Rationality Vienna Meetup June 2019 2019-04-28T21:05:15.818Z · score: 9 (2 votes)
Rationality Vienna Meetup May 2019 2019-04-28T21:01:12.804Z · score: 9 (2 votes)
Rationality Vienna Meetup April 2019 2019-03-31T00:46:36.398Z · score: 8 (1 votes)
Does anti-malaria charity destroy the local anti-malaria industry? 2019-01-05T19:04:57.601Z · score: 64 (17 votes)
Rationality Bratislava Meetup 2018-09-16T20:31:42.409Z · score: 18 (5 votes)
Rationality Vienna Meetup, April 2018 2018-04-12T19:41:40.923Z · score: 10 (2 votes)
Rationality Vienna Meetup, March 2018 2018-03-12T21:10:44.228Z · score: 10 (2 votes)
Welcome to Rationality Vienna 2018-03-12T21:07:07.921Z · score: 4 (1 votes)
Feedback on LW 2.0 2017-10-01T15:18:09.682Z · score: 11 (11 votes)
Bring up Genius 2017-06-08T17:44:03.696Z · score: 55 (50 votes)
How to not earn a delta (Change My View) 2017-02-14T10:04:30.853Z · score: 10 (11 votes)
Group Rationality Diary, February 2017 2017-02-01T12:11:44.212Z · score: 1 (3 votes)
How to talk rationally about cults 2017-01-08T20:12:51.340Z · score: 5 (10 votes)
Meetup : Rationality Meetup Vienna 2016-09-11T20:57:16.910Z · score: 0 (1 votes)
Meetup : Rationality Meetup Vienna 2016-08-16T20:21:10.911Z · score: 0 (1 votes)
Two forms of procrastination 2016-07-16T20:30:55.911Z · score: 10 (11 votes)
Welcome to Less Wrong! (9th thread, May 2016) 2016-05-17T08:26:07.420Z · score: 4 (5 votes)
Positivity Thread :) 2016-04-08T21:34:03.535Z · score: 26 (28 votes)
Require contributions in advance 2016-02-08T12:55:58.720Z · score: 62 (62 votes)
Marketing Rationality 2015-11-18T13:43:02.802Z · score: 28 (31 votes)
Manhood of Humanity 2015-08-24T18:31:22.099Z · score: 10 (13 votes)
Time-Binding 2015-08-14T17:38:03.686Z · score: 17 (18 votes)
Bragging Thread July 2015 2015-07-13T22:01:03.320Z · score: 4 (5 votes)
Group Bragging Thread (May 2015) 2015-05-29T22:36:27.000Z · score: 7 (8 votes)
Meetup : Bratislava Meetup 2015-05-21T19:21:00.320Z · score: 1 (2 votes)


Comment by viliam on Ethical experimentation · 2019-11-10T17:05:46.184Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Please officer, don't arrest me today. I did the zero-ethics version the last week, this is my control week; you would ruin my experiment.

Comment by viliam on [Team Update] Why we spent Q3 optimizing for karma · 2019-11-08T21:50:48.613Z · score: 11 (6 votes) · LW · GW
Having a high enough karma that my vote strengths (3 for weak and 10 for strong) are pretty identifiable, so I have to think more about social implications.

I think the other comments show that you are not that identifiable.

Having to decide between strong vs weak vote.

Just always do the weak vote and don't think about it.

Comment by viliam on Self policing for self doubt · 2019-11-08T21:47:46.867Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

These things are tricky. Humans are good at self-deception, so it is easy to simply do whatever is convenient for me, and invent a story about how doing this is by coincidence also the best way to help everyone else.

("Why would I send money to fight malaria? If I buy the latest iPhone instead, I am pretty sure some of those components are made in Africa, or at least some minerals are mined there, so I am creating jobs for people who can then spend the extra income on anti-malaria nets. This is even better, because their income is sustainable." Ignoring the fact that if I send $1000 to effective charity, it means $1000 worth of anti-malaria nets, while spending $1000 on iPhone means that less than $1 ends in hands of someone who would need such net.)

On the other hand, reversed selfishness is not philanthropy. Focusing on not having any personal benefit means avoiding all win/win solutions; which is really bad, because these are likely more sustainable than the alternatives. This is about signaling virtue, perhaps to oneself. (By choosing the option that gives you no personal benefit, you send a costly signal that you are not motivated by the personal benefit in the first place.)

If you can't trust yourself, perhaps you should seek opinion of the people whose opinion you respect. Yes, even that has the same problem on a higher level -- depending on which conclusion you want to reach, those people you will be motivated to ask -- but at least it is not under your direct control; they may surprise you.

But ultimately, I think the answer is: do the best option that is sustainable for you. You may need some experimenting to find out what exactly it is. Also the answer may change later.

Comment by viliam on Eli's shortform feed · 2019-11-08T20:46:20.365Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Alternative hypothesis: maybe what expands your time horizon is not exercise and meditation per se, but the fact that you are doing several different things (work, meditation, exercise), instead of doing the same thing over and over again (work). It probably also helps that the different activities use different muscles, so that they feel completely different.

This hypothesis predicts that a combination of e.g. work, walking, and painting, could provide similar benefits compared to work only.

Comment by viliam on Is my perception of reality bounded by my intelligence? · 2019-11-05T22:01:12.724Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Reality is first, our perceptions of it only come later. So, if whatever you currently believe to be true, already is true, adding extra intelligence should not change it.

But if, whatever you currently believe to be true, already is false, there is likely some evidence, and the increased intelligence could give you more ideas where to look for that possible evidence.

For example, if aliens don't exist, increasing your IQ to 500 will not magically conjure them. It can only allow you to better evaluate the existing knowledge, and design smarter experiments... but at the end, the conclusion will be the same. Only now you will know that you believe what you believe for better reasons than previously, because now you also checked X, Y, and Z.

Comment by viliam on Lite Blocking · 2019-11-05T21:40:01.564Z · score: 18 (7 votes) · LW · GW

There is no economical reason to optimize for your happiness, if you can't easily switch to a competing platform. Maybe unhappy people click more ads, who knows... But for the sake of thought experiment let's assume that our corporate overlords are benevolent.

Could this feature be somehow abused? The first idea that comes to my mind is, imagine that I hate you and decide to spread some nasty rumors about you. Let's assume that we are already connected as "friends". So I use this feature to lite-block you. Because you wanted plausible deniability, it means that our mutual friends would still see that we are friends. And they will see what I write about you. But you won't see it, so you won't be able to react. But they will assume that you saw it, and could interpret your silence as consent.

In less personal situations, this could be used to make someone look bad by association. Imagine a politician or a celebrity, who "friends" tons of people without thinking twice. So I make hundred fake accounts, use them all to "friend" my target, then all of them will lite-block the target, and start posting some sort of bad stuff. Now when anyone else looks at the target, they will be "uh, this guy has a lot of Nazi friends". Only the target will not see anything bad during their everyday usage of the platform.

Maybe not the most convincing examples, but generally it seems bad to me that the functionality you want is messing with other person's vision, without them being aware of it. That feels like something that can be abused. So we have to consider how a bad actor would abuse it.

Comment by viliam on Toon Alfrink's sketchpad · 2019-11-02T16:50:46.783Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This would be nice. But in practice I don't see splitting the audience along many dimensions; rather the differences are shoehorned into sex/gender, sexual orientation, and race (e.g. insisting that "Muslim" is a race). In a social justice debate, an asperger is more likely to be called an asshole than accepted as a disadvantaged minority. Also, the dimension of wealth vs poverty is often suspiciously missing.

If you are a benevolent dictator, it would better to simply have two supermarkets -- one with music and one without -- and let everyone choose individually where they prefer to shop. Instead of dividing them into categories, assigning the categories to shops, then further splitting the categories into subcategories, etc. But this means treating people as individuals, not as categories. Specifically, trying to help people by helping categories is an XY problem (you end up taking resources from people at the bottom of the "advantaged" categories, and giving them to people at the top of the "disadvantaged" categories; for example Obama's daughters would probably qualify for a lot of support originally meant for poor people).

Epistemically, social justice is a mixed bag, in my opinion. Some good insights, some oversimplifications. Paying attention to things one might regularly miss, but also evolving its own set of stereotypes and dogmas. It is useful as yet another map in your toolbox, and harmful when it's the only map you are allowed to use.

Comment by viliam on AlphaStar: Impressive for RL progress, not for AGI progress · 2019-11-02T15:38:32.433Z · score: 10 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Do I understand it correctly that in Chess and Go it seems like DeepMind is capable of strategic thinking in a way it cannot do in StarCraft II? If yes, then how would Chess/Go need to be changed to generate the same problem?

Is it just a quantitative thing, e.g. you would make a Chess-like game played on a 1000×1000 board with thousands of units, and the AI would become unable to find strategies such as "spend a few hundred turns preparing the hundreds of your bishops into this special configuration where each of them is protected by hundred others, and then attack the enemy king"?

Or would you rather need rules like "if you succeed to build a picture of Santa Claus from your Go stones, for the remainder of the game you get an extra move every 10 turns"? Something that cannot be done halfway, because that would only have costs and no benefit, so you can't discover it by observing your imaginary opponents, because you imagine your opponents as doing reasonable things (i.e. what you would have done) with some noise introduced for the purpose of evolution.

Comment by viliam on Why are people so bad at dating? · 2019-10-28T16:22:56.015Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · LW · GW
Perhaps in the ancestral environment, dating advice tended to be unhelpful, if not an outright sabotage from the competition

Perhaps this is true for most dating advice today, too.

Yes, there is also some good advice out there, but the problem is that if you can distinguish good advice from bad advice, you probably don't need the advice anymore.

Comment by viliam on Two explanations for variation in human abilities · 2019-10-27T17:21:57.405Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Polgár was an awesome parent, but I believe he seriously underestimated (in fact, completely dismissed) the effect of IQ. He should have checked his genetic privilege. On the other hand, seems like the "hundred Einsteins" experiment could still work if you'd start with kids over e.g. IQ 130 (or kids of parents with high IQ, so you can start the interventions soon without worrying about measuring IQ at very young age). Two percents of population, that's still a lot, in absolute numbers.

Unfortunately, I am not a billionaire, so my enthusiasm about this project is irrelevant.

Comment by viliam on George's Shortform · 2019-10-27T10:24:29.602Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The missionaries will not travel in geography-space, but in subculture-space.

For a mostly online movement, the important distances are not the thousands of miles, but debating on different websites, having different conferences, etc. (Well, the conferences have the geographical aspect, too.)

Comment by viliam on Eli's shortform feed · 2019-10-27T10:14:46.773Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you, this is very interesting!

Seems to me the most imporant lesson here is "even if you are John von Neumann, you can't take over the world alone."

First, because no matter how smart you are, you will have blind spots.

Second, because your time is still limited to 24 hours a day; even if you'd decide to focus on things you have been neglecting until now, you would have to start neglecting the things you have been focusing on until now. Being better at poker (converting your smartness to money more directly), living healthier and therefore on average longer, developing social skills, and being strategic in gaining power... would perhaps come at a cost of not having invented half of the stuff. When you are John von Neumann, your time has insane opportunity costs.

Comment by viliam on Two explanations for variation in human abilities · 2019-10-26T22:47:09.164Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If I take this literally, it should be relatively simple to generate hundreds of Einsteins or hundreds of John von Neumanns. I mean, taking hundred random healthy kids and giving them best education, that should be easily within powers of any greater country.

Actually, any billionaire could easily do it, and there could even be a financial incentive for him to do: offer these new Einsteins to work for you when they finish their studies. (They would probably be happy to work along the other Einsteins.)

Comment by viliam on bgaesop's Shortform · 2019-10-26T21:05:02.352Z · score: 21 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Fair points. My comment was more a result of years (looking at the "kensho" article, yep, it's already two years) of accumulated frustration, than anything else. Sorry for that.

From my perspective, the skepticism seems surprisingly mild. Imagine a parallel reality, where a CFAR instuctor instead says he found praying to Jesus really helpful... in ways that are impossible to describe other than by analogy ("truly looking at Jesus is like finally looking up from your smartphone") and claims that Jesus helps him at improving CFAR exercises or understanding people. -- I would have expected a reaction much stronger than "your description does not really help me to start the dialog with Jesus".

Interestingly, clone of saturn's comment in that debate seems like a summary of the PNSE paper:

If you think of your current level of happiness or euphoria (to pick a simple example) as the output of a function with various inputs, some of these inputs can be changed through voluntarily mental actions that similarly can't be directly explained in words and aren't obvious. Things like meditating long enough with correct technique can cause people to stumble across the way to do this. Some of the inputs can be changed about as easily as wiggling your ears, while others can be much more difficult or apparently impossible, maybe analogous to re-learning motor functions after a stroke.

I may be misremembering things I have read on Slate Star Codex as having them read on Less Wrong. (I wonder how to fix this. Should I keep bookmarks every time something rubs me the wrong way, so that when it happens hundred times I can document the pattern?)

By the way, I don't think the problem with explaining meditation/enlightenment/Buddhist stuff is going to go away soon. Like, there are entire countries that practice this stuff for thousand years, and... they have hundred schools that disagree with each other, and also nothing convicing to show. A part of that is because communicating about inner content is difficult, but I believe a significant part is that self-deception is involved at some level. I don't believe that a brain described in Elephant in the Brain simply gets more accurate insights by doing lots of introspection regularly. (Note than in the traditional setting, those insights include remembering your previous lives. Even if no one in the rationalist community buys the part about the previous lives, they still insist that the same process -- which led other people to remembering their previous lives -- leads to superior insights.)

Comment by viliam on What economic gains are there in life extension treatments? · 2019-10-24T10:35:10.983Z · score: 3 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This will depend on details, such as: if you double someone's lifespan, have you effectively increased their middle age, or their old age?

If it's all middle age, then it will be in the interest of our overlords to make us live longer, so that we can be longer productive. The salaries would probably go down, because now you have more time to pay your mortgage (and you are competing on the market with other people who also have more time to pay their mortgages). Also, no one is impressed with your 30 years of experience in given industry, because that's an average among your competitors.

Education will take longer, because other people will signal their qualities by taking more loans (they now have more time to pay back) and staying at school longer. Mere PhD will only get you a job flipping hamburgers at McDonald.

Death of society's "old guard" may be serving a useful purpose by destroying calcified institutions and ideas, allowing better ones to bloom.

Somehow I expect this reasoning will only be applied selectively to the poor. (Yes, that includes the middle class.)

In summary, I expect the society will support those forms of anti-aging that prolong the productive years. Which is not bad, because that means more years with health. Just don't expect that you will be the one who benefits most from your longer life; you will spend most of the extra time in the workplace, working more and receiving less. Enjoy your college, though, those will be the best 30 years of your life!

Comment by viliam on Who captures economic gains from life extension treatments? · 2019-10-24T10:21:13.529Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

As usual, all gains will be captured by land owners.

Comment by viliam on bgaesop's Shortform · 2019-10-24T10:16:50.178Z · score: 3 (17 votes) · LW · GW

I am happy that someone finally brought into rationalist community some skepticism about meditation, in a way that won't get dismissed as "nah, u jelly, cos u have no jhanas, u full of dukkha and need some metta to remove your bad karma, bro."

I was already getting quite nervous about the lack of skepticism. Especially in a community that used to dismiss not only all religion and supernatural claims, but also all kinds of mysterious answers such as quantum woo or emergence... and suddenly went like "look, here is a religion that is totes different, because it's from the opposite side of the planet, and here is a religious practice that has all benefits and no problems, let's do it every day" and everyone seems to jump on the bandwagon, and then people start using words from foreign languages and claim to have mysterious experiences that are in principle incommunicable to mere muggles... and I'm like "what the fuck, is this still the Less Wrong I used to know, or have these people been kidnapped and brainwashed?"

To answer you question, if they have been successfully Dunning-Kruger'ed, they'll probably just be like: "nope, I have an unmediated direct perception of reality, and I know it's all okay". Also, if there is any problem with enlightenment, obviously those people Scott mentions have not been truly enlightened.

Comment by viliam on What are some unpopular (non-normative) opinions that you hold? · 2019-10-23T22:49:50.854Z · score: 9 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Truly contrarian position: Should be restricted to uncivil speech.

(No, I don't actually hold this opinion. But I imagine that an interesting movie could be made using it.)

Comment by viliam on Human-AI Collaboration · 2019-10-23T22:38:00.301Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I suppose "minimax policy" is a shortcut for "assume that your human partner is a complete idiot just clicking things randomly or worse; choose the course of action that prevents them from causing the worst possible disaster; if you afterwards still have some time and energy left, use them to gain some extra points".

I welcome our condescending AI overlords, because they are probably the best we can realistically hope for.

Comment by viliam on Chris_Leong's Shortform · 2019-10-23T22:21:01.738Z · score: 17 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I once talked about this with a guy who identified as a Marxist, though I can't say how much his opinions are representative for the rest of his tribe. Anyway... he told me that in the trichotomy of Capital / Land / Labor, human talent is economically most similar to the Land category. This is counter-intuitive if you take the three labels literally, but if you consider their supposed properties... well, it's been a few decades since I studied economics, but roughly:

The defining property of Capital is fungibility. You can use money to buy a tech company, or an airplane factory, or a farm with cows. You can use it to start a company in USA, or in India. There is nothing that locks money to a specific industry or a specific place. Therefore, in a hypothetical perfectly free global market, the risk-adjusted profit rates would become the same globally. (Because if investing the money in cows gives you 5% per annum, but investing money in airplanes gives you 10%, people will start selling cow farms and buying airplane factories. This will reduce the number of cow farms, thus increasing their profit, and increase the competition in the airplane market, thus reducing their profit, until the numbers become equal.) If anything is fungible in the same way, you can classify it as Capital.

The archetypal example of Labor is a low-qualified worker, replaceable at any moment by a random member of the population. Which also means that in a free market, all workers would get the same wage; otherwise the employers would simply fire the more expensive ones and replace them with the cheaper ones. However, unlike money, workers are typically not free to move across borders, so you get different wages in different countries. (You can't build a new factory in the middle of USA, and move ten thousand Indian workers there to work for you. You could do it the other way round: move the money, and build the factory in India instead. But if there are reasons to keep the factory in USA, you are stuck with American workers.) But within country it means that as long as a fraction of population is literally starving, you can hire them for the smallest amount of money they can survive with, which sets the equilibrium wage on that level. Because those starving ones won't say no, and anyone who wants to be paid more will be replaced by those who accept the lower wage. Hypothetically, if you had more available job positions than workers, the wages would go up... but according to Malthus, this lucky generation of workers would simply have many kids, which would fix this exception in the next generation. -- Unless the number of job positions for low-qualified workers can keep growing faster than the population. But even in that case, the capitalists would probably successfully lobby the government to fix the problem by letting many immigrants in. Somewhere on the planet, there are enough starving people. Also, if the working people are paid just as much as they need to survive, they can hardly save money, so they can't get out of this trap.

Now the category of Land contains everything that is scarce, so it usually goes to the highest bidder. But no matter how much rent you get for the land, you cannot use the rent to generate more of it. So, in long term the land will get even more expensive, and a lot of increased productivity will be captured by the land owners.

From this perspective, being born with a IQ 200 brain is like having inherited a gold mine, which would belong to the Land category. Some people need your for their business, and they can't replace you with a random guy on the street. The number of potential jobs for IQ 200 people exceeds the number of IQ 200 people, so the employers must bid for your brain. But it is different from the land in the sense that it's you who has to work using your brain; you can't simply rent your brain to a factory and let some cheap worker operate it. Perhaps this would be equivalent to a magical gold mine, where only the owner can enter, so if he wants to profit from owning the gold mine, he has to also do all the work. Nonetheless, he gets extra profit from the fact that he owns the gold mine. So it's like he offers the employer a package consisting of his time + his brain. And his salary could be interpreted as consisting of two parts: the wage, for the time he spends using his brain (which is numerically equivalent to how much money a worker would get for working the same amount of time); and the rent for the brain, that is the extra money compared to the worker. (For example, suppose that workers in your country are paid $500 monthly, and software developers are paid $2000 monthly. That would mean that for an individual software developer, the $500 is the wage for his work, and $1500 is the rent for using his brain.) That means that extraordinarily smart employees are (smaller) part working class, and (greater) part rentier class. They should be reminded that if, one day, enough people become equally smart (whether through eugenics, genetic engineering, selective immigration, etc.), their income will also drop to the smallest amount of money they can survive with.

As I said, no idea whether this is an orthodox or a heretical opinion within Marxism.

Comment by viliam on Link: An exercise: meta-rational phenomena | Meaningness · 2019-10-22T23:24:42.102Z · score: 15 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I think that links to Chapman's texts should contain some disclaimer that "rationality" as defined by Chapman is something completely different from "rationality" as defined by Less Wrong. (Chapman said that once himself; sorry I don't remember the link.) Just to avoid the confusion that these texts were written specifically as a reaction to Less Wrong or the rationalist community.

Specifically, a lot of the advice to Chapman!rationalists is already in the Sequences. "A map is not the territory" gets mentioned over and over again. The twelfth virtue -- to not follow "rationality rituals" blindly. How reductionism doesn't mean we should model airplanes on the quark level (and yet it remains true that the airplane is actually built from quarks; this is the aspect missing in Chapman's texts). How even things that feel obvious can actually be wrong. The LW!rationality already contains its own meta. And we don't worship science.

Chapman warns people against going from straw rationalism to nihilism (unless they accept the Buddhism-inspired wisdom). But I don't see nihilism promoted on Less Wrong. We have "something to protect". And the stories of "beisutsukai" are obviously written to inspire.

So, ironically, from my perspective, it is like if straw rationality is level 4, and Chapman's "meaningness" is level 5, then Less Wrong would be level 6. (Yeah, I can play this game, too.)

Comment by viliam on Where to absolutely start? · 2019-10-22T22:29:08.966Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This seems to be the eternal conflict between epistemology and practicality.

Epistemology lets you find out which things are true, construct correct models of the world, and build awesome stuff. The problem is that it can take enormous amounts of time, and the resulting stuff is often easy to use even for people who have no idea why it works. (Not only the obvious cases like using a microwave without having an idea of how it works, but also the invisible stuff like living all your life without a plague while perhaps being a successful anti-vaxer blogger.) Then the people who use stuff invented by others will laugh: "if you are so smart, why aren't you rich?"

The problem is, if you go the opposite way, and just use the stuff without understanding how it works, sometimes you copy something useful, but sometimes you copy something harmful -- you have no idea how to distinguish between them. You lead a successful life, then you drink some bleach and die. It's like walking though a minefield, hoping that it works on average.

So, you probably want some combination of both. To have a knowledge of what works, and to actually exploit that knowledge.

In a parallel universe where Eliezer followed his own advice (to the extreme) and published a book full of hands-on lessons without the epistemology... some people probably read that book and wondered how exactly it differs from any other advice-providing website. So they took some inspiration from that, some other inspiration from somewhere else, and probably got a little bit better on average, but without any deeper change. Instead of rationality meetups, people go to productivity meetups, where they get some good advice, some bad advice, and some irrelevant advice. There is already a lot of this out there; no need to pour more water into the ocean. Also, there would be no effective altruism, and people wouldn't care about AI, because, well, you can solve all these things by the power of positive thinking and visualizing success, can't you?

That said, a CFAR-blessed textbook of practical advice would be nice to have, of course.

Comment by viliam on Why Are So Many Rationalists Polyamorous? · 2019-10-22T21:45:37.931Z · score: 18 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Yet another factor: Nerds are usually worse at lying and other social skills.

Therefore a nerd would consider polyamory in a situation where a non-nerd would be like "I can simply cheat on my spouse, why make it unnecessarily complicated".

In other words, don't just compare consensual nonmonogamy" but also nonmonogamy in general. If the numbers for nonmonogamy in general are more similar, it can mean that rationalists are less likely to lie about their behavior; that the more frequent thing is not nonmonogamy but consent.

Comment by viliam on Chris_Leong's Shortform · 2019-10-22T21:38:37.561Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It is not obvious to me from reading the text whether you are aware of the distinction between "private property" and "personal property" in Marxism. So, just to make sure: "private property" refers to the means of production (e.g. a factory), and "personal property" refers to things that are not means of production (e.g. a house where you live, clothes, food, toys).

The ownership of "private property" should be collectivized (according to Marx/ists), because... simply said, you can use the means of production to generate profit, then use that profit to buy more means of production, yadda yadda, the rich get exponentially richer on average and the poor get poorer.

With "personal property" this effect does not happen; if you have one table and I have two tables, there is no way for me to use this advantage to generate further tables, until I become the table-lord of the planet.

(There seem to be problems with this distinction. For example, things can be used either productively or unproductively; I can use my computer to create software or browse social networks. Some things can be used productively in unexpected ways; even the extra table could be used in a workshop to produce stuff. I am not a Marxist, but I suppose the answer would probably be something like "you are allowed to browse the web on your personal computer, but if we catch you privately producing and selling software, you get shot".)

Marx was able to write that private property is done away with for 9/10s of the population, I don’t know how true it was at the time, but it certainly isn’t true today.

So, is this the confusion of Marxist terms, or do you mean that today more than 10% of people own means of production? In which sense? (Not sure if Marx would also count indirect ownership, such as having your money in an index fund, which buys shares of companies, which own the means of production.)

Did Marx actually argue for abolishing "personal proprety" (according to his definition, i.e. ownership of houses or food)?

Comment by viliam on bgold's Shortform · 2019-10-22T21:18:07.796Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Do I understand it correctly that you believe the words "virtue signaling", or at least their frequent use, originates on LW? What is your evidence for this? (Do you have a link to what appears to be the first use?)

In my opinion, Robin Hanson is more likely suspect, because he talks about signaling all the time. But I would not be surprised to hear that someone else used that idiom first, maybe decades ago.

In other words, is there anything more than "I heard about 'virtue signaling' first on LW"?

Comment by viliam on Mediums Overpower Messages · 2019-10-20T23:30:38.716Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

SSC = Slate Star Codex, i.e. Scott Alexander's blog.

Comment by viliam on We tend to forget complicated things · 2019-10-20T23:28:22.370Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · LW · GW

This sounds like: "Learn until you actually get it (or don't learn at all)."

Because if it feels difficult, it's likely there is something missing. Either some connections between different parts (so instead of a connected network, it feels like a list of isolated facts), or you memorized some rules but you don't actually know why it works that way (you wouldn't be able to re-derive those rules). Or perhaps you actually get it, but you didn't have enough practice; which is also bad, because repetition is good for memory.

Comment by viliam on What's your big idea? · 2019-10-20T17:57:55.348Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If "X" is something we don't have a "gears model" of yet, aren't "tests that highly correlate with X" the only way to measure X? Especially when it's not physics.

In other words, why go the extra mile to emphasize that Y is merely the best available method to measure X, but not X itself? Is this a standard way of talking about scientific topics, or is it only used for politically sensitive topics?

Comment by viliam on Mediums Overpower Messages · 2019-10-20T14:31:57.517Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This feels correct.

Years ago (before I found LW) I was reading local websites, mostly political debates. Later I switched to Reddit. There I gradually replaced less interesting groups with more interesting ones. Then I replaced the entire thing with Hacker News. -- This all felt like progress from low quality to high quality. But when I take a step back, I see that I actually keep doing the same thing: reading the web. As opposed to, you know, actually doing something.

(More sadly, I realize that reading LW and SSC is also the more of the same.)

There is a symmetry to this sorting. (...) The smarter creating a certain kind of media makes me the dumber consuming it does.

I imagine that writing textbooks or creating online courses would be a minor exception to this rule. That is, creating a good online course is probably better than creating a video game, but studying an online course is also better than playing a video game.

But the important lesson is what you want to replace the category instead of replacing your place within the category. The goal is not to find a better website to read, but to replace reading websites with something better.

Comment by viliam on What's your big idea? · 2019-10-20T14:23:09.000Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

By "g, not IQ" you mean the difference between genotype and phenotype, or something else?

Comment by viliam on Social Class · 2019-10-20T14:16:57.762Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I also find the subject interesting, for two reasons: Epistemically, if you have any kind of political or other opinions, you should want to know how the society really works. Otherwise, maybe you are just talking crap. Maybe all political debates we see are crap, because they ignore the actual forces that shape the society. Like, you could have a seemingly smart proposal, but anyone with first-hand knowledge of elite would just laugh and could tell you some obvious (for him) reason why the plan is doomed to fail. Talking about society and politics without understanding how the upper class functions, is just talking nonsense.

(In the opposite direction, this epistemic blindness is acknowledged by phrases like "check your privilege". Like, you should realize that your proposals based on your middle-class experience may be completely unrealistic for lower-class people. What is missing, though, is the equivalent acknowledgment in the upward direction -- "check your servitude"? "check your sheepishness"? -- which would express how your middle-class experience makes you blind about the actual powers that rule the society. But this is not a surprise, because power is often connected with information asymmetry: the strong are allowed to keep their secrets from the weak, and to pry into the privacy of the weak; not the other way round.)

Instrumentally, upgrading your class seems like a powerful intervention, so it is really surprising when someone allegedly trying to "optimize their life" is selectively ignorant about this. Moving to a higher class would probably have more impact that all meditation and modafinil combined. Seems like we have a powerful taboo here. Probably because we would have to start by admitting that despite all stories about how the rationalists will rule the world, we are actually weak and ignorant. A person high enough on the elite ladder could probably eradicate the entire rationalist movement by mere phone call, if we'd ever become inconvenient in any significant way.

Of course, it's often possible to put your kids on the lower rungs of the next ladder.

Yeah, if you can put your children into proper schools, where they learn the skills of the next ladder, they will have enough time to learn what is needed, and they will start their adult life with the right contacts.

Of course, even this requires some knowledge of the next ladder. You need to distinguish the right school from a scam that targets people like you, extracts your money, and provides nothing in return. If you can compare the schools and choose the best one among the affordable ones, even better. (Assuming you succeed to put your kids on the next ladder, it is better to put them somewhat higher rather than at the very bottom.) You probably still need to avoid teaching your kids inappropriate skills and attitudes in your free time. (Otherwise they may become low-status at the school, and either drop out, or complete the school but revert to your class afterwards.)

For example, a working-class parent that wants to up-class their child should also encourage that child to read a lot (something better than newspapers and horoscopes), have some intellectual hobbies, protect their boundaries, be competitive, etc. Plus some cultural things, such as telling them that religion matters less, but political correctness matters more.

to the upper class, running a company while unqualified is more respectable than being intellectually qualified to run a company but lacking the connections to do so.

I'd say that even inheriting the company from your parents is more respectable, because it still shows you have power and connections. You just can't ruin the company too quickly (because then you would have no power again).

Here is what I infer from my limited experience with the upper class:

The only important skills are the ability to get power, make allies, make deals, defend your power, and leverage your power to gain more power. You spend the rest of your days by conspicuous consumption.

Showing any other skill is actually a bad signal, because it paints you as belonging to the middle-class. (Why else would you develop the skill, unless you'd suspect that one day you might actually need it?) When the upper class talks about being involved in technology, art, or sport, it means owning companies, owning galleries, and owning educational institutions. (Now idea how this actually feels from inside: does owning a gallery really feel as contributing to art somehow; or is it just a fungible money-generating source?)

This is probably how people recognize their class: If you mention being good at actually doing something, you have already exposed yourself as middle-class. From now on you will be treated as a potential servant, not as a peer. The only deals you will get offered will be "so how about you do this thing for me, and I will be your boss and own the outcome?" (You are supposed to be honored by receiving such an opportunity. Also, no one gives a fuck about the actual quality of your product; the important thing is whether it can be used to generate money, otherwise everything is fungible. That is, you can't really improve your negotiating position by actually being great at what you do.)

The deals among the upper class are usually related to using -- and abusing -- one person's power to help the other get what they want, with a favor of similar kind owned in return. ("My nephew happened to drive a car drunk, and he killed some unimportant plebs. Such a nuisance. Could you please tell your guys in the police department to 'lose' the evidence?" "Sure, no problem; that's what friends are for. Don't worry about it anymore." Ten minutes of small talk, either about how plebs suck or about conspicuous consumption. Then, the other guy: "By the way, my friend has a son; he just finished university, a really smart guy. By chance, wouldn't there be a free management position in one of your tech companies, so he could get some skills?" "Yeah, of course, just send his CV to my secretary and tell her this is the boy you sent; I am sure we can find him a suitable position." Note that there was no exchange of money, and no written record. Things will simply happen as needed.)

So one problem of entering the upper class is: how could you repay the favors? If you can't, you can't be part of the inner circle. Another question is who (among those already in the inner circle) will vouch for you? You need to be known as a guy who follows the deals, and doesn't snitch. (But this is a chicken-or-egg situation: if no one makes deals with you, how will you develop the reputation of a guy who follows the deals?) A possible strategy is to use the usual ways to get into a position where you can give favors, start making small deals, and gradually expand. (Probably an important rule is to always ask in return small favors, not money. Remember, working for money makes you a middle-class chump. It won't make you perceived as a partner, but rather as something that can be bought, cheaply.)

Here I assume that many deals between the upper-class are at least in the gray zone, if not outright illegal. I suppose that one can usually abstain from the illegal stuff one does not have stomach for. But it is important to never rock the boat. (It is okay to decline an invitation from Epstein. It is not okay to talk to the police about Epstein.) You want to be perceived as a potential partner by other upper-class people; you don't needlessly make powerful enemies. Even politicians from the opposing parties are probably good friends when no one is watching, and most likely feel closer to each other than any of them to their average voter.

In the middle class, you can act as an individual. (As a software developer, when I get a job in a new company, I come alone. My individual skills are evaluated.) In the upper class, you are usually a part of some hierarchical system; that's where you derive most of your power from. When people deal with you, they know who your powerful friends are. You are part of a "clan", because clans are more powerful than individual people. So a strategy to join the upper class would involve joining a lower rung of some existing hierarchy. You probably just start making repeated deals, and suddenly find yourself in a structure you probably wasn't even aware of before. (You gradually meet the friends and the bosses of the people you were making deals with.)

...but of course these are just my best guesses; I would love to get clarification from someone who actually is there.

Comment by viliam on What's your big idea? · 2019-10-19T20:31:29.794Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW

What exactly is the secret ingredient of "being John von Neumann"? Is it mostly biological, something like unparalleled IQ; or rather a rare combination of very high (but not unparalleled) IQ with very good education?

Because if it's the latter, then you could create a proper learning environment, where only kids with sufficiently high IQ would be allowed. The raw material is out there; you would need volunteers, but a combination of financial incentives and career opportunities could get you some. (The kids would get paid for going there and following the rules. And even if they fail to become JvNs, they would still get great free education, so there is nothing to lose.) Any billionaire could do this as a private project.

(This is in my opinion where organizations like Mensa fail. They collect some potentially good material, but then do nothing about it. It's just "let's get them into the same room, and wait for a miracle to happen", and... surprise, surprise... what happens instead is some silly signaling games, like people giving each other pointless puzzles. An ideal version that I imagine would collect the high-IQ people, offer them free rationality training, and the ones who passed it would be split according to their interests -- math, programing, entrepreneurship... -- and provided coaching. Later, the successful ones would be honor-bound to donate money to organization and provide coaching for the next generation. That is, instead of passively waiting for the miracle to happen, nudge people as hard as you can.)

Comment by viliam on Social Class · 2019-10-18T21:02:57.420Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks! I agree with everything you wrote, I guess.

I don't remember the Church's system, but I guess I am in G2 or G3. I make money by working as a software developer. I am not exceptionally good. (I care about abstractions and clean code, but I am also introverted and highly neurotic; other people judge my output as "high quality, but very slow". Unfortunately, from my selfish perspective, these days quality seems to matter little, but speed is everything.) I have more money than most people around me, but if I'd lose my job, I would quickly have to find a new one, although that would be relatively easy. I have some savings, but no realistic hope at early retirement within the next decade. Currently I have little kids that take all my free time, so I have almost no social activities, and not enough space for experimenting or self-improvement.

Getting to the top of the middle class is about getting famous in certain kind of way. (...) The fastest way to fame is to start a YouTube channel, a webcomic or some similar Internet media.

When my kids grow up a bit, I will probably try this, but I think the competition is very strong. But this feels to me like the "natural" direction I would like to grow.

Getting into the upper class is about amassing money and power. (...) The fastest way to wealth and power for lesswrong readers is probably to start a tech startup. (...) the limiting factor seems to be the quantity of people willing to do the legwork despite the risk of failure.

I assume that having a safety network makes a lot of difference. I am okay with "let's try this, there is a 5% chance of big success" as long as failure simply means wasted time (which is not a complete waste anyway, because of learning and experience). I am not okay with it, if failure means losing all my savings, or threatening the everyday life of my family. I suppose these things should be done when one is still at university, while parents pay your bills, and the opportunity cost of your time is low. In other words, I don't realistically see myself here, ever. But maybe this is a failure in my thinking.

Intellectualism is a middle-class trait.

What is an upper-class trait? Dominance?


I see how much simpler it is to pass your social class to your kids, as opposed to strangers.

If I want my kids to follow my strategy... First, they need high IQ, but from the perspective of heredity this seems safe. Then they need to be introduced to thinking and technology: they can listen to parents talking about interesting topics, the parents will introduce them to similarly intellectual people, they will be taught some simple math and technology at young age (my 4-year old can already write and send an SMS to her grandma). Assuming they will enjoy using computers for things other than social networks and stupid videos, I can introduce them to programming and provide them tutoring. So they will have a clear advantage over their peers coming from a different background.

Now suppose a working-class adult guy appears at the LW meetup, and we decide to make an experiment about getting him to my position. What can be done? The IQ is probably okay (why would a low IQ person go to the rationalist meetup?). But the amount of time to master math and computer science is huge, even if I give him pointers. (To get really far, you have to start as a kid, because kids have insane amounts of time.) Now suppose the guy spends 8 hours a day at his (working-class) job, and has a family. How much time and energy can he devote to the project? If he gives it all his extra time and energy, it would take at least two or three years until he is ready to take a junior developer job. That requires a lot of faith. But this is probably still too optimistic; maybe he hates reading books (because it was never done in his family or social group), and he doesn't speak English (how many years until he can read programming tutorials?).

It would take the working-class guy at least one year (of free time, after the daily job) just to get some skills my kids will probably have at the age of 12. And of course, getting to the level of a 12-year old is not enough to give him a job, so it's still all expense and no gain.

Comment by viliam on Polyamory is Rational(ist) · 2019-10-18T20:29:18.522Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

People usually learn from each other. For example, I haven't invented math nor programming; I just learned about them from others, liked that, and became good at it. Not sure what exactly that implies, but I definitely don't see it as an argument against math or programming.

If you are in the rationalist community, there is a chance your partner is too, so you both get introduced to the idea. That removes a potential obstacle of "how to explain polyamory to your current partner without ruining the relationship".

(Disclaimer: This is not an unmotivated reasoning. I was trying to generate answers to what you could possibly be missing.)

Comment by viliam on Social Class · 2019-10-14T22:59:41.075Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

So... assuming that being in a higher class is generally better, and that the class is not strictly about money but rather about performing the right behavior... the obvious question is: How can we hack this?

Which is the class directly above mine, and what do I need to do to get there? If I meet a friendly rationalist from that class, could they actually coach me to get there? Why don't we (e.g. all people on a local meetup) move to the highest class present among us?

Looking from the opposite perspective, what guidance could I give to rationalists from classes below mine to get to my position? I have no idea, but perhaps I could start by interacting with them and pointing out things that rub me the wrong way.

It is possible that the proper class behavior requires decades of training, and cannot be acquired overnight. Still, knowing what it is, being sure about it, and having a coach, could speed up things a bit. I suppose most people have a network of contacts within their class, but this probably isn't inevitable: you don't lose social class merely by moving to another place.

Potential problem: maybe all rationalists are middle-class, because the working class is too busy working, and the upper class is too busy expanding their empires, so they usually don't go to meetups.

Maybe classes have prerequisites that cannot be faked. If I simplify it to "working class is about working hard, middle class is about having knowledge and skills, upper class is about having actual power", then people who want to move from working class to middle class need to have at least the curiosity and perseverance to learn the skills, and people who want to move from middle class to upper class need to get some actual power and the proper mindset to abuse it just the right way (without either giving it up, or making unnecessary enemies).

Also, I suppose that the people at the very top mostly know each other, simply because there is fewer of them. It is hard to pretend to be a new prince, if no one important ever heard about you or your family before. You can't just behave like a prince; you also need to be able to point to the map and show your realm.

Comment by viliam on What's going on with "provability"? · 2019-10-14T22:25:09.017Z · score: 10 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If I understand it correctly, (you believe) you have an intuition of "sets", and you are going to judge any axiom depending on whether it is compatible with your intuition or not. ZFC is compatible with your intuition, negation of AC is not.

And maybe your intuition is also underspecified -- that is, there can be multiple models that are different only in things too abstract for you to have an opinion on them -- but still, AC has to be true in any of those models that are acceptable to you.

Fair enough. I believe this is not different in principle from what professional mathematicians do. Except they carefully separate what they believe intuitively to be true, from what they can prove from the axioms.

The question is, whether your intuition is consistent. That is, do you believe in AC only because the proponents of AC got to you first, and gave you the best arguments in their favor? (Like the one about the Cartesian product of infinitely many nonempty sets.) What would have happened if you heard about Banach-Tarski paradox first? Would you be like "yeah, that's cool for me; you take an orange, cut it and rotate the pieces, and you get two oranges of the same size; my intuition is okay with that"? What is your intuitive opinion on whether the set of real numbers can be well-ordered?

If your intuition is consistent with these things, good for you! Then yes, the other models are the ones where "sets" refers to mathematical objects that are not sets according to your intuition, and only happen to satisfy the ZF axioms. (It still might be useful to talk about such objects, similarly how talking about geometries that do not satisfy Euclid's fifth postulate got us some interesting results.) But some other people's intuitions object against things that are equivalent to the axiom of choice, therefore they find it easier to reject it. And it's not like you can prove them wrong.

Comment by viliam on What's going on with "provability"? · 2019-10-13T14:02:44.832Z · score: 32 (10 votes) · LW · GW

First, the question of "provability" is whether something can be proved using a given collection of axioms and rules.

That is, we are not concerned about whether a smart mathematician with great communication skills could convince us about the veracity of a statement. Instead, we are concerned about whether we can construct a sequence of statements culminating with the given statement, such that each step can be verified by a rather simple computer program, by matching it to the few predetermined patterns.

So it is perfectly okay to have a statement that is obviously true, but still cannot be proved using some set of axioms and rules. Think about it as a weakness of the given set of axioms and rules, rather than a property of the statement itself. In other words, we never talk about "provability of X" (except as a shortcut), but always about "provability of X in system S". Provability is a relation between X and S.

Therefore, Gödel's Theorem is not about statements that are unprovable per se (i.e. some more complicated version of "math will never be able to prove that 2 + 2 equals 4"), but rather it means "if you give me a non-contradictory system S of axioms and rules, I can create a statement X such that its veracity will be beyond the reach of S". Plus there is an algorithm for creating a specific X for given S. The generated X will be tailored to the given S. (For different systems S1, S2, S3 you would get different X1, X2, X3; and it's always S1 having a problem with X1, S2 with X2, and S3 with X3; but maybe X1 and X2 are easy to prove or disprove in S3.)

More specifically, the statement X generated by Gödel for system S is cleverly designed to be equivalent to "X cannot be proved by S" without being self-referential. To discuss the clever construction is beyond the scope of this comment.


Second, once we start talking about things like sets, we are now far outside the realm of reality. It doesn't make sense to ask whether "sets really have a property P", if the fact is that "in the first place, set's don't really exist".

It would be like trying to use experimental physics to verify whether fairies are heavier than 10 grams. You simply can't, because there are no fairies to measure. So if you have two competing theories of physics-including-supernatural, one saying that fairies are heavier than 10 grams, and the other saying they are not, well, you have a problem that cannot be resolved experimentally. A set theory with the Axiom of Choice, and a set theory with some incompatible axiom, are two such theories: they agree about everything that really exists, and they disagree about the properties of fairies... ahem, infinite sets. You can't resolve this conflict by talking about what really exists; and the arguments about what doesn't exist are by their nature arbitrary. (You can't prove internal inconsistency, because both theories are internally consistent. They just disagree with each other.)

So how can we study sets if they are not real? By defining axioms and rules, and examining which statements can be proved using given axioms and rules. "ZF" is such a set of axioms; there are statements you can prove using it, there are statements you can disprove, and there are statements where the system provides no answer.

The underlying reason is that if you imagine a Platonic realm where all abstractions allegedly exist, the problem is that there are actually multiple abstractions ["models"] compatible with ZF, but different from each other in many important ways. In some of them, Axiom of Choice is true. In others, it is false. This is what it means that Axiom of Choice can be neither proved nor disproved in ZF. The problem is that "sets" have never been unambiguously defined in the first place!

However, adopting the Axiom of Choice (or any of its competitors) won't actually solve the problem. There will still remain many abstractions compatible with ZFC (or whatever), but different from each other. So you will sooner or later find other exciting properties of the fairies... ahem, infinite sets, that can be neither proved nor disproved by ZFC (or whatever). The problem, again, is that we still don't have an unambiguous definition of "sets".

And... but I am way out of my depth here... maybe we can't have an unambiguous definition of "sets", ever, because of the Gödel Theorem. So we will have to keep adding new axioms, but there is no territory to guide us in their choice, so different people will prefer different choices, mutually contradictory.

At the end the set theory research will be fractured into hundreds of competing definitions, all underspecified. The statements will have to be prefaced by ever longer "according to this collection of axioms" which will make things difficult and error-prone. (Things you will learn under one collection of axioms may be false or even nonsensical under other collections. So you will have to re-learn everything over and over again if you switch to a different system.) And the preferred collection of axioms, which will most likely provide you opportunity in the peer-reviewed journals and research grants, will be decided "politically" (as the most popular among the currently established researchers); which according to some people has already happened with ZF(C).

Comment by viliam on Rent Needs to Decrease · 2019-10-11T20:20:49.141Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I suppose it means that -- assuming infinite flexibility of humans -- as long as the life at some place is better than at other places, people will keep moving there. (Here, "better" includes quality of living, costs, job opportunities, etc.) The movement will only stop when the balance is achieved, that is, each place is equally good. Or when there are artificial barriers.

In other words, imagine Bay Area with cheap rents, and ask yourself why wouldn't at least 5% of USA move there.

Currently the answer is: because they couldn't afford the rent, or at least their potential income minus the rent isn't worth moving there. There are many potential answers for the future, but many of them would also apply to people already living there, such as you. (For example: collapse of transit, or high crime.)

Comment by viliam on Categories: models of models · 2019-10-11T19:44:35.386Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

But then there would be no obvious connection between the number "two" and the arrow "plus two". Also, no obvious connection between the "plus two" arrow doing from 1 to 3, and the "plus two" arrow going from 6 to 8. That feels like we can make a diagram that somehow represents the addition of integers, but we can't derive new insights about addition from looking at the diagram, because most information is lost in the translation.

I guess what I meant was: I have no idea how to express 1+2=3 in a useful picture of objects and arrows.

Comment by viliam on Sets and Functions · 2019-10-11T19:38:14.525Z · score: 14 (6 votes) · LW · GW
Incidentally, writing these posts has been shockingly exhausting and time-absorbing.

Of course. Don't feel bad about it; sometimes is takes me 20 minutes to write a comment. For longer texts, the only thing that can significantly increase my speed is alcohol; it turns off the desire to rewrite each sentence dozen times until it's perfect. (Spoiler: After rewriting the sentence dozen times, it usually still feels bad, maybe even worse.)

I was thinking about a different technique, though I never tried it: to simply speak the article to a microphone, and then rewrite my speech. Perhaps you could do it along with drawing the diagrams on paper, and then also scan the paper and add the pictures to the article.

I have always explained this material in the past with easy access to pen and paper, and somehow it never quite occurred to me that even sketching out a few dots and arrows is much more of a pain on a computer.

Just draw it on the paper. Then either scan it, or simply make a photo -- your smartphone almost certainly has much higher resolution than you need.

Comment by viliam on Categories: models of models · 2019-10-10T22:34:14.674Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW
What you learn to do is take a bunch of nouns—1, 2, 3, etc.—and a bunch of verbs—addition, subtraction—and make sentences. “1 + 2 = 3.”

I still have no idea how to express this in a picture of objects and arrows. I suppose that 1, 2, and 3 are objects. Is the addition an arrow? But an arrow has only one start and one end...

More meta: You have already provided the readers "motivation" in the two introductory articles. It is not necessary to add more hype in each article. Yes, I already heard that you can do everything in category theory, and I am willing to suspend disbelief. Now I am curious how specifically it can be done.

Comment by viliam on When is pair-programming superior to regular programming? · 2019-10-08T21:37:23.259Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I only had one experience with pair programming, and it was a positive one. Both in terms of emotional satisfaction, and productivity.

But I suspect that it is a pleasant experience when you are paired with a person you would otherwise enjoy talking to about programming. Because that's more or less what it is, except you are also producing the code you talk about.

If I had to pair-program with a person I don't "click" with -- either because of personality, or because of wildly different opinions on what is the desirable way to write code -- I can imagine it could become a form of torture. (But that's just a guess; I didn't have an opportunity to try.)

For this reason, I imagine the answer to whether "pair-programming is better" would depend on many things. How compatible are the team members? Are you allowed to choose your pair, or do you get one assigned against your will? (What happens when one member of the pair takes a vacation?)

But talking openly about personal compatibility is something I can hardly imagine in a workplace. I mean, jobs are usually hierarchical, hierarchical environment is antithetical to sincerity, expressing your true feelings could be taken as unprofessional behavior; so you could get people reporting that they "click" with everyone (or everyone high-status) just because they want to be seen as "team players", or because they want to be paired with someone highly productive so that their pair productivity will also be high.

In summary, I imagine the proper research would need to take personal compatibility into account, but there are incentives to provide wrong information. The research would have to address this.

Comment by viliam on What do the baby eaters tell us about ethics? · 2019-10-07T21:44:26.198Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW
If you're religious and talking to an atheist about God, both of you will look like baby eaters to the other. Likewise if you watch Fox News everyone on CNN or MSNBC will look like baby eaters but the same is true in reverse, everyone watching CNN will think Fox News are the baby eaters.

This seems like a lack of imagination how the aliens could be truly different from us. Narcissism of small differences, on a cosmic scale.

Comment by viliam on Introduction to Introduction to Category Theory · 2019-10-06T20:37:21.383Z · score: 11 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I am looking forward to this. I did math olympiads at high school, then switched to computer science, and then spent a few decades writing apps that read values from database, display them in HTML, and store the edited values again in the database (always in some new framework, so I have to keep running and yet remain at the same place). Sometimes I wonder where the alternative paths could have lead. It seems that my brain is still capable of understanding math; I can read about new topics and develop some intuition about them (and verify it with people who actually understand the stuff). Understanding the category theory would... well, feel good; as if I am getting a glimpse into the alternative universe where I continued doing math.

Sometimes things are explained in an unnecessarily difficult way. I understand that if you are a university professor teaching X, and you know that all your students learned Y during the previous year, it makes sense to write a textbook of X assuming deep and fresh knowledge of Y. But because of job and kids, I don't have the time to walk the exact path of a university student, so I would appreciate shortcuts.

Comment by viliam on Ideal Number of Parents · 2019-10-05T19:36:29.170Z · score: 22 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I think the optimal number of parents is probably two, more or less because of the reasons you mention: who has the power to make the big/final/meta decisions. On the other hand, I think that more people than usual could be involved in roles equivalent to grandparents / aunts / uncles.

When good friends with kids of similar age live close to each other, a good strategy is to put the kids together, one day at one home, another day at the other home. Kids interacting with each other will remove some burden from the parent/babysitter (yes, sometimes you have to resolve conflicts among them, but it is still a net win), and getting free time in return for extra babysitting is a great deal. Similarly to how having two kids is actually not twice as difficult as having one, because the two kids sometimes interact with each other instead of requiring your attention 100% of time, and taking two kids to a playground or making a meal for two kids is about the same work as doing it for one kid.

How much of agreement do you need to have with people in the "babysitting" roles? Seems to me that kids are able to learn that different rules apply in different places. (I see my kids behave differently at home, at kindergarten, at grandma. Kids often take an afternoon nap at kindergarten, even if it's voluntary, while refusing to do the same at home. Grandma is more fun, but she can use the threat of "I'll send you home if you misbehave".) So the question is where the difference is okay, and where it is not acceptable. For example, if you don't want your kids to get hurt, you will require the same (or higher; that's okay) safety standards from anyone else. On the other hand, it is okay to have different toys at different places (not just in the obvious sense, but even with rules like "no watercolors allowed in this house").

Parents can have different ideas on what is safe, how discipline should work, how much help to give, how to do food, value of different kinds of toys/screens/games, co-sleeping, night training, potty training, is it ok to microwave baby milk, what rules to have for sharing, how structured the day should be, when they're ready to go outside alone, how to do money, what to do for childcare, when bedtime should be, what's important in schooling, how important is predictability, how to handle various unique challenges most kids have in some form, how to do presents, when to let them try a thing, what medical treatments make sense, how much to let them make their own decisions, whether to let them ask people for things when it's kind of rude, how much to push them, when to encourage an interest, how to build responsibility, and how to balance all kinds of tricky tradeoffs.

With my wife, we can agree on most of this easily, the major disagreements being about discipline. Yep, adding more people with more opinions would make the conflict resolution much worse.

On the other hand, grandma has different opinions on multiple things, but in practice the differences don't matter much. If she thinks different toys are better, she is free to buy them and have them at her home. Kids sleep at home, so her opinions on bedtime are irrelevant (and when the kids sleep at her place, it's "her place, her rules"). She thinks kids should not read and write before the school age, so she does not do these activities with them (though she was pleasantly surprised to receive an SMS written in ALL CAPS and without spaces one day); that's perfectly okay because there are many other things to do. I suppose we do not have substantial disagreements on things that actually matter.

I suppose the lesson is that there are differences that cannot be overcome (atheism vs fundamentalist religion, anti-vaxer vs pro-vaxer, etc.), but smaller differences can be easily solved by having "different house, different rules". Within a house, there should be an agreement on rules. The parents should be one house. This is why increasing the number of parents makes things complicated, but increasing the number of houses does not.

Comment by viliam on Debate on Instrumental Convergence between LeCun, Russell, Bengio, Zador, and More · 2019-10-05T16:55:01.768Z · score: 32 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with the wisdom of removing the comment from AF, but I admit I was also screaming internally while reading the article.

(From a personal perspective, ignoring the issue of artificial intelligent and existential risks, this was an interesting look outside the LW bubble. Like, the more time passed since when I read the Sequences, the more the ideas explained there seem obvious to me, to the point where I start to wonder why was I even impressed by reading the text. But then I listen to someone from outside the bubble, and scream internally as I watch them doing the "obvious" mistakes -- typically some variant of confusing a map with the territory -- and then I realize the "obvious" things are actually not that obvious, even among highly intelligent people who talk about topics they care about. Afterwards, I just silently weep about the state of the human race.)

It hurts to read a sophisticated version of "humans are too smart to make mistakes". But pointing it out without crossing the entire inferential distance is not really helpful. :(

Comment by viliam on What empirical work has been done that bears on the 'freebit picture' of free will? · 2019-10-05T15:55:13.310Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I can't even imagine how one could design an empirical study of whether human free will is caused by quantum effects.

Creating a control group of humans in a parallel universe that runs on classical physics, is already a great technical challenge, but assuming we have done so... how would we test whether they have free will?

(More generally, how does one empirically check whether something that is undefined depends on something that is omnipresent?)

Even if we ignore the "quantum" part of the thing, how does one empirically test whether something has a free will or not? Do actual humans pass this test? All of them, or only the neurotypical ones?

Comment by viliam on What are some of your "Crazy Ideas" that you're currently thinking about? · 2019-09-25T21:45:27.522Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Okay, I see that my idea does depend too much on the situation in my country. (Well, the question was, what crazy ideas are we thinking about. I was thinking about how to improve the situation in my country. But now I see that the solution would not generalize well.)

In Slovakia, the situation is more like "there are no good textbooks" rather than "there are multiple decent textbooks competing on the market". For example, after computer science was added as a high-school subject, for the few following years there were still no textbooks for the subject; teachers had to improvise. (Which was okay for me, but not for everyone.) For some other subjects, there are textbooks teachers complain about, but it's all they have.

My guess (I may be completely wrong here) is that writing the entire book is simply too much, even for teachers who are good at what they do. It would take you the entire year, I suppose; and maybe even this would turn out to be a planning fallacy. Maybe it would be better to generate the textbook wiki-style; perhaps start with an inferior product, and keep fixing bugs. In Slovakia, the government dictates which topics need to be taught, in which order. For this project, this could be an advantage: the list of chapters is already given, all you need is write them one by one. Not necessarily each chapter by the same person.

Having multiple versions and choosing from them, that would be a nice problem to have. But even then, I suppose, paying the first author a fixed amount of money in return for giving up copyright would have the advantage that the author no longer can (nor has an incentive to) prevent later improvements by volunteers. I mean, teachers often prepare texts for their classes, and they don't get paid extra for that; some of them probably wouldn't mind contributing to the common project.

Comment by viliam on Heads I Win, Tails?—Never Heard of Her; Or, Selective Reporting and the Tragedy of the Green Rationalists · 2019-09-24T20:50:33.747Z · score: 11 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I was trying to devise some strategy. For example, suppose the underlying reality has the equal number of "green" and "blue" facts, but the "green" facts are reported with probability 100%, and the "blue" facts with probability 33%. If you only read one Green newspaper, you can't find out the truth. But reading three independent Green newspapers could give you some clue -- the "green" facts are reported in all of them, the "blue" facts only in some of them. This would suggest that something is going on... even without reading any non-Green sources!

But the problem is that this toy model does not reflect reality. No one reports 100% of facts in line with their narrative. Facts are many, pages are scarce, you select the important things (among those that are in line with your narrative). Like, you cover presidential elections, and mostly ignore people who save kittens. So, using my strategy above, a suspicious reader would conclude that the suppressed Blue politics are about saving kittens, because that's what the Green newspapers don't synchronize about.

Similarly, the differences between various Green newspapers could be e.g. regional. Both Washington Green and New York Green would report about presidential elections, but the former would also mention less important things happening in Washington, and the latter would mention less important things happening in New York.

On the other hand, there would be some natural synchronization about which "blue" facts are allowed to be reported. The ones that are least dangerous to the narrative, of course! Giving a voice to the selected weakest Blue points (or the strawman versions thereof) could be perceived as extra virtuous, while minimizing risk that readers start taking those points seriously. And the reader who tries to be extra charitable to the other side could end up trying to defend the strawmen.

At the end, it seems I was trying to extract signal from noise. Perhaps this is impossible. Unlike in simple mathematical models, you usually don't know the filtering algorithm, and it doesn't even have to be consistent. So the suspicion (even one supported by evidence) that you are being manipulated, does not help you undo the manipulation. You are likely to undershoot, you are likely to overshoot, you are likely to shoot in a completely wrong direction. You can't revert noise.

Comment by viliam on What are some of your "Crazy Ideas" that you're currently thinking about? · 2019-09-24T20:19:45.064Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I meant "conservative" as in "actually changes very little", not as in politics. Like, I am not suggesting to change what should be learned, when, or how; just to make the textbooks (also) digital, and free to use. Sorry for confusion.

Also, I had a situation in Slovakia in mind, where textbooks already are centralized, probably more than in most countries. (As far as I know, in most European countries you can have multiple competing textbooks certified as being "compatible with what the state wants you to learn". In Slovakia, you can only have one. Like, two authors could write almost identical textbooks, only one would be allowed for use in schools, the other would not.) Making the approved book free would strictly improve things.

Then again, you could have multiple competing free textbooks. Plus an option to upload your own ones on the school tablet.