All of Costanza's Comments + Replies

Let's check featured articles on the main page on 19 July 2014....and...there we go.

"Eliezer Yudkowsky Facts" as a featured article. Wow, that's certainly one way to react to this kind of criticism. (I approve.)

What is the purpose of an experiment in science? For instance, in the field of social psychology? For instance,what is the current value of the Milgram experiment? A few people in Connecticut did something in a room at Yale in 1961. Who cares? Maybe it's just gossip from half a century ago.

However, some people would have us believe that this experiment has broader significance, beyond the strict parameters of the original experiment, and has implications for (for example) the military in Texas and corporations in California.

Maybe these people are ... (read more)

4fubarobfusco9y [] — (emphasis added)

I'd think that "famous experiments where the original result was clearly correct" are exactly those whose results have already been replicated repeatedly. If they haven't been replicated they may well be famous -- Stanford prison experiment, I'm looking at you -- but they aren't clearly correct.

I was thinking more "What is the error rate in replication experiments when we know the results from the original experiment were correct?" So if mixing X and Y under certain conditions has to yield Z, how often when scientists actually try to do this do they get Z?

I would like to be able to talk about politics with rational people ...[but]...the problem is that crazy views get too much credence here, due to an unwillingness to criticize by more rational people.

Right. It's those damn greens. Damn those greens, with their votes for... crazy green things! Not like us blues, who want nothing but good and rational blueness!

[ETA] My mind has been killed. This is why I don't want party politics -- as opposed to policy -- on LessWrong.

Couldn't you instead exercise self-control?

1) I would like to be able to talk about politics with rational people

I'd suggest a distinction between "politics" and "policy", at least in the American English prevalent on LessWrong. "Politics" implies party politics, blue versus green, horse races (by which I mean election horse races), and tribalism. I think your post suggested an interest in this. Personally, I don't want this here.

If, however, you want to talk about policy, using the analytical language of policy, then I say go for it. However, your original post, with its reference to parties, made me doubtful.

But that doubtfulness is precisely the point. I want to be able to make references to contemporary issues, without having to worry all the time whether or not someone might interpret it as being a sneaky and subtle way to signal affiliation for... whatever. I don't frequent too many sites, but it's only Less Wrong where people are so paranoid about this. And what's worse it's skewed, because if I complain about crazy political parties the response is "How dare you insult the republican party!", as seen in at least one post in this thread.

I think it's a bit silly to call it "courageous" to criticize an online forum. At worst it makes me feel slightly bad when my posts get downvoted as a result.

Well said! Well said indeed! And for that I will award you...a karma point!

Downvoted because the original post didn't so much ask a question as make an assertion which I personally didn't find so valuable. As you point out, why would anyone come here for political discussion in the first place? So I downvoted it, because that's what the karma system is for. In the end, a karma point is just a karma point. Nothing personal in it.

Nobody seemed to me to suggest there was anything personal in it in the first place, so I have to wonder why you're giving a disclaimer about something nobody said or seemed to think.

What about targeted vaccinations and other health interventions for smart kids? I don't think thiis is a good idea, partly because it's going to be so much less efficient than just helping everyone, but you may.

Not at all, that sounds great, if it were possible. Certainly generally effective health interventions sound even far more likely. But if there were a health intervention that only benefited smart kids, I would definitely consider that a net plus as to not having it exist at all.

[ETA] If it imposed some extrinsic cost on everyone else, that would be a different matter, but that's not how vaccines work, is it?

you probably do better to find existing kids with the potential to be net-positive and help them reach their potential.

I have my doubts, or rather, I think it depends on a lot of things. I take it Steve Jobs' parents were decent average people who went out of their way to raise their brilliant adoptive son as best they could, with great success. But, of course, this involved for them almost exactly the same expense of time or money as it would to raise a biological child of their own, which nullifies a good chunk of the original argument, as I underst... (read more)

What about targeted vaccinations and other health interventions for smart kids? I don't think this is a good idea, partly because it's going to be so much less efficient than just helping everyone, but you may. Alternatively tutoring is free and with a similar level of time costs to raising your own children you could tutor a lot of others.

Having kids is a special case of spending your time and money in ways that make you happy.

I don't know, maybe a very special case. I'd say rather it's a way of creating new people with their own utility [I see now Lumifer made this point before me], and ideally their own contributions to overall utility. Alternatively, some new people may represent losses to overall utility overall.

If you think you can produce net-positive children...parents of Isaac Newton, I'm looking at's worthwhile to spend all the time and effort and money to raise them. ... (read more)

See here []
Considered as an altruistic endeavor, you probably do better to find existing kids with the potential to be net-positive and help them reach their potential.

"The Navy is a master plan designed by geniuses for execution by idiots. If you're not an idiot, but find yourself in the Navy, you can only operate well by pretending to be one." -Herman Wouk, The Caine Mutiny

That quote seems to be very good in making idiots who think they are not (the majority) to behave like idiots.

I think I'm seconding this when I say that one of the most rational of Muggle studies has been magic, in the sense of stage illusionism. There's a long history of stage magicians -- beginning at least with Houdini -- debunking self-declared spiritualists and psychics and so on. James Randi, Penn and Teller, and even Johnny Carson spring to mind.

"A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon" -- Napoleon Bonaparte

This is why we need the rationality ribbons.

Or rather, a soldier will fight long and hard for the ability to reliably signal to others that they fought long and hard.

You could check out Wikipedia on public choice theory and organizational theory .

For a more humorous approach, you could read The Peter Principle . You could also check out Jerry Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy .

The Gervais Principle is also very good along those lines.

It may be that the benefit of LessWrong skews towards autodidacts -- after all, EY himself famously is self-taught. With that said, I'd say hell yeah a studious reading of LessWrong can teach you more than a "typical core college class." Sorry to say a typical core college class is far less than it should be. There are a few excellent teachers of core classes out there, but the academic system just is not set up to provide proper incentives for introductory undergraduate teaching.

I'd agree with your exception for technical classes such as gener... (read more)

Does the OP really mean mastery or setting one on the path to mastery? Perhaps a series of MOOC-like college courses would be more appropriate to gradually introduce and incrementally advance one's demonstrated understanding of LW content over time (and multiple courses). Perhaps a parallel for the syllabus and starting point of a MOOC style would be Coursera's Critical Thinking [] or How To Argue [] courses.

I'm at least mildly creeped out by occasional cultish behavior on LessWrong. But every cause wants to be a cult

Eliezer said so, so therefore it is Truth.

Not sure if it involves supply of executive function , but I'm reminded of Kaj_Solata's own post to like each other, sing and dance in synchrony . He specifically mentioned military drill as an example.

I suspect that "executive function" as an individual is very different from executive function in the context of a highly collective institution like a military unit.

The collectiveness itself conserves executive function of the individual by making bad decisions very costly. Doing the right thing becomes a no-brainer. Screw up once, your whole unit is punished. Screw up twice, everyone hates your guts. Wish I had a study group watched over by a drill sergeant...

Personally, I'm desperately hoping for a near-term Gattaca solution, by which ordinary or defective parents can, by genetic engineering, cheaply optimize their children's tendencies towards all good things, at least as determined by genotype, including ethical behavior and competence, in one generation. Screw this grossly inefficient and natural selection nonsense.

I know the movie presented this as a dystopia, in which the elite were apparently chosen mostly to be tall and good-looking. Ethan Hawke's character, born naturally, was short and was supposedl... (read more)

I am also hoping that all parents in the future have the ability to make intentional genetic improvements to their children, and I also agree with you that this would not necessarily result in some horrible dystopia. It might actually result in more diversity because you wouldn't have to wait for a mutation in order to add something new. I wonder if anyone has considered that. I doubt that this would solve all the problems in one generation. Some people would be against genetic enhancement and we'd have to wait for their children to grow up and decide for themselves whether to enhance themselves or their offspring. Some sociopaths would probably see sociopath genes as beneficial and refuse to remove them from their offspring... which means we may have to wait multiple generations before those genes would disappear (or they may never completely vanish). We also have to consider that we'd be introducing this change into a population with x number of irresponsible people who may do things like give the child a certain eye color but fail to consider things like morality or intelligence. Then we will also have the opposite problem - some people will be responsible enough to want to change the child's intelligence, but may lack the wisdom to endow the child with an appropriate intelligence level. Jacking the kid's IQ up to 300 or would result in something along the lines of: The parents become horrified when they realize that the child has surpassed them at age three. As the child begins providing them adult level guidance on how to live and observing that their suggestions are actually better than their parents could come up with, the child has a mental breakdown and identity crisis - because they are no longer a child but are stuck in a toddler's body, and because they no longer have a relationship with anyone that can realistically be considered to play the role of a parent. If the parents are really unwise they'll continue to treat that person as a toddler, discou

The infamous Steve Sailer has written a lot about cousin marriage , which, in practice, seems to be correlated with arranged marriage in many cultures (including the European royals in past centuries). Perhaps a lot of arranged marriages in practice may lead to inbreeding, with the genetic dangers that follow.

I'm also wondering about the effects of anonymous sperm banks, where relatively well-off women may pay to choose a biological father on the basis of -- whatever available information they may choose to consider. What factors, in a man they will never meet, do they choose for their offspring?

Very nearly right about me forgetting, but it's a year to the day. Happy new year!

With regard to the general question described in the title, there's actually a huge literature. Just for example, Richard Posner's Economic Analysis of Law (and pretty much most of what he's written), and Philip Hamburger's *Law and Judicial Duty."

For what it's worth, in America at least, there is no "state without juries," but there are bench trials, for example when a criminal defendant waives a jury. In that case one -- and only one -- judge acts as both the arbiter of law and the finder of fact.

You only get a panel of judges at the app... (read more)

Long-distance runners and hikers and soldiers on road marches are often told not to change their strides when they get blisters, because when you have 15 or 20 miles left to go, a lopsided hobble can seriously damage your knees and hip and back.

However, based on your comment, that advice is not meant for you. Since you were able to post this, I assume you're not hopelessly lost in the woods. More importantly you've broken your toe. That is not a blister. For god's sake, get off the damn thing, and get some damn crutches if you haven't already done so and... (read more)

Thanks for the reply. I finally got to see a podiatrist on Friday and now I've got a shoe that lets me walk with a normal stride because the bottom of the shoe is rounded. So it rolls naturally without me bending my splinted foot.

I'd quibble about "clearly," even in context. Wars are just too damn random.

Nothing against cost-benefit analysis in the abstract, but, in practice, invading a country seems like one of those very complicated choices that may inherently risk some major, major unintended consequences. I'm mostly thinking negative, but I suppose this would go both ways -- unexpected ultimate positive consequences might be possible as well, but still hard to calculate at all.

X is in a category whose archetypal member has certain features.

I don't always judge X. But when I do, I judge X as if it also had those features. Stay thirsty, my friends.

--The Worst Argument in the World

I think you misunderstand me. Jared Diamond is a serious academic in good standing. I did not say he was an ideologue. Apparently, Professor Diamond has a doctorate in physiology, but is currently described as a professor of geography. He is not a professional historian. In any case, the discipline of History is noble, but it is not always described as a social science at all.

But both Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse are pop sci, not that there's anything wrong with that. They were marketed to an audience of intelligent nonexperts. They were never int... (read more)

I misunderstood you earlier, yes. However, I think Guns, Germs, and Steel might be about as rigorous as that era of history can ever get. I've never encountered any historical arguments which cover such an unknown time period with such breadth and depth. If he were to increase the rigor of his arguments, we'd lose any chance at an overall picture. Just because the books are accessible to the masses doesn't mean that the books aren't rigorous, which is what you almost seem to be implying with your above comment. Certainly, they're not perfectly scientific and can't be readily tested. But that can never happen in these fields, and the goal is only to move towards science as an ideal. You say that they weren't intended to be peer reviewed, but I guess I'm sort of confused as to why you believe that. There's nothing precluding experts from reviewing Diamond's findings, as far as I can see. Regardless, there are some really really really bad social science arguments out there. If the average social science argument, or even some of the best social science arguments, reached a level of rigor and excellence comparable to Guns, Germs, and Steel then the field would be improved a hundred fold. Maybe this means that I've got pathetic standards for what constitutes rigor, but I prefer to think that I'm being realistic, as I think improving IR and economics to even this level of rigor is already a near impossible task.

language has very narrow bandwidth compared to the world, which means that laws can never cover all the situations that the laws are intended to cover.

This is the story of human law.

The Social Sciences are often very unscientific. I want to do to economics and foreign policy analysis what Jared Diamond and other similar authors have done with history.

These two sentences may contradict each other. I'd suggest that Jared Diamond is famous as a multidisciplinarian pop-sci author. I don't mean that as an insult to him at all. He has sold a lot of books, and has interested the public in ideas, which is great as far as it goes. But if you want to bring more rigor to social science, I don't think Jared Diamond's writings on history of al... (read more)

I understand placing a low prior on ideologues and pop social sciences in general. I don't believe Diamond should be considered either of those, though. I've read Guns, Germs, and Steel and most of Collapse, and I haven't really seen any attempts by him to sweep any problems under the rug. He didn't seem to be oversimplifying things, to me, when I read him. Could you recommend a criticism of Diamond's material to me?

There's probably a bit of money in distilling legalese into simpler language. Nolo Press, for instance, is in that field.

The real money in lawyering, however, is in applying the law to the available evidence in a very specific case. This is why some BigLaw firms charge hourly fees measured by the boatload. A brilliant entrepreneur able to develop an artificial intelligence application which could apply the facts to the law as effectively as a BigLaw firm should eventually be able to cut into some BigLaw action. That's a lot of money.

This is a hard p... (read more)

And so the whole human race spins in circles. Yes, I see. (: And so, do you propose that this software also takes out ambiguity? Do you see a way around that other than specifying exactly what to do in every situation? BTW, I rewrote the intro on the OP - any suggestions?

I'd say that legal language, at least in America, is absolutely well within the bounds of natural language, with all the ambiguity that implies. Certainly lawyers have their own jargon and "terms of art" that sound unfamiliar to the uninitiated, but so do airplane pilots and sailors and auto mechanics. It's still not mathematics.

There are a lot of legislators and judges, and they don't all use words in exactly the same ways. Over time, the processes of binding precedent and legal authority are supposed to resolve the inconsistencies within the la... (read more)

I'm a lawyer. I'm also an enthusiast about applying computing technology to legal work generally, but not tech-savvy by the standards of LessWrong. But if I could help to define the problems a bit, I'd be happy to respond to PMs.

For example, the text of the U.S. Constitution is not long. Here's just one part of it:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Governme

... (read more)

Thinking about Eliezer's post about Doublethink Speaking of deliberate, conscious self-deception he opines: "Leaving the morality aside, I doubt such a lunatic dislocation in the mind could really happen."

This seems odd for a site devoted to the principle that most of the time, most human minds are very biased. Don't we have the brains of one species of apes that has evolved to be particularly sensitive to politics? Why wouldn't doublethink be the evolutionarily adaptive norm?

My intuition, based on my own private experience, is the opposite of ... (read more)

Humans normally get away with their biases by not examining them closely, and when the biases are pointed out to them by denying that they, personally are biased. Willful ignorance and denial of reality seem to be two of the most common human mental traits.
What Eliezer calls doublethink most closely fits what is called 'cognitive dissonance' in psychology, but the evidence shows that we seek to resolve that dissonance either by 'compartmentalization' or by, I assume, reflective equilibrium (is there a word in psychology for this?). I don't think we deliberately self-deceive (although, perhaps therapies like CBT seek to do this with memory reconsolidation).

Generally, he wouldn't have the power to officiate a marriage in California. See California Family Code section 400 and so on. Basically, only religious clergy and state officials can do that. That's the culture and law that applies in Berkeley, California.

There seems to be an exception under which someone can become a temporary "deputy commissioner of marriages" for the purpose of one ceremony. If you don't believe in religion, and (like me) you fear that the government has its own PHYGish tendencies, this doesn't seem like a bad alternative.

I can't find where he said this, but if I remember correctly, Eliezer is an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church [] (or some similar organization).

First, best wishes to the newly-married couple!

From a purely aesthetic point of view, I liked the relatively respectful and traditional mood effected by the Wagner wedding march, the adherence to the customs of bridesmaids and groomsmen and the giving away of the bride. I also liked the subtle subversive effect achieved by the bare feet. I read it as acknowledging established tradition, taking advantage of its strong momentum, while firmly taking charge of it and adapting it as required. Nicely done.

I would not dare to summarize Fussell's guide here, but it shattered my illusion that I mostly avoid thinking about class signals, and instead convinced me that pretty much everything I do from waking up in the morning to going to bed at night is a class signal.

This is a very readable and interesting guide, and it may have been dead-on accurate in 1983 when it was written. But the kind of class system he describes, one defined by social signals and not by (say) brute force or even money, can only exist in a unified culture, in which everybody speaks th... (read more)

I understand some enthusiasts get very emphatic about this issue, but I can only speak to my own very limited experience. The tool immediately to my hand now is a Leatherman PST, easily about ten years old or more and still not showing many signs of age. As I understand it, it's the very basic original Leatherman model. It's paid for itself many times over in simple ready convenience and utility. I see there are some very fancy and complicated multitools around. I have no comment about those, as I've never used them. I would say that my comment was based ... (read more)

I personally don't think UK knife laws are all that bad. You can carry a <= 3" blade, provided it folds. If it's non-folding, or if it's lockable, you count the full length. Most full-sized Leatherman blades are longer than this limit when unfolded and locked. (You can carry bigger blades than this, provided they're legitimate to your work/activities and/or they're stored sensibly. If you're a tradesman with a multitool on his belt you're exceedingly unlikely to have any trouble. If you're at a football match, possession of a knife would be treated a lot more seriously)

I suspect that this recommendation will be redundant for many or most of LessWrong, but let it be repeated: buy a good basic multitool and keep it where you can easily find it. Better, buy a couple of them and keep them (say) in your car, in your desk at work, and at home.

Sometimes you need exactly the right tool for the job. However, for many simple tasks, and for any emergency, the simple tool immediately at hand is much more useful than the ideal tool which would take time and effort to retrieve.

What would you recommend? I have a Leatherman Squirt E4 [], which is never the right tool for the job, but always available, and complies with UK knife laws. I also have very good experiences with the Leatherman Wave [], but don't carry it around as a matter of course for aforementioned knife-law reasons.

My family and I recently moved homes. We used the Pods company service, and were satisfied. Basically, they deliver a shipping container to your driveway, you load it, they put it on one of their trucks and deliver it to your new place, whereupon you unload it. For us, it was just the right balance between doing-it-yourself (cheaply) and paying someone else with a competitive advantage to do a service. Anyway, they showed up on time and did what they said they would do.

I would love to attend this, and, for once, I actually can (I think). Enormous gratitude to the organizer, whom I presume is cloudlicker. It's always the people who take the trouble to make good things happen who make good things happen.

I like it. Are their definitions all perfect and complete? Certainly not. But, at least in my own experience, the sanity waterline of (say) an undergraduate dorm is typically so low that hanging something like this on the wall for communal reference might tend to improve the level of conversation. Anyway, it looks like it's under a creative commons license which allows remixing.

Come to think of it, it could be reformatted to make a series of cards to play Newspaper Editorial Page Logical Fallacy Bingo.

Indeed. It's easy to fall into the Nirvana Fallacy and forget just how stupid humans are by nature and how just considering these points would lead to a significant rise in the waterline.

I tentatively suggest there's a pattern here.

By default, and in practice for the great majority, no factual question can be regarded as popular or important unless it provides an opportunity for status signaling or mind killing.

However, if there is something like a prediction market, a tiny minority will adapt to become specialists in making accurate and profitable predictions.

This applies to sports and stock trades. Most people will be happy to be a [LOCAL SPORTS TEAM] fan, and will happily remained biased for signaling purposes, maybe making penny-ante ... (read more)

Greenpeace and the Heritage Foundation both have strong (and opposed) opinions on the matter.

I'd think that, especially (but not only) in a presidential election year, this question would be corrupted by politics. If the current administration represents My Team, then it is certainly handling the economy well, and therefore, the stock market will rise and unemployment will fall.

I was thinking along the same lines, then saw your comment. I suspect an issue can't really become "popular" without some some signaling or wishful thinking involved.

Probability of a major earthquake in California this year? High, if you hope those damnfool leftcoasters are finally going to get what's coming to them. Low, if you have a lot of money tied up in property in California.

Somewhat related:

The Center for Communicating Science, together with Alan Alda, is sponsoring what they call the Flame Challenge: Answer the question – “What is a flame?” – in a way that an 11-year-old would find intelligible "and maybe even fun."

As a curious 11-year-old, Alan Alda asked his teacher, “What is a flame?” She replied: “It’s oxidation.” Alda went on to win fame as an actor and writer, became an advocate for clear communication of science, and helped found the Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University. He never stop

... (read more)
In my current mood I would guess that non explanations such as "oxidation" are to some extent are responsible for the Romantic reaction against the scientific endeavor. It can be hard to take joy in the merely real if those explaining the merely real aren't very good at it.

I'm reminded of the story of the gentile asking the rabbi Hillel that the whole Torah be explained to him while he stood on one foot. Hillel replied "What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary; go and learn."

An article in the Jewish Daily Forward observes that it is a mistake to equate "the rest is commentary" with "the rest is unimportant."

It is interesting to see how “the rest is commentary” has taken on an English meaning of its own that is subtly different from Hi

... (read more)

It was the Herbert Kornfeld trash talk that had me literally laughing out loud. Keep it real, L-Dog.

So the scenario would be, not that the elders of the LDS church are secretly running the American intelligence community...

In fact, there are a lot of Mormons in the U.S. intelligence services. This isn't because of any sinister conspiracy,* but simply because of their institution of going off as missionaries to foreign countries. Most Americans, if raised speaking English in the home, have little motivation to properly learn another language, and don't. Mormons do -- they learn most of the languages of the globe and practice them under very trying cond... (read more)

In all seriousness, I once took it for granted that, assuming perfect good faith and honesty on the part of the filer, and assuming perfectly complete and accurate records, there would automatically be one precise and correct figure for the amount of (say) income tax to be filed, at least in theory. Since that time, I have learned that, while arithmetic may be straightforward, within the tax code and even within generally accepted accounting principles, there are always huge areas of ambiguity, even for the average person filing a 1040EZ.

Given that there's always more to learn about pretty much everything, this list didn't bother me at all. I would have been much more alarmed if they asked for expert advice on:

  • Money laundering
  • Disposing of corpses in ways undetectable by law enforcement
  • Justin Bieber trivia
  • Obtaining visas or (better) passports to nations with no U.S. extradition treaty
"I can't believe what a bunch of nerds we are. We're looking up 'money laundering []' in a dictionary. "
Load More