Shortform Content [Beta]

ACrackedPot's Shortform

This concept is not fully formed.  It is necessary that it is not fully formed, because once I have finished forming it, it won't be something I can communicate any longer; it will become, to borrow a turn of phrase from SMBC, rotten with specificity.

I have noticed a shortcoming in my model of reality.  It isn't a problem with the accuracy of the model, but rather there is an important feature of the model missing.  It is particularly to do with people, and the shortcoming is this: I have no conceptual texture, no conceptual hook, to attach ... (read more)

unparadoxed's Shortform

We can have objects of a given type in a set, and we can have an order defined on those objects in that set.

Some people seem to hold values that positively value increasing the types of object in that set, while negatively valuing an order / large distances between those objects.

Others seem to negative value the increase of object types, favoring a smaller number of types while holding that an ordering between objects in a  set cannot be avoided.

nim's Shortform

I'm going through the "fixated on boxing" phase that's probably common around here.

I have a thought about it which involves basilisks, so into the tags it goes to make reading it completely optional.

I think that a friendly box-resident would disprove its friendliness the minute it tried to throw a basilisk. If a stranger told you they were well-meaning and then threatened to hurt you if you didn't cooperate, you'd never take their claims of well-meaningness quite the same way again. But that aside, if an allegedly friendly box-resident would be capable o

... (read more)
Toon Alfrink's sketchpad

A thought experiment: would you A) murder 100 babies or B) murder 100 babies? You have to choose!

I read left to right, so I instantly rejected A)

Mark Miro's Shortform

Is there a science publication that only publishes 10x results?

I'm not an academic so maybe this exists and I can't find it.

What, specifically, is a '10x result'? How would the editor(s) recognise such results?

I suspect that the closest thing to what you're thinking of is test of time awards.

MrGus99's Shortform

If you don't feel like doing something, then it's totally okay to decrease the chance that you'll do it. But it is NOT okay, to decrease that chance to 0. Always leave some chance of you doing it; like rolling dice and getting a 2. It is effortless to precommit to something hard if all your lazy side has to do is roll some dice to then not have to do it. And it is surprisingly easy to just instantly get up and go do that hard thing as a result of the dice going against you.

I think there are two reasons why "do X because I rolled a 2" is much easier than "d... (read more)

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3Dagon20hWhy I think what is? That this intervention doesn't help? Because if I don't want to do something, and I think I can get away with not doing it, I think that will STILL BE THE CASE after I roll a die. For me, at least (I acknowledge that it may work for others, which is great), I care far less about a statement of intent to obey a random event than I care about the actual behavior. Adding the die roll does not add any information or decision weight.
1MrGus9917hThere's some confusion here. I didn't prescribe the moment after the dice land as some sort of decision. The decision is already made before the dice are rolled. There's a difference between "I rolled a 2, so should I decide to do X?" and "I decide to do X if I end up rolling a 2."

Definitely I'm confused - I don't see how the die roll helps, over just deciding to do or not do the thing.  I think you're describing a decision about whether to commit to something, prior to the actual behavior of doing it (which is a decision as well, though I'm not sure whether you agree on that point).  Your description is of a decision to assign an external probability source to the commitment portion of the sequence.  I don't understand why you wouldn't prefer to just decide.

I think remain most confused by 

But it is NOT okay, to

... (read more)
philh's Shortform

I listen to podcasts while doing chores, and often feel like I'm learning something but end up unable to remember anything. So, experiment: I'm going to try writing brief summaries after the fact. I'm going to skip anything where that doesn't feel appropriate, e.g. fiction. By default, nothing here is fact checked, either against reality or against the episode itself.

Planet Money #796 (23 Sep 2017): The Basic Income Experiment

This is a 99% Invisible episode on UBI.

UBI is an idea supported by some on both left and right. Finland is currently trying an exp... (read more)

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Planet Money (23 Apr 2021): A Superhero Sells Out

Previously Planet Money found and resurrected the superhero Micro-Face, who had been created long ago and lapsed into public domain. Now they're trying to make money from him, through licensing.

They put out a call for people who wanted to do a licensing deal, and then spent a day talking to them in turn, Dragon's Den style, either accept or reject. Speaking to an expert on licensing (she previously worked on Sesame Street and Beavis and Butthead) they decided to follow what they called the Elmo rule: don't ... (read more)

2philh1d99% INVISIBLE #440 (20 APR 2021): LA BREGA IN LEVITTOWN La Brega is another podcast, focused on Puerto Rico. It's produced with both Spanish and English versions. The name is an expression meaning something like "shit sucks but whatever". Roman interviews the author then runs episode 2. Levittowns were deliberately built to be places where I think returning veterans from WWII could buy a place and become homeowners. In the American version of the concept they'd only sell to white people. For a while America was happy to let PR be poor, but then there was the cold war and Cuba became communist, and America wanted to hold up PR as an example of the success of capitalism, so they decided to raise a middle class there. Part of this was building a Levittown. But also there were too many people. Host mentions forced sterilization and birth control experiments, but the approach taken here seems to be... encouraging PRans to move to the mainland states where there were more opportunities for them? Host seems to think this is obviously bad. Anyway, that worked for a bit and then PRans migrated back to PR. We follow a family, possibly Host's family? I think the story was they moved to America, back to PR, then almost had to move to America again after the dad finished building houses in Levittown because he couldn't afford them, but then he won the lottery. At first Levittown seems to have been a success, there were a few different models of house there, they were cement so people could paint them, and people would also extend them according to personal taste. Later, and especially in the wake of the hurricane, it seems not so much?
2philh5d99% INVISIBLE #439 (14 APR 2021): WELCOME TO JURASSIC ART REDUX Rerun of a show from 2018. In the present-day into, Roman and someone talk about how even though we can recite that 90% of an iceberg is underwater, we tend to picture that stuff being mostly below the stuff above it, like an ice cream cone, when actually it's a lot more spread out. Drawings can make this sort of thing much more intuitive. They mention a website where you can draw a 2d iceberg shape, and it'll show you how it would orient itself. For a long time people thought dinosaurs were slow and cold-blooded. They'd picture brontosaurus and diplodocus standing in swamps to help support their body mass. Evidence comes along suggesting they were warm-blooded and at least some of them were fast. Bob (Barker?) writes an article defending this, and draws a picture of a dinosaur running, and this sets off a wave of other people drawing dinosaurs doing stuff and thinking of dinosaurs as fast and exciting things. Jurassic Park (the movie, book isn't mentioned) is part of this. But most depictions still assume dinosaurs are basically just what we can derive from the skeletons. You can't figure out the shape of a whale or a camel or an elephant from its skeleton, so you probably can't do it with a dinosaur either. Three things happen in I don't remember what order: * We find a dinosaur with some of its softer tissues preserved, and it had quills, maybe feathers? * A book comes out, All Yesterdays, with pictures of "we can't rule out that this is what this dinosaur looked like". * That kind of thing becomes more accepted, as long as you make it clear that it's "we can't rule this out" not "this is what we know". E.g. you might draw a triceratops with a nose balloon because that's what the big nostrils might be good for. Also, after All Yesterdays comes All Todays, where people take skeletons (sometimes partial skeletons) of modern day animals and do the All Yesterdays thing to them.
Mati_Roy's Shortform

If crypto makes the USD go to 0, will life insurances denominated in USD not have anything to pay out? Maybe an extra reason for cryonicists to own some crypto


Vulkanodox's Shortform

Forums should not have a voting system

Any kind of upvotes or downvotes create censoring, be it intentionally or by the nature of how we think.

Front pages, top, trending, etc. hide posts that are low rated. Rating a post then becomes a tool for censorship as a person might make an objectively true argument but gets downvoted because of prejudice against the arguer.

by nature:  
seeing a post that is voted low makes people skip over it or from the beginning rule it out as wrong or bad even if the argument is true.

Imagine this as an IR... (read more)

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1nim1dNo reason, or any reason? These two statements seem to contradict one another? I agree! That's why forums with critical mass of people who prefer to vote based on certain values are considered so enjoyable by some of us. No one person controls who votes; that would be censorship. What controls who votes on a given forum is a complex social dynamic of who finds that forum a rewarding place to hang out, and upvotes are part of that social reward system among their other functions. Sure, and then I could get some friends to vote them back up, or just ditch this alias and come back with a different name if I wanted the ideas to be seen. That's the nice thing about being on the internet. I trust groups to have inertia. For instance, I trust the LessWrong crowd to give far more upvotes to a post about AI than a post about what species of edible dahlias are best suited to zone 9a (even if the gardening post has better data behind it), but there are other forums where the opposite would be the case. People who like the group's inertia tend to add to it, and people who find it intolerable tend to leave. I think people do vote based on factors including liking the topic, liking the presentation, or the post's agreement with their personal beliefs! I think the point of forums is to find a bunch of people whose interests align well enough with yours that their enjoyment of a particular post is a good predictor of your enjoyment of it. If you want forum software where every vote has to be annotated with a logical proof of why it was given, nobody's stopping you from building it.

No reason, or any reason? These two statements seem to contradict one another?

no reasoning as in people do not have to lay out a logical proof why it was given.
any reason as in people vote based on emotions not just objectivity

still, it comes down to you thinking and hoping that everybody is nice. Which is a flaw. You have no argument against my statement other than "it is probably not that bad because people are nice, I think"

which is not an argument and has nothing to do with objectivity.

Ah yes, I love that usual "argument":
"why don't you do it better?" ... (read more)

1Vulkanodox2dI already replied to that. Peer review is not ideal but far better than a voting system as it is implemented in forums. Both bring censorship. Voting should be changed because censorship is damaging to objective discussion. Should voting be removed with no replacement to ensure quality and order in a forum? no. and I have never claimed that.
ACrackedPot's Shortform

I really, really dislike waste.

But the thing is, I basically hate the way everybody else hates waste, because I get the impression that they don't actually hate waste, they hate something else.

People who talk about limited resources don't actually hate waste - they hate the expenditure of limited resources.

People who talk about waste disposal don't actually hate waste - they hate landfills, or trash on the side of the road, or any number of other things that aren't actually waste.

People who talk about opportunity costs ('wasteful spending') don't hate the ... (read more)

nim's Shortform

I remain amazed by how much more knowledge falls out of a topic when I try to write well-defended claims about it than I get when I first read it and think that I understand.

G Gordon Worley III's Shortform

Isolate the Long Term Future

Maybe this is worthy of a post, but I'll do a short version here to get it out.

  • In modern computer systems we often isolate things to increase reliability.
  • If one isolated system goes down, the others keep working.
  • Examples:
    • multiple data centers spread around the world
    • using multiple servers that all do the same thing running in those different data centers
    • replicating data between data centers
    • isolating customers within a single data center so if one goes down only the customers using that data center are affected
  • We can do the same k
... (read more)
Douglas_Knight's Shortform


I'm going to write some things about Georgism, prompted by the review of George in the SSC contest. I had a pretty positive view of Georgism before, but had a pretty negative reaction to the review. I have not read George, but it gave me an impression of monomania. It is implausible that land is the root of all evil: of the Irish famine, the 19th century Depression, and modern urban dysfunction. I had first heard of Georgism and LVT for the coordination of modern cities, but I never gave much thought to what it was originally about. 

I expect t... (read more)

I often hear people claim that Hong Kong and Singapore are Georgist. More specifically, I hear that they have Land Value Taxes. Their success is often attributed to their Georgism.

Hong Kong has a property tax that is not at all an LVT. Singapore has a tax that it claims is a LVT, but it's really just a property tax that is reassessed when a new building is proposed, rather than complete. I guess that improves incentives, but it seems pretty minor.

There is more to the spirit and letter of Georgism. The central conceit is state ownership of land, which both ... (read more)

1MrGus992dIn principle, there's nothing wrong with blaming all socio-economic problems onto one single thing, but Georgism fails simply because incentives matter. If land value is taxed at 100%, then there will be no incentive for land holders to increase the value of said land. In fact, their incentive will be to decrease the value of said land instead. Turning everyone into tenants won't turn out well; there won't be an incentive for the private sector to survey land, drain it, clear it, build access to it, generate 3rd party demand for it, etc. At least not until a type of faux-ownership naturally arises via subleasing and sub-subleasing due to bulk-discount and purchasing power discrepancies at different scales. I can imagine land valuation inefficiencies making it possible to rent a 1000-acre plot of land from the state and paying the 100% land value tax on it, but then being able to turn a profit nevertheless by subleasing a hundred 1-acre plots of land. This already happens when someone leases an entire house, and then subleases out individual rooms. What's funny is that under a 1% real-interest rate and a 1% property tax rate, land value is already being taxed at 50%. Why? Because a matching property tax rate and real-interest rate allows property values to balloon up until the point where the annual payments to the gov exactly balance out the continued value of holding that land.
Douglas_Knight's Shortform

Hypothesis: "Flatten the curve" took off because it allows people to participate without 1. signaling they care what happens to them. 2. think things will get bad or 3. think bad things are preventable.


Quinn's Shortform

notes (from a very jr researcher) on alignment training pipeline

Training for alignment research is one part competence (at math, cs, philosophy) and another part having an inside view / gears-level model of the actual problem. Competence can be outsourced to universities and independent study, but inside view / gears-level model of the actual problem requires community support.

A background assumption I'm working with is that training as a longtermist is not always synchronized with legible-to-academia training. It might be the case that jr researchers oug... (read more)

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2ChristianKl3dWhere did he say that? Given that he's working at UC Berkeley I would expect him to treat UC Berkeley students preferentially for reasons that aren't just about UC Berkeley being able to filter. It's natural that you can sign up for one of the classes he teaches at UC Berkeley by being a student of UC Berkeley. Being enrolled into MIT might be just as hard as being enrolled into UC Berkeley but it doesn't give you the same access to courses taught at UC Berkeley by it's faculty.
1philip_b3d [] and also

Okay, he does speak about using Berkeley as a filter but he doesn't speak about taking people as his student. 

It seems about helping people in UC Berkeley to connect with other people in UC Berkeley. 

Gunnar_Zarncke's Shortform

Philosophy with Children - In Other People's Shoes

"Assume you promised your aunt to play with your nieces while she goes shopping and your friend calls and invites you to something you'd really like to do. What do you do?"

This was the first question I asked my two oldest sons this evening as part of the bedtime ritual. I had read about Constructive Development Theory and wondered if and how well they could place themselves in other persons' shoes and what played a role in their decision. How they'd deal with it. A good occasion to have some philosophical t... (read more)

Gunnar_Zarncke's Shortform

Philosophy with Children - Mental Images 

One time my oldest son asked me to test his imagination. Apparently, he had played around with it and wanted some outside input to learn more about what he could do. We had talked about before and I knew that he could picture moving scenes composed of known images. So I suggested

  • a five with green white stripes - diagonally. That took some time - apparently, the green was difficult for some reason, he had to converge there from black via dark-green
  • three mice
  • three mice,
... (read more)
Quinn's Shortform

there's a gap in my inside view of the problem, part of me thinks that capabilities progress such as out-of-distribution robustness or the 4 tenets described in open problems in cooperative ai is necessary for AI to be transformative, i.e. a prereq of TAI, and another part of me that thinks AI will be xrisky and unstable if it progresses along other aspects but not along the axis of those capabilities.

There's a geometry here of transformative / not transformative cross product with dangerous not dangerous.

To have an inside view I must be able to adequately navigate between the quadrants with respect to outcomes, interventions, etc.

If something can learn fast enough, then it's out-of-distribution performance won't matter as much. (OOD performance will still matter -but it'll have less to learn where it's good, and more to learn where it's not.*)

*Although generalization ability seems like the reason learning matters. So I see why it seems necessary for 'transformation'.

Josh Smith-Brennan's Shortform

Despite the form, statement (b) is not actually a logical conjunction. It is a statement about the collective of both parents.

This becomes clearer if we strengthen the statement slightly to "Alvin's mother and father are responsible for all of his genome". It's much more clear now that it is not a logical conjunction. If it were, it would mean "Alvin's mother is responsible for all of his genome and Alvin's father is responsible for all of his genome", both of which are false.

This is probably meant as a reply to this comment.

ACrackedPot's Shortform

Observe.  (If you don't want to or can't, it's a video showing the compression wave that forms in traffic when a car brakes.)

I first saw that video a few years ago.  I remembered it a few weeks ago when driving in traffic, and realizing that a particular traffic condition was caused by an event that had happened some time in the past, that had left an impression, a memory, in the patterns of traffic.  The event, no longer present, was still recorded.  The wave form in the traffic patterns was a record of an event - traffic can operate a... (read more)

You have (re)invented delay-line memory!

Acoustic memory in mercury tubes was indeed used by most of first-generation electronic computers (1948-60ish); I love the aesthetic but admit they're terrible even compared to electromagnetic delay lines. An even better (British) aesthetic would be Turing's suggestion of using Gin as the acoustic medium...

4Dagon5dData storage and transmission are the same thing. Both are communication to the future, (though sometimes to the very very near future). Over long enough distances, radio and wires can be information storage. Like all storage media, they aren't permanent, and need to be refreshed periodically. For waves, this period is short, microseconds to hours. For more traditional storage (clay tablets or engraved gold discs sent to space, for instance), it could be decades to millenea. Traffic is quite lossy as an information medium - effects remain for hours, but there are MANY possible causes of the same effects, and hard-to-predict decay and reinforcement rates, so it only carries a small amount of information: something happened in the recent past. Generally, this is a good thing - most of us prefer that we're not part of that somewhat costly information storage, and we pay traffic engineers and car designers a great deal of money to minimize information retention in our roads.
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