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Comment by luke-allen on Pain is not the unit of Effort · 2020-12-03T20:20:12.055Z · LW · GW

In the late 00's, I was made aware of the Hero's Journey memeplex, the sequence of all Western stories, based on Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces. At some point after that, I recognized that it's the same set of instincts as the Stages of Grief -- or rather, the stages of grief, when experienced as a Hero's Journey, lead to the successful end of a particular grieving.

The first stage of grief is denial, and the first step of the hero's journey is life in the "doomed village": things look normal and sound normal, but something's profoundly wrong in the world, and it's about to crash in on the hero.

What really spun my head around was realizing my emotional traumas were imposed on me by someone whose subconscious was abusing my Hero's Journey instinct to make me walk through his pain to slay his demons for him. After that, I was able to let go of his narrative thread and try to find where I'd dropped mine five years before.

Comment by luke-allen on Don't read news · 2020-11-04T19:20:35.256Z · LW · GW

The map is to the territory as the corporate media complex is to the Truth.

  • The media used to be history as it was being written, a level 1 simulacrum, a simple descriptor.
  • Then it was level 2, assumed to still be level 1 but from a reasonable perspective with obvious implications.
  • Then it was level 3, promoted as level 1 but known by insiders to be level 2 or 3.
  • Now it is level 4, known by most to be a tool, but still mistaken for level 1 or 2 by those not paying attention.

Why should I believe a level 4 simulacrum of the election results when all the superweapons are both at stake and in play?

Comment by luke-allen on Rereading Atlas Shrugged · 2020-10-06T17:58:41.263Z · LW · GW

Let's get our ontology correct. She used philosophical tools to approach philosophical problems, and wrote essays on the results in philosophical terminology. That makes her a philosopher. If her results were incorrect, at worst she's an incorrect philosopher like so many others throughout history who moved philosophy into "less wrong" territory.

The same is true of Buddhism, and Christianity too: in addition to being religions, they're philosophies, making ontological and ethical statements and explaining how those were reached. And atheism, while a philosophical viewpoint, also has had religious social structures built around it, such as taboos against self-coding as religious.

Exploring the philosophical "realm" and "mining" new seams of gold ore (or fools' gold) is what makes one a philosopher, whether one comes in with a pickaxe and mule like the '49'ers or a bulldozer and dynamite like the industrial strip-miners.

Comment by luke-allen on Why haven't we celebrated any major achievements lately? · 2020-09-16T15:12:02.144Z · LW · GW

Agreed on tech change. We now expect a new generation of video game consoles every five years, a new version of Microsoft Office every three (but did NOT expect the name change to "Microsoft 365," an increasingly ominous claim of ubiquity), and new phones every other year.

The only real technological surprise I've had in a good long while was yesterday when I suddenly realized Notepad.exe now has a "New Window" menu option, which simply spawns another instance of Notepad. To me, this is cause for celebration, and I find myself wondering why there wasn't more fanfare for this superb productivity hack.

Comment by luke-allen on The "Outside the Box" Box · 2020-08-27T23:22:36.011Z · LW · GW

Yes, and still a young-Earth creationist too. On here I'd probably clarify my concept of omnipotency as "axiomatic ultra-ability", more similar to a programmer of a simulation than a lightning-tosser in a cloud-chariot in the sky.

As a geek-for-life and dedicated devourer of SF, I compare and contrast the details of what I believe with all the god-fictions out there, from Aslan and Eru Ilúvatar to Star Trek's Q and The Prophets, to the God and Satan of Heinlein's Job, to the Anu/Padomay duality at the core of Elder Scrolls lore and the consequent universe literally built out of politics and necromancy. Recently, reading the SSC classic blog post "Meditations on Moloch" helped me coalesce an idea that had been bouncing around my head for twenty years about the "weakling, uncaring opposite of God, waiting with an open mouth at the bottom of the slide."

I just wanted to find a community of experimental theologists who were as willing as I am to ask these questions and posit potentially heretical theories during the process of trying to better model God in our words and minds. Apparently I'm missing an absurdity heuristic that keeps more people from being like me.

Comment by luke-allen on On Suddenly Not Being Able to Work · 2020-08-26T16:56:01.528Z · LW · GW

The COVID Procrastathon claims another good mind.

I had to push through something similar in July. What finally broke my dam of pent-up work was one sudden realization regarding an incident I've long suspected was behind my procrastination:

The very first time I procrastinated hard, and lost something because of it, was the first time my parents said they'd take away something if my homework wasn't complete. I panicked and was in tears for two hours, pleading, but they were steadfast in their abandonment of me to my dark fate. I asked my mom to watch me do the first problem on the worksheet, just the first problem; "to prove I can do this" my mind screamed, not realizing that my mind itself was that entity to which I wanted to prove it. She refused. I didn't get to watch that night's episode of my favorite TV show.

Here's the realization: that was the first time my mother had treated me transactionally instead of personally.

That's it. That's the big realization that allowed me to start working really hard again. I don't know if it'll help you, or anyone else reading this, but that unexpected switch of mode was the secret abandonment behind the yawning pit of "why am I not working right now?" behaviors.

Comment by luke-allen on Competent Elites · 2020-08-25T23:27:06.491Z · LW · GW

It makes me think a republic is the best form of governance possible among humans, as long as the real smarties are running the show and they have good priors. Real smarties with bad priors may be worse than average successful achievers with good priors.

Comment by luke-allen on The "Outside the Box" Box · 2020-08-25T23:21:34.638Z · LW · GW

I remember the late 90's, when I first gained access to the Internet. Here were my people, people who enjoy thinking, minds communicating at a bare-metal level about interesting and smart things.

It was around that time I ran across the concept of a "free-thinker" and started mulling over that label in my mind. It sounded like a compliment, something I'd like if people started calling me that. After all, I don't think the way other people do (thanks, autism!), and I had always felt like a mind trapped in a body. But the first time I brought up being a free-thinker was in a discussion about religion with an Internet Atheist. I was promptly and patronizingly informed that I couldn't possibly be a free-thinker because I believe in God.

Oh.

Free-thinker = atheist, apparently. A one-to-one correspondence, a synonym, and a hope for esteem from my peers crushed.

Never mind that I treat the Bible and young-Earth creationism as seriously and geekily as I treat the canons of the various Star Trek series. Never mind that I try to get past the rah-rah-our-team side of religion to follow Jesus' commands to love each other with radical, boundary-breaking see-from-their-eyes empathy. Never mind that I'd been hurt by church hypocrisy as any former-Catholic or raised-Baptist Internet Atheist among my circle of friends.

No, this badge of uniqueness was not for me. I was too unique for it.

Comment by luke-allen on Mental Mountains · 2020-08-24T07:39:05.301Z · LW · GW

My own experience with my mental mountains has led me to what I call the "One, Two, Many" model of emotion formation and annihilation.

1: There is an initial event which causes a sensory memory of the experience to get stuck in my mind, usually a visual/tactile memory with an associated specific type of feeling bad, or more rarely, feeling good.

2: There is a reinforcing event, which has a specific similar characteristic that makes my mind go, "these are the same type of thing," like having a hard time remembering the names of both Al Pacino and Robert De Niro at the same time. (Seriously, I had to google a De Niro role just to be able to type his name right now!)

Many: Every subsequent event that shares that characteristic gets lumped into the sea of "it always happens" or "it never happens" barring further conscious examination, but I can only remember the current or most recent such occurrence no matter how often or rarely such events actually occurred in my past.

For me, the "TNT" that can usually blast through this mental mountain is to identify the similar characteristic by tracing the memory of that specific type of feeling bad. I trace it back to the pair of self-reinforcing memories, and they disintegrate, turning from sense memories into simple narrative of something that happened to me, usually with a sense of relieved tension mingled with the feeling of being miffed that I had been tripped up by my own mind's processing artifacts.

I perform my process using the "fourth step" tools developed for Twelve Step programs, which I now believe function on UtEB-style self reflection. The "fourth step" tools work because they focus on the interaction between a resentment emotion which drives behaviors, the person and specific action which caused that resentment, and one's updated (sober) understanding of the world.

I wouldn't be surprised if UtEB-style reconsolidation underlies the success many have reported with Twelve Step programs, and I wouldn't be surprised if most of the people who drop out of Twelve Step programs do so before they experience a mental mountain's disappearance from their minds.

Comment by luke-allen on On Need-Sets · 2020-08-20T00:04:29.497Z · LW · GW

Stability's value is as a loss-prevention or expense-prevention resource: a status of being predictable or being resistant to immediate entropy in some way. It's such a broadly applicable concept that its benefits are practically ubiquitous, and it adds all the types of value to various circumstances.

Stability of a situation, as in the expectation of not having to anticipate much change, allows you to conserve resources you might otherwise need to devote toward anticipation of contingencies; you can also thus experience the opposite of anxiety.

A medical patient who is stable is in less danger of dying; this kind of stability is a resource both to the patient's continued existence (agency, experience, utility to society as a resource) and to their medical team who don't need to expend resources to immediately and actively maintain the patient's life medically.

Being seen as a stable person by the standards of a given group grants you esteem from that group, because you're predictable and will not cost them sudden, unexpected loss of things of value such as their group's esteem in the eyes of whichever society they esteem. A person being perceived by police as mentally stable and/or morally stable (in the sense of being unlikely to commit assault or other crimes) grants the police a sense that you're predictable and thus not an immediate danger that needs to be violently subdued. In other words, you have the esteem due a member of the law-abiding community.

Stability of government gains a country more opportunities for international trade (resources) and gains its citizenry and businesses a credit rating (which is a resource based on how much one is esteemed as a reliable payer of debts by lenders).

Stable isotopes, which are not radioactive, are radiologically safe to touch or handle. However, this doesn't mean it's entirely safe! Lead is not safe to touch because even though it's stable enough to be used for radioactive shielding, it has neurotoxic chemical effects. For low-energy purposes such as home-building, stable chemicals and elements are more valuable resources; for high-energy purposes, such as weapons or manufacturing, unstable chemicals or elements are more valuable resources.

That was a lovely example, thank you!

Comment by luke-allen on On Need-Sets · 2020-08-17T21:18:57.900Z · LW · GW

I've been working on something similar myself. I've identified four qualitatively different categories of "things of value" that we humans seem geared toward:

  • Experiences - Disneyland, for example, sells both the experience of riding the rides (which can be had at any amusement park or carnival midway) and also the experience of entering a world of stories and imagination.
  • Esteem - Every culture and subculture has a preferred form of esteem, usually expressed in measures of respect granted to people. The desired flavor of esteem can be signaled via clothing and/or body language when in mixed company such as walking down the street.
  • Agency (which is to individual choices what wealth is to currency)
  • Resources - anything which can be used to reach a goal or fulfill a purpose.

All products and services on the market can be described as a mix of these, or in terms of avoiding their loss. Economics is the study of human motivation toward things of value and away from their loss, either for one's self, one's ingroup, or for hire.

More concretely, "wants" are emotions inclining the feeler toward things of value and "needs" are emotions inclining the feeler away from their loss. It's a simple binary, and we can construct the "forest" of economics by zooming out from our focus on individual "trees".

Example: I want to eat, to gain the experience, and I need to eat, to avoid hunger and eventual harm from lack of food (starvation). Eating at a fast food restaurant alleviates the need for me to cook in order to eat. I perceive myself purchasing convenience, which is at once a resource (savings of time and energy in cooking and cleaning up after cooking), a measure of esteem (I pay a group of servants to cook my meal), an experience (I sit in my car waiting and listening to the radio and don't have to experience the moment-to-moment vagaries of cooking for myself), and a measure of agency (I am able to do all of the above, free to make this decision which affects my future in the short and long term, as long as I can pay to do so). Therefore, when hungry or craving, I see fast food as a net positive thing of value.

Grieving, consequently, is the process of processing and limiting the loss (in the present, potential future, or remembered past) of things of value. Grieving occurs when needs aren't met.

Comment by luke-allen on April 2016 Media Thread · 2020-08-07T07:54:07.890Z · LW · GW

In the scrapped early version of the script, the world is a much darker place. Carnivores are made to wear taser collars that activate when their emotions (measured by physiological stress) reach a point that the collar believes the carnivore is attacking someone, or about to.

The beast at the top of the scheme we see in the movie is power-mad with a Napoleon Complex, tired of being put down and put upon. But it's too well done, too well-funded, to be just a rogue politician. No, this has money behind it. And I have no doubt that were this fiend's plot to have reached its conclusion, there would surprisingly quickly have been a taser collar around the neck of every carnivore in the city.

Comment by luke-allen on What do we now know about long-term consequences of a COVID-19 infection? · 2020-07-15T16:29:07.358Z · LW · GW

What we know so far is that there tends to be vascular damage: the endothelial cells lining the blood vessels are the cells most affected. The longer a person has it, the worse the damage will be. In this case, what doesn't kill you makes you weaker.

The lungs have a huge network of very fine blood vessels which are particularly vulnerable. Obesity and diabetes negatively impact the circulatory system. Some cancers have ACE2 expression which results in higher risk. Thinking of COVID-19 as a circulatory disease is a better model than thinking of it as a respiratory disease.

Comment by luke-allen on Covid 7/9: Lies, Damn Lies and Death Rates · 2020-07-09T22:15:37.760Z · LW · GW

According to right-wing media I listened to with half-an-ear and thus cannot repeat their methodology, "they" changed the definition of "case" to include something related to contact tracing.

Man, it's hard to filter out noise in this environment. The Lancet has a paper from April on how China redefined cases to account for asymptomatics and contact tracing, and saw a huge jump in cases. But if the definition of "case" changes and there's a jump in the number of "cases," it probably means nobody's reinterpreting the previous number of cases with the new definition, either to scare people into wearing masks or so as not to confuse the public with changed numbers.

Comment by luke-allen on COVID-19: List of ideas to reduce the direct harm from the virus, with an emphasis on unusual ideas · 2020-04-20T18:19:28.396Z · LW · GW

By contrast, I take a 50mg zinc pill whenever I wake up with the dry/aching sinus/back of throat I've come to associate with getting a cold half a day later.

Lately, I've done this so early in the infection cycle that I'm often left uncertain as to whether I've even had a cold, at least until the snot starts a couple of days later. I've even combined this with DayQuil/NyQuil for two days as soon as the snot starts, resulting in effectively no downtime.

Comment by luke-allen on Coronavirus Justified Practical Advice Summary · 2020-04-16T21:26:13.777Z · LW · GW

I personally do recommend avoiding NSAIDS (but not other painkillers) for any cold, common or uncommon, and I have an anecdote to base my choices on.

In 2018, I got a cold (no idea whether rhino or corona), and I figured I'd take a single ibuprofen because the inside of my nose felt sore where it was pumping out the mucus. Within a day it turned into a horrible chest cold. Not only was the mucus I coughed and sneezed unpleasantly thicker, so was the mucus I was swallowing, despite my usual cold hydration routine. At night, I had to lie prone (on my belly) and cough for ten to twenty minutes into the trash can to clear my lungs enough to stop coughing and sleep. By the time I fell asleep, I felt like I'd jogged a quarter mile.

Even after all other symptoms faded away after two weeks, I had to continue this nighttime routine. I just wasn't getting better. And then the daytime cough turned into a dry persistent cough. It took me another two weeks of this hell to finally see a doctor. They prescribed a mucus reducer and cough reflex suppressor, both with the potential for serious side effects which I didn't experience. This worked, though my usual back-of-the-throat mucus remained sludge-like for another month.

I will never take an ibuprofen during a cold again. Even if it did something for the pain inside my nose, any pain reduction was overshadowed by the other symptoms, and the possibility that it somehow exacerbated the symptoms would be enough to make me avoid it even if it were the only painkiller available.

For every cold since, I've taken one 50mg zinc pill (with food) as soon as I noticed the characteristic sinus dryness/thirst that heralds the arrival of a cold, and DayQuil/NyQuil generics during the day and night respectively during the symptoms. None of these colds have resulted in more than two days of work missed, and none have become chest colds.

In March, I had a cold I caught at the post office that started with the same nasal pain I remember from 2018, plus slightly thicker mucus and a lack of taste for salt, so I plan to get a COVID-19 antibody test as soon as it's available to see if I accidentally killed the big one with my usual cold routine.

Comment by luke-allen on human psycholinguists: a critical appraisal · 2020-01-05T08:07:08.157Z · LW · GW

Having spent some time on the GPT2 Subreddit Simulator watching bots talk like the members of those forums, and having spent a summer caring for my grandmother with dementia, I definitely want to draw chilling parallels between their output.

We've given computers the instinct for talking; now I find myself wondering what would happen if we gave GPT2 ten years of The Wall Street Journal back-issues and then hooked it up to one of those marvelous AIs that runs 401(k) stock market picks.

Comment by luke-allen on Noticing the Taste of Lotus · 2019-12-13T22:44:44.968Z · LW · GW

This resonates with me especially for having purchased a manual transmission vehicle specifically so that I would not succumb to the temptation to hurl my tons-heavy machine at everything that isn't an iPhone Retina display and is thus goes unseen.

Comment by luke-allen on Symbiotic Wars · 2019-12-04T22:01:01.696Z · LW · GW

Other mutations of "don't think of a white bear" (Dostoevsky) include rules 1 and 2 of Fight Club, the card game Mao which disallows any discussion of its rules, The Streisand Effect, and "Milhouse isn't a meme" (4chan).

Comment by luke-allen on Expecting Short Inferential Distances · 2019-11-06T21:39:02.921Z · LW · GW

I'd go with "echo chambers." Or if I weren't feeling pedantic, I'd say "There's a reason this concept takes a whole semester to teach."

Comment by luke-allen on Total horse takeover · 2019-11-05T22:34:39.092Z · LW · GW

Beautiful analogy! I'd say introducing the high-level concept of "controlling an interface" is the most useful next step in this chain of reasoning.

Between you and the horse is the standardized interface known as "tack," a system of leather, cloth and/or ropes literally harnessing a horse's might and speed. Variations of tack have been evolved by horse controllers over millennia to eke out every bit of control and usefulness a horse can reasonably provide a human, for various purposes: racing, farming, ranching, hunting, battling, and so on. You can reinvent the wheel if you wish, but at the end of the day, your kludged-together horse interface will probably recapitulate one of the stages of tack that other humans have already invented, some stages more humane to the horse than others.

But what is the combination of human and tack controlling on the horse? Its instincts and training. The horse was already a system, and now you've gone and added levers to its body and mind. And now you and the horse and the tack in-between are a system harnessed to your will imperfectly.

Back to taking over the world. Examining what interfaces already exist for the people who control the world is the first step. How can they be improved, and made more responsive? Whose purposes do they serve? What aspects of the world are directly or emergently controlled by those interfaces and which aspects are left alone?

Emperors are the rulers of kings, whatever their actual titles, and the interface of empire is delegation, negotiation, and self-marketing. Let the world run itself, but steer it a bit here and there. Sometimes, give it a little free rein and see how fast it can run.

The most useful examination I've seen of the interfaces of would-be masters of nations is the Rules For Rulers video, which details the spectrum of political will applied to various countries, and why countries tend toward either Enlightenment and democracy or dictatorship and misery. Simply put, there are countries that are like a horse that must be ridden with spurs, or else it will try to buck you off and smash in your head with its great hooves.