All of emr's Comments + Replies

Good points. This may be another case where we evolved to have probability-weighted-by-utility intuitions, and where we work backwards from these intuitions when ask for a model of raw probability.

Can we finance cryogenics by revival awards?

Create a market for frozen humans. The reward is for the agent who performs the revival. Investors can either search for revival technology and patent it, or they can invest in frozen humans, which they can sell to agents who wish to attempt revival.

7RowanE9y
What about revival attempts that fail such that they kill the patient? e.g. destructive scan for an upload that turns out not to be accurate enough to run? How can we discourage people from taking unnaceptable risks with our frozen bodies just to exploit us for a quick buck, without also discouraging them from trying to revise us at all?

Create a market for frozen humans

That sounds like an excellent plot for a dystopian horror movie.

Maybe the head is the most vulnerable region to injury, and the locating of the self in the head reflects the need to protect the brain and other inputs (mouth, eyes, ears).

0[anonymous]9y
Besides just look at a dog or any animal really, it does everything with the head, eat, fight, hunt etc.

I hypothesise a lower proportion of drinkers than the rest of the population. (subject of course to cultural norms where you come from)

Curiously, high SES in the United States is correlated with more frequent alcohol consumption.

0Elo9y
Part of that might be that in Hight SES you have more budget to spend on alcohol, also more free time to spend drinking, and can afford more delicious alcohols. I still think the number of responses here indicates less alcohol consumption, but I am yet to tally.

The discussion itself is a good case study in complex communication. Look at the levels of indirection:

  • A: What is true about growth, effort, ability, etc?
  • B: What do people believe about A?
  • C: What is true about people who hold the different beliefs in B?
  • D: What does Dweck believe about C (and/or interventions to change B)?
  • E: What does Scott believe about C (by way of discussing D, and also C, and B, and A)?

Yikes! Naturally, it's hard to keep these separate. From what I can tell, the conversation is mostly derailing because people didn't understand ... (read more)

0jbay9y
Upvoted because I think this is a really good point, which is almost totally missed in the surrounding discussion. For example, it's interesting to see that a lot of the experiments were directly attempting to measure C: The researcher tries to persuade the child to believe something about A, and then measures their performance. But then that research gets translated in the lay press as demonstrating something about A! I feel that if emr's post were put as a header to Scott's, the amount of confusion in the rebuttals would be reduced considerably. Incidentally, I've observed a similarly common difficulty understanding the distinction between derivative orders of a quantity, eg. distinguishing between something "being large" vs. "growing fast", etc. This seems less common among people trained in calculus, but even then, often people confuse these. I see it all the time in the press, and I wonder if there is a similar level-hopping neural circuit at work. For example, there are three or four orders of differentiation that exist in common discussion of climate change, eg: * A: Scientists recommend that atmospheric CO2 be kept below 350 ppm. * B: Canada emits only about half a gigaton of CO2 per year, whereas China emits nearly twenty times that much. * BB: Canada emits 15.7 tons of CO2 annually per capita, among the highest in the world, whereas China emits less than half of that amount per capita. * C: China's emissions are among the fastest-growing in the world, up by nearly 500 million tonnes over last year. Canada decreased its emissions by 10 million tonnes over the same period. * D: The growth in Canadian oil-industry emissions could slow if low prices force the industry to reduce expansion plans. Et cetera... Ostensibly what actually matters is A, which is dependent on the fourth integral of what is being discussed in D! People end up having a very hard time keeping these levels distinct, and much confusion and miscommunication ensues. I wonder -- d

(Not the OP, but musing on part of this)

I've never been in therapy, but I find it almost impossible to map certain psychological concepts and questions to coherent internal things. It's like when someone describes political liberalism as "the belief that government should be bigger": It's not total nonsense, but it doesn't connect with solid, and it's probably a sign of confusion if you feel that you can give a categorical answer.

Or another way: Trying to apply these concepts to myself feels like asking if some Canadian guy more culturally Japa... (read more)

Well put.

Furthermore, is there any great mystery about the possible scope of these hidden opinions? I suspect (though how can I verify?) that most of these "too controversial to mention" opinions can be enumerated by simple inversion of common beliefs.

Blue is right -> Blue is wrong Green is good -> Green is bad

If we're talking about things you can't say because of moral outrage, then there aren't that many beliefs that are common enough to provoke widespread outrage by publicly challenging them. Maybe you can't guess exactly why Blue is A... (read more)

Even a dog knows the difference between being kicked and being stumbled over.

-- Oliver W. Holmes

3fubarobfusco9y
Dogs have been specifically bred for many thousands of years to respond to human signals. (So have humans.)

I'm a bit curious what prompted you to post this?

Well, I think it's true, interesting, and useful :)

The argument is a specific case of a more general form (explaining changing group dynamics by selection into the group, driven by the norms of the group, but without the norms necessarily causing a direct change to any individual's behavior) which I think is a powerful pattern to understand. But like a lot of social dynamics, explicitly pointing it out can be tricky, because it can make the speaker seem snooty or Machiavellian or tactless, and because it... (read more)

4Lumifer9y
Homeostasis of social communities is a very interesting topic. Let me just point out that there are dangers on all sides -- you don't want to be at the mercy of every wandering band of barbarians, but you also don't want to become an inbred group locked up high in an ivory tower.

On outguessing the market: With only public information, can someone (expect to) determine better times to invest into diversified funds? Specifically, is it a good idea to use the "being greedy when others are fearful and fearful when others are greedy" heuristic?

0Lumifer9y
Yes, with caveats. Caveat 1 is that your implied model is continuous growth of the underlying investment (say, the US stock market represented by S&P500) with more-or-less constant trend. Given this, you should buy if you think the current price dropped below the long-term trend (e.g. 2008) and sell if you think the price rose above the same trend. If this model is correct, the trading strategy will work (we're ignoring risk for the time being). But if the model turns out to be wrong, well then... Caveat 2 is that you're implying that you have a considerably longer time horizon than other market participants. Hedge funds might play a similar game, but they have to deliver returns to investors and a hedge fund which just bleeds money for months and years with nothing but a promise that someday it will redeem itself will not last long. There are investment entities which can take a very long-term view (e.g. sovereign funds), but they are not the rule.
02irons9y
I think you can win using this strategy - but it requires a lot of patience. Certainly years - with the possibility of decades. You'd have to be sure of your strategy and sure of your belief in your strategy, changing tact when offside is the worst thing you can do if you are playing a deep value game. It remains a winning strategy because of that cost.
1James_Miller9y
No because hedge funds would already be doing this, and you would have to think you were better at it than them.
1Vaniver9y
I would say "yes, but." Really, the value comes from predicting a change before anyone else does it--saying "ah, the greed has spread as far as it can, and so now the only possible place for us to go is back towards fear, and that will happen all at once" or "ah, the fear has spread as far as it can, and so now the only possible place for us to go is back towards greed." (In my experience, fear is more contagious than greed.) But always disagreeing with the herd is reversed stupidity, not intelligence.

Seems to be a working memory aid for me.

If I have to manipulate equations mentally, I'll (sort of) explain the equation sub-vocally and assign chunks of it to different fingers/regions of space, and then move my fingers around or reassign to regions, as if I'm "dragging and dropping" (e.g. multiply by a denominator means dragging a finger pointing at the denominator over and up). Even if I'm working on paper, this helps me see one or two steps further ahead than I could do so using internal mental imagery alone. I don't remember explicitly learning this.

If you would like to be horrified, represent the number of deaths from WWII in unary in a text document and scroll through it (by copy pasting larger and larger chunks, or by some other method).

There are about 4000 "1" characters in a page in MS Word, so at 20 million battle deaths, you'll get about 5000 pages.

0G0W519y
If you really want to be horrified, make a document with one "I" for every sentient being whose life would be prevented from an existential catastrophe. Oh wait, that's too many to store in memory...

I agree that the relationship is separate question. I did find some links though:

Here is a Swedish conscripts study, finding that pre-morbid IQ was negatively associated with later adult depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia, but positively related to mania, measured by hospital admittance. This New Zealand study replicates this: Low childhood IQ predicts depression, anxiety, while higher IQ predicts bipolar.

These are about the best "large homogeneous" population studies I could find, in two more-or-less standard Western cultures. There is one ... (read more)

Just leaving the phone across the room didn't work for me, but the lock did.

There are all sorts of possible schemes: I also thought about putting the clock up in an inaccessible location (a high shelf in my closet). Then turning it off would require physically dragging a stepladder or chair from some other room, bringing it in, being awake enough not to fall off it, etc.

My sleep tends to be delayed and irregular. I put my alarm clock in a locked box. In the morning, it takes ~45 seconds to get out of bed, walk across the room, and open the combination lock. Since doing so, my waking time has greatly smoothed.

3[anonymous]9y
I've always been sort of jealous of people for whom this sort of solution works. When my brother was still in high school, I woke up to drive him to school every morning, then went back to sleep when I got home. I'm better about it now than I was then, but still not enough for this sort of thing to work. I keep my alarm clock on the other side of the room and I never even remember walking over there to turn it off.

There are roughly four prototypical white American regions/cultures, which correspond to fairly clear demographic events. Two of these are distinct white "rural" cultures (crudely: the western cowboy and the southern redneck) but these are often misleadingly combined into a unified "rural" stereotype that doesn't really describe many actual people. This makes about as much sense as combining New York and San Francisco to create the archetypal "urban" American. Alas, the media is based in big coastal cities, and so even many Am... (read more)

0[anonymous]9y
Why, wouldn't both be "Blue Tribe" ? This is very, very interesting! The romantic interest in the Wild West in Europe was started by a German writer, Karl May, who never even travelled to America... could there be a possible connection i.e. part of that culture is a German import he could observe around him in the original version near Dresden? On the superficial level, clearly no, the whole horse-and-saddle thing is Mexican in the origin and goes back to Spain actually. Its ancestry is still visible in the richly embroidered boots that give up a clearly Mexican vibe. But maybe some kind of a deeper connection? About the South: if it is so distinct from the West, here is what I am wondering. AFAIK the culture of the South was dominated by rather aristocratic, kinda French-styled (esp. in Louisiana) slave-owners and their slaves. Poor whites, as far as I can tell, did not play an important role in the South's economy around, say, 1830. How would that dynamic work out? In the West, the poor white could become an indepenent farmer, shopkeeper, rather quickly, hence the individualistic ethic. In the South, he would always feel playing second, or rather fourth fiddle to the plantation owners. Am I reasoning right and if yes what were its consequences?

I can't comment on alcohol use, but on recuperative activity:

Different types of "burnt out" suggest different remedies.

If you just spent 8 hours sitting at a desk, you might get a bump from a game of tennis, or a long walk. If you just spent 8 hours on your feet, that game of tennis might not help.

If you just spent 8 hours alone, then socialize. If you were dealing with customers and coworkers and crowds nonstop, maybe do something alone.

Anecdote: When I lived in college dorms (4 people in 2 bunk beds in a unit), my idea of heaven was sitting ... (read more)

0[anonymous]9y
I may try that, thanks. I hate the idea, that is why I don't talk at work either and consider it a victory when I did not open my mouth, but it still may be necessary. I mean, I gave up the notion of having one single "indivisible" "I" long ago. While one part of me hates it, it may be very beneficial for the other parts.

Yes! I think this is it. The wikipedia article links to these ray diagrams, which I found helpful (particularly the fourth picture).

I suspected it had to do with an overlap in the penumbra, or the "fuzzy edges", of the shadow, but I kept getting confused because the observation isn't what you would expect, if you think of the penumbra as two separate pictures that you're simply "adding together" as they overlap.

2VincentYu9y
See also this highly-upvoted question on the Physics Stack Exchange, which deals with your question.

Note: This post raises a concern about the treatment of depression.

If we treat depression with something like medication, should we be worried about people getting stuck in bad local optima, because they no longer feel bad enough that the pain of changing environments seems small by comparison? For example, consider someone in a bad relationship, or an unsuitable job, or with a flawed philosophic outlook, or whatever. The risk is that you alleviate some of the pain signal stemming from the lover/job/ideology, and so the patient never feels enough pressure... (read more)

2ChristianKl9y
You assume that someone who's depressed is more motivated to change than a person who isn't depressed. Depression usually comes with reduced motivation to do things. A lot of depression mediation even comes with warnings that it might increase suicide rates because the person feels more drive to take action.
1polymathwannabe9y
Yvain has written this and many other comprehensive posts on that topic (in the same blog).
5gjm9y
I am neither a medical professional, nor have I ever been treated for depression, but my impression is that being depressed is itself a more serious risk factor for getting stuck in bad local optima like that; as well as making sufferers feel bad it also tends to reduce how much how they feel varies. I haven't heard that giving depressed people antidepressants reduces the range of their affective states.

Why does the edge of a shadow sometimes appear to shift when another shadow gets close to it?

Details: I was in front of a window. The edge of a chair cast a shadow on the floor from the window light. When I moved such that the shadow of my arm got very close to the shadow of the chair, part of the edge of the chair's shadow was "pulled towards" the shadow being cast by my arm. The shadow of my arms didn't appear to move. My arm was closer to the sun than the chair.

4philh9y
Interesting! I can see this happening when I wave my hand in front of my window. When the shadow of my hand gets too close to the shadow of my window frame, the shadow of my hand seems to elongate. The window frame is closer to the light than my arm is. It doesn't work if my hand is too close to the wall. It also seems to bend a little, depending on the angles; and if I have my fingers in a /\ shape and bring them together, I can make a shadow grow between them towards the tips, kind of like an A shape. One thing I notice is that shadows don't have hard edges, they fade out. When two penumbras overlap, you might start to perceive shadow where you weren't expecting it. Whatever is closer to the sun will have a wider penumbra, and this might cause the shadow to seem to grow on the other object. My two fingers were the same distance from the sun, so it grew equally from them. Unfortunately the sun went behind a building while I was writing this post, so I can't experiment further. If I'm right, I'd expect this to happen less with lightbulbs and other spot lights, where the penumbra will be smaller. Quick research... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadow_blister_effect isn't very detailed, but it looks like I'm correct?

Tip for research: In personality psychology, the tendency to experience negative emotions is usually called neuroticism.

Woody Allen on time discounting and path-dependent preferences:

In my next life I want to live my life backwards. You start out dead and get that out of the way. Then you wake up in an old people's home feeling better every day. You get kicked out for being too healthy, go collect your pension, and then when you start work, you get a gold watch and a party on your first day. You work for 40 years until you're young enough to enjoy your retirement. You party, drink alcohol, and are generally promiscuous, then you are ready for high school. You then go to p

... (read more)
1Salemicus9y
As Jiro and Toggle point out, this isn't time reversal, this is Benjamin Button disease). I think the original short story, much more than the film, portrays this correctly as a tragi-comedy. For example, he's a Brigadier-General, but he gets laughed out of the army because he looks like a 16-year-old. I wonder about people who think that life would be better lived backwards, or that effect should precede cause. Isn't this the universe telling you "Change your ways" in neon capital letters?

A simiar one by Vonnegut:

It was a movie about American bombers in the Second World War and the gallant men who flew them. Seen backwards by Billy, the story went like this: American planes, full of holes and wounded men and corpses took off backwards from an airfield in England. Over France a few German fighter plans flew at them backwards, sucked bullets and shell fragments from some of the planes and crewmen. They did the same for wrecked American bombers on the ground, and those planes flew up backwards to join the formation. The formation flew backwa

... (read more)

Tsk, tsk. You don't collect your pension or gold watches, or drink alcohol, etc. You pay someone else your pension, give away a gold watch, and un-drink the alcohol.

"Context-free abstract pattern recognition" can be partially resolved into more legible subcomponents, some of which can be learned, and some of which can't.

So working memory is one such component, and is often theorized as a big pathway for (intuitively defined) general human intelligence. It doesn't look you can train working memory in a way that generalizes to increased performance on all tasks that involve working memory (although there's some controversy about this). And as with other traits, increased performance on formal measurements of ... (read more)

Not because we have a specific "heretic burning" sense receptor, but because the parts of the brain containing the idea of burning the heretics were connected by neural pathways to the pleasure centers, just like all associations are created.

There is almost certainly hardware support for punishment behavior, albeit that which can be executed with very little high level conceptual understanding, as you note. Even more, it doesn't always require a "belief that X is right": It can simply happen, when everyone else is throwing stones, t... (read more)

1Viliam_Bur9y
Indeed, the punishment module is not a small homunculus in the mind. It does not have its own mind.

Outliers are interesting, but I'm not sure they are often useful examples. I suspect the focus on outliers is more due to a certain insecurity among specialists, which is exactly the last thing 99.9% of the people struggling to understand or enjoy mathematics need further exposure to.

Perhaps within mathematics, progress really is so dominated by the elite that it seems natural to worry so much about elites. I don't know either way. But in most other fields, and in the everyday strength of society, there seems to be a decent potential from moving everyone ... (read more)

0JonahS9y
Thanks for your comment. I'll be addressing these things in later posts.

Is he bullying or insulting people? Does he lack the machinery to detect social disapproval? Either situation would require specialized advice.

2James_Miller9y
No and No.

There is an option to only display only comments above a certain threshold. I tried to use a positive threshold (5 votes) but it doesn't seem to work.

As an aside, I still find it much easier to sift through LW for good content, relative to other broad-domain sites. While I'm glad the ecosystem has diversified, it has become harder to find e.g. the good comments on a SSC piece, or to separate the wheat from the chaff on social media or single-author blogs.

0Douglas_Knight9y
It used to work, but then Eliezer decided that he didn't trust the readers with this power. And that he didn't trust readers with the knowledge of the rules.

Do you mean in casual social situations? Or is this people doing stupid things that directly harm you (e.g an incompetent coworker you still need to rely on; a roommate that keeps destroying stuff)?

2Adam Zerner9y
Both. But more particularly the second.

This raises an interesting question: What is a population measure of sanity?

As you point out, stated beliefs might not be a great measurement. And even if a less-than-sane belief is genuine, the belief may be so compartmentalized that it isn't a leading cause of irrational behavior.

A while back, I found this study: pdf which tried to correlate performance on a test of cognitive biases with the likelihood of reporting a bunch of different real-world "bad decisions", like having been in jail or default on a loan. They found some modest correlations after adjusting for SES and an IQ-proxy.

0Lumifer9y
The quality of the society and the government. "Every nation gets the government it deserves." -- Joseph de Maistre

Many ideological problems boil down to an error of expansive domain:

So a X=Marxist can talk intelligently about certain large-scale economic patterns. But there's no reason to expect good career advice from a Marxist. Despite this, some Marxists are perfectly happy to reason "having a career is related to economics, and my theory of proletarian revolution is related to economics, and so clearly my theory of the proletarian revolution is related to giving good career advice!". And then the critics of Marxism are happy to attack Marxism as a whole,... (read more)

There's a content-neutral signaling dynamic too: Some BDSM fans (for lack of a better term?) are signaling sophistication by loudly complaining out that the recent "pop music hit" is crap. So there's an opportunity for hipster counter-signaling if anyone with in-group credibility defends some aspect of the book.

Thanks for clarifying. I saw a few definitions that were less precise: wikipedia describes negative feedback as "...when some function of the output of a system...is fed back in a manner that tends to reduce the fluctuations in the output, whether caused by changes in the input or by other disturbances." I think I was confused by skipping the tends part, and applying the resulting definition to the shower example.

You're right on the explosion.

So "negative feedback" does not imply "stable point". Although "stable point" presumably implies "negative feedback" somewhere?

0Vaniver9y
Yes, with an emphasis on the 'somewhere.' (Is it really 'feedback' if the restorative force is already inherent in the system? Well, that depends on how you look at things, but I'd generally say yes.)

That an overexuberant negative feedback controller can still lead to explosions is one of the interesting results of control theory...

Terminology question: Does "negative feedback" have a precise definition? So if I point at something and say "this is a negative feedback loop", is that exactly the same as saying "the current state of this thing is stable, or the state is known to be in the neighborhood of an implicitly communicated stable point"? (And conversely for "positive feedback" = "unstable") I'm ... (read more)

1Vaniver9y
Yes; the correction applied is in the opposite direction of the error. A positive feedback controller is one where the feedback is in the same direction as the error. Not really, because stable implies that it will return to that state if disturbed. If you push around some of the ash after an explosion, it doesn't restore itself. (It is true that explosions stop when they burn through their energy source, and models that take that into account look realistic.)

The paper, or my comment? I interpreted the paper as an attack on (explanatory) models of risk aversion that are based on this (quite general) type of utility curve, with the conclusion that observed behavior can't be motivated by such a curve.

Why people find it emotionally difficult to keep secrets?

The dynamic shows up very early in childhood (search for "google: louise ck secret"), it can involve self-sacrifice (confessing to a crime), and people find it relieving to share secrets even in completely anonymous and impersonal ways ("google: the confession bear meme").

7drethelin9y
I think it's an evolved mechanism that favors group cooperation. If people feel emotionally motivated to be open and honest with each other, and maintain a history of doing so, they're more trustworthy to each other and can coexist more peacefully and productively
5Dahlen9y
Because they enjoy sharing info. Getting things "off their chests". Having an extra mind to think about the issue. Getting help from people, which they are only able to give inasmuch as they are clued in. Having other people relate to the experience, or running a sanity check against them. Difficulty in maintaining the illusion of the contrary; especially when you're lying about something that is essential to other people's understanding of your true self, that's basically life on hard mode. There are plenty of advantages, really, even in spite of incentives to keep some info secret.

Secrets require cognitive effort. You need to keep track of what you can say to whom. Who told you what and when and why. It often involves lying or omitting information, both of which require additional effort and care in your conversation. I also find that it messes up some interpersonal relationships and habits. I'm not prone to keeping secrets and withholding information to my partner, family or friends, so if friend X tells me not to tell something to friend Y it forces me to act different from what feels natural.

Also consider risks from future technology. For example, we might be able to "deanonymize" various public data records.

1Username9y
This is a major reason why I keep a private journal hosted online. Also why I won't lie on any part of my future security clearance application (because I'm sure most of the illicit things I've done are mentioned somewhere on facebook's/skype's servers, outside of my immediate account).

Conversly, if you'd pay much more than this, you are absurdly risk averse: Here's a pdf of a classic paper by Rabin: Risk Aversion and Expected-Utility Theory: A Calibration Theorem

Abstract:

Within the expected-utility framework, the only explanation for risk aversion is that the utility function for wealth is concave: A person has lower marginal utility for additional wealth when she is wealthy than when she is poor. This paper provides a theorem showing that expected-utility theory is an utterly implausible explanation for apprecia- ble risk aversion ov

... (read more)
0Jiro9y
This seems to make an unwarranted assumption about exactly how the marginal utility diminishes.

Ah! I may have a meta-contrarian position to contribute:

This is not useful -> This is useful for having fun -> Fun is a valid goal, but this is a fairly ineffective way to have fun.

In the same way that people are routinely in error about how to improve everything else, they are routinely in error about what things are good at actually providing fun. And there is a familiar resistance to the direct application of thought to the problem, which relies on the normal excuses ("Isn't it all subjective?", "But thinking is incompatible with fe... (read more)

0Adam Zerner9y
Good points. Particularly about watching vs. playing. I'm a lot more skeptical about the value of watching.

We should probably concern ourselves with fatality rates (serious disability rates probably tracks this). Because of differences in average speed, I expect the typical rural accident to be much more severe.

Political beliefs can cluster with more consequential behaviors than voting. For example, consider the relationship between views on economic policy and the appeal of different careers (or fields of academic study). Or political views and religious behaviors. Or the subjective appeal of living in Texas vs San Francisco. Knowing humans, there probably isn't a clear direction of cause-and-effect.

Anecdotally, I've changed my political views recently, and I'm surprised by the breadth of the associated cluster of beliefs (some of which are non-socially consequential) that shifted at the same time.

4cleonid9y
I suspect that the causal connection is usually from the consequential behaviors to the political beliefs. Some move to Texas or SF because of their political views, but more often people simply adopt political views that are considered mainstream among their neighbors. The same is probably true with the choice of occupation.

Maps and territories. A noisy signal can still be understood, and the marginal cost of suppressing noise can become steep. Even mathematical proofs are often first communicated in a logically correct but "noisy" form, and simplified later.

I struggle with over-qualifying, to the point where my writing takes too long or is too hard for other people to understand. I actually wonder if prolific writers are selected for a certain lack of guilt, whereas I often feel like a scrupulous person, almost guilty for not addressing every little subtlety.

The ... (read more)

While we're here: How do real-world incentive structures interact with the EMH?

In the same way that "No one was ever fired for buying IBM", is it true that "No one was ever fired for selling when everyone else was"? And would that mean someone without these external social incentives will have an edge on the market? For example, what about a rule like "put money into an index fund whenever the market went down for X consecutive days and everyone is sufficiently gloomy"?

How can you learn to calibrate long term predictions, when it takes so long to get feedback?

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.

-- Emerson, Self-Reliance

Perhaps these are two prescriptions for two different patients: The fox and the hedgehog!

You can model uncertain parameters within a model as random variables, and then run a large number of simulations to get a distribution of outcomes.

Modeling uncertainty between models (of which guessing the distribution of an uncertain parameter is an example) is harder to handle formally. But overall, it's not difficult to improve on the naive guess-the-exact-values-and-predict method.

7Epictetus9y
The usual error analysis provides an estimate of an error in the result in terms of error in the parameters. Any experiment used to test a model is going to rely on this kind of error analysis to determine whether the result of the experiment lies within the estimated error of the prediction given the uncertainty in the measured parameters. For example, for an inverse-square law (like Newtonian gravity) you could perturb the separation distance by a quantity epsilon, expand in a Taylor series with respect to epsilon, and apply Taylor's theorem to get an upper bound on the error in the prediction given an error in the measurement of the separation distance. Statistical methods could be used should such analysis prove intractable. The issue that the author refers to is where the model exhibits chaotic behavior and a very small error in the measurement could cause a huge error in the result. This kind of behavior renders any long-term predictions completely unreliable. In the words of Edward Lorenz:

A thought about heritability and malleability:

The heritability of height has increased, because the nutritional environment has become more uniform. To be very specific, "more equal" means both that people have more similar sets of options, and that they exercise similar preferences among these options.

This is interesting, because the increased heritability has coincided exactly with an increased importance of environmental factors from a decision making standpoint. In other words, a contemporary parent picking from {underfeed kids, don't underf... (read more)

4mwengler9y
I heard something years ago that stuck with me. In an optimum environment, 100% of human variation on everything would be genetic. So if you do everything you can environmentally to improve your kids intelligence, 100% of the variation left must be genetic. Similarly with height, musical ability, etc etc. So whenever one finds that less than 100% of the variation in some positive trait is genetic, it means at least some of the population is not optimizing the environment to bring out that trait. Not obviously relevant to the comment above, but on the same topic so I stuck it here.

Yes. Richer states can afford to transfer more wealth. We see this in the size of modern (domestic) welfare states, which could not have been shouldered even a century ago.

0alienist9y
Well, Rome was basically a welfare state two millennia ago.

All the advice on resisting video games and the like (internet blockers, social support) has been on using tricks of one sort or another to restrict the act, not the desire.

Some advice is about substitution, i.e. you identify the emotional need driving a stubborn behavior, and find a more approved behavior than satisfies the same need.

6hesperidia9y
Interesting concept. I read about something similar in the book Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing The New Domesticity - the author recounts that when working at a dead-end job with no challenge her impulse for creativity got shunted into "DIY" projects of questionable value like stenciling pictures of frogs onto her microwave, and that once she got into a job that stretched her abilities the desire for "DIY" evaporated.

On the other hand: So fucking what? You know how the world becomes a better place? By people doing things that are difficult and thankless because those things need to be done. The world doesn't become a better place by people sitting around waiting for the brief moment of inspiration in which they sorta want to solve a local problem.

Historical, isn't that exactly how the world became a better place? Better technology and better institutions are the ingredients of reduced suffering, and both of these see to have developed by people pursuing solutions to... (read more)

0Lumifer9y
Compared to what, medieval Europe?
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