Comment by saidachmiz on New York Restaurants I Love: Breakfast · 2019-02-15T07:35:12.218Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Excellent post!

Some comments/additions:

For oatmeal, there isn’t a particularly great brand

There totally is! It’s called “Bob’s Red Mill”, and they have both rolled oats (my favorite) and steel-cut. I highly recommend their stuff.

French toast is my favorite thing to make

I also like French toast quite a bit. Challah is a great suggestion; here’s another one: brioche! Get a soft, buttery brioche, slice it thick, and you’ll get fantastic French toast out of it.

Also, try adding just a bit of nutmeg to the mix (but don’t overdo it).

The key is to find the right [pancake] mix

With a bit of advance planning, you can get the best of both worlds—the deliciousness of homemade from-scratch pancakes, and the convenience of a ready-made mix. The trick is to make your own pancake mix! Here’s a simple recipe—but of course you will want to substitute real butter for the vegetable shortening (yuck!).

And here’s one of my own favorite NYC breakfast-food places (I would definitely be very sad if it closed down):

Crepe Factory

It’s on 3rd Ave. and 73rd St. in Bay Ridge (that’s in Brooklyn! not uptown Manhattan).

Let me tell you, ladies & gents, I have eaten (and made!) a lot of crepes in my life. The ones they serve at the Crepe Factory (which, despite the name, is actually a cozy little hole-in-the-wall place that would struggle to fit a dozen people at once) are the best.

Get the ice cream crepe (strawberries, bananas, Nutella, vanilla ice cream, whipped cream):

Or, if you want something savory instead of sweet, get the Chicken Cordon Bleu crepe (you actually get two of these—good for sharing!).

Comment by saidachmiz on Minimize Use of Standard Internet Food Delivery · 2019-02-11T20:33:08.853Z · score: 25 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I’ve now used Slice (their website, not the mobile app) to order lunch from a local pizza joint. In case anyone’s curious, here are notes on the experience:

  1. I found the website to be fairly well-designed, as these things go, and easy to use. I encountered no technical problems, and the user experience was, overall, at least up to par with the popular online delivery services, if not better. (The ability to “order as a guest”—without making an account—was particularly welcome. I was also offered an easy way to make an account, without having to re-fill-in my info; I declined, this time.)

  2. The selection of pizzerias available in my neighborhood was impressive; all of my favorites were there.

  3. Prices were (at a cursory skim) identical to those available via GrubHub. My pizzeria of choice had a 10% discount going (I have no idea if this is temporary, or what), which brought the price down. (I have never seen such a discount on GrubHub.)

  4. There were strange differences in availability of dishes. (Example: on GrubHub, I could get penne vodka, which was absent from Slice; but Slice let me order the restaurant’s pasta special with chicken, whereas on GrubHub the chicken option was not available.)

  5. My food was delivered with this pizzeria’s usual alacrity, and it was as delicious as always. From the moment I placed the order, no part of the experience further distinguished GrubHub from Slice.

Comment by saidachmiz on The Hamming Question · 2019-02-11T20:23:36.534Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

[for clarity, we were both quoting other sources]

Indeed, my apologies—I read hastily, and didn’t spot the quoting without the quotation styling. I’ve corrected the wording in the grandparent.

Comment by saidachmiz on The Hamming Question · 2019-02-11T20:21:13.596Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Moreover, the rationality community will actually need the original Hamming Question from time to time, referring specifically to scientific fields that you have extensive training. (Or, at least, if we didn’t need the Actual Science Hamming Question that’d be quite a bad sign).

This seems plausible. Has this happened so far?

Comment by saidachmiz on Minimize Use of Standard Internet Food Delivery · 2019-02-11T18:06:31.684Z · score: 29 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Reading this article (which, to be clear, absolutely does support the claims I asked for a citation of [but see end of comment]—my comments below are about a different aspect of the issue), I was slightly taken aback by this bit:

These delivery companies charge restaurants exorbitant commissions off of every customer order, when the only real the value they bring is helping new customers find your restaurant for the first time. When a customer orders again and again, it’s because your staff was friendly, the food was delicious and they had a great experience. Why should you pay Grubhub a 30% commission every time a customer orders?

This does not even begin to match my own experience.

  1. When I use GrubHub, I order almost exclusively from places I have physically been to.

  2. By far the greatest value I get out of using GrubHub is convenience—and that’s huge. At least half of all the times when I’ve used the service, if I instead had to telephone the restaurant, I just… wouldn’t. Nine times out of ten, I would, quite literally, rather go hungry than place a phone order. (Of course, in reality, I’d simply eat leftovers, or cook something quickly, or go out for a bagel, etc. It would be an inferior meal, but I’d gladly pay that price, in order to avoid having to make an order over the phone.)

  3. If I order again from the same restaurant, using GrubHub, it has exactly nothing to do with the staff being friendly. I don’t interact with their staff in that situation—that’s the point! The only thing I’m interested in is (a) food quality, (b) delivery speed, and (c) price.

Then there was this rather appalling bit:

Furthermore, third-party marketplaces like Grubhub and Postmates don’t give restaurants access to their own customers’ email addresses, which makes marketing directly to your own customers virtually impossible. There’s so much value in owning your own customer’s information, so that you can encourage them to order directly from you and not pay marketplace fees time and time again for the same customer.

This is an excellent reason to use a service like GrubHub. If a restaurant wants my email address so that they can market directly to me, they can go to hell. I would avoid patronizing a restaurant like that, on general principle.

… then again, maybe all of this is a moot point. After all, the linked article is, in fact, an advertisement in disguise—an advertisement for ChowNow, which seems to be a company that’s selling a competing product to GrubHub, etc. Can we trust that what they tell us about how online delivery services work, their pros and cons, etc.? We absolutely cannot! Even the true facts they tell us will be framed so as to make their offering look good. The author of this article started with their bottom line.

Does anyone have any citations that come from a neutral source?

Comment by saidachmiz on Minimize Use of Standard Internet Food Delivery · 2019-02-11T17:53:46.239Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW


Comment by saidachmiz on The Hamming Question · 2019-02-11T09:26:38.692Z · score: 7 (3 votes) · LW · GW

That seems like a startlingly weak anecdote (especially so given that it’s the only one we’ve seen). From this quote, it seems like Hamming—contrary to the claim Elo quoted—in fact inspired none of his colleagues to “make major shifts in focus” or to “rededicat[e] their careers to the problems they felt actually mattered”.

The one colleague who was, allegedly, inspired by Hamming’s questions in some way, explicitly said (we are told) that he did not shift his research focus! He ended up being successful… which Hamming attributes to his own influence, for… some reason. (The anecdotal evidence provided for this causal sort-of-claim is almost textbook poor; it’s literally nothing more than post hoc, ergo propter hoc…)

Do we have any solid evidence, at all, that there is any concrete, demonstrable benefit, or even consequence, to asking the “Hamming question”? Any case studies (with much more detail, and more evidential support, than the anecdote quoted above)? So far, it seems to me that the significance attached to this “Hamming question” concept has been far, far out of proportion to its verified usefulness…

Edit: Corrected wording to make it clear Elo was quoting a source.

Comment by saidachmiz on Minimize Use of Standard Internet Food Delivery · 2019-02-11T08:56:57.721Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

… [delivery services] take mindbogglingly huge fees out of every order. We’re talking on the order of 20%.

Do you have a citation for this?

Comment by saidachmiz on The Hamming Question · 2019-02-09T03:59:41.478Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · LW · GW

[Hamming] did inspire some of his colleagues to make major shifts in focus, rededicating their careers to the problems they felt actually mattered.

Do you have more info on this? I’d be very curious to hear about some specific examples!

Comment by saidachmiz on The Hamming Question · 2019-02-09T01:28:04.059Z · score: 14 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I have seen the “Hamming question” concept applied to domains other than science (example 1, example 2, example 3, example 4, example 5, example 6, example 7).

I think that’s a mistake.

First, generally, it’s a mistake for terminology-dilution reasons: if you significantly broaden the scope of a term, you obscure differences between the concept or thing the term originally referred to, and other (variously similar) things; and you integrate assumptions about proper categories, and about similarities between their (alleged) members, into your thinking and writing, without justifying those assumptions or even making them explicit. This degrades the quality of your thought and your communication.

Second, specifically, it’s a mistake because science (i.e., academic or quasi-academic [e.g., corporate] research) differs from other domains (such as those discussed in my examples) in several important ways:

  1. In science, if you’re trained in a field, then there’s no particular reason (other than—in principle, contingent and changeable—practical limitations such as funding) why you can’t work on just about any problem in that field. This is not the case in many other domains.

  2. In science, there is generally no urgency to any particular problems or research areas; if everyone in the field works on one (ostensibly important) problem, but neglects another (ostensibly less important) problem, well, so what? It’ll keep. But in most other domains, if everyone works on one thing and neglects everything else, that’s bad, because all that “everything else” is often necessary; someone has got to keep doing it, even if one particular other thing is, in some sense, “more important”.

  3. In science, you’re (generally) already doing inquiry; the fruit of your work is knowledge, understanding, etc. So it makes sense to ask what the “most important” problem is: presumably, it’s the problem (of those problems which we can currently define in a meaningful way) that, if solved, would yield the most knowledge, the greatest understanding, the most potential for further advancement, etc. But in other fields, where the goals of your efforts are not knowledge but something more concrete, it’s not clear that “most important” has a meaning, because for any goal we identify as “important”, there are always “convergent instrumental goals” as far as the eye can see, explore/exploit tradeoffs, incommensurable values, “goals” which are essentially homeostatic or otherwise have dynamics as their referents, etc., etc.

So while I can see the value of the Hamming question in science (modulo the response linked in my other comment), I should very much like to see an explicit defense and elaboration of applying the concept of the “Hamming question” to other domains.

Comment by saidachmiz on The Hamming Question · 2019-02-09T00:40:03.785Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

And here’s the best response (that I’ve seen) to a “Hamming question”.

Comment by saidachmiz on The Question Of Perception · 2019-02-02T19:02:06.389Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Comment by saidachmiz on Masculine Virtues · 2019-02-01T17:34:07.093Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Here is a series of comments by gwern with many citations of research into head trauma and brain injury.

This comment in particular cites a paper called…

“Long-Term Outcomes Associated with Traumatic Brain Injury in Childhood and Adolescence: A Nationwide Swedish Cohort Study of a Wide Range of Medical and Social Outcomes”, Sariaslan et al 2016, is a population registry study which reports within-family correlations adjust for education about various negative outcomes with 1 or more diagnosed TBIs …

TBI is common enough that the effects are large on a population-wide basis:

We found that the crude population contributions of TBI explained approximately...2%–6% of the population differences in the outcomes. The strongest population attributable risks were found for the severe outcomes, including psychiatric inpatient hospitalisation (PAF = 5.5%; 4.9%–6.1%), premature mortality (PAF = 4.7%; 2.9%–6.5%), and disability pension (PAF = 4.6%; 3.8%–5.3%).

The comment goes on to list statistics on various long-term effects of TBIs—worth reading, IMO.

Comment by saidachmiz on The Question Of Perception · 2019-02-01T17:17:37.453Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I’ve now read the linked post. I’m confused about what relevance it has.

Are you saying that, once we stop looking at the world as a bunch of discrete objects and start seeing quantum fields, or whatever, instead, then it’s no longer trivial or even possible to say things like “this cake is delicious, but that cake is not”?

Or, are you using that sort of “ontological crisis” as an illustrative example only, but actually suggesting some different, unrelated, sort of ontology shift? If so, then what might this alternative ontology be, and why should we prefer it?

Comment by saidachmiz on The Question Of Perception · 2019-01-31T20:03:55.218Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What standards do you[1] use to judge whether something is an inferior result?

If you bake a pie, and I bake a pie, and all our friends try both pies, and they think my pie is delicious but your pie is mediocre, or bad, is there some sense in which your pie is, nonetheless, not inferior?

What if, following my approach, I am able to bake ten desserts, all different, but all widely acknowledged to be delicious; whereas you, following your approach, can only bake ten different pies (some good, some not so great), and are at a loss as to how to make any of the other things I can make? Is there some sense in which your approach is not inferior?

What sort of alternative ontology would you apply to this scenario, and why?

(Disclaimer: I have not yet read the linked post by Wei Dai; I will comment further when I’ve done so. UPDATE 2019-02-01: I’ve read it now, see sibling comment.)

[1] Or, if not you, then whoever subscribes to the mindset in question (whom you are representing in this conversation).

Comment by saidachmiz on Masculine Virtues · 2019-01-31T17:47:59.357Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

More data: these figures on injury rates in various sports, among children, from the National Institutes of Health.

Comment by saidachmiz on Masculine Virtues · 2019-01-31T16:10:18.099Z · score: 9 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I see. This seems like a fairly poor approach to estimation, though. It doesn’t actually matter how many potential soccer (or football) players there are, when it comes to calculating risk, except insofar as it helps us estimate how many actual soccer (or football) players there are. But we can just get those numbers directly:


Number of people who play soccer at some level in the U.S. — second only to China. (Source: FIFA World Football Big Count)


Youth players officially registered with U.S. Soccer programs in 2014 — up by 89 percent since 1990, the first year the U.S. qualified for the World Cup final round since 1950.


The largest category of soccer in the United States in terms of participation is boys' and girls' youth soccer. Soccer is one of the most played sports by children in the United States. In 2012, soccer was the #4 most played team sport by high school boys, and soccer overtook softball to become the #3 most played team sport by high school girls.[117] As of 2006, the U.S. was the #1 country in the world for participation in youth soccer, with 3.9 million American youths (2.3 million boys and 1.6 million girls) registered with U.S. Soccer.[118] Among girls, the U.S. has more registered players than all other countries combined.[119] The number of high school soccer players more than doubled from 1990 to 2010, giving soccer the fastest growth rate among all major U.S. sports.[120]

(From Wikipedia)

Even leaving aside the 1,531 girls who played high school football in the 2012-2013 school year, the 1,086,627 high school boys who played football exceeded the number of boys and girls combined who participated in any other sport.

Here are the Top Ten high school sports by the number of students who participated in them in the 2012-2013 school year:

  1. Football, 1,088,158 (1,086,627 boys; 1,531 girls)

  1. Soccer, 782,514 (410,982 boys; 371,532 girls)

In 2012-2013, a record 7,713,577 students participated in a high school sports, up from 7,692,520 in 2011-2012.


A total of 1.23 million youth ages 6-12 played tackle football in 2015, up from 1.216 million the year before, according to data from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, which commissions an annual survey of participation rates in United States households across a range of sports.

A record 4.3 million children were born in the U.S. in 2007 -- they are now around age 8, when communities begin to offer tackle football. As a share of the age 6-12 population, the total participation rate remained the same as the past year, 4.2 percent.

Across the board, in the 6-12 and 13-17 age groups, participation in football on a regular and casual basis is down since 2009, before the risks of youth playing the game began to grow, partly due to research findings and a number of former NFL players saying they would keep their kids from football or delay their entry into tackle until adolescence.

In 2009, 3.96 million youth ages 6-17 played tackle football. Last year, that number fell to 3.21 million, down from 3.25 million in 2014.


The numbers aren’t clear-cut, but from what I can see, your prediction does not seem to be borne out.

Comment by saidachmiz on Masculine Virtues · 2019-01-31T03:11:18.358Z · score: 9 (3 votes) · LW · GW

My comment was more directed at avoiding negative short-term changes in people’s lifestyles.

Agreed, this is good advice.

Comment by saidachmiz on Masculine Virtues · 2019-01-30T22:21:28.199Z · score: 6 (5 votes) · LW · GW

By “per capita” do you mean “what percentage of people who engage in each activity sustain head injuries”? If so, yes, I agree that this would be useful to know.

I’m somewhat confused by your notes about the gender distribution of sports. Could you elaborate on that?

Comment by saidachmiz on Masculine Virtues · 2019-01-30T22:18:31.531Z · score: 7 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The scenario you describe is not, of course, literally impossible. However, it seems to me that the number of people for whom the only feasible choices are either “play soccer” or “be a couch potato” must be so small that even considering this point as a meaningful concern is epistemically unwise. (There are, after all, so many ways in which to avoid a “largely sedentary lifestyle”, starting with “get up, go outside, and walk around the block a few times” and going all the way to “play other team sports, selected specially for their unusually low incidence of head injuries”, with many stops along the way at places like “go swimming”, “go hiking”, “go to a gym”, “purchase and use basic exercise equipment”, etc., etc., etc.)

Comment by saidachmiz on Masculine Virtues · 2019-01-30T20:06:34.474Z · score: 18 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Re: “4. You will get hurt. That’s OK”:

In a lifetime of playing soccer, I suffered bruised shins, twisted ankles, balls to the face, balls to the balls, elbows to the ribs, and a torn calf muscle. I also learned that none of the above is a big deal, certainly nothing worth sacrificing something as enjoyable as playing soccer over. If you watch sports you see athletes get hurt and recover all the time, but you almost never hear them wish they hadn’t started in the sport in the first place.

There are many fun things we can do with our bodies. The most fun involve some risk of pain and harm: snowboarding, getting tattoos, climbing trees, having kids, lifting, BDSM, soccer, cliff jumping, punch bug. Sports provides exposure to physical risks, letting you decide which activities are worth the bruises.

It’s possible to live life bruise-free, but I’m not sure you can call that “living”.

Yes, this is true…

… unless the way you get hurt is by sustaining a traumatic brain injury.

Then you can look forward to such exciting consequences as are listed in the “Prognosis” and “Complications” sections of the Wikipedia page I linked (do read them in their entirety—don’t take my word for it; it’s worth being fully aware of the reality of head injuries, so that you can be properly horrified).

Note that unlike bruised shins, twisted ankles, or even broken bones, the effects of a TBI are almost invariably irreversible (and multiple TBIs have a compounding effect).

Also unlike bruised shins or broken bones, brain damage doesn’t just cause some pain, inconvenience, or even loss of physical function—it irreversibly damages (or, in more severe cases, destroys) who you are.

I’ve seen the effects of severe TBI up close and personal. If avoiding a large increase in my risk for such a fate means that I’m “not living”, then maybe “living” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

How large an increase? Well, here are some citations:

An estimated 300,000 sport-related traumatic brain injuries, predominantly concussions, occur annually in the United States. Sports are second only to motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of traumatic brain injury among people aged 15 to 24 years.

(From the Journal of Athletic Training)

Although death from a sports injury is rare, the leading cause of death from a sports-related injury is a brain injury.

Sports and recreational activities contribute to approximately 21 percent of all traumatic brain injuries among American children.

(From the Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library)

According to CPSC data, there were an estimated 446,788 sports-related head injuries treated at U.S. hospital emergency rooms in 2009. This number represents an increase of nearly 95,000 sports-related injuries from the prior year. … The actual incidence of head injuries may potentially be much higher for two primary reasons. In the 2009 report, the CPSC excluded estimates for product categories that yielded 1,200 injuries or less, those that had very small sample counts and those that were limited to a small geographic area of the country. Additionally, many less severe head injuries are treated at physicians' offices, immediate care centers or are self-treated.

The following 20 sports/recreational activities represent the categories contributing to the highest number of estimated head injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms in 2009.

[full list omitted; soccer is 7th, being responsible for 24,184 cases —SA]

The top 10 sports-related head injury categories among children ages 14 and younger:

[full list omitted; soccer is 7th again, being responsible for 8,392 cases —SA]

Protection against head injuries in soccer is complicated by the fact that heading is an established part of the game, and any attempt to protect against head injuries must allow the game to be played without modification. Several head guards have been developed to reduce the risk of head injuries in soccer. One independent research study found that none of the products on the market provided substantial benefits against minor impacts, such as heading with a soccer ball.

A McGill University study found that more than 60 percent of college-level soccer players reported symptoms of concussion during a single season. Although the percentage at other levels of play may be different, these data indicate that head injuries in soccer are more frequent than most presume.

(From the American Association of Neurological Surgeons; emphasis mine)

In summary: for anyone who values their personal survival, and the retention of their mental faculties (which, I think, describes most people on Less Wrong), participating in sports—especially sports like soccer—is an exceptionally bad idea.

Comment by saidachmiz on The Question Of Perception · 2019-01-30T16:43:27.544Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I haven’t read this book, but I have both taken a Home Ec class (it’s where I first learned to cook!) and spent the next ~20 years regularly cooking/baking, and improving my skill at these things. On the basis of that experience, I can say that the two approaches / perspectives / mindsets / whatever, that you describe, are not the only possibilities; indeed, I would say that this distinction is very much a false dichotomy. There are other ways.

In fact, for at least some kinds of cooking (baking / dessert cooking, specifically), this part:

All you have to do is stand in the kitchen with an open mind and heart, recognizing the honor of cooking food for your family. The recipe will come.

… is entirely the wrong approach. It will reliably give you inferior results, compared to the approach I describe in the above-linked post. The correct approach is not exactly “follow a recipe precisely” either, but it is a good bit closer to that than to the “get into a relationship with food” one.

Now, for some kinds of cooking, this “touchy-feely” approach works better—this cannot be denied. But if you try (as the author of the cited book apparently does) to apply this lesson to life, in general, you run into trouble: what if “life” is more like baking a cake than it is like cooking a vegetable soup? Or, what if some situations are like the former, and other situations are like the latter? Feel-good platitudes about getting into relationships with things will give you the answers to these questions…

Comment by saidachmiz on Why is this utilitarian calculus wrong? Or is it? · 2019-01-28T03:22:25.086Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Suppose that the commune sells the widgets for $29. You purchase one, gaining net $1 of value; the commune gains net $9 of value. Total net gain = $10. (You seem to be assuming that utility ends up being linear in money, so let’s stick with that assumption.)

This seems to be exactly as good as the scenario you describe. Do you agree? And yet my scenario does not require anyone to have any moral motivations, make any sacrifices, etc.; it only requires self-interest.

Comment by saidachmiz on Río Grande: judgment calls · 2019-01-27T23:16:40.475Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps a dumb question, but: what does this post have to do with the Río Grande?

Comment by saidachmiz on What are the open problems in Human Rationality? · 2019-01-23T16:56:32.718Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The Centre for Effective Altruism.

Comment by saidachmiz on Clothing For Men · 2019-01-17T21:57:43.576Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If you went from eating at McDonald’s to nicer restaurants, it would be a mistake to focus solely on the price increase; you would get better quality ingredients, service… less cancer...

If you went from eating at McDonald’s to eating at restaurants that are five to ten times more expensive than McDonald’s, then I would conclude that the price increase (or, rather, the resulting signaling effect) is, in fact, the primary or even the entire reason for the change.

(When it comes to food quality, if you went from eating at McDonald’s to eating at, say, this place, you would get at least 75% of the maximum possible benefit that you could possibly get from upgrading your restaurant preferences. Note the menu; those are main courses, and they are at most 150% as expensive as McDonald’s—not 500–1000%!)

A more meta note: it seems reasonable to me to expect, if you’re discovering a new field, that achieving proficiency in that area would require investing a significant amount of resources. So perhaps you shouldn’t be as surprised

You’re equivocating between effort and money, here. It would not surprise me that proficiency in a new field would require investing significant time and effort. If, however, it allegedly requires investing significant money, then I would either suspect that someone is trying to sell me something (or, more subtly, benefiting from the perpetuation of norms that require me to buy something)—or I would seriously reconsider my decision to acquire proficiency in said field.

Comment by saidachmiz on Clothing For Men · 2019-01-17T18:43:55.565Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I checked out the websites of several of the brands you listed.

What became quite obvious very quickly is that, to a first approximation, your advice boils down to:

“Spend more money on clothes. Like… a lot more money. An entire order of magnitude more money than you spend now. Devote significantly more of your budget to clothes than you do to food, utility bills, or any other expense except rent.”

So, that does present rather an obstacle to just trying entirely unverified advice…

Comment by saidachmiz on Clothing For Men · 2019-01-17T02:04:11.551Z · score: 6 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Not that I have any particular reason to disagree with any specific part of this guide, but could we get some sort of… credentials, or, like, accomplishments, or something? (Something like the “Why you should trust us” section of the guides at Wirecutter.)

(I mean, otherwise you’re just some guy on the internet, right?)

Comment by saidachmiz on Open Thread January 2019 · 2019-01-14T01:04:22.057Z · score: 7 (3 votes) · LW · GW

No, this is wrong.

What prevents the FDT agent from getting blackmailed is not that he is known to be an FDT agent. Rather, it’s simply that he’s known to be the sort of person who will blow the whistle on blackmailers. Potential blackmailers need not know or care why the FDT agent behaves like this (indeed, it does not matter at all, for the purpose of each individual case, why the agent behaves like this—whether it’s because the dictates of FDT so direct him, or because he’s naturally stubborn, or whatever; it suffices that blackmailers expect the agent to blow the whistle).

So if we stipulate an FDT agent, we also, thereby, stipulate that he is known to be a whistle-blower. (We’re assuming, in every version of this scenario, that, regardless of the agent’s motivations, his propensity toward such behavior is known.) And that does indeed make the “he’s blackmailed anyway” scenario logically inconsistent.

Comment by saidachmiz on Book Recommendations: An Everyone Culture and Moral Mazes · 2019-01-11T06:26:33.720Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

if the employees are being tricked to not notice the imposed costs

That’s precisely what I think is going on, yes. It’s not that people don’t notice, it’s that they don’t perceive them as costs—because of, among other things, posts like the OP, which frame the whole thing as a sort of “personal growth” thing, that actually benefits the employee, that makes working at the company more enjoyable, more fulfilling, etc. Certainly, it would stand to reason that employees would demand substantially bigger salaries/compensation for putting up with this sort of thing. But it’s in the interests of employers who want to use this sort of approach, to trick prospective (and current) employees not to act in their own economic best interests… which is, of course, precisely what we see.

Comment by saidachmiz on Book Recommendations: An Everyone Culture and Moral Mazes · 2019-01-11T04:08:55.299Z · score: 10 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The cost, of course, is way more communication about seemingly non-work-related things. You’d be processing personal stuff with coworkers all the time. The hope is that this is actually cheaper than the costs of the bad decisions made when you don’t have enough honest communication, but it’s an empirical matter whether that works out in practice, and the authors don’t have data so far.

As described in this post, a “DDO” sounds to me like a dystopian hellscape (and I very much doubt that I’m the only one; “processing personal stuff with coworkers all the time”, in particular, sounds like torture).

But hiding within that observation is a more subtle point:

It is, perhaps, possible that operating as a DDO is “cheaper”—for the company (though I am inclined to doubt it). But it’s a heck of a lot more expensive for the employees. Even in the best case (where the company’s performance improves as a result of adopting this model of company culture), this sort of approach boils down to the firm externalizing a large chunk of its operating costs onto its employees.

Comment by saidachmiz on Book Recommendations: An Everyone Culture and Moral Mazes · 2019-01-11T04:00:05.150Z · score: 25 (12 votes) · LW · GW

An alternative perspective from Current Affairs: “How To Make Everyone In Your Vicinity Secretly Fear And Despise You”.

Reports from former employees have suggested a workplace rife with accusations, confrontations, and interrogations. There was, for example, an episode in which “former COO Hope Woodhouse was shredded in front of the management committee and the sessions were sent out to the company to learn from (she was brought to the point of crying in the recording).” Implementation of the Principles is just about as Orwellian as you might expect:

Two dozen Principles “captains” are responsible for enforcing the rules. Another group, “overseers,” [bit of an unfortunate choice of title, no?] some of whom report to Mr. Dalio, monitor department heads. The video cameras that record daily interactions for future case studies are so ubiquitous that employees joke about “the men in the walls.” … Each day, employees are tested and graded on their knowledge of the Principles. They walk around with iPads loaded with the rules and an interactive rating system called “dots” to evaluate peers and supervisors. The ratings feed into each employee’s permanent record, called the “baseball card.”

Dalio tells readers that they need to get over their mushy, sentimental reactions, and embrace radical truth for the sake of the common good. He gives the example of a wildebeest being eaten alive, witnessed on one of his many hunting trips, in order to show that what appears to be horrific suffering might actually be “wonderful”:

When I went to Africa a number of years ago, I saw a pack of hyenas take down a young wildebeest. My reaction was visceral. I felt empathy for the wildebeest and thought that what I had witnessed was horrible. But was that because it was horrible or was it because I am biased to believe it’s horrible when it is actually wonderful? That got me thinking. Would the world be a better or worse place if what I’d seen hadn’t occurred?… I could see that the world would be worse. I now realize that nature optimizes for the whole, not the individual, but most people judge good and bad based only on how it affects them. … Most people call something bad if it is bad for them or bad for those they empathize with, ignoring the greater good.

Matt Levine of Bloomberg, who has observed Bridgewater for quite some time, has said that the company never seems to offer any real substantiation for the link between management culture and the high investment returns:

Does Bridgewater ever analyze whether its culture of constant self-examination and radical transparency is actually good for its investing? … [In Bridgewater’s self-descriptions] it’s never “our culture of constantly rating each other on iPad apps leads to better investment returns,” always “our culture of constantly rating each other on iPad apps leads to better ratings on the iPad apps.”… I am always left with the sense that the group therapy is the point, that the investor returns are a happy accident that subsidize all the introspection, and that Bridgewater is an odd little eddy in financial capitalism that uses investor money to fund the pursuit of personal enlightenment… I have joked before that Bridgewater’s business model is that it has a computer that does its investing, and that the computer uses the personal-rating games to distract the human employees so they don’t interfere with the investment process. If you spend all your meetings debating what the meetings should be about, then sure, you’re probably not going to have time to monkey with the investment algorithms.

The entire article is worth reading.

Comment by saidachmiz on You can be wrong about what you like, and you often are · 2019-01-02T16:48:03.695Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Lest anyone get the idea that the parent comment is being ignored merely because it’s “pedantic” or “misses the point” or some such, I want to point out that it’s also mistaken.

This fascinating and engrossing document is Part 4 of the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways (a.k.a. “MUTCD”), published by the Federal Highway Administration (a division of the United States Department of Transportation).

Page 468 of the MUTCD (p. 36 in the PDF) contains this diagram:

And page 469 of the MUTCD (p. 37 in the PDF) contains this diagram:

Note that the iconography is the same and the orientation and arrangement is the same. But the colors are different!

For another example, take a look at MUTCD p. 487 vs. p. 488 (PDF pp.55–56).

In summary, it is not possible to reliably determine the colors of traffic control signals from their positions in a traffic light arrangement.

Comment by saidachmiz on Learning-Intentions vs Doing-Intentions · 2019-01-01T22:38:22.346Z · score: 20 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Excellent post!

Here’s some devil’s-advocacy that comes to mind. You say:

As a final caveat, there are of course a great many perils associated with learning-mindset too. Learning can easily become divorced from real-world goals; picking the right actions to learn the information you actually is no small challenge.

Suppose that you adopt the “learning mindset”, and undertake some learning-focused actions. As you say, there’s a danger of “lost purposes”—but this can actually manifest in multiple, importantly different, ways!

One version of that failure mode is simply continuing to learn, indefinitely, without ever doing anything. (This, arguably, is much of modern academia.)

Suppose you avoid that failure mode, and, having learned something, you declare a victory. Fine; but how do you know that what you’ve learned is of any use? How do you know it’s not just nonsense? (This, arguably, is also much of modern academia.)

The solution seems obvious: if you think you’ve learned something, switch to “doing mindset”, and do the thing, applying what you’ve learned. If your learning was worth anything, then your doing will bear that out. Right?

Well, that may be true if what you’ve learned was about how to do the thing. But what if the key questions, and the ones which you were (or should have been!) most interested in, were not how to do the thing, but which thing(s) to do, and how to evaluate what you’ve done, and other, trickier, less practical (but more globally impactful) questions?

Then you may think you’ve learned something useful, and do things on that basis, but actually what you’ve learned is either wrong, or, more insidiously, not enough (cf. “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”). If you’d’ve kept learning, you’d’ve discovered that; but you were in a hurry to do

Thus it seems to me that “learning mindset” must perpetually thread this needle—between “how do I know I’ve learned anything”, and “how do I know I’ve learned enough”. And it is difficult to say whether “doing mindset” will suffice to keep you on that straight and narrow path…

Comment by saidachmiz on In what ways are holidays good? · 2018-12-28T07:43:49.283Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think that it’s best not to assume; questions like this are fairly pointless unless we know what OP’s reason for asking is.

And if he currently doesn’t travel, he should try it! Travel somewhere not too distant or expensive, see how it is.

And if he can’t afford to do even this, then what’s the point of asking the question? What does he plan to do with this information?

(Maybe these questions have good answers! But we don’t know what they are. So this whole discussion is unlikely to be productive…)

Comment by saidachmiz on In what ways are holidays good? · 2018-12-28T04:58:46.451Z · score: 3 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think most of this discussion is sidestepping a very simple, very obvious point:

Do you want to go on vacations to travel to various places?

If you want to, then do. If you don’t want to, then… don’t. What’s the problem, exactly? No one’s forcing you to go anywhere. Some people enjoy these sorts of things; other people do not. And that’s fine! It’s totally fine. People like different things. (And for different reasons, too! None of your questions have single, canonical answers—because people are different, and enjoy different things, for different reasons.)

Comment by saidachmiz on In what ways are holidays good? · 2018-12-28T01:10:13.016Z · score: 9 (3 votes) · LW · GW
  • Benefits of vacations: they’re fun!
  • Drawbacks of vacations: sometimes they’re not fun.
  • How much money should you be willing to spend on vacations: as much as fun is worth to you.
Comment by saidachmiz on What are the axioms of rationality? · 2018-12-26T08:27:39.518Z · score: 11 (4 votes) · LW · GW

for example, how do you view this phrase “what could be destroyed by the truth should be”? is it an axiom?

No. It’s an expression of one of what Eliezer calls the “virtues of rationality”. But the virtues aren’t axioms—which, incidentally, is what the twelfth and final virtue is all about.

this is something i thought of, that rationality shouldn’t have any axioms

It not only shouldn’t, it can’t—as I said, rationality just isn’t the sort of thing that has “axioms”. (Namely, it’s not a formal system.)

Comment by saidachmiz on What are the axioms of rationality? · 2018-12-25T15:41:28.552Z · score: 16 (5 votes) · LW · GW

“Rationality” isn’t the kind of thing that has “axioms”.

Reading the Sequences may help you.

Comment by saidachmiz on Why Don't Creators Switch to their Own Platforms? · 2018-12-24T08:15:43.270Z · score: 15 (6 votes) · LW · GW

he’d have to deal with people protesting his new hosting provider. … He’d have to deal with people launching hacking and DDOS attacks against his site, constantly.

This seems like a great opportunity to mention NearlyFreeSpeech.NET, which is exactly the ideal hosting provider for these sorts of situations.

Even if he were a programmer, and even if he knew enough about PHP and Wordpress to build out his own hosting

I guarantee you that there are more than enough people who would be willing to help Scott set up a self-hosted Wordpress install (or anything else, really).

Scott Alexander is, actually, an excellent example of a “content creator” who could go “totally independent” without any real problem. This is because his “content” is text. Text is easy.

Comment by saidachmiz on Player vs. Character: A Two-Level Model of Ethics · 2018-12-20T18:10:25.917Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

First of all, there isn’t anything that’s “of the the same type as an ought” except an ought. So no, you’re not getting any oughts, nor anything “of the same type”. It’s “is” all the way through, here.

More to the point, I think you’re missing a critical layer of abstraction/indirection: namely, that what you can predict, via the adaptive/game-theoretic perspective, isn’t “what oughts are likely to be acknowledged”, but “what oughts will the agent act as if it follows”. Those will usually not be the same as what oughts the agent acknowledges, or finds persuasive, etc.

This is related to “Adaptation-Executers, Not Fitness-Maximizers”. An agent who commits suicide is unlikely (though not entirely unable!) to propagate, this is true, but who says that an agent who doesn’t commit suicide can’t believe that suicide is good, can’t advocate for suicide, etc.? In fact, such agents—actual people, alive today—can, and do, all these things!

Comment by saidachmiz on New edition of "Rationality: From AI to Zombies" · 2018-12-19T22:51:44.837Z · score: 23 (6 votes) · LW · GW

(I imagine this comment properly belongs here on Less Wrong, when the new versions are posted here; perhaps the mods can move it, then. For now, posting it here because I can’t find a better place for it.)

From the introduction to Map and Territory, section “Noticing Bias”:

Imagine meeting someone for the first time, and knowing nothing about them except that they’re shy.

Question: Is it more likely that this person is a librarian, or a salesperson?

Most people answer “librarian.” Which is a mistake: shy salespeople are much more common than shy librarians, because salespeople in general are much more common than librarians—seventy-five times as common, in the United States.[1]

This is base rate neglect: grounding one’s judgments in how well sets of characteristics feel like they fit together, and neglecting how common each characteristic is in the population at large.[2]

Reading this, I immediately noticed that integrating base rates is not sufficient to make the “librarian” answer a mistake; and therefore we cannot conclude that the reason why people answer thus, is base rate neglect.

In fact, the text does not establish that answering “librarian” is wrong. Consider the claims:

  1. “salespeople in general are much more common than librarians—seventy-five times as common, in the United States”

  2. “shy salespeople are much more common than shy librarians”

The first claim is specific—we’re given a figure (“seventy-five times as common”)—and referenced. (The first footnote cites Weiten, Psychology: Themes and Variations, Briefer Version, Eighth Edition, 2010.) The second claim is neither quantified nor cited. Hmm.

But this is basic Bayes: in order to conclude #2 from #1, we also need another claim, call it #3: that observing that someone is shy does not provide strong enough evidence to overcome our prior probability distribution over a randomly selected person’s profession, and shift our posterior estimate such that “librarian” becomes more likely than “salesperson”. This claim can easily be false—namely, in the case that the proportion of librarians who are shy is at least seventy-five times greater than the proportion of salespeople who are shy.

If claim #3 is false, then answering “librarian” is correct! But also, even if claim #3 is true, then the error of someone answering “librarian” may be simply mis-estimating the relative rates of shyness among salespeople and librarians—which would not be an example of the base rate fallacy.

The text does not comment on this. Perhaps it is assumed that librarians aren’t shy at a rate 75 times greater than salespeople are. (But this is already a pedagogical flaw! And it ignores my second point in the paragraph above…) But is it true? From the provided information, we don’t know.

Note that my criticism of the text of M&T stands regardless of what the facts of the matter are—even if claim #3 is true, the text is, as I say above, quite flawed. Nevertheless, I was curious, and got my hands on a copy of Weiten 2010. The relevant bit is on page 270:

Steve is very shy and withdrawn, invariably helpful, but with little interest in people or in the world of reality. A meek and tidy soul, he has a need for order and structure and a passion for detail. Do you think Steve is a salesperson or a librarian? (Adapted from Tversky & Kahneman, 1974, p. 1124)

Using the representativeness heuristic, participants tend to guess that Steve is a librarian because he resembles their prototype of a librarian (Tversky & Kahneman, 1982). In reality, this is not a very wise guess, because it ignores the base rates of librarians and salespeople in the population. Virtually everyone knows that salespeople outnumber librarians by a wide margin (roughly 75 to 1 in the United States). This fact makes it much more likely that Steve is in sales. But in estimating probabilities, people often ignore information on base rates.

(The book does not discuss this particular matter further, though it goes on to further discussion of base rate neglect.)

Note that the “75 to 1” figure, in particular, does not appear to be referenced; nor is there any discussion of the relative rates of shyness among salespeople and librarians. There also does not seem to be any discussion of the possibility, in general, that people are taking base rates into account but mis-estimating the strength of the evidence (though I read only that one section, and not the entire 750-page textbook, so perhaps I missed it).

The two in-text citations in the above quote refer to:

Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1974). Judgments under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. Science, 185, 1124–1131.

Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1982). Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. In D. Kahneman, P. Slovic, & A. Tversky (Eds.), Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. New York: Cambridge University Press.

The first source (Tversky & Kahneman, 1974—a paper) contains no mention or discussion of the relative numbers of salespeople and librarians in the general population (and, in fact, describes an experiment where the base rates involved were not base rates in the general population, but rather base rates in an artificially constructed set, making the applicability questionable), nor of their relative rates of shyness.

In the second source (Tversky & Kahneman, 1982—a book), the relevant bit (on page 4) seems to be almost verbatim identical, with minor editing, to the first source. There is no additional information on any of the above topics.

So, tracing back the citations in Map and Territory, we seem to find no good basis at all for a strong conclusion that people who are asked the “salesperson vs. librarian” question ignore base rates; nor for rejecting the possibility that people merely mis-estimate relative rates of shyness among salespeople vs. librarians; nor any information on what those relative rates are; nor for the claim that “most” (or even “many”!) people answer in the alleged way; nor even for the claim that answering “librarian” is a mistake at all…!


I decided to check whether even the “75 to 1 salesperson:librarian ratio” claim is true (remember, said claim in Weiten 2010 is not sourced at all).

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics seems to claim that there are approximately 138,200 librarians in the United States. The American Library Association gives the number as 166,164. (Differences in sources, definitions, and periods of measurement likely explain the discrepancy.)

Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show 14,522,580 as the number of employees in “Sales and Related Occupations”—though this includes many jobs, like “Cashier”, which do not seem to fit the intuitive definition of “salesperson” in the way relevant to the “shyness” question above.

Ignoring that quibble, and taking the average of the two figures above for number of librarians, yields a 96:1 salesperson:librarian ratio in the United States, which is less than an order of magnitude off from the 75:1 figure quoted in Weiten 2010—which difference may be caused by the passage of time. In any case, I think we can call this one factoid more or less confirmed.

Comment by saidachmiz on You can be wrong about what you like, and you often are · 2018-12-18T06:55:47.861Z · score: 18 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I’m not sure if I understood the point you’re making, but it sounds like the point is that, even if the pixels are the same color, the important thing is to be able to distinguish the objects. To see that the tomato and banana are different things even if they have the same pixels. I suppose more generally the idea is that with an illusion, it may be an illusion in some lower level sense, but not an illusion in a more practical sense. Is that accurate?

The purpose[1] of our visual system—and, specifically, the purpose of our color vision—is to distinguish objects.

If, in the real world, you see a physical scene such as that pictured in the illustration, it may be that the spectral power distributions of the light reaching your eyes from the two identified regions of the physical checkerboard which you are looking at, will in fact match arbitrarily closely. However, you will correctly perceive the two squares as having different colors—i.e., as having different surface spectral reflectance functions—that being the practically relevant question which your visual system is designed to answer. (“What exactly is the spectral power distribution of the light incident upon my retina from such-and-such arc-region of my visual field” is virtually never relevant for any practical purpose.)

Similarly, if you see a photograph of a physical scene such as that pictured in the illustration, it may be that the spectral power distributions of the light reaching your eyes from the pixels representing the two identified regions of the physical checkerboard a picture of which you are looking at, will, again, match arbitrarily closely. But once again, you will correctly perceive the two pictured squares as having different colors—i.e., as having had, in the real-world scene of which the picture was taken, different surface spectral reflectance functions.

In both these cases, there is some real-world fact, which you are perceiving correctly. There is, then, some other real-world fact which you are not perceiving correctly (but which you also don’t particularly care about[2]). Once again: if I look at a real-world scene such as the one depicted, or a photograph of that scene, and I say “these two squares have different colors”, and by this I mean that the physical objects depicted have different colors, I am not mistaken; I am entirely correct in my judgment.

But! The picture in question is not a physical scene in the real world; nor is it a photograph of such a scene. It is artificial. It depicts something which does not actually exist, and never did. There is no fact of the matter about whether the identified checkerboard squares are of the same color or different colors, because they don’t exist; so there isn’t anything to be right or wrong about.

This means that the question—“are these two regions the same color, or different colors?”—is, in some sense, meaningless. Once again, the purpose of our visual system is to perceive certain practically relevant features of real-world objects. The “optical illusion” in question feeds that system nonsense data; and we get back a nonsense answer. But that doesn’t mean we’re answering incorrectly, that we’re making a mistake; in fact, there isn’t any right answer!

Once again, note that if we encountered this situation in the real world, we would correctly note that the two checkerboard squares have different colors. If we had to take some action, or make some decision, on the basis of whether square A and square B were the same color or different colors, we would therefore act or decide correctly. Acting or deciding on the basis of a belief that squares A and B are of the same color, would be a mistake!

Contrast this with, for example, color blindness. If I cannot see the difference between red and green, then I will have quite a bit of trouble driving a car—I will mis-perceive the state of traffic lights! Note that in this case, you can be sure that I won’t argue with you when you tell me that I am perceiving the traffic lights incorrectly; there is no sense in which, from a certain perspective, my judgment is actually correct. No; I simply can’t see a difference which is demonstrably present (and which other people can see just fine); and this is clearly problematic, for me; it causes me to take sub-optimal actions which, if I perceived things correctly, I would do otherwise (more advantageously to myself).

The takeaway is this: if you think you have discovered a bug in human cognition, it is not enough to demonstrate that, if provided with data that is nonsensical, weird (in a “doesn’t correspond to what is encountered in the real world” way), or designed to be deceptive, the cognitive system in question yields some (apparently) nonsensical answer. What is necessary is to demonstrate that this alleged bug causes people to act in a way which is clearly a mistake, from their own perspective—and that is far more difficult.

Furthermore, in the “optical illusion” example, if you insisted that the “right” answer is that A and B are the same color, you would (as I claim, and explain, above) be wrong—or, more precisely, you would be right in a useless and irrelevant way, but wrong in the important and practical (but still quite specific) way. Now, how sure are you that the same isn’t true in the happiness case? (For instance, some researcher says that beautiful people aren’t happier. But is this true in an important and practical way, or is it false in that way and only true in an irrelevant and useless way? And if you claim the former—given the state of social science, how certain are you?)

[1] In the “survival-critical task which is the source of selection pressure to develop and improve said system” sense.

[2] And if you decide that in some given case, you do care about this secondary fact, you can use tools designed to measure it. But usually, this other fact is of academic interest at best.

Comment by saidachmiz on You can be wrong about what you like, and you often are · 2018-12-18T03:40:55.362Z · score: 26 (10 votes) · LW · GW

There's a critical point to be made about that optical illusion. Consider the following version of your hypothetical dialogue:

Alice: A and B are the same shade of gray.

Bob: No they’re not! WTF are you talking about? How can you say that they are? I can see with my eyes that they’re not!

Alice: Observe that if you use a graphics editor program to examine a pixel in the middle of region A, and a pixel in the middle of region B, you will see that they are the same color; or you could use a photometer to directly measure the spectral power distributions of light being emitted by your computer display from either pixel, and likewise you will find those curves identical.

Bob: Yeah? So? What of it? Suppose I measure the spectral power distributions of light reaching my eyes from a banana at dusk, and a tomato at noon, and find them identical; should I conclude that a banana and a tomato are the same color? No; they look like they have different colors, and indeed they do have different colors. What about the same banana at noon, and then at dusk—the light reaching my eyes from the banana will have different spectral power distributions; has the banana changed color? No, it both looks like, and is, the same color in both cases.

Alice: What? What does that have to do with anything? The pixels really are different!

Bob: What is that to me? This is an image of a cylinder standing on a checkerboard. I say that square A on the checkerboard, and square B on the checkerboard, are of different colors. Just as my visual system can tell that the tomato is red, and the banana yellow, regardless of whether either is viewed at noon or at dusk, so that same visual system can tell that these two checkerboard squares have different colors. Your so-called “illusions” cannot so easily fool human vision!

Alice: But… it’s a rendered image. There is no checkerboard.

Bob: Then there is no fact of the matter about whether A and B are the same color.

Can the principle illustrated in this dialogue be applied to the case of “knowing what you like”? If so—how? (And if not, the the optical illusion analogy is inapplicable—and dangerously misleading!)

Comment by saidachmiz on New edition of "Rationality: From AI to Zombies" · 2018-12-15T22:26:43.932Z · score: 12 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Is the new version being released under the same license terms (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) as the previous version was?

Comment by saidachmiz on New edition of "Rationality: From AI to Zombies" · 2018-12-15T22:21:31.554Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It seems that is currently down.


The new version of Map and Territory is also available electronically (in EPUB, MOBI, and PDF versions)

This site also seems to be down.

Comment by saidachmiz on Player vs. Character: A Two-Level Model of Ethics · 2018-12-15T09:23:26.455Z · score: 11 (7 votes) · LW · GW

It’s a cute metaphor; and for anyone versed in RPG lore, it is (it seems to me) likely to be helpful, descriptively, in conceptualizing the facts of the matter (the evolutionary origins of morality, etc.).

But the substantive conclusions in this post are unsupported (and, I think, unsupportable). Namely:

Some game-theoretic strategies (what Nietzsche would call “tables of values”) are more survival-promoting than others. That’s the sense in which you can get from “is” to “ought.”

To the contrary, this does not get you one iota closer to “ought”.

Sure, some strategies are more survival-promoting. But does that make them morally right? Are you identifying “right” with “survival-promoting”, or even claiming that “right”, as a concept, must contain “survival-promoting”? But that’s an “ought” claim, and without making such a claim, you cannot get to “it is right to execute this strategy” from “this strategy is survival-promoting”.

(Now, you might say that acting on any moral view other than “what is survival-promoting is right” will make you fail to survive, and then your views on morality will become irrelevant. This may be true! But does that make those other moral views wrong? No, unless you, once again, adopt an “ought” claim like “moral views which lead to failure to survive are wrong”, etc. In short, the is-ought gap is not so easily bridged.)

The way I think the intellect plays into “metaprogramming” the player is indirect; you can infer what the player is doing, do some formal analysis about how that will play out, comprehend (again at the “merely” intellectual level) if there’s an error or something that’s no longer relevant/adaptive, plug that new understanding into some change that the intellect can affect (maybe “let’s try this experiment”), and maybe somewhere down the chain of causality the “player”’s strategy changes.

Any “character” who does such a thing is, ultimately, still executing the strategy selected by the “player”. “Characters” cannot go meta. (“Character” actions can end up altering the population of “players”—though this is not quite yet within our power. But in such a case, it is still the “players” that end up selecting strategies.)

Comment by saidachmiz on Is Science Slowing Down? · 2018-12-14T20:57:58.690Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

For what it’s worth, if you’re using GreaterWrong, you can click the Image button in the editor (it’s fourth from the left), and it will automatically insert the appropriate Markdown syntax for an image.

Comment by saidachmiz on Transhumanism as Simplified Humanism · 2018-12-11T03:15:15.191Z · score: 11 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I am not in favor of existence without boundaries. I don’t have a moral justification for this, just an aesthetic one …

I share your aesthetic preference (and I consider such preferences to be no less valid, and no less important, than any “moral” ones). But no one here is advocating anything like that. Certainly Eliezer isn’t, and nor am I.

Comment by saidachmiz on Why should EA care about rationality (and vice-versa)? · 2018-12-11T00:35:23.667Z · score: 13 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for the encouragement, and I’m glad you’ve found value in my commentary.

… it’s also im­por­tant to track which er­rors seem like part of a pat­tern of mo­ti­vated er­ror, and which seem to be mere mis­takes. The former class seems much more dan­ger­ous to me, since such er­rors are cor­re­lated.

I agree with this as an object-level policy / approach, but I think not quite for the same reason as yours.

It seems to me that the line between “motivated error” and “mere mistake” is thin, and hard to locate, and possibly not actually existent. We humans are very good at self-deception, after all. Operating on the assumption that something can be identified as clearly being a “mere mistake” (or, conversely, as clearly being a “motivated error”) is dangerous.

That said, I think that there is clearly a spectrum, and I do endorse tracking at least roughly in which region of the spectrum any given case lies, because doing so creates some good incentives (i.e., it avoids disincentivizing post-hoc honesty). On the other hand, it also creates some bad incentives, e.g. the incentive for the sort of self-deception described above. Truthfully, I don’t know what the optimal approach is, here. Constant vigilance against any failures in this whole class is, however, warranted in any case.

History of LessWrong: Some Data Graphics

2018-11-16T07:07:15.501Z · score: 71 (23 votes)

New GreaterWrong feature: image zoom + image slideshows

2018-11-04T07:34:44.907Z · score: 39 (9 votes)

New GreaterWrong feature: anti-kibitzer (hides post/comment author names and karma values)

2018-10-19T21:03:22.649Z · score: 47 (14 votes)

Separate comments feeds for different post listings views?

2018-10-02T16:07:22.942Z · score: 14 (6 votes)

GreaterWrong—new theme and many enhancements

2018-10-01T07:22:01.788Z · score: 38 (9 votes)

Archiving link posts?

2018-09-08T05:45:53.349Z · score: 56 (19 votes)

Shared interests vs. collective interests

2018-05-28T22:06:50.911Z · score: 21 (11 votes)

GreaterWrong—even more new features & enhancements

2018-05-28T05:08:31.236Z · score: 64 (14 votes)

Everything I ever needed to know, I learned from World of Warcraft: Incentives and rewards

2018-05-07T06:44:47.775Z · score: 33 (12 votes)

Everything I ever needed to know, I learned from World of Warcraft: Goodhart’s law

2018-05-03T16:33:50.002Z · score: 81 (21 votes)

GreaterWrong—more new features & enhancements

2018-04-07T20:41:14.357Z · score: 23 (6 votes)

GreaterWrong—several new features & enhancements

2018-03-27T02:36:59.741Z · score: 44 (10 votes)

Key lime pie and the methods of rationality

2018-03-22T06:25:35.193Z · score: 59 (16 votes)

A new, better way to read the Sequences

2017-06-04T05:10:09.886Z · score: 19 (17 votes)

Cargo Cult Language

2012-02-05T21:32:56.631Z · score: 1 (32 votes)