All of Douglas_Knight3's Comments + Replies

Cultish Countercultishness

Nancy, I'm confused by your sentence about "serving"; are you talking about how both soldiers and politicians are said to "serve"? or are you talking about how people get status points for becoming soldiers? (or police or...)

I think the main use of the word "cult" is something like "illegitimate source of authority." This explains both why "legitimate" sources of authority are similar and why no one wants to call them cults.

But they've got a big supply of legitimacy, so they don't have to do as much nasty stuff as cults. Yes, nations kill a lot of people, but not that many per member. Joining the military is probably a better idea than joining a cult.

Less Wrong: Progress Report

If top is by score, then I think popular is by total upvotes, ignoring downvotes.

Another Call to End Aid to Africa

My understanding is that the best interventions are $1000/life, if everything works as advertised. But big organizations complaining about 10^8 children without bed nets is pretty strong evidence that those particular organizations, at least, do not turn the marginal $2 into a net, which was kebko's point, I think.

(that's what I should have said the first time, but it drowned in other detail)

Another Call to End Aid to Africa

inventing for free: but don't bed nets fit that perfectly? spreading the technology is a big part of the cost. (what did it cost to convince charities that bed nets are a good idea?) A technology that is so obviously good that people copy their neighbors cuts out this step, but are there examples where this actually happened? (maybe the moneymaker pump?)

Another Call to End Aid to Africa

kebko & Carl's comments are largely compatible: if nets cost $1/person and save 1life/$1000, then giving nets to all billion Africans could save a million lives.

There is a serious problem if there is overlap between the popular interventions and those that are best--popularity should drive the intervention to diminishing returns. At least, I think so, but I don't know the numbers; I'd guess a billion has been spent on malaria, but not on nets specifically.

On Not Having an Advance Abyssal Plan


I don't know about the rest of you, but I don't look to the military as a role-model often enough.

Good Idealistic Books are Rare

I think Eliezer is just wrong in his use of the words. Maybe he means "following the party line" where the party is Eliezer himself. Then it is clear why such books are hard to find.

Beyond that, there's enough disagreement in everyone's usage that we should stop using "cynism" and "idealism" for this discussion. Or at least the words should be saved for description of social perception, while more specific terms should be used for, say, describing books.

An Especially Elegant Evpsych Experiment

Bruce K. Britton, Let's start with simpler things, like having people make their data and calculations available. (Or to be really simple, journals with such rules should enforce them!) Without this, you can just hide the data-mining in poorly specified protocols, not to mention fraud.

Data-mining is not that bad because it has systematic effects that an outsider can predict and account for; at least you can hope that it will wash out in the meta-analyses. This reminds me of this Robin Hanson post on how to extract experiments from the medical literature yo... (read more)

An Especially Elegant Evpsych Experiment

michael vassar: varied reproductive expectations which should be predictable by fairly early childhood.

What do you make of the claim that boys are good for marriages?

It fits if you assume that the low variance of the daughter's fitness makes it less responsive to the father's presence. If the son's fitness is predictable early, this should be reflected in modern divorces, though I don't see offhand how to test it.

Interlude with the Confessor (4/8)

Tangurena, Are you an old person from the era of Mad Men, shocked at the future of today, in which people drink on the job? or vice versa?

Disjunctions, Antipredictions, Etc.

Most of the variety of Eliezer's output is useful to some audience, but there's a serious problem of getting the right people to the right documents.

Is That Your True Rejection?

Phil, I think that's how logic (or math) normally works. You make progress on logic problems by using logic, but understanding another's solution usually feels completely different to me, completely binary.

Also, it's hard to say that your unconscious wasn't working on it. In particular, I don't know if communicating logic to me is as binary as it feels, whether I go through a search of complete dead ends, or whether intermediate progress is made but not reported.

Sustained Strong Recursion

Jed, serial speed limiting Intel makes sense, and is about the only theory I've heard that does, but now that we move to parallel machines, it seems to me that this theory predicts either that Moore's law falls apart, or that parallel software makes it possible to throw lots of money at the problem and it speeds up.

You don't have to choose one or the other, but it seems to me that you have to raise your error bars. There's an implausibly small window for the quality of parallel software to rise just fast enough to make Moore's law continue, if this is the key bottleneck.

Underconstrained Abstractions

Didn't Robin say in another thread that the rule is that only stars are allowed to be bold? can anyone find this line?

Recursive Self-Improvement

James Andrix: In fact that sounds like the EURISKO.

Could you elaborate? My understanding is that Eurisko never gave up, but Lenat got bored of babysitting it.

Cascades, Cycles, Insight...

One man's modus ponens is another's modus tolens.

I don't see that the stampede is consist with a lack of much use of buffalo. Stampedes are only inefficient if they have great variance. This might explain the conjunction of the stories of inefficient stampedes and efficient use of individual buffalo.

One theory is that farmers displace hunter-gatherers because HG have high variance yields, while farmers don't. That still requires explanation of why HG don't displace farmers in booms.

Height in the precolumbian great plains would give an easy to check to your... (read more)

Singletons Rule OK

This source looks more authoritative to me. Moreover, it contains figures relevant to what I think is the key figure: miles per person. That generally trends up, from 9k in 1994 to a peak of 10k in 2005. I don't see any abrupt change in the trend. I'm rather surprised.

Cascades, Cycles, Insight...

Richard Hollerith, of the evidence you mention, the steadiness seems the best to me. But, as michael vassar worries, the data is poor quality and being read by people who want to tell a particular story.

Can you point to actual calorie-counting?

Surprised by Brains

why would a non-friendly AI not use those innovations to trade, instead of war?

The comparative advantage analysis ignores the opportunity cost of not killing and seizing property. Between humans, the usual reason it's not worth killing is that it destroys human capital, usually the most valuable possession. But an AI or an emulation might be better off seizing all CPU time than trading with others.

Once the limiting resource is not the number of hours in a day, the situation is very different. Trade might still make sense, but it might not.

The Weighted Majority Algorithm

kyb, see the discussion of quicksort on the other thread. Randomness is used to protect against worst-case behavior, but it's not because we're afraid of intelligent adversaries. It's because worst-case behavior for quicksort happens a lot. If we had a good description of naturally occurring lists, we could design a deterministic pivot algorithm, but we don't. We only have the observation simple guess-the-median algorithms perform badly on real data. It's not terribly surprising that human-built lists resonate with human-designed pivot algorithms; but the opposite scenario, where the simplex method works well in practice is not surprising either.

Ask OB: Leaving the Fold

our social structure and business rests on the tenets of what we believe

That sounds like propaganda, like the claim that atheists can't be moral. Don't let anyone tell you what to believe, especially don't let them tell you that if you disagree one one point, you must disagree on others. Work out for yourself what is possible.

Back Up and Ask Whether, Not Why

When someone asks you "Why are you doing X?", And you don't remember an answer previously in mind, Do not ask yourself "Why am I doing X?".

How dangerous is that second step? There's definitely potential for confabulation when you try to remember if you'd ever actively decided on X.

Hanging Out My Speaker's Shingle

Trying to get people to mentally commit before they find out how expensive it is?

Bah, that's nothing. For American healthcare, you have to actually commit before learning the price.

Today's Inspirational Tale

The congressman didn't say anything about voting.

Complexity and Intelligence

Boris: There's a small amount of subtlety in actually doing step 1.

Isn't it simply impossible? That doesn't interfere with your claim that such a Turing machine exists, but step 1 claims that it's computable.

Dark Side Epistemology

Marcello, I think your list generalizes too much. I see three main types of words on the list. The first type indicates in-group out-group distinction and seems pretty poisonous to me. The second are ad hominem arguments which are dangerous, but do apply sometimes. And then there are a few like "too complicated." You call those "negative affect words"? Surely it is better to say "that is too complicated to be true" than to say simply "that is not true"?

Why Does Power Corrupt?

But if we aren't to forgive tyrants for their good intentions, shouldn't we only judge GW by his results?

Yes, when we judge people, we should judge them by the same standard. But this post mentioned the tyrants' intentions, so it should also mention GW's.

Why Does Power Corrupt?

TGGP: at the very least, it's well-documented that he defused a couple of coups.

My understanding is that GW decided he'd get more pages in the history books if he declined the crown. George III agreed: "if he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world."

Above-Average AI Scientists

michael vassar, You've quietly slid from engineers to programmers. Other kinds of engineers need a lot more money to make it a hobby. Maybe they make up for it with less variation in ability, but I doubt it. Even if you didn't mean to talk about other engineers, their situation needs explaining.

The Level Above Mine

How much do you worry about age 40? Is that just based on your father? Conway passed 40 before Marcello was born.

Excluding the Supernatural

Phil Goetz, could you elaborate on the psychology of mythical creatures? That some creatures are "spiritual" sounds to me like a plausible distinction. I count vampires, but not unicorns. To me, a unicorn is just another chimera. Why do you think they're more special than mermaids? magic powers? How much of a consensus do you think exists?

Rationality Quotes 14

Tom Breton (Tehom), That is not how I interpreted it, though without context I cannot argue for either side. I thought him complaining that someone said "what Balfour really meant..."

Harder Choices Matter Less

flip a coin, see how you feel about the result, and act on that feeling

It's more amusing if you get the outside input from other people. (but it's biased)

Dreams of AI Design

If you haven't seen a brain, "Nothing is easier than to familiarize one's self with the mammalian brain. Get a sheep's head, a small saw, chisel, scalpel and forceps..."

3taryneast11yIn fact - you can just buy them at the butcher's shop - ready-prepared... often in pairs.
Anthropomorphic Optimism

Lara Foster, what do you put as the odds that our knowledge is complete, but no one has tried to make something directly copying C elegans?

No Logical Positivist I

...and I go on to learn that people in political science departments cite Derida.

Political science is the department where it would be most interesting to know what's going on because it has methodological pluralism while seeming to have a single topic, while, say, English departments seem to have gotten methodological variety out of crisis of topic.

No Logical Positivist I

michael vassar, Maybe that's a good description of new departments (eg x-studies), but you sound like you think the post-colonial rhetoric is coming out of political science departments rather than English departments.

The Comedy of Behaviorism

I think this post contains too little context about why we should care. Is the behaviorist doctrine sillier than other scientists' descriptions of their methodologies? Did it damage their research? I imagine that it played a bigger role in status games than most descriptions of methodology, but a lot of inappropriate things play such roles. Maybe this one had more collateral damage than usual, but I see no reason to conclude that.

If you push most scientists, they will start reciting Popper, but this recitation has very little to do with what they actually ... (read more)

When (Not) To Use Probabilities

athmwiji, yes, numbers are not necessary for anchoring. I think that they make the anchoring worse, but it would be very bad to avoid numbers just because they make it easy to see anchoring.

When (Not) To Use Probabilities

I suspect my statement is the one that needed clarification. I was measuring the size of a problem by the psychological difficulty of overcoming it. If anchoring is too big to overcome, it is better to avoid situations where it applies. And identifying the bias is not (necessarily) much of a step towards overcoming it.

When (Not) To Use Probabilities

It is anchoring that is the biggest problem.

In the strongest form, that points directly opposite your advice.

The Gift We Give To Tomorrow

the tones in human voices change, depending on the emotional states of the speakers?

I've heard that isn't true in tonal languages. Is the meaning of the tones universal across atonal languages? I doubt it, for otherwise, how would tonal ones develop?

The Genetic Fallacy

poke, what do you think of IQ? isn't that ab initio theorizing, with poor foundations? That's certainly a reason to doubt that IQ is well-understood, eg, that a single g factor is so important, but are you saying that you reject the validity of predictions based on IQ? If I correctly understand your definition of science, it radically diverges from most people's usage which would include IQ.

My Kind of Reflection

michael vassar, I don't think "dishonest" is such a great choice to describe indoctrinated behavior.

Where Recursive Justification Hits Bottom

It seems to me that playing to win requires an implicit assumption that it is possible to win, and this assumes that there is structure out there, a very weak form of Occam's razor.

Will As Thou Wilt

The first two look correct to me, while the last two seem problematic, more confused than false, because they seem to confuse revealed preference with believed preference. I can only struggle against the preferences I believe I have, which might not be my "real" preference. Certainly, my revealed preference will win, by definition :-)

But that's no reason to doubt that my struggle against particular preferences will fail, let alone that my preferences have enough agency to defend themselves. If it weren't for the word "protect," I might prefer the fourth to the third.

LA-602 vs. RHIC Review

"Keeping secrets" might be known technology, but so is "convincing the public to accept risks." (E.g., they accept automobile fatality rates.)

Has public opinion on auto safety changed over the years? We certainly don't require footmen to wave flags in front of cars anymore, but I doubt that ever reflected general concern.

What are good examples of big attempts to change public beliefs about risks or actions that might reflect beliefs about risks?

US government campaigns about drunk driving and smoking spring to mind. My impression is that... (read more)

3gwern10yUnsafe At Any Speed []
Causality and Moral Responsibility

poke, I agree that michael vassar misread you, but I think his last paragraph is concrete engagement. If you're worried that moral philosophers are too abstract, I would stress the moral deliberation of political philosophers. The Enlightenment, eg, the abolition of slavery, seems to me a pretty clear-cut case.

Here are the possible objections I can see:

  1. I have the timeline wrong and the philosophers jumped on a bandwagon 1b philosophers reflect the elites, but it takes time for elite morality to affect the world
  2. we only remember the philosophers on the wi
... (read more)
Which Basis Is More Fundamental?

Maybe I don't understand why people keep bringing up bases; I would rather talk in terms of functions on configuration space. At least I'm sure I know what "local" means there.

The Schroedinger equation as a differential equation on functions on the momentum configuration space is exactly the same as on functions on position configuration space: you just replace q with p (and maybe signs). Switching p and q will make the Hamiltonian look different. But it's still a Hamiltonian in classical mechanics.

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