[Link] "Doing being rational: polymerase chain reaction" by David Chapman 2019-12-13T23:54:45.189Z · score: 11 (6 votes)
Link: An exercise: meta-rational phenomena | Meaningness 2019-10-21T16:56:24.443Z · score: 9 (4 votes)
Paper on qualitative types or degrees of knowledge, with examples from medicine? 2019-06-15T00:31:56.912Z · score: 5 (2 votes)
Flagging/reporting spam *posts*? 2018-05-23T16:14:11.515Z · score: 6 (2 votes)


Comment by kenny on Matthew Walker's "Why We Sleep" Is Riddled with Scientific and Factual Errors · 2019-12-14T00:23:48.396Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I appreciate any debunking, at least a little.

I found this of interest, if for no other reason than to trust claims made by the author of the 'debunked' book less. The details about the specific claims debunked were also (mildly) informative.

Comment by kenny on Elon Musk is wrong: Robotaxis are stupid. We need standardized rented autonomous tugs to move customized owned unpowered wagons. · 2019-12-13T22:05:28.249Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Good answer!

I was thinking about people living in detached homes in residential neighborhoods, i.e. places where I would expect local politics to prevent car parks ('parking lots' in my colloquialisms) from being built at all.

Comment by kenny on Arguing about housing · 2019-12-13T21:57:57.520Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There's probably (at least) something to that idea. I imagine commercial construction is similarly constrained as residential. It's pretty common to hear that commercial rents are high in the places where residential rents are too.

Comment by kenny on Book Review: Design Principles of Biological Circuits · 2019-12-02T23:34:51.617Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for this post!

I was excited to read the book reviewed just based on the first few sentences!

Comment by kenny on Elon Musk is wrong: Robotaxis are stupid. We need standardized rented autonomous tugs to move customized owned unpowered wagons. · 2019-12-02T20:39:36.125Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Specialized cabins seem like they would hurt this idea – where would people store all of their cabins?

Comment by kenny on When do you start looking for a Boston apartment? · 2019-11-28T21:57:12.392Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm really confused. I'm used to the NYC rental market, particularly Brooklyn, and, aside from lining up apartment-mates, the rule is that you look for a new apartment right before you're reading to move. I can't even remember seeing apartments listed for rent months in advance, tho I wouldn't be entirely surprised that it happens, e.g. for students.

Where are you getting your listings and how can you tell when the lease is intended or expected to start from the listing?

Comment by Kenny on [deleted post] 2019-11-08T03:32:02.669Z

Epsilon value maybe?

In a certain sense, this is a trivial claim. Obviously some people are going to have 'local' competitive advantages but nothing speaks louder than success so word gets out eventually.

But I'm intrigued, so maybe this is not literally valueless.

Comment by kenny on Maybe Lying Doesn't Exist · 2019-11-08T01:36:04.969Z · score: 8 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This is a great post! A lot of these points have been addressed, but this is what I wrote while reading this post:

It's not immediately clear that an 'appeal to consequences' is wrong or inappropriate in this case. Scott was explicitly considering the policy of expanding the definition of a word, not just which definition is better.

If the (chief) purpose of 'categories' (i.e. words) is to describe reality, then we should only ever invent new words, not modify existing ones. Changing words seems like a strict loss of information.

It also seems pretty evident that there are ulterior motives (e.g. political ones) behind overt or covert attempts to change the common shared meaning of a word. It's certainly appropriate to object to those motives, and to object to the consequences of the desired changes with respect to those motives. One common reason to make similar changes seems to be to exploit the current valence or 'mood' of that word and use it against people that would be otherwise immune based on the current meaning.

Some category boundaries should reflect our psychology and the history of our ideas in the local 'category space', and not be constantly revised to be better Bayesian categories. For one, it doesn't seem likely that Bayesian rationalists will be deciding the optimal category boundaries of words anytime soon.

But if the word "lying" is to actually mean something rather than just being a weapon, then the ingroup and the outgroup can't both be right.

This is confusing in the sense that it's obviously wrong but I suspect intended in a much more narrow sense. It's a demonstrated facts that people assign different meanings to the 'same words'. Besides otherwise unrelated homonyms, there's no single unique global community of language users where every word means the same thing for all users. That doesn't imply that words with multiple meanings don't "mean something".

Given my current beliefs about the psychology of deception, I find myself inclined to reach for words like "motivated", "misleading", "distorted", &c., and am more likely to frown at uses of "lie", "fraud", "scam", &c. where intent is hard to establish. But even while frowning internally, I want to avoid tone-policing people whose word-choice procedures are calibrated differently from mine when I think I understand the structure-in-the-world they're trying to point to.

You're a filthy fucking liar and you've twisted Scott Alexander's words while knowingly ignoring his larger point; and under cover of valuing 'epistemic rationality' while leveraging your privileged command of your cult's cant.

[The above is my satire against-against tone policing. It's not possible to maintain valuable communication among a group of people without policing tone. In particular, LessWrong is great in part because of it's tone.]

Comment by kenny on Maybe Lying Doesn't Exist · 2019-11-08T01:23:59.743Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This is a bad example, because whether something is a crime is, in fact, fully determined by whether “we” (in the sense of “we, as a society, expressing our will through legislation, etc.”) decide to label it a ‘crime’.

I think it's still a good example, perhaps because of what you pointed out. It seems pretty clear to me that there's a sometimes significant difference between the legal and colloquial meanings of 'crime' and even bigger differences for 'criminal'.

There are many legal 'crimes' that most people would not describe as such and vice versa. "It's a crime!" is inevitably ambiguous.

Comment by kenny on Maybe Lying Doesn't Exist · 2019-11-08T01:18:20.698Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's important to be very clear on what actually happened (incl. about violations), AND to avoid punishing people. Truth and reconciliation.

I think this a very much underrated avenue to improve lots of things. I'm a little sad at the thought that neither are likely without the looming threat of possible punishment.

Comment by kenny on Maybe Lying Doesn't Exist · 2019-11-08T01:15:55.376Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think we, and others too, are already constructing rules, tho not at as a single grand taxonomy, completed as a single grand project, but piecemeal, e.g. like common law.

There have been recent shifts in ideas about what counts as 'epistemically negligent' [and that's a great phrase by the way!], at least among some groups of people with which I'm familiar. I think the people of this site, and the greater diaspora, have much more stringent standards today in this area.

Comment by kenny on Link: An exercise: meta-rational phenomena | Meaningness · 2019-11-04T19:21:41.363Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think that links to Chapman's texts should contain some disclaimer that "rationality" as defined by Chapman is something completely different from "rationality" as defined by Less Wrong.

I am of many minds about this. Sometimes I feel as you've expressed; that Chapman undersells 'rationality' and misrepresents its possibilities. Certainly LW!rationality is (mostly) aware of his specific criticisms. But I still find his writing immensely insightful as-is. And given that his audience is very different than LW, I'm inclined to accept his writing as-is too.

As for him using 'rationality' differently – that general phenomena (of words being used differently by different people) is something that I'm all too aware of, among all the things I read and all the conversations I have. I certainly don't find his writing as painful to read as others.

And maybe we should add disclaimers to all of our pages pointing out that our use of 'rationality' is idiosyncratic (with respect to everyone else in the world). I don't think there's a good solution to this.

I agree that "The LW!rationality already contains its own meta." but I think Chapman has a point that meta-rationality is something distinct from ('regular') rationality. Hence the utility of a lot of the advice that both Chapman and the LW sequence writers provide.

Chapman warns people against going from straw rationalism to nihilism (unless they accept the Buddhism-inspired wisdom). But I don't see nihilism promoted on Less Wrong. We have "something to protect". And the stories of "beisutsukai" are obviously written to inspire.

Maybe that's missing from LW? I agree that LW doesn't promote nihilism, but maybe it should do more to help otherwise-intelligent people avoid it.

And more generally, (intelligent) people really do get stuck at "straw rationality" ("level 4"), i.e. 'trapped' in the specific formalisms of which they're aware and in which they can 'operate'. We don't worship science, but lots of other people sure seem to do so.

I think the best 'trick' LW!rationality incorporated into its 'canon' is the idea of instrumental rationality. Coupled with a consequentialism scoped to our 'entire future light cone', that idea alone acts like a source of intellectual free energy capable of pushing us out of any particular formalism when (we suspect) it's not good enough for our purposes. But it's not clear, to me anyways, that that itself is 'rational'. (It is LW!rational, obviously.)

Also, I'm not sure if "the Buddhism-inspired wisdom" was dismissive, but I really enjoy his writing about Buddhism (and it's mostly published on other sites of his). From what I've read of that, he's not a Buddhist – certainly not a 'traditional' (or folk) Buddhist. He seems mostly interested in very specific schools, has his own idiosyncratic interpretations, wants a better 'modern synthesis' drawing on his favored insights, and is actively experimenting with various practices for his own purposes. He definitely rejects 'woo' (and his favorite schools seem to be relatively light on that anyways). But there's a lot of insight available too. Just off the top of my head – the tantric Buddhist "practice of views" charnel ground and pure land. Traditional rationality, i.e. straw rationality, is pretty dismissive of emotions. LW!rationality is much better. Chapman is mining popular religion and philosophy, in particular the branches of Buddhism he likes, for interesting and sometimes-useful info, often pertaining to emotions and what to do about them.

So, ironically, from my perspective, it is like if straw rationality is level 4, and Chapman's "meaningness" is level 5, then Less Wrong would be level 6. (Yeah, I can play this game, too.)

How seriously are you playing this game (ha)? Somewhat seriously, we're definitely around (or aiming for) his level 5. You've pointed out a lot of 'meta-rational' advice from this site (and most that's several years old now too). What would level 6 be, to you (besides 5 + 1)?

Comment by kenny on Thermal Mass Thermos · 2019-10-21T17:01:27.740Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My bad – I read that follow-up and was disappointed in the last sentence:

To be safe, though, I'm going to keep using the thermal mass thermos approach.

It doesn't seem like the thermal mass thermos is strictly necessary "to be safe", but I understand your extra abundance of caution.

Comment by kenny on Thermal Mass Thermos · 2019-10-18T17:19:46.884Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I was disappointed that Jeff didn't conclude, based on the detailed evidence he found, that it's probably fine to just pack the rice in a regular un-modified thermos.

Or am I way off in summarizing his evidence this way?

Comment by kenny on Taxing investment income is complicated · 2019-10-11T19:11:57.975Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Sure, and there are good reasons for that technical terminology.

But it's weird to claim that any transfer between people, especially one that's coerced, has "no social cost". That's perhaps an unreasonable objection, particularly in this context.

Is there another term then for something generally 'beyond' 'internalizing an externality'? It just doesn't seem likely to be effective to simply impose private costs equal in magnitude to other 'social' costs and then claim victory. Maybe I'm just conflating the economic concept with a kind of accounting-like generalization of the 'match expenses to revenue' principle.

In practice, it seems counter-productive to ignore how specific tax revenues are allocated. It certainly seems most natural to me to allocate those revenues to offset the relevant 'social costs' that inspired the taxes originally.

Comment by kenny on Taxing investment income is complicated · 2019-10-01T17:04:16.187Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think any taxes have zero social costs. Maybe you're imagining that they have a net zero cost, i.e. where costs born by some people are offset by gains enjoyed by others?

It's maybe off-topic, but I'm concerned by the accounting realities attendant to some of the taxes you mentioned, and similar ones, e.g. carbon taxes and cigarette taxes. It doesn't seem likely that either would or are actually internalizing externalities in practice. Cigarette taxes are often 'earmarked' or allocated to entirely unrelated goods or services, e.g. schools, and that can be disastrous when smokers actually respond to higher taxes by buying fewer (legal, i.e. taxed) cigarettes. Similarly, it doesn't seem like the costs of 'carbon' are actually internalized by the tax itself if the tax revenues themselves aren't directly used to offset those costs by, e.g. capturing carbon, reimbursing losses incurred because of 'carbon', or, more sensibly, saving to offset the expected future costs.

Comment by kenny on Is there an existing label for the category of fallacies exemplified by "paradox of tolerance"? · 2019-10-01T16:55:58.854Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I agree, on the object level, that principles often are 'true' or valuable but with justified exceptions.

But I don't understand why the best response isn't just 'There are justified exceptions to those principles.', or 'I don't hold that principle to be true or valuable absolutely.'.

Comment by kenny on Is there an existing label for the category of fallacies exemplified by "paradox of tolerance"? · 2019-10-01T16:51:35.577Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm really confused about this. It seems like you're arguing that every consideration or analysis of any principle must also include any 'justified exception'. I'm not arguing that any particular justified exception is impossible, but that it should be considered separate from the principle to which it is an exception – not part of the principle itself. Lumping principles and their justified exceptions seems strictly less useful in general; one reason being that which exceptions are justified is yet another potential axis of disagreement. It also seems almost designed to be maximally confusing.

Are you claiming that people should adopt a rhetorical rule of assuming that 'pacifism' actually refers to the base principle and its 'justified exceptions'? How would that work in practice? In particular, what are (all of) the justified exceptions to pacifism? How should people refer to the base principle instead, e.g. when discussing which exceptions exactly are justified or not? How should people refer to the base principle in the case where they don't think any exceptions are justified?

To make this even more meta, do you presume that there are justified exceptions to every possible principle? Are there no justified exceptions to that principle?

Comment by kenny on Is there an existing label for the category of fallacies exemplified by "paradox of tolerance"? · 2019-09-20T16:55:05.109Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You seem to have a lot of assumptions that probably need to be 'unpacked' (made explicit). For one, 'absolutism fallacy' isn't obviously a fallacy. Pacifism can definitely be 'absolute' and, as I claimed in my answer to this question, I don't even think that's paradoxical.

Are you trying to gather 'rhetorical ammunition' to defend 'pacifism' and 'tolerance' as principles, specifically? I'm confused because you seem to be denying that either of those principles can even be interpreted literally or 'absolutely' and it seems obvious to me that they can (and that people often do so).

I'm personally on-board with 'game-theoretical steelman' versions of 'pacifism' and 'tolerance', but the 'game-theoretical steelmanning', in my mind, necessarily involves all of my other values, i.e. there aren't 'pure (but sophisticated) non-absolute' versions of those principles to which every sufficiently advanced thinker would readily agree. (For one, I suspect that the steelmanned version of those principles is inevitably complicated and intricately detailed due to its interactions with other values, and to the variation and general incoherence/inconsistency of human values.)

Comment by kenny on Is there an existing label for the category of fallacies exemplified by "paradox of tolerance"? · 2019-09-20T16:42:44.517Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think they're fallacies.

Some pacifists really do believe that violence should be avoided absolutely, even as a last resort. And that doesn't even seem to be a paradox, just a strategy with an extreme weakness.

I think the 'paradox of tolerance' really is a paradox given that it's not obvious, for anyone abiding by the principle, how tolerant they should be of intolerance. Of course, any given non-absolute degree or 'distribution' of tolerance could be 'self-consistent' so it's not an unavoidable 'gotcha' by any means. But the simplest, most literal forms do definitely seem to be paradoxical, unless it's interpreted entirely personally, e.g. 'I should tolerate everything and anything.'.

My favorite example – which I think is, in a sense, paradoxical – is the precautionary principle. It's definitely not obvious that it shouldn't apply to people adopting the principle itself and, in fact, doing so is one reason why I reject it as a principle. It seems obvious to me that the superior principle is to 'make the best decisions one can given the information, and attendant uncertainty, available'.

Generally, I suspect that if the above principles, and similar ones, are 'sharpened' by modifying them to "integrate critical rejection", one would arrive at an entirely different (and more sophisticated) principle like, e.g. 'make the best decisions one can'.

Comment by kenny on The Power to Solve Climate Change · 2019-09-19T00:29:38.470Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

While the link "wash clothes > reduce your personal carbon footprint" is definite, my point is that the category of solutions that rely on the link "reduce your personal carbon footprint > solve carbon change" are indefinite.

I'm not seeing much difference in 'definitedness' between personal behavior change and "world organization that sets per-country targets" unless it's just that solving global warming necessarily must involve global government. I think there are a LOT more examples of even 'intra-country targets' , for anything (not global warming), being effectively bullshit compared to examples of the opposite. I'm thinking of things like (the U.S.) The War on Drugs, but drug prohibition generally seems to fit pretty well.

And more generally, a lot of 'government' solutions seem to be pretty indefinite. It's a depressingly common feature of government. (And of course governments do implement definite specific policies too, so it's not an inevitable failure.)

Comment by kenny on Who To Root For: 2019 College Football Edition · 2019-09-15T05:32:49.402Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Foiled! I was going to write a 'scathing' comment about this not being appropriate for cross-posting here.

(I loved the post. I think it does a great job at gesturing at the kinds of things I'd expect you to include in an eventual "fundamentals-level guide on sports".)

Comment by kenny on [Link] Book Review: Reframing Superintelligence (SSC) · 2019-09-11T03:05:00.906Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

A lot of the distinction between a service and an agent seems to rest on the difference between thinking and doing.

That doesn't seem right to me. There are several, potentially subtle differences between services and agents – the boundary (or maybe even 'boundaries') are probably nebulous at high resolution.

A good prototypical service is Google Translate. You submit text to it to translate and it outputs a translation as text. It's both thinking and doing but the 'doing' is limited – it just outputs translated text.

A good prototypical agent is AlphaGo. It pursues a goal, to win a game of Go, but does so in a (more) open-ended fashion than a service. It will continue to play as long as it can.

Down-thread, you wrote:

I am aiming directly at questions of how an AI that starts with a only a robotic arm might get to controlling drones or trading stocks, from the perspective of the AI.

I think one thing to point out up-front is that a lot of current AI systems are generated or built in a stage distinct from the stage in which they 'operate'. A lot of machine learning algorithms involve a distinct period of learning, first, which produces a model. That model can then be used – as a service. The model/service would do something like 'tell me if an image is of a hot dog'. Or, in the case of AlphaGo, something like 'given a game state X, what next move or action should be taken?'.

What makes AlphaGo an agent is that it's model is operated in a mode whereby it's continually fed a sequence of game states, and, crucially, both its output controls the behavior of a player in the game, and the next game state its given depends on it's previous output. It becomes embedded or embodied via the feedback between its output, player behavior, and its subsequence input, a game state that includes the consequences of its previous output.

But, we're still missing yet another crucial ingredient to make an agent truly (or at least more) dangerous – 'online learning'.

Instead of training a model/service all at once up-front, we could train it while it acts as an agent or service, i.e. 'online'.

I would be very surprised if an AI installed to control a robotic arm would gain control of drones or be able to trade stocks, but just because I would expect such an AI to not use online learning and to be overall very limited in terms of what inputs with which it's provided (e.g. the position of the arm and maybe a camera covering its work area) and what outputs to which it has direct access (e.g. a sequence of arm motions to be performed).

Probably the most dangerous kind of tool/service AI imagined is an oracle AI, i.e. an AI to which people would pose general open-ended questions, e.g. 'what should I do?'. For oracle AIs, I think some other (possibly) key dangerous ingredients might be present:

  • Knowledge of other oracle AIs (as a plausible stepping stone to the next ingredient)
  • Knowledge of itself as an oracle AI (and thus an important asset)
  • Knowledge of its own effects on the world, thru those that consult it, or those that are otherwise aware of its existence or its output
Comment by kenny on Mistake Versus Conflict Theory of Against Billionaire Philanthropy · 2019-09-08T18:13:41.387Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That's a good question. Or, rather, of the several ways I can interpret it (ha), each seems interesting.

I interpret your answer as being honest and in good faith. I'd default to the same were Reich to answer, if he were to answer like you did. I'd expect most other prominent public critics to deflect in some way.

More generally, I'd interpret similar answers from others writing 'against billionaire philanthropy' as weak-moderate evidence of the same.

As to how to more precisely test that, I admit that it's probably very tricky and thus I downgrade how "crucial" a test it really is. Here's one idea:

Some billionaire, one of those previously criticized in the manner under discussion, announces that, for every philanthropic donation they make, they'll make 'matching' donations to the relevant federal, state, and municipal treasuries to 'offset' the tax rebate/refund effect of the donations.

I'd expect that, mostly, this would result in heavier criticism and increasing suspicion. I'd expect you, if asked, to moderate your own criticism or praise the offsetting directly.

'Ideally', we'd ask The Simulators of the Universe, to re-run the universe simulation and 'magically' have some kind of tax law passed that removes the refund/rebate at some point before some portion of billionaire philanthropic donations and we could measure the number and 'sentiment' of criticisms.

Realistically, we could probably much much more crudely approximate something similar, but any comparisons would inevitably be confounded by all kinds of other things.

Comment by kenny on Paper Trauma · 2019-08-26T15:09:16.590Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

GitLab's Markdown supports charts and diagrams.

I find tables in Markdown pretty easy to input, on a computer, because I can format them easily in Vim, my favorite and always-open text editor.

Comment by kenny on Do you do weekly or daily reviews? What are they like? · 2019-08-22T18:21:18.064Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't do weekly, or longer-period, reviews any more – or at least I don't commit to doing them on a schedule.

Daily Review

My daily review centers around reviewing all of my 'tasks' in Habitica. I have a daily review task in Habitica that consists of the following steps (and is represented as a checklist):

  • Review all tasks
  • Review calendar for today*
  • Process every unread email
  • Review all of my 'to be reviewed' projects

* I've been observing something like a 'secular Sabbath' (roughly) each Friday starting at 6p to Saturday at the same time. On Friday, in the morning or later during the day, I review any calendar items for the next day, Saturday, too. I generally avoid scheduling anything for Saturday, but sometimes I either have to do something that day or want to anyways.

Reviewing tasks

The goal is just to read (or skim) each task and think about them minimally. If one is something I can do in literally 2-5 minutes, sometimes I'll do it right then, but I don't have to actually complete anything during the review.

I'll occasionally delete old tasks that I've given up on ever doing. If I remember that I've already completed a task, I'll mark it completed and, if it's part of a project, update the project info and, usually, flag that project 'to be reviewed'.

Tasks in Habitica can have checklists but I've realized that I'm using them too often and that, instead of having one task with a checklist, I should more often have separate tasks. The key distinction to which is better is whether each step needs to be done together, especially in order, or whether each step can be done independently. Laundry, for me, is a sequence of steps that all need to be done, in order, to result in me having clean clothes and other items. Dusting my house however is something that I really can do room by room.

One reason I really like Habitica is that there are three different types of tasks: 'to-dos', 'dailies', and 'habits'. To-dos are just like tasks in most any other task list system – something that you can mark 'completed' when its done. Dailies are tasks that repeat – I mostly just use a 'weekly' schedule for specific days, e.g. the daily task for my daily review repeats every day except Saturday. Habits are tasks that can be completed, or 'missed', at any time. I've got one now to 'remember to either pump up the tires on your bike before you ride it, or at least check that their pressure is fine'. I only have a handful, or less, at any one time.

Reviewing my calendar

I use Google Calendar – mainly because I can access it from my phone, so most anywhere, and it's free.

I have separate calendars and I use them to categorize items. My main calendar has my reminders and events that I am either planning on attending (e.g. something to which I need to either travel or commute) or in which I am planning on participating (e.g. a phone call). I've got a 'family' calendar for tracking the schedules of family members or friends. I've got a 'maybe' calendar in which I put things like, e.g. fun events I might want to attend or the hours of my local rock climbing gym.

There are two types of items: events and reminders.

For events on my main calendar, there are two broad types: all-day and with-times. All-day events are usually just reminders, e.g. I'm on vacation. For events with times, typically I just need to decide whether I need to set an alarm on my phone, e.g. to get ready to leave to travel or commute to the event.

For reminders, I mostly just copy them to my Habitica to-do list; sometimes I'll just mark a few as completed or delete them. I'm using them much like what the Getting Things Done system terms a 'tickler file'. I generally add tasks that I need to do 'later' or on some kind of schedule as calendar reminders; the idea being that my task ('to-do') list in Habitica can be free of them until they're due.

Processing email

My goal isn't necessarily to read every email, completely – just process each one (and then mark them as read, until I reach 'inbox zero'). For long emails that I do want to read, I'll either save a web version in a 'read later' app or add a task to Habitica to read or review the email. I'll often add a task in Habitica to respond to someone if I can't do so within a few minutes right away.

I track all of my financial activity in YNAB, a nice budgeting app so any email receipts get entered there immediately.

For some emails, I'll update the info for any related projects, add tasks in Habitica, or add something to my calendar.

Reviewing 'to be reviewed' projects

I'm using GitLab – a free account on the official 'hosted' instance. I've got a lot of 'projects' (GitLab's term), most of them pertaining to code, but several just for maintaining info about various projects. I mostly use a single 'project' named "@misc".

I've been using (software-development-focused) issue trackers for at least a decade now and GitLab's my favorite so far. The main reasons why I like it more than any others I've tried is that it uses Markdown, and its Markdown dialect is fantastic, and that its got a separate description for each issue (whereas some trackers only have comments). Markdown, especially GitLab's dialect, allows me to easily quote emails, link to web pages (and entire sets of them from open tabs with a nice Chrome extension), and maintain check lists of tasks. Having an issue description separate from comments let's me maintain a nice overview of a project and a single list (or tree) of tasks (or, more often, a board outline thereof).

Each ('real world') project gets an 'issue' in the GitLab 'project'. I regularly edit the issue description so that it contains an up-to-date overview and outline of tasks. I add comments with info, quotes, links, and mini sub-projects and their tasks.

I assign an issue to myself to mark it as 'to be reviewed'. During my daily review, my goal for each assigned issue is mainly to review the project for that issue and determine what the next task is to be done. Once I've determined the next task, I make sure I add it to Habitica (and I link the task in Habitica to the issue in GitLab). If I expect to work fairly intensively on a project short-term, I'll leave the issue assigned to me; otherwise, I un-assign it to myself. I also use GitLab, and the same account too, for work, so I'll usually have one or two work issues assigned to me as well and, because I usually focus on a single work project at a time, I'll leave the currently active issue or issues assigned to myself until I'm either finished or stuck waiting for some kind of outside input.

Other components


I use the standard Alarm app on my phone (an iPhone) a lot. I've got a few standard, repeating alarms – 'wakeup', review my 'roughly scheduled' tasks – but I also use it liberally for anything I want to remember to do. I'll use the timer feature if I'm doing something like cooking but, because (in the standard app anyways) there's only one timer, I mostly default to using alarms because I can label them, e.g. 'Check the dryer', 'Leave to go _', or 'Get ready for phone call with X in Y minutes'.


I often use email – i.e. I email myself – about new tasks, projects, or 'reference material' I want to be able to quickly find later. (I use Gmail mainly because its search is fantastic.) Sometimes I'll add tasks directly to Habitica or projects directly as an issue in GitLab, but email is much more frictionless and, because I habitually process my unread email every day, I'm confident I'll create tasks or GitLab issues later if I send myself an email.

I've got a couple of 'logs' in separate notes in my phone's standard Notes app. I sometimes think about writing my own little (web) apps but that would be a lot of work and regular text, tho structured fairly regularly, is probably not much worse, and (of course) already possible (and easily too).

Roughly scheduled tasks

In Habitica, I've got three tags for tasks that are 'roughly scheduled': 'morning', 'today', and 'tonight'. I've got alarms on my phone for each tag. I've committed to reviewing any tasks with the relevant tag sometime around when the alarm is scheduled. I don't have to complete all, or even any, of those tasks; just review them. I, of course, try to do any that need to be done.

Comment by kenny on Power Buys You Distance From The Crime · 2019-08-22T04:00:31.768Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

By-the-way, this is a fantastic comment and would make a great post pretty much by itself (with maybe a little context about that to which it's replying).

Comment by kenny on Power Buys You Distance From The Crime · 2019-08-22T01:06:55.157Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

enacting conflict in the course of discussing conflict

... seems to be exactly why it's so difficult to discuss a conflict theory with someone already convinced that it's true – any discussion is necessarily an attack in that conflict as it in effect presupposes that it might be false.

But that also makes me think that maybe the best rhetorical counter to someone enacting a conflict is to explicitly claim that one's unconvinced of the truth of the corresponding conflict theory or to explicitly claim that one's decoupling the current discussion from a (or any) conflict theory.

Comment by kenny on Power Buys You Distance From The Crime · 2019-08-21T21:23:38.113Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think it's useful to talk about 'conflict theory', i.e. as a general theory of disagreement. It's more useful in a form like 'Marxism is a conflict theory'.

And then a 'conflict theorist' is someone who, in some context, believes a conflict theory, but not that disagreements generally are due to conflict (let alone in all contexts).

So, from the perspective of a 'working class versus capital class' conflict theory, public choice theory is obviously a weapon used by the capital class against the working class. But other possible conflict theories might be neutral about public choice theory.

Maybe what makes 'conflict theory' seem like a single thing is the prevalence of Marxism-like political philosophies.

Comment by kenny on Permissions in Governance · 2019-08-21T19:21:05.420Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In do-ocracies, generally the 'revealed preferences' of the group members is pretty obvious. The things the 'group wants' are readily revealed to be those things that the group members actually act to achieve or acquire.

And, as a matter of how do-ocracies form initially, they typically 'accrete' around a single person or a small group of people that are already actively working on something. Think of a small open source programming project. Usually the project is started by a single person and whatever they actually work on is what they 'want' to work on. Often, when other people suggest changes, the initial person (who is likely still the 'project leader') will respond along the lines of "Pull requests welcome!", which is basically equivalent to "Feel free to work on the changes yourself and send them to me to review.". And, sometimes, a new contributor will work on the changes first, before even discussing the possibility. And then, after submitting the changes to review, the project leader or other participants might object to the changes, but, by default, anyone is free to make changes themselves (tho typically not anyone can actually make changes directly to the 'authoritative version').

Comment by kenny on Permissions in Governance · 2019-08-21T18:57:48.662Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's usually not so much that payroll or taxes are "legally tuned" to the benefit of larger corporations but that complying with all of the relevant laws and regulations is a relatively large 'fixed cost' that can be more easily born by a larger organization. Even something like initially selecting a payroll company, or monitoring (and potentially switching to another) payroll company is something more easily, and less costly, performed by a dedicated HR professional, let alone a group of professionals in an HR department, whereas lots of small businesses don't even have a full-time, dedicated HR person.

Comment by kenny on Permissions in Governance · 2019-08-21T18:51:51.408Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

An example of a (relatively) high cost of compliance is the recentish EU GDPR. Large companies will be able to comply (relatively) more easily than small companies so the effect of the regulation is to privilege large companies over small (or smaller) ones , i.e. "keep the fixed pool of resources from being divided between too many people", where the pool of resources in this case are potential customers of online businesses (or even just users of online sites or services).

And more generally, for almost every law and regulation, it's easier for larger companies or organizations to 'pay compliance costs' so every new law or regulation effectively penalizes smaller companies or organizations.

Note that this is basically never considered, let alone advertised, as a deliberate effect of any law or regulation.

You're right that social affiliation is often used, in effect anyways, to mediate access to resources, but I've never encountered anyone describing the initiation or maintenance of affiliation as being a 'compliance cost', tho it's not an inapt analogy and might operate pretty similarly. I think it's relatively uncommon for social affiliation to involve explicit rules tho, which distinguishes it from what is typically described as 'compliance'.

Comment by kenny on Permissions in Governance · 2019-08-21T18:37:56.590Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've used calendar reminders for exactly this.

(And 'ping' by-the-way.)

Comment by kenny on Mistake Versus Conflict Theory of Against Billionaire Philanthropy · 2019-08-20T18:04:01.202Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've come around to the "conflict-vs-mistake framing" in particular because "every significant disagreement has elements of both".

It must be the case, in some sense anyways, that every 'conflict theory' begins its (epistemic) existence as a 'mistake theory' and is thus, hopefully, at least somewhat amenable to being considered 'mistaken' later given sufficient contrary evidence.

In general too, conflict theories seem to have a 'memetic' advantage in being 'epistemically totalitarian', i.e. subsuming all subsequent evidence (until the existence of the conflict is itself later considered mistaken).

It's also true that something like philanthropy could be both net-positive for everyone and net-negative for a particular political coalition.

Comment by kenny on Mistake Versus Conflict Theory of Against Billionaire Philanthropy · 2019-08-20T17:50:12.253Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure it's really possible to reach any conflict theorists if you think their theorized conflict is a mistake.

It seems like part of the problem in doing so is that the theorized conflicts are (at least) implicitly zero-sum. I'd think it's pretty obvious, that at least 'in theory', billionaire philanthropy could be net-positive for 'The People', but it's hard to even imagine how one would go about convincing someone of that if they're already convinced that (almost) everyone's actions are attacks against the opposing side(s), e.g. philanthropy is 'really just' a way for billionaires to secure some other kind of (indirect) benefit to themselves and their class.

Comment by kenny on Mistake Versus Conflict Theory of Against Billionaire Philanthropy · 2019-08-20T17:43:48.960Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It's pretty hard to tell what you find hard to reconcile in the two quotes.

'Politics as war' is the same as 'different sides fight for their own self-interest', e.g. "whether the State exists to enrich the Elites or to help the People".

The 'honest mistakes' perspective would be that any particular policy might be good or bad, or whatever mix thereof, and disagreements about that would be due to different beliefs and NOT due to simply supporting one's side.

Comment by kenny on Mistake Versus Conflict Theory of Against Billionaire Philanthropy · 2019-08-20T17:36:35.406Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think there's a crucial test that could be performed, relative to your ideas (in this thread) anyways – how much of the 'against billionaire philanthropy' do you think is due to the tax rebate/refund? I think it's close to zero.

(And I don't have a problem with criticizing any philanthropy but I don't have a problem with billionaires giving large amounts generally.)

Comment by kenny on What are good resources for learning functional programming? · 2019-07-17T00:36:03.289Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm a 'lowly practitioner' and I've only used functional programming languages a modest amount in my professional experience. Most of the other answers seem to be, mostly, focusing on newer functional programming languages, of which Haskell seems to be the 'coolest' one currently, and that's not one I've learned beyond very cursory 'skimming'.

One metric by which I'm judging this question as particularly great is that it bugs me – I'm not sure how to answer it, even 'in principle', for at least the 'what' and 'how' books. (For the 'why' book, I think SICP should be a great resource even tho it's not strictly functional programming.)

What would a good 'what' book or resource for functional programming look like? One reason I'm confused about this is that I'd expect a good 'what' resource to be specific to an individual programming language, but then would it still be a good 'what' resource for functional programming in general?

Similarly for any 'how' resource – what would one look like that isn't tied to a specific language? Or not tied to any language at all? I'm probably 'typically-minding' this, even from the perspective of an experienced programmer, but I'm struggling to think of enough 'how' material specific to functional programming to fill a book-sized resource. Working Effectively with Legacy Code is a great 'how' book (covering exactly what the title implies), but I can't think of, off the top of my head, how many 'how' questions there could be for functional programming specifically.

Comment by kenny on What are good resources for learning functional programming? · 2019-07-17T00:06:24.965Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I second SICP as a good 'why' book for this.

Comment by kenny on What are good resources for learning functional programming? · 2019-07-16T23:21:13.189Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Master as in 'physics' (or 'mathematics') versus 'engineering'? I'd be really surprised if the 'engineering' of functional programming wasn't well-covered by existing books. What's one main idea that you don't think could be mastered in any book? Or, if any one idea might be covered by some book, what are all the main ideas that you don't think any one book covers?

Comment by kenny on Book Review: Why Are The Prices So Damn High? · 2019-07-04T22:39:15.986Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It seems like there are lots of other important facts about why housing is more expensive:

  • There's roughly twice as many people in the U.S. today than there were in 1950.
  • The 'cost floor', due to e.g. building codes, permitting, etc., is much higher.
  • Standards and preferences regarding sharing rooms and entire 'units' are much higher.

I suspect some significant component is in essence the Baumol effect, i.e. because lots of things are cheaper, e.g. food and clothing, people are willing and able to spend more bidding up the price of housing in particularly desirable locations.

Comment by kenny on Instead of "I'm anxious," try "I feel threatened" · 2019-07-04T18:06:46.417Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This isn't obviously pertinent to the topics of this specific post, but the idea of chronic or frequent, and persistent, anxiety reminds me a lot of the ideas behind Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy, namely that the anxiety is a strategy by which a 'protector', a cognitive and emotional part of you, is protecting one or more 'exiles', other parts that in a sense 'encapsulate' trauma.

The IFS practices seem, on their face, very different from CBT or (Buddhist) meditation traditions, but I suspect they're leveraging much of the same internal 'machinery' of the mind.

In a comment on this post you mention that you "replay the last few minutes, and usually I feel triggered again when I get to the original trigger.". That reads very much like IFS ideas about communicating with one's parts, at first protectors, e.g. a part that uses an "anxiety trance" to avoid exposing other traumatized parts to something negative, and then, with the 'explicit agreement' of the relevant protectors, the 'underlying' exiles.

Comment by kenny on Is it good practice to write questions/comments on old posts you're trying to understand? · 2019-07-04T01:01:30.406Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I really like the accepted practice of actively (if infrequently) maintaining questions and answers on Stack Overflow and the other Stack Exchange sites. It's great that people continually update them with new information, e.g. "This is unnecessary as-of version x.", and I think doing the same here is similarly awesome.

I reread a variety of online material, including the sequences, and I think it's great when I can contribute, if only in a small way, long after the material was first made available.

Comment by kenny on How much does neatly eating matter? What about other food manners? · 2019-06-24T22:09:11.790Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think it matters very much if you're (roughly) within the 'acceptable' window for whatever social environment it is in which you find yourself.

I tend to eat in a pretty messy way

Do you get food on your clothes or parts of your body other than your mouth (or immediately around it) or hands? Do you get food on the table/surface at which you're eating? Do you get food on other nearby people? If not, you're almost certainly fine, either "in software" or any other field. You might suffer tho in fields with a relatively larger proportion of upper or upper-middle class people, but you probably already know now whether you even want to enter the relevant 'tournaments' to earn an opportunity to enter those positions (and I'm guessing you don't). If you did tho, an etiquette class might be worthwhile.

Comment by kenny on Integrating disagreeing subagents · 2019-06-24T18:58:56.294Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

For cases where the equal weights are both 'positive' or 'negative', one can just 'flip a coin' (and notice any resistance to the outcome), and that's what I've tried to learn to do, particularly for relatively small weights.

But for relatively large weights or, worse, for 'opposing' weights, i.e. one 'positive' and the other 'negative', like a situation where one has to choose between escaping some large negative element but ay the cost of giving up another large positive element simultaneously, this 'akrasia' can feel very much like being (emotionally or psychically) torn in two. Often then the relevant consideration is something like a threshold, e.g. is the large negative element too negative?

Comment by kenny on Steelmanning Divination · 2019-06-24T05:23:22.439Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This is a great post!

I think I get some kind of similar benefit just by reading a lot and from lots of different sources but would you recommend something like what you described doing with the I Ching to others as a habitual practice they should adopt?

I wonder if variations on the same thing might be similarly helpful, e.g. a service that emails you a random essay or an app that pings you to remind you to read a random LW post.

Comment by kenny on Does the Higgs-boson exist? · 2019-06-17T02:39:13.569Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I wasn't trying to attack you, or Sabine or shminux either, so I'm sorry if seemed that way to you.

I think I understand their position pretty well – all of the questions they supposedly face about whether the objects of study are 'real' or whether they 'exist' are almost certainly frustrating. Obviously all of those objects are real enough, or likely enough to exist, in the sense that a sufficient cumulative weight of evidence exists and is accepted, for it to be almost entirely uncontroversial for professional physics to study them. On one end of professional practice of their field, just studying the relevant mathematics is a perfectly accepted practice in and of itself. On the other end, there's sufficient observational evidence, especially given the corresponding (accepted) theoretical interpretations, that the study of these objects is by itself relatively mundane and unremarkable.

The annoying real/exists questions are almost certainly interpreted as critical, if not negative, judgements implying that the physicists at whom the questions are addressed are either stupid or naive, or maliciously deceptive, for believing the objects of study as being (sufficiently) real or existing. So I'd expect an almost overwhelming urge for them, the physicists, to want to avoid dealing with such questions or otherwise to be able to themselves imply or aver that such questions are stupid or naive, or even unanswerable (and thus not 'scientific', i.e. worthy of their consideration).

And I'm sure some (small) degree of ill will, on both the part of physicists and the real/exist questioners, is warranted. Asking whether the object of someone's studies are real or whether they exist is almost unavoidably derogatory. And surely some physics will turn out not to have been about or in search of anything that could reasonably be believed to be real or to exist, as has happened many times before.

Comment by kenny on Does the Higgs-boson exist? · 2019-06-15T21:36:31.963Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

These claims-to-accuracy are not beliefs in the sense that they are based on evidence and are subject to revision, and are therefore not certain.

That seems like a really tortured definition/interpretation/understanding of 'belief'. What's the motivation for that? To distinguish these "claims-to-accuracy" as different than religious belief? I'm confused why this rhetorical stance is useful or interesting given that even religious belief is based on evidence and subject to revision, and even very few religious believers claim total or complete certainty.

There may be some issues about the classification or demarcation of complex entities , but they are not necessarily the same as issues about the existence of entities.

I agree with respect to classification but not for demarcation – if it's unclear how to demarcate two entities isn't it unclear whether two entities exist (versus one or none)?

And generally, because of the seemingly inevitable issues with demarcating individual entities of a given class, it's less clear that they exist, or the reality of their existence (as entities of that class) seems less obvious, i.e. they are 'less real'.

I'm suggesting that 'is real' and 'exists' are not binary values but rather magnitudes. Unicorns seem pretty clearly 'not real' and that it is true that they 'do not exist' (and never existed). But the magnitude of their reality or non-existence is not perfectly un-real or non-existent, as even something folk tales that mention them is (very) weak evidence that they might be real or might have existed (or might still exist somewhere).

Here are two of my favorite examples of categories of entities that are somewhat unreal or less 'existential':

  • Tectonic plates
  • The species of dogs, wolves, and coyotes

For tectonic plates, it's not obvious how many exist, thus the existence of some possible plates is uncertain. Obviously the components of plates exist but, at least for some (possible) plates, it's not clear that they do exist or are 'real' – as tectonic plates.

And dogs, wolves, and coyotes can all interbreed, and produce sexually fertile offspring, and genetic evidence of existing (individual) dogs, wolves, or coyotes indicate that they are all genetically intermixed. Are those species real? Do those species exist? Surely, in general, the individual members of those species exist, but do the species themselves exist? Are those species 'real'? It seems clear to me that the 'reality' of those three species is strictly less than the reality of any members of those species.

Comment by kenny on Paper on qualitative types or degrees of knowledge, with examples from medicine? · 2019-06-15T21:14:40.634Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for the link!

The paper I'm thinking of is more about the differences in knowledge on the order of: (a) there's a single, cheap, known fix for your problem, so you should just do x (because we know (almost) exactly what the problem is and know how to solve it, 'mechanically'; versus (b) here's a guideline (because we don't really know what the problem is, in detail, or specifically).

I checked the comments on that post and no one seems to have linked to the paper I'm remembering. I wouldn't be surprised that it's linked in comments on another post on SSC tho as I'm pretty sure I've seen links to it on this site (or maybe Overcoming Bias, before Eliezer stopped blogging there, long ago).

Comment by kenny on Does the Higgs-boson exist? · 2019-06-15T00:19:42.254Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure what conceptions of 'belief' you have in mind in the first part of your reply. Are you claiming tho that Sabine, and other physicists, as shminux claims, don't have beliefs as would be commonly understood? Even about physics, or the accuracy of the mainstream theories in that field? I admit to being confused as to exactly what point shminux, or Sabine, are trying to make tho.

I would assume that what Sabine means by belief is some combination of certainty and not being based on evidence.

I find it hard to imagine what Sabine or shminux could have in mind if what you write is true. They, apparently, would claim that the some physics theories are accurate. In what sense do those claims not correspond to beliefs, e.g. that the theories actually are accurate?

Maybe you're on to something about this whole discussion being confusing because the participants, particularly Sabine or shminux, aren't explicitly discussing degrees of certainty or amounts and strength of evidence. For example, it certainly seems completely reasonable to reply to "Do black holes exist? Are they real?" with something like "They're predicted by our best theories of physics and we have pretty strong indirect evidence of their existence, in specific places (in space-time), so we're reasonably certain that they do in fact exist and are real. For one, we've generated an image of one that's relatively nearby and all the methods we used to do so seem, as far as we can tell, to be eminently reasonable based on everything else we know (and believe to be true).".

It's not obvious that being complex or a compound makes something less real.

Sure, if by "the Higgs-boson, quarks, black holes, let alone planets, species, individual people" we 'only meant' something like a (Vast) group of quantum field excitations (or similar). But, as far as I can tell, we mean very different things by each of those different words or phrases. It seems pretty obvious to me that the 'reality' of a species is a very different thing than the reality of an individual, and neither are always clear in every situation. During speciation, it's not clear when one species has become many – so the 'reality' of the species, one or many, seems less real to me, in that specific situation anyways. Similarly, victims of brain trauma are often described as 'like another person' – that seems to clearly infringe on the 'reality' of personal identity, which seems like a pretty important component of personhood. Generally, the degree to which a concept or category is nebulous seems to match how 'real' it is, or seems.