Units of Action 2019-11-07T17:47:13.141Z · score: 7 (1 votes)
Natural laws should be explicit constraints on strategy space 2019-08-13T20:22:47.933Z · score: 10 (3 votes)
Offering public comment in the Federal rulemaking process 2019-07-15T20:31:39.182Z · score: 19 (4 votes)
Outline of NIST draft plan for AI standards 2019-07-09T17:30:45.721Z · score: 19 (5 votes)
NIST: draft plan for AI standards development 2019-07-08T14:13:09.314Z · score: 17 (5 votes)
Open Thread July 2019 2019-07-03T15:07:40.991Z · score: 15 (4 votes)
Systems Engineering Advancement Research Initiative 2019-06-28T17:57:54.606Z · score: 23 (7 votes)
Financial engineering for funding drug research 2019-05-10T18:46:03.029Z · score: 11 (5 votes)
Open Thread May 2019 2019-05-01T15:43:23.982Z · score: 11 (4 votes)
StrongerByScience: a rational strength training website 2019-04-17T18:12:47.481Z · score: 15 (7 votes)
Machine Pastoralism 2019-04-03T16:04:02.450Z · score: 12 (7 votes)
Open Thread March 2019 2019-03-07T18:26:02.976Z · score: 10 (4 votes)
Open Thread February 2019 2019-02-07T18:00:45.772Z · score: 20 (7 votes)
Towards equilibria-breaking methods 2019-01-29T16:19:57.564Z · score: 23 (7 votes)
How could shares in a megaproject return value to shareholders? 2019-01-18T18:36:34.916Z · score: 18 (4 votes)
Buy shares in a megaproject 2019-01-16T16:18:50.177Z · score: 15 (6 votes)
Megaproject management 2019-01-11T17:08:37.308Z · score: 57 (21 votes)
Towards no-math, graphical instructions for prediction markets 2019-01-04T16:39:58.479Z · score: 30 (13 votes)
Strategy is the Deconfusion of Action 2019-01-02T20:56:28.124Z · score: 75 (24 votes)
Systems Engineering and the META Program 2018-12-20T20:19:25.819Z · score: 31 (11 votes)
Is cognitive load a factor in community decline? 2018-12-07T15:45:20.605Z · score: 20 (7 votes)
Genetically Modified Humans Born (Allegedly) 2018-11-28T16:14:05.477Z · score: 30 (9 votes)
Real-time hiring with prediction markets 2018-11-09T22:10:18.576Z · score: 19 (5 votes)
Update the best textbooks on every subject list 2018-11-08T20:54:35.300Z · score: 78 (28 votes)
An Undergraduate Reading Of: Semantic information, autonomous agency and non-equilibrium statistical physics 2018-10-30T18:36:14.159Z · score: 31 (7 votes)
Why don’t we treat geniuses like professional athletes? 2018-10-11T15:37:33.688Z · score: 20 (16 votes)
Thinkerly: Grammarly for writing good thoughts 2018-10-11T14:57:04.571Z · score: 6 (6 votes)
Simple Metaphor About Compressed Sensing 2018-07-17T15:47:17.909Z · score: 8 (7 votes)
Book Review: Why Honor Matters 2018-06-25T20:53:48.671Z · score: 31 (13 votes)
Does anyone use advanced media projects? 2018-06-20T23:33:45.405Z · score: 45 (14 votes)
An Undergraduate Reading Of: Macroscopic Prediction by E.T. Jaynes 2018-04-19T17:30:39.893Z · score: 38 (9 votes)
Death in Groups II 2018-04-13T18:12:30.427Z · score: 32 (7 votes)
Death in Groups 2018-04-05T00:45:24.990Z · score: 48 (19 votes)
Ancient Social Patterns: Comitatus 2018-03-05T18:28:35.765Z · score: 20 (7 votes)
Book Review - Probability and Finance: It's Only a Game! 2018-01-23T18:52:23.602Z · score: 25 (10 votes)
Conversational Presentation of Why Automation is Different This Time 2018-01-17T22:11:32.083Z · score: 70 (29 votes)
Arbitrary Math Questions 2017-11-21T01:18:47.430Z · score: 8 (4 votes)
Set, Game, Match 2017-11-09T23:06:53.672Z · score: 5 (2 votes)
Reading Papers in Undergrad 2017-11-09T19:24:13.044Z · score: 42 (14 votes)


Comment by ryan_b on The new dot com bubble is here: it’s called online advertising · 2019-11-19T15:57:30.869Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · LW · GW

What you are saying is reasonable, but it feels to me like you put the burden of proof on the author of the article. The question is, why should we believe advertising works at all? So the way I see it, the burden of proof is on the people doing advertising, and the article is asserting that they have not met it.

Comment by ryan_b on Units of Action · 2019-11-18T22:52:15.890Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW
you can usefully think of "men" as a group and make decisions based on considerations like "if we do this, men will do that".

I agree with this, but a unit of action does not add anything to the concept; it is how marketing and advertising and politics all work currently. I want to capture something different: in particular the execution of plans or working towards a goal.

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

That's interesting, and I am deeply sympathetic to this view. I do feel differently: my lens is that abstractions are for capturing the optimal amount of information. The most important thing is knowing what information is important, and then I want the most efficient way to capture it. My thinking gets muddy, though, when I don't really know what is important. This biases me in favor of being able to capture more information if necessary because if the abstraction doesn't capture the information I need then it is useless or, what is worse, misleading.

Short digression: a background assumption of mine is that there is always an algorithm or decision making process somewhere in which the abstraction will be employed. A concrete example of this which I reread from time to time is a blog post describing algorithmic efficiency in terms of problem information. The motivating example is Matlab, which is a ubiquitous numerical problem solver in engineering: the programming language is slow and wasn't designed around performance, but they get pretty good performance when solving linear systems because their algorithms do a bunch of checks to see if specific kinds of algorithms can be applied that capture the information more efficiently. This is stuff like is the matrix square? or is the matrix triangular? which matters because in each of these cases they have a maximally efficient algorithm.

Returning to the example of the obstructed agency you gave, what I want is to be able to reason about the success case and about the failure case (which if I read you correctly, is where you think the unit of action breaks down). Rolling in the intuition about problem information, when we are thinking about the agency suing a company in a unit-of-action context:

If the lawsuit proceeds normally we have only the two objects:

[Agency, Company]

But suppose the blackmail gambit works. I still want to be able to describe what is happening, so I recurse on the agency to relevant sub-units, and we have:

[Head of the agency, Investigation team, Company]

We can imagine a scenario where the blackmail gambit is discovered and the agency responds, which probably means zeroing in on the company sub-units, like whichever VP ran the operation and his informant, which brings us to:

[Head of the agency, Investigation team, Company VP, VP's informant]

And so on. The benefit is that I only need to go down into sub-units when the units I am currently looking at fail to capture the needed details. Further, I only need to look at the relevant sub-units, instead of committing to analyzing all agents/employees or all teams, which would capture all the information I need, but might be impossible (individuals) or hideously inefficient (teams).

Comment by ryan_b on Units of Action · 2019-11-15T19:42:53.646Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW
For example, the company may decide to blackmail (the head of the agency) into pressuring (the leader of the team pursuing the case) into dropping it or flubbing the investigation or something. You won't get very far thinking of the agency as a unit, if that happens.

I tried to capture this with the game theory intuition: what this example demonstrates is that the agency has sub-units, here being the head and the investigative team. I do agree that the investigation is likely to fail, but the detail I want to highlight is that acting and the success of the action are distinct. So when an agency launches an investigation, and then the investigation is <successful|failed|sabotaged>, the real weight lies in launching the investigation and not on its outcome.

I think the intuition becomes clearer when you compare this example against one where the company decides to blackmail a key witness instead. If we imagine the agency is the FBI, I am confident you'll agree that it is a much, much bigger deal to blackmail the head of the FBI than some private citizen, even in the context of the same investigation. The simplest way to express this is that blackmailing the head of the FBI is an attack upon the agency. In both examples only one person is the target, in both cases the company does blackmail, but the consequences if discovered would be entirely lopsided.

I thought this was a good point, because it seems to contain a hidden assumption:

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

It is also true that everyone in the company didn't do something worth getting sued over. The intuition here is that the people that make up the agency are not a viable way to analyze what the agency is doing, even where it is technically feasible; they are the wrong unit of analysis. People aren't relevant to the agency's behavior before they join; they have much less relevance after they leave; while they are there whatever aspect of the agency you are thinking about will really only involve a subset of members. Doing things at the same time isn't the dividing line; doing them with the same purpose is.

I'm not clear on why this is:

Because there's no explicit coordination between them as a group? But if you have to consider internal communication, the abstraction seems to lose value.

Where do you see value being lost? It might be worth pointing out that the coordination doesn't have to be explicit per se, just intentional. So the men who show up to see the Expendables are not a unit of action, but a Men's Movie Club going to see the Expendables would be; further Men's Movie Club could resolve to see every new Expendables movie on opening night at a particular theater, and wouldn't need to communicate internally every time to do it because it is common knowledge. It does feel like there is something about internal communication that could mark bundles of actions, though.

Comment by ryan_b on Open & Welcome Thread - November 2019 · 2019-11-08T19:59:12.083Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I found a Q&A with one of the authors on the book's website. It describes what they were hoping to accomplish, who the audience of the new book is, and summarizes some of the theoretic advancements.

Comment by ryan_b on Open & Welcome Thread - November 2019 · 2019-11-08T19:39:00.748Z · score: 12 (5 votes) · LW · GW

There's a new book out, Game-Theoretic Foundations for Probability and Finance by Glenn Shafer and Vladimir Vovk. The idea is that perfect information games can replace measure theory as the basis of probability, and also provide a mathematical basis for finance.

I have their earlier book, which I reviewed on LessWrong. I don't have the new one, in which they claim more generalization, abstraction, and coherent footing as a result of 18 years of further development. They also claim their method for continuous time finance is better and easier to use than current practice.

Has anyone else read this? It's on my list, but it will be pretty far down, so I would welcome other opinions as to whether I should promote it.

Comment by ryan_b on Units of Action · 2019-11-07T17:43:15.484Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW


1. I can see a lot of overlap with this and several senses of the the term institution. The reason I find it convenient to use a different term is that it shifts the emphasis to what specific groups are doing. For example, family is an institution, but the Templeton family is a unit of action. The corporation is an institution, but IBM is a unit of action. It also usefully excludes broader institutions, like the market or civil rights, while keeping the New York Stock Exchange and the ACLU as units of action. One way to think of it: units of action are the microphenomena of institutions, and the macrophenomena of people.

2. Coming from a firmly demographic perspective on groups, like is common in political campaigning, this could easily get fuzzy. Consider religion: Christian and Muslim are not units of action, but Mormons and Catholics are essentially big hierarchies while Sunnis, Jews and Evangelicals are not. In the campaign-view of groups, what I think of as units of action are mostly important because they are indicators for demographic groups: NAACP is an indicator of black voter support, AARP is an indicator of senior voter support, unions of working class voter support, etc. This view seems to get the most airtime by far, though I could be biased because I consume an unusually high amount of political information.

Comment by ryan_b on Total horse takeover · 2019-11-05T17:32:15.872Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Ha! I was way off. Thank you.

Comment by ryan_b on Total horse takeover · 2019-11-05T16:30:47.374Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The term "rat cev" is new to me. My guess for rat is rational, but I am drawing a blank on cev. It probably isn't ceviche, though.

Comment by ryan_b on Open & Welcome Thread - October 2019 · 2019-10-31T16:21:18.078Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I have always understood this to be a consequence of the Politics is the Mindkiller custom. The most relevant pieces outside the Craft and the Community on LessWrong are Raemon's The Relationship Between the Village and the Mission, and The Schelling Choice is Rabbit, not Stag.

I can think of a couple relevant-but-not-specific areas outside the rationalist community:

multivocality - the fact that single actions can be interpreted coherently from multiple perspectives simultaneously, the fact that single actions can be moves in many games at once, and the fact that public and private motivations cannot be parsed.

This leads to something they call robust action, which basically means "hard to interfere with." So my prior for successful movements is a morally multivocal ideology for hunting stag robustly.

Comment by ryan_b on To like each other, sing and dance in synchrony · 2019-10-31T16:05:13.880Z · score: 7 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I have just discovered this post, long after it was written. It is closely related to things I am now thinking about, chief among them the importance of shared experiences.

Still relevant, sources are helpful, great post!

Comment by ryan_b on Halloween · 2019-10-31T14:30:50.631Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It was different not so long ago. When I was a child in the Midwest (mid-80s through at least the mid-90s), Halloween had a lot more tradition and ritual to it, but these rituals have been systematically curtailed or banned (I now live in the South, and the same is true here). Trick or treating used to be long and elaborate, treats were more commonly homemade and also elaborate, and costumes and decorations were more explicitly focused on fear and death. Halloween was about community participating in rituals of fear.

In the meantime the average age of homeowners increased, the population of children fell, and the general level of anxiety in the population increased. The entertainment industry diversified, and now even if you have cable there won't be a string of horror movies everyone watches. A whole genre of scary films, suspense, effectively disappeared in the meantime. Halloween traditions died by trivial inconveniences. Since the community aspects collapsed, new elements filled the void; entertainment entire shifted more towards adrenaline, comedy and sex; children's entertainment became increasingly nonsensical and averse to serious things; costumes followed suit.

Halloween was my favorite holiday when I was a child, but most of that is gone and now my child shall have only the memories my wife and I can impart. This saddens me greatly.

Comment by ryan_b on The Technique Taboo · 2019-10-31T13:37:31.511Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW
It might be different for those who grew up in violent neighborhoods

Ha! I suppose the military is the next best thing. The prevalence of bodybuilding is kind of weird, considering that as a profession it is endurance-focused.

Comment by ryan_b on The Technique Taboo · 2019-10-30T14:37:22.976Z · score: 11 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Forbids electronic systems for logging their progress? Is it possible there's a separate motivation for this than hostility to technique, ie 'don't sit on the machine and play with your phone' or 'for liability reasons we can't allow you to attach the velocity device to the equipment'?

My experience of weightlifting is highly technique focused. Frequently unsophisticated, but technique focused nevertheless. Sports like powerlifting and olympic lifting are increasing in popularity all the time, and these are utterly reliant on discussion of technique. Copious discussion.

On the other hand, it does occur to me that the comparative dearth of authoritative answers is consistent with a taboo in the relatively recent past.

Comment by ryan_b on Why are people so bad at dating? · 2019-10-29T13:52:40.636Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I agree that choosing good photos is both covert and has high social approval. But the important feature of the norm of being genuine is that people simply don't evaluate their chances of success: instead, whatever success they happen to get is evidence of how attractive they are.

But dating profiles are still relatively new, and their saturation in the dating world is very new. I expect that the norms will shift to accommodate them. Consider that it remains totally normal for people to put more effort than usual into the clothes they wear for a date; profile photos seem like they will probably slide into the same position as wearing a nice shirt, with mostly the same considerations.

Comment by ryan_b on What's your big idea? · 2019-10-28T19:04:22.706Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Humans prefer mutual information. Further, I suspect that this is the same mechanism that drives our desire to reproduce.

The core of my intuition is that we instinctively want to propagate our genetic information, and also seem to want to propagate our cultural information (e.g. the notion of not being able to raise my daughter fills me with horror). If this is true of both kinds of information, it probably shares a cause.

This seems to have explanatory power for a lot of things.

  • Why do people continue to talk when they have nothing to say, or spend time listening to things that make them angry or afraid? Because there are intrinsic rewards for speaking and for listening, regardless of content. These things lead to shared information the same way sex leads to children.
  • Why do people make poetry and music? Because this is a bundle of their cultural information propagating in the world. I think the metaphor about the artwork being the artist's child should be taken completely literally.
  • Why do people teach? A pretty good description of teaching is mutualizing information.

This quickly condensed into considering how important shared experiences are, and therefore also coordinated groups. This is because actions generate shared experiences, which contain a lot of mutual information. Areas of investigation for this include military training, asabiyah, and ritual.

What I haven't done yet is really link this to what is happening in the brain; naively it seems consistent at first blush with the predictive processing model, and also seems like maybe-possibly Fristonian free energy applied to other humans.

Comment by ryan_b on Why are people so bad at dating? · 2019-10-28T15:31:48.741Z · score: 28 (16 votes) · LW · GW

My model for this is that there are strong norms against optimization. Specifically we are supposed to be genuine, which is to say conduct ourselves in dating as we would normally conduct ourselves, such that the people we date get an accurate view of the "real" us. Optimizing your photos and strategizing for maximum number of connections to your profile is not genuine because you wouldn't normally do them, so people don't.

This works for explaining how badly people feel when they try to get dates and fail consistently. For a person following the norm of being genuine, failure to secure a date means that they are genuinely undesirable. I'm confident we'll all agree that such a feeling cuts to the quick.

I think we can also profitably compare the situation of online dating to a similar situation in job seeking. In this case the norms for being honest are much weaker; there is a widespread understanding that this is a game that is routinely strategized on up to and including deception, and being rejected from a job is correspondingly less hurtful than being rejected for dates. Further, there is a huge profusion of resume review, interview prep, and search optimization services. These get routinely used.

The distinction between the interface (resume, job portal, interviews) and the goal (doing work for pay) allows people comfort with being strategic about the former. The norm of being genuine obfuscates this in the case of dating sites and relationships.

Comment by ryan_b on Iron: From mythical to mundane · 2019-10-25T20:01:56.913Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I really like the 'prayers are just a religious working song' angle.

Comment by ryan_b on What Comes After Epistemic Spot Checks? · 2019-10-25T15:35:47.158Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I agree that the problem of sound arguments based on bad assumptions is a sticky one. I also agree with the gears-level world model objective.

My view of argument checking is that if we eschew it, how can we detect the amount of noise poor arguments are generating? It seems to me the clearest way of handling it is to treat the arguments as a separate information channel. Otherwise it will be difficult to identify the presence or absence of value with any confidence.

Comment by ryan_b on What economic gains are there in life extension treatments? · 2019-10-24T15:28:46.176Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The largest single one that I can identify is healthcare. A conservative measurement of end-of-life care makes it 13% of healthcare costs, and if healthcare is 17.9% of GDP in the US that is means we save (0.13 * 0.179 = 0.02327) ~2.3% of GDP for as long as those expenses can be deferred. This does not include treatment of chronic conditions or other risks which are made worse by senescence (falls, Alzheimer's, etc).

Comment by ryan_b on What economic gains are there in life extension treatments? · 2019-10-24T15:11:41.109Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think it is a mistake to count savings on raising children as a benefit of life extension because there is no intrinsic link between these two things. Where people make decisions about childbearing at all, they aren't made on the basis of maintaining a stable population. Further, if life extension also extends childbearing years, then we might reasonably expect the birthrate to increase because people will have more options for balancing childbirth, childcare, and employment.

Comment by ryan_b on Gradient hacking · 2019-10-17T17:10:56.810Z · score: 9 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It occurs to me that despite my lack of expertise in alignment, I am really enjoying the mesa optimization conversation because it does a good job of contextualizing machine learning performance. This is good even for narrow applications.

Comment by ryan_b on Epistemic Spot Checks: The Fall of Rome · 2019-10-17T16:02:18.271Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I feel like this is an excellent middle ground between a full review and relying solely on the reputation of the author, and I am excited to see the eventual list of books which pass the epistemic spot checks.

Comment by ryan_b on Introducing A New Open-Source Prediction Registry · 2019-10-16T21:12:36.750Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I second this. The architecture of prediction feels like rationality tooling.

Comment by ryan_b on Open & Welcome Thread - October 2019 · 2019-10-15T14:27:15.311Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Lately short stories, action, and good prose. Short stories are an excellent antidote to the glut of long book series; they don't allow enough space for fluff, so I find they are consistently better reads. Also lower investment, which is nice. And good prose is good prose, like always.

A year or so ago I read some of Ursula K. Le Guin's short stories, and that was when I really noticed that there were levels to the whole business. I don't recall the story, but the scene which struck me was walking down a road in the autumn. I now suspect that depicting banal events well is a mark of craft in the same way as drawing a circle or squaring an edge.

Comment by ryan_b on When we substantially modify an old post should we edit directly or post a version 2? · 2019-10-11T15:44:30.198Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I favor editing directly, except in cases where a new position has been taken. Then I favor a second post, because this will allow us to capture the development of the ideas. This would include any important reversals or entirely new dimensions of the idea.

Putting all subsequent versions of the same post in a sequence would be a good idea; then people who come to one of the posts could see there were previous versions and/or subsequent versions. I wonder if some kind of tag or titling convention would be helpful.

Comment by ryan_b on When we substantially modify an old post should we edit directly or post a version 2? · 2019-10-11T15:32:14.396Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Is this not the default behavior with the RSS? When I edit one of my posts, it shows back up in the daily post queue.

Comment by ryan_b on Introduction to Introduction to Category Theory · 2019-10-08T18:29:18.137Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I am strongly interested. I've been trying to get some real math under my belt, but to be frank it isn't my talent so I am perpetually on the lookout for exposition and exposition accessories.

Comment by ryan_b on Introduction to Introduction to Category Theory · 2019-10-08T18:20:35.280Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I still have no idea how forcing really works, but man do I like the cut of Chow's jib.

Comment by ryan_b on Open & Welcome Thread - October 2019 · 2019-10-03T14:31:10.384Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I've noticed I navigate my entertainment largely by things to avoid. I hate coming of age tales in general and anything involving a school in particular. I despise children-of-destiny stories, which is weird because I've always liked prophecies. I avoid books when people talk about the worldbuilding.

This strikes me as strange considering how much of my reading when I was young consisted of a child of destiny who comes of age amid crappy worldbuilding. Maybe it is an acquired sensitivity or something.

Comment by ryan_b on Open & Welcome Thread - October 2019 · 2019-10-02T20:40:46.767Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I support this idea. Especially if it incorporates some motivation for topology, which weirdly seems to hang out by itself until it suddenly becomes critical.

Comment by ryan_b on Systems Engineering Advancement Research Initiative · 2019-09-27T21:35:31.986Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Model Curation

  • Models are important. They are arguably more valuable than physical assets.
  • Models often have uses beyond their original intent.
  • Models are currently ad-hoc in terms of their location and transmission.

Think of them as a kind of IP. Things like patents and copyrights are strategically managed: they are tracked and controlled; they have a lifecycle; they can be combined to generate yet more value. But models are mostly laying around at the department level, the team level, or individual people's heads. There is no formal, universally recognized system for them the way there is for IP.

Instead, we should curate them:

Model curation is the lifecycle management, control, preservation and active enhancement of models and associated information to ensure value for current and future use, as well as repurposing beyond initial purpose and context.

There are several areas of curation which can be drawn on for examples: museum; digital; content; biomedical models. The work recommends making this a specific responsibility at the organizational level. There should be a Chief Model Curation Office at the enterprise level with a team dedicated to the purpose, including officers at the program level.

Models should have a pedigree: the origin, verification, enhancements, and uses over time should all be a part of the model object.

Source: Rhodes, D.H., "Model Curation: Requisite Leadership and Practice in Digital Engineering Enterprises," 17th Conference on Systems Engineering Research, Washington, DC, April 2019. [paper] [briefing]

Comment by ryan_b on Honoring Petrov Day on LessWrong, in 2019 · 2019-09-27T18:03:19.692Z · score: 8 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Generic feedback:

I had launch codes. I had hidden the map previously in my settings, which also had the effect of hiding the button, which in turn was enough to screen off any buttons should be pressed and would this really work? temptations.

I did keep checking the site to see if it went down, though.

Comment by ryan_b on What is operations? · 2019-09-26T20:32:01.152Z · score: 14 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I asked for posts like this not 24 hours ago, and here one is. It's a Petrov Day improbable!

Comment by ryan_b on Free Money at PredictIt? · 2019-09-26T18:05:53.899Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting. Am I correct that this implies the larger the house's cut, the more systematically off we should expect the payouts to be? It seems like PredictIt's 10% effectively moves the point at which it isn't worth it to correct the inefficiency further out from equilibrium than in the case of free trades.

Comment by ryan_b on Are there technical/object-level fields that make sense to recruit to LessWrong? · 2019-09-25T19:05:00.809Z · score: 7 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I would be interested in seeing more applied fields, and also specializations which operate at the intersection of multiple fields. Some examples include:

  • Operators, in the sense of people with executive responsibility. I have enjoyed reading the after-action reports from the organizing experiences and foundation-forming to come from this website and EA.
  • Finance, which is essentially the field of applied distribution of risk. We have finance people on here, but there seems to be little content in terms of top-level posts from them (the easiest way to tell there are finance people present is to look at the top-level finance posts and then look at the criticism in the comments).
  • Industrial or Systems Engineering, which are fields dedicated to integrating other fields and applied optimization of the group all together.

The adjacent memeplex of Effective Altruism seems to have a bunch of operations and finance people in it.

We might consider trying to target people who are connected to teaching or instruction in their area of expertise somehow. I expect the average level of engagement with a new subject is quite a bit deeper here than in most other communities, so we might be in a position to offer an audience of motivated learners as an enticement to them. Simultaneously, the instruction experience will help with the problem of technical posts having too high a threshold to engage with them.

Comment by ryan_b on The Zettelkasten Method · 2019-09-20T23:13:06.801Z · score: 13 (4 votes) · LW · GW

How do you suppose this compares to the likes of Anki or Mnemosyne?

Comment by ryan_b on The Power to Solve Climate Change · 2019-09-13T17:02:57.910Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's probably worth emphasizing the huge challenges involved in trying to get a coordination process to output something highly specific. This is enough of a problem to start with using specificity to privately evaluate start-ups; how to get from there, through governments, and then through international relations to a highly specific treaty is a good candidate for the most complicated possible task.

Comment by ryan_b on The Power to Judge Startup Ideas · 2019-09-06T18:18:21.480Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I have heard from several angel investors words to the effect of "I don't invest in ideas, I invest in people." Which is to say they prefer a good group of founders with a mediocre idea to a less reliable group of founders with a better one.

This seems similar to your high generic competence standard. The hitch is that the preference for a good team over a good idea doesn't rest completely on the likelihood with which a mediocre idea will be successfully executed, but rather also on the likelihood that this good team will recognize the mediocrity of the idea and shift to a new one successfully. Quoting from Paul Graham's essay linked above:

So don't get too attached to your original plan, because it's probably wrong. Most successful startups end up doing something different than they originally intended — often so different that it doesn't even seem like the same company.

I feel like the ability to recognize and then articulate value should be included in the idea of generic competence. Likewise for things like opposition research: following the advertising example, I don't see why we can't just recurse on execution advantages with the same basic structure of a story. It is like a Value Sub-Proposition Story, where the specific person is the entrepreneur and the specific problem is delivering on some aspect of the Value Proposition (by getting it in front of people).

It still seems useful to the investor to know whether or not execution advantages are specific and what they may be, and therefore also useful to the entrepreneur to articulate them.

Comment by ryan_b on Utility ≠ Reward · 2019-09-06T15:43:45.264Z · score: 16 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I strongly approve of providing less-formal essays to aid with clarity and intuition.

Comment by ryan_b on Living the Berkeley idealism · 2019-09-05T15:06:30.744Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This post reminded me of a video about a different way to prepare textbooks, which was written in Julia. The book is Algorithms for Optimization. It's beyond my ability to assess content quality, but it seems to look pretty sharp.

Comment by ryan_b on The Power to Judge Startup Ideas · 2019-09-05T14:58:17.854Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I have the same belief about startups, but I don't see it as being in conflict with the Value Prop Story. I would go further and say it is really important to be able to link the execution to the value proposition, because otherwise what are you executing exactly?

Naively, if A and B neither have a value proposition, we expect them both to fail. If A does have one, it is trivial for B to claim theirs is higher as a result of execution. This is things like:

  • UX design -> easier to use
  • Hiring | coding -> shorter time to delivering value, and add more value faster
  • Minimising downtime | customer support -> value is more likely to be there when the user wants it
  • Advertising | sales | expanding -> able to put the value proposition in front of more users, faster

Execution is the causal explanation for delivering value, so being able to articulate this feels like a huge advantage.

Comment by ryan_b on Open & Welcome Thread - August 2019 · 2019-09-01T20:50:12.361Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Sure! Message me and we’ll schedule.

Comment by ryan_b on What are the biggest "moonshots" currently in progress? · 2019-09-01T20:37:20.158Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

By way of clarification:

  • Are we talking about biggest-projects-which-are-moonshots, which might tell us a lot about how to get funding or the things the public/governments like?

  • Are we talking longest-moonshots in the sense of furthest time horizon or least likely?

  • Are we talking biggest-moons-at-which-there-is-a-shot, in the sense of benefiting some aspect of civilization?

All of these seem reasonable, but might be worth distinguishing in answers.

Comment by ryan_b on [Link] Book Review: Reframing Superintelligence (SSC) · 2019-08-30T20:21:57.020Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I am aiming directly at questions of how an AI that starts with a only a robotic arm might get to controlling drones or trading stocks, from the perspective of the AI. My intuition, driven by Moravec's Paradox, is that each new kind of output (or input) has a pretty hefty computational threshold associated with it, so I suspect that the details of the initial inputs/outputs will have a big influence on the risk any given service or agent presents.

The reason I am interested in this is that it feels like doing things has no intrinsic connection to learning things, and the we only link them because so much of our learning and doing is unconscious. That is to say, I suspect actions are orthogonal to intelligence.

Comment by ryan_b on Open & Welcome Thread - August 2019 · 2019-08-30T15:59:26.195Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I went from being indecisive and procrastinating to being much more decisive. The change happened while I was in the military, and there were two key developments. The first was constant exposure to situations where a decision needed to be made, and suffering the consequences when it wasn't; the second was a better understanding of the relationship between decisions and long-term objectives.

This doesn't map to civilian life perfectly. For example, I am as prone to procrastination as ever when it comes to luxury things or things I consider wasteful; it is really hard to make decisions that amount to setting money on fire for me, and luxuries are unnecessary so no decision is usually the best decision anyway.

There have also been some surprise benefits. The central insight for making sense of Army decisions is that the overriding priority is unity, which winds up meaning that the Army prefers successfully coordinating on a stupid thing to failing to coordinate on a smart one. A decision that leads to failed coordination is always bad. This has been extremely helpful in making sense of any kind of leadership activity, and most importantly is excellent practical guidance in terms of family.

Comment by ryan_b on [Link] Book Review: Reframing Superintelligence (SSC) · 2019-08-30T14:19:29.024Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This sounds like we're resting on an abstract generalization of 'outputs.' Is there any work being done to distinguish between different outputs, and consider how a computer might recognize a kind it doesn't already have?

Comment by ryan_b on [Link] Book Review: Reframing Superintelligence (SSC) · 2019-08-29T20:34:14.028Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

A lot of the distinction between a service and an agent seems to rest on the difference between thinking and doing. Is there a well-defined concept of action for intelligent agents?

Comment by ryan_b on [deleted post] 2019-08-29T20:00:09.762Z

I feel like a Rube-Goldberg device would be a good intuition pump here. How can we describe a Rube-Goldberg device in terms of correlations? What is a good way to break it into chunks, and then also a good way to connect those chunks? Since they are usually built of simple machines, everything is mathematically tractable - we have a good grip on those.

Comment by ryan_b on [deleted post] 2019-08-29T19:55:17.736Z

3. Naively, actions feel like they require causal reasoning, and causal reasoning of any kind seems to require the ability to reason about two parts of the environment. One of these parts can be you (or the AI).

But I am not sure this is the case. Strong correlation seems to be good enough for a human brain - we do all kinds of actions without any understanding of what we are doing or why. This can go as far as provoking conscious confusion during the action. Based on this lower standard, what correlation would be needed?

Boundaries of some kind, because we need some way to localize what we are doing and looking at. Strong, chiefly as a matter of efficiency. We want a way to describe a correlation such that we can chain it with other correlations, and then eventually bundle them together as an action. Then doing new actions is a matter of chaining the correlations back to something we can currently do.

Comment by ryan_b on [deleted post] 2019-08-29T19:28:39.320Z

Actions are not just Embedded Agency in a different guise. From the Full-Text Version it looks to me like what actions are and how to discover them is abstracted away, which makes sense in the context of that project.

It appears most relevant to problems associated with multi-level models.