Comment by zian on Open Thread May 2019 · 2019-05-26T06:43:48.508Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Am I using the concept of expected value correctly in the following thought experiment?

I have a machine. I currently believe that there is a 50-50 chance it is broken. I know that buying a new one will cost $329.

If I buy a new one right now, there's no chance I'll get evidence out of thin air that the old one is actually fine so the expected value is $329*100%=$329.

If I spend $5.45, I can get enough evidnece to either put an end to the question or give me a 70% chance that the machine is really broken. Now the expected value calculation is $5.45*.5 = $2.73 if the machine was fine all along or ($329+5.45)*.5=$167.23 if I race off and buy a new machine. Adding the two, I get $169.96.

Finally, I can spend $75 on a fancy test that will conclusively say if the machine is broken. The expected value for "machine was fine all along" if I get this far is ($5.45+$75) * .3=$24.14 or $286.62 if my machine turned out to need replacing with a total cost of $310.76.

It feels right to me that the cost of doing the simple test is a much smaller number than assuming the machine is broken but is it really right to say that the cost of all gathering all the extra evidence & buying a new machine is still cheaper than buying the machine without doing the extra testing?

Extra conjecture: The answer is "Yes" because if I do all the extra work, there's lots of chances for me to branch off into the outcome of "Oh, that machine was fine all along" and stop right there.

Comment by zian on On Doing the Impossible · 2017-05-03T03:55:30.525Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

has increased in height That is usually where I end up after estimating the amount of time required to do a software project (small or large). But, as EY pointed out, once you do the work to figure out what must be done, then the problem is just 'really hard'.

Comment by zian on Open thread, Feb. 9 - Feb. 15, 2015 · 2017-02-17T22:54:29.339Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

We can only infer that something bad has happened. In the worst case scenario (as HPMOR is so fond of recommending), the company has been taken over by hostile aliens and is now pumping out poisons to destroy as many humans as possible.

Comment by zian on LessWrong 2.0 · 2016-01-25T07:32:29.028Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You make a pretty good case for better platforms for accomplishing individual parts of what LW can do but I think LW should be the central place that takes a solid stab at doing all of them because once you send someone to another site, they're less likely to be willing to spend the (now-consumed) time/energy on a 2nd or 3rd site for the other things you mention in the article.

I have always viewed this site as the central meeting point or repository for all things related to rationality and find that the infrastructure is already very promising with a combination of a Reddit-based discussion area and wiki. However, the wiki seems to get 0 attention from the discussion area and the only visible part is the discussion area unless you click on the 3rd item in the bulleted list on the home page or the grayed out wiki link in the corner if you have the discussion page bookmarked.

With the departure of many of the big names to other platforms, I find that I lose track of what they're writing because I don't have the time or energy to go around rounding all of the various sites up. At most, I might remember to visit Overcoming Bias once in a while. I certainly don't have EY's Facebook URL memorized.

Comment by zian on Why CFAR? The view from 2015 · 2016-01-25T00:03:11.381Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for making this post. The topics you covered here are at the core of why I have been somewhat reluctant to donate to CFAR in the past.

Comment by zian on Bragging thread September 2015 · 2015-10-09T06:00:16.278Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Implemented another layer of detail in my food tracking/analyzing project. Specifically, I went from a single sentence in the specifications document that said "Based on the accumulated data, rank the various eating places from least likely to cause bad reactions to most likely to cause problems" to a completed table with counts obtained from sample meals in the document and a worked-out Bayes Theorem equation that gets as specific as:

P(no reaction | ate at the Castle in the Air) = p(...| ...)p(...|...)...etc.
p(...|...) = such-and-such-sum / such-and-such count
p(...|...) = ...
and so on.

Next up: plug in #s, work through 4 more sample analysis questions, and then implement the whole lot in software.

Comment by zian on Open thread, Aug. 10 - Aug. 16, 2015 · 2015-08-22T06:22:18.425Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Looks interesting. Feel free to try.

Comment by zian on Open Thread, Jun. 15 - Jun. 21, 2015 · 2015-06-15T00:56:01.736Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW · GW

Since utilions are a unit of caring and Less Wrong (the website) has helped me immensely in making the transition from a somewhat despondent college graduate to a software engineer job with an annual salary + benefits, is there any way I can donate some dollars towards the site's upkeep?

Failing that, and as a more immediate measure, I extend my sincere thanks to everyone on Less Wrong, especially Eliezer Yudkowsky and his works HPMOR & An Intuitive Explanation of Bayes' Theorem for enlightening me.

On a more useful note, it appears that the Java applets at are now blocked by the current version of the Oracle Java Runtime Environment for Windows.

Comment by zian on Open thread, Mar. 16 - Mar. 22, 2015 · 2015-03-22T23:21:11.127Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I suggest doing #1 and #2 in parallel.

As you said, the story is mostly done and just needs editing. That will require help from other people and can happen while you do other things. It will be good for you to be able to say "Behold, I have finished this thing."

At the same time, as you tackle the full story as a separate thing, it may be worth giving it your best effort (by pulling in #2) so that after a few months, you can say "I tried really hard and it didn't work. Alas. Time to stop." or the opposite, without having to wonder if you just didn't try hard enough.

Comment by zian on Open Thread, Feb. 2 - Feb 8, 2015 · 2015-02-09T06:35:15.212Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The LessWrong logo seems to be broken at

(more generally, there's no clear place to post about technical issues)

Comment by zian on Bragging Thread January 2015 · 2015-02-09T06:10:46.896Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Improved the speed of some code by at least 1 to two orders of magnitude by moving all the disk IO that happened while crunching numbers to RAM. The code is run at least 30,000 times a day and is part of a set of steps that can end with my company sending an urgent text message to first responders (e.g. firemen, police chiefs, etc.).

Comment by zian on Group Rationality Diary, February 1-14 · 2015-02-03T14:33:26.925Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I went to the emergency room instead of trying to just last out a chest pain + allergic reaction at home like I have in the past.

I used the time travel technique from HPMOR. Blurb at the bottom.

Pro: Still alive

Con: Really hard to do in moments of crises; I was only able to do this after about 15 minutes of time spent driving home (and then I U-turned to go to the hospital).


He'd wished then to fall back just a few minutes in time and change something, anything before it was too late...

And then it had turned out to not be too late after all.

Wish granted.

You couldn't change history. But you could get it right to start with. Do something differently the first time around.

Comment by zian on Hold Off On Proposing Solutions · 2014-11-28T08:19:34.745Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There's a comment already asking for more modern articles/citations/research on this topic but in case someone wants to run with this idea in real life, you can find a summary of Norman Maier's research at

The article was written by Norman Maier in 1967 and reprinted in Psychological Review in 1999. For those of you with access to well-funded libraries, the citations are:

  • Psychological Review, Volume 74, Number 4, Pages 239-249.
  • Group Facilitation: A Research and Applications Journal — Volume 1, Number 1, Winter 1999, Pages 45-51

And, to be on really solid ground, you'd want the actual source article(s) that the above review refers to. They are:

  • Hoffman, L. R., & Maier, N. R. F. The use of group decision to resolve a problem of fairness. Personnel Psychology, 1959, 12, 545-559
  • Maier, N. R. F. Screening solutions to upgrade quality: A new approach to problem solving under conditions of uncertainty. Journal of Psychology, 1960, 49, 217-231.
  • Maier, N. R. F. Problem solving discussions and conferences: Leadership methods and skills. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1963.
  • Maier, N. R. F., & Hayes, J. J. Creative management. New York: Wiley, 1962.
  • Solem, A. R. 1965: Almost anything I can do, we can do better. Personnel Administration, 1965, 28, 6-16.
Comment by zian on Open thread, July 28 - August 3, 2014 · 2014-08-03T03:36:18.331Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In light of how long it usually takes for statistical models and discoveries to crawl out of academic articles -> practice, the LessWrong community will probably appreciate the efforts by the Consortium of Food Allergy Research (established w/ money from the US National Institutes of Health) to provide online probabilistic calculators for people's long-term prognoses:

Comment by zian on Open thread, July 28 - August 3, 2014 · 2014-08-03T03:25:41.760Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You can also try using Eureqa; it's good for finding potential correlations and relationships. It also tries to suggest possible experiments.

Comment by zian on Saving the World - Progress Report · 2014-08-03T02:43:30.181Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I save the world each day at work in obvious (and not so obvious) ways. For the sake of space & time, I'll elaborate on the "obvious" bit. I work for a company that provides near-real time (updated with new data every 5-15 minutes) information of how well paramedics, call takers, and dispatchers do their job compared to medically sound protocols. By "protocols", I'm referring to things like the Medical Priority Dispatch System (which has peer-reviewed articles backing it up), those created by the medical director for a given ambulance system/911 call center (unfortunately, not everyone's custom protocols are that great), and comparisons against basic expected requirements for doing a task (e.g. after sticking in a breathing tube, did the paramedics check to make sure the patient started getting oxygen?).

In addition to providing a constantly updated view, we also send e-mail/text message alerts when things look weird (e.g. lots of respiratory related problems all of a sudden) or when things aren't doing so well (e.g. an ambulance took longer than 15 minutes to arrive).

Finally, we even deal with the allocation of dollars (or, as LW would put it, "utilions"). Bluntly put, ambulances and doctors require money and less money = less/worse services. So, when we help people get paid, we increase the number of utilions floating around for providing patient care.

I have built at least 50+ such things and am working on improving the map that is used to display the information (which affects all our triggers and alerts). Unfortunately, I don't know of a neat easy formula for converting that to lives saved.

Since my company has customers in nearly every state in the USA (including Alaska and Hawaii) + several provinces in Canada, I guess that's the geographic scope of my work too.

Comment by zian on Bragging Thread, June 2014 · 2014-06-09T06:14:49.238Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Finally dedicated several back-to-back evenings to set up tools and other preliminaries that were keeping me from getting started on a project. (Sorry, no details on the project yet...)

Also spent significant chunks of time on trying to solve some repeatedly-pushed-back problems (e.g. an intermittently failing hard drive).

Result: Lots of progress and a much better sense of what to do next (aka, what to do this week)

Comment by zian on LessWrong as social catalyst · 2014-05-03T06:58:42.786Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

No, it hasn't at this time.

(I fear that your post will generate a lot of positive bias.)

Comment by zian on The Universal Medical Journal Article Error · 2014-05-03T05:47:20.194Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It would've been very helpful if some sort of glossary or even a Wikipedia link was provided before diving into the use of the notational characters such as those used in "∀x !P(x)".

Although this post covers an important topic, the first few sentences almost lost me completely, even though I learned what all those characters meant at one time.

And, as LessWrong is rather enamored with statistics, consider that by writing P(x,y), the readers have an exactly 50% chance of getting the opposite meaning unless they have very good recall. :)

Comment by zian on Mistakes repository · 2014-01-21T06:17:46.478Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW
  1. Not realizing that I was in pain (physical/mental/etc.) on a regular basis and dropping everything (or at least, as much as possible) and tackling them.

2, Thinking to myself that I would be able to do better/etc. on situation X in the future despite not changing anything or thinking hard about why situation X went badly in the past.

Comment by zian on Open Thread for January 8 - 16 2014 · 2014-01-13T07:10:27.154Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Has there been any update on the Less Wrong survey/census? The original post mentioned something about a "MONETARY REWARD" but it didn't say when to check back for results/etc.

Comment by zian on Why CFAR? · 2014-01-13T06:24:18.093Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Wow, speaking as someone who tried to start the papers for a non profit org, you really have dedicated people!

I'm going to take it on faith then that CFAR is more or less a legit non profit/etc. so I have 2 questions:

  1. I read above about someone doing a monthly recurring thing and the entire amount being matched. What if I do $X (say, X = 100) now (where now = this week) and $Y (say, $200) at a later time for a total of $Z? I ask because my next paycheck (and possibly the one after that) are already accounted for but I want to make sure you get the most matching out of things possible. If necessary, I can put this in writing/sign/etc. I'd even be happy to provide some sort of small $Y that simply recurs monthly but I suspect that CFAR would be happier getting $Z by say, March instead of December 2014. :)

  2. When will the next Form 990 be filed? I'd like to lose my faith as quickly as possible. :)

Comment by zian on Why CFAR? · 2014-01-07T07:25:08.907Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It was a bit troublesome to figure out if the donation would be tax deductible because the word "deductible" isn't used anywhere at the page you linked to ( In fact, I almost gave up.

Fortunately, if you go to, CFAR says they're a 501(c)(3) organization although I'm not sure how I'd verify that... And since the IRS has very big teeth, maybe I should figure that out first.

In addition, for this sort of minor question, doing a full blown Skype conversation probably isn't appropriate but I don't see any alternate ways to get in touch with CFAR on either or (except for sending a letter).


I found the form 990 at but now I'm really worried because it looks like CFAR lost all its key staff. I don't see the secretary, treasurer, or president from the 2012 filing listed at

I would like to think that CFAR will do a terrific job but confirmation bias is already tilting my opinion so it seems that donating money without seriously thinking about the perils of an organization that can't retain key staff is unwise.

Comment by zian on Group Rationality Diary, December 16-31 · 2013-12-27T00:53:51.268Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've had trouble keeping up with certain prescribed medications due to side effects and a sense that I may be comparing them to an atypical baseline (non-medicated) baseline.

Today, I finally got around to implementing a new schedule for medications & for handling the side effects. Since I procrastinated so long, I also now have a much better baseline helped by the acquisition of an Android application designed explicitly for people with my condition that makes it easy to log symptoms even without Internet access. I also started using a 2 button timer so that I am reminded to go back and log how I'm doing after the initial onset of symptoms.

I still have to do number crunching and see what this new (almost certainly more accurate) baseline says.

Briefly, I am going to take advantage of the following ideas:

  • Cutting out all the obstacles I can think of
  • Feeding your inner pigeon
  • Habit RPG (and everything that entails)
Comment by zian on 2013 Less Wrong Census/Survey · 2013-11-27T06:23:16.046Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

I took the survey a few days ago and ran into trouble trying to answer the IQ test-related questions (IQ/SAT/ACT/etc.) because I would have to dig around for the answers to those questions and that required more effort than I wanted to spend on a survey.

The instructions for entering percents was also a bit confusing.

Other than that, the survey was well designed. I really appreciated how clear you were about where it was OK to stop and that it was fine to leave things blank.

Comment by zian on Human Memory: Problem Set · 2013-11-04T07:18:47.541Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW


Lock the door and video the process of locking & verifying. Bring the video with you on your trip.


  • Whenever you're in doubt, just watch the video.
  • No need to even bug a friend.


  • Assumes you have a digital camera handy and a way to view the recording on the trip.


Use SleepBot and just say the stuff aloud so it auto-records them. Then, go to sleep.


  • Instant/easy recording


  • Have to dig through recordings the next day
  • Requires having a smartphone plugged in & near the bed
Comment by zian on September 2013 Media Thread · 2013-09-17T04:38:02.727Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

So far, having played the prologue with the salesman, I really like the game.

Thanks for sharing it with me.

Comment by zian on September 2013 Media Thread · 2013-09-15T05:50:02.437Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I recently finished an excellent online course from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Cochrane Collaboration titled Understanding Evidence-based Healthcare: A Foundation for Action. It talks about how to find a well-grounded answer to medicine-related questions and walks through using PubMed, reading, and understanding journal articles. It also talks about study design, biases, difference between specificity and sensitivity, and more.

Even if you've already gone through the Sequences, it's really helpful to see how the ideas can be applied.

I recommend tackling 1 module per session rather than doing 1 video per session to save time.

Comment by zian on Mortal: A Transponyist Fanfiction · 2013-08-16T07:15:39.806Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Despite searching on PubMed using iPubMed from UC Irvine and browsing around using "Related Links", I can't find anything about Social Stories and teenagers, young adults, or adults. Someone with journal access can take a look at to confirm/disprove my suspicion.

The stuff I could find is quite uncertain about how helpful Social Stories are but there are no reports of harm so if a TV show can sneak in Autism Spectrum Disorder treatment, even if it isn't super effective, that's terrific. It can be difficult for older people to get a diagnosis and good evidence-based treatment; if My Little Pony can help that population for low to little cost, I'm all for it.

Comment by zian on August 2013 Media Thread · 2013-08-15T05:54:28.738Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The book is worth reading even if you're crunched for time because the author get right to applications and helpful ideas. And, they're not trivial ones. In a way, reading the book was a bit like learning Scheme; big bombshells at the beginning and details later.

Comment by zian on Mortal: A Transponyist Fanfiction · 2013-08-15T05:46:27.966Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm quite surprised to run across that topic on Less Wrong. I heard about it at a medical conference regarding autism but only in the context of children. I guess it's time to take another look with regards to older people.

Thank you for bringing it up, gwern.

Comment by zian on Group Rationality Diary, August 1-15 · 2013-08-11T21:48:42.846Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

At work, one of our customers is known to be "unique"/"challenging". The customers normally talk to a person (let's call this the middle person) who used to work in the customers' field and translates their requests for software developers. The customer had gone through >3 e-mail rounds with the middle person and I as we tried to build an item to her liking.

After the last e-mail complaint, I printed out all of the e-mails related to the topic, all of the example cases she pointed at, and tried to figure out what state of mind would make her so frustrated and have so much trouble getting us to do what she wants as opposed to simply taking each e-mail at face value. I made one more tweak to the product, e-mailed the middle person, and held my breath.

This happened about 2 weeks ago.

My company hasn't received any more e-mails about the product so it seems to be a great success.

I post this anecdote here because the idea of approaching the problem like that was almost certainly taken from HPMoR. Quote is below:

Harry kept his expression blank, and realized one second too late that it might as well have been a signed confession. Professor Quirrell didn't care what your expression looked like, he cared which states of mind made it likely.

Caution: This probably only works if the person you're modeling is sane.

Comment by zian on Group Rationality Diary, August 1-15 · 2013-08-11T21:40:14.185Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm reluctant to delete things when it was so hard to get the items into HabitRPG to begin with due to the site's habit of ignoring user input and dying.

That being said, I ended up doing exactly what you suggested because there is no way to pause things. At this moment, HabitRPG's developers have posted on Tumblr reporting theirp rogress so I'm still using the site via a third party Android application that's been much more reliable than the website.

Comment by zian on Normal Cryonics · 2013-08-11T20:23:39.706Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

so much thinking about alternatives

Speaking as someone who tried getting a concrete price estimate, the process can stand to be much improved. I had/will have to (if I follow through):

  1. Get convinced that cryo is worth digging into (maybe call this step "0").
  2. Figure out where to get price info (this took another chunk of time until I ran across some useful Less Wrong posts) for life insurance related stuff.
  3. Contact a life insurance person (as a cold call)
  4. Hand over some personal info.
  5. Get a pile of PDFs in return along with finding out that I still have to...

  6. Decide between different cryo organizations. 6 a) Find out info about the organizations' recurring fees. 6 b) Do research into each organization

  7. Decide which cryo approach to take.
  8. Read over all the stuff from step 5.
  9. Talk to the organization from step 6 about the physical logistics such as the wrist band thingy.
  10. Make a final Y/N decision
  11. Hunt down notary(ies) and witness(es) (?) 11 a) Make appointments with everyone
  12. Fill out the papers from the life insurance people
  13. Fill out the papers from the cryo organization.
  14. Sign stuff.
  15. Sign more stuff.
  16. Mail everything

At any time between steps 1 and 16, the process can fall completely apart.

Comment by zian on Group Rationality Diary, July 16-31 · 2013-08-04T22:09:26.874Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You're correct and thanks for posting that.

Comment by zian on Group Rationality Diary, July 16-31 · 2013-08-04T22:06:53.298Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

As I mention in another comment, the data crunching is completely separate and likely to generate lots of specific datapoints that are only relevant to me. This is where things get really hard to generalize/make easy to use widely.

If this doesn't scare you away, then send me a message.

Likely pre-requisites are:

  • Programming experience
  • Experience with Java
  • Willingness to set up a local database server (I use MySQL)
  • Familiarity with the various ways to use Bayes's theorem (I recommend Bayesian Artificial Intelligence and of course, EY's article) and how things can go wrong
Comment by zian on Group Rationality Diary, July 16-31 · 2013-08-04T21:59:56.755Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's actually online already but I am not publicizing it right now for a few reasons:

  • It assumes only 1 user right now so there's no encryption or data separation
  • No reporting features (this is also a security feature; can't have an XSS with no displayed values!) except for downloading the database and connecting with Excel/ODBC/Your favorite data crunching tool
  • Assumes the Pacific Time Zone
  • HIPAA/the mess around dealing with personally identifiable information

Ideas for mitigating the issues are welcome as deploying the site is very easy:

  1. Generate a random string of letters and numbers.
  2. Make a folder on your LAMP server named after #1.
  3. Copy and paste the application to the folder.
  4. Change 1 value inside a config file to point at #1.
  5. Run a script to create the databases.
  6. Fill in your database login information inside a config file.

(This assumes that you're wise enough to avoid leaving any public pointers to the site.)

Comment by zian on Group Rationality Diary, July 16-31 · 2013-08-04T21:57:02.400Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, the web application already exists to a great degree.

The big tasks left are:

  • Set up something to generate metadata like the jump from storing a value that says "ate at restaurant" and having a bit go to True that corresponds to "ate in Los Angeles County".
  • Do the actual Bayes classification or data analysis

Why not use a big XLSX?

It's really hard to enter data into an XLSX on a smartphone. Also, I guess you can say that a MySQL database table has a lot of similarities with a spreadsheet so, in that way, I am.

Comment by zian on Group Rationality Diary, August 1-15 · 2013-08-04T21:50:53.897Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

After "dying" twice on Habit RPG and reading the first few chapters of Don't Shoot the Dog (via a Reddit post from EY, the evidence seems to indicate that I'm trying to make too big of a change too quickly (or, too many small changes).

I'm going to look for a way to pause or temporarily hide items on Habit RPG. I'm also open to similar sites that are more stable. Habit RPG tries really hard with good fundamentals but it doesn't work reliably in Internet Explorer or Firefox. I'm aware that they're rewriting the site but I'm trying to change things now and I suspect that using "Habit RPG is down, why bother today?" as an excuse isn't a good idea.

Comment by zian on RapGenius + Sequences = ? · 2013-08-04T21:38:30.577Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Looks like a great idea. It's certainly an easy way to build a version of Sequences with explanatory comments. Optimally, such comments would appear in the actual article but this is a good step towards that.

Comment by zian on Welcome to Less Wrong! (6th thread, July 2013) · 2013-07-28T08:03:52.141Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Hi there!

I found HPMoR via TVTropes and then found LessWrong via HPMoR. I decided to hang around after reading the explanation of Bayes Theorem on Eliezer's personal site and finding it quite nice. Also, it matched up with how I thought of Bayes's theorem. You could say that I got attracted to LW by confirmation bias. :)

On a more useful note, I got interested in rationality/etc. through a somewhat convoluted path. I got introduced to Bayes Theorem via Paul Graham when I built a website filter for a science fair project.

My reading material also contributed heavily. I've also always been a fast and constant reader so discovering the (FREE!) interlibrary loan offered by the University of California was a boon. Major nonfiction books that affected me were cognitive science stuff (especially Dan Ariely) and books on how things/processes/systems work I distinctly recall re-re-re-checking out a book on landfills and waste management in elementary school because it was long enough to be somewhat thorough and had enough photos to be interesting. Major fiction influences include books by Thornton Burgess, the Redwall series, and David Brin. I got introduced to the concept of fanfiction by the Redwall Online Community and spent many years in related activities so it wasn't too much of a leap for me to take HPMoR seriously. Getting keyword matches between Ariely and HPMoR kept me hooked, never mind the bit about arbitraging gold and silver, which I can't believe Harry hasn't tried doing by now.

Another thing that helped me take the ideas in Less Wrong seriously was my constant desire to re-examine by beliefs. For example, I've always been interested in the ideas in Christian apologetics.

As for where I started at LW, I can't really say. I know I read stuff that confirmed what I already knew like things about the Planning Fallacy. The first bit of new material was probably Mysterious Answers (and those in its sequence).

Comment by zian on Introducing Familiar, a quantified reasoning assistant (feedback sought!) · 2013-07-27T07:10:25.870Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That's precisely the reason why I gave up and am building my own Bayesian classifier to do ... almost exactly what this post's project will do. Only, mine is meant for strictly personal use and is related to hashing out a diagnosis with the help of a doctor.

Comment by zian on Group Rationality Diary, July 16-31 · 2013-07-16T03:38:19.697Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I'm currently working on a website application to figure out what I can't eat. It will use Bayes Theorem. This could make a huge difference in my life.

I also found that I'm really good at asking lots of questions when I'm stuck but not good at realizing that I need to stop working on something until more resources arrive.

Comment by zian on Test Your Calibration! · 2013-07-13T22:18:20.361Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I get 404s on the quizzes from Tom McCabe.

Comment by zian on The failure of counter-arguments argument · 2013-07-13T21:47:25.604Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This sounds like an expanded exposition of the discussion in HPMoR between Harry and Draco about trying to find good counterarguments to the Death Eaters' main belief. Is that a fair representation of your article?

If not, I'd like to know so I know to re-read the article. :)

Comment by zian on Beautiful Probability · 2013-07-06T05:19:29.802Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Great point but I worry that people will point to this post and say "See? Publication bias/questionable study design/corporate funding/varying peer review processes don't matter!"

In other words, it's good to strive for a fixed experimental process but reality is rarely that tidy.

Comment by zian on Conjunction Fallacy · 2013-05-20T06:45:22.622Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The YouTube link is broken. Did you intend to link to a YouTube video of the original video from Schoolhouse Rock?

Comment by zian on Co-Working Collaboration to Combat Akrasia · 2013-05-11T22:00:29.588Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, it is.

Comment by zian on Explicit and tacit rationality · 2013-04-25T05:19:55.045Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Is it possible to post anonymously but link it to my account? Some of the stuff I'd like to say aren't things I want the general public to link directly to me, even though LessWrong played a possibly significant positive role.

Comment by zian on Open thread, March 17-31, 2013 · 2013-03-18T02:33:36.221Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW


I expect Less Wrong people to be more "normal" than me though so... oh well.