Are we prepared for Solar Storms? 2021-02-17T15:38:03.338Z
What's the evidence on falling testosteron and sperm counts in men? 2020-08-10T08:58:47.851Z
[Reference request] Can Love be Explained? 2020-07-07T10:09:17.508Z
What is the scientific status of 'Muscle Memory'? 2020-07-07T09:57:12.311Z
How credible is the theory that COVID19 escaped from a Wuhan Lab? 2020-04-03T06:47:08.646Z
The Intentional Agency Experiment 2018-07-10T20:32:20.512Z


Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on Search-in-Territory vs Search-in-Map · 2021-06-11T22:19:25.524Z · LW · GW

A very basic yet, to my mind, novel and profound distinction. Thank you, John!

Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on Heliocentrism in the ancient era · 2021-06-04T13:20:34.082Z · LW · GW

I emailed Viktor Blasjo, an expert on the history of mathematics and physics on this post. I quote:

Very nice, but the author neglects another strong argument: how Aristarchus's own treatise on the sizes of the sun and the moon suggests physical support for heliocentrism. See pages 86-88 of

Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on We need a career path for invention · 2021-05-29T15:00:21.999Z · LW · GW

Let me outline a very simple model of technological progress. 

Innovations get exponentiably harder. As the lower-hanging fruits get picked, one needs to combine and master more and more previously understood scientific knowledge to get higher. Moreover, fruits higher up in knowledge tree may be intrinsically harder to pick. 

As an example, see the ever increasing material complexity and size of particle colliders. I.e. LHC to earlier backyard garage colliders. 

Our ability to pick fruit does still increase but that ability may not necessarily increase comparably fast.

Between ~1850-1950 the effective amount of brain power increased substantially. More important than just population growth is probably increased literacy, urbanization, formal education, improved nutrition, improved communication methods to facilliate knowledge etc etc. It might have increased the total effective amount of brain power applied by ~ two orders of magnitude.  

By comparison in the period ~1950-2020 the total amount of brain power may have only increased  ~a couple times. 

One has to be cognizant of the fact that innovations are made by a tiny percentage of highly excentric and talented individuals. This may not always line up with the mean of the population. 

We see substantially more collaboration in Science, and a much larger number of scientists, and a greatly increased amount of specialization. The sum of human scientific expertise does not fit comfortably in the skull of an unedited Homo Sapiens, and this capacity difference is increasing over time. 

Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on How credible is the theory that COVID19 escaped from a Wuhan Lab? · 2021-05-15T15:56:33.303Z · LW · GW

An update. 

This recent article by Nicolas Wade: is particularly damning, going into details into many lines of evidence all pointing towards COVID-19 accidently being released from the Wuhan Lab.  

I recommend anybody interested in reading the article. It has made me update substantially towards an accidental-lab-release origin for COVID-19.

My current estimate for such a lab-release origin is ~85%. 


Update: Some further googling brought up some skepticism towards some of Nicolas Wade's claims, here and here

my best estimate is now 65% for a lab-release. This is still a substantial update from my initial ~20% for a lab release origin for COVID-19 (estimated in hindsight).

Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on We need a career path for invention · 2021-04-30T13:20:17.719Z · LW · GW

Alternative theory: most of the low-hanging fruit has been picked. In the information-technology side of things we see an enormous amount of innovation, often because it is possible to create new products with a garageband skeleton crew. In the physical realm, thing are simply much harder, much more specialized. 

Also, there is a negative feedback loop: since the world is much more specialized there are fewer people working in technical fields, and hence fewer people having the basis in technical know-how that might lead to chance-inventions [which I learned from you was a typical story during the early Industrial Revolution in Great Britain]. 

How would you respond to this take?

Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on Beliefs as emotional strategies · 2021-04-11T07:37:58.347Z · LW · GW

I enjoyed this write-up. 

Buuut... I have to ask: how do we know your emotional stories are ' correct' and not just-so-stories?

Sure I can imagine that the whole story with the mother and the child is factually correct, yet is it really the reason that the child is giving up prematurely?

Maybe just maybe the child simply doesn't like doing hard things, doesn't like math, or is genuinely untalented or maybe there is completely different crazy complex story about the relations with their relatives, some deep early childhood trauma.

From personal and other people's experiences I agree that hearing the 'right emotional story' can be satisfying and give a sense of relief. Sometimes it will even lead me/other people to make short-term change. But that's different from it making any long-term changes (like changing one's work ethic), and even that doesn't mean it is true [just a helpful delusion!].  

Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on [Prediction] The Consequences of Radical Reform · 2021-03-11T15:29:55.981Z · LW · GW

Is it possible that political reform may have a causal influence on economic outcomes? Sure. 

Does this study prove and - more importantly- rigorously quantify this influence? No. 

The statistics are simply not powerful enough to yield such strong conclusions. 

The effect size is small, there is clear garden-of-forking-paths going on (only finding a real effect on urbanization), one has to mediate for a simple west-east axis. It is also highly suspicious that the effect only starts to take effect after 1850. etc etc etc

This could be pure noise. The study does not adequately reject the null hypothesis. 

Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on [Prediction] The Consequences of Radical Reform · 2021-03-10T11:12:52.540Z · LW · GW

I am quoting notJosephConrad :

Would it really kill economists to stick some reference to effect size in the abstracts of these things? If this were a clinical trial, and the authors were like "hey, good news, napoleolimumab increases modernization, now FDA-approved for your unsightly problems with Prussian stagnation" they'd have the common decency to say "10 years of french reforms increases the primary endpoint of urbanization in 1900 by 9% from 41% to 50%" But instead i had to hunt through the text for it like a goddamn animal (page 23, if you care. They also have a point estimate of 36% GDP increase.

But now that they forced me to go through the paper, some not-terribly informed thoughts:

1. I have the usual concerns about econ research -- were any of these analyses pre-specified? How many different analyses were tried before they went with this one, etc.

2. If I am reading this correctly, by 1850 no changes are seen. So all the positive effect of the new institutions is from 1850-1900. Interesting.

3. Riffing on '2' -- maybe this can be spun as another example of "industrialization changes everything" or "conservatism is a better default in the absence of massive scientific/technological change." Blowing up institutions in 700 AD does you no good, because there's no innovation to take advantage of, you just get chaos. Blowing up institutions in 1800 AD helps, because it enables social shifts to take advantage of new modes of production.

4. And just for honesty: my prediction was "can't discern an obvious effect" (which in retrospect was idiotic given that if it were a null effect it never would have been published)

In other words, this is chasing noise, zero-value research. Daron Amoglu is the most-cited economist in the world. His speciality is development economics. One of the foundational axioms is that historical contigencies have large effects on economic development decades or centuries later. This is a highly problematic assumption, one I think is mostly wrong. However, it is a treasure trove for telling 'interesting stories'. 

All these questions are implictly highly politicized. There is a pretension that economists are doing value-free research. This is a good ideal but very difficult; in practice there is an enormous incentive to p-hack noise into providing fodder for socially-approved stories.

My take-away message:

  1. You cannot trust 99% of social science research &Almost all social science researchers are highly sophisticated frauds 

 2. All big claims about the social world are so highly correlated with an implicit background worldview that is highly politicized. 

3. Never trust anything in a social science paper that you have not personally checked. 

Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on What's the evidence on falling testosteron and sperm counts in men? · 2021-02-28T12:12:08.698Z · LW · GW

Thank you Waveman.

For the record, it wasn't my intention to antagonize anybody with my tongue-in-cheek phrasing. Nostalgic macho cowboys have feelings too =)

From Waveman's article:

These findings indicate that the past 20 yr have seen substantial age-independent decreases in male serum T concentrations, decreases that do not appear to be the consequence of the contemporaneous trends in health and lifestyle considered here. It remains unclear to what these apparent population-level decreases in T are attributable.

Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on What's the evidence on falling testosteron and sperm counts in men? · 2021-02-28T12:07:06.354Z · LW · GW

Coming back at this issue it seems possibly quite serious, it certainly seems underexamined.

I found this Vox article and the wikipedia page useful. It seems quite clear that there is quite a large drop in Western countries. That a similar drop isn't seen in non-Western countries is especially telling.

The Vox article also points towards research into in-utero exposure to certain chemicals permanently decreasing sperm count. This also seems quite scary.

For example, there’s compelling data that in utero phthalate exposure is linked to a decrease in something called “anogenital distance,” or AGD, in male babies. AGD is the space between the anus and the genitals, and a man’s is usually twice as long as a woman’s. In men, a shorter AGD has been associated with poorer semen quality, less testosterone, and a higher risk of infertility.

One of the scientists to first describe this phenomenon, Mount Sinai’s Shanna Swan, told Vox that these early chemical exposures have lifelong results. “The lowered androgen and alteration of development that happens in utero [results in] changes that are lifelong,” she said. “They are not correctable. Maybe in the future with genetic modification, you can alter a man’s germ cells that produce his sperm — but for now, if those are impacted adversely, a man will have a lowered sperm count his whole life.”

Separately, a March 2019 study found exposure to phthalates and polychlorinated biphenyl — again, two ingredients found in plastics — damaged the quality of sperm exposed to the chemicals.


This Forbes article is a typical piece about falling testosterone counts in men. Much is made of changing cultural mores, social expectations of men, etc. The biological component seems to get mentioned only in passing.

I found this article by urologists quite frightening. The effect size is eye-popping.

After controlling for confounders—including year of study, age, race, BMI, comorbidity status, alcohol and smoking use, and level of physical activity—total testosterone was lower among men in the later (2011-2016) versus earlier (1999-2000) cycles (P < 0.001). Mean total testosterone decreased from 1999-2000 (605.39 ng/dL), 2003-2004 (567.44 ng/dL), 2011-2012 (424.96 ng/dL), 2013-2014 (431.76 ng/dL), and 2015-2016 (451.22 ng/dL; all P < .0001).

Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on Different kinds of language proficiency · 2021-02-26T19:03:05.510Z · LW · GW

Another thing to note that your Swedish & Finnish and English vocabularies might not have a proper inclusion relation. My technical & academic vocabulary is larger in English than in my native language, but for household appliances/vegetables/flowers it's the other way around. 

Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on Never Go Full Kelly · 2021-02-26T18:59:21.258Z · LW · GW

I initially gave this post a double upvote after a skim-read. The topic is of clear interest, and these ideas are new to me. Unfortunately, after taking a closer look I found the details difficult to follow. I decided to look at the linked paper. It seems you are trying to summarize this paper, perhaps this could be stated clearly at the top of the post.

Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on Weird Things About Money · 2021-02-24T14:49:51.739Z · LW · GW

Possibly relevant in the context of Kelly betting/ maximazing log wealth.

Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on Timeline of AI safety · 2021-02-09T08:43:12.667Z · LW · GW

Ah! Excuse me for my drive-by comment, I should have clicked the link.

Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on Timeline of AI safety · 2021-02-08T14:32:24.152Z · LW · GW

The effort is commendable. I am wondering why you started at 2013?

Debatably it is the things that happened prior to 2013 that is especially of interest.

I am thinking of early speculations by Turing, Von Neumann and Good continuing on to the founding of SI/MIRI some twenty years ago and much more in between I am less familiar with - but would like to know more about!

Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on I Was Not Almost Wrong But I Was Almost Right: Close-Call Counterfactuals and Bias · 2021-02-02T15:29:30.684Z · LW · GW

Datapoint: I skim-read the article today. I am interested in the overal thesis [need for closureness, counterfactual modelling etc]. I skipped the Dr. Zany story. 

Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on Against Sam Harris's personal claim of attentional agency · 2021-01-31T13:15:46.562Z · LW · GW

I see two views:

Sam Harris the Enlightened Guru, calm-voiced, leader,  unjudgemental, high status, above it all. 

Sam Harris a Flawed Mortal, full of judgements, self-denial, caught up in the Culture War.

I sense a conflict between these two views you might have of Sam Harris. Is there something to this?

Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on #2: Neurocryopreservation vs whole-body preservation · 2021-01-13T11:36:32.730Z · LW · GW

Uploading seems the most plausible route with very high probability to me. 'Reviving' a frozen body seems impossible: neurons in the brain will be severely damaged, there seems no plausible way to repair them without magic nanotech at which point uploading seems easier. 

Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on 2020's Prediction Thread · 2020-09-01T07:10:03.265Z · LW · GW

Good point..! I also recently came upon

I thought I remebered that some of the mechanisms were unknown.

Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on Was a PhD necessary to solve outstanding math problems? · 2020-07-10T20:32:42.874Z · LW · GW

It's really quite simple. Doing mathematical work at the highest levels requires both extraordinary talent and single-minded focus on mathematics. Mathematics is to some degree a younger man's game, yet modern mathematics requires knowing vast amounts of previous work to have any shot at solving a serious conjecture.

Doing a PhD is the most straightforward path to acquiring the knowledge to make a serious attack. Most fields will require upwards of a decade to build up enough technical experience to attempt to solve famous open problems.

Spending say 5 years acquiring money to do independent work doesn't seem like a good plan, when the people who have the talent required to solve one of these problems are almost guaranteed to obtain an academic position.

Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on [Reference request] Can Love be Explained? · 2020-07-09T12:39:15.782Z · LW · GW

This is what I was looking for. Thank you, Gwern!

The heart has its reasons that reason knows not of
Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on [Reference request] Can Love be Explained? · 2020-07-07T14:33:59.603Z · LW · GW

I mean romantic attraction.

Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on [Personal Experiment] One Year without Junk Media: Six-Month Update · 2020-06-21T16:32:18.187Z · LW · GW

One problem I have in keeping this kind of regime is that I often find myself going around my blocking software, e.g. through using private browsing. Do you have a recommendation for something that works more generally?

Have you tried software like RescueTime? I have used it in the past and was happy about it (it is a more comprehensive system than just plain blockers; also tracking what you are wasting time on; allowing differeent levels of usefulness etc)

Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on [Personal Experiment] One Year without Junk Media: Six-Month Update · 2020-06-21T08:25:07.111Z · LW · GW

Your experiment sounds very interesting. I would like to follow in your footsteps.

Could you detail for a digitally illiterate how you did this?

How long should I keep it up before I will feel results in your estimation?

What site plugin did you use?

Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on What is a decision theory as a mathematical object? · 2020-05-25T17:34:54.628Z · LW · GW

Fundamentally, finding a good mathematical definition of decision theory that encompasses all the phenomena people care about is a big open problem.

Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on [deleted post] 2020-04-20T19:42:46.998Z

Is this a joke? Genuine question. :) It seems English might not be your native language.

Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on How credible is the theory that COVID19 escaped from a Wuhan Lab? · 2020-04-04T06:23:34.644Z · LW · GW

Why is it an infohazard?

Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on Resource for the mappings between areas of math and their applications? · 2020-03-30T09:08:28.820Z · LW · GW

I will go against the advice that you were offered. Especially early on I think trying to understand applications can be a bit of a trap. Either the application is so simple it can be explained without the math[e.g. twisting a factory band into a Mobius strip to make the band wear on both sides, square-cube law, logistic curves in epidemics] or the details are actually quite complicated, which may obscure one's understanding of what is the actual generalizable math concept and what is specific to this problem.

The prototypical application of calculus is Newton's work on astronomy & mechanics. This is a typical case of the latter.

That said, I suppose you've heard of

[1] 3Blue1Brown

Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on March Coronavirus Open Thread · 2020-03-20T12:36:02.722Z · LW · GW

Just like to chime in to say that this (=' flattening the curve/ herd immunity') fundamentally doesn't work, and you don't need to have a PhD in epidemiology from Imperial College to understand this [but you might need a PhD in epidemiology to misunderstand it], just basic arithmetic and common sense.

Suppose 50% of the UK (33 million people) get the virus of which 5% (~ 1.8 million people) will need serious hospitalization [conservative estimate]. The current capacity of ICU beds in the UK is something on the order of 2000 beds , depending on occupancy rates, ability to scale up et cetera. Let's be extremely optimistic and somehow the UK is able to quintuple this capacity [as far as I can tell this is unlikely]. When somebody is sick they might need care for 2 weeks. The annual hospital capacity is: 25 weeks * 10.000 beds= 250k. At the moment the capacity is nowhere that (perhaps 50-100k).

You can see that 1.8 million is far larger than 100k or even 250 k. Even wildly optimistic estimates will not yield anything realistic. This assumes that the government is somehow able to control the infection spreading over a year; instead of two months. There is no reason to think they can do this without extreme (partial) lockdown measures. Controlling the R0 is extremely hard. All the mild measures seem to help only a tiny little bit. If the R0 is only a bit over 1, we still have exponential growth; and you have merely pushed timelines back a few months.

Can we perhaps expose young people but lock up older people for one-two years [when the vaccin might arrive]? I find this is extremely unlikely; you need only a couple people to flout the rules to wipe out an entire nursing home.

Is it worth it to (partially) lock down the entire country for a year to save maybe a hundred thousand old people?
There are only two real possible approaches:

1. Let the Boomers die. If we're lucky the death rate is ~0.7 percent. When (not if) hospitals overflow this will easily triple. Without medical care, once you go critical you simply can't breath [though I heard something to the effect that most/many deaths are due to cardiac arrest]. Simple as that. With a massive host population the virus will mutate and we might have the same problem every year [<- this very real possibility is perhaps the most important to think about].

2. total lock down -> squash the curve, followup with massive testing Gangnam style and extensive contact tracing [also: Fast-track all possible vaccins/treatments and fire Chief Medical Officer]. This seems to work so far in all East-Asian countries. Why the people with actual experience and succes in this matter get systematically ignored in these discussion will be a question for historians.

I know my preferred approach. There is no linear response to an exponential tide.


Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on The recent NeurIPS call for papers requires authors to include a statement about the potential broader impact of their work · 2020-02-24T10:30:35.367Z · LW · GW

Goodhart's Law poised to strike.

Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on 2020's Prediction Thread · 2020-01-14T04:53:04.200Z · LW · GW

Usual disclaimers apply: probabilities are not exact betting odds, I try to give quantitive assessments wherever I can but many predictions are too vague to quantify etc. If I am still alive in 2030 I will try to give my subjective assessment to what degree I agree with the predictions.

1. a China will become #1 economy in the coming decade, but will experience continued economic slowdown.

2. Taiwan put under siege by China (i) economically 80% (ii) militarily 50%
conditional on (ii) the US will back down 90%
conditional on the US not backing down this will lead to a nuclear exchange between US and China 10%

3. A missile/drone strike on an aircraft Carrier, crippling the ship 4%

4. India will commit what will later be regarded by a significant fraction of Western observers as genocide in Kashmir 10 % (low confidence)

5. Economic slowdown in the West (GDP/capita growth for 2020-2030 lower than 2010-2020) 70% - a plausible story is an aging population
6. Nuclear strike anywhere in the world 5%
7. a Continuing secularisation in the Middle-East 75%
b continuing secularisation in the West 85%
8.a Subsaharan Africa continues making little gdp /capita gains 70%.
b Population will continue to boom. Fertility will fall modestly 70%
c Immigration streams to the West from 3rd World countries, particularly Africa will increase 70%

9. Smoking/drinking will continue to fall worldwide, party drugs (MDMA etc) will become much more widespread 70% & 70%
10. No economic Recession comparable with the 2008 Great Recession 85%

Politics & Culture Wars
1. Revolution in Energy will increasingly make present discussion around climate change irrelevant

2. a Trump does not win reelection 70%
b conditional on Biden winning the primary, no crazy things (i.e. somebody dieing) Biden wins 85 %

3.a Conditional on it happening, Brexit impact on UK/England GDP per capita long-term will be negligible (< 2% of GDP counterfactually)

b conditional on (a), there will still be a significant fraction of people who honestly think that Brexit was a disaster. Most people
4. Higher education bubble in US will subside (echoing Vaniver, hard to make it more concrete, more know it when you see it)

5.a Traditional media will continue to fall into irrelevance, concentrate in a few major firms. Later into the decade I expect the decline to halt, traditional media taking a specialized role for particularly high authority/ high importance news. I model this as similar to Radio still having specialized uses.
b (some) Youtube& Instagram stars will attain widespread fame and recognition in a much broader context as the Millenial generation moves towards middle age. But I do not expect them to displace current celebrity elite based on tv&movie stars, musicians, sports heroes, etc.
c followup on b), the fragmentation of assigned status will continue in the West [but not necessarily globally, as globalization homogenizes cultures].
6. What will happen with the Culture Wars? This is very hard to predict. Will the apparent trend of increased polarisation continue, or will the opposite occur?
- Straight Woke memes will become less cool with the incoming generation of young people, mostly because whatever your parents do isn't cool. But the ideas of social justice will continue their expanse, particularly in the Middle east, South America, South-east Asia & India: social justice memes are fundamentally fit in a world of increasing wealth & communication. Another fundamental force is the continuing expanse of English: new media like youtube, continuing globalization etc have given renewed impetus all over the world to learning English. Of course these movements generate their own antitheses; it seems like historically many conflicts arise from a modernizing center versus a lagging periphery.
China & East Europe seem more like a wild card here: eastern Europe seems to have strong explicitly anti- Social justice political movements while China is a surveillance state with very strong hard-Nationalistic rightwing sentiments under the population.
- Trans-rights increasingly accepted
- Alt-Right ideas increasingly normalized (Likely) - It seems that moderate right wing parties are losing hearts and minds against more radical alternatives.
- Identity politics/ voting along identity continues in strength (Likely)
- increase popularity national unity/ decreased polarisation candidates in US. After Trump I expect a backlash towards more moderate, unifying candidates.
- Right-wing populist parties in Western Europe continue to grow, will remain mostly out of governments.
but at least one right-wing populist party will be in government in a Western European country that is not Italy

1.a More babies born with edits for medical reasons 85%
b more babies born with edits for non-medical reasons 70%
c babies born with explicitly IQ edits 60%
d CRISPR or CRISPR like techniques cure >5 genetic disease 70%
2. a Discovery cure for (1) large fraction of obesity (2) large fraction of heart disease (3) Male Pattern baldness (4) Dandruff 10/10/20/20

b Conditional on a) this cure is available on the market 30%
c conditional on a) this cure works by defeating some sort of germ/biological agent 20%/30%/80%/80%
3. Note: by mini-drone I mean a small drone that one would buy in the store, not the unmanned aerial vehicles and its siblings that the US military employs.
a) mini-Drone attacck will kill major Political Figure 85%
b) mini-Drone/drone bombs will be used in major terrorist attack killing many civilians 85%
c) conditional on a or b, massive fear around drone warfare
d) UAVs will become more and more dominant.
e) Something I am not sure about: will thee US military start phasing out fighter aircraft for automated vehicles or is this perhaps one of those jobs that is very hard to automate?
4. Crazy person kills AI researcher because of vaguely AI risk type concerns 80%
5. Top ranked Starcraft Broodwar player trounced by AI by 2025 (70%) by 2030 (85%)
6.a SpaceX sends that Japanese Billionaire around the moon 55%,
b conditional on a launch, it goes wrong 10%
c SpaceX will land unmanned probe on mars by 2030 85%
d SpaceX will land a human on Mars by 2030 60%
e SpaceX will become wildly successful and highly valuable with Starlink technology 60%

f Tesla will be the largest automotive company by market cap at least once 70% [this is the only prediction that I can actually bet on, but I do not own Tesla stocks... you decide what that means]
7. Self-driving cars will finally become a practical reality -?? very uncertain, I have very little knowledge about this, I see convincing arguments for both sides. Certainly it seems that self-driving cars in some capacity - perhaps trucks driving pre-determined routes- will become a reality, but I remain uncertain. I predict I will update strongly one way or another on learning more about this subject.
8. Exoplanet that is an almost copy of earth discovered (i.e. habitable zone, water, same size etc)- Likely too vague to give quantitative estimate.
9.a) An AI will compose a hit song without significant assistance. (80%)
b) AI-assistance in arts/creative professions such as writing (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, journalism), music, as well as in daily life will be widespread.

10. DeepFakes will be huge.
a) porn with DeepFakes will start seriously competing with real life performers
b) remix art with deepfakes; i.e. reshooting the (dissapointing) ending of popular tv dramas, completely redoing old films, etc etc.
c) value of videoevidence will be much less persuasive. This will have massive implications for court proceedings.

11. AI Autumn - the spectular developments we have seen recently with deep learning and related methods are unlikely to be equalled in the coming decades [just a regression to the mean argument here + there was somewhat of a compute overhang that is unlikely to be repeated] but the space of things to try seems quite large + the field is well-funded and attracting a lot of talent.

12. No Superintelligence by 2030; pretty clear. 95% Mostly a prior on complexity, reaction against hype etc.
13. a Satoshi Nakomoto (briefly) richest person in history 30%
14. >80% of cars on the road in US will be electric 80%
15. Working anti-aging intervention for mice 20% , working anti-aging for humans 10%, on the market 5%.
16.a VR entertainment will be the majority of the game market in terms of revenue - 70%
b VR entertainment will be a decided minority in terms of time spent playing. - 70%.
c VR porn will become a thing. Easy prediction here.
17. Military-grade lasers will evolve from mostly testing prototypes to usable weapons - somewhat likely

1. In general, Rationalist memes will become much more mainstream

a) Existential risk, in particular AI x-risk will be regularly mentioned by mainstream media- Likely
b) AI safety more generally will be a topic that commands at least 10% of the attention that global warming does - Likely

c) increased acceptance of cryonics & assisted suicide -Likely
d) HPMOR and the associated rationalist memeplex will be atleast well-known enough to need little explanation in high-brow circles.

22.a) AI Safety will be a respected academic discipline 90%

b) MIRI-style research will be a decided minority within this discipline 80%

c) MIRI will not continue their nondisclosure policy in the present form 70%

23. Effective Altruism mainstreamed significantly - 85%
Miscellaneous & Personal 1. I will become a parent 50 %
2. I change my specialization significantly 40% [It shocks me how high this is if I apply the outside view... generally applying outside view to oneself is distressing...]
3. I will die 1.28 %
4.a) Proof-assistants will be part of undergraduate math curriculum - not sure about this one; it is being done right now in an undergraduate program in London, and it seems to make sense. The undergrad math curriculum is already pretty full as is. Somewhat likely.
b) (Homotopy) Type theory will be offered as a regular module in good European Mathematics/Compsci Bachelor or Master's programs Likely

5. Programming will be offered as a serious stand-alone course at my high school. 65%
6. Significant developments in understanding agents based on Compositionality- somewhat likely

Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on Is cardio enough for longevity benefits of exercise? · 2020-01-11T00:48:42.285Z · LW · GW

People report feeling better because of all kinds of reasons. This line of reasoning seems unlikely to convince a skeptic.

Let me throw out an alternate hypothesis, which is a little extreme but ought to be considered: doing sports is a form of health signalling. People signal their health and conscientiousness by sports. Let's call it the Health Causes Sports theory, as opposed to the Sports Causes Health theory. Notice that this neatly explains people feeling good after sports: they succesfully send a difficult-to-fake signal.

A problem with the Sport Causes Health theory is the weak evolutionary story. Why would expending energy and risking bodily harm for no concrete payoff be good for one's health? Many sports carry moderate health risks. Wouldn't it make more sense to not have health tied to activity?

The strongest argument is the Greasing the Gears - theory: by streneous activity people grease their bodily machinery. Too much is bad, but so is too little, and modern humans do too little of it. If this theory is right, it certainly doesn't seem to be any specific muscle [ as the precise sport doesn't seem to matter] but a generalized cardiovascular capacity.

It seems true that modern peoples are much more sedentary than in the past. On the other hand, the amount of activity that people display likely varies wildly over societies& time & place. The 'optimal level of activity' likely also varies with genetic background. If there really was a need to grease physical machinery one would think that the body would try to automatically modulate this, in the same way it has a thermostat for many important physical quantities.

The best argument for the Sport Causes Health theory is probably rats: exercising rats seems to increase their lifespan. There is a plausible story that this has something to do with mitochrondial capacity [I recommend de Grey's book Ending Aging and Nick Lane's 'Mitochrondia' for some possible theories]. Yet lots of things increase lifespan of rats, most famously calorie restriction. Here too, there is a plausible sounding mitochrondial story, as well as other stories. Yet the consensus is that the lifespan increase for humans using calorie restriction is relatively small, if not wholly insignificant [There was a recent post on SSC about this; my takeaway was that even if the effect exists it absolutely wasn't worth it]. Generally, only a tiny fraction of experiments with mice/rats replicate in humans [I've heard 10% being bandied around].

Most supercentenarians don't seem to have engaged in heavy sports, while top sportsmen & women do not exhibit exceptional lifespan increases over the general population. More general, the effect of iq on lifespan is much larger, suggesting underlying biological/genetic reasons dominate for lifespan.

Does this explain all health variance with regard to sports? I would say that's pushing it, yet I certainly would like to see this alternate hypothesis considered. I think there are some good arguments to be made for both theories (Sport Causes Health, Health Causes Sports). All in all, my best guess is that very moderate amount of activity is likely beneficial for health, but sports in excess of that is mostly health-signalling.

See also Hanson about signalling in team sports/competitions:

Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on Is cardio enough for longevity benefits of exercise? · 2020-01-04T18:56:17.146Z · LW · GW

Twin studies make my heart sing, so if you have a link I would be grateful!

Circulation and stress regulation are rather vague. There is more blood flowing, so suddenly your neurons are long-term better working? How is this consistent with (i) the blood-brain barrier and (ii) the general observation that cognition cannot be reliably be improved by interventions? Also, what is the evolutionary story?

The sleep quality seems anecdotally somewhat real. If you follow the links above otoh much of the research seems rather iffy.

In general, references would be appreciated.

Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on Is cardio enough for longevity benefits of exercise? · 2020-01-03T21:45:19.193Z · LW · GW

I am incredibly skeptical of the supposed health benefits of exercise in general.

My alternate hypothesis is that healthy people exercise more because they are healthier.

Of course, there are some interventional studies but I am increasingly skeptical of the general competence of researchers in nutrition/health; my null hypothesis is simply that these studies are confounded/done badly/p-hacked/ etc etc.

One of the supposed benefits quoted in the link above is cognitive benefits. Although I can imagine some limited health benefits from exercise I am completely incredulous of cognitive benefits. What is a plausible mechanism of action where training your muscles has any effect on your brain, that is moreover evolutionarily sensible?

If anybody could provide strong unambigous evidence for these claims I would love to hear them.

Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on Market Rate Food Is Luxury Food · 2019-11-24T03:29:37.588Z · LW · GW


Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on Can we really prevent all warming for less than 10B$ with the mostly side-effect free geoengineering technique of Marine Cloud Brightening? · 2019-10-08T07:27:27.392Z · LW · GW

Less of this, please. From what Lanrian is citing Lomborg does not come close to outright lying. (there might be more in the link, I have not read anything but the comments.) Accusing somebody of literally lying is a very strong accusation and should only be done in the egregious cases for all the usual reasons.

You are clearly well-informed about this matter. Your earlier comment was helpful and updated me in various directions. You could make me update me even more by applying the Principle of Charity.

Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on The Intentional Agency Experiment · 2018-07-11T19:26:05.286Z · LW · GW

Dear gworley,

Thank you for the link, it seems like an interesting result. The kind of proof that you'd like, purporting to show that a mathematical model is 'always' applicable to a real world situation, is surely nigh-impossible. If I try to summarise your main objection: the paper you linked to is a form of a 'partial' no go theorem for IRL; and you think it might be likely that there are very general No Go Theorems which would apply to any possible implementation of theoretical models of agency. This is of course possible, but I find it unlikely; in the real world humans are able to discern agency. No doubt there are many hidden assumptions and subtleties but I think it shouldn't stop us from trying to understand intention&agency in highly simplified situations.

In the model this is simply stated as given; we are trying to define intention; it might be that this definition does not accord to your intuitions about intention, but inside the model one cannot reject the conclusion. Of course, someone might come along and might come up with a more sophisticated model that has even more subtle distinctions. I look forward to such a model.

In danger of repeating myself, I cannot 'prove' that I can do what I can do. There is simply a model, which might be accurate in some respects and inaccurate in others; in the model one can do whatever one likes (following the rules of the model); applying it to the real world is trickier. As stated earlier there are many situations where the exact implementation is ambiguous or needs extra-theoretic assumptions. This is normal and occurs all over science. Galileo's results can be objected to in individual situations by referring to all kinds of contingencies like air resistance etc. Indeed, I have heard it said -but cannot confirm- that one Jesuit scholar refused to look through the telescope when Galileo founds the moons of Jupiter, objecting to possible smudges on the telescope. I think you will agree that Galileo's perspective was more productive then that of the Jesuit scholar, even though of course Galileo couldn't prove that his model was applicable [the fact that the moons weren't smudges on the telescope is one of those extra-theoretical assumptions].

It is clear that explications are somehow bouncing off, as (it seems) you are the second person to object in this manner. Perhaps the nomenclature 'experiment' was ill-begotten.

Comment by Self-Embedded Agent on The Intentional Agency Experiment · 2018-07-11T02:13:03.334Z · LW · GW

Dear Vaniver, thank you for sharing your thoughts. You bring up some important points.

The Intentional Agency Experiment is an idealisation, a model that tries to capture what 'intention' is supposed to be. How to translate this to the real world is often ambiguous and sometimes difficult. Similar issues crop up all over applications of pure science&mathematics. 'Real' applications usually involve implicitly and explicitly many different theoretical frameworks and highly simplified models as well as practical knowledge, various mechanical tricks, approximation schemes, etc.

When I ask that R has a set of actions, this only makes sense within a certain framework. A rock does not have 'actions', and neither does a human within a suitably deterministic framework. So we have to be careful; the setup only works when we have a model of the world that is suitably coarse-grained and allows for actions & counterfactuals. Like causality, intention & agency seems to me intensely tied up with an incomplete and coarse-grained model of the world.

To clear any misunderstandings; if we have a physical object that at our level of coarse-graining may indeterministically evolve, for example a rock balancing on a mountain peak, we would not say it has possible actions. One could be under the impression that the actions that are considered are actually instantiated; but of course that is not what is meant. In the Intentional Agency Experiment is only asked to give an action given a counterfactual (hypothetical) world. If you'd like you can read 'potential action' everywhere where I write 'action'. Actions are defined when we have an agent that we can ask to consider hypothetical scenarios and outputs a certain 'potential action' given this counterfactual world.

We cannot ask a rock to consider hypothetical scenarios. Neither can we ask an ant to do so. Only a human or sophisticated robot can. Even a human or sophisticated robot will usually not consider just the 'clean' counterfactual but will also implicitly assume many other facts about the world. When we ask the to consider we don't want it to assume other facts about . So one should consider a world where the action is instantiated but an omnipotent being keeps from happening at the last possible moment.

In practice, it is frequently difficult to ask agents to consider hypothetical counterfactuals and impossible to have them consider 'clean' counterfactuals (where all else is held fixed). Nevertheless, just like in Economics we assume Ceteris Paribus, considering highly idealised models&situations often turns out to be a useful tool.

Moreover, we may try to approximate/instantiate the Intentional Agency Experiment in the real world. However, sometimes those approximations may not be the 'right' implementation. As mentioned, an ant cannot be asked to consider hypothetical scenarios directly. Yet, we may try to 'approximate' the piece of information by putting an obstacle in its way. If the ant tries and succeeds to overcome the obstacle the conclusion shouldn't be that 'it chose a different action'; rather the correct conclusion was that putting this obstacle in its way was not a sufficient implementation of the mathematical act of asking to consider .

Yes, in practice situations arise where the implementation of a model can be ambiguous, very hard to implement etc. These are exactly the problems engineers and experimental physicists deal with; and these are interesting and important problems. But it should not prevent us from constructing highly simplified models.