Comment by newcom on On making fictional miracles seem plausible · 2021-06-01T12:22:58.519Z · LW · GW

Additionally, it is a common story-telling device of having separate side-plots that intersect with main plot in interesting or surprising ways. These side-plots can be complete stories in their own right (I guess Game of Thrones is the biggest example of this in popular media), or tiny side elements like the creepy old guy from Home Alone. 

I'd say OP's seconds story has an even more minimalist version of this device, which improves the on first story by adding some mystery for the reader ('What does this description of a meteor have to do with anything?') and giving this side-story a satisfying conclusion. It also somewhat reduces the bullshit factor of the deus ex machina as explained above.

Comment by newcom on What's So Bad About Ad-Hoc Mathematical Definitions? · 2021-03-17T12:42:43.524Z · LW · GW

The key challenge here is to come up with a set of intuitive arguments which uniquely specify a particular definition/metric, exactly like a set of equations can uniquely specify a solution. If our arguments have “many solutions”, then there’s little reason to expect that the ad-hoc “solution” we chose actually corresponds to our intuitive concept.


Maybe I'm missing something in the post, but why is this the case? Isn't it arbitrary to suppose that only one possible metric exists that fully 'solves' the problem?

Comment by newcom on The True Face of the Enemy · 2021-01-13T12:56:48.205Z · LW · GW

I kinda feel the same way. There is a lot to be said about schools as concept and the way they are being run currently, and this piece brings up quite a few good points. But the style feels so sensationalized and propagandized, it sets off all kind of alarm bells in my brain and just makes me want to push back against the message:

  • Setting the thing you're arguing against up as 'the enemy', fully with repulsive physical features, which is gleefully evil without any positive aspects or intentions will never feel as a fair characterization of anything.
  • There is a strong insistence on how useless and opposed to 'freedom' schooling is, without offering any alternative of how children could be raised in an obviously better and more 'free' way (hopefully without totally redesigning our society).
  • Characterizing the schooling experience as 'intolerable suffering' seems laughably hyperbolic to me. As someone who went through a full standard education (non-US, so YMMV), I don't think I encountered many people who's negative experience extended far beyond 'slightly bored'.

Just my first thoughts while reading.

Comment by newcom on Motive Ambiguity · 2020-12-16T12:53:59.300Z · LW · GW

I remember encountering this same idea in Orwell's '1984':

‘How does one man assert his power over another, Winston?’
Winston thought. ‘By making him suffer,’ he said.
‘Exactly. By making him suffer. Obedience is not enough.
Unless he is suffering, how can you be sure that he is obeying your will and not his own?'

Comment by newcom on D&D.Sci · 2020-12-06T17:43:34.080Z · LW · GW

My attempt

Threw all the data in a small neural network, and let it optimize (pretty mediocre: only resulted in an accuracy of 70%). I used this network to test quite a few different combinations of possible stats (base stats + spending all 10 points), resulting in [7, 16, 13, 13, 12, 11] as best and [6, 14, 18, 13, 16, 5] as worst chance of succeeding. A lot of things could still be optimized in this approach, but it seems like dexterity and wisdom should be left alone, and charisma and constitution could use a boost.

Comment by newcom on Can we hold intellectuals to similar public standards as athletes? · 2020-10-07T11:07:14.921Z · LW · GW

I find such a social app idea really interesting. A map that tracks which public intellectuals value each others contributions (possibly even divided on subject) would be a valuable tool. I guess some initial work on this could even be done without participation of said persons, as most already identify their primary influences in their work.

Comment by newcom on When is it Wrong to Click on a Cow? · 2020-06-22T08:44:11.751Z · LW · GW

I also feel like this is pretty much the whole answer. Certain 'non-productive' hobbies are traditionally associated with higher status (music, art, etc. Especially the traditional varieties), probably because they (used to) signal that the person has sufficient free time and money to maintain the hobby, and is in touch with the high status culture surrounding it.

Comment by newcom on Transhumanist Fables · 2019-05-21T11:28:34.646Z · LW · GW

I can see how that story could be interpreted like that, but the whole concept of 'reality doesn't grade on a curve' is explored in some of the sequences.

I guess the point of not mentioning the bazooka until it is used to blow up the third house, is that reality also doesn't care wether you know its rules or not. The third pig had no idea or indication that the wolf had any capabilities above the huffing-and-puffing, but he got eaten all the same.

Maybe a fourth pig with a missile-proof house could've survived, or maybe the wolf has more tricks up it sleeves. But whatever the all-out capabilities of reality turn out to be, these are the only thing that matter on wether it'll survive.

Also: its nice that there is still some activity on these old posts. I've recently started reading all the sequences and the codex, and it feels quite sad to have these hunderds of high-quality essays with hardly any community discussion underneath.

Comment by newcom on Transhumanist Fables · 2019-05-17T13:04:30.377Z · LW · GW

Reality doesn't grade on a curve: either you pass its inflexible criteria or you don't (and risk getting eaten).

So, reality doesn't care wether you are doing better than your peers or even if you are doing your very best. Each subsequent pig built a better house than the previous one, but none could withstand reality (a wolf with a serious lung-capacity and a bazooka in this case) and they all died regardless of their effort.