This thread is for asking any questions that might seem obvious, tangential, silly or what-have-you. Don't be shy, everyone has holes in their knowledge, though the fewer and the smaller we can make them, the better.
Please be respectful of other people's admitting ignorance and don't mock them for it, as they're doing a noble thing.
To any future monthly posters of SQ threads, please remember to add the "stupid_questions" tag.
How do you deal with people who are dominating conversations? I had a New Years party and it was basically 4 hours where either this one guy was talking or someone was talking to him.
There's a chance that the rest of the group really likes listening to the talker.
I have a developing opinion that I'm not quite sure how to word.
It seems that schools all over the world are teaching the same lessons, but are all trying to recreate the wheel. I sense that it'd be more efficient if a bunch of effort and resources went in to each lesson, and that lesson was made available for everyone.
Elon Musk gave a good analogy (paraphrasing)
I sense that there is some sort of economic logic/terminology that applies here and that better articulates what I'm trying to say.
My attempt at explaining it a bit more formally. Consider a lesson on mitosis. Say you have 100 classrooms you need to teach this lesson to. And say you have 100 employees. I think it'd be more efficient for those 100 employees to work at creating an optimal lesson, and then providing that lesson (via a website or something) to students. Given that the lesson can (largely) be delivered via software, it's non-rivalrous (my consumption d... (read more)
Is anyone aware of the explanation behind why technetium is radioactive while molybdenum and ruthenium, the two elements astride it in the periodic table are perfectly normal? Searching on google on why certain elements are radioactive are giving results which are descriptive, as in X is radioactive, Y is radioactive, Z is what happens when radioactive decay occurs, etc. None seem to go into the theories which have been proposed to explain why something is radioactive.
I lived my first 46 years in a world of intuition, people that are bigger that life, somewhat magic thinking (even though I am not religious), and fallacy. Now that I am working in cryptocurrencies I discovered a data-driven, less wrong, in search for the truth world. I don't want my kids (19, 17, and 15) to waist their time like I did, how do I teach them about this new world of critical thinking and data?
A phrase for this that I came across recently is 'unmediated access to reality.' That is, most things that people do are mediated by the people around them; you write an essay, and the teacher decides if it's a good essay on not based on their subjective standards. You write code, and the compiler determines whether or not there's a syntax error based on its objective standards, and there is no pleading with the compiler.
I think programming is the easiest way to get experience of living in an objective-truth-world, but it's worth pointing out that this is one of the reasons programming is so painful, and encouraging people to program because hunting for bugs is character-building* instead of because programming is useful seems like it might not go far.
*Specifically, it builds a lot of rationalist habits, and people talking about the heuristics and biases as 'bugs' in 'mental programming' seem to be making a very close analogy. I don't think it's an accident there are so many CS people running around here.
Teach them to argue with you
I don't think I've ever experienced schadenfreude. As in, I'm not even sure what that emotion is supposed to feel like, from the inside. I get the impression that the few people I've said this to think that I'm lying about it for signalling purposes.
Is it common just not to feel schadenfreude, like not ever, for any reason? Lately I've started to wonder if I've been committing the typical mind fallacy on this.
Why did LessWrong split off from Overcoming Bias?
I have the following questions regarding the simulation argument:
Unless I’m missing something, it is always (?) talked about “ancestor” simulations. So, my questions are:
Why does it have to be an “ancestor” simulation?
Couldn’t it be also considered that there are civilizations that run simulations of civilizations that were never “real”?
I.e. couldn’t we be a simulated civilization that was never an ancestor to the civilization that is simulating us?
And sub-questions would be:
So, maybe consciousness is unique in our simulation, i.e. those who simulate us d... (read more)
What's a relatively easy, not very time-or-resource-consuming thing I'm probably not doing that would have a noticeable popularly desired positive impact on my life within a month? :)
Maybe read a good book that teaches you how to acquire some valuable skill, e.g., Steel's The procrastination equation (summary), Carnegie's How to win friends and influence people, or Young's The little book of productivity (summary).
How the hell did slate star codex get to be so much more popular than lesswrong? It's an offshoot of this site right?
One of the reasons Yvain posts there instead of here is because the standards are different; a post on LW talking about the problems with internet feminism would get a "hey, politics is the mind-killer," but on Slate Star Codex it's his blog and he gets to talk about whatever he wants to talk about. Besides content, there are presentation differences; Yvain has a jokey style that irritates some of the pedant crowd on LW, but engages more typical readers.
gwern also thinks the different branding has something to do with it; instead of being 'just another' LW poster, and LW having a scattered focus with many components that won't appeal to any particular reader, it's a clearly distinct site with a narrow focus. The average post quality on SSC is far higher than the average post quality of LW (note that Yvain has the second highest karma of any poster here), which makes it easier to recommend, because you're recommending Yvain specifically.
I think the comments on SSC are terrible relative to LW- the system is bad (without an inbox, upvoting, downvoting, etc.) which makes bad incentives (I'm nowhere near as careful commenting there, and have noticed that I'm much more likely to be snarky and negative) but also the commenters just seem dumber and less worth reading (but this may have to do with the increased focus on politics and decreased focus on self-improvement). But you don't share a site on social media / email it to others because of the comments, you do it because of the posts.
What are some good examples of rationality as "systematized winning"? E.g. a personal example of someone who practices rationality systematically for a long time, and there are good reasons to think doing that has substantially improved their life.
It's easy to name a lot of famous examples where irrationally has caused harm. I'm looking for the opposite. Ideally, some stories that could interest intelligent, but practically minded people who have no previous exposure to the LW memeplex.
The easiest examples are typically business examples, but there's always the risk of the thing people attributing their success to not being the actual cause of their success. ("I owe it all to believing in myself" vs. "I owe it all to sleeping with the casting director.")
I think the cleanest example is Buffet and Munger, whose stated approach to investing is "we're not going to be ashamed of only picking obviously good investments." They predated LW by a long while, but they're aware of the Heuristics and Biases literature (consider this talk Munger gave on it in 1995).
Why is the Newcomb problem... such a problem? I've read analysis of it and everything, and still don't understand why someone would two-box. To me, it comes down to:
1) Thinking you could fool an omniscient super-being 2) Preserving some strictly numerical ideal of "rationality"
Time-inconsistency and all these other things seem totally irrelevant.
I am a person who has trouble focusing on work and fidgets a lot. I work on the computer frequently. I figure treadmill desks might cure this. Also, it's cold and icy where I live and if I can get my older family members to walk or run around more, it will be good for them, so treadmills are a good investment for removing trivial inconveniences..
Should I buy a cheapest possible treadmill and just put a stool on top of my desk to create a standing desk?
Should I buy a nice expensive regular treadmill, and use it for desking and running?
Should I buy the (expensive) treadmills specifically designed for treadmill desking, and only use it for desking?
What is the best way to relatively quickly gain some elementary proficiency in world history? I notice that I have little to no awareness as to how the world came to be as it is (there were cavemen... they discovered fire... thus the technological progress started... gets us to steam engines, then elecricity, and computers...). Is there a good textbook that outlines the issue?
How do you avoid sending nerdy signals?
Should I correct my posts after unambiguous mistakes are mentioned (specifically, mistakes in argumentation and the like, rather than grammatical errors, etc., which I would always correct), or should the original post be left alone for posterity? I figured that it would be better to correct it to save the time of future readers. In the particular instance that I'm talking about (I opted to correct, by the way), one of the commenters seemed to imply (very diplomatically, and I can't be certain) that I was too concerned with editing the post for image-manag... (read more)
I’m considering creating a Linkedin profile. I probably should have made one long ago, but, because of my severe social anxiety and a visceral reaction to any activity which involves selling myself, I have avoided it. However, I think it’s probably best to bite the bullet and work through creating the profile and to at least send connection requests to people who I am currently working with. However, first I’d like to know if it looks bad to have a profile with only a few connections. Is that worse than having no profile at all?
If I want to marry refugees that need visas to the US as an act of Altruism, is there a place where I can find and contact such refugees?
Is there anything I should know that?
Is sex significantly more pleasurable than masturbation? Why?
Reposted from here:
How is the name "Yvain" pronounced? Also, is there any meaning behind it?
I currently use doxycycline to treat acne vulgaris. How much harm am I doing by contributing to antibiotic resistance, and should I stop using it? I've been using it daily for years, if that helps with the harm estimate.
I don't understand sign language, but in recent years I've become a fan of sign language poetry. Some of my acquaintances seem surprised that poetry is possible in sign language, but I think everything that can communicate can be used beautifully. Then today an idea struck me: can you make poetry in a programming language? I'm sure there is some sense in which an algorithm may feel "beautiful," but is that poetry? And if that isn't, what would be?