All of ahbwramc's Comments + Replies

Open thread, Oct. 10 - Oct. 16, 2016

I mean, Laffer Curve-type reasons if nothing else.

Using humility to counteract shame

It's funny, I wrote a blog post arguing against humility not too long ago. I had a somewhat different picture of humility than you:

People internalize norms in very different ways and to very different degrees. There are people out there who don’t seem to internalize the norms of humility at all. We usually call these people “arrogant jerks”. And there are people – probably the vast majority of people – who internalize them in reasonable, healthy ways. We usually call these people “normal”.

But then there are also people who internalize the norms of humili

... (read more)
2Vika6yThanks for the link to your post. I also think we only disagree on definitions. I agree that self-compassion is a crucial ingredient. This is the distinction I was pointing at with "while focusing on imperfections without compassion can lead to beating yourself up". Humility says "I am flawed and it's ok", while self-loathing is more like "I am flawed and I should be punished". The latter actually generates shame instead of reducing it. I think that seeking external validation by appearing humble is completely orthogonal to humility as an internal state or attitude you can take towards yourself (my post focuses on the latter). This signaling / social dimension of humility seems to add a lot of confusion to an already fuzzy concept.
3RomeoStevens6yThere's also the law of equal and opposite advice.
March 2016 Media Thread

Just wanted to say that I really appreciate your link roundups and look forward to them every month.

0closeness6yI gave you a thumbs up in agreement but didn't give one to Gwern for his links. Pointing-something-out bias?
[Link]: KIC 8462852, aka WTF star, "the most mysterious star in our galaxy", ETI candidate, etc.

I just posted a comment on facebook that I'm going to lazily copy here:

At this point I have no idea what's going on and I'm basically just waiting for astrophysicists to weigh in. All I can say is that this is fascinating and I can't wait for more data to come in.

Two specific things I'm confused about:

  1. Apparently other astronomers already looked at this data and didn't notice anything amiss. Schaefer quotes them as saying "the star did not do anything spectacular over the past 100 years." But as far as I can tell the only relevant difference b

... (read more)
Open Thread, January 11-17, 2016

Wait, I'm confused. How does this practice resistance to false positives? If the false signal is designed to mimic what a true detection would look like, then it seems like the team would be correct to identify it as a true detection. I feel like I'm missing something here.

1Lumifer6yI don't know the details, but the detection process is essentially statistical and very very noisy. It's not a "we'll know it when we see it" case, it's more like "out of the huge number of wiggles and wobbles that we have recorded, what can't we explain and therefore might be a grav wave". I would guess one of the points is that a single observation is unreliable in a high-noise environment.
Stupid Questions July 2015

Well, it's both redundant and anti-redundant, which I always liked. But I don't think there's anything more to it than that.

There is no such thing as strength: a parody

I've had similar thoughts before:

Now imagine you said this [that some people are funnier than others] to someone and they indignantly responded with the following:

“You can’t say that for sure – there are different types of humour! Everyone has different talents: some people are good at observational comedy, and some people are good at puns or slapstick. Also, most so-called “comedians” are only “stand-up funny” – they can’t make you laugh in real life. Plus, just because you’re funny doesn’t mean you’re fun to be around. I have a friend who’s not funny a

... (read more)
Selecting vs. grooming

The first thing to come to mind is that selecting is simply much cheaper than grooming. If a company can get employees of roughly the same quality level without having to pay for an expensive grooming process over many years, they're going to do that. There's also less risk with selecting, because a groomed candidate can always decide to up and leave for another company (or die, or join a cult, or a have an epiphany and decide to live a simple life in the wilderness of Alaska, or whatever), and then the company is out all that grooming money. I feel as though groomed employees would have to be substantially better than selected ones to make up for these disadvantages.

Stupid Questions June 2015

Thanks for the great suggestions everyone. To follow up, here's what I did as a result of this thread:

-Put batteries back in my smoke detector

-Backed up all of my data (hadn't done this for many months)

-Got a small swiss army knife and put it on my keychain (already been useful)

-Looked at a few fire extinguishers to make sure I knew how to use them

-Put some useful things in my messenger bag (kleenex, pencil and paper) - I'll probably try to keep adding things to my bag as I think of them, since I almost always have it with me

All of the car-related suggesti... (read more)

Open Thread, Jun. 22 - Jun. 28, 2015

ROT13: V thrffrq pbafreingvirf pbeerpgyl, nygubhtu V'z cerggl fher V unq urneq fbzrguvat nobhg gur fghql ryfrjurer.

Open Thread, Jun. 15 - Jun. 21, 2015

I don't know, it feels like I see more people criticizing perceived hero worship of EY than I see actual hero worship. If anything the "in" thing on LW these days seems to be signalling how evolved one is by putting down EY or writing off the sequences as "just a decent popular introduction to cognitive biases, nothing more" or whatever.

0CellBioGuy7yI don't call it out so much as find it incredibly amusing.
In praise of gullibility?

I agree with this. "Half-baked" was probably the wrong phrase to use - I didn't mean "idea that's not fully formed or just a work in progress," although in retrospect that's exactly what half-baked would convey. I just meant an idea that's seriously flawed in one way or another.

Philosophical differences

Well, it depends on what you mean, but I do think that almost any AGI we create will be unfriendly by default, so to the extent that we as a society are trying to create AGI, I don't think it's exaggerating to say that the sleeper cell "already exists". I'm willing to own up to the analogy to that extent.

As for Knightian uncertainty: either the AI will be an existential threat, or it won't. I already think that it will be (or could be), so I think I'm already being pretty conservative from a Knightian point of view, given the stakes at hand. Wors... (read more)

The Fallacy of Gray

When I first read this post back in ~2011 or so, I remember remembering a specific scene in a book I had read that talked about this error and even gave it the same name. I intended to find the quote and post it here, but never bothered. Anyway, seeing this post on the front page again prompted me to finally pull out the book and look up the quote (mostly for the purpose of testing my memory of the scene to see if it actually matched what was written).

So, from Star Wars X-Wing: Isard's Revenge, by Michael A Stackpole (page 149 of the paperback edition):


... (read more)
How much do we know about creativity?

I mean, I don't really disagree; it's not a very scientific theory right now. It was just a blog post, after all. But if I was trying to test the theory, I would probably take a bunch of people who varied widely in writing skill and get them to write a short piece, and then get an external panel to grade the writing. Then I would get the same people to take some kind of test that judged ability to recognize rather than generate good writing (maybe get some panel of experts to provide some writing samples that were widely agreed to vary in writing quality, ... (read more)

How much do we know about creativity?

I wrote a couple posts on my personal blog a while ago about creativity. I was considering cross-posting them here but didn't think they were LessWrong-y enough. Quick summary: I think because of the one-way nature of most problems we face (it's easier to recognize a solution than it is to generate it), pretty much all of the problem solving we do is guess-and-check. That is, the brain kind of throws up solutions to problems blindly, and then we consciously check to see if the solutions are any good. So what we call "creativity" is just "tho... (read more)

1jacob_cannell7yAssuming this general type of theory is vaguely correct (which I find plausible), it suggests that creativity depends on both some potentially innate creativity algorithms combined with lots of knowledge. Acquiring as domain knowledge is important for two reasons: firstly it gives one more insights/ideas to recombine, and secondly it probably indirectly trains the creativity algorithms themselves (assuming the brain is constantly trying to improve its ability to predict new novel ideas it encounters).
2[anonymous]7yYour approach looks quite unscientific to me. What empirical evidence do you have to support this? How would you go about codifying these ideas into a proper scientific theory?
5pianoforte6117yThat's very interesting but I think that some people can explain their creative process. Bruce Adolphe is musician who hosts a piano puzzler radio show []. If you are a classical music buff I highly recommend it. He takes well known songs or pieces of music and then rewrites them in the style of an old composer. (The challenge is find the popular song buried within and figure out which composer it is in the style of). Anyways in each of his segments, he explains exactly what he is doing to imitate the style of that composer and how he incorporated the popular song into it.
Stupid Questions June 2015

What contingencies should I be planning for in day to day life? HPMOR was big on the whole "be prepared" theme, and while I encounter very few dark wizards and ominous prophecies in my life, it still seems like a good lesson to take to heart. I'd bet there's some low-hanging fruit that I'm missing out on in terms of preparedness. Any suggestions? They don't have to be big things - people always seem to jump to emergencies when talking about being prepared, which I think is both good and bad. Obviously certain emergencies are common enough that th... (read more)

1ahbwramc7yThanks for the great suggestions everyone. To follow up, here's what I did as a result of this thread: -Put batteries back in my smoke detector -Backed up all of my data (hadn't done this for many months) -Got a small swiss army knife and put it on my keychain (already been useful) -Looked at a few fire extinguishers to make sure I knew how to use them -Put some useful things in my messenger bag (kleenex, pencil and paper) - I'll probably try to keep adding things to my bag as I think of them, since I almost always have it with me All of the car-related suggestions seemed like good ones, but weren't applicable since I don't own a car. Some other suggestions were good but required more time than I was willing to put in right now, or weren't applicable for other reasons.
0Tem427yAmericancentric, but: I would suggest that if you have a phone, programming the numbers for the local police, a good urgent care clinic in your area (a wiser choice than the ER, when possible), and your garage (especially if you don't have AAA). 911 is an important tool, but it is not always the best tool for the job, and the cost of updating your address book is essentially zero. Oh, and perhaps the New York Public Library’s virtual reference service (depending on your long-distance plan).
3Bryan-san7yTake people you spend time with to first aid, heimlich, and CPR classes. You will need their help if you are the one choking or unable to breathe. Build up enough stamina and physical fitness to run at both a sprint and for several minutes straight. Running away from a fight can be a very good strategy for not getting harmed. Read the "Influence: Science and Practice" chapter that discusses Social Proof. I think it was chapter 4. The suggestions involved help avoid the bystander effect where a person in need is left alone and unassisted by a group of onlookers. The chapter deals with a few examples of effectively communicating and prompting someone to help you in an emergency situation. This is especially necessary in an urban environment.
4Drahflow7y* Install a smoke detector * Do martial arts training until you get the falling more or less right. While this might be helpful against muggers the main benefit is the reduced probability of injury in various unfortunate situation.
1Kyre7yThings that are unsexy but I can actually verify as having been useful more than once: In wallet, folded up tissue. For sudden attack of sniffles (especially on public transport), small cuts, emergency toilet paper. In bag I carry every day: small pack of tissues, multitool, tiny torch, ibuprofin, pad and pencil, USB charging cable for phone, plastic spork, wet wipe thing from KFC (why do they always shovel multiples of those things in with my order ?).
4CellBioGuy7yI have a small multitool on my keychain and have for several years; it most often comes in handy as a bottle opener but the small pliers, knife, screwdriver, and wire stripper have all been used. I have the entire road system of North America as of three months ago downloaded as about five gigabytes of data on my phone (yay micro SD cards) which comes in handy when driving through rural mountains. A charged car battery exists in the trunk of my car for jumpstarting (and also for running my big computerized telescope out in the field, which is how I ensure it is kept charged, because it is dual use). Mostly for hobby purposes but also for contingencies, I have built a portable solar-powered lithium-iron-phosphate battery pack that charges from sunlight at 25 watts, can store 200 watt-hours, and can discharge upwards of 100 watts at either 12 volts DC or 120 volts AC.

(Note: my motivation for this is almost exclusively "I want to look like a genius in front of my friends when some contingency I planned for comes to pass", which is maybe not the best motivation for doing this kind of thing. But when I find myself with a dumb-sounding motive for doing something I rationally endorse anyway, I try to take advantage of the motive, dumb-sounding or not.)

Often being prepared simply means that nobody notices anything being at odds. Don't optimize for flashy solutions.

What to do when things get lost
1) Your credit card
2) Your mobile phone
3) Your keys

What do you do when things you rely on break:
1) Your computer
2) Your car

Who to call?
1) Police imprisons you and charge you for a criminal act
2) You have a medical emergency (also set up a ICE contact list entry on your smart phone)

5Elo7yIdentify local forms of natural disaster and what you intend to do in the circumstances. (bush-fires, earthquakes, typhoons, volcanoes, snowstorm, bear-pocalypse... whatever is normal in your area) Identify what you plan to do in case of a power failure (owning some candles or something) depending on how bad the failure is and how long it lasts... I suggest owning a external battery block for phone charging - give extra peace of mind that you won't run out of battery. (something like 15000mah should be plenty for most people) (I have never suffered a technical failure but) preparing for a hard-drive failure, monthly backups, cloud storage... how will you manage if you suddenly are unable to earn money for 3-6 months? have savings; have a plan; programs like pocketbook; YouNeedABudget, calculate your burn-rate. Unexpected spends i.e. bills. Plumbing problems sometimes just happen in old houses - know what to do (how to change a washer etc.), Know how to open an S-bend if something is dropped down a pipe. (basic first aid training was mentioned elsewhere but I wanted to add that we don't train the heimlich manoeuvre in Australia) know how to use a fire-extinguisher (you just have to read the instructions on the front; but maybe read them before you are in desperate need to know them) qualified to drive larger vehicles can help in life. knowledge of the law in some areas. knowing how to cook delicious things on short notice (1-2 recipes that you can whip up really quick).
2NancyLebovitz7yIs there anything you keep expecting yourself to remember, but you don't remember it? If so, make an extra effort to remember it, or make a note, or whatever might help.

What contingencies should I be planning for in day to day life?

Those related to what you do and where you go in day to day life. The only people who need to worry about a micrometeorite punching a hole in the spaceship get training for it already.

These might include such things as: locking yourself out of your house, having an auto breakdown, being confronted by a mugger, being in an unfamiliar building when the fire alarm goes off, coming upon the scene of a serious accident, where to go and how to get there when widespread flooding is imminent, being ... (read more)

0[anonymous]7y(Dunno how they are sold in your country) a bottle of nitroglycerine or similar drugs, the instructions to which you know by heart, similar to Harry's preparations? Considering that the probability of you encountering a stranger who has an emergency should be higher than the p of only you having it, unless there is a common cause. In case there is a common cause, well. Bring a gun?.. (At least it is small.) A notebook seems also a useful thing to havehave, with a pencil attached.

I am by no means an expert, but here are a couple of options that come to mind. I came up with most of these by thinking "what kind of emergency are you reasonably likely to run into at some point, and what can you do to mitigate them?"

... (read more)
Brainstorming new senses

I feel like there are interesting applications here for programmers, but I'm not exactly sure what. Maybe you could link up a particular programming language's syntax to our sense of grammar, so programs that wouldn't compile would seem as wrong to you as the sentence "I seen her". Experienced programmers probably already have something like this I suppose, but it could make learning a new programming language easier.

2faul_sname7ySyntax highlighting, and a compiler that highlights errors as you type them (e.g. SyntasticCheck for vim). It's really useful.
How my social skills went from horrible to mediocre

I have a cold start problem: in order for people to understand the importance of the information that I have to convey, they need to spend a fair amount of time thinking about it, but without having seen the importance of the information, they're not able to distinguish me from being a crackpot.

For what it's worth, these recent comments of yours have been working on me, at least sort of. I used to think you were just naively arrogant, but now it's seeming more plausible that you're actually justifiably arrogant. I don't know if I buy everything you're s... (read more)

How my social skills went from horrible to mediocre


So, random anecdote time: I remember when I was younger my sister would often say things that would upset my parents; usually this ended up causing some kind of confrontation/fight. And whenever she would say these upsetting things, the second the words left her mouth I would cringe, because it was extremely obvious to me that what she had said was very much the wrong thing to say - I could tell it would only make my parents madder. And I was never quite sure (and am still not sure) whether she also recognized that what she was saying would only worse... (read more)

1JonahS7yI can predict it now. I was oblivious at the time when I started posting on LW under my pseudonym multifoliaterose [] in 2010, but I learned to pattern match: e.g. I was not surprised by the pushback on my reference to MLK, or by the heated response to this comment []. The issue isn't that I don't know when something that I'll say will make people angry, it's that I don't know how I can communicate it in a way that won't.
How my social skills went from horrible to mediocre

But my focus here is on the meta-level: I perceive a non-contingency about the situation, where even if I did have extremely valuable information to share that I couldn't share without signaling high status, people would still react negatively to me trying to share it. My subjective sense is that to the extent that people doubt the value of what I have to share, this comes primarily from a predetermined bottom line of the type "if what he's saying were true, then he would get really high status: it's so arrogant of him to say things that would make h

... (read more)
1JonahS7yCertainly, they've done a very good job, and I commend them for it. But people who are so talented as them at communicating are rare.
Group rationality diary, May 5th - 23rd

I've been trying to be more "agenty" and less NPC-ish lately, and having some reasonable success. In the past month I've:

-Gone to a SlateStarCodex meetup

This involved taking a greyhound bus, crossing the border into a different country, and navigating my way around an unfamiliar city - all things that would have stopped me from even considering going a few years ago. But I realized that none of those things were actually that big of a deal, that what was really stopping me was that it just wasn't something I would normally do. And since there was... (read more)

Is Scott Alexander bad at math?

Sure, I understand the identity now of course (or at least I have more of an understanding of it). All I meant was that if you're introduced to Euler's identity at a time when exponentiation just means "multiply this number by itself some number of times", then it's probably going to seem really odd to you. How exactly does one multiply 2.718 by itself sqrt(-1)*3.14 times?

0Nisan7yYou simply measure out a length such that, if you drew a square that many meters on a side, and also drew a square 3.1415 meters on a side, they would enclose no area between the two of them. Then evenly divide this length into meters, and for each meter write down 2.7183. Now multiply those numbers together, and you'll find they make -1. Easy!
Is Scott Alexander bad at math?

I remember my mom, who was a math teacher, telling me for the first time that e^(i*pi) = -1. My immediate reaction was incredulity - I literally said "What??!" and grabbed a piece of paper to try to work out how that could be true. Of course I had none of the required tools to grapple with that kind of thing, so I got precisely nowhere with it. But that's the closest I've come to having a reaction like you describe with Scott and quintics. I consider the quintic thing far more impressive of course - the weirdness of Euler's identity isn't exactly... (read more)

3Vaniver7yBut... it's just rotation! I think the thing that's weird about Euler's identity is that the symbology looks odd (especially if you're more used to degrees than radians), not that the underlying reality is odd. (Maybe I've just dealt with exponentials of complex numbers for so long that I can't be surprised by them anymore, but I don't remember being surprised by it before.)
Is Scott Alexander bad at math?

Since much of this sequence has focused on case studies (Grothendiek, Scott Alexander), I'd be curious as to what you think of Douglas Hofstadter. How does he fit into this whole picture? He's obviously a man of incredible talent in something - I don't know whether to call it math or philosophy (or both). Either way it's clear that he has the aesthetic sense you're talking about here in spades. But I distinctly remember him writing something along the lines of how, upon reaching graduate mathematics he hit a "wall of abstraction" and couldn't pro... (read more)

6[anonymous]7yExcuse me, I have to don a flame-proof suit now. Just a question: what useful results for predicting and modelling a preexisting reality has Douglas Hofstadter produced? I mean, yes, GEB is... well, it's GEB. I find it quite dated and think that it skates by on having fun with patterns rather than explaining observed phenomena. I'm also a little aggravated that GEB includes no discussions of model theory, ordinal logic, and w-incompleteness, nor of algorithmic randomness and halting problems, nor of the Curry-Howard Isomorphism and how it matches computational systems to logical systems. It goes on and on about recursion and formal systems for a very long time without actually addressing the formal sciences that handle the various phenomena arising from talking recursively in logic! Whereas something more recent like Universal Artificial Intelligence by Hutter succeeds on mathematical rigor and Probabilistic Models of Cognition on beauty of compression and presentation.
327chaos7yIs it being too specific to say that what Hofstadter has is a talent for putting useful labels on recursive phenomena?
Shawn Mikula on Brain Preservation Protocols and Extensions

You seem to be discussing in good faith here, and I think it's worth continuing so we can both get a better idea of what the other is saying. I think differing non-verbal intuitions drive a lot of these debates, and so to avoid talking past one another it's best to try to zoom in on intuitions and verbalize them as much as possible. To that end (keeping in mind that I'm still very confused about consciousness in general): I think a large part of what makes me a machine functionalist is an intuition that neurons...aren't that special. Like, you view the Chi... (read more)

0brainmaps7yThank you for the thoughtful reply. Aren't neurons special? At the very least, they're mysterious. We're far from understanding them as physico-chemical systems. I've had the same reaction and incredulity as you to the idea that interacting neurons can 'generate consciousness'. The thing is, we don't understand individual neurons. Yes, neurons compute. The brain computes. But so does every physical system we encounter. So why should computation be the defining feature of consciousness? It's not obvious to me. In the end, consciousness is still a mystery and machine functionalism requires a leap of faith that I'm not prepared to take without convincing evidence. Yes, counterfactual dependencies appear necessary for simulating a brain (and other systems) but the causal structure of the simulated objects is not necessarily the same as the causal structure of the underlying physical system running the simulation, which is my objection to Turing machines and Von Neumann architectures. it's an interesting thought, and I generally agree with this. The question seems to come down to defining causal structure. The problem is that the causal structure of the computer system running a simulation of an object does not appear anything like that of the object. A Turing machine running a human brain simulation appears to have a very different causal structure compared with the human brain.
Shawn Mikula on Brain Preservation Protocols and Extensions

I think we might be working with different definitions of the term "causal structure"? The way I see it, what matters for whether or not two things have the same causal structure is counterfactual dependency - if neuron A hadn't have fired, then neuron B would have fired. And we all agree that in a perfect simulation this kind of dependency is preserved. So yes, neurons and transistors have different lower-level causal behaviour, but I wouldn't call that a different causal structure as long as they both implement a system that behaves the same un... (read more)

1brainmaps7yIt's unclear why counterfactual dependencies would be necessary for machine functionalism, but ok, let's include them in the GIF example. Take the first GIF as the initial condition and let the (binary) state of pixel, Xi, at time step, t, take the form, f(i,X1(t-1),X2(t-1),...Xn(t-1)). Does this make it any more plausible that the animated GIF has human consciousness? If you think the GIF has human consciousness, then what is the significance of the fact that the system of equations is generally underdetermined? Personally, it's not plausible that the GIF has human consciousness, but would agree that since it's an extreme example, my intuition could be wrong. Unfortunately, this appears to mean that we must agree to disagree on the question of the validity of machine functionalism, or is there another way forward?
0Kyre7yThank you, you saved me a lot of typing. No amount of straight copying of that GIF will generate a conscious experience; but if you print out the first frame and give it to a person with a set of rules for simulating neural behaviour and tell them to calculate the subsequent frames into a gigantic paper notebook, that might generate consciousness.
Open Thread, Apr. 27 - May 3, 2015

Well, since I'm on LW the first article to come to mind was Outside the Laboratory, although that's not really arguing for the proposition per se.

As for the stooping thing, I'm not entirely sure what you mean, but the first thing that came to mind was that maybe you have a rule out rather than rule in criteria for judging intelligence? As in: someone can say a bunch of smart things, but at best that just earns them provisional smart status. On the other hand if they say one sufficiently dumb thing that's enough to rule them out as being truly intelligent.

1adamzerner7yI thought Outside the Laboratory was a good discussion of "smart" people not applying their intelligence outside their sphere, thanks!
CFAR-run MIRI Summer Fellows program: July 7-26

Well, I signed up for an interview (probably won't amount to anything, but it's too good of an opportunity to just ignore). After signing up though it occurred to me that this might be a US-only deal. Would my being Canadian be a deal-breaker?

5AnnaSalamon7yFolks from all countries are welcome.
LessWrong experience on Alcohol

Oh hey, convenient. Someone already wrote my reply.

Open Thread, Apr. 13 - Apr. 19, 2015

In my experience hostels are a lot more like the fictional bars you describe.

2Normal_Anomaly7yI can confirm this. I stayed in a hostel in London for a week last month, and got way more social interaction than I was expecting and about as much as my introverted self could stand. Including one invitation to dinner that may or may not have been a date.
Innate Mathematical Ability

Any more of this sequence forthcoming? I was looking forward to it continuing.

3JonahS7yYes, thanks for your interest. It's a nudge for me getting around to it sooner rather than later :-).
Innate Mathematical Ability

I tried for maybe thirty seconds to solve it, but couldn't see anything obvious, so I decided to just truncate the fraction to see if it was close to anything I knew. From that it was clear the answer was root 2, but I still couldn't see how to solve it. Once I got into work though I had another look, and then (maybe because I knew what the answer was and could see that it was simple algebraically) I was able to come up with the above solution.

Innate Mathematical Ability

Also how I did it. FWIW I know it took me more than a minute, but definitely less than five.

MIRI's technical agenda: an annotated bibliography, and other updates

As a MIRI donor, glad to here it! Good luck to you guys, you're doing important work to say the least.

MIRI's technical agenda: an annotated bibliography, and other updates

I'm curious, has this recent series of papers garnered much interest from the wider (or "mainstream") AI community? It seems like MIRI has made a lot of progress over the past few years in getting a lot of very smart people to take their ideas seriously (and in cultivating a more respectable, "serious" image). I was wondering if similar progress had been made in creating inroads into academia.

Seven of the papers (every one except the annotated bibliography) are referenced in the FLI research priorities document attached to the open letter which received a whole lot of recent publicity :-) Beyond that, it's a bit too early to guess how these particular papers will affect academia more broadly, but recent progress looks promising.

Superintelligence 20: The value-loading problem

Did anyone else immediately try to come up with ways Davis' plan would fail? One obvious failure mode would be in specifying which dead people count - if you say "the people described in these books," the AI could just grab the books and rewrite them. Hmm, come to think of it: is any attempt to pin down human preferences by physical reference rather than logical reference vulnerable to tampering of this kind, and therefore unworkable? I know EY has written many times before about a "giant logical function that computes morality", but th... (read more)

1Sebastian_Hagen7yNot as such, no. It's a possible failure mode, similar to wireheading; but both of those are avoidable. You need to write the goal system in such a way that makes the AI care about the original referent, not any proxy that it looks at, but there's no particular reason to think that's impossible. Agreed.
Open thread, Jan. 19 - Jan. 25, 2015

A number of SSC posts have gone viral on Reddit or elsewhere. I'm sure he's picked up a fair number of readers from the greater internet. Also, for what it's worth, I've turned two of my friends on to SSC who were never much interested in LW.

But I'll second it being among my favourite websites.

0beoShaffer7ySimilarly, I've had several non LW friends who have started reading SSC after semi-frequently being linked there by my FB.
Open thread, Jan. 12 - Jan. 18, 2015

The post was Polyamory is Boring btw, in case anyone else is curious.

Is arguing worth it? If so, when and when not? Also, how do I become less arrogant?

See, if anything I have the exact opposite problem (which, ironically, I also attribute to arrogance). I almost never engage in arguments with people because I assume I'll never change their mind. When I do get into a debate with someone, I'm extremely quick to give up and write them off as a lost cause. This probably isn't a super healthy attitude to have (especially since many of these "lost causes" are my friends and family) but at least it keeps me out of unproductive arguments. I do have a few friends who are (in my experience) unusually good at listening to new arguments and changing their mind, so I usually wind up limiting my in-depth discussions to just them.

0LawrenceC7yI've been struggling with this problem as well - for example, one of my family members believes very strongly in 'fate' in the traditional fatalist sense, while several others are practicing Buddhists. Most of the time we have a tacit agreement to avoid these topics - because my beliefs probably look very bizarre to them as well, and it is unlikely that any of us will change our mind.
Open thread, Oct. 20 - Oct. 26, 2014

I can empathize to an extent - my fiance left me about two months ago (two months ago yesterday actually, now that I check). I still love her, and I'm not even close to getting over her. I don't think I'm even close to wanting to get over her. And when I have talked to her since it happened, I've said things that I wish I hadn't said, upon reflection. I know exactly what you mean about having no control of what you say around her.

But, with that being said...

Well, I certainly can't speak for the common wisdom of the community, but speaking for myself, I thi... (read more)

2Ritalin7yMostly I resent the fact that my mind becomes completely clouded, like I'm on some drug.
2014 Less Wrong Census/Survey

Survey complete! I'd have answered the digit ratio question, but I don't have a ruler of all things at home. Ooh, now to go check my answers for the calibration questions.

Open thread, Oct. 6 - Oct. 12, 2014

Scott is a LW member who has posted a few articles here

This seems like a significant understatement given that Scott has the second highest karma of all-time on LW (after only Eliezer). Even if he doesn't post much here directly anymore, he's still probably the biggest thought leader the broader rational community has right now.

4Evan_Gaensbauer7yI agree with ahbwramc. Going From California with An Aching Heart [] doesn't seem to be something written by someone only kinda involved with the rationalist community.
Get genotyped for free ( If your IQ is high enough)

It's been a while; any further updates on this project? All the BGI website says is that my sample has been received.

Open thread, September 15-21, 2014

Okay, fair enough, forget the whole increasing of measure thing for now. There's still the fact that every time I go to the subway, there's a world where I jump in front of it. That for sure happens. I'm obviously not suggesting anything dumb like avoiding subways, that's not my point at all. It's just...that doesn't seem very "normal" to me, somehow. MWI gives this weird new weight to all counterfactuals that seems like it makes an actual difference (not in terms of any actual predictions, but psychologically - and psychology is all we're talkin... (read more)

4gjm7yI have always taken "it all adds up to normality" to mean not "you should expect everything to feel normal" but "actually, when you work out the physics, all this counterintuitive weird-feeling stuff produces the world you're already used to, and if it feels weird then you should try to adjust your intuitions if possible". I'm not sure there's much I can say to help -- it's clear from your comments that you understand in theory what's going on, and it's just that your "naive branch-counting brain" is naive and cares about the wrong things :-). Maybe this will help: Suppose you're visiting a big city. Consider the following two propositions. (1) There is one person in this city who would cheerfully knock you on the head and steal your wallet. (2) Half the people in this city would cheerfully knock you on the head and steal your wallet. I don't know about you, but I would be really scared to learn #2 and totally unsurprised and unmoved by #1. Similarly: "there are branches in which you jump in front of the train" -- well, sure there are, and there are branches where I abruptly decide to declare myself Emperor of the World and get taken off to a mental hospital, and branches where the earth is about to get hit by an asteroid that miraculously got missed by everyone's observations and we all die. But there aren't "a lot" of any of these sorts of branch (i.e., the measure is very small). What would worry me is to find that a substantial fraction of branches (reckoned by measure) have me jumping in front of the train. But what it takes to make that true is exactly the same thing as it takes to make it true that "with high probability, you will jump in front of the train".
Open thread, September 15-21, 2014

I've never been entirely sure about the whole "it should all add up to normality" thing in regards to MWI. Like, in particular, I worry about the notion of intrusive thoughts. A good 30% of the time I ride the subway I have some sort of weak intrusive thought about jumping in front of the train (I hope it goes without saying that I am very much not suicidal). And since accepting MWI as being reasonably likely to be true, I've worried that just having these intrusive thoughts might increase the measure of those worlds where the intrusive thoughts ... (read more)

2CellBioGuy7yYou don't see other people doing so, and I can assure you many more people than jump have such thoughts. Any MWI weirdness would only affect what you recall of your OWN actions in this case.

Whatever argument you have in mind about "the measure of those worlds" will go through just the same if you replace it with "the probability of the world being that way". You should be exactly equally concerned with or without MWI.

The question that actually matters to you should be something like: Are people with such intrusive thoughts who aren't generally suicidal more likely to jump in front of trains? I think I remember reading that the answer is no; if it turns out to be yes (or if you find those thoughts disturbing) then you might want to look into CBT or something; but MWI doesn't have anything to do with it except that maybe something about it bothers you psychologically.

What is the difference between rationality and intelligence?

Perhaps (and I'm just thinking off the cuff here) rationality is just the subset of general intelligence that you might call meta-intelligence - ie, the skill of intelligently using your first-order intelligence to best achieve your ends.

Open thread, 11-17 August 2014

I remember being inordinately relieved/happy/satisfied when I first read about determinism around 14 or 15 (in Sophie's World, fwiw). It was like, thank you, that's what I've been trying to articulate all these years!

(although they casually dismissed it as a philosophy in the book, which annoyed 14-or-15-year-old me)

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