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Comment by nymogenous on [LINK] Antidepressants: Bad Drugs... Or Bad Patients? · 2012-01-05T01:05:37.284Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This is especially true for antidepressants because some are only effective on more severe cases (eg Zoloft); self-selection will yield a body of faux-depressed and mildly depressed people on whom the drug has no result.

EDIT: Apparently I was thinking of a different drug.

Comment by nymogenous on [LINK] Antidepressants: Bad Drugs... Or Bad Patients? · 2012-01-05T01:04:27.970Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This is especially true for antidepressants because some are only effective on more severe cases (eg Zoloft); self-selection will yield a body of faux-depressed and mildly depressed people on whom the drug has no result.

Comment by nymogenous on The bias shield · 2011-12-31T05:11:17.880Z · score: 9 (13 votes) · LW · GW

I feel like it may have even obscured the point...I spent more time wading through the math than I did thinking about the bias shield effect. Since it didn't really clarify anything, it came across as some kind of signalling...not sure if that's what it was, but it's certainly what it looks like.

Comment by nymogenous on Details of lab-made bird flu won't be revealed [link] · 2011-12-25T18:17:36.192Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

That must be why underinformed nuclear programs require so little testing to develop a functional warhead. Oh, wait...

Comment by nymogenous on [Link] Correlation Graphs Reveal Shocking Information · 2011-12-25T04:20:08.033Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

LW needs a (Funny) tag like Slashdot. I'm saving this for future use in dispelling the correlation/causation fallacy.

Comment by nymogenous on Details of lab-made bird flu won't be revealed [link] · 2011-12-25T02:13:51.501Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This seems like a sensible decision to me, comparable to the practice of withholding certain details about the technology used to make nuclear weaponry. No sense making it easy to duplicate hazardous research!

Comment by nymogenous on Just another day in utopia · 2011-12-24T20:26:42.177Z · score: 20 (22 votes) · LW · GW

Well no, but an AI could figure things out and then not tell the physicists. Same thing as when you let a kid take apart a toaster to find out how it works instead of just telling them...or was that only my parents that did that?

Comment by nymogenous on Just another day in utopia · 2011-12-24T18:52:05.142Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Excellent story! I second the idea that this belongs in Main.

Also, I particularly liked your idea of physics being left to humans so as not to spoil the fun. It's both an unusual idea and one of my personal requirements for a utopia...spoilers are so boring.

Comment by nymogenous on The Magician: A Reductionist's Allegory · 2011-12-22T22:38:54.095Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

A lot of of events, like lightning and the origin of species, were once mysterious magic tricks, but now have been fully explained by naturalism.

Minor nitpick, but neither of those phenomena is fully explainable by naturalism yet. Last I checked there was still a good deal of debate about the rate at which evolution occurs and how gradual it is, and no physicist I've talked to is sure why lightning generates antimatter

Perhaps a better example would be something better-understood, like rain or magnetism.

EDIT: I found an unrelated, but nonetheless cool article about stimulating lightning

Comment by nymogenous on Is anyone else worried about SOPA? Trying to do anything about it? · 2011-12-22T00:14:50.731Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Ron Paul has stated opposition to the act in the past, but I've been unable to find any evidence of recent activity on his part, so I classed him as a non-active opponent of the bill. I seem to remember there being a whopping ten representatives signing an anti-SOPA pledge a while back, which is probably a decent estimate of how many representatives oppose the bill (certainly it would indicate a supermajority in favor of the bill).

Comment by nymogenous on Is anyone else worried about SOPA? Trying to do anything about it? · 2011-12-21T21:52:54.586Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm under the impression that both support and opposition to SOPA come from people on both the left and the right

At my last count, there were five representatives actively opposing SOPA (Representatives Issa, Polis, Chaffetz, Lofgren, and Jackson, with roughly equal representation from both parties). Also worthy of note: Congresspersons have repeatedly (and sometimes proudly) admitted to knowing nothing about the internet, and yet refuse to allow experts to come in and speak.

Comment by nymogenous on Is anyone else worried about SOPA? Trying to do anything about it? · 2011-12-20T23:24:52.422Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Most likely because last time a takedown case went to them, they ruled that it was a violation of the First Amendment to take down some unrelated content (stuff on the same IP block if I recall) while shutting down a child pornography website. People hate pedophiles even more than media pirates, as a rule, so I'd guess they'd rule in favor of free speech here as well.

Comment by nymogenous on Is anyone else worried about SOPA? Trying to do anything about it? · 2011-12-20T21:59:18.722Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Block Freenet servers? AFAIK Freenet doesn't have servers to block, and the authorities have (to date) had serious problems tracking its use.

Comment by nymogenous on Is anyone else worried about SOPA? Trying to do anything about it? · 2011-12-20T21:43:56.081Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If one person knows about it they can tell anyone else who's interested. Tools like Freenet are reportedly very popular in China, since people just pass them to their friends and they're easy to use; I believe there are already Firefox extensions that allow the easy use of an alternate/extended DNS list, so those will likely be passed around in the same way.

Comment by nymogenous on Is anyone else worried about SOPA? Trying to do anything about it? · 2011-12-20T21:32:16.246Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't. It'll probably pop up in another nation in response to being censored by the US.

EDIT: Or did you think I was referring to the RIAA putting up an alternate DNS network? Because they're not, they're going to be censoring the globally-used one.

Comment by nymogenous on Ritual Report: NYC Less Wrong Solstice Celebration · 2011-12-20T21:30:45.511Z · score: 4 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Okay, I know it's a low-status signal to appear to be celebrating religious holidays on LW, but just admit it was a holiday party for LWers. There's nothing wrong with that as long as you recognize that the pagan holidays are founded on incorrect ideas.The verbal gymnastics in your first paragraph are seriously painful to read.

Comment by nymogenous on Is anyone else worried about SOPA? Trying to do anything about it? · 2011-12-20T21:16:40.274Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

What about international effects? To my knowledge all the main DNS servers are located in the US, meaning that SOPA will apply to internet users in all countries...seems like other governments might take exception to that.

Comment by nymogenous on Is anyone else worried about SOPA? Trying to do anything about it? · 2011-12-20T21:14:26.230Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, thanks, I'll update my post accordingly. Not having done a lot of work with online things, how essential is DNSSEC to day-to-day internet use?

Comment by nymogenous on Is anyone else worried about SOPA? Trying to do anything about it? · 2011-12-20T21:06:55.159Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, I hadn't seen that article. I'll edit my post accordingly. Thanks for the correction!

Comment by nymogenous on Visual Map of US LW-ers · 2011-12-20T18:56:43.734Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Even better would be to have the option to attach a zipcode to your account, so that people can check where you live, and so that you can manage your information easily if you change locations (or want to obfuscate your location by repeatedly altering it, since I know some people will want to do that). Additionally this would allow implementation of location-specific actions (eg, you get an email if a nearby meetup is announced), which could be very convenient.

Comment by nymogenous on Is anyone else worried about SOPA? Trying to do anything about it? · 2011-12-20T17:52:51.965Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Fair point, I should have been more specific. Maybe "An alternate DNS server that's unlikely to block things without at least a court order"

Comment by nymogenous on [SEQ RERUN] Absolute Authority · 2011-12-20T17:13:55.103Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, it does tend to lend sort of a cultish feel to the whole thing...I think Eliezer knows this, but underestimates how strongly people react to it. Remember, the general population is composed of the kind of people who think that dinosaurs and humans coexisted and don't know what a year is (or at least the general population in the US, I haven't seen similar studies from other areas). Don't expect them to be able to detect irony (if they even know that irony isn't an adjective relating to iron).

Comment by nymogenous on Presents for impoving rationality or reducing superstition? · 2011-12-20T16:45:33.529Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If you're not afraid of the possibility of offending someone, I'd suggest giving them a cheap gift (in addition to an actual thoughtful one) that gently mocks their favorite superstition. For instance, one year I got my Korean friend a cheap electric fan with no turn-off timer on it (a reference to the popular Korean belief in fan death). She was annoyed but somewhat amused, and has since discarded that particular belief.

EDIT: A personal favorite is The [blank] of [blank] by means of natural [blank] or the [blank] of favoured [blank] in the struggle for life, a copy of Darwin's Origin of Species with any word not appearing in the King James Bible blanked out.

Comment by nymogenous on Visual Map of US LW-ers · 2011-12-20T16:40:14.128Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Or a permanent link somewhere, some kind of "where are we?" button.

Comment by nymogenous on Visual Map of US LW-ers · 2011-12-20T16:39:40.395Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I know of several programs that can query a database in real time (eg, Tableau), but am not aware of any free versions. Given a database of US zipcodes and their coordinates and a database of LW poll responses, I'm sure it would be trivial for me to write a program that makes a list of occupied zipcodes, their locations, and how many people are at each one. Presumably then it would be possible to draw a map or feed the data to Google Maps...I'm not much of a hand at web stuff so I'm not sure about that.

Comment by nymogenous on Is anyone else worried about SOPA? Trying to do anything about it? · 2011-12-20T16:32:05.193Z · score: 12 (20 votes) · LW · GW

So I know we're not supposed to get into this on LW (politics, minds, death, etc), but I figure opposing the censorship of the internet is alright to do.

Is it possible to project likely consequences of this legislation's being passed? What are those consequences?

Based on the entertainment industry's typical behavior (eg, issuing a takedown notice to YouTube over a song supporting piracy that they did not own the rights to), I'd expect mass takedowns of all sorts of things as soon as the legislation passes. Possibly a full shutdown of YouTube, megaUpload, and other sites deemed to be "encouraging piracy", but I wouldn't offer strong odds on that.

Additionally, you can expect other nations to get sick of random things being pulled from the DNS registries (basically huge lookup tables that tell your computer what to do with things like "www.lesswrong.com"; changing these to a "this page has been removed" page is the SOPA method-of-choice for taking a site down). An independent DNS network will probably be created, segmenting the internet into a US internet and a global internet. The final result (assuming the legislation stays in place) will be a US internet that only contains content the RIAA et al. approve of; everything else will be blocked (although easily circumvented by switching to a non-government-controlled DNS server). Remind you of anyone else?

Assuming they are on net undesirable, what can be done that would be most likely to prevent its passage?

Scream loudly at your local representatives (if you are a US citizen), and encourage others, particularly the young voters who are very attached to the internet, to do the same. If you're not a citizen, try writing someone in a diplomatic position to protest the censoring of a global resource for the benefit of US corporate interests (everyone uses the same DNS servers at the moment, so you'll be seeing the results whether you live here or not).

If you're feeling technical, you could try switching over to an alternate DNS provider like OpenDNS or DynDNS (I make no guarantees on how well they function; I've never tried them personally but hear they work alright) so that you'll still be able to access forbidden domains. [EDIT: I have since been informed that OpenDNS is not fighting SOPA, and that using an alternate DNS server will cause DNSSEC to stop working properly for you, so this might not be a good option.] Alternately, you could look up the IP addresses of places you visit that are likely to be forbidden and keep them somewhere; just type them into your address bar (eg, htttp://thepiratebay.org is the same as 194.71.107.15) and you won't need to route through a DNS server to get to the sites (or so I understand, people say it worked during the last round of takedowns).

And, of course, spread information on how to circumvent the DNS takedowns (if you're not worried about getting in trouble for doing it). If the measures taken are seen to be both ridiculous and ineffective, the government is more likely to consider repealing the bill after it goes into effect (see, for instance, the proposed defunding of the TSA).

EDIT: I'd like to clarify that I don't think much is going to stop Congress from passing this bill (unless they actually listen to the experts they're bringing in next year), which is why I focused more on ways to deal with it passing than on ways to stop it. Complaining to your representative is still a good idea though; when things go wrong, they'll remember "those eggheads yelling at us not to pass this" and maybe listen next time.

EDIT 2: I'd also like to clarify that I don't mean to imply that China and Iran are inherently evil or something, but I figured it was a safe assumption that most people on LW would disagree with their censorship policies.

Comment by nymogenous on Q&A with Michael Littman on risks from AI · 2011-12-19T13:23:52.621Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Does anyone know what the largest amount of money wagered on this question is?

EDIT: I'm aware of a few bets on specific claimed proofs, but have not been able to find any bets on the general question that exceed a few hundred dollars (unless you count the million-dollar prizes various institutes are offering).

Comment by nymogenous on Q&A with Michael Littman on risks from AI · 2011-12-19T13:04:58.486Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

No, I don't think it's possible. I mean, seriously, humans aren't even provably friendly to us and we have thousands of years of practice negotiating with them.

Not sure this is a fair comparison for 2 reasons: 1) We don't have the complete source code to human consciousness yet, so we can't do a good analysis of it, and 2) If anything primates are provably unfriendly to each other (at least outside their tribal group).

EDIT: Yes, I realize that a human genome is sort of a source code to our behavior, but having it without a complete theory of physics is rather like being given the source code to an AI in an unknown format.

Comment by nymogenous on Q&A with Michael Littman on risks from AI · 2011-12-19T13:00:58.253Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I wouldn't take Moravec's paradox too seriously; all it seems to indicate is that we're better at programming a system we've spent thousands of years formalizing (eg, math) than a system that's built into our brains so that we never really think about it...hardly surprising to me.

Comment by nymogenous on The Controls are Lying: A Note on the Memetic Hazards of Video Games [Link] · 2011-12-19T08:26:59.181Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This makes a lot of sense; not many people make games that accurately model reality (with a few notable exceptions) because, quite frankly, video games are supposed to be escapist. Most gamers spend quite enough time dealing with reality without dealing with it during relaxation/fantasy time too, especially if it makes the game a lot harder to play.

Besides, having your game accurately model reality tends to make you look uncreative (and usually like a bad game designer, as mentioned above), which cuts into sales. Games are a business, after all!

Comment by nymogenous on A discarded review of 'Godel, Escher Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid' · 2011-12-18T20:36:16.281Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That I could see...the figures I can find say 400,000 copies sold. Assuming half of those are to mathematicians and computer scientists, that's 200,000 sales to our reference class, which would be reasonable once we take into account people borrowing/downloading the book.

Comment by nymogenous on [SEQ RERUN] Absolute Authority · 2011-12-18T06:13:57.912Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Has it occurred to anyone else that referring to quantitative scientific thought as "the Quantitative way" or capital-s "Science" may be reinforcing this type of misconception? In my experience many of the non-science crowd are slow to spot some types of humor (or satire, whatever this is properly classified as), and would take this as actual cult behavior.

Just my 2 cents on this kind of humor.

Comment by nymogenous on [link] Admitting errors (in meteorology) · 2011-12-17T00:06:46.222Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

My mistake, I thought you were referring to overfitting with the connotation of a deliberate choice, like the manager who thinks he should fit a 9th-degree polynomial to some essentially linear data because "the line gets closer".

The models used for economic or climate data are usually based on theory, giving them a sensible number of degrees of freedom that may or may not match up with how much calibration data; I would not class this as overfitting in the common use of the term, as all the degrees of freedom do have legitimate reason to be there.

Comment by nymogenous on [link] Admitting errors (in meteorology) · 2011-12-16T19:48:18.507Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Overfitting is one of the types of error that can crop up with this, but the error type that article refers to is the kind you get when you run a linear regression on a data set containing one point; there are infinitely many optimally-fit solutions that model the data.

Comment by nymogenous on [link] Admitting errors (in meteorology) · 2011-12-16T19:17:35.481Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

This reminds me of an article I read recently (and cannot find for the life of me) about the calibration of this type of model. Essentially, the author was pointing out that the curves fitted to past data to "train" these models frequently have more degrees of freedom than there are data points in the training set. For those of you who aren't familiar with curve-fitting, this means there is literally an infinite number of curves that can be fit to the data, giving a small probability of your algorithm finding one that models the future with an acceptable degree of accuracy.

I'll try and find the article again so I can link it.

EDIT: The article can be found here. It focuses on economic modeling, but the basic techniques are the same as those used in many other fields (including meteorology and climate science).

Comment by nymogenous on Allen & Wallach on Friendly AI · 2011-12-16T15:58:41.553Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The problem there is twofold; firstly, a lot of aspects would not necessarily scale up to a smarter system, and it's sometimes hard to tell what generalizes and what doesn't. Secondly, it's very very hard to pinpoint the "intelligence" of a program without running it; if we make one too smart it may be smart/nasty enough to feed us misleading data so that our final AI will not share moral values with humans. It's what I'd do if some aliens tried to dissect my mind to force their morality on humanity.

Comment by nymogenous on Question about timeless physics · 2011-12-16T15:51:01.336Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I was referring to the set of all experiences that identify as being XiXiDu as "you" for simplicity's sake; the sampling is the selection of a particular timeslice to experience (ie, XiXiDu was presumably experiencing t=N when he wrote this).

Maybe it would make more sense to frame this differently; the laws of physics dictate that XiXiDu will experience conscious thought at times t=a, a+1...b (assuming consciousness is non-magical and is a result of physics), so those timeslices contain conscious experiences by an entity self-identifying as XiXiDu. As I understand it, timeless physics predicts that they will all experience simultaneously (so to speak), so there will be b-a instances of XiXiDu running at the same time, giving a 1/(b-a) chance that a given instance will be experiencing t=N.

Comment by nymogenous on A discarded review of 'Godel, Escher Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid' · 2011-12-16T15:26:08.689Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Nope, you've got the right idea about his example. It occurs early on in the book, while he's trying to explain simple concepts to readers through non-technical analogy; sort of the way he explained complement spaces to readers by first asking which word contains the sequence "ADAC" in order (headache), and then asked what word contains the sequence "HEHE" in order; nothing particularly special about that either, but it teaches the reader a useful trick without presenting it mathematically.

Comment by nymogenous on Question about timeless physics · 2011-12-16T15:19:53.593Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Why do I find myself at N rather than 10 or N+1?

Well, t=10 is probably a time at which the universe was still quark soup, so you're rather unlikely to show up as a conscious being then.

As for appearing at t=N vs t=N+1, the explanation I remember hearing has two parts: Firstly, if you check out your physical state at any given time, it will necessarily not contain memories of the future; memory formation generates a lot of entropy, and time tends to progress from low-entropy to high-entropy states. So regardless of what time you find yourself at, you'll remember the past but not the future. Secondly, if we treat your personal sampling of time as random versus in a linear fashion, since at each point in your personal experience your memory satisfies this property you'll perceive time as flowing linearly (or at least in a forwards fashion) at any point.

So basically, as near as I can tell, there's no good way to tell the difference between any type of sampling from the time distribution; your subjective experience would be very similar in any case. You find yourself at t=N because you have to find yourself at some t, and t=N is about as likely for you to sample as any other.

Comment by nymogenous on A discarded review of 'Godel, Escher Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid' · 2011-12-16T15:03:43.511Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's not that hard to do (somewhat harder if you want to keep your Bach-style harmonies intact), and I don't think anyone claimed it was that hard, simply that it induces an interesting self-referential cycle. There's something rather amusing (at least to me) about a piece of music that can be played an infinite number of times without repeating a musical phrase more than the few times it occurs in a single cycle.

As for the quick rise out of the human range of hearing, it's just a small side effect that prevents musicians from getting caught in an infinite loop.

Comment by nymogenous on A discarded review of 'Godel, Escher Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid' · 2011-12-16T06:53:21.282Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If I recall correctly, he focuses on the fact that the piece may be played in a cyclical fashion, allowing an infinite loop of sorts.

Comment by nymogenous on A discarded review of 'Godel, Escher Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid' · 2011-12-16T06:50:20.339Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Or just pick a random scientist and ask ver what vis favorite book is, and 1 out of 5 will say: "Gödel, Escher, Bach"

Is there a citation on this statistic? Almost none of the scientists I know have even heard of GEB, let alone read it; ~10% know of it, and less than half of them have read it. (Granted I hang out with a lot of atomic physicists, so my sample may be biased).

Comment by nymogenous on Building case-studies of akrasia · 2011-12-16T06:31:49.074Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

INSTANCE I was supposed to have things done ahead of time for a roleplaying game I was GMing (the GM is the guy who makes up the scenarios, for those who don't know). Frequently this did not happen due to me finding anything else to do during the times I had scheduled myself to work on it. Ended up winging my sessions very frequently, and it showed.

ATTEMPTED SOLUTIONS

-Remove distractions; this failed miserably. I am apparently capable of distracting myself for hours on end by thinking about physics if the need arises.

-Don't schedule time to work, just do it when I feel like it; I worked a bit more since I felt less forced into it, but plateaued at a lower rate than I hoped.

-Reward myself with yummy snacks; was effective for a time, but did not last; not sure what the psychological effect there is.

CURRENT WORKING SOLUTION In desperation, I decided on a 'fight-fire-with-fire' strategy. I have the typical aversion to performing menial tasks (and occasionally my homework as well), so rather than scheduling two separate blocks of time for 'housework' and 'GM work' I scheduled a larger time block for 'Housework and/or GM work'. Turned out to be fairly effective, it allowed me to alternate between two nasty tasks without burning out (since I could simply walk away from the dishes when I got sick of them and go play with steampunk spaceships, or vice versa).

Note, however, a couple potential pitfalls to this trick: you need to have enough recurring nasty tasks that you won't run out of them, and depending on how fast you get sick of things you may switch between tasks at an unacceptable rate (for the record, my switch rate seems to be slowly increasing over time, so this may not work as a permanent solution).