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.

Wiki Contributions


Frame Control

I guess that's addressed to me?

I have not knowingly been "influenced by Aella" in any sense other than having read a few things she wrote and, so far as I can recall (which is not very far) found them interesting.

I find that I am not sure I believe you when you say "No affiliation". I'm not sure there's anything useful you can do with this information, which I regret, but you might want to know that the impression you're giving is very much not one of honesty and reliability.

Frame Control

While you're making accusations about "having an agenda with the leverage/paradigm thing": would you kindly disclose any connection you have with Leverage/Paradigm/Geoff?

(I reckon p=0.2 you are Literal Geoff Anders, and p=0.65 you are some other Leverage-associated person trying to do damage control.)

Also: you apparently consider that any time Aella talks about anything she has unfairly outsized influence because of being "a smart rationalist porn star" etc. etc. -- but what's she supposed to do about this? Never say anything about anything for fear of being too persuasive?

Let's suppose you're right that this is really all about Leverage, and look at some parallels. Geoff Anders is, by all accounts, charismatic and persuasive. He has an "aspirational narrative" of his own (I dunno, maybe he's abandoned it lately in the light of the bad publicity Leverage has had?) about understanding psychology better and developing better mental tools and saving the world. If everything you say about Aella's unfair advantages in persuasion is true, and if she's setting herself against Leverage ... well, it sounds like a fair fight to me overall, even if Leverage is now not well placed to defend itself. Geoff had more power in the past; maybe Aella has more power now; if Aella thinks Geoff is still trying to do harm, why shouldn't she try to stop that using the advantages she (allegedly) has that are parallel to the advantages that helped Geoff do harm in the past?

(Since this has become super-confrontational, my own position: Leverage sounds super-sketchy to me but I have no personal experience with them and I am not physically on the same continent as them; the tweet from Geoff Anders linked in the OP is obviously every bit as bad as Aella says it is and would on its own suffice to convince me that I never ever want to have anything to do with the person who made it; I am a heterosexual man but have literally no idea what Aella looks like and am therefore unlikely to be being influenced much by her alleged hotness or pornstarriness; I agree that OP can itself be seen as an instance of attempted "frame control" and that in some sense "frame control" is happening all the time in a large fraction of interactions; I think it is none the less valuable to have (1) a term for that thing and (2) more common knowledge that it's a thing that can be done abusively, which it absolutely is.)

Omicron Variant Post #1: We’re F***ed, It’s Never Over

The Times of India claims that the chairwoman of the South African Medical Association claims that Omicron is producing only "mild disease". There are lots of ways for that to turn out to be wrong, but if it's true it might be very good news: a new variant that's infectious enough to take over quickly and that does hardly any damage when it infects you.

French long COVID study: Belief vs Infection

It seems (on the basis of what you say here; I haven't looked at the actual study) as if everything is consistent with the following situation:

  • "Long COVID" symptoms other than anosmia/parosmia are caused by believing you have had COVID-19.
  • Actually having COVID-19 makes you more likely to believe you have had COVID-19.
  • This is how it comes about that "having COVID on average gives you ~0.2 persistent symptoms vs not having COVID".

Does the study give detailed enough numbers to distinguish this scenario from one where the disease causes the symptoms by "non-psychological" mechanisms?

The Meta-Puzzle

Relevant post from the Sequences: The Parable of the Dagger. (It's not making the exact same point as this one, but it's in the same territory.)

Awesome-github Post-Scarcity List

I did find the awesome-list github repo, but didn't have the cultural context of "awesome list" just meaning "list of things I am impressed by". If I had looked more carefully at the github repo I would have seen that it says "a list of awesome things" and should at that point have figured out what's going on.

It seems a pity to confuse "list that is awesome" with "list of things that are awesome", but I guess what's done is done.

Awesome-github Post-Scarcity List

I don't have any problem with the content of your list. I just don't like the boasty self-promotional feel of titling a thing "awesome". It feels like it would feel if I made my LW username "gjm, who is very intelligent", or if I went to buy a dictionary and found that they all had names like "The Best English Dictionary". To me, "awesome" is a label for other people to attach to you or your work, if they're impressed, not something you put on your own work to promote it. Not least because "the person who made this thinks it's good" conveys much less information than "some other people think this is good".

I can see that my comment got a downvote, so clearly at least one person doesn't feel that way :-). Maybe it's a cultural thing? I'm in the UK, where there's a general tradition of self-deprecation and irony and the like; I have the impression that things are a bit different in e.g. the US.

Awesome-github Post-Scarcity List

"Awesome"? Really?

I had a quick look at the list. It seems like it's probably a good list. But it didn't inspire awe. Nor did it make me go "wow, this is a startlingly good list", which seems like it should be a minimal criterion for calling something "awesome".

(I wondered whether maybe "Awesome" is the name of a list-making app or something, but it doesn't look like it. It does seem to be the name of a badge thing that some people attach to lists they've made. There's a curated central repository of lists-with-this badge, but 1. it has thousands of lists on it and 2. this "post-scarcity list" doesn't seem to be done of them.)

Hey lsusr, I notice that you quoted something I wrote, but that

  • you deleted the bit where I put "(steven0461 suggests)", to make it look as if I was endorsing a position that I was only describing
  • neither steven0461's comments which I was trying to clarify, nor what I said about them, are in any way examples of the process you describe immediately before quoting me without further comment
  • your argument suddenly goes a bit weird just before the quotation, as if you had to warp it a bit to shoehorn the quotation in and make it look superficially as if it applies

Now on the one hand this is a lovely example of the point you go on to make next -- how something can be strictly accurate (I did write the words you attributed to me in the order in which you gave them) but still be dishonest propaganda (I was describing, not endorsing, and in any case none of what I said is an example of the harmful, irrational, intellectually corrupting processes you are describing at the point where you drop in a quotation from me).

But on the other hand, could we maybe _not_ do that sort of thing here?

(An earlier draft of this comment went into more detail about why I think what you did is dishonest, why I don't think what you quoted is in any way a good illustration of what you're writing about immediately before you quote it, etc., but it was long and boring and angrier than I think is conducive to productive discussion, and on reflection I think that you will likely not have any difficulty understanding what I am objecting to. But if somehow you actually think, on looking again, that what you did was honest and/or that what you quoted really is an example of the processes you describe, let me know and I'll try to clarify.)

[EDITED to fix formatting; no changes in actual content]

Thomas Kwa's Shortform

He certainly looks like one to my (itself rather inexpert) eye.

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