There is no No Evidence 2021-05-19T02:44:49.462Z
Canada Covid Update: thinking out loud 2021-03-22T21:39:43.550Z
Covid Canada Jan25: low & slow 2021-01-26T11:48:53.159Z
Reveal Culture 2020-07-25T03:36:28.525Z
Make an appointment with your saner self 2019-02-08T05:05:49.784Z
The Signal and the Corrective 2018-02-11T00:28:35.759Z
Dispel your justification-monkey with a “HWA!” 2018-01-24T04:51:12.579Z
Akrasia Tactics Review 3: The Return of the Akrasia 2017-04-10T15:05:10.711Z
Two kinds of Expectations, *one* of which is helpful for rational thinking 2016-06-20T16:04:13.994Z
The Pink Sparkly Ball Thing (Use unique, non-obvious terms for nuanced concepts) 2016-02-20T23:25:16.034Z
Less Wrong Study Hall: Now With 100% Less Tinychat 2015-11-09T00:25:39.534Z
Ultimatums in the Territory 2015-09-28T22:01:48.924Z
Unlearning shoddy thinking 2015-08-21T03:07:03.722Z
Pattern-botching: when you forget you understand 2015-06-15T22:58:34.954Z
If you could push a button to eliminate one cognitive bias, which would you choose? 2015-04-09T07:05:47.084Z
Request for Intelligence Philosophy Essay Topic Suggestions 2015-03-13T04:15:26.209Z
Announcing the Complice Less Wrong Study Hall 2015-03-02T23:37:24.563Z
Rationality Quotes March 2014 2014-03-01T15:34:22.614Z
Rationality Quotes November 2013 2013-11-02T20:35:55.780Z
[LINK] EdTech startup hosts AI Hunger Games (cash prize $1k) 2013-08-14T08:39:58.848Z
[LINK] Hyperloop officially announced — predictions, anyone? 2013-08-12T21:30:53.487Z


Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on COVID/Delta advice I'm currently giving to friends · 2021-08-24T08:03:47.751Z · LW · GW

The flu did mutate and stick around mightily, but annual flu deaths are an order of magnitude lower than COVID.

Maybe this is what you're already saying, but I want to highlight something specific:

My understanding is this isn't about the virus mutating to become less deadly, but more because endemic viruses encounter non-naive immune systems, which is true for flus but not for sars-ncov-2 (so far). T-cells have basically lifetime memory I think (longer than antibodies?). This is similar to how european diseases were so devastating to indigenous folk (and I think vice versa in one case?) because of naive immune systems.

And this prepared defense effect might be stronger for people who actually got sick than folks who got the vaccine (I feel like I saw this somewhere but am very unsure) but in either case the odds of this being worse than the flu are now pretty low and it seems to me vaccinated folks should at this point treat covid roughly like the flu—get a shot now and then, and don't visit your grandparents if you think you might have it, but otherwise don't worry about it.

I'm getting much of this from this source, which bases its reasoning on various claims I'm not qualified to assess. Would love to hear others thoughts: Why COVID-19 Is Here to Stay, and Why You Shouldn’t Worry About It

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on There’s no such thing as a tree (phylogenetically) · 2021-05-19T10:45:31.659Z · LW · GW

Oh huh I completely skimmed past that on first read & didn't even notice it, but revisiting it after seeing this comment, I also find it off-putting. Could capture most of the good and none of the bad with something more like "Buckle up, you have no idea what you're in for!" which feels (appropriately) like an invitation to a wild tour, rather than a "you fucked up."

Feels weird being told to shut up when I hadn't said anything.

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Zvi's Law of No Evidence · 2021-05-19T02:45:03.012Z · LW · GW

I appreciate you trying to write this up, but as other commenters have noted, there's no contradiction here in the first place and you appear to have missed the point.

As far as I can tell, if you understand Yudkowsky's point, Zvi's follows directly. {No evidence of X} = {evidence of not-X}, but the speech act of claiming "There is no evidence of X" only occurs when there is some evidence worth claiming doesn't count as evidence.

And Yudkowsky's point also points out that essentially "no evidence" is not just vague but in virtually all cases just completely misleading. It would be better to say "the absence of any photographs or eyewitness accounts is evidence that this story was fabricated."

There is evidence for and evidence against but there is no "no evidence".

Well, apparently I decided to write this up as its own post.

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Canada Covid Update: thinking out loud · 2021-03-26T19:40:45.731Z · LW · GW

Yeah not quite Australia but closer to Australia than to what we've had. The border has been nearly closed to all except citizens and close partners. Canada has forced 14-day quarantines for everyone entering, and fined a guy $500k for stopping to sightsee on his way to Alaska. One weird thing is that while the land border basically only lets citizens go into their country (with rare exceptions), I gather that Canadians can fly to the US, but not the reverse. So returning Canadians would be a major source of infections.

I think sane policy would have increased returning quarantine to 3 weeks to be safe, and enforced it quite strictly. Then pour tons of resources into contact tracing as well.

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Covid 3/18: An Expected Quantity of Blood Clots · 2021-03-22T20:05:38.502Z · LW · GW

🇨🇦 Tiny Canada update: we've now vaccinated 10 doses per 100 people, and since we're officially doing first doses first in most cases, that's nearly 10% of the population vaccinated. The territories, that have almost nobody in them, are like half-vaccinated already.

Interestingly, while we're way behind the USA on administering vaccine doses (they're at 37 doses per 100 people), we've already soared way past the "more people vaccinated than ever tested positive" figure because we had fewer people test positive in the first place. From a timeline perspective though, that unfortunately means we're even further from herd immunity than being so behind on vaccines would imply.

Nevermind, this update became not-tiny and I made it its own post:

🇨🇦 Canada Covid Update: thinking out loud

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Covid 3/18: An Expected Quantity of Blood Clots · 2021-03-22T19:46:34.954Z · LW · GW

This is a good point, and suggests that the bigger issue was whatever caused anyone to publish anything saying there seemed to be an association between the vaccines and blood clots in the first place.

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Covid 3/18: An Expected Quantity of Blood Clots · 2021-03-22T19:44:14.055Z · LW · GW

Guessing that that varies by location—I've heard of online classrooms where you're not allowed to have your video off nearly all day.

But even if it's all as you describe, one answer for how virtual classes might still be worse is that for kids whose home situations are abusive or neglectful, it makes a meaningful positive difference to get to be around teachers and other kids outside their home.

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Covid 2/4: Safe and Effective Vaccines Aplenty · 2021-02-07T17:42:05.436Z · LW · GW

🇨🇦 Canada update: we are WAY behind on vaccines (2.7% of population) and the bottleneck is very clear: we don't have the doses.

The "why" is also becoming a bit more clear: we never even tried to create a big manufacturing plant for it last year and instead just tried to partner with everybody, including a deal with China that was announced last May and started going sideways 3 days later but we're just finding out now that it completely fell through and is a nonstarter! Wtf.

A couple articles to read on that front:

Not sure what we can do about any of that now though, unlike the USA where Zvi points at many obvious mistakes being made in the present, or choice points around approvals.

Meanwhile cases continue to trend downward (restrictions are mostly working) but there's no reason I'm aware of to think we aren't still going to gradually see growth of the UK strains and others.

Here's a longer update I wrote awhile ago: Covid Canada Jan25: low & slow

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Covid Canada Jan25: low & slow · 2021-02-07T17:09:00.314Z · LW · GW

News: This article lays out roughly why Canada is way behind on vaccines—no attempt was even made last year to ramp up manufacturing capacity in Canada, instead just a bunch of partnerships, including one with China that completely fell through (other sources (eg globe & mail) have speculated that it may have fallen through in part because China is still grumpy at Canada for arresting the Huawei exec 2 years ago, but that's unclear).

LILLEY: Britain's vaccine success the path Canada should have followed

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Technological stagnation: Why I came around · 2021-01-27T11:00:21.878Z · LW · GW

Something missing from the top-level post: why stagnation.

I'll just put out that one of the tiny things that most gave me a sense of "fuck" in relation to stagnation was reading an essay written in 1972 that was lamenting the "publish or perish" phenomenon. I had previously assumed that that term was way more recent, and that people were trying to fix it but it would just take a few years. To realize it was 50 years old was kinda crushing honestly.

Here's google ngrams showing how common the phrase "publish or perish" was in books through the last 200 years. It was coined in the 30s and took off in the 60s, peaking in 1968. Interesting & relevant timing!

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Technological stagnation: Why I came around · 2021-01-27T10:51:23.322Z · LW · GW

I don't have the detailed knowledge needed to flesh this out, but it occurred to me that there might be a structure of an argument someone could make that would be shaped something like "we got a lot of meaningful changes in the last 70 years, but they didn't create as many nonlinear tipping points as in the previous industrial revolutions."

Fwiw, flying cars probably wouldn't hit any such tipping point, though self-driving cars probably would.

Widespread nuclear energy might've meant little concern about global warming at this point, but solar & wind have been trucking along slowly enough that there's tons of concern.

I think the internet is doing something important for the possibility of running your own 1-2 person business, which is a meaningful tipping point. There are various other tipping points happening as a result of computers and the internet, which is why I think it stands out as @jasoncrawford's only named revolutionary technologies.

Anyway, hoping someone can steelman this for me, considering the nonlinear cascades in each era & from each technology, and seeing whether there's indeed something different about pre-1970 and after. I'm not confident there is, to be clear, but I have some intuition that says this might be part of what people are seeing.

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Covid 1/14: To Launch a Thousand Shipments · 2021-01-27T10:32:00.613Z · LW · GW

Prompted by your comment, when I wrote more stuff last night, I made it standalone: 

Covid Canada Jan25: low & slow

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Covid Canada Jan25: low & slow · 2021-01-27T10:30:09.776Z · LW · GW

Appreciating you chiming in. That's a great point about how different rural communities are doing different. I kind of had the impression some rural areas in the prairies were doing bad, but I didn't off-hand have a sense of where or why. Your rough sketch with vague notions is helpful on that front.

I drove across the country on the way out to BC a couple months ago, and it's indeed hard to imagine the farming areas in the south half of the prairies having much covid spread, whereas it makes sense that resource-extraction areas would for the 2 reasons you describe. That plus exponentials/nonlinearities seems sufficient to explain most of the discrepancy, maybe.

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Covid Canada Jan25: low & slow · 2021-01-27T10:26:19.607Z · LW · GW

Huh yeah, weird. It's like, what are they waiting for with AstraZeneca?

It is worth noting that I think ~40,000 doses per day is according to plan at this phase, a plan which calls for like a million doses a week as of the start of April. Which sounds like a lot but is still way too slow! (A million a day would be awesome.) But the failure to ramp up continues to be a failure of intending to ramp up, it seems. I'll be quite concerned if we fail to ramp up to even the unambitious levels planned for April. I don't know to what extent useful prep is happening to ensure that we're ready to go hard once we get more doses.

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Covid 1/21: Turning the Corner · 2021-01-26T11:29:51.447Z · LW · GW

🇨🇦 People liked my Canada update last week, so here's another one. I thought I wouldn't have much to say but apparently I wrote some stuff!

I made it its own post for better linkability. I'm honestly not sure if that's better, but that's what I did.

Covid Canada Jan25: low & slow

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Covid 1/14: To Launch a Thousand Shipments · 2021-01-16T00:05:03.333Z · LW · GW

🇨🇦 For those who read these updates but are in Canada, I've done a little research into how things are going here and it seems that we're actually doing an okay job of distributing the vaccines we have, but we don't have nearly enough yet to immunize the population. From CBC:

Using the intuitive distribution-to-administration time-delay framing in another comment by Unnamed... where the USA's shortfall is 17 days, Canada's got as short as 3 days this week!

That yellow curve above looks like an exponential that'll reach our 38M population in just 6-7 weeks (doubling weekly) but based on the actual news I'm reading, the plans are not nearly that ambitious. Unlike in the USA where people are panicking and flailing and trying to seem ambitious and failing hard, it seems like Canadian leaders are just acting like planning to immunize everyone by September is a reasonable thing to do, and we're doing okay at that plan. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

A few details:

  • Like the USA, there's been discussion of "equitable" allocation of vaccines here, but I'm not really complaining about that as long as the shots are rapidly going into arms, which they do seem to be.
  • There were also very few vaccines over xmas here -_-
  • Pfizer is having to delay some of their deliveries to Canada (and other countries getting shipments from Europe factory) as well, for some logistical reason I haven't investigated in depth.
  • Starting in April, the Canadian government is aiming for rolling out vaccines at 1M/week. That's a lot compared to our current "0.5M in the last month" but it still doesn't immunize the whole population until sometime in September or October (which is also what Trudeau had generally pointed at a few days ago, I believe).
  • We have now purchased 80M vaccines though, enough for 2 shots for everybody, they're just... not ready yet.
  • Shoppers Drug Mart president says Canada's pharmacies could administer 2.5M to 3M/week but nobody has been in touch with them to help them plan how to help.

Would be nice if the USA could send us some of the vaccines they don't know what to do with, as it seems they've got enough extra for half of our population. Or you know, if Pfizer would just send us some that is slated for the USA until the USA figures out how to use what they've got.

Here are two tracking sites I've been using:

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Book summary: Unlocking the Emotional Brain · 2021-01-10T05:30:30.607Z · LW · GW

This was a profoundly impactful post and definitely belongs in the review. It prompted me and many others to dive deep into understanding how emotional learnings have coherence and to actually engage in dialogue with them rather than insisting they don't make sense. I've linked this post to people more than probably any other LessWrong post (50-100 times) as it is an excellent summary and introduction to the topic. It works well as a teaser for the full book as well as a standalone resource.

The post makes both conceptual and pragmatic claims. I haven't exactly crosschecked the models although they do seem compatible with other models I've read. I did read the whole book and it seemed pretty sound and based in part on relevant neuroscience. There's a kind of meeting-in-the-middle thing there where the neuroscience is quite low-level and therapy is quite high-level. I think it'll be cool to see the middle layers fleshed out a bit.

Just because your brain uses Bayes' theorem at the neural level and at higher levels of abstraction, doesn't mean that you consciously know what all of its priors & models are!

And it seems the brain's basic organization is set up to prevent people from calmly arguing against emotionally intense evidence without understanding it—which makes a lot of sense if you think about it. And it also makes sense that your brain would be able to update under the right circumstances.

I've tested the pragmatic claims personally, by doing the therapeutic reconsolidation process using both Coherence Therapy methods & other methods, both on myself & working with others. I've found that these methods indeed find coherent underlying structures (eg the same basic structures using different introspective methods, that relate and are consistent) and that accessing those emotional truths and bringing them in contact with contradictory evidence indeed causes them to update, and once updated there's no longer a sense of needing to argue with yourself. It doesn't take effort to embody the new knowing.

I guess on another level I'd say that I have the sense that the emotional coherence framework has something important to say about the nature of knowing. It frames all of the perspectives held by conscious and unconscious schemas as "knowings". The knowings are partial, but this frame (as opposed to "belief") really respects the first-person experience of what it means to believe something - you don't think of it as a belief, or something you "think", it just feels true. So inasmuch as all knowing about the world is partial, there's a lot to be gained by recognizing that you know things that contradict other things you know. It's already true, whether you acknowledge it or not.

This framework has profound implications for rational thinking, communication & feedback, topics like akrasia, and there's a lot of followup work to be done in exploring those implications.

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on A Cautionary Note on Unlocking the Emotional Brain · 2020-12-16T20:17:02.880Z · LW · GW

Haven't even gotten to the rest of this yet but already want to say I think this initial summary is incorrect. I'll have to do some re-reading to discern the extent to which I think that's a mis-reading on your part, a mis-characterization on Kaj's part, or the result of ambiguity on the original authors part, but regardless: the summary at the start of this post, quoted below, seems to me to be completely the opposite of the actual basis of Coherence Therapy (speaking as someone who has read UtEB, several other Coherence Therapy books, done half a dozen sessions with a Coherence Therapist)

it presents a model of the brain where your problems are mostly caused by incorrect emotional beliefs (bad guys). The solution to your problems is to develop or discover a correct emotional belief (good guy) that contradicts your incorrect beliefs, then force your brain to recognize the contradiction at an emotional level. This causes your brain to automatically resolve the conflict and destroy the incorrect belief, so you can live happily ever after.

How I would characterize this is that the problems are caused by partially correct but incomplete beliefs who are not bad guys but good guys within their own limited frame. The solution to your problems to find data in your own experience that is compartmentalized from the part of your cognition holding the incomplete belief, and bring it into contact with that part, so that your system as a whole can assess all of the data and synthesize it into a new belief that is more complete (although still surely could be even more complete).

The strategy you're describing is ultimately isomorphic to the kind of strategy that coherence therapists call counteractive, which is the opposite of how emotional reconsolidation actually works. This process can't be forced, in the same way you can't force someone to agree with you no matter how much evidence you shove in their face.

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Actually updating · 2020-11-24T18:25:03.950Z · LW · GW

The thing that changed and allowed me to actually start updating more efficiently was that I actually started believing that all parts of me are pretty smart. I started believing this because I started actually listening to myself and realised that these parts of me weren’t saying the ‘obviously wrong’ things I thought they were saying.

Yeah this is huge. I've had some similar insights myself the last few months and I now think it's one of the most important things that people can do. Which of course requires listening to the parts of you that think the other parts are stupid or silly, as well! And the parts of you that think that thinking about yourself as having parts is weird. Etc.

My new mantra for this is: May I integrate everything that wants to be integrated, as it wants to be integrated.

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Actually updating · 2020-11-24T18:24:14.610Z · LW · GW

The thing that changed and allowed me to actually start updating more efficiently was that I actually started believing that all parts of me are pretty smart. I started believing this because I started actually listening to myself and realised that these parts of me weren’t saying the ‘obviously wrong’ things I thought they were saying.

Yeah this is huge. I've had some similar insights myself the last few months and I now think it's one of the most important things that people can do. Which of course requires listening to the parts of you that think the other parts are stupid or silly, as well! And the parts of you that think that thinking about yourself as having parts is weird. Etc.

My new mantra for this is: May I integrate everything that wants to be integrated, as it wants to be integrated.

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Group debugging guidelines & thoughts · 2020-10-30T03:14:24.721Z · LW · GW

Mmm nice. I went through a similar progression in some ways and I feel like I'm tasting a step further which is something like "the issue people have is they try to use self-modification techniques they don't have full buy-in for, and so resisting parts stop them from using those."

And then the resolution goes something like, instead of intending to do "IDC" or whatever else, orienting to a stance of intending to do more like "whatever it takes to have an internal dialogue here that integrates all objections thoroughly and doesn't dismiss or discount any"

Worth noting: my articulation above is coming out backwards from how I experienced it.

For me it was more like... I tasted something that felt like this thing, and then had immediate buy-in from all of my parts to iterate on the thing until it became capable of integrating all of them in their own terms. And the act of trying and iterating, in such a way, is kind of the thing.

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Some thoughts on criticism · 2020-09-20T03:36:28.651Z · LW · GW

Resonating with what Romeo's saying. For instance, in this quote in the original...

If I felt more secure and more superior to the people in the conversation, I think it would be easier to behave better

...I would differentiate "more secure" and "more superior". There's a version of the latter that is quite contemptuous, which is usually a whole layer on top of insecurity.

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Model Combination and Adjustment · 2020-08-24T03:36:15.530Z · LW · GW

I haven't been at all diligent about this "the outside view" vs "an outside view" reframing, but I'll add my own personal anecdote that in general I've broadly found these sorts of reframings to be helpful, eg shifting to past tense to say "I've tended to be triggered by X" vs "I always get really triggered by X" as a way to feel a sense of self as changing rather than stuck. It generates a whole different meaning.

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Model Combination and Adjustment · 2020-08-24T03:35:58.911Z · LW · GW

Appreciating this, and in general appreciating LW as a place where commenting on comments from 7y ago is considered good practice :)

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Tools for keeping focused · 2020-08-05T20:05:31.307Z · LW · GW

Wow yeah this is a great list. Haven't seen many people besides me who are this aggressive about some of these things.

The whole thing about being able to compose emails without seeing your inbox is vital. You can also do that by setting up mailto:%s as a "custom search engine" (eg at chrome://settings/searchEngines) with a keyword like mto and then you just open a browser window and type "mto" and either the person's email address or just their name. if it's their name, obviously you'll have to fill in the email later, but the point is it takes you straight to the compose view, with no inbox in sight.

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Reveal Culture · 2020-08-03T19:08:08.844Z · LW · GW

Mmm, appreciating your comment and very curious to hear what reflections emerge as you digest it more :)

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Reveal Culture · 2020-07-26T14:54:48.077Z · LW · GW

Others are welcome to offer concrete examples! I was mostly hearing about this second hand from Bay Area rationalists myself :P

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Coronavirus: Justified Practical Advice Thread · 2020-03-03T22:56:44.039Z · LW · GW

I thought this too, and then I read that coronavirus is an "enveloped virus" whose coating can actually be basically dissolved by soap & scrubbing:

PSA for non-science folks: Wonder why everyone is emphasizing hand washing? Sounds banal, but soap really IS an amazing weapon that we all have in our homes. This is because coronavirus is an "enveloped" virus, which means that it has an outer lipid membrane layer. Basically, it's surrounded by a fat layer. Washing your hands with soap and water has the ability to "dissolve" this greasy fatty layer and kill the virus. I'm told singing "Happy Birthday" twice is approximately how long we should all be scrubbing our hands with soap.

On reflection, I don't have a source I deeply trust for this. The quote above is from this tweet by a Johns Hopkins prof. Consider this a jumping off point for further investigation.

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Coronavirus: Justified Practical Advice Thread · 2020-03-03T22:51:38.535Z · LW · GW

The halo effect (section on wikipedia) didn't seem to me to be about ions... I figured it was just like how if we're nearby & I'm less likely to get sick, then you're less likely to get sick, separate from my sickness having any effect on your immunity.

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on The Bus Ticket Theory of Genius · 2019-11-26T06:35:30.957Z · LW · GW

I've always liked Hamming's famous double-barrelled question: what are the most important problems in your field, and why aren't you working on one of them? It's a great way to shake yourself up. But it may be overfitting a bit. It might be at least as useful to ask yourself: if you could take a year off to work on something that probably wouldn't be important but would be really interesting, what would it be?

(emphasis mine)

Digging this paragraph. Not something I follow that often myself, but I have a lot of things that feel both very interesting and very important, so I'm doing that.

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on System 2 as working-memory augmented System 1 reasoning · 2019-10-06T23:15:44.150Z · LW · GW

the claim here is that the left hemisphere pays careful attention to the questions, solves them correctly, and then reverses the answer.

Fwiw I also think that that is an absurd claim and I also think that nobody is actually claiming that here. The claim is something more like what has been claimed about System 1, "it takes shortcuts", except in this case it's roughly "to the left hemisphere, truth is coherence; logical coherence is preferred before map coherence, but both are preferred to anything that appears incoherent."

I looked up the source for the "However" section and it's not Deglin and Kinsbourne but Goel and Dolan, 2003). I looked it up and found it hard to read but my sense is that what it's saying is:

  1. An general, people are worse at answering the validity of a logical syllogism when it contradicts their beliefs. (This should surprise nobody.)

  2. Different parts of the brain appear to be recruited depending on whether the content of a syllogism is familiar:

A recent fMRI study (Goel, Buchel, Frith & Dolan, 2000) has provided evidence that syllogistic reasoning is implemented in two distinct brain systems whose engagement is primarily a function of the presence or absence of meaningful content. During content-based syllogistic reasoning (e.g. All apples are red fruit; All red fruit are poisonous;[All apples are poisonous) a left hemisphere frontal and temporal lobe system is recruited. By contrast, in a formally identical reasoning task with arbitrary content (e.g. All A are B; All B are C;[All A are C) a bilateral parietal system is recruited.

(Note: this is them analyzing what part of the brain is recruited when the task is completed successfully.)

  1. This 2003 study investigates whether that's about [concrete vs abstract content] vs [belief-laden vs belief neutral content] and concludes that it's about beliefs, and also < something new about the neuroanatomy >.

I think what's being implied by McGilchrist citing this paper (although it's unclear to me if this was tested as directly as the Deglin & Kinsbourne study) is that without access to the right hemisphere, the left hemisphere's process would be even more biased, or something.

I'd be interested in your take if you read the 2000 or 2003 papers.

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on System 2 as working-memory augmented System 1 reasoning · 2019-10-05T21:30:38.411Z · LW · GW

The book is saying that the left hemisphere answers incorrectly, in both cases! As I said, this is surprising.

I haven't looked at the original research and found myself curious what would happen with a syllogism that is both invalid and has a false conclusion. My assumption is that either hemisphere would reject something like this:

  1. Some cows are brown.
  2. Some fish are iridescent.
  3. Some cows are iridescent.

The left hemisphere seems to be where most of motivated cognition lives. If you've heard the bizarre stories about patients confabulating after strokes (eg "my limb isn't paralyzed, I just don't want to move it) this is almost unilaterally associated with damage to the right hemisphere. Many people, following Gazzinga's lead, seem to have assumed this was just because someone with a left hemisphere stroke can't talk, but if you leave words aside, it is apparent that people with left hemisphere damage are distressed about their paralyzed right arm, whereas people with right hemisphere damage are often in denial.

Likewise, part of the job of a well-functioning left hemisphere is to have blindspots. It's so zoomed in on whatever it's focused on that the rest of the world might as well not exist. If you've heard of the term "hemispatial neglect", that leads to people shaving only half of their face, eating only half of their plate, or attempting to copy a drawing of an ordinary clock and ending up drawing something like this:

Hemispatial Neglect Clock

...then that's again something that only happens when the left hemisphere is operating without the right (again, can also be shown in healthy patients by temporarily deactivating one hemisphere). The left hemisphere has a narrow focus of attention and only on the right side of things, and it doesn't manage to even notice that it has omitted the other half, because as far as it's concerned, the other half isn't there. This is not a vision thing—asked to recall a familiar scene, such a patient may describe only the right half of it.

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on System 2 as working-memory augmented System 1 reasoning · 2019-10-04T06:19:39.405Z · LW · GW

Brief reply about dog thing & just naming a part of the brain—I agree!

But saying "system 1" is also not useful unless you have a richer map of how system 1 works. In order for the emotional brain model to be useful, you need affordances for working with it. I got mine from the Bio-Emotive Framework, and since learning that model & technique, I've been more able to work with this stuff, whatever you want to call it, and part of working with it involves a level of identifying what's going on at a level of detail beyond "S1". There are also of course methods of working with this stuff that don't require such a framework!

I'm appreciating you pointing this out, since it represents a way in which my comment was unhelpful—I didn't actually give people these richer models, I just said "there are models out there that I've found much better than S1/S2 for talking about the same stuff". I've pitched the models, but not actually sharing much of why I find them so useful. Although I've just added a long comment elaborating on some hemisphere stuff so hopefully that helps.

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on System 2 as working-memory augmented System 1 reasoning · 2019-10-04T06:09:59.923Z · LW · GW

Here's one example of a benefit: the left hemisphere is known to have major blindspots, that aren't implied simply by saying "the verbal and explicit mode of thought." Quoting McGilchrist (not sure about page number, I'm looking at Location 5400 in the 2nd edition on Kindle) describing some tests done by temporarily deactivating one hemisphere then the other, in healthy individuals:

Take the following example of a syllogism with a false premise:

  1. Major premise: all monkeys climb trees;
  2. Minor premise: the porcupine is a monkey;
  3. Implied conclusion: the porcupine climbs trees.

Well — does it? As Deglin and Kinsbourne demonstrated, each hemisphere has its own way of approaching this question. At the outset of their experiment, when the intact individual is asked "Does the porcupine climb trees?", she replies (using, of course, both hemispheres): "It does not climb, the porcupine runs on the ground; it's prickly, it's not a monkey." [...] During experimental temporary hemisphere inactivations, the left hemisphere _of the very same individual (with the right hemisphere inactivated) replies that the conclusion is true: "the porcupine climbs trees since it is a monkey." When the experimenter asks, "But is the porcupine a monkey?", she replies that she knows it is not. When the syllogism is presented again, however, she is a little nonplussed, but replies in the affirmative, since "That's what is written on the card." When the right hemisphere of the same individual (with the left hemisphere inactivated) is asked if the syllogism is true, she replies: "How can it climb trees — it's not a monkey, it's wrong here!" If the experimenter points out that the conclusion must follow from the premises stated, she replies indignantly: "But the porcupine is not a monkey!"

In repeated situations, in subject after subject, when syllogisms with false premises, such as "All trees sink in water; balsa is a tree; balsa wood sinks in water," or "Northern lights are often seen in Africa; Uganda is in Africa; Northern lights are seen in Uganda", are presented, the same pattern emerges. When asked if the conclusion is true, the intact individual displays a common sense reaction: "I agree it seems to suggest so, but I know in fact it's wrong." The right hemisphere dismisses the false premises and deductions as absurd. But the left hemisphere sticks to the false conclusion, replying calmly to the effect that "that's what it says here."

In the left-hemisphere situation, it prioritizes the system, regardless of experience: it stays within the system of signs. Truth, for it, is coherence, because for it there is no world beyond, no Other, nothing outside the mind, to correspond with. "That's what it says here." So it corresponds with itself: in other words, it coheres. The right hemisphere prioritises what it learns from experience: the real state of existing things "out there". For the right hemisphere, truth is not mere coherence, but correspondence with something other than itself. Truth, for it, is understood in the sense of being "true" to something, faithfulness to whatever it is that exists apart from ourselves.

However, it would be wrong to deduce from this that the right hemisphere just goes with what is familiar, adopting a comfortable conformity with experience to date. After all, one's experience to date might be untrue to reality: then paying attention to logic would be an important way of moving away from from false customary assumption. And I have emphasized that it is the right hemisphere that helps us to get beyond the inauthentically familiar. The design of the above experiment specifically tests what happens when one is forced to choose between two paths to the truth in answering a question: using what one knows from experience or following a syllogism where the premises are blatantly false. The question was not whether the syllogism was structurally correct, but what actually was true. But in a different situation, where one is asked the different question "Is this syllogism structurally correct?", even when the conclusion flies in the face of one's experience, it is the right hemisphere which gets the answer correct, and the left hemisphere which is distracted by the familiarity of what it already thinks it knows, and gets the answer wrong. The common thread here is the role of the right hemisphere as "bullshit detector". In the first case (answering the question "What is true here?") detecting the bullshit involves using common sense. In the second case (answering "Is the logic here correct?"), detecting the bullshit involves resisting the obvious, the usual train of thought.

For me personally, working with McGilchrist's model has dramatically improved my own internal bullshit-detection capacity. I've started to be able to sometimes smell the scent of rationalizations, even while the thoughts I'm having continue to feel true. This has been helpful for learning, for noticing when I'm being a jerk in relationships, and for noticing how I'm closing myself off to some line of thinking while debugging my code.

And the bullshit detection thing is just one element of it. The book relates dozens of other case studies on differences in way-of-being-and-perceiving of each hemisphere, and connects them with some core theories about the role of attention in cognition.

If you were surprised in reading this comment to discover that it's not the left hemisphere that is best at syllogisms, then I would like to suggest there are important things that are known about the brain that you could learn by reading this book, that would help you think more effectively. (This also applies if you were not-particularly-surprised because your implicit prior was simply "hemispheres are irrelevant"; I was more in this camp.)

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on System 2 as working-memory augmented System 1 reasoning · 2019-10-02T22:07:23.053Z · LW · GW

Mmmm I'm glad you've written this up. It feels to me like the first half of what needs to be done with the concepts of System 1 and System 2, which is dissolving the original meanings (from Kahneman etc).

The second half is... inasmuch as these concepts have become popular, what experiences are people using them to point at? It seems to me that there are actual multiple things happening here. Among rationalists, "System 2" is used to refer to thinking that is verbal, explicit, logical, procedural, linear. "System 1" is kind of a catch-all for... most of the rest of thinking.

There's a much more obvious mapping for this in the brain, but...'s unfashionable to talk about.

It's the left and right hemispheres. The left hemisphere indeed operates in a manner that is verbal, explicit, logical, procedural, linear. The right hemisphere operates in a more intuitive, parallel, context-sensitive, uniqueness-oriented way. (I'm summarizing here, but this is based on extensive reading of an excellent meta-analysis of decades of research, that notes that the classic notion of left/right as reason/emotion isn't accurate but that there's something really important going on.)

If you squint, you can kind of imagine the Right hemisphere as Type 1 and the Left hemisphere as Type 2 Processing, but it's importantly different. Neither hemisphere is necessarily automatic or faster or more abstract than the other. Both are, in different senses, conscious, although it seems possible that many people primarily identify with their left hemisphere consciousness.

To illustrate this difference: many of the examples in this post describe categorization ("count the letter a", "this voice, not that voice", etc) as being a Type 1 activity, but categorization is primarily a feature of the Left hemisphere's world. "How many people are in this room right now?" requires this categorization in order to answer. People are reduced to fungible, countable objects; if one exited and another entered, the total doesn't change. This is useful! "What's the mood of this room?" is much harder to answer with this sort of categorization applied. It's a much better question for a Right hemisphere, which can look at the whole scene and capture it in a metaphor or a few adjectives.

So when a rationalist is saying "My S1 has this intuition, but I can't explain it to my System 2", then one thing they might mean is that their Right hemisphere understands something, but is unable to articulate it in a way that their Left hemisphere could understand verbally & linearly and in terms of the concepts and categories that are familiar to it.

The other thing they might mean, however, is not a left-right distinction but a top-bottom or front-back distinction. This is what would be meant in the context of "My System 2 knows not all dogs are scary, but my System 1 still afraid of them since I got bitten when I was 7." This is much better modelled not with S2/S1, but by talking about the neocortex as opposed to the limbic system.

The process that instantly computes 2+2=4 is very different from the process that releases a bunch of adrenaline at the sound of a bark. Are they both Type 1? Seems so, but I don't know this model well enough.

My impression is that the left neocortex (which many rationalists identify as their "System 2") tends to categorize everything else as well, everything else. And this gets labelled "System 1". It makes sense to me that the left neocortex would treat everything else as a big blob, because it first & foremost makes a categorical distinction between its coherent articulable worldview (which it trusts at a level before awareness) and, well, everything else.

I've been playing with this model for a few months, and so far have found a couple clear distinctions between "right hemisphere" and "emotional brain / limbic system / amygdala etc".

One is about simplicity & complexity:

  • the right (neocortex?) is context-sensitive & aware of complex factors ("that person seems upset... oh, they had a date last night and they were nervous about it, I wonder how it went")
  • the emotional brain is simple and atemporal ("I feel scared because you spoke loudly like my father did when drunk" (that's what it's thinking, although it can't necessarily actually put any of that into words))

Another is that a right hemisphere intuition tends to know that it can't articulate itself and have a sort of relaxed confidence about that, whereas if something is stimulating emotion then you can easily generate all sorts of explanations (which may be accurate or confabulations) for why your "intuition" is correct.

I've found the recent reading I've done on the brain hemispheres, of Iain McGilchrist's work, to be one of the most important books I've read in my life. His model of hemispheres has profound implications in relation to everything from rationalization & motivated reasoning, to social dynamics & coordination, to technological development & science, to AI Safety & corrigibility.

I think if everyone here had it as a common framework, we'd be able to talk more fruitfully about many of the major tensions that have shown up on LessWrong on the past few years regarding post-rationality/meta-rationality, kenshō/Looking/etc, and more.

Links to learn more:

(I may edit this into a top-level at some point; for now I'm going to leave it as a comment)

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Dependability · 2019-03-27T13:46:27.686Z · LW · GW

All of this, and particularly the section on "reliability", reminds me of Werner Erhard's (founder of EST, which turned into Landmark) explication of integrity, outlined in Appendix 2 of this paper:

One key is that expectations of you include not just explicit things you tell people to expect but any you allow to be present.

This isn't a moral obligation, just the reality that "if you let people expect things of you and don't fulfill those expectations, there will be a breakdown in the workability of the relationship".

I have screenshots of the relevant sections in these tweets:

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Dependability · 2019-03-27T13:44:43.368Z · LW · GW

First thought I had when I read the title and the bit about MAPLE is this piece by Tasshin (one of the monks at OAK, the California node of MAPLE)

The Power of DWYSYWD (Doing What You Said You Would Do)

I hadn't read the article until just now (just had it bookmarked) and it seems that it's almost entirely about GTD and zero about monastic life, but it still seems mildly interesting that it was written by a monk and is pointing at the same thing.

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Stories of Summer Solstice · 2018-07-10T15:11:48.381Z · LW · GW

There wasn't *pre*-planning but yeah, there was explicit (though emergent) coordination.

I had loved the idea of stopping right as the sun vanished, from a practice drum-circle that Brent led in the Berkeley hills earlier in June. I didn't find any way to mention this prior to getting out to the clifftop, but then once we were there and there was kind of a small circle where most of the drummers were, I indicated to them to stop when the last bit of sun was gone.

Cody was nearby without a drum and overheard me saying this, and asked "should I pass that along to the other drummers?" (because not everybody was right next to me, although all of the biggest drums were) and I said "yes!" and she did!

And yeah, it was really magical, I think in part because we didn't *quite* have common knowledge that we were going to stop then—even I didn't know if everyone would get the message, or would follow it, etc.

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Recommendations vs. Guidelines · 2018-04-13T17:11:35.857Z · LW · GW

It's not a full-on “You Are Willing To Devote 100 Hours Of Your Life To Seeing If Self-Help Really Works, Here’s The Best Way For You To Do It”, but I did start working on a flowchart to respond to people who asked me for productivity advice. Many people wanted a list of top tips or something, but this is like giving a list of the top anti-depressants: nearly useless. You don't need to read a list of 10 ideas, you need to do a list of 1 idea.

The basic structure of what I got asks "Have you tried the pomodoro technique?" and makes a recommendation for giving it a serious try if you haven't gotten it to work yet. Then if the person has already had major success with the pomodoro technique, or if they've deemed that it won't work for them, it has a few other next major questions. Very much a Version 0.2; I haven't gotten around to expanding it but it feels like it would be worth doing.

Here's an email newsletter that's based on this flowchart (due to lack of limitations in interactivity in email, it doesn't have the full detail of troubleshooting why the pomodoro technique might not work for someone the first time)

My top productivity tip—for you, specifically

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Raising funds to establish a new AI Safety charity · 2018-03-29T05:50:24.581Z · LW · GW

Epic. I remember talking to some people about this at EA Global last year, and I'm excited to see that you've continued working on it and are ready to double down.

I've donated & shared this article on FB!

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on The Intelligent Social Web · 2018-02-25T06:20:01.775Z · LW · GW

I'm really excited about this post on a whole bunch of levels.

One post on my list of posts to write is called something like "Everything is Improv", and I feel like you captured a decent fraction of what I want to say in that post, here! Plus a ton of additional pieces that I hadn't yet notice or connected yet. These two sections in particular felt very important:

"Another challenge here is that the part of us that feels like it’s thinking and talking is (usually) analogous to a character in an improv scene. The players know they’re in a scene, but the characters they’re playing don’t."


"But it’s hard to sort this out without just enacting our scripts. The version of you that would be thinking about it is your character, which (in this framework) can accurately understand its own role only if it has enough slack to become genre-savvy within the web; otherwise it just keeps playing out its role."

This means that certain acts of meta-communication almost become kind of like breaking the fourth wall. I've pointed at this in Acts of Speech & States of Mind:

At Upstart, we’re never just having conversations. We’re also training ourselves to think differently. We’re a theatre troupe that isn’t just performing but also practising, which involves having the skill and mutual trust so that at any moment any of us can pull out the director’s chair and say “cut” and we go meta and start talking about the way in which we were just talking. This is a key part of being able to help each other level up in this way.

But, as Val points out, it's really easy for this going-meta to just find its way back into the very dynamics that one is attempting to point at.

For example, have you ever tried pointing out that someone seems to be doing a social dominance move? In most contexts, that pointing-out action ends up itself being a social dominance move! Which isn't a problem, per se, but definitely makes it hard to shift out of that particular dance and into something else.

For that to work, you need a bunch of additional shared framework/context/intent around what the "something else" is and why you'd want it, as well as proficiency in a core ~applied mindfulness skill to avoid the temptation to continue playing out the current roles. I think Looking is one way of pointing at this skill. So an act of meta-communication is often attempting to say "Look, and become the actor, not just the character!"

This breaks character, and the fourth wall, which is a really awkward thing to do if other people aren't able to break out with you.

But with enough practice it's doable, even to the point of being able to pretty consistently act consciously rather than just playing one's character, and to do this with other people in a way that allows rewriting social scripts. Not easy, but learnable.

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Mythic Mode · 2018-02-24T16:00:04.634Z · LW · GW

Since Val could edit his post, but not this comment, here's me echoing his MD5 hash so that it is more verifiable in the future: 24e07349c9134ff91d77a6a38cf23183

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on The Intelligent Social Web · 2018-02-24T15:46:34.674Z · LW · GW

I would add:

4) Success comes from collaborating with others

Trade is one way to have an economic interaction where value is created, because each of us might value something twice as much as the other, so when we trade, we get more value. But we can also create value where no value existed before. If you and I play a game together that we both enjoy, we're not trading something: we're creating new experiences that we value. If you and I start a company together, we might be selling our products on a market, but the value we're creating by working together is probably something that neither of us had on our own, therefore not well-modelled as a "trade".

Some might argue this is the same as 3, but it seems like an important distinction to me, and very relevant to improv, also.

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on The Intelligent Social Web · 2018-02-24T15:24:30.322Z · LW · GW

Might I propose renaming the post The Social Improv Web? Like Raemon, I think that "Real World Omega", while being an important component of what you're saying here, is less likely to act as a sticky handle for this post.

Perhaps leave the old title in a parenthetical for continuity's sake: The Social Improv Web (aka "Real World Omega").

(I have written on naming concepts to reduce incidents of people thinking they understand terms they haven't even heard before)

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Rationalist Lent · 2018-02-16T04:46:32.957Z · LW · GW

I did this 6 years ago, also for a non-religious "lent". I was actually very strict about it:

  • nothing with "sugar" (or an artificial sweetener as an ingredient)
  • nothing that is more than 5% sugar by mass.

The latter one means that most fruit was out (except lemons, limes, and (surprisingly!) strawberries & raspberries).

Everyone had told me this would have an effect on my mood or something, or that I would notice things if/when I went back to eating sugar. It didn't. I have since concluded my body is uncommonly resiliant to eating different things.

Oh, except that that all 3 times I have tried a low-carb diet (2× "slow carb", 1× keto) I have gotten ill (usually ~flu) about a week in. Could be a coincidence but feels worth noting.

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Dispel your justification-monkey with a “HWA!” · 2018-02-07T00:28:05.004Z · LW · GW
You get what you incentivize.

I absolutely get that incentives matter. I also think that responsibility and accountability are important, and my proposal of "hwa" is not intended to suggest otherwise.

I will point out, however, that guilt/shame/punishment etc have additional incentive costs that are often unrecognized: they incentivize people to deceive each other and themselves. If I am navigating by avoiding punishment or avoiding guilt (an internalized form of social punishment) then I'm incentivized to avoid taking responsibility so as to avoid that punishment: both recognizing what I've done socially, because if I did then others would punish me, and also recognizing what I've done internally, because if I did then I would feel bad.

As you say: you get what you incentivize. And I want to build my relationships and my sense of self in such ways that deception is not incentivized. Therefore, taking a post-blame approach to responsibility.

"Hwa" does not assume that people are saints. It does, however, assume that they care. This is a decent assumption for most relationships, and if it's not true, I recommend getting out of that relationship, whether business, romantic, or otherwise.

(This comment thread isn't a context where it's making sense to me to attempt to bridge all of the inferential distance that we're working with here, but this response was something I could manage. I am going to continue to write on this subject, and I value the articulations of the gaps between my explanations and what-I-am-trying-to-say, as provided by Said and others.)

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Beware Social Coping Strategies · 2018-02-07T00:13:05.771Z · LW · GW

I would use the term "anti-inductive" to point at the thing you're using "adaptive" for. Relevant articles: Markets are Anti-Inductive (talks about economics) and The Phatic and the Anti-Inductive (talks about social stuff).

I also think that anyone who's interested in thinking more about conflict, both as it shows up internally and as it shows up between people, would get a lot out of checking out Perceptual Control Theory.

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Dispel your justification-monkey with a “HWA!” · 2018-01-25T06:36:24.526Z · LW · GW

I appreciate the point you're making in your second paragraph. I think that the structures you're pointing at are something that we're on the same page about.

Most of my energies are focused on the creation and development of contexts where post-blame/post-fault (essentially what you called "the spirit of HWA") is something that everyone is committed to, and I think that within such a context, "HWA" is actually helpful for consensus-building, as it gets the judgments out of the way so that the details can be explored together, and the parties can figure out what happened, why, and what to do next, and what collective story to tell about it—a story that doesn't have to invoke the guilt vs innocence dichotomy at all!

But you're making a great point about how HWA (like pretty much any tool) can also be used coercively, to shut down people whose perspectives need to be heard in order for the group to function effectively.

HWA may be good for friendships, but I'm not sure it's good on larger scales of human interactions.

I think it's harder for (eg) business relationships than friendships, but all the more important because of it. But yeah, in order for it to facilitate the sharing of stories, you need the post-blame mindset, not just one little verbal tool. And you need that to be built into the context, not just something that's incidentally & inconsistently present.

This is similar in a lot of ways to how rationality is fundamentally a way of thinking not a collection of tools. If you aren't truly truth-seeking, then you can use all of your rationality tools for rationalization. If you're not seeking to get out of coercive dynamics, then you can use HWA for obfuscation.

(I want to note that a lot of the terms I'm using here (particularly "coercive") are sort of jargon on some levels; they have quite specific meanings to me that may not be apparent. I shall write more posts to explain these; in the meantime I figured it would make sense to write some sort of response here.)

Comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) on Dispel your justification-monkey with a “HWA!” · 2018-01-24T08:46:03.049Z · LW · GW

Thoroughly agreed that it's worth doing and also really hard.

Based on several years of experience of trying (and succeeding, to a large extent) to live without blame, in a context where others are doing the same, my read is that blame isn't a biological imperative. I would say something like... "meaning is a biological imperative (for humans)" and then "many of our main cultural meaning narratives are blame-based". But post-blame meaning is way better. Whether "meaning" is the thing or not, I'm inclined to say that blame as such is just pica for whatever the underlying biological need is.

Hmm... I guess there's a few dimensions to it. A necessary aspect of meaning is concepts like responsibility, accountability, etc. You can get rid of blame without getting rid of these (and since they're necessary, you need to keep non-blamey versions in order to be able to let go of blame.)

I haven't yet made a good write-up on exactly why one might want to let go of blame, but if you're familiar with "Should" Considered Harmful, it's basically the same line of reasoning.

Comment by malcolmocean on [deleted post] 2017-05-30T11:55:45.426Z

Not officially at this stage; we're in a process of overhauling a lot of things, including answers to questions like "who are we?" and "what are we calling ourselves?"

That said, this category of posts on my blog has a lot of content about our philosophy, models, culture, etc.