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12 Rules for Life

There are details to rule #6 I didn't include in the original post.

  • It is measured in time spent. The idea is to spend at least one hour writing for every hour you spend reading. Reading your own work counts as "editing" and goes in the "writing" column.
  • Looking up answers to specific predefined questions for a productive purpose counts as "creating".
  • Rule #6 is more important the smarter and more independent-minded you are. It consequently applies to less than half the population.

Reading makes you smarter. But is also a passive conformist activity. Being smarter is advantageous. Being a passive conformist is disadvantageous.


Consuming media created by others is a passive activity. You are not doing anything. I value doing over thinking. See Rule #3.

Except for some books in math and the hard sciences, there's no test of how well you've read a book, and that's why merely reading books doesn't quite feel like work.

How to Do What You Love by Paul Graham


Consuming media created by others is a conformist activity. You are running someone else's thoughts through your brain.

Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.

―Albert Einstein

The utility of writing

You can have the best of both worlds by increasing how much you write. Writing isn't just about dumping preconceived thoughts into a keyboard. Writing creates ideas and forces them to be coherent. This creates value independent of whether anyone reads what you write.

If all you want to do is figure things out, why do you need to write anything, though? Why not just sit and think? Well, there precisely is Montaigne's great discovery. Expressing ideas helps to form them. Indeed, helps is far too weak a word. Most of what ends up in my essays I only thought of when I sat down to write them. That's why I write them.

In the things you write in school you are, in theory, merely explaining yourself to the reader. In a real essay you're writing for yourself. You're thinking out loud.

But not quite. Just as inviting people over forces you to clean up your apartment, writing something that other people will read forces you to think well.

The Age of the Essay by Paul Graham

Creating art distills information. It is true that you do not get raw data from writing. But you do not get raw data from reading either. You get raw data from doing things.

In Addition to Ragebait and Doomscrolling

Minor nit, but it's worth noting that while /r/TikTokCringe started as a contempt subreddit, it's now just the main subreddit for TikTok content enjoyed genuinely.

Incentive Problems With Current Forecasting Competitions.

Thanks for a great post! You may be interested in our paper addressing the discrete prize problem with a (carefully crafted) probabilistic reward that preserves incentive properties.

Pain is not the unit of Effort

Thank you for being big about it! I plan to use your feedback to refine and improve my "peer preview" concept, not to shelve it. Your forthright but charitable response will be helpful in any success it may achieve.

In Addition to Ragebait and Doomscrolling

>perhaps a social stigma can develop
Social stigmas get traction via contempt, so that sounds promising.

Controllables and Observables, Revisited

Counterexample to your claim that  (with both  and  not ):

Take  and  to be the following Cartesian frames over world  with agent and environment both  as the following matrices:

Then  but .

(Sorry for my formatting - I haven't done LaTeX in these comments before.)

Pain is not the unit of Effort

In the late 00's, I was made aware of the Hero's Journey memeplex, the sequence of all Western stories, based on Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces. At some point after that, I recognized that it's the same set of instincts as the Stages of Grief -- or rather, the stages of grief, when experienced as a Hero's Journey, lead to the successful end of a particular grieving.

The first stage of grief is denial, and the first step of the hero's journey is life in the "doomed village": things look normal and sound normal, but something's profoundly wrong in the world, and it's about to crash in on the hero.

What really spun my head around was realizing my emotional traumas were imposed on me by someone whose subconscious was abusing my Hero's Journey instinct to make me walk through his pain to slay his demons for him. After that, I was able to let go of his narrative thread and try to find where I'd dropped mine five years before.

In Addition to Ragebait and Doomscrolling

I don't think that outrage is different from contempt in terms of being a free hit of righteous moral superiority. Outrage may create more motivation to do something, but that "something" will be biased towards protest and/or punishment, not actual problem-solving... and in the case of online media, the protest and/or punishment is likely to take the form of more posting to the same media outlet. So the optimally addictive mix would need both outrage and contempt. Too little contempt, and pure outrage would be exhausting. Too little outrage, and not enough people post vs. read.

For me, the optimum solution to these problems is to avoid as much as possible any media streams that are consolidated by Big Social. For example, I never, ever, ever look at my Facebook account's main page, or look at my notifications. Instead, I browse things I want to browse in their own little information silos. (That is, specific groups or pages.) RSS feeds are helpful tools for this, which is why RSS is so largely dead.

The problem with Big Social isn't that you end up with filter bubbles, it's that Big Social tries to consolidate things in such a way as to control your information consumption priorities, while pushing "discovery" of things you didn't actually want or need to know... like Twitter randomly showing me stuff from people followed by people I follow, or stuff that people I follow liked or replied to.

Three Gods with a twist

What does it mean for a question to be "about" a particular god?

If I can't ask "Are you True?", can I ask "Is neither other god True?"

If I'm talking to True (but I don't know that), can I ask something like "Would True say 'ja' to <question>?", or does that count as a question about the god I'm talking to?

Are index funds still a good investment?

The dot-com crash was also preceded by an extremely obvious and unique bubble that has not been seen since - diversifying/rebalancing during a massive/obvious bubble doesn't take that much special skill or awareness, and we're more aware of bubble dynamics now than 2000.

The LessWrong 2018 Book is Available for Pre-order

No audiobook plans; but if there's a lot of demand we might reconsider!

The LessWrong 2018 Book is Available for Pre-order

That's great to hear! I've spent many hours with beta versions of these books, and there really is a calm, presence and deliberateness that is hard to get on a laptop or phone. 

Pain is not the unit of Effort

No worries! Perhaps it's worth reminding everyone here that asymmetric justice incentivizes inaction. I hope I didn't do this just now, I very much appreciate the spirit of your experiment and encourage more people to try to state their beliefs and move fast and break things.

Truly Part Of You

I doubt this is feasible to regenerate from scratch, because I don't think anyone ever generated it from scratch. Euclid's Elements were probably the first rigorous proofs, but Euclid built on earlier, less-rigorous ideas which we would recognize now as invalid as proofs but better than a broad heuristic argument.

And of course, Euclid's notion of proof wasn't as rigorous as Russell and Whitehead's.

Pain is not the unit of Effort

I'm going to send you a PM, because I appreciate your feedback and hope to get some further thoughts from you. I'm going to heavily edit my earlier comment, because I appreciate that its tone - quite unintentionally, but also understandably - feels icky. As I said, this is an exploration/experiment, and your experience of it is evidence that I'm not going about it correctly.

Covid 12/3: Land of Confusion

The ascertainment ratio right now seems very clearly a little under 1/3 consistent with Covid-19 projections.  We know that the infection to death ratio is about 0.7% to 1% for a population like the US from numerous studies of closely followed populations.  The lagged IFR is about 3%.  Close enough to 3 point something.


I am also pretty sure that every day of delay is only preventing a few hundred infections right now given the inevitable snafus about getting the vaccine out and that eventually manufacturing rather than jabbing will become the bottleneck, whereas being perceived to rush by the general population will probably decrease the number who actually get it more than that.

Covid 12/3: Land of Confusion

The graph here is a weekly average, including several days of the thanksgiving week that basically didn't report half of what was happening.

Covid 12/3: Land of Confusion

The Covid Tracking Project's numbers tend to be slightly below Johns Hopkins for a given day, CTP has 2733. Sometimes that is because some data came in late and it gets revised; the overall numbers are only off by low single digits percent generally. The previous day, I think CTP's number is slightly higher, at 2,714, which is above what they say was the old record. So it's possible that JH reported some deaths yesterday that CTP has recorded on Tuesday.

The reason it looks like 3000 deaths is incompatible with the numbers above is because reporting is wildly different on different days. On the 29th there were only 803 deaths reported, on the 30th 1166, and that extended to several extra days because of the holidays. 

My guess is that these numbers now represent more catch-up reporting than usual, but it's only a modestly bigger version of a known phenomenon. This is why I use 7-day rolling averages for everything. 

Gifts as free exploration

A few years ago, my flatmate was complaining about how his breakfast was always a (not very filling) muffin and coffee from a café near the university, since he didn't have time for anything better. That christmas, I got him a box of vanilla café Soylent, which he loved. Shortly afterwards, I was pleasantly surprised to see a shipment of soylent that had his name on it, instead of mine.

My mom enjoys puzzles like Sudoku, and I was getting into abstract strategy games (like chess and go). For her birthday, I got her a book full of Tsume-shogi (puzzles for Japanese chess), and we have spent several evenings going over the puzzles, which engaged her puzzle-solving tendencies, while also helping her become more familiar with chess-like games.

I've gotten more than one friend the game Splatoon as a christmas present. In part this was an exploratory gift, exposing them to a game that I love that they might not have picked given a sea of other games to chose from, but it was also in part a selfish strategy on my part, since that way I could play the game with them.

Sometimes exploratory gifts can be great, but it is certainly true that there is some amount of risk that exists in such a strategy. I think a good way to hedge for this is to get multiple items as part of one gift, one of which is a safe bet, the other of which is more exploratory.

For example, in the case Will examines of choosing between getting a friend a historical fiction book (which is a sure win, but doesn't provide much new information) or getting them the science fiction (which is risky, but may open their eyes to a whole trove of amazing works), you could get both books for your friend, if you can afford to do so. That way, they get at least one book that they will love, but they also get exposure to a book that they wouldn't have stumbled across on their own, which maximizes value for them and minimizes risk for you.

The LessWrong 2019 Review

Seems good, will do. You can also just nominate things on Personal, but it's good to get the record in order in any case.

Heads I Win, Tails?—Never Heard of Her; Or, Selective Reporting and the Tragedy of the Green Rationalists

I've referenced this post at least a few times when trying to discuss the nuances of contextualizing vs. decoupling norms.

Pain is not the unit of Effort

Your comment is interesting and helpful for me because I have only a small sample of people who don't follow the "pain is the unit of effort" heuristic to a pathological extent. Perhaps this is explained by my circle of friends being dominated by Asian-Americans who went to the top universities. I definitely didn't consider what possibly ill effects it might have on others for whom this is not true. So thanks for that information!

However, enough of my brain interpreted your comment as a status move/slapdown that I'd suggest you reconsider doing these reviews, at least in the tone you're currently doing them. I don't believe you intended it this way, but your comment comes off as claiming a position of authority and also encourages too much (imo) Goodharting on the LessWrong "top 15 posts" metric. Both of these feel icky to me. I predict you will at minimum annoy a lot of authors if you continue to write these.

In Addition to Ragebait and Doomscrolling

I guess I should at least attempt to make a decent neologism here:


Meh. Maybe someone else will think of a good one.

alkjash's Shortform

The way I tried Tony Robbins was "spend two full days watching all of his youtube videos at 2x speed." I don't believe that much of his power will transfer through his books/audio programs. In fact I don't believe much of his power can be acquired by listening to his ideas at all - they are helpful and were somewhat novel to me but mostly forgettable. 

To see what his power is, I think it's worth watching some of his relationship intervention videos. As far as I can tell, one of his core strategies is "solve an irreversibly damaged relationship in an hour by making both parties fall deeply in love with him (TR) and then transfer that love to each other." (Of course, the examples on youtube are only the cases where TR succeeded most totally, so his actual success rate doing this is hard to estimate. If I had to ballpark, it works 50% of the time, so TR can make half of all humans fall in love with him in under an hour, under a weak precondition of the other person being receptive to a normal conversation.)

Unfortunately (or fortunately for him) this has the uncanny side effect of turning a consistent fraction of the attendees (in particular exactly the fraction who get the most out of his workshops) into a zealous army of unpaid volunteers who follow him all over the world. I may be using the words "memetically safe" incorrectly, but this is the danger I'm pointing to that I don't feel from CFAR. I didn't consider the opposite danger of CFAR immunizing against other forms of self-improvement, it seems like it wouldn't be too strong of an effect but much less bad in any case?

Straight-edge Warning Against Physical Intimacy

Yes, I think that would match the intended meaning. 

Can you get AGI from a Transformer?

Thanks for writing back.

I asked about the memory and generative models because I feel uncertain about the differences, if any, between storing information in memory versus storing in generative models. Example of storing in memory would be something like a knowledge graph. Example of retrieving info from a generative model would be something like inputing a vector into deconvolutional NN so that it outputs an image (models have capacity making them function like memory). One question on my mind is, are there things that are better suited (or “more naturally”) stored in a generative model versus in memory.

How We Failed COVID-19

I feel like this post is still missing something important about things and that we still don't really understand what has been and is going on.

If you look at the death rate stats from macrotrends (for the USA here but can look at others from the same link: what jumps out to me is that 2018 was a higher rate of growth then either 2019 or 2020 and the latter two are basically the same.

That pattern seems to play out in most other countries.

Well, if the increase in deaths year-over-year was greater in 2018 without COVID-19 than now with the disease, why is this more a problem? Is it a case that those additional deaths (8.8/1000 in 2020 versus 8.7/1000 in 2019) tipped the medical/hospital capacity over the limit? Is it the case that the way the virus works is putting more of a strain on the medical/hospital infrastructure than the greater increase in deaths that occurred in 2018 did?

In other words,is this focus on deaths attributed to COVID the right lens to use?

Related to that question is the fact the projections (at least for the USA) is that the death rate will continue its upward trend to reach about 10.5/1000 in 2050 and those projections do not reflect any impact from the current pandemic.

Again, if COVID doesn't really seem to be impacting death rate trends are COVID deaths the relevant statistic to focus on?

Book review: WEIRDest People

That is extremely suspect. This makes me deeply curious where the data came from for the graph, and why he bothered to include the section at all. The linear and progressive implication also peculiar, because it flies pretty directly in the face of his previous work.

I think I can leave this one lie, and come back once the supports and criticisms have been lined up source-wise.

Online vs. Personal Conversations

I think that the quality of conversations change from an online platform to real life situations. After all, the first one is artificial and the second one is real and showing real emotions and interaction.

Straight-edge Warning Against Physical Intimacy

Ok I understand. So maybe I should switch for another word than produce? Just as plain as "people who have more estrogen than testosterone in their blood", or something of the likes?

Covid 12/3: Land of Confusion

Johns Hopkins seems to report almost 3000 deaths yesterday alone; this seems wildly inconsistent with your death estimates. I'm not sure how to follow up on your estimates, do you have a take on what's happening?

How I Write

Fantastic, especially the bit about needing to write before understanding it fully, or else it becoming stale and boring (and obvious, all of a sudden).

You Have About Five Words

luding explicitly thinking about what (about) five words I want to be the takeaway or that would deliver the payload, or that I expect to be the takeaway from something.

This is pretty cool. Can you give some example of about five word takeaways you've created for different contexts?

How We Failed COVID-19

I think your early analysis is accurate, but connecting this to 'reliable information sources about COVID' is completely off the mark. I don't know how to explain properly why I think this is so completely wrong - or at least, not without delving into a few-month sequence based on the material of The 1-minute version goes something like:

There are many possible steps that all need to go right before appropriate collective action is taken to combat a national or global threat. This is especially true if we have shared responsibility, and even more so if the most promising countermeasures involve social changes (i.e. changes in the daily lives of a significant portion of the population). One of these steps is 'having access to proper information about the virus'. A few others are 'having access to rallying points for collective social action', 'willingness to make these social changes, instead of accepting the loss in life and health, in the first place', and I'm sure there are many others. I am not at all convinced that knowledge about the virus is the bottleneck in this process (in fact, I think it is the easiest step of them all). In my opinion the gap between not having accurate information and having accurate information is much much smaller than the gap between having accurate information and collectively acting on it.

Lastly, I think blaming lack of social action on lack of knowledge is a common mistake (maybe even politically motivated tool), and I thank Lou Keep linked above for their wonderful explanation of this point.

You Have About Five Words

I use this concept often, including explicitly thinking about what (about) five words I want to be the takeaway or that would deliver the payload, or that I expect to be the takeaway from something. I also think I've linked to it quite a few times.

I've also used it to remind people that what they are doing won't work because they're trying to communicate too much content through a medium that does not allow it. 

A central problem is how to create building blocks that have a lot more than five words, but where the five words in each block can do a reasonable substitute job when needed.

The LessWrong 2019 Review

Can I suggest the mods go through the top Personal Blogposts for last year to confirm they shouldn't have been frontpage? In particular You Have About Five Words (which I am likely going to nominate) and one post of mine seem out of place there in hindsight.

Book Review: The Secret Of Our Success

This post did a lot of the work of getting the post-rationalist take on culture to permeate into the rationalsphere.  One of the most useful posts giving clear models for how culture help to hold useful memes without explicit models.

Book summary: Unlocking the Emotional Brain

Memory Reconsolidation has perhaps been the most useful concept I've learned in the past 3 years.  I've used it in running workshops, coaching sessions, and for my own benefit.

As far as I can tell, this is the best introduction to Memory Reconsolidation available on the internet, and having a single place that I can link people to to explain the concept is highly valuable. I've done so probably half a dozen times since it was published.

12 Rules for Life

I strongly disagree. It seems to assume that everything is read as often as it's written which is not true. The best writing is written once and read millions or billions of times. Maybe it should be write 1/100th or 1/1000th of what you read. (But even this assumes that what you're writing is worthwhile, which for lots of people I think is not true).

Matt Goldenberg's Short Form Feed

How do you nominate a post for the 2019 review.  When I click on "Nominations" I only see posts that were already nominated.  When I go to a posts page to make a comment, I don't see any obvious way to make it a nomination.

Edit: Found it! Click the 3 dots menu at the top of a post.

Are index funds still a good investment?

Some other things which I didn't mention here, but really are somewhat important stories

1/ Active trading (as opposed to active investing). Market making, stat arb, etc

2/ The rise of private investments. There's a decent case that the best listed companies get taken private, leaving the public markets with only the very largest companies which no-one can take private, and the companies which no private equity firms want to take public

3/ Semi-active investing / factor investing. I find it quite hard to ignore the evidence that there are factors which outperform broad market indices (Momentum, Value, Large Cap, Low Vol, etc). Should you misweight your investment away from cap-weights to capture some of this additional value?

Are index funds still a good investment?


TL;DR In my opinion, yes, still a good investment, if only because the alternative is not great

I think there's several things to tease out:

1/ What do we mean by "Index Funds"? Are we talking about the platonic global cap-weighted fund which owns the entire investible universe? Are we talking about country specific cap-weighted funds? Sector specific? Cap-weighted but only the biggest n (S&P500, etc)? Cap-weighted, but also only if they meet certain governance / financial standards?

I find it quite hard to find fault with the platonic ideal of an index fund (although I will attempt to talk latter a little about some issues with it). Unfortunately, it's pretty much impossible to create for any number of reasons.

There are definitely potential issues with individual indices.

a/ Index inclusion - it's clear that being added / removed from the index can have massive impact on a company's valuation. Recent examples include Tesla and [these guys front running index inclusion](

b/ Governance - as more and more of stocks are owned by non-voting, passive owners it's easier for management to get away with shadier dealings

c/ Anti-competitiveness - [Matt Levine has written extensively about this idea]( I don't take it too seriously, and I don't think it harms investors as much as the broader market

d/ Missing the "good" investments - if assets revalue when they join an index, you are definitely missing out if all you are doing is buying the index. (At which point the assets will already have revalued). I think there is a similar phenomenon here related to where stocks are listed. The same stock can trade at vastly different valuations based on the stock market which its listed on. (Not at the same time, I mean here re-listing can be a big catalyst for stock price growth).

2/ What if index funds are overvalued in general?

"if index funds were overvalued, the active traders should make a killing on that inefficiency"

I don't think this is quite right. If our platonic index funds are overvalued then the entire market is overvalued and there's not really anything you can do about that as an active trader. (Except perhaps bet that it's going to go down, and that's a very tough bet to make). If you think that individual index funds are overvalued, that's still a tough trade, since you have to wait for company cash flows to prove you right, and you might be waiting a long time / find yourself squeezed out by weight of money long before then.

3/ What are our alternatives?

Perhaps this is a lack of imagination on my part, but I see roughly 7 areas where you can "invest" your capital. (Separate from "using capital as collateral for running a trading strategy").

a/ Cash
b/ Equities
c/ Real Estate
d/ Bonds
e/ Commodities
f/ Precious metals 
g/ Cryptocurrencies

There's a case (I think best made by Mike Green) which suggests the world is divided into "Cash" and "Non-Cash" (which we can proxy with equities and bonds) and that the use of index funds is causing the amount of cash held in the world to decline which causes non-cash assets to revalue higher and higher (especially when valued in cash terms). I don't think this story is completely true (I don't think all buyers of index funds are entirely price insensitive) but I think it has enough merit which is worth thinking about.

My general view is from an asset allocation point of view there is very little to encourage bonds, commodities, precious metals and crypto. (Safe) bonds have negative real yields. Hoarding commodities seems to have little utility so why should it have positive returns. Gold / Precious metals / Crypto only seems to derive it's value from some sort of Keynesian beauty contest which I feel I have no edge in so I tend to steer clear. That said, I still think it's worthwhile holding some of all of them if only to benefit from their lack of correlation, store of value properties which enable you to rebalance.

So we're left with Equities and Real Estate. I'm going to dump real estate into equities on the grounds that you can hold real estate via REITs, but I think RE has properties much more similar to inflation linked bonds than companies.

The next question, now we've established our asset allocation, is "How do I own my equities?". Again (lack of imagination on my part) I see roughly two choices here: Own index funds. Buy individual stocks.

Owning index funds has a lot to recommend it - cheap, easy to do, getting information from the whole market etc

Buying individual stocks has a lot of problems - how do you find them? how do you value them? what makes you think you're better at it than the market at large?  

My general advice to people who can't solve those problems is "Own Index Funds".

12 Rules for Life

Not sure if there is interest in discussing these. If so, I'm quite curious about #6. What is the reason for this and do other people have strong feelings about it?

Where do (did?) stable, cooperative institutions come from?

The Cost of Communication covers a very similar argument in a lot more detail, particularly with stronger grounding in memetic theory:

The basic argument of this post has 4 main components:

  1. Memetic Immune Systems: Just like there is a biological immune system for viruses, there may be a memetic immune system that decides which ideas, a.k.a. memes, are adopted by the individual. This memetic immune system would not select for “good” or true ideas. It would select for ideas that are beneficial to the carrier’s germline.
  2. Increased Memetic Competition Selects for Attention-Grabbing Memes: Memes spread via attention; it is a resource they require and compete for (Chielens, 2002). Increasing our ability to communicate with each other means that memes can spread more easily, by definition. Increasing the ability of memes to propagate means they have to compete with a wider range of memes for the same attention budget. This selects for more and more competitive and attention-capturing memes. The selection for competitive memes can produce very dangerous ideas that are successful in spreading despite being negatively correlated with humanity’s well-being. Also discussed in this sub-section is the effect increased communication bandwidth seems to have had on social media addiction and local news organisations: not good.
  3. Memetic Kin Selection and the Emergence of Groups: Memes are unlike biological genes in that they can rapidly signal their presence in a carrier. Therefore, they can take moment-to-moment advantage of relative levels of perceived memes in the local population to adopt their spreading strategy. This leads to some interesting behaviours, e.g. in-group/out-group dynamics, preference falsification, mobs of non-genetically-related individuals, etc.
  4. The Problem of Critical Density and the Evil Triad: Some memes are detrimental to the well-being of the general population. In other words, they are “bad” ideas, negatively correlated with humanity’s well-being. For a subset of those memes, it takes time to figure out why they are bad and for competing memes to emerge. However, because of the ability of memes to coordinate with copies of themselves (Point 3), memes can reach a critical density in a population. At that point, arguing against them becomes very difficult, e.g. you are arguing against a mob, against dogma, etc. As such, in the case of dangerous memes reaching critical density, the speed at which memes can spread may pose a public health risk. Additionally, if these memes spread via polarization, then arguing against them can be ineffective. To combat these kinds of “Evil Triad” memes, it may be that memetic social distancing, i.e. reduced communication between individuals, would be a successful strategy.
How We Failed COVID-19

This is a very important topic and question, but I fear that you generalize too much and your assessment of Western politicians' understanding lacks subtlety.  In particular, my opinion is that the obviously good strategies were just not politically feasible. In the beginning of the pandemic, I used to treat arguments of the form "The successful strategy of country A is just not possible in country B" as defeatism and status-quo bias, but I  now believe that the South Korean model is indeed not possible in Western democratic countries. This can be seen by creative and smart initiatives of some Western countries that nevertheless failed.

You mention that the government holds the following misconception: 

It's fine to hover just below the point where hospitals get overwhelmed - it's not important to bring down the number of active cases as low as possible

However, the German government is perfectly aware of the meaning of exponential spread, here is chancellor Angela Merkel explaining what R means and why a value of 1.1 would be too high. 

While hand-washing was an important recommendation in the beginning here as well, our public health messaging has been focused for some time now on droplet and aerosol transmission. School and university classrooms are often required to be ventilated at regular intervals (which for most schools is not doable, but that's a different topic). Hand sanitizer is also much easier to implement than any ventilation measure in Winter.

You also invoke the risk society thesis, but this would apply to Asian countries as well, which were able to contain the virus.    

In addition, I think "the summer success in Western countries was not due to measures but due too weather effects" is far too strong a claim. European countries had a decent contact tracing system and cancelled mass events, while the US did not have the first part and had far worse numbers in summer.


Why the South Korean model would not work in the West: 

South Korea did contact tracing very well, with huge invasions of privacy like checking CCTV data, publishing the whereabouts of infected individuals and using credit card transaction history. In the US and the UK contact tracers are happy if contacted individuals pick up their phone at all. It's paradoxical, but it seems to me that Western populations would rather accept a wrecked economy, restriction of movement AND hundred  thousands of deaths than a temporary surveillance program. 


Examples of Non-Asian countries with smart but failed initiatives:

As far as I can tell, there has only been one Western country to try to eradicate the virus, namely Israel which implemented very tight border control policies and a mobile phone surveillance initiative very early.  However, my impression is that cooperation of the populace is just not high enough, which is why a second lockdown had to be imposed.   

A to me pretty saddening case is the initiative of the Slovak government to test its entire working age population through cheap antigen tests.  Testing was semi voluntary, with the other option being mandatory quarantine. New infection numbers fell very rapidly, but because the testing was done in  parallel with a partial lockdown it's not exactly easy to determine causality. However, since many other European countries with similar lockdowns have at best a flattened curve it seems very likely that mass testing was a great idea which is why it's copied now in parts of England, Austria and Italy.  Despite the large success and subsequent reopening, another round of mass testing has in Slovakia been postponed indefinitely, mostly because the mandatory quarantine got many voters angry and popularity of the government has been waning rapidly.


So in conclusion, many smart policies are much harder to implement in Western countries and may actually reflect the preference of the population, and that our current situation is not because of governments "[...] making some silly errors, not updating their information, and not thinking through the long-term effects. " 

However, there was/is room for fairly cheap wins  through scientific and regulatory adaptation. This post is already too long, but briefly put the failure seems to be in those two areas. Despite strong theoretical justifications, no country (AFAIK) has so far approved at home, cheap antigen testing. 

alkjash's Shortform

Interesting perspective!  As someone who came to CFAR from the perspective of "ooh, another self-help bootcamp to try" I'm highly interested in these sorts of comparisons.

I'm curious in what medium you tried Tony Robbins.  I've never gone to a workshop of his, but my own experience with his books and audio programs is maybe only a 10% improvement.  I haven't found neuro-associative conditioning to be that effective, and found the motivation from his programs to be fleeting.  It's possible that having grown up on NLP, I'd internalized a lot of his best ideas already.

I'm also surprised that you call CFAR astronomically memetically safe.  In my experience, there's a big memetic danger of CFAR, which is that it tends to make people overly cautious of Jordan Peterson/Tony Robbins style "just do it" advice.  It emphasizes gentle yin style congruency advice to such an extent that it innoculates people against other effective forms of self-improvement.  Much of this is the CFAR advice combined with the general CFAR culture of course, and not just the lessons.

Are index funds still a good investment?

Good point and indeed indexing played a prominent role in the late 90s tech boom; it was a broad market phenomenon, in contrast to the idea that it was a micro-speculative frenzy contained to things like zero-revenue IPOs.

However, here I’ll expand on the meta-contrarian “bubble” point and offer that the dot com boom was not a case of markets gone haywire. I think we had a case for real technological prospects coupled with a market buying into the expectation that the Greenspan Fed was capable of providing nominal stability over the long-term.

It perhaps serves as a positive case study as to why some economists bang the drum so strongly for nominal GDP-level targeting. With expectations of nominal stability, the hurdle to invest in high-risk, long time-horizon projects, is greatly reduced. This can effectively yoink away much of the equity risk premium and could justify the high valuations and low expected forward returns to equity that marked the 1999-2000 period.

I’ll caveat by saying that this is currently just my working model of the late-90s, but it perhaps offers the deliciously contrarian view that managers just blindly dumping money into tech indices were actually not ‘uniformed flow’, even if they weren’t fully cognizant of the incentives they were responding to at the time

The Parable of Predict-O-Matic

This is a rather clever parable which explains serious AI alignment problems in an entertaining form that doesn't detract from the substance.

Evolution of Modularity

I liked this post for talking about how evolution produces modularity (contrary to what is often said in this community!). This is something I suspected myself but it's nice to see it explained clearly, with backing evidence.

Book Review: The Secret Of Our Success

This is a good review of an intriguing thesis about human culture, with a bunch of neat factoids. The thesis has some major flaws IMO, but it is a useful perspective to know.

Reframing the evolutionary benefit of sex

This post gives an elegant explanation of the evolutionary benefit of sexual reproduction that was new to me, at least. I like it, although I also wish some expert added their thoughts.

How can I bet on short timelines?

Don't know of a venture capital fund like that, but there's apparently a "Rise of the Robots" ETF.

How We Failed COVID-19

These are all good points! They remind me of the "Swiss Cheese Model" in regards to COVID. No single solution is 100% effective, but combine enough layers and there won't be any 'holes' in the strategy anymore. 

How We Failed COVID-19

I fully agree that there is a strong lack of proper communication with the public! If all/most citizens have a decent grasp of the "COVID basics" and best practices, ending the pandemic would be a lot easier. 

Except for general information about the virus itself, there should also be some kind of "weather forecast" about the prevalence of the virus in your local vicinity. AFAIK, South Korea was very strong in this regard, at least at the start of the pandemic. Citizens received local reports of how many cases were confirmed in their area. 

Straight-edge Warning Against Physical Intimacy

The problem is that it's not accurate here as while a trans man has the hormones in their blood they don't produce them (or at least not all of them).

What Would Advanced Social Technology Look Like?

Kind of. I have not seen anything that you could validly call engineering. More like tinkering. There is not enough hard science/math behind it. 

How We Failed COVID-19

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. 

Are index funds still a good investment?

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.

Are index funds still a good investment?

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. 

Are index funds still a good investment?

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. 

Are index funds still a good investment?

Passive investors own the same proportion of each stock (to a first approximation).  Therefore the remaining stocks, which are held by active investors, also consist of the same proportion of every stock. So if stocks go down then this will reduce the value of the stocks held by the average active investor by the same amount as those of passive investors.

If you think stocks will go down across the market then the only way to avoid your investments going down is to not own stocks.

Book review: WEIRDest People

I agree, Peter, that  in many ways the western nations have been more individualistic than others. I have explored this in my recent book The Awakening, A History of the Western Mind AD500-1700, published in the UK with a US edition coming from Knopf under the title The Reopening of the Western Mind. This is precisely why i bought Henrich's book when it came out in the UK! As my title suggests I am concerned with the rise of the individual mind. I would argue that it lies in the relationship between an intellectual elite and the classical sources- so from 1400 onwards. This is why I like Mokyr's approach (see another of my comments) which links a cultural elite to influencing the Industrial Revolution. 

I was immensely disappointed by The Weirdest People. The first time i read it I was mildly interested and kept on going, the second time I got very irritated by the poor editing, the imprecise terminology and above all, his complete ignorance of European history (which was obvious from the first reading). Because it is so poorly organised (did he not have an editor?) it is hard to see the weaknesses, but I now realise that he did not know that the Roman empire existed and that many of the changes he attributes to the Church (the break-up of cousin marriages and communal landholdings) had already been in effect during the long centuries of Roman rule. There is very little evidence that anyone took much notice of the consanguinity rules anyway. ( I have searched for this but can only find one article on the nobles of the tenth to eleventh century where there was some acquiescence but unlike the mass of the population they were mobile and so could marry out.) While one can see a transmission of culture across the European elite (using Latin as a common language) over time, there is no evidence that it extended beyond this elite. It is true that the Protestant areas of Europe ( I wonder whether Henrich knew of the persistence of Catholicism over much of Europe- France, Spain, Italy, Bavaria,etc. as he seems to attribute much of WEIRDness to Protestantism but this would only have affected part of Europe) encouraged the reading of the Bible but this hardly compares with those who had access to the rich resources of the classical world.

We shall see whether the whole argument on which this book depends unravels as better historians than I come in contact with it. It certainly does not deserve to be seen as a major academic work.

The LessWrong 2018 Book is Available for Pre-order

I really really love this initiative. Reading LW in book form is just better for me. Online I get distracted and I read stuff as procrastination instead of deliberate effort. I've read the first two books of the sequences and HPMOR on Kindle and the experience is not even comparable with reading with a browser.

Book Review: The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions

This post does a (probably) decent job of summarizing Kuhn's concept of paradigm shifts. I find paradigm shifts a useful way of thinking about the aggregation of evidence in complex domains.

Pain is not the unit of Effort

Note: in its original form, this comment also attempted to predict how this post would fare next year in the 2020 LW review. After receiving feedback from alkjash, I excised this. I still want to find a way to achieve my intentions with such predictions. But it is far more important to maintain a sense of warmth and camaraderie, and my original post failed to do that. For that, I apologize to alkjash.

In my experience, the idea that "no pain, no gain" is false is extraordinarily prominent. To the extent that we have to ask why highly educated Westerners are continuing to make themselves miserable despite almost all life advice givers consistently saying that they should focus on being happy and healthy first?

I have never been seriously told "no pain, no gain," or encouraged to view pain tolerance as a virtue. Showing pain was an occasion to question whether I was making fundamentally wrong life choices, to the extent that I would hide pain that was an ordinary consequence of challenges or imperfect decision-making in order to avoid the additional irritation of misplaced concern. Even in situations where nothing can be done about a source of discomfort, it is the expected default that everyone involved will agree that "we should make a change," even when no better option is apparent.

My guess is that if people deal with a lot of misery, it's not because they prefer it or think it's instrumentally useful.

One alternative explanation is that people pursuing accomplishment are usually in the midst of a learning process. Trying to refine it to the point of "doing it right" would actually be harder than pushing through the pain to get the basics before refining the details.

For example, I'm currently in the midst of a journey into grad school. I am taking lots of hard classes, working, doing applications, and trying to maintain relationships in the midst of a pandemic. Sometimes, I miss sleep. Sometimes, I fritter away my free time playing online chess. Sometimes, I eat take 'n' bake pizza several days in a row. Sometimes, I feel really frustrated with my classes.

The way I see it is that I've never tried to do this before. I'm in the midst of figuring out how to balance and accomplish all of life's demands. If I made "be happy on a day to day basis" my top priority, I think it would be extremely hard to also accomplish my career goals. Instead, I put my career goals first, and aim to have as much happiness as possible within the pressures that puts on me. Sometimes, that amount is "not very much." But I hope that it will grow with time.

In other words, "sometimes, people trade pleasure in the moment for long-term meaning or investment, and fail to get both because it's a harder task to be happy and successful than to just be happy or just be successful."

The LessWrong 2018 Book is Available for Pre-order

Thank you :) We don't currently offer orders to Russia, even though I'd like to. My current understanding (Habryka can correct me if I'm wrong) is that Stripe doesn't let us take payment from Russia. However, when the product is up on, I think you'll be able to purchase it there.

The LessWrong 2018 Book is Available for Pre-order

Books are amazing! Will it be possible to ship pre-orders to Russia? It is not in the list currently

DanielFilan's Shortform Feed

Blog post request: a summary of all the UFO stuff and what odds I should put on alien visitations of earth.

The LessWrong 2018 Book is Available for Pre-order

Sounds quite cool!

There are quite a lot of interesting things, but it's hard to read less wrong as there are just so many links, and finding what to read next is computationally very costly. A book solve the problem! I may imagine buying the ebook version just for having this order simplifying the reading decision.

One question: do you have any plan to make an audiobook of it? I listen more than I read, and would really love to listen to it, assuming that some texts can be understood without the drawings. I assume that some textes from Scott Alexander may already exists in audio thanks to SSC podcast. A LW Best-Of podcast, similar to SSC podcast and to the RAIFTZ audiobook would be extremly wonderful.

The LessWrong 2018 Book is Available for Pre-order

I would be quite surprised if we ran out before the book is up on Amazon. The primary reason to preorder is either if you want to support us by helping us plan and adjust various plans based on demand, or if you want to make sure you get the books before Christmas. 

We have been selling faster than I expected though (we made a print run of 1000 books and have sold 270 today), so there is some chance my estimate here is wrong, but overall I still only assign around 10% to us running out at all.

The LessWrong 2018 Book is Available for Pre-order

These look amazing! I'm really blown away by the designs. I know it's early days, but do you think there will likely be stock left after preorders are filled? I generally don't like preordering things, but I will likely buy a copy once it's on sale unless there's an unforeseen quality issue, so if there won't be stock left then I'd like to just preorder.

Also, I took a look at the sample chapter and noticed a possible typographical error: on the 8th line of text on the back cover, it looks like there's two spaces between "blog" and "devoted". Same on line 12 between "essays" and "of". I might just be seeing things though.

Book Review: 'History Has Begun: The Birth of a New America' by Bruno Maçães

The support provided in the book is purely anecdotal (along the lines of what I discussed above) and doesn't really discuss any other models. The alternative explantions I discuss such as re-religiofication due to material conditions are not mentioned in the book, which is wrote in a somewhat impressionistic manner.

Book review: WEIRDest People

Hmm, I would have assumed that gentile Christians just never followed the practice (just like they didn't keep kosher or follow other Old Testament laws), and (fairly naturally) saw it as conflicting with monogamy.

Am I mistaken -- was levirate marriage actually ever widely practiced in the Western Christian church?

The LessWrong 2018 Book is Available for Pre-order

I think a "Nth annual" is a good thing. It will be on the Amazon page (still not fully sure what the series title will be, by default something like "Best of LessWrong"), and of course we will have a section on the site that will organize the books in order, after we released more than one. But having each individual book be prominently stand-alone seems pretty important to me, and also having a prominent series title for the first book, or book set, in a series seems also kind of unnecessary to me. If we've done three of those, then maybe there is a benefit that people get from knowing what series it is part of, but for the first one, the info seems really unnecessary for the vast majority of readers. 

I also don't want to commit us too hard to doing a book every year. Like, I know we want to do a book for this year's (2019) review, but I really don't know yet whether we will do one for next year, and also the book for this year's review might look so totally different that putting them in a series doesn't really make sense. Starting a whole series title and then abandoning it seems pretty bad to me, if you don't even know whether it will have more than two entries.

The LessWrong 2018 Book is Available for Pre-order

Other timeless but year-of-publication restricted anthologies like "Year's Best Dark Fantasy and Horror" and  "Year's Best Science Writing"  have either "Nth annual" or [year the entries were published] prominently on the title.  This is an established convention. The problems of "what the hell book did I read that in?", "Finding the books on Amazon" and "Have I read this already? Who's to say." seem much bigger to me than a fraction of the audience that hasn't picked up that convention AND will be blocked from reading by it.

Logistics for the 2020 online Secular Solstice celebration

Yeah, I expect Chromium-based browsers will have a good chance of just working, but we will have no resource margin for properly testing anything but Chrome. (I also sort of expect that the kind of person who uses an uncommon browser will be the kind of person to try it anyway.)

Book review: WEIRDest People

It seems like there should be a significant reputation cost to the reversal, since it needed to be widely understood.

I'd expect arbitary exploration to be averse to conspicuous costs. Whereas planned strategies can be plausibly motivated by a vision of inheriting valuable land from widows who have less pressure to leave the land to kin in their wills.

Straight-edge Warning Against Physical Intimacy

Glad you enjoyed it, and it's good to meet another straight-edge here (although you don't seem to fully identify with the term, which is ok! I'm not sure I do either).

I heard of the strategy of masturbating before going on a date before, but I mostly heard it as an advice to be less nervous (somehow). Your advice seems sensible, although I'm not sure how effective it would be, in that it would release a ton of hormones that make you happy right before meeting someone, and could alter your vision of them. I really don't know haha, just saying there are probably a lot of unknowns unknowns here (and I'm not sure how much they're worth figuring out).

The LessWrong 2018 Book is Available for Pre-order

That said, if you plan on releasing them on yearly intervals later I'd imagine some restriction might be necessary. Or, it could be that whenever a few topics seem to have come full circle or be in a good place for a book, you publish a book focused on those topics. 

Yeah, it's mostly that I don't know of a great alternative mechanism for the Review. The Schelling nature of doing a review thing at the end of the year seems pretty strong, and having a year as the natural unit of review also seems really intuitive and nice. 

I do think there is a good chance we are going to release some other books that are not part of the review cycle that are more centered around specific topics. But I really don't know yet how to fit them into all of this, and whether they are part of the same series, or their branding, or whether they are going to happen at all. 

It's very possible that there's kind of a "free pass" for the first 1-3 years, if this is a repeating thing, and then you could start adding the year. It's not that big a deal if there are just 2-3 of these, but I imagine it will get to be annoying if there are 5+ (and by that time it will be more obvious if it's an issue or not)

Yeah, I actually agree with this. Amazon has a field for "Series Title" that I want to fill in, of which this would be Vol. 1. Some obvious candidates for the series title are "Best of LessWrong" and "The LessWrong Review". I don't think there is much benefit to emphasizing a series title in the first entry of a series very much, but I think it makes sense to emphasize them more in future years, where they start actually doing anything. I still wouldn't want to put the year into the title, because if we are usually going to release these 1.5-2 years afterward, people are inevitably going to get really confused about when the books were released.

Straight-edge Warning Against Physical Intimacy

Agreed. And a trans man who doesn't take hormone would also be affected similarly. I think saying man/woman or male/female is a bit inaccurate in this context because of that (also because not everyone means the same thing when they say male/female; some refer to a biological reality, so having certain genitalia, and some give it the same meaning as man and woman, so a gender identity). I prefer to use a term that is both accurate and unambiguous (+ that encompasses the other realities I mentioned in my former comment, like intersex people and such), even if that means a lengthier sentence.

Straight-edge Warning Against Physical Intimacy

I didn't know about these numbers for PCOS, that's good to know.

I'm note sure what you mean by specific intersex condition; afaik, intersex people can have all sorts of combinations of sex attributes (they can have a vagina and XY chromosomes for instance, or a vagina and internal testicles, and so on; one of those variables would be their level of hormones). Another specific reason someone with a vagina would produce predominantly testosterone is if they're a trans man on hormone replacement therapy.

What I mean by predominantly is that they would produce more testosterone than estrogen (or the other way around); since cis women are more sensitive to the effects of hormones produced when having sex because they produce more estrogen, is it my understanding that the same would be true of someone who produces predominantly estrogen, regardless of their gender.

The LessWrong 2018 Book is Available for Pre-order

Just want to flag that I like the idea of topic-specific books, perhaps with an additional author to help rewrite things and make them consistent and clean. It's especially enticing if you can find labor to do it that doesn't have a high opportunity cost for other LessWrong style things. 

The LessWrong 2019 Review

One of the pernicious issues with word-dillution is that often when people try to use a word to mean things, they're... kinda meaning those things "aspirationally." Where, yes part of my original goal with the Review absolutely included Research Debt. But indeed there's a decent chance it won't succeed at that goal. (But, I do intend to put in a fair amount of optimization pressure towards making it succeed)

The LessWrong 2018 Book is Available for Pre-order

+1 for being able to be open about small disagreements like this online :)

The LessWrong 2018 Book is Available for Pre-order

Thanks for the reasoning here. I also don't want to detract people from purchasing these books, I imagine if people really wanted they could write the dates on them manually. 

That said - 

To better explain my intuitions here:

In 5 years from now, I care about whether the essays came out in 2018 or in 2017 if I am trying to find a particular one in a book, or recommend one to another person. Ordering is really simple to remember compared to other kinds of naming one could use. When going between different books the date is particularly relevant because names and concepts will change over time. I'd hope that 10 years from now much of the 2018 content will look antiquated and old. 

If you're just aiming for "timeless and good quality posts" (this sounds like the value proposition for the readers you are referring to), then I don't understand the need to only choose ones from 2018. Many good ones came out before 2018 that I imagine would be interesting to readers. That said, if you plan on releasing them on yearly intervals later I'd imagine some restriction might be necessary. Or, it could be that whenever a few topics seem to have come full circle or be in a good place for a book, you publish a book focused on those topics. 

I agree that "LessWrong Review 2018" sounds strange, but there are other phrases that could have with 2018 in them. Many Academic periodicals (including things like Philosophy, which are at least as timeless as LessWrong content) have yearly collections. With those I don't assume I need to read all of the old ones before reading the current year, that would take quite a while (it becomes more obvious after a few are out). I imagine the name could be something like, "LessWrong Highlighted Content: 2018" or "The Best of LessWrong: 2018". 

It's very possible that there's kind of a "free pass" for the first 1-3 years, if this is a repeating thing, and then you could start adding the year. It's not that big a deal if there are just 2-3 of these, but I imagine it will get to be annoying if there are 5+ (and by that time it will be more obvious if it's an issue or not)

Are index funds still a good investment?

Most of the 3x ETFs compound daily, it's true. And there are costs to this--more from the fees than the compounding itself. But that doesn't automatically make them a bad long-term investment (even though I've heard that said). 3x funds are much more accessible than other kinds of leverage. You don't need a margin account. You don't need options. You can even trade them in an IRA where you don't have to pay taxes. That more than makes up for it.

Most brokers charge way too much to consider using margin loans long term. IB does happen to be more reasonable, but loans are still not for free. And to get the best rates, you need a big account. You can't even get to 2x leverage on a Reg-T portfolio using margin loans. (On components sure, but not the whole portfolio, or you'll get a margin call next dip.) For portfolio margin, you need at least $100,000 at most brokers, and preferably a lot more so you don't get downgraded and margin called at the worst time. It's great if you can afford it, but one should start investing long before saving up that much.

How Much is Your Time Worth?

How much is your time worth if you're retired, a homemaker, a student, or otherwise not working for pay?

The LessWrong 2018 Book is Available for Pre-order

But, who cares in 5 years whether the essays came out in 2018 or in 2017? For people who want to just read the best that LessWrong has to offer, the year isn't that crucial. Indeed, if someone is considering buying one of our review books in 5 years, I really don't want them to think that they first have to buy the 2018 book before the 2019 book, or that the year is somehow super significant, or that the content was driven by some current events happening in that year. I want them to look at the title, the content, and the structure, and see which one they like best, judging the content and not the date. 

Our original title was "The LessWrong Review 2018" but then everyone we ran the name by thought that the book was released in 2018, and that was really confusing (If you call it the 2019 review, everything gets even worse, so that's also not an option). They also thought that the fact that the year is so pronounced means that the content is probably very time-sensitive, and so given that it is now two years later, the content is probably out of date. They also thought that they had to understand what the "LessWrong Review" is before they feel comfortable buying the book, because it sounds kinda technical and weird.

And then when we asked them about buying the 2019 Review book, they felt like they had to buy the 2018 book first, because there was a really strong implied order, and they weren't sure whether the books were building on each other. 

But when we just asked people what they felt if we said that we had put a lot of efforts curating the best essays on LessWrong. And this is one of those collections. Then they got the point of the book. And then we could mention in the secondary text that the way we curated this collection is via a whole cool fancy review process that they can learn more about if they want, but they don't have to, and all that they need to know is that these are some curated essays on LessWrong, organized by a number of themes, that can stand alone without needing to have read anything else. And I think that overall just gave people a much better model of the book than if we had emphasized the year super much.

The LessWrong 2019 Review

Thanks! That does make me feel a bit better about the annual reviews.

The LessWrong 2018 Book is Available for Pre-order

For the record I totally agree with you, but I lost that argument. :)

The LessWrong 2018 Book is Available for Pre-order

If the main thing that separates this book from the 2019 and 2020 books is that it's the collection of posts from 2018, it's counterintutive to me that that's not the prominent feature of the title here. Other "journals of the year" often make the year really prominent.

I feel like 5 years from now I'm going to have trouble remembering that "A Map That Reflects the Territory" refers to the 2018 edition, and some other equally elegant but abstract name refers to the 2019 edition. 

If you do go with really premium books especially, I'd recommend considering making the date the prominent bit. Honestly I expect to memorize the "lesswrong"ness from the branding (which is distinct), so the year seems like the most important part to me. 

That said, I feel like I'm not exactly in the target audience (generally don't prefer physical books), so it would come down to the preferences of others. 

I realize you've probably thought about this a lot and have reasons, just giving my 2 cents. 

Are index funds still a good investment?

3x funds track daily moves and thus underperform logterm. Better to use traditional leverage through Interactive Brokers.

The LessWrong 2019 Review

At least 3 people substantially rewrote their posts in the 2018 review, and my hope is that over time it becomes pretty common for there to be substantial rewriting. (albeit, two of those people were LessWrong team members)

But for what it's worth, here's the diff between the original version of my own post and the current version I wrote as a result of the review.

Logistics for the 2020 online Secular Solstice celebration

I believe chromium works. (I'd have to dig through some Facebook messenger chats to find the answer but I remember it coming up and pretty sure the answer was yes)

The LessWrong 2019 Review

I see, that wasn't clear from the post. In that case I am wondering if the 2018 review caused anyone to write better explanations or rewrite the existing posts. (It seems like the LessWrong 2018 Book just included the original posts without much rewriting, at least based on scanning the table of contents.)

My Fear Heuristic

I agree. Someone else should replicate my experiment. I give prior advance permission to self-promote the results in this comments section.

The LessWrong 2019 Review

Yes, sorry. The concrete mechanism by which I hope to address research debt is not the editing of essays, but the identification of essays that have good ideas and bad presentation, and encouraging other authors to write better new explanations for them, as well as more something like thorough rewrites of existing posts. 

The LessWrong 2019 Review

This is a minor point, but I am somewhat worried that the idea of research debt/research distillation seems to be getting diluted over time. The original article (which this post links to) says:

Distillation is also hard. It’s tempting to think of explaining an idea as just putting a layer of polish on it, but good explanations often involve transforming the idea. This kind of refinement of an idea can take just as much effort and deep understanding as the initial discovery.

I think the kind of cleanup and polish that is encouraged by the review process is insufficient to qualify as distillation (I know this post didn't use the word "distillation", but it does talk about research debt, and distillation is presented as the solution to debt in the original article), and to adequately deal with research debt.

There seems to be a pattern where a term is introduced first in a strong form, then it accumulates a lot of positive connotations, and that causes people to stretch the term to use it for things that don't quite qualify. I'm not confident that is what is happening here (it's hard to tell what happens in people's heads), but from the outside it's a bit worrying.

I actually made a similar comment a while ago about a different term.

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