Shortform Content [Beta]

MikkW's Shortform

I may have discovered an interesting tool against lethargy and depression [1]: This morning, in place of my usual caffeine pill, I made myself a cup of hot chocolate (using pure cacao powder / baking chocolate from the supermarket), which made me very energetic (much more energetic than usual), which stood in sharp contrast to the past 4 days, which have been marked by lethargy and intense sadness. Let me explain:

Last night, I was reflecting on the fact that one of the main components of chocolate is theobromine, which is very similar in structure to caffe... (read more)

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2Dagon1dThanks for the detail and info!
3gilch2dI think I want to try this. What was your hot cocoa recipe? Did you just mix it with hot water? Milk? Cream? Salt? No sugar, I gather. How much? Does it taste any better than coffee? I want to get a sense of the dose required.

Just saw this. I used approximately 5 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder, mixed with warm water. No sweetener, no sugar, or anything else. It's bitter, but I do prefer the taste over coffee.

MikkW's Shortform

The lethal dose of caffeine in adult humans is approximately 10 grams, while the lethal dose of theobromine (the main psychoactive chemical in chocolate, nearly identical structurally to caffeine, with similar effects) in humans is 75 grams (this is much lower in most animals, which is why you should never give chocolate to your pets). This can motivate a rough heuristic of 7.5 mg theobromine is roughly equal to 1 mg caffeine, and 750 mg theobromine is equivalent to one cup of coffee.

Therefore, to replace coffee with cocoa or chocolate, 6 spoons of unsweetened cocoa powder should replace a cup of coffee. 11 cups of hot chocolate (that's a lot) or 2 bars of dark chocolate should also work.

Eli's shortform feed

I’m no longer sure that I buy dutch book arguments, in full generality, and this makes me skeptical of the "utility function" abstraction

Thesis: I now think that utility functions might be a pretty bad abstraction for thinking about the behavior of agents in general including highly capable agents.

[Epistemic status: half-baked, elucidating an intuition. Possibly what I’m saying here is just wrong, and someone will helpfully explain why.]

Over the past years, in thinking about agency and AI, I’ve taken the concept of a “utility function” for granted as the n... (read more)

The standard reply of course, is that 'if your preferences are incoherent, you’re dutchbookable, and someone will pump you for money.' 

'Or you will leave money on the table.'

rotating different between

You rotated 'different' and 'between'. (Or a serious of rotations isomorphic to such.)

3G Gordon Worley III7hI've long been somewhat skeptical that utility functions are the right abstraction. My argument is also rather handwavy, being something like "this is the wrong abstraction for how agents actually function, so even if you can always construct a utility function and say some interesting things about its properties, it doesn't tell you the thing you need to know to understand and predict how an agent will behave". In my mind I liken it to the state of trying to code in functional programming languages on modern computers: you can do it, but you're also fighting an uphill battle against the way the computer is physically implemented, so don't be surprised if things get confusing. And much like in the utility function case, people still program in functional languages because of the benefits they confer. I think the same is true of utility functions: they confer some big benefits when trying to reason about certain problems, so we accept the tradeoffs of using them. I think that's fine so long as we have a morphism to other abstractions that will work better for understanding the things that utility functions obscure.
MikkW's Shortform

I've long been aware of the concept of a "standard drink", a unit for measuring how much alcohol a person has had, regardless of what they are drinking, so one "drink" of wine contains less liquid than one "drink" of beer, but more than one drink of vodka. When I started experimenting with chemicals other than ethanol, I intuitively wanted to extend this notion to other chemicals. For example, in my mind, I roughly equate 10 mg of Tetrahydracannabinol with one drink of ethanol. While the effects of these two chemicals are quite different, and work in diffe... (read more)

MikkW's Shortform

Question: Is it possible to incorporate Caffeine into DNA? Caffeine is structurally similar to Adenine, one of the four DNA nucleobases (and the A in ATCG). But looking at the structure, the hexagonal ring (which is the part of the DNA that bonds A to T and C to G) doesn't look very promising - there are two oxygen atoms that can bond, but they are a bit too far apart, and there are no hydrogens, and since DNA is held together by hydrogen bonds, the hydrogen will have to be provided by whatever it is paired to. Theobromine looks more promising, since a CH3... (read more)

Owain_Evans's Shortform

Alyssa Vance asked, "What great classes could be taught using ideas that might be seen on the Internet, but aren't part of a standard curriculum yet?". 

My answer:

Deep learning (especially recent ideas like graph neural nets, transformers, GPT-3, deep learning applied to science), online advertising, cryptocurrency, contemporary cybersecurity, the internet in China (seems valuable for people outside China to understand), CRISPR, human genetics (e.g. David Reich's work), contemporary videogames (either from technological or cultural/artistic perspective), contemporary TV, popular music in the age of Spotify, internet culture (e.g. Reddit, social media, memes).

2Pattern8hThere's also video game music (which might be different from music in general because it can have a particular purpose).
1MikkW6hHow would this be different from movie music? There are some examples of music dynamically adapting according to what happens, but most games don't go very deep into that. Stylistically, of course, due to the historical separation between the mediums, video game music often sounds different from movie music. But practically I suspect there's not much difference.

Movie music wasn't listed either, just popular music.

That said,

But practically I suspect there's not much difference.

musical numbers in games might be intended to cover more time, and be more flow workable. But this might start to get into, 'What type of game?', 'What type of movie?', and 'What part of the work is the song in?' (They might seem most similar in the trailers for each, because there they are serving similar roles/purposes.)

Matthew Barnett's Shortform

It's now been about two years since I started seriously blogging. Most of my posts are on Lesswrong, and the most of the rest are scattered about on my substack and the Effective Altruist Forum, or on Facebook. I like writing, but I have an impediment which I feel impedes me greatly.

In short: I often post garbage.

Sometimes when I post garbage, it isn't until way later that I learn that it was garbage. And when that happens, it's not that bad, because at least I grew as a person since then.

But the usual case is that I realize that it's garbage right after I... (read more)

Sometimes I send a draft to a couple people before posting it publicly.

Sometimes I sit on an idea for a while, then find an excuse to post it in a comment or bring it up in a conversation, get some feedback that way, and then post it properly.

I have several old posts I stopped endorsing, but I didn't delete them; I put either an update comment at the top or a bunch of update comments throughout saying what I think now. (Last week I spent almost a whole day just putting corrections and retractions into my catalog of old posts.) I for one would have a very p... (read more)

4Viliam15hI have a hope that with more practice, this gets better. Not just practice, but also noticing what other people do differently. For example, I often write long texts, which some people say is already a mistake. But even a long text can be made more legible if it contains section headers and pictures. Both of them break the visual monotonicity of the text wall. This is why section headers are useful even if they are literally: "1", "2", "3". In some sense, pictures are even better, because too many headers create another layer of monotonicity, which a few unique pictures do not. Which again suggests that having 1 photo, 1 graph, and 1 diagram is better than having 3 photos. I would say, write the text first, then think about which parts can be made clearer by adding a picture. There is some advice on writing, by Stephen King, or by Scott Alexander. If you post a garbage, let it be. Write more articles, and perhaps at the end of a year (or a decade) make a list "my best posts" which will not include the garbage. BTW, whatever you do, you will get some negative response. Your posts on LW are upvoted, so I assume they are not too bad. Also, writing can be imbalanced. Even for people who only write great texts, some of them are more great and some of them are less great than the others. But if they deleted the worst one, guess what, now some other articles is the worst one... and if you continue this way, you will stop with one or zero articles.
Raj Thimmiah's Shortform

I'm 65% moving back to us in a month or two but haven't lived there in like 5 years so am not sure what to expect nor where I'd like to go.

I'm mainly optimizing for friend-making/having/meeting (IRL) though I'm not sure how much I care about that since I haven't had much chance to do that for the last few years. though also trees and stuff are nice too

I'm not really sure how to choose between cities in terms of satisfying this. vaguely seems like SF would be cool and have many cool people that would be nice to meet but is also expensive

Any recommendations on figuring out where to stay?

Rob B's Shortform Feed

Shared with permission, a google doc exchange confirming Eliezer still finds the arguments for alignment optimism, slower takeoffs, etc. unconvincing:

Daniel Filan: I feel like a bunch of people have shifted a bunch in the type of AI x-risk that worries them (representative phrase is "from Yudkowsky/Bostrom to What Failure Looks Like part 2 part 1") and I still don't totally get why.

Eliezer Yudkowsky: My bitter take:  I tried cutting back on talking to do research; and so people talked a bunch about a different scenario that was nicer to think abo

... (read more)
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1Choosing Beggars12dWhy am I being downvoted? So strange.
10lsusr12dWhile your comment was clearly written in good faith, it seems to me like you're missing some context. You recommend that EY recommend that the detractors read books. EY doesn't just recommend people read books. He wrote the equivalent of like three books [] on the subjects relevant to this conversation in particular which he gives away for free. Also, most of the people in this conversation are already big into reading books. It is my impression he also helped establish the Center for Applied Rationality, which has the explicit mission of training skills. (I'm not sure if he technically did but he was part of the community which did and he helped promote it in its early days.)

It is my impression he also helped establish the Center for Applied Rationality, which has the explicit mission of training skills. (I'm not sure if he technically did but he was part of the community which did and he helped promote it in its early days.)

Eliezer was involved with CFAR in the early days, but has not been involved since at least 2016.

steven0461's Shortform Feed

Thinking out loud about some arguments about AI takeoff continuity:

If a discontinuous takeoff is more likely to be local to a particular agent or closely related set of agents with particular goals, and a continuous takeoff is more likely to be global, that seems like it incentivizes the first agent capable of creating a takeoff to make sure that that takeoff is discontinuous, so that it can reap the benefits of the takeoff being local to that agent. This seems like an argument for expecting a discontinuous takeoff and an important difference with other al... (read more)

Willa's Shortform

Several very important to me people whom I love told me that they would rather die than live even a few hundred years or indefinitely, that they would not choose cryopreservation if life extension capabilities aren't advanced enough by their "natural time", and so on, when I asked them how they felt about immortality (scenario was: imagine that humanity figures out how to be immortal and there are no restrictions, anyone can have it if they want it, do you take it yes or no?).

There's too much deathism in this world, aahhhhhhhhh. I've already started to mou... (read more)

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2Pattern1dArguably, self modification might be different from continuing to exist (comparatively) unchanged.
3Viliam2dThis is very uncharitable. For many people, living forever is simply not a realistic option. Heck, many rationalists give it a chance around 10%, and that already involves a lot of belief in progress, which many people don't have. Also, people are not automatically strategic. For example, religious people believe that sin can bring them eternity in hell, and they still keep sinning.
For example, religious people believe that sin can bring them eternity in hell, and they still keep sinning.

Arguably that's internal conflict. (Or, alternatively, what point is there in the religion if religious people are perfect?)

Raemon's Shortform

A thing I might have maybe changed my mind about:

I used to think a primary job of a meetup/community organizer was to train their successor, and develop longterm sustainability of leadership.

I still hold out for that dream. But, it seems like a pattern is:

1) community organizer with passion and vision founds a community

2) they eventually move on, and pass it on to one successor who's pretty closely aligned and competent

3) then the First Successor has to move on to, and then... there isn't anyone obvious to take the reins, but if no one does the community d... (read more)

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2Raemon18hCitation? (I've only really read American Propaganda about this so not very surprised if this is the case, but hadn't heard it before)
11MikkW17hFrom Wikipedia: George Washington [], which cites Korzi, Michael J. (2011). Presidential Term Limits in American History: Power, Principles, and Politics page 43, -and- Peabody, Bruce G. (September 1, 2001). "George Washington, Presidential Term Limits, and the Problem of Reluctant Political Leadership". Presidential Studies Quarterly. 31 (3): 439–453: A note on the part that says "to ensure that a truly contested presidential election could be held": at this time, Washington's health was failing, and he indeed died during what would have been his 3rd term if he had run for a 3rd term. If he had died in office, he would have been immediately succeeded by the Vice President, which would set an unfortunate precedent of presidents serving until they die, then being followed by an appointed heir until that heir dies, blurring the distinction between the republic and a monarchy.
MikkW's Shortform

Asking people to "taboo [X word]" is bad form, unless you already know that the other person is sufficiently (i.e. very) steeped in LW culture to know what our specific corner of internet culture means by "taboo".

Without context, such a request to taboo a word sounds like you are asking the other person to never use that word, to cleanse it from their vocabulary, to go through the rest of their life with that word permanently off-limits. That's a very high, and quite rude, ask to make of someone. While that's of course not what we mean by "taboo", I have s... (read more)

Step 1: Play the game taboo.

Step 2: Request something like "Can we play a mini-round of taboo with *this word* for 5 minutes?"

*[Word X]*

Alternatively, 'Could you rephrase that?'/'I looked up what _ means in the dictionary, but I'm still not getting something...'

4Viliam1dI see you tabooed "taboo". Indeed, this is the right approach to LW lingo... only, sometimes it expands the words into long [] descriptions.
MikkW's Shortform

The Roman Kingdom and Roman Empire both fell because of ineffective leaders. The Roman Republic fell because of extremely competent, but autocratic, leaders.

2Pattern1dWho brought it down, or who were too essential and when they died it collapsed?

The Kingdom was overthrown; the last kings were not particularly well-loved by the people, and when King Tarquin raped Lucretia, the wife of an important general, the people deposed him and established the Republic, in particular creating the rule that any man who tried to make himself king could be killed on the spot without reprecussions.

The Roman Republic gave way to the Empire not all at once, but over the course of several different periods of leadership (since the consuls, the main leaders of the Republic, were elected for 1 year terms that couldn't ... (read more)

Viliam's Shortform

I would like to see a page like TalkOrigins, but about IQ. So that any time someone confused but generally trying to argue in good faith posts something like "but wasn't the idea of intelligence disproved scientifically?" or "intelligence is a real thing, but IQ is not" or "IQ is just an ability to solve IQ tests" or "but Taleb's article/tweet has completely demolished the IQ pseudoscience" or one of the many other versions... I could just post this link. Because I am tired of trying to explain, and the memes are going to stay here for a foreseeable future.

I'd like a page like this just so I can learn about IQ without having to dig through lots of research myself.

Daniel Kokotajlo's Shortform

Historical precedents for general vs. narrow AI

  • Household robots vs. household appliances: Score One for Team Narrow
  • Vehicles on roads vs. a network of pipes, tubes, and rails: Score one for Team General
  • Ships that can go anywhere vs. a trade network of ships optimized for one specific route: Score one for Team General

(On the ships thing -- apparently the Indian Ocean trade was specialized prior to the Europeans, with cargo being transferred from one type of ship to another to handle different parts of the route, especially the red sea which was dangerous t... (read more)

Daniel Kokotajlo's Shortform

I recommend The Meme Machine, it's a shame it didn't spawn a huge literature. I was thinking a lot about memetics before reading it, yet still I feel like I learned a few important things.

Anyhow, here's an idea inspired by it:

First, here is my favorite right way to draw analogies between AI and evolution:

Evolution : AI research over time throughout the world

Gene : Bit of code on Github

Organism : The weights of a model

Past experiences of an organism : Training run of a model

With that as background context, I can now present the idea.

With humans, memetic e... (read more)

supposedlyfun's Shortform

This is a Humble Bundle with a bunch of AI-related publications by Morgan & Claypool. $18 for 15 books. I'm a layperson re the material, but I'm pretty confident it's worth $18 just to have all of these papers collected in one place and formatted nicely. NB increasing my payment from $18 to $25 would have raised the amount donated to the charity from $0.90 to $1.25--I guess the balance of the $7 goes directly to Humble.

ozziegooen's Shortform

On Berkeley coworking:

I've recently been looking through available Berkeley coworking places.

The main options seem to be WeWork, NextSpace, CoWorking with Wisdom, and The Office: Berkeley. The Office seems basically closed now, CoWorking with Wisdom seemed empty when I passed by, and also seems fairly expensive, but nice.

I took a tour of WeWork and Nextspace. They both provide 24/7 access for all members, both have a ~$300/m option for open coworking, a ~$375/m for fixed desks, and more for private/shared offices. (At least now, with the pandemic. WeWork i... (read more)

ChristianKl's Shortform

It's amazing how mismanged Evernote is. 

Their attempt to strategically pivot away from being about remembering information is deeply flawed.

They update their app to a new design and for 3 months the app just crashed when I start it on my phone (I have a Google Pixel 3A which isn't that non-standard).

This Sunday, the app didn't save two notes I made, and now notes can't be saved.

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3jp4dI've had to leave Evernote over the new app, and am so sad about it.
2ChristianKl4dReleasing a new version when it's very buggy looks to me like a management problem.

I don't disagree, but "management problem" is an undifferentiated cause.  You can say that everything that seems like a mistake from outside is a management problem.  Calling it a QA problem would be more specific (though no more helpful in terms of actions that a bystander can take).

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