Are the LLM "intelligence" tests publicly available for humans to take? 2023-03-17T00:09:00.842Z
How do you reason about how many COVID test kits to keep on hand? 2022-01-18T18:09:07.954Z
How likely is it that an ASI which could confer immortality could not resurrect the dead? 2021-05-11T15:10:13.973Z
What value do you place on activities which cannot be done without driving? 2021-05-11T14:46:23.094Z
What are your favorite examples of adults in and around this community publicly changing their minds? 2021-05-05T19:26:55.433Z
What are the greatest near-future risks or dangers to you as an individual? 2021-05-05T04:02:52.861Z
nim's Shortform 2021-04-26T17:54:05.917Z


Comment by nim on You should just smile at strangers a lot · 2023-09-26T23:08:18.797Z · LW · GW

Thanks! Bonus points for selecting accessories more likely to catch the eye of the particular sort of shy humans you'd like to invite polite remarks from =)

Comment by nim on You should just smile at strangers a lot · 2023-09-25T21:23:45.568Z · LW · GW

I'm a female in the PNW area and notice roughly the same reaction that you describe. I don't smile at absolutely everyone -- I limit it to contexts where it seems unlikely to oblige either party to have additional interactions, although that's still a lot of opportunities. I find that a full-face smile, including the eyes, communicates just fine even in settings where I wear a mask. Then again, my results may be unusual because I present as relatively threatening/intimidating -- I have a family member around my age who gets unwanted conversations routinely even without smiling at people. She is shorter, curvier, better at makeup / generally more normal-woman-presenting, and more agreeable than I am -- I'm not sure which combo of traits is playing into the difference in response. So I'd say that "smile at people more" is safe advice for some-but-not-all women, with who's who being probably determined by nuanced and multivariate factors.

My personal social script for making small talk a more positive experience when I have some superficial interaction with someone, often cashiers when shopping, is to compliment a choice the person has made that day/week. Complimenting something they can't choose (eyes, height, certain bodily proportions, etc) is generally creepy; complimenting a choice they made a long time ago (piercings, tattoos) is hit-or miss; complimenting a small decision that's clearly a recent choice is almost universally a safe positive.

Similarly, shy people can have an easier time making positive small talk with you if you give them something safe to compliment. Accessorizing beyond the absolute minimum, or wearing an outfit that shows you chose it on purpose, gives people who want to say something nice to you an invitation to remark on it.

Comment by nim on Housing Roundup #6 · 2023-09-20T21:34:07.686Z · LW · GW

how would that work in the shadow cast by such buildings? the taller the building, the farther apart you'd have to space them for everyone to actually get sun.

Comment by nim on Some reasons why I frequently prefer communicating via text · 2023-09-18T23:15:43.029Z · LW · GW

Beyond just the ability to quote things, I also appreciate the "perfect memory" aspect of text. The question of "did x say y?" is trivial to answer on any textual platform with a search feature. "I thought I said... oh, looks like I actually didn't" helps me update my own beliefs about my communication, and "wait, what did you say that I interpreted as x? oh, that, I see what went wrong" helps me do better in similar communications on later occasions.

Comment by nim on nim's Shortform · 2023-09-13T05:14:12.133Z · LW · GW

'"And listen, Gandalf, my old friend and helper!" he said, coming near and speaking now in a softer voice. "I said we, for we it may be, if you will join with me. A new Power is rising. Against it the old allies and policies will not avail us at all. There is no hope left in Elves or dying Númenor. This then is one choice before you, before us. We may join with that Power. It would be wise, Gandalf. There is hope that way. Its victory is at hand; and there will be rich reward for those that aided it. As the Power grows, its proved friends will also grow; and the Wise, such as you and I, may with patience come at last to direct its courses, to control it. We can bide our time, we can keep our thoughts in our hearts, deploring maybe evils done by the way, but approving the high and ultimate purpose: Knowledge, Rule, Order; all the things that we have so far striven in vain to accomplish, hindered rather than helped by our weak or idle friends. There need not be, there would not be, any real change in our designs, only in our means."

'"Saruman," I said, "I have heard speeches of this kind before, but only in the mouths of emissaries sent from Mordor to deceive the ignorant. I cannot think that you brought me so far only to weary my ears."

early reference to roko's basilisk

Comment by nim on Minor Life Optimization: Consider Ordering Your Food To-Go · 2023-09-01T17:19:04.456Z · LW · GW

Updating your beliefs about the relative health impacts of frozen vs fast food seems like a low-effort, high-impact opportunity for improvement here.

There are a lot of distinct questions or comparisons that you may be casually conflating in reasoning about frozen food:

  • Nutrition of a fresh ingredient vs the same ingredient commercially frozen. Frozen often wins here because fresh food in grocery stores has to be harvested long before it's ripe. Food harvested when it's ripe then frozen can travel fine, but food harvested when it's ripe then only refrigerated tends to degrade before it gets to the consumer.

  • Nutrition/quality of a given ingredient frozen at home vs commercially frozen. Home freezers will freeze items more slowly, which changes how ice crystals form and can sometimes degrade the quality of the item worse than extremely rapid commercial freezing. Plus if you buy a fresh ingredient at the store, it was picked way before it was ready, and freezing it at home isn't going to magically have left it on the plant for longer.

  • Nutrition of a fresh meal cooked from scratch vs a frozen pre-made meal. Fresh, conscientious cooking will add less salt and fat than any processed food. It may also not taste quite as delicious ;)

  • Nutrition of a fresh meal cooked from scratch vs a serving of that same meal which was frozen at home and reheated. For many meals, home freezing is mildly detrimental to the food's texture, and home cooks probably won't test enough variables on the freezing process to really dial in the optimal technique.

  • Nutrition of a fresh meal cooked from scratch vs fast food. Fresh, conscientious cooking will add less salt and fat than restaurants, but may also be less delicious. Fresh cooking will also be more variable about ingredient quality -- ingredients might be much better or might be worse, depending on the cook and the pantry.

Make sure your intuitions on those fronts are consistent with each other and with available research that meets your standards, and then revisit the question of how frozen foods compare to fast food takeout in the ways that matter to you =)

Comment by nim on Loft Bed Fan Guard · 2023-08-30T18:10:38.999Z · LW · GW

More tape on one blade than another might unbalance it... air resistance increase from the texture of blue tape could also be an issue.

Another way to increase contrast would be to change the ceiling color above the fan. This could be done with something temporary if one is careful that it can't fall into the fan, or painted.

Comment by nim on Loft Bed Fan Guard · 2023-08-29T16:49:22.266Z · LW · GW


To go with the guard, would some blue painter's tape on the end of each fan blade help make it a bit more visible and obvious to visitors, without wrecking the look of the room?

Comment by nim on On Lucidity · 2023-08-28T22:47:40.839Z · LW · GW

Your example dialogue is very helpful for me to hopefully elucidate what I originally meant, and also tried to reference with the laundromat example


It's not unlike the classic male-female divide when discussing problems of "men want solutions, women want to be heard." Recognizing this meta-game and playing it accordingly is a step towards lucidity, rather than a man always playing the "solution" game with his wife.

Alternate framing: the men's stereotype is about solving the previous instance of the problem; the women's stereotype is about solving/preventing the next instance =)

Comment by nim on No More Freezer Pucks · 2023-08-28T16:18:43.219Z · LW · GW

Have you ruled out putting the liquid in the bag first, then placing the bag on a baking sheet in the freezer to make the resulting ice block the right shape, then removing your still-clean baking sheet from the freezer?

Then you can pull the bag from the freezer, break off the size of piece you need for a given dish, and stick it back in. If you want the bag contents to be easier to break into precise pieces when frozen, you can place chopsticks under the bag on the tray while it freezes, to make thin spots in the resulting block. And if you use the same size freezer bag for a lot of stuff, keeping the frozen food intact till you're ready to break some off means you can store the bags in a very space-efficient manner, compared to what would happen if you broke up the food before storing it.

It gets the bag dirtier, but it skips the whole step of re-packaging the food once it's frozen.

Similar deal with freezing a sandwich bag of something atop an empty ice cube tray. The frozen liquid ends up block shaped enough to be easy to break apart, but you eliminate the steps of removing frozen food from the ice cube tray, packaging the food, and cleaning the tray.

Comment by nim on Trying a Wet Suit · 2023-08-28T15:39:10.792Z · LW · GW

Additional pros to kids' wetsuits:

  • Any part of the kid covered by the wetsuit does not require sunscreen
  • choosing high-visibility colors can make a kid easier to keep an eye on both in and out of the water, vs being mostly human-colored plus swimsuit
  • with multiple kids in the picture, you can own fewer wetsuits per kid, as one may grow out of a suit that the next is growing into (sharing with other families improves this further; a kids' wetsuit lasts much longer than any one kid is its size)

I inherited one from a cousin when I was small, and loved it.

Comment by nim on On Lucidity · 2023-08-27T17:00:59.674Z · LW · GW

Thanks, I'm glad my guess at how to balance critical and constructive came across okay :)

I agree that lucidity is a fairly subjective trait, but I don't find that to be unique.

I agree, including that it's not unique. However, the impact of subjectivity is that it takes more work to convincingly defend claims shaped like "it's always good to have more of the trait" or "these actions will get you more/less of the trait". If you let the reader guess how the trait should be measured for comparison, it's likely that they'll assume a metric other than the one you had in mind.

I think I misleadingly portrayed lucidity as being A. a social trait and B. a synonym for charismatic.

When I read your post, I got the strong impression that detecting lucidity is a social process, which may have lost some resolution in my reply to become (A). But going only from your original post, I could easily construct an example of an individual who is charismatic but non-lucid -- the stereotype of the "NPC" socialite or celebrity, who is charming but eminently superficial, would be one. So I don't see (B) as being an issue.

James avoided trouble by being lucid, perhaps I wasn't overly clear about that. I think more examples about the ways where lucidity could help or harm would be beneficial.

Perhaps some assumptions about relationship dynamics were in play? Here's how the little vignette expanded for me, based on personal experiences of having been the "irrational" one in various arguments over the years:

When they argue, Stacy quickly devolves to making irrational, emotional arguments.

As a concrete example that I'm guessing may qualify as this type of argument, let's borrow the one about the dishes, as explored in .

The caricature of this class of argument, when it's played out in my own life, looks something like this:

S: hey, could please you put stuff in the sink instead of beside it?
J: sure 
(time passes, J puts dishes in the sink a few times then goes back to putting them next to it, S asks again, J agrees to put the dishes in the sink when S asks...)
S: hey why are you still doing the thing you said you agreed not to when I asked you to do differently
J: because it doesn't really matter 
(this is factually correct at the surface level -- the material impact of where the dishes get put is negligible, despite the outsize emotional impact of the overarching situation of J having repeatedly made the "ok sure" noise when asked to make the tiny gesture of putting the dishes in rather than next to the sink)
S: so actually it matters to me, here's how it's not just about the dishes but about how I feel when you say you'll do a thing and then don't do it
J: calm down, it's literally just some dishes

Now we're in a situation where S is hurt by J's behavior, in ways that look irrational and emotional. Because yeah, it's not about the dishes, it's about the more general case of if/how J saying he will or won't do a (small, easy) thing correlates to whether the thing actually happens. S's honeymoon-era, new-relationship-energy impression that J cares about her "in general" is updating to an impression that J only cares about her feelings in situations where he thinks they're important/valid, and furthermore his assessment of what's important differs significantly from hers. This is a bad/scary feeling, and her emotional reaction is proportionate to the prospect of a whole future with a partner who only follows through on issues that he considers valid (and doesn't readily update his views on an issue's validity), which is profoundly disproportionate to the reaction appropriate for the isolated incident of a particular dish being left out on a particular day.

be lucid and recognize the abstract games at play by choosing to appeal to Stacy’s emotions.

You invite the reader to imagine what "appeal to Stacy's emotions" means, and I construct something like "but Stacy, if you loved me you wouldn't make such a big deal about the dishes, if you trusted me you'd know that I'll be reliable where it matters even if you don't feel like I'm being reliable about the dishes". This does not look like "winning" to me.

Conversely I imagine "competent" behaviors in the argument, I get problem-solving such as "could we put something next to the sink to remind me not to set my glass there", which is a whole lot closer to "winning" than what I imagine for "appeal to emotion".

So, that's a lot of words for why "appeal to emotions" did not map to "winning" to n=1 readers =)

Comment by nim on ACX Meetups Everywhere 2023: Times & Places · 2023-08-26T17:34:39.661Z · LW · GW

Thanks for the lead on a non-Facebook option! Reciprocity looked very exciting for a moment before I, too, realized that it was FB-only, and I have a nasty habit of wanting privacy more than I want friends when that dichotomy is invoked.

Comment by nim on On Lucidity · 2023-08-24T14:26:29.098Z · LW · GW

Lucidity in the context of lucid dreaming is a broadly useful term.

Lucidity as you define it in your post is a subjective property of human interactions. I have the relatively frequent experience of encountering that form of "lucidity" from people/behaviors which evoke annoyance or boredom in others, or experiencing annoyance/boredom where others find "lucidity". Thus, as with any interpersonal phenomenon, any description of "lucidity" is at best half-baked without the explicit metadata of to whom.

This missing "to whom?" shows most clearly when you say "a lucid person is compelling, ...". Perhaps it would help to name the trait which causes someone to find lucidity compelling -- you clearly have it, but that doesn't promise that anyone or everyone else will.

Most people consider themselves lucid the same way that most people consider themselves smart or principled — this is a fallacy just like how 80% of drivers think they are above-average drivers. It’s far more accurate to assess lucidity in others.

You try to discuss the implausibility of "accurate" self-assessment with "It’s far more accurate to assess lucidity in others.", but unfortunately I remain lost by the rhetoric because the rest of the essay avoided offering any leads on quantifying, measuring, or comparing lucidity in the ways that would be prerequisite to testing whether any form of assessing it is more "accurate" than another.

A useful addition to the post, if your goal is to pin down a clear definition of lucidity, would be to characterize the pathologies of both too much and too little of it.

The good news for you is that if somebody sent you this essay, they likely consider you lucid. Learn to recognize this trait and surround yourself with other lucid people — you’ll be all the better for it.

That's quite the leap. Not only are you assuming you know what the reader considers best for themself, but you're implying there would be no drawbacks to eschewing the non-lucid. In your two examples of lucidity through the article, James got himself into trouble with it, and David mechanically applied the "five whys" principle after perhaps seeing a bit about it on TV.

If you're going to argue that having a lucid person surround themself with other lucid people is all "better" with no drawbacks worth mentioning, it would be helpful to lay the groundwork for such a claim earlier in the article by either highlighting the increasing benefits to both parties of interactions between more-ludid individuals, or the relative drawbacks of interactions with less-lucid individuals.

Comment by nim on Ruining an expected-log-money maximizer · 2023-08-21T16:35:00.468Z · LW · GW

Ah, thanks for clarifying. You're writing for an audience who has their own reasons for wanting to speculate about agents instead of people, and I lack such reasons. That's why I missed the point :)

Comment by nim on What value does personal prediction tracking have? · 2023-08-21T16:33:49.612Z · LW · GW

When you set out to intentionally build a skill, how do you do it?

For most people, skill-building has elements of both tracking and self-assessment.

Comment by nim on Ruining an expected-log-money maximizer · 2023-08-20T23:28:35.481Z · LW · GW

This assumes that both utility functions are implemented with perfect reason, unlimited intellect, and no interference from emotion.

Can I instead offer [Logan] bets where he chooses how much of his money to put in, and he still puts in all but a penny?

It appears to an outside observer that "Logan has a utility function that's logarithmic in money. He'll bet 20% of his bankroll every time, and his wealth will grow exponentially." I'd posit that Logan's internal narrative about gambling, which manifests as appearing to be the stated utility function, is much more like "I don't like the risk of going broke so I'm going to bet in a way that seems unlikely to blow all my money on any one bet that might lose it".

Considering the emotional context of Logan's behavior with money, I think it's actually quite unlikely that you could persuade him to make any bet that will leave him forced to bet all his remaining money in the subsequent round to stay in the game if he loses it. I'm not sure what math words apply this lookahead that a human Logan would perform to say "that's a tempting bet but if I lose it I'm screwed in the next round and I don't want to be screwed", but that's a type of thought and behavior that I think your utility function modeling neglects to account for.

If Logan was perfectly intelligent and believed himself to be so, he might behave in a perfectly rational manner even when all but 1 cent of his money was at stake. But I don't think you could introduce me to any human in the world who both is perfectly intelligent, and believes that they are. There are people who erroneously believe they're perfectly intelligent, but they rarely believe in the way that a perfectly rational person would be expected to. There are highly rational people who know their intellectual limitations, but one trait of that rationality is planning ahead and considering that their appraisal of the odds of any gamble could be inaccurate, and keeping a financial safety net in case they make some mistake.

In short, I think I've entirely missed the point of why it's useful to speculate about the behavior of hypothetical people whose behavior differs so significantly from what we see in actual people.

Comment by nim on What value does personal prediction tracking have? · 2023-08-20T23:08:16.672Z · LW · GW

Personal prediction tracking seems intended to refine one's prediction skills, so that one can make increasingly accurate predictions about what will happen.

How many problems in your life have ultimately been caused by poor prediction-making skills? Almost any regret can be "why"'d into the root cause of a bad prediction: "I regret not saying goodbye because I incorrectly predicted that I would definitely see them again", "I regret not addressing that relationship problem while it was small because I inaccurately predicted that it was unimportant", "I regret not investing in a certain stock when it was super cheap because I inaccurately predicted it would not increase in value".

From this perspective, it seems obvious that making better predictions creates a life of fewer regrets.

Comment by nim on Are we running out of new music/movies/art from a metaphysical perspective? (updated) · 2023-08-20T16:36:40.150Z · LW · GW

Continuing to ponder it, I've stumbled onto a few areas that seem like key points in refining the underlying question about what "running out of new art" might mean:

  • Covers of songs. When some elements of a piece of Good Art are reused, does that constitute New Art?

  • Sampling. Consider the situation when a song samples an iconic soundbyte from a movie -- the order in which one encounters the song and movie will change one's experience of both. My personal example is having known the guns n roses song Civil War for many years before eventually seeing Cool Hand Luke, so my movie experience was "hey, it's the thing from that song!", whereas someone who met them in the other order would have heard the song and gone "hey, it's the thing from that movie!".

  • Movie adaptations of books and remakes of movies. Consider the difference between fairy tales in the Brothers Grimm versus their Disney adaptations, or the impact of Shakespeare on much of modern western media. Is a retelling of Hamlet technically "new art" if it's an old story?

I think that although we can technically exhaust the space of recordings, there's probably a decent argument to be made that we cannot meaningfully exhaust the space of retellings. Each retelling differs from the original story due to the context in which it's told. Each context for storytelling differs from prior contexts in part due to what prior retellings have happened in it. Therefore, each new retelling is meaningfully distinct from prior retellings.

Comment by nim on Are we running out of new music/movies/art from a metaphysical perspective? (updated) · 2023-08-19T22:46:42.446Z · LW · GW

yeah! I super briefly alluded to it with "and the goalpost for what does qualify as "good art" also moves over time as a function of culture and individual experience." above -- that reply didn't feel like the place to go into detail on the potential for exhaustion.

Thinking it through now, I think I may have found a stronger justifiable claim than I was aware of at the time of the initial comment, as well.

Modern use of the term "art" is inexorably linked with the concept of recording. Listening to the same recording of a song, or the same cut of a movie, at different times, is easy to conflate into being "the same" experience, because the differences in the experience are subtle enough to be treated as unimportant.

Decouple "art" from "recording", and there's a lot more hope that we'll never "run out" in a meaningful way. It's pretty plausible that someday we'll discover all of the very "best" recordings under a certain length, by the standards of all creatures recognizable as human -- at that point, having a limited number of senses and a limited number of consecutive hours to consume media in a sitting become entwined with the definition of what we recognize as "people like us". Some future descendant of our species who possesses a dozen senses that they cannot explain to us, for instance, would not really be "like us" as a connoisseur or consumer of art.

So, I'd say maybe we can find all the best recordings, but so what? Have you ever been part of a group of humans that sings "the same" song repeatedly, year after year, decade after decade, or even century after century? I think this is most common in churches, but it also shows up in some social gatherings, reenactment events, etc. Is the experience of it really the same for you each time, in the way that listening to a single recording over and over would be, even if the words and tune remain consistent? Each time a song is re-sung, you can hear subtle differences -- peoples' moods and health impact their tone; the composition of the group might add or remove voices.

Part of what gives art its value is the relationship between it, the person experiencing or producing it, and the broader social context. No individual will ever exhaust all of those combinations -- you can never hear a different final slow song at the last school dance you ever attended as a teen, for instance. You might have lots of different last school dances in various games or simulations, with different last songs, but those just form you into someone who's played those games or lived through those simulations in addition to what you've done and experienced in person.

So from the useful, applicable, selfish angle, each person gets to experience a finite amount of art. Almost everyone gets a different set of art... but if someone else happened to somehow have had all the same experiences with all the same art as you, would that diminish the value that the art had to you in some way?

Whatever it is that we "complete", it's obviously going to be a whole lot bigger than a single lifetime's worth of material. We'll each get to traverse that corpus differently, just as we each differently traverse the corpous of possible art to experience now. If different individuals happen to take identical paths through it somehow (if that's even possible), that harms no-one. In the most interesting case, individuals who've had otherwise identical experiences might encounter one another, and then their experiences would immediately differ forever more, because the laws of physics would constrain them to literally have different perspectives on their meeting.

Also, thank you for inquiring gently, and thank you for the care you took to avoid conferring an obligation to read your other posts. I look forward to reading and thinking about them at some time when my brain is acting differently from how it is today.

Comment by nim on Are we running out of new music/movies/art from a metaphysical perspective? (updated) · 2023-08-19T17:22:31.680Z · LW · GW

anecdote about that: I, too, identify as someone who doesn't care about / like / listen to pop country. However, one time on a solo road trip I was listening to whatever radio station happened to have the best reception, which was one at a time in that area. Those unusual circumstances caused me to tolerate a bunch of songs that I found mildly annoying, and among them, I discovered that there were some pop country songs that I actually enjoyed quite a lot.

If I'd been going about my normal adult life, I never would have discovered the handful of songs I liked, because I would have changed the station or put on music stored to my phone. When I shared my excitement about the "new art" of the couple songs I like with a friend who's more familiar with the genre, they didn't consider it "new art" at all -- the songs I liked had been high on the charts for several weeks, perhaps in part due to their general palatability to broader audiences, and were not only "old" to a genre fan but less exemplary of "art" than the songs I found annoying.

However, this seems to imply the opposite of what I'm hearing from your comment: I'm hearing you say that advances in pop country will look like new good art to genre fans, but not to you. The lesson I'd draw from my own moment with it is that it's far easier to find the low-hanging fruit of subjectively "new good art" in the middle of areas where one hasn't personally looked much, versus on the edges of a well-explored space.

Comment by nim on Are we running out of new music/movies/art from a metaphysical perspective? (updated) · 2023-08-19T17:13:14.091Z · LW · GW

I've noticed the "genres getting full/completed" thing, but I attribute it to how we define the genres.

A friend once lamented how they're not making good prog any more, and not knowing what prog was at the time, I responded with a volley of questions about what constitutes good prog and what happened to the people who used to make it and what we call music that's sufficiently novel relative to prog. Turns out that what he called "good prog" was defined in a way that set up the category to get full: Sufficiently distinct new music wasn't "really prog" because it was other genres, and new music sufficiently similar to existing prog wasn't "good" because it lacked an element of novelty.

My takeaway there was "well duh, if you go around defining genres like that, after awhile there won't be room for quality novel stuff in them".

Mathematically, the amount of possible sequences of stimuli that a human can experience in a finite lifetime is huge but finite. Most of those subsets of stimuli won't be experienced as "good art", and the goalpost for what does qualify as "good art" also moves over time as a function of culture and individual experience.

I don't think we're anywhere near exhausting the available spectrum of "good art", though, considering that we're still early in the game of inventing new ways to control what stimuli others experience. One excellent example is the pairing of music with altered mental states: we haven't even found all the chemicals yet for safely, reliably, and desirably altering mental states. So a bunch of "good art" has never yet been experienced by humans (consider listening to a good album released this year, under the influence of each best intoxicant that will be released each year for the next several decades, as that many novel promising potential art experiences). I think it's way too early about worrying about having had each potential "good art" experience enough times for it to get boring -- and that doesn't even start on the hypothesis that some experiences cannot even be fully and accurately remembered because of neurological limitations, and will thus feel novel each time they're revisited.

With all that said, though, as I grow older it feels like "good art" is becoming harder to find. My personal hypothesis on this is that part of what makes art into a personal favorite is related to the amount of novelty, or rate of personal change, associated with my circumstances when I first encountered it. I find that I can game that system by trying new music, shows, etc at times when I am particularly receptive to change -- while traveling, exploring, experiencing major shifts in interpersonal relationships, etc.

Adolescence is kind of a cheat code for attaching to and identifying with art in a way that keeps it enjoyable, because it's a time of extreme change for pretty much everybody.

tl;dr I think genres get full in general because of how we define them, but we keep making new art, and we keep making new ways to make and experience art. I think many people have a personal experience of "good art getting harder to find" because factors associated with different life stages impact our receptivity to exploring new art and forming new favorites.

Comment by nim on riceissa's Shortform · 2023-08-13T19:50:23.208Z · LW · GW

The "pay 10x for something that lasts 10x as long" reasoning only works when the item is expected to have the same value year over year.

Some things are made of parts that last a long time, with technologies that aren't changing rapidly, and stay roughly as effective 10 or even 50 years after they're made. Consider a teapot, a dining room table, a simple electric heater, bicycles, many firearms. Antique store stuff. Higher-tech instances include good keyboards, good optical mice, probably good speakers, arguably good audio amps. Also some kitchen gadgets -- most dishes and silverware, apple peelers, grain mills, grinders, simple food dehydrators, popcorn poppers, good knives.

Other things are made of parts that degrade over time, and/or with technologies that are still changing rapidly because we're not there yet on their evolution toward a generally accepted standard of good-enough. Consider wall-to-wall carpeting, almost all upholstered furniture, bicycle and car tyres, car seats, smoke detectors, underwear, TVs, gaming PCs, phones.

Vintage fashion looks superficially like an exception to this principle, but I'm pretty sure there's a huge survivorship bias component there. Some old clothes got lucky and happened to be comprised of time-friendly materials, but many weren't -- even as recently as my own childhood, polyesters and nylons and memory foams were by and large utterly horrible textures. Most "vintage" aged items with elastic are worse than useless, as the rubber perishes over time.

For phones and computers in particular, the problem with designing for indefinite repairability is twofold: First, building for modularity has its costs and tradeoffs. User-serviceable interfaces are heavier, bulkier, less efficient. Second, you can't build modularity to specs that haven't been written yet. You can't future-proof a motherboard by testing it for compatibility with CPU and RAM form factors that haven't even started development when you're trying to build for them.

If you imagine trying to build a computer that can be easily adapted for compatibility with every component that might be introduced in the next 10 years, you also introduce a subtler form of waste by overbuilding. There are perhaps half a dozen different (and mostly mutually exclusive ish) ways that technology could go, each of which requires different support... and each of which doesn't require support for certain features which others might. By designing electronics just-in-time, we avoid the costs of building for compatibility that we would never actually use.

I agree with your sentiment that wringing more life out of our devices is a noble goal, but in practice it's a bit less obvious than I'm hearing you describe it as.

Comment by nim on The Empathy Engine: A Deconstruction of the Societal Metamorphosis through Technological Empathy Augmentation · 2023-08-13T17:26:04.530Z · LW · GW

impending thesaurus license revocation, as my interlocutor might pontificate

Comment by nim on The Empathy Engine: A Deconstruction of the Societal Metamorphosis through Technological Empathy Augmentation · 2023-08-12T19:07:12.772Z · LW · GW

use of language as performance art?

Comment by nim on Tips for reducing thinking branching factor · 2023-08-08T15:21:31.629Z · LW · GW

An option that will probably not meet your goals is to choose at the outset which solution you are going with, and value sticking to the plan more highly than you value the possibility of discovering/inventing a better solution. If you've ever taken a CPR class, this flowchart simplification was part of the curriculum. If you see someone become apneic and pulseless, you start CPR immediately rather than pondering whether or not it would be a good time to experiment with cooling their body to reduce neural damage until they can be re-perfused in a hospital environment or something. That cognitive topiary option of chopping off all but a few branches is sometimes great, but probably not appropriate to the problem-solving you're talking about.

The option that's more likely to meet your needs is to reduce the friction of note-taking. When you externalize your cognition, all the usual rules about written communication for a wider audience can be safely discarded. The purpose of taking notes when tackling a complex, branching problem is strictly to retrace your steps to an exact prior branch point, re-gather the context from that point, and continue down a different branch. Your notes do not have to make sense to anyone other than your near-future self.

When I'm personally exploring conceptual structures too big to let me just memorize my path through them, I take a linear series of note-fragments. I use more detail before and after branch-points that I anticipate wanting to revisit. When returning to a prior concept in order to branch off of it in a different direction, I simply repeat the words that are shared between the former path and the new one, and then go from them. Repetition of a short phrase is generally enough to cue me-when-rereading that it's a jump back up the tree.

Some combinations of people and problems do better with mind mapping techniques. Some combinations of people and problems do better with putting concepts on sticky notes, index cards, or other small objects, then physically moving them around. For the combination of you and your most frequent problem type, develop a note-taking practice that imposes minimum overhead while fulfilling the purpose of helping you visualize and/or navigate the concept that doesn't all fit in your brain at once.

Also, don't assume that any skill worth having will be easy the first time you try it. If you don't remember learning to type, consider the feeling of learning a new "more efficient" keyboard layout. Getting unstuck from a local maximum usually requires going downhill in some way, before things start improving again.

Comment by nim on On being in a bad place and too stubborn to leave. · 2023-08-06T18:30:25.576Z · LW · GW

Oh, your brain is making you struggle in different places than mine would, if doing things the "obvious" way doesn't seem initially loathsome! That's nifty!

The question to ask an advisor might look like, "what would a transition to a stem field look like for someone in my situation?". That is, at least, if you have good open-minded advisors. Not all programs do.

If your uni doesn't have anything in STEM, a different approach might suit:

Pretend that you are a 22-year-old retail manager who lives in your city. In this hypothetical, you went to work at a department store after high school instead of going to university, and worked your way up. You have decided to pivot your career into STEM. How would you do it? What resources are available? What social or professional organizations exist in your area, which might be able to offer guidance on steps that you might take.

In your situation I'd prioritize opportunities with a social component, like study groups or meetups or single classes at another local academic institution, over those without, like isolated self-study of online courses.

This raises the question: How much time is it appropriate for you to devote to exploring this transition possibility? It's obviously more than zero, but less than "all of it". I'd propose the rule of thumb that you should assume worst-case mental health next semester, examine your planned course load, and assess which courses you think you would be able to pass easily while badly depressed. Take those classes, and skip the rest. If you failed the others, you would have to retake them later anyway to continue on your current path. So you can get all the benefits of the "no change, bad mental health, fail some classes, retake them later" timeline, along with all the benefits of the "carve out some time to explore a possibility that seems exciting" timeline, and the only difference is that you don't pay the course fees to take and fail the extra classes the first time around.

Comment by nim on On being in a bad place and too stubborn to leave. · 2023-08-06T17:59:40.488Z · LW · GW

Consider this proposal:

Arrange for a light course load in your topic for a semester, and take a course or two, appropriate for your age and knowledge level, in the most appealing or least terrifying STEM field available. Frame it to your advisor as exploring the prospect of building on your undergrad with grad work in more concrete disciplines, and consider their perspectives on which classes would suit. Aim to dabble in the social side of the disciplines that you'd previously ruled out as being too hard. Aim to surround with people who have an affinity for those disciplines but are beginning in them at your age or older, and feeling positively about them.

You will probably hate many things about that "obvious" proposal, and consider it a poor fit for your life for many reasons. Examine the reasons, and the things you hate about it. Those reasons contain the most actionable and personalized advice on your situation that's available to you.

Comment by nim on When(if ever) are superstimuli good/useful/advantageous? · 2023-08-01T22:44:32.106Z · LW · GW

Efficient strength training tends to have a component of optimizing for stimulating the relevant muscle recruitment neurology.

Comment by nim on Is Light Drinking Protective? · 2023-07-31T16:37:42.174Z · LW · GW

Have you ever seen a study like that break down the abstainer group by their reasons for abstaining?

I wonder if we'd see different health outcomes corresponding to different rationales. I'd expect to see at least some difference between "I've seen it cause severe problems for an immediate family member" vs "religious or spiritual beliefs tell me not to" vs "I don't have the financial or social opportunity to" and so forth.

Comment by nim on What are examples of someone doing a lot of work to find the best of something? · 2023-07-27T16:16:22.501Z · LW · GW

the entire Wirecutter website, until they sold out and became ads. Consumer reports may still be that way as well.

Comment by nim on Why no Roman Industrial Revolution? · 2023-07-27T14:45:00.431Z · LW · GW

Ancient British history is deliciously weird, and a rabbit hole with many enjoyable documentaries. I'm fascinated by how many of the tropes and traits we associate with the region today actually seem to have been Roman in origin.

One factor to consider is simple geography: Island ecosystems of any type experience different constraints from larger ones.

Another factor is climate: An island that fluctuates between habitable and uninhabitable climate on the geologic time scale develops differently from a region that's more stable.

I have the impression that capacity to invent a given technology and cultural receptivity to adopting that technology are a whole lot less tightly coupled than it's often convenient to assume.

Certainty that the old ways of doing things have served one's ancestors well since time immemorial is a powerful innoculant against change. Kinda like how it's harder to try a new dish at a restaurant that has your favorite food in the world as an option on its menu. I think a shorter tradition of "this is definitely the right way to farm/mine/craft here" will be more receptive to potential improvements than a longer and more certain tradition.

Comment by nim on Cultivating a state of mind where new ideas are born · 2023-07-27T14:31:22.023Z · LW · GW

Might the pressure you're referring to be described as the value/pursuit of monotonic improvement?

Might the solutions you're suggesting be described as techniques for getting out of local maxima in a field?

The isolation that I hear you pointing at, I would describe as thinking two moves ahead in a game to seek optimal states, instead of immediately ruling out all possible sets of moves where the first makes things "worse" in some way.

Comment by nim on Social Balance through Embracing Social Credit · 2023-07-25T04:59:53.435Z · LW · GW

Well said. You'd think a system being trained to post here for maximum karma would bias toward locally prevalent terminology, but it seems more generic than that. I wonder what they're optimizing for.

Comment by nim on A case for gamete personhood (reductio ad absurdum) · 2023-07-21T01:18:14.397Z · LW · GW

Why is knowing the personhood of an entity useful?

Comment by nim on When people say robots will steal jobs, what kinds of jobs are never implied? · 2023-07-15T15:14:13.802Z · LW · GW

Politicians do not appear to expect their roles to be superseded by better automation.

Comment by nim on Lightweight minimal speech recognition? · 2023-07-13T15:55:16.240Z · LW · GW

Thanks for explaining!

Eye tracking could also mean face/expression tracking, too. I figure there are probably some areas (stage, audience) where it's important for you to look without issuing commands, and other areas (floor? above audience?) where you won't gain useful data by looking. It's those not-helpful-to-look areas where I'm wondering if you could get enough precision to essentially visualize a matrix of buttons, look at the position of the imagined button you want to "select" it, blink or do a certain mouth movement to "click" it, etc.

Your confidence in the quality of your mic updates my hope that audio processing might actually be feasible. The lazy approach I'd take to finding music-ish noises which can be picked out of an audio stream from that mic would be to play some appropriate background noise and then kinda freestyle beatbox into the mic in a way that feels compatible with the music, while recording. I'd then throw that track into whatever signal processing software I was already using to see whether it already had any filters that could garner a level of meaning from the music-compatible mouth-noises. A similar process could be to put on background music and rap music-compatible nonsense syllables to it, and see what speech-to-text can do with the result.

(As a listener, I'm also selfish in proposing nonsense noises/sounds over English words, because my brain insists on parsing all language in music that I hear. This makes me expect that some portion of your audience would have a worse time listening to you if the music you're trying to play was mixed with commands that the listeners would be meant to ignore. )

I expect that by brute forcing the "what can this software hear clearly and easily?" problem in this way, you'll discover that the systems you're using do well at discerning certain noises and poorly at discerning others. It's almost like working with an animal that has great hearing in some ranges that we consider normal and poor hearing in others. When my family members who farm with working dogs need to name a puppy, they actually test lists of monosyllabic names in a similar way to make sure that no current dog will confuse the puppy's name for its own. before teaching the puppy what its name is.

After building your alphabet of easy-to-process sounds, you can map combinations of those sounds to commands in any way that you like, and never have to worry about stumbling across a word that the text-to-speech just can't handle in the noisy context.

The less lazy way, of course, would be to choose your vocabulary of commands and then customize the software until it can handle them. That's valid and arguably cooler; it just strikes me as a potentially unbounded amount of work.

Comment by nim on Lightweight minimal speech recognition? · 2023-07-12T22:42:20.379Z · LW · GW

I hear the problem statement as "in a noisy environment, do a minimally acoustically intrusive thing with the mouth/breath/voice which sends a clear and precise signal to a computer".

My biases about signal processing and sensors say that audio processing is about the hardest possible way to tackle the challenge at hand, because you have so little control over the acoustic environment in the settings where I expect you'll want to use the system.

Here are some things that I expect would be easier than voice recognition, and why:

  • Eye tracking. Point a camera at your face, shine an adequate light on your face if needed, and use something like opencv to catch patterns of eye movement while looking at the camera. This is silent and, depending on camera position, could avoid interfering with you looking out at the room when not cueing the system.

  • Muscle measurement of something you're not already using when sitting and playing, if there are any such muscles available. kind of thing can talk to an arduino or pi. Could be tricky to find an appropriate spot for it and an intuitive way to handle input from it, though.

  • Accelerometer and gyro on the head could let you nod in a specific direction to send a signal to the system. Impervious to noise and lighting, and gesturing with the head is a pretty natural cue to use when your hands are full, so probably easy to learn.

  • If you have any range of motion available that you're not already using (knees? elbows?), an IR rangefinder or array of them could cue on the distance from the sensor to your body. This might be granular enough to select from several presets, chords, etc. Not unlike a digital theremin.

  • If you don't play in windy environments, an array of small fans that you blow on could be used as sensors that function independent of the background noise. I just checked with a cheapy little brushless 5V fan and blowing on it absolutely generates a few millivolts to a multimeter, more for blowing harder to spin it faster, exactly as the laws of physics predicted. Some rough guesstimation with a tape measure indicates that an array of ~1.5" fans at 6-8" from the face could be controlled pretty precisely this way, which suggests the possibility of a silent-ish breath-only version of the chord buttons on an accordion. This has the added benefit that a moving fan offers visual feedback that the "button" was "pressed".

  • Take a page out of the Vim book and add a single switch that, when active, recontextualizes one of your existing digital input methods to give the inputs different meanings. The drawback is greater cognitive load; the benefit is minimal hardware complexity.

Comment by nim on How do low level hypotheses constrain high level ones? The mystery of the disappearing diamond. · 2023-07-11T22:39:34.961Z · LW · GW

they can't determine which thief stole the diamond from the laws of physics alone

"thieves 1, 2, and 4 were all observed by credible sources to be in a jail at the other side of the city at the time the diamond went missing, and the laws of physics say that none of them can have been in two places at once" has a similar appeal-to-physics shape to it ;)

Comment by nim on [deleted post] 2023-07-10T16:13:09.513Z

Ok so first, I do appreciate the enthusiasm. Good job for trying to save humanity. Enthusiasm is important, so it's worth taking some social risks and telling people things they might not like hearing in order to direct it toward pursuits with maximum likelihood of achieving their goals.

spam and typos

However, the way you frame the entire problem smells incredibly grifty. I expect that someone sincere about optimizing for "protecting civilization" rather than lining their own pockets would write in a way that answers questions rasied by some background research, and build their product ideas atop what they learn from the communities of people who are already disaster-proofing their homes.

You know how they say that the typos in spam emails are to weed out the kind of critical thinkers who easily notice it's spam? I'm getting some of that vibe from this post in:

  • The conflation of pandemic risk vs AI x-risk -- both are buzzwords, and the appropriate individual preparedness for both has a bit of overlap, but they aren't synonymous like you're implying. It suggests a fundamental misunderstanding of preparedness to assume that it's best to prepare exclusively for some disasters to the total omission of considering others.
  • Shouting in the section headers. Did your caps lock key get stuck? Have you been on the internet so infrequently that you think yelling is the normal way to have a discussion?
  • Omission/secrecy around the practical logistics -- if you had some novel tech or discovery or business model, I'd expect you'd be bragging about its capabilities, even if a little bit of secrecy was appropriate.

location, location

If you had talked to actual preppers about this idea, their very first questions would include why the heck you're attempting this in a location where homes cost $1.5m to begin with. They'd also ask how long you plan for people to hole up in the hypothetical homes, what they're going to eat for that time, and how they're going to dispose of waste if society is falling apart around them and nobody is maintaining the public utilities.

If your houses are supplied by municipal water, what are you expecting the inhabitants to do if everybody who maintains those systems gets sick and can't work?

If your houses are rural, location becomes an even bigger concern, especially community dynamics. If your houses are distant from population centers, they probably won't need to be totally airtight in the way you're implying.

starve or be a target?

Either you have enough food to wait out a multi-year disaster, in which case you're a target because you have valuable resources... or you don't have enough food, in which case you'll starve if the disaster takes too long. One major premise of disasters is the thing about how supply chains get messed up, remember?

the CDC's Zombie Guide

Also, anybody who's thought seriously about disaster preparedness considers location as a primary constraint for their home's safety, pandemic-proofing or no. The kinds of people who care deeply about surviving likely disasters consider the likely impact of political, seismic, water, weather, and other factors on their home's location, so just saying "we'll make some pandemic-proof homes and sell them" without giving any indication of what other threats are relevant to the area where the homes are situated demonstrates that you really aren't thinking like your target audience.

You mention this briefly by listing all the potential disasters on Metaculus, but dude... when you're actually prepping for actual disasters, good preparedness kills many birds with few stones. For instance if you're designing entryway/vestibule architecture to facilitate biological decontamination and positive pressure to keep external airborne particulates from infiltrating the space, you're also most of the way to keeping radioactive material out of the home. If you're building for space efficiency, food storage, and passive cooling, and not building in a flood plain, you probably have a basement, which it takes relatively little additional effort to secure into a shelter against explosions and tornadoes.

For a long time the CDC was publishing preparedness materials about zombies -- not because they thought there'd be actual zombies, but because it turns out that if you're prepared for zombies you're in a really good situation to deal with all kinds of more-likely threats.

cost efficiency

You're also incredibly light on detail about what features you're actually offering. If you'd like to list some of those publicly, I'd love to discuss whether the tech you're proposing for them looks likely to meaningfully outperform the DIY options. I'd also like to discuss what disaster preparedness measures you may be omitting by fighting the last war with the pandemic focus.

target audience?

Are you selling to people who are already prepper-adjacent, or people who aren't?

If you're selling to preppers, you'll have to explain why blowing $3m city-proofing a house in a city beats blowing like $1m getting a couple hundred acres in the middle of nowhere, installing a prefab home on a good basement, and setting up utilities off-grid.

If you're selling to non-preppers, you'll have to find the intersection of rich enough for a $3m buy-in and dumb enough to not think through the better self-sufficiency they could get from that cash by setting up a bug-out location in the middle of nowhere.

In short, you're implying a customer demographic of wealthy people who want optimal preparedness in an urban location, and I don't think that's actually a thing. People who want optimal preparedness and think about many possible disasters almost universally plan to relocate to less urban areas in an ongoing disaster. And the customer base for whom a $3m purchase doesn't warrant serious critical thought is very small.

Comment by nim on The Necessity of Privacy: A Condition for Social Change and Experimentation? · 2023-07-10T02:02:21.062Z · LW · GW

The tone here suggests insincerity of willingness to change beliefs, which is why I'm personally not engaging with the proposed discussion.

(A comment like this will get one of two things: Actual surprise from an author who lacked the tools to frame the discussion in a way that suggests receptivity to good-faith conversation, or anger from an author who knows on some level they're actually just looking for the sensation of winning a fight.)

Comment by nim on [deleted post] 2023-07-07T00:50:11.934Z

The most obvious and trivial explanation is that the varicocele is causing an increase in temperature, which in turn is causing the sweating

Seems like an IR kitchen thermometer pointed at the skin of the area during sweaty vs non-sweaty moments could test that hypothesis pretty trivially?

You imply that it happens only while sitting. If it ever doesn't happen while sitting, what's different about the times it doesn't happen. If it ever does happen while standing or lying, what's different about the times when it does?

What's the minimum time you have to stand up to get it to stop or not start for the full 15mins when you sit back down again? If simply standing, moving, and sitting back down is sufficient, a timer set for every ~14 minutes to remind you to stand up with minimal interruption to your work could theoretically be the simplest possible intervention.

Have you actually told a doctor what you're telling us, specifically that you're experiencing hyper-localized sweating to a low percentage of your body's surface, and only in one specific position? Because framed like that, it starts smelling like some kind of weird neurological or endocrine malfunction, and the local vascular symptoms start seeming more like effects from a shared cause than a potential cause themselves.

Has imaging verified that your brain looks normal since this problem started? My emergency medical training biases me toward worrying about a brain injury, stroke, or tumor contributing to sudden-onset abnormal sweating.

Comment by nim on The Weight of the Future (Why The Apocalypse Can Be A Relief) · 2023-06-28T16:28:36.720Z · LW · GW

Hypothetical-you might like exploring abandoned permaculture sites -- scavenge their libraries for knowledge of what's good to forage, and their gardens for delicious food. Perennial food forests are a great hedge against long-term food anxiety.

Comment by nim on The Weight of the Future (Why The Apocalypse Can Be A Relief) · 2023-06-28T16:26:25.662Z · LW · GW

I was big into escapist apocalypse fantasy pre-2020, and I'm not any more.

Previously, I pictured the popular apocalypse as destruction of the agency-limiting systems of civilization, which would leave behind post-scarcity amounts (relative to the remaining population) of the agency-enhancing tech of civilization. It's basically the best of both worlds, if you survive -- you get most of the material benefits of centuries of industrialization if you're resourceful about it, without the individual limitations necessary for participating in the continuation of the industrial economy.

The other appeal of many apocalypse scenarios, which is highly impolitic to discuss in mixed company, is the population drop. I think there's a widely held intuition that modern life involves way more humans than our brains historically ever had to cope with. Fantasies about disconnection from the internet -- getting stranded on a tropical island with a good group, or similar -- address this problem from a less globally lethal angle as well.

The fantasy of a world in which an individual or small group functions (explores, rebuilds) independently might stem from the American cultural mythos of "wild west" exploration, and seems to also underlie the appeal of open world games where you're either the only person or the most powerful/agentic person in the world that you're aware of.

Post-2020, it's lost the appeal for me, though. Turns out my escapist fantasies were based on assumptions about humans' underlying pro-social proclivities that didn't actually play out when stress tested.

Comment by nim on Epistemic spot checking one claim in The Precipice · 2023-06-27T17:10:39.284Z · LW · GW

a mechanism based on the presence of surface water has the advantage of being able to readily explain the absence of plate tectonics on other terrestrial planets in the solar system.


My mental model of why we have surface water and plate tectonics is that the planet's molten core causes both. 

The molten core causes the magnetosphere, which deflects a bunch of stuff that would otherwise strip the atmosphere and water off the surface. It probably helps keep the surface at a temperature where water is liquid. 

The molten core also moves around and contributes to plate tectonics. 

Someday in the distant future, once the core is cooled, Earth will look kind of Mars-like -- no liquid surface water and no plate tectonics. 


This isn't to diminish the potential role of water in the details of how plate tectonics works, but rather to suggest that "tectonics because water" seems less logically sound than "water and also tectonics because of planet's core". 

Comment by nim on Model, Care, Execution · 2023-06-27T17:06:05.389Z · LW · GW

This maps surprisingly cleanly to a complaint I've often semi-jokingly made that most problems in the world (politics, relationships, etc) boil down to malice or incompetence. There's also an implied "luck" term, in both the model/care/execution model and the malice/incompetence model, of course, but it's rarely relevant.

Comment by nim on How tall is the Shard, really? · 2023-06-24T16:10:40.273Z · LW · GW

From the photo of the tower's shadow in this article, I have two further guesses about the relative heights of the viewing platform and the pointy bits:

  1. At some time in the year, the building's shadow will probably show the viewing deck height and pointy bit height, so they could in theory be triangulated
  2. Due to the surrounding urban development, it looks wildly unlikely that the shadow will hit any surface it's actually useful to measure it on.

It might not be legal to use from the viewing platform to the pointy bits, and it might not work in broad daylight, but a laser distance meter with ~50m range can be had for around $20 at the low end and fits in a pocket ;)

A sextant is much less likely to cause problems by interfering with other tech, though.

Comment by nim on How tall is the Shard, really? · 2023-06-23T23:19:35.875Z · LW · GW

Ah. Perhaps you could wait till someone from out of town is visiting, and use them as an excuse to go up to the platform... that's how I usually make it to local tourist spots =)

Comment by nim on Idea: medical hypotheses app for mysterious chronic illnesses · 2023-06-23T17:19:43.407Z · LW · GW

I wonder how much of the underlying "getting the data back out sucks" could be addressed by treating self-observations as metrics and using some backend designed for monitoring tech stacks? For human usage, it'd probably need an app that minimizes the effort of tracking things. However, a general tracking app with a decent api could probably be kludged onto a monitoring-friendly data storage solution with your choice of low-code or no-code tooling. Environmental variables could skip human input, and be automatically recorded from home sensors.

The post I expected from the title was about starting with the list of all possible diagnoses, and identifying all data that could differentiate between them, to establish the maximum that it would be medically useful to track. If I was building for myself, I'd probably try to start with all possible interventions, and go straight to tracking only the necessary information to determine which interventions are likely to make a difference.

I suspect this whole endeavor is an advanced form of one of the reasons that journaling helps people -- encouraging us to use our pattern-matching skills in particularly helpful ways.

Thank you for publishing despite the standards worries; I'm glad you did because now I'm thinking about interesting questions that I wouldn't be if you hadn't.

Comment by nim on How tall is the Shard, really? · 2023-06-23T16:12:46.243Z · LW · GW

Fascinating! It looks like there's a significant discrepancy between the highest spot a person can stand on the building, and the highest pointy-bits of the building top. Plausibly ~4m? You have a few more options than just web search, since you live nearby:

  • Have you gone up to the viewing platform ( and read any informational plaques that might be posted there? If you have a phone that tells you your elevation above sea level, what's it say when you're on that observation deck? Is there a guide or guard on-site who might know enough about the building to answer questions on it? (I know you say you can't go up but it looks like tickets are available?

  • Have you chatted with a librarian at a local library about it? They might have ideas for non-internet resources that could contain info on how tall each part of the building is. I'm thinking specifically that there were probably public hearings when the building was being planned, and those hearings probably involved diagrams of the building, but those diagrams would be more the domain of a historical society than current city records after construction.

  • Do any local museums have exhibits about the city's recent history that might include more info? If a museum even seems like it ought to have info, try dropping by a few times and chatting with the humans.

  • The fire department probably knows more than the internet about exactly what's going on inside the building, since they have to understand its system of standpipes, fire doors, etc to deal with emergencies in it. If you ever get to chatting with a friendly outreach person from them who has some time to spare, consider asking for their advice on finding out how buildings like that are measured.

  • Are amateur radio clubs a thing in your area? In my experience, they contain exactly the sorts of people who would know where you can find conclusive sources on this sort of interesting engineering trivia.

* Does the top of the building ever cast a shadow onto any park, street, or other publicly accessible location? If you know the exact date and time and location of the shadow of the deck and the shadow of the tip, you can combine that with a topo map and go full Aristotle to triangulate the heights of the parts that are casting the shadow. GPS is likely too imprecise to find the exact shadow locations, but a photograph of the shadow which lines it up with map-visible landmarks like building corners, utility poles, etc could be used.