Transcript: "Choice Machines, Causality, and Cooperation" 2012-08-07T22:15:46.402Z
Rationalist Diplomacy, Game Two Post-game Discussion 2011-02-15T05:13:00.773Z
Link: Collective Intelligence 2011-01-05T08:15:23.203Z
Rationalist Diplomacy, Game 2, Game Over 2010-11-18T03:19:48.087Z
Poll: Compressing Morality 2010-10-07T22:17:31.764Z


Comment by Randaly on Covid 2/11: As Expected · 2021-02-12T01:51:15.425Z · LW · GW


Comment by Randaly on Covid 1/28: Muddling Through · 2021-01-30T09:11:21.521Z · LW · GW

The source article is here. The numbers are not how much of the total the subgroups make up, they are how quickly each subgroup is growing. The text continues:

The number critically ill with covid-19 in that age group grew by about 30% in the week before January 2nd, and also in the following week—but by just 7% in the week after that (see chart 2). By contrast, among those aged between 40 and 55 (who were vaccinated at a much lower rate at the time) the weekly change in the number of critically ill remained constant, with a 20-30% increase in each of those three weeks.

Comment by Randaly on Covid 1/14: To Launch a Thousand Shipments · 2021-01-14T23:47:19.011Z · LW · GW

I have no idea why Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the head of Operation Warp Speed, was asked to resign and transition things over to someone else. Seems like if someone does their one job this effectively you’d want to keep them around.

While it's possible that Moncef Slaoui's resignation was caused by the Biden transition's request, he'd been publicly clear for months that he would resign in late 2020 or early 2021, as soon as 2 vaccines were approved. Here's a news article of him saying this from November.

Plausibly the Biden transition just wanted him to resign at a certain date, or to resign so that they could replace him?

Comment by Randaly on Covid 9/17: It’s Worse · 2020-09-18T03:30:24.079Z · LW · GW

Blade Runner 2045 movie

2049, not 2045.

Trump continues to promise a vaccine by late October. The head of the CDC says that’s not going to happen. Trump says the head of the CDC is ‘confused.’ The CDC walks the comments back. On net, this showed some attempt by the CDC to not kowtow to Trump, but then a kowtow, so on net seems like a wash.

This is missing the last step, which is that the CDC then walked back its walk back (?!?). See here:

The CDC scrambled to explain; by about 6 p.m., the agency was claiming Redfield had misunderstood the original question and was referring to the time period when all Americans would have completed their Covid-19 vaccination.

The CDC’s initial statement was plainly false: During Wednesday’s Senate hearing, a senator asked Redfield when a vaccine will be “ready to administer to the public,” and Redfield acknowledged the precise question before delivering his response.

“If you’re asking me, when is it going to be generally available to the American public, so we can begin to take advantage of a vaccine to get back to our regular life? I think we’re probably looking at late second quarter, third quarter 2021,” he said.

At around 9 p.m. Wednesday, however, the CDC contacted reporters to rescind its statement walking back Redfield’s prior comments, saying only that it had not been “cleared” by higher-ups.

AFAICT where this wound up was that Redfield then issued a bland statement that a vaccine was important.

Comment by Randaly on Lessons on AI Takeover from the conquistadors · 2020-07-25T08:00:17.823Z · LW · GW

I don't really have a great answer to that, except that empirically in this specific case, Spain was indeed able to extract very large amounts of resources from America within a single generation. (The Spanish government directly spent very little on America; the flow of money was overwhelming towards Europe, to the point where it caused notable inflation in Spain and in Europe as a whole.) I don't disagree that running a state is expensive, but I don't see why the expense would necessarily be higher than the extracted resources?

Comment by Randaly on Lessons on AI Takeover from the conquistadors · 2020-07-24T07:35:17.218Z · LW · GW

(1) Local support doesn't end after the first stages of the war, or after the war ends. I mentioned having favored local elites within one society/ethnicity continue to do most of the direct work in (2); colonizers also set up some groups as favored identities who did much of the work of local governance. For example, after the Spanish conquest, the Tlaxcala had a favored status and better treatment.

(2) Not sure why you'd expect low fidelity control to imply that it ends up as a wash in terms of extracting resources, can you clarify?

Comment by Randaly on Lessons on AI Takeover from the conquistadors · 2020-07-21T19:23:07.758Z · LW · GW

I feel like there's two points causing the confusion:

(1) The assumption that natives are an undifferentiated mass. There were a variety of mutually hostile indigenous peoples, who themselves sough out allies against each other; and, in particular, who sought to balance the strongest local powers. Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest, page 48:

The search for native allies was one of the standard procedures or routines of Spanish conquest activity throughout the Americas. Pedro de Alvarado entered highland Guatemala in 1524 not only with thousands of Nahua allies, but also expecting to be able to take advantage of a Mexica-Tlaxcala type rivalry; the two major Maya groups of the region, the Cakchiquel and the Quiche, had both sent ambassadors to Mexico City a year of two earlier. As a result, for the rest of the decade, a brutal civil war ravaged the highlands as the Spaniards used these groups against each other and against smaller Maya groups, while periodically turning with violence upon these native "allies". Conversely, Spaniards under the Montejos sought desperately to make sense of regional politics in Yucatan in order to exploit or establish a similar division, being forced in the end to make a series of often unreliable alliances with local dynasties such as the Pech and Xio. These Maya noble families controlled relatively small portions of Yucatan, and the Spaniards never achieved control over the whole peninsula...

Manco's great siege of Cuzo in 1536 would probably have resulted in the elimination of Pizarro's forces were it not for his Andean allies. There were initially less than 1,000, but grew to over 4,000 later in the siege as two of Manco's brothers and other nobles of the same Inca faction came over to Pizarro's side...

The taking of native allies from one zone of conquest to the next was a practice established at the very onset of Spanish activity in the Americas. Caribbean islanders were routinely carried between islands as support personnel on conquest expeditions, and then brought to the mainland in the campaigns into Panama and Mexico. For example, Cortes brought 200 native Cubans with him to Mexico in 1519.

(2) This also neglects native power structures, which conquistadors mostly left intact in the years immediately after the conquest; note also that part of the conquered region had previously been conquered by the Aztecs, so there the Spanish were simply substituting one empire for another. The Spanish initially didn't speak the native languages, worked through local elites, and reused existing systems of tribute and corvee labor. The Spanish eventually exercised more direct control, but this took an extremely long time. (Fun fact: the last native rebellion against European control in Mexico ended in 1933).

(I am less familiar with India.)

Comment by Randaly on Lessons on AI Takeover from the conquistadors · 2020-07-20T03:34:52.441Z · LW · GW

[Like, it's not for nothing that the Aztecs told the Conquistadors that they thought the latter group were gods!]

It is unlikely that the Aztecs actually believed that the Conquistadors were gods.  (No primary sources state this; the original source for the gods claim was Francisco Lopez de Gomara, writing based on interviews with conquistadors who returned to Spain decades later; his writing contains many other known inaccuracies.)

Claims that are related to, but distinct from, the Aztecs believing that the Conquistadors were gods:

  • The Aztecs, and other natives, plausibly believed or said that the Conquistadors were sent by God(s). This is likely because the conquistadors repeatedly and explicitly said that they had been sent by God.
  • There is substantially stronger evidence that the Aztecs said that they had long-awaited the return of their rightful rulers (implying that the Spanish were the rightful rulers.) Cortes, Bernal Diaz, and the Florentine Codex all agree that this occurred; however, it is impossible to say if it was meant literally.
Comment by Randaly on Lessons on AI Takeover from the conquistadors · 2020-07-19T12:10:25.885Z · LW · GW

On Diamond and writing, see previous discussion here. It is highly unlikely that writing was critical:

  • Pizarro was illiterate
  • The Aztecs had writing, yet didn't beat the Spaniards (or avoid having their leader kidnapped)
  • Cortes' conquests were only a decade or so before- a short enough period that writing wasn't necessary to communicate the lessons. Pizarro was physically present in the Americas at the time.
  • There's not actually any clear pathway from "have writing" -> "Atahualpa refuses to leave his army to meet with Pizarro". Writing did not make all European monarchs cautious and immune to ambushes or kidnapping; it is not the case that the Inca didn't understand the idea of deception.

In the linked thread, Daniel Kokotajlo suggests that the relevant difference was that the Spaniards had experience with more cultures than the Inca, and in particular were far more experienced with first contacts. This sounds plausible to me.

Comment by Randaly on Authorities and Amateurs · 2020-03-25T11:28:40.580Z · LW · GW

The specific evidence you’ve cited is weak. (1) You write that “The argument that we should be listening to experts and not random people would make a lot of sense if the "armchair" folks didn't keep being right.” It is extremely easy to be right on a binary question (react more vs less). That many non-experts were right is therefore more-or-less meaningless. (I can also cite many, many examples of non-experts being wrong. I think what we want is the fraction of experts vs non-experts who were right, but that seems both vague and unobtainable.)

(Note that this is importantly different, and stronger, than the claim you made in the final paragraph. I agree with that claim.)

(2) For many, but probably not all, of the policy failures you describe, there is little reason to attribute them to experts. The United States is not a technocracy.

Comment by Randaly on Cortés, Pizarro, and Afonso as Precedents for Takeover · 2020-03-09T09:25:49.446Z · LW · GW

That quote seems to provide no evidence that the 'literate tradition' mattered. Cortes' conquest was only 14 years before; Pizarro had arrived in the New World 10 years before that; Cortes' conquest involved many people and was a big/important deal; even if the Spanish had no writing at all, Pizarro would likely have known the general outline of Cortes' actions.

It's strictly speaking impossible to rule out Pizarro indirectly being influenced by writing; but I don't think it would be possible for stronger evidence against the importance of writing in this specific case to exist.

Comment by Randaly on Cortés, Pizarro, and Afonso as Precedents for Takeover · 2020-03-03T08:08:39.420Z · LW · GW
The Portuguese presumably were reasonably educated

Pizarro was illiterate.

Comment by Randaly on Jan Bloch's Impossible War · 2020-02-20T13:11:31.815Z · LW · GW

That is not true; the CSA had worse railroads, but they were still important throughout the war. Some of the most important Union offensives late in the war- the Atlanta campaign and the siege of Petersburg- were intended to sever the South's railroads; and the war ended almost immediately after the Union cut off the railroad routes to the CSA capital of Richmond at the Battle of Five Forks. Both sides were heavily reliant on railroads for supply, and also used railroads to move troops (for the CSA, e.g. moving Longstreet's corps to fight at Chickamagua).

Comment by Randaly on A new, better way to read the Sequences · 2017-06-04T07:49:28.193Z · LW · GW

Homepage seems to lack links to the last two books.

Comment by Randaly on The engineer and the diplomat · 2016-12-31T11:01:21.451Z · LW · GW

Now, imagine you’re a diplomat, at a diplomatic conference. You see a group of diplomats, including someone representing one of your allies, in an intense conversation. They’re asking the allied diplomat questions, and your ally obviously has to think hard to answer them. Your intuition is going to be that something bad is happening here, and you want to derail it at all costs.

Source? I feel very, very confident that this is false. You would only want to break things up if you felt very confident that your ally would screw up answering the questions; otherwise, having lots of people paying careful attention to your side's proposals would be a very good sign.

Comment by Randaly on LessWrong Diplomacy Game 2015 · 2015-07-20T17:29:47.188Z · LW · GW

In, now.

Comment by Randaly on I've had it with those dark rumours about our culture rigorously suppressing opinions · 2015-07-18T13:09:50.665Z · LW · GW

Literally every sentence you wrote is wrong.

The worst crimes of the holocaust were a conspiracy within the Nazi government.

This is not true. The Holocaust was ordered by the popular leader of the German government; they were executed by a very large number of people, probably >90% of whom actively cooperated and almost none of whom tried to stop the Holocaust. (see e.g. Christopher Browning's Ordinary Men) German society as a whole knew that their government was attempting genocide; see e.g. What We Knew for supporting details, or Wikipedia for a summary.

(It is at least not totally impossible that the gas chambers were unknown to the broader German public. But the idea that gas chambers are representative of the Holocaust is a historical myth; most victims of the Holocaust were not killed by gas.)

The Nuremburg trials had testimony from an investigator who was attempting to prove his suspicions of these practices, and ultimately prosecute the offenders who were killing the Jews.

This is wrong. (This is kinda a refrain; your Nazi apologia is lacking in sources or historical accuracy.) I assume you're referring to Georg Konrad Morgen; if so, he did prosecute the people killing the Jews, but not for the genocide; he said, correctly, that the Final Solution was 'technically legal'. His prosecutions instead focused on the ordinary crimes (e.g. corruption).

It is likely that only a few hundred Germans were directly involved.

Again, this is just flat out wrong, in a way that shows that you have no idea what you're talking about. Auschwitz alone had ~7,000 camp guards during the war; there were around 55,000 concentration camp guards total. Again, I suggest that you read Ordinary Men, about the ~500 men of Reserve Police Battalion, who killed an estimated ~38,000 Jews. (There were about 17,500+ members of the Reserve Police Battalions, plus another 3,000+ members of the Einsatzgruppen.) There also numerous other SS/Ghestapo/Wehrmacht personnel directly involved beyond the three specific groups I've named.

Comment by Randaly on Philosophy professors fail on basic philosophy problems · 2015-07-17T10:37:52.379Z · LW · GW

All of these are plausibly true of art departments at universities as well. (The first two are a bit iffy.)

Comment by Randaly on Effective Altruism from XYZ perspective · 2015-07-12T11:38:06.685Z · LW · GW

Thanks, this helped me!

Comment by Randaly on If you can see the box, you can open the box · 2015-02-28T21:58:43.971Z · LW · GW

As I understand it, the mainstream interpretation of that document is not that Bin Laden is attacking America for its freedom; rather, AQ's war aims were the following:

  • End US support of Israel (also, Russia and India)
  • End the presence of US troops in the Middle East (especially Israel)
  • End US support for Muslim apostate dictators

See, e.g., this wikipedia article, or The Looming Tower. Eliezer is correct that AQ's attacks were not caused by AQ's hted of American freedoms.

Comment by Randaly on Compartmentalizing: Effective Altruism and Abortion · 2015-01-06T07:05:21.157Z · LW · GW

The argument doesn't understand what the moral uncertainty is over; it's taking moral uncertainty over whether fetuses are people in the standard quasi-deontological framework and trying to translate it into a total utilitarian framework, which winds up with fairly silly math (what could the 70% possibly refer to? Not to the value of the future person's life years- nobody disputes that once a person is alive, their life has normal, 100% value.)

Comment by Randaly on What false beliefs have you held and why were you wrong? · 2014-10-19T08:56:11.839Z · LW · GW

No I'm not. The Fizzbuzz article cited above is a wiki article. It is not based on original research, and draws from other articles. You will find the article I linked to linked to in a quote at the top of the first article in the 'articles' section of the wiki article; it is indeed the original source for the claim.

Comment by Randaly on What false beliefs have you held and why were you wrong? · 2014-10-19T06:58:59.558Z · LW · GW

The quote does not claim there has been no filtering done before the interview stage. If you read the original source it explicitly states that it is considering all aplicants, not only those who make it to the interview stage: "We get between 100 and 200 [resumes] per opening."

Comment by Randaly on What false beliefs have you held and why were you wrong? · 2014-10-18T01:54:09.938Z · LW · GW

You seem to be confusing applicants with people who are given interviews. Typically less than half of applicants even make it to the interview stage- sometimes much, much less than half.

There's also enough evidence out there to say that this level of applicants is common. Starbucks had over a hundred applicants for each position it offered recently; Proctor and Gamble had around 500. This guy also says it's common for programmers.

Comment by Randaly on What false beliefs have you held and why were you wrong? · 2014-10-17T20:58:40.387Z · LW · GW

unless you believe more than 100 people on the average get interviewed before anyone is hired

This is accurate for the top companies- as of 2011, Google interviewed over 300 people for each spot filled. Many of these people were plausibly interviewed multiple times, or for multiple positions.

Comment by Randaly on What false beliefs have you held and why were you wrong? · 2014-10-17T19:06:48.936Z · LW · GW

Maybe, but this is the exact opposite of polymath's claim- not that fighting a modern state is so difficult as to be impossible, but that fighting one is sufficiently simple that starting out without any weapons is not a significant handicap.

(The proposed causal impact of gun ownership on rebellion is more guns -> more willingness to actually fight against a dictator (acquiring a weapon is step that will stop many people who would otherwise rebel from doing so) -> more likelihood that government allies defect -> more likelihood that the government falls. I'm not sure if I endorse this, but polymath's claim is definitely wrong.)

(As an aside, this is historically inaccurate: almost all of the weapons in Syria and Libya came either from defections from their official militaries (especially in Libya), or from foreign donors, not from private purchases. However, private purchases were important in Mexico and Ireland.)

Comment by Randaly on What false beliefs have you held and why were you wrong? · 2014-10-17T06:36:57.844Z · LW · GW

The Syrians and Libyans seem to have done OK for themselves. Iraq and likely Afghanistan were technically wins for our nuclear and drone-armed state, but both were only marginal victories, Iraq was a fairly near run thing, and in neither case were significant defections from the US military a plausible scenario.

Comment by Randaly on Open thread, Sept. 29 - Oct.5, 2014 · 2014-09-29T22:07:52.610Z · LW · GW


Comment by Randaly on Open thread, Sept. 29 - Oct.5, 2014 · 2014-09-29T22:06:15.696Z · LW · GW

We can know that other amphibious assaults probably had lower or neglible friendly fire rates, because some other landings (some opposed) had absolutely lower rates of casulaties- e.g here, here, and here.

Comment by Randaly on Depth-based supercontroller objectives, take 2 · 2014-09-25T00:55:53.879Z · LW · GW

Thanks for your response!

1) Hmmm. OK, this is pretty counter-intuitive to me.

2) I'm not totally sure what you mean here. But, to give a concrete example, suppose that the most moral thing to do would be to tile the universe with very happy kittens (or something). CEV, as I understand, would create as many of these as possible, with its finite resources; whereas g/g* would try to create much more complicated structures than kittens.

3) Sorry, I don't think I was very clear. To clarify: once you've specified h, a superset of human essence, why would you apply the particular functions g/g to h? Why not just directly program in 'do not let h cease to exist'? g/g do get around the problem of specifying 'cease to exist', but this seems pretty insignificant compared to the difficulty of specifying h. And unlike with programming a supercontroller to preserve an entire superset of human essence, g/g* might wind up with the supercontroller focused on some parts of h that are not part of the human essence- so it doesn't completely solve the definition of 'cease to exist'.

(You said above that h is an improvement because it is a superset of human essence. But we can equally program a supercontroller not to let a superset of human essence cease to exist, once we've specified said superset.)

Comment by Randaly on Depth-based supercontroller objectives, take 2 · 2014-09-24T02:25:43.350Z · LW · GW

Note: I may have badly misunderstood this, as I am not familiar with the notion of logical depth. Sorry if I have!

I found this post's arguments to be much more comprehensible than your previous ones; thanks so much for taking the time to rewrite them. With that said, I see three problems:

1) '-D(u/h)' optimizes for human understanding of (or, more precisely, human information of) the universe, such that given humans you can efficiently get out a description of the rest of the universe. This also ensures that whatever h is defined as continues to exist. But many (indeed, even almost all) humans values aren't about entanglement with the universe. Because h isn't defined explicitly, it's tough for me to state a concrete scenario where this goes wrong. (This isn't a criticism of the definition of h, I agree with your decision not to try to tightly specify it.) But, e.g. it's easy to imagine that humans having any degree of freedom would be inefficient, so people would end drug-addled, in pods, with videos and audio playing continuously to put lots of carefully selected information into the humans. This strikes me as a poor outcome.

2) Some people (e.g. David Pearce (?) or MTGandP) argue that the best possible outcome is essentially tiled- that rather than have large and complicated beings human-scale or larger, it would be better to have huge numbers of micro-scale happy beings. I disagree, but I'm not absolutely certain, and I don't think we can rule out this scenario without explicitly or implicitly engaging with it.

3) As I understand it, in 3.1 you state that you aren't claiming that g is an optimal objective function, just that it leaves humans alive. But in this case 'h', which was not ever explicitly defined, is doing almost all of the work: g is guaranteed to preserve 'h', which you verbally identified with the physical state of humanity. But because you haven't offered a completely precise definition of humanity here, what the function as described above would preserve is 'a representation of the physical state of humanity including its biological makeup--DNA and neural architecture--as well as its cultural and technological accomplishments'. This doesn't strike me as a significant improvement from simply directly programming in that humans should survive, for whatever definition of humans/humanity selected; while it leaves the supercontroller with different incentives, in neither scenario are said incentives aligned with human morality.

(My intuition regarding g* is even less reliable than my intuition regarding g; but I think all 3 points above still apply.)

Comment by Randaly on LessWrong's attitude towards AI research · 2014-09-23T20:57:05.198Z · LW · GW

They are posted here.

IMHO, good starting points are 'Definiability of Truth in Probabilistic Logic' and 'Robust Cooperation in the Prisoner's Dilemma'.

Comment by Randaly on Calibrating your probability estimates of world events: Russia vs Ukraine, 6 months later. · 2014-08-31T00:21:24.029Z · LW · GW

I, and presumably shminux as well, though that you were claiming that there's actually a good chance that Obama actually does want to see the American 'empire' collapse, not that Putin thought that he would.

Comment by Randaly on Why don't more rationalists start startups? · 2014-01-20T19:00:13.129Z · LW · GW

Serial entrepreneurs are no more likely to succeed than first time entrepreneurs.

Comment by Randaly on Why don't more rationalists start startups? · 2014-01-20T07:42:03.124Z · LW · GW

You're taking a very inside-view approach to analyzing something that you have no direct experience with. (Assuming you don't.) This isn't a winning approach. Outside view predicts that 90% of startups will fail.

Startups' high reward is associated with high risk. But most people are risk averse, and insurance schemes create moral hazard.

Comment by Randaly on Open Thread for January 8 - 16 2014 · 2014-01-14T15:59:14.462Z · LW · GW

re: public speaking: There are in person groups like Toastmasters. Alternately, you can record yourself speaking about something and try to give yourself a self-critique.

Here's an exercise I've run before: Person 1 picks a word at random; Person 2 immediately starting speaking about something relevant. At 15 second intervals for 1-2 minutes, Person 1 throws out new words; Person 2 needs to keep speaking about the new words, and to flow smoothly between topics. (You can substitute Wikipedia's random article button for Person 1.)

Comment by Randaly on Rationality Quotes December 2013 · 2013-12-25T08:53:08.799Z · LW · GW

Most of the ancients that people pay attention to these days are ... well-fed

You mean well-fed in the sense of "not starving," but that doesn't imply "well-fed" in the sense of eating a healthy diet. There's reason to think that upper-class Romans would have been even more damaged by lead poisoning than the poor, and there's good evidence that even emperors were deficient in iodine.

Comment by Randaly on [deleted post] 2013-12-11T14:10:36.341Z

The obvious way to pull the rope sideways on this issue is to advocate for replacing conventional nuclear devices with neutron bombs.

Comment by Randaly on 2013 Less Wrong Census/Survey · 2013-11-22T09:08:29.568Z · LW · GW


Comment by Randaly on Yes, Virginia, You Can Be 99.99% (Or More!) Certain That 53 Is Prime · 2013-11-07T16:57:57.241Z · LW · GW

It seems, I dunno, kind of a frequentist way of thinking about the probability that I'm wrong.

There are numerous studies that show that our brain's natural way of thinking out probabilities is in terms of frequencies, and that people show less bias when presented with frequencies than when they are presented with percentages.

Comment by Randaly on Rationality Quotes November 2013 · 2013-11-04T02:38:33.555Z · LW · GW

His claim was:

(a) Everybody knew that different ethnicities had different brain sizes (b) It was an uncomfortable fact, so nobody talked about it (c) Now nobody knows that different ethnicities have different brain sizes

Comment by Randaly on Rationality Quotes November 2013 · 2013-11-03T11:09:46.411Z · LW · GW

His stated point is about telling things that everybody is supposed to know.

No, that was absolutely not his point. I don't understand how you could have come away thinking that- literally the entire next paragraph directly stated the exact opposite:

Graduate students in anthropology generally don’t know those facts about average brain volume in different populations. Some of those students stumbled onto claims about such differences and emailed a physical anthropologist I know, asking if those differences really exist. He tells them ‘yep’ – I’m not sure what happens next. Most likely they keep their mouths shut. Ain’t it great, living in a free country?

More generally, that was not a tightly reasoned book/paper about brainsize. That line was a throwaway point in support of a minor example ("For example, average brain size is not the same in all human populations") on a short blog post. Arguments about the number of significant figures presented, when you don't even disagree about the overall example or the conclusion, are about as good an example of bad disagreement as I can imagine.

Comment by Randaly on Rationality Quotes November 2013 · 2013-11-03T08:47:44.453Z · LW · GW

Source is here. SD for Asians and Europeans is 35, SD for Africans was 85. N=20,000.

What's wrong here? 4 degrees of accuracy for brain size and no error bars? That's a sign of someone being either intentionally or unintentionally dishonest. Why in the world would he present error bars? The numbers are in line with other studies, without massive uncertainty, and irrelevant to his actual, stated and quoted, point.

Comment by Randaly on Rationality Quotes November 2013 · 2013-11-03T08:36:56.676Z · LW · GW

I also dispute this- obvious cases include partial disagreement and partial agreement between parties, somebody who is simply silent or who says nothing of substance, and someone who is themself trying to learn from you/the other side.

(In particular, consider a debate between a biologist and the Pope on evolution. I would expect the Pope to be neither offensive nor defensive- though I'm not totally clear on the distinction here, and how a debater can be neither- but I would expect to learn much more from the biologist than the Pope.)

Comment by Randaly on Why officers vs. enlisted? · 2013-11-01T19:15:07.665Z · LW · GW

Actually, one of the sources you just linked (Wikibooks) states that officers were usually promoted from the ranks:

They were generally moved up from the ranks, but in some cases could be direct appointments from the Emperor or other higher ranking officials.

For further sources saying the same thing, see here, here, here, or here. See also this:

The most significant step in any successful army career of a Roman plebeian was the promotion to the centurionate. To become a centurion meant having become an officer. The main supply for the centurionate of the legions did indeed come from the ordinary men from the ranks of the legion. Though there was a significant number of centurions from the equestrian rank. Some of the late emperors of the empire prove very rare examples of ordinary soldiers who rose all the way through the ranks to become high-ranking commanders. But in general the rank of primus pilus, the most senior centurion in a legion, was as high as a ordinary man could reach.

Comment by Randaly on Why officers vs. enlisted? · 2013-11-01T02:40:39.425Z · LW · GW

Historically, the distinction was based on social classes, but that doesn't explain why every army follows this arrangement, including those in very different societies.

The claim that all societies use this model is inaccurate. The counterexample that springs to mind is the Roman army; I'm fairly certain that there are plenty more.

Comment by Randaly on The best 15 words · 2013-10-09T16:51:39.859Z · LW · GW

I endorse Lumifer's reason. Other reasons would include less patriotism (as I understand, loyalties in much of Africa are to tribes/clans/families rather than a nationstate, religion, or ideology, so bringing your family abroad of going abroad to look for money would be less of a shift) and less perceived safety (e.g. apparently 75% of Ethiopia's skilled laborers moved abroad during its famines).

Comment by Randaly on The best 15 words · 2013-10-09T11:50:48.264Z · LW · GW

I am Randaly; I didn't know that specific information before, but it did not surprise me. My understanding was that phenomenon of brain drain is fairly well known.

Comment by Randaly on The best 15 words · 2013-10-09T07:23:32.183Z · LW · GW

FWIW, your model is really badly broken if you didn't expect this- I would expect even most racist models (or, at least, my Turing-test-passing attempts at racist models) to predict this.

Comment by Randaly on The best 15 words · 2013-10-09T07:20:04.124Z · LW · GW

Nah, I was deliberately ignoring the other half. The fact that one part of Multiheaded's comment was correct (though, AFAICT, irrelevant to the above discussion) doesn't mean that the other part (regarding economic determinism) is too.