Open thread, Oct. 20 - Oct. 26, 2014

by MrMind1 min read20th Oct 2014270 comments

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I have a question about the Effective Altruism community that's always bothered me. Why does the movement not seem to have much overlap with the frugality/early retirement movement? Is it just that I haven't seen it? I read a number of sites (My favorite being Mr Money Mustache, who retired at age 30 on a modest engineer's salary) that focus on early retirement through (many would say extreme) frugality. I wouldn't expect that this, or something close to it, would be hard for most people in the demographic of this site. It seems to me that the two movements have a lot in common, mainly attempting to get people to be more responsible with their money. If you take as an axiom that, for members of the EA movement, marginal income/savings equals increased donations, it seems as though there is tremendous opportunity for synergies between the two.

9RowanE6yPossibly donating money is easier when it's funging against luxuries than when it's funging against early retirement, and it's hard for people who don't plan on retiring early to read and follow frugality advice that's framed in terms of how much better financial independence is than whichever luxury?
2beoShaffer6yI have found this to be the case. I still find the advice useful, but find myself thinking about how I'm going to retire early before remembering there was another reason I was saving that money.
-1cameroncowan6yIt takes roughly 2.5 million dollars invested prudently with a return of 7% per annum in order to live off savings. You would have to be earning a great deal and live extremely frugally in order to accomplish that. However, there are people that retire from daily work at 35 who have done it. However, given student debt and this kind of thing I think it is harder now than ever before. I have an issue with extreme altruism movement and the early retirement crowd because I think there is a loss of meaning in both.
6[anonymous]6yWhy, can you not live on less than $175k/year?
2Viliam_Bur6yNo, I would have to lay off most of my servants. I can't imagine living like that.
4Lumifer6yThat estimate needs at least two more vital numbers: the expected volatility of your returns and the expected inflation.
3RowanE6yAt the current amount I live off, $2.5 million would last me for 200 years, and that's if it returned 0% post-inflation. I might have less expenses than "real adults", being a student, but unless you're assuming a family of 12, those numbers sound insane.
1CAE_Jones6yI could live on $20k/year easily, given I stay in the same place. A ROI of ~3%/year on an investment of $1,000,000 would sustain me for life, given that it remains constant at worst. (Expenses: ~900USD in student loan payments, ~400USD food/utilities/internet/transit, = ~1300/month = ~15600/year. I'll also note that I am not drawing even half that in SSI at the moment, but if not for the student debt, SSI would be livable. This relies on not paying rent/mortgage/whatever you pay for housing. If housing is an issue, location obviously matters--$30k/year in Silicon Valley isn't worth much, but it might get you further in, say, St Louis. I specifically picked St Louis because it is both an excellent city for cheapskates and, at least some journalists there seem to think it's becoming a tech town. I do not live there.) Of course, if I had $1,000,000 to invest, I'd probably just spend the first $100k to wipe out most of the loans, and invest the rest. The interest drops a little, but the reduction in expenses more than makes up for it (expected gains are ~8k/year). In reality, the most likely reason that I wouldn't win forever if someone handed me a million dollars is that I have no experience with financial shenanigans and probably would fail completely at making these payments/investments happen. That, and the no moving thing (but that's a whole other can of worms).
7Evan_Gaensbauer6yThis is a question that's been bothering me for some months as well, ever since I encountered Early Retirement Extreme a few months ago. We here in Vancouver have substantial overlap between the meetups for Mr. Money Mustache, effective altruism, rationality, and life extension. It's weird, because there's about a dozen people who are all friends, so we go to each other's meetups lots. Anyway, much of what the effective altruism community is comes from what was popular in its precursor communities. Less Wrong, academia, and the non-profit world don't all focus on the early retirement movement. If frugality isn't a value in effective altruism lifestyles yet, then let's see if we can't make that happen.
3Baisius6yWhat are some strategies for pursuing this? I considered trying to write something, but it seems that the central message of "people are kind of bad at spending money efficiently and you are a people and you are probably bad at it too" is hard to convey without being rude, and unlikely to succeed. Particularly when you're, in effect, going to be asking them to give their money away instead of saving it for retirement.
3Evan_Gaensbauer6yOh, well, I've actually received requests to write something up, except for Less Wrong. For the record, I'm unsure why there isn't more about personal finance on Less Wrong, let alone within effective altruism. I figure readers of Less Wrong will be more amenable to being told they're bad at thinking about stuff. On top of that, if they're already intending to give away their money, it wouldn't be that much of a problem. Alternatively, if people do save enough for retirement, then they could spend several extra decades volunteering for effective charities for free. Anyway, I figured that we spread the ideas more among the community as it already exists, and then the dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people who integrate it into their own effective altruism lifestyles could brainstorm how to make it amenable to the general public.
[-][anonymous]6y 11

I'm also unsure why there isn't more about personal finance / money management here. It seems like an excellent use-case for rationality: it's so trivially quantifiable that it comes pre-quantified, and it's something that a lot of people are bad at, so there ought to be room for improvement.

Even though LW's in-practice target audience is a demographic unusually susceptible to the meme that it's completely impossible to beat the market, investment is only one part of managing money. (And I wonder how many people with enough income to do so even invest in index funds.) Optimizing expenditures is another part; have there been any posts on how to, say, optimize diet for low cost with an at-least-superior-to-the-average-American level of nutrition? Or higher-level skills: how to cultivate the virtue of frugality and so on.

4Evan_Gaensbauer6yI like the way you think. Less Wrong has a culture, and a jargon (i.e., technical or artificial language specific to its culture). I don't mean that as an insult; I use it, so I'll work with it in producing content regarding to this frugality side of personal finance. That is, I can term it as 'optimizing expenditures', or 'cultivating a (set of) habits'. That may quicken in the minds of Less Wrong users the relevance of this information to rationality. Of course, what we may find in the course of exploring money management is that Less Wrong itself can improve upon the advice of these websites for ourselves. That would be interesting.
1Jackercrack6yWell there's the Soylent idea, thought I don't think it was from LW. Soylent being 100% of all required daily nutrients stored in powder format then used to make shakes. In theory after a number of iterations it should be the healthiest food possible for humans to consume as well as being fairly cheap.
4Lumifer6yFor some reason a noticeable part of LW has decided that the answer to all personal finance questions is two words -- "index funds" -- and tends to be hostile to suggestions that finance is a bit more complex than that. Note that "frugal living" and "personal finance" are quite different topics. EAs, for example, are interested in the former but not in the latter as they donate their free cash flow and so don't have to manage it. I don't really see the early retirement movement being compatible with EA...
8Baisius6yTo me, it's more about financial independence than early retirement. Financial independence gives you the options to do a lot of different things; "retire" and volunteer for an effective charity, continue working and donate 100% of your income to charity, continue working and balloon your nest egg to establish a trust to be donated to an effective charity upon your death, etc. The knowledge that you are 100% financially independent gives tremendous security that (as well as it's other benefits, such as decreasing stress) allows someone to comfortably and without consideration give large amounts of money.
5Lumifer6yIn the context I treat them as synonyms. Ahem. That is an excellent way to stop being financially independent in short order.
2Viliam_Bur6yI believe that "giving large amounts of money without consideration" in this context does not include the part that you need for the financial independence. In other words, if you need X money to be financially independent, and you have X+Y, you are free to spend up to Y in whatever way you wish, including e.g. donating the whole Y to a charity or investing them in a new project, even if for an average person spending Y this way would seem insane.
0Lumifer6yIf you're making money with the goal of being financially independent you're done when you have X so you can and should stop. Where does Y come from?
1Viliam_Bur6yI don't agree with the "should stop" part. Until you reach X, you work because you have to. To some degree you are motivated by fear. You probably take jobs you wouldn't take if you were born in a billionaire family. After you reach X, the fear motive is gone. But you can still do things for other reasons, for example because they are fun, or because you feel competitive. Some of those things may bring you more money.
2Lumifer6yOK, so maybe you shouldn't stop, but if you're not primarily motivated by making money any more, the likelihood that whatever you do will incidentally bring you noticeably large amounts of money Y is not very high.
1Viliam_Bur6yThere are different kinds of "motivation by money". Some people are in a situation where if they don't make enough money, their children will starve. Some people already have all they need, and more money is just some kind of "score" to measure how successful they are in their projects; to compete against other people in similar situation. Some activities bring average money reliably. Some activities have a small chance of huge success, and a big chance of nothing. Not having to make money frees your hands to do the latter kind of activities, without putting your family in danger of starvation. For example, you can spend all your day writing a book, with the goal of becoming famous. If you fail, no problem. If you succeed, you can make a lot of money. Yes, the probability of such outcome is small, because it is P(doing something like this if you already have enough money) × P(succeeding).
-1Lumifer6ySo, we agree that the probability is small. And, actually, it's P(doing something like this if you already have enough money) × P(succeeding) × P(what you like to do has high-variance outcomes and could generate a lot of money). Maybe what you really like is just long walks on the beach :-)
0Baisius6yYou can also be motivated by "Earning to Give", or something to the same effect. That was largely the point of my thread.
6ChristianKl6yI don't think that the majority of people within the EA donate all the money that's free cash flow and save nothing.
5tog6yOur preliminary results from the 2014 EA survey suggest you're right.
5[anonymous]6yIsn't the fact that finance is complex the very reason why unless you're an expert you probably had better play it safe than try to outsmart the market and risk getting burned?
1Lumifer6yWhat makes you think that investing in what is typically large-cap US equity is "playing it safe"?
1[anonymous]6yThere are index funds that also include smaller-cap equity, non-US equity, and bonds. And even a large-cap US equity index fund is probably better than gambling except for the small minority of people who know what they're doing.
1Lumifer6yOf course, but LW rarely gets into specifics of which index funds other than prefer low-cost ones. Heh. Do you think there might be a fallacy involved in this argument?
1[anonymous]6ySure, it's not like these are mutually exhaustive. Then again, hiding cash under your mattress probably isn't better than index funds either. My point is not that investments betters than index funds can't exist, it's that it's hard for most people to know what they will be ahead of time.
0Lumifer6yAn "index fund" is not an investment. It's a large class of very diverse investments with different characteristics. Reading charitably, the advice the invest in an index fund really says "your investment portfolio should be diversified". That is generally true, but woefully inadequate as a sole guideline to figure out where to put your money.
3ESRogs6yI think this is a mischaracterization, as 1) I don't think giving everything above a certain threshold is a majority behavior (note that GWWC's pledge only requires you to give 10%), and 2) EA's discuss [http://rationalaltruist.com/2013/02/28/risk-aversion-and-investment-for-altruists/] investing for the purposes of giving more later.
3Evan_Gaensbauer6yWhat I was trying to mean was that effective altruism might benefit from those who don't retire, per se, but become financially independent early in life, and can remain so for the remainder of their lives, so that they can spend the rest of their careers volunteering for effective causes and organizations. Thought I can't find the particular blog post right now, I recall Peter Hurford [http://www.peterhurford.com] pondering that if he concluded doing direct work in effective altruism was the path for him, instead of earning to give, he might keep working a high-paying job for sometime regardless. That way, he could gain valuable experience, and use the money he earns to eventually become financially independent, i.e., 'retire early'. Then, when he is age forty or something, he can do valuable work as a non-profit manager or researcher [https://80000hours.org/2013/02/bringing-it-all-together-high-impact-research-management/] or personal assistant [https://80000hours.org/2012/07/the-high-impact-pa-how-anyone-can-bring-about-ground-breaking-research/] for free. I can't recall if he's the only person who has considered this career model, but maybe some should take a closer look at it. This is how early retirement beyond frugal living habits might benefit effective altruism.
5Lumifer6yThe problem is that you have to show this is better than just giving all your "excess" money to the effective causes right away and continuing to work in the normal manner.
2Evan_Gaensbauer6yWell, nobody from within effective altruism has written much up about this yet. It's not something I'm considering doing soon. Until someone does, I doubt others will think about it, so it's a non-issue. If some take this consideration for their careers seriously, then that's a problem they'll need to assess, hopefully publicly so feedback can be given. At any rate, you make a good point, so I won't go around encouraging people to do this willy-nilly, or something.
0Baisius6yThis seems like a case of privileging the hypothesis. Why should we have to show that early retirement + EA volunteering is superior to working a standard job and donating free cash flow, and not the other way around?
1Baisius6yThis is a career path I am very seriously considering. At the very least, I will continue to invest/save my money, if for no other reason that it doesn't seem intuitively obvious to me that I should prefer saving 100 lives this year to 104 lives next year. Add to this that I expect the EA movement to more accurately determine which charities are the most effective in future years (MIRI is highly uncertain to be the most effective, but could potentially be much more effective) and subtract the fact that donations to current effective charities will potentially eliminate some low hanging fruit. After all of that, I suspect it is probably a little more optimal to save money and donate later than to donate now. However I still can't shake the feeling that I'm just writing reasons for my bottom line of not giving my money away. This is a difficult question that there have been a number of threads on, and I don't claim to have a good answer to it, only my answer.
2RowanE6yThe only suggestion that I see get brought up here as an alternative to index funds is "invest in Bitcoin/altcoins!", to which hostility is understandable.
2tog6yI think that'd be great Evan. In the UK I make extensive use of the excellent http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/ [http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/] - I couldn't find anything similar for Canada alas. But there are a bunch more topics for this. One option would be for you to put what you write on a wiki (e.g. the nascent EA one [http://effective-altruism.wikia.com/wiki/Effective_Altruism_Wiki]) so that others could help build it up.
1Evan_Gaensbauer6yI haven't read too much of these websites myself, but I intend to, as basically all my friends you know anyway are eager to have me write this up. If I do so, I'll make a separate version for the effective altruism forum. I invite you to collaborate or review, either. I'll let you know when I get started on this.
5jpl686yAre you asking why EAs aren't more concerned with frugality?
3Baisius6yYes.
3[anonymous]6yWell, Julia Wise and Jeff Kaufman are.
3drethelin6yProbably because it's largely composed of or at least represented by the kind of people who REALLY like living in places like NYC and the Bay Area, which are the opposite of frugal. In regards to early retirement, there's something of an obsession with maximizing productivity as well as earning to give, both of which run counter to retirement.
2Baisius6yThis is actually a point I have made to myself about the movement.
1[anonymous]6yThanks for the link. I had not heard of that site, but I really enjoy it.

The Rationalist Community: Catching Up to Speed

Note: the below comment is intended for my friend(s) who is/are not on Less Wrong yet, or presently, as an explanation of how the rationality community has changed in the interceding years between when Eliezer Yudkowsky finished writing his original sequences, and 2014. This is an attempt to bridge procedural knowledge gaps. Long-time users, feel free to comment below with suggestions for changes, or additions.

Off of Less Wrong, the perspective of the rationality community has changed in light of the research, and expansion of horizon, by the Center For Applied Rationality. A good start introduction to these changes is found in the essay Three Ways CFAR Has Changed My View of Rationality written by Julia Galef, the president of the CFAR.

On Less Wrong itself, Scott Alexander has written what this community of users has learned together in an essay aptly titled Five Years and One Week of Less Wrong.

The Decline of Less Wrong was a discussion this year about why Less Wrong has declined, where the rationalist community has moved, and what should, or shouldn't be done about it. If that interests you, the initial post is great, and there is ... (read more)

4Alicorn6yIt's new, but it seems worth mentioning Rationalist Tutor [http://rationalist-tutor.tumblr.com/] specifically out of the tumblrs for newbies.
2ruelian6yAs a newbie around here: thank you, this is quite helpful.

A question I've been curious about: to those of you who have taken modafinil regularly/semi-regularly (as opposed to a once off) but have since stopped: why did you stop? Did it stop being effective? Was it no longer useful for your lifestyle? Any other reasons? Thanks!

3drethelin6yI got more side effects when I took it regularly as opposed to taking it every now and then. Headaches and so on.
1Douglas_Knight6yDo you have an opinion on whether the side effects should be thought of as sleep deprivation?
2drethelin6yNot really. I wasn't taking it at night to reduce sleep but when I got up in the morning to try and increase cognitive powers and whatnot.
1Douglas_Knight6yI probably should have added more detail to my question. A lot of people who take it in the morning report reduced sleep, maybe an hour less. It has a half-life of 16 hours, so that's not too surprising.

In an old article by Eliezer we're asked what we would tell Archimedes through a chronophone. I've found this idea to actually be pretty instructive if I instead ask what I would tell myself through a chronophone if I could call back only a few years.

The reason the chronophone idea is useful is because it forces you to speak in terms of 'cognitive policies' since if you use anything relevant to your own time period it will be translated into something relevant to the time period you're calling. In this way if I think about what I would tell my former s... (read more)

1Evan_Gaensbauer6yIf you did this as a case study or thought experiment, and published this as a discussion post, that would be swell. Similar articles are written by other users of Less Wrong, and they're usually well-appreciated efforts, as far as I can tell. Your three questions are a good starting point, so I might write this as a post myself. Alternatively, if it's not worthy of it's own post, anyone doing this exercise on/for themselves should definitely share it in the (group) rationality diary.
[-][anonymous]6y 8

I am now in the Bay Area untill the 6th of November when I fly back to Europe.

Searching for new cool people to meet, especially from the rationalist community. Open to couch surfing and parties.

So we have lots of guides on how to be rational... but do we have any materials that consider what makes a person decide to pursue rationality and consciously decide to adopt rationality as an approach to life?

Recently I was talking to someone and realised they didn't accept that a rational approach was always the best one, and it was harder than I expected to come up with an argument that would be compelling for someone that didn't think rationality was all that worthwhile... not neccessarily irrational, but just not a conscious follower/advocate of it. I... (read more)

8closeness6yPeople who look for ways to become more rational are probably far more rational than average already.
4SolveIt6yI don't find this obvious. Why do you think this?
1closeness6yIt makes me feel good.
3[anonymous]6yI would disagree and say that people who look for ways to "become rational" in the LessWrong sense are just exposed to a class of internet-based advice systems (like lifehacker and similar) that promote the idea that you can "hack" things to make them better. Rationality is the ultimate lifehack; it's One Weird Trick to Avoid Scope Insensitivity. Outside of this subculture, people look for ways to improve all the time; people even look for ways to improve globally all the time. The way they do this isn't always "rational," or even effective, but if rationality is winning, it's clear that people look for ways to win all the time. They might do this by improving their communication skills, or their listening skills, or trying to become "centered" or "balanced" in some way that will propagate out to everything they do.
1the-citizen6yAgreed. So basically, what made them look?
1hyporational6ySince they were more rational already they could observe the rational approach had better outcomes. Irrational people presumably can't do that. You'd have to appeal to their irrationality to make a case for rationality and I'm not sure how that'd work out.
6Emile6yI usually don't use the term "rational"/"rationality" that much, and would rather talk about things like "being effective at what you care about".
5RowanE6yI expect this is mainly a disagreement about definitions? Many people think of "rationality" as referring to system-2 type thinking specifically, which isn't universally applicable and wouldn't actually be the best approach in many situations. Whereas the LessWrong definition is that Rationality is Systematized Winning [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Rationality_is_systematized_winning], which may call for intuition and system-1 at times, depending on what the best approach actually is. With that definition given, I don't think selling "rationality" to people is something that needs to be done - they might then start dismissing the particular rationality technique you're trying to get them to use as "irrational", but presumably you're ready for that argument.
2the-citizen6ySo you mean the person who I was talking to had a different definition of rationality? I wonder whether most people feel the definition is quite subjective? That would actually be quite troubling when you think of it. I actually instensely dislike that way of expressing it, mainly because argumentative competitiveness is a massive enemy of rationality. For me rationality probably comes down to instrumental truthiness :-)
3ChristianKl6y"subjective" comes with a bunch of connotations that aren't applicable. If you look at the paper that defined evidence-based medicine you find that it talks about deemphasizing intuition. In the 20 years since that paper got published we learned a lot more about intuition and that intuition is actually quite useful. LessWrong Rationality is a 21st century ideology that takes into account new ideas. It's not what someone would have meant 20 years ago when he said "rationality" because certain knowledge didn't exist 20 years ago.
2the-citizen6yOK but perhaps there is a core definition that defines what new aspects can be integrated.
1ChristianKl6yhttp://slatestarcodex.com/2014/03/13/five-years-and-one-week-of-less-wrong/ [http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/03/13/five-years-and-one-week-of-less-wrong/] should be worth reading to get up to speed on the currrent LW ideology. CFAR's vision [http://rationality.org/vision/] page is also a good summary of what this community considers rationality to be about. You will find that Scotts article that summarizes the knowledge that LW produced doesn't even use the word logic. The CFAR vision uses the word one time but only near the bottom of the article. One of the core insights of LW is that teaching people who want to be rational to be rational isn't easy. We don't have an issue guide to rationality that we can give people and then they become rational. When it comes to winning other people, most people do have goals that they care about. If you tell the body builder about the latest research on supplements or muscle building, then he's going to be interested. Have that knowledge makes him for effective at the goals that he cares about. For him that knowledge isn't useless nerdy stuff. As far as rationality is about winning, the body builder cares about winning in the domain of muscle building. Of course you also have to account for status effects. Some people pretend to care about certain goals but are not willing to actually efficiently pursue those goals. There not any point where someone has to self identify as rationalist.
1the-citizen6yThanks that's interesting. Scott is always a good read. Again, I'd have to disagree that the "winning" paradigm is useful in encouraging rational thought. Irrational thought can in many instances at least appear to be a good strategy for what the average person undestands as "winning", and it additionally evokes a highly competitve psychological state that is a a major source of bias.
1ChristianKl6yIf you consider good strategies to be irrational than you mean something different with rational than what the term usually refers to on LW.
2the-citizen6yA used car salesperson convincing themselves that what they're selling isn't a piece of crud is an example of where irrationality is a "good" (effective) strategy. I don't think that's what we are trying to encourage here. That's why I say instrumental truthiness - the truth part is important too. I also maintain that focus on "winning" is psychologically in conflict with truth seeking. Politics = mind killer is best example.
2ChristianKl6yI think the orthodox LW view would be that this used car salesperson might have an immoral utility function but that he isn't irrational. That basically means that sometimes the person who seeks the truth doesn't win. That outcome isn't satisfactory to Eliezer. In Rationality is Systematized Winning [http://lesswrong.com/lw/7i/rationality_is_systematized_winning/] he writes: Of course you can define rationality for yourself differently but it's a mistake to project your own goals on others. A recent article title Truth, it's not that great [http://lesswrong.com/lw/k55/truth_its_not_that_great/] got 84% upvotes on LW.
0the-citizen6yI am suprised that a significant group of people think that rationality is inclusive of useful false beliefs. Wouldn't we call LW an effectiveness forum, rather than a rationalist forum in that case? I think you're reading too much into that one quite rhetorical article, but I acknowledge he prioritises "winning" quite highly. I think he ought to revise that view. Trying to win with false beliefs risks not achieving your goals, but being oblivious to that fact. Like a mad person killing their friends because he/she thinks they've turned into evil dog-headed creatures or some such (exaggeration to illustrate my point). Fair point. And maybe you're right I'm in the minority... I'm still not yet certain. I do note that upvotes does not indicate agreement, only a feeling that the article is an interesting read etc. Also, I note many comments disagree with article. It warrants further investigation for me though.
0[anonymous]6yOften they use “instrumental rationality” for that meaning and “epistemic rationality” for the other one. Searching this site for epistemic instrumental returns some relevant posts.
3closeness6yI think this is very important, I myself noticed that when I was younger, the longer I was unemployed, the more I started reading about socialist ideas and getting into politics. Then when I started working again it went out the window and I moved on to learning about other things. Similarly, maybe I'm here because I just happened to be in the mood to read some fan fiction that day?
2Jackercrack6yLet's see how basic I can go with an argument for rationality without using anything that needs rationality to explain. First the basic form: Rationality is an effective way of figuring out what is and isn't true. Therefore rational people end up knowing the truth more often. Knowing the truth more often helps you make plans that work. Plans that work allow you to acquire money/status/power/men/women/happiness. Now to dress it up in some rhetoric: My friend, have you ever wished you could be the best you? The one who knows the best way to do everything, cuts to the truth of the matter, saves the world and then gets the girl/wins the man? That's what Rationalism looks like, but first one must study the nature of truth in order to cleave reality along its weaknesses and then bend it to your whims. You can learn the art a step stronger than science, the way that achieves the seemingly impossible. You can build yourself into that best you, a step at a time, idea upon idea until you look down the mountain you have climbed and know you have won. There, I feel vaguely oily. Points out of 10?
1the-citizen6yI think I'm broadly supportive of your approach. The only problem I can see is that most people think its better to try to do stuff, as opposed to getting better at doing stuff. Rationality is a very generalised and very long-term approach and payoff. Still I'd not reject your approach at this point. Another issue I find interesting is that several people have commented recently on LW that (instrumental) rationality isn't about knowing the truth but simply achieving goals most effectively. They claim this is the focus of most LWers too. As if "Truthiness" is only a tool that can be even be discarded when neccessary. I find that view curious.
1Jackercrack6yI'm not sure they're wrong to be honest (assuming an average cross section of people). Rationality is an extremely long term approach and payoff, I am not sure it would even work for the majority of people and if it does I'm not sure if it reaches diminishing returns compared to other strategies. The introductory text (sequences) is 9,000 pages long and the supplementary texts (kahneman, ariely ect) take it up to 11,000. I'm considered a very fast reader and it took me 3 unemployed months of constant reading to get through. For a good period of that time I was getting a negative return, I became a worse person. It took a month after that to end up net positive. I don't want to harp on about unfair inherent advantages, but I just took a look at the survey results from last year and the lowest IQ was 124.6. This stuff could be totally ineffective for average people and we would have no way of knowing. Simply being told the best path for self improvement or effective action by someone who was a rationalist or just someone who knows what they're doing, a normal expert in whatever field may well be more optimal for a great many people. Essentially data-driven life coaching. I can't test this hypothesis one way or the other without attempting to teach an average person rationalism and I don't know if anyone has done that, nor how I would find out if they had. So far as instrumental rationality not being in core about truth, to be honest I broadly agree with them. There may be a term in my utility function for truth but it is not a large term, not nearly so important as the term for helping humanity or the one for interesting diversions. I seek truth not as an end in itself, but because it is so damn useful for achieving other things I care about. If I were in a world where my ignorance would save a life with no downside while my knowledge had no longterm benefit then I would stay ignorant. If my ignorance was a large enough net benefit to me and others, I would keep it.
0the-citizen6yThanks for the interesting comments. I've not been on LW for wrong and so far I'm being selective about which sequences I'm reading. I'll see how that works out (or will I? lol). I think my concern on the truthiness part of what you say is that there is an assumption that we can accurately predict the consequences of a non-truth belief decision. I think that's rarely the case. We are rarely given personal corrective evidence though, because its the nature of a self-deception that we're oblivious that we've screwed up. Applying a general rule of truthiness is a far more effective approach imo.
0Jackercrack6yAgreed, a general rule of truthiness is definitely a very effective approach and probably the most effective approach, especially once you've started down the path. So far as I can tell stopping halfway through is... risky in a way that never having started is not. I only recently finished the sequences myself (apart from the last half of QM). At the time of starting I thought it was essentially the age old trade off between knowledge and happy ignorance, but it appears at some point of reading the stuff I hit critical mass and now I'm starting to see how I could use knowledge to have more happiness than if I was ignorant, which I wasn't expecting at all. Which sequences are you starting with? By the way, I just noticed I screwed up on the survey results: I read the standard deviation as the range. IQ should be mean 138.2 with SD 13.6, implying 95% are above 111 and 99% above 103.5. It changes my first argument a little, but I think the main core is still sound.
0the-citizen6yWell I've done Map & Territory and have skimmed through random selections of other things. Pretty early days I know! So far I've not run into anything particularly objectionable for me or conflicting with any of the decent philosophy I've read. My main concern is this truth as incidental thing. I just posted on this topic: http://lesswrong.com/lw/l6z/the_truth_and_instrumental_rationality/ [http://lesswrong.com/lw/l6z/the_truth_and_instrumental_rationality/]
0Jackercrack6yAh, I think you may have gotten the wrong idea when I said truth was incidental, that a thing is incidental does not stop it from being useful and a good idea, it is just not a goal in and of itself. Fortunately, no-one here is actually suggesting active self-deception as a viable strategy. I would suggest reading Terminal values and Instrumental Values [http://lesswrong.com/lw/l4/terminal_values_and_instrumental_values/]. Truth seeking is an instrumental value, in that it is useful to reach the terminal values of whatever your actual goals are. So far as I can tell, we actually agree on the subject for all relevant purposes. You may also want to read the tragedy of group selectionism [http://lesswrong.com/lw/kw/the_tragedy_of_group_selectionism/].
0the-citizen6yThanks for the group selection link. Unfortunately I'd have to say, to the best of my non-expert judgement, that the current trends in the field disagrees somewhat with Eliezer in this regard. The 60s group selection was definitely overstated and problematic, but quite a few biologists feel that this resulted in the idea being ruled out entirely in a kind of overreaction to the original mistakes. Even Dawkins, who's traditionally dismissed group selection, acknowledged it may play more of a role than he previously thought. So its been refined and is making a bit of a come-back, despite opposition. Of course, only a few point to it as the central explanation for altruism, but the result of my own investigation makes me think that the biological component of altruism is best explained by a mixed model of group selection, kin selection and reciprocation. We additionally haven't really got a reliable map as to nature/nuture of altruism either, so I suspect the field will "evolve" further. I've read the values argument. I acknowledge that no one is claiming the truth is BAD exactly, but my suggestion here is that unless we deliberately and explicitly weigh it into our thought process, even when it has no apparent utlity, we run into unforeseeable errors that compound upon eachother without our awareness of them doing so. Crudely put, lazy approaches to the truth come unstuck, but we never realise it. I take it my post has failed to communicate that aspect of the argument clearly? :-( Oh I add that I agree we agree in most regards on the topic.
0Jackercrack6yReally? I was not aware of that trend in the field, maybe I should look into it. Well, at least I understand you now.
2ruelian6yWhen explaining/arguing for rationality with the non-rational types, I have to resort to non-rational arguments. This makes me feel vaguely dirty, but it's also the only way I know of to argue with people who don't necessarily value evidence in their decision making. Unsurprisingly, many of the rationalists I know are unenthused by these discussions and frequently avoid them because they're unpleasant. It follows that the first step is to stop avoiding arguments/discussions with people of alternate value systems, which is really just a good idea anyway.
4Lumifer6yLet's call them "people".
1ruelian6yYou're right, that was uncalled for and I retract that statement.
2[anonymous]6yCultivating a group identity and a feeling of superiority to the outgroup will definitely be conducive to clear-headed analysis of tactics/strategies for winning regardless of their origins/thedish affiliations/signals, and to evaluation of whether aspects of the LW memeplex are useful for winning.
1the-citizen6yMudblood detected!!! :-) Seriously though, agree agree.
2Metus6yI feel better about my actions when I can justify them with arguments. But to be honest, I have never met someone who regards rationality as not worthwhile. Or maybe I have just forgotten the experience.
1the-citizen6yWell it usually takes the form of people telling you that being highly rational is "over-analysing" or that logic is cold and ignores important emotional considerations of various kinds, or that focusing on rationality ignores the reality that people aren't machines or that they don't want to live such a cold and clinical life etc etc. Basically its just "I don't want to be that rational". So I wonder, what makes people honestly think "I want to be very rational"? (grammar aplogies lol)
1Evan_Gaensbauer6yI believe there are people like that, but how can we tell them apart from people who appropriately take into account their emotions in their decision-making [http://lesswrong.com/lw/il3/three_ways_cfar_has_changed_my_view_of_rationality/] and/or can't explain how or why they're rational, even though they really are [http://lesswrong.com/lw/h6b/explicit_and_tacit_rationality/]?
1the-citizen6yI don't 100% follow your comment, but I find the content of those links interesting. Care to expand on that thought at all?
1Evan_Gaensbauer6ySometimes we might really, actually be over-analyzing things, and what our true goals are may be better discovered by paying more attention to what System 1 is informing us of. If we don't figure this out for ourselves, it might be other rational people who tell us about this. If someone says: how are we supposed to tell if what they're saying is a: * someone trying to genuinely help us solve our problem(s) in a rational way or * someone dismissing attempts at analyzing a problem at all? It can only be one, or the other. Now, someone might not have read the Less Wrong, but that doesn't preclude them from noticing when we really are over-analyzing a problem. When someone responds like this, how are we supposed to tell if they're just strawmanning rationality, or really trying to help us achieve a more rational response? This isn't some rhetorical question for you. I've got the same concerns as you, and I'm not sure how to ask this particular question better. Is it a non-issue? Am I using confusing terms?
0the-citizen6yI like the exporation of how emotions interact with rationality that seems to be going on over there. For me over-analysis would be where further analysis is unlikely to yield practically improved knowledge of options to solve the problem at hand. I'd probably treat this as quite separate from bad analysis or the information supplied by instinct and emotion. In a sense then emotions wouldn't come to bear on the question of over-analysis generally. However, I'd heartily agree with the proposition that emotions are a good topic of exploration and study because they provide good option selection in certain situations and because knowledge of them might help control and account for emotionally based cognitive bias. I guess the above would inform the question of whether the person you describe is rationally helping or just strawmanning. My sense is that in many cases the term is thrown around as a kind of defence against the mental discomfort that deep thought and the changing of ideas might bring, but perhaps I'm being too judgemental. Other times of course the person is actually identifying hand-wringing and inaction that we're too oblivious to identify ourselves. In terms of identification of true goals, I wonder if the contextuality and changability of emotion would render it a relevent but ultimately unreliable source of deriving true goals. For example, in a fierce conflict its fairly tempting to perceive your goals as fundamentally opposed or opposite to your opponents, but I wonder if that's really a good position to form. In the end though, people's emotions are relevent in their perception of their goals, so I suspect we do have to address emotions in the case for rationality. Does CFAR have its own discussion forum? I can't see any so far? Do you know what CFAR thinks about the "winning [http://lesswrong.com/lw/7i/rationality_is_systematized_winning/]" approach held by many LWers?
0Evan_Gaensbauer6yCFAR has its own private mailing list, which isn't available to individuals who haven't attended a CAR event before. As a CFAR alumnus, though, I can ask them your questions on your behalf. If I get a sufficient response, I can summarize their insight in a discussion post. I believe CFAR alumni are 40% active Less Wrong users, and 60% not. The base of CFAR, i.e. its staff, may have a substantially different perspective from its hundreds of workshop members that compose the broader community.
0the-citizen6yI think I'd be quite interested to know what % of CRAF people believe that rationality ought to include a component of "truthiness". Anything that could help on that?
1Metus6yAh, I have met those kind of people. Usually I get the same feeling as when someone is debating politics, leading me to assume that the rejection of rationality is signaling belonging to a certain tribe, one where it is important that everyone feel good about themselves or such. Personally, I was raised to think and think critically so I can't draw from personal experience. What did convince the ancient Greeks to embrace rationality, to start question the world around them? Maybe we should look there.
1the-citizen6yYeah its useless to try to rationally argue for rationality with someone that doesn't authentically accept the legitimacy of rationality in the first place. I guess all of us are like this to some degree, but some more than others for certain. Not a bad suggestion. I know a little about the Ancient Greek philosophers, though nothing specific springs to mind.
1ChristianKl6yDo we? I don't think that's the case. We know that being rational is quite hard and we don't have a good guide to circumvent most cognitive biases. You don't have to go very far for that viewpoint. Robin Hanson did voice it lately [http://www.overcomingbias.com/2014/06/you-cant-handle-the-truth.html]. To me that label rather rings alarm bells than any positive associations. Being a fan is something quite different than actually being rational.
2the-citizen6yWell thats semantics in a pretty casual post. Still the link is interesting, thanks. I wonder if anyone has offered a counter-argument along the lines of "rationality is a muscle, not a scarce resource". But what do you do with someone who doesn't even think that, but just thinks logic is something for nerds?
0ChristianKl6yNo, it's substantial criticism. "Rationality fan" brings up in me the image of a person who aspires to be a Vulcan and who cares about labels instead of caring about outcomes. The person who deconverted to theism and now makes atheism his new religion without really adopting good thinking habits. Even the body builder who doesn't consider logic to be very important and a subject for nerds might be interested in information from scientific studies about the effects of the supplements he takes.
0the-citizen6yOk feel free to mentally replace my language with more sensible language. This was just a quick post in the open thread. Thanks for your substantial if somewhat contrarian comment.
0RichardKennaway6yThere are also lots of guides on how to be fit. Can we find out and learn from what makes a person decide to pursue fitness?

After writing the Anti Mosquito thread we went into a discussion into other species to eliminate. While doing that bed bugs came into my attention. I do have rashes that look like the ones shown in the bed bug article on Wikipedia.

Today I searched there are indeed bed bugs.

Does anybody have experiences of getting rid of them?

9Vaniver6yAs mentioned by btrettel [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/l4z/open_thread_oct_20_oct_26_2014/bhd8], I had some a few months ago that, as far as I can tell, were totally wiped out by one thermal remediation, which seems to be the mirror of hyporational's suggestion [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/l4z/open_thread_oct_20_oct_26_2014/bhez]. Basically, they heated up the apartment enough that all the bedbugs and their eggs died, and this took ~8 hours and was expensive. I found the extermination company on Yelp. I have several bookshelves with lots of books, and the bedbugs apparently like to crawl all over the place--there was a husk at the corner between the wall and the ceiling--and so the exterminator was pretty insistent that I go with the thermal remediation (which would kill them everywhere) instead of using pesticides, which would have to be applied everywhere to be as effective.
6hyporational6yPeople in Finland freeze their sheets and mattresses in the winter and it seems to do the trick. I'm not sure if this helps you now unless you have a huge freezer.
2ChristianKl6yWhile continuing reading I found that the thing I spotted in my home black and therefore not real bed bugs so I'm not certain anymore that it's bed bugs. In any case it's a sign that I need to clean more ;) When winter is coming I will probably move my sheets and mattresses outside to freeze.
3Vaniver6yMost exterminators will check out your residence and give you a quote for free; they're probably much better at identifying (and finding) pests than you are.
2Lumifer6yThey also have a set of incentives which does not match yours.
2hyporational6yI did some quick googling and most sources seem to say that you need at least -18C for 24 hours to kill them. I'm not sure if this means that they don't die in higher temperatures at all or if you just need more time. Another trick people in Finland use is sauna, 60C kills them.
1Baughn6yHeat treatment is an option, but most quotes I've seen say 120-140C. I don't doubt that 60C kills the live bugs. Does it also kill the eggs?
1Lumifer6ySaunas easily go to over 100C. I don't know about 140C, though...
4philh6ySympathies. In my case, spraying all over the room several times got them down to a tolerable level. By tolerable I mean that I was sleeping with no duvet or pillow so that they would have nowhere near me to hide, and often performing less-thorough sprays, and as far as I could tell, I wasn't getting bitten any more - so given several months, they would have just died off. I was still seeing one or two a week, though, and the spray probably wasn't too good for my health. That lasted maybe a month or so, then my landlord decided to just replace the bed, and I think I only saw one after that. (I've since moved out.)
2btrettel6yVaniver does. Might want to message him about it.

How bad is having rs1333049(C,C) if you have no other risk factors, including family history, for heart disease? It is supposedly associated with a 1.9x risk for coronary artery disease.

Does anyone have actual data over whether people working with words on computers is impaired or assisted by (a) music with lyrics or (b) instrumental music without lyrics? (I'd also be curious about the effect on people who have to work with numbers, but that's not relevant to me.)

Max L.

Salame and Baddeley (1989): Music impairs short-term memory performance, vocal moreso than instrumental.

Jones and Macken (1993) [pdf] has things to say.

5palladias6yAnecdotally, I have much more trouble writing if I don't have music on. And I frequently listen to musicals. (Things I write while listening to musicals: email, blog posts, my book).
7[anonymous]6yIntrospectively I always felt that music helps me get into a focused state but I always wondered whether it has any effects. Over the course of May 2014 I collected some data on my own writing performance in different circumstances when I had a lot of written work to complete (a bit over100 hours spent on writing in that month). Every 30min I took a break and gave a 1-10 rating of the quality of the work I had completed in that period, and brief notes about anything else that might be notable. I admit that self-rating is rather arbitrary but simply word count wouldn't suffice as I was also editing, consulting sources and other tasks related to writing at various times. And of course these results may not generalise to anyone besides myself (and indeed for my own purposes I should do a replication next time I have a huge writing crunch). Mean self-rating of "quality": * Office, no music: ___ 5.4 (10.5hr) * Office, instrumental: 5.8 (21.5hr) * Office, vocal: ______ 5.9 (20hr) * Library, no music ___ 4.2 (5.5hr) * Home, instrumental __ 5.3 (23hr) * Home, vocal _________ 5.5 (21.5hr) The mean ratings above conceal a lot of variability; the only reliable effect (Wilcoxon-Mann-Whitney test) was that the university library is a horrible place for me to get anything done (No music: Library < Home and Library < Office). No surprise there - as in my undergraduate studies the library seems mostly to be a place people go to avoid doing work. The apparently lower mean in "Office, no music" was driven by a couple of outliers related to distraction by other people. main musical styles (not possible to analyse due to variability): old thrash metal, new doom metal, psychedelic folk music, rockabilly, bluegrass, shoegaze, bebop/hard bop, J-pop, person with guitar. final note: I do not tend to notice the details of lyrics unless i am paying very close attention to the music, even for highly lyrical music I still mostly focus on the instrumental parts.
4Gunnar_Zarncke6yInteresting. Did you score the text immediately or later? Because if you did score during listening to music your score may likely be influenced by the music. And music does affect mood and thus ratings.
4[anonymous]6yThe people at Focus At Will [https://www.focusatwill.com/] use instrumental music with certain qualities to "habituate" the listener to improve focus. (more details) [https://www.focusatwill.com/wp/science/science-primer/] They have a ton of references [https://www.focusatwill.com/wp/science/literature/], which may help in your search. This isn't really my area, I just use the service and it seems to help --- at the very least, it acts as a trigger for me to enter a "time to do work" mode.
2[anonymous]6yA quick search in those references for "lyric" turns up only this paper from 2011: A Functional MRI Study of Happy and Sad Emotions in Music with and without Lyrics [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22144968] Abstract:
3MaximumLiberty6yThanks to both zedzed and Troubadour for helping confirm what I hoped would not be confirmed. Time to turn off Metallica at work. Focus@Will seems interesting. I downloaded the app and am giving it a try. Its a little hard to figure out what they are saying the increase in focus might be. Still, it is just 5%, that's enough to pay their annual subscription. Max L.
2polymathwannabe6yIt happens to me. Music with lyrics makes my reading/writing less efficient.
1[anonymous]6yI've heard this effect mentioned several times, but if it applies to me is not strong enough to be obvious. (Then again, it's not like I tried to test it statistically.) Possibly, at certain times of the day music might make me more productive, by making it easier for me to stay awake. (OTOH if I listen to music while concentrating on something else I usually can't remember any of the lyrics afterwards.)
1Gunnar_Zarncke6yI remember that there are studies that show that music impears cognitive tasks (at least learning related). But I can't name them off the top of my head. If you are lucky I will come back with the refs later. I'd bet gwern can provide better refs too.

It seems likely that you could get much of the benefit of cryopreservation for a fraction of the cost, without actually getting your head frozen, by just recording your life in great detail.

A while back, I started tracking e.g. every time I switch between windows, or send out an HTTP request, etc. - not with this in mind, but just so I can draw pretty graphs. It doesn't seem that it would be beyond a superintelligent AI to reconstruct my mind from this data. For better fidelity, maybe include some brain scans and your DNA sequence.

And this sort of preserva... (read more)

7skeptical_lurker6yI've heard this idea before, and it has never seemed convincing. Suppose you managed to record one useful bit per second, 24/7, for thirty years. That's approximately one billion bits. There are approximately 100 billion neurons, each with many synapses. How many polynomials of degree n can fit m points for n>m? Infinity many. Its actually worse than this, because even if you record orders or magnitude more data than the brain contains, perhaps by recording speech and video, then maybe you could recreate the speech and movement centres of the brain with some degree of accuracy, but not recover other areas that seem more fundamental to your identity, because the information is not evenly distributed. Its easy to get into a 'happy death spiral' around superintelligence, but even godlike entities cannot do things which are simply impossible. I suppose it might be worth recording information about yourself on the basis of low cost and a small chance of astronomically large payoff, and regardless it could be useful for data mining or interesting for future historians. But I can't see that it has anywhere near the chance of success of cryonics. Incidentally, a plastinisied brain [http://www.gwern.net/plastination] could be put in a box and buried in a random location and survive for a long time, especially in Antarctica.

That's approximately one billion bits. There are approximately 100 billion neurons, each with many synapses. How many polynomials of degree n can fit m points for n>m? Infinity many.

That's true but irrelevant and proves too much (the same point about the 'underdetermination of theories' also 'proves' that induction is impossible and we cannot learn anything about the world and that I am not writing anything meaningful here and you are not reading anything but noise).

There's no reason to expect that brains will be maximally random, much reason to expect that to be wrong, and under many restrictive scenarios, you can recover a polynomial with n>m - you might say that's the defining trait of a number of increasingly popular techniques like the lasso/ridge regression/elastic net, which bring in priors/regularization/sparsity to let one recover a solution even when n<p (as it's usually written). The question is whether personality and memories are recoverable in realistic scenarios, not unlikely polynomials.


On that, I tend to be fairly optimistic (or pessimistic, depending on how you look at it): humans seem to be small.

When I look at humans' habits, attitudes, political b... (read more)

3skeptical_lurker6yI think an important point may be to distinguish between producing a usable version of us that functions in a very similar way, and producing a version similar enough to be the 'same' person, to preserve continuity of conciousness and provide immortality, if indeed this makes sense. Perhaps it doesn't, maybe the Buddhists are correct, the self is an illusion and the question of whether a copy of me (of varying quality) really is me is meaningless. Anyway, I don't deny that it would be possible to create someone who is extremely similar. People are not randomly sprinkled through personspace, they cluster, and identifying the correct cluster is far simpler. But my intuitions are that the fidelity of reconstruction must be much higher to preserve identity. Comas do not necessary involve a substantial loss of information AFAIK, but wrt more traumatic problems I am willing to bite the bullet and say that they might not be the same person they were before. As you say, some lesions cause bigger personalty changes than others. But it seems to me that its easy to gather information about superficial aspects, while my inner monologue, my hopes and dreams and other cliches , are not so readily apparent from my web browsing habits. Perhaps I should start keeping a detailed diary. Of course, you might derive some comfort from the existence of a future person who is extremely similar but not the same person as you. But I'd like to live too. So to summarise, I don't think the brain is maximally random, but I also don't think orders of magnitude of compression is possible. If we disagree, it is not about information theory, but about the more confusing metaphysical question of whether cluster identification is sufficient for continuity of self. And thanks for the reply, its been an interesting read.
6ChristianKl6yA superintelligent AI still suffer from Garbage In/Garbage out. It depends how good you consider a replication of you to have to be to be you. From the perspective of a superintelligent AI the AI also might consider it to be an ethical obligation to reanimate cryopreserved people but not consider it to be an obligation to reconstruct people based on data. The comments on http://lesswrong.com/lw/1ay/is_cryonics_necessary_writing_yourself_into_the/ [http://lesswrong.com/lw/1ay/is_cryonics_necessary_writing_yourself_into_the/] might be worth reading on the issue.
4Gunnar_Zarncke6yI considered training a simple AI in mimicking my cognitive habits and responses. The simplest form would be a chat-bot trained on all my spoken and written words. Archiving lots of audios/videos could also help.
4James_Miller6yIf true cryonics would still offer the advantage of strongly signaling that you wanted to be brought back, and putting you into a community committed to bringing back members of the community. A more extreme version of what you suggest is that a future friendly super intelligence might bring to life every possible human mind that wanted to exist.
3RichardKennaway6yI think it has as much chance of success as the ancient Egyptians' practice of mummification.
2skeptical_lurker6yIs there any chance that mummification preserves enough information for revival?
5gwern6yGiven the part where they stir up and scoop out the brains, I would be extremely surprised if anything could recover them from their bodies (barring some sort of bizarre Tiplerian 'create all possible humans using infinite computing power' scenario).
3skeptical_lurker6yOk, I should have remembered that. But the Egyptians were not the only people who practised mummification, as well as accidental mummification. Any chance of them surviving? What about Lenin's embalmed body?
4gwern6yIt's been a very long time since I read Lenin's Embalmers, but the brain seems to be in pretty bad shape these days [http://www.jewishworldreview.com/0304/lenin.asp]: Or http://bookhaven.stanford.edu/2010/09/the-curious-and-complicated-history-of-lenins-brain/ [http://bookhaven.stanford.edu/2010/09/the-curious-and-complicated-history-of-lenins-brain/]
1Evan_Gaensbauer6yMentioning the possibility of my mind being recreated by a superintelligence after my death, you had my curiosity[1], but with 'drawing pretty graphs' you have my attention [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yyfdcoocex8]. I want to draw pretty graphs about my activity too. How do you do this? I want to do it for and to myself. Feel free to send me a PM about it, if you don't want to continue the conversation here. [1] gwern's comment below in the parallel child thread helped.
0[anonymous]6yI think it has about as much chance of success as the ancient Egyptians' practice of mummification.
[-][anonymous]6y 5

What parallels exist between AI programming and pedagogy?

Today, I had to teach my part-timer how to delete books from our inventory. This is a two-phase process: delete the book from our inventory records then delete the book from our interlibrary loan records. My PTer is an older woman not at all versed in computers, so to teach her, I first demonstrated the necessary steps, then asked her to do it while I guided her, then asked her to do it alone. She understood the central steps and began to delete books at a reasonable rate.

A few minutes in, she hit th... (read more)

1Gunnar_Zarncke6yI keep thinking about the relations between machine learning and human learning, esp. teaching children a lot. Basically all results in one field carry over to some degree to the other. Some things only apply on the neuronal level. Others only in very specific settings. Some random pages to follow: http://lesswrong.com/lw/jol/rethinking_education/ [http://lesswrong.com/lw/jol/rethinking_education/] Vygotsky's http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zone_of_proximal_development [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zone_of_proximal_development]

1) What course of study / degree program would you recommend to someone interested in (eventually) doing research for effective altruism or global priorities (e.g. Givewell, FHI, etc.)?

2) Are there other similar fields? Requirements: research, focused on rational decision-making, mostly or entirely altruistic

3) What are the job opportunities like in these fields?

4zedzed6yHolden Karnofsky of Givewell discusses some of this in his EA summit talk [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_Wh00Az-3w]. There's no simple answer, but a short one is "get big". Near as I can tell, the best way to do this is develop rare and valuable skills that interest you, a la So Good They Can't Ignore You [http://lesswrong.com/lw/k40/book_review_so_good_they_cant_ignore_you_by_cal/]. Personally, I think math and computer science are good places to start. Both are rare and valuable (especially taken together). If you have aptitude and interest (as I estimate you do), start there. For math, step 1 is to get through calculus. You'll get different opinions for CS; I'm personally a fan of SICP [http://mitpress.mit.edu/sicp/], but that assumes calculus. Fortunately, we've compiled a list of programming resources [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Programming_resources]. And then things that strike your interest. I'm learning psychology, writing, and economics, not because I think they're the rarest or most valuable skills, but because they're at least somewhat uncommon and at least somewhat valuable and I really enjoy learning them, and the combination of math/CS/psych/writing/econ is sufficiently novel that I should be able to do useful things that wouldn't happen otherwise. Holden discusses reasons for choosing things that interest you/things you have aptitude for, rather than the most tractable problem, in the video linked above. Good luck!
3ChristianKl6yIt's at 1:15:00 in the summit talk. He lists three main criteria for people to choose what they do early in your career: * Personal Development Potential * Potential to make Contacts * Potential to gain power, status and freedom
1iarwain16yGood links and thoughts, as usual. Working on it :). (To explain, zedzed is helping me study algebra with an aim to get through calculus. I'm on the last chapter of the textbook we're working through.)
3ChristianKl6yIf you look at the give well job description for a research analyst ( http://www.givewell.org/about/jobs/research-analyst [http://www.givewell.org/about/jobs/research-analyst]) it doesn't mention that GiveWell is interested that people who apply have a degree. If that's where you want to go applying directly to GiveWell would be the straightforward course of action. Given FHI's academic nature they probably do prefer people with degrees but I think FHI doesn't want specific degrees but wants to hire people with expertise that they currently don't have so they should be pretty open.
2So8res6yCan "research" include heavy math?
1iarwain16yYes, but preferably not only focused on heavy math.
2So8res6yMIRI-style FAI research is pretty much only heavy math, but if you're interested in taking that track, PM me and I can get you resources. Regardless, I applaud your motivation and am excited in your endeavor!
1iarwain16yI'm more interested in the type of research FHI / CSER does - a little less on the math, more on the philosophy / economics / decision theory aspects.

I posted If we knew about all the ways an Intelligence Explosion could go wrong, would we be able to avoid it? on the LW subreddit recently, in case anyone is interested. I'm not sure how many people read the subreddit. Is this something I should post on here?

[-][anonymous]6y 3

I make a public vow not to watch twitch till 2015.

2Jayson_Virissimo6yDo you have a mechanism for trusted third-parties to audit (not necessarily publicly) your adherence to your vow? If not, your should consider it. Similarly: I won't post, comment, or tweet on Facebook or Twitter between October 6th and the end of the year [http://predictionbook.com/predictions/37407].
1[anonymous]6yThanks for the suggestion, I do not.
1DanielLC6yWhy? That seems like an odd vow.
1[anonymous]6yBecause if I open twitch, I can't control how much time I spend there. It's totally useless and extremely addictive.
1DanielLC6ySo why "till 2015"?
2[anonymous]6yI'm afraid my brain won't comply, if I try to make it more ambitious.

Is is acceptable for LWers to have more than one account? I'm considering to create a more anonymous account for asking and discussing possibly more controversal or out-of-character topics or topics I wouldn't want to see associated with my name.

What do you think about this?

If you don't tell us (sorry possibly too late), we aren't likely to find out, unless your alternate account is so obnoxious that it gets investigated. In this community, that's a damned high threshold.

Seriously, I don't think it's a problem. Nobody objected to Clippy probably being a regular member, though there were efforts to find out who it was out of curiosity.

6Username6yDepending on your use case, you might also just want to use this account (for which the password is 'password').
3Gunnar_Zarncke6yInteresting. I always thought that that is a peculiar username. But for such a use case it makes sense. Waht is the intended use of that account?
6Username6yI think it was just intended for low-friction anonymity.
5shminux6yI think there is nothing wrong with using something upfront and obvious like throwaway_. Or any other name, as long as you preface your question with "this is a throwaway", as is common on Reddit.
4ChristianKl6yI think the case law on the issue is that, nobody speaks up when people do this and mark it specifically. On the other hand do not use both accounts within one discussion. Don't use both accounts to vote on the same thread. Given that you have written the thread, it's however likely a bad idea for you to start a more anonymous account right now ;) if you care about keeping secrets from people on LW and not only the casual browser.
2Gunnar_Zarncke6yThis is a very resonable recommendation. I considered this beforehand of course. Even if I did I would have plausible deniability, which is what counts. Even if regular LWers suspected something the pretense could be held. See also http://lesswrong.com/lw/24o/eight_short_studies_on_excuses/ [http://lesswrong.com/lw/24o/eight_short_studies_on_excuses/]
4Jiro6yI've done the reverse: created an account for when I do need to discuss things associated with my name, like "I wrote this post elsewhere that...."
2Evan_Gaensbauer6yYou may recall I had a previous user account not linked to my real name: eggman [http://lesswrong.com/user/eggman/overview/]. I started using one with my real name since I intend to post to Less Wrong and the effective altruism forum more frequently in the future, and it works better to have both accounts linked to my name if people want to contact me. Since I already happen to have access to two accounts, I was thinking of using 'eggman' for the same purposes. Now, obviously, I've just stated I was, or am, eggman, or whatever. So, it isn't anonymous anymore. However, it's more anonymous, as it doesn't use the same name that's on my government-issued I.D. More than using it because I don't want other users on Less Wrong to know it's me, I might not want it searchable, or linked to me public identity, for others off of Less Wrong. So, I consider this acceptable. If you want to make it more acceptable... * Consider stating with the profile, or at the beginning of each comment, that you're a regular user of Less Wrong who is using an anonymous sockpuppet account not because you want to troll, but because you don't want your name linked to discussiong more controversial topics. I believe the genuine merit of how you discuss such topics would quickly dismiss speculation that you are just a troll. * If you don't do the above, and never express that the anonymous account you're using is used by a regular user of Less Wrong going under their real name, none of us would actually tell. We wouldn't know you had two accounts. I'd be surprised if someone is such an inquisitor that they snoop profiles to ensure someone made a credible introduction of themselves in a welcome thread, and reports them to a moderator if they don't. * If the topics you'd be discussing on Less Wrong are controversial among the Less Wrong community itself, that might be another matter. That might be playing with fire [http://wiki.lesswrong
1Gunnar_Zarncke6yI noticed your post and wondered about your opinion on this. Thanks for sharing it. I think it is a good idea to state the intention clearly - possibly on each post. But I wonder whether that colors the respones it gets. Though maybe the effect is positive even. My reason I use my real name is comparable to yours: I want to see my real name attached to my postings.

Does anyone here know anyone (who knows anyone) in the publishing industry, who could explain exactly why a certain 220,000-and-counting-word RationalFic manuscript is unpublishable through the traditional process?

I'm fairly well-informed on this subject- I've had one published science fiction author as a housemate, another as a good friend, and I'm on a first-name basis with multiple editors at Tor.

You will find it very challenging to get direct feedback from any professionals in the industry at this stage, short of relationships like personal friendship. This is because at any given time, there are tens of thousands of unpromising authors making exactly that request.

If this is your first novel, or even your third, don't expect too much. The bar for minimum quality is extremely high, and author skill does not peak at a young age. If you're still early in the process, and you're still enjoying the practice, keep writing your second and third and eighth books while you look around for your first to be published. As a general rule of thumb, if you don't have a novel that's now vaguely embarrassing to you, then you probably aren't good enough yet. Do not put all your eggs in one basket by writing one very long series; try out a variety of settings, and experiment with your craft.

Often, it is heard that writing short stories to build up a reputation first is a good way to break in to the in... (read more)

2DataPacRat6yI wonder if a novel-length piece of fanfiction starring a bovine secret agent counts... I know even less about agents than I do about slush piles - I don't know where to even begin looking for a list of them, whether there are agent-focused online forums or subreddits, agent review sites, or what-have-you. Where might I start looking to discover agents' reputations?
3Toggle6yThis [http://www.sfwa.org/real/] resource seems quite good. It gives a few websites that compile lists, but your first step is going to be a bookstore- go find books that are likely to appeal to the same sorts of people as your own, and look inside them. Agents aren't usually listed in the title pages or published information, but it's good form to mention them in the acknowledgments, so that's where you'll get your initial list of names. Ha! Possibly. Are you now skilled enough to rewrite it, better, in 30,000 words without losing anything?
1DataPacRat6yIf I had a reason to, yep. I think I could manage that. ... tricky. I don't think I can shrink it by a factor of 9 without losing quite a lot - even summarizing just the best bits might take more than that.
6Toggle6yONE OF THE MOST COMMON SIGNS OF AN AUTHOR THAT HAS YET TO MATURE IS A CONSPICUOUSLY LOW DENSITY OF LANGUAGE (ESPECIALLY SO IN FAN FICTION). I ACTUALLY WOULDN'T BE SURPRISED IF YOU COULD CUT IT TO A NINTH, ALTHOUGH I SUPPOSE A THIRD WOULD BE A BIT MORE REALISTIC WITHOUT MY HAVING ACTUALLY SEEN IT. IF YOU WANT TO TRY THIS OUT WITHOUT TAKING ON AN UNREASONABLY LARGE PROJECT, TRY CUTTING YOUR OLD BLOG POSTS IN HALF. JUST AS AN EXAMPLE, I PULLED A RANDOM PARAGRAPH FROM S.I. (WHICH I MIGHT HAVE MANGLED DUE TO A LACK OF CONTEXT): "I never actually caught sight of Charles - he seemed to either be running errands, or hanging out with a few other guys aiming to create some sort of "Last of the Summer Wine" pastiche. After the second ladder crash, I suspected he married into the House household simply to have ready access to medical care." "CHARLES WAS NOWHERE, PROBABLY OFF PLAYING 'LAST OF THE SUMMER WINE' WITH HIS BUDDIES. NO SURPRISE- AFTER THE LATEST LADDER CRASH, I'D BET HE MARRIED A HOUSE FOR THE INSURANCE." All this is just a heuristic, of course. The ability to compress language doesn't make you a good author, it's just something that most good authors can do.
1DataPacRat6yIf I was given a goal of cutting my verbiage in half, I think I can do that reasonably well. The question is, what's the meta-heuristic here? When should an authour go to the effort of aiming for shortened prose as opposed to longer text?
2Antiochus6yAs a reader, it's less work for more reward.
2Toggle6yThe reason that you want to be able to compress language is, in a broader sense, to be able to use words with extreme precision. An author that can do this is in a good position to decide whether they should, but someone that defaults to the more expansive writing is probably not using individual words conscientiously.
3gwern6yI would go further: an author who has not edited down their prose to something tighter and with more bang for the buck is probably too in love with their writing to have carefully edited or considered all the other aspects of their story, such as the plot, pacing, content, or character voices.
2NancyLebovitz6yAny thoughts or resources about the right amount of redundancy?
2[anonymous]6yWriter's Market [http://www.writersmarket.com/]. It's a yearly publication. You can probably find the latest copy in the nearest library of any size. If not, they can certainly loan it from another library. It lists publishing houses, agents, online markets, magazines, everything useful to a writer looking to get published. I would suggest grabbing a copy and just surfing through it. It's a great start.
8garabik6yIf you haven't yet, read http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2010/04/common-misconceptions-about-pu-1.html [http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2010/04/common-misconceptions-about-pu-1.html] by Charles Stross.Quite a good description of how book publishing works.
8IlyaShpitser6yMay I suggest talking to scifi/fantasy author community (they know quite a bit about this, and often struggle to publish). Like piloting and academia, demand for these sorts of jobs far outstrips supply, so most people will struggle and make a poor living.
4NancyLebovitz6yThere isn't a single author community, but Making Light [http:nielsenhayden.com/makinglight] has both editors and authors as hosts and commenters. If you want to make some personal connections, it's a good place if your personality is a good fit for the community. (Translation: I'd call the community informally rationalist, with a high tolerance for religion. Courtesy is highly valued.) I looked at the beginning of your novel, and the prose is engaging-- I think it would appeal to people who like Heinlein.
3DataPacRat6yDo you have any particular locations for this 'scifi/fantasy author community'? I don't expect to make a single cent out of this story; in that sense, I'm writing it to improve my skills for whatever I write next. (Tsuyoku naritai!) But I'm writing it even more because I just want to write it.
1ChristianKl6yThen why should anybody expect to make a single cent out of publishing your story? If you don't believe why should others?
3DataPacRat6yI don't expect to make a single cent out of this story... ... because I don't even have the generic mailing address to a minor publishing house's slush pile, let alone the social network and connections that would let me sidestep the ordinary process and get in touch with a human willing to spend more than thirty seconds glancing at yet another novel.
1ChristianKl6yWhy do you choose that route over going to fanfiction.org if you think you have low chances of getting published?
2DataPacRat6yI may not be able to get /this/ novel published; but the skills I develop as I work on it, and the various lessons I learn in the process, seem likely to be useful for /future/ stories. What made me start thinking in terms of paper publishing at all was this comment [http://lesswrong.com/lw/l33/october_2014_bragging_thread/bgzk].
6James_Miller6yThe first question a publisher asks is "what shelf would it go on in the book store?"
2DataPacRat6yIn this particular case: "Science Fiction". I don't know of many stores that subdivide SF&F more than that.
2James_Miller6yThen you need to be pitching it to publishers as science fiction not RationalFic.
4DataPacRat6yAgreed. It's generally just to the crowd here that I pitch it as RatFic.
5Kaj_Sotala6yIs there a good reason to go through a publisher these days? At least assuming that you're not certain you'll get a big publisher who's really enthusiastic about marketing you? Yes, if you manage to find a publisher they'll get your book in bookstores and maybe do some marketing for you if you're lucky, but as others in the thread have indicated, getting through the process and into print may take years - and unless you manage to get a big publisher who's really invested in your book, the amount of extra publicity you're likely to get that way will be quite limited. Instead you could put your books up on Amazon as Kindle and CreateSpace versions: one author reports [http://jakonrath.blogspot.fi/2010/09/ebook-pricing.html] that on a per-unit basis, he makes three times more money from a directly published ebook priced at $2.99 than he would from a $7.99 paperback sold through a publisher, and almost as much as he would from a $25 hardcover. When you also take into account the fact that it's a lot easier to get people to buy a $3 book than a $25 or even a $8 book, his total income will be much higher. As a bonus, he gets to keep full rights to his work and do whatever he wants with them. Also they can be on sale for the whole time that one would otherwise have spent looking for a publisher. One fun blog post [http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/blog/2010/09/10/the-billion-dollar-book/] speculates that the first book to earn its author a billion dollars will be self-published ebook. Of course you're not very likely to earn a billion dollars, but the same principles apply for why it's useful to publish one's work that way in general: I feel like if you want money, you should go for self-publishing. If you're more interested in getting a lot of readers, you should again go for self-publishing. Of course the most likely outcome for any book is that you won't get much of either, but at least self-publishing gives you better odds than a traditional publisher. (Again
3NancyLebovitz6yI don't have links handy, but I've seen essays by authors which say that self-publishing and using a publisher both have advantages and drawbacks, and those authors are using both methods.
1John_Maxwell6ySmashwords is pretty nice; it lets you quickly spray your self-published book to various digital ebook stores all over the internet.
1ChristianKl6yBook stores do have professional editors most self published books don't have editors. It seems like the post that motivated DataPacRat to start this thread was partly about editoring.
1Kaj_Sotala6yYou can always purchase editing services separately.
4ChristianKl6yBasically because no one that you showed the manuscript thinks he can make money with it. Manuscripts often get rejected by a bunch of publishers till one wants to publish it. On the other hand few publisher have an idea that they want to publish a RationalFic.
7[anonymous]6y^^^ There is your answer. A publisher may reject a manuscript based on some ideological or cultural qualm, but at the end of the day, the publisher's main question is going to be "Can I sell this?" If you want to get a manuscript published, you have to do two (overly simplified things): make it worth publishing and find someone whose market would be interested in the ideas expressed there in. IlyaShpitser's suggestion of looking into scifi/fantasy is a good one. Also a quick couple of notes. First off, I don't know if this is true of every publisher, but you probably would do better if you knocked off that "-and-counting" portion of the length. Believe me, publishers receives gobs of letters about manuscripts that are unfinished "but will be masterpieces." Have a product. Show them the product. You need to have leverage with a publisher and being able to slam a finished story down and say, "This is what I have for you. This is good. This is what you need. You can buy it now or I will look elsewhere." That is powerful. Though I would not suggest actual engaging in the hyperbole I just used. That was example only. The point is, have a product, not an idea. Second, I would not try to sell it as a RationalFic. Sell it as a story. Again, you can also sell it as scifi/fantasy, but mainly do so within those communities/publishing houses that cater to that. Coming to a non-genre publisher and saying, "I have a rational fiction story about the singularity" will not set off their "50,000 advance copies" antennae. Instead, give them a summary of the story. I don't necessarily mean a dry summary. Just some idea of what you have, why it would be interesting to readers, and, subtly, how it would make the publisher cash. Remember, publishing is not an art form or an intellectual process. It's not academia. It's a business. In publishing, you don't talk about artistic merits or themes or prescient issues unless that's what the publisher wants to hear. Talk about business, talk
2DataPacRat6yNo worries; I'm not expecting I'll have the opportunity to even try to submit it to an editor before I finish. Again, no worries; I only mentioned it being a RatFic to tailor my post to the audience of this particular community, and would similarly tailor it as, say, "SF" or "hard SF" to people who are more familiar with those terms. Initial thought on a generic pitch: "Present-day guy wakes up in the future, gets turned into a talking rabbit, and tries to figure out what the bleep happened to the world while he was out." Thank you kindly. :) No worries on that score - I'm already writing a novel even when I have no measurable hope of getting it on paper, and my related skills are only going to improve from here. (At least until /I/ get hit by a truck and cryo-preserved, but that's another matter... ;) )
1Vulture6yYou might already know this, but just to be sure: that there is a synopsis, not a summary.
1Baughn6yUm - which one, precisely? I might want to read it.
2DataPacRat6yS.I., which can be read and commented on starting at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1AU8o3wSAiufh-Eg1FtL-6656dNvbCFILCi2GbeESsb4/edit [https://docs.google.com/document/d/1AU8o3wSAiufh-Eg1FtL-6656dNvbCFILCi2GbeESsb4/edit] . (I plan on eventually giving it a permanent home at http://www.datapacrat.com/SI/ [http://www.datapacrat.com/SI/] , but I'm currently focusing on writing the thing.)

Employing one's rational skills in extremely stressful or emotional situations, specifically extreme infatuation:

Today at the market, while waiting on the queue, I recognized an ex-lover of mine. One I had never gotten over. I dared not speak her name. I knew, with absolute certainty, that I would have absolutely no control over what I would said to her, if I didn't shut down entirely, standing there with my mouth open, my breath held, and a cacophony of conflicting thoughts and emotions on my mind.

I knew that, if, against all probability, she decided the... (read more)

5ahbwramc6yI can empathize to an extent - my fiance left me about two months ago (two months ago yesterday actually, now that I check). I still love her, and I'm not even close to getting over her. I don't think I'm even close to wanting to get over her. And when I have talked to her since it happened, I've said things that I wish I hadn't said, upon reflection. I know exactly what you mean about having no control of what you say around her. But, with that being said... Well, I certainly can't speak for the common wisdom of the community, but speaking for myself, I think it's important to remember that emotion and rationality aren't necessarily opposed - in fact, I think that's one of the most important things I've learned from LW: emotion is orthogonal to rationality. I think of the love I have for my ex-fiance, and, well...I approve of it. It can't be really be justified in any way (and it's hard to even imagine what it would mean for an emotion to be justified, except by other emotions), but it's there, and I'm happy that it is. As Eliezer put it, there's no truth that destroys my love. Of course, emotions can be irrational - certainly one has to strive for reflective equilibrium, searching for emotions that conflict with one another and deciding which ones to endorse. And it seems like you don't particularly endorse the emotions that you feel around this person (I'll just add that for myself, being in love has never felt like another persons values were superseding my own - rather it felt like they were being elevated to being on par with my own. Suddenly this other person's happiness was just as important to me as my own - usually not more important, though). But I guess my point is that there's nothing inherently irrational about valuing someone else over yourself, even if it might be irrational for you.
2Ritalin6yMostly I resent the fact that my mind becomes completely clouded, like I'm on some drug.
1Viliam_Bur6yYou are. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dopamine]
1DanielLC6yI don't think naturally producing a hormone counts as being on drugs. If it did, that would mean that everyone is on tons of drugs all of the time.
1Viliam_Bur6ySome people seem to get higher dose [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Fallacy_of_gray] of internally produced drugs than others.
1Ritalin6yI suppose that's what they call "being more emotional"?
3Viliam_Bur6yProbably one of those words that could mean many things: a) a higher dose of hormones; b) greater awareness of your internal state; or c) an exaggerated reaction to the same dose of hormones.
1Ritalin6yMeasuring the difference between those three is hardly trivial, though. Can't they be considered the same for all practical purposes?
2Viliam_Bur6yIn short them, yes. I long term, some people would benefit from awareness-increasing techniques, such as meditation or therapy, while other people would benefit from changing their behavior.
3Tripitaka6yThe question "is heartbreak the way humans experience it right now a good thing" is one of the more complex questions about the human condition,yes. My mental modell of all that is kinda like the following: On an neurochemical level, the way "love" stimulates the reward-centers has been likened to "cocaine".Its an extremely strong conditioning, addiction even. So of course your brain wants to satisfy that condition by all means possible. If we have a look at popular culture, its kinda expected to have extreme reactions to heartbreak: people fall into depression, start rationalizing all kinds of really crazy behaviour (stalking, death threats, lifechanging roadtrips) etc etc. To avoid all that you have to thoroughly impress on your emotional side that its over: thats why some people do the whole "burn everything that connects me with her", others just overwrite that old emotion with new (irrational)emotions like anger, hold a symbolic funeral, repeat it to youself everyday in a mirror etc. Unfortunately I am not aware of studies about optimal treatment of heartbreak, but common wisdom is: NO contact at all in the beginning, allow yourself to grieve, find solace with friends/familiy, and somehow redefine your sense of selfesteem- take up painting/coding/comething you have always wanted to do. If one wanted to go the rational route: research neurochemistry, find out wether its really like cocaine-addiction, do whatever helps with cocaine-withdrawal. (or the other most closely related drug-withdrawal).
2ChristianKl6yWhy do you label that process of researching neurochemistry rational?
1Tripitaka6yWell OPs stated goal is to end the strange behaviour they have around their ex, which takes away their agency. While a common problem within humans, it appears to be solved mostly with time- eg it is unsolved. We have some (bad) data available that this is actually very similar to some kinds of addiction. And while certainly addiction is nowhere near 100% curable, (or we would have heard of that by now) my prior for "having found some better than placebo treatments for one of the major drug addiction (cocaine)" is 70-80 percent. So I do give "investigate this line of thinking, speak with experts" at least a high enough investeded-time/chance of success- ratio to be worth considering. That was my thought process for using rational, is the explanation satisfying?
1ChristianKl6yI asked for researching neurochemistry not about researching cocaine treatment.
2Tripitaka6yBad data. I have not read the original research study whose findings were later likened to those of cocain, and am a bit suspicious how similar they actually are. "study the neurology" instead of "neurochemistry" would be more accurate, I guess.
1ChristianKl6yI still see no valid argument for that claim, that you can get significant knowledge about the issue to judge whether or not trying one of the addition treatment exercises is likely to be helpful.
1Ritalin6yThe main problem, as far as I'm concerned, isn't heartbreak itself, but the way I enter an altered state around her. To put it simply, I can't think straight. It's like being intoxicated, or in terrible pain. Getting over an ex is tough. But right now I'm more interested in getting over my feelings when around a loved one, rather than becoming paralyzed and my mind becoming blank.
1Tripitaka6ySorry I failed to make myself clear. To put it simply back: it feels as if you are in pain or intoxicated, because thats exactly what it is, http://www.pnas.org/content/108/15/6270.short [http://www.pnas.org/content/108/15/6270.short] for example. Your system 1 is in desperate need to get its fix OR stop the hurting, even if system 2 is fine. The obvious way to combat it and your accompanied loss of agency is to precommit in some way to stop being around them, but also to ignore their wishes in the future. The way this happens for a lot of people is rationalizing undesired qualities to their expartners, having strong peer pressure etc. Because system 1 is so strong on this front, depending on your own stability, it can actually be dangerous to fight it too much with system 2. For the whole system 1 against system 2, mindfulness meditation is useful.
2ChristianKl6yYou can write down your own goals to make them clearer to you. If you are clear about what you want to do it's harder for someone else to give you other goals then when you are empty. There are various kind of things you can do to learn emotional control. I remember times in the past where strong emotions could cloud my mind but after doing a lot of meditation that's not true for me anymore. In the absence of ugh-fields or a lot of unknowns strong emotions make me think clearly and I can still follow rules based heuristics. The most charged emotional situation I can think of that likely would have freaked a lot of people out was when it was past midnight and I was walking alone and a guy grabbed me and told me: "Give me 5 Euros or I'll kill you" To get to something more speculative, I have the idea that love is a lot of conditioning. If everytime you think about X, you feel good, the next time you think about X you will feel even more good. A bit unpredictability thrown in generally increases the effect. If you repeat that a thousand times you get a pretty strong stimulus. Almost wireheading ;) Of course there are additional effects that comes with physical intimacy. Speaking about them would be even more speculative.
2Ritalin6yI have trouble parsing this... could you rephrase it in a more practically-oriented way?
1ChristianKl6yI don't think doing interventions in highly charged emotional issue like this in a practically-oriented way is well done via text. Text is much better for discussing the topic on a more abstract level. Having abstract concepts to orient yourself in a situation can help. I gave one practical suggestion, meditation. To be more practical: Find a local meditation group with an experienced teacher and attend it regularly. One of the exercises that CFAR does is comfort zone extension. That can also help. If you often do that kind of exercises you train yourself to be still operational under strong emotions.
1Evan_Gaensbauer6yIt's not great data, but I recall an analogous discussion on Less Wrong several months ago. I participated in the discussion of a post covering subject matter similar to what you're thinking about: is love a good idea? [http://lesswrong.com/lw/jqq/is_love_a_good_idea/]. It seems to me the original poster was trying to make something like a hypothetical apostasy of falling in love, with mixed results. I had a lot of sympathy for him, as trying to become a rational apostate of 'falling in love' seems a challenge fraught with pitfalls, and yet one somebody might find tempting to pursue such a path after having love rend one's emotions so. The original poster admitted he hadn't been in a relationship as significant as, for example, yours, so there might be limited value in that perspective. Still, I feel like the rest of us were able to clarify his somewhat muddled thinking in the comments, so you might find solace there. Additionally, you might feel like sending some participant in that discussion a private message if what they wrote reaches out to you.

I posted a new math puzzle. I really like this one.

is there a part of the sequences that discusses celebrating failures? or acknowledging failures?

3polymathwannabe6yOnly acknowledgment: http://lesswrong.com/lw/o4/leave_a_line_of_retreat/ [http://lesswrong.com/lw/o4/leave_a_line_of_retreat/] http://lesswrong.com/lw/i9/the_importance_of_saying_oops/ [http://lesswrong.com/lw/i9/the_importance_of_saying_oops/]
2Wes_W6yThe Sin of Underconfidence [http://lesswrong.com/lw/c3/the_sin_of_underconfidence/] seems relevant, although it takes a slightly different angle on the topic.

Finding out where to donate is exhausting.

There are a couple of organisations affiliated with LW or organsiations that are inspired by the memespace. A remotely exhaustive list would be CFAR, MIRI, FHI, GiveWell. Which ones did I forget? Further, there are more traditional, gigantic organisations like the various organs of the UN or the catholic church. Finally, there are organisations like Wikipedia or the Linux foundation. In this jungle how should I found out where to donate my personal marginal monetary unit?

I posit that I should not. In no possible wa... (read more)

5Evan_Gaensbauer6yDisclosure: I made a $1000 unrestricted donation to Givewell in June 2014. Givewell's donation portal [http://www.givewell.org/donate] allows you to donate to any of their three currently top recommended charities, or to donate to Givewell directly. If donating to Givewell directly one of two things can happen. i) You make a donation which restricts Givewell to allotting that money to one of it's top recommended charities as it sees fit to have the financial needs of those organizations met. ii) You make an unrestricted donation, which allows Givewell to use your donation to support its own operating cost. Since Givewell apparently receives sufficient funding to do their typical work, your donation, i.e., the marginal dollar, effectively funds the Open Philanthropy Project [http://www.openphilanthropy.org/], formerly Givewell Labs. This is Givewell's joint investigative research venture with Good Ventures, a foundation worth hundreds of millions of dollars; their research right now is into global catastrophic risks, policy reform, and improving scientific research. This is the ambitious research the rationality community looks forward toward, and was profiled as such by Holden Karnofsky at the 2014 Effective Altruism Summit.
2ChristianKl6yFollowing the Kantian maxim isn't good in this case. In effective altruism there's a concept called "room for funding". If you would have 10 billion $ and seek a target, GiveWell wouldn't be able to use that money as effectively as it uses a marginal dollar at the moment. At the present moment simply going with GiveWell is a good option if you don't want to spend much time. They provide you with proven courses that can put your money to good use. It's also possible that you see something in your community that would be done if there funding but nobody stepped up to pay the bill. Paying for a entry on meetup.com for a local effective altruism group might be an example of that category.

Does anyone know of a compelling fictional narrative motivating the CHSH inequality or another quantum game?

I'm looking for something like:

Earth's waging a two-front war on opposite ends of the galaxy. The aliens will attack each front with either Star Destroyers or Nebula Cleanser, randomly and independently. The generals of the eastern and western fronts must coordinate their defense plans, or humanity will fall.

There are two battle plans: Alpha and Bravo. If the aliens at either front attack with Star Destroyers, generals must both choose the same ba... (read more)

2Douglas_Knight6yduplicate [http://lesswrong.com/lw/cg7/open_thread_may_1631_2012/6lrt] triplicate [http://lesswrong.com/lw/chh/singularity_ruined_by_lawyers/]

To what degree can I copy/paste from Google Docs when creating an article?

Edit: Google Docs -> article is sketchy, though not impossible if you're willing to put in time reformatting.

Followup: are articles usually written in the editor that comes up when you click "create a new article"?

6Emile6yDepends on what you want to do, if you want to keep your google doc formatting (including which lines are title, bulleted lists, links, etc.) then your result will probably look weird and ugly on lesswrong. The best would be to copy-paste from google doc but to paste with Ctrl-shift-V (or equivalent), which in most browsers pastes the raw text, and then redoing the necessary formatting in the LW article editor. This will be a bit of a pain for links, bolded/italics parts, quotes, etc. since you'll have to redo them (so it's best not to do them in the first place in google docs).
1DanielLC6yIs that where those weirdly-formatted articles are coming from? When I want to copy and paste without accidentally keeping the formatting, I paste it into a text editor and copy it again from there.
1sixes_and_sevens6yWhat are the problems that motivate you to ask this question? Formatting errors? Repetitive strain injury from clicking?
1zedzed6yNo problems. I just have a strong preference for composing in Google Docs, but I'm unsure how well it's going to transfer. Also, because Google Docs lends itself to collaboration exceptionally well, being able to go Google Docs -> LW article smoothly has implications.
3ZankerH6yAs long as you're familiar with Markdown, you're probably better off running it through a plaintext editor first to eliminate any possibility of formatting errors.
7ChristianKl6yLW comments are in markdown but discussion and main posts are in some form of html.
[-][anonymous]6y 1

Thought of the day: I think mathematical-Platonist "discovery" is what some form of mathematical-constructivist "computation", most likely a stochastic search problem, feels like from the inside. After all, our intellectual faculties were tuned by evolution to locate physically real objects in physically real spaces, so repurposing the same cognitive machinery for "locating" an object for an existence proof would feel like locating an object in a space, even if the "space" and "object" are just mental models and never really existed in any physical sense.

Last time I asked there was no way to spend money to get the main sequences in a neatly bound book. I suspect this is still the case. Would anyone be willing to make this happen for money? I don't know what all is required, but I suspect some formatting and getting the ok from EY. I want two for myself (one for the shelf and one to mark all to hell) and a few for gifts, so some setup where I can buy as needed is preferable (like Lulu.com but I'm not picky about brand) and printed-up stapled pages don't work. Maybe $100 for the work and $100 to EY/Miri? Flexible on price, and if that's way off no offense intended. And of course if not being on dead trees was a principled decision I respect that.

3ChristianKl6yThere seems to be an effort underway to get the sequences into a book format which includes an editor going over everything. http://lesswrong.com/lw/h7t/help_us_name_the_sequences_ebook/ [http://lesswrong.com/lw/h7t/help_us_name_the_sequences_ebook/] http://lesswrong.com/lw/jc7/karma_awards_for_proofreaders_of_the_less_wrong/ [http://lesswrong.com/lw/jc7/karma_awards_for_proofreaders_of_the_less_wrong/] The quality of the project is likely higher than someone doing $100 of work to compile a book for Lulu. The core dilemma is whether it's worthwhile to wait for that project to come to a conclusion or whether it's better to create a separate version from the one MIRI is working. The sequences are licensed as CC-by so there nothing stopping anybody from making a book out of them. I highly doubt that. For the kind of ethical framework that Eliezer presents such a decision would be strange.
1Ixiel6yHa, shoulda checked my original request 'cause that sounds really familiar now that you say it. I hate duplicating efforts more than I hate waiting, and if more informed people than I think that it needs editing I'd believe it. So many Christmas presents though... :)

Steve Fuller decides to throw away the established meaning of the phrase "existential risk" and make up one that better suits his purposes, in Is Existential Risk an Authentic Challenge or the Higher Moral Evasion?. I couldn't finish it.

1ChristianKl6yThen why do you post the link to it?
2satt6yBrainstorming possible reasons off the top of my head: * attempting to compensate for bad feelings left by the article, by soliciting sympathy/agreement/commiseration about how the article's crap * similarly but more broadly, initiating a round of social bonding based on booing the article (and/or Steve Fuller) * making a conveniently Google-able note of the article for future personal reference * publicly warning the rest of us of a bad article which might call for a response * contributing to LW's collective memory (in case e.g. a broader discussion of Steve Fuller's work kicks off here in future)
1ChristianKl6yThe fact that I can brainstorm possible reasons doesn't imply that I know the reason. Asking people for the reasons of their actions is helpful for having rational discourse.
1satt6yFair enough. (Based on the curtness of your question, I'd thought there was a good chance it was rhetorical, or that you truly couldn't think of an answer to it.)
-4gjm6ySteve Fuller writes a wrongheaded fuzzyminded self-indulgent article full of bloviating wankery. Also in today's news: Thomas Keller cooks a tasty meal, Bill Gates gives some money to charity, and a Republican congressman criticizes Barack Obama.
2shminux6yDownvoted for abysmally low level of discourse.
3gjm6yI completely agree that my comment was of low quality and its present score of -3 seems pretty reasonable. I'm worried that one aspect of its intent may have been misunderstood. (It's entirely my fault if so.) Specifically, it could be read as mocking ciphergoth for, I dunno, not appreciating how consistently useless Steve Fuller's writings are or something. I would like to put it on the record that nothing like that was any part of my intention. ciphergoth, if you happen to be reading this and read my earlier comment as hostile, please accept my apologies for inept writing. My intended tone was more like "yeah, I agree, isn't it terrible? But he's always like that" rather than "duh, so what else is new? what kind of an idiot are you for thinking he might be worth bothering with?". For the avoidance of doubt, this isn't an attempt to argue against the downvotes -- they're deserved, it was a crappy comment, and I'm sorry -- but merely to clear up one particular misunderstanding that, if it's occurred, might have worse consequences than losing a few karma points. (Namely, annoying or even upsetting someone I have no wish to annoy or upset.) shminux: I'm not sure that "low level of discourse" actually tells me anything -- pretty much every good reason for downvoting a comment comes down to "low level of discourse" in some sense. In this instance I'm pretty confident I grasp all the things that were wrong with what I wrote, but if you were intending to provide useful feedback (rather than, e.g., to say "boo!" a bit louder than a downvote does on its own) then a little more specificity would have gone a long way.
1shminux6yfeedback: "wrongheaded fuzzyminded self-indulgent article full of bloviating wankery" is a stream of content-free insults and is out of place on this site. (tumblr would be a better fit.) Your second sentence was not much better.

What does it mean to optimize the world, assuming the Many Worlds theory is true?

3lmm6yIncrease the probability-weighted average of your utility function over Everett branches.
0philh6yHow does this differ from increasing the expected value of your utility function under a collapse hypothesis?
8gjm6yI don't think it either does or should, at least for typical utility functions that don't explicitly care about what interpretation of QM is correct.
0Jinoc6yHow do you choose the measure over Everett branches in the absence of interactions between branches?
3gjm6yAccording to the Born rule.
0DanielLC6yI'm not sure what you mean. Can you rephrase that?

This interesting article turned up on Wait But Why: http://waitbutwhy.com/2014/10/religion-for-the-nonreligious.html#comment-264276

A lot of it reads a lot like stuff on here. Here's a quote: "On Step 1, I snap back at the rude cashier, who had the nerve to be a dick to me. On Step 2, the rudeness doesn’t faze me because I know it’s about him, not me, and that I have no idea what his day or life has been like. On Step 3, I see myself as a miraculous arrangement of atoms in vast space that for a split second in endless eternity has come together to form... (read more)