Comment by maniakes on The Unfinished Mystery of the Shangri-La Diet · 2013-05-17T00:14:48.166Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I tried it for a few months in grad school. It works better than you'd expect, but not as well as you'd hope.

Days 2-3 were very rough, but after I acclimated, my subjective experience was similar to staying up a few hours past my normal bedtime (mild fatigue, but not unpleasant or debilitating if I was actively doing something).

Three things killed it for me:

  1. It is very difficult to maintain a social life if you need to go home and nap every 3.5 hours on a strict schedule.

  2. My class schedule was different on different days of the week, so I had to fudge my nap schedule around the classes. The fatigue was much worse on the days (Tuesdays and Thursdays, I think) that I couldn't keep my usual nap schedule.

  3. Any stimulants at all will wreck the sleep cycle, and weird sleep cycle or no, I often find myself needing caffeine in order to acheive the mental energy I need to force myself to focus on something I need to get done.

As for formal experiments, the best source I know of is "Why We Nap: Evolution, Chronobiology, and Functions of Polyphasic and Ultrashort Sleep" by Claudio Stampi. It documents most of the existing studies as of when it was written (1992) as well as a formal study conducted by the author. It's out-of-print and fairly rare, but there's a PDF available here:

Comment by maniakes on Rationality Quotes April 2013 · 2013-04-18T01:01:46.952Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Punster: go on a hunting trip with Mick Jagger.

Comment by maniakes on What Is Signaling, Really? · 2012-07-12T20:46:34.150Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe he's countersignalling, deliberately offering a superficially-negative signal in order to signal that he doesn't need to send the "expected" superficially-positive signal. See this article, also by Yvain.

Comment by maniakes on Rationality Quotes April 2012 · 2012-04-03T00:51:28.809Z · score: 29 (29 votes) · LW · GW

There are big differences between "a study" and "a good study" and "a published study" and "a study that's been independently confirmed" and "a study that's been independently confirmed a dozen times over." These differences are important; when a scientist says something, it's not the same as the Pope saying it. It's only when dozens and hundreds of scientists start saying the same thing that we should start telling people to guzzle red wine out of a fire hose.

Chris Bucholz

Comment by maniakes on Rationality Quotes February 2012 · 2012-02-02T00:41:11.082Z · score: 18 (26 votes) · LW · GW

"Today we will be dragoons, until we are told otherwise"

"Where are our horses, then?"

"We must imagine them."

"Imaginary horses are much slower than the other kind."

Neal Stephenson, The Confusion

Comment by maniakes on Rationality quotes January 2012 · 2012-01-11T08:37:18.366Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I stand corrected.

Comment by maniakes on Rationality quotes January 2012 · 2012-01-10T20:53:04.260Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Here is the full article from which the quote was taken:

Comment by maniakes on Rationality quotes January 2012 · 2012-01-10T06:48:19.707Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The preference alone is mostly harmless. When the preference is combined with the misapprehension that the preference can be fulfilled, it may harm the person asserting the preference if it leads them to make a bad choice between a meowing cat, a barking dog, or delaying the purchase of a pet.

If the preference order were (1. Barking Cat, 2. Barking Dog, 3. Meowing Cat, 4. No Pet), then the belief that a cat could be taught to bark could lead to the purchase/adoption of a meowing cat instead of the (preferred) barking dog.

Likewise, in the above preference order, or with 2 and 3 reversed, the belief in barking cats could also lead to the person delaying the selection of a pet due to the hope that a continued search would turn up a barking cat.

The problem is magnified, and more failure modes added, when we consider cases of group decision-making.

Comment by maniakes on Rationality quotes January 2012 · 2012-01-03T23:01:32.078Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

There are valid quibbles and exceptions on both counts. Some breeds of cats make vocalizations that can reasonably be described as "barking", and water will burn if there are sufficient concentrations of either an oxidizer much stronger than oxygen (such as chlorine triflouride) or a reducing agent much stronger than hydrogen (such as elemental sodium).

In the general case, though, water will not burn under normal circumstances, and most cats are physiologically incapable of barking.

The point of the quote is that objects and systems do have innate qualities that shape and limit their behaviour, and that this effect is present in social systems studied by economists as well as in physical systems studied by chemists and biologists. In the original context (which I elided because politics is the mind killer, and because any particular application of the principle is subject to empirical debate as to its validity), Friedman was following up on an article about how political economy considerations incline regulatory agencies towards socially suboptimal decisions, addressing responses that assumed that the political economy pressures could easily be designed away by revising the agencies' structures.

Comment by maniakes on Rationality quotes January 2012 · 2012-01-03T20:24:54.531Z · score: 11 (17 votes) · LW · GW

I replied as follows: "What would you think of someone who said, "I would like to have a cat, provided it barked"? [...] As a natural scientist, you recognize that you cannot assign characteristics at will to chemical and biological entities, cannot demand that cats bark or water burn. Why do you suppose that the situation is different in the "social sciences?"

-- Milton Friedman

Comment by maniakes on Rationality Quotes December 2011 · 2011-12-03T00:30:14.452Z · score: 22 (22 votes) · LW · GW

If you're tempted to respond, "But I love school, and so do all my friends. Ah, the life of the mind, what could be better?" let me gently remind you that readers of economics blogs are not a random sample of the population. Most people would hate reading this blog; you read it just for fun!

-- Bryan Caplan

Comment by maniakes on Rationality Quotes December 2011 · 2011-12-03T00:26:40.254Z · score: 23 (23 votes) · LW · GW

We are much beholden to Machiavel and others, that write what men do, and not what they ought to do.

-- Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning

Comment by maniakes on Rational Home Buying · 2011-11-28T07:06:08.115Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm assuming that most everyday purchases are frequently repeated (e.g. you buy milk and eggs every week), so the cognitive costs of figuring out the best place to buy milk and eggs can be amortized out over many transactions.

Comment by maniakes on Rationality Quotes November 2011 · 2011-11-02T01:12:00.510Z · score: 41 (43 votes) · LW · GW

The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.

John W. Gardner

Comment by maniakes on Rationality Quotes October 2011 · 2011-10-03T23:38:23.329Z · score: -1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

In 1705, Sir Isaac Newton became discouraged after he fell up a flight of stairs.


Comment by maniakes on Rationality Quotes September 2011 · 2011-09-03T09:01:42.074Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure. I came across it in translated form without sourcing.

Comment by maniakes on Rationality Quotes September 2011 · 2011-09-02T20:52:25.814Z · score: 31 (31 votes) · LW · GW

The church is near, but the road is icy. The bar is far away, but I will walk carefully.

-- Russian proverb

Comment by maniakes on Rationality Quotes September 2011 · 2011-09-02T20:49:38.853Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.

-- Oliver Cromwell

Comment by maniakes on Rational Home Buying · 2011-08-29T21:41:22.877Z · score: 19 (19 votes) · LW · GW

In both cases, the tradeoff is the same - drive fifteen minutes to save twenty bucks - but people were much more willing to do it for the cheap item, because $20 was a higher percentage of its total cost. With the $2000 TV, the $20 vanishes into the total cost like a drop in the ocean and seems insignificant.

Evaluating cost savings as a percentage actually makes a certain amount of sense when evaluating policies rather than acts. Cheaper purchases tend to be much more frequent: you probably buy many more shirts than you do big-screen TVs, so expending the effort to find the cheapest source of shirts and evaluate whether it's worthwhile to go out of your way to buy them will save you several times $20 over the lifetime of the policy, whereas the TV is effectively a one-time decision which will only save you $20 total. True, the 15 minute drive time is per-purchase rather than per-policy, but 1) the cost is not just the drive time, but also the effort to research options and the cognitive load of picking and option, which are one-time costs, and 2) a general policy of thriftiness for small, frequent purchases can have a substantial effect on your overall financial situation, but indulging in overpayment for convenience on the odd big one-time purchase is an affordable luxury.

On a different note, another factor to take into account when evaluating commuting times is the possibility of changing jobs. When I bought my house, I specifically looked for a short commute time, but not just to my then-current workplace. I also took into account commute times to other places I might end up working if I changed jobs (other campuses of companies in the area which employ large numbers of people in my field, especially places which employ friends of mine who could refer my for positions). By over-optimizing for my then-current job, I felt I would have increased my risk exposure if I lost my job or became unhappy with it, as well as reducing my ability to take advantage of new opportunities if another employer could make more productive use of me and cut me in on the additional value created.

One mistake I did make in buying a house was very badly underestimating the cost in time, effort, and cash to make repairs and improvements to a house purchased in poor condition. In hindsight, I think I made the right tradeoffs, in that after spending the money I wound up with a house that will suit my needs better and for a longer period of time than I could have afforded by paying the additional cost to buy a house that was already in good condition (this includes the substantial benefit of being able to customize aspects of the house to my desires as I made repairs and improvements), but this was a happy accident despite the major misevaluations I made when planning the purchase.

Comment by maniakes on On the unpopularity of cryonics: life sucks, but at least then you die · 2011-08-02T00:49:44.710Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I answered yes to your hypothetical, but I am not currently signed up for cryonics and have no short- or medium-term plans to do so.

My reasons for the difference:

  1. In your hypothetical, I've received a divine revelation that there's no afterlife, and that reincarnation would be successful. In real life, I have a low estimate of the likelihood of cryonics leading to a successful revival and a low-but-nonzero estimate of the likelihood of an afterlife.

  2. In your hypothetical, there's no advance cost for the reincarnation option. For cryonics, the advance cost is substantial. My demand curve for life span is downward-sloping with respect to cost.

  3. In your hypothetical, I'm on my deathbed. In real life, I'm 99.86% confident of living at least one more year and 50% confident of living at least another 50 years (based on Social Security life expectancy tables), before adjusting for my current health status and family history of longevity (both of which incline my life expectancy upwards relative to the tables), and before adjusting for expected technological improvements. This affects my decision concerning cryonics in two respects: a. Hyperbolic discounting. b. Declining marginal utility of lifespan. c. A substantial (in my estimation) chance that even without cryonics I'll live long enough to benefit from the discovery of medical improvements that will make me immortal barring accidents, substantially reducing the expected benefit from cryonics.

  4. In your hypothetical, I'm presented with a choice and it's an equal effort to pick either one. To sign up for cryonics, I'd need to overcome substantial mental activation costs to research options and sign up for a plan. My instinct is to procrastinate.

Of course, none of this invalidates your hypothetical as a test of the hypothesis that people don't sign up for cryonics because they don't actually want to live longer.

Comment by maniakes on The Bias You Didn't Expect · 2011-04-16T04:29:04.215Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

For particularly important decisions, consider contemplating them at different times, if you can. Think about one thing Monday morning, then Wednesday afternoon, then Saturday evening, going only to the point of getting an overall feel for an answer, and not to the point of really making a solid conclusion.

This seems congruent with the folk idea of "sleeping on" difficult or particularly important decisions rather than coming to a decision on the spot, and with the legal practice of having "cooling off periods" after a purchase is made or a contract is signed, during which one party can void the agreement.

Comment by maniakes on Procedural Knowledge Gaps · 2011-02-08T17:43:39.280Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This works for any shirt, jacket, or coat. In addition to the benefit you cite, it also make the garment hang more naturally on your body as you move your arms, since the sleeve is designed to be able move with your arms on the assumption that the cap of the sleeve is aligned with the top of your shoulder.

The test I usually do is to try on the garment and raise my arm without moving my shoulder. The spot where my arm starts moving should be at or just below the shoulder seam.