saidachmiz feed - LessWrong 2.0 Reader saidachmiz’s posts and comments on the Effective Altruism Forum en-us Comment by SaidAchmiz on New York Restaurants I Love: Breakfast <p>Excellent post!</p> <p>Some comments/additions:</p> <blockquote> <p>For oatmeal, there isn’t a particularly great brand</p> </blockquote> <p>There totally is! It’s called “Bob’s Red Mill”, and they have both <a href="">rolled oats</a> (my favorite) and <a href="">steel-cut</a>. I highly recommend their stuff.</p> <blockquote> <p>French toast is my favorite thing to make</p> </blockquote> <p>I also like French toast quite a bit. Challah is a great suggestion; here’s another one: brioche! Get a soft, buttery brioche, slice it thick, and you’ll get fantastic French toast out of it.</p> <p>Also, try adding just a bit of nutmeg to the mix (but don’t overdo it).</p> <blockquote> <p>The key is to find the right [pancake] mix</p> </blockquote> <p>With a bit of advance planning, you can get the best of both worlds—the deliciousness of homemade from-scratch pancakes, and the convenience of a ready-made mix. The trick is to <em>make your own pancake mix</em>! <a href="">Here’s a simple recipe</a>—but of course you will want to substitute real butter for the vegetable shortening (yuck!).</p> <p>And here’s one of my own favorite NYC breakfast-food places (I would definitely be <em>very</em> sad if it closed down):</p> <h3><a href="">Crepe Factory</a></h3> <p>It’s on 3rd Ave. and 73rd St. in Bay Ridge (that’s in Brooklyn! not uptown Manhattan).</p> <p><img src="" alt="" title="Crepe Factory"></p> <p>Let me tell you, ladies &amp; gents, I have eaten (and made!) a lot of crepes in my life. The ones they serve at the Crepe Factory (which, despite the name, is actually a cozy little hole-in-the-wall place that would struggle to fit a dozen people at once) are the best.</p> <p>Get the ice cream crepe (strawberries, bananas, Nutella, vanilla ice cream, whipped cream):</p> <p><img src="" alt="" title="Ice cream crepe"></p> <p>Or, if you want something savory instead of sweet, get the Chicken Cordon Bleu crepe (you actually get two of these—good for sharing!).</p> saidachmiz q3icePnckDf4y5bTH 2019-02-15T07:35:12.218Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on Minimize Use of Standard Internet Food Delivery <p>I’ve now used Slice (their <a href="">website</a>, not the mobile app) to order lunch from a local pizza joint. In case anyone’s curious, here are notes on the experience:</p> <ol> <li> <p>I found the website to be fairly well-designed, as these things go, and easy to use. I encountered no technical problems, and the user experience was, overall, at least up to par with the popular online delivery services, if not better. (The ability to “order as a guest”—without making an account—was particularly welcome. I was also offered an easy way to make an account, without having to re-fill-in my info; I declined, this time.)</p> </li> <li> <p>The selection of pizzerias available in my neighborhood was impressive; all of my favorites were there.</p> </li> <li> <p>Prices were (at a cursory skim) identical to those available via GrubHub. My pizzeria of choice had a 10% discount going (I have no idea if this is temporary, or what), which brought the price down. (I have never seen such a discount on GrubHub.)</p> </li> <li> <p>There were strange differences in availability of dishes. (Example: on GrubHub, I could get penne vodka, which was absent from Slice; but Slice let me order the restaurant’s pasta special with chicken, whereas on GrubHub the chicken option was not available.)</p> </li> <li> <p>My food was delivered with this pizzeria’s usual alacrity, and it was as delicious as always. From the moment I placed the order, no part of the experience further distinguished GrubHub from Slice.</p> </li> </ol> saidachmiz j9sAEhq49gGmFSQah 2019-02-11T20:33:08.853Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on The Hamming Question <blockquote> <p>[for clarity, we were both quoting other sources]</p> </blockquote> <p>Indeed, my apologies—I read hastily, and didn’t spot the quoting without the quotation styling. I’ve corrected the wording in the grandparent.</p> saidachmiz zBR7zfqGtEkSecZi5 2019-02-11T20:23:36.534Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on The Hamming Question <blockquote> <p>Moreover, the rationality community will <em>actually need</em> the original Hamming Question from time to time, referring specifically to scientific fields that you have extensive training. (Or, at least, if we <em>didn’t</em> need the Actual Science Hamming Question that’d be quite a bad sign).</p> </blockquote> <p>This seems plausible. Has this happened so far?</p> saidachmiz ose7HAiFv8TCLcYCx 2019-02-11T20:21:13.596Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on Minimize Use of Standard Internet Food Delivery <p>Reading this article (which, to be clear, absolutely does support the claims I asked for a citation of [but see end of comment]—my comments below are about a different aspect of the issue), I was slightly taken aback by this bit:</p> <blockquote> <p>These delivery companies charge restaurants exorbitant commissions off of every customer order, when the only real the value they bring is helping new customers find your restaurant for the first time. When a customer orders again and again, it’s because your staff was friendly, the food was delicious and they had a great experience. Why should you pay Grubhub a 30% commission every time a customer orders?</p> </blockquote> <p>This does not even begin to match my own experience.</p> <ol> <li> <p>When I use GrubHub, I order almost exclusively from places I have physically been to.</p> </li> <li> <p>By far the greatest value I get out of using GrubHub is convenience—and that’s <em>huge</em>. At least half of all the times when I’ve used the service, if I instead had to telephone the restaurant, I just… wouldn’t. Nine times out of ten, I would, quite literally, rather go hungry than place a phone order. (Of course, in reality, I’d simply eat leftovers, or cook something quickly, or go out for a bagel, etc. It would be an inferior meal, but I’d gladly pay that price, in order to avoid having to make an order over the phone.)</p> </li> <li> <p>If I order again from the same restaurant, using GrubHub, it has exactly <em>nothing</em> to do with the staff being friendly. I don’t interact with their staff in that situation—that’s the point! The only thing I’m interested in is (a) food quality, (b) delivery speed, and (c) price.</p> </li> </ol> <p>Then there was this rather appalling bit:</p> <blockquote> <p>Furthermore, third-party marketplaces like Grubhub and Postmates don’t give restaurants access to their own customers’ email addresses, which makes marketing directly to your own customers virtually impossible. There’s so much value in owning your own customer’s information, so that you can encourage them to order directly from you and not pay marketplace fees time and time again for the same customer.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is an <em>excellent</em> reason to use a service like GrubHub. If a restaurant wants my email address so that they can market directly to me, they can go to hell. I would avoid patronizing a restaurant like that, on general principle.</p> <hr> <p>… then again, maybe all of this is a moot point. After all, the linked article is, in fact, an advertisement in disguise—an advertisement for ChowNow, which seems to be a company that’s selling a competing product to GrubHub, etc. Can we trust that what they tell us about how online delivery services work, their pros and cons, etc.? We absolutely cannot! Even the <em>true facts</em> they tell us will be framed so as to make their offering look good. The author of this article <a href="">started with their bottom line</a>.</p> <p>Does anyone have any citations that come from a <em>neutral</em> source?</p> saidachmiz B3eaQs79AWseBpTBa 2019-02-11T18:06:31.684Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on Minimize Use of Standard Internet Food Delivery <p>Thanks!</p> saidachmiz dQHN59a6QDYcyqeQp 2019-02-11T17:53:46.239Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on The Hamming Question <p>That seems like a startlingly weak anecdote (especially so given that it’s the <em>only</em> one we’ve seen). From this quote, it seems like Hamming—contrary to the claim Elo quoted—in fact inspired <em>none</em> of his colleagues to “make major shifts in focus” or to “rededicat[e] their careers to the problems they felt actually mattered”.</p> <p>The <em>one</em> colleague who was, allegedly, inspired by Hamming’s questions in <em>some</em> way, explicitly said (we are told) that he did <em>not</em> shift his research focus! He ended up being successful… which Hamming attributes to his own influence, for… some reason. (The anecdotal evidence provided for this causal sort-of-claim is almost textbook poor; it’s literally nothing more than <em>post hoc, ergo propter hoc</em>…)</p> <p>Do we have <em>any</em> solid evidence, <em>at all</em>, that there is any concrete, demonstrable benefit, or even consequence, to asking the “Hamming question”? Any case studies (with much more detail, and more evidential support, than the anecdote quoted above)? So far, it seems to me that the significance attached to this “Hamming question” concept has been far, far out of proportion to its <em>verified</em> usefulness…</p> <p><em>Edit:</em> Corrected wording to make it clear Elo was quoting a source.</p> saidachmiz F2MaBqxMorafQWfyr 2019-02-11T09:26:38.692Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on Minimize Use of Standard Internet Food Delivery <blockquote> <p>… [delivery services] take <em>mindbogglingly huge</em> fees out of every order. We’re talking on the order of 20%.</p> </blockquote> <p>Do you have a citation for this?</p> saidachmiz Cn5tjq68ZG7PhLxBr 2019-02-11T08:56:57.721Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on The Hamming Question <blockquote> <p>[Hamming] did inspire some of his colleagues to make major shifts in focus, rededicating their careers to the problems they felt actually mattered.</p> </blockquote> <p>Do you have more info on this? I’d be very curious to hear about some specific examples!</p> saidachmiz uwLAS5xudcJnovwY2 2019-02-09T03:59:41.478Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on The Hamming Question <p>I have seen the “Hamming question” concept applied to domains other than science (<a href="">example 1</a>, <a href="">example 2</a>, <a href="">example 3</a>, <a href="">example 4</a>, <a href="">example 5</a>, <a href="">example 6</a>, <a href="">example 7</a>).</p> <p>I think that’s a mistake.</p> <p>First, generally, it’s a mistake for terminology-dilution reasons: if you significantly broaden the scope of a term, you obscure differences between the concept or thing the term originally referred to, and other (variously similar) things; and you integrate assumptions about proper categories, and about similarities between their (alleged) members, into your thinking and writing, without justifying those assumptions or even making them explicit. This degrades the quality of your thought and your communication.</p> <p>Second, specifically, it’s a mistake because science (i.e., academic or quasi-academic [e.g., corporate] research) differs from other domains (such as those discussed in my examples) in several important ways:</p> <ol> <li> <p>In science, if you’re trained in a field, then there’s no particular reason (other than—in principle, contingent and changeable—practical limitations such as funding) why you can’t work on just about any problem in that field. This is not the case in many other domains.</p> </li> <li> <p>In science, there is generally no urgency to any particular problems or research areas; if everyone in the field works on one (ostensibly important) problem, but neglects another (ostensibly less important) problem, well, so what? It’ll keep. But in most other domains, if everyone works on one thing and neglects everything else, that’s bad, because all that “everything else” is often <em>necessary</em>; <em>someone</em> has got to keep doing it, even if one particular other thing is, in some sense, “more important”.</p> </li> <li> <p>In science, you’re (generally) already doing <em>inquiry</em>; the fruit of your work is <em>knowledge</em>, understanding, etc. So it makes sense to ask what the “most important” problem is: presumably, it’s the problem (of those problems which we can currently define in a meaningful way) that, if solved, would yield the most knowledge, the greatest understanding, the most potential for further advancement, etc. But in other fields, where the goals of your efforts are not <em>knowledge</em> but something more concrete, it’s not clear that “most important” has a meaning, because for any <em>goal</em> we identify as “important”, there are always “convergent instrumental goals” as far as the eye can see, explore/exploit tradeoffs, incommensurable values, “goals” which are essentially homeostatic or otherwise have dynamics as their referents, etc., etc.</p> </li> </ol> <p>So while I can see the value of the Hamming question in science (modulo the response linked in <a href="">my other comment</a>), I should very much like to see an explicit defense and elaboration of applying the concept of the “Hamming question” to other domains.</p> saidachmiz gYojPF5nTw6n9X6E9 2019-02-09T01:28:04.059Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on The Hamming Question <p>And <a href="">here’s the best response</a> (that I’ve seen) to a “Hamming question”.</p> saidachmiz YvKd93a68ve6FFzkh 2019-02-09T00:40:03.785Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on The Question Of Perception <p><a href=""></a></p> saidachmiz p9byxuiAZDScWKnRZ 2019-02-02T19:02:06.389Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on Masculine Virtues <p>Here is <a href="">a series of comments by gwern</a> with many citations of research into head trauma and brain injury.</p> <p><a href="">This comment</a> in particular cites a paper called…</p> <blockquote> <p><a href="">“Long-Term Outcomes Associated with Traumatic Brain Injury in Childhood and Adolescence: A Nationwide Swedish Cohort Study of a Wide Range of Medical and Social Outcomes”</a>, Sariaslan et al 2016, is a population registry study which reports within-family correlations adjust for education about various negative outcomes with 1 or more diagnosed TBIs …</p> </blockquote> <blockquote> <p>TBI is common enough that the effects are large on a population-wide basis:</p> <blockquote> <p>We found that the crude population contributions of TBI explained approximately...2%–6% of the population differences in the outcomes. The strongest population attributable risks were found for the severe outcomes, including psychiatric inpatient hospitalisation (PAF = 5.5%; 4.9%–6.1%), premature mortality (PAF = 4.7%; 2.9%–6.5%), and disability pension (PAF = 4.6%; 3.8%–5.3%).</p> </blockquote> </blockquote> <p>The comment goes on to list statistics on various long-term effects of TBIs—worth reading, IMO.</p> saidachmiz qxi9Rzc2gvjQi5P8Q 2019-02-01T17:34:07.093Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on The Question Of Perception <p>I’ve now read the linked post. I’m confused about what relevance it has.</p> <p>Are you saying that, once we stop looking at the world as a bunch of discrete objects and start seeing quantum fields, or whatever, instead, then it’s no longer trivial or even possible to say things like “this cake is delicious, but that cake is not”?</p> <p>Or, are you using that sort of “ontological crisis” as an illustrative example only, but actually suggesting some different, unrelated, sort of ontology shift? If so, then what might this alternative ontology be, and why should we prefer it?</p> saidachmiz afBYLK2RQaoiN5fL9 2019-02-01T17:17:37.453Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on The Question Of Perception <p>What standards do you[1] use to judge whether something is an inferior result?</p> <p>If you bake a pie, and I bake a pie, and all our friends try both pies, and they think my pie is delicious but your pie is mediocre, or bad, is there some sense in which your pie is, nonetheless, <em>not</em> inferior?</p> <p>What if, following my approach, I am able to bake ten desserts, all different, but all widely acknowledged to be delicious; whereas you, following your approach, can only bake ten different pies (some good, some not so great), and are at a loss as to how to make any of the other things I can make? Is there some sense in which your approach is <em>not</em> inferior?</p> <p>What sort of alternative ontology would you apply to this scenario, and why?</p> <p>(Disclaimer: I have not yet read the linked post by Wei Dai; I will comment further when I’ve done so. <em>UPDATE 2019-02-01:</em> I’ve read it now, see <a href="">sibling comment</a>.)</p> <hr> <p>[1] Or, if not <em>you</em>, then whoever subscribes to the mindset in question (whom you are representing in this conversation).</p> saidachmiz v7t9Ndo4TRnNdkdvp 2019-01-31T20:03:55.218Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on Masculine Virtues <p>More data: <a href="">these figures on injury rates in various sports, among children</a>, from the National Institutes of Health.</p> saidachmiz hCy5Br4rnSs6WYaLD 2019-01-31T17:47:59.357Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on Masculine Virtues <p>I see. This seems like a fairly poor approach to estimation, though. It doesn’t actually matter how many <em>potential</em> soccer (or football) players there are, when it comes to calculating risk, except insofar as it helps us estimate how many <em>actual</em> soccer (or football) players there are. But we can just get those numbers directly:</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>24,472,778</strong></p> <p>Number of people who play soccer at some level in the U.S. — second only to China. (<em>Source: FIFA World Football Big Count</em>)</p> <p><strong>3,055,148</strong></p> <p>Youth players officially registered with U.S. Soccer programs in 2014 — up by 89 percent since 1990, the first year the U.S. qualified for the World Cup final round since 1950.</p> </blockquote> <p>(From <a href=""></a>)</p> <blockquote> <p>The largest category of soccer in the United States in terms of participation is boys' and girls' youth soccer. Soccer is one of the most played sports by children in the United States. In 2012, soccer was the #4 most played team sport by high school boys, and soccer overtook softball to become the #3 most played team sport by high school girls.[117] As of 2006, the U.S. was the #1 country in the world for participation in youth soccer, with 3.9 million American youths (2.3 million boys and 1.6 million girls) registered with U.S. Soccer.[118] Among girls, the U.S. has more registered players than all other countries combined.[119] The number of high school soccer players more than doubled from 1990 to 2010, giving soccer the fastest growth rate among all major U.S. sports.[120]</p> </blockquote> <p>(From <a href="">Wikipedia</a>)</p> <blockquote> <p>Even leaving aside the 1,531 girls who played high school football in the 2012-2013 school year, the 1,086,627 high school boys who played football exceeded the number of boys and girls combined who participated in any other sport.</p> <p>Here are the Top Ten high school sports by the number of students who participated in them in the 2012-2013 school year:</p> <ol> <li>Football, 1,088,158 (1,086,627 boys; 1,531 girls)</li> </ol> <p>…</p> <ol start="4"> <li>Soccer, 782,514 (410,982 boys; 371,532 girls)</li> </ol> <p>…</p> <p>In 2012-2013, a record 7,713,577 students participated in a high school sports, up from 7,692,520 in 2011-2012.</p> </blockquote> <p>(From <a href=""></a>)</p> <blockquote> <p>A total of 1.23 million youth ages 6-12 played tackle football in 2015, up from 1.216 million the year before, according to data from the Sports &amp; Fitness Industry Association, which commissions an annual survey of participation rates in United States households across a range of sports.</p> </blockquote> <blockquote> <p>A record 4.3 million children were born in the U.S. in 2007 -- they are now around age 8, when communities begin to offer tackle football. As a share of the age 6-12 population, the total participation rate remained the same as the past year, 4.2 percent.</p> </blockquote> <blockquote> <p>Across the board, in the 6-12 and 13-17 age groups, participation in football on a regular and casual basis is down since 2009, before the risks of youth playing the game began to grow, partly due to research findings and a number of former NFL players saying they would keep their kids from football or delay their entry into tackle until adolescence.</p> <p>In 2009, 3.96 million youth ages 6-17 played tackle football. Last year, that number fell to 3.21 million, down from 3.25 million in 2014.</p> </blockquote> <p>(From <a href=""></a>)</p> <p>The numbers aren’t clear-cut, but from what I can see, your prediction does not seem to be borne out.</p> saidachmiz QZocm2YmLosqatFYA 2019-01-31T16:10:18.099Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on Masculine Virtues <blockquote> <p>My comment was more directed at avoiding negative short-term changes in people’s lifestyles.</p> </blockquote> <p>Agreed, this is good advice.</p> saidachmiz HcgYdoFPTtyi6jzsX 2019-01-31T03:11:18.358Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on Masculine Virtues <p>By “per capita” do you mean “what percentage of people who engage in each activity sustain head injuries”? If so, yes, I agree that this would be useful to know.</p> <p>I’m somewhat confused by your notes about the gender distribution of sports. Could you elaborate on that?</p> saidachmiz HThgGdBoHWuzz6d9s 2019-01-30T22:21:28.199Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on Masculine Virtues <p>The scenario you describe is not, of course, literally impossible. However, it seems to me that the number of people for whom <em>the only feasible choices</em> are either “play soccer” or “be a couch potato” must be so small that even considering this point as a meaningful concern is epistemically unwise. (There are, after all, <em>so many</em> ways in which to avoid a “largely sedentary lifestyle”, starting with “get up, go outside, and walk around the block a few times” and going all the way to “play other team sports, selected specially for their unusually low incidence of head injuries”, with many stops along the way at places like “go swimming”, “go hiking”, “go to a gym”, “purchase and use basic exercise equipment”, etc., etc., etc.)</p> saidachmiz mQ8qaKHT3rE8qaWRc 2019-01-30T22:18:31.531Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on Masculine Virtues <p>Re: “4. You will get hurt. That’s OK”:</p> <blockquote> <p>In a lifetime of playing soccer, I suffered bruised shins, twisted ankles, balls to the face, balls to the balls, elbows to the ribs, and a torn calf muscle. I also learned that none of the above is a big deal, certainly nothing worth sacrificing something as enjoyable as playing soccer over. If you watch sports you see athletes get hurt and recover all the time, but you almost never hear them wish they hadn’t started in the sport in the first place.</p> <p>There are many fun things we can do with our bodies. The most fun involve some risk of pain and harm: snowboarding, getting tattoos, climbing trees, having kids, lifting, BDSM, soccer, cliff jumping, punch bug. Sports provides exposure to physical risks, letting you decide which activities are worth the bruises.</p> <p>It’s possible to live life bruise-free, but I’m not sure you can call that “living”.</p> </blockquote> <p>Yes, this is true…</p> <p>… unless the way you get hurt is by sustaining a <a href="">traumatic brain injury</a>.</p> <p>Then you can look forward to such exciting consequences as are listed in the “Prognosis” and “Complications” sections of the Wikipedia page I linked (do read them in their entirety—don’t take my word for it; it’s worth being fully aware of the reality of head injuries, so that you can be properly horrified).</p> <p>Note that unlike bruised shins, twisted ankles, or even broken bones, the effects of a TBI are almost invariably <em>irreversible</em> (and multiple TBIs have a compounding effect).</p> <p>Also unlike bruised shins or broken bones, brain damage doesn’t just cause some pain, inconvenience, or even loss of physical function—it irreversibly damages (or, in more severe cases, destroys) <em>who you are</em>.</p> <p>I’ve seen the effects of severe TBI up close and personal. If avoiding a large increase in my risk for such a fate means that I’m “not living”, then maybe “living” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.</p> <p>How large an increase? Well, here are some citations:</p> <blockquote> <p>An estimated 300,000 sport-related traumatic brain injuries, predominantly concussions, occur annually in the United States. Sports are second only to motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of traumatic brain injury among people aged 15 to 24 years.</p> </blockquote> <p>(From the <a href="">Journal of Athletic Training</a>)</p> <blockquote> <p>Although death from a sports injury is rare, the leading cause of death from a sports-related injury is a brain injury.</p> <p>Sports and recreational activities contribute to approximately 21 percent of all traumatic brain injuries among American children.</p> </blockquote> <p>(From the <a href=",P02787">Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library</a>)</p> <blockquote> <p>According to CPSC data, there were an estimated 446,788 sports-related head injuries treated at U.S. hospital emergency rooms in 2009. This number represents an increase of nearly 95,000 sports-related injuries from the prior year. … The actual incidence of head injuries may potentially be much higher for two primary reasons. In the 2009 report, the CPSC excluded estimates for product categories that yielded 1,200 injuries or less, those that had very small sample counts and those that were limited to a small geographic area of the country. Additionally, many less severe head injuries are treated at physicians' offices, immediate care centers or are self-treated.</p> </blockquote> <blockquote> <p>The following 20 sports/recreational activities represent the categories contributing to the highest number of estimated head injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms in 2009.</p> <p>[full list omitted; soccer is 7th, being responsible for 24,184 cases <em>—SA</em>]</p> </blockquote> <blockquote> <p>The top 10 sports-related head injury categories among children ages 14 and younger:</p> <p>[full list omitted; soccer is 7th again, being responsible for 8,392 cases <em>—SA</em>]</p> </blockquote> <blockquote> <p>Protection against head injuries in soccer is complicated by the fact that heading is an established part of the game, and any attempt to protect against head injuries must allow the game to be played without modification. Several head guards have been developed to reduce the risk of head injuries in soccer. One independent research study found that <strong>none of the products on the market provided substantial benefits against minor impacts, such as heading with a soccer ball</strong>.</p> <p>A McGill University study found that <strong>more than 60 percent of college-level soccer players reported symptoms of concussion during a single season. Although the percentage at other levels of play may be different, these data indicate that head injuries in soccer are more frequent than most presume</strong>.</p> </blockquote> <p>(From the <a href="">American Association of Neurological Surgeons</a>; emphasis mine)</p> <p>In summary: for anyone who values their personal survival, and the retention of their mental faculties (which, I think, describes most people on Less Wrong), participating in sports—<em>especially</em> sports like soccer—is <strong>an exceptionally bad idea</strong>.</p> saidachmiz SQu7HdLJhqF7Q3CJz 2019-01-30T20:06:34.474Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on The Question Of Perception <p>I haven’t read this book, but I <em>have</em> both taken a Home Ec class (it’s where I first learned to cook!) <em>and</em> spent the next ~20 years regularly cooking/baking, and improving my skill at these things. On the basis of that experience, I can say that the two approaches / perspectives / mindsets / whatever, that you describe, are <em>not</em> the only possibilities; indeed, I would say that this distinction is very much a false dichotomy. There are <a href="">other ways</a>.</p> <p>In fact, for at least some kinds of cooking (baking / dessert cooking, specifically), this part:</p> <blockquote> <p>All you have to do is stand in the kitchen with an open mind and heart, recognizing the honor of cooking food for your family. The recipe will come.</p> </blockquote> <p>… is entirely the wrong approach. It will reliably give you inferior results, compared to the approach I describe in the above-linked post. The correct approach is not exactly “follow a recipe precisely” either, but it is a good bit closer to that than to the “get into a relationship with food” one.</p> <p>Now, for some kinds of cooking, this “touchy-feely” approach works better—this cannot be denied. But if you try (as the author of the cited book apparently does) to apply this lesson to <em>life</em>, in general, you run into trouble: what if “life” is more like baking a cake than it is like cooking a vegetable soup? Or, what if <em>some</em> situations are like the former, and other situations are like the latter? Feel-good platitudes about getting into relationships with things will give you the answers to these questions…</p> saidachmiz KEZzhvLQnknazSyBz 2019-01-30T16:43:27.544Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on Why is this utilitarian calculus wrong? Or is it? <p>Suppose that the commune sells the widgets for $29. You purchase one, gaining net $1 of value; the commune gains net $9 of value. Total net gain = $10. (You seem to be assuming that utility ends up being linear in money, so let’s stick with that assumption.)</p> <p>This seems to be exactly as good as the scenario you describe. Do you agree? And yet my scenario does not require anyone to have any moral motivations, make any sacrifices, etc.; it only requires self-interest.</p> saidachmiz AWHHAZHCWMyQqz8W3 2019-01-28T03:22:25.086Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on Río Grande: judgment calls <p>Perhaps a dumb question, but: what does this post have to do with the Río Grande?</p> saidachmiz DguShywoNavJDzuJm 2019-01-27T23:16:40.475Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on What are the open problems in Human Rationality? <p>The <a href="">Centre for Effective Altruism</a>.</p> saidachmiz FhgryRqZyTs2MsW3N 2019-01-23T16:56:32.718Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on Clothing For Men <blockquote> <p>If you went from eating at McDonald’s to nicer restaurants, it would be a mistake to focus solely on the price increase; you would get better quality ingredients, service… less cancer...</p> </blockquote> <p>If you went from eating at McDonald’s to eating at restaurants that are <em>five to ten times more expensive</em> than McDonald’s, then I would conclude that the price increase (or, rather, the resulting signaling effect) is, in fact, the primary or even the entire reason for the change.</p> <p>(When it comes to food quality, if you went from eating at McDonald’s to eating at, say, <a href="">this place</a>, you would get at <em>least</em> 75% of the maximum possible benefit that you could possibly get from upgrading your restaurant preferences. Note the <a href="">menu</a>; those are main courses, and they are at <em>most</em> 150% as expensive as McDonald’s—<em>not</em> 500–1000%!)</p> <blockquote> <p>A more meta note: it seems reasonable to me to expect, if you’re discovering a new field, that achieving proficiency in that area would require investing a significant amount of resources. So perhaps you shouldn’t be as surprised</p> </blockquote> <p>You’re equivocating between effort and money, here. It would not surprise me that proficiency in a new field would require investing significant time and effort. If, however, it allegedly requires investing significant <em>money</em>, then I would either suspect that someone is trying to sell me something (or, more subtly, benefiting from the perpetuation of norms that require me to buy something)—or I would seriously reconsider my decision to acquire proficiency in said field.</p> saidachmiz WLzXh7F3TCQErPGNB 2019-01-17T21:57:43.576Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on Clothing For Men <p>Well, I checked out the websites of several of the brands you listed.</p> <p>What became quite obvious very quickly is that, to a first approximation, your advice boils down to:</p> <p>“Spend more money on clothes. Like… a <em>lot</em> more money. An entire order of magnitude more money than you spend now. Devote significantly more of your budget to clothes than you do to food, utility bills, or any other expense except rent.”</p> <p>So, that does present rather an obstacle to just trying entirely unverified advice…</p> saidachmiz 7WPSyaMrrqnBBq2hv 2019-01-17T18:43:55.565Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on Clothing For Men <p>Not that I have any particular reason to disagree with any specific part of this guide, but could we get some sort of… credentials, or, like, accomplishments, or something? (Something like the “Why you should trust us” section of the guides at <a href="">Wirecutter</a>.)</p> <p>(I mean, otherwise you’re just some guy on the internet, right?)</p> saidachmiz BYBGEZsHMFtqspikJ 2019-01-17T02:04:11.551Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on Open Thread January 2019 <p>No, this is wrong.</p> <p>What prevents the FDT agent from getting blackmailed is <em>not</em> that he is known to be an FDT agent. Rather, it’s simply that he’s known to be the sort of person who will blow the whistle on blackmailers. Potential blackmailers need not know or care <em>why</em> the FDT agent behaves like this (indeed, it does not matter <em>at all</em>, for the purpose of each individual case, why the agent behaves like this—whether it’s because the dictates of FDT so direct him, or because he’s naturally stubborn, or whatever; it suffices that blackmailers expect the agent to blow the whistle).</p> <p>So if we stipulate an FDT agent, we also, thereby, stipulate that he is known to be a whistle-blower. (We’re assuming, in every version of this scenario, that, regardless of the agent’s motivations, his propensity toward such behavior is known.) And that does indeed make the “he’s blackmailed anyway” scenario logically inconsistent.</p> saidachmiz oAwFQknYHmC8B5Xwh 2019-01-14T01:04:22.057Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on Book Recommendations: An Everyone Culture and Moral Mazes <blockquote> <p>if the employees are being tricked to not notice the imposed costs</p> </blockquote> <p>That’s precisely what I think is going on, yes. It’s not that people don’t <em>notice</em>, it’s that they don’t perceive them as costs—because of, among other things, posts like the OP, which frame the whole thing as a sort of “personal growth” thing, that actually <em>benefits</em> the employee, that makes working at the company more <em>enjoyable</em>, more <em>fulfilling</em>, etc. Certainly, it would stand to reason that employees would demand substantially bigger salaries/compensation for putting up with this sort of thing. But it’s in the interests of employers who want to use this sort of approach, to trick prospective (and current) employees not to act in their own economic best interests… which is, of course, precisely what we see.</p> saidachmiz EaWPqfzshe9LcFuQX 2019-01-11T06:26:33.720Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on Book Recommendations: An Everyone Culture and Moral Mazes <blockquote> <p>The cost, of course, is <em>way more communication</em> about seemingly non-work-related things. You’d be processing personal stuff with coworkers all the time. The hope is that this is actually cheaper than the costs of the bad decisions made when you don’t have enough honest communication, but it’s an empirical matter whether that works out in practice, and the authors don’t have data so far.</p> </blockquote> <p>As described in this post, a “DDO” sounds to me like a dystopian hellscape (and I very much doubt that I’m the only one; “processing personal stuff with coworkers all the time”, in particular, sounds like torture).</p> <p>But hiding within that observation is a more subtle point:</p> <p>It is, perhaps, possible that operating as a DDO is “cheaper”—for the <em>company</em> (though I am inclined to doubt it). But it’s a heck of a lot more expensive for the <em>employees</em>. Even in the best case (where the company’s performance improves as a result of adopting this model of company culture), this sort of approach boils down to the firm externalizing a large chunk of its operating costs onto its employees.</p> saidachmiz g9WfRWZHtxxJD3j33 2019-01-11T04:08:55.299Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on Book Recommendations: An Everyone Culture and Moral Mazes <p>An alternative perspective from Current Affairs: <a href="">“How To Make Everyone In Your Vicinity Secretly Fear And Despise You”</a>.</p> <blockquote> <p>Reports from former employees have suggested a workplace rife with accusations, confrontations, and interrogations. There was, for example, an episode in which “former COO Hope Woodhouse was shredded in front of the management committee and the sessions were sent out to the company to learn from (she was brought to the point of crying in the recording).” Implementation of the Principles is just about as Orwellian as you might expect:</p> <p><em>Two dozen Principles “captains” are responsible for enforcing the rules. Another group, “overseers,”</em> [bit of an unfortunate choice of title, no?] <em>some of whom report to Mr. Dalio, monitor department heads. The video cameras that record daily interactions for future case studies are so ubiquitous that employees joke about “the men in the walls.” … Each day, employees are tested and graded on their knowledge of the Principles. They walk around with iPads loaded with the rules and an interactive rating system called “dots” to evaluate peers and supervisors. The ratings feed into each employee’s permanent record, called the “baseball card.”</em></p> </blockquote> <blockquote> <p>Dalio tells readers that they need to get over their mushy, sentimental reactions, and embrace radical truth for the sake of the common good. He gives the example of a wildebeest being eaten alive, witnessed on one of his many hunting trips, in order to show that what <em>appears</em> to be horrific suffering might actually be “wonderful”:</p> <p><em>When I went to Africa a number of years ago, I saw a pack of hyenas take down a young wildebeest. My reaction was visceral. I felt empathy for the wildebeest and thought that what I had witnessed was horrible. But was that because it was horrible or was it because I am biased to believe it’s horrible when it is actually wonderful? That got me thinking. Would the world be a better or worse place if what I’d seen hadn’t occurred?… I could see that the world would be worse. I now realize that nature optimizes for the whole, not the individual, but most people judge good and bad based only on how it affects them. … Most people call something bad if it is bad for them or bad for those they empathize with, ignoring the greater good.</em></p> </blockquote> <blockquote> <p>Matt Levine of Bloomberg, who has observed Bridgewater for quite some time, has said that the company never seems to offer any real substantiation for the link between management culture and the high investment returns:</p> <p><em>Does Bridgewater ever analyze whether its culture of constant self-examination and radical transparency is actually good for its investing? … [In Bridgewater’s self-descriptions] it’s never “our culture of constantly rating each other on iPad apps leads to better investment returns,” always “our culture of constantly rating each other on iPad apps leads to better ratings on the iPad apps.”… I am always left with the sense that the group therapy is the point, that the investor returns are a happy accident that subsidize all the introspection, and that Bridgewater is an odd little eddy in financial capitalism that uses investor money to fund the pursuit of personal enlightenment… I have joked before that Bridgewater’s business model is that it has a computer that does its investing, and that the computer uses the personal-rating games to distract the human employees so they don’t interfere with the investment process. If you spend all your meetings debating what the meetings should be about, then sure, you’re probably not going to have time to monkey with the investment algorithms.</em></p> </blockquote> <p>The entire article is worth reading.</p> saidachmiz PfhvZLZvnZc8jStpE 2019-01-11T04:00:05.150Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on You can be wrong about what you like, and you often are <p>Lest anyone get the idea that the parent comment is being ignored merely because it’s “pedantic” or “misses the point” or some such, I want to point out that it’s also <em>mistaken</em>.</p> <p><a href="">This fascinating and engrossing document</a> is Part 4 of the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways (a.k.a. “MUTCD”), published by the Federal Highway Administration (a division of the United States Department of Transportation).</p> <p>Page 468 of the MUTCD (p. 36 in the PDF) contains this diagram:</p> <p><img src="" alt=""></p> <p>And page 469 of the MUTCD (p. 37 in the PDF) contains this diagram:</p> <p><img src="" alt=""></p> <p>Note that the iconography is the same and the orientation and arrangement is the same. But the colors are different!</p> <p>For another example, take a look at MUTCD p. 487 vs. p. 488 (PDF pp.55–56).</p> <p>In summary, <strong>it is <em>not possible</em> to reliably determine the <em>colors</em> of traffic control signals from their <em>positions</em> in a traffic light arrangement</strong>.</p> saidachmiz Z3oF54ZxXL7itQXXJ 2019-01-02T16:48:03.695Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on Learning-Intentions vs Doing-Intentions <p>Excellent post!</p> <p>Here’s some devil’s-advocacy that comes to mind. You say:</p> <blockquote> <p>As a final caveat, there are of course a great many perils associated with <em>learning-mindset</em> too. Learning can easily become divorced from real-world goals; picking the right actions to learn the information you actually is no small challenge.</p> </blockquote> <p>Suppose that you adopt the “learning mindset”, and undertake some learning-focused actions. As you say, there’s a danger of <a href="">“lost purposes”</a>—but this can actually manifest in multiple, importantly different, ways!</p> <p>One version of that failure mode is simply continuing to learn, indefinitely, without ever doing anything. (This, arguably, is much of modern academia.)</p> <p>Suppose you avoid that failure mode, and, having learned something, you declare a victory. Fine; but how do you know that what you’ve learned is of any use? How do you know it’s not just nonsense? (This, arguably, is also much of modern academia.)</p> <p>The solution seems obvious: if you think you’ve learned something, switch to “doing mindset”, and do the thing, applying what you’ve learned. If your learning was worth anything, then your doing will bear that out. Right?</p> <p>Well, that may be true if what you’ve learned was about <em>how</em> to do the thing. But what if the key questions, and the ones which you were (or should have been!) most interested in, were not <em>how to do</em> the thing, but <em>which</em> thing(s) to do, and how to <em>evaluate</em> what you’ve done, and other, trickier, less practical (but more globally impactful) questions?</p> <p>Then you may think you’ve learned something useful, and do things on that basis, but actually what you’ve learned is either <em>wrong</em>, or, more insidiously, <em>not enough</em> (cf. “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”). If you’d’ve kept learning, you’d’ve discovered that; but you were in a hurry to <em>do</em>…</p> <p>Thus it seems to me that “learning mindset” must perpetually thread this needle—between “how do I know I’ve learned anything”, and “how do I know I’ve learned enough”. And it is difficult to say whether “doing mindset” will suffice to keep you on that straight and narrow path…</p> saidachmiz Hx8KKjqyq5tTRPiLL 2019-01-01T22:38:22.346Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on In what ways are holidays good? <p>I think that it’s best <em>not</em> to assume; questions like this are fairly pointless unless we know what OP’s reason for asking is.</p> <p>And if he currently doesn’t travel, he should try it! Travel somewhere not too distant or expensive, see how it is.</p> <p>And if he can’t afford to do even this, then what’s the point of asking the question? What does he plan to do with this information?</p> <p>(Maybe these questions have good answers! But we don’t know what they are. So this whole discussion is unlikely to be productive…)</p> saidachmiz 4WDk9MFGETMmpdKEs 2018-12-28T07:43:49.283Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on In what ways are holidays good? <p>I think most of this discussion is sidestepping a very simple, very obvious point:</p> <p><strong>Do you <em>want</em> to go on vacations to travel to various places?</strong></p> <p>If you want to, then do. If you <em>don’t</em> want to, then… don’t. What’s the problem, exactly? No one’s forcing you to go anywhere. Some people enjoy these sorts of things; other people do not. And that’s fine! It’s totally fine. People like different things. (And for different reasons, too! None of your questions have single, canonical answers—because people are different, and enjoy different things, for different reasons.)</p> saidachmiz uwKGE844RHzWoqXgK 2018-12-28T04:58:46.451Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on In what ways are holidays good? <ul> <li>Benefits of vacations: they’re fun!</li> <li>Drawbacks of vacations: sometimes they’re not fun.</li> <li>How much money should you be willing to spend on vacations: as much as fun is worth to you.</li> </ul> saidachmiz dkSFXJ68JSZTDQr9f 2018-12-28T01:10:13.016Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on What are the axioms of rationality? <blockquote> <p>for example, how do you view this phrase “what could be destroyed by the truth should be”? is it an axiom?</p> </blockquote> <p>No. It’s an expression of one of what Eliezer calls the <a href="">“virtues of rationality”</a>. But the virtues <em>aren’t</em> axioms—which, incidentally, is what the twelfth and final virtue is all about.</p> <blockquote> <p>this is something i thought of, that rationality shouldn’t have any axioms</p> </blockquote> <p>It not only <em>shouldn’t</em>, it <em>can’t</em>—as I said, <em>rationality just isn’t the sort of thing</em> that has “axioms”. (Namely, it’s not a <em>formal system</em>.)</p> saidachmiz siWmysCZo8TThXmC8 2018-12-26T08:27:39.518Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on What are the axioms of rationality? <p>“Rationality” isn’t the kind of thing that has “axioms”.</p> <p><a href="">Reading the Sequences</a> may help you.</p> saidachmiz vKnv2mueEfY7H6k33 2018-12-25T15:41:28.552Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on Why Don't Creators Switch to their Own Platforms? <blockquote> <p>he’d have to deal with people protesting his new hosting provider. … He’d have to deal with people launching hacking and DDOS attacks against his site, constantly.</p> </blockquote> <p>This seems like a great opportunity to mention <a href="">NearlyFreeSpeech.NET</a>, which is exactly the ideal hosting provider for these sorts of situations.</p> <blockquote> <p>Even if he were a programmer, and even if he knew enough about PHP and Wordpress to build out his own hosting</p> </blockquote> <p>I guarantee you that there are more than enough people who would be willing to help Scott set up a self-hosted Wordpress install (or anything else, really).</p> <p>Scott Alexander is, actually, an excellent example of a “content creator” who could go “totally independent” without any real problem. This is because his “content” is text. Text is easy.</p> saidachmiz SwKyyLj9uLffgRGEv 2018-12-24T08:15:43.270Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on Player vs. Character: A Two-Level Model of Ethics <p>First of all, there isn’t anything that’s “of the the same type as an ought” except an ought. So no, you’re not getting any oughts, nor anything “of the same type”. It’s “is” all the way through, here.</p> <p>More to the point, I think you’re missing a critical layer of abstraction/indirection: namely, that what you can predict, via the adaptive/game-theoretic perspective, <em>isn’t</em> “what oughts are likely to be acknowledged”, but “what oughts will the agent <em>act as if</em> it follows”. Those will usually <em>not</em> be the same as what oughts the agent <em>acknowledges</em>, or <em>finds persuasive</em>, etc.</p> <p>This is related to <a href="">“Adaptation-Executers, Not Fitness-Maximizers”</a>. An agent who commits suicide is unlikely (though not entirely unable!) to propagate, this is true, but who says that an agent who <em>doesn’t</em> commit suicide can’t believe that suicide is good, can’t advocate for suicide, etc.? In fact, such agents—actual people, alive today—can, and do, all these things!</p> saidachmiz 3vEA8Lfurhoddgzxp 2018-12-20T18:10:25.917Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on New edition of "Rationality: From AI to Zombies" <p><em>(I imagine this comment properly belongs here on Less Wrong, when the new versions are posted here; perhaps the mods can move it, then. For now, posting it here because I can’t find a better place for it.)</em></p> <p>From the introduction to <em>Map and Territory</em>, section “Noticing Bias”:</p> <blockquote> <p>Imagine meeting someone for the first time, and knowing nothing about them except that they’re shy.</p> <p>Question: Is it more likely that this person is a librarian, or a salesperson?</p> <p>Most people answer “librarian.” Which is a mistake: shy salespeople are much more common than shy librarians, because salespeople in general are much more common than librarians—seventy-five times as common, in the United States.[1]</p> <p>This is <em>base rate neglect</em>: grounding one’s judgments in how well sets of characteristics feel like they fit together, and neglecting how common each characteristic is in the population at large.[2]</p> </blockquote> <p>Reading this, I immediately noticed that integrating base rates is <em>not</em> sufficient to make the “librarian” answer a mistake; and therefore we cannot conclude that the reason why people answer thus, is base rate neglect.</p> <p>In fact, the text does not establish that answering “librarian” is wrong. Consider the claims:</p> <ol> <li> <p>“salespeople in general are much more common than librarians—seventy-five times as common, in the United States”</p> </li> <li> <p>“shy salespeople are much more common than shy librarians”</p> </li> </ol> <p>The first claim is specific—we’re given a figure (“seventy-five times as common”)—and referenced. (The first footnote cites Weiten, <em>Psychology: Themes and Variations, Briefer Version, Eighth Edition</em>, 2010.) The second claim is neither quantified nor cited. Hmm.</p> <p>But this is basic Bayes: in order to conclude #2 from #1, we also need another claim, call it #3: that observing that someone is shy does not provide strong <em>enough</em> evidence to overcome our prior probability distribution over a randomly selected person’s profession, and shift our posterior estimate such that “librarian” becomes more likely than “salesperson”. This claim can easily be false—namely, in the case that the proportion of librarians who are shy is at least seventy-five times greater than the proportion of salespeople who are shy.</p> <p>If claim #3 is false, then answering “librarian” is correct! But also, even if claim #3 is true, then the error of someone answering “librarian” may be simply mis-estimating the relative rates of shyness among salespeople and librarians—which would <em>not</em> be an example of the base rate fallacy.</p> <p>The text does not comment on this. Perhaps it is <em>assumed</em> that librarians <em>aren’t</em> shy at a rate 75 times greater than salespeople are. (But this is already a pedagogical flaw! And it ignores my second point in the paragraph above…) But is it true? From the provided information, we don’t know.</p> <p>Note that my criticism of the text of <em>M&amp;T</em> stands regardless of what the facts of the matter are—even if claim #3 is true, the text is, as I say above, quite flawed. Nevertheless, I was curious, and got my hands on a copy of Weiten 2010. The relevant bit is on page 270:</p> <blockquote> <p><em>Steve is very shy and withdrawn, invariably helpful, but with little interest in people or in the world of reality. A meek and tidy soul, he has a need for order and structure and a passion for detail. Do you think Steve is a salesperson or a librarian? (Adapted from Tversky &amp; Kahneman, 1974, p. 1124)</em></p> <p>Using the <em>representativeness heuristic</em>, participants tend to guess that Steve is a librarian because he resembles their prototype of a librarian (Tversky &amp; Kahneman, 1982). In reality, this is not a very wise guess, because <em>it ignores the base rates</em> of librarians and salespeople in the population. Virtually everyone knows that salespeople outnumber librarians by a wide margin (roughly 75 to 1 in the United States). This fact makes it much more likely that Steve is in sales. But in estimating probabilities, people often ignore information on base rates.</p> </blockquote> <p>(The book does not discuss this particular matter further, though it goes on to further discussion of base rate neglect.)</p> <p>Note that the “75 to 1” figure, in particular, does not appear to be referenced; nor is there any discussion of the relative rates of shyness among salespeople and librarians. There also does not seem to be any discussion of the possibility, in general, that people are taking base rates into account but mis-estimating the strength of the evidence (though I read only that one section, and not the entire 750-page textbook, so perhaps I missed it).</p> <p>The two in-text citations in the above quote refer to:</p> <p>Tversky, A., &amp; Kahneman, D. (1974). Judgments under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. <em>Science, 185</em>, 1124–1131.</p> <p>Tversky, A., &amp; Kahneman, D. (1982). Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. In D. Kahneman, P. Slovic, &amp; A. Tversky (Eds.), <em>Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases</em>. New York: Cambridge University Press.</p> <p>The first source (Tversky &amp; Kahneman, 1974—a paper) contains no mention or discussion of the relative numbers of salespeople and librarians in the general population (and, in fact, describes an experiment where the base rates involved were <em>not</em> base rates in the general population, but rather base rates in an artificially constructed set, making the applicability questionable), nor of their relative rates of shyness.</p> <p>In the second source (Tversky &amp; Kahneman, 1982—a book), the relevant bit (on page 4) seems to be almost verbatim identical, with minor editing, to the first source. There is no additional information on any of the above topics.</p> <p><strong>So, tracing back the citations in <em>Map and Territory</em>, we seem to find no good basis at all for a strong conclusion that people who are asked the “salesperson vs. librarian” question ignore base rates; nor for rejecting the possibility that people merely mis-estimate relative rates of shyness among salespeople vs. librarians; nor any information on <em>what</em> those relative rates are; nor for the claim that “most” (or even “many”!) people answer in the alleged way; nor even for the claim that answering “librarian” is a mistake at all…!</strong></p> <hr> <p><em>Postscript:</em></p> <p>I decided to check whether even the “75 to 1 salesperson:librarian ratio” claim is true (remember, said claim in Weiten 2010 is not sourced at all).</p> <p>The <a href="">U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics seems to claim</a> that there are approximately 138,200 librarians in the United States. The <a href="">American Library Association gives the number</a> as 166,164. (Differences in sources, definitions, and periods of measurement likely explain the discrepancy.)</p> <p><a href="">Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show</a> 14,522,580 as the number of employees in “Sales and Related Occupations”—though this includes many jobs, like “Cashier”, which do not seem to fit the intuitive definition of “salesperson” in the way relevant to the “shyness” question above.</p> <p>Ignoring that quibble, and taking the average of the two figures above for number of librarians, yields a 96:1 salesperson:librarian ratio in the United States, which is less than an order of magnitude off from the 75:1 figure quoted in Weiten 2010—which difference may be caused by the passage of time. In any case, I think we can call this one factoid more or less confirmed.</p> saidachmiz a2xybTNoySpDGjvA7 2018-12-19T22:51:44.837Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on You can be wrong about what you like, and you often are <blockquote> <p>I’m not sure if I understood the point you’re making, but it sounds like the point is that, even if the pixels are the same color, the important thing is to be able to distinguish the objects. To see that the tomato and banana are different things even if they have the same pixels. I suppose more generally the idea is that with an illusion, it may be an illusion in some lower level sense, but not an illusion in a more practical sense. Is that accurate?</p> </blockquote> <p>The purpose[1] of our visual system—and, specifically, the purpose of our <em>color</em> vision—is to distinguish objects.</p> <p>If, in the real world, you see a <em>physical</em> scene such as that pictured in the illustration, it may be that the spectral power distributions of the light reaching your eyes from the two identified regions of the <em>physical</em> checkerboard which you are looking at, will in fact match arbitrarily closely. However, you will <em>correctly</em> perceive the two squares as having different colors—i.e., as having different surface spectral reflectance functions—that being the <em>practically relevant</em> question which your visual system is designed to answer. (“What exactly is the spectral power distribution of the light incident upon my retina from such-and-such arc-region of my visual field” is virtually <em>never</em> relevant for any practical purpose.)</p> <p>Similarly, if you see a <em>photograph</em> of a physical scene such as that pictured in the illustration, it may be that the spectral power distributions of the light reaching your eyes from the pixels representing the two identified regions of the <em>physical</em> checkerboard a <em>picture of which</em> you are looking at, will, again, match arbitrarily closely. But once again, you will <em>correctly</em> perceive the two <em>pictured</em> squares as having different colors—i.e., as having had, in the real-world scene of which the picture was taken, different surface spectral reflectance functions.</p> <p>In both these cases, there is some real-world fact, <strong>which you are perceiving correctly</strong>. There is, then, some <em>other</em> real-world fact which you are <em>not</em> perceiving correctly (but which you also don’t particularly care about[2]). Once again: if I look at a real-world scene such as the one depicted, or a photograph of that scene, and I say “these two squares have different colors”, <em>and by this I mean that the physical objects depicted have different colors</em>, <strong>I am not mistaken</strong>; I am entirely <em>correct</em> in my judgment.</p> <p>But! The picture in question is <em>not</em> a physical scene in the real world; nor is it a photograph of such a scene. It is artificial. It depicts something which does not actually exist, and never did. There <em>is</em> no fact of the matter about whether the identified checkerboard squares are of the same color or different colors, because they don’t exist; so there isn’t anything to be right or wrong about.</p> <p>This means that the question—“are these two regions the same color, or different colors?”—is, in some sense, meaningless. Once again, the purpose of our visual system is to perceive certain practically relevant features of real-world objects. The “optical illusion” in question feeds that system nonsense data; and we get back a nonsense answer. But that doesn’t mean we’re answering <em>incorrectly</em>, that we’re making a <em>mistake</em>; in fact, there isn’t any right answer!</p> <p>Once again, note that if we encountered this situation in the real world, we would <em>correctly</em> note that the two checkerboard squares have <em>different</em> colors. If we had to take some action, or make some decision, on the basis of whether square A and square B were the same color or different colors, we would therefore act or decide <em>correctly</em>. Acting or deciding on the basis of a belief that squares A and B are of the same color, would be a mistake!</p> <p>Contrast this with, for example, color blindness. If I cannot see the difference between red and green, then I will have quite a bit of trouble driving a car—I will mis-perceive the state of traffic lights! Note that in this case, you can be sure that I won’t argue with you when you tell me that I am perceiving the traffic lights incorrectly; there is no sense in which, from a <em>certain</em> perspective, my judgment is actually correct. No; I simply can’t see a difference which is demonstrably present (and which other people can see just fine); and this is clearly problematic, <em>for me</em>; it causes me to take sub-optimal actions which, if I perceived things correctly, I would do otherwise (more advantageously to myself).</p> <p>The takeaway is this: if you think you have discovered a bug in human cognition, it is <em>not</em> enough to demonstrate that, if provided with data that is nonsensical, weird (in a “doesn’t correspond to what is encountered in the real world” way), or designed to be deceptive, the cognitive system in question yields some (apparently) nonsensical answer. What is necessary is to demonstrate that this alleged bug causes people to act in a way which is clearly a mistake, from <em>their own</em> perspective—and that is <em>far</em> more difficult.</p> <p>Furthermore, in the “optical illusion” example, if you insisted that the “right” answer is that A and B are the same color, you would (as I claim, and explain, above) be wrong—or, more precisely, you would be right in a useless and irrelevant way, but wrong in the important and practical (but still quite <em>specific</em>) way. Now, how sure are you that the same isn’t true in the happiness case? (For instance, some researcher says that beautiful people aren’t happier. But is this true in an important and practical way, or is it false in that way and only true in an irrelevant and useless way? And if you claim the former—given the state of social science, how certain are you?)</p> <hr> <p>[1] In the “survival-critical task which is the source of selection pressure to develop and improve said system” sense.</p> <p>[2] And if you decide that in some given case, you <em>do</em> care about this secondary fact, you can use tools designed to measure it. But usually, this other fact is of academic interest at best.</p> saidachmiz ufCfcfWYESgQoEEah 2018-12-18T06:55:47.861Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on You can be wrong about what you like, and you often are <p>There's a critical point to be made about that optical illusion. Consider the following version of your hypothetical dialogue:</p> <p><strong>Alice:</strong> A and B are the same shade of gray.</p> <p><strong>Bob:</strong> No they’re not! WTF are you talking about? How can you say that they are? I can <em>see</em> with my <em>eyes</em> that they’re <em>not</em>!</p> <p><strong>Alice:</strong> Observe that if you use a graphics editor program to examine a pixel in the middle of region A, and a pixel in the middle of region B, you will see that they are the same color; or you could use a photometer to directly measure the spectral power distributions of light being emitted by your computer display from either pixel, and likewise you will find those curves identical.</p> <p><strong>Bob:</strong> Yeah? So? What of it? Suppose I measure the spectral power distributions of light reaching my eyes from a banana at dusk, and a tomato at noon, and find them identical; should I conclude that a banana and a tomato are the same color? No; they look like they have different colors, and indeed they do have different colors. What about the same banana at noon, and then at dusk—the light reaching my eyes from the banana will have different spectral power distributions; has the banana changed color? No, it both looks like, and is, the same color in both cases.</p> <p><strong>Alice:</strong> What? What does that have to do with anything? The pixels really are different!</p> <p><strong>Bob:</strong> What is that to me? This is an image of a cylinder standing on a checkerboard. I say that square A on the checkerboard, and square B on the checkerboard, are of different colors. Just as my visual system can tell that the tomato is red, and the banana yellow, regardless of whether either is viewed at noon or at dusk, so that same visual system can tell that these two checkerboard squares have different colors. Your so-called “illusions” cannot so easily fool human vision!</p> <p><strong>Alice:</strong> But… it’s a rendered image. There <em>is</em> no checkerboard.</p> <p><strong>Bob:</strong> Then there is <strong>no fact of the matter</strong> about whether A and B are the same color.</p> <p>Can the principle illustrated in this dialogue be applied to the case of “knowing what you like”? If so—how? (And if not, the the optical illusion analogy is inapplicable—and dangerously misleading!)</p> saidachmiz uZ9G37zLk66bTJx7c 2018-12-18T03:40:55.362Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on New edition of "Rationality: From AI to Zombies" <p>Is the new version being released under the same license terms (<a href="">CC BY-NC-SA 3.0</a>) as the previous version was?</p> saidachmiz F8kgbdu5tc6rti9jT 2018-12-15T22:26:43.932Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on New edition of "Rationality: From AI to Zombies" <p>It seems that is currently down.</p> <p><em>Edit:</em></p> <blockquote> <p>The new version of <em>Map and Territory</em> is <a href="">also available electronically</a> (in EPUB, MOBI, and PDF versions)</p> </blockquote> <p>This site also seems to be down.</p> saidachmiz J4GK3TfbC5NEmgiXz 2018-12-15T22:21:31.554Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on Player vs. Character: A Two-Level Model of Ethics <p>It’s a cute metaphor; and for anyone versed in RPG lore, it is (it seems to me) likely to be helpful, descriptively, in conceptualizing the facts of the matter (the evolutionary origins of morality, etc.).</p> <p>But the substantive conclusions in this post are unsupported (and, I think, unsupportable). Namely:</p> <blockquote> <p>Some game-theoretic strategies (what Nietzsche would call “tables of values”) are more survival-promoting than others. That’s the sense in which you can get from “is” to “ought.”</p> </blockquote> <p>To the contrary, this does not get you one iota closer to “ought”.</p> <p>Sure, some strategies are more survival-promoting. But does that make them morally right? Are you <em>identifying</em> “right” with “survival-promoting”, or even claiming that “right”, as a concept, must <em>contain</em> “survival-promoting”? But that’s an “ought” claim, and without making such a claim, you cannot get to “it is right to execute this strategy” from “this strategy is survival-promoting”.</p> <p>(Now, you might say that acting on any moral view other than “what is survival-promoting is right” will make you fail to survive, and then your views on morality will become irrelevant. This may be true! But does that make those other moral views wrong? No, unless you, once again, adopt an “ought” claim like “moral views which lead to failure to survive are wrong”, etc. In short, the is-ought gap is not so easily bridged.)</p> <blockquote> <p>The way I think the intellect plays into “metaprogramming” the player is indirect; you can <em>infer</em> what the player is doing, do some formal analysis about how that will play out, comprehend (again at the “merely” intellectual level) if there’s an error or something that’s no longer relevant/adaptive, plug that new understanding into <em>some</em> change that the intellect <em>can</em> affect (maybe “let’s try this experiment”), and maybe somewhere down the chain of causality the “player”’s strategy changes.</p> </blockquote> <p>Any “character” who does such a thing is, ultimately, still executing the strategy selected by the “player”. “Characters” <em>cannot</em> go meta. (“Character” actions <em>can</em> end up altering the population of “players”—though this is not <em>quite yet</em> within our power. But in such a case, it is still the “players” that end up selecting strategies.)</p> saidachmiz c6ggtpQ6jZicfyYD5 2018-12-15T09:23:26.455Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on Is Science Slowing Down? <p>For what it’s worth, if you’re using GreaterWrong, you can click the Image button in the editor (it’s fourth from the left), and it will automatically insert the appropriate Markdown syntax for an image.</p> saidachmiz 6jEvvWCEoJ6jz2EvG 2018-12-14T20:57:58.690Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on Transhumanism as Simplified Humanism <blockquote> <p>I am not in favor of existence without boundaries. I don’t have a moral justification for this, just an aesthetic one …</p> </blockquote> <p>I share your aesthetic preference (and I consider such preferences to be no less valid, and no less important, than any “moral” ones). But no one here is advocating anything like that. Certainly Eliezer isn’t, and nor am I.</p> saidachmiz BTRnJMBKr295Mq3v3 2018-12-11T03:15:15.191Z Comment by SaidAchmiz on Why should EA care about rationality (and vice-versa)? <p>Thank you for the encouragement, and I’m glad you’ve found value in my commentary.</p> <blockquote> <p>… it’s also im­por­tant to track which er­rors seem like part of a pat­tern of mo­ti­vated er­ror, and which seem to be mere mis­takes. The former class seems much more dan­ger­ous to me, since such er­rors are cor­re­lated.</p> </blockquote> <p>I agree with this as an object-level policy / approach, but I think not quite for the same reason as yours.</p> <p>It seems to me that the line between “motivated error” and “mere mistake” is thin, and hard to locate, and possibly not actually existent. We humans are <em>very</em> good at self-deception, after all. Operating on the assumption that something can be identified as <em>clearly</em> being a “mere mistake” (or, conversely, as <em>clearly</em> being a “motivated error”) is dangerous.</p> <p>That said, I think that there is clearly a spectrum, and I do endorse tracking at least roughly in which region of the spectrum any given case lies, because doing so creates <em>some</em> good incentives (i.e., it avoids <em>dis</em>incentivizing post-hoc honesty). On the other hand, it also creates some <em>bad</em> incentives, e.g. the incentive for the sort of self-deception described above. Truthfully, I don’t know what the optimal approach is, here. Constant vigilance against <em>any</em> failures in this whole class is, however, warranted in any case.</p> saidachmiz jsKszedXsfYv4TAMP 2018-12-11T00:35:23.667Z History of LessWrong: Some Data Graphics <p>Some graphs showing posting activity on LessWrong through the years.</p> <p><em>NOTE: If you’re reading this post on GreaterWrong, you can click on the images to enlarge, zoom in, and click through them all as a slideshow.</em></p> <p>Comments per post:</p> <p><img src="" alt="" title="Comments per post"></p> <p>The same thing, on a log scale:</p> <p><img src="" alt="" title="Comments per post (log scale)"></p> <p>Posts per month:</p> <p><img src="" alt="" title="Posts per month"></p> <p>The 100 most prolific authors over LessWrong’s lifespan:</p> <p><img src="" alt="" title="The 100 most prolific authors over LessWrong’s lifespan"></p> <p>The same thing, on a log scale:</p> <p><img src="" alt="" title="The 100 most prolific authors over LessWrong’s lifespan (log scale)"></p> <p>Whose posts have generated the most <em>total</em> discussion?</p> <p><img src="" alt="" title="Whose posts have generated the most total discussion?"></p> <p>As above, but on a log scale:</p> <p><img src="" alt="" title="Whose posts have generated the most total discussion? (log scale)"></p> <p>Data available in <a href="">a Google Docs spreadsheet</a>. (Or <a href=";id=1tGGs6FB6EWyNlqDFp64Ul21Fxs6L2Igb1lgM1cFIamY&amp;gid=0">download in CSV format</a>.)</p> <p>You can also download <a href="">an Excel spreadsheet</a>, which contains the above graphs and some intermediate processed data.</p> <p><em>Edit 2018-11-16:</em> Updated data; corrected some minor abnormalities caused by data retrieval issue. (If you’ve downloaded the data already, please re-download the corrected versions—the links are the same.)</p> saidachmiz nq5JQNzYX5mSNWmnC 2018-11-16T07:07:15.501Z New GreaterWrong feature: image zoom + image slideshows <p><a href="">GreaterWrong</a> now has a new feature: <strong>image zoom / slideshows</strong>.</p> <p>Whenever a post contains images (such as <a href="">this recent post about embedded world-models</a>), you can click on any image…</p> <p><img src="" alt="Clicking an image to enlarge"></p> <p>… to show an enlarged, “lightbox” style view of it:</p> <p><img src="" alt="Enlarged image in “lightbox”"></p> <p>You can then page through <em>all</em> the images in the post with the arrow keys, or by clicking the next/previous image buttons at the left/right edges of the screen:</p> <p><img src="" alt="Going to the next image"></p> <p>Use the scroll wheel to zoom in or out:</p> <p><img src="" alt="Zoomed in on an image"></p> <p>When zoomed in, you can drag around the screen to pan (just like Google Maps, etc.).</p> <p>Hit the space bar to reset size/position.</p> <p>Hit Escape to close the slideshow/lightbox.</p> <p><em>Edited to add:</em> You can also hit <a href="">accesskey</a>-L to start or resume the slideshow. (On Mac Chrome, for example, that’s Control-Option-L.)</p> saidachmiz pZjw7ew9TBvHpEcvt 2018-11-04T07:34:44.907Z New GreaterWrong feature: anti-kibitzer (hides post/comment author names and karma values) <p><a href="">GreaterWrong</a> now has a new feature (which <a href="">was once available for the original Less Wrong</a>):</p> <p><em>Anti-kibitzer mode</em>, which <strong>hides the names and karma values of posts and comments</strong>.</p> <p>On <a href="">GreaterWrong</a>, take a look to the right side of the page, and you’ll see this icon:</p> <p><img src="" alt="Anti-kibitzer mode toggle icon"></p> <p>Click it, and it’ll change to this:</p> <p><img src="" alt="Anti-kibitzer mode toggle icon, enabled state"></p> <p>Now the authors of posts and comments, and all karma values, are hidden:</p> <p><img src="" alt="Comment, with anti-kibitzer mode enabled"></p> <p>Click the icon again to disable. (You’ll be asked if you’re sure you want to disable anti-kibitzer mode. <em>NOTE:</em> You can <em>skip the confirmation prompt</em> by <em>holding the Shift key</em> while clicking to disable.)</p> <p><strong>Having the anti-kibitzer turned on doesn’t interfere with any other functionality.</strong> You can still post, comment, reply, vote, click on users’ names to go to their user page (where their name will be obfuscated), etc. You can turn it on or off at any time.</p> <p>Your own name, and your own karma values, are <em>not</em> hidden.</p> <p>See the <a href="">original Less Wrong post about this feature</a> for more discussion.</p> saidachmiz jD496b5RZKQkxP63N 2018-10-19T21:03:22.649Z Separate comments feeds for different post listings views? <p><em>(Inspired by discussions like <a href="">this one</a>, but also a thing that I’ve thought for a while would be a good idea.)</em></p> <p>Currently, there’s a single “recent comments” feed, which includes comments posted to <em>any</em> post—frontpage, Meta, personal blogs, Alignment Forum… even drafts! (The last of which, I assume, is merely a bug.)</p> <p>It would be cool if there were multiple comments feeds, one for each view, viz.:</p> <ol> <li>Recent comments on all posts</li> <li>Recent comments on frontpage posts only</li> <li>Recent comments on Alignment Forum posts only</li> <li>Recent comments on Meta posts</li> </ol> <p>It’s probably a lot of work for you guys to implement a UI for this, so I can totally understand it not being priority, but would it be possible to implement this feature in the backend and expose it in the API?</p> saidachmiz sEEvKfrL5uPicK3rT 2018-10-02T16:07:22.942Z GreaterWrong—new theme and many enhancements <p><em>(Previous posts: <a href="">[1]</a>, <a href="">[2]</a>, <a href="">[3]</a>, <a href="">[4]</a>)</em></p> <p><strong><a href=""></a></strong> has just added several new features and UI enhancements:</p> <h2>Modern Less Wrong theme</h2> <p>There is now a <strong>new theme</strong> (bringing the total to <strong>nine</strong> themes to choose from), called “Less”. (This theme is inspired by the design of the new, i.e. current, Less Wrong site.)</p> <p>Here’s how it looks on a desktop:</p> <p><img src="" alt="[Screenshot of “Less” theme on a desktop]"></p> <p>And on a phone:</p> <p><img src="" alt="Screenshot of “Less” theme on a smartphone"></p> <p>(See the <a href="">About page</a> for how to switch themes.)</p> <h2>Mobile theme tweaker</h2> <p>The <strong>theme tweaker</strong> feature (which lets you do things like invert colors—instantly creating a “dark mode” version of any theme—as well as adjust brightness, contrast, saturation, and hue) is now <strong>available on mobile devices</strong>.</p> <p>Open the theme selector (gear button in the lower-left of the screen), and then tap this button:</p> <p><img src="" alt="Button that opens the theme tweaker"></p> <p>And you’ll see the theme tweaker screen:</p> <p><img src="" alt="Theme tweaker UI on a smartphone"></p> <p>(See the <a href="">About page</a> for more on the theme tweaker.)</p> <h2>Strong vote display</h2> <p><a href="">Strong upvotes and downvotes</a> now display properly on GreaterWrong, in all themes.</p> <p><img src="" alt="Strong vote styling in the various themes"></p> <p><em>(Themes, starting from top left and going across by row: default, grey, ultramodern, zero, brutalist, rts, classic, less.)</em></p> <h2>Alignment Forum view</h2> <p>Click the “AF” icon next to any <a href="">Alignment Forum</a> post, and you’ll be taken to a <a href="">listing of <em>all</em> the Alignment Forum posts</a>.</p> <p><img src="" alt="Alignment Forum post icon"></p> saidachmiz xjgdtswhcxJTqu95Q 2018-10-01T07:22:01.788Z Archiving link posts? <p><strong><a href="">Link rot is a huge problem.</a></strong> At the same time, many posts on Less Wrong—including some of the most important posts, which talk about important concepts or otherwise advance our collective knowledge and understanding—are link posts, which means that a <strong>non-trivial chunk of our content is hosted elsewhere</strong>—across a myriad other websites.</p> <p>If Less Wrong means to be a repository of the rationality community’s canon, we must take seriously the fact that (as <a href="">gwern’s research</a> indicates) <strong>many or most of those externally-hosted pages will, in a few years, no longer be accessible</strong>.</p> <p>I’ve taken the liberty of putting together <a href="">a quick-and-dirty solution</a>. This is a page that, when loaded, scrapes the external links (i.e., the link-post targets) from the front page of GreaterWrong, and <strong>automatically submits them to <a href=""></a></strong> (after checking each link to see whether it’s already been submitted). A cronjob that loads the page daily ensures that as new link-posts are posted, they will automatically be captured and submitted to</p> <p>This solution does not currently have any way to scrape and submit links older than those which are on the front page today (2018-09-08). It is also not especially elegant.</p> <p>It may be advisable to implement automatic link-post archiving as a feature of Less Wrong itself. (Programmatically submitting URLs to is extremely simple. You send a POST request to <code></code>, with a single field, <code>url</code>, with the URL as its value. The URL of the archived content will then—after some time, as archiving is not instantaneous—be accessible via <code>[the complete original URL]</code>.)</p> saidachmiz ftadCBW8mJZKByqsT 2018-09-08T05:45:53.349Z Shared interests vs. collective interests <p>Suppose that I, a college student, found a student organization—a chapter of Students Against a Democratic Society, perhaps. At the first meeting of SADS, we get to talking, and discover, to everyone’s delight, that all ten of us are fans of <em>Star Trek</em>.</p><p>This is a shared interest.</p><h2>Shared interests</h2><p>A <em>shared interest</em>—in the way I am using the term—is nothing more than what it sounds like: an interest (in the broad sense of the word) that happens, for whatever reason, to be shared among all members of a group. </p><p>The distinction I want to draw is between a <em>shared interest</em> (of a group) and a <em>collective interest</em> (of a group). The former is a superset of the latter; all collective interests are, by definition, shared interests; but not all shared interests are collective interests. </p><h2>Collective interests</h2><p>What is a collective interest? </p><p>Well, suppose that I found <em>another</em> student organization (extracurricular activities look great on a résumé). This one is a <em>Star Trek</em> fan club. At the first meeting of Campus Trekkies United, we discover, to no one’s surprise, that all fifteen of us are fans of <em>Star Trek</em>. </p><p>… well, of course we’re all fans of <em>Star Trek</em>. That’s <em>why</em> we’re in the fan club in the first place! Anyone who’s not a fan, has no reason to join the fan club. And so: <em>Star Trek</em> fandom is a collective interest of Campus Trekkies United. </p><p>A <em>collective interest</em> is an interest that is shared by every member of a group <em>in virtue of being a member of that group</em>. Anyone who does <em>not</em> share that interest, will not be a group member.[1] And thus, by <em>modus tollens</em>: anyone who is a member of the group, will share that interest. It is <em>guaranteed</em> that every member of the group will share that interest. </p><h2>Details &amp; implications</h2><p>Several important consequences follow from this. </p><h3>Preservation of interests</h3><p>Unlike a collective interest, a shared interest is not at all guaranteed to <em>stay</em> shared among all group members. Nothing stops someone from joining the Students Against a Democratic Society, who does not like <em>Star Trek</em>. At that point, <em>Star Trek</em> fandom ceases to be a shared interest of SADS. (Which may lead to some awkward consequences if, for instance, we had decided to start wearing colorful jumpsuits to our political rallies.) </p><h3>Infiltration</h3><p>I said earlier that “[i]t is <em>guaranteed</em> that every member of the group will share [a collective] interest”. But is this really true? Well, it’s true if the condition for an interest being a collective one holds: that anyone who does <em>not</em> share the interest, will not join the group. </p><p>But it is dangerous to simply <em>assume</em> that this condition holds, in the absence of any mechanism by which it is ensured to hold! Is Campus Trekkies United actually making sure that non-Trekkies do not join? Certainly it seems like they have no reason to <em>want</em> to join, but is that <em>sufficient</em> to keep them out? </p><p>Suppose a fan of <em>Star Wars</em>, incensed at the idea that the university would grant meeting space and funds to fans of the rival franchise, decides to pose as a Trekkie, and signs up for Campus Trekkies United under false pretenses. He hates <em>Star Trek</em>, and wants nothing more than to see the club cease all <em>Trek</em>-related activities, and transform into, say, Campus Jedis United. Now <em>Star Trek</em> fandom is no longer a collective interest of the members of Campus Trekkies United—because they did not ensure that the condition of a collective interest holds. </p><p>In fact, it would be more precise to say that <em>Star Trek</em> fandom was <em>never</em> a <em>collective</em> interest, only ever a <em>shared</em> one—because the condition of a collective interest <em>never held in the first place</em>! </p><h3>The universal collective interest</h3><p>A collective interest of Students Against a Democratic Society (ostensibly) is being against a democratic society. A collective interest of Campus Trekkies United (ostensibly) is being a fan of <em>Star Trek</em>. </p><p>But there is one sort of collective interest that will be present in <em>any</em> organization: </p><p><strong>The continued existence of the organization itself.</strong> </p><p>Groups are how humans achieve their goals. Organization is power. It is in the interest of any member of an organization that the organization continue to exist. Any other shared interest may fail to be a collective one—except for this one. </p><h3>Illusions</h3><p>Suppose that a proper subset of a group’s members share a certain interest. This may be coincidence—nothing more than a consequence of base rates of that interest in the general population. But it may also be due to the fact that a proper subset of the group’s members itself constitutes a coherent group, which has collective interests of its own. </p><p>This also manifests in a more interesting way, as follows: </p><p>Suppose it is claimed that a certain interest is a collective interest of a given group. However, investigation reveals group members that do not share that interest. </p><p>The claimant(s) may cry “No true Scotsman”, “infiltrator”, etc. But another (and, it seems to me, more likely) explanation is that the claimed collective interest is indeed a collective interest—<em>not</em> of the whole group it’s claimed of, but rather of a proper subset of the greater group (which subset, however, may find it advantageous to be identified with the greater group). </p><p>(Finding examples of this dynamic is left as a fairly straightforward exercise to the reader.) </p><p>[1] Note that the inverse—that anyone who <em>does</em> share the interest, <em>will</em> be a group member—need not be true!</p> saidachmiz QcKJA2J5LM7prrAzM 2018-05-28T22:06:50.911Z GreaterWrong—even more new features & enhancements <p><em>(Previous posts: <a href="">[1]</a>, <a href="">[2]</a>, <a href="">[3]</a>)</em></p> <p><strong><a href=""></a></strong> has recently added a number of new features and UI enhancements, especially to the mobile version of the site:</p> <h2>Private messaging</h2> <p>You can now send and receive <strong>private messages</strong>.</p> <p><strong>To send a PM</strong>, click on a user’s name, then click “<strong>Send private message</strong>” (at the top-right):</p> <p><img src="" /></p> <p>You can <strong>view PMs that you received</strong>, send replies, and view the entire back-and-forth conversation, by going to your user page, and clicking on “<strong>Conversations</strong>”:</p> <p><img src="" /></p> <p>Received PMs also show up in your Inbox. (Any new items in your inbox make the envelope icon next to your name in the nav bar turn red.)</p> <p><img src="" /></p> <h2>Sort user’s posts/comments by karma rating</h2> <p>You can now <strong>view a user’s top-rated posts/comments</strong>, by going to their user page and switching the sort order to “Top”:</p> <p><img src="" /></p> <h2>Individual comment threads</h2> <p>You can now <strong>browse an individual comment thread on a separate page</strong>. The “anchor” icon at the top of a comment is the permalink to that comment thread’s page:</p> <p><img src="" /></p> <p><img src="" /></p> <h2>Classic Less Wrong theme</h2> <p>There is now a <strong>new theme</strong> (bringing the total to eight themes to choose from): “<strong>Classic Less Wrong</strong>”. This theme replicates, as much as possible, the styling of the old Less Wrong website (a.k.a. “Less Wrong 1.0”).</p> <p><img src="" /></p> <h2>Mobile theme selection</h2> <p>Users on mobile devices can now switch between the available themes, just like users on desktops.</p> <p><img src="" /></p> <h2>New editing UI for smartphones</h2> <p><strong>For smartphone users</strong>, a new and greatly improved post/comment <strong>editor UI</strong> is live.</p> <p><img src="" /></p> <h2>Faster loading speed</h2> <p>Changes to the server code have brought substantial <strong>speed improvements</strong>, making pages load much faster.</p> <h2>Minor enhancements</h2> <p>There are many minor UI enhancements, including:</p> <ul> <li>comment-collapse buttons on every comment thread</li> <li>upvote/downvote buttons at the bottoms of comments (as well as at the top)</li> </ul> <p>… and other minor fixes and improvements.</p> saidachmiz iGnqqoJhuHasuYA8k 2018-05-28T05:08:31.236Z Everything I ever needed to know, I learned from World of Warcraft: Incentives and rewards <p><em>This is the second in a series of posts about lessons from my experiences in </em>World of Warcraft<em>. I’ve been talking about this stuff for a long time—in forum comments, in IRC conversations, etc.—and this series is my attempt to make it all a bit more legible. I’ve added footnotes to explain some of the jargon, but if anything remains incomprehensible, let me know in the comments.</em></p> <p><em>Previous post in series: </em><a href="">Goodhart’s law</a>. </p> <hr /> <p>“How do we split the loot?” </p> <p>That was one of the biggest challenges of raiding in <em>World of Warcraft</em>.</p> <p>We’ve gotten 40 people together; we’ve kept them focused on the task, for several hours straight; we’ve coordinated their efforts; we’ve figured out the optimal strategy and tactics for taking down the raid boss; we’ve executed flawlessly (or close enough, anyway). Now, the dragon (or demon, or sentient colossus of magically animated lava) lies dead at our feet, and we’re staring at the fabulous treasure that was his, and is now ours; and the question is: who gets it? </p> <h2>The problem of the indivisible</h2> <p>“Why not divide it 40 ways? That’s only fair!” </p> <p>If only it were that easy! But the loot <em>can’t</em> be split 40 ways, because it’s not just a giant pile of gold coins; it’s (for instance): a magic warhammer, a magic staff, and a magic robe. Three[1] items; each quite valuable and desirable; each of which can be given to one person, and <em>cannot be sold or traded thereafter</em>. We have to decide, here and now, which three out of the 40 members of the raid will receive one of these rewards. The other 37 get nothing. </p> <p>What to do? </p> <p>It would be difficult to overstate how much thought went into answering this question, among <em>WoW</em> players; how much effort was spent on debating it; how much acrimony it spawned; and how critical was a good answer to it, in determining success in the most challenging endeavors in the game (high-end raiding). Disagreements in matters of loot distribution broke friendships, and ill-advised loot policies cracked guilds in half. </p> <p>Nor should this be at all surprising, for <em>World of Warcraft</em> was human civilization in microcosm. The task of organizing and coordinating a raid was project management; figuring out how to take down a raid boss was strategic planning, and practical epistemology, and mathematics; making money at the Auction House (in order to purchase performance-enhancing potions) was economics. But the distribution of loot—that was <strong>politics</strong>. </p> <h2>Pie-slicing as project management</h2> <p>To the question of “how to split the loot”, there is at least one simple answer: a roll of the dice.[2] This method was used often—in “one-off” raids, wherein a group of players would come together, for this one occasion only, to defeat a challenge (or a connected group of challenges), and then disperse, entering into no longer-term relationship with one another, possibly never to cooperate or interact again. In such cases, it was understood that your participation comes with the promise of a <em>chance</em> at winning a reward. If the group happens to find some piece of treasure which you covet, you will have an opportunity to throw your name into the hat, and—should the Random Number God smile upon you—to win the prize. That’s all you can expect, and it’s no more than anyone else is getting. In a temporary collective, made up of strangers, one can hardly ask for more. </p> <p>But such one-off groups are nowhere <em>near</em> effective enough to tackle the most difficult challenges that are available—that is, to do “progression raiding”[3]. For that, you need for the <em>same</em> 40 people to assemble, week after week, month after month; they must learn to work together smoothly, and they must all, together, learn the raid encounters, and the strategies and tactics for defeating them; and, just as importantly, all members of the raid must “get geared”—must acquire better and better equipment for their characters, in order to improve their performance and become better able to handle the next challenge, and the next. This is a <em>sustained, collective</em> effort, and it can only be managed by a persistent organization: the <strong>raid guild</strong>. </p> <p>The challenges of running a raid guild are legion; there is much to say about them—enough for many more blog posts. For now, the key point is this: for a raid guild, the question of loot distribution is, at once, <em>both</em> a serious and thorny problem, <em>and</em> a powerful tool which may be applied to many other aspects of guild management. </p> <p>There were many “loot systems”. Some were communistic: the raid leader (or a “Loot Council”, composed of the raid leader and a small handful of others) would simply decide which raid member would receive each piece of loot—“to each according to his need”. Others were at the opposite extreme—“free market” systems, where one accumulated “points” via raid attendance and contributions to the raid’s success, and the allocation of loot was decided via bidding. </p> <p>Neither extreme ever sat well with me (for reasons that should be obvious enough to anyone with any passing familiarity with the real-world economic systems to which I alluded). When the guild to which I belonged decided to get serious about progression raiding, and it came time to formulate a policy for loot distribution, I advocated for a loot system which, to this day, I consider the most ideal, of all the systems I’ve encountered. The system was adopted, and it served us well for years to come. That system was known as the “Effort Points / Gear Points” system, or <strong>EP/GP</strong>. </p> <h2>Solution: EP/GP</h2> <p>The idea of EP/GP was simple. There are some actions/behaviors that you don’t want your members to engage in at all; those you ban outright, and set whatever punishments you see fit. Those aside, however, there are two categories of things that <em>aren’t</em> discouraged: </p> <p><strong>First</strong>, there are things that you want everyone to be doing as much as possible—things that are <em>unboundedly good</em>. <strong>Second</strong>, there are things which are good for people to be doing, healthy, expected, certainly not discouraged—but you don’t want anyone doing them <em>too</em> much, and you don’t want there to be a serious <em>imbalance</em> in <em>who</em> is doing those things. </p> <p>The second category consists of things which people just <em>want</em> to do, of their own accord, and don’t really need to be <em>incentivized</em> to do; they’re their own incentives. The first category consists of things that you do generally need to incentivize people to do, even if people “want” (or <em>want to want</em>) to do them. (In <em>WoW</em>, the first category is “help the raid kill bosses” and the second category is “get gear, thus making your character more awesome”.) </p> <p>The idea of the EP/GP distribution system is that you <strong>use the first category to rate-limit the second</strong>. Each member has two quantities associated with them: EP (effort points) and GP (gear points). Both start at 0; each goes up as a consequence of actions/behaviors in that category. Do unboundedly-good prosocial thing? Your EP goes up. Do self-incentivizing indirectly-prosocial self-benefiting thing? Your GP goes up. And whenever there is any scarce resource that people want, it is <strong>allocated according to EP/GP ratio</strong>; whoever has the highest such ratio gets the resource (and their GP goes up accordingly). </p> <p>So, the more EP-generating things you do, the higher your priority in the allocation of rewards; the more GP-generating things you are allocated, the lower your priority subsequently. As long as you can define those categories, and place relevant behaviors/actions into them, EPGP works to allocate your scarce resources and incentivize members’ contributions. </p> <p>The EP/GP system has a number of ancillary benefits: </p> <p><strong>First</strong>, new members immediately get the instant gratification of being top priority for resources, as soon as they contribute anything whatsoever (as EP and GP start at 0, any contribution makes EP positive, and positive/zero = infinite priority!) Having now given and gotten something of value, they are drawn in, at which point their priority goes down to below that of regulars/veterans; it fluctuates greatly at first, then stabilizes. This incentivizes early contribution, but doesn’t make people “pay dues” excessively to get anything at all. </p> <p><strong>Second</strong>, because EP can be assigned for anything, and relative values set to whatever the administration wishes, the system makes it easy to design incentive structures that encourage whatever you like </p> <p><strong>Third</strong>, there is tangible benefit to sustained contribution, without locking out newcomers. </p> <h2>A contrast: DKP</h2> <p>“Dragon Kill Points”, or “DKP”, was, once upon a time, the most popular loot system; it long predated EP/GP.[4] In DKP, each member of a raid would receive some number of points (the titular “dragon kill points”) upon successful completion of a raid encounter. To receive a piece of loot, a raid member had to spend some of his points (the amount usually determined by a bidding contest among all raid members who wanted that item). </p> <p>DKP had many faults, and waned greatly in popularity as <em>WoW</em> aged; better systems (such as EP/GP) had come along. With DKP, if you were a newcomer, joining a raid full of veterans, the only way you were going to get anything was if no one else wanted it—otherwise you had to toil through raid after raid, contributing effort but knowing in advance that you weren’t getting anything for your efforts (except scraps from the veterans’ table, as it were). </p> <h2>What makes a good loot system?</h2> <p>The twin needs, in any group that depends, for success, on a bunch of people all contributing as much effort as possible, are: </p> <ol> <li>You have to pull in good people; </li> <li>You have to get your people to stay, and keep contributing. </li> </ol> <p>DKP was bad at #1, because the prospect of slaving away for weeks or months before you had accumulated enough to have a shot at the good stuff was daunting (and then you could be outbid by a veteran who’d been hoarding his points for longer; and even if you won, you might've just spent all your points on one thing; etc.). DKP was also bad at #2, because after you had accumulated a certain large pool of points, the incentive to keep contributing dropped off. </p> <p>EP/GP, on the other hand, is good at #1, because your first reward is basically guaranteed, as soon as you contribute something of value. And EP/GP is good at #2, because going up in priority is easy at the start, and bouncing back from getting some gear is easy, and as it gets harder, well, ratios equalize; and as long as you <em>keep contributing</em>, you stay at a good ratio, and meanwhile, the higher your EP gets (if you’re a veteran), the faster it drops when you get something.[5] </p> <h2>Is EP/GP really the best way?</h2> <p>Later in <em>WoW</em>’s history—when it became possible for high-end raid encounters to be tackled by smaller raid groups—there arose, within some raid guilds, the practice of having multiple raid groups, including some that were more ‘elite’/exclusive than the guild’s main raid group. (Members of such smaller groups typically participated in the sub-group’s raids <em>in addition</em> to taking part in the guild’s primary raiding activities.) Where a good raid guild might’ve been in the 99th percentile of competence and achievement, among the overall player population, it might have within it a smaller raid group which was much, much further toward the right tail of the raid content achievement distribution. </p> <p>Such smaller sub-groups usually did <em>not</em> use the EP/GP or other allocation system of the main group, but had their own, separate, loot policies. These policies typically skewed closer to “managed communism” than to “regulated capitalism” on the spectrum of loot systems; and I do not think that this is a coincidence. The members of these smaller, more exclusive groups—which, in virtue of their greater selectivity for competence and performance, almost always performed better and accomplished more difficult goals than a guild’s primary raiding group—exhibited a higher degree of sublimation of personal interest to group interest, than did members of a guild’s main raid group; they were more willing to make sacrifices “for the good of the raid”. </p> <p>If you’re trying to maintain a raiding guild of 100 people, keep it functioning and healthy over the course of months or years, new content, people joining and leaving, schedules and life circumstances changing, different personalities and background, etc., then it's important to maintain member satisfaction; it’s important to ensure that people feel in control and rewarded and appreciated; that they don’t burn out or develop resentments; that no one feels slighted, and no one feels that anyone is favored. You also have to recruit new members, to keep up with inevitable member turn-over. All of these things are more important than “being maximally effective at taking down this raid boss right now, and then the next five bosses this week”. If you focus on the latter and ignore the former, your guild will break and explode, and people on <em>WoW</em>-related news websites will place stories about your public meltdowns in the Drama section, and laugh at you. </p> <p>On the other hand, if you get 10 players together, and you say: “OK, dudes—we, these particular 10 people, are going to show up every single Sunday for several months, play for 6 hours straight each time, and we will push through absolutely the most challenging content in the game, which only a small handful [or sometimes: none at all] of people in the world have done”—that is a different scenario. There’s no room for “I’m not the tank but I want that piece of tank gear”, because if you do that, you will fail. </p> <p>What a group of the latter sort <em>promises</em>—which a larger, more skill-diverse, less elite/exclusive, group <em>cannot</em> promise—is the incredible rush of pushing yourself—your concentration, your skill, your endurance, your coordination, your ingenuity—to the maximum, and <em>succeeding at something really really hard</em>, as a result. That is the <em>intrinsic</em> motivation which takes the place of the <em>extrinsic</em> motivation of “getting loot”. As a result, the extrinsic motivation is no longer a resource which it is vitally important to allocate. In that scenario, your needs are the group’s needs; the group’s successes are your successes; there is no separation between you and the group—and consequently, the need for equity in loot allocation falls away, and everything is allocated strictly by group-level optimization. </p> <p>This was evident in the reactions people had, to seeing other people get loot. In a larger, somewhat-more-casual, raid group, it went like this: </p> <blockquote> <p><em>Alice gets [awesome piece of gear].</em> </p> <p><strong>Alice:</strong> yay! :D </p> <p><strong>Bob:</strong> grats </p> <p><em>[Bob is happy for Alice but also jealous, Bob wanted that thing too.]</em> </p> </blockquote> <p>In tighter-knit, more “hardcore” groups, it was more like this: </p> <blockquote> <p><em>Alice gets [awesome piece of gear].</em> </p> <p><strong>Everyone in the raid:</strong> F***| YEAH!! :D </p> <p><em>[Everyone is ecstatic that Alice got that thing; no one is jealous.]</em> </p> </blockquote> <p>In the latter case, it was not only understood, but viscerally <em>felt</em>, that every thing that <em>anyone</em> in the raid gets, is increased performance <em>for the group as a whole</em>—which is all that matters.[6]</p> <p>[1] It wasn’t always three, of course; sometimes one, sometimes four, etc.</p> <p>[2] <em>WoW</em> came equipped with such a feature; one would type <code>/roll 100</code> into the chat window, the server would generate a pseudo-random number in the range [1,100], and would output the result into the chat, for all raid members to see. Thus, everyone could roll for a piece of loot, and the person with the highest roll would receive it.</p> <p>[3] See the <a href="">previous post in the series</a> for a definition of this term.</p> <p>[4] DKP is one of the oldest loot systems; it was used even before <em>World of Warcraft</em>—in older MMORPGs like <em>EverQuest</em>.</p> <p>[5] Most EP/GP implementations also included a “decay” feature—which periodically (every week, or every month, or similar) reduced all EP and GP values by some factor—which helped even more.</p> <p>[6] Of course, that sort of thing doesn’t scale, and neither can it last, just as you cannot build a whole country like a kibbutz. But it may be entirely possible, and perfectly healthy, to occasionally cleave off subgroups who follow that model, then to meld back into the overgroup at the completion of a project (never, indeed, having truly separated from it—the sub-groups’ members continuing to participate in the overgroup, even as they throw themselves into the sub-project). </p> saidachmiz esP8ixxKzKiasNutH 2018-05-07T06:44:47.775Z Everything I ever needed to know, I learned from World of Warcraft: Goodhart’s law <p><em>This is the first in a series of posts about lessons from my experiences in </em>World of Warcraft<em>. I’ve been talking about this stuff for a long time—in forum comments, in IRC conversations, etc.—and this series is my attempt to make it all a bit more legible. I’ve added footnotes to explain some of the jargon, but if anything remains incomprehensible, let me know in the comments.</em> </p> <hr /> <p><em>World of Warcraft</em>, especially <em>WoW</em> raiding[1], is very much a game of numbers and details. </p> <p>At first, in the very early days of <em>WoW</em>, people didn’t necessarily appreciate this very well, nor did they have any good way to use that fact even if they did appreciate it. (And—this bit is a tangent, but an interesting one—a lot of superstitions arose about how game mechanics worked, which abilities had which effects, what caused bosses[2] to do this or that, etc.—all the usual human responses to complex phenomena where discerning causation is hard.) And, more importantly and on-topic, there was no really good way to sift the good players from the bad; nor to improve one’s own performance.</p> <p>This hampered progression. (“Progression” is a <em>WoW</em> term of art for “getting a boss down, getting better at doing so, and advancing to the next challenge; rinse, repeat”. Hence “progression raiding” meant “working on defeating the currently-not-yet-beaten challenges”.) </p> <h2>The combat log</h2> <p><img src="" /></p> <p>One crucial feature of <em>WoW</em> is the <strong>combat log</strong>. This is a little window that appears at the bottom of your screen; into it, the game outputs lines that report everything that happens to or around your character. All damage done or taken, all hits taken or avoided, abilities used, etc., etc.—<em>everything</em>. This information is output in a specific format; and it can be parsed by the add-on system[3]. </p> <p>Naturally, then, people soon began writing add-ons that did parse it—parse it, and organize it, and present various statistical and aggregative transformations of that data in an easy-to-view form—which, importantly, could be viewed <em>live</em>, as one played. </p> <p>Thus arose the category of add-ons known as “damage meters”. </p> <h2>The damage meters</h2> <p><img src="" /></p> <p>Of course the “damage meters” showed other things as well—but viewing damage output was the most popular and exciting use. (What more exciting set of data is there, but one that shows how much you’re hurting the monsters, with your fireballs and the strikes of your sword?) The better class of damage-meter add-ons not only recorded this data, but also synchronized and verified it, by communicating between instances of themselves running on the clients of all the people in the raid. </p> <p>Which meant that <strong>now</strong> you could have a centralized display of just what exactly everyone in the raid was doing, and how, and how well. </p> <p>This was a great boon to raid leaders and raid guilds everywhere! You have a raid of 40 people, one of the DPSers[4] is incompetent, can’t DPS to save his life, or he’s AFK[5] half the time, or he's just messing around—who can tell? </p> <p>With damage meters—everyone can tell. </p> <p>Now, you could sift the bad from the good, the conscientious from the moochers and slackers, and so on. And more: someone’s not performing well but seems to be trying, but failing? Well, now you look at his ability breakdown[6], you compare it to that of the top DPSers, you see what the difference is and you say—no, Bob, don't use ability X in this situation, use ability Y, it does more damage. </p> <h2>The problem</h2> <p>All of this is fantastic. But… it immediately and predictably began to be subverted by <a href="">Goodhart’s law</a>. </p> <p>To wit: if you are looking at the DPS meters but “maximize DPS” is not perfectly correlated with “kill the boss” (that being, of course, your goal)… then you have a problem. </p> <p>This may be obvious enough; but it is also instructive to consider the <em>specific ways</em> that those things can come uncoupled. So, let me try and enumerate them. </p> <h3>The Thing is valuable, but it’s not the only valuable thing</h3> <p>There are other things that must be done, that are less glamorous, and may detract from doing the Thing, but each of which is a <em>sine qua non</em> of success. (In <em>WoW</em>, this might manifest as: the boss must be damaged, but also, adds must be kited—never mind what this means, know only that while a DPSer is doing <strong>that</strong>, he can’t be DPSing!) </p> <p>And yet more insidious elaborations on that possibility: </p> <h3>We can’t afford to specialize</h3> <p>What if, yes, this other thing must be done, but the maximally competent raid member must <strong>both</strong> do that thing and <strong>also</strong> the main thing? He won’t DPS as well as he could, but he also can't just <em>not</em> DPS, because then you fail and die; you can’t say “ok, <strong>just</strong> do the other thing and forget DPSing”. In other words, what if the secondary task isn’t just something you can put someone full-time on? </p> <p>Outside of WoW, you might encounter this in, e.g., a software development context: suppose you’re measuring commits, but also documentation must be written—but you don’t have (nor can you afford to hire) a dedicated docs writer! (Similar examples abound.) </p> <p>Then other possibilities: </p> <h3>Tunnel vision kills</h3> <p>The Thing is valuable, but tunnel-visioning on The Thing means that you will forget to focus on certain other things, the result being that you are horribly doomed somehow—this is an <em>individual</em> failing, but given rise to by the incentives of the singular metric (i.e., DPS maximization). </p> <p>(The <em>WoW</em> example is: you have to DPS as hard as possible, <em>but</em> you also have to move out the way when the boss does his “everyone in a 10 foot radius dies to horrible fire” ability.) </p> <p>And yet more insidious versions of this one: </p> <h3>Tunnel vision kills… other people</h3> <p>Yes, if this tunnel-vision dooms <strong>you</strong>, personally, in a predictable and unavoidable fashion, then it is easy enough to say “do this other thing or else you will predictably <strong>also</strong> suffer on the singular metric” (the dead throw no fireballs). </p> <p>But the <em>real</em> problem comes in when neglecting such a secondary duty creates <em>externalities</em>; or when the destructive effect of the neglect can be pushed off on someone else. </p> <p>(In WoW: “I won’t run out of the fire and the healers can just heal me and I won’t die and I’ll do more DPS than those who don’t run out&quot;; in another context, perhaps “I will neglect to comment my code, or to test it, or to do other maintenance tasks; these may be done for me by others, and meanwhile I will maximize my singular metric [commits]”.) </p> <p>It’s almost <em>always</em> the case that <strong>you</strong> have the comparative advantage in doing the secondary thing that avoids the doom; if others have to pick up your slack there, it’ll be way less efficient, overall. </p> <h3>Optimization has a price</h3> <p>The Thing is valuable, yes; and it may be that there are ways to <em>in fact</em> increase your level of the Thing, really do increase it, <strong>but</strong> at a non-obvious cost that is borne by <em>others</em>. Yes, you are improving <em>your</em> effectiveness, but the price is that others, doing other things, now have to work harder, or waste effort on the consequences, etc. </p> <p>(Many examples of this in WoW, such as “start DPSing before you’re supposed to, and risk the boss getting away from the tank and killing the raid”. In a general context, this is “taking risks, the consequences of which are dire, and the mitigation of which is a cost borne by others, not you”.) </p> <p>Then this one is particularly subtle and may be hard to spot: </p> <h3>Everyone wants the chance to show off their skill</h3> <p>The Thing is valuable, and doing it well brings judgment of competence, and therefore status. There are <em>roles within the project’s task allocation</em> that naturally give greater opportunities to maximize your performance of the Thing, and <strong>therefore</strong> people seek out those roles preferentially—even when an optimal allocation of roles, by relative skill or appropriateness to task, would lead them to be placed in roles that do not let them do the most of the Thing. </p> <p>(In WoW: if the most skilled hunter is needed to kite the add, but there are no “who kited the add best” meters, only damage meters… well, then maybe that most skilled hunter, when called upon to kite the add, says “Bob over there can kite the add better”—and as a result, because Bob actually is <em>worse</em> at that, the raid fails. In other contexts… well, many examples, of course; glory-seeking in project participation, etc.) </p> <p>Of course there is also: </p> <h3>A good excuse for incompetence</h3> <p>This is the converse of the first scenario: if the Thing is valuable but you are bad at it, you might deliberately seek out roles in which there is an <em>excuse</em> for not performing it well (because the role’s <em>primary</em> purpose is something else)—despite the fact that, actually, the ideal person in your role <strong>also</strong> does the Thing (even if not <em>as much</em> as in a Thing-centered role). </p> <hr /> <p>[1] “Raid dungeons” were the most difficult challenges in the game—difficult enough to require up to 40 players to band together and cooperate, and cooperate <em>effectively</em>, in order to overcome them. “Raiding” refers to the work of defeating these challenges. Most of what I have to say involves raiding, because it was this part of <em>WoW</em> that—due to the requirement for effective group effort (and for other, related, reasons)—gave rise to the most interesting social patterns, the most illuminating group dynamics, etc. </p> <p>[2] “Boss monsters” or “bosses” are the powerful computer-controlled opponents which players must defeat in order to receive the in-game rewards which are required to improve their characters’ capabilities. The most powerful and difficult-to-defeat bosses were, of course, raid bosses (see previous footnote).</p> <p>[3] <em>WoW</em> allows players to create add-ons—programs that enhance the game’s user interface, add features, and so on. Many of these were very popular—downloaded and used by many other players—and some came to be considered necessary tools for successful raiding.</p> <p>[4] “Damage Per Second”, i.e. doing damage to the boss, in order to kill it (this being the goal). Along with “tank” and “healer”, “DPS” is one of the three roles that a character might fulfill in a group or raid. A raid needed a certain number of people in each role, and all were critical to success.</p> <p>[5] “Away From Keyboard”, i.e., not actually at the computer—which means, obviously, that his character is standing motionless, and not contributing to the raid’s efforts in the slightest.</p> <p>[6] In other words: which of his character’s abilities he was using, in what proportion, etc. Is the mage casting Fireball, or Frostbolt, or Arcane Missile? Is the hunter using Arcane Shot, and if so, how often? By examining the record—recorded and shown by the damage meters—of a character’s ability usage, it was often very easy to determine who was playing optimally, and who was making mistakes.</p> saidachmiz GxW8ef8tH4yX6KMrf 2018-05-03T16:33:50.002Z GreaterWrong—more new features & enhancements <p><em>(Previous posts: <a href="">[1]</a>, <a href="">[2]</a>)</em></p><p><strong><a href=""></a></strong> has been adding some more features and UI enhancements:</p><hr class="dividerBlock"/><p>GreaterWrong now has an <strong>inbox feature</strong>, which notifies you of replies to your comments. When you have new notifications, a <strong>red envelope</strong> will appear next to your username in the navigation bar. Click it to go to your Inbox. (Alternatively, click your name to go to your user page, then click the Inbox tab.)</p><p></p><hr class="dividerBlock"/><p>You can now <strong>use the keyboard to navigate lists of posts</strong> (e.g., the front page). Hit <code>.</code> (period) to select the next post in the list, or <code>,</code> (comma) to select the previous post; then hit Enter to go to the selected post.)</p><hr class="dividerBlock"/><p>You can now <strong>select the date and time from which new comments are highlighted</strong> (this works the same way as the analogous feature on Slate Star Codex).</p><p></p><p>Note that on narrow screens, this “highlight-new-comments-since” date-time field isn’t shown by default; click the new comments count to show it:</p><p></p><hr class="dividerBlock"/><p>Click the “three dots” icon in the post info line to open <strong>special linking options</strong>:</p><p></p><hr class="dividerBlock"/><p>You can now view <strong>lists of comments</strong> (e.g., the Recent Comments) page in a <strong>compact view</strong> that fits many more comments. Use the buttons pictured below to switch between expanded view (the default) and compact view. (When in compact view, you can hover over the ellipsis (“…”) icon on the right-hand-side of the comment to reveal the full comment.)</p><p>The view selection buttons:</p><p></p><p>Compact view:</p><p></p><p>Hover over a comment’s “…” icon to expand it:</p><p></p><hr class="dividerBlock"/><p>A number of <strong>new <a href="">accesskeys</a></strong> have been added.</p> saidachmiz Se5SybSfdS8owjmHw 2018-04-07T20:41:14.357Z GreaterWrong—several new features & enhancements <p><em>(I hope it’s acceptable to post this in the Meta section; if not, the mods can move it to my personal blog.)</em></p> <p><a href=""></a> (which is an <a href="">alternative way to browse the new LessWrong</a>) has been adding some new features and enhancements—here’s some of the stuff we’ve got now:</p> <ul> <li>Appearance customization (click the “sliders” button on the top-left)<ul> <li>Images in posts are now properly excluded from changes to brightness / contrast / inversion / etc.</li> </ul> </li> <li>Adjustable text size (look on the top right, just under the content width selector buttons)<ul> <li><em>Note:</em> This doesn’t work in Firefox, unfortunately.</li> </ul> </li> <li>Most functions / buttons / etc. now have <a href="">accesskeys</a>, letting you do a lot of navigation (and other things) via the keyboard<ul> <li>All available accesskeys are <a href="">listed on the About page</a> </li> </ul> </li> <li>Pagination links at the top of all listings pages (next page, previous page, etc.)</li> <li>Improved mobile layout (especially for the post/comment editing UI)</li> <li>An <a href="">updated About page</a> with detailed info on many of GreaterWrong’s features</li> </ul> <p>As always, please <a href="">let us know</a> if you’re having any problems with the site, bugs, etc. (If you do report bugs or problems, please include your browser, version, and operating system!)</p> saidachmiz 43a8x6g2nKkxHXG4v 2018-03-27T02:36:59.741Z Key lime pie and the methods of rationality saidachmiz 3JXoL76btbghNT9rz 2018-03-22T06:25:35.193Z A new, better way to read the Sequences <p>A new way to read the Sequences:</p> <p><a href=""><strong></strong></a></p> <p>It's also more mobile-friendly than a PDF/mobi/epub.</p> <p>(The content is from the book &mdash; <em>Rationality: From AI to Zombies</em>. Books I through IV are up already; Books V and VI aren't up yet, but soon will be.)</p> <p><em>Edit:</em> <a href="">Book V</a> is now up.</p> <p><em>Edit 2:</em> <a href="">Book VI</a> is now up.</p> <p><em>Edit 3:</em> A zipped archive of the site (for offline viewing) is now <a href="">available for download</a>.</p> saidachmiz YoWLYphmLRYpC2qMQ 2017-06-04T05:10:09.886Z Cargo Cult Language <p>&nbsp;</p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">A <a title="Cargo cult &mdash; Wikipedia" href="">cargo cult</a> is a religious practice based on imitating the behavior of more-advanced societies, without understanding its true nature or purpose, in the hope of receiving the apparent benefit of that behavior. Members of cargo cults &mdash; which have sprung up in a number of tribal societies following their interaction with modern cultures &mdash; build crude imitations of airstrips, radio towers, and the like, under the misapprehension that it&rsquo;s these rituals that magically attract airplanes full of material wealth (&ldquo;cargo&rdquo;) to land and deliver their goods.</span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">The term has since been applied in other contexts. Richard Feynman spoke about &ldquo;<a title="Cargo cult science &mdash; Wikipedia" href="">cargo cult science</a>&rdquo;, when scientists conduct research that superficially resembles the scientific method without any of the integrity and rigor that makes it a successful method of inquiry, and there is also &ldquo;<a title="Cargo cult programming &mdash; Wikipedia" href="">cargo cult programming</a>&rdquo;, when programmers include code in their programs without understanding its purpose, merely because they&rsquo;ve seen it used in examples or the programs of more experienced coders.</span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">I now want to extend the metaphor to a certain sort of error in language use. Call it <em>cargo cult language</em>: using words or phrases, usually incorrectly, with no understanding of the origin of the words or their exact meaning, merely on the basis of having heard such constructions elsewhere in similar contexts.</span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">Do not mistake my point for pedantic railing against mangled grammar, spelling, or pronunciation. Before I elaborate or provide examples, I&rsquo;d like to distinguish the thing I&rsquo;m talking about from two related, but subtly different, problems.</span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">The first is errors of grammar or usage: <em>their/there/they&rsquo;re</em>; <em>would of/could of/should</em><em> of</em>; <em>can&rsquo;t hardly</em>; <em>alot</em>. In each case, the speaker or writer almost certainly knows what they mean to say; they are simply mistaken about the correct way to say it. Furthermore, the reader or listener is also unlikely to be confused for any longer than the time it takes to do a mental double-take at the misused word; the context almost always resolves the ambiguities created by such errors.</span></p> <p class="p2">The second related but distinct problem is the sort of thing which George Orwell criticized in his essay &ldquo;<a title="Politics and the English Language &mdash; George Orwell" href="">Politics and the English Language</a>&rdquo;. Orwell wrote of stale, overused phrases, clich&eacute;s, and metaphors which take the place of clear language, and which can &ldquo;construct your sentences for you &mdash; even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent&rdquo;. In such cases, the speaker or writer either has no precise meaning in mind, or wants, in some vague way, to say something, but lacks the command of language to say it clearly, without resorting to prefabricated phrases which convey nothing of substance.</p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">What am I talking about, then?</span></p> <p class="p2">&nbsp;</p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1"><strong>comprise/compose/constitute</strong></span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">These three words are often confused, with &ldquo;comprise&rdquo; being the most common offender as an erroneous replacement for the other two. Phrases like &ldquo;is comprised of&rdquo; are obviously wrong, but there are also constructions such as &ldquo;X comprises Y&rdquo;, which are grammatically correct, but whose meaning is inverted if the writer&rsquo;s intended meaning was &ldquo;compose&rdquo;. The cause of this sort of error seems to be a perception that &ldquo;comprise&rdquo; is a &ldquo;fancier&rdquo; word that has the same meaning as the other two.</span></p> <p class="p2">&nbsp;</p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1"><strong>accurate/precise</strong></span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">These two words don&rsquo;t mean the same thing, but are often used interchangeably. Parsing a sentence that contains one of these often requires the reader to make some inference about the writer&rsquo;s background: a scientist who says &ldquo;precise&rdquo; means something quite different than if she were to say &ldquo;accurate&rdquo;, but your average news reporter is probably not packing any special meaning into his word choice when he says that something is &ldquo;precisely correct&rdquo;.</span></p> <p class="p2">&nbsp;</p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1"><strong>&rdquo;exponential increase&rdquo;</strong></span></p> <p class="p2">Is the increase actually exponential rather than, say, polynomial, or does the speaker simply mean &ldquo;fast growth&rdquo;? It&rsquo;s often the latter; people say &ldquo;exponential&rdquo; because they&rsquo;ve heard the term used, somewhere, to describe fast growth, and it did not occur to them that it might have a very specific meaning. (We could also blame rampant innumeracy for this one.)</p> <p class="p2">&nbsp;</p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1"><strong>&rdquo;exception that proves the rule&rdquo;</strong></span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">This example comes closest to falling into the Orwellian category I mentioned earlier, since the phrase is certainly a tired clich&eacute;, but it does have a concrete meaning: an exception which, by its existence, serves to underscore the rule. A sign that says &ldquo;free parking on Sundays&rdquo; does not have to add &ldquo;parking costs money on other days&rdquo; because the exception proves the rule.<sup><a href="#footnote1">1</a></sup>&nbsp; The other usage, seemingly more common these days despite being quite nonsensical, takes the phrase to refer to any exception. It is clear in such cases that the speaker simply has no idea why they are using the phrase; imitation without understanding.</span></p> <p class="p2">&nbsp;</p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">Cargo cult language can be distinguished from simple errors of grammar, usage, or style by considering the question: &ldquo;What do you mean by that?&rdquo; With a grammar error, the reader or listener almost always <em>does</em> knows what is meant. At most, there&rsquo;s a double-take, a mental stumble as the erroneous construction is parsed; but the meaning is usually not obscured. Use of cargo cult language, on the other hand, can introduce genuine ambiguities and block comprehension, especially because it often isn&rsquo;t clear whether the speaker really knows what he&rsquo;s saying and means to say it or is simply parroting.</span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">In the Orwellian case, the words have lost their meaning, becoming empty platitudes. In the case of cargo cult language, on the other hand, the words <em>do</em> have a meaning, but the meaning is not what the speaker thinks; or he doesn&rsquo;t know the meaning, only using the phrase because he&rsquo;s heard it said in a similar context.</span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">In my experience, cargo cult language turns up most often in technical conversations, and I do not think it is coincidence that the term &ldquo;cargo cult&rdquo; originated in the context of modern technology as seen by less-advanced societies, nor that its other two most common uses come from science and computer programming. It is related, I think, to the phenomena of <a title="Science as Attire &mdash; Less Wrong" href="/lw/ir/science_as_attire/">science as attire</a>&nbsp;and <a title="Fake Explanations &mdash; Less Wrong" href="/lw/ip/fake_explanations/">fake explanations</a>; an attitude of <a title="Magical thinking &mdash; Wikipedia" href="">magical thinking</a>&nbsp;toward technical matters that treats the language of science and technology as a sort of ritual, in which you invoke certain phrases to lend authority to what you&rsquo;re saying, and where knowing exactly what the words mean is of secondary importance at best.</span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">Cargo cult language is not limited to technical discourse, naturally. I suspect that most Internet debates are rife with examples, no matter the topic. In each case, it impedes comprehension, by making the reader doubt his understanding of what&rsquo;s being said, or, worse, by creating the illusion of transparency. Frustratingly, asking for clarification is often unhelpful; there&rsquo;s a clear loss of status in admitting that you have no idea what you&rsquo;re saying and are just parroting words to sound smart. Thus &ldquo;hmm, is that really what you meant to say?&rdquo; is often met with absurd arguments to the effect that no, this phrasing is not nonsensical after all, these words mean what I want them to, and who the hell are you to try to legislate usage, anyway?</span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">A reasonable position to take, perhaps, if your interlocutor is merely insisting on adherence to some grammatical or stylistic standard. The tragedy of cargo cult language, however, is that there is a <a title="Fallacies of Compression &mdash; Less Wrong" href="/lw/nw/fallacies_of_compression/">difference in meaning</a> between the correct usage and the wrong one, and a <a title="The Virtue of Narrowness &mdash; Less Wrong" href="/lw/ic/the_virtue_of_narrowness/">loss of accuracy</a>&nbsp;due to conflating them. Fail to recognize this at your own peril.</span></p> <p class="p2">&nbsp;</p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1" style="font-size: smaller"><sup><a name="footnote1"></a>1</sup>&nbsp;There is also a secondary meaning: sometimes what at first <em>seems</em> to be an exception turns out, upon examination, to be an instance of the rule after all, thus confirming that there are no real exceptions and that the rule holds for all cases. &ldquo;Proves&rdquo; in such cases means something like &ldquo;tests&rdquo;, as in &ldquo;proving ground&rdquo;. (<a title="&quot;Exception that proves the rule&quot; &mdash; Wikipedia" href=""></a>) This is still completely different from the erroneous usage.</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> saidachmiz iyfG8nYnnC58Rhrc8 2012-02-05T21:32:56.631Z