All of Dues's Comments + Replies

What can we learn from traditional societies?

This is a late reply, but in some societies, intentionally not killing your enemy is the point. See counting coup in the Americas.

If both sides are obeying a warrior code that lets you gain prestige but limits lethality, then you don't want to defect by escalating the lethality of attacks, because then your enemies might too. Warrior codes are often part of a prisoners dilemma.

Boring Advice Repository

Put a scarf or neck warmer over your mouth. Your throat will thank you. If that's too warm, you can use one of those little medical masks or chew a piece of gum.

Intrinsic properties and Eliezer's metaethics

P.S. I stand by everything I said, but I'm pretty sure I only finished the reply so I could make an Alienizer pun.

Intrinsic properties and Eliezer's metaethics

To explain my perspective, let me turn your example around by using a fictional alien species called humans. Instead of spending their childhoods contemplating the holy key, these humans would spend some of their childhoods being taught to recognize a simple shape with three sides, called a 'triangle'.

To them, when the blob forms a holy key shape, it would mean nothing, but if it formed a triangle they would recognize it immediately!

Your theory becomes simpler when you have a triangle, a key, a lock that accepts a triangle, and lock that accepts a holy k... (read more)

P.S. I stand by everything I said, but I'm pretty sure I only finished the reply so I could make an Alienizer pun.
By Which It May Be Judged

Humans value some things more than others. Survival is the bedrock human value (yourself, your family, your children, your species). Followed by things like pleasure and the lives of others and the lives of animals. Every human weighs the things a little differently, and we're all bad at the math. But on average most humans weigh the important things about the same. There is a reason Elizer is able to keep going back to the example of saving a child.

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Open thread, Oct. 26 - Nov. 01, 2015

Most acne medications work by drying out your skin, not by being antibacterial out anti viral. The infections are a symptom of greasy skin and I think they claim that skin products less grease when it has the right bacteria is on it. But that still leaves me only 50% confident that it would work under optimal conditions.

Open thread, Oct. 26 - Nov. 01, 2015

Their ads say that AO spray makes your sweat smell less bad and it helps clear up acne. I've had zits since I hit puberty and a product that cuts down on the amount of caustic chemicals I need to rub all over my body would be great. I also commute to work by bicycl I'm 100+ degree Fahrenheit weather, and my office has no shower, so if AO actually cuts my BO then it might be a good investment.

I'm not a specialist in acne, but it's basically an infection and I would want to see some hard evidence before believing that some other extra friendly bacteria will make it better. As to sweat, I don't know, it's different for different people, but since you can't shower or the whole thing washes away, I have my doubts... Anyway, if you don't want to be a guinea pig, find some people who have tried it (not me). My uninformed guess is that it's diluted bullshit and I wouldn't bother.
Open thread, Oct. 26 - Nov. 01, 2015

I'm not sure if I'm reading you right, but if I am, you are saying that it takes a long time to kick in. Therefore I need to give up bathing while I wait for it to kick in. Therefore I would need to give up swimming because it's not useful if I want to replace the good bacteria lost from swimming in a chlorinated pool and then showering off the chlorine.

I did read one article (after I posted) where the reporter skipped showering for a month then took one shower and washed it all away (according to the bacterial swabs he took).

I still do not know what do you want to do. What is the goal you're trying to achieve by using that thing?
Open thread, Oct. 26 - Nov. 01, 2015

Does it work as advertised? Does it kind of work but only a little bit? I'd it basically a really expensive placebo? These are the kind of questions I would want answers to. I doubt anyone here would actually know about this product specifically, but maybe someone knows of a site like for health stuff.

The question is, what do you want it to do? There is a lot of distance between not bathing, using AO+, and being allowed onto a subway, and not bathing, using AO+, and have girls like the way you smell :-P
Open thread, Oct. 26 - Nov. 01, 2015

I know a lot of less wrongers are big fans of nootropics and y'all could probably recommend some forums to ask questions about the effectiveness of strange drugs. Did anyone know of forums for strange health products? I was thinking of trying AO+ body spray, but at $50 for a month's supply I want to know if it is effective before I buy it. AO body spray is a new product by an MIT startup that is supposed to replace the good bacteria on your skin that bathing with soap removes. These bacteria are supposed to be to break down your sweat to make you smell be... (read more)

Define "effective".
"Smelling better" isn't a straightforward claim. It depends very much on how you smell by default. I believe that some nerds smell bad because their body is afraid of social interaction and therefore produces substances that repell other people and indicate that other people should keep distance. In that case I don't think that those bacteria are enough even if they manage to solve the issue of smell for the average person. When it comes to healthy skin and reducing acne, I guess that it's often important to try a lot of products till you find the right one. If you want to know whether it's effective, what effects do you want to achieve with it?
0Artaxerxes7y [] is a decent start, also check the sidebar
3 Levels of Rationality Verification

I suspect you are right. But still, lying and tricking people is a skill, and I know where I can learn to practice it. (Debate clubs) Are the courses for the skill of detecting lies and tricks? All I can think of offhand is those fbi courses on micro expressions and maybe playing lots of poker. It feels like they off a currently unfilled market for defensive techniques.

I remember one leftwing person who was in favor of Barack Obama before the presidental debates but switched to being against him after seeing Barack Obama because of body language that indicates lying. In my experience the amount of people who have body language reading skills that are developed to that degree that they make actual decisions like this is quite rare. In that case it's not only exterordinary skill of reading bodylanguage. It's also a skill of not getting mindkilled at all. It took me till Barack Obama announced Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff to understand that Barack Obama wasn't planning on creating real change. That happened to be the week after the presidential election. I know from talking to people with political experience that people decisions are very important and thus could use this signal to detect the tricking in which Barack Obama engaged. In both of those cases special knowledge to interpret a signal that most people wouldn't perceive and the confidence in trusting that signal allowed the conclusion that Barack Obama isn't the person as which he presented himself. Apart from knowledge not getting mindkilled and entangling yourself is hard. If you care hard about the outcome being a certain way you are less likely to spot errors. I remember (but unfortunately have no source) that the US Secret Service is best at detecting lies. A Secret Service person who guards an important figure has to assume that most of the people he comes into contact with are no threat but he still has to check them for being a possible threat. That's better for learning lie detection than the setting of a policeman who interrogates a person he believes to be lying. Debating don't focus on the skill of changing the mind of other people but on training the skill of saying something that a judge judges to be correct. That's a different skill. Trained debaters talk fast. Trained hypnothists talk slow to allow for emotional processing and changes in beliefs
Religion's Claim to be Non-Disprovable

I've heard the story of Elijah and the Priests of Baal being told as one of the first experimental swindles, rather than the first experiment. It goes something like this: Elijah: Pours 'water' on his pyre. Pyre: Catches on fire Priest of Baal: "Wait was that water or oil? If I pour some of your 'water' on my pyre maybe it will light too..." Elijah: "Put them to death before they can invent repeatability testing."

The water being oil part is so obvious that it reads less like a 'God turned water into fire' story and more like a 'look how dumb those Baal worshipers were, we totally tricked them' story. I've heard it told both ways though.

Not really. Is there a lot to the book beyond the Wikipedia summary?

It certainly describes "efficient open source" in a detailed way.

It's kind of a cross between a job site and a review site. In theory.

AI doesn't seem to be a single problem but a label for a broad field.

I don't really want to debate definitions. But that is exactly why I want the sorter to break down 'big problems' like AI into 'little problems' like neural networks, search, etc.

How do you know that business thought it was very important?

Because people keep spending money on marginal user interface improvements that have added up to big differences in user interfaces. The easier the interface is to use, the more people will be able to use it, the more people will buy it.

[Here is... (read more)

I have no idea how much stuff didn't pan out, but we've been steadily chipping away at AI since the the 40's, and I can't imagine that AI was considered unimportant. We also made gigantic strides on user friendless/interfaces. I'm not sure if academia thought it was important but consumers and businesses thought it was.

AI doesn't seem to be a single problem but a label for a broad field. How do you know that business thought it was very important? Amount of money invested into improving user experience compared to money invested in other areas? If we look at Word it seems like it took them till Word 2007 to finally focus on user experience instead of focusing on getting as much features as possible. The didn't get the importance 2 decades ago but only 1 decade ago.

Good advice. Since I wanted a lot of things to be weighted when determining the search order, I considered just hiding all the complexity 'under the hood'. But if people don't know what they are voting on they might be less inclined to vote at all.

The way I view it, search rankings are a tool like any other. In my own experience in academic research I've always found that clearly defined search rankings are more useful to me than generic rankings; if you know how the tool works, it's easier to use correctly. That said, there's probably still a place for a complex algorithm alongside other search tools, it just shouldn't be the only search tool. Well I think it's more a matter of efficiently extracting information from users. Consider the LessWrong karma system, while it serves its purpose of filtering out spam, its a very noisy indicator of anything other than 'people thought this comment should get karma'. This is because some users think that we should vote things up or down based on different criteria, such as: do I agree with this comment?; did this comment contain valuable information for me?; was this an amusing comment?; was this comment well reasoned?; and so on. By clearly defining the voting criteria, you're not just making users more likely to vote, you're also more efficiently extracting information out of them. From a user perspective this can be really useful, knowing that a particular rating is the popularity or the importance of a project, they can then choose whether they want to pay attention to or ignore that metric.

haha. Yeah, later, on reflection I understood. I promise to not only show the 'most important' problems. The marginal utility of working on a problem is higher when no one else is doing it. But if there are neglected important problems then I want to find them.

That's a good point. I shouldn't just list skills by the goal of all the similar projects but also by the individual projects. If one Linux distribution is way easier to contribute to than the others, users should know that.

I totally agree. But in the job market, I have search tools to find the best job close to where I live, within my skills, and in my salary range to maximize my comparative advantage. And don't even get me started on all the tools and advice you can get for the stock market. But there is currently no tool for maximizing the comparative advantage of volunteer work. The good news for me is that there are a lot of similar tools to what I want to do, so I don't have to be terribly creative.

You did give me an idea. Let me edit my post.

Pratchett, Rationality, and Winning

If someone came to lesswrong and asked: "I'm an average student, I don't know what to do with my life. What should I do?" Then I would probably recommend studying hard, getting a good job, and trying to figure out what they enjoyed/were good at so they could specialize. Good general advice if I don't know about the person.

On the other hand, if Young Pratchett had asked the question: "I'm a bad student, but I love writing and I'm obsessed with the news. What should I do?" I would probably recommend concentrating on his writing clas... (read more)

Stupid Questions March 2015

Is there a reason why we have trouble defining counterfactuals? Does this only apply to defining counterfactuals mathematically?

Intuitively a counterfactual/hypothetical situation seems like a simulation to me. But I've heard a couple times on the site that we don't know how to define counterfactuals in AI, so I feel like I must be missing something.

Stupid Questions March 2015

I'm going to second the thing about about acne and add a recommendation that if you have skin problems, see a dermatologist. They might be able to fix your problem and then you won't need acne makeup.

Useful Questions Repository

This reminds me of of the times when I have to compile reports for users from our database. I started requiring that everyone gives me a reason why they want the reports. Most of the users aren't technical people so half the time I need to give them exactly what they asked for and half the time I need to give them something completely different. I've started preemptively adding the reason why I want something into my questions, and I have stopped bothering to guess why people want something. Now I go straight to asking questions.

Communication is hard.

The Self-Reinforcing Binary

"Even slavery?" Seems like an amusing comeback until you put it into the context of the societies where it originated. In the ancient world, food was often very scarce. If you went to war with a group of people and you kept them as prisoners, they would starve to death because 9 out of 10 people were involved in food production.

It's easy to say that slavery was a bad tradition now that we have a tradition that says 'slavery is always bad and evil', but let's say you found yourself in a hypothetical post apocalypse. If you were actually making a choice between slaughtering a rival band of survivors and putting them to work (basically slavery), are you sure that you wouldn't start a slavery tradition?

Changing Emotions

Elizer, it seems crazy to me to think that we would need a second brain in order to not throw up. Couldn't we just take advantage of the cognitive dissonance architecture built into our brains? I have personal anecdotal evidence where intellectually I remember having disgust reactions that I no longer experience. (You can thank the Internet for most of that). I agree that the arrangement of brains are different between men and women but saying that you need a new seperate brain in order to avoid disgust reactions seems like protesting too much.

Tell Your Rationalist Origin Story

When I was a child, my parents took me to church a few times. My brother and I always pitched a fit, so eventually our parents gave up. I would love to say that was the start of my journey and that we did it because the things they tried to teach us didn't make enough sense, but that would be a lie. The real sin that the local church made was to be super boring. So with my sanity waterline firmly unraised, I started my own religion. It had aliens, because aliens were cool. I even got a convert. (You are now free to laugh at middle school me.)

Eventually my... (read more)

Ask and Guess

Having different levels of ask cultures makes so much sense to me now that I've heard about it. It explains why I felt creeped out the first couple of time I heard a woman say, "There's nothing less sexy that a man who asks to kiss you."

If rationalists should win, then we should have a secret signal that lets others know whether we want to be asked or guessed at. So the older I get the more I want some of Yvain's Rakiovik status beads to tell people, "Ask me anything, please criticize me, and don't worry about offending me." On the Internet, maybe those 'how to treat me' labels go in my profile?

How do you notice when you're rationalizing?

Whenever I start to get angry and defensive, that's a sign that I'm probably rationalizing.

If I notice, I try to remind myself that humans have a hard time changing their minds when angry. Then I try to take myself out of the situation and calm down. Only then do I try to start gathering evidence to see if I was right or wrong.

My source on 'anger makes changing your mind harder' was 'How to Win Friends and Influence People'. I have not been able to find a psychology experiment to back me up on that, but it has seemed to work out for me in real life. It ... (read more)

SotW: Be Specific

That depends on the scoring system. If the judge grade exponentially for better answers, then small increments are a loosing choice.

Simultaneously Right and Wrong

I wondered if this bias is really a manifestation of holding two contradictory ideas (a la belief in belief in belief). I wonder because, when past me was making this exact mistake, I notice that it tended to be a case of having a wide range of possible skill rank coupled with a low desire for accuracy.

If I think that my IQ is between 100 and 80 then I can have it both ways. I don't know that for sure, so I can brag: "Oh my IQ is somewhere below 100." because there is still a chance that their IQ is 100. However, if I am bout to be presented... (read more)

3 Levels of Rationality Verification

If rhetoric is the dark arts, then rationalists need a defense against the dark arts.

I've always seem debates as a missed opportunity for rationality training/testing. Not for debaters, but for the audience.

When you have two people cleverly arguing for an answer, that is an opportunity for the audience to see if they can avoid being suckered in. To keep things interesting, you could randomize the debate so that one, bother, or neither debater is telling the truth. (Or course in the toughest debates, the debaters are both partially true and the audience n... (read more)

I don't think your model of the nature of debate is good. Most rhetorical strategies aren't tricks in the sense that they have no basis at all.