Shortform Content [Beta]

Jimrandomh's Shortform

I suspect that, thirty years from now with the benefit of hindsight, we will look at air travel the way we now look at tetraethyl lead. Not just because of nCoV, but also because of disease burdens we've failed to attribute to infections, in much the same way we failed to attribute crime to lead.

Over the past century, there have been two big changes in infectious disease. The first is that we've wiped out or drastically reduced most of the diseases that cause severe, attributable death and disability. The second is that we've connected the world with high-

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1Adam Scholl2dI'm curious about your first and second hypothesis regarding obesity?

Disruption of learning mechanisms by excessive variety and separation between nutrients and flavor. Endocrine disruption from adulterants and contaminants (a class including but not limited to BPA and PFOA).

Raemon's Scratchpad

Jim introduced me to this song on Beat Saber, and noted: "This is a song about being really good at moral mazes".

I asked "the sort of 'really good at moral mazes' where you escape, or the sort where you quickly find your way the center?" He said "the bad one."

And then I gave it a listen, and geez, yeah that's basically what the song is about. 

I like that this Beat Saber map includes something-like-a-literal-maze in the middle where the walls are closing around you. (It's a custom map, not the one that comes from the official DLC)

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G Gordon Worley III's Shortform

tl;dr: read multiple things concurrently so you read them "slowly" over multiple days, weeks, months

When I was a kid, it took a long time to read a book. How could it not: I didn't know all the words, my attention span was shorter, I was more restless, I got lost and had to reread more often, I got bored more easily, and I simply read fewer words per minute. One of the effects of this is that when I read a book I got to live with it for weeks or months as I worked through it.

I think reading like that has advantages. By living with a book for... (read more)

Interesting idea, thanks. I think this also hints at other ways to approach this (i.e. maybe rather than interspersing books with other books, you could interspersing them with non-reading-things that still give you some chance to have idea from multiple domains bumping into each other)

Ikaxas' Shortform Feed

Global coordination problems

I've said before that I tentatively think that "foster global coordination" might be a good cause area in its own right, because it benefits so many other cause areas. I think it might be useful to have a term for the cause areas that global coordination would help. More specifically, a term for the concept "(reasonably significant) problem that requires global coordination to solve, or that global coordination would significantly help with solving." I propose "global coordination problem" (though I'm open to other suggestions).

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ofer's Shortform

I'm curious how antitrust enforcement will be able to deal with progress in AI. (I know very little about antitrust laws.)

Imagine a small town with five barbershops. Suppose an antitrust law makes it illegal for the five barbershop owners to have a meeting in which they all commit to increase prices by $3.

Suppose that each of the five barbershops will decide to start using some off-the-shelf deep RL based solution to set their prices. Suppose that after some time in which they're all using such systems, lo and behold, they all gradually increase prices by

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This doesn't require AI, it happens anywhere that competing prices are easily available and fairly mutable.

It happens without AI to some extent, but if a lot of businesses will be setting prices via RL based systems (which seems to me likely), then I think it may happen to a much greater extent. Consider that in the example above, it may be very hard for the five barbers to coordinate a $3 price increase without any communication (and without AI) if, by assumption, the only Nash equilibrium is the state where all the five barbers charge market prices.

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2Pattern3dIn theory, antitrust issues could be less of an issue with software, because a company could be ordered to make the source code for their products public. (Though this might set up bad incentives over the long run, I don't think this is how such things are usually handled - microsoft's history seems relevant.)
1ofer3dSuppose the code of the deep RL algorithm that was used to train the huge policy network is publicly available on GitHub, as well as everything else that was used to train the policy network, plus the final policy network itself. How can an antitrust enforcement agency use all this to determine whether an antitrust violation has occurred? (in the above example)
G Gordon Worley III's Shortform

I few months ago I found a copy of Staying OK, the sequel to I'm OK—You're OK (the book that probably did the most to popularize transactional analysis), on the street near my home in Berkeley. Since I had previously read Games People Play and had not thought about transactional analysis much since, I scooped it up. I've just gotten around to reading it.

My recollection of Games People Play is that it's the better book (based on what I've read of Staying OK so far). Also, transactional analysis is kind of in the water in ways... (read more)

TurnTrout's shortform feed

For quite some time, I've disliked wearing glasses. However, my eyes are sensitive, so I dismissed the possibility of contacts.

Over break, I realized I could still learn to use contacts, it would just take me longer. Sure enough, it took me an hour and five minutes to put in my first contact, and I couldn't get it out on my own. An hour of practice later, I put in a contact on my first try, and took it out a few seconds later. I'm very happily wearing contacts right now, as a matter of fact.

I'd suffered glasses for over fifteen years because of a cached de

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Matt Goldenberg's Short Form Feed

The things that I'm most qualified to teach are the things that I'm worst at.

Take procrastination for example. My particular genetic and cultural makeup ensured that focus would never be a strong suit. As a result, I went through basically every problem that someone who struggles through procrastination goes through. I ran into a ton of issues surrounding it, attacked it from a variety of angles, and got to a point where I can ship cool projects and do great work. Probably average or slightly above in productivity, but functional.

Meanwhile, wh... (read more)

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2jimrandomh6dWhile this seems accurate in these cases, I'm not sure how far this model generalizes. In domains where teaching mostly means debugging, having encountered and overcome a sufficiently a wide variety of problems may be important. But there are also domains where people start out blank, rather than starting out with a broken version of the skill; in those cases, it may be that only the most skilled people know what the skill even looks like. I expect programming, for example, to fall in this category.

Agree, the model doesn't fully generalize and lacks nuance. I think programming is a plausible counterexample.

2mr-hire6dI think I'm decent at it. I suppose you could answer this question better than I.
Jimrandomh's Shortform

Some software costs money. Some software is free. Some software is free, with an upsell that you might or might not pay for. And some software has a negative price: not only do you not pay for it, but someone third party is paid to try to get you to install it, often on a per-install basis. Common examples include:

  • Unrelated software that comes bundled with software you're installing, which you have to notice and opt out of
  • Software advertised in banner ads and search engine result pages
  • CDs added to the packages of non-software products

This category of

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2mr-hire7dI'm trying to wrap my head around the negative price distinction. A business can't be viable if the cost of user acquisition is lower than the lifetime value of a user. Most software spend money on advertising, then they have to make that money back somehow. In a direct business model, they'll charge the users of the software directly. In an indirect business model, they'll charge a third party for access to the users or an asset that the user has. Facebook is more of an indirect business model, where they charge advertisers for access to the users' attention and data. In my mind, the above is totally fine. I choose to pay with my attention and data as a user, and know that it will be sold to advertisers. Viewing this as "negatively priced" feels like a convoluted way to understand the business model however. Some malware makes money by trying to hide the secondary market they're selling. For instance, by sneaking in a default browser search that sells your attention to advertisers, or selling your computers idle time to a botnet without your permission. This is egregious in my opinion, but it's not the indirect business model that is bad here, it's the hidden costs that they lie about or obfuscate.
6jimrandomh6dUser acquisition costs are another frame for approximately the same heuristic. If software has ads in an expected place, and is selling data you expect them to sell, then you can model that as part of the cost. If, after accounting for all the costs, it looks like the software's creator is spending more on user acquisition than they should be getting back, it implies that there's another revenue stream you aren't seeing, and the fact that it's hidden from you implies that you probably wouldn't approve of it.

Ahhh I see, so you're making roughly the same distinction of "hidden revenue streams".

Eukryt Wrts Blg

Here's something I believe: You should be trying really hard to write your LessWrong posts in such a way that normal people can read them.

By normal, I mean "people who are not immersed in LessWrong culture or jargon." This is most people. I get that you have to use jargon sometimes. (Technical AI safety people: I do not understand your math, but keep up the good fight.) Or if your post is referring to another post, or is part of a series, then it doesn't have to stand alone. (But maybe the series should stand alone?)

Obviously if you only want your post to

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There are two reasons for jargon.

(1) Developing rationality@LW as it's own paradigma by reusing other concepts from LessWrong.

No field of science can stand on it's own without creating it's own terms and seeing how those terms interact with another.

(2) Defensibly against being able to be quoted in a bad way.

Charles Murray succeeded in writing "The Bell Curve" in a way, where almost nobody who criticizes the book quotes it because he took care with all the sentence to write nothing that can easily taken out of context. Given the am... (read more)

2quanticle7dI think there is a happy medium in between having zero jargon (and limiting yourself to the style of Simple English Wikipedia []) and having so much jargon that your ideas are impenetrable to anyone without a Ph.D in the field. I would also note that not all jargon is created equal. Sometimes a new word is necessary as shorthand to encapsulate a complex topic. However, before we create the word, we should know what the topic is, and have a short, clear definition for the topic. All too often, I see people creating words for topics where there isn't a short, clear definition. I would argue that jargon created without a clear, shared, explicit definition hurts the ability to build complex ideas even more so than not having jargon at all. It is only because of this form of jargon that we need to have the practice of tabooing [] words.
2Pattern12dCategory Theory Without The Baggage [] seems relevant.
George's Shortform

I'm wondering if the idea of investing in "good" companies make sense from a purely self-centered perspective.

Assuming there's two types of companies: A and B.

Assume that you think a future in which the vision of "A" comes true is a good future and future in which the vision of "B" comes true is a bad future.

You can think of A as being whatever makes you happy, some examples might be: longevity, symbolic AI, market healthcare, sustainable energy, cheap housing... thing that you are very certain you want in the future... (read more)

2jimrandomh8dActually, this is backwards; by investing in companies that are worth more in worlds you like and worth less in worlds you don't, you're increasing variance, but variance is bad (when investing at scale, you generally pay money to reduce variance and are paid money to accept variance).
Actually, this is backwards; by investing in companies that are worth more in worlds you like and worth less in worlds you don't, you're increasing variance

If you treat the "world you dislike" as one where you can still get about the same bang for you buck, yes.

But I think this wouldn't be the case with a lot of good/bad visions of the future pairs.


BELIEF: You believe healthcare will advance past treating symptoms and move into epigenetically correcting the mechanisms that induce tissue degeneration.

a) You invest in this ... (read more)

Chris_Leong's Shortform

Book Review: Waking Up by Sam Harris

This book aims to convince everyone, even skeptics and athiests, that there is value in some spiritual practises, particularly those related to meditation. Sam Harris argues that mediation doesn't just help with concentration, but can also help us reach transcendental states that reveal the dissolution of the self. It mostly does a good job of what it sets out to do, but unfortunately I didn't gain very much benefit from this book because it focused almost exclusively on persuading you that there is value here,... (read more)

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Many materialists argue against the notion of philosophical-zombies by arguing that if it seems conscious we should assume it is conscious. However, Sam Harris argues that the phenomenon of anaesthesia awareness, waking up completely paralysed during surgery, shows that there isn’t always a direct link between appearing conscious and actual consciousness.

One of the problems with the general anti zombie principle, is that it makes much too strong a claim that what appears conscious, must be.

2Chris_Leong3moWhat's the difference between no self and not self?
4romeostevensit3moNo-self is an ontological claim about everyone's phenomenology. Not self is a mental state that people can enter where they dis-identify with the contents of consciousness.
Pattern's Shortform Feed

There is a general pattern that occurs wherein something is expressed as a dichotomy/binary. Switching to a continuum afterwards is an extension, but this does not necessarily include all the possibilities.

Dichotomies: True/False. Beautiful/Ugly.


Logic handles this by looking for 'all true'.

If 'p' is true, and 'q' is false, 'p and q' is false.

More generally, a sentence could be broken up into parts that can be individually rated. After this, the ratio of true (atomic) statements to false (atomic) statements... (read more)

TurnTrout's shortform feed

AFAICT, the deadweight loss triangle from eg price ceilings is just a lower bound on lost surplus. inefficient allocation to consumers means that people who value good less than market equilibrium price can buy it, while dwl triangle optimistically assumes consumers with highest willingness to buy will eat up the limited supply.

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Good point. By searching for "deadweight loss price ceiling lower bound" I was able to find a source (see page 26) that acknowledges this, but most explications of price ceilings do not seem to mention that the triangle is just a lower bound for lost surplus.

2TurnTrout11dI don't think I was disagreeing?
2Dagon10dAh, I took the "just" in "just a lower bound on lost surplus" as an indicator that it's less important than other factors. And I lightly believe (meaning: for the cases I find most available, I believe it, but I don't know how general it is) that the supply elasticity _is_ the more important effect of such distortions. So I wanted to reinforce that I wasn't ignoring that cost, only pointing out a greater cost.
Stuart_Armstrong's Shortform

Lexicographical preference orderings seem to come naturally to humans. Sentiments like "no amount of money is worth one human life" are commonly expressed.

Now, that particular sentiment is wrong because money can be used to purchase human lives.

The other problem comes from using probability and expected utility, which makes anything lexicographically second completely worthless is all realistic cases. It's one thing to say that you prefer apples to pears lexicographically when there are ten of each lying around and everything is deterministic (just take th

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4Dagon11dThis seems related to scope insensitivity and availability bias. No amount of money (that I have direct control of) is worth one human life ( in my Dunbar group). No money (which my mind exemplifies as $100k or whatever) is worth the life of my example human, a coworker. Even then, its false, but it's understandable. More importantly, categorizations of resources (and of people, probably) are map, not territory. The only rational preference ranking is over reachable states of the universe. Or, if you lean a bit far towards skepticism/solopcism, over sums of future experiences.
4Stuart_Armstrong11dPreferences exist in the map, in human brains, and we want to port them to the territory with the minimum of distortion.

Oh, wait. I've been treating preferences as territory, though always expressed in map terms (because communication and conscious analysis is map-only). I'll have to think about what it would mean if they were purely map artifacts.

Donald Hobson's Shortform

Suppose an early AI is trying to understand its programmers and makes millions of hypothesis that are themselves people. Later it becomes a friendly superintelligence that figures out how to think without mindcrime. Suppose all those imperfect virtual programmers have been saved to disk by the early AI, the superintelligence can look through it. We end up with a post singularity utopia that contains millions of citizens almost but not quite like the programmers. We don't need to solve the nonperson predicate ourselves to get a good outcome, just avoid minds we would regret creating.

Chris_Leong's Shortform

Here's one way of explaining this: it's a contradiction to have a provable statement that is unprovable, but it's not a contradiction for it to be provable that a statement is unprovable. Similarly, we can't have a scenario that is simultaneously imagined and not imagined, but we can coherently imagine a scenario where things exist without being imagined by beings within that scenario.

Rob Besinger:

If I can imagine a tree that exists outside of any mind, then I can imagine a tree that is not being imagined. But "an imagined X that i
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3Chris_Leong12d"It's a contradiction to have a provable statement that is unprovable" - I meant it's a contradiction for a statement to be both provable and unprovable. "It's not a contradiction for it to be provable that a statement is unprovable" - this isn't a contradiction
5Pattern11dYou made a good point, so I inverted it. I think I agree with your statements in this thread completely. (So far, absent any future change.) My prior comment was not intended to indicate an error in your statements. (So far, in this thread.) If there is a way I could make this more clear in the future, suggestions would be appreciated. Elaborating on my prior comment via interpretation, so that it's meaning is clear, if more specified*: A' is the same as A because: While B is true, B' seems false (unless I'm missing something). But in a different sense B' could be true. What does it mean for something to be provable? It means that 'it can be proved'. This gives two definitions: * a proof of X "exists" * it is possible to make a proof of X Perhaps a proof may 'exist' such that it cannot exist (in this universe). That as a consequence of its length, and complexity, and bounds implied by the 'laws of physics'* on what can be represented, constructing this proof is impossible. In this sense, X may be true, but if no proof of X may exist in this universe, then: Something may have the property that it is "provable", but impossible to prove (in this universe).** *Other interpretations may exist, and as I am not aware of them, I think they'd be interesting. **This is a conjecture.

Thanks for clarifying

ryan_b's Shortform

Are math proofs useful at all for writing better algorithms? I saw on Reddit recently that they proved Batchelor's Law in 3D, the core idea of which seems to be using stochastic assumptions to prove it cannot be violated. The Quanta article does not seem to contain a link to the paper, which is weird.

Batchelor's Law is the experimentally-observed fact that turbulence occurs at a specific ratio across scales, which is to say when you zoom in on a small chunk of the turbulence it looks remarkably like all of the turbulence, and so on. Something som... (read more)

The post you linked to (algorithmic efficiency is about problem information) - the knowledge that method X works best when conditions Y are met, which is used in a polyalgorithmic approach? That knowledge might come from proofs.

3Pattern11dA proof may show that an algorithm works. If the proof is correct*, this may demonstrate that the algorithm is robust. (Though you really want a proof about an implementation of the algorithm, which is a program.) *A proof that a service will never go down which relies on assumptions with the implication "there are no extreme solar storms" may not be a sufficient safeguard against the possibility that the service will go down if there is an extreme solar storm. Less extremely, perhaps low latency might be proved to hold, as long as the internet doesn't go down. How are algorithms made, and how can proofs improve/be incorporated into that process? Given a problem, you can try and solve it (1). You can guess(2). You can try (one or more) different things and just see if they work(3). 1 and 2 can come apart, and that's where checking becomes essential. A proof that the method you're using goes anywhere (fast) can be useful there. Let's take a task: Sorting. It can be solved by: * 1. Taking a smaller instance, solving that (and paying attention to process). Then extract the process and see how well it generalizes * 2. Handle the problem itself * 3. Do something. See if it worked. 2 and 3 can come apart: At its worst, 3 can look like Bogosort []. Thought that process can be improved. Look at the first two elements. Are they sorted? No: shuffle them. Look at the next two elements... 4! = 12, twelve permutations of 4 elements. The sorting so far has eliminated some possibilities: 1, 2, 3, 4 1, 3, 2, 4 1, 4, 2, 3 2, 3, 1, 4 2, 4, 1, 3 Now all that's needed is a method of shuffling that doesn't make things less orderly... And eventually Mergesort may be invented. In the extreme, 3 may be 'automated': * programs write programs, and test them to see if they do what's needed (or a tester gets a guesser thrown at it, to 'crack the password') * evolutionary algorithms
TurnTrout's shortform feed

My autodidacting has given me a mental reflex which attempts to construct a gears-level explanation of almost any claim I hear. For example, when listening to “Listen to Your Heart” by Roxette:

Listen to your heart,

There’s nothing else you can do

I understood what she obviously meant and simultaneously found myself subvocalizing “she means all other reasonable plans are worse than listening to your heart - not that that’s literally all you can do”.

This reflex is really silly and annoying in the wrong context - I’ll fix it soon. But it’s pretty amusing

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