Comment by jmh on When does adding more people reliably make a system better? · 2019-07-19T13:41:42.468Z · score: 8 (3 votes) · LW · GW

From a slightly different slant, where I work the executives decided, maybe 5 years ago, that they would start hiring only from the 10 schools and only the top candidates from those schools. When we get a new CEO during one of the company "townhall" meetings that subject came up.

The new CEO noted a discussion in the board room related to that. The bottom line was that for the most part none of the top people had degrees from such schools. One might add that the company had grown to it's dominant market position with a workforce that did not reflect such a profile either.

It would seem the approach was scrapped.

I think the underlying approaches are actually the same -- the desire for a "simple" (at least in the sense of clearly defined process or heuristic) solution to a rather difficult problem. How does one recognize just how will add great value to future activities that are by nature not really driven by any one individual's abilities or direct contribution?

Comment by jmh on Why did we wait so long for the bicycle? · 2019-07-18T11:50:59.910Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That someone happens at some point rather than another point is an interesting question to explore but is also one that probably seldom has good answers. Still, intellectual curiosity is a goal in self.

I wonder if a better starting point for the inquiry might not actually be why the invention was invented when it was -- why the inventor made the effort in the first place. What problem was being solved. We can then look at various limiting factors to see if they would have made the effort futile if done at some earlier period of time.

That might help place some markets in history on when the invention became feasible.

But the question seems to have the two parts:

1) When the realities of the world support such an action/invention.

2) When does someone have that "oh, duh" moment when they thing "We could do this [easier] if X were present and I can figure out how to have X."

We can reasonably get answers to the first part. I think for the second part we will find that more challenging.

A related question might also be about inventive thoughts and vision that were impossible at the time they were thought and theoretically designed and what role they had an shaping the future.

That reminds me lyrics in an old song (old as in 80 or 90s not 1500s ;-) "if you cannot change the world change yourself. if you cannot change yourself, change the world"

Comment by jmh on Why did we wait so long for the bicycle? · 2019-07-18T11:30:11.180Z · score: 11 (4 votes) · LW · GW

" willing to abandon ancestor worship, " this phrase in particular makes me wonder if the question here and the one about why China didn't invent science don't share much in the analytical domain space.

Comment by jmh on How can guesstimates work? · 2019-07-11T12:55:31.279Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This statement made me wonder: " Things are generally closer to optimal equilibria, and equilibria are more legible/predictable than non-quilibria."

And I might be thinking incorrectly myself here as well as not fully following your though.

Why would the equilibria position be more predictable than off equilibria? One thought might be that we have this sense of balance so in an equilibrium we feel that it right (and using "feel" is probably a poor word choice but little time to find the right word). But that doesn't mean we can then make any types of predictions.

The thought that came to me was more along the idea, if we generally understand where the equilbirum position should be then we have some idea of where we should go. (Think standard econ theory of prices as signals and arbitrage to equilibrate across markets).

However, if we are at the equilibrium position it might not be clear what happens if we do something we want to do but have never done before. Will that be consistent with equilibrium or disruptive. I think this does fit with the whole "guestimate" approach to predication and forecasting. Perhaps your view on more predictability then comes from having the equilibrium as the initial position you start from. But what if equilibrium is more like a place where information is actually lost?

Comment by jmh on 87,000 Hours or: Thoughts on Home Ownership · 2019-07-10T14:04:03.259Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think one aspect is that financial assets are merely stores of wealth with potential for growth/returns as well as risks. The house has both of those as well as a direct use value in consuming the housing services. Additionally it offers something of a risk/uncertainty mitigating role. Once paid for the cost of consuming that housing services is pretty low so even if you see a bit hit to your income you still have a stable place to build from.

I think it's really all the non-pecuniary aspects that get missed when analysis starts relying too strongly on the monetary equivalence point of view; by which I mean we start filtering those aspects out and just don't see them.

Comment by jmh on Do bond yield curve inversions really indicate there is likely to be a recession? · 2019-07-10T12:14:12.882Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

A couple of thoughts.

One, the inversion seems to be in line with most credit cycle theories of economic activity I think. Basically, during an expansion debt increases and as the economy reaches it's peak you may see more reliance on shorter term debt for a number of reasons. When the short term debt costs rise that type of financing drives costs up, and so the marginal activities out of the market. Market activities are interdependent within an economy so you start seeing the domino effect play out.

The other thought I had was are we talking real economic activities, recession, or financial market activities (bear market/crash)? I think that matters if one wants to explore "what actions" anyone might consider taking. And, the answer will likely depend on the person's specific situation. Here it might be a bit like the distinction between recession and depressions -- recession if your neighbor looses the job, depression is you loose the job. How secure is your employment and income outlook is probably a more important question than if we have a recession in 2020.

I found this and it might have some insights for you. I think the point that every case of inverted curves is not the same -- you need to understand the underlying drivers -- is particularly important to consider. As always, the devil will be in the details but everyone seems to want the simple heuristic. (I would think some Bayesian would be having fun here and maybe someone has info on that type of insight). I recall seeing something about duration of the inversion as well mattering but I seriously doubt one could say X days/weeks or less no recession but over that....

I think one can look at the curve inversion as one data element, not really a primary cause (my first comment aside) and put that in context with a number of other aspect. One, we've had a very long expansion -- but it's not be really exciting so perhaps it can run longer. We are in a presidential election cycle; they tent to be possible for aggregate economic activity. The geopolitical landscape is disturbing at best but it's not clear to me if that will be a positive or negative for any given domestic economy, USA or other. Inflation remains tame. Employment mostly okay (USA markets at least).

I think fears of recessions provide something of a wake up call to many. They worry and then look at what they have done in terms of savings and borrowing and it probably scares many. Rather than treating the situation as something of a new years resolution -- so soon forgotten once the new years passes -- consider making changes to behavior in the good times.

Comment by jmh on "Rationalizing" and "Sitting Bolt Upright in Alarm." · 2019-07-09T12:05:05.954Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Would you place motivated errors, generally, in the same bucket as confirmation bias type thinking?

Comment by jmh on 87,000 Hours or: Thoughts on Home Ownership · 2019-07-08T11:44:13.706Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I did not read -- so probably should not comment, but will anyway. In a very quick skimming nothing jumped out at me regarding the aspect of time horizons and particularly wealth transfer to the next generation.

Did I just miss that? If not would adding the idea of inter temporal transfers (inheritance) change any of the conclusions?

[Edit to add] While not about a house, I recently sold a trailer and truck. Given the response I was clearly under market price but as I was really interested starting to "clean up" my possessions I am not crying about the possible opportunity loss there. But was I did give some thought to was: What was a rough estimate of the rental rate on the two for the time I owned them. A very quick and crude calculation in my head came to under $400 a month easily.

That is a little deceptive in that these were not really used daily or even weekly -- lots of down time. So (assuming I could even find a place to rent what I had) I might have come about better renting rather than buying. But that is only because I was not using them daily. If the house worked out the same I think I come out miles ahead buying the house in most situation. (Anecdotal to be sure and possible not a good comparison setting)

Comment by jmh on A Sketch of Good Communication · 2019-07-01T16:44:07.271Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Not sure how, of even if, this relates but seemed somewhat connected to what you're looking at.

For some reason your parenthetical made me think of some of what Smolin was saying about how we view the universe and how we should try to model it.

Comment by jmh on How can we measure creativity? · 2019-07-01T15:09:20.703Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

" But I don't have anything better to use for my actual goal, which is a measurable task that taxes creativity and *nothing else* "

Maybe I'm reading this wrong, but why would one want to tax creativity? Seems to me that for the most part, creativity will have a lot of public good characteristics -- though I suppose one might suggest creative destruction is a better view...

Comment by jmh on The Competence Myth · 2019-07-01T12:30:28.241Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Not completely surprised but would wonder how much of that is accounted by merger and it that should be considered the same as failure/bankruptcy cases.

I suspect the technology that would make mergers less costly has increased since the 50s. If so there were perhaps mergers that were not taking place but would have.

Comment by jmh on The Competence Myth · 2019-07-01T12:26:31.462Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Sounds like the margins of life are ruled by the Peter Principle.

Comment by jmh on Apocalypse, corrupted · 2019-07-01T12:17:41.925Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect that is true but wonder if that works the best or not. This may apply in a lot of cases -- and may be wrong but I don't think so. The culture where I work is very much about reinforcing the positives and ignoring the flaws (within limits). The rule might be stated as reward the desired behaviors and ignore the bad behaviors (again within some limits as accountability is also expected -- just seems to be more about trying to get everyone to be accountable themselves rather than walking around with the stick).

That seems like it might apply in a number of settings. The company is a successful, global corporation and is seen as a top performer and preferred place of employment in the market (will not disclose though) so it seems like it is not a terrible approach.

I think this might apply to raising children as well. Children will see the attention of their parents. If the parent tends to focus on the errors and mistakes then the child is likely to act up to get more mommy or daddy time -- even when it's not pleasant. That then leads to forming similar relationships later in life.

Not sure how well that might apply to larger settings like legal punishments. I think there might be something there -- forget the saying but basically prison creates hardened criminals out of normal people many times. Still in that setting the few are really seeing the approval of any authority figures so might not apply as well -- even ignoring the fact that most cases will be outside the limits of the use the honey not vinegar rule.

Of course this is something of a could/should versus is setting I think -- you are simply suggesting the empirical state not suggesting what might be an improvement. Still, the dynamics seem rather more complicated then would be needed to make the the assumption you seem to start with.

I did just have a thought -- may or may not be interesting here -- regarding the intra-group and inter-group relationships suggested. If we accept that the intra-group relationships under stress might be more cooperative (for survival incentives), then characterizing the post- apocalyptic setting as "defect" or a Hobbesean state of nature seems to suggest that most of the interactions will be inter-group rather than intra-group. That seems questionable to me but I might be thinking wrong on that.

Comment by jmh on Apocalypse, corrupted · 2019-06-27T12:13:37.594Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm wondering why you think corruption is the natural outcome. The reason I am asking was having seen one of the Nat Geo (or similar) shows about a pride of lion in a less than optimal location for lions. What was observed was that this pride of lions actually cooperated more (in sharing food rather than all fighting over it per some status/badness ranking) than was observe in prides in more suitable territories.

It might have been in this forum, not sure, where someone pointed to some literature about the possibly counter intuitive outcome that hardship of groups actually promoted the cooperative behaviors -- suggesting corruption might be more likely in the pre-apocalyptic setting.

Contrary to what we see in movies, is it possible that the post-apocalyptic setting might actually produce a more merit driven social setting that one of corruption and nepotism?

Comment by jmh on Being the (Pareto) Best in the World · 2019-06-25T13:15:37.774Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

" Third, this whole strategy inherently involves trailblazing. You have to do something which nobody has done before - that's kinda the point. "

But more than that, you need to blaze a new trail that still fits in with the needs of the world around you. A new trail to the cliff no one wants to be on doesn't get you much but a rather long fall I think ;-)

But in general I like the observation you've made.

Comment by jmh on The Parable of the Dagger · 2019-06-25T13:10:29.565Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'll somewhat echo what CynicalOptimist wrote. I think the message is is one any first semester logic student should have been taught or know: a valid argument is not necessarily true. The validity of an argument's conclusion is all about form of the argument. The truth of the conclusion is an external fact existing completely independent from the argument's structure.

Comment by jmh on Is the "business cycle" an actual economic principle? · 2019-06-18T19:26:03.327Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

As mentioned the ABCT has some good points in explaining why things might happen. But I also think the coordination problem over time in terms of economic activity will inherently get things wrong, so downturns will occur.

There have also been some evidence that political event, like various elections, can influence.

I don't think any lend themselves to true function precision (echoing the time problem moses mentions).

I would ask if you're inquiring based on financial market fluctuations are if you're asking about real business cycles (recession/depression and expansion/contraction) events. I think characterizing real economic cycles as driven by a random process would be problematic -- even if one might suggest that the sale of any given can of soup might be modeled that way.

Learning Over Time for AI and Humans and Rationality

2019-06-13T13:23:58.639Z · score: 5 (2 votes)
Comment by jmh on Get Rich Real Slowly · 2019-06-11T12:35:04.454Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Like Dagon, I would like to see some argument for the smaller, lower volatility (risk) approach is preferred -- particularly as you seem to imply this is what everyone should be doing.

I don't see the argument that everyone can get rich slowly. I get that the suggested approach is great for some return while preserving existing capital/wealth. But that is really only useful to those that are already rich. 2% on $100,000,000 is not a bad income stream to live off ;-) That 2% on your $1000 you scraped together from spare change is not going to provide for your retirement.

I think clarifying just who the audience for the advise is would be really helpful.

Comment by jmh on Get Rich Real Slowly · 2019-06-11T12:29:31.332Z · score: 2 (3 votes) · LW · GW

A quick google seach:

Might be helpful. Or at least another starting point.

Comment by jmh on References that treat human values as units of selection? · 2019-06-10T12:00:23.196Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Until I saw this discussion I don't think I ever (consciously) thought of values (outside the value=price economic view) in the way this discussion seems to cast the light for me. Both the idea of values as units of choice (like goods) and the thought on the fragility of values (systems I think was implied) seem to put me on that line.

When we think about economic crisis (boo-bust cycles, depression events and various fluctuations in patterns of global trade) I wonder if the same is true for the value systems. Both are built up from some unit level type decisions. The units stand in various types of relationships (tight-loose, complementary-substitutes, near-term - far-term) in a relative sense. When anything changes there are ripple effects. Some will be more isolated, some will cascade.

Similarly, in the economic sphere, no one really choose the overall pattern of the economy or structure of production, it's largely an outcome. The approach of treating values as units and considering the fragility of the future based on any given set of values in place seems very similar.

That would suggest that an AI with a different set of values (and prioritization/valuation of the values in the set) will potentially have large impact. But it also suggests that it might not be able to drive a future it wants over that of what humans want. That perhaps is hopeful.

Comment by jmh on Asymmetric Justice · 2019-06-05T12:48:52.434Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not quite sure how I want to react here. Clearly there are some important aspects and a good intellectual inquiry and analysis will offer insights. On the other side I have this whisper in the back of my mind saying "Isn't a lot of this too much like the how many angels can dance on a pin head discussion?" (Note, this is from reading the post and some comments -- not the recommended source link...but that is inaction so I should be safe right ;-)

In a more serious note (but feeding into the pin head aspect I think) I don't see how you get to separate out in action from inaction if the starting point is results. You stop consuming -- now you put good businesses out of work and end up contributing to the death of other people. Inaction is just another form of action.

I think rather than seeing this setup as promoting inaction as the best policy I see it more are inaction from punishments for things we don't understand. No action produces a good result so you don't know what to do. I think there have been a number of studies that show this is the psychological result of random punishment (where sometimes the test subject gets food/water from pushing the lever and sometimes it gets a shock or sometimes nothing or where it just get randomly shocked whether it does something or nothing -- but always faces a risk of shock if doing something).

This seems to be in line with the poker game metaphor for the laws of thermodynamics:

1) You cannot win.

2) You cannot break even.

3) You cannot quit.

I was a bit curious about the "this is how law works" statement. At first I thought you were going to bring up strict liability (which seems to be how the punishment for unintended and unknown results seems to be similar to) but then you seemed to suggest it was about ensuring that the prosecutor will always have some way to charge anyone. Do you really see that as a legal system design goal? Or were you really saying the complexity (and really poor maintenance of older laws on the books) produces that situation. So in that view, we have a poor institutional design? (I would argue that applies more to the statutory regimes more so than to those coming out of a stronger common law heritage).

Comment by jmh on What is a good moment to start writing? · 2019-05-30T15:29:42.414Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

" I know much more than a year ago. If I explain my ideas now, I'm going to be embarrassed by it next year. "

My take is that the ideas are typically not something to be embarrassed about. But perhaps that is viewing idea as something other than "developed theory/model" or "answer".

If you wait until you are sure you won't be embarrassed in the future you may never say very much. (I wonder if your post here is somewhat related to the earlier post about saying it wrong.) And when you do you may not really be adding anything to what has already been said --then again I was told a long time ago that most of us will never say/write anything that new; but we will say/write that in our way so....

Comment by jmh on What should rationalists think about the recent claims that air force pilots observed UFOs? · 2019-05-29T16:52:10.802Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The last questions would seem to beg the follow up of, and yet we still have no other indication of ET life beyond the most simple forms.

Comment by jmh on What should rationalists think about the recent claims that air force pilots observed UFOs? · 2019-05-28T17:18:10.345Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I have no idea about the truth of the statement but the person who told me was a rather level headed and very smart person. He mentioned that most of the new cutting edge stuff we see tended to be prototyped about 20 years prior. Fits well with your timing.

Comment by jmh on What should rationalists think about the recent claims that air force pilots observed UFOs? · 2019-05-28T17:15:42.596Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The story I just saw, with a nice video as well, makes me wonder about the "full of glitches" view. They show something on their sensors (radar, infrared) but then note they can not see anything visually but should. Is the conclusion we have some form of cloaking technology at play (it does exist from what I hear but currently only very limited application due to constraints)? So perhaps we should assume the pilot's vision is fine (they are supposed to have very good eye sight after all) and there is just something odd in the sensors -- or even that there are conditions that produce such false positives.

Comment by jmh on Say Wrong Things · 2019-05-28T12:14:18.994Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

As is was reading one old saying was popping into my head: Better to say nothing and be thought a fool than open you mouth and prove yourself a fool. (or something close to that)

That does seem to be something of a view argued against and I think that justified in many ways. It is a gray field and no lines really in my opinion.

A couple of thoughts though. Typically we have facts and knowledge (less wrong) but hardly anything approaching complete knowledge. We will always have many opportunities to apply what we know to new areas. In some cases others have been there before so we reinvent the wheel to some extent which is okay. We might get pointed to that literature but should really not be chastised for doing original thinking ourselves even if we get it a bit wrong -- that's how we all learn.

In other cases there it may well be new territory and that means purely subjective for some period of time. The statistical testing of models, and the model development, are just ways of trying to figure out how to do something useful in a new area with what we already know. This is really where new knowledge arises to my thinking.

Perhaps the calculations should not be the ratio of what someone gets right to what they have wrong but rather what value came from what they got right (with some consideration for any costs from what they got wrong). Its probably safe (conservative?) to say that the world is better due to the risk takers and not the conservative thinker wanting to be more right than wrong.

Comment by jmh on What is your personal experience with "having a meaningful life"? · 2019-05-23T16:53:44.447Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Short answers here I think:

1. Yes

2. Happy (happier...less sad/melancholy)

3. Sad, listless. Why get up today... Why try...

4. Pretty much the same way I feel about being me -- or needing to breath a gas with oxygen.

Comment by jmh on And the AI would have got away with it too, if... · 2019-05-23T13:41:03.446Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think that is a great insight. If we are going to rely on good institutions to tame behaviors, create the incentives that promote the desired behaviors, then we need the time for those institutions to develop to the point they can serve the purpose.

Perhaps rather than the current lit on P-A problems and how they are resolved today, one needs to look at the old histories about how such institutions arose and the various paths, and back tracking I suspect, that history shows.

If I understand one of the big concerns about AI in this regard, we also need to keep in mind that we might not have the same luxury of long times for institutional development and evolution in response to poor structures and the many unknowns that are discovered.

Comment by jmh on Yes Requires the Possibility of No · 2019-05-21T16:48:03.545Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW


Okay that helps some but I'm still really at a loss as to what that actionable proposal might be. I suspect in most of the cases it's not merely that one needs to accept the answer might be "No." (The strategy there is often "Better to ask forgiveness than permission." ) but more about how to over come the barriers and get that honest response.

Perhaps adding some bits to each case on how to overcome the barrier to the honest answer (Yes or No) would have been helpful if the problem was not getting that honest "No" or how to really accept that "No" outcome should be allowed (not staking the deck).

Comment by jmh on Why I've started using NoScript · 2019-05-20T12:22:20.743Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

[Rana hits on most of what I say here, but more clearly I think.]

I agree, there is a lot that happens in real interactions that is similar but seems much different.

First, the store clerk is limited largely to that store. The virtual world and big data is about taking all my other activities and then using that to guide how the clerk engages me in that one store. The parallel there would be having that clerk follow me around all day documenting everything I do, buy, look at....

I have more control over what information I provide the clerk. Clearly that person will know my sex/gender, approximate age and other physical traits. If they are really attentive, and able to see, they might know what type of car I drive and would be able to guess at socioeconomic status based on dress, speech and manner/demeanor. They will generally not know my name, address or approximate location, my travel habits, where I might work or my larger social circle.

Much of the information now collected is something I have no control over. For the clerk I can do any number of things to control what information I share. This is not the case in the virtual world. So, that gets me back to the "If someone did this in the real world...."

It's not that I'm saying everything should be taken as stalking but rather it should be considered more carefully. I've just never really seen the issue framed as how would this look if done in the "old fashioned" shopping/commercial interaction setting. Would that change anything?

Comment by jmh on Yes Requires the Possibility of No · 2019-05-20T12:09:00.324Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I am struggling to understand the goal of the post. We have the 9 scenarios but exactly what is the target?

In some cases I would say "The truth hurts." is the well-know saying that fits and so we have the social grace of white lies.

In others I would say we live in a world of uncertainty and will never really enjoy the luxury of 100% knowing if something is true or not. We end up actually taking things on faith (that's not limited to religions).

Last, we have cases where we have a responsibility to be honest, both with ourselves and others (perhaps case 1 fits here). The goal here then is how to be honest in a constructive way.

Comment by jmh on Which scientific discovery was most ahead of its time? · 2019-05-17T13:37:17.747Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In assessing the question don't we also need to look at other, probably failed and perhaps even "quackish discoveries" to get much meaning from the identification? What I'm wondering about here is, are we fully identifying what was really a good scientific insight or merely the winner of a bunch if creative theories/ideas from the time?

I think it would also be interesting to consider cases where ideas were initially too at odds with the existing state of knowledge and largely ignored but later rediscovered and found to have been insights that did lead to advances in knowledge -- theoretical and applied.

That would be the companion volume to the one about "wrong theories and scientific facts we used to accept as true."

Anyone know of such a book?

Comment by jmh on Why I've started using NoScript · 2019-05-17T13:19:25.812Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Tangent to the general discussion here I would be interested in hearing other's opinions on a view I hold regarding the entire state of affair with online marketing techniques around tracking (both in terms of URL and geolocation).

I try to think about what we would do if marketing followed the same approach in the real world as in the virtual world (assume the costs were near zero). I would think most people would consider the real world actions to be a form of stalking and considered illegal.

Why treat it differently in the virtual world?

Comment by jmh on Eight Books To Read · 2019-05-16T15:03:00.818Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I certainly agree with the view on news (and wish some journalists and editors would take up the challenge of improving their industry). Without a better context, informed by the local aspects around any news story, it's really difficult to come away with an informed understanding and view.

I am struck by one aspect of the latter idea, for understanding global society. It seems very western centered and so possibly could lead to unintentional biases.

I do realize that the alternative is a bit challenging, we can read important books from other cultural heritages but I suspect most will be limited as I am to those translated into English. That itself will introduce a slant that could be "western" biased as well.

Overall good advice and thanks for posting.

Comment by jmh on On the Nature of Programming Languages · 2019-04-24T12:53:35.211Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW
An intelligence that is not hindered by human shortcomings would just create the algorithm and run it without any intermediate language/compiler/debugger needed.

Is that a "There are 10 types of entities in the universe. Those the understand binary and those that don't" type of statement ;-)

I did find the initial question interesting but suspect it will remain one debated a while -- which is not a bad thing. Our existence is rather messy and tangled so ultimate truths or answers probably more transient than enduring.

Comment by jmh on [Answer] Why wasn't science invented in China? · 2019-04-24T12:31:21.208Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

And it probably did not hurt that the Romans saw the Greeks as "thinkers" and also spread their ideas westward (north?).

Comment by jmh on [Answer] Why wasn't science invented in China? · 2019-04-24T12:27:45.547Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Two responses from skimming the essay. 1) I didn't see much about culture in the comparison. Certainly the Chinese, and other Asian cultures of the time, were aware of things like gun power before Europeans. But when I think of things like science and how it relates/is interpreted by society I get the impression much depends on the application of the technology. 2) Relates to culture but is more about what lens we apply in viewing the progress. Many think Chinese Medicine is voodoo and BS and that view was I think largely pushed by a narrow vision from a European perspective. I think any fair assessment would say eastern medicine is not really inferior to western medicine -- both have strengths and weaknesses. I would say both derive from science and a scientific method.

I suspect both these aspects, the underlying culture and the type of lens that culture imposes if one is not careful may have played a role in casting your question and the answers you tentatively find.

Comment by jmh on Moving to a World Beyond “p < 0.05” · 2019-04-22T14:43:31.772Z · score: -1 (2 votes) · LW · GW

One of the ideas voiced seems to be that too many scientists (hard and soft) want to shortcut the work of actually studying the data and analyzing it. Put a bit more tersely, too many are lazy. I wonder how much that is driven by

1) the demands to publish (and the refereeing process) in academia and other research based organizations

2) Funding by NSF and similar public money grant program.

3) The general view that education and degrees are necessary for successful participation in a modern economy -- particularly when most employment is within large corporate entities.

I also thought it a bit interesting that they mentioned confidence intervals as an alternative. The problem there, it seems, is that too many don't understand what those really are. They see that their estimated value is within a 95% confidence interval and claim the probability that they estimate is correct is 95%. That is not what that statistic is saying.

Comment by jmh on What are CAIS' boldest near/medium-term predictions? · 2019-03-29T15:15:18.429Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've not read the paper, but did just go to the link. One thing I would be interested in hearing from the community here on is Figure 1, Classes of intelligent systems.

I am a bit surprised that I don't see any type of parallel references in the higher order levels to human related institutions. If we're putting humans at the individual agent level it seems some of the existing human institutions might fit at the higher, information or task-oriented, level.

Comment by jmh on Do you like bullet points? · 2019-03-27T19:18:57.292Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

On thing that comes to mind for me here is the ability to identify points (for refutation or otherwise) than is often the case with prose.

In a sense I read that as a statement about decomposing a written argument that is not laid out as some formal logical argument (p1, p2, p3, ... qed). I'm not entirely sure that is the case but rather more about the writers skills.

So one thought is which allows someone to most clearly articulate their reasoning -- at least for the case where an argument is actually being made?

I did like the idea that we do think in "bullets" and these thoughts are not initially logically ordered -- that follows from the first and second round of thinking I suspect.

I general I do like both bulleted and enumerated lists but am not sure they are generally the best style for blog entries -- in that a poorly presented listing is as confusing as rambling prose. I think they are great for getting points defined and possibly very good for posts seeking to start a discussion about how they relate or where they might collectively lead if the author is looking for that type of feedback.

I also find it interesting -- and true for me -- that bold in a bullet list context does prompt me to jump on rather than finishing the bullet where as in prose that does not occur.

Comment by jmh on Blackmailers are privateers in the war on hypocrisy · 2019-03-15T12:35:49.943Z · score: 12 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I don't really follow the logic that certain cases of asymmetric information are bad from some general perspective and so the world/society better off if that asymmetry is reduced, therefore blackmail is good.

Blackmail is about privately benefiting from maintaining the condition of asymmetric information within whatever population is relevant.

I did like jimrandomh's comment about norm differences, which then gets to the whole question about privacy rights, individual freedoms and other aspects of social life that need to be unraveled before one can say and given case of revealing the secret is a positive or negative.

Comment by jmh on Megaproject management · 2019-03-12T16:03:23.469Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW
As the project grows large enough, we should expect to be perpetually choking on one bottleneck or other.

I did understand that but was suggesting that the criteria as a mega project was really not about the costs -- though fully expect a high costs to be associated with such effort. As you say, they cannot be easily be separated into more manageable sub-projects. Perhaps I can rephrase my though. Is the position that any and every project that costs $X or more necessarily has the type of complexity and non-separability?

If not then the ability to classify high cost projects should be useful -- and point to alternative management requirements if all projects greater than $x still suffer from many of the same inefficiencies.

Each new stakeholder is a stupendous increase in the political complexity of the project, so much so that even at the smaller level of projects where we know the right answers about how to do them applying the right answers is often impossible because of the different interests at play.

Sure, and you run into whole problem of what exactly is the right answer as the different stakeholder are maximizing slightly different (and likely equally legitimate) criteria. That alone is not a bad or wrong thing. But the approach of limiting participation, in a way, seems exactly the same thing as chunking the project into manageable bites. But it's not clear that can be done much better than disassembling the project into smaller, simpler and more manageable sub projects.

If so, limiting the stakeholders then the assessment of the project will always be one of partial failure. That would also drive various type of cost over run and time delays when such excluded stakeholders seek to influence the project from outside the management process.

It's not clear to me that would be the optimal solution to all mega projects.

Comment by jmh on S-Curves for Trend Forecasting · 2019-03-11T17:39:09.761Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Plus one on that point.

In once sense though it seems a rejection of, what I will call, the S-Curve mentality. That would be the thinking all growth always plateaus (and it seems that is a dominant view in terms of economic growth there -- developing economies can grow faster then developed economies so all these fast growers are doomed to the fate of Japan, Europe or the USA). That thinking can lead to acceptance rather than effort to overcome some current limitation/constraint.

Comment by jmh on Megaproject management · 2019-03-11T17:16:50.601Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting. One think I would like to see more of mentioned here -- but perhaps will have to dig for myself -- would be about the structure of the project management. It seems one clear characteristic is complexity of the whole. While cost, and overall "size", would clearly be well correlated. However I don't think that is the critical feature. I would perhaps pose it as a separability issue. Can the overall whole be chunked out into bite-sized bits without too much coordination type work or not?

As more of a side thought, I wonder if anyone has done much in the way of spill-over type effects on these mega projects and if any categorization or characteristics are identifiable. We know there have been spillover from both the space program and military programs. Not sure about more commercial or government mega projects. But you would think all infrastructure type projects should benefit from some positive network externality effects.

I don't try to make any "if you built it they will come" argument here. If any it would be a "people are pretty good at figuring out how to make lemonaide from a lemon" type "argument". This kind of goes along with the too complex to manage well cases as well. We often will not know what the end benefits will be for many things -- if the USA didn't do the electrification project to get power to rural communities would we have the same type of communications networks we currently have? Worse? Better???

Of course this is not really about how to better manage such projects and it's likely better managements would allow such aspects greater potentials and lessen any such affects.

Comment by jmh on Less Competition, More Meritocracy? · 2019-02-26T14:56:28.136Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Small edit to my own comment. I neglected to point out my comments and assessment were really about the what I understood to be the position of the paper under review and not about the analysis per se.

Comment by jmh on Less Competition, More Meritocracy? · 2019-02-25T17:54:35.048Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

First, I did not get though the entire post. That said, some thoughts that occurred to me.

  • Under what conditions is does this generalize? I was trying to apply it to my world. If I am hiring part of the problem is not about hard skills but soft skill -- and those will differ a bit based on what team the new person will be part of.
  • Good game theory always wins seems to have directed at the candidates but what happens when the game master (lack of a better term) has poor game theory or doesn't think such behavior good? Again, from a corporate hiring standpoint that might be a real situation. In terms of consumers shopping around that might also apply (the average advertiser is a better game theorists than the average consumer). Do the conclusions still hold here?
  • Closely related to the first bullet, just what market settings were considered for the analysis.
  • I recall an old paper that asked if duopoly was more competitive than the standard atomistic competition in the Econ 101 pure competition model. That was largely driven by search costs and asymmetric information problems. Would theory here be complementary?

My gut reaction is there is some value and truth here but that it should not be taken too seriously. Consider it an area of consideration and element of a solution rather than a solution to any problem of getting the best out of the messy social institutions that mediate our activities and greatly influence the collective/aggregate results.

Comment by jmh on Spaghetti Towers · 2019-02-12T16:18:20.184Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Extending that the legislation and law in general seems appropriate as well. I wonder if one contrasts and compares slice of time views of both common law regimes and statutory law regimes if there would be any differences.

Comment by jmh on Spaghetti Towers · 2019-02-07T16:16:23.526Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I seem to work (and possible live) in such a setting ;-)

On one level I wonder how much we need to worry. The idea behind that comment is the problem we all face with the asymmetric nature of our knowledge when facing the future. The distinction here is not to say that sloppy planning and maintenance should be consider acceptable but that we can only avoid the spaghetti to some extent. This is not to suggest the author was suggesting that. Only saying we might want to think about where the margins of efficiency are.

I was also wondering if some of the innovations in graph theory might help manage decision-making in a spaghetti world. The idea of a programming language that can help refactor the spaghetti might use such tools.

The last (actually first but...) thought I had was "Hello Gordian Knot."

Comment by jmh on The 3 Books Technique for Learning a New Skilll · 2019-01-25T13:27:05.748Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I will second Hazard's comments on the way to approach the reviews. Seems so obvious after you said it.

I am wondering what you were considered in terms of skills.

I think the general approach should work really well in some settings. I do wonder what the limits might be. For instance, I could probably use this approach well to learn how to write in a programming language, or how to weld or how to machine parts. I'm not sure it's as helpful for, say, learning a new language.

Perhaps the distinction is between skill and knowledge?

Comment by jmh on What are the open problems in Human Rationality? · 2019-01-14T14:22:57.479Z · score: 10 (4 votes) · LW · GW

My comment must necessary be something of an aside since I don't know the Hamming problem. However, your statement "We are not designed to be rational" jumped out for me.

Is that to say something along the lines of rationality is not one of the characteristics that provided an evolutionary advantage for us ? Or would it mean rationality was a mutation of some "design" (and possibly one that was a good survival trait)?

Or is the correct understanding there something entirely different?