All of Teja Prabhu's Comments + Replies

The Epsilon Fallacy
The first response is what I’m calling the epsilon fallacy. (If you know of an existing and/or better name for this, let me know!)

This reminds me of Amdahl's Law. You could call it Amdahl's fallacy, but I'm not sure if it is a better name.

3mraxilus3yAs a fellow programmer, I think the epsilon fallacy is more memorable. If it were Amdahl's fallacy, it would be one of those fallacies I have to constantly lookup the fifty times or so (terrible memory, and not enough slack/motivation for a fallacy memory palace).
TAPs 3: Reductionism

One common failure mode I've noticed in myself is taking breaks. After some productive work, I sometimes intend to take a 5 min or 10 min break, but I end up never returning in the specified time. In fact, I sometimes take several days to get back on to the task at hand.

It's like Zeno's paradox kicks in every time you try to start afresh after a break.

I've previously tried to avoid taking breaks in the first place ― and work in three hour sessions, but I wasn't consistent enough to do this everyday.

5tcheasdfjkl3yI've also had this problem. I think the following things help: 1) making the specified time 10 minutes rather than 5 - 5 never feels like a real break to me 2) doing social pomodoros with other people, so the return time is coordinated with others (this is by far the most effective intervention) 3) doing a breaktime activity that doesn't immediately suck me in (e.g. stretching and listening to a song, or talking to people, rather than social media) 4) if I encounter something during the break that feels important or urgent, write it down so I know I won't forget it and can come back to it later 5) ...not being terrified of the task in question. I haven't yet quite gotten the hang of this, for a lot of things. For tasks that are not very scary to me, returning to work is much easier. 6) having enough other time in the day to do things just for fun so I feel less like I have to steal productive time in order to have any fun at all (this is kinda hard to arrange though, sometimes)
3alkjash3yIt's surprising that taking a five or ten minute break makes such a big difference. I wonder what would happen if you practicing taking 5 minute breaks throughout the day, e.g. pomodoros.
The Jordan Peterson Mask

I've had trouble making up my mind about Jordan Peterson, and this post was enormously helpful in clarifying my thinking about him. Also:

A new expansion just came out for the Civilization 6 video game, and instead of playing it I’m nine hours into writing this post and barely halfway done. I hope I’m not the only one getting some meaning out of this thing.

This resulted in me updating heavily for the amount of effort involved in writing great content.

This post took about 13 hours, and I didn't even edit the first draft much. Just imagine how long great content would take!

On the other hand, from a couple of conversations I've had with Scott he seems to write much faster and with almost no editing needed. Something like this might take him 3-4 hours in a single sitting. I've only been writing seriously for a couple of years - maybe writers get faster with time, and maybe Scott is just in a different class in terms of talent.


I don't know if this is what you read, but this reminds me of Bell Labs:

ONE element of his approach was architectural. He personally helped design a building in Murray Hill, N.J., opened in 1941, where everyone would interact with one another. Some of the hallways in the building were designed to be so long that to look down their length was to see the end disappear at a vanishing point. Traveling the hall’s length without encountering a number of acquaintances, problems, diversions and ideas was almost impossible. A physicist on his way to lunch in t
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6Qiaochu_Yuan3yThe thing I read was either about Bell Labs, Google, Pixar, or a lab at MIT. I may have seen multiple articles make this point.
Intuition should be applied at the lowest possible level

I had worded it somewhat poorly, I wasn't intending to say that Steve Jobs should have attempted a lower level analysis in technology design.

I just found it unconvincing in the sense that I couldn't think of an example where applying lower level intuitions was a strategic mistake for me in particular. As you mention in your other comment, I am not substantially more certain that my high-level intuition is well-honed in any particular discipline.

More generally, Steve Jobs' consistently applied high-level intuition to big life decisions too ―... (read more)

Intuition should be applied at the lowest possible level

I reflexively tried to reverse the advice, and found it surprisingly hard to think of situations where applying higher level intuition would be better.

There's an excerpt by chess GM Michael Tal:

We reached a very complicated position where I was intending to sacrifice a knight. The sacrifice was not obvious; there was a large number of possible variations; but when I began to study hard and work through them, I found to my horror that nothing would come of it. Ideas piled up one after another. I would transport a subtle reply by my opponent, which wor
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2Said Achmiz3yAlso, why is the Steve Jobs example unconvincing? It seems, in fact, an example of the sort of thing [] I am talking about. Here’s something that Bruce Tognazzini (HCI expert and author of the famous Apple Human Interface Guidelines) said [] about Steve Jobs: Had you asked Steve Jobs to break down his intuitions into lower-level components, and then evaluate those, he may well have failed. And yet he made incredible, groundbreaking, visionary products, again and again and again. He had good reason to be confident in his high-level intuitions. Why would he want to discard those, and attempt a lower-level analysis?
3Said Achmiz3yApplying intuition at lower levels is a strategic mistake when you are substantially more certain that your high-level intuition is well-honed, than you are of your ability to explicitly decompose the high level into lower-level components. (It can also be a strategic mistake for computational-cost reasons, as I outline in my other comment [] .)
Subduing Moloch

LessWrong also has an existing slack channel, I don't know if it is active ― I sent a private message to Elo on the old LessWrong to get an invite. It was created in 2015, back then only way to join was an email invite ― but now it is possible to get an invite link.

If I get an invite, I'll try to convince Elo to install the plugin and tell him to give out an invite link. I was about to create a new slack channel, but I remembered this relevant xkcd.

Subduing Moloch

Thanks for your input!

You are correct ― scheduling is a problem. Perhaps we can get around that by building something like Omegle but with only rationalists in it. It shouldn't be too hard to hack together something with WebRTC to create some sort of a chat room where you are automatically matched with strangers, and can video chat with them.

2StefanDeYoung3yIn her recent post [] about working remotely, Julia Evans mentions [] as a slack plugin that randomly pairs members of a slack channel for discussions.
3ChristianKl3yWe do have a Discord channel. Given that Discord has video chat it would be a straightforward place to ask people for video chatting with rationalist. There's also the Lesswrong study hall that provides existing video chatting between rationalists:
Crypto autopsy reply
Sanity checks are usually pretty easy to do, but if you can't do them, then this strategy just won't work.

I concede that Bitcoin is pretty easy to understand and sanity check (merkle trees aren't that hard to wrap your head around ― I would have invested in Bitcoin in 2012 when I heard about it, but I was in high school and had no disposable income). But sanity checking Tezos is much harder:

It turns out that a silver bullet for chain validation is right on the horizon and under active research: recursive SNARKs. SNARKs, which stands for suc
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1alexei3yTo clarify, I'm not arguing that Tezos is shiny right now. It was shiny during ICO, and now it's possible I wouldn't buy it. But OCaml was certainly one of the big factors that lept at me. It signalled that they were serious about writing code that could be proven to be correct. (This is in contrast to Ethereum's Solidity.) Basically: 1) I looked at what they were promising to do, and it seemed to have enough additional good things beyond Ethereum, 2) nobody I saw was disputing their tech, so I didn't have to understand it in detail, just enough to verify that it seemed innovative, and 3) they had a credible team (this was before the conflict). To me that was sufficient at the time, given that much much shittier ICOs were making money hand over first.
Crypto autopsy reply
By that time I had sufficient interest in crypto to take the time to read and understand what it was about, and how it was different.

I think you're underestimating the amount of insider knowledge you've gained and the cost of attaining that insider knowledge. Eliezer is certainly surrounded by smart people and MIRI received half of its donations in crypto. Yet, they still did not invest in crypto. I think this is because they lacked deep insider knowledge about cryptocurrencies.

I think what usually happens is ― a rationalist hears about shiny thi... (read more)

2alexei3yThe cost is actually not that high. I spent may be 5-10 hours researching Bitcoin (about 5 hours before I invested; 10 hours total). There aren't that many things one can invest 5-10 hours into and instantly make money. In fact, none of your examples come even close. Those are huge fields that you need to sink a ton of hours into before you can start reaping rewards. And none of them have direct monetary rewards like crypto. Ok, then may be I've overestimating how easy it is to look at crypto coins and have a rough guess at how good they are. It's also possible I'm overestimating my own skill at it; it's not like I have that many data points yet. (Not knowing you very well, I won't make hypotheses about you.) Absolutely not. I'm advocating reading the thinking and research that smart people did and following their pointers, but then also checking for sanity. Sanity checks are usually pretty easy to do, but if you can't do them, then this strategy just won't work.
8ChristianKl3yThe core case for Tezos is the following: A single bug in an Etherum dapp brought down The DAO, bug's in dapps seem to be very costly. Tezos uses a programming language for dapps that support proves of correctness. For normal programming few people care about proofs of correctness. Toyota started caring when their vehicles accelerated and some military contractors care but otherwise most people aren't serious enough to care about bug freeness to program with proves of correctness. A second issue with crypto-currency is transaction costs. As the time of this writing the media bitcoin transaction costs $2.56 while the medium fee for Etherum is $0.27. Both are too high for a lot of the promised ways to use the blockchain. The Bitcoin protocol's solution is the Lightning Network that can transfer money but won't run dapps. Ethereum goes for sharding. Tezos bets on the fact that mathematical advances in recently discovered STARKs []will allow STARKs to be calculated faster and that this will allow scalling without sharding. I don't enough enough details to speak about the merits of that decision. Another issue with Tezos is governance: