All of ACrackedPot's Comments + Replies

ACrackedPot's Shortform

This concept is not fully formed.  It is necessary that it is not fully formed, because once I have finished forming it, it won't be something I can communicate any longer; it will become, to borrow a turn of phrase from SMBC, rotten with specificity.

I have noticed a shortcoming in my model of reality.  It isn't a problem with the accuracy of the model, but rather there is an important feature of the model missing.  It is particularly to do with people, and the shortcoming is this: I have no conceptual texture, no conceptual hook, to attach ... (read more)

ACrackedPot's Shortform

I really, really dislike waste.

But the thing is, I basically hate the way everybody else hates waste, because I get the impression that they don't actually hate waste, they hate something else.

People who talk about limited resources don't actually hate waste - they hate the expenditure of limited resources.

People who talk about waste disposal don't actually hate waste - they hate landfills, or trash on the side of the road, or any number of other things that aren't actually waste.

People who talk about opportunity costs ('wasteful spending') don't hate the ... (read more)

Why are the websites of major companies so bad at core functionality?

How does it come that those companies employ 1000s of software developers yet manage to do badly on the task of providing basic functions to users? What are all those engineers doing?

The basic functions from your perspective are different from the basic functions from the perspective of the company, basically, whose perspective is necessarily limited.

I've been considering a set of thoughts related to this for a while, which summarize, only slightly misleadingly, as "Caring is expensive."  By caring, I mean in a very general way, rather than in a speci... (read more)

2Gurkenglas1dCouldn't you make them care by making their pay dependent on how well they predict what you would decide, as measured by you redoing the decision for a representative sample of tasks?
Decontextualizing Morality

Wow.  Now I'm curious whether your moral framwork applies only to yourself, or to all people, or to all people who "experience morality" similarly to you.

Mu?  It applies to whoever thinks it useful.

I think morality is an experience, which people have greater or lesser access to; I don't think it is actually meaningful to judge other people's morality.  Insofar as you judge other people immoral, I think you're missing the substantive nature of morality in favor of a question of whether or not other people sufficiently maximize your values.

If ... (read more)

2Dagon3dInteresting. I'll have to think on that. My previous conception of the topic is that it's a focal topic for a subset of decision theory - it's a lens to look at which predictions and payouts should be considered for impact on other people.
Decontextualizing Morality

I feel like I was reasonably clear that the major concern was about how utilitarianism interacts with being human, as much of the focus is on moral luck.

Insofar as an intelligent boat can be made miserable by failing to live up to an impossible moral system, well, I don't know, maybe don't design it that way.

Decontextualizing Morality

Would you mind unpacking this?

3Vladimir_Nesov4dThere are many ways of framing the situation, looking for models of what's going on that have radically different shapes. It's crucial to establish some sort of clarity about what kind of model we are looking for, what kind of questions or judgements we are trying to develop. You seem to be conflating a lot of this, so I gave examples of importantly different framings. Some of these might fit what you are looking for, or help with noticing specific cases where they are getting mixed up.
Decontextualizing Morality

Punishment is extremely distinct from moral evaluation.  We make moral judgements about agents and actions - are they acting "properly", based on whatever we think is proper.  Are they doing the best they can, in whatever context they are in?  If not, why not?

Moral judgement is often cited as a reason to impose punishment, but it's not actually part of the moral evaluation - it's a power tactic to enforce behavior in the absence of moral agreement.  Judging someone as morally flawed is NOT a punishment.  It's just an evaluation in

... (read more)
2Dagon3dWow. Now I'm curious whether your moral framwork applies only to yourself, or to all people, or to all people who "experience morality" similarly to you. I do primarily use system 2 for moral evaluations - my gut reactions tend to be fairly short-term and selfish for my reasoned preferences. And I do recognize that I (and all known instances of a moral agent) am flawed - I sometimes do things that I don't think are best, and my reasons for the failures aren't compelling to me.
ACrackedPot's Shortform

We can suppose that the god is just observing what happens when a particular mathematical equation runs; that is, the universe can, in a certain sense, be entirely independent of the god's thoughts and psychological traits.

Independence might be close enough to "external" for the "external world" concept to apply; so we can evaluate reality as independent from, even for argument's sake external to, the god's mind, even though it exists within it.

So we can have truth which is analogous to Eliezer's truth.

Now, the question is - does the "external world" and "... (read more)

ACrackedPot's Shortform

Observe.  (If you don't want to or can't, it's a video showing the compression wave that forms in traffic when a car brakes.)

I first saw that video a few years ago.  I remembered it a few weeks ago when driving in traffic, and realizing that a particular traffic condition was caused by an event that had happened some time in the past, that had left an impression, a memory, in the patterns of traffic.  The event, no longer present, was still recorded.  The wave form in the traffic patterns was a record of an event - traffic can operate a... (read more)

3Zac Hatfield Dodds5dYou have (re)invented delay-line memory []! Acoustic memory in mercury tubes was indeed used by most of first-generation electronic computers (1948-60ish); I love the aesthetic but admit they're terrible even compared to electromagnetic delay lines. An even better (British) aesthetic would be Turing's suggestion of using Gin as the acoustic medium...
4Dagon5dData storage and transmission are the same thing. Both are communication to the future, (though sometimes to the very very near future). Over long enough distances, radio and wires can be information storage. Like all storage media, they aren't permanent, and need to be refreshed periodically. For waves, this period is short, microseconds to hours. For more traditional storage (clay tablets or engraved gold discs sent to space, for instance), it could be decades to millenea. Traffic is quite lossy as an information medium - effects remain for hours, but there are MANY possible causes of the same effects, and hard-to-predict decay and reinforcement rates, so it only carries a small amount of information: something happened in the recent past. Generally, this is a good thing - most of us prefer that we're not part of that somewhat costly information storage, and we pay traffic engineers and car designers a great deal of money to minimize information retention in our roads.
Why I Work on Ads

I think you're somewhat underselling the bad by saying the thing that usually annoys you is insufficiently targeted advertisements, because it's downplaying the bad, like auto-play video/audio ads, or ads that expand or move around the screen.

I'm also noticing a trend - Youtube, I'm looking at you - of making advertisements less about actually selling advertisement, and more as a punishment for using the free version of a service as an incentive to push people onto the paid version.

These two things may not be entirely unrelated.


Also, while I think yo... (read more)

ACrackedPot's Shortform

EDIT: It's actually quite an interesting blogger! The article on reality didn't impress me, but many others did. For example, Internet communities: Otters vs. Possums is a way more charitable interpretation of the "geeks and sociopaths" dynamics in communities.

Her writing is pretty good, yeah.

The rest of the blog made me pause on the article for a lot longer than I usually would have, to try to figure out what the heck she was even arguing.  There really is a thing there, which is why when I figured it out I came here and posted it.  Apparently i... (read more)

ACrackedPot's Shortform

The criticism Aella is making is substantively different than "reality isn't real".

So, imagine you're god.  All of reality takes place in your mind; reality is literally just a thought you had.  How does Eliezer's concept of "truth" work in that case?

Suppose you're mentally ill.  How much should you trust something that claims to be a mind?  Is it possible for imaginary things to surprise you?  What does truth mean, if your interface to the "external world"/"reality" isn't reliable?

Suppose you're lucid dreaming.  Does the noti... (read more)

2Viliam5dThen the god's mind would be the reality; god's psychological traits would be the new "laws of physics", kind of. I admit I have a problem imagining "thoughts" without also imagining a mind. The mechanism that implements the mind would be the underlying reality.
ACrackedPot's Shortform

Talking about words is an apt metaphor, but somewhat misleading in the specifics.  Abstractly, I think Aella is saying that, in the map-territory dichotomy, the "territory" part of the dichotomy doesn't actually add anything; we never experience the territory, it's a strictly theoretical concept, and any correspondence we claim to have between maps and territory is actually a correspondence of maps and maps.

When you look at the world, you have a map; you are seeing a representation of the world, not the world itself.  When you hear the world, you... (read more)

2Viliam7dThe "maps all the way down" does not explain why there is (an illusion of) a reality that all these maps are about. If there is no underlying reality, why aren't the maps completely arbitrary?
Moral Privilege

I somehow haven't read this one.

Thank you, I do appreciate that.  It's an odd satire, because I think it is unintentionally correct, since the inverse square law arises in gravity basically because that is the relationship between the surface area of a sphere and the radius of that sphere.

Add social connections as an additional spacial dimension, and people's morality will be observed to follow the inverse square law for approximately the same reason as gravity.

ACrackedPot's Shortform

It took me a little while to understand what criticism Aella raised over Eliezer's defense of the concept of truth.

So to try to summarize what I am now reasonably certain the criticism was:

Eliezer argues that "truth", as a concept, reflects our expectation that our experiences of reality can match our experiences of reality.

Aella's criticism is that "of reality" adds nothing to the previous sentence, and Eliezer is sneaking reality into his concept of truth; that is, Eliezer's argument can be reframed "Our expectation of our experiences can match our exper... (read more)

1TAG6dWhereas I take the view that truth in the sense in the sense of instrumentalism, prediction of experience, and truth in the sense of realism, correspondence to the territory, are different and both valid. Having recognised the difference, you don't have to eliminate one, or identify it with the other
3Viliam7dI have read that criticism, and... feels like some map-and-territory confusion. It's like if I insisted that the only things that exist are words. And you could be like: "dude, just look at this rock! it is real!", and I would say: "but 'dude', 'just', 'look', 'at', 'this', 'rock', 'it', 'is', and 'real' are just words, aren't they?" And so on, whatever argument you give me, I will ignore it and merely point out that it consists of words, therefore it ultimately proves me right. -- Is this a deep insight, or am I just deliberately obtuse? To me it seems like the latter. By this logic, it's not even true that two plus two equals four. We only have a sensation of two plus two being four. But isn't it interesting that these "sensations" together form a coherent mathematics? Nope, we only have a sensation of these sensations forming a coherent mathematics. Yeah, but the reason I have the sensation of math being coherent is because the math actually is coherent, or isn't it? Nah, you just have a sensation of the reason of math's coherency being the math's actual coherency. But that's because... Nope, just a sensation of becauseness... To make it sound deeper: the moon allegedly does not exists, because your finger that points at it is merely a finger. EDIT: A comment below the criticism points out that the argument against reality can be also used as an argument against existence of other people (ultimately, only your sensations of other people exist), therefore this line of thought logically ends at solipsism. EDIT: It's actually quite an interesting blogger! The article on reality didn't impress me, but many others did. For example, Internet communities: Otters vs. Possums [] is a way more charitable interpretation of the "geeks and sociopaths" dynamics in communities.
Moral Privilege

I was not; that was an interesting read, thanks!

Moral Privilege

I think it requires a particular way of modeling the world in order not to be even more confusing, unfortunately; I do like it.

Moral Privilege

I think you may be extrapolating over all people's preferences, whereas I'm modeling a limited perspective; that is, I'm evaluating the pareto improvement from the set of known-to-the-modeler's preferences.  A privileged moral perspective doesn't need to be aware of unprivileged moral perspectives; that's a major component of the basic privilege involved.

I can see why that would be confusing.  But I don't think it is necessarily useful to characterize the behavior as bullying; that definitely can be how it feels, granted.  Hrm.  "It isn't that they don't think you matter, it is that they don't know you exist."

Moral Privilege

A relatively morally privileged position is one which, with respect to a specific change-in-context, can view that change-in-context as a strict pareto improvement.  A relatively unprivileged position is one for which that change-in-context is a trade-off between moral values, or a reduction in their moral values (I'm unaware of a good antonym for a pareto improvement).

Infant Annihilator has a song describing a priest having sex with a fetus still in the womb.  A religious person who thinks free speech is the devil's work will find censorship of ... (read more)

6Pattern9dThat first paragraph is so good, it should be in the post.
2Dagon9dYou haven't described any pareto improvements. When you say "net good", you're acknowledging tradeoffs between agents (and perhaps tradeoffs within agents, but that's generally resolvable via utility functions). Casting majority support as privilege doesn't add anything to the discussion - it's still just bullying of the minority. And still probably the most stable outcome and a net improvement by utilitarian (flawed) calculations.
Moral Privilege

One high-level summary that occurs to me is that "trying to solve problems sometimes makes them worse" - but I think you meant something more specific than that.


Consider "value" as meaning "moral value" for convenience in the following scenario: Imagine a straw-environmentalist, who values reduced CO2, and who also values regulation on industry (for its own sake).  From this straw perspective, regulations which reduce CO2 are a total win.  Supposing you value reducing CO2 and disvalue regulation, this is a trade-off between two values.

With re... (read more)

[ACX Linkpost] A Modest Proposal for Republicans

I think you may be doing yourself a disservice if you haven't read the Substack comments in this case; not because the arguments are good, exactly, but because of what they imply about the kind of equivocation that takes place in our society, and the reasons for it.

Summarizing the comment dynamic which I personally found illuminating: A number of Republican-oriented commenters arguing Republicans are already doing this, have already being doing this for years; a number of Republican-oriented commenters arguing this is antithetical to all of their beliefs a... (read more)

3Pattern9dThose comments sound like an argument for moving to a system that doesn't have to have only two parties.
Moral Privilege

Thank you, and I'd definitely enjoy reading a Newtonian take on morality, when you're ready to write it.

4Mo Nastri9dI know this isn't really what you're looking for, but I couldn't resist sharing Scott Alexander's satirical essay "Newtonian Ethics []": It starts out like so:
[Letter] Re: Advice for High School

I think that's a somewhat more literal interpretation than I was aiming for; what I'm gesturing at is also partially conveyed in the final paragraph, where I talk about willingness to be wrong.

If what you're thinking about is easy, what this translates to, I think, is that it's easy to be right.   If you're wrong most of the time, then it's not actually very easy.

This is not to say you should think with the intent to be wrong - that's just another way of doing things the easy way, and is also, I suppose, another way of taking what I'm saying more lite... (read more)

2niplav9dYeah, that clears things up. Thanks!
[Letter] Re: Advice for High School

Personally, the thing I find people constantly lacking in isn't raw mental horsepower, or pattern recognition, or any of the things IQ generally maps to.

It's just being willing to think.

When I was younger, I wanted to meet the smart people.  I've met the smart people since then, and they're not any more willing to think than anyone else; if anything, smart people are more frustrating to interact with.

My username, and my posts, may hint at a particular interpretation of the above statements.  I'm not talking about that, although those kinds of int... (read more)

6niplav9dI think your perspective on Intelligence vs. Willingness to Think is interesting, but wrong – my model is that how willing you are to think is strongly correlated with how easy thinking is for you, and how easy thinking is for you is pretty directly just what intelligence is (yes, correlation isn't transitive [], and tails come apart [] , but I think both hold in general for non-weird cases).
On Chesterton's Fence

The evolution-institution framing is a useful one, and the metaphor, I think, extends further than that.

Not all evolutionary mechanisms are costly, in a certain sense - the major maintenance cost is informational.  If an evolved mechanism doesn't get used, it doesn't necessarily get selected against, but it also doesn't get selected for; the mechanism can be eroded by informational degradation / entropy.  Or it can be repurposed for some new issue.

The same is true of institutions, and we can observe it happening; we should expect chemical disaste... (read more)

2Pattern10dSo an institution for dealing with say, earthquakes, stays on track by repurposing itself* for a new/future earthquake, whenever one comes along, and that's how it stays on track? *More evolving than predicting the future, because predicting the future is hard.
ACrackedPot's Shortform

Take two societies.  They are exactly identical except in one respect: One has figured out how to manufacture light bulbs using 20% less glass.

Which society is richer?

I don't know what you mean by this. for a basic breakdown.  When I say your argument is a reversal of the broken window fallacy, I'm saying your argument amounts to the idea that, in a society in which people routinely break windows, and this is a major source of economic activity, people shouldn't stop breaking windows, on account of all the economic activity it generates.

2DanielFilan12dOK: I think I missed that you're implying that the cases where companies in fact move to low-tax jurisdictions count as growth, rather than all cases. It makes sense that if you model choice of how much taxes to pay as a choice of how much of some manufacturing input to buy, then companies only do that if it increases efficiency, and my argument above doesn't make sense taken totally straightforwardly. I still think you can be wrong for a related reason. Suppose the government spends taxes on things that increase economic growth that no private company would spend money on (e.g. foundational scientific research). Suppose also that that's all it does with the money: it doesn't e.g. build useless things, or destroy productive capabilities in other countries. Then moving to a lower tax jurisdiction will make your company more efficient, but will mean that less of the pro-growth stuff governments do happens. This makes the effect on growth neutral. Is this a good model of government? Well, depends on the government, but they really do do some things which I imagine increase growth. My main objection is that thinking of government as providing services to the people who pay them is a bad model - in other words, it's a bad idea to think of taxes as paying for a manufacturing input. When you move out of a state, the government probably spends less on the people still in there, and when you move in to a new state, you mainly benefit from other people's taxes, not your own. It's as if if you stopped buying glass from a glass company, they made everyone else's glass worse: then it's less obvious that your lightbulb company buys less glass, society will get richer.
ACrackedPot's Shortform

"Goal-oriented behavior" is actually pretty complicated, and is not, in fact, a natural byproduct of general AI.  I think the kinds of tasks we currently employ computers to do are hiding a lot of this complexity.

Specifically, what we think of as artificial intelligence is distinct from motivational intelligence is distinct from goal-oriented behaviors.  Creating an AI that can successfully play any video game is an entirely different technology stack from creating an AI that "wants" to play video games, which in turn is an entirely different tec... (read more)

A Crackpot Physics: Time, Special Relativity, and Why Bother?

Well, you sure weren't falsely advertising :)

I try to be accurate.

I think you've got SR wrong, obv. Maybe because you're not imagining changes of reference frame to mix time and space coordinates for far-away places?

What's entertaining is that I'd say this is basically a (considerable) rephrase of my criticism of the way people generally handle special relativity.  So I am completely in agreement here if we're talking about "my model of the way other people model special relativity".

So "length-contracting" your way to alpha centauri looks like moving

... (read more)
ACrackedPot's Shortform

I think that line of argument proves too much; anytime anybody consumes less of a good, the seller has less ability to buy and sell things, where the buyer has more ability to buy and sell things; the government isn't a special case here.  More, the reversal of this argument is just the broken window fallacy with a reversal of the status quo.

2DanielFilan16dHere's what I understood you to be saying in the OP: that paying less taxes is economic growth because if you pay less taxes, you can produce more for less money. I'm saying that isn't necessarily true because you're not accounting for the reduction in economic activity that comes from the government being less able to buy and distribute things. It may well be true that moving to a low-tax locality does cause economic growth, but it won't always, so I wouldn't say that it's a central example of economic growth. I don't get what you mean by the analogy to consuming less of a good. Are you trying to say that my response is wrong because it implies that consuming fewer goods doesn't always increase economic growth, because consuming fewer goods is like paying less taxes? Well, I don't think that those are all that similar (the benefits you get from living in a locale are mostly funded by how much tax other people pay as well as non-government perks, you could totally move to a lower-tax jurisdiction and get more goods and services), but also it's totally correct that consuming fewer goods doesn't always increase economic growth. I don't know what you mean by this.
Are there opportunities for small investors unavailable to big ones?

For some subset of retail scalpers, they can be seen as taking on the risk of engaging in low-trust e-commerce; I can certainly beat the prices I pay for many of the goods I purchase, but doing so greatly increases my risk profile to, for example, somebody stealing my identity / credit card information.

For others, they provide a kind of availability arbitrage, by providing access to the same goods across multiple websites; I can pick the e-commerce portal I want to use, and trust that retail scalpers will ensure the goods I want to purchase will make it av... (read more)

ACrackedPot's Shortform

Assuming all marginal economic growth comes from eliminating unnecessary expenses - increasing efficiency - then companies moving from a high-tax locality to a low-tax locality is, in fact, economic growth.

Is it a central example of economic growth,  or am I just engaging in a rhetorical exercise?

Well, assuming a diverse ecosystem of localities with different taxes and baskets of goods, I think a company moving from a high-tax locality to a low-tax locality - that is, assuming that we do in fact get something for paying taxes - this means a company is... (read more)

2DanielFilan16dGovernment spending is included in GDP, so GDP will go up some as the company is able to buy and sell more stuff, but down some as the government is less able to buy and sell stuff.
An Introduction to A Crackpot Physics

If we place an analog clock with hands next to the lower bar that clock will appear to tick less than 1 time unit by the time the pulse has moved to the tips of the bar (assuming that local observer would think that it was covered in exactly 1 time unit). I am not sure you are using light as ruler in a correct way.

That's what I mean by the observers measuring different times for light crossing the different points; the major thing is that A is longer than B, because I'm trying (possibly failing) to suggest that the difference in distance arises from the fa... (read more)

A Crackpot Physics: Time, Special Relativity, and Why Bother?

Your disagreement with your phycist friedns is that they are already taking the angle between the times of the observers into account while you are using viewpoint of "ah, there is a difference and with this new thing we can make it go away".

Not the impression I get, but there does tend to be a bit of a communication barrier, given how ... odd my abstractions of these things to be.

If I have a number like 1.01001100011100001111.... where there is supposed to be a digit pattern of ever expanding size this fails to be a rational number but is very strctured.

... (read more)
An Introduction to A Crackpot Physics

I couldn't read from the prose how the difference between lengths A and B get established.

I think I've corrected this; I failed to note that A is closer to the planet's surface than B, which was more obvious in the original version where I had a picture.  Or do you mean I don't justify it in terms of the new abstraction I've established?

I too have wondered about how solid the "no boosting to infinity" restrictions are. If one takes a unit de-sitter Space that should cover all the directions. From one point of intuition at first glance it would feel th

... (read more)
2Slider17dYes, the added bit helps clarify what the difference is supposed to be. However the scenarios don't exactly work like that and I am having trouble parsing out whether it is just an unconventional framing or is there a signficant deviance. Yes, if we are far away and the bars are horizontal then a laser pulse will cover them in the same time. However the lower bar is subject to a distortion in time. If we place an analog clock with hands next to the lower bar that clock will appear to tick less than 1 time unit by the time the pulse has moved to the tips of the bar (assuming that local observer would think that it was covered in exactly 1 time unit). I am not sure you are using light as ruler in a correct way. The "boost to infinity" is just that energy requirements for high speeds seem to grow without bound. One way to measure change is one measure changing per change in another measure for example x per t. If a draw a curly line that has an U-turn in it I could get into trouble that at some point in the U turn the "next instantenous moment in coordinate time" could get a bit ambigious. Another concept could be the "next dot of the curve" and for curves that go relatively straight that next blob is likely to be in the "global forward" direction. So thinking in terms of max displacement per global forward tick vs maximum curl between adjacent blobs that the swiggle can have don't neccesarily meet. Sorry, the signature is of the squares. The fuller equation is x^2+y^2+z^2-t^2=s^2. Increasing spatial separation gets you more of the measure, increasing time separation gets you less of the measure. If you take it in a certain way the underlaying number go complex but because people are allergic to the imaginary numbers people stay on the square level where it is just positive and negative reals. The minus sign doesn't get you "anti-directionality", (which would be parallel but opposite). You took my prompt in a somewhat consistent direction but I was misleading in ma
A Crackpot Physics: Issues

Updated with a link to the prior post, thanks!