All of benwr's Comments + Replies

benwr's unpolished thoughts

A thing that feels especially good about this way of thinking about things is that it feels like the kind of problem with straightforward engineering / cryptography style solutions.

benwr's unpolished thoughts

I'm interested in concrete ways for humans to evaluate and verify complex facts about the world. I'm especially interested in a set of things that might be described as "bootstrapping trust".

For example:

Say I want to compute some expensive function f on an input x. I have access to a computer C that can compute f; it gives me a result r. But I don't fully trust C - it might be maliciously programmed to tell me a wrong answer. In some cases, I can require that C produce a proof that f(x) = r that I can easily check. In others, I can't. Which cases are which... (read more)

3benwr8dA thing that feels especially good about this way of thinking about things is that it feels like the kind of problem with straightforward engineering / cryptography style solutions.
Prize: Interesting Examples of Evaluations

"Postmortem culture" from the Google SRE book: https://sre.google/sre-book/postmortem-culture/

This book has some other sections that are also about evaluation, but this chapter is possibly my favorite chapter from any corporate handbook.

Prize: Interesting Examples of Evaluations
Answer by benwrNov 28, 202010

Two that are focused on critique rather than evaluation per se:

benwr's unpolished thoughts

If I got to pick the moral of today's Petrov day incident, it would be something like "being trustworthy requires that you be more difficult to trick than it would be worth", and I think very few people reliably live up to this standard.

benwr's unpolished thoughts

Beth Barnes notices: Rationalists seem to use the word "actually" a lot more than the typical English speaker; it seems like the word "really" means basically the same thing.

We wrote a quick script, and the words "actually" and "really" occur about equally often on LessWrong, while Google Trends suggests that "really" is ~3x more common in search volume. SSC has ~2/3 as many "actually"s as "really"s.

What's up with this? Should we stop?

4Richard_Kennaway9moI think all of those words would be better used less. Really, actually, fundamentally, basically, essentially, ultimately, underneath it all, at bottom, when you get down to it, when all's said and done, these are all lullaby words, written in one's sleep, to put other people to sleep. When you find yourself writing one, try leaving it out. If the sentence then seems to be not quite right, work out what specifically is wrong with it and put that right instead of papering over the still, small voice of reason. There is also the stereotypical "Well, actually," that so often introduces a trifling nitpick. I believe there was an LW post on that subject, but I can't find it. The search box does not appear to support multi-word strings. ETA: This [https://tirania.org/blog/archive/2011/Feb-17.html] is probably what I was recalling.
9habryka9moHuh, weird. I do notice that I don't like the word "really" because it is super ambiguous between being a general emphasis "this is really difficult" or being a synonym to "actually", i.e. in "do you really mean this?". The first usage feels much more common to me, i.e. in more than 80% of the sentences I could come up with the word "really" in it while I was writing the comment, I used it as general emphasis, and not as a synonym to "actually".
Did any US politician react appropriately to COVID-19 early on?

San Francisco's mayor, London Breed, declared a state of emergency in the city on February 25th, and it seems like she was concerned about the disease (and specifically ICU capacity) as early as January.

I don't know what actions the mayor's office actually took during this time, but it seems like she was at least aware and concerned well ahead of most other politicians.

benwr's unpolished thoughts

darn - I've been playing it on my old ipad for a long time

benwr's unpolished thoughts

Recently I tried to use Google to learn about the structure of the human nasal cavity & sinuses, and it seems to me that somehow medical illustrators haven't talked much to mechanical draftspeople. Just about every medical illustration I could find tried to use colors to indicate structure, and only gave a side-view (or occasionally a front view) of the region. In almost none of the illustrations was it clear which parts of your nasal cavity and sinuses are split down the middle of your head, vs joined together. I still feel pretty in-the-dark abo

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2Pongo1yOh no, ".projekt" can't be played on recent versions of MacOS! :(
8ChristianKl1yhttps://human.biodigital.com is a free as in beer 3D model that might be useful if you dislike the existing 2D ways of learning. http://lifesciencedb.jp/bp3d/ provides a more freely licensed 3D model as well however that's a bit incomplete and has a worse UI.
Coronavirus: Justified Practical Advice Thread

It is possible to both rinse your phone and put copper tape on it.

Coronavirus: Justified Practical Advice Thread

Yeah, you're right that I imputed a particular mechanism that isn't supported by the Wikipedia page - thanks for pointing that out. I do still think that the ions-getting-on-things mechanism is part of the story, mostly because the reduction sizes are really large. This could indicate either (a) that most microbes end up on surfaces first via touch surfaces, and spread from there, or (b) that copper ends up on nearby surfaces. Or some of both.

In this particular case, though, I think it's quite likely (because I've seen my hands turn a bit blue) that in fact copper and copper oxides are getting on my hands as a result of the tape.

How to fly safely right now?

Oh, whoops, I somehow misread your original post ("shave" was edited to "have" in my brain)

How to fly safely right now?

Another random thought: wearing gloves is probably not a great idea in the default case, but if you wear gloves and then replace them, it seems like that's probably about as good as washing your hands or using hand sanitizer (and might be easier to do often when sitting in your seat on the plane; it might also dry out your hands less)

How to fly safely right now?

Another thing you might want to bring: swimming or safety goggles. Iiuc, it's possible for viruses to spread via your conjunctivae (although this is probably a much smaller effect than transmission via nose or mouth).

How to fly safely right now?

Re facial hair: it's recommended not to have facial hair when wearing a face mask, because it makes the seal weaker. Do you think the protective effect is larger than that effect?

3Ben Pace1yI plan to shave my beard tomorrow in order to help with wearing masks and to stop touching it. If ChristianKl or someone can show evidence that it reduces risk of STDs in sex and make an argument that this situation is similar and substantive, I will reconsider, but I expect that touching your face is much more important than having protection on it.
How to fly safely right now?

You can buy bottles for arbitrary gels, and then put hand sanitizer in those bottles.

Coronavirus: Justified Practical Advice Thread

A thing I probably haven't thought enough about is, "how much this will impact your rate of copper ingestion, and is that very bad?" My guess is that this is less important than the effects on infectious disease; it seems like it would need to increase your copper consumption by 100x in order to produce major negative health effects (https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp132-c2.pdf). I may try to be virtuous and do a fermi on this later but also I'd welcome someone else trying to do it.

Edited to add:

The most obvious effect of having too much copper is ga

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2Gunnar_Zarncke1yA bit more copper might actually be a good idea for people who also take zinc (see the zinc thread elsewhere in this post) as the body needs to keep both of these in some balance. Dangerous levels of copper seem highly unlikely just from touching but you should probably avoid lining your pots and pans: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copper_toxicity [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copper_toxicity]
Coronavirus: Justified Practical Advice Thread

My plan is to use a reusable p100 mask, with copper tape on the structural components, hopefully forming a barrier between the external filters/valves and the internal surfaces, and then to wash my hands before / after wearing it. No idea whether this will be any good, but it seemed more workable / less potentially blameworthy than acquiring disposable masks in a shortage.

Coronavirus: Justified Practical Advice Thread
Answer by benwrMar 01, 202029

Recommendation: cover the back of your smartphone in copper tape.

Reasoning: in addition to the reasoning for putting copper on all commonly touched surfaces, your phone is an especially good choice because of the "copper halo effect", in which copper ions move from copper surfaces to nearby surfaces (like, say, your hands), leaving them much less hospitable to microbes. [Edit: As MalcolmOcean points out, this mechanism for the halo effect isn't supported by the Wikipedia page below. I made a leap to this explanation without realizing it. That said, I do th

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1gilch1yMaybe we should put copper on our hand sanitizer bottles. But does it take effect quickly enough to matter here?
9Xodarap1yNote that this can act as a Faraday cage around your phone and potentially reduce your reception. With the fullback of my phone covered in copper I got ~0.2 Mbps on 4G. When I removed a 1 in.² on the upper left (where the antenna is on a Google pixel 3) it went up to 13 Mbps. I assume having everything except for a small square covered is still pretty good, so I'm doing that.
3methree1yI would much rather rinse a mobile phone regularly if it is water-proof (an increasing number is!) than use copper tape, although I would not use soap on the screen, to preserve its oleophobic properties; alternatively, if I were in a very susceptible group or if the virus were much more dangerous to me, I would find it more effective to put the phone in a plastic bag and either exchange it often or wash it as often as my own hands. The thought process here is that copper tape cannot be applied to screens, which can end up very close to faces, but washing with soap is effective.
3DanielFilan1yAnother cost is that my hands smell like copper now.
5MalcolmOcean1yThe halo effect (section on wikipedia [https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antimicrobial_copper-alloy_touch_surfaces#The_antimicrobial_halo_effect_of_copper_surfaces] ) didn't seem to me to be about ions... I figured it was just like how if we're nearby & I'm less likely to get sick, then you're less likely to get sick, separate from my sickness having any effect on your immunity.

palm rests of laptop are easy too.

5benwr1yA thing I probably haven't thought enough about is, "how much this will impact your rate of copper ingestion, and is that very bad?" My guess is that this is less important than the effects on infectious disease; it seems like it would need to increase your copper consumption by 100x in order to produce major negative health effects (https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp132-c2.pdf [https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp132-c2.pdf]). I may try to be virtuous and do a fermi on this later but also I'd welcome someone else trying to do it. Edited to add: The most obvious effect of having too much copper is gastrointestinal distress. So if you try this and have stomach problems, maybe stop.
6Ben Pace1yHuh. This is quite important if true. Can anyone with a bit more physics/chemistry knowledge give an estimate for how long this will last on your hands, and how much coverage of your hands you will get? If this is a significant effect, it seems like a pretty useful piece of prep (copper on phones) that I am only just hearing about.

I think the main difference between the marginal reversal test and how I read your post is just the magnitude of the change. For the marginal reversal test to make sense, I think the change needs to be small relative to "typical" values of the parameter. So, changing life spans by months rather than years, or changing body temperature by single degrees.

And yeah, I think that the counterfactual reversal test is much more of a heuristic than a careful argument, but it does seem useful as a way of disentangling disagreements, especially with sufficiently thoughtful interlocutors.

I meant the first thing, sorry for lack of clarity

I think that neither of your examples is correctly using the reversal test. IMO, two different versions of the reversal test are useful: the marginal reversal test, and the counterfactual reversal test.

Marginal version: "So you don't think that increasing your body temperature a small amount is good - do you think decreasing it a small amount would be good? If not, can you explain why your current state is optimal?"

Counterfactual version: "So you don't think that increasing your body temperature by 50 degrees would be good? Would you still think that if yo

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5Dagon1y"helping to decide where to find the interesting bits" is exactly where this technique shines, and I don't think it's overrated (at least in my circles). Note that even in the "yes, this is the right level, for X reasons", there's still a bunch of value in identifying the forces at equilibrium that make this the right level. You can then ask "do you want to change some of THOSE values"?
2Raghu Veer S1yWhen you say that the reversal tester loses the argument, do you mean that one could easily refute the rhetoric of the question posed, as in, homeostasis being the optimal condition, or one can counter that with a flaw in the rhetoric, as in, there is an implicit assumption there in the question of some sort that defeats the main intention of the question itself. If it is the second one, I am genuinely curious as to how that can be countered.
1Bob Jacobs1yI think the marginal version is indeed a good way of dissecting arguments (and I thought I did use that version) The counterfactual version is a bit more icky. I'm not saying it can never be used, but if we take this example I feel like if "I" always had a brain that ran smoothly even though it was 50 degrees higher that wouldn't really be "me". Maybe it's just a failure of imagination on my part, but in most cases I feel like I'm supposed to speak for a creature that I can't really speak for.
benwr's unpolished thoughts

I made a blog because I didn’t know where else to write gushing reviews of things. I haven’t written anything there yet, but soon I hope to have written up some of the following:

  • An account of what I’ve learned since getting mildly fixated on pumping CO2 out of my bedroom
  • A gushing review of my iPad Pro 11” with Apple Pencil
  • A mostly-gushing review of my Subaru Crosstrek
  • A gushing review of my bed and mattress
  • A gushing review of the-general-excellence-of-fast-food-franchises
  • A post about how I feel a lot of internal tension about consumerism
benwr's unpolished thoughts

I’ve recently been thinking a lot about pumping CO2 out of my bedroom. By coincidence, so has Diffractor (in a slightly different context / with different goals). His post on the CO2 scrubber he built is a pretty good read, although I think he might be making a mistake about the plausibility of vacuum swing adsorption using zeolites. I wrote a comment outlining what I think is the mistake, and I guess I wanted to highlight it here in case I later want to come back and find it, and because I want more people to see it and potentially write dissenting opinio

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CO2 Stripper Postmortem Thoughts

Because the air you breathe out has much more CO2 by volume than the air you're processing (it diffuses quickly). See my comment elsewhere for a potential way around this, though.

2cousin_it2yAh, silly me. Thanks!
CO2 Stripper Postmortem Thoughts

Adsorption onto zeolites is also plausible, but the issue is that it requires alternately exposing the zeolites to high air pressure and low air pressure, and high airflow is required. We can idealize a perfect CO2 stripper as a magic box that inhales air and spits it out at 0 ppm. If you want a steady-state concentration of 500 ppm for 2 people, then we can see how much air-flow is required to lock up 2 kg of CO2 in 24 hours. This comes out to about 100 cubic feet per minute. This is the bare minimum air flow for any CO2 stripper, but in this particular

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The best of the www, in my opinion

My list is similar but also includes

benwr's unpolished thoughts

Doom circles seem hard to do outside of CFAR workshops: If I just pick the ~7 people who I most want to be in my doom circle, this might be the best doom circle for me, but it won't be the best doom circle for them, since they will mostly not know each other very well.

So you might think that doing doom "circles" one-on-one would be best. But doom circles also have a sort of ceremony / spacing / high-cost-ness to them that cuts the other way: More people means more "weight" or something. And there are probably other considerations determining the optimal si

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3jimrandomh2yI'm not sure relationship-strength on a single axis is quite the right factor. At the end of a workshop, the participants don't have that much familiarity, if you measure it by hours spent talking; but those hours will tend to have been focused on the sort of information that makes a Doom circle work, ie, people's life strategies and the things they're struggling with. If I naively tried to gather a group with strong relationship-strength, I expect many of the people I invited would find out that they didn't know each other as well as they thought they did.
benwr's unpolished thoughts

Yet another Shortform-as-feature-request:

Notifications and/or RSS feeds from particular posts' comments / answers.

This would be especially useful for Questions and Shortform posts (sometimes tellingly mis-labeled "shortform feeds"), both of which are things where one particular post has a collection of related comments, and which gather content over time.

I currently subscribe to the front page in Feedly, and whenever someone asks a question that I find interesting I mentally cringe because I know that I'll have to remind myself to check back (and I probabl

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9Raemon2yYup, this is in the works right now.
September Bragging Thread

Update: our application was approved! The Lodge is almost certainly moving!

6Ruby2ySuccessfully dislodged!
3habryka2yNice! Congratulations!
benwr's unpolished thoughts

One friend pointed out that you might be able to avoid some of the pitfalls by releasing something like an open source desktop application that requires you to feed it a database of information. Then you could build databases like this in lots of different ways, including anonymous ones or crowdsourced ones. And in this case it might become a lot harder to claim that the creator of the application is liable for anything. I might actually want to talk to a lawyer about this kind of thing, if the lawyer was willing to put on a sort of "engineering" mindset to help me figure out how you might make this happen without getting sued. So if you know anyone like that, I'd be pretty interested

benwr's unpolished thoughts

There should really be a system that does what WebMD tried to do, but actually does it well.

You'd put in your symptoms and background info (e.g. what country you live in, your age), it would ask you clarifying questions ("how bad is the pain from 1 to 10?" "which of these patterns is most like the rash?" "Do you have a family history of heart disease?") and then it would give you a posterior distribution over possible conditions, and a guess about whether you should go to the emergency room or whatever.

Is this just much harder than I'm imagining it would b

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1eigen2yAssuming that you actually get it to work and that you provide, at best, mediocre diagnostic (which is already really difficult to make), this is a regulatory nightmare and a plain hazardous tool to exist. I'd even say that people cannot make decisions based on statistics (I doubt that most can even differentiate between anecdotal advice and scientific evidence) that's why physicians make these decisions for them and if ever a tool is allowed it would only be available for physicians. For anyone interested in making this sort of tool, the enthusiasm doesn't last a day or two after talking to a lawyer for a few minutes!
September Bragging Thread

I got 4 out of six people in my group house, plus two others, to apply for a lease in a new and probably-better house! In order to do this I spent probably forty hours in the last month, searching rental listings, reaching out to people, and trying to accommodate people's often-contradictory preferences.

At one point I wrote a program to determine, given a collection of people larger than the number of rooms, and their maximum prices for each room in a house (which are allowed to be conditional on who else is in the house), whether any subset of that group

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5benwr2yUpdate: our application was approved! The Lodge is almost certainly moving!
9Raemon2ywoo! Getting into the optimal housing and roommate situation seems actually pretty important for quality of life. Congrats!
jp's Shortform

This distinction is still relevant and useful in some contexts.

4jp2yFor sure. This is actually something that made me curious about the internet writ large. If the WWW was just one thing built on the internet, then why do I get mostly answers for the WWW when I look up history of the internet? (Because the WWW was so useful.) Why did the internet already exist when the WWW came along? (Because it was just the phone lines and some modems.)
benwr's unpolished thoughts

As long as I'm using shortform posts to make feature requests, it would be really useful to me to have access to a feed (of shortform posts, normal posts, or both) where I could select which users I see. Right now I come to LessWrong and have a hard time deciding which posts I care about - lots of people here have lots of interests and lots of different standards for content quality, some of which I find actively annoying. Allowing me to build feeds from custom lists of selected users would let me filter by both shared interests and how valuable I typicall

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4Dagon2yI'm loving the shortform feature, and I'd appreciate enhancements to help me find those which I'd read before but have active comment threads, and I'd certainly like a "watch" feature for posts, comment trees, and shortform topics. I don't want (I'm not sure if I object, or just would not use) person-based feeds or filters. There are some posters I default to reading and most that I read based on topic, but I prefer to bias toward the latter.
5habryka2yI have some hesitations about this. The biggest one is that I do want to avoid LessWrong just becoming a collection of filter-bubbles in the way Tumblr or Reddit or Facebook is, and do think there is a lot of value from having people with disagreeing perspectives share the same space. I think I am not opposed to people building feeds, but I would want to make sure that there is still a way to reach those users with at least the most important content. I.e. at least make sure that everyone sees the curated posts or something like that.
benwr's unpolished thoughts

Interesting, good to know. I'm curious if you considered doing something like lobste.rs, where the avatar is next to the username and the same height as the text.

9habryka2yYeah, that was the kind of thing I was thinking about. Lobste.rs' was one inspiration I had for something that did it reasonably well.
benwr's unpolished thoughts

I should have posted this comment here and rephrased it, sorry:

I also note that avatars could use tricks to solve various constraints I'm imagining the LessWrong team might want to impose.

For example, if you think avatars might make the comments section too visually interesting you could render them in greyscale, or with muted colors. And if you think they might lead to people playing weird games with their avatars (I don't think this is likely, but I can imagine someone worrying about it), you could let users choose from a small collection of acceptable

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3Hazard2ynp, yeah that small amount of brainstorming from you has updated me to "even if we don't do [pick whatever image you want] there's still probs a way to get the visual stickyness". I'd also be super interested in the results of a study on ability to recall/track individuals in a thread with their head-shots vs autogen images.
benwr's unpolished thoughts

Edit: I don't retract this comment but I should have rephrased it and posted it as a reply to this comment

I also note that avatars could use tricks to solve various constraints I'm imagining the LessWrong team might want to impose.

For example, if you think avatars might make the comments section too visually interesting you could render them in greyscale, or with muted colors. And if you think they might lead to people playing weird games with their avatars (I don't think this is likely, but I can imagine someone worrying about it), you could let users cho

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benwr's unpolished thoughts

I really think LessWrong would benefit by giving users avatars. I think this would make the site much more visually appealing, but I also think it would vastly decrease the cognitive load required to read threaded conversations.

2FactorialCode2yI actually like the fact that I don't immediately know who is speaking to who in a thread. I feel like it prevents me from immediately biasing my judgment of what a person is saying before they say it.
4habryka2yI originally designed LW with avatars, but couldn’t find a good compromise between avatars and high density of comment sections (they add a bunch of vertical height that means all comments need to either have more top margin or have a much deeper indent). I am generally open to avatars and might want to give it another shot sometime.
5benwr2yEdit: I don't retract this comment but I should have rephrased it and posted it as a reply to this comment [https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/bbDGZoh9Hfvcp9yjB/benwr-s-unpolished-thoughts#gKbx4YwCMWhutzTyS] I also note that avatars could use tricks to solve various constraints I'm imagining the LessWrong team might want to impose. For example, if you think avatars might make the comments section too visually interesting you could render them in greyscale, or with muted colors. And if you think they might lead to people playing weird games with their avatars (I don't think this is likely, but I can imagine someone worrying about it), you could let users choose from a small collection of acceptable-to-you, auto-generated images based on a hash of their username.
4Hazard2yI'd also find it waaaay easier to track conversations and build models of "who is who" with avatars. A guess I have that hasn't been verified is that a lot of people on LW might be opposed from a "people would start to use their avatars for signalling purposes" angle. I'd be open to hearing more of that side, but currently I think I'd be for avatars.
benwr's unpolished thoughts

A while ago, Duncan Sabien wrote a Facebook post about a thing he called "aliveness", and presented it on a single spectrum with something called "chillness". At the time I felt that aliveness seemed sort of like obviously-the-good-one, and like I was obviously-bad-for-being-more-chill, and I felt sad because I think there were a lot of pressures when I was younger to optimize for chillness.

But recently I've been in a couple of scenarios that have changed my views on this. I now think that aliveness and chillness aren't quite opposite ends of the same axis

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How/would you want to consume shortform posts?

I'd like to be able to subscribe to individual Shortform feeds via RSS.

Why I've started using NoScript

You're right; I'm sorry that I didn't read your comment sufficiently carefully.

The reasoning there is purely my expectation and isn't based on data or particular experience.

Why I've started using NoScript

This is a great response and I'm glad to have read it. However I think you miss one important disadvantage of your approach: These alternatives are mostly blacklists, and so they become less useful as you get further into the less-trafficked corners of the web, which is also where you're most likely to hit, e.g., invisible compromised resources.

I've also been surprised at how little "whitelist fatigue" I've gotten. I would have naively expected to get tired of whitelisting domains, but in practice it's continued to feel freeing rather than obnoxiously atte

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2Said Achmiz2yWith respect, please re-read my comment, because not only did I not say anything like this, I specifically pointed out that I am not saying anything like it! Furthermore, the argument from incentives was not specifically (or even mostly) about trackers; it was about bloat in website design / features. Frankly, it does not seem to me like you have given due consideration to what I wrote in that section of my comment… This is an interesting counterpoint, certainly. I am curious to what extent this is true in practice, and whether you make this claim on the basis of experience, or supposition; do you have examples?
Overconfident talking down, humble or hostile talking up

This nicely explains why I feel so embarrassed when I learn that someone I'm talking with is more knowledgeable than I thought. I wonder how to avoid subconscious overconfidence- / humility-projecting.

It might work to add a TAP for thinking "if this person were much more/less knowledgeable than me, would I have the same presentation in this conversation?"

4ozziegooen3yThat's a good point. My communication changes a lot too and it's one reason why I'm often reluctant to explain ideas in public rather than in private; it's much harder to adjust the narrative and humility-level.
RSS Feeds are fixed and should be properly functional this time

As I mentioned in a post that has now fallen off the end of meta: while RSS feeds work much better now, usernames still don't show up as the author in the feeds.

3habryka3yYeah, this is on my radar to fix. It should probably be pretty straightforward to fix, so a PR on our Github [https://github.com/Discordius/Lesswrong2/tree/devel] is also welcome.
Lesswrong 2016 Survey

Great survey!

However, when you save your progress and are asked to save a password, there's no indication that it will be sent to you in an email or saved at all in recoverable form. I used my least-secure password generation algorithm anyway, but: Do you think you could add a note to the effect that users should not use passwords that they use elsewhere?

7namespace5yLooking into it now. EDIT: Added this warning to the save form: "We store the password and send it to you by email, so please do not use a 'trusted' password for this that you use for anything important." (Not our design decision by the way.)
'Dumb' AI observes and manipulates controllers

The problem with these particular extensions is that they don't sound plausible for this type of AI. In my opinion it would be easier when talking with designers to switch from this example to a slightly more sci-fi example.

The leap is between the obvious "it's 'manipulating' its editors by recognizing simple patterns in their behavior" to "it's manipulating its editors by correctly interpreting the causes underlying their behavior."

Much easier to extend in the other direction first: "Now imagine that it's not an article-writer, but a science officer aboard the commercial spacecraft Nostromo..."

0G-Max6yUpvoted for remembering that Ash was the science officer and not just the movie's token android.
The guardian article on longevity research [link]

On the other hand, the number of people working on a problem, and the speed with which they are individually able to work, can't be ignored. "Given enough eyes, all bugs are shallow" - Linus Torvalds, talking about something pretty similar (if much, much simpler).

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