Posts

The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence Wants You (to submit essays and articles on the future of government AI policy) 2019-07-18T17:21:56.522Z · score: 32 (8 votes)
Slack Club 2019-04-16T06:43:22.442Z · score: 57 (20 votes)
Trust Me I'm Lying: A Summary and Review 2018-08-13T02:55:16.044Z · score: 102 (39 votes)
On Authority 2018-07-05T02:37:28.793Z · score: 14 (4 votes)
Curriculum suggestions for someone looking to teach themselves contemporary philosophy 2013-05-31T04:20:58.811Z · score: 11 (11 votes)
Ruthless Extrapolation 2012-07-13T20:51:23.463Z · score: 0 (7 votes)
Betrand Russell's Ten Commandments 2012-05-06T19:52:22.012Z · score: 7 (26 votes)
[LINK] Signalling and irrationality in Software Development 2011-11-21T16:24:33.744Z · score: 9 (14 votes)
How did you come to find LessWrong? 2011-11-21T15:32:34.377Z · score: 5 (8 votes)

Comments

Comment by quanticle on Why Do You Keep Having This Problem? · 2020-01-21T01:56:23.130Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, yes, that's a good point, and I have updated in your direction. I was thinking more along the lines of things like product reviews and survey feedback, where the user is much more likely to take the time to complete the feedback form if they've had a negative experience than if they've had a positive one.

Edited to add: I wonder if there's a distinction between unsolicited feedback and requesting feedback, or giving feedback to an individual vs. feedback to a corporate entity.

Comment by quanticle on Why Do You Keep Having This Problem? · 2020-01-20T17:54:09.447Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think what tends to be voiced vs. not voiced varies a lot based on both the field and the culture involved. I've been in some environments where it seems like everyone loves to complain even when things are fine, but I've also been in some where people are very reticent to speak up even when there's a problem.

I'm not sure that's at odds with what mscottveach is saying. To put it in different words, while the amount of feedback might vary, I don't think the ratio of positive vs. negative feedback varies. It's the very rare situation where the number of messages that say, "This was good, everything went as planned or intended," outnumbers the messages that talk about how something went wrong.

Comment by quanticle on Steelmanning Divination · 2020-01-19T04:45:34.879Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for this comment. I was trying to point to something similar in this comment I wrote about the importance of understanding the origins of your ideas, but you've stated the point, in my opinion, much better than I did.

Comment by quanticle on In defense of deviousness · 2020-01-18T03:42:34.759Z · score: 15 (4 votes) · LW · GW

You might be interested in Fred Brooks' seminal essay, No Silver Bullet -- Essence and Accident in Software Engineering. In it, he distinguishes between essential complexity and accidental complexity. Essential complexity is complexity that comes from the problem domain. It cannot be factored out of the program, and any attempt to do so will likely introduce bugs. Accidental complexity is complexity that arises from details of the implementation, and which can be simplified out of the implementation.

A good example of accidental complexity is memory management. A good chunk of programmer effort in languages like C and C++ goes towards ensuring that memory is managed properly, and that the program returns memory to the operating system when it is finished using it. Memory managed languages take that burden away from the programmer and place it either with the compiler (in the case of Rust's borrow checker) or with the runtime environment (in the case of garbage collected languages like Java, or Python). The effect of this has been a significant reduction in accidental complexity (at the cost of some performance), with a commensurate increase in programmer productivity.

Comment by quanticle on "human connection" as collaborative epistemics · 2020-01-13T07:44:01.011Z · score: 17 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Surely there are all kinds of other ways to cooperate. A friend can help you move your stuff. You can exchange gifts. You can fend for each other. But objectively none of these are worth the huge chunk of resources we allocate to maintaining friendships and relationships. Only the upgrades to your worldview you get from interacting with other people is worth the trouble of interacting.

I think this is a very narrow, Straw Vulcan way of viewing the world. The primary value that other people have is the information and updates they can bring to your worldview? That seems like an awfully narrow conception of the value that other people can bring.

Moreover, how can you say, "objectively" that these benefits are not worth the effort? Do you presume to speak for everyone's utility function here?

Comment by quanticle on New edition of "Rationality: From AI to Zombies" · 2020-01-11T05:57:51.465Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

User Said Achmiz has take the old Rationality: From AI To Zombies text and laid it out in a much more aesthetically pleasing format at Read The Sequences. I definitely encourage you to check it out.

Comment by quanticle on What is Life in an Immoral Maze? · 2020-01-10T05:06:19.435Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That's fair, though I do wonder how representative 25-person-deep reporting chains are. I've never worked in a company that had a reporting chain > 8 and my dad works in a company with a reporting chain of 12. 25 seems... incredibly painful.

Comment by quanticle on Stripping Away the Protections · 2020-01-10T03:49:26.436Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I know of a number of large organizations that are much more functional than described in these posts.

That's one thing that stood out to me as well. The dynamics seem typical for law and finance, but far less so for firms that actually have to produce goods and services that are consumed by others (and, insofar as those dynamics do take hold in firms that have to produce, the results are usually disastrous -- see: American auto manufacturing from the late-70s through the 2000s, the decline and fall of Sears, the decline of GE, and, most recently, Boeing).

Comment by quanticle on What is Life in an Immoral Maze? · 2020-01-10T01:56:21.501Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, I would agree with that. I was really confused when the OP kept referring to "middle management".

(Is considering oneself "middle management" like considering oneself "middle-class" -- i.e. everyone considers themselves that, even when they're far above the actual median?)

Comment by quanticle on What is Life in an Immoral Maze? · 2020-01-10T01:47:48.246Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I was specifically referring to these two passages:

When asked who gets ahead, an executive vice-president at Weft Corporation says: The guys who want it [get ahead]. The guys who work. You can spot it in the first six months. They work hard, they come to work earlier, they leave later. They have suggestions at meetings. They come into a business and the business picks right up. They don’t go on coffee breaks down here [in the basement]. You see the parade of people going back and forth down here? There’s no reason for that. I never did that. If you need coffee, you can have it at your desk. Some people put in time and some people work.

For those in middle management who want to succeed, that’s not how things work. Everything you are is on the table. You’d better be all-in.

That hasn't been my experience. In my experience, those who get ahead are not those who work hardest, but those who are most visible. You can "come in earlier, and leave later", but it won't matter if your project is not one that's a priority for senior management. Moreover, that sort of "working harder" doesn't seem to correlate with whether your project gets picked up as a priority or not.

So even a 9-5 guy who goes fishing is still likely to play politics, avoid rocking the boat, pass the blame downhill

To a first approximation, that's true of every job role, whether it's front line, middle management, senior management, or the C-suite. Nobody wants to look bad. Nobody wants to be blamed for a problem that they don't perceive was their fault. My disagreement is not with the fact that people play politics at work. Of course people will play politics; it's human nature to have politics when you have more than two people attempting to make a decision on which there's meaningful disagreement.

What I disagree with is the notion of middle management as a sort of all-consuming lifestyle that totally snuffs out your ability to be yourself outside of work. Maybe it's like that at some firms (like finance, or law), but my intuition is that most firms are not like that. Most firms are less American Psycho and more Dilbert.

Comment by quanticle on What is Life in an Immoral Maze? · 2020-01-10T01:37:43.861Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The barrier to exit is the cost of rebuilding those relationships. The old saw, "It's not what you know, it's who you know," applies quite heavily to management. The key value that managers add to front-line people is that quality of being a "human switchboard", knowing who is working on what, who needs to talk to whom and, most importantly, who should not talk to whom. When a manager switches firms, all of that implicit knowledge has to be built up from zero. It's a huge cost, and represents a significant barrier to exit.

Comment by quanticle on What is Life in an Immoral Maze? · 2020-01-08T18:22:33.378Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If the core organization is a thousand, then that's not very big, to be honest. Even if there are other affiliated, franchise organizations, the fact that the core is a thousand means that, organizationally, this nonprofit is probably closer to a just-past-startup corporation that it is to a Fortune 500 company.

The company my dad works for directly employs more than a million people. Microsoft employs roughly 90,000. Google employs, last I read, somewhere around 50,000. Amazon, if you don't count warehouse workers, employs somewhere around 60,000 (if you do count warehouse workers, it's roughly 500,000). This is roughly the order I'm talking about when I talk about a large organization.

The reason I'm so skeptical of the claims in the OP is that once an organization gets up these kinds of employee numbers, it's statistically highly improbable for middle management to be as described in Moral Mazes. There just aren't enough hyper-ambitious people to fill the roles. The vast majority of people don't actually want to subsume everything into their job -- they just want to do their work, get paid, and then go home to do whatever it is they do for fun.

I don't doubt that senior management is like what's described above. But there is a large difference between a Senior Vice President or Director angling for a C-level position and a middle manager who goes to work, puts in his 9-5 and then goes home and relaxes with the kids and goes fishing on weekends. My intuition is that the latter sort actually make up the majority of middle management.

Comment by quanticle on What is Life in an Immoral Maze? · 2020-01-08T06:37:01.740Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That's interesting to hear. If I might ask, how large is this nonprofit, in general terms?

Comment by quanticle on What is Life in an Immoral Maze? · 2020-01-07T21:20:05.530Z · score: 11 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Any thoughts on why knowledge of this hasn't percolated down?

Maybe it's an incorrect view. Like I indicated in my other answer, the picture painted by this post does not at all correspond to my experience in large corporations, nor does it correspond to my father's experience as a middle manager in a large corporation.

Before we ask ourselves why something is correct, we should endeavor to ensure that it is in fact correct.

Comment by quanticle on What is Life in an Immoral Maze? · 2020-01-07T21:17:11.567Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not in middle management, but my dad is (at a Fortune 500 corporation, with something like 8 levels of management between contributors and the CEO), and his experience is far different from what you've described here.

We have this idea that there is work and there is not-work, and once one leaves work one is engaged in not-work distinct from work. We also have this idea that there are things that are off limits even at work, like sexual harassment.

For a person without anyone reporting to them, who is ‘on the line’ in the book’s parlance, this can be sustained.

For those in middle management who want to succeed, that’s not how things work. Everything you are is on the table. You’d better be all-in.

If anything, my dad works less than I do, and I have no ambitions to be anything more than an individual contributor. Yes, at times he has to be on-call when his team is doing a deployment, but I've found that overall he works fewer hours than I do. Moreover, it's not like my dad is coasting; I would estimate that he works harder than his peers. Do you have any statistics that can compare the average amount of hours worked for individual contributors and manager at a large corporation?

If the job requires you to move, anywhere in the world, you’ll do it, dragging your nuclear family along and forcing all of you to leave behind everything and everyone you know. Otherwise, you’re just not serious about success.

Again, speaking from personal experience, this is not the case. My dad was asked to move, when I was younger. I and my mother vehemently objected. He went to his boss and demurred... and so far as we know, he suffered no consequences for it. He was later promoted, and then, years later, laid off when the company merged with another company (as so often happens in the modern economy).

I guess my question is, "What evidence do we have that Moral Mazes actually describes life inside a large, modern corporation?" The quotes you've given here go very much against both my own and my father's experience.

Comment by quanticle on Dominic Cummings: "we’re hiring data scientists, project managers, policy experts, assorted weirdos" · 2020-01-05T08:23:02.258Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The charitable case is that Dominic Cummings pushed for Brexit because he realized that real, meaningful civil service reform would not be possible as long as the UK had to be fully aligned with EU rules and regulation. Brexit gives the UK room to maneuver in that regard while simultaneously stunning the existing political establishment into shocked inactivity, giving people like Dominic Cummings room to run and accomplish what they need to accomplish before things revert to politics as usual.

Edit:

From what I've read, the UK's civil service is far less responsive to the winds of politics than the US's. This has both good and bad aspects. The good aspect is that while ministers can come and go, the day-to-day functioning of the government carries on largely unchanged from administration to administration. The bad is that, because the civil service is so professionalized, it's nigh impossible to change the mindset of the average civil-service professional without some kind of radical change. Brexit is that change, and the hope is that by inserting rationalist-aligned people into key positions in the civil service, Dominic can meaningfully alter the way that government functions in a way that can't easily be undone by the whims of the voters at the next election. Whether this is a good thing or not, of course, remains to be seen.

Comment by quanticle on What are the best self-help book summaries you've read? · 2020-01-03T20:55:43.836Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Speaking of SlateStarCodex, Scott Alexander's review of 12 Rules for Life is a really good summary of the main points of the book.

Comment by quanticle on Normalization of Deviance · 2020-01-03T04:40:49.394Z · score: 18 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Specifically, the normalization of deviance process in Challenger Launch Decision involved a 5-step process:

  1. Signal of potential danger
  2. Official act acknowledging potential danger
  3. Review of the evidence
  4. Official act indicating the normalization of deviance (i.e. accepting the risk)
  5. Shuttle launch

The key thing that Vaughan identifies is that in every iteration of the above cycle, the standard that was compared against was the output of the previous iteration. Because of this, the notion of what was "acceptable" joint rotation subtly shifted over time, from what a conservative standard in 1977 to a very risky one 1986. The problem was that NASA was updating its beliefs about what was acceptable O-ring performance, but, as an organization, was not realizing that it had updated. As a result it drifted in an uncontrolled manner from its original standards, and thus signed off as safe a system that was, in retrospect, a disaster waiting to happen.

Normalization of deviance is a difficult problem to combat, because the process that leads to normalization of deviance is also the process that leads to helpful and beneficial updates about the state of the world. I would suggest that some normalization of deviance, within limits is acceptable. The world is not always going to be what your model says it will be, and you have to have some leeway to adapt to circumstances that aren't what you were expecting. However, when doing so, it's important to ensure that today's exception remains an exception, and that the next time deviance occurs, it's checked against the original standard, not an updated standard that results from the exception process.

Comment by quanticle on Programmers Should Plan For Lower Pay · 2020-01-03T01:17:56.025Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It's not that the benefits of co-location scale up with size, it's that, to a first approximation, communication overhead scales linearly with the number of employees in a remote-work environment and scales with something like the logarithm of employees in a co-located environment.

New technology, such as e-mail or slack, in my model, doesn't go far enough to address that disparity. I think there's still a point at which the benefits of having everyone in a centralized office outweighs the savings from not having to rent office space.

Comment by quanticle on Programmers Should Plan For Lower Pay · 2020-01-02T21:16:32.644Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

As I indicated in my other comment every worker does not need the benefits of co-location with every other worker. The corporation desires that every worker be co-located with every other worker with whom they communicate on a regular basis. Teams aren't spread across locations randomly, they're arranged geographically by function.

Comment by quanticle on Programmers Should Plan For Lower Pay · 2020-01-02T21:13:38.403Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

But that's just the thing: in situations where there are multiple offices, management does not assign workers randomly to various offices. Instead workers are assigned to offices according to some criterion that is a proxy for how much communication there is going to be among the workers. While there is inter-office communication, the volume of inter-office communication is usually much less (by several orders of magnitude) than the volume of intra-office communication. Whereas, with remote work, you lose out on the benefits of colocation, since every communication is, in effect, an inter-office communication.

It's like a computer architecture problem. It's much easier to split work among a few larger powerful nodes than it is to split work among many smaller, weaker nodes.

Comment by quanticle on Programmers Should Plan For Lower Pay · 2020-01-02T18:35:56.231Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

According to this article by the Society of Human Resource Management, Best Buy, Yahoo, IBM and Honeywell have all abandoned remote work initiatives after noting that the costs of such outweighed the benefit.

I would also say Stripe is roughly 2000 employees, which puts it in line with the other remote-first companies I've posted above. They're a long way from companies that have tens, or even hundreds of thousands of workers.

Comment by quanticle on Programmers Should Plan For Lower Pay · 2020-01-01T23:49:47.745Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There is a huge difference between being scattered across a dozen offices and three timezones and being scattered across literally tens of thousands of offices (since each worker is plausibly in their own office, remote from all the others) and four or five timezones.

And I repeat: if it's so obvious, then why isn't it winning? Why do we not hear about major remote-work initiatives from e.g. Google or Facebook?

Comment by quanticle on Meta-discussion from "Circling as Cousin to Rationality" · 2020-01-01T21:21:15.390Z · score: 13 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I should clarify that my substitution of "health" for "authenticity" was meant as an example only. I didn't think that's what Vaniver actually meant. The point I was trying to make is roughly the same one that Said is making: I didn't know know what concept the word "authentic" was pointing at in this case. To me, "authentic", as an adjective, is something that usually applies to things or people, not relationships. An authentic item is one that's of known provenance. An authentic person is one who is generally regarded as being honest and straightforward (i.e. not resorting to clever but technically true arguments). I could guess what an authentic relationship would be, but it would have be a guess, and the further clarification from Vaniver is certainly appreciated.

In general, I do not endorse proposing interpretations and then critiquing them. It's far too easy to put your words in the other person's mouth in those cases. I would actually claim that Said's original query, "What do you mean by authenticity here?" is superior to mine, because it leaves the question open-ended, and allows Vaniver to reply with further details rather than boxing them into a "Yes, I agree"/"No I disagree" set of alternatives.

Comment by quanticle on Don't Double-Crux With Suicide Rock · 2020-01-01T21:16:23.290Z · score: 11 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I understand the point about omitting needless words, but I think the words are needed in this case. I think there's a danger here of Aumann's agreement theorem being misused to prolong disagreements when those disagreements are on matters of values and future actions rather than on the present state of the world. This is especially true in "hot" topics (like politics, religion, etc) where matters of fact and matters of value are closely intertwined.

Comment by quanticle on Don't Double-Crux With Suicide Rock · 2020-01-01T20:39:02.221Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The other problem with Aumann's agreement theorem is that it's often applied too broadly. It should say, "Honest rational agents should never agree to disagree on matters of fact." What to do about those facts is definitely up for disagreement, insofar as two honest, rational agents may value wildly different things.

Comment by quanticle on Meta-discussion from "Circling as Cousin to Rationality" · 2020-01-01T06:18:13.356Z · score: 41 (22 votes) · LW · GW

One of the things I try to be careful of, as a rationalist, is to note when the "standard definitions" are importing connotations that go beyond the textual meaning of the word. In this case, like Said Achmiz, I've noticed that "authentic" and "authenticity" are often used as applause lights, serving to engender vaguely positive feelings in the mind of the person reading the text, without actually adding any data or predictions.

Specifically, I'm pointing at the following paragraph:

Why should “that which can be destroyed by the truth” be destroyed? Because the truth is fundamentally more real and valuable than what it replaces, which must be implemented on a deeper level than “what my current beliefs think.” Similarly, why should “that which can be destroyed by authenticity” be destroyed? Because authenticity is fundamentally more real and valuable than what it replaces, which must be implemented on a deeper level than “what my current beliefs think.” I don’t mean to pitch ‘radical honesty’ here, or other sorts of excessive openness; authentic relationships include distance and walls and politeness and flexible preferences.

What are "authentic" and "authenticity" doing here? It seems to me that they could easily be replaced by "healthy" and "health". And if they were, I think it would be entirely justified for someone less familiar with the context to ask what that word means to the person writing here.

So let me put it plainly: what is an "authentic" relationship? How does one distinguish an authentic relationship from an inauthentic one? The text clearly states that an authentic relationship can still include "distance and walls and politeness and flexible preferences". So given that inauthentic relationships can also be characterized as including those very same elements, what sorts of distances, walls, politeness and flexible preferences distinguish an authentic relationship from an inauthentic one?

Comment by quanticle on Programmers Should Plan For Lower Pay · 2019-12-31T23:07:17.957Z · score: 12 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Zapier is "250+" employees. Automattic is 1153 employees. Gitlab, another fully remote company, is 1117 employees. All of these companies are rather small. I would be interested to see whether they can continue to be fully remote as they scale past 10,000 employees. My suspicion is that large organizations cannot be fully remote, as remote working tools do not (currently) provide the necessary communications bandwidth and latency to allow large organizations to function.

Comment by quanticle on Programmers Should Plan For Lower Pay · 2019-12-31T06:12:29.623Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not so sure about that. The trend I've seen at larger companies, such as Google, has been towards more people coming into the office. Moreover, even at startups, once the company reaches a certain size (around 20 developers or so), the trend I've noticed is to encourage workers to co-locate in an office. It's the rare company, in my experience that manages to stay remote while having a workforce of hundreds or thousands. In fact, I can only name one: Zapier.

If remote work were so much more advantageous for programming productivity than co-locating people in an office, then I'd expect to see many more examples of medium and large corporations embracing remote work than I do.

Comment by quanticle on Stupidity and Dishonesty Explain Each Other Away · 2019-12-30T12:02:13.967Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That's the distinction between lies and bullshit. A lie is a statement that conveys knowingly false information with the intent of covering up the truth. Bullshit, as defined in the essay, is a statement that's not intended to convey information at all. Any information that bullshit conveys is accidental, and may be false or true. The key thing to note with bullshit is that the speaker does not care what the informational content of the statement is. A bullshit statement is intended to serve as a rallying cry, a Schelling point around which like-minded people can gather.

Bullshit isn't really a lie, because the person stating it doesn't expect it to be believed. But it doesn't seem to fit the definition of stupidity either. People offering up bullshit statements are often more than intelligent enough to get the right answer, but they're just not motivated to do so because they're trying to optimize for something that's orthogonal to truth.

Comment by quanticle on Speaking Truth to Power Is a Schelling Point · 2019-12-30T10:58:44.616Z · score: 15 (8 votes) · LW · GW

The thing that stops this process from fully sliding down the "slippery slope" towards speaking truth to power unconditionally is that there is a countervailing force: the penalty the coalition pays for its honesty. In the real world, there is not a simple dichotomy between the coalition and the rest of the world. Rather there are many coalitions, all competing for favor and resources. At the same time, the power is not omnipotent -- there is a certain level of truth that it is willing to tolerate, simply because it doesn't have the ability to enforce its ideological line strictly enough to police everyone. This power, of course, varies from place to place. As a result, we get a variety of equilibria, depending on how tolerant the power is. A free, open, democratic society will have a certain threshold for how much truth it is willing to tolerate (when that truth is against "conventional wisdom"). An authoritarian society will have a much different threshold.

Comment by quanticle on Why is the mail so much better than the DMV? · 2019-12-30T10:20:58.043Z · score: 19 (5 votes) · LW · GW

NB: I ended up accidentally wiping out this comment in the process of editing it on 2019-12-30, so I rewrote it

One of the reasons why Europe has a much more all-encompassing welfare state than the USA is that in the US government services are poorly run. Whether it’s providing healthcare , building high speed rail , or Issuing Drivers Licenses, the typical American’s experience with government services is one of incompetence, corruption and failure to innovate.

I disagree with this statement for a variety of reasons. First of all, most Americans get their health care through private corporations, so it seems strange to me to say that the US government is incompetent at providing health care. The parts of the US government that do provide health care, like the Veteran's Administration, seem to be rather well regarded.

I don't have much of an opinion on high-speed rail except to note that the US is much more geographically sparse than Europe. As a result, high-speed rail makes much competitive with air travel in the US, given that air travel is lower cost for distances of more than a few hundred miles.

Thirdly, I'd like to note that I've always had rather pleasant experiences with the DMV. Even when I've done things like accidentally mis-fill a form, they've gone out of their way to help me. In fact, the worst customer service experiences I've had have been with private entities. For example, when I moved into my home, and set up gas service through Center Point Energy, I accidentally typoed my bank account number. Rather than informing me that they were unable to charge my account, and ask me to reconfirm the account details, they locked my account. I had to spend multiple hours on the phone with customer service to get the account unlocked, and then, even after I'd got my account unlocked, I was banned from paying with a bank account for twelve months. Rather, I was forced to pay with a credit card and accept a $3.75 "convenience fee" for doing so.

Likewise, when I moved from Seattle to Minneapolis, I canceled my Comcast account in Washington, because I was moving out of state and I was planning on living with my parents while I bought my house in Minnesota. After I purchased the house, I found that I couldn't activate Comcast service at the new address. When I tried to enter my information, it said that I already had an account. Moreover, there didn't seem to be any way to "un-cancel" my existing account and change the address to reflect my new Minnesota location. It required multiple trips to a Comcast (XFinity) location to get someone who possessed the necessary privileges to create a new account on my behalf. Overall, my experience with the government is has been far more pleasant than my experience with private monopolies.

I’d also like to add that the US government (like most governments) is many times larger than even the largest private-sector entity. The vast majority of it runs out of sight and out of mind. The only times we hear about many government departments is when there’s a scandal or mismanagement that begets news coverage. As a result, most people have strong a availability heuristic that favors a view of the government being incompetent or corrupt, when the reality is that they only see the times when the government is incompetent or corrupt but not all the times when the government does what it should.

A contributing factor to this is that the government is a public entity. As a result, its failings, whether large or small are public and are available for public scrutiny. A private corporation (even if it is publicly traded, on the stock market), on the other hand, does not have the same transparency requirements. As a result, the amount of waste and mismanagement in the corporate world is very difficult to estimate, which makes any comparisons with government rather dubious.

Comment by quanticle on Programmers Should Plan For Lower Pay · 2019-12-30T03:02:58.357Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure remote work is as advantageous as you think it is. If remote work were so obviously superior, we'd be seeing programming rapidly evolving to support remote work, both here in the US and offshore. Yet, that's the opposite of what I'm seeing. I'm seeing more and more companies bring their programming in-house. I'm also seeing more and more companies insist on programmers being in the office, rather than working remotely.

Comment by quanticle on Programmers Should Plan For Lower Pay · 2019-12-30T01:48:07.871Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If you are the only carpenter in town and your family needs a home, you can absolutely care enough to become a professional carpenter.

I disagree and what I've seen and read of people doing their own construction work seems to back me up. If you're the only skilled person in town and you need a home, then you'll probably be able to knock something together. But will that structure be safe? Will it keep out the rain in a storm? Will it keep out the wind in winter? Will it work reasonably well immediately after you've built it or will it require constant patching for months or year before it finally becomes usable?

All of these questions have fairly direct analogs to programming. I do think there are differences between programmers that speak to aptitude differences, rather than differences of experience. When comparing two programmers with roughly equivalent amounts of experience, I have noticed that some programmers just "get it", whereas others don't. Their first solutions are faster (often algorithmically faster). They've thought through more edge conditions. Their code is simpler and easier to read.

I agree that even a less talented programmer, perhaps with coaching and assistance, will eventually be able to arrive at the solution that the more talented programmer arrives at immediately. But it doesn't matter. By the time the less talented programmer has found the best solution for problem 1, the more talented programmer has moved on to problems 2, 3, 4 and 5. This is definitely noticeable over a 6-12 month period, and it's likely that the less talented programmer will be eased out of the organization.

I don't know if these differences are due to IQ or the lottery of fascinations. I suspect it's both. However, it is plain to me that there are differences in ability between programmers who have equivalent experience, and these differences do go some way towards determining who is successful as a programmer and who isn't.

Comment by quanticle on Programmers Should Plan For Lower Pay · 2019-12-30T01:35:47.667Z · score: 11 (3 votes) · LW · GW

So how much should a hypothetical programmer making, say, $120,000 a year worry? Another way of phrasing this question would be, do you expect the median programmer salary to decline or do you expect the variance to decline so that most programmers make about the same amount of money?

Comment by quanticle on Programmers Should Plan For Lower Pay · 2019-12-29T08:25:13.900Z · score: 9 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Last year, my dad (60 years old with 0 coding experience) picked up coding and I think he's gonna do great

That's not the question being posed. The question being posed is whether your dad is now in a similar enough reference class to you to be considered a substitute for you, and thereby lower your salary.

I'm inclined to agree with Mark Roberts here. Not everyone has the mental horsepower and right ticket in the lottery of fascinations to be a programmer. It's like with any other trade skill. Can I do woodworking? Absolutely. I can knock together small projects fairly easily. But do I have the aptitude and interest in woodworking to become a professional carpenter? Absolutely not. Can I do plumbing? Sure. I've replaced my own sinks and faucets. But do I have the aptitude and interest to become a professional plumber? No way. Why is programming any different?

Comment by quanticle on Programmers Should Plan For Lower Pay · 2019-12-29T04:04:12.572Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

A question I have is, what do you mean by "less"? Dan Luu is citing programmers making on the order of $250,000 to $300,000 total compensation, but as a programmers who has made his entire career outside of the Bay Area, I have never seen anywhere near compensation that high. What if the phenomenon is that salaries in the Bay Area are skewed upwards, perhaps due to the cost of housing? In that case, perhaps only programmers in the Bay Area need to worry, as tech firm expansion outside the Bay reduces salary growth, but programmers outside of the Bay will be relatively unaffected (and might even benefit, as demand in other markets increases).

Comment by quanticle on Firming Up Not-Lying Around Its Edge-Cases Is Less Broadly Useful Than One Might Initially Think · 2019-12-27T09:03:43.091Z · score: 28 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe I’m unusually honest—or possibly unusually bad at remembering when I’ve lied!?—but I’m not sure I even remember the last time I told an outright unambiguous lie. The kind of situation where I would need to do that just doesn’t come up that often.

I would say that you should consider yourself fortunate then, that you are living in a situation where most of the people surrounding you have your best interests in mind (or, at worst, are neutral towards your interests). For others in more adversarial situations, telling lies (or at least shading the truth to the extent that would be considered lying by the standards of this post) is a necessary survival skill.

Comment by quanticle on What could a World Unification Index track to measure how unified the world is, was, and is becoming? · 2019-12-22T05:59:42.509Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · LW · GW

One strong indicator of globalization is trade. The WTO maintains a set of global trade indicators, which has data on trade flows, trade disputes and tariff levels going back to 1948.

Comment by quanticle on If Antarctic became hospitable to humans, and consequently received a mass migration, what are likely ways the Antarctic legal system could evolve? · 2019-12-22T05:53:40.740Z · score: 14 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Why wouldn't Antarctica (or portions of Antarctica) just become colonies of other countries, and inherit the legal systems of their parent nations?

Comment by quanticle on Reason and Intuition in science · 2019-12-20T01:52:04.743Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

A useful counterexample is the discovery of Neptune. Neptune was discovered when astronomers noticed deviations from their predictions of Uranus' orbit, and then computed the likely orbital characteristics of a hypothetical eighth planet from those deviations. They then tested their hypothesis by turning their telescopes to the night sky, and sure enough, there was another planet out there.

More generally, I would say that it takes both. Yes, there is often a flash of inspiration, but inspiration is not enough. One still has to do the work. It's not enough to dream of a snake eating its own tail. You still have to do the crystallography to prove your inspiration correct.

Comment by quanticle on ialdabaoth is banned · 2019-12-13T08:49:38.522Z · score: 19 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Imagine an alternate universe where their local analogue of Ialdabaoth was just as manipulative, wrote almost all the same things about status, power, social reality, &c., but was definitely not guilty of any sex crimes for reasons that had nothing to do with his moral character.

The post is arguing that the the things ialdabaoth writes regarding social dynamics, power, manipulation, etc. are the result of their presumed guilt. In other words, if ialdabaoth had a different fetish, they wouldn't write the things that they do about social reality, etc. and we wouldn't even be having this discussion in the first place. The argument, which I'm not sure I endorse, is that a world in which ialdabaoth writes exactly what he writes without being guilty is as logically coherent as a world in which matches don't light, but cells still use ATP.

Comment by quanticle on Useful Does Not Mean Secure · 2019-11-30T07:45:17.648Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The GreaterWrong viewer for LessWrong allows you to write posts and comments using Markdown, allowing you to write numbered lists in the usual Markdown way.

Comment by quanticle on What are the open problems in Human Rationality? · 2019-11-29T07:29:35.912Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

But it still ad­vances your un­der­stand­ing of the world and your­self a lot

I'm not sure that it does. I certainly haven't seen any evidence of LessWrong-style rationality being a better means of achieving understanding of the world than, say, just getting a bunch of textbooks and journal articles on whatever you're interested in and doing some old-fashioned studying.

Incidentally, rationality might imply that Starcraft is a kind of trojan that exploits our reward circuits, and if we want to maximize our values (as opposed to our pleasure), we are well-advised to take a stance against this exploitation.

Alternatively, we might say that rationality is a toolbox, and makes no judgements about what you apply those tools to. If you apply the tools of rationality to become a better Starcraft player, then good for you! You have used rationality to improve your skills and work towards your goal more efficiently. Certainly, I've seen a much stronger standards of epistemics in the Starcraft and video game speedrunning communities than in many other places, LessWrong included.

Comment by quanticle on Historical forecasting: Are there ways I can get lots of data, but only up to a certain date? · 2019-11-22T06:10:20.170Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

They're what the OP is looking to forecast, though. I pulled "money in circulation" example straight from the OP's post.

Comment by quanticle on Historical forecasting: Are there ways I can get lots of data, but only up to a certain date? · 2019-11-21T19:32:02.568Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The short answer is no.

The long answer is that coming up with reasonable estimates of these things (even "easy" things like how far goods traveled or the amount of money in circulation) is a nontrivial task. Moreover, the very act of choosing metrics imposes modern interpretations and values upon past societies.

For example, let's take the amount of money in circulation. That's important today, because most of our commercial transactions are impersonal, conducted with people whom we don't know and may never see again. But historically, that wasn't the case. In older societies, with small tight-knit communities, the amount of cash in circulation didn't matter very much. The vast majority of economic transactions took place on a credit basis, with people keeping tabs on who owed whom what, and settling tabs on a periodic basis with goods, rather than cash. In this world, commercial relations are inseparable from social relations, and, as a result cash is far less important. Fixating on the amount of cash in circulation therefore risks imposing severe distortions on one's view of the level and sophistication of commercial transactions in historical economies.

Comment by quanticle on Pieces of time · 2019-11-14T04:36:33.478Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know where gwern went in the Midwest, but in northern parts of the country (like Minnesota, or Seattle) the extreme shortness of the days in winter can produce that effect. When you wake up when it's dark, spend all day indoors, and the sun has set before you leave work, you can get the same feeling of days blending into one another, because you never notice the sun rise or set.

Comment by quanticle on Instant stone (just add water!) · 2019-11-14T02:21:43.815Z · score: 25 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Rebar has one fatal flaw: rust. As water permeates into the concrete, the rebar inside rusts. The iron expands as it rusts, which tends to burst the concrete open from the inside, a phenomenon known as concrete cancer. However, recently researchers have built a pair of bridges using glass and carbon-fiber rebar, in an attempt to make a building material that has the strength of reinforced concrete with the durability of plain concrete.

Comment by quanticle on [Health] [Math] Proofs, forgetting, and an eldritch god · 2019-11-12T19:28:32.877Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Be careful what you wish for. The latest research on memory and learning indicates that forgetting is an important part of our neural architecture, helping us to discern general rules and principles, filtering the important from the mundane, and thus preventing us from overfitting to specific situations. It's entirely possible that if you removed your ability to forget, you'd only be able to prove at a particular time of day, holding a particular piece of chalk, while standing in front of a particular blackboard while wearing the sweater you wore when you originally proved .

Comment by quanticle on Experiments and Consent · 2019-11-11T06:00:15.906Z · score: 6 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Com­pa­nies run A/​B tests when they don’t know which of A or B is bet­ter, and run­ning these tests al­lows them to make prod­ucts that are bet­ter than if they didn’t run the tests.

The question is whether the cost of the test itself (users being confused by new UIs) outweighs the benefit of running the test. In my personal experience, both as a user and as tech-support, the benefits of new UIs are, at best, marginal. The costs, however, are considerable.

The unstated assumption in your assertion is that A/B testing is the only way for companies to get feedback on their UIs. It isn't. They can do user-testing with focus groups, and I would be willing to wager that they would learn as much from the focus groups as they would from the A/B tests on their production UI. The only reason to prefer A/B tests in production is because it's cheaper, and the only reason it's cheaper is because you've offloaded the externality of having to learn a new UI onto the user.