Are bread crusts healthier? 2021-06-18T15:12:59.527Z
What is your coronavirus prediction for Israel? 2021-06-17T19:10:49.697Z
Can someone help me understand the arrow of time? 2021-06-15T17:26:29.113Z
Doomsday, Sampling Assumptions, and Bayes 2021-06-14T12:41:24.259Z
On making fictional miracles seem plausible 2021-05-31T11:32:59.114Z
Could MMRPGs be used to test economic theories? 2021-05-06T14:26:20.114Z
AIDungeon 3.1 2021-03-01T05:56:34.795Z
Don't encourage prisoners dilemmas 2021-02-16T06:33:36.501Z
Heuristic: Replace "No Evidence" with "No Reason" 2021-02-15T21:25:21.468Z


Comment by Yair Halberstadt (yair-halberstadt) on How can there be a godless moral world ? · 2021-06-21T19:06:28.916Z · LW · GW

I think that the argument that morality can only exist with god depends on a logical fallacy.

The first step is to say that morality is defined as whatever god says. You then say that morality cannot exist without god, because the definition of morality is what god says.

Of course this argument is transparently meaningless. I could equally well say that morality is defined as whatever a monkey typing at a typewriter comes up with and make the same argument.

The fallacy only works because the word morality already has meaning. It means that gut feeling I have that something is good or bad. Then somebody comes along and uses that exact same word, but defines it differently - as what god says. Since they both happen to be reasonably well correlated I don't necessarily notice this switch. Then I'm convinced that morality is defined as what god says, and so there can't be morality without god.

If we were strict we would say: don't define what god does as moral. Make up a new word for it e.g. 'godral', and allow morality to keep it's classic meaning. At that point it becomes clear that we need to prove that 'godral' = 'moral', which is far from obvious.

The Euthyphro dilemma is a good search term to find a lot more on this topic.

Comment by Yair Halberstadt (yair-halberstadt) on Are bread crusts healthier? · 2021-06-21T13:55:04.964Z · LW · GW

It was a soft roll with a pretty soft crust. Personally I eat pretty much everything, crust included, but I still have this childhood association of crust as the not nice part of the bread even though I personally don't mind it (I would still say I prefer the inner parts of bread over the crust though).

Comment by Yair Halberstadt (yair-halberstadt) on Can someone help me understand the arrow of time? · 2021-06-15T18:05:16.982Z · LW · GW

I don't think this really addresses the substance of the question. I understand well the concept that we can imagine things which are illusions in general. I have specific mechanics level questions about how it applies to the psychological arrow of time.

Comment by Yair Halberstadt (yair-halberstadt) on Doomsday, Sampling Assumptions, and Bayes · 2021-06-15T03:13:52.301Z · LW · GW

That was meant to be the chance of P2, not P1. Fixed now, thanks!

Comment by Yair Halberstadt (yair-halberstadt) on Core Pathways of Aging · 2021-05-31T05:39:27.237Z · LW · GW

This seems relevant:

approximately 25% of the NMR genome was represented by transposon-derived repeats, which is lower than in other mammals (40% in human, 37% in mouse, and 35% in rat genomes)

However it's just a 1/3 or so reduction compared to similar mammals, so on its own that doesn't explain much. But it suggests a possible lead. 

Comment by Yair Halberstadt (yair-halberstadt) on Vaccine Rollout as Wheeled-Luggage Problem · 2021-05-16T11:00:24.685Z · LW · GW

An alternative hypothesis is this:

Producers can make enough vaccine for early trials, but don't manage to scale up to produce millions of doses until December. The FDA takes the opportunity to gather data on safety and efficacy until that time. However, they don't want to look like they're issuing emergency approval just because the vaccine's ready to go. They want it to look like it's because they have reached satisfaction with the safety and efficacy data. So that's the line they put out to the public. Yet in reality, they give approval right around the time when producers, distributors, and vaccination sites are ready to go.

If that was correct we'd expect that FDA approval process tends to vary by how quickly manufacturing capacity can be ramped up. The key criticism I have of the FDA is not allowing challenge trials. If you are correct and that was intentional to give time for capacity to ramp up, we would expect to see drugs which can be ramped up more quickly use challenge trials - but that's not something we've seen. If anything this was a ridiculously fast approval, for a process that usually takes years.

Furthermore I find it highly unlikely that producers would ramp up production just as quickly before results of trials are in as afterwards. So by not allowing challenge trials, less was invested in ramping up, so the ramp up itself (if it was a critical bottleneck) would have taken longer.

and we can more obviously see how politicians and manufacturers would both stand to benefit from an efficient rather than an inefficient process

The overwhelming evidence I've ever seen is that politicians and government orgs are highly inneficient. My prior on them being efficient here is extremely low.

Comment by Yair Halberstadt (yair-halberstadt) on Vaccine Rollout as Wheeled-Luggage Problem · 2021-05-16T04:42:37.795Z · LW · GW

I disagree with point 3.

Given that we can show governance was definitely a critical bottleneck (production proceeded as soon as governance allowed), why is the burden of proof on us to show that no other bottlenecks happened to also be critical. My prior would be that it is unlikely that 2 bottlenecks happened to be about the same time. Not crazy unlikely, but in the 20/30% range.

In other words, bad governance was definitely an issue and must be fixed. Maybe there's some other issues that also have to be fixed, in which case, sure, bring me some evidence of them and we'll work on solving them.

Comment by Yair Halberstadt (yair-halberstadt) on Vaccine Rollout as Wheeled-Luggage Problem · 2021-05-15T18:41:22.902Z · LW · GW

Sure anything's possible - I haven't seen any evidence that they did that, nor do I think they ever claimed they did that, nor does their behaviour match that strongly. E.g. they still haven't authorized AstraZenica for God knows what reason, but it's currently being produced at a very decent rate.

Comment by Yair Halberstadt (yair-halberstadt) on Vaccine Rollout as Wheeled-Luggage Problem · 2021-05-14T08:04:44.211Z · LW · GW

The Crawford Standard simply states that it's difficult to assert something could have been invented earlier but wasn't, it doesn't tell you why it couldn't have been invented.

The why could be lack of enabling technology, time taken to ramp up production, or regulation.

Given we know that regulation was the limiting factor here, there's no reason to assume other things were also a limiting factor - i.e. we know that vaccines were produced as soon as they were approved. What's the chance that all the other limitations (e.g. ramp up time) happened to take exactly (or close to) the same amount of time?

Comment by Yair Halberstadt (yair-halberstadt) on Vaccine Rollout as Wheeled-Luggage Problem · 2021-05-14T07:59:51.707Z · LW · GW

This doesn't seem right to me - if it takes 8 months minimum to turn over a factory to produce a new vaccine, how come there's a reasonable (if not high) rate of production within a few weeks of each new vaccine coming on board? Had factories already started turning over for each individual vaccine just in case 8 months ago?

Comment by Yair Halberstadt (yair-halberstadt) on What is the strongest argument you know for antirealism? · 2021-05-12T14:30:53.928Z · LW · GW

If you think nothing is "valuable in itself" / "objectively valuable", why do you think so?

I think that's the wrong way round. If you want to claim things have some property, then you have to put forward evidence they do. My strongest argument that things do not objectively have value is, why on earth would you think they do?

It's also clear that this discussion is fruitless. The only way to make progress will be to give some sort of definition for "objective value" at which point this will degenerate into an argument about semantics.

Comment by Yair Halberstadt (yair-halberstadt) on Challenge: know everything that the best go bot knows about go · 2021-05-11T16:50:15.170Z · LW · GW

To me a good definition for this is:

Get to a stage where you can write a computer program which can match the best AI at Go, where the program does no training (or equivalent) and you do no training (or equivalent) in the process of writing the software.

I.E. write a classical computer program that uses the techniques of the Neural Network based program to match it at Go.

Comment by Yair Halberstadt (yair-halberstadt) on Could MMRPGs be used to test economic theories? · 2021-05-07T03:08:47.900Z · LW · GW

Games which give players constant rewards tend to be more addictive, so there's an incentive to make it easy to create money easily, without producing a usable good for example.

Comment by Yair Halberstadt (yair-halberstadt) on Could MMRPGs be used to test economic theories? · 2021-05-06T15:07:47.063Z · LW · GW

Some great points here:

If one used a sufficiently addictive game, players would pay to play it.

My worry with that is that will remove the incentive to make it a good testbed for economic theories of that will make the game less addictive.

Comment by Yair Halberstadt (yair-halberstadt) on April 15, 2040 · 2021-05-05T12:49:36.789Z · LW · GW

"Ok, how about you sign it, and then I get a different assistant to help me with my taxes?"

"That won't work because in order to sign the agreement, I must sign and attach a copy of your tax return for this year."

Speculating about some of the technical details:

How could AI identity work? You can't use some hash on the AI because that would eliminate it's ability to learn. So how could you have identity across a commitment - i.e. this A.I. will have the same signature if and only if it has not been modified to break it's previous commitments.

Comment by Yair Halberstadt (yair-halberstadt) on Rising rents and appropriate responses · 2021-04-19T14:33:14.278Z · LW · GW

The density will grow, and since individual construction companies don't have an incentive to care about urban planning, just their own projects, you will get ugly neighborhoods and questionable infrastructure.

This is only true when construction companies are building small projects. If they're building large projects, then insofar as people value infrastructure, and will pay extra for it, the construction companies will have an incentive to build infrastructure.

Currently construction companies have an incentive to buy large plots of land, and build nice neighborhoods with good infrastructure as they can charge more per unit. So if that's not happening it's because it's too difficult to buy land.

In which case we need to increase land liquidity. 

Robin Hanson likes the idea of Harberger taxes to solve this: The idea is everyone needs to declare a selling price for their property. In order not to encourage inflated selling prices making the market illiquid, you get charged property tax based on your stated price.

An alternative might be the Georgist idea of taxing land value according to its full rent. This means that holding onto land is expensive and it's only profitable to hold onto it if you can use it more valuably than the next guy - there's no money to be made speculating on it. This should help both increase liquidity, and reduce land prices. I enjoyed the recent book review on this at

Comment by Yair Halberstadt (yair-halberstadt) on Don't encourage prisoners dilemmas · 2021-02-16T17:21:43.270Z · LW · GW

At least in the US, donations to political parties, political campaigns, political action committees, etc, are already not tax deductable (which I take is what you mean by "tax back").

Turns out it's the same in the UK. That's embarrassing! However I was just as much talking about political charities which aren't technically a political party.

My initial reaction is that I don't want that result, I want both organizations out there making their cases stronger, not weaker. But I could be talked out of this.

I think I agree with this insofar as political charities tend to work by disseminating the strongest argument for their case, and letting the correctest side win out. I think in practice that's not what they're doing - it's more about how they can use the political system to achieve their aims, at which point I think it's back to a prisoners dilemma.

I'm also not sure why the Against Unicorns Foundation wouldn't be a legally valid charity. It might not be a very popular one, but an argument can certainly be made that destroying unicorns prevents them from suffering, and preventing animal suffering is generally regarded as good and specifically listed as a charitable purpose in section 501c3.

As I said, I think the thing to do is look at where the money was actually spent. If it was spent protecting a unicorn conservation area, I'm pretty certain destroying a unicorn conservation area would not be a valid charity.

However I think you make some great points! Definitely have to think about them.