All of David Gross's Comments + Replies

Yeah, disturbing imagery like that can wake you right back up in a hurry. But at that stage of falling-asleep, that imagery is going to arrive whether you're using this method or not. This method just helps you get as far as that stage more quickly.

At this point I'm being extra-speculative, but it may be that above-normal levels of anxiety in ordinary waking life bleed over into the hypnagogic imagery and make it more likely that you'll be presented with disturbing images. It could be that more attention to pre-bedtime calming (pleasant nature videos, medi... (read more)

Why do you think there will be heavy selection against things like made-up stories presented as fact, or fabricated/misrepresented medical baloney, when there doesn't seem to be much such selection now?

I mean that Google themselves wouldn't want something that could get them lawsuits, and if they generate stuff, yes they'll have a selection for accuracy. If someone is interested in AI-Dr-Oz's cures and searched for those, I'm sure Google will be happy to provide. The market for that will be huge, and I'm not predicting that crap will go away. Yes Google does select, now. The ocean of garbage is that bad. For people making genuine inquiries, often the best search providers can do right now is defer to authority websites. If we're talking specifically about interpreting medical papers, why don't you think they'll have a selection for accuracy?

I'm one of those LW readers who is less interested in AI-related stuff (in spite of having a CS degree with an AI concentration; that's just not what I come here for). I would really like to be able to filter "AI Alignment Forum" cross-posts, but the current filter setup does not allow for that so far as I can see.

Filtering out the AI tag should roughly do that.

Two possible answers to this:

  1. Maybe people are different in this way and my experience falling asleep doesn't match yours and so my advice won't be of much use to you.
  2. The visualizations are somewhat subtle. They are, like dreams, hallucinations rather than visions of real-things-out-there. But they are also much less vivid than dreams. You may not notice some of them just because they're pretty subdued and uninteresting and so unless you're looking for them they won't jump out at you. Also: you may be used to categorizing some of these images not as halluci
... (read more)

Empathy might not work that way. See: Notes on Empathy.

For one thing, we seem to be wired to empathize more with people in the in-group than people in the out-group. For another, once we begin to see a conflict through the lens of empathy, we tend to adjust our interpretation of the evidence so as to share the interests and bias of whomever we first began to empathize with in the conflict. In short: empathy ought to be approached with caution.

FWIW, I'm trying to create something of a bridge between "the ancient wisdom of people who thought deeply about this sort of thing a long time ago" and "modern social science which with all its limitations at least attempts to test hypotheses with some rigor sometimes" in my sequence on virtues. That might serve as a useful platform from which to launch this new rigorous instrumental rationality guide.

I'm working on an essay about "love" as a virtue, where a "virtue" is a characteristic habit that contributes to (or exhibits) human flourishing. I'm aiming to make the essay of practical value, so a focus on what love is good for and how to get better at it.

"Love" is notoriously difficult to get a handle on, both because the word covers a bunch of things and because it lends itself to a lot of sentimental falderol. My current draft is concentrating on three varieties of "love": Christian agape, Aristotelian true-friendship, and erotic/romantic falling/being in love.

Anyway: that long preamble aside, if you know of any sources I could consult that would help me along, I'd appreciate the pointers.

Allan Bloom's Love and Friendship is an interesting collection of essays discussing love and friendship in literature (Rousseau, Stendhal, Austen, Flaubert, Tolstoï, Shakespeare).

I notice that in notation form it’s just an extra ergo in the ordinary (p→q, p, ∴q) argument to yield (p→q, ∴p, ∴q). So maybe “ergotism” or “alter-ergo” for the name of the fallacy?

Google already pivoted once to providing machine-curated answers that were often awful (e.g. I'm just extrapolating.

You're imagining that Google stays the same in the way it indexes and presents the web. What if it decides people like seeing magic answers to all their questions, or notices that consumers have a more favorable opinion of Google if Google appears to index all the answers to their questions, and so Google by default asks gpteeble (or whatever) to generate a page for every search query, as it comes in, or maybe every search query for which an excellent match doesn't already exist on the rest of the web.

Imagine Google preloads the top ten web pages that answ... (read more)

It seems that either (a) the AI-powered sites will in fact give more useful answers to questions, in which case this change might actually be beneficial, or (b) they will give worse answers, in which case people won't be likely to use them. Don't you think people will stop trusting such sites after the first 5 times they try eating their own toenails to no avail? And for the purposes of finding plausible bullshit to support what you already think, I think gpt-powered sites have the key disadvantage of being poor evidence to show other people: it looks pretty bad for your case if your best source is a generated website(normal websites could also be generated but not advertise it, of course, but that's a separate matter). You seem to be imagining a future in which Google does the most dystopian thing possible for no reason in particular.
Free Will: A Very Short Introduction

Who doesn't like to opine about the free will problem? This short book will quickly catch you up on the philosophical state of the art so you can do so more cleverly and can understand the weaknesses of the easy answers you thought up in the shower.

Language, Truth, and Logic

Logical positivism in one witty lesson. Make your beliefs pay rent in anticipated experiences.

Pihkal: A Chemical Love Story if you'd like to know all about a huge variety of phenethylamines from the inside and out, including how to go about synthesizing them.

On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen delivers what it promises: a deep understanding of the materials and processes involved in home-scale food production.

That was probably her opinion, but I think she was carefully trying to write with respect for a non-religious audience.

I think she was saying, more or less, that secular people can either go forward in the direction they are going, but they'll have to leave should/ought/morality behind (and with it any judgements about e.g. whether shoving Jews in the ovens was necessarily a bad thing to do)—which was what philosophers of her place and time were doing with e.g. emotivism—or they can go backwards to a pre-Christian perspective from which ethics had a ground... (read more)

Thanks for the new feature. Minor bug report here: The footnote marker seems to be followed by a non-breaking space, such that it can interfere with normal paragraph formatting. See the bullet point that begins "correlates suggestively with virtues like altruism" on this page.

When an author uses a term that has many, conflicting definitions in popular use, it's reasonable to hope the author will explain which of these definitions he or she intends. It's less reasonable, I think, to insist that the author must use those terminology choices that you prefer.

In the case of "shame" it's impossible for me to please everyone, since there are so many competing and conflicting definitions in popular use. I can only choose one, explain myself, and ask my readers to meet me half-way.

Can you point to a modern popular use of your definition? As far as I'm aware, the current popular (late 20th/21st century) usage is much closer to my definition than the one you're using. I've also not seen any dictionary definitions that reference one's own standards (vs. implied social standards such as "impropriety" or "foolishness"). It just seems to me that referencing one's own standards is a very odd carve-out in the definition, as is calling it merely "unpleasant" (vs. dictionary terms saying things like "painful" and "humiliating"). Something that is unpleasant and one's own standards sounds much more like the emotion of "regret" (wishing you'd done something different), rather than the emotion of shame (public disregard and low worth). Your usage seems to me like saying that "rage is a virtue because to rage is to act against things that are unjust", while ignoring the fact that the popular understanding of the word "rage" is more like "anger to the point of irrational, destructive or counterproductive action". You can redefine the term in an excessively narrow way, but it doesn't help anybody understand what you're getting at. Notice, too, that if you simply called it regret, much of the article would be dissolved: you wouldn't need to address toxic shame or virtue signaling, since these aren't terribly relevant to regret. The article could be considerably shorter, which suggests that choosing a better term would be an empirical benefit. I also can't help but notice that all of the other top-level comments are about this terminology confusion and would have been obviated by choosing regret or another term for a less problematic emotion.

No need to stop at not voting for people. Voting in general fuels the madness. Please stop voting: You’re just making things worse.

Your Medium article is really excellent--of course, I've recently become biased. Up until now, I'm someone who voted religiously in every election. I think this November will be the first time I'll leave some bubbles empty. Did you think about cross-posting your Medium article here? I believe it's a very serious question as to when voting does more harm than good, and it seems like this would be the kind rationalist/EA types would be interested in the answer, and there seems to be an unwillingness to discuss it. (I would take the bit about the Kennedy assassination out).

Any chance we could get a "book review" icon to decorate post titles in lists so that people don't feel they need to flag them with "[book review]..."? This could be based on the presence of the "book review" tag.

That's an interesting idea! I'll think about it.

FWIW, the philosopher William Wollaston's magnum opus is devoted to defending the thesis that truth and morality completely overlap with one another: that to adhere to truth and to be moral are identical.

Here's a free ebook version of his argument:

And my summary of his argument:

I think you may be reading more (and more sinister things) into this than were originally there. I don't think DiAngelo starts with "a large part of your core identity is inherently very bad" at all. The progression she has in mind is more like this:

  1. You were raised in a culture that has a lot of baggage from its explicitly white supremacist origins, and as part of learning to adopt to that culture you learned ways of getting along with it that have the effect of reinforcing its racism. In part this is because as a white person those things were designed wi
... (read more)

I'm very open to the idea that I've seen something that wasn't there and or wasn't intended 😄, let me see if I can spesifically find what made me feel that way.

Okay, so I have that reaction to paragraphs like this:

White fragility is a sort of defensiveness that takes the form of a variety of strategies that white people deploy when we are confronted with how we participate in and perpetuate racismS. Whites use these strategies to deflect or avoid such a confrontation and to defend a comfortable, privileged vantage point from which race is “not an issue” (

... (read more)

This isn't my area of expertise, but as best as I understand it, one reason why racismS is not de facto a synonym for "being white" because racismS is not primarily a description of individual people, the way racismF can be.

That is to say, you can call someone a racistF, which is de facto a synonym for calling them a bigot or intolerant or a "race realist" or something like that, because a racistF is someone who believes in or professes racismF or acts like they do. But racismS doesn't work like that. It isn't an explicit belief system, but "a sys­tem­ic, ... (read more)

I see where you're coming from, and I also wish I didn't have to do the extra work to remember the correct technical definition of racism when I read White Fragility. That said, I expect that when I read a book in a particular discipline that I will need to be more attentive to the terms of art in that discipline. For instance, when I read a book of physics, I don't expect the author to cater to my folk definitions of "work", "energy", "power", "momentum", and so forth: instead, I expect that I will need to learn how to use the terminology of the field precisely as its practitioners do if I am to follow its arguments and learn what they have to teach.

I see where you're coming from, and I also wish I didn't have to do the extra work to remember the correct technical definition of racism when I read White Fragility. 

There's nothing technical about the definition of racism that gets used by people like DeAngelo. In physics a definition becomes technical when it's well defined enough to objectively measure the resulting effect. There's nothing that makes their definition more inherently correct either. 

In the civil rights area a lot of laws were passed to combat racism and I would say that the re... (read more)

For instance, when I read a book of physics, I don't expect the author to cater to my folk definitions of "work", "energy", "power", "momentum"

Since you assume that physics book authors won't cater to the laymen's ordinary definition of the physics terms of art you may be surprised then reading most books on classical physics. The authors go to painstaking effort to make their content accessible to laypersons. I have not yet read a textbook on classical physics that didn't take the time to explain that "work" in a physics context means Force x Distance ... (read more)

Bostrom estimates that just one second of delayed colonization equals 100 trillion human lives lost. Therefore taking action today for accelerating humanity’s expansion into the universe yields an impact of 100 trillion human lives saved for every second that it’s is brought closer to the present.

I don't much care for this rhetorically sneaky way of smudging the way we feel the import of "lives lost" and "lives saved" so as to try to make it also cover "lives that never happen" or "lives that might potentially happen." There's an Every Sperm is Sacred silliness at work here. Do you mourn the millions of lives lost to vasectomy?

Well, there was some love for the person affecting view at the end of the video. Note that one that ascribes to the totalist view might not only mourn every sperm but every potential worthwhile mind.
I kind of have similar feelings. I'd need an answer for the Mere addition paradox []/repugnant conclusion before I could compare these. I do find the conclusion repugnant, so I must take issue with the premises somehow. My current inclination is to reject the first step: the idea that a universe with more lives worth living is better than one with less, but I'm not especially confident that I've entirely resolved it that way. Living in Many Worlds [] has really influenced my thinking about future population sizes. It's more important to me that quality of life is high than that we maximize lives barely worth living. That could also be taken to extremes: why not have a population of one? But I think there are good reasons not to take it that far.

You can exit insert mode by pressing Escape but it is faster to remap your CapsLock key to Ctrl and then exit insert mode with Ctrl-[.

I don't get how that's faster.

You have to reach farther for Escape than for CapsLock, which makes Escape slower. I mapped fd to Escape, because that's what Spacemacs uses. It's also much less error-prone than jj and jk, which seem to be common choices.
Escape is farther from home row.

So... first of all, I'd like someone to look up the logical positivists and say what it is they actually believed.

A.J. Ayer's Language, Truth, and Logic is brief, to-the-point, bold, and fun to read. All of this to the extent that you may forget why you dislike reading philosophy. I'm pretty sure that Eliezer and Scott would enjoy their time reading it and would get something out of it.

I wish I remembered where I heard about this. It was a long time ago and seemed convincing to me at the time, but now I don't remember the details, and a little googling doesn't turn up much of anything to confirm this. I should probably dial back how I describe this until I can verify it.

Also curious about this.

I try to maintain my concentration on what I see, and so deliberately don't pay attention to other sensations.

I haven't experimented much with the other senses in this way. I wonder if you could get similar results by concentrating on bodily sensations (or some other sense) that I've gotten by concentrating on the visual. Seems like it'd be a good avenue for experimentation.

When I've been aware of such sudden-jerks, it's been around Guidepost 6, just as I'm about to slip into sleep, and is usually accompanied by a micro-dream in which I need to suddenly move for some reason (usually, it's that I missed a step on a staircase or something like that; but once I remember flinging my arm out in front of me to catch a baseball coming my way).

Some of this may be as you theorize: that sleep paralysis is lagging dream-consciousness and so your body doesn't know that it shouldn't actually move when your dream-consciousness tells it to.... (read more)

That's a really interesting thought. I'll have to (try to) remember to check out my breathing next time I jerk awake!

tl;dr: By focusing in a counterintuitively alert way on your hypnagogic hallucinations you can use them as a sort of biofeedback mechanism, following them as they change their characteristics in predictable ways in a direction that leads you out of insomnia into sleep.

alternatively: By reading this prolix description of hypnagogia, your eyes will glaze over until you find yourself nodding out.

Maybe useful to put the TLDR at the top of the post? I had a similar reaction to MikkW and was originally intending to save the link to possibly read at some later time. But then I was lucky enough to start skimming the post instead, getting a good chunk of value. Would have done that for sure if there was TLDR that gave some more guidance. (Great and well-written post-overall.)
4Brendan Long2y
And after the tl;dr summary, skip to the guidepost section [] which is actually fairly short.

The spreadsheet is a LibreOffice doc I could send you if you're interested.

Thanks for the idea of making a sequence out of these. Here it is: Notes on Virtues

3Yoav Ravid2y
Yes please! :) Do you need my email or something?

Thanks! I remember that Alasdair MacIntyre in After Virtue made the surprising claim that Jane Austen was the last thinker of note in the Western virtue-oriented tradition of ethics as it was dying out (before its more recent revival). I should go back and reread some of her books with that in mind.

My reading of this comes mainly from MacIntyre to be honest (and a bit of Allan Bloom too).

I hadn't intended this post to be at all karma-related, but now I'm very curious about how you would connect karma and amiability.

It's hard to change or improve something without measuring it. I think you are describing a fairly complicated concept, but it might be possible to break it down into dimensions that are easier to assess. For example, if some of the assessments are related to specific comments or replies [our primary "actions" within LessWrong], then we could see what we are doing that affects various aspects of our "amiability". This demonstration of "Personality Insights" [] might help illustrate what I'm talking about. If you want to test it, I recommend clicking on the "Body of Text" tab and pasting in some of your writing. Then click on the "Analyze" button to get a display for some of the primary dimensions. If you then click on the "Sunburst visualization" link at the bottom, you'll see more dimensions and how they are grouped. I think your notion of "amiability" may be within the cluster of "Agreeableness" dimensions. Another way to think of it is related to the profiles that Facebook and the google have compiled for each of us. My understanding (from oldish reports) is that they are dealing with hundreds of dimensions. I would actually like to see my own profile and the data that created it. I might even disagree with some of the evaluations, but right now those evaluations are being used (and abused) without my knowledge.
Which makes this an asymmetric strategy. It can only work on people who don't use it. I imagine one might get a feeling of smug superiority over the less enlightened person who swallows the bait without noticing — "ha, what fools these dullards be!" — but this is more smarm than amiability. The most famous source of the advice to get the other person to talk about themselves is "How to Make Friends and Influence People". It was written by a salesman, translating his sales technique into everyday life. A salesman is always in an asymmetric relationship with his prospective customers. He is trying to sell them something. But if you never speak of yourself, what are you selling? It's clear what you're buying with your attention: information about the other person. Rather like Facebook.

I was surprised at how shallow and uninformative the article was, especially after so much time had gone into it, and how it had attracted so much pre-publication interest. The article shows the reader almost nothing about what makes SSC interesting, instead spending most of its paragraphs hunting for or alluding to evidence of possible wrongthink. There's a quality pop-news profile to be written about Scott, his blog, and the community that respects it, but the New York Times didn't seem to even try to write it. A missed opportunity and a blot on their reputation.

Yeah. It really made the New Yorker piece shine in comparison.

Yeah, they did not even tried to discuss what could make it attractive in the first place, too busy looking for trace of sexism, racism and stuff.

It can be an interesting exercise to try to find patterns, regularity, structure, commonality among the virtues. I like your insight here.

When I tried to do this, I ended up categorizing virtues as those involving Temperament (e.g. initiative, independence, frugality, spontaneity), Social Virtues (e.g. kindness, honesty, generosity, leadership, wit), Character (e.g. humility, honor, benevolence, integrity), Attitude (e.g. hope, serenity, temperance, patience), and Intellectual Virtues (e.g. imagination, rationality, know-how, curiosity). Looking back at th... (read more)

I'll start ;-)

The best exercise program is one you actually do. Darebee is a site that has a bunch of exercise programs that you can do at home (no special equipment needed). It's free, and ad-free (donation-supported). It's useful particularly for those of us working from home who have good pandemic-related reasons to stay away from the gym.

I just made an account so I can tell you how much I enjoy darebee. I saw your comment about a month ago and have been exercising every day since then, and am thoroughly enjoying it, every day. Thanks so much for the recommendation
As someone who loves going to the gym every day, I can tell you that the workouts you pointed to are very inefficient and unenjoyable. I know the gym isn't an option for a lot of people but I strongly recommend investing in a pair of adjustable dumbbells and a bench. I assure you the $200-$300 you invest will be well worth it and the sunk cost will probably motivate you to keep lifting. I know it's uncouth to be prescriptive with fitness but I strongly encourage you to start progressive overload training with a PPL split.

drumming/tapping, received by ears or touch possibly faster than spoken language, because precise sounds can be very fast. I don’t know. This doesn’t really sound good.

That sounds like Morse Code. Telegraph operators had developed a set of codes and abbreviations and emoticon-like conventions during the heyday of the telegraph... give it enough time and internationalization and it might have developed its own grammar. There was a case of a POW who blinked in Morse code during a propaganda video he was forced to make: 

I can relate. I also had a dream in which I suspected I was dreaming, attempted to do some tests to rule that out, ruled it out to my satisfaction, and later woke up from it. Disconcerting.

I believe they did a follow-up study to try to adjust for this. In the follow-up they were able to surreptitiously note the results of the coin flip (without the flipper knowing). The people who flipped the coin but ignored the result because it didn't go the way they wanted still rated themselves more fair than those who did not flip the coin but just decided to make things go their way without going through a coin-flipping ritual first.

I drew a blank.

I found the cake-dividing and roommate algorithms promising. If I'm in situations in the future that seem isomorphic, I'll be sure to do some research to try and find a fair division method that's most likely to make everyone feel they got what's coming to them.

But as far as how to cultivate the virtue of fairness... I dunno. The best I came up with was to be much more cautious about my self-assessment of how fair I'm being if I have skin in the game. I should definitely assume that my brain is going to be feeding me some good reasons why fa... (read more)

Is “rhetoric” the discipline you’re looking for?

It used to be a standard part of a good liberal education, and I’d be happy to see it return, retooled for the media of the modern day.

A culture of persuasion is a big idea, and rhetoric is part of it! Right now, we're seriously contemplating a mission to Mars, yet lamenting our political gridlock and the seeming impossibility of changing the average person's mind on almost anything. We have high technological capacity, but low persuasive capacity. I wanted a concept handle to describe a better world: a place where people are rhetorically skilled, as you suggest, and also skilled at feeling out the right context for their persuasive conversations. We already have guidance for how to grow support for an idea on the level of big, serious ideas: policies, business proposals, grant applications, editorials, and so on. And that's definitely part of a culture of persuasion. I'd like to think that the world I imagine already exists, to some extent. But from another point of view, I think there's a sense that, even for the most serious-minded and capable segment of our society, persuasive capacity is pretty limited. Just as one example, the medical establishment doesn't know how to overcome vaccine hesitancy - though they're trying, an effort which I applaud and which is right in line with a culture of persuasion. On a personal level, I am brim-full of ideas for policy changes I'd like to see in the world. But outside of posting about them on the internet, I find it very hard to talk about them. I feel like it's an imposition on others to ask for their attention. I know that for a lot of these ideas, I need to gather other people's perspectives, not just my own and those of my faction. And I also notice that I choose, over and over again, to talk with the people who are most convenient, rather than the communities where a conversation might make a real difference. I also think what's critical isn't just the failure to change minds. It's that the way people try to spread ideas often seems just deeply unpleasant and disrespectful. Why should it be that engaging in debate over the key issues of our day

Sometimes the passive voice is more graceful or effective. In those cases, you can avoid the trouble that passive voice usually causes if you explicitly add the grammatically-optional subject.

For instance: "Insider information was unwisely tweeted by Elon." By using the passive verb "was tweeted" you change the order, and therefore the relative emphasis, of "insider information" and "Elon" in a way that may be appropriate to what you're trying to communicate. But by explicitly adding "by Elon" you successfully resist the temptation to leave the subject unstated, and thereby save the day for clarity and precision.

I cover that in my advanced "technical writing in one easy lesson" class ;-)

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