All of complexmeme's Comments + Replies

Can you control the past?

In the "software twins" thought exercise, you have a "perfect, deterministic copy". But if it's a perfect copy and deterministic, than you're also deterministic. As you say, compatibilism is central to making this not incoherent, presumably no decision theory is relevant if there are no decisions to be made.

I think a key idea in compatibilism is that decisions are not made at a particular instant in time. If a decision is made on the spot, disconnected from the past, it's not compatibilism. If a decision is a process that takes place over time, the only wa... (read more) A tool to estimate COVID risk from common activities

Yeah, I've seen some posts trying to make similar "lockdown goes too far" arguments (including this one on the SSC Tumblr) that seem to be comparing life with COVID-19 mitigation to normal 2019 life or to that plus some chance of getting sick. Aside from understating the potential for long-term consequences, I think there's a trend in those dollar-cost estimates towards significantly underestimating the negative effects of unmitigated pandemic spread beyond the effect on one's personal health.

(Not that I expect that you disagree wi... (read more)

What was your reasoning for deciding whether to raise children?

The book "Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids" was a bit of an influence. The quick summary: People often overestimate the downsides of having children, people often underestimate the upsides of having children, people overestimate the marginal benefit of more labor-intensive methods of parenting, therefore maybe you are underestimating how many children you should have (including underestimating the benefit of tradeoffs where you have more children but use a less-intensive parenting style).

I think choosing to raise a child rather than not will pro... (read more)

The Puzzling Linearity of COVID-19
Infections start among people at the river’s mouth, and expand exponentially amongst them, until most of them are infected. It also spreads up the river, but only by local contagion, so the number of deaths (and cases) grows linearly according to how far up-river it has spread. This scenario, however, seems nothing like what we would expect in almost all countries.

That doesn't seem implausible to me, if the epidemic spreads fastest (and therefore first) in densely-connected areas of the social network graph of in-person contacts and mitigation ... (read more)

An alarm bell for the next pandemic
There's no clear reason why mortality and transmissibility of a virus should be inversely correlated.

More quickly fatal diseases leave less time for the immune system to respond and less time for transmission to occur. You're right that's not to say we can't end up with diseases that are both more contagious and more deadly than COVID-19, we definitely could, but that's not the direction the correlation goes.

1AllAmericanBreakfast2yThat's a good point. It matters more for diseases where the window of transmissibility and of symptoms closely overlap. The contagiousness of the disease is another critical factor that isn't affected by how quickly fatal the disease is. Overall, I think my statement is right, but you supply valuable nuance.
[April Fools] User GPT2 is Banned
In addition, we have decided to apply the death penalty

Less Wrong moderation policy: Harsh but fair.

Front Row Center

Not only do theaters want to sell the extra seats, they also want people to arrive early, since they're selling concessions and playing ads.

6Zvi4yShort term thinking; destroying value like that kills you in the long run. But sure. Any frequent goer returns to the same location multiple times, so even if we consider each one in isolation, this is a very bad plan.

People go through a grieving process when their image of a loved one changes in a way that they perceive as negative or shocking. That process can be very long. It's possible that your grandparents won't be able to get though enough of that process in time to attend their daughter's wedding, or even at all. And if they don't have it together enough to avoid negative emotional outbursts at the event, it may not be for the best if they attend.

If they made this decision in only an hour, however, I think it would definitely be worth encoura... (read more)

2016 LessWrong Diaspora Survey Results

"Amount of EA money sent to top four GiveWell charities" might be low because GiveWell itself is not included in that list. (I ended up putting my donation to GiveWell under "other", which while technically accurate, wasn't ideal.) In addition to GiveWell specifically, it would have been worth having an option for Effective Altruism's sort of giving (charities directed at obvious, cost-effective ways of saving the lives of / improving the quality of life for the world's poorest), but not to organizations specifically recommended by GiveWell.

You have a set amount of "weirdness points". Spend them wisely.

after a bit of searching I can't find a definitive post describing the concept

The idiom used to describe that concept in social psychology is "idiosyncrasy credits", so searching for that phrase produces more relevant material (though as far as I can tell nothing on Less Wrong specifically).

3Peter Wildeford7yWow, that's amazing! Thanks!
The Robots, AI, and Unemployment Anti-FAQ

I can see why you think I was making that implicit claim, though that wasn't quite the point I was trying to make.

I don't know to what extent the regulation mentioned in the Wikipedia article I linked to was influenced by industry lobbying versus concern about other sorts of risks to infrastructure or public safety. I'm not sure whether the precise cause of the passage of such regulation is that relevant to the regulation's durability in the face of potential benefits from adoption of new technology. Maybe it is, but the precise example of "limit[in... (read more)

The Robots, AI, and Unemployment Anti-FAQ

The idea would have to be that some natural rate of productivity growth and sectoral shift is necessary for re-employment to happen after recessions, and we've lost that natural rate; but so far as I know this is not conventional macroeconomics.

I wouldn't be surprised if this was the case, and I'd be very surprised if the end of cheap (at least, much cheaper) petroleum has nothing to do with that.

6CellBioGuy8yI would think it had to do with that and ALSO the diminishing returns of pulling more of the world's population into market systems (which is getting a hell of a lot closer to saturation), population growth (which is slowing), rolling out already existing technology and infrastructure to areas that didn't have it, finding interesting and useful ways to arrange matter that require large amounts of money to be spent, and general diminishing capacity for exponential growth in a world that is becoming much closer to 'full' in terms of rates of what we can suck from ecosystems and the ground. Maintenance cost for all of our established physical and social capital we have built up also has to be considered.
The Robots, AI, and Unemployment Anti-FAQ

If cars were invented nowadays, the horse-and-saddle industry would surely try to arrange for them to be regulated out of existence, or sued out of existence, or limited to the same speed as horses to ensure existing buggies remained safe.

That's not a new thing, that sort of regulation actually happened!

4John_Maxwell8yDo you have a source for the claim that this act was due to industry lobbying as opposed to risk aversion?
The Robots, AI, and Unemployment Anti-FAQ

They see an overall trend of reduction in employment and wages since at least 2000.

And also wage stagnation in contrast to continuing productivity gains since the 1970s.

0Yosarian28yYes, that's very true. The "productivity gains vs. wages" graph seems fairly convincing to me that something different is happening now.
Normal Ending: Last Tears (6/8)

that I will be changed again, also against my will, the next time

The next time, it presumably wouldn't be against your will, due to the first set of changes.

Bayes for Schizophrenics: Reasoning in Delusional Disorders

"You have brain damage" is also a theory with perfect explanatory adequacy.... Why not?

This led me to think of two alternate hypotheses:

One is that the same problem underlying the second factor ("abnormal belief evaluation") is at fault, that self-evaluation for abnormal beliefs involves the same sort of self-modelling needed for a theory like "I have brain damage" to seem explanatory (or even coherent). The other is that there are separate systems for self-evaluation and belief-probability-evaluation that are both damaged... (read more)

4MaoShan9y"Brain damage makes my brain stop working properly. If I have brain damage, I wouldn't be able to reason like this, therefore I cannot have brain damage. The CIA just told my doctor to say that I do."
Game Theory As A Dark Art

Agreed. Pretty sure even if the other board members didn't see the exact nature of the trap, they'd still find it obvious that it is a trap, especially considering the source.

Interlude for Behavioral Economics

Given the context, I was assuming the scenario being discussed was one where the two players' decisions are independent, and where no one expects they may be playing against themselves.

You're right that the game changes if a player thinks that their choice influences (or, arguably, predicts) their opponent's choice.

Interlude for Behavioral Economics

That last "if you know the other person cooperated" is unnecessary, in a True Prisoner's Dilemma each player prefers defecting in any circumstance.

2ArisKatsaris10yNot quite: e.g. If you're playing True Prisoner's Dilemma against a copy of yourself, you prefer cooperating, because you know your choice and your copy's choice will be identical, but you don't know what the choice will be before you actually make it. If you don't know for sure that they'll be identical, but there's some other logical connection that will e.g. make it 99% certain they'll be identical. (e.g. your copies were not created at that particular moment, but a month ago, and were allowed to read different random books in the meantime), then one would argue you're still better off preferring cooperation.
Living Metaphorically

That's the solution to the Achilles and the Turtle Paradox (also Zeno's), but the Arrow Paradox (in the comment you replied to) is different.

The Arrow Paradox is simply linguistic confusion, I think. Motion is a relation in space relative to different points of time, Zeno's statement that the (moving) arrow is at rest at any given instant is simply false (considered in relation to instants epsilon before or after that instant) or nonsensical (considered in enforced isolation with no information about any other instant).

I never found the Arrow Paradox particularly compelling. For the Achilles and the Turtle Paradox I can at least see why someone might have found that confusing.

3billswift10yOops, cached thought - I saw "Zeno's Paradox" and jumped to the most common one without reading the details.
6dlthomas10yRemember that these people were writing long before we had calculus. With regard to the Arrow Paradox in particular: if you're already comfortable with the notion of instantaneous rate of change, there is no paradox here. If you are not, and it seems sufficiently weird, then it may lead you to think there is.
Rhetoric for the Good

That "Engfish" essay is strange. It's right that textbooks and so on encourage students to write in a way that's impersonal and overly verbose. But it doesn't recognize the advantages of academic English. It doesn't even seem to recognize the role (or existence!) of dialects in general. Instead, it takes bad examples of academic English (the writing textbook) and suggests they should be more like bad examples of informal English (the third-grader).

3shokwave10yIf informal English and academic English are the two extremes on a normal distribution of writing styles, and exhortations to alter your writing style tend to have a smaller effect than their intensity should dictate (because writing styles are well-ingrained), this advice should push academic writers towards the middle of the distribution but not far enough to get into informal areas.
1Antisuji10yAs a sort of example and a great discussion on academic English, I recommend David Foster Wallace's essay Tense Present []. You will probably want to skip the paragraph that immediately follows the St. Augustine quote. (And, edit: this was intended to be in reply to GabrielDuquette's post here [] )
5fubarobfusco10yWhat are "the advantages of academic English"? It is stuffy and turns off many people, so it sounds prestigious?


Blindsight and Consciousness

This implies that some parts of your brain lead to you being conscious, while others don't.

It at least implies that some processes lead to you being conscious, while others don't. The same brain region could be involved in both conscious and unconscious processes.

0FAWS10yEven many of the same processes might sometimes lead to you being conscious and sometimes not. (the difference might involve the level of communication between different parts of the brain, which could be influenced by all sorts of things)
0atucker10yFair point, corrected.
Three consistent positions for computationalists

(Didn't realize this site doesn't email reply notifications, thus the delayed response.)

What I'm saying is that someone who answers "algorithms" is clearly not taking that view of substrate-independence, but they could hypothesize that only some side-effects matter. A MOSFET-brain-simulation and a desert-rocks-brain-simulation could share computational properties beyond input-output, even though the side-effects are clearly not identical.

(Not saying that I endorse that hypothesis, just that it's not the same as the "side effects don't matter" version.)

Three consistent positions for computationalists

the Kolmogorov complexity of a definition of an equivalence relation which tells us that an AND gate implemented in a MOSFET is equivalent to an AND gate implemented in a neuron is equivalent to an AND gate implemented in desert rocks

Isn't that only a problem for those who answer "functions" to question 5? Desert-rocks-AND-gate and MOSFET-AND-gate are functionally-equivalent by definition, but if you're not excluding side-effects it's obvious that they're not computationally equivalent.

Edit: zaph answered algorithms, so your counter-argument doesn't really target him well.

1dfranke11yThey're computationally equivalent by hypothesis. The thesis of substrate independence is that as far as consciousness is concerned the side effects don't matter and that capturing the essential sameness of the "AND" computation is all that does. If you're having trouble understanding this, I can't blame you in the slightest, because it's that bizarre.
Updateless anthropics

A few thoughts on the cousin_its problem:

  1. When you calculate the expected outcome for the "deciders say nay" strategy and the "deciders say yea" strategy, you already know that the deciders will be deciders. So "you are a decider" is not new information (relative to that strategy), don't change your answer. (It may be new information relative to other strategies, where the one making the decision is an individual that wasn't necessarily going to be told "you are the decider" for the original problem. If you're to

... (read more)
Cryonics Questions

Some of your analogies strike me as quite strained:

(1) I wouldn't call the probability of being revived post near-future cryogenic freezing "non-trivial but far from certain", I would call it "vanishingly small, if not zero". If sick and dying and offered a surgery as likely to work as I think cryonics is, I might well reject it in favor of more conventional death-related activities.

(3) My past self has the same relation to me as a far-future simulation of my mind reconstructed from scans of my brain-sicle? Could be, but that's far fr... (read more)

Existential Risk and Public Relations

Huh, interesting. I wrote something very similar on my blog a while ago. (That was on cryonics, not existential risk reduction, and it goes on about cryonics specifically. But the point about rhetoric is much the same.)

Anyways, I agree. At the very least, some statements made by smart people (including Yudkowsky) have had the effect of increasing my blanket skepticism in some areas. On the other hand, such statements have me thinking more about the topics in question than I might have otherwise, so maybe that balances out. Then again, I'm more willin... (read more)

Normal Cryonics

Do you think that if someone frozen in the near future is revived, that's likely to happen after a friendly-AI singularity has occurred? If so, what's your reasoning for that assumption?

Normal Cryonics

But that property is not limited to outcomes of good quality, correct?

Normal Cryonics

Sure, I'm talking about heuristics. Don't think that's a mistake, though, in an instance with so many unknowns. I agree that my comment above is not a counter-argument, per se, just explaining why your statement goes over my head.

Since you prefer specificity: Why on Earth do you anticipate that?

Normal Cryonics

I can't argue that cryonics would strike me as an excellent deal if I believed that, but that seems wildly optimistic.

4Paul Crowley12yThis seems an odd response. I'd understand a response that said "why on Earth do you anticipate that?" or one that said "I think I know why you anticipate that, here are some arguments against...". But "wildly optimistic" seems to me to make the mistake of offering "a literary criticism, not a scientific one []" - as if we knew more about how optimistic a future to expect than what sort of future to expect. These must come the other way around - we must first think about what we anticipate, and our level of optimism must flow from that.