If it's worth saying, but not worth its own post (even in Discussion), then it goes here.
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GiveWell's top charities updated today. Compared to previous recommendations, they have put Against Malaria Foundation back on the top charities list (partial explanation here), and they have also added an "Other Standout Charities" section.
Several weeks ago I wrote a heavily upvoted post called Don't Be Afraid of Asking Personally Important Questions on LessWrong. I thought it would only be due diligence if I tried to track users on LessWrong who have received advice from here, and it's backfired. In other words, to avoid bias in the record, we might notice what LessWrong as a community is bad at giving advice about. So, I'm seeking feedback. If you have anecdotes or data of how a plan or advice directly from LessWrong backfired, failed, or didn't lead to satisfaction, please share below. If you would like to keep the details private, feel free to send me a private message.
If the ensuing thread doesn't get enough feedback, I'll try making asking this question as a Discussion post in its own right. If for some reason you think this whole endeavor isn't necessary, critical feedback about that is also welcome.
What cause would an NRx EA donate to?
My feeling was that SSC is getting close to LW in terms of popularity, but Alexa says otherwise: SSC hasn't yet cracked top 100k sites (LW is ranked 63,755) and has ~600 of links to it vs ~2000 for LW. Still very impressive for a part-time hobby of one overworked doctor. Sadly, 20% of searches leading to SSC are for heartiste.
My suspicion is that SSC would get a lot more traffic if its lousy WP comment system was better, but then Scott is apparently not motivated by traffic, so there is no incentive for him to improve it.
SSC getting a lot more traffic might change it and not necessarily for the better.
Good futurology is different from storytelling in that it tries to make as few assumptions as possible. How many assumptions do we need to allow cryonics to work? Well, a lot.
The true point of no return has to be indeed much later than we believe it to be now. (Besides does it even exist at all? Maybe a super-advanced civilization can collect enough information to backtrack every single process in the universe down to the point of one's death. Or maybe not)
Our vitrification technology is not a secure erase procedure. Pharaohs also thought that their mummification technology is not a secure erase procedure. Even though we have orders of magnitude more evidence to believe we're not mistaken this time, ultimately, it's the experiment that judges.
Timeless identity is correct, and it's you rather than your copy that wakes up.
We will figure brain scanning.
We will figure brain simulation.
Alternatively, we will figure nanites, and a way to make them work through the ice.
We will figure all that sooner than the expected time of the brain being destroyed by: slow crystal formation; power outages; earthquakes; terrorist attacks; meteor strikes; going bankrupt; economy collapse; n
New research suggests that life may be hard to come by on certain classes of planets even if they are in the habitable zone since they will lose their water early on. See here. This is noteworthy in that in in the last few years almost all other research has pointed towards astronomical considerations not being a major part of the Great Filter, and this is a suggestion that slightly more of the Filter may be in our past.
How do people who sign up to cryonics, or want to sign up to cryonics, get over the fact that if they died, there would no-longer be a mind there to care about being revived at a later date? I don't know how much of it is morbid rationalisation on my part just because signing up to cryonics in the UK seems not quite as reliable/easy as in the US somehow, but it still seems like a real issue to me.
Obviously, when I'm awake, I enjoy life, and want to keep enjoying life. I make plans for tomorrow, and want to be alive tomorrow, despite the fact that in betwee... (read more)
Say you're undergoing surgery, and as part of this they use a kind of sedation where your mind completely stops. Not just stops getting input from the outside world, no brain activity whatsoever. Once you're sedated, is there any moral reason to finish the surgery?
Say we can run people on computers, we can start and stop them at any moment, but available power fluctuates. So we come up with a system where when power drops we pause some of the people, and restore them once there's power again. Once we've stopped someone, is there a moral reason to start them again?
My resolution to both of these cases is that I apparently care about people getting the experience of living. People dying matters in that they lose the potential for future enjoyment of living, their friends lose the enjoyment of their company, and expectation of death makes people enjoy life less. This makes death different from brain-stopping surgery, emulation pausing, and also cryonics.
(But I'm not signed up for cryonics because I don't think the information would be preserved.)
What exactly causes a person to stalk other people? Is there research that investigates the question when people start to stalk and when they don't?
To what extend is getting a stalker a risk worth thinking about before it's too late?
No research, just my personal opinion: borderline personality disorder.
First the stalker is obsessed by the person because the target is the most awesome person in the universe. Imagine a person who could give you infinitely many utilons, if they wanted to. Learning all about them and trying to befriend them would be the most important thing in the world. But at some moment, there is an inevitable disappointment.
Scenario A: The target decides to avoid the stalker. At the beginning the stalker believes it is merely a misunderstanding that can be explained, that perhaps they can prove their loyalty by persistence or something. But later they give up hope, or receive a sufficiently harsh refusal.
Scenario B: The stalker succeeds to befriend the the target. But they are still not getting the infinite utilons, which they believe they should be getting. So they try to increase the intensity of the relationship to impossible levels, as if trying to become literally one person. At some moment the target refuses to cooperate, or is simply unable to cooperate in the way the stalker wants them to, but to the stalker even this... (read more)
PubMed and Wikipedia give this:
The three predominant stalker typologies currently in use include Zona’s stalker–victim types, Mullen’s stalker typology, and the RECON stalker typology.
Most stalkers are lonely and socially incompetent, but all have the capacity to frighten and distress their victims.
While all subjects exhibited some similarities in stalking behaviors and demographic variables, including childhood attachment disruptions, no single profile of a "stalker" emerged.
... in less forensically focused samples of stalkers, rates of borderline personality are likely to be substantially higher, but confirmatory data is lacking
... celebrity worshippers may exhibit narcissistic features, dissociation, addictive tendencies, stalking behavior, and compulsive buying.
Elon Musk often advocates looking at problems from a first principles calculation rather than by analogy. My question is what does this kind of thinking imply for cryonics. Currently, the cost of full body preservation is around 80k. What could be done in principle with scale?
Ralph Merkle put out a plan (although lacking in details) for cryopreservation at around 4k. This doesn't seem to account for paying the staff or transportation. The basic idea is that one can reduce the marginal cost by preserving a huge number of people in one vat. There is some discussion of this going on at Longecity, but the details are still lacking.
I'm going to narrate a Mutants and Masterminds roleplaying campaign for my friends, and I'm planning that the final big villain behind all the plots will be... Clippy.
Any story suggestions?
Sabotage of a big company's IT systems, or of an IT company that maintains those systems, to force people to use paperclip-needing physical documents while the systems are down. Can have the paperclips be made mention of, but as what seems to the players like just fluff describing how this (rival company/terrorist/whatever) attack has disrupted things.
Several weeks ago I wrote a heavily upvoted post called Don't Be Afraid of Asking Personally Important Questions on LessWrong. I've been thinking about a couple of things since I wrote that post.
What makes LessWrong a useful website for asking questions which matter to you personally is that there is lots of insightful people here with wide knowledge base. However, for some questions, LessWrong might be too much, or the wrong kind of, monoculture to provide the best answers. Thus, for weird, unusual, or highly specific questions, there might be better d
Animal Charity Evaluators have updated their top charity recommendations, adding Animal Equality to The Humane League and Mercy for Animals. Also, their donation-doubling drive is nearly over.
We don't all agree on what a utilon is. I think a year of human suffering is very bad, while a year of animal suffering is nearly irrelevant by comparison, so I think charities aimed at helping humans are where we get the most utility for our money. Other people's sense of the relative weight of humans and animals is different, however, and some value animals about the same as humans or only somewhat below.
To take a toy example, imagine there are two charities: one that averts a year of human suffering for $200 and one that averts a year of chicken suffering for $2. If I think human suffering is 1000x as bad as chicken suffering and you think human suffering is only 10x as bad, then even though we both agree on the facts of what will happen in response to our donations, we'll give to different charities because of our disagreement over values.
In reality, however, it's more complicated. The facts of what will happen in response to a donation are uncertain even in the best of times, but because a lot of people care about humans the various ways of helping them are much better researched. GiveWell's recommendations are all human-helping charities because of a combination of "... (read more)
I may write a full discussion thread on this at some point, but I've been thinking a lot about undergraduate core curriculum lately. What should it include? I have no idea why history has persisted in virtually every curriculum I know of for so long. Do many college professors still believe history has transfer of learning value in terms of critical thinking skills? Why? The transfer of learning thread touches on this issue somewhat, but I feel like most people on there are overvaluing their own field hence computational science is overrepresented and social science, humanties, and business are underrepresented. Any thoughts?
The first question is what goals should undergraduate education have.
There is a wide spectrum of possible answers ranging from "make someone employable" to "create a smart, well-rounded, decent human being".
There is also the "provide four years of cruise-ship fun experience" version, too...
First, undergrad freshmen are probably not the right source for wisdom about what a college should be.
Second, I notice a disturbing lack of such goals as "go to awesome parties" and "get laid a lot" which, empirically speaking, are quite important to a lot of 18-year-olds.
Apropos the "asking personally important questions of LW" posts, I have a question. I'm 30 and wondering what the best way is to swing a mid-career transition to computer science. Some considerations:
I already have some peripheral coding knowledge. I took two years of C back in high school, but probably forgot most of it by now. I do coding-ish stuff often like SQL queries or scripting batch files to automate tasks. Most code makes sense to me and I can write a basic FizzBuzz type algorithm if I look up the syntax.
I don't self-motivate very w
Has anyone come across research on parents' attitudes towards their sons when they can see that girls don't find their teen boys sexually attractive? If you saw that happening to your son, that has to affect how you feel about him compared to how you would feel if you saw that your son had sexual opportunities.
This relates to my puzzlement about the idea that the "sexual debut" happens as an organic developmental stage with a median age of 17, compared with the fact that quite a few straight young men miss this window and become the targets of s... (read more)
I'd like to recommend a fun little piece called the The Schizophrenia of Modern Ethical Theories (PDF), which points out that popular moral theories look very strange when actually applied as a grounds for action in real-life situations. Minimally, the author argues that certain reasons for actions are incompatible with certain motives, and that this becomes incoherent if we suppose that these motives were (at least partially) the motivation we had to adopt that set of reasons in the first place.
For example, if you tend to your sick friend, but explain to... (read more)
(warning brain dump most of which probably not new to the thinking on LW) I think most people who take the Tegmark level 4 universe seriously (or any of the preexisting similar ideas) get there by something like the following argument: Suppose we had a complete mathematical description of the universe, then exactly what more could there be to make the thing real (Hawking's fire into the equations).
Here is the line of thinking that got me to buy into it. If we ran a computer simulation, watched the results on a monitor, and saw a person behaving just like ... (read more)
I wonder why people like us who talk about wanting to "live forever" don't think more seriously about what that could mean in terms of overturning our current assumptions and background conditions, if our lives stretch into centuries and then into mlllennia.
I started to think about this based on something Mike Darwin wrote on his blog a few years back:
http://chronopause.com/chronopause.com/index.php/2011/04/19/cryonics-nanotechnology-and-transhumanism-utopia-then-and-now/index.html... (read more)
I would expect social arrangements to appear that we aren't even beginning to imagine much more than anything especially neo-reactionary.
About that quote: If life is not worth living for 1000 years, then why is it worth living for 80? And if it's worth living for 80, why not 1000? If you don't want to live 1000 years, why not kill yourself now?
Is there some utility function that is positive up to 80 years but starts to become negative after that? (independent of level of health, since we're implicitly assuming that if you lived for 1000 years you'd be reasonably healthy during most of that time). If so, what is it?
This is for the people versed in international and tax law.
By a ruling of the ECJ all tax-payers in the EU can deduct charitable donations to any organisation within the EU from their taxes. In Germany at least this means that the charitability has to be certified by the German authorities. The usual process here is that a legal entity wishing to accept tax-deductible donations has to document how their funds are used and can then issue certificates to donors which then document the tax-deductibility of their donations.
Which leads to a couple of ideas and ... (read more)
Court OKs Barring High IQs for Cops
An aspiring cop got rejected for scoring too high on an IQ test.
I cannot begin to understand why they would do that.
Is there a better place than LW to put a big post on causal information, anthropics, being a person as an event in the probability-theory sense, and decision theory?
I'm somewhat concerned that such things are a pollutant in the LW ecosystem, but I don't know of a good alternative.
Why would it be a pollutant in the LW ecosystem? This sounds pretty central in the space of things LW people are interested in; what am I missing? (Are you concerned that it would be too elementary for LW? that it might be full of mistakes and annoy or mislead people? that its topic isn't of interest to LW readers? ...)
What's the intended audience? What's it for? (Introducing ideas to people who don't know them? Cutting-edge research? Thinking aloud to get your ideas in order? ...)
Do you or would you secretly invade your child's privacy for their own protection?
TL;DR because this turned into a lot of looking back on my relationship with my parents: I'd make sure they knew I had the capability, and then, if I saw a need to use it, I would. I wouldn't give an expectation of privacy and then violate it.
First, let me state that I'm in my late 20s, and have no children.
Secretly? No. Or rather, I would never hide that I have the capability, though I wouldn't necessarily tell them when I was using it. If I had reason to suspect them hiding things from me, I might even hide the mechanism, but I'd let them know that I could check. The goal would be to indicate that whatever it is I'm concerned about is REALLY IMPORTANT (i.e. more important than privacy), and that I expect that to act as a deterrence.
On the other hand, I can't think of many scenarios that would call for such action. I would make it clear, for example, that a diary is private unless I expect the kid to be in danger, but the scenarios that actually come to mind for when I would go through it all involve things like "E left without telling anybody where e'd be, can't be reached by any way, and has been gone since yesterday" or similar; if it was a suspicion of something like... (read more)
I don't have children. But my answer is that, potentially, I would, but it would depend on the situation.
Firstly, I think the level of privacy that a child can reasonably expect to have from his parents is age and context-dependent. A thirty-year-old who has left the home has a far greater legitimate expectation of privacy than a fifteen-year-old living at home, who in turn can legitimately expect far more than a 5-year-old. I don't think most people have any problem with, say, using a baby-monitor on a young child, even though this could be viewed as a gross invasion of privacy if done on someone older.
Secondly, it is better to be honest and open where possible, as otherwise when your actions are discovered (and they likely will be), it could be seen as a breach of trust. However, if your child is lying to you, then it could be appropriate. For example, suppose my teenage child kept receiving suspicious parcels through the mail, and gave implausible accounts for the contents. I would then try to sit the child down and say right, we're going to open this together, and see what's inside. But if that wasn't possible, then yes, I might secretly open one of the parcels, to ascertain whether the child is doing something illegal, dangerous, or otherwise inappropriate.
Is there a way to sign up for cryonics and sign up to be an organ donor?
I know that some people opt to cryo-preserve only their brain. Is there a way to preserve the whole body, with the exception of the harvested organs ? Is there any reason to? Does the time spent harvesting make a difference to how thoroughly the body is preserved?
I am not skilled at storytelling in casual conversation (telling personal anecdotes). How can I improve this? In particular, what is a good environment to practice while limiting the social cost of telling lame stories?
Sweden launches a price comparison site, moneyfromsweden.se, for transferring money abroad. The site has information in many languages spoken by different immigrant communities in Sweden.... (read more)
Say I have have a desktop with a monitor, a laptop, a tablet and a smart phone. I am looking for creative ideas on how to use them simultaneously, for example when programming to use the tablet for displaying documentation and having multiple screens via desktop computer and laptop, while the smart phone displays some tertiary information.
How do you track and control your spending? Disregarding financial privacy I started paying with card for everything which allows me to track where I do spend my money but not really on what. I find that I in general spend less than what I earn because spending money somehow hurts.
LessWrong in Alameda:
I've posted elsewhere that I'm applying for work in Alameda, CA. At the moment, I'm not at the top of the list to get the job but I'm still in the running, so, before any further interviews occur, I decided I'd ask this.
Do any LWers live or work in Alameda? Given our strong connection to the Bay Area, I'm assuming at least a few people are from the island. I'd especially be interested in talking to anyone working at the library(ies) there. I'd like to get an idea of Alameda from an LWer's perspective. If it's a good place to live, work... (read more)
I am trying to design a competition for students focused on Bayesian understanding of ecology. Could I ask here for some pointers? I will have data on 2 sets of maybe physiologically linked parameters (from some research I plan to do next summer), and then offer the students to review qualitative descriptions of the link between them, like 'Some plants having mycorrhiza have higher biomass than the average - 3 populations out of 5' (see L. Carroll, The game of logic.) There will be other variables that might correlate with mycorrhiza more or less strongly ... (read more)
Self Help Books
I'm looking to buy a couple audiobooks from Amazon. Any good recommendations?