All of brook's Comments + Replies

"This is an internal document written for the LessWrong/Lightcone teams. I'm posting as "available by link only" post to share in a limited way, because I haven't reviewed the post for making sense to a broader audience, or thoroughly checked for sensitive things."


This post appears in search results and to people who have followed you on LW. I didn't read it, but you may want to take it down if this is unwanted enough. 

ShareX does look like a more powerful (for some use-cases) version! I think the key benefits of Loom are it's extreme ease of use & its automatic upload of the video, which makes sharing feel very streamlined. 

Unfortunately, I'm on macOS currently, so I can't test ShareX myself. 

I've just found a macOS-compatible potential Loom alternative in CleanShot X [], though I can't test either myself. Plus it's not free, costing either $30 one time, or $8 monthly.
Re: auto uploads: For anything you capture with ShareX (like a screenshot, video, file, text, or URL), you can configure an automatic upload workflow to any number of services, e.g. my screenshots and gifs are automatically uploaded to imgur (and the URL of the uploaded image is copied into my clipboard); and videos can similarly be set to auto-upload to Youtube or file hosters like Google Drive or Mega. That said, there's no point in a tool if it's not available on your platform =(.

Really great post! The concept I have in my head looks broadly-applicable though slippery

The section below sounded a lot to me like "you form a model from a set of words, and then later on you Directly Observe the Territory™, and this shifts the mental model associated with the words in an important way". 

Running on this model, I think a lot of the sequences was like this for me-- it wasn't until 1-2 years after reading them that I noticed concrete, major changes in my behaviour. Possibly this time was spent observing the part of the territory I call ... (read more)

Thanks for running this survey! I'm looking to move into AI alignment, and this represents a useful aggregator of recommendations from professionals and from other newcomers; I was already focussing on AGISF but it's useful to see that many of the resources advertised as 'introductory' on the alignment forum (e.g. the Embedded Agency sequence) are not rated as very useful. 

I was also surprised that conversations with researchers ranked quite low as a recommendation to newcomers, but I guess it makes sense that most alignment researchers are not as good at 'interpreting' research as e.g. Rob Miles, Richard Ngo. 

My guess is that it's also because conversations are less optimized (being done on the fly) and maybe harder to access. It's still the case that people getting into alignment found them "very" useful on average, which seems like high praise to me.

I think "speech of appropriate thought-like-ness" is, unfortunately, wildly contextual. I would have predicted that the precise lengthy take would go down well on LW and especially with ACX readers. This specific causal gears-level type of explanation is common and accepted here, but for audiences that aren't expecting it, it can be jarring and derail a discussion. 

Similarly, many audiences are not curious about the subject! Appropriate is the operative word. Sometimes it will be appropriate to gloss over details either because the person is not likel... (read more)

I mean, what is the concept “speech of appropriate thoughtness”? Perhaps which speech fits that concept is highly contextual, but what is the concept that you are checking that speech against? Your last comment makes it sound like appropriate level of detail; are you simply using thoughtness here as a synonym for detail (perhaps to indicate the fact that nonverbal thoughts are often extremely highly detailed?), or is there an additional subtlety here? If I say “alright, I’ll try to use appropriate levels of detail when communicating”, is your response “good, you understand my point” or “that’s a start, but you’d do better still if you considered X”?

This is good for some formats; I think in verbal communication I like to track this because the key variable I'm optimising on is listener attention/time; giving both loses a lot. I find it can be useful to save the gears-level stuff for the cruxes and try to keep the rest brief.

I strongly agree with the Johnswentworth's point! I think my most productive discussions have come from a gears-level/first-example style of communication. 

What I'm arguing in this post is very much not that this communication style is bad. I'm arguing that many people will stop listening if you jump straight to this, and you should explicitly track this variable in your head when communicating. 

Obviously 'know your audience and adjust complexity appropriately' is quite a trivial point, but to me thinking about it with a 'thought-like-ness' frame... (read more)

I think it's good to experiment, but I actually found the experience of being on the site over the last week pretty unpleasant, and I've definitely spent much less time here. I initially went through some old ideas I had and tried posting one, but ended up just avoiding LessWrong until the end of the week. 

I'm not totally sure right now why I felt this way. Something-like I'm very sensitive to feeling like my normal motivation system is being hijacked? I spent all of my time thinking about the best way to act differently given GHW, rather than just reading the content and enjoying it. This was pretty uncomfortable for me. 

I also definitely felt some stress & weirdness. Ultimately I did manage to overcome my procrastination to actually post something, and stress isn't always bad, but I agree that the experience was by no means strictly positive for me.
2Ben Pace1y
That's interesting. Thanks for the feedback.

I'm sure this happens in many areas (maths, for one), but medical language is a pretty well-optimised system I know well. You might like to use it for inspiration:

Medicine: "72yo F BIBA with 3/7 hx SOB, CP. Chest clear, HS I+II+0. IMP: IECOPD"

English: 72 year old woman brought in by ambulance because she's been short of breath and had chest pain for the past 3 days. No noises were audible over her lungs with a stethoscope, both of her heart sounds were clearly audible with no added sounds. I think it's most likely this is being caused by an infection on top of a history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.  

I can kind of reverse-engineer most of that; what's the /7 mean?

Guess who read more about what exactly people are pointing at when they say 'be agenty' and figured out that's what I'm trying to point at! That's right, it's me. Post cancelled, everybody go home. 

Good post! Stop assuming things are/aren't good and go and look. 

Is it worth making live-call-reviews a feature request for the LW feedback system? (Possibly limited to higher karma than the 100 required for text feedback, as I imagine this would have a smaller bottleneck with timezones etc.?). I imagine this would encourage a lot more people to say "I’ve got to do this now!". 

If they’re interested in studying confusion, I ask them to tap their leg every time they notice they’re confused.

I tried this! It was enlightening. I didn't realise it, but I don't quite understand what my 'confusion' label is actually pointing at. I found myself confidently tapping my leg and then pausing, unsure of whether what was going on was truly confusion. 

After a couple of days of this, what I think is going on is that I both did and didn't have separate labels for 'ignorance' and 'predictive error'. Some part of me was confidently tapping my ... (read more)

Basically any "Beginners set" online should set you right as a cheap way to try it out (though most pros say it's not worth your time. YMMV). 

You will probably find it's hard with cheap shitty picks, but you'll (for fairly cheap) get a feel for which different shapes do what, and which you find most intuitive/useful. If you find it useful/fun, you could then either scour Ebay for cheap locks (with no guarantee of ease, but locks-without-keys is niche enough you can sometimes get good deals) or buy an Abus 45 or Masterlock. If I remember correctly, bot... (read more)

This is exactly what I'm saying. Using machines in ways they're not made for is especially risky when the machine controls access to your house. 

I'm not sure if this tag should be about the general concept of past and future selves, or about coordination problems with past and future selves & TDT. Either seems valuable to me, but it seems like the latter was intended at creation, so I've continued in that vein.

I am also unsure of exactly what it is, but I used to fairly consistently induce a similar feeling in myself with 'mindful walks', also inspired by Original Seeing. For me, it was closely bound up with getting curious about things I'm used to looking at without seeing-- what are those marks on pavements? A lichen? Are they raised above the pavement? What do the different colours and shapes look like? Why are they round-ish and spaced out, rather than covering the whole surface, or some other shape?

This might not be 'true' curiosity-- I never looked up othe... (read more)

"The thing about those distinctions is that they are a) useful, and b) curiosity-stoppers. They tell us "don't worry, you already know this" so you can get back to building a tower of interconnected concepts. Which is a good thing, most of the time, but it is a bad thing some of the time"


I liked this footnote, but I'm not sure why. I'm going to say some things to try to think about it more clearly.

What this footnote seems to me to be about (in part) is something like:

  1. Stop attaching string to your insane-person cork board
  2. Notice that the things you are
... (read more)

This elicited in me a very specific kind of joy I first experienced reading ZAMM, and for which I have made all too little time ever since. I have nothing substantial to say beyond that I find your prose delightful in the same way I find delight in Original Seeing. Thank you!

with hindsight, I can say with some confidence that this was roughly the right advice. Whilst I did need to read most of the university content (and fast), 'slow' is definitely the right way to engage with the most content on LessWrong. Thanks!

Disclaimer: I know essentially nothing about US legislation, scientific ethical frameworks, etc. as I am not American. I just read the paper and have some background in genetics. 

tl;dr: No, this is classic gain-of-function research as far as I can tell

From the paper, I can see two vaguely plausible arguments for why this isn't gain-of-function research:

  1.  SARS-CoV is already (obviously) already capable of infecting human cells. Using SARS-CoV as a vector to test other spike proteins' ability to infect humans doesn't increase the number of hosts
  2. Prio
... (read more)

I think this should probably be merged with cognitive reduction, which is more general and (I think?) encompasses this one

Indeed deleted.

From the old LessWrong Wiki Discussion Page:


Phyg and Phygish

"Phyg" and "phygish" are used a lot. I'm looking for recommendations on how to define them without putting this page in the wrong Google index. --R claypool 15:03, 10 August 2012 (UTC)

What counts as jargon?

I've recently had an addition or two of mine removed form the jargon file that I disagree with. So let me explain why I've been adding them.

I'm happy to take the definition of jargon to be "the language, especially the vocabulary, peculiar ... (read more)

Hmm, ok. I think both courage and evolution I found more difficult because they're less well-defined clusters in postspace (compared to self-deception and superstimuli). I'm glad you found the feedback helpful.

I've also edited gears-level and spaced repetition. I think they're probably C and B class respectively, but I'm still very unconfident about that. Gears-level in particular I'm not sure if it might not just be better to point to Gears in Understanding, as it's pretty well-written and is pointing to an odd (& s... (read more)

Edited the courage tag, think it's C-class (Not sure if it needs integrating somehow with the groupthink and/or heroic responsibility tags? certainly some things in each of these don't fit under the others but there is a fair amount of overlap at present)

Edited self-deception & superstimuli, think they're now C-class (self-deception in particular, I'd like somebody who's actually read Elephant in the Brain to have a look over it, because it seems relevant but I'm not overly familiar)

Edited evolution and think it's now... (read more)

Just had a chance to look at these. Thanks!! I really like what you've done with Self-Deception and Superstimuli. They're both really solid. Courage is good too, though I find it slightly hard to read. "here" references seem less good than just using the post name. Evolution I found myself bouncing off a bit for some reason. Gave it C-Class for now, but I still hope to revise the grading-scheme/description-improvement-system following all the useful feedback/advice you gave. I'm just getting back on top of things following our team-retreat, and next priorities are getting drawn up now. Similarly, we need to decide about doing a push to get tag a basic description, which was also a good thing you suggested.

I'd imagine publication bias priors are helpful, especially with increasing specificity of research area, and especially where you can think of any remote possibility for interference.

Just as an example I'm familiar with (note this is probably a somewhat more extreme example than for most research areas due to the state of pharmacological research): If you see 37 RCTs in favour of a given drug, and 3 that find no significant impact (i.e. 93% in favour), it is not unfounded to assume that the trials actually performed are roughly equal in favour ... (read more)

Wow thank you! I found this really helpful.

I've updated the Heuristics and Biases tag again btw. I don't think it's A-grade based on "I'd like to see more work done on it", but I think it's about as good as I personally am going to be able to get it. I'd really like somebody (yes you, fellow user reading this) to have a read through and make any adjustments that make sense and/or make it more comprehensive.

re: fallacies, I thought about it, and I think they're actually used pretty similarly, at least here on LW. Planning fallacy could easily be describ... (read more)

OK. So you see the grading as being more of a "neglected-o-meter" in the sense that it describes the gap between how a tag currently is and how it would be in an ideal world? (i.e. a more important tag would have a higher bar for being A-grade than a less important one?)

I think that makes more sense than an absolute-quality stamp, but I think the tag grading post as is currently written should make that clear (if it is the case)-- currently it implies almost the opposite, at least as I read it. For instance phrases like "It covers a valuabl... (read more)

Yes, "neglected-o-meter" is a good way of putting it. The idea was a bit tricky to convey, I guess I didn't have it super well-articulated in my own head. The idea was that: * Tag grades identify tags in need of work. * For each grade, there's a set of standard things to do to improve them. (This seemed better than individually marking tags as "needs more posts" or "needs better description") And also additionally that tags reflect absolute quality as well, such that if you only want the best tags, you can filter for that. I didn't realize that what I'd consider A-Grade for an obscure topic with limited content would be different for a major topic where there's lot to be said. Another difference is how fundamental and introductory a topic is, where topics that a person is early on in someone's LW journey need extra polish. Now that people are writing more tag descriptions, the gaps in the system are coming out. I've felt somewhat that I should give any tag that seems to meet the criteria a grade, but then in some cases there's still more I'd want. This might be solved by making the criteria better and clearer. I apologize for the confusion. We're about to go on team retreat, but when we get back maybe taggers in this thread and the LW team can refine the system/schema. Thanks for your patience.

This all seems like really helpful advice, so thanks! Multiple-pass reading is something I've made previous attempts at but need to find a way to properly remember to implement, especially for longer things (like, say, books).

I generally timebox specialist reading that has a near-term goal-- reading for university or for a specific paper. The big problem for me personally is that, as a jobless university student, there is definitely a temptation (worsened by lockdown and summer holidays) to let more generic reading expand until it fills my the spare time in my day with little structure. I think your comment has really helped me highlight that as an issue, so thanks.

Well around half of them are sources I'm currently using to write a paper, and some of the rest I'm reading in preparation for next year of university. But I think I probably could benefit from a little of what you outlined.

I spent a couple weeks a few years ago looking into different PIMs (Personal Information Management) solutions. For writing, if you don't mind spending a bit of cash, Scrivener looked like a very nice solution. The only issue is no browser extension compared with some systems like Evernote. Evernote was listed before and is probably the easiest solution to use out-of-the-box. If you're doing more scientific work, you may want to consider something like BeakerX or Jupyter. Much more setup, but allows for running code from within the notebook and supports LaTeX notation, backup to GitHub etc. For bibliography, there's JabRef. If you plan on keeping all reference documents on your local system, using something like TagSpaces might be worth it. TagSpaces is essentially a file organizer that allows you to add searchable tags to different files. This allows it to act as an outliner, and it also allows for flat-file markdown documents similar to Wiki pages. Copy/paste are basically pictures, though, and I'm not certain if you can reference other files. I believe there are browser extensions. Currently, my information is stored in Evernote with project notes and code in Notepad++ using Workspace links. I have other generalized notes and project ideas/tasks held in a Kanban solution. I've been thinking of moving to a Wiki-based solution for reference/notes with some features like automated scraping via emailing links. If I start coding more I'd probably look at setting up a Git repo and use BeakerX. But I've got other things to do and haven't done this yet.

I've edited the Heuristics and Biases tag. I think it's probably A-grade (I'm still getting a handle on exactly what an A-grade tag should feel like though, honestly).

That said, I'd like it if somebody could check the specifics of the three definitions, because I'm actually not completely sure, and check that it scans ok.

Me too. Maybe I'll get a chance to write some of my own today or tomorrow and we can compare notes. Probably the hard thing is that what counts as A-Class for one posts isn't for enough for another. For Heuristics & Biases, man, it's such a central tag for LW so it's gotta be really good. Probably we should hold off declaring this one A-Class until we're ready to say it really doesn't merit more work, which could be a while. One thought is that this a topic with some amazing posts introducing it and the tag description should lean on them, maybe even quoting them a lot and pushing them to read them. The current tag description is alright, but it feels like it doesn't get at the heart of the topic in the few paragraphs or make me feel like I should care much. Contrast with the engagingness of ...What's a bias, again? [] In Conservation of Expected Evidence [], I basically thought to myself "there's no way I'm gonna write a better explanation than Eliezer on this", should just quote him. Though sometime's Eliezer's explanations are too long to quote and it makes sense to rewrite them.  Other thoughts: - I think posts in this class should heavily mention and describe top posts close to the top (including pretty related ones like "Your Intuitions Aren't Magic"').  - Relatedly, it should guide your reading of the topic much more explicitly. What is Predictably Wrong? What does it contain? - I think it'd be good to have a more explicit list of different heuristics and biases. As kind of a parent tag, it should maybe even have a nice table of all "sub-tags" - The way "fallacies" is used on LW isn't about explicit logic, really. I think it's more that a fallacy is a bad inference/step of reasoning, whereas heuristics and biases are properties of the algorithm that does the reasoning.  [I also moved the Related Tags to the top because I thi

For sure! I figured the team wouldn't have missed this, just wanted to give my two cents. For what it's worth I think the tagging system is actually really nicely implemented already; I feel like a kid in a candy shop with all these posts that were just thoroughly inaccessible to me until now.

Your cents are appreciated! Really helpful to know which things stick out to people. That was the goal! <3 Don't eat too much candy. I'm joking. Knock yourself out, this is the good stuff.

I've edited the Effective Altruism tag pretty heavily, and I now believe it qualifies as A grade.

I've also edited the Epistemic Modesty tag, and think it's now C or B grade.

I'd also like it if the X-risk and S-risk tags are consistent with one another-- I propose that "S-risks (Risk of astronomical suffering)" and "X-risks (Existential risk)" is the best format.

Phenomenal job on the EA tag! Definitely A-Class.  Quick thoughts that occur to me for it: Should probably link to the EA Forum too? And I think it might be clearer if the See Also section was divided into two sub-sections, one for related LW tags and one for external resources? I made Epistemic Modesty C-Class. The central idea is conveyed but I'd want to reserve B-Class for things that touch on more of the arguments, e.g., for and against. Inadequate Equilibria posts are tagged, but would be good to mention what position gets laid out in them. (Especially as the quote might make it seem that Eliezer is plain in favor of epistemic modesty as virtuous.) PS: See a note on tag feedback in this comment [].

Are there any plans to implement tagging of whole sequences? I understand that tagging the first post in a sequence has a similar effect, but it might be more productive in some instances to have, for instance Slack and The Sabbath as the top link under the slack tag, rather than the individual posts from this sequence appearing in an order based on relevance.

Obviously that then creates issues about whether you want posts that appear in sequences to also appear individually or not, and whether you want all sequences to be taggable or not, and so on. I&apo... (read more)

Yeah, I thought about this early on and it seemed very necessary. It's not lost on me though how it's kinda bad to have 20 posts from the same sequences just filling up the tag. As you point out, there area bunch of challenges in figuring out all the right behaviors. There might be a solution where the benefits are worth it, but it's gonna be work to figure out what it is. We're first dealing with a heap of low-hanging fruit on tagging stuff. In short, seems like a good idea to figure something out here, also seems tricky and so would be a bit further down the roadmap. For now, I think the Related Sequences is the best solution even if some people miss the section.
4Yoav Ravid3y
I also left a comment suggesting this. for now i'm just adding "Related Sequences" to the description with links to relevant sequences (see Epistemology [] for example), i hope in the future this can be done with actual tagging.

This is true, and a mistake on my part (they don't bother with IFR in medical school, likely because it's not as relevant for day-to-day medicine as CFR). I'll update the post to try to explain the difference. Thanks a lot.

To your first point: my intuition is that ACE2 is far too small for the genome to pass through itself. ACE2 is an enzyme that's bound to the membrane-- it actually just cleaves angiotensin 1 to angiotensin 2 (hence 'angiotensin cleavage enzyme, ACE2). It does pass through the membrane, but it's not really a 'channel'-- it is simply localised to the cell membrane, and acts on substances extracellularly.

Enveloped viruses can enter cells in many ways (principles of virology chapter 5 is really excellent for this, if you're inter... (read more)

What sources are governments using for decision-making?

The biggest impacts seem to me to be via influencing government. The UK government, for instance, is still very reticent to enforce widespread testing or mandatory quarantine. Their 'quarantine guidance' for households with symptoms looks like this, which seems patently foolish for a number of reasons.

Influencing governments' decision making is high-impact and potentially tractable via getting modelling and trial data to them. The UK Government publish their 'scientific basis for d... (read more)

Sir Patrick Vallance seems to be the key figure behind the UK policy. The guy was a professor of medicine in the past and who heads the Government Office for Science. Their policy is likely much more driven by modeling then the policy of other countries where the policies are decided by politicians instead of people with that kind of credentials. To the extend that they have data on that page that's weeks out of date it's likely because the page has little to do with their actual decision making processes. Vallance might still be wrong, but I think it's wrong to model him as being simply misinformed.

Primarily or exclusively due to the thread:

  • Bought a pulse oximeter
  • Copper tape on phone, laptop hand-rests, and doorknobs and light switches (due to living in shared student accommodation) -- including recommending others do the same; two or three people I know have taken me up on this advice.
  • Bought, and take daily, vitamin D pills
  • More careful with packages (treat external packaging as if it is infective)
  • Gathered enough food/medicine to be able to quarantine and look after self if required

Due to 'seeing the smoke' due mainly to LW posts (would li... (read more)

I'd like to suggest not using ibuprofen, or any other anti-inflammatory (NSAID or steroid: also includes aspirin, cortisone, etc. with the presumed exception of pre-prescribed steroids for e.g. asthma).

This is on the basis of this article from the BMJ. In summary, there are a handful of COVID-19 specific cases of young fit people becoming severely ill following ibuprofen use, combined with small studies on SARS-CoV and other illnesses.

Paracetamol should probably be used instead of ibuprofen/NSAIDs.

This seems like a cheap switch as they're lik... (read more)

4Jamie Swan3y
WHO doesn't recommend avoiding Ibuprofen for COVID-19 symptoms. Source: []
paracetamol a.k.a. acetaminophen appears the safest thing to take but if you have a high temperature I would avoid any anti-pyretic medications. A fever is a good thing - it's making the body inhospitable for viruses when they start invading. Suppressing this immune response at the early infection "fever stage" potentially allows the virus to get hold. Ride it out, help your body by curling up in a blanket. Stay hydrated and let your body's defences work.

This feels to me like part of the puzzle, as you say.

I think the other part is some quality of mind-like-ness (or optimising-agent-ness, if you prefer). People rarely attribute free will to leaves in the wind, despite their inability to accurately model their movements. On the other hand, many people do regularly attribute something suspiciously free-will-like to evolution(s).

I don't have a good idea how either of these two concepts should be represented, or attached to one another, though.

Does this mean, then, that it is not merely difficult, but mathematically impossible for any matter to ever reach 0 Kelvin? This would seem to violate Liouville's Theorem as stated here.

On one notable occasion I had a similar discussion about sound with somebody and it turned out that she didn't simply have a different definition to me-- she was, (somewhat curiously) a solipsist, and genuinely believed that there wasn't anything if there wasn't somebody there to hear it-- no experience, no soundwaves, no anything.