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Per a discussion on IRC, I am auctioning off my immortal soul to the highest bidder over the next week. (As an atheist I have no use for it, but it has a market value and so holding onto it is a foolish endowment effect.)

The current top bid is 1btc ($120) by John Wittle.


  1. I will provide a cryptograpically-signed receipt in explicit terms agreeing to transfer my soul to the highest bidder, signed with my standard public key. (Note that, as far as I know, this is superior to signing in blood since DNA degrades quickly at room temperature, and a matching blood type would both be hard to verify without another sample of my blood and also only weak evidence since many people would share my blood type.)
  2. Payment is preferably in bitcoins, but I will accept Paypal if really needed. (Equivalence will be via the daily MtGox average.) Address: 17twxmShN3p6rsAyYC6UsERfhT5XFs9fUG (existing activity)
  3. The auction will close at 4:40 PM EST, 13 June 2013
  4. My soul is here defined as my supernatural non-material essence as specified by Judeo-Christian philosophers, and not my computational pattern (over which I continue to claim copyright); transfer does not cover any souls of gwerns in altern
... (read more)

Just increased my subjective probability that John Wittle is Satan.

I am really disappointed in you, gwern. Why would you use an English auction when you can use an incentive-compatible one (a second price auction, for example)? You're making it needlessly harder for bidders to come up with valuations!

(But I guess maybe if you're just trying to drive up the price, this may be a good choice. Sneaky.)


(But I guess maybe if you're just trying to drive up the price, this may be a good choice. Sneaky.)

Having read about auctions before, I am well-aware of the winner's curse and expect coordination to be hard on bidding for this unique item.

Bwa ha ha! Behold - the economics of the damned.


Sorry to ruin the fun but I'm afraid this sale is impossible. Gwern lacks the proprietary rights to his own soul. As the apostle St Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthians (chapter 6), "Or know you not, that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost, who is in you, whom you have from God; and you are not your own? For you are bought with a great price. Glorify and bear God in your body." It clearly states that "you are not your own" which at least applies to baptized Christians (and as a confirmed Catholic, it may even apply to a higher degree). Unless gwern provides some scriptural basis for this sale, it cannot proceed. Even when Satan tempted Christ, the only proferred exchange was worship in return for temporal power. There are no cases (even hypothetical ones) of a direct sale of one's soul in the Church's Tradition.

In exchange for ruining this sale, I'll pray for your soul for free.

That's because Satan knows there's no such thing as a soul, and he is disinclined to lie.
This seems inapplicable to me; I haven't agreed to sell my soul yet, and so far the bidding hasn't been too active so it will hardly be for 'a great price'.
I believe the "great price" is referring to God sacrificing Jesus to redeem the souls of all humanity, including (presumably) you. But I'm hardly a biblical scholar; see below, lol.
Sure, but presumably I still have control over the disposition of my soul, otherwise that's basically a Calvinist theology, no?
I'd like to ruin gwern's sale too, but my misspent youth as a philosophy major just came back to haunt me. [EDIT: This paragraph is completely wrong; see below. The end of 1 Corin 6:19 does not say "you are not your own"; it literally says "and [it] is not your own" (= καὶ οὐκ ἐστε ἑαυτῶν) with an omitted subject. The only real possibility is the subject of the previous phrase, which you rendered as "your members." (= τὸ σῶμα ὑμῶν) I find this problematic (and not "clearly stated"), because σῶμα means both the Church as a group (usually in the form, "the body of Christ") and the physical body, as it does in e.g. Mat 10:28: "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell."] Since in context 1 Corin 6:12-20 is about sexual immorality, I find the latter interpretation more compelling. Regarding the Catholic tradition, time was when the Church claimed the authority to discharge sin from the soul in exchange for money.

The end of 1 Corin 6:19 does not say "you are not your own"; it literally says "and [it] is not your own" (= καὶ οὐκ ἐστε ἑαυτῶν)

You are wrong about this - here's the inflection of the word: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%CE%B5%E1%BC%B0%CE%BC%CE%AF#Ancient_Greek

"ἐστε" is second person plural ("you are") NOT third person singular ("it is").

Oh, blast. My biblical Greek is obviously too old. Retracting paragraph.

so souls likely constitute a lemon market.



you still benefit infinitely by bargaining him down to an agreement like torturing you every day via a process that converges on an indefinitely large but finite total sum of torture while still daily torturing you & fulfilling the requirements of being in Hell.

A tactic that almost definitely should be referred to as "Gabriel's Horn."

Note that if you can get a high price from Satan on your own soul (e.g. rulership of a country), this is a no-lose arbitrage deal since souls are fungible goods.

I tried to find that "all are equal in the eyes of God" verse, but apparently there isn't one. Curious.
-11Eliezer Yudkowsky
Because they don't exist?

My soul is here defined as my supernatural non-material essence as specified by Judeo-Christian philosophers, and not my computational pattern (over which I continue to claim copyright); transfer does not cover any souls of gwerns in alternate branches of the multiverses inasmuch as they have not consented.

What? This is lame. The definition of the soul as used by 16th century Catholic theology, which is friendly to information theory, is clearly the common sense interpretation and assumed among reasonable people. Sure some moderns love the definition you use but they are mostly believers of moralistic therapeutic deism, one hardly needs more evidence of their lack of theological expertise.

None of that seems true to me, although I'll admit I don't know what revolution happened in the 1500s in Catholic theology re souls.

I certify that my soul is intact and has not been employed in any dark rituals such as manufacturing horcruxes; I am also a member in good standing of the Catholic Church, having received confirmation etc. Note that my soul is almost certainly damned inasmuch as I am an apostate and/or an atheist, which I understand to be mortal sins.

Not sure how much I can trust the word of a damned. After all, lying is no more of a mortal sin than apostasy. And for an atheist there is no extra divine punishment for lying.

Ah, but can we take your word for it? IIRC, you are one of my fellow damned...
I am not sure. I have never been baptized, so where my soul ends up depends on whether exclusivism, inclusivism, conditionalism or universalism is true.
I'm pretty sure that by Catholic dogma, you would count as definitely damned due to lack of baptism and knowing of the Church but refusing to convert to it.

One person who did this years ago spun the event into a book, a popular blog, and endless speaking gigs.


That's an interesting comparison, but I'm selling my soul, and it looks like he was just selling his time:

Mehta, an atheist, once held an unusual auction on eBay: the highest bidder could send Mehta to a church of his or her choice. The winner, who paid $504, asked Mehta to attend numerous churches, and this book comprises Mehta's responses to 15 worshipping communities, including such prominent megachurches as Houston's Second Baptist, Ted Haggard's New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Willow Creek in suburban Chicago.

Oh right, I was misremembering what he did.
Huh, reading this made me realize that there's apparently still a small bit of my brain that doesn't alieve in atheism. For a moment I considered whether I should try to get some profit out of selling my soul as well, and then felt uncomfortable over the idea, thinking "I should hold onto it, just in case..."
I actually really decided to do the auction when I thought about the topic and realized that it didn't bother me at all. Might as well profit from my lack of belief/alief.
The quitclaim doesn't help here. It merely quits your claim, which is relevant if ownership is disputed, but it doesn't give any more rights to the buyer than to anyone else (just more documentation of the quit). You should have been suspicious when taterbizkit mentioned that you can sell quitclaim deeds for a single item to multiple buyers.
After some unfortunate imperial entanglements, the sale has been completed: -----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE----- Hash: SHA512 I, the undersigned, do irreversibly sign over to the purchaser possession of my soul, karmic balance, or whatsoever ontologically basic mental system might underly my own consciousness, in the event that we live in a functionally dualistic or monistically spiritual universe, for the sum of $121 USD on this June the Eleventh 2013 (with delayed payment calculated at 9% interest compounded annually), to be paid to the PayPal account identifiable as gwern0@gmail.com If our universe is reductionistic, and yet, some alien agency continues to compute the mental processes of our minds after death, giving us pleasurable or painful experiences based on how optimized our earthly behavior was as measured against some criteria, then I explicitly sign over possession of the weight of all the actions I took in life over to the purchaser, with the resolution of any problems to be determined by the aforementioned alien agent. This day being the Seventh of June 2017, I now accept payment of $144 from the purchaser such that the above terms are binding. - -- Gwern Branwen gwern0@gmail.com Bitcoin hash: 00000000000000000055b0bee08bfeb235bc60bc22a27951501d78b10883484a -----BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE----- iQIcBAEBCgAGBQJZOEisAAoJEH3Oo4eJxYjMVIQP/1q4oFISyLS+4YAPpe5vmZu+ 8TWNxX8G00Ix1qduEo/Okg6YTE8jdJk8wIwuuMGp2EeVIdUD8ffPz75TUiCzBpGq NpOPh/UW8Z6QPcx0FkkBBwG9UhHqlyWWhGmZtHMt3LYDbsLlD8AsXfDF2/leUxqQ dxeNi7NPUImI6vPsCMRV+vRoKzAvd1odzeO0vK0KmWgjQUw5jeEHf7liCr383DpY R7rsx8GgCV/2PesGzCJSmPjtJmEKTeZspQTXW9D2bHRpkozhYgxZ7PKhVFv5rLUd twaJhM83LmiA+y7lZ7kA2DFADtgwhLGXhSsdW1SWxrOq6tg4VxYN8HvfoL+MTdlK ZvwwuWmk7fzKXGdOrz2PKrirGv1WqUeAQTDsRUeh0dPI2BxDafLSQymIa2M9jVro LusLVs6caDGLMBPTitB/gbijtCaKqEApM1nqlAehJ3gqIzOGu98o1CW1+HpQ+qI6 e6uq3/6C34eb5E9R69NHl/jgiXHlppvCYKwA8f82k44aPiTHjgPU5hNExwKZWx8i 2VjQCnYc8hO614VmYKMnLKXbPT0jBmsA6hYR6sV8hKhoJ7Bj299DFxyw471l7HUW 7GoO4UkN9r1F8JTn/0H+xSbOA
conversely, if Satan insists on my soul, I can let Satan have my soul and use yours instead.
FYI, according to galactic law, transactions like this are valid only to the extent that the implicit metaphysics of the contract is correct. If you wish to guarantee the property rights of your soul's new owner, you should add a meta clause indicating valid interpretive generalizations of content and intent.
I'm afraid I can't afford a barrister admitted to the Trantor bar to look over the contractual details, but thanks for the advice.
Heh, I would have bid 0.5btc if I had known I would be the only bidder...
This makes this exchange all the more amusing.
I'm obviously missing something, but tally ho, I'll find out eventually!
A second-bid auction is one where all bidders submit their maximum willingness to pay, and then the bidder willing to pay the most pays what the second-highest bidder was willing to pay. An English auction is where bidders submit bids which they will have to pay, with the idea that once the second-highest bidder will stop raising the bid once they pass their threshold. There's a lot of theoretical work showing that second-bid auctions are all-around more efficient. English auctions can encourage the highest bidder to overbid, and the winner's curse refers to the phenomenon that the winner of an auction is generally the person who overestimated its value by the most. Second bid auctions mitigate that by making them pay only the second highest estimate. If JohnWittle is the only bidder in the auction, then in a second-bid auction he would receive gwern's soul for free, but because this is an English auction, he has to pay his full bid, and so loses out for dramatically overestimating its market value- like gwern planned all along!
I'm don't specialize in auctions, but this sounds wrong. A second-price auction and an English auction are strategically equivalent in most formal models. Nearly all auctions yield identical revenue and allocations when bidders are risk-neutral expected utility maximizers with independent values. Experimentally, the second-price auction tends to generate more revenue than an English auction, at least in the case of private values. With common or correlated values (where the winner's curse shows up), I'd think sealed bid auctions would lead to more winner overbidding than English or Dutch auctions. In these cases though, you really don't have to worry about efficiency since everyone values the item equally.
I should have been clearer by 'all-around'; I meant that the incentives are lined up correctly, the costs are lower (every person only needs to submit one bid, and does not need to expend any effort monitoring the auction), gets exact results without requiring massive numbers of bids, and more information is conveyed by the end of the auction.
Well, yes, technically that's true... but what prevents/discourages gwern (or his accomplice) from submitting an $N-1 bid (where N is the current sole bid amount)?
Typically, second-bid auctions are sealed, and all opened at once at the end of the auction, so it won't be known that JohnWittle has bid, or how much he has bid, until the auction is over.
Ah. (nods) That makes sense.
If I were going to do that, I would simply have set a reserve price.
Not the same thing, surely? Submitting an N-1 bid causes the top bidder to pay effectively their bid... in effect turning a second-bid auction into an English auction as defined above. Setting a reserve price sets a floor that has no relationship to the top bidder's bid. But sure, the fact that you didn't set a reserve price also suggests that you wouldn't take advantage of this loophole in your counterfactual second-bid auction.
What if these are in fact the same thing, in extension if not intention? Then you would be selling your computational pattern, in contradiction with
I think that's unlikely enough that I'm willing to risk a tort of fraud if that turns out to be the case and I cannot convey my soul without also selling my personal copyright.
You definitely should auction it off in other places, where prospective buyers value such things much higher.
What other forums might value my soul? As a purchase, it's really most useful for atheists willing to do a simple expected-value calculation and hedge against a tail risk (theism); but for most people, buying a soul is largely otiose.
Wait.... it seems you're suggesting that the expected value of a soul to an atheist exceeds the otiosity threshold. Did I read that right? I'm interested in your reasoning, if so. Either way: the expected entertainment value to me of purchasing your soul far exceeds the expected value of the soul itself, and I suspect that's not uncommon, so I doubt the theological implications are a primary factor.
It depends on one's subjective uncertainty. I know there are atheists who have been persuaded by visions or Pascal's wager that they were wrong, so the risk would seem to be real, and given the stakes, $120 seems like chump change for insurance - even if you try to defeat a Pascal's wager by bounded utility, the bound would have to be extremely large to be plausible...
If atheists thinks that there's a small chance that they will turn into theists and be glad to be in possession of a spare soul, then they must think that theists value spare souls. So it would seem more valuable to theists, who don't have to multiply the value of the transaction by the small chance. There are some differences between typical theists and the hypothetical atheist-turned-theist. In particular, the theist has had a lifetime to keep a clean soul. But many theists think they do a bad job. If the spare soul has tail risk value to an atheist, it should have more value to the bad theists. The other difference is that the atheist is not a believer at the time of the transaction. Perhaps the belief of the theist makes it a greater sin to trade in souls. But it seems like a lot of details have to go right for it to be a better deal for the atheist than the theist.
Mm. Are you suggesting that the subjective uncertainty of a typical atheist on this question causes expected value to exceed the otiosity threshold? Or merely that there are some atheists for whom this is true? I'll agree with the latter. Though, thinking about this, surely this would be much more likely for theists, no? So wouldn't the maximum expected value of your soul likely be higher, thereby securing you a higher sale price, in a theist community? (Preferably one with a sense of humor about theology.)
Hindus and some other groups may disagree with that. ;)

If you can find evidence that they are correct, you could have a fraud claim. However, the contract defines the soul being sold as that described by the Judeo-Christian philosophers.

What do you intend to do with your soul(s) as defined by other schools of philosophy? By Plato's theory of Ideal Forms, selling your soul would be tantamount to selling bits of the gods - and man has no claim to the gods. I'd advise against this lest you wish to become fate-brothers with Prometheus.
What? Citation needed.
Phaedo 80b.
Ah, Socrates supposes there that the soul is "like the divine" as opposed to the body which is like mortal things. He means that the soul is in the class of things that are unchanging, immutable, invisible, and grasped by the intellect rather than the senses, He doesn't say anything about the soul being a 'part of the gods'. And it doesn't sound like he's thinking of anything like the Prometheus myth, given the things he associates with the soul (ideal, invisible, immutable, etc.). If you asked Plato about selling your soul, I think he would think you were just being silly.
If something was divine, then it was under the domain of the gods; I was making a simple extrapolation.
Yeah, but that's not a sound inference, given the context. No mention is made there of the gods, and the context pulls wide away from reading 'divine' in terms of traditional Greek mythology. I see no reason to think Socrates (or Plato) thinks any of that stuff was real.
Are you accepting bids in things other than currencies commonly used for exchange? I would like to offer a finely crafted narrative instead of bitcoins.
Hm, is your narrative so compelling that I would accept jam tomorrow instead of bitcoin today?
Upvoted for the multilayered pun
I offer no guarantees regarding the quality, completeness, or any other details of said narrative (save that it will be a narrative, delivered within 90 days of acceptance of terms, with payment in full due immediately on receipt), although I will accept your input, if you want me to, on length, theme, setting, genre and/or other details. As for the relative value of narratives and btc, I can say only that I have not written for any commonly recognized currency. Accepting this offer would subject you to a considerable amount of downside risk, as well as a considerable amount of upside risk. However, people who auction their soul are not typically averse to these types of risk.
Mm, I'm afraid that due to the hyperinflation over the past few decades of narrative and subsequent debasement (>3.2m on FanFiction.net alone), I can't accept any amount of it without guarantees of its quality. Nothing personal - it's the law.
What would you accept as sufficient evidence of quality?
A Hugo Award, I presume.
Or a Nebula, Locus, or World Fantasy Award. I'd also accept a Nobel or Man Booker (for magical realism).
Which one do you want? I can have a crack team of ninja liberate it from the current owner and deliver it to you, but that will cost significantly more than your soul.
Well then, I'm afraid we would be unable to reach a mutually beneficial agreement - I would be better off retaining my soul under such a sale.
You could also earn or steal your own frikkin' literature award. The typical narrative written by a winner of a high-prestige award is worth significantly more than a few btc in straight commercial value. I acknowledge that my narrative will very likely have negative commercial value (it would take more work to sell it than it would be purchased for), or I would be selling narratives and they would be too valuable to me to offer to you. The thing is, I wouldn't offer anything based on its cash value, because I value your soul only slightly more than you do. My hope was to find something that you would prefer to btc as the price of your soul. A narrative set to music might be particularly appropriate, since it would allow you to say that you sold you soul for a song.
While that is tempting, I am sufficiently amused that I will be able to say I sold my soul for bitcoins and - diminishing returns - selling it for a song isn't amusing enough to sell it on the cheap to you. Anyway, it would violate the terms I've already set.
Fair enough. Enjoy your bitcoin.
I flashed back to Bill Wilingham's Proposition Player. Highly recommended for an amusing fantasy take on this particular deal.
I laughed out loud when I read this. I'm not incredibly surprised someone would bid, but at the same time, disappointed.

I am confused. This Washington Post article appears to describe a preliminary study which suggests that politics is less of a mindkiller if you ask people to bet money on their beliefs.


And I am confused because what appear to be my attempts to find the paper resulted in two papers with entirely different abstracts. And papers. Example:

Abstract 1:

"Our conclusion is that the apparent gulf in factual beliefs between members of different parties may be more illusory than real."

Abstract 2:

"Partisan gaps in correct responding are reduced only moderately when incentives are offered, which constitutes some of the strongest evidence to date that such patterns reflect sincere differences in factual beliefs."



I realize the dates on the papers are different, but the shifts seem very dramatic. Thoughts?

Maybe this will help? http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2013/06/55494.html

I scraped the last few hundred pages of comments on Main and Discussion, and made a simple application for pulling the highest TF-IDF-scoring words for any given user.

I'll provide these values for the first ten respondents who want them. [Edit: that's ten]

EDIT: some meta-information - the corpus comprises 23.8 MB, and spans the past 400 comment pages on Main and Discussion (around six months and two and a half months respectively). The most prolific contributor is gwern with ~780kB. Eliezer clocks in at ~280kB.

What about for the site overall?
This was my eventual plan, but I haven't settled on a general corpus to compare it to yet.
Can you comment on your methodology - tools, wget scripts or what?
Scraping is done with python and lxml, and the scoring is done in Java. It came about as I needed to brush up on my Java for work, and was looking for an extensible project. I also didn't push it to my personal repo, so all requests will have to wait until I'm back at work.
Yes please. I have no idea what they will look like.
suffering -> 25.000 god -> 24.508 does -> 24.383 causal -> 21.584 np -> 21.259 utility -> 20.470 agi -> 20.470 who -> 20.169 pill -> 19.353 bayesian -> 18.965 u1 -> 17.567 The word 'who' seems to come up a lot for the contributors at the more prolific end of the scale. I don't have a satisfactory answer why this should be the case. Your contribution comprises ~170kB of plain text.
If I'm counting the replies correctly, nine respondents requested them so far. I'd like my word values. Thank you!
political -> 28.733 power -> 27.093 moldbug -> 26.135 structural -> 24.192 he -> 24.082 reactionary -> 23.480 blog -> 21.973 good -> 21.373 social -> 20.470 his -> 20.470 very -> 20.169 Your contribution is ~167kB.
May I have mine? Thanks.
moral -> 35.017 thread -> 34.250 bob -> 25.163 preferences -> 24.383 eu -> 23.739 column -> 23.537 matrix -> 23.419 mugging -> 22.367 pascals -> 21.479 lord -> 19.515 eg -> 19.266 Your contribution to the corpus is ~100kB.
An alternative would be to ask people for donations to Against Malaria Foundation or your preferred charity.
I'd like mine, please.
gvrq -> 9.457 puppies -> 8.784 cute -> 7.141 creprag -> 7.119 gb -> 6.901 rewind -> 6.305 fvatyr -> 5.100 deck -> 4.838 stuff -> 4.816 vf -> 4.739 boom -> 4.221 As mentioned to other respondents, rot13 really messes with TF-IDF. I'm still not sure of the best way to deal with this.
If someone uses rot13, that is a highly informative. Is there any principled reason to like quoted words showing up, but not liking rot13? Anyhow, I think the disappeal of rot13 for TF-IDF is that it seems like a lower level feature than words. In particular, it is wasteful for it to show up more than once, if you're only doing top 11. In some sense, I think the reason that the low level feature of rot13 is mixing with the high level feature of words is that you've jumped to the high level by fiat. Before looking a word frequency, you should look at letter frequency. With a sufficiently large corpus, rot13 should show up already there. I doubt that the corpus is big enough to detect the small usage by people here, but I think it might show up in bigrams or trigrams. I don't have a concrete suggestion, but when you look at bigrams, you should use both corpus bigrams and document letter frequencies to decide which document bigrams are surprising.
You've already surmised why rot13 words are undesirable. Just to check, are you suggesting I use n-gram frequency to identify rot13 words, or replace TF-IDF with some sort of n-gram frequency metric instead?
You could use TF-IDF on n-grams. That's what I was thinking. But when I said to combine combine the local n-gram frequencies and the global n+1-gram frequencies to get a prediction of local n+1-gram frequencies to compare against, you might say it's too complicated to continue calling it TF-IDF. If all you want to do is recognize rot13 words, then a dictionary and/or bigram frequencies sound pretty reasonable. But don't just eliminate rot13 words from the top 11 list; also include some kind of score of how much people use rot13. For example, you could use turn every word to 0 or 1, depending on rot13, and use TF-IDF. But it would be better to score each word and aggregate the scores, rather than thresholding. What I was suggesting was a complicated (and unspecified) approach that does not assume knowledge of rot13 ahead of time. The point is to identify strange letter frequencies and bigrams as signs of a different language and then not take as significant words that are rare just because they are part of the other language. I think this would work if someone wrote 50/50 rot13, but if the individual used just a little rot13 that happened to repeat the same word a lot, it probably wouldn't work. (cf. "phyg") There are two problems here, to distinguish individuals and to communicate to a human how the computer distinguishes. Even if you accept that my suggestion would be a good thing for the computer to do, there's the second step of describing the human the claim that it has identified another language that the individual is using. The computer could report unusual letter frequencies or bigrams, but that wouldn't mean much to the human. It could use the unusual frequencies to generate text, but that would be gibberish. It could find words in the corpus that score highly by the individual's bigrams and low by the corpus bigrams.
mine, please.
sats -> 22.952 htt -> 22.810 sat -> 22.157 princeton -> 21.356 mathematicians -> 17.903 crack -> 16.812 harvard -> 16.661 delete -> 16.563 proofs -> 15.745 graph -> 15.565 regressions -> 15.301 Your corpus comprises ~77kB of plain text.
I'd like mine, please!
because -> 41.241 p -> 38.129 should -> 34.016 sat -> 33.974 much -> 33.113 cholesterol -> 33.056 evidence -> 32.444 iq -> 32.092 comments -> 31.454 scores -> 30.690 clear -> 28.899 Your contribution comprises ~284kB of plain text, and is the thirteenth-largest in the corpus.
Thanks! Interestingly, the only one of those that I recognize as clearly one of my verbal quirks is "clear," which I use a lot in "it's not clear to me that ...", but it barely made it onto the list. I participate in most of the discussions on intelligence testing, so it's no surprise that "sat," "iq," and "scores" are high. "Cholesterol" seems likely to be an artifact from a single detailed conversation about it, and then apparently I like words like "because," "should," and "much" more than normal, which is not that surprising given my general verbosity. I know I use the word "evidence" more than the general population, but am surprised I use it that much more than LW, and "comments" is unclear. Probably meta-discussion?
Most incidence of "comments" seems to be in the context of moderator actions. There are 44 occurrences in your contribution to the corpus, which is around 50,000 words. As for "evidence", there are 70 occurrences in 50,000 words. So on average, every 715th word you say in comments is "evidence".
Ooh, go on then.
phd -> 34.505 teleology -> 25.661 maitzens -> 20.402 neutron -> 19.191 fusion -> 17.502 causal -> 17.267 argument -> 16.222 turtle -> 16.137 greenhouse -> 15.736 p1 -> 15.353 might -> 15.353 Your contribution comprises ~116kB.
Haha, I should've foreseen "maitzens", "causal", "argument" & "turtle" showing up there. (I'm lucky your corpus didn't go back far enough to capture this never-ending back-and-forth, otherwise my top 10 would probably be nothing but "HIV", "AIDS", "cases", "CDC", "Duesberg", "CD4", and such.) Thanks for running the numbers.
Sure, why not? Thanks!
x -> 98.136 confidence -> 87.600 value -> 66.797 agree -> 65.843 endorse -> 63.750 ok -> 60.507 said -> 59.640 evidence -> 54.869 say -> 54.185 bamboozled -> 53.497 values -> 53.122 Your contribution comprises ~420kB of plain text, and is the fifth largest in the corpus.
Cool! This (judging the relevance of words in documents in a corpus and analogous problems) is a subject I muse about sometimes. Thanks for introducing me to TF-IDF. I'd like my top scoring words please.
comte -> 17.852 m1 -> 12.664 grumble -> 9.813 altruism -> 8.787 rotating -> 8.442 olive -> 8.150 comtes -> 8.025 m -> 7.383 workshop -> 7.157 egoistic -> 6.916 happiness -> 6.475 Your contribution comprises ~21kB of plain text.
Curious to hear mine.
intelligence -> 17.119 machine -> 15.353 environments -> 15.052 reference -> 13.546 machines -> 12.304 views -> 12.253 legg -> 12.252 friedman -> 11.417 papers -> 10.792 we -> 10.536 exercises -> 9.532 Your contribution to the corpus amount to ~47kB of plain text. For reference, Eliezer is ~190kB and gwern is ~515kB. The scores are unadjusted for document size and not amazingly meaningful outside of this specific context.
Huh, that seems different from what I'd have expected - but then again, I'm not sure of what I would have expected. Thanks.
I've just fixed a bug in my scraper that was causing it to abandon 25% of the corpus. This has ended up tripling your contribution. Some new values for you: agi -> 37.328 intelligence -> 22.367 moral -> 21.010 agis -> 20.087 eea -> 18.647 takeoff -> 17.500 credences -> 17.108 machine -> 16.902 our -> 16.222 environments -> 15.919 deer -> 15.761 This retains a similar "flavour" to the previous set, (AGI and ev-psych). The best way I've found to interpret it is "what sort of words describe what I use Less Wrong to talk about?" As an interesting side-note, rot13 really messes with TF-IDF.
Okay, that feels like it makes more sense. I'm a little confused about the "deer", though.
Blame this comment.
Hah, okay.
You're not distinguishing original from quoted text, then?
It's not obvious to me that I should. TF-IDF is about identifying key terms in a document. Quoted text counts towards that.
That depends on what "the document" is. Everything appearing in a posting by a given author, or all of the text written by a given author?
"The document" is my wild sample that I've gone out and caught. TF-IDF tells me what it's broadly about. For this purpose, quoted text provides useful information. If I want to infer personal facts about the author (beyond "what are the key terms in the posts they write"), it would make sense to weight original text higher than quoted text, but it would also make sense to use something other than TF-IDF for that purpose.

On BBC Radio 4 this morning I heard of a government initiative, "Books on Prescription". It's a list of self-help books drawn up by some committee as actually having evidence of usefulness, and which are to be made available in all public libraries. They give a list of evidence-based references.

General page for Books on Prescription.

The reading list.

The evidence, a list of scientific studies in the literature.

I have not read any of the books (which is why I'm not posting this in the Media Thread), but I notice from the titles that a lot of them are based on Cognitive Behavioural Techniques, which are generally well thought of on LessWrong.

The site also mentions a set of Mood-boosting Books, "uplifting novels, non-fiction and poetry". These are selected from recommendations made by the general public, so I would say, without having read any of them, of lesser expected value. FWIW, here's the list for 2012 (of which, again, I have read none).

I notice that almost all of those books are about things that are considered "mental problems" (the exceptions being chronic fatigue, chronic pain, and relationship problems, which are nevertheless specific problems). So if a self-help book isn't about a particular problem (like How to Win Friends and Influence People and The Seven Habits), or the problem it talks about isn't primarily psychological (like Getting Things Done), then it won't appear on that list regardless of how good it is. (Stating my opinions here so that you won't have to guess: My brother, who seems quite sensible and whom I admire very much, states that all three of the books mentioned here are very good. Getting Things Done taught me one extremely useful lesson, probably among the top five most useful things I have ever learned. I have little evidence, apart from this stuff, that any of these books are useful.)

Iain Banks is dead.

"They speak very well of you".

-"They speak very well of everybody."

"That so bad?"

-"Yes. It means you can´t trust them."

Fuck cancer. Fuck mortality. We must work faster.

Improving my social skills is going to be my number one priority for a while. I don't see this subject discussed too much on LW, which is strange because it's one of the biggest correlates with happiness and I think we could benefit a lot from a rational discussion in this area. So I was wondering if anyone has any ideas, musings, relevant links, recommendations, etc. that could be useful for this. Stuff that breaks from the traditional narrative of "just be nicer and more confident" is particularly appreciated. (Unless maybe that is all it takes.)

Optional background regarding my personal situation: I am a 19 yo male (as of tomorrow) who is going to enter college in the fall. I'm not atrociously socially inadept, e.g. I can carry on conversations, can be very bold and confident in short bursts sometimes, I have some friends, I've had girlfriends in the past. However, I also find it very hard to make close friends that I can hang out with one on one, I sometimes find myself feeling like I'm taking a very submissive role socially, and I feel nervous or "in my head" a lot in social interactions, among other things. Not to be melodramatic, but I find myself wishing a decent amount that I had more friends and was more popular.

Improving my social skills is going to be my number one priority for a while. I don't see this subject discussed too much on LW, which is strange because it's one of the biggest correlates with happiness and I think we could benefit a lot from a rational discussion in this area.

Discussion on lesswrong on that subject would most likely not be rational. Various forms of idealism result in mind killed advice giving which most decidedly is not optimized for the benefit of the recipient.

Stuff that breaks from the traditional narrative of "just be nicer and more confident" is particularly appreciated. (Unless maybe that is all it takes.)

Get out of your house, go where the people are and interact with them. Do this for 4 hours per day for a year (on top of whatever other incidental interactions your other activities entail). If "number one priority" was not hyperbole that level of exertion is easily justifiable and nearly certain to produce dramatic results. (Obviously supplementing this with a little theory and tweaking the environment chosen and tactics used are potential optimisations. But the active practice part is the key.)

I agree that when social skills are usually discussed, various forms of idealism tend to result in mind killed advice. The standard set of advice in particular seems to mostly ignore the fact that a) status exists, i.e. it is very possible to be liked and not respected, and sometimes the latter overpowers the former and b) some people genuinely have large personality flaws that make them unpleasant to be around. I was hoping LessWrong would be able to avoid this idealism, as they do in most other areas, which is why I posted here. Do you think that LessWrong would be worse than average in this regard? Why? And do you think there is anywhere I could have a rational discussion about this stuff? Like I said in another post in this thread, I don't think it's at all a given that if you socialize enough, you will eventually develop good social skills, and I think that reading a bit of stuff on the subject in the last month helped me about as much as all the social experiences I've had in the last year. But something about the idea of making it a priority to spend x amount of time a day specifically seeking out social interactions makes sense and is appealing to me. I don't know if four hours a day is the right amount - I will have to experiment, but I can very much see myself implementing something like this. One problem with widely recommending this is that it seems to me like many, if not most people are not at all in a position to reliably be able to follow this advice. But I imagine someone with low to moderate social skills on a college campus probably can.
Sure, but it should be ~30 minutes of reading a day and ~4 hours of interaction a day. Practice is what leads to skill development, and unpleasantly enough, only hard practice (i.e. focusing on the parts you're bad at, not the parts you're good at) really counts.
Practice Practice Practice Practice Practice. You have to go out of your way to hang out with people to get any good at being fun to hang out with. WARNING: This does not mean you have to spend time at loud parties or bars or clubs. While they pretend to be areas for socializing, they're not really. It's one thing if you enjoy dancing or drinking, but places that are less loud and crowded are a lot better for conversation.
I've done this and it didn't really work. Maybe it worked a little, but not at a very fast rate. To be honest, I think reading a small amount of social skills stuff and thinking about how to solve the problem a little helped much more than all the "practice" I've done in the last year or so. Obviously you can't take this to the extreme and expect that you can instantly go from Michael Cera to Casanova just by sitting alone reading stuff and watching videos in your room, but I don't think the statement "If you spend enough time in social interactions, you will inevitably develop good social skills" is at all true either. I kind of despise the former and love the latter. :\
Did you try dancing lessons? I hated dancing before I learned it, but I love it now. I am very bad at "learning by copying others", but with good explicit education I became a decent dancer. (Note: Almost everyone adviced me against explicit learning, because they said it wouldn't be "natural" or "romantic". I ignored all this advice, and now no one complains about the result. Contrary to predictions, learning the steps explicitly helped me to improvise later. Seems like people just have a strong taboo about applying reductionism to romantic activities like dancing.)
Interesting; no one has ever told me that dancing lessons are a bad idea. I think we live in very different cultures. (Other things you have said in the past have also given me his impression.)

No, no, no, this was a bad explanation on my part. No one told me that dancing lessons are bad idea per se... only that my specific learning style is.

This is what works best for me: Show me the moves. Now show me those moves again very slowly, beat by beat. Show me separately what feet do; then what hands and head do. Tell me at which moment which leg supports the weight (I don't see it, and it is important). When and how exactly do I signal to my girl what is expected from her. (In some rare situations, to get it, I need to try her movements, too.) I still don't get it, but be patient with me. Let me repeat the first beat, and tell me what was wrong. Again, until it is right. Then the second beat. Etc. Then the whole thing together. Now let's do the same thing again, and again, and again, exactly the same way. Then something "clicks" in my head, and I get the move... and since that moment I can lead, improvise, talk during dance, whatever. -- As a beginner I was blessed with a partner who didn't run away screaming somewhere in the middle of this. Later my learning became faster, partially because I learned to ask the proper questions. And I had a good luck to dancing tea... (read more)

Now, that's about the only possible way to learn to play anything non-trivial on instruments such as the guitar; therefore, these people 1. believe that all guitar music is ugly and robotic, or 2. have no idea of how people learn to play, or 3. are confused and/or talking through their asses (e.g. some part of them deep down is saying ‘people who cannot learn to dance the way I did don't deserve to get the social status I got from it’) (not necessarily with probabilities within an order of magnitude of each other).
I completely agree with you (which is why I persisted in my learning style). From my experience it seems to me many people are confused like this. Possible explanation: We learn some things by copying or early in childhood, and we learn some other things explicitly. I guess this makes many people think that skills are divided to "explicitly teachable" and "explicitly unteachable", using some heuristics, such as: "if it is usually learned at school, it is teachable", "if I tried to learn it and failed, it is unteachable", "it is teachable only if I perfectly understand how it works", etc. It probably adds to confusion that we don't see how other people learned their skills. Similarly to attribution fallacy, if we see someone good at doing X, it is easier to assume that it is a part of their nature, not a learned skill. (And those people may support us in this opinion, for example because it discourages the competition.) Seems to me this is pretty frequent in art. Also, sometimes the idea of "unteachable skill" is a good excuse for not learning and doing something. Even those people who learned e.g. playing guitar may not propagate the idea automatically to other aspects of their lives.
Sometimes people don't see how they themselves learned something. When you ask them, they confabulate empty phrases like "it's a knack", or "eventually you just get it", or the like. They generally suck at explaining. So, ignore them and move on.
I was assuming that those people had themselves learned to dance at some point, so unless it was a very long time ago and/or they suck at introspection they knew how they did it. If you were talking about people who didn't themselves know how to dance, then replace ‘people who cannot learn to dance the way I did don't deserve to get the social status I got from it’ with ‘I'm jealous those people can dance and I can't, but I can't be bothered to learn it myself, so in order to put them down I'll tell them that their grapes are sour’.
Maybe there are two learning styles -- copying and explicit -- each of them having their set of advantages and disadvantages. (Perhaps an analogy to System 1 and System 2.) Learning by copying is faster and it does not require cooperation from the person you copy. On the other hand, copying is imperfect, and you cannot copy what you don't see. Learning explicitly is slower and requires a good explanation; which requires a good introspection from the person who explains. So maybe this is an instance of "the last will be first". -- People who are good at learning by copying, use learning by copying as their favorite learning style. People who are bad at learning by copying can compensate by focusing on explicit learning. Under these assumptions, the "copying" people have a fast start, because many activities are simple and can be learned by copying. Then when it comes to more complex activities, they usually continue copying, get some mediocre results, and stop there. And even there, they probably get those mediocre results faster than an "explicit" person. -- They really believe that learning by copying is superior, because this is what worked for them. Learning explicitly is just a strange ritual done at school; and I suspect that even there they try to copy the teachers. On the other hand, "explicit" people learn slowly and are completely dependent on good learning materials. Sometimes the good materials are available, and allow them to reach mastery in complex things. The whole school system is designed for this. Sometimes the materials are unavailable or misleading (e.g. because the topic is mindkilling), and they are lost. These are the "book smart" people. -- They believe in explicit learning, because this is what worked for them. These are just extreme descriptions, I guess most people use learning by copying in some areas and explicit learning in other areas. They may have an explanation about which style is better in which situation. There are things th
Sorry for only commenting on the irrelevant taboo topic you touched on, but this is interesting to me. I have been reading some PUA stuff lately and it seems to me that the whole point is that it is not describing something that ordinary humans learn naturally, but instead prescribing something extraordinary that you can do to set yourself apart from the crowd in order to attract the hottest girl in the club that every other guy in there is hitting on. And even then it only works via the law of averages, and requires one to override one's natural intense aversion to rejection in order to pursue a more rational strategy adapted for a modern world in which you can talk to someone once and never see them again. Am I wrong about this?

These days PUA refers to so many things that I need to be more specific. The sources that helped me were "The Mystery Method" by Mystery, "How To Become An Alpha Male" by Carlos Xuma, "Married Man Sex Life" by Athol Kay. I would also recommend "The Blueprint Decoded" by RSD.

Yes, there are many sources that only tell you "do this, do that, and if it does not work, just do it again". I guess this is what most customers want: "Don't bother me with explanations, just give me a quick fix!" This is how most people approach everything. Well, if there is a demand for something, the market will provide a product. And these days it is a huge business. Ten years ago, it was more like geeks experimenting and sharing their results and opinions... a bit similar to Quantified Self today, just less scientific, and sometimes more narrowly focused.

Overcoming aversion to rejection, doing many approaches to convert given rates of success into greater absolute numbers, doing something extraordinary to stand out of the crowd... those are the fixes. Applied incorrectly they could be even harmful. (Receiving a lot of rejection can make you more r... (read more)

A more accurate way of putting that is that the man is the first to break plausible deniability. If you also take into account non-verbal, indirect signals (where if the recipient isn't interested they can just pretend to not notice and nothing bad happens), most of the times the very first move is the woman's, both according to this report about Britain and in my experience in both Italy and Ireland: I can't say I can recall ever getting a positive reaction from approaching a woman who wasn't already smiling at me. Now, a guy who has good social skills but poor introspection may only approach women who are smiling at them but not be consciously aware that he's preselecting women that way; likewise, a socially savvy but not introspectively savvy woman may not be consciously aware that she's smiling at the guy she likes; as a result, it feels to them like it's the man who's initiating the interaction, which I guess is the main cause of that confusion.
Interesting. Although "if she's smiling at you, she likes you" seems like it wouldn't hold true when you're trying to flirt with acquaintances.
With people you already know, the kinds of indirect signals (where if the recipient isn't interested they can just pretend to not notice and nothing bad happens) are different (and not all of them are entirely non-verbal), but otherwise the same kind-of applies.
Do you know what these indirect signals are? This seems like useful information.
I think I know it when I see them (at least some of the time -- there might be more of them that I'm not noticing), but I can't think of a good intensional description of them (and it doesn't seem polite to me to point at extensional examples based on actual people, even in anonymized form). It probably also depends on what common knowledge exists or does not exist among the two of you, incl. what culture you're in.
To be fair, I have filtered the reasonable parts of PUA. There is also a lot of crap. And most of the focus is on the short-term relationship -- the ending part is based solely on "Married Man Sex Life". (I guess that reflects the needs of a typical customer -- and perhaps even a typical PUA guru. Also, the society does give rather decent advice on "beta" traits; the "alpha" is the missing part, so teaching it is more popular and profitable.) Yeah, this is difficult to explain (so outside view suggests I am prone to rationalization here). I agree with the examples you gave. And yet... the society gives contradictory and incomplete information on this. Consider saying: "If you have an expensive foreign car, you are more likely to get pretty girls." Say it at one place, and you will get: "Duh, news at 11." Say it at another place, and you will get: "You sexist! How dare you! Not all women are like that. Bringing an expensive car would never impress me." So we have two separate magisteria here. In one universe, you only get girls by being bold and rich. In other universe, you only get girls by being polite and patient. Both messages are given by the society, none of them is literally a secret. Yet they seem contradictory, and how to successfully put them together, that is kind of a secret. Because people living in one universe typically deny the existence of the other universe. Perhaps the information is all out there, in pieces, but you need some level of social skills to put it all correctly together. Judging by the popularity of PUAs, many people lack this skill. I certainly did. I guess the nerds would appreciate a more precise advice; which parts of jocks' behavior are necessary for the desired effect, and which can be left out. Which is the 20% that brings 80% of the result. Otherwise, the price is too high. PUA explains how to get some of what jocks get, without having to become a full-time jock. If you map says that higher status is not actually important,
The more incentive to develop the skills before the college. You are right that if you approach ten girls every night in the same environment, sooner or later someone will notice. I would suggest training your skills somewhere else, and use the interaction in college only to maintain the level you already have. -- For example if you are uncomfortable making eye contact, train it somewhere else, but when you become comfortable with it, do it every day at the college to strenghten the habit. -- If you change your college behavior slowly and without obvious effort, people won't notice. It will be just "growing up". I recommend two powerful branches of modern magic, called "reductionism" and "conditioning". The first one can literally crush mountains to sand, the second one can be used by a wizard to transform themselves. The most successful school of these branches is CBT. What exactly makes you feel shame? What words do you hear or what video do you see in your mind when you consider talking to an attractive girl? First step, write it down, in as much detail as you can (not publicly). For example: "If I say 'hello' to a girl, she will run away screaming / start laughing at me / coldly ignore me / call the cops." (Merely writing it down helps to dispell the magic, because you notice how silly it is.) Second step, try to trace when and how did this idea get into your mind, and what evidence do you have about its literal truth. Was it said or suggested to you by someone when you were 10 years old? What is the probability that the person (a) had a correct model of the world, (b) had a motivation at given moment to give you a literally correct information, and (c) you understood and remembered it perfectly? Or it is something that happened to you in the past? Are there some specific things about (a) you, (b) the person you are going to interact with, (c) the environment, that have changed? Third step, make a statistics: Take a notebook, make a specific prediction, do the
Yes, 'not taking "no" for an answer' is very creepy!
Note also that people vary a lot in their propensity to say no in spite of pressure to the contrary, so if you're someone who hardly ever has much trouble with that and you generalize from one example... (I've recently seen lots of anecdotal evidence that ‘if she hasn't withdrawn from the interaction, she must be enjoying it’ isn't a viable heuristic for certain people.)
If there is a web discussion about something, people naturally extend the meaning of something. Let's take LW for an obvious example: It started with epistemic rationality, and expanded even to rational toothpaste. So by the same mechanism, I would expect that if you make a web community discussing "creepiness", the scope will naturally grow. -- The example you linked doesn't seem creepy to me, assuming it was on a dating website. (A context could make it creepy: for example if the same man keeps sending this message repeatedly to the same woman.) You know, haters gonna hate. Try avoiding the obvious haters, and don't leave written records that could fall in wrong hands. I guess a proper protocol for dating a schoolmate is to invite them somewhere outside of the school (some interesting place, or for a walk). In school, just be friendly. This way you leave an obvious exit. Also, the girl may appreciate your discretion. If you are nervous about approaching strange girls, the time limit also reduces your stress. Gradually you will start feeling relaxed while doing it. That is the time to approach someone else without using the time limit. Always start with easy and progress to more difficult. Start complimenting the people you know, and progress to strangers. The more you do it, the more "natural" it will feel to you. (I use scare quotes around "natural", because "natural" simply means: learned and practiced long time ago, and "not natural" means: learned yesterday, have not practice yet. You become "natural" by practice, not by being born with the ability.) At first just practice, but with enough experience you will learn the scale of reactions, when people are just polite and when they are really happy... and then at some moment, when you get a happy reaction, you can ask whether it is okay to talk. Sorry, the advice ends here -- this is not a PUA forum, and some people don't like this topic. I hope I made you interested, and perhaps provided a good starting m
This actually makes a lot of sense. "Only show attraction to girls outside of school/work, so that they are aware that you compartmentalize your life in such a way that they will not have to deal with the topic of romance with you at school/work if they are not inclined to do so." This is why at a school dance it's okay to go and rub your crotch on the butt of a girl you treat completely non-sexually during the day. EDIT: And now the concept of sexual harassment in the workplace makes a lot more sense. That's fine, I understand that you probably have better things to do. Thank you for the advice/discussion, and good luck in your future endeavors. :)
That's pretty much what I do instinctively, except that the compartments are more gerrymandered than that (and they're not much clearer to my System 2 than (say) grammatical rules), and they depend on who the woman is (and, to a lesser extent, on what we're talking about) but not much on where we are (e.g., with some people I'll do the hover hand thing in pictures, with others I'm perfectly comfortable putting a hand on their thigh during class). (This might be part of a same pattern as Feynman's observation that it's common for European physicists to talk about their work in bars but rare for American physicists.)
Actually, I think the lack of context makes it creepier. Being that explicit so early in a conversation is usually considered impolite. (There's no need to explicitly mention the bedroom -- they're on a dating site, she knows you mean that even if you just say you want to hang out.) Therefore, it demonstrates a lack of familiarity with politeness norms, and possibly with social interactions in general. In more usual contexts, it would instead demonstrate that you can afford flouting politeness rules without much of a status hit, but when you're talking to someone who knows basically nothing about you other than what you're communicating at the moment (for all she knows, you could be a sexual predator, a dork who basically never talks to women in meatspace, or even an uFAI), countersignalling is a bad idea. Also, it pattern-matches a kind of guy who gets very resentful, sometimes in a scary way, when he doesn't get his way. (And for some reason they seem to always be awful at writing -- “your beautiful”, “knew to the area”...)
That just mean that you're too sober. Drink more and try again.
But then the next morning you end up with even more shame to deal with. :(
Not necessarily -- there are things I used to never do when sober because I assumed I would regret them, then I once did them when drunk, noticed that the (social) consequences weren't anywhere near as negative as I had feared and were in fact quite positive, and now I often do them even when I'm sober.
Do they? Because saying “not all women are like that” has the implicature that some women are.
What do you care what the traditional roles in Western society are, so long as you're both happy? What fraction of the time do they succeed? (And when they do, how do you know that part of the reason why they had picked Susan rather than Jane in the first place was that on some level they already knew that they had less of a chance with the latter than with the former?)
Presumably if women rarely initiate and instead expect men to approach them, a man who frequently approaches women will be much more likely to find sex/a relationship than a man who just waits around for women to do the initiating. I don't know. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't. But I am sure they succeed more than they would if, like me, they never tried. That definitely is part of it.
OK, I thought you meant something like “I used to be in a relationship, but it had been initiated by the woman, which is untraditional; we were uncomfortable with that, and eventually we broke up as a result”, rather than “I used to be in a relationship, then for whatever reason we broke up, but I hadn't been the one to initiate it so I don't know how to initiate another one”; never mind. (I have heard a few women make the latter complaint before, though none of them mentioned the traditional roles.)
You must have been doing something right! I bet you'll have great success if you follow Villiam's advice.
Haha, I hope so.
How has this worked out for you?
Can you rephrase this question? I'm not sure what you're asking.
Are you happy with the number and quality of relationships? Your dubiousness about not initiating seemed to be about it seeming weird rather than practical drawbacks.
This is not an actual explanation of the asymmetry -- why do men prefer to keep their preference mysterious less than women prefer to keep theirs mysterious? why do women have less of a disincentive to teach men's preferences to their competitors than men do? Which official story? People preferring (brutally simplifying while trying to stay polite) to marry older, richer people but to sleep with younger, sexier people isn't that rare a trope as far as I can tell.
My impression is that there are many different shades with respect to this, ranging from 'explicitly learning social skills which others may learn implicitly' to 'behaviour intended to trick, force, pressure, or otherwise outright manipulate girls into bed with you' - with a great deal in between.
A man's negative take on PUA. A woman's mostly negative take on PUA, though she thinks that a little PUA can be useful for men who are afraid to talk to women. Getting into the PUA sub-culture can leave men worse off. Both have put a lot of thought into it. My take is that PUA seems to be set in a universe where no one likes anyone else.
Funny thing is that I agree with the first article, I just have completely different connotations to that. Yes, the stuff Mystery teaches really is dumbed down. Which is good, because some guys start so dumb that they need this; sometimes they have problems to understand even this. I was there once. And the stuff helped me to get out of there. It feels to me like saying: "The elementary schools are so dumb, I learned much more at university!" -- Sure, good for you! Also, well-played sir; you gently reminded us of your higher status. The competition among PUA bloggers is strong these days; many authors have to market themself as beyond-PUA to be able to sell their PUA products. (Nothing wrong about that, I would probably do the same thing if I weren't too lazy to blog.) I also agree with the rest of the article. If you take a mentally unstable person and teach them PUA, you will get a mentally unstable person with some PUA skills. And therefore... I mean, if you take a mentally unstable person and teach them Java programming, you will get a mentally unstable person with some Java skills. Perhaps it is socially unresponsible to teach mentally unstable people anything that increases their powers without fixing their problems first. But that is not a problem specific to PUA industry. EDIT: Changed my mind about this. Men helping low-status men to overcome their lack of social skills... is an evidence that no one likes anyone else? (Ten years ago, the help was provided online for free, only later it developed into a profitable industry.) But they don't focus on liking women, do they? Well, they often don't. To make a fair comparison, how often do seduction (sorry, relationship) articles, magazines, and books for women talk about liking men, respecting their agency, et cetera? And maybe the people criticizing PUAs just focus too much on the bad parts, and ignore the nicer parts. But I admit the bad parts may be majority of the stuff.
And if you take a mentally unstable person and teach them to use a weapon, you will get a mentally unstable person with some weapon-using skills. This may be more undesirable than a mentally unstable person with some Java skills.
On reading that again one month later... I indeed got that wrong. Edited to say it like a normal person.
Uhm, you are right about this; my mistake. I focused too much on winning the debate. Apologies to everyone. I still think that the benefits of publishing PUA advice are probably higher than the costs, but it would be difficult to defend this claim. (We would need to get data: how many clueless frustrated guys finally got their relationships right; how many naive girls were pumped and dumped by mentally unstable guys with pickup skills; the further impact of both on the society; etc. And even then we would have to make a value judgement about how much we care about a damsel in distress versus an expendable low-status male.)
The first link said that PUA could leave people in worse shape than it found them-- and Clarisse Thorn (second link) said the same. Good point about PUA cultivating friendships between men. I'd missed that part. Still, it doesn't do a good job of encouraging friendliness between romantic/sexual partners.
Compared with... relationship advice for women? (For example: don't call him and rarely return his calls; stop dating him if he doesn't buy you a romantic gift for your birthday or valentine's day; don't see him more than once or twice a week). How much of the PUA criticism -- that it helps narcissist people develop their sense of grandiosity and become emotional vampires -- applies to that, too? Perhaps the narcissism is more socially acceptable for women, because... uhm... yay, women! ? Could we agree on a gender-neutral version that literature about "success" in relationships typically does not do a good job of encouraging friendliness between romantic/sexual partners? (And of course, there are always a few exceptions.) (Or perhaps even more generally that literature about maximizing X does not do a good job at maximizing Y?)
That's a reasonable question. However, I have no idea to what extent women take The Rules seriously, while there's a lot of evidence that some fraction of the men here take PUA very seriously.
How about avoiding labels completely, and asking directly about behavior? Let's make gender-neutral or gender-reversed questions for men and women, taboo all jargon, and see how many of them will report using the given strategy. For example: "Do you sometimes pretend to be unavailable, even if you have free time, just to make yourself more scarce?" Or: "If the person you are dating becomes too proud of themselves, do you slightly criticize them in order to bring them back to earth?" A woman can learn gender-reversed versions of some PUA advice from a magazine or hear it from her friends; she does not have to identify with any label. And she does not have to read any specific book, because all the information is already out there. Advice for women about manipulating men is generally not shocking and controversial. "The Rules" is a book that strongly pattern-matches PUA advice (a name similar to "The Game", simplistic bullet-point advice), which was probably intentional, to create controversy and increase sales... but it's not like women never read the specific ideas before in other books and magazines. (Okay, this one is probably new: "Don't Discuss The Rules with Your Therapist".)
Thank you for the links! I will most likely read the first link at some point, and maybe the second one eventually. (From the about page of the blog linked to:) WOW, I have been looking for a website like this for a few months now. Again, thank you!
Me too.
I don't think the overlap between club-type dancing and the type of dancing that one takes lessons to learn is very large, though.
I don't have much experience with club dancing, but at the few occasions, I was there with a girl who I previously danced ballroom-style with, and we mostly danced jive or quickstep or cha-cha, just with shorter steps to take less space and not move across the room. We had fun, and the feedback from other people was positive. But even with the club-type dancing, somehow it got much easier for me once I became good at ballroom dances. Maybe I got more confident, maybe I learned to follow the rhythm, maybe I started to understand some movement patterns; probably all of that together.
Yeah, this is what I'm thinking. A big problem I have with club dancing is that I am 6'6", and I feel (probably at least somewhat accurately) that I am unusually visible and that any move I do is being judged by at least a few people. So I end up just standing there, then immediately realizing "this is much more awkward than dancing really poorly is", then concluding "Oh my god, no matter what I do I am doomed, I have to get out of here right now", then leaving, then sitting alone feeling like there is something very flawed about me. I will get over this someday by applying a dedicated effort, but right now there are more important self-improvement projects. Until then I just will stay far away from any dance where I can't get drunk beforehand.
Well, I agree that it needn't be at the top of your to-do list. In fact, I'm not sure you need worry about getting over it at all, really. Not enjoying hanging out/dancing in clubs is no serious character defect, and plenty of people share your preference. By the way, happy birthday (or was that yesterday?)
club dancing is basically doing whatever you feel like to the beat. This is a lot easier if you have a repertoire of moves from other styles of dance or activity that you can instantiate. Also what Villiam_Bur said.
The best advice I've ever received along these lines is "treat people as though they were already close friends." In my case, that mostly means having conversations with them about topics I actually care about, as opposed to conventional topics. IME, this weirds a number of people out, who subsequently don't interact with me much, but that's not necessarily a problem. It also causes people to think I'm coming on to them, which is sometimes a problem, but was less of one when I was in the dating pool.
I always interpreted that piece of advice as meaning something more along the lines of "Be as enthusiastic and casual when you're hanging out with a relatively new acquaintance as you would be when you're hanging out with an old friend." This seems like decent advice, but it's very difficult for me to actually put into action, and it also seems like it would make some people very uncomfortable. But your take on it is interesting. I'm not 100% sure I can picture it, however. Could you maybe give some sort of example of this strategy in use?
If "enthusiastic and casual" characterizes how you differentially treat your close friends, then sure, I'd say go for that. It doesn't for me, especially. What I find differentially characterizes my relationships with close friends is that I can start a conversation with whatever has recently been on my mind, however unconventional an opening gambit, and we will mutually engage at a fairly high-bandwidth level. (And vice-versa) E.g., I recently started a conversation (or, well, replied to "So what's up?") with "I've been thinking a lot lately about how to tell the difference between a lack of motivation that signals lack of genuine interest in doing something, versus a lack of motivation that doesn't, and one thing I'm noticing is that if I ask myself 'Self, are you looking forward to getting out of this slump and being enthused for that project again?' myself sometimes says 'yes!' and sometimes says 'meh.' and I wonder if that's correlated." And, yes, I agree that it makes some people uncomfortable. I generally operate on the principle that my goal is not to make close friends out of everyone, nor even to make as many close friends as possible, merely to make close friends without wasting a lot of time. If 19 people respond "Oh look I must be going" and the 20th engages with me and we find each other mutually interesting, I generally consider that a win.
Do you think by any chance you could give a percentage estimation on how many people respond well, poorly, and neutrally to this strategy? (Or something along those lines.) This is interesting to me.
Offhand, I don't know. It's most relevant at parties and large social gatherings where I don't know anyone, and I don't really think in terms of percentages-of-people in such situations so much as how quickly I find someone worth talking to. Over 95% of the time, I'd say the result is a little bit of chitchat followed by the person and I both talking to someone else. Whether that's responding well, poorly, or neutrally I don't know; that seems to be the default condition at parties. Less than 1% of the time, the result is the other person's eyes lighting up in what I've come to label the "oh look, one of my people!" expression, and I make a new friend. Probably not much less than 1%, though. (By way of establishing scale, I'd say I try this ~50 times in a given year... I'm not a terribly outgoing guy, and generally prefer to hang out in smaller groups or just stay home with my husband, but I'm reasonably socially ept when I do go out.) That said, I also have a reputation in my social circle for being kind of intense and a little out there, but interesting to talk to if you're interested in, well, talking. Which also creates a second-order effect, where friends introduce me to friends of theirs who share this trait because we'd really enjoy each other, and more generally where my social environment self-selects.
It might help to precise-ify some of the language around what you mean by "more friends" and "more popular"? What kind of friends? What kind of popularity? Are there types of friends or popularity you don't want? Also, what kind of people can you usually hang out with one-on-one?
I think a decent litmus test for a "friend" is someone who you enjoy spending time with, and who you can reliably invite to hang out with you. You could rephrase this I suppose as someone who you enjoy spending time with, who enjoys spending time with you, where this knowledge is mutually available. Right now I only have one friend who clearly meets the criteria for this definition, though I have a few that come close. My tentative goal is to have five such friends, maybe by Thanksgiving break or so in college. I'll admit that it's hard for me to find people who I genuinely relate to, enjoy spending time with and can feel comfortable "being myself" around, and I'm not sure if this has something to do with my own social strategies or if this is an unchangeable thing. Popularity is a little more hard to pin down. I think what I want includes a mix of these qualities: * In general, people like me * In general, people respect me * I have a wide range of acquaintances that I can talk to on friendly terms * To the extent that my social group resembles a tribe, I have a relatively high level of tribal status. (I'm not sure if college social groups will resemble a tribal hierarchy to the same extent that high school does or this is something people leave behind.) * I am seen as high-status, i.e. someone who it is desirable to be friends with. * My friends value me - i.e. people will invite me to parties and the like because they will enjoy my presence there. Obviously some of this is kind of unrealistic and selfish but it's an ideal, I guess.
These goals are not as hard as you'd think to achieve. I've basically gotten all of these by being active in several organizations on campus. Just doing that gave more opportunities to talk to people, which as drethelin said, is very useful. If you take charge in organizing things, it helps a huge amount with social respect/status. The wide range of acquaintances happens by default. You do have to make the effort to start hanging out with people outside the regular meetings though. It's pretty easy to do that if the meeting is just before a meal time, because then there's the convenient suggestion of eating together. In other cases, invite them to a party, along with several other people. Being known as the one who organizes groups is very useful for your goals.
Thank you for the advice! This is comforting. Out of curiosity, what kind of organizations are you active in? I'm trying to think of stereotypical campus organizations and isolate ones that I would enjoy, and I can't come up with too many. I like chess, so I guess if there's a chess club on campus I'll at least check it out, but that's all I can think of.
I speak from experience: Go to something new every week, or every day early when classes are light. As much as you can stand. You figure out what you like by trying things and not going back to lame events. I am an introvert, and I found it easy to make friends in college in the right clubs. When everyone shares an interest, it's easy repeatedly meet people and interact.
I will strongly consider doing this. Thank you.
I'm in Secular Alliance, Queers and Associates, my school's circus club, massage, and our BDSM club. There are a few others that I go to when I can, but those are the main ones. I second BrassLion's advice. Also, look at all the clubs ones that seem interesting, and sign up for their listhost as a reminder to go to them.
Wow, that must be interesting.
Yep, I enjoy it a lot. Came my first year in college because I was vaguely curious, and it ended up becoming a pretty big part of my life!
So, are you trans? If so, the queer clubs are a slam dunk, if you get along okay with that "type". One thing to bear in mind is, a lot of the opening chatter will be about gender and sexuality issues, which gets a little tiresome. Just accept that this is the new smalltalk for these spaces --- instead of talking about sports or what your major is, young queer kids often ask each other about coming out stories, etc. People are also trying on the role --- it's all new and unfamiliar to them, too. Many are unused to having an in-group, and overdo "tribe signalling". I guess I'm just advising you to be wary of the fundamental attribution error in these spaces, which can make people seem very narrow. You can also turn this around and realise that there are ways you can help people avoid making the fundamental attribution error with you, too. For instance, if you're recently transitioning, I imagine that will feel really weird for a while. It's okay to talk about that! You can excuse some of your awkwardness this way, and I expect most of the folks in these spaces will find that quite endearing.
I'm pretty sure he meant "19 yo as of tomorrow" and not "male as of tomorrow", though I did consider teasing him about that (which may be what you are doing! Those things can be hard to tell online).
Well with the username I really thought it more likely he was trans. Shrug.
This is a nice Bayes learning opportunity. It's reasonable to infer that a female-looking username makes someone more likely to be female, maybe twice as likely (not much more than that; this is the internet and people give themselves weird usernames all the time, and actual women may avoid using female-looking usernames in male-dominated forums to avoid drawing attention to their gender). However, the base rate of transsexualism, even within a community as unusual as LW, is still incredibly low and requires a lot of evidence to overcome (e.g. someone telling you they're transsexual).
Do you really think 1/3rd of users named gothgirl* would be male? I'd guess something like 1-10%, compared with 1-3% transsexualism on LW: http://lesswrong.com/lw/fp5/2012_survey_results/
On Less Wrong in particular, I would assign a high likelihood to various permutations of "gothgirl" being ironic, rather than sincere self expression of the user.
Yeah, sure. This is the internet. (Acknowledged that the base rate of transsexualism on LW is higher than I had expected.)
That isn't the relevant number. The likelihood ratio is P(named gothgirl | female) / P(named gothgirl | male), not P(female | named gothgirl) / P(male | named gothgirl).
(for what it's worth, I didn't reason using base rates, I just remember an early comment by gothgirl420666 saying he was male and only took that name for the lulz)
Oh hey, what's up?
You thought his username gave you over 13 bits of evidence?

I needed fewer than 13 bits of evidence: http://lesswrong.com/lw/fp5/2012_survey_results/

I likely committed some level of base-rate fallacy though (regardless of what the truth turns out to be). Trans* is more available to me because I hang out in queer communities, and know multiple transgender people.

The username contains more than 13 bits of information (being 14 characters long) so this might not be too unreasonable.
Transsexualism seems way overrepresented in geeky circles: off the top of my head, I could think of seven MtF and two FtM transsexuals within my circle of acquaintances, and there might be a few that I'm forgetting. LW definitely matches the definition of a "geeky community", so assuming a relatively high base rate would have been reasonable to me, based on my experience.
Yeah, that's what I meant.

Suppose the placebo effects exists; if you believe you will get better, then you will indeed get recover.

B(h) -> h

Unfortunately, it only works if you believe you will get better - and it could be hard to see why it'd be rational to believe that in the first place. Fortunately, rationalists have a solution to this problem.

We're scientific sorts of people, so we believe in the placebo effect - that is:

B( B(h) -> h )

and we're also logical sort of people, so we believe lob's theorem

B( B(h) -> h ) -> B(h)

and hence we believe we'll be healed


and hence, by the placebo effect,


And we're healed!

I have been constantly thinking recently: Your voice impacts a lot in your presentation, and it's one of those things that people generally take for granted. And it's not just your speak pattern and filler words that I'm referring to, but also intonation, fluency and so on. I would maybe risk saying that it can be as important as your appearance, or even more. (If you stumble every five or ten words, you can't really convey your ideas, can you?)

In this vein, is there a viable alternative for someone who wants to improve his own voice? I already thought about a voice acting tutor, but I generally prefer ways in which I could improve without having to pay a tutor.

I suggest practice in groups. Does Toastmasters charge money, and do they have any meetings near you?
Sadly, no. I'm from Brazil, there are a few Toastmasters in my country, but all of them are a plane travelling distance away.
Advice from the Less Wrong archives.
You could practice by yourself by reading out loud. I really should do that again myself, too - I have the tendency to speak too fast, and not pause enough for breath, which leads to me *gasp*ing for air a lot. Try to relax and pay attention to your breath. It's a bit weird speaking aloud by yourself, but I think it helps. If you're braver than me, you could even record yourself and listen back, to hear how you'd sound to others.
I have wanted to do some sort of speech training for a few years, but can't seem to find an appropriate avenue to investigate. The closest I've found is media training, but it tends to only cater towards corporate clients.

A lifehack idea: using oxytocin to counteract ugh fields:

  1. Ugh fields might be a form of an amygdala hijack.

  2. Oxytocin is known to dampen amygdala's 'fight, flight or freeze' responses.

  3. Oxytocin production is increased during bonding behaviors (e.g. parent-child, pets, snuggling / Karezza).

If 1, 2 and 3 are true, we could reduce the effect of an ugh field by petting a dog, hugging a baby or snuggling (but not orgasming) with a lover -- before confronting the task that induces the ugh field.

Disclaimer: I am not a brain scientist, so the terminology, logic and the entire idea may be wrong.

Playing a team sport. Killing other people with your allies in combat. Being held in captivity and/or abused severely enough.
Hmm, this is surprising. At first I thought you're providing examples of bonding behaviors that don't raise oxytocin levels, but decided to google anyway, and voila: Oxytocin and the Biopsychology of Performance in Team Sports, Gert-Jan Pepping and Erik J. Timmermans. The second example, killing others with allies in combat, seems to be similar to team sports. However, the third one, being held in captivity / abused, seems to be different in kind. Do you have any sources on it? Edit: I wonder if playing a team-based competitive game like Team Fortress 2 has any effect on oxytocin levels, in addition to dopamine effects that are typical for video games?
Do you have a source on oxytocin and sex with vs without orgasm? My understanding was that sex increased oxytocin secretion pretty much the same whether you orgasmed or not.
Here's the closest one I could find: Specificity of the neuroendocrine response to orgasm during sexual arousal in men. Also, Wikipedia article on oxytocin says that "The relationship between oxytocin and human sexual response is unclear" and cites multiple studies on oxytocin and orgasm, but none of them seem to show any major effect. So my impression is that oxytocin secretion per se is not heavily affected by orgasm (there is a short-term rise, but that's about it.) However, orgasm significantly affects two other hormones, dopamine and prolactin (also shown in the study I linked above). After an orgasm, dopamine drops and prolactin rises and keeps surging, supposedly for about two weeks (which seems established, but I don't have a source handy.) Here's a study that shows that prolactin rises after an orgasm in men and women but sex without orgasm doesn't affect prolactin levels: Orgasm-induced prolactin secretion: feedback control of sexual drive?: My current crude thinking is as follows: 1. Orgasm leads to low dopamine and high prolactin (oxytocin release is negligible). 2. Low dopamine means low motivation (is the Coolidge effect a hard-coded exception?). 3. High prolactin means satiation. 4. When confronting an ugh field, one needs oxytocin and dopamine, but not prolactin. 5. Therefore it's better to avoid the post-orgasmic dopamine and prolactin changes.
Thanks! Moving back from the biological basis to the introspective level, I'd expect the high-prolactin afterglow state to reduce anxiety enough to compensate for decreased motivation. (This might be related to whether one gets wired up or sleepy after sex, which has surprisingly large individual variation.) Easy enough to set up a randomised trial.
You probably meant high-oxytocin afterglow.
No. High oxytocin is present whether you orgasm or not, as we just established. I expect this to help productivity. I also expect that orgasm would * Hurt productivity, because "so sleepy and satisfied, why do anything?" (from low dopamine, possibly from high prolactin) * Help productivity, because "feeling so relaxed, doing things that normally make me so anxious and icky is so easy right now" (from high prolactin; sex without orgasm (high-oxytocin, low-prolactin) does provide some pleasant feelings but not this specific effect) * Help productivity overall, relative to sex without orgasm
I wonder if taking oxytocin supplements might work even better for this. I'll definitely be trying it in one way or another, though.
Alas, oxytocin supplements (there is a nasal spray, if I remember correctly) don't seem to work. When released naturally, it's released where it matters and in precise amounts, while the shotgun approach of the nasal spray makes it easy to miss the correct dosage and delivery location, which may cause various adverse effects. Warning: my source on the above is a popular book, Cupid's Poisoned Arrow -- but, to their credit, they do cite their scientific sources. If Kindle had a way of copying / quoting text from its books, I'd look up the relevant paragraph for you. Edit: The sources (had to type them manually): * M. Ansseau, et al., "Intranasal Oxytocin in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder", 1987: 231-236. * G. Paolisso, et al., "Pharmacological Doses of Oxytocin Affect Plasma Hormone Levels Modulating Glucose Homeostasis in Normal Man", 1988: 10-16. Edit 2: Here's the relevant part on the nasal spray (had to post it via a screenshot because Kindle does not allow copy/pasting text): http://imgur.com/kyysmbo
For this reason (and in particular for the purpose of text-to-speech) I use calibre and the Kindle plugin to convert my kindle books to a less artificially restricted format.
I've found a way to copy/paste from Kindle! Their software reader, at least the Windows version, allows copying:
I think that common-sense reasoning states that if the idea of doing something makes you uncomfortable, then perhaps you should make yourself comfortable before doing it. To me, this "using oxytocin to counteract ugh fields" idea isn't obviously more credible or more useful than this common-sense idea.
If an ugh field is indeed a form of an amygdala hijack, one will have a hard time consciously making oneself comfortable with the task, because the amygdala responds faster than the rational brain. A neurochemical hack might work better.
What sort of neurochemical hack? Gwern's page on nicotine suggests it could be used to reward certain behaviors, thus perhaps breaking down ugh fields. I haven't tried that yet (I only read that a few days ago) but I've had a great deal of success using nicotine (specifically snus) to break down my general acedia and aversion to activity.
I meant the hack I outlined in the original post: increasing oxytocin via bonding behaviors to dampen amygdala's fear response.
What I said was "make yourself comfortable", and it seems to me like petting a dog, hugging a baby, and snuggling are all ways of making oneself comfortable. Maybe I was unclear, though.

So on the topic of effective altruism, I've been thinking about the benefits of a "can't beat 'em? join 'em" type strategy for improving the world. Examples:

  • Wish South Africa would stop apartheid? Don't protest it, there will be lots of people doing that. Instead, try to gain power within the South African government and become F. W. de Klerk. (Arguably that role is more noble anyway, since you'd be relinquishing power instead of trying to gain power for yourself and people like you.)
  • Want to make China a democracy? Join the communist part
... (read more)
I'll say what I said on facebook: The most effective paths historically for the bettering of the human condition are technology and trade. The net effect of the republican party on american well-being, however crazy they are, is way smaller than cheap cellphones or widespread computers or good public transportation. You can spend 20 years getting to a position of power as a republican or you can spend 20 years inventing energy storage systems or cheap and accessible travel or healthy but palatable alternatives to snack foods that are more achievable and have the positive benefit of providing you with experience and connections that aren't based 100 percent on lies.
We should ask ourselves, "How much of my impression of what sorts of interventions are effective comes from fact, and how much from the self-promotion of people who would like to solicit my assistance or deter my interference?"
Depends on your comparative advantage. For many people its easier to become a moderately successful politician than meaningfully change the progress of world technological development.
When it comes to creating public transportation look at the case of the Uber amendment in DC. If you have bad people in political control they won't allow you to set up your cheap and accessible public transportation.
In practice, desire to implement reform-from-within is a strong negative to promotion to positions that could implement the change. If the organization thought your issue was a problem, they probably would address it without your intervention. Since they don't, that means they don't agree that your issue is a problem. One could adopt a false persona for years to get the promotions to powerful positions. But you still might not get the promotion. And do you want to be a faithful cog in implementing bad policy in the meantime? And even if you did, you still might not be in position to make the change you want. With the benefit of hindsight, we know Gorbachev could and did make major reforms. But could he have predicted that at the beginning of his career, even if he wanted to?
Also, if you adopt a false persona over a sufficiently long time, there's a risk of that becoming your real persona.
Spies do it all the time, right? Maybe this should be called the "infiltration strategy" or something. Sounds sexier. Although spies do have handlers whose entire career consists of guiding them in their missions, and being a spy is what they are getting paid to do. That seems like a decent amount of social pressure not to defect. I wonder what defection rates for spies are like? What ways are spies selected for low defection probability aside from being citizens of their home country? I've heard that the NSA doesn't like to hire people who have smoked marijuana.

I'm wondering if CFAR ever tried to approach Rowling for a permission to get HPMoR monetized for charitable and transhumanist purposes, on whichever terms.

Probably safer to do that after HPMoR is finished. Otherwise there is a chance she would forward the letter to her lawyer, the lawyer would send a cease and desist letter to CFAR, and then what?

If the same thing happens after HPMoR is finished, it can be removed from web and shared among LW members in ways that give plausible deniability to CFAR. But you can't have plausible deniability while Eliezer continues to write new chapters.

JKR is on the record as no longer opposing non-slash fanfiction: so this is probably a bit paranoid. But I suppose your second paragraph makes sense.
A big part of the cease-fire between IP holders and fanfic authors is probably the unwritten rule that the fanfic shall not be directly monetized.
Sometimes written, too. For example, in Japanese doujins, we have the Touhou Project/ZUN issuing an explicit license where Touhou creators are given permission to do their thing, but if they want to sell their works outside a convention like Reitaisai or a doujin-focused reseller like Toranoana, they have to contact him and work out a licensing agreement.

It's a bit of a truism that you can't do micropayments to cover the true marginal cost of serving a webpage, adding a user to your service, or other Internet activities, because the gap between free and epsilon is psychologically larger than the gap between epsilon and a dollar. It occurs to me that this curious psychology seems to map onto a logarithmic utility in money: Clearly the difference between lim(x to zero)[log(x)] and log(epsilon) is larger than the difference between log(epsilon) and log(1) for any finite value of epsilon. I'm not sure if this actually explains anything, but I thought it was kind of neat.

Incidentally, I'm confused over the fact that so few sites or people seem to use Flattr, despite it basically solving this problem. (Well, it's microdonations rather than micropayments, so you can't really require your users to pay anything, but still.)
Which came first, the massive user base or the many clients? Looks like a classic chicken-egg problem to me. Edit to add: Which being said, I just signed up for it as a creator. :)
I've not noticed websites I like using flattr, so I have no reason to sign up for it. Very few people use it, so it's not worth it for sites to sign up for it.
Can you tell where the microdonation comes from? It seems to me that you could pull a kickstarter-like business model and promise goods/services in exchange for a donation up front.
People can choose to donate either anonymously or non-anonymously, so I guess that it could work.
The interesting thing about that observation is that it's very much about how the internet get's used in the West. In China where a lot of internet use happens in internet cafés where uses pay the internet café by the hour micropayments for virtual goods are used more frequently than in the West. Additionally transaction costs are a big deal when it comes to micropayments. Paypal's micromayment fee is 5% + $0.05 per transaction. If we would have cheap micropayment there a chance that a greater ecosystem of services that need micropayments can grow. Bitcoin did promise being cheap but still have some substantial transaction costs. On the other hand Ripple (https://ripple.com/) provides the opportunity of a cost of $0.0001 per transaction.
Regarding Ripple, I thought that in the United States, financial institutions were required to know their users' identities. I don't see how this isn't blatantly illegal.
Two nodes in the Ripple network that trade trust each other know their identities. The actual trade happens between those two nodes. But even if they need to do more know-your-customer formalities I don't see why that should push the price much higher. Google Ventures does invest in the company behind Ripple, so they seem to believe it's legal.
The inconvenience of setting up a payment method may play some role.

I reviewed A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy at my blog ("Modern Stoicism – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly"). It's a philosophy book that's focused on being actionable, not just a historical survey, but I think it too-casually brushes off some of the unpleasant side effects of stoicism.

The desire to employ your Stoicism on a higher difficulty setting, coupled with the habit of seeing other people as obstacles can make you care less about other people. You root for them to be worse then they are. I used to wish that a gi

... (read more)
You can't control whether or not the girl will hit or insult you. As a result hoping that she would do one of those things goes against stoicist ideals. It's much better to seek out-of-comfort zone experiences where you can control that you have the experience. Instead of depending on the bully in the bus to provide an experience in which you can grow you can go and have fun dancing in the bus. A year ago I was in a personal development seminar that's partly about improving one's charisma and finding the courage to do what one likes. At the end of the day there's live music and most people just sit there listening and watching the musicians. I went and danced in alone in front of >200 people because I felt like dancing. I got a bunch of positive social feedback for it. Stoicism doesn't have to be about having no fun and doing nothing. It's rather about reducing negative emotions.
It seems like the actual correct play would be to go and DO HARD THINGS. Those will naturally more negative emotions and also be more useful.
Hard things where you are still in control. But the amount of hard things that you can effectively do during a short bus ride is limited. I personally like standing in the bus without leaning on anything and read a book. All stability that I need gets provided by standing on my own feet.
I've done this fairly often (I wouldn't call it particularly hard, but I'm used to reading and walking at the same time, so I suppose that probably functions as practice,) but I don't think it functions as useful practice for doing anything else that I might plausibly have reason to do.
It's not super hard but it's harder than what most people do when they travel via a bus. I would guess that it's harder than what most LessWrong readers do when the travel via a bus. Realistically I don't think I will convince people on lesswrong to go dancing in a bus in public transport. It's an exercise that trains physical stability. I myself could see the difference in my salsa dancing after doing it for a month. At the same time I find that the physical activity makes my mind more alert and I can put more cognitive resources the book better than I would by sitting down in the bus.

RSS feeds for user's comments seem to be broken with the update to how they display on the page. To see how, just look at eg. http://lesswrong.com/user/Yvain/overview/.rss . It contains a bunch of comments from other people than Yvain. This is pretty annoying, hope it's fixed soon. I'm subscribed to tens of users' comment feeds and it's the main way I read LW. Today all of those feeds got a bunch of spurious updates from the new other-people-comments on everyone's comments page.

Also, some months back there was another change to userpages and it broke all... (read more)

I've submitted a ticket to the LW bug tracker.

The subset of people who are Anki users and members of the competitive conspiracy might be interested in the Anki high score list addon I wrote: Ankichallenge

This suggests that studies about partisan confusion about truth are overblown. I haven't had a chance to look at the actual paper yet, but the upshot is that this study suggests that while there is a lot of prior evidence that people are likely to state strong factual errors supporting their own partisan positions, they are substantially less likely to occur when people are told they will be given money for correct statements. The suggestion is that people know (at some level) that their answers are false and are saying them more as signaling than anything else.


Alternative explanation: They're shutting up and multiplying. Most people have gone through the education system. Most people know how to guess the teacher's password. Most people have learned better than to assume their answers will be counted correct just because they have (in their opinions) good reasons for holding those answers. Does putting an incentive on getting the answers "right" lead to "right" answers, or does it lead to people answering the way they expect you to treat as being right? My own educational history suggests the latter.
I can't parse this bit: Going by the syntax, it seems like you're saying "that this study suggests that all the studies [about certain things] are less likely to occur [under certain circumstances]", i.e. the study you're talking about was about the frequency of other types of studies. This doesn't seem to make sense.
There are studies which show that people across the political spectrum answer many factual questions in ways that don't reflect the factual data, and they do so in ways that support their own political ideology if they were true. This research shows that this effect goes down a lot when people are told they will be paid for how many correct answers they give.
nod That doesn't seem to be a possible interpretation of your original sentence.
Is the edited version better?
Yeah, the new version seems quite clear (except that this looks like a typo: "people are likely to make likely to state strong factual errors").

Has anyone on LW compiled a list of books/subjects to read/learn that basically gives brings you through all the ideas discussed on LW?

The sequences are the obvious answer, but it's nice to go into subjects a little more in-depth, plus the sequences are somewhat frustrating to navigate (every article in the sequences has links to plenty of other articles, so it's hard to attack the sequences in linear fashion).

The most linear way to read Eliezer's Sequences is in chronological order by date of original posting, although it might not be the best way.

The most linear way to read Eliezer's Sequences is in chronological order by date of original posting, although it might not be the best way.

Mind you it will be a good approximation of the best way. His posting order was dominated by needing to explain requisite knowledge before explaining later concepts. Perhaps the most obvious optimisation when it comes to reading is just skipping the parts that aren't interesting.

Definitely - there's a lot of concepts that seem rather obvious to me, while others take me a lot longer to wrap my head around, so I've been skipping the ones that are really obvious to me.
this might resemble the kind of list you were looking for: http://lesswrong.com/lw/2un/references_resources_for_lesswrong/
Wow, that's a lot of information. Thanks!

I want to improve my exposition and writing skills, but whenever I think "what do I know that I can explain to people that isn't explained well elsewhere?" not much comes to mind. I think that happens because it is hard to just do a search of everything that I know. The main topics that I know are math and rationality (mostly LW epistemic rationality, but also a little instrumental and LW moral philosophy). So I ask:

What is a topic in math or rationality that you wish were explained better or explained at a different level (casual, technical, etc... (read more)

I want to improve my exposition and writing skills, but whenever I think "what do I know that I can explain to people that isn't explained well elsewhere?" not much comes to mind

If improving your skills is your main goal, you should just write, regardless of whether better explanations already exist elsewhere. Actually, such explanations already existing could even be an advantage, as it provides you with feedback: after writing your own, you can look up existing ones and compare what you did better and what you did worse.

I see what you are saying, but I would be more motivated if it felt like I was doing useful work, and I don't really know what to write about. So I kind of am looking for inspiration/motivation and ideas.
Are you sure? I wish this was what motivated me, but I've learned from writing about math for awhile that what I'm most motivated to write about is precisely what I'm most curious about at the moment. The usefulness of the writing has very little effect on my ability to actually finish it. (For example, I think it would be really useful to write an introduction to some of the material in Jaynes. But this hasn't motivated me to actually do so yet.) You should try writing a few things first, of varying usefulness and curiousness, and see which thing you actually feel motivated to finish.
What do you really wish someone had explained to you 2 years ago?
The two things that come to mind are things that I am still learning. General category theory (rather than category theory for the purpose of x), and a higher level structural and general viewpoint on Bayes (rather than basic articles on how to compute Bayes theorem and what it means). Also something on what actually happens when you extend mathematical logic using Bayesian probability. I could probably start on the second one right now...
Writing about things you are still learning would probably be a great idea, actually. It would likely help you learn them better (research shows that in peer-to-peer tutoring, the tutors benefit more than tutees). And you can always leave in placeholders that give you more to write about: "I don't know why this is yet, but I'm going to look it up and write about it later." You might also have an unfair advantage, in that since you have newly learned it, you'll have a better perspective from which to explain it to people who aren't familiar with the material.
If you want to practice writing, but you can't think of any fun (or... fun-like) ways to practice writing, it may be a good idea to practice in a way that isn't fun, instead of waiting for something fun to come along. If lack of motivation turns out to be actually problematic, then searching for a more motivating topic is a potential solution, but there are lots of other, potentially better solutions.
There are tools you can use to solve this problem! Have you tried mindmapping everything you know, e.g. with FreeMind? At least in math, many topics are explained well at some high level but not explained well at a lower level. There's always more work to be done explaining math to the general population; the gulf between what could be explained and what has already been explained is absurd.
Pretend you're to have a conversation with a friend in which you need to explain a topic before proceeding. Write your dialogue.
That seems like the wrong question to start with for casual writing. Some version of it might make sense for academic publishing. Is there some math you're having fun with that you'd like to try explaining? If you'd like a great big project, how about rationality for people of average intelligence?
Why do you think that is a wrong question? I am mostly asking because I want something interesting to write about, that I would be motivated to write. The math that I am having fun with I don't know thoroughly enough to explain (and I am learning it from a really good piece of exposition). The rationality one looks like fun, I will see if I can do some of it. First step, hack it into pieces so I am not working on a massive supergoal project, but a small project instead.
My guess was that it was a wrong question because it seems to stop you very early. If having your writing be useful is a primary motivation, then maybe "what do I know well that I can explain to people which they aren't likely to have seen already?" would be better. Another might be "what's something interesting that I know well that a good many people haven't heard of?".

It is the Capitalism Day today. As every first Sunday in June.

I wish you all a nice profit!

Thanks, you too!
Why is Capitalism Day on a weekend? Monday would seem more appropriate...

It would be too costly to spoil another business day. Sunday is all right.

There are people studying the memetics of transhumanism academically. I am writing my Masters so I can't read it. But maybe someone else wants to... (sorry no easy link) http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08949468.2013.754649#.UbhTvRUQ8gQ

I notice I am confused about Godel's theorem, and I'm hoping there are enough mathematically minded folks here to unconfuse me. :-)

My recollection from my undergraduate days is that Godel's theorem states that given any sufficiently powerful formal system (i.e. one powerful to encode Peano arithmetic) there are statements that can be made in that system that can neither be proven true nor proven false. I.e. the system is either incomplete or inconsistent, and generally incomplete is what seems to happen.

Here's what confused me: I've noticed several recent... (read more)

This might be helpful.

A bit of a long shot but I am a recent Psychology (BSc) Graduate who currently lives in London and is looking for a job. Does anyone know of any positions in the rationality sector (anywhere) or any science/research/anything else like that around London (or not) that I can look into? Or any other general advice, recommendations etc.

Does anyone know of a way to convert .anki files to .apkg files?

I recently started using anki, but most of the decks I downloaded are .anki, and can't be opened by ankidroid...

Naive evo-psych seems to imply that having a big family should make me more attractive, for two reasons: 1) it's evidence that my genes cause many surviving kids, 2) more people will share resources to help my kids survive. But that doesn't seem to work in real life. Why?

"Real life" doesn't even remotely resemble the ancestral environment. In the modern world, a big family is evidence about your cultural background, especially the relationship between your cultural background and contraception, and that might be a turn-off for some. This is the same kind of phenomenon that makes having extra fat evidence, in the ancestral environment, that you were good at acquiring food and other resources, but in the modern world it's evidence that you're poor or lack access to good food or lack self-control or whatever.

Yeah, saying "evo-psych doesn't work" is one way to answer my question :-)
I mean, I'd rather say "evo-psych has a certain domain of applicability, and also it's not the only force that shapes human behavior, and also most people who try to apply evo-psych don't understand the evolutionary-cognitive boundary, and..." It seems a little presumptuous to say "if I naively apply this idea, I get something that looks wrong, therefore this is a dumb idea" instead of saying "if I naively apply this idea, I get something that looks wrong, therefore I may have applied it in a dumb way." Have you read an actual textbook on evolutionary psychology?
Nope. I was kind of hoping some expert would answer. To reformulate the question, is there some easy way to see that my prediction is wrong without going out and checking? The arguments in your first comment apply to all of evo-psych equally. Your second comment mentioned the "evolutionary-cognitive boundary" which doesn't seem to be what I want, unless I'm missing something...
It was an example of how people can incorrectly apply evolutionary psychology. Anyway, despite my previous comment, it's not clear to me that your prediction is in fact wrong.
Do you (not) observe this both with males and females? Baboons are supposed to be a good model for human social structure, though not as smart as apes. They are matrilocal, so they don't know how big the male's family was. The female's status is largely determined by alliances, which are made of family blocks. They do get some grooming work out of allies. They might be able to get work out of low status females, who love to hold high status babies, but the mothers don't trust them, perhaps out of fear for the baby, perhaps out of fear of status contagion. Anyhow, since (2) is true, it's hard to measure (1). But it is probably better to look at anthropological evidence than baboons. Large families mean low infant mortality and low maternal mortality. Low infant mortality might be due to good genes, or good provisioning. A woman from a large family might provide genetic protection against maternal mortality, but not a man from a large family. If infant mortality is due to bad infant genes, siblings testify to this kind of gene, but it might not be different from other kinds of robustness that can be measured in adulthood. If it's paternal provisioning, then maybe it's evidence that the man inherited dad strategy genes (vs cad strategy), but hunter-gatherer couplings probably were not long term so the large family is not highly informative. The farming environment seems like it should select for the behavior you suggest, but people usually assume it didn't last very long so didn't shape much.
Why does evo. psych imply this result? The fact that you can spawn healthy children may make you more attractive to an additional potential mate, but the potential mate must also consider whether you can provide resources to support additional children. This seems like the opposite of what evo. psych would predict. Your relatives might be willing to provide you more support if you have more kids, but why would strangers be more willing to support you based on your reproductive fitness? As for relatives of additional potential spouses, the considerations of I discussed above still apply.
Well, the more kids are in a family, the less resources can be allocated to each child, all other things being equal. That said, it isn't obvious to me that your premise is true. I have found that my esteem for somebody grows for some reason when I learn they have siblings.

MoR and munchkining fans may enjoy this application to Railgun: http://www.reddit.com/r/anime/comments/1fpome/just_a_fanart_of_railgun_characters/cacmewm

From If Many-Worlds had Come First:

the thought experiment goes: 'Hey, suppose we have a radioactive particle that enters a superposition of decaying and not decaying. Then the particle interacts with a sensor, and the sensor goes into a superposition of going off and not going off. The sensor interacts with an explosive, that goes into a superposition of exploding and not exploding; which interacts with the cat, so the cat goes into a superposition of being alive and dead. Then a human looks at the cat,' and at this point Schrödinger stops, and goes,

... (read more)

Why, then, don't more people realize that many worlds is correct?

Note that you are using Eliezer!correct, not Physics!correct. The former is based on Bayesian reasoning among models with equivalent predictive power, the latter requires different predictive power to discriminate between theories. The problem with the former reasoning is that without experimental validation it is hard to agree on the priors and other assumptions going into the Bayesian calculation for MWI correctness. Additionally, proclaiming MWI "correct" is not instrumentally useful unless one can use it to advance physical knowledge.

'hey, maybe at that point half of the superposition just vanishes, at random, faster than light'

It's worse than that, actually. In some frames it means not just FTL but also back in time. But given that this is unmeasurable, it matters not in the slightest if you adopt the Physics!correct definition.

Note that the OP wasn't asking about physicists, but people... explicitly "bright middle school children" for example. It's certainly possible that the lack of differential predictive power or experimental validation for MWI explains that, but I'm inclined to doubt it.
Good point, I missed it in my original reading. Certainly "bright middle school children" are unlikely to spontaneously discover the definition of correctness which matches either Eliezer!correct or Physics!correct. Certainly it's still an open issue for adult professionals.
I am going to try and provide short answer, as I see it. (Fighting urge to write about different levels of "physical reality".) Many Words is an Interpretation. An interpretation should translate from mathematical formalism towards practical algorithms, but MWI does not go all the way. Namely, it does not specify the quantum state an Agent should use for computation. One possible state agrees with "Schroedinger's experiment was definitely set up and started", another state implies "cat definitely turned out to be alive", but those certainties cannot occur simultaneously. Bayesian inference in non-quantum physics also changes (probabilistic) state, but we can interpret it as a mere change of our beliefs, and not a change in the physical system. But in quantum mechanics, upon observation, the "objective" state fitting our knowledge changes. MWI says "fitting our knowledge" is not a good criterion of choosing quantum state to compute with (because no state can be fitting enough, as example with Shroedinger's cat shows) and we should compute with superposition of Agents. MWI may be more "objectively correct", but it does not seem to be more "practical" than Copenhagen interpretation. So physicists do like to cautiously agree with MWI, then wave hands, proclaim "Decoherence!" and at the end use Copenhagen interpretation as before. Introductory books emphasize experiments, and experimental results do not come in form of superpositioned bits. So before student gets familiar enough with mathematical formalism to think about detectors in superposition, Copenhagen is already occupying slot for Interpretation.

Today I learned that there exist electromagnetic waves in vacuum with electric and magnetic fields parallel to each other. Freaky...

Sure it's not in plasma?
Consider a circularly polarized standing wave with the electric field of the form E=E0cos(kz)(cos(wt)x-hat - sin(wt)y-hat).
Ah, I see. They're offset along the z-direction, rather than in the x-y plane. Huh.
My mind was blown when I saw it first, so ingrained was the "fact" that E and B are normal to each other for waves in vacuum. I had to recalculate B several times before I believed it. Which makes me worried that some other physics "facts" I now believe unquestioningly have similar holes.
... oh.

I'd like to put out a call for anecdata, if I may:

Lately I've been wondering how much of a causal connection there is between happiness/fulfillment and willpower (or, conversely, akrasia) levels. I feel like I'm not especially fulfilled or happy in my life right now, and I can't help but feel intuitively that this is one cause of the difficulty I seem to have in focusing, concentrating, and putting effort into what I want to. However, I've no idea whether there's actually anything in this.

So: I guess I wondered if anyone has any personal accounts of (medi... (read more)

This is definitely the case according to my experiences and pretty much every self-help text I've ever read. You might want to check out this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broaden-and-build
I'll take a look; thanks pal.
Well, I certainly find that the two are correlated... when my mood is low, I don't get much done compared to when my mood is elevated. Whether that's because getting things done influences my mood (and something else influences my productivity), or whether my mood influences my productivity (and something else influences my mood), or whether neither is true (and something else influences both), or various combinations, is harder to tease out. My impression is that all three are true at different times.
Right. It figures that causation would go the other way, at least - that the presence of akrasia would cause bad mood. Indeed, akrasia is pretty much defined as that which makes you unhappy, right?
When I have above usual levels of productivity, I'm moderately happier than the norm. When I have below usual levels, I'm much unhappier than normal.
I've noticed the converse seems to be true in me, at least to a degree: getting useful work done causes me to feel happier. I have not noticed happiness causing me to get more useful work done.
I have noticed both, but happiness does seem to improve more after the start of useful work than useful work improves after an increase in happiness. I might describe it as certain types of work requiring a threshold level of happiness to initiate, among other requirements. I've been noticing this tendency for years and trying to use it to my advantage (much to the annoyance of all the mainstream types who only inquire into my methods when they fail). A particular anecdote that comes to mind is how, after weeks of not managing to care enough to complete any assignments for a course that I like so little as to have since given up on, I discovered HPMoR, which I read in one sitting, other than the ten minutes in the middle where I stopped to complete one of these assignments. Happiness in / Happiness out, so to speak, except that happiness is obviously not the only activation condition, so attempting to use it without the others present just wastes happiness. (The trouble is how one goes about recognizing the necessary activation conditions for useful work and their presence/absence so as to avoid wasting happiness unnecessarily.)
Interesting. My correlations go in the opposite direction.

I've started a blog, yesterday.


I'm interested. If you plan on posting semi-regularly or irregularly, please consider adding an RSS feed. It's the only way to follow sites that don't have a regular update schedule.
I did it, hope it works.
Nope, it seems you've added the RSS feed of http://hexahost.com/blogs , http://hexahost.com/blogs/?feed=rss2
True, it's a mess right now...
Please add it to the list of blogs by LWers in the wiki.
Thank you, I did.
I've see only a math post. Do you plan to write in what kind of topics?
Math, physics, coding, strategy games, conflicts, the (near) future as I see it, promoting some contrarian views. I don't approve many common views, I think I can see through several established misconceptions. Still, I could be wrong now and then.
If you think you're only wrong "every now and then", then you haven't really learned much from LW.
Good point. To avoid being wrong, one may restrict himself to write about common accepted things, like 2+2=4. What is boring. But I will say something very controversial. Like "faster rotating planets are warmer than slowly rotating, everything else equal". Most people "know" it is the other way around. Then I will try to decompose this statement to some well known and thus boring facts. Risky strategy I know.
Oh, don't get me wrong (no pun intended) - I don't think it's a bad thing to be frequently wrong. It's only bad to a) refuse to change your opinion and b) not realize you're wrong.

I think I've noticed that I'm more willing to read long texts written in small font sizes than in large ones, and in sans-serif than in serif font.

I might try again to read A Gentle Introduction to Unqualified Reservations, but in a small, sans-serif typeface this time, to test this.

FWIW, most of my pages on gwern.net seem like they'd count as 'long texts', but my just concluded font A/B test using 2 sans-serif and 2 serif fonts doesn't see any difference in reading time when you split by serif: http://www.gwern.net/a-b-testing#fonts
That only tests for the averages AFAICT -- there might well be people who read serif fonts faster and people who read sans-serif fonts faster.
Since I don't know whether I like the Big Endians or Little Endians, I only care about the average.