Posts

The Real Rules Have No Exceptions 2019-07-23T03:38:45.992Z · score: 85 (36 votes)
What is this new (?) Less Wrong feature? (“hidden related question”) 2019-05-15T23:51:16.319Z · score: 13 (4 votes)
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)

Comments

Comment by saidachmiz on Is LW making progress? · 2019-08-24T00:56:14.249Z · score: 14 (8 votes) · LW · GW

This old comment by Robin Hanson seems relevant.

Comment by saidachmiz on Matt Goldenberg's Short Form Feed · 2019-08-11T06:26:47.180Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, my mistake.

However, in that case I don’t really understand what you mean. But, in any case, the rest of my original comment stands.

I look forward to any such detailed commentary on the fact-based motivation for any sort of developmental theory, from anyone who feels up to the task of providing such.

Comment by saidachmiz on Matt Goldenberg's Short Form Feed · 2019-08-11T00:42:49.111Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Fair enough. Assuming that’s the case, then anyone proposing to defend that particular theory is exempt from that particular question.

Comment by saidachmiz on Matt Goldenberg's Short Form Feed · 2019-08-10T22:43:43.832Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Whether I care is hardly at issue; all the theories of “adult development” and similar clearly deal with variation along normatively significant dimensions.

If, for some reason, you propose to defend a theory of development that has no such normative aspect, then by all means remove that requirement from my list. (Kegan’s theory, however, clearly falls into the “normatively significant variation” category.)

Comment by saidachmiz on Matt Goldenberg's Short Form Feed · 2019-08-10T13:49:47.800Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I did not say anything about the theory being normative. “A descriptive theory that says all humans go through stages where they get less moral over time” is entirely consistent with what I described. Note that “moral” is a quality with normative significance—compare “get less extraverted over time” or “get less risk-seeking over time”.

Comment by saidachmiz on Matt Goldenberg's Short Form Feed · 2019-08-10T07:11:40.918Z · score: 11 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I have seen much talk on Less Wrong lately of “development stages” and “Kegan” and so forth. Naturally I am skeptical; so I do endorse any attempt to figure out if any of this stuff is worth anything. To aid in our efforts, I’d like to say a bit about what might convince me be a little less skeptical.

A theory should explain facts; and so the very first thing we’d have to do, as investigators, is figure out if there’s anything to explain. Specifically: we would have to look at the world, observe people, examine their behavior, their patterns of thinking and interacting with other people, their professed beliefs and principles, etc., etc., and see if these fall into any sorts of patterns or clusters, such that they may be categorized according to some scheme, where some people act like this [and here we might give some broad description], while other people act like that.

(Clearly, the answer to this question would be: yes, people’s behavior obviously falls into predictable, clustered patterns. But what sort, exactly? Some work would need to be done, at least, to enumerate and describe them.)

Second, we would have to see whether these patterns that we observe may be separated, or factored, by “domain”, whereby there is one sort of pattern of clusters in how people think and act and speak, which pertains to matters of religion; and another pattern, which pertains to relationship to family; and another pattern, which pertains to preferences of consumption; etc. We would be looking for such “domains” which may be conceptually separated—regardless of whether there were any correlation between clustering patterns in one domain or another.

(Here again, the answer seems clearly to be that yes, such domains may be defined without too much difficulty. However, the intuition is weaker than for the previous question; and we are less sure that we know what it is we’re talking about; and it becomes even more important to be specific and explicit.)

Now we would ask two further questions (which might be asked in parallel). Third: does categorization of an individual into one cluster or another, in any of these domains, correlate with that individual’s category membership in categories pertaining to any observable aspect of human variation? (Such observable aspects might be: cultural groupings; gender; weight; height; age; ethnicity; socioeconomic status; hair color; various matters of physical health; or any of a variety of other ways in which people demonstrably differ.) And fourth: may the clusters in any of these domains sensibly be given a total ordering (and the domain thereby be mapped onto a linear axis of variation)?

Note the special import of this latter question. Prior to answering it, we are dealing exclusively with nominal data values. We now ask whether any of the data we have might actually be ordinal data. The answer might be “no” (for instance, you prefer apples, and I prefer oranges; this puts us in different clusters within the “fruit preferences” domain of human psychology, but in no sense may these clusters be arranged linearly).

Our fifth question (conditional on answering yes to all four of the previous question) is this: among our observed domains of clustering, and looking in particular at those for which the data is of an ordinal nature, are there any such that the dimension of variation has any normative aspect? That is: is there a domain such that we might sensibly say that it is better to belong to clusters closer to one end of its spectrum of variation, than to belong to clusters closter to the other end? (Once more note that the answer might be “no”: for example, suppose that some people fidget a lot, while others do not fidget very much. Is it better to be a much-fidgeter than a not-much-fidgeter? Well… not really; nor the reverse; at least, not in any general way. Maybe fidgeting has some advantages, and not fidgeting has others, etc.; who knows? But overall the answer is “no, neither of these is clearly superior to the other; they’re just one of those ways in which people differ, in a normatively neutral way”.)

Finally, our sixth question is: does there exist any domain of clustering in human behavioral/psychological variation for which all of these are true:

  • That its clusters may naturally be given a total order (i.e., arranged linearly);
  • That this linear dimension has normative significance;
  • That membership in its categories is correlated primarily with category membership pertaining to one aspect of human variation (rather than being correlated comparably with multiple such aspects);
  • That in particular, membership in this domain’s clusters is correlated primarily with age.

Note that we have asked six (mostly[1]) empirical questions about humanity. And we have had six chances to answer in the negative.

And note also that if we answer any of these questions in the negative, then any and all theories of “moral development” (or any similar notion) are necessarily nonsense—because they purport to explain facts which (in this hypothetical scenario) we simply do not observe. Without any further investigation, we can dispose of the lot of them with extreme prejudice, because they are entirely unmotivated by the pre-theoretical facts.

So, this is what I would like to see from any proponents of Kegan’s theory, or any similar ones: a detailed, thorough, and specific examination (with plenty of examples!) of the questions I give in this comment—discussed with utter agnosticism about even the concept of “moral development”, “adult development” or any similar thing. In short: before I consider any defense of any theory of “adult development”, I should like to be convinced of such a theory’s motivation.


  1. The question of normative import is not quite empirical, but it may be operationalized by considering intersubjective judgments of normative import; that is, in any case, more or less what we are talking about in the first place. ↩︎

Comment by saidachmiz on Weak foundation of determinism analysis · 2019-08-08T18:34:57.854Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In the same vein—previously, on “Rationality Quotes”:

“It’s my fate to steal,” pleaded the man who had been caught red-handed by Diogenes.

“Then it is also your fate to be beaten,” said Diogenes, hitting him across the head with his staff.

Comment by saidachmiz on Is there a user's manual to using the internet more efficiently? · 2019-08-04T23:34:54.389Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

https://www.gwern.net/Search

Comment by saidachmiz on Is there a user's manual to using the internet more efficiently? · 2019-08-04T23:34:33.562Z · score: 16 (6 votes) · LW · GW

https://www.gwern.net/Search

Comment by saidachmiz on Open & Welcome Thread August 2019 · 2019-08-03T20:11:58.951Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

And now, the devil’s-advocate position.

Clearly, it makes no sense to say that someone is mistaken about how happy they feel. However, it does not seem (obviously) mistaken to suppose that someone might be mistaken about how happy they feel relative to how happy it is possible for them to feel.

Now, this can (it seems to me) take two forms: the interpersonal, and the diachronic. The former first:

Consider someone who has never had anything truly unfortunate happen to them in their lives; the worst event he can recall is when his boyfriend dumped him, in middle school. Our protagonist is also blessed with perfectly normal brain chemistry, and does not suffer from any depressive disorders, etc.

Now suppose we ask this fortunate fellow how happy he feels, on a scale of 1 to 5. “3, I guess,” he answers—thinking to himself that his life has been going ok lately, but it could be worse (that boyfriend thing), but then again it could be better (like the time his friends surprised him with a birthday trip to Disney Land on the same day that he got his dream job).

Meanwhile, his twin brother (they were separated at birth and don’t know each other) has lived an almost identical life, except that several years ago he had a terrifying brush with cancer—which, however, is now in full remission, and has been for some time. His life is otherwise going about as well as his twin’s. When we ask this brother how happy he is, he tells us “5”—not because he’s happier than his twin, but because his baseline for comparison is something much, much worse.

The diachronic form, meanwhile, is essentially the same thing, only the two people we’re comparing are the same person at different times—whose baselines are different, because people’s memories of past experiences deceive them (in many ways that are quite well-documented).

Comment by saidachmiz on Open & Welcome Thread August 2019 · 2019-08-03T19:53:28.439Z · score: 10 (6 votes) · LW · GW

This is an excellent analogy. I think, however, that your (tentative) conclusion is unwarranted.

The question is, what is the “objective” fact that we would want to measure, in the case of happiness? Does it make sense to say that while the self-report-based instruments only measure how happy you feel, what we would actually like to (but don’t know how to) measure is how happy you actually are (by analogy with the strength example)?

But this seems somewhat absurd, doesn’t it? Why?

Because (it seems to me) “happiness” already refers to a subjective phenomenon. “How happy you are” just means “how happy you feel”. There is no underlying objective phenomenon—or, to be more precise, the subjective phenomenon is the objective phenomenon. How happy people feel, is actually what we are trying to measure.

(Now, self-report-based instruments actually are problematic for measuring that, but for different reasons.)

Comment by saidachmiz on Drive-By Low-Effort Criticism · 2019-08-02T12:41:10.583Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, I could cite many such posts. But I’m not entirely sure what the purpose would be, except to publicly antagonize popular contributors to Less Wrong. And the incentives for others to publicly disagree with my evaluation would obviously be great (while the incentives to agree, essentially nonexistent).

That said, your request for examples is, obviously, quite reasonable in the general sense (I would be quite hypocritical to claim otherwise). I’m willing to cite examples via private message, if you like. A question first, if I may: do you, yourself, think that examples of this sort of thing exist on Less Wrong? Or, do you think there are no such examples (or perhaps that they are very rare, at best)?

Comment by saidachmiz on [Site Update] Weekly/Monthly/Yearly on All Posts · 2019-08-02T07:08:59.105Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, but “the best post of 2016” and “the best post of the last year-long period” are two different things I might want to see. “The best post in the year that starts 4 years ago” is, indeed, unlikely to be useful.

Comment by saidachmiz on [Site Update] Weekly/Monthly/Yearly on All Posts · 2019-08-02T05:37:45.729Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Good feature!

But, it seems odd that it’s “this calendar month”, “this calendar year”, etc., rather than “the month-long period ending today”, etc. The latter is certainly what I was expecting when I clicked.

Comment by saidachmiz on Drive-By Low-Effort Criticism · 2019-08-02T02:21:20.130Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

See the “Edit:” part of this comment, which is my response to your comment also.

Comment by saidachmiz on Drive-By Low-Effort Criticism · 2019-08-02T01:30:56.291Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I don’t see what could be simpler. Alice does something. That action has some result. We reward Alice, or punish her, based on the results of her action. There is nothing unusual or obscure here; I mean just what I say.

(There are cases where we do not want to take this approach, but they tend to both be controversial and to be unusual in certain important respects.)

Edit: And if you’re trying to use operant conditioning, of all things, to decide what social norms to have on a forum devoted to the art of rationality, then you’ve already admitted defeat, and this entire project is pointless.

Comment by saidachmiz on Drive-By Low-Effort Criticism · 2019-08-02T01:27:59.792Z · score: 18 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I have been thinking more about this comment by clone of saturn, which seems to be even more insightful and relevant than I noticed at first:

I don’t think high-effort posts are more likely to contain muddled thinking, but I do think readers are less likely to notice muddled thinking when it appears in high-effort posts, so suppressing criticism of high-effort posts is especially dangerous.

I have long noticed (both on Less Wrong and elsewhere) that people often can’t tell the difference between something that looks very impressive (or high-effort, etc.), and something that is actually good.

This is a huge problem.

As has been alluded to elsethread, people are liable to conflate “high-effort” with “high-value”. But that’s not the whole of the problem. In fact all of the following things often get conflated—despite the fact that they’re very different:

  1. A post that is correct and/or valuable and/or good, etc.

  2. A post that took a great deal of effort to produce.

  3. A post that looks like it took a great deal of effort to produce.

  4. A post that is long.

  5. A post that contains a great deal of information.

  6. A post which contains a very high density of information.

That Dijkstra quote I cited in another comment—it applies to posts at least as much as to comments. It is a grave mistake, to reward mere visible quantity of effort. If a post is long, and has many diagrams, and other clear markers of work put in—what use is that?

Pascal once wrote:

I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter.

Consider a very short post (or comment), which—briefly, elegantly, with a minimum of words—expresses some transformative idea, or makes some stunningly incisive point. Forget, for now, the question of its quality, and consider instead: how much effort went into writing it? Do you tally up only the keystrokes? Or do you count also the years of thought and experience and work that allowed the writer to come up with this idea, and this sequence of words to express it? Do you count the knowledge of a lifetime?

If I write six thousand words on some point, and it is rambling, verbose, meticulously cited, illustrated, etc., but it is all nonsense, and this fact is obscured by the post’s sheer weight… why is it a good thing, that I should write this, and post it? Especially given that readers are less likely to notice mistakes, confusions, etc., than they would in a shorter post? (And those mistakes and confusions take considerably more effort to unravel—which often means they simply aren’t unravelled.)

If Hegel and Gettier both posted their work on Less Wrong, which of them should we reward more?

Comment by saidachmiz on Drive-By Low-Effort Criticism · 2019-08-02T00:58:01.618Z · score: -4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You’re still missing my point.

We didn’t (or rather, shouldn’t) intend to reward or punish those “ancestor nodes”. We should intend to reward or punish the results.

You seem to have interpreted my comments as saying that we’re trying to reward some particular behavior, but we should do this by rewarding the results of that behavior. As you point out, this is not a wise plan.

But it’s also not what I am saying, at all. I am saying that we are (or, again, should be) trying to reward the results. Not the behavior that led to those results, but the results themselves.

I don’t know why you’re assuming that we’re actually trying to encourage some specific behavior. It’s certainly not what I am assuming. Doing so would not be a very good idea at all.

Comment by saidachmiz on Drive-By Low-Effort Criticism · 2019-08-01T23:42:06.879Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You certainly shouldn’t hit your friend with a stick if he loses $5 of your club’s money. I think this is fairly obvious, and it seems quite improbable that you were assuming that I was suggesting any such thing. So, given that we can’t possibly be talking about injuring anyone, or doing any such thing, how can your point about net-negative punishment apply? The more sensible assumption is that the punishment is of the same kind as the reward.

Comment by saidachmiz on Drive-By Low-Effort Criticism · 2019-08-01T23:39:46.860Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If your boss isn’t paying you, then what’s the point of the employment analogy? That’s not employment at all, is it?

Comment by saidachmiz on Drive-By Low-Effort Criticism · 2019-08-01T23:38:56.570Z · score: 1 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What does this have to do with anything? You originally said:

Youu pay your plumber if they show up, not only if they successfully fix your toilet.

I don’t see the connection between “should you pay your plumber even if they don’t actually fix your toilet” and “should you pay your plumber twice as much if they fix your toilet twice as well”; the latter seems like a nonsensical question, and unrelated to the former.

Comment by saidachmiz on Drive-By Low-Effort Criticism · 2019-08-01T23:35:42.091Z · score: 1 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Punishment is also usually net-negative, whereas rewards tend to be zero-sum

Could you elaborate on this? I’m not at all sure what this is referring to.

Comment by saidachmiz on Drive-By Low-Effort Criticism · 2019-08-01T23:34:24.754Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

But note that even if you don’t get fired immediately for failing to produce satisfactory work, you are likely to receive a dressing-down from your boss, poor evaluations, etc., or even something so simple as your team leader being visibly disappointed with you, even if they take no immediate action.

Now consider what that analogizes to, in the case at hand. Is a downvote, or a critical comment, more like being fired, or more like your boss telling you that your work isn’t up to par and that you should really try to do better?

Comment by saidachmiz on Drive-By Low-Effort Criticism · 2019-08-01T23:30:01.716Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My experience comes from the same sort of thing: having, on many occasions, hired various people to do various sorts of work; and also from having worked for several years working at a computer store that specialized in on-the-premises repair/service.

The Quora answer you linked doesn’t really support your point, as it’s quite clear about the prerequisite being an informed, explicit agreement between plumber and customer that the latter will pay the former regardless of outcome. (And even with that caveat, some of what the answer-giver says is suspect, and is not consistent with my experience.)

Comment by saidachmiz on Drive-By Low-Effort Criticism · 2019-08-01T23:23:50.905Z · score: -3 (6 votes) · LW · GW

you actively punish attempts that had a high expectation of rabbits but didn’t produce rabbits. This just straightforwardly punishes high variance strategies. You need at least some people doing low variance strategies, otherwise a week where nobody brings home any rabbits, everyone dies. But if you punish high variance strategies whenever they are employed, you’re going to end up with a lot fewer rabbits.

You should neither reward nor punish strategies or attempts at all, but results. If I am executing a high-variance strategy, and you punish poor results, and reward good results, in accordance with how poor/good they are, then (if I am right about my strategy having a positive expectation) I will—in expectation—be rewarded. This will incentivize me to execute said strategy (assuming I am not risk-averse—but if I am, then I’m not going to be the one trying the high-variance strategy anyway).

you systematically incentive legibly producing countable rabbits, in a world where it turned out a lot of value wasn’t just about the rabbits, or that some rabbits were actually harder to notice. I think one of the major problems with goodhart in the 20th century comes from expectation of legible results.

I was talking about rabbits (or things very similar to rabbits). I made, and make, no guarantees that the analysis applies when analogized to anything very different. (It seems clear that the analysis does apply in some very different situations, and does not apply in others.) Reasoning by analogy is dangerous; if we propose to attempt it, we need to be very clear about what the assumptions of the model are, and how the situations we are analogizing differ, and what that does to our assumptions.

Comment by saidachmiz on Drive-By Low-Effort Criticism · 2019-08-01T23:16:52.965Z · score: 0 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You should punish your friend for the loss, and reward them (twice as much) for a win. This creates the correct incentives.

Comment by saidachmiz on Drive-By Low-Effort Criticism · 2019-08-01T23:14:38.064Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Your employer pays you if you show up for work, not only if you successfully get work done (at least on the day-to-day or month-to-month level).

If you show up, but don’t get work done, you get fired. (How quickly that happens varies from workplace to workplace, of course—but in many places it happens very quickly indeed.)

Comment by saidachmiz on Drive-By Low-Effort Criticism · 2019-08-01T23:10:20.670Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

You pay your plumber if they show up, not only if they successfully fix your toilet.

… what? Of course you only pay your plumber if they successfully fix your toilet!

Comment by saidachmiz on Drive-By Low-Effort Criticism · 2019-08-01T22:40:10.800Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

No, you want to incentivize rabbits, not expected rabbits. Trying to incentivize expected rabbits is mixing levels. Incentivize rabbits, and people will attend to expectation of rabbits themselves.

Comment by saidachmiz on Drive-By Low-Effort Criticism · 2019-08-01T21:21:14.517Z · score: 8 (6 votes) · LW · GW

You can’t eat “expected rabbits”.

Comment by saidachmiz on Drive-By Low-Effort Criticism · 2019-08-01T01:00:01.261Z · score: 12 (8 votes) · LW · GW

One thing I do want to note is that while I think you’re pointing at a real phenomena, I don’t actually think the two examples you gave for my post are quite pointing at the right thing.

I want to note that, this fact having been pointed out, it is now incumbent upon anyone who thinks that the OP describes a real thing (whether OP himself, or you, or anyone else who agrees) to come up with new examples (see this comment for details).

I had asked Lauren specifically to crosspost her comment from facebook (where she’d been replying to a shorter version of the post, which I’d deliberately abridged to hit the most important points). And meanwhile, Qiaochu is my roommate and we’ve had a lot of extended discussions about the overall issue.

I think that it would, generally speaking, help if these sorts of facts about a comment’s provenance were noted explicitly. (Don’t get me wrong—there’s nothing at all wrong with this sort of thing! But knowing context like this is just very useful for avoiding confusion.)

The failure mode I’m worried about is something more like “there’s a particular risk of low-effort criticism missing the point, or being wrong, or dragging the author into a conversation that isn’t worth their time.” I don’t have a good principled distinction between that failure mode and “criticism that is actually correctly noticing that the author has made some basic mistakes that invalidate the rest of their post.”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me that the karma system is both intended to, and actually (mostly) does, solve this problem.

To wit: if I write a post, and someone posts a low-effort comment which I think is simply a misunderstanding, or borne of not reading what I wrote, etc., I am free to simply not engage with it. No one can force me to reply, after all! But now suppose that just such a comment is upvoted, and has a high karma score. Now I stop and read it again and think about it more carefully—after all, a number of my peers among the Less Wrong commentariat seem to consider it worthy of their upvotes, so perhaps I’ve reflexively sorted it into the “low-effort nonsense” bin unjustly. And, even if I still end up with the same conclusion about the comment’s value, still I might (indeed, should) post at least a short reply—even if only to say “I don’t see how this isn’t addressed in the post; could you (or someone else) elaborate on this criticism?” (or something to that effect).

Comment by saidachmiz on Drive-By Low-Effort Criticism · 2019-07-31T22:59:05.371Z · score: 9 (8 votes) · LW · GW

As clone of saturn points out elsethread, criticism of high-effort posts is especially valuable.

Now, at first glance this may seem orthogonal to what you said—which was about how much effort went into the criticism, rather than how much went into the post—but note that evaluation of a criticism as “low-effort” is relative. If I write a very well-researched and lengthy post, and you write the median comment (in effort, length, etc.) in reply, that is “low-effort” relative to the post I wrote, yes?

This implies that criticism which is low-effort relative to the post it is responding to, should not only not be held to a higher bar, but in fact that it should be held to a lower bar!

That having been said, it is of course good to discourage bad criticism. But the point is that “how much effort went into this” is simply orthogonal to quality—and this is true for posts as well as comments.

So, we should discourage bad posts, and encourage good ones. We should discourage bad criticism, and encourage good criticism.

We should not, however, encourage high-effort posts merely for being high-effort, nor should we discourage low-effort criticism merely for being low-effort. What matters is results.

And note that the fact that low-effort criticisms are “more likely to be based on misunderstandings or otherwise low quality” is irrelevant. We can, and should, simply judge whether any given comment actually is a misunderstanding, etc., and respond appropriately.

Comment by saidachmiz on Drive-By Low-Effort Criticism · 2019-07-31T18:50:08.405Z · score: 5 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Would you care to distinguish a means of discouraging people from spending effort on low-value things, from a means that simply discourages people from spending effort in general?

Sure, that’s easy: apply the discouragement (downvotes, critical comments, etc.) only to low-value things, and not to high-value things.

Or are you suggesting that you (or, perhaps, Less Wrong participants in general?) can’t tell the difference between low-value things and high-value things?

Perhaps there is no “virtue” in effort, but in this case we must ask why “virtue” is the thing we are measuring.

“Virtue” here means “whatever we take to be good and desirable, and that which produces those things”. We are measuring it because it is, by definition, the thing we want to be measuring.

If the goal is to maximize, not “virtue”, but high-quality posts, then I submit that (all else being equal) having more high-effort posts is more likely to accomplish this than having fewer high-quality posts.

[emphasis mine]

Did you mean to write “high-effort”, in place of the bolded part? (If, however, you meant what you wrote, then I don’t understand what you’re trying to say, here; please explain.)

And what does it mean to “encourage” or “discourage” a poster?

I mean whatever the OP means when he talks about adverse effects, etc.

But how often is it the case that a “long, in-depth analysis, which is lovingly illustrated [and] meticulously referenced” is, not only wrong, but so obviously wrong that the mistake can be pointed out via a simple one-liner?

Not that often, sadly. (Here’s an example. Here’s another. Here’s one which is three short sentences. Here’s another one-liner. This one is two sentences. This one is also two sentences. Another one-liner.) It’s hard to do this sort of thing well; it’s easier to write a long, rambling comment. That is exactly why such density of refutation should be encouraged, not discouraged; because it is highly desirable, but difficult (and thus rare).

What occurs more often, I think, is that a commenter finds themselves mistakenly under the impression that they have spotted an obvious error, and they act quickly to post what they believe to be an obvious refutation. I further claim that such cases are disproportionately responsible for the so-called “drive-by low-effort criticism” described in the OP. If this claim is true, then it should not be difficult to understand why some people might prefer to see less of this.

Yes, we should discourage low-quality criticism which is wrong, and encourage high-quality criticism which is right. (I already said this, in the grandparent.) Having accounted for this, it makes no sense at all to prefer longer critical comments to shorter ones. (Quite the opposite preference would be sensible, in fact.)

Comment by saidachmiz on Drive-By Low-Effort Criticism · 2019-07-31T15:54:51.593Z · score: 17 (20 votes) · LW · GW

“X does damage to Y, therefore X is bad” is a fallacy, because sometimes Y should be damaged. (Or do you think that eliminating bad things isn’t good?)

“A is the product of a lot of effort, therefore A is good” is also a fallacy, because what matters is results. (Or do you think that the labor theory of value applies to ideas?)

It is good to discourage people from spending a lot of effort on making things that have little or no (or even negative) value. It is bad to encourage people to do such things.

Effort spent foolishly, or harmfully, should not be respected.

It is, of course, both imprudent and harmful to criticize ideas which you do not understand. Likewise, it is, of course, a waste of everyone’s time to reply to a post with arguments which have already been addressed in the post (but which you have neglected to read). These things are to be discouraged and penalized—obviously.

But there is no virtue in mere effort. If I post a long, in-depth analysis, which is lovingly illustrated, meticulously referenced, and wrong, and you respond with a one-line comment that points out the way in which my post was wrong, then I have done poorly (and my post ought to be downvoted), while you have done well (and your comment ought to be upvoted).

In addition to the rest of it, high-effort, low-value contributions waste readers’ time. Low-effort, high-value contributions save readers’ time.

Edsger Dijsktra said:

My point today is that, if we wish to count lines of code, we should not regard them as "lines produced" but as "lines spent": the current conventional wisdom is so foolish as to book that count on the wrong side of the ledger.

And this applies fully, not just to code, but to words.

Comment by saidachmiz on Arguments for the existence of qualia · 2019-07-31T15:34:13.407Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, Dennett denies that there are qualia in the sense he’s arguing against (and in this, he disagrees with many other philosophers). But does he deny that there are “individual instances of subjective, conscious experience”? Well, he denies that there are such things in fact, but not that there are such things heterophenomenologically. As I said, his position is nuanced. (See also the bit about “fatigues”.) However, on the definition I cited in the top-level comment of this thread, Dennett does not deny the existence of qualia.

Comment by saidachmiz on Arguments for the existence of qualia · 2019-07-30T18:00:20.330Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It is interesting that you mention the cylinder/chessboard “illusion”. I do not think that the lesson to be drawn from it is what you think it is.

Comment by saidachmiz on Arguments for the existence of qualia · 2019-07-30T08:31:31.801Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

None of that is at all relevant to what I was alluding to, which concerned human color perception. (A sample of relevant questions: “what is the wavelength of light that makes you see magenta”; “what is the wavelength of light that makes you see orange”; “what color are afterimages”; “can something look to have a certain color but actually have a different color”; “what does it mean to be wrong about an object’s color”; “is there such a thing as an object that has a color no human can see”. There are many more; this is only a small sample.)

Comment by saidachmiz on Arguments for the existence of qualia · 2019-07-30T04:25:42.722Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If you see a red flash, and explain that red flash by a red photon hitting your eye, then you are either being imprecise to the point of philosophical carelessness, or you are confused about physiology, physics, or both.

Whatever the case may be, it does not do to forget that materialism is not at all the same thing as assuming that the world is simple. The real story about what color is, and how color perception works, is vastly more complex than your offhand comment implies. I am no dualist, but I would suggest to you that giving a materialistic account of color is, in fact, quite a challenging task. The question of whether we have yet accomplished it, is not one which I would so quickly declare to be closed.

Comment by saidachmiz on Information empathy · 2019-07-30T04:14:23.058Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

… the primary reason for their anger seems to be neither that X happened to them nor that my doing X was careless, but rather that I did X knowing full well what the consequences were… even when they could see that that was not true.

There is, however, another possibility. Now, I do not mean to gainsay your account of any situations you have actually found yourself in, but rather to note the possibility of a superficially similar, but critically different, scenario—namely, one in which your accuser knows, indeed, that you did not apprehend the consequences of your action… but believes that you should have known, and that the fact of your ignorance itself constitutes a blameworthy act of negligence.

A special case of this pattern is the idea that “ignorance of the law is no excuse” (that is, ignorance does not absole an offender of liability).

The reason for holding, and enforcing, a norm like this, should be obvious: because to do otherwise would create an incentive to be ignorant of whatever facts that, if known by a perpetrator, would cause them to be knowingly transgressing. This, in turn, incentivizes (or, more precisely, fails to properly disincentivize) wrongdoing, by removing the usual penalty.

Anger, then, stems from the sense that someone is trying to “get one over you”—to evade responsibility, and to be able to act wrongly without fear of punishment—by cultivating ignorance, and by failing to make the effort to learn the rules/consequences/etc.

It is important to distinguish between such cases, and cases of mere lack of “information empathy” (a.k.a. “theory of mind”); in the former sort of case, the accuser is in the right, and the transgressor (though unwitting) is in the wrong.

Comment by saidachmiz on Arguments for the existence of qualia · 2019-07-30T01:19:07.521Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Dennett’s views are nuanced, but central to them is his idea of heterophenomenology: the idea that “how things seem to me” is a perfectly real phenomenon (one which is constituted by our self-reports of how things [allegedly] seem to us, and other behavior which is apparently caused by such seemings), which it is our task (as philosophers of mind) to explain—but our explanation of which need not include anything like the entities (allegedly, apparently) experienced by the subject.

Under this view, “qualia” is taken to be a description of a certain aspect of our experiences of the world. What we do not take as given, however, is any notion that our explanation of “qualia” must ultimately include anything like qualia. (And, indeed, Dennett’s explanation does not—he spends, in fact, considerable effort on demonstrating that no sensible explanation of “qualia” will include any qualia.)

(As for the explanation itself—I really can’t do justice to it in a comment, or even a post. I do recommend Consciousness Explained, and also Brainstorms; they’re fun reading, even if you’re ultimately unconvinced by some or all of Dennett’s arguments.)

Comment by saidachmiz on Arguments for the existence of qualia · 2019-07-30T01:09:32.360Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I confess that your relabeling argument makes very little sense to me. The rest of your comment, likewise. For one thing, it doesn’t seem to be a “definition” of “consciousness” at all, neither a “thick” one nor a “thin” one nor any other kind. For another thing, aren’t we trying to define “qualia” and not “consciousness”? Or are they the same thing (somehow)?

All in all, I remain very confused about what you are saying. (I certainly don’t presume to demand that you make any further attempts to explain it to me; perhaps someone else, who does understand your claims, can try their hand at an explanation?)

Comment by saidachmiz on Open Thread July 2019 · 2019-07-29T22:47:59.704Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Also want to be a clear—if authors are banning or asking lots of users to avoid criticism, I do think the author should take something of a social hit as “a person who can’t accept any criticism”. But I nonetheless think it’s still a better metanorm for established authors to have control over their post’s discussion area.

Quite. A suggestion, then, if I may: display “how many people has this person banned from their posts” (with, upon a click or mouseover or some such, the full list of users available, who have been thus banned) prominently, when viewing a person’s post (somewhere near the post’s author line, perhaps). This way, if I open a post by one Carol, say, I can see at once that she’s banned 12 people from her posts; I take note of this (as that is unusually many); I then click/mouseover/etc., and see either that all the banned accounts are known trolls and curmudgeons (and conclude that Carol is a sensible person with a low tolerance for low-grade nonsense), or that all the banned accounts are people I judge to be reasonable and polite (and conclude that Carol is a prima donna with a low tolerance for having her ideas challenged).

Comment by saidachmiz on Open Thread July 2019 · 2019-07-29T22:42:51.257Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I meant to say, if the typical LessWrong user wrote a single comment in reply to a post saying “this seems wrong”, I would expect that to basically be fine.

Ah, I see. Well, yes. But then, that’s also what I was saying: this sort of thing is generally fine as a comment, but as a post…

I only recommend the “create a whole new post” thing when an author specifically asks you to stop commenting.

I entirely understand your intention here, but consider: this would be even worse, “optics”-wise! “So,” thinks the reader, “this guy was so annoying, with his contrarian objections, that the victim of his nitpicking actually asked him to stop commenting; but he can’t let it go, so he wrote a whole post about it?!” And of course this is an uncharitable perspective, and one which isn’t consistent with “good truth-seeking norms”, etc. But… do you doubt that this is the sort of impression that will, if involuntarily, be formed in the minds of the commentariat?

Comment by saidachmiz on Open Thread July 2019 · 2019-07-29T20:47:07.998Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I’m not quite sure what you’re saying. Yes, no doubt, no one’s complained about me doing the thing I described—because, obviously, I haven’t ever done it! You say that it “basically seems just fine”, but… I don’t expect that it would actually seem “just fine” if I (or anyone else) were to actually do it.

Of course, I could be wrong. What are three examples of posts that others have written, that boil down simply to “other post X, written by person Y, is wrong”, and which have gotten a good reception? Perhaps if we did a case study or three, we’d gain some more insight into this thing.

(As for the “specific complaint”—there I just don’t know what you mean. Feel free to elaborate, if you like.)

Comment by saidachmiz on Ms. Blue, meet Mr. Green · 2019-07-29T19:48:46.452Z · score: 19 (5 votes) · LW · GW

(This post was recently linked to by Kaj Sotala as a good explanation of “woo” topics, which is why I am commenting on it now.)

“Neo: What are you trying to tell me? That I can dodge bullets? Morpheus: No, Neo. I’m trying to tell you that when you’re ready, you won’t have to.”

So, the thing about this quote is, it’s actually a great example of someone giving a willfully obscurantist and unhelpful and untrue answer to a perfectly sensible question.

After all, Neo really does learn to dodge bullets. He does! Look, here is a video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kc4cBiSXoCs

There’s Neo, dodging bullets like nobody’s business.

I’m not the first to notice that Morpheus seems to simply have been bad at explaining things. If he had genuinely been interested in answering Neo’s question, instead of trying to sound like a cryptic mystical mentor stereotype, mightn’t Morpheus have said something more like:

Morpheus: Yes, Neo. That is exactly what I’m telling you. You are going to learn how to dodge bullets. And you will gain a number of other very impressive superpowers—many of which will also be useful in combat. In fact, some of those superpowers may well obviate any need for you to dodge bullets! (For example, by telekinetically controlling the bullets so that they don’t even hit you, or by just destroying your enemies with a thought, etc.) But, of course, you will totally also be able to dodge bullets if that’s what you feel is appropriate in any given situation.

The point, if you like, is that if you’re asked to explain some “woo” or “mysticism” or whatever, and you find yourself sounding like Morpheus sounds in the movie, you’re doing it wrong.


I’m as sure as I can be that both of these have happened exactly as described, and that the people in them experienced exactly what’s described. … [two stories]

You say that you’re as sure as you can be that these things happened as you describe. Fair enough. The problem is that “as sure as you can be” is not, actually, very sure at all! In fact, given what you’ve described, you really have almost no reason to believe that these events happened as you say—and plenty of reason not to so believe. In other words, the evidence you have for believing that these events took place as described, is extremely weak; and their prior probability is very, very low. Based on what you have told us, the correct epistemic state for you to be in, concerning these two events, is “they probably did not happen as I have here described them”.

What is important to note, here, is that your evaluation of the state of the evidence in these cases, your conclusions about them, and your judgment of their value as illustrative cases for your post’s claims and general perspective, themselves all constitute Bayesian evidence—for the reader—toward evaluating this post, and the claims therein.

Comment by saidachmiz on Arguments for the existence of qualia · 2019-07-29T14:35:14.593Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

What is this business of ‘thick’ and ‘thin’? I am not familiar with these terms as applied to qualia, or definitions, or any such thing. Could you elaborate? I’m afraid I really can’t guess what you mean, and nor does your brief allusion to ‘not the mere arrangement of atoms’, etc., clarify things much.

Have you considered reading Dennett? He writes quite engagingly. In Consciousness Explained, for instance, he devotes an entire chapter to qualia. And if you find yourself frequently arguing against people who’ve been inspired by Dennett’s ideas, then why not go straight to the source?

Comment by saidachmiz on Arguments for the existence of qualia · 2019-07-29T14:27:28.312Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This is a mischaracterization of Dennett’s views.

Comment by saidachmiz on What is our evidence that Bayesian Rationality makes people's lives significantly better? · 2019-07-28T23:35:48.065Z · score: 26 (11 votes) · LW · GW

What evidence can I show to a non-Rationalist that our particular movement (i.e. our particular techniques for overcoming biases, studying decision theory, applying Bayesianism, learning CBT techniques, etc.) is valuable for making their lives significantly better?

The question you need to answer first is, rather:

Why do you believe that “our particular movement (i.e. our particular techniques for overcoming biases, studying decision theory, applying Bayesianism, learning CBT techniques, etc.)” is valuable for making your life (or our lives) “significantly better”?

Before asking how to convince someone else, first ask why you are convinced. If you can answer that to your own satisfaction, that is a good first step; if you can answer that to the satisfaction of a third party, that is progress; and then the question of “how to convince others” should be easy.

Comment by saidachmiz on Arguments for the existence of qualia · 2019-07-28T19:59:12.299Z · score: 32 (15 votes) · LW · GW

Similarly, I believe that most people who believe in materialism do so on the basis of extremely poor reasons and without knowledge of some of the stronger arguments for qualia existing.

Wikipedia defines qualia as

individual instances of subjective, conscious experience

and gives these examples:

the perceived sensation of pain of a headache, the taste of wine, as well as the redness of an evening sky

Wikipedia also quotes Daniel Dennett:

Philosopher and cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett once suggested that qualia was "an unfamiliar term for something that could not be more familiar to each of us: the ways things seem to us".

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy also has an article on qualia, with much more detailed discussion of what the term is used to mean; however, it does not contradict the basic definition given above.

Meanwhile, materialism is said to be

a form of philosophical monism which holds that matter is the fundamental substance in nature, and that all things, including mental states and consciousness, are results of material interactions.

I believe in materialism but also in qualia. (It’s not hard to believe in qualia; I have qualia all the time! They obviously exist sufficiently for me to experience them, which is plenty enough ‘existence’, as far as I’m concerned.) Why do you think that materialism implies the nonexistence of qualia? The consensus among philosophers seems to be that it does no such thing. You disagree? If so, why?

In fact, according to the SEP—

In this broad sense of the term, it is difficult to deny that there are qualia. Disagreement typically centers on which mental states have qualia, whether qualia are intrinsic qualities of their bearers, and how qualia relate to the physical world both inside and outside the head.

So, really, my question is: against whom are you arguing, exactly? Who is denying that qualia exist? It would be helpful if you linked to some examples of this (rather strange) position.

Comment by saidachmiz on The wisdom of the Crowd · 2019-07-28T00:40:10.313Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The idea of the “wisdom of the crowd” has been discussed on Less Wrong many times before, so, yes, there are many people here who are familiar with the idea.

(Have you checked out any of the posts I’ve linked? If not—you should.)

I think that, if you want to see some engagement from people here, you should probably say quite a bit more about what it is that you’re trying to do. What is this “experiment”? What is the purpose of the group? You say you need developers—what sort? What are you planning to develop? What are these social experiments you plan to run? (Do you have experience running social experiments?)

P.S. You spelled “crowd” wrong in the post title.