All of alicey's Comments + Replies

Open thread, July 31 - August 6, 2017

you are missing the concept of blather

The definition of "blather" that I find is: "talk long-windedly without making very much sense", which does not sound like Thomas's comment. What definition are you using?
Thomas's comment seems quite sensible to me. It seems to me that Dyson's argument was that as temperature falls, so does the energy required for computing. So, the point in time when we run out of available energy to compute diverges. But, Thomas reasonably points out (I think - correct me if I am misrepresenting you Thomas) that as temperature falls and the energy used for computing falls, so does the speed of computation, and so the amount of computation that can be performed converges, even if we were to compute forever. Also, isn't Thomas correct that Planck's constant puts an absolute minimum on the amount of energy required for computation? These seem like perfectly reasonable responses to Dyson's comments. What am I missing?
Final Words

Voted up this comment, for kabbalistic reasons.

Voted down this comment, because 2 other people voted it up and didn't even have the guts to admit to it.
Lawful Creativity

okay, playing house isn't actually a coherent category. there are ways to play house that have carse-jargon-“definite rules” and have a carse-jargon-defined-beginning&end, and there are ways to play house that don't. most instances of playing house are of the former type, likely including your experiences.

carse uses words in weird ways.

Lawful Creativity

carse uses words in weird ways. in carse jargon, playing house is a finite game.

As explained it doesn't fit the definition given: playing house does not have "definite rules" and does not have a defined beginning/end.
Simulate and Defer To More Rational Selves

afaict the quirrell tulpa is one of the more common types of tulpas. if you have one, do not use it. it is secretly voldemort and will destroy your soul.

My Naturalistic Awakening

When you say “a science-fiction story”, I am curious if it ever was finished. Is it HPMOR?

An overview of the mental model theory

Reading this was a bit annoying:

Only one statement about a hand of cards is true:

  • There is a King or Ace or both.

  • There is a Queen or Ace or both.

Which is more likely, King or Ace?

... The majority of people respond that the Ace is more likely to occur, but this is logically incorrect.

It is just communicating badly . In a common parse, Ace is more likely to occur. It would be more likely to be parsed as you intended if you had said

Only one of the following premises is true about a particular hand of cards:

(like you did on ... (read more)

I think that the communication goals of the OP were not to tell us something about a hand of cards, but rather to demonstrate that certain forms of misunderstanding are common, and that this maybe tells us something about the way our brains work. The problem quoted unambiguously precludes the possibility of an ace, yet many of us seem to incorrectly assume that the statement is equivalent to something like, 'One of the following describes the criterion used to select a hand of cards.....,' under which, an ace is likely. The interesting question is, why? In order to see the question as interesting, though, I first have to see the effect as real.
Thanks for the advice. It was a mistake. I have updated it to: "Only one of the following premises is true about a particular hand of cards".
I'd guess that getting this question "correct" almost requires having been trained to parse the problem in a certain formal way — namely, purely in terms of propositional logic. Otherwise, a perfectly reasonable parsing of the problem would be equivalent to the following: On this reading, Ace is most probable. Indeed, this "algorithmic" reading seems like the more natural one if you're used to trying to model the world as running according to some algorithm — that is, if, for you, "learning about the world" means "learning more about the algorithm that runs the word". The propositional-logic reading (the one endorsed by the OP) might be more natural if, for you, "learning about the world" means "learning more about the complicated conjunction-and-disjunction of propositions that precisely carves out the actual world from among the possible worlds."
An Alien God

you're not really wrong but you're missing the point

I didn't miss the point; I just had one of my own to add. I gave the post a thumbs-up before I made my comment, because I agree with the overwhelming majority of it and have dealt with people who have some of the confusions described therein. Anyway, thanks for explaining.
The AI, the best human advisor

You do have to be being careful not to give it too much computation time:

Indeed! That's why I give them three subjective weeks.
Rationality is about pattern recognition, not reasoning


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I don't have a concrete plan yet. I have draft posts that I've written that are insufficiently polished for publication that I can share with you. You can get in touch with me at
16 types of useful predictions

nod. Sounds reasonable!

It might help to be more intentional, to prevent people from having jarring experiences like that.

For every person that finds "male pronoun as default" jarring, I'd expect there to be two who find consciously alternating between genders jarring, and five for most of the more exotic alternatives. I'm not saying it's a bad idea after taking everything into account, but if all you care about is ease of reading, you'd have to have a very specific audience in mind for this solution to make sense to me. (Not my downvote, by the way.)
After a bit of thought, I believe I've found a basically permanent solution for this. I use word replacer (not sure how to add links without just posting them, you can google it, it is in the chrome web store) with a bunch of rules to enforce 'they' as default. If you put rules for longer strings at the top they match first ('he is' to 'they are' at the top with 'he' to 'they' lower down, for example) You will have to put up with some number mismatch unless you want to add a rule for every verb in English ('they puts'), but I feel that that is an acceptable sacrifice. EDIT: another issue: If you are actually talking about pronouns, you will have to temporarily disable it for things to make any sense whatsoever, and it doesn't seem to have a way to disable it on a specific page unlike the service I was using it to replace, so you have to use the extensions screen in settings. EDEDIT: Also, and this is bothering me enough that I might actually stop using this, is 'her' as a pronoun versus 'her' as a possessive. for example in 'Get to know her' versus 'I found her wallet'. The first should be 'Get to know them' wheras the second one should be 'I found their wallet', and I'm not sure what to do about that. If I find/build an extension which can interface with a list of english words with part-of-speech tagging and have rules like 'her'->'them', 'her '->'their ', then that'd work, but as is it is bugging me.
0Adam Zerner7y
1. My impression is that switching it up would be a bit confusing to the reader. In the spirit of making predictions, I'll say that I'm 70% confident that switching it up would cause confusion in readers (not sure how I'd define confusion :/ ). It'd be interesting to see research on this. Maybe how switching it up affects reading comprehension or something. 2. For better or for worse, convention seems to be to use male pronouns, and I sense that deviation from this draws the readers attention towards pronoun use and away from the content. You may argue that this is an example of the legacy problem [] . Again, it'd be interesting to see if there was any similar research into this.

I usually try to mix it up. A quick count shows 6 male examples and 2 female examples, which was not a deliberate choice, but I guess I can be more intentional about a more even split in future?

Final Words

i am curious what the nice use of hebrew is!

It's probably "Song of Light," or if you want a more literal translation, "Hymn to Light."
I can only find 'Singing Towards Awake'. But for all I know, that's grammatical.
Final Words

Voted down all comments in this chain except this one, because I am flesh.

Voted up this comment, for reasons that should be self-evident.
Some people do need to see that link, but note that it, too, is rather dangerous.
The Superstar Effect

It should be noted that many employers do hire the somebody who learned to code at App Academy but never went to college over the other person.

(After all, the somebody can signal agentiness about becoming a better programmer, unlike the person. And the somebody is actually more likely to be a good employee than the person.)

(I'm not sure if you were implying the opposite of this or not (it is ambiguous))

0Adam Zerner8y
Agreed. I just graduated from a different coding bootcamp (Fullstack Academy) and know that the good bootcamps have job placement rates in the mid-high 90s.
MetaMed: Evidence-Based Healthcare

But, either way, not much evidence at all.

Teaching English in Shanghai

But, New York is exceptionally safe.

I'd like to think it was always obvious, but it's often worth explicitly spelling out things that ought to be obvious.
Truth: It's Not That Great

i'm into epistemic rationality, but this all seems pretty much accurate and stuff

not sure what to conclude from having that reaction to this post.

My attempt to boil the post down to a one sentence conclusion: being super into epistemic rationality is a very good thing, but it is not the only good thing.
Self-Congratulatory Rationalism

revisiting this, i consider that perhaps i am likely to discard parts of the frame message and possibly outer message - because, to me of course it's a message, and to me of course the meaning of (say) "belief" is roughly what says it is

Self-Congratulatory Rationalism

improving signal to noise, holding the signal constant, is brevity

when brevity impedes communication, but only with a subset of people, then the reduced signal is because they're not good at understanding brief things, so it is worth not being brief with them, but it's not fun

What does brevity offer you that makes it worthwhile, even when it impedes communication? Predicting how communication will fail is generally Really Hard, but it's a good opportunity to refine your models of specific people and groups of people.
I understand this to mean that the only value you see to non-brevity is its higher success at manipulation. Is that in fact what you meant?
In other words, you prefer brevity to clarity and being understood? Something's a little skewed here. It sounds like you and TheOtherDave have both identified the problem. Assuming you know what the problem is, why not fix it? It may be that you are incorrect about the cause of the problem, but it's easy enough test your hypothesis. The cost is low and the value of the information gained would be high. Either you're right and brevity is your problem, in which case you should be more verbose when you wish to be understood. Or you're wrong and added verbosity would not make people less inclined to "round you off to the nearest cliche", in which case you could look for other changes to your writing that would help readers understand you better.
Self-Congratulatory Rationalism

i tend to express ideas tersely, which counts as poorly-explained if my audience is expecting more verbiage, so they round me off to the nearest cliche and mostly downvote me

i have mostly stopped posting or commenting on lesswrong and stackexchange because of this

like, when i want to say something, i think "i can predict that people will misunderstand and downvote me, but i don't know what improvements i could make to this post to prevent this. sigh."

revisiting this on 2014-03-14, i consider that perhaps i am likely to discard parts of the frame ... (read more)

I have found great value in re-reading my posts looking for possible similar-sounding cliches, and re-writing to make the post deliberately inconsistent with those. For example, the previous sentence could be rounded off to the cliche "Avoid cliches in your writing". I tried to avoid that possible interpretation by including "deliberately inconsistent".
I suspect that the issue is not terseness, but rather not understanding and bridging the inferential distance between you and your audience. It's hard for me to say more without a specific example.
Well, you describe the problem as terseness. If that's true, it suggests that one set of improvements might involve explaining your ideas more fully and providing more of your reasons for considering those ideas true and relevant and important. Have you tried that? If so, what has the result been?
Bridge Collapse: Reductionism as Engineering Problem

this is why i like ¬

script your keyboard! make it so that the chords ~1 and 1~ output a '¬'! or any other chord, really

if this actually sounds interesting and you use windows you can grab my script at

A defense of Senexism (Deathism)

note: "life expectancy used to be ~30" is a common misconception (it's being skewed by infant mortality) (life expectancy has gone up a lot, just not that much)

(as far as i know. i've been told that it's a common misconception that this is a common misconception, but they refused to cite sources)

A defense of Senexism (Deathism)

short response is "yeah, sure, sorta ... but only if you're a stupid group. we can do better."

edit: is the longer version of this response

Just claiming that a smart group might do better is not enough.
The Cluster Structure of Thingspace

why yes

clusters can overlap, and the word "more like" uses different clusters of clusters depending on context

Dark Arts of Rationality

she who wears the magic bracelet of future-self delegation prefers to do as she is ordered

Facing the Intelligence Explosion discussion page

have edited original comment to address this.

(thought it was obvious)

Facing the Intelligence Explosion discussion page

have edited original comment . does it address this?

No. Still throughout most history it was the exception to live much longer than child bearing age (14-30).
Facing the Intelligence Explosion discussion page

in you say "There was once a time when the average human couldn’t expect to live much past age thirty."

this is false, right?

(edit note: life expectancy matches "what the average human can expect to live to" now somewhat, but if you have a double hump of death at infancy/childhood and then old age, you can have a life expectancy of 30 but a life expectancy of 15 year olds of 60, in which case the average human can expect to live to 1 or 60 (this is very different from "can't ... (read more)

Life expectancy used to be very low, but it was driven by child and infant mortality more than later pestilence and the like.
No (it was still in the 30's in some parts of the world as recently as the 20th century).
Ritual Report: Boston Solstice Celebration

note: shminux is a particularly vocal individual who strongly disagrees with the timeless "block universe" model

I don't agree or disagree with untestables.
Thinking and Deciding: a chapter by chapter review

Does it clash with your experience of decision-making?

so, it seems a decent model for system-2 decision making

however, most of our minds is system-1 and is nowhere near so spocky

It's not clear to me what you mean by "System 1 does thinking." Could you unpack that for me?

most of our minds and our cognitive power is instantiated as subconscious system 1 mechanics, not anything as apparent as search-inference

for example, (read more)

Sorry about the delay in responding! I was much busier this holiday season than I expected to be. I'm not sure I would describe search-inference as spocky. I agree that having introspective access to it is spocky, but I don't think that's necessary for it to be search-inference, and I don't think Baron is making the claim that the decision process is always accessible. Baron's example on pages 10-11 seems to include both subconscious and conscious elements, in a way that his earlier description might not seem to, and I think that in this book Baron doesn't really care whether thinking happens in System 1 or System 2. A lot of the time, I suspect people don't even realize that there's a search going on, because the most available response comes to mind and they don't think to look for more (see Your inner Google [], availability bias [], and so on), but it seems likely that System 1 did some searching before coming up with the most available response. Indeed, one of the things that another decision book, Decisive [] , proposes as a heuristic is that whenever a serious issue is under consideration, there should be at least two alternatives on the table (rather than just "A" or "not A," search so you're considering "A" or "B" at least). Agree that "naive theory" is not a very good category. In the book, they define the binary as: But calling the child's belief that the Earth is flat "naive" because we know better is useless for determining which of our current beliefs are naive, and as you rightly point out if we interpret that as "this belief is naive if someone knows better" then all beliefs must be suspected to be naive. I think Baron began with naive theories because it makes it easy to give many examples of different mental models of the same phenomena, to highlight
Rationality Quotes December 2013

hello! i am transgender, and i would like to friendly mention that the word is "transgender" is usually preferred

but words are hard, so if this doesn't come across as friendly, i have done words poorly :c

Hello! Sorry if my term was offensive, but I actually meant something specific by it. "Transgender" is indeed the preferred term when discussing people who choose to express a gender other than the one their culture wishes to assign them. However, "transsexuality" seemed a more accurate term when discussing those who specifically choose to undergo sexual reassignment surgery (and when comparing with BIID). I understand that there are political connotations to that term, but I needed to be simultaneously precise and concise and meant no offense.
Thinking and Deciding: a chapter by chapter review

i've recently started reading this book, but the search-inference framework seems obviously silly, neglecting simple concepts such as "system 1 does thinking"

what is up with this?

The search-inference framework matches my introspective account of how I make most of my decisions. It also seems to match my professional experience in numerical optimization. For example, we have four trucks and fifty deliveries to make; which deliveries go in which truck, and what order should they be delivered in? We write out what a possibility looks like, what our goals are, and how a program can go from one possibility to other (hopefully better) possibilities, and when it should stop looking and tell us what orders to give the drivers. Does it clash with your experience of decision-making? It's not clear to me what you mean by "System 1 does thinking." Could you unpack that for me?
Chaotic Inversion

You'd think so, but it's quite the opposite for me!