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In the last few days, a few people have newly joined LW, posting only in a welcome thread and in articles about Gleb_Tsipursky's "Intentional Insights" work. Their comments have been very enthusiastic about II.

Now here's the thing. Intentional Insights is based in the US. Everyone on its leadership team (I think) and advisory board is in the US. Most of its activity, so far as I can see, is focused on promoting ... whatever exactly II promotes ... in US-based media like the Huffington Post. But it just happens that two of these people are a brother and sister (I think) from Nigeria, and a chap from the Philippines. The last person I recall turning up on LW and gushing about how great II is and how wonderful GT's articles are was also from the Philippines. Isn't that odd?

(For the avoidance of doubt, of course there's nothing in any way wrong about being from Nigeria or the Philippines. I'm just asking: isn't this a rather improbable sequence of events?)

Now, Gleb has an answer, sort of:

In fact, many of the people who engage with Intentional Insights content are from developing countries, as we collaborate with international skeptic and reason-oriented organizations such a

... (read more)

Sarginlove, that is, Sargin Rukevwe, works as a "virtual assistant". Basically you hire him to do whatever and in this case he seems to have been hired to promote InIn.

It's interesting that his page says he graduated from the Polytechnic in 2013, but his introductory post here says he is a student at that school.

Let me repeat the observation I've made before -- Gleb_Tsipursky is a very clear case of cargo-cult behaviour. He has no clue about marketing, but he's been told which motions to make so that the planes will come and he's making them very earnestly. One of these motions is "native" (or covert) promotion which is designed to look like spontaneous endorsement -- and so he hires a lad from Lagos to post cringeworthy stuff here and everywhere...

P.S. Hey, look, Sarginlove has a Google+ account and his entire post history consists of -- drumroll, please! -- InIn reposts.

I guess he was hired on Dec 3, 2015, amiright?

He's a witch. Burn him already, on balance of probabilities. Except, do we want to censor commercial speech per se. If people are being paid to say interesting things, why not? If people are talking rubbish and spamming, shouldn't we have a mechanism for silencing them irrespective of whether they're getting money? I'm ranting insanely about the thyroid-bee in my empiricist-bonnet, totally for free! Why not ban me?

If someone turns up saying "I've just discovered X and I love it", the information I gain from that is quite different in the cases (1) where they really have just discovered X and love it and (2) where they're saying it because someone paid them to.

Indeed, the fact that these people are presumably being paid isn't the point. The fact that they are promoting something dishonestly is the point. The fact that they're being paid is relevant only as evidence that their promotion is dishonest.

Why not ban me?

Because your ranting is not in fact particularly insane, and because your participation in the LW community is not confined to ranting about hypothyroidism.

If you talked about literally nothing else, and if it transpired that you're only promoting your theory because someone paid you to drum up sales for thyroid hormone supplements, then you'd probably be contributing nothing of value. (Whether banning you would be a good response is a different question.) I mean, it might turn out that actually what you're saying about thyroid hormones is right (or at least enlightening) even though you were saying it on account of being paid, but the odds wouldn't be good.

What if I was so convinced I was right that I started a 'Rational Thyroid Treatment Corporation'? (Just teasing now, sorry) ---------------------------------------- And actually there wouldn't be any point, since the bloody stuff is cheap as chips. I think that might be the problem. There's never been anyone to fight its corner for it. Which is verging on conspiracy theory. Except that there's no conspiracy, just perverse incentives. Which is what we say when we want to say 'conspiracy theory'. ---------------------------------------- I used to know some Socialist Workers. And one of them used to refer to people as 'lumpen'. One day I asked her if that was what Socialist Workers said when they meant 'common', and she went red and said 'yes' in a very small voice. Which increased my respect for her a lot. Unfortunately she ruined it all about a month later when at the end of an argument about the correct method of determining wage levels for firemen she completely lost it with the immortal words 'Under Socialism there WOULDN'T BE FIRES'.

What if I was so convinced I was right that I started a 'Rational Thyroid Treatment Corporation'? (Just teasing now, sorry)

If you would then hire Nigerians to promote it on LW, we would have a problem.

Nigerians! How could RTTC afford Nigerians? I paid Tammy Lowe £50 for what appears to be a three year supply of magic thyroid panacea, including several hours of her time and mine. And if I did start making my own and then spend the money to promote it properly, I'd just get undercut. There is no honour in a perfectly competitive market.
ROFL... To quote Karl Marx on who constitutes lumpenproletariat:
The issue is not with commercial speech. The issue is with misrepresentation and deception.
For his motivations, he's already stated them; Gleb is attempting to prove he belongs here. His angle is social acceptance, but he's... critically undersocialized. Dealing with him is going to be a matter of setting boundaries and making sure he understands them. I think he's probably too useful to get rid of, and also seems likely to go crazy-stalkery if it was attempted besides.
Being critically undersocialized in not necessarily a problem at LW :-/ I think Gleb's ambitions are broader. He wants to be the head of a large and successful charity. That would bring him a cornucopia of benefits, from social status to income. And he is building a tower out of sticks and a runway out of mud so that the metal birds will come and bring treasure.
You do realize that I am a professor and have income, right? In fact, my wife and I are the largest donors to Intentional Insights, contributing about 88% of the 42K operating budget of the organization. My ambition always has been to spread rationality to a broad audience. Intentional Insights is just an instrumental way to get to that goal. If I see a better way of doing it, I'll abandon InIn and jump on that other opportunity :-)
Yes, I do. But I don't think a state school pays a lot of money to assistant professors in humanities. You know what you've spent with all that weaseling around and what you're completely out of? Credibility.
Maybe I'm cynic, but it's pretty commonplace for business to hire fake social supporters. Considering that we do not have certainty that those are of that kind, and that it is plausible that LW gets attended from all over the world, what is your suggested course of action? What would you suggest that people do?
I wasn't suggesting any particular course of action, unless you interpret "action" broadly enough to include this: I suggest that LW participants who encounter newcomers raving about how great Intentional Insights is or how wonderful Gleb's articles are should be aware that they may be raving only because they've been paid to do so, in which case their ravings give pretty much exactly zero evidence of anything either effective or appealing in II's material or Gleb's articles here.
Au contraire, they do give evidence. To quote Maggie, "it's like being a lady... if you have to tell people you are, you aren't." And if you have to hire people to shout at street corners that you're a lady... X-)
Hmmm.... Only the true messiah denies his divinity? I've got a visceral contempt for advertising, but I also think that's me being irrational. Plenty of good stuff needs paid promotion to get noticed. There are good ideas that spread on their own, but I don't think that spreadiness <=> good.
Good marketing isn't about saying: "Hey look at me I'm the greatest."
What about 'Coke is it!', or Muhammed Ali? I'm sure there are more. I know nothing about marketing, but these seem to have worked.
That statement doesn't contain any direct value judgement about Coke. It's about making Coke a default. Simon Anholt recounts in one of his talks about how Nike's "Just do it" brand is a tool for Nike to spend less time in meetings to discuss puchasing decisions for office furniture. It allows any manager to just buy the "Just do it"-desk, so they don't have to hold a meeting about whether to buy a more classy or a more hip desk. Muhammed Ali is a special case. When he says "I'm the greatest" people might think that's he's an arrogant asshole but he's an arrogant asshole that can beat up everyone. That's a persona that's interesting for the media to talk about. He was antifragile against journalists considering him to be an arrogant asshole. In the case of Intentional Insights there no reason to polarize people the way Muhammed Ali polarized by claiming he's the greatest and generally doing his own press interviews instead of letting his managers do them.
I have never drunk Coke or watched a boxing match, but my impression is that Coke's and Ali's slogans were only able to be effective because (1) lots of people already really liked drinking Coke and (2) Muhammed Ali was in fact a really good boxer. I think the "real thing" / "Coke is it" slogans were adopted exactly because other companies were making their own competing products that were intended to be like Coca-Cola. So they were aimed at people who already liked Coca-Cola, or who at least knew that Coca-Cola was a drink lots of people liked, saying "That thing you admire? It's our product, not any of those inferior imitations". So perhaps we can amend CK's comment to something like this: Good marketing isn't about saying "look at me, I'm the greatest" except in some special cases where people are already looking at you and at least considering the possibility that you might be the greatest. I still don't know whether it's right, though. I would be entirely unsurprised to hear of a product that had a lot of success by going in with a we're-the-best marketing campaign very early in its life. [EDITED to remove superfluous parentheses.]
The critical difference here is between good promotion and bad promotion. It is quite possible to promote the idea that you're a lady, it's just that it does not involve hiring people to shout at street corners.
So, is InIn a business that hires fake social supporters? And is LessWrong one of those "social media channels" that they "manage"? Inquiring minds want to know.
Just to clarify, I have no interest in marketing InIn content to Less Wrong. That would be stupid, everyone on LW but the newbies would benefit much more from more complex writings than InIn content. InIn is an outward-facing branch of the rationality movement, not a (mostly) inward-facing one like CFAR. I'm trying to get InIn participants involved in LW to help them grow more rational after they already got familiarity with InIn content and can go beyond that, to venues such as ClearerThinking, CFAR, and LW itself. It's not surprising that folks who come to LW from InIn would appreciate both InIn content and stuff that looks like InIn content, namely beginner-oriented materials. However, as I mentioned above, due to Eliot's suggestion, I will wait to get more InIn audience members involved in LW until it has a newbie thread.
Upvoted, I appreciate the concern, and thanks for expressing it! Some other folks might have noticed this and been concerned without expressing it openly, so it's good to get this out into the open. Intentional Insights has an international reach and aim. While we are based in the US, less than a third of our traffic comes from there, and the next three highest venues are India, Philippines, and Pakistan. We write regularly for internationally-oriented venues. We have plenty of volunteers who are from those places as well, and I encourage them regularly to join Less Wrong after they have engaged sufficiently with InIn content. Most are currently lurkers, but as I have seen positive changes coming with the LW 2.0 transformation, I encouraged a number to be active contributors to the site. So some have responded, and naturally talked about how they found LW. I'm sad, but unsurprised, to see this met with some suspicion. Sargin in particular volunteers at Intentional Insights for about 25 hours, and gets paid as a virtual assistant to help manage our social media for about 15 hours. He decided to volunteer so much of his time because of his desire to improve his thinking and grow more rational. He's been improving through InIn content, and so I am encouraging him to engage with LW. Don't discourage him please, he's a newbie here. However, he made a mistake by not explicitly acknowledging that he works at InIn as well as volunteers at it. It's important to be explicit about stuff like this - his praise for InIn content should be taken with a grain of salt, just like praise from CFAR staff for CFAR content should be taken with a grain of salt. Otherwise, there is an appearance of impropriety. I added a comment to his welcome thread to make that clear. Thanks for raising this issue, gjm, appreciate it! EDIT: Edited with a comment I made on Sargin's welcome thread.
Would you like to comment on Beatrice Sargin (his sister, I think) and Alex Wenceslao? Does either of those people receive any compensation from Intentional Insights? (I'm curious. What does a person do for 25 hours a week when "volunteering at Intentional Insights"?)
Upvoted, thanks for letting me know they didn't indicate it as well. I should have realized that if Sargin didn't say that, others might not either. Both of them volunteer most of their time, and get paid part of their time. I'll make sure any future people who both volunteer and get paid at InIn make that clear. It's important to be transparent about these things and ensure no appearance of impropriety. Separately, I talked to Eliot, and he suggested it would be good to hold off on getting newbies engaged with Less Wrong until the LW 2.0 newbie sub is set up, so I'll hold off on doing that except for people who already signed up with accounts. Now, on to your question. They work on a variety of tasks, such as website management, image creation, managing social media channels such as Delicious, StumbleUpon, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc. Here's an image of the organizational Trello showing some of the things that they do (Trello is a platform to organize teams together). We also have a couple more who do other stuff, such as Youtube editing, Pinterest, etc. EDIT: Edited to add image.
Looks like you forgot to do it with JohnC2015, who has just appeared and is singing from the same hymnsheet as all the others: hi, I'm a newbie from the Philippines who has just happened to come across all this stuff, and wow, Gleb Tsipursky is awesome! Any bets on whether JohnC2015 is also paid by Intentional Insights to promote them? I'm sure we wouldn't want any appearance of impropriety.
Ah, planning fallacy. If you're not surprised by the negative turn of event, you could have possibly anticipated it and corrected.
Fair enough! I told all InIn participants to indicate their association with Intentional Insights, but I should have been more specific with those who are paid by Intentional Insights for stuff they do to acknowledge this in their welcome threads.

moderator action: Torchlight_Crimson is banned

Another account of Eugine_Nier / Azathoth123 / Voiceofra / The_Lion / The_Lion2 / Old_Gold is banned, effective now. This is an enforcement of the already existing ban, therefore only this message in Open Thread.

EDIT: Also Crownless_Prince.

What's going on in his thought process? Is he still downvoting people? What is he doing that's this bad? I mean i'm sure there's a good reason, but it's sort of strange he keeps coming back and not changing his behavior or not moving on to one of our tangent communities. I've not dealt with him, so can someone explain to me what he is doing?

How I see it, deleting of Eugine's new accounts is a continuous enforcement of the permanent ban from 2014 (explained here). Whether he continues in his previous behavior should in theory be irrelevant; I would delete his new accounts anyway because that's what "permanent" means. But in practice, he continues with his old behavior, which makes him easier to detect, and motivates me to overcome my laziness.

Yes, still downvoting. As Elo says, that's one way to find him, though there are others (e.g., some of his aliases have been identified very quickly, probably on style alone). As for what he's doing, I think he's fighting a culture war. He doesn't really care if he keeps getting banned; he is still able to keep posting what he does, and upvoting it with his sockpuppets[1], and mass-downvoting people who conspicuously disagree with him in the hope of reducing their credibility (and maybe making them go away). [1] That's a plausible conjecture rather than (so far as I'm aware) something known to be true. Conditional on its being true, I would guess that his socks probably also upvote other people's expressions of sociopolitical views compatible with his own.
=/ We should tell him the opportunity cost of this stuff is too large, don't run down the clock on your life. Eugine_Nier go get a more productive way to channel this frustration.
Telling people to get more productive is dangerous -- they actually might :-/
I wouldn't expect that to go well.
He was originally banned for downvoting. That's how we keep finding him. He also holds contentious views and feels as though he is being silenced for his contentious views. As we know though; lesswrong is usually very happy to entertain contentious views so long as they are presented carefully and handled like the potential mindkillers that they are. He would like his views to appear to his opposers that they are stronger than they are.
Contentious views are potential mind killers?
In the way that people treat them as identity issues, political party issues and blue/green (you're either with us or you're against us), they can be. I would say I see a light correlation between identity and mindkilled. information around these ideas: http://lesswrong.com/lw/idj/use_your_identity_carefully/
His new account is (p=0.9) Crownless_Prince.
And (p=0.8) The_Bird is another. (Another pair of words that appears in Lepanto, though there's nothing super-distinctive about that.)
Good catch on Lepanto :-)
It was GoodBurningPlastic who caught it, some time ago.
If he's looking for a new account name, I suggest Timeless_Houri.
I had that down as a less plausible name...
And curiously (1) has, if my karma is anything to go by, been downvoting vigorously already even though (2) he's currently sitting with karma=4, and I think you need >=10 to vote. But I think yesterday he had more. (I also thought I saw more comments yesterday in his overview than I do now, but perhaps I imagined that.)
What a surprise, somebody has been downvoting every comment in this subthread at least once.

t;dr how do you cope with death?

My dog has cancer in his liver and spleen, and learning this has strongly exacerbated some kind of predisposition towards being vulnerable to depression. He's an old dog so it probably wouldn't have changed his life expectancy THAT much, but it's still really sad. If you're not a pet person this might be counterintuitive, but to me it's losing a friend, and the things people say to me are mostly unhelpful. Which is why I'm posting it here specifically: the typical coping memes about doggy heaven or death as some profoundly important part of Nature are ruined for me. So I wanted to ask how people here deal with this sort of thing. Especially on the cognitive end of things, what types of frames and self talk you used. I do already know the basics, like exercise and diet and meditation, but I sure wouldn't mind a new insight on getting myself to actually do that stuff when I'm this down.

I've thought about cryopreserving him, but even if that were a good way to use the money I just don't think I can afford it. All I'll have is an increasingly vague and emotionally distant memory, I guess, and it sucks. I've been regretting not valuing him more during his... (read more)

Hide everything that reminds you of your dog. Keep it all, in a drawer somewhere, so that you can take it out and have a good cry sometimes, when you want to. But don't put pictures or other triggers where they'll keep making you sad. You're good at grieving. Nature did not design us to be crippled by the loss of friends. If you hide all the triggers you'll forget to be sad quickly. Your dog is unlikely to want you to be miserable after he is gone. Don't do that for him if you don't have to and he wouldn't want you to. Imagine if the position was reversed. What would you want?
My roommate died from cancer 3 years ago. It never stops being a sad memory, except that the hard pang of the initial shock is gone after some time. I don't feel guilty for no longer feeling that pang, because I know I still wish it hadn't happened and it still marked my life in several ways, so I haven't stopped doing what I privately call "honoring my pain." The usual feel-good advice of forgetting it all and moving on sounds to me as dangerously close to no longer honoring my pain, by which I mean acknowledging that the sad event occurred, and giving it its deserved place in my emotional landscape, but without letting it define my life. Several of my pets died when I was a kid, and at some point I just sort of integrated the implicit assumption that every new pet would eventually die as well. If I began with that assumption, the actual event would no longer be such a strong shock. I no longer have pets, though. For some years I had problems with the concept of acceptance. It felt like agreeing to everything that happened, and I just didn't want to give my consent to a series of adverse occurrences that it's not relevant to mention here. Some time afterwards I found somewhere a different definition of acceptance: it's not about agreeing with what happened, but simply no longer pretending that the world is otherwise, which to me sounded like a much healthier attitude. With that in mind, I'm more capable of enjoying the time with my friends while knowing that all living things die. I don't know whether any of my strategies will work in your situation, but this might: doctors specialized in the treatment of pain distinguish between the physical perception of pain and the emotional experience of suffering. Your dog has no awareness of its impending death; he only knows the physical pain. As strong as the pain may be on a purely physical level, he is spared the existential anguish that worries you. Perhaps making a conscious effort to not project your own emotional
I'm very sorry to hear about your dog. It's a very difficult thing to go through even without any predisposition towards depression. This is probably an idiosyncratic thing that only helps me, but I find remembering that time is a dimension just like space helps a little bit. In the little slice of time I inhabit, a pet or person who has passed on is gone. From a higher-dimensional perspective, they haven't gone anywhere. If someone were to be capable of observing from a higher dimension, they could see the deceased just as I remember them in life. So in the same way that someone whose children are living far from home can remind themselves that their children are in another place, likewise your dog is living happily in another time. English doesn't quite have a tense that conveys the sentiment I want to convey, but I think you get the idea. Don't know if that line of thought does anything for you - I find it a small but useful comfort. Re actually doing exercise/positive self-talk when you're down, setting up little conditionals that I make into automatic habits by following them robotically has sometimes worked for me. "IF notice self getting anxious - THEN take five minute walk outside". Obviously setting up those in the first place and following through on them the first n times only works when in an OK mood, but once they become habits they're easier to follow through on in more difficult states of mind. I've also found the Negative Self-Talk/Positive Thinking table at the bottom of the page here to be useful. But hard things are hard no matter what. Sounds like you're doing the right thing now by making the most of the time you have together. Best of luck to you.
It's unlikely that someone is going to say something that will take away your pain. Death sucks. Losing someone you love sucks, and sadness is a normal reaction to that. There are emotionally healthy ways to deal with grief. Give yourself more self-care than you think you need throughout this process to counter the planning fallacy and better to err on the side of too much than too little. If you do find yourself depressed, seeking professional help is not a sign of weakness and I would encourage you to seek it out. Summoning motivation can be an impossible effort when you are depressed and sometimes someone outside your un-motivated brain is the best thing to stop you from falling down an emotional spiral. If money or something else prevents you from doing that, there are other things you can try here and some more here.
I tend to view depression as an evolved adaptation and a certain state which it is natural for humans to move into in certain situations. I think that it can be helpful to recognize that dysphoria, sadness and grief are all natural reactions. It is ok to be sad. Although, like with all conditions if it becomes chronic or persists for an overly long time then you should probably get some help to deal with it. See here for more information. For general advice for dealing with grief, see this article and apply whatever you think is applicable or would be helpful. Excerpt: * Establish a simple routine * Regular meal and bed times * Increase pleasant events * Promote self-care activities * Regular medical check-ups * Daily exercise * Limited alcohol intake * Provide information about grief and what to expect * Grief is unique and follows a wave-like pattern * Grief is not an illness with a prescribed cure * Children benefit from being included and learning that grief is a normal response to loss * Compartmentalise worries * List the things that are worrying * Create a ‘to-do’ list, prioritise and tick off items as they are completed * Use different coloured folders for the paperwork that needs to be finalised * Prepare to face new or difficult situations * Graded exposure to situations that are difficult or avoided * Plan for the ‘firsts’ such as the first anniversary of the death – How do you want it to be acknowledged? Who do you want to share it with? * Adopt a ‘trial and error’ approach; be prepared to try things more than once * Challenge unhelpful thinking * Encourage identification of thoughts leading to feelings of guilt and anger * Gently ask the following questions – What would your loved one tell you to do if they were here now? What are the alternatives to what you thought? Where is the evidence for what you thought? * Provide a structured decision-making framework to deal with difficult decisions e.g.,
You may want to spend some time thinking about how you can give your dog the best end of life experience that you can. Losing a dog is painful. However, and I'm only speaking from personal experience here, you will probably have the opportunity to control to a great extent how your dog dies, its relative level of pain / discomfort, and in what situation and setting the death takes place. Knowing that my dog - who my parents found abandoned a few weeks before I was born, who I grew up with, and who died in my early adulthood - died at home, surrounded by her family, having spent her last days lovingly attended and not in great physical pain, makes remembering her whole and relatively joyful life more pleasant for me now. It may help you too.
Well, I actually try to emotionally distance myself every day a little bit.

Finding comments on LW is more painful than it should be because sometimes this happens:

  • You remember that X replied to Y saying something with words Z in.
  • You put something like <> into Google (directly or via the "Google custom search" in the right sidebar.)
  • You get back a whole lot of pages, but
    • they all contain X and Y because of the top-contributors or recent-comments sections of the right sidebar;
    • they all contain Z because of the recent-comments section of the right sidebar.
  • None of those pages now contains either the comment in question or a link to it.
  • Using the "cached" link from the search results doesn't help, because the right sidebar is generated dynamically and is simply absent from the cached pages.
    • So how come they're found by the search? Beats me.

Here's a typical example; it happens to use only Z (I picked one of my comments from a couple of weeks ago) but including X and Y seldom helps.

I just tried the equivalent search in Bing and the results were more satisfactory, but only because the comment in question happened to appear fairly near the top of the overview page for the user I was replying to. I would guess that Bing isn't act... (read more)

Is there a way to make the dynamically-generated sidebar stuff on LW pages invisible to Google's crawler? It looks like there is. Should I file an issue on GitHub?

Yes, you should do this.

Unfortunately, there is no standard way to make parts of page disappear from search engines' indexes. Which is super annoying, because almost every page contains some navigational parts which do not contribute to the content. HTML 5 contains a semantic tag which defines navigational links in the document. I think a smart search engine should exclude these parts, but I have no idea if any engine actually does that. Maybe changing LW pages to HTML 5 and adding this tag would help. Some search engines use specific syntax to exclude parts of the page, but it depends on the engine, and sometimes it even violates the HTML standards. For example, Google uses HTML comments ... , Yahoo uses HTML attribute class="robots-nocontent", and Yandex introduces a new tag . (I like the Yahoo way most.) The most standards-following way seems to be putting the offending parts of the page into separate HTML pages which are included by , and use the standard robots.txt mechanism to block those HTML pages. I think the disadvantage is that the included frames will have fixed dimensions, instead of changing dynamically with their content. Another solution would be to insert those texts by JavaScript, which means that users with JavaScript disabled would not see them.
Since our local search is powered by Google, I'm content with a solution that only works for Google.
They're already inserted by javascript. E.g. the 'recent comments' one works by fetching http://lesswrong.com/api/side_comments and inserting its contents directly in the page. Editing robots.txt might exclude those parts from the google index, but idk.
I think robots.txt would work.
I've run into this problem several times before. It would be very helpful if the search feature ignored the text in the sidebar.

Andrew Gelman mentioned "the Kahneman-Gigerenzer catfight, or more generally the endless debate between those who emphasize irrationality in human decision making and those who emphasize the adaptive and functional qualities of our shortcuts." This looked worth checking, so I followed the link to the following statement by Gigerenzer:

The “half-empty” versus “half-full” explanation of the differences between Kahneman and us misses the essential point: the difference is about the nature of the glass of rationality, not the level of the water. For

... (read more)
Well, probability is about reasoning with logic under imperfect information, and when you factor in the cost of elaboration you see that "ecological" model could be better, but evolution and thermodynamics. I think that simply distinguishing "correct" and "useful" dissolves the debate.
No, I think it's more complicated than that. For example, imagine a complex decision, say what college to go to. Can you write out a Bayesian model that will tell you what to do? Well, kinda. You can, but it's going to be woefully incomplete and involve a lot of guesses without much support from data. A set of heuristics will do much better in this situation. Are you going to say that this Bayesian model is "correct" regardless? I don't think it's a useful application of the word.
Not necessarily. "You can't do inference without making assumptions". Is it even a fight? What is it that they disagree about? Neither side is saying "Decision heuristics that once worked well still work well in our changed world".
It's a fight like a croquet mallet is a billy club :-)
I mean, is there some prediction that they disagree about, rather than 'falling tree sound' issues.
Eh. This is sounding more and more like a dispute over definitions, and hence tedious; and I would be unsurprised to find that it arose from either self-promotion or ideology; q.v. the Gould and Eldredge v. Maynard Smith et al. kerfuffle.
I admit that I don't get the explanation. Wouldn't both approaches lead to the same thing?
The two approaches might but not necessarily will lead you to the same thing. I suspect that part of the tension is between "theoretically correct" and "works better in practice" which in theory should match but in practice do not often enough. Here is what looks to be the major Gigerenzer paper.
Something tells me Gigerenzer is misquoting Kahneman, he is just saying any deviation from that counts as irrational and measuring that as his baseline, i'm more than sure he would be happy to use ecological rationality as a baseline as well.

How many of you guys keep a journal? How many of you would like to? What do you specifically write down?

I feel like it should help, but I have trouble coming up with a structure with which it could: Opening up a journal, with separate sections for work done, (and TODOs for the future, and how these two diverged), exercise, and others seems more useful than one with a massed 'Dear Diary' format.

I write down one line (about 80 characters) about what things I did each day. Originally I intended to write down "accomplishments" in order to incentivise myself into being more accomplished, but it has since morphed into also being a record of notable things that happened, and a lot of free-form whining over how bad certain days are. It's kindof nice to be able to go back and figure out when exactly something in the past happens, or generally reminisce about what was going on some years ago.
I keep a daily journal. Beginning of day: Two things that I'm grateful for. End of day: Two things that went well that day, two things that could have gone better. Each "thing" is usually only a sentence or few long. I find that going back through the end-of-day sentences every so often is useful for doing 80-20 analyses to find out what seems to be bringing me the most happiness / dissatisfaction (at least as judged by my end-of-day assessments).
I wrote this on the topic - might help with the habit of keeping a book - http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/mpz/making_notes_an_instrumental_rationality_process/
Poll for it! [pollid:1132] Please take journal to mean anything that contains personal information, insights or the like. A slip box of articles you read and commented on might already count.
didn't vote because I keep a sporadic journal of when I have good conversations (usually lw meetups). I pull out a book and make notes on topics we cover and ideas I come up with.

From Bruce Schneier (who knows Alice and Bob's shared secret), a very relevant observation:

Cryptography is harder than it looks, primarily because it looks like math. Both algorithms and protocols can be precisely defined and analyzed. This isn't easy, and there's a lot of insecure crypto out there, but we cryptographers have gotten pretty good at getting this part right. However, math has no agency; it can't actually secure anything. For cryptography to work, it needs to be written in software, embedded in a larger software system, managed by an operati

... (read more)

Out of curiosity, is LW doing some sort of A/B testing? visualwebsiteoptimizer.com wants to run an awful lot of scripts on the page...

Not according to Razib Khan who writes in part:

"A new paper on which has some results on life satisfaction, intelligence and the number of social interactions one has has generated some mainstream buzz....The figure above shows the interaction effect between intelligence, life satisfaction, and number of times you meet up with friends over the week. What you see is that among the less intelligent more interactions means more life satisfaction and among the more intelligent you see the reverse...But take a look at the y-axis...The effect here is very small....These are not actionable results for anyone."

I wonder if the reason could be that for smart people it is difficult to find many good friends. So the actual choice for most of them is between having only a few great friends (which is better), or having many friends that suck (which is worse). But maybe given a chance, having many great friends could be even better. By difficulty to find many good friends I mean that for people with very high intelligence the set of their peers is already small enough, and then within this set they need to find people with similar values, hobbies, personality, etc. Even admitting this problem is a huge taboo (essentially you are telling 99% of your social environment "I don't consider you a good friend material"), so many people probably don't have good strategies for solving it.
It would be interesting to know whether the alleged finding (assuming it holds up, which is always uncertain for this sort of thing) looks different in places where very smart people are easier to find, or for populations with more effective ways of finding very intelligent friends. (For instance, I live near a city with a world-class university and a pretty vigorous tech industry in the area that encourages smart people to stay around. There's a pretty good supply of highly intelligent potential friends around here.)
Abstract The paper is paywalled but here it is claimed that life satisfaction is negatively correlated with the frequency of socialization and not the number of friends. Granted, those two are likely to be positively correlated.

I'm making a list of common arguments that can all be resolved in the same way the "tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound" argument can be resolved.

Namely, by tabooing a key word and substituting a non-ambiguous, comprehensive description, and then finding out you were never disagreeing about anything in the first place.

Examples so far:

Is Islam a "religion of peace?"

Is there a "wall of separation between Church and State" in the US?

Is America a "Christian nation?"

Are Catholics/Mormons/Jehovah's Witnesses/etc &... (read more)

I'd like to see an example of how you resolve these.
Is there a wall of separation between Church and Sate? Well, what's a wall of separation? We all know there could be MORE religious stuff going on in government, like it could be establishing a state religion. And we all know there could be LESS religious stuff going on in government, like all governmental officers could be forbidden from praying. So we have a range of minimum to maximum religious stuff going on in government, and we're somewhere in the middle, by any measure. Identify where we are on that range, and check whether or not it's above or below "wall of separation between Church and State" level. Except, once you've identified where we are on the range, you've already fully described the reality of the situation. The word you use as a referent for that reality is a comparatively trivial manner. People might (and do) argue about which words we "should" use to describe reality, but right now, most of them argue about the words and think they're arguing about reality. Just like the sound vs no sound people on the fallen tree question
Sigh. The separation of church and state has quite well-specified meaning in the constitutional law. If you want to define it, look up the appropriate legal authority. Hint: it doesn't have much to do with forbidding government officials to pray.
-- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Separation_of_church_and_state_in_the_United_States
Ah, yes, but is that really a "wall of separation of church and state?"
Here's a religious test: does the official NOT pray on the job? Separation of church and state is a requirement for official agnosticism, not official atheism.
I think a lot of those debates do have differences in opinion that go beyond definitions.
You're right. Examples of arguments which are significantly improved by applying the taboo principle are acceptable, too.
That only moves the disagreement into the decision about what description would be appropriate. I wouldn't call that a resolution.
I agree that "resolved" may be too optimistic, but at any rate argument about these questions can (in principle) be markedly improved by moving from ill-defined questions to better-defined ones. Different people might prefer different descriptions but there's at least some chance that when the question is framed as "which description do you prefer?" they will recognize that a large part of their disagreement is about individual preferences rather than external facts. Suppose Alice says that Islam is a religion of peace and Bob says it isn't. If they have this conversation: A. Islam is a religion of peace. B. No it's not. C. Alice, what do you mean by "religion of peace" and why do you say Islam is one? A. I mean a religion whose teachings say that peace is valuable and tell its followers to seek it. Islam does those things. (Perhaps at this point Alice will adduce some quotations from the Qur'an in support of her claims. I haven't any to hand myself.) C. And Bob, what do you mean and why do you say Islam isn't one? B. I mean a religion whose followers actually behave peacefully. Muslims make up a disproportionate fraction of the world's terrorists and even those who are not terrorists do a very bad job of living at peace with their neighbours. ... then for sure they haven't reached agreement yet -- Alice will doubtless want to suggest that it's a small fraction of Muslims killing people and making war and so on, while Bob will doubtless want to say that there are Islamic teachings that explicitly endorse violence, etc. -- but they have made a breakthrough because now they can talk about actual facts rather than merely about definitions, and even if they never agree they will have a much clearer idea what they disagree about. And of course each may still think the other's usage of "religion of peace" untenable, but again they have a clearer idea what they're disagreeing about there, and ought to be able to see e.g. that they can dispute the best definition o
If everyone understood the disagreement as merely semantic, few would care (once they got used to not thinking of it as a defense of religion or of secularism or whatever).
How about "black people are less intelligent"/"asians are more intelligent"?

What does Nassim Taleb think about existential risks and existential risk research? He sounds like a kind of person who might be interested in such things?

My guess is that he is worried about existential risks, but of the Black Swan type: risks that can't be predicted or theorized about far in advance.
He liked Bostrom's new institute dedicated to existential risks. He doesn't think AI is a ruin-style risk, saying it requires "risk vigilance" but isn't a ruin type risk yet, and that he would be willing to reconsider later. He has his own risk initiative called the "Extreme risk initiative".

Seeking ideas: Stupid Em Tricks

To help with one of my story projects; how many (useful, interesting, other) things can an uploaded mind do that a meat-based person can't?

I've got a GDoc with an initial set of basic ideas here, and I've temporarily turned on worldwide editing and commenting. I'd appreciate all the useful suggestions you can think of, there or here.

Separate itself into multiple personalities

Has there been any response to Brett Hall's critique of Bostrom's Superintelligence? What do y'all think? http://www.bretthall.org/superintelligence.html

I wish I had read the ending first; Hall is relying heavily on Deutsch to make his case. Deutsch has come up on LW before, most relevantly here. An earlier comment of mine still seems true: I think Deutsch is pointing in the right direction and diagnosing the correct problems, but I think Deutsch underestimates the degree to which other people have diagnosed the same problems and are working on solutions to address those problems.

Hall's critique is multiple parts, so I'm writing my response part by part. Horizontal lines distinguish breaks, like so:

It starts off with reasoning by analogy, which is generally somewhat suspect. In this particular analogy, you have two camps:

  1. Builders, who build ever-higher towers, hoping that they will one day achieve flight (though they don't know how that will work theoretically).

  2. Theorists, who think that they're missing something, maybe to do with air, and that the worries the builders have about spontaneous liftoff don't make sense, because height doesn't have anything to do with flight.

But note that when it comes to AI, the dividing lines are different. Bostrom gets flak for not knowing the details of modern optimization and machine learn... (read more)

Thanks for the in-depth response, Vaniver! I don't have a good grasp on these issues so it helps reading others' analyses.
You're welcome!
If you have time for another, I'd be interested in your response to Goertzel's critique of Superintelligence: http://jetpress.org/v25.2/goertzel.htm
Overall, very sensible. I'll ignore minor quibbles (a 'strong AI' and a 'thinking machine' seem significantly different to me, since the former implies recursion but the latter doesn't) and focus on the main points of disagreement. Goertzel goes on to question how likely Omohundro's basic AI drives are to be instantiated. Might an AI that doesn't care for value-preservation outcompete an AI that does? Overall this seems very worth thinking about, but I think Goertzel draws the wrong conclusions. If we have a 'race-to-the-bottom' of competition between AGI, that suggests evolutionary pressures to me, and evolutionary pressures seem to be the motivation for expecting the AI drives in the first place. Yes, an AGI that doesn't have any sort of continuity impulses might be able to create a more powerful successor than an AGI that does have continuity impulses. But that's the start of the race, not the end of the race--any AGI that doesn't value continuity will edit itself out of existence pretty quickly, whereas those that do won't. The nightmare scenario, of course, is an AGI that improves rapidly in the fastest direction possible, and then gets stuck somewhere unpleasant for humans. And since I used the phrase "nightmare scenario," a major disagreement between Goertzel and Bostrom is over the role of uncertainty when it comes to danger. Much later, Goertzel brings up the proactionary principle and precautionary principle. Bostrom's emotional argument, matching the precautionary approach, seems to be "things might go well, they might go poorly, because there's the possibility it could go poorly we must worry until we find a way to shut off that possibility." Goertzel's emotional argument, matching the proactionary approach, seems to be "things might go well, they might go poorly, but why conclude that they will go poorly? We don't know enough." See, as an example, this quote: Earlier, Goertzel correctly observes that we're not going to make a random mind, we're g
Thank you for taking the time to write that up. I strongly disagree, as you probably know, but it provided a valuable perspective into understanding the difference in viewpoint. No two rationalists can agree to disagree... but pragmatists sometimes must.
You're welcome! Did we meet at AAAI when it was in Austin, or am I thinking of another Mark? (I do remember our discussion here on LW, I'm just curious if we also talked outside of LW.)
No I'm afraid you're confusing me with someone else. I haven't had the chance yet to see the fair city of Austin or attend AAAI, although I would like to. My current day job isn't in the AI field so it would sadly be an unjustifiable expense. To elaborate on the prior point, I have for some time engaged with not just yourself, but other MIRI-affiliated researchers as well as Nate and Luke before him. MIRI, FHI, and now FLI have been frustrating to me as their PR engagements have set the narrative and in some cases taken money that otherwise would have gone towards creating the technology that will finally allow us to end pain and suffering in the world. But instead funds and researcher attention are going into basic maths and philosophy that have questionable relevance to the technologies at hand. However the precautionary vs proactionary description sheds a different light. If you think precautionary approaches are defensible, in spite of overwhelming evidence of their ineffectiveness, then I don't think this is a debate worth having. I'll go back to proactively building AI.
If one looks as AI systems as including machine learning development, I think the estimate is something like a thousand times as many resources are spent on development as on safety research. I don't think taking all of the safety money and putting it into 'full speed ahead!' would make much difference in time to AGI creation, but I do think transferring funds in the reverse direction may make a big difference for what that pain and suffering is replaced with. So, in my day job I do build AI systems, but not the AGI variety. I don't have the interest in mathematical logic necessary to do the sort of work MIRI does. I'm just glad that they are doing it, and hopeful that it turns out to make a difference.
Because everyone is working on machine learning, but machine learning is not AGI. AI is the engineering techniques for making programs that act intelligently. AGI is the process for taking those components and actually constructing something useful. It is the difference between computer science and a computer scientist. Machine learning is very useful for doing inference. But AGI is so much more than that, and there are very few resources being spent on AGI issues. By the way, you should consider joining ##hplusroadmap on Freenode IRC. There's a community of pragmatic engineers there working on a variety of transhumanist projects, and you AI experience would be valued. Say hi to maaku or kanzure when you join.
Vaniver, 4 years on and I wonder if your opinion on this issue has evolved in the time elapsed? I respect you for your clear and level-headed thinking on this issue. My own thinking has changed somewhat, and I have a new appreciation for the value of AI safety work. However this is for reasons that I think are atypical for the LW or MIRI orthodox community. I wonder if your proximity to the Berkeley AI safety crowd and your ongoing work in narrow AI has caused your opinion to change since 2016?
Thanks! My opinion definitely has more details than it did 4 years ago, but I don't see anything in the grandparent (or great-grandparent) comment that I disagree with. I will confess to not keeping up with things Goertzel has published in the meantime, but I'd be happy to take a look at something more recent if there's anything you recommend. I hear Deutsch is working on a paper that addresses whether or not Solomonoff Induction resolves the problem of induction, but to the best of my knowledge it's not out yet. I'd be interested in hearing about those reasons; one of the things that has happened is talking to many more people about their intuitions and models both for and against risk (or for or against risk being shaped particular ways). 
I wasn’t actually asking about your views on Goertzel per se. In fact I don’t even know if he has published anything more recent, or what his current view are. Sorry for the confusion there. I was wondering about your views on the topic as a whole, including the prior probability of a “nightmare scenario” arising from developing a not-provably-Friendly AI before solving the control problem, or the proactionary vs precautionary principle as applied here, etc. You are one of the few people I’ve met online or in person (we met at a CFAR-for-ML workshop some years back, if you recall) that is able to comprehend and articulate reasonable steelmans of both Bostrom and Goertzel’s views. In your comment above you seemed generally on the fence in terms of the hard evidence. Given that I’m puzzling though a few large updates to my own mental model on this subject, anything that has caused you to update in the time since would be highly relevant to me. So I thought I’d ask. Okay. I’m concerned there’s a large inferential gap. Let’s see if I can compactly cross it, and let me know if any steps don’t make sense. My apologies for the length. First, I only ever came to care about AGI because of the idea of the Singularity. I personally want to live a hundred billion years, to explore the universe and experience the splintering of humanity into uncountable different diverse cultures and ways of life. (And I want to do so without some nanny-AGI enforcing some frozen extrapolated ideal human ethics we exist today.) To personally experience that requires longevity escape velocity, and to achieve that in the few decades remaining of my current lifetime requires something like a Vernor Vinge-style Singularity. I also want to end all violent conflict, cure all diseases, create abundance so everyone can live their full life potential, and stop Death from snatching my friends and loved ones. But I find it more honest and less virtue signaling to focus on my selfish reasons, which is th
Deutsch briefly summarized his view on AI risks in this podcast episode: https://youtu.be/J21QuHrIqXg?t=3450 (Unfortunately there is no transcript.) What are your thoughts on his views apart from what you've touched upon above?
Thank you for sparing us the time to sift throught the garbage... Why the hell any discussion about AGI must start with a bad flight analogy?

I have a maths question. Suppose that we are scoring n individuals on their performance in an area where there is significant uncertainty. We are categorizing them into a low number of categories, say 4. Effectively we're thereby saying that for the purposes of our scoring, everyone with the same score performs equally well. Suppose that we say that this means that all individuals with that score get assigned the mean actual performance of the individuals with that that score. For instance, if there were three people who got the highest score, and their pe... (read more)

Your problem is called a clustering problem. First of all, you need to answer how you measure your error (information loss, as you call it). Typical error norms used are l1 (sum of individual errors), l2 (sum of squares of errors, penalizes larger errors more) and l-infinity (maximum error).

Once you select a norm, there always exists a partition that minimizes your error, and to find it there are a bunch of heuristic algorithms, e.g. k-means clustering. Luckily, since your data is one-dimensional and you have very few categories, you can just brute force it (for 4 categories you need to correctly place 3 boundaries, and naively trying all possible positions takes only n^3 runtime)

Hope this helps.

Thanks a lot! Yes, super-useful.
A possibly relevant paper for anyone wanting to do this in one dimension to a dataset large enough that they care about efficiency.
If I'm understanding this correctly, it sounds like you're performing k-means clustering.
You'd minimize information loss by giving the actual scores. The argument is 'grading on the curve' vs 'ABCDEF'. The first way is fair, but it promotes extreme competition to be in the top 1% (or 'The Senior Wrangler', as we used to call it), which may not be desirable. The second way hands out random bonuses and penalties to individuals near the arbitrary boundaries. I was in the top 25% of my year in terms of marks, I believe. I was a 'Senior Optime', or 'got a second'. A class that stretched from around 25%-75%. Not bitter, or anything.

Excellent piece of epistemology from Yudkowsky, someone put this in main right now.


AllLivesMatterButBlackLivesAreEspeciallyLikelyToBeEndedByPolice AndItsOkayForNationalPoliticsToFocusOnThatPartForAWhile

Running this through my parser I was able to extract the statement "All live matter but black lives are especially likely to be ended by police and it's okay for national politics to focus on that part for awhile".



Containment thread

1. Negotiating self defense

Stranger A: I'm going to beat you up

Stranger B: I have photographic memory and illustrate professionally.

Stranger A: I could kill, blind or main you.

Stranger B: I could escape then submit your likeness to the authorities

2. Experimental philosophy

Is anyone here an ethical intuitionist or not?

3. Happy home

Observational studies suggest distance to work is associated with happiness. I moved about 15km closer to work and now walk there, and guess what, I'm a lot happier! Potential confounders: moved out of family hom... (read more)

I don't understand what's going on here. What does it mean that this is a "containment thread" What is going on with this dialog?

Clarity has a habit of shotgunning shards of his mind dumps across multiple comments. He has been trying to limit the spread, though, and place most of these shards within a "containment thread" the purpose of which is to be a designated place for the shards and thus constrain the collateral damage.

B is likely in a poor negotiating position to start with, and better off just giving A the wallet or running. A's strong position comes from the precommittment strategy of poor impulse control: "I don't care if you can get me in trouble, I'm too involved in this attack to think beyond the next few minutes".
I'm sure A will listen to Reason.
1. you might be motivating a simple, "punch him and steal his wallet " to "kill him and get away with it". Might not want to do that.

Meta discussion goes here

Apparently no Open Thread was created this week yet. I guess it makes sense to make this one span two weeks. Or does that break some automation here or there?
The title is a duplicate of this post, if you really think this open thread is late. Alternatively, it is ~12 hours early.
I did check for that. Anyway. I renamed it to 21st to 27th
confused. Douglas_knight is right. I am going to treat this as the 21st->27th open thread; you should change the title.
Exactly. We should PM Gunnar, or create another thread entirely.
Renamed to 21-27th.
Ah, but there's no automation. Only people creating Open thread out of their own good will! I still think Open threads should be weekly... if nobody has created one, you can create one following the customs...
I know that they are not created automatically. But I wondered whether they are used (indexed, listed,...) in some automatic way that depends on the title or one post per week.
IIRC the sidebar used to have a link to the latest open thread, which I think was based on the open_thread tag. That seems to have vanished now.
I'm still seeing it, and it is tag-based, I believe. Changing the name seems to have made the links somewhat weird, though (it looks like both open_thread_march_14_march_20_2016 and open_thread_march_21_march_27 _2016 might work?).
Oh, it shows up on /r/discussion/new, but not on /r/all/recentposts. Weird. I used to have a page that would redirect you to the latest open thread, finding it through the sidebar API. I took it down a month or so back because the API had vanished, but now it's apparently back. The important part of the URL of this thread is /nf7/. The stuff after that is intended for human use, you can replace it arbitrarily.
Good to know!

Apparently, Microsoft is now hopping on the "friendly AI" bandwagon. Let's just say that their first attempt did not work very well.

I think it is useful to distinguish between "friendly AI" and "patronizing AI".

Is there a continuum of realizing that you are dreaming? I ask because I sometimes dream of the city where I live, and I would go, 'oh, this is my Dream Kyiv, with steep wooded slopes and broken bridges and a cathedral of The College (all somewhat resembling real places), let's see what we'll get now...' and when I wake up I often remember th overall image.

There is a continuum that moves from complete dream-obliviousness (not being aware one has dreamed upon waking) all the way up to comprehensively lucid dreaming, where a dreamer is able to create and control their dream environment at will and then retain an accurate memory upon waking. There are obvious problems with the self-reporting of dreams and dream recall, so the exact definitions of the continuum are fuzzy, but I'm not aware of anyone seriously disputing the continuum exists. Also making matters more interesting is the mechanics of dreaming in terms of what frames of reference the brain uses to create the imagery of the dream. It's not surprising that people dream about places similar to their environments if we think about terms of raw data in the brain as it dreams.
At age 17 I had the common experience of dreaming of my recently deceased mother, but my brain didn't take long to realize that seeing her was not possible, and I realized it was a dream. For some years I kept that ability to quickly see the inconsistencies in the dream world, but as of now my asleep brain is back to normal gullibility. Because I have a strong preference for living in the real world, I very strongly (verbally, actually) forbade my mind from showing me my dead mother again, and it obeyed.


Visualisation of conditional probability. It makes it very clear and takes a very short time to understand.


Politically charged comment coming in the wake of the Brussels attack.

I just realized that the deep-sounding question "should we be tolerant of intolerance" is trivially solved by game theory. It's exactly the same question as "should I play Cooperate against someone who plays Defect". The right answer is "no". The people who answer "yes" are just trying to appear virtuous.

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