I am currently a nuclear engineer with a focus in nuclear plant safety and probabilistic risk assessment. I am also an aspiring EA, interested in X-risk mitigation and the intersection of science and policy.


Wholehearted choices and “morality as taxes”

I like this as a way to clarify my intuition. But I think (as some other commenters here and on the EA forum pointed out) it would help to extend it to a more realistic example.

So let's say instead of hearing a commotion by the river as I start my walk, I'm driving somewhere, and I come across a random stranger who was walking next to the road, and a car swerves over into the shoulder and is about to hit him. There's a fence so the pedestrian has no way to dodge. The only thing I can do is swerve my car into the other car to make it hit the fence and stop; this won't be dangerous to me or the other driver, but it will wreck both cars. And I'm pretty sure it will work. But my car will cost $5,000 to replace (let's leave insurance out of this hypothetical). Of course, I'll do it--the poor guy's life is at stake.

Then the next time I'm driving somewhere, I see this happen again. Would I do it the second time? I mean, yeah, probably. I technically can replace the car again, though it'll strain things a bit. But I'm definitely going to start thinking about the other factors involved. Why do so many pedestrians feel like they have to walk on this shoulder? Could nobody build a goddamn sidewalk? And why do the other drivers have such poor steering? They're obviously not trying to kill pedestrians but something has gone very, very wrong. The third time it happens, I think I'll keep driving, and start looking for more systematic solutions. Throwing money at the problem is clearly better than nothing, up to a point, but it doesn't seem like the best possible move.

100 Tips for a Better Life

Some people think that multivitamins are actually harmful (or at least cause harms that partially cancel out the benefits) because they contain large amounts of certain things like manganese that we may already get too much of from food.

To listen well, get curious

Parrot-phrasing comes across as kind of manipulative in this description:

  • saves you the trouble of thinking of suitable paraphrases.
  • prevents the distracting and time-consuming disagreements (“That’s not quite what I meant”) which often arise over slight differences in wording.
  • conceals your lack of knowledge or understanding about a subject. It’s quite hard to make a fool of yourself it you only use the other person’s words!

This is exactly the opposite of curiosity, it's an attempt to gloss over your ignorance, which seems both lazy and mean to the person you're talking to.

Nicotinamide riboside vs. SARS-coV-2 update

Hey, do you know if there are any results on the human or animal trials yet? I haven't been able to find anything, even though it's been a few months and it seems like initial data ought to be coming in.

Babble challenge: 50 ways of sending something to the moon

Okay well it took me more than an hour to get to 50, but still a great exercise!

1. Chemical rocket

2. Launch off of space elevator beyond geosync

3. Giant balloon (aim carefully you can't steer)

4. Coilgun

5. Launch loop (seriously how has nobody built this yet)

6. Railgun

7. Nuclear thermal rocket

8. Electric (ion) rocket powered by capacitors or batteries (ok might be a little heavy)

9. Electric (ion) rocket powered by lasers from the ground

10. Ablation rocket powered by lasers from the ground

11. Spaceplane combined with any of the rocket types, especially ablation rocket

12. Giant crossbow

13. One of those extending boxing glove toys with all the struts forming parallelograms (apparently this mechanism is called a "pantograph")

14. Series of nested giant crossbows: each one shoots a smaller crossbow

15. Hitch a ride on a passing asteroid using a tether

16. Use superconductors to levitate a flux-pinned magnet to the moon

17. Fusion rocket

18. Project Orion-style nuclear bomb rocket

19. Run a tether from the moon to the earth, and just let the tip drag along the ground and you can attach climbers to it as it goes by every day

20. Antimatter rocket

21. Ramjet

22. Bussard ramjet

23. Trebuchet

24. Bubble cavitation in a vacuum (could launch a tiny particle at high velocity from LEO)

25. Light gas gun

26. Plasma gun? Is that a thing?

27. Combination balloon and solar sail. The balloon lifts the solar sail until the air is too thin to keep rising, and then the sail takes off.

28. Build a giant radiotelescope to contact space aliens and ask them to carry something to the moon for you.

29. Ablation rocket powered by the sun (using dry ice maybe)

30. Hack the simulation and add code to teleport stuff on your command

31. Build a space elevator on the moon and use it to launch chunks of rock constantly towards earth, which you catch with a see-saw contraption to launch something smaller back the other way

32. Nuclear explosion underground that launches a big chunk of steel through a borehole, like in Operation Plumbob (have to use something longer and tungsten-coated so it doesn't vaporize)

33. Light sail powered by lasers from the ground

34. Use lightning to superheat pressurized gas in a massive gun chamber

35. Kite that turns into solar sail once it clears most of the atmosphere

36. Build a giant tower from Earth that reaches almost to the moon, with a vacuum chamber inside so it can be supported by an electron beam, and then just toss things from the top

37-39. Practice, practice, practice

40. Get that arm surgery that lets pitchers throw faster than they did before they were injured, but like 50 times

41. Stow away on the next moon launch

42. Bring the moon to you: rob the Earth of its rotational energy by over-using your space elevator, and the moon will slowly drift closer due to tidal locking (I think)

43. Fake a Dr. Evil-style terrorist threat to force the government to send people to the moon to stop you.

44. Rename your home to "the moon"

45. Something with carbon nanotubes (grow them to the moon I guess?)

46. Great great great great great pyramid

47. Drink way too much coffee in order to come up with more ideas (recursive self-improvement technique?)

48. Nuclear-powered jet engine that builds up momentum by circling the Earth a bunch of times like superman, at slightly higher altitude each time

49. Some kind of reactionless drive based on Hawking radiation

50. Just send neutrinos to the moon, nothing will stop them. (You are already doing this.)

Covid 9/10: Vitamin D

I would love to have a link to send my parents to convince them to take Vitamin D as a prophylactic. The one RCT, as noted above, has various issues that make it not ideal for that purpose. Does anyone know of an article (by some sort of expert) that makes a good case for supplementation?

How hard would it be to change GPT-3 in a way that allows audio?

Since the same transformer architecture works on images with basically no modification, I suspect it would do well on audio prediction too. Finding a really broad representative dataset for speech might be difficult, but I guess audiobooks are a good start. The context window might cause problems, because 2000 byte pairs of text takes up a lot more than 4000 bytes in audio form. But I bet it would be able to mimic voices pretty well even with a small window. (edit: Actually probably not, see Gwern's answer.)

If your question is whether the trained GPT-3 model could be modified to work with audio, I suspect not. In principle there are layers of abstraction that a transformer should be able to take advantage of, so that word prediction is mostly uncoupled from audio processing, but there's not a perfect separation, and we wouldn't know how to interface them. Maybe you could train a separate transformer model that just transcribes audio into text, and stitch them together that way, but there's not much reason to think it would be a big improvement over existing speech recognition systems.

Load More