If it's worth saying, but not worth its own post (even in Discussion), then it goes here.
Notes for future OT posters:
1. Please add the 'open_thread' tag.
2. Check if there is an active Open Thread before posting a new one.
3. Open Threads should be posted in Discussion, and not Main.
4. Open Threads should start on Monday, and end on Sunday.
I wrote a userscript / Chrome extension / zero-installation bookmarklet to make finding recent comments over at Slate Star Codex a lot easier. Observe screenshots. I'll also post this next time SSC has a new open thread (unless Yvain happens to notice this).
In your open thread inbox, less wrong comments have the options "context" and "report" (in that order), whereas private messages have "report" and "reply" (in that order). Many times I've accidentally pressed "report" on a private message, and fortunately caught myself before continuing.
I'd suggest reversing the order of "report" and "reply", so that they fit with the comments options.
Right, that's my tiny suggestion for this month :-)
I wrote a userscript to add a delay and checkbox reading "I swear by all I hold sacred that this comment supports the collective search for truth to the very best of my abilities." before allowing you to comment on LW. Done in response to a comment by army1987 here.
Edit: per NancyLebovitz and ChristianKl below, solicitations for alternative default messages are welcomed.
Does anyone know if something urgent has been going on with MIRI, other than the Effective Altruism Summit? I am a job application candidate -- I have no idea about my status as one. But I was promised a chat today, days ago, and nothing was arranged regarding time or medium. Now it is the end of the day. I sent my application weeks ago and have been in contact with 3 of the employees who seem to work on the management side of things. This is a bit frustrating. Ironically, I applied as Office Manager, and hope that (if hired) I would be doing my best to take care of these things -- putting things on a calendar, working to help create a protocol for 'rejecting' or 'accepting' or 'deferring' employee applications, etc. Have other people had similar, disorganized correspondences with MIRI? Or have they mostly been organized, suggesting that I take this experience as a sure sign of rejection?
Oblique request made without any explanation: can anyone provide examples of beliefs that are incontrovertibly incorrect, but which intelligent people will nonetheless arrive at quite reasonably through armchair-theorising?
I am trying to think up non-politicised, non-controversial examples, yet every one I come up with is a reliable flame-war magnet.
ETA: I am trying to reason about disputes where on the one hand you have an intelligent, thoughtful person who has very expertly reasoned themselves into a naive but understandable position p, and on the other hand, you have an individual who possesses a body of knowledge that makes a strong case for the naivety of p.
What kind of ps exist, and do they have common characteristics? All I can come up with are politically controversial ps, but I'm starting my search from a politically-controversial starting point. The motivating example for this line of reasoning is so controversial that I'm not touching it with a shitty-stick.
Mathematical arguments happen all the time over whether 0.99999...=1 but I'm not sure if that's interesting enough to count for what you want.
I thought about this on & off over the last couple of days and came up with more candidates than you can shake a shitty stick at. Some of these are somewhat political or controversial, but I don't think any are reliable flame-war magnets. I expect some'll ring your cherries more than others, but since I can't tell which, I'll post 'em all and let you decide.
The answer to the Sleeping Beauty puzzle is obviously 1/2.
Rational behaviour, being rational, entails Pareto optimal results.
Food availability sets a hard limit on the number of kids people can have, so when people have more food they have more kids.
Truth is an absolute defence against a libel accusation.
If a statistical effect is so small that a sample of several thousand is insufficient to reliably observe it, the effect's too small to matter.
Controlling for an auxiliary variable, or matching on that variable, never worsens the bias of an estimate of a causal effect.
Human nature being as brutish as it is, most people are quite willing to be violent, and their attempts at violence are usually competent.
In the increasingly fast-paced and tightly connected United States, residential mobility is higher than eve
That's a tall order. I'll try:
Noticing that people who are the best in any sport practice the most and concluding that being good at a sport is simply a matter of practice and determination. Tabula Rasa in general.
The supply-demand model of minimum wage? Is this political? I'm not saying minimum wage is good or bad, just that the supply-demand model can't settle the question yet people learning about economics tend to be easily convinced by the simple explanation.
That thermodynamics proves that weight loss + maintenance is simply a matter of diet and exercise (this is more Yudkowsky's fight than mine).
I doubt it is possible to find non-controversial examples of anything, and especially of things plausible enough to be believed by intelligent non-experts, outside of the hard sciences.
If this is true, the only plausible examples would be such as "an infinity cannot be larger than another infinity", "time flows uniformly regardless of the observer", "biological species have unchanging essences", and other intuitively plausible statements unquestionably contradicted by modern hard sciences.
Most drug new drugs fail clinical trials.
Intelligent people make theories about how a drug is supposed to work and think it would help to cure some illness. Then when the drug is brought into clinical trials more than 90% of new drugs still fail to live up to the theoretical promise that the drug held.
A fun one which came up recently on IRC: everyone thinks that how your parents raise you is incredibly important, this is so obvious it doesn't need any proof and is universal common sense (how could influencing and teaching a person from scratch to 18 years old not have deep and profound effects on them?), and you can find extended discussions of the best way to raise kids from Plato's Republic to Rousseau's Emile to Spock.
Except twin studies consistently estimate that the influence of 'shared environment' (the home) is small or near-zero for many traits compared to genetics and randomness/nonshared-environment.
If you want to predict whether someone will be a smoker or smart, it doesn't matter whether they're raised by smokers or not (to borrow an example from The Nurture Assumption*); it just matters whether their biological parents were smokers and whether they get unlucky.
This is so deeply counterintuitive and unexpected that even people who are generally familiar with the relevant topics like IQ or twin studies typically don't know about this or disbelieve it.
(Another example is probably folk physics: Newtonian motion is true, experimentally confirmed, mathematically logical, ... (read more)
This is quite possibly the most comforting scientific result ever for me as a parent, by the way.
Whereas for me, it's horrifying, given that my ex-spouse turned out to be an astonishingly horrible person.
I seem to recall Yvain posting a link to something he referred to as the beginnings of a possible rebuttal to The Nurture Assumption; I suppose I shall have to hang my hopes on that.
You feared more than you hoped, eh?
'Shh, kemo sabe - you hear that?' 'No; the jungle is silent tonight.' 'Yes. The silence of the p-values. A wild publication bias stalks us. We must be cautious'.
Get off my lawn
Exactly! If you have something to protect as a parent, then after hearing "parents are unimportant, the important stuff is some non-genetic X" the obvious reaction is: "Okay, so how can I influence X?" (Instead of saying: "Okay, then it's not my fault, whatever.")
For example, if I want my children to be non-smokers, and I learn that whether I am smoking or not has much smaller impact than whether my children's friends are smoking... the obvious next question is: What can I do to increase the probability that my children's friends will be non-smokers? There are many indirect methods like choosing the place to live, choosing the school, choosing free-time activities, etc. I would just like to have more data on what smoking correlates with; where should I send my children and where should I prevent them from going, so that even if they "naturally" pick their peer group in that place, they will more likely pick non-smokers. (Replace non-smoking with whatever is your parenting goal.)
Shortly, when I read "parenting" in a study, I mentally translate it as: "what an average, non-strategic parent does". That's not the same as: "what a parent could do".
There are problems, but I don't think they are large, I think they are brought up mostly for ideological reasons (Shalizi is not an unbiased source and has a very big axe to grind), and a lot of the problems also cut the other way. For example, measurement error can reduce estimates of heritability a great deal, as we see in twin studies which correct for it and as predicted get higher heritability estimates, like "Not by Twins Alone: Using the Extended Family Design to Investigate Genetic Influence on Political Beliefs", Hatemi et al 2010 (this study, incidentally, also addresses the claim that twins may have special environments compared to their non-twin siblings and that will bias results, which has been claimed by people who dislike twin studies; there's no a priori reason to think this, and Hatemi finds no evidence for it, yet they had claimed it).
Being an extremist by local standards may be more relevant than actual beliefs.
If a plane is on a conveyor belt going at the same speed in the opposite direction, will it take off?
I remember reading this in other places I don't remember, and it seems to inspire furious arguments despite being non-political and not very controversial.
A thought I've had floating around for a few years now.
With the Internet, it's a lot easier to self-study than ever before. This changes the landscape. Money is much less of a limiting factor, and things like time, motivation, and availability of learning material are now more important. It occurs to me that the last is greatly language-dependent. If the only language you speak is spoken by five million other people, you might as well not have the Internet at all. But even if you speak a major language, the material you'll be getting is greatly inferior in quantity, and probably quality, to material available to English speakers. Just checking stats for Wikipedia, the English version is many times larger than other versions and scores much better on all indices. For newer things like MOOCS and Quora, the gap is even larger, and a counterpart often doesn't even exist (Based on my experiences with Korean, my native language).
Could this spark a significant education gap between English speakers and non-speakers? Since learning through the web has only recently become competitive with traditional methods of learning, we shouldn't expect to see the bulk of the effects for at least a decade or so.
Given that most of the important scientific papers are in English there already a gap between people who can speak English and people who don't. I don't think that you can get a good position in a Western business these days if you can't speak any English.
I recently learned that chocolate contain significant amount of coffeine. 100g chocolate contain roughly as much as a cup of black tea. As a result I updated in the direction of not eating chocolate directly before going to bed.
I don't know whether the information is new to everyone, but it was interesting for me.
I've never tried to fnord something before, did I do it right?
Frankenstein's monster doomsayers overwhelmed by Terminator's Skynet become ever-more clever singularity singularity the technological singularity idea that has taken on a life of its own techno-utopians wealthy middle-aged men singularity as their best chance of immortality Singularitarians prepared to go to extremes to stay alive for long enough to benefit from a benevolent super-artificial intelligence a man-made god that grants transcendence doomsayers the techno-dystopians Apocalypsarians equally convinced super-intelligent AI no interest in curing cancer or old age or ending poverty malevolently or maybe just accidentally bring about the end of human civilisation Hollywood Golem Frankenstein's monster Skynet and the Matrix fascinated by the old story man plays god and then things go horribly wrong singularity chain reaction even the smartest humans cannot possibly comprehend how it works out of control singularity technological singularity cautious and prepared optimistic obsessively worried by a hypothesised existential risk a sequence of big ifs risk while not impossible is improbable worrying unnecessarily we're... (read more)
Source, it's from back in 2002
On the limits of rationality given flawed minds —
There is some fraction of the human species that suffers from florid delusions, due to schizophrenia, paraphrenia, mania, or other mental illnesses. Let's call this fraction D. By a self-sampling assumption, any person has a D chance of being a person who is suffering from delusions. D is markedly greater than one in seven billion, since delusional disorders are reported; there is at least one living human suffering from delusions.
Given any sufficiently interesting set of priors, there are some possible beli... (read more)
For you to rule out a belief (e.g. geocentrism) as totally unbelievable, not only does it have to be less likely than insanity, it has to be less likely than insanity that looks like rational evidence for geocentrism.
You can test yourself for other symptoms of delusions - and one might think "but I can be deluded about those too," but you can think of it like requiring your insanity to be more and more specific and complicated, and therefore less likely.
There is a common idea in the “critical thinking”/"traditional rationality" community that (roughly) you should, when exposed to an argument, either identify a problem with it or come to believe the argument’s conclusion. From a Bayesian framework, however, this idea seems clearly flawed. When presented with an argument for a certain conclusion, my failure to spot a flaw in the argument might be explained by either the argument’s being sound or by my inability to identify flawed arguments. So the degree to which I should update in either directio... (read more)
Because the case where you are entirely wedded to a particular conclusion and want to just ignore the contrary evidence would look awfully similar...
Quoted in full from here:... (read more)
I see the broad point Waytz is making, but the ranty delivery is pretty silly. Why is the doctor's act not selfless? It certainly appears to be motivated by altruism (even if that altruism is misguided, from a utilitarian perspective). Having a non-utilitarian moral code is not the same thing as selfishness.
Second, the anger in that comment seems to have more to do with a distaste for deontological altruistic gestures than anything else. I really doubt Waytz would be as mad if the doctor had simply decided that he had had enough of working in the medical profession and decided to open a bistro instead.
Not sure if this belongs here, but not sure where else it should go.
Many pages on the internet disappear, returning 404's when looking for them (especially older pages). The material I found on LW and OB is of such great quality that I would really hate it if a part of the pages here also disappeared (as in became harder to access for me). I am not sure if this is in any part realistic, but the thought does bother me. So I was hoping to somehow make a local backup of LW/OB, downloading all pages to a hard drive. There are other reasons for wanting this sam... (read more)
You might be interested in reading Gwern's page on Archiving URLs and Link Rot
Pages here are disappearing - someone's been going through the archive deleting posts they don't like. (c.f.  versus .) (The post is still slightly available, but the 152 comments are no longer associated with it.) So get archiving sooner rather than later.
New open thread
How to Work with "Stupid" People
The hypothesis is that people frequently underestimate the intelligence of those they work with. The article suggests some ways people could get the wrong impression, and some strategies for improving communications and relationships. It all seems very plausible.
However, the author doesn't offer any examples, and the comments are full of complaints about unchangeably stupid coworkers.
I have been considering finding a group of writers/artists to associate with in order to both provide me a catalyst for self-improvement and a set of peers who are serious about their work. I have several friends who are "into" writing or comics or whatever other medium, but most of them are as "into" it as the time between video games, drinking, and staying up late to binge Dexter episodes allows.
We have a whole sequences here on LessWrong about the Craft and the Community. So I don't feel the need to provide some bits of anecdotal evi... (read more)
As a person living very far away from west Africa, how worried should I be about the current Ebola outbreak?
Non-conventional thinking here, feel free to tell me why this is wrong/stupid/dangerous.
I am young and healthy, and when I catch a cold, I think " cool, when I recover immune system +1." I take this one step further though, when I don't get sick for a long time, I start to hope I get sick because I want to exercise my immune system. I know this might sound obviously wrong but can we just discuss why exactly?
My priors tell me that actively avoiding any germs and people to prevent getting sick is unhealthy. So I have lived my life not avoiding ... (read more)
Thought that people (particularly in the UK) might be interested to see this, a blog from one of the broadsheets on Bostrom's Superintelligence
Another attempt at a sleep sensor, currently funded on Kickstarter.
Another piece of potentially useful information that may be new to some folks here: sleeping more ~7.5 hours is associated to a higher mortality risk (and the risk is comparable to sleeping less than ~5 hours).
Relevant literature reviews:
Cappuccio FP, D'Elia L, Strazzullo P, et al. Sleep duration and all-cause mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. Sleep 2010;33(5):585-592.... (read more)
I don't find these results to be of much value. There's a long history of various sleep-duration correlations turning out to be confounds from various diseases and conditions (as your quote discusses), so there's more than usual reason to minimize the possibility of causation, and if you do that, why would anyone care about the results? I don't think a predictive relationship is much good for say retirement planning or diagnosing your health from your measured sleep. And on the other hand, there's plenty of experimental studies on sleep deprivation, chronic or acute, affecting mental and physical health, which overrides these extremely dubious correlates. It's not a fair fight.
What it means to be statistically educated, a list by the American Statistical Association. Not half bad.
Anybody have any advice on how to successfully implement doublethink?
I've been looking for tools to help organize complex arguments and systems into diagrams, and ran into Flying Logic and Southbeach modeller. Could anyone here with experience using these comment on their value?
Suppose you wanted to find out all the correlates for particular Big Five personality traits. Where would you look, besides the General Social Survey?
I'm at Otakon 2014, and there was a panel today about philosophy and videogames. The description read like Less Wrongese. I couldn't get in (it was full) but I'm wondering if anyone here was responsible for it.
Is there a way to see if I can vote both ways?
A month or so ago I started to get errors saying I can't downvote. I don't really care that much (it's not me that's gaining from my vote), but if I can't downvote I want to make sure I don't upvote so I don't bias things.
Anchoring in marathon runners.
Harry Potter And The Cryptocurrency of Stars
What is the general opinion on neurofeedback? Apparently there is scientific evidence pointing to its efficacy, but have there been controlled studies showing greater benefit to neurofeedback over traditional methods if they are known?
Does anyone have any experience or thoughts regarding Cal Newport's "Study Hacks" blog, or his books? I'm trying to get an idea of how reliable his advice is before, saying, reading his book about college, or reading all of the blog archives.
A history of anime fandom
I'm not vouching for this, but it sounds plausible.
Physics puzzle: Being exposed to cold air while the wind is blowing causes more heat loss/feels colder than simply being exposed to still cold air.
So, if the ambient air temperature is above body temperature, and ignoring the effects of evaporation, would a high wind cause more heat gain/feel warmer than still hot air?
Scicast: I mentioned this last open thread, but it was late in the month and got buried. Who here participates on scicast? I'm there under this name. It would be good to get a tally of how much LW prescience there is and how we as a group are doing. So if you're there, sound off