All of Davis_Kingsley's Comments + Replies

I'm personally rather annoyed by all the AI discussion here and have been a lot less engaged recently. I would like to see much more rationality-type content.

You say :

Whenever someone in your life asks you half-jokingly asks "how can I become smart like you?", you no longer need to answer "Have you ever read Harry Potter?" because does not have Harry Potter in it.

On the contrary, this is a work I strongly wouldn't recommend, and especially not to newcomers. It's highly sexualized, contains descriptions of awful torture and various other forms of extreme misconduct, has a bunch of weird fetish material that more or less immediately disqualifies it as an intro rec in my opinion (far more so than... (read more)

4Said Achmiz5mo
I like most of Eliezer’s writing, and I agree with this sentiment.

I'm not sure I agree. The normal art project also requires a bunch of "art director time" -- there can be multiple rounds of back and forth between author and artist, different sketches or concepts to evaluate, and so on. If anything, I think there's more context-switching cost required for a traditional project because of the inherent major delay in creating traditional art.

In other words, if I have an AI art prompt that doesn't come out quite right, I know that very quickly and can then run another prompt to refine what I'm going for. If I have a traditi... (read more)

Hmm, yeah that does seem reasonable. I do think a big chunk of the process here is more like "doing art" than "doing art direction", but not sure where I'd draw the line.

This is already mentioned a bit elsewhere, but it seems perhaps worth flagging for potential readers that this technique (or perhaps, as you mentioned, a similar but different offshoot of it) is now considered... impure? flawed? risky? and is no longer part of the CFAR mainline workshop curriculum as I understand it -- I would say it's one of the more notable changes recently, though who's to say where things will evolve in the future...

Absent any kind of detail on the claims of what CFAR is now doing and why, I can't evaluate this. Not a fan of the passive voice "is considered." All I can say is: I've taught IDC to well over a hundred individuals at this point, over multiple years in multiple contexts, and seen it be highly positively impactful for over a dozen people, and also heard zero negative reports back. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

You know what I've been impressed by? Some eSports broadcasts intentionally upload videos with large amounts of dead air at the end if they're showing a two-out-of-three where one side won the first two games -- that way you won't get spoiled on the result by the length of the video!

2Robert Kennedy6mo
This was the UX I was going to mention - watching GSL (SC:BW) VoDs. There it is tricky, especially since individual games can vary so heavily.
Google is also punishing this kind gesture. When viewers skip over dead-air at the end of a video that really hurts the video's recommendations in the algorithm.

I think it's somewhat complicated -- the VDV is also used in conventional operations thanks to its elite and volunteer status (see for instance this primer on Russian military methods), which makes them more reliable and effective than conscript forces even in some more "conventional" tasks. 

In some ways this might be considered similar to the structure of the post-WWII French military, where the paratroopers and the Foreign Legion were made up of volunteers and used preferentially over conscript forces -- indeed, as I understand it France did not use... (read more)

The problem I find harder is people who are mildly symptomatic, in ways that could be an illness or allergies, or are on the trail end up symptoms after a disease has probably but not definitely been cleared. "No interaction for five days after a sniffly nose" is life ruining for a lot of people. 


Yeah, this is a much more difficult situation for me. I think I more or less always have minor COVID symptoms if construed strictly, given that various minor allergies or similar have the same symptoms as COVID...

Crossposted from Facebook:

The term used in the past for a concept close to this was "Fake frameworks" -- see for instance Val's post in favor of it from 2017:

Unfortunately I think this proved to be a quite misguided idea in practice, and one that was made more dangerous by the fact that it seems really appealing in principle. As you imply, the people most interested in pursuing these frameworks are often not I think the ones who have the most sober and evenhanded evaluations of such, which can lead... (read more)

In the past, I have sometimes criticized various works of media for focusing too much on bullying in school, which struck me as kind of an embarrassing and unworthy theme to spend a lot of time on. I had been bullied in school myself to some degree and considered it annoying but not ultimately that big a deal, so my view was that this sort of stuff was kind of making a mountain out of a molehill and very exaggerated compared to reality.

Recently, I was in a conversation that really broadened my perspective and I learned that my experiences had actually been... (read more)

Yeah, I strongly disagree with some of his takes but agree he has a similar thing in mind.

I prefer not to get into specific examples here (several have been brought up in comments to varying degrees of controversy), but rather to discuss the broader meta question of how best to be a community that avoids falling for things.

Yes, I think my focus is ideally less on "debate specific examples" (I can easily think of many that I think would be extremely controversial, some of which have been brought up in the comments) and more on what sort of meta-rules would be appropriate to use in order to try and protect ourselves more generally and be the type of community that doesn't fall for this stuff.

OK, then I'd suggest trying to nip them in the bud, because once they get momentum behind them I suspect they're almost impossible to stop until they've sort of run their natural course. And the only thing I can think of to do that is to apply the same old rules of evidence and argumentation that we all know and love. On edit: And after they've become hard to challenge, I guess it couldn't hurt to just not feed them, and perhaps subtly bringing up issues and ways of thinking that might not be obviously related on the surface, but might lead people to think twice. I don't think attacking those things head on usually works; it just hardens opinions and makes you a pariah. If there are physical actions associated with the problem, you can also find ways not to contribute to those or even to sabotage them.

What counts as an "employee of the Center for Applied Rationality"? I do various work for CFAR on a part-time or contract basis but haven't worked there full-time for a while, does that make me ineligible?

4Ben Pace10mo
I'm referring to current full-time employees, not contractors, so you are eligible.

I am interested in why Vavilov Day feels different to people than common rationalist holidays.


I think that my comments on that will unfortunately involve substantial criticism of other rationalist celebrations in a way that you may not wish to host. I will perhaps write up another post with more detail.

(Oh, one other note -- I would quite prefer it if the original post didn't implicitly endorse suicide.)

I don't endorse the archipelago model for LW and this is a good example of why -- making that comment, I had no idea that you didn't want to host the discussion or in fact what your opinions on other rationalist holidays were. I'm happy to go along with your decisions since that is the model we have, but I'm not sure how I would have known what you thought on these matters from the post I commented on.

Ah, gotcha. Yeah, it was meant mostly as an aside and one that strengthened my praise for Vavilov Day (as indicating that this is appealing even to someone who dislikes most rationalist holidays), but I suppose the dislike was too controversial and/or too flippant.

I may write a post of my own describing why I don't like rationalist holidays/think they can do better, but I think that post would itself likely be extremely controversial so I'd have to approach it carefully.

In my ideal world, one does not put major criticisms of something deeply meaningful to group A, in places where group A is obviously the target audience, in asides. That goes double when the host of that particular island in the archipelago [] does not want to host the discussion, and triple for anything more inflammatory than strictly necessary. This doesn't mean criticism is banned or even discouraged, it just means that when you have a major difference in cruxes you focus on that crux rather than the implications of the crux (and in a place set up to handle that). I am interested in why Vavilov Day feels different to people than common rationalist holidays.Czynski's comment on holiday cores [] on the original post was useful and cruxy.

Personally, I think Eliezer was straightforwardly wrong about that; I think the word is useful even if it's misused by some -- that said if we were to taboo "cringe" I think that if I had said "embarrassing and unworthy" or something like that I think it would have largely the same meaning.

I agree with this. In the twitter thread, Eliezer later posts an example where "cringe" is used in the sense of "tone deaf." I think that's closer to the original meaning and think it conveys something useful. For instance, I tend to feel cringe emotions when people approach a group with a certain mood (usually upbeat and "this is the best thing") but they are misreading the room and people in the room don't know what's going on and feel like the mood is out of place (or just happen to have a low hedonic setpoint and feel like they have not have signed up for something where they feel socially obligated to smile). In theory, it could also go in the other direction (oversharing about a depressive topic when the room isn't in the mood for that). I have more sympathies for that direction of misreading the room (or just not caring about keeping things "light"), but I could also imagine "cringy" to apply in that scenario. So I think it's probably a bad practice to call a general type of something ("rationalist rituals in general") cringe because it implies a judgment regardless of execution and regardless of whether the sort of people who self-select to attend can enjoy something together. But I think it could be appropriate (depending on the specifics) to say something like "rationalist rituals are often cringy" to imply that the way they are run often leaves people with a feeling of "this was trying too hard" or "this part felt very artificial."

On the main thread, I commented:

Just wanted to say that I think most rationalist "holidays" or "rituals" are pretty cringe, but this one strikes me as something much more real and valuable. I'm not sure I agree with your concept of "Patron Saint holidays" for the community as a whole but this one seems at least somewhat virtuous and noble in a way that I think a lot of other stuff misses.

I noticed some downvotes there, which I presume are thanks to my low opinion of much of rationalist "holidays" and "rituals". Would people be interested in discussing that... (read more)

As I said on that post, I didn't want to host a general discussion on rationalist holidays as a whole on that post in particular (but this one is fine), and didn't feel right leaving up a casual trashing of things deeply meaningful to other people without letting them respond. 

Any of the following would have made me feel better about the comment:

  1. framing the dislike as a fact about you rather than an objective fact about rationalist holidays
  2. giving explanations (beyond "cringe", which is often used to police caring too much about unpopular things)
  3. being
... (read more)
8Yoav Ravid1y
I suspect the downvotes are because you used the word "cringe", not merely because you were negative about rationalists holidays. That usage of "cringe" is disliked (example []) and I think for a good reason.

Just wanted to say that I think most rationalist "holidays" or "rituals" are pretty cringe, but this one strikes me as something much more real and valuable. I'm not sure I agree with your concept of "Patron Saint holidays" for the community as a whole but this one seems at least somewhat virtuous and noble in a way that I think a lot of other stuff misses.

I'm glad Vavilov resonated with you. I don't want to host a referendum on all rationalist holidays but feel bad banning people from responding to you calling things important to them cringe, especially when I redirected criticism of the core idea to another post, so I'd like to direct all discussion on this comment to that same post [].

This is a great example of the type of content I do not want to see more of on LessWrong. A dumb clickbait title and random sneers at fields the author doesn't (edit: seem to?) respect (history is very important) obscure what is actually an interesting and relevant point with respect to communication skills.

I respect history and English literature. I have written multiple posts about history and the importance of history. I write fiction too. When I read the opening paragraphs of Lord Jim I am blown away by how good of a communicator Joseph Conrad is. Stamp collecting is valuable. It's like 90% of science. I just think it's more of a "field of knowledge" than a practical "skill" with immediate applications.
Strong agree on the title.

I think the fundamental point here is an interesting one but I think that this post is unfortunately marred by using a lewd example that limits the potential audience -- there are people who I would not be willing to share this post with as a result.

This is not a problem unique to you in particular -- I think many of Eliezer's posts have similar issues, Three Worlds Collide being perhaps the most well-known but there are also some that suffer from being too "sneery" towards religion or similar -- but I thought it might be worth pointing out regardless.

3Alex Vermillion7mo
I don't want to reduce the audience of anything important unnecessarily, but this seems like a squashing of authorial style that is too strong, to me. If I showed your comment to someone and asked them to guess what it was about, "the word 'dildo' appears 2 times in the text" is not what I think they'd guess.
I feel like the nature of the example was important for reasons which are intuitive and not fully transparent to me. While it is a smidge extra work, feel free to copy-paste the text in an email to someone, replacing the exactly two instances of [phrase] with "outdoor Jacuzzis" or similar, if that's useful to you.

Like the previous post, there's something weird about the framing here that makes me suspicious of this. It feels like certain perspectives are being "smuggled in" -- for example:

Scott asserts that Michael Vassar thinks "regular society is infinitely corrupt and conformist and traumatizing". This is hyperbolic (infinite corruption would leave nothing to steal) but Michael and I do believe that the problems I experienced at MIRI and CFAR were not unique or unusually severe for people in the professional-managerial class. By the law of excluded middle, the o

... (read more)
Looking over this again and thinking for a few minutes, I see why (a) the claim isn't technically false, and (b) it's nonetheless confusing. Why (a): Let's just take a fragment of the claim: "the problems I experienced at MIRI and CFAR were not unique or unusually severe for people in the professional-managerial class. By the law of excluded middle, the only possible alternative hypothesis is that the problems I experienced at MIRI and CFAR were unique or at least unusually severe". This is straightforwardly true: either ¬(x>y), or x>y. Where x is "how severe were the problems I experienced at MIRI and CFAR were" and y is "how severe the problems for people in the professional-managerial class generally are". Why (b): in context it's followed by a claim about regular society being infinitely corrupt etc; that would require y to be above some absolute threshold, z. So it looks like I'm asserting the disjunction (¬(x>y)∧y>z)∨x>y, which isn't tautological. So there's a misleading Gricean implicature. I'll edit to make this clearer. In the previous post I said Ziz formed a "splinter group", in this post I said Ziz was "marginal" and has a "negative reputation among central Berkeley rationalists".

I strongly disagree with this post and think we should be much more conservative until more is known re: omicron. I don't have a writeup in great detail but thought it would be worthwhile at least to speak up here.

I think that CFAR, at least while I was there full-time from 2014 to sometime in 2016, was heavily focused on running workshops or other programs (like the alumni reunions or the MIRI Summer Fellows program). See for instance my comment here.

Most of what the organization was doing seemed to involve planning and executing workshops or other programs and teaching the existing curriculum. There were some developments and advancements to the curriculum, but they often came from the workshops or something around them (like followups) rather than a systematic de... (read more)

Unfortunately I think the working relationship between Anna and Kenzi was exceptionally bad in some ways and I would definitely believe that someone who mostly observed that would assume the organization had some of these problems; however I think this was also a relatively unique situation within the organization.

(I suspect though am not certain that both Anna and Kenzi would affirm that indeed this was an especially bad dynamic.)

With respect to point 2, I do not believe there was major peer pressure at CFAR to use psychadelics and I have never used psych... (read more)

2[comment deleted]1y
What do you see as the main sorts of interventions CFAR was organized around? I feel like this is a "different worlds" thing where I ought to be pretty curious what the whole scene looked like to you, what it seemed like people were up to, what the important activities were, & where progress was being made (or attempted).

I noticed this also but intentionally did not bring it up because I consider this area to be extremely negative. Hearing that someone is getting into "tulpamancy" is for me a gigantic red flag and in practice seems linked to people going insane -- not sure if it's causal or correlational or what but I would very much like the community to avoid this area.

I agree that a community can and should avoid certain topics. For example, the "politics is the mind-killer" no-politics rule. And this is probably true, independent of whether one understands why something is dangerous. But there are two aspects here: Understanding why something is dangerous and actually trying out the dangerous thing. Granted, one can easily lead to the other. There is also the other side of the coin: Understanding why something is healthy/beneficial. LW is also about that (see Lifestyle interventions to increase longevity [] ). There is a lot of grey - or the healthy part is an island in a big grey sea. By excluding discussion of interventions, you exclude a lot of good. And by excluding discussion or mention of the grey around a good, you risk people wandering into it unwarned.

I worked for CFAR full-time from 2014 until mid-to-late 2016 and have continued working as a part-time employee or frequent contractor since. I'm sorry this was your experience. That said, it really does not mesh that much with what I've experienced and some of it is almost the opposite of the impressions that I got. Some brief examples:

  • My experience was that CFAR if anything should have used its techniques internally much more. Double crux for instance felt like it should have been used internally far more than it actually was -- one thing that vexed me a
... (read more)

What does "significant involvement" mean here? I worked for CFAR full-time during that period and to the best of my knowledge you did not work there -- I believe for some of that time you were dating someone who worked there, is that what you mean by significant involvement?

I remember being a "guest instructor" at one workshop, and talking about curriculum design with Anna and Kenzi. I was also at a lot of official and unofficial CFAR retreats/workshops/etc. I don't think I participated in much of the normal/official CFAR process, though I did attend the "train the trainers workshop", and in this range of contexts saw some of how decisions were made, how workshops were run, how people related to each other at parties.

As I recall it, what I observed first-hand and was told second-hand at the time confirms bullets 2, 4, and 6 o... (read more)

Eliezer has openly said Quirrell's cynicism is modeled after a mix of Michael Vassar and Robin Hanson.

I worked for CFAR full-time from 2014 until mid to late 2016, and have worked for CFAR part-time or as a frequent contractor ever since. My sense is that dynamics like those you describe were mostly not present at CFAR, or insofar as they were present weren't really the main thing. I do think CFAR has not made as much research progress as I would like, but I think the reasoning for that is much more mundane and less esoteric than the pattern you describe here.

The fact of the matter is that for almost all the time I've been involved with CFAR, there just pl... (read more)

I agree, but I wanted to be clear that my original comment was largely in reply to the original post and in my view does not much apply to the Medium post, which I consider much more specific and concerning criticism.

Entirely fair!

You know, I'm not necessarily a great backer of Leverage Research, especially some of its past projects, but I feel the level of criticism that it has faced relative to other organizations in the space is a bit bizarre. Many of the things that Leverage is criticized for (such as being secretive, seeing themselves at least in part as saving the world, investing in projects that look crazy to intelligent outsiders, etc.) in my view apply to many rationalist/EA organizations. This is not to say that those other organizations are wrong to do these things neces... (read more)

The new Medium post does imply that Leverage cannot be simply lumped with other EA/Rationalist orgs (I too haven't heard anything that concerning reported of any other org), but I don't think that invalidates your original point that the criticisms in this post, as written, could be levelled at many orgs. (I actually wrote such a damning-sounding list for LessWrong/Lightcone).

My own strong agreement with the content makes it hard to debias my approval here, but I want to generally massively praise edits that explicitly cross out the existing comment, and state that they've changed their minds, and why they've done so.

(There are totally good reasons to retract without comment, of course, and I'm glad that LW now offers this option. I'm just giving Davis credit for putting his update out there like this.)

To be honest, my impression was that it was well known that the eyes were a potential infection route and that this didn't need much other evaluation -- as I understand it risk of infection via rubbing the eyes was one of the main reasons that "don't touch your face" was such prevalent advice early on.

I believe there are studies indicating glasses-wearers have a reduced infection risk (though obviously lots of potential confounds there), that face shields reduce risk if worn with a mask (though some of this may be blocking particles from making direct contact with a mask/filters), etc. but have not done an in-depth evaluation of that topic.

My impression was that eyes were definitely a plausible route, but I find the lack of oculur symptoms a pretty strong argument that it isn't common for covid in particular, and find the glasses evidence better explained by the fact that fogging glasses are a good feedback loop/incentive to wear your mask properly.

Interesting stuff, thanks for the info! Subjectively it felt like "this is one of the most intense experiences of my life, my heart is pounding" etc. etc.

Yes -- I think that all of the examples you mentioned are things that can become a dangerous virtual world for at least some people.

True, but the mechanisms that cause people to want to join the military (and elite military units in particular) are in my view in scope for this discussion. What would it look like for the rationalist community to be a thing that many intelligent, highly motivated people aspire to join?

I'm curious, did this meetup actually happen? How was it?

Depends on what you mean by "actually happen". I showed up but nobody else did. Also, the weather was awful. I discovered shortly after scheduling this event that a much more comfortable rationality group with a long history resumed its meetings the same week. I'm going there for my rationality fix and to [] for hiking.

I use a P100 mask and have recently taken to stretching a cloth mask over the exhaust valve -- I figure that way my exhalations are filtered about as well as they would be with an ordinary cloth mask, while my inhalations are far more protected.

The quality of these filters is really good, by the way -- at one point I was standing near a small fire in a trash can and could not smell it in the slightest, to the point where I was quite surprised to smell the fire after pulling down the mask to be more clearly audible on a phone call!

I quite appreciate you writing this esp. given that it will obviously be unpopular with some. My own group house experiences have been broadly positive, but I nevertheless think it's important to see people pointing out things like this instead of just giving the "rose-colored glasses" view.

Having soldiers handle logistics for themselves existed for an extended period, but had major problems. In practice this often looked like soldiers foraging/looting for food, which can work in the short term but has major problems. Foraging parties are vulnerable to attacks, can provoke the populace against you, and eventually deplete easily available resources.

An army relying on foraging/looting could (and some did!) find itself unable to stay in one place for too long as a result of these dynamics, which would be awkward in a siege or similar (sure, you ... (read more)

Strongly agree and am excited to see this -- this area seems deeply neglected.

Yeah, I should point out that not all cases of experiments without evaluation are "sneaking" by any means -- sometimes one might have a well-intentioned idea for a change and just not go about testing it very systematically. However, in some ways the negative consequences can be similar.

I've noticed a similar trend in a very different area. In various strategic games there has IMO been a major drop in quality of discussion and content thanks to the shift from "discuss strategy on old-style forums and blogs" to "discuss strategy on group chats (Skype/Discord/Slack) and Reddit".

The former was much better at creating "permanent information" that could easily be linked and referred to; the latter probably has a higher volume of messages sent, but information is much more ephemeral and tends to be lost if you weren't in the right place at the right time. It's a lot harder to refer to "that influential Discord conversation a few weeks ago" than it is to link to a forum thread!

Sure, here's the most recent completed one. I just used the same site I was familiar with from an old Netrunner league, it's trivial to do. (This doesn't show the tournament I ran at the end but that wasn't especially hard either, I just sent people their pairings on Discord etc.)

One thing that perplexes me a bit is the weird veneration given to "content creators" these days, especially in gaming communities and similar. Does anyone have good insights into this? In particular, I've noticed that a lot of it is very easy to do (having done so myself), and also that people don't much do it.

An example:

There's a game that I play and do streams for sometimes. A while back I decided it would be cool to run an online ladder similar to the ones that I'd seen in a few other games. It was very easy to set up and probably took me a few hours o... (read more)

Looking at myself, as someone who has done things adjacent to streaming in the past, and who has played a lot of video games at various times in my life, it may be informative to think about the reasons I don't stream: * The computer I used to record me playing on died, and now I have a new computer which runs a different operating system, and I don't want to spend the time to get everything set up again. I think there are a good number of things that are relatively easy to do on an ongoing basis, but which involve high enough up-front costs that I don't do them * I also have a general aversion to installing software on my computer, since my experience seems to be that computer performance is inversely proportional to how much stuff is on it * My understanding is that streaming console games requires extra hardware. While I already have this hardware, this may discourage potential streamers who are first considering streaming * I have mixed feelings about pursuing social status via online media. There's a part of me that loves these kinds of things for obvious reasons, but I also have three holdups: 1. Looking for attention feels vain, and I sometimes feel that it makes people perceive me in a way that doesn't align with who I consider myself to be. 2. There exist incentives in the space of "content creation" that don't align with my values, and when I created content in the past, it led me to interact with other creators who didn't understand why I intentionally ignored these incentives, and pressured me to act in ways that I didn't endorse 3. Cancel culture is a thing, and getting popular through online media makes one a target for cancelling. I have clear memories of a creator I respected getting cancelled, and I was very scared by the treatment he got from the mob. I would rather not find myself in such a position, and therefore I am reluctant to put myself in a positio
From a market-equilibrium perspective: the amount of social status given to these content creators is high because in most cases that's the only compensation they're getting, for (in some cases) a quite significant number of hours. The reason there aren't more people using their time to claim those status-rewards is because, for a similar amount of effort, they could instead be making salaries.
4Matt Goldenberg2y
If 1 in 100 people have the type of agency to "do stuff" that means smaller communities will often wait to get most STUFF, because there's only so many people and there's lots of "stuff" you could do. E.g. for this game, I'm sure there's other stuff you could have spent your half hour on to give back to the community, you just happened to want this. I think in these small communities people are rightfully happy about ANYONE using their free time to add to the commons. As the communities get bigger, the low hanging fruit is taken and you start to have to create better content to be appreciated, e.g., getting popular on mainstream Youtube takes more than a few hours and requires more investment in content quality.
* Hubs. Using connection to create group activities has low hanging fruit right now. * Maybe it's hard to find stuff, and most effort is going into that, rather than creating stuff. * Or it's the ideas that are hard to find. (1&3 - you're connecting people who haven't had the idea, with it in action.) * People are overly risk averse, even in the absence of any risk?
Do you have any links to stuff like the ladders you mention?

In a world of distraction, focusing on something is a revolutionary act.

It's still around:

I haven't read everything on the site and do not necessarily endorse it all, but the Inflection Point curriculum document might be especially relevant.

Thanks for the link! It gave me his email address, I agree about the Inflection Point curriculum, the task will be to convert it to elementary level.

Reference class forecasting would seem to indicate that we will soon experience a major "second wave" of coronavirus infections in many locations. This will likely be especially true in the US, which has many factors pointing towards significantly elevated risk soon (reopenings without proper infrastructure, Memorial Day celebrations, recent police brutality protests). Mostly just posting this to log the prediction, I suspect it isn't particularly novel for those who have been following these events.

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