Ben Pace

I'm an admin of this site; I work full-time on trying to help people on LessWrong refine the art of human rationality.

Longer bio:


AI Alignment Writing Day 2019
Transcript of Eric Weinstein / Peter Thiel Conversation
AI Alignment Writing Day 2018
Share Models, Not Beliefs


Voting Phase for 2019 Review

I have voted! :)

I will maybe check it over once again before the voting period ends, but I'm taking a vacation and cutting myself off from most social/communal places on the internet including LW, so no promises.

Out of interest, due to the new renormalizing button, all my votes were lowered by 2 points. Whereas last year my votes span from about -1 to +8, this year they span from -3 to +6. I spent exactly 500/500 points. Doing a manual sum, my average vote was 0.39, meaning I used most of my voting power.

(In lots of my reviews, I said what I expected I'd vote on a post. Once you account for the -2 on everything, I was accurate in all of the predictions I made.)

I've also written down my guesses for what will be at the top of vote once it's all done.

Voting Suggestions

My current 3 guesses for most underrated posts are:

So I encourage you to check them out for voting on :)

Less Competition, More Meritocracy?

Zvi wrote a two whole posts on perfect/imperfect competition and how more competition can be bad. However, this is the only post that has really stuck with me in teaching me how increased competition can be worse overall for the system, and helped me appreciate Moloch in more detail. I expect to vote for this post around +4 or +5.

As with one or two others by Zvi, I think it's a touch longer than it needs to be, and can be made more concise.

Simple Rules of Law

This is another great response post from Zvi.

It takes a list of issues that Zvi didn't get to cherry pick, and then proceeds to explain all them with a couple of core tools: Goodhart's Law, Asymmetric Justice/Copenhagen Interpretation of Ethics, Forbidden Considerations, Power, and Theft. I learned a lot and put a lot of key ideas together in this post. I think it makes a great follow-up read to some of the relevant articles (i.e. Asymmetric Justice, Goodhart Taxonomy, etc).

The only problem is it's very long. 8.5k words. That's about 4% of last year's book, IIRC. I think it's worth a lot, but I think probably a bit less than that. So I'd like it to be shortened if it makes it in. That said I think Zvi's probably up for that if it's getting published.

I expect to vote on this between +3 and +6.

How Much is Your Time Worth?

This is a core piece of a mental toolkit, being able to quantify life choices like this, and the post explains it well. I think I would like the a version in the book to spend a bit more space helping the reader do the calculation that you do in the Clearer Thinking tool. A lot of the value of the post is in showing how to use the number to make decisions.

I think it's a valuable post, and I expect to vote for it somewhere in the range of +2 to +4.

Complex Behavior from Simple (Sub)Agents

I love this post, it's a really healthy way of exploring assumptions about one's goals and subagents. I think it's really hard to come up with simple diagrams that communicate key info, and I am impressed by choices such as changing the color of the path over time. I also find it insightful in matters relating to what a distracted agent looks like, or how adding subgoals can improve things.

It's the sort of thing I'd like to see more rationalists doing, and it's a great read, and I feel very excited about more of this sort of work on LessWrong. I hope it inspires more LessWrongers to build on it. I expect to vote it at somewhere between +5 and +7.

human psycholinguists: a critical appraisal

This was a great read at the time and still holds up. It's one of the rare artifacts that can only produced after a decade or two, which is an account of major shifts in a person's perspective over the course of a decade or two. (In that way it's similar in genre for me as Buck's post in the review.)

It's a very excitingly written history, and gives me insight into the different perspectives on the issue of psycholinguistics, and helps me frame the current situation in AI. I expect to vote on this somewhere between +5 and +7.

Dishonest Update Reporting

This is a true engagement with the ideas in Paul original post. It actively changed my mind – at first I thought Paul was making a good recommendation, but now I think it was a bad one. It helped me step back from a very detailed argument and notice what rationalist virtues were in play. I think it's a great example of what a rebuttal of someone else's post looks like. I'd like to see it in the review, and I will vote on it somewhere between +3 and +7.

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