I was going for a walk yesterday night, and when I looked up at the sky, I saw something I had never seen before: a bright orange dot, like a star, but I had never seen a star that bright and so orange before. "No... that can't be"- but it was: I was looking at Mars, that other world I had heard so much about, thought so much about.
I never realized until yesterday that I had never seen Mars with my own two eyes until that day- one of the closest worlds that humans could, with minimal difficulty, make into a new home one day.
It struck me then in a way that I never felt before, just how far away the world Mars is. I knew it in an abstract sense, but seeing this little dot in the distance, a dot that I knew to be an object larger even than the Moon, but seeming so small in comparison, made me realize, in my gut, just how far away this other world was, just like how when I stand on top of a mountain, and see small buildings on the ground way below me, I realize that those small buildings are actually skyscrapers far away.
And yet, as far as Mars was that night, it was so bright, so apparent, precisely because it was closer now to us than it normally ever is- normally this world is even further from us than it is now.
In short, I am selling my attention by selling the right to put cards in my Anki deck, starting at the low price of $1 per card.
I will create and add a card (any card that you desire, with the caveat that I can veto any card that seems problematic, and capped to a similar amount of information per card as my usual cards contain) to my Anki deck for $1. After the first ten cards (across all people), the price will rise to $2 per card, and will double every 5 cards from then on. I commit to study the added card(s) like I would any other card in my decks (I will give it a starting interval of 10 days, which is sooner than the usual interval of 20 days I usually use, unless I judge that a shorter interval makes sense. I study Anki every day, and have been clearing my deck at least once every 10 days for the past 5 months, and intend to continue to do so). Since I will be creating the cards myself (unless you know of a high-quality deck that contains cards with the information you desire), an idea for a card is enough even if you don't know how to execute it.
Both question-and-answer and straight text are acceptable forms for cards. Acceptable forms of payment include cash, Venmo, BTC, E... (read more)
Religion isn't about believing false things. Religion is about building bonds between humans, by means including (but not limited to) costly signalling. It happens that a ubiquitous form of costly signalling used by many prominent modern religions is belief taxes (insisting that the ingroup professes a particular, easily disproven belief as a reliable signal of loyalty), but this is not neccesary for a religion to successfully build trust and loyalty between members. In particular, costly signalling must be negative-value for an individual (before the second-order benefits from the group dynamic), but need not be negative-value for the group, or for humanity. Indeed, the best costly sacrifices can be positive-value for the group or humanity, while negative-value for the performing individual. (There are some who may argue that positive-value sacrifices have less signalling value than negative value sacrifices, but I find their logic dubious, and my own observations of religion seem to suggest positive-value sacrifice is abundant in organized religion, albeit intermixed with neutral- and negative-value sacrifice)
The rationalist community is averse to religion because it so often goe... (read more)
If you know someone is rational, honest, and well-read, then you can learn a good bit from the simple fact that they disagree with you.
If you aren't sure someone is rational and honest, their disagreement tells you little.
If you know someone considers you to be rational and honest, the fact that they still disagree with you after hearing what you have to say, tells you something.
But if you don't know that they consider you to be rational and honest, their disagreement tells you nothing.
It's valuable to strive for common knowledge of you and your partners' rationality and honesty, to make the most of your disagreements.
Does newspeak actually decrease intellectual capacity? (No)
In George Orwell's book 1984, he describes a totalitarian society that, among other initiatives to suppress the population, implements "Newspeak", a heavily simplified version of the English language, designed with the stated intent of limiting the citizens' capacity to think for themselves (thereby ensuring stability for the reigning regime)
In short, the ethos of newspeak can be summarized as: "Minimize vocabulary to minimize range of thought and expression". There are two different, closely related, ideas, both of which the book implies, that are worth separating here.
The first (which I think is to some extent reasonable) is that by removing certain words from the language, which serve as effective handles for pro-democracy, pro-free-speech, pro-market concepts, the regime makes it harder to communicate and verbally think about such ideas (I think in the absence of other techniques used by Orwell's Oceania to suppress independent thought, such subjects can still be meaningfully communicated and pondered, just less easily than with a rich vocabulary provided)
The second idea, which I worry is an incorrect takeaway people m... (read more)
"From AI to Zombies" is a terrible title... when I recommend The Sequences to people, I always feel uncomfortable telling them the name, since the name makes it sound like cookey bull****- in a way that doesn't really indicate what it's about
I'm quite baffled by the lack of response to my recent question asking about which AI-researching companies are good to invest in (as in, would have good impact, not necessarily most profitable)- It indicates either A) most LW'ers aren't investing in stocks (which is a stupid thing not to be doing), or B) are investing in stocks, but aren't trying to think carefully about what impact their actions have on the world, and their own future happiness (which indicates a massive failure of rationality)
Even putting this aside, the fact that nobody jumped at the chance to potentially shift a non-trivial (for certain definitions of trivial) amount of funding away from bad organizations and towards good organizations (which I'm investing primarily as a personal financial strategy), seems very worrying to me. While it is (as ChristianKI pointed out) debatable that the amount of funding I can provide as a single person will make a big difference to a big company, it's bad decision theory to model my actions as only being correlated with myself; and besides, if the funding was redirected, it probably would have gone somewhere without the enormous supply of funds Alphabet has, and very well could have made an important difference, pushing the margins away from failure and towards success.
There's a good chance I may change my mind in the future about this, but currently my response to this information is a substantial shift away from the LW crowd actually being any good at usefully using rationality instrumentally
(For what it's worth, the post made it not at all clear to me that we were talking about a nontrivial amount of funding. I read it as just you thinking a bit through your personal finance allocation. The topic of divesting and impact investing has been analyzed a bunch on LessWrong and the EA Forum, and my current position is mostly that these kinds of differences in investment don't really make much of a difference in total funding allocation, so it doesn't seem worth optimizing much, besides just optimizing for returns and then taking those returns and optimizing those fully for philanthropic impact.)
During today's LW event, I chatted with Ruby and Raemon (seperately) about the comparison between human-made photovoltaic systems (i.e. solar panels), and plant-produced chlorophyll. I mentioned that in many ways chlorophyll is inferior to solar panels - consumer grade solar panels operate in the 10% to 20% efficiency range (i.e. for every 100 joules of light energy, 10 - 20 joules are converted into usable energy), while chlorophyll is around 9% efficient, and modern cutting edge solar panels can go even as high as nearly 50% efficiency. Furthermore,... (read more)
I'm quite scared by some of the responses I'm seeing to this year's Petrov Day. Yes, it is symbolic. Yes, it is a fun thing we do. But it's not "purely symbolic", it's not "just a game". Taking things that are meant to be serious is important, even if you can't see why they're serious.
As I've said elsewhere, the truly valuable thing a rogue agent destroys by failing to live up to expectations on Petrov day, isn't just whatever has been put at stake for the day's celebrations, but the very valuable chance to build a type of trust that can only be built by p... (read more)
One thing that is frustrating me right now is that I don't have a good way of outputting ideas while walking. One thing I've tried is talking into voicememos, but it feels awkward to be talking out loud to myself in public, and it's a hassle to transcribe what I write when I'm done. One idea I don't think I've ever seen is a hand-held keyboard that I can use as I'm walking, and can operate mostly by touch, without looking at it, and maybe it can provide audio feedback through my headphones.
Epistemic: Intend as a (half-baked) serious proposal
I’ve been thinking about ways to signal truth value in speech- in our modern society, we have no way to readily tell when a person is being 100% honest- we have to trust that a communicator is being honest, or otherwise verify for ourselves if what they are saying is true, and if I want to tell a joke, speak ironically, or communicate things which aren’t-literally-the-truth-but-point-to-the-truth, my listeners need to deduce this for themselves from the context in which I say something not-l... (read more)
Last month, I wrote a post here titled "Even Inflationary Currencies Should Have Fixed Total Supply", which wasn't well-received. One problem was that the point I argued for wasn't exactly the same as what the title stated: I supported both currencies with fixed total supply, and currencies that instead choose to scale supply proportional to the amount of value in the currency's ecosystem, and many people got confused and put off by the disparity between the title and my actual thesis; indeed, one of the most common critiques in the comments was a reiterat... (read more)
I learned to type in Dvorak nearly a decade ago, and any time I have typed on a device that supports it, I have used it since then. I don't know if it actually is any better than QWERTY, but I do notice that I enjoy the way it feels to type in Dvorak; the rhythm and shape of the dance my fingers make is noticeably different from when I type on QWERTY.
Even if Dvorak itself turns out not to be better in some way (fx. speed, avoiding injury, facilitation of mental processes) than QWERTY, it is incredibly unlikely that there does not exist some configuration of keys that is provably superior to QWERTY.
Also, hot take: Colemak is the coward's Dvorak.
We're living in a very important time, being on the cusp of both the space revolution and AI revolution truly taking off. Either one alone would make the 2020's on equal historical footing with the original development of life or the Cambrian explosion, and both together will make for a very historic moment.
I currently expect a large AI boom, representing a 10x growth in world GDP to happen within the next 5 years with 80% probability, in the next 10 years with ~93% probability, and in the next 3 years with 50% probability.
I'd be happy to doublecrux with anyone whose timelines are slower
I wish the keycaps on some of the keys on my keyboard were textured - I can touch-type well enough for the alphabetic keys, but when using other keys, I often get slightly confused as to which keys are under my fingers unless I use my eyes to see what key it is. If there were textures (perhaps braille symbols) that indicated which key I was feeling, I expect that would be useful.
Scott Garrabrandt presents Cartesian Frames as being a very mathematical idea. When I asked him about the prominence of mathematics in his sequence, he said “It’s fundamentally math; I mean, you could translate it out of math, but ultimately it comes from math”. But I have a different experience when I think about Cartesian Frames- first and foremost, my mental conception of CF is as a common sense idea, that only incidentally happens to be expressable in mathematical terms (edit: when I say "common sense" here, I don't mean that it's a well known idea - i... (read more)
Aumann Agreement != Free Agreement
Oftentimes, I hear people talk about Aumann's Agreement Theorem as if it means that two rational, honest agents cannot be aware of disagreeing with each other on a subject, without immediately coming to agree with each other. However, this is overstating the power of Aumann Agreement. Even putting aside the unrealistic assumption of Bayesian updating, which is computationally intractable in the real world, as well as the (not strictly required, but valuable) non-trivial presumption that the rationality and honesty of the a... (read more)
There's a good number of ideas that I want to share here on LW in the linguistics / communication cluster. The question always comes to mind: "But what does communication have to do with rationality?"- to which I answer, rationality is the attempt to win, in part by believing true things which help one accomplish winning. If humans had infinite computational resources and infinite free time in which to do experiments, there would be nothing stopping us from arriving at the truth by ourselves. But in reality, we can't arrive at all the logical consequences ... (read more)
All the food you have on your table,
Your potatoes, corn, and lox,
To grow them yourself you would be able;
But if all were minded such,
Then who would have saved you from the pox?
If I were a middle school teacher, I would implement this system to make nerdy kids more popular (and maybe make aspiring popular kids work harder in class): every week, I would select a handful of students who I felt had done good work that week (according to my subjective taste), and they could write down the names of 3 or 4 other students in the class (but not themselves) who would earn a modest amount of extra credit. Ideally, I would name the students at the start of the week, and only take their nominations at the end of the week, so they have plenty... (read more)
I read somewhere that intelligent people are a positive externality for their neighbors. Their activity improves the country on average, and they only capture a part of the value they add.
If you could clone thousand Einsteins (talented not all in physics, but each one in something different), they could improve your country so much that your life would be awesome, despite the fact that you couldn't compete with them for the thousand best jobs in the country. From the opposite perspective, if you appeared in Idiocracy, perhaps you could become a king, but you would have no internet, no medicine, probably not even good food, or plumbing. From the moment you would actually need something to work, life would suck.
But this effect is artifically removed in schools. Smart classmates are competitors (and grading on the curve takes it to the extreme), and cooperation is frowned upon. The school system is an environment that incentivizes hostility against smart people.
You suggest an artificial mechanism that would incentivize being friendly with the nerds. I like it! But maybe a similar effect could be achieved by simply removing the barriers to cooperation. Abolish all traces of gradin... (read more)
Viliam's shortform posts have got me thinking about income taxes versus wealth taxes, and more generally the question of how taxes should be collected. In general I prefer wealth taxes over income taxes, although I suspect there may very well be better forms of taxes than either of those two - But considering wealth taxes specifically, I think the main problem with wealth taxes is that over the long term they take away control of resources from people who have proven in the past that they know how to use resources effectively, and while this can allow for ... (read more)
Random thought: if you have a big enough compost pile, would it spontaneously break into flames due to the heat generated by the bioprocesses that occur therein? If so, at what size would it burst into flames? Surely it could happen before it reached the size of the sun, even ignoring gravitational effects.
(Just pondering out loud, not really asking unless someone really wants to answer)
For a value of "break into flames" that matches damp and poorly-oxygenated fuel, yep! This case in Australia is illustrative; you tend to get a lot of nasty smoke rather than a nice campfire vibe.
You'd have to mismanage a household-scale compost pile very badly before it spontaneously combusts, but it's a known and common failure mode for commercial-scale operations above a few tons. Specific details about when depend a great deal on the composition of the pile; with nitrate filmstock it was possible with as little as a few grams.
I'm tinkering around in NetLogo with a model I made representing the dynamics of selfishness and altruism. In my model, there are two types of agents ("turtles" in NL parlance), red selfish turtles and blue altruistic turtles. The turtles wander around the world, and occasionally participate in a prisoner's-dilemma-like game with nearby turtles. When a turtle cooperates, their partner receives a reward, at the cost of losing some percentage of that reward themselves. When a turtle defects, they keep all their resources, and their partner gains none. The tu... (read more)
I step out of the airlock, and I look around. In the distance, I see the sharp cliff extending around the crater, a curtain setting the scene, the Moon the stage. I look up at the giant blue marble in the sky, white clouds streaked across the oceans, brown landmasses like spots on the surface. The vibrant spectacle of the earth contrasts against the dead barren terrain that lies ahead. I look behind at the glass dome, the city I call home.
Within those arched crystal walls is a new world, a new life for those who dared to dream beyond the heavy shackl... (read more)
To ⌞modern eyes living in a democracy with a well-functioning free market⌟, absolute monarchy and feudalism  (as were common for quite a while in history) seem quite stupid and suboptimal (there are some who may disagree, but I believe most will endorse this statement). From the perspective of an ideal society, our current society will appear quite similar to how feudalism seems to us - stupid and suboptimal - in large part because we have inadequate tools to handle externalities (both positive and negative). We have a robust free market which can effic... (read more)
American presidential elections should come in two phases: first, asking if the incumbent should continue in office, and then (if the majority says no), a few months later, deciding who should replace them. This would be a big improvement over how we do things now. Let's make it the 34th amendment.
Myers-Briggs is often criticized, but my understanding is that each of the four categories tracked are variables that actually do vary from person to person- just the traits are distributed on a unimodal bell curve, instead of being binarily distributed (it is continuous, instead of being a thing that is either-or). But just like how height is a real thing, that matters and is continuous, the Myers-Briggs categories are real things that matter; just as there are short people and tall people, there are extroverts and introverts, and there are thinkers and f... (read more)
It seems to me that months ago, we should have been founding small villages or towns that enforce contact tracing and required quarantines, both for contacts of people who are known to have been exposed, and for people coming in from outside the bubble. I don't think this is possible in all states, but I'd be surprised if there was no state where this is possible.
Life needs energy to survive, and life needs energy to reproduce. This isn't just true of biological life made of cells and proteins, but also of more vaguely life-like things - cities need energy to survive, nations need energy to survive and reproduce, even memes rely on the energy used by the brains they live in to survive and spread.
Energy can take different forms - as glucose, starches, and lipids, as light, as the difference in potential energy between four hydrogen atoms and the helium atom they could (under high temperatures and pressures) become, ... (read more)
Thinking about rationalist-adjacent poetry. I plan on making a post about this once I have a decent collection to seed discussion, then invite others to share what they have.
Chess is fairly well known, but there's also an entire world of chess variants, games that take the core ideas of chess and change either a few details or completely reimagine the game, either to improve the game, or just change the flavour of the game. There's even an entire website dedicated to documenting different variants of chess.
Today I want to tell you about some classic chess variants: Crazyhouse chess, Grand chess, and Shogi (Japanese chess), and posit a combination of the first two that I suspect may become my favorite chess when I ha... (read more)
There's two ways to consider the constitutional foundation of the modern United States: A) as the Constitution itself and its amendments, interpretted according to what the authors meant when it was written, or B) as the de facto modern interpretation and application of constitutional jurisprudence and precedent, which is often considered to be at odds with the original intent of the authors of the Constitution and its admendments, but nonetheless has become widely accepted practice.
Consider: which of these is the conservative approach, and which is the li... (read more)
I've been considering the possibility of the occurrence of organized political violence in the wake of this year's election. I have been noticing people questioning the legitimacy of the process by which the election will be conducted, with the implied inference that the outcome will be rigged, and therefore without legitimacy. It is also my understanding that there exist organized militias in the US, separate from the armed forces, which are trained to conduct warfare, ostensibly for defense reasons, which I have reason to believe have a nontrivial probab... (read more)
The phrase "heat death of the universe" refers to two different, mutually exclusive possibilities:
Originally, the heat death hypothesis referred to #1, we thought that the universe would get extremely hot. After all, heat death is a natural consequence of ... (read more)
The way we measure most populous cities / most dense cities is weird, and hinges on arbritary factors (take, for example, Chongqing, the "most populous city", which is mostly rural land, in a "city" the size of Austria)
I think a good metric that captures the population / density of a city is the number of people that can be reached with half an hour's or an hour's worth of transportation (1/2 hour down and 1/2 hour back is one hour both ways, a very common commute time, though a radius of 1 hour each way still contributes to t... (read more)
A: Reading about r/K reproductive strategies in humans, and slow/fast life histories.
B: It's been a belief of mine, that I have yet to fully gather evidence on / have a compelling case that it should be true/false, that areas with people in poverty leads to increased crime, including in neighboring areas, which would imply that to increase public safety, we should support people in poverty to help them live a comfortable life.
In niches with high background risk, having many children, who each attempt to reproduce as quickly as possible, is a... (read more)
In response to my earlier post about Myers-Briggs (where I suggested a more detailed notation for more nuanced communication about personality types), it was pointed out that there is some correlation between the four traits being measured, and this makes the system communicate less information on average than it otherwise would (The traditional notation would communicate 4 bits, my version would communicate ~9.2 if there was no correlation).
I do object to the characterization that it all measures "the same thing", since none of the traits perfectly predic... (read more)
Achieve exponential heights
Long before you reach infinity
Three types of energy:
(2 + 3), as well as 3 are strictly non-decreasing over time, and generally increase, while 1 + 2 and 1 by itself are strictly non-increasing, and generally decrease.
You want to maximize for Valued Energy, and minimize Potent and Entropic Energy
Prediction: 80% chance that Starship SN10 lands in one piece tomorrow / whenever its first flight is
I have often heard it pronounced (Including by Eliezer) that group selection is not a thing, that evolution never selects for "the good of the species" - and it is true, in the sense, that if evolution is given the chance to throw the species under the bus for a slight gain to the individual, then it will never hesitate to do so.
But there is a sense in which a group can be selected for - assume feature A is always bad for whichever species has it, and there are two species which occupy overlapping niches - one group with feature B, which makes featur... (read more)
Reading through Atlas Shrugged, I get the sense that if becoming a billionaire (measured in USD) in gold isn't somewhere on your top ten life goals, Ayn Rand wants nothing to do with you.
I will modify that slightly for my own principle- if you don't want to one day have $1 billion worth of UBI Coin, then I don't want to be your friend, based on grounds that I expect can be justified using Functional Decision Theory (related to the fact that the expected value of being a random person in a society that uses mainly DDs is better than the expected value of be... (read more)
A drug that arguably should be legal: a combined dysphoric / time-release euphoric, that initially causes incredibly unpleasant sensations in the mind, then after a few hours, releases chemicals that create incredibly pleasant sensations. Since humans discount time fairly aggressively, it seems possible to me to balance this so that it creates stronger, and longer positive experiences, while still not being addictive, due to the immediate negative sensations associated with it.
The unpleasant initial effects can include characteristics of the pill itself, b... (read more)
What happens if we assume that a comfortable life and reproduction are inviolable priviledges, and imagine a world where these are (by the magic of positing) guaranteed never to be violated for any human? This suggests that the number of humans would increase exponentially, without end, until eventually some point is hit where the energy and resources available in the universe, available at the reach of mankind, is less than the resources needed to provide a comfortable life to every person. Therefore, there can exist no world where both reproduction and a... (read more)
With vaccines on the horizon, it seems likely that we are nearing the end of lockdowns and the pandemic, but there is talk of worry that it's possible a mutant strain might resist the vaccine, which could put off the end of the pandemic for a while longer.
It seems to me that numerous nations have had a much better response to the pandemic than any state in the US, and have been able to maintain a much better quality of life during the pandemic than the states, including New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea. For someone with the flexibility, moving to one of... (read more)
In "Emedded Agency", Scott and Abram write:
In theory, I don't understand how to do optimization at all - other than methods that look like finding a bunch of stuff that I don't understand, and seeing if it accomplishes my goal. But this is exactly the kind of thing that's most prone to spinning up adversarial subsystems.
In theory, I don't understand how to do optimization at all - other than methods that look like finding a bunch of stuff that I don't understand, and seeing if it accomplishes my goal. But this is exactly the kind of thing that's most prone to spinning up adversarial subsystems.
One form of optimization that comes to mind that is importantly different, is to carefully consider a prototypical system, think about how the parts interplay, and identify how the system can be improved, and create a new prototype that... (read more)
I recently wrote about combining Grand Chess with Drop Chess, to make what I felt could become my favorite version of chess. Today, I just read this article, which argues that the queen's unique status as a 'power piece' in Orthodox Chess - a piece that is stronger than any other piece on the board - is part of what makes Orthodox so iconic in the west, and that other major chesslikes similarly have a unique power piece (or pair of power pieces). According to this theory, Grand Chess's trifecta of power pieces may give it less staying power than Orthodox C... (read more)
Recently I was looking at the list of richest people, and for the most part it makes sense to me, but one thing confuses me: why is Bernard Arnault so rich? It seems to me that one can't get that rich simply off of fashion - you can get rich, but you can't become the third richest person in the world off of fashion. It's possible that I'm wrong, but I strongly suspect that there's some part of the story that I haven't heard yet- I suspect that one of his ventures is creating value in a way that goes beyond mere fashion, and I am curious to figure that out.
It's a shame that in practice Aumann Agreement is expensive, but we should try to encourage Aumann-like updating whenever possible.
While, as I pointed out in my previous shortform, Aumann Agreement is neither cheap nor free, it's powerful that simply by repeatedly mutually communicating the fact that they have opposing beliefs, two people can come to arrive at (in theory) the same beliefs together, that they would have if they had access to all the information the other person has, even without being aware of the specific information the other person has.
W... (read more)
Riemannian geometry belongs on the list of fundamental concepts that are taught and known far less than they should be in any competent society