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 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 (1 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.

Comment by kenny on Litany of Instrumentarski · 2019-06-14T04:35:45.364Z · score: 7 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What's 'accuracy' without 'reality'?

Comment by kenny on Does the Higgs-boson exist? · 2019-06-14T02:33:42.227Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm confused:

In this post she sums up beautifully what I and many physicists believe, and is vehemently opposed by the prevailing realist crowd here on LW. A few excerpts:

Look, I am a scientist. Scientists don’t deal with beliefs.

Can you point out a specific an example of "the prevailing realist crowd here on LW" or, if you don't want to unfairly single out a specific example, concoct a charitable facsimile? (The fragment "is vehemently opposed by the prevailing realist crowd here on LW" seems hostile, I'd guess due to frustration, but I'm uncertain so I'm curious as to the relevant motivations for you to use it.)

Obviously scientists deal with beliefs. You're claiming (and I believe you) that both you and "many physicists" don't believe that philosophical realism is true (or 'true') or useful (or that it's a 'wrong question'). And, presumably, you and Sabine both believe that the theory that predicts that Higgs-bosons 'exist' is the best available theory for predicting anticipated experiences.

Maybe I've been drinking the Kool-Aid David Chapman's been giving away for too long, but obviously, being something inside { reality / the universe } I have no privileged access to whether any particular beliefs are ultimately or perfectly true or that the objects of those beliefs are likewise ultimately or perfectly real. But if sure seems like we've been able to get closer and closer to true beliefs about what's real. On the gripping hand, we also seem 'doomed' to run up against the inevitable nebulosity of our beliefs.

So, I'll try to answer the questions that both you and Sabine seem to find so frustrating:

  • Does the Higgs-boson exist? – Yes, it seems to exist (i.e. to be a real particle). We have pretty strong evidence that it's been detected and the evidence strongly suggests that its properties match our predictions.
  • Do black holes exist? – Yes, they seem to exist. We've even been able to recently generate an image of one (relatively) nearby!
  • Do quarks exist? – The best theory of particle physics suggests that they do but currently we don't expect to be able to observe them 'freely', i.e. not bound within other less elementary particles, with our available tools, so the evidence of their existence is more indirect than we may otherwise hope to someday have.
  • Does time exist? – Yes, in the sense that we don't have much of an ability to understand anything without, essentially, assuming it exists, tho we do know, and have strong evidence thereof, that it's weirder than our intuitions would otherwise lead us to believe (e.g. it can 'dilate', even in ways we can precisely measure, in certain circumstances). But there are somewhat plausible ideas by which time may not be 'ontologically primitive' relative to some deeper understanding of the (observable) universe, e.g. timeless physics.
  • Do gravitational waves exist? Yes, they same to exist, and we have evidence that's consistent with their existence according to our best theories of physics.

Sabine wrote:

Look, I am a scientist. Scientists don’t deal with beliefs. They deal with data and hypotheses. Science is about knowledge and facts, not about beliefs.

That's just wrong. There is no knowledge, there are no facts, there is no data, nor hypotheses, divorced from or somehow separate from beliefs. It's a belief that facts, or knowledge about them, exist, that statements of or about them are true. Indeed, I don't know what a fact is or what knowledge could be if they were not also true. A statement of fact can be false, i.e. not true, i.e. a statement of something that is not a fact.

Sabine's last paragraph:

Here is a homework assignment: Do you think that I exist? And what do you even mean by that?

You seem to be arguing that the correct answer is no, Sabine Hossenfelder doesn't exist. I know of no theory, and definitely no mathematical framework, that predicts (specifically or even in general possibility) that she does. According to the best theories of physics there are only quantum fields and space-time. QED

Except, that's silly – of course she exists (and is real), at least as far as I can tell!

I think I may have demonstrated that I'm not in fact a philosophical realist. But I think that's wrong too. I strongly suspect that the universe (reality) is ontologically independent of my, or anyone else's, consciousness, or any ideas, beliefs, facts, or knowledge we may have with regard to it. I'm pretty sure we haven't measured or observed any such ontologically primitive elements, and I'm agnostic as to whether we (or anything else in the universe) will ever be able to do so. I wouldn't be surprised if it was actually impossible to do so. But I do believe they're real and that they exist.

As to everything else tho, e.g. the Higgs-boson, quarks, black holes, let alone planets, species, individual people – obviously those are not ontologically primitive and so the degree to which they are 'real' and 'exist' is nebulous. (Unless of course Platonic realism/idealism, or mathematicism, is true (or maybe even also true), in which case everything imaginable (and more) 'exists' and is 'real'.)

Comment by kenny on Blackmail · 2019-03-14T04:45:28.369Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm a little confused about how the burden of proof ended up as it is in this discussion.

Among people generally, the burden of proof is the opposite of what you perceived it to be in this discussion. But this post was responding to a blog post claiming the arguments for legally prohibiting blackmail aren't persuasive.

But in any case, the point of the discussion is to sharpen our intuitions, or even discard then if warranted.

Comment by kenny on Building up to an Internal Family Systems model · 2019-02-20T16:17:46.294Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This is a great post; particularly in how you narrate bouncing off of it and then building a model by which it or something like it is plausible.

I actually had the luck of having an in-person demonstration of this (IFS-style therapy) from someone in the LW/rationalist community years ago and I've been discussing it and recommending it to others ever since.

Comment by kenny on Building up to an Internal Family Systems model · 2019-02-20T15:38:11.351Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've read that book. One thing I think it's missing, if I'm remembering it correctly, is any interplay between 'bottom-up' and 'top-down' sub-agents. That seems to be a key dynamic à la perceptual control theory.

Comment by kenny on How To Use Bureaucracies · 2018-08-10T20:15:29.032Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This example does not seem to match Samo's system very closely.

You yourself wrote why it does seem, to me at least, to match Samo's system well:

this would be an abandoned and ineffective bureaucracy

Comment by kenny on Toolbox-thinking and Law-thinking · 2018-07-10T21:02:48.741Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Sure; any particular Toolbox Thinker might not have 'Law Thinking' in their toolbox for one.

Comment by kenny on Toolbox-thinking and Law-thinking · 2018-07-10T20:59:30.580Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think maybe you were thinking of this bit from the post "What they don’t teach you at STEM school":

By system, I mean, roughly, a collection of related concepts and rules that can be printed in a book of less than 10kg and followed consciously. A rational system is one that is “good” in some way. There are many different conceptions of what makes a system rational. Logical consistency is one; decision-theoretic criteria can form another. The details don’t matter here, because we are going to take rationality for granted.

Comment by Kenny on [deleted post] 2018-05-23T16:07:38.398Z


Comment by kenny on The Case Against Education · 2018-05-16T18:16:50.779Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, some people have wonderfully enjoyable experiences at school and some of them even learn things. Caplan doesn't dispute that.

There's nothing wrong with, e.g. lectures, for teaching people. The main problem with education, as a 'system', is that *most* of its function is signalling, e.g. providing credentials, by which people can be sorted and ranked by employers.

How do we instill an essential curiosity early on?

This seems kinda perverse. Are you trying to brainstorms ways to instill curiosity in people that don't have any real control over what they get to learn? How would that work? There are forms of 'schooling' that aren't structured in really any similar ways to the common versions of the U.S. education system, e.g. unschooling, but they're fundamentally opposed to the idea of *instilling* curiosity. Why instill something in someone when you can just *protect* what already exists?

I think this discussion can go in two directions. The first is just an ideal model of education. Without political constraints, how do you teach someone about the world and get them to care?

Caplan, and myself, and I suspect Zvi too, would claim that the idea of teaching anyone that doesn't want to learn is (almost always) just bad. The worst part of our current system is that it's compulsory. People already care, tho maybe not about the same things you'd choose for them. Why shouldn't they learn about whatever it is they already care about?

You should read Caplan's book. He's *very* thorough and considers every point mentioned here in the comments.

Comment by kenny on The Case Against Education · 2018-05-16T18:07:18.691Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, Caplan is aware of all of the considerations you've raised. It's a good read too.

He also doesn't push "demolishing all schools" but cutting government subsidies. He's also confident that that's not going to happen. Even in the event that substantial cuts in subsidies *were* realized, he doesn't imagine *no* schools, just significantly fewer. He also 'supports' subsidized grade school (as a form of daycare). His conclusions are most directed at graduate school, college, and, to a lesser extent, high school.

And maybe it's not clear, but Caplan's book is about the benefits of education, in its current forms, being weak *relative to their costs* (e.g. other opportunities).

Comment by kenny on The Case Against Education · 2018-05-16T17:57:49.979Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You are the kind of person for which school, especially schools like the one you attended, *least* fails. But that kind of person is one which least *needs* school. I'm confident you could have had much of the same experience doing anything with a group of similarly intelligent people.

I'll grant that it's possible and likely that you in fact did enjoy it.

You wrote (down-thread):

The claim is that the system is just terrible, for basically everyone, and that it would be best to just burn it down wholesale.
And that’s silly.

I think the claim *still* stands. You're an outlier. You're not a member of the set "basically everyone" and therefore hurting you or people like you to "just burn it down wholesale" is probably *still* warranted. Or are you claiming that your enjoyment of school, or anyone else's, is sufficient to justify school in *exactly* the form it takes now (and at the same cost)?

Comment by kenny on Naming the Nameless · 2018-04-20T19:07:14.295Z · score: 8 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I feel the same way about Brooklyn and NYC that you express here about the Bay. If you ever find somewhere better to live, with suitable aesthetics of course, let me know!

Comment by kenny on Book Review: Consciousness Explained · 2018-04-05T21:27:48.403Z · score: 9 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If you haven't read his other book, Darwin's Dangerous Idea, I strongly recommend you do!

Comment by kenny on A useful level distinction · 2018-03-26T23:52:44.336Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

A question then for both of you – isn't the object in this case exactly one that exists in both *reality* and our map of reality? It's not obvious to me that something like this *isn't* objective and even potentially knowable. It's information, it must be stored somewhere in some kind of physical 'media', and the better it is as a working component of our map the more likely it is that it corresponds to some thing-in-reality.

Interestingly, it just occurred to me that stuff like this – 'information stuff' – is exactly the kind of thing that, to the degree it's helpful in a 'map', is something we should expect to find more or less as-is in the world itself.

Comment by kenny on Contra double crux · 2018-03-06T14:59:57.182Z · score: 7 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I didn't think your comment was too long, nor would it even if it was twice as long. Nor did I find it rambly. Please consider writing up portions of your thoughts whenever you can if doing so is much easier than writing up your full thoughts.

Comment by kenny on Paper Trauma · 2018-03-04T16:34:41.762Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Businesses also push this anti-paper propaganda. I'll cop to pushing an anti-paper agenda too at work, tho in my case it's because my job should be to provide them with better tools that would obviate them from needing to continually print spreadsheets to visualize whatever.

Comment by kenny on Paper Trauma · 2018-03-04T16:31:50.163Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I want to push back on text not being good for diagrams; this isn't necessarily true. Consider Markdown. It's very readable raw and almost any diagram can be represented as a tree, i.e. a list with nested lists.