Shortform Content [Beta]

Matthew Barnett's Shortform

I agree with Wei Dai that we should use our real names for online forums, including Lesswrong. I want to briefly list some benefits of using my real name,

  • It means that people can easily recognize me across websites, for example from Facebook and Lesswrong simultaneously.
  • Over time my real name has been stable whereas my usernames have changed quite a bit over the years. For some very old accounts, such as those I created 10 years ago, this means that I can't remember my account name. Using my real name would have averted this situation.
  • It motivates me
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It makes it much easier for people to dox you. There are some very bad ways that this can manifest.

I agree with this, so my original advice was aimed at people who already made the decision to make their pseudonym easily linkable to their real name (e.g., their real name is easily Googleable from their pseudonym). I'm lucky in that there are lots of ethnic Chinese people with my name so it's hard to dox me even knowing my real name, but my name isn't so common that there's more than one person with the same full name in the rationalist/EA space. (Even t

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5Viliam5moThese days my reason for not using full name is mostly this: I want to keep my professional and private lives separate. And I have to use my real name at job, therefore I don't use it online. What I probably should have done many years ago, is make up a new, plausibly-sounding full name (perhaps keep my first name and just make up a new surname?), and use it consistently online. Maybe it's still not too late; I just don't have any surname ideas that feel right.
4jp5moSometimes you need someone to give the naive view, but doing so hurts the reputation of the person stating it. For example suppose X is the naive view and Y is a more sophisticated view of the same subject. For sake of argument suppose X is correct and contradicts Y. Given 6 people, maybe 1 of them starts off believing Y. 2 people are uncertain, and 3 people think X. In the world where people have their usernames attached. The 3 people who believe X now have a coordination problem. They each face a local disincentive to state the case for X, although they definitely want _someone_ to say it. The equilibrium here is that no one makes the case for X and the two uncertain people get persuaded to view Y. However if someone is anonymous and doesn't care that much about their reputation, they may just go ahead and state the case for X, providing much better information to the undecided people. This makes me happy there are some smart people posting under pseudonyms. I claim it is a positive factor for the epistemics of LessWrong.
Matthew Barnett's Shortform

There is a large set of people who went around, and are still are going around, telling people that "The coronavirus is nothing to worry about" despite the fact that robust evidence has existed for about a month that this virus could result in a global disaster. (Don't believe me? I wrote a post a month ago about it).

So many people have bought into the "Don't worry about it" syndrome as a case of pretending to be wise, that I have become more pessimistic about humanity correctly responding to global catastrophic risks in the f... (read more)

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2Dagon7hIf you knew that then, it was actionable. If you know it now, and other traders also do, it's not.

[ETA: I'm writing this now to cover myself in case people confuse my short form post as financial advice or something.] To be clear, and for the record, I am not saying that I had exceptional foresight, or that I am confident this outbreak will cause a global depression, or that I knew for sure that selling stock was the right thing to do a month ago. All I'm doing is pointing out that if you put together basic facts, then the evidence points to a very serious potential outcome, and I think it would be irrational at this point to place very low probabiliti

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2Matthew Barnett6hAs I said, I wrote a post about the risk about a month ago...
Dipanta's Shortform

Phenomenology and critical white studies

Raemon's Scratchpad

I'm not sure which of these posts is a subset of the other:

  • The Backbone Bottleneck
  • The Leadership Bottleneck
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I agree, but I also think there's a bit of a chicken and egg problem there too. Leaders fear that enforcing order will result in a mutiny, but if that fear is based on an accurate perception of what will happen, telling leadership to grow a pair is not going to fix it.

2mr-hire7dCausality and dependency are two things that people want to be neat and unidirectional but they're not. There are feedback loops and mutual dependencies. One part of being a good teacher is figuring out how to take a mutual dependency and explain just enough of one part in a "fake way" such that people can get it enough to understand the second part, which in turn allows them to "truly" get the first part.
2Raemon7dNod. (To be slightly more clear: the OP was less me expressing bewilderment about how to solve this problem, and more of me leaving some kinds of breadcrumbs about what I was currently thinking about while I mulled over what post to write next and how to construct it. Upon reflection a more useful shortform would have been "which of these concepts resonate better or are you more interested in reading about first?")
George's Shortform

Should discomfort be a requirement for important experiences ?

A while ago I was discussing with a friend maligning about the fact that there doesn't exist some sort of sublingual DMT, with an absorption profile similar to smoking DMT, but without the rancid taste.

(Side note, there are some ways to get sublingual DMT: , but you probably won't find it for sale at your local drug dealer and effects will differ a lot from smoking. In most experiences I've read about I'm not eve... (read more)

FactorialCode's Shortform

Due to the corona virus, masks and disinfectants are starting to run out in many locations. Still working on the mask situation, but it might be possible to make your own hand sanitizer by mixing isopropyl alcohol or ethanol with glycerol. The individual ingredients might be available even if hand sanitizer isn't. From what I gather, you want to aim for for at least 90% alcohol. Higher is better.

George's Shortform

90% certainty that this is bs because I'm waiting for a flight and I'm sleep deprive, but:

For most people there's not a very clear way or incentive to have a meta model of themselves in a certain situation.

By meta model, I mean one that is modeling "high level generators of action".

So, say that I know Dave:

  • Likes peanut-butter-jelly on thin cracker
  • Dislikes peanut-butter-jelly in sandwiches
  • Likes butter fingers candy

A completely non-meta model of Dave would be:

  • If I give Dave a butter fingers candy box as a gift, he will enjoy it

Anoth... (read more)

2Dagon5dI'd agree that this is useful to think on, but I tend to use "meta model" to mean "a model of how to build and apply models across distinct people", and your example of abstracting Dave's preferences is just another model for him, not all that meta. I might suggest you call it an "abstract model" or an "explainable model". In fact, if they make the same predictions, they're equally powerful, but one is more compressible and easier to transmit (and examine in your head).

Hmh, I actually did not think of that one all-important bit. Yeap, what I described as a "meta model for Dave's mind" is indeed a "meta model for human minds" or at least a "meta model for American minds" in which I plugged in some Dave-specific observations.

I'll have to re-work this at some point with this in mind, unless there's already something much better on the subject out there.

But again, I'll excuse this with having been so tried when I wrote this that I didn't even remember I did until your comment reminded me about it.

romeostevensit's Shortform

A willingness to lose doubled my learning rate. I recently started quitting games faster when I wasn't having fun (or predicted low future fun from playing the game out). I felt bad about this because I might have been cutting off some interesting come backs etc. However, after playing the new way for several months (in many different games) I found I had about doubled the number of games I can play per unit time and therefore upped my learning rate by a lot. This came not only from the fact that many of the quit games were exactly those slogs that ta... (read more)

This also applies to books

landfish lab

Our mixed-motive conflict with social media apps

Modern computers are trash. I'm ready for better interfaces and better AI capabilities that are more aligned with our interests.

I'm going to talk about my phone as a "computer" rather than a collection of (mostly social media) apps, because the thing I want to interface is the computer, not just the apps.

Because that's exactly part of the problem. I don't have enough control over how I interact with the apps. The apps attempt to exert control over my attention. In some ways this ... (read more)

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2Raemon5dFair. Did the google scholar stuff include circadian rhythm stuff?
2Dagon5dIt seems weird to expect that OS vendors are particularly more aligned with your preferences than app vendors are. You actually have more control over apps - it's possible to use different ones without building your own hardware and writing your own drivers. Don't like the bundle of behaviors that an app presents? don't use it. There are fewer OSes to choose from, and they tend to group together harder-to-replicate functionality in a way that you can't really pick and choose very well. I'm totally with you that I don't much care for the way current social media platforms (including apps and data-handling outside of apps) work, but I'm not sure what the alternative is, for things where almost everyone I want to interact with is captured by them, and there's no coordination point to change it. Compare with limited choice in options on a political ballot - I hate it, but I don't think the equilibrium has a good leverage point to improve.

I don't expect OS vendors are more aligned, but it might be a more achievable political goal to get them aligned, since there's a smaller number of them. (I'm not sure if this is true, just a hypothesis)

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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Some comments:

we've wiped out or drastically reduced most of the diseases that cause severe, attributable death and disability

we've wiped out or drastically reduced some diseases in some parts of the world.   There's a lot of infectious diseases still out there: HIV, influenza, malaria, tuberculosis, cholera, ebola,  infectious forms of pneumonia, diarrhoea, hepatitis .... 

we've connected the world with high-speed transport links, so that the subtle, minor diseases can spread further.

Disease has always spread - ... (read more)

2Adam Scholl11dI'm curious about your first and second hypothesis regarding obesity?
3jimrandomh8dDisruption 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).
George's Shortform

Physical performance is one thing that isn't really "needed" in any sense of the word for most people.

For most people, the need for physical activity seems to boil down to the fact that you just feel better, live longer and overall get less health related issues if you do it.

But on the whole, I've seen very little proof that excelling in physical activity can help you with anything (other than being a professional athlete or trainer, that is). Indeed, it seems that the whole relation to mortality basically breaks down if you look at top... (read more)

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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Nuclear arms control & anti-proliferation efforts are a big one here. Other forms of arms control are important too.

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)

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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2Pattern12dIn 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.)
1ofer12dSuppose 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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2jimrandomh15dWhile 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-hire15dI 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-hire15dI'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.
6jimrandomh15dUser 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)

2quanticle16dI 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.
2Pattern20dCategory Theory Without The Baggage [] seems relevant.
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