Hi. I'm Gareth McCaughan. I've been a consistent reader and occasional commenter since the Overcoming Bias days. My LW username is "gjm" (not "Gjm" despite the wiki software's preference for that capitalization). Elsewehere I generally go by one of "g", "gjm", or "gjm11". The URL listed here is for my website and blog, neither of which has been substantially updated in about the last four years. I live near Cambridge (UK) and work for a small technology company in Cambridge. My business cards say "mathematician" but in practice my work is a mixture of simulation, data analysis, algorithm design, software development, problem-solving, and whatever random engineering no one else is doing. I am married and have a daughter born in mid-2006. The best way to contact me is by email: firstname dot lastname at pobox dot com. I am happy to be emailed out of the blue by interesting people. If you are an LW regular you are probably an interesting person in the relevant sense even if you think you aren't.

If you're wondering why some of my old posts and comments are at surprisingly negative scores, it's because for some time I was the favourite target of old-LW's resident neoreactionary troll, sockpuppeteer and mass-downvoter.


Open & Welcome Thread - September 2020

Apparently OpenAI has sold Microsoft some sort of exclusive licence to GPT-3. I assume this is bad for the prospects of anyone else doing serious research on it.

On Suddenly Not Being Able to Work

Here's a link to the paper whose abstract is quoted there.

Their main reported result is a bit weird: allegedly players aren't more likely to make suboptimal moves in the online tournament, but when they do their suboptimal moves are somewhat worse.

On Defining your Terms

A collection of grains of rice is a pile if and only if (1) a majority of the rice grains are supported by other grains rather than whatever surface the pile is on and (2) you can get from any grain to any other grain by stepping from grain to grain, each step happening between grains whose surfaces are no further apart than 10% of the diameter of a median rice grain in the pile.

Of course I don't claim that this is The One True Definition of "pile", but it kinda annoys me that heaps/piles have been the standard example of fuzziness about number for centuries, and everyone assumes that if you did lay down a somewhat arbitrary definition then it would be of the form "at least N objects", when in fact I think what fuzzily distinguishes piles from non-piles is something else -- you can definitely have a pile with 6 objects in it, and you can definitely have 100 objects of the same type that don't form a pile -- and one can give somewhat-plausible clear-cut definitions with no arbitrary numbers-of-objects in them.

This is mostly a mostly-irrelevant tangent, but it's maybe worth pointing out explicitly the phenomenon that when you have some notion that you leave undefined it's possible to be mistaken about what sort of notion it is. If you're having an argument about piles or heaps then you will likely go astray if you start asking "well, how many grains of rice do we need to have before we definitely have a heap?". Compare: "how complex does a nervous system have to be before we assign moral significance to the organism whose nervous system it is?" which is fairly clearly wrong in the same sort of way as treating "pile" as purely numerical.

Survey Results: 10 Fun Questions for LWers

I think that as well as noting the means and medians of the questions about "how much karma" and "how many dollars", it's worth pointing out explicitly that in both cases the modal value was zero. I think the zeros reflect, at least for some of the people saying zero, positions that are somewhat different in kind from the non-zeros. (A rejection of the very idea that you decide whether a post is worth reading by looking at its score; the opinion that there's no need at all for the book.)

That won't always be true; someone who would pay $3 for the book will probably have answered zero. Still, the fraction of zeros seems like a relevant statistic here in both those cases.

When Truth Isn't Enough

It appears to have been something like "denotation OK, connotations iffy". (Someone objects to "iffy" in one of the comments.)

The Law of Least Effort Contributes to the Conjunction Fallacy

Noted. (I take it "this one" means this post rather than requesting that I not acknowledge having read this comment.)

I don't 100% promise to comply (e.g., if I see you saying something importantly false and no one else comments on it, I might do so) but I'll leave your posts alone unless some need arises that trumps courtesy :-).

Since in connection with this you publicly slandered me over on your website, I will add that I consider your analysis there of my motives and purposes to be extremely wrong.

The Law of Least Effort Contributes to the Conjunction Fallacy

Yep, "en masse" is vague, and what it turns out curi actually did -- which is less drastic than what his use of the word "mirrored" and his past history with LW led me to assume -- was not so very en masse as I feared. My apologies, again, for not checking.

I didn't, of course, claim to know what happens in every jurisdiction; the point of my "in every jurisdiction I know of" was the reverse of what you're taking it to be.

I don't know anything much about the law in Tuvalu and Mauritius, but I believe they are both signatories to the Berne Convention, which means that their laws on copyright are probably similar to everyone else's. The Berne Convention requires signatories to permit some quotation, and its test for what exceptions are OK doesn't give a great deal of leeway to allow more (see e.g. https://www.keionline.org/copyright/berne-convention-exceptions-revisions), so the situation there is probably similar to that in the UK (which is where I happen to be and where the site you linked to is talking about).

The general rule about quoting in the UK is that you're allowed to quote the minimum necessary (which is vague, but that's not my fault, because the law is also vague). What I (wrongly) thought curi had done would not, I think, be regarded as the minimum necessary to achieve a reasonable goal. But, again, what he actually did is not what I guessed, and what he did is OK.

If someone sees something I wrote on Google and takes an interest in it, the most likely result is that they follow Google's link and end up in the place where I originally wrote it, where they will see it in its original context. If someone sees something I wrote that curi has "mirrored" on his own site, the most likely result is that they see whatever curi has chosen to quote, along with his (frequently hostile) comments of which I may not even be aware since I am not a regular there, and comments from others there (again, likely hostile; again, of which I am not aware).

None of that means that curi shouldn't be allowed to quote what I said (to whatever extent is required for reasonable criticism and review, etc.) but I hope it makes it clearer why I might be more annoyed by curi's "mirroring" than Google's.

(Thanks for the update; as it happens I didn't see your comment until after you posted it. Not that there's any reason why you need care, but I approve of how you handled that.)

The Law of Least Effort Contributes to the Conjunction Fallacy

I had not looked, at that point; I took "mirrored" to mean taking copies of whole discussions, which would imply copying other people's writing en masse. I have looked, now. I agree that what you've put there so far is probably OK both legally and morally.

My apologies for being a bit twitchy on this point; I should maybe explain for the benefit of other readers that the last time curi came to LW, he did take a whole pile of discussion from the LW slack and copy it en masse to the publicly-visible internet, which is one reason why I thought it plausible he might have done the same this time.

The Law of Least Effort Contributes to the Conjunction Fallacy

Quoting is a copyright violation in every jurisdiction I know of, if it's done en masse. Evidence to the contrary, please?

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