Posts

Texas Freeze Retrospective: meetup notes 2021-03-03T14:48:18.965Z
Texas Freeze Retrospective & Emergency Planning (Non-Texans Welcome!) 2021-02-25T00:05:24.199Z
Teacher's Password: The LessWrong Mystery Hunt Team 2020-12-04T00:04:42.900Z
Interest survey: Forming an MIT Mystery Hunt team (Jan. 15-18, 2021) 2020-11-13T18:33:13.745Z
Austin Petrov Day: 6:30pm 9/26 2020-09-08T14:23:53.079Z
Socially-distanced outdoor Petrov Day ceremonial manual 2020-08-24T14:11:49.804Z
Austin LW/SSC Far-comers Meetup: Feb. 8, 1:30pm 2020-01-14T14:46:33.173Z
Austin LW: Survey for far-traveling attendees Jan-Feb 2020 2019-12-30T15:40:22.442Z
Austin meetup notes Nov. 16, 2019: SSC discussion 2019-11-19T13:30:53.446Z
Austin LW/SSC/EA "Meetups Everywhere" Meetup: 9/30 6pm 2019-09-12T05:40:14.096Z

Comments

Comment by jchan on Unconvenient consequences of the logic behind the second law of thermodynamics · 2021-03-09T01:00:11.269Z · LW · GW

Maybe we are anthropically more likely to find ourselves in places with low komolgorov complexity descriptions. ("All possible bitstrings, in order" is not a good law of physics, just because it contains us somewhere).

Another way of thinking about this, which amounts to the same thing: Holding the laws of physics constant, the Solomonoff prior will assign much more probability to a universe that evolves from a minimal-entropy initial state, than to one that starts off in thermal equilibrium. In other words:

  • Description 1: The laws of physics + The Big Bang
  • Description 2: The laws of physics + some arbitrary configuration of particles

Description 1 is much shorter than Description 2, because the Big Bang is much simpler to describe than some arbitrary configuration of particles. Even after the heat-death of the universe, it's still simpler to describe it as "the Big Bang, 10^zillion years on" rather than by exhaustive enumeration of all the particles.

This dispenses with the "paradox" of Boltzmann Brains, and Roger Penrose's puzzle about why the Big Bang had such low entropy despite its overwhelming improbability.

Comment by jchan on Unconvenient consequences of the logic behind the second law of thermodynamics · 2021-03-09T00:49:17.864Z · LW · GW

Here's the way I understand it: A low-entropy state takes fewer bits to describe, and a high-entropy state takes more. Therefore, a high-entropy state can contain a description of a low-entropy state, but not vice-versa. This means that memories of the state of the universe can only point in the direction of decreasing entropy, i.e. into the past.

Comment by jchan on Texas Freeze Retrospective: meetup notes · 2021-03-04T07:21:08.170Z · LW · GW

I think the "normal items that helped" category is especially important, because it's costly in terms of money, time, and space to get prepper gear specifically for the whole long tail of possible disasters. If resources are limited, then it's best to focus on buying things that are both useful in everyday life and also are the general kind-of-thing that's useful in disaster scenarios, even if you can't specifically anticipate how.

Comment by jchan on Texas Freeze Retrospective: meetup notes · 2021-03-04T07:06:50.181Z · LW · GW

Good to know that this was useful. I hadn't thought of this meetup as "journalism," but I suppose it was in a sense.

Comment by jchan on Teacher's Password: The LessWrong Mystery Hunt Team · 2020-12-04T01:38:14.707Z · LW · GW

Same here.

Comment by jchan on Interest survey: Forming an MIT Mystery Hunt team (Jan. 15-18, 2021) · 2020-11-13T23:06:04.434Z · LW · GW

You may be right... I just need a rough headcount now, so if you want to take time to ponder the team name feel free to leave it blank now and then submit the form again later with your suggestion. (Edited the form to say so.)

Comment by jchan on The Solomonoff Prior is Malign · 2020-10-25T18:37:39.867Z · LW · GW

I'm trying to wrap my head around this. Would the following be an accurate restatement of the argument?

  1. Start with the Dr. Evil thought experiment, which shows that it's possible to be coerced into doing something by an agent who has no physical access to you, other than communication.
  2. We can extend this to the case where the agents are in two separate universes, if we suppose that (a) the communication can be replaced with an acausal negotation, with each agent deducing the existence and motives of the other; and that (b) the Earthlings (the ones coercing Dr. Evil) care about what goes on in Dr. Evil's universe.
    • Argument for (a): With sufficient computing power, one can run simulations of another universe to figure out what agents live within that universe.
    • Argument for (b): For example, the Earthlings might want Dr. Evil to write embodied replicas of them in his own universe, thus increasing the measure of their own consciousness. This is not different in kind from you wanting to increase the probability of your own survival - in both cases, the goal is to increase the measure of worlds in which you live.
  3. To promote their goal, when the Earthlings run their simulation of Dr. Evil, they will intervene in the simulation to punish/reward the simulated Dr. Evil depending on whether he does what they (the Earthlings) want.
  4. For his own part, Dr. Evil, if he is using the Solomonoff prior to predict what happens next in his universe, must give some probability to the hypothesis that him being in such a simulation is in fact what explains all of his experiences up till that point (rather than him being a ground-level being). And if that hypothesis is true, then Dr. Evil will expect to be rewarded/punished based on whether he carries out the wishes of the Earthlings. So, he will modify his actions accordingly.
  5. The probability of the simulation hypothesis may be non-negligible, because the Solomonoff prior considers only the complexity of the hypothesis and not that of the computation unfolding from it. In fact, the hypothesis "There is a universe with laws A+B+C, which produces Earthlings who run a simulation with laws X+Y+Z which produces Dr. Evil, but then intervene in the simulation as described in #3" may actually be simpler (and thus more probable) than "There is a universe with laws X+Y+Z which produces Dr. Evil, and those laws hold forever".
Comment by jchan on Postmortem to Petrov Day, 2020 · 2020-10-04T13:32:34.084Z · LW · GW

I’d suggest that even a counterfactual donation of $100 to charity not occurring would feel more significant than the frontpage going down for a day.

This suggests an interesting idea: A charity drive for the week leading up to Petrov Day, on condition that the funds will be publicly wasted if anyone pushes the button (e.g. by sending bitcoin to a dead-end address, or donating to two opposing politicians' campaigns).

Comment by jchan on What are examples of Rationalist fable-like stories? · 2020-09-29T06:01:56.640Z · LW · GW

Archimedes's Chronophone

Comment by jchan on On "Not Screwing Up Ritual Candles" · 2020-09-28T17:57:13.773Z · LW · GW

For an outdoor ceremony, you'll want to avoid open flames because (a) the wind might blow them out, and (b) they'll attract bugs that die in the flame. Instead you can use lanterns like these. (Peel off the branding sticker for a cleaner look.) The aesthetic ends up being more rugged/industrial than fancy/refined.

Practical considerations when using these lanterns:

  1. The glass window and the upper surface of the lantern get extremely hot (enough to boil water, at least). Use an oven mitt to manipulate these parts.
  2. For this reason, opening and closing the window is cumbersome. To light the lantern or transfer the flame, use a thin bamboo skewer that you can insert through the gap in the top of the lantern. When you're done with the skewer, douse it in a jar of sand (not water, so you can reuse it).
    • This method also loses the "Can­dle #1 [being] the one light­ing Can­dle #2, rather than vice-versa" distinction.
    • What does the skewer itself symbolize? Perhaps "the generations who died carrying #1 forward to #2 without ever seeing the result" (I dunno, I just made that up now; maybe it doesn't need to symbolize anything.)
  3. The flame can be extinguished by pushing down the top of the lantern (using an oven mitt) into its "collapsed" position, and then placing an inverted glass bowl on top of it for 3-5 seconds to choke off its oxygen supply. (Glass, rather than ceramic or metal, so that you can see when the flame has gone out.) Then un-collapse the lantern, again using the oven mitt. (See the video on the Amazon page for a demo of collapsing/uncollapsing.)
    • Or, you can blow sharply through the top of the lantern, but this is difficult if you're wearing a mask.
    • If you've opened the window in order to pour wax from the candle, collapsing+uncollapsing is the easiest way to re-close the window.
Comment by jchan on Petrov Day 2020 Virtual Celebration · 2020-09-26T19:12:14.326Z · LW · GW

There will be a Petrov Day Free-writing activity 5:00-5:30pm 5:10-5:40pm (Eastern time), where we all collaboratively edit a Google doc. I will edit this comment with the doc link when the activity begins, and delete this comment once it's done.

Edit: Actually the start and end time is 10 minutes later than initially planned.

Edit 2: Here's the doc.

Comment by jchan on Petrov Day 2020 Virtual Celebration · 2020-09-14T16:39:37.549Z · LW · GW

What chat/meeting tool will be used for this event?

Comment by jchan on Austin LW/SSC Far-comers Meetup: Feb. 8, 1:30pm · 2020-02-07T12:59:40.411Z · LW · GW

Reminder: The Austin Far-comers Meetup is tomorrow! Here's the announcement on our mailing list: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/austin-less-wrong/fG6anRooLY0

Comment by jchan on Austin LW: Survey for far-traveling attendees Jan-Feb 2020 · 2020-01-07T14:45:47.248Z · LW · GW

Reminder to complete this survey by the end of today.

Comment by jchan on Austin meetup notes Nov. 16, 2019: SSC discussion · 2019-11-19T13:33:35.116Z · LW · GW

Does that mean we'll get more progress if everyone in a certain field gathers in one place? Perhaps.

After thinking about this a bit, I'm not sure I agree. First, gathering everyone together puts all the eggs in one basket, which risks vulnerability to external disruption (e.g. the Nazis taking over Budapest). Second, a brain-drain of intellectuals into one central city deprives up-and-coming students (if they can't afford to relocate) of teachers and mentors.