Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on The Best Software For Every Need · 2021-09-20T14:47:04.698Z · LW · GW

Holy wow excalidraw is good, thank you! I've spent a long time being frustrated that I know exactly what I want from this kind of application and nothing does even half of it. But excalidraw is exactly the ideal program I was imagining. Several times when trying it out I thought "Ok in my ideal program, if I hit A it will switch to the arrow tool." and then it did. "Cool, I wonder what other shortcuts there are" so I hit "?" and hey a nice cheat sheet pops up. Infinite canvas, navigated how I would expect. Instant multiplayer, with visible cursors so you can gesture at things. Even a dark mode. Perfect.

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on The Best Software For Every Need · 2021-09-20T14:21:16.253Z · LW · GW

This is the factor that persuaded me to try Obsidian in the first place. It's maintained by a company, so perhaps more polish than some FOSS projects, but the notes are all stored purely as simple markdown files on your hard disk, so if the company goes under the worst that happens is there are no more updates and I just keep using whatever the last version was

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on Nonspecific discomfort · 2021-09-17T11:30:12.966Z · LW · GW

I suppose it makes sense that if you've done a lot of introspection, the main problems you'll have will be the kind that are very resistant to that approach, which makes this post good advice for you and people like you. But I don't think the generalisable lesson is "introspection doesn't work, do these other things" so much as "there comes a point where introspection runs out, and when you hit that, here are some ways you can continue to make progress".

Or maybe it's like a person with a persistent disease who's tried every antibiotic without much effect, and then says "antibiotics suck, don't bother with them, but here are the ways I've found to treat my symptoms and live a good life even with the disease". It's good advice but only once you're sure the infection doesn't respond to antibiotics.

Could it be that most people do so little introspection because they're bad at it and it would only lead them astray anyway? Possibly, but the advice I'd give would still be to train the skill rather than to give up on understanding your problems.

That said, I think all of the things you suggest are a good idea in their own right, and the best strategy will be a combination. Do the things that help with problems-in-general while also trying to understand and fix the problem itself.

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on Nonspecific discomfort · 2021-09-14T11:46:10.213Z · LW · GW

I think this overestimates the level of introspection most people have in their lives, and therefore underestimates the effectiveness of introspection. I think for most people, most of the time, this 'nonspecific discomfort' is almost entirely composed of specific and easily understood problems that just make the slightest effort to hide themselves, by being uncomfortable to think about.

For example, maybe you don't like your job, and that's the problem. But, you have some combination of factors like

  • I dreamed of doing job X for years, so of course I like doing X
  • I spent so long training and working hard to be allowed to do job X, I can't quit
  • I'm an X-er, that's who I am, what would I even be if I stopped doing job X?

These kinds of things prevent you from ever thinking the thought "I have a problem which is that I don't like doing X and maybe want to do something else". So you have this general feeling of dissatisfaction which resists being pinned on the actual source of the problem, and may pin itself to other things. "Maybe if I get that new, better X-ing equipment", "Maybe if I get promoted to Senior X-er".

Probably doing exercise and socialising and cooking will help you feel better about a life doing a job you don't like, but ten minutes of honest focused introspection would let you see the problem and start to actually deal with it.

It seems plausible to me that there are also problems that are really deeply defended and will resist introspection very effectively, but I think most people haven't spent ten minutes by the clock just really trying to be honest with themselves and stare at the uncomfortable things, and until you've at least done that it's too soon to give up on the idea that your problem can't be understood and dealt with. Certainly introspection can give you wrong answers, but usually the problem is just that people have barely tried introspection at all.

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on Lifeism in the midst of death · 2021-06-25T22:49:22.289Z · LW · GW

At my grandmother's funeral I read Dirge Without Music by Edna St. Vincent Millay, which captured my feelings at the time fairly well. I think you can say things while reading a poem that you couldn't just say as yourself.

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on What will 2040 probably look like assuming no singularity? · 2021-05-19T11:49:05.911Z · LW · GW

On point 12, Drone delivery: If the FAA is the reason, we should expect to see this already happening in China?

My hypothesis is, the problem is noise. Even small drones are very loud, and ones large enough to lift the larger packages would be deafening. This is something that's very hard to engineer away, since transferring large amounts of energy into the air is an unavoidable feature of a drone's mode of flight. Aircraft deal with this by being very high up, but drones have to come to your doorstep. I don't see people being ok with that level of noise on a constant, unpredictable basis.

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on Rationalism before the Sequences · 2021-04-08T11:07:45.063Z · LW · GW

It would certainly be a mistake to interpret your martial art's principle of "A warrior should be able to fight well even in unfavourable combat situations" as "A warrior should always immediately charge into combat, even when that would lead to an unfavourable situation", or "There's no point in trying to manoeuvre into a favourable situation"

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on A Medical Mystery: Thyroid Hormones, Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia · 2021-04-06T13:14:39.002Z · LW · GW

I just stumbled across this and see it is in fact 5 years later! Have you seen anything interesting from GWAS so far?

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on Disentangling Corrigibility: 2015-2021 · 2021-04-01T10:45:22.897Z · LW · GW

Note that the way Paul phrases it in that post is much clearer and more accurate:

> "I believe this concept was introduced in the context of AI by Eliezer and named by Robert Miles"

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on Disentangling Corrigibility: 2015-2021 · 2021-04-01T10:43:06.902Z · LW · GW

Yeah I definitely wouldn't say I 'coined' it, I just suggested the name

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on If you've learned from the best, you're doing it wrong · 2021-03-19T10:44:49.862Z · LW · GW

Worth noting that the 'corrupt polymaths' problem only happens in areas that aren't too easy to measure (which is most areas). But like, the famous best 100m sprinter actually is just the best, he didn't need to do any politics to be recognised.

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on Birds, Brains, Planes, and AI: Against Appeals to the Complexity/Mysteriousness/Efficiency of the Brain · 2021-03-15T12:14:41.760Z · LW · GW

Yeah, the mechanics of helicopter rotors is pretty complex and a bit counter-intuitive, Smarter Every Day has a series on it

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on Birds, Brains, Planes, and AI: Against Appeals to the Complexity/Mysteriousness/Efficiency of the Brain · 2021-03-04T10:32:18.658Z · LW · GW

I came here to say this :)

If you do the stabilisation with the rotors in the usual helicopter way, you basically have a Chinook (though you don't need the extra steering propeller because you can control the rotors well enough)

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on Why are young, healthy people eager to take the Covid-19 vaccine? · 2020-12-04T10:38:55.349Z · LW · GW

A neglected motivation: If I'm vaccinated, and my friends are vaccinated, I can hang out with my friends again

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on I made an N95-level mask at home, and you can too · 2020-11-26T11:34:25.712Z · LW · GW

My understanding is the CO2/O2 thing is almost completely a red herring/non-issue. Firstly of course any mask or filter is going to let through O2 and CO2 molecules completely indiscriminately since they're far too small to be affected. And secondly you always breathe in some of the air you breathed out, since it's still in your airways. In the worst case, adding a mask would increase this re-inhaled amount by the volume of the space between the mask and the face, which is pretty small. So breathing through a mask is like breathing through a tube with the same inner volume as the inside-mask space - a regular swimming snorkel results in much more re-breathing, and is also not a problem. It wouldn't surprise me if some people are re-breathing more without a mask than others do with a mask, just because they have a longer neck or larger airways.

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on Any work on honeypots (to detect treacherous turn attempts)? · 2020-11-12T21:18:55.303Z · LW · GW

A related keyword to search for is 'tripwires', which might be thought of as honeypots which are connected to an automatic shutdown

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on Why indoor lighting is hard to get right and how to fix it · 2020-11-01T19:50:33.223Z · LW · GW

What are your thoughts on DIYPerks' recent artificial sunlight project?

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on How to Build a Lumenator · 2020-10-23T10:32:57.634Z · LW · GW

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on Has Eliezer ever retracted his statements about weight loss? · 2020-10-22T10:32:43.442Z · LW · GW

Yeah, my weight is uncannily stable as well. I don't think I've been more than 400g away from 60.0kg in the past like 8 years, during which time I have made no effort to regulate my diet or exercise whatsoever. I've been a PhD student cooking for myself extremely poorly and also a tech employee getting unlimited free nutella crumpets at work. I've been a person who never exercises, to running twice a week, to a pandemic shut-in, to experimenting with strength training. I went vegan during that time. Nothing has moved my weight more than half a kilo, and not in a predictable direction.
If my body decided, by whatever mechanism this is, that it was going to weigh 120kg, I doubt there's anything I could practically do about it.

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on Reviews of TV show NeXt (about AI safety) · 2020-10-11T19:33:03.226Z · LW · GW

a lot of content seemed directly inspired from the AI safety community

From an interview ( with the show's creator:

"Now, I've seen AI movies and robot revolution movies, but what was interesting about what Musk was saying was that he was saying this is a really very real possibility, and it led me to look into it.

There was a couple of books that had come out on the subject. One is Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom, and the other one is Our Final Invention by James Barratt, which was another terrific book. There was another individual, Eliezer Yudkowsky, who is leading a whole seminar on the on the internet about this subject."

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on Tips for the most immersive video calls · 2020-10-07T21:09:14.979Z · LW · GW

What do you think about video call eye-contact setups, like this?:

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on (Humor) AI Alignment Critical Failure Table · 2020-09-10T10:42:48.675Z · LW · GW
Specifically, the AI is an incorrigible practical joker.

Of course

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on PSA: Cars don't have 'blindspots' · 2020-07-08T13:07:27.732Z · LW · GW

Front pillar blind spots can be a really big deal:

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on Coming Back to Biking · 2020-03-12T01:18:06.424Z · LW · GW

Sorry if you know this, but it may be helpful to others: If cycling gives you joint pains that's sometimes because the bike isn't set up right for you. There are obviously different sizes of bike and also a few different adjustments that can be made to fit your particular dimensions, and not all of them are obvious or easy to get right, so it might be worth taking the bike to a good shop and asking them to set it up to fit you.

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on How does electricity work literally? · 2020-03-04T15:12:49.417Z · LW · GW

50-60Hz is not too low to be heard:

It's not really too high to be seen either, lights that flicker at mains frequency can be pretty unpleasant on the eyes, and give some people headaches.

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on How does electricity work literally? · 2020-03-04T14:02:16.483Z · LW · GW

I recall seeing something about a very low-powered (and cheaply made) LED lightbulb which could never be turned off. With the light switch on, it was bright, and with the light switch off it was much more dim, but not actually off. It turned out this was because in certain common house wiring configurations, electrical field effects between nearby wires allow enough power through to light the bulb

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on How to Frame Negative Feedback as Forward-Facing Guidance · 2020-02-18T16:58:19.686Z · LW · GW

Level 2 is to automatically apply this technique to negative feedback directed at you.

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on Criticism as Entertainment · 2020-01-28T13:02:52.499Z · LW · GW

I'm not sure the reason, but there doesn't seem to be the same kind of nitpicky "everything wrong with X" type criticism out there for games (or at least it's not as popular, because I haven't seen it). There are lots of 'this game sucks' reviews, but they don't tend to be a giant laundry list of tiny inconsistencies, design choices etc. I think games are held to a much much lower standard on things like plot, acting etc, and maybe the fact that everyone's experience of a game is unique makes this style of criticism less viable?

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on Have epistemic conditions always been this bad? · 2020-01-28T12:54:20.254Z · LW · GW

I didn't know the norm was different here. I like the old norm, for reasons that are a little hard to express. I guess political discussion is much more engaging than the stuff we usually talk about, so if it's allowed I fear it will become a large proportion of overall discussion, to the cost of other topics. I don't want people for whom Politics is their main hobby to feel like this place is of any interest at all to them. If such a person wanders across this place and finds a lot of discussion of theoretical computer science and decision theory, they will keep wandering. Having a load of discussions about what may or may not be wrong with people's Politics feels to me like calling up something that we don't know how to put down.

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on Why Do You Keep Having This Problem? · 2020-01-21T15:28:08.448Z · LW · GW

My first impression was that this is much too obvious to be worth talking about, but my second thought is that I've found it very useful to have these language based triggers that act as a "summon sapience" spell. Triggers that make you stop and think. They don't push you to make any particular choice, but just to notice that this is a situation where there is a choice to be made.

I wonder if it would be worth putting together a list of "words and phrases which, when you hear them, should make you stop and think". "Why does this keep happening?" belongs on that list for sure.

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on On the Chatham House Rule · 2020-01-14T16:31:43.876Z · LW · GW

This makes me think of the Creative Commons Licences. They're neatly named to show what is and isn't allowed. If I see that a piece of work is marked "CC BY-NC", I can easily see that it's published under a creative commons licence (CC), I'm free to share it as long as I give attribution so people know who the work is by (BY), and it's used only for non-commercial purposes (NC). Perhaps we could design a set of rules like that, with the various optional parts separated out and clearly labelled. "This event is CH NA-AL", or whatever.

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on Criticism as Entertainment · 2020-01-14T11:33:41.966Z · LW · GW

Zero Punctuation is a good contrasting example, but from a different medium. Perhaps Jenny Nicholson is a good example for film criticism?

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on AI Alignment Open Thread August 2019 · 2019-08-27T16:27:40.529Z · LW · GW

Yeah, nuclear power is a better analogy than weapons, but I think the two are linked, and the link itself may be a useful analogy, because risk/coordination is affected by the dual-use nature of some of the technologies.

One thing that makes non-proliferation difficult is that nations legitimately want nuclear facilities because they want to use nuclear power, but 'rogue states' that want to acquire nuclear weapons will also claim that this is their only goal. How do we know who really just wants power plants?

And power generation comes with its own risks. Can we trust everyone to take the right precautions, and if not, can we paternalistically restrict some organisations or states that we deem not capable enough to be trusted with the technology?

AI coordination probably has these kinds of problems to an even greater degree.

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on Stories of Summer Solstice · 2018-07-12T06:43:40.686Z · LW · GW

My experience of that sudden abrupt silence at the exact instant that the very last sliver of sun dropped below the horizon wasn't a hushed and numinous rapture, so much as it was like "Holy Shit, that WORKED? Did we really all just stop dead silent at the exact same moment?" I've been in orchestras that struggle to do that.

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on Idea: OpenAI Gym environments where the AI is a part of the environment · 2018-04-14T13:12:57.452Z · LW · GW

The "Whisky and Gold" environment is particularly relevant

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on The Steampunk Aesthetic · 2018-03-08T23:31:03.777Z · LW · GW

If you would like to see this lifestyle/philosophy lived out fully in real-time, you can watch Jamie Mantzel's YouTube channel:

He is living on an island in Panama, in a concrete building he built single-handedly, using a solar powered bulldozer he designed and built himself, collecting materials and components from the mainland on a solar-powered cargo boat he built himself, etc etc.

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on set of cards · 2018-03-07T16:37:46.375Z · LW · GW

This idea reminds me very much of Oblique Strategies. I guess the idea of that set of cards is to help with creative work - you draw a card when you're feeling stuck or uninspired, and the cards say something oblique like "not building a wall, making a brick", allowing you to give your thoughts a big shove in a pretty arbitrary direction in thought-space, which can push you out of a local optimum and get things moving again.

Inspired by this, I've thought about trying to do exactly what you're doing, and I can share the list I wrote down (with no claims whatsoever about their quality or suitability):

  • Compare the outside and inside views
  • Has this problem been solved before?
  • Is this the right problem to solve?
  • Have you tried the obvious things?
  • Ask someone else for obvious things to try
  • Your future self visits to tell you your plan failed. What went wrong?
  • Who would be better at this than you? Pick a specific person. What would they do?
  • Stop and make a list or two
  • Consider the opportunity costs
  • What are you avoiding thinking about?
  • Be more specific
  • Name three examples
  • Come up with a concrete example
  • Why are you drawing a card? Ask yourself "why?" to the response, 4 more times.
  • What would convince you that you are wrong?
  • What assumptions are you relying on?
  • What other problem is this most similar to?
  • Do a Fermi calculation
  • Go meta
  • Separate the parts of you that disagree, and let them have a conversation
  • Break the problem into smaller sub-problems
  • Take the contrapositive
Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on Confidence Confusion · 2018-02-16T11:39:18.857Z · LW · GW

Perhaps the principled way is to try representing your probability to the same number of significant figures as a probability, as a log probability, as odds, and as log odds, and then present whichever option happens to fall closest to your true estimate :p

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on "Just Suffer Until It Passes" · 2018-02-12T13:26:25.992Z · LW · GW
a lot of problems aren't huge problems in-and-of themselves, and it's the flight to distraction and stimulation that compound the problem and create bad ongoing habits

This reminds me of a technique I use sometimes called Doing Nothing, described in this blog post, where instead of what you call 'flying to distraction' , you just don't do anything at all. You say "I don't have to write this paper right now, but I'm also not going to do anything else". You have the freedom to sit there blankly doing nothing at all for as long as you want, and generally it's not long before you stumble upon some new ideas or motivation to carry on.

Comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) on Moloch's Toolbox (2/2) · 2017-11-20T12:22:11.011Z · LW · GW

The reason you can't just vote to change the voting system actually seems a lot simpler to me, based on my experience of the UK AV referendum. The system actually worked well enough to get the idea of switching to a basically sane voting system put to a public referendum. Then look at how that referendum goes. Who stands to benefit?

  • The public (but they don't know that)
  • The small political parties (who lack funding and are unable to mobilise large numbers of voters almost by definition)

Who stands to lose out

  • The major political parties (who have vast, well funded propaganda machines, good contacts, expertise etc)

So the red party told red voters that using a sane voting system would be bad for the red party, and the blue party told blue voters that using a sane voting system would be bad for the blue party, and the referendum came out as a 'No'.