adamzerner
1200 NW Marshall St, Portland, OR 97209, USA

Sequences

Re-reading Rationality From AI To Zombies
Reflections on Premium Poker Tools

Comments

Feature request: draft comments

The part that's missing is the ability to get a list of all the posts/comments you have unfinished replies to.

That feels like a separate feature to me, but it's always tricky say where to draw the lines. The reason I feel this way is because being able to have the draft/autosave for a given post adds value on it's own. If it didn't add value on it's own and the value got "unlocked" by having that list of draft comments, I'd see them both as belonging to a single feature.

My model of most users says that the list of draft comments wouldn't be too valuable. If you only have a few draft comments saved, I'd think that you'd have an easy time remembering what posts you wanted to comment on, in which case you'd just return to that post, click "Restore", and continue where you left off. OTOH, if you had a bunch of posts with draft comments, I could see it getting difficult to keep track of them all, and thus listing them out would be useful. But I don't imagine many people having that long a list.

Edit: As a hack, you could use your browsers bookmarks or LessWrong's bookmarking functionality to keep track of a list of draft comments. Neither is perfect of course.

Feature request: draft comments

It's not advertised afaik, but this feature kinda already exists. If you type stuff into the comment input, close the tab, and reopen it, you will see "You have autosaved text. Restore". When you click "Restore", you get your text back, so this functions as the sort of draft you are describing, I think.

It's still possible that a more official version of this draft functionality would be worthwhile though.

Open & Welcome Thread - May 2022

and I'll have burned whatever employability I had in the "normal" job market too.

This is probably moot, but I'd like to argue against this sentiment and share part of my own story.

I myself am a programmer and have a lot of anxiety about getting fired and being unable to find another job. And so I've spent a good amount of time trying to debug this. Part of that debugging is asking True Self what he actually thinks. And this is his ~answer.

It is totally implausible that my fears end up actually being realized. Think of it like this:

  • Plan A is to keep my current job. I worry about getting fired, but it is pretty unlikely to actually happen. Look at the base rate. It's low. And I have control over my performance. I can scale it up if I start to worry that I'm getting into risky territory.
  • Plan B is, if I get fired, to apply to, let's call them "reach jobs" (like a reach school when you apply to colleges) and get one of them. Seems somewhat plausible.
  • Plan C is to mass apply to normal jobs that are in my ballpark. It might take a few months, but it seems highly likely I'd eventually get one of them.
  • Plan D1 is to ask friends and family for referrals.
  • Plan D2 is to lower my standards and apply to jobs that I'm overqualified for (and perhaps adjust the resume I use to apply to mitigate against the failure mode of "he would never actually accept this position").
  • Plan D3 is to push even further into my network, asking former coworkers, former classmates, and friends of friends for referrals.
  • Plan D4 is to just have my girlfriend support me.
  • Plan E is to do something adjacent, like work as a coding bootcamp instructor or maybe even in QA.
  • Plan F is to do something like work at a library or a coffee shop. I worked at a library (actually two) in college and it was great. It was low stress and there was plenty of time to screw around on my laptop doing my own thing.

Even if I get "knocked off track" and end up at D2 or whatever, I can always work my way back up. It'd be a setback, but probably nothing too crazy.

And that's actually something I ended up going through. After doing a coding bootcamp and working as a programmer for about a year and a half, I took a year off to self-study computer science, and then about three more years working on a failed startup. It was a little tough finding a job after that, but I managed. From there I worked my way up. Today I actually just accepted an offer at one of those "reach jobs".

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that taking time off doing EA stuff might be a setback in terms of your ability to get back into the "normal" job market, but I expect that it'd only knock you down a rung or so. I don't think it'd completely knock you of the ladder. Maybe your ladder doesn't look exactly like mine with A through F — I'm pretty fortunate to have the life circumstances I have — but I expect that it's a lot longer than it feels. And even if you do get knocked down a rung, I expect that for you too it'd just be a temporary setback, nothing that'd knock you off course too significantly.

Open & Welcome Thread - May 2022

I see. Thanks again for the explanation!

Hearing this, it re-opens a line of thought that's been swimming in the back of my mind for quite some time: that helping EA people with mental health is a pretty high-yielding pursuit. Lots of people (including myself) deal with stuff, I presume. And if you can help such people, you can improve productivity by something like, I don't know, 10-200%?

But how do you help them? I don't think I have any great ideas here.

  • I assume most people have access to a therapist if they wanted one.
  • Maybe motivation to see a therapist is the problem, not access. But there's plenty of people talking about and normalizing therapy nowadays, and I'm not sure how fruitful it'd be to continue that process.
  • Maybe difficulty finding the right therapist is the crux? Especially for rationalist-types who have "weird" issues. Maybe. Maybe expanding and/or branching off of something like the Secular Therapy Project would be worthwhile. Or the SlateStarCodex Psychiat-list.
  • Maybe we just need better models of how the mind works and how to repair psychiatric pain. But the world of clinical psychology research already has this covered. Right? Maybe, maybe not. It does seem difficult to break into and have a real impact. However, you Kaj seem to me like one of the few people who might have a comparative advantage in pursuing something like that. I'm thinking of your Multiagent Models of Mind sequence. I was really impressed by it. I'm not sure how much of it was actually novel — maybe parts were, maybe not really, I don't really know — but along the lines of Non-Expert Explanation, I think there's a good amount of value in framing things differently. And in popularizing worthwhile things! That sequence helped me arrive at a pretty good understanding of my own psychological issues, I think, whereas before that I was pretty lost. The understanding hasn't translated to actually feeling any better, but that's n=1 and beside the point. Speaking of which, what is my point? I think it's just to consider all of this food for thought. I can't say I'm confident in the broader points I'm making.
Open & Welcome Thread - May 2022

Gotcha. That was a really helpful response, and it makes a lot of sense.

unless the source credibly commits to providing that funding for a significant fraction of your remaining lifetime

What if this happened for you? Suppose you received the funding in a lump sum with no strings attached. Would you prefer that over having the day job? How do you expect it would affect the impact you would have on the world?

Open & Welcome Thread - May 2022

I see. Thanks for the response. I'm starting to suspect that this is a common sentiment, wanting some sort of normalcy and doing other stuff on the side.

I'm curious, was that funding you received no strings attached? If not, I wonder if moving to no strings attached would change how you feel.

Open & Welcome Thread - May 2022

That makes sense. Opt-in does seem like the way to go.

Open & Welcome Thread - May 2022

Oh that's a really good point. Unintended consequences. I suspect a good amount of people feel similarly. Still, I'm moderately confident that enough people would be interested such that this would still be a good idea.

Open & Welcome Thread - May 2022

A lot of his blogging is inspired by his psychiatric work, so he would lose that source of inspiration.

I don't get the impression that too much is inspired by his psychiatric work. This is partly based on my being a reader of his posts on and off over the years, and also on a brief skim of recent posts (biographies of presidents, AI safety, pregnancy interventions). But even if that source of inspiration was lost, it'd presumably be replaced by other sources of inspiration, and his writing is broad enough where at best that'd be a large net gain and at worst it'd be a small net loss.

Also, a lot of his best works (eg. Meditations on Moloch) were written while he was a medical school resident, working 60 hours a week outside of blogging, so it's not clear to me that the hours of working are really taking away from his best writing.

That's a really interesting point. Maybe I'm wrong then. Maybe I don't understand the subtleties of what makes for good writing. But even so, writing is only one thing. I expect that with more time people like Scott would come up with other cool things to pursue in addition to writing.

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