I don't think that nudgers are consequentialists who also try to accurately account for public psychology. I think 99% of the time they are doing something for non-consequentialist reasons, and using public psychology as a rationalization. Ezra Klein pretty explicitly cares about advancing various political factions above mere policy outcomes, IIRC on a recent 80,000 Hours podcast Rob was trying to talk about outcomes and Klein ignored him to say that it's bad politics.
I understand, I think we have an honest disagreement here. I'm not saying that the media is cringe in an attempt to make it so, as a meta move. I honestly think that the current prestige media establishment is beyond reform, a pure appendage of power. It's impact can grow weaker or stronger, but it will not acquire honesty as a goal (and in fact, seems to be giving up even on credibility). In any case, this disagreement is beyond the scope of your essay. What I learn from it is to be more careful of calling things cringe or whatever in my own speech, and to see this sort of thing as an attack on the social reality plane rather than an honest report of objective reality.
Other people have commented here that journalism is in the business of entertainment, or in the business of generating clicks etc. I think that's wrong. Journalism is in the business of establishing the narrative of social reality. Deciding what's a gaffe and who's winning, who's "controversial" and who's "respected", is not a distraction from what they do. It's the main thing.So it's weird to frame this is "politics is way too meta". Too meta for whom? Politicians care about being elected, so everything they say is by default simulacrum level 3 and up. Jo... (read more)
I think it's good to be really cynical about the media as it exists today. I'm not sure it's good to be cynical about the-media-two-years-from-now — that has something of the property of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I have my own personal sense of how likely it is that the media will suddenly turn over a new leaf tomorrow, but since it might turn out to be easier than I think, I won't start the conversation by stating that. Instead, I'll mention some of the specific forces I think create the status quo:
A cruxy thing for me is "Is the current regime of journalism representative of all eras of journalism?". Was there a time when journalism was more in touch with object-level reality, even if it was still largely or primarily about social reality?
On one hand, I can think of examples of yellow journalism and other social-reality-oriented writing from Awhile Ago. On other hand, the current news cycle seems much worse than the new cycle from 50 years ago. I have stories in my head about how the first TV broadcast presidential debate shifted the focus from "who... (read more)
I agree that advertising revenue is not an immediate driving force, something like "justifying the use of power by those in power" is much closer to it and advertising revenue flows downstream from that (because those who are attracted to power read the Times).
I loved the rest of Viliam's comment though, it's very well written and the idea of the eigen-opinion and being constrained by the size of your audience is very interesting.
Here's my best model of the current GameStop situation, after nerding out about it for two hours with smart friends. If you're enjoying the story as a class warfare morality play you can skip this, since I'll mostly be talking finance. I may all look really dumb or really insightful in the next few days, but this is a puzzle I wanted to figure out. I'm making this public so posterity can judge my epistemic rationality skillz — I don't have a real financial stake either way.
Summary: The longs are playing the short game, the shorts are playing the long game.... (read more)
This is a self-review, looking back at the post after 13 months.I have made a few edits to the post, including three major changes:1. Sharpening my definition of what counts as "Rationalist self-improvement" to reduce confusion. This post is about improved epistemics leading to improved life outcomes, which I don't want to conflate with some CFAR techniques that are basically therapy packaged for skeptical nerds.2. Addressing Scott's "counterargument from market efficiency" that we shouldn't expect to invent easy self-improvement techniques that haven't be... (read more)
Trade off to a promising start :P
There's a whole lot to respond to here, and it may take the length of Surfing Uncertainty to do so. I'll point instead to one key dimension.You're discussing PP as a possible model for AI, whereas I posit PP as a model for animal brains. The main difference is that animal brains are evolved and occur inside bodies.
Evolution is the answer to the dark room problem. You come with prebuilt hardware that is adapted a certain adaptive niche, which is equivalent to modeling it. Your legs are a model of the shape of the ground and the size of your evolutionary ter... (read more)
Off the top of my head, here are some new things it adds:
1. You have 3 ways of avoiding prediction error: updating your models, changing your perception, acting on the world. Those are always in play and you often do all three in some combination (see my model of confirmation bias in action).2. Action is key, and it shapes and is shaped by perception. The map you build of any territory is prioritized and driven by the things you can act on most effectively. You don't just learn "what is out there" but "what can I do with it".3. You care about prediction ov... (read more)
The new strain has been confirmed in the US and the vaccine rollout is still sluggish and messed up, so the above are in effect. The trades I made so far are buying out-of-the-money calls on VXX (volatility) and puts on USO (oil) and JETS (airlines) all for February-March. I'll hold until the market has a clear, COVID related drop or until these options all expire worthless and I take the cap gains write-off. And I'm HODLing all crypto although that's not particularly related to COVID. I'm not in any way confident that this is wise/useful, but people asked.
I don't think it was that easy to get to the saturated end with the old strain. As I remember, the chance of catching COVID from a sick person in your household was only around 20-30%, and at superspreader events it was still just a small minority of total attendees that were infected.
The VXX is basically at multi-year lows right now, so one of the following is true:1. Markets think that the global economy is very calm and predictable right now.2. I'm misunderstanding an important link between "volatility = unpredictability of world economics" and "volatility = premium on short-term SP500 options".
Some options and their 1-year charts:JETS - Airline ETF
XLE - Energy and oil company ETF
AWAY - Travel tech (Expedia, Uber) ETF
Which would you buy put options on, and with what expiration?
Those are good points. I think competition (real and potential) is always at least worth considering in any question of business, and I was surprised the OP didn't even mention it. But yes, I can imagine situations where you operate with no relevant competition.
But this again would make me think that pricing and the story you tell a client is strictly secondary to finding these potential clients in the first place. If they were the sort of people who go out seeking help you'd have competition, so that means you have to find people who don't advertise their need. That seems to be the main thing the author doing and the value they're providing: finding people who need recruitment help and don't realize it.
This pricing makes sense if your only competition is your client just going at it by themselves, in which case you clearly demonstrate that you offer a superior deal. But job seekers have a lot of consultants/agencies/headhunters they can turn to and I'd imagine your price mostly depends on the competition. In the worst case, you not only lose good clients to cheaper competition, but get an adverse selection of clients who would really struggle to find a job in 22 weeks and so your services are cheap/free for them.
This statement for example:> Motivating you to punish things is what that part of your brain does, after all; it’s not like it can go get another job!I'm coming more from a predictive processing / bootstrap learning / constructed emotion paradigm in which your brain is very flexible about building high-level modules like moral judgment and punishment. The complex "moral brain" that you described is not etched into our hardware and it's not universal, it's learned. This means it can work quite differently or be absent in some people, and in others it can... (read more)
I've come across a lot of discussion recently about self-coercion, self-judgment, procrastination, shoulds, etc. Having just read it, I think this post is unusually good at offering a general framework applicable to many of these issues (i.e., that of the "moral brain" taking over). It's also peppered with a lot of nice insights, such as why feeling guilty about procrastination is in fact moral licensing that enables procrastination.
While there are many parts of the posts that I quibble with (such as the idea of the "moral brain" as an invariant specialized module), this post is a great standalone introduction and explanation of a framework that I think is useful and important.
But if evidence of that regrettable night is all over the internet, that is much worse. You then likely have a lot of other regrettable nights. College acceptances are rescinded, jobs lost.
I have a major quibble with this prediction. Namely my model is that the regrettability of nights, and moral character of people, is always graded on a curve, not absolutely.
Colleges still need to admit students. Employers still need employees. In a world where everyone smokes weed in high school but this is known about only 5% of students, it makes sense for j... (read more)
The GNW theory has been kicking about for at least two decades, and this book has been published in 2014. Given this it is almost shocking that the idea wasn't written up on LW before giving it's centrality to any understanding of rationality. Shocking but perhaps fortunate, since Kaj has given it a thorough and careful treatment that enables the reader both to understand the idea and evaluate its merits (and almost certainly to save the purchase price of the book).First, on GNW itself. A lot of the early writing on rationality used the simplified system 1... (read more)
D'oh. I'm dumb.
EDIT: The Treacherous Path was published in 2020 so never mind.
Thank you (and to alkjash) for the nomination!
I guess I'm not supposed to nominate things I wrote myself, but this post, if published, should really be read along with The Treacherous Path to Rationality. I hope someone nominates that too.
This post is an open invitation to everyone (such as the non-LWers who may read the books to join us). The obvious question is whether this actually works for everyone, and the latter post makes the case for the opposite-mood. I think that in conjunction... (read more)
Do you have trouble writing for short periods of time, or do you have enough long chunks of free time that there's no use for small chunks?
If my life was so busy that I couldn't even find 4-5 hourlong chunks throughout the week I probably wouldn't blog at all. I sometimes write in 15-20 minute bits while in the office (remember those?) but almost every single post took a multi-hour chunk to come together.
Yes, really smart domain experts were smarter and earlier but, as you said, they mostly kept it to themselves. Indeed, the first rationalists picked up COVID worry from private or unpublicized communication with domain experts, did the math and sanity checks, and started spreading the word. We did well on COVID not by outsmarting domain experts, but by coordinating publicly on what domain experts (especially any with government affiliations) kept private.
We didn't get COVID, for starters. I live in NYC, where approximately 25% of the population got sick but no rationalists that I'm aware of did.
I'm actually confused by that response, and I don't think it's really part of your best attempt to explain what you meant by 'rationalists pwned covid'. I'll try to explain why I'm unimpressed with that response below, but I think we're in danger of getting into a sort of 'point-scoring' talking past each other. Obviously there were a few rhetorical flourishes in my original response, but I think the biggest part of what I'm trying to say is that the actual personal benefits to most people of being ahead of the curve on thinking about the pandemic were pre... (read more)
If I, a rationalist atheist, was in Francis Bacon's shoes I would 100% live my life in such a way that history books would record me as being a "devout Anglican".
The longer (i.e., more iterations) you spend in the shaded triangles of defection the more you'll be pulled to the defect-defect equilibrium as a natural reaction to what the other person is doing and the outcome you're getting. The longer you spend in the middle "wedge of cooperation", the more you'll end moving up and to the right in Pareto improvements. So we want to make that wedge bigger.The size of that wedge is determined by the ratio of a player's outcome from C-C to their outcome in D-D. In this case the ratio is 2:1, so the wedge is between the s... (read more)
Here's what I wrote about coordinated moving when Raymond was talking about leaving the Bay for a while:
"Coordinated moving seems hard. It seems unlikely to happen. But, I think that uncoordinated moving can end up quite coordinated.
If I'm thinking of leaving Brooklyn, I have 10,000 small towns to choose from. If [Zvi, or Ray, or anyone like that] publicizes which one he goes to after doing research, that town is immediately in my top 10 options I'll actually consider. Not just because I'd want to live near [Zvi/Ray] and I trust h... (read more)
Let me know if this matches — the way I understand it is that level 3 is often about signaling belonging to a group, and level 4 is about shaping how well different belonging signal works.
Level 1: "Believe all women" = If a woman accuses someone of sexual assault, literally believe her.
Level 2: "Believe all women" = I want accusations of sexual assault to be taken more seriously.
Level 3: "Believe all women" = I'm part of the politically progressive tribe that takes sexual assault seriously.
Level 4: "Believe... (read more)
People ask what the goal of the Rationalist community is. It's to raise the sanity waterline. To flood the cities with sanity. To wash the streets with pure reason. To engulf the land in common sense. And when our foes, gasping for air, scream "this literally can't be happening!" we'll remind them that 0 and 1 are not probabilities.
In science we have standards for what qualifies as evidence. In increasing order of respectability, we have personal opinion, expert opinion, case reports, cohort studies, RCTs, and meta-analyses.
And then if none of those work, we use what's known as an 'SSC lit review'.
If you die at age 90, you died prematurely relative to what we'd expect a month before you died, but (postmaturely? it should be a word) relative to what we'd expect and bet on 80 years before your death (i.e., at age 10).
Now, you may still think there's a paradox in the following sense: let's say the median lifespan expected at birth is 70. That means that the 50% of people who died before 70 died prematurely relative to all predictions made throughout their lives, while for the remaining 50% some of the predictions were too pessimist... (read more)
A smart friend pointed me to this study that explains that mediocre antivirals only work if administered right after infection. By the onset of symptoms the effect is already much reduced. (The study isn't clear as to what counts as "symptoms" except that they occurred 3 days before hospitalization, so maybe early warning signs like loss of smell don't count). HCQ is, at best, a mediocre antiviral. https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.04.20047886v1
This model agrees with a new study from China (N=150... (read more)
As a follow up on the media angle, here's something I posted on my Facebook:
We're going to see a lot of research on hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin (HC&A), among other drugs, coming out in the next few weeks from around the world. HC&A is already the standard of care in several countries, in part because the drugs are cheap and widely available and in part because early results are promising. The combined evidence of these studies may show that other treatments are better as a first choice, or that HC&A is better, or that it depen... (read more)
I just thought of this in the context of this study on hydroxychloroquine in which 14/15 patients on the drug improved vs 13/15 patients treated with something else. To the average Joe, HCQ curing 14/15 people is an amazing positive result, and it's heartening to know that other antivirals are almost as good. To the galaxy-brained journalist, there's p>0.05 and so "the new study casts doubt on hydroxychloroquine effectiveness... a prime example of why Trump shouldn't be endorsing... actually isn't any more effective."
I think the economic impact will also be huge. Businesses are prepared for 2% of their workers being out with the flu on any given day through the winter, but not for 20% to be sick while the other 80% are quarantined as COVID-19 hits their city. And the company who needs the input parts from that first business is not prepared to not have them for a month, and the companies that rely on them are not prepared, and most industries have slim enough cash reserves and profit margins that a pandemic can knock a lot good companies out of business for good. This could all mean just slightly more expensive electronics for two years, or it could mean a decade of unemployment and restructuring.
Attractiveness comes in many forms. I'm extroverted and write better than I look, so I do well at dinner parties and OKCupid. You can be attractive in dancing skill, in spiritual practice, in demonstrable expertise, in an artistic pursuit... guitar players get laid even if they're not that good looking.
And yet, everyone's first association when talking about "aim for 100 dates" is Tinder, which works only for the men who are top 20% in the one aspect of attractiveness that's crowded and hard to improve - physical looks. This includes men who self-report as
I was thinking of people who write comments without reading the post, which pollutes the conversation. Or people who form broad opinions about a writer or a blog without reading. I deal with those people all day every day on Twitter and in the blog comments.
I didn't mean people deciding what to read based on the title. Of course everyone does that! Someone seeing 'Go F*** Someone' may assume that the post will be somewhat vulgar, and will talk about sex. Both things are true. People not interested in vulgar writing about sex shouldn't read it. If I titled
I understand your concerns.
I cross-post everything I write on Putanumonit to LW by default, which I understood to be the intention of "personal blogposts". I didn't write this for LW. If anyone on the mod team told me that this would be better as a link post or off LW entirely, not because it's bad but because it's not aligned with LW's reputation, I'll be happy to comply.
I could imagine casual readers quickly looking at this and assuming it's related to the PUA community
I could imagine casual readers quickly looking at this and assuming it's related to the PUA community
With that said, my personal opinion is that LW shouldn't cater to people who form
95%+ of people who drop out of the workforce to raise children are women
95%+ of people who drop out of the workforce to raise children are women
Other than that, you are supporting my general argument by writing from within the very framework that I lay out here. Why is the choice to leave work "destructive"? Why is it OK for a man to depend on a woman for the biological necessities of having a family, but not OK for either partner do depend on the other for the financial necessities?
Accomplished women who drop out to raise families usually don't surrender the spending of money to their husbands (I agree that
"Caring less" was in the air. People were noticing the phenomenon. People were trying to explain it. In a comment, I realized that I was in effect telling people to care less about things without realizing what I was doing. All we needed was a concise post to crystallize the concept, and eukaryote obliged.
The post, especially the beginning, gets straight to the point. It asks the question of why we don't hear more persuasion in the form of "care less", offers a realistic example and a memorable graphic, and calls to action. This is... (read more)
I feel like this post is missing an important piece.
When people say "chemicals" or "technology" they are very often not talking about the term in question, but communicating an emotional fact about themselves. "I am disgusted by foods that feel artificially produced", "I want you not to be distracted by devices during dinner". Coming up with better and more precise terms won't help at all, since the thing is being communicated has little to do with the referent of the imprecise term.
You can notice this when the ... (read more)
This is a great example. During the Cultural Revolution and similar periods (e.g., Stalinist Russia) you not only wanted to signal virtue above intelligence, you actively wanted to signal *lack* of intelligence as vigorously as you could. The inteligentzia are always suspect.
I wrote about this post extensively as part of my essay on Rationalist self-improvement. The general idea of this post is excellent: gathering data for a clever natural experiment of whether Rationalists actually win. Unfortunately, the analysis itself is very lacking and is not very data-driven.
The core result is: 15% of SSC readers who were referred by LessWrong made over $1,000 in crypto, 3% made $100,000. These quantities require quantitative analysis: Is 15%/3% a lot or a little compared to matched groups like the Silicon Valley or Libertarian blogosp... (read more)
In my opinion, the biggest shift in the study of rationality since the Sequences were published were a change in focus from "bad math" biases (anchoring, availability, base rate neglect etc.) to socially-driven biases. And with good reason: while a crash course in Bayes' Law can alleviate many of the issues with intuitive math, group politics are a deep and inextricable part of everything our brains do.
There has been a lot of great writing describing the issue like Scott’s essays on ingroups and outgroups and Robin Hanson’s the... (read more)
As I said, someone who is 100% in thrall to social reality will probably not be reading this. But once you peek outside the bubble there is still a long way to enlightenment: first learning how signaling, social roles, tribal impulses etc. shape your behavior so you can avoid their worst effects, then learning to shape the rules of social reality to suit your own goals. Our community is very helpful for getting the first part right, it certainly has been for me. And hopefully we can continue fruitfully exploring the second part too.
Somewhat unrelated, but one can think of RSI as being a *meta* self-improvement approach — it's what allows you to pick and choose between many competing theories of self-improvement.
Aside from that, I didn't read the academic literature on TAPs before trying them out. I tried them out and measured how well they work for me, and then decided when and where to use them. Good Rationalist advice is to know when to read meta-analyses and when to run a cheap experiment yourself :)
I have several friends in New York who are a match to my Rationalist friends in age, class, intelligence etc. and who:
Agreed, I see a major problem with an argument that seems to imply that since advice exists elsewhere/wasn't invented by rationality techniques, a meta-heuristic for aggregating trustworthy sources isn't hugely valuable.
In general, live mostly within "social reality" where the only question is "is this weird/acceptable" and never "is this true/false".
It seems to me like people who primarily think in terms of weird/acceptable never join the rationality in the first place. Or do you believe that our community has taught people who used to think in those terms to think otherwise?
Thank you for the detailed reply. I'm not going to reply point by point because you made a lot of points, but also because I don't disagree with a lot of it. I do want to offer a couple of intuitions that run counter to your pessimism.
While you're right that we shouldn't expect Rationalists to be 10x better at starting companies because of efficient markets, the same is not true of things that contribute to personal happiness. For example: how many people have a strong incentive in helping you build fulfilling romantic relationships? N... (read more)
Thanks, all good points.
I think efficient market doesn't just suggest we can't do much better at starting companies. It also means we can't do much better at providing self-help, which is a service that can make people lots of money and status if they do it well.I'm not sure if you're using index fund investing as an example of rationalist self-help, or just as a metaphor for it. If you're using it an example, I worry that your standards are so low that almost any good advice could be rationalist self-help. I think if you&apos... (read more)
Another idea is that intelligence is valued more when a society feels threatened by an outside force, for which they need competent people to protect themselves from.
Building up on this, virtue is valued more when a society is threatened from the inside. If people are worried about being betrayed or undermined by those who appear to be part of their tribe they will look for virtue signals. We see this a lot in the high correlation of virtue signaling with signals of ingroup loyalty, while intelligence signaling often takes the shape of disagreeing with t... (read more)
This post changed how I think about everything from what creativity is to why my friend loves talking one-on-one but falls silent in 5 person groups. I will write a longer review in December.
LSD doesn't make your brain do anything your brain is incapable of doing, just many things that your brain hasn't done in a long while. The best description I can give is that it gives you the intellectual openness of a 5-year-old, the emotional openness of a 3-year-old, and the sensory experience of perhaps a baby who has not formed strong enough predictions of things like "the clouds don't shift in shape while I look at them". All of these are in your brain, but they're usually suppressed by the strong top-down predictions a... (read more)