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English is not my first language, German is. I am noticing a phenomenon more and more: Stuff I read does not annoy me as much in English as it does in German, though it is the exact same topic. The other day I read a German article complaining about the idiocy of a particular 'comedian', angering me that I wasted my time on reading about someone complaining about some idiotic person. Though I have no problem reading the standard subreddits on Reddit, which are no less idiotic than the average column in German. What is going on?

I assume that in German I have plenty of preformed conceptions about what is proper and what is not. In English though I am able to keep an open mind about what I experience, as it is a new and foreign culture. This narrative doesn't satisfy me though, as I do not see a proper way to test the hypothesis.

An alternative narrative - one should always have more than one hypothesis on any topic - is that German media is inherently inferior to English products. I refuse to believe this, though I am willing to accept an argument on statistical distributions and number of trials. Or am I just unable to find the niches in German that do satisfy my itches?

Is this a phenomenon anyone else encounters? What is your take on it?

Foreign language use is associated with weaker emotional reactions: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/foreign-language-improve-decisions/

I don't speak English natively, and haven't ever lived somewhere where English is the dominant language, and I've been wondering about the same thing. It seems to be easy to notice and get annoyed if someone's Finnish sounds stilted or off, and I'm pretty sure I have much less of a sense of textual voices in English. I think it comes down to having basically zero exposure to real-life face-to-face socialization and status play using spoken English, so the various subtle cues aren't internalized and need to be inferred.

I also can't tell non-native speakers apart from native ones based on writing style on a message board like LW. Can native English speakers do that?

Is it harder for you to read English than to read German? I've noticed that I don't get irritated as easily by what I read when I'm doing something else at the same time, even when it's something that you wouldn't think would take a lot of brainpower--brushing a cat, for example, or eating. Multitasking, even if it's really trivial multitasking, short-circuits the indignation feedback loop and I just read something else instead of getting pissed off. Either way, it doesn't sound like a problem so much as a life hack. Be proud: you've discovered yet another benefit to learning a foreign language :)
Once you start paying attention to yourself there are plenty of things to notice. In every language I know I tend to exhibit different aspects of my personality and I tend to evaluate things differently in the languages I know.
I would expect english media to just be better on average, due to the larger, more competitive market. Is this what you mean? (I imagine the foreign language/emotional reaction effect is the dominant thing going on though)

A question for London LWers:

I have recently created an opportunity for potentially moving from my home in the American South to London, where I would be employed by a fairly prestigious secondary school. Obviously, the prospect of leaving an area of very little opportunity for one of greater opportunity entices me. A lot. However, I have only minimum savings, and my family, reflecting the area, is poor and highly desirous of avoiding change, leaving me to do this alone.

I have not yet had a salary offer. My salary will be determined by my qualifications and I will not be informed of such a decision until some weeks from now. My research has led me to expect a salary between 24,000 and 26,000 pounds annually. As far as I am aware, there is no housing stipend or housing assistance with my employment, though I do not yet know if there is no chance of such assistance being offered or included.

While I do believe this move would be extremely beneficial and an excellent start to my chosen career, my worry is that I could not sustain myself taking on both the move and living in London on such a salary. I only know of two people with experience in London, both of whom have advised me that s... (read more)

I live in London. I am not a teacher. Some thoughts: * London is a special case. Teacher salaries in London are higher than outside of London to reflect the higher cost of living. I don't know if your research has factored this in. I am not personally very knowledgeable on the subject of teacher salaries, but know a few. Teachers themselves are, for obvious reasons, highly knowledgeable about teacher salaries. * "London" covers a large area. All of it is relatively expensive compared to the rest of the UK (and the world), but £26,000 would get you a lot further in, say, Croydon than one of the more central boroughs. Also a lot of places get called "London" by faraway folk when they're not. If your job is in Basildon or Reading or some other orbital town, those places aren't London, either culturally or expense-wise, and you'd want to adjust your queries accordingly. * £24,000-£26,000 does seem startlingly low to me (a software developer in his thirties who solves problems by throwing money at them), but by way of comparison, a starting police officer earns ~£22,000, so it's presumably not an utterly ludicrous amount. * We have different rates and brackets of income tax to the US. £26,000 translates to £20,634.72 take-home pay. Your first £10,000 is untaxed, 20% thereafter until you hit the mid-thirties. * The biggest expense of London by at least one order of magnitude is rent. The second is transport. Minimising these expenses is an obvious way of stretching your budget, but there are sharp trade-offs in terms of location and travel costs. Public transport in London is expensive but a lot cheaper than running a car, and actually very good compared to every other town and city I've lived in (sample size 5, all British). We have a lot of cyclists, but it's not really a city optimised for cycling. If you were to join the Less Wrong London group, we have a pretty good track record of advising people considering moving to the city.
Thanks for the feedback. I’ll work out a new post and put it up in the London group later. For now, I’ll clarify a bit more here: Since I have not yet been offered a salary, I’m going by what I can estimate from casual research. I am hoping that, given the school’s decent reputation and area, I can expect a higher than average salary. But until the offer itself comes, I keep my estimates within the average. I should clarify that the position is not a teaching job but a librarian job. The school itself is in Barnet, in North London. Given the fact that the school is located there, I already expect the average cost of living to be on the higher end of the scale, but I do not know. The position is entry level. Basically, the necessary degree (Masters in Library Science) and some work experience. Hence the low range. Rent and transportation have been my biggest concern. I do not know what sort of situation Barnet is in as far as housing and transport, but I have already decided that, if possible, I will attempt to find shared housing and leave my car behind. I’d like to be able to bike to work, but I already suspect finding housing that close is outside of my pay range. So I intend to bus if possible.
I lived in Barnet for several months in 2013, it's a reasonably affluent area, green leafy suburbs. High rent, for the most part. From quickly looking at income data, the surrounding areas are relatively heterogenous though, so you'll most likely find a cheap place nearby. There's plenty of bus services to and from the town centre and the fare doesn't scale with distance so living elsewhere might work very well for you. As I recall there were plenty of cycle paths, so biking might work too if you're at that kind of distance. If you end up living to the south of Barnet, don't be tempted to use the Tube just because it's there - even an annual pass just for Zone 4-5 is more expensive than an annual bus pass for the whole of London.
I'm glad to hear that! I was worried all around Barnet would be too affluent, but if there is a mix of income brackets, I might have a chance to live comfortably without wrecking my income. Thanks for the advice on the Tube. If at all possible, I'll prefer my own feet to others' wheels, but if it comes down to bus vs. Tube, I'll keep your advice in mind.
24k to 26k is low for London. If you're poor already then your standard of living might not change much. Try using various cost of living calculators to figure out where and how far your money will have to go - I don't know where exactly in the South you come from, but I picked the two Southern states tied for median cost of living (the Carolinas) and stuck some random towns and cities into the calculator. Rent in particular is often 250% higher or more, and your local purchasing power will be in the region of 20-40% lower. Taxes: The USA has generally lower taxes than the UK, but for the most easily comparable tax - income tax - you'll probably pay roughly the same at the 24-26k level. From what I can tell, National Insurance (UK version of Social Security) is higher UK. VAT (sales tax) is 20% on everything except life necessities (food, insurance, healthcare, childcare goods), which is over double the highest total sales tax rate (Tennessee, 9.44%). VAT is calculated into the display price of the product unlike in some US jurisdictions. These are probably all factored into the cost of living calculator above, but it's worth keeping in mind. All in all, you'll be taking home less of your salary whatever your income level. Healthcare costs are included in the above taxes though, and you'll be entitled to the same treatment as a British citizen in almost all cases. Since you're (presumably) not a citizen of any EEA country nor a refugee, you can't claim housing benefit upon arrival. You can only get it once you have "habitual residence" status, which means you intend to stay here long-term and have been here for a (intentionally vaguely-defined) "appreciable period of time". So, upon arrival you can forget about any housing stipend unless your employer is generous - you'll have to look into shared accommodation or get really lucky. (Did that London LW house ever get started?) For transport, your first port of call ought to be the bus network. There's a flat fare
At the moment, my current income is $10 per hour at forty hours a week. I live with my family so my expenses are low. This allows me to put back money for investing and saving. Not much, but some. Thanks for the link. That is a very useful tool. I’ll be applying that to other prospects, not just London. Tax is one aspect I’m still trying to figure out all the small details for. I know that I can expect higher taxes, but I don’t know what I’m getting out of that tax. I have some light, continuous medical expenses, so making certain of my healthcare is fairly important to me. If my current healthcare costs are absorbed by my taxes, I won’t be changing expenses much, as far as tax and medical goes. No, I am not from any EEA country. Thank you for clarifying how the housing benefits work. Yep, that was the plan. The area is Barnet, in North London. I’m not sure how far out from the school I’d have to live, but my plan is to bus. If I could get within biking range, I’d switch to cycling, but I suspect Barnet itself to be out of my price range. I principally want to have money left over for investing, either in personal accounts or actual investments. I do not purchase many luxury goods (as a librarian, I get most of my luxury items on loan), but I do want to plan for the future. Cryonics won’t pay for itself! To clarify, the job is a librarian position. My state is abysmal as far as prospects. Only one city has any opportunities of note. It is highly saturated with librarians from my alma mater, and the only openings are entry level with extremely poor benefits ($9-$10 per hour, part time, higher expenses than other cities in the state). The South as a whole is little better. Only North Carolina and parts of Virginia have a decent market for librarians and both are saturated with students of the Research Triangle. As I am not an alum from the area, getting in is difficult. I do have other prospects in the works, but they are all State-side so I can calculate their
Doctor's visits, surgery, emergencies and the like are free at the point of use. Prescriptions on the other hand, are usually a fixed price (at the moment £8.05, you might be able to get a low-earner discount though) if you're in England (Wales, Scotland and N. Ireland are free). Other things like dentistry and opticians have their own separate rules.
Prescription is my concern so that's what I needed to know about. Thanks for the info and the link.
0Ben Pace10y
The money is very low. What's the school, or at least, is it state or private?
Queen Elizabeth's School for Boys in Barton.
0Ben Pace10y
Barton or Barnet?
Excuse me. Barnet.


A countable infinity of prisoners are placed in a room so that they can all see each other, but are not allowed to communicate in any way and cannot see their own heads. The warden places on the head of each prisoner a red hat or a black hat. The prisoners will each guess the color of their own hat. They will all be released if at most finitely many of them guess incorrectly, and they will all be killed otherwise. The prisoners know all of this, and may collude beforehand. The prisoners are all distinguishable - think of them as being numbered 1,2,3,.... Again, once the warden has placed the hats, the prisoners receive no information other than the color of their fellow prisoners' hats. Prove that there is a strategy that guarantees a win for the prisoners.

(On my honor, this is possible.)

Pbafvqre gur sbyybjvat eryngvba orgjrra vasvavgr frdhraprf bs pbybhef: "qvssrerag va bayl svavgryl znal cynprf". Guvf vf na rdhvinyrapr eryngvba, naq jura gur ungf ner cynprq, nyy cevfbaref xabj juvpu rdhvinyrapr pynff gurl ner va. Guvf pynff vf pbhagnoyr, naq gur cevfbaref unir nterrq orsberunaq, gunaxf gb gur nkvbz bs pubvpr, ba n cnegvphyne rahzrengvba sbe rnpu rdhvinyrapr pynff. Sbe rnpu cevfbare, rknpgyl gjb zrzoref bs gur pynff ner pbafvfgrag jvgu jung ur frrf. Ur thrffrf juvpurire nygreangvir pbzrf svefg va gur rahzrengvba. Bayl svavgryl znal bs gurz pna or jebat, orpnhfr gur pbzcyrgr frdhraprf vzcyvrq ol gurve jebat nafjref ner nyy qvssrerag, naq gur gehr frdhrapr unf bayl svavgryl znal naprfgbef va gur rahzrengvba. Gur fnzr cebbs nccyvrf gb nal pbhagnoyr ahzore bs pbybhef. Vg'f abg pyrne gb zr lrg ubj zhpu ynetre gur ahzore bs cevfbaref naq gur ahzore bs pbybhef pna or. V fhfcrpg gung Bfpne_Phaavatunz wrfgf nobhg rkgraqvat gb erny-inyhrq pbybhef.
Correct! But it can be simplified (note that this is also a spoiler for the hard version): Sbe rnpu rdhvinyrapr pynff cvpx n ercerfragngvir zrzore. Gura unir rirelbar thrff nf vs gurl jrer va gung frdhrapr. V guvax guvf jbexf sbe neovgenel pneqvanyvgvrf bs cevfbaref naq pbybhef. EDIT: I remembered to ROT13 it.
This was my solution, and it does work for arbitrary cardinalities of colors and prisoners, as long as you're okay with the prisoners remembering arbitrary amounts of information. :) Even harder version, to which this problem was a hint (and which I haven't solved yet, so please continue to ROT13 solutions): There are countably many boxes 1,2,3,..., into each of which Alice places an arbitrary real number. Bob then opens finitely many boxes, looking at the real numbers they contain as he goes, and then names a single real number and opens a single unopened box. Bob wins if that box contains the number he named. Bob may condition his choice of boxes to open on what numbers he has already seen, and at each time step, he may choose the next box to open by random choice out of finitely many boxes that he identifies at that time step. Show that Bob has a strategy such that no matter how Alice chooses her real numbers, Bob wins--correctly predicts a real number--with very high probability.
6Scott Garrabrant10y
I don't believe you.
This sounds related to this "proof of induction" by Alexander George. Sample quote:
Okay. I'm Alice. I placed random numbers into all boxes. Your turn.
Yes! How simple!
I suspect an April Fool: Cevfbare a+1 gnxrf gur ung sebz cevfbare a naq chgf vg ba uvf bja urnq. Gura nyy cevfbaref (ncneg sebz cevfbare 1) thrff gur pbybe pbeerpgyl!
No April Fool here.
Oh dear, I suppose that rules out other "cheats" then: such as prisoner n guessing after n seconds. At any point in time, only finitely many have guessed, so only finitely many have guessed wrong. Hence the prisoners can never be executed. (Though they can never be released either.)
OK, I also got a "non-cheat" solution: unfortunately, it is non-constructive and uses the Nkvbz bs Pubvpr, so it still feels like a bit of a cheat. Is there a solution which doesn't rely on that (or is it possible to show there is no solution in such a case?)
Heh. This is the easy version of the puzzle then. Hard version: The hats have arbitrary colours (suppose they are specified by infinite precision RGB values).
I think it still works if the infinity is uncountable.
Is this a case where you can prove a solution exists but you can't say what it is? (Because you have to invoke the Axiom of Choice or some such?)
The participants have to base their decision on a non-measurable "events", right? The guessing procedure ends up as contorted as the slices in Tarski and Banach's sphere?
Do the prisoners all have to guess simultaneously? If they guess one by one, and hear their predecessors' guesses, is it in the order 1, 2, 3..., or can guessing order be a part of their prearranged strategy?
Is the sequence of hats pbzchgnoyr? I don't see how to do this if it's not.
Not necessarily. EDIT: To be fair I should say that the "algorithm" they follow in the solution isn't computable either.
Yes, thank you for saying this.
Still confused. Richard Kenneway's solution relies on the true sequence being at a finite place in some ordering. Doesn't Cantor's diagonal argument prevent you from having a countable ordering of all the sequences?
There's no need for an enumeration of all the sequences, bayl na rahzrengvba bs gur rdhvinyrapr pynff gung gur cevfbaref frr gung gurl'er va jura gur ungf ner cynprq. Naq Bfpne_Phaavatunz'f fbyhgvba qbrfa'g arrq rira gung -- gur rdhvinyrapr pynffrf pna or nal genafsvavgr fvmr jungrire. I'm now wondering whether for the case of two colours, there is a computable algorithm. A prisoner would apply the algorithm by feeding it an infinite tape listing all the colours of the hats, with a blank for his own, and the algorithm would in a finite time say what guess to make.
It seems unlikely. In a finite time it's impossible to get any idea whatsoever what equivalence class they're in, so the solution, if there is one, would need to be very different.
Idea for a proof: we could assume the warden chooses colours randomly for each prisoner, iid with probability a half. Then there might be a probabilistic proof that the puzzle is impossible. This proof would fail to rule out the true solution because gur frgf vaibyirq jbhyqa'g or zrnfhenoyr va gung pnfr, ohg gurl jbhyq or zrnfhenoyr va rirel pbzchgnoyr pnfr.
Proof that there is no sequences of algorithms A1, A2, ..., assigned to each prisoner, giving a winning strategy (assuming a computable warden given indices for the Ak): Gur jneqra fvzhyngrf N-bar ba mreb mreb mreb... hagvy vg bhgchgf bar be mreb nsgre ernqvat x ovgf bs gur vachg. Gur jneqra gura cynprf gur bgure pbybe ung ba cevfbare 1, jub jvyy sbyybj N-bar naq thrff vapbeerpgyl; gur jneqra rafherf guvf ol cynpvat mreb ba cevfbaref gjb guebhtu x. Gur jneqra ercrngf guvf jvgu N-x+1 naq cevfbare x+1, fb gung x+1 jvyy thrff vapbeerpgyl. Naq fb ba. Fvapr rnpu Nx unygf nsgre ernqvat svavgryl znal ovgf sebz vgf benpyr, gur jneqra pna sbepr na vapbeerpg nafjre jvgu bayl svavgryl znal ovgf. Guvf jnl, gur jneqra pna sbepr vasvavgryl znal vapbeerpg nafjref. (Guvf eryngvivmrf gb nal benpyrf lbh pner gb tvir gb gur cevfbaref, nf ybat nf gur jneqra unf npprff gb gur pbhagnoyr wbva bs gubfr benpyrf.)
Vf guvf cbffvoyr jvgubhg gur nkvbz bs pubvpr?
Do the prisoners guess all at the same time, or in order (and thus after hearing finitely many other guesses)? If the second, is the guessing order known beforehand, or will it be at the whim of the guards?
All at the same time. Solving the case with guessing in order is a good intermediate step.
With guessing in order, I observe that for every finite subset there are either an even or an odd number of red hats, and prisoner 1 can indicate which it is by his guess; then everyone in that subset can count the red hats and figure out which colour his own must be to make the total number even or odd. Let the size of the finite subset go to infinity.
This is a good idea, and solves the similar problem with finitely many prisoners getting at most one guess incorrect. But... I don't see how this immediately gives a solution; any finite set of hats has either an even or an odd number of red hats, but an infinite set of hats may have an infinite number of red hats and an infinite number of black hats, and infinities are neither odd nor even.
Guessing in order with the other prisoners hearing these guesses would violate the stricture that the prisoners cannot communicate with each other.
Either this problem is not completely stated, there are important things left out, or the answers are gibberish. In any case, I have no idea what is going on even after reading the answers. I can collude with prisoners ahead of time but I can't communicate with them. This presumably means I can't smile or wink or grab or stare meaningfully or longingly at them. I can't tell them what my guess is. So I find myself in a room full of people, some with red hats and some with black hats, in what is essentially a still picture, for all intents and purposes equivalent to freezing the room full of other people with their red and black hats and I can then examine this fixed scene. How does this even conceivably impact what I would guess the color is of the hat on my head? Fix!
There are important things left out. Specifically, this is a math problem and putting it in terms of prisoners or humans is intended to be ignored. You should of course just know that when someone is a human in a math puzzle, what they really mean is a hypercomputer or oracle that can return correct answers for uncomputable algorithms. Here's another example: There is a prisoner in a cell, the same as the prisoners in the question above. Each day the warden hands him an infinitely complex algorithm, and he is released if and only if he can correctly tell the warden whether it halts or not. On what day is he released? Gur svefg qnl.
The problem is correct as stated, and solutions above by RichardKennaway and Oscar_Cunningham are correct. I think you may have missed that the prisoners are all distinguishable, a.k.a. they are numbered 1,2,3,.... Or you are confused about the win condition; we don't have to guarantee that any particular prisoner guesses correctly, just that only finitely many guess incorrectly. Sub-puzzle: prove definitively that if the prisoners are not distinguishable, then there is no winning strategy.
In the winning strategy, do fewer than half the prisoners guess wrong? Do more prisoners guess correctly than incorrectly? I'm trying to get a handle on whether it is worth my while to try to penetrate the jargon in the "correct solutions."
What do you mean by half the prisoners? Let's start there.
How about I choose a prisoner at random from among all the prisoners in the problem. What is the probability that the prisoner I have chosen has correctly stated the color of the hat on his head? In particular, is that probability more than, less than, or equal to 0.5? While we are in the neighborhood, if there is a prisoner who is more likely to get the answer correctly than not, if you could tell me what ihis step by step process of forming his answer is, in detail similar to "if he is prisoner n, he guesses his hat color is the opposite of that of prisoner n^2+1" or some such recipe that a Turing machine or a non-mathematician human could follow. Thanks in advance
So what do you mean to choose a prisoner at random when one has infinitely many prisoners?
Whatever mwengler's answer is, your answer is going to have to be "in that case the set you asked about isn't measurable, and so I can't assign it a probability".
Maybe this way then. I set down somewhere in the universe in a location that I don't reveal to you ahead of time and then identify the 100 prisoners that are closest to my position. If the 100th and 101st furthest prisoners from me are exactly equally distant form me I set down somewhere else in the universe and I keep moving until I find a location where I can identify the 100 closest prisoners to my current position. Of that 100 prisoners, I count the number of prisoners who identified their hat color correctly. My question is what is the probability that I have counted 50 or fewer correct answers? Is it greater than, less than, or equal to the probability that I have counted 51 or more correct answers? Thanks to you and JoshuaZ for trying to help me here.
So how have you set up the prisoners in the universe in advance and how do you decide on the location you set down?
Is it safe to say that this problem, this result, has no applicability to any similar problem involving a merely finite amount of prisoners, say a mere googol of them?
Yes. But I do think that thinking critically about the assumptions you are making, in particular that you can meaningfully talk about what it means to pick a random individual in a uniform fashion, is worthwhile for understanding a fair bit of probability and related issues which are relevant in broader in contexts.
As to critically understanding what it means to pick a random individual in a uniform fashion, yes it is worth understanding what one means, as a tremendous amount of mischief is done in the name of randomness. With a finite number of prisoners, I would actually not need to pick prisoners randomly in order to gather statistics. If I would simply count up all the prisoners who got the hat color correct and all that got it wrong, and I do the experiment say 100 times and plot a histogram of the results and then decide whether the results deviate from a normal distribution with mean 50% by enough to make it practically interesting. But since you say this result has no applicability to a finite population of prisoners, I am assuming there is nothing here that would push the result away from 50:50?
Is the mathematician's world really so insular,that someone from outside asking some questions about how a problem relates to concepts he understands gets downvoted? Or are you pretending that unless you skate with ease over three different kinds of infinities, their differences and similarities, and the paradoxical results of probability problems with infinity in the numerator and denominator, that you are just a time wasting intruder on an otherwise valuable conversation? Or did my questions, which I'd love to know the answer to, come across as a veiled negative comment?
Your questions were easily answered by looking up the definitions of the terms "finitely many" and "countably infinite".
Are you aware that having a mathematician tell you a question is easily answered without actually answering it is actually the punch line to a joke? Closest I can find on the web is the 2nd one on this page.
You asked why you were downvoted. I told you why; you asked a question that showed you hadn't made even a cursory attempt to understand the terms in the question. The answers, in case you still haven't put in the minimal effort required, are Yes, a finite portion of an infinite set is infinitely less than half. Yes, all but a finite number of an infinite set is infinitely more than a finite number. This is not fancy jargon. These are terms anyone who has taken highschool calculus would know.
Infinity is weird.

So apparently Ishual, the secluded monastery devoted to science and reasoning, is sort of a real thing.

Well, that isn't exactly right; it's not that the monasteries are devoted to science, it's more like the monks are inviting scientists to come and teach them. Still, I thought it was cool.


Reposting from last open thread as I didn't get any inquiries:

I've seen a lot of discontent on LW about exercise. I know enough about physical training to provide very basic coaching and instruction to get people started, and I can optimize a plan for a variety of parameters (including effectiveness, duration of workout, frequency of workout, cost of equipment, space of equipment, gym availability, etc.). If anyone is interested in some free one-on-one help, post a request for your situation, budget, and needs and I'll write up some basic recommendations.

I don't have much in the ways of credentials, except that I've coached myself for all of my training and have made decent progress (from sedentary fat weakling to deadlifting 415lbs at 190lb BW and 13%BF). I've helped several friends, all of which have made pretty good progress, and I've been able to tailor workouts to specific situations.

I have a nightly home exercise I'm pretty content with, consisting of push ups, crunches, sit ups, leg lifts, lunges, and squats. When I'm at work, though, I have a short "break" routine. Every thirty minutes that I'm seated at the desk, I get up, go outside so that I'm in the sun, and do a series of full body stretches. Neck, shoulders, arms, wrists, hands, chest/back, spine, obliques, stomach, hips, thighs, knees, legs, ankles (listing those off, I just realized I need to start stretching my feet as well). Then, I do a set of ten squats and return to my desk where I do ten push ups using my chair's armrests, raising myself off the seat with my feet on the floor. In all, it takes about five minutes. The only thing I can't really work on at the office is my core. Legs and arms I can get but nothing for core muscles. Any suggestions for something simple I can do around the office to keep my core as energized as the rest of me? Besides getting down on the dirty floor for a set of crunches.
I'm noticing that your evening routine has three abdominal exercises and zero back exercises -- you might want to consider adding back bridges or supermans to balance your core. I would recommend skipping crunches and situps -- they're bad for your back/posture and they're ineffective at developing abdominal strength or endurance. Instead, I'd recommend planks, since they strengthen the abdominal muscles while emphasizing good posture. The hanging leg raise is also a great ab exercise, since it works the whole abdominal chain without loading the back. Your evening workout also only has an upper body push motion (pushups) which is neglecting your pulling muscles. I would recommend adding rows or chinups to balance out the joint. Joint strength imbalance is responsible for many injuries that people experience, and it's very common to be stronger at pushing than pulling due to the higher status of push exercises in Western culture. For the office routine, planks get my recommendation again. If you want to invest a bit of money, the ab wheel can be used for rollouts which are extremely effective. That shouldn't have you touching the floor too much if you put some padding under your knees.
I see. My thought at the time was “Push up for arms, sit ups/crunches for back, leg lifts for abdomen/legs, lunges/squats for the legs themselves.” However, I have been worrying about the pressure on my back, so I’ll definitely consider replacing the sit ups/crunch. I would like to exercise more pulling muscles to balance things out, but my central problem is a lack of sturdy places to exercise from. I’ve nothing that can support my weight while also being the proper height to pull against. Any suggestions of household ways of getting in more pulling exercises? I’ve considered buying a chin up bar (I would also like to do more hanging stretches to keep my back fit) but lacking that, any other options? Hmm, got ya. I’ll give planks a try at home and see if I can find a way to implement them at work. If I miss my core at work, it’s not as big a loss as missing it in my actual work out. Edited: Right after typing my response, I went outside to do my five minute stretches and realized that my work is surrounded by sturdy poles cemented in the parking lot. At the very least, I can work my pulling muscles a little at work on my breaks by doing short sets of pulls against these.
Without knowing your environment, it's hard to say how I'd improvise pulls. You can set your feet up on a chair and do inverted rows against a table. A chinup bar is a great investment for this, as the chinup is one of the best upper body exercises available.
Actually, I have a pair of ten pound weights in my room I use during my evening routines. I know there is a name for this type of weight lift, but what about letting the weight hang and lifting it towards my chest? Making the pulling effort come from lifting it against gravity rather than lifting myself. Sure, it won't be much of a work out, but I can at least keep the muscles engaged and work them.
Those are called dumbbell rows, and they're a great exercise. 10lbs is awfully light for that motion, but it is better than nothing.
Hopefully I can upgrade soon. I've had those dumbbells since probably ninth grade! Anyway, thanks for all the info and the link. I've already worked out a list of exercises by body part. Time to put it to work!
Look into plate loaded dumbbell sets. I've got a pair of 14" screw lock handles that can accommodate up to 125lbs each (using 25lb plates), and it took me a long time to grow out of them.
I think I'll do just that. Thanks again!
I'm interested - I'm not very happy with my current workout routine, it takes too much time. I would like to exercise at home every morning less than 15 minutes; I don't have any equipment beyond a rowing machine. I mostly exercise for thealth and energy benefits, but wouldn't mind gaining a bit of strength and muscle mass in my normal state I'm a skinny bag of bones).
I'd recommend squats, pushups, and rows. To save time, you'd want to do them in a circuit. The links provided give a progression guideline. I'd say start off with 3 sets of 4, and when that feels comfortable, add a rep to each set, progressing to the next exercise when you can do 3x8. Pushups, rows, and squats all work different muscle groups, so they won't interfere with each other, so you don't need a rest period. Finish off with 4 minutes doing Tabata intervals on your rowing machine. This entire routine should take you less than the 15 minute requested, and since you're not resting much between sets, it will be a good blend of cardiovascular training and strength training.
I'd been using some android apps to determine how many sets of how many pushups/squats/situps I should do. My current set of reps for pushups is 24/26/28/29/27/29/27/29/27/29/28/25, totallying 328 (takes too much time :P) - so 3 sets of 8 sounds a bit weak-sauce (at least for standard pushups). I'm not sure what you mean by "a circuit" (I'm kinda new to this fitness thing); do you mean doing squats than pushups then rows on the same session? I had the impression that it was better to say train one's arms one day and let the arms rest another day (where I'd train a different part). Or is that what you meant? Those links you gave are pretty good suggestions for variations on pushups, and pullups I can do with just a table or something, thanks! Instead of doing many long sets, I'll probably start switching to fewer sets of more difficult exercise, improving my morning routine :)
A circuit refers to doing many exercises at the same time -- instead of doing a set of squats, resting for a minute, then doing another set of squats, you'd do a set of squats, a set of pushups, a set of rows, rest for a bit, and then go back through doing squats, etc... It's unnecessary to rest that long unless you are doing a brutally intense bodybuilding style workout, and you're taking the drugs necessary to see results from it. Full body routines done frequently are best for strength. If you max out the difficulty on the variations (should take you a while -- 3x8 handstand pushups is no joke), then adding weight is the next step. A barbell setup is the most effective way, but a plate-loaded dumbbell setup can be very space efficient.
Okay, thanks for the details!

Have there been any studies on how effective things like MOOCS and Khanacademy and so on are at teaching people?

Apparently one reason that the famous "419 Scam" spammers write such illiterate and instantly-recognizable spam email is that this serves to filter out all but the most gullible recipients. By writing badly and unconvincingly, they ensure that more of the people who actually respond are gullible enough to be pulled in to the scam. Because it's cheap to send out millions of copies of a spam email, they have a strong incentive to minimize the number of responses that aren't good leads.

Are there other cases where someone might do a deliberately bad job at convincing people of a falsehood, in order to filter for the most gullible or susceptible marks?

Are there other cases where someone might do a deliberately bad job at convincing people of a falsehood, in order to filter for the most gullible or susceptible marks?


It is also not unknown for someone with something genuine to teach to actively filter out those not capable of learning it.

There's a rhetorical technique called "dubitatio" - where you deliberately act unsure, less skilled or less intelligent in order to make yourself sound more credible. E.g. "Although I'm just a simple man unused to public speaking I think...." Obviously it depends on the audience you're appealing to, it works best with people who mistrust skilled orators (George W Bush did this a lot, his famous 'Bushisms' were almost all deliberate, and playe to a base who distrusted 'elites' and made him sound more honest and down to earth.)
Phil Hartman's SNL character Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer. "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I'm just a caveman ..."
Sounds like the evil twin of the Socratic Method.
If that's true, than I would propose a strategy against spammers. Build a computer that automatically replies to every mail and tries to drag out the conversation as long as possible. Perfect enviroment for turing tests.
Do you think someone already tried to route all their email through cleverbot?
There's a style of scamming that involves seeming incompetent, such that a clever but insufficiently clever target decides that they can scam you back. This obviously backfires.
Academia? A lot of scientific writing has the feeling of being dliberately written to be hard to understand.

I enjoyed reading the Temptation of Christ article. One thing that struck me is that the Jesus character responded far more reasonably than your typical deluded person does when asked questions which challenge their beliefs, at least in my experience.

In my experience, when a person's beliefs are driven by emotion, he tends to have much more of a "concede nothing" mentality -- even if he is sane. Can Jesus in the story use this as evidence that he really is Jesus? Again we run into the problem that irrationality blinds the irrational to their own irrationality. But it's still worth considering I think.

One of my pieces of evidence that I'm not schizophrenic and hallucinating my whole life is that from what I can tell from anecdotes, being schizophrenic involves a lot more getting yelled at, pushed around, and generally denied agency than I experience.
I've spent a cursory couple of minutes hunting for the original, but I can't find it.
I like that quote, but it occurs to me that you can subdivide this belief into two categories: 1. Believing that you are the U.S. President AND believing the people you meet generally recognize this fact about you. 2. Believing that you are the U.S. President AND believing the people you meet won't accept that you are president. I'm not an expert on delusions, but I would think that of insane people who are deluded about being President, pretty much all of them fall into the latter category. e.g. if you asked one of them, he would tell you there is an imposter in the White House who has deceived everyone into thinking he (the imposter) is President. Or something along those lines. And he would honestly believe it. So if you wake up believing you are the President, and the people around you seem to be calling you "Mr. President" and following your orders, and you seem to be living in the White House, then probably you should get out of bed, get dressed, and do your job (as President). On the other hand, if nobody will accept that you are President, and there are no pretty interns trying to flirt with you, then my advice is not to worry about doing your job as President.
This isn't about Jesus Christ, and it isn't about schizophrenia. It isn't even about religion. It's about the Simulation Argument. If we have good reason to believe that we will be reliably simulated many times in the future, than we can trivially conclude that we are almost certainly inone of the simulations.
Well what it's about is obviously open to interpretation. But I do think there is a distinction between "Am I in the Matrix?" and "Am I insane?" For one thing, we KNOW (or do we?) that there are a lot of people out there who suffer from big-time delusions. There isn't the same certainty about the existence of simulations. For another, suppose you are presented with compelling evidence that you are in a simulation. e.g. the simulator shows up; tells you that's it a simulation; defies the laws of physics; and gives you some "cheat codes" which seem to work reliably. In that case, a reasonable person would update the probability that he is in a simulation to make it a good deal higher. Unless of course he seriously doubted his sanity. So the question of sanity would seem even more fundamental than the simulation question.
A reasonable person would update both the probability that he is in a simulation and the probability that he is insane to be a good deal higher, at the expense of the hypothesis "I am sane and not in a simulation". That fact probably wouldn't be changed much if he doubted his sanity already.
Yes I agree. But if he already thinks there is a good chance he is insane, then it seems to me most of the extra probability will go to that hypothesis alone. For example, if you think there is a 1 in 100 chance that you are in a simulation and a 1 in 10 chance that you are insane; and then you get a visit from Mr. Simulator, then arguably you should conclude that there is a very high probability you are insane, perhaps 90%. Anyway, the main point is that these two issues -- insanity and simulation -- can be conceptually separated to a large extent.
Well, it depends what you mean by "most of the extra probability" - a change from 50% to 60% probability represents a smaller change in perceived amount of evidence than from 1% to 5%. I think meeting one of the dark lords of the matrix should probably weigh more as evidence for being in a simulation than for being insane, or at worst it should be 50/50 for each hypothesis. Certainly the concepts can be conceptually separated (unless you put more meaning into that than I'm seeing), although I object to calling the one question more fundamental than the other.
I disagree, although admittedly I am too lazy to do the actual calculation. Basically you can divide things up into 3 possibilities: (1) you are sane and not in a simulation; (2) you are sane and in a simulation; and (3) you are insane and not in a simulation. (Another possibility is that you are both insane AND in a simulation, but using the probabilities I assigned, this is sufficiently unlikely that I will ignore it.) As noted above, if you are visited by Mr. Simulator, the probability of (1) goes from high to basically zero and that amount will be distributed between (2) and (3). To determine how much goes to each, I think you need to reverse the conditional probabilities. So, (1) assuming that you are insane, what is the probability of perceiving a visit by Mr. Simulator; and (2) assuming that you are in a simulation, what is the probability of being visited by Mr. Simulator? Both of these are pretty low and I don't see any reason to believe that one is a good deal higher than the other. So my intuition is that the insanity hypothesis is roughly as favored as before vis-a-vis the simulation hypothesis, i.e. much more likely based on my assumptions. Well that's just a matter of semantics, but let me ask you this: Who is more likely to have a shot at developing a decent mental model of the universe? Someone who is delusional or someone who is in the Matrix? Both will have a difficult time of it but the former situation is basically hopeless.
What I meant by "50/50 for each hypothesis" was the conditional probabilities for each being the same, so I don't think we disagree very much there, except that I intuitively feel that meeting the simulator and having him try to convince you you're in a simulation really should be evidence that prefers the hypothesis that you're in a simulation.
(did you forget to include a link?)
It's right on the front page of Lesswrong - I would have commented at the link but the comment section is drowning in spam. Anyway here is the link: http://squid314.livejournal.com/324957.html

Has there been any research into reinforcement schedules that work such that when a behavior is shown less often, reinforcement is increased, and when the behavior returns to high levels, it is decreased? Like spaced repetition, but with reinforcement?


Yep! In Applied Behavior Analysis this is called Thinning.


This looks right up LW's alley.

There is a question

I am a 3rd year medical student, and for the purposes of this question, let’s assume I have equal interest and ability in the various medical specialties. In order to create the greatest good for the greatest number of people through my work in medicine (i.e., the highest return to society), what specialty should I pursue? ... I’ve been looking at DALYs and QALYs associated with various medical interventions ...

And some answers, not all of which LW will like :-)

Say that I want to donate to help mitigate X-risk. Using numbers, why should I donate to MIRI over other causes?

(Note: This is posted from the community anonymous account. I am a different individual than the above poster.) Numbers, you say? Those are hard to find, by the very nature of the thing. I'll give my personal calculus, but churning the probabilities is hard, and I cannot guarantee I am perfectly accurate. (Although I will brag that I get very high scores on The Credence Game, so perhaps you can trust my numbers more than most.) I, personally, would estimate a 10%-40% chance of surviving a hard takeoff, given that MIRI is semi-successful, and continues on it's current course. This is actually pretty good. I estimate a <1% chance of surviving one without anyone working on it. I also estimate a ~80% chance of hard takeoff rather than soft. (Given a soft takeoff, we have maybe a ~20% chance without MIRI, and probably a 40%-50% chance with.) Given these numbers, MIRI seems to be doing a lot of good. The two questions that remain are: 1) Is MIRI better than other organizations doing something similar? 2) How much good does the marginal MIRI dollar do? The answer to 1) is not so straightforward. When I mentioned MIRI in the above probability estimates, I really meant the whole mindspace of organizations that are working in this field. That is to say, MIRI, FHI, and the new CSER. There is a reasonable chance that donating to one of the others gives you more bang for your buck. I urge you to do more research on this. The answer to 2) is easier. MIRI (and the others) are still rather small. The marginal dollar has a quite significant impact to them, and they get most of their money from small-time donors donating maybe ~$100 each. This imply MIRI has a relatively large room to grow, and will benefit quite the bit on the margin. You asked for numbers, and I gave you what numbers I could. Even if you disagree with those exact numbers, I hope you agree that the risk is quite significant. I said that there is <1% chance of surviving a hard takeoff without anyone working on
I don't have numbers but MIRI seems to be addressing x-risk in a way that's more amenable to donation than other means. The most salient theoretically preventable x-risks in my mind are asteroid impact, engineered pandemic, nuclear war, and AI. Of these, I can donate to MIRI where marginal dollars help pay for marginal researchers, but I'm not sure what effect donating to physicians for the prevention of nuclear war would have, and there are already giant agencies searching for asteroids and dedicated to fighting pandemics.

I probably have obstructive sleep apnea. I exhibit a symptoms (ie feeling sleepy despite getting normal or above average amounts of sleep, dry mouth when I wake up) and also I just had a sleep specialist tell me that the geometry of my mouth and sinuses makes puts me at high risk. I got an appointment for a sleep study a month from now. Based on what I've read, this means that it will probably take at least two months or more before I can start using a CPAP machine if I go through the standard procedure. This seems like an insane amount of time to wait for... (read more)

depends on what you mean by good reason. If you have plenty of money the cost isn't an issue, but if you've already got a sleep study schedules it's possible being on cpap before that will disrupt the study in some way, hiding a non sleep-apnea problem?

Continuing the use of LW as my source for non-fiction recommendations...

Any suggestions on a decent popular-but-not-too-dumbed-down intro to Economics?

Hidden Order by David Friedman is a popular book, but is semi-technical enough that it could serve as a textbook for an intro microeconomics course.
Naked Economics by Charles Wheelan, is a good all-rounder. It's America-centric, but still generally applicable. The Undercover Economist by Tim Harford is a good popular micro/market/margins introduction. The Armchair Economist by Steven Landsburg is the granddaddy of popular economics books. It's very much "here's how economists think". Unfortunately it doesn't do the profession many favours, because Steven Landsburg is kind of obnoxious. I generally recommend one of these three to friends who show an interest. The first is the default. The second is for slightly nerdier clientèle, and the third is for people who won't be put off by kind-of-obnoxious writers. If you can forego the "popular" bit of your requirements, Cowen and Tabarrok's Modern Principles textbooks are highly readable and quite entertaining.
Thanks for those recommendation, I was a bit disappointed by Naked Economics, your alternatives seem to be what I was looking for!
Naked Economics is the most human-friendly pop-econ book I've read. For a reader who isn't familiar with utilitarian frameworks or cost-benefit analysis, it's a more gentle opposition-softener. It's also less likely to leave a reader thinking "economics says we should do away with all governance". This makes it more palatable to left-leaning readers and less confirmation-bias-y to existing free-marketeers. When you're at a dinner party, it's easy to spot people who've read a single pop-economics book.
Naked Economics is an accessible, well-written book that sparked my interest in the subject.
From what I remember (I I got it 'cause I was looking for a good broad intro to economics, but stopped reading it), I found it a bit too dumbed-down (too much "don't worry I'm not going to scare you with maths) and too focused on hot-button political issues. I didn't get the impression I was learning much, I may give it another stab tho.
I would think that "don't worry I'm not going to scare you with maths" is what you'd want from a basic popular introduction to economics. It's good at teaching the intuitions, IMO.
Niall Ferguson's "The Ascent of Money" provides a good background for understanding what money happens to be historically if your interest is more generally and not specifically in understand what the economics professors preach.
Youtube + "econstories". :) (Preferably not just that, but it's good and if you haven't seen it you should.)
Actually, the wikipedia articles are great. Start at economics and follow subtopics as they pique your interest.
0Ben Pace10y
I've been meaning to get into econ for a while, and after searching LW and other areas, the first six on my goodreads list all look good. I've not read any of them myself.
As a counterpoint to most of the other recommendations you are about to get: Debunking Economics by Steve Keen. Thesis is basically that many of the assumptions of economics (especially macroeconomics) are at odds with reality enough that it doesn't actually work that well. Gets into some interesting modelling that the author has done as well using a different basis.
John Maynard Keynes: The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. That will probably do more to increase your understanding of economics than any other single book you could pick, Keynes being ridiculously.. better.. than the typical economist, and is in any case a highly recommended prelude to any further readings. - among other things because lying about what Keynes says has become a very popular sport, so familiarity with the original is very useful for detecting later horseshit.
When you take a book by Keynes down off the shelf, you're not taking Keynes himself down off the shelf. It's not like those heads in jars from Futurama. It's a book. Its core contents have been synthesised for a modern audience, with the benefit of decades of subsequent analysis, in every contemporary macroeconomics textbook worth its salt. It might be worth your time, at some point, to read the original Keynes, just as it might be worth your time to read the original Origin of Species. But don't fool yourself into thinking you're tapping into the secret wisdom of an ancient master. It's a book. It's been widely available for several decades, and the discipline has not been standing still for all that time. Also, if you're frequently in the sort of discussions where people are arguing about what dead economists did or did not say, I humbly suggest you re-evaluate those discussions.
Five minutee has not found me the link but there is a much upvoted post on the value of reading the Classics or Great Works of a field. IIRC Vassar commented that outside of fields like Math or Chemistry where progress is completely unambiguous it's a good idea. Darwin invented, conceived and distinguished natural and sexual selection in his greatest work. Despite this sexual selection was more or less rediscovered from scratch starting in the 70's. Macroeconomists are still talking about DSGE models, right now, after the Great Recession. I recall a recent crooked timber post about a macro survey book which (basically ignored Keynes and Keynesianism)[http://crookedtimber.org/2014/02/10/macroeconomics-made-easy/]. If population genetics can ignore Darwin to its detriment macroeconomics is entirely capable of underselling Keynes.
Why are people downvoting this? It is the refounding of macroeconomics. If I was recommending a first book on economics this would not be it because macroeconomics is compared to microeconomics useless and something we know nothing about but still. Also, if your only reason for learning about economics is to bullshit about politics Keynes' book will equip you to crush the ignorant quite adequately.

Is there a consensus on the account of unemployment and inflation F. A. Hayek provides in his Nobel Lecture (1974)? I'm sympathetic to the abstract philosophy-of-science considerations he argues there, but I don't know enough (anything) about economics to say whether he's using that account to substantiate those considerations, or he's using those considerations to obliquely promote a controversial account. Here's an excerpt:

The theory which has been guiding monetary and financial policy during the last thirty years, and which I contend is largely the pr

... (read more)

How do people respond to the repugnant conclusion?

By denying that having barely enough resources to live implies that life need be barely worth living. See Poor Folks do Smile for details.
How is that a response to it? That's just a reason why the choice might never come up.
I reject utilitarianism, so the repugnant conclusion doesn't apply to my ethics. But one can accept a form of utilitarianism that rejects the repugnant conclusion, for example, average preference utilitarianism.
I just reject utilitarianism on the grounds that you cannot actually compare or aggregate utility between two agents (their utilities being not actually comparable on the same axis, or alternately being in 'different units'), and on the grounds that human behavior does not satisfy the logical axioms required for us to be said to have a utility function.
Well you can make such comparisons if you allow for empathic preferences (imagine placing yourself in someone else's position, and ask how good or bad that would be, relative to some other position). Also the fact that human behavior doesn't perfectly fit a utility function is not in itself a huge issue: just apply a best fit function (this is the "revealed preference" approach to utility). Ken Binmore has a rather good paper on this topic, see here.
I have seen it suggested that what people think of when they hear "a life barely worth living" is a live on the edge of suicide, which is well past not worth living. As such, it's not surprising that you wouldn't want a world full of people like that. If the lives are worth living, then it seems to me intuitively obvious that sufficiently many can be arbitrarily valuable.

Is it fine to upset one person for the entertainment of others according to your personal flavour of utilitarianism? (to the point of depression but not suicide, while entertaining enough other people to be generating more 'good' feelings than 'bad')

Any given example is fine but a meta rule against this sort of thing is probably more stable.
I'm not a utilitarian, but according to standard utilitarianism (as opposed to LW usage, which usually just means "consequentalism"), if it benefits people to a greater degree than it hurts them, then it is a good action.
Yes, I am asking because my suspicion is that many people who label themselves as utilitarian evaluate a situation like this one using deontology-like rules and not utility calculations and was curious if this is the case.
I'm not a deontologist either. I'm an egoist. I do use utility calculations, but I seek to maximize my own utility, not the world's.

Another thing up LW alley. Starting quote:

You’ll think this is weird, but for three years now I’ve taken what might be described as a “data-driven” approach to my social life. Specifically, I’ve been maintaining a gigantic spreadsheet of friends and business contacts, updated with columns such as “Hotness Index,” “Income,” and “Strategic Value.” And I spend about four hours a week keeping it up to date.

I just finished reading Eliezer's April Fools Day post, where he illustrated how good society could be. A future society filled with rational people, that is structured the way Eliezer describes, and continues with linear progression in technology would be pretty amazing. What is it that the intelligence explosion would provide of value that this society wouldn't?

Put differently, diff(intelligenceExplosion, dath ilan).

Well, in dath ilan, people do still die, even though they're routinely cryonically frozen. I suspect with an intelligence explosion death becomes very rare (or horrifically common, like, extinction).
Only a few people die. Once they figure out how to cure death, they'll stop dying. The vast majority of members will exist after that point.
There are two main differences I can see. First, superintelligence can create a better utopia. After astronomical amounts of time, dath ilan may have the technology necessary, but I suspect that they would lack the understanding of their own utility function that FAI would have. They are also not immune to politics, and will act suboptimally because of that. Second, there's a not insignificant chance of dath ilan being wiped out by some kind of existential risk before they're advanced enough to prevent it.
2Adam Zerner10y
I agree with the idea that the AI will help with existential risk. What I'm asking is "What would this utopia have in particular that dath ilan wouldn't have?". The next question then becomes how much better would a society with those things be than a dath ilan-like society. I'm having trouble imagining what the answer to the first question is, so I can't even think about the second one.
Dath ilan would refrain from optimizing humanity (making them happier, use less resources, etc.) in fear of optimizing away their humanity. An FAI would know exactly what a person is, and would be able to optimize them much better.
0Adam Zerner10y
How? The only answer I could really imagine starts to get into the territory of wireheading. But if that's the end that we seek, then we're pretty much there now. Soon enough we'll have the resources to let everyone wirehead as much as they want. If that's true, then why even bother with FAI (and risk things going wrong with it)? (Note: I suspect that FAI is worth it. But this is the argument I make when I argue against myself, and I don't really know how to respond.)
Exactly. If dath ilan tried to do it, they'd get well into the territory of wireheading. Only an FAI could start to get there, and then stop at exactly the right place. Even if you're totally in favor of wireheading, whatever it is you're wireheading has to be sentient. Dath ilan would have to use an entire human brain just to be sure. An FAI could make an optimally sentient orgasmium. That's just happiness though. An FAI could create new emotions from scratch. Nobody values complexity. That would just mean setting fire to everything so there's more entropy. The key is figuring out exactly what it is we value, to tell if a complicated system is valuable. An FAI could give us a very interesting set of emotions.
dath ilan seems to have a specific kind of political correctness when it comes to not talking about specific issues that different from out one's and I don't think an intelligence explosion is simply going to change this. .

A question about site mechanics: I can no longer find EYs "My April Fools' Day Confession" post in Main. It is just not listed there neither by rating nor by time. I can navigate toward it from comments or bookmarks.

Checking this a bit I find that this is only filtered if I'm logged in. And I remember that something like this happened some weeks ago with another post which was moved between Main and Discussion.

Is this a bug or is this some kind of filtering feature I don't get?

In preferences there are options to hide posts that you have liked or disliked.
Yes. That's it. I never changed the filtering settings and didn't know the effect. And I don't downvote often enough to notice that earlier. How did you figure it out?
Actually, the default is not to hide anything. I figured it out by knowing the preferences page, and thus knowing about functionality that is built into the site.
Has it ever been on LessWrong? I only ever saw it on Facebook...
Yes, it was definitely on LW.
Given what EY wrote,maybe he doesn't want that to many people read what he wrote outside of the April Fool context for fear of people taking the writing seriously.
Maybe. But shouldn't it be the other way around: Only LWers get to see the post, but not the general public? I mean I can only see the post if I'm not logged in.
Just to make it clear I mean this LW post: http://lesswrong.com/lw/jzr/my_april_fools_day_confession/
For me it appears in neither in the discussion or main list whether I"m logged in or locked out.

I have a question about quantum physics. Suppose Bob is in state |Bob>, the rest of Bob's Everett branch is in state |rest>, and the universe is in state |u>, one of whose summands is |Bob>|rest>. How should Bob make predictions?

  1. Determine |b'>, the successor state to |Bob>|rest>. Then the expectation of observable o is .

  2. Determine |u'>, the successor state to |u>. Then the expectation of observable o is .

Theory 1 leads to the paradox I described in last week's open thread. Two users helpfully informed me that theory 1 is... (read more)

I don't think it does. The probability current is locally conserved. So |u'> has to give a high probability to some world very close to Bob's, i.e. one with a continuous evolution of him in it.
Hm, so you're saying that if |u> has high probability density in the subspace that contains Bob, then in the near future there must still be high probability density there, or at least nearby. But in fact |u> has very low probability density in Bob's Everett branch. Consider all the accidents of weather and history that led to Bob's birth, not to mention the quantum fluctuations that led to Bob's galaxy being created.
You're overextending a hack intuition. "Existence", "measure", "probability density", "what you should anticipate", etc. aren't actually all the exact same thing once you get this technical. Specifically, I suspect you're trying to set the later based on one of the former, without knowing which one since you assume they are identical. I recommend learning UDT and deciding what you want agents with your input history to anticipate, or if that's not feasible just do the math and stop bothering to make the intuition fit.
Hm, so you're saying that anticipation isn't a primitive, it's just part of one's decision-making process. But isn't there a sense in which I ought to expect the Born rule to hold in ordinary circumstances? Call it a set of preferences that all humans share — we care about futures in proportion to the square of the modulus of their amplitude (in the universal wavefunction? in the successor state to our Everett branch?). Do you have an opinion on exactly how that preference works, and what sorts of decision problems it applies to?
Induction. You have uncertainty about the extent to which you care about different universes. If it turns out you don't care about the born rule for one reason or another the universe you observe is an absurdly (as in probably-a-Boltzmann-brain absurd) tiny sliver of the multiverse, but if you do, it's still an absurdly tiny sliver but immensely less so. You should anticipate as if the born rule is true, because if you don't almost only care about world where it is true, then you care almost nothing about the current world, and being wrong in it doesn't matter, relatively to otherwise. Hmm, I'm terrible at explaining this stuff. But the tl;dr is basically that there's this long complicated reason why you should anticipate and act this way and thus it's true in the "the simple truth" sense, that's mostly tangential to if it's "true" in some specific philosophy paper sense.
Oh, interesting. So just as one should act as if one is Jesus if one seems to be Jesus, then one should act as if one cares about world-histories in proportion to their L2 measure if one seems to care about world-histories in proportion to their L2 measure and one happens to be in a world-history with relatively high L2 measure. And if probability is degree of caring, then the fact that one's world history obeys the Born rule is evidence that one cares about world-histories in proportion to their L2 measure. I take it you would prefer option 2 in my original comment, reduce anticipation to UDT, and explain away continuity of experience. Have I correctly characterized your point of view?
Exactly! Much better than I could!

Does compatibilism recognize a difference between "we have free will" and "we have a will"?

This is mostly a semantical question, as different compatibilist philosophers might use the words "having a will" to mean different things. (They are not words with a fixed technical meaning in philosophy). Some may think "having a will" is synonymous with "having free will", while others might think that e.g. if you a mind-controlled without knowing it you might "have a will" (a subjective sense of willing to do things) while not satisfying the conditions for compatibilist free will.

Reminder: The first session of the first course in Cousera's data science sequence starts today.

Today in failures of agency/playing a role as opposed to being a role: I have a friend who is somewhat paranoid with respect to their possessions and physical safety. Said friend recently got their laptop stolen from their lab, which has understandably heightened their paranoia about their lab's level of security, particularly since their work often involves being there alone at odd hours. It turns out that their lab is even more insecure than was first apparent, and there's a relatively simple procedure for getting in without any credentials. Friend poste... (read more)


It seems Ozymandias has retired from tumblr. Maybe some other tumblr-using Lesswronger (I don't have an account) could take up stewardship of the Rationalist Masterlist while it still exists in Google's cache? It was a nice way to find fun posts.

I took the opportunity to create a new masterlist, based on Ozymandias's.
done: http://rationalistmasterlist.tumblr.com/
This link now goes to an error page.
Yeah, my account got deleted. I'm not sure why.

Please share your GTD setup and experience: what works for you and what doesn't?

What software do you use and how?

I never owned a smartphone or a tablet, because I believed that they are mostly good for wasting time and effort on distractions (I have a Nokia 1202), but recently I gave in and bought an HTC One mini, because I believe it will help my productivity. Still getting used to the fact what goes for 'mini' these days, but that's the best phone I could find that looks well-made and not overly huge, short of the iPhone.

For my main computer I am running... (read more)

EXTREMELY helpful in getting me to remember and go to events is putting my calendar on my lockscreen (or whatever the equivalent is on your smartphone). This means that I'm reminded of what I have coming up in the next few days literally every time I pick up my phone.
I believe it's called 'lockscreen' on any modern smartphone. HTC One mini is an Android phone. What smartphone do you have? Actually, one of the reasons I chose Android over iOS is because it has widgets and one can put a Google Calendar widget on the home screen, which I was told is very helpful. I've saved links to articles describing "Top 10 Android apps that do amazing things the iPhone can’t". I actually like the second one better: the first on the list is Event Flow Calendar Widget which looks like what you and the other guy was telling me about. Is this the widget you had in mind?
I use an iPhone but I have it jailbroken.
I often find myself underestimating the time it takes to accomplish certain tasks. E.g. I think "ok, I'll send a couple of emails in 0.5 hours and move on to the bulk of the work" and it turns out it takes more like 5 hours, and not because I'm procrastinating; it actually takes me that much time to do it. What about time-management? As far as I understand, GTD, while often described as time-management system, actually doesn't help you manage time. As far as I understand Allen (I have one chapter left, and after that I plan to read the notes I downloaded in lieu of re-reading, because I still don't understand what my GTD should consist of) his position can be described as 1. Do I understand it right? 2. Do you feel you need a separate time management system in addition to GTD?
I use Nozbe which provides an in-browser app, iOS, Android, Mac and Windows apps. No Linux app but you're covered with the in-browser app. I find it to be extremely robust in terms of syncing and in general having a smooth, fast, error-free "task capture," which is like 90% of what I need out of a GTD product. From that point you can organize tasks by either project or context. It also has really nice syncing with Evernote and with Google Calender which I use extensively, and also integration with Twitter and all kinds of other things which I don't use. In terms of what doesn't work, I've written elsewhere about how Emacs org-mode is superficially the Best Thing Evar but is actually an infinite timesink that will actually just eat all your tasks. You think you want total customizability but what you actually want is structure and the freedom from having to think.
Do you have a link to the writings mentioned in the second paragraph?
I can see how I gave the impression that those writings were some substantial, coherent blog post when in fact they are several comments strewn across several previous rationality diaries. I can summarize. One can easily Google up an impressive array of org-mode setups and blog posts describing GTD workflows which seem extremely compelling. The problem with all of these turns out to be that using somebody else's GTD setup in org-mode is like wearing somebody else's shoes. Whereas in a program like Nozbe every choice has been made in the most general possible way, setups that you'll find online will tend to be ultra-specific to the person from whom you obtain them, often in ways you don't even realize. Then you are forced to start fiddling, and this is already doom, because you are supposed to be getting stuff done, not fiddling. But at some point you become seduced by this vision of having a hyperoptimized, automated system in elisp and plain text that practically runs your life for you and frees you from having to make any decisions, frees you to think about important things. Except, the opposite happens. You're spending more and more time on the damn org-mode setup, trying to figure out why something didn't get moved where it was supposed to, trying to figure out why a calendar item didn't remind you when you needed it to, searching for a note fruitlessly, botching a package install. The GTD literature harps on the importance of having a "trusted system" and finally you admit that you actually trust org-mode less than just writing things down on loose paper at this point. At least, this was my experience. I never became proficient with elisp but I am a programmer. Maybe if I had started out knowing lisp things would have been different but I frankly doubt it.
This reminds me strongly of why I stopped using Gnus/Mutt for email and simply settled for Gmail. Customizability & power can be a dangerous temptation into endless yak-shaving. Even if you explicitly remember that customization need to pay off and calculate it will work out (https://xkcd.com/1205/), you probably overestimate how long you will use a particular system and underestimate how much work it will be to get it fully debugged & reliable.
Thanks for the summary. This mirrors my experience with org-mode. I found the basic tree-structure provides most of the value, and the additional scaffolding is more complex and impractical than I expected.
Todoist for all my GTDish lists. Works on every platform, fast, and beautiful.
Active Inbox with Gmail and Google Calendar, synced with phone's calendar and mail app. Definitely more useful if a large number of your tasks originate as emails, but its easy to log a task with a button they add to send yourself an email. You can mark emails as "Action" or "Waiting On" (very helpful to keep track of things your'e waiting on others to get back to you for) and also set dates by which you're supposed to take the action or by when you need to receive a response. Keeps you from cluttering your calendar with non-time-specific actions as well. It adds a feature to log noes and subtasks on each email which falls in line with GTD's next-action list. Allows you to easily create "Project" folders to associate emails with when they're part of a project. It's designed to be a Gmail implementation of GTD and it's very effective for me.

I am curious if there are any wannabe seed AI researchers out there

Definitely. I am one (a wannabe, that is, not actual).

There are plenty of internet articles that I want to read later or have read but want to preserve for rereading and reference. Because of link rot I can't trust the sites to exist for arbitrary amounts of time, so I need to save these sites somehow. How do you do that in the most comfortable way, ideally a single click?

First, the most reliable solution is to save the page manually, yourself, to a local hard drive of your preference, provided you keep good file hygiene and backups and so on. If there are multiple-page articles, you have to save each page of the article, though. You also can run into some issues with the more "interactive" websites and articles, particularly if they use flash or java apps (which means the html you save will only contain a link to some flash or java file elsewhere on their server, which means you're back to square one). You can also get all kinds of gibberish from broken links anyway if the pictures suffer link rot or the page refers to an external style sheet or any other of some large number of possible other problems. I think the only way to avoid this in an efficient, one-click manner is to use a pre-processor that detects the relevant content and saves only that for you. I use Readability to do this for slightly different goals and purposes. Pocket is a more popular choice usually, but I've had many negative experiences with it not syncing to the android app, not working well with certain browsers, not processing articles properly, not processing the whole article, or sometimes not processing articles at all and keeping only the link (which helps you diddly-squat since that's the whole problem you're having). Fair warning: Readability does a complete pre-processing of the article for, well, readability. It will remove ads, sidebars, top-bars, often comments to articles, and once in a while it'll remove too much. It usually successfully detects multiple-page articles, but not always.
Just to provide another data point: I have been using Pocket for a while and haven't had any of the negative experiences DaFranker describes. Unlike him, I use the iOS app, not Android, and on my computer I only ever use one browser (Firefox). If you have a similar setup, Pocket might work well for you..
Plenty of browser addons can do the job, you can clip it with evernote or use one of the countless extensions that will save the page on your drive.
You can do what I do: http://www.gwern.net/Archiving%20URLs High startup cost, but on the plus side, you don't need to do anything once it's running and it'll catch most of what you read.
OT (except that I ran into this while visiting that page): That Beeline thing is really annoying. (I got the "blues" variant. I was annoyed enough by it that I modified the cookie to serve me a different version. I asked it for variant 3 ("gray1") and actually it doesn't appear to be doing anything; maybe that's a bug somewhere. Anyway, my apologies if this introduces noise into your A/B/.../I testing.)
'Blues' is actually the best-performing variant so far! I have no idea why, I hate it too. If it succeeds, I'll probably have to run another to try to find a version I can live with. 'gray1' is, IIRC, probably the subtlest of the running versions, so unless you set up a second identical tab set to 'none' and flicker back & forth, I suspect you simply weren't noticing. EDIT: 'Blues' eventually succumbed, and the final result was no version clearly outperformed no-BLR at all. See http://www.gwern.net/AB%20testing#beeline-reader-text-highlighting
Does the metric you're using (fraction of visitors staying at least N seconds?) actually measure what you care about? (A few possible confounding factors, off the top of my head: visitors may be intrigued by the weird colours and stay around while they try to work out what it is, but this doesn't indicate that they got any actual value from the page content; if the Beeline thing works, visitors may find the one bit of information they're looking for faster and then leave; if it's just annoying, annoyance may show up in reduced repeat visits rather than likelihood of disappearing quickly.)
I think it's a reasonable metric. It's not perfect (I'd rather measure average time on page, not a cutoff), but I don't know how to do any better: I am neither a Javascript programmer nor a Google Analytics expert.
Do you have problems with searching for needed information in that mass of data that you archive locally?
Not really. When you start with a URL (my usual use-case), it's very easy to look in the local archive for it.
Ah, so you have something like an ancillary indexing system with URLs?
URLs map onto filenames (that's what they originally were), so when wget downloads a URL, it's generally fairly predictable where the contents will be located on disk.
No, that's not what I mean. Let's say you want to look up studies on, say, the effect of dietary sodium on CVD and you have a vague recollection that you scanned a paper on the topic a year or so ago. I understand that if you have the URL of this paper you can easily find it on your disk, but how do you go from, basically, a set of search terms to the right URL?
Oh. In that sort of scenario, I depend on my Evernote, having included it on gwern.net/Google+/LW/Reddit, and my excellent search skills. Generally speaking, if I remember enough exact text to make grepping my local WWW archive a feasible search strategy, it's trivial to locate it in Google or one of the others.
Ah, I see. So your system is less of a knowledge base and more of a local backup of particularly interesting parts of the 'net. Thanks :-)
Yes, it's the last resort for URLs which are broken. It's not much good having a snippet from a web page so you know you want to check it, if the web page no longer exists.
I use the Evernote browser clipper plugin.
I think that Pinboard.in's archival feature might fit your needs, if you're willing to pay $25 anually. (More details in their FAQ)

Does it make sense to apply the Kelly Criterion to Hanson's LMSR? It seems to intuitively, but my math skills are too weak.

What do you mean by applying Kelly to the LMSR? Since relying on Kelly is equivalent to maximizing log utility of wealth, I'd initially guess there is some equivalence between a group of risk-neutral agents trading via the LMSR and a group of Kelly agents with equal wealth trading directly. I haven't seen anything around in the literature though. "Learning Performance of Prediction Markets with Kelly Bettors" looks at the performance of double auction markets with Kelly agents, but doesn't make any reference to Hanson even though I know Pennock is aware of the LMSR. "The Parimutuel Kelly Probability Scoring Rule" might point to some connection.
Sorry, should've been more clear. I've started work on a rudimentary play money binary prediction market using LMSR in django (still very much incomplete, PM me for a link if you'd like), and my present interface is one of buying and selling shares, which isn't very user friendly. With a "changing the price" interface that Hanson details in his paper, accurate participants can easily lose all their wealth on predictions that they're moderately confident in, depending on their starting wealth. If I have it so agents can always bet, then the wealth accumulation in accurate predictors won't happen and the market won't actually learn which agents are more accurate. With an automated Kelly interface, it seems that participants should be able to input only their probability estimates, and either change the price to what they believe it to be if the cost is less than Kelly, or it would find a price which matches the Kelly criterion, so that agents with poorer predictive ability can keep playing and learn to do better, and agents with better predictive ability accumulate more wealth and contribute more to the predictions. However, I'm uncertain as to whether a) the markets would be as accurate as if I used a conventional "changing the price" interface (due to the fact that it seems we're doing log utility twice), and b) whether I can find find the Kelly criterion for this, with a probability estimate being the only user input and the rest calculated from data about the market, the user's balance, etc.

If you live in the USA, I could use your help to buy a Microsoft Surface Pro 2 computer for myself. I live in Russia and Microsoft doesn't sell those here and refuses to ship; I have already tried using a US proxy and reshipping service, but the order doesn't go through: maybe it detects that I'm not in the US, or my debit card is not issued by US bank, or something else. Either way, I need someone's help in this.

Also, if you are a student, you should be eligible for 10% discount. But I'm not sure whether Microsoft actually checks this: I could click a cer... (read more)

Honest question: If you're working as lukeprog's assistant, why don't you get lukeprog to do it?
1. He has a lot of things to do. Offloading some of them is kind of the whole point of having assistants. 2. Buying me a computer as employee benefit is difficult for the MIRI's accounting. Did I answer your question?
I guess my follow up question would be: if Luke is too busy to do this despite you being his assistant, why would you expect someone reading your comment to take the time and hassle to do it for no recompense?
The latter half of your question doesn't require the former. Why do people help each other on forums? That's why, I think.
Sorry, but I don't really have the disposable income to purchase this sort of computer.

Off-topic, just something that I found interesting:

The other day, I heard a radio commercial for some kind of support group or therapy for non-24 hour disorder. I had read about Eliezer's problem with it, but had never heard anything about it before from any other source. I guess I was just surprised to hear that it was common enough to warrant a radio commercial.

What are rational approaches to preparing on an individual level for the possible occurrence of various types of catastrophes? I'm not referring to proactively trying to stop the catastrophes, but rather to being prepared in case something does happen. I'm primarily interested in global catastrophes (pandemic, economic catastrophe, solar flare knocking out the internet, etc.). But I'm also curious about rationalists living in areas susceptible to regional disasters (local economic collapse, wars, hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes, ecological disasters, etc.) - what do you do to prepare for these possibilities?

We should refer to standard sources compiled by people who have thought a lot about this problem already, rather than attempting to formulate answers from first principles.

The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has some lists for emergency supplies. The Mormon Church makes emergency preparedness a point of their practice. The Burning Man organization has a recommended list of survival gear for their regularly-scheduled natural disaster.

This is the top-rated first-aid kit on Amazon.

Community-building is kind of essential. Knowing that you have neighbors you can trust is a big deal — you can share the burdens of an emergency and help each other out. Does anyone in your social circle do amateur (ham) radio? Any trained EMTs or paramedics? You can get EMT training in a lot of places.

Oh, and keep a few gallon jugs of clean drinking water handy. No sense dying of dysentery.

I have a draft of a post relating to Emergency Preparedness. I can probably fish it out and post it.
Articles about medical emergencies and disaster preparedness.

The typical mind fallacy is bratwurst fallacy.

Wait, what?


Dissecting a joke is supposed to kill it, but I find that this is not the case here. See if you can pick out all the layers.

I'm pretty sure it's the case here as elsewhere.