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Once again I am deeply impressed how Yvain can explain things that I have vaguely felt for a long time but couldn't quite put into words.

Specifically the concept of the "safe spaces" and whether only some groups deserve them and other groups don't. And more generally, whether only members of some groups have feelings and can be hurt (or perhaps whether only feelings and pain of some groups matter) or whether we all are to some degree fragile and valueable.

And how the "safe space" of one group sometimes cannot be a "safe space" of another group, and it's okay to simply have both of them. And as a consequence how by insisting that every place must be a "safe space" of group X we de facto say that the group Y should have no "safe space", ever.

A few months ago, I re-read HPMOR in its entirety, and had an insight about the Hermione / feminism issue that I'd previously missed when I wrote this comment. I never got around to saying it anywhere, so I'm saying it here:

I'd previously written:

HPMOR kinda feels off because canonically, Hermione is unambiguously the most competent person in Harry's year, and has a good chance of growing up to be the most competent person in the 'verse. Harry is kept at the center of the story by his magical connection to Voldemort. In HPMOR, in contrast, Harry is kept at the center of the story by competence and drive. It's going to be very hard to do that without it feeling like Hermione is getting shafted.

But actually, HPMOR closely parallels cannon on this point: Methods!Hermione got just as much of an intelligence upgrade as Methods!Harry did, so she's still unambiguously more competent than him, at least before repeated use of his mysterious dark side gave him a mental age-up. This is more or less explicitly pointed out in chapter 21:

She'd done better than him in every single class they'd taken. (Except for broomstick riding which was like gym class, it didn't count.) She'd gotten real

... (read more)
Harry's upgrade was much larger. At the recent HPMOR meetup in Boston someone asked Eliezer about this, and his response was that Hermione was already smart enough that this would have made her "smarter than the author" and made writing her much too difficult. This was also discussed in an hpmor thread.

I'm planning to meet with my local Department of Services for the Blind tomorrow; the stated purpose of the meeting is to discuss upcoming life changes/needs/etc. This appears to be exactly what I need at the moment, but I'm concerned that I'm not going to be optimally prepared, so I'd like to post some details here to increase the chances of useful feedback.

(For transparency's sake: I'm legally blind, unemployed, living with my parents until they take the necessary steps to get me moved into the place I own, with student loan payments outpacing my SSI benefits by over $200/month, and stuck in the bible belt.)

  • The plan to move out will doubtless frame the conversation.
  • I'm unsure as to whether this conversation will be private (me talking to a DSB representative), or if one of my parents will sit in. Who is in earshot matters, since for all the problems I have with my parents, they are the entirety of my support system at the moment, and the less risk to that relationship the better.
  • Most important topic: Training. My skills across the board are pathetic, yet I've been unable to improve them independently in the time since I've realized this (most of the past year and a half, IIRC
... (read more)

I was absurdly lucky: the counselor I spoke to is new and motivated to put in the necessary effort for everything, and went to high school with my stepmother; it also turns out that the in-state training center has a thirty-day trial period, during which commitment is a non-issue. They also offered to provide any required technology, be it laptops or note takers or whatever. It could start as early as the first week of February, which is early enough that I wouldn't need to worry about security at my property. So on the whole, a surprisingly good day.

That's awesome. Go you!
Glad to hear it!

If you have not dealt with something the DSB before, you're probably drastically overestimating how much mental effort they are willing to expend to help you. (I dealt with a similar agency, the California Department of Rehabilitation, many years ago.)

Although it is of course good for you to try to estimate how much mental effort they are willing to make in real time during the interview, I suggest the plan you go into the meeting with assume it is low. E.g. you might consider just asking for a notetaker over and over again.

Try to appear a little dumber than you actually are.

I would not risk alienating your parents to try for a deeper conversation with DSB staff.

My impression is that some people want children very much, but the majority have children as a result of liking sex plus being willing to raise children once the children exist plus social pressure. You do get the occasional sperm substitution scandal which seems like a very pure example of a desire to have children.
I think you replied to the wrong comment.
You're right.
It looks like you've already got a list of things you want to answer in the meeting, so you've already done the most important preparation. This is probably under your control. I expect you have the right to a private meeting, if you ask the DSB rep. If you're worried about how your parents would react to such a request, maybe try framing it as practicing your independence, or something appropriately harmless and fuzzy-sounding?

After doing a large amount of research, I feel fairly confident saying that high-dose Potassium supplementation was the initial trigger that pushed me into two-year nightmare struggle with migraines which I am still dealing with. I didn't do anything beyond the recommendations that you can find on gwern's page and gwern doesn't really recomend anything that is technically unsafe, but the fact is that (apparently!) some people are migraine prone and these people should probably definitely not do what I did. (To be clear, I'm not blaming gwern in any way, that's merely a "community reference" that a lot of folks refer to.)

Interesting, some questions. 1. What is high dose? 2. How was the dosing achieved? 3. What is your sodium and magnesium intake like?
Can you link to your more important sources from you research? They could be useful to others.
I'm interested in this as well, can you send us a link of the research that you found linking potassium supplements to migraines? Thanks!

All the productivity posts on LW that I've read, I found mildly disturbing. They all give a sense of excessive regimentation, as well as giving up enjoyable activity - sacrificing a lot for a single goal (or a few goals). I'm sure it's good for getting work done, but there's more to life than work - there's actually enjoying life, having fun, etc.

I think you're talking about So8res's recent posts, but I think they're exceptional. Most productivity posts are about avoiding spending time web surfing, particularly during time that has been budgeted for work. They do this partly because fragmenting time is bad and partly because there are better ways to have fun.

I find that doing fun things like web surfing makes unenjoyable work more bearable, even though it takes longer. And I do think that most productivity posts are about more than not spending time on the Internet - there's a lot about how to cut down on social time and "fun" so you can be as productive as possible.
If you learn mindfulness, you can learn to detach yourself from an impulsive desire to be entertained constantly, and find flow (and happiness, or at least contentment) in tasks you previously thought were unenjoyable.
Can you or anyone else sketch out some advice on how to achieve this wonderful sounding thing?
To avoid paradox, it is probably better to print those posts and read them from the paper. But yes, it is a good advice, which probably brings more productivity gains than any other advice.
While the direct advice may be valuable, I don't think it's so common; I'm talking about posts that take it as a given and talk about ways to beat addiction, such as leechblock, pomodoros, and conditioning. Other suggestions, like recording time spent, manually or by browser plugin are about convincing people that they are wasting their time, on the hypothesis that people won't believe the raw claim.
Can you give any concrete examples?
Habitual Productivity The mechanics of my recent productivity How I Am Productive (Miscellaneous extreme regimentation) There are other posts that give me this impression, but I can't find them right now. Also, the "optimal sleep" posts seem to be all about how to sleep as little as possible to be as productive as possible.
Yeah all the obsession with polyphasic sleep seems to be about sacrificing quality of life for quantity of "productive" time.
I agree tentatively. I'm working on maximizing my productivity per hour so that I can spend less hours being productive. Productivity measures are really helpful in that regard, but the temptation to take it too far is problematic.
Downvoted for proposing a poisonous idea. You're implying a dichotomy between being productive and experiencing positive emotions. You can find productive tasks enjoyable. Hanging out with people is an important part of staying healthy, for example, and is generally enjoyable. Having fun is certainly something that you can do, but that doesn't mean that it is obviously morally optimal.
Dichotomy is a strong word, but I expect that the correlation between productivity and positive emotions is generally negative. Of course the advice here is: go meta, and explore the strategies to make the correlation positive.

My experience is the opposite; productivity generally feels awesome, sitting around doing nothing or wandering around the internet is generally depressing. (This is insufficient as a motivator for behavior.)

for these discussions we need to start differentiating meanings of the word "productive". When I get stuff done for an interesting task, or put together a piece of furniture, that''s being productive and usually feels pretty good. When I fill out paperwork for a lease or something, that usually feels boring and not fun, with some good feeling when it's over with. I think both of these fall under the lay definition of "productive". Leisure/fun times trades off against both of these, but my mental image when someone says "it's better to be productive than to spend time doing nothing" usually has me picturing boring homework.
Exactly. A person's general productivity and procrastination will probably greatly depend on whether most of their "productivity" is going interesting tasks or filling out paperwork. So the right long-term strategy is probably to find a way to get paid for doing interesting tasks.
I'm currently about a quarter of the way through this book, and already it has several actionable insights on how to do that.
Just reading the book description, this sounds right: Maybe the trick is with the "something valuable" part. Some people make money by doing things that are not valuable, or at least some Dilbert-esque process removes a lot of value from their contribution. So while you shouldn't keep searching until you find something you feel passionate about (because it is your work that creates the passion), you probably should keep searching until you find something valuable, where the value you add isn't destroyed by the process. And then keep doing it.
Yeah. The author claims you need to find something where (1) you can improve your skills, (2) you believe your work has positive value, and (3) you don't actively dislike the people you're working with. From there, you can increase your skills and prove your value, then barter that value into a position that has the traits which correlate with fulfillment.
How do you prevent this very strong set of conditions from making you throw up your hands and say "alright, I'm screwed"? I feel like it's what a lot of people would, given their situation, be perfectly justified in doing.
Short answer: The bad news is, you might in fact be screwed, given the situation. The good news is, it's always possible to change the situation; all it takes is deliberate practice, planning, and a tremendous amount of hard work. Long answer: Those conditions are rare and valuable things. To get them, you have to offer something rare and valuable in return. Here's how to do that. First, make sure you're in a situation where you can improve your skills. If your job doesn't use any skills that can be improved, then either take up a hobby, find a new job, or use all your ingenuity to figure out something else. You might have to ignore the other two conditions for now. That sucks, but such is life. Second, practice. Constantly stretch yourself by working on projects that are just outside your comfort zone. Seek feedback from reality and from experts. Third, build career capital. This is a combination of demonstrably awesome output plus social proof. It's the thing that people see and realize "this person is good at that thing." Fourth, use your career capital to get a position that has (more of) the traits you want. From the outside, this will probably look like getting a lucky break. Your career capital makes opportunities available, and if you know what you're looking for, you can do a pretty good job of judging which opportunities are worth following. Finally, keep doing this. If your skills and career capital keep improving, you can keep improving your position to get more money, more autonomy, more impact on the world, or whatever it is you're optimizing for. This takes a long time. The examples in the book usually take years. The shortest example I've ever encountered took maybe ten months. With any proposed strategy to reach happiness and fulfillment, you have to ask why everyone else hasn't done it already, and in this case the answer is because it's actually pretty hard. I've done this, though, and I can confidently say it's worth it. Actually complete
You certainly can find productive tasks enjoyable, but it's common to find productive tasks unenjoyable. People don't hang out with each other because it's productive (except when networking), they hang out because it's fun. The fact that it's good for your health is a bonus, but isn't and shouldn't be the primary motivation. Not obviously morally optimal, but it is actually morally optimal, for a broad enough sense of "having fun". But I say this as an ethical egoist.
Just because you are an ethical egoist does not mean that ethical egoism is the system by which all moral claims ought to be judged. Have you read the metaethics sequence?
It's true that all moral claims shouldn't be judged by ethical egoism because I believe it, moral claims should be judged by egoism because it's correct. And I have read the metaethics sequence, and found it interesting, though at times lacking. What part of it are you referring to?
Downvoted for proposing a poisonous idea. There IS an obvious and common dichotomy between being productive and experiencing positive emotions and pretending that it isn't there is bullshit that will only cause people to burn out and be even less productive AND less happy. Yours is the kind of attitude that leads people to say "I can never be as good as this amazing guy so I won't even try". Satisficing morality and happiness separately will get us far more of both.
I agree that productive tasks tend to be less enjoyable, but (at least for me) I still experience SOME positive emotions when I'm being productive, though (and when I'm reflecting on being productive). I just meant that it's possible to be productive and not feel miserable. I started getting more productive when I was able to use mindfulness to detach myself from an impulsive desire to experience happiness. I don't think that's a particularly harmful idea to suggest. I just think it's bad to discourage people from trying to find happiness and contentment in contributing to society (being productive) by implying that it's simply not possible. Also, from a utilitarian standpoint, spending time being productive (making a positive impact on the world) seems better than spending time pursuing individual happiness (to an extent, since you obviously are going to have a hard time being productive if you are miserable). If you value your personal happiness above others (like blacktrance), though, it totally makes sense that you would spend less time trying to make a positive impact on the world. I didn't realize people thought that way when I responded. I felt sad when you called what I wrote "bullshit", though. I'm new to posting on LW and it makes me feel really depressed and rejected to have one of my first few discussions result in me being insulted like that.
Calling something bullshit is less of a slur than calling someone's ideas poisonous. Plenty of things are bullshit. If you can't handle people disagreeing with the truth of your statements or your ethical injunctions maybe you shouldn't go around telling someone that expressing their concerns is a poisonous idea. Edit- I also don't appreciate your pathetic emotional manipulation, both here and in the related sub-thread.

If you're expecting the singularity within a century, does it make sense to put any thought into eugenics except for efforts to make it easy to avoid the worst genetic disorders?

This could be generalised to putting any thought into anything. Will the singularity be achieved within one childhood? More smart people may be useful to apply to the problem. If you're smart, make more smart people.
That seems to depend on a number of assumptions -- your timeline, whether you expect a soft or a hard takeoff, the centrality of raw intelligence vs. cultural effects to research quality, possible nonlinearity of network effects on intellectual output. But I'd bet that the big one is time: if you think (unrealistically, but run with it) that you can improve a test population's intelligence by 50%, that could be very significant if you're expecting a 2100 singularity but likely won't be if you're expecting one before they graduate from college.
Depends on the confidence with which you expect it. If you're 95+% confident, probably not. Lower? Probably yes. Even an intervention with only 10% chance of ever mattering may be worth doing if its value if successful is at least 10x greater than its cost+opportunity cost.
Good point. The cutoff is not necessarily the singularity, either - once we have sufficiently awesome genetic engineering, there's no point to eugenics.

I don't see any discussion about this blog post by Mike Travern.

His point is that people trying to solve for Friendly AI are doing so because it's an "easy", abstract problem well into the future. He contends that we are already taking significant damage from artificially created human systems like the financial system, which can be ascribed agency and it's goals are quite different from improving human life. These systems are quite akin to "Hostile AI". This, he contends, is the really hard problem.

Here is a quote from the blogpost (which is from a Facebook comment he made):

I am generally on the side of the critics of Singulitarianism, but now want to provide a bit of support to these so-called rationalists. At some very meta level, they have the right problem — how do we preserve human interests in a world of vast forces and systems that aren’t really all that interested in us? But they have chosen a fantasy version of the problem, when human interests are being fucked over by actual existing systems right now. All that brain-power is being wasted on silly hypotheticals, because those are fun to think about, whereas trying to fix industrial capitalism so it doesn’t wreck the human life-support system is hard, frustrating, and almost certainly doomed to failure.

It's a short post, so you can read it quickly. What do you think about his argument?


It's a short post, so you can read it quickly. What do you think about his argument?

I think it's silly. I suspect MIRI and every other singulatarian organization, and every other individual working on the challeges of unfriendly AI, could fit comfortably in a 100-person auditorium.

In contrast, "trying to fix industrial capitalism" is one of the main topics of political dispute everywhere in the world. "How to make markets work better" is one of the main areas of research in economics. The American Economic Association has 18,000 members. We have half a dozen large government agencies, with budgets of hundreds of millions of dollars each, to protecting people from hostile capitalism. (The SEC, the OCC, the FTC, etc etc, are all ultimately about trying to curb capitalist excess. Each of these organizations has a large enforcement bureaucracy, and also a number of full-time salaried researchers.)

The resources and human energy devoted to unfriendly AI are tiny compared to the amount expended on politics and economics. So it's strange to complain about the diversion of resources.

Excellent point. I'm surprised this did not occur to me. This reminds me of Scott Aaronson's reply when someone suggested that quantum computational complexity is quite unimportant compared to experimental approaches to quantum computing and therefore shouldn't get much funding:

I find your argument extremely persuasive—assuming, of course, that we’re both talking about Bizarro-World, the place where quantum complexity research commands megabillions and is regularly splashed across magazine covers, while Miley Cyrus’s twerking is studied mostly by a few dozen nerds who can all fit in a seminar room at Dagstuhl.

It looks to me like the room in this picture contains more than 100 people.
Yes. I will revise upwards my impression of how many people are working on Singularity topics. That said, not everybody who showed up at the summit was working on singularity-problems. Some were just interested bystanders.

Is this the new 'but what about starving Africans?'

I think that he sounds mind-killed. Calling the financial system a "hostile AI" sounds cool for about half a second until your brain wakes up and goes "Whaaaaat?" :-) If he really wanted to talk about existing entities with agency and their own interests, well, the notion that the state is one is very very old.
Actually, Mike Travers has a whole sequence of excellent posts on ascribing agency to non-human systems over at Ribbonfarm. See here. I particularly recommend the post Patterns of Refactored Agency. I don't think ascribing agency to systems like institutions and collections of institutions is too forced. In fact, institutions seem to exist precisely for preserving and propagating values in the face of changing individuals.
I'm completely fine with ascribing agency to institutions. I'm not fine with sticking in emotionally-loaded terms and implying that e.g. AI researchers should work on fixing the financial system.
But I don't think that his point is that AI researchers, in general, should be working on fixing the financial system. I think his point is that the people at MIRI have chosen AI research because they think that AI is a significant source of threat to human well-being/eixstence from non-human value systems (possibly generated by humans). His claim seems to be that AI may only be a very small part of the problem. Instead, there already exist non-human value systems generated by humans threatening human well-being/existence and we don't know how to fix that. So, I guess the counter-argument from someone at MIRI would go something like: "while it is true that human institutions can threaten human well-being, no human institution seems to have the power in the near future to threaten human existence. But the technology of self-improving AI, can FOOM and threaten human existence. Thus, we choose to work on preventing this outcome."
First, I am unaware of evidence (though I am aware of a lot of loud screaming) that human institutions pose an existential risk to humanity. I think the closest we come to that is the capability of US and Russia to launch an all-out nuclear exchange. Second, the whole "non-human value systems" is much too fuzzy for my liking. Is self-preservation a human value? Let's take an entity, say a large department within a governmental bureaucracy, the major values of which are self-preservation and the accrual of benefits (of various kinds) to its leadership. Is that a "non-human value system"? Should we call it "hostile AI" and be worried about it? Third, the global financial system (or the "industrial capitalism") is not an institution. It's an ecosystem where many different entities coexist, fight, live, and die. I am not sure ecosystems have agency. Fourth, it looks to me like his argument would shortcut to either a revolution or more malaria nets.
OK, fine, unfriendly AIs occupy only a small part of the space of possible non-human agents arising from human action and having value systems different from ours and enough power to do a lot of harm as a result; and businesses and nations and so forth are other possible examples. Furthermore, non-human agents arising [etc.] occupy only a small part of the space of Bad Things. It doesn't follow from the latter that people investigating how to arrange for businesses and nations and whatnot to do good rather than harm are making a mistake; and it doesn't follow from the former that people investigating how to arrange for superhuman AIs (if and when they show up) to do good rather than harm are making a mistake. Why not? Because in each case the more restricted class of entities has particular features that are (hopefully) amenable to particular kinds of study, and that (we fear) pose particular kinds of threat. A large and important fraction of AI-space is occupied by entities with the following interesting features. They are created deliberately by human researchers; they operate according to clear and explicit (but perhaps monstrously complex) principles; their behaviour is, accordingly, in principle amenable to quite rigorous (but perhaps intractably difficult) analysis. Businesses and nations and religions and sports clubs don't have these features, and there's some hope of developing ways of understanding and/or controlling AIs that don't apply to those other entities. It is possible (very likely, according to some) that a large fraction of the probability of a superhuman AI turning up in the nearish future comes from scenarios in which the AI goes from being distinctly subhuman and no threat to anyone, to being vastly superhuman and potentially controlling everything that happens on earth, in so short a time that it's not feasible for anyone (including businesses, nations, etc.) to stop it. Businesses and nations and religions and sports clubs mostly have [
Upvoted, but I think you're missing a negation in "Businesses and nations and religions and sports clubs mostly have this feature...".
Yup, I was. Edited. Thanks! [EDITED to fix an inconsequential thinko.]
Excellent summary. Thanks.
I think it's spot on.
How do you factor in the points made by asr and gjm? In particular, 1. Much effort is already being spent in dealing with the problems posed by industrial capitalism. 2. It's likely that the amount of resources being spent on countering potentially hostile AI (AI as computer programs, not AI as institutions) is less than or equal to the amount justified by that threat.
What ASR said, and also this is a totally different domain. There is no code for the global financial system and no coder is going to fix it. There is no code for AGI, but some coder somewhere IS going to write it. The idea that fighting against billions of people and a system supported by all the money in the world is the same kind of activity as trying to prove theorems of friendliness is simply dense.
How about simulations of various economic/financial/social systems? Those are being done, and require code, and require high-level analysis. I find it perfectly believable that some abstract theoretical computer science / computer simulation work could uncover new insights / new arguments. (that being said, I agree with asr's comment)
They also fail pretty badly and are remarkable useless at the moment.
Sure there is, it's just that the code is called "laws" and coders are called "legislators".
Laws don't behave like code and legislators don't behave like coders.

Finally have a core mechanic for my edugame about Bayesian networks. At least on paper.

This should hopefully be my last post before I actually have a playable prototype done, even if a very short one (like the tutorial level or something).


i plan to quit my job and move to an Eastern European country with small costs of living in march. Because of this I am looking for any job that I can do online for around 20 hours a week. I am looking for recommendations on where to look, where to ask, who to contact that might help me, etc. Any help will be appreciated.

What skills do you have?
I have a degree in Psychology. Worked in Admissions mostly. Can do light coding (planning to spend more time on that during my extra free time) and some statistics (ditto). Can't really think of anything else that might be relevant.
How do you rate your own writing abilities?
6-7 / 10 depending on the style and subject matter. Currently trying to improve in that department.
Yvain wrote a good thing about this sort of situation here. I suggest you read the comments too, they have some interesting ideas that aren't in the post proper.
I have a friend who uses http://tutor.com .
You need to live in US or Canada to work for tutor.com. At least, that's what it says on their application page.
This or something similar could be useful. Thanks.
Freelancer.com is worthwhile.
You can play online poker. If you play the numbers you can make a steady profit.
Been there, done that. I stopped back in 2010 when it became clear that the US will manage to forbid its citizens to play with everyone else as I assumed the games will become even less profitable. I imagine that things are even worse now but I haven't looked into it for ages, however if you think there's still money in there then maybe I should investigate.
Holidays can still be decent. I also hear tell there are bitcoin denominated poker rooms full of relatively bad players.
What? I thought all btc poker rooms are scams and/or almost void of players. This is awesome if true though, I will check it out.

In light of gwern's good experiences with one, I too now have an anonymous feedback form. You can use it to send me feedback on my personality, writing, personal or professional conduct, or anything else.

The CEO of a company I used to work at put up an anonymous feedback form. He was getting a lot of negative feedback, so he removed it. Problem solved.
Easy mockery aside, a lot of employees like to gripe, and if the feedback was just the sort of useless whining that 1% of the workforce loves to engage in, then I'd shut it down too(or, possibly more maliciously, leave it up for morale and stop reading it).
It's an interesting problem. A small proportion of the complaints might be about something urgent--- how do you sort them out from the minor or irrelevant stuff?
Get rid of the direct communication, and tell your managers that important stuff should get filtered upwards.
Very funny. Sometimes you can't trust your managers.
Oh, it's hardly a perfect solution. But unless you hire a secretary to read the mailbox, it's what will happen. And much of the time it's good enough.
Thanks Kaj. This was the nudge I needed to create my own anonymous feedback form.
Hadn't heard about this until now. That sounds like a great idea, and thanks / props for putting this up!
Same here: http://www.admonymous.com/hruvulum

(My thoughts are still not sufficiently organized that I’m making a top level post about this, but I think it’s worth putting out for discussion.)

A couple of years ago, in a thread I can no longer find, someone argued that they valued the pleasure they got from defecation, and that they would not want to bioengineer away the need to do so. I thought this was ridiculous.

At the same time, I see many Lesswrongers view eating as a chore that they would like to do away with. And yet I also find this ridiculous.

So I was thinking about where there difference lay for me. My working hypothesis is that there are two elements of pleasure: relief and satisfaction. Defecation, or a drink of water when you’re very thirsty bring you relief, but not really satisfaction. Eating a gourmet meal, on the other hand, may or may not bring relief, depending on how hungry you are when you eat it, but it’s very satisfying. The ultimate pleasure is sex, which culminates in a very intense sense of both relief and satisfaction. (Masturbation, at least from a male perspective, can provide the relief but only a tiny fraction of the satisfaction – hence the difference in pleasure from sex.)

I can understand... (read more)

I would like to drink Soylent when I want to focus on something else, and to eat at a restaurant when I want to feel the pleasure of eating. Or maybe sometimes cook at home... but only when I decide to. If I may borrow your analogy, it would be like moving from compulsively masturbating three times a day to having great sex once in a while and doing something else the rest of the time.
Some subset of rationalists just don't seem to value pleasure at all. I know one who used to say his only goal in life was the acquisition of information; relief was appreciated in that it eliminated a distraction, but satisfaction just didn't count for anything. Struck me as Puritanical.
Interesting distinction, it makes intuitive sense, and it's certainly good to be aware that there is a possible satisfaction component to something - but it's still easily possible to value the satisfaction less than you would value being free from the need for the relief component.
I feel that both of these can provide satisfaction as well, though I'm less sure about the water. Or they just get more satisfaction from other things than eating.
I can enjoy drinking water. I'm not sure where this fits on the relief-satisfaction spectrum, but I seem to be optimally hydrated (in terms of mood) if I keep drinking until drinking is no longer a pleasure-- it's a good bit more water than just taking the edge off. I've found that when I mention this to people, they're apt to try to get a measurement out of something which is based on sensation.
I would rather get rid of eating but keep defecation, though I don't know that I could say why. The relief/satisfaction thing is certainly interesting. I once had a conversation in this vein that went like this: If nothing else, the parent got me to evaluate my preferences and realize that I was using them hypocritically in situations such as the above.
I expect that this is a tiny but expressive minority.

I'm having some trouble keeping myself from browsing to timesink websites at work(And I'm self-employed, so it's not like I'm even getting paid for it). Anyone know of a good Chrome app for blocking websites?

That looks like exactly what I was aiming for. Thanks.
I recommend StayFocusd, but if it stops working, make a blacklist in your firewall and put it behind a ridiculously long passphrase that scolds you for not working. Use this one device for work and other devices for play. Oh, and put those other devices in an underground vault 10 miles from your house.
If stay StayFocusd stops working, make a blacklist in your firewall and put the settings behind a ridiculously long passphrase. After this, use this one device for work and other devices for play.
I was using Leech Block for old fashioned reddit-block for some time, but then I switched to Rescue Time (free version) which tracks time you spend on certain internet sites, and found it much more user friendly. It does not block the sites, but it shows you a percentage estimate of how productive you are today (e.g. Today, 1 hour on internet out of which 30min on Less Wrong - so 50% productive).

What are you supposed to do when you've nailed up a post that is generally disliked? I figured that once this got to -5 karma it would disappear from view and be forgotten. But it just keeps going down and it's now at -12. This must mean that someone saw the title of it at -11 karma and thought "Sounds promising! Reading this now will be a good use of my time." And then they read it and went: "Arrgh! This turned out to be a disappointing post. Less like this, please. I'd better downvote it to warn others."

What does etiquette suggest I do here? Am I supposed to delete the post to keep people from falling into the trap of reading it? But I like the discussion it spawned and I'd like to preserve it. I'm at a loss and I can't find relevant advice at the wiki.

if we don't have downvoted topics some of the time it means we are being too conservative about what we judge will be useful to others. Only worry if too large a fraction of your stuff gets downvoted.

That is a good example of a true Umeshism.

This must mean that someone saw the title of it at -11 karma and thought "Sounds promising! Reading this now will be a good use of my time." And then they read it and went: "Arrgh! This turned out to be a disappointing post. Less like this, please. I'd better downvote it to warn others."

Not necessarily. Seeing a heavily downvoted post seems to trigger some kind of group-norm-reinforcement instinct in me: I often end up wanting to read it in the hopes of it being just as bad as the downvotes imply, so that I could join in the others in downvoting it. And I actually get pleasure out of being able to downvote it.

I'm not very proud of acting on that impulse, especially since I'm not going to be able to objectively evaluate a post's merit if I start reading it while hoping it to be bad. But sometimes I do act on it regardless. (I didn't do that with your post, though.)

I hadn't thought of this either! It does sound like fun to hunt with the group.
Don't forget to bring your own torch and pitchfork.
I've noticed myself doing the same thing and I'd like to turn on anti-kibitzing to avoid it, but when I tried it the whole "hiding post authors" thing was so irritating that I stopped.

What are you supposed to do when you've nailed up a post that is generally disliked?

Grin and say "Fuck 'em!"

-12 points in the discussion section is a pretty trivial karma hit out o.f the 1132 I see you have at this moment. I'd try to do better next time.
Clearly, the karma as such is no problem. I just don't want to annoy people by having them read a text which they are likely to find annoying and I don't want to violate rules of etiquette I might not know about. But if it is normal procedure just to leave this as is, then, sure, let's do it that way. It is, of course, somewhat unpleasant to discover that something you wrote is disliked but it also affords an opportunity for learning. Next time I try to get LessWrongers to change diapers, I'll approach it differently.

Eh, if someone clicks on an article at -11, then feels reading it was a waste of time, he should blame himself, not you.

I don't recommend optimizing for what other people on the 'net like.
Don't optimize for it. On the other hand it's still good to understand what other people like if you want to convince them. I do write post that I expect to be voted down, when I think they have merit. On the other hand if I can write a post in a way that will be voted down or in a way that will find acceptance I go for the way that will find acceptance.
Giving that the post does contain upvoted comments that belong to it deleting it would prevent people from seeing those comments and be bad.
Just leave it. It can serve as lesson to you in the future but in a month no one but you will remember it as it falls off the scroll.
Well, I didn't bother to look this time, but if every bad post got just -5 votes max, the noise would probably unbearable. The extra sting is there for you, not to warn other readers.
Thank you, I hadn't considered that viewpoint. I actually suspect we have too much sting rather than too little. Compare with this discussion. Furthermore, most of Eliezer's Facebook posts would make good discussion posts or open-thread comments but he posts them there rather than here. I don't know why but maybe he finds it less stressful to post in a system where there are only upvotes and no downvotes. Also compare with this Oatmeal comic: "How I feel after reading 1,000 insightful, positive comments about my work and one negative one: The whole internet hates me :(" Obviously an exaggeration for effect but I do think most people need a very high ratio of positive to negative feedback to feel good about what they're doing. I admit I do. Many of you, of course, are made of sterner stuff, I don't dispute that.
I don't instinctively like downvotes either, and I suspect it's mostly my personality that magnifies everything negative out of proportion i.e. there's depressive bias. However, if I get downvoted for something really stupid, I find the punishment a very useful deterrent that also works for my personal life. It's the inexplicable votes that bug me the most, but hey, you can't please everyone. I subscribed to Eliezer's fb feed about a month ago and I'm glad he doesn't post such unpolished ideas here. I think he also posts there because the commenters are better selected and not anonymous. I might be in favor of an upvote only system, if it weren't for the really terrible outlier posters who need to be hidden quickly. For upvotes only , we would need a completely different visibility system.
One way this is often addressed is replacing downvote with flag, and with enough flags it gets hidden (flags and upvotes aren't inverses of each other).
That doesn't seem to scale well with the number of readers. Some discussions attract more people than others; so in the less popular discussions almost nothing would be flagged, but in the more popular ones, any slightly controversial comment would be flagged.
You are assuming a fixed cutoff which I was not.
One possible solution would be to edit the article, add "[Deleted]" to the title, remove all text and replace it by an explanation like: "The article was deleted because it received a lot of downvotes, but the discussion seems worth keeping; please don't vote on the article anymore."
Do that without removing the actual text.
I don't think it worth saying that you remove something because downvotes as the only reason. Either you think that people who disagree have a point or you stand by what you wrote in the past.

I see from time to time people mention a 'rationalist house' as though it is somewhere they live, and everyone else seems to know what they're talking about. What are are they talking about? Are there many of these? Are these in some way actually planned places or just an inside joke of some kind?

These are group houses where a bunch of rationalists live together. Sometimes they hold events for the wider community or host visiting rationalists from out of town. I know of several that exist in the Bay Area, one in Boston, and one in New York. There are probably others.
Expanding on Ben's comment: local lesswrong meetup groups often grow into a communities of people who enjoy spending time together, at which point some of the people might decide to rent a house together.

Every single time the subject of overpopulation comes up and I offer my opinion (which is that in some respects the world is overpopulated and that it would benefit us to have a smaller or negative population growth rate), I seem to get one or two negative votes. The negative karma isn't nearly as important to me as the idea that I might be missing some fundamental idea and that those who downvote me are actually right.

Especially, this recent thread: http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/jgg/we_need_new_humans_please_help/ has highlighted this issue for me again.

So, I'm opening my mind, trying to set aside my biases, and hereby asking all those who disagree with me to give me a rational argument for why I'm wrong and why the world needs more people. If I stray from my objective and take a biased viewpoint, I deserve all the negative karma you can throw at me.

Well, let's try to be a bit more specific about this.

First, what does the claim that "the world is overpopulated" mean? It implies a metric of some sort to which we can point and say "this is too high", "this is too low", "this is just right". I am not sure what this metric might be.

The simplest metric used in biology is an imminent population crash -- if the current count of some critters in an ecosystem is pretty sure to rapidly contract soon we'd probably speak of overpopulation. That doesn't seem to be the case with respect to humans now.

Second, the overpopulation claim is necessarily conditional on a specific level of technology. It is pretty clear that the XXI technology can successfully sustain more people than, say, the pre-industrial technology. One implication is that future technological progress is likely to change whatever number we consider to be the sustainable carrying capacity of Earth now.

Third, and here things get a bit controversial, it all depends (as usual) on your terminal goals. If your wish is for peace and comfort of Mother Gaia, well, pretty much any number of humans is overpopulation. But let's take a common (thoug... (read more)

Not if Mother Gaia is expansionist.
There's a reason they don't have many people per square mile. It's really difficult to live in large parts of them.
Southern Siberia, for example, is pretty benevolent and pretty empty.
I agree that a single metric would be hard to define, but I don't see any problem characterizing it as a combination of various metrics. Is not employment rate vs. population one valid metric, for instance? Or what about worldwide (not just USA, but worldwide average) cost of various foodstuffs vs income? A set of metrics are given in this paper: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol14/iss2/art32/ Absolutely correct. When I speak of overpopulation, I'm speaking in terms of the present. What is the present population, and what are our current technological capabilities? I entirely agree with you that future technology could make overpopulation moot. But we don't know enough about future technology and sociology to say for certain. My terminal goal is (if I am allowed to speak in somewhat vague terms here) continuing prosperity for individual human beings. My goal is for individuals to have more wealth and access to more resources, and as we know, increasing wealth is correlated with increasing happiness. Throughout the last couple of centuries, and especially in the last century, the quality of life in the developed world increased by leaps and bounds. But it didn't increase as much in many other places in the world. It increased a little, but not that much. I want that increase in quality of life to continue in the West, and I also want it to occur everywhere else as well. By the way, this increase in access to resources is only good up to a limit, of course. What that limit is is the subject of another debate, but I think both you and I would agree that as of the present we are safely below the limits. True, but if you were to disperse the population of India and China around the world, what would be the case then?
It is not. Is there any correlation between unemployment and overall population across time? I don't think so. Is there any correlation between local population density and local unemployment? I don't think so. Is the unemployment in Hong Kong hugely greater than in Mongolia or Greenland? As with unemployment, look at this criterion over the last few centuries. Even during the XX century I believe the percentage of income spent on food has been steadily dropping in the developed countries. It's funny how the proponents of the overpopulation thesis have absolutely no problems with linearly extending resource consumption lines far into the future but can't say anything about the future technology and so conveniently assume that it won't change. So, that's pretty mainstream. Would you be fine with calling it the total economic wealth of the world? Let's stick to reality.
So are you saying that the metrics I suggested aren't valid at all, or simply don't make a case for overpopulation existing? That's why I mentioned the worldwide average, not just developed countries. Not total, average. Anyway, it's no use going back-and-forth like this, because I feel like I'm seriously straying from my goal of being neutral and unbiased. I liked Manfred's response because he explicitly mentioned one well-defined issue he thinks I'm overlooking, rather than trying to overcomplicate the discussion.
Yes, I don't think they have anything to do with overpopulation.
Ok thanks, at least now I know where the disagreement lies.
And now you're down-voting me just because you didn't read my post before replying?
I am not downvoting you. I rarely up- or downvote posts in threads in which I participate, anyway.
Yeah that came out entirely different to what I had intended to ask. Retracted.

I don't recall downvoting you, but I think that there is a very high chance technology makes the problem moot - either by killing us or by alleviating scarcity until a superintelligence happens.

I agree with you that future technology will probably allow us to sustain far far greater population than we can now. However, my view concerns problems were are creating at the present, and not all present problems can be retroactively solved with future technology. For instance, if you value biodiversity in the natural world (and there are good, practical reasons to do so), and biodiversity is lost, it's irreversible. Once the gene pool of a species is wiped out it is extremely difficult to restore it again. And sure, even though species go instinct all the time irrespective of human activity, throughout the history of the planet, the long-term trend of biodiversity has been to go up. Now, as to whether human activity is decreasing biodiversity, it's a complex subject and I don't claim to be very knowledgeable about it. As far as I've heard in the scientific literature, humans are negatively affecting biodiversity. A very nice review of human activity and socioeconomic progress and their impact on biodiversity is given in this paper: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1470160X11001051 This book does a nice job of explaining the interrelationships between biodiversity, poverty, and overpopulation: http://www.amazon.com/gp/search?index=books&linkCode=qs&keywords=111842848X
I broadly agree with your opinion, provided certain socioeconomic problems resulting from population contraction could be overcome.
Then you have to agree in any case as population contraction must happen after hitting the limit (all simulations of the "limits to grows" study show overshoot) and I'd guess that the earlier this is addressed the better.
It's an argument based on false premises. Limitations on resources have, in past, proven to be fairly meaningless, and there's no particular reason to believe this will change going forward. Every time we think we've hit a wall(running out of wood in the 18th century, whales in the 19th century, food in the 20th century, or oil in the 21st century), we've come up with new technologies to keep going without much trouble(coal, oil, GMOs/agricultural chemistry, and tar sands/fracking respectively). Limitations on space are even less relevant. Conversely, we've built first-world societies on a governmental safety net that only actually works with an increasing population. If we don't grow, then pension plans will start detonating like someone's carpet-bombing the economy. (Yes, worse than they are already). I think the people who created those pyramid schemes should be taken out behind the woodshed for a posthumous beatdown, but it's a bit late to fix it now. If you want to know what a negative population growth rate looks like, look at what will happen to China over the next couple decades. It's the biggest demographic time bomb in human history. Also, if you're bringing sustainability into this, IMO the only truly sustainable option is to advance technology so fast that we can defeat the Second Law somehow. Anything else just delays the inevitable.
Or you can look at Japan right now. Their total workforce has been contracting for the last few years and the only way to go is down. And their amount of government debt is not a coincidence.
Yup, them too. Both were held up as countries that were going to overwhelm the US through their superior economic performance, both are going to suffer long and agonizing collapses as their demography ruins them. I went with the more topical example, but Japan is probably the better one, because they're so much further along.
A "long collapse" is a bit of an oxymoron -- presumably you mean they will collapse and stay collapsed. But that raises an interesting question -- can a society/country downscale without a collapse? Theoretically, it's perfectly doable -- you population decreases, so does your GDP but not GDP per capita. You just have more space for less people. In practice, of course, there are issues.
Taking away the pensions of people who've paid a tax that's supposed to fund pensions all their lives would be political suicide.
It depends on what the alternative is. If you have nothing to pay pensions with, you have nothing to pay pensions with. See Detroit. For sovereigns who can print fiat money the situation is a bit more complicated but the same in medium term. The amount of money doesn't matter, what matters is the amount of value that the country produces and which it then redistributes among people. If there is not enough value, printing money will just lead you into an inflationary spiral.
I don't regard "collapse" as referring to something instantaneous. The fall of Rome, for example, could be referred to as a multi-century collapse. And in principle, yes, it could happen. But in practice, before people die, they get old. And old people suck, economically speaking.
This isn't even slightly true. Historically the the normal state for humanity was malthusian stagnation. Resource limits were a hard fact of life, with lots of people starving at the margins. Yes, we've escaped from Malthusian conditions for the time being, but progress is already stagnating. I think planning to limit population growth is a common sense idea, although as a coordination problem, this seems hard to solve (how do we punish defectors, etc.)
We are currently producing enough food to feed the highest population the Earth is expected to ever at any point have. We are doing so in perfectly sustainable fashion. Malthus is dead. Edit: For clarity, the sustainable fashion I refer to may involve shifts to less meat consumption, between different sorts of crops, or the substitution of machinery with more labour, to deal with various future crises. Modern crops and farming knowledge alone, which should both survive even a collapse of civilization largely intact, ought to be enough to feed any projected human population. It's theoretically possible for Mathus to come back, but the conditions that would lead to it are so unlikely that for the purposes of ordinary debate it can safely be said to be a fixed problem.
We are, in point of fact, not feeding that population you are talking about. We are feeding merely a part of it.
We're feeding essentially all of it - out of a world population of over 7,000,000,000, about 400,000 die of malnutrition per year. World food production per person is as high as it's ever been, over 2700 calories per person per day(which is really not a starvation diet). The ones who aren't getting fed are dying for logistical, financial, and administrative reasons, not because there's any sort of global food shortage.
Have you read The Mote In God's Eye?
I have not. Summary of the point you're making, please?
That, in the long run, due to natural selection, population will increase to match increased food production. Improvements in farming technology only buy a temporary abundance.
Our food supplies have been getting more secure for centuries, and we've seen no meaningful selection pressure towards larger families as a result - quite the opposite, in fact. And this isn't a millions-of-years sort of selection, this is the sort that ought to be apparent in a few generations. I don't think that number of children is really a heritable trait - it's a cultural and economic effect, and even if you start speaking of cultural evolution, the economics of having lots of kids are so bad today that there's no selection pressure in that direction. In principle you're probably right, but by the time we need to worry about Malthus again, the name "Malthus" may well be forgotten.
How do you know which sort it is? Heritability depends on the environment. It is quite plausible that it is much more heritable in the modern environment than the pre-modern one. I don't want to discuss this, just to suggest that you might be very confused.
As far as I can tell, this argument seems to be the same as "technology has improved before, letting us overcome resource limitations, and there's no particular reason to believe that the new innovations will stop coming". But that sounds much more suspect. There have been cultures that collapsed due to resource limitations before, and the current trend of very fast growth in our ability to extract more resources or replace them with more easily extractable ones has only been going on for some hundreds of years. "We will always be able to come up with the kinds of innovations that will save us" is a very strong claim, implying that observed cases of diminishing returns in various extraction techniques (e.g. taking advantage of tar sands requires a much larger energy investment and is much less efficient than traditional sources of oil, AFAIK) don't matter since we'll always be able to switch something completely different. There don't seem to be any strong theoretical arguments in support of that, as far as I can tell - only the observation that we've happened to manage it of late.
It's a somewhat weaker claim. Society isn't really dependant on any single resource - oil is the closest we come, and even oil is only really essential in aviation and certain chemical processes(and it can be synthesized for that). My claim is closer to "No essential combination of resources will run out before replacement technology is available". Still strong, admittedly, but weaker. That said, I will freely agree that we're going to take a financial hit as certain supplies run low. Oil will likely never again be as cheap as it was 20 years ago, because the extraction of our reserve oil supplies is so much more complex and expensive. It won't be pleasant. But our society has a technological mindset, huge diversification, and a larger base of wealth than all of humanity before living memory combined. I think we'll do better than Easter Island did. And yes, there's no theoretical reason it has to be true. But the accumulated evidence that it generally is is pretty strong. How many of the catastrophes predicted in recent centuries have actually come to pass, if society has had 5+ years to prepare? Peak oil, the population bomb, nuclear war, Y2K, expansionist Germans(twice!), the collapse of the Internet, and on and on. All of those were perfectly real concerns, and had the potential to be devastating if left unchecked. But we saw them coming, took steps to deal with it, and beat back all of them, many so thoroughly that nobody even noticed that they'd been and gone.
We can beat the pension-based need for more people by vastly increasing productivity and ameliorating the effects of old age and/or automating more of the care of debilitated people
And how will this happen? The productivity growth has slowed down considerably and shows no signs of picking up, never mind "vastly increasing".
Well, there was at least one report suggesting that half of all jobs might be automated over the next two decades.
You are overstating the report's conclusions -- it said the "jobs might be at risk" which sounds to me like "we want to sound impressive but actually don't have anything to say". I've paged through the report and wasn't impressed. For example (emphasis mine), "...First, together with a group of ML researchers, we subjectively hand-labelled 70 occupations, assigning 1 if automatable, and 0 if not. ... Our label assignments were based on eyeballing the O∗NET tasks and job description of each occupation." Essentially this a bunch of guesses and opinions with little support in the way of evidence.
Productivity, agreed. Ameliorating the effects of old age, disagree - too many people treat retirement at 65 to be a God-given right for any real bump in the retirement age to solve things any time soon. Remember, this was an age set by Otto von Bismarck, and it's remained unchanged since - we've already had massive increases in quality of life for the elderly, and it's done nothing to improve the financial footings of the pension system(Quite the opposite, really). Automating the care of the elderly will help some, but you're still left with extremely low workforce participation and a very high dependent ratio. That's not a pleasant situation, even if you don't need millions of people working in nursing homes.

Two unrelated things (should I make these in separate posts or...?):

1.) Given recent discussion on social justice advocates and their... I don't know the best way to describe this, sometimes poor epistemological habits? I thought I would post this


Is this it just me, or is this, like, literally the worst concept ever? It literally just means "someone slightly to the right of me" or "someone does anything that could be considering cheering for the other side", backed with a dubious claim tha... (read more)

Concern trolling is a widespread phenomenon, not specific to feminist communities. The definition given in the first two sentences of that article is the exact concept that the phrase was coined to name:

A concern troll is a person who participates in a debate posing as an actual or potential ally who simply has some concerns they need answered before they will ally themselves with a cause. In reality they are a critic.

The article does then go on to broaden the concept to the point where it can be used as a club to invalidate anyone:

Concern trolls are not always self-aware, they may also view themselves as potential allies

Well, no. The whole point of the concept is that a concern troll is lying. They are, in fact, an enemy deliberately, consciously, intentionally, posing as a friend in order to undermine discourse. Someone who is actually a friend with genuine questions that they actually want to be constructively discussed is not a concern troll, even if those who do not wish the questions to be raised at all call them that.

Do concern trolls actually exist? I've never seen one (or maybe they were subtle enough that I didn't notice).

I think there's a Poe's law type thing going on here: looking at behavior alone, it's very difficult to tell the difference between a concern troll and a tentative ally with the right ideological background. That's probably especially true for cultures like social justice that use a lot of endogenous concepts and terminology: within those movements, any concerns that don't speak the language are going to pattern-match to "enemy" on linguistic grounds and suffer from the corresponding horns effect.

With that in mind, I suspect they exist but are pretty rare.

Incidentally Poe's law is also highly misleading, specifically it's mostly a statement about the person attempting to tell the difference not about the person being parodied.
I've seen them, and unlike Nornagest, I don't think they're at all rare. They're one of the common forms that trolling takes. A certain person who was run out of here on a rail a few months ago fitted the form. (I'm not going to link, but his username in rot13 was WbfuRyqref.) As for how you tell, well, how do you ever tell pretence from truth?
Would you mind sharing your evidence that (rot13: WbfuRyqref) was concern trolling, via PM if you'd prefer? I wasn't involved in that little spat, and looking over his comment history it doesn't seem entirely implausible, but on the other hand I've elsewhere seen people with, er, similar opinions posting in what I'm pretty sure is deadly earnest.
I have only the evidence of his own postings. This comment of mine was about him, and the pattern I describe there, running through all his postings, is a pretty clear sign to me. He appeared out of nowhere, made an unusual claim about himself that no-one in that position would have any good reason to disclose, then sat back and never engaged with anyone, instead trying to keep the pot boiling by muttering disingenuously about forbidden topics. Fortunately it didn't work and he left (or was kicked, I don't know.) It is possible that he was also what he said he was (although I wouldn't take the "celibate" part on his word), and using the cover of trolling to indulge a desire to talk freely about these things without the danger of being believed. Of course, none of this is definitive. But we have to make judgements of people's honesty all the time, and do the best we can. This is mine.
I'd like to agree with you, but how do I know you're not a concern troll?

Concern trolling in the false flag political operation sense is a thing that happened

An example of this occurred in 2006 when Tad Furtado, a staffer for then-Congressman Charles Bass (R-NH), was caught posing as a "concerned" supporter of Bass' opponent, Democrat Paul Hodes, on several liberal New Hampshire blogs, using the pseudonyms "IndieNH" or "IndyNH". "IndyNH" expressed concern that Democrats might just be wasting their time or money on Hodes, because Bass was unbeatable.[37][38] Hodes eventually won the election.


"Concern trolling is frequently banned in feminist communities."

It may help if you consider the possibility that some feminist communities do not exist for the sake of rational dispassionate and balanced discussion of feminism. Rather, a feminist community may be a meeting place for the members of a feminist movement of some kind, which exists to achieve its goals. Like any other political movement.

TL;DR. LW is not the real world. In the real world, arguments are always soldiers (even if you pretend them not to be), discussion requires resources, and resources are finite.

Mere fact that the resources are finite is enough reason to use heuristics and -- inevitably -- biases. If there are hundreds of comments I am not able to fully reaseach, I need to use some filters. Such as "trust the comments from people from the beginning of the alphabet and ignore the comments from people from the end of the alphabet" or "trust the comments from respected long-time users and ignore the comments from unknown new users". Obviously, some of these heuristics are much reliable than the others, but none of them is perfect. Then, as abstractly thinking people we may play the game on a higher level, inventing meta-heuristics for accepting or rejecting heuristics. Such as: "if a more experienced member of my tribe recommends me a heuristic, I will use it; and I will ignore the heuristics promoted from unknown people or other tribes". Actually, this seems like a decent heuristic; you probably won't find a better one with comparable simplicity. And one of its consequences is that when an experienced member says "ignore concern trolls", you follow that. Plus you need some operational definition of what a concern troll is, which is something like: "expresses concern for our tribe, but does not pattern-match to a typical member of our tribe". There. It's imperfect because all heuristics are imperfect. And of course smart people always find a way to abuse it. Because all imperfect rules can be abused creatively. For example some people may start using it as a fully general counteragument against anyone who disagrees with them and happens to have lower status in given community. And the only way to fix it would be to send all internet users to CFAR's reeducation camps. Which, unfortunately, are still under construction. :P
This is implies that all discussions are adversarial and cannot be anything else. I do not think this is the case.
All interactions are adversarial to some extent. Even your post that I'm replying to.
Maybe in your world. Not in mine.
And they're not here?
Well, you tell me: have you seen examples here of people engaging each other in order to learn from each other rather than convince each other of the rightness of their views? It's not a rhetorical question. When I first joined this site there was rather a lot of that, which was largely what pulled me in. These days it's largely displaced by various other things, and it's quite possible that a new arrival simply won't notice it amidst all the noise. So I'm asking.
Oh there's plenty of people engaging to learn from each other, right alongside a major echo chamber of people pushing a very particular cluster of mythologies and ideologies. I like it here a lot for the former and enjoy watching the latter go on while its participants insist it is something else.
(nods) Ah. So you're agreeing that they're not always soldiers here, you're merely asserting additionally that they are not never soldiers? Yeah, that's certainly true. Thanks for clarifying.
They're also not always soldiers elsewhere.
Yes, that's true too.
Hush, you. :-)
The site you linked gives a method for detecting concern trollery, so the concept is at least somewhat operationalized: This seems quite distinct from "someone slightly to the right of me". If this description is correct, then someone who goes into a feminist space and argues forcefully against some tenet of feminism, replying substantively to the feminists' objections (rather than criticizing their tone), would not qualify as a concern troll.
Pretty sure that LW would also look badly upon people who showed up here and kept repeating the same questions over and over, without ever acknowledging the previous times when people had replied to them.
Yup. Even more so if they backed into typical anti-rational arguments, such as expressing concern that an argument is too "extreme" or a rationalist too "cold" or even "unfeeling."
Yes, such person would be labeled an outright "enemy" and kicked out even faster than a troll.
On some feminist websites, yes. On others, no. (I can provide examples belonging to the latter category, if you're interested.)
re: public speaking: There are in person groups like Toastmasters. Alternately, you can record yourself speaking about something and try to give yourself a self-critique. Here's an exercise I've run before: Person 1 picks a word at random; Person 2 immediately starting speaking about something relevant. At 15 second intervals for 1-2 minutes, Person 1 throws out new words; Person 2 needs to keep speaking about the new words, and to flow smoothly between topics. (You can substitute Wikipedia's random article button for Person 1.)
Imagine we often saw people coming to LW and saying things like "Hello. I wholeheartedly agree with the basic goals of LW and I think rationality is awesome! But, if I may make a small criticism, I think LW is being a bit irrational itself in its complete dismissal of religion. Yes, many forms of religion are irrational, but others may not be so, and one must no throw the baby with the bathwater, etc. etc." If there was a recurring pattern of this happening, with the pro-religion arguments being made by "newbies" and being things we have seen many times before, wouldn't we get impatient with it, give it a label (such as "concern trolling") and apply the label dismissively from then on? Perhaps this is not the most open-minded attitude, and it would be very inappropriate in a forum dedicated to open discussion between theists and atheists. But in a forum where most people have decided to their own satisfaction that these criticisms are incorrect, and are more interested in discussing other topics while taking atheism for granted than in rehashing what they see as basic stuff, can they really be faulted for taking it?
You give reasons for having a dismissive label, but the particular label is about other reasons. I think that disconnect is dangerous.
Ahm, don't we in fact have a warning against doing exactly that on the FAQ? (I speak as someone who can wholeheartedly endorse that newbie's statement.)
I endorse the newbie statement as well! (Kinda, under some interpretations and expansions). My point was not that the impatient, dismissive reaction is the best one, or the one an ideal truth seeker would take; just that it is understandable for a group of humans with limited time and energy and who are not interested in having a discussion on matters that they perceive as settled. I was reacting against words like "literally the worst concept ever" and "horrible" in the parent comment.
And it appears that's the option we actually took, in exactly that situation! So all the more kudos to you - I think it puts this discussion in a slightly different light, myself.
2.) In my experience, filling your rhetoric with filler words is a result of being uncertain speaking, or not being sure what you want to say. For the first item, find public speaking practice/training. This does not have to be toastmasters, volunteer or join a club and step into a leadership position. Take a part time job at a tourist attraction and spend an afternoon a week telling stories to groups of strangers. You may be already at home talking to anyone, but if you are not, this will help. For the second item, find public speaking practice/training. Too often I find myself repeating my last statement and using other filler methods to hold my place in the conversation while I order my thoughts. Take a breath, pause, figure out what you are going to say before you say it. It feels like an eternity to you, but it is only a moment's pause to the listener. Also, instead of holding your place with filler, practice body language, establish through posture and eye contact that you are still talking. Public speaking is again great practice for holding interest by body language alone. Disclaimer: I'm from a very Wait Culture, results may vary in a Interrupt Culture Edit for emphasis: Decide what you want to say then say it! You will use more precise language and less filler.
Thanks. I'm a college student so the obvious choice is to be a tour guide, but for some reason this is a really popular job and it's hard to get even though you don't get paid? Maybe I could find some sort of club that would be good for this purpose. I've tried to do this but it's a lot easier said than done. Maybe I'll have to redouble my efforts. EDIT: What culture are you from? The idea of a wait culture sounds very alien to me outside of classroom discussions.
College is full of student groups, find one you like for its own merits and as a side project strive for a role that includes a little bit of audience addressing. I took on a secretary role in my fraternity that involved frequently addressing the whole chapter, and joined the 4-H alumni that volunteered as leaders for 4-H youth events. Unfortunately it is a skill that benefits less from dedicated practice and more from repetition and familiarity. College is a great opportunity to develop these skills, but it does seem that the low-hanging fruit has been picked over (tour guides, student council, excreta). I'm from Canada, I hate to reinforce the polite/sorry meme. but ya.
Ad two: I have no particular expertise in this area, so all I can offer is a few remarks based on what I myself do when I want to change something about my speech (e.g. my accent, but also vocabulary). Basically, it's one of those things where what you need to do is train yourself to pay attention. In order to do this, it's important not to be afraid to speak slowly. There might be an unconscious inhibition to speaking slowly for fear of appearing dumb. If you overcome that, you have time to consciously double-check what you're saying, and to consciously intervene by actively thinking about what you're going to say, and then saying it, or by stopping yourself when you feel that you're about to say something undesirable (like "like"). Also, you couldn't be old-fashioned by wearing a fedora, if I'm correct in deducing from you username that you're a girl. ;-)
Understandable but incorrect deduction, actually. He's a guy. I remember being somewhat confused by this at one point, too.

http://mikhailvladimirovich.tumblr.com/post/72908158199/polytheism-as-a-guide-to-morality Some thoughts I had on polytheism as a human-implementable moral system rather than as a factual question.

Reminds me of my not-quite-awake-dream-state encounters with Q from Star Trek. Quoting part of an old comment of mine:

I just set up the Anki Beeminder plugin + Beeminder on my Android smartphone. It all automatic software and should I forget to do Anki enough the smartphone app will bug me.

I think for anyone doing Anki there no reason not to go down that road. If you want to make sure you can even add a commitment contract to Beeminder.

I tried Beeminder and it didn't work. Basically, I just ignored it when there were $5 at stake, was briefly motivated by $10 and $30, and then just started lying. So, you need to have at least some self-respect in order to successfully use it. The most funny thing is that I paid them something around $300, before I found out how ineffective Beeminder was for me. Yay positive reinforcement! (M&M's had helped me with Anki, to some extent (until I started lying :D))
I have a reason to not go down that road - I have a solid enough Anki habit as it is, and don't need extra push. Anki doesn't feel like a chore.
There are plenty of people who do have a solid habit and then lose the habit after something comes up in their lives. I put a weekly goal of review cards into Beeminder so it will only start pushing when necessary and not cause troubly otherwise.

My friends keep posting videos of Jacob Barnett, a child genius (TEDx video; YouTube channel) on facebook. I'd like to have your opinion about what kind of a genius precisely he is.

From my short googling, seems to me that the kid has an Asperger syndrom, he probably enjoys reading a lot about maths and physics, he probably does it most of his day, and he seems to have some kind of photographic memory, so he remembers a lot and then goes to impress people. His mother is doing a very good marketing campaign for him. There are videos of him talking about quan... (read more)

I watched one of his videos explaining the path integral. It was definitely all correct, and the way he presented it convinces me that he wasn't just repeating something he had memorised from a text book. He was presenting it informally and in his own words. He even had a way of motivating the path integral hat I hadn't seen before. So I'd say that he genuinely does have a deep understanding.
Watched the path integral videos as well. The procedure he follows is pretty much straight out of e.g. Altland and Simons. But you can see he knows what the procedure does.
Thanks for saying this! My first thought after Oscar's reply was: "Well, just because Oscar didn't see it before, that doesn't prove it's not copied from some book." Then I was ashamed: "Oh, this is a textbook example of motivated thinking. You ask experts to evaluate the claim you are not able to evaluate. If someone told you the kid is fake, you wouldn't doubt it for a second. But when an expert tells you the kid is genuine, you just find a way to ignore the evidence." Next iteration: "Well, I definitely should increase my probability that the kid really is genius. However, it is not completely unlikely that an autistic kid who spends almost literally all his life reading scientific books could find and remember a book an expert haven't heard about. So I should update, but it's probably okay to update just a little, and wait for more reports." Now I feel more sane, thank you! Although, on the second thought, I should have considered not just the probability that the kid read a book Oscar doesn't know about... but also the probability that this would happen to be the first video Oscar randomly chooses to watch. And that is much smaller. So, at this moment my belief is... well, pretty much what pragmatist wrote: "He knows what he is talking about (which is still only a weak evidence for deep insights)." Also, I should update that not everything I find in a discussion of out local Mensa is necessarily bullshit.
Here's a previous comment I wrote expressing skepticism about the whole Jake Barnett phenomenon (also see here and here). I haven't been keeping up with what the kid has been doing lately, so maybe my concerns are now moot. Briefly skimming some of the recent videos on his channel, he seems to basically know what he is talking about, although there's no evidence of any particularly deep insight into the topics.

Less Wrong contains so much advice that it's impossible to follow even a large fraction of it. How should I decide what advice to actually follow?

I would start with looking at what are the most important issue that you face at the moment in your life.

Recently attempted to read Julian Barbour's The End of Time, primarily on Eliezer's recommendation and found myself stalling out because it wasn't presenting any information which felt new to me. I am currently weighing whether it is worth pushing onward in the hopes of finding meatier material later.

Has anyone else read it after having read the Quantum Physics sequence, and what were their thoughts?

I recently reread Anathem, and while searching for our world's equivalent of Diax's Rake, found in the online acknowledgements that So that I had read and taken in his ideas (at that deep level mainly reserved for well-written Conjunction Fallacies), and read the Quantum Physics sequence, probably explains why I found nothing new in the book itself.

My friend will have one month of unemployment in the SF Bay Area and is looking for projects, experiences, and ideas to make zirself awesome. My friend works in the biological sciences, but plans to apply to medical school. Traits include being multilingual (english, mandarin, french), very limited spanish, cooking, sub-power user competent technology use. Not widely read, not x-rational, difficulties with akrasia, drive, self-confidence, public speaking, making friends. No significant knowledge of coding, math beyond calculus II, philosophy, sociology, po... (read more)

You've listed one concrete goal and two stupendously vague goals. My first suggestion would be for your friend to spend the time figuring out what, exactly, they're trying to achieve with something like "form an alternative career" or "become a better person," then using the resulting knowledge to make an actionable plan. Clarifying goals is often the first step to achieving goals. Other considerations: How far in the future will this be? How much money, if any, does this person have available for training or travel or the like? Is CFAR running a workshop during the relevant month?
Wow, how do you master Mandarin AND French with difficulties with akrasia & drive?
Ze speaks Mandarin and English natively. Ze was born in China and moved to USA at a young age. French was learned in high school, then more in college. French is also a relatively easy language to get the basics of if you speak English, and ze spent a year living in France which no doubt helped a great deal.
Akrasia doesn't necessarily mean you're incapable of studying everything. It could just mean that you e.g. spend all your time studying languages when you should be working. Also, three languages isn't that much if you have the right background: I speak Finnish because I live in Finland, Swedish because I had Swedish-speaking relatives and went to a Swedish-speaking elementary school, and English because that was the language most of the most interesting entertainment was in. I don't remember really needing to actively study any of them: I just picked them up via childhood immersion, not unlike many other people from the same background. (Well, I did keep asking my parents about the English terms in video games and such early on, but that never felt like studying.)

Is there a reason why a second account I made recently is unable to post comments? The top-level comment box and the reply buttons on comments are missing. I hope this isn't affecting all new users.

I had the same problem couple of months ago. It was about confirming an e-mail address: I received an email asking me to confirm the address I was using, with a link. After that, I could comment normally. Unfortunately I can't remember what I did in order to receive that email: something in preferences, probably.
I think that sufficiently downvoted users are prevented from commenting. Could it be that?
The account is brand-new and never posted anything.

I started reading the Culture novels by Iain M. Banks and can't get over the biggest plot hole: where's the flood of people wanting to immigrate into the Culture, and what happens to them?

He touches on that in "Consider Phlebas". Basically there were other technologically advanced civs with different values, not everyone wanted to join the Culture. Another possible explanation is that the ship Minds controlled immigration in non-obvious ways (memetic weaponry).
Somewhere in the books, I think in Look to Windward, it's pointed out that ambassadors to the Culture end up assimilated and serving unofficially as ambassadors for the Culture instead. Also, the Culture appears to have trillions of citizens. You could have a large amount of immigration and still not see much of the impact.
I think the Culture accepts immigrants. Why wouldn't it?

This Washington Post piece discusses motivated reasoning, and how given a grouping of the exact same reforms, you can strongly influence whether or not people think it is a good policy by changing the affiliation of the group that endorses it.

Ergo: 5 reforms, labeled blue solutions to green problems, blues like, greens don't. Same 5 reforms labeled green solutions to blue problem, greens like them and blues don't.


What if lesswrong.org hosted individual users' blogs? They would live on the user profile page, as a separate tab (perhaps the default one). That (and an RSS feed) would be the primary way to get to them. Public homepage would not aggregate from them, Main and Discussion remaining as they are.

Has this been discussed before? Pros/cons? Would you use this mechanism if it were available?

(technically, under the hood, they'd be easy to implement as just separate individual subreddits, I guess)

I don't think there any advantage of individuals to write blogs in that way. Having the blog separate and the links on "RECENT ON RATIONALITY BLOGS" seems to be a good solution.

A query about threads:

I posted a query in discussion because I didn't know this thread exists. I got my answer and was told that I should have used the Open Thread, so I deleted the main post, which the FAQ seems to be saying will remove it from the list of viewable posts. Is this sufficient?

I also didn't see my post appear under discussion/new before I deleted it. Where did it appear so that other people could look at it?

Yes, this is sufficient. Well done. It appeared under Discussion (it is no longer there) and I am not sure why you weren't able to see it there.

A while back there was a post linking to videos and a paper about an AI which which can play arbitrary NES games. Since then two more videos about the AI have been uploaded by the author:

Also in the second video the Author briefly addresses concerns about the AI turning into skynet.

I am considering a possibly risky financial move, and not sure that it's a good idea.

I am planning on going back to school full time next year (getting a BS Computer Science so I expect to have a big pay raise), and I am considering purchasing a 4br house and renting out two of the bedrooms to cover mortgage payment + maintenance costs. I can do this at well under-market rent pricing (ideally offered to friends or romantic partners), so I don't feel like it'd be taking advantage of people (rent in my city is vastly overpriced and home prices are very che... (read more)

You may be underestimating the amount of work involved in being a landlord. If you find financially stable, reliable, non-destructive people, it's a nice income stream. Even so, they will expect you to fix problems sooner than you might get around to doing it for yourself. You probably shouldn't count on having your rooms rented for every month, you might lose a tenant and not have one ready to replace them immediately.

All this is general knowledge. There's probably information somewhere about the expected costs to being a landlord.

It still might make sense to buy the house.

Thank you! I'll take those factors into account.

Has there been any update on the Less Wrong survey/census? The original post mentioned something about a "MONETARY REWARD" but it didn't say when to check back for results/etc.

Is anyone aware of research into long-term comas as a potential alternative to cryonics? There are small numbers of examples of people in unresponsive comas for over a decade who then awake and are at least basically functional. It seems like it might be possible with perhaps cooling (lowering the body temperature to reduce metabolism and perhaps disease progression) with heart-lung machines to keep one's body alive for an indefinite period if normal life was otherwise about to end.

tl;dr, how long can people just stay on life support?

It seems far more li... (read more)

Temporary theraputic hypothermia is very useful for treatment of cardiac arrest and other neurological insults, as it reduces reperfusion injury and the slower inflammatory brain damage that happens in the hours and days after a period of ischemia. As for life support, people can live for decades on tube feeding and artificial ventilation, and years on chemical feed dripped into their blood (at the cost of liver function). That's just letting normal biology proceed though, substituting some of the functions of a fully functional nervous system or other organ systems. If you are looking to try to preserve degrading function longer, or stretch out the time you have to treat something, you would want to try to replicate a state like hibernation, in which temperature and biochemical reaction rates can be lowered while maintaining the presence of actual life and repair functions. The particulars of such a state would dictate if someone who was already ill or damaged in some way stood much of a chance of surviving it. Though a lot of neurological trauma is already treated with artificial comas to reduce the brain's bloodflow and metabolic rate, and there was a recent report of successful treatment for rabies that involved a months-long induced coma. ...Though you really don't want to spend much time with your blood flow moving through tubes outside your body that you don't absolutely have to. It's just asking for infection and all sorts of clotting/embolism problems, either due to anticoagulants giving you bleeds inside your body, or your blood clotting in tubes not lined with endotheial cells and not shaped for near-perfect laminar flow, or microscopic bubbles entering the flow through a crack in the plastic too small to see. There's even indications that a large fraction of people on heart-lung machines for a single surgery have micro-embolisms throughout the brain caused by the blood issues that come about form extracorporial circulation.

Does anyone here play League? I'm AIXItl.

Adding you :P
Thanks! Added back. Hopefully you can forgive me for butting heads with you a bit in the past.

The waterbear, a multicellular organism with neurons-- it can be frozen and revived.

Any thoughts about genetic engineering to make cryonics easier?

Being small enough to freeze solid quickly is a nonstarter. Cells filling themselves up with trehalose (disaccharide that in many organisms including waterbears and my lab yeast serves as both a fast-degrading energy store [faster than glycogen] and protection against denaturing proteins during both desiccation and freezing) under stress is more plausible but runs afoul of the fact that large animals only have so much soluble sugar at any given time and can't make sugars from lipids - in many cases of organisms that use it as a protective feature it becomes like 10% or more of their weight. Trying to eliminate the inflammatory response to hypoxia? No idea if that's plausible without causing immune system issues.

Again frustrated with being unable to type properly while standing, and remembering how my (no longer usable) braille devices made doing so trivial, I wrote a comment praising the utility of braille input. Then I realized this was dumb, and did an experiment to put my braille typing speed against my qwerty typing speed, using a braille keyboard simulator.

I found that my qwerty speed was over 100WPM; there were no typoes in the test, but I've been known to double-capitalize, drop 'e's, and misplace 'h's quite frequently in the wild.

My braille typing speed w... (read more)

This is a request for information. We all know about the force of a first impression on other people, but here's something I'm extremely confused about: how easy is it to spoil somebody's impression of you when you have already known them for a bit? I'm asking this from a male perspective, but with respect to both inter- and intra-gender interactions. I'd appreciate both scientific studies (I'm not aware of any) and personal experience, because I really have no clue. My past interactions with people have been extremely high-variance in this respect, I don'... (read more)

An interesting case is a behavior that makes an initial good impression, but will sour a relationship when continued. Sharp sarcasm or negative joking is the most common example I've observed.
Spoiling is trivially easy -- just mention that you like to torture kittens in your spare time. Without such drastic admissions, are you really asking whether someone's opinion of you can radically decrease without you doing anything that seems out of the ordinary to you? I guess, but you also have to keep in mind the difference between what the other person things and what s/he is willing to show. For example, let's say Alice and Bob meet. Alice doesn't really like Bob but she is polite so she doesn't show it in an obvious fashion plus she hopes that maybe Bob isn't as bad as he looks. After a bit of time Alice's opinion of Bob is still the same but now she sees less reason to be polite and have decided that yes, Bob is as bad as he looks. From the Bob's point of view it looks as if Alice took a sudden dislike to him, but from Alice's point of view she just allowed herself to show her true attitude which didn't change much.
Essentially, yes. The question wasn't particularly clear, I admit, because I don't know how to phrase it more clearly, except for individual examples, and I want a slightly more general answer. But, to give one example scenario of the kind I have in mind, take this: we know that appearing confident is important for the first impression. What happens if a person has formed an impression of you as confident, but later you display some clearly non-confident behavior? There is the fundamental attribution error working against you, but there's also the fact that people in general don't like updating. And as I said, my personal experience shows such high variance that I feel very clueless; I've seen decent people who remain friends with others I would long have thrown out of my social circle, and other people who irredeemably condemn you as soon as you commit the slightest blunder. Somehow the latter group seemed to be more pathological than the first, for independent reasons, but still… I feel a desperate need for data. I'm keeping that in mind all the time, which is why I called the signals noisy. They are, to an annoying extreme.
That analysis is self centered. It can often be much more useful to ask yourself: "What does this person want? How can I act in a way to help that person to get what they wants?" than to ask yourself: "How will that person judge me for what I do?" If you interact with me and make a social blunder that makes you appear inconfident, so what if I get the outcome from the interaction that I want? The outcome might not even be self centered. I like effectively helping someone else improve themselves. If someone asks me advice on something and comes back a week later and tells me he implemented my advice I feel good because something I did had an effect even if it produced no direct personal benefit. Different people have different goals. One person might want to hang out to avoid being lonely. Another person might want to hang out to with someone have an audience for his jokes. Some people might want to hang out with cool people because then other people will think they are cool. Traits like confidence do have some effects but you will never make sense of people actions if you don't think about their goals. Goals also change. Two years ago I engaged in a lot of actions to prove to myself that I'm confident. I satisfied that need and moved on to other topics. I did things like walking in my dancing course with a 3 people film crew who were filming a documentary about Quantified Self and this was part of a story about how I measure my pulse while dancing Salsa. In some sense that's supposed to be a high status signal. On the other hands that's not how it works. Having genuine connections with people and caring about what they want matters a lot more than engineering the right status signals and right impressions. There might be people that you can effectively impress over a long time with a carefully engineered high status first impression but in general that's not the kind of people I want to hang out with. Most people care about whether they have a genuine intera
That is a good point. I generally feel very powerless when it comes to figuring out what other people want and providing it. Maybe I should make this more of a focus.
In my experience figuring out what other people want get's easier if you have a bit of mental distance and can take the far view. If you are focused on what you can do to achieve a certain objective in the next 5 minutes, it's hard to see deeper goals of other people. Even if you ask them few people will give you their deepest motivations Someone who's lonely and who core motivation comes from the search for companionship won't admit it as doing so would make him emotionally vulnerable. If you are all the time worried what first impression you make and how the other person judges you, it's also unlikely that you will understand them on that level. It can be much more about relaxing and listen to the other person than about trying to do something.
Two reactions to this. First, I think that the high variance and the noise are just characteristics of real life. People are different AND incoherent AND impulsive AND prone to change their mind. Even if you manage to gather enough data to form some reasonable central estimates, the variance will remain huge. Second, it's not clear to me what kind of an answer do you hope to get. Technically you are asking a simple yes/no question and the answer to it is obviously "yes", but between that and a full-blown model of human behavior in relationships I am not sure what are you looking for. Can you give an example of what an answer (not necessarily a correct one) might look like?
Uhm, technically, I'm asking a degree question, not a yes/no-question… Well, especially the last conjunct is not obvious by any means. :) Here's an example of a possible "personal experience" answer: "In my experience of so-and-so many years, in this-and-that demographic, people tend to stick to their initial impressions. It takes a certain time or relatively persistent behavior to the contrary for them to change their initial assessment, e.g. for them to judge that you're not as smart or confident as they initially believed you to be. Certain (comparatively rare) individuals are exceptions to this and are, as it were, on the look-out for faults in others. Individuals may be on in one or the other group only for a particular gender-mixture, in particular, they may be of the "forgiving" kind for same-gender interactions, but of the judgmental kind for cross-gender interactions. This is the most common deviation from uniform attitudes." I admit that I'm having a hard time figuring out what to look for in the way of scientific studies of friendship and relationships that would be relevant to this, which may explain why I didn't find anything on a first cursory search. So any help in precisifying the question in order to increase answerability is also welcome.
Well, I am not you, but I would consider that example answer to be entirely useless. It effectively says that people stick to initial impressions until they don't and, oh, there are exceptions. "Certain time" can be five seconds or five years. And what would be practical implications? That first impressions matter? We already know that. And that, of course, before considering that various groups and subcultures are likely to have different norms in this respect. Maybe it's worth shortcutting to a more-terminal goal? Are you looking to be liked? Do you want to control a relationship? Are you trying to forecast which relationships are likely to remain stable and which are not?
Of course the answer is exceedingly vague, but I wouldn't expect anyone to track their experience in such a fashion as to give actual numbers. Though examples with months would of course be nice, but in any case, it would still be informative. It would tell me that the judgmental ones that immediately flip their judgments are particular exceptional individuals and that this is not normal; it would also tell me that it's the identity of individuals that explains the variation, while individuals don't change their behavior constantly (i.e. if you've seen someone be tolerant with others, you can expect them to be tolerant with you). It would tell me that you wouldn't need to worry about isolated incidents a few weeks or months apart, especially with parties of the same gender. What I know of first impressions is mostly how rich they are. I'm asking about their resilience. Maybe there is something well-known here that I'm simply unaware of and that you consider obvious. Which is why the answer included "that-and-that demographic"… To be honest, though, I'm not sure that I would actually expect that much variation between groups/subcultures. Good point. It's essentially the last one. This feeling I have of not knowing what's going on and what's normal is a source of anxiety to me (not in the clinical sense of social anxiety, but it makes me worry). Right now, I have some relationships with such low signal-to-noise ratios that I can really only operate on priors about, broadly speaking, humanity in general. (Discarding these relationships in favour of less bothersome one's isn't an option for various reasons.)
I think I'm coming from the position that once you have information about a specific person and a specific relationship, general priors are pretty much useless. To give a simple example, women are, on the average, shorter than men and that would be my prior about the height of someone before seeing her. But once I see her, the prior is completely superseded by the concrete information that I now have. In the same way when evaluating whether someone specific is likely to change his/her opinion of me, I will rely almost completely on my knowledge of that particular person and not on generic priors. Well... I wouldn't worry too much about what's "normal", though I'll point out that e.g. the mainstream picture of women paints them as very emotionally labile in sexually-charged situation. You might also consider that you are being played games with. Might be for control (to keep you off-balance) or might be just for fun -- some people like drama.
Well, maybe the only wisdom to be had here is really that if you don't have much more than priors to go on, tough luck, nothing you can do, live with the uncertainty and hope for the best (because actively asking for evidence is too costly). It's likely that this this doesn't bother you as much as me because you're just better at reading social cues; however the hell one is supposed to learn that, especially if one is an introvert and experiences a consequent poverty of stimulus. Although sometimes it's not even about observing clues. For example, one might know that it's likely that one will at some point behave in some way that the other person would view unfavorably; and you want to estimate how much you should invest in this relationship. Then the only relevant evidence you can get is how this person behaves in dealing with other people.

I've been lurking here for a while, but I'd like to get more actively involved.

By the way, are there any other Yale students here? If so, I'd be interested in founding a rationalist group / LW meetup on campus.

The standard advice for starting a physical group is to just pick a timeframe and a nice location, then show up with a good book and stay for the duration. Either other people show up and you've got your meetup, or else you spend a couple hours with a good book.

PM me if you want to talk about founding a group. I ran the Boston community for a while, and it was one of the most rewarding things I've ever done.

Alum here... glad to hear! You should do that :)

English is for my a second language but I probably wrote more words in it than in my native one.

In the last months I frequently found myself forgetting "'s" after "there" or "ït". It not an issue that I remember being there a year ago. Has anyone observed similar things or knows of research that might describe processes like this?

The only explanation I can think of is having reread Korzybski's arguments against the "is of identity".It would be interesting if my unconscious is so opposed to "is" that it censors me from using it whenever I don't pay attention.


In the last months I frequently found myself forgetting "'s" after "there" or "ït". It not an issue that I remember being there a year ago.

I like how you do what you describe with the very next word after the description of the problem.

There is what Wikipedia calls interference theory, which is when the act of learning new, similar information throws a wrench into the recall of the old information. For example, I never used to have any trouble with the word iniquitous before I learned the word invidious, but now I get them mixed up.
for me ;-)
Come now. If you're going to correct that, why not make the whole sentence more idiomatic and point out that flows better and sounds more natural? Putting the "for me" up front is a very Germanic sentence structure.

Looking for advice on cheap / enjoyable caffeine sources.

I currently have a 2-3 energy drink per day caffeine habit, which is a bad thing due to the expense if nothing else. A couple months ago I tried to switch to making my own coffee, but it turns out that's harder than it seems and the drip coffee maker in the App Academy office makes pretty weak coffee that I don't trust to stave off withdrawal symptoms (which I really don't want to have affecting my productivity right now).

So now taking recommendations for caffeine pills / coffee machines / tea brands / whatever else.

Well, energy drinks don't have that high a caffeine content compared to coffee -- a can of Rockstar has about 160 mg in it, which is comparable to a strong cup of coffee, but it's got somewhere around twice the volume. Red Bull is more like 80mg. So if your office coffee isn't scratching your itch, you're probably craving something other than caffeine, maybe even just sugar. I'd recommend experimenting with that a bit. If you want to make good coffee easily, though, I recommend a burr grinder + French press or drip cone (I prefer the standalone kind, though a drip coffeemaker won't kill you), and the best-quality beans you can find: Philz is a good Bay Area choice. Toss a couple tablespoons of beans per cup of coffee into your grinder, grind them at a medium-fine setting, transfer to your coffee production system of choice, then add boiling water. French presses tend to make stronger coffee with more complex flavors, but add a timing parameter -- you can oversteep or understeep coffee made with a French press, while drip coffee is pretty idiotproof.
This issue isn't sugar, because I drink sugar-free energy drinks. On reflection, perceived weakness of office coffee may be in my head / based on my first couple poorly-made cups. So I may just switch back to that.
Espresso is the best for preventing withdrawal. You can buy espresso cans like these. They end up costing around $1-2 per drink. You can also consider buying a moka pot. Though, moka pot coffee isn't really espresso as it is extracted under much less pressure. But you can make your own and so save money. It tastes quite good. A single shot of espresso from Starbucks, costs around $1.50. If you want something strong, I recommend a red-eye: a cup of drip coffee with a shot of espresso in it. This usually will keep you caffeinated for a few hours at least.
Caffeine pills are cheap, portable, fast-acting, and you can get an exact dose.
The simplest thing is caffeine pills. They're cheap and freely available over-the-counter. Making yourself some coffee is not hard at all. Drip coffeemakers are ubiquitous and cheap, if you think the coffee is too weak just put more grounds into the basket. Otherwise try Aeropress, it's good. I also like Turkish coffee but most people think it's too muddy. If you want a hobby, buy a proper espresso machine :-) Tea is even simpler, all you need is tea and boiling water. Experiment with different teas (they are VERY different), figure out what you like. I strongly recommend loose tea over teabags.
Black tea is easier than coffee because boiling water gives good results so you don't have to worry about letting it cool exactly the right amount. Middle Eastern import stores sell very cheap bulk tea. Often the quality of their cheapest stuff is not high enough for the tea to be very enjoyable without added flavor, so I recommend Earl Grey or, if you don't like bergamot, plain black tea and adding a cinnamon stick or cardamom pod to the pot.

For my high-school Chemistry course I need to interview an individual involved with the sciences in some professional capacity. Anyone interested?

I am an engineer practicing in Alberta, of course my trade is closer to math pure and physics than chemistry, but all the same I would be available for a text-based interview.
Well that's amusing. It's for a Alberta based curriculum. Anyway that would be most agreeable as the assignment is simply to "Interview an individual employed in a 'SCIENCE' based occupation and make special note of the significance of science and technology in their occupation. Record their views on the significance of social responsibilities that pervade their chosen occupation." I'll ask the teachers if you qualify. You should as engineering is based on a very sound understanding of physics.

You're trying to solve a puzzle. Maybe it's a jigsaw puzzle, maybe it's a Sudoku puzzle, maybe it's an interesting math problem. In any case, it's one of those puzzles where you know a solution when you see it, and once it's almost solved, everything falls into place.

At the moment, you're kind of stumped. You've been unable to figure out any more facts using deductive reasoning, so now it's time to resort to trial and error. You have three independent hypotheses about the puzzle. Hypothesis A seems to have an 80% chance of being right, hypothesis B a 50% c... (read more)

At one extreme is the weekly sudoku puzzle that is completed for my own enjoyment and I am content with my mastery level. At that extreme I pick A, it is not really a goal to improve my sudoku skill, negative results contribute little. At the other extreme are your hard coding problems, complex engineering problems, and those little bent steel puzzles that you have to take apart and reassemble in apparently impossible ways; Here the long term goal is not to solve the single problem but to learn and solve the problem type. These problems are either without an A solution, or you want greater mastery of the field so that next time only A or B solutions are on the table instead of the B and C solutions. Eventually your peers start coming to you with their A, B, C dilemmas and you can give them the right answer with 100% confidence. After that you will be known as a guru in your field and reap all the prestige and profit that comes with that (results may vary depending on field). In short it depends on your goal, A to solve the problem, C to solve the problem type. B is a compromise if you want C but the budget doesn't allow for it.
I'd select B for the "hard coding problems", as that would give me the most information. (I'm already relatively sure that C won't work, but I may have absolutely no idea whether B would work).
Expanded reading on why I favor C
Do you mean "hypothesis" as something that solves the problem? If yes, then there's a problem. Either your beliefs are inconsistent (as they don't add up to 100%), or the hypotheses cannot be independent. Assuming your beliefs are consistent, your best best would be to figure out what's the correlation between these hypothesis is between choosing one to test. For example, C could be correlated with A. Choosing to pursue A (or C) would then give information about C (or A) as well. If no, the amount of the information you'll get from testing them is incomparable. For example, B could be about a relatively minor thing, while A about 99% of the solution.

Assuming the average person's utility function is concave with respect to money and given the current income distribution the simplest and highest utility change is to take a fixed amount from high income people and give it to low income people. This follows from simple economics as the people on the lower end of the distribution know best what it is they need. GiveDirectly is the charity that pioneers this exact scheme and that is why I donate to them.

On the other end of the spectrum, the high income countries, the best people could do is eat healthier an... (read more)

Assuming the average person's utility function is concave with respect to money and given the current income distribution the simplest and highest utility change is to take a fixed amount from high income people and give it to low income people.

When you consider second order consequences, such as the creation and elimination of certain incentives, the effect of currency transfers on utility is not quite so straightforward. Even without those consequences, it is far from obvious that the statement

This follows from simple economics as the people on the lower end of the distribution know best what it is they need.


I would argue most people's revealed preference of utility wrt money is either incoherent or lumpy enough that describing it with a simple curve isn't really valid.
I think most people's revealed preferences are quite coherent once you assume that gambling is as much a purchase of a dream(lotteries) or an entertainment experience(poker, blackjack, etc.) as it is a strictly financial bet.
Let's add the time dimension to this analysis. What you say might be true within an immediate time frame, but it is true in the one year time frame? ten years? a hundred years? There is also the issue of side effects. Forcibly equalizing income (or wealth) has been tried. Many times.

There is also the issue of side effects. Forcibly equalizing income (or wealth) has been tried. Many times.

I don't think he advocates equalizing. It's more an argument for unconditional basic income policies. Even Milton Friedman made proposals that went in that direction.

yeah I think forcible equalization is terrible but the fact remains that you gotta get money from SOMEONE for government spending and the rich have way more of it.
And are hurt FAR less by its removal.

I am trying to formalize what I think should be solvable by some game theory, but I don't know enough about decision theory to come up with a solution.

Let's say there are twins who live together. For some reason they can only eat when they both are hungry. This would work as long as they are both actually hungry at the same time, but let's say that one twin wants to gain weight since that twin wants to be a body builder, or one twin wants to lose weight since that twin wants to look better in a tuxedo.

At this point it seems like they have conflicting goal... (read more)

I don't think it's an exact match for a prisoner's dilemma because (as described) they don't have a shared goal like not going to prison. if they have an overarching shared goal like being happy with each other, the situation is different.
I agree with Nancy that this doesn't look like a prisoner's dilemma. You could think about this as a dynamic game, but it seems simplest to model it as a static game with two strategies: eat heavily and eat lightly. Both have to choose eat heavily to actually eat enough to gain weight, since it sounds like both have to agree every time they eat. The payoffs then look something like: ..... Heavily | Lightly Heavily | 1,0 | 0,1 | Lightly | 0,1 | 0,1 | with the bodybuilder as the row player and the model as the column player. Then (Heavily, Lightly) and (Lightly, Lightly) are both Nash Equilibria. Do those payoffs seem to capture the situation you were thinking of?
I don't know enough about Game Theory to expect what my Nash Equilibria would look like, but what I'm trying to find out in general is how to split resources when people have to use the same pot at the same time when they have competing or contradictory goals. So for a real life example that I think captures what I'm trying to illustrate: My brother likes to turn the air conditioner as cold as possible during the summer so that he can bundle up in a lot of blankets when he goes to sleep. I on the other hand prefer to sleep with the a/c at room temperature so that I don't have to bundle up with blankets. Sleeping without bundling up makes my brother uncomfortable, and having to sleep under a lot of blankets so I don't freeze makes me uncomfortable. We both have to use the a/c, but we have contradictory goals even though we're using the same resource at the same time. And the situation is repeated every night during the summer (thankfully I don't live with my brother, but my current new roommate seems to have the same tendency with the a/c).
That example helps clarify. In the A/C situation, you and your brother aren't really starting with a game. There isn't a natural set of strategies you are each independently choosing from; instead you are selecting one temperature together. You could construct a game to help you two along in that joint decision, though. To solve the overall problem, there are two questions to be answered: 1. Given a set of outcomes and everyone's preferences over the outcomes, which outcome should be chosen? This is studied in social choice theory, cake-cutting/fair division, and bargaining solutions. 2. Given an answer to the first question, how do you construct a game that implements the outcome that should be chosen? This is studied in mechanism design. One possible solution: If everything is symmetric, the result should split the resource equally, either by setting the temperature halfway between your ideal and his ideal or alternating nights where you choose your ideals. With this as a starting point, flip a coin. The winner can either accept the equal split or make a new proposal of a temperature and a payment to the other person. The second person can accept the new proposal or make a new one. Alternate proposals until one is accepted. This is roughly the Rubinstein bargaining game implementing the Nash bargaining solution with transfers. Another possible solution: Both submit bids between 0 and 1. Suppose the high bid is p. The person with the high bid proposes a temperature. The second person can either accept that outcome or make a new proposal. If the first player doesn't accept the new proposal, the final outcome is the second player's proposal with probability p and the status quo (say alternating nights) with probability 1-p. This is Moulin's implementation of the Kalai-Smorodinsky bargaining solution.
Thanks! This gives me more resources to study directly instead of hoping to land on what I was looking for randomly.

LessWrong is rationalist Reddit.

Where is rationalist 4chan?


RationalWiki is more like Encyclopedia Dramatica.

One day MIRI will get a press officer and you'll forget we exist. You'll see!
How could I possibly forget that something as ridiculous as RationalWiki exists in this world?

.#lesswrong IRC is probably closest.

reddit.com/r/lesswrong ?
so, lower signal to noise, but also more exploration of the edges of the rationalist memeplex? cud b laff.
Check out this thread for a sense of what a bad idea that would be :)

Is anybody interested in enactivism? Does anybody think that there is a cognitivist bias in LessWrong?

The wiki entry you linked is extremely unclear. Can you explain what enactivism is in simple words, using the vocabulary like http://splasho.com/upgoer5/ ?
If I've understood it correctly, it's the idea that the way our mind works is severely constrained by our physical form. For example, one of my pet hypotheses is that, since we are bipeds that grow up vertically, we're conditioned to think that more important things are in a vertically higher position than less important things (our language is littered with such metaphors: superior, inferior, exalted, debased, etc.). It shouldn't be immediately obvious that things farther from the ground have greater value, but I've found it difficult to show to other people that vertical metaphors are metaphors, and that we'd use different ones if our bodies were different.
You might be interested in Metaphors We Live By by Lakoff and Johnson. It explores cognitive metaphors like HAPPY IS UP, HEALTHY IS UP, etc.
Thank you.
Does this matter, though? A question I have about the whole field of embodied cognition.
It keeps a check on our expectations for mutual understanding with alien species. A lot of our idioms and mental habits won't have any meaning for them, and vice versa. This already happens between human cultures, but it will happen even more with species that don't share our biologic history. Ultimately, it will compel us to reconsider how much of our thinking is generalizable, and how much is the contingent product of our evolution.
When I get the time surely. I find cognitive science by definition quite unclear, it seems far too young a discipline with many different goals and theories attaching themselves to the moniker Cognitive Science. From a personal perspective and from the formal education I've received the cognitivism which I think lesswrong/tranhumanists endorse make me very uneasy even though I'm a LW and TH.
Bias is a bad word for core axioms that underly thinking. When discussing on Lesswrong I do accept certain axioms as the basis for the discourse. There are other occasions where I talk to other people where I use other modes. When I attend a NLP seminar, it can happen that there are four meaningful conversational layers active at the same time. It's highly narrated and things that are said mean thing based on the narrative and context in which they were said. On of my first 1-on-1 conversation with an NLP trainer was an elevator ride. I drove to the 5th floor to go to the toilet on it. The elevator stopped on the 4th floor and he came in. The 4th floor was the floor in which the seminar was held After assessing the situation he said: "You're intelligent." He was just at the toilet but walked down from the 5th floor to the 4th floor to then drive to the floor, and now I was on the 5th floor again because I drove the elevator there. On that level the interaction is trivial, but to him I made the appearance of low self esteem nerd, so him as a figure of authority telling telling me me that I'm intelligent was something that was very targeted to what he thought I would need on an emotional level at that moment. The style of the interaction where meaningful points usually don't get made on the most obvious level of the conversation and depend on context is very different from the kind of intellectual discussion on Lesswrong. I'm not really able to do both at the same time. Both approaches have there use but I don't it makes much sense to speak in terms of bias. Just different frameworks and mental models with other axioms. The result of such differences is that a lot of the academic literature on a subject such as hypnosis or NLP is bad because a good NLP trainer has the habit of communicating on a entirely different layer than an academic. And to be clear, I do consider the NLP paradigm to be a form of enactivism.
I'm not familiar with enactivism in particular, but embodied and situated cognition seem like reasonable paradigms. I don't think they really necessarily contradict computationalism or cognitivism, though.
Mayhaps not indeed.