There is perhaps no better man to alert the mainstream of the possibilities and/or dangers of AI. His comments have no doubt encouraged many people to look into this area. Some of these people may be capable of helping create Friendly AI in the future. In my opinion Steven Hawking believed making these comments were for the greater good of society and I tend to agree with him.
Firstly I must pass on my best wishes to Efim. I am assuming you may have some form of depression and as a long term sufferer I can assure you that things do get better in time! Often the first episode is worse than the following relapses, you will learn to deal with this and it will make you stronger. With proper treatment you may look at this disorder as something which has actually enhanced your life. Depression has taught me a lot about humility and to cherish the good things in life; it has taught me to take care of my body and mind, ultimately making me a happier person overall.
In response to Fubarobfusco- "Regarding non-medical counselors: They can be plenty helpful, but they are not allowed to prescribe drugs; and drugs often make a huge difference."
I must agree with ChristianKI's comments. The evidence suggests that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is more effective than antidepressants for the treatment of many mental disorders but particularly for depression... (Yes I am educated in this area, I do proclaim to know what I am talking about here). Antidepressants may offer some temporary relief (arguably through the Placebo effect) or may inhibit the sufferers energy to a point where they cant even think for themselves and may not make any rash decisions such as taking their life; that doesn't mean a prescription to AD's/Valium is going to help them in the long run.
Think of it like this- you are aiming to decrease students stress for an upcoming mathematics exam. The two treatments are 1- mathematics practice and 2- general confidence training. Both treatments may decrease stress for the upcoming exam but only mathematics practice will provide long term benefit.
What helped me the most was viewing this disorder as something which was INTERFERING with my normal cognition. Depression distorts your reality, what you are going through right now is not normal, it is not necessarily who you are as a person. Do not try to attribute too much of what you are experiencing now to your identity. Once you start to see depression as 'that annoying friend who comes to visit every now and again' instead of a part of you, it becomes easier to deal with. The depression will come and go but you and your values, beliefs and attitudes will remain. Everybody reacts to different sentiments however, hence why you should see a Psychologist and let them talk it through for you. I do not recommend treating this with drugs, the academic literature simply does not support this as a first course of treatment, after you have seen a Psychologist you may need to start looking at medication but even then more CBT might just be necessary.
Best wishes Efim, you can and will get through this :)
Ps- exercise can work wonders, so can smiling, even if you don't feel like it. When other people see you smile they are more inclined to give you one back...
"My own statistics prof said..."
I am sure we sure we are more than capable of looking beyond the scope of what your statistics professor had time to teach you at university. I have some knowledge and education of statistics myself, not that it makes me particularly more entitled to comment about it.
"Thats not the skill that's taught in a statistics degree."
I commend you for apparently having a statistics degree of some form. To suggest that analysing and comprehending large amounts of data isnt taught in a statistics degree makes me question your statistics degree. I'm not saying your degree is any better worse, perhaps just unique. Of course, comprehending large amounts statistical data would lead to the use of algorithms to accurately explain the data. We rely on algorithms and mathematics for statistical analysis. Understanding the 'complicated' maths or Bayes theorem wouldnt seem like that great a stretch given the OP's education which is my initial point.
"A M.S. in statistics. Sadly, the non-Bayesian kind for the most part"
I'd hardly be ashamed of having a 'non-Bayesian' statistics degree. Bayes is referenced a lot in LW, and for good reason but Bayes theorem is not all that difficult to understand particularly for someone with your education. The most useful skill a knowledge of statistics can give you, arguably, is being able to objectively analyse and comprehend extremely large amounts of data.
Have you looked into the possibility of acquiring a research partner? It may be a more effective use of your time to predominantly take care of the statistical analysis and the biological experimentation while your partner (endowed with skills you don't have time to learn yourself) can present fresh ideas for new research. This method would be prone to less bias and if it's a race against time, you may not have enough to acquire an entirely new skill set.
Before an area of interest becomes a passion it must be rewarding. Enjoyment may come intrinsically, e.g. just doing the research is the reward in itself. By the sound of it this new method of analysis you speak of does not provide the amount of intrinsic enjoyment required to pursue it without extrinsic reward. Enjoyment may also come extrinsically; by this I mean fame, glory, money and acclaim. It's the difference between a cyclist dedicating his life to the sport because he "loves riding his bike", or a cyclist dedicating his life to the sport because he believes pursuing his/her significant talent would be the best way to acquire money and thus support his/her family and meet his/her other life goals.
Acquiring mastery for a subject is near impossible if you do not gain enjoyment from it. Although you say this new method of analysis could prove useful, would the rewards from pursuing it be enough to dedicate the amount of time and energy required to see it through? Subconsciously you may have already had this debate and decided against it.
As you asked for our personal opinion, I will give you mine. Since this issue is causing you some distress, go cold turkey on the video games and dedicate perhaps a week to looking into this area of interest further. If you are still struggling for motivation, I suggest you reconsider pursuing this area of interest.
I have recently developed a passion for something that may reap significant financial rewards in the future. This passion happens to be for a topic I found particularly interesting as a child. Due to the intrinsic and extrinsic motivation this area of interest gives me I have since developed a passion for statistics, mathematics and research. The passion for these other topics would not have been there otherwise. I do not think of learning as a chore, I do not wish to play video games (I haven't played my Xbox in over a year), heck I even socialize less because of it. I am truly driven to acquire mastery of my area of interest and dedicate my life to learning more about it.
You are correct Michael. Antidepressants don't seem to work better than placebo and yes it is immoral for psychiatrists to be prescribing antidepressants without enrolling the client in CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). The medical model DOES NOT fit very well with mental disorders. A mental disorder is a bit like a peg leg, you can pretend you don't have a peg leg and take a bunch of valium to ignore the fact you have a peg leg but ultimately the best treatment for having a peg leg or a mental disorder is education and fancy this, teaching the client rationality techniques... Another big quam I have is how heavily valium is prescribed to people with anxiety disorders. The side effects of taking anti-d's which do not work or prescribing valium to an anxiety client includes death among other things. If the anti-d's do not work or the person with anxiety cannot control their own disorder without an anxiolytic the risk of something horrible happening is far higher. There is a problem here.
ps- yes I have done my research and am qualified to give my 2c worth (it is annoying you have to make these disclaimers on LW as this website seems to have spiralled in to the pits of navel gazing lately, i digress...)