Open Thread, May 5 - 11, 2014

by Tenoke1 min read5th May 2014286 comments

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Is Less Wrong dying?

Some observations...

  • The top level posts are generally well below the quality of early material, including the sequences, in my estimation.
  • 'Main' posts are rarely even vaguely interesting to me anymore.
  • 'Top Contributors' karma values seem very low compared to what I remember them being ~9-12 months ago.
  • 'Discussion' posts are littered with Meetup reminders.

About all I look at on LW anymore is the Open Discussion Thread, Rationality Quotes and the link to Slate Star Codex. I noticed CFAR and MIRI's websites gave me the impression they were getting more traction and perhaps making some money.

Has LW run it's course?

I think it's a little early to predict the end, but there's less I'm interested in here, and I'm having trouble thinking of things to write about, though I can still find worthwhile links for open threads.

Is LW being hit by some sort of social problem, or have we simply run out of things to say?

I'd add "Metacontrarianism is on the rise" to your list. Many of the top posts now are contrary to at least the spirit of the sequences, if not the letter, or so it feels to me.

Has LW run it's course?

It seems to be a common sentiment, actually. I mentioned this a few times on #lesswrong and the regulars there appear to agree. Whether this is a some sort of confirmation bias, I am not sure. Fortunately, there is a way to measure it:

Count interesting articles from each period and compare the numbers.

9Viliam_Bur7yMaybe it's because the important things have started, and moved to real life, outside of the LW website. There are people writing and publishing papers on Friendly AI, there are people researching and teaching rationality exercises; there are meetups in many countries. -- Although, if this is true, I would expect more reports here about what happens in the real life. (Remember the fundamental rule of bureaucracy: If it ain't documented, it didn't happen.) Anyway, this is only a guess; it would be interesting to really know what's happening...
8moridinamael7yI would say LW is evolving. The Sequences are and always were the finger that points at the objective, not the objective unto itself. The project of LW is "refining the art of human rationality." But we don't have the defininition of human rationality written on stone tablets, needing only diligence in application to obtain good results. The project of LW is thus a dynamic process of discovery, experimentation, incorporating new data, sometimes backtracking when we update on evidence that isn't as solid was we had thought. You correctly observe that the style of participation has changed over time. This is probably mostly the result of certain specific high volume contributors moving on to other things. It could also be the result of an aggregated shift in understanding as to what kinds of results can actually be produced by discussing rationality in a vacuum, which may perhaps be why these contributors have moved on. Or maybe they just said all they felt they needed to say, I don't know. I have a 101.1 F fever right now.
7Kawoomba7yI blame Facebook. Many of the discussions that are had there were of the type that used to invigorate these here boards.
2Brillyant7yHm. I think you have a much higher level of sophistication in your FB friend group. I get a lot of Tea Party quotes and pictures of peoples' dinner.

It's mostly that Eliezer has taken to disseminating his current work via open Facebook discussions. I can see how that choice makes sense, from his position, but it's still sad for the identity-paranoid and the nostalgic remnants still roaming these forgotten halls. Did I have a purpose once? It's been so long.

Also, it's much harder (impossible?) to find older discussions on FB.

4mare-of-night7yAnd perhaps harder to grow, at least through the usual means - the Facebook discussions wouldn't show up on Google searches (or at least not highly ranked, I think), and it's a less convenient format to link someone to for an explanation of a concept.
0NancyLebovitz7yIt turns out that while there may be no good way to use Facebook to find old discussions on Facebook, I used google and found an old Facebook post.
3Kaj_Sotala7yI remember people saying things like "Less Wrong is dying" for a long time, from 2010 at least. Which doesn't invalidate the claim that LW's much more quiet than it used to be, of course, but it does challenge the claim that this would be a recent development.
0Brillyant7yI personally believe it's basically dead—at least for me. The sequences are great... But I wouldn't recommend LW to anyone at this point in terms of it's recent content, and that is a big change for me. It's been a good run.
-1ChristianKl7yThe LW census get's every year more participants. If LW would be dying I would expect the opposite.

I'm not sure total participants is a good metric to use in making that determination. It depends on people's level of participation and engagment, I think.

0ChristianKl7yWhen it comes to engagement we do have a bunch of in person meetups that we didn't have a few years ago.
1Nornagest7yThere do seem to be more meetups globally, but I'd say the SF Bay Area meetup scene -- where MIRI is based and many prominent contributors live or have lived --- is well off its peaks. This is perhaps an unreasonable time to be saying so, since the South Bay and East Bay meetups have just gone through major shakeups and haven't yet stabilized; but even ignoring that we're well down from two or three years ago in terms of engagement with high-karma users, in terms of number of local meetup groups, and probably in terms of people as well.

As per issue #389, I've just pushed a change to meetups. All future meetup posts will be created in /r/meetups to un-clutter /r/discussion a little bit.

3Tenoke7yHmm, I just noticed that the 'Nearest Meetup' feature is mostly removed (you can still see the field when you refresh before everything has loaded), so you cant see any notification anywhere for local meetups happening soon unless you are specifically checking /meetups or r/meetups. I understand why Luke and co wanted this change asap (people have been complaining about the clutter), but I suspect that this change will have a big overall impact on LW Meetups turnouts. I'm fairly certain that a lot of non-regulars decide to go to a specific meetup because they are randomly reminded of it in the sidebar or in discussion, and not because they actively check. Anyway, is there any chance you know why the 'Nearest meetup' area was removed (no mention of the removal in the issues)? I am not sure what the benefit is of having Upcoming Meetups over Nearest Meetups, but the latter at least provides a reminder for people of posted local meetups. Alternatively, is there anything else planned to serve as a reminder? PS: I would've published this as a comment on the issue itself, but that didn't look very appropriate.
2philh7yI currently see 'nearest meetups'. I've noticed that when I'm at work (but still logged in), it shows me 'upcoming meetups' instead. My first guess, that I've made no attempt to confirm or disconfirm, is that it tries to determine your location from your IP address. If it succeeds it shows you 'nearest meetups', and if it fails it shows you 'upcoming meetups'. I feel like there should definitely be a link to 'meetups' next to 'main' and 'discussion'. It's so easy to miss things in the sidebar. I, too, expect this to reduce meetup turnout.
1Tenoke7yLooks like it is the same for me - I posted the above comment from work, however, I see 'Nearest Meetups' now that I am home. Your theory sounds reasonable.
2jackk7yphilh is correct, and nothing I pushed should've changed the sidebar behaviour. For those that are worried about meetup attendance being affected: * The sidebar should not be changed, * The list of upcoming meetups is still where it was at http://lesswrong.com/meetups/ [http://lesswrong.com/meetups/] How many people discover meetups through /r/discussion as opposed to the sidebar and /meetups? Perhaps I should poll this: Before this change, how did you discover LW meetups? If none apply, please write in. [pollid:698]

Below is an edited version of an email I prepared for someone about what CS researchers can do to improve our AGI outcomes in expectation. It was substantive enough I figured I might as well paste it somewhere online, too.

I'm currently building a list of what will eventually be short proposals for several hundred PhD theses / long papers that I think would help clarify our situation with respect to getting good outcomes from AGI, if I could persuade good researchers to research and write them. A couple dozen of these are in computer science broadly: the others are in economics, history, etc. I'll write out a few of the proposals as 3-5 page project summaries, and the rest I'll just leave as two-sentence descriptions until somebody promising contacts me and tells me they want to do it and want more detail. I think of these as "superintelligence strategy" research projects, similar to the kind of work FHI typically does on AGI. Most of these projects wouldn't only be interesting to people interested in superintelligence, e.g. a study building on these results on technological forecasting would be interesting to lots of people, not just those who want to use the results to g... (read more)

Continued...

Top-down research aimed at high assurance AGI tries to envision what we'll need a high assurance AGI to do, and starts playing with toy models to see if they can help us build up insights into the general problem, even if we don't know what an actual AGI implementation will look like. Past examples of top-down research of this sort in computer science more generally include:

  • Lampson's original paper on the confinement problem (covert channels), which used abstract models to describe a problem that wasn't detected in the wild for ~2 decades after the wrote the paper. Nevertheless this gave computer security researchers a head start on the problem, and the covert channel communication field is now pretty big and active. Details here.
  • Shor's quantum algorithm for integer factorization (1994) showed, several decades before we're likely to get a large-scale quantum computer, that (e.g.) the NSA could be capturing and storing strongly encrypted communications and could later break them with a QC. So if you want to guarantee your current communications will remain private in the future, you'll want to work on post-quantum cryptography and use it.
  • Hutter's AIXI is the first fu
... (read more)

Here's a comment that I posted in a discussion on Eliezer's FB wall a few days back but didn't receive much of a response there, maybe it'll prompt more discussion here:

--

So this reminds me, I've been thinking for a while that VNM utility might be a hopelessly flawed framework for thinking about human value, but I've had difficulties putting this intuition in words. I'm also pretty unfamiliar with the existing literature around VNM utility, so maybe there is already a standard answer to the problem that I've been thinking about. If so, I'd appreciate a pointer to it. But the theory described in the linked paper seems (based on a quick skim) like it's roughly in the same direction as my thoughts, so maybe there's something to them.

Here my stab at trying to describe what I've been thinking: VNM utility implicitly assumes an agent with "self-contained" preferences, and which is trying to maximize the satisfaction of those preferences. By self-contained, I mean that they are not a function of the environment, though they can and do take inputs from the environment. So an agent could certainly have a preference that made him e.g. want to acquire more money if he had less than ... (read more)

I also have lots of objections to using VNM utility to model human preferences. (A comment on your example: if you conceive of an agent as accruing value and making decisions over time, to meaningfully apply the VNM framework you need to think of their preferences as being over world-histories, not over world-states, and of their actions as being plans for the rest of time rather than point actions.) I might write a post about this if there's enough interest.

I've always thought of it as preferences over world-histories and I don't see any problem with that. I'd be interested in the post if it covers a problem with that formulation

2Kaj_Sotala7yI would be very interested in that.

Robin Hanson writes about rank linear utility. This formalism asserts that we value options by their rank in a list of options available at any one time, making it impossible to construct a coherent classical utility function.

2Kaj_Sotala7yYeah, that was my first link in the comment. :-) Still good that you summarized it, though, since not everyone's going to click on the link.
0Metus7yOops, I frankly did not see the link. The one time I thought I could contribute ...
2Kaj_Sotala7yWell, like I said, it was probably a good thing to post and briefly summarize anyway. If you missed the link, others probably did too.
2jimmy7yI don't think of things like "what I want to do with my life" as terminal preferences - just instrumental preferences that depend on the niche you find yourself in. Terminal stuff is more likely to be simple/human universal stuff (think Maslow's hierarchy of needs) I think you'll probably find Kevin Simler's essays on personality interesting, and he does a good job explaining and exploring this idea. http://www.meltingasphalt.com/personality-the-body-in-society/ [http://www.meltingasphalt.com/personality-the-body-in-society/] http://www.meltingasphalt.com/personality-an-ecosystems-perspective/ [http://www.meltingasphalt.com/personality-an-ecosystems-perspective/] http://www.meltingasphalt.com/personality-beyond-social-and-beyond-human/ [http://www.meltingasphalt.com/personality-beyond-social-and-beyond-human/]
2Kaj_Sotala7yThanks, those are good essays. :-)
0Squark7yWhat I think is happening is that we're allowed to think of humans as having VNM utility functions ( see also my discussion with Stuart Armstrong [http://lesswrong.com/lw/jda/friendly_ai_ideas_needed_how_would_you_ban_porn/aq83] ), but the utility function is not constant over time (since we're not introspective recursively modifying AIs that can keep their utility functions stable).

I recently saw an advertisement which was such a concentrated piece of antirationality I had to share it here. Imagine a poster showing a man's head and shoulders gazing inspiredly past the viewer into the distance, rendered in posterised red, white, and black with a sort of socialist realism flavour. The words: "No Odds Too Long. No Dream Too Great. The Believer."

If that was all, it would just be a piece of inspirational nonsense. But what was it advertising?

Ladbrokes. A UK chain of betting shops.

4pragmatist7yThat is a hilariously apposite name for a chain of betting shops.
3gwern7yIsn't it? The first time I read about the British betting industry and Betfair & Ladbrokes, I had to look the latter up on WP to verify it was randomly named after a building and wasn't a mockery of their customers.

I can't figure out who runs the Less Wrong Twitter. Does anyone know?

The United States green card lottery is one of the best lotteries in the world. The payoff is huge (green cards would probably sell for six figures if they were on the market), the cost of entry is minimal ($0 and 30 minutes) and the odds of winning are low, but not astronomically low. If you meet the eligibility criterion and are even a little interested in moving to America, you should enter the lottery this October.

0Vulture7ySince this cost and the payoff of the original lottery are in like units, could someone compute whether it's still worth it to enter?
0Douglas_Knight7yThe cost is a completely qualitative claim, so, no, no one can do this computation.
0Vulture7yOh, whoops, misread as "immigrant visa" rather than "nonimmigrant visa". Disregard.
0Douglas_Knight7yWell, it's true that they aren't quite the same units, but I was ignoring that. The cost is that the State Department pays attention and applies a penalty to the highly nontransparent visa process. These are qualitative claims. In principle they could be measured by outside observers. In fact, my best measurement is zero: they don't pay attention nor penalize nonimmigrant visas.
0[anonymous]7yAh, okay. That is good to know, and could help people's calculi. Thanks! I only retracted because if my initial understanding had been right, then the tradeoff could be calculated really unambiguously, whereas now it's less clear that looking up the numbers and doing straight comparisons would be as much use.

The payoff is huge ...,the cost of entry is minimal

This reminds me of another pretty decent lottery that some U.S. residents can take advantage of. Many major cities, including NYC, have affordable housing programs in brand new buildings. The cost to apply is $0, the payoff of is paying 20% - 25% of market rate of housing in that area. No, it's not for poor people, there are other programs for that, the income requirements vary but in general is set to qualify the working residents of the city (maybe 50k - 95k).

Some of the most desirable and stunning locations in the city, where rents are 4k for 600 sq/f, can go for $700. Just Google the city you live in to see the specific requirements.

2ChristianKl7yI don't think you can resell green cards so their open market price should be irrelevant.
2knb7yI think that was just a way of saying how coveted the prize of this lottery is.
0[anonymous]7yMoving somewhere that uses Fahrenheit degrees and sixteen-ounce pints doesn't sound that great to me...
0MarkL7yAnything remotely like this for EU countries?
4Metus7yIt is not a lottery as the green card lottery but if you are of European descent there is the chance you can apply for citizenship. Look out for Italian, Spanish, Hungarian and Irish ancestors in particular. Edit: This scheme is ridiculously complicated in the EU and I know of no coherent source. If anyone is specifically interested in having the right of abode to work in the EU, contact me with a hint to family history and we can work something out. In the interest of the community I urge you to do this publicly.

Have you guys noticed that, while the notion of AI x-risk is gaining credibility thanks to some famous physicists, there is no mention of Eliezer and only a passing mention of MIRI? Yet Irving Good, who pointed out the possibility of recursive self-improvement without linking it to x-risk, is right there. Seems like a PR problem to me. Either raising the profile of the issue is not associated with EY/MIRI, or he is considered too low status to speak of publicly. Both possibilities are clearly detrimental to MIRI's fundraising efforts.

See also this old post where Robin Hanson basically predicted that this would happen.

The contrarian will have established some priority with these once-contrarian ideas, such as being the first to publish on or actively pursue related ideas. And he will be somewhat more familiar with those ideas, having spent years on them.

But the cautious person will be more familiar with standard topics and methods, and so be in a better position to communicate this new area to a standard audience, and to integrate it in with other standard areas. More important to the "powers that be" hoping to establish this new area, this standard person will bring more prestige and resources to this new area.

If the standard guy wins the first few such contests, his advantage can quickly snowball into an overwhelming one. People will prefer to cite his publications as they will be in more prestigious journals, even if they were not quite as creative. Reporters will prefer to quote him, students will prefer to study under him, firms will prefer to hire him as a consultant, and journals will prefer to publish him, as he will be affiliated with more prestigious institutions. And of course the contrarian may have a worse reputation as a "team player."

I think this is fine. Convincing people that this is a Real Thing and then specifically making them aware of Eliezer and MIRI should be done separately anyway. Doing the second thing too soon may make the first thing harder, while doing the second thing late makes the first thing easier (because then AI x-risk can be put in a mental category other than "that weird thing that those weird people care about").

There is a lot of interest in prediction markets in the Less Wrong community. However, the prediction markets that we have are currently only available in meatspace, they have very low volume, and the rules are not ideal (You cannot leave positions by selling your shares, and only the column with the final outcome contributes to your score)

I was wondering if there would be interest in a prediction market linked to the Less Wrong account? The idea is that we use essentially the same structure as Intrade / Ipredict. We use play money - this can either be Karma or a new "currency" where everyone is assigned the same starting value. If we use a currency other than Karma, your balance would be publicly linked to your account, as an indicator of your predictive skills.

Perhaps participants would have to reach a specified level of Karma before they are allowed to participate, to avoid users setting up puppet accounts to transfer points to their actual accounts

I think such a prediction market would act as a tax on bullshit, it would help aggregate information, it would help us identify the best predictors in the community, and it would be a lot of fun.

8gwern7yWhy would LWers use such a prediction market more than PredictionBook?
2Jayson_Virissimo7yBecause karma?

I don't think karma matters as much as people think it does, but if that's the only reason, LW could be programmed to look on PB.com for a matching username and increase karma based on the scores or something, much more easily than an entire prediction market written.

0Eugine_Nier7yThat has the problem that people can inflate their scores by repeatedly predicting that the sun will rise tomorrow.
5gwern7yKarma is even more easily - and invisibly - gameable.
-1Ben Pace7yUp vote.
1Anders_H7yGood point . I actually didn't know about PredictionBook. Now that it has been pointed out to me, I see that there is already a decent option, so my suggestion would be less valuable. However, I still think it would be useful to have a prediction market that operates with Intrade rules. Whether that is worth writing the code is another matter..
2Stefan_Schubert7yI think it's a very good idea. I also like the "tax on bs" metaphor. I like the idea of bullshitters getting punished! :) I think it should be remembered, though, that wrt many predictions, luck is as least as important as skill/knowledge. Of course if you have many question the luck/noise element is reduced and the signal/skill element is strengthened, but it nevertheless is something to consider.
0ChristianKl7yI would personally allow free account creation but give people an ingame salary of currency for every day in which they engage into trades. Developing a good prediction market that's people actually want to use is a bigger problem. PredictionBook sort of works but it could work better than it works at the moment. PredictionBook already exists and is opensource. If you want you could probably write a plugin that adds prediction market functionality on top of what already exists in predictionbook.
-8Lumifer7y

Recently I've been trying to catch up in math, with a goal of trying to get to calculus as soon as possible. (I want to study Data Science, and calculus / linear algebra seems to be necessary for that kind of study.) I found someone on LW who agreed to provide me with some deadlines, minor incentives, and help if I need it (similar to this proposal), although I'm not sure how well such a setup will end up working.

Originally the plan was that I'd study the Art of Problem Solving Intermediate Algebra book, but I found that many of the concepts were a little advanced for me, so I switched to the middle of the Introduction to Algebra book instead.

The Art of Problem Solving books deliberately make you think a lot, and a lot of the problems are quite difficult. That's great, but I've found that after 2-3 hours of heavy thinking my brain often feels completely shot and that ruins my studying for the rest of the day. It also doesn't help that my available study time usually runs from about 10am-2pm, but I often only start to really wake up around noon. (Yes, I get enough sleep usually. I also use a light box. But I still often only wake up around noon.)

One solution I've been thinking of wo... (read more)

8passive_fist7yBe very very careful of studying beyond the level you think is comfortable. My experience has been that you cannot push yourself to learn difficult things, especially math, faster than a certain pace. Sure, your limit may be 20% higher than what you think it is, but it's not 200% higher. Spending more time on a task when you just don't feel up to it is useless, because instead of thinking you'll just be spending more time staring at the page and having your mind drift off. I've found that the various methods of 'productivity boosting' (pomodoros, etc) are largely useless and do one of two things: Either decrease your productivity, or momentarily increase it at the expense of a huge decrease later on (anything from 'feeling fuzzy for a couple of days' to 'total burnout for 3 weeks'). Unless you have a mental illness, your brain is already a finely-tuned machine for learning and doing. Don't fool yourself into thinking you can improve it just by some clever schedule rearrangement. The point to all of this is that you should refrain from 'planning ahead' when it comes to learning. Sure, you should have some general overall sketch of what you want to learn, but at each particular moment in time, the best strategy is to simply pick some topic and try to learn it as best you can, until you get tired. Then rest until you feel you can go at it again. And avoid internet distractions that use up your mental energy but don't cause you to learn anything.
4raisin7yDoes this by extension imply that the type of instrumental rationality training advocated by LW is useless? Why, why not?
8Risto_Saarelma7yThe general rule of thumb for raw intelligence probably applies, you can damage it with unwise actions (like eating lead paint or taking up boxing), but there aren't really any good ways to boost it beyond its natural unimpeded baseline. Good instrumental rationality can help you look out for and avoid self-sabotaging behavior, like overworking your way into burnout.
4passive_fist7yDecreasing work-load when you feel tired - the thing you naturally want to do - is also a reliable way to avoid burnout.
5lmm7yLargely, but not entirely. There are cases where evolution optimises for something different from what you want. And there are cases where the environment has changed faster than evolution can track.
-2Lumifer7yEvolution always optimizes for the same thing :-/ If you want something different, that's your problem :-D
2Viliam_Bur7yIs it time to restart the "Read the Sequences" meme? Specifically: The Tragedy of Group Selectionism [http://lesswrong.com/lw/kw/the_tragedy_of_group_selectionism/]
0Ben Pace7yWell, at least read the wiki entry [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Evolutionary_psychology].
2passive_fist7yIf some particular method of learning can be shown, through evidence, to be an improvement long-term, then by all means go for it. But until then, your prior belief has to be that it isn't.
5zedzed7yOne of my professors once mentioned that there's an upper limit to how much learning you can do in a sleep cycle [citation needed]. This is congruent with my experience, both before and after he mentioned that, so I tend to believe it. Personally, I tend to max out around 3-4 hours, so the times you're talking about seem reasonable. If you can restructure your work times, napping is a good strategy; I've talked to a few people who report getting through grad school by napping once they'd saturated their brain's capacity to learn new stuff. Interleaved practice is good. This study had subjects practice finding the volume of unconventional geometric solids. One group clustered their practice; they found the volumes of a bunch of wedges, then a bunch of spheroids, etc. The other group had their practice problems mixed. On a final test, the former group got 20% right, and the latter group got 63% right. citation [http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11251-007-9015-8#page-1]. What this suggests is you should perhaps study programming and algebra at the same time, switching between the two fairly frequently. It feels like you're going slower, but, as the authors of the book emphasize, you're trading the illusion of learning for more durable learning. The AoPS textbooks are really, really good. In fact, I'm pretty sure they're the only good algebra textbooks you're going to find, unless you count abstract or linear algebra; most textbooks at that level are mediocre [http://www.edutopia.org/muddle-machine]. As luke_prog has mentioned, good textbooks are the usually the quickest and best way to learn new material [http://lesswrong.com/lw/3gu/the_best_textbooks_on_every_subject/]. Quality learning takes time, and you're doing yourself no favors by spending that time looking for faster alternatives.
-8Lumifer7y

Five biotypes of depression

The five defined depression biotypes are:

“It’s not serotonin deficiency, but an inability to keep serotonin in the synapse long enough. Most of these patients report excellent response to SSRI antidepressants, although they may experience nasty side effects,” Walsh said.

Pyrrole Depression: This type was found in 17 percent of the patients studied, and most of these patients also said that SSRI antidepressants helped them. These patients exhibited a combination of impaired serotonin production and extreme oxidative stress.

Copper Overload: Accounting for 15 percent of cases in the study, these patients cannot properly metabolize metals. Most of these people say that SSRIs do not have much of an effect—positive or negative—on them, but they report benefits from normalizing their copper levels through nutrient therapy. Most of these patients are women who are also estrogen intolerant.

“For them, it’s not a serotonin issue, but extreme blood and brain levels of copper that result in dopamine deficiency and norepinephrine overload,” Walsh explained. “This may be the primary cause of postpartum depression.”

Low-Folate Depression: These patients account for 20 p

... (read more)
2NancyLebovitz7yUnfortunately, the source for this information about biotypes and depression is looking very sketchy [http://nancylebov.livejournal.com/618801.html]
0TylerJay7yThat's unfortunate. Knowledge like this would be incredibly useful for treatment. Rather than just throwing drugs at a problem and seeing what sticks, doctors and psychiatrists could actually try treating each type in turn, or even better, test for markers of each condition.
1NancyLebovitz7yI'm hoping the information will pan out. Sketchy source doesn't = guaranteed false.

According to the principle of enlightened self-interest, you should help other people because this will help you in the long run. I've seen it argued that this is the reason why people have an instinct to help others. I don't think that this would mean helping people the way an Effective Altruist would. It would mean giving the way people instinctually do. You give gifts to friends, give to your community, give to children's hospitals, that sort of thing.

This makes me wonder about what I'm calling enlightened altruism. If you get power from helping people in that way, then you can use the power to help people effectively.

3Manfred7yWell, we can use the outside view here. If we look at people who are particularly successful, did they get that way by helping others? What's the proportion relative to poor people? I don't think this backs up the idea of enlightened self-interest very well. Sure, you have to "play by the rules" to be successful, but going above and beyond doesn't seem to lead to additional success. Another question we might ask is "where do peoples' instincts for giving come from?" If you believe Dawkins et al., it's the selfishness of genes, which does not have to causally pay of for the organism (instead, the payoff is acausal). This is not the sort of thing where giving according to our instincts will lead to us getting more money.
0[anonymous]7ySurvivorship bias [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survivorship_bias] alert!
2Gunnar_Zarncke7yHe qualified that by "What's the proportion relative to poor people?" thus not just looking at the survivors.
[-][anonymous]7y 11

Imagine a planet with one billion people each of whom has $1000, except the 99,999,990 people who played the lottery and lost and now have $990 each and the 10 people who played the lottery and won and now have $1,000,990 each. 100% of the rich people played the lottery whereas only 10% of the poor people did so, but that doesn't mean playing the lottery was a good idea.

0DanielLC7yMy point is more about giving the standard amount to the standard charities, rather than earmarking it all for the most efficient one. I'm not sure what you mean here. Can you give an example?
0Manfred7ySuppose I have a gene that makes me cooperate in a prisoner's dilemma with my relatives. This gene benefits me, because now I can cooperate with my cousins and get the better payoff (assuming my cousins also have this gene!). But you know what would be even better? If my cousins cooperated with me but I defected. So from a causal decision theory standpoint, my best route is to ignore my instincts and defect. But if I had a gene that said "defect with my cousins," that would mean my cousins defect back, and so we all lose. So our instincts be beneficial even when the individual best strategy doesn't line up with them (Because our instincts can be correlated with other humans').
0Lumifer7yThis reasoning assumes that you are special and significantly different from your cousins. If you're not, your cousins follow the same strategy and you all defect, gene or no gene.
3DanielLC7yThat's what acausal benefit means.
-2Lumifer7yGoogle: No results found for "acausal benefit" Can you elaborate?
1DanielLC7yIt's mostly limited to this site, and I don't know how much that exact wording is used, but it refers to things like Newcomb's problem, where you can get some benefit from what you do, but you're not actually causing it. I should add that when I told Manfred, I didn't understand, it was more that I didn't understand how it applied to that situation.
0Lumifer7yI'm familiar with the concept of an acausal trade. But I don't understand how it applies to the situation of playing Prisoner's Dilemma with your cousins.
0Nornagest7yThe wiki article on acausal trade [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Acausal_trade] may prove helpful.

Elsewhere in comments here it's suggested that one reason why LW (allegedly) has less interesting posts and discussions than it used to is that "Eliezer has taken to disseminating his current work via open Facebook discussions". I am curious about how the rest of the LW community feels about this.

Poll! The fact that Eliezer now tends to talk about his current work on Facebook rather than LW is ...

[pollid:697]

(For the avoidance of doubt, I am not suggesting that Eliezer has any obligation to do what anyone votes for here. Among many reasons there's this: If he's posting things on FB rather than LW because there are lots of people who want to read his stuff but for whatever reason will never read anything on LW then this poll can't possibly detect that other than weakly and indirectly.)

The main problem is that facebook encourages drastically different quality of thought and expressions than lesswrong does. The quality of thought in Eliezer's comments on facebook is sloppy. I chose to unfollow him on facebook because seeing Eliezer at his worst makes it rather a lot more difficult to appreciate Eliezer at his best (contempt is the mind killer). I assumed that any particularly insteresting work he did (that is safe to share with the public) would end up finding its way into a less transient medium than facebook eventually...

...Have I been missing anything exciting?

6Viliam_Bur7yNot sure if this applies to Eliezer's debate threads, but not having downvotes is a horrible setup for a debate. Every stupid comment is either ignored, which seems like "silence is consent", or starts a flamewar. There is simply no way to reduce noise.
1wedrifid7yThere is no way to reduce noise for everyone else. For myself I've adopted a strategy of using the 'block use' feature whenever I encounter a comment that I especially wish to downvote. These days I consider 'block' to be a far more critical feature than downvoting is (despite remaining a big fan of downvoting liberally).
0[anonymous]7yYou can delete comments to your posts, and IIRC EY has endorsed doing so.

I wonder what you think of the question of the origin of consciousness i. e. "Why do we have internal experiences att all?" and "How can any physical process result in an internal/subjective experience?"

I've read some material on the subject before, and reading the quantum physics and identity sequence got me thinking about this again.

7[anonymous]7yDouglas Hofstadter is the go to, mainstream, "hey I recognize that name" authority, though it obviously should be noted that he is a cognitive scientist, not a biologist, neurologist, or nuero-biologist. So, you couldn't build a brain from reading Godel, Escher, and Bach. The only other material I intimately know that discusses the origin of consciousness is Carl Sagan's The Dragons of Eden, which, again, is mainstream and pop science. It's fun reading and enjoyable, but you can't build a brain from it. Someone else can probably suggest better sources for more study. Of course, some components of these questions can be answered by reducing the question to find out more about what you're looking for. What's the make up of an internal experience [http://lesswrong.com/lw/no/how_an_algorithm_feels_from_inside/]? What are its moving parts? How do you build it? How are subjective experiences not physical processes [http://lesswrong.com/lw/f1u/causal_reference/]? If they aren't physical, what are they? Taboo [http://lesswrong.com/lw/nu/taboo_your_words/] "internal/subjective experiences." What are you left with to solve? What mechanics remain to be understood? Since you've read through the quantum physics sequence, I'm sure you've been exposed to these ideas already. I'm not a neuroscientist or a cognitive scientist. I know very little about the brain that wasn't used for blunt symbolism in Neon Genesis or Xenogears. But I'd guess that, whatever mechanism(s) allows for consciousness, it's built using the matter available. No tricks or slight of hand.
1Raythen7yThank you - this is helpful.
6Alejandro17yMy suggestion would be to start with Dennett's Consiousness Explained. It tackles exactly the questions you are interested in, and it is much more entertaining than the average philosophy/neurology book on the topic.

Links: Young blood reverses age-related impairments in cognitive function and synaptic plasticity in mice (press release)(paper)

I think the radial arm water maze experiment's results are particularly interesting; it measures learning and memory (see fig 2c which is visible even with the paywall). There's a day one and day two of training and the old mice (18 months) improve somewhat during the first day and then more or less start over on the second day in terms of the errors they are making. This is also true if the old mice are treated with 8 injections ... (read more)

Idea for a question for the next LW survey: Have you ever been diagnosed with a mental disorder? If so, what was it? [either a list of some common ones and an "other" box, or, ideally, a full drop-down of DSM-5 diagnoses. Plus a troll-bait non-disorder and a "prefer not to say", of course]

0Vulture6yUpdate: 3 months later, it just popped into my head that this ought to be a checklist, not a drop-down.
0NancyLebovitz7yI think I'd want a second question about the severity of the disorder, including whether person thinks the disorder has some advantages.
-1Lumifer7y...and a follow-up question: Have you ever self-diagnosed yourself with a mental disorder? :-)
0Vulture7yWould that be interesting enough as a question to be worth including? I imagine there's a lot of variability in self-diagnosis.
2Lumifer7yThe first interesting point is the one-bit yes/no answer. I would not expect a majority of the general population to self-diagnose itself with a mental disease at any point in their life. However for certain specific groups this changes. One group of interest is high-IQ reflexive self-doubting people. Another group is freaks, that is, people who are clearly weird/strange/different from those around them for whatever reason. Yet another group is borderline cases, those whose symptoms are not strong or pronounced enough for a clinical diagnosis and yet they are not entirely "normal" anyway. And another group is a variety of neurodiverse people.
0mare-of-night7yThere are also people who do have a disorder, but have reasons for not seeing a doctor about it. (Lack of funds, not expecting treatment to help, not needing treatment, etc.)
0Lumifer7yDo you mean "reasons" or do you mean "rational reasons"? The opinion of someone who does have a mental disorder on whether treatment will help or is needed, that opinion is... suspect.
0mare-of-night7yIn this context, they don't have to be good reasons - my point was that a self diagnosis doesn't necessarily disagree with what a doctor would say if asked.
0Vulture7yOkay, that makes sense. And although it might take some clever structuring, I think it might be interesting to try to determine how frequently those self-diagnoses were accurate... something about "confirmed by a medical professional", perhaps?
0Lumifer7yThis is tricky ground. If you want more follow-up questions, the first probably should be "Have you, of your own will, talked to a mental health professional about an assessment or a diagnosis?". Again, the majority of the general population would answer "no" to this.
1Nornagest7yI seem to recall something like 30% of the adult American population being in therapy or having been recently. That's not a majority, but it's pretty substantial, and they didn't get there by magic.
0Lumifer7yMy impression is that mostly involves people going to their doctor and saying "Doctor, I feel horrible!". And the good doctor says "Sure, try these antidepressants!" (yes, I know I'm exaggerating). That's a different thing from "Doctor, I believe I'm mentally ill".
3Nornagest7yDepression is a mental illness. You might not go to the doctor and ask about depression (though I doubt this is anywhere near as uncommon as you're making it out to be), but going to the doctor and saying "Doc, I can't sleep, feel sad all the time, everything I do seems pointless, etc." is as much asking for a consultation on mental illness as "Doc, I've got this nasty bullseye-shaped rash on my leg and I've got a fever and a bad headache" is asking for a consultation on Lyme disease. The standards of diagnosis might not be as rigorous, but that's a separate issue.
5fubarobfusco7yThen there's me. "Doctor, I can't sleep!" "Here, take this Ambien." "Ambien scares the crap out of me; it makes my friend call me up late at night and ramble incoherently at me, and I've heard it makes people have sex and forget it happened." "Eh. Take it anyway, that doesn't happen to most people." "Doctor, I still can't sleep, I worry all the time, and it's wrecking my motivation at work. And the Ambien works, but it makes me trip out more than I probably should most nights." "You have an anxiety disorder. Here, go to this psychiatrist, Doctor #2. And don't take so much Ambien." "Doctor #2, I can't sleep, I worry all the time, and it's wrecking my motivation at work. Oh, and Ambien makes me trip out before I fall asleep." "You have anxiety and depression. Here, take these antidepressants, and these benzodiazepines if you need them, plus these folates and vitamin D ... oh, and replace that Ambien with this Lunesta, and come back every week. And let's talk about the work situation, something's messed up there ..." Anecdotal, sure; and pretty recent. But I didn't start out with the idea "I'm depressed and should seek antidepressants". I thought I had a sleep disorder, but it turns out our reality doesn't issue time machines for those.
0Lumifer7yYes, if the question were "How many people go to a doctor to complain of symptoms of mental illnesses" then sure, a large chunk of the general American population (still don't know if a majority) would qualify. However recall the context. We started with the question "Have you ever self-diagnosed yourself with a mental disorder?" and are talking about the follow-up to it. Here the question about going to the doctor means mostly "Did you take your self-diagnosis seriously enough to talk to a medic about it?" And, still within this context, the question is much more like "I think I'm mentally ill, is that so?" than "I can't sleep and life is pointless, how do I fix that?"
0Nornagest7yI was mostly replying to the bit about the general population. In the context of a follow-up question, you might get some quite different results. Actually, I'm not at all sure if you'd even get a higher percentage of yes respondents than you would in the general population; there's a lot of things I get the sense that a self-diagnosis could be pointing to, most of them likely anticorrelated with seeking formal diagnosis. Charitably, it might indicate an attempt to find out what's going on with one's head in an absence of resources or motivation, or in the presence of social or communication issues or other life circumstances that make one less likely to immediately seek help. Less charitably, it might indicate attention-seeking behavior of some sort, or a trivial approach to the whole issue.
0Lumifer7yI agree that self-diagnosis could be pointing to multiple, different things. Don't know if there'll be much attention-seeking in the current crowd -- "I'm so cool I'm depressed and I'll say I have MDP to make me extra cool" is a kinda early high school thing and most people grow out of it fairly quickly. People who don't grow out of it are, um, easily recognizable.
0Vulture7yAre you sure about that?
0Lumifer7yI don't have data, but my prior is fairly strong. There are a lot of (temporarily) depressed teenagers, but it's rarely clinical and they rarely go for a formal evaluation to a psychiatrist or a psychotherapist. How many people, do you think, go to a doctor and say "I think I'm mentally ill"?
0Vulture7yAh, when you phrase it like that I realize that my estimate is rather low. Near vs. Far mode, I guess. Since it's relatively unlikely that someone would do that if they weren't actually mentally ill, and some mental illness is mild enough that one wouldn't bother, and a lot of the severe ones could prevent someone from consulting a doctor on their own, a pretty low proportion of the population seems reasonable. Does that line up with your reasoning? edit: I think that part of what was muddling me was that your original phrasing ("talked to a mental health professional about an assessment or a diagnosis") was sort of unclear, so I resorted to nearby heuristics rather than trying to parse it properly. We might want to fix that up before putting it on the survey.
0Lumifer7yWell, I meant this in the context of being a follow-up to the previous question about self-diagnosis. So it mostly means "Did you take your self-diagnosis seriously enough to go to a doctor?" Such a question outside of this context needs to be more precisely formulated, I think. As we were discussing with Nornagest, going to a doctor and saying "I can't sleep, life sucks, can you help with that?" is sufficiently common.

I've been wondering a lot about whether or not I'm acting rationally with regards to the fact that I will never again be as young as I am now.

So I've been trying to make a list of things I can only do while I'm young, so that I do not regret missing the opportunity later (or at least rationally decided to skip it). I'm 27 so I've already missed a lot of the cliche advice aimed at high school students about to enter college, and I'm already happily engaged so that cuts out some other things.

Any thoughts on opportunities only available at a certain age?

5[anonymous]7yOne point, just a nitpick: I would suggest not to aim to act "rationally." Aim to win [http://lesswrong.com/lw/nc/newcombs_problem_and_regret_of_rationality/]. I may be assuming overmuch about your intended meaning, but remember, if your goal is to do what is rational rather than to do what is best/right/winning, you'll be confused. That said, I understand what you mean. There are activities I know can done now, in youth, that, while maybe not impossible in my 40s, 50s, or 60s, would be more difficult. First, your health. Work out, eat right, stay clean. Do everything that can maximize your health NOW and do it to the utmost that you can. If you start working on your health now, the long term payoffs will be exponential rather than linear. The longer you wait to maximize your health, the greater your disadvantage, the less your payoff. EDIT: (As I have no citation to back this claim up, it'd be best not to take my word on this. I would still suggest not delaying improving your health because doing so will result in benefits now, regardless of whether health improvements are exponential or linear with age.) Second, try everything. We have a whole article [http://lesswrong.com/lw/iri/how_to_become_a_1000_year_old_vampire/] on this that spells it out better than I can. And I'll be the first to admit I haven't dove into its methods full force so I can't vouch for them. But, basically, expose yourself to the world. Not in any mean or gross sense, but as a human being, gathering experience. Go to art classes, go to yoga classes, go to MIRI classes, take karate, learn to dance, learn to sing, play an instrument, learn maths, learn history, go to LW meetups. Of course, you will be limited, and should be limited, by circumstances. You aren't a brain with infinite capacity yet, so you can't literally do everything. So, focus on a few things at a time. Set a schedule to try out new activities while continuing old, beneficial ones. For example, you might have three days
6Lumifer7y[Citation needed]. That doesn't look true to me.
2[anonymous]7yHmm, fair enough. I made an assumption given my understanding of the body and the effects of age. Since I'm at work and cannot provide a validation for my claim, I'll strike it for the time being. Thank you.
[-][anonymous]7y 8

Is anyone familiar with any effective-altruist work on pushing humanity towards becoming a spacefaring species? Seems relevant given the likely difference between a civilization that develops it vs. one that doesn't.

7ChristianKl7yI think it might even have negative return. If you do PR in that regard you are going to encourage misallocation of NASA funds. NASA should spend more resources on tracking near-earth objects and less on PR moves like trying to put a man on Mars. Understanding the climate of our own planet better is also an useful target for NASA spending. Building human civilisation in Alaska is much easier than doing it on Mars. We don't even get things right in Africa where there fertile ground on which plants grow. Colonizing Mars will need much better biotech and smarter robots than we have at the moment.
3Izeinwinter7y.. the obvious E-A answer to this question is "Don't do any pushing". - Increased space presence is a nigh-certain consequence of a more generally prospering and peaceful world, and diverting resources towards pushing this above trend is going to have just awful returns in utility per dollar. Space will happen on it's own accord as people find useful things to do there (I figure telescopes will be the main thing, tbh.) but beyond that? People are already mapping the asteroid trajectories, which is the only issue really directly relevant to E-A work. If the world dies, and a remnant lives on in tincans in space, that is.. not actually very helpful.
7Kaj_Sotala7yBut arguably still vastly better than everybody dying, particularly if that tincan civilization can eventually rebuild and recolonize habitable planets.
-6Izeinwinter7y

So I often find that interesting people live near me. Anyone have tips on asking random people to meet up? Ask them for coffee? I suppose a short email is better than a long one, which may come off creepy? Anyone have friends they met via random emails?

5Alicorn7yI have a lot of friends who I met through fan mail - people contacting me to tell me they like something about my online footprint. My recommendation is to establish online correspondence for a while, then when they don't send "leave me alone" signals like terse or perfunctory responses you can ask to hang out.
0pewpewlasergun7yThanks. After a bit of random googling it seems there are a lot of results about 'saying no to people who want to get coffee/pick your brain' so it seems like reasonably successful people with an internet presence get a lot of these requests.
0Alicorn7yI imagine different successful people with internet presences have different intersections of request quantity and request tolerance. I don't get people paying attention to me and wanting to hang out with me as often as I'd like yet so that's probably biasing my recommendations.

Dear LW,

I've just this morning been offered funding for a research placement in a British University this summer (I'm 17). I have to contact researchers myself, and it generally has to be in a STEM subject area. I am looking very generally for any recommendations of researchers to contact in areas of Maths, Physics and Computer Science. If you know any people who do research that would be of interest to the average LessWronger, especially in the aforementioned fields, I would appreciate it greatly.

2Oscar_Cunningham7yObviously there are hundreds of possibilities, but the Future of Humanity Institute [http://www.fhi.ox.ac.uk/] springs to mind.
2Ben Pace7yI checked them out actually, and it doesn't seem like they normally do that kind of thing. Still, I've sent them an email, and I'll see what they say :) Added: They've said they're happy I'm interested, but haven't got anything for me at the minute,

Looks like when my current job ends (May 31), I'll have the summer free before my next one starts (Sept). My June is pretty much booked with a big writing project with a looming deadline, but I get to decide how to fill July and August, and I'd appreciate crowdsourced suggestions.

I'm lucky enough to not need to find alternate work to cover living expenses for those two months, so I'm not particularly in the market for short-term work suggestions. I'll be based out of D.C. during this period. Not super interested in travel. I'm considering some self-stu... (read more)

5Emile7y(means "American Sign Language" for the curious like me)
0iarwain17yMaybe try doing nothing. For some people that would drive them crazy, but for others a month of rest and peacefulness can be life-changing. Try turning off the computer for a month. Take walks. Read a book under a tree. Smell the flowers. Meditate. Also, I'm not sure if this counts as travel, but Shenandoah is only about 1:30 from DC. Getting a small cabin or a room in a bed and breakfast for a month is not so expensive. Immersing yourself in a more natural, less hectic environment can itself be extremely restorative. And you can even sew / embroider while you're doing it.
0palladias7yI am definitely in the "would drive them crazy" camp. One of the worst vacations I've taken was to St. John with my family. It's a long way to go just to read on the beach rather than read in a park or a library. I do have Ignatian retreat on my list, though.
0Baughn7yI don't know what falls under 'freelance writing', but have you considered writing fiction? It's a huge time-sink even if you're deliberately trying to improve your speed, but the skills are also surprisingly applicable - modelling your characters in your head isn't dramatically different from modelling other real people, even if you ignore the skills that merely fall under "knowing how to write". I've had a great deal of fun with that, lately. You don't necessarily need to immediately jump into original fiction, either. Fanfiction is often considered "training wheels", but that doesn't just mean it's easier - well, it is, but it's also much easier to tell if you're getting characterisation right when there's the original work to compare to (and rabid fans to do the comparison), while the usual "benefit" of writing fanfiction (not needing to invent your own setting) can be trivially set aside if you feel like it.
0palladias7yI've written fanfiction [https://www.fanfiction.net/u/4565432/Thomas-M-Riddle], but I've only enjoyed writing fiction with a writing partner, as I did for those two stories. I get very very bored writing things that aren't dialogue. I'm currently at a magazine for a journo internship, and have done some freelance book/theatre reviews for pay.
4Vulture7yIf you're planning to link this account to your real world identity, or already have, you might think twice about linking to those writings. Sorry if this was already obvious and considered. edit: that said, I'm really enjoying APoF :-)
0palladias7yGlad to hear it! I'm traceable to those writings, but not though easy googling. The nice thing about being a writer with daily blog updates is security through obscurity. It's hard to trawl through to find whatever would be the worst thing ;)

What is the meaning and use of (total) GDP, adjusted PPP?

I cannot think of a single use for it (unlike nominal total GDP or PPP GDP per capita).

1Lumifer7yWell, PPP has meaning only in the context of multiple currencies, so presumably you're trying to get a handle on some country's nominal GDP expressed in a different currency. This means you need a foreign exchange rate, a multiplier to convert units to different units. At this point things start getting murkier. Sometimes there's a market FX rate. Sometimes there is an official FX rate (and a different black market one). Sometimes there is no reasonable FX rate at all. The PPP rate is just one of the possibilities. Depending on the circumstances it might be more or less appropriate. The crude meaning of GDP converted at PPP rate is "how much stuff at local prices does this country produce/consume".
0Douglas_Knight7yThat's not true. One does not use a uniform conversion factor across the Eurozone. Why would you ever want this?
0Lumifer7yIt is true. If your nominal GDP of, say, Germany is different from the PPP-based GDP then you're measuring the same GDP in two different units. One of them is the standard Euro, what is the other unit? I don't understand the question. For example, I find it useful to know that China's GDP using the official rate is very different from the same GDP using the PPP rate. It gives me better understanding of the Chinese economy and its place in the world.
1Douglas_Knight7yPerhaps one could talk about the units of PPP by talking about converting Greek GDP from "Greek Euros" to "German Euros." But that doesn't mean that the "Greek Euro" is a different currency. It is useful to know that the cost of living in Greece is lower than the cost of living in Germany. That is, it is useful to know the PPP conversion factor. It is useful to think about GDP per capita in both nominal and PPP terms, to understand what life is like for the average individual. But what use is total GDP in PPP terms? Merely knowing that it differs from nominal GDP is a roundabout way of finding the PPP conversion factor. That's like saying that BMI is useful because, with height, it allows me to compute weight.
-9Lumifer7y
0lmm7yWhat's the use of nominal total GDP? I would expect the argument for PPP total GDP to be that it's a more accurate measure of the same thing, but I'm not actually seeing what the use is.
2Douglas_Knight7yYes, total GDP is problematic. For utilitarian purposes PPP is better, but why do it one country at a time? (aside from making utility linear in money) My comment was triggered by the announcement that China is now "the biggest economy" in PPP terms. One thing "the biggest economy" does is set prices. China can afford to buy more steel than India, so much that it drives the world price of steel. But the fact that there is a world price is closely related to the fact China pays for steel in dollars, not Chungking haircuts or Szechuan real estate. So that's what total nominal GDP is good for.

Hi, I wonder how you would use your rationality skills to solve this problem.

I'm very sensitive to cold and have been for at least 2-3 years. (I'm a 25 year old male). This is manageable with (really) warm clothes, but sometimes very inconvenient.

I've seen multiple doctors about this, and the response I've got was basically "our tests indicate there's nothing wrong with you, so there's nothing I can do". I've left multiple blood samples, and all the things that were tested are within normal (well, my trombocyte count is a bit low. Doubt it's rela... (read more)

4CAE_Jones7yI'm in a similar situation, and am leaning toward it being a circulation issue. Would you happen to know what your last blood pressure measurements were? My previous lead candidate was proto-diabetes, but the most recent tests suggest otherwise. The only comment made about my bloodpressure was by the trainee EMT, saying "I wish my bloodpressure was that low!". I've been suspicious that the safe range for bloodpressure might be shifted a bit too far downward, since most people suffer from high bloodpressure-related conditions, but I'll need to refind the evidence that pushed me in that direction. Anyway, my current strategy is to try and get more/better exercise, fresh air and sunlight. Those are good ideas in general, and should have an impact if it's circulation-related. It's too early and I'm still struggling to get good exercise, and I didn't think to try and quantify changes until... just now, so right now, this solution is experimental on my end.
0Raythen7yThanks for sharing. (just posted my blood pressure results in an another comment)
3ChristianKl7yThere are a bunch of ways temperature is regulated. Blood circulation is on of the main ways the body regulates the temperature of the extremities. Blood moves very fast through the body and has therefore a relatively constant temperature. The blood in your hand is warmer than the rest of the hand. If there's more blood in the capillaries in your hand than your hand gets warmer. Low blood pressure in the arterioles means that less blood flows into the capillaries. If muscle tissue is tense that also usually makes it harder for blood to flow into it. I personally used to often feel cold five years ago but solved the issue for myself. There are days where something emotional is going on and my thermoregulation is messed up but that's not my default. I do have done a bunch of different things, so I can't give you a single solution. Firstly an easy suggestion. Drink a lot. Drinking can increase blood pressure. There were weeks where I needed to drink 4-5 liters a day for my body to work at it's peak. I would recommend you to try drinking 4 liters a day for a week and see whether that changes how you feel. On of the main things I personally did was dancing a lot of Salsa. Salsa gave me a new relationship with my body. Part of Salsa is also having body contact and that allows me to feel which parts of the body of the woman I'm dancing with are warm and relaxed and which aren't. Good Salsa dancers are usually well circulated. On the other hand I do know woman who danced for years and didn't solve issues like that in their body. Knowing dancing patterns doesn't seem to be enough. In the Salsa sphere body movement classes seem like the produce such results but I don't know whether they are optimal. I do personally think that there's a case that 5 Rhythms or Contact Improvisation is better for your purpose than Salsa. But to be open, the theory based on which I make that recommendation are not academic in origin. Another thing that I believe but which does not com
0Raythen7yI appreciate you bringing attention to my blood circulation. My hands and feet rarely freeze (I do wear warm socks and gloves in winter, though). My ears are very sensitive to cold, though, which could well be a symptom of poor circulation.
0Raythen7yThe link between emotions and blood pressure as well as thermoregulation you describe sounds a lot like vasovagal response [http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasovagal_response] In that case I doubt that is what I'm experiencing, since I haven't noticed ANY correlation between my day-to-day emotional state, and how hot or cold I'm feeling. So unless there's a possibility of very long-term correlations, on the scale of months/years (which doesn't seem to be what you're describing), I doubt this particular mechanism is causing my cold sensitivity. I am receiving therapy. Thanks for the suggestion.
0ChristianKl7yI think the fact that vasovagal responses exist illustrate one well documented instance where there's interplay between those forces. I speak about repressing certain things for longer periods of time. Not something where you repress your trauma one day and don't do it the next. You can do the change in a single day. Even in a minute but that's not what happens most of the time.
3mare-of-night7yMy first tactic with confusing health problems is adjusting my diet, but I seem to be more affected by diet than the typical person, so your mileage may vary Taking a very complete multivitamin [http://www.amazon.com/Optimum-Nutrition-Opti-Women-120-Capsules/dp/B000GIQRW6/] for a few days and seeing if you feel any different is an easy way to check for nutrition deficiencies, if your blood tests didn't check for that (or only checked for a few usual suspects). If you do feel different, then you at least know you were deficient in something. You could also do an elimination diet for the most common food allergies, but that takes a lot of effort, so it might not be worth it if you and your family don't have a history of food issues. If you're more sensitive to cold at some times than others, try to notice the fluctuation and see if it correlates with anything (especially stress, based on ChristianKi's comment). Maybe try writing down how cold you felt and what you did that day? (I usually don't write this sort of thing down, even though I know I should.)
0Raythen7yInteresting perspective, thanks. I am taking vitamins and have been for some time. My diet has had a random drift over time due to practical concerns, taste changing etc... and random diet adjustments don't seem to have a noticeable effect. There might some specific nutritional strategies that would help - I don't have enough information to choose one, though. More data and more detailed observations seem like a good idea. There might have been some fluctuations, but I'm not noticing any obvious correlations (besides, you know, exposure to cold temperatures).
1NancyLebovitz7yThis is a long shot, but is there a chance you're eating less than you need?
2Raythen7yIt's possible. I don't know. I eat when I'm hungry, which is quite regularly (once per 3-4 hours, maybe 5), so I'm definitely not starving myself. And if I try to eat more, I feel unpleasantly full, and I feel less hungry later - so I don't think it makes a difference. I'm not sure how to check whether I'm eating enough save for counting calories (which seems complicated and unreliable). I'm hoping I'll gain some muscle mass by exercise, both for its own sake and because weight gain by other means doesn't seem to be working for me (I suspect I naturally have a slim build).
1NancyLebovitz7yAt this point, I'd say it's unlikely that you're eating so little as to lower your temperature. If you still want to test the hypothesis without counting calories, you could try a higher fat diet and see what happens. Does your temperature ever get higher or lower?
3RichardKennaway7yLong underwear. Even if your legs don't specifically feel cold, adding more insulation there helps the whole body. Your legs are a pair of huge heat exchangers, and there's a limit to how useful it is to pile more layers on your torso if all your body heat can still leak out through your legs. I've had something like that for the last 35 years or so. I just live with it. I suspect a connection with a serious illness I had back then, but I've never bothered to raise the matter with a doctor, because it doesn't seem like the sort of thing that a doctor is likely to have any remedy for. I am also slightly built (BMI 19 to 20) and have occasional attacks of great fatigue, but not depression. Thick woolly hats are good too. A lot of heat is lost through the head.
0Raythen7yThank you for all the comments and suggestions. :) At this point I have made an appointment to have my hormone levels checked (as suggested by Lumifer and NancyLebovitz). I also think my blood pressure and circulation is worth looking into. I'm still processing a lot of the suggestions and ideas, and might make another thread on this in the future.
0ChristianKl7yDid something happen 3 years ago? Maybe a major emotional trauma?
0Raythen7yI've had a really bad childhood and experienced a lot of severe emotional trauma throughout my life since then, including at that time.
1ChristianKl7yI do think that what you have can be caused by severe emotional trauma. If that's the case it basically explains why the tests that doctors run come up empty. There are defense mechanisms that the body can use in cases of trauma that lead to reduced blood circulation which in turn messes up temperature regulation and shows itself as low blood pressure. That means that the first step would be to move to a safe environment where you aren't constantly exposed to severe emotional trauma. Did you already make that step?
0Raythen7yYes, to the extent it's realistically possible.
-2Eugine_Nier7yAnd these mechanisms don't involve anything that would show up on medical tests?
0ChristianKl7yHis low blood pressure does show up in medical tests. The question of why the body set blood pressure at a certain point is largely unsolved. In our academic system mainstream medicine doesn't investigate psychological issues and psychology generally doesn't investigate physiological issues like body temperature.
-2Eugine_Nier7yYet, for some reason the intervening mechanisms don't?
0ChristianKl7yThat would require running to see studies with big enough sample sizes to gather proxies for those proxies. There no money to run those studies. Things that happen through complex patterns of neuron interactions are also not easy to study.
0ChristianKl7yDo you do sports?
0Raythen7yNot regularly. I exercise at a gym (upper body strength program, started quite recently).
4eeuuah7yIn my anecdotal experience, being underweight is correlated with being unusually susceptible to cold. Building some mass might help. Consider doing a more general strength program too.
0moridinamael7yI'm similar. I have found scarves to be both stylish and practical. The neck area is highly sensitive to cold. I've taken to toting a scarf if I am going to bring a jacket.
-3Lumifer7yFirst question: what's your blood pressure? Second question: did you do a thyroid panel and what did it show? Third question: did you measure your body temperature in controlled settings (e.g. first thing upon waking up before getting out of bed)? Common causes of sensitivity to cold are low blood pressure and hypothyroidism.
0Raythen7y90/60 mmHg according to what a doctor told me during a measurement a month ago (though my journal says 98/60 for some reason). 105/60 in an another measurement a week before that. Thyroid panel: P-TSH mIE/L 1.5 (0.3-4.2) P-T4, free pmol/L 15 (12-22) P-T3, free pmol/L 5.2 (3.1-6.8) S-Ak, (IgG) TPO kIE/L 8 (<34) The last one is TPO antibodies. The parentheses are the reference ranges at my lab. All values are within what is considered normal range. I've also had the thyroid physically examined (though palpation) and it appears there are no abnormalities (it's not swollen or enlarged). I have not measured my body temperature.
-3Lumifer7yYour systolic is low, but I'm sure you're well aware of that. The thyroid panel looks normal, but there exists a bunch of people (including a few doctors one of whom, I believe, wrote a book) who think that hypothyroidism is seriously underdiagnosed and that it will not necessary show up in the TSH/T3/T4 tests. Google it up. I have no opinion on their claims. There is also, of course, the non-answer that your thermoregulation set point just happens to be very low :-/
0Raythen7yI doubt it's a "thermoregulation set point" issue, since I haven't always felt this way. Thanks for pointing out the blood pressure thing. I hadn't considered it might be related to cold sensitivity. I have considered it might be a thyroid issue, and I am familiar with the controversy around thyroid disease. Not completely trusting all the alternative claims - but I think there's enough evidence to believe something might be going on. I think I might try to get a prescription for thyroid hormone medication, and see if it improves my condition. I'll probably try other options first, since there are potential side effects.
3Lumifer7yIf you're male you might also want to check your testosterone levels. And if your doctors and insurance are amenable, run a thorough hormones check in general.
2Raythen7yThanks, these seem like good suggestions. I've made a list of what I'll try to have checked. Any comments? DHEA-S DHT Estradiol Estrone PSA Pregnenolone Total and Free Testosterone Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) Insulin like Growth factor (IGF-1)
3Lumifer7yGiven that you were/are under much stress, I'd focus on the HTA axis [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypothalamic%E2%80%93pituitary%E2%80%93adrenal_axis] . In particular, try to get a 24-hour cortisol test -- cortisol has a pronounced circadian cycle so one measurement taken at a single point in time might be misleading.
1NancyLebovitz7yYour thermoregulation set point could have moved. In fact, I'd say that's exactly what happened, since I get the impression your temperature is fairly stable. The problem is that it's too low. Very tentatively-- maybe you should get your hormones checked. This is based on a weak hypothesis that if menopause can send body temperature too high erratically, maybe there's a hormone problem which is keeping yours too low.
2Raythen7yThanks. A hormone check does seem like a good idea to me.

Effective parenting advice: Babys names affect life outcomes:

Names Race and Economists on Baby Name Wizard.

I'd guess that means choosing names that are

  • used in high status circles (sample celebrity babies names)

  • probably matching your ethnicity

  • sufficiently popular; best just starting to climb in popularity (not topping or declining)

  • or altzernatively timeless (e.g. old roman or biblical names)

Also choose multiple names because

  • it allows to later choose the best fit

  • allows for easier compromises with your spouse

  • allows to satisfy more relatives

... (read more)
3ChristianKl7yYou don't want hollywood celebrities. Low status people name their kids after hollywood celebrities. In Germany given kids Anglosaxon names is a sign of low status. http://www.sueddeutsche.de/leben/studie-kindernamen-und-vorurteile-von-wegen-schall-und-rauch-1.44178 [http://www.sueddeutsche.de/leben/studie-kindernamen-und-vorurteile-von-wegen-schall-und-rauch-1.44178] According to that article good names for German children that make teachers think the child is high performing are: "Charlotte, Sophie, Marie, Hannah, Alexander, Maximilian, Simon, Lukas and Jakob". On the other hand bad names are: "Kevin, Chantal, Mandy, Justin and Angelina".
2Douglas_Knight7yGunnar said to name children after the children of celebrities, not directly after celebrities. But certainly using foreign celebrities is a very bad idea.
3ChristianKl7yThe kind of person who follows magazine that tells them about the name of celebrities still isn't high status. It's been a while till I researched the topic in more detail. Artists don't wear suits to appear high status and the don't give their children high status names. Royals and aristocrats might be a valid choice if you live in a country that has them. In the US the way that people who go to Harvard and Yale name their children is what's counts as high status signal.
0Gunnar_Zarncke7yYes. Use the childrens names of your local high status people. I second that. Celebrity is misleading. I wanted to give a concrete example "high status people" is too abstract.
0Gunnar_Zarncke7yNice infographic for naming children: http://www.informationisbeautifulawards.com/2013-longlist/infographic/ [http://www.informationisbeautifulawards.com/2013-longlist/infographic/]

Anyone else doing the course Functional Programming Principles in Scala ? It started last week, but still should be time to join and get the first assignment done.

3Markas7yThis was the first Coursera course I took! Highly recommended, if anyone's still on the fence.
1Viliam_Bur7yOK, I'll try. Signed in, but will look at it deeper on Thursday.
0djm7yYes, I am taking that course - I did the previous version of it, but started late so didn't complete the requirements. It is a short course focused mainly on getting your development environment setup with github
0iarwain17yAre you also taking the R programming course then? Based on your experience, would it be fine to take both courses simultaneously?
1djm7yI took the R programming course last year - it was a good short course if you already have some programming background, though I wouldn't have wanted to do it as a complete beginner. It didn't feel like a normal course though - more like one of those week long corporate training modules. Useful, but I imagine doing the complete Data Science specialization in short blocks would leave some people with a patchy result.
[-][anonymous]7y 2

Short question, is Newcomb's Problem still considered an open issue, or has the community settled on a definite decision theory that will yield the right answers yet?

2[anonymous]7yFrom the 2013 survey results [http://lesswrong.com/lw/jj0/2013_survey_results/]: * Don't understand/prefer not to answer: 92, 5.6% * Not sure: 103, 6.3% * One box: 1036, 63.3% * Two box: 119, 7.3% * Did not answer: 287, 17.5%
2[anonymous]7yWell that's nice, but I had meant: have we come to a consensus on what sort of decision theory will auto-generate the right result, rather than merely writing down the result of the decision theory preinstalled in our brains and calling it correct? Has the "Paradox" part been formally resolved? Because, you know, I don't want to post about it and then get told my thoughts were already thought five years ago and didn't actually help solve the problem.
0Douglas_Knight7yIncarnations of UDT sufficient for this problem have been made completely formal.
2[anonymous]7yUmmm.... link please?
0[anonymous]7yNot for any mathematically rigorous value of “what sort”, as far as I can tell.
2[anonymous]7yGreat, I'm drafting a post.
0ChristianKl7yA good decision theory performs well in many problems and not only in one problem. Having a decision theory that solves Newcomb's Problem but that doesn't perform well for other problems isn't helpful. There isn't yet the ultimate decision theory that solves everything so I don't see how individual problems can be declared solved.
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-13polymathwannabe7y