Free Educational and Research Resources 2020-07-31T00:24:41.110Z
NYC Spring SSC Meetup 5/4 2019-04-22T03:58:26.320Z
NYC Solstice and Megameetup Funding Reminder 2017-10-27T14:14:01.164Z
NYC Solstice and East Coast Megameetup. Interested in attending? We need your help. 2017-10-20T16:32:37.906Z


Comment by wearsshoes on Free Educational and Research Resources · 2020-08-04T21:01:35.615Z · LW · GW

Okay, this guy sold me as soon as I saw he had an episode on Doc Ing Hay's general store in rural Oregon. I stumbled upon this place once just passing through, at a convenient time to get a guided tour of the little museum they'd made out of it. There's not even a Wikipedia article on it yet; which gives me the impression that this podcaster is committed to both a broad and deep history of the chinese experience

Comment by wearsshoes on Free Educational and Research Resources · 2020-08-04T20:40:12.621Z · LW · GW

Ah you've got my directionality confused, the bias preventing me from judging History of China podcast dispassionately is in his inability to pronounce Chinese fluently. I'm in the weird position of being fluent enough in Chinese to be a little intolerant of English speakers with bad Chinese pronunciation but not fluent enough to understand the Chinese-language content. I will say though that China History Podcast seems a little better on this very particular axis and I think it would be unreasonable to expect much better. They definitely seem to have a lot of content, and much of it relevant to the modern era!

Comment by wearsshoes on Are there documentaries on rationality? · 2020-08-03T19:46:14.850Z · LW · GW

Latest update: I did not complete the documentary and have no plans to continue working on it in the near future. The 90 hours of footage that I shot is all archived for possible later use, and is partially available to the community upon request.

Comment by wearsshoes on What are you looking for in a Less Wrong post? · 2020-08-03T19:43:49.703Z · LW · GW

A bulleted list of answers others have written:

  • Generates a new insight (TurnTrout)
  • Is good for something (adamzerner)
  • Shows its work (bvxn)
  • Ties up its loose ends (curi)
  • Resolves a disagreement (curi)
  • Shows effort (Alexei)
  • Well-written (Alexei)
  • Surprising (Alexei)
  • Credible (Alexei)
  • Summarize work (me)

And certain topical interests which LW is a topos for:

  • Cognition
  • AI
  • Self-improvement

I'm throwing in that I like posts and comments that compress knowledge (such as this).

My further two cents are that what people answer here will be somewhat unrepresentative. The answers will be a certain set of ideal practices which your answerers may not actually implement and even if they did, they might not represent the community at large. The honest answer to your question is probably data-driven; by scraping the site you could generate a better predictive model of what content actually gets upvotes than people will tell you here.

But nevertheless there is value to your question. The idealized picture you'll get is in fact the picture of the ideal you want. If you take onboard people's best-case answers, you'll make stuff that the most engaged people want the most of, and that will contribute to a making better community overall.

Comment by wearsshoes on Free Educational and Research Resources · 2020-08-03T16:30:20.659Z · LW · GW

Thanks! I won't add these to the top list but I hope people will scroll down to see the comments. I should mention that there are a whole bunch of Mike Duncan - inspired "History of X" which are of varying quality. I wanted to get into the History of China dude, but I couldn't give him more than a few episodes due to wincing at his accent, didn't even get to judge his content. Unfortunately my Chinese isn't actually good enough to listen to podcasts in Chinese about Chinese history. History of Byzantium is supposedly also good.

Comment by wearsshoes on Unifying the Simulacra Definitions · 2020-08-03T15:31:33.503Z · LW · GW

Zvi, thank you for writing this. I’ve been working through Baudrillard too and coming to the same conclusion - he is far more insight porn than philosophy, compared to famous scholars with similar metaphysics such as Foucault and Zizek. I’ve got a long post in the pipeline on this as well. 

It’s really frustrating that this community has been spinning up an elaborate schema which is a misinterpretation of a sophist, where the original conversants both admitted they had by that point only read the Wikipedia summary of the book. This feels like the opposite of quality scholarship, not that this is entirely Benquo and jessicataylor’s fault, rather how the discussion ended up picking this up and running with it. 

The rationalist community’s reading of Baudrillard tries to put some sense back into what is fairly sophisticated. But the main problem both groups make is assuming that Level 1 is some fallen ideal, rather than something progressively achieved. Baudrillard is baking a hotter take - which most rationalist discussion completely misses - that Level 1 is completely vanished and Level 2 is on its way out too. He thinks we live in a postmodern world (surprisingly to rationalists who haven’t read the postmodernists: like most postmodernist scholars he does not actually think this is very good) where meaning is composed wholly of simulacra, which does not actually reference the real world which our bodies live in, although he says the real world sure references it.

This misinterpretation of him is easy to make - partly because it sounds like he developed a philosophy out of being totally dissociated. He hated the Matrix, which the Wachowskis referenced him in, for this reason: in the Matrix the virtual reality can be escaped.

My alternative proposal is to re-ground the discussion in a better take about power relations and social games, noticing which groups throughout history play these games and which don’t. The basic conclusion is people generally converse as if they were in the 2nd order (level), jump up in simulation order whenever their access to resources they don’t produce are at stake, and jump down when they have a hand in producing resources. Global meaning has no particular order, unlike Baudrillard’s claim that it is of the 4th order.

More to come.

Comment by wearsshoes on Free Educational and Research Resources · 2020-08-01T16:03:50.841Z · LW · GW

Added AskHistorians podcast! Mentioning Coursera inline.

Comment by wearsshoes on Free Educational and Research Resources · 2020-08-01T16:03:26.614Z · LW · GW


Comment by wearsshoes on Free Educational and Research Resources · 2020-07-31T15:09:35.987Z · LW · GW

I’ve tried to provide a legitimate alternative to every piratical source I’ve mentioned - if others concur with you I’ll reduce the discussion of piracy sites to just a brief gloss of sci-hub. 

Comment by wearsshoes on Free Educational and Research Resources · 2020-07-31T15:07:14.232Z · LW · GW

Thanks! I can’t build that out all myself, since I am obviously US based, but I will work on reducing US-centric claims and I would love it if others could point out what’s available globally or not.

Comment by wearsshoes on Free Educational and Research Resources · 2020-07-31T07:27:39.815Z · LW · GW

Thanks! In the same vein,

I should roll some of this back into the main article.

Comment by wearsshoes on Free Educational and Research Resources · 2020-07-31T07:03:33.352Z · LW · GW

This is incredible. I'd never heard of it; adding it to the research section.

Comment by wearsshoes on What if memes are common in highly capable minds? · 2020-07-31T03:17:03.036Z · LW · GW

(Speculation) Adding to DanielFilan, there are some other properties of ideas implied by meme theory, or that this analogy might cause one to erroneously assume are necessarily true of ideas. I have taken a shot at them below. We can leave it aside when discussing the model, but the validity of some of these properties seem highly contestable. At the very least we should avoid discarding other models of conceptual space.

  • Ideas are transmissible. This is a natural implication and how we normally think of ideas anyways.
  • Ideas are possessions of agents. There is no idea which exists and is not possessed by an agent, just as species which correspond to no organisms do not exist. As a corollary ideas can become extinct.
  • Instances of ideas are possessions of discrete agents. In other words, agents are to ideas as cells are to genes. This is implied by reproducibility. In this model ideas in minds are tokens of a type (instances of an object). You have one token of an idea, and by telling it to me you transmit it to me and reproduce it in my mind. This seems natural compared to the alternative: that ideas exist in no minds but only exist immanently as an exterior result of cognition across many minds, seems impractical to operationalize. (In philosophy, I think this idea shows up in Deleuze's writings. In fiction, this is the conceptual model underlying QNTM's, although he uses the term 'meme' there.)
  • Ideas are functional. They produce behavior in agents or populations as genes produce traits in cells or organisms. There are probably null-function heritable ideas as there are heritable genes that don't encode proteins, but the selection pressure is much higher. I'm not sure whether ML models frequently contain nonfunctional ideas or not; they seem to contain inefficient ones. Alternately ideas are noncausally related to behavior, such as if the term 'idea' is limited to conscious thought:
  • No agent possesses two instances of the same idea. Not part of the analogy, just kind of one of those unstated assumptions. I probably don't have two identical notions of apples in my mind.
  • All ideas evolve from other ideas. As in genes, spontaneous generation is uncommon. This seems intuitively wrong, and I think it is a little beyond the scope of Dawkins's original idea, but seems like a common assumption of the theory.
  • Ideas are decomposable into basic units. I'm not really sure that this is a necessary feature of the analogy either, but is easily operationalized within a connectionist framework. In a neural net, the basic memetic unit is are model parameters. Training data is not any part of the meme; it is a form of speech. Speech tokens are not memes. Alternately you could argue that models are approximations of ideas; this other approach seems similar to Platonism.
Comment by wearsshoes on Insights from Euclid's 'Elements' · 2020-05-16T03:46:04.381Z · LW · GW

On the bus from NYC to Boston for EAGxBoston 2019 I chanced to sit next to a topology professor. I don't have any higher math background, but mentioning that I'd recently read the first few books of the Elements opened the door to a long and interesting conversation. I was amazed that something written two thousand years prior compared so favorably with my own 8th grade geometry experience, which despite having a cool teacher managed to teach me only the rudiments of geometry, and nothing substantial about proofs or theorems.) Minus the annoying long s, I'd gift Byrne's illustrated Elements to any smart kid in a heartbeat - it's surprisingly cheap on Amazon.

Comment by wearsshoes on Deleted · 2019-10-23T18:02:49.910Z · LW · GW

Do you use a separate word for the subjective experience of thought and perception?

Comment by wearsshoes on The Univariate Fallacy · 2019-09-03T10:36:58.242Z · LW · GW

Another way to succinctly say this is that two distributions may be cleanly separable via a single immeasurable variable, but overlap when measured on any given measurable variable, such that a representation of the separation achieved by a single immeasurable variable is only achievable through multiple measurable variables.

Comment by wearsshoes on The Relationship Between the Village and the Mission · 2019-05-13T05:35:13.011Z · LW · GW

I think that there are a few plausible theories of the rationalist community and how they relate to the mission:

[0] Null hypothesis: no connection. This is obviously implausible if you've spent 3 seconds around the community or its mission.

1. The community and the mission are the same. Even the less immediately relevant activities create an intellectual and social milieu which is conducive to progress. The ability to engage with other intellectuals at low cost to oneself means that insights are shared between key individuals at faster rate. The community provides high value to the mission by enabling it. The mission provides high value to the community.

2. The community exists at least in part to play interference for the missionaries. Being able to do real thinking means a certain degree of insulation from the real world; having fewer demands on your time, having your basic human needs taken care of, having the ability to en. The community provides medium value to the mission by shielding it. The mission provides low value to the community, because the community's strength derives from elsewhere. I think this is what you are advocating, and it's one that I like.

3. The community [in aggregate] puts the minimum effort towards the mission to look convincing because if it were to openly admit that it doesn't actually care about the mission people would leave. People are all here because pretending to have a shared goal is as good as actually having one in terms of bringing people together. The community provides slightly positive value to the mission, but selfishly. The mission provides high value to the community.

4. The community exists as a social pasttime with no clear purpose. It exists as a space not for real concern about x-risk, but primarily as a social outgrowth of the tech sector, a safe space for weirdness. The community detracts from the mission by exerting, even unintentionally, a social pressure upon missionaries to regress to the mean. The mission provides no value to the community.

Comment by wearsshoes on The Relationship Between the Village and the Mission · 2019-05-13T05:32:56.717Z · LW · GW

I generally agree with the call to action. I have a historical critique.

I think you are mistaken about the nature of villages being automatically bound together; I think this error is survivorship bias. Most settlements that have ever existed did so ephemerally: existing primarily for the extraction of a single resource (mining towns), or for a single goal (military garrisons). What you see as natural cultural bonds and communities are a mark of stability, a historical example of a group that has solved (at least for a little time) the problem that the rationalist community is working through, not one that has inherited it by natural right.

To refactor the analysis with this in mind, we will basically look at what makes those communities stable, and how ours compares. I think it is at least the following:

1. The presence of multiple industries. A typical farming village will grow multiple crops, possess hunters and loggers, millers and bakers; be able to provide for itself and also produce a surplus. Think of it as a diverse basket. We're narrow on this front. Mostly concentrated in tech and in the mission.

2. A high degree of intermarriage. Maybe polyamory is a good substitute and quick workaround? Despite certain benefits it provides I still doubt polyamory is sustainable on a multigenerational scale.

3. Not being constantly under siege. Strong communities can get through tough times better than weak ones, but not inevitably so. Historically (think Oxford) the solution for intellectuals is to find wealthy patrons and/or government support. Looks like we've got the first.

I do not think "culture" is actually a factor here; it's a weasel word that deserves a taboo in this community. I think "culture" tends to be, at a population level, an adaptation to political and material circumstances that surround that community. Cultures do not tend towards stability. This is once again survivorship bias.

Works which directly informed this:

The Art of Not Being Governed, James C. Scott

The Intentional Community Movement, Marguerite Guzman Bouvard

Comment by wearsshoes on Are there documentaries on rationality? · 2019-04-10T14:40:06.075Z · LW · GW

There is one in progress, which I am helming. I don't post here much, but I've been active in the NYC community for 2 years. I've been working on the project for about 6 months and have filmed a substantial amount now (~35 hours guesstimate). I've written a brief summary here. You can follow my updates on Discord; message me privately for a link.

Comment by wearsshoes on Open thread, September 4 - September 10, 2017 · 2017-09-21T16:38:06.652Z · LW · GW

From recent releases, I really like Tillie Walden's ultrasoft scifi On a Sunbeam, (2015-2017), and Kieron Gillen's The Wicked + The Divine (2014-ongoing), which has a lot of similarity to American Gods.

For something rationalist-adjacent, I'd recommend Blue Delliquanti's O Human Star (2012-ongoing), which deals with LGBTQ issues in the context of FAI and transhumanism.

Would love to have you in attendance!

Comment by wearsshoes on Open thread, September 4 - September 10, 2017 · 2017-09-05T15:09:59.254Z · LW · GW

Hi, I'm helping to organize this year's NYC Solstice, as raemon has moved to the Bay Area. I've been reading LW, SSC, and rationalist Tumblr since about January and going to NYC meetups semiregularly since April, but haven't yet posted on here, so I thought I'd make a quick introduction.

My name is Rachel, I'm an undergrad senior at NYU completing a communications major. I'm originally from the Bay Area. On the MBTI, I'm an INTJ. Besides rationality, my passions are graphic novels and cooking. My intellectual interests tend towards things that have a taxonomic character, like biology and linguistics. (I'm also a fan of the way that these subjects keep evading a perfect taxonomy.)

I occasionally wear sandals.