The rationalist community's location problem 2020-09-23T18:39:26.278Z · score: 157 (61 votes)
Petrov Day Ritual: Coronavirus Edition 2020-09-23T16:41:39.856Z · score: 6 (1 votes)
Self-sacrifice is a scarce resource 2020-06-28T05:08:05.010Z · score: 107 (72 votes)
Seeking opinions on the pros and cons of various telepresence tools 2020-04-05T18:22:51.775Z · score: 9 (3 votes)
Meetups in the era of COVID-19 2020-03-15T06:24:03.318Z · score: 29 (5 votes)
How to have a happy quarantine 2020-03-15T03:42:56.085Z · score: 86 (33 votes)
How to choose a massage therapist 2020-03-01T06:53:44.608Z · score: 25 (8 votes)
Looking for books about software engineering as a field 2020-02-03T21:49:05.926Z · score: 15 (7 votes)
Bay Solstice 2019 Retrospective 2020-01-16T17:15:03.840Z · score: 72 (21 votes)
The Towel Census: A Methodology for Identifying Orphaned Objects in Your Home 2019-12-22T06:04:44.111Z · score: 32 (11 votes)
mingyuan's Shortform 2019-11-21T20:58:04.387Z · score: 6 (1 votes)
Welcome to Lexington Rationalists [Edit With Your Details] 2019-09-25T02:45:28.785Z · score: 5 (1 votes)
Welcome to Auckland EA/SSC Meetup Group [Edit With Your Details] 2019-09-25T02:43:17.678Z · score: 7 (3 votes)
Welcome to New Delhi SSC [Edit With Your Details] 2019-09-25T02:38:17.069Z · score: 5 (1 votes)
SSC Meetups Everywhere: Darmstadt, Germany 2019-09-19T00:53:59.600Z · score: 5 (1 votes)
Meetups as Institutions for Intellectual Progress 2019-09-17T05:23:08.004Z · score: 79 (25 votes)
If you've attended LW/SSC meetups, please take this survey! 2019-03-25T21:48:37.976Z · score: 9 (3 votes)
[Speech] Worlds That Never Were 2019-01-12T19:53:51.241Z · score: 25 (7 votes)
Madison Solstice Gathering 2018-11-28T21:36:24.846Z · score: 18 (6 votes)
Atlanta SSC Meetup 2018-08-29T16:56:05.277Z · score: 6 (2 votes)
Theories of Pain 2018-08-26T22:05:17.172Z · score: 35 (15 votes)
Welcome to Kansas City SSC Meetup [Edit With Your Details] 2018-08-23T18:18:12.223Z · score: 5 (1 votes)
Chennai SSC Meetup 2018-08-13T22:34:50.603Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Welcome to Kyiv SlateStarCodex 2018-08-13T21:15:17.002Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Moscow SSC Meetup 2018-08-12T03:13:03.606Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Brussels SSC Meetup 2018-08-12T03:11:30.209Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Oslo SSC Meetup 2018-08-10T23:12:55.814Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Sacramento SSC Meetup 2018-08-10T00:40:14.429Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Columbus SSC Meetup 2018-08-09T21:18:29.975Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Kiev SSC Meetup 2018-08-09T20:41:51.272Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Sheffield SSC Meetup 2018-08-08T20:06:21.489Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Phoenix SSC Meetup 2018-08-08T19:51:12.609Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Philadelphia SSC Meetup 2018-08-08T19:48:56.559Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Rochester SSC Meetup 2018-08-08T19:44:47.725Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
São Paulo SSC Meetup 2018-08-07T04:54:37.894Z · score: 7 (2 votes)
Houston SSC Meetup 2018-08-06T15:54:29.793Z · score: 5 (2 votes)
St. Louis SSC Meetup 2018-08-06T03:50:29.518Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
NYC SSC Meetup 2018-08-06T01:23:32.641Z · score: 5 (2 votes)
Jersey City SSC Meetup 2018-08-06T00:05:41.726Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Washington DC SSC Meetup 2018-08-05T15:42:35.266Z · score: 5 (2 votes)
Seattle SSC Meetup 2018-08-05T04:41:11.270Z · score: 9 (3 votes)
Vienna SSC Meetup 2018-08-04T23:22:16.565Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Vancouver SSC Meetup 2018-08-04T23:17:13.851Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
San Antonio SSC Meetup 2018-08-04T23:09:32.895Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Prague SSC Meetup 2018-08-04T22:59:48.478Z · score: 5 (2 votes)
Portland SSC Meetup 2018-08-04T22:56:15.752Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Pittsburgh SSC Meetup 2018-08-04T22:53:45.308Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Paris SSC Meetup 2018-08-04T22:51:16.200Z · score: 5 (2 votes)
Oklahoma SSC Meetup 2018-08-04T22:47:20.468Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Manchester SSC Meetup 2018-08-04T22:42:19.230Z · score: 4 (1 votes)


Comment by mingyuan on The rationalist community's location problem · 2020-10-20T19:58:13.913Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

On this general question, Eliezer talks about this (in a more a priori way, since there was no in-person hub at the time) in the Sequences post Can Humanism Match Religion's Output? His claims there broadly match my experience.


Really, I suspect that what's going on here has less to do with the motivating power of eternal damnation, and a lot more to do with the motivating power of physically meeting other people who share your cause.  The power, in other words, of being physically present at church and having religious neighbors.

This is a problem for the rationalist community in its present stage of growth, because we are rare and geographically distributed way the hell all over the place.  If all the readers of this blog lived within a 5-mile radius of each other, I bet we'd get a lot more done, not for reasons of coordination but just sheer motivation.

Comment by mingyuan on Tolerate Tolerance · 2020-10-19T23:23:23.603Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW


Comment by mingyuan on What are some beautiful, rationalist artworks? · 2020-10-19T16:38:51.165Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the thing that feels most rationalist-y about SpaceX, which is the exercise of agency against civilizational inadequacy. Elon Musk looked at space travel and was like, 'that seems inadequate, I bet I could do it better.' And everyone said, 'you're crazy, that's impossible.' And Elon Musk didn't listen to them and now SpaceX is a leader in space flight.

Comment by mingyuan on [Link] "Where are all the successful rationalists?" · 2020-10-18T02:53:37.123Z · score: 50 (18 votes) · LW · GW

There's no way to comment on the original, so I'll say here that I'm so insanely incredibly sick of the 'rationalists don't actually win' meme.

The classic rebuttal these days is that we were better-prepared for COVID than most and have avoided catching it better than base rates would predict; that seems like a win. We also created Epidemic Forecasting (which had rationalist members advising national governments) and the microCOVID Project. You also might count signing up for cryonics as a win, or becoming a prolific writer. Multiple rationalists have been internationally ranked Magic: The Gathering players (at least Zvi Mowshowitz and Aaron Gertler, there might be others). 

And even if the navel-gazey type of success 'doesn't count,' I still think it's meaningful that we successfully put on major events like EAG and get people like Elon Musk to come. There's all the work we've done to put AI safety on the map, which might turn out to be really important. There's the revitalization of LessWrong thanks to the dedicated work of a few individuals. I'd wager we have more books published per capita than most communities. 

For something more mainstream, plenty of rationalists have been very financially successful. Sam Bankman-Fried, who runs a crypto trading company, is perhaps the biggest example, but he's not the only one. Multiple rationalists made millions off of Bitcoin. Conor White-Sullivan's Roam got a crazy high seed valuation of $200M last month. ZeroCater was also founded by a rationalist-adjacent guy. So yes, rationalists do run successful startups and hedge funds.

What do people want us to do, become president of the US? Start our own country? Politics is not really our arena, but Open Phil's access to $10 billion translates into not-insignificant influence on many parts of reality. I just don't get what would count as obvious success, short of being solely and visibly responsible for a positive singularity. Agh!!!

Comment by mingyuan on Covid 10/15: Playtime is Over · 2020-10-15T21:21:54.623Z · score: 12 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Same! Zvi you're my only source of information on COVID and it's wonderful to not have to follow the news.

Comment by mingyuan on Open & Welcome Thread – October 2020 · 2020-10-11T06:10:22.245Z · score: 9 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Entering the rationalist community felt like coming back to a home I never knew I had

That was exactly my experience as well! Welcome to the community :)

Comment by mingyuan on The rationalist community's location problem · 2020-10-10T05:50:32.323Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm from Madison and had a really great experience growing up there, but my current feeling is that Wisconsin is a pretty bad place to be on the political polarization dimension. 

Comment by mingyuan on The rationalist community's location problem · 2020-10-10T05:31:11.405Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Please explain later? Can happen over a call if you don't want to type.

Comment by mingyuan on TurnTrout's shortform feed · 2020-10-09T17:09:26.778Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Eli just took a plane ride to get to CA and brought a P100, but they told him he had to wear a cloth mask, that was the rule. So he wore a cloth mask under the P100, which of course broke the seal. I feel you.

Comment by mingyuan on One hub, or many? · 2020-10-06T18:27:43.490Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I honestly have no idea what non-college, non-rationalist parties are like, but if I just compare the two, rationalist parties have significantly less drinking, often have more accommodations for people with sensory processing issues, and almost always have waaaay more conversations about AI alignment.

Comment by mingyuan on One hub, or many? · 2020-10-06T18:26:12.310Z · score: 11 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Also, I knew a lot of nice, smart, sane people at my elite college, and I was friends with them, but there was always something missing. Rationality was a big part of my life long before I ever met other rationalists, and it was exhausting to have to re-explain AI risk, transhumanism, and the basic definition of rationality any time I wanted to talk to someone about the things I cared about. 

It also wasn't until I moved to the Bay community that I ever felt I was surrounded by people who were better than me. Growing up I was always the smartest kid in the room, and in college, I was more thoughtful and more altruistic than the people around me, and I was better at dealing with my own problems and directing my own actions than most adults I knew. As a result there were very few people for me to learn from, something that was disappointing and isolating for my entire life. That feeling has completely disappeared since I moved here; I'm always being pushed to become better by the people around me.

Comment by mingyuan on One hub, or many? · 2020-10-06T18:20:08.041Z · score: 22 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I think there's likely a pretty big selection effect on who posts in these discussions about community, because the only reason I'm even here to comment at all is that the in-person rationalist community helped me build the confidence to do so. Before moving in with the LW team, I was so shy and low-self-esteem that I didn't think myself worthy to even talk to the people whose names I'd seen online. I spent the last two years of college wishing desperately for the return of the rationalists I knew who had all up and moved to the Bay, but never once reaching out to them, because I didn't feel like I was smart or cool enough to be worth their time. The first time I posted on LW I was so nervous that I cried for an hour before pressing submit, and I only got to that point in the first place because someone was sitting next to me giving me encouragement and basically holding my hand through all of it.

I'm also not good at making friends online and don't enjoy spending much of my time interacting online, so for the people who have said that they get plenty of value out of just being part of the rationalist community online, well, that wouldn't work for me either. 

The problem with your last question - about meeting other smart nice sane people - is that you're assuming I would have met people otherwise. My expectation after college was that I'd move to a new city and basically spend all of my time alone, just like I had for most of my life up to that point. I'd make friendly acquaintances at work and then come home to an empty apartment, forever. If I got lonely I could call my mom.

Instead I moved to the Bay (yes, solely to be part of the rationalist community) and into a rationalist group house. I'm not a techie, I didn't have a job lined up, and I only knew a couple people in the community, and those not very well. Being thrust into that social environment headfirst was really important for me, because I don't think I ever would have gotten over the social hurdles of interacting with rationalists otherwise and would have spent the rest of my life pretty lonely - or else just moved back to my hometown, which is what my sister and almost all of our friends ended up doing.

Comment by mingyuan on COVID Strategy 101 · 2020-10-06T17:59:52.849Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

One thing that I think would help resolve a lot of the confusion here is a better understanding of the clustered nature of COVID spread

Comment by mingyuan on What hard science fiction stories also got the social sciences right? · 2020-10-03T04:21:37.870Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I think part of the value of Three Body is how foreign and yet how viscerally plausible the sociology is (even if you think that it gets things wrong, it still feels like something that could happen). Though the series mostly takes place in the future, it begins in the real, historical Cultural Revolution. It seems to me as if the whole sociology of the book is an extrapolation from what happened during the Cultural Revolution – a situation that saw large groups of humans pushed to their breaking point, and yet displayed failure modes very different from what Westerners are accustomed to.

One scene that stands out to me in this regard is when a whole population is trying to flee, but there's only one ship that has the technology needed to get away in time. When the people realize this, they all try to shoot the ship down. To me this seems very much a collectivist thing to me – someone from an individualist culture might focus on people wanting to escape on that ship themselves; but the people in Three Body just want to equalize things by pulling the outlier down with them. Relatedly, I think that the reason the series as a whole feels so focused on sociology is that it is entirely about groups of people and never really about individuals at all. (Sure there are individual characters, but they mostly just function as vehicles for the story and/or ways to explore morality.)

Overall I disagree with Robin Hanson that Liu 'gets away with things' just because he's Chinese. I think a large part of the value of his books is that they're entirely Chinese in their viewpoint. While I believe in human universals, I think Westerners generally underestimate how differently from them many Chinese people think. Chinese people and Westerners may react very differently to situations, and that might explain much of why the sociology feels so wrong to readers like Robin Hanson. In any case it's certainly fascinating and you should read it.

Comment by mingyuan on What are good rationality exercises? · 2020-09-29T02:34:35.165Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Betting with real money is definitely a useful way of probing at your own confidence (I don't do it much at all due to general underconfidence, but it's sure helped me nail down the feeling of being really sure of something), and a lot of my rationalist friends do it on a handshake-agreement basis. However, any way of formalizing this would turn LW (or whatever institution) into a gambling site, which is illegal :/

Comment by mingyuan on The rationalist community's location problem · 2020-09-26T16:34:10.154Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Also, just general kudos for proposing ideas and being willing to make things happen. I remember when you were trying to get that meetup started in Vegas! :)

Comment by mingyuan on The rationalist community's location problem · 2020-09-26T16:31:00.454Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps, but I've found that without a Schelling event like the annual SSC Meetups Everywhere (sadly and obviously canceled this year, maybe I should do something to replace it...), people almost never take that step of reaching out. The map is just so passive, although maybe the real problem is as you implied: that we don't have critical mass.

In any case, whether or not it would work in normal times, it seems like not a priority right now given the state of the world :P 

Comment by mingyuan on The rationalist community's location problem · 2020-09-26T16:20:16.465Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think you're underestimating serendipity. In a single rationalist house in a non-hub, you'll have the benefit of being around a couple cool people who think like you (to a first approximation), but you don't have many opportunities to make new rationalist connections like you would in a larger hub. I'm not really one to proactively reach out to new people, so having the opportunity to meet them at parties or hangouts or through mutual friends has shaped my experience a a lot. 

Plus, I've been really grateful for the opportunities to work at value-aligned organizations, which I almost certainly wouldn't have had elsewhere.

Comment by mingyuan on Open & Welcome Thread - September 2020 · 2020-09-25T05:05:55.634Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW


Comment by mingyuan on The rationalist community's location problem · 2020-09-25T01:33:00.128Z · score: 19 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, it's sounding like this is probably going to end up being the right answer (insofar as there is a 'right answer'). 

Over the years there have been quite a few 'secondary hubs' centered around strong local groups, including:

  • NYC
  • Seattle
  • Boston
  • Oxford
  • Berlin
  • Melbourne
  • Ontario?

But things have shifted a bunch and many of those people ended up moving to Berkeley. My rough sense now is that we have:

  • Prague 
    • draw: Czech EA
    • type: big city , continental Europe
  • Blackpool 
    • draw: the EA Hotel
    • type: small town
  • Oxford? 
    • draw: FHI
    • type: university town
  • London? 
    • draw: 80000 Hours is there
    • type: big city

I notice that all of these are in Europe, and three of them are in England. (Moscow also has a strong community but I didn't count them because most of their stuff is conducted in Russian, which makes it a bad option for the median rationalist looking to move somewhere new.) Perhaps it would be better to diversify away from England and the US, like maybe some of us should move (back) to Australia. 

But more importantly, there already are other options for hubs, they're just not as well-known. Maybe we should focus on developing these hubs that we already have, rather than trying to find new ones? 

Comment by mingyuan on The rationalist community's location problem · 2020-09-25T01:18:19.935Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I assumed he meant Apocalypse Sky.

Comment by mingyuan on The rationalist community's location problem · 2020-09-25T01:16:42.688Z · score: 19 (8 votes) · LW · GW

There's a story in Happy City (great book, highly recommended) about some people becoming friends with their neighbors, knocking down the fences in their backyards, and eventually spreading this to their entire block, such that it became a big, semi-private park surrounded by the houses of trusted friends. Habryka and I are definitely pretty excited about something like that. In an area with less insane property values I would imagine this would be pretty doable. 

Comment by mingyuan on The rationalist community's location problem · 2020-09-25T01:14:11.318Z · score: 12 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for this comment! Yeah, the worry was not that we would be against being around our outgroup, but that they would be against having us there. I'm Asian, and I've heard from family members who live in smaller cities in the US that they feel increasingly unsafe traveling in more rural areas - there are increasing numbers of Confederate flags, even in the Midwest. Even when I was a kid we got funny looks, standoffishness, and frequent attempts to convert us to Christianity (and we're only half-Asian, which may well be the easiest type of non-white to be!). Sounds like it's worse now. This may be just a matter of perception, but I think it's important. I get nervous when my sister brings up being gay when we're in a rural diner; I definitely wouldn't want to bring a bunch of people who are trans, autistic, and/or talk openly about eugenics to an area like that.

Also, uncontroversial opinion: it seems generally bad to be around people who might perpetrate violence against you. For all of the faults of the Bay Area's liberal culture, it does promote a sort of radical acceptance of weirdness, which means people don't have to hide the fact that they're trans, poly, or whatever else they may be. And while you may genuinely have to worry about backlash for political opinions here (e.g. the 2017 Milo Yiannopoulos debacle on Berkeley campus), protestors generally prefer to cultivate an image of nonviolence, which means you are at least probably not in immediate bodily danger. In pro-NRA areas violence feels a lot more like a live option, though I don't have any statistics so that may be a faulty impression. 

Anyway, I'm sorry for unnecessarily politicizing part of the original post. But hopefully this comment has explained what I was trying to point at with that sentence. 

Comment by mingyuan on The rationalist community's location problem · 2020-09-23T22:21:15.624Z · score: 9 (5 votes) · LW · GW

(1) My guess is that not all of the people who currently live in group houses would do so if rent were lower and they could live close to their friends anyway. However, I do know quite a few people who actively prefer group living situations, and a prohibition on such living arrangements would be a big negative for them. You could plausibly get around this by e.g. just renting every unit in an apartment building. These are all reasons why these laws are a major consideration but not a dealbreaker.

(2) My main claims were that it's really difficult to build community in sparsely populated areas, and that driving cars is dangerous. I think these are both pretty well-supported, and that they matter a lot regardless of anyone's personal preferences around driving / owning a car.

(3) Mostly anecdotal. I personally don't mind cold weather, but it is kind of annoying to have to be shut in your house for half the year. And I think even those of us from cold climates have acclimated to California's temperate weather, such that it would be somewhat unpleasant to go back.

(4) An assumption, I guess. Feels right though.

Good points overall, thanks!

Comment by mingyuan on Detached Lever Fallacy · 2020-09-22T01:45:01.217Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you!!! I came here just for this information! :)

Comment by mingyuan on Expansive translations: considerations and possibilities · 2020-09-19T01:32:56.852Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW
For instance, a translation that matches the very specific vernacular of some shared Dutch & Jamaican family with its own code words. And there’s no reason the semantics can’t be considerably changed. Maybe Hamlet could be adjusted to take place in whichever professional context a small community would be most likely to understand, and then presented as a post modern punk musical because that community really likes post modern punk musicals. Whatever works.

Yeah okay that is a far more radical definition of 'translation' than I was working with. I buy translating things into idiolects (like the Dutch + Jamaican family), but I'm still skeptical of the second half of that paragraph. The problem being, in order to translate Hamlet into a new context and format, you have to make decisions about what the point of Hamlet is. There's a vague sense in which The Lion King is a version of Hamlet, but you obviously take away very different things from the two experiences. You'd have to have a very clear goal in mind when constructing your professional-context postmodern punk musical Hamlet, and the choice of that goal would make a huge difference to the end product.

Comment by mingyuan on Expansive translations: considerations and possibilities · 2020-09-19T01:22:48.045Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Since we're basically just on a Shakespeare tangent now, and I really like talking about Shakespeare - I was lucky to have an extremely thorough education in Early Modern English starting from a very young age (starting around 7, I think). Essentially, my theater did Shakespeare completely uncut, and before memorizing your lines you had to listen to cassette tapes where the founder of the theater took you through the full meaning of every single line. I think he recorded these with multiple sources open in front of him, and he'd already devoted decades of study to Shakespeare by the time I was born. And then school gave me a thorough education in literary analysis, and putting all that together, I claim I have a better understanding of Shakespeare than the vast majority of Shakespearean actors, and probably the majority of Shakespeare scholars as well. (I believe most professional Shakespearean actors have no fucking clue what they're saying most of the time, and how in heck is the audience supposed to understand what's going on if the actors don't?)

My vocabulary in Shakespearean English is more limited than my native English vocabulary, but I'd still say I'm comfortably fluent in Early Modern English, perhaps even better than I am at French. My friends say that it's really fun to read through Shakespeare plays with me because they actually know what's going on. Shakespeare is really funny! In addition to being really beautiful and moving and incredibly fun to act.

Anyway, I'm sorry your school sucked and also that all schools suck. I wish I could give everyone the education in Shakespeare that was given to me. I have ideas on how to make that happen, but alas, doesn't seem like a priority with the world the way it is.

Comment by mingyuan on Expansive translations: considerations and possibilities · 2020-09-18T22:18:50.608Z · score: 17 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting post! This comment is going to be more some random thoughts I had while reading than a proper response.

First, translations of Shakespeare is a super interesting arena. No Fear Shakespeare 'translates' the original plays into modern English, which I admit is a helpful idea, but there's a problem with these beyond just the feeling of being juvenile: the 'translations' are often wrong, sometimes blatantly so. One such line I remember well is from Hamlet. The original is:

Horatio, or I do forget myself!

which became

Nice to see you again, Horatio—that is your name, right?

The No Fear Shakespeare version has clearly translated this as if it were, "Horatio - or do I forget myself?" (all punctuation in Shakespeare is arbitrary, so the important thing here is "I do" vs "do I"). The NFS version makes absolutely no sense in the context of the play, because Horatio is Hamlet's best friend! At the time of this meeting they haven't seen each other in a few months, but the reason Horatio is in Denmark at all is to be a companion to Hamlet, because they're BFFs. Hamlet definitely fucking knows his name. My interpretation of the original line is something like "Welcome Horatio, who I would as soon forget as my own self," i.e. basically the exact opposite of what NFS said.


Why are modern translations so narrow? What level of nuance would you like them to capture? A lot of the beauty - and a lot of the meaning - in Shakespeare is in the specific use of language (rhythm, imagery, sound, antithesis, repetition, et cetera). Arguably you just can't get every iota of the meaning out of Shakespeare without the exact original words. So it seems like it necessarily has to be a spectrum. (Incidentally this reminds me of the question of whole brain emulation: at what level of resolution does the emulation have sufficient fidelity to 'be' you, if you can't replicate the entire brain quark for quark?)

In translations of poetry - something I have amateur experience with - you have a lot of decisions to make. Do you try to preserve both the meter and the rhyme scheme? That already severely restricts your choice of words, making it harder to get across the explicit meaning. And then what about alliteration, assonance, in-rhymes? What about double (or triple) meanings? (when these latter take a backseat the omitted meaning is often added as a footnote or annotation). What if there's cultural information that doesn't carry over well to your intended audience? And if you've taken all the foregoing considerations into account, what's the likelihood that it's even possible for you to end up with something that feels true to the original (in the sense that poetry evokes certain images and emotions)?

There's a great scene in Henry IV Part 2 that's almost entirely sexual puns*. If you had to write a Spanish version of this scene, would it be better to preserve the literal (primary) meaning of each line? Or should you write a new scene that has the same basic plot, but where you're at liberty to change the literal meanings of the lines so you can fit in more sexual puns that actually make sense in Spanish? From what I've seen most translators choose the former (though perhaps this is specific to Shakespeare due to the crazy reverence in which people hold his works). I think this is a mistake artistically, but also there's clearly a trade-off here. Without incredibly intensive labor, you can't have it both ways.

I don't know much about ML so perhaps it would be a lot easier for it to solve these problems than it is for a human. But given the current strategy of training on corpora, and the fact that I doubt there are more than a handful of good examples of how to balance all of these considerations, I'm not sure how an ML system would learn to do it. But again, I'm not a computers person.


Although I was talking about poetry, I think a lot of the same broad considerations apply to the idea of personalized translations (e.g. of Wikipedia). I can see an ML system learning my idiolect just by listening to me 24/7, but learning where my inferential distances are (for lack of better phrasing) seems quite a lot harder? Though... perhaps I am just underestimating GPT-N?


*The link doesn't do it justice at all, but just for example look at the words 'stab', 'enter', 'lusty', and 'fist', and the delightful line 'do me, do me, do me your offices'.

Comment by mingyuan on Rationality for Kids? · 2020-09-17T06:17:02.587Z · score: 15 (5 votes) · LW · GW

More of a meta-suggestion but you should contact Duncan Sabien, who formerly worked for CFAR and has always been really enthusiastic about teaching middle schoolers.

Comment by mingyuan on What Does "Signalling" Mean? · 2020-09-17T01:50:42.150Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If 'virtue signaling' has the wrong connotations, maybe 'Hansonian signaling'?

Comment by mingyuan on Decoherence is Falsifiable and Testable · 2020-09-16T00:19:47.896Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm, I'm not sure that point is sufficiently (a) widely applicable and (b) insightful that it would merit its own post. Perhaps I'm being unimaginative though?

Comment by mingyuan on A Technical Explanation of Technical Explanation · 2020-09-15T21:07:10.650Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Do you have any ideas on how you'd go about this? I'm tackling this post this week for the print version of R:AZ and am definitely intimidated :)

Comment by mingyuan on My Childhood Role Model · 2020-09-15T21:04:40.634Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This point is made in Superintelligence, right? It sounds really familiar. It's also a good addendum to this post, perhaps I'll add it into the print version, thanks!

Comment by mingyuan on Covid 9/10: Vitamin D · 2020-09-13T20:26:10.971Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks! I sent my parents this post and a bottle each of 5000 IU vitamin D capsules :)

Comment by mingyuan on Sunday September 6, 12pm (PT) — Casual hanging out with the LessWrong community · 2020-09-06T18:22:55.104Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The link under "If you're a curated author and interested in giving a 5-min talk at a future event, which will then be transcribed and edited, sign up here" only includes dates in the past D:

Comment by mingyuan on If there were an interactive software teaching Yudkowskian rationality, what concepts would you want to see it teach? · 2020-09-03T02:20:21.482Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This isn't a direct answer, but seems related.

I've been thinking about how I came to learn the concepts around here, and I realized that the most helpful thing was probably the seminars at Open Phil. I think MOOCs which people work through together (like on some sort of schedule, maybe in groups coordinated through LW) would replicate that experience fairly well. I was specifically thinking of an intro to AI risk course - because even though I'd been in the community for years at that point and had read all of the standard intros (including Superintelligence), I didn't really internalize the arguments or have an understanding of what the field of AI safety looked like until that seminar.

Making a MOOC seems like a lot of work, but there's already a lot of good content out there - obviously there's tons of writing on the topic, and for 'lectures' some of Rob Miles' stuff could probably work (with his consent). So the major remaining hurdle after corralling all of that material into a manageable syllabus would be developing discussion questions and/or setting up small discussion groups that would meet regularly over Zoom.

In any case, I think a lot of people have noticed this problem - one of the main things I hear when I ask people what they'd like to see from LW is some sort of more structured learning thing - and there have already been lots of attempts to solve it, e.g. by developing teaching modules for local groups, writing stuff on the LW wiki, inventing Arbital, etc. etc. etc. (Notably all of these projects have basically been abandoned.) Maybe it's just fine to have a lot of people throwing themselves at the problem from different angles, I'm not sure. I'd love a bigger discussion on this topic.

Comment by mingyuan on Online LessWrong Community Weekend · 2020-09-01T20:39:40.486Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Would it be possible to add a PayPal link (or similar) so that people who live in countries with inadequate money transfer services (i.e. the US) can donate too?

Comment by mingyuan on Tools for keeping focused · 2020-09-01T20:12:50.657Z · score: 17 (7 votes) · LW · GW

UBlock Origin's element blocker is truly bae. It replaces so many more-specialized extensions, like Newsfeed Eradicator and DFTube. Behold:

My Facebook:

My Facebook

My Youtube:

My Youtube

Comment by mingyuan on What are your greatest one-shot life improvements? · 2020-09-01T02:52:35.308Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Adjustable-height desk toppers exist!

Comment by mingyuan on Spend Money on Ergonomics · 2020-08-31T20:21:34.837Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

As for other ergonomics stuff, I use Dvorak on an Ergodox EZ with a tilt/tent kit (I also like the Kinesis Freestyle, with the VIP3 accessory kit; I'm pretty indifferent between the two). I switched to Dvorak a bit over two years ago, and I actually haven't noticed any difference in my RSI. But then, I've always had elbow problems rather than wrist problems, so maybe it just wasn't the right fix. I still use Dvorak because it doesn't seem worth switching back to QWERTY (which I have long since forgotten).

My mouse is a wired Anker vertical mouse (screw Bluetooth), which I like fine. It's way better than a trackpad and while I'm not actively in love with it, I also am never unhappy with it.

I previously tried a Kinesis Savant Elite2 foot pedal so that I wouldn't have to use my hands so much (I mapped it to scrolling up and down as that was what was giving me the most trouble at the time). However, it's hard to use a foot pedal if you (like me) don't like sitting in a standard chair position, so I haven't really made use of it.

I use an UPDEZK desk topper to convert any desk into a standing desk. I like it because it has a low profile (meaning that if you already have a desk that's the right height for you when seated, adding this desk topper won't ruin that), works well (easy to use, handles heavy monitors well, and has withstood two years of near-constant use without seeming to deteriorate), and is relatively lightweight - not so much so that I'd recommend carrying it between rooms with you, but enough that it's really easy to move around, store, etc.

I currently basically only work standing at my desk, or lounging in various positions on the couch or floor (I find it nice to have pillows to support my hips and chest when lying prone). I don't have a dedicated standing desk mat, but I already pad the heck out of my floor anyway, so I'm standing on 2 inches of padding (1.5" of foam mats plus a very soft rug), as well as wearing knee-high compression socks.

When I feel arm pain I switch between wrist braces, elbow braces, and forearm compression sleeves.

Comment by mingyuan on Spend Money on Ergonomics · 2020-08-31T19:43:42.239Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Since commenting on old posts is now, like, officially encouraged, I'll share my experiences here.

First, Aeron chairs ARE NOT FOR EVERYONE. I worked in an office where every chair was an Aeron for more than a year, and it was a source of deep physical misery. Yes, I know that they're highly adjustable; I'm pretty sure I messed with every single flap, knob, and lever on them. But none of those doo-dahs fix my fundamental problems with the Aeron.

The Aeron's design forces you into an 'ergonomic' sitting position. This is terrible, because I hate sitting and am apt to change my position every couple minutes (I particularly like pulling my knees up on the chair next to me; I know some other people who work with their feet on their desk), but the Aeron won't let you do this, because its curved seat means that you basically just fall off if you're doing anything other than sitting directly on your butt.

It is doubly terrible because, even if I conceded the point and tried to sit on my butt, I still wouldn't be able to sit ergonomically, because my feet could never reach the ground. I am about 5'3" (~160cm), which is a fairly normal height for an adult female, and the only way I could sit with my back against the Aeron's backrest and my feet on the ground, was to lower the chair so much that I was comically far below the level of the desk. I would again partially blame this on the design of the seat - I think it's relatively deep, and I think the curve at the edge encourages my legs to point forward rather than down.

tl;dr if you're fidgety, are shorter than the average male adult (maybe shorter than 5'6"? but I'd guess the comfort on the chair depends more on the length of your legs than on your overall height), have chronic pain, and/or can't stand sitting on your butt all day, don't spend your hard-earned money on this torture chair of misery. God I hate these things so freaking much.

Comment by mingyuan on Is Wirecutter still good? · 2020-08-31T02:14:10.945Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Huh, I think the towel is pretty great, but I'm more sensitive to physical stimuli than you are. It did lose a certain amount of plushness in the first few washes, but even still, when I use towels other than that one now, I definitely notice that they're much rougher.

Also (and I'm not putting this in a top-level answer because it doesn't contain any info about pre- vs post-2016), their recommendation for large microwave has served us well, but the small microwave recommendation (as of when we were buying a microwave) had 3 Amazon reviews saying it literally caught on fire. This seems like a flaw of Wirecutter's methodology - i.e., for a lot of products, they don't actually test out long-term use.

Comment by mingyuan on MikkW's Shortform · 2020-08-31T01:52:58.707Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Well, money, for one?

Comment by mingyuan on Why haven't we celebrated any major achievements lately? · 2020-08-23T05:03:36.821Z · score: 38 (17 votes) · LW · GW

Related: I wish people still wrote poems about major achievements. Everyone knows the inscription on the Statue of Liberty, but it seems like that wasn't an isolated thing. For example, the man who designed the Golden Gate Bridge wrote:

As harps for the winds of heaven,
My web-like cables are spun;
I offer my span for the traffic of man,
At the gate of the setting sun.

(Apologies because I know this comment isn't really engaging with the post itself.)

Comment by mingyuan on What posts on finance would your find helpful or interesting? · 2020-08-22T16:18:04.728Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, this would be very helpful!! I am just a layperson and get lost very easily in discussions of finance.

Comment by mingyuan on What are your greatest one-shot life improvements? · 2020-08-22T16:15:18.838Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

+1 to this, although I just use bookmarks or OneTab. And it turns out I only go through my bookmarks once every like five years, so by the time I get to the articles 90% of the time they are completely irrelevant to the present day or my interests have changed enough that I just don't care anymore :P

Comment by mingyuan on mingyuan's Shortform · 2020-08-21T16:15:22.074Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, part of this is that I posted this anecdote as a supplement to the main one; it illustrates the same point but less starkly. I think the thing I was pointing at here was: people come to you stating that their problem is "I don't feel like doing my dishes" or "I'm bad at grocery shopping", and it turns out that there's a more fundamental thing in the way that on some level they know is the actual blocker, but they don't realize that that's where they need to intervene on their problem. Knowing Guy 2, I think he would have been able to come up with all of the solutions that you did within 5 minutes of brainstorming, but he was focused on {sink full of dishes} rather than looking at the problem as a whole.

Comment by mingyuan on mingyuan's Shortform · 2020-08-20T02:50:05.625Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Another exchange from the same session, with a different guy. Less legendary but still instructive:


Him: My sink is always full of dirty dishes.

Me: Okay, do you know what the blocker is?

Him: I just never feel like doing my dishes.

Me: Why?

Him: Well, I only want to wash my dishes with hot water, but the water in my sink doesn't get hot enough, so every time I do the dishes I have to boil water for that purpose, but my stove isn't very powerful and I only have one pot, but it's not big enough to fill the sink so I have to boil three pots full of water before I can do the dishes, and that takes like half an hour.

Me: o.0

Comment by mingyuan on mingyuan's Shortform · 2020-08-20T02:46:06.462Z · score: 15 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Once upon a time I ran a pair debugging session for my local rationality meetup group. A guy showed up who I'd never seen there before and as far as I know never showed up again. Below is the gist of our debugging session, which was... rather eye-opening for me:


Me: Hi there, what bug do you want help with?

Him: I need help buying groceries.

Me: Okay, what goes wrong when you're buying groceries?

Him: Every time I buy groceries, lots of them end up going bad in the fridge.

Me: Okay, that's pretty common. Do you make a list before you go grocery shopping?

Him: Yes.

Me: So is it that you're buying too much of things? Or are you buying things you don't actually like to eat?

Him: No, I'm buying the right amount of things. The problem is that sometimes I have to leave town, and then the groceries spoil.

Me: Oh, okay. Do you know in advance when you'll need to leave town?

Him: No, I have to leave town for unknown amounts of time on short notice. My parents and sister all have severe depression and I have to drive to their city to help when they're having mental health emergencies.

Me: Oh gosh, I'm sorry! Are they receiving any type of care?

Him: No.

Me: Do you want help with getting them care?

Him: No, the problem is that they don't have health insurance.

Me: Okay, can we help them get health insurance?

Him: I'm in charge of getting them health insurance, and I've tried, but the ObamaCare website doesn't work for me.

Me: ..............................................................

[[Me: Dear god please see a therapist good luck bye]]

Comment by mingyuan on What are your greatest one-shot life improvements? · 2020-08-15T17:26:39.953Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Data point: After reading this comment I tried this for like two months - initially intentionally, but also the pillows I had at the time were not right for me and so I kept doing it because getting the right pillow can take a fair amount of time and money. It actually significantly increased back and neck pain for me, I think because my tendency to sleep on my side is just very very strong.