January Meetup—No Prep Required 2020-01-07T20:48:07.632Z
December Meetup: The Elusive Democracy 2019-12-06T01:00:27.533Z
Going Critical—Phase Transitions in Social Spreading 2019-10-27T12:33:21.078Z
SSC Meetups Everywhere 2019-09-16T03:53:17.683Z
September Meetup: Free Will 2019-09-04T19:29:22.337Z
Depolarizing the Politics Within 2019-07-31T23:39:17.761Z
The Repugnant Conclusion 2019-06-29T23:56:19.753Z
Tradition -vs- Modernity 2019-04-29T01:19:59.197Z
Bayesian Witchcraft: Finding Objective Truth in Survey Data 2019-03-24T15:28:30.642Z
Fallacies as Weak Bayesian Evidence 2019-02-07T14:32:41.039Z
Practical Considerations Regarding Political Polarization 2019-01-27T22:26:15.048Z


Comment by joshuabecker on Negative Feedback and Simulacra · 2020-05-09T19:49:10.983Z · LW · GW

it occurs to me that 'rudeness' in this framework is a sort of protective charm; by casting the person as rude, you discount their credibility and therefore don't have to update your beliefs.

Comment by joshuabecker on Negative Feedback and Simulacra · 2020-05-09T19:47:59.570Z · LW · GW

that can end up feeling like the information makes your cooking worse; because you update your belief about your cooking after receiving the information.

Comment by joshuabecker on Negative Feedback and Simulacra · 2020-05-09T19:09:53.331Z · LW · GW

i'm not sure the simulacrum model is quite necessary to understand people's responses to information. particularly in the first 3, i think the responses can be explained by cognitive dissonance. in 1 & 3, the hearer holds the belief "i offer a good product" and is confronted with the information "someone is not satisfied with my product." in the gym example, the alternatives (skipping entirely, 10-minute self-warmup) are easily explained by "this person is busy." in 2, you perhaps hold the belief "i am a good person who does not destroy library materials" and are confronted with the information "i might be destroying library materials." in these examples, the dissonance could be resolved by more nuanced 3rd beliefs, such as "this person has special needs and has adapted my quality product to suit their needs" or "i am a good person make mistakes sometimes". [this is all pretty straight out of psych theory on cognitive dissonance, applied to these examples]

with that in mind, your recommendation #3 is not necessary: it is possible to be honest and congenial.. it just takes some work. work first to understand a person's propositional belief system, then to figure out how to present information in a way that can be rendered consistent with their belief system. of course this will not always be possible.. sometimes beliefs will have to change, but by being aware of what the effect of the info is you can try to cushion the blow. of course, that might not be worth it just for the hot sauce situation. could be worth it for the gym situation.

(Ref: Gawronski 2012, "Back to the future of dissonance theory")

Comment by joshuabecker on Doublecrux is for Building Products · 2019-12-07T04:06:06.611Z · LW · GW

Perhaps it is possible in practice/process to disentangle value alignment issues from factual disagreements. Double-crux seems optimal at reaching consensus on factual truths (e.g., which widget will have a lower error rate?) and would at least *uncover* Carl's crux, if everybody participates in good faith, and therefore make it possible to nonetheless discover the factual truth. Then maybe punt the non-objective argument to a different process like incentive alignment as you discuss.

Comment by joshuabecker on Bring Back the Sabbath · 2019-12-07T03:56:10.299Z · LW · GW

I absolutely love this, and it leaves me wondering about the role of social in the sabbath. This post mentions early, "Most want more social events, but coordination is hard and events are work. Now there’s always Friday night," but the subject does not come up again. And yet with regard to the historical referent, sociality is baked deeply into the sabbath. For the orthodox version, the minyan rule (plus the no driving rule) requires that people live close together and that they see each other once a week.

On the one hand, community has the potential to enhance the sabbath from the perspective of this article, which is sabbath as slack and relaxation. A social element in the weekly ritual naturally enforces regular adherence, since people must provide explanation if absent. Other people also tend to flag deviance and reinforce norms, reducing the cognitive burden of self-enforcement e.g. to a no-social-media rule.

From Ben's perspective, i.e. Sabbath as an alarm system, social has added benefits. Conversation with trusted and familiar people can help identification and diagnosis of challenges of all kinds; e.g., other people can sometimes notice the depth of our stress we see it ourselves. Though I don't know them all, there are countless other benefits of social networks for well-being. So if the sabbath is about well-being, it should be about social.

On the other hand, there are also unique benefits to isolation. If the sabbath is strictly about slack and relaxation, then social may play no role for some/many people. This conundrum, though, also highlights an interesting design feature of orthodox sabbath; Friday night may be a personal or family affair, and socialization is only enforced on Saturdays. My modern take is a quiet Saturday night and a shared Sunday Brunch.

Comment by joshuabecker on Solution to the free will homework problem · 2019-11-24T16:58:21.847Z · LW · GW

but that just kicks the can down the road, leaving the question: "Could I have wanted X?"

Comment by joshuabecker on Raph Koster on Virtual Worlds vs Games (notes) · 2019-08-25T02:57:01.066Z · LW · GW
reading all this has led me to think a lot about using MMOs as a testing ground for sociology

i think you are on the right track---a google scholar search reveals an enormous amount of social science conducted on virtual worlds including topics like teamwork, economics, and religion. don't know about governance systems though.

Comment by joshuabecker on Doublecrux is for Building Products · 2019-07-18T03:52:18.266Z · LW · GW

I find myself wondering about disagreements (or subcomponents of disagreements) where appealing to objective reality may not be possible.

It seems like this is a special case of a broader type of process, fitting into the more general category of collaborative decision-making. (Here I'm thinking of the 5 approaches to conflict: compete, collaborate, avoid, accommodate, and compromise).

In the explicit product-as-widget case, there may always be an appeal to some objectively frameable question: what will make us more money? But even this can ignite debate: which is more important, short-term revenue or long-term revenue? I can imagine two people (perhaps one very young, and one very old) in dispute over a product design where they realize the root of the disagreement is this different personal timeline.

This example may be (or seem) intractable, but it's a toy example to illustrate the possibility that disagreements can arise over matters which are not purely objective. In such cases, I would imagine that doublecrux would pair extremely well with other established methods for collaborative problem-solving (e.g. interest-based negotiation). I suspect even that this method could enhance the resolution of strictly value-based disagreements, since values can be converted back into objectively measurable outcomes and therefore become the subject of doublecrux inquiry.

I think the method would be basically the same, replacing "why do you believe X" with "what is important to you about X" in the process of inquiry.

This is interesting because mediators (who are essentially facilitating interest-based negotiation) are generally trained not to seek factual truth; but that's usually facts about the past whereas doublecrux deals with facts about the future.

Comment by joshuabecker on Is Science Slowing Down? · 2019-02-01T15:55:30.483Z · LW · GW

I read "At Home In The Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self Organization and Complexity" which is a very accessible and fun read---I am not a physicist/mathematician/biologist, etc, and it all made sense to me. The book talks about evolution, both biological and technological.

And the model described in that book has been quite commonly adapted by social scientists to study problem solving, so it's been socially validated as a good framework for thinking about scientific research.

Comment by joshuabecker on Is Science Slowing Down? · 2019-02-01T15:52:30.323Z · LW · GW

Sure, though the question of "why is science slowing down" and "what should we do now" are two different questions. If the answer of "why is science slowing down" is simply because---it's getting harder.... then there may be absolutely nothing wrong with our coordination, and no action is required.

I'm not saying we can't do even better, but crisis-response is distinct from self-improvement.

Comment by joshuabecker on Is Science Slowing Down? · 2018-12-10T05:59:17.867Z · LW · GW

It's worth considering the effects of the "exploration/exploitation" tradeoff: decreasing coordination/efficiency can increase the efficacy of search in problem space over the long run, precisely because efforts are duplicated. When efforts are duplicated, you increase the probability that someone will find the optimal solution. When everyone is highly coordinated, people all look in the same place and you can end up getting stuck in a "local optimum"---a place that's pretty good, but can't be easily improved without scrapping everything and starting over.

It should be noted that I completely buy the "lowest hanging fruit is already picked" explanation. The properties of complex search have been examined somewhat in depth by Stuart Kauffman ("nk space"). These ideas were developed with biological evolution in mind but have been applied to problem solving. In essence, he quantifies the intuition you can improve low-quality things with a lot less search time than it takes to improve high-quality things.

These are precisely the types of spaces in which coordination/efficiency is counterproductive.

Comment by joshuabecker on Is Science Slowing Down? · 2018-12-10T05:52:21.863Z · LW · GW

Can you help me understand why you see this as a a coordination problem to be solved? Should I infer that you don't buy the "lowest hanging fruit is already picked" explanation?

Comment by joshuabecker on New report: Intelligence Explosion Microeconomics · 2018-09-13T03:22:37.694Z · LW · GW

Regarding the apparent non-scaling benefits of history: what you call the "most charitable" explanation seems to me the most likely. Thousands of people work at places like CERN and spend 20 years contributing to a single paper, doing things that simply could not be done by a small team. Models of problem-solving on "NK Space" type fitness landscapes also support this interpretation: fitness improvements become increasingly hard to find over time. As you've noted elsewhere, it's easier to pluck low-hanging fruit.

Comment by joshuabecker on New report: Intelligence Explosion Microeconomics · 2018-09-13T03:11:56.591Z · LW · GW

I assume by 'linear' you mean directly proportional to population size.

The diminishing marginal returns of some tasks, like the "wisdom of crowds" (concerned with forming accurate estimates) are well established, and taper off quickly regardless of the difficulty of the task---it's basically follows the law of large numbers and sample error (see "A Note on Aggregating Opinions", Hogarth, 1978). This glosses over some potential complexity but you're probably unlikely to do ever get much benefit from more than a few hundred people, if that many.

Other tasks do not see such quickly diminishing returns, such as problem solving in a complex fitness landscape (see work on "Exploration and Exploitation" especially in NK space). Supposing the number of possible solutions to a problem to be much greater than the number of people feasibly working on the problem (e.g., the population of creative and engaged humans) then as the number of people increase, the probability of finding the optimal solution increases. Coordinating all those people is another issue, as is the potential opportunity cost of having so many people work on the same problem.

However, in my experience, this difference between problem-solving and wisdom-of-crowds tasks is often glossed over in collective intelligence research.

Comment by joshuabecker on New report: Intelligence Explosion Microeconomics · 2018-09-13T03:02:32.187Z · LW · GW

Update: this is a pretty large field of research now. The Collective Intelligence Conference is going into its 7th year.

Comment by joshuabecker on What Are Meetups Actually Trying to Accomplish? · 2018-09-11T21:10:11.644Z · LW · GW

Are you still in Chicago? There was recently a gathering at the Art Museum garden with ~30 people in attendance, and a few people were discussing trying to keep the momentum, myself included. If you are around, I would like to invite you to give it another go. Regardless of your current location, I'd be curious to hear more details about your particular experience in this locale.

Comment by joshuabecker on Probability is in the Mind · 2018-08-24T01:33:39.792Z · LW · GW


even for the frequentist, and that's what we make decisions with, so focusing on p(x) is a bit of misdirection. The whole frequentist-vs-bayesian culture war is fake. They're both perfectly consistent with well defined questions. (They have to be, because math works.)

And yes to everything else, except...

As to whether god plays dice with the universe... that is not in the scope of probability theory. It's math. Your Bayesian is really a pragmatist, and your frequentist is a straw person.

Great post!

Comment by joshuabecker on …And I Show You How Deep The Rabbit Hole Goes · 2018-08-22T03:42:56.217Z · LW · GW

Good thing the author is dead!

I like to think that.... facing the only true existential threat, the author found the cognitive limits of rationality and got the fear. So, unbeknownst to themself, summoned ex machina an article of Faith to keep them warm, for the night is dark and full of terror.

Comment by joshuabecker on The Best Textbooks on Every Subject · 2018-08-21T00:13:16.682Z · LW · GW

If I'm interested in learning about the claims made by the science/study of decision-making, and not looking to make decisions myself (so perhaps exercises don't matter?) would that change your recommendation? You can further assume that I am moderately well trained in probability theory.

Comment by joshuabecker on Prisoners' Dilemma with Costs to Modeling · 2018-06-25T01:10:33.548Z · LW · GW

Is the code for this available?