Another Anki deck for Less Wrong content 2013-08-22T19:31:09.513Z


Comment by mondsemmel on April Coronavirus Open Thread · 2020-04-21T18:20:04.498Z · LW · GW

There's a fascinating post by Patrick McKenzie (software engineer at Stripe, American living in Japan) on the Covid-19 situation in Japan.

With others, he did independent research into the issue when public sentiment stated the virus was well under control. They circulated this research privately and publically (anonymously), and the story even involves a cryptographic hash to pre-register their research (reasoning).

The whole post is interesting, and contains this gem that reminded me of LW concepts like a Crisis of Faith or Yudkowsky's Civilizational Inadequacy:

I know the exact moment that I got worried for Japan: [...]
I didn’t do anything major, for a while.
I assumed everyone in a position to act had reached this conclusion. Surely, talented epidemiologists understand exponential growth and already know the shape of things to come. Surely, there is a department of people working day and night on the national response effort. Surely, all professionals understand how to parse official communications. Surely, in a hundred thousand rooms, responsible professionals have told their leadership what would soon happen. Surely, in a hundred thousand rooms, people in positions of authority have pulled out a thick red binder, steeled their hearts, and gone to work.
And so I mostly focused on the situation abroad, worrying for family and friends. I tried to distract myself with work. Then, by complete happenstance, two very smart people in one day told me that they believed the public consensus.
Japan was weathering the coronavirus situation well. I was lucky to be in Tokyo.
Imagine how surprised you would be if someone turned into a cat in front of you. That was how surprised I was.
I immediately attempted to update them on my understanding and reasoning for it, assigning an 80% probability to Japan (and Tokyo specifically) following the experience of peer nations. I suggested they orient their organizations consistently with that.
And then I looked at the behavior of people in the world, really looked, and suddenly had the terrifying thought that maybe many did not know.

I think the post may be of sufficient interest to LWers that it could warrant a top-level post, but I don't know how to make such a post a valuable one. Consider this an invitation to this effect.

Comment by mondsemmel on April Fools: Announcing: Karma 2.0 · 2018-04-01T15:47:01.521Z · LW · GW

This is fantastic! Are you still collecting feature requests for Karma 3.0? I propose adjusting the default font of each comment based on some combination of karma, upvote ratio, and whether an ML algorithm considers it insightful.

The possibility space of this new feature is endless! To give just one example, if a comment is figuratively incomprehensible, Karma 3.0 could make it literally so, by changing its default font to Wingdings.

Comment by mondsemmel on URL transfer complete, data import will run for the next few hours · 2018-03-25T17:39:48.921Z · LW · GW

totallybogus' recommendation of resetting my password worked. But what I'm still confused about is that there is no website feedback for submitting a wrong password. If you try to login as a user that doesn't exist, you get an immediate (though tiny) error message saying "User not found". In contrast, if the user does exist and you enter an arbitrary (and wrong) password, you get no feedback whatsoever.

In fact, that may have been all that happened in my case - maybe my account had been successfully migrated already, so submitting my old LW1.0 password didn't match my new LW2.0 password, and therefore the login failed; but because I got no website feedback, I had no way of telling the difference.

All that said, I'm aware that allowing unlimited login attempts with arbitrary passwords would constitute a serious security risk (one you've undoubtedly already taken into account), but the current situation of getting no feedback whatsoever for wrong login attempts is also suboptimal.

Comment by mondsemmel on URL transfer complete, data import will run for the next few hours · 2018-03-24T14:20:31.825Z · LW · GW

Another issue: I am still logged on on, but when I use my saved password from to login to the site, nothing happens - I neither get logged in, nor do I get an error message.

(Actually, after pressing the "Sign in" button for several times in rapid succession, I get an "Unknown error" message, but not before.)

EDIT: In the original migration announcement from a few days back, the OP linked to the github issues page here: - is it enough to report issues in comments on this post, or do you need reports there?

Comment by mondsemmel on URL transfer complete, data import will run for the next few hours · 2018-03-24T14:15:16.646Z · LW · GW

Hey there, I don't know if it happened due to this change, but some LW 2.0 content is no longer accessible to me. Specifically, Kaj linked to this post on LW 2.0 (called "Idea Inoculation + Inferential Distance"):

-> When I follow the link, I get a "Sorry, we couldn't find what you were looking for."

But when I search LW 2.0 for "inoculation", I still see the post and the comments; I just cannot click on the provided links because I get the same error message.

Comment by mondsemmel on Extended Quote on the Institution of Academia · 2018-03-03T17:51:34.121Z · LW · GW

Thanks for this post - contrasting the models from EY and Holden seemed useful to me.

I was somewhat confused at one paragraph of yours:

"From reading Inadequate Equilibria, I mostly thought of science through the lens of coordination failures, and this framing was markedly more positive than the one I'd previously had ("Academia is the thing that fails to do X" vs "Academia is the thing that is good at Y, but only Y"). As well as helping me model academia more fruitfully, I honestly suspect that this framing will be more palatable [...]."

-> Throughout that paragraph, I was never sure whether by the two mentions of "this framing" you meant the one by Holden or by EY. After rereading it several times, I think you mean Holden's framing is more positive?

(Also, I'm not sure which part in the parentheses corresponds to which framing - is the 'fails to do X' framing EY's or Holden's?)

Comment by mondsemmel on There's No Fire Alarm for Artificial General Intelligence · 2017-10-14T15:57:53.146Z · LW · GW

There's something right about seeing a new EY essay on Less Wrong. Here's hoping the LW revival will have some measure of success.

Essay feedback: I appreciate the density of the arguments, which might not have worked at a shorter length. Still wish there had been a summary as well, but I suppose something like that might already exist elsewhere*, and this essay just expands on it. It might also help to provide the various chapters / sections with headings. Finally, I wish the writing had been a bit more humorous (the Sequences felt easier to read, for me; and Scott Alexander also uses microhumor to make his long essays more hedonically rewarding to read), but I understand that could be perceived as off-putting by (part of) the actual target audience, i.e. Serious People / actual AI researchers.

* e.g. AFAIK several paper abstracts by the AI alignment community mention the general challenge of forecasting technological developments.

Comment by mondsemmel on Open Thread, Jul. 20 - Jul. 26, 2015 · 2015-07-20T18:23:11.700Z · LW · GW

I just listened to a podcast by Sam Harris called "Leaving the Church: A Conversation with Megan Phelps-Roper". It's a phenomenal depiction of the perspective of someone who was born in, but then left, the fundamentalist Westboro Baptist Church.

Most interesting is Megan's clear perspective on what it was like before she left, and many LWers will recognize concepts like there being no evidence that could have possibly convinced her that her worldview had been wrong, etc. Basically, many things EY warns of in the sequences, like motivated cognition, are things she went through, and she's great at articulating them.

Comment by mondsemmel on Could you be Prof Nick Bostrom's sidekick? · 2014-12-08T18:26:44.965Z · LW · GW

The idea here is "high impact secretary", rather than "slave".

Comment by mondsemmel on Rationality Quotes July 2014 · 2014-07-27T13:28:00.062Z · LW · GW

Downvoted for the original context of the quote: blue and green politics, strawmanning, etc.

Comment by mondsemmel on On saving the world · 2014-03-30T11:33:53.282Z · LW · GW

I liked this series a lot. Thanks for writing it.

But I couldn't resist this small math nitpick: "But if the chance that one person can save the world is one in a million, then there had better be a million people trying." -> That's a great quote, but we can be more precise:

If these probabilities were indeed independent (which they can't possibly be, but still), and a million people tried with a chance of 1 in a million each, then the chance P that the world is saved is only P=1-(999999/1000000)^1000000=63.2%. If we want the world to be saved with probability P, we need x people trying, where x =ln(1-P)/ln(0.999999). For instance, to achieve 99% (which isn't good enough), we need 4.6 million people; to get 99.99%, we need 9.2 million people, and so on.

Comment by mondsemmel on Less Wrong Study Hall - Year 1 Retrospective · 2014-03-15T17:54:13.471Z · LW · GW

Thanks for putting this together!

When I read the survey results, I noticed some weirdness in the percentages to the questions "Usage", "Draw", "Temporal Habits (Weekdays)" and "Temporal Habits (Weekends)": The answers sum to 100%, but the response counts don't sum to 23. These questions seem to have offered respondents to pick multiple answers, so imo the percentage values shouldn't be 'X% of responses are option Z' but instead 'X% of the 23 respondents picked this option'.

e.g. Usage updated with this change:

Academic studies 18 78%

Personal projects 21 91%

Deliberate practice (e.g. learning guitar) 4 17%

Work for an employer 5 22%

Chores, paperwork, or other necessities 17 74%

Other 1 4%

Comment by mondsemmel on European Community Weekend in Berlin · 2014-01-31T13:39:03.096Z · LW · GW

Please add the contents of this comment to the main post itself. Preferably in bold and/or with an 'Update:' or something. Not everyone reads all the comments, after all.

Comment by mondsemmel on Flashes of Nondecisionmaking · 2014-01-29T12:10:51.618Z · LW · GW

Feedback: This post would benefit a lot from references to the relevant science, e.g. ego-depletion theory, the science of habits, the Systems 1 and 2 described e.g. in Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow, and so on. And corresponding discussions on LW. Or even just from name-dropping them!

Right now this post sounds more idiosyncratic than its contents should be, right up to the title of the post.

Comment by mondsemmel on Closet survey #1 · 2014-01-26T20:46:39.473Z · LW · GW

To clarify, "the money they did print did print another Great Depression" should (probably) read "the money they did print did prevent another Great Depression", right? The version with the typo sounds unfortunately like "The Federal Reserve caused the Great Depression".

Comment by mondsemmel on European Community Weekend in Berlin · 2014-01-25T11:03:17.591Z · LW · GW

To sign up, I had to wire transfer 70€ for the whole weekend.

Concerning breakfast, the post above now says: "The cost is 70 € including accommodation and breakfast."

Comment by mondsemmel on European Community Weekend in Berlin · 2014-01-24T20:29:40.009Z · LW · GW

Suggestion: You could change the headline of this post to "European Community Weekend in Berlin" to make the international character of the event more immediately apparent.

Comment by mondsemmel on European Community Weekend in Berlin · 2014-01-24T15:44:44.627Z · LW · GW

Thanks a lot for putting such an event together! I'll come. Email sent.

Comment by mondsemmel on Book Review: How Learning Works · 2014-01-24T14:31:58.764Z · LW · GW

Typos etc.:

(b) generate or redZne teaching approaches and strategies that more effectively foster student learning in specidZc contexts

You probably copied this quote out of a LaTeX document, and as a result, the stupid "fi" was copied incorrectly.

Also: In the paragraph beginning with "Expectancy of success is", did you want to put the part explaining the asterisk in a new line?

Comment by mondsemmel on Book Review: How Learning Works · 2014-01-24T14:30:25.607Z · LW · GW

Thank you for writing this summary! You must have put a lot of effort into this.

I'm not a teacher, so I don't know whether I'll every use any of this, though. That said, I have younger siblings - maybe some of these ideas can help me explain stuff to them better.

It covers important points that HLW addresses only indirectly or that it inexplicably leaves out entirely (spaced repetition, testing, and generation effects, for example).


Comment by mondsemmel on Reason as memetic immune disorder · 2014-01-24T12:19:29.406Z · LW · GW

Christianity was pacifist at the start, as it arose in a conquered people. When the Romans adopted it, it didn't make them any more militaristic than they already were.

But conversely, Christianity became a lot more militaristic when it became the state religion. Listen e.g. to Dan Carlin's Hardcore History podcast Thor's Angels (free as of 01/2014; 4h long).

I have a theory that "radical Islam" is not native Islam, but Westernized Islam.

-> What about e.g. the fatwa over Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses, or blasphemy laws, or whatever? This theory doesn't seem consistent with already known facts.

Comment by mondsemmel on Generalizing From One Example · 2014-01-20T13:24:07.725Z · LW · GW

The delicious irony of Yvain (alias Scott) possibly committing a True Scotsman fallacy...

Comment by mondsemmel on How to Become a 1000 Year Old Vampire · 2014-01-19T18:34:53.618Z · LW · GW

Feedback: This essay includes a few suggestions which might be valuable to pursue or do, but I downvoted the essay mainly for pulling numbers out of nowhere throughout the post.

Saying boosts your productivity or life experience or awesomeness by factor Y is something I expect from self-help books (for a horrible example thereof, see the book Eat That Frog), not from Less Wrong.

Comment by mondsemmel on 2013 Survey Results · 2014-01-19T12:59:07.984Z · LW · GW

Thanks for taking the time to conduct and then analyze this survey!

What surprised me:

  • Average IQ seemed insane to me. Thanks for dealing extensively with that objection.
  • Time online per week seems plausible from personal experience, but I didn't expect the average to be so high.
  • The overconfidence data hurts, but as someone pointed out in the comments, it's hard to ask a question which isn't misunderstood.

What disappointed me:

  • Even I was disappointed by the correlations between P(significant man-made global warming) vs. e.g. taxation/feminism/etc. Most other correlations were between values, but this one was between one's values and an empirical question. Truly Blue/Green. On the topic of politics in general, see below.
  • People, use spaced repetition! It's been studied academically and been shown to work brilliantly; it's really easy to incorporate in your daily life in comparison to most other LW material etc... Well, I'm comparatively disappointed with these numbers, though I assume they are still far higher than in most other communities.

And a comment at the end:

"We are doing terribly at avoiding Blue/Green politics, people."

Given that LW explicitly tries to exclude politics from discussion (and for reasons I find compelling), what makes you expect differently?

Incorporating LW debiasing techniques into daily life will necessarily be significantly harder than just reading the Sequences, and even those have only been read by a relatively small proportion of posters...

Comment by mondsemmel on Things I Wish They'd Taught Me When I Was Younger: Why Money Is Awesome · 2014-01-17T14:20:21.081Z · LW · GW

Right. The post is also a bit unstructured, but lack of truly awesome examples was my main problem with it, too.

The main everyday example given was house cleaning. But that seems like such a stereotypical example that I wonder a) whether people actually do find it sufficiently awesome to hire people to clean their houses, and b) if it's the only example of its kind.

EDIT: Some other comments suggest CFAR workshops as an awesome expense. I have no first-hand experience with them, but that sounds plausible to me.

Comment by mondsemmel on How habits work and how you may control them · 2014-01-07T16:41:47.650Z · LW · GW

Book summaries are always appreciated, but I don't understand your high praise of the book. I was disappointed with it for several reasons:

  • I wanted a book on how to change habits. In fact, my edition has the subtitle "Why we do what we do and how to change". I didn't really get much of that. There's abstract theory and even seemingly concrete advice, but I never got said advice to work.

  • I hated the book's structure, which required grinding through filler stories to get at interspersed facts. Most of these stories have hardly anything to do with habits.

  • To fit these stories into the book, the author uses terrible, strained metaphors like 'social habits' or 'organizational habits' over and over. The latter should have been left out. So I consider a huge chunk of the book to be useless.

  • Without all the waffling, the author could have made his points in half the space. Tangents lead to tangents-within-tangents. Low information density. Not zero, but low.

Comment by mondsemmel on Initial Thoughts on Personally Finding a High-Impact Career · 2014-01-04T12:29:18.508Z · LW · GW

This advice sounds like 'do what you're passionate about', which conflicts with the research done by 80k hours, though. See here and here.

These posts are well worth reading for anyone struggling with said advice, e.g. because they aren't passionate about anything. To paraphrase (though this doesn't do the 80k hours posts justice): Find something which is valuable and which you're likely to be good at, and you'll grow to enjoy it, too.

Comment by mondsemmel on How to Beat Procrastination · 2013-12-30T13:06:27.956Z · LW · GW

(It's hardly relevant to the parent comment, but the Shinzen Young interview linked above is behind a paywall nowadays. But it can still be read here.)

Comment by mondsemmel on Why CFAR? · 2013-12-29T16:31:42.819Z · LW · GW

Donated 40€. I was going to donate to MIRI or CFAR, and chose CFAR due to this Facebook discussion.

Comment by mondsemmel on Book Summary: Willpower by Baumeister, Tierney · 2013-12-13T18:05:22.533Z · LW · GW

For those interested, that blog post has two follow-up posts which criticize the part of the theory claiming that the resource depleted during ego-depletion is glucose: Glucose Is Not Willpower Fuel and Should You Consume Sugar to Improve Your Self-Control?.

With all that, ego-depletion theory really looks well beyond shaky. The author of these posts also claims we still have no actual working theory of fatigue.

Comment by mondsemmel on 2013 Less Wrong Census/Survey · 2013-12-02T17:16:24.532Z · LW · GW

Answered the survey, including the bonus questions. Took me 32 min altogether. Comments:

How many people are aware of their IQs? I'm from Germany and have never taken an IQ test. Is knowing about one's IQ common enough in the US that not making that question a bonus question made sense?

There were quite a few questions (e.g. estimate weekly internet consumption, estimate how often you read about ideas for self-improvement) which felt pointless - how could you possibly get accurate estimates from people, given how ambiguous these questions were, and how difficult these estimates are?

The money question: After I failed to come up with a unique passphrase, I chose cooperate and left the rest blank. This kind of stuff tempts my perfectionism, and that's a lose-lose situation for me.

Comment by mondsemmel on Meetup : LW Munich Meetup in October · 2013-10-03T14:14:34.393Z · LW · GW

Hi there! I'm a German physics student at LMU Munich and might be interested in the meetup. It's just...I'm shy, have never been to any kind of meetup, and have no idea what to expect. So...what can I expect? How many people typically show up? How many showed up last time?

And I read there might be a Facebook group - if there is, how can I join it?

EDIT: Found and joined the Facebook group here. I'll participate.

Comment by mondsemmel on Fundamental Doubts · 2013-09-20T15:17:42.788Z · LW · GW

One of the benefits I've drawn from Less Wrong so far - via posts like The Simple Truth - is more solid foundations for my beliefs. Since I study physics, I wasn't particularly worried about philosophical arguments against the scientific method anymore - science seemed to work, after all - but of those doubts that remained, many more still got (apparently) dispelled or dissolved.

That said, I never had doubts that fundamental. Could anybody really live that way? I don't have a coherent mental model for such a situation. Take Mad-Eye Moody in HPMoR with his constant paranoia, as in "Unless, of course, that's what they want you to think." - could such a character really function in the real world? Could they eat food without starving themselves to death out of paranoia? If you are paranoid about both X -> Y and X -> ~Y, how do you decide whether to do Y or ~Y? (It seems more plausible to me that Moody doesn't actually exhibit doubts that fundamental, than that he or anyone else could function properly despite those doubts.)

Comment by mondsemmel on Another Anki deck for Less Wrong content · 2013-08-23T07:49:49.925Z · LW · GW

Thanks for mentioning this. Many posts in the sequences I've read so far, especially those concerning biases, seemed interesting, but not necessarily useful: I don't really see how to apply that knowledge to my own life. And when debiasing techniques are suggested, they often sound prohibitively expensive in terms of willpower. That said, I've also read quite a few posts of whose eventual usefulness I am reasonably confident. Off the top of my head, the sequence Joy in the Merely Real seemed really beneficial to me - if only because it gave me a strong argument to read more textbooks.

Comment by mondsemmel on What Bayesianism taught me · 2013-08-12T09:19:15.265Z · LW · GW

I've noticed that people seem to have their minds blown by the sequences, not really learn all that much more by spending a few years in the rationality scene, and then go back to read the sequences and wonder how they could have ever found them anything but obvious.

What happens when they reach this post?

Comment by mondsemmel on Welcome to Less Wrong! (6th thread, July 2013) · 2013-08-02T16:55:43.169Z · LW · GW

[Meta comment: In the welcome post, the links to the open threads link to two different tags, with different time dates. This is confusing. One of them hasn't been updated since 10/2011. If you fix this, you might have to do the same in the template for creating new welcome threads. Also, I think the same issue exists elsewhere on the site, e.g. in the Less Wrong FAQ.]

Comment by mondsemmel on Welcome to Less Wrong! (6th thread, July 2013) · 2013-08-02T16:50:41.374Z · LW · GW

Hi! My name is Tobias. I'm from Munich in Germany, male, 24 years old, and currently doing a Master's degree in physics at LMU Munich. I'm doing okay to good in my studies, but I still struggle with procrastination in particular (though things have gotten better) and low motivation. In particular, while I like physics in the abstract, I don't particularly enjoy the reality of studying physics at a university. Most importantly, I'm totally unambitious, and not satisfied with that. I'll be finished with my studies in ~1.5h years, so I'm currently trying to plan what to do afterwards.

I first came upon Less Wrong when a friend of mine recommended HPMoR to me in ~11/2012. A while ago, I decided I'd use my current semester holidays to benefit from the resources and community on Less Wrong, and to find something genuinely useful to do in life. Any suggestions?

For instance, x-risk already sounds interesting, though I'm nowhere good enough at math to even consider MIRI research a valid option. Is there room for mortals anywhere in the broader field of x-risk reduction?

In a related question, do you have any ideas for topics of interest to e.g. transhumanists, which could be suited for a Master's or PhD thesis in physics, and for which finding a supervisor does not sound straight out impossible?

Basically, if you were in my position and had ~2 months to decide on a plan/goal/cause/short-term trajectory to maximize your impact in life (whatever that means), what would you do?

Considering my interest in the natural sciences, I guess I'd call myself an (anspiring?) epistemic rationalist. So far, I haven't had much success with instrumental rationalism though, considering my persisting problems with issues like procrastination or perfectionism. On the other hand, this year I finally managed to overcome 8+ years of sleeping issues by finally attacking the problem in what I would call a rational, comprehensive manner. (I will read the sequence The Science of Winning at Life next.)

I intend to read all the sequences eventually; so far, I've only read How to Actually Change Your Mind, The Map and the Territory, and Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions.

Comment by mondsemmel on Making Rationality General-Interest · 2013-07-29T08:40:48.826Z · LW · GW

Kids definitely have more time, but otherwise they don't necessarily learn languages easier. Or at least, secondary languages.