Posts

The Illusion of Ethical Progress 2020-06-28T09:33:29.013Z · score: 3 (29 votes)
Life at Three Tails of the Bell Curve 2020-06-27T08:49:02.751Z · score: 49 (28 votes)
News ⊂ Advertising 2020-06-22T19:19:29.948Z · score: 32 (31 votes)
Deriving General Relativity 2020-06-22T09:52:09.554Z · score: 3 (10 votes)
[Personal Experiment] One Year without Junk Media: Six-Month Update 2020-06-18T16:34:14.484Z · score: 68 (27 votes)
Intuitive Lagrangian Mechanics 2020-06-13T09:19:52.242Z · score: 24 (8 votes)
Defining AGI 2020-06-04T10:59:00.380Z · score: 7 (2 votes)
Status-Regulating Emotions 2020-06-03T22:32:03.082Z · score: 27 (14 votes)
Harmonic Wave Resonance 2020-05-31T04:10:58.143Z · score: 7 (4 votes)
lsusr's Shortform 2020-05-31T03:06:18.382Z · score: 6 (1 votes)
Fractal Harmonic Waves 2020-05-31T01:31:35.842Z · score: 10 (7 votes)
Orthogonality 2020-05-21T03:17:36.365Z · score: 21 (8 votes)
Small Data 2020-05-14T04:29:52.455Z · score: 21 (8 votes)
Re: Some Heroes 2020-05-12T09:30:56.012Z · score: 36 (16 votes)
Plans for COVID-19? 2020-05-08T04:37:22.086Z · score: 8 (4 votes)
I do not like math 2020-04-29T11:27:17.214Z · score: 31 (26 votes)
Forbidden Technology 2020-04-25T07:20:17.829Z · score: 23 (9 votes)
The Inefficient Market Hypothesis 2020-04-24T07:33:08.252Z · score: 53 (28 votes)
The History of Color in Chinese 2020-04-12T04:05:49.885Z · score: 29 (13 votes)
What Surprised Me About Entrepreneurship 2020-04-05T09:18:16.411Z · score: 69 (35 votes)
3 Interview-like Algorithm Questions for Programmers 2020-03-25T09:05:10.875Z · score: 3 (11 votes)
Importing masks from China 2020-03-19T04:43:12.133Z · score: 22 (4 votes)
What I'm doing to fight Coronavirus 2020-03-09T21:11:39.626Z · score: 80 (25 votes)
4 Kinds of Learning 2020-03-08T02:25:30.412Z · score: 10 (7 votes)
How do you do hyperparameter searches in ML? 2020-01-13T03:45:46.837Z · score: 9 (4 votes)
[Personal Experiment] Training YouTube's Algorithm 2020-01-09T09:04:17.459Z · score: 14 (6 votes)
Machine Learning Can't Handle Long-Term Time-Series Data 2020-01-05T03:43:15.981Z · score: 2 (21 votes)
[Book Review] The Trouble with Physics 2020-01-05T01:47:26.368Z · score: 25 (15 votes)
Defining "Antimeme" 2019-12-26T09:35:11.906Z · score: 14 (8 votes)
How to Talk About Antimemes 2019-12-22T11:57:27.828Z · score: 13 (6 votes)
The Arrows of Time 2019-12-21T11:42:16.894Z · score: 5 (3 votes)
[Personal Experiment] One Year without Junk Media 2019-12-14T08:26:05.318Z · score: 43 (18 votes)
Confabulation 2019-12-08T10:18:48.986Z · score: 45 (19 votes)
Connectome-Specific Harmonic Waves 2019-12-05T00:23:53.864Z · score: 20 (11 votes)
Symbiotic Wars 2019-12-04T00:06:08.777Z · score: 23 (11 votes)
Antimemes 2019-11-26T05:58:28.954Z · score: 29 (23 votes)
[Personal Experiment] Counterbalancing Risk-Aversion 2019-11-15T08:34:03.460Z · score: 28 (14 votes)
Indescribable 2019-11-10T13:31:45.298Z · score: 12 (10 votes)
Self-Keeping Secrets 2019-11-10T07:59:15.119Z · score: 43 (21 votes)
The Technique Taboo 2019-10-30T11:22:47.184Z · score: 45 (34 votes)
Prospecting for Conceptual Holes 2019-10-30T08:34:52.769Z · score: 53 (28 votes)
Mediums Overpower Messages 2019-10-20T05:46:19.339Z · score: 38 (19 votes)
Invisible Choices, Made by Default 2019-10-20T02:09:02.992Z · score: 36 (23 votes)
Integrating the Lindy Effect 2019-09-07T17:38:27.348Z · score: 15 (9 votes)
Zeno walks into a bar 2019-08-04T07:00:27.114Z · score: 25 (13 votes)

Comments

Comment by lsusr on How Beliefs Change What We See in Starlight · 2020-08-06T18:39:02.841Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I myself also tend to enjoy posts about science going down the wrong road. If you are comfortable sharing and it is is not too inconvenient to you, I am curious which specific posts you have enjoyed on this topic.

Comment by lsusr on What should an Einstein-like figure in Machine Learning do? · 2020-08-06T01:02:03.237Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This is not a hypothetical to me. I currently have, running on my computer, a few tricks that allow me to train small data systems much faster than anyone else. The first thing I did was figure out if they could bring an AGI within reach of a large project. Is it? I don't know. AGI faces bigger obstacles than a mere 4 orders of magnitude of compute power.

The second thing I did was chat with machine learning engineers from the big tech companies. They are not using these tricks and are not interested in adopting them. This will not surprise the Lisp hackers reading this post.

There might be a hedge fund out there that can use my tech. But a cursory investigation suggests that the majority of hedge funds are not doing anything sophisticated enough to require it.

So now I'm using my ML system to train an IMU-based gesture detection algorithm to track how much people eat in order to help prevent obesity-related diseases.

Comment by lsusr on How Beliefs Change What We See in Starlight · 2020-08-05T19:16:38.060Z · score: 2 (3 votes) · LW · GW

That is not a citation.

Let me dig up that list of a hundred US and Russian papers from the 1970s...

Please do. A single citation pointing to that list ought to suffice.

Comment by lsusr on How Beliefs Change What We See in Starlight · 2020-08-05T16:30:59.116Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Your comments would benefit from the use of hyperlinks and blockquotes. If WISIWYG is a problem you can enable the markdown editor from your "Edit Account" page.

Comment by lsusr on How Beliefs Change What We See in Starlight · 2020-08-05T16:24:38.801Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

When someone makes several comments that are longer than the post itself, and when the reasoning is demonstrably fallacious (weirdness criterion!?), I think it is fair to call the comment a gish gallop when that is the most economical way to express what happened.

You still have not refuted gjm's comment, which remains childless. I am not referring to the comment you handwaved away with the term "Gish gallop". I am referring to the comment where gjm explains why you are Gish galloping and ze is not. Once again, this demonstrates "remarkably little effort by you to address any particular feedback other than to hand wave it away."

…we (rational scientists)…

You continue to misrepresent the statements of others. Dustin did not claim to be a scientist nor member of the scientific establishment.

You have not refuted Dustin.

You have not even contested my statement "You have not refuted Dustin." This corroborates Dustin's claim "A brief perusal of what people have commented on your posts seems to show remarkably little effort by you to address any particular feedback other than to hand wave it away."

Comment by lsusr on How Beliefs Change What We See in Starlight · 2020-08-05T15:53:38.758Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In the case of gravitational waves, back in the 1970s, hundreds of independent research groups constructed simple devices to measure them and they all compared their results. Each research group thought that it had measured gravitational waves, but when the results were combined, they all had to conclude that no one had been measuring gravitational waves. They had all been measuring different sources of noise.

A hundred other researchers say, "We have used the same device to measure gravitational waves and found that it is too sensitive to local sources of noise to be able to conclude that anything it measures is cosmic in origin."

Please provide a citation for this claim.

Comment by lsusr on How Beliefs Change What We See in Starlight · 2020-08-05T15:29:11.115Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

…a series of gish gallops by gjm…

What you, nixtaken, wrote was a Gish gallop. What gjm wrote was a refutation. You have ignored gjm's comment about how you misapply the word "Gish gallop". This shows "remarkably little effort by you to address any particular feedback other than to hand wave it away."

So I did that in this post, but then I was told by dustin [sic] that I've written something too glaringly obvious yet clearly incorrect and controversial. Instead of using specific examples from published papers, I used analogies and I was criticized for that as well.

You have not refuted Dustin. You have not even failed to refute Dustin. You misrepresented Dustin's comment and then did not even contradict your self-contradictory misrepresentation of Dustin's comment that your post is "glaringly obvious yet clearly incorrect". In this way, your writing continues to demonstrate "remarkably little effort by you to address any particular feedback other than to hand wave it away."

There seems to be no winning with a crowd that doesn't like to see their favorite team (science) painted in a less than glowing light. I think that some of the elders of your community might be needed to help teach these people that science isn't about team loyalty, it is about a method, and that is what I've been writing about. [emphasis mine]

Thank you for not making personal attacks this time. Your overly-derogatory tone continues to violate the social norms of this website.

Comment by lsusr on Signs of the Times · 2020-08-04T21:25:28.192Z · score: 9 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think that it is unfortunate that she was put out into the public eye at such an early stage of her career, before she could fully understand what she was doing. [emphasis mine]

This is yet another example of a personal attack. Please refrain from making unsubstantiated claims belittling other people.

Comment by lsusr on Signs of the Times · 2020-08-04T20:57:40.560Z · score: 10 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I was advised that the articles I first posted here on Less Wrong were too long, wide-ranging, and technical, so with this article, I'm trying a more scaled-back, focused, 'reveal culture' style. Does it work better than the approach in the article below?

This is better but it still contains two separate ideas. One idea is "I don’t really believe that black holes exist because I think that theorists got drunk on general relativity and invented them." The other idea has to do with the creation of this specific image.

I agree with korin43 that the second idea already "feels like too much of a personal attack on a particular scientist". However, if you really want to continue in that direction then you should read all of the relevant scientific papers, write a post (or posts) explaining exactly, in mathematical terms[1] how the algorithms work and then explain the error in careful unambiguous mathematical terms. Strip out everything else[2]. Less Wrong is read by theoretical physicists, quantitative hedge fund managers, specialists in machine learning, and so on. We can handle the math. We do not have time for unnecessary words.

I think it would be more constructive to go in the direction of "black holes do not exist". The problem is not that your articles are too technical. The problem is that they depend unnecessarily upon deep technical knowledge from unrelated domains. An article explaining why black holes do not exist would require technical knowledge in only a single domain.


  1. Less Wrong supports MathJax. ↩︎

  2. In your comments and articles, you often speculate on the motives and thought processes of people you disagree with. I think your writing would benefit from leaving this out and sticking to the facts. Instead of arguing "[person] who expouses [popular idea] is wrong because ", your writing would improve if you wrote "[unpopular idea] is right because ". ↩︎

Comment by lsusr on Signs of the Times · 2020-08-04T20:46:51.167Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The photo especially makes it feel like a personal attack. It is not clear to me what purpose this photo serves other than to make the attack extra personal.

Comment by lsusr on Medical Diagnostic Imaging, Leukemia, and Black Holes · 2020-08-04T20:42:55.665Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I myself write controversial posts like this which often combine ideas from a broad range of disciplines. I have even written specifically about problems in theoretical physics. As something of a heretic, I appreciate Villiam's work as a community builder and I agree with every one of Villiam's points.

This community recognizes that there are indeed problems in the application of statistical reasoning within physics and biology. I suspect the strongest negative reaction of this community towards you has little to do with your opinions. You are getting a negative reaction for your poor writing quality.

Your posts are full of factual errors. They are full of logical errors. They contain misleading information. They are written in a disdainful tone inappropriate for this site. Such writing does not meet the criteria of "a high standard of inquiry".

Worst of all, you insult community members.

…a seemingly intelligent LessWrong commenter…

…A more charitable assessment is that my articles provoked a strong case of cognitive dissonance in him…

That must be a great way to build up Karma.…I imagine that your [Villiam's] instinct is to avoid confrontation, make friends with the right people, and support group norms…

Please refrain from insulting other community members. That is not how we do things here.

Comment by lsusr on Can you gain weirdness points? · 2020-07-31T08:14:53.078Z · score: 16 (8 votes) · LW · GW

People do not punish nonconformity per se. People punish nonconformity iff it is a problem. If someone punishes you for being weird then that means your weirdness has caused a problem. If you can stop causing problems for other people then you can get away with being weird.

I walk around barefoot outside where there is broken glass. Instead of hosting my personal website on WordPress, I created my own content management system…in Lisp. I wrote this answer in Vim through i3 on a Linux machine. I am a heretical savant high on cocaine. I wrote a series of posts on how to become even weirder. Yesterday, I stared at a grass field for so long my eyes malfunctioned.

I get away with being weird because I do not cause problems for other people. The value of keeping me around outweighs the cost.

Weirdness points seem like a valuable (and limited) resource, especially if you are promoting or enacting multiple ideas…

Promoting unpopular ideas turns you into a problem.

It's often seen to be easier to fight for one weird thing, than to fight for multiple weird things. Therefore, we ought to prioritize what we fight for…

Fighting the ordinary people around you turns you into a problem. The simplest way to preserve weirdness points is to not fight for things.

Promoting unpopular ideas costs social capital. How much you can influence other people is a good definition of social capital. If you want to get away with disruptive activities then you can increase your social capital or minimize the disruption you cause.

Comment by lsusr on Free Educational and Research Resources · 2020-07-31T07:09:47.513Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There are two websites I go to for free books.

Comment by lsusr on A Scalable Urban Design and the Single Building City · 2020-07-28T18:20:27.605Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The OP's statement "it’s easier to make a 2nd or 100th floor than it is to buy more land and put a single story building up" is technically true. But there is nowhere on Earth where 100-floor buildings are built for anything but prestige. For example, here is a photo of New York City, one of the most expensive bits of land in the world. The World Trade Center is 104 stories tall. None of the other buildings in its immediate vicinity come close to its height. (Though a handful of buildings in New York do compare to the World Trade Center.)

Tokyo, once the most valuable real estate in the entire world, does not have a building with more than 60 floors.

This presents a problem for the tenses used in the quote. It is confusing to use the word "is" to describe a situation that does not exist, as if it did. It would be better to replace "100th" with "20th" or "if the land is valuable enough, it’s easier" with "if the land was valuable enough, it would be easier".

Comment by lsusr on Swiss Political System: More than You ever Wanted to Know (I.) · 2020-07-19T18:50:51.946Z · score: 2 (3 votes) · LW · GW

What a fascinating comparison between the two constitutions. The general absence of changes promoting states' rights to self-government is awfully telling, especially in comparison to the significant changes entrenching slavery. Therefore Alan Light's statement "Unfortunately that experiment in governance soon ended…before force of arms decided the issue against the American people" implies that human slaves are not people.

I think Alan Light's complaint about "the imprisonment of opposition" refers to Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus. The comparison anticipates this specific claim in its notes on Section 9.

No changes [to the suspension of habeas corpus]. Though Confederate apologists often bemoan the fact that the Yankee tyrant Lincoln suspended habeus corpus, there was nothing to stop the president of the Confederacy from doing the exact same thing.

The line-item veto is interesting too.

Comment by lsusr on News ⊂ Advertising · 2020-07-19T18:08:49.338Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I hadn't seen it. I like how Rolf Dobelli makes such a clean argument in his piece.

Out of the approximately 10,000 news stories you have read in the last 12 months, name one that – because you consumed it – allowed you to make a better decision about a serious matter affecting your life, your career, your business – compared to what you would have known if you hadn’t swallowed that morsel of news.

Avoid News by Rolf Dobelli

He makes good jokes too.

Now people push me and and they say "But you have to know if there's a catastrophe somewhere on the planet." Really? Do I? There's probably bad things happening on other planets and I'm quite okay not knowing about them.

Four reasons you should stop watching the news by Rolf Dobelli

If news gave you a competitive advantage [then] journalists would be the richest people on the planet. They are not.

Four reasons you should stop watching the news by Rolf Dobelli

Comment by lsusr on The Illusion of Ethical Progress · 2020-06-29T19:17:54.547Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I mean that chairs and apples are less universal than the Universal Law of Gravitation.

In what way?…What does “less universal” mean? If humanity spreads throughout the cosmos, and if we bring chairs with us everywhere we go, will chairs and gravitation thereby become equally “universal” (or, at least, more equal in “universality” than they are now)?

Gravity is present everywhere in the universe. Apples and chairs are not and will never be present everywhere in the universe.

Comment by lsusr on The Illusion of Ethical Progress · 2020-06-29T19:11:45.964Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

My answer to that question it is so far off the collective map of Less Wrong that stating it here would not result in a productive conversation. If our timeline is the blue walk of the post's 3D plot then my answer comes from the red one.

Comment by lsusr on The Illusion of Ethical Progress · 2020-06-29T18:13:08.595Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The enlightenment started around 300 years ago. It sounds like 300 years is a long period of historical time to you. To me, it is a short period of historical time. This itself could be the crux of our disagreement.

I do not mean that progress is impossible either. My argument is far more precise than that. I just saying that it is impossible to distinguish progress from a random walk using certain common meta-epistemological methods.

Comment by lsusr on The Illusion of Ethical Progress · 2020-06-29T04:56:29.633Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I mean that chairs and apples are less universal than the Universal Law of Gravitation. Similarly, ethical fashions are not fundamental to the universe. They are, as you put it "facts about people". Though old news to you, this idea is not obvious to many of the people I interact with in real life, including some who love to talk about ethics.

Comment by lsusr on The Illusion of Ethical Progress · 2020-06-29T04:35:16.883Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

A universal standard of ethics must have practical utility in every society at every point in history.

I suppose so, but why would you want one?

Because if I do not follow a universal standard of ethics then my entire ethical system will be founded on nothing more than transient fashions. Little is sufficient for most practical applications. Big is about understanding the universe. I want to understand the universe.

Comment by lsusr on The Illusion of Ethical Progress · 2020-06-29T04:26:38.743Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What is the loss function here, and why is it relevant to ethics?

This is a very complicated question and lots of other people have written about it already, in depth and in better places than eight comments deep into an online forum. If you are sufficiently interested in this subject, I recommend reading a book by Dharma Dan, Brad Warner, Thích Nhất Hạnh or the 14th Dalai Lama. You may prefer Dharma Dan to the others as he is the most secular of this group.

If you are curious about how ethics can exist without a loss function, you may find interesting The Chrysanthemum and the Sword by Ruth Benedict. (I listed this book in the footnotes to the original article.) This book describes a real-world ethical system where internal coherence (an abstract well-defined loss function) was not a value. I hope in the future to write a future about Daoism that expands upon this idea.

Comment by lsusr on The Illusion of Ethical Progress · 2020-06-29T04:18:29.120Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

By "subjective" I mean that ethics is not meaningful without an observer. There can be no meaningful ethics in a lifeless, brain-less world without actors. By "relative" I mean taking the measure of an ethical system relative to another ethical system. "Differences in degrees Celsius" is a relative measure but "degrees Kelvin" is an absolute measure.

As someone with experience meditating, I don't think these are religious Barnum statements at all. But this is not obvious if you have not had certain experiences for yourself.

Finally, how can contemplation in the wilderness be an experiment in observing anything but individual human psychology?

It isn't. But we are all the same species and tend to be similar to each other in the most fundamental ways. Study one mouse thoroughly enough and you will learn a lot about mice in general. I would love to see a wealth of scientific data on the effect of mystical practice on happiness and other metrics like default mode activation, but such data does not exist right now.

Comment by lsusr on The Illusion of Ethical Progress · 2020-06-29T04:05:56.571Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Given how the brain works, there seems to be no pathway to experience ultimate reality directly.

If "ultimate reality" means "the process by which your brain constructs a simulation of reality" or "all of reality as constructed by your brain" then I believe there is a mechanism to experience something like this directly. Specifically, I suspect that connectome-specific harmonic waves exchange information by adjusting their resonances relative to each other. If CSHW resonance works this way and the global workspace is a low frequency harmonic wave then concentrating on a single thing for a long time ought to get different regions to sync up with each other like a room full of pendulums. This ought to increase the information exchange between them, linking together different parts of the brain that are normally separate from each other.

Comment by lsusr on The Illusion of Ethical Progress · 2020-06-28T21:08:33.558Z · score: 0 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It has been designed by many people all over the world (but mostly in Asia) over thousands of years through extensive trial and error. I think some of the methods are very good and have tried them out myself. I persevered with my favorite technique and it produced fascinating results for me. Mysticism has the advantage over Western philosophy in that it allows a practitioner to observe ethics unfolding in the mind directly. This brings ethics down from philosophical word games into the empirical reality of consciousness.

Comment by lsusr on The Illusion of Ethical Progress · 2020-06-28T20:53:30.504Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think you could make an even stronger argument against my post by writing the following:

The OP makes two contradictory claims:

  • "Western philosophy has no place for empiricism."
  • "[E]mpiricism once formed the foundation for the Age of Reason."

The "Age of Reason", also known as the "Age of Enlightenment", included the British Empiricists who founded a tradition of Western philosophy so empirical it now dominates the world.

Comment by lsusr on The Illusion of Ethical Progress · 2020-06-28T20:34:37.760Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for your comment about "structured patterns". I think you did a great job of explaining ideas I had not delved deep into within my original post. I like your metaphor about how mystics map "more of the territory" too. I think some schools (vipassana especially) map the territory in finer detail as well.

I feel like Eliezer Yudkowsky's argument about Bayesian complexity in his Quantum Physics and Many Worlds sequence favors the mystics' perspective. Why do you think Occam's Razor favors the second perspective? Are "weird neurological pathways" not part of the territory of consciousness?

Comment by lsusr on The Illusion of Ethical Progress · 2020-06-28T18:42:08.288Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Ethics is a construct of the mind. Mysticism is a suite of techniques designed to observe the constructs of your mind in absolute terms. Therefore mysticism can be used to observe ethics on its own absolute terms. The "structured patterns" part provides the intersubjective consistency necessary for productive dialogue about these subjective experiences.

Btw I think that mental illness also follows structured patterns.

You are not wrong. Mystics can be considered mentally ill within the Western paradigm. Psychiatrist Scott Anderson writes about this in his post Gupta on Enlightenment.

Living in the condition of having no internal dialogue, no flow of thoughts, no flow of images, just Smack, into the present is quite an abrupt thing. For the first couple of weeks I thought I’d gone completely mad. Oh my god I’ve totally broken myself. I’m fucked. And I discovered that I could still go to work, and I could still socialise with people and I could cook and get through all the basic things of life. Nobody outside of me seemed to notice any particular change in my behaviour, even though I was lost in this rapturous state of total absorption with the world. Wow, this is amazing, woah! And then life continued.

I’d run right off the edge of every reality map that I had because if you go to a psychologist or a psychiatrist and say, by the way I did really a lot of meditation and my internal dialogue has totally stopped. Any ideas what I do now? Nobody ever winds up there in the West because nobody does enough meditation, at least they don’t do it right.

Actually, sometimes people do come to psychiatrists with these kinds of complaints. I usually try to explain what’s going on, and they usually tell me they were just meditating because someone said it relieved stress, and nobody warned them they could actually have mystical experiences, and this was not what they signed up for. Symptomatic treatment and a hard ban on further meditation successfully de-mysticize most of these people, and they are able to go back to their regular lives. I assume if there’s an afterlife some sort of cosmic wisdom deity is going to be very angry at me – but hey, I’m just doing my job.

Comment by lsusr on The Illusion of Ethical Progress · 2020-06-28T18:19:32.904Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I am happy to hear you enjoyed this article.

I agree that an individual can subjectively improve zir ethics over time. It follows that so can a society. But just because a society can improve does not mean it has improved.

That said, I suspect an unspoken aspect to your argument is that we have already randomly walked around, if not precisely on, the optimal human ethic. In this way, there can be no ethical progress. It's just a matter of getting a critical mass of humanity to zero in on that location.

Really? Why do you think so? I claim ethics is absolute. No mass of humanity shouting will ever make it so.

Comment by lsusr on The Illusion of Ethical Progress · 2020-06-28T17:51:49.171Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Should you sacrifice your son to a hallucinated god, turn the other cheek, slay the unbelievers and rape their women, observe your thoughts until you conclude that nothing is real, or...?

"No", "yes", "no", "no", and "it depends", respectively. Some of these questions are more complicated than they appear to outsiders. For example, while the Covenant is seen as a one-way street in Christianity, the Jewish Covenant can be seen more as a two-way negotiation within Jewish theology. Would Abraham have sacrificed Isaac if God had not rescinded the command? Perhaps Abraham was testing God rather than the other way around. But I do not think any of these specific questions get to the crux of our disagreement.

And how much similarity is there between the ethical pronouncements?

I think this is the crux of our disagreement. The ethical systems pronounced are all context-dependent products of their time, so to compare them we must examine them in a context-free way. The simplest way to cut away much of the context is to examine their epistemology.

Most (all?) contemplation-based mystic techniques have strikingly similar methods. By focusing one's thoughts on a single target of attention, they not only get the junk from your social networks[1] out of your mind, they help you get other junk out of your mind too.

So far, I find it plausible that going away from other people for several days is good to focus on developing your own philosophy.

I think we have common ground here. Furthermore, I contend there exist contemplative techniques that can magnify the effect of getting away from it all.


  1. Social networks have been around since before Homo sapiens. ↩︎

Comment by lsusr on News ⊂ Advertising · 2020-06-22T22:53:22.832Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think cutting my mass media consumption would make me blind to trends. For example, the big political trend these days is advocated for on the homepage of a webcomic I read three times per week, graffitied twice on the path from my house to the nearest grocery store and displayed in giant bold sans-serif on Amazon's AWS sign-in page. Two of my immediate family members actively participate as leaders in the streets and hundreds of protesters marched through my neighborhood while I was working out in the park. When the city police repeatedly teargassed the protesters I received a series of emergency curfew notifications on my phone from the city government. Such trends are hard to miss.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

If I had trusted mass media then I would have under-prepared for COVID-19 instead of starting a company to mass produce preventative equipment the day the virus was discovered in my country. I even ordered masks many weeks before the virus was discovered in the USA. This all happened months into a period where I had stopped following the news.

That said, I absolutely agree that there are no good tools for aggregation. I might reconsider the value of news if someone could build a good AI to filter it for me.

Comment by lsusr on News ⊂ Advertising · 2020-06-22T20:07:19.134Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, you have reconsidered the incentives of new agencies, but what of yourself?

My objective when consuming media is to become happy and smart. News reduces my happiness and makes me stupid.

You say that the relationship between your happiness and news is not subjective, but aren't all feelings subjective?

I mean that following the news causes objectively observable behaviors that are known to reduce happiness.

Could it be the case that you are a less happy person when watching news because the news is, simply put, largely negative? Or perhaps that you, like many including myself, feel powerless in the face of negative news that is far away?

Yes. Negativity is indeed a contributing factor.

Could your new sources be less biased or more diverse?

Maybe? But I would have to go to extremely offbeat publications to get this to work. I have tried reading Al-Jazeera, news from South Africa, news from Nigeria, news from China in Chinese, anti-Chinese news in English, Fox News, my local moderate newspaper and my local radically leftist newspaper. The radical leftists produce a useful independently-researched cheatsheet during election season. Otherwise, all I found were different flavors of propaganda and advertisements. Specialized forums and independent reporters dedicated to extremely narrow topics can get around the specific bias identified in this post, but even they still run into the (unexplored by this post) Lindy Effect.

Couldn't it be the case that seeking out authors that have beliefs that align with you could challenge you less as an intellectual, and therefore be less productive for your mental broadening even if it feels better?

Yes? I am not sure what this is getting at because you wrote it before my comment mentioning Noam Chomsky. Are you suggesting I seek out authors who disagree with the likes of George Orwell? That is, I should read straight fascist propaganda? I love being challenged by coherent arguments, but prolonged attention to a repetitive stream of beliefs-as-attire seems like a non-optimal allocation of my time.

Comment by lsusr on News ⊂ Advertising · 2020-06-22T19:26:17.567Z · score: 12 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I run a company that has been featured in the media, so I get a look behind the curtain. Paul Graham writes about this experience in The Submarine.

For deeper, more traditionally academic-style evidence, you can find the propaganda bias painstakingly documented in Manufacturing Consent by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky. A more recent take is available in Hate Inc by Matt Taibbi.

This post merely illustrates a phenomenon I have been investigating for a long time.

Comment by lsusr on Neural Annealing: Toward a Neural Theory of Everything (crosspost) · 2020-06-22T19:01:22.178Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Are your previous models single or multi-agent? These ideas match multiagent models of the mind. If you start by assuming the mind to be a single agent then CSHW will not fit in with your previous models of the mind's structure.

Comment by lsusr on [deleted post] 2020-06-22T18:06:57.404Z

Yes, lol. The comments to this sequence, on the other hand, have been mercifully intelligent. They include phrases like "having done graduate work in general relativity" and "it [relativistic Lagrangian mechanics] makes sense for the effective field theory form of GR, for light at least".

Comment by lsusr on [deleted post] 2020-06-22T06:01:44.206Z

I hope people are downvoting this because they understand what it means, and disagree with the logical chain. Not just because it contradicts Copenhagen.

Comment by lsusr on [deleted post] 2020-06-21T23:34:25.378Z

This post about the time-reversibility of collapse sets the groundwork for a novel conclusion.

Comment by lsusr on [Personal Experiment] One Year without Junk Media: Six-Month Update · 2020-06-21T19:59:24.729Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The fundamental problem is there is no way you, as system administrator, can force yourself not to disable your own blocking software. This is a question of psychology, not technology. Blocking software can provide friction at its best.

Modifying your /etc/hosts file is a general solution, if you use Linux. I never bothered to find out if there is a good nontechnical solution since the /etc/hosts file works well for me. If someone else was your system administrator then that person modifying your /etc/hosts file might get around the "disable your own blocking software" problem.

I have never used RescueTime. I prefer open source software that lets me control all of my own data.

Warning: Infohazard

The Tor browser can get around modifications to your /etc/hosts. However, regular so-called "private" browsing cannot.

Comment by lsusr on [Personal Experiment] One Year without Junk Media: Six-Month Update · 2020-06-21T09:21:26.105Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You're not the first reader to express interest in doing one of these. I should get around to writing a manual. The digital tools are a tiny part of the overall project. Discipline is surprisingly unimportant too, in the long run. Succeeding in a project like this is all about understanding how habitual behavior works.

That said…

Could you detail for a digitally illiterate how you did this?…What site plugin did you use?

I use Block Site - Website Blocker for Chrome™. Uninstall your videogames, social media and news feeds. (Do not delete your videogames' save files.) Logout from social media on your phone if you cannot uninstall the apps. (There is no need to cancel your accounts.) Don't worry about the /etc/hosts file. It's for 1337 h4x0rz only.

If you want to listen to music on YouTube then create a separate account solely for music. Install Adblock Plus - free ad blocker. Adblock is very important! Don't skip it. Listen to music for a few hours. Whenever you see a recommended video that isn't music, click the "⋮" menu and then "Don't recommend channel". Keep clicking "Don't recommend channel" hundreds of times while listening to music until the YouTube algorithm understands what you want. Non-music videos are like weeds. You will never completely eradicate them but you can reduce them to a small fraction of your overall recommendations. If you click on a non-music video accidentally that's not the end of the world, but try to click away quickly so YouTube doesn't recommend more videos like it.

Do not listen to music on YouTube via the YouTube smartphone app. Install the Brave adblocking browser and listen to YouTube music through it instead.

How long should I keep it up before I will feel results in your estimation?

It depends on how much junk media you consume. For me, I always feel significant results within 24 hours. Since I don't know your specific situation, I'd feel comfortable saying within 7 days…if you cut out everything on the list plus personally addictive poisons[1] and you go a full week without any exceptions.

Different results happen on different timescales. Increasing my socialization, cooking and self-care happens within days. Curing my insomnia can take up to a week. Studying quantum field theory took several months and may not generalize to you at all.


  1. A friend of mine reads fiction novels to abnegate so he has to stop reading fiction when he abstains from junk media. ↩︎

Comment by lsusr on [Personal Experiment] One Year without Junk Media: Six-Month Update · 2020-06-21T05:46:48.846Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It looks like you might be replying to this comment.

A historical event is something that will still matter long into the future. Exceptional events with few long-term consequences constitute noise.

We were first to market. It took 8 days to launch. If someone else had launched first they might have taken all the media coverage.

Comment by lsusr on [Personal Experiment] One Year without Junk Media: Six-Month Update · 2020-06-20T21:08:56.816Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I modify my /etc/hosts file and use a block site plugin on my web browser.

Comment by lsusr on lsusr's Shortform · 2020-06-20T08:55:28.782Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · LW · GW

According to Brandon Sanderson there are two kinds of fiction writers: discovery writers and outliners. (George Martin calls them gardeners and architects.) Outliners plan what they write. Discovery writers make everything up on the spot.

I am a discovery writer. Everything I write is made-up on the spot.

I write by thinking out loud. I can't write from an outline because I can't write about anything I already understand.

The Feynman Algorithm:

  1. Write down the problem.
  2. Think real hard.
  3. Write down the solution.

The Feynmann Algorithm works for me because whoever writes my posts is smarter than me. Whenever I can't solve a problem I just write down the answer and then read it.

I think this works because I don't think in words. But the only way to write is with words. So when I write I just make stuff up. But words, unlike thoughts, must be coherent. So my thoughts come out way more organized in text then they ever were in my head. But nobody can read my mind, so after writing a post I can pretend that knew what it was going to say all along.

Comment by lsusr on [Personal Experiment] One Year without Junk Media: Six-Month Update · 2020-06-20T08:45:34.120Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Not at all. I got early reports from my family. When I heard China was quarantining 10 million people in Wuhan it was obvious to me the disease could become a global pandemic.

Comment by lsusr on [Personal Experiment] One Year without Junk Media: Six-Month Update · 2020-06-20T07:18:20.152Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I enjoy your three characteristics series. It seems like you have been meditating for longer than 6 months. I would be interested to read a subjective report of what long-term effects of meditation (if any) you have experienced.

Comment by lsusr on [Personal Experiment] One Year without Junk Media: Six-Month Update · 2020-06-20T02:38:41.587Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

News is a feed of exceptional events. Important news is called "history" and is impossible to ignore. Unimportant news is called "noise" and should be tuned out. Almost all news is a waste of time due to the Lindy effect alone.

Even worse, most news is subsidized by whoever wrote the press release, usually corporate or political interests. Have you ever read The Economist or Ars Technica and tried to guess what special interest group inserted each article into the publication? When these backers are corporations and political propaganda machines I find following the news makes me stupider because it draws my attention to the wrong things.

While surfing news is forbidden, I do allow myself to look up specific information if I have a question I want answered. For example, I have been following COVID-19 since 2019, long before it became big news in the West. I was way ahead of the mainstream news when it came to the single most important story this year. When this virus hit the USA I acted upon it immediately.

I decide for myself what information is important to follow and then I go look it up.

Comment by lsusr on [deleted post] 2020-06-19T06:25:29.882Z

TL;DR: You can localize entropy. For non-localized entropy, the symmetry is broken by the Von Neumann entropy of nondeterminate space (multiverse branching).


Let's look at things first macroscopically and then locally.

Macroscopic Entropy

Special relativity can be explained with clocks made out of oscillating light. Consider instead clocks made out of temperature disequilibrium e.g. ice melting into room temperature water.

Put one clock on a spaceship and launch it to Alpha Centauri and back. Leave the other one on Earth. Thanks to the twin paradox, the spaceship clock will melt less than the clock on Earth. But if space is orthogonal to change in entropy then what happened to the extra entropy the spaceship clock should have produced?

Just as in the twin paradox, there is a hidden asymmetry. In this case, the returning spaceship must have experienced a change in momentum. Something (whether reactant or a gravity assist) must have reversed the direction of the spaceship. This produces a change in momentum of something away from the Earth. The entropy gained from ejecting reactant at high speed far away from the Earth cancels out the entropy lost by the clock on the spaceship.

Conclusion: the macroscopic entropy of space is non-localized.

Local Entropy

Implicit in the concept of entropic time is that the time evolution components of the Klein–Gordon equation[1] encapsulate a large localized change in entropy. This solves the problem of defining entropy locally but does not answer the question of how the integral of the change in entropy across space can be nonzero when space is defined as nonzero change in entropy.

The paradox is resolved by the nondeterminacy of space. The entropy of space in the multiverse must factor in Von Neumann entropy . Any particular decoherent spatial path can violate provided the total entropy change of the weighted probabilities of all possible decoherent states equals zero.

Conclusion: applies to spatial movement in the multiverse, but not necessarily for a particular decoherent universe.

Putting them together

We have two big ideas:

  1. Macroscopic measurements of entropy are non-localized.
  2. Space is nondeterministic.

Macrostatic space-like paths with (seemingly) nonzero hide their entropy via branching in the spatial multiverse. The multiverse's Von Neumann entropy cancels out the inhomogeneity of entropy in any particular decoherent space-like path.


  1. The Klein–Gordon equation follows from relativistic Lagrangian Mechanics. This is well-established in quantum field theory but I haven't posted the intuitive explanation yet. ↩︎

Comment by lsusr on Creating better infrastructure for controversial discourse · 2020-06-17T03:49:31.217Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Ah. Many people on Less Wrong use real names or traceable pseudonyms. If Less Wrong becomes associated with [unspeakable] then anyone who uses [traceable name] on Less Wrong could, by association, be threatened by a mob regardless of whether [traceable name] in particular endorses [unspeakable] because terrorist mobs are not known for their precise discrimination of targets.

You illustrate this with a real-world example.

Comment by lsusr on Creating better infrastructure for controversial discourse · 2020-06-16T21:51:18.381Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think anonymity will help a lot.

Less Wrong does not require real names. What's wrong with just using a pseudonym here?

Comment by lsusr on Intuitive Lagrangian Mechanics · 2020-06-13T19:57:59.530Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Well, there's always the classical derivation. :)

This article comes from trying to understand A Simple Introduction to Particle Physics, "notes…intended for a student who has completed the standard undergraduate physics and mathematics courses".

Comment by lsusr on 2020 LessWrong Demographics Survey · 2020-06-11T22:15:06.998Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I want to note that the "With what race do you most identify?" question allows exactly one choice and has no "other" category. This creates problems for multi-racial people, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders and central Asians, none of which are options.

The question reminds me of a survey I took for a South African publication that asked what race I was. The options were "White", "Black", "Colored" and "Indian" (pick one).