Comment by nornagest on Tsuyoku Naritai! (I Want To Become Stronger) · 2016-12-04T03:03:48.212Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think conflating literalism and fundamentalism here is probably a bad idea. I am not an expert in the early history of the Abrahamic religions, but it seems likely that textual literalism's gone in and out of style over the several thousand years of Abrahamic history, just as many other aspects of interpretation have.

Fundamentalism is a different story. There have been several movements purporting to return to the fundamentals of religion, but in current use the word generally refers only to the most recent crop of movements, which share certain characteristics because they share a common origin: they are reactions against modernity and against the emerging universal culture. It stands to reason that these characteristics would be new (at least in this form), because prior to them there was no modernity or universal culture to react against.

Comment by nornagest on Dunbar's Function · 2016-04-22T21:19:08.943Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

While it's true that BMI is a rough metric and gets rougher when you're dealing with unusual proportions or body compositions, those effects are often exaggerated. An athletic male of 6 feet 6 inches (99.8th percentile) and 210 pounds, which is about what you'd find in your average pro basketball player, would score as normal weight.

Comment by nornagest on Open Thread April 11 - April 17, 2016 · 2016-04-13T22:19:59.128Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's hard to get players to use specific speech patterns, and harder to teach them to get it right. I've worked on a game which tried to get players to use pseudo-Elizabethan prose (in a particularly ham-handed way, granted), but in practice what happened was the people who didn't care just used natural speech, and the people that did used whatever butchered old-timey dialect they thought would be appropriate for their character. Most people didn't care.

Comment by nornagest on Open Thread March 28 - April 3 , 2016 · 2016-03-28T20:04:42.345Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I'm a One Medical member. The single biggest draw for me is that you can get appointments the same or next day with little or no waiting time -- where my old primary care doctor was usually booked solid for two weeks or more, by which point I'd either have naturally gotten over whatever I wanted to see him for, or have been driven to an expensive urgent care clinic full of other sick people.

They don't bother with the traditional kabuki dance where a nurse ushers you in and takes your vitals and then you wait around for fifteen minutes before the actual doctor shows, either -- you see a doctor immediately about whatever you came in for, and you're usually in and out in twenty minutes. It's so much better of a workflow that I'm astonished it hasn't been more widely adopted.

That said, they don't play particularly nice with my current insurance, so do your homework.

Comment by nornagest on March 2016 Media Thread · 2016-03-03T23:21:35.164Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That was pretty good.

I don't really follow the Narnia fandom, but whenever I run into it I'm usually impressed by its quality. Especially considering that the movies behind it (it seems primarily to be a movie fandom, though everyone's read the books) were second-rate as popularity goes and not particularly deep or creative.

Comment by nornagest on Attention! Financial scam targeting Less Wrong users · 2016-03-02T23:04:32.123Z · score: 31 (29 votes) · LW · GW

Let's not break our arms patting ourselves on the back, at least not until the data's in. At the moment we could be more, less, or equally susceptible to scamming than our demographics generally are.

It'd be interesting to see which, though.

Comment by nornagest on Open Thread Feb 22 - Feb 28, 2016 · 2016-02-24T19:41:48.378Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

For almost all subjects X, an X festival is an excuse to drink beer, hang out, and do silly X-themed stuff.

This should not be taken to mean that it has nothing to do with X, or that it adds no value toward it. What you're really getting out of it is an opportunity to meet other people who're into the subject, or at least well-disposed enough to show up to a festival advertised as such.

Comment by nornagest on Where does our community disagree about meaningful issues? · 2016-02-13T00:19:41.112Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Probably contrarianism talking -- both here and on RationalWiki, actually. I wouldn't take it too seriously.

Comment by nornagest on Open Thread, Feb 8 - Feb 15, 2016 · 2016-02-12T00:06:19.122Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My guess would be that there are a lot of truck drivers and it's a very male-leaning job, so I'd expect to see it paired up with a lot of female-leaning jobs of about the same class.

Comment by nornagest on Upcoming LW Changes · 2016-02-10T22:39:32.941Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not saying we should do away with rules. I'm saying that there needs to be leeway to handle cases outside of the (specific) rules, with more teeth behind it than "don't do it again".

Rules are helpful. A ruleset outlines what you're concerned with, and a good one nudges users toward behaving in prosocial ways. But the thing to remember is that rules, in a blog or forum context, are there to keep honest people honest. They'll never be able to deal with serious malice on their own, not without spending far more effort on writing and adjudicating them than you'll ever be able to spend, and in the worst cases they can even be used against you.

Comment by nornagest on Upcoming LW Changes · 2016-02-10T21:05:24.186Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Standing just on this side of a line you've drawn is only a problem if you have a mod staff that's way too cautious or too legalistic, which -- judging from the Eugine debacle -- may indeed be a problem that LW has. For most sites, though, that's about the least challenging problem you'll face short of a clear violation.

The cases you need to watch out for are the ones that're clearly abusive but have nothing to do with any of the rules you worked out beforehand. And there are always going to be a lot of those. More of them the more and stricter your rules are (there's the incentives thing again).

Comment by nornagest on Upcoming LW Changes · 2016-02-10T20:24:04.154Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Speaking as someone that's done some Petty Internet Tyrant work in his time, rules-lawyering is a far worse problem than you're giving it credit for. Even a large, experienced mod staff -- which we don't have -- rarely has the time and leeway to define much of the attack surface, much less write rules to cover it; real-life legal systems only manage the same feat with the help of centuries of precedent and millions of man-hours of work, even in relatively small and well-defined domains.

The best first step is to think hard about what you're incentivizing and make sure your users want what you want them to. If that doesn't get you where you're going, explicit rules and technical fixes can save you some time in common cases, but when it comes to gray areas the only practical approach is to cover everything with some variously subdivided version of "don't be a dick" and then visibly enforce it. I have literally never seen anything else work.

Comment by nornagest on Upcoming LW Changes · 2016-02-10T19:39:26.902Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The cheapest technical fix would probably be to prohibit voting on a comment after some time has passed, like some subreddits do. This would prevent karma gain from "interest" on old comments, but that probably wouldn't be too big a deal. More importantly, though, it wouldn't prevent ongoing retributive downvoting, which Eugine did (sometimes? I was never targeted) engage in -- only big one-time karma moves.

If we're looking for first steps, though, this is a place to start.

Comment by nornagest on Upcoming LW Changes · 2016-02-08T22:25:40.266Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm sympathetic, but I do note that this would further incentivize retributive downvoting.

Comment by nornagest on Open thread, Feb. 01 - Feb. 07, 2016 · 2016-02-08T21:43:39.349Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not talking about having a generally sunny disposition, although that probably helps; I'm talking about quantifiable questions like "how likely am I to get this job?" Unrealistically high estimates could fairly be described as denial (though a relatively benign form); nonetheless they're empirically correlated with success.

I'm open to the possibility that this isn't causal, though.

Comment by nornagest on Open thread, Feb. 01 - Feb. 07, 2016 · 2016-02-08T21:33:26.015Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure that's true. All the research I've seen on the subject suggests that successful people in most contexts harbor optimistic rather than accurate views of their chances, skills, and associates.

That said, there's probably a sweet spot.

Comment by nornagest on A Rationalist Guide to OkCupid · 2016-02-05T20:36:18.627Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't give out a lot of compliments in general. But when I do, I've had better luck complimenting people on appearance when it's stuff they obviously chose and put effort into: a haircut; tattoos; choice in clothing. Few people like to be complimented on stuff they didn't do anything for; many people like to be complimented on stuff they did.

(If you try clothing, though, be aware that "nice top" is likely to be read as "nice breasts".)

Comment by nornagest on A Rationalist Guide to OkCupid · 2016-02-05T19:59:26.162Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You have context. If you meet a woman at a bar, she's probably the kind of person that hangs out at bars. At an Iron Maiden concert, she's probably a metalhead. At a climbing gym, she's probably athletic and at least a little outdoorsey. Even if you just ran into her in a Starbucks, it's still one Starbucks in one neighborhood, and she was there and not somewhere else for a reason. You're filtering, but you're filtering less on what she wrote in one of the little boxes and more on what you both bothered to show up for -- which can actually end up being a stronger filter.

And if you talk to her for a couple minutes, you have more than that. That's true on OKCupid, too, but striking up a conversation there is a stronger indicator of interest than it is in person, so people might be more reluctant to indulge it.

Comment by nornagest on LessWrong 2.0 · 2015-12-04T22:36:40.702Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

"Nastiness in the comments" and "people asking him to be more rigorous" aren't mutually exclusive. I heard a lot of this in person, so I can't easily provide references, but back when that was all going down I remember a lot of talk from Eliezer and other major contributors about how LW was getting unpleasantly nitpicky.

In Eliezer's case this probably has something to do with the fastest-gun-in-the-west dynamic, where if you're known as a public intellectual in some context you're going to attract a lot of people looking to gain some status by making you look stupid. But I heard similar sentiments from e.g. Louie, and he was never Internet famous like Eliezer was.

Comment by nornagest on Sidekick Matchmaking - How to tackle the problem? · 2015-11-03T19:59:46.194Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

At that level, it looks like it mostly happens with incumbents, especially in districts so politically polarized that the other party can't mount a realistic challenge. In these cases, the real challenge to the incumbent, if there is one, would happen at the primary level and the Wikipedia page wouldn't pick it up.

I don't know how common primary-level challenges are. I wouldn't expect them to be universal, but I did see at least one entry on that page (Ralph Hall, for Texas' fourth district) where the candidate defeated an incumbent in the primary and then went on to win the general election unopposed.

Comment by nornagest on Sidekick Matchmaking - How to tackle the problem? · 2015-11-03T18:39:38.814Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's not too uncommon for candidates to run unopposed in local, sometimes even state, elections in the US. It's not the norm, exactly, but every so often you get an office where only one person has the time, interest, and availability to mount a serious campaign.

Comment by nornagest on Sidekick Matchmaking - How to tackle the problem? · 2015-11-03T18:33:36.980Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure about grand strategy, but I've definitely noticed that attitudes toward government, even that of the nominal good guys, are way more cynical in Eastern European (including Russian) fantasy. The arms of government it touches on often also strike me as more modern, involving things like special forces and organized espionage in otherwise medieval settings, but that might just be because I'm more used to the anachronisms in Western fantasy.

Comment by nornagest on Stupid questions thread, October 2015 · 2015-10-16T18:55:28.002Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There are factors pointing both ways here. If getting a job means giving up benefits for the unemployed, or means-tested welfare that you'll become ineligible for, that's a disincentive to get a job. But utility isn't linear in money, and so a job paying N dollars will always be more attractive to someone making zero dollars than the same job is to someone on UBI worth K dollars -- and increasingly so the higher K is. That's also a disincentive.

Which of these disincentives is bigger depends on the sizes of N and K and the specifics of the welfare system. I think I'd usually expect the incentive landscape on the margins to be friendlier under UBI, but it's by no means a certainty.

Comment by nornagest on Rationality Quotes Thread October 2015 · 2015-10-15T23:19:14.141Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Mocking tombstones is edgy and transgressive. Mocking pencils is just weird.

Comment by nornagest on Stupid questions thread, October 2015 · 2015-10-15T20:06:20.191Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If you find yourself so engrossed with abstract epistemic considerations that you can't deal with concrete ones, it may be time to start wondering how much instrumental rationality your approach to this epistemic rationality thing is buying you.

The best players of any game usually do a lot of systematizing, but there is such a thing as too much meta.

Comment by nornagest on Open thread, Oct. 12 - Oct. 18, 2015 · 2015-10-14T19:21:30.144Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe, but I've rarely gotten more than one offer from a given headhunter -- actually, I've gotten multiple offers from one company more often than through one headhunting agency. Reading between the lines, I get the impression that most of them have a library of openings and look in real time for candidates matching them, rarely going into their back catalog.

Multiple offers might be more common for people with less specialized skillsets than mine, though.

Comment by nornagest on Open thread, Oct. 12 - Oct. 18, 2015 · 2015-10-14T19:10:20.449Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know, but if you could get a working plan by asking on public boards, I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be worth billions of dollars.

Comment by nornagest on Examples of growth mindset or practice in fiction · 2015-10-01T18:26:36.492Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't read the Potter books for a long while, but from what I recall they're pretty good at avoiding instant-gratification solutions when there's some specific plot coupon that the protagonists need to master. The Patronus charm, the Polyjuice potion, etc. Harry even tries hard and fails to learn an essential skill once, with Occulemency, which is practically unheard of in fiction.

It doesn't seem to generalize very well, though. The protagonists are mediocre students aside from Hermione, and after the first couple of books her studiousness seems to be treated more as a character quirk than a serious advantage. And it's rarely more than a plot coupon that they need: most of their final successes come from dumb luck or outside intervention.

Comment by nornagest on Open thread, Sep. 28 - Oct. 4, 2015 · 2015-09-28T21:37:19.915Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

In the short term, rehearse well with as close a simulation of your eventual stage as you can manage, or use prescription or nonprescription anxiolytics, or try one of the many speakers' tricks for reducing stage fright. Most of the latter probably won't work, but some might.

In the long run, the best way is probably exposure: doing a lot of public speaking, perhaps in front of progressively larger audiences.

Comment by nornagest on On Walmart, And Who Bears Responsibility For the Poor · 2015-09-21T17:38:25.706Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Higher minimum wage means the poorest people have more money, then they turn around and spend that money at Walmart.

The poorest people do not directly benefit from minimum wage, because they don't have jobs. Many participants in the informal economy are also very poor.

One option I didn't think of in the ancestor is that people pushed into the informal sector may still be showing up as employed in the sources being referenced: people making a lower-than-minimum-wage living as e.g. junk collectors are sometimes counted as such depending on methodology. We could pick out this effect by asking for personal earnings as well as employment status: if higher minimum wages are coming out of corporate margins somewhere, we'd expect average earnings (at least in the lower segment of the workforce) to go up, but we wouldn't expect that if it's pushing people into the informal sector. A survey would probably have to be carefully designed to have the resolution to pick this up, though.

Comment by nornagest on Open thread, Sep. 14 - Sep. 20, 2015 · 2015-09-17T21:40:41.817Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, I'd interpret this very differently - inviting someone back for coffee is, on the face of it, saying that the reason you are inviting them is for coffee, not sex. Its a false pretext.

It's a pretext, sure. That's the point. The standard getting-to-know-you script does not allow for directly asking someone for sex (unless you're already screwing them on the regular; "wanna get some ice cream and fuck?" is acceptable, if a little crass, on the tenth date) so we've developed the line as a semi-standardized cover story for getting a couple hours of privacy with someone. You shouldn't read it as "I want coffee", but rather as "I want to be alone with you, so here's a transparent excuse". There are more creative ways to ask the same thing, but because they're more creative (and therefore further outside the standard cultural script), they're more prone to misinterpretation.

Compare the Seventies-era cliche of "wanna come look at my etchings?"

Comment by nornagest on Open thread, Sep. 14 - Sep. 20, 2015 · 2015-09-17T20:52:39.938Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It's almost always creepy in the context of an early relationship: whether you've kissed or not, it's a strong signal of contempt for or unfamiliarity with sexual norms. About the only exceptions I can think of would occur in very sex-positive cultures with very strong norms around explicit verbal negotiation. There aren't many of those cultures, and even within them you'd usually want some strong indications of interest beforehand.

On the other hand, if you've invited someone up for coffee (or just said "do you want to come back to my place?", which is pretty much the same offer), that's not license for them to tear your clothes off as soon as the door closes either. Doing that would be creepy, unless you've practically been molesting each other on the way over, but normally the script goes more like this: you walk in, there's maybe some awkward chitchat, you sit down on the bed or couch, they sit down next to you, you start kissing, and things progress naturally from there. If at any point they break script or the progression stalls out... well, then you make coffee.

Comment by nornagest on Steelmaning AI risk critiques · 2015-07-27T06:43:43.476Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Of course we can - because UFAI is defined as superintelligence that doesn't care about humans!

For a certain narrow sense of "care", yes -- but it's a sense narrow enough that it doesn't exclude a motivation to sim humans, or give us any good grounds for probabilistic reasoning about whether a Friendly intelligence is more likely to simulate us. So narrow, in fact, that it's not actually a very strong assumption, if by strength we mean something like bits of specification.

Comment by nornagest on Steelmaning AI risk critiques · 2015-07-24T20:18:08.509Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

UFAI is not strongly motivated to sim us in large numbers

This is the weakest assumption in your chain of reasoning. Design space for UFAI is far bigger than for FAI, and we can't make strong assumptions about what it is or is not motivated to do -- there are lots of ways for Friendliness to fail that don't involve paperclips.

Comment by nornagest on Welcome to Less Wrong! (7th thread, December 2014) · 2015-07-24T00:14:48.343Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

we praise people who build, but we neglect to shame the lazy gamers

I can't help wondering where you got this idea. The mainstream absolutely shames lazy gamers; they're one of the few groups that it's socially acceptable to shame without reservation, even more so than other subcultures seen as socially unproductive (e.g. stoner, hippie, dropout) because their escape of choice still carries a childish stigma. That's countered somewhat by an expectation of somewhat higher social class, but the "mom's basement" stereotype is alive and well.

Even other lazy gamers often shame lazy gamers, although that's balanced (for some value of "balance") by a lot of back-patting; nerd culture of all stripes has a strong self-love/self-hate thing going on.

Comment by nornagest on Welcome to Less Wrong! (7th thread, December 2014) · 2015-07-22T00:32:25.637Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

So why are taxes even progressive for the 99,99%? They achieve just about nothing in reducing GINI, they piss of the upper-middle who may be unable to buy a nice car...

The purpose of progressive taxation is not to reduce the Gini coefficient; it's to efficiently extract funding and to sound good to fairness-minded voters. With regard to the former, there's a lot more people around the 90th percentile than the 99.99th, more of their money comes in easily-taxable forms, and they're generally more tractable than those far above or below. They may be unable to buy a nicer car after taxes, and it may piss them off, but they're not going to be rioting in the streets over it, and they can't afford lobbyists or many of the more interesting tax dodges.

With regard to the latter, your average voter has never heard of Gini nor met anyone truly wealthy, but you can expect them to be acutely aware of their managers and their slightly richer neighbors. Screwing Bill Gates might make good pre-election press, but screwing Bill Lumbergh who parks his Porsche in the handicapped spots every day is viscerally satisfying and stays that way.

Comment by nornagest on Crazy Ideas Thread · 2015-07-08T18:28:28.544Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There have been a few apps based around this, though usually lacking the karma part. The one that comes to mind is Honesty Box for Facebook. (Which may no longer exist? I last heard of it several years ago.)

Comment by nornagest on Crazy Ideas Thread · 2015-07-08T18:22:19.668Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think a working model of this would look much like a cannon. Nukes don't directly produce (much of) a shockwave; most of the shock comes from everything in the vicinity of the warhead absorbing a massive dose of prompt gamma and/or loose neutrons and suddenly deciding that all its atoms really need to be over there. So if you had a payload backed right against a nuke, even if it managed to survive the explosion, it wouldn't convert much of its power into velocity; Orion gets its power by vaporizing the outer layers of the pusher plate or a layer of reaction mass sprayed on it.

But it might be possible, nonetheless. The thing I have in mind might look something like a large chamber full of water with a nuke in the center of it, connected by some plumbing to the launch tube with the payload. Initiate the nuke, the water flashes into steam, the expanding steam drives the payload. Tricky part would be controlling the acceleration for a (relatively) smooth launch with minimal wasted energy.

(And, of course, you're left with a giant plume of radioactive steam that you still need to deal with.)

Comment by nornagest on Intrinsic motivation is crucial for overcoming akrasia · 2015-06-26T06:46:47.982Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Consider the construct of conscientiousness. It's very suspicious that it maps onto a prexisting notion...

Is it? We've been modeling each other as long as language has existed. Conscientiousness might not correspond to a single well-defined causal system in the brain, but it would be no surprise to me at all to find common words in most languages for close empirical clusters in personality-space. And the Big 5 factors are very much empirical constructs, not causal.

Comment by nornagest on Open Thread, Jun. 22 - Jun. 28, 2015 · 2015-06-23T23:39:57.786Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Between the word "beliefs" (which rules out most demographic groups), the word "openly" (which rules out anything you can't easily hide), and the existence of a plausible "anti-X" group (which rules out most multipolar situations), there's not too many possibilities left. The correct answer is the biggest, and most of the other plausible options are subsets of it.

I suppose it could also have been its converse, but you don't hear too much about discrimination cases going that way.

Comment by nornagest on Autism, or early isolation? · 2015-06-19T05:11:53.545Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There are the so-called dumb jocks and then there are athletic geniuses (for example, Alan Turing was an extremely good runner). You could easily end up with a skilled team featuring a large gap in IQ scores. The endpoints of this gap would have overlapping interests despite the intelligence difference.

When I was in high school, I was a skinny nerd that could barely bench-press the bar. But I spent most of my senior year eating my lunches with some guys from the football and track teams, including a lineman who went on to the NFL.

These guys weren't dumb. They generally weren't academic stars -- they did well enough in school not to embarrass themselves in college applications, but they spent their time on the field instead of studying and it showed in grades. But they were quick and clever and could enjoy an intelligent conversation -- often a more intelligent one than the nerdy clique, once you'd exhausted the possibilities of Warhammer and Counterstrike.

(A couple years later, I discovered fencing.)

Comment by nornagest on Autism, or early isolation? · 2015-06-19T00:21:31.013Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

In that case, I'm an ENTJ.

Comment by nornagest on Autism, or early isolation? · 2015-06-18T18:02:02.662Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

But without medicalizing, how can we generate significant-sounding labels for every aspect of our personalities?

There's always divination. It's totally random, of course, but throw enough parameters and different methods at the problem and eventually most people will hit something they're happy with.

I'm a Cancer with Aries rising. What's your sign?

Comment by nornagest on Welcome to Less Wrong! (7th thread, December 2014) · 2015-06-16T21:10:43.601Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Welcome to LW! I suspect you'll find a lot of company here, at least as regards thinking in unwarranted detail about fictional magic systems.

Comment by nornagest on Lesswrong, Effective Altruism Forum and Slate Star Codex: Harm Reduction · 2015-06-16T20:50:52.318Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect most rationalists will turn out to care more about their cuddle piles than about their ideas becoming mainstream. There's always been a rather unhealthy interaction between community goals and the community's social quirks (we want to raise the sanity waterline -> we are saner -> our quirks should be evangelized), and we don't really have a working way to sort out what actually comes with increased rationality and what's just a founder effect.

Comment by nornagest on Lesswrong, Effective Altruism Forum and Slate Star Codex: Harm Reduction · 2015-06-09T00:02:02.679Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think the cost is higher than you're giving it credit for. Securing dev time to implement changes around here is incredibly hard, at least if you aren't named Eliezer, and changes anywhere are usually harder to back out than they are to put in; we can safely assume that any change we manage to push through will last for months, and forever is probably more likely.

Comment by nornagest on Lesswrong, Effective Altruism Forum and Slate Star Codex: Harm Reduction · 2015-06-08T23:52:50.108Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

An earlier version of my comment read "LW or parts of it". Edited it out for stylistic reasons and because I assumed the application to smaller domains would be clear enough in context. Guess I was wrong.

Granted, not everything I said would apply to the first proposal, the one where top-level posts are upvote-only but comments aren't. That's a little more interesting; I'm still leery of it but I haven't fully worked out the incentives.

As to empirics, one thing we're not short on is empirical data from other forums. We're not so exceptional that the lessons learned from them can't be expected to apply.

Comment by nornagest on Lesswrong, Effective Altruism Forum and Slate Star Codex: Harm Reduction · 2015-06-08T21:44:44.250Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Proposals for making LW upvote-only emerge every few months, most recently during the retributive downvoting fiasco. I said then, and I continue to believe now, that it's a terrible idea.

JMIV is right to say in the ancestor that subtle features of moderation mechanics have outsized effects on community culture; I even agree with him that Eliezer voiced an unrealistically rosy view of the downvote in "Well-Kept Gardens". But upvote-only systems have their own pitfalls, and quite severe ones. The reasons behind them are somewhat complex, but boil down to bad incentives.

Imagine posting as a game scored in utility. Upvotes gain you utility; downvotes lose you it; and for most people being downvoted costs you more than being upvoted gains you, though the exact ratio varies from person to person. You want to maximize your utility, and you have a finite amount of time to spend on it. If you spend that time researching new content to post, your output is low but it's very rarely downvoted. Debate takes a moderate amount of time; votes on debate are less reliable, especially if you're arguing for something like neoreaction or radical feminism or your own crackpot views on time and dimension, but you're all but guaranteed upvotes from people that agree with you. Plus telling people they're wrong is fun, so you get some bonus utility. Finally, you can post cat pictures, which takes almost no time, will score a few upvotes from people that like looking at their little jellybean toes, but violates content norms.

Which one of these is optimal changes, depending on how tolerant you are of downvoting and how good you are at dodging it. But while removing the downvote option incentivizes all three (which is why social media likes it), it should be clear that it incentivizes the last two much more. You can see the fruits of this on Facebook groups, that site's closest analogy to what's being proposed here. (Tumblr, and Facebook user pages, are also upvote-only in practice, but their sharing and friending mechanisms make them harder to analyze in these terms.)

Comment by nornagest on A Proposal for Defeating Moloch in the Prison Industrial Complex · 2015-06-03T21:00:56.185Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Prison gangs formed from a kind of arms race of mutual self-defense.

Lots of gangs form that way -- it's one of the two main pathways to organized crime, the other one being economies of scale in selling illegal goods and services. The Bloods, for example, started out as a sort of anti-Crips self-defense force, and many yakuza organizations are generally thought to have their roots in mutual-protection societies among small commercial enterprises.

Comment by nornagest on Social class amongst the intellectually gifted · 2015-06-03T16:52:36.912Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You've cited some examples of people who, it is undeniable, are successful, but who also happen to fit your argument. But equally there are many successful businesspeople who did not study maths/CS/physics

If only there were some way of quantifying this.