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Stuart Russell contributes a response to the Edge.org article from earlier this month.

Of Myths And Moonshine

"We switched everything off and went home. That night, there was very little doubt in my mind that the world was headed for grief."

So wrote Leo Szilard, describing the events of March 3, 1939, when he demonstrated a neutron-induced uranium fission reaction. According to the historian Richard Rhodes, Szilard had the idea for a neutron-induced chain reaction on September 12, 1933, while crossing the road next to Russell Square in London. The previous day, Ernest Rutherford, a world authority on radioactivity, had given a "warning…to those who seek a source of power in the transmutation of atoms – such expectations are the merest moonshine."

Thus, the gap between authoritative statements of technological impossibility and the "miracle of understanding" (to borrow a phrase from Nathan Myhrvold) that renders the impossible possible may sometimes be measured not in centuries, as Rod Brooks suggests, but in hours.

None of this proves that AI, or gray goo, or strangelets, will be the end of the world. But there is no need for a proof, just a convincing a

... (read more)
6artemium9y
Finally some common sense. I was seriously disappointed in statements made by people I usually admire (Pinker, Schremer). It just shows how much we still have to go in communicating AI risk to the general public when even the smartest intellectuals dismiss this idea before any rational analysis. I'm really looking forward to Elon Musk's comment.
1Brillyant9y
ELI5... * Why can't we program hard stops into AI, where it is required to pause and ask for further instruction? * Why is "spontaneous emergence of consciousness and evil intent" not a risk?
8Viliam_Bur9y
If the AI is aware of the pauses, it can try to eliminate them (if the pauses are triggered by a circumstance X, it can find a clever way to technically avoid X), or to make itself receive the "instruction" it wants to receive (e.g. by threating or hypnotising a human, or by doing something that technically counts as human input).
-3Brillyant9y
I see. This is the gist of the AI Box experiment, no?
4Viliam_Bur9y
The important aspect is that there are many different things the AI could try. (Maybe including those that can't be "ELI5". It is supposed to have superhuman intelligence.) Focusing on specific things is missing the point. As a metaphor, imagine that a group of retarded people is trying to imprison MacGyver in a garden shed. Later MacGyver creates an explosive from his chewing gum, destroys a wall, and leaves. The moral of this story is not: "To imprison MacGyver reliably, you must take all the chewing gum from him." The moral is: "If you are retarded, and your enemy is MacGyver, you almost certainly cannot imprison him in the garden shed." If you get this concept, then similar debates will feel like: "Let's suppose we make really really sure he has no chewing gum. We will even check his shoes, although, realistically, no one keeps chewing gum in their shoes. But we will be extra careful, and will check his shoes anyway. What could possibly go wrong?"
2wedrifid9y
No. Bribes and rational persuasion are fair game too.
1[anonymous]9y
Because instructions are words, and "ask for instructions" implies an ability to understand and a desire to follow. The desire to follow instructions according to their givers' intentions is more-or-less a restatement of the Hard Problem of FAI itself: how do we formally specify a utility function that converges to our own in the limit of increasing optimization power and autonomy?
-3TheAncientGeek9y
If you are worrying about the dangers of human level or greater AI, you are tacitly taking the problem of natural language interpretation to have been solved, so the above is an appeal to Mysterious Selective Stupidity.
1[anonymous]9y
No, I am not. Just because an AGI can solve the natural-language interpretation problem does not mean the natural-language interpretation problem was solved separately from the AGI problem, in terms of narrow NLP models. In fact, more or less the entire point of AGI is to have a single piece of software to which we can feed any and all learning problems without having to figure out how to model them formally ourselves.
0TheAncientGeek9y
In responding to Brilliant, you were tacitly assuming that the AI has been given instructions in some higher level language that is subject to differing interpretations, and is not therefore just machine code, which US tacitly assuming it has already got .NL abilities. Yes, it would probably need a motivation to interest such sentences correctly. But that us an easier problem to solve than coding un the whole of human value. An AI would need to understand human value in order to understand NL, but would not need to be preloaded with all human value, since discovering it would be a subsidiary goal of interpreting NL correctly. And interpreting instructions correctly is a subgoal of getting things in general right. Building AIs that are epistemic rationalists could be a further simplification of the problem of AI safety. Epistemic rationality is difficult for humans because humans are evolutionary hacks whose goals are spreading their genes, achieving status, etc.It may be excessively anthropomorphic to assume human levels of deviousness in AIs.
1[anonymous]9y
No, I'm insisting that no realistic AGI at all is a Magic Genie which can be instructed in high-level English. If it were, all I would have to say is, "Do what I mean!" and Bob's your uncle. But since that cannot happen without solving Natural Language Processing as a separate problem before constructing an AGI, the AGI agent has a utility function coded as program code in a programming language -- which makes desirable behavior quite improbable. Again: knowing is quite different from caring. What we could do in this domain is solve natural-language learning and processing separately from AGI, and then couple that to a well-worked-out infrastructure of normative uncertainty, and then, after making absolutely sure that the AI's concept-learning via the hard-wired natural-language processing library matches the way human minds represent concepts computationally, use a large corpus of natural-language text to try to teach the AI what sort of things human beings want. Unfortunately, this approach rarely works with actual humans, since our concept machinery is horrifically prone to non-natural hypotheses about value, to the point that most of the human race refuses as a matter of principle to consider ethical naturalism a coherent meta-ethical stance, let alone the correct one. We have some idea of a safe goal function for the AGI (it's essentially a longer-winded version of "Do what I mean, but taking the interests of all into account equally, and considering what I really mean even under reflection as more knowledge and intelligence are added"), the question is how to actually program that. Which is actually an instance of the more general problem: how do we program goals for intelligent agents in terms of any real-world concepts about which there might be incomplete or unformalized knowledge? Without solving that we can basically only build reinforcement learners. The whole cognitive-scientific lens towards problems is to treat them as learning and inference prob
0TheAncientGeek9y
I was actually agreeing with you that NLP needs to be solved separately if you want to instruct it in English. The rhetoric about magic isn't helpful. I don't see why that would follow, and in fact I argued against it. I know. That's not what I was saying. I was saying an AI with a motivation to understand .NL correctly would research whatever human value was relevant. That's kind of what I was saying. Non sequitur. In general, what is an instrumental goal will vary with final goals, and epistemic rationality is a matter of final goals. Omohundran drives are unusual in not having the property of varying with final goals.

I've been trying to decide whether or not to pursue an opportunity to spread rationalist memes to an audience that wouldn't ordinarily be exposed to them. I happen to be friends with the CEO and editor of an online magazine/community blog that caters to queer women, and I'm reasonably confident that with the right pitch I could convince them to let me do a column dedicated to rationality as it relates to the specific interests of queer women. I think there might be value in tailoring rationality material for specific demographics.

The issue is that, in order to make it relevant to the website and the demographic, I would need to talk about politics while trying to teach rationality, which seems highly risky. As one might imagine from the demographic, the website and associated community is heavily influenced by social justice memes, many of which I wholeheartedly endorse and many others of which I'm highly critical of. The strategy I've been formulating to avoid getting everybody mindkilled is to talk about the ways biases contibute to sexisim and homophobia, and then also talk about how those same bias can manifest in feminist/social justice ideas, while emphasising to death how i... (read more)

There a good strategy against publishing something stupid: Peer review before publication.

Something that's missing from a lot of social justice talk is quoting cognitive science papers. Talking about actual experiments and what the audience can learn from them could make people care more about empiricism.

4NikiT9y
I was planning to have one of my friends from the community around that website test read the articles for me, though I might also benefit from having a rationalist test read them, if anybody wants to volunteer. Discussing cognitive science experiments is part of the plan. I actually performed a version of the 2-4-6 experiment on a group of people associated with the website (while dressed as a court jester!(it was during a renaissance fair)) and as predicted only 20% of them got it right. I think knowing that members of their own ingroup are just as susceptible to bias as faceless experimental subjects will help get the point across.
2ChristianKl9y
I volunteer for giving you feedback on a few articles.

Suddenly, I know the relative sizes of the planets!

HT Andrew Gelman.

ETA: Pluto isn't in the picture, but it would be a coriander seed, half the diameter of Mercury. For the Sun, imagine a spherical elephant.

5philh9y
The radius of the sun is only about ten times the radius of jupiter. I feel like a spherical elephant has considerably more than ten times the radius of a watermelon. ...is what I was about to say until I did research, and apparently it's pretty accurate. A watermelon can exceed 60cm diameter, and wolfram alpha gives an elephant's length between 5.4 and 7.5 metres.
4Brillyant9y
That's either one huge grapefruit...or one tiny watermelon.

I've long been convinced that donating all the income I can is the morally right thing to do. However, so far this has only taken the form of reduced consumption to save for donations down the road. Now that I have a level of savings I feel comfortable with and expect to start making more money next year, I no longer feel I have any excuse; I aim to start donating by the end of this year.

I’m increasingly convinced that existential risk reduction carries the largest expected value; however, I don’t feel like I have a good sense of where my donations would have the greatest impact. From what I have read, I am leaning towards movement building as the best instrumental goal, but I am far from sure. I’ll also mention that at this point I’m a bit skeptical that human ethics can be solved and then programmed into an FAI, but I also may be misunderstanding MIRI’s approach. I would hope that by increasing the focus on the existential risks of AI in elite/academic circles, more researchers could eventually begin pursuing a variety of possibilities for reducing AI risk.

At this point, I am primarily considering donating to FHI, CSER, MIRI or FLI, since they are ER focused. However, I am open to alternatives. What are others’ thoughts? Thanks a lot for the advice.

3Gurkenglas9y
An upper bound on the loss incured by waiting another year before you donate your savings to an organization is the interest they would have to pay on a loan of your saving's size in that time. If you estimate the chance that you will regret your choice of donation target in a year highly enough, that means waiting may be prudent. Just a thought. (The cost might be increased by their reduced capacity for planning with the budget provided by you in mind; but with enough people acting like you, the impact of this factor should disappear in the law of large numbers)
4Torgo9y
Certainly that is an important point to consider. I could always place funds in a donor advised fund for now. However, if an organization that I donated to thought the funds would be best spent later, they could invest the funds. Considering this, my current thinking is that I should donate to an organization if they share the goal of reducing existential risk and I think they would be better at deciding on the best course of action than I would. Considering I am not currently an expert in areas which would prove useful to reducing existential risk, I'm leaning towards donating. Does this seem like a sensible course of action?
3jefftk9y
In practice, charities don't really invest excess money or take out loans to spend money sooner. I'm not sure why. Possible explanations: * No one will lend much to charities, because they don't have much collateral and their income expectations are so uncertain. Or this leads to very high interest rates. * Investing money instead of spending it looks bad and is visible externally through things like the US Form 990. * You're required to spend at least X% of the money that comes in each year. * If you take a loan, having already spent the money makes it harder to fundraise. People want to pay for things to happen. * Investing extra money signals that you don't have room for more funding and so should get less money in the future. Regardless, if you're thinking that your decision doesn't matter because the recipient can just do X or Y, and it turns out X and Y aren't really options for them, then your decision does still matter.
0[anonymous]9y
So I pressed the icon that looked like "Delete" and it just struck the text through. Great.
1jefftk9y
If you think general EA movement building is what makes the most sense currently, then funding the Centre for Effective Altruism (the people who run GWWC and 80k) is probably best. If you think X-risk specific movement building is better, then CSER and FLI seem like they make the most sense to me: they're both very new, and spreading the ideas into new communities is very valuable. (And congratulations on getting to where you're ready to start donating!)
0Torgo9y
Thanks. At this point, I'm leaning towards CSER. Do you happen to know how it compares to other X-risk organizations in terms of room for more funding?
1jefftk9y
I don't know, sorry! Without someone like GiveWell looking into these groups individuals need to be doing a lot of research on their own. Write to them and ask? And then share back what you learn? (Lack of vetting and the general difficulty of evaluating X-risk charities is part of why I'm currently not giving to any.)

This week's writing lesson: If your motivation for writing is almost entirely internal, then you should write what you enjoy writing, not what you think you should write.

(I lost a few days' worth of productivity getting that one knocked into my skull, though hopefully I'm back to snuff.)

A song about self-awareness:

Yielding to Temptation by Mark Mandel, to the tune of Bin There, Dun That by Cat Faber

Something called me from the bookcase
and I answered quick and dumb
And I guess I'd still be reading there
if rescue hadn't come.
Well, I must have jumped six inches
and I answered "Coming, dear!"
Now the sf's in the basement
and it doesn't call so clear.

Chorus: 'Cause I've bin there, dun that,
learned what I should know.
Had the hours* go like nothing
and had nothing good to show.
Yes, I've bin there, dun that,
learned to recognize
When I'm yielding to temptation
by the haze behind my eyes.

  • changes with each chorus

I was filling up the ice cube tray
last night at half past ten
When I heard a voice entreating
"Won't you dance with me again?"
It's the caramel fudge ripple,
sweet as love and thick as sin.
I'm not dumb, I'm not expAndable,
and I'm not digging in!

Chorus: 'Cause I've bin there, dun that,
learned what I should know.
Had the calories* go like nothing
and had nothing good to show.
Yes, I've bin there, dun that,
learned to recognize
When I'm yielding to temptation
by the haze behind my eyes.

As I stroll around the dealers' room
I'm only there to look.
No, I d

... (read more)

Has anyone been prompted to study or read anything thanks to MIRI's new research guide?

Development aid is really hard.

A project that works well in one place or for a little while may not scale. Focus on administrative costs may make charities less competent.

Nonetheless, some useful help does happen, it's just important to not chase after the Big Ideas.

[-][anonymous]9y14

One of the charities mentioned in the article, Deworm the World, is actually a Givewell top charity, due to "the strong evidence for deworming having lasting impact on childhood development". The article, on the other hand, claims that the evidence is weak, citing three studies in the British Medical Journal, which Givewell doesn't appear to mention in their review of the effectiveness of deworming.

Givewell's review of deworming

Might be worth looking into more.

4NancyLebovitz9y
Something that should have occurred to me-- the deworming experiment was done in the late 90s, which means that the effect on lifetime income is an estimate.

What does your inner Quirrellmort tell you?

Has your internal model of the most competent person you can imagine ever given you an insight you wouldn't have thought of with more traditional methods?

Do you have more than one such useful sub-personality?

Does your main mode of thinking bring anything to the table that your useful mental models of others don't? If so, what?

4MathiasZaman9y
He mostly tells me to kill annoying people. No, but I'm working on them. I've found my inner Hufflepuff to be particularly helpful in actually getting things done. Incidentally, is there a name for the "sub-personality technique?"
6DataPacRat9y
'Deliberately induced dissociative identity disorder'? 'Cultivation of tulpas'? 'Acting'?
8somnicule9y
Internal Family Systems is the analogous therapy technique, I think.
7[anonymous]9y
What would Jesus do?
6Richard_Kennaway9y
Adopting a hero. Short Duration Personal Saviour. Method acting.
0Vulture9y
This already refers to a similar, but much dicier, technique.
3Sjcs9y
I unfortunately haven't developed a quirrellmort yet (the concept is on my to-do list though, along with a number of other personifications). I do have two loose internal models though, for very specific tasks. The first is called "The Alien" or just "Alien". I created it in my mid-teens after reading the last samurai (not the movie), although my use of The Alien is not the same as the book's. The Alien is the voice in my head that says the pointlessly stupid or cruel things (generally about people) for no reason other than being able to. They aren't things I actually believe or feel, so I just tell The Alien to shut up. By doing this, I can create a divide between myself and these thoughts, not feel guilty about them occuring, and more quickly put them out of my mind. The second I created very recently based off this thread. It is for the prevention of ego depletion when it comes to either starting big tasks or taking care of long lists of little tasks. Rather than think "Ok time to (make myself) do this" I defer the choice to an internal, slightly more rational model of myself that doesn't suffer from decision fatigue. The outcome is very predictable ("Do the goddarn task already"), but does seem to work very well for me. It's still quite new, and I probably don't use it as much as I should. I have plans to make a number of other internal models to create an internal 'parliment' that can discuss and debate major decisions, or act on their own for specific required benefits. Other models that might be included include a cynic/pessimist (to help me be more pessimistic in my planning), an altruist (to consider if my actions are actually beneficial), a highly motivated being (to help renew my resolve), and some kind of quirrellmort. These are probably very liable to change as I try to implement them.
0RowanE9y
I've often considered producing such a personality, after observing a previous LW discussion about tulpas, but never even got past the stage of which character to use - I don't know who the "most competent person I can imagine" would be.
-5maxikov9y

I have been playing the card game Hanabi one hell of a lot recently, and I strongly recommend it to the LW community.

Hanabi is an abstract, cooperative game with limited information. And it's practically a tutorial in rational thinking in a group. Extrapolating unstated facts from other players' belief states is essential: "X did something that doesn't make sense given what I know; what is it that X knows but I don't, under which that action makes sense?" So, for that matter, is a consequentialist view of communication: "If I tell X the fact... (read more)

0MrMind9y
Seconding too. I've played in very small groups (~3), and the game usually stabilizes into predictable strategies (1 discards, 2 gives information, 3 puts down, and after a while switch between 2 and 3). Larger groups are probably messier and funnier, but nonetheless, very instructive.
0drethelin9y
Seconding this recommendation.

From a comment on SSC:

Attempts to get the LW community to borrow some of the risk analysis tools that are used to make split second judgments in such communities effectively has been met with a crushing wall of failure and arrogance. Suggestion that LW-ers should take a simple training course at their local volunteer fire department so they can understand low probability high cost risk on an emotional level has been met with outright derision.

Does anyone close to CFAR know the specifics?

As someone who has taken the NIMS/ICS 100 course (online through FEMA), and gone to my local fire station and taken their equivalent of NIMS/ICS 100/200/70 -- I was not very impressed.

I can clearly see that there are valuable things in NIMS/ICS, and I can even believe that the movement which gave rise to the whole thing had valuable, interesting, and novel insights. But you're not going to get much of that by taking the course. It's got about one important concept -- which basically boils down to "it's good for different agencies to cooperate effectively, and here's one structure under which that empirically seems to happen well, therefore let's all use it" -- and the rest is a lot of details and terminology which are critically important to people actually working in said agencies, and mostly irrelevant otherwise.

EDIT: Boromir's big thing seems to be that HRO is about risk analysis, updating based on evidence, and dealing with low probabilities as mentioned in the excerpt. I can tell you that the basic ICS course covers exactly none of that. So I wonder what 'training course at the local volunteer fire department' he thinks we should all take. (I admit I have not taken the FEMA-official ICS 200 and 70 classes, which are online. But given the style of the 100 class, I cannot imagine them being dense with the kind of knowledge he thinks we should be gaining from them.)

6bogus9y
Interesting, though apparently this person made his suggestions to Salamon and Yudkowsky in person, not to the LW community itself - thus, his reference to "outright derision" is somewhat misleading. CFAR has indeed adopted some ideas that originally came from LW itself - the whole "goal factoring" theme of recent CFAR workshops seems to be a significant example.
4Nornagest9y
I'm not particularly close to the CFAR wing of that crowd, but: on the one hand, that sounds at least potentially valuable, and I'd look into it if I had anything more specific to go on than "a simple training course". (Poking around my local fire department's webpage turned up only something called "Community Emergency Response Training", which seems to consist of first aid, disaster prep, and basic firefighting -- too narrow and skill-based to be what Boromir's comment is talking about.) On the other hand, though, I don't think we're getting the full story here. The fact that Boromir devotes most of his comment to flogging the organization he's (judging from his username's link) either a member or a fanboy of, in particular, is a very bad sign.

An idea I've been toying with in my head, and discussed slightly at LW London yesterday: a sort of Snopes for "has person X professed opinion Y?"

Has Scott Alexander endorsed GamerGate? Did Eric Raymond say that hackers tend to be libertarian (or neoconservative, depending who you ask)? Did Eliezer say the singularity was too close to bother getting a degree?

I'll put further thoughts in replies to this comment.

I'd be wary of making a thing like that. Even ignoring the EU's bizarre "Right to be forgotten" law, people should be allowed to change their opinion, and such a website would incentivise consistency only. Not truth; consistency.

Are you sure that's what you want?

Mm, good point.

One of the things which inspired this idea was this thread: "okay, yes, it seems that Eliezer might well have said something like that, back in 2001". Eliezer already doesn't get to be forgotten. But if people are attacking him for things he said back in 2001, it seems like an improvement if we make it obvious that he said them back in 2001.

But for other people, I can see how this could be a bad thing to have. I'd like to be able to write "they said this in 2001, but in 2010 they said the opposite" and have people accept "okay, they changed their mind", but that doesn't seem entirely realistic.

I've updated from "probably good idea, unsure how valuable" to "possibly good idea, high variance".

0DanielLC9y
Ideally it would have "he said it", "he did not say it", and "he has since retracted it". As is, you could find where someone originally said something, and have no way of knowing if it has ever been retracted.
0NancyLebovitz9y
:My idea version of the wiki would include a history of the person's ideas. There still might be be problems with people (I'm thinking of Moldbug) whose ideas are hard to parse.
0Baughn9y
That wouldn't prevent selective quoting, and all the other typical human behaviour which would, still, incentivise consistency.
8philh9y
The answers to questions like this aren't necessarily "yes" or "no". But it could still be valuable to say things like "the source for this seems to be this article from 2004, in which he is quoted as saying ...." Or, "he was quoted as saying this in this article. He encouraged people to read the article, but years later, he said that that line was a misquote."
8bogus9y
That's pretty much how TakeOnIt works already.
2philh9y
That seems pretty similar to what I'm envisioning, but transposed. They want to look at positions, and ask "whose opinions on this position are notable?" where notability is based on whether they're likely to have a clue. I'm going for looking at people, and asking "which of this person's positions are notable?" where notability is based on (something like) whether people are talking about it being their position.
6bogus9y
That's just the default view. You can click on the name of any "expert" and bring up a nice report where all of their positions are listed and compared with other experts'. And "notability" is viewed quite generally anyway. As long as the person has something genuinely worthwhile to say, you can add their opinion on all sorts of stuff.
4ChristianKl9y
The fact that I recommend people to read an article in which I'm cited doesn't imply that I believe that the article is 100% factually correct. In general journalists do simply the positions of the people they quote. Depending on the context I might be okay with a slight alteration of my position in the article as long as the main points I want to make appear in the article. If the quote then gets lifted into another context, I might have a problem.
7[anonymous]9y
I assume you're talking about internet figures in the greater LW-memeplex. If so, I think this is a bad idea. Tidy reasons this may have low-to-moderate value: * It's already easy to find the public positions of an internet figure. * Reasons are more important than conclusions. Unless you think you can present the arguments better than the original source, you'll just end up simply linking to the original source, which is, again, easy to find. Messy reasons this might have negative value: * As a rule, no online community has ever suffered from a lack of introspection. I'm so very sick of hearing groups talk about themselves. In particular, talking about prominent group figures is extremely off-putting to newcomers. * It will become a source of emotional stress for those quoted. "Popular-online-writer" is a world apart from being a real public figure. Empirically, the latter handle third-party discussion of themselves poorly. * Realistically, this will not guard against drama involving the unfair attributions of positions. If somebody wants to pattern match so-and-so to a particular archetype, there's nothing you can do to stop them. * I love my favorite blogs, but gaining an audience is a quality-quantity game, with an emphasis on quantity. Why give particular attention to the conclusions of a figure who have been selected in this way?
5philh9y
I'm not intending it to be LW-focused at all (except perhaps by accident of userbase). Other public figures I recall seeing misrepresented include Eric S Raymond, Orson Scott Card and Larry Summers. I've read enough ESR that when RationalWiki says I know that the blog post in question suggests that they really did perform a ritual for that purpose, and that the ritual had a significant effect on the mental state of the participants, but ESR does not believe that the ritual was effective in summoning any kind of god. The blog post doesn't make that last part explicit, but if pressed I could find a slashdot comment where he does say so explicitly. I don't think it's easy to do this. (The RW line could be considered not-completely-false, because one can summon a god without the god answering. And it might even be honest, if the writer didn't understand where ESR was coming from. But to the extent that people read it and think that ESR believes that Ogun was successfully summoned, that line isn't true.) I'm also not interested in arguing over whether or not that ritual ever took place. I don't think anyone's particularly interested in that. I think some people are interested in making fun of ESR, and I'm interested in making it as easy as possible to debunk those people when they say things that aren't true. So I don't need to present ESR's arguments, I just want to say "no, you're misrepresenting his conclusions".
3Lumifer9y
The list of misrepresented public figures is the list of public figures.
6philh9y
There are a lot of true claims of the form "person X said thing Y". It would be a mistake to only include false claims, because then a claim which isn't listed may be considered true by default. But including every claim would make it impossible to find the one someone is interested in. I'm not sure what notability guidelines would look like.
5ChristianKl9y
As far as famous/notable people go, skeptics.stackexchange works perfectly well for those questions. In general however focusing on "he said, she said" is bad. I might argue I wide arrange of positions depending on the context. Sometimes I play devils advocate to make points. Focusing on actual content instead of focusing on what someone said in a single instance if often better.
3philh9y
I'm envisioning this as a mediawiki, where a given person will have a page, and that page lists claims about things they have said. Edit wars can hopefully be fixed by having a number of editors who know how to be impartial, and being trigger-happy on locking pages so that only they can edit. The talk page can be used for discussion, and for the person themselves to weigh in.
0Artaxerxes9y
I like this idea a lot. I honestly think it would be a useful resource, should it be well researched and accurate.
0Gunnar_Zarncke9y
What is your intention? If you hope to espouse truth then I doubt it helps. People have lots of opinions - many of them uninformed or guesswork. And such a site has the risk of additionally weighing the prominent voices too much. But assuming there is a sensible purpose then I think care must be taken to balance against prominence. User pages are prone to become hubs and mouthpieces of prominent people. Same for popular topics. I think wikipedias approach of mentioning popular backers for claims is a good balance. Maybe this could be realized as an add-on to existing sites like Wikipedia. "What did X say about Wikipediapage Y?"
4philh9y
I'm not hoping to espouse truth in general - I don't think this is a good way to give people correct opinions about, say, neoreaction. I'm hoping to espouse truth about what people actually think, and I'm hoping that this will help to quell bullshit rumours. So if someone starts a rumour that Eliezer is neoreactionary, someone else could add a section "Eliezer on neoreaction" saying things like: this rumour might be triggered by Eliezer's associations with Mike Anissimov and LW; Eliezer has never publicly endorsed neoreaction; in fact he has publicly disclaimed it in a comment on this article, and hasn't said much else on the subject. (A lot of this has the implied qualification "as far as the editor knows". I'm not sure how explicit this should be.) And then anyone who sees the rumour will have an easy way to find out whether or not it's true, instead of googling for "Eliezer Yudkowsky neoreaction" which by then could be a self-citing tumblr-storm, and will not show up anything by Eliezer on neoreaction because he hasn't actually said all that much about it.
8sixes_and_sevens9y
There's an unavoidable disconnect between "what people actually think" and "what people report about what they think". As a matter of good faith, I think people should be taken at their word and deed for what they say they think. Others disagree, and will ascribe all manner of beliefs to a person, regardless of that person's protestations. Eliezer might not say he's neoreactionary, but they can read between the lines. They can probably put together a plausible post-hoc justification for it as well. If someone's motivated enough to believe Eliezer is a neoreactionary, I don't think your site stops that. I don't think Eliezer getting a "Seriously, Fuck NRx" tattoo stops that. It just gives them a new venue to try and make their case.

There are also people who would believe that Eliezer is a neoreactionary if they were told it, but would also believe that Eliezer is not a neoreactionary if they were told that.

I guess I'm hoping that if this question comes up on a public forum, most people won't really know or care about Eliezer. The narrative in my head is along the lines of: someone says Eliezer is NRx, and someone else looks it up and says, no, Eliezer is not NRx, it says so right here. Then if the first person wants to convince anyone, their arguments become complicated and boring and nobody reads them.

This may be a naive question, which has a simple answer, but I haven't seen it. Please enlighten me.

I'm not clear on why an AI should have a utility function at all.

The computer I'm typing this on doesn't. It simply has input-output behavior. When I hit certain keys it reacts in certain, very complex ways, but it doesn't decide. It optimizes, but only when I specifically tell it to do so, and only on the parameters that I give it.

We tend to think of world-shaping GAI as an agent with it's own goals, which it seeks to implement. Why can't it be more like a... (read more)

9JStewart9y
This has been proposed before, and on LW is usually referred to as "Oracle AI". There's an entry for it on the LessWrong wiki, including some interesting links to various discussions of the idea. Eliezer has addressed it as well. See also Tool AI, from the discussions between Holden Karnofsky and LW.
1Capla9y
I was just reading though the Eliezer article. I'm not sure I understand. Is he saying that my computer actually does have goals? Isn't there a difference between simple cause and effect and an optimization process that aims at some specific state?
3Viliam_Bur9y
Maybe it would help to "taboo" the word "goal". A process can progress towards some end state even without having any representation of that state. Imagine a program that takes a positive number at the beginning, and at each step replaces the current number "x" with value "x/2 + 1/x". Regardless of the original number, the values will gradually move towards a constant. Can we say that this process has a "goal" or achieving the given number? It feels wrong to use this word here, because the constant is nowhere in the process, it just happens. Typically, when we speak about having a "goal" X, we mean that somewhere (e.g. in human brain, or in the company's mission statement) there is a representation of X, and then the reality is compared with X, various paths from here to X are evaluated, and then one of those paths is followed. I am saying this to make more obvious that there is a difference between "having a representation of X" and "progressing towards X". Humans typically create representations of their desired end states, and then try finding a way to achieve them. Your computer doesn't have this, and neither does "Tool AI" at the beginning. Whether it can create representations later, that depends on technical details, how specifically such "Tool AI" is programmed. Maybe there is a way to allow superhuman thinking even without creating representations corresponding to things normally perceived in our world. (For example AIXI.) But even in such case, there is a risk of having a pseudo-goal of the "x/2 + 1/x" kind, where the process progresses towards an outcome even without having a representation of it. AI can "escape from the box" even without having a representation of "box" and "escape", if there exists a way to escape from it.
0torekp9y
I don't get this explanation. Sure, a process can tend toward a certain result, without having an explicit representation of that result. But such tendencies often seem to be fragile. For example, a car engine homeostatically tends toward a certain idle speed. But take out one or all spark plugs, and the previously stable performance evaporates. Goals-as-we-know-them, by contrast, tend to be very robust. When a human being loses a leg, they will obtain a synthetic one, or use a wheelchair. That kind of robustness is part of what makes a very powerful agent scary, because it is intimately related to the agent's seeing many things as potential resources to use toward its ends.
7Wes_W9y
First, there's the political problem: if you can build agent AI and just choose not to, this doesn't help very much when someone else builds their UFAI (which they want to do, because agent AI is very powerful and therefore very useful). So you have to get everyone on board with the plan first. Also, having your superintelligent oracle makes it much easier for someone else to build an agent: just ask the oracle how. If you don't solve Friendliness, you have to solve the incentives instead, and "solve politics" doesn't look much easier than "solve metaethics." Second, the distinction between agents and oracles gets fuzzy when the AI is much smarter than you. Suppose you ask the AI how to reduce gun violence: it spits out a bunch of complex policy changes, which are hard for you to predict the effects of. But you implement them, and it turns out that they result in drastically reduced willingness to have children. The population plummets, and gun violence deaths do too. "Okay, how do I reduce per capita gun violence?", you ask. More complex policy changes; this time they result in increased pollution which disproportionately depopulates the demographics most likely to commit gun violence. "How do I reduce per capita gun violence without altering the size or demographic ratios of the population?" Its recommendations cause a worldwide collapse of the firearms manufacturing industry, and gun violence plummets, along with most metrics of human welfare. If you have to blindly implement policies you can't understand, you're not really much better off than letting the AI implement them directly. There are some things you can do to mitigate this, but ultimately the AI is smarter than you. If you could fully understand all its ideas, you wouldn't have needed to ask it. Does this sound familiar? It's the untrustworthy genie problem again. We need a trustworthy genie, one that will answer the questions we mean to ask, not just the questions we actually ask. So we need an orac
0gedymin9y
This is actually one of the standard counterarguments against the need for friendly AI, at least against the notion that is should be an agent / be capable of acting as an agent. I'll try to quickly summarize the counter-counter arguments Nick Bostrom gives in Superintelligence. (In the book, AI that is not agent at all is called tool AI. AI that is an agent but cannot act as one (has no executive power in the real world) is called oracle AI.) Some arguments have already been mentioned: * Tool AI or friendly AI without executive power cannot stop the world from building UFAI. Its abilities to prevent this and other existential risks are greatly diminished. It especially cannot guard us against the "unknown unknowns" (an oracle is not going to give answers to questions we are not asking.) * The decisions of an oracle or tool AI might look good, but actually be bad for us in ways we cannot recognize. There is also a possibility of what Bostrom calls mind crime. If a tool or oracle AI is not inherently friendly, it might simulate sentient minds in order to give the answers to the questions that we ask; kill or possibly even torture these minds. The possibility that these simulations have moral rights is low, but there can be trillions of them, so even a low probability cannot be ignored. Finally, it might be that the best strategy for a tool AI to give answer is to internally develop an agent-type AI that is capable of self-improvement. If the default outcome of creating a self-improving AI is doom, then the tool AI scenario might in fact be less safe.
0ChristianKl9y
If you use a spell checking engine while you are typing that likely has an utility function buried in it's code.

This is a disturbing talk from Schmidhuber (who worked with Hutter and one of the founders of Deep Mind at the Swiss AI lab).
I say disturbing because of the last minute where he basically says we should be thankful for being the stepping stone to the next step in an evolution towards a world ran by AI's.
This is the nonsense we see repeated almost everywhere (outside lesswrong) that we should be happy to have humanity supplanted by the more intelligent AI, and here it is coming from a pretty wellknown AI researcher... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQ35zNlyG-o

[-][anonymous]9y6

Today I read a post by Bryan Caplan aimed toward effective altruists:

Question: How hard would it be to set up a cost-effective charity to help sponsor the global poor for immigration to Argentina? Responses from GiveWell, the broader Effective Altruism community, and Argentina experts are especially welcome.

For context, Argentina essentially allows immigration by anybody who can get an employer to sponsor them.

9bramflakes9y
what could a faltering, medium-trust country like argentina need more than millions of poor, low-trust immigrants

It's a common framing, and so I don't intend to pick on you, but I think the key issue isn't levels of trust, but levels of trustworthiness. Yes, there can be feedback effects in both directions between trust and trustworthiness, but fundamentally, it is possible for people and institutions with high trustworthiness to thrive in an otherwise low-trust/trustworthiness society. Indeed, lacking competitors, they may find it particularly easy to do so, and through gradual growth and expansion, lead to a high-trust/trustworthiness society over time. It is not possible for people and institutions with high trust to thrive in an otherwise low-trust/trustworthiness society, as they will be taken advantage of.

You can't bootstrap a society to a high-trust equilibrium by encouraging people to trust more. You need to encourage them to keep their promises.

2[anonymous]9y
I think this line of thinking is productive. Other thoughts: For cooperative agents to thrive among non-cooperators, they must be able to identity other cooperators. Of course you can wait for the non-cooperators to identity themselves (via an act of non-cooperation in tit-for-tat, or a costly signal), but other agents are inevitably going to rely on other heuristics and information to predict the hidden strategies of others, and, when the agents are human, they will do this in a risk-averse way. Accordingly, a low-trust society (one in which no single entity is able or willing to enforce cooperative behavior over all individuals) is seldom homogeneously low-trust (or low trustworthiness), but rather a amalgamation of subgroups, each of which is relatively more trusting and trustworthy, but only within the subgroup. Because of the need to guess at the hidden strategies of others, these subgroups don't necessarily split the society into "levels of trustworthiness". The task of moving to a high trust/trustworthiness society becomes the task of getting cooperative subgroups to identity other potentially cooperative subgroups, and for those two subgroups to figure out a way to share the duty of enforcing cooperative behavior, or of allowing more true information about the cooperative behavior of individuals to flow between groups. Since evolution produces a special cooperation in close-kinship relations, the simplest artificial grounds for merging two previously uncooperative subgroups is to stretch the kinship relation as far as possible (as in clans, or any society where third- and fourth-cousin relationships are considered relevant). Some other examples related to this process: * The spread of shared religious identity (when this involves submitting to a punitive religious law). * Trade unions, cartels and guilds. * Language boundaries (which impede information about trustworthiness from flowing across groups). * Race, (as an amalgam of language, religion,

Anyone want to comment on a pilot episode of a podcast "Rationalists in Tech"? Please PM or email me. I'll ask for your feedback and suggestions for improvement on a 30-minute audio interview with a leading technologist from the LW community. This will allow me to plan an even better series of further interviews with senior professionals, consultants, founders, and executives in technology, mostly in software.

  • Discussion topics will include the relevance of CfAR-style techniques to the career and daily work of a tech professional; tips on

... (read more)

Many Interacting Worlds: Boffo or Bunk?

From my blogfeed: http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-many-interacting-worlds-hypothesis/ , which links to http://www.nature.com/news/a-quantum-world-arising-from-many-ordinary-ones-1.16213 , which links to http://journals.aps.org/prx/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevX.4.041013 .

Does anyone with a better understanding of Schrodinger's Equation(s) than I know if any of the above is worth paying attention to?

4MrMind9y
It's interesting, but I wouldn't be much concerned with models that "reproduce some generic quantum phoenomena". Thanks to categorical quantum mechanics, we already know that many finite toy models do that: heck, you can have quantum phoenomena in databases.
0Slider9y
I had a similar prompt for knowledge seeking in wanting to figure out how the math supports or doesn't support "converging worlds" or "mangled worlds". The notion of a converging world is also porbably of note worthy intuitive reference point in thought-space. You could have a system that is in a quantum indeterministic state each state have a different interaction so that the futures of the states are identical. At that point you can drop the distinguising of the worlds and just say that two worlds have become one. Now there is a possibility that a state left alone first splits and then converges or that it does both at the same time. There would be middle part that would not be being able to be "classified" which in these theories would be represented by two worlds in different configurations (and waves in more traditional models). Some times I have stumbled upon an argument that if many worlds creates extra worlds whether that forms as a kind of growing block ontology (such as the flat splitters in the sequence post). Well if the worlds also converge that could keep the amount of "ontology stuff" constant or able to vary in both directions. I stumbled upon that |psi(x)^2| was how you calculated the evolution of a quantum state which was like taking a second power and then essentailly taking a square root by only careing about the magnitude and not the phase of the complex value. For a double slit wtih L being left and R being R it resulted in P(L+R)^2= ^2+C+^2 (where C was either 1, 2 or sqr(2) don't remember and didn't understand which) . The squarings in the sum I found was claimed to be the classical equivalent of the two options. The interference fridges would be great and appear where the middle term was strong. I also that you could read as something like "obtain X if situation was/is y". Getting L when the particle went L is thus very ordinary and all. You can also note that the squaring have the same form as the evolution of a pure state. However I didn
0Viliam_Bur9y
I don't quite understand this topic, but maybe this could be useful: The problem with "converging / mangled worlds" is statistical. To make two worlds interact (and become the same world, or erase each other, depending on mutual orientation of their amplitudes), those worlds must have all their particles in the same position. In usual circumstances, this seems unlikely. Imagine the experiment with the cat, where in one world the cat is dead, and in other world the cat happily walks away. How likely is it that at some moment in the future, both universes will have all particles in the same positions? So, in usual circumstances two worlds interact only if a moment ago they were the same world, and the only difference was one particle going two different paths. (Yes, there are also all the other particles in the universe, also splitting all the time. But this happens the same way in both branches, so it cancels out.) My intuition is that this "single state" was never literally one point, but always a small interval (wave? hump?). An interval can break into two parts, and those can travel in different directions. There is no such thing as a single point in quantum physics. (Disclaimer: I don't really understand quantum physics; I am just interpreting the impression I got from looking at Eliezer's drawings. If you have better knowledge, feel free to ignore this.)
0Slider9y
What forces the worlds to be same in order to interact? You could also have merely adjacent worlds where the "collisions angle" could compensate for small differences. It is just a little harder to imagine how worlds of unrelated state would interact. Maybe dark energy is the sum total of gravity from other worlds? It's also that two worlds won't long stay singular, but branch all the time into subworlds. The probability of some of the pairwise worlds being close enough is higher. edit: Also there are settings where splitting doesn't mean lack of structure. For example in the mirror experiements the two paths will systematically intersect and this is a pretty stable result of the mirror positionings.
0[anonymous]9y
If something branches in a limited space, soon the branches will touch each other. The question is, how soon is "soon". If we imagine a real 3D tree in a 3D world, the branches will touch before dozen splits. But if the tree would be extremely large (a few kilometers) and the branches extremely tiny (a few milimeters), there could be more splits. If we imagine the history of the whole universe as a branching tree in a many-dimensional world, we have to realize there are many dimension (I guess approximately six dimensions for each particle: position and momentum), and compared with the size of the dimension, the branches are really tiny (take two random particles in the whole universe, what is their probability of hitting each other). So there is a lot of time for the tree to grow. Eventually, the branches will run out of space and start hitting each other all the time. But I think this will happen at the "heat death" of the universe. Then the branches will hit each other so much that the whole concept of time or even reality may become meaningless. But I think this is not happening now, yet. There is still a lot of space for the universe to grow without intersecting with other branches. This seems to me like a new hypothesis, outside of the quantum physics as we know it yet, not supported by experimental results. Maybe it is so; maybe it isn't. Without good evidence for it the prior probability seem small (there are many possible new hypotheses we could make to explain dark energy, this is just one of them, why should it be preferred to the alternatives).
0JoshuaZ9y
This doesn't seem to give a straightforward explanation for whether it could reproduce the expected Bell-type experiments, especially a CHSH experiment, and from a glance I don't see how they'll get that correct without forcing some sort of completely ad-hoc rule for how the universes interact.
0Manfred9y
Sure, it's doable. It may even be trivial - one can recast partial time derivatives of a wave function as total time derivatives of a distribution of particles with velocities. Unfortunately this seems doable an infinite number of ways, and in general probably isn't useful.

It's an appealing and easy enough hack that I'll plug my recent LessWrong discussion post Shop for Charity: how to earn proven charities 5% of your Amazon spending in commission. Especially now that Black Friday week has started on Amazon.

3tog9y
On the same topic, Gunnar_Zarncke recently started a LessWrong Financial Effectiveness Repository
1Drayin9y
That is a neat hack - who said there's no such thing as a free lunch?
3Sysice9y
This isn't necessarily- if you have to think about using that link as charity while shopping, it could decrease your likelihood of doing other charitable things (which is why you should set up a redirect so you don't have to think about it, and you always use it every time!)
2faul_sname9y
Amazon already does that for you -- if you go to buy something without using that link, it'll ask you if you want to.

Calico, the aging research company founded by Google, is hiring.

TLDR: Requesting articles/papers/books that feature detailed/explicit "how-to" sections for bio-feedback/visualization/mental training for improving performance (mostly mental, but perhaps cognitive as well)

Years ago I saw an interview with Michael Phelps' (Olympic swimmer) coach in which he claims that most Olympic-finalist caliber swimmers have nearly indistinguishable physical capabilities, Phelps' ability to focus and visualize success is what set him apart.

I also saw a program about free divers (staying underwater for minutes) who slow ... (read more)

4Sjcs9y
The book On Combat by Dave Grossman discusses some of these things. I haven't read it yet, but have read reviews and listened to a podcast by two people I consider highly evidence-based and reputable (here). In particular, the book discusses a method of physiologically lowering your heart rate he calls "Combat Breathing". This entails 4 phases, each for the durations of a count of 4 (no unit specified, I do approx 4 seconds): 1. Breathe in 2. Hold in 3. Breathe out 4. Hold out It sounds very simple, but I have heard multiple recommendations of it from both the armed-forces and medical worlds. I can also add a data point confirming it works well for me (mostly only for reducing heart rate to below 100, not all the way down to resting rate).
3Brillyant9y
I'm skeptical of this. No doubt it is relatively true that professional/elite athletes have similar physical capabilities, but even very small differences in athletic ability can be very consequential over the course of XXX meters in a swimming race or, say an entire season of football. We are talking about very small margins of victory in many (or most) cases.
0Torello9y
I agree that small physical differences can be very consequential--wouldn't small mental differences be similarly consequential? http://www.radiolab.org/story/91618-lying-to-ourselves/ This radiolab episode discusses how swimmers who engage in more self-deception win more frequently, controlling for other factors (i.e., self-deceivers on a division 3, 2, and 1 teams are more likely to beat their opponents, so at different levels of physical skill their mentality is predictive). I'm not sure what you're getting at here--that the victory of a particular person is attributable to noise because the margin of error is small?
0Brillyant9y
Great points. In Phelps' case, I think he is physically superior—though perhaps only slightly—compared to the competition. Same with Usain Bolt. I'd agree confidence, even to the extent it is self-deception, can make a significant difference when it comes to sports performance. However, when an athlete—like Phelps or Bolt—routinely wins over the course of several races spanning years, I think physical capability differences are the main reason. In team sports, or really any sport that requires more than just straight line speed, I think psychological difference are very important. But swimming and sprinting are largely physical contests. Unless you have problems with false starts, I'm not seeing where the mental edge figures in. (Obviously longer races that require endurance and pacing considerations are more prone to psychological influence.)
1ChristianKl9y
The first step of how to of biofeedback means getting a biofeedback device. Direct heart rate is no good goal. Doing biofeedback on heart rate variance is better. I'm not sure whether you want a bomb squad to have a heart rate that's lower than normal. Step-by-step instructions are not how you achieve the kind of results of Phelps or the bomb squat. Both are done through the guidance of coaches. To the extend that the main way I meditate has steps it has three: 1. Listen to the silence 2. Be still 3. Close your eyes. Among those (3) is obvious in meaning. (1) takes getting used to and is probably not accessible by mere reading. Understanding the meaning of (2) takes months.
0Torello9y
Thanks for your reply. Can you point me to any articles/sites about biofeedback devices? Have you done biofeedback yourself? Perhaps you're right about the bomb squad heart rate, maybe a moderately raised rate would be a proxy for optimal/peak arousal levels. However, I'd guess that a little too much calm is better than overwhelming panic, which would probably be a more typical reaction to approaching a bomb that's about to explode. I agree that a coach would be better, but a book is a more practical option at the moment. (this may sound snarky, but isn't) Did you learn meditation from a teacher, or from a step-by-step book? The steps you give seem are simple (not easy), and a good starting point. I think a meditation coach would help you flesh these out, but those kinds of precise instruction are what I'm looking for.
2ChristianKl9y
Yes, and people at LW are in generally very bad at simple. People here have the skills for dealing with complex intellectual subjects. The problem with "be still" is that it leaves you with question like: "4 minutes in the meditation I feel the desire to adjust my position, what do I do?" It doesn't give you a easy criteria to decide when moving to change your position violates "be still" and when it doesn't. Doing biofeedback is still on my todo list. My device knowledge might be 1-2 years out of date. Before that point the situation was that emWave2 and wilddivine were the good non-EGG based solutions. Good EGG based solutions are more expensive. See also a QS-forum article on neurofeedback. Even through the QS forum is very low in terms of posts, posting a question there on topics like this is still a good idea (Bias disclosure: I'm a mod at the QS-Forum). Among those two emWave2 basically only goes over heart rate variance (HRV) and WildDevine also measures skin conductance level (SCL) with is a proxy for the amount that you sweat. WildDevine also has a patent for doing biofeedback with HRV + SCL. emWave2 is with 149$ at the moment AFAIK the cheapest choice for a good device that comes with a good explanation of how to do training with it and that you can just use as is. I started with learning meditation from a book by Aikido master Koichi Tohei ten years ago. I have roughly three years of in person training. I also have NLP/Hypnosis training since that time. If I would switch out an emotional response of the bomb swat, then hypnosis is probably the tool of choice. With biofeedback I would see no reason for overcompensation. Switching out an emotional response via hypnosis on the other hand can lead to such effects. Hearing an alarm of an ambulance might also lower my heart rate ;) There are also safety issues. I don't like the idea of people messing themselves up and are faced with experiences that they can't handle because they don't have proper supervi

We're considering Meetup.com for the Tel Aviv LW group. (Also, the question was asked here.) It costs money, but we'd pay if it's worthwhile. I note that there are only 5 LessWrong groups at Meetup of which 2-3 are active. I'll appreciate feedback on the usefulness of Meetup.

Nice blog post about AI and existential risks by my friend and occasional LW poster. He was inspired by disappointingly bad debate on Edge.org. Feel free to share if you like it. I think it is a quite good introduction on Bostrom's and MIRI arguments.

"The problem is harder than it looks, we don’t know how to solve it, and if we don’t solve it we will go extinct."

http://nthlook.wordpress.com/2014/11/26/why-fear-ai/

1Viliam_Bur9y
Seems very good, but this is coming from a person familiar with the topic. I wonder how good it would seem to someone who hasn't heard about the topic yet.

I'm looking for an old post. Something about an extinct species of primate that may once have been nearly as smart as humans, but evolved over time to be much dumber, apparently because the energy costs of intelligence were maladaptive in its environment.

Can anyone point me in the right direction?

[-][anonymous]9y2

This site drains my energy. Too many topics seem interesting on the surface but are really just depressing and not actionable, with the big example being a bad singularity.

I have also found in my life that general, useful advice is rare. Most advice here seems either too vague or too specific to the poster. I did find at least one helpful book (by Scott Adams) and a couple of good posts, but think other sources could help at less cost. There are many smart people here, but if you look you can find something much more useful: smart people who have already achieved the particular goals you seek.

Bye.

[-][anonymous]9y2

The year is 1800. You want to reduce existential-risk. What do you do?

Are you a time-traveler or a native?

3[anonymous]9y
A native (but optionally a very insightful and visionary native). EDIT: I said native, but all that I really want to avoid is an answer like "I would use all my detailed 21-st century scientific knowledge to do something that a native couldn't possibly do".
7Lumifer9y
How about "I would use all my detailed 21-st century scientific knowledge to be concerned about something that a native couldn't possibly be concerned about"?
0[anonymous]9y
Sure, if it leads to an interesting point. For example, if you were trying to avoid suffering: "I would kill 12 year old Hitler" isn't very interesting, but "I would do BLAH to improve European relations" or "There's nothing I could do" are interesting.
2polymathwannabe9y
Did you mean 1800 or 1900?
5[anonymous]9y
I didn't mean that example to refer to original question; I just wanted to demonstrate a vague but somewhat intuitive difference between "fair" and "unfair" use of future knowledge.
6Lumifer9y
Well, being concerned about existential risk in 1800 probably means you were very much impressed by Thomas Malthus' An Essay on the Principle of Population (published in 1798) and were focused on population issues. Of course, if you were a proper Christian you wouldn't worry too much about X-risk anyway -- first, it's God's will, and second, God already promised an end to this whole life: the Judgement Day.
1Brillyant9y
Still true today.
5Lumifer9y
Sure, but the percentage of fully believing Christians was much higher in 1800.
0lmm9y
I give Napoleon a hand, on the basis that he was one of the more scientifically-minded world leaders, and the theory that a strong France makes our future more multipolar. For the same reason I try to spread the notion of the limited-liability corporation in the islamic world (no idea how to do that though). I might try to convince nations of the (AIUI genuine) non-profitability of colonialism.
4TimS9y
If you want multi-polar, Napoleon is the last person you should help. He was clearly acting to reduce the number of Great Powers to 1. He even succeed for a bit re: Prussia & Austria. Alternatively, if he wins, how do you prevent France v. USA instead of Russia v. USA.
0lmm9y
If it ends up more even and more positive-sum, I call that a win.
0TimS9y
Why would you expect any different outcome at all? Two-power dynamics often unstable - absent external stabilizer like MAD.
0Lumifer9y
You just have to keep the Canadian-Mexican border quiet :-)
0imuli9y
Start an insurance company with a focus on risk mitigation. (Amass resources, collect information, you get the idea.)
-1polymathwannabe9y
Vaccination for everyone! Aqueduct (AND toilets) for everyone! Make good publicity for Mr. Volta's new chemical battery, and convince everyone of how ugly the world is when tainted by coal smoke. This has a dual purpose: ease the way for early development of electric cars, thus fighting global warming, and delay Western meddling in the Middle East for oil extraction purposes, which contributed largely to the mess the region is now. Find Mr. Heinrich Marx at his law practice in Trier and quietly castrate him. Popularize DIY production of blue cheese and thus increase the chances that someone playing with Penicillium fungi will get creative. Recruit would-be Temperance Leagues and redirect their strength to strangle the tobacco industry in its crib. Edited to add: only massive distribution of aqueducts and toilets would be obvious to a true native of 1800.
5ChristianKl9y
Batteries still mean that you need electricity and that means burning coal.
3fubarobfusco9y
Uranium was discovered in 1789 in Saxony. What's the minimal technological path from there to reasonably-safe reactors? I would imagine it involves not only the obvious physics, but photography (to detect radiation) and significant advances in metallurgy (to refine ores) ....

Markus Ramikin's Semimonthly Dumb Question time. Since we seem to have both experts on physics and on editing wikipedia:

What do you think of the quality of the current Wikipedia article on heat death? Is it a fair treatment?

I keep seeing intelligent people talk about this concept like it's obviously useful and relevant, and to my layman mind it is, but the article sounds a little like it's basically bunk now, with the opening summary ending this way:

it has been recognized by a respected authority on thermodynamics, Max Planck, that the phrase 'entropy

... (read more)
8IlyaShpitser9y
There is no reason, other than happy cultural accident, for any given Wikipedia article on a technical topic to be good. Technical subjects I know something about are generally treated very poorly. Wikipedia has no incentives in place for experts to correct things, and for non-experts to shut up.
2Vulture9y
When did you get this impression? I'm only asking because I'm given to believe that the situation on wikipedia with regards to experts and specialized subjects has improved substantially starting in about 2008 or so(?), at least in the humanities but possibly in other fields.
9IlyaShpitser9y
This was in fact prior to 2008 (my advisor asked me to change something in the Bayesian network article, and I got into a slight edit war with the resident bridge troll who knew a lot less than me, but had more time and whose first reflex was to just blindly undo any edits. These sorts of issues with Wikipedia are very well documented). ---------------------------------------- The horrible article on confounders is another good example. I brought it up before here, and got the "that's like, your opinion" kind of reply. At least they cite Tyler's paper with me now! Of course, this particular case might be more widespread than just Wikipedia, and might be a general confusion in statistics as a field. I went to a talk last week where someone just got this wrong in their talk (and presumably in their research). ---------------------------------------- I don't doubt that there are isolated communities within Wikipedia that generate good content. For example, I know there are Wikipedia articles for some areas of mathematics of shockingly high quality. My point is, when this happens it is a sort of happy cultural accident that is happening in spite of, not because of, the Wikipedia editing model. ---------------------------------------- There has been quite a bit of experimentation online to incentivize experts to talk and non-experts to shut up, recently. I think that's great!
0[anonymous]9y
[deleted duplicate comment]
0satt9y
Wikipedia is more comprehensive now than in 2008, but I speculate that its average article quality might be lower, because of (1) competent editors being spread more thinly, and (2) the gradual entrenchment of a hierarchy of Wikipedia bureaucrats who compensate for a lack of expertise with pedantry and rules lawyering. (I may be being unfair here? I'm going by faint memories of articles I've read, and my mental stereotype of Wikipedia, which I haven't edited regularly in years.)
0Vulture9y
Average article quality is almost certainly going down, but the main driving force is probably mass-creation of stub articles about villages in Eastern Europe, plant genera, etc. Of course, editors are probably spread mpre thinly even among important topics as well. A lot of people seem to place the blame for any and all of Wikipedia's problems on bureaucracy, but as a regular editor such criticisms often seem foreign, like they're talking about a totally different website. True, there's a lot of formalities, but they're mostly invisible, and a reasonably intelligent person can probably pick up the important customs quite quickly. In the past 6 months of relatively regular editing, I can't say I remember ever interacting involuntarily with any kind of bureaucratic process or individual (I occasionally putter around the deletion nominations for fun, but that's just to satisfy my need for conflict). Writing an article (for example), especially if it's any good, is virtually never going to get you ensnared in some kind of Kafkaesque editorial process. Such things seem to operate mainly for the benefit of people who enjoy inflicting such things on each other (e.g., descending hierarchies of committees for dealing with mod drama). It's late, so hopefully the above makes some modicum of sense.
0[anonymous]9y
Is that a "no"?
5ChristianKl9y
The fact that Max Planck is a respected authority can't be easily disproved and he's cited. On the other hand he did write that more than 100 years ago. The introductory section doesn't contain any modern physics but 19th century views. If you would gather more modern sources, you might use them to update the article.

I think there may people here that can benefit from this.

http://www.nerdfitness.com/

We shouldn't select our fitness gurus for whether they're of our tribe, we should select our fitness gurus for the effectiveness and truth of what they teach.

On that basis, do you have any reasons beyond "it's nerdy!" for recommending this website over any number of other ones, many of which are very good? If it's the gimmicky motivational approaches, I think LessWrong has that down pat - loads of us play HabitRPG and I'm pretty sure Beeminder's founders were some of our own.

Edit: For some reason my links ate themselves and the text between them so I took them out.

4Capla9y
You are right, but much of the fitness game is motivation, and we are tribal organisms. Being part of a community to which one relates, that pushes you to be better, is a huge benefit. Maybe this is a solved problem, but I think there might be at least one person here with whom it resonates, and to whom it could provide substantial value.
4ChristianKl9y
In general what this community is about is having good arguments for doing what you do. As such it usually makes sense if a person who advocates some practices makes the case for the practice instead of simply posting a link. In this case, did you follow that program? What results did you get?
1Wes_W9y
I'm not especially impressed with Steve Kamb as a fitness guru. He has a writing style I find accessible, and doesn't seem to mind covering introductory material, which are pluses, but not outstanding in the fitness world. The gimmicky motivational approaches probably work for some people, but I find them silly. I've found the forums to be a very valuable resource, though. Lots of knowledgeable people whose brains you can pick, and a structure for social support/accountability, which can be scarce in meatspace.

It seems that, in order to accomplish anything, one needs some combination of conscientiousness, charisma, and/or money*. It seems that each of the three can strengthen the others:

  • Conscientiousness correlates with earning potential
  • A conscientious person can exert extraordinary effort to learn, practice, and internalize behaviors that increase charisma.
  • a charismatic person can make connections and get deals and convince people to give them money.
  • Money can buy charisma/conscientiousness training or devices, or can pay people to be charismatic/conscienti
... (read more)
6Torello9y
This is not exactly a reply to your question, but I think your question is fits this dynamic: Miller's Iron Law of Iniquity In principle, there is an evolutionary trade-off between any two positive traits. But in practice, every good trait correlates positively with every other good trait. http://edge.org/response-detail/11314
2Lumifer9y
Don't start with the resources you lack. Start with the resources you have and then look how can you utilize them to achieve your aims.
0fubarobfusco9y
... bearing in mind that "ability to discover new resources" is itself a resource, too.
2gjm9y
All of those things can be mitigated by other traits. Connections can be useful even without very much charisma. Cleverness can lead to pretty good earning potential even with relatively little conscientiousness, and may help one think of ways to improve charisma and conscientiousness. At any given level of earning potential, being cheap ("frugal" would be a better word but begins with the wrong letter) eases the transition from gradually sliding into debt to gradually accumulating savings. Other aspects of character besides conscientiousness make a difference -- e.g., a reputation for honesty may be helpful. Given a bad enough deficit in everything that matters, it's certainly possible to be so screwed that recovery is unlikely. It's also possible to overestimate those deficits and the resulting screwage, e.g. on account of depression. There's probably a nasty positive feedback loop where doing so makes getting unscrewed harder.

I am considering deleting all of my comments on Less Wrong (or, for comments I can't delete because they've been replied to, editing them to replace their text with a full stop and retracting them) and then deleting my account. Is there an easier way of doing that than by hand?

(In case you're wondering, that's because thanks to Randall Munroe the probability that any given person I know in meatspace will read my comments on Less Wrong just jumped up by orders of magnitude.)

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply
5Artaxerxes9y
I account hop a lot, and also would like to know if anyone knows. Will you be making a new account that will be even less tied to you, or will you stop posting on LW?
1A1987dM9y
I probably will. I might also create an account under my full name which I will only use for things I'm (100 - epsilon)% sure I wouldn't mind anyone reading.
0[anonymous]9y
Test
0[anonymous]9y
Test
4A1987dM9y
I have been convinced that deleting my comments would be overkill, so I'm going to just delete my account, which will anonymize my comments, and hope that the permalink page title bug will be fixed. I might come back here with a different username later. Thanks to Baughn for their offered help. Have a nice day.
3Sjcs9y
You could try changing your username. I am not sure whether it would change the username that appears on all your past comments, but I suspect it would. You could email and ask.
3ChristianKl9y
Do you really think that who you are in meatspace is possible to identify from reading a few LW posts? I think if you are worried I would simply remove references to your location. I would also think that it's likely that you overrate the cost of people knowing you participate on LW.
1A1987dM9y
My username is formed by a shortening (though not one I often go by) of my real first name and my real birth year, and I've used it elsewhere, including in my main non-work e-mail address; so anyone who knows my e-mail would at least suspect that this LW account is mine. (I first picked this username when I was 14 and kept using it everywhere out of habit.)
2someonewrongonthenet9y
afaic, 99% of the people you meet in meat space don't read very much, let alone go through archives of anonymous forums. Internet trolls, on the other hand..
3Lumifer9y
The percentage of people in meatspace who would throw an email handle into Google is rather large. A Google search for his username has his LW account as the third hit (after the two Wikipedia hits).
6Larks9y
You might perhaps like to edit out the username from this comment now.
3Lumifer9y
Aha, thanks.
1DanielFilan9y
Google searches aren't ideal for this sort of thing, because your google results are tailored to you personally. Using DuckDuckGo, which shows the same search results to everyone, is probably a bit more reliable for these purposes (although in this case it gets the same results).
3Lumifer9y
Not in my case. I take countermeasures to Google tracking.
0[anonymous]9y
I only agree for certain values of “meet”.
1NancyLebovitz9y
Suppose that identification through writing habits gets a lot cheaper and easier. The cost might be fairly low among people who are even vaguely reasonable. The risk of attracting a mob is low, but the cost is non-trivial.
-1ChristianKl9y
The cost very much depends on whether you are employed in a antifragile way or a fragile way.

There's more to life than one's employment-- some mobs also go after their target's relatives.

Also, a fairly high proportion of people get highly distracted and upset by violent threats even if the likelihood of physical attacks has been low so far.

0A1987dM9y
How many of said threats are not bluffs? I mean, I know that some of them aren't, but I can't get myself to alieve it.
2NancyLebovitz9y
So far as I know, these threats are quite common, but I haven't heard of any physical action being taken on them. If you haven't been on the receiving end of such threats, you may be underestimating the way you'd react to them. One thing people report is that they get frightened because there are people putting in a notable amount of effort to make them feel bad.
0ChristianKl9y
I'm not really aware of that happening as a result of internet disputes. A high proportion of people also don't draw mobs. I know one person who did and he has no issue dealing with it. Given that you are a woman I can understand that it's a more reasonable risk for you. Unfortunately online women get attacked more easily and more nasty than a lot of men. Still you have chosen to be quite open.
4NancyLebovitz9y
I've chosen to be open because it feels like the right thing for me to do. I have no idea whether I'm taking an excessive risk.
-1Azathoth1239y
What I've heard is that men are more likely to get attacked (makes sense given where they hang out), it's just that women are more likely to make a big deal of it.
3IlyaShpitser9y
Why not use your real name and own what you write?

This certainly isn't a safe option for everyone.

0A1987dM9y
I would own much but not all of what I've written on LW, and selectively deleting only the things I wouldn't own would take infeasibly long.
5Baughn9y
How badly do you want to delete everything? There might be easier options, but if there aren't I can certainly cook up a mass-deletion script. Just, I don't want to test it on my own account so you'd need to let me access yours. (Yes, I could make a test account for the purpose. That would be more work.) EDIT: I got a little way into implementing this before [deleted] bade me stop, thus the spate of retracted comments. Hopefully ve'll change ver mind, as some of those comments were quite interesting; however, this has gotten me thinking. The site has a comment deletion option, but not if you're deleting your account entirely; should it have that? If we don't want people to do use it, but still leave the scripting option open, am I expected not to use that option?
4Larks9y
You might perhaps like to edit out the username from this comment now.
1Baughn9y
Right, thanks.
0A1987dM9y
As of now, after both you and lfghjkl suggested me not to delete valuable comments, I'm leaning towards just deleting my account. (I've already removed my location from it as per ChristianKl's suggestion.) If I was in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber I'd delete all comments excepts those with positive karma which I wouldn't mind anybody I know reading, but... (BTW FWIW I'm a “he”.)
2Baughn9y
I'm not going to remember that. My memory for people isn't small, but it's mostly taken up by fictional ones.
1Sarunas9y
Use this to find your comments that have negative karma (you do not have that many of those, it will not be that time-consuming to delete them manually) and/or contain certain keywords. Then you can delete them without having to delete everything.
0[anonymous]9y
I've changed my password to a temporary one and sent you a PM with it.
1Lumifer9y
Keep in mind that you can delete posts from LW, but you can't delete things from internet archives.
0A1987dM9y
I'm mostly worried about people stumbling upon LW e.g. from the title text of that comic, starting browsing the site, reading my comments, and recognizing my username from elsewhere. Granted, someone motivated to doxx me enough to overcome trivial inconveniences could still do so, but I don't think that's likely to happen enough for me to worry about it.
4Nornagest9y
At a guess, I'd say that the chances of there being: * someone you know * who read that particular XKCD * and was led to LW for the first time as a consequence of it * and continued to read enough of the site to stumble on your username * and was motivated to dox you for whatever reason ...is too low to motivate precipitous action. XKCD's pretty popular, but it's not so popular that I'd expect this to lead to a very big spike in long-term readership; at most you might want to remove your location tag (which I see you've already done) and maybe lurk for a while.
0A1987dM9y
* You might be underestimating P(X read that particular XKCD | I know X), as I am a physicist, and know a fair number of engineers and computer scientists and a few mathematicians; * you might be underestimating P(X continued to read enough of the site to stumble on my username | X was led to LW for the first time) -- I've commented a lot, including on many of the posts linked to on the about page and the welcome threads; * it's not motivated doxxing (which I know is very very unlikely) that I'm worried about -- comments which I would mind someone I know in meatspace reading comprise a sizeable minority of all my comments (not just for the consequences to myself -- I'd dislike, as a terminal value, certain people to hear certain things I've said about certain topics, especially other people).
0lfghjkl9y
The easiest solution is to just delete your current account and start a new one. None of your meatspace friends could then know which posts from [deleted] was from you or even that any of them came from you in the first place (unless they are an LW admin, but then I don't think you should be worried about them knowing you post here). This solution also has the benefit of not removing valuable comments in old threads (which looking at your karma I assume there are many of).
3A1987dM9y
You can still tell who wrote such comments by following the permalink and looking at the title of the page.
8lfghjkl9y
Wow, you're right. Someone should probably fix that. At least deleting your account will make it very hard to track down any of your old posts unless they already know which comments to look for, so if they aren't already aware of LW you'd probably be safe.
0Capla9y
Why are you concerned about this?
1A1987dM9y
I've written things about other people without their consent, figuring there would be a negligible chance anybody could guess who they were. But now I think that chance, while still not huge, is no longer that negligible. (I've also written certain politically incorrect things, but as someone working in a non-humanities field over 4000 miles away from Harvard, and who isn't going to apply for a job in the US any time soon, and likely not anywhere else in the Anglosphere either, I'm not terribly worried about that.)
2Unknowns9y
Searching Google for your username leads to a Wikipedia account with fairly detailed information which should be easily identifiable to people who know you personally, so if someone suspected your identity they could probably easily verify it.
2Capla9y
Could you just delete those things?
2A1987dM9y
It'd be a hell of a lot of work to find all of them.
0Emile9y
?! But your name seems even less tractable to yourself than mine is, and I don't worry about that! (also, if you take into account the probability that they will link those comments to you, and that they will think badly of you because of it, no?)

If there is a future Great Filter, it seems likely it would be one of two things:

1) a science experiment that destroys the world even though there was no reason to think that it would.

2) something analogous to nuclear weapons except easily constructable by an individual using easily obtainable materials, so that as soon as people have the knowledge, any random person can inflict immense destruction.

Are there any strategies that would guard against these possibilities?

0Izeinwinter9y
1: No. Well, in theory, an presence on the moons of neptune that could survive indefinately without contact would do it, but that's not going to happen any time soon. 2: Arguably, we already live in this world. There are very destructive things in the canon of human knowledge, only people don't conceptualize them as weapons at all, but merely as dangers to be avoided. So.. good news, this does not work as a filter, and the actually odd thing is that we do* think of runaway super criticality as a weapon. Conditioning by lots of wars to think of explosions as ways to kill people? *I'm not going to name examples in this context, because that might theoretically "help" someone to think of said example as a weapon. Which would be bad.

I will donate N dollars to an x-risk organization within the next month. I tried to check what the effective altruism site recommended, but it required an email address. What organization should I donate to?

(N is predefined, and donating to the organization must not take longer than a standard online purchase.)

This is really worrying. Hubris and irrational geopolitical competition may create existential risks sooner then expected. http://motherboard.vice.com/read/how-the-pentagons-skynet-would-automate-war

Weird fictional theoritical scenario. Comments solicited.

In the future, mankind has become super successful. We have overcome our base instincts and have basically got our shit together. We are no longer in thrall to Azathoth (Evolution) or Mammon (Capitalism).

We meet an alien race, who are way more powerful than us and they show their values and see ours. We seek to cooperate on the prisoner's dilemma, but they defect. In our dying gasps, one of us asks them "We thought you were rational. WHY?..."

They reply " We follow a version of your m... (read more)

The whole scenario depends on a reification fallacy. You don't negotiate with, or engage in prediction theory games with, impersonal forces (and calling capitalism a force of nature seems a stretch to me).

Evolution is powerful, but that doesn't make it an intelligence, certainly not a superintelligence. We're not defecting against evolution, evolution just doesn't/can't play PD in the first place. But I'm also not sure how important the PD game is to this scenario, as opposed to the aliens just crushing us directly.

And as long as we're personifying evolution, an argument could be made that the triumph of human civilization would still be a win for evolution's "values", like survival and unlimited reproduction.

We follow a version of your meta-golden rule. Treat your inferiors as you would like to be treated by your superiors.

I don't understand how this rule leads to the described behavior. As written, it suggests that the aliens would like to be crushed by their superiors...?

8Eliezer Yudkowsky9y
That's not how TDT works.
0MrMind9y
Is TDT accurately described by "CDT + acausal comunication through mutual emulation"?
4wedrifid9y
Communication isn't enough. CDT agents can't cooperate in a prisoner's dilemma if you put them in the same room and let them talk to each other. They aren't going to be able to cooperate in analogous trades across time no matter how much acausal 'communicaiton' they have.
2IlyaShpitser9y
I view TDT as a bit unnatural, UDT is more natural to me (after people explained TDT and UDT to me). I think of UDT as a decision theory of 'counterfactually equitable rational precommitment' (?controversial phrasing?). So you (or all counterfactual "you"s) precommit in advance to do the [optimal thing], and this [optimal thing] is defined in such a way as to not give preferential treatment to any specific counterfactual version of you. This is vague. Unfortunately the project to make this less vague is of paper length. :) ---------------------------------------- Folks working on UDT, feel free to chime in to correct me if any of above is false.
0MrMind9y
But isn't UDT relying on perfect information about the problem at hand? If this is so, could it be seen as the limit of TDT with complete information?
4Lumifer9y
Deification of natural forces is a standard human culture trait. A large proportion of early gods just personified natural phenomena. Shinto is a contemporary religion that still does that a lot.
1Document9y
Similar "problem"(?): Acausal trade with Azathoth

In business, almost all executive decisions (headcount and budget allocation, which unproven products to push ahead with aggressively, translating forecasts for macroeconomic risks into business-specific policies, who to promote to other executive level positions, etc.) are made with substantial uncertainty. Or to put it another way, any executive-level decision-maker would be paralyzed without strong priors. This is especially true in fast-changing or competitive markets, where the only way to collect more evidence without direct risk is to let your compe... (read more)

2Lumifer9y
I don't think that's necessarily true, just having a high risk tolerance works as well. I also think you underestimate the amount of evidence present -- e.g. in most organizations the next-year budget is a variation on the previous year's budget. Yes, of course. That's why, for example, risk management is an important part of doing business but is not normally a big part of doing science...
0Punoxysm9y
Risk tolerance is a good, possibly more correct, way of looking at it. Actually most executives probably have a mixture of risk tolerance and strong priors. Some businesses can get away with only relatively low-risk, safe decisions and focus on efficient operations. However, I think the majority of businesses, especially newer and growing ones, can't get away with this consistently or for a long time. And most businesses simply don't have that long a life, period. Setting a budget based off last years' when your revenue is growing 50%+ YoY won't work well. What I was thinking of more specifically is that something like setting a budget can be defined as a rigorous optimization problem, but with highly uncertain parameters (marginal return on investment from various units of the business). Any decision made implies a combination of prior over those values and risk tolerance.
0Lumifer9y
If you treat budgeting as an optimization problem, you need forecasts, not priors. I would also suspect that real-life business budgets will be hard to set as "rigorous optimization problems" because in reality you have discontinuities, nonlinear responses, and all kinds of funky dependencies between different parts of the budget.
0ChristianKl9y
I don't think you understand what the term means. It's unknown unknowns and not known unknowns. Whether or not an unproven product will succeed is a question about a known unknown. I don't think that's true. There are various forms of doing market research that simply involve money but not additional risk.
0Punoxysm9y
I use "Black Swan" in the context of the whole book. That is, we build narratives after-the-fact to explain correct priors as skill and judgment. Also, the greater impact of more uncertain decisions, in a way that ties uncertainty to the impact, is exactly the nature of unknown-unknown black swans (which I'd say the launching of a substantially new product category fits into, in a mild form. The iPod/iTunes was not a black swan for Apple, though they took considerable risks with it. It was a black swan for the music industry.). Market research is better than nothing, but still has many problems. Most of it wouldn't pass peer review, and we know peer review makes plenty of mistakes. So when taking it into account, decision-makers must apply strong priors. And on the occasions that market research really is that good, it's a no-brainer; your competitors will do it too.
3TimS9y
Please don't take terminology with fairly precise meaning and use it idiosyncratically. At best, you unnecessary increase your inferential distance. At worst, you dilute the term so that it increases everyone's inferential distance.
2Punoxysm9y
Edited for clarity. Thought terms get diluted all the time. Maybe "Talebian" would be more appropriate.

I thought this article about coaching in pickup techniques kind of misses the point:

I Took A Class on How to Pick Up Women—But I Learned More About Male Anxiety

http://www.alternet.org/culture/i-took-class-how-pick-women-i-learned-more-about-male-anxiety

I posted in response:

For some reason we have this notion that the young man's "sexual debut," as the scientific literature about human sexuality calls it, happens as an organic developmental stage in the late teens, with a median age of around 17. If a 17 year old boy picked at random can probabl

... (read more)

I'd like to know how seeing a prostitute will help a young man develop the skills he needs to get into sexual relationships through dating

Seeing sex as less "magical" could help reduce tension with trying to get sex.

(By the way, the whole article seems to me like: "Look, some people have less social skills -- let's make fun of them! Oh, they are trying to overcome their weakness -- wow, that's even funnier!" The elephant in the room is that in our culture it is taboo to express empathy towards men and boys.)

7chaosmage9y
Really? I do that all the time and literally nobody has ever tried to stop me or punish me for it. Do your actual personal experiences differ?
0TheOtherDave9y
FWIW, there are contexts in which I've seen this criticized. Usually, the context is that someone has started a discussion about some situation in which men or boys have caused suffering or otherwise behaved badly, and someone else has responded by expressing empathy towards the men or boys in question, and the person who started the discussion has criticized the attempt to switch the conversation focus from empathy towards the objects of the behavior, to empathy for the agents of it. (The jargon term for this is "derailing" in many contexts.) Of course, this is only a subset of the general category of expressing empathy towards men and boys, but it's one that gets a lot of attention.
0fubarobfusco9y
This is hardly unique to situations involving gender. For instance, sometimes this sort of thing happens — * Person A makes a decision or takes an action that hurts Person B — perhaps accidentally; perhaps out of negligence or bias. * Person B makes a demand — such as restitution for the harm done; or that the situation be corrected so that people like A won't hurt people any more. * A or A's supporters ignore or deflect B's demand, saying things such as that A's decision-making role is difficult; that A's guilt over hurting B is unpleasant to A; or that continuing to discuss A's mistake (and not "moving on") is a sign of malice, unfairness, or mental imbalance on B's part. That's derailing: Person A changing the subject from "A hurt B, and B wants it fixed" to "A's life is so hard and people are being so harsh to A" in order to avoid talking about fixing the situation for B, the injured party.
0TheOtherDave9y
Yes, I agree that it's not unique to situations involving gender.
-3bogus9y
Let's pick an example to make things more concrete. Person B owns a field, and Person A runs trains on a nearby railroad that throw dangerous sparks onto the field. Person B demands that Person A either stop the trains from passing near his property, or else fit them with a mechanism that will prevent sparks. Now Person A complains that the trains are used by low-income commuters who will be forced to pay unreasonably high prices in order to cover these additional costs. Is Person A "derailing the conversation", or is this a valid point? Extra credit: What might influence your answer to this question?
-10bogus9y
3chaosmage9y
Dating and sex are related skills. I assume we agree a prostitute could give a good intro to sex. So why shouldn't she be a good dating coach too? The young man won't need to fear rejection from her, nor fear being talked about later, so they can role-play in emotional safety. She can still tell him what's going to cause rejection when he's not a customer, and what's going to work better. Best of all, she can lead all the way, past exchanging numbers and kissing all the way to sex etiquette. Of course there's the drawback of possible shame over having visited a prostitute - but virginity can be a source of shame too. So I figure that for the median male adult virgin, seeing a prostitute would be net plus, especially if he manages to specifically ask for dating and first time sex roleplay.
7Username9y
(Posted using the anonymous community account; username and password are Username and password) I hear that prostitutes who do that charge a lot -- more than typical 17-year-olds can easily afford, and low-end prostitutes basically just let you masturbate with their bodies.
8chaosmage9y
Prostutites don't need a statutory rape charge any more than anybody else, so obviously I'm not talking about 17-year-olds. I mean guys of legal age. Concerning economics, it's hard to compare. Here in Germany, prostitution is legal, the market is efficient, and there are lots of sex workers competent and professional enough to pull off what I described, available for 100-200 euros per hour. I imagine that in places where prostitution is illegal, the situation would be very different - especially if due to the threat of prosecution, potential customers can't simply email their needs and budget to a couple of providers to get a good offer...
0Username9y
(posted by another user using this account) I'm not sure whether this is really a neutral coaching situation. For really independent sex-workers maybe. But I hear that many still work for a pimp, are highly motivated the extract high amounts from the yongster and wouldn't necessarily provide a neutral emotionally safe environment. This is from the source with significant (but possibly somewhat out-dated) work-experience in this field.
0MrMind9y
I wouldn't be too much concerned. The article is a lot less dismissive of PUA than what is usually put forward, even on this site. Plus, it's not that La Ruina isn't another little Mystery clone. Based on what I know of my culture (US or other European countries might differ), not even 17 yo boys who do get girls know better. They usually get them because of a combination of some better looks, wider social circle, inferior opinions on women. Those who apply for a PUA seminar are the ones who are trying to optimize their understanding of females, letting aside the fact that you cannot will yourself into being non-anxious. My opinion is that if they could be at ease around the opposite sex, they would wind up with a better sexual life than their "natural" peers.
-3advancedatheist9y
Another post I made to this AlterNet piece:

PUA coaches endorse the patriarchal view of women's weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and they teach men how to exploit these for sex by adopting the strategies of old-school cads.

I think most pickup coaches would object to this point of view, and it might make some of them quite unhappy. PUAs teach strategies that they believe will increase your attractiveness to the opposite sex. But it's silly to see attraction as a "weakness" or "vulnerability". Many people (women included, of course) want to feel attracted in the first place, especially to someone with other good qualities - they just don't get to make that choice most of the time! That's the one sense in which 'reduced agency' could be said to be relevant - but it doesn't negate the fact that agency really is quite heavily involved in any kind of pickup.

8ChristianKl9y
There are a lot of quick success schemes sold with the same marketing that PUA products are sold. The fact that people are willing to pay money for a dream of quick success doesn't mean that they can deliver on the promise. PUA is a quite complex topic. Male anxiety is an issue, and I don't think that an expensive 3 to 4 day bootcamp normally fixes it. Neither does watching a 24 DVD set sold for 499$. If I could either send a 18 year old to a tantra seminar or to a PUA seminar, I'm not sure that the PUA seminar is the one that gives the higher return as far as improving his success with the opposite sex. The fact that you believe that might be the problem and illustrate lack of ability of dealing with women.
4Viliam_Bur9y
Irrationality is an issue, and I don't think that reading the Sequences normally fixes it. Neither does a 3-day rationality seminar for $3900. Still, for some people it's a good option. I would expect different things working for different people. The interesting thing is that the tantra seminar would not motivate people to write similar articles. Even if there is also no guarantee that it is something more than just someone's strategy to make money quickly.
0Lumifer9y
Tantra isn't really new-age exotic sex practices.
6ChristianKl9y
Wikipedia has little influence on what's practiced in a seminar with the headline tantra. At the same time of course it's not simply about the stereotype it has. One element of tantra is for example strong eye contact. You can go to a PUA seminar and hear a lecture by a guy about holding eye contact. That often leads to guys going out and being uncalibrated. If you on the other hand learn eye contact in a tantra seminar the resulting behavior is likely much better calibrated.
2Lumifer9y
I feel we are using the word "tantra" in entirely different meanings.
4ChristianKl9y
I speak about the kind of event that's titled a tantra seminar and take my knowledge of what happens there from people I meet in meatspace who took part in such events.
2[anonymous]9y
Well, what happens there?
4ChristianKl9y
That's a fair demand, but I don't want to go in too much detail on that point. There a lot of inferential distance in talking about New Age practices on LW and Tantra isn't a subject I studied deeply enough to be confident that I fully understand it's theory base.
-3bogus9y
Yeah, that article has a weirdly dismissive tone. It reads like pickup is all about helping these 'painfully shy', inexperienced guys boost their self-confidence, and there's nothing more to it than that. But ISTM that folks who sign up for a random intro bootcamp are quite likely to be a lot shier and more intraverted than average. There's quite a bit of innovative stuff in pickup, but people probably come across it on internet forums, or perhaps through proprietary guides/videos or in the most 'elite', costly workshops/bootcamps.
8advancedatheist9y
I've noticed a similar lack of understanding in other men who had their sexual debuts at developmentally appropriate ages. It becomes a kind of cognitive barrier separating sexually experienced men from the inexperienced ones. I also notice a lack of curiosity about this phenomenon in professional sex researchers. I have three different college textbooks of the Human Sexuality 101 sort, and none of them has a section on adult virgins, much less adult male virgins.
2MrMind9y
That's the thing that bugs me the most. Why can't we just have quality research on the subject?
-6advancedatheist9y

Studying computers I have ran into Turings name occasionally. When I actually looked up the papers he had wrote that seeded the concepts that caryy his name, this was a very refreshing read. To me they stand the test of tmie well. I knew that Turing committed suicide that had to do with him being a homosexual. Now I have learned of suggestions that official instituitons might have had a helping hand in that and that there wil be no offcial apology.

Turing was quite young and what he produced was pretty good stuff. I would have been really exited to read wha... (read more)

6polymathwannabe9y
For what it's worth.
4MrMind9y
Yeah, I was thinking about similar themes some days ago. My reference was Galois, a very young genius of the field. After single-handedly inventing group theory, he died. At 20. In a duel. Over a girl (allegedly). Or Ramanujan. Died because he refused to eat healthily. There are many examples of geniuses that died early, and had not the time to contribute much more to humanity, usually over silly things.
2NancyLebovitz9y
Ramanujan died as the result of compulsive behavior from two cultures. He was (so far as I know) doing alright until WWI happened.
0artemium9y
I think you posts was interesting., so why the downvote? I'm new here, and I'm just trying to understand Karma system. Any particular reason?
5ChristianKl9y
The post argues that a single instance proves that lack of tolerance holds back the singularity. That's a stupid argument. The kind of argument people make if the operate in the mental domain of politics and suddenly throw out their standards for rational reasoning. It also quite naive in that it thinks that having the singularity now would be a good thing. Given that we don't know how to build FAI at the moment having the singularity now might mean an obliteration of the human race.
2TheOtherDave9y
I don't know, but a pattern I've noticed lately is that posts that can be understood as "soldiers for the progressive side" will often get two or three downvotes pretty quickly, and then get upvoted back to zero over the next few days. (If they are otherwise interesting they typically get lots more upvotes.) I suspect that pattern is relevant here.
1bogus9y
I've noticed similar things. Probably some knee-jerk votes coming from NRX's, or from folks who just hate seeing political comments here. Or both.
0RowanE9y
It was already downvoted when I saw it so I didn't give it the most charitable reading, I thought it amounted to little more than a political cheer and not something that belongs here.
0Slider9y
I failed to do basic googling. They are sorry for the fate but don't revert any official decision.

The Wikipedia article on the Ferguson crisis says,

"the population is only one-third white and about two-thirds black"

and then says,

"Ferguson police were twice as likely to arrest African Americans during traffic stops as they were whites"

which only appears anomalous if you ignore the base rate of finding a black driver vs. a white one. (Edited to add: other factors, like how many people in each group own/drive cars, may be relevant.)

There are many valid reasons to worry about racial tensions in that town (e.g. 48/53 police members are white), but the arrest rates is not one of them.

Statistics don't work like you think they do. The number is controlled.

If you come to that conclusion, the thing you should do as a rationalist is "notice confusion". Then you would check the source and would see:

While black residents accounted for 67 percent of Ferguson’s population, black drivers accounted for more than 86 percent of the traffic stops made last year by the Ferguson Police Department, according to a report produced by the office of Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster.

If you want to learn the relevant statistical literacy skills to understand what the sentence "Ferguson police were twice as likely to arrest African Americans during traffic stops as they were whites" usually means, the relevant subject is regressian analysis.

3polymathwannabe9y
Thank you.
[+][anonymous]9y-7