Aspiring effective altruist. Academic background in Classics, Linguistics, Mathematics.


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3[Event][Madison] Meditations on Moloch201 West Mifflin Street, MadisonDec 1st
2[Event]Social Meetup: Bandung Indonesian600 Williamson Street, MadisonNov 1st


Generalized Heat Engine

This is super interesting!

Quick typo note (unless I'm really misreading something): in your setups, you refer to coins that are biased towards tails, but in your analyses, you talk about the coins as though they are biased towards heads.

One is the “cold pool”, in which each coin comes up 1 (i.e. heads) with probability 0.1 and 0 with probability 0.9. The other is the “hot pool”, in which each coin comes up 1 with probability 0.2

 random coins with heads-probability 0.2

We started with only  tails

full compression would require roughly  tails, and we only have about 

human psycholinguists: a critical appraisal

As far as I'm aware, there was not (in recent decades at least) any controversy that word/punctuation choice was associative. We even have famous psycholinguistics experiments telling us that thinking of the word "goose" makes us more likely to think of the word "moose" as well as "duck" (linguistic priming is the one type of priming that has held up to the replication crisis as far as I know). Whenever linguists might have bothered to make computational models, I think those would have failed to produce human-like speech because their associative models were not powerful enough.

human psycholinguists: a critical appraisal

This comment does not deserve to be downvoted; I think it's basically correct. GPT-2 is super-interesting as something that pushes the bounds of ML, but is not replicating what goes on under-the-hood with human language production, as Marcus and Pinker were getting at. Writing styles don't seem to reveal anything deep about cognition to me; it's a question of word/punctuation choice, length of sentences, and other quirks that people probably learn associatively as well.

Information empathy

Why should we say that someone has "information empathy" instead of saying they possess a "theory of mind"?

Possible reasons: "theory of mind" is an unwieldy term, it might be useful to distinguish in fewer words a theory of mind with respect to beliefs from a theory of mind with respect to preferences, you want to emphasise a connection between empathy and information empathy.

I think if there's established terminology for something we're interesting in discussing, there should be a pretty compelling reason why it doesn't suffice for us.

On AI and Compute

It felt weird to me to describe shorter timeline projections as "optimistic" and longer ones as "pessimistic"- AI research taking place over a longer period is going to be more likely to give us friendly AI, right?

(Why) Does the Basilisk Argument fail?

This approach can be made a little more formal with FDT/LDT/TDT: being the sort of agent who robustly does not respond to blackmail maximises utility more than being the sort of agent who sometimes gives in to blackmail, because you will not wind up in situations where you're being blackmailed.

Subjunctive Tenses Unnecessary for Rationalists?

The subjunctive mood and really anything involving modality is complicated. Paul Portner has a book on mood which is probably a good overview if you're willing to get technical. Right now I think of moods as expressing presuppositions on the set of possible worlds you quantify over in a clause. I don't think it's often a good idea to try to get people to speak a native language in a way incompatible with the language as they acquired it in childhood; it adds extra cognitive load and probably doesn't affect how people reason (the exception being giving them new words and categories, which I think can clearly help reasoning in some circumstances).

Advice Wanted; Reconcile with religious parent

I'm atheist and had an awesome Yom Kippur this year, so believing in God isn't a pre-req for going to services and not being unhappy. I think it would be sad if your father's kids gave up ritual practices that were especially meaningful to him and presumably to his ancestors. I think it would be sad if you sat through services that were really unpleasant for you year after year. I think it would be really sad if your relationship with your father blew up over this.

I think the happiest outcome would be that you wind up finding bits of the high holidays that you can enjoy, and your dad is satisfied with you maybe doing a little less than he might like. Maybe being stuck in synagogue for an entire day is bad, but going there for an hour or two gives you some interesting ethnographic observations to mull over. Talk it out with him, see what he really values, and compromise if you can.

Wirehead your Chickens

I've seen this discussed before by Rob Wiblin and Lewis Bollard on the 80,000 Hours podcast (edit: tomsittler actually beat me to the punch in mentioning this).

Robert Wiblin: Could we take that even further and ultimately make animals that have just amazing lives that are just constantly ecstatic like they’re on heroin or some other drug that makes people feel very good all the time whenever they are in the farm and they say, “Well, the problem has basically been solved because the animals are living great lives”?
Lewis Bollard: Yeah, so I think this is a really interesting ethical question for people about whether that would, in people’s minds, solve the problem. I think from a pure utilitarian perspective it would. A lot of people would fine that kind of perverse having, for instance, particularly I think if you’re talking about animals that might psychologically feel good even in terrible conditions. I think the reason why it’s probably going to remain a thought experiment, though, is that it ultimately relies on the chicken genetics companies and the chicken producers to be on board...

I encourage anyone interested to listen to this part of the podcast or read it in the transcript, but it seems clear to me right now that it will be far easier to develop clean meat which is widely adopted than to create wireheaded chickens whose meat is widely adopted.

In particular, I think that implementing these strategies from the OP will be at least as difficult as creating clean meat:

  • breed animals who enjoy pain, not suffer from it
  • breed animals that want to be eaten, like the Ameglian Major Cow from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

I think that getting these strategies widely adopted is at least as difficult as getting enough welfare improvements widely adopted to make non-wireheaded chicken lives net-positive

  • identify and surgically or chemically remove the part of the brain that is responsible for suffering
  • at birth, amputate the non-essential body parts that would give the animals discomfort later in life

I think that breeding for smaller brains is not worthwhile because smaller brain size does not guarentee reduced suffering capacity and getting it widely adopted by chicken breeders is not obviously easier than getting many welfare improvements widely adopted.

I'm not as confident that injecting chickens with opioids would be a bad strategy, but getting this widely adopted by chicken farms is not obviously easier to me than getting many other welfare improvements widely adopted. I would be curious to see the details of the study romeostevensit mentioned, but my intuition is that outrage at that practice would far exceed outrage at current factory farm practices because of "unnaturalness", which would make adoption difficult even if the cost of opioids is low.

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