alex_lw

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What currents of thought on LessWrong do you want to see distilled?

Would be great to see anti-aging research investigated in more details. On one hand, many people in and around ratiosphere seem to believe we're about to see some tangible progress in slowing aging in humans soon (decade or two), see e.g. this great post by JackH recently. On the other hand, other people in this sphere and also in biotech argue that we're quite a distance away from the point where dedicated anti-aging research makes sense and for now focus should be on fundamental biology. I'd be happy to see up-to-date evidence for these two positions evaluated side by side.

And as a potentially separate tread(s) of thoughts, what the ramifications of each being true would be for people interested in the general area of not dying, how it can affect one's lifestyle, donations, career choices etc.

Straight-edge Warning Against Physical Intimacy

Yeah, may be my sloppy reading but I definitely didn't realize that you're saying sex is not potentially harmful to true selfhood, I thought you're saying it is. I agree that the hormonal effects you're describing can be counterproductive to many other goals (or even to the goal of having sex in some cases) and worth being aware of. It's only the idea of them being somehow qualitatively different from other motivations that I was arguing against.

 

discovery of the in-group / out-group mentality that is amplified by it

Can you elaborate on that? Is it supposed to mean that sex amplifies us vs them mentality?

Straight-edge Warning Against Physical Intimacy

I genuinely don't understand, what exactly is the "true self" you're trying to protect in this case? I can see how drugs and alcohol are essentially wireheading, making you feel like you achieved something of value while in fact your didn't (or otherwise affecting your judgement through various "undocumented back doors"). But hormones and neurotransmitters are not something external, they are you, or more specifically a part of the physical implementation of any reasonable definition of "your self". Your motivation for whatever is it you feel it's appropriate to be motivated for is also mediated by hormones, only (maybe) slightly different ones.

To be clear, I completely understand a position "I want to be more motivated by X and less motivated by Y of my lower-level desires", e.g. more motivated by the fear of death and less motivated by impulse to eat tasty food. But, I don't understand how the fact that all of those desires are mediated by hormones makes some of them "less true" than others? Or what does it even mean for them to be "less true"?

What's the best overview of common Micromorts?

I'm pretty sure this chart has been posted here before in a similar context, but probably won't hurt reposting.

A Scalable Urban Design and the Single Building City
Poor people tend to want sunlight more and are less able to afford it here.

While your other summaries are fair, this is very much not what I said. I'm not saying poor people want sunlight more, I'm saying humans regardless of income on average prefer having sunlight and whatever else windows give. (Proof: building codes, seasonal affective disorder, human evolutionary history and any housing market ever. Take e.g. the Bay Area rental housing - rooms with tiny windows do exist but they are confined to the cheapest segment of the market, which is exactly my point. While huge floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows is a common feature of luxury housing everywhere.)

So while yes some middle-class people will be ok with living on the underground levels, and some poor people will chip in to live more crowded but with sunlight. But large and by the principle will be (as it is now to some extent) - the higher floor the higher price. Compare how now, large and buy people live in old rundown apartments when they can't afford any better, although sure there's some fraction of people who can and just don't care. So basically what I'm saying, is that your city's worst neighborhoods are now very literally hidden under nice parks and walking streets with upscale restaurants (as you said cheaper restaurants will likely opt for delivery-only), physically invisible for the rich people in their penthouses. And sunlight and fresh air (as in actually fresh, not from HVAC) are in a sense turned from something everyone can have to luxury good. I'd be the last person to discard any project just because it looks ugly, but you need a big fat argument right on top about why it only looks ugly and in fact will be better for everyone (or realistically for most). And just saying "but some people don't even like sunlight" solves the problem about as well as saying "but some people like to sleep under the open sky" solves the problem of homelessness.


Columns of outside don't work in high latitudes for people that want sunlight.

Indeed you mention dense thin rows of buildings, but doesn't it change the whole calculus here? And more or less turns this into a Manhattan with underground car tunnels, or something close to it? I'm also not quite convinced this approach will work that well even in California, in the sense of making people happy with their view. Plus, when there's a lot of another problem arises with these shafts - they heat up very quickly without wind. Yes, ventilation, but that costs money and I don't think I've ever seen such a "ventilated courtyard", so probably nontrivial amount of money.


What about truck noise and air pollution?

Why are we talking about 50ft here? I thought, without any sidewalks and extra lanes, on the track-only street it'll be more like 5 feet from the wall at most. And I'd guess pick noise is acceleration, not steady movement. Likely still can make it work, as well as ventilation, but if the costs were trivial we'd be building under or right next (as in, 10 feet) to highways all the time. Plus, add enclosed space - reflected sound just goes to the opposite wall.


Snow - maybe salt the streets or use airplanes to blanket everything in salt?

Just. No. The correct procedure is you first remove bulk of the snow, then add salt so any residuals melt and flow down the drains. If you salt half a feet of snow you'll end up with half a feet of squishy, greyish-brown, caustic mud, which is exactly as good for shoes, clothes, health and city's appearance as it sounds. Been there, tried that. (Not with airplanes though, this would have added benefit of salting anyone who had imprudence to be out or open their window at that time.)

The problem with melting is that water has huge heat of fusion. Going with your 0.5 miles example, to melt 6 inches of fresh snow - a large but not extraordinary amount to fall in a day or two - you'd need around 1.1 millions kwh of energy, which is on the same order of magnitude 200k people are consuming in winter in one day. That not counting heating it up to the melting point. So again, nothing impossible but even more expenses into infrastructure and electricity or fuel. On the other hand, in colder climates you'll have to build heavier anyway to protect from cold, so probably making the top layer able to support some kind of machinery is less of an issue.


Robo delivery theft

Yeah, I also thought of a fully enclosed tube, but then you can't share roads with heavy vehicles and need to build even more infrastructure. Not just the tube, but access ports to it in case a robot breaks and blocks it, something for robots to navigate off, and so on. Skilled people can hack a bike lock in seconds, I don't think breaking into a robot with a crowbar would take much longer. Not unsolvable problems both, but add more expenses.


Overall yes, you're totally right that all these problems are solvable by throwing enough money on them (except for no windows in the "underground" levels. You either don't have them and it's a problem, or you do and it's basically a regular densely built city plus some futuristic delivery infrastructure, if I understand the concept correctly). And in most cases it's not huge amount of money. But those not huge amounts do add up, so does the space that some of the solutions require, and decreases in denizens' comfort that some of them cause. Combined, it can easily change the outcome of the calculation.


Seeing Like a State

Firstly, I used grids only as a metaphor, obviously there's nothing wrong with them per se, sorry if that wasn't obvious.

Yes you do add some flexibility in some points. But the core approach remains the same - top down planning, centered around maximizing a relatively small amount of metrics under an unrealistically small amount of constraints, with a bunch of quick fixes added afterwards. I'm not familiar with how they go around planning successful suburbs and cities from scratch, but I'd guess there's much more of "Here's the best practices and approaches that worked in the past, and here's some good examples, let's build something similar but fixing the known problems", and much less of "Here's the two metrics that matter, lets crank them up as high as possible and then correct for whatever problems might come to mind".

I think it's illustrative how your suggested solutions to most of the problems require at least one of the three: governmental spending (air filters, snow, first responders), regulations (noise insulation, walls strength, ventilation) or centralization (robo delivery pipes, centralized heat pumps). The first two are inevitable provided by the government, which is rarely good at fine tuning to the precise needs of the population, the last can be in theory done by a private company, but that would be a monopoly with infinitely high entry barrier for competitors, so no better in practice. So it's very easy to see how all of the problems - noise, stale air, ugly looking parks, lack of sunlight in winter and sizzling heat in the courtyards in summer - get solved just to the point where almost nobody actually dies and (optimistically) not too many people leave the city, but nowhere nearly enough to make the life there actually pleasant.

Another illustrative point is how when it comes to preferences people might actually have, you reason from the outside view of what's technically possible. But they can supplement sunlight with LED lights, right? But someone able to walk 50 meters to their car but not 500 meters to the train station can use a wheelchair?Sure they can, but more often than not it'll make them miserable, and probably incur extra financial costs on the people already not in the best position to handle them.

A Scalable Urban Design and the Single Building City

Hm, frankly I have quite a few issues with this proposal, mostly boiling down to it ignoring the real world problems. Sorry if it sounds harsh, know that I didn't mean it. Frankly, I like the idea of arcology very much myself, but I don't believe it can work with the existing technologies only, at least not in an economically viable way.


>Keep in mind here that people are different and that some aren’t nearly as concerned with sunlight or windows in their own home.

Willingness of people to tolerate lack of sunlight (just like lack of any other nice thing) tends to have strong negative correlation with they ability to pay premium for it. So in practice we're talking about poor people being confined to [effectively] underground ghettos and only richer people being able to afford natural sunlight in their homes. At least this fact should be explicitly mentioned and addressed in the discussion.


> you can bring columns of outside enclosed with windows and textured facades down into buildings periodically

Such things do exist, and they serve exactly one purpose - making the building nominally compliant with the regulations, while not increasing actual liveablility at all, especially in higher latitudes, where the sun will pretty much never be seen at the bottom of such a shaft. Speaking here from the experience of living a few years in Saint Petersburg, Russia, which is famous for courtyards of this type.


>A world where all the streets have shade and no cars

You do understand this sounds attractive only for a certain type of climates, and for others "every street being mostly in shadow" is a big downside, right?


A few more questions:

- It's not just sunlight "underground" levels are deprived of. It's also any kind of personal space outside one's residence (like yard, terrace or patio), and yes any kind of view from a window, other than a wall of another building.

- What happens if you need to rebuild something on the -3d floor underneath a walking street?

- Do you have any calculations regarding the crane space? I know nothing about construction machinery, but just from gawking at it, seems like a crane can't reach much further than a width of an average building. Which would imply that they kind of do require more or less entire street to be able to reach at every point of every building on it.

- Firemen aren't the only ones who need to get around quickly, it also includes police and ambulance. And the latter also needs transport to carry patients and equipment.

- Speaking of firemen, carrying personnel isn't the only function of a fire engine. Granted, you have CO2 and high-pressure water delivered through dedicated networks of pipes (which need to be built and maintained). What about hoses, chemical extinguishers, breathing apparatuses, tools, ladders and whatever other equipment is used in modern fire fighting - are firemen expected to carry it all on their backs? Also, how they would get with a fire hose on say 5th floor above a pedestrian-only street which is physically incapable of supporting a fire engine?

- How healthy is it from the noise/exhaust perspective to have a fully enclosed tunnel filled with trucks right behind your wall or underneath your floor? How much insulation and ventilation is required to make it healthy for the residents, as well as for the drivers and bus riders, and how much more expensive it makes the project?

- Regular cities in rainy climates see their drainage systems overflown from time to time. It usually ends up in small floods, blocked roads, damage to vehicles and first floors of the buildings. What such an event would look like with a park or street atop of a very wide building?

- What about snow? It won't just flow down the drain pipe. Usually people clean it from the rooftops (which are often made inclined to facilitate the process) more or less manually and then use heavy machinery to clean it off the streets. You explicitly state that the top level is too weak to allow heavy machinery on it, so cleaning it can be a very labor-intensive task. Same goes to many other park-maintenance work, come to think about it.

- One of the common problems of modern cities is that they stink. Making them denser and more enclosed increases this problem proportionally.

- On a single lane street with no parking lane, every accident or failure immobilizing a car will completely block the traffic.

- Starship delivers relatively cheap stuff - like food - over regular streets where there's plenty of bystanders. If you suggest delivering everything, including things like laptopts and phones and jewelry, by small robots driving through enclosed ways directly through your city's ghetto, theft will become quite an issue.

- Without PRT, which is optional in your model as far as I understand it, disabled, old, obese, sick, injured or just very physically unfit people will have no good way of getting around.

- A roof of most high-raise building is covered by various air conditioning equipment, ventilation exhausts and such. There'll be only more of these in buildings which have no streets between them. So a rooftop park should be full of these things, puffing out stench and hot air. You may raise them above the walking level, but it still won't look very good.

- This creates a whole lot of new infrastructure every new building needs to be plugged into, as well as new requirements (ability to support extra weight, noise insulation), which makes new development a lot more expensive.


Overall it seems like you're referring to "Seeing Like a State" as an example of what not to do, than go and do exactly what it warns against (full disclosure - I'm actually familiar with the book only from the SSC post). Rotating an evenly-spaced rectangular grid 45° and adding evenly spaced rectangular zig-zag to it doesn't stop it from being an evenly-spaced rectangular grid. Obviously modern cities aren't utilizing the space perfectly, but I believe in large part that "wasted" space provides slack to accommodate imperfect coordination, things breaking, environment and terrain, and other fuzziness of the real world. Your proposal addresses only a part of the coordination problems, by assuming the place is uniquely well-governed.

Open & Welcome Thread - June 2020

Hi! I've been reading LessWrong and Slate Star Codex for years, but until the today's events commented pretty much exclusively on SSC. Hope everything will resolve to the better, although personally I'm rather pessimistic.

In any case, I've been wondering for a while is there any online places for casual discussions a-la SSC Open Threads, but more closely related to Less Wrong and the Bay Area rationalist community? Threads like this are one such place obviously, but they seem rare and unpopulated. I've tried to fins facebook groups, but with very limited success. Any recommendations?

Open & Welcome Thread - June 2020

I think something like "market inefficiency" might be the word. Disclaimer - I'm not an economist and don't know the precise technical meaning of this term. But roughly speaking, the situations you describe seem to be those where the law of supply and demand is somehow prevented from acting directly on the monetary price, so the non-monetary "price" is increased/decreased instead. In the case of the apartments, they'd probably be happy to increase the price until they've got exactly the right number of applicants but are kept from doing it by rent control or reputation or something, so they incur moral costs on the applicants. In case of hiring, they're probably kept from lowering their wages through some combination of: inability to lower wages of the existing employees on the similar positions, wages not being exactly public anyway, and maybe some psychological expectations where nobody with required credentials will agree to work for less than X, no matter how good the conditions are (or alternatively they're genuinely trying to pick the best and failing, than it's Goodheart's law). And in the case of the dating market there simply is no universal currency to begin with.

SlateStarCodex deleted because NYT wants to dox Scott

Huh, what, Russia Today's article is used for defending SSC??? These times we're living in are strange indeed..

The league of Rationalists

"Once you’re a member, you’re recognized as having proven your worth. It means that you’re deserving of the highest respect. Within the league, everyone has the maximum amount of social capital. No more or less. If you’re a member, you’re like a sibling to everyone else. " - that part sound like the great explanation of how small groups of very close friends function. Where everyone really is like a sibling for everyone else and there's effectively no struggle for status (talking from the personal experience here). But it seems really doubtful that this can be achieved in a group of any significant size, as long as we're dealing with humans.

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