Notes for future OT posters:

1. Please add the 'open_thread' tag.

2. Check if there is an active Open Thread before posting a new one. (Immediately before; refresh the list-of-threads page before posting.)

3. Open Threads should start on Monday, and end on Sunday.

4. Unflag the two options "Notify me of new top level comments on this article" and "

New to LessWrong?

New Comment
41 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 11:05 PM

Today I passed out written answers to my game theory problem set and then went over the answers. Students pointed out that I made a mistake in the answers I handed out, but not in the verbal explanation I was currently giving. I tried to read the answer handout but found it really hard to read at that moment. I've noticed before that when I'm lecturing my brain isn't very good at reading for even brief periods. Is this just me, or is there some general phenomenon at work? I almost never read when lecturing so this isn't a significant problem, but it is an interesting one. I don't think that lecturing reduces my ability to do math (which I do all the time when teaching) or to speak articulately.

I usually make notes for my lectures, but I usually find myself unable to read and follow them in real time. Not sure why.

I have this vague feeling that written notes usually have some "tree structure", while speech has a "linear structure", and that creates the tension. Like, writing "1, 1.a, 1.b; 2, 2.a, 2.b" on paper makes sense, but when you speak, it helps to have some smooth transition from e.g. "1.b" to "2", and sometimes it is easier to go from "1.b" to "2.b" instead. But maybe I am just making things up now.

I've had the experience where I read for a long time and then go talk to people and my voice doesn't work correctly on the first try and is barely audible. I assume it is because my brain got too good at suppressing subvocalization while reading.

ELI5 Posts Series

I would like to start an ELI5 Posts Series. Separated posts tagged ELI5 (Explain like I'm five) about relevant posts in the LW Community.

Examples: ELI5: Belief in Belief. ELI5: Leaky Generalizations. ELI5: Guessing the Teacher's Password. ...

In the comments users try its best to explain the key concepts and insights of each post with ELI5 examples. I think this could be very useful for incoming aspiring rationalists.

Let me know what you think.

Explaining to actual kids is fun, and a good rationalist exercise. I recently told this to my two years old daughter, when she asked me what I was writing about, when I was preparing a blog article on my computer. (She liked the explanation a lot. She insisted that I repeat it to her for the rest of the evening.)

Daddy has a lot of books, but these five he likes most: The first book says that people should eat tomatoes, and cucumber, and carrot, and cabbage, and peas, and beans. The second book says that people should exercise, like do squats, or hang from a bar. The third book says people should talk nice, not yell at each other, and say 'please' when they want something. The fourth book is about a lady who taught dogs and dolphins. And the fifth book says people should not do stupid stuff.

But yeah, for more complex topics, 5 years seem like a more appropriate age. I wonder how well people are actually calibrated about this; whether the actual 5 years olds would understand most of the ELI5 posts. Maybe someone could do an experiment with real kids -- tell them the stories, and then report how they repeated the lesson using their own words.

I am looking forward to the "Being reasonable: smart robots and dead walking people" book. :D

Being reasonable: strong robots and dead walking people

I don't get the reference, but my first thought: super robots vs. zombies sounds like an awesome anime.

The reference. (Edited to "smart robots" afterwards.)

I think manga-style illustrations would actually be cool, and Eliezer would most likely approve. (We probably don't have the capacities to make a movie. Yet.)

BTW, you might enjoy reading this.

The intermezzo problem is quite hard, even though it was meant as a resting problem while the really hard Landau's problem is hanging over us.

Unfortunately even this problem is hard enough, but Oscar Cunningham (what a well chosen name!) has some good ideas/solutions, just as before.

Meanwhile, try this rather simple problem with an interesting solution:

Hfvat gur sbezhyn ng Unjxvat enqvngvba - Oynpx ubyr rincbengvba tvirf nobhg 3.6 10^28 xt, be nobhg 0.018 fbyne znffrf. Juvpu vf vagrerfgvat orpnhfr zbfg oynpx ubyrf jvyy or rira ynetre guna gung naq fb jvyy gnxr rira ybatre gb rincbengr. Fb rirel gval nzbhag bs znff nqqrq gb n oynpx ubyr vapernfrf vgf yvsrfcna ol n uhtr* nzbhag.

Yes, true. It takes so little to make a so huge difference on the time scale. That was may intention to show.


I started learning some web development for the first time, and I put together a "plan-bot" that asks you a series of questions for your plans, similar to Murphyjitsu.

Here is the link, if anyone wants to play around with it.

I just tried this out for a project I'm doing at work, and I'm finding it very useful--it forces me to think about possible failure modes explicitly and then come up with specific solutions for them, which I guess I normally avoid doing.


That's great! I'm glad it's been useful! (I actually set it as my homepage to prime myself to think about my goals each time I open my laptop.)

Great! Automated psychology... I wonder what other things could be done this way.

Please hide the input line in the first robot when it's over.


You mean to remove the place to input text after it says 'Congrats', right? (Still new to JS, but this seems good. I'll look into how to set this up in the coming days.)


Otherwise it seems like the program is still expecting some input.

Awesome! Helps you to destroy the world. Literally.

What do you want to do? | Destroy the world Step 1 | Find suitable weapon Step 2 | Use it Plausible failure: | Did not find suitable weapon Solution: | No idea

Would a Bayesian notion of "upvotes / downvotes" work better than simple upvoting / downvoting? Suppose that instead of a simple sum of ups and downs, that there is some unknown latent "goodness" variable theta, which is the parameter of a Binomial distribution. Roughly, theta is the probability that a random reader of your post would upvote it. The sum of upvotes, or upvotes - downvotes, is not a very useful piece of information (since a highly upvoted / downvoted post could be highly controversial, but simply have a huge amount of voters). Instead of that, if you calculate the posterior distribution over theta (let's say theta is modeled by a Beta distribution), then you have information about what theta is likely to be along with the degree of confidence in that estimate. Would calculating that every time someone votes be a huge strain on the backend?

let's say theta is modeled by a Gaussian

The conjugate prior of the binomial distribution is the beta distribution, so if you use a beta distribution for theta, the posterior is also a beta distribution, and the expected value of the posterior predictive is just (u0 + u)/(u0 + u + d0 + d) where u and d are the number of up- and downvotes and u0 and d0 are the parameters of the prior distribution, or pseudocounts.

You're right, that's in the second chapter of Gelman too. I'll edit that.


Note that when u0 and d0 are zero, or negligible because the total number of votes is large, your posterior expectation is just u/(u+d) -- in other words, exactly the %positive that LW reports when you hover over the score.

(But in practice the total number of votes is rarely large, so the prior matters.)

ISTR reading an article about how reddit's "best" sorting worked, and I would have described it roughly like that.

Aha, see via I, uh, don't actually understand it. It's possible I read the text and made up a thing that seemed like it would do something like what the text sounded like it did.

There are two separate issues: what to display and how to sort comments.

LessWrong displays the net number of positive votes; and, if you hover your mouse over the score, also the proportion of upvotes.

It offers several ways to sort the comments, mainly copied from Reddit, which now offers fewer ways. Go up to the top of a post. Just above the comment box, on the right, but below the tags is a triangle and the words "Sort By," probably "Sort By: Best." Click on the triangle and you can choose among Best, Popular, New, Controversial, Top, Old, and Leading. I think Top is net score. I'm not sure what is the difference between Popular, Best, and Leading. I suspect Leading is closest to what you suggest. Once you make a choice, all posts will be displayed that way until you choose again.

Here's a thought: Weight votes according to how often the voter votes the same way you do.

It would neuter the effectiveness of serial downvoting, while simultaneously encouraging more participation. Your votes would benefit yourself as well as others, by training the system.

This is an algorithm for producing filter bubbles, rather than for discovering or implementing community norms.


you should subscribe to the welcome thread and comment on when people introduce themselves


"Why did you choose the FairShares multi-stakeholder co-operative model?

My personal experience in business had taught me the need for raising capital. Traditional cooperatives are usually limited to members founding capital or finances raised through a loan of some sort. Unfortunately, there are too many stories of cooperatives being under capitalized, especially in their early days and failing before they get to a stage where the benefits of a Cooperative help them thrive. This is solved by the investor stakeholder group within FairShares, which allows raising capital through investment, whilst still embracing the cooperative principles."

"How did you develop your model rules and constitution?

The FairShares bylaws can be modified as needed beyond the founder, investor, labor, and customer stakeholder groups and the requirement of Creative Commons or open intellectual property. We had to decide details around areas such as percentages for dividends and voting for the stakeholder groups had to be decided. It was also necessary for us to modify a range of clauses to enable us to help us develop as a high-tech business."

an interesting model here, with templates to work from at the bottom link.

If rational thinking depends, to whatever extent, on self-knowledge, why not write poetry to raise self-awareness?

I haven't had my own self-awareness raised by poetry. What makes you think that it's a good tool for that purpose?

Because you choose words to describe something, and there is at least one reason behind each choice. And when there are two or more reasons, like rhyme or meter, it is trivially easy to see - and oddly hard to break from.

Similarly, when you 'agree' with some piece, you agree for a reason.

There are many activities where there are reasons for multiple choices. If you play Chess you also have reasons for multiple choices.

If I would choose a practice with the purpose of creating self awareness, there's the potential for more. Circling (from authentic relating) for example causes a lot to be verbalized that might not have been otherwise.

But in chess, can you really question why you make that or this move and have an answer qualitatively different from 'it seemed like a good idea at the time, I simply missed his knight' or 'because I was tired'? Chess seems to be unsuitable for introspection.


Stil, though, in each case, we're making a decision that satisfies some criteria. In the example of chess, these criteria might just be more explicit (e.g. winning the game as defined by the rules of chess), whereas for poetry we're trying to satisfy some function we ourselves don't quite understand (e.g. "find words that make me feel a certain way") that is more black-boxed.

I played more Go than Chess but when it comes to Go, there's some room for introspection. In Go I can get in trouble because I play to greedy. There are other principles in Go strategy that run more broadly and I would expect Chess to also have deep strategic decisions that have broader meaning.

Circling? gives an overview.

It's popular with the Bay rationalists and we have now a biweekly Circling for rationalist event in Berlin. My first contact with Circling wasn't with the rationalist crowd but with other friends in Berlin. I have also other facebook friends from another personal development context that do Circling in the US.

Followed your link; what is it they do? Something like friendly discussion?

I would count it as a friendly discussion but there are a lot of different ways to have a friendly discussion. It's a discussion about understanding what it's like to be the other person. What it's like to be them right now.

But it's difficult to express what it's like to do circling via text. It's similar to how I can't tell you what it's like to dance Salsa when you have never danced.

But I am not asking you what if feels like. I only ask you what an outsider can observe.

Different people can observe different things. There's intimate sharing about how people feel like. People speak about what they feel. Sometimes they cry.

Now I wish someone else who also has done it would add their two cents...

(I have been present at something that I think was similar, and it didn't work out for me - the rest of the group knew each other much better, and I felt like the sore thumb half the time.)