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Tuesday, March 2nd 2021
Tue, Mar 2nd 2021

Shortform
4johnswentworth14hI had a shortform post pointing out the recent big jump in new businesses in the US, and Gwern replied [https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/puv8fRDCH9jx5yhbX/johnswentworth-s-shortform?commentId=SbibmDhvo8HqbMNm8] : This was a good question in context, but I disagree with Gwern's model of where-progress-comes-from, especially in the context of small businesses. Let's talk ice-cream cones. As the story goes [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_cream_cone#History], an ice-cream vendor was next door to a waffle vendor at the 1904 World's Fair. At some point, the ice-cream vendor ran short on paper cups, and inspiration struck. He bought some thin waffles from the waffle vendor, rolled them into cones, and ice-cream cones took off. That's just the first step. From there, the cone spread memetically. People heard about it, and either asked for cones (on the consumer side) or tried making them (on the supplier side). Insight + Memetics -> Better Food When I compare food today to the stuff my grandparents ate, there's no comparison. Today's dishes are head and shoulders better. Partly it's insights like ice-cream cones, partly it's memetic spread of dishes from more parts of the world (like sisig, soup dumplings, ropa vieja, chicken Karahi, ...). Those little fast-food stalls? They're powerhouses of progress. It's a hypercompetitive market, with low barriers to entry, and lots of repeat business. The conditions are ideal for trying out new dishes, spreading culinary ideas and finding out the hard way what people like to eat. That doesn't mean they're highly profitable - culinary innovation spreads memetically, so it's hard to capture the gains. But progress is made.
1just_browsing12hProblem: I compulsively pick at scabs. Often I do it even though I don't want to pick at it because I know I'll be worse off. (Scab will bleed, it'll just reform anyway, and I'll have to deal with the unhealed skin for longer.) Telling myself "don't pick" doesn't work, I get very distracted by the presence of the scab and HAVE TO pick. Solution: put a band-aid over the scab. Blocking the scab makes picking more difficult. More crucially, the adhesive of the bandaid gives me a mildly ticklish sensation which masks the sensation that a pickable scab is present. Caveat: this has been most helpful for face scabs, but face bandaids are awkward. This has worked fine for me because I tend to pick when I'm alone, so I can just apply bandaids when alone and take them off when people will see me. But if you spend most of your time around people this may not work for you.

Monday, March 1st 2021
Mon, Mar 1st 2021

Shortform
3abergal1dI think it would be kind of cool if LessWrong had built-in support for newsletters. I would love to see more newsletters about various tech developments, etc. from LessWrongers.
1Borasko15hAt the start of this year I stopped playing video games except when in social situations. My hope for doing this was I would be able to study more without the distraction, and sometimes playing videogames encourages behavior that lead me to be more reclusive than I think is healthy for me. This worked fine for the first two months, however the last two days have been really rough on my mental state. I found myself breaking down and playing video games last weekend. I was bummed. I planned to go a full year without doing that. But considering I am still alive to be bummed, things could always be worse. I started think more about about. Was not playing videogames producing the behavior I wanted to see from myself? Maybe. I think I definitely have better study habits now, I worry more about the reclusive part but I think that could be solved with mandatory breaks every 30mins to an hour to think about what I could be doing different, and opportunities I could make. The biggest problem I have now with not playing videos games right now is I realized today I replaced them. I checked my YouTube recommend. Every single video, every one, had some tie in to video games. Weather it be reviews, clips, or streamers playing them. I wasn't getting away from video games at all. I had replaced playing them with watching other people play them. I created a videogame proxy. And I think that's even worse. I spent almost all time on YouTube when I wasn't study, it was what I used for leisure. If that was all videogame videos (which it usually was), then I think I ended up sending more time on videogames than I did before. Which I think isn't good. So I think I found a solution. I thought about it, and while I am uneasy about playing videogames again since I don't want to regress into being unproductive, I'm proposing I play them for a fixed amount of time per day as a trade. I can play video games for an hour and half per day after my study timeclock is over, in exchange that ev

Saturday, February 27th 2021
Sat, Feb 27th 2021

Shortform
18adamShimi3dRight now, the incentives to get useful feedback on my research push me to go into the opposite policy that I would like: publish on the AF as late as I can allow. Ideally, I would want to use the AF as my main source of feedback, as it's public, is read by more researchers that I know personally, and I feel that publishing there helps the field grow. But I'm forced to admit that publishing anything on the AF means I can't really send it to people anymore (because the ones I ask for feedback read the AF, so that's feels wrong socially), and yet I don't get any valuable feedback 99% of the time. More specifically, I don't get any feedback 99% of the time. Whereas when I ask for feedback directly on a gdoc, I always end up with some useful remarks. I also feel bad that I'm basically using a privileged policy, in the sense that a newcomer cannot use it. Nonetheless, because I believe in the importance of my research, and I want to know if I'm doing stupid things or not, I'll keep to this policy for the moment: never ever post something on the AF for which I haven't already got all the useful feedback I could ask for.

Wednesday, February 24th 2021
Wed, Feb 24th 2021

Shortform
4MikkW6dI'm tinkering around in NetLogo with a model I made representing the dynamics of selfishness and altruism. In my model, there are two types of agents ("turtles" in NL parlance), red selfish turtles and blue altruistic turtles. The turtles wander around the world, and occasionally participate in a prisoner's-dilemma-like game with nearby turtles. When a turtle cooperates, their partner receives a reward, at the cost of losing some percentage of that reward themselves. When a turtle defects, they keep all their resources, and their partner gains none. The turtles steadily lose resources over time, and if they reach 0 resources, they die. (I tried to include an image of this, but I can't seem to upload images right now) From these rules in this setup, it follows that since the only way to receive resources is if someone cooperates with you, and you are steadily losing resources, a population of only defectors will quickly die out under these rules. I tried tinkering with different factors to see what happens in different circumstances, specifically with an eye for situations where altruism may have a long-term benefit over selfishness ( I find this particularly interesting to look for, since in many situations, selfishness beats altruism in nature, but instances of altruism to strangers do nonetheless happen in nature ). Of course, the lower the penalty for altruism, the more rewarding altruism becomes. The speed of the turtles also matters - when turtles move very slowly, there can develop small pockets of altruists that avoid selfish turtles for a while simply based on geography, but as turtles speed up, location stops mattering, and most turtles will spend some time around most other turtles - which can be a boon for selfish turtles looking for altruists to feed off of. However, the variable that seemed to give the biggest advantage to the altruists was how much resources a turtle can store before it gets full, and no longer seeks additional resources. In my ear
3Yoav Ravid6d(This is an exercise, be careful not to spoil the answer to yourself) All world maps are wrong due to the fact that it's impossible to flatten a sphere without distortions. there is a simple idea anyone can think of that greatly improves the accuracy of flat maps and that no has tried in the last 2000 years - Until last week, when three Princeton researchers thought about it. Take a moment to try to think what you might do to improve the accuracy of flat maps. I'm making this an exercise since this seems like incredibly low hanging fruit that hasn't been picked up, and the idea will seem obvious in retrospect. Ok, stop here and think, spoilers ahead: * * * * Make a double sided map, of course! Map design by J. Richard Gott, Robert Vanderbei and David Goldberg [https://www.princeton.edu/news/2021/02/15/princeton-astrophysicists-re-imagine-world-map-designing-less-distorted-radically] Instead of projecting a sphere to a flat surface, they just projected two hemispheres to two surfaces and glued them together. "Goldberg and Gott invented a system to score existing maps [https://www.utpjournals.press/doi/pdf/10.3138/carto.42.4.297], quantifying the six types of distortions that flat maps can introduce: local shapes, areas, distances, flexion (bending), skewness (lopsidedness) and boundary cuts (continuity gaps). The lower the score, the better: a globe would have a score of 0.0." The previous best on this metric was the Winkel Tripel projection, with a Goldberg-Gott score of 4.563 the Winkel Tripel projectionTheir new design is better than the Winkel Tripel on every one of the 6 matrices, with a slightly lower Goldberg-Gott score of 4.497. The other huge advantage of their design is that it's the only flat design that has the topology of a sphere. if you go over the edge it's exactly like going over the equator. The other advantage is a bit less concrete - Their design just looks fun. it makes me want to hold it in my hands. other designs don't do that for
1MikkW6dI have often heard it pronounced (Including by Eliezer [https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/QsMJQSFj7WfoTMNgW/the-tragedy-of-group-selectionism] ) that group selection is not a thing, that evolution never selects for "the good of the species" - and it is true, in the sense, that if evolution is given the chance to throw the species under the bus for a slight gain to the individual, then it will never hesitate to do so. But there is a sense in which a group can be selected for - assume feature A is always bad for whichever species has it, and there are two species which occupy overlapping niches - one group with feature B, which makes feature A unprofitable for the individual, and one group with feature C, which makes feature A profitable for the individual. Assume features B and C are sufficiently complex that it remains constant within the group (there are many such biological traits - human eyes, for example, tend to be much more similar to eachother than to dog eyes, despite there existing variances within each), while feature A can be mutated on or off on an individual level. In this case, we should expect the group where the group-level disease is also unprofitable to the individual, to outperform the group where the group-level disease is profitable to individuals, since feature A will be common in one group (which will suffer) and not the other (which will prosper). This is a way in which group selection can have meaningful effects while still having evolution act on individuals

Sunday, February 21st 2021
Sun, Feb 21st 2021

Shortform
21ejacob9dA nasal spray approved for use in Europe and Israel shows moderate signs of protection against coronavirus infection. Taffix spray creates a physical barrier around nasal mucosa and reduces pH for hours after use, which may reduce the ability of viruses to bind and replicate. Very strong effect shown in vitro; less strong but still detectable effect shown in vivo. Paper: https://www.researchsquare.com/article/rs-100328/v2 [https://www.researchsquare.com/article/rs-100328/v2] JPost Article: https://www.jpost.com/health-science/israeli-made-nasal-spray-reduced-covid-infection-at-mass-gathering-659601 [https://www.jpost.com/health-science/israeli-made-nasal-spray-reduced-covid-infection-at-mass-gathering-659601]

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