All of eukaryote's Comments + Replies

There’s no such thing as a tree (phylogenetically)

Super valid, I appreciate the feedback! For my own future reference, if you have an answer - was it more the general kind of casual/eclectic style, the "antagonistic" bits like what you quoted, or something else?

1DavidHolmes8hDefinitely the antagonistic bits - I enjoyed the casual style! Really just the line ‘ Sit down. Sit down. Shut up. Listen. You don’t know nothing yet’ I found quite off-putting - even though in hindsight you were correct!
[link] If something seems unusually hard for you, see if you're missing a minor insight

Solid advice.

If everything seems unusually hard for you, look into whether you have depression, ADHD, or a nutrient deficiency (get a blood panel at a doctor's for the last one).

There’s no such thing as a tree (phylogenetically)

Oh, I think you're over-extrapolating what I meant by arbitrary - like I say toward the end of the essay, trees are definitely a meaningful category. Categories being "a little arbitrary" doesn't mean they're not valuable - is there a clear difference between a tree and a shrub? Maybe, but I don't know what it is if so, and it seems like plausibly not. The fruit example is even clearer - is a grape a berry? Is a pumpkin a fruit? Who cares? Probably lots of people, depending on the context? Most common human categories work like this around the edges if you... (read more)

6Zack_M_Davis6dOr I'm speaking a slightly different dialect of English from you?? As a point of terminology, I think "fuzzy" is a better word than "arbitrary" for this kind of situation, where I agree that, as a human having a casual conversation, my response to "Is a pumpkin a fruit?" is usually going to be something like "Whatever; if it matters in context, I'll ask for more specifics", but as a philosopher of science, I claim that there definite mathematical laws governing the relationship between what communication signals are sent, and what probabilistic inferences a receiver can infer [], and the laws permit things like soft k-means clustering [], where given some set of data points representing data about plants, the algorithm could say that this-and-such plant has a membership coefficient of 0.34 in the "shrub" cluster and 0.66 in the "tree" cluster, and there would be nothing arbitrary about those numbers as the definite, precise result of what happens when you run this particular clustering algorithm against that particular data. (But the number 0.34 in this blog comment is arbitrary, because I made it up for concreteness while trying to explain what fuzzy clustering is; there's no reason I couldn't have chosen a different coefficient.) But then when I actually look up "arbitrary" [] and "fuzzy" [] on Wiktionary, it seems common usage [] is not unequivocally on my side: your usage of arbitrary fits with the first part of definition 1 ("Based on individual discretion or judgment"), whereas my usage is centered on the second part of definition 1 ("not based on any objective distinction, perhaps even made at random"), with influence from the mathematician's usage, definition 3 ("Any, out of all that a

If you're at all like me, part of that feeling is definitely having not internalized [genes as lego bricks] rather than [genes as fragile tightly coupled organism recipie].  The notion that the Blind Idiot God invented reusable loosly coupled code and is halfway to a functioning package manager is more than a bit of a shocker.  And crazier yet has had those capabilities long enough that they're fixed in substantially all life on Earth (albiet with serious regressions in animals).

Apparently there's some ideas that are convergent enough substaintially any optimizer finds them eventually.

There’s no such thing as a tree (phylogenetically)

Thank you so much!
Re: question: Well, they're not "normal" fruits, at least - they're accessory fruits. I don't know much else about the botanical definitions other than that.

Also, the accessibility point is very much appreciated. I've updated the graphic to take that into account - would love your thoughts on the improved one? Either way, I very much appreciate both the raising-the-issue and the suggestions on improvements!

8kithpendragon10dNot a "real" fruit because the flesh is a product of some tissue adjacent to the ovum instead of within it. That sounds oddly nit-picky to me, even for scientists. Do you think this might be an important distinction for some non-taxes reason, or are botanists just really pedantic sometimes? Well done on the new graphic! It's much easier to read now: I like the choice to use the darkest color and heaviest border for the "Definitely a tree" category, since that makes them pop out. When I look at it in greyscale (camera filter on my phone), the "Kind of a tree" green and "Definitely not a tree" orange are pretty close in value, but the borders make them easy to differentiate. Given that the goal was ostensibly to highlight the distribution of true trees, I think that's entirely appropriate. And when I turn on my laptop's blue blocker, I still have no problem seeing the difference between the categories. When I showed the new graphic to my family, Partner suddenly started examining it and making connections. ("🧐 Look how closely related tea is to pitcher plants!") And the 5yo was even trying to make sense of it! Neither of them seemed interested yesterday, so I'm declaring success!
There’s no such thing as a tree (phylogenetically)

That's a good expanded takeaway of part of it! (Obviously "weird and a little arbitrary" is kind of nebulous, but IME it's a handy heuristic you've neatly formalized in this case.) To be clear, it doesn't sound like we disagree?

On the specific example of trees, John Wentworth recently pointed out that neural networks tend to learn a "tree" concept: a small, local change to the network can add or remove trees from generated images. That kind of correspondence between human and unsupervised (!) machine-learning model concepts is the kind of thing I'd expect to happen if trees "actually exist", rather than trees being weird and a little arbitrary. (Where things are closer to "actually existing" rather than being arbitrary when different humans and other AI architectures end up conve... (read more)

Your Cheerful Price

One cautionary note is that once you invoke this idea, I feel like you're indicating willingness to pay the person some amount to do the thing, if you can both agree on a reasonable (cheerful or just satisfactory) number. 

Like if I'm kind of inclined to bake you a cake for free, and you ask for my cheerful price and I tell you - even if you don't take up the offer at my cheerful price, I'm definitely not going to make the cake for free now. That would be bad business.

Strongly disagree with this. The honest cheerful price is sometimes $0, and if that's true you should say $0, and presumably then do the thing given you were asked for your price. 

It's bad short term profit maximization but if you were purely doing short term profit maximization you never would have been inclined to bake the cake for free in the first place. 

2hamnox3moThat's a possibility, sure, but not an overriding one. Consider the case that your happy price is $5. It's worth it to you to do for free if your friend wants a cake, as it is a small cost for the sake of a friend. How you balance the costs and benefits of maintaining a relationship is up to you. Y hates baking, and out of typical-minding expected it to be more like $40 when she asked. She can, at that point, just ask you to do her a personal favor on the scale of $5. How scrupulously you follow up on favours and IOUs is also up to you.
How do you optimize productivity with respect to your menstrual cycle?

 almost certainly the way to maximize productivity is to continue menstruating


OP made a pretty good justification for why the opposite is true, do you have one for this claim?

hormonal birth control is a suspicious deeply American practice. There is a good reason doctors elsewhere don't writing prescriptions for steroids at all.

Hormonal birth control is widespread all over the planet. What are you talking about?

Eukryt Wrts Blg

Inspired by the failures of WebMD as outlined here, because this was a problem WebMD characteristically failed to help me solve. 

In the spirit of writing up one's findings, and in the off-chance this is useful to someone, here is a research-based but totally uncited list of indications that a sudden musculoskeletal injury is a break rather than a sprain or the like:

  • If there's a visible deformity, e.g. "something is not where it should be". This is a big indication that you need to go to a doctor, whereas if you don't have this you only maybe need medi
... (read more)
3ChristianKl3moIt's worth noting that the two aren't the only possibilities. Torn muscles and ligaments matter as well. Inflamation is another important possibilty concern.
What are some beautiful, rationalist artworks?

This was the version I had saved on my computer, but we actually have a more complete map now. I love this image both by what it represents:

  • Exploring a new world
  • Alien geology
  • Cool maps
  • Including a sense of process (I don't actually know anything about how this image put together, but just looking at it, I'm nearly certain we're looking at a map composited orbits that Cassini took over the source of the planet - like a scanner!)

And from a purely aesthetic perspective:

  • Really simple, strongly contrasting, powerful colors
  • Clean geometry along with the chaotic and organic
What are some beautiful, rationalist artworks?
False color radar map of Titan's methane & ethane lakes, ~2007? From footage taken by Cassini. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Agenzia Spaziale Italiana / USGS
4eukaryote6moThis was the version I had saved on my computer, but we actually have a more complete map now []. I love this image both by what it represents: * Exploring a new world * Alien geology * Cool maps * Including a sense of process (I don't actually know anything about how this image put together, but just looking at it, I'm nearly certain we're looking at a map composited orbits that Cassini took over the source of the planet - like a scanner!) And from a purely aesthetic perspective: * Really simple, strongly contrasting, powerful colors * Clean geometry along with the chaotic and organic
3Alex_Altair2moWorth noting that these are all photographs. (Some of them are modified, e.g. the earth is added from another picture, and some of them are colorized.)
Postmortem to Petrov Day, 2020

FWIW, I thought the 'Doomsday phishing' attack was absolutely brilliant. Hey! Sometimes people will deceive you about which things will end the world! May we all stay on our toes.

4Dagon7moDo we know who sent the phish, or have corroboration that it actually happened? My favorite scenario (well, not really favorite, as I don't understand the payoffs for destruction. Most theoretically-interesting, perhaps) is where chris_leong is playing another level game, hoping that benito will believe it's a misclick, and continue to cooperate (by including them next year) despite knowing that tit-for-tat is a generally good strategy. I would love to hear from the phisher (using that account if they want it to be anonymous, including if it's chris_leong themselves) how they think of the exercise and what motivated them to do so. And how they picked their victim(s) - I got a code, but not a phish, and I feel left out! I'd also be interested to hear from any additional targets how they reacted and whether they detected the phish or just followed their heart to not press the button.
My Dating Plan ala Geoffrey Miller

Why would a big driver behind LW's appeal be sexism?

I don't think this currently is true for LW myself, but if a space casually has, say, sexist or racist stuff in it, people looking can be like "oh thank god, a place I can say what I really think [that is sexist or racist] without political correctness stopping me" and then that becomes a selling point for people who want to talk about sexist or racist stuff. Suspect the commenter means something like this.

2ESRogs10moThanks. That does seem like the most likely interpretation.
My weekly review habit

You might look into bullet journalling - a lot of people find it a pretty helpful and low-mental-effort way to keep to-do lists and record what they do.

Using a memory palace to memorize a textbook.

This is cool as all hell. How long ago did you do this? If you think of some way to test this, I'd be super curious to learn how much of this you can still remember in a month. I expect it to be pretty decent. I've never just... sat down and tried to do this for a big topic, and I might now.

9AllAmericanBreakfast1yThis is just from the last three days. It also makes learning much more enjoyable. What would you rather do, read and re-read dry textbook writing about diffraction? Or stand in a room while Einstein himself shows you an epic, 3D simulation of wave diffraction at any speed or angle you like? It's suddenly easy to get myself to read my textbook and I'm really happy about that. Best video game ever!
Eukryt Wrts Blg

I have a proposal.

Nobody affiliated with LessWrong is allowed to use the word "signalling" for the next six months. 

If you want to write something about signalling, you have to use the word "communication" instead. You can then use other words to clarify what you mean, as long as none of them are "signalling".

I think this will lead to more clarity and a better site culture. Thanks for coming to my talk.

2AllAmericanBreakfast8moI think that what "signalling" does that "communication" does not is when we use it to analyze how specific actions convey meaning. For example, there's a rich literature on flirting, in which scientists try to break down how various physical postures and gestures interact with things like laughter to signal attraction or aversion. "Communication" tends to imply a conscious, explicit, primarily verbal way of getting information across. "Signalling" tends to imply a subconscious, implicit, and primarily nonverbal way of getting information across. I think what we need isn't so much a taboo on these terms as a clarification of what the difference is between them.
2Chris_Leong8moI don't suppose you could provide a specific example of when you think this would improve the conversation?
3Dagon1yI like this attempt at meta-signaling! Good luck on making your signals more effective by preventing people from noticing that aspect of things.
Eukryt Wrts Blg

I think I agree with mr-hire that this doesn't seem right to me. The site is already public and will turn up when people search your name - or your blog name, in my case - or the idea you're trying to explain.

I don't especially care whether people use their real names or pseudonyms here. If people feel uncomfortable making their work more accessible under their real names, they can use a pseudonym. I suppose there's a perceived difference in professionalism or skin in the game (am I characterizing the motive correctly?), but we're all here for the ideas anyways, right?

2Said Achmiz1yThe “real name” issue is only one part of one of the points I made. Even if you reject that part entirely, what do you say to the rest? This is not a realistic view, but, again, I am content to let it slide. By no means is it the whole or even most of the reasons for my view.
Eukryt Wrts Blg

Yeah, building on more complex ideas - that you really need to read something else to understand - seems like a fine reason to use jargon.

Eukryt Wrts Blg

In fact, I think that the default should be to not want any given post to be linked, and to spread, far and wide.

Say more?

6Said Achmiz1ySeveral reasons. The most important one is: the further an idea spreads, the more likely it is to be misinterpreted and distorted, and discussed elsewhere in the misinterpreted/distorted form; and the more this happens, the more likely it will be that anyone discussing the idea here has, in their mind, a corrupted form of it (both because of contamination in the minds of Less Wrong commenters from the corrupted form of the idea they read/hear in discussions elsewhere, and because of immigration of people, into Less Wrong discussions, who have first heard relevant ideas elsewhere and have them in a corrupted form). This can, if common, be seriously damaging to our ability to handle any ideas of any subtlety or complexity over even short periods of time. Another very important reason is the chilling effects on discussions here due to pressure from society-wide norms. (Many obvious current examples, here; no need to enumerate, I think.) This means that the more widely we can expect any given post or discussion to spread, the less we are able to discuss ideas even slightly outside the Overton window. (The higher shock levels become entirely out of reach, for example.) Finally, commonplace wide dissemination of discussions here are a strong disincentive for commenters here to use their real names (due to not wanting to be exposed so widely), to speak plainly and honestly about their views on many things, and—in the case of many commenters—to participate entirely.
Eukryt Wrts Blg

Here's something I believe: You should be trying really hard to write your LessWrong posts in such a way that normal people can read them.

By normal, I mean "people who are not immersed in LessWrong culture or jargon." This is most people. I get that you have to use jargon sometimes. (Technical AI safety people: I do not understand your math, but keep up the good fight.) Or if your post is referring to another post, or is part of a series, then it doesn't have to stand alone. (But maybe the series should stand alone?)

Obviously if you only want your post to

... (read more)
6ChristianKl1yThere are two reasons for jargon. (1) Developing rationality@LW as it's own paradigma by reusing other concepts from LessWrong. No field of science can stand on it's own without creating it's own terms and seeing how those terms interact with another. (2) Defensibly against being able to be quoted in a bad way. Charles Murray succeeded in writing "The Bell Curve" in a way, where almost nobody who criticizes the book quotes it because he took care with all the sentence to write nothing that can easily taken out of context. Given the amount of criticism the book got that's a quite impressive feat. Unfortunately, in many controversial topics it's helpful to write as defensibly or even Straussian. Depending on the goal of a particular post (1) or (2) sometimes matter and at other times it's worthwhile to write for a wider audience.
6leggi1yThanks for writing this. This is me. A creature from another time and space. I read about a website about rationality and got excited about potentially finding a group of people who think rationally. There's a lot of interesting stuff here on LW but could be more accessible. More formatting for ease of scanning allows readers to start picking up the important points. There's a lot of unnecessary words used - I wonder how much editing (pruning?) is done. The habit of giving something a few days to settle then re-reading it before publishing? New perspectives would be useful for a lot of questions/discussions that I see here.
3Chris_Leong1yOne problem is that completely avoiding jargon limits your ability to build up to more complex ideas
4Said Achmiz1yThere are often very, very good reasons not to want this, and indeed to want the very opposite of this. In fact, I think that the default should be to not want any given post to be linked, and to spread, far and wide. I do wholeheartedly endorse this, however.
A point of clarification on infohazard terminology

What do you think of the change? (I think Bostrom's terms are fine, but it's still useful to have a word for the broad category of "knowing this may hurt you".)

6willbradshaw1yIt is an unfortunate fact that everyone who starts to work on info hazards at some point decides to come up with their own typology. :P As a result, there is a surfeit of terms here. Anders Sandberg has proposed "direct information hazard" as a broad category of info hazards that directly harm the knower, and I've largely adopted his usage. It does seem desirable to have a term for any kind of communication/information that harms the knower, regardless of whether it is true or false or neither. "Cognition hazard" kind of gestures at this but doesn't really capture it for me. I would guess a cognition hazard would be something that (a) is hazardous because it causes you to think about it a lot (brooding/obsessing/etc) or (b) is hazardous if you do so. This feels like a smaller/more technical category than what is usually captured by "memetic hazard". Maybe "knowledge hazard" would do the trick, if you definitely want to abandon "standard" usage (such as it is)?
A point of clarification on infohazard terminology

Update: I have swapped this out. I appreciate your feedback, because the distinction you point to seems like a valuable one, and I don't want to step on a great term. Hopefully this resolves the issue?

8willbradshaw1y"Memetic hazards" is a fairly well-established term for the thing referred to as "cognitohazard" here. If you google it you can find its use in several places, not just SCP (where I think it arose). I honestly object to trying to establish "meme hazard" to mean something different, especially since I don't think that concept (a superset of "infohazard" that also includes falsehoods) is very useful (most people agree that falsehoods are bad, and the harms of spreading false information are well-known). To say that meme hazards has already been used in that sense is technically true, but the term's usage in that post was defecting from common usage, and its use in other draft posts has been objected to by several people, including (but not limited to) me. I've been working on info-hazardy stuff for a while, and have been asked by several people about the relationship between info hazards and memetic hazards, with the latter being used in the original "harm to the knower" sense. I take this as evidence that the term is in (somewhat) common usage, and as such should not be repurposed in a way that is virtually guaranteed to cause confusion and derail conversations with lengthy explanations. As an analogy, the fact that the Council of Europe, Council of the European Union, and European Council are all existent and different things is widely perceived as silly and bad. Similarly, given that the term "memetic hazard" is already taken to mean one thing (which is kind of but not exactly a subset of information hazards), introducing "meme hazard" as a term for a related but importantly different thing (which is a superset of info hazards) seems to me to be clearly a bad move. Just find a different term already, and leave "memetic hazard" where it is.
A point of clarification on infohazard terminology

Aw, carp, you're totally right. It had been pointed out to me while I was getting feedback that "memetic hazard" doesn't clearly gesture at the thing, but I hadn't thought of or been aware that there was a coherent and reasonable definition of "memetic hazard" that's the thing it sounds like it should mean.

I do actually have one more term up my sleeve, which is "cognitohazard", which comes about the same way and more clearly indicates the danger. (Which is from thinking / "cognitizing" (?) about it.)

I'm trying to think of a way to switch this out now that

... (read more)
4eukaryote1yUpdate: I have swapped this out. I appreciate your feedback, because the distinction you point to seems like a valuable one, and I don't want to step on a great term. Hopefully this resolves the issue?
Whipped Cream vs Fancy Butter

I love this take. You're out here living in 3020. Also, I never get to use my eggbeater these days, so I'm excited to try this.

100 Ways To Live Better

As a result of this, I put a post on Nextdoor offering to walk people's dogs for free. I'm hoping someone takes me up on it. Thanks for the brilliant suggestion!

The funnel of human experience

Quick authorial review: This post has brought me the greatest joy from other sources referring to it, including Marginal Revolution ( and the New York Times bestseller "The Uninhabitable Earth". I was kind of hoping to supply a fact about the world that people could use in many different lights, and they have (see those and also like )

An unintentional takeaway from this attention is solidifying my

... (read more)
Spaghetti Towers

A brief authorial take - I think this post has aged well, although as with Caring Less (, this was an abstract piece and I didn't make any particular claims here.

I'm so glad that A) this was popular B) I wasn't making up a new word for a concept that most people already know by a different name, which I think will send you to at least the first layer of Discourse Hell on its own.

I've met at least one person in the community who said they knew and thought about this post a lot, well before they'd

... (read more)
Caring less

Hi, I'm pleased to see that this has been nominated and has made a lasting impact.

Do I have any updates? I think it aged well. I'm not making any particular specific claims here, but I still endorse this and think it's an important concept.

I've done very little further thinking on this. I was quietly hoping that others might pick up the mantle and write more on strategies for caring less, as well as cases where this should be argued. I haven't seen this, but I'd love to see more of it.

I've referred to it myself when talking about values that I think people

... (read more)
Do you get value out of contentless comments?

Yeah! I like getting positive feedback on my work, especially in a rather intimidating forum like here. Anything more specific than "good post" or whatever is better, but even that is more emotionally rewarding than seeing digits in the vote box change.

Eukryt Wrts Blg

I don't like taking complicated variable-probability-based bets. I like "bet you a dollar" or "bet you a drink". I don't like "I'll sell you a $20 bid at 70% odds" or whatever. This is because:

A) I don't really understand the betting payoffs. I do think I have a good internal sense of probabilities, and am well-calibrated. That said, the payoffs are often confusing, and I don't have an internal sense linking "I get 35 dollars if you're right and you give me 10 dollars if I'm not" or whatever, to those probabilities. It seems like a sensible policy that if

... (read more)
3rossry2y(continued, to address a different point) B and C seem like arguments against "simple" (i.e., even-odds) bets as well as weird (e.g., "70% probability") bets, except for C's "like bets where I'm surer...about what's going on", which is addressed by A (sibling comment). Your point about differences in wealth causing different people to have different thresholds for meaningfulness is valid, though I've found that it matters much less than you'd expect in practice. It turns out that people making upwards of $100k/yr still do not feel good about opening up their wallet you give you $3. In fact, it feels so bad that if you do it more than a few times in a row, you really feel the need to examine your own calibration, which is exactly the success condition. I've found that the small ritual of exchanging pieces of paper just carries significantly more weight than would be implied by their relation to my total savings. (For this, it's surprisingly important to exchange actual pieces of paper; electronic payments make the whole thing less real, ruining the whole point.) Finally, it's hard to argue with someone's utility function, but I think that some rationalists get this one badly wrong by failing to actually multiply real numbers. For example, if you make a $10 bet (as defined in my sibling comment) every day for a year at the true probabilities, the standard decision of your profit/loss on the year is <$200, or $200/365 per day, which seems like a very small annual cost to practice being better calibrated and evaluate just how well-calibrated you are.
3rossry2yHi! I've done a fair amount of betting beliefs for fun and calibration over the years; I think most of these issues are solvable. A is a solved problem. The formulation that I (and my local social group) prefer goes like "The buyer pays $X*P% to the seller. The seller pays $X to the buyer if the event comes true." The precise payoffs aren't the important part, so long as they correspond to quoted probabilities in the correct way (and agreed sizes in a reasonable way). So this convention makes the probability you're discussing an explicit part of the bet terms, so people can discuss probabilities instead of confusing themselves with payoffs (and gives a clear upper bound for possible losses). Then you can work out exact payoffs later, after the bet resolves. (As a worked example, if you thought a probability was less than 70% and wanted to bet about $20 with me, if you "sold $20 at 70%" in the above convention, you'd either win $2070%=$14 or lose $20-($2070%)=$6. But it's even easier to see that you selling a liability of $20p(happens) for $2070% is good for you if you think p(happens)<70%.) You've right that odds are a terrible convention for betting on probabilities unless you're trying to hide the actual numbers from your counterparties (which is the norm in retail sports betting).
Tiddlywiki for organizing notes and research

Sure. It's not much right now.

I put each quote and source combo on their own tiddler, then tag it with a bunch of stuff that might help me find it later. I'll probably refine the system as I start referring back to it more.

How much background technical knowledge do LW readers have?

Wait, do people usually use the phrase "technical knowledge" to mean just math and programming? I'm to understand that you have technical knowledge in any science or tool.

"Rationalizing" and "Sitting Bolt Upright in Alarm."

FWIW, "Alice is systematically wrong [and/or poorly justified] [about X thing]" came to mind as a thing that I think would make me sit up and take note, while having the right implications.

Raemon's Shortform

I'm basically never talking about the third thing when I talk about morality or anything like that, because I don't think we've done a decent job at the first thing.

Wait, why do you think these have to be done in order?

8Benquo2yAttention is scarce and there are lots of optimization processes going on, so if you think the future is big relative to the present, interventions that increase the optimization power serving your values are going to outperform direct interventions. This doesn't imply that we should just do infinite meta, but it does imply that the value of direct object-level improvements will nearly always be via how they affect different optimizing processes.

Some beliefs of mine, I assume different from Ben's but I think still relevant to this question are:

At the very least, your ability to accomplish anything re: helping the outgroup or helping the powerless is dependent on having spare resources to do so.

There are many clusters of actions which might locally benefit the ingroup and leave the outgroup or powerless in the cold, but which then enable future generations of ingroup more ability to take useful actions to help them. i.e. if you're a tribe in the wilderness, I much rather you invent capit... (read more)

FB/Discord Style Reacts

This gif:

"Whoa there, friend, you might need to slow down"

(See also: "This is a reach", "you need to explain this more", "I don't understand why you said this", etc)

Naked mole-rats: A case study in biological weirdness

Oh, huh - I thought the Damaraland mole-rats were basically sister species of the naked mole-rats, the two most closely-related species, and so didn't consider them much. But it looks like that isn't true - they're not even the same genus. Maybe they evolved eusociality independently? Going to have to look into this, thanks!

If you wrote a letter to your future self every day, what would you put in it?

I don't think I'd put anything in it. I sort of expect all those thousands of cooperative like-minded strangers to have a better sense of their current situation than I do, and not to read emails that serve no communication purpose and that they know the contents of already.

I'm writing this with "the tired energy of a long flight" rather than fervent munchkinry, but hey, someone's gotta point out the null hypothesis.

The funnel of human experience

I haven't looked into this, but based on trends in meat consumption (richer people eat more meat), the growing human population, and factory farming as an efficiency improvement over traditional animal agriculture, I'm going to guess "most".

The funnel of human experience

You asked if he had a doctorate, and he does have a doctorate. This seems like evidence that people doing groundbreaking scientific work (at least in relatively recent times) have doctorates.

The funnel of human experience
Certainly, women can pursue knowledge. Or can they? Can men? Can anyone?

I don't know what you mean by this and suspect it's beyond the scope of this piece.

It seems fairly clear to me that on average, the “scientist” of today does far less of anything that can (without diluting the word into unrecognizability) be called “science”. It may very well be much less.

Seems possible. I don't know what the day-to-day process of past scientists was like. I wonder if something like improvements to statistics, the scientific method, etc., means that mo... (read more)

On the "who can pursue knowledge" question, it seems to me like Said's actually saying two very different things:

  • Historically a large number of people likely inclined towards pursuing scientific knowledge didn't have access to formal credentials. But this doesn't necessarily mean they didn't do science!
  • The credentialing and career system in science impedes people from pursuing scientific knowledge.

These both seem like serious critiques of the proxy you're using, similar to using "licensed therapist" as a proxy f... (read more)

8Said Achmiz3yWhat I meant by it is just what I wrote in the rest of that paragraph, not some additional mysterious philosophical question. Indeed, it may be, but then again it may not be; and if it is, then by how much? These are the important questions. Let me emphasize once again that the fact that my mother isn’t doing science is not some fluke, aberration, regrettable failing of the officially intended operation of the system, etc. Literally no one had any intention or expectation that my mother would be doing any science. That’s not why she got her doctorate, and no one within the system thinks or expects otherwise, or thinks that this is somehow a problem. Yes, someone else “in her field” (broadly speaking) could be doing science, and some people are. That changes nothing. I never said “no one with a Ph.D. in Education is doing science”. The point is that the identification between “people with Ph.D.s” and “people doing / trying to do / supposed to be doing science”, which you seem to be assuming, simply does not exist—not even ideally, not even in terms of “intent” of the system. Maybe it did once, but not anymore. Yes, the question of “how many people are there today, who have spent a long time pushing on the edges of a scientific field” is an interesting and important one. But I think that even “STEM Ph.D.s” is a poor proxy for this. (I haven’t the time right now, but I may elaborate later on why that’s the case.)
The funnel of human experience

Do you mean why did I think this analysis was worth doing at all, or something else?

The funnel of human experience

Yeah, let me unpack this a little more. Over half of PhDs are in STEM fields - 58% in 1974, and 75% in 2014, providing weak evidence that this is becoming more true over time.

Dmitri Mendeleev had a doctorate. The other two did not. I see the point you're getting at - that scientific thought is not limited to PhDs, and is older than them as an institution - but surely it also makes sense that civilization is wealthier and has more capacity than ever for people to spend their lives pursuing knowledge, and that the opportunity to do so is available to mo... (read more)

surely it also makes sense that civilization is wealthier and has more capacity than ever for people to spend their lives pursuing knowledge, and that the opportunity to do so is available to more people (women, for instance.)

I am not sure that this is true.

Certainly, women can pursue knowledge. Or can they? Can men? Can anyone? I have my doubts. You have, I don’t doubt, heard the almost-stereotypical complaints about the tenured professor’s academic activity being devoted—if not entirely, then far too close to it—to such things as grant-writing, intrad

... (read more)
9Said Achmiz3yThe English-language Wikipedia page about Mendeleev does not go into as much detail as the Russian one [,_%D0%94%D0%BC%D0%B8%D1%82%D1%80%D0%B8%D0%B9_%D0%98%D0%B2%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%B8%D1%87] . Mendeleev defended his doctoral thesis in 1865. By then, he had been teaching for nine years, and had done groundbreaking work in thermodynamics [] and crystallography []. Had Mendeleev not gotten his doctorate, or changed fields, or died before 1865, would his work of the previous decade been non-scientific? (Rhetorical question, of course, since you’ve already acknowledged my point.)
The funnel of human experience

You are super right and that is exactly what happened - I checked the numbers and had made the order of magnitude three times larger. Thanks for the sanity checks and catch. It turns out this moves the midpoint up to 1432. Lemme fix the other numbers as well.

Update: Actually, it did nothing to the midpoint, which makes sense in retrospect (maybe?) but does change the "fraction of time" thing, as well as some of the Fermi estimates in the middle.
15% of experience has actually been experienced by living people, and 28% since Kane Tanaka's birth. I've updated this here and on my blog.

Open Thread October 2018

I'm interested in collecting information on alternative platforms to facebook (that seem to offer some benefit).




If you know of others, especially though not necessarily with strong reasons for using them preferentially, I'd appreciate knowing!

1Apollo133yI've heard of an app called Vent that may help your research
-2Pattern3yI'm not sure it's the kind of platform you're looking for, but there's also Discord.
How to Build a Lumenator

Ah, okay. It looks like your lumenator is hung from normal hooks on the ceiling. But if you wanted to use command hooks like you describe, you'd have to put it on the wall, correct?

2Raemon3yDisclosure: this is actually my neighbor's lumenator and I hadn't checked which kind of hooks it uses. But yes, mine are hung from the wall. (The end result looks pretty similar)
5Raemon3ylol I should stop promising this sort of thing. []
Open Thread September 2018

How do people organize their long ongoing research projects (academic or otherwise)? I do a lot of these but think I would benefit from more of a system than I have right now.

3Vladimir_Nesov3yI write notes in a single plain text file, using the dates they are made to cite them in newer notes. There are two types of notes, brainstorming throw-away ones that maintain the process of thinking about a problem or of learning something (such as carefully reading a paper), and more lucid ones, with some re-reading value, which are marked differently and have a one-sentence summary. The notes are intended to never be made public, so that I feel free to use them to resolve any silly confusions.
An Ontology of Systemic Failures: Dragons, Bullshit Mountain, and the Cloud of Doom

I would also like to know the answers to these. I know that "injecting Slack" is a reference to Zvi's conception of Slack.

An Ontology of Systemic Failures: Dragons, Bullshit Mountain, and the Cloud of Doom

Interesting and elegant model!

I'm having trouble parsing what the Cloud of Doom is. It sounds similar to a wicked problem. Wicked problems come with the issue that there's no clear best solution, which perhaps is true of Clouds of Doom as well. On the other hand, you make two claims about wicked problems:

  • Every organization doing real work has them
  • There's one way to solve them, by adding lots of slack

I'm not sure where those are coming from, or what those imply. Examples or explanations would help.

Another thought: after the creation of v... (read more)

Load More