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Pearl has a new book out: Causal Inference in Statistics: A Primer (with Glymour and Jewell also as authors), already available on Kindle and paperback coming out the 26th. You can find the Table of Contents and chapter previews here.

At 150 pages, 4 chapters, and with homework exercises, this looks like the introductory causality work that I've wanted to exist for a few years.

Just ordered it. Thank you.

EDIT: Paperback isn't expected to ship until 3/8/2016.

Do you suggest that people wanting to understand Pearl's work read that book before reading her older book?

This is definitely meant to be read before his previous book.

Sounds neat. I look forward to seeing what the reviews say.

I've pre-ordered it, so expect a review in short order.

I recently attended a 10 day intensive Vipassana meditation retreat. Would a write-up of the experience be something LWers are interested in as an article for discussion?

I had minimal to moderate experience in meditation before this but now feel much more comfortable with it. I can see potential rationality relevance through,

* Discipline
* Concentration
* Emotion and habit regulation
* Seeing reality as it is

If there is interest then I would appreciate it if someone is willing to look over a draft of the article for me as I haven't written for LW before.

I just attended one too! I am composing a post on this, about halfway done. I'd be interested in a collaboration where we both talk about our experiences, though I would like to see what you think. My post is laden with my own interpretations. Send me a message if you want to discuss once you have your outline down

look over a draft of the article

can do.

I would absolutely be very interested. I think Vipassana meditation can be used as a very powerful rationality technique, and I'm always interested to read rationalists explain their experiences with it.

A cautionary statement about betting on your beliefs from Tyler Cowen:

Bryan Caplan is pleased that he has won his bet with me, about whether unemployment will fall under five percent. ... The Benthamite side of me will pay Bryan gladly, as I don’t think I’ve ever had a ten dollar expenditure of mine produce such a boost in the utility of another person.

That said, I think this episode is a good example of what is wrong with betting on ideas. Betting tends to lock people into positions, gets them rooting for one outcome over another, it makes the denouement of the bet about the relative status of the people in question, and it produces a celebratory mindset in the victor. That lowers the quality of dialogue and also introspection, just as political campaigns lower the quality of various ideas — too much emphasis on the candidates and the competition.

Seems like a problem that could be solved by making more bets.

If you only make one bet, you have either 0% or 100% success rate, and neither reflects how good you actually are.

Yes. I can understand feeling locked in if you only make 1 bet every few years and it's extremely high profile, and you make it part of your identity. But I can't imagine feeling like that in any of my IEM or GJP trades (or even my PB predictions!), since I was taking positions in a number of markets and could regularly back off or take the other side when the price changed to something I disagreed with; there you are encouraged to disidentify with trades as much as possible and take an outside view where you're just making one of many calibrated predictions.

This is definitely a flaw of rare high-stakes high-transaction-cost interpersonal betting: they're good for calling 'bullshit!' but not so good for less charged broader aggregation and elicitation of views. This is something PB is good at, and a distributed prediction market might be even better at.

Seems like a problem that could be solved by making more bets.

The problem is not finding out "how good you actually are". The problem is that making the bet locks you into a particular state of mind which involves more bias and less updating on evidence.

But still if you do a lot of small betting instead of few large there you have less chance to lock yourself in a hole.

The problem is that making the bet locks you into a particular state of mind which involves more bias and less updating on evidence.

It's not clear that this would be the case. Even if you're making only a few bets at a time (as opposed to participating in a liquid market), there will always be some odds at which you'll want to hedge the bet from the other side.

It has nearly the opposite effects for ideas I haven't yet bet on but might feel tempted or obligated to bet on.

The bad effects are weaker if I can get out of the bet easily (as is the case on a high-volume prediction market).

A counterpoint to Tyler Cower from Bryan Caplan who won that particular bet.

The natural question is if there's a better betting scheme, one that would retain the compulsion to tell the truth but smooth the tribalism naturally present in the brain.
For example, one could bet on both outcomes and pay the log of of the probability of the wrong outcome but receive the log-prob of the outcome that is realized. Has this kind of scheme been alread analyzed?

Not sure changing the payout schemes would help. The underlying issue which Tyler Cowen thinks is a problem is that making a bet freezes your position in time, so to say, and gives you a stake (if not monetary then a status stake) to defend. That does not depend on the details of how the bet is arranged. And you can't go around it because getting some skin into the game is precisely the purpose of betting from Robin Hanson's point of view.

That does not depend on the details of how the bet is arranged.

I would contest that's the case insofar as you have to bet only on one side, if you gain / lose stakes from both positions, possibly the " rooting for one outcome over another, it makes the denouement of the bet about the relative status of the people in question" would be diminished?

if you gain / lose stakes from both positions

I don't understand. At resolution time the event will have a single outcome. That single event outcome will lead to a single bet outcome. You can have complicated payout schemes, but after netting the outcome will be a single fixed number.

On the betting market PredictIt you can by a contract for 38 cents that pays $1 if the Democratic party doesn't win the next U.S. presidential election. This seems like an amazingly good bet. (I have 1158 shares) Do others who follow U.S. politics agree that the chance of the Democrats not winning the election is well above 38%?

I think that it is worth mentioning that those are also the numbers extracted from Betfair, which has much higher volume, though is not available to Americans.

Is that bet actually available from small volume PredictIt? The bid-ask spread looks small, but are there hidden transaction costs? Why do the three "sell yes" numbers add up to more than $1?

The bet is available on PredictIT. The numbers don't always add to $1 (actually $2 on this market because of the independent) because of bid/ask spreads and because PredictIt's fees make it unprofitable to always push the market to this point.

The answer is not bid-ask spreads, as I said in my comment. The answer is probably substantial hidden fees. But your original post quoted 38% ignoring the fees. If you don't know the details of the bets, it's not surprising that you think that they are good opportunities.

The fee (I think) is you have to pay 10% of any profits you earn if you buy and then sell a contract. The bid-ask spreads change a lot.

I'd say the odds right now of either party winning are roughly 50-50.

I'd put the odds of a non-Democrat a bit higher, maybe 45%. Democrats are known to have a significant advantage in presidential elections due to the Blue Wall and higher turnout compared to midterms. On the other hand a party rarely wins 3 presidential terms in a row. Also, I think there's a fair chance of an economic downturn this year, which would I suspect would tend to benefit the Republicans as the party controlling the white house seems to get blamed for recessions.

known to have a significant advantage in presidential elections due to the Blue Wall and [...]

So far as I can make out, "Blue Wall" is just a slightly colourful way of saying "there are some states that have a solid Democratic majority", and doesn't indicate any advantage except in so far as being more popular is an advantage. In the only US presidential election of the last century (I didn't look further back) in which the outcome didn't match the popular vote, the Democrats won the popular vote and the Republicans won the election. (Very narrowly in both cases.)

In the only US presidential election of the last century (I didn't look further back) in which the outcome didn't match the popular vote, the Democrats won the popular vote and the Republicans won the election. (Very narrowly in both cases.)

The Blue Wall is considered to be a recent development, so looking at history doesn't really tell you much. It's something that has built up gradually but only really been a significant advantage for Democrats for maybe 2 presidential cycles. Basically the Republicans have to win a lot more swing states than Democrats. In 2012 Obama won 4% more of the electoral votes than Mitt Romney, but won 61% more electoral votes.

doesn't indicate any advantage except in so far as being more popular is an advantage.

If democrats were generically more popular it seems unlikely republicans would have large majorities in the House and Senate, control 31 state legislatures and 31 governorships, etc.

Consider that 1 major democratic party candidate isn't technically from the democratic party. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. You're taking the 'suckers bet'. Market makers are generally better informed than other participants. Unless you have private knowledge, or are gambler, it's probably not a good idea to make these kinds of bets.

I think my girlfriend needs psychiatric help - she has visual hallucinations and other symptoms I've promised to keep confidential. She doesn't want to see a psychiatrist, as she and her family attribute her symptoms to supernatual causes; they believe that the "spirits" she sees actually exist. (Another family member - not a blood relative - also has psychiatric symptoms that are being treated and managed.) I really don't want to go into further details because one time I promised not to tell my psychiatrist about her issues and then told him anyway and she freaked out when I admitted to telling him. (I admitted it because I can't lie for shit and suck at keeping secrets, but that's beside the point.)

Any advice? ("Break up with your girlfriend" will be ignored, unless you can convince me that it would be better for her if I left her.)

It's going to be hard on you and worse on her if you stay together and you can't respect her beliefs and behaviors. Best outcome is to have a confrontation and get her some help, second best is for her to reject you and your help directly enough for you to get out. Worst is to silently allow her to hurt herself and blame yourself about it.

Also, you should decide in advance what you'll put up with, and set some lines you won't cross. It's very easy for this to gradually get worse and worse and you'll feel trapped by previous acceptance.

Hack the system? Does she have spiritual guide you can convince that would convince her to seek professional help?

It seems that part of the problem might be that she is afraid of being judged crazy or the equivalent. Having someone talk to her about her being crazy (which is how she will probably perceive it) seems like it runs a risk of being counter-productive. I think so far I've only told you what you are implying or saying.

If I have that right, you might think about finding a story -- fictional or biographical -- written from the perspective of someone suffering from similar symptoms and who resolved it through treatment. If she identifies with the protagonist, it might create some willingness to listen to alternatives.

What kind of advice are you seeking? Advice about how to convince her to seek treatment? Advice about whether she needs treatment? I don't think you've given enough information to give any meaningful advice.

Advice on how to get her to seek treatment. Hopefully her Medicaid card arrives in the mail soon...

She thinks that she sees spirits, which are real. Thus, from her perspective, she doesn't have psychiatric problems.

You, by contrast, think that she is hallucinating.

What does she think you think about her troubles, if I might ask? Like, does she know that you think her "spirits" are just her brain misfiring, or did you tell her that you believe her?

If the first, its really hard to see how you are in a relationship. Like would you be cool with going out with someone who thinks that you think they are crazy, but doesn't mind you having that belief as long as you don't act on it? Surely that points to some problems in her mental model of you.

If the second, you are betraying her trust. You don't seem to have a problem with that, posting here, telling her shrink, etc, but its going to come up if you ever do actually try to do an intervention. After all, to get her to accept help you'll have to get her to believe that she needs it, and a precursor to that is informing her that you believe that she needs it. It seems like she'll be super upset about that last bit.

I've told her I don't believe in spirits, but I have also told her that I believe she's accurately reporting her experiences - that she really is "seeing" what she says she sees and not making up stories.

And yeah, our relationship is kind of shaky, although we've been together since August of 2014. I'm not willing to abandon her; I feel like she'd fall apart even further without me.

I'm not willing to abandon her; I feel like she'd fall apart even further without me.

You probably already know this, but that is not a healthy reason to stay together.

There's no way to ask the following without sounding kind of offensive, but I swear its relevant to proposing a solution

Do you pay for all her stuff?

Sorry, I realize I'm jumping way way way out to conclusions here. Its just, well, the vibe here reminds me eerily of a few others situations I've seen. That's too blunt of a way to put that, as well.

My question is much more "is she responsible", or "if spirits split humanity into grown-up-clan and screw-up-clan which would you/she end up in?" but I don't want to activate the "don't talk badly about the person I'm in a relationship" pattern, and I've found that making it a factual question helps some with that.

I think I see where this is heading... Well, she held down a job as a cashier for five years, but I talked her into quitting it and going back to community college. (Not very successfully, though, but I'm working on that.) I have a passive income, pre-tax, of $2100 a month. I give her $200 a week to replace the lost income from work while she goes to school. She also is the primary caregiver for her 7-year old niece with "special needs", which also takes up a lot of her time. (Other members of her household include her brother who has a heart condition and is on disability, her brother's girlfriend who has her own psychiatric issues related to being abused as a child, and her 92-year-old grandmother.) On top of everything else, she has chronic back pain and Type II diabetes, both of which are going untreated for lack of health insurance. She also shows symptoms of what might be bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder, but not being a psychiatrist I'm not qualified to make a diagnosis. (These aren't the symptoms I'm not allowed to talk about, though.) She used to self-harm but hasn't for many years.

So yeah, I'm fully prepared to admit that she's a screw-up and I might be enabling her, but I really think I've helped her get better. Specifically, I've gotten her to go to the dentist for the first time in many years (her family paid), I got her to go back to school, I've helped her apply for Medicaid and it seems like she'll actually get it this time, and I've helped her with self-image and self-esteem issues. I often feel like what she needs is a parent, but hers are dead and her family wasn't and isn't up to the task, so I'm doing the best I can.

Alright, so, with more background acquired I'm ready to try and propose a solution. Hope it helps.

You got right to what I was thinking when you mentioned that your relationship is more parent/child than two adults. Cross clan relationships between grownups and screwups always feel a bit skeevy, because can he/she really consent when the alternative is to starve? Its much more palatable to think of the whole thing as a strange version of parent/child.

If we do that, your dilemma is one that has been shared across the ages. How do I make my kid clean his room? Middle ages, folks would say to grab the belt. Recently, folks would say you need to negotiate, but screwup clan wouldn't be screwup clan if they could trust their future selves to follow through on current commitments.

I'd recommend that you basically kink the feeding tube. Somehow, the situation has come about where you are paying her to go to college. That's leverage. Give her carrot/stick of if she goes along with you you'll pay for her psychiatry, if she balks you'll stop paying for her college. It's such a massive hassle to rearrange her entire life that she'll probably take this deal. (If paying for her psychiatry isn't in your budget then this whole thing is a non starter, since its not like she's going to be able to pay for it.)

A word of caution: In a relationship between grownup and screwup it is nearly always the grownup who gives way whenever there is a dispute. You'd expect the opposite, but I've seen it over and over. The general reason is that the powerless party would have to recognize the truth of the situation if they ever backed down, while the person in the stronger situation can magnanimously give way.

Example: I want to go to bridge club. My kid wants to go to karate class. If I back down, I sleep just fine that night. I made the choice to give in and go to karate instead of bridge. If I don't, they have to look at their life and face the fact that they just got dictated to. It's sobering.

Ergo, the near constant result of grownup clan putting its foot down is some kind of self hostage taking. "You know I have a temper", etc. Remain steadfast, because if you give in this time it'll just teach them that you'll give in the next time.

I'm not paying her tuition; her brother is (with financial aid). Most of the money I give goes to food. Also, I'm living at her house and sleeping in her bed, and I really don't want her to make me go back to my parents' house where my wheelchair-bound mother will drive me crazy. That gives her leverage, too. (And I'm barely not a screw-up myself...)

Did you find any of the advice from last time productive or counterproductive? That'll help adjust advice you receive this time.

Since that time, I have become aware that her symptoms are worse than I had described. Again, I am not at liberty to discuss them.

Do you think hes symptoms worsened or do you think you have just become more aware of symptoms?

I have become aware of symptoms that she has had since before she met me but did not reveal because, well, she was afraid people would think she was crazy or lying if she told people about it.

Maybe you could bring to her attention laws about what clinicians have to do by law in certain circumstances. If she knows the boundaries of what it's safe to say without them being compelled to act on her 'craziness' or 'lying' that might give her confidence to talk to someone. That was a big thing for me. Also, she might seek help on her own or if there is an emergency be coerced into it anyway.

If she is distressed by the symptoms, you could encourage her to contact someone that can educate her about treatment options. There may be a mental health advice line in your area that can refer her or you to free or low cost resources.

That strategy has a good chance of discouraging her from getting treatment later. Getting her to call a mental health advice line that she doesn't trust likely won't be positive.

That strategy has a good chance of discouraging her from getting treatment later.

Why do you say that? Also, if she is distressed, then she may want treatment now.

Getting her to call a mental health advice line that she doesn't trust likely won't be positive.

Granted, but why won't she trust the mental health advice line? If she is distressed, she may be willing to consider help from new sources.

If she is not distressed, then CronoDAS can use the mental health advice line to get educated on the options in case she does become distressed.

Granted, but why won't she trust the mental health advice line?

Basically because there's a high likelihood that the operator on the other side doesn't believe that the spirits she sees exist and suggest she's wrong for believing they exist.

then she may want treatment now.

If that would be the case CronoDAS wouldn't have the problem he has.

Often helpline workers are people who formerly needed mental health advice themselves. At least, they'll have training on how to be helpful. I think it's very likely they'll be supportive, and unlikely that they'll be judgmental.

However, this is from a US perspective. Things may be different in other parts of the world.

Are you concerned about the hallucinations or about the other symptoms? If the former, are you concerned about the hallucinations in themselves, or are you afraid that they are a sign of future problems?

Hallucinations are endemic. They just aren't a big deal.

I agree: as long as the "spirits" aren't telling her to harm herself or others, they're no big deal. You said she might have bipolar disorder - depression and mania are both pretty big deals, so maybe you could ask her to seek treatment for depression. There's less stigma about depression, so she might be more receptive.

The peril of ignoring emotions

Psychiatric insight into psychotic disorders tends to increase depression. Is her hallucinations episodic or persistent? Early intervention can reduce disability over the longer term. I'd recommend it if she's also delusional.

Building story, seeking comments

I'm most of the way done putting together a design-doc for a story, and could use some feedback to help make sure no idiot balls are being held. Please feel free to go over what I've pinned down so far, and to comment there or here.

What do you consider the most interesting clinical trials that are currently running? Personally interesting to me because it involves a treatment that is manufactured using our reagents, but also generally interesting to see progress made in treating brain damage.

I just got the weirdest piece of direct messaging spam from a 0 karma account:

Hi good day. My boss is interested on donating to MIRI's project and he is wondering if he could send money through you and you donate to miri through your company and thus accelertaing the value created. He wants to use "match donations" as a way of donating thats why he is looking for people in companies like you. I want to discuss more about this so if you could see this message please give me a reply. Thank you!

I'm not sure exactly what the scam is in the above, but the plan on the face is so ridiculous that it has to be one (p=95). Is anyone else receiving these, or is it just me since I'm a well know MIRI funder?

Likely a scam whereby he transfers money and then tells you to transfer some money back to him. Afterwards the first transaction get's flagged as fraud and you lose the money from the first transaction.

Thank you for the explanation! I posted a warning in a separate article. (Ironically, the second private message mentioned in the article was sent to my account.)

Is anyone else receiving these, or is it just me since I'm a well know MIRI funder?

Have you received a private message on LW offering to donate to someone "through you"? [pollid:1125]

If you answered "yes", feel free to give more info in a comment.

I voted no, but I've now received exactly the same message, from /u/observer1.

I wonder, if the account is banned, does it also prevent them from sending private messages, or merely from posting on the forum (which they don't do anyway).

Also, could everyone who voted "yes" please confirm whether it was the same account, or whether there are multiple scammer accounts?

That's the account that I got the spam from AND they just messaged me again.

I haven't reviewed the slack posts recently; I wanted to briefly say that there are 250 people who have joined now. They are not all active; but still it's going strong.

Seen on MR: the Conspira-Sea Cruise, through the eyes of a skeptical journalist. (It's exactly what it sounds like: a 7-day cruise for believers in conspiracy theories.)

More broadly, these theories reflect something that runs throughout the conference: a total lack of filters. No one seems to have ever asked, “Are these things actually true?” I have yet to hear anyone, at any session, ask a question even remotely like that. “How do you know?” “Have you tested these ideas?” “Why isn’t the research backing us up?” And the answers, which would come as a matter of course in a mainstream conference, are firewalled away by the guru status of the presenters. They’re invited experts, they must be right.

“The idea that you will die is a conspiracy.”

That's certainly the most eye-catching phrase I've seen all week.

Also, page 2 gets serious fast.

Yeah, Pseudo-law is a real thing, not just Arrested Development shenanigans. More folks should be alert for that. / is one of my favorites. I'm a little surprised that they don't name it - I guess they haven't run into it enough before to know it's a specific movement and that stuff like the flag & 'admiralty courts' and 'chattel' are not unique to those particular speakers.

What are your favorite recent (2011-present) Science Fiction novels?

Thanks for making the question plural :) I'll second the vote for Worm. And add the recently-mentioned-here novel Crystal Society, which I'm only partly done with, and can say it's worthwhile even if it goes to crap from here. Favorite recent mainstream scifi is Among Others.

Ancillary Justice (Anne Leckie) <the sequels aren't very good though>

The Long Earth (Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter)

The Martian was a page-turner for sure but I think it actually worked better as a movie.

This is tough, I just realized how many of my favorite books I read in the last 5 years were actually written in either the early 2000s or the 1930s.

At the end of last year there were a lot of news articles about like this about Metformin as the first anti-aging drug trial. I can't find the exact trial on Can you?


I found it by simply searching for "metformin aging" (which was not the first search I tried). This says that the two names are the same study.

Lemire is wrong. TAME and MILES are different. MILES is intended to just examine short-term responses (look at the registered endpoints: "Primary: Gene expression. (changes in gene expression in muscle and adipose tissue with RNA Sequencing (RNA-Seq) [ Time Frame: 12 weeks treatment ]"); TAME is intended to be a long-term 5+-year study looking for reduction in cancer and heart disease. is MILES, and TAME is AFAIK not yet registered on because they were working on approval & funding first and have not yet published a draft protocol or begun recruiting. (When I was trying to do a power analysis for TAME, I went looking, but all I found was some media mentions which suggest that a protocol has been developed as part of the application process, as one would expect, but that it's nowhere publicly available.)

Yeah, I confused the cheap talk of accepting targeting aging with the FDA accepting aging as a potential indication.

To people interested in status and long-term relationships: here, have fun :-)

Seems like there's something odd/interesting going on since lots of the various professions are paired up with Truck Drivers.

My guess would be that there are a lot of truck drivers and it's a very male-leaning job, so I'd expect to see it paired up with a lot of female-leaning jobs of about the same class.

The detection came during their initial testing of the upgraded facility before the real data run even began. The timing combined with a bit of the wording in the paper itself suggests they may be detecting events of a similar scale at a somewhat frequent basis and that more papers will be forthcoming!

Seeking socio-econo-political organizing methods

How many useful ways are there for an uploaded mind, an em, to organize copies of itself to maximize the accuracy of their final predictions?

The few that I've been able to think of:

  • "Strict hierarchy". DPR.2.1 can advise DPR.2, but DPR.2's decision overrides DPR.2.1's.
  • "One em, one vote". DPR.2 gets a vote, and so does DPR.2.
  • "One subjective year, one vote". DPR.2.1 is running twice as fast as DPR.2, and so DPR.2.1 gets twice as many votes.
  • "Prediction market". The DPRs implement some sort of internal currency (which, thanks to blockchains, is fairly easy), and make bets, receiving rewards for accurate predictions.
  • "Human swarm". Based on .

How many reasonably plausible methods am I missing?