Selective, Corrective, Structural: Three Ways of Making Social Systems Work 2023-03-05T08:45:45.615Z
Said Achmiz's Shortform 2023-02-03T22:08:02.656Z
Deleted comments archive 2022-09-06T21:54:06.737Z
Deleted comments archive? 2021-10-24T11:19:43.462Z
The Real Rules Have No Exceptions 2019-07-23T03:38:45.992Z
What is this new (?) Less Wrong feature? (“hidden related question”) 2019-05-15T23:51:16.319Z
History of LessWrong: Some Data Graphics 2018-11-16T07:07:15.501Z
New GreaterWrong feature: image zoom + image slideshows 2018-11-04T07:34:44.907Z
New GreaterWrong feature: anti-kibitzer (hides post/comment author names and karma values) 2018-10-19T21:03:22.649Z
Separate comments feeds for different post listings views? 2018-10-02T16:07:22.942Z
GreaterWrong—new theme and many enhancements 2018-10-01T07:22:01.788Z
Archiving link posts? 2018-09-08T05:45:53.349Z
Shared interests vs. collective interests 2018-05-28T22:06:50.911Z
GreaterWrong—even more new features & enhancements 2018-05-28T05:08:31.236Z
Everything I ever needed to know, I learned from World of Warcraft: Incentives and rewards 2018-05-07T06:44:47.775Z
Everything I ever needed to know, I learned from World of Warcraft: Goodhart’s law 2018-05-03T16:33:50.002Z
GreaterWrong—more new features & enhancements 2018-04-07T20:41:14.357Z
GreaterWrong—several new features & enhancements 2018-03-27T02:36:59.741Z
Key lime pie and the methods of rationality 2018-03-22T06:25:35.193Z
A new, better way to read the Sequences 2017-06-04T05:10:09.886Z
Cargo Cult Language 2012-02-05T21:32:56.631Z


Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on Would You Work Harder In The Least Convenient Possible World? · 2023-09-22T21:56:27.856Z · LW · GW

Indeed, I disagree with that characterization of the situation in the dialogue.

For one thing, there’s no indication that Bob is claiming to be a member of anything. He’s “interested in Effective Altruism”, and he “want[s] to help others and … genuinely care[s] about positive impact, and ethical obligations, and utilitarian considerations”, and he also (according to Alice!) “claim[s] to really care about improving the world”, and (also according to Alice!) “claim[s] to be a utilitarian”. But membership in some community? I see no such claim on Bob’s part.

But also, and perhaps more importantly: suppose for a moment that “Effective Altruism” is, indeed, properly understood as a “community”, membership in which it is reasonable to gatekeep in the sort of way you describe.[1]

It might, then, make sense for Alice to have a discussion with Carol, Dave, etc.—all of whom are members-in-good-standing of the Effective Altruism community, and who share Alice’s values, as well as her unyielding commitment thereto—concerning the question of whether Bob is to be acknowledged as “one of us”, whether he’s to be extended whatever courtesies and privileges are reserved for good Effective Altruists, and so on.

However, the norm that Bob, himself, is answerable to Alice—that he owes Alice a justification for his actions, that Alice has the right to interrogate Bob concerning whether he’s living up to his stated values, etc.—that is a deeply corrosive norm. It ought not be tolerated.

Note that this is different from, say, engaging a willing Bob in a discussion about what his behavior should be (or about any other topic whatsoever)! This is a key aspect of the situation: Bob has expressed that he considers his behavior none of Alice’s business, but Alice asserts the standing to interrogate Bob anyway, on the reasoning that perhaps she might convince him after all. It’s that which makes Bob’s failure to stand up for his total lack of obligation to answer to Alice for his actions deplorable.

  1. I think that this is not a trivial assumption, and in fact carries with it some strange, and perhaps undesirable, consequences—but not being any kind of Effective Altruist myself, perhaps that part is none of my business. In any case, we can make the aforesaid assumption, for argument’s sake. ↩︎

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on Would You Work Harder In The Least Convenient Possible World? · 2023-09-22T20:55:10.022Z · LW · GW

The behavior I was referring to, specifically, is not rudeness (or else I’d have quoted Alice’s first comment, not her second one), but rather Alice taking as given the assumption that she has some sort of claim on Bob’s reasons for his actions—that Bob has some obligation to explain himself, to justify his actions and his reasons, to Alice. It is that assumption which must be firmly and implacably rejected at once.

Bob should make clear to Alice that he owes her no explanations and no justifications. By indulging Alice, Bob is giving her power over himself that he has no reason at all to surrender. Such concessions are invariably exploited by those who wish to make use of others as tools to advance their own agenda.

Bob’s first response was correct. But—out of weakness, lack of conviction, or some other flaw—he didn’t follow up. Instead, he succumbed to the pressure to acknowledge Alice’s claim to be owed a justification for his actions, and thus gave Alice entirely undeserved power. That was a mistake—and what’s more, it’s a mistake that, by incentivizing Alice’s behavior, has anti-social consequences, which degrade the moral fabric of Bob’s community and society.

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on Would You Work Harder In The Least Convenient Possible World? · 2023-09-22T19:05:15.735Z · LW · GW

Alice: I think the negative impact of my rudeness is probably smaller than the potential positive impact of getting you to act in line with the values you claim to have.

It seems to me that Bob has a moral obligation to respond in such a way as to ensure that Alice’s claim here is false, i.e. the correct response here is “lol fuck you” (and escalating from there if Alice persists). Alice’s behavior here ought not be incentivized; on the contrary, it should be severely punished. Bob is exhibiting a failure of moral rectitude, or else a failure of will, by not applying said punishment.

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on Reflexive decision theory is an unsolved problem · 2023-09-20T21:20:35.949Z · LW · GW

8 pages in, I’m impressed by the clarity

Seconded. This is an extremely impressive paper. It seems like Spohn had most of the insights that motivated and led to the development of logical/functional decision theories, years before Less Wrong existed. I’m astounded that I’ve never heard of him before now.

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on The commenting restrictions on LessWrong seem bad · 2023-09-18T02:43:41.707Z · LW · GW

I think being unable to reply to comments on your own posts is very likely a mistake and we should change that. (Possibly if the conditions under which we think that was warranted, we should issue a ban.)

I was about to write a comment to the effect that there should clearly be an exception for commenting on your own posts (and, indeed, anyone who can’t even be allowed to comment on their own posts should just be banned), so… yeah, strongly agreed that this particular thing should be fixed!

EDIT: Never mind, I see this has already been fixed. Excellent!

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on Contra Yudkowsky on Epistemic Conduct for Author Criticism · 2023-09-18T02:26:17.288Z · LW · GW

I think that “the author of the post does not think the post he wrote was bad” is quite sufficiently covered by “hardly any”.

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on "Did you lock it?" · 2023-09-18T01:44:28.563Z · LW · GW

Well… maybe. Before making assumptions as broad and vague as “presumably other considerations about appropriate contextual cues” and “methods which are recieved well”, I’d want to see at least a sketch of what any of those things are supposed to be referring to.

The question, let’s recall, is whether the sort of advice described in the OP is appropriate, in the general case. Sure, we can assume the advice is given with reasonable attention to basic tact, with common sense about timing, etc., but it wouldn’t do to make assumptions which make the original question moot!

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on Actually, "personal attacks after object-level arguments" is a pretty good rule of epistemic conduct · 2023-09-18T01:37:36.342Z · LW · GW

Eliezer’s view (apparently) is that if you don’t follow the rules, you get one comment addressing a couple of your object level claims, and then no further engagement from him personally. That seems reasonable to me

The problem with allowing yourself to do this sort of thing is that it creates an incentive to construct arbitrary “rules of epistemic conduct”, announcing them to nobody (or else making them very difficult to follow). Then you use non-compliance as an excuse to disengage from discussions and leave criticism unaddressed. If challenged, retort that it was not you who “defected” first, but your critics—see, look, they broke “the rules”! Surely you can’t be expected to treat with such rule-breakers?!

The result is that you just stop talking to anyone who disagrees with you. Oh, you might retort, rebut, rant, or debunk—but you don’t talk. And you certainly don’t listen.

Of course there is some degree of blatant “logical rudeness” which makes it impossible to engage productively with someone. And, at the same time, it’s not necessarily (and, indeed, not likely to be) worth your time to engage with all of your critics, regardless of how many “rules” they did or did not break.

But if you allow yourself to refuse engagement in response to non-compliance with arbitrary rules that you made up, you’re undermining your ability to benefit from engagement with people who disagree with you, and you’re reducing your credibility in the eyes of reasonable third parties—because you’re showing that you cannot be trusted to approach disagreement fairly.

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on Actually, "personal attacks after object-level arguments" is a pretty good rule of epistemic conduct · 2023-09-18T01:27:26.605Z · LW · GW

This is indeed a crux; I view this as not relevant to the question of whether a rule is called “epistemic” or not. I see it as less about whether you are “catering to” or trying to “overcome” cognitive biases in yourself or in your reader, and more about whether you’re accurately modeling the consequences of your actions.

Conflating epistemics with considerations like this is deadly to epistemics. If we’re going to approach epistemic rationality in this fashion, then we ought to give up immediately, as any hope for successful truthseeking is utterly unjustified with such an approach.

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on Actually, "personal attacks after object-level arguments" is a pretty good rule of epistemic conduct · 2023-09-18T01:24:58.989Z · LW · GW

No comment on the rest for now, but:

After Eliezer posted the comment in question, the votes on the EAF version of the Omnizoid post swung pretty dramatically, which I take as evidence that my interpretation of the comment’s intended purpose is more likely than Zack’s, and that the comment was successful in that purpose.

It seems to me that the exact opposite is true: such a vote swing is evidence against your characterization of the situation as “an attempt to explain to the upvoters of the Omnizoid post why they erred in upvoting it, and to help them avoid making similar mistakes in the future”, and for the characterization as “attempting to enforce a rule” (i.e., clearly the attempt was successful).

Eliezer’s comment introduces no new information or arguments (as his object-level rebuttals, while perfectly correct, are nothing new, and merely restate previously written things; nor was anything new needed, of course, the accusing post having contained no arguments valid or coherent enough to require such). So it seems unlikely that anyone was convinced that they had erred, after reading Eliezer’s reply, and consequently changed their vote. Much more likely that people were responding to the post, and the comment, as entries in a conflict, and were rallied to support Eliezer’s side after he came out to support himself.

There’s nothing wrong with that, really, but it’s a case of rule enforcement, not persuasion.

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on "Did you lock it?" · 2023-09-17T22:56:12.526Z · LW · GW

I’m very positive that intimate relationships and acquaintances are the number1 group of perpetrators, and that my argument is a valid one

That’s as may be. My point was simply that, in support of your argument, you cited as a source as making a claim that it did not, in fact, make; instead, the source made an importantly different claim. The record must be corrected on the facts. Now it has been.

So I’m content with my level of research in the context of this post.

That is, of course, your business. What is relevant in the context of public discussion is that you’re saying “this is what’s true; I offer no evidence, except that my assurance that I’ve researched this”.

Such a position is not inherently problematic, as long as you make it clear that that’s what you’re saying.

What is problematic is erroneous factual claims, erroneously quoting sources, etc. Hence, such errors ought to be corrected, as I have done. Corrections in such cases benefit us all, yourself included.

I understand if you might disagree with my level of skill, but I hope you can have some leniency.

Such concepts as “skill” and “leniency” are totally irrelevant here. The facts are what matter. We must get the facts right if we’re to have any hope of drawing any correct conclusions and taking any useful actions.

As far as the question of what is, or is not, “nitpicking”, which details are “small”, etc., this old comment of mine may be of some interest.

Finally, returning to your object-level claim—

intimate relationships and acquaintances are the number1 group of perpetrators

—by my admittedly vague recollection of other rape-related statistics that I’ve seen, I believe that you are correct. I do not have references handy, and so I am not very certain of this; but I would certainly be surprised if this turned out to be false.

Of course, the exact numbers (to an accuracy of, at the least, ±5%) do matter, so if I were to make an argument on the basis of this tendency, I’d certainly want some concrete data. (Which attitude is complicated by the difficulty of finding reliable and unbiased data in this domain.)

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on "Did you lock it?" · 2023-09-17T20:26:23.295Z · LW · GW

If you look at the Sexual Assault Statistics, you see that 51% of rapes happen in intimate relationships, and 41% by an acquaintance.

This is not quite right. If we look at the source for these numbers, we can see that these numbers are for “Lifetime Reports of Sexual Violence Among Female Victims by Type of Perpetrator” (with an explanatory footnote that says “Relationship is based on respondents’ reports of their relationship at the time the perpetrator first committed any violence against them. Due to the possibility of multiple perpetrators, combined row percents may exceed 100%.”; additional explanation is on previous page).

In other words, among all female rape victims (who were respondents to this survey), 51.1% reported that they had, at some point in their lives, been raped by a “current or former intimate partner”; 12.5% (possibly overlapping in whole or in part with the previous category) reported that they had, at some point in their lives, been raped by a family member; etc.

Unfortunately, this is not enough information to infer what percent of rapes happen in intimate relationships, what percent are done by an acquaintance, etc.

EDIT: Needless to say, this substantially affects the conclusions of your comment.

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on "Did you lock it?" · 2023-09-16T10:31:50.237Z · LW · GW

I think your analogy gestures at something useful but needs expansion. The ‘roofie detector gadget’ example could be reframed in a way which disempowers—eg, ‘it’s your fault for not using this gadget’, or ‘well you really ought to have used this gadget’, etc.

If you add blame to the advice, then of course you change the impact—because you’ve added something that wasn’t there before. “If you do X, Y will result” is simply not the same thing as “you are at fault for not doing X”. This isn’t a reframing, it’s simply a different claim.

This suggests to me subject matter of the advice is less important than its underlying motive or attitude.

The substance of advice is important if you’re trying to accomplish some goal (i.e., improve your outcomes somehow).

The motive for advice-giving is important for interpreting advice (i.e., determining whether it’s likely to actually be useful), but is screened off by the judgment of usefulness.

As for “attitude”, it may be “important” in the sense of affecting interpersonal relations, but as far as the utility of advice goes, attitude is irrelevant.

Contrast the following: ‘well, you *were *wearing revealing clothes’ versus ‘you can wear whatever you like, but just note that you might be at a greater risk of being assaulted if you go to bar X.’ The latter lets the recipient make their own decision about risk.

The recipient can make their own decision about risk no matter how someone else phrases advice to them. I’m afraid I don’t see what you’re getting at, here.

Of course, even ‘empowering’ advice could still be upsetting to a victim if given as an immediate response. That’s not surprising. Advice in general—especially highly personal or intimate—often needs to be given delicately and sensitively for it to help someone. There is a reasonable position between ‘never being able to give advice’ and ‘not doing it immediately after the incident.’

No doubt (especially if the incident in question is as traumatic as rape). But who here is suggesting that “immediately after the incident” is a good time for advice-giving of any sort? This seems like a red herring.

However, there does at some point come a time when advice is warranted. At some point, one must continue living one’s life. And then one must make various choices; and it is possible to choose well (and reduce one’s chances of repeated victimization), or to choose poorly (and maintain or even increase those chances). Advice, at this point, is appropriate.

In short, when we’re discussing “what advice is appropriate”, we are presupposing that we’ve chosen the timing properly. Having assumed this, the question of what advice we should give does still remain.

In any case, I tend to agree Firinn here that there are important disanalogies between bike theft and rape which cannot be reduced to differences in the prevalence of false allegations. The latter is simply a more complicated crime both socially and legally—it is more serious (in psychological effect, social stigma, and legal penalty, with a few fringe cases excepted) and more closely implicates contentious political beliefs which cash out in different allocations of blame, responsibility, wrongfulness etc.

It seems sensible to remember that by giving advice you will engage in this complex social phenomena. But then, reading your comments, I don’t think you would deny this?

I don’t deny it, mostly because there’s hardly anything here to deny… what is contained in these two paragraphs except platitudes and generalities?

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on "Did you lock it?" · 2023-09-16T03:52:51.553Z · LW · GW

If people were forced to bet on their beliefs, I think most people would be forced to admit that they do understand this on some level; when you say “try buying this different bike lock” the expected outcome is that the victim is somewhat more likely to go shopping and buy that bike lock, whereas when you say “try wearing less revealing clothing” the expected outcome is that the victim feels crushed and traumatised and stops listening to you.

This analogy is inaccurate.

The analogue of “try wearing less revealing clothing”, in the bike situation, would be something like “try not having such an expensive bike”. (In both cases, the advice is “make it less appealing for the evildoers to do this crime to you, while reducing the utility/pleasure you get from your property”.)

Conversely, the analogue of “try buying this different bike lock”, in the sexual assault situation, would be something like “try buying this roofie detector gadget”. (In both cases, the advice is “make it more difficult for the evildoers to do this crime to you, by putting obstacles directly in the way of their crime attempts”.)

Once the analogy is rectified, we can see that the responses to each set of “advice” also becomes analogous:

“Try wearing less revealing clothing” seems like an insulting thing to say—but the same is true of “try not having such an expensive bike”.

“Try buying this different bike lock” seems like non-insulting, well-intentioned advice, aimed at harm reduction—but so does “try buying this roofie detector gadget”.

To put it another way, the person saying “try buying this different bike lock”, or “try buying this roofie detector gadget”, is trying to empower you. The person saying “try wearing less revealing clothing”, or “try not having such an expensive bike”, does not seem like they’re trying to empower you.

(Note that all of this is distinct from the question of which, if any, of these four pieces of advice will, if followed, actually reduce your relevant risk of victimization, and by how much.)

As far as the commentary on rationality being winning… indeed, you are quite correct that truly rational strategies must take into account human irrationality, as well as emotions, values, etc.

However, it seems quite implausible a priori that there should be no actions that one could possibly take to reduce one’s chance of victimization by sexual assault. But if that’s not the case—if there are indeed such actions—then your view amounts to the claim that it’s not possible to communicate any information about such actions to anyone who has once been victimized. In other words, it seems like you’re saying either that there’s literally nothing that anyone can do to reduce their chance of being raped, or that if someone’s been raped once, there is no way that information about such actions can ever be conveyed to them.

Neither of those things seem the least bit plausible; indeed, they run directly counter to common sense, as well as to actually existing advice which it is trivial to find online, including via organizations specifically devoted to such causes.

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on Contra Yudkowsky on Epistemic Conduct for Author Criticism · 2023-09-15T19:47:34.911Z · LW · GW

Certainly omnizoid’s post was bad—there’s hardly any disputing that. The ratio of snark to content was egregious, the snark itself was not justified by the number and type of the examples, and the actual examples were highly questionable at best. I think that most folks in this discussion basically agree on this.

(I, personally, also think that omnizoid’s general claim—that Eliezer is “frequently, confidently, egregiously wrong”—is false, regardless of how good or bad are any particular arguments for said claim. On this there may be less general agreement, I am not sure.)

The question before us right now concerns, specifically, whether “put the object-level refutation first, then make comments about the target’s character” is, or is not, a “basic rule of epistemic conduct”. This is a narrow point—an element of “local validity”. As such, the concerns you mention do not bear on it.

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on "Did you lock it?" · 2023-09-15T17:46:35.116Z · LW · GW

Wow, without context, that’s a really weird claim that makes me not want to engage with you.

With context, presumably, it wouldn’t be such a weird claim, yes? If so, then why assume there’s no such context?

Anyway, here’s an example. (This wasn’t “rape”, I don’t think, but merely “sexual harassment / assault”, but it’s close enough to establish the principle. I know of other examples that were “rape”, but I can’t easily link them / they’re not related to this community / etc.)

This is without getting into the publicly known and much-discussed examples like this one. (Surely you can’t have missed all the media attention that one received…?)

It strikes me as much more likely that people with very poor epistemic hygiene are repeating secondhand “false allegation” stories with much more confidence than is warranted.

Hardly applies to the above examples!

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on "Did you lock it?" · 2023-09-15T07:42:48.979Z · LW · GW

Don’t you think someone whose bike has been stolen realises they should have locked it afterwards without you telling them?

No, not necessarily.

And, as the OP describes, there is the question of how they secured the bicycle, with what sort of lock, etc. There is no reason to believe that someone who’s had their bike stolen automatically thereby knows what is the optimal method for securing a bike against theft. (If they knew, they presumably would’ve secured their bike thus, and would not have had it stolen!)

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on "Did you lock it?" · 2023-09-15T07:38:53.076Z · LW · GW

None of those scenarios seem like “for attention”.

(I’ve also never personally heard of any such things happening as you describe, while I certainly have heard multiple credible stories of “she claimed to be raped / sexually assaulted, which claim was manifestly false”.)

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on "Did you lock it?" · 2023-09-15T00:15:04.151Z · LW · GW

ALL that advise is of zero value at the time it is offered.

Obviously false if the situation that led to the misfortune is likely to repeat in the future (thus allowing for the possibility of taking actions to avoid repeats of said misfortune)—which is the case both for bike theft and for rape.

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on "Did you lock it?" · 2023-09-15T00:12:35.722Z · LW · GW

I have never heard anyone claim “oh, so-and-so’s bike wasn’t really stolen, they just made that up for attention” or “you shouldn’t prosecute bike thieves because false bike-theft allegations can really hurt people” or “if you’ve ever had your bike stolen then some people just won’t want to date you anymore” or anything else that would make me scared to tell someone that my bike had been stolen.

Of course you haven’t, because those things don’t happen / aren’t true. Nobody makes up “my bike was stolen” for attention; false bike-theft allegations can’t hurt people because it’s almost impossible to make them in the first place (how would you ever know who stole your bike unless you saw them run off with it, which pretty much never happens?), having your bike stolen doesn’t have any effect on anyone’s willingness to date you, etc.

If such claims were instead sometimes true, then they would sometimes be made.

For rape, they are sometimes true. So, they are sometimes made.

What else could we possibly expect or want?

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on Contra Yudkowsky on Epistemic Conduct for Author Criticism · 2023-09-13T20:59:53.901Z · LW · GW

Having the order-of-evaluations wrong in a piece of writing is evidence, in a Bayesian sense, of having also had the order-of-evaluations wrong in the thinking that generated it.

As I understand it, this is an accusation of an author having written the bottom line first—yes?

If so, it would be good to be clear on that point. In other words, we should be clear that the problem isn’t anything about ordering, but that the author’s stated reasons, and reasoning, were actually not what led them to their stated conclusion.

And there is another point. Nobody[1] starts disliking someone for no reason, as a wholly uncaused act of hate-thought. So there must’ve been some other reason why the author of a post attacking someone (e.g. Eliezer, S. J. Gould, etc.) decided that said person was bad/wrong/whatever. But since the stated reason isn’t (we claim) the real reason, therefore the real reason must be something else which we are not being told.

So the other half of the accusation is that the post author is hiding from us the real reasons why they believe their conclusion (while bamboozling us with fake reasons).

This again has nothing to do with any questions of ordering. Clarity of complaints is paramount here.

  1. Exceptions might be caused by mental illness or some such, which is irrelevant here. ↩︎

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on Contra Yudkowsky on Epistemic Conduct for Author Criticism · 2023-09-13T18:13:29.860Z · LW · GW

The relevant point here, I think, is that there’s nothing wrong with stating the general characterization first, if that’s the point of your post. Of course support your claims, of course make sure most of your post is actual substance and not empty snark; but the ordering should follow the rules of clear writing (which may dictate one or another order, as befits the case), not some purported (and, as Zack says, in truth nonexistent) epistemic rule that the object level must come first.

This is really nothing more than the perfectly ordinary “tell them what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you’ve told them” sort of thing. Obviously you must not skip the middle part, but neither is there any law that says that actually, the middle part must come first.

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on Is there something fundamentally wrong with the Universe? · 2023-09-13T15:16:27.166Z · LW · GW

Morality is complicated, far more complex than the laws of physics, and you can’t pack a whole morality into a few short equations. Technically you probably could pack it into the initial conditions of the universe if you were a sufficiently smart creator god.

This is the premise of Stanislaw Lem’s (quite wonderful) story “The Eighteenth Voyage” (included in the collection Memoirs of a Space Traveler: Further Reminiscences of Ijon Tichy):

Of course, to program and pack such an ungodly wealth of information into one electron was no easy task. I must confess that I did not do everything myself. … Razglaz and I shared the work; I thought up the improvements and corrections, and he translated these into the precise language of the parameters of physics, the theory of vacuums, the theory of electrons, positrons, and sundry other trons.

What good, what wonderful things I planned during those hectic days! How often did I work late into the night poring over books on physics, ethics, and zoology in order to gather, combine, and concentrate the most valuable information, which the professor, starting at dawn, fashioned into the electron, the cosmic nucleus! We wanted, among other things, to have the Universe develop harmoniously, not as before; to prevent supernovas from jolting it too much; to eliminate the senseless waste of quasar and pulsar energy; to keep stars from sparking and smoking like damp candlewicks; and to shorten interstellar distances, which would facilitate space travel and thus bring together and unify sentient races. It would take volumes to tell of all the corrections I managed to plan in a relatively short time. But these were not the most important thing. I need not explain why I concentrated on the human race; to improve it, I changed the principle of natural evolution.

Evolution, as we know, is either the wholesale devouring of the weaker by the stronger (zoocide), or the conspiracy of the weaker, who attack the stronger from within (parasitism). Only green plants are moral, living as they do at their own expense, on solar energy. I therefore provided for the chlorophyllization of all living things; in particular, I devised the Foliated Man. Since this meant the stomach had to go, I transferred to its location a suitably enlarged nerve center. I did not do all this directly, of course, having at my disposal only one electron. I simply established, in cooperation with the professor, that the fundamental law of evolution in the new, debt-free Universe would be the rule of decent behavior of every life form toward every other. I also designed a much more aesthetic body, a more refined sexuality, and numerous other improvements I will not even mention, for my heart bleeds at the recollection of them.

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on Fake Explanations · 2023-09-12T23:20:30.243Z · LW · GW

I agree that “it’s really obvious that the instructor flipped the plate around and the students should have realised this as soon as they Noticed They Were Confused” is not the correct answer. However, I think that your suggested lesson isn’t quite right either—namely, the “until…” clause is superfluous.

Now, I can’t speak for physics students, at whatever level of physics education the students in the story were at… but for myself, I don’t think I could’ve generated the hypothesis outlined in the grandparent. (Or, perhaps more precisely, maybe I could’ve generated at least approximately that hypothesis—but only alongside a number of other hypotheses which would be physically implausible/inapplicable/etc.)

In other words: there is no way I could’ve solved the puzzle (without first learning much more physics, which presumably is outside the scope of the problem).

And this, in my experience, happens often. There is some phenomenon, and you don’t know the explanation for it; there is some mystery, and you don’t know the solution to it. And the rational conclusion is that you aren’t going to figure out the answer. You just don’t know. You can spend some large amount of time or effort learning and developing expertise in the relevant domain, certainly! But you’re not going to figure out the right answer by thinking about it, because the space of possibilities for what the answer could be includes any number of unknown unknowns: things that you aren’t aware of, and that you don’t know you’re not aware of.

Thus the rational response is to follow the wisdom of Homer [edit: actually it was Bart] Simpson: can’t win, don’t try. You don’t know, and you can’t figure it out, and that’s all there is to it. Either invest the considerable effort needed to research the subject matter in general and the problem in particular, or simply stop at “I don’t know”.

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on Sharing Information About Nonlinear · 2023-09-12T04:46:54.261Z · LW · GW

The comment you replied to has been deleted. What was this about?

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on Sharing Information About Nonlinear · 2023-09-11T09:20:44.916Z · LW · GW

Punish transgressions; reward true accusations; punish false accusations. The probabilities will then attend to themselves.

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on Sharing Information About Nonlinear · 2023-09-10T07:34:16.918Z · LW · GW

Consider that making it harder to search for the text may be the whole point of posting a screenshot.

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on Bring back the Colosseums · 2023-09-09T00:06:45.635Z · LW · GW

regular ol’ football, which while may have fans just as obnoxious, it usually doesn’t result in lethal injuries or permanent brain damage

That is not true:

See also:

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on How did you make your way back from meta? · 2023-09-08T03:26:33.069Z · LW · GW

I haven’t found any of these conditions to be necessary, though of course YMMV.

What matters is that you build some concrete thing, for people (not just yourself) to actually use. The details are inconsequential (and will take care of themselves, if you care about building it right) as long as that basic goal structure is in place.

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on How did you make your way back from meta? · 2023-09-07T19:26:22.759Z · LW · GW

Build things.

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on Find Hot French Food Near Me: A Follow-up · 2023-09-07T15:08:15.221Z · LW · GW

It seems you didn’t read very closely:

In 1750, Francesc Roger Gomila, a Valencian friar, published a recipe for a sauce similar to mayonnaise in Art de la Cuina ('The Art of Cooking'). He calls the sauce aioli bo.[14] If he does not describe precisely the recipe—suggesting that it was known by everyone on the island—the way it is used, the preparations for which it is used as a base and the dishes with which it is associated are most often inconceivable with an aioli. Earlier recipes of similar emulsified sauces, usually containing garlic, appear in a number of Spanish recipe books dating all the way back to the 14th century Llibre de Sent Soví, where it is called all-i-oli, literally 'garlic and oil' in Catalan.[15][16] This sauce had clearly spread throughout the Crown of Aragon, for Juan de Altamiras gives a recipe for it in his celebrated 1745 recipe book Nuevo Arte de Cocina ('New Art of Cooking').[17]

(Plus the part about remoulade, etc.)

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on Find Hot French Food Near Me: A Follow-up · 2023-09-07T08:10:06.732Z · LW · GW

I don’t think it’s true that the origins of mayonnaise have anything to do with mother sauces. Wikipedia seems to agree. (It also doesn’t seem to be French in origin.)

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on Who Has the Best Food? · 2023-09-06T21:42:47.265Z · LW · GW

Seconding this characterization.

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on Who Has the Best Food? · 2023-09-06T19:26:47.014Z · LW · GW

Most cultures have fewer desserts

This… seems wrong. It’s not true about American cuisine, it’s not true about Russian cuisine, it’s not true about Chinese cuisine…

EDIT: Indeed, I (with 25+ years baking / dessert-making) would say that British desserts are some of the worst in the world!

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on Who Has the Best Food? · 2023-09-06T19:24:17.295Z · LW · GW

These are shocking statements, Zvi! I truly struggle to square these characterizations with my own experience and knowledge. Something has gone terribly wrong with your exploration of these cuisines, it seems to me, and I sincerely hope it can be remedied sooner rather than later, because you’re missing out on some of the most satisfying food available around here…

Turkish food should be understood as one particular (in my view, the superior) implementation of “Mediterranean food” more broadly, with some unique quirks. I recommend checking out the small but excellent Ay Kebab in Bay Ridge. Get the feta cheese rolls, the shepherd’s salad, the fried calf’s liver; and any of the yogurt kebabs, or the grilled branzini or salmon. For dessert, get the tiramisu (yes, really) or the pudding.

As far as Eastern European food goes, that is a larger discussion. You should understand this (as far as it is available to us in commercial form) to encompass three broad categories of dishes, which we might call “Ashkenazi cuisine”, “Slavic cuisine”, and “pan-Soviet cuisine”. (There is overlap between these, as you’ll see, but they are distinct clusters.)

Ashkenazi cuisine is your blintzes, matzoh ball soup, gefilte fish, latkes, and so on. The form in which some of these things have filtered to American commercial production is truly dire, I’m sad to say. I can’t speculate as to the causes of this failing, but it’s undeniable. I can say quite a lot about what the elements of this cuisine should be like (my grandmother having been a master of what I take to be right way to do it), but I don’t think that you can find this sort of thing done well in restaurant form (pastrami sandwiches are hardly representative, however delicious they might be), so we can set this aside for now.

Slavic cuisine is the sort of thing you’ll find (though at typically exorbitant Manhattan prices) in the aforementioned Veselka. This category, as you’ll find it represented here, mostly means Ukrainian and Polish food. Chris’s Restaurant in Bensonhurst, a cozy little Polish place, is my favorite local example. Skip the borscht if you go to such a place (it’s never as good as homemade); instead, get things like the pierogis / vareniki / etc. (dumplings), anything involving sausage, any of the meat or fish dishes… and the blintzes, of course. This is satisfying, filling food, with no nonsense: the focus is on the carbs, fat, cheese, and meat.

Finally, pan-Soviet cuisine is a category that roughly encompasses “the sort of food an average Soviet citizen would be familiar with”. (There are caveats to that description, but it gives the right idea.) This includes elements of traditionally Russian/Ukrainian food, as well as elements of the cuisines of the other Soviet republics, to the extent that they were popularized in the USSR broadly (such as plov or shashlyk), as well as things that were popular in the Soviet Union for essentially contingent reasons, like Olivier salad. My restaurant recommendation here would be Vanka in Sheepshead Bay. Get the crepes with red caviar, the pelmeni (meat dumplings) Siberian style, homestyle potatoes with mushrooms; the grilled salmon in white sauce, chicken Kiev, any of the shish-kebabs.

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on Open Thread – Autumn 2023 · 2023-09-05T23:00:24.988Z · LW · GW

If you think that’s bad, just think about compensating for browser bugs which were reported 20 years ago

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on Who Has the Best Food? · 2023-09-05T18:43:02.359Z · LW · GW

I agree with your conclusion that America is #1, but where is the Eastern European (including Eastern European Jewish) food on this list? Jewish delis, Polish and Russian and Ukrainian restaurants… there’s plenty of those in NYC, at least. (I’m sure you’re familiar with Veselka, for example! And that’s just the famous one I know in Manhattan, never mind out here in Brooklyn/Queens.)

Also, Turkish food seems to be to be underrated, on that chart.

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on Assume Bad Faith · 2023-08-28T18:52:27.520Z · LW · GW

Part of the acting in good faith is indeed assuming that your partner is also acting in good faith.

That’s not even slightly what the terms “good faith” / “bad faith” mean. Zack explains very clearly what’s being referred to, and you’re ignoring that in favor of your own idiosyncratic definition. That’s not a disagreement—it’s a mistake on your part.

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on Assume Bad Faith · 2023-08-28T08:34:21.991Z · LW · GW

It seems like you’re conflating acting in good faith with assuming that other people are acting in good faith.

You’re saying that we should act in good faith. Zack is saying we shouldn’t assume that other people are acting in good faith.

Is there actually a disagreement?

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on Implications of evidential cooperation in large worlds · 2023-08-23T07:11:25.086Z · LW · GW

I read the summary post, and skimmed the paper. The summary given in the grandparent seems to be basically accurate.

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on The Seeker’s Game – Vignettes from the Bay · 2023-08-21T18:33:41.626Z · LW · GW

I would like to be the person who spews loads of interesting off the wall ideas for others to parse through and expand upon those which are useful

Such a role is useful only if a substantial proportion of those “off the wall ideas” turn out to be not just useful/correct/good, but also original. Otherwise it is useless. Weird ideas are all over the internet.

For example, take the Adrian vignette: he wants to discuss whether there’s “something like a global consciousness”. Well, first, that’s not a new idea. Second, the answer is “no”. Discussion complete. Does Adrian have anything new to say about this? (Does he know what has already been said on the matter, even?) If not, then his contribution is nil.

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on The Seeker’s Game – Vignettes from the Bay · 2023-08-21T18:28:00.871Z · LW · GW

Thank you very much for doing this. This is very impressive and useful anthropological work.

I am not a participant in the Bay Area rationalist community, but I wonder if there’s any way that the rest of us can support or aid further work in this regard? Funding? Technical support (web hosting, design, development)? Other?

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on The Seeker’s Game – Vignettes from the Bay · 2023-08-21T18:23:25.424Z · LW · GW

Rationalist “community” was a mistake.

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on A short calculation about a Twitter poll · 2023-08-20T08:21:23.092Z · LW · GW

Yep, makes sense.

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on A short calculation about a Twitter poll · 2023-08-20T07:51:18.963Z · LW · GW

However, please note the recursion. Those who take the blue pill are people who risk their lives to save madmen, idiots, and people who risk their lives to save madmen and idiots. Would you risk your life to save such people? It seems, at least, less obvious that doing so is of no benefit to you.

(Of course, I would still choose the red pill.)

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on Red Pill vs Blue Pill, Bayes style · 2023-08-20T05:00:26.072Z · LW · GW

Please see this post for the answer to “why would anyone ever pick blue” (referred to as “pill A” in the linked post). (Whether it’s “retarded” is another question; personally I think it is, but that’s beside the point.)

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on Red Pill vs Blue Pill, Bayes style · 2023-08-20T05:00:17.206Z · LW · GW
Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on A short calculation about a Twitter poll · 2023-08-20T04:54:50.655Z · LW · GW

Please see this analysis, which is a somewhat more complete answer to “who do the blue-pillers think they are saving?”.

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on Lack of Social Grace Is an Epistemic Virtue · 2023-08-07T01:22:40.915Z · LW · GW

This sort of “naive utilitarianism” is a terrible idea for reasons which we are (or should be!) very well familiar with.

Comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) on Blanchard's Dangerous Idea and the Plight of the Lucid Crossdreamer · 2023-08-06T23:49:08.979Z · LW · GW

I don’t dispute that both the “search algorithm” idea and the “algorithm that implements this cognitive functionality” idea are valuable, and cut through some parts of the confusions related to free will and consciousness respectively. But the things I mention are hardly “out of scope”, if without them, the puzzles remains (as indeed they do, IMO).

In any case, claiming that the questions of either free will or consciousness have been “solved” by these explanations is simply false, and that’s what I was objecting to.

In the case of human free will, it’s true that we don’t have a “game tree” written out the way the rules of chess specify the game tree for a chess engine, but figuring that out seems like “merely” an enormously difficult empirical cognitive science problem, rather than the elementary philosophical confusion being addressed by the blog posts.

This is the sort of claim that it’s premature to make prior to having even a rough functional sketch of the solution. Something might look like ‘“merely” an enormously difficult empirical cognitive science problem’, until you try to solve it, and realize that you’re still confused.