of Good Communication · 2020-01-15T19:07:23.223Z · score: 10 (5 votes) · LW · GW

This is the second time I've seen this. Now it seems obvious. I remember liking it the first time, but also remember it being obvious. That second part of the memory is probably false. I think it's likely that this explained the idea so well that I now think it's obvious.

In other words: very well done.

Comment by jameson-quinn on Player vs. Character: A Two-Level Model of Ethics · 2020-01-15T19:03:11.971Z · score: 10 (5 votes) · LW · GW

"Epistemic Status: Confident"?

That's surprising to me.

I skipped past that before reading, and read it as fun, loose speculation. I liked it, as that.

But I wouldn't have thought it deserves "confident".

I'm not sure if I should give it less credence or more, now.

I'm confused.

Comment by jameson-quinn on Everything I ever needed to know, I learned from World of Warcraft: Goodhart’s law · 2020-01-15T18:55:40.409Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This is a moderately interesting and well-written example, but did not really surprise me at any point. Worth having, but wouldn't be something I'd go out of my way to recommend.

Comment by jameson-quinn on A LessWrong Crypto Autopsy · 2020-01-14T23:46:12.467Z · score: 10 (5 votes) · LW · GW

When this article came out, I put a bit of money into alternate cryptocurrencies that I thought might have upside. They are now worth less than I invested.

I think it's good to review how you did in the past, but it's important not to overlearn specific lessons. In retrospect, I think that this article should have put more emphasis on that point.

Comment by jameson-quinn on A LessWrong Crypto Autopsy · 2020-01-14T23:41:59.848Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I thought Bitcoin, specifically, was a bubble/pyramid scheme. I still think so, as well as thinking it's a colossal waste of energy.

Obviously, that doesn't mean I couldn't have gotten rich by buying it, or that I wouldn't want to do so. And I've also adjusted my beliefs; I think I understand how it has failed to crash, and so I could imagine it continuing to have something like its current value for even 5 or 10 years more.

But it is very, very hard for me to imagine a world in which I am able to make a large pile dollars from something I so deeply distrust and dislike. And I don't think "I coulda been rich" is an outstandingly compelling reason to radically update my values and/or epistemology.

Comment by jameson-quinn on Circling · 2020-01-12T19:43:42.638Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This is very interesting. I do not have a good chance of being able to try this out, so I cannot evaluate any of the claims made directly, but it seems well-written, well-thought, and all in all a top-tier post.

Comment by jameson-quinn on Open question: are minimal circuits daemon-free? · 2020-01-11T22:02:55.369Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Pretty minimal in and of itself, but has prompted plenty of interesting discussion. Operationally that suggests to me that posts like this should be encouraged, but not by putting them into "best of" compilations.

Comment by jameson-quinn on Why everything might have taken so long · 2020-01-11T21:55:19.301Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting list, but seems to have a triumphalist bias. I doubt that "50K years ago, nobody could imagine changing the world" is true, and I suspect that "hunter-gathering cultures have actually found locally-optimal ways of life, and were generally happier and healthier than most premodern post-agricultural people" was a much bigger factor than most of these.

Comment by jameson-quinn on Preliminary thoughts on moral weight · 2020-01-11T00:17:42.559Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This does exactly what it sets out to do: presents an issue, shows why we might care, and lays out some initial results (including both intuitive and counterintuitive ones). It's not world-shaking for me, but it certainly carries its weight.

Comment by jameson-quinn on Varieties Of Argumentative Experience · 2020-01-10T23:29:23.858Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

As I recall, this is a solid, well-written post. Skimming it over again prior to reviewing it, nothing stands out to me as something worth mentioning here. Overall, I probably wouldn't put it on my all-time best list, or re-read it too often, but I'm certainly glad I read it once; it's better than "most" IMO, even among posts with (say) over 100 karma.

Comment by jameson-quinn on An Untrollable Mathematician Illustrated · 2020-01-10T23:23:35.466Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This is truly one of the best posts I've read. It guides the reader through a complex argument in a way that's engaging and inspiring. Great job.

Comment by jameson-quinn on Local Validity as a Key to Sanity and Civilization · 2020-01-10T23:21:49.387Z · score: 10 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I understand that this post seems wise to some people. To me, it seems like a series of tautologies on the surface, with an understructure of assumptions that are ultimately far more important and far more questionable. The basic assumption being made is that society-wide "memetic collapse" is a thing; the evidence given for this (even if you follow the links) is weak, and yet the attitude throughout is that further debate on this point is not worth our breath.

I am a co-author of statistics work with somebody whose standards of mathematical rigour are higher than mine. I often take intuitive leaps that she questions. There are three different common outcomes: one, that once we add the necessary rigour to my initial claim, it turns out to be right; two, that we recognize a mistake, but are able to fix things with some relatively minor claim to the original claim; and three, that I turn out to have been utterly wrong. So yes, it's good that she demands rigour, but I think that if she said "you are a Bad Person for making a locally-invalid argument" every time I made a leap, our collaboration would be less productive overall.

Overall, I don't object to the basic valid points made by this post, and I understand that it's a useful and clarifying exposition for some people (including people who are smarter than I am). Still, I wouldn't want to include this post in a "best of" (that is, I wouldn't use it to demonstrate how cool I find Less Wrong) because I find it gives an impression of self-satisfaction that I find off-putting.

Comment by jameson-quinn on Caring less · 2020-01-10T22:45:01.239Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think the primary value of this post is in prompting Benquo's response. That's not nothing, but I don't think it's top-shelf, because it doesn't really explore the game theory of "care more" vs. "care less" attempts between two agents whose root values don't necessarily align.

Comment by jameson-quinn on Caring less · 2020-01-10T22:42:24.570Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This is a rigorous version of my intuitive dissatisfaction with the OP.

Comment by jameson-quinn on (Feedback Request) Quadratic voting for the 2018 Review · 2019-12-27T14:24:15.494Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The Hugos use EPH for nominating finalists, then IRV to choose winners from among those finalists. Those are entirely separate steps. I was talking about the former, which has no IRV involved. I apologize for being unclear.

Comment by jameson-quinn on (Feedback Request) Quadratic voting for the 2018 Review · 2019-12-27T02:13:43.169Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW
As I understand is, this just means that you sum the squares of the SV and QV votes, then linearly scale all the votes of one such that these two numbers are equal to one another.

... such that the average for each of these numbers are equal, yes. I think that the way you said it, you'd be upscaling whichever group had fewer voters, but I'm pretty sure you didn't mean that.

Instant Runoff seems to be optimising for outcomes about which the majority have consensus, which isn't something I care as much about in this situation. That said I don't fully understand how it would change the results.

E Pluribus Hugo, and more generally, proportional representation, have nothing to do with Instant Runoff, so I'm not sure what you're saying here.

Comment by jameson-quinn on (Feedback Request) Quadratic voting for the 2018 Review · 2019-12-26T17:42:38.648Z · score: 20 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Honestly, it's harder to come up with a better suggestion than I would have thought. This is nearly the ideal use case for quadratic voting:

  • Reasonably engaged, and very nerdy, voting population
  • Relatively high mutual respect and common values; relatively low factionalism
  • The meta-goal is actually as much increasing overall engagement and building community, as it is choosing the optimal winner set.
  • QV is a shiny new thing, and the math behind it is cool.
  • The very definition of "ideal winner set" isn't well-specified. Do you want proportionality? That is, if there is a 30% faction that loves things other people hate, should they decide 30% of the winner set, or should the algorithm try to find good compromise options that everyone can live with but nobody loves, or something else?

Overall, without hearing more about what your real goals are with this, I guess my best suggestions would be:

  • Include options to vote "score voting style" (bounded ratings) or "quadratic style" (ratings with bounded euclidean norm). I'd suggest scaling the SV votes so that their average euclidean norm is the same as that of the QV votes. (The strategy in this case is relatively obvious, but the strategic leverage isn't too high, and the stakes are relatively low, so I wouldn't worry too much.)
  • For the QV ballots, draw visualizations: spirals made up of successive right triangles, so that the first rating is an adjacent side, each further rating is an opposite side, and the root-sum-squares is the final hypotenuse.

If you did want a proportional method, I'd probably suggest something like E Pluribus Hugo with quadratically-scaled ballots behind the continuous part. That is actually not too too complicated (voters who didn't want to get too complicated would be free to vote approval-style), and proportional, and quite robust to strategy.

Comment by jameson-quinn on (Feedback Request) Quadratic voting for the 2018 Review · 2019-12-21T17:14:41.184Z · score: 27 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I am generally very skeptical about quadratic voting. In my opinion:

1. The nice calculus identities that it satisfied are optimal under an assumption of individual strategic voting

2. There are some kinds of elections where people are mostly motivated to be strategic, and others where they're mostly motivated to be honest. Basically, strategy tends to happen when there are factions, "us vs. them"; otherwise, people don't bother.

3. But when there are factions, that means there will tend to be group-level strategic voting. And QV is no more robust, and possibly more vulnerable, to group-level strategy than other voting methods.

4. There are ways to patch QV to "fix" (3); but, as with many voting method patches, you create 2 new problems for every 1 you fix.

At a meta level: overall, my level of confidence in each of those points above is not particularly high. Say, on the order of 70% confident in each, and they're roughly independent. So that would mean that a chain of logic that relied on all four being true would only be roughly 25% reliable. But I suspect that for QV to be a bad idea, it's not necessary that all 4 of them are perfectly true; "most of them are mostly true" would be enough. So, say, 50% confidence that it's a bad idea. If your prior was 75% that it's a good idea, and if you trust me completely, you'd now think that it's 37.5% a good idea. (Which might be good enough to be worth a try, given that failure in this case wouldn't be so very bad.)

Also meta: Honestly, I don't think it's too arrogant to say that I doubt there's more than a handful of people in the world more qualified to opine on this than I am.

Gotta go now, but I'll respond on this more later, with an actual suggestion.

Comment by jameson-quinn on A voting theory primer for rationalists · 2019-12-12T17:49:39.897Z · score: 22 (6 votes) · LW · GW

As the author, I think this has generally stood the test of time pretty well. There are various changes I'd make if I were doing a rewrite today; but overall, these are minor.

Aside from those generally-minor changes, I think that the key message of this piece remains important to the purpose of Less Wrong. That is to say: making collective decisions, or (equivalently) statements about collective values, is a tough problem; it's important for rationalists; and studying existing theory on this topic is useful.

Here are the specific changes I'd make if I were going to rewrite this today:

  • The most significant change is that I'd probably start off with multi-winner voting theory, because I've come to believe that it is clearly more important than single-winner theory overall.
  • I would avoid quick-decaying cultural references such as the "American Chopper" meme. There are also a few passages where the language is noticeably awkward and could be rewritten for clarity.
  • Unlike my attitude in this piece, I've come to accept, although not to like, the "Rank Choice Voting" terminology.
  • I am no longer on the board of the CES; my term ended. I still endorse their work, though I wish they'd do more on multi-winner reform rather than focusing so strongly on single-winner methods.
  • Today, I wouldn't be quite so dismissive of the issues with asset voting. Though minor and probably resolvable in practice, they are actually quite thorny from a philosophical point of view.
  • On the topic of comparing multi-winner methods, and which ones are best, I have substantially more that I could say today. In fact, I plan to write this new material up as a new article in this series. In the context of this article, though, I wouldn't fully explain that new material, but rather just briefly outline it. Essentially: I have developed a metric for comparing outcomes of different voting methods. This metric is not directly utilitarian, but I have arguments that suggest it is among the "best known strategy-robust estimators of the difference from the optimal utilitarian outcome".
  • The hashtag "#ProRep" seems to have won over "#PropRep" as a way of tagging the topic of proportional representation.
  • I did not in fact finish the "playable exploration" that I talked about in the penultimate paragraph. But I did, just three days ago, finish my doctorate (defend my thesis) in statistics, so I may end up having time to finally make that playable exploration soon. Certainly, if I can get funded with at least $45K for around 6 months of work, I will finish that and other productive voting theory work that I think would be well worth the money.

Comment by jameson-quinn on Welcome and Open Thread June 2019 · 2019-06-13T23:14:44.128Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

<spoiler>Oh, good to know.</spoiler>

Comment by jameson-quinn on Welcome and Open Thread June 2019 · 2019-06-13T19:21:46.473Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Is there some way, when writing a post, to have a paragraph be collapsed by default? This would be useful both for "spoilers"/"answers", and for "footnotes"/"digressions"/"technical quibbles".

Comment by jameson-quinn on Humans Who Are Not Concentrating Are Not General Intelligences · 2019-04-10T13:28:00.775Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Absent unusual cases such as traumatic brain injury, there is no clear dividing line between "human who is concentrating" and "human who isn't concentrating". A normal human can switch back and forth between these states with no warning, either for well-motivated reasons ("wait, that doesn't make sense"/"bored now") or for essentially none. So I think "humans who aren't concentrating" is about transitory state, and "is/isn't a general intelligence" is about overall capacity; any equating between those two sides is a category error.

Comment by jameson-quinn on S-Curves for Trend Forecasting · 2019-03-05T01:11:05.461Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

How do I know when some trend isn't made of S-curves? How do S-curves help me make predictions, or, alternately, tell me when I shouldn't try predicting? Is this falsifiable?

Comment by jameson-quinn on Karma-Change Notifications · 2019-03-04T20:51:38.829Z · score: 6 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Minor point: on the settings page, the order of options for updates is currently "disabled, daily, weekly, realtime", when "disabled, weekly, daily, realtime" would make more sense.

Comment by jameson-quinn on Is voting theory important? An attempt to check my bias. · 2019-02-18T21:23:20.240Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Maine, not Massachusetts. Massachusetts will probably pass ranked voting in 2020, though.

"Starting at the local level and building up" is a good plan, but not the only one. For anti-gerrymandering fixes (that is, proportional representation), starting with the federal level could make sense.

Comment by jameson-quinn on Is voting theory important? An attempt to check my bias. · 2019-02-18T14:28:41.139Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I am a board member of the Center for Election Science, which was behind the campaign in Fargo. They definitely deserve your support, and are a big part of the improvement I see over 20 years. 20 years ago, the debate was largely between IRV and Condorcet; though approval voting had been proposed, its theoretical grounding was still not complete. Now, the theory of cardinal voting is much better, and we're beginning to seriously look at cardinal/ordinal hybrids such as STAR or 3-2-1. I could go on for pages about the intellectual history of this transition but I have to work on my thesis.

Are activists and academia one and the same? Sadly, not at all. That's why I, an activist, am at Harvard doing a PhD in statistics.

Yes, my ultimate targets are the big ones: the federal governments of the USA, Canada, and the UK. Aside from the Fargo case you mentioned, I was also deeply involved in the BC referendum on proportional representation last year; though this failed, I think we laid some good groundwork for future similar attempts in Quebec, PEI, and eventually Ontario. There's also some good reform energy in the US Pacific Northwest, with groups like, Counted, and Sightline. I could go on, but you get the idea.

Comment by jameson-quinn on Is voting theory important? An attempt to check my bias. · 2019-02-18T14:07:02.801Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think that there is a place for basic research here. By that I mean, research which, as much as possible, is motivated by fundamental bottlenecks, not by practical ones. Such research already exists in a tension between the specific and the abstract, and getting too abstract is one failure mode. My way of handling that tension is to metaphorically keep my feet on solid ground even as my eyes are on the horizon, and the specific immediate problems are that solid ground.

This is not to say that it is not good to look at the problem from the transhumanist angle, too. And in the countless hours I spend thinking about this stuff, a few of them point in that direction, even if I don't write it all here. But I think that even if your primary focus is the transhumanist angle, you should be happy that I'm over here looking at the problem mostly from a different angle.

("Your" there was directed to a generic/abstract reader, not specifically to Raemon.)

Comment by jameson-quinn on When to use quantilization · 2019-02-09T15:00:19.278Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Fair enough. You were thinking about the problem from the point of view of hiring a teacher; when projecting it onto the problem from the point of a teacher deciding how to teach, I had to make additional assumptions not in the original post (ie, that "teachers care about true performance to some degree").

Still, I think that putting it in concrete terms like this helped me understand (and agree with) the basic idea.

Comment by jameson-quinn on When to use quantilization · 2019-02-08T16:07:43.544Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Am I correct in saying that this suggests avoiding Goodhart's law by using pass/fail grading? Or at least, by putting a maximum on artificial rewards, such that optimizing for the reward is senseless beyond that point?

Let's take a common case of Goodhart's law: teachers who are paid based on their students' test scores. Imagine that teachers are either good or bad, and can either teach to the test (strategize) or not. Both true and measured performance are better on average for good teachers than for bad, but have some random variance. Meanwhile, true performance is better when teachers don't strategize, but measured performance is better when they do.

If good teachers care to some degree about true performance, and you set an appropriate cutoff and payouts, the "quantilized" equilibrium will be that good teachers don't strategize (since they're relatively confident that they can pass the threshold without it), but bad teachers do (to maximize their chances of passing the threshold). Meanwhile, good teachers still get higher average payouts than bad teachers. This is probably better than the Goodhart case where you manage to pay good teachers a bigger bonus relative to bad teachers, but all teachers strategize to maximize their payout. So this formalization seems to make sense in this simple test case.

ETA: I was trying to succinctly formalize the example above and I got as far as (U~𝒩(μ(teacher)-δ*strategy,σ²); I=-2δ*strategy ) but that is taking I as the difference between the test score and the true utility, not separating out test scores from payouts, and I don't want to write out all the complications that result from that so I quit. I hope that the words are enough to understand what I meant. Also I don't know why I was doing that via unicode when I should have just used LaTeX.

Comment by jameson-quinn on EA grants available (to individuals) · 2019-02-08T12:39:31.327Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW


I'll look into those possibilities. However, though my proposed work relates to AI alignment, it is not focused on that issue; and I'd consider it "outside the dominant paradigm" of AI alignment work.

Edited to add: I was going to do a separate post about those possibilities, but it appears that this website is a reasonably up-to-date summary of all the funding sources that are linked from that post, so me repeating that work would be redundant..

Comment by jameson-quinn on EA grants available (to individuals) · 2019-02-07T21:57:27.398Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

My time horizon is about 6 months. I could probably extend that by a few months but that would involve (tolerable but noticeable) sacrifices. So the difference between 1-6 months and 6-9 is meaningful to me, though not completely dispositive.

Comment by jameson-quinn on EA grants available (to individuals) · 2019-02-07T15:59:39.050Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Crossposted on EA forum.

Comment by jameson-quinn on Does the EA community do "basic science" grants? How do I get one? · 2019-02-07T14:15:12.126Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I am aware of the EA hotel, but since I have a family, I think it's probably not an option. Thanks for the EA forum suggestion; I planned to go there next, but thought here was the best place to start (highest upside-to-downside ratio for a half-baked query).

Comment by jameson-quinn on Does the EA community do "basic science" grants? How do I get one? · 2019-02-06T18:11:39.760Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I just published this, and it's not immediately clear to me whether or not I put it in the right place, as a personal post. I expected to be asked "where do you want to publish this" when I clicked "publish". I'll try to make sure it's in the right place but this interface is not transparent to me.

Comment by jameson-quinn on CDT=EDT=UDT · 2019-02-06T17:50:46.490Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I encounter the same problem when I'm writing about voting theory. But there is a set of people who have followed past discussion closely enough to follow something technical like this with a glossary, but not without one. My solution has been to make sure every acronym I use has an entry on electowiki, and then include a note saying so with a link to electowiki. I think you could helpfully do the same using less wrong wiki.

Comment by jameson-quinn on CDT=EDT=UDT · 2019-01-14T17:44:26.930Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Where's the glossary again?

Comment by jameson-quinn on Mandatory Obsessions · 2018-11-17T15:27:32.394Z · score: 14 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'm an obsessive about voting theory, and have been for over 20 years now. As time passes and my knowledge deepens, I find that while I still feel "this is really important and people don't pay enough attention to it", I feel less and less that "this is MORE important than whatever people are talking about here and now, and it should be my job to make them change the subject". Obviously I think this is a healthy change for me and my social graces, but it also means that you are more likely to hear about voting theory from a younger, shallower version of me than you are from me.

I don't know how to solve that problem. It's one thing to be immune enough to evangelists so that you can keep a balance of caring across multiple issues, as discussed in the post above; it's another harder thing to be immune enough yet still curious enough to find your way past the proselytizers to the calmer, more-mature non-evangelist obsessives.