1 min read30th Dec 2017462 comments
Crossposted from the AI Alignment Forum. May contain more technical jargon than usual.
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There was a particular mistake I made over in this thread. Noticing the mistake didn't change my overall position (and also my overall position was even weirder than I think people thought it was). But, seemed worth noting somewhere.

I think most folk morality (or at least my own folk morality), generally has the following crimes in ascending order of badness:

  • Lying
  • Stealing
  • Killing
  • Torturing people to death (I'm not sure if torture-without-death is generally considered better/worse/about-the-same-as killing)

But this is the conflation of a few different things. One axis I was ignoring was "morality as coordination tool" vs "morality as 'doing the right thing because I think it's right'." And these are actually quite different. And, importantly, you don't get to spend many resources on morality-as-doing-the-right-thing unless you have a solid foundation of the morality-as-coordination-tool.

There's actually a 4x3 matrix you can plot lying/stealing/killing/torture-killing into which are:

  • harming the ingroup
  • harming the outgroup (who you may benefit from trading with)
  • harming powerless people who don't have the ability to trade or col
... (read more)

On the object level, the three levels you described are extremely important:

  • harming the ingroup
  • harming the outgroup (who you may benefit from trading with)
  • harming powerless people who don't have the ability to trade or collaborate with you

I'm basically never talking about the third thing when I talk about morality or anything like that, because I don't think we've done a decent job at the first thing. I think there's a lot of misinformation out there about how well we've done the first thing, and I think that in practice utilitarian ethical discourse tends to raise the message length of making that distinction, by implicitly denying that there's an outgroup.

I don't think ingroups should be arbitrary affiliation groups. Or, more precisely, "ingroups are arbitrary affiliation groups" is one natural supergroup which I think is doing a lot of harm, and there are other natural supergroups following different strategies, of which "righteousness/justice" is one that I think is especially important. But pretending there's no outgroup is worse than honestly trying to treat foreigners decently as foreigners who can't be c... (read more)

Wait, why do you think these have to be done in order?

Some beliefs of mine, I assume different from Ben's but I think still relevant to this question are:

At the very least, your ability to accomplish anything re: helping the outgroup or helping the powerless is dependent on having spare resources to do so.

There are many clusters of actions which might locally benefit the ingroup and leave the outgroup or powerless in the cold, but which then enable future generations of ingroup more ability to take useful actions to help them. i.e. if you're a tribe in the wilderness, I much rather you invent capitalism and build supermarkets than that you try to help the poor. The helping of the poor is nice but barely matters in the grand scheme of things.

I don't personally think you need to halt *all* helping of the powerless until you've solidified your treatment of the ingroup/outgroup. But I could imagine future me changing my mind about that.

A major suspicion/confusion I have here is that the two frames:

  • "Help the ingroup, so that the ingroup eventually has the bandwidth and slack to help the outgroup and the powerless", and
  • "Help the ingroup, because it's convenient and they're the ingroup"

Look... (read more)

Attention is scarce and there are lots of optimization processes going on, so if you think the future is big relative to the present, interventions that increase the optimization power serving your values are going to outperform direct interventions. This doesn't imply that we should just do infinite meta, but it does imply that the value of direct object-level improvements will nearly always be via how they affect different optimizing processes.
A lot of this makes sense. Some of it feels like I haven't quite understood the frame you're using (and unfortunately can't specify further which parts those are because it's a bit confusing) One thing that seems relevant: My preference to "declare staghunts first and get explicit buy in before trying to do anything cooperatively-challenging" feels quite related to "ambiguity over who is in the ingroup causes problems" thing.

This feels like the most direct engagement I've seen from you with what I've been trying to say. Thanks! I'm not sure how to describe the metric on which this is obviously to-the-point and trying-to-be-pin-down-able, but I want to at least flag an example where it seems like you're doing the thing.

Periodically I describe a particular problem with the rationalsphere with the programmer metaphor of:

"For several years, CFAR took the main LW Sequences Git Repo and forked it into a private branch, then layered all sorts of new commits, ran with some assumptions, and tweaked around some of the legacy code a bit. This was all done in private organizations, or in-person conversation, or at best, on hard-to-follow-and-link-to-threads on Facebook.

"And now, there's a massive series of git-merge conflicts, as important concepts from CFAR attempt to get merged back into the original LessWrong branch. And people are going, like 'what the hell is focusing and circling?'"

And this points towards an important thing about _why_ think it's important to keep people actually writing down and publishing their longform thoughts (esp the people who are working in private organizations)

And I'm not sure how to actually really convey it properly _without_ the programming metaphor. (Or, I suppose I just could. Maybe if I simply remove the first sentence the description still works. But I feel like the first sentence does a lot of important work in communicating it clearly)

We have enough programmers that I can basically get away with it anyway, but it'd be nice to not have to rely on that.

I disagree with this particular theunitofcaring post "what would you do with 20 billion dollars?", and I think this is possibly the only area where I disagree with theunitofcaring overall philosophy and seemed worth mentioning. (This crops up occasionally in her other posts but it is most clear cut here).

I think if you got 20 billion dollars and didn't want to think too hard about what to do with it, donating to OpenPhilanthropy project is a pretty decent fallback option.

But my overall take on how to handle the EA funding landscape has changed a bit in the past few years. Some things that theunitofcaring doesn't mention here, which seem at least warrant thinking about:

[Each of these has a bit of a citation-needed, that I recall hearing or reading in reliable sounding places, but correct me if I'm wrong or out of date]

1) OpenPhil has (at least? I can't find more recent data) 8 billion dollars, and makes something like 500 million a year in investment returns. They are currently able to give 100 million away a year.

They're working on building more capacity so they can give more. But for the foreseeable future, they _can't_ actually spend more m... (read more)

I started writing this a few weeks ago. By now I have other posts that make these points more cleanly in the works, and I'm in the process of thinking through some new thoughts that might revise bits of this.

But I think it's going to be awhile before I can articulate all that. So meanwhile, here's a quick summary of the overall thesis I'm building towards (with the "Rationalization" and "Sitting Bolt Upright in Alarm" post, and other posts and conversations that have been in the works).

(By now I've had fairly extensive chats with Jessicata and Benquo and I don't expect this to add anything that I didn't discuss there, so this is more for other people who're interested in staying up to speed. I'm separately working on a summary of my current epistemic state after those chats)

  • The rationalsphere isn't great at applying rationality to its own internal politics
    • We don't seem to do much better than average. This seems like something that's at least pretty sad, even if it's a true brute fact about the world.
    • There have been some efforts to fix this fact, but most of it has seemed (to me) to be missing key
... (read more)

In that case Sarah later wrote up a followup post that was more reasonable and Benquo wrote up a post that articulated the problem more clearly. [Can't find the links offhand].

"Reply to Criticism on my EA Post", "Between Honesty and Perjury"

Thanks! I do still pretty* much endorse "Between Honesty and Perjury." *avoiding making a stronger claim here since I only briefly re-read it and haven't re-thought-through each particular section and claim. But the overall spirit it's pointing to is quite important. [Edit: Ah, well, in the comments there I apparently expressed some specific agreements and disagreements that seems... similar in shape to my current agreement and disagreement with Ben. But I think in the intervening years I've updated a bit towards "EA's epistemic standards should be closer to Ben's standards than I thought in 2017."]
Thank you for the effort and clarity of thought you're putting into this. One thing you may already be considering, but I haven't seen it addressed directly: Hobbyists vs fanatics vs professionals (or core/periphery, or founders/followers/exploiters, or any other acknowledgement of different individual capabilities and motives). What parts of "the community" are you talking about when you address various issues? You hint at this in the money/distortion topic, but you're in danger of abstracting "motivation" way too far, and missing the important details of individual variation. Also, it's possible that you're overestimating the need for legibility of reasoning over correctness of action (in the rational sense, of furthering one's true goals). I very much dispute "We don't seem to do much better than average", unless you're seriously cherry-picking your reference set. We do _WAY_ better than average both in terms of impact and in terms of transparency of reasoning. I'd love to explore some benchmarks (and copy some behaviors) if you can identify groups with similar composition and similar difficult-to-quantify goals, that are far more effective

Something struck me recently, as I watched Kubo, and Coco - two animated movies that both deal with death, and highlight music and storytelling as mechanisms by which we can preserve people after they die.

Kubo begins "Don't blink - if you blink for even an instant, if you a miss a single thing, our hero will perish." This is not because there is something "important" that happens quickly that you might miss. Maybe there is, but it's not the point. The point is that Kubo is telling a story about people. Those people are now dead. And insofar as those people are able to be kept alive, it is by preserving as much of their personhood as possible - by remembering as much as possible from their life.

This is generally how I think about death.

Cryonics is an attempt at the ultimate form of preserving someone's pattern forever, but in a world pre-cryonics, the best you can reasonably hope for is for people to preserve you so thoroughly in story that a young person from the next generation can hear the story, and palpably feel the underlying character, rich with inner life. Can see the person so clearly that he or she comes to live inside them.

Realistical... (read more)

One of the things that makes Realistically Probably Not Having Kids sad is that I'm pretty much the last of the line on my Dad's side. And I DO know stories (not much, but some) of my great-great-grandparents. Sure, I can write them down, so they exist SOMEWHERE. But in reality, when I die, that line and those stories die with me.

I wanted to just reply something like "<3" and then became self-conscious of whether that was appropriate for LW.

Seems good to me.

In particular, I think if we make the front-page comments section filtered by "curated/frontpage/community" (i.e. you only see community-blog comments on the frontpage if your frontpage is set to community), then I'd feel more comfortable posting comments like "<3", which feels correct to me.

Conversation with Andrew Critch today, in light of a lot of the nonprofit legal work he's been involved with lately. I thought it was worth writing up:

"I've gained a lot of respect for the law in the last few years. Like, a lot of laws make a lot more sense than you'd think. I actually think looking into the IRS codes would actually be instructive in designing systems to align potentially unfriendly agents."

I said "Huh. How surprised are you by this? And curious if your brain was doing one particular pattern a few years ago that you can now see as wrong?"

"I think mostly the laws that were promoted to my attention were especially stupid, because that's what was worth telling outrage stories about. Also, in middle school I developed this general hatred for stupid rules that didn't make any sense and generalized this to 'people in power make stupid rules', or something. But, actually, maybe middle school teachers are just particularly bad at making rules. Most of the IRS tax code has seemed pretty reasonable to me."

I think there's a difference between "Most of the IRS tax code is reasonable" and "Most of the instances where the IRS tax code does something are instances where it does reasonable things." Not all parts of the tax code are used equally often. Furthermore, most unreasonable instances of a lot of things will be rare as a percentage of the whole because there is a large set of uncontroversial background uses. For instance, consider a completely corrupt politician who takes bribes--he's not going to be taking a bribe for every decision he makes and most of the ones he does make will be uncontroversial things like "approve $X for this thing which everyone thinks should be approved anyway".

Over in this thread, Said asked the reasonable question "who exactly is the target audience with this Best of 2018 book?"

By compiling the list, we are saying: “here is the best work done on Less Wrong in [time period]”. But to whom are we saying this? To ourselves, so to speak? Is this for internal consumption—as a guideline for future work, collectively decided on, and meant to be considered as a standard or bar to meet, by us, and anyone who joins us in the future? 

Or, is this meant for external consumption—a way of saying to others, “see what we have accomplished, and be impressed”, and also “here are the fruits of our labors; take them and make use of them”? Or something else? Or some combination of the above?

I'm working on a post that goes into a bit more detail about the Review Phase, and, to be quite honest, the whole process is a bit in flux – I expect us (the LW team as well as site participants) to learn, over the course of the review process, what aspects of it are most valuable. 

But, a quick "best guess" answer for now.

I see the overall review process as having two "major phases":

  • Phase 1: Nomination/Review/Voting/Post-that-summarizes-the-voting
  • Phase 2: Compila
... (read more)

Thank you, this is a useful answer.

I'm looking forward to a bookshelf with LW review books in my living room. If nothing else, the very least this will give us is legitimacy, and legitimacy can lead to many good things.
+1 excitement about bookshelves :)

I've posted this on Facebook a couple times but seems perhaps worth mentioning once on LW: A couple weeks ago I registered the domain LessLong.com and redirected it to LessWrong.com/shortform. :P

A thing I might have maybe changed my mind about:

I used to think a primary job of a meetup/community organizer was to train their successor, and develop longterm sustainability of leadership.

I still hold out for that dream. But, it seems like a pattern is:

1) community organizer with passion and vision founds a community

2) they eventually move on, and pass it on to one successor who's pretty closely aligned and competent

3) then the First Successor has to move on to, and then... there isn't anyone obvious to take the reins, but if no one does the community dies, so some people reluctantly step up. and....

...then forever after it's a pale shadow of its original self.

For semi-branded communities (such as EA, or Rationality), this also means that if someone new with energy/vision shows up in the area, they'll see a meetup, they'll show up, they'll feel like the meetup isn't all that good, and then move on. Wherein they (maybe??) might have founded a new one that they got to shape the direction of more.

I think this also applies to non-community organizations (i.e. founder hands the reins to a new CEO who hands the reins to a new CEO who doesn't quite know what to do)

So... I'm kinda wonde... (read more)

What if the replacement isn't a replacement? If only a different person/people with a different vision/s can be found then...why not that? Or, what does the leader do, that can't be carried on?
Reading this makes me think of organizations which manage to successfully have several generations of  competent leadership. Something that has struck me for a while is the contrast in long-term competence between republics (not direct democracies) and hereditary monarchies. Reading through history, hereditary monarchies always seem to fall into the problem you describe, of incompetent and (physically and mentally) weak monarchs being placed at the head of a nation, leading to a lot of problems. Republics, in contrast, almost always have competent leaders - one might disagree with their goals, and they are too often appointed after their prime, when their health is declining [1], but the leaders of republics are almost always very competent people. This makes life much better for the people in the republic, and may be in part responsible for the recent proliferation of republics (though it does raise the question of why that hasn't happened sooner. Maybe the robust safeguards implemented by the Founding Fathers of the USA in their constitution were a sufficiently non-obvious, but important, social technology, to be able to make republics viable on the world stage? [2]). A key difference between monarchies and republics is that each successive generation of leadership in a republic must win an intense competition to secure their position, unlike the heirs of a monarchy. Not only this, but the competitions are usually held quite often (for example, every 4 years in Denmark, every 3 years in New Zealand), which ensures that the competitive nature of the office is kept in the public mind very frequently, making it hard to become a de facto hereditary position. By holding a competition to fill the office, one ensures that, even if the leader doesn't share the same vision as the original founder, they still have to be very competent to be appointed to the position. I contend that the usual way of appointing successors to small organizations (appointment by the previou
[1] Does this demonstrate: * a lack of younger leaders * older people have better shown themself (more time in which to do so, accumulate trust, etc.) * ? * Elections (by means of voters) intentionally choose old leaders because that limits how long they can hold the position, or forces them to find a successor or delegate? [2] George Washington's whole, only twice thing, almost seems more deliberate here. Wonder what would have happened if a similar check had been placed on political parties.
Regarding [1], people tend to vote for candidates they know, and politicians start out with 0 name recognition, which increases monotonically with age, always increasing but never decreasing, inherently biasing the process towards older candidates. The two-term limit was actually not intended by Washington to become a tradition, he retired after his second term because he was declining in health. It was only later that it became expected for presidents not to serve more than 2 terms. I do think the term limit on the presidency is an important guard in maintaining the competitive and representative nature of the office, and I think it's good to wonder if extending term limits to other things can be beneficial, though I am also aware of arguments pushing in the opposite direction
Citation? (I've only really read American Propaganda about this so not very surprised if this is the case, but hadn't heard it before)

From Wikipedia: George Washington, which cites Korzi, Michael J. (2011). Presidential Term Limits in American History: Power, Principles, and Politics page 43, -and- Peabody, Bruce G. (September 1, 2001). "George Washington, Presidential Term Limits, and the Problem of Reluctant Political Leadership". Presidential Studies Quarterly. 31 (3): 439–453:

At the end of his second term, Washington retired for personal and political reasons, dismayed with personal attacks, and to ensure that a truly contested presidential election could be held. He did not feel bound to a two-term limit, but his retirement set a significant precedent. Washington is often credited with setting the principle of a two-term presidency, but it was Thomas Jefferson who first refused to run for a third term on political grounds.

A note on the part that says "to ensure that a truly contested presidential election could be held": at this time, Washington's health was failing, and he indeed died during what would have been his 3rd term if he had run for a 3rd term. If he had died in office, he would have been immediately succeeded by the Vice President, which would set an unfortunate precedent of presidents serving until they die, then being followed by an appointed heir until that heir dies, blurring the distinction between the republic and a monarchy.

What's different for the organizer and first successor, in terms of their ability to do the primary job of finding their successor?  I also note the pattern you mention (one handoff mostly succeeds, community degrades rapidly around the time the first successor leaves with no great second successor).  But I also have seen a lot of cases where the founder fails to hand off in the first place, and some where it's handed off to a committee or formal governance structure, and then eventually dies for reasons that don't seem caused by succession. I wonder if you've got the causality wrong - communities have a growth/maintenance/decline curve, which varies greatly in the parameters, but not so much in the shape.  It seems likely to me that the leaders/organizers REACT to changes in the community by joining, changing their involvement, or leaving, rather than causing those changes.
I'm not Ray, but I'll take a stab -- The founder has a complete vision for the community/meetup/company/etc. They were able to design a thing that (as long as they continue putting in energy) is engaging, and they instinctively know how to change it so that it continues being great for participants. The first successor has an incomplete, operational/keep-things-running-the-way-they-were type vision. They cargo-cult whatever the founder was doing. They don't have enough vision to understand the 'why' behind all the decisions. But putting your finger on their precise blind spot is quite hard. It's their "fault" (to the extent that we can blame anyone) that things go off the rails, but their bad decision-making doesn't actually have short term impacts that anyone can see. Instead, the impacts come all at once, once they disappear, and there becomes common knowledge that it was a house of cards the whole time. (or something. my models are fairly imprecise on this.) Anyway, why did the founder get fooled into anointing the first successor even though they don't have the skills to continue the thing? My guess is that there's a fairly strong selection effect for founders combined with "market fit" -- founders who fail to reach this resonant frequency don't pick successors, they just fail. Whatever made them great at building this particular community doesn't translate into skills at picking a successor, and that resonance may not happen to exist in any other person. Another founder-quality person would not necessarily have resonated with the existing community's frequency, so there could also be an anti-selection effect there.
My model differs from yours. In my view, the first successor isn't the source of most problems. The first successor usually has enough interaction and knowledge transfer from the founder, that they are able to keep things working more-or-less perfectly fine during their tenure, but they aren't able to innovate and create substantial new value, since they lack the creativity and vision of the founder. In your terms, they are cargo-culting, but they are able to cargo-cult sufficiently well to keep the organization running smoothly; but when the second (and nth) successor comes in, they haven't interacted much directly with the original founder, but instead are basing their decisions based, at most, on a vague notion of what the founder was like (though are often better served when they don't even try to follow in the footsteps of the founder), and so are unable to keep things working according to the original vision. They are cargo-culting a cargo-cult, which isn't enough to keep things working the way they need to work, at which point the organization stops being worth keeping around. During the reign of the founder, the slope of the value created over time is positive, during the reign of the first successor, the slope is approximately zero, but once the second successor and beyond take over, the slope will be negative.
My read on this is that it's still obviously worthwhile to train a successor, but to consider giving them clear instructions to shut down the group when it's time for them to move on, to avoid the problems that come with 3rd-generational leadership.

Crossposted from my Facebook timeline (and, in turn, crossposted there from vaguely secret, dank corners of the rationalsphere)

“So Ray, is LessLong ready to completely replace Facebook? Can I start posting my cat pictures and political rants there?”

Well, um, hmm....

So here’s the deal. I do hope someday someone builds an actual pure social platform that’s just actually good, that’s not out-to-get you, with reasonably good discourse. I even think the LessWrong architecture might be good for that (and if a team wanted to fork the codebase, they’d be welcome to try)

But LessWrong shortform *is* trying to do a bit of a more nuanced thing than that.

Shortform is for writing up early stage ideas, brainstorming, or just writing stuff where you aren’t quite sure how good it is or how much attention to claim for it.

For it to succeed there, it’s really important that it be a place where people don’t have to self-censor or stress about how their writing comes across. I think intellectual progress depends on earnest curiosity, exploring ideas, sometimes down dead ends.

I even think it involves clever jokes sometimes.

But... I dunno, if looked ahead 5 years and saw that the Future People were using ... (read more)

Just spent a weekend at the Internet Intellectual Infrastructure Retreat. One thing I came away with was a slightly better sense of was forecasting and prediction markets, and how they might be expected to unfold as an institution.

I initially had a sense that forecasting, and predictions in particular, was sort of "looking at the easy to measure/think about stuff, which isn't necessarily the stuff that connected to stuff that matters most."

Tournaments over Prediction Markets

Prediction markets are often illegal or sketchily legal. But prediction tournaments are not, so this is how most forecasting is done.

The Good Judgment Project

Held an open tournament, the winners of which became "Superforecasters". Those people now... I think basically work as professional forecasters, who rent out their services to companies, NGOs and governments that have a concrete use for knowing how likely a given country is to go to war, or something. (I think they'd been hired sometimes by Open Phil?)

Vague impression that they mostly focus on geopolitics stuff?

High Volume and Metaforecasting

Ozzie described a vision where lots of forecasters are predicting things all the time... (read more)

More in neat/scary things Ray noticed about himself.

I set aside this week to learn about Machine Learning, because it seemed like an important thing to understand. One thing I knew, going in, is that I had a self-image as a "non technical person." (Or at least, non-technical relative to rationality-folk). I'm the community/ritual guy, who happens to have specialized in web development as my day job but that's something I did out of necessity rather than a deep love.

So part of the point of this week was to "get over myself, and start being the sort of person who can learn technical things in domains I'm not already familiar with."

And that went pretty fine.

As it turned out, after talking to some folk I ended up deciding that re-learning Calculus was the right thing to do this week. I'd learned in college, but not in a way that connected to anything and gave me a sense of it's usefulness.

And it turned out I had a separate image of myself as a "person who doesn't know Calculus", in addition to "not a technical person". This was fairly easy to overcome since I had already given myself a bunch of space to explore and change this week, and I'd spent the past few months transitioning into being ready for it. But if this had been at an earlier stage of my life and if I hadn't carved out a week for it, it would have been harder to overcome.

Man. Identities. Keep that shit small yo.

Also important to note that learn Calculus this week is a thing a person can do fairly easily without being some sort of math savant.

(Presumably not the full 'know how to do all the particular integrals and be able to ace the final' perhaps, but definitely 'grok what the hell this is about and know how to do most problems that one encounters in the wild, and where to look if you find one that's harder than that.' To ace the final you'll need two weeks.)

Very confused about why this was downvoted.
Maybe someone thinks that the meme of "everyone can learn calculus" is a really bad one? I remember you being similarly frustrated at the "everyone can be a programmer" meme.

I didn't downvote, but I agree that this is a suboptimal meme – though the prevailing mindset of "almost nobody can learn Calculus" is much worse.

As a datapoint, it took me about two weeks of obsessive, 15 hour/day study to learn Calculus to a point where I tested out of the first two courses when I was 16. And I think it's fair to say I was unusually talented and unusually motivated. I would not expect the vast majority of people to be able to grok Calculus within a week, though obviously people on this site are not a representative sample.

Quite fair. I had read Zvi as speaking to typical LessWrong readership. Also, the standard you seem to be describing here is much higher than the standard Zvi was describing.

4Pamela Fox6y
I went on a 4-month Buddhist retreat, and one week covered "Self-images". We received homework that week to journal our self-images - all of them. Every time I felt some sense of self, like "The self that prides itself on being clean" or "The self that's playful and giggly", I'd write it down in my journal. I ended up filling 20 pages over a month period, and learning so much about the many selves my mind/body were trying to convey to the world. I also discovered how often two self-images would compete with each other. Observing the self-images helped them to be less strongly attached. It sounds like you discovered that yourself this week. You might find such an exercise useful for discovering more of that.

High Stakes Value and the Epistemic Commons

I've had this in my drafts for a year. I don't feel like the current version of it is saying something either novel or crisp enough to quite make sense as a top-level post, but wanted to get it out at least as a shortform for now.

There's a really tough situation I think about a lot, from my perspective as a LessWrong moderator. These are my personal thoughts on it.

The problem, in short: 

Sometimes a problem is epistemically confusing, and there are probably political ramifications of it, such that the most qualified people to debate it are also in conflict with billions of dollars on the line and the situation is really high stakes (i.e. the extinction of humanity) such that it really matters we get the question right.

Political conflict + epistemic murkiness means that it's not clear what "thinking and communicating sanely" about the problem look like, and people have (possibly legitimate) reasons to be suspicious of each other's reasoning.

High Stakes means that we can't ignore the problem.

I don't feel like our current level of rationalist discourse patterns are sufficient for this combo of high stakes, political conflict, and epistemi... (read more)

This intersects sharply with your prior post about feedback loops, I think. As it is really hard / maybe impossible (???) for individuals to reason well in situations where you do not have a feedback loop, it is really hard / maybe impossible to make a community of reasoning well in a situation without feedback loops. Like at some point, in a community, you need to be able to point to (1) canonical works that form the foundation of further thought, (2) examples of good reasoning to be imitated by everyone. If you don't have those, you have a sort of glob of memes and ideas and shit that people can talk about to signal that they "get it," but it's all kinda arbitrary and conversation cannot move on because nothing is ever established for sure. And like -- if you never have clear feedback, I think it's hard to have canonical works / examples of good reasoning other than by convention and social proof. There are works in LW which you have to have read in order to continue various conversations, but whether these works are good or not is highly disputed. I of course have some proposed ideas for how to fix the situation -- this -- but my proposed ideas would clean out the methods of reasoning and argument with which I disagree, which is indeed the problem.
I don't have a super strong memory of this, did you have a link? (not sure how directly relevant but was interested)
Your memory is fine, I was writing badly -- I meant the ideas I would propose rather than the ideas I have proposed by "proposed ideas." The flavor would be something super-empiricist like this, not that I endorse that as perfect. I do think ideas without empirical restraint loom too large in the collective.
Have you considered hosting a discussion on this topic? I'm sure you've already had some discussions on this topic, but a public conversation could help surface additional ideas and/or perspectives that could help you make sense of this.

Posts I vaguely want to have been written so I can link them to certain types of new users:

  • "Why you can chill out about the basilisk and acausal blackmail." (The current Roko's Basilisk kinda tries to be this, but there's a type of person who shows up on LessWrong regularly who's caught in an anxious loop that keeps generating more concerns, and I think the ideal article here is more trying to break them out of the anxious loop than comprehensively explain the game theory.)
  • "FAQ: Why you can chill out about quantum immortality and everything adds up to normality." (Similar, except the sort of person who gets worked up about this is usually having a depressive spiral and worried about being trapped in an infinite hellscape)

Seems like different AI alignment perspectives sometimes are about "which thing seems least impossible."

Straw MIRI researchers: "building AGI out of modern machine learning is automatically too messy and doomed. Much less impossible to try to build a robust theory of agency first."

Straw Paul Christiano: "trying to get a robust theory of agency that matters in time is doomed, timelines are too short. Much less impossible to try to build AGI that listens reasonably to me out of current-gen stuff."

(Not sure if either of these are fair, or if other camps fit this)

5Rob Bensinger3y
'Straw MIRI researchers' seems basically right to me. Though if I were trying to capture all MIRI research I'd probably replace "try to build a robust theory of agency" with "try to get deconfused about powerful general-purpose intelligence/optimization" or "try to ensure that the future developers of AGI aren't flying blind; less like the black boxes of current ML, more like how NASA has to deal with some chaotic wind and weather patterns but the principles and parts of the rocket are fundamentally well-understood". 'Straw Paul Christiano' doesn't sound right to me, but I'm not sure how to fix it. Some things that felt off to me (though maybe I'm wrong about this too): * Disagreements about whether MIRI's approach is doomed or too-hard seem smaller and less cruxy to me than disagreements about whether prosaic AGI alignment is doomed. * "Timelines are too short" doesn't sound like a crux I've heard before. * A better example of a thing I think Paul thinks is pretty doomed is "trying to align AGI in hard-takeoff scenarios". I could see takeoff speed/continuity being a crux: either disagreement about the likelihood of hard takeoff, or disagreement about the feasibility of alignment given hard takeoff.

(I got nerd-sniped by trying to develop a short description of what I do. The following is my stream of thought)

+1 to replacing "build a robust theory" with "get deconfused," and with replacing "agency" with "intelligence/optimization," although I think it is even better with all three. I don't think "powerful" or "general-purpose" do very much for the tagline.

When I say what I do to someone (e.g. at a reunion) I say something like "I work in AI safety, by doing math/philosophy to try to become less confused about agency/intelligence/optimization." (I dont think I actually have said this sentence, but I have said things close.)

I specifically say it with the slashes and not "and," because I feel like it better conveys that there is only one thing that is hard to translate, but could be translated as "agency," "intelligence," or "optimization."

I think it is probably better to also replace the word "about" with the word "around" for the same reason.

I wish I had a better word for "do." "Study" is wrong. "Invent" and "discover" both seem wrong, because it is more like "invent/discover", but that feels like it is overusing the slashes. Maybe "develop"? I think I like "invent" best. (Note... (read more)

The thing the "timelines are too short" was trying to get at was "it has to be competitive with mainstream AI in order to work" (pretty sure Paul has explicitly said this), with, what I thought was basically a followup assumption of "and timelines are too short to have time to get a competitive thing based off the kind of deconfusion work that MIRI does."
4Rob Bensinger3y
I'd have thought the Paul-argument is less timeline-dependent than that -- more like 'even if timelines are long, there's no reason to expect any totally new unexplored research direction to pay off so spectacularly that it can compete with the state of the art n years from now; and prosaic alignment seems like it may work, so we should focus more on that until we're confident it's a dead end'. The base rate of new ideas paying off in a big way, even if they're very promising-seeming at the outset, is super low. It may be useful for some people to pursue ideas like this, but (on my possibly-flawed Paul-model) the bulk of the field's attention should be on AI techniques that already have a proven track record of competitiveness, until we know this is unworkable. Whereas if you're already confident that scaled-up deep learning in the vein of current ML is unalignable, then base rates are a bit of a moot point; we have to find new approaches one way or another, even if it's hard-in-expectation. So "are scaled-up deep nets a complete dead end in terms of alignability?" seems like an especially key crux to me.
6Rob Bensinger3y
Caveat: I didn't run the above comments by MIRI researchers, and MIRI researchers aren't a monolith in any case. E.g., I could imagine people's probabilities in "scaled-up deep nets are a complete dead end in terms of alignability" looking like "Eliezer ≈ Benya ≈ Nate >> Scott >> Abram > Evan >> Paul", or something?
Okay, that is compatible with the rest of my Paul model. Does still seem to fit into the ‘what’s least impossible’ frame.

My personal religion involves two* gods – the god of humanity (who I sometimes call "Humo") and the god of the robot utilitarians (who I sometimes call "Robutil"). 

When I'm facing a moral crisis, I query my shoulder-Humo and my shoulder-Robutil for their thoughts. Sometimes they say the same thing, and there's no real crisis. For example, some naive young EAs try to be utility monks, donate all their money, never take breaks, only do productive things... but Robutil and Humo both agree that quality intellectual world requires slack and psychological health. (Both to handle crises and to notice subtle things, which you might need, even in emergencies)

If you're an aspiring effective altruist, you should definitely at least be doing all the things that Humo and Robutil agree on. (i.e. get to to the middle point of Tyler Alterman's story here).

But Humo and Robutil in fact disagree on some things, and disagree on emphasis. 

They disagree on how much effort you should spend to avoid accidentally recruiting people you don't have much use for.

They disagree on how many high schoolers it's acceptable to accidentally fuck up psychologically, while you experiment with a new program to... (read more)

Hmm.  Does this fully deny utilitarianism?  Are these values sacred (more important that calculable tradeoffs), in some way? I'm not utilitarian for other reasons (I don't believe in comparability of utility, and I don't value all moral patients equally, or fairly, or objectively), but I think you COULD fit those priorities into a utilitarian framework, not by prioritizing them for their own sake, but acknowledging the illegibility of the values and taking a guess at how to calculate with them, and then adjusting as circumstances change.

I’ve noticed myself using “I’m curious” as a softening phrase without actually feeling “curious”. In the past 2 weeks I’ve been trying to purge that from my vocabulary. It often feels like I'm cheating, trying to pretend like I'm being a friend when actually I'm trying to get someone to do something. (Usually this is a person I'm working with it and it's not quite adversarial, we're on the same team, but it feels like it degrades the signal of true open curiosity)

2Matt Goldenberg3y
Have you tried becoming curious each time you feel the urge to say it? Seems strictly better than not being curious.
Dunno about that. On one hand, being curious seems nice on the margin. But, the whole deal here is when I have some kinda of agenda I'm trying to accomplish. I do care about accomplishing the agenda in a friendly way. I don't obviously care about doing it in a curious way – the reason I generated the "I'm curious" phrase is because it was an easy hack for sounding less threatening, not because curiosity was important. I think optimizing for curiosity here is more likely to fuck up my curiosity than to help with anything.
4Matt Goldenberg3y
I went through something similar with phrases like "I'm curious if you'd be willing to help me move." While I really meant "I hope that you'll help me move." My personal experience was that shifting this hope/expectation toba real sense of curiosity "Hmm, Does this person want to help me move?" Made it more pleasant for both of us. I became genuinely curious about their answer, and there was less pressure both internally and externally.
The direct approach: "I'm curious [if/why ...]" → "Tell me [if/why ...]"
I do still feel flinchy about that because it does come across less friendly / overly commanding to me. (For the past few weeks I've been often just deciding the take the hit of being less friendly, but am on the lookout for phrases that feel reasonable on all dimensions)
"Can you tell me [if/why]..."?
It basically is a command. So maybe it's a feature that the phrase feels commanding. Though it is a sort of 'soft command' in that you would accept a good excuse to not answer (like 'I am too busy, I will explain later').
I think it's not the case that I really want it to be a command, I want it to be "reveal culture", where, it is a fact that I want to know this thing, and that I think it'd be useful if you told me. But, it's also the case that we are friends and if you didn't want to tell me for whatever reason I'd find a way to work with that. (the line is blurry sometimes, there's a range of modes I'm in when I make this sort of phrase, some more commandlike than others. But, I definitely frequently want to issue a non-command. The main thing I want to fix is that "I'm curious" in particular is basically a lie, or at least has misleading connotes)

Hmm, sure seems like we should deploy "tagging" right about now, mostly so you at least have the option of the frontpage not being All Coronavirus All The Time.

So there was a drought of content during Christmas break, and now... abruptly... I actually feel like there's too much content on LW. I find myself skimming down past the "new posts" section because it's hard to tell what's good and what's not and it's a bit of an investment to click and find out.

Instead I just read the comments, to find out where interesting discussion is.

Now, part of that is because the front page makes it easier to read comments than posts. And that's fixable. But I think, ultimately, the deeper issue is with the main unit-of-contribution being The Essay.

A few months ago, mr-hire said (on writing that provokes comments)

Ideas should become comments, comments should become conversations, conversations should become blog posts, blog posts should become books. Test your ideas at every stage to make sure you're writing something that will have an impact.

This seems basically right to me.

In addition to comments working as an early proving ground for an ideas' merit, comments make it easier to focus on the idea, instead of getting wrapped up in writing something Good™.

I notice essays on the front page starting with flo... (read more)

Relatedly, though, I kinda want aspiring writers on LW to read this Scott Alexander Post on Nonfiction Writing.
I ended up back here because I just wrote a short post that was an idea, and then went, "Hmmm, didn't Raemon do a Short Form feed thing? How did that go?" It might be nice if one could pin their short form feed to their profile.
Yeah, I'm hoping in the not-too-distant future we can just make shortform feeds an official part of less wrong. (Although, I suppose we may also want users to be able to sticky their own posts on their profile page, for various reasons, and this would also enable anyone who wants such a feed to create one, while also being able to create other things like "important things you know about me if you're going to read my posts" or whatever.)
(It's now the distant future, and... maybe we'll be finally gettin around to this!)

Is... there compelling difference between stockholm syndrome and just, like, being born into a family?

There's little evidence for the stockholm syndrome effect in general. I wonder whether there's evidence that being born in a family does something.
That made me laugh! Can't think of much difference in the early years.
Perhaps degree of investment. Consider the amount of time it takes for someone to grow up, and the effort involved in teaching them (how to talk, read, etc.). (And before that, pregnancy.) There is at least one book that plays with this - the protagonist finds out they were stolen from 'their family' as a baby (or really small child), and the people who stole them raised them, and up to that point they had no idea. I don't remember the title.

I notice that academic papers have stupidly long, hard-to-read abstracts. My understanding is that this is because there is some kind of norm about papers having the abstract be one paragraph, while the word-count limit tends to be... much longer than a paragraph (250 - 500 words).

Can... can we just fix this? Can we either say "your abstract needs to be a goddamn paragraph, which is like 100 words", or "the abstract is a cover letter that should be about one page long, and it can have multiple linebreaks and it's fine."

(My guess is that the best equilibrium is "People keep doing the thing currently-called-abstracts, and start treating them as 'has to fit on one page', with paragraph breaks, and then also people start writing a 2-3 sentence thing that's more like "the single actual-paragraph that you'd read if you were skimming through a list of papers.")

Some journals, like Futures, require 5 short phrases as highlights summarising key ideas as addition to the abstract. See e.g. here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0016328719303507?via%3Dihub   "Highlights   The stable climate of the Holocene made agriculture and civilization possible. The unstable Pleistocene climate made it impossible before then. • Human societies after agriculture were characterized by overshoot and collapse. Climate change frequently drove these collapses. • Business-as-usual estimates indicate that the climate will warm by 3°C-4 °C by 2100 and by as much as 8°–10 °C after that. • Future climate change will return planet Earth to the unstable climatic conditions of the Pleistocene and agriculture will be impossible. • Human society will once again be characterized by hunting and gathering."
Another reason is that you're not supposed to put references in the abstract. So if you want people outside your narrow subfield to have a chance at understanding the abstract, you need to reexplain the basic ideas behind the whole research approach. That takes space, and is usually very weird. 
My sense is that they are not that hard to read for people in the relevant discipline, and there's absolutely no pressure for the papers to be legible to people outside the relevant discipline.
I feel like paragraph breaks in a 400 word document seem straightforwardly valuable for legibility, however well versed you are in a field. In someone posts a wall of text in LW I tell them to break it up even if it's my field.
Okay it looks like for the particular thing I most recently was annoyed by, it's 150 words. This thing: Really seems to me like it's supposed to be this thing:
RIP the concept of copy-pasting from a PDF.
I admit that that is a little more legible to me, although I'm not a researcher in the field of primatology.
I do think, like, man, I wanted to know about primatology, and it seems pretty silly to assume that science should only be relevant to specialists in a field. Especially when the solution is literally just inserting two paragraph breaks. (I might also make claims that academic papers should be doing more effortful things to be legible, but this just seemed like a fairly straightforward thing that was more of an obviously-bad-equilibrium than a "there's a big effortful thing I think other people should do for other-other-people's benefit.")

I had a very useful conversation with someone about how and why I am rambly. (I rambled a lot in the conversation!).

Disclaimer: I am not making much effort to not ramble in this post.

A couple takeaways:

1. Working Memory Limits

One key problem is that I introduce so many points, subpoints, and subthreads, that I overwhelm people's working memory (where human working memory limits is roughly "4-7 chunks").

It's sort of embarrassing that I didn't concretely think about this before, because I've spent the past year SPECIFICALLY thinking about working memory limits, and how they are the key bottleneck on intellectual progress.

So, one new habit I have is "whenever I've introduced more than 6 points to keep track of, stop and and figure out how to condense the working tree of points down to <4.

(Ideally, I also keep track of this in advance and word things more simply, or give better signposting for what overall point I'm going to make, or why I'm talking about the things I'm talking about)


2. I just don't finish sente

I frequently don't finish sentences, whether in person voice or in text (like emails). I've known this for awhile, although I kinda forgot recently. I switch abruptly to a

... (read more)
3Michaël Trazzi4y
re working memory: never thought of it during conversations, interesting. it seems that we sometime hold the nodes of the conversation tree to go back to them afterward. and maybe if you're introducing new concepts while you're talking people need to hold those definitions in working memory as well.
Could you explain (or give a link) what is "Mindful Cognition Tuning"?
Here you go! http://bewelltuned.com/tune_your_cognitive_strategies

[not trying to be be comprehensible people that don't already have some conception of Kegan stuff. I acknowledge that I don't currently have a good link that justifies Kegan stuff within the LW paradigm very well]

Last year someone claimed to me is that a problem with Kegan is that there really are at least 6 levels. The fact that people keep finding themselves self-declaring as "4.5" should be a clue that 4.5 is really a distinct level. (the fact that there are at least two common ways to be 4.5 also is a clue that the paradigm needs clarification)

My garbled summary of this person's conception is:

  • Level 4: (you have a system of principles you are subject to, that lets you take level 3 [social reality??] as object)
  • Level 5: Dialectic. You have the ability to earnestly dialogue between a small number of systems (usually 2 at a time), and either step between them, or work out new systems that reconcile elements from the two of them.
  • Level 6: The thing Kegan originally meant by "level 5" – able to fluidly take different systems as object.

Previously, I had felt something like "I basically understand level 5 fine AFAICT, but maybe don't have the skills do so fluidly. I can imagine there bei

... (read more)
I think the 4.5 thing splits based on whether you mostly skipped 3 or 4.
Which is which?
I don't know how others are splitting 4.5 so I don't know mapping.
2Gordon Seidoh Worley4y
I'm not sure what you have in mind by "skipping" here, since the Kegan and other developmental models explicitly are based on the idea that there can be no skipping because each higher level is built out of new ways of combining abstractions from the lower levels. I have noticed ways in which people can have lumpy integration of the key skills of a level (and have noticed this in various ways in myself); is that the sort of thing you have in mind by "skipping", like made it to 4 without ever having fully integrated the level 3 insights.
4Matt Goldenberg4y
I generally think that mindspace is pretty vast, and am predisposed to be skeptical of the claim that there's only one path to a certain way of thinking. I buy that most people follow a certain path, but wouldn't be suprised if for instance there's a person in history who never went directly from Kegan 3 to 4.5 by never finding a value system that could stand up to their chaotic environment.
David Chapman says that achieving a particular level means that the skills associated with it become logically possible for you, which is distinct from actually mastering those skills; and that it's possible for you to e.g. get to stage 4 while only having poor mastery of the skills associated with stage 3. So I would interpret "skipped stage N" as shorthand for "got to stage N+X without developing any significant mastery of stage N skills".
4Gordon Seidoh Worley4y
I think this is right, although I stand by the existing numbering convention. My reasoning is that the 4.5 space is really best understood in the paradigm where the thing that marks a level transition is gaining a kind of naturalness with that level, and 4.5 is a place of seeing intellectually that something other than what feels natural is possible, but the higher level isn't yet the "native" way of thinking. This is not to diminish the in between states because they are important to making the transition, but also to acknowledge that they are not the core thing as originally framed. For what it's worth I think Michael Common's approach is probably a bit better in many ways, especially in that Kegan is right for reasons that are significantly askew of the gears in the brain that make his categories natural. Luckily there's a natural and straightforward mapping between different developmental models (see Integral Psychology and Ken Wilber's work for one explication of this mapping between these different models), so you can basically use whichever is most useful to you in a particular context without missing out on pointing at the general feature of reality these models are all convergent to. Also perhaps interestingly, there's a model in Zen called the five ranks that has an interpretation that could be understood as a developmental model of psychology, but it also suggests an inbetween level, although between what we might call Kegan 5 and a hypothetical Kegan 6 if Kegan had described such a level. I don't think there's much to read into this, though, as the five ranks is a polymorphic model that explains multiple things in different ways using the same structure, so this is as likely an artifact as some deep truth that there is something special about the 5 to 6 transition, but it is there so it suggests others have similarly noticed it's worth pointing out cases where there are levels between the "real" levels. Similarly it's clear from Common's model that Ke

After a recent 'doublecrux meetup' (I wasn't running it but observed a bit), I was reflecting on why it's hard to get people to sufficiently disagree on things in order to properly practice doublecrux.\

As mentioned recently, it's hard to really learn doublecrux unless you're actually building a product that has stakes. If you just sorta disagree with someone... I dunno you can do the doublecrux loop but there's a sense where it just obviously doesn't matter.

But, it still sure is handy to have practiced doublecruxing before needing to do it in an important situation. What to do?

Two options that occur to me are

  • Singlecruxing
  • First try to develop a plan for building an actual product together, THEN find a thing to disagree about organically through that process.

[note: I haven't actually talked much with the people who's major focus is teaching doublecrux, not sure how much of this is old hat, or if there's a totally different approach that sort of invalidates it]


One challenge about doublecrux practice is that you have to find something you have strong opinions about and also someone else has strong opinions about. So..... (read more)

4Matt Goldenberg4y
Another useful skill you can practice is *actually understanding people's models*. Like, find something someone else believes, guess what their model, is then ask them "so your model is this?", then repeat until they agree that you understand their model. This sort of active listening around models is definitely a prerequisite doublecrux skill and can be practiced without needing someone else to agree to doublecrux with you.
Nod. I haven't actually been to CFAR recently, not sure how they go about it there. But I think for local meetups doing practice breaking it down into subskills seems pretty useful and I agree with active listening being another key one.
1Matthew Barnett4y
As someone who may or may not have been part of the motivation for this shortform, I just want to say that it was my first time doing double crux and so I'm not sure whether I actually understood it.
Heh, you were not the motivating person, and more generally this problem has persisted on most doublecrux meetups I've been to. (There were at least 3 people having this issue yesterday)
I'm also curious, as a first-time-doublecruxer, what ended up being particular either confusions or takeaways or anything like that.

I just briefly thought you could put a bunch of AI researchers on a spaceship, and accelerate it real fast, and then they get time dilation effects that increase their effective rate of research.

Then I remembered that time dilation works the other way 'round – they'd get even less time.

This suggested a much less promising plan of "build narrowly aligned STEM AI, have it figure out how to efficiently accelerate the Earth real fast and... leave behind a teeny moon base of AI researchers who figure out the alignment problem."

More or less the plot of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orthogonal_(series) incidentally.
+1 for thinking of unusual solutions.  If it's feasible to build long-term very-fast-relative-to-earth habitats without so much AI support that we lose before it launches, we should do that for random groups of humans.  Whether you call them colonies or backups doesn't matter.  We don't have to save all people on earth, just enough of humanity that we can expand across the universe fast enough to rescue the remaining victims of unaligned AI sometime.
2Donald Hobson2y
I think an unaligned AI would have a large enough strategic advantage that such attempt is hopeless without aligned AI. So these backup teams would need to contain alignment researchers. But we don't have enough researchers to crew a bunch of space missions, all of which need to have a reasonable chance of solving alignment. 

Man, I watched The Fox and The Hound a few weeks ago. I cried a bit.

While watching the movie, a friend commented "so... they know that foxes are *also* predators, right?" and, yes. They do. This is not a movie that was supposed to be about predation except it didn't notice all the ramifications about its lesson. This movie just isn't taking a stand about predation.

This is a movie about... kinda classic de-facto tribal morality. Where you have your family and your tribe and a few specific neighbors/travelers that you welcomed into your home. Those are your people, and the rest of the world... it's not exactly that they aren't *people*, but, they aren't in your circle of concern. Maybe you eat them sometimes. That's life.

Copper the hound dog's ingroup isn't even very nice to him. His owner, Amos, leaves him out in a crate on a rope. His older dog friend is sort of mean. Amos takes him out on a hunting trip and teaches him how to hunt, conveying his role in life. Copper enthusiastically learns. He's a dog. He's bred to love his owner and be part of the pack no matter what.

My dad once commented that this was a movie that... seemed remarkably realistic about what you can expect from ani... (read more)

Sometimes the subject of Kegan Levels comes up and it actually matters a) that a developmental framework called "kegan levels" exists and is meaningful, b) that it applies somehow to The Situation You're In.

But, almost always when it comes up in my circles, the thing under discussion is something like "does a person have the ability to take their systems as object, move between frames, etc." And AFAICT this doesn't really need to invoke developmental frameworks at all. You can just ask if a person has a the "move between frames" skill.*

This still suffers a bit from the problem where, if you're having an argument with someone, and you think the problem is that they're lacking a cognitive skill, it's a dicey social move to say "hey, your problem is that you lack a cognitive skill." But, this seems a lot easier to navigate than "you are a Level 4 Person in this 5 Level Scale".

(I have some vague sense that Kegan 5 is supposed to mean something more than "take systems as object", but no one has made a great case for this yet, and in case it hasn't been the thing I'm personally running into)

Kegan levels lend themselves to being used like one of those irregular verbs, like "I am strong minded, you are stubborn, he is a pig-headed fool." "I am Kegan level 5, you are stuck on Kegan level 4, and all those dreadful normies and muggles around us are Kegan 3 or worse."
Seems to me that the main problem with linear systems where you put yourself at the top (because, who doesn't?), is that the only choice it gives everyone else is either to be the same as you, or to be inferior. Disagreeing with the system probably makes one inferior, too. Feels a bit ironic, if this is considered to be a pinnacle of emotional development... But of course now I am constructing a frame where I am at the top and those people who like the Kegan scale are silly, so... I guess this is simply what humans do: invent classifications that put them on the top. ;) And it doesn't even mean that those frames are wrong; if there is a way to put people on a linear scale, then technically, someone has to be on the top. And if the scale is related to understanding, then your understanding of the scale itself probably should correlate with your position on it. So, yes, it is better to not talk about the system itself, and just tell people where specifically they made a mistake.
2Gordon Seidoh Worley3y
The original formulation definitely mixes in a bunch of stuff along with it, the systems as object thing is meant to be characteric, but it's not all of the expected stuff. Most people don't push the hard version that taking systems as object is not just characteric but causally important (I say this even though I do push this version of the theory). It is actually kinda rude to psychologize other people, especially if you miss the mark, and especially especially if you hit the mark and they don't like it, so it's probably best to just keep your assessment of their Kegan level to yourself unless it's explicitly relevant since bringing it up will probably work against you even if in a high-trust environment it wouldn't (and you are unlikely to be in a high-trust enough environment for it to work even if you think you are). As for asking people if they have the skill, I don't expect that to work since it's easy to delude yourself that you do because you can imagine doing it or can do it in an intellectual way, which is better than not being able to do it at all but is also not the real deal and will fall apart the moment anything overloads global memory or otherwise overtaxes the brain.
I actually was not expecting the process to be "ask if they have the skill", I was expecting the sequence to be: 1. get into an argument 2. notice it feels stuck 3. notice that your conversation partner seems stuck in a system 4. make some effort to convey that you're trying to talk about a different system 5. say (some version of) "hey man, it looks like you don't have the 'step outside your current frame' skill, and I don't think the argument is worth having until you do." (well, that's probably an unproductive way to go about it, but, I'm assuming the 'notice they don't have the skill' part comes from observations while arguing rather than something you ask them and they tell you about.')
Maybe a more diplomatic way could be: "hey man, for the sake of thought experiment, could we for a moment consider this thing from a different frame?" They may agree or refuse, but probably won't feel offended.
2Gordon Seidoh Worley3y
Something about this feels like what I used to do but don't do now, and I realized what it is. If they're stuck I don't see it as their problem, I see it as my problem that I can't find a way to take my thing and make it sensible to them within their system, or at least find an entry point, since all systems are brittle and you just have to find the right thread to pull if you want to untangle it so they can move towards seeing things in ways beyond what their current worldview permits. But maybe my response looks the same if I can't figure it out and/or don't feel like putting in the energy to do that, which is some version of "hey, looks like we just disagree in some fundamental way here I'm not interested in trying to resolve, sorry", which I regret is kinda rude still and wish I could find a way to be less rude about.
I think I don't feel too bad about "hey, looks like we just disagree in some fundamental way here I'm not interested in trying to resolve, sorry". It might be rude in some circles but I think I'm willing to bite the bullet on "it's pretty necessary for that to be an okay-move to pull on LW and in rationalist spaces." I think "we disagree in a fundamental way" isn't quite accurate, and there's a better version that's something like "I think we're thinking in pretty different frames/paradigms and I don't think it makes sense to bridge that disconnect." A thing making it tricky (also relevant to Viliam's comment) is that up until recently there wasn't even a consensus that different-frames were a thing, that you might need to translate between.

There's a problem at parties where there'll be a good, high-context conversation happening, and then one-too-many-people join, and then the conversation suddenly dies.

Sometimes this is fine, but other times it's quite sad.

Things I think might help:

  • If you're an existing conversation participant:
    • Actively try to keep the conversation small. The upper limit is 5, 3-4 is better. If someone looks like they want to join, smile warmly and say "hey, sorry we're kinda in a high context conversation right now. Listening is fine but probably don't join."
    • If you do want to let a newcomer join in, don't try to get them up to speed (I don't know if I've ever seen that actually work). Instead, say "this is high context so we're not gonna repeat the earlier bits, maybe wait to join in until you've listened enough to understand the overall context", and then quickly get back to the conversation before you lose the Flow.
  • If you want to join a conversation:
    • If there are already 5 people, sorry, it's probably too late. Listen if you find it interesting, but if you actively join you'll probably just kill the conversation.
    • Give them the opportunity to gracefully keep the conversation small if they choose. (s
... (read more)
+lots. Some techniques: * physically separate the group. Go into another room or at least corner. Signal that you're not seeking additional participants. * When you notice this, make it explicit - "I'm really enjoying the depth of this conversation, should we move into the lounge for a brandy and a little more quiet?" * Admit (to yourself) that others may feel excluded, because they are. At many gatherings, such discussions/situations are time-bound and really can't last more than 10-45 minutes. The only solution is to have more frequent, smaller gatherings. * Get good at involved listening - it's different than 1:1 active listening, but has similar goals: don't inject any ideas, but do give signals that you're following and supporting. This is at least 80% as enjoyable as active participation, and doesn't break the flow when you join a clique in progress. I wonder what analogs there are to online conversations. I suspect there's a lot of similarity for synchronous chats - too many people make it impossible to follow. For threaded, async discussions, the limits are probably much larger.
3Tobias H4y
[EDIT, was intended as a response to Raemon, not Dagon.] Maybe it's the way you phrase the responses. But as described, I get the impression that this norm would mainly work for relatively extroverted persons with low rejection sensitivity. I'd be much less likely to ever try to join a discussion (and would tend to not attend events with such a norm). But maybe there's a way to avoid this, both from "my side" and "yours".
Hmm, seems like important feedback. I had specifically been trying to phrase the responses in a way that addressed this specific problem. Sounds like it didn't work. There is some intrinsic rejection going on here, which probably no amount of kind wording can alleviate for a rejection-sensitive person. For my "sorry, we're keeping the convo small" bit, I suggested: The Smile Warmly part was meant to be a pretty active ingredient, helping to reassure them it isn't personal.  Another thing that seems pretty important, is that this applies to all newcomers, even your friends and High Status People. (i.e. hopefully if Anxious Alex gets turned away, but later sees High Status Bob also get turned away, they get reassured a bit that this wasn't about them)
FYI, the actual motivating example here was at a party in gather.town, (formerly online.town, formerly town.siempre), which has much more typical "party" dynamics. (i.e people can wander around an online world and video chat with people nearby). In this case there were actually some additional complexities – I had joined a conversation relatively late, I did lurk for quite awhile, and wait for the current set of topics to die down completely before introducing a new one. And then the conversation took a turn that I was really excited by, and at least 1-2 other people were interested in, but it wasn't obvious to me that it was interesting to everyone else (I think ~5 people involved total?) And then a new person came in, and asked what we were talking about and someone filled them in... ...and then immediately the conversation ended. And in this case I don't know if the issue was more like "the newcomer killed the conversation" or "the convo actually had roughly reached it's natural end, and/or other people weren't that interested in the first place." But, from my own perspective, the conversation had just finished covering all the obvious background concepts that would be required for the "real" conversation to begin, and I was hoping to actually Make Real Progress on a complex concept. So, I dunno if this counted as "an interesting conversation" yet, and unfortunately the act of asking the question "hey, do we want to continue diving deep into this, or wrap up and transition into some other convo?" also kinda kills the conversation. Conversations are so god damn fragile. What I really wished was that everyone already had common knowledge of the meta-concept, wherein: * Party conversations are particularly fragile * Bringing a newcomer up to speed is usually costly if the conversation is doing anything deep * We might or might not want to continue delving into the current convo (but we don't currently have common knowledge of this in either direction) And
2Matt Goldenberg4y
I hosted an online-party using zoom breakout rooms a few weeks ago and ran into similar problems. Half-way through the party I noticed people were clustering in suboptimal size conversations and bringing high-context conversations to a stop, so I actually brought everybody backed to the lobby then randomly assigned them to groups of 2 or 3 - and when I checked 10 minutes later everyone was in the same two rooms again with groups of 8 - 10 people. AFAICT this was status/feelings driven - there were a few people at the party who were either existing high-status to the participants, or who were very charismatic, and everyone wanted to be in the same conversation as them. I think norm-setting around this is very hard, because it's natural to want to be around high-status and charismatic people, and it's also natural to want to participate in a conversation you're listening to. I'm going to try to add your suggestions to the top of the shared google doc next time I host one of these and see how it goes.
Agreed with the status/feelings cause. And I'm not 100% sure the solution is "prevent people from doing the thing they instinctively want to do" (especially "all the time.") My current guess is "let people crowd around the charismatic/and/or/interesting people, but treat it more like a panel discussion or fireside chat, like you might have at a conference, where mostly 2-3 people are talking and everyone else is more formally 'audience.'" But doing that all the time would also be kinda bad in different ways. In this case... you might actually be able to fix this with technology? Can you literally put room-caps on the rooms, so if someone wants to be the 4th or 6th person in a room they... just... can't?

I'm not sure why it took me so long to realize that I should add a "consciously reflect on why I didn't succeed at all my habits yesterday, and make sure I don't fail tomorrow" to my list of daily habits, but geez it seems obvious in retrospect.

Following up to say that geez any habit practice that doesn't include this now feels super silly to me.
Just don't get trapped in infinite recursion and end up overloading your habit stack frame!
I mean, the whole thing only triggers once per day, so I can't go farther than a single loop of "why didn't I reflect on my habit-failure yesterday?" :P (But yeah I think I can handle up-to-one-working-memory-load of habits at a time)
Uh, what if you forget to do your habit troubleshooting habit and then you have to troubleshoot why you forgot it? And then you forget it twice and you have to troubleshoot why you forgot to troubleshoot forgetting to troubleshoot! (I'm joking about all this in case it's not obvious.)

Strategic use of Group Houses for Community Building

(Notes that might one day become a blogpost. Building off The Relationship Between the Village and the Mission. Inspired to go ahead and post this now because of John Maxwell's "how to make money reducing loneliness" post, which explores some related issues through a more capitalist lens)

  • A good village needs fences:
    • A good village requires doing things on purpose. 
    • Doing things on purpose requires that you have people who are coordinated in some way
    • Being coordinated requires you to be able to have a critical mass of people who are actually trying to do effortful things together (such as maintain norms, build a culture, etc)
    • If you don't have a fence that lets some people in and doesn't let in others, and which you can ask people to leave, then your culture will be some random mishmash that you can't control
  • There are a few existing sets of fences. 
    • The strongest fences are group houses, and organizations. Group houses are probably the easiest and most accessible resource for the "village" to turn into a stronger culture and coordination point. 
  • Some things you might coordinate using group houses f
... (read more)
A thing that I have seen work well here is small houses nucleating out of large houses. If you're living in a place with >20 people for 6 months, probably you'll make a small group of friends that want similar things, and then you can found a smaller place with less risk. But of course this requires there being big houses that people can move into and out of, and that don't become the lower-common-denominator house that people can't form friendships in because they want to avoid the common spaces. But of course the larger the house, the harder it is to get off the ground, and a place with deliberately high churn represents even more of a risk.

Lately I've been noticing myself getting drawn into more demon-thready discussions on LessWrong. This is in part due to UI choice – demon threads (i.e. usually "arguments framed through 'who is good and bad and what is acceptable in the overton window'") are already selected for getting above-average at engagement. Any "neutral" sorting mechanism for showing recent comments is going to reward demon-threads disproportionately.

An option might be to replace the Recent Discussion section with a version of itself that only shows comments and posts from the Questions page (in particular for questions that were marked as 'frontpage', i.e. questions that are not about politics).

I've had some good experiences with question-answering, where I actually get into a groove where the thing I'm doing is actual object-level intellectual work rather than "having opinions on the internet." I think it might be good for the health of the site for this mode to be more heavily emphasized.

In any case, I'm interested in making a LW Team internal option where the mods can opt into a "replace recent discussion with recent question act... (read more)

I still want to make a really satisfying "fuck yeah" button on LessWrong comments that feels really good to press when I'm like "yeah, go team!" but doesn't actually mean I want to reward the comment in our longterm truthtracking or norm-tracking algorithms.

I think this would seriously help with weird sociokarma cascades.  

5Lao Mein1y
You should just message them directly. "Your comment was very based." would feel quite nice in my inbox.
It needs to be less effort than upvoting to accomplish the thing I want.
Ah, I imagine a third set of voting buttons, with large colorful buttons "yay, ingroup!!!" and "fuck outgroup!!!", with the following functionality: * in your personal settings,you can replace the words "ingroup" and "outgroup" by a custom text * only the votes that agree with you are displayed; for example if there are 5 "yay" votes and 7 "boo" votes, if you voted "yay", you will only see "5 people voted yay on this comment" (not the total -2) * the yay/boo votes have no impact on karma * if you make a yay/boo vote, the other two sets of voting buttons are disabled for this comment What I expect from this solution: * to be emotionally deeply satisfying * without having any impact on karma (actually it would take mindkilling votes away from the karma buttons)
What longterm truthtracking or norm-tracking algorithms are you talking about?  Can you give a few examples of sociokarma cascades that you think will improved by this complexity?  Would adding agree/disagree to top-level posts be sufficient (oh, wait, you're talking about comments.  How does agree/disagree not solve this?) More fundamentally, why do you care about karma, aside from a very noisy short-term input into whether a post or comment is worth thinking about? Now if you say "do away with strong votes, and limit karma-based vote multiples to 2x", I'm fully onboard.

Can democracies (or other systems of government) do better by more regularly voting on meta-principles, but having those principles come into effect N years down the line, where N is long enough that the current power structures have less clarity over who would benefit from the change?

Some of the discussion on Power Buys You Distance From the Crime notes that campaigning to change meta principles can't actually be taken at face value (or at least, people don't take it at face value), because it can be pretty obvious who would benefit from a particular meta principle. (If the king is in power and you suggest democracy, obviously the current power structure will be weakened. If people rely on Gerrymandering to secure votes, changing the rules on Gerrymandering clearly will have an impact on who wins next election)

But what if people voted on changing rules for Gerrymandering, and the rules wouldn't kick in for 20 years. Is that more achievable? Is it better or worse?

The intended benefit is that everyone might roughly agree it's better for the system to be more fair, but not if that fairness will clearly directly cost them. If a rule change occurs far enough in the... (read more)

I have a bunch of thoughts on this. A lot of the good effects of this actually happened in space-law, because nobody really cared about the effects of the laws when they were written. Other interesting contracts that were surprisingly long-lasting is the ownership of Hong-Kong for Britain, which was returned after 90 years. However, I think there are various problems with doing this a lot. One of them is that when you make a policy decision that's supposed to be useful in 20 years, then you are making a bid on that policy being useful in the environment that will exist in 20 years, over which you have a lot of uncertainty. So by default I expect policy-decisions made for a world 20 years from now to be worse than decisions made for the current world. The enforcability of contracts over such long time periods is also quite unclear. What prevents the leadership 15 years from now from just calling off the policy implementation? This requires a lot of trust and support for the meta-system, which is hard to sustain over such long periods of time. In general, I have a perspective that lots of problems could be solved if people could reliably make long-term contracts, but that there are no reliably enforcement mechanisms for long-term contracts at the national-actor level.
I think lack of long-term contract enforcement is one part of it - the US congress routinely passes laws with immediate costs and delayed revenue, and then either continually postpones or changes it's mind on the delayed part (while keeping the immediate part). I'd classify it as much as deception as of lack of enforcement. It's compounded by the fact that the composition of the government changes a bit every 2 years, but the fundamental problem is that "enforcement" is necessary, because "alignment" doesn't exist. Trying to go meta and enforce far-mode stated values rather than honoring near-mode actual behaviors is effectively forcing people into doing what they say they want, as opposed to inferring what they actually want. I'm actually sympathetic to that tactic, but I do recognize that it's coercion (enforcement of ill-considered contract) rather than actual agreement (where people do what they want, because that's what they want).
7Gordon Seidoh Worley5y
Good example: the US tried to go metric and then canceled its commitment.

Musings on ideal formatting of posts (prompted by argument with Ben Pace)

My thoughts:

1) Working memory is important.

If a post talks about too many things, then in order for me to respond to the argument or do anything useful with it, I need a way to hold the entire argument in my head.

2) Less Wrong is for thinking

This is a place where I particularly want to read complex arguments and hold them in my head and form new conclusions or actions based on them, or build upon them.

3) You can expand working memory with visual reference

Having larger monitors or notebooks to jot down thoughts makes it easier to think.

The larger font-size of LW main posts works against this currently, since there are fewer words on the screen at once and scrolling around makes it easier to lose your train of thought. (A counterpoint is that the larger font size makes it easier to read in the first place without causing eyestrain).

But regardless of font-size:

4) Optimizing a post for re-skimmability makes it easier to refer to.

This is why, when I write posts, I make an effort to bold the key points, and break things into bullets where applicable, and otherwise shape the post so it's easy to skim. (See Su... (read more)

I pushed Oliver for smaller font size when I first saw the LW 2.0 design (I'd prefer something like the comments font), partly for the words-in-mind reason. I agree that bigger words work against complex and deep thinking, and also think that any time you force someone to scroll, you risk disruption (when you have kids you're trying to deal with, being forced to interact with the screen can be a remarkably large negative). I avoid bold and use italics instead because of the skimming effect. I feel like other words are made to seem less important when things are bolded. Using it not at all is likely a mistake, but I would use it sparingly, and definitely not use it as much as in the comment above. I do think that using variable font size for section headings and other similar things is almost purely good, and give full permission for admins to edit such things in if I'm being too lazy to do it myself.
The current plan is to allow the authors to choose between a smaller sans-serif that is optimized for skimmability, and a larger serif that is optimized for getting users into a flow of reading. Not confident about that yet though. I am hesitant about having too much variance in font-sizes on the page, and so don't really want to give authors the option to choose their own font-size from a variety of options, but having a conceptual distinction between "wiki-posts" that are optimized for skimmability and "essay-posts" that are optimized for reading things in a flow state seems good to me. Also not sure about the UI for this yet, input is welcome. I want to keep the post-editor UI as simple as possible.
FYI it's been a year and I still think this is pretty important
Hmm. Here's the above post with italics instead, for comparison: ... Musings on ideal formatting of posts (prompted by argument with Ben Pace) My thoughts: 1) Working memory is important. If a post talks about too many things, then in order for me to respond to the argument or do anything useful with it, I need a way to hold the entire argument in my head. 2) Less Wrong is for thinking This is a place where I particularly want to read complex arguments and hold them in my head and form new conclusions or actions based on them, or build upon them. 3) You can expand working memory with visual reference Having larger monitors or notebooks to jot down thoughts makes it easier to think. The larger font-size of LW main posts works against this currently, since there are fewer words on the screen at once and scrolling around makes it easier to lose your train of thought. (A counterpoint is that the larger font size makes it easier to read in the first place without causing eyestrain). But regardless of font-size: 4) Optimizing a post for re-skimmability makes it easier to refer to. This is why, when I write posts, I make an effort to bold the key points, and break things into bullets where applicable, and otherwise shape the post so it's easy to skim. (See Sunset at Noon for an example)
I think it works reasonably for the bulleted-number-titles. I don't personally find it working as well for interior-paragraph things. Using the bold makes the document function essentially as it's own outline, whereas italics feels insufficient for that - when I'm actually in skimming/hold-in-working-memory mode, I really want something optimized for that. The solution might just to provide actual outlines after-the-fact. Part of what I liked with my use of bold and headers was that it'd be fairly easy to build a tool that auto-constructs an outline.
For what it's worth, my feeling is pretty much the opposite. I'm happy with boldface (and hence feel no need to switch to italics) for structural signposts like headings, but boldface is too prominent, relative to ordinary text, to use for emphasis mid-paragraph unless we actively want readers to read only the boldface text and ignore everything else. I would probably not feel this way if the boldface text were less outrageously heavy relative to the body text. (At least for me, in the browser I'm using now, on the monitor I'm using now, where the contrast is really extreme.)
8Said Achmiz6y
Some comparisons and analysis: (1) Using bold for emphasis When the font size is small, and the ‘bold’ text has a much heavier weight than the regular text (left-hand version), the eye is drawn to the bold text. This is both because (a) reading the regular text is effortful (due to the small size) and the bold stands out and thus requires greatly reduced effort, and (b) because of the great contrast between the two weights. But when the font size is larger, and the ‘bold’ text is not so much heavier in weight than the regular text (right-hand version), then the eye does not slide off the regular text, though the emphasized lines retains emphasis. This means that emphasis via bolding does not seriously impact whether a reader will read the full text. (2) Using italics for emphasis Not much to say here, except that how different the italic variant of a font is from the roman variant is critical to how well italicizing works for the purpose of emphasis. It tends to be the case that sans-serif fonts (such as Freight Sans Pro, the font currently used for comments and UI elements on LW) have less distinctive italic variants than serif fonts (such as Charter, the font used in the right-hand part of the image above)—though there are some sans-serif fonts which are exceptions. (3) Skimmability Appropriate typography is one way to increase a post’s navigability/skimmability. A table of contents (perhaps an auto-generated one—see image) is another. (Note that the example post in this image has its own table of contents at the beginning, provided by Raemon, though few other posts do.) (4) Bold vs. italic for emphasis This is a perfect case study of points (1) and (2) above. Warnock Pro (the font you see in the left-hand part of the image above) has a very distinctive italic variant; it’s hard to miss, and works very well for emphasis. Charter (the font you see in the right-hand part of the image) has a somewhat less distinctive italic variant (though still
6Said Achmiz6y
Here, for reference, is a brief list of reasonably readable sans-serif fonts with not-too-heavy boldface and a fairly distinctive italic variant (so as to be suitable for use as a comments text font, in accordance with the desiderata suggested in my previous comment): * Alegreya Sans * FF Scala * Frutiger Next * * IBM Plex Sans * Merriweather Sans * Myriad Pro * Optima nova * (Fonts marked with an asterisk are those I personally am partial to.) Edit: Added links to screenshots.
One thing that's worth noting here is there's an actual difference of preference between me and (apparently a few, perhaps most) others. When I use bold, I'm specifically optimizing for skimmability because I think it's important to reference a lot of concepts at once, and I'm not that worried about people reading every word. (I take on the responsibility of making sure that the parts that are most important not to miss are bolded, and the non-bold stuff is providing clarity and details for people who want them) So, for my purposes I actually prefer bold that stands out well enough that my eyes easily can see it at a glance.

I think a bunch of discussion of acausal trade might be better framed as "simulation trade." It's hard to point to "acausal" trade in the real world because, well, everything is at least kinda iterated and at least kinda causally connected. But, there's plenty of places where the thing you're doing is mainly trading with a simulated partner. And this still shares some important components with literal-galaxy-brains making literal acausal trade.

I’d love to see a worked example. The cases I come up with are all practice for or demonstrations of feasibility for casual normal trade/interactions.
I think I know at least some of the examples you refer to. I think the causality in these cases is a shared past of the agents making the trade. But I'm not sure that breaks the argument in cases where the agents involved are not aware of that, for example but not limited to, having forgotten about it or intentionally removed the memory. 
There is convoluted-causality in a lot of trust relationships.  "I trust this transaction because most people are honest in this situation", which works BECAUSE most people are, in fact, honest in that situation.  And being honest does (slightly) reinforce that for future transactions, including transactions between strangers which get easier only to the degree they're similar to you. But, while complex and involving human social norms and "prediction", it's not comparable to Newcomb (one-shot, high-stakes, no side-effects) or acausal trade (zero-shot, no path to specific knowledge of outcome).
In which way is sharing some common social knowledge relevantly different from sharing the same physical universe?
Common social knowledge has predictive power and causal pathways to update the knowledge (and others' knowledge of the social averages which contain you).  Acausal trade isn't even sharing the same physical universe  - it's pure theory, with no way to adjust over time.
"Casual norm trade/interactions" does seem like most of the obvious example-space. The generator for this thought comes from chatting with Andrew Critch. See this post for some reference: http://acritch.com/deserving-trust/ 
Typo: s/casual/causal/ - these seem to be diffuse reputation cases, where one recognizes that signaling is leaky, and it’s more effective to be trustworthy than to only appear trustworthy. Not for subtle Newcombe or acausal reasons, but for highly evolved betrayal detection mechanisms.

So, AFAICT, rational!Animorphs is the closest thing CFAR has to publicly available documentation. (The characters do a lot of focusing, hypothesis generation-and-pruning. Also, I just got to the Circling Chapter)

I don't think I'd have noticed most of it if I wasn't already familiar with the CFAR material though, so not sure how helpful it is. If someone has an annotated "this chapter includes decent examples of Technique/Skill X, and examples of characters notably failing at Failure Mode Y", that might be handy.

In response to lifelonglearner's comment I did some experimenting with making the page a bit bolder. Curious what people think of this screenshot where "unread" posts are bold, and "read" posts are "regular" (as opposed to the current world, where "unread" posts "regular", and read posts are light-gray).

8Rob Bensinger4y
I'd be interested in trying it out. At a glance, it feels too much to me like it's trying to get me to read Everything, when I can tell from the titles and snippets that some posts aren't for me. If anything the posts I've already read are often ones I want emphasized more? (Because I'm curious to see if there are new comments on things I've already read, or I may otherwise want to revisit the post to link others to it, or finish reading it, etc.) The bold font does look aesthetically fine and breaks things up in an interesting way, so I like the idea of maybe using it for more stuff?
Alternate version where only the title and karma are bolded:
4Sunny from QAD4y
I think I prefer the status quo design, but not very strongly. Between the two designs pictured here, I at first preferred the one where the authors weren't bolded, but now I think I prefer the one where the whole line is bolded, since "[insert author whose posts I enjoy] has posted something" is as newsworthy as "there's a post called [title I find enticing]". Something I've noticed about myself is that I tend to underestimate how much I can get used to things, so I might end up just as happy with whichever design is chosen.
3Adam Scholl4y
Fwiw, for reasons I can't explain I vastly prefer just the title bolded to the entire line bolded, and significantly prefer the status quo to title bolded.
2Rob Bensinger4y
I think I prefer bolding full lines b/c it makes it easier to see who authored what?
I initially wanted "bold everywhere" because it helped my brain reliably parse things as "this is a bold line" instead of "this is a line with some bold parts but you have to hunt for them". But, after experimenting a bit I started to feeling having bold elements semi-randomly distributed across the lines made it a lot busier.
The LW team has been trying this out the "bolded unread posts" a few days as an admin-only setting. I think pretty much everyone isn't liking it. But I personally am liking the fact that most posts aren't grey, and I'm finding myself wondering whether it's even that important to highlight unread posts. Obviously there's some value to it, but: a) a post being read isn't actually that much evidence about whether I want to read it again – I find myself clicking on old posts about as often as new posts. (This might be something you could concretely look into with analytics) b if I don't want to read a post, marking it as read is sort of annoying c) I still really dislike having most of my posts be grey d) it's really hard to make an "unread" variant that doesn't scream out for disproportionate attention. (I suppose there's also an option for this to be a user-configurable setting, since most users don't read so many posts that they all show up grey, and the few who do could maybe just manually turn it off)

Issues with Upvoting/Downvoting

We've talked in the past about making it so that if you have Karma Power 6, you can choose whether to give someone anywhere from 1-6 karma.


I think this is an okay solution, but I also think all meaningful upvotes basically cluster into two choices:

A. "I think this person just did a good thing I want to positively reinforce"

B. "I think this person did a thing important enough that everyone should pay attention to it."

For A, I don't think it obviously matters that you award more than 1 karm... (read more)

5Wei Dai6y
There's another issue with voting, which is that I sometimes find a comment or post on the LW1 part of the site that I want to vote up or down, but I can't because my 5 points of karma power would totally mess up the score of that comment/post in relation to its neighbors. I haven't mentioned this before because I thought you might already have a plan to address that problem, or at worst I can wait until the variable upvote/downvote feature comes in. But if you didn't have a specific plan for that and adopted "small upvote grows from 1 to 3 as you gain karma" then the problem wouldn't get solved. Also, is there an issue tracker for LW2? I wanted to check it to see if there's an existing plan to address the above problem, but couldn't find it through Google, from the About page, or by typing in "issue tracker" in the top right search box. There's the old issue tracker at https://github.com/tricycle/lesswrong/issues but it doesn't look like that's being used anymore? ETA: I found the issue tracker at https://github.com/Discordius/Lesswrong2/issues by randomly coming across a comment that linked to it. I'm still not sure how someone is supposed to find it.
I liked the idea I think you mentioned in an earlier thread about this, where each click increases vote weight by one. It's conceptually very simple, which I think is a good property for a UI. It does involve more clicks to apply more voting power, but that doesn't seem bad to me. How often does one need to give something the maximum amount of votes, such that extra clicks are a problem? It seems to me this would tend to default to giving everyone the same voting power, but allow users with more karma to summon more voting power with very slightly more effort if they think it's warranted. That feels right to me.
If this is implemented, I think there should be a dot between the two vote buttons to reset the vote to 0.
(A possible downside I see is that it might somehow do the opposite -- that voting will feel like something that is reinforced in a conditioning sense, so that users with more voting power will get more reinforcers since they do click->reward more times, and that this will actually give them a habit of wanting to apply the maximum vote more than they otherwise would because it feels satisfying to vote repeatedly. This isn't clearly a lot worse than the situation we have now, where you always vote maximum with no option.)
How do I "small up vote" for "keep thinking about it".
For now, I guess just do the thing you just did? :)
(that said I'd be interested in an unpacked version of your comment, sounded like the subtext was something like "this line of thinking is pointing somewhere useful but it doesn't seem like you're done thinking about it". If that's not the case, curious what you meant. If it is the case, curious about more detailed concerns about what would make for good or bad implementations of this)
It is clear that more thought I'd needed for a satisfactory answer here and I would encourage you to keep seeking a satisfactory solution.

I think learning-to-get-help is an important, often underdeveloped skill. You have to figure out what *can* be delegated. In many cases you may need to refactor your project such that it's in-principle possible to have people help you.

Some people I know have tried consciously developing it by taking turns being a helper/manager. i.e. spend a full day trying to get as much use out of another person as you can. (i.e. on Saturday, one person is the helper. The manager does the best they can to ask the helper for help... in ways that will actually help. O... (read more)

With some frequency, LW gets a new user writing a post that's sort of... in the middle of having their mind blown by the prospect of quantum immortality and MWI. I'd like to have a single post to link them to that makes a fairly succinct case for "it adds up to normality", and I don't have a clear sense of what to do other that link to the entire Quantum Physics sequence. 

Any suggestions? Or, anyone feel like writing said post if it doesn't exist yet?

5Adele Lopez4y
I wrote a thing about this. https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/6wkY2DcCnzNyJTDsw/looking-for-answers-about-quantum-immortality?commentId=b3ZLzjSYWhHsMEYRr

Draft/WIP: The Working Memory Hypothesis re: Intellectual Progress

Strong claim, medium felt

So I'm working with the hypothesis that working memory (or something related) is a major bottleneck on progress within a given field. This has implications on what sort of things fields need.

Basic idea is that you generally need to create new concepts out of existing sub-concepts. You can only create a concept if you can hold the requisite sub-concepts in your head at once. Default working memory limits is 4-7 chunks. You can expand that somewhat by writing thi... (read more)

This seems highly related to Chris Olah's Research Debt.
(That was indeed the piece that crystallized this intuition for me, and I think Ray got this broader concept from me)
Yuppers. Yeah, the idea I'm trying to get at here could be conceptualized as "take the underlying generator that outputs Research Debt, and then lean hard into using it as an explanatory theory, and see that other hypotheses turn up when you take that seriously." (I'd already read research debt too at the time Oli first explained this concept to me. I think Oli's additional contribution was thinking in terms of chunks being a limiting factor. He didn't specific working memory precisely as the constraint. I later thought about the intersection of working-memory-in-particular after writing You Have About Five Words and later thinking about some implications on this comment here) Oli had left the number of chunks available deliberately vague, and I'm now concretely predicting that people can only build theories systems that don't require them to hold more than 4-10* chunks at once. *where "10" is an ass-pulled number for "how much your working memory can really be improved via writing things done." [I don't know if Oli thinks working-memory-in-particular makes sense to think of as the bottleneck]
After learning a new concept, it is important to "play with it" for a while. Because the new concept is initially not associated with anything, so you probably will not see what it is good for. For example, if someone tells you "a prime number is an integer number greater than one that can only be divided by itself and by one", that is easy to understand (even easier if they also give you a few examples of primes and non-primes), but it is not obvious why is this concept important and how could it be used. But when the person also tells you "the number of primes is infinite... each integer can be uniquely factored into primes... some numbers are obviously not primes, but we don't know a simple method to find out whether a large number is a prime... in arithmetic modulo n you can define addition, subtraction, and multiplication for any n, but you can unambiguously define division only when n is prime..." and perhaps introduces a concept of "relative primes" and the Chinese remainder theorem... then you may start getting ideas of how it could be useful, such as "so, if we take two primes so big that we can barely verify their primeness, and multiply them, it will be almost impossible to factor the result, but it would be trivial to verify when the original two numbers are provided -- I wonder whether we could use this as a form of signature."

How (or under what circumstances), can people talk openly about their respective development stages?

A lot of mr-hire's recent posts (and my own observations and goals) have updated me on the value of having an explicit model of development stages. Kegan levels are one such frame. I have a somewhat separate frame of "which people I consider 'grown up'" (i.e. what sort of things they take responsibility for and how much that matters)

Previously, my take had been "hmm, it seems like people totally do go through development stages,... (read more)

6Linda Linsefors5y
I can confirm this (anecdotally).
Talking about one's own is easy. Talking about someone else's is, as you note, fraught. I'd like to focus on the "how can such conversations be effective" and "what do we want from such conversations" part of the issue. I think a lot of harm is done by framing it as a linear set of stages, rather than a mesh of abstractions, and recognizing that object-level results are ALWAYS relevant, and the stages are mostly ways to take more factors into account for the models and beliefs that lead to results. When it's a stage-based system, it implies such an overt status signal that it's hard to actually discuss anything else. People of higher levels can't learn anything from those lower, and lower levels just have to accept whatever the higher-level says. This is not useful for anything. Go further. Phrased this way, it _IS_ a status attack. There's no possible useful further discussion. This is not plausibly-deniable, it's just plain asserting "I'm thinking deeper, so I'm right". If you phrase it not about the participants, but about the discussion, "consider this higher-level abstraction - does it not seem relevant to the point at hand?", then you've got a hook to talk about it. You don't need to bring up cognitive stages or categorize the participants, you only need to make clear what levels THIS discussion is about. There _MAY_ be a place for talking directly about what levels someone can operate at, for elitists discussing or reinforcing a membership filter. "Don't hire a CEO who can't handle level-5 thinking" is good advice. And in such cases, it's STILL entangled with status games, as the strong implication is that if you're not on that level, you're not part of the group.
To be clear, I don't every think anyone should phrase it that way (and I think usually people don't). But it's still just not hard to interpret through that lens even if you're moderately careful in phrasing. Yeah, I basically agree with this. My guess is to frame things in terms of skills to learn or particular attributes to acquire.
IMO, even this is too status-ey and centered on attributes of the person rather than crux-ey and centered on the discussion you want to have. Frame things in terms of models of thinking and level of abstraction/generalization to apply here and now. There may be skills to learn (or even attributes that can't be acquired, making the conversation at that level impossible) in order to get there, but start with what you want to understand/communicate, not with an assumption of capability (or lack thereof). Doing this is also a reminder that sometimes washing the dishes is just the fastest way to empty the sink - generalizing to some idealized division of labor and social reward scheme doesn't have to happen every time. It often works better to generalize when there's not an object-level decision to be made (but beware failing to tie it back to reality at all, or you'll ignore important details).

I am very confused about how to think (and feel!) about willpower, and about feelings of safety.

My impression from overviews of the literature is something like "The depletion model of willpower is real if you believe it's real. But also it's at least somewhat real even if you don't?"

Like, doing cognitive work costs resources. That seems like it should just be true. But your stance towards your cognitive work affects what sort of work you are doing.

Similarly, I have a sense that physiological responses to potentially threatening si... (read more)

People who feel defensive have a harder time thinking in truthseeking mode rather than "keep myself safe" mode. But, it also seems plausibly-true that if you naively reinforce feelings of defensiveness they get stronger. i.e. if you make saying "I'm feeling defensive" a get out of jail free card, people will use it, intentionally or no.

As someone who's been a large proponent of the "consider feelings of safety" POV, I want to loudly acknowledge that this is a thing, and it is damaging to all parties.

I don't have a good solution to this. One possibility is insisting on things that facilitate safety even if everyone is saying they're fine.

People who feel defensive have a harder time thinking in truthseeking mode rather than "keep myself safe" mode. But, it also seems plausibly-true that if you naively reinforce feelings of defensiveness they get stronger. i.e. if you make saying "I'm feeling defensive" a get out of jail free card, people will use it, intentionally or no

Emotions are information. When I feel defensive, I'm defending something. The proper question, then, is "what is it that I'm defending?" Perhaps it's my sense of self-worth, or my right to exist as a person, or my status, or my self-image as a good person. The follow-up is then "is there a way to protect that and still seek the thing we're after?" "I'm feeling defensive" isn't a "'get out of jail free' card", it's an invitation to go meta before continuing on the object level. (And if people use "I'm feeling defensive" to accomplish this, that seems basically fine? "Thank you for naming your defensiveness, I'm not interested in looking at it right now and want to continue on the object level if you're willing to or else end the conversation for now" is also a perfectly valid response to defensiveness, in my world.)

This seems exactly right to me. The main thing that annoys me is people using their feelings of defensiveness "as an argument" that I'm doing something wrong by saying the things that seem true/relevant, or that the things I'm saying are not important to engage with, instead of taking responsibility for their defensiveness. If someone can say "I feel defensive" and then do introspection on why, such that that reason can be discussed, that's very helpful. "I feel defensive and have to exit the conversation in order to reflect on this" is likely also helpful, if the reflection actually happens, especially if the conversation can continue some time after that (if it's sufficiently important). (See also feeling rational; feelings are something like "true/false" based on whether the world-conditions that would make the emotion representative pertain or not.)
3Wei Dai5y
But people's feelings are generally not under conscious control and (based on personal experience) some people are a lot more sensitive/emotional than others. If I want to talk with someone who might have important information or insights to offer, or just for general cooperation, and they're on the more sensitive side of the spectrum, it sure seems like I should take that into consideration and word my comments more carefully than I otherwise would, rather than tell them that their feelings are "false" or irrational (which would most likely just make them stop wanting to talk to me).
This seems right, and I don't think this contradicts what I said. It can simultaneously be the case that their feelings are false (in the sense that they aren't representative of the actual situation) and that telling them that their feelings are false is going to make the situation worse.
9Wei Dai5y
But what is your general plan for dealing with (i.e., attracting and keeping) forum/community members who are on the more sensitive/emotional side of the spectrum? For example, suppose I see someone talking with a more sensitive person in an oblivious way which I think will drive the second person away from the forum/community, it seems like under your proposed norms I wouldn't be allowed to point that out and ask the first person to word their comments more carefully. Is that right?
1. Intense truth seeking spaces aren't for everyone. Growing the forum is not a strict positive. An Archipelago-type model may be useful, but I'm not confident whether it's worth it. 2. There are techniques (e.g. focusing, meditation) for helping people process their emotions, which can be taught. 3. Some politeness norms are acceptable (e.g. most insults that are about people's essential characteristics are not allowed), as long as these norms are compatible with a sufficiently high level of truthseeking to reach the truth on difficult questions including ones about adversarial dynamics. 4. Giving advice to people is fine if it doesn't derail the discussion and it's optional to them whether they follow it (e.g. in an offline discussion after the original one). "Whether it's a good idea to say X" isn't a banned topic, the concern is that it gets brought up in a conversation where X is relevant (as if it's an argument against X) in a way that derails the discussion.
One thing I don't think I've emphasized as much because I was mostly arguing against the Rock rather than the Hard Place (which are both real) is that I definitely think LessWrong should expect people to gain skills related to owning their feelings, and bringing them into alignment with reality, or things kinda in that space. I think it mostly makes sense to develop tools that allow us to move that meta conversation into separate threads, so that the object level discussion can continue unimpeded. (We currently don't have the tools to do this seamlessly, effortlessly, and with good UI. So we do it sometimes for things like this comment thread but it doesn't yet have first class support) Partly because it doesn't yet have first class support, my preferred approach is to move such conversations private (while emphasizing the need to have them in a way where each party commits to posting something publicly after the fact as a summary). My current impression is that there was an additional level of confusion/frustration between me and Benquo when I did this for my extended critiques of the Drowning Children are Rare tone, because my approach read (to Benquo) more as using backchannels to collude, (or possibly to threaten with my moderator status in a less accountable way?) rather than as an attempt to have a more sane conversation in a place where we didn't need to worry about how the meta conversation would affect the object level conversation.
6Wei Dai5y
Why shouldn't the "derailing" problem be solved some other way, aside from having a norm against bringing up "whether it's a good idea to say X" during a conversation where X is relevant (which seems to have clear costs, such as it sometimes being too late to bring that up afterwards because the damage is already done)? For example you could talk about "whether it's a good idea to say X" until that matter is settled, and then return to the original topic. Or have some boilerplate ready to the effect of "Given what I know, including the arguments you've brought up so far, the importance of truth-seeking on the topic for which X is relevant, and the risk of derailing that object-level conversation and not being able to return to it, I prefer to continue to say X and not discussing further at this time whether it's a good idea to do so." and use that when it seems appropriate to do so?
This is what is critiqued in the dialogue. It makes silencing way too easy. I want to make silencing hard. The core point is that appeals to consequences aren't arguments, they're topic changes. It's fine to change topic if everyone consents. (So, bringing up "I think saying X is bad, we can talk about that or could continue this conversation" is acceptable)
2Wei Dai5y
My proposed alternative (which I may not have been clear enough about) is that someone could also bring up "I think saying X is bad, and here are my reasons for thinking that" and then you could either decide they're right, or switch to debating whether saying X is bad, or keep talking about the original topic (using some sort of boilerplate if you wish to explain why). Is this also acceptable to you and if not why? (Assuming the answer is no) is it because you think onlookers will be irrationally convinced by bad arguments against saying X even if you answer them with a boilerplate, so you'd feel compelled to answer them in detail? If so, why not solve that problem by educating forum members (ahead of time) about possible biases they may have that could cause them to be irrationally convinced by such arguments, instead of having a norm against unilaterally bringing up reasons for not saying X?
You're not interpreting me correctly if you think I'm saying bringing up posaible consequences is banned. My claim is more about what the rules of the game should be such that degenerate strategies don't win. If, in a chess game, removing arbitrary pieces of your opponent is allowed (by the rules of the game), then the degenerate strategy "remove the opponent's king" wins. That doesn't mean that removing your opponent's king (e.g. to demonstrate a possibility or as a joke) is always wrong. But it's understood not to be a legal move. Similarly, allowing appeals to consequences to be accepted as arguments lets the degenerate strategy "control the conversation by insinuating that the other person is doing something morally wrong" to win. Which doesn't mean you can't bring up consequences, it's just "not a valid move" in the original conversation. (This could be implemented different ways; standard boilerplate is one way, but it's likely enough if nearly everyone understands why this is an invalid move)
5Wei Dai5y
The language you used was "outlawing appeals to consequences", and a standard definition of "outlaw" is "to place under a ban or restriction", so consider changing your language to avoid this likely misinterpretation? What other ways do you have in mind? Among the ways you find acceptable, what is your preferred implementation? (It seems like if you had mentioned these in your post, that would also have made it much less likely for people to misinterpret "outlawing appeals to consequences" as "bringing up possible consequences is banned".)
It's still outlawing in the sense of outlawing certain chess moves, and in the sense of law thinking. Here's one case: A: X. B: That's a relevant point, but I think saying X is bad for Y reason, and would like to talk about that. A: No, let's continue the other conversation / Ok, I don't think saying X is bad for Z reason / Let's first figure out why X is true before discussing whether saying X is bad Here's another: A: X. B: That's bad to say, for Y reason. A: That's an appeal to consequences. It's a topic change. B: Okay, I retract that / Ok, I am not arguing against X but would like to change the topic to whether saying X is bad There aren't fully formal rules for this (this website isn't formal debate). The point is the structural issue of what kind of "move in the game" it is to say that saying X is bad.
8Wei Dai5y
Where in the post did you explain or give contextual clues for someone to infer that you meant "outlaw" in this sense? You used "outlaw" three times in that post, and it seems like every usage is consistent with the "outlaw = ban" interpretation. Don't you think that absent some kind of explanation or clue, "outlaw = ban" is a relatively natural interpretation compared to the more esoteric "in the sense of outlawing certain chess moves, and in the sense of law thinking"? Aside from that, I'm afraid maybe I haven't bought into some of the background philosophical assumptions you're using, and "what kind of move in the game it is to say that X is bad" does not seem highly relevant/salient to me. I (re)read the "law thinking" post you linked but it doesn't seem to help much to bridge the inferential gap. The way I'm thinking about it is that if someone says "saying X is bad for reasons Y", then I (as either the person saying X or as an onlooker) should try to figure out whether Y changes my estimate of whether cost-benefit favors continuing to say X, and the VOI of debating that, and proceed accordingly. (Probably not by doing an explicit calculation but rather just checking what my intuition says after considering Y.) Why does it matter "what kind of move in the game" it is? (Obviously "it's bad to say X" isn't a logical argument against X being true. So what? If people are making the error of thinking that it is a logical argument against X being true, that seems really easy to fix. Yes it's an attempt to change the topic, but again so what? It seems that I should still try to figure out whether/how Y changes my cost-benefit estimates.)
I think Critch is basically correct here; it makes more sense to model distractions or stress due to internal conflict as accumulating in some contexts, rather than willpower as a single quantity being depleted.
2Jason Gross5y
I dunno how to think about small instances of willpower depletion, but burnout is a very real thing in my experience and shows up prior to any sort of conceptualizing of it. (And pushing through it works, but then results in more extreme burn out after.) Oh, wait, willpower depletion is a real thing in my experience: if I am sleep deprived, I have to hit the "get out of bed" button in my head harder/more times before I actually get out of bed. This is separate from feeling sleepy (it is true even when I have trouble falling back asleep). It might be mediated by distraction, but that seems like quibbling over words. I think in general I tend to take outside view on willpower. I notice how I tend to accomplish things, and then try to adjust incentive gradients so that I naturally do more of the things I want. As was said in some CFAR unit, IIRC, if my process involves routinely using willpower to accomplish a particular thing, I've already lost.

I'm currently pretty torn between:

  • "Try to actually resolve the longstanding major disagreements about what sort of culture is good for LessWrong"
  • "Attempt to build real archipelago features that let people self segregate into whatever discussions they want."
  • "Attempt to mostly bypass that discussion by just focusing on the Open Questions feature-set, with an emphasis on object-level questions."

The disagreements about "combat vs collaboration" and other related frames do seem to have real, important things to resol... (read more)

5Said Achmiz5y
Er… has any ‘Archipelago’ been tried? When you say “Archipelago hasn’t worked”, you’re talking about… what? Anyhow, as far as your three options go… some pros & cons: Pro: If you succeed, then we march forward into the future in productive harmony! And you (probably) save yourself (and everyone else) a ton of heartache, going forward. Con: If you fail, then you’ve wasted a ton of effort and accomplished at most nothing, and possibly even made everyone angrier at each other, etc. Pro: Pretty hard to imagine a scenario where you totally waste your time, if you do this (unless you’re, like, such a bad programmer/designer/whatever that you try to build some features but you just fail somehow). In the worst case, you have new features that are useful for something or someone, even if they don’t solve the problem(s) they were meant to solve. And in the best case, you solve all the problems! Con: Actually maybe the worst case is instead much worse: the new features have an effect but it’s in the opposite direction from what you intended, or there are some horrible consequences you didn’t foresee, etc. Pro: Similar to above, but best case is not as great (though still good) and worst case is almost certainly not nearly as bad—a lower-variance approach, but still it seems like at worst you’ve got some new features that are useful. Con: Probably doesn’t do much to solve any of the serious problems. If, once you’ve done this, all the same problems remain, and meanwhile the community has been hemorrhaging participants… haven’t you wasted time that might’ve been better spent solving the aforesaid serious problems?

Something I haven't actually been clear on re: your opinions:

If LW ended up leaning hard into Archipelago, and if we did something like "posts can be either set to 'debate' mode, or 'collaborative' mode, or there are epistemic statuses indicating things like "this post is about early stage brainstorming vs this post is ready to be seriously critiqued",

Does that actually sound good to you?

My model of you was worried that that sort of thing could well result in horrible consequences (via giving bad ideas the ability to gain traction).

(I suppose you might believe that, but still think it's superior to the status of quo of 'sorta kinda that but much more confusingly')

9Said Achmiz5y
Having good and correct norms on Less Wrong > having some sort of Archipelago, and thereby having good and correct norms on some parts of Less Wrong > having bad and wrong norms everywhere on Less Wrong We did discuss this a while ago, actually, though I’m afraid I haven’t the time right now to look for the comment thread in question. Simply: if you can set posts to “collaborative mode”, and there’s nothing wrong with that (norm-wise), well, everyone sets their posts to “collaborative mode” all the time (because defending their ideas is hard and annoying), the end. (Unless you also have strong norms along the lines of “using or even mentioning ideas which have thus far been discussed only in ‘collaborative mode’ posts, in other discussions, as if they have been properly defended and are anything but baseless speculation, is a faux pas; conversely, calling out such usage is right and proper and praiseworthy and deserving of upvotes”. But such a norm, which would be very useful and beneficial, nonetheless seems to me to be unlikely to end up as part of the Archipelago you envision. Or am I mistaken, do you think?)
Nod. I do think the failure mode your pointing at is an important thing for the system to address.
This seems to assume there is one correct set of norms for all conversations. That would be really surprising to me. Do you think there's one set that is Always Correct, or that the switching costs outweigh the gains from tailored norms?
9Said Achmiz5y
All conversations? Certainly not. All conversations on Less Wrong? To a first approximation[1], yes. ---------------------------------------- 1. How much work we take this qualifier to be doing is, of course, a likely point of disagreement, but if you see it as doing most of the work in my comment, then assume that you’ve misunderstood me. ↩︎

I think a core disagreement here has less to do with collaborative vs debate. Ideas can, and should, be subjected to extreme criticism within a collaborative frame.

My disagreement with your claim is more about how intellectual progress works. I strongly believe you need a several stages, with distinct norms. [Note: I'm not sure these stages listed are exactly right, but think they point roughly in the right direction]

1. Early brainstorming, shower thoughts, and play.

2. Refining brainstormed ideas into something coherent enough to be evaluated

3. Evaluating, and iterating on, those ideas. [It's around this stage that I think comments like the ones I archetypically associate with you become useful]

4. If an idea seems promising enough to do rigorously check (i.e. something like 'do real science, spending thousands or millions of dollars to run experiments), figure out how to do that. Which is complicated enough that it's its own step, separate from....

5. Do real science (note: this section is a bit different for things like math and philosophy)

6. If the experiments disconfirm the idea (or, if an earlier stage truncated the idea before you got to the "real scien... (read more)

4 and 5 seem hard. Consider the "Archipelago" idea. Also, this model assumes the idea is easily disproved/proved, and isn't worth iterating on further. (Rough) Contrasting model: 1) I want to make a [lightbulb] (before lightbulbs have been invented). 2) Come up with a design. 3) Test the design. 4) If it fails, go back to step 2, and start over, or refine the design, and go to step 3. Repeat 100 times, or until you succeed. 5) If it works, come up with a snazzy name, and start a business.
We *did* spend several months working on the Ban user and users-setting-moderation-norms features, and write up a lengthy post discussing how we hoped they would be used, and a couple people very briefly tried using them. So... "any" Archipelago has been tried. But certainly it was not be tried in a way where the features were clear enough that I'd have expected people to have "really" tried it. The rest of the pros-and-cons seem relevant, although I'm currently actually more optimistic about Open Questions than Archipelago (partly for unrelated reasons that have to do with why I think Open Questions was high value in the first place.)
I wonder if Archipelago is one of those features that is best tested in the context of a larger userbase. Right now there is barely one "island" worth of users on LW. Maybe users just aren't numerous enough for people to expect bad experiences in the comments of their posts which would cause them to use advanced moderation features. It's not necessarily a bad thing that you guys have built advanced moderation features before they were actually needed. But I suspect the current userbase is not big enough to stress test them.
4Ben Pace5y
We've seen 42 post in the last 7 days, and on average the community makes ~500 comments per week. Just want to clarify on the current size of the LW userbase.
Thanks for the data! Any thoughts on this Wei Dai comment?
4Ben Pace5y
Actually yes. For reasons of time, I won't write stuff now, but look out for a post in Meta probably Monday/Tuesday, with some thoughts on moving in that direction (and agreeing more with your take here than I did at the time). I only mention the data because I substantially under-predicted it before Ruby told me what the true numbers were. Edit: Sorry! Turns out that I won't be writing this post.
What happened?
The team decided to hold off on publishing some thoughts for awhile, sorry about that.
2Said Achmiz5y
Hmm, indeed. I suppose that does qualify as a form of Archipelago, if looked at in the right way. Those features, and that perspective, didn’t occur to me when I wrote the grandparent, but yes, fair point. I think we agree w.r.t. “tried, sort of, but not ‘really’”.
To be clear, though – all the features that are necessary for you to set your own preferred norms on your own posts already exist. You can start writing posts and hosting discussions set in whatever frame you want. The actions available are: – set your default moderation guidelines in your user profile – set post-specific moderation guidelines in a given post – if a user has commented in a way that violates your guidelines, and doesn't stop after you remind them of them, you can click on a comment's menu item to delete said comment or ban said user. So if you do prefer a given style of discourse, you can set that for your own posts, and if you wanted to discuss someone else's post in a different style of discourse than they prefer, I think it'd be good to create your own thread for doing so.
4Wei Dai5y
Note: These features do not seem to exist on GW. (Not that I miss them since I don't feel a need to use them myself.) Questions: Is anyone using these features at all? Oh I see you said earlier "a couple people very briefly tried using them". Do you know why they stopped? Do you think you overestimated how many people would use it, in a way that could have been corrected (for example by surveying potential users or paying more attention to skeptical voices)? (To be fair, upon reviewing the comments on your Archipelago posts, there weren't that many skeptical voices, although I did upvote this one.) Given that you spend several months on Archipelago, it seems useful to do a quick postmortem on lessons learned?
Each of the features has been used a bit, even recently. (I think there's 3-7 people who've set some kind of intentional moderation style and/or guideline, and at least one person who's banned a user from their posts recently). I think the moderation guidelines help to set expectations and the small bit of counterfactual threat of banning helps lend them a bit of force. The features were also a pre-requisite for Eliezer posting and/or allowing admins to do crossposts on his behalf (I doubt we would have prioritized them as hard without that, although I'd been developing the archipelago-concept-as-applied-to-lesswrong before then) So I don't consider the features a failure, so much as "they didn't have this outsized, qualitatively different benefit" that I was hoping for.
6Said Achmiz5y
Yet Eliezer still isn’t participating on Less Wrong… is there some reason for that? Were the implemented features insufficient? Is there still something left to do?
The moderation tools were a prerequisite even for the degree of Eliezer participation you currently see (where periodically Robby crossposts things on his behalf), which I still consider quite worth it. As Richard notes, Eliezer isn't really participating in online discussion these days and that looks unlikely to change.
Does Eliezer post anywhere public these days? His postings to Facebook are infrequent, and I don't know of him posting anywhere else.
8Said Achmiz5y
That makes it even worse, if true! If he doesn’t post anywhere, then he wasn’t ever going to post here, so what in the world was the point of all these changes and features and all that stuff that was allegedly “so that Eliezer would post here”?!
He seems to post on Twitter pretty frequently... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Re: GW – obviously the GW team has limited time, but there shouldn't be anything stopping them from implementing these features. And in the meanwhile, if you hop over to lesswrong.com to use a feature (such as deleting a comment or banning .a user) it should have the desired effect over on greaterwrong. I do expect, as the LW team tries more and more experimental things that are designed to radically change the shape of the site, that the GW experience will start to feel a bit confusing, depending on how much time the GW team has to implement things. [note to GW team: I know at least part of the problem is that the LW team hasn't been that proactive about communicating our plans. My current impression is that you're sufficiently bottlenecked on dev-time that doing so wouldn't really help, but if you thought otherwise I could maybe arrange for that] One recent example are Related Questions, which I expect to be a major component of how the questions feature (and the site overall) ends up working. The greaterwrong version of this question doesn't show it's parent question, either at the top of the page or in a list further down, which changes the context of the question quite a bit. See the lesswrong version). (Related questions overall are still in a "soft beta" where we're still tweaking them a bunch and aren't confident that they're usable enough to really advertise, but I expect that to change within a couple weeks)
7Said Achmiz5y
It is true that we’re bottlenecked on developer time, yes. We wouldn’t say no to more communication of the LW team’s plans, of course, but that is indeed not a major problem at this time, as far as I can tell. One thing that would be quite useful would be a maintained centralized list of LW features (preferably in order of when they were added, and with links to documentation… a Blizzard-style list of “patch notes”, in other words, aggregated into a change history, and kept somewhere central and easy to find). If, perhaps, this were a post that were to be updated as new features rolled in, we could use it as a way to track GW vs. LW feature parity (via comments and updating of the post itself), and as a publicly visible roadmap for same.
I think the recently published FAQ has almost all of our features, though not in an easily skimmable or accessable format. But definitely better than what we had before it. Agree having a proper list would be good.
3clone of saturn5y
Knowing your plans could definitely make a difference--I do want to prioritize fixing any problems that make GW confusing to use, as well as adding features that someone has directly asked for. As such, I just implemented the related questions feature.
Thanks! (missed this the first time around) I think another major issue is going to be custom commenting-guidelines, which GreaterWrong doesn't have AFAICT. Right now, custom commenting guidelines aren't actually all that clear on LW, and I don't think people rely on them much. But we've been talking about making guidelines and moderation-policies appear next to commenting boxes as soon as you start typing, or otherwise making it more visually distinct what the norms of a given discussion section is. If we ended up learning harder into the archipelago model, this would become particularly important.
Yup. This post is essentially the result of that post-mortem.
Quick comment to say that I think there are some separate disagreements that I don't want to get collapsed together. I think there's 1) "politeness/there are constraints on how you speak" vs "no or minimal constraints on how you speak", and 2) Combat vs Nurture / Adversarial vs Collaborative. I think the two are correlated but importantly distinct dimensions. I really don't want Combat culture, as I introduced the term, to get rounded off to "no or minimal constraints on how you can speak".
Yeah, to be clear I think there's like 6 major disagreements (not all between the same people), and it's not that easy to summarize them.
Why does it need to be a time sink for you? You could pair off people who disagree with one another and say: "If you two are able to think up an experiment such that you both agree that experiment would allow us to discover who is right about the kind of culture that's good for LessWrong, we will consider performing that experiment." You could even make them settle on a procedure for judging the results of the experiment. Or threaten to ignore their views entirely if they can't come to any kind of agreement. I think you're overthinking this. Why not randomize the default norms for each new user and observe which norms users tend to converge on over time? Yes, the solution you describe is unsatisfying, but I wonder if the empirical data you gather from it will get you to a perfect solution more effectively than armchair philosophizing.
I mean, among other things, *I'm* one of the people who's disagreeing with someone(s), and a major issue is disagreement or confusion about what are even the right frames to be evaluating things through. I don't currently expect that to really do anything. Most of the users doing any kind of deliberate norm setting are longtime users who are more bringing their own expectations of what they thought the norms already were, vs people reading the text we wrote in the moderation guidelines.
Hm. More ideas which probably won't help: * Find a person or people you both respect with relevant expertise. Do a formal debate where you both present your case. Choose a timed debate format so things can't take forever. At the end, agree to abide by the judgement of the debate audience (majority vote if necessary). * Figure out whose vision for LessWrong is least like Facebook and implement that vision. The person whose vision is more similar to Facebook can just stay on Facebook.

I notice that I'm increasingly confused that Against Malaria Foundation isn't just completely funded.

It made sense a few years ago. By now – things like Gates Foundation seem like they should be aware of it, and that it should do well on their metrics.

It makes (reasonable-ish) sense for Good Ventures not to fully fund it themselves. It makes sense for EA folk to either not have enough money to fully fund it, or to end up valuing things more complicated than AMF. But it seems like there should be enough rich people and governments for whom "end malaria" is a priority that the $100 million or so that it should just be done by now.

What's up with that?

My understanding is that Against Malaria Foundation is a relatively small player in the space of ending malaria, and it's not clear the funders who wish to make a significant dent in malaria would choose to donate to AMF.

One of the reasons GiveWell chose AMF is that there's a clear marginal value of small donation amounts in AMF's operational model -- with a few extra million dollars they can finance bednet distribution in another region. It's not necessarily that AMF itself is the most effective charity to donate to to end malaria -- it's just the one with the best proven cost-effectiveness for donors at the scale of a few million dollars. But it isn't necessarily the best opportunity for somebody with much larger amounts of money who wants to end malaria.

For comparison:

  • In its ~15-year existence, the Global Fund says it has disbursed over $10 billion for malaria and states that 795 million insecticide-treated nets were funded (though it's not clear if these were actually funded all through the 10 billion disbursed by the Global Fund). It looks like their annual malaria spend is a little under a billion. See https://www.theglobalfund.org/en/portfo
... (read more)
There is some related stuff by Carl Shulman here: https://www.greaterwrong.com/posts/QSHwKqyY4GAXKi9tX/a-personal-history-of-involvement-with-effective-altruism#comment-h9YpvcjaLxpr4hd22 that largely agrees with what I said.
If Gates Foundation is actually funding constrained I guess that explains most of my confusion, although it still seems a bit weird not to "top it off" since it seems within spitting distance.

Check out Gates's April 2018 speech on the subject. Main takeaway: bednets started becoming less effective in 2016, and they're looking at different solutions, including gene drives to wipe out mosquitoes, which is a solution unlikely to require as much maintenance as bed nets.

Like, I'm actually quite worried that we haven't hit the point where EA folk are weirdly bottlenecked on not having an obviously defensible charity to donate to as a gateway drug.

[cn: spiders I guess?]

I just built some widgets for the admins on LW, so that posts by newbies and reported comments automatically show up in a sidebar where moderators automatically have to pay attention to them, approving or deleting them or sometimes taking more complicated actions.

And... woahman, it's like shining a flashlight into a cave that you knew was going to be kinda gross, but you weren't really prepared to a million spiders suddenly illuminated. The underbelly of LW, posts and comments you don't even see anymore because we insta... (read more)

You realise that I read every comment in the rss feed right?

One concrete skill I gained from my 2 weeks of Thinking Physics problems was:

  1. Notice something feels intractably hard
  2. Ask "okay, why is this intractably hard?". This might be multiple reasons.
    1. Do those reasons seem intractably hard to fix? If so, recurse and ask "why" again.
    2. Does one of them not seem intractably hard? Then, make a plan for fixing it. Then, if that plan seems cost-effective, do the plan.
  • Your intractably hard problem is now solved!

This doesn't seem very novel ("break a problem down into simpler problems" is a pretty canonical tool). But I felt l... (read more)

Theory that Jimrandomh was talking about the other day, which I'm curious about:

Before social media, if you were a nerd on the internet, the way to get interaction and status was via message boards / forums. You'd post a thing, and get responses from other people who were filtered for being somewhat smart and confident enough to respond with a text comment.

Nowadays, generally most people post things on social media and then get much more quickly rewarded via reacts, based on a) a process that is more emotional than routed-through-verbal-centers, and b) you... (read more)

There is a trade-off: would you prefer higher-quality feedback with great chance of no feedback at all, or a greater probability of feedback which will most likely be lower-quality? Maybe this is a problem with social media: sometimes we get a lot of feedback, and sometimes we get high-quality feedback, and it kinda makes us expect that it should be possible to get lots of high-quality feedback constantly. But that is not possible, so people are dissatisfied.
I don't participate in a very wide swath of social media, so this may vary beyond FB and the like.  But from what I can tell, reacts do exactly the opposite of what you say - they're pure mood affiliation, with far less incentive nor opportunity for subtlety or epistemically-useful feedback than comments have. The LW reacts you've discussed in the past (not like/laugh/cry/etc, but updated/good-data/clear-modeling or whatnot) probably DO give some opportunity, but can never be as subtle or clear as a comment.  I wonder if something like Slack's custom-reacts (any user can upload an icon and label it for use as a react) would be a good way to get both precision and ease.  Or perhaps just a flag for "meta-comment", which lets people write arbitrary text that's a comment on the impact or style or whatnot, leaving non-flagged comments as object-level comments about the topic of the post or parent.
This isn’t intended at all to replace comments. The idea here is giving people accordance to do lower effort ‘pseudo comments’ that are somewhere in between an upvote / downvote and a comment, so that people who find it too effortful to write a comment can express some feedback. Hypothesis is that this gets you more total feedback.
I was mostly reacting to "I'd previously talked about how it would be neat if LW reacts specifically gave people affordance to think subtler epistemically-useful thoughts. ", and failed my own first rule of evaluation: "compared to what?". As something with more variations than karma/votes, and less distracting/lower hurdle than comments, I can see reacts as filling a niche.  I'd kind of lean toward more like tagging and less like 5-10 variations on a vote.  

The latest magic set has… possibly the subtlest, weirdest take on the Magic color wheel so far. The 5 factions are each a different college within a magical university, each an enemy-color-pair.

The most obvious reference here is Harry Potter. And in Harry Potter, the houses map (relatively) neatly to various magic colors, or color pairs.

Slytherin is basically canonical MTG Black. Gryffindor is basically Red. Ravenclaw is basically blue. Hufflepuff sort of green/white. There are differences between Hogwarts houses and Magic colors, but they are aspiring to ... (read more)

What about Black/Green?
They’re the biology department, who disagree about whether the primary force underlying ecosystems is life/death/growth/decay.

After starting up PredictionBook, I've noticed I'm underconfident at 60% (I get 81% of my 60% predictions right) and underconfident at 70% (only get 44% right).

This is neat... but I'm not quite sure what I'm actually supposed to do. When I'm forming a prediction, often the exact number feels kinda arbitrary. I'm worried that if I try to take into account my under/overconfidence, I'll end up sort of gaming the system rather than learning anything. (i.e. look for excuses to shove my confidence into a bucket that is currently over/underconfident, rather than actually learning "when I feel X subjectively, that corresponds to X actual confidence."

Curious if folk have suggestions.

Sounds like mostly low sample size?
Both of them have 15 predictions at this point. Could still be low sample size but seemed enough to be able to start adjusting. (and, even if it turns out I am actually better calibrated than this and it goes away at larger samples, I'm still interested in the general answer to the question)
Presumably you mean "overconfident"? Also, you dropped a parenthesis somewhere.

Someone recently mentioned that strong-upvotes have a particular effect in demon-thread-y comment sections, where if you see a Bad Comment, and that that comment has 10 karma, you might think "aaah! the LessWrong consensus is that a Bad Comment is in fact Good! And this must be defended against."

When, in fact, 10 karma might be, like, one person strong-upvoting a thing.

This was a noteworthy point. I think the strong upvotes usually "roughly does their job" in most cases, but once things turn "contested" they quickly turn into applause/boo lights in a political struggle. And it might be worth looking into ways to specifically curtail their usefulness in that case somehow.

If I had a vote, I'd vote for getting rid of strong votes altogether. Here's another downside from my perspective: I actually don't like getting strong upvotes on my comments, because if that person didn't do a strong upvote, in most cases others would eventually (weakly) upvote that comment to around the same total (because people don't bother to upvote if they think the comment's karma is already what it deserves), and (at least for me) it feels more rewarding and more informative to know that several people upvoted a comment than to know that one person strongly upvoted a comment.

Also strong upvotes always make me think "who did that?", which is pointless because it's too hard to guess based on the available information but I can't help myself. (Votes that are 3 points also make me think this.) (I've complained about this before, but from the voter perspective as opposed to the commenter perspective.) I think I'd be happier if everyone just had either 1 or 2 point votes.

The 3-point votes are an enormous entropy leak: only 13 users have a 3-point weak upvote (only 8-ish of which I'd call currently "active"), and probably comparatively few 3-point votes are strong-upvotes from users with 100–249 karma. (In contrast, about 400 accounts have 2-point weak upvotes, which I think of as "basically everyone.")
7Wei Dai4y
Gah, this makes me even more reluctant to vote. I didn't realize there are so few active 3-point members. (Didn't know about Issa Rice's karma list.) Seriously, there have already been multiple instances since you wrote this that I thought about voting and then stopped myself. I'm not sure why the LW team hasn't made a change about this, but if they really want to keep the 3-point votes, maybe drop the threshold a bit so that there are at least several tens of users with 3-point votes?

Yep, it didn't seem worth the cost of the chilling effects that were discussed in this thread. 

Yeah. Even if Wei_Dai is the only one chilled then that's still a huge fraction of the 3-point members.
I think we probably should have announced this with more fanfare but a series of distracting things happened and we forgot. Alas!
Yeah this discussion had me update that we should probably just drop 3-point smallvotes. (dropping the threshold would solve this problem, but not the problem I personally experience most, which is 'a lot of comments feel worth upvoting a tiny bit, but 3-karma feels excessive'). Yesterday the team discussed some weirder ideas, such as: * Just don't display karma for comments. Instead, just use it to silently sort things in the background. This might also make people more willing to downvote (since people often find it unpleasantly mean to downvote things below 0). It might also curtail some of the "voting as yay/boo". This is what hackernews currently does AFAIK. We might also copy hackernews's thing of "downvoted things start to fade away based on how downvoted they are. * On the flipside, sometimes it's actually good to see when things are highly upvoted (such as an important criticism or question) * Alternately: maybe karma doesn't get displayed until it has at least 3 votes (possibly in addition to the OP's auto-upvote?). This might help obfuscate who's been doing which upvoting. (I personally find it most noticeable when the karma score and voter-count is low)
5Wei Dai4y
I prefer to see the karma, because "sometimes it’s actually good to see when things are highly upvoted (such as an important criticism or question)". While we're on the topic of voting, when I look at my old LW1 comments I occasionally see 10-20 people vote up one of my comments. Now my comments often get voted up to 10-20 karma by 1-4 people (besides my own default upvote), but almost never receive more than 10 votes. This makes me worried that I'm reaching a lot fewer people with my content compared to those days. Is this true, or do people just vote less frequently now?
It is (alas) definitely the case that there are fewer site participants now than in Ye Old Golden Days, although the metrics have been trending upwards for the past year(ish). (sometime we'll do an updated analytics post to give a clearer picture of that)
I do also think that in addition to that, people also just vote less. If I remember correctly, number of people voting in a given week is about 60% of what it was at the peak, but total number of votes per week is closer to 35% or something like that. There are also a bunch less comments, so you likely get some quadratic effects that at least partially explain this. 
Aren't there also people for whom 3 points is a strong upvote that you can't distinguish from those where 3 point is a weak upvote?
True, but I think you can usually tell what sort of things might-have-gotten strong upvoted
I'd get rid of strong upvotes as well, or perhaps make voting nonlinear, such that a weak/strong vote changes in value based on how many voters expressed an opinion (as it kind of does over time - strong votes only matter a small bit when there are 20+ votes cast, but if they're one of the first or only few to vote, they're HUGE). Or perhaps only display the ordinal value of posts and comments (relative to others shown on the page), with the actual vote values hidden in the same way we do number of voters. The vast majority of my comments get 5 or fewer voters. This is data in itself, of course, but it means that I react similarly to Wei when I see an outsided change.
2Wei Dai4y
Someone strong-voted down my comment, from 11 to 7. (Normally I wouldn't mention this, but it seems relevant here. :)
In this case this was actually me removing a weak upvote, presumably at the same time someone else cast a regular weak downvote? (I had originally upvoted as a general reward for providing information about what users might care about, then realized I kinda didn't want to make it look like the object-level idea have tons of support. Which is relevant. In any case apologies for confusion. :p)
5Gordon Seidoh Worley4y
A mechanism I really like is making certain kinds of votes scarce. I've appreciated it when it was a function on other sites I've used, as I think it improved things. For example, Stack Overflow lets you spend karma in various ways. Two that come to mind: * downvotes cost karma (a downvote causing -5 karma costs the downvoter 2 karma) * you can pay karma to get attention (you can effectively super strong upvote your own posts, but you pay karma to do it) Ways this or something similar might work on LW: * you get a budget of strong votes (say 1 per day) that you can save and spend how you like but you can't strong upvote everything * you get a budget of downvotes * strong votes cost karma * downvotes cost karma I like this because it at least puts a break on excess use of votes in fights and otherwise makes these signals more valuable when they are used because they are not free like they are now.
The idea I am currently most interested in is "You can add short anonymous 'reasons' to your upvote or downvote, and such reasons are required for strong upvotes."  (I'm not actually sure what this would do to the overall system, but I think it'd give us a better window into what voting patterns are common before making more explicitly functional changes to the system, and meanwhile probably subtly discourage strong upvotes and downvotes by adding a bit of cognitive labor to them)
5Gordon Seidoh Worley4y
Yeah, I think anything that adds a meaningful speedbump to any voting operation other than weak upvote is likely a step in the right direction of reshaping incentives.
2Wei Dai4y
Oh, this is why I added a feature to my userscript to always display the number of votes on a comment/post (without having to hover over the karma).
Has there been any discussion about showing the up/down vote counts? I know reddit used to do it a long time ago. I don't know why they stopped though.

After this weeks's stereotypically sad experience with the DMV....

(spent 3 hours waiting in lines, filling out forms, finding out I didn't bring the right documentation, going to get the right documentation, taking a test, finding out somewhere earlier in the process a computer glitched and I needed to go back and start over, waiting more, finally getting to the end only to learn I was also missing another piece of identification which rendered the whole process moot)

...and having just looked over a lot of 2018 posts investigating coordination failure...&n

... (read more)
6Said Achmiz4y
I can’t easily find it right now, but there was a comment thread a while back on Slate Star Codex where we concluded that, actually, the problem isn’t with DMVs. The problem is with DMVs in California. Any attempt to analyze the problem and/or solve it, must take into account this peculiarity! EDIT: Found it. The situation’s a bit more nuanced that my one-sentence summary above, but nonetheless it’s clear that “DMVs are just terrible” does not generalize. Some are (seemingly more often in California); many are not.
I recall them being terrible in NY, although it's been awhile.  I was also in a uniquely horrible situation because I moved from NY, lost my drivers license, couldn't easily get a new from from NY (cuz I don't live there anymore) and couldn't easily get one from CA because I couldn't prove I had one to transfer. (The results is that I think I need to take the driving test again, but it'll get scheduled out another couple months from now, or something) Which, I dunno I'd be surprised if any bureaucracy handled that particularly well, honestly. 
5Adam Scholl4y
Fwiw, my experiences with DMVs in DC, Maryland, Virginia, New York, and Minnesota have all been about as terrible as my experiences in California.
Unless there was a bureaucracy that used witnesses.

I don't know of a principled way to resolve roomate-things like "what is the correct degree of cleanliness", and this feels sad.

You can't say "the correct amount is 'this much' because, well, there isn't actually an objectly correct degree of cleanliness."

If you say 'eh, there are no universal truths, just preferences, and negotiation', you incentivize people to see a lot of interactions as transactional and adversarial that don't actually need to be. It also seems to involve exaggerating and/or d... (read more)

4Matt Goldenberg4y
There's a large portion of auction theory/mechanism design specifically designed to avoid this problem. The "you cut the cake, I choose the pieces" is a simple example. I've tried to implement some of these types of solutions in previous group houses and organizations, and there's often a large initial hurdle to overcome, some of which just outright failed. However, enough has succeeded that I think it's worth trying to more explicitly work game theoretically optimal decision procedures into communities and organizations, and worth familiarizing yourself with the existing tools out there for this sort of thing.
I'm interested in hearing more details about that.
There's no avoiding negotiation - the actual truth is that it's about preferences (both in what states are preferable and in how much effort to put into it). There is no objective authority you can appeal to. Get over that. It may help, for longer-term relationships, to negotiate utility functions and happiness of each other, rather than (or as a precursor to) negotiating tasks and chore rotations.
In my experience, trade can work well here. That is, you care more about cleanliness than your roommate, but they either care abstractly about your happiness or care about some concrete other thing you care about less, e.g. temperature of the apartment. So, you can propose a trade where they agree to be cleaner than they would be otherwise in exchange for you either being happier or doing something else that they care about. Semi-serious connection to AI: It's kind of like merging your utility functions but it's only temporary.
The trade is sort of the default outcome among people who are, like, reasonably competent adults. But: a) it still encourages (at least subtle) exaggeration or downplaying of your preferences (to get a better trade) b) often, fastidiousness is correlated along many axis, so it's more like "the roommate with stronger preferences isn't get any of their preferences met", and "the roommate who doesn't care much doesn't have much they really want other than to not get yelled at." (temperature preference might be one of a few things I expect to be uncorrelated with most other roommate disagreements)
Talk to your roommates and make an agreement, that each of you, in round robin order, orders apartment cleaning service, with period equal to X weeks. This will alleviate part of the problem.
I don't currently have a problem with roommates (we solved it last time with some ad-hoc negotiation) I'm just more generally annoyed that there's not a good principled approach here that I can pitch as "fair". (We do have apartment cleaners who come biweekly, whose cost is split evenly, but that also just doesn't address all the various small ways mess can add up on the timescale of hours or days. In the original motivating case it was about hairs getting in the sink-drain, which I prefer to solve once a year with a bottle of Draino, and others preferred to solve much-more-frequently with smaller-dollops-of-draino. i.e. I consider it fine if a sink drains slightly slowly, others found it gross) ((Also, there's a much more general version of this which is what I was more interested in, which isn't just the case of roommates in particular - it includes small ad-hoc situations such as some friends going camping and having different preferences about how much to cleanup))

I think there's a preformal / formal / post-formal thing going on with Double Crux.

My impression is the CFAR folk who created the doublecrux framework see it less as a formal process you should stick to, and more as a general set of guiding principles. The formal process is mostly there to keep you oriented in the right direction.

But I see people (sometimes me) trying to use it as a rough set of guiding principles, and then easily slipping back into all the usual failure modes of not understanding each other, or not really taking seriously the possibi... (read more)

I believe I'm one of the people who commented on your strong focus on using the Double Framework recently, but on reflection I think can clarify my thoughts. I think generally there's a lot to be said for sticking to the framework as explicitly formulated until you learn how to do the thing reliably and there's a big failure mode of thinking you can skip to the post-formal stage. I think you're right to push on this. The complication is that I think the Double-Crux framework is still nascent (at least in common knowledge; I believe Eli has advanced models and instincts, but those are hard to communicate and absorb), which means I see us being in a phase of "figuring out how to do Double-Crux right" where the details of the framework are fuzzy and you might be missing pieces, parts of the algorithm, etc. The danger is then that if you're too rigid in sticking to your current conception of what the formal framework of Double-Crux, you might lack the flexibility to see where you're theory is failing in practice, and you need to update what you think Double-Crux even should be. I perceive something a shift (could be wrong here) where after some conversations you started paying more attention to the necessity of model-sharing as a component of Double-Crux as maybe a preliminary stage to find cruxes, and this wasn't emphasized before. That's the kind of flexibility I think is need to realize when the current formalization is insufficient and deviation from it is warranted as part of the experimentation/discovery/development/learning/testing/etc.

Counterfactual revolutions are basically good, revolutions are basically bad

(The political sort of revolution, not the scientific sort)

Are you intentionally using "counterfactual" here to distinguish from hypothetical? I'd say there are very few things for which hypothetical X isn't far better than actual X. Fundamentally, details matter far more that we think, most of the failure is in the details, and we routinely ignore details in far-mode thinking about what could be. Code you haven't written yet is efficient, understandable, and bug-free. Systems of governance are free of corruption and petty dominance games. Your next team will have perfect management that understands the cost of impossible deadlines. Ok, even I can't believe the last one. But the others are pretty common false beliefs.
A more fleshed out version of my comment is: It is very important that the threat of political revolutions exist – the fact that if the people get angry, they *will* overthrow rulers is the thing that keeps rulers in check. (This is relevant for countries as well as web forums and EA organizations) But, actual revolutions are generally quite bad – they are very costly, and my impression is that a lot of the time they A) don't actually successfully build something better than the thing they destroyed, B) the prospect of constant revolution makes it harder to build anything lasting. So, it's important for the threat of revolution to be real (to the point where if things get real bad you actually revolt even though it's probably locally negative to do so). But, still, it's better for all parties to fix things such that the threat doesn't need to get carried out. (I don't have that solid a grasp on the difference between hypothetical vs counterfactual. The important point here is that IF the political situation doesn't improve, THEN there will be a revolution)
Ah, I fully agree with this observation. I wonder how related it is to other cases where the actual underlying reality is less important than the perception of the possible. Stock markets may be another illustration of the concept - a given share in a company is, in the end, a claim on future cash flows until termination of the enterprise. But there's such distance and uncertainty in that, that many stocks trade more on short-term perceptions than on long-term values, and many participants forget what the underlying security actually means. (counterfactual means things that are known not to happen, hypothetical is for things that could turn out to happen. What would you have done if X (when ~X actually occurred) is counterfactual. What would you do if X (where X may or may not happen) is hypothetical. I asked because using "counterfactual" is somewhat specific and I wasn't sure if you were using it in a technical meaning. Hypothetical (or "possible") is the more common word colloquially. "possible revolutions are good, actual revolutions are bad" would have been less distracting on this front. Ok, sorry for long diversion from what could have been a thumbs-up react.)

Possible UI:

What if the RecentDiscussion section specifically focused on comments from old posts, rather than posts which currently appear in Latest Posts. This might be useful because you can already see updates to current discussions (since comments turn green when unread, and/or comment counts go up), but can't easily see older comments.

(You could also have multiple settings that handled this differently, but I think this might be a good default setting to ensure comments on old posts get a bit more visibility)

Weird thoughts on 'shortform'

1) I think most of the value of shortform is "getting started writing things that turn out to just be regular posts, in an environment that feels less effortful."

2) relatedly, "shortform" isn't quite the right phrase, since a lot of things end up being longer. "Casual" or "Off-the-cuff" might be better?

Failure Modes of Archipelago

(epistemic status: off the cuff, maybe rewriting this as a post later. Haven't discussed this with other site admins)

In writing Towards Public Archipelago, I was hoping to solve a couple problems:

  • I want authors to be able to have the sort of conversational space that they actually want, to incentivize them to participate more
  • I want LW's culture to generally encourage people to grow. This means setting standards that are higher than what-people-do-by-default. But, people will disagree about what standards are actually
... (read more)

Idea: moderation by tags. People (meaning users themselves, or mods) could tag comments with things like #newbie-question, #harsh-criticism, #joke, etc., then readers could filter out what they don't want to see.

5Wei Dai6y
Is it just me, or are people not commenting nearly as much on LW2 as they used to on LW1? I think one of the goals of LW2 is to encourage experimentation with different norms, but these experiments impose a cost on commenters (who have to learn the new norms both declaratively and procedurally) without giving a clear immediate benefit, which might reduce the net incentive to comment even further. So it seems like before these experiments can start, we need to figure out why people aren't commenting much, and do something about that.
That is a good point, to at least keep in mind. I hadn't explicitly been weighing that cost. I do think I mostly endorse have more barriers to commenting (and fewer comments), but may not be weighing things right. Off the cuff thoughts: Fractal Dunbar Part of the reason I comment less now (or at least feel like I do? maybe should check the data) than I did 5 months ago is that the site is now large enough that it's not a practical goal to read everything and participate in every conversation without a) spending a lot of time, b) feeling lost/drowned out in the noise. (In particular, I don't participate in SSC comments despite having way more people due to the "drowned out in the noise" thing). So, one of the intended goals underlying the "multiple norms" thingy is to have a sort of fractal structure, where sections of the site tend to cap out around Dunbar-number of people that can actually know each other and expect each other to stick to high-quality-discussion norms. Already discouraging comments that don't fit I know at least some people are not participating in LW because they don't like the comment culture (for various reasons outlined in the Public Archipelago post). So the cost of "the norms are causing some people to bounce off" is already being paid, and the question is whether the cost is higher or lower under the overlapping-norm-islands paradigm.
I mostly stopped commenting and I think it's because 1) the AI safety discussion got higher cost to follow (more discussion happening faster with a lot of context) and 2) the non-AI safety discussion seems to have mostly gotten worse. There seem to be more newer commenters writing things that aren't very good (some of which are secretly Eugine or something?) and people seem to be arguing a lot instead of collaboratively trying to figure out what's true.
If the site is too big it could be divided in one sections. That would effectively make it smaller. I believe the content do far is a bit different. Worth being curious about what changed. Yes we have less comments about day on lw2.
My hypothesis would be that a) the ratio of post/day to visitors/day is higher on LW2 than it was on LW1, and so b) the comments are just spread more thin. Would be curious whether the site stats bear that out.
5Said Achmiz6y
See the graphs I posted on this month’s open thread for some relevant data.

To save everyone else some time, here's the relevant graph, basically showing that amount of comments has remained fairly constant for the past 4 months at least (while a different graph showed traffic as rising, suggesting ESRog's hypothesis seems true)


This is great. Would love to see graphs going back further too, since Wei was asking about LW2 vs LW1, not just since earlier in the LW2 beta.
2Wei Dai6y
One hypothesis I thought of recently for this is that there are now more local rationalist communities where people can meet their social needs, which reduces their motivations for joining online discussions.
5Ben Pace6y
Variant Solution #2D: Norm Groups ( intersection of solutions 1 and 2B): There are groups of authors and lieutenants who enforce a single set of norms, you can join them, and they'll help enforce the norms on your posts too. You can join the sunshine regiment, the strict-truth-team, the sufi-buddhist team, and you can start your own team, or you can just do what the current site does where you run your own norms on your post and there's no team. This is like subreddits except more implicit - there's no page for 'all the posts under these norms', it's just a property of posts.

I... had a surprisingly good time reading Coinbase's Terms of Service update email?

We’ve recently updated our User Agreement. To continue using our services and take advantage of our upcoming feature launches, you’ll need to sign in to Coinbase and accept our latest terms.

You can read the entire agreement here. At a glance, here’s what this update means for you:

Easier to Understand: We’ve reorganized and modified our user agreement to make it more understandable and in line with our culture of clear communications.

Clarity on Dispute Resolution: We’ve

... (read more)
I think the reason you had a good time with this is because you don't actually care what your agreement with Coinbase is, because you don't have large amounts of money deposited with them. For people who do have large amounts of money at stake (myself not among them), this summary doesn't really tell you anything, and you probably need to put the old and new ToS side by side and read the whole thing line by line.
Yeah, sounds right. It still gets me thinking about what the idealized version of this actually is.  I guess game/software patch notes are the thing that seems closest-in-concept space that's actually useful. It'd be interesting to see a TOS that had github/googledoc-changelog capability. (It occurs to me LW could maybe have a TOS that lived in a post which would have that automatically)
One of their developers reached out to me recently to talk about working for them. I got strong good vibes about the quality of their engineering culture. For example, they are 100% remote and seem to be doing it well enough that employees are happy. They also organize a week of all-company PTO every quarter, which also speaks to the stability of their systems. I associate good engineering culture with good writing, and this email is pretty good as far as terms and conditions go.

This is a response to Zack Davis in the comments on his recent post. It was getting increasingly meta, and I wasn't very confident in my own take, so I'm replying over on my shortform.

OP is trying to convey a philosophical idea (which could be wrong, and whose wrongness would reflect poorly on me, although I think not very poorly, quantitatively speaking) about "true maps as a Schelling point." (You can see a prelude to this in the last paragraph of a comment of mine from two months ago.)

I would have thought you'd prefer that I avoid trying to apply the ph

... (read more)
Making this explicit would allow the important discussion of how widely applicable this model is. Things that are primarily about an extremely weird subgroup are interesting, but some participants tend to claim a more fundamental truth to their models than is really supported.
‘Make this explicit’ is a suggestion to writers, or to the LW mod team?
I think mostly to the writers. There's a bit too much editorial control being used if the site enforces some tag like "bay-area rationalist culture related". The hidden agenda norm (where authors seem to try to generalize without reference to the reasons they believe the model is useful) is something I'd like to see changed, but I think it needs to come from the authors and readers, not from the mods or site owners.

The 2018 Long Review (Notes and Current Plans)

I've spent much of the past couple years pushing features that help with the early stages of the intellectual-pipeline – things like shortform, and giving authors moderation tools that let them have the sort of conversation they want (which often is higher-context, and assuming a particular paradigm that the author is operating in)

Early stage ideas benefit from a brainstorming, playful, low-filter environment. I think an appropriate metaphor for those parts of LessWrong are "a couple people in a research depart

... (read more)
Some major uncertainties 1. How much work will the community be motivated to do here?  The best version of this involves quite a bit of effort from top authors and commenters, who are often busy. I think it gracefully scales down if no one has time for anything other than quick nominations or voting.  ... 2. What actually are good standards for LessWrong? A lot of topics LessWrong focuses on are sort of pre-paradigmatic. Many posts suggest empirical experiments you might run (and I'm hoping for reviews that explore that question), but in many cases it's unclear what those experiments would even be, let alone the expense of running them. Many posts are about how to carve up reality, and how to think. How do you judge how well you carve up reality or think? Well, ideally by seeing whether thinking that way turns out to be useful over the longterm. But, that's a very messy, confounded process that's hard to get good data on. I think this will become more clear over longer timescales. One thing I hope to come out of this project is a bunch of people putting serious thought into the question, and hopefully getting a bit more consensus on it than we currently have. I'm kind of interested in an outcome here where there's a bar you  ... 3. How to actually decide what goes in the book I have a lot of uncertainty about how many nominations, reviews and votes we'd get. I also have a lot of uncertainty about how much disagreement there'll be about which posts. So, I'm pretty hesitant about committing in advance to a particular method of aggregation, or how many vetoes are necessary to prevent a post from making it into the book. I'd currently lean towards "the whole thing just involves a lot of moderation discretion, but the information is all public and if there's a disconnect between "the people's choice awards" and the "moderators choice awards", we can have a conversation about that.

I feel a lot of unease about the sort of binary "Is this good enough to be included in canon" measure.

I have an intuition that making a binary cut off point tied to prestige leads to one of to equilibria:

1. You choose a very objective metric (P<.05) and then you end up with goodhearting.

2. You choose a much more subjective process, and this leads to either the measure being more about prestige than actual goodness, making the process highly political, as much about who and who isn't being honored as about the actual thing its' trying to measure(Oscars, Nobel Prizes), or to gradual lowering of standards as edge cases keep lowering the bar imperceptibly over time (Grade inflation, 5 star rating systems).

Furthermore, I think a binary system is quite antithetical to how intellectual progress and innovation actually happen, which are much more about a gradual lowering of uncertainty and raising of usefulness, than a binary realization after a year that this thing is useful.

Fair concerns. A few more thoughts: First, small/simple update: I think the actual period of time for "canonization" to be on the table should be more like 5 years.  My intent was for canonization to be pretty rare, and in fact is mostly there to sort of set a new, higher standard that everyone can aspire to, which most LW posts don't currently meet. (You could make this part of a different process than a yearly review, but I think it's fairly costly to get everyone's attention at once for a project like this, and it makes more sense to have each yearly review include both "what were the best things from the previous year" as well as even longer term considerations) Why have Canonization? I do think this how a lot of progress works. But it's important that sooner or later, you have to update your textbooks that you generally expect students to read.  I think the standards for the core LW Library probably aren't quite at the level of standards for textbooks (among other things, because most posts currently aren't written with exercises in mind, and otherwise not quite optimized as a comprehensive pedagogical experience) Journal before Canon? Originally, I included the possibility of "canonization" in this year's review round because longterm, I'd expect it to make most sense for the review to include both, and the aforementioned "I wanted part of the point here to highlight a standard that we mostly haven't reached yet." But two things occur to me as I write this out: 1. This particular year, most of the value is in experimentation. This whole process will be pretty new, and I'm not sure it'll work that well. That makes it perhaps not a good time to try out including the potential for "updating the textbooks" to be part of it. 2. It might be good to require two years to for a post to have a shot at getting added to the top shelf in the LW Library, and for posts to first need to have previously been included I agree that these are both problems, and quite h

I know I'll go to programmer hell for asking this... but... does anyone have a link to a github repo that tried really hard to use jQuery to build their entire website, investing effort into doing some sort of weird 'jQuery based components' thing for maintainable, scalable development?

People tell me this can't be done without turning into terrifying spaghetti code but I dunno I feel sort of like the guy in this xkcd and I just want to know for sure.

Note that this would be a very non-idiomatic way to use jQuery. More typical architectures don't do client-side templating; they do server-side rendering and client-side incremental mutation.
There's jquery UI which maybe counts?
AFAICT jQuery UI is somsthing like a component library, which is (possibly) a piece of what you might build this out of, but not the thing itself (which is to say, a well functioning, maintainable, complete website). Although I don't think it's really designed to do the sort of thing I'm talking about here.

I've lately been talking a lot about doublecrux. It seemed good to note some updates I'd also made over the past few months about debate.

For the past few years I've been sort of annoyed at debate because it seems like it doesn't lead people to change their opinions – instead, the entire debate framework seems more likely to prompt people to try to win, meanwhile treating arguments as soldiers and digging in their heels. I felt some frustration at the Hanson/Yudkowsky Foom Debate because huge amounts of digital ink were spilled, and neit... (read more)

4Wei Dai5y
This became especially salient to me after reading AI Safety via Debate (which I highly recommend, BTW). However it seems clear that fully adversarial debates do not work as well for humans as the authors hope it will work for AIs, and we really need further research to figure out what the optimal debate/discussion formats are under what circumstances.
I had read AI Safety via Debate but it felt like the version of it that connected to my OP here was... a few years down the line. I'm not sure which bits feel most salient here to you. (It seems like in the future, when we've progressed beyond 'is it a dog or a cat', that AI debate could produce lots of considerations about a topic that I hadn't yet thought about, but this wasn't obvious to me from the original blogpost)

I guess it was mostly just the basic idea that the point of a debate isn't necessarily for the debaters to reach agreement or to change each other's mind, but to produce unbiased information for a third party. (Which may be obvious to some but kind of got pushed out of my mind by the "trying to reach agreement" framing, until I read the Debate paper.) These quotes from the paper seem especially relevant:

Our hypothesis is that optimal play in this game produces honest, aligned information far beyond the capabilities of the human judge.

Despite the differences, we believe existing adversarial debates between humans are a useful analogy. Legal arguments in particular include domain experts explaining details of arguments to human judges or juries with no domain knowledge. A better understanding of when legal arguments succeed or fail to reach truth would inform the design of debates in an ML setting.

The fact that such debates can go on for 500 pages without significant updates from either side point towards a failure to 1) systematically determine which arguments are strong and which ones are distractions 2) restrict the scope of the debate so opponents have to engage directly rather than shift to more comfortable ground. There are also many simpler topics that could have meaningful progress made on them with current debating technology, but they just don't happen because most people have an aversion to debating.

My review of the CFAR venue:

There is a song that the LessWrong team listened to awhile back, and then formed strong opinions about what was probably happening during the song, if the song had been featured in a movie.

(If you'd like to form your own unspoiled interpretation of the song, you may want to do that now)


So, it seemed to us that the song felt like... you (either a single person or small group of people) had been working on an intellectual project.

And people were willing to give the project the benefit of the doubt, a bit, but then you fuck... (read more)

Jargon Quest:

There's a kind of extensive double crux that I want a name for. It was inspired by Sarah's Naming the Nameless post, where she mentions Double Cruxxing on aesthetics. You might call it "aesthetic double crux" but I think that might lead to miscommunication.

The idea is to resolve deep disagreements that underlie your entire framing (of the sort Duncan touches on in this post on Punch Buggy. That post is also a reasonable stab at an essay-form version of the thing I'm talking about).

There are a few things that are releva... (read more)

Yes! I feel like a lot of the time, the expectation of putting such sustained will attention is not there. Not to say that you should always be ready to hunker down at the drop of a hat. It seems like the default norm is closer to, "Giving up if it gets too hard."

We've been getting increasing amounts of spam, and occasionally dealing with Eugins. We have tools to delete them fairly easily, but sometimes they show up in large quantities and it's a bit annoying.

One possible solution is for everyone's first comment to need to be approved. A first stab at the implementation for this would be:

1) you post your comment as normal

2) it comes with a short tag saying "Thanks for joining less wrong! Since we get a fair bit of spam, first comments need to be approved by a moderator, which normally takes [N h... (read more)

If in the first 10 comments of a user and including a link, hold for moderation. Also make a safe list and anyone on the safe list is fine to post.
Hmm. Doing it only for links would def solve for spammers, which I think hits roughly 60% of the problem and is pretty good. Doesn't solve for Eugins. Not sure how to weigh that. (Still interested in a literal answer to my question "how bad is it to have your first post need to be approved?" which I don't have much of an intuition for)
The other option is to hold comments from new accounts (or accounts with low posts) with certain keywords - for moderation. I.e. "plumber", a phone number etc. I think if you specify "you have less than 10 comments and you posted a link" to let people know why their comment is being held for "a day" or so. It's not a big deal. If it was not explained then it would be more frustrating. If you capture all comments while an account is suspected spam, that would be okay.
4clone of saturn6y
As long as LW isn't high-profile enough to attract custom-written spambots, a possible easier alternative would be to combine a simple test to deter human spammers with an open proxy blacklist like SORBS. This strategy was very effective on a small forum I used to run.
Using a list like SORBS sounds good. I actually think the test might be more annoying than waiting to get your post approved. (or, maybe less annoying, but causing more of a trivial inconvenience)
Also some of them are businesses. Like plumbers. You could call them up and tell them that they are paying spammers to post in irrelevant places and they should ask for their money back.

Recently watched Finding Dory. Rambly thoughts and thorough spoilers to follow.

I watched this because of a review by Ozy a long while ago, noting that the movie is about character with a mental disability that has major affects on her. And at various key moments in the movie, she finds herself lost and alone, her mental handicap playing a major role in her predicament. And in other movies they might given her some way to... willpower through her disability, or somehow gain a superpower that makes the disability irrelevant or something.

And instead, she has... (read more)

Looking at how facebook automatically shows particular subcomments in a thread, that have a lot of likes/reacts.

And then looking at how LW threads often become huge and unwieldy when there's 100 comments.

At first I was annoyed by that FB mechanic, but it may in fact be a necessary thing for sufficiently large threads, to make it easy to find the good parts.

Social failure I notice in myself: there'll be people at a party I don't know very well. My default assumption is "talk to them with 'feeler-outer-questions' to figure out what what they are interested in talking about". (i.e. "what do you do?"/"what's your thing?"/"what have you been thinking about lately?"/"what's something you value about as much as your right pinky?"/"What excites you?").

But this usually produces awkward, stilted conversation. (of the above, I thi... (read more)

I really dislike the pinky question for strangers (I think it's fine for people you know, but not ideal). It's an awkward, stilted question and it's not surprising that it produces awkward, stilted responses. Aimed at a stranger it is very clearly "I am trying to start a reasonably interesting conversation" in a way that is not at all targeted to the stranger; that is, it doesn't require you to have seen and understood the stranger at all to say it, which they correctly perceive as alienating.

It works on a very specific kind of person, which is the kind of person who gets so nerdsniped wondering about the question that they ignore the social dynamic, which is sometimes what you want to filter for but presumably not always.

A noteworthy thing from the FB version of this thread was that people radically varied in which question seemed awkward to them. (My FB friends list is sharply distorted by 'the sort of friends Ray is likely to have', so I'm not sure how much conclusion can be drawn from this, but at the very least it seemed that typical minding abounds all around re: this class of question)
Sure, I think all of these questions would be awkward addressed to various kinds of strangers, which is part of my point: it's important to do actual work to figure out what kind of question a person would like to be asked, if any.
So a reframing of this question is "what do you say/do/act to gain information about what a person would like to be asked without resorting to one of these sorts of questions?" (With a side-note of "the hard mode for all of this is when you actually do kinda know the person, or have seen them around, so it is in fact 'legitimately' awkward' that you haven't managed to get to know them well enough to know what sorts of conversations to have with them.)
I have no idea how (a)typical this is, but I find it difficult to give quick answers for "global summary" type questions. What's the best book you've ever read? What do you spend most of your time doing? What are your two most important values? Etc. Those "feeler-outer questions" have that sort of quality to them, and if the people at those parties are like me I'm not surprised if conversation is sometimes slow to get started.

Man I wish the "Battle of the Sexes" game theory thing had a less distracting name. 

And "Bach or Stravisnky" somehow just feels even more confusing. Although maybe it's fine?

Have you changed your mind about frames or aesthetics? 

I'm working on the next post in the "Keep Beliefs Cruxy and Frames Explicit" sequence. I'm not sure if it should be one or two posts. I'm also... noticing that honestly I'm not actually sure what actions to prescribe, and that this is more like a hypothesis and outlining of problems/desiderata.

Two plausible post titles

  • Doublecruxing on Frame
  • Keeping Frames Explicit

(I'm currently unsure whether aesthetics are best thought of as a type of frame, or a separate thing)

Honestly, I'm not sure whether I've

... (read more)
5Matt Goldenberg4y
It used to be really hard for me to see things as ugly, but I was able to get that skill. Prior to that, it used to be really hard for me to judge people, but I was also able to learn that skill.
What changed?
2Matt Goldenberg4y
Mostly a concerted effort on my part to find people who were good at these things, talk to them, and inhabit their positions with empathy. A lot of it was finding my own aesthetic analogies for what they were doing, then checking in with them to see ways the analogy didn't work, and tweaking as needed.
I just came here to write a shortform on aesthetics, but I might as well write some random thoughts here and reach you in particular. I believe that "Aesthetics Maketh the Man". You can judge much about one's character simply by what they find beautiful or ugly, and you can judge their values and morals simply by how solid their aesthetics are. Perhaps it is indeed easier or better to quantify "aesthetics" as the array of morals, values, sense of beauty and empirical metis that compromise a living being's personality. Things that are intrinsically part of how we interact with the world and society at large. But to actually answer your question: I have given thought to aesthetics from a rational(?) POV that I hadn't bothered with before, and no, I haven't ever went into a "major disagreement" that went anywhere near "well". People can be very irrational towards things their own aesthetic sense considers "ugly", even (or specially) within the rationalist community.

Ben Kuhn's Why and How to Start a For Profit Company Serving Emerging Markets is, in addition to being generally interesting, sort of cute for being two of the canonical Michael Vassar Questions rolled into one, while being nicely operationalized and clear.

("Move somewhere far away and stay their long enough to learn that social reality is arbitrary", and "start a small business and/or startup to a bunch about how pieces of the world fit together" being the two that come easiest to mind)

random anecdote in time management and life quality. Doesn't exactly have obvious life lesson

I use Freedom.to to block lots of sites (I block LessWrong during the morning hours of each day so that I can focus on coding LessWrong :P).

Once a upon a time, I blocked the gaming news website, Rock/Paper/Shotgun, because it was too distracting.

But a little while later I found that there was a necessary niche in my life of "thing that I haven't blocked on Freedom, that is sort of mindlessly entertaining enough that I can peruse it for awhile when I&... (read more)

I frequently feel a desire to do "medium" upvotes. Specifically, I want tiers of upvote for:

1) minor social approval (equivalent to smiling at a person when they do something I think should receive _some_ signal of reward, in particular if I think they were following a nice incentive gradient, but where I don't think the thing they were doing was especially important.

2) strong social reward (where I want someone to be concretely rewarded for having done something hard, but I still don't think it's actually so important that it shou... (read more)

3mako yass5y
If you don't want to make it more prominent in other peoples' attention, it would be a misuse of upvoting. Sounds like you just want reactions.
I do think a good site equilibrium would be "upvotes are *only* used to promote things to other people's attention, reactions are used to give positive reinforcement" would be pretty good and better than what we have now. It's not quite right, because I also want people's longterm site attention-allocational power to be able to take into account them executing good algorithms, in addition to actually outputting good content. (Also, I'd prefer if people weighed in on Giant Social Drama fights via reactions rather than voting, but I'm not sure it's possible to stop that. i.e 'ah my opponent is so WRONG I want them to get less attention' or vice versa)
1mako yass5y
Maybe a "give eigentrust" option distinct from voting, or, heck decouple those two actions completely.
3Jason Gross5y
I'm wanting to label these as (1) 😃 (smile); (2) 🍪 (cookie); (3) 🌟 (star) Dunno if this is useful at all

I have a song gestating, about the "Dream Time" concept (in the Robin Hanson sense).

In the aboriginal mythology, the dreamtime is the time-before-time, when heroes walked the earth, doing great deeds with supernatural powers that allowed them to shape the world.

In the Robin Hanson sense, the dreamtime is... well, still that, but *from the perspective* of the far future.

For most of history, people lived on subsistence. They didn't have much ability to think very far ahead, or to deliberately steer their future much. We live right now in a tim... (read more)

I like the idea of this song existing. Any progress?
I think a major issue I ran into is that it felt dishonest (or, like, appropriative?) to write a song about "The Dreamtime" that wasn't Hansonianly cynical, and... I dunno I'm just not Hansonianly cynical. The central metaphor of "child asking mother for song" also just felt sort of weird because the implied Em-World people just... probably wouldn't do that sort of thing.  Maybe that's fine? Dunno.
It occurs to me that if one was to write the song anyway, it could either be set in a Billions/Trillions Year stable state, or it could be set just as the universe winds down, while Fades at Last the Last Lit Sun. Also, another major issue I ran into was "well, no one commented on it and I lost motivation." :P Although maybe that part can be fixed now.

Kinda weird meta note: I find myself judging both my posts, and other people's, via how many comments they get. i.e. how much are people engaged. (Not aiming to maximize comments but for some "reasonable number").

However, on a post of mine, my own comments clearly don't count. And on another person's post, if there's a lot of comments but most of them are the original authors, it feels like some kind of red flag. Like they think their post is more important than other people do. (I'm not sure if I endorse this perception... (read more)

2Said Achmiz6y
There is definitely value to this heuristic, but note that, e.g., I have commented on my own posts with nitpicky counterpoints to my own claims, or elaborations/digressions that are related but don’t really fit into the structure/flow of the post, or updates, etc. It seems like we shouldn’t discourage such things—do you agree?
So, this isn't an idea I still really endorse (partly because it doesn't seem worth the complexity cost, partly because I just don't think it was that important in the scheme of things), but I said this as someone who _also_ often makes additional comments on my post to expand ideas. And the point wasn't to discourage that at all – just to also showcase which posts are generating discussion _beyond_ the author fleshing out their own ideas.

(Empirically, I post my meta thoughts here instead of in Meta. I think this might actually be fine, but am not sure)

Okay, I'm adding the show "Primal" to my Expanding Moral Cinematic Universe headcanon – movies or shows that feature characters in a harsh, bloody world who inch their little corner of the universe forward as a place where friendship and cooperation can form. Less a sea of blood an violence and mindless replication.

So far I have three pieces in the canon:

1. Primal

2. The Fox and the Hound

3. Princess Mononoke

in roughly ascending order of "how much latent spirit of cooperation exists in the background for the protagonists."

("Walking Dead" is sort of in the sa... (read more)

Just rewatched Princess Mononoke, and... I'm finding that this is grounded in the same sort of morality as The Fox And The Hound, but dialed up in complexity a bunch?

The Fox and The Hound is about a moral landscape where you have your ingroup, your ingroup sometimes kills people in the outgroup, and that's just how life is. But occasionally you can make friends with a stranger, and you kinda bring them into your tribe.

Welcoming someone into your home doesn't necessarily mean you're going to take care of them forever, nor go to bat for them as if they were ... (read more)

This is a great review of one of my favorite movies. Thanks for posting it!

Query: "Grieving" vs "Letting Go"

A blogpost in the works is something like "Grieving/Letting-Go effectively is a key coordination skill."

i.e. when negotiating with other humans, it will often (way more often than you wish) be necessary to give up a thing that are important to you.

Sometimes this is "the idea that we have some particular relationship that you thought we had."

Sometimes it will be "my pet project that's really important to me."

Sometimes it's "the idea that justice can be served in this particular instance."

A key skill is applying something Ser... (read more)

Somewhat tangential, but I sometimes think about the sort of tradeoffs you're talking about in a different emotional/narrative lens, which might help spur other ideas for how to communicate it.

(I'm going to use an analogy from Mother of Learning, spoilers ahead)...

There's this scene in Mother of Learning where the incredibly powerful thousand-year-old lich king realizes he's in some sort of simulation, and that the protagonists are therefore presumably trying to extract information from him. Within seconds of realizing this, without any hesitation or hemming or hawing, he blows up his own soul in an attempt to destroy both himself and the protagonists (at least within the simulation). It's cold calculation: he concludes that he can't win the game, the best available move is to destroy the game and himself with it, and he just does that without hesitation.

That's what it looks like when someone is really good at "letting it go". There's a realization that he can't get everything he wants, a choice about what matters most, followed by ruthlessly throwing whatever is necessary under the bus in order to get what he values most.

The point I want to make here is that "grieving" successfull... (read more)

Yeah. I think my preferred group level solution is to have some people around who do ruthlessness and some who do grieving (with accompanying broader strategies) who keep each other in check.
FYI there's some good discussion over on the FB version of this post, where several people came out in defense of "grieving". ("Relinquish" did come up over there too) https://www.facebook.com/raymond.arnold.5/posts/10223038780691962
2Gordon Seidoh Worley3y
I like "letting go" better because to me "grieving" is placing some frame around the kind of letting go being done. When I think of grieving I think of the process of dealing with the death of a loved one. But I let go of things all the time without grieving, or because I already did all the grieving a long time ago for a whole category of thing and so now I just let things go because I never was really holding on to them—they were just resting within my grasp.
"Relinquish" might be a good alternative. To me "grieving" is more about emotions and is an ongoing process whereas "letting go" or "relinquishing" is about goals and is a one-time decision to stop striving for an outcome.

I vaguely recall there being some reasons you might prefer Ranked Choice Voting over Approval voting, but can't easily find them. Anyone remember things off the top of their head?

As a voter, I