All of Antisuji's Comments + Replies

First of all, I can highly recommend Nachmanovitch's Free Play. It's at the very least thought-provoking and entertaining—whether it helps you be more creative is harder to tell. I got a bit of milage creativitywise out of Comedy Writing Secrets, which I hear is well-regarded among professional humor writers. I wasn't very diligent about the exercises, or I might have gotten more out of it.

Regarding LW-like thought and creativity, I'm reading through Minsky's Society of Mind and the Puzzle Principle section talks about machines and creativity:

Many people

... (read more)

Syntactically it's quite a bit better than an N-gram markov chain: it gets indentation exactly right, it balances parentheses, braces, and comment start/end markers, delimits strings with quotation marks, and so on. You're right that it's no better than a markov chain at understanding the "code" it's producing, at least at the level a human programmer does.

Discussion on Hacker News. Definitely an interesting article, very readable and (to me) entertaining. But I agree with interstice that it doesn't say much about strong AI.

Yes and no. Morality is certainly less fundamental than physics, but I would argue no less real a concept than "breakfast" or "love," and has enough coherence – thingness – to be useful to try to outline and reason about.

The central feature of morality that needs explaining, as I understand it, is how certain behaviors or decisions make you feel in relation to how other people feel about your behaviors. Which is not something you have full control over. It is a distributed cognitive algorithm, a mechanism for directing social behavior t... (read more)

In my experience, micro optimizations like these represent yet another thing to keep track of. The upside is pretty small, while the potential downside (forget to cancel a card?) is larger. If you're ok with paying the attentional overhead or it's a source of entertainment, go for it.

Personally I'd rather use a standard rewards card (mine is 1.5% cash), not have to think about it, and spend my limited cognitive resources on doing well at my job, looking out for new opportunities with large upsides, working on side projects, or networking.

For those of us on low incomes it matters. People past points of diminishing returns, perhaps not. I also now have three credit cards that between each of them manages 3-5% back on large fractions of my day to day spending, I just need to remember which one to use at which stores.

That's interesting, because to me it read more like "I'm going to write something interesting about anything you like, do some research for you, and even share the results" and "as long as I have to do this assignment I might as well make it useful to someone" but maybe that's because I recognized the poster's name, read his blog, etc.

I can see how someone might interpret it this way, though.

Yeah, I was definitely thinking of it more in this light: "I'm going to go do 10-15 hours of research and writing, and I'm offering anyone the chance to influence the topic with < 5 minutes of their own effort."

Not something I actually did last month, since I wrote the piece two years ago, but it feels like it since that's when the validation arrived. A blog post of mine hit /r/basicincome and then /r/futurism, which are sitting at ~470 (98% positive) and ~1080 (92% positive) votes respectively, and found its way to hacker news. Some of the discussion is pretty good. The relevant quote:

"Let us keep in mind how poorly we treat those who cannot currently contribute to society. Sooner or later we will have to face this question: how do we define personal wort

... (read more)

Schmidhuber's formulation of curiosity and interestingness as a (possibly the) human learning algorithm. Now when someone says "that's interesting" I gain information about the situation, where previously I interpreted it purely as an expression of an emotion. I still see it primarily about emotion, but now understand the whys of the emotional response: it's what (part of) our learning algorithm feels like from the inside.

There are some interesting signaling implications as well.

I would be wary of concluding too much from phatic statements. "That's interesting" is more likely to be a phatic utterance than not in some contexts/with some people
Direct link to the page on the theory. That's really interesting! (ha!) I recommend reading the full page for good examples, but here's a summary:

This, I assume? (It took me a few tries to find it since first I typed in the name wrong and then it turns out it's "Wardley" with an 'a'.) Is the video on that page a good introduction?

Damn, I had the "a" then changed it cause it looked wrong ' The video is a decent introduction. however, if you'd like to learn how to actually use them, a great resource is this free book:, which was compiled from Simon Wardley's blog, takes you step by step through understanding the process, creating them, and using them to create a coherent business strategy. If you have time for it, his entire blog is worth a look:

There is undoubtedly some slop built in to the system, both to cover ordinary fluctuations in demand (which is, after all, stochastic), and because inventory control is itself expensive and difficult and only worth doing up to a certain level of precision.

That said, there's a fallacy here, the same one as in this recent post (addressed here, e.g.). In brief, what matters is not whether you cause stores to waste measurably less food with certainly, but the expected amount of change in food waste due to your actions, especially over the long term.

Speedcubing. I don't recommend it, though—I started about a year ago and it sniped a significant amount of my free time in 2014, on the order of 400-500 hours. (I had a similar experience with Go in college.)

I've been fasting one day a week since the beginning of May of this year. I usually start Sunday evening and fast through Monday evening or Tuesday morning, around 24 to 36 hours, and this fits my schedule pretty well—alternate-day would be considerably more difficult. The trickiest part is declining offers from coworkers to go to lunch and then having to explain why. Sleeping through the night on Monday can be a little uncomfortable if I'm doing a longer fast.

I've fasted erratically for years (when I felt like it, which turned out to be once every month o... (read more)

That's consistent with my experience. That is, most people aren't particularly impressed, or don't want to let on that they are, and I'm only moderately impressed with myself. And I'm fine with that, since these days I make an effort not to indulge the urge to optimize for impressiveness, except evidently in threads like these.

Contrast this with juggling 5 balls, which is for me about the same level of difficulty (both in terms of learning the skill and performing it once learned). People are much more likely to be visibly impressed, though the way they show it isn't always agreeable or complimentary.

Clearly you need to learn to do both at once.
Interesting point. I don't have much trouble getting things done and my goals are mostly not of the impressive kind. I only recently learned to optimize impressiveness as a tool for 'winning at life'. Reconsidering this and rereading Kays post I notice that I do aim for impressiveness (or at least visibility) of my work to some degree. I wonder whether the impressiveness optimization desire can be hacked to work for actual goals. I'd think that impressiveness measured by actual effort seems to do the trick. The hard part being of course the measuring outcome. If our scientitic system already fails at that it presumably is a hard problem.

Solved a Rubik's cube in under 15 seconds. Still having trouble getting my averages below 25, though.

That is quite fast and I understand that it requires a lot of practice but it impresses me only moderately. Thus I think on the failed simulation effect matrix it falls into the middle ground (moderately difficult and moderately impressive). I like puzzles too and there was a time where I'd put enormous amounts of effort into solving them. But nowadays for me the more interesting puzzles is how to attack the problem. The algorithmic solvability. Could I write a program to solve this? Or is the problem hard just by the number of permutations/edge cases involved? In the latter case I quickly loose interest as the difficulty is accidental complexity added to make it look hard.

I generally agree, but I'd caution against raising threats to the level of mutual knowledge. Intuitively it feels dangerous to ask things like "are you threatening me?" Thinking about it for a few minutes, it seems that it's dangerous in part because once a threat has been made explicit, the threatening party can no longer back down without losing face and credibility. The question also feels like a power play and can be seen as disrespectful.

It's still good to know whether you're just dealing with a hostile argument vs. a real threat vs. intimidation without intent to follow through, but when there's a power differential it's probably bad for the knowledge to be out in the open.

Yeah, I should have stated that better — I didn't mean literally asking the other person that question, but rather considering the question during (or better yet, before and after) the hostile argument. Going on previous behavior seems to be a good guideline. Rather than asking, "Does this person hate people they disagree with?" you can ask, "How have they treated me in other disagreements? How have they treated others they disagree with?" For instance, if someone has often been violent before over the (say) fifteen years you've known them, they will probably be violent again, and a new hostile argument might lead to an escalation of that violence. But if they have not been violent, they probably won't suddenly start being violent on account of a disagreement, even a nasty one. For that matter, if someone is abusive to others (such as mistreating a coworker and gloating about it) then they might become abusive to you.

I consider myself a vim poweruser and this doesn't match my experience. Vim is a great tool and I use it for a lot of things, but it's absolutely not a replacement for bash, screen, Chrome, etc.

It's much truer of Emacs than of Vim.

I haven't been playing on KGS recently, but if you're interested in a teaching game send me a PM and we can schedule something. I'm around 4k.

I used to feel that way about interruptions, but at this point I'm not convinced that taking breaks is particularly harmful to my productivity as a programmer. I'm usually in one of two situations. I'm either stuck on something, in which case taking a break can be helpful, or in the zone, in which case I know exactly what I'm doing and it takes less than a minute to get back into things. The intuition that interruptions are bad for productivity might stem from the fact that being interrupted feels unpleasant.

Of course my experience may not apply to everyone, etc, etc.

I'm reasonably sure it depends on the sort of interrupt. This is based on introspection, so it's not very reliable, but an interrupt that involves thinking about something different-but-similar is murder, while e.g. switching tracks entirely to reading a book doesn't seem to be nearly as much of a problem. Getting up to take a walk is something else again; it doesn't actually break my concentration at all, I'll still be thinking about the same problems while walking.

I've sometimes been in the habit of talking into my phone, which conveniently removes the social stigma as long as no one is close enough to hear what you're saying. Taking walks helps. You can either record yourself or not—I find that talking into an inert phone feels awkward while recording myself makes me feel a little self-conscious. I never did find a method I was completely comfortable with, which might be why I don't do it anymore.

Anyway, I'm generally a fan of self-talk / private speech. I think it's a good way to put your thoughts through a BS det... (read more)

The hows and whys of refactoring and DRY. How and why to achieve proper separation of concerns (I still have lots to learn there).

Social protocols, especially around initiating and maintaining friendships and other levels of relationships. Being empathetic.

Do you know what you have to learn in that area?

While it's probably justified to correct for the sampling bias in prevalence statistics, it's worth pointing out that sexual partners are not sampled uniformly: the prevalence of a given STD will potentially be higher in the population of likely partners than in the general population.

That's a good point, and probably applies to Mark Manson's guide too. It's similar to the well-known point that your friends are probably more popular than you are, because popular people have more friends.

Looking back at this, I'm realizing that a lot of these suggestions are more plain old advice rather than force multipliers. The true force multipliers are proficiency with tools, continually investing in improving your workflow, and probably certain people skills like delegation and team-building.

As pushcx said it's not about speed as much as not having to pay attention to what your fingers are doing (and crucially, being able to look elsewhere while you type). The bottleneck isn't bandwidth but the size of your L1 cache.

This sort of optimization is a pretty foundational concept for software engineers. These are things that have helped my career as a software engineer and made me more effective in my job (not exactly the same thing, but related!):


  • Touch typing. This should go without saying, but I've worked with people who hunt and peck and it's painful to watch. But you don't have to type really fast to get most of the benefit, since other bottlenecks will start to dominate. In my experience a pokey 50 WPM is more than sufficient.

More Advanced Mechanics

  • Gain flu
... (read more)
Looking back at this, I'm realizing that a lot of these suggestions are more plain old advice rather than force multipliers. The true force multipliers are proficiency with tools, continually investing in improving your workflow, and probably certain people skills like delegation and team-building.
I don't touch type, and my typing speed is about 65 wpm. Do you think learning how to touch type will result in a significant increase in speed, enough to be worth the effort? I'm an academic, so typing speed is probably not as important for me as it is for a software designer, but I do a lot of writing, so it is a potentially significant productivity boost.

As you get older, you gain more ability to buy utility at good prices: for instance, kids become increasingly expensive as they age.

Perhaps because my economic intuition isn't that sharp, I'm having trouble connecting the dots on this statement. I'm not seeing how the example implies the assertion, and I'm having trouble coming up with another example. Can you expand on this?

As kids grow older, they become more expensive because they increasingly demand more money. The reason they demand more money is because money becomes more valuable to them as they age. The reason money becomes more valuable to them as they age is because they can buy more utility per dollar. (I don't know if this is true, I'm just explaining the argument). Analogous to: People who like chocolate more eat more chocolate, people will spend more money when the store has a special sales deal, etc. Lower prices//higher benefits drive up demand.
Suppose that I weight my own utility such that I'm willing to buy utility at 10 utils per dollar. As gjm noted, this exchange rate should stay constant unless my utility weightings change. But suppose that there are a number of things that provide utility at this rate: * playing video games * drinking alcohol * renting fancy cars * owning a house * having children These things become available increasingly late in life, so my consumption would increase even though I spent money rationally (well, rationally_{weighted utilitarianism}) throughout.

This is interesting, thanks for the link. The model seems to be partly based on one's assessment of self-worth as compared to their partner. Based on this I'd expect to see a person exhibit different styles depending on who they're dating, though this effect could be diminished by acclimation. This might account for some portion of the 20-30% of people who change styles. Is this explored in the literature? Or maybe I'm misunderstanding and the self- and other-assessments are purely positive or negative and not at all comparative.

Also I tried searching for ... (read more)

You're right, I made some assumptions that probably don't apply to SaidAchmiz, and I realize my comment comes off poorly. I apologize. I was trying to refer to the situation from the OP, but found it difficult to write about without using a hypothetical "you" and I'm not entirely satisfied with the result.

What I was trying to get across is that this kind of situation can be complex and that the girlfriend in the scenario can have legitimate emotional justification for behaving this way. I agree that wishing you'd lied is a bad situation to be in.... (read more)

I understand the sentiment, but I'd caution that the desire to be able to express yourself freely can be seen as cover for having license to say whatever you want without regard to how it effects the other person. This is bad even if you don't intend to use it that way: you should be spending some cycles thinking about how the other person will feel about what you say. I speak from experience: saying what's on my mind has at times been hurtful to people I care about and I should have censored it or redirected the impulse.

Perhaps part of what you're objecti... (read more)

That is something the people do have actual conversations about, something that is, indeed, important to consider and a good reason to adopt the practice of emphasising positive things. However, it is not the kind of conversation that SaidAchmiz was talking about unless you read it extremely uncharitably. There is a rather distinct and obvious difference between emphasizing the positive aspects of something and emphasizing something that does not exist. In fact, choosing to emphasize something to exists entails outright failing to emphasize a positive aspect of the the thing in question. Sometimes that is necessary to do, but doing so does not constitute a converstation of the type you describe. Your reply has distinct "straw man" tendencies.
8Said Achmiz10y
(and now, the other part of my reply to your comment, with a quite intentional difference in tone) Certainly. I'm not suggesting that you ought to just run your mouth about any opinion that pops into your head, especially without giving any thought to whether expressing that opinion would be tactful, how the other person will feel about it (especially if it's a person you care about), etc. Often the best policy is just to shut up. The problem comes when someone asks you for an opinion, and communicates that they really want it. If they then take offense at honesty, then I am strongly tempted to despise them immediately and without reservation. (Tempted, note; there may be mitigating factors; we all act unreasonably on occasion; but patterns of behavior are another thing.) One of the issues with behaving like this is: so what happens when you really do want the person's opinion? How do you communicate that? You've already taught your partner that they should lie, tell you the pleasing falsehood, rather than be honest; how do you put that on hold? "No, honey, I know that I usually prefer falsehood to truth despite my protestations to the contrary, but this time I really do want the truth! Honest!" It erodes communication and trust — and I can think of few more important things in a relationship. Behavior like this also makes your partner not trust your rationality, your honesty with yourself; I don't think I could be with a person whom I could not trust, on such a basic level, to reason honestly. I couldn't respect them. Yes. Certainly. Heck, I sometimes don't want to hear the truth, or someone's honest opinion of me. Not because I am necessarily in denial, or any such thing, but because I don't want to think about it at the moment; or any number of reasons. But you know what I don't do in that case? I don't ask them for their honest opinion! I don't do what the girlfriend in the anecdote did, which is essentially demand that someone close to her to lie to her,
2Said Achmiz10y
Possible, but utterly abhorrent. Doublespeak for "doublethink, self-deception, and lies". One can acknowledge hard work without lying about outcomes. Approval given regardless of worth is meaningless and devalues itself (because if I approve of what you made, even if it's crap, then my approval is worthless, because it does not distinguish good work from bad, good results from dreck). Perhaps, then, she should heed Paul Graham's advice to keep her identity small; and apply the Litany of Tarski to whether the thing she worked on was good. Sure, but something can be difficult, non-obvious, and undesirable. I strongly disapprove of equating empathy with deception and tacit support for irrationality and emotional manipulation. They are not the same.

This is a great idea for a regular thread! Thanks for posting.

I'm taking Computing for Data Analysis on Coursera, which is more or less an R primer. There's only one more week left in my session, so there's not much time left to study together, but regardless I'm open to studying with other LWers taking the course. So far it's pretty good, so I can recommend the course if you're thinking of taking it.

I probably won't have much time for MOOCing in the near future since next week I'm starting a new job that I expect to be intellectually demanding and I'll wa... (read more)

If you're interested in Data science, Coursera just announced a specialization in data science by the same team teaching the course you're currently in. It looks very promising.

It's always about direction of attention

This is one of my favorite things about a certain brand of writing: it's meta, or somehow self-aware or self-similar, without rubbing the fact in your face. Italo Calvino's Six Memos for the Next Millennium are also like this (and are the only lit-crit-like thing I've ever enjoyed reading).

The toast is Josey Baker Bread (yes, that's actually his name; short documentary here) and it really is that good. By which I mean, as another exploitative Bay Area techie, I've paid that price at The Mill more than once and I felt it was worth it.

The toast only manages to be worth four dollars to you because four dollars is worth less to you than to poorer people. (At least in the sense of how much you would care if you lost four dollars and what you would be willing to do to get another four dollars).

I more or less agree, but note that extra effort does not necessarily mean extra hours. Though, depending on who you work for the latter might be a good proxy for the former.

The important thing is to make the right people notice you put in the extra effort. Woking extra hours seems like the obvious solution, but depending on circumstances it may not be the best one. If the company does not keep records (or if your boss outsources the recordkeeping to someone else), it may even be unnoticed. The good strategy requires finding out what your boss considers an evidence of an extra effort. (Some bosses may consider extra hours an evidence of extra effort, others may consider it an evidence of incompetence.) Then produce that. If you really put in the extra effort, make sure you don't forget to provide this evidence. (And of course there is a dark path of not putting in the extra effort, just optimizing for this evidence. Even if people notice you optimize for evidence, they will probably not discount properly.) For example, bosses are often not aware of what their subordinates are doing. And to some degree that's okay, because you are paid to take care about the details. It's just: the more you see something, the more real it seems. So you could sometimes remind your boss of what you are doing, in a way that does not make them worry about you not being able to handle it. Like: "Yesterday I had this interesting problem [keyword, keword, keyword, skip the boring details], it was really complicated, but then I solved it successfully, so no problem, everything goes according to the original plan." For example while you are together at lunch. (Dark version: describe a problem your colleague had and solved yesterday, but pretend that you contributed to the solution. The boss will be delighted that you care deeply about the company and take initiative even beyond your responsibilities.)

This is closely related to a failure mode of communication discussed here recently. The error made by the "fascists" and "rakes" in the linked post is a special case of the OP's error of assumed variables: in this case the hidden variable is whose morality applies.

My guess is that these miscommunications often arise from inadequate empathy or theory of mind. It's very common for assertions to have hidden or assumed variables that are reflexive, that is, they refer to the speaker. Some people have the ability to automatically transfer th... (read more)

A little while back I read a Language Log post on this, one of Mark Liberman's breakfast experiments. He looks at differences in switch timing, which I think is the same as what you're calling LSV, between male and female speakers in a large corpus of telephone conversations.

* blink * I have absolutely no idea, in retrospect, why I repeatedly wrote "LSV". I meant "LVR" (Latency of Verbal Response). Fixed. And yes, I think Mark is talking about the same thing I am.

A very readable new paper on causality on Andrew Gelman's blog: Forward causal inference and reverse causal questions. It doesn't have any new results, but motivates asking "why" questions in addition to "what if" questions to facilitate model checking and hypothesis generation. Abstract:

The statistical and econometrics literature on causality is more focused on “effects of causes” than on “causes of effects.” That is, in the standard approach it is natural to study the effect of a treatment, but it is not in general possible to defin

... (read more)

I took the survey. Thanks for putting this together, Yvain!

I chose DEFECT: CFAR/MIRI can keep their money. Furthermore, if I win I precommit to refusing payment and donating $120 * (1 - X) to MIRI, where X is the proportion of people who answer COOPERATE. I humbly suggest that others do the same.

Do you ever study with pomodoros, and if so does that affect whether or how often you eject?

Nope. I'm not sure that would be helpful. Like Vaniver, I suspect that this has to do with my subconscious needing time to absorb a new concept. I don't expect a time management technique to be useful.

Which seems related to building skills in the right order.

Personally I find that during study it's sometimes hard to tell the difference between material that is too challenging and material that is difficult but tractable with some effort. That is, I have to put forth the effort either way and it's only afterwards that I find out which is the case.

I'm a fairly long-time Anki user, about 2.5 years now, and my biggest frustration with it is a lack of workflow. I've tried to set one up a couple of times, including one point where I was using Anki's CSV import functionality, but there were always too many steps. Things would get backed up at the bottleneck. So at this point I just use it in maintenance mode and add a new card manually once a month or so.

(My second biggest frustration is that Anki doesn't really let you learn things as sets, and I can't figure out how to make cards parameterized. For exa... (read more)

Anki is open source and allows for plugins. If you want to help making Anki a better SRS system the road seem clear.
It doesn't allow for rating cards as Hard/Good/Easy. As a result it's going to show some cards way too often. It seems very inefficient.
When I was training to be a 911 operator, in addition to reviewing them in Anki, I would just read aloud all the license plates in our standard alphabet that were in my field of view (provided I was alone). It became second nature in short order.
This is one of the things that might benefit from social learning. Find a friend that also wants to learn it and play around with it together. I learned the entire alphabet during an internship with a local police force and it never slipped my mind since. It's something that you need to use in order to memorize it.

Here's another blog post that's largely a response to The Power of Habit: It also touches heavily on some of the ideas you developed in your post on addiction and games. If you don't already know this guy, you probably should.

Thanks again! Still didn't finish reading the whole thing, but this part came off as something that might be quite onto something, and very much worth pondering:
Thanks, I'll check him out!

I've been thinking about self-administering mild electric shocks or something of the like when I pursue an unwanted behaviour, but lack an appropriate device. Any suggestions, anyone?

This has been discussed here previously. Short answer: don't. Also, from a LWer's excellent summary of Don't Shoot the Dog:

Note: self-punishment is particularly useless; you train down the act of punishing yourself more than you train down whatever behavior you’re punishing. This is unpleasant and useless!

Ironically, this doesn't work the same way for self-talk punishment. It's still useless, but for some reason it doesn't train down the self-punishment, it just fails to do anything about what you're punishing.
When I thought about mild electric shocks, I wasn't really thinking about anything as powerful as a dog collar. Also I was thinking about applying it somewhere safer than my neck, like my arm. The punishment has to be self administered and not automated (whatever that would mean), to get the timing right. Seems like a real risk, but he seems to offer little support for it. I think I'll know when to stop if it isn't working. I think the likeliest thing to happen is I grow averse to it like gwern cites in the example. Thanks for bringing that summary to my attention.

Not at this time. I am planning on porting the game to Android in the coming months, but this is not my top priority, so I can't guarantee when it'll be available.

Thanks! I'm very much open to feedback and suggestions, so fire away.

Some suggestions: 1. It would be nice if you can choose a particular wave inside a stage so as to practice. Currently, I'm on stage 4 and Waves 1&2 are really easy for me but Wave 3 is much harder. 2. Possibly increase the tempo of the music for faster waves? 3. A nicer font? 4. More variety in the music?

I released my first game to the App Store on Oct 1. It's a dual n-back game with a rhythm component called Double Dynamo. (Previously mentioned in the July what are you working on thread.)

I don't have an iDevice. Is the game directly playable from PC from within iTunes?
Bought it. It's awesome!

2 will still lead to some strange behavior. For example, when composing a comment on a forum, rather than typing directly into the textarea you'll switch to a text editor and copy-paste when you're done.

Worse, use curl and view the pages offline.

The existing karma system does a good job of addressing the first two possibilities, but the last three cases are still pretty hard to distinguish. Kaj_Sotala seems to be talking about cases 4 and 5, more or less.

As long as we're talking about a technical solution, it seems like the relevant dimension that Kaj is talking about is difficulty/understandability as opposed to agreement or general quality, and I can imagine a few different solutions to this[1]. That said, I'm not convinced that this would tell you the information you're after, since readers who... (read more)

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