All of Dan_Weinand's Comments + Replies

Cross validation is actually hugely useful for predictive models. For a simple correlation like this, it's less of a big deal. But if you are fitting a local linearly weighted regression line for instance, chopping the data up is absolutely standard operating procedure.

Maybe I'm way off base here, but it seems like average utilitarianism leads to disturbing possibility itself. That being 1 super happy person is considered a superior outcome to 1000000000000 pretty darn happy people. Please explain how, if at all, I'm misinterpreting average utilitarianism.

0DanielLC9y
I think you just have different intuitions than average utilitarians. I have talked to someone who saw no reason why having a higher population is good in of itself. I am somewhat swayed by an anthropic argument. If you live in the first universe, you'll be super happy. If you live in the second, you'll be pretty darn happy. Thus, the first universe is better.

Two notes: First, the term "genius" is difficult to define. Someone may be a "genius" at understanding the sociology of sub-Saharan African tribes, but this skill will obviously command a much lower market value compared to someone who is a "genius" as a chief executive officer of a large company. A more precise definition of genius will narrow the range of costs per year.

Second, and related to the first, MIRI is (to the extent of my knowledge) currently focusing on mathematics and formal logic research rather than programmin... (read more)

Give machine A one nickel and have it produce a random sequence of 499 characters. Have machine B write a random sequence of 500 characters. Code machine A to pay machine B one nickel for its "book" whenever it has a nickel. Code machine B to give a nickel to machine A for its book whenever it has a nickel. Wait perhaps a few days, and you will have two bestselling authors reminiscent of Zach Weiner's Macroeconomica http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=2855

1DanielLC9y
Selling to humans then. Also, only count the number of humans that bought the book, rather than the number of books sold, so you can't just sell a billion copies to one person. A more simple version: write a set of strings such that a given panel of judges considers it to be a good book.

Sorry, a more applicable study is behind a pay-wall. http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/351391?uid=3739640&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21103313626383 Summary: data from six surveys suggest negative correlation between having children and several measures of life satisfaction. Standard caveats that correlation doesn't imply causation, etc.

0Lumifer9y
Hm. Pity about the paywall. Throwing in here a PDF [http://dtserv2.compsy.uni-jena.de/__C125786A003BD378.nsf/0/4166CC2E42F04A8AC125786A003BD43D/$FILE/consequences_childlessness.pdf] on the likelihood of depression among people with children and childless people. I read it as no significant difference (I understand that the authors don't feel that way).

A study suggests that happiness is negatively affected by having children http://www.npr.org/2013/02/19/172373125/does-having-children-make-you-happier Note, there seem to be some issues with the methodology used in the study, but it also seems to be fairly well respected in academia.

3Gunnar_Zarncke9y
I seem to remember that this was brought up earlier and may be true to some amount. Parenting can be a lot of stress esp. if nobody honors it and/or you cannot see the value youself. Feelings of happyness are heavily moderated socially. But less happyness doesn't mean that the didn't think it to be right.

A study suggests that happiness is negatively affected by having children

It doesn't seem to. Following your link, the study suggests that working women in Texas weren't very happy when taking care of their kids.

That's an answer to a drastically different question.

Nitpick, the link in the first sentence reads "Definability of Truth in Probabilistic Locic" rather than logic.

2So8res9y
Fixed, thanks.

Could you elaborate? I'm relatively familiar with and practice mindfulness meditation, but I've never heard of loving-kindness meditation.

0[anonymous]9y
This here Wikipedia page [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mett%C4%81] is a good summary. It mostly boils down to simply concentrating on feeling nice towards everyone. There is some technical advice on how to turn the vague goal of 'feeling nice' to more concrete mental actions (through visualization, repeating specific phrases, focusing on positive qualities of people) and how to structure the practice by having a progression of people towards which you generate warm fuzzy feelings, of increasing level of difficulty (like starting with yourself and eventually moving on to someone you consider an enemy). Most of this can be found in the Wiki article or easily googled.
0beoShaffer9y
See here for an introduction [http://www.buddhanet.net/metta_in.htm].

Correct, it is enjoyable but I wish to make it more so. Hence why I used "more".

I find myself happier when I act more kindly to others. In addition, lowering suffering/increasing happiness are pretty close to terminal values for me.

2shminux9y
You say Yet you said earlier that Does this mean that you feel that you do enjoy it but not "enough" in some sense and you want to enjoy it even more?

Thanks! And out of curiosity, does the first book have much data backing it? The author's credentials seem respectable so the book would be useful even if it relied on mostly anecdotal evidence, but if it has research backing it up then I would classify it as something I need (rather than ought) to read.

1ChristianKl9y
When it comes to research about paradigms like that it's hard to evaluate them. If you look at nonviolent communication and set up your experiment well enough I think you will definitely find effects. The real question isn't whether the framework does something but whether it's useful. That in turn depends on your goals. Whether a framework helps you to successfully communicate depends a lot on cultural background of the people with whom you are interacting. If you engage in NVC, some people with a strong sense of competition might see you as week. If you would consistentely engage in NVC in your communcation on LessWrong, you might be seen as a weird outsider. You would need an awful lot of studies to be certain about the particular tradeoff in using NVC for a particular real world situation. I don't know of many studies that compare whether Windows is better than Linux or whether VIM is better than Emacs. Communication paradigms are similar they are complex and difficult to compare.
2erratio9y
Thirded. The most helpful part for me was internalising the idea that even annoying/angry/etc outbursts are the result of people trying to get their needs met. It may not be a need I agree with, but it gives me better intuition for what reaction may be most effective.
1jsalvatier9y
I found NVC is very intuitively compelling, have personal anecdotal evidence that it works (though not independent of ESRogs, we go to the same class).
7Ben_LandauTaylor9y
According to wikipedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonviolent_Communication], there's a little research and it's been positive, but it's not the sort of research I find persuasive. I do have mountains of anecdata from myself and several friends whose opinions I trust more than my own. PM me if you want a pdf of the book.
3ESRogs9y
I would like to offer further anecdotal evidence that NVC techniques are useful for understanding your own and other people's feelings and feeling empathy toward them.

Any good advice on how to become kinder? This can really be classified as two related goals, 1) How can I get more enjoyment out of alleviating others suffering and giving others happiness? 2) How can I reliably do 1 without negative emotions getting in my way (ex. staying calm and making small nudges to persuade people rather than getting angry and trying to change people's worldview rapidly)?

0[anonymous]9y
I recommend trying loving-kindness meditation.
2byrnema9y
I also want to learn how to be kinder. The sticking point, for me, is better prediction about what makes people feel good. I was very ill a year ago, and at that time learned a great deal about how comforting it is to be taken care of by someone who is compassionate and knowledgeable about my condition. But for me, unless I'm very familiar with that exact situation, I have trouble anticipating what will make someone feel better. This is also true in everyday situations. I work on figuring out how to make guests feel better in my home and how to make a host feel better when I'm the guest. (I already know that my naturally overly-analytic, overly-accommodating manner is not most effective.) I observe other people carefully, but it all seems very complex and I consider myself learning and a 'beginner' -- far behind someone who is more natural at this.
3Manfred9y
In addition to seconding nonviolent communication, cognitive behavior therapy techniques are pretty good - basically mindfulness exercises and introspection. If you want to change how you respond to certain situations (e.g. times when you get angry, or times when you have an opportunity to do something nice), you can start by practicing awareness of those situations, e.g. by keeping a pencil and piece of paper in your pocket and making a check mark when the situation occurs.

I'd recommend Nonviolent Communication for this. It contains specific techniques for how to frame interactions that I've found useful for creating mutual empathy. How To Win Friends And Influence People is also a good source, although IIRC it's more focused on what to do than on how to do it. (And of course, if you read the books, you have to actually practice to get good at the techniques.)

1shminux9y
What is your reason for wanting to?

It's a quirk of the community, not an actual mistake on your part. LessWrong defines probability as Y, the statistics community defines probability as X. I would recommend lobbying the larger community to a use of the words consistent with the statistical definitions but shrug...

0CyrilDan9y
Okay, that clears up it up a lot.

Then let me respecify what I should have stated originally, Christians who evangelize for Christianity are effective at persuading others to join the cause. I am concerned with how bugging people about a cause (aka evangelizing for it) will effect the number of people in that cause. The numbers shown suggest that if we consider evangelizing Christians to be a group, then they are growing as support of my hypothesis.

Oh, I'm well aware that this technique could be used to spread irrational and harmful memes. But if you're trying to persuade someone to rationality using techniques of argument which presume rationality, it's unlikely that you'll succeed. So you may have to get your rationalist hands dirty.

Your call on what's the better outcome: successfully convincing someone to be more rational (but having their agency violated through irrational persuasion) or leaving that person in the dark. It's a nontrivial moral dilemma which should only be considered once rational persuasion has failed.

This would be the explanation http://lesswrong.com/lw/oj/probability_is_in_the_mind/ It really should be talked about more explicitly elsewhere though.

2passive_fist9y
I must have missed that thread, thanks. Though I can't see why I'm wrong. It has nothing to do with frequentism vs. bayesianism (I'm a bayesian). It's simply that likelihood is relative to a model, whereas probability is not relative to anything (or, alternatively, is relative to everything), as they're saying in that thread. Through this interpretation it's easy to see why likelihood represents a degree of belief.

In light of the downvotes, I just wanted to explain that probability is frequently used to refer to a degree of belief by LessWrong folks. You're absolutely right that statistical literature will always use "probability" to denote the true frequency of an outcome in the world, but the community finds it a convenient shorthand to allow "probability" to mean a degree of belief.

2passive_fist9y
I haven't seen this shorthand explained anywhere here.

The proxy I am specifically looking at for evangelical Christianity is people who claim to have spread the "good news" about Jesus to someone. In other words, asking people whether they themselves have evangelized (the data on this is the fairly clear 47% to 52% upward trend). To me, it makes a lot of sense to call someone an Evangelical Christian if they have in fact evangelized for Christianity. And if we disagree on that definition, then there is really nothing more I can say.

2Lumifer9y
The Pope would be surprised to hear that, I think. All Christians of all denominations are supposed to spread the Good Word. Christianity is an actively proselytizing religion and has always been one. The Roman Catholic Church, in particular, has been quite active on that front. As have been Mormons, Adventists, Jehova's Witnesses, etc. etc.

The margin of sampling error is +- 3% while the difference the 1980 percentage and the 2005 percentage is 5%. I do think that a trend which has a p value less than .05 is statistically significant.

0Lumifer9y
I am not sure which data you are looking at. My link shows the percentage of people who self-identify as Evangelicals. The data starts in 1991 and ends in 2005. The first values (1991-1993) are 41%, 42%, 46%, 44%, 43%, and the last values (2004-2005) are 42%, 39%, 42%, 47%, 40%. I see no trend. Your link shows the percentage of people who answer three proxy questions. The data starts in 1976 and ends in 2005. Over that time period one question goes up (47% to 52%), one goes down (38% to 32%) and the third goes up as well (35% to 48%). Do note that the survey says "When looking at the percentage of Americans who say yes to all three of these questions, slightly more than one in five (22%) American adults could be considered evangelical" and that's about *half* of the number of people who self-identify as such. Given all this, I see no evidence that the mind share of the Evangelicals in the US is increasing.
0Lumifer9y
False, really? So looking at the data in these two links you think you see a statistically significant trend? Don't forget that your (second) link is concerned with proxies for being an Evangelical...

Apologies, I should have been clearer in using donations to the AMF as an analogy to persuading people to be more rational and not a direct way to persuade people to be more rational. I don't claim that these people are more rational simply because they donate to the AMF.

If we are really trying to persuade people, however, guilt tripping should be considered as an option. Logical arguments will only change the behavior of a very small segment of society while even self-professed rationalists can be persuaded with good emotional appeals.

-5Eugine_Nier9y

While there are many people who are annoyed by Christian Evangelicals, I feel that it is difficult to argue against their effectiveness. They exist because they are willing to talk to people again and again about their beliefs until those people convert.

Do you have any reason to believe that Christian Evangelicals are ineffective at persuading people? Keep in mind that a 5% conversion rate is doing a pretty damn good job when it comes to changing people's minds.

0DanielLC9y
If it works regardless of what it is you're telling people to do, that makes it dark arts [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Dark_arts].
2Lumifer9y
Yes. Their mind share in the US is not increasing [http://www.gallup.com/poll/20242/Another-Look-Evangelicals-America-Today.aspx].

The following advice is anecdotal and is a very clear example of "other optimizing". So don't take it with a grain of salt, take it with at least a table spoon.

I've found that engaging people about their rationality habits is frequently something that needs to be done in a manner which is significantly more confrontational than what is considered polite conversation. Being told that how you think is flawed at a fundamental level is very difficult to deal with, and people will be inclined to not deal with it. So you need to talk to people about... (read more)

2Lumifer9y
Let me make just a small change... I've found that engaging people about their belief in Jesus is frequently something that needs to be done in a manner which is significantly more confrontational than what is considered polite conversation. Being told that how you live is flawed at a fundamental level is very difficult to deal with, and people will be inclined to not deal with it. ... So if you want to convince someone to love Jesus, bug them about it. Do you have any reason to believe that people will react to the first better than to the second?
1hyporational9y
It's not clear to me that donating to AMF is a reliable sign of their increased rationality. How do you know you're not simply guilt tripping them?

The issue of "watering down" one's GPA by taking more classes is already being significantly addressed by colleges and high schools.

Most top colleges examine unweighted GPAs rather than weighted ones. Unweighted GPAs cannot be watered down by non honors classes, and have better predictive validity for college grades than weighted GPAs. One might be inclined to think that this provides incentives for taking easy classes, but the top schools are simply not going to take you seriously if you adopt this strategy (speaking from personal experience... (read more)

0Zvi9y
Changing the formula might create the incentive to take additional easy classes, but it's theoretically impossible to create a system that doesn't give trade-off opportunities to signal versus do something else that is otherwise more useful. It's very hard to make taking that extra course exactly neutral in expectation in terms of impact, and even if it is, you've got opportunity costs.
0AnthonyC9y
Even high schools that use average weighting systems vary tremendously (and I suspect that more than anything else is why colleges use unweighted grades). My own high school, for example, used a weighting system where is was still impossible to get more than 100 (we used a 100 point scale). Instead, as long as you passed a course (higher than 65), you were given pack a percentage of lost points (40% for honors, 70% for AP), so a 70 in AP Bio became a 91, but a 70 in honors bio became an 82.

After doing a little research on the Pomodoro technique, I couldn't really find any studies on their effectiveness. The anecdotal evidence is enticing (and preliminary trials of my own have been positive), but has anyone seen good research done on it or similar productivity methods?

0Peter Wildeford9y
I've spent about twenty minutes looking myself and I couldn't find any. I'm reasonably confident that no such research exists. I do think we could draw a synthesized conclusion from studies that demonstrate the value of semi-frequent breaks, studies that demonstrate the value of focusing on your task and how to restore focus, and studies that demonstrate the value of single-tasking, though.

I agree with the arguments against diversification (mainly due to its effect on lowering the incentive for becoming more efficient), but here's a concrete instance of how diversification could make cheating nonviable.

Example: Cheating to fake the signals costs 5,000$ (in other words, 5,000$ to make it look like you're the best charity). There are 10,000$ of efficient altruism funds that will be directed to the most efficient charity. By faking signals, you net 5,000$.

Now if diversification is used, let's say at most 1/4 of the efficient altruism funds wil... (read more)