Comment by TomM on Some quick notes on hand hygiene · 2020-02-10T01:47:53.142Z · LW · GW

I notice that you only compare time spent hand washing to time spent debilitated by respiratory illness, but hand washing also reduces likelihood of other ailments, eg gastric infections due to fecal or other bacterial contamination, and intestinal parasites (especially threadworm if you have kids...).

Even without specific numbers on the time that these might rob you of, hat would seem to push the balance in favour of hand washing.

Apart from anything else, being ill or having a high parasite load is just plain unpleasant, and long periods of illness (even if few and far between) are more damaging to sense of wellbeing than short periods spent on a menial task multiple times a day.

Comment by TomM on Concerns Surrounding CEV: A case for human friendliness first · 2020-01-23T06:02:53.757Z · LW · GW

Your rewrite has clarified the matter significantly, and I now think I follow the core or your question: can it boiled down to something like "If we create a super-intelligent AI and program it to prioritise what we (humanity) want above all, wouldn't the AI be intelligent enough to be offended by our self-centredness and change that utility function?"?

Others here may be better able to imagine what a self-aware machine intelligence would make of how it was initially programmed, but as far as real-world experience it is currently unexplored territory and I wouldn't consider anything I can speculate to be meaningful.

Comment by TomM on Concerns Surrounding CEV: A case for human friendliness first · 2020-01-23T05:08:31.211Z · LW · GW

Apologies if this comes across as blunt, but this query does not really make sense as you appear to be applying the wrong label to your core concept: CEV is Coherent Extrapolated Volition - a concept for explaining what we (as individuals or as a society) would want in any given circumstance given the time, knowledge and ability to actually consider it fully and come to a conclusion.

CEV is not a AI terminology, it is a term attempting to conceptualise human volition.

It is important to AI questions as it is a way of trying to formalise what we want, as it is impossible to program AI to do what we want unless we know what that is.

Perhaps reconsider what you are actually trying to write about and ensure you apply the correct/accepted terminology.

Comment by TomM on "3 Reasons It’s Irrational to Demand ‘Rationalism’ in Social Justice Activism" · 2016-04-01T04:42:56.319Z · LW · GW

I think it is worth pointing out that the article selected for 'review' is not entirely typical of the site (most articles seem to discuss lived experience, activism activities and how to get by in unfriendly circumstances rather than philosophy or logic per se).

Additionally, the Facebook thread for the article has a lot of discussion, dominated (in my view) by self-described "SJW"s who had big problems with the anti-rationality stance of the article and made strong arguments in favour of logic and reason.

This article show that the bias of some SJWs against reason is impossible to strawman.

The emphasis is mine.

I think PhilGoetz does not strawman the author of the reviewed article, but by going on to say:

But it isn't just a sign of how irrational the social justice movement is...

does strawman the social justice movement as a whole.

Note: Edited in the first couple of minutes to fix formatting problems.

Comment by TomM on Akrasia Tactics Review 2: The Akrasia Strikes Back · 2013-07-16T05:25:23.887Z · LW · GW

Beeminder : +6 : Using it for nearly 2 years with good success in most areas I select to 'Beemind'. Yet to have to pay out on any goals (though I have derailed on no-pledge goals on 2 occasions).

RememberTheMilk : +2 : using it for several years. Best use is to keep track of tasks I have and have not done, but not great on committing me to action. Best suited to keeping track of minor tasks, especially recurring ones.

Trello : +2 : Used for perhaps a year. Similar experience to RememberTheMilk, but better suited to more complex tasks and projects.

Comment by TomM on Water Fluoridation · 2012-06-04T05:34:49.975Z · LW · GW

Not just the very young - my 5 year old son was consuming toothpaste at such a rate that we have had to cut off his formerly unfettered access to it.

No amount of telling him 'eating a tubeful every few days is probably unhealthy' had any effect - he just loves the stuff.

Comment by TomM on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 11 · 2012-03-19T04:17:28.922Z · LW · GW

I can't see clearly why Snape is being presented as a likely hidden ally of SPHEW.

Without doubt, he involved himself in the group by providing information on where and when to find bullying, but this led to an escalation of hostilities rather than reducing bullying. This culminated in a massive confrontation during which he acted mysteriously, and by no means clearly in SPHEW's interests (I suspect the myriad memory charms were to hide/obfuscate his prior manipulation of almost all of those present!).

The only way in which he openly acted on the matter was to punish and publicly humiliate Hermione.

Snape is not just a tragic lover of a murdered muggleborn - he is a very bitter and emotionally stunted person, and a major bully in his own right up until his actions were curbed through Harry's influence. The idea that he would be on a personal crusade against bullying seems (to my reading) to go against almost every aspect of his character as presented so far in the fic.

If asked to speculate, I would suggest that:

  • Snape intentionally escalated the SPHEW/bully situation, and used the final brouhaha as an opportunity to trample Hermione when the bullies failed to do it for him.
  • He has observed the warming in relations between Hermione and Draco, and decided it had to be stopped - preferably by making each of them betray (or seem to) the trust of the other.
  • He decided that his own handling of the SPHEW situation had been too clumsy and ineffective - he needed to make Hermione herself a villain if he wanted her more permanently dealt with.

My main uncertainty is why Snape would pick Hermione in particular to target (I haven't done a complete re-read for a few months, so I may be remembering events a bit 'selectively' - if I am being to mistrustful of Snape, I would love to see some references to points in the text where any of my interpretation is plausibly contradicted.

Edited: for grammar and clarity

Comment by TomM on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 9 · 2012-01-25T01:01:46.219Z · LW · GW

I just realised that I missed another very strong piece of evidence which immediately precedes Harry's statement: Draco states that Harry should meet Lucius - he is actually offering Harry privileged access to his father.

This strengthens my view that Harry has noted that Draco offers (multiple paths to) influence with or threat to Lucius.

Comment by TomM on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 9 · 2012-01-24T00:18:21.298Z · LW · GW

No secret information is required for Harry to come to his conclusion of "So you really are his one weak point. Huh."

Available evidence:

  • Lucius is well known as a hard bastard (initially supplied by random customer, reinforced by Draco)
  • Draco is well cared for (he is healthy, very well dressed, displays no social anxieties, worships his father)
  • Draco is probably indulged or even spoiled (Draco's behaviour)
  • Draco is being groomed to be Lucius' successor and therefore his equal (very clear by this point)

From this evidence it can be reasonably concluded that Lucius loves his son.
For a hard man like Lucius, this makes Draco his likely weakest point.

Lucius is simply underestimating Harry's ability to make good use of the available information (and possibly also underestimating how much Draco has given away while trying to cultivate Harry).

EDIT: 25 Jan 2012 - I just noticed that a previous incomplete revision of this comment appeared below by accident. It is now retracted...

Comment by TomM on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 9 · 2012-01-24T00:08:49.889Z · LW · GW

Harry saying that Draco was Lucius' only weak point was probably just an (accurate) surmise given the available evidence:

    1. Lucius is well known as a hard bastard (information from random customer)
    1. Draco is visibly well cared for (and his behaviour suggests that he is indulged or even spoiled in many ways)
    1. Draco is being raised to be his father's successor and equal

Therefore Lucius probably loves Draco, making him a weak point.

No secret information is actually required to make this assessment, though it might be considered a bit close to a guess.

Comment by TomM on Anti-akrasia tool: like for data nerds · 2011-12-07T02:24:46.536Z · LW · GW

Hey Danny and Bethany - you forgot to ask me again about using my earlier praise as a testimonial!

To cut short any suspense - you may use my previous statement.

My perspective has now developed a little (I am not sure quite how I let music practice start to slip, given I get so much out of it), but I stand by everything I previously said.

I have in fact recommended Beeminder to a few other people who I thought would "get it" and make good use of it.

Two months now without running off the road on any of my counters - though getting to bed on time has been close to the wire lately...

Comment by TomM on Drawing Less Wrong: Technical Skill · 2011-12-06T03:21:30.028Z · LW · GW

I am inclined toward the piece-meal delivery.

I like the content drip fed rather than coming in bursts. I also tend to skim over older sequence posts again as each new one comes in, cementing concepts better than attempting to digest big runs of posts over a few days and then going without for a long period.

Comment by TomM on Anti-akrasia tool: like for data nerds · 2011-10-16T23:03:12.421Z · LW · GW

Leaving aside my low opinion of testimonials as evidence for choosing a product or service (I know they work and they are thus an effective marketing tool, but I don't trust them for reasons that should be obvious to LessWrongers), I think it is too early for me to unreservedly recommend Beeminder to the "public at large".

My experience with it is still in a bit of a honeymoon period emotionally (I get excited about new things - don't we all!) so I want to be sure I am not just getting carried away.

I recommend that you solicit my permission for a testimonial in a month or so. If I am still using Beeminder (as seems likely at this time) then I am sure I will be happy to oblige.

Comment by TomM on Anti-akrasia tool: like for data nerds · 2011-10-14T02:27:05.982Z · LW · GW

I just have to say thanks for a great tool for managing my akrasia!

It is too early to say that the effects will last long-term, but Beeminder has genuinely given me a boost towards doing the things I want-to-do-but-keep-putting-aside-just-for-the-moment in a way that nothing else has for a long time.

It has also made very clear which things I want to do but put off (on which activity is rapidly diverging from the yellow brick road in a positive direction) and the things I don't want to do but have to (which are still in the safe zone, but are not running away from the YBR at all...).

Comment by TomM on Anti-akrasia tool: like for data nerds · 2011-10-14T02:04:55.236Z · LW · GW

Actually, looking more carefully, beeminder is calculating accurately for an average of 25 minutes per ping.

Tagtime however got enthusiastic last night - while it pinged me normally for most of the night, it pinged eight times in the hour between 4 and 5 AM.

Beeminder then (reasonably) put me down for an extra hour of sleep that I didn't actually get.

Them's the breaks when dealing with randomised polling!

Comment by TomM on Anti-akrasia tool: like for data nerds · 2011-10-13T23:29:53.890Z · LW · GW

I have a bit of confusion about tagtime too (I have already sent you an email, actually):

It is possible to alter the average poll time for tagtime - the default is 45 minutes and I have changed this to 25 minutes.

Will this poll period alteration be recognised by Beeminder? Beeminder does seem to be over-reporting time spent on activities so far...

Comment by TomM on An Outside View on Less Wrong's Advice · 2011-07-08T04:08:11.532Z · LW · GW

I think the "heavy costs" of quitting religion referred to are the documented differences in health outcomes based on membership (or lack thereof) of religious communities:

"Even if we have good reason to assert that mainstream religious thinking is flawed, maybe we should be slower to advise people to give up the health benefits (footnote 15) of belonging, emotionally, to one or another religious community."

Comment by TomM on Less Wrong Rationality and Mainstream Philosophy · 2011-03-23T01:20:19.744Z · LW · GW

The fact that nobody expressed the idea before fifty years earlier suggests that the idea is pretty hard to come up with independently, because had it been easy, people would have been coming up with it all through history.

This can be true, but it is also possible that an idea may be hard to independently develop because the intellectual foundations have not yet been laid.

Ideas build on existing understandings, and once the groundwork has been done there may be a sudden eruption of independent-but-similar new ideas built on those foundations. They were only hard to come up with until that time.

Comment by TomM on Babies and Bunnies: A Caution About Evo-Psych · 2011-03-15T05:02:21.528Z · LW · GW

As a fairly observant and (as far as I can tell) realistic parent, I have noticed that both of my children have (up to their current ages of four years and 19 months) had several peak periods for cuteness. So far they have had peaks centred at the same ages: 5 months, 15 months and (oldest only so far) 3 years.

This is not to say that they are not cute at any other ages, but at these ages they have been radiantly, eye-wateringly cute.

Comment by TomM on Decision theory: Why we need to reduce “could”, “would”, “should” · 2011-02-18T02:13:12.947Z · LW · GW

My response to some respondents' question of why the agent needs the evaluation-of-options stage before acting is simple: the evaluation of options is part of the deterministic process which produces the action!

If the agent did not evaluate the options, it would be a different agent and thus act differently - possibly less optimally for its own utility function.

Isn't this why we want to be rational?

(Apologies if I am missing the point!)

Comment by TomM on How to Beat Procrastination · 2011-02-16T00:57:47.350Z · LW · GW

A great post - I love the quantity and quality of information you have squeezed into such a compact article.

I will be seeing how the recommendations work for me over the next week or so.


Comment by TomM on Where are we? · 2011-01-20T03:17:57.918Z · LW · GW

Melbourne as well...

Comment by TomM on Welcome to Less Wrong! (2010-2011) · 2010-12-16T06:05:15.160Z · LW · GW

Hello! You have another victim via MoR.

I am already a bit conflicted about the site - I am finding the content inspiring, useful and helpful, given that I am going through a bit of a life 'directional re-evaluation' at the moment, but it is also sucking away a lot of time that I could be devoting to actual analysis and practical action...

Oh, well, when I finish reading every post, I can carry on from there!

Comment by TomM on Superstimuli and the Collapse of Western Civilization · 2010-12-16T06:00:18.918Z · LW · GW

I agree with TheOtherDave - lesswrong and OB definitely qualify as superstimulation.

So much practical, actual STUFF to do, and so much here to read instead...