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Willa's Shortform

Shortform #104 Movies, oh movies

I love working extra hours earlier in the week to allow for a short day Friday, may push for working four 10s to just get Fridays off entirely. Anyway, I finished watching Dune which I had watched partially last month, then I watched Men in Black: International.

I'm not very good at movie critiques, so I won't offer any in that direction for Dune or MIB: International. To think critically about a piece of media, I almost always have to experience it twice, and I did not watch those movies twice (only once).

I freaking loved th... (read more)

Willa's Shortform

Shortform #102 Consistent sleep & wake times experiment

I'm tired of being tired so much during the day, to an extent that is genuinely life & job performance interfering. Time to improve my sleep quality & habits!

I commit to this experiment for one month, the experiment begins tomorrow 11 August, 2022. The experiment will be reevaluated on September 11, 2022. I will be asleep by 10pm each night and awake at 6am each morning, no exceptions for weekends or holidays.

Happy for any suggestions or comments about other ways to improve sleep quality to... (read more)

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Thanks for the well wishes :)

And the reminder; I've taken my Apple Watch out of storage and will use that each night for sleep tracking, it has all those sensors you mentioned.

Oh wow! That's an intensely early start time, my current job is only 8am, but have had as early as 6:30-7am start times in the past.

What caused insomnia issue(s) later in life? If you're okay sharing.

No specific suggestions other than maybe to consider perusing the sleep tag [] here and perhaps this article [] from the EA Forum last year. Best of luck with your experiment! :)
Thanks! I'm familiar with some of the items in the sleep tag, especially Guzey's writings about sleep, those were good. Checking out the EA Forum article and more things from the sleep tag tomorrow or Sunday. I appreciate the well wishes :)
mike_hawke's Shortform

Uh oh, do you really leave the news playing in your living room all the time? Don't you know it's corrosive to your epistemics and agency? Plane crashes are overrated and chronic stress is underrated!

This is pretty much my default attitude, but...SSC once wrote that smoking possibly mitigates schizophrenia, and that "[t]his should be a warning to anyone who’s too quick to tell patients that their coping strategies are maladaptive."
News does have those downsides, just like smoking does cause cancer. But it's good to remember that load-bearing bugs are the r... (read more)

Linda Linsefors's Shortform

Blogposts are the result of noticing difference in beliefs. 
Either between you and other of between you and you, across time.

I have lots of ideas that I don't communicate. Sometimes I read a blogpost and think "yea I knew that, why didn't I write this". And the answer is that I did not have an imagined audience.

My blogposts almost always span after I explained a thing ~3 times in meat space. Generalizing from these conversations I form an imagined audience which is some combination of the ~3 people I talked to. And then I can write. 

(In a convers... (read more)


I need a LW feature equivalent to stop-loss where if I post something risky and it goes below -3 or -5 it self-destructs.

mike_hawke's Shortform

What good thing happens if you read The Sequences?

  • You see repeated examples of rigorous thought about slippery topics, very deliberately setting up the seductive cached answers and then swerving away from them.
  • Exposure to a lot of carefully applied Transhumanism. Mostly in Fun Theory but also sprinkled throughout. The transhumanism is sincere and often emotionally charged, not just smug philosophical gotchas.
  • The concepts & jargon are really useful. Yeah, jargon has its downsides, no doubt, but it is still overwhelmingly net positive.
  • A thorough ar
... (read more)
Willa's Shortform

Shortform #103 Friends are great!

Note to self, I really want to read "Friendship is Optimal", that along with a rather large number of other things are on my list. A list that would benefit from some pruning, curation, and possibly publishing.

I met with a new friend tonight at a lovely Japanese Fusion place for dinner, and we had ridiculously pleasant, deep, and good conversations.

Friends are amazing. Good night, I must sleep now.

Indeed they are :)

hath's Shortform

Upcoming Posts

Now that I'm back from [Atlas Fellowship+SPARC+EAG+Future Forum], I have some post ideas to write up. A brief summary:

Agency and Authority, an actual in-depth, gears-level explanation of agency, parenting, the two kinds of respect, moral conflation with that respect, the fact that those in power are incentivized to make their underlings more legible and predictable to them, arbitrarily high punishments and outcome matrices, absolute control and concessions, incentives for those not in power and how those incentives turn you into less of an a... (read more)


Within the next fifteen years AI is going to briefly seem like it's solving computer security (50% chance) and then it's going to enhance attacker capabilities to the point that it causes severe economic damage (50% chance).

Does "seem like it's solving computer security" look like helping develop better passively secure systems, or like actively monitoring and noticing bad actions, or both or something else?

My thoughts are mostly about the latter, although better code scanning will be a big help too. A majority of financially impactful corporate breaches are due to a compromised active directory network, and a majority of security spending by non-tech companies is used to prevent those from happening. The obvious application for the next generation of ML is extremely effective EDR and active monitoring. No more lateral movement/privilege escalation on a corporate domain means no more domain wide compromise, which generally means no more e.g. big ransomware sc... (read more)

TurnTrout's shortform feed

Against "Evolution did it." 

"Why do worms regenerate without higher cancer incidence? Hm, perhaps because they were selected to do that!" 

"Evolution did it" explains why a trait was brought into existence, but not how the trait is implemented. You should still feel confused about the above question, even after saying "Evolution did it!". 

I thought I learned not to make this mistake a few months ago, but I made it again today in a discussion with Andrew Critch. Evolution did it is not a mechanistic explanation.

Yeah, it is like saying "energetically more favorable state".

Linda Linsefors's Shortform

This is probably too obvious to write, but I'm going to say it anyway. It's my short form, and approximately no-one reads short forms. Or so I'm told.

Human value formation is to a large part steered by other humans suggesting value systems for you. You get some hard to interpret reward signal from your brainstem, or something. There are lots of "hypothesis" for the "correct reward function" you should learn. 

(Quotation marks because there are no ground through for what values you should have. But this is mathematically equivalent to a learning the tru... (read more)

Somebody is reading shortforms... I disagree. That humans learn values primarily via teaching. 1) parenting is known to have little effect on children's character - which is one way of saying their values. 2) while children learn to follow rules teens are good at figuring out what is in their interest. I think it makes sense to pose argue the point though. For example I think that proposing rules makes it more probable that the brain converges on these solutions.

1) parenting is known to have little effect on children's character


This is not counter evidence to my claim. The value framework a child learns about  from their parents is just one of many value frameworks they hear about from many, many people. My claim is that the power lies in noticing the hypothesis at all. Which ideas you get told more times (e.g. by your parents) don't matter.

As far as I know, what culture you are in very much influences your values, which my claim would predict.

2) while children learn to follow rules teens are good at figuring out what is in their interest.

I'm not making any claims about rule following. 

Linda Linsefors's Shortform

What is alignment? (operationalisation)

Toy model: Each agent has a utility function they want to maximise. The input to the utility function is a list of values describing the state of the world. Different agents can have different input vectors. Assume that every utility function monotonically increases, decreases or stays constant for changes in each impute variable (I did say it was a toy model!). An agent is said to value something if the utility function increases with increasing quantity of that thing. Note that if an agents utility function decrease... (read more)

Willa's Shortform

Shortform #101 Conversation experiment: Tabooing $topics after previously discussed for $time

Do you ever find yourself talking at length, sometimes repetitively about the same topic(s)? Do you notice others around you doing similarly? Experiment with tabooing that topic or topics (with consent of your conversation partner(s), of course) for an evening (or whatever your time interval is) and see what happens!

Spur of the moment tonight, I asked my friend after we finished coworking and were hanging out if they wanted to try the conversation topic taboo exper... (read more)

Thomas Kwa's Shortform

Below is a list of powerful optimizers ranked on properties, as part of a brainstorm on whether there's a simple core of consequentialism that excludes corrigibility. I think that AlphaZero is a moderately strong argument that there is a simple core of consequentialism which includes inner search.


  • Simple: takes less than 10 KB of code. If something is already made of agents (markets and the US government) I marked it as N/A.
  • Coherent: approximately maximizing a utility function most of the time. There are other definitions:
    • Not being money-pumped
    • Nat
... (read more)
ai dude's Shortform

There is no concrete definition of what an AGI actually is. Discussions around this subject matter mostly revolves around integrating nondeterministic systems in modern civilization. Humans on a very basic level operate in both deterministic and nondeterministic ways, and one may substitute another even in the same domain of an individual just because of different context or time. Reality is similar in that it constitutes both determinism and nondeterminism, but cognition has only been able to operate in the deterministic space, thus throughout most of his... (read more)

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Can you please explain how does this not match the definition? I don't yet understand all the math, but intuitively, if H creates G / doesn't interfere with the creation of G, then if H instead followed policy "do not create G/ do interfere with the creation of G", then G's code wouldn't run? Can you please give an example of a precursor that does match the definition?

The problem is that if implies that creates but you consider a counterfactual in which doesn't create then you get an inconsistent hypothesis i.e. a HUC which contains only 0. It is not clear what to do with that. In other words, the usual way of defining counterfactuals in IB (I tentatively named it "hard counterfactuals") only makes sense when the condition you're counterfactualizing on is something you have Knightian uncertainty about (which seems safe to assume if this condition is about your own future action but not safe to assume in genera... (read more)

2Vanessa Kosoy1mo
Here's a video [] of a talk I gave about PreDCA.
Viliam's Shortform

I noticed that some people use "skeptical" to mean "my armchair reasoning is better than all expert knowledge and research, especially if I am completely unfamiliar with it".

Example (not a real one): "I am skeptical about the idea that objects would actually change their length when their speed approaches the speed of light."

The advantage of this usage is that it allows you to dismiss all expertise you don't agree with, while making you sound a bit like an expert.

I suspect you're reacting to the actual beliefs (disbelief in your example), rather than the word usage. In common parlance, "skeptical" means "assign low probability", and that usage is completely normal and understandable. The ability to dismiss expertise you don't like is built into humans, not a feature of the word "skeptical". You could easily replace "I am skeptical" with "I don't believe" or "I don't think it's likely" or just "it's not really true".

I think that "skeptical" works better as a status move. If I say I don't believe you, that makes us two equals who disagree. If I say I am skeptical... I kinda imply that you are not. Similarly, a third party now has the options to either join the skeptical or the non-skeptical side of the debate.

(Or maybe I'm just overthinking things, of course.)

Willa's Shortform

Shortform #100 Writing publicly considered beneficial, fun, and not that scary

After writing one hundred shortform posts, writing publicly no longer feels scary and really just feels like a habit more than anything else (especially because the last 33 posts were near daily or daily). A habit I intend to continue as these are fun to write (even when I feel grumpy or hit an ugh field before doing so) and occupy a nice role in my life, plus I love growing my writing & other skills when creating these posts.

I feel a strong desire to write bigger posts than ... (read more)

Raj Thimmiah's Shortform

Are there any modern competitors to metamed? Have a health issue, very willing to spend money to fix it. might be a good way to find somebody who provides that kind of service. 

You could post a research bounty on this site.
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