All of Giles's Comments + Replies

I've got a few people interested in an effective altruism version of this, plus a small database of cards. Suggestions on how to proceed?

Get some blank playing cards with two different backs (eg blue [] and red []), write them down, and start playing. At first you may need to mix it with CAH to have a big enough card pool. Once you've played a few games and gotten a sense for which cards work well and which work poorly, filter out the bad ones and iterate. (There are some EA memes in Rationality Cardinality, though they don't dominate the card pool.)

I got the same piece of advice - to think about things in terms of "wants" rather than "shoulds" or "have tos" - from someone outside the LW bubble, but in the context of things like doing my tax returns.

Yeah, as a matter of fact I've been applying the "think in terms of wants" to things like tax returns as well, but I didn't want to get into that since it'd have been a different topic.

She teaches social skills to nerds at CFAR workshops. She has an incredibly positive view of humanity and of what people are capable of, and meeting her massively increased the size of my reference class for what a rational person is like.

LW Women Submissions

a call for anonymous submissions by the women on LW

Seven women submitted

uh... could this be rephrased?

I'm a very satisfied customer from the March workshop. The biggest win for me has been with social skills - it turns out that anxiety had been making me stupid, and that if I de-stress then whole new parts of my brain spring into action. And that was just one of a large number of practical insights. I was amazed at both how much CFAR know about how we can use our brains effectively, and at how much they were able to teach over 4 days. Really impressive, well-run effort with a buzz of "this is where it's happening".

I promised I'd write about this in more detail, so stay tuned!

The best thing about this was that there was very little status dynamic within the CFAR house - we were all learning together as equals.

  • Agree with purchasing non-sketchiness signalling and utilons separately. This is especially important if like jkaufman a lot of your value comes as an effective altruist role model

  • Agree that if diversification is the only way to get the elephant to part with its money then it might make sense.

  • Similarly, if you give all your donations to a single risky organization and they turn out to be incompetent then it might demotivate your future self. So you should hedge against this, which again can be done separately from purchasing the highest-expected-valu

... (read more)

I can imagine having a preference for saving at least X lives

I feel like you've got a point here but I'm not quite getting it. Our preferences are defined over outcomes, and I struggle to see how "saving X lives" can be seen as an outcome - I see outcomes more along the lines of "X number of people are born and then die at age 5, Y number of people are born and then die at age 70". You can't necessarily point to any individual and say whether or not they were "saved".

I generally think of "the utility of saving 6 lives&... (read more)

I felt like I gained one insight, which I attempted to summarize in my own words in this comment.

It also slightly brought into focus for me the distinction between "theoretical decision processes I can fantasize about implementing" and "decision processes I can implement in practice by making minor tweaks to my brain's software". The first set can include self-less models such as paperclip maximization or optimizing those branches where I win the lottery and ignoring the rest. It's possible that in the second set a notion of self just k... (read more)

I can imagine that if you design an agent by starting off with a reinforcement learner, and then bolting some model-based planning stuff on the side, then the model will necessarily need to tag one of its objects as "self". Otherwise the reinforcement part would have trouble telling the model-based part what it's supposed to be optimizing for.

It seems to me like this would be needed even if there was only the model-based part: if the system has actuators, then these need to be associated with some actuators in the 3rd-person model; if the system has sensors, then these need to be associated with sensors in the 3rd-person model. Once you know every physical fact about the universe, you still need to know "which bit is you" on top of that, if you are an agent.
Thanks, that's what I was trying to say.
I was told to divide in parts before. I may republish it in that form if people would like it. The problem was that several sections are too dependant on others, and those I asked before thought it was worse in parts than as a whole.

Incidentally, in case it's useful to anyone... The way I originally processed the $112M figure (or $68M as it then was), was something along the lines of:

  • $68M pledged
  • apply 90% cynicism
  • that gives $6.8M
  • that's still way too large a number to represent actual ROI from $170K worth of volunteer time
  • how can I make this inconvenient number go away?
  • aha! This is money that's expected to roll in over the next several decades. We really have no idea what the EA movement will turn into over that time, so should apply big future discounting when it comes to estim

... (read more)

This implies immediately that 75-80% haven't, and in practise that number will be higher care of the self-reporting. This substantially reduces the likely impact of 80,000 hours as a program.

Reduces it from what? There's a point at which it's more cots effective to just find new people than carrying on working to persuade existing ones. My intuition doesn't say much about whether this happy point is above or below 25%.

Good point about self-reporting potentially exaggerating the impact though.

The pledging back-of-the-envelope calculation got me curious, because I had been assuming GWWC wouldn't flat out lie about how much had been pledged (they say "We currently have 291 members ... who together have pledged more than 112 million dollars" which implies an actual total not an estimate).

On the other hand, it's just measuring pledges, it's not an estimate of how much money anyone expects to actually materialise. It hadn't occurred to me that anyone would read it that way - I may be mistaken here though, in which case there's a genuine is... (read more)

Incidentally, in case it's useful to anyone... The way I originally processed the $112M figure (or $68M as it then was), was something along the lines of: * $68M pledged * apply 90% cynicism * that gives $6.8M * that's still way too large a number to represent actual ROI from $170K worth of volunteer time * how can I make this inconvenient number go away? * aha! This is money that's expected to roll in over the next several decades. We really have no idea what the EA movement will turn into over that time, so should apply big future discounting when it comes to estimating our impact (note it looks like Will was more optimistic [], applying 67% cynicism to get from $400 to $130)

I love the landmine metaphor - it blows up in your face and it's left over from some ancient war.

Not always from some ancient war.

Did he mean if they're someone else's fault then you have to fix the person?


You also know your own results aren't fraudulent.

You know that you, personally, are not being deliberately, knowingly fraudulent. That says nothing about your assistants, nor the possibility of subconscious biases ("I really want this to be true" and "I KNOW this is true, I just have to prove it to those fools at the academy!" and "Who has the last laugh NOW Mr. Bond?!")

That experiment has changed Latham's opinion of priming and has him wondering now about the applications for unconscious primes in our daily lives.

He seems to have skipped right over the part where he wonders why he and Bargh see one thing and other people see something different. Do people update far more strongly on evidence if it comes from their own lab?

Also, yay priming! (I don't want this comment to sound negative about priming as such)

This strikes me as a special case of the principal that people update more strongly on evidence they directly observe.
This isn't a completely unreasonable thing to do. For one thing, you have much more knowledge about the methodology of experiments conducted in your lab.

2 sounds wrong to me - like you're trying to explain why having a consistent internal belief structure is important to someone who already believes that.

The things which would occur to me are:

  • If both of you are having reactions like this then you're dealing with status, in-group and out-group stuff, taking offense, etc. If you can make it not be about that and be about the philosophical issues - if you can both get curious - then that's great. But I don't know how to make that happen.
  • Does your friend actually have any contradictory beliefs? Do they beli
... (read more)

This may appear self-evident to you, but not necessarily to your "socially progressive" friend. Can you make a convincing case for it?

Remember you have to make a convincing case without using stuff like logic

Hence what I said, start with something they both can agree on, like whether making accurate models of reality is important for effective social justice.

Not that I know of

Any advice on how to set one up? In particular how to add entries to it retrospectively - I was thinking about searching the comments database for things like "I intend to", "guard against", "publication bias" etc. and manually find the relevant ones. This is somewhat laborious, but the effect I want to avoid is "oh I've just finished my write-up (or am just about to), now I'll go and add the original comment to the anti-publication bias registry".

On the other hand it seems like anyone can safely... (read more)

A reasonable assumption, but alas, false! I don't think I have anything useful to add to this. Sorry!

This is interesting. People who are vulnerable to the donor illusion either have some of their money turned into utilons, or are taught a valuable lesson about the donor illusion, possibly creating more utilons in the long term.

This is useful to me as I'll be attending the March workshop. If I successfully digest any of the insights presented here then I'll have a better platform to start from. (Two particular points are the stuff about the parasympathetic nervous system, which I'd basically never heard of before, and the connection between the concepts of "epistemic rationality" and "knowing about myself" which is more obvious-in-retrospect).

Thanks for the write-up!

And yes, I'll stick up at least a brief write-up of my own after I'm done. Does LW have an anti-publication-bias registry somewhere?

Not that I know of, but that does sound quite awesome. I look forward to meeting you, Giles!

There's probably better stuff around, but it made me think of Hanson's comments in this thread:

There's probably better stuff around, but it made me think of Hanson's comments in this thread:

In particular, this one []. Thanks for pointing those out!

just because a computer is doing something that a human could not do without understanding does not mean the computer must be understanding it as well

I think linking this concept in my mind to the concept of the Chinese Room might be helpful. Thanks!

As part of Singularity University's acquisition of the Singularity Summit, we will be changing our name and ...

OK, this is big news. Don't know how I missed this one.

Appoint a chief editor. Chief's most important job would be to maintain a list of what most urgently needs adding or expanding in the wiki, and posting a monthly Discussion post reminding people about these. (Maybe choosing a different theme each month and listing a few requested edits in that category, together with a link to the wiki page that contains the full list).

When people make these changes, they can add a comment and chief editor (or some other high status figure) will respond with heaps of praise.

People will naturally bring up any other topics t... (read more)

Do you think "ugh" should be listed as a response to survey questions? (Or equivalently a check box that says "I've left some answers blank due to ugh field rather than due to not reading the question" - not possible with the current LW software, just brainstorming)

That's not a bad idea-- possibly a short version would be "I don't want to think about the subject".

My answer for Exercise would be "I am trying this hack right now and so the results haven't come in yet" (so I answered "write-in").

I answered "I feel I should try" for lukeprog's algorithm, but it's really more of a "I'll put it on my list of hacks to try at some point, but with low priority as there's a whole bunch of others I should try first".

I like the title too, especially as it gives no information about what the survey is going to be about. (Still might be distorted as people's productivity experiences might correlate with how much time they spend filling in surveys on LW... but not sure there's much that we can do about that)

and if the AI can tell if its in a simulation vs the real world then its not really a test at all.

The AI would probably assign at least some probability to "the humans will try to test me first, but do a poor job of it so I can tell whether I'm in a sim or not"

If I understand Will's response correctly (under "Earmarking"), it's best to think of GWWC, 80K, EAA and LYCS as separate organizations (at least in terms of whose money will be used for what, which is what really matters). I don't know if this addresses your concern though.

I admit it makes the actual physical donation process look slightly clunky (no big shiny donate button), but my impression is they're not targeting casual donors so much so this may not be such a problem.

This is really detailed, and exceeded my expectations! Thank you!

Thank you!

Oh wow, totally wasn't expecting you to go ahead and answer that particular list of questions. Thanks for being so proactive!

Questions 7-11 aren't really relevant to FHI. Question 16 is relevant (at least the the "are there other orgs similar to you?" part) but I'm guessing you'd answer no to that?

The other answers are helpful, thanks!

Other orgs similar: SIA, the group in Cambridge which may be founded, some governmental and corporate future-predicting think tanks. But none of them are really that similar.

Actually, the relevant thing isn't whether it's superlinear but whether a large AI/firm is more innovative than a set of smaller ones with the same total size. I was assuming that the latter would be linear, but it's probably actually sublinear as you'd expect different AIs/firms to be redundantly researching the same thing.

Big thank you to Hanson for helping illuminate what it is he thinks they're actually disagreeing about, in this comment:

Eliezer, it may seem obvious to you, but this is the key point on which we've been waiting for you to clearly argue. In a society like ours, but also with one or more AIs, and perhaps ems, why would innovations discovered by a single AI not spread soon to the others, and why would a non-friendly AI not use those innovations to trade, instead of war?

Just a thought: given a particular state-of-the-art, does an AI's innovation rate scale... (read more)

Actually, the relevant thing isn't whether it's superlinear but whether a large AI/firm is more innovative than a set of smaller ones with the same total size. I was assuming that the latter would be linear, but it's probably actually sublinear as you'd expect different AIs/firms to be redundantly researching the same thing.

the only person so far to actually answer the goddamn prompt

What's worse is I wasn't even consciously aware that I was doing that. I'll try and read posts more carefully in the future!

OK - I wasn't too sure about how these ones should be worded.

Another dimension: value discovery.

  • Fantastic: There is a utility function representing human values (or a procedure for determining such a function) that most people (including people with a broad range of expertise) are happy with.
  • Pretty good: Everyone's values are different (and often contradict each other), but there is broad agreement as to how to aggregate preferences. Most people accept FAI needs to respect values of humanity as a whole, not just their own.
  • Sufficiently good: Many important human values contradict each other, with no "best" solution to those conflicts. Most people agree on the need for a compromise but quibble over how that compromise should be reached.
I'm tempted to add: *Not So Good: the FAI team, or one team member, takes over the world. (Imagine an Infinite Doom spell [] done right.)
Agree with your Fantastic but disagree with how you arrange the others... it wouldn't be rational to favor a solution which satisfies others' values in larger measure at the expense of one's own values in smaller measure. If the solution is less than Fantastic, I'd rather see a solution which favors in larger measure the subset of humanity with values more similar to my own, and in smaller measure the subset of humanity whose values are more divergent from my own. I know, I'm a damn, dirty, no good egoist. But you have to admit that in principle egoism is more rational than altruism.

I like how you've partitioned things up into IA/government/status/memes/prediction/xrisk/security and given excellent/good/ok options for each. This helps imagine mix-and-match scenarios, e.g. "FAI team has got good at security but sucks at memes and status".

A few quick points:

The fantastic list has 8 points and the others have 7 (as there are two "government" points). This brings me on to...

Should there be a category for "funding"? The fantastic/good/ok options could be something like:

  • Significant government funding and/or F
... (read more)
I'll add this, and the one from your other comment. (By the way, thank you for being the only person so far to actually answer the goddamn prompt!)

Another donation opportunity came up recently, which I responded to with a big long list of questions and I'll put the answers up when I get them. People seemed to like this approach - can we do something similar for the FHI?

Some thoughts:

  • Are the people at FHI going to be too busy to answer this kind of stuff?
  • Are they likely to be limited in how candid they can be with their answers if the answers are going to be made public?
  • I'm guessing Stuart or Sean would be the people you'd recommend talking to?

I'll give a small attempt at answering some of the questions (I know little from the financial side, alas)

1 What would you do with different funding levels?

Hire more people, put current people on longer contracts, not have current people writing grant applications or slavishly following the requirements of the grants they currently are on (which would probably mean an increased AI-risk focus)

2 How much money are you expecting?

No idea.

3 Which is more useful, regular donations or lump sums?

Generally interchangeable; regular donations with a defin... (read more)

Always! But we can try... Probably not. We don't have any interesting secrets. Sean is even more busy than me, so I'd recommend - gulp - talking to me.

Note that the Tides Foundation is not the same thing as CEA. I'm not sure what CEA's exact relationship is with the Tides Foundation - I'll add this to the list of questions.

My guess would be that the relationship to Tides is necessary in order to get US tax deductability (CEA is based in the UK), and that splitting off 80K and GWWC from each other wouldn't help with that. I will ask though.

How many of them wouldn't believe it if it wasn't working?

Just to be clear, I assume we're talking about the second order Peano axioms here?

Heh - I'm amazed at how many things in this post I alternately strongly agree or strongly disagree with.

It’s important to distinguish between the numeral “2″, which is a formal symbol designed to be manipulated according to formal rules, and the noun “two”, which appears to name something

OK... I honestly can't comprehend how someone could simultaneously believe that "2" is just a symbol and that "two" is a blob of pure meaning. It suggests the inferential distances are actually pretty great here despite a lot of surface similariti... (read more)

But we don't need to use the full strength of set theory (or anything like it), so it might still be an improvement. Though I think there are still other problems.

I'm not quite sure what you're saying here - that "Numbers" don't exist as such but "the even naturals" do exist?

I think s/he is saying there is no Essence of Numberhood beyond satisfaction of the PA's.

I assume that if a statistically significant number of people noticed that they were trying sympathetic magic and it was working, then the simulation would have to be restarted or tweaked since it could alter the history of the world in significant ways. So you might want to plan out that aspect of your strategy before collecting any data.

We're already living in a world where huge numbers of people believe sympathetic magic is working.
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