The comments here are a storage of not-posts and not-ideas that I would rather write down than not.
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
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)
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)
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.
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
Reviews of books and films from my week with Jacob:
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.
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.
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
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:
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)
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:
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.
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
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.
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)
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.
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:
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.
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