Richard Korzekwa

Researcher at AI Impacts.

Wiki Contributions


Why indoor lighting is hard to get right and how to fix it

I have thought about it, and I am somewhat considering one for my office. Heat and power consumption used to be a concern, but now that there are good LED floodlights available, the main issue for me, personally, is that in the spaces where I work they will tend to cast sharper shadows that I want, since most floodlights behave like small sources and you only need one or maybe two to light an area.

I'd be interested to hear about any particular arrangements you've considered!

Framing Practicum: Stable Equilibrium

The second one is interesting to me because if you increase weight by caking it in mud, the mud will break/fall/rub off, and the rock will return to its previous weight. But if you break off a piece, it will generally not return to its previous weight. Maybe a version of this that returns to equilibrium from both directions is a car? If you break a reasonable number of pieces off or put wear on the tires or burn some gas or oil, it will return to its 'equilibrium' weight via maintenance?

Framing Practicum: Stable Equilibrium
  1. The location of students in a classroom. It's been a few years since I sat in a classroom regularly, but I remember people sitting in the same seats each class, sometimes exactly, sometimes coarsely (e.g. friends sit roughly the same set of seats, with a mostly-random permutation among the group of friends). Perturbations like a one-time guest sitting in someone's seat or a chair being broken for a week will disrupt the seating arrangement, but people will return to their old seats if it doesn't last too long.

  2. Sleeping patterns. I tend to sync up with sunrise or my work schedule, but if I stay up late or wake up early or sleep poorly or something, my sleep will out of sync and eventually find its way back to where it was before.

  3. The messiness of my apartment. Sometimes I'll put in a lot of work to make it very clean and sometimes it will get very messy for some reason, but it tends to return to a relatively stable level of a little messy. Notably, the equilibrium for this has steadily shifted toward less messy as I get older.

Bonus exercise:

  1. My guess is that this is a combination of actual preferences for particular seats (close to the front vs close to the back vs close to the door, for example), a clustering effect from people wanting to sit near friends, and a desire for stability, predictability, and not taking someone else's seat. Changing which seats are desirable according to various criteria seems hard, but you might be able to overcome the desire for stability by rewarding students for sitting with different people or in different parts of the classroom for several lectures, then allowing them to do whatever they want.

  2. Now that I'm thinking about it, this is a big topic for people, but I've had luck with shifting it using melatonin and changing my evening/evening lighting.

  3. I think the equilibrium point lives where the marginal (perceived) effort of cleaning is equal to the marginal (perceived) benefit of having things tidier, minus the marginal (perceived) cost of having everything put away where I can't find it. One possibility is to change my perceptions, though I'm not sure how to do this. Another is to reduce the cost of cleaning or grabbing something that's not already sitting out in front of me, and I think having better organization can help with both of these.

The unexpected difficulty of comparing AlphaStar to humans

As far as I know, nobody has been working on SC2 AI since the 2019 experiment putting AlphaStar on the public ladder.

MIRI location optimization (and related topics) discussion

BTW, I don't imagine this is the crux of the decision, but regarding Chinese food, there is at least one restaurant which is approved by a Chinese immigrant family that I know in Austin: I'm not sure I've been to that particular place, but I have been to their house for Chinese takeout and whatever they had was pretty good

MIRI location optimization (and related topics) discussion

I do have to worry that there's a selection effect!

I imagine there is! I'm not sure how strong it is. A lot of people I know were students, so they had some choice about where to live, but only so much and leaving wasn't as easy as it could be. Others were there for tech jobs and were very much there by choice.

Where have you lived, if you don't mind my asking?

I'm mostly comparing to Los Alamos, NM and SF/Berkeley. I also lived in some other towns for college, and they seemed similarly mediocre to Los Alamos. I'm kind of meh about Whole Foods, and I think Berkeley Bowl is good, but not worth getting excited about, if that helps.

If we moved to Austin, I predict the optimal set-up will have some of MIRI in the city and some outside the city, with one of those groups commuting. But it may be hard to achieve that mostly-optimal-for-us set-up.

My guess is that living in the city and commuting out of it is less of a bummer than the other way around, but either way, commuting in Austin isn't great. It would, of course, depend on where you are in the city, and you can probably avoid the worst of it by not trying to get to downtown at 9am or whatever. As I recall, driving out of the city in the morning usually wasn't too bad.

MIRI location optimization (and related topics) discussion

You're probably right. I only ever went there for bike races, and it seemed generally pleasant. I also knew a couple that owned a coffee shop there and they seemed cool. I can definitely believe that it would be awkwardly conservative for MIRI.

MIRI location optimization (and related topics) discussion

Yeah, I mostly had HEB + Central Market in mind. I've always found HEB to be more likely to have things I want, and I think they have generally responded well to storms and the pandemic.

MIRI location optimization (and related topics) discussion

Cool! The meetup does have some parents and soon-to-be parents. I'm not totally up to speed on how the meetups are going these days, since I haven't lived there in over six months, but send me a PM, or you should be able to find it on the LW meetup database :)

MIRI location optimization (and related topics) discussion

I personally like Austin, and selfishly I would want MIRI to be either near there or near NYC. I'm not really sure how good a fit it is for MIRI, but here are my thoughts on it.


I think the overall epistemic climate in Austin is probably better than the Bay Area, but it still seems to be absorbing a lot of the illiberal, mostly left thing that's going around lately. Still, I've always found it easy to meet people there who are reasonably sane and not easily blown around by the political winds of the day. There is plenty of grey tribe culture around, and people there are more familiar with red tribe culture than in CA, but it is still mostly pretty progressive.


A very common concern about Austin is the hot weather. While I do think it's something that needs to be dealt with, I do not think it is all that bad, as weather goes. Most people who visit find it terrible, even after a week or two, but during the 10-ish years I lived there, I can only remember meeting maybe five people who, having lived there for more than a year, would strongly avoid going outside due to the heat all summer, two of which seemed to be substantially unhappy for it. Of everyone else, my estimate of the breakdown is:

  • 25% dislike the hot weather, maybe at the level of planning vacations to get away from it, but otherwise didn't seem strongly affected by it
  • 60% would prefer cooler weather, and avoid things like running or cycling during the hot part of the day, but otherwise seem perfectly fine with it
  • 15% actually enjoy the hot weather, at least on the not-super-hot days, would go for 80 mile bike rides in it, etc

The sample here is maybe 50% UT students, plus some cyclists, effective altruists, rationalists, and others, mostly between roughly 20 and 40 years old, and mostly from out of state. At least half of the people who really like hot weather are competitive cyclists.

An important thing to keep in mind about Austin is that, unlike the Bay Area, almost every building that holds humans has air conditioning, so it really is only an outside thing. The evenings are great and you never have carry a jacket between May-ish and October-ish. Overall, I don't get the impression that people find the hot Austin summers more bothersome than a typical winter in a place that gets snow.

Here are things that I personally like about Austin:

  • The LessWrong and EA community is strong. There are reliable meetups multiple times per week with interesting and fun people. Personally, I found them to result in, on average, more interesting conversations than meetups in the Bay Area.
  • It has a great live music scene, most of which is cheap (<$10) or free, and which is a mix small shows in crowded bars and huge concerts in the park in the summer.
  • SXSW is is neat. There are lots of music shows, talks, film screenings, and exhibits, a substantial portion of which do not require registration or a badge or anything. It is very crowded and makes it hard to get around the city for a couple weeks. For me this was fine because I like meeting strangers and transportation via bike isn't all that strongly impacted, but for many people who live in the city it is very, very annoying.
  • The food is good in general, and there are lots of good vegan/vegetarian options. Better grocery stores than other places I've lived
  • It has a great cycling scene, for everything from casual recreational riding to serious competitive cycling.
  • You can get in a tube to float down the river and get so engrossed in conversation that you don't notice you've just been circling around an eddy for the last 40 minutes.

Here are things I do not like about Austin:

  • Sometimes getting around is hard. You can reliably get an Uber at more-or-less any time, but traffic gets quite bad during rush hour, on game days, during SXSW, etc. It's decent, but not great for getting around on a bike, but traffic is getting worse, driving culture is getting more aggressive, and the city engineers or whoever designs infrastructure do not seem very competent to me
  • There's enough of the illiberal-left culture to be a problem sometimes. The protests/riots there were kind of bad, though very contained. The university and many of its students have very little tolerance for divergent views on many political topics. It's not too hard to avoid unpleasant encounters, but I don't feel entirely at ease discussing certain things in public or with people I do not know well
  • It is not that great for most of my preferred kind of outdoor activities. There are no proper mountains nearby and none of the parks is big enough for a solid 3+ night backpacking trip. Big Bend is great, but it's 7hrs away.

Other thoughts:

I do not think Austin feels all that calm, quiet, or close to nature. It will become more crowded, traffic will get worse, and rent will go up, but that's partly (mostly?) because smart/interesting people are moving there. The quietest neighborhoods are not bad, and depending on what you're willing to pay, there are some beautiful places to live there. If you're looking for places near Austin, but out of the city, I think Dripping Springs, Georgetown, New Braunfels/Gruene, Waco, and Wimberley seem nice. The Texas Hill Country has some great places to rent a cabin and actually get away from all the people/noise for a while.

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