Comment by waveman on Leaky Delegation: You are not a Commodity · 2021-01-25T21:05:34.232Z · LW · GW


I found that often certifiers lack teeth and are more of a PR exercise that genuine quality control. Sometimes they are the real thing, sometimes not. 

A recent example would be various forms of "organic" certification which are highly variable in validity. You need to look at each case. One question to ask is how many people were denied certification or had certification withdrawn in the last 12 months? How many lawyers were actually struck off by the bar association and what did they have to do to get struck off? 

Comment by waveman on Leaky Delegation: You are not a Commodity · 2021-01-25T21:03:21.598Z · LW · GW

An excellent and thoughtful post IMHO.

I would add the dimension of hidden or invisible quality.

Sometimes it is hard to determine or effectively specify the quality of an outsourced product or service. For example, if I go to a restaurant, I don't know if the chef washed his hands or has a cold or other illness. I don't know if they use cheap/semi-rancid seed oils or actually extra-virgin olive oil as claimed. Friends who worked in expensive restaurants claim that such cost-cutting is common, and it is almost invisible. My experience is that often when quality is not immediately visible to the customer, corners are cut.

Another example of this is when buying food and supplements. Often I have bought food that is supposedly free of additives, only to have a bad reaction, due to additives that were in fact present. Minced beef often contains sulfites which is illegal but often done. These preservatives are then used to disguise old product. One vitamin C tablet supposedly contained only natural colors and flavors and affected me quite badly. I later found out that it contained coal tar base dies and cyclamates and saccharine.

[as background I have a defective gene for the breakdown of histamines (defective enzyme is diamine oxidase) so I am sensitive to histamines in diet and also to the very common chemicals that inhibit the breakdown of histamines or that trigger its release from the mast cells].

A friend of mine went to a presentation for a coffee shop chain. They boasted that they could get coffee for $1.50AUD/kg. "How can you get good coffee for that price?" my friend asked. "You can't - and that's the secret!!! - they can't tell the difference, especially if you add some flavours".

Somewhat alluded to is the issue of operational entanglement. Providers will often attempt to "lock you in" so that you end up spending more than you planned because it is difficult to extract yourself. I am in this situation at present where a lawyer has set things up so that he can charge $$$s for work I could do, but it is difficult to get him out of the picture.

Comment by waveman on Book Review: On Intelligence by Jeff Hawkins (and Sandra Blakeslee) · 2020-12-30T05:00:04.621Z · LW · GW

I think it's a great book and anyone interested in the brain at a well informed layperson level would probably enjoy it and learn a lot from it.

Hawkins makes a good case for a common cortical algorithm - the studies involving ferrets whose visual nerves were connected to the audio centres and who learned to see are one compelling piece of evidence. He makes some plausible arguments that he has identified one key part of the algorithm - hierarchical predictive models - and he relates it in some detail to cortical micro-architecture. It is also quite interesting how motor control can be seen as a form of predictive algorithm (though frustratingly this is left at the hand-waving level and I found it surprisingly hard to convert this insight into code!). 

His key insight is that we learn by recognizing temporal patterns, and that the temporal nature of our learning is central. and I suspect this has a lot of truth to it and remains under-appreciated.

There are clear gaps that he kind of glosses over e.g. how neuronal networks produce higher level mental processes like logical thought. So it is not perfect and is not a complete model of the brain. I would definitely read his new book when it comes out.

Comment by waveman on The Perversity of High Standards · 2020-12-27T21:51:40.690Z · LW · GW

I don't think the problem in this case is one of excessively high standards. I think the problem is that our political system selects people who are good, talkers, who can spin a narrative, who can and do lie convincingly. 

After 50 years following politics my heuristic is to ignore what politicians say and watch only their actions. I find that what they say is generally devoid of useful information. The only conclusion one can draw is that they want you to believe what they are saying. 

Track record is the only useful guide to their likely future actions.

Comment by waveman on Covid 12/24: We’re F***ed, It’s Over · 2020-12-24T22:35:12.390Z · LW · GW

then the risk for young and healthy people remains low


Don't confuse risk of death with risk overall. I personally know several young people who suffered months of debilitation, in some cases still feeling sick months later. From some limited studies this appears to be common, and permanent damage appears to be not uncommon including damage to testes, brain/memory etc. 

At best we do not know the long term effects. Tell someone suffering from shingles (which was eventually found to be a result of prior chicken pox infection) that chicken pox is a "mild" condition.

Comment by waveman on Covid 12/24: We’re F***ed, It’s Over · 2020-12-24T22:30:34.080Z · LW · GW

One point not noted anywhere as far as I can see is that, by allowing the pandemic to spread to millions of people, the risk of a more dangerous or virulent strain appearing increased enormously.

If the pandemic had been kept to relatively small numbers, as in Taiwan, New Zealand, Australia, Vietnam, Thailand, (China if you believe their statistics on this, unlike all their other statistics are correct) etc. this new more infective strain would likely never have appeared. 

Comment by waveman on Covid 12/24: We’re F***ed, It’s Over · 2020-12-24T22:23:31.291Z · LW · GW

Does that [cutting cases by 50% per week] sound like something any Western country could possibly accomplish from here?

Yes. Have a look at the state of Victoria in Australia, which went from close to 700 cases a day in early August to zero in about 8 weeks.

I sympathise with people in countries run by incompetent buffoons (i.e. most of Europe and the Americas) but it is not inevitable.

Overall a terrific post - your point about the need to act before there is certainty is solid gold. 


Comment by waveman on Probability theory implies Occam's razor · 2020-12-18T10:25:53.046Z · LW · GW

I am not sure you actually justified your claim, that OR follows from the laws of probability with no empirical input. 

Reading your arguments carefully you seem to have snuck in some prior knowledge about the universe (that age does not matter much to the weight of cows after a certain age for example). 

There is a big mystery to me as to why the universe is so simple e.g. the laws of physics can be written out (though not explained) in a few pages. Why are they so small, not to mention finite, not to mention not uncountable...

Marcus Hutter's AIXI has a prior that makes simple worlds more likely. See also

Comment by waveman on How We Failed COVID-19 · 2020-12-03T10:24:14.194Z · LW · GW

Democracies seem to select leaders who are good talkers, but the selectivity for actual competence looks to be very weak. This is not a surprise; it has been commented on for millennia. Have a look at how ancient Athens got into the disastrous invasion of Sicily which ultimately led to its defeat by Sparta for example. 

Having done polling and talked to average voters it seems to me a miracle that sometimes half-decent leaders gets up. So an incompetent response is expected.

Some things not often mentioned with Taiwan's response to the coronavirus 2 pandemic.

1. They are not a member of the WHO and thus were not misled by their very bad advice early.

2. They had experienced SARS1 and thus did not believe the CCP's misrepresentations of the situation this time around. 

3. Their government seems to be trusted by the population as to competence and as to having good intentions. By contrast from my times in the US, the populace seem to regard the government as a bunch of lying thieves. This makes it much easier for Taiwan to get cooperation. 

4. Quarantine of arrivals was strictly and competently enforced. 

5. Face masks were made mandatory. While annoying to wear, they do not prevent most business and commercial activities.

6. Checking of people at entrances to work, shops, transport, schools etc. Those with suspicious symptoms or a high temperature are sent home. Many have pointed out, irrelevantly, that this is not an accurate test for coronavirus. But it excludes a high percentage of the infected and, with face masks, helps get the R0 infectivity under 1.

7. Some high risk establishments like "hostess bars" were closed, though most businesses remained open and the economy only fell slightly. 

8, Contact tracing was indeed well done and helpful but modeling suggests it is not enough on its own. You need to get infectivity down and keep from importing cases as much as possible. 

Comment by waveman on Are index funds still a good investment? · 2020-12-03T10:05:39.270Z · LW · GW

The academic research (e.g. Santa Fe institute work referenced in Jarrod Wilcox's "Investing by the Numbers", an excellent book for LessWrong-ish people), suggests that while truly passive indexers do not cause problems directly, they can cause problems in other ways. 

They tend to amplify the effects of momentum players and price insensitive growth-oriented traders for example. In sufficient numbers they can therefore indirectly destabilize the market.

When they are not really indexers but picking sectors to "index" in, they certainly can add to the chaos.

Comment by waveman on Are index funds still a good investment? · 2020-12-03T09:56:38.042Z · LW · GW

Throughout the last decade (or last 15 years, really), FAANG stocks (and QQQ) have consistently overperformed the market/index funds

True but you conveniently cut off the dot com crash, in which the NASDAQ QQQ crashed from 107 to 23 (79%) while the S&P500 only fell about 43%. In finance beware the selective "well chosen" example. 

From the 2000 top that is a return of only about 5% per annum compound. 

Comment by waveman on Are index funds still a good investment? · 2020-12-03T09:41:37.699Z · LW · GW

markets are likely quite robust even to large amounts of so-called 'uniformed flow'

I don't agree and would be interested in evidence for this. Have a look at what happened in 1999-2000 and see if you still think this. Investors moved en masse into hot tech funds, many "index" funds. The fund managers were to a large degree helpless as they had to follow fund mandates. Fund managers who stood aside as the madness grew lost funds under management rapidly.

"Indexing" is not actually indexing if you don't own the whole market. That would include stocks, bonds and real estate in proportion to market value. You could start with an all world index fund like this and add an international fond fund and some get exposure to real estate all over the world (most REITs are more bond-like than real estate like).

If you are, say, in the S&P 500 only or over-weighted to the NASDAQ you are not indexing. 

Comment by waveman on Prize: Interesting Examples of Evaluations · 2020-11-28T21:44:59.412Z · LW · GW

It would be helpful if you would explain what you mean by an "evaluation system". You seem to regard it as obvious. You provide no definition. You give a few examples. But do you really want people to have to spend time to reverse engineer what you are talking about.

When people put terms in quotes when not quoting someone, as you do, it usually signifies the use of those words in some non-standard manner. The fact that you put terms in quotes thus suggests to me that you are using the words in some unspecified non-standard manner.

I can guess what you might mean and I might even feel confident I am right. And I might later find out that you intended some other meaning and I should have known what you mean.

The first rule of any essay is to be clear what you are talking about. It is not a sin to state the "obvious". Karl Popper was notorious for this - being unclear and then deriding people for misconstruing him. See his later papers and books.

Comment by waveman on The central limit theorem in terms of convolutions · 2020-11-22T11:55:00.594Z · LW · GW

Key questions for me. 

1. Under what assumptions is the CLT valid? There seem to be many real world situations where it is not valid. E.g. finite variance is one such assumption. 

2. How easily can one check that the assumptions are valid in a given case? The very existence f fat tails can make it hard to notice that there are fat tails and easy to assume that tails are not fat.

2. Even when valid, how fast does the ensemble distribution converge, in particular how fast does the "zone of normality" spread? Even when CLT applies to the mean of the distribution it may not apply to the far tails for a long time.

Comment by waveman on Covid 11/12: The Winds of Winter · 2020-11-12T21:29:57.024Z · LW · GW

Specifically on the Pfizer press release. Due to various medical conditions I have been following medical research, press releases, government policy etc for many decades and have read cubic meters of medical research papers, textbooks, statistics texts etc.

TL;DR and one thing I have learned : A press release from a pharmaceutical company saying <thing> is very weak evidence that <thing> is true.

In any case realistically a vaccine rollout is extremely unlikely to be done before the end of 2021. This is a best case scenario. And we do not know the extent of the economic damage. 

Comment by waveman on Covid 11/12: The Winds of Winter · 2020-11-12T21:25:08.358Z · LW · GW

It is complete hypocrisy to make numerous inflammatory political comments and then demand that others refrain from political comments themselves. And very unhelpful and anti-Lesswrong in spirit. Please stop doing that. 

You dismiss betting markets, which still give Donald Trump close to 10% chance of winning the election. This in spite of betting markets doing far better than the pundits. Given that Biden's margin seems to have been about 0.4% (i.e. if every state had seem the Trump vote 0.5% higher, Trump would have won the electoral college) rather than about 5%+ which the polls were predicting, the betting market odds of 65% for Biden seem to have been closer to reality than the polls. And better than the pundits (and lesswrong commentators) who were saying Biden was about 90% likely to win.

You say "this wave is the climax". I would be interested to hear your evidence for this. Like many of the other claims in your post, this was made without any apparent data, facts, argument or justification.

Comment by waveman on The Born Rule is Time-Symmetric · 2020-11-11T22:36:12.987Z · LW · GW

For the benefit of others reading this, in Shankar's book referenced below, this is said to not be a full symmetry i.e. not always valid.

There is no reason to think that the evolution of the conjugate function will be the same as the evolution of the original function. 

Also there is no time-reversed Copenhagen measurement process in the theory which he implicitly requires.

Think about a massive object like a planet moving from L to R. It is massive so quantum effects can be ignored. It is clearly not true that the planet would be measured as being in the same place 10 minutes ago and 10 minutes hence. So the statement "All possible futures are also possible pasts" is wrong.

Comment by waveman on What could one do with truly unlimited computational power? · 2020-11-11T10:34:16.018Z · LW · GW

I suppose I would test out the claim by getting it to mine a few hundred $million of bitcoin for me.

Then crack all the interesting crypto data that is floating around. 

Then brute force search for proofs/solutions of all the big problems such as Riemann Hypothesis, factoring etc. Try all texts shorter than say 100 terabytes and see if they solved the problem.

Work out the implications of all the human genes by calculating out how the human body works. This would include things like solving protein folding.

Find the best/shortest algorithm for all the AI/ML challenges that delivers near perfect results. 

Then simulate the body with various chemical compounds added to cure cancer, infections etc. Design vaccine + cure for coronavirusV2 and also machines to make them.

I guess you could create a model of the brain and then run all sorts of experiments on the simulation to work out how it works. 

Simulate atoms and molecules and brute force ways to build things that would build arbitrary nanotech engines.

At what point would you get worried about AI safety?

Comment by waveman on Does BioNtech's vaccine result of 90% disease prevention mean that 90% of the vaccinated can't pass the virus to other people? · 2020-11-10T22:18:42.932Z · LW · GW

It means that they have put out a press release. I would be waiting for the paper and hopefully more data. I have found that such press releases often subtly and unsubtly overstate how good the results are. 

From the reports, it looks like 90% of the infections were in the control group. Make of that what you will. It does sound encouraging. We don't know if the "uninfected" were shedding virus at any given time.

Comment by waveman on [deleted post] 2020-11-10T09:06:04.963Z

IMHO headless posts like this should be removed. By headless posts I mean things like "Link! Check it out!". 

Why should we listen to this? What is it even about?

We are all snowed under by things we might watch or listen to or read. You need to provide good reasons for people to devote their time to something.

Here is the blurb on the podcast. For something that goes for almost 2 hours.

"We discuss the future, legal systems very different from our own, how technology drives progress, and what the future might look like. "

Comment by waveman on Please steelman the accusations of election fraud · 2020-11-10T09:03:04.419Z · LW · GW

HIlarious the way they quote the NYT on the high incidence of voter fraud, a view they may not entirely adhere to nowadays.

Comment by waveman on Please steelman the accusations of election fraud · 2020-11-10T09:02:06.072Z · LW · GW

Here is one attempt. I have not evaluated it in any detail.

Interestingly he dismisses the Benford's Law arguments with links that provide what look like cogent reasons.

Comment by waveman on Bet On Biden · 2020-11-04T08:26:56.217Z · LW · GW

I got heavily downvoted for suggesting that Nate Silver's credibility was not strong enough to make this a good bet.

The most you could say at this point (late in the night on election day) is that it looks like the election is very close. This suggests to me that those people saying that betting on it at 65% odds for Biden was a huge steal, were overconfident. People were quoted who thought Biden's P(win) was 96%. 

I am interested in any suggestions about what went wrong. I can't think of a lot of edifying reasons. 

1. Rationalists don't win

2. Dunning-Kruger effect

3. General overconfidence

4. Saying Trump had a chance runs the risk of signaling that you are a "Trumptard".

5. Stating high confidence is one way to signal high intelligence. "Uh I'm not sure" doesn't sound too smart. 


Comment by waveman on Bet On Biden · 2020-11-04T08:07:09.744Z · LW · GW

> What do you mean by this?

 I mean that given he won, the actual odds of him winning were actually better than 10%. 

I cannot prove this externally but  - before the election in 2016 I said to several people, who remember this, that it would be somewhere between a narrow Clinton win and a strong Trump win. So it was not outlandish to think Trump could win. The main reason I had was what is now known as the "shy Trump voter" effect. People did not want to get cancelled for admitting that they were a 'fascist'.  

> Look at Nate's track record

If Trump wins this one, as looks fairly likely at the moment, NS will be 3/5 for Presidential elections, no better than chance.

My main beef with the argument from credibility is a) NS does not have a long strong track record in this field of presidential elections, b) Credible is different than totally accurate. I pointed out if he was wrong by a few tens of percents, like last time, his view is not strong evidence that there is a winning bet here. 

Funnily enough NS reduced his P(Biden) to about 50% on election day (or maybe the day before). 

Comment by waveman on Non Polemic: How do you personally deal with "irrational" people? · 2020-11-03T07:22:23.279Z · LW · GW

It is kind of a meme that people learn about rationality and then observe how irrational everyone else is . It is a lot easier to observe others' irrationality than your own. But probably one's own irrationality is more important. 

1. So, work on your own irrationality first before focusing on others' limitations. 

2. As for dealing with other people's irrationality, see (1). 

3. Finally, people are going to do what they want to do. With some very rare people you can introduce them to rationality things and they might change. With most, they cannot or don't want to be rational. This is the reality that you need to rationally deal with. 

4. Also be aware that full rationality is not possible. This in the sense that you cannot do all the calculations needed to behave totally rationally. You need to employ all sorts of heuristics and short cuts. My computational capacity is limited, also my memory. Gathering data is costly.  Time is short. So tolerate other people who deal with this in ways you might not prefer.

Comment by waveman on The Born Rule is Time-Symmetric · 2020-11-02T03:57:45.015Z · LW · GW

I too would like to see a citation for this proposition

> In quantum mechanics, time-reversal is performed by complex conjugation 

I worked my way through the QM textbook and this does not compute AFAIK.

Comment by waveman on Should students be allowed to give good teachers a bonus? · 2020-11-02T03:40:36.330Z · LW · GW

Students are the consumers of the product

This is only partly true. Employers and others also have skin in the game. There has been some research suggesting that grade inflation, which reduces the information content of grades, is in part due to the role that student assessment play in academic career prospects. Students rate soft markers more highly.

This is an example of using a metric (for teacher quality) that is imperfect, which then results in distortions.

Comment by waveman on What risks concern you which don't seem to have been seriously considered by the community? · 2020-10-30T06:44:42.564Z · LW · GW

The arguments for a possible collapse [I am on the fence] are roughly

1. Many civilizations in the past collapsed when deprived of their source of energy. A smooth transition to a lower level of energy use is not the norm though it has happened e.g. Byzantium. 

2. Complex systems tend to be operating close to optimum, which makes for fragility. Turn the electricity off in NYC for two weeks and see what happens for example. More on this in books like "The Collapse of Complex Societies" by Joseph A. Tainter. 

3. Our civilization is global thus the collapse would likely be global.

Comment by waveman on What risks concern you which don't seem to have been seriously considered by the community? · 2020-10-30T06:37:43.295Z · LW · GW

I am also hopeful


I don't really think you can make an argument that a renewable economy is viable based on hopium type arguments. As with the Club of Rome work, you would have to assume a massive increase in the rate of progress for this to work. In reality the problem seems to be the reverse - productivity increases seem to have slowed considerably. 

There is a whole discussion about this both in the popular press and among economists

It is one thing even to assume present rates of improvement will continue, it is another to assume a dramatic turnaround against the current trend. 

Comment by waveman on What risks concern you which don't seem to have been seriously considered by the community? · 2020-10-30T06:33:37.317Z · LW · GW

> USA levels of consumption in the economic sense or just energy consumption?

Basically this is a false distinction.  ( I did say first world originally not the US, which does seem to be somewhat profligate as a result of lower prices in the US, others tend to have high taxes on oil and coal). 

Copied from my comment above:

> Some people try to argue that we can have high economic growth without more energy but cross sectionally and temporally this would be very novel. Living standards and energy use are highly correlated. The one apparent exception, first world countries recently is just a result of outsourcing manufacturing to LDCs. When you take into account the energy embedded in imports, the richer countries are continuing to grow energy use rapidly (and effective CO2 emissions as well).

Comment by waveman on What risks concern you which don't seem to have been seriously considered by the community? · 2020-10-30T06:30:51.498Z · LW · GW

So many people have pointed me at that article that I am thinking about doing a copypasta.

tl;dr Overall, they are talking about solving a small part of the problem, in places that are unusually well favoured, using unrealistic assumptions.

Problem #1 is that it is almost entirely focused on electricity which is only roughly 25% of the problem. 

Problem #2 is that it fails to take into account in its calculations the total system cost of delivering energy across the whole economy. It is not just a matter of solar cells. You need all the infrastructure, transmission lines (including for all that redundancy you need now), storage, etc.

Problem #3 is that it makes unrealistic assumptions. For example the use of pumped hydro for seasonal storage is just ludicrous. Do the math. 

Problem #4 is that it only considers the problem for regions that are especially favoured: "regions with high solar and/or high wind resources".

I have done a ppt but I am revising it over the next weeks in response to comments. I will post it here when done. 

> Musk seems to think

Argument from authority. In my ppt I only go with proven technologies, This rules out this kind of thing. 

> the cement manufacturing process

The issue is that the process emits lots of CO2. For a renewable solution you need to expend large amounts of energy removing the CO2 from the air and finding a way to store it. There are ideas of how to store it but none that are proven at this scale (billions of tons)

> assume the rest of the world catches up to first world living standards

I briefly outlined two scenarios above. The first being to match existing energy use. The second taking into account growth in population and economic growth, which is happening, in LDCs. The first is very difficult at best, the second seems not at all possible barring a miracle. I do not see how you are going to stop the locked in population growth. and economic growth in LDCs is proceeding apace. 

Multiplying the factors of population, reduced disparities, and modest growth in more developed countries results in an increase of 10-209 fold in energy consumption. Some people try to argue that we can have high economic growth without more energy but cross sectionally and temporally this would be very novel. Living standards and energy use are highly correlated. The one apparent exception, first world countries recently is just a result of outsourcing manufacturing to LDCs. When you take into account the energy embedded in imports, the richer countries are continuing to grow energy use rapidly (and effective CO2 emissions as well).


Comment by waveman on What risks concern you which don't seem to have been seriously considered by the community? · 2020-10-29T10:47:08.182Z · LW · GW

That we run out of easily usable cheap energy sources and our civilization reverts to a kind of permanent static feudal / subsistence structure at best, if not outright collapse.

I think this is ignored for a number of reasons. 

On the right, there is an assumption that fossil fuels are not going to run out, that fuel for nuclear reactors is basically infinite, etc. So no problem other than the "hoax" of global warming. I think this is wrong because a) GW is not a hoax, according to several months I spent looking into the issue, b) fossil fuels are going to run out fairly soon in terms of fuels that take less energy to extract than they produce, c) nuclear fuels would run out about as fast as fossil fuels if used at scale. The only exception being we could last a couple hundred years using breeder reactors but who wants 5,000 nuclear bomb raw material makers spread around the planet. And the faith in technology progress is overdone; nuclear fusion still seems a long way away, and the state of the art in batteries has only been getting better at about 7% per year.

On the left there is the belief that renewables will solve the problem. I have so far spent a couple of months trying to put together a picture of what a renewable economy would look like. So far it does not look like it adds up. The fundamental problems are 3-fold 1) the low density of renewables making the infrastructure extremely resource, energy and cost intensive 2) Batteries are nowhere near good enough for many key requirements (air travel, shipping, heavy transport and seasonal energy storage) 3) We don't have a solution for others (concrete, steel manufacture). There are a lot of unproven ideas but if you try to put together a solution from proven technologies it does not add up so far. 

It is very difficult to impossible even to match existing economic output with renewables, but when you take into account locked in population growth and assume the rest of the world catches up to first world living standards then energy consumption becomes a huge multiple of current levels and it becomes absurdly out of reach.  

Most proposed solutions have as a vital step "then a miracle occurs*". Out whole civilization is based on cheap energy. Without that, all our cleverness is in vain.

*As one example I was recently informed that my analysis had not taken into account the ability to mine uranium from asteroids and was thus faulty.

Comment by waveman on Whence the symptoms of social media? · 2020-10-27T10:51:11.429Z · LW · GW

I suggest collecting some data on your browsing habits and seeing how much time you are burning. It might be more than you think. 

Your post feels a bit like a rationalization, like my friend saying he could stop drinking any time he wants to. He just doesn't want to.

I however may be engaged in motivated reasoning myself. I am working on software to level the playing field so the hapless person on the internet has a chance. 

Comment by waveman on Bet On Biden · 2020-10-19T06:25:34.930Z · LW · GW

'Nate Silver is credible'


He had Trump at 28% chance to win, so while credible he is not 100% accurate. Let's say Trump actually had a 50% chance of winning last time, which is not outlandish seeing that he won the electoral college by a significant margin, so NS was off by ~22+%.

Now he says Trump is 87% likely to lose. Take off 22% and it's 65%. After costs, taxes, operational slip-ups, your time etc, and you have an expected loss at 60-65% odds. 

Also, if Trump wins and you are a Biden supporter, you lose twice. That would be bad hedonics. On the other hand if you prefer Trump this could be a form of hedging.

Not only that there is time to the election during which a lot can happen. "A week is a long time in politics", So even if you are right at the moment, you are exposed to events leading up to the election, which could make you wrong.

For the record I think Biden has about 70% chance to win, so if you take this bet you will probably win. Still a bad bet though IMHO. 

Source: I have made a large fraction of all possible investing mistakes. In betting markets I am ahead, having only ever bet on one horse race, in which my horse came in first. 

Comment by waveman on [Link] "Where are all the successful rationalists?" · 2020-10-19T06:05:47.703Z · LW · GW

It’s solely because weird blogs on the internet make me feel less alone.


Numerous people have said this to me about the whole rationality movement. That feeling "I am not the only one". 

Comment by waveman on Journal article: "The Mythical Taboo on Race and Intelligence" · 2020-10-16T09:36:29.897Z · LW · GW

This is no better than the infamous meme of unbounded laziness

> <Link>
> Your thoughts? 

and should be deleted.

One way to show there is no taboo on this topic would be to list the  grants issued recently by government funding bodies to study the issue. 

Comment by waveman on Evaluating expertise: a clear box model · 2020-10-16T01:02:03.878Z · LW · GW
  • Black box/outside view of the expert: This type of modelling would be just looking at the expert’s prediction accuracy in the past without asking about detailed properties of how they come to those decisions. Their prediction accuracy is ultimately what we want to get at but sometimes track records are incomplete or don’t exist yet.

    [Worked out how to exit quote mode Pressing alt-enter 3 times works, today at least.]

You can do a lot better than this. Some signs of an expert from an outside perspective

1. Can predict the future better than simple extrapolations. 
2. Can fix broken things better than everyman.
3. Can design and make things better than everyman.
4. Can explain things in a parsimonious way better than everyman, 

All of the above need to take into account the possibility that luck played a part. For example if millions of people play the stock market and 29 get rich, then you need to take the large number of "attempts" in deciding whether the 29 have skill.

When you take this seriously it is astonishing now many 'experts' appear to have no skill at all.

Comment by waveman on Has Eliezer ever retracted his statements about weight loss? · 2020-10-15T23:17:42.162Z · LW · GW

I try and post something starting with a copypasted quote. How do I get out of quote mode? I try one thing after another and invariably end up somehow accidentally submitting the incomplete post. Also this keeps changing - previously I could hit control-enter a few times but this no longer reliably works. 

I want to split a paragraph. How? No idea. Nothing seems to work. 

The main problem seems to be that the thing is totally trigger happy about deciding that you submitted the post. 

There does not seem to be any help on the editor. You have to experiment and fail to find out, laboriously. Some people enjoy this. I find it infuriating. 

Comment by waveman on Has Eliezer ever retracted his statements about weight loss? · 2020-10-15T23:12:44.646Z · LW · GW

Note to people that this can change dramatically with age. Many people have no trouble with their weight until some time in the 30s or early 40s. 

Comment by waveman on Has Eliezer ever retracted his statements about weight loss? · 2020-10-15T23:09:56.751Z · LW · GW


I am also aware that he stated that during the period of weight loss his productivity plummeted. That is, the weight loss was at an unacceptable cost. 

See my post from yesterday where I describe how he lost the weight. 

Comment by waveman on Has Eliezer ever retracted his statements about weight loss? · 2020-10-15T01:27:01.740Z · LW · GW

It is quite a frustrating process to watch. 

He has asked for help numerous times but without giving much detail on what he has tried. For example, he said he had tried "paleo". But paleo is a very vague term. People suggest things and he advises that he already tried them without giving details on exactly what he did.

He has not published blood tests or other diagnostics etc as far as I can tell, so it is very difficult to know what the problem which he calls "metabolic disprivilege" is. Do his close relatives have particular weight problems? What are the genetic tests showing in terms of genes known to inhibit fat mobilization? Does blood sugar go down when dieting? We do not know this. I would expect rationality would dictate a rapid exploration of this problem but I do not see it. 

As many (like me) who have lost a lot of weight will have experienced, the scope for self deception and for the lower brain to hoodwink you is huge. People typically believe that while dieting they are less productive. I also believed this but by chance it turned out I have been collecting metrics on my productivity for another reason, and was able to find out that my productivity (on mentally hard things) went up substantially. But we don't know how he measured his productivity, if at all, and whether his claimed reduction while on the diet is real or not. 

We also don't know whether his expectations about how much productive hard mental work you can actually do are realistic. I get the impression that he feels that if he cannot concentrate really hard on difficult things for 12+ hours per day, something is wrong. But very few, if any, people can do this. (not doing routine things, but e.g. learning new difficult things or trying to prove hard theorems etc). 

I agree that some people find it easier than others to lose weight. And there are some rare people who have extreme difficulty or who are exceptionally prone to obesity. This has been mentioned as far back as Dr Atkins' original book. People who have more difficulty than most - like me* - in losing weight constitute about 20% of the community. The hard cases are quite rare. So some good quality evidence is needed to conclude that a given person is one such. 

*My weight problems are IMHO partly a result of high (measured) endogenous levels of the hormone cortisol - 60% above the top of the normal range - possibly a result of some things that happened when I was very young, which increases appetite,  increases insulin levels  thereby inhibiting fat mobilization, and increases fat storage and makes it harder to maintain lean body mass on a diet. So I am not unsympathetic to those who struggle.  Nonetheless, whatever challenges you have, a rational approach to a solution is best.

Comment by waveman on Has Eliezer ever retracted his statements about weight loss? · 2020-10-15T01:01:05.713Z · LW · GW

using some form of keto diet 

(damn the built-in editor on lesswrong to hell by the way)

He described it as a protein sparing modified fast.

Comment by waveman on Alpha α and Beta β · 2020-10-11T05:41:34.472Z · LW · GW

Good post explaining the basics of exploiting insights. A good book with examples on this topic is "Investing the Templeton Way: The Market-Beating Strategies of Value Investing's Legendary Bargain Hunter" by Lauren Templeton.

OP has acknowledged the hidden and unstated risks here. I strongly support reading the next installment before implementing these insights. Example of such risks:

> suppose you knew Tesla will go up 1% in value over the next month. 

There is no way anyone could know this. So this is not a sure bet. 

Let's say you know Tesla is tracking to a huge profit increase, far beyond current market expectations*, suggesting an increase in stock price is likely. 

You implement this insight as suggested. 

[N.B. Hypothetical example]

But between now and then a pandemic breaks out. Elon Musk dies in a car accident while using a Tesla on autopilot. Joe Biden gets elected and announces that the tax on capital gains will now be at full marginal tax rates (yes politicians lie!). Also it turns out that Tesla's previous revenues were overstated by accounting fraud wiping out their entire capital base and requiring a massive capital raising. Also, China invades Taiwan and the Stock Market crashes 45% overnight. 

How profitable do you think your trade will be?

So what you have is a risk arbitrage, not a sure thing. You need to carefully assess the likelihood of something derailing your insight. Even if you are eventually right, you need to have significant capital available to ride out the fluctuations along the way (ask LTCM about this). You might go bust before you get rich. 

The fact that Tesla profits will go up is not a reason to buy the stock. What you need is an accurate variant perception. That is you need to have a different perception from the market that is more accurate than the market's view. So that means you need to understand the market's view - something I find quite hard to do. Often I am sure the market already factored something into the price, but then it is officially announced and the price jumps. 

Comment by waveman on Why Boston? · 2020-10-11T05:13:28.838Z · LW · GW

Pretty good governance, as illustrated by the pandemic response.

Third worst state for deaths (all expressed per million population) in the US. 
If MA were a country it would have the worst death rate.

Compare MA (1,391 deaths per million) to Taiwan (0.3 deaths per million, none for months) with no lockdown. MA is 4,000 times worse. "Good" is not a word that has any applicability here. I would suggest "disastrous" or "catastrophic" would be more apt. Even Australia at 35 is 40 times better than MA. 

I notice a lot of places are delusional about their 'great' covid response.

Comment by waveman on Thoughts on ADHD · 2020-10-08T02:03:16.907Z · LW · GW

High Rejection Sensitivity makes my attention in general more flinchy. Rather than just explicit rejection, you can think of this as a high sensitivity to negative feelings in general

Good point. Do you or does anyone else have any insight into why these tendencies might be more prevalent with ADHD? 

Some ideas:

? More getting into trouble and more failure and underperforming leads to more negative experiences involving condemnation and judgement.

? Reduced inability to self-sooth and in general to manage emotions leads to equivalent incidents being felt more keenly.

Comment by waveman on The Rise and Fall of American Growth: A summary · 2020-10-06T21:39:12.729Z · LW · GW

By coincidence I recently calculated per-capita energy use in the USA in 1970 and now. Basically there is no change. Not surprising considering the huge increase in energy costs at around that time. So I agree with the above post.

When you consider the very strong correlation between energy and GDP - across countries and across time - the stagnation ceases to be a mystery. Computers don't use very much energy in comparison to things like cars so they are the one exception.

There is a view that renewables technology will be "too cheap to meter". As far as I can tell this is completely wrong. You need to look at the entire energy system not just household electricity on during a sunny daytime in summer. To replace it with renewables will, in my estimation, without a huge unexpected breakthrough in battery technology, be far more expensive and possibly not even possible.

Sticking with fossil fuels will not work due to depletion. Nuclear same problem, unless you accept breeder reactors and massive nuclear proliferation.

Comment by waveman on Your Standards are Too High · 2020-10-02T04:10:16.939Z · LW · GW

Yes. A lot of "akrasia" is actually people trying to do the impossible and their mind and body telling them no. Like "runkrasia", an affliction that stops people running 42 km a day. 

I suspect a lot of weight gain is driven by similar factors. People who expect that they can work at 100% intellectual effort for 12 hours a day and if they can't, something is wrong: something like I need more food due to poor metabolism.

Looking at the biographies of very productive people, very few of them seem to actually work (mentally) at maximum effort for much more than 4-5 hours a day.

Comment by waveman on CO2 Stripper Postmortem Thoughts · 2020-09-08T13:19:50.981Z · LW · GW

I think there is a fatal problem here apart from cost and complexity. A fatal problem that makes this device potentially DEADLY. Sorry for shouting.

Consider air. Add humans. Humans convert O2 and water and food into CO2 and H2O. Your machine takes out the CO2.

What happens is that the O2 levels will inexorably fall, until you basically have pure-ish Nitrogen. If a human or other mammal breathes pure Nitrogen they will not feel suffocation. Suffocation detection is triggered by CO2 levels which your device removes. What happens is that you would feel OK and then suddenly faint and subsequently die.

Here is a link to a euthanasia device that implements this mechanism as a way to euthanize yourself.

Comment by waveman on Efficacy of Vitamin D in helping with COVID · 2020-09-08T13:05:44.859Z · LW · GW

Vitamin D is out of patent so profit margins are limited. Same issue with hydroxychloroquine.

The study is fairly small, so the reduction in deaths (2/50 to 0/25) was not statistically significant. The dramatic reduction in ICU admissions was s/s though. From my perspective the room for doubt on the benefits of vitamin D3 is now very small since this study which was an RCT (randomized trial). I will certainly look at any large RCT if/when it comes in, I am in no state of suspense about this.

Apart from the studies mentioned above, there are numerous other indirect lines of evidence, e.g.:

1. Severity of the disease in migrant communities with dark skin or social mandates of covered skin e.g. Somalians in Sweden, African Americans in the USA. which inhibits D3 production.

2. Death rates in countries with high incidence of vitamin D deficiency e.g. Belgium, Italy, versus those with low levels (Scandinavia even Sweden, who eat oily fish and supplement/fortify).

3. Low impact in countries and communities (e.g. homeless people) with high sun exposure.

There are also very realistic mechanisms and explanations for why and how vitamin D3 would have this effect, and prior studies on the impact of vitamin D3 on respiratory tract infections including other pneumonias.

When looking at the literature in this space, note (as in virtually all areas of medicine) that bad studies abound. Some things to look for: excessively small studies seemingly designed to produce a not s/s result combined with the belief that a non-s/s result == proof there is no result; large intermittent bolus doses used that generate surfeit of D3 then a deficit; excessively small doses; failure to take the D3 with fat to ensure digestion; failure to take vitamin K2 with D3 for optimal results; failure to take into account accumulated deficits and obesity whereby many months or even years of D3 vanish without trace into fat stores; funding sources with vested interests in a certain outcome (e.g. osteoporosis medication suppliers with an interest in a finding that D3 is not useful in treating osteoporosis and you should use their far more expensive product) ...

Comment by waveman on The ethics of breeding to kill · 2020-09-08T02:59:33.585Z · LW · GW

I think it is more common to have the attitude that they are not prepared to sacrifice their health and vitality for claimed animal welfare.

Don't tell me vegan diets are healthy. Without supplements you will die. That is the good news, Because you will first go mad (from B12 deficiency). And many other problems... was a vegan myself for a while many years ago, never again.