Comment by Olomana on Three enigmas at the heart of our reasoning · 2021-09-22T06:59:48.232Z · LW · GW

Regarding the first enigma, the expectation that what has worked in the past will work in the future is not a feature of the world, it's a feature of our brains.  That's just how neural networks work, they predict the future based on past data.

Regarding the third enigma, ethical principles are not features of the world, they are parameters of our neural networks, however those parameters have been acquired.

Regarding the second enigma, I am less confident, but I think something similar is going on.  Here my metaphor is not the ML branch of AI, but the symbolic processing branch of AI.  Or System 2 rather than System 1, to use a different metaphor.   Logic and math are not features of the world, but features of our brains.

Comment by Olomana on Why didn't we find katas for rationality? · 2021-09-22T06:36:31.653Z · LW · GW

Right, and if doing computer-generated sudokus is a kata for developing the heuristics for doing sudokus, then perhaps solving computer-generated logic problems could be a kata for developing the heuristics for rationality.

Comment by Olomana on Why didn't we find katas for rationality? · 2021-09-15T06:09:22.788Z · LW · GW

I do sudokus.  These are computer-generated, and of consistent difficulty.  so I can't solve them from memory.  Perhaps something similar could be done for math or logic problems, or story problems where cognitive biases work against the solutions.

Comment by Olomana on Thoughts on gradient hacking · 2021-09-04T06:01:41.827Z · LW · GW

Is gradient hacking a useful metaphor for human psychology?  For example, peer pressure is a real thing.  If I choose to spend time with certain people because I expect them to reinforce my behavior in certain ways, is that gradient hacking?

Comment by Olomana on Rage Against The MOOChine · 2021-08-08T07:18:08.189Z · LW · GW

I have taken a few MOOCs and I agree with your assessment.

MOOCs are what they are.  I see them as starting points, as building blocks.  In the end, I'd rather take a free, dumbed-down intro MOOC from Andrew Ng at Stanford, than pay for an in-person, dumbed-down intro class from some clown at my local community college.  At least there's no sunk cost, so it's easy to walk away if I lose interest.

Comment by Olomana on The biological intelligence explosion · 2021-07-26T07:01:47.674Z · LW · GW

An Einstein runs on pretty much the same hardware as the rest of us.  If genetic engineering can get us to a planet full of Einsteins without running into hardware limitations, that may not qualify as an "intelligence explosion", but it's still a singularity in that we can't extrapolate to the future on the other side.

Another thought... genetic engineering may be what will make us smart enough to build a safe AGI.

Comment by Olomana on The Utility Function of a Prepper · 2021-07-22T07:22:50.094Z · LW · GW

OK, good points.  There is a spectrum here... if you live in a place where there's a civil war every few years, then prepping for civil war makes a lot of sense.  If you live in a place where the last civil war was 150 years ago, not so much.

CHAZ took place in a context where the most likely outcome was the failure of CHAZ, not the collapse of the larger society.  CHAZ failed to prep for the obvious, if not the almost inevitable.

Comment by Olomana on The Utility Function of a Prepper · 2021-07-21T07:23:04.294Z · LW · GW

For things like hurricanes, one can look at the historical record, make a reasonable estimate, and do a prudent amount of prepping.  For a societal collapse, there's no data, so the estimate is based on a narrative.  The narrative may be socially constructed, for example, a religious narrative about the End Times.  Or it may be that prepping has become a hobby, and preppers talk to each other about their preps, and the guy that has 6 months of water and stored food gets more respect than the guy who has a week's supply of water under his bed and whatever canned food is in his pantry.  The difference is not really the utility functions, but the narratives and probability estimates that feed into the utility functions.  The doomsday preppers are prepping more because they think doomsday is much more likely.

(I completely agree with your advice to store some water.  I do the same.  Over-prepping runs into diminishing returns, and not prepping at all is irresponsible, but a modest amount of prepping is a no-brainer.)

Comment by Olomana on Chess and cheap ways to check day to day variance in cognition · 2021-07-07T07:49:14.382Z · LW · GW

How do you distinguish between your having a good day, and your opponent having a bad day?

Comment by Olomana on You are allowed to edit Wikipedia · 2021-07-06T06:46:17.996Z · LW · GW

If you read a Wikipedia article and think it's very problematic, take five minutes and write about why it's problematic on the talk page of the article. 

FYI, I did exactly that a couple of weeks ago, and nothing happened (yet, at least).  No politically charged issues, just a simple conflation of two place names with similar spelling.  I thought about splitting the one page into two and figuring out what other pages should link to them... and decided that there was probably someone much more qualified than I was, who would actually enjoy cleaning this up, and who just needed a little nudge on the Talk page.

Comment by Olomana on Mindfulness as debugging · 2021-05-25T06:24:17.094Z · LW · GW

I was thinking of #1.  #2 applies both to genetic selection and cultural selection.

Comment by Olomana on We should probably buy ADA? · 2021-05-25T06:21:00.371Z · LW · GW

ADA is definitely a contender, but my concern is that they may be too slow.  I'd rather own a few coins, and rebalance as things develop.

(I own some ADA, and added more on the recent dip, but I have more ETH than ADA.)

Comment by Olomana on Get your gun license · 2021-05-22T06:36:17.750Z · LW · GW

A modest suggestion: first, learn how to shoot.  Something simple, like a .22 target pistol.  Find someone who knows what they're doing and ask them to teach you.  Learn how to load it, how to stand, how to hold it, how to aim, how to pull the trigger.  Feel the recoil.  Practice at a target range.  None of this is particularly complicated, but "gun" will no longer be an abstraction, it will be something tied to body memory.

Now, think about whether you want to own a gun.

Comment by Olomana on April 2021 Deep Dive: Transformers and GPT-3 · 2021-05-02T06:20:12.374Z · LW · GW

Thank you for writing this up!  This is also something I want to learn about.  FYI, there is a book coming out in a couple of months:

Comment by Olomana on Mindfulness as debugging · 2021-05-01T06:52:42.472Z · LW · GW

Even cultural heritage may be seen as especially effective compression heuristics that are being passed down through generations.

"Especially effective" does not imply "beneficial to you as an individual".  

Comment by Olomana on Let's Rename Ourselves The "Metacognitive Movement" · 2021-04-24T07:08:21.869Z · LW · GW

I like it.  By all means, as long as we're thinking about thinking, let's think about how we label ourselves.

Comment by Olomana on How can we increase the frequency of rare insights? · 2021-04-20T07:45:57.535Z · LW · GW

When I solve a sudoku, I typically make quick, incremental progress, then I get "stuck" for a while, then there is an insight, then I make quick, incremental progress until I finish.  Not that there is anything profound about sudokus, but something like this might provide a controlled environment for studying insights. provides an endless supply of classic sudokus in 4 levels of difficulty.  My experience is that the "Evil" level is consistently difficult.  I have noticed that my being tired or distracted is enough to make one of these unsolvable.

You also discussed cross-discipline insights.  There are sudoku variants, such as sudokus with knight's-move constraints.  Here my experience is that having recently worked on a sudoku variant tends to interfere with solving a classic sudoku.  I also solve the occasional chess problem, but have not noticed any interaction with sudokus.

Comment by Olomana on Is there any plausible mechanisms for why taking an mRNA vaccine might be undesirable for a young healthy adult? · 2021-04-08T06:19:48.289Z · LW · GW

Instead of an either/or decision based on first principles, you might frame this as a "when" decision based on evidence.  We've had about 4 months of real-world experience with the mRNA vaccines... if you wait another 4 months, that's double the track record, and it's always possible that new options will open up (say, a more traditional vaccine that's more effective than J&J).

Comment by Olomana on What ethical thought experiments can be reversed? · 2021-03-07T07:02:27.228Z · LW · GW

I would like to know which other ethical thought experiments have this pattern...

Isn't the answer just "all of them"?  The contrapositive of an implication is always true.

If (if X then Y) then (if ~Y then ~X).  Any intuitive dissonance between X and Y is preserved by negating them into ~X and ~Y.

Comment by Olomana on A whirlwind tour of Ethereum finance · 2021-03-03T08:04:18.831Z · LW · GW

Excellent introduction!  My own experience with DeFi is a few months in the Yearn USDT vault.  (It seemed like a low-risk way to learn the mechanics.)  The quoted APYs vary quite a bit from week to week.  If I calculate the APY myself over the whole time, it's about 9% annualized.  That's not bad for a stablecoin, but after gas fees for entry and exit, it's hardly worth the bother for the amount I was willing to experiment with.

I find that I like strategies with a lot of transactions, like dollar-cost averaging or asset allocation with rebalancing.  For these, transaction costs are much lower on a centralized exchange.

If I find something that I want to buy in one lump and hold for a few months, and it's not available on my exchange, I'd certainly consider buying it on Uniswap.

Comment by Olomana on How might cryptocurrencies affect AGI timelines? · 2021-03-01T07:01:15.922Z · LW · GW

Some cryptocurrencies, notably Bitcoin, are designed to be deflationary.

Bitcoin is not deflationary.  It is slightly inflationary, much less inflationary than fiat currencies, but it is not deflationary.

Comment by Olomana on Revelation and mathematics · 2021-01-26T07:01:59.788Z · LW · GW

"a feeling of supreme insight without any associated insight"... I call this a "content-free Aha moment".

Regarding math education, you might look into the Moore Method of teaching topology.

Comment by Olomana on Ideal Chess - drop chess perfected · 2020-12-18T07:26:34.859Z · LW · GW

Changing the rules tends to neutralize acquired knowledge.  A strong club player is strong in part because he has an opening repertoire, a good knowledge of endgames, a positional sense in the middlegame, and recognizes tactical themes from experience.  Beginners tend to be weak players precisely because they lack those things, because they haven't  yet made the investment in time and effort to acquire them.

Changing the rules appeals to weaker players because it levels the playing field.

Of course, by saying this, I'm signaling that I'm a chess snob, that I have substantial acquired knowledge, and that I'm strong enough to play "real chess".

Comment by Olomana on The Hard Problem of Magic · 2020-12-05T07:04:35.351Z · LW · GW

I enjoyed this and tagged it as Humor.

Comment by Olomana on Reading/listening list for the US failing or other significant shifts? · 2020-11-14T07:10:32.236Z · LW · GW

Search for "Samo Burja" on YouTube.

Comment by Olomana on Cowering To Genocide: Uighur Persecution And The World’s Last Hope · 2020-11-02T07:15:20.553Z · LW · GW

It's "Holodomor", not "Holomodor".

Comment by Olomana on The bads of ads · 2020-10-24T06:27:35.410Z · LW · GW

This means that if I see substantially more advertising for Brand X than for superficially-similar Brand Q, I can reasonably assume that Brand X is likely to have a better product than Brand Q.

I have the opposite reaction.  Example: two products sell for the same price, Brand X spends 50% on manufacturing the product and 50% on advertising, Brand Q spends 80% on the product and 20% on advertising.  If I buy Brand Q, I am getting more product and less advertising.

Another example: Diet Coke is twice as expensive as Sam's Diet Cola (Walmart's house brand).  Let's see, flavored caffeine water plus advertising, or flavored caffeine water without advertising?  Which is the better deal?

I see advertising as a negative signal.

Comment by Olomana on Have you tried's cognitive training or coaching? · 2020-09-14T06:33:22.671Z · LW · GW

Gee, if I do the training twice, can I get 20 - 40 points?

IQs are defined on a normal curve, and a standard deviation is 15 or 16 points, about the midpoint of the promised 10 to 20 point gain. A 1-sigma gain (for any reason) becomes statistically less and less plausible as one moves to the right of the curve. Based on the education levels in the user survey, Less Wrong readers are already a lot smarter than average. So, for us, probably not. For Joe Average, maybe so.

Comment by Olomana on Jam is obsolete · 2020-07-27T06:29:13.272Z · LW · GW

I like berries on my oatmeal, and have tried various kinds. Blueberries freeze well, and a thawed frozen blueberry is a reasonable approximation of a fresh blueberry. There is the same resistance, pop and release of tartness and flavor. Raspberries turn to mush when they thaw. Strawberries are somewhere in between.

Comment by Olomana on How I use Google Forms in my Workflow · 2020-07-27T06:08:55.542Z · LW · GW

Can you give me a away to copy your templates into my own Airtable workspace?

Comment by Olomana on Pulse and Glide Cycling · 2020-07-20T05:59:00.333Z · LW · GW

Ergonomics! Raise your seat to get full or almost full leg extension. Raise you handlebars if needed. Experiment. I find that slight adjustments to the bike make a big difference in where I get sore.

Also, look into interval training / HIIT, although this is more about maximizing output over time (cardio) than minimizing pain.

Comment by Olomana on BBE W1: HMCM and Notetaking Systems · 2020-06-10T07:07:17.227Z · LW · GW

I suggest making a distinction between non-programmable and programmable systems. We have non-searchable systems, like physical notebooks, and we have searchable systems, like wikis. Going from searchable systems to programmable systems is a similar quantum leap.

One might say that programmability goes beyond the bounds of notetaking, but if our larger domain (exobrain) includes both notetaking and programmability, do we want to mix them or keep them separate?

As a simple example, I can have Google Calendar email me every Thursday morning (programmability). Whatever I put in the event description (notetaking) appears in the body of the email.

Lately I am using Zim Desktop Wiki. I can make links that run batch files on my PC. Those batch files can launch applications or run little Python programs that access a database and generate Zim pages. This is very open-ended, but often with just a bit of programming I can add a feature that I will use a lot.

Comment by Olomana on The Solution is Inaction · 2020-03-25T06:12:59.402Z · LW · GW
The first group is remote-workers. These people are generally able to maintain their economic output while maintaining heavy social isolation.

Not necessarily. An example would be software development. If a business is facing declining revenue, suddenly that rush software project can be delayed or stretched out a few months, leaving the remote programmers with fewer paid hours.

Comment by Olomana on What are beliefs you wouldn't want (or would feel apprehensive about being) public if you had (or have) them? · 2020-01-16T07:07:07.974Z · LW · GW

Any belief that is the opposite of a social construct that most people around me have internalized. I'd give an example if I could post anonymously.

Comment by Olomana on What Resources on Journal Analysis are Available? · 2019-12-29T09:25:54.844Z · LW · GW

You might look into Topic Modeling, or Topological Data Analysis. The basic idea is to build a database of entries and lists of words they contain, then run the data through a machine learning algorithm, which groups the entries into "topics", and generate a page for each topic listing the entries that belong to the topic. Then you can add a toolbar to the bottom of each entry containing lists to all the topics that entry belongs to.

The algorithms have been reduced to black boxes, and there are tutorials for the black boxes. The difficult part is preparing the data. I've been wanting to do something like this for a while. I use Zim, a programmable desktop wiki. My problem is that my pages are full of markup, some of it generated programmatically, in order to make the wiki easier for me to use. All of the markup has to be removed before feeding the data into the black box.

Comment by Olomana on Reflections on Premium Poker Tools: Part 4 - Smaller things that I've learned · 2019-10-11T06:35:10.117Z · LW · GW

You're taking the talk about lunches too literally. "Let's have lunch sometime" often means something more like "let's pretend that we like each other enough to eat lunch together, without actually doing it." As long as the lunch is hypothetical and in the indefinite future, it's easy to agree to. When you try to pin down a time and place, the other person finds silence easier than scheduling a lunch that he doesn't really want, or explaining that he never intended to have lunch with you anyway. Let it go.

Comment by Olomana on What's your favorite notetaking system? · 2019-10-01T06:18:26.804Z · LW · GW

I use Zim:

It has the usual wiki features like searchability and hyperlinks. In addition, it is programmable. Links can run batch files on my Windows PC. The batch files can update a database or run programs that generate Zim pages from the database. Or they can launch Windows apps or virtual machines.

The transition from non-programmable to programmable is like the transition from non-searchable (Zettelkasten) to searchable (wiki). I don't want to go back.