Overcoming Paradox of Choice Through Random Selection 2020-11-28T04:27:55.657Z
How to persuade people/groups out of sunk cost fallacy? 2020-07-13T22:51:50.860Z


Comment by vernamcipher on Overcoming Paradox of Choice Through Random Selection · 2020-12-20T18:39:34.081Z · LW · GW

Thank you for the positive review and good questions (and please forgive the lateness of this reply).

In reply:

  1. there are certainly times where I am not in the mood for a specific random choice. When that happens, I allow myself one more random selection. Because I have set the sublists for maximal variety (i.e. There is only one "cosmic horror story" category) the next selection usually is something I find compelling and interesting enough to complete.

In the rare case where the second selection is still not interesting, I try to reflect on why, and ask myself whether what I want is actually a different kind of break or distraction - watching a short video, listening to music or a podcast, going for a walk, talking with a friend.

  1. I am uncertain of how it would work for longer works. If a short story is quite long, such as a novella, I will keep reading it at each reading break until I finish it. I do use the technique for picking novels to read though and have found it useful for that. For novels, I have a set time each day - the hour before I go to bed - that I use exclusively for reading novels.
Comment by vernamcipher on Nuclear war is unlikely to cause human extinction · 2020-11-25T03:49:31.207Z · LW · GW

As the other commenter have been saying, excellent post.

There is an additional reason to believe, at least given contemporary capabilities and strategies, that the X-risk of an actual nuclear conflict is small. A few years ago I wrote to Fred Kaplan, the author of the stellar military history book "The Wizards of Armageddon"*, a history of US nuclear war planning from 1945-1990. I asked Kaplan what he judged the present state of nuclear war planning was. He responded to me that his sources informed him that nuclear war plans, in the US and presumably the Russian Federation, had been shaped by the same changes that shaped conventional war strategy from the Gulf War onward. The focus, in both nuclear and conventional war, is blinding and decapitation of the other side - destroying their C3I (command-control-communication-intelligence) infrastructure and killing their national command authority. The idea is to render an enemy unable to communicate with and deploy their nuclear forces, rendering them inert. One of the more likely outcomes of a nuclear conflict is the two nations being leaderless but largely intact, with only a few dozen low yield devices (<1 MT) having been used, and the rest stranded and unusable. The problem is that, as documented by Daniel Ellsberg in "The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner", many countries likely hedge against this strategy by pre-delegation, telling the commanders of their nuclear forces that they may, if contact is lost with civilian authority during a crisis, use their nuclear weapons at their own discretion. But even that is, for the reasons listed above, unlikely to yield an X-Risk scenario. A really, really, really awful situation to live through, but not an X-Risk.

*which I highly recommend. Kaplan is critical of the nuclear war planners, but I think most of the X-risk people on this forum and in academia would have fit right in at RAND and other strategic think tanks during the Cold War.

Comment by vernamcipher on Transparent Technologies · 2020-11-25T03:14:15.853Z · LW · GW

I agree. But...

Devil's Advocate: many anti-features of consumer products are there to protect the 99% of users who are not power users like yourself, and are a positive benefit for them. For example, the iPhone OS and UI protects most users from accidentally disabling their phones in ways they cannot understand or fix, limiting the utility of the device for them. Schools and tutors serve the great majority who have difficulty teaching themselves (and provide strong educational signaling benefits in a way that autodidacticism regrettably does not). Psychoactive drugs are second best (or third-best, or at least for many users better than nothing) meditation practice, in an analogous way to how caffeine substitutes for sleep. Jobs, by packaging tasks together, limit the search cost for people trying to find an economic niche in which they can thrive - most people want 8 hours of structured work, after which they are free to do whatever they want and can leave thinking about work at the office, as opposed to having to strive to consciously separate work and life the way entrepreneurs do.

If (a big "if") ease of use and reduction of conscious, deliberate choice has been a net positive for consumers, these anti-features are the means to deliver them. You (and I, and many other users of this site) suffer because of that, but there are enough of us to support the flourishing open source ecosystem, so the results are net gains at the level of society.