Shortform Content [Beta]

NaiveTortoise's Short Form Feed

Weird thing I wish existed: I wish there were more videos of what I think of as 'math/programming speedruns'. For those familiar with speedrunning video games, this would be similar except the idea would be to do the same thing for a math proof or programming problem. While it might seem like this would be quite boring since the solution to the problem/proof is known, I still think there's an element of skill to and would enjoy watching someone do everything they can to get to a solution, proof, etc. as quickly as possible (in an editor, on paper, LaTex, e

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1AprilSR1hThe problem with this is that it is very difficult to figure out what counts as a legitimate proof. What level of rigor is required, exactly? Are they allowed to memorize a proof beforehand? If not, how much are they allowed to know?

Yeah what would be ideal is if theorem provers were more usable and then this wouldn't be an issue (although of course there's still the issue of library code vs. from scratch code but this seems easier to deal with).

Memorizing a proof seems fine (in the same way that I assume you end up basically memorizing the game map if you do a speedrun).

G Gordon Worley III's Shortform

As I work towards becoming less confused about what we mean when we talk about values, I find that it feels a lot like I'm working on a jigsaw puzzle where I don't know what the picture is. Also all the pieces have been scattered around the room and I have to find the pieces first, digging between couch cushions and looking under the rug and behind the bookcase, let alone figure out how they fit together or what they fit together to describe.

Yes, we have some pieces already and others think they know (infer, guess) what the picture is from those ... (read more)

ChristianKl's Shortform

I remember reading a link to a long article this month that was about how the New York times is very narrative driven and that the editors often decide on the narrative of the article before going out to research it. Does anybody know which article I mean?

12Thomas Kwa1dThis one? [] For me, an article linking to this one was the fifth Google result for "new york times narrative driven".

Yes, thank you. I did search for NYTimes and didn't think of using the fullname.

romeostevensit's Shortform

So, the USA seems steadily on trend for between 100-200k deaths. Certainly *feels* like there's no way the stock market has actually priced this in. Reference classes feel pretty hard to define here.

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8ioannes_shade2dEconomists mostly disagree with present market sentiment, which could be the basis for a trade: []
3romeostevensit2dInteresting. The idea here that the market is still on average underestimating the duration and thus the magnitude of the contraction?

I think that's right.

Pattern's Shortform Feed

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Mati_Roy's Shortform

EtA: moved to a question:

Why do we have offices?

They seem expensive, and not useful for jobs that can apparently be done remotely.


  • Social presence of other people working:
  • Accountability
  • High bandwidth communication
  • Meta communication (knowing who's available to talk to)
  • Status quo bias

status: to integrate

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thanks for your comment!

I just realized I should have used the question feature instead; here it is:

1Mati_Roy3dthanks for your comment! I just realized I should have used the question feature instead; here it is: []
1Mati_Roy3dthanks for your comment! I just realized I should have used the question feature instead; here it is: []
johnswentworth's Shortform

For short-term, individual cost/benefit calculations around C19, it seems like uncertainty in the number of people currently infected should drop out of the calculation.

For instance: suppose I'm thinking about the risk associated with talking to a random stranger, e.g. a cashier. My estimated chance of catching C19 from this encounter will be roughly proportional to . But, assuming we already have reasonably good data on number hospitalized/died, my chances of hospitalization/death given infection will be roughly inversely proportional to ... (read more)

MichaelA's Shortform

Collection of discussions of epistemic modesty, "rationalist/EA exceptionalism", and similar

These are currently in reverse-chronological order.

AI, global coordination, and epistemic humility - Jaan Tallinn, 2018

In defence of epistemic modesty - Greg Lewis, 2017

Inadequate Equilibria - Eliezer Yudkowsky, 2017

Common sense as a prior - Nick Beckstead, 2013

From memory, I think a decent amount of Rationality: A-Z by Eliezer Yudkowsky is relevant

Philosophical Majoritarianism - Hal Finney, 2007

Somewhat less relevant/substantial

This comment/question - ... (read more)

Mati_Roy's Shortform

Personal Wiki

might be useful for people to have personal wiki where they take note instead of everyone taking notes in private Gdoc

status: to do / to integrate

Benito's Shortform Feed

Hot take: The actual resolution to the simulation argument is that most advanced civilizations don't make loads of simulations.

Two things make this make sense:

  • Firstly, it only matters if they make unlawful simulations. If they make lawful simulations, then it doesn't matter whether you're in a simulation or a base reality, all of your decision theory and incentives are essentially the same, you want to take the same decisions in all of the universes. So you can make lots of lawful simulations, that's fine.
  • Secondly, they will strategically choose to not mak
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3Ben Pace5dI just don’t think it’s a good decision to make, regardless of the math. If I’m nearing the end of the universe, I prefer to spend all my compute instead maximising fun / searching for a way out. Trying to run simulations to make it so I no longer know if I’m about to die seems like a dumb use of compute. I can bear the thought of dying dude, there’s better uses of that compute. You’re not saving yourself, you’re just intentionally making yourself confused because you’re uncomfortable with the thought of death.
2Daniel Kokotajlo5dWell, that wasn't the scenario I had in mind. The scenario I had in mind was: People in the year 2030 pass a law requiring future governments to make ancestor simulations with happy afterlives, because that way it's probable that they themselves will be in such a simulation. (It's like cryonics, but cheaper!) Then, hundreds or billions of years later, the future government carries out the plan, as required by law. Not saying this is what we should do, just saying it's a decision I could sympathize with, and I imagine it's a decision some fraction of people would make, if they thought it was an option.

Thinking more, I think there are good arguments for taking actions that as a by-product induce anthropic uncertainty; these are the standard hansonian situation where you build lots of ems of yourself to do bits of work then turn them off. 

But I still don't agree with the people in the situation you describe because they're optimising over their own epistemic state, I think they're morally wrong to do that. I'm totally fine with a law requiring future governments to rebuild you / an em of you and give you a nice life (perhaps as a trade for working ha

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Douglas_Knight's Shortform

two tweets:

[Carl Schmitt is a good philosopher but] One nightmarish way to understand The Discourse is that somehow Carl Schmitt became the obvious, agreed-upon, common-sense interpretation of politics. All sides nod sagely, but each fetishizes a different book.
So the left gets Political Theology, the right gets Nomos of the Earth. Quilette-style centrists are 100% indebted to the Concept of the Political.
Douglas_Knight's Shortform

The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith is a great book. My favorite part is Book III, Chapter 4 on the end of feudalism. In particular, I like these two paragraphs:

In a country which has neither foreign commerce, nor any of the finer manufactures, a great proprietor, having nothing for which he can exchange the greater part of the produce of his lands which is over and above the maintenance of the cultivators, consumes the whole in rustic hospitality at home. If this surplus produce is sufficient to maintain a hundred or a thousand men, he can make use of it
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landfish lab

COVID-19 Contact tracing efforts

US Efforts:

Covid Watch

Private Kit, Safe Paths

South Korea’s Tracking Effort

Their app

SMS messages about cases locations, etc.

Other Articles

Wired’s reporting on S Korea and China’s use of apps (read more)

Singaporean government released their own Trace Together app last week and they're now working to open-source it.


  • uses Bluetooth to track proximity between the user's phones and notifies anyone who has been in vicinity of someone who tested positive (there is an interesting story here on how they had to first overcome the issue of varying Bluetooth strength based on phone models)
  • does not collect personal information (a consent is needed upfront)
  • does not capture GPS data
  • installed by 620,000 users (as of 23 March) which is roughly 11% of Sin
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4John_Maxwell12dHere's some contact tracing discussion on reddit, you might want to post there/contact individuals there: []
3landfish15dGovernment and tech companies / tracking [] Palintir already helping government track cases -- Article notes that government can get location data from telecoms, but that google has even more precise data from maps and android, which the government can also ask for in an emergency
TurnTrout's shortform feed

It seems to me that Zeno's paradoxes leverage incorrect, naïve notions of time and computation. We exist in the world, and we might suppose that that the world is being computed in some way. If time is continuous, then the computer might need to do some pretty weird things to determine our location at an infinite number of intermediate times. However, even if that were the case, we would never notice it – we exist within time and we would not observe the external behavior of the system which is computing us, nor its runtime.

2Pattern6dWhat are your thoughts on infinitely small quantities?

Don't have much of an opinion - I haven't rigorously studied infinitesimals yet. I usually just think of infinite / infinitely small quantities as being produced by limiting processes. For example, the intersection of all the -balls around a real number is just that number (under the standard topology), which set has 0 measure and is, in a sense, "infinitely small".

MichaelA's Shortform

Collection of discussions of key cruxes related to AI safety/alignment

These are works that highlight disagreements, cruxes, debates, assumptions, etc. about the importance of AI safety/alignment, about which risks are most likely, about which strategies to prioritise, etc.

I've also included some works that attempt to clearly lay out a particular view in a way that could be particularly helpful for others trying to see where the cruxes are, even if the work itself don't spend much time addressing alternative views. I'm not sure precisely whe... (read more)

3Matthew Barnett6dI think you should add Clarifying some key hypotheses in AI alignment [] .

Ah yes, meant to add that but apparently missed it. Added now. Thanks!

MichaelA's Shortform

Psychology: An Imperfect and Improving Science

This is an essay I wrote in 2017 as coursework for the final year of my Psychology undergrad degree. (That was a year before I learned about EA and the rationalist movement.)

I’m posting this as a shortform comment, rather than as a full post, because it’s now a little outdated, it’s just one of many things that people have written on this topic, and I don’t think the topic is of central interest to a massive portion of LessWrong readers. But I do think it holds up well, is pretty cl... (read more)


Alatalo, R. V., Mappes, J., & Elgar, M. A. (1997). Heritabilities and paradigm shifts. Nature, 385(6615), 402-403. doi:10.1038/385402a0

Anderson, D. R., Burnham, K. P., Gould, W. R., & Cherry, S. (2001). Concerns about finding effects that are actually spurious. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 29(1), 311-316.

Anderson, M. S., Martinson, B. C., & Vries, R. D. (2007). Normative dissonance in science: Results from a national survey of U.S. scientists. Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics: An International Journal, 2(4), 3-14. ... (read more)

Matt Goldenberg's Short Form Feed

Something else in the vein of "things EAs and rationalists should be paying attention to in regards to Corona."

There's a common failure mode in large human systems where one outlier causes us to create a rule that is a worse equilibrium. In the PersonalMBA, Josh Kaufman talks about someone taking advantage of a "buy any book you want" rule that a company has - so you make it so that you can no longer get any free books.

This same pattern has happened before in the US, after 9-11 - We created a whole bunch of security theater, that ... (read more)

ofer's Shortform

Uneducated hypothesis: All hominidae species tend to thrive in huge forests, unless they've discovered fire. From the moment a species discovers fire, any individual can unilaterally burn the entire forest (due to negligence/anger/curiosity/whatever), and thus a huge forest is unlikely to serve as a long-term habitat for many individuals of that species.

Counterpoint: people today inhabit forested/jungled areas without burning everything down by accident (as far as I know; it's the kind of fact I would expect to have heard about if true), and even use fire for controlled burns to manage the forest/jungle.

TurnTrout's shortform feed

To prolong my medicine stores by 200%, I've mixed in similar-looking iron supplement placebos with my real medication. (To be clear, nothing serious happens to me if I miss days)

George's Shortform

I find it interesting what kind of beliefs one needs to question and in which ways in order to get people angry/upset/touchy.

Or, to put it in more popular terms, what kind of arguments make you seem like a smart-ass when arguing with someone.

For example, reading Eliezer yudkowsky's Rationality from AI to Zombies, I found myself generally speaking liking the writing style and to a karge extent the book was just reinforcing the biases I already had. Other then some of his poorly thought out metaphysics based on which he bases his ethics argument... I ho... (read more)

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