Tapping Out In Two 2019-12-05T23:10:00.935Z · score: 16 (6 votes)
The history of smallpox and the origins of vaccines 2019-12-01T20:51:29.618Z · score: 15 (5 votes)
The Effect pattern: Transparent updates in Elm 2019-10-20T20:00:01.101Z · score: 8 (2 votes)
London Rationalish meetup (part of SSC meetups everywhere) 2019-09-12T20:32:52.306Z · score: 7 (1 votes)
Is this info on zinc lozenges accurate? 2019-07-27T22:05:11.318Z · score: 26 (8 votes)
A reckless introduction to Hindley-Milner type inference 2019-05-05T14:00:00.862Z · score: 16 (4 votes)
"Now here's why I'm punching you..." 2018-10-16T21:30:01.723Z · score: 29 (18 votes)
Pareto improvements are rarer than they seem 2018-01-27T22:23:24.206Z · score: 58 (21 votes)
2017-10-08 - London Rationalish meetup 2017-10-04T14:46:50.514Z · score: 9 (2 votes)
Authenticity vs. factual accuracy 2016-11-10T22:24:38.810Z · score: 5 (9 votes)
Costs are not benefits 2016-11-03T21:32:07.811Z · score: 5 (6 votes)
GiveWell: A case study in effective altruism, part 1 2016-10-14T10:46:23.303Z · score: 0 (1 votes)
Six principles of a truth-friendly discourse 2016-10-08T16:56:59.994Z · score: 4 (7 votes)
Diaspora roundup thread, 23rd June 2016 2016-06-23T14:03:32.105Z · score: 5 (6 votes)
Diaspora roundup thread, 15th June 2016 2016-06-15T09:36:09.466Z · score: 24 (27 votes)
The Sally-Anne fallacy 2016-04-11T13:06:10.345Z · score: 27 (27 votes)
Meetup : London rationalish meetup - 2016-03-20 2016-03-16T14:39:40.949Z · score: 0 (1 votes)
Meetup : London rationalish meetup - 2016-03-06 2016-03-04T12:52:35.279Z · score: 0 (1 votes)
Meetup : London rationalish meetup, 2016-02-21 2016-02-20T14:09:42.635Z · score: 0 (1 votes)
Meetup : London Rationalish meetup, 7/2/16 2016-02-04T16:34:13.317Z · score: 1 (2 votes)
Meetup : London diaspora meetup: weird foods - 24/01/2016 2016-01-21T16:45:10.166Z · score: 1 (2 votes)
Meetup : London diaspora meetup, 10/01/2016 2016-01-02T20:41:05.950Z · score: 2 (3 votes)
Stupid questions thread, October 2015 2015-10-13T19:39:52.114Z · score: 3 (4 votes)
Bragging thread August 2015 2015-08-01T19:46:45.529Z · score: 3 (4 votes)
Meetup : London meetup 2015-05-14T17:35:18.467Z · score: 2 (3 votes)
Group rationality diary, May 5th - 23rd 2015-05-04T23:59:39.601Z · score: 7 (8 votes)
Meetup : London meetup 2015-05-01T17:16:12.085Z · score: 1 (2 votes)
Cooperative conversational threading 2015-04-15T18:40:50.820Z · score: 25 (26 votes)
Open Thread, Apr. 06 - Apr. 12, 2015 2015-04-06T14:18:34.872Z · score: 4 (5 votes)
[LINK] Interview with "Ex Machina" director Alex Garland 2015-04-02T13:46:56.324Z · score: 6 (7 votes)
[Link] Eric S. Raymond - Me and Less Wrong 2014-12-05T23:44:57.913Z · score: 23 (23 votes)
Meetup : London social meetup in my flat 2014-11-19T23:55:37.211Z · score: 2 (2 votes)
Meetup : London social meetup 2014-09-25T16:35:18.705Z · score: 2 (2 votes)
Meetup : London social meetup 2014-09-07T11:26:52.626Z · score: 2 (2 votes)
Meetup : London social meetup - possibly in a park 2014-07-22T17:20:28.288Z · score: 2 (2 votes)
Meetup : London social meetup - possibly in a park 2014-07-04T23:22:56.836Z · score: 2 (2 votes)
How has technology changed social skills? 2014-06-08T12:41:29.581Z · score: 16 (16 votes)
Meetup : London social meetup - possibly in a park 2014-05-21T13:54:16.372Z · score: 2 (2 votes)
Meetup : London social meetup - possibly in a park 2014-05-14T13:27:30.586Z · score: 2 (2 votes)
Meetup : London social meetup - possibly in a park 2014-05-09T13:37:19.129Z · score: 1 (2 votes)
May Monthly Bragging Thread 2014-05-04T08:21:17.681Z · score: 10 (10 votes)
Meetup : London social meetup 2014-04-30T13:34:43.181Z · score: 2 (2 votes)
Why don't you attend your local LessWrong meetup? / General meetup feedback 2014-04-27T22:17:01.129Z · score: 25 (25 votes)
Meetup report: London LW paranoid debating session 2014-02-16T23:46:40.591Z · score: 11 (11 votes)
Meetup : London VOI meetup 16/2, plus socials 9/2 and 23/2 2014-02-07T19:17:55.841Z · score: 4 (4 votes)
[LINK] Cliffs Notes: "Probability Theory: The Logic of Science", part 1 2014-02-05T23:03:10.533Z · score: 6 (6 votes)
Meetup : Meetup : London - Paranoid Debating 2nd Feb, plus social 9th Feb 2014-01-27T15:01:16.132Z · score: 6 (6 votes)
Fascists and Rakes 2014-01-05T00:41:00.257Z · score: 41 (53 votes)
London LW CoZE exercise report 2013-11-19T00:34:21.950Z · score: 14 (14 votes)
Meetup : London social meetup - New venue 2013-11-12T14:39:13.441Z · score: 4 (4 votes)


Comment by philh on How do you survive in the humanities? · 2020-02-27T23:22:33.753Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

OP is taking a specific course at a specific but unspecified university. I don't know what that specific university is like, and probably nor do you. I've heard that universities in general are going in the direction you describe, and I wouldn't be surprised if the claims I quoted were accurate. But I still think you don't have enough knowledge to confidently make them.

As to the rest, I broadly agree but I note that it's weaker than what I was responding to.

Comment by philh on How do you survive in the humanities? · 2020-02-23T00:50:37.795Z · score: 12 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Unsurprisingly, questioning here is the path to you being burnt at the stake. Questioning is heresy.

This is about self preservation. You want a diploma, and you’re not going to get it unless you’re willing to lie about your beliefs and say the things you’re supposed to say.

I don't think OP described anything that looks like this. I don't know that it's not happening, and I don't know that it won't (though if it hasn't started after two years, I don't know why it would start now). But right now this claim seems unjustified to me.

Comment by philh on How do you survive in the humanities? · 2020-02-23T00:36:12.540Z · score: 2 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Notice that your teachers are actually rational, if you define rationality as success in life. Believing or at least declaring to believe something you disagree with did not hinder their ability to get the job they want and teach the classes they want.

I note that lottery winners are rational under this definition, and also that unless you have more information than is in the post, you don't actually know what OP's teachers wanted out of life.

Comment by philh on Editor Mini-Guide · 2020-02-22T19:38:39.077Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm reasonably confident the word "bignote" doesn't matter here (and nor does "longnote"), it's just the word chosen in that example. I just tested with "note" and it worked fine.

I do have some confusion here. It looks to me like the bignote and longnote examples are the same apart from that word. So if you tried one and it didn't work, then tried the other and it did, I don't know what else you would have changed. Do you happen to remember?

Comment by philh on Jan Bloch's Impossible War · 2020-02-18T17:57:09.384Z · score: 7 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The Franco-Prussian war was the first prototype of a modern war, one featuring the use of railroads, artillery, and all the new technology of creation and destruction that had come into existence since the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815

Not particularly important, but doesn't the American civil war from a few years earlier also fit this description?

(Even if it does, Bloch may have been less familiar with it.)

Comment by philh on The case for lifelogging as life extension · 2020-02-07T20:50:31.715Z · score: 12 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Death hack: instead of logging accurate information, log information that paints you in a good light by your eyes. With luck, the future society revives a version of you who is slightly more aligned with your values than you are.

Comment by philh on What Money Cannot Buy · 2020-02-07T15:26:11.120Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

citation farms already exist, so we know roughly how many people are willing to do stuff like that.

To be precise, we have a lower bound.

Comment by philh on [Link] Ignorance, a skilled practice · 2020-02-06T22:10:34.987Z · score: 15 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Somewhat duplicating noggin-scratcher's comment.

HHHT does take less time to show up than HHHH in repeated simulations, and is more commonly encountered in small samples.

This is true in specific technical ways and false in specific technical ways. It's far from obvious to me that the true ways are more important than the false ways. Here are some ways we can cash this out, along with what I think are the results:

  • Continue flipping until we generate either sequence, then stop. Which did we most likely encounter? Equally likely.
  • Continue flipping until we generate a specific sequence. What's the expected stopping time? Lower for HHHT.
  • Generate a sample of size > 5. How many of each sequence does it have? More HHHH.
  • Generate a sample of size > 5. How likely is each sequence to show up at least once? HHHT is more likely. This is the bet.

Even accepting the claim as basically true, it's because the end overlaps the beginning, not because of regularity. This is a type of regularity, I admit, but I don't believe it's well correlated with what people will perceive as statistical regularity. I think you get the same results with HTH versus HTT (replacing HHHH and HHHT respectively).

Comment by philh on Looking for books about software engineering as a field · 2020-02-03T23:14:41.479Z · score: 19 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I have an intuition here that learning to code might be almost necessary for what you want. It's only an intuition, and it's not very strong. You may feel like your current understanding is higher than this intuition would predict, and I wouldn't contradict you. But it seemed worth sharing.

My feeling is that trying to understand these things without knowing how to code, would be like trying to understand the classification of finite simple groups without having sat down to play with some examples of groups. One could probably get an intellectual understanding of a group without playing with them, but playing with them will give an intuitive understanding that will be super helpful for understanding a "simple group" on an intellectual level, let alone an intuitive one. And so on.

(The rough hierarchy here, as I see it: a "group" is a collection of objects closed under a binary operation satisfying certain properties (examples include integers with addition, real numbers with multiplication, states of a rubix cube with side-twists). A "finite group" is probably easy enough, a "simple group" is one with no "normal subgroups" except the ones considered trivial. To classify these groups requires us to understand "isomorphisms" between groups: the goal is to take a relatively small collection of groups, and say "any finite simple group will be isomorphic to some group in this collection".)

And so my worry is that the foundation you need will need to be intuitive, and not just intellectual; and the way to get an intuitive understanding would be to work with code. (Which is also more than just writing it. Like half the things you name are related to the problem of "running code on a computer different than the one it was written on".) Not necessarily to a high skill level, but to some extent.

Unfortunately, if this is true, it's not likely an easy road. I think I'd been programming for some time before I felt like I understood what an API was. (Not just programming, but actually using APIs.)

Comment by philh on Healing vs. exercise analogies for emotional work · 2020-02-03T13:58:48.585Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

And if someone said that they had done yoga for flexibility a while, then taken up running for the cardio, injured themselves and done physiotherapy for a while, and then started doing weightlifting for the sake of muscle, and each of those had been exactly the right thing to do, then that wouldn’t be very suspicious either.

To clarify, at the end, are they still doing yoga and/or running and/or physiotherapy?

If so, then this doesn't seem like a great analogy, since you mention "jumping from thing to thing".

But if not, this seems like an overstatement. (Which, to be clear, I consider just a minor criticism that doesn't reflect badly on the post as a whole.)

If we mentally change "exactly the right thing to do" with "a perfectly sensible thing to do" then I have no objection.

But if we take "exactly the right thing to do" at face value, then this does seem suspicious to me. Not out of the question, but implausible. I'd have questions like:

  • Presumably you aren't going to maintain your levels of flexibility or cardio, now that you've stopped those exercises. Why were those historically the right things to exercise, but now the right thing to exercise is muscle? Are you sure there's no wasted motion here?

  • Were you running with poor form, or did you just get unlucky? Or is running just something where you have a decently high chance of injury no matter how well you do it?

  • Why did you stop running after your injury, instead of going back to it for a time? Like, is it just a coincidence that the right time to switch to muscle was after your injury, or is there some causal relationship here? (An obvious possibility is that you may not have healed fully. If so, is that the expected outcome of running injuries; and if that's the case, are you really sure you should have been running?)

These questions could potentially have good answers. But by default, yeah, I'd expect that "exactly the right thing to do" is an overstatement.

Comment by philh on Coordination as a Scarce Resource · 2020-01-31T11:31:22.908Z · score: 7 (3 votes) · LW · GW

More generally, would it be reasonable to say that legibility relaxes coordination constantraints? That feels like it helps crystallise something I've been mulling over.

If you have a map of a city, you don't need to find someone who knows the city to navigate it. If you have accurate birth and death records for a country, you don't need to talk to local leaders to find out things like "how many people are avoiding taxes" or "how many people are dying of malaria". If you know exactly what quality of wood a forest is going to produce, you don't need to talk to all of the forest managers to find out which one is most suitable as a supplier.

Comment by philh on Book Review—The Origins of Unfairness: Social Categories and Cultural Evolution · 2020-01-22T19:22:52.171Z · score: 11 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This seems basically correct to me. But I think the example of dancing doesn't really work.

Consider a population of agents that meet in pairs and play a complementary coordination game, like ballroom dancers that need to decide who should lead and who should follow. It's kind of a pain if every single pair has to separately negotiate roles every time they meet! But if the agents come in two equally numerous types (say, "women" and "men"), then the problem is easy: either of the conventions "men lead, women follow" or "women lead, men follow" solves the problem for everyone!

This solution has its own costs, and only works if those are less than the costs of negotiating each dance.

  1. People have to arbitrarily exclude half the population as potential dance partners. Otherwise, half the dances will have two "men" or two "women", and there's no convention to deal with that.

  2. People don't get to pick their dance role. Note that this means most people probably don't have a strong preference between the two, but that also means the cost of negotiating is probably small.

(Though it could also be that people have a preference for "a consistent dance role, but I don't care which".)

If the labels really are just to solve a coordination problem, I think there are some other strategies that make a pretty strong showing: "taller person leads, shorter person follows" (or vice versa); "just play rock paper scissors if you don't have opposite preferences"; "choose a role and wear an indicator of it".

In reality, I think this convention only works because "men" in general want to dance with "women" in general - and then the labels are no longer arbitrary, we just have men and women.

(And I observe that the dance events I used to go to would sell tickets according to gender, not role.)

That is, when it comes to dancing, this convention has to be downstream of gender roles. It doesn't work to explain gender roles as "the kind of thing that happens when you try to solve the dancing coordination problem".

Comment by philh on Red Flags for Rationalization · 2020-01-18T12:30:53.068Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

True, reversed stupidity is not intelligence. Nevertheless, if you find yourself arriving at the same conclusion as a large group of idiots, this is a suspicious observation that calls for an explanation. Possibilities include:

There's an implicit assumption here that may be worth making explicit: that most of the world has not reached the same conclusion. It's not suspicious unless the large group of idiots disagrees with the majority opinion.

Comment by philh on How to Identify an Immoral Maze · 2020-01-16T19:12:24.248Z · score: 9 (5 votes) · LW · GW

When counting levels of hierarchy, it's not necessarily clear where to stop. For DeepMind, would you stop counting at the CEO of DeepMind, or continue through to the CEO of Alphabet? Or to take my previous job, I'd say there were four plausible stopping points (the respective heads of Universal Pictures International, Universal Pictures, NBCUniversal, and Comcast; though I could be misremembering the structure such that either of the first two is not plausible).

My impression is that when a startup gets bought by a large company, the startup typically turns to hell; and this would point towards counting the levels in the parent. But I also suspect that would be too pessimistic on average (i.e. adding a level above the CEO counts for some amount, but less than a level below the CEO). This is super not confident.

Comment by philh on How to Identify an Immoral Maze · 2020-01-15T21:22:21.413Z · score: 11 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This is mostly a terminology quibble, but I guess it also means I've been mildly misreading previous posts: I wouldn't say you have middle management until you reach four levels. That is, my usage (and also Wikipedia's) of the term would be "people who manage managers, and are also managed" while you seem to just mean "people who manage, and are also managed".

At least one of the corporations in Moral Mazes had more than twenty ranks.

But per the comments on the previous post, that's not necessarily (and probably not) twenty levels of hierarchy, right? In that someone might be given a promotion to a new rank and pay grade, while continuing to manage exactly the same set of people who themselves have exactly the same set of responsibilities.

In which case it's not clear how relevant it is, and it seems misleading.

Comment by philh on Meta-discussion from "Circling as Cousin to Rationality" · 2020-01-11T16:28:17.939Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

But of course it’s not costless.

To be clear, I meant only that "please" is costless (and you're right that it's only nearly so). This seemed relevant because we might therefore expect it to have devolved into meaninglessness, but this doesn't seem to have happened.

I agree with the costs that you list, with the caveat that as I mentioned I'm unsure about the treadmill. I just also think commenting in that style has benefits as well, and I'm legitimately unsure which side dominates.

Comment by philh on Meta-discussion from "Circling as Cousin to Rationality" · 2020-01-09T21:58:46.804Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I have no idea why your proposed alternative version of my comment would be “less social-attack-y”.

Nevertheless, I do think it feels that way to me, and I also think it would feel that way to others.

I don't have a good explanation for why. I do think that signaling "I am complying with the necessary formalities in order to ask what I wish to ask" is part of it. Similar to how the word "please" signals nothing more than "I wish to signal politeness", and that seems sufficient to actually be polite. Even though it's a costless signal.

It does feel to me like there's a risk here of a euphemism treadmill. If we can't get away without adding tedious formalities, then everyone adds those formalities by default, and then they stop signalling the thing they used to signal.

I'm not fully convinced this won't happen, but I do think it's relevant that there's a broader culture outside of LW which will exert some influence pulling us towards whatever signalling norms it uses.

Were someone else to write exactly the words I wrote in my original comment, they would not be perceived as a social attack; whereas if I write those words—or the words you suggest, or any other words whatsoever, so long as they contained the same semantic content at their core[1]—they will be perceived as a social attack.

This doesn't strike me as literally true, and I do think you could appear less social-attack-y than you do, without changing the core semantic content of what you write.

But I do feel like it's the case that your speech style is more likely to be perceived as a social attack coming from you than from someone else.

I wish it weren't so. It's certainly possible for "the identity and history of the speaker" to be a meaningful input into the question "was this a social attack". But I think the direction is wrong, in this case. I think you're the single user on LW who's earned the most epistemic "benefit of the doubt". That is, if literally any other user were to write in the style you write, I think it would be epistemically correct to give more probability to it being a social attack than it is for you.

And yet here we are. I don't claim to fully understand it.

That I can’t come up with any good guess about the meaning of the word is implicated by me asking the question in the first place.

I don't think this is true. It might be that you think you probably could come up with a good guess, but don't want to spend the cognitive effort on doing so. It might be that you think you have a good guess, but you want to confirm that it's right. I've sometimes asked people to clarify their meaning for a reason along the lines of: "I'm pretty sure I have a good idea what you mean. But if I give my own definition and then reply to it, you can say that that wasn't what you meant. If you give your own definition, I can hold you to it." (Implicit to this is a mistrust of their honesty and/or rationality.)

That the term is central to the argument is obvious once the question is asked.

I don't think this is true, either. Someone might ask this question about a term that isn't central, perhaps just because they're curious about a tangent.

That we should avoid the illusion of transparency is little more than an applause light for a locally shared (and publicly known to be shared) value.

This does seem true.

I feel like I may well be using the term "social attack" to refer to a group of things that should ideally be separated. If I am doing that, I'm not sure whether the confusion was originally introduced by myself or not. I'm not sure what to do with this feeling, but I do think I should note it.

Although I don't think you're performing social attacks - in this case, I don't think I even feel-them-but-disendorse-that-feeling - I do think this is the kind of conversation that has potential to eat up lots of time unproductively. (Which, I guess that points against my "I would be surprised" from two comments up.) So by default, after this comment I'm going to limit myself to two more posts on this topic.

Comment by philh on Meta-discussion from "Circling as Cousin to Rationality" · 2020-01-08T23:31:48.616Z · score: 6 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Separately: given that Said's comments are often perceived as social attacks, it seems to me that this is most of the problem[1]. If a thread turns out to be a giant waste of everyone's time, then that's also bad, of course... but I would be surprised if that happened to nearly the same extent, without the percieved-social-attack thing going on.

You propose elsethread that Said could try to generate plausible interpretations to include in his comments. But if we take the main goal to be defusing perceptions of social attack, we should remember that there are other ways to achieve that goal.

For example, the following seems less social-attack-y to me than Said's original comment in this thread[2]; I'd be curious how you'd have felt about it. (And curious how Said would have felt about writing it, or something like it.)

What do you mean by ‘authentic’, ‘authenticity’, etc.? I don’t think I’ve seen these terms (as you use them) explained on Less Wrong.

I might be able to come up with a guess about what you mean, but I don't think it would be a very good one. The terms seem pretty central to the argument you're making here, so I think it's important that we avoid illusion of transparency regarding them.

[1] I do think it matters whether or not this perception is accurate, but it might not matter for the question of "what effect do these comments have on the social fabric of LW".

[2] And FWIW, I don't expect the original comment was intended as a social attack in the slightest. But I do think it felt like one, to me, to some degree.

Comment by philh on Meta-discussion from "Circling as Cousin to Rationality" · 2020-01-08T22:51:01.824Z · score: 16 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It’s pretty common for you to ask for clarification on words, phrases or concepts that feel like they have pretty straightforward meanings to me, and I can’t remember a single of the (at least a dozen) threads in which you asking questions of that type resulted in a conversation that I thought was worth the time of the author, or was net-positive for my experience on LessWrong.

I'm surprised at the examples you give.

What they all have in common is Said asking for clarification on a word or phrase. In 4/5, someone gave a definition that Said either accepted or didn't follow up on. All of these cases seem positive to me. (I can't judge how much time they cost, but one was just a link to a definition, one was quoting wikipedia and the others were fairly brief, so I'd guess not prohibitively much.) In the exception, there was no answer at all; if that's not positive, it's certainly not very negative either. They also have this in common with the specific comment that started this thread.

Two of them have more going on than that, and one of them seems much more like an example of the thing you seem to be pointing at, where much back-and-forth is had, much time is spent, and not much gets resolved. (The other was the one that got no reply.) They do not have this in common with the specific comment that started this thread.

When I think back to other examples of this thing happening, the one I came up with was on "zetetic explanation", and I don't see Said doing "ask for clarification on a word or phrase" there. (Certainly if he does, then by that time things are already well underway.)

So just judging by these examples, I wouldn't expect Said's comment in this case to cause the thing you're worried about.

(Forgive me if someone has already made this point. I read almost the whole thread and skimmed the rest, and I don't remember anyone doing so. But I wouldn't be shocked to see that I just missed it.)

Comment by philh on Meta-discussion from "Circling as Cousin to Rationality" · 2020-01-08T21:56:46.646Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

As I mentioned in many other places, I am also very confident that dozens of authors have perceived Said’s comments to primarily be social attacks, and have found them to be major obstacles to engaging with LessWrong.

I'm a bit surprised that no one in this comment chain (as far as I can see) has mentioned the possibility of these users deleting such comments on their posts, or even blocking Said in general.

It's not a perfect solution, and maybe not all these users have enough karma to moderate their own posts (how much karma does that need?), and I believe blocking is a relatively recent feature, but... it seems like it could meaningfully lessen these obstacles?

Comment by philh on Dominic Cummings: "we’re hiring data scientists, project managers, policy experts, assorted weirdos" · 2020-01-08T12:03:52.051Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I've heard this type of speech named "enactive" (to go along with the more common denotative aka descriptive, normative aka prescriptive, imperative).

Comment by philh on Does GPT-2 Understand Anything? · 2020-01-07T23:04:13.363Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Sentences 1 and 4 should have higher probability than sentences 2 and 3. What they find is that GPT-2 does worse than chance on these kinds of problems. If a sentence is likely, a variation on the sentence with opposite meaning tends to have similar likelihood.


Despite all this, when generating text, GPT-2 is more likely to generate a true sentence than the opposite of a true sentence. “Polar bears are found in the Arctic” is far more likely to be generated than “Polar bears are found in the tropics,” and it is also more likely to be generated than “Polar bears are not found in the Arctic” because “not found” is a less likely construction to be used in real writing than “found.”

Hm. These sound contradictory to me?

My understanding is that a sentence's proability of being generated is closely related to its likelihood; closely enough that if a sentence has similar likelihood as its negation, it should have similar probability of generation, and vice versa. But then the first quote says "true sentences have similar, but lower likelihood than their negations" and the second says "true sentences have higher likelihood than their negations".

Assuming I've got that right, what gives?

Related question: what's the precise ranking of sentences 1-4? The quote suggests that some aggregation of 2 and 3 is ranked higher than the same aggregation of 1 and 4; but is it 2>3>1>4, or 2>1>3>4, or what?

Comment by philh on Programmers Should Plan For Lower Pay · 2020-01-02T15:27:51.824Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I also bet more than 50% chance that within 3 years at least one of {Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon} will give more than 50% of their software engineers the ability to work from home for at least 80% of their workdays.

If that's not just a figure of speech, I'll take this bet. $100 each?

(This is not intended as commentary on the question at hand.)

Comment by philh on Programmers Should Plan For Lower Pay · 2020-01-02T15:23:26.952Z · score: 16 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I also bet more than 50% chance that within 3 years at least one of {Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon} will give more than 50% of their software engineers the ability to work from home for at least 80% of their workdays.

If that's not just a figure of speech, I'll take this bet. $100 each?

(This is not intended as commentary on the question at hand.)

Comment by philh on Programmers Should Plan For Lower Pay · 2019-12-31T11:43:34.879Z · score: 11 (4 votes) · LW · GW

randomsong describes at least 15 successes and zero failures, which is certainly not what I would have predicted in advance. If we take this at face value, either they have a pretty strong filter for who they teach[1] or it's pretty decent evidence that "anybody" can learn programming, at least for colloquial definitions of "anyone".

[1] Which is the opposite of what they're trying to have, though of course that doesn't rule out that they have one anyway.

Comment by philh on We run the Center for Applied Rationality, AMA · 2019-12-28T13:25:44.779Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps I'm misinterpreting you, but I feel like this was intended as disagreement? If so, I'd appreciate clarification. It seems basically correct to me, and consistent with what I said previously. I still think that: if, in 2011, you gave 10% probability by 2018 and 50% by 2028; and if, in 2019, you still give 50% by 2028 (as an explicit estimate, i.e. you haven't just not-given an updated estimate); then this is surprising, even acknowledging that 50% is probably not very precise in either case.

Comment by philh on Free Speech and Triskaidekaphobic Calculators: A Reply to Hubinger on the Relevance of Public Online Discussion to Existential Risk · 2019-12-24T22:07:00.152Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

real-world floating-point numbers (which your standard desk calculator uses)

Not that it matters, but I expect (and Google seems to confirm) most calculators will use something else, mostly fixed point decimal-based arithmetic. I don't offhand know if that's associative.

I hope there aren’t any pedants on this website!

Well this is awkward.

Comment by philh on Understanding Machine Learning (I) · 2019-12-24T18:24:55.993Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

In the case of binary classification (i.e. where |Y|=2), we always set ℓ(h):=D{(x,y)∈X×Y|h(x)≠y}, i.e. the probability that our predictor gets the label on a freshly sampled point wrong.

Does this assume that we want a false negative to be penalized the same as a false positive? Or would that be adjusted for in some other place?

Comment by philh on Neural networks as non-leaky mathematical abstraction · 2019-12-23T16:54:54.067Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

For another example take integrals (∫), where the argument for leakiness can be succinctly state. To master the abstraction one needs to understand all of calculus and all that is foundational to calculus (also known as “all of math” until 60 years ago or so).

I'm not sure I follow. I certainly did a lot of integration before I knew how to formalize the concept, and I think the formal details only rarely leak. Certainly, I got through an entire four-year math degree without learning most of the formalisms listed there.

Perhaps this is not "mastering" integrals, but... if integrals are above the bar for leakiness, I'd be surprised if neural nets are below it (though I'm less comfortable with those than I am with integrals).

Comment by philh on We run the Center for Applied Rationality, AMA · 2019-12-23T10:19:29.472Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

To suggest something more concrete... would you predict that if an X-ist wanted to pass a Y-ist's ITT, they would have more success if the two of them sat down to circle beforehand? Relative to doing nothing, and/or relative to other possible interventions like discussing X vs Y? For values of X and Y like Democrat/Republican, yay-SJ/boo-SJ, cat person/dog person, MIRI's approach to AI/Paul Christiano's approach?

It seems to me that (roughly speaking) if circling was more successful than other interventions, or successful on a wider range of topics, that would validate its utility. Said, do you agree?

Comment by philh on We run the Center for Applied Rationality, AMA · 2019-12-22T16:57:21.829Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think it's that simple. The uncertainty isn't just about pace of development but about how much development needs to be done.

But even if it does mean that, would that not be surprising? Perhaps not if he'd originally given a narrow confidence internal, but his 10% estimate was in 2018. For us to be hitting the average precisely enough to not move the 50% estimate much... I haven't done any arithmetic here, but I think that would be surprising, yeah.

And my sense is that the additional complexity makes it more surprising, not less.

Comment by philh on We run the Center for Applied Rationality, AMA · 2019-12-21T10:25:45.769Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Don’t forget that Shane Legg, one of the cofounders of DeepMind, has been consistently predicting AGI with 50% probability by 2028 (e.g. he said it here in 2011).

Just noting that since then, half the time to 2028 has elapsed. If he's still giving 50%, that's kind of surprising.

Comment by philh on ialdabaoth is banned · 2019-12-17T15:35:28.861Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I confess I don't know what you're trying to say here. I have a few vague hypotheses, but none that stand out as particularly likely based on either the quoted text or the context. (E.g. one of them is "remember that something that looks/is called evil, may not be"; but only a small part of the text deals with that, and even if you'd said it explicitly I wouldn't know why you'd said it. The rest are all on about that level.)

Comment by philh on Bayesian examination · 2019-12-17T12:50:57.329Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think this is a knock-down argument, but:

Suppose the students are subsequently told, by someone whom they trust but who happens to be wrong, that the answer isn't A.

The 50:50:0:0 student says "okay, then it must be B". The 50:25:25:0 student says "okay, then it must be B or C, 50% on each". And the 50:17:17:17 student says "okay, then I don't know".

I don't think these responses are equally good, and I don't think they should be rewarded equally. The second student is more confused by fiction than the first, and the third is more confused again.

That said, to give a concrete example: what is 70*80? Is it 5600, 5400, 56000, or 3? By the way, it's not 5600.

Obviously the best response here is "um, yes it is". But I still feel like someone who gives equal weight to 3 as to 5400 is... either very confident in their skills, or very confused. I think my intuition is that I want to reward that student less than the other two, which goes against both your answer (reward them all equally) and my answer above (reward that student the most).

But I can't really imagine someone honestly giving 50:17:17:17 to that question. Someone who gave equal scores to the last three answers probably gave something like either 100:0:0:0 (if they're confident) or 25:25:25:25 (if they're confused), and gets a higher or lower reward from that. So I dunno what to make of this.

Comment by philh on Could someone please start a bright home lighting company? · 2019-11-29T15:19:48.117Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don’t have a robust way of estimating ambient light

Did you consider buying a lux meter?

I've ordered one of these, so I hope I'm not missing something.

Comment by philh on Is daily caffeine consumption beneficial to productivity? · 2019-11-28T09:26:57.898Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I read him as making additional claims, not just entirely different ones.

Comment by philh on Explaining why false ideas spread is more fun than why true ones do · 2019-11-27T17:11:03.084Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think I'd expect to find chapters like that even if the book was written by an adherent of the religion or of communism. If I'm right, that seems to somewhat point away from "if it's true, we don't feel the need to explain it".

Possible complicating factors there are belief-in-belief effects, the knowledge that other people don't believe the thing, and desire to evangelize.

Comment by philh on In Defense of Kegan · 2019-11-22T15:53:50.507Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

So this is "replies to some objections to Kegan", and not "positive reasons to think Kegan is useful", yes? That is, it won't convince anyone that they should pay attention to Kegan, but if they've been previously convinced that they shouldn't, it might change their mind.

I confess I had been hoping for the positive reasons, but if it's not what you were going for, then fair enough.

Basically everyone trusts experts in math because it’s far from lived experience and we agree that mathematicians are the math experts even though we can only easily validate the veracity of the simplest mathematical claims without training.

Note that people do have some mathematical intuitions, and are willing to argue with experts on them. See the Monty Hall problem, or the question of whether 0.999... = 1.

it feels easy to reject what doesn’t feel true when it’s something we have a lot of experience with and can easily gather data on.

This heuristic seems basically correct, to me. I would expect people's gut instincts to be more accurate when they have a lot of experience and can easily gather data.

(I feel weird making this comment after you said you probably weren't going to defend the article. But not making this comment because you had said that, would seem like a mistake. Obviously, don't feel obliged to respond.)

Comment by philh on Is this info on zinc lozenges accurate? · 2019-11-16T22:15:00.646Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Huh, yeah. Thanks for pointing that out.

Annoyingly, "the stearate isn't a problem" doesn't answer the question, which is about stearic acid. I assume he meant to say that stearic acid is fine too, but I've posted a comment there to clarify.

Comment by philh on Units of Action · 2019-11-16T21:31:54.971Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

My point is that "men" do seem to me like a unit of action. In the sense that - sometimes - you can usefully think of "men" as a group and make decisions based on considerations like "if we do this, men will do that".

but… well, nor does ev­ery mem­ber of an agency sue a com­pany to­gether.

It is also true that ev­ery­one in the com­pany didn’t do some­thing worth get­ting sued over. The in­tu­ition here is that the peo­ple that make up the agency are not a vi­able way to an­a­lyze what the agency is do­ing, even where it is tech­ni­cally fea­si­ble; they are the wrong unit of anal­y­sis.

To clarify my intent here: the bit you quoted wasn't "and here's why an agency isn't a unit of action", it was a "that proves too much" reply to one possible answer you might give for why "men" aren't a unit of action. But it seems you aren't giving that answer.

Where do you see value be­ing lost?

I feel like the value of an abstraction is that you can think about fewer objects. If you can only work with an abstraction by taking its component objects and breaking them down to their component objects, then it's not clear in what sense you're actually abstracting.

Comment by philh on Units of Action · 2019-11-14T15:46:40.417Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I feel like the range of useful abstractions is wider than you give credit for.

So, a government agency sues a company for breach of regulations. In many ways it acts as a unit; in others not. For example, the company may decide to blackmail (the head of the agency) into pressuring (the leader of the team pursuing the case) into dropping it or flubbing the investigation or something. You won't get very far thinking of the agency as a unit, if that happens.

(I don't think you would disagree with that, but it seemed worth making explicit.)

Going in the other direction... I think broad demographics sometimes can be usefully thought of as units. Someone making a movie might (correctly) say "if we include this aspect, then more men will see the film". It's true that "men" don't all watch a movie together, but... well, nor does every member of an agency sue a company together. If the agency can still be a unit, why not "men"?

(Because there's no explicit coordination between them as a group? But if you have to consider internal communication, the abstraction seems to lose value. Because the action "watch a movie" is performed by individuals? But the action "spend $x million on Cinema tickets" is performed by a group; and the action "submit a document to the court" is performed by an individual.)

Comment by philh on How to Improve Your Sleep · 2019-10-31T18:42:31.408Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Do not use your bed for anything except sleep; that is, do not read, watch television, eat, or worry in bed. Sexual activity is the only exception to this rule. On such occasions, the instructions are to be followed afterward when you intend to go to sleep.

I have trouble parsing that last sentence. Could you clarify?

Why is sexual activity an exception, and what counts as sexual activity? E.g. does masturbation?

Comment by philh on Two explanations for variation in human abilities · 2019-10-28T22:56:26.327Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Do you have a citation for this?

I've heard a similar story, but different in some details, and in that story the second group did not end up competent programmers. And I think I've also heard that the story I first heard didn't replicate or something like that. So I don't know what to think.

Comment by philh on Door Ideas · 2019-10-28T17:22:30.958Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure how feasible this is, but could you have a hinge on the middle of the door that's locked in place until something puts pressure on a point near the hinge? Then that pressure could be supplied by (something jutting out from?) the corner the door is meant to be bending around. It acts like a single solid door until it reaches full swing, and only then the annoying extra bit separates to fold around.

Comment by philh on Door Ideas · 2019-10-28T15:42:28.744Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Opening in the centre is a bit more fiddly to open when you only have one free hand, since you need to push two things out of the way. Not such a problem if it's light enough to comfortably open just by walking through, with your shoulder or foot or something.

Closing them behind you is worse, since they're not even next to each other. Unless it self-closes, but then you may find yourself keeping it open with your body as you go through.

One in, one out is worse again, since you need to push one part and pull the other.

Maybe double hinge, opening towards the kitchen? Has a smaller swing than the other way. One thing I don't like about it is that if you push on the outer edge, you likely only open half the door; but again, that's less of a problem opening towards the kitchen (because the outer section is smaller).

Problem: You might find yourself accidently folding it too much, and banging the outer edge against the corner that it's meant to fold around.

Comment by philh on Iron: From mythical to mundane · 2019-10-27T22:38:07.369Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Note of confusion:

Today, we know that iron with less than about 0.1% carbon is wrought iron, with more than 2.1% it is cast iron

But earlier these were described as different methods of shaping the iron, with wrought iron coming out of the furnace solid and being beaten into shape and cast iron coming out liquid and being moulded.

Is it that these processes (typically?) result in these quantities of carbon?

Comment by philh on Why Are So Many Rationalists Polyamorous? · 2019-10-25T15:04:25.628Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Wikipedia disagrees with you:

a mathematical representation of a situation in which each participant's gain or loss of utility is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the utility of the other participants.

Emphasis mine.

(By your definition, it seems to me that almost everything would be zero sum. If I bake a tasty cake for my friends, and that causes one of them to not visit the bakery that evening, the baker has lost out. More generally, see my post "Pareto improvements are rarer than they seem":

Comment by philh on Why Are So Many Rationalists Polyamorous? · 2019-10-22T14:59:47.580Z · score: 11 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Monogamy isn't zero sum because not everyone is an equally good partner for everyone else. Like, Alice can date Bob or Carol, and leave the other one single. It's unlikely that dating either of them is equally good for her; and it's unlikely that dating her is equally good for each of them; so there's probably a single outcome with the highest total utility.

Comment by philh on Why Ranked Choice Voting Isn't Great · 2019-10-20T09:24:36.761Z · score: 10 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Further reading on this: a voting theory primer for rationalists, which in particular mentions that RCV has lower "voter satisfaction efficiency" than just about any proposed alternative except first-past-the-post. (Approval does indeed do better, and the author supports it as a first step.)

Comment by philh on Is value amendment a convergent instrumental goal? · 2019-10-19T15:04:17.369Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This comment feels like it's confusing strategies with goals? That is, I wouldn't normally think of "exploration" as something that an agent had as a goal but as a strategy it uses to achieve its goals. And "let's try out a different utility function for a bit" is unlikely to be a direction that a stable agent tries exploring in.