Why Republics Perform Better than Absolute Monarchies in the Long-Term 2021-06-17T22:22:50.656Z
Examples of Acausal Trade with an Alien Universe? 2021-04-01T18:10:13.541Z
Selling Attention for Money 2021-03-24T06:24:37.981Z
Even Inflationary Currencies Should Have Fixed Total Supply 2021-03-10T05:41:08.883Z
How to build common knowledge of rationality and honesty? 2021-02-21T06:07:29.478Z
A Democratic Currency 2021-01-19T05:32:07.612Z
No, Newspeak Won’t Make You Stupid 2020-12-18T00:56:02.654Z
Ideal Chess - drop chess perfected 2020-12-17T20:03:19.329Z
What AI companies would be most likely to have a positive long-term impact on the world as a result of investing in them? 2020-09-21T23:41:24.281Z
If there were an interactive software teaching Yudkowskian rationality, what concepts would you want to see it teach? 2020-09-02T05:37:08.758Z
Inoculating against Psychedelic Woo 2020-08-21T05:54:57.784Z
MikkW's Shortform 2020-08-10T20:39:29.510Z
Calibrate words, not just probabilities 2020-07-18T05:56:11.120Z


Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on MikkW's Shortform · 2021-06-18T03:54:56.613Z · LW · GW

The Roman Kingdom and Roman Empire both fell because of ineffective leaders. The Roman Republic fell because of extremely competent, but autocratic, leaders.

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on Why Republics Perform Better than Absolute Monarchies in the Long-Term · 2021-06-18T00:47:24.494Z · LW · GW

In this post, I was implicitly using definitions of republic and monarchy such that the UK and Denmark are republics, not monarchies, namely that a 'republic' is an indirect democracy led by an elected leader, while a monarchy is a country that is (actually, not nominally) led by person who inherits their office. The distinction I am making is an important distinction to be able to make, in particular there isn't a better word than "monarchy" to describe what I meant thereby, but "indirect democracy" might have been a better phrase than republic, although it makes the phrasing flow worse.

You are correct that the usual definition of the terms which I used would classify the UK and DK as monarchies, not republics, and it was bad form on my part to use non-standard definitions without explicitly stating what I meant. Sorry for the linguistic mix-up, I will edit my post accordingly when I have a chance to.

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on Why Republics Perform Better than Absolute Monarchies in the Long-Term · 2021-06-17T23:29:35.652Z · LW · GW

I can confirm I have not tested my theory against data, but I have enough knowledge of history to be comfortable observing the pattern I describe here. Do you have specific examples that contradict my theory? In particular, examples of (non-elective) monarchies that have consistently had high-quality leaders over several generations, or republics (especially republics that don't use FPTP) that consistently have low-quality leaders would help debunk my theory.

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on MikkW's Shortform · 2021-06-17T21:48:23.533Z · LW · GW

A] Meal replacements require a large amount of trust in the entity that produces it, since if there's any problems with the nutrition, that will have big impacts on your health. This is less so in your case, where it's not a big part of the nutrition, but in my case, where I ideally use meal replacements as a large portion of my diet, trust is important.

B] A few years ago, Rob Rhinehart, the founder and former executive of Soylent, parted ways with the company due to his vision conflicting with the investor's desires (which is never a good sign). I was happy to trust Soylent during the Rhinehart era, since I knew that he relied on his creation for his own sustenance, and seemed generally aligned. During that era, Soylent was very effective at signaling that they really cared about the world in general, and people's nutrition in general. All the material that sent those signals no longer exists, and the implicit signals (e.g. the shape of and branding on the bottles, the new products they are developing [The biggest innovation during the Rhinehart era was caffeinated Soylent, now the main innovations are Bridge and Stacked, products with poor nutritional balance targeted at a naïve general audience, a far cry from the very idea of Complete Food], and the copy on their website) all indicate that the company's main priority is now maximizing profit, without much consideration as to the (perceived) nutritional value of the product. In terms of product, the thing is probably still fine (though I haven't actually looked at the ingredients in the recent new nutritional balance), but in terms of incentives and intentions, the management's intention isn't any better than, say, McDonald's or Jack In The Box.

Since A] meal replacements require high trust and B] Soylent is no longer trustworthy: I cannot recommend anyone use Soylent more than a few times a week, but am happy to recommend Huel, Saturo, Sated, and Plenny, which all seem to still be committed to Complete Food.

(As far as flavour, I know I got one box with the old flavor after the recent flavor change, the supply lines often take time to get cleared out, so it's possible you got a box of the old flavor. I don't actually mind the new flavour, personally)

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on MikkW's Shortform · 2021-06-17T19:18:15.830Z · LW · GW

I may have discovered an interesting tool against lethargy and depression [1]: This morning, in place of my usual caffeine pill, I made myself a cup of hot chocolate (using pure cacao powder / baking chocolate from the supermarket), which made me very energetic (much more energetic than usual), which stood in sharp contrast to the past 4 days, which have been marked by lethargy and intense sadness. Let me explain:

Last night, I was reflecting on the fact that one of the main components of chocolate is theobromine, which is very similar in structure to caffeine (theobromine is the reason why chocolate in poisonous to dogs & cats, for reasons similar to how caffeine was evolved to kill insects that feed on plants), and is known to be the reason why eating chocolate makes people happy. Since I have problems with caffeine, but rely on it to have energy, I figured it would be worthwhile to try using chocolate instead as a morning pick-me-up. I used baking chocolate instead of Nesquick or a hot chocolate packet because I'm avoiding sugar these days, and I figured having as pure chocolate as possible would be ideal for my experiment.

I was greeted with pleasant confirmation when I became very alert almost immediately after starting to drink the chocolate, despite having been just as lethargic as the previous days until I drank the chocolate. It's always suggestive when you form a hypothesis based on facts and logic, then test the hypothesis, and exactly what you expected to happen, happens. But of course, I can't be too confident until I try repeating this experiment on future days, which I will happily be doing after today's success.


[1]: There are alternative hypotheses for why today was so different from the previous days: I attended martial arts class, then did some photography outside yesterday evening, which meant I got intense exercise, was around people I know and appreciate, and was doing stuff with intentionality, all of which could have contributed to my good mood today. There's also the possibility of regression to the mean, but I'm dubious of this since today was substantially above average for me. I also had a (sugar-free) Monster later in the morning, but that was long after I had noticed being unusually alert, and now I have a headache that I can clearly blame on the Monster (Caffeine almost always gives me a headache) [1a].

[1a]: I drink energy drinks because I like the taste of them, not for utilitarian reasons. I observe that caffeine tends to make whatever contains it become deeply associated with enjoyment and craving, completely separated from the alertness-producing effects of the chemical. A similar thing happened with Vanilla Café Soylent [1b], which I absolutely hated the first time I tried it, but a few weeks later, I had deep cravings for, and could not do without.

[1b]: Sidenote, the brand Soylent has completely gone to trash, and I would not recommend anyone buy it these days. Buy Huel or Plenny instead.

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on Raemon's Shortform · 2021-06-17T18:37:04.634Z · LW · GW

Reading this makes me think of organizations which manage to successfully have several generations of  competent leadership. Something that has struck me for a while is the contrast in long-term competence between republics (not direct democracies) and hereditary monarchies.

Reading through history, hereditary monarchies always seem to fall into the problem you describe, of incompetent and (physically and mentally) weak monarchs being placed at the head of a nation, leading to a lot of problems. Republics, in contrast, almost always have competent leaders - one might disagree with their goals, and they are too often appointed after their prime, when their health is declining [1], but the leaders of republics are almost always very competent people.

This makes life much better for the people in the republic, and may be in part responsible for the recent proliferation of republics (though it does raise the question of why that hasn't happened sooner. Maybe the robust safeguards implemented by the Founding Fathers of the USA in their constitution were a sufficiently non-obvious, but important, social technology, to be able to make republics viable on the world stage? [2]).

A key difference between monarchies and republics is that each successive generation of leadership in a republic must win an intense competition to secure their position, unlike the heirs of a monarchy. Not only this, but the competitions are usually held quite often (for example, every 4 years in Denmark, every 3 years in New Zealand), which ensures that the competitive nature of the office is kept in the public mind very frequently, making it hard to become a de facto hereditary position. By holding a competition to fill the office, one ensures that, even if the leader doesn't share the same vision as the original founder, they still have to be very competent to be appointed to the position.

I contend that the usual way of appointing successors to small organizations (appointment by the previous leader) and to corporations (elected, but by a small body in a usually non-competitive fashion that is more similar to being appointed on a personal basis) is insufficiently competitive, and so is more similar to a hereditary monarchy than a republic, in this way.


[1] - This (The fact that the leaders of republics are often elected when their health is in decline) makes me think it may be a good idea to have a constitutional maximum age, after which individuals cannot be elected to certain important offices, to ensure that only people who are in their prime (and hence likely sufficiently healthy) can lead the nation.

[2] - The existence of elective monarchies also is suggestive that the theory may be meaningful, but it again raises the question of why elective monarchies weren't more prominent. Maybe in practice elective monarchies were too likely to become effectively hereditary monarchies in all but name (c.f. the Hungarian kingdom and the Holy Roman Empire), that they didn't distinguish themselves enough to have a competitive advantage.

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on Raemon's Shortform · 2021-06-17T17:47:08.045Z · LW · GW

My read on this is that it's still obviously worthwhile to train a successor, but to consider giving them clear instructions to shut down the group when it's time for them to move on, to avoid the problems that come with 3rd-generational leadership.

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on Raemon's Shortform · 2021-06-17T17:42:05.358Z · LW · GW

My model differs from yours. In my view, the first successor isn't the source of most problems. The first successor usually has enough interaction and knowledge transfer from the founder, that they are able to keep things working more-or-less perfectly fine during their tenure, but they aren't able to innovate and create substantial new value, since they lack the creativity and vision of the founder. In your terms, they are cargo-culting, but they are able to cargo-cult sufficiently well to keep the organization running smoothly; but when the second (and nth) successor comes in, they haven't interacted much directly with the original founder, but instead are basing their decisions based, at most, on a vague notion of what the founder was like (though are often better served when they don't even try to follow in the footsteps of the founder), and so are unable to keep things working according to the original vision. They are cargo-culting a cargo-cult, which isn't enough to keep things working the way they need to work, at which point the organization stops being worth keeping around.

During the reign of the founder, the slope of the value created over time is positive, during the reign of the first successor, the slope is approximately zero, but once the second successor and beyond take over, the slope will be negative.

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on MikkW's Shortform · 2021-06-17T17:24:04.239Z · LW · GW

Asking people to "taboo [X word]" is bad form, unless you already know that the other person is sufficiently (i.e. very) steeped in LW culture to know what our specific corner of internet culture means by "taboo".

Without context, such a request to taboo a word sounds like you are asking the other person to never use that word, to cleanse it from their vocabulary, to go through the rest of their life with that word permanently off-limits. That's a very high, and quite rude, ask to make of someone. While that's of course not what we mean by "taboo", I have seen requests to taboo made where it's not clear that the other person knows what we mean by taboo, which means it's quite likely the receiving party interpreted the request as being much ruder than was meant.

Instead of saying "Taboo [X word]", instead say "could you please say what you just said without using [X word]?" - it conveys the same request, without creating the potential to be misunderstood to be making a rude and overreaching request.

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on The Moon is Down; I have not heard the clock · 2021-06-14T02:30:06.769Z · LW · GW

 I look forward to being unwilling to shut up to the whippersnappers about how when I was young, the moon didn't have all those dots of light from the settlements.

Me too... If I'm not myself on one of those settlements.


I remember when I first realized waxing moons are visible in the evening, and waning moons are visible in the morning. It was maybe a year and a half ago, I was laying in bed one morning, reflecting on the fact that most rotation in the Solar System happens in the same direction (prograde; Venus is a notable exception, rotating around its axis in a retrograde direction). As I was visualizing all these orbs rotating and orbiting eachother in the same direction, I realized that it followed that the moon would show at specific parts of the day based on its phase, and was able to confirm my inference that evening, when I saw the waxing moon, and as I noticed the moon rise later and later each passing night as it waxed fuller and fuller, eventually dissappearing, when it would rise after I would go to bed.

I do get a good amount of pleasure from keeping track of the moon's phase based on when I see it, but I mostly get this pleasure as it waxes, as I am a night owl, and am not often out and about in the morning, when one would be able to see it waning. On the occasions that I do wake up early enough to see a waning moon, it always put a big smile on my face, since it is such a rare sight for me, though.

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on MikkW's Shortform · 2021-06-13T17:40:27.478Z · LW · GW

I'm probably missing something, but Baye's Theorem seems quite overrated in this corner of the internet. (I've read all of the Sequences + the Arbital Guide)

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on Open and Welcome Thread – June 2021 · 2021-06-13T17:38:41.264Z · LW · GW

👍 Added

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on Open and Welcome Thread – June 2021 · 2021-06-13T04:29:08.616Z · LW · GW

The solstice is in 8 days. Is there any plans for a Summer Solstice this year? I'm interested in meeting in person in Northern California / the bay (and am fully vaxxed, of course)

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on MikkW's Shortform · 2021-06-10T21:23:01.459Z · LW · GW

In Zvi's most recent Covid-19 post, he puts the probability of a variant escaping mRNA vaccines and causing trouble in the US at most at 10%. I'm not sure I'm so optimistic.

One thing that gives reason to be optimistic, is that we have yet to see any variant that has substantial resistance to the vaccines, which might lead one to think that resistance just isn't something that is likely to come up. However, on the other hand, the virus has had more than a year for more virulent strains to crop up while people were actively sheltering in place, and variants first came on the radar (at least for the population at large) around 9 months after the start of worldwide lockdowns, and a year after the virus was first noticed. In contrast, the vaccine has only been rolling out for half a year, and only come into large-scale contact with the virus for maybe half that time, let's say a quarter of a year. It's maybe not so surprising that a resistant variant hasn't appeared yet.

Right now, there's a fairly large surface area between non-resistant strains of Covid and vaccinated humans. Many vaccinated humans will be exposed to virus particles, which will for the most part be easily defended against by the immune system. However, if it's possible for the virus to change in any way to reduce the immune response it faces, we will see this happen, and particularly in areas where there's roughly half vaccinated people, half unvaccinated, such a variant will have at least a slight advantage over other variants, and will start to spread faster than non-resistant variants. Again, it's taken a while for other variants to crop up, so it's not much information that we haven't seen this happen yet.

The faster we are able to get vaccines in most arms in all countries, the less likely this is to happen. If most humans worldwide are vaccinated 6 months from now, there likely won't be much opportunity for a resistant variant to become prominent. But I don't expect vaccines to roll out so effectively; I'll be pleasantly surprised if they are.

There's further the question of whether the US will be able to respond effectively quickly enough if such a variant arises. I'm very pessimistic about this, and if you're not, you either haven't been paying attention, or are overestimating the difference in effectiveness between the current administration vs the previous administration, or are more optimistic about our ability to learn from our mistakes (on an institutional level) than I am.

All in all, saying no more than a 10% chance that a resistant variant will arise, with the US government not responding quickly enough, seems far too optimistic to me. I'm currently around 55% that such a variant will arise, and that it will cause at least 75,000 deaths OR will prompt a lockdown of at least 30 days in at least 33 US states [edited to add: within the next 7 years].

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on Poll: Any interest in an editing buddy system? · 2021-06-08T18:06:34.896Z · LW · GW
  1. Answer C: I'd edit and submit.
  2. Answer B: 1.5x-2x, though there's large uncertainty that could point in either direction
Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on Often, enemies really are innately evil. · 2021-06-07T21:30:49.392Z · LW · GW

I am extremely dubious of the claim presented in part I, and in particular am dubious about the validity of the study cited.

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on Toon Alfrink's sketchpad · 2021-06-07T15:53:00.886Z · LW · GW

My shortform on religion being about belief taxes may interest you

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on MikkW's Shortform · 2021-06-07T15:34:28.931Z · LW · GW

To be clear, my original post referred to more than just "toxic masculinity".

On that particular subject, the divergence in meaning is that some people identified a motte-and-bailey where people would say "toxic masculinity", defend the term by saying it's referring to a particular subset of masculinity that is problematic, but would then go on to use the phrase to refer to parts of masculinity which are not clearly problematic.

That isn't a linguistic divergence, but some people recognizing a subtext that the original group would deny their words containing

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on Alcohol, health, and the ruthless logic of the Asian flush · 2021-06-05T02:17:29.746Z · LW · GW

Sorry, my oversight.

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on Alcohol, health, and the ruthless logic of the Asian flush · 2021-06-05T00:29:35.101Z · LW · GW

In this case, 1 drink = 10 g of ethanol, per the linked paper.

Measuring alcohol in drinks is quite normal, I agree it is weird that there is no international standard, but dynomight probably wasn't aware of that when writing this post, so it seems harsh to say the claim feels bullshitty when the source defines precise units for a commonly used measure.

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on Covid 6/3: No News is Good News · 2021-06-04T23:47:16.224Z · LW · GW

I'd love to see these continued after Covid is over, but now focusing on a chosen long-term problem that can be fixed, and is often ignored, but needs more attention. Candidates include [death, aging, the common cold]

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on MikkW's Shortform · 2021-06-04T23:43:43.360Z · LW · GW

Currently I'm making a "logobet", a writing system that aims to be to logographies as alphabets are to syllabaries [1]. Primarily, I want to use emoji for the symbols [2], but some important concepts don't have good emoji to express them. In these cases, I'm using kanji from either Japanese or Chinese to express the concept. One thing that I notice is that the visual style of emoji and kanji are quite different from eachother. I wouldn't actually say it looks bad, but it is jarring. The emoji are also too bold, colourful, and detailed to really fit well as text (rather than accompaniment for the text, as they are usually used today), though the colour is actually helpful in distinguishing symbols.

Ideally, I would want a font to be made for the logobet that would render emoji and kanji (at least the ones that are used in the logobet) in a similar manner, with simple contours and subdued (but existent) colours. This would require changing both ⸤kanji to have a fuller, more colourful form, and emoji to be less detailed and have less bold colours⸥.

But this will be downstream of actually implementing and publishing the first logobet.


[1] By breaking down concepts into component parts the way an alphabet breaks down syllables into component parts, a logobet can be more easily learned, using on the order of hundreds of symbols, rather than tens of thousands of symbols. The benefit of using a concept-based, rather than phonetic, alphabet, is that the system can be read and written by people from any background without having to learn eachother's languages [1a]. 

[1a] We see this already in China, where populations that speak different Sinitic languages, can all communicate with eachother through the written Chinese script (which may be the only actively used language that is primarily written, not spoken). The main reason why I think this has not spread beyond East Asia is because kanji are too hard to learn, requiring months of effort to learn, whereas most writing systems can be learned in hours.

[2] Emoji tend to be easily recognizable without prior knowledge of the script, while kanji tend to only be meaningful to someone who is informed of their meaning, which is why I prefer using emoji.

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on Alcohol, health, and the ruthless logic of the Asian flush · 2021-06-04T20:57:04.323Z · LW · GW

Roughly 10% of people in the US are raging alcoholics. Could we offer them the chance to self-exclude from alcohol? Unfortunately, it seems very difficult. We'd have to force some heavyweight process of checking IDs on all bars and liquor stores. Even then, it wouldn't be very effective, since people could still have their friends buy it for them. Do we want to make it illegal to hand out drinks at a party without checking everyone's ID against a database? It would be a nightmare.

I presume you're being ironic here, but part of me worries that you forgot that this already describes the way we handle underage drinking.

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on MikkW's Shortform · 2021-06-04T00:41:28.631Z · LW · GW

Rule without proportional representation is rule without representation

Taxation without proportional representation is taxation without representation.

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on [Prediction] What war between the USA and China would look like in 2050 · 2021-05-31T00:18:07.377Z · LW · GW

It's worth noting that the Weimar Republic was a short-lived democracy that was unpopular among the German people from the very start, who (regardless of what they thought of Kaiser Wilhelm & the imperial family), had very strong expansionist / imperialist leanings. When the citizens of a republic don't like the republic, it's hardly surprising to see it destroy itself

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on MikkW's Shortform · 2021-05-30T19:14:45.008Z · LW · GW

It's funny, "toxic" is one of the most toxic words these days

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on MikkW's Shortform · 2021-05-27T20:25:18.586Z · LW · GW

Dony Christie and I have been having a back-and-forth about the phrase "public goods market" (often shortened to PGM)- originally, I coined the phrase as a way to refer to Quadratic Funding, a mechanism that is quite important, but whose most common name is prone to alienate non-technically minded folks, and not a very resonant name- whereas "public goods market" carries a clearer meaning even to an average person; while "a public good" and "a market" both have technical meanings that are leveraged by the phrase, it also evokes "the public good" (i.e. "the common good") and a market place, concepts that typical people are familiar with.

While in the essay where I originally introduced the phrase, I acknowledged that the phrase “public goods market” could potentially refer to a larger set of mechanisms than just Quadratic Funding - any mechanism that creates a market that incentivizes the creation of public, not just private, goods can be described as a “public goods market”. I’ve also gotten into the habit of using the phrase and its acronym synonymously with QF. However, Dony took me to task on this, since he argues that assurance contracts (i.e. kickstarters) and dominant assurance contracts (ACs and DACs, respectively) are also public goods markets.

It’s certainly clear that kickstarters and DACs create public goods, where the scope of the “public” is the people who participate in (and clearly benefit from) the contract, which can be a quite large group of people, much larger than the stereotypical transaction, which only involves two people, a buyer and a seller [1].

So the question of whether kickstarters are public goods markets comes down to whether or not kickstarters are “markets”. Wikipedia introduces markets as “a composition of systems, institutions, procedures, social relations or infrastructures whereby parties engage in exchange”. Based on this definition, while a single kickstarter is not a market (just as the act of me buying a soda is not a market), a website such as Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, or the ecosystem within which they exist, is indeed a market - the systems and procedures are those of the kickstarter mechanism, the institution is the website, which provides the infrastructure, and the parties who participate in the kickstarter are engaging in an exchange, performing an action or creating a product, in return for others performing an action or providing monetary compensation.

So really, I need to break the habit of using “public goods market” to mean quadratic funding, and find a more specific and resonant phrase to refer to QF specifically.

[1] One potential objection to viewing kickstarters as a mechanism that creates public goods, is that the mechanism still does not consider or handle negative externalites (i.e., bad things that will happen to people who are not participating in the contract), which QF is able to handle via negative votes (although in practice, I have seen negative votes be excluded from the mechanism when implemented, which I take issue with)

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on MikkW's Shortform · 2021-05-27T20:04:04.993Z · LW · GW

It really irks me when people swap "i.e." and "e.g." - i.e. stands for id est - "that is", and indicates that exactly the items listed, and no others, are meant by the  phrase that is being clarified, while e.g. stands for exempli gratia - "for the sake of example", and indicates that the listed items are only a small number of examples of a larger set, and that many items have been omitted.

When I read, my brain always tries to apply the corresponding meaning when I come across i.e. and e.g., and it breaks my brain when the wrong symbol was used, which I find very annoying.

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on supposedlyfun's Shortform · 2021-05-25T15:28:31.753Z · LW · GW

Why isn't weekly notifications the default? Daily is likely more harmful than useful for the typical person

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on MikkW's Shortform · 2021-05-25T15:23:25.399Z · LW · GW

Something I disagree with: Writing advice often implores one to write in a "strong" way, that one should sound authoritative, that one should not sound uncertain.

While I agree that this can create a stronger reaction in the audience, it is a close sibling to dishonesty, and communication is best facillitated when one feels comfortable acknowledging the boundaries of their ability to know.

But perhaps I'm wrong- when one writes, one is not writing for an ideal Bayesian reasoner under the assumption of perfect honesty, since ideal Bayesian reasoners are not physically possible, and one cannot reliably prove that one is being honest, but one is rather writing for humans, and perhaps the most efficient way of transferring information given these constraints is to exaggerate one's confidence.

Or perhaps the important bit is that humans care greatly about common knowledge- Charlie doesn't care so much about the information that Charlie can derive from what David says, but rather how the people around Charlie will respond to what David says, and Charlie can more easily predict others' reactions when David avoids indicating uncertainty, thereby making Charlie more comfortable taking a similarly strong position.

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on Bayeswatch 5: Hivemind · 2021-05-22T15:35:31.268Z · LW · GW

My interpretation on first reading was the same as your original intention. I agree with the second paragraph, that seems reasonable.

(I'm writing this vaguely because I don't remember syntax for spoilers, and can't be bothered to look it up)

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on The Reebok effect · 2021-05-22T15:13:16.470Z · LW · GW

After having read 3 sentences, I already find myself disagreeing with this analysis. "X out of 4" is nowhere near as common as "X out of 5", since humans like nice round numbers, and culturally we consider 5 to be a round number- so even if #5 was not one of the "3 out of 5" who wore the shoes, "3 out of 5" is still the appropriate phrasing to use.

Similarly, "2 out of 3" isn't as compelling, because it doesn't tell us that a large number of talented athletes are wearing the shoes, to the same extent as "3 out of 5"

So this analysis is attempting to extract far more information than is actually justified

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on MikkW's Shortform · 2021-05-19T19:00:57.681Z · LW · GW

Hmmm... I guess this is a good illustration of why "deserve" isn't a good way to put what I meant.

Bitcoin isn't actually any good at what it's meant to do- it's really a failure as a currency. It has been a rewarding store of value for a while, but I expect it will be displaced as a store of value by currencies that are more easily moved from account to account. Transaction fees are often too high, and will likely increase, and it is slow to process transactions (the slow speed isn't a hindrance to its quality as a store of value, but it does reduce its economic desirability; transaction fees are very much a problem for a store of value)

I expect in the long run, economic forces will drive BTC to nearly $0 without any regard to what it morally "deserves".

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on MikkW's Shortform · 2021-05-19T18:14:37.984Z · LW · GW

That does not accurately summarize my own personal feelings on this. I do suspect it's correct that BTC miners are using too much of the world's resources (a problem that can be fixed, but I'd be surprised if Bitcoin developers chose to fix), but more generally I feel that people who do hold on to BTC deserve to lose their investment if they don't sell soon (to be clear, I am against the government having anything to do with that. But I will be happy with the market if / when the market decides BTC is worthless)

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on MikkW's Shortform · 2021-05-19T14:57:10.416Z · LW · GW

This is something that has been in the back of my mind for a while, I sold almost all of my BTC half a year ago and invested that money in other assets.

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on MikkW's Shortform · 2021-05-19T14:54:55.693Z · LW · GW

Cryptocurrencies in general are good and the future of money, but Bitcoin in particular deserves to crash all the way down to $0

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on MikkW's Shortform · 2021-05-19T05:14:19.034Z · LW · GW

It is my view that Covid and then the common cold must be eradicated.

It is hardly an original thing to say, but I will say it.

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on Technocratic Plimsoll Line · 2021-05-17T06:32:38.364Z · LW · GW

From what I can tell from reading the period fiction, it used to run much lower in XIX. century in countries like France of Austria-Hungary, where even the proverbial tobacconist licenses were often granted on the basis of political affiliation.

There's a link to a Google Translation of the Czech Wikipedia page "Trafika" associated with the "proverbial tobacconist licenses", but I was a little confused even after clicking the link, especially since the machine translation mistranslated "Trafika" as "newsagent"- in this case, based on my research it seems that "Trafika" originally referred to a store, particularly one that sold tobacco (although newsstands can also be called "Trafika", hence the translation error); as Martin alludes to, the licenses to operate these Trafika were allocated on a political basis, so over time the word Trafika came to be understood as referring to any sinecure used to reward a political ally.

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on MikkW's Shortform · 2021-05-17T02:42:01.330Z · LW · GW

It doesn't seem that there's a good name for the COVID variant that's currently causing havok in India, and will likely cause havok elsewhere in the world (including quite possibly in parts of the US). Of course, there's the technical term, Lineage B.1.617, but that's a mouthful, and not easily distinguishable when spoken in casual form from the many other variants.

It's often called in casual speech by the country where it first appeared, but it's generally considered bad form to refer to diseases by their location of origin, for reasons that I'm inclined to agree with.

Wikipedia also mentions that some people have called this variant the "double mutation", but there will be many variants that feature multiple mutations, so it's not a very specific name to give the variant.

I'm inclined to just call it "(COVID) Six-seventeen" (from B.1.617), but I'm not sure if other people will resonate well with that indexing.

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on How Can One Tell What Is Beautiful? · 2021-05-15T16:36:28.503Z · LW · GW

Kevin Simler's post "A Natural History of Beauty" may be of interest

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on MikkW's Shortform · 2021-05-14T04:09:32.810Z · LW · GW

Supposedly people who know how to program and have a decent work ethic are a hot commodity. I may happen to know someone this describes who is not currently employed (i.e: Me)

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on MikkW's Shortform · 2021-05-10T19:37:26.572Z · LW · GW

State of nature ≠ liberty

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on MikkW's Shortform · 2021-05-10T19:37:07.854Z · LW · GW

I'm not sure currently what my thoughts on that situation are. The concepts of freedom and liberty are kinda non-natural concepts, that I have a good framework for discussing meaningfully regarding humans, but the further away an entity gets from being similar to a person, it's harder for me to think concretely about what freedom is. I do suspect in some sense "liberty" is a concept whose specific relevance and salience to humans is unique in contrast to most other forms of life, including many closely related animal species- the human desire to have control over one's own destiny is a social emotion that likely developed to help us maximize our success in the context of the human social environment, which is quite unique even in comparison to other great ape social structures.

None of this is meant, of course, to imply that animals and apes can't or don't value freedom, either extrinsicly or intrisicly, just that the human case is unique and I don't at this moment have a good framework for extrapolating my post to non-human lifeforms.

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on MikkW's Shortform · 2021-05-10T18:43:20.180Z · LW · GW

Any libertarian who doesn't have a plan to implement a Universal Basic Income in one form or another ultimately subscribes to an inherently contradictory philosophy. Liberty can only be realized when a person is not forced against their will to work in order to live.

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on Sexual Dimorphism in Yudkowsky's Sequences, in Relation to My Gender Problems · 2021-05-07T23:49:46.721Z · LW · GW

I'll highlight this extract:

(The blog posts did finally get collected into a book, Rationality: From AI to Zombies, but I continue to say "the Sequences" because I hate the gimmicky "AI to Zombies" subtitle—it makes it sound like a commercial book optimized to sell copies, rather than something to corrupt the youth, competing for the same niche as the Bible or the Koran—the book that explains what your life should be about.)

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on Why I Work on Ads · 2021-05-05T00:18:52.305Z · LW · GW

Universal basic income would help, and I'm strongly in favor of it, but I don't think that's likely to be politically feasible anytime soon.

There's a solution to achieving this without going the political route: create a digital currency that regularly distributes to everybody in a UBI-like fashion, then ask for that specific currency exclusively as payment. Bonus points if several different similar fee-requiring projects do so together.

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on Review of "Why AI is Harder Than We Think" · 2021-05-01T23:43:28.072Z · LW · GW

Writing stuff down to work through a problem is clearly doing some computation outside of the brain, for example.

I'm not sure that this is correct. While making the motions is needed to engage the process, the important processes are still happening inside of the brain- they just happen to be processes that are associated with and happen during handwriting, not when one is sitting idly and thinking

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on MikkW's Shortform · 2021-04-25T04:15:40.216Z · LW · GW

On Relegation in Association Football

Recently 12 European football teams announced their intention to form a "Super League", which was poorly received by the football community at large. While I'm still learning about the details of the story, it seems that the mechanic of relegation is a central piece of the tension between the Super League clubs and the football community.

The structure of European football stands in contrast to, for example, the structure of American (Usonian) major sports, where the roster of teams is fixed, and never changes from year to year; instead, in football, the bottom two teams each year get relegated to a lower league, and the highest performing teams from the lower league get moved up to take their place.

The mechanic of relegation is celebrated because it ensures the teams in the highest echelons of the sport are always those that are most able to bring the best football to the table in games, and any team, even a small, scrappy, local team can work its way to the highest levels if they are good enough (see for example AFC Wimbledon, which was founded after the previous Wimbledon club relocated, leading the local population to found a new team that started from the very bottom again, and subsequently rose rapidly through the leagues).

But for all its benefits, relegation also introduces a large degree of uncertainty into the finances of the teams, since any team can be relegated to a lower-tier, and less profitable, league, which makes it hard for the teams to plan adequately for the long term. Addressing this instability was an important factor in the ideation of Super League, which proposed to operate without relegation, similar to American sports.

I found myself wondering, is there any way to capture the benefits of relegation, ensuring the very best teams are always in the same league, while allowing teams to have a less uncertain image of their long-term finances?

Clearly, to achieve this, no team can ever have too secure of a position, lest they grow complacent and take up space that a sharper team can use; but teams can still be given more security in their position than they have right now. At the highest league, instead of having only a single tier, there could be multiple tiers (which still play against eachother as if they were only one unit), but teams in the highest tiers would have to be relegated multiple times to be removed from the highest league. In this setup, the best teams would have to perform poorly for multiple consecutive seasons before they can be removed from the highest league, but would still need to play sharply in order to maintain their position. This arrangement allows for more stability for the teams that are able to do the best, while also providing the meritocratic structure that football fans find lacking in the proposed Super League.

One criticism that I anticipate of this proposal, is that by providing financial stability to the very highest-performing teams, it would ossify and fossilize a hierarchy of teams, where certain teams are able to more easily spend and obtain resources, and thereby outperform other (less stably positioned) teams in the league, thereby having an easier time defending the stable position, creating a positive feedback loop that hinders other teams from having a fair chance at dethroning the top teams.

One way to address this criticism, is to create a fee associated with the higher tiers of the league; if a team wishes not to pay the fee, they may avoid doing so, but the stable position will instead be offered to the next highest-performing team. The fee will be distributed to the rest of the teams in the league, ensuring that they can have a more competitive chance at rivaling even the entrenched teams.

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on Does an app/group for personal forecasting exist? · 2021-04-20T17:59:16.216Z · LW · GW

Metaculus has the capability to create private questions that only you can see

Comment by MikkW (mikkel-wilson) on You Can Now Embed Flashcard Quizzes in Your LessWrong posts! · 2021-04-19T19:48:59.213Z · LW · GW

The general advice is that using cards written by others is much less useful than cards you write yourself

As someone who has used SRS on a regular basis for multiple years, I disagree with this. Sure, there are times when my best option is to hand-craft cards for myself, but this is usually a function of there not already existing high quality cards that test me on the things I want to learn. Creating cards is useful for allowing me to focus on exactly the facts that I want to learn; the other times where this is true is when I have a specific model and vocabulary for understanding a field that isn't standard; there, creating cards allows me to target the specific vocabulary and ontology that is unique to me.

However, often times I want to learn something that doesn't meet these criteria: things that I can easily think about using a standard ontology and vocabulary, and are common enough subjects that someone has already taken the effort to make a sufficiently high-quality deck. In this case, making my own cards is just a waste of my time (and the time that is wasted isn't negligible; I've spent up to an hour on multiple occasions creating cards for domains that could just as easily been downloaded if I knew of a high quality deck that already existed). I'm using premade decks for learning pronunciation and meanings of Japanese Kanji and for mapping flags to the countries they represent. There are many subjects where I have cards I made myself that I would be just as well off using equally high quality cards made by another person, and others would be well-served using the same cards I made: learning the pronunciation and meanings of Russian words, mapping coordinates to the cities they locate, memorizing poetry, mapping astronomical symbols to the bodies they represent. Even in the case of mathematical definitions and associations, while the cards I use are tailored to me, similar cards could certainly be made that would be suited to a much wider audience, that would be nearly just as useful as the cards I actually use.

I'd estimate about 2/3rds of the cards in my Anki deck are too specific to me to have been mass produced, but the other 1/3rd would be very well justified in having been made with the intention of being able to be used by others, and that ratio could be even higher (maybe up to 2/3rds mass produceable) without causing problems.