All of David_Gross's Comments + Replies


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.

4gilch9dYou 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.
2lsusr9dEscape is farther from home row.
The Power of Positivist Thinking

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.

How to use hypnagogic hallucinations as biofeedback to relieve insomnia

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.

1JesperO1moAlso curious about this.
How to use hypnagogic hallucinations as biofeedback to relieve insomnia

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.

How to use hypnagogic hallucinations as biofeedback to relieve insomnia

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)

1kithpendragon1moThat's a really interesting thought. I'll have to (try to) remember to check out my breathing next time I jerk awake!
How to use hypnagogic hallucinations as biofeedback to relieve insomnia

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.

2JesperO1moMaybe 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.)
4korin431moAnd after the tl;dr summary, skip to the guidepost section [] which is actually fairly short.
Notes on notes on virtues

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

2Yoav Ravid1moYes please! :) Do you need my email or something?
Notes on Amiability

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.

1Dirichlet-to-Neumann2moMy reading of this comes mainly from MacIntyre to be honest (and a bit of Allan Bloom too).
Notes on Amiability

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.

1shanen2moIt'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.
2Richard_Kennaway2moWhich 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.
How Should We Respond to Cade Metz?

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.

6Dirichlet-to-Neumann2moYeah, 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.
Notes on notes on virtues

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)

Notes on Fitness

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.

5ray_fosca1moI 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
2ConcreteGidget4moAs 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.
Unexplored modes of language

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.

Notes on Fairness

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.

Notes on Fairness

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)

Toward A Culture of Persuasion

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.

2AllAmericanBreakfast4moA 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
Notes on Sincerity and such

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 ;-)

What are Examples of Great Distillers?

I'm fond of the "A Very Short Introduction" book series from Oxford University Press. Some very good examples of those include Thomas Pink's on Free Will, Susan Blackmore's on Consciousness, Christopher Janaway's on Schopenhauer, David Weir's on Decadence, Stanley Wells on Shakespeare, and Brad Inwood's on Stoicism.

1adamShimi5moThanks! I have some of those, I'll pay more attention next time I read one.
Notes on Temperance

I'm not as familiar with Christian views on temperance (though I am very fond of After Virtue - I associate Christian temperance with "Thy will be done" -- trying to discern God's desires and aligning one's own with those -- but I haven't looked into it very closely beyond that superficial guesswork. Is there any resource you would suggest beyond After Virtue to get the Thomist viewpoint on temperance (without having to read the ginormous Thomist corpus)?

Stupid Questions October 2020

I'm a physics dilettante... a little undergrad 101 stuff and some exposure to pop sci. I was mulling over the explanation of gravity as being warped space rather than a force, such that an orbiting body for example is not being held in orbit by the gravitational force exerted between it and the object it's orbiting but is merely traveling inertially in a straight line in a space that has been warped by a big mass in the midst of it.

Okay, thought I, I can picture that.

But then I tried to apply it to another scenario: hole drilled through the middle of the e... (read more)

3Richard_Kennaway6moThe geodesics aren't lines in space, but in space-time. For the ball to fall through the Earth and back to its starting point takes about 5000 seconds, during which time light goes about 1.5 billion km. So a graph in space-time will be a sine wave whose period is 1.5 billion km and whose amplitude is 6400 km, a ratio of about 250000 to 1. The graph has very low curvature everywhere. It is the same for the Earth's orbit round the Sun. It is not the spatial path of the orbit that is a geodesic, but the helical path it traces out in space-time. In one revolution it travels one year into the future, equivalent to a distance of a light-year. As a handy way of visualising this, the ratio of a light-year to an AU (astronomical unit, the radius of the Earth's orbit) is about the same as a mile to an inch. So in space-time the orbit can be visualised as a helix formed by wrapping a piece of string around a cylinder two inches thick and a mile long, which makes just a single turn over that distance. The curvature of this path is much lower than the spatial curvature of the orbital path.
3cousin_it6moImagine a 2D plane where x is space and y is time. Let's say the Earth is stationary at x=0, so its trajectory is the y axis, and the metric of spacetime is "curved" near it. We can represent the metric visually by sprinkling a bunch of sand near the y axis. Then lines of inertial movement ("geodesics") can be understood in two ways: 1. Given a pair of points, a geodesic is the line between them with the least sand (this represents the line being shortest according to the metric). 2. Given a starting point and velocity vector, keep moving so as to keep equal amounts of sand on your nearby left vs. nearby right - in other words, curve toward more sand. Surprisingly, these two views are equivalent! For example, consider the geodesic from (1,0) to (1,1). It will bulge slightly away from the y axis, to avoid sand, and so at each point it will be curving toward more sand. Now we can answer your original question. Place an object at (1,0) with velocity vector (0,1) (zero spatial velocity) and let it go. It will keep moving in the positive y direction, but curve toward the y axis where there's more sand, and eventually cross it at an angle. Then it will curve back by symmetry, and so on, oscillating back and forth in the x coordinate while moving forward in time. Can that really be a shortest line between two points? Why not. Say the object makes one full oscillation, traveling from (1,0) to (-1,1) to (1,2). If you try to "straighten" the line by pulling on the endpoints, the midpoint will be pulled toward the y axis and catch more sand. So it might well be a local minimum.
4Charlie Steiner6moWhat you might be missing is time. Things don't really "sit still" in spacetime - everything is always moving through time, but things that are moving fast through space are moving slower through time - it's like you have just one speed, but you can point it "out of time" and "into space." When you travel through a curved spacetime, "sitting still" still means moving forward in the time direction. It's not like the curvature due to gravity creates a potential well that you "fall down." It's more like you're one of those stunt motorcyclists driving around the inside of a steel cage, constantly whizzing forward in a locally straight line, but changing what direction you're pointing due to the curvature of space.
4stoat6moThis seems like a great question to me and I'm bummed I can't answer it. But here's a toy model that might help a bit. Take a 2-dimensional spacetime shaped like the surface of a vertical cylinder, with space being the 1-dimensional equatorial circles, and time going vertically. Some of the straight lines in this space are slanted lines just going around and around the cylinder forever, and objects following those as world lines would sort of appear to oscillate around a point traveling along an exact vertical world line. Anyway that model's only 2-dimensional, and the bigger problem is it's not the right type of geometry (it's Riemannian not Lorentzian). Also the cylinder is flat, not curved. But maybe it still helps.
1Thomas6moPerhaps, it's not you who is missing something.
It "wanted" ...

This is perhaps tangential to your point or pedantic, but "want" was not always merely synonymous for "desire" in English. "Desire" implies something with conscious awareness of a lack wishing to have that lack redressed. "Want" can mean simply the lack without the consciousness of it: e.g. "this watch wants a seconds hand", or "as he wanted education, his wits were poor." This way of using the word seems to have been dropping off in recent decades, but may explain some of the examples you have seen.

1jmh1yVery true and I could be one of those that misses such a distinction at times (I think I have on this very site). However, the cases I was thinking of are not like that and in such a case the quotes would never be used, unless one was actually quoting.
Does the US nuclear policy still target cities?

In his book "Among the Dead Cities", A.C. Grayling looks at the Allied policy of aerial bombardment of Axis population centers, including the aims of the policy, how it was carried out, and its results. He concludes that it wasn't justified even in the conventional-weapons era; it was not militarily effective, particularly compared to other possible policies/targets, and it was a violation of even the bare minimum standards that the Allies later considered sufficiently self-evident to use as the basis for war crimes trials. The justification... (read more)

4Bucky2yBeing known to be vengeful may be the correct game-theoretic response in the absence of formal precommitment strategies. I don't claim that Allied strategists were acting on game-theoretic considerations but that acting on a desire for vengeance means that one implements the response which one would have committed to if formal precommitment had been an option.
7landfish2yI didn't want to go into arguments about whether WWII strategic bombing was effective because it's a point historians have argued amount a fair bit and I wanted to focus on the nuclear targeting question. I do think it's an interesting / important question. I believe the original justification, at least for Britain and the United States, was to destroy the industrial capacity of the nation. The Norden bombsight was hoped to enable more targeting bombing. Then air defenses proved too powerful for day bombing, so the British and American air forces switched to night bombing, in which accurate bombing was impossible. My recollection was that the justification at the time was still partially (especially for the Americans?) was still the "destroy industrial capacity" even though this was clearly more of a terror / demoralizing strategy in practice. I think separately from the justification is the question is of whether it actually succeeded in helping to win the war, either by A) Eroding the capacity to make war, especially industrial capacity B) Eroding morale / inducing surrender It would not surprise me if the claims of those championing strategic bombing were false or overstated. It may be that, especially in Germany, strategic bombing mostly killed civilian and accomplished no military objective. It seems far less clear in Japan, especially given Japan did surrender after most of their major cities were destroyed. I would be surprised if the bombing of Japan, both conventional and nuclear, had no impact on their decision to surrender. (I am not making any normative claim about whether any power should have engaged in aerial bombardment, conventional or nuclear).
An attempt to list out my core values and virtues

This strikes me as a worthwhile exercise for people to undertake. It can give valuable perspective and suggest important avenues for self-improvement. For what it's worth, here's what I came up with the first time I tried it:

Depression philosophizing

Nietzsche isn't a great example. His health was dreadful throughout his life, and it's really astonishing how good his mood and vigor were, given the crippling nature of his ailments (until his ultimate collapse). Philosophy in his case was probably a mood booster and a good coping mechanism.

There are lots of paths you can choose to wander down in philosophy. If you suffer from depression, one of the symptoms is that when you reach a crossroads in this wander, you'll choose the path that leads into the dark dismal swamp of nihilism and a dar... (read more)

No Really, Why Aren't Rationalists Winning?

If you want to know more about really winning vs. theoretically winning, you might be interested in what Aristotle taught about baseball:

No Logical Positivist I

There are three categories -- "meaningful," "meaningless," and "tautological" statements -- at least in Ayer's categorization. "Statements which are not testable are meaningless or tautological" would be an example of a tautology: just a definition of terms.

Because if you /could/ test the statement to see if it were true (not absolutely true, but, per Ayer, "probable"), you'd conduct an experiment where you took a sample of statements, tried to come up with tests (ways in which they refer to sense experien... (read more)

No Logical Positivist I

I just finished reading Ayer's "Language, Truth & Logic" last night, and from my understanding of it, I think he'd think that your proposal about the appearance and vanishing of a chocolate cake was a meaningful proposal. He said, for instance, that it would be meaningful and reasonable to posit the appearance of wildflowers on a mountain peak nobody had climbed based on the fact that such wildflowers had been seen on similar mountain peaks nearby, or to propose that there were mountains on the dark side of the moon (before it was possible t... (read more)