Benito's Shortform Feed

by Ben Pace1 min read27th Jun 201896 comments
Crossposted from the AI Alignment Forum. May contain more technical jargon than usual.

The comments here are a storage of not-posts and not-ideas that I would rather write down than not.

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Yesterday I noticed that I had a pretty big disconnect from this: There's a very real chance that we'll all be around, business somewhat-as-usual in 30 years. I mean, in this world many things have a good chance of changing radically, but automation of optimisation will not cause any change on the level of the industrial revolution. DeepMind will just be a really cool tech company that builds great stuff. You should make plans for important research and coordination to happen in this world (and definitely not just decide to spend everything on a last-ditch effort to make everything go well in the next 10 years, only to burn up the commons and your credibility for the subsequent 20).

Only yesterday when reading Jessica's post did I notice that I wasn't thinking realistically/in-detail about it, and start doing that.

Related hypothesis: people feel like they've wasted some period of time e.g. months, years, 'their youth', when they feel they cannot see an exciting path forward for the future. Often this is caused by people they respect (/who have more status than them) telling them they're only allowed a small few types of futures.

Responding to Scott's response to Jessica.

The post makes the important argument that if we have a word whose boundary is around a pretty important set of phenomena that are useful to have a quick handle to refer to, then

  • It's really unhelpful for people to start using the word to also refer to a phenomena with 10x or 100x more occurrences in the world because then I'm no longer able to point to the specific important parts of the phenomena that I was previously talking about
    • e.g. Currently the word 'abuser' describes a small number of people during some of their lives. Someone might want to say that technically it should refer to all people all of the time. The argument is understandable, but it wholly destroys the usefulness of the concept handle.
  • People often have political incentives to push the concept boundary to include a specific case in a way that, if it were principled, indeed makes most of the phenomena in the category no use to talk about. This allows for selective policing being the people with the political incentive.
  • It's often fine for people to bend words a little bit (e.g. when people verb nouns), but when it's in the class of terms w
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I will actually clean this up and into a post sometime soon [edit: I retract that, I am not able to make commitments like this right now]. For now let me add another quick hypothesis on this topic whilst crashing from jet lag.

A friend of mine proposed that instead of saying 'lies' I could say 'falsehoods'. Not "that claim is a lie" but "that claim is false".

I responded that 'falsehood' doesn't capture the fact that you should expect systematic deviations from the truth. I'm not saying this particular parapsychology claim is false. I'm saying it is false in a way where you should no longer trust the other claims, and expect they've been optimised to be persuasive.

They gave another proposal, which is to say instead of "they're lying" to say "they're not truth-tracking". Suggest that their reasoning process (perhaps in one particular domain) does not track truth.

I responded that while this was better, it still seems to me that people won't have an informal understanding of how to use this information. (Are you saying that the ideas aren't especially well-evidenced? But they so... (read more)

3Pattern1yIs this "bias"?
3Ben Pace1yYeah good point I may have reinvented the wheel. I have a sense that’s not true but need to think more.

The definitional boundaries of "abuser," as Scott notes, are in large part about coordinating around whom to censure. The definition is pragmatic rather than objective.*

If the motive for the definition of "lies" is similar, then a proposal to define only conscious deception as lying is therefore a proposal to censure people who defend themselves against coercion while privately maintaining coherent beliefs, but not those who defend themselves against coercion by simply failing to maintain coherent beliefs in the first place. (For more on this, see Nightmare of the Perfectly Principled.) This amounts to waging war against the mind.

Of course, in matter of actual fact we don't strongly censure all cases of consciously deceiving. In some cases (e.g. "white lies") we punish those who fail to lie, and those who call out the lie. I'm also pretty sure we don't actually distinguish between conscious deception and e.g. reflexively saying an expedient thing, when it's abundantly clear that one knows very well that the expedient thing to say is false, as Jessica pointed out here.

*It's not clear to me that this is a good kind of concept to ... (read more)

2Ben Pace1yNote: I just wrote this in one pass when severely jet lagged, and did not have the effort to edit it much. If I end up turning this into a blogpost I will probably do that. Anyway, I am interested in hearing via PM from anyone who feels that it was sufficiently unclearly written that they had a hard time understanding/reading it.

Good posts you might want to nominate in the 2018 Review

I'm on track to nominate around 30 posts from 2018, which is a lot. Here is a list of about 30 further posts I looked at that I think were pretty good but didn't make my top list, in the hopes that others who did get value out of the posts will nominate their favourites. Each post has a note I wrote down for myself about the post.

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I recently circled for the first time. I had two one-hour sessions on consecutive days, with 6 and 8 people respectively.

My main thoughts: this seems like a great way for getting to know my acquaintances, connecting emotionally, and build closer relationships with friends. The background emotional processing happening in individuals is repeatedly brought forward as the object of conversation, for significantly enhanced communication/understanding. I appreciated getting to poke and actually find out whether people's emotional states matched the words they were using. I got to ask questions like:

When you say you feel gratitude, do you just mean you agree with what I said, or do you mean you're actually feeling warmth toward me? Where in your body do you feel it, and what is it like?

Not that a lot of my circling time was skeptical of people's words, a lot of the time I trusted the people involved to be accurately reporting their experiences. It was just very interesting - when I noticed I didn't feel like someone was honest about some micro-emotion - to have the affordance to stop and request an honest internal report.

It felt like there was a constant tradeoff betw... (read more)

I was just re-reading the classic paper Artificial Intelligence as Positive and Negative Factor in Global Risk. It's surprising how well it holds up. The following quotes seem especially relevant 13 years later.

On the difference between AI research speed and AI capabilities speed:

The first moral is that confusing the speed of AI research with the speed of a real AI once built is like confusing the speed of physics research with the speed of nuclear reactions. It mixes up the map with the territory. It took years to get that first pile built, by a small group of physicists who didn’t generate much in the way of press releases. But, once the pile was built, interesting things happened on the timescale of nuclear interactions, not the timescale of human discourse. In the nuclear domain, elementary interactions happen much faster than human neurons fire. Much the same may be said of transistors.

On neural networks:

The field of AI has techniques, such as neural networks and evolutionary programming, which have grown in power with the slow tweaking of decades. But neural networks are opaque—the user has no idea how the neural net is making its decisions—and cannot easily be rendered
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Reviews of books and films from my week with Jacob:

Films watched:

  • The Big Short
    • Review: Really fun. I liked certain elements of how it displays bad nash equilibria in finance (I love the scene with the woman from the ratings agency - it turns out she’s just making the best of her incentives too!).
    • Grade: B
  • Spirited Away
    • Review: Wow. A simple story, yet entirely lacking in cliche, and so seemingly original. No cliched characters, no cliched plot twists, no cliched humour, all entirely sincere and meaningful. Didn’t really notice that it was animated (while fantastical, it never really breaks the illusion of reality for me). The few parts that made me laugh, made me laugh harder than I have in ages.
    • There’s a small visual scene, unacknowledged by the ongoing dialogue, between the mouse-baby and the dust-sprites which is the funniest thing I’ve seen in ages, and I had to rewind for Jacob to notice it.
    • I liked how by the end, the team of characters are all a different order of magnitude in size.
    • A delightful, well-told story.
    • Grade: A+
  • Stranger Than Fiction
    • Review: This is now my go-to film of someone trying something original and just failing. Filled with new ideas, but none executed well, a
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Hypothesis: power (status within military, government, academia, etc) is more obviously real to humans, and it takes a lot of work to build detailed, abstract models of anything other than this that feel as real. As a result people who have a basic understanding of a deep problem will consistently attempt to manoeuvre into powerful positions vaguely related to the problem, rather than directly solve the open problem. This will often get defended with "But even if we get a solution, how will we implement it?" without noticing that (a) there is no real effort by anyone else to solve the problem and (b) the more well-understood a problem is, the easier it is to implement a solution.

6Benquo1yI think this is true for people who've been through a modern school system [], but probably not a human universal.
4Ben Pace1yMy, that was a long and difficult but worthwhile post. I see why you think it is not the natural state of affairs. Will think some more on it (though can't promise a full response, it's quite an effortful post). Am not sure I fully agree with your conclusions.
7Benquo1yI'm much more interested in finding out what your model is after having tried to take those considerations into account, than I am in a point-by-point response.
9Raemon1yThis seems like a good conversational move to have affordance for.
3Kaj_Sotala1yThis might be true, but it doesn't sound like it contradicts the premise of "how will we implement it"? Namely, just because understanding a problem makes it easier to implement, doesn't mean that understanding alone makes it anywhere near easy to implement, and one may still need significant political clout in addition to having the solution. E.g. the whole infant nutrition thing [].
2Ruby1ySeems related to Causal vs Social Reality.
1elityre1yDo you have an example of a problem that gets approached this way? Global warming? The need for prison reform? Factory Farming?
4Ben Pace1yAI [] .
3elityre1yIt seems that AI safety has this issue less than every other problem in the world, by proportion of the people working on it. Some double digit percentage of all of the people who are trying to improve the situation, are directly trying to solve the problem, I think? (Or maybe I just live in a bubble in a bubble.) And I don’t know how well this analysis applies to non-AI safety fields.

I'd take a bet at even odds that it's single-digit.

To clarify, I don't think this is just about grabbing power in government or military. My outside view of plans to "get a PhD in AI (safety)" seems like this to me. This was part of the reason I declined an offer to do a neuroscience PhD with Oxford/DeepMind. I didn't have any secret for why it might be plausibly crucial.

4Ben Pace1yStrong agree with Jacob.

There's a game for the Oculus Quest (that you can also buy on Steam) called "Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes".

It's a two-player game. When playing with the VR headset, one of you wears the headset and has to defuse bombs in a limited amount of time (either 3, 4 or 5 mins), while the other person sits outside the headset with the bomb-defusal manual and tells you what to do. Whereas with other collaboration games, you're all looking at the screen together, with this game the substrate of communication is solely conversation, the other person is providing all of your inputs about how their half is going (i.e. not shown on a screen).

The types of puzzles are fairly straightforward computational problems but with lots of fiddly instructions, and require the outer person to figure out what information they need from the inner person. It often involves things like counting numbers of wires of a certain colour, or remembering the previous digits that were being shown, or quickly describing symbols that are not any known letter or shape.

So the game trains you and a partner in efficiently building a shared language for dealing with new problems.

More than that, as the game gets harder, often

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6mr-hire1yThere's a similar free game for Android and iOs called space team that I highly recommend.
5G Gordon Worley III1yI use both this game and Space Team as part of training people in the on-call rotation at my company. They generally report that it's fun, and I love it because it usually creates the kind of high-pressure feelings in people they may experience when on-call, so it creates a nice, safe environment for them to become more familiar with those feelings and how to work through them. On a related note, I'm generally interested in finding more cooperative games with asymmetric information and a need to communicate. Lots of games meet one or two of those criteria, but very few games are able to meet all simultaneously. For example, Hanabi is cooperative and asymmetric, but lacks much communication (you're not allowed to talk), and many games are asymmetric and communicative but not cooperative (Werewolf, Secret Hitler, etc.) or cooperative and communicative but not asymmetric (Pandemic, Forbidden Desert, etc.).
1ioannes_shade1y+1 – this game is great. It's really good with 3-4 people giving instructions and one person in the hot seat. Great for team bonding.

I talked with Ray for an hour about Ray's phrase "Keep your beliefs cruxy and your frames explicit".

I focused mostly on the 'keep your frames explicit' part. Ray gave a toy example of someone attempting to communicate something deeply emotional/intuitive, or perhaps a buddhist approach to the world, and how difficult it is to do this with simple explicit language. It often instead requires the other person to go off and seek certain experiences, or practise inhabiting those experiences (e.g. doing a little meditation, or getting in touch with their emotion of anger).

Ray's motivation was that people often have these very different frames or approaches, but don't recognise this fact, and end up believing aggressive things about the other person e.g. "I guess they're just dumb" or "I guess they just don't care about other people".

I asked for examples that were motivating his belief - where it would be much better if the disagreers took to hear the recommendation to make their frames explicit. He came up with two concrete examples:

  • Jim v Ray on norms for shortform, where during one hour they worked through the same reasons
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I find "keep everything explicit" to often be a power move designed to make non-explicit facts irrelevant and non-admissible. This often goes along with burden of proof. I make a claim (real example of this dynamic happening, at an unconference under Chatham house rules: That pulling people away from their existing community has real costs that hurt those communities), and I was told that, well, that seems possible, but I can point to concrete benefits of taking them away, so you need to be concrete and explicit about what those costs are, or I don't think we should consider them.

Thus, the burden of proof was put upon me, to show (1) that people central to communities were being taken away, (2) that those people being taken away hurt those communities, (3) in particular measurable ways, (4) that then would impact direct EA causes. And then we would take the magnitude of effect I could prove using only established facts and tangible reasoning, and multiply them together, to see how big this effect was.

I cooperated with this because I felt like the current estimate of this cost for this person was zero, and I could easily raise that, and that was better than nothing,... (read more)

To complement that: Requiring my interlocutor to make everything explicit is also a defence against having my mind changed in ways I don't endorse but that I can't quite pick apart right now. Which kinda overlaps with your example, I think.

I sometimes will feel like my low-level associations are changing in a way I'm not sure I endorse, halt, and ask for something that the more explicit part of me reflectively endorses. If they're able to provide that, then I will willingly continue making the low-level updates, but if they can't then there's a bit of an impasse, at which point I will just start trying to communicate emotionally what feels off about it (e.g. in your example I could imagine saying "I feel some panic in my shoulders and a sense that you're trying to control my decisions"). Actually, sometimes I will just give the emotional info first. There's a lot of contextual details that lead me to figure out which one I do.

One last bit is to keep in mind that most (or, many things), can be power moves.

There's one failure mode, where a person sort of gives you the creeps, and you try to bring this up and people say "well, did they do anything explicitly wrong?" and you're like "no, I guess?" and then it turns out you were picking up something important about the person-giving-you-the-creeps and it would have been good if people had paid some attention to your intuition.

There's a different failure mode where "so and so gives me the creeps" is something you can say willy-nilly without ever having to back it up, and it ends up being it's own power move.

I do think during politically charged conversations it's good to be able to notice and draw attention to the power-move-ness of various frames (in both/all directions)

(i.e. in the "so and so gives me the creeps" situation, it's good to note both that you can abuse "only admit explicit evidence" and "wanton claims of creepiness" in different ways. And then, having made the frame of power-move-ness explicit, talk about ways to potentially alleviate both forms of abuse)

7Raemon1yWant to clarify here, "explicit frames" and "explicit claims" are quite different, and it sounds here like you're mostly talking about the latter. The point of "explicit frames" is specifically to enable this sort of conversation – most people don't even notice that they're limiting the conversation to explicit claims, or where they're assuming burden of proof lies, or whether we're having a model-building sharing of ideas or a negotiation. Also worth noting (which I hadn't really stated, but is perhaps important enough to deserve a whole post to avoid accidental motte/bailey by myself or others down the road): My claim is that you should know what your frames are, and what would change* your mind. *Not* that you should always tell that to other people. Ontological/Framework/Aesthetic Doublecrux is a thing you do with people you trust about deep, important disagreements where you think the right call is to open up your soul a bit (because you expect them to be symmetrically opening their soul, or that it's otherwise worth it), not something you necessarily do with every person you disagree with (especially when you suspect their underlying framework is more like a negotiation or threat than honest, mutual model-sharing) *also, not saying you should ask "what would change my mind" as soon as you bump into someone who disagrees with you. Reflexively doing that also opens yourself up to power moves, intentional or otherwise. Just that I expect it to be useful on the margin.
6Zvi1yInteresting. It seemed in the above exchanges like both Ben and you were acting as if this was a request to make your frames explicit to the other person, rather than a request to know what the frame was yourself and then tell if it seemed like a good idea. I think for now I still endorse that making my frame fully explicit even to myself is not a reasonable ask slash is effectively a request to simplify my frame in likely to be unhelpful ways. But it's a lot more plausible as a hypothesis.
5Raemon1yI've mostly been operating (lately) within the paradigm of "there does in fact seem to be enough trust for a doublecrux, and it seems like doublecrux is actually the right move given the state of the conversation. Within that situation, making things as explicit as possible seems good to me." (But, this seems importantly only true within that situation) But it also seemed like both Ben (and you) were hearing me make a more aggressive ask than I meant to be making (which implies some kind of mistake on my part, but I'm not sure which one). The things I meant to be taking as a given are: 1) Everyone has all kinds of implicit stuff going on that's difficult to articulate. The naively Straw Vulcan failure mode is to assume that if you can't articulate it it's not real. 2) I think there are skills to figuring out how to make implicit stuff explicit, in a careful way that doesn't steamroll your implicit internals. 3) Resolving serious disagreements requires figuring out how to bridge the gap of implicit knowledge. (I agree that in a single-pair doublecrux, doing the sort of thing you mention in the other comment can work fine, where you try to paint a picture and ask them questions to see if they got the picture. But, if you want more than one person to be able to understand the thing you'll eventually probably want to figure out how to make it explicit without simplifying it so hard that it loses its meaning) 4) The additional, not-quite-stated claim is "I nowadays seem to keep finding myself in situations where there's enough longstanding serious disagreements that are worth resolving that it's worth Stag Hunting on Learning to Make Beliefs Cruxy and Frames Explicit, to facilitate those conversations." I think maybe the phrase "*keep* your beliefs cruxy and frames explicit" implied more of an action of "only permit some things" rather than "learn to find extra explicitness on the margin when possible."
5Raemon1yAs far as explicit claims go: My current belief is something like: If you actually want to communicate an implicit idea to someone else, you either need 1) to figure out how to make the implicit explicit, or 2) you need to figure out the skill of communicating implicit things implicitly... which I think actually can be done. But I don't know how to do it and it seems hella hard. (Circling seems to work via imparting some classes of implicit things implicitly, but depends on being in-person) My point is not at all to limit oneself to explicit things, but to learn how to make implicit things explicit (or, otherwise communicable). This is important because the default state often seems to be failing to communicate at all. (But it does seem like an important, related point that trying to push for this ends up very similar sounding, from the outside, like 'only explicit evidence is admissable', which is a fair thing to have a instinctive resistance to) But, the fact that this is real hard is because the underlying communication is real hard. And I think there's some kind of grieving necessary to accept the fact that "man, why can't they just understand my implicit things that seem real obvious to me?" and, I dunno, they just can't. :/
4Zvi1yAgreed it's a learned skill and it's hard. I think it's also just necessary. I notice that the best conversations I have about difficult to describe things definitely don't involve making everything explicit, and they involve a lot of 'do you understand what I'm saying?' and 'tell me if this resonates' and 'I'm thinking out loud, but maybe'. And then I have insights that I find helpful, and I can't figure out how to write them up, because they'd need to be explicit, and they aren't, so damn. Or even, I try to have a conversation with someone else (in some recent cases, you) and share these types of things, and it feels like I have zero idea how to get into a frame where any of it will make any sense or carry any weight, even when the other person is willing to listen by even what would normally be strong standards. Sometimes this turns into a post or sequence that ends up explaining some of the thing? I dunno.
7Raemon1yFWIW, upcoming posts I have in the queue are: * Noticing Frame Differences * Tacit and Explicit Knowledge * Backpropagating Facts into Aesthetics * Keeping Frames Explicit (Possibly, in light of this conversation, adding a post called something like "Be secretly explicit [on the margin]")

I'd been working on a sequence explaining this all in more detail (I think there's a lot of moving parts and inferential distance to cover here). I'll mostly respond in the form of "finish that sequence."

But here's a quick paragraph that more fully expands what I actually believe:

  • If you're building a product with someone (metaphorical product or literal product), and you find yourself disagreeing, and you explain "This is important because X, which implies Y", and they say "What!? But, A, therefore B!" and then you both keep repeating those points over and over... you're going to waste a lot of time, and possibly build a confused frankenstein product that's less effective than if you could figure out how to successfully communicate.
    • In that situation, I claim you should be doing something different, if you want to build a product that's actually good.
    • If you're not building a product, this is less obviously important. If you're just arguing for fun, I dunno, keep at it I guess.
  • A separate, further claim is that the reason you're miscommunicating is because you have a bunch of hidden assumptions in yo
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9Ben Pace1yThis is the bit that is computationally intractable. Looking for cruxes is a healthy move, exposing the moving parts of your beliefs in a way that can lead to you learning important new info. However, there are an incredible number of cruxes for any given belief. If I think that a hypothetical project should accelerate it's development time 2x in the coming month, I could change my mind if I learn some important fact about the long-term improvements of spending the month refactoring the entire codebase; I could change my mind if I learn that the current time we spend on things is required for models of the code to propagate and become common knowledge in the staff; I could change my mind if my models of geopolitical events suggest that our industry is going to tank next week and we should get out immediately.
5Raemon1yI'm not claiming you can literally do this all the time. [Ah, an earlier draft of the previous comment emphasized this this was all "things worth pushing for on the margin", and explicitly not something you were supposed to sacrifice all other priorities for. I think I then rewrote the post and forgot to emphasize that clarification] I'll try to write up better instructions/explanations later, but to give a rough idea of the amount of work I'm talking about. I'm saying "spend a bit more time than you normally do in 'doublecrux mode'". [This can be, like, an extra half hour sometimes when having a particular difficult conversation]. When someone seems obviously wrong, or you seem obviously right, ask yourself "what are cruxes are most loadbearing", and then: * Be mindful as you do it, to notice what mental motions you're actually performing that help. Basically, do Tuning Your Cognitive Strategies [] to the double crux process, to improve your feedback loop. * When you're done, cache the results. Maybe by writing it down, or maybe just sort of thinking harder about it so you remember it a better. The point is not to have fully mapped out cruxes of all your beliefs. The point is that you generally have practiced the skill of noticing what the most important cruxes are, so that a) you can do it easily, and b) you keep the results computed for later.

Live a life worth leaving Facebook for.

Trying to think about building some content organisations and filtering systems on LessWrong. I'm new to a bunch of the things I discuss below, so I'm interested in other people's models of these subjects, or links to sites that solve the problems in different ways.

Two Problems

So, one problem you might try to solve is that people want to see all of a thing on a site. You might want to see all the posts on reductionism on LessWrong, or all the practical how-to guides (e.g. how to beat procrastination, Alignment Research Field Guide, etc), or all the literature reviews on LessWrong. And so you want people to help build those pages. You might also want to see all the posts corresponding to a certain concept, so that you can find out what that concept refers to (e.g. what is the term "goodhart's law" or "slack" or "mesa-optimisers" etc).

Another problem you might try to solve, is that while many users are interested in lots of the content on the site, they have varying levels of interest in the different topics. Some people are mostly interested in the posts on big picture historical narratives, and less so on models of one's own mind that help with dealing with emotions and trauma. Som

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7Ben Pace1yI spent an hour or two talking about these problems with Ruby. Here are two further thoughts. I will reiterate that I have little experience with wikis and tagging, so I am likely making some simple errors. Connecting Tagging and Wikis One problem to solve is that if a topic is being discussed, users want to go from a page discussing that topic to find a page that explains that topic, and lists all posts that discuss that topic. This page should be easily update-able with new content on the topic. Some more specific stories: * A user reads a post on a topic, and wants to better understand what's already known about that topic and the basic ideas * A user is primarily interested in a topic, and wants to make sure to see all content about that topic The solution for the first is to link to a page that contains all other posts on that topic. The solution to the second is to link to a wiki page on that topic. And one possible solution is to make both of those the same button. This page is a combination of a Wiki and a Tag. It is a communally editable explanation of the concept, with links to key posts explaining it, and other pages that are related. And below that, it also has a post-list of every posts that is relevant, sortable by things like recency, karma, and relevancy. Maybe below that it even has its own Recent Discussion section, for comments on posts that have the tag. It's a page you can subscribe to (e.g. via RSS), and come back to to see discussion of a particular topic. Now, to make this work, it's necessary that all posts that are in the category are successfully listed in the tag. One problem you will run into is that there are a lot of concepts in the space, so the number of such pages will quickly become unmanageable. "Inner Alignment", "Slack", "Game Theory", "Akrasia", "Introspection", "Corrigibility", etc, is a very large list, such that it is not reasonable to scroll through it and check if your post fits into any of them, and expect
5Vaniver1yAs a general comment, StackExchange's tagging system seems pretty perfect (and battle-tested) to me, and I suspect we should just copy their design as closely as we can.
4habryka1ySo, on StackExchange any user can edit any of the tags, and then there is a whole complicated hierarchy that exists for how to revert changes, how to approve changes, how to lock posts from being edited, etc. Which is a solution, but it sure doesn't seem like an easy or elegant solution to the tagging problem.
3Vaniver1yI think the peer review queue is pretty sensible in any world where there's "one ground truth" that you expect trusted users to have access to (such that they can approve / deny edits that cross their desk).
3Pattern1yIt's also important to have the old concept link to the new concept.
3Ruby1yI'm currently working through my own thoughts and vision for tagging. I'm pretty sure I disagree with this and object to you making an assertion that makes it sound like the team is definitely decided about what the goal of tagging system will be. I'll write a proper response tomorrow.
5Ben Pace1yHm, I think writing this and posting it at 11:35 lead to me phrasing a few things quite unclearly (and several of those sentences don't even make sense grammatically). Let me patch with some edits right now, maybe more tomorrow. On the particular thing you mention, never mind the whole team, I myself am pretty unsure that the above is right. The thing I meant to write there was something like "If the above is right, then when we end up building a tagging system on LessWrong, the goal should be" etc. I'm not clear on whether the above is right. I just wanted to write the idea down clearly so it could be discussed and have counterarguments/counterevidence brought up.
4Ruby1yThat clarifies it and makes a lot of sense. Seems my objection rested upon a misunderstanding of your true intention. In short, no worries. I look forwards to figuring this out together.

I block all the big social networks from my phone and laptop, except for 2 hours on Saturday, and I noticed that when I check Facebook on Saturday, the notifications are always boring and not something I care about. Then I scroll through the newsfeed for a bit and it quickly becomes all boring too.

And I was surprised. Could it be that, all the hype and narrative aside, I actually just wasn’t interested in what was happening on Facebook? That I could remove it from my life and just not really be missing anything?

On my walk home from work today I realised that this wasn’t the case. Facebook has interesting posts I want to follow, but they’re not in my notifications. They’re sparsely distributed in my newsfeed, such that they appear a few times per week, randomly. I can get a lot of value from Facebook, but not by checking once per week - only by checking it all the time. That’s how the game is played.

Anyway, I am not trading all of my attention away for such small amounts of value. So it remains blocked.

I've found Facebook absolutely terrible as a way to both distribute and consume good content. Everything you want to share or see is just floating in the opaque vortex of the f%$&ing newsfeed algorithm. I keep Facebook around for party invites and to see who my friends are in each city I travel too, I disabled notifications and check the timeline for less than 20 minutes each week.

OTOH, I'm a big fan of Twitter. (@yashkaf) I've curated my feed to a perfect mix of insightful commentary, funny jokes, and weird animal photos. I get to have conversations with people I admire, like writers and scientists. Going forward I'll probably keep tweeting, and anything that's a fit for LW I'll also cross-post here.

3Raemon1yThis thread is the most bizarrely compelling argument that twitter may be better than FB
3Adam Scholl1yIn my experience this problem is easily solved if you simply unfollow ~95% of your friends. You can mass unfollow people relatively easily from the News Feed Preferences page in Settings. Ever since doing this a few years ago, my Facebook timeline has had an extremely high signal-to-noise ratio—I'm quite glad to encounter something like 85% of posts. Also, since this 5% only produces ~5-20 minutes of reading/day, it's easy to avoid spending lots of time on the site.
3janshi1yI did actually unfollow ~95% of my friends once but then found myself in that situation where suddenly Facebook became interesting again I was checking it more often. I recommend the opposite and follow as many friends from high school and work as possible (assuming you don’t work at a cool place).
2Ben Pace1yEither way I’ll still only check it in a 2 hour window on Saturdays, so I feel safe trying it out.
2Ben Pace1yHuh, 95% is quite extreme. But I realise this probably also solves the problem whereby if the people I'm interested in comment on *someone else's* wall, I still get to see it. I'll try this out next week, thx. (I don't get to be confident I've seen 100% of all the interesting people's good content though, the news feed is fickle and not exhaustive.)
1Adam Scholl1yNot certain, but I think when your news feed becomes sparse enough it might actually become exhaustive.
3Raemon1yMy impression is that sparse newsfeeds tend to start doing things you don't want.
3Raemon1yWhile I basically endorse blocking FB (pssst, hey everyone still saying insightful things on Facebook, come on over to!), but fwiw, if you want to keep tabs on things there, I think most reliably way is to make a friends-list of the people who seem especially high signal-to-noise-ratio, and then create a bookmark for specifically following that list.
2Ben Pace1yYeah, it’s what I do with Twitter, and I’ll probably start this with FB. Won’t show me all their interesting convo on other people’s walls though. On a Twitter I can see all their replies, not on FB.

Reading this post, where the author introspects and finds a strong desire to be able to tell a good story about their career, suggests that a way of understanding how people will make decisions will be heavily constrained by the sorts of stories about your career that are definitely common knowledge.

I remember at the end of my degree, there was a ceremony where all the students dressed in silly gowns and the parents came and sat in a circular hall while we got given our degrees and several older people told stories about how your children have become men and women, after studying and learning so much at the university.

This was a dumb/false story, because I'm quite confident the university did not teach these people most important skills for being an adult, and certainly my own development was largely directed by the projects I did on my own dime, not through much of anything the university taught.

But everyone was sat in a circle, where they could see each other listen to the speech in silence, as though it were (a) important and (b) true. And it served as a coordination mechanism, saying "If you go into the world and tell people that your child came to university and gre... (read more)

3eigen1yI remember the narrative breaking, really hard, in two particular occasions: * The twin towers attack. * The 2008 mortgage financial crisis. I don't think, particularly, that the narrative is broken now, but I think that it has lost some of its harmony (Trump having won the 2014 elections, I believe, is a symptom of that). This is very close to what fellows like Thiel and Weinstein are talking about. In this particular sense, yes, I understand it's crucial to maintain the narrative although I don't know anymore whose job it's—to keep it from breaking out entirely (for example, say, in a explosion of the American student debt, or China going awry with its USD holdings). These stories are not part of any law of our universe, so they are bound to break at anytime. It takes only a few smart, uncaring individuals to tear at the fabric of reality until it breaks—that is not okay! So that it's why I believe is happening at the macro-narrative; but to be more directed towards the individual, which is what your post seems to hint at, I don't think for a second that your life does not run from narrative, maybe that's a narrative itself. I believe further that some rituals are important to keep and to have an individual story is important to be able to do any work we deem important.
3Raemon1y(I'm not sure if you meant to reply to Benito's shortform comment here, or one of Ben's recent Thiel/Weinstein transcript posts)
1eigen1yYes! It may be more apt for the fifth post in his sequence (Stories About Progress) but it's not posted yet. But I think it sort-of works in both and it's more of a shortform comment than anything!

I've finally moved into a period of my life where I can set guardrails around my slack without sacrificing the things I care about most. I currently am pushing it to the limit, doing work during work hours, and not doing work outside work hours. I'm eating very regularly, 9am, 2pm, 7pm. I'm going to sleep around 9-10, and getting up early. I have time to pick up my hobby of classical music.

At the same time, I'm also restricting the ability of my phone to steal my attention. All social media is blocked except for 2 hours on Saturday, which is going quite well. I've found Tristan Harris's advice immensely useful - my phone is increasingly not something that I give all of my free attention to, but instead something I give deliberate attention and then stop using. Tasks, not scrolling.

Now I have weekends and mornings though, and I'm not sure what to do with myself. I am looking to get excited about something, instead of sitting, passively listening to a comedy podcast while playing a game on my phone. But I realise I don't have easy alternative options - Netflix is really accessible. I suppose one of the things that a Sabbath is supposed to be is an alarm, showing that something is up, and at the minute I've not got enough things I want to do for leisure that don't also feel a bit like work.

So I'm making lists of things I might like (cooking, reading, improv, etc) and I'll try those.

8Raemon1yThis comment is a bit interesting in terms of it's relation to this old comment of yours [] (about puzzlement over cooking being a source of slack) I realize this comment isn't about cooking-as-slack per se, but curious to hear more about your shift in experience there (since before it didn't seem like cooking as a thing you did much at all)
6janshi1yTry practicing doing nothing I.e. meditation and see how that goes. When I have nothing particular to do my mind needs some time to make the switch from that mode where it tries to distract itself by coming up with new things it wants to do until finally it reaches a state where it is calm and steady. I consider that state the optimal one to be in since only then my thoughts are directed deliberately at neglected and important issues rather than exercising learned thought patterns.
5Ben Pace1yI think you’re missing me with this. I’m not very distractable and I don’t need to learn to be okay with leisure time. I’m trying to actually have hobbies, and realising that is going to take work. I could take up meditation as a hobby, but at the minute I want things that are more social and physical.

Why has nobody noticed that the OpenAI logo is three intertwined paperclips? This is an alarming update about who's truly in charge...

At the SSC Meetup tonight in my house, I was in a group conversation. I asked a stranger if they'd read anything interesting on the new LessWrong in the last 6 months or so (I had not yet mentioned my involvement in the project). He told me about an interesting post about the variance in human intelligence compared to the variance in mice intelligence. I said it was nice to know people read the posts I write. The group then had a longer conversation about the question. It was enjoyable to hear strangers tell me about reading my posts.

I think of myself as pretty skilled and nuanced at introspection, and being able to make my implicit cognition explicit.

However, there is one fact about me that makes me doubt this severely, which is that I have never ever ever noticed any effect from taking caffeine.

I've never drunk coffee, though in the past two years my housemates have kept a lot of caffeine around in the form of energy drinks, and I drink them for the taste. I'll drink them any time of the day (9pm is fine). At some point someone seemed shocked that I was about to drink one a... (read more)

Hot take: The actual resolution to the simulation argument is that most advanced civilizations don't make loads of simulations.

Two things make this make sense:

  • Firstly, it only matters if they make unlawful simulations. If they make lawful simulations, then it doesn't matter whether you're in a simulation or a base reality, all of your decision theory and incentives are essentially the same, you want to take the same decisions in all of the universes. So you can make lots of lawful simulations, that's fine.
  • Secondly, they will strategically choose to not mak
... (read more)
6Daniel Kokotajlo8moYour first point sounds like it is saying we are probably in a simulation, but not the sort that should influence our decisions, because it is lawful. I think this is pretty much exactly what Bostrom's Simulation Hypothesis is, so I think your first point is not an argument for the second disjunct of the simulation argument but rather for the third. As for the second point, well, there are many ways for a simulation to be unlawful, and only some of them are undesirable--for example, a civilization might actually want to induce anthropic uncertainty in itself, if it is uncertainty about whether or not it is in a simulation that contains a pleasant afterlife for everyone who dies.
3Ben Pace8moI don't buy that it makes sense to induce anthropic uncertainty. It makes sense to spend all of your compute to run emulations that are having awesome lives, but it doesn't make sense to cause yourself to believe false things.
2Daniel Kokotajlo8moI'm not sure it makes sense either, but I don't think it is accurately described as "cause yourself to believe false things." I think whether or not it makes sense comes down to decision theory. If you use evidential decision theory, it makes sense; if you use causal decision theory, it doesn't. If you use functional decision theory, or updateless decision theory, I'm not sure, I'd have to think more about it. (My guess is that updateless decision theory would do it insofar as you care more about yourself than others, and functional decision theory wouldn't do it even then.)
3Ben Pace8moI just don’t think it’s a good decision to make, regardless of the math. If I’m nearing the end of the universe, I prefer to spend all my compute instead maximising fun / searching for a way out. Trying to run simulations to make it so I no longer know if I’m about to die seems like a dumb use of compute. I can bear the thought of dying dude, there’s better uses of that compute. You’re not saving yourself, you’re just intentionally making yourself confused because you’re uncomfortable with the thought of death.
2Daniel Kokotajlo8moWell, that wasn't the scenario I had in mind. The scenario I had in mind was: People in the year 2030 pass a law requiring future governments to make ancestor simulations with happy afterlives, because that way it's probable that they themselves will be in such a simulation. (It's like cryonics, but cheaper!) Then, hundreds or billions of years later, the future government carries out the plan, as required by law. Not saying this is what we should do, just saying it's a decision I could sympathize with, and I imagine it's a decision some fraction of people would make, if they thought it was an option.
2Ben Pace8moThinking more, I think there are good arguments for taking actions that as a by-product induce anthropic uncertainty; these are the standard hansonian situation where you build lots of ems of yourself to do bits of work then turn them off. But I still don't agree with the people in the situation you describe because they're optimising over their own epistemic state, I think they're morally wrong to do that. I'm totally fine with a law requiring future governments to rebuild you / an em of you and give you a nice life (perhaps as a trade for working harder today to ensure that the future world exists), but that's conceptually analogous to extending your life, and doesn't require causing you to believe false things. You know you'll be turned off and then later a copy of you will be turned on, there's no anthropic uncertainty, you're just going to get lots of valuable stuff.
1Ben Pace8moThe relevant intuition to the second point there, is to imagine you somehow found out that there was only one ground truth base reality, only one real world, not a multiverse or a tegmark level 4 verse or whatever. And you're a civilization that has successfully dealt with x-risks and unilateralist action and information vulnerabilities, to the point where you have the sort of unified control to make a top-down decision about whether to make massive numbers of civilizations. And you're wondring whether to make a billion simulations. And suddenly you're faced with the prospect of building something that will make it so you no longer know whether you're in the base universe. Someday gravity might get turned off because that's what your overlords wanted. If you pull the trigger, you'll never be sure that you weren't actually one of the simulated ones, because there's suddenly so many simulations. And so you don't pull the trigger, and you remain confident that you're in the base universe. This, plus some assumptions about all civilizations that have the capacity to do massive simulations also being wise enough to overcome x-risk and coordination problems so they can actually make a top-down decision here, plus some TDT magic whereby all such civilizations in the various multiverses and Tegmark levels can all coordinate in logical time to pick the same decision... leaves there being no unlawful simulations.
2Ben Pace8moMy crux here is that I don't feel much uncertainty about whether or not our overlords will start interacting with us (they won't and I really don't expect that to change), and I'm trying to backchain from that to find reasons why it makes sense. My basic argument is that all civilizations that have the capability to make simulations that aren't true histories (but instead have lots of weird stuff happen in them) will all be philosophically sophisticated to collectively not do so, and so you can always expect to be in a true history and not have weird sh*t happen to you like in The Sims. The main counterargument here is to show that there are lots of civilizations that will exist with the powers to do this but lacking the wisdom to not do it. Two key examples that come to mind: * We build an AGI singleton that lacks important kinds of philosophical maturity, so makes lots of simulations that ruins the anthropic uncertainty for everyone else. * Civilizations at somewhere around our level get to a point where they can create massive numbers of simulations but haven't managed to create existential risks like AGI. Even while you might think our civilization is pretty close to AGI, I could imagine alternative civilizations that aren't, just like I could imagine alternative civilizations that are really close to making masses of ems but that aren't close enough to AGI. This feels like a pretty empirical question about whether such civilizations are possible and whether they can have these kinds of resources without causing an existential catastrophe / building singleton AGI.
3Zack_M_Davis8moWhy appeal to philosophical sophistication rather than lack of motivation? Humans given the power to make ancestor-simulations would create lots of interventionist sims (as is demonstrated by the populatity games like The Sims), but if the vast hypermajority of ancestor-simulations are run by unaligned AIs doing their analogue of history research, that could "drown out" the tiny minority of interventionist simulations.
2Ben Pace8moThat's interesting. I don't feel comfortable with that argument, it feels too much like random chance whether or not we should expect ourselves to be in an interventionist universe or not, whereas I feel like I should be able to find strong reasons to not be in an interventionist universe.
3Zack_M_Davis8moAlternatively, "lawful universe" has lower Kolmogorov complexity than "lawful universe plus simulator intervention" and thereore gets exponentially more measure under the universal prior []?? (See also "Infinite universes and Corbinian otaku" [] and "The Finale of the Ultimate Meta Mega Crossover" [] .)
6Ben Pace8moNow that's fun. I need to figure out some more stuff about measure, I don't quite get why some universes should be weighted more than others. But I think that sort of argument is probably a mistake - even if the lawful universes get more weighting for some reason, unless you also have reason to think that they don't make simulations, there's still loads of simulations within each of their lawful universes, setting the balance in favour of simulation again.
2Daniel Kokotajlo8moOne big reason why it makes sense is that the simulation is designed for the purpose of accurately representing reality. Another big reason why (a version of it) makes sense is that the simulation is designed for the purpose of inducing anthropic uncertainty in someone at some later time in the simulation. e.g. if the point of the simulation is to make our AGI worry that it is in a simulation, and manipulate it via probable environment hacking, []then the simulation will be accurate and lawful (i.e. un-tampered-with) until AGI is created. I think "polluting the lake" by increasing the general likelihood of you (and anyone else) being in a simulation is indeed something that some agents might not want to do, but (a) it's a collective action problem, and (b) plenty of agents won't mind it that much, and (c) there are good reasons to do it even if it has costs. I admit I am a bit confused about this though, so thank you for bringing it up, I will think about it more in the coming months.
4Ben Pace8moUgh, anthropic warfare, feels so ugly and scary. I hope we never face that sh*t.

I think in many environments I'm in, especially with young people, the fact that Paul Graham is retired with kids sounds nice, but there's an implicit acknowledgement that "He could've chosen to not have kids and instead do more good in the world, and it's sad that he didn't do that". And it reassures me to know that Paul Graham wouldn't reluctantly agree. He'd just think it was wrong.

6habryka1yBut, like, he is wrong? I mean, in the sense that I expect a post-CEV Paul Graham to regret his choices. The fact that he does not believe so does the opposite of reassuring me, so I am confused about this.
5mr-hire1yI think part of the problem here is underspecification of CEV. Let's say Bob has never been kind to anyone unless its' in his own self interest. He has noticed that being selfless is sort of an addictive thing for people, and that once they start doing it they start raving about how good it feels, but he doesn't see any value in it right now. So he resolves to never be selfless, in order to never get hooked. There are two ways for CEV to go in this instance, one way is to never allow bob to make a change that his old self wouldn't endorse. Another way would be to look at all the potential changes he could make, posit a version of him that has had ALL the experiences and is able to reflect on them, then say "Yeah dude, you're gonna really endorse this kindness thing once you try it." I think the second scenario is probably true for many other experiences than kindness, possibly including having children, enlightenment, etc. From our current vantage point it feels like having children would CHANGE our values, but another interpretation is that we always valued having children, we just never had the qualia of having children so we don't understand how much we would value that particular experience.
3Ben Pace1yWhat reasoning do you have in mind when you say you think he'll regret his choices?

Sometimes I get confused between r/ssc and r/css.

I've been thinking lately that picturing an AI catastrophe is helped a great deal by visualising a world where critical systems in society are performed by software. I was spending a while trying to summarise and analyse Paul's "What Failure Looks Like", which lead me this way. I think that properly imagining such a world is immediately scary, because software can deal with edge cases badly, like automated market traders causing major crashes, so that's already a big deal. Then you add ML in, and can talk about how crazy it is to hand critical systems over

... (read more)