All of Jacob Falkovich's Comments + Replies

I feared other women not being into me was a sign she should focus on mating with other guys

When my wife and I just opened up, I did feel jealous quite regularly and eventually realized that the specific thing I was feeling was basically this. It felt like an ego/competitive/status loss thing as opposed to an actual fear of her infidelity or intent to leave me. And then after four years together it went away and never came back.

Now I actually find it kinda fun to not explicitly address "might we fuck?" with some friends, just leave it at the edge of things... (read more)

This article made me realize a truth that should've been obvious to me a long time ago: the main benefit I get from polyamory is close female friends (where I don't have to worry about attraction ruining the friendship), sex and romance are secondary.

-1Rebecca2mo
Why would attraction ruin the friendship?

FWIW, my experience on this was… mixed.

My easiest time having female friends was in an implicitly monogamous context, when I was married, and my wife and I were exclusive. It was super easy. Like a switch in my brain could just filter out the attraction question. It's like it was as addressed for all women the way it's always addressed for all men.

It became way messier when she & I opened up our marriage. Then the sexual dynamic between me and her felt to me like it depended on whether I could find other female partners. I don't know if she really felt... (read more)

8AnthonyC3mo
This feeds into my longstanding expectation that the world would be better if everyone were bi- or pan-sexual, polyamorous, openly accepting of these facts, and more self-aware in general so that we could at least all discuss the meta-level rules we're operating under.
4Adrià Garriga-alonso3mo
Folks generally don't need polyamory to enjoy this benefit, but I'm glad you get it from that!

I spent a long time figuring out the same thing about women's beauty, and came to roughly similar conclusions: https://putanumonit.com/2022/12/13/why-are-women-hot/

We already established that men will happily have sex with women who aren’t optimizing for sexiness, and date women who aren’t the most sexually desirable, and persist in long-term relationships independent of the woman’s looks, and will care about their woman’s beauty in large part to the extent that they care about its effects their status in the hierarchy of men. And so my answer to the origi

... (read more)
4Valentine3mo
Oh yeah, I read this article some time ago! It probably affected my thinking here. I also heard Louise Perry make comments pointing out something similar recently. I don't really get to claim a lot of originality here. Maybe my Great Insight™ is how there's maybe an analogy between the way women focus on beauty and men focusing on getting big.

Hmm, while it's true that many women can still attract a mate/have plenty of sex if they don't put effort into their looks, it definitely seems to me (anecdotally, through both my own lived experience and what others talk about) that women get more male attention when they do put in effort

The honor system sucks ass. Men want to fight for fun or to defend their tribe (I did both!) but not to be compelled into a fight by any random moron insulting them or they'll face social repercussions from within their own people.

Countercounterpoint: I just wanted to fight in rationalist fight club and it was great fun, I don't really care about winning (and not much about training).

6dr_s5mo
That looks pretty fun and also fairly distant from a "death battle". I'm down to engage in even more brutal forms of combat, such as with those giant cotton buds while balanced on a beam above an elastic mat.

By "everything is just experiences" I mean that all I have of the rock are experiences: its color, its apparent physical realness, etc. As for the rock itself, I highly doubt that it experiences anything.

As for your red being my red, we can compare the real phenomenology of it: does your red feel closer to purple or orange? Does it make you hungry or horny? But there's no intersubjective realm in which the qualia themselves of my red and your red can be compared, and no causal effect of the qualia themselves that can be measured or even discussed.

I feel th... (read more)

2TAG5mo
Presumably you mean all you have epistemically...in your other comments,it doesn't sound like you are solving the HP with idealism.
2ShardPhoenix6mo
1. In general how can you know whether and how much something has experiences? 2. I think with things like the nature of perception you could say there's a natural incomparability because you couldn't (seemingly) experience someone else's perceptions without translating them into structures your brain can parse. But I'm not very sure on this.

I tried to communicate a psychological process that occurred for me: I used to feel that there's something to the Hard Problem of Consciousness, then I read this book explaining the qualities of our phenomenology, now I don't think there's anything to HPoC. This isn't really ignoring HPoC, it's offering a way out that seems more productive than addressing it directly. This is in part because terms HPoC insists on for addressing it are themselves confused and ambiguous.

With that said, let me try to actually address HPoC directly although I suspect that this... (read more)

2TAG5mo
Edit: It's a meaningful question because we, as far as we are concerned, it could have been different because we don't have a way of predicting it. Moreover, iyt quite possibly does vary between individuals, because red-green colour blindness is a thing. What determines, in the sense of pinning down, a quale is a combination of the external stimulus, eg. 600nm light, and the subject. But that isn't the relevant sense of "determines". It isn't causal deterinism, and it isn't the kind of "vertical" determinism that arises from having a reductive explanation. If subjective red is an entirely physical phenomenon, then it should be determined by, and predictable from, the underlying physics. This we cannot do--we cannot predict non human qualia, or novel human qualia. If there is a set of facts that cannot be deduced from physics, physicalism is wrong. Reductionism allows some basic facts, about fundamental laws and primitive entities to go unreduced, but not high level phenomena, which includes consciousness. No, it demands a justification of experience on the basis of a physical world, if you assume you are in one. There is no HP in an Idealist ontology, because there is no longer a need to explain one thing on terms of another. It's unlikely that Seth is an idealist. The success of science in the twentieth and twentyfirst centuries has led many philosophers to adopt a physicalist ontology, basically the idea that the fundamental constituents of reality are what physics says they are. (It is a background assumption of physicalism that the sciences form a sort of tower, with psychology and sociology near the top, and biology and chemistry in the middle , and with physics at the bottom. The higher and intermediate layers don't have their own ontologies -- mind-stuff and elan vital are outdated concepts -- everything is either a fundamental particle, or an arrangement of fundamental particles) So the problem of mind is now the problem of qualia, and the way philosoph
2ShardPhoenix6mo
I think I see what you're saying and I do suspect that experience might be too fundamentally subjective to have a clear objective explanation, but I also think it's premature to give up on the question until we've further investigated and explained the objective correlates of consciousness or lack thereof - like blindsight, pain asymbolia, or the fact that we're talking about it right now. And does "everything is just experiences" mean that a rock has experiences? Does it have an infinite number of different ones? Is your red, like, the same as my red, dude? Being able to convincingly answer questions like these is part of what it would mean to me to solve the Hard Problem.

I understand where you're coming from, but I think that norms about e.g. warning people about writing from an objectionable frame only makes sense for personal blogs and it's not a very reasonable expectation for a forum like LessWrong. These things are always very subjective (the three women I sent this post to for review certainly didn't feel that it assumed a male audience!). While a single author can create a shared expectation of what they mean by e.g. "warning: sexualizing" with their readers I don't think a whole community can or should try to forma... (read more)

This was a very interesting read. Aside from just illuminating history and how people used to think differently, I think this story has a lot of implications for policy questions today.

The go-to suggestions for pretty much any structural ill in the world today is to "raise awareness" and "appoint someone". These two things often make the problem worse. "Raising awareness" mostly acts to give activists moral license to do nothing practical about the problem, and can even backfire by making the problem a political issue. For example, a campaign to raise awar... (read more)

2jasoncrawford1y
Note that “raising awareness” was actually an important part of the factory safety story. It can be useful if it is channeled into actual solutions (and, to your point about the HPV vaccines, if there isn't too much political tribalism going on such that any issue immediately becomes polarized).

The best compliment I can give this post is that the core idea seems so obviously true that it seems impossible that I haven't thought of or read it before. And yet, I don't think I have.

Aside from the core idea that it's scientifically useful to determine the short list of variables that fully determine or mediate an effect, the secondary claim is that this is the main type of science that is useful and the "hypothesis rejection" paradigm is a distraction. This is repeated a few times but not really proven, and it's not hard to think of counterexamples: m... (read more)

This seems very obviously incorrect. Googling "how to make boyfriend happy" brings up a lot of articles about showing trust, making romantic gestures, giving compliments, doing extra chores, etc.

That's true, but I think this sort of thing isn't usually given as "dating advice" for women and many would bristle at the suggestion that the girl has to do and practice all those things to find a happy relationship. A girl who's googling "how to make boyfriend happy" instead of "how to get boyfriend" is already on the right track.

And again, I'm not saying that wo... (read more)

3Tego1y
So everyone has approximately the same optimal strategy for creating a healthy & stable long-term partnership. But in the process of finding partners, women optimize more for attractiveness, because physical attractiveness matters more as a selection criteria for men, whereas women traditionally are looking more for traits like success and commitment. Is this more correct? I feel like that does address my objection above. [Edit: from the following quote: "Women who are excellent lovers, girlfriends, and wives presumably pick up these skills in private [...] there is almost a universal pact to prevent any of this from becoming part of mainstream culture." This quote makes it look like you really did mean that women in relationships also have no info on being good partners, not just during the searching phase. It seems like the only evidence you present is that you couldn't find any books on how to be a good wife, which do seem to exist, even ignoring that all the best books like Nonviolent Communication are completely gender neutral.] Some of the problem could just be in how the market is structured. Whenever I've gotten lame answers to messages on dating apps (short self-focused responses with no questions in return), my default assumption is not that the women aren't taught how to have interesting conversations / don't know how to contribute to starting a relationship, but more that they have many, many matches and I have fewer, so they can afford to be lame conversationalists and only go out with the guys willing to sweat over prolonging a dry conversation. Something about my model of the situation must be deeply confused, because if both of the charts you include are accurate, I don't see why women would bother spending time on hair/makeup/whatever. It seems like all >=20th percentile women have an easy enough time getting matches, and if higher attractiveness doesn't lead to more fulfillment in relationships, why not just not bother too much with that part an

Jack Sparrow is clearly recognized as a man by me, you, and everyone we know. Maybe where you grew up all men were limited in their gender expression to be somewhere between Jack Sparrow and John Rambo, in which case you really wouldn't need more than two genders. But that doesn't begin to cover the range of gender expression we see, not in some abstract thought experiment or rare medical edge case but in our very own community.

I bought a new house last year, and it has an old empty workshop attached. I'd like to 'revive' it, but I've got little "workshop-experience". 

In preparation, I bought some books on woodworking and pottery. The woodworking books are very traditionally masculine. Men! Chest hair! Beer! BBQ! 

But the book on pottery is quite feminine. Bright photos, soft colors, everything is demonstrated by a female Instagram influencer. 

That doesn't matter in the slightest to me. I don't think my interest in pottery has any relationship to my gender. I don't ... (read more)

Just as a data point for you: I made the conscious decision to spend 100 hours on Elden Ring the day I bought it, and have spent almost none of these 100 hours feeling conflicted or shamed. Writing this post was also fun — was writing the comment fun for you?

I don't want to go into a discussion of all the topics this touches on from self-coercion to time management to AI timelines to fun, just a reminder to be careful about typical minding.

>if you hung out talking to people at a random bar, or on a random Discord server, or at work

The difference is that the Twitter ingroup has much more variety and quality (as evidenced by the big LW contingent) than your local bar, since it selects from a huge pool of people in large part for the ability to come up with cool ideas and takes. It's also much more conducive to open conversation on any and every topic whatsoever in a way that your workplace clearly isn't (nor should be, you have work to do!) 

Of course, your local bar or server or workpl... (read more)

5Czynski9mo
No, it just selects for the ability to be viral on demand. Which is anticorrelated with truth.

>Who do I follow, what buttons do I click...

Twitter shows you not only what someone posted, but also who they follow and a list of the tweets they liked. You can start from there for me or the people I linked to, find enough follows to at least entertain you while you learn the norms and see if you like the vibe enough to stay long-term. You won't find a clearer set of instructions for joining something as nebulous as the Twitter ingroup than what I wrote up here.

Yes. I think it ultimately wasn't a momentous historical event, especially in the short-term, but it was hard to know at the time and that's good practice for staying rational as history is happening (or not) as well.

Kind of a dark thought, but: there's always a baby boom after a war, fertility shoots way up. Putin has tried to prop up the Russian birth rate for many years to no avail...

I think it's extremely useful practice to follow momentous live events, try to figure out what's happening, and make live bets (which you can do for example by trading Russian/European stock indices and commodities). When the event of historic importance happens at your doorstep there will be even more FUD to deal with as you're looking for critical information to make decisions, and even more emotions to control.

I know this sounds kinda morbid, but I often ask myself the following question: what would I have done if I was a rich Jew in Vienna in 1936? Thi... (read more)

1Eli Tyre2y
This exactly.
4Dead Hour Canoe2y
George Mikes (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Mikes) told the story of a friend of his in Hungary who was convinced that war was imminent in 1939. Someone had told his friend that some substance, I think it was red lead, was essential to fighting wars, so even though he had no idea what red lead was he borrowed as much as he could, bought red lead, and became enormously wealthy in a very short space of time. Not sure if there's an equivalent substance for modern armies. 
2[anonymous]2y
What happened in November 2016? Election of Donald Trump?

This is a useful clarification. I use "edge" normally to include both the difference in probability of winning and losing and the different payout ratios. I think this usage is intuitive: if you're betting 5:1 on rolls of a six-sided die, no one would say they have a 66.7% "edge" in guessing that a particular number will NOT come up 5/6 of the time — it's clear that the payout ratio offsets the probability ratio.

Anyway, I don't want to clunk up the explanation so I just added a link to the precise formula on Wikipedia. If this essay gets selected on condition that I clarify the math, I'll make whatever edits are needed.

2Bucky2y
So there's a technical definition of edge which is your expected gain for every unit that you bet, given your own probability and the bet odds. I agree that not clumping up the post is probably best but to make the post correct I suggest adding the underlined text into the definition in case people don't click the link.

I feel like I don't have a good sense of what China is trying to do by locking down millions of people for weeks at a time and how they're modeling this. Some possibilities:

  • They're just looking to keep a lid on things until the Chinese New Year (2/1) and the Olympics (2/4 - 2/20) at which point they'll relax restrictions and just try to flatten the top in each city.
  • They legit think they're going to keep omicron contained forever (or until omicron-targeting vaccines?) and will lock down hard wherever it pops out.
  • No one thinks they're not merely delaying the
... (read more)
1[anonymous]2y
What, in your mind, makes Omicron hopeless to stop in China? Omicron doesn't seem to be much more infectious among the unvaccinated than previous strains, and they did manage to wipe out the original Wuhan strain completely within their borders.

I was in a few long-term relationship in my early twenties when I myself wasn't mature/aware enough for selfless dating. Then, after a 4-year relationship that was very explicit-rules based had ended, I went on about 25 first dates in the space of about 1 year before meeting my wife. Basically all of those 25 didn't work because of a lack of mutual interest, not because we both tried to make it a long-term thing but failed to hunt stag.

If I was single today, I would date not through OkCupid as I did back in 2014 but through the intellectual communities I'm... (read more)

As a note, I've spoken many times about the importance of having empathy for romanceless men because they're a common punching bag and have written about incel culture specifically. The fact that the absolute worst and most aggravating commenters on my blog identify as incels doesn't make me anti-incel, it just makes me anti those commenters.

I should've written "capitulated to consumerism" but "capitulate to capital" just sounds really cool if you say it out loud.

"Bitcoin" comes from the old Hebrew "Beit Cohen", meaning "house of the priest" or "temple". Jesus cleansed the temple in Jerusalem by driving out the money lenders. The implications of this on Bitcoin vis a vis interchangeable fiat currencies are obvious and need no elaboration.

The full text of John 2 proves this connection beyond any doubt. "𝘏𝘦 𝘴𝘤𝘢𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘦𝘳'𝘴 𝘤𝘰𝘪𝘯𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘵𝘩𝘳𝘦𝘸 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘪𝘳 𝘵𝘢𝘣𝘭𝘦𝘴" (John 2:15) refers to overthrowing the database tables of the centralized ledger and "scattering" the rec... (read more)

1niplav2y
(upvoted partially to create an incentive to crosspost good twitter threads on the LW shortform)

The ordering is based on measures of neuro-correlates of the level of consciousness like neural entropy or perturbational complexity, not on how groovy it subjectively feels.

7gjm2y
It would seems a bit optimistic to call anything a "neuro-correlate of the level of consciousness" simply on the basis that it's higher for ordinary waking brains than for ordinary sleeping brains. Is there more evidence than that for considering neural entropy or perturbational complexity to be measures of "the level of consciousness"? (My understanding is that in some sense they're measuring the amount of information, in some Shannonesque sense, in the state of the brain. Imagine doing something like that with a computer. The figure will -- at least, for some plausible ways of doing it -- be larger when the computer is actively running some software than when it's idle, and you might want to say "aha, we've found a measure of how much the computer is doing useful work". But it's even larger if you arrange to fill its memory with random bits and overwrite them with new random bits once a second, even though that doesn't mean doing any more useful work. I worry that psychedelics might be doing something more analogous to that than to making your computer actually do more.)

Copying from my Twitter response to Eliezer

Anil Seth usefully breaks down consciousness into 3 main components: 
1. level of consciousness (anesthesia < deep sleep < awake < psychedelic)
2. contents of consciousness (qualia — external, interoceptive, and mental)
3. consciousness of the self, which can further be broken down into components like feeling ownership of a body, narrative self, and a 1st person perspective. 

He shows how each of these can be quite independent. For example, the selfhood of body-ownership can be fucked with u... (read more)

2Said Achmiz2y
It is not my impression that Eliezer believes any such thing for pain, only (perhaps) for suffering. It’s important not to conflate these. It seems clear to me, at least, that consciousness (in the “subjective, reflective self-awareness” sense) is necessary for suffering; so I don’t think that Eliezer is making any mistake at all (much less a basic mistake!). The word “just” is doing a heck of a lot of work here. Chickens perhaps have “selfless pain”, but to say that they experience anything at all is begging the question!

I agree with pretty much all of that but remark that "deep sleep < awake < psychedelic" is not at all clearly more correct than "deep sleep < psychedelic < awake". You may feel more aware/conscious/awake/whatever when under the effects of psychedelic drugs, but feeling something doesn't necessarily make it so.

1TAG2y
I strongly support this. If you are going to explain-away qualia as the result of having a self-model, you need to do more than note that they occur together , or that "conscious" could mean either.

The "generalist" description is basically my dream job right until 

>The team is in Berkeley, California, and team members must be here full-time.

Just yesterday I was talking to a friend who wants to leave his finance job to work on AI safety and one of his main hesitations is that whichever organization he joins will require him to move to the Bay. It's one thing to leave a job, it's another to leave a city and a community (and a working partner, and a house, and a family...)

This also seems somewhat inefficient in terms of hiring. There are many qu... (read more)

I'd love to build campuses in other cities around the world. There's lots of incredible people with strong reasons to be in other places. When we talk in the team about what success looks like in the next 5-10 years, part of it is a major hub (e.g. 500 people) in the Bay, and growing hubs (200 people, 100 people, 50 people, etc) in multiple other places like the ones you mention.

You say "NYC and other cities are crying out for a salary-paying organization that will do mission-aligned work". I will point out there's a little chicken-and-egg problem here, in... (read more)

I'm not sure what's wrong, it works for me. Maybe change the https to http?
https://quillette.com/2021/05/13/the-sex-negative-society/

Googling "sex negative society quillette" should bring it up in any case.

rationality is not merely a matter of divorcing yourself from mythology. Of course, doing so is necessary if we want to seek truth...

I think there's a deep error here, one that's also present in the sequences. Namely, the idea that "mythology mindset" is something one should or can just get rid of, a vestige of silly stories told by pre-enlightenment tribes in a mysterious world.

I think the human brain does "mythological thinking" all the time, and it serves an important individual function of infusing the world with value and meaning alongside the social ... (read more)

7RationalRomantic2y
I agree. Myths are a function of how the mind stores (some types of) knowledge, rather than just silly stories. I would be interested to hear a "rational" account of poetry and art, as I think myth has more in common with these than with scientific knowledge. The development of applied rationality was a historical phenomenon, which mostly originated in Greece (with some proto-rationalists in other cultures). One aspect of rationality is differentiating things from each other, and then judging between them. In order to employ judgement, one must have different options to judge between. This is why proto-rationality often arises in hermeneutic traditions, where individuals attempt to judge between possible interpretations of religious texts (see India, for example). In pre-rational societies, myth often operates as an undifferentiated amalgam of various types of knowledge. It acts as a moral system, an educational system, a political system, a military system, and more. In Islam -- which traditionally did not have a separation of church and state -- politics, culture, and religion are still almost completely undifferentiated; this was also the largely the case in Rabbinic Judaism (minus the politics, for obvious reasons). I think in future myths will continue to serve this purpose: integrating various domains of knowledge and culture together. Arguably the rationalist community, the enlightenment tradition, the philosophical tradition, each of these are engaged in a myth. Nietzsche would call this optimistic Socratism: the optimism that increased knowledge and consciousness will always lead to a better world, and more primordially that the world is ultimately intelligible to the human mind in some deep sense.

PS5 scalpers redistribute consoles away from those willing to burn time to those willing to spend money. Normally this would be a positive — time burned is just lost, whereas the money is just transferred from Sony to the scalpers who wrote the quickest bot. However, you can argue that gaming consoles in particular are more valuable to people with a lot of spare time to burn than to people with day jobs and money!

Disclosure: I'm pretty libertarian and have a full-time job but because there weren't any good exclusives in the early months I decided to ignore... (read more)

Empire State of Mind

I want to second Daniel and Zvi's recommendation of New York culture as an advantage for Peekskill. An hour away from NYC is not so different from being in NYC — I'm in a pretty central part of Brooklyn and regularly commute an hour to visit friends uptown or further east in BK and Queens. An hour in traffic sucks, an hour on the train is pleasant. And being in NYC is great. 

A lot of the Rationalist-adjacent friends I made online in 2020 have either moved to NYC in the last couple of months or are thinking about it, as rents have d... (read more)

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.

Sounds right! If there's anything I should read in order to understand and agree with your view, send it my way (including things that get written in the future).

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:

  • Self-deception and plausible deniability. Reporters don'
... (read more)

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)

2TAG7mo
Is what all forms of education aim at.
1Yovel Rom3y
I did similar trades to yours- call on VXX, and put on JETS (nothing on USO, as I don't think it can get much lower than it already is). As the market doesn't react to the rising case numbers in the US (and maybe more importantly, in Ireland, where they have a horrible outbreak), do you think the market might just factor the coming outbreak as a net positive, since everyone will be either vaccinated or immune after it? Also, vaccine distribution in the US seems to be accelerating, the British strain seems to be a bit less contagious than thought in December, and otherstrains that might or might not be affected by the vaccine were discovered. Have you changed any of your investment plans? Personally, I have options for both March and June, so I will either sell in a COVID related crsis, or sell the March ones at the first reasonable opportunity after March 1st, and the June ones at the first reasonable opportunity after May 1st, but I'm not sure how optimal that is.
1ErrethAkbe3y
What brokerage do you use?

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)

3abramdemski3y
I haven't yet understood the mathematical details of Friston's arguments. I've been told that some of them are flawed. But it's plausible to me that the particular mathematical argument you're pointing at here is OK. However, I doubt the conclusion of that argument would especially convince me that the brain is set up with the particular sort of architecture described by PP. This, it seems to me, gets into the domain of PP as a theoretical model of ideal agency as opposed to a specific neurological hypothesis. Humans did not perfectly inherit the abstract goals which would have been most evolutionary beneficial. We are not fitness-maximizers. Similarly, even if all intelligent beings need to avoid entropy in order to keep living, that does not establish that we are entropy-minimizers at the core of our motivation system. As per my sibling comment, that's like looking at a market economy and concluding that everyone is a money-maximizer. It's not a necessary supposition, because we can also explain everyone's money-seeking behavior by pointing out that money is very useful.
3abramdemski3y
How does this suggest that perception and action rely on the same mechanism, as opposed to are very intertwined? I would certainly agree that motor control in vision has tight feedback loops with vision itself. What I don't believe is that we should model this as acting so as to minimize prediction loss. For one thing, I've read that a pretty good model of saccade movement patterns is that we look at the most surprising parts of the image, which would be better-modeled by moving eyes so as to maximize predictive loss. Babies look longer at objects which they find surprising, as opposed to those which they recognize. It's true that PP can predict some behaviors like this, because you'd do this in order to learn, so that you minimize future prediction error. But that doesn't mean PP is helping us predict those eye movements. In a world dependent on money, a money-minimizing person might still have to obtain and use money in order to survive and get to a point where they can successfully do without money. That doesn't mean we can look at money-seeking behavior and conclude that a person is a money-minimizer. More likely that they're a money-maximizer. But they could be any number of things, because in this world, you have to deal with money in a broad variety of circumstances. Let me briefly sketch an anti-PP theory. According to what you've said so far, I understand you as saying that we act in a way which minimizes prediction error, but according to a warped prior which doesn't just try to model reality statistically accurately, but rather, increases the probability of things like food, sex, etc in accordance with their importance (to evolutionary fitness). This causes us to seek those things. My anti-PP theory is this: we act in a way which maximizes prediction error, but according to a warped prior which doesn't just model reality statistically accurately, but rather, decreases the probability of things like food, sex, etc in accordance with their importance.
3abramdemski3y
So, for your project of re-writing rationality in PP, would PP constitute a model of human irrationality, and how to rectify it, in contrast to ideal rationality (which would not be well-described by PP)?  Or would you employ PP both as a model which explains human irrationality and as an ideal rationality notion, so that we can use it both as the framework in which we describe irrationality and as the framework in which we can understand what better rationality would be? Am I right in inferring from this that your preferred version of PP is one where we explicitly plan to minimize prediction error, as opposed to the Active Inference model (which instead minimizes KL divergence)? Or do you endorse an Active Inference type model? This explanation in terms of evolution makes the PP theory consistent with observations, but does not give me a reason to believe PP. The added complexity to the prior is similar to the added complexity of other kinds of machinery to implement drives, so as yet I see no reason to prefer this explanation to other possibly explanations of what's going on in the brain.  My remarks about problems with different versions of PP can each be patched in various ways; these are not supposed to be "gotcha" arguments in the sense of "PP can't explain this! / PP can't deal with this!". Rather, I'm trying to boggle at why PP looks promising in the first place, as a hypothesis to raise to our attention. Each of the arguments I mentioned are about one way I might see that someone might think PP is doing some work for us, and why I don't see that as a promising avenue. So I remain curious what the generators of your view are.

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)

2abramdemski3y
I suspect some of the things that you want to use PP for, I would rather use my machine-learning model of meditation. The basic idea is that we are something like a model-based RL agent, but (pathologically) have some control over our attention mechanism. We can learn what kind of attention patterns are more useful. But we can also get our attention patterns into self-reinforcing loops, where we attend to the things which reinforce those attention patterns, and not things which punish them. For example, when drinking too much, we might resist thinking about how we'll hate ourselves tomorrow. This attention pattern is self-reinforcing, because it lets us drink more (yay!), while refusing to spend the necessary attention to propagate the negative consequences which might stop that behavior (and which would also harm the attention pattern). All our hurting tomorrow won't de-enforce the pattern very effectively, because that pattern isn't very active to be de-enforced, tomorrow. (RL works by propagating expected pain/pleasure shortly after we do things -- it can achieve things on long time horizons because the expected pain/pleasure includes expectations on long time horizons, but the actual learning which updates an action only happens soon after we take that action.)  Wishful thinking works by avoiding painful thoughts. This is a self-reinforcing attention pattern for the same reason: if we avoid painful thoughts, we in particular avoid propagating the negative consequences of avoiding painful thoughts. Avoiding painful thoughts feels useful in the moment, because pain is pain. But this causes us to leave that important paperwork in the desk drawer for months, building up the problem, making us avoid it all the more. The more successful we are at not noticing it, the less the negative consequences propagate to the attention pattern which is creating the whole problem. I have a weaker story for confirmation bias. Naturally, confirming a theory feels good, and gettin
2abramdemski3y
Quoting from that, and responding: I would clarify that #1 and #2 happen together. Given a large difference between prediction and observation, a confident prediction somewhat overwrites the perception (which helps us deal with noisy data), but the prediction is weakened, too. And #3 is, of course, something I argued against in my other reply. Right, this makes sense. Why do you believe this? I can believe that, in social circumstances, people act so as to make their predictions get confirmed, because this is important to group status. For example, (subconsciously) socially engineering a situation where the cyan-skinned person is trapped in a catch 22, where no matter what they do, you'll be able to fit it into your narrative.  What I don't believe in is a general mechanism whereby you act so as to confirm your predictions. I already stated several reasons in my other comment. First, this does not follow easily from the bayes-net-like mechanisms of perceptual PP theory. They minimize prediction error in a totally different sense, reactively weakening parts of models which resulted in poor predictions, and strengthening models which had strong predictions. This offers no mechanism by which actions would be optimized in a way such that we proactively minimize prediction error thru our actions. Second, it doesn't fit, by and large, with human behavior. Humans are curious infovores; a better model would be that we actively plan to maximize prediction error, seeking out novel stimulus by steering toward parts of the state-space where our current predictive ability is poor. (Both of these models are poor, but the information-loving model is better.) Give a human a random doodad and they'll fiddle with it by doing things to see what will happen. I think people make a sign error, thinking PP predicts info-loving behavior because this maximizes learning, which intuitively might sound like minimizing prediction error. But it's quite the opposite: maximizing learning m
3abramdemski3y
PP is not one thing. This makes it very difficult for me to say what I don't like about it, since no one element seems to be necessarily present in all the different versions. What follows are some remarks about specific ideas I've seen associated with PP, many of them contradictory. Do let me know which ideas you endorse / don't endorse. It is also possible that each of my points is based on a particular misconception about PP. While I've made some effort to be well-informed about PP, I have not spent so much time on it, so my understanding is definitely shallow. The three main meanings of PP (each of which is a cluster, containing many many different sub-meanings, as you flesh out the details in different ways): * A theory of perception. If you look PP up on Wikipedia, the term primarily refers to a theory of perceptual processing in which prediction plays a central role, and observations interact with predictions to provide a feedback signal for learning. So, the theory is that perception is fundamentally about minimizing prediction error. I basically believe this theory. So let's set it aside. * A theory of action. Some people took the idea "the brain minimizes prediction error" and tried to apply it to motor control, too -- and to everything else in the brain. I think this kind of made sense as a thing to try (unifying these two things is a worthwhile goal!), but doesn't go anywhere. I'll have a lot to say about this. This theory is what I'll mean when I say PP -- it is, in my experience, what rationalists and rationalist-adjacent people primarily mean by "PP". * A theory of everything. Friston's free-energy principle. This is not only supposed to apply to the human brain, but also evolution, and essentially any physical system. I have it on good authority that the math in Friston's papers is full of errors, and no one who has been excited about this (that I've seen) has also claimed to understand it.  The PP theory of perception says that the brain "min
4Ben Pace3y
FYI Jacobian, very high in the review-request-thread is a post on neural annealing. I think many people would be interested in reading your review of that post. (Thank you very much for this review as well :D )

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.

2Adam Scholl3y
Are you tempted to drop or reduce the size of this trade in light of the UK seeming to have (roughly speaking, for now at least) contained B.1.1.7?

Trade off to a promising start :P
 

1frcassarino3y
I asked, thanks for the tips!

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.

3TheMajor3y
I also thought this, but was told this was not the case (without sources though). If you are right then the scaling assumption is probably close to accurate. I tried briefly looking for more information on this but found it too complicated to judge (for example, papers summarizing contact tracing results in order to determine the relative importance of superspreader events are too complicated for me to undo their selection effects - in particular the ones I saw limited to confirmed cases, or sometimes even confirmed cases with known source). EDIT: if I check microCOVID for example, they state that the chance of catching it during a 1 hour dinner with another person who has been confirmed to have COVID is probably between 0.2% and 20%, The relevant event risks for group spread (as opposed to personal risk evaluations) are conditional on at least one person present having COVID. So is this interval a small chance or a large chance? I wouldn't be surprised if ~10% is significantly high that the linearity assumption becomes questionable, and a 1 hour dinner is far from the most risky event people are participating in.

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".

2PeterMcCluskey3y
VXX is not a good way to compare volatility across years. VIX and similar measures are showing fairly high volatility, but no signs of new panic recently.

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?

1jmh3y
If I were placing one of the bets I would likely bet against travel. It's recovered the most so likely has an easier drop; nice big spike in November. I would not go out too far as I think this will likely be something that has to happen sooner rather than later -- I don't think the trade is a slow burn type potential. Either you're going to see a move to say 22 quickly or options are not really a good vehicle for the trade. I have not looked at of follow that ETF nor have I been closely following the industry. I would note a potentially unrelated item. The Philippines was planning to reopen schools in some of its provinces after the Christmas break. The administration just announce that has been suspended due to the new strain of virus. One might think similar concerns and thinking about the new strain would have an even larger impact on international travel and certainly any nonessential travel.
1arunto3y
I have a quite bad track record with options trading, anticipating the correct direction but loosing because of wrong timing. (Therefore I will reduce the equity part of my portfolio but hopefully refrain from buying put options this time). If I had to trade one of the three, then JETS, expiration in late March. (But I won't and this is definitely not meant as a recommendation.) I think in three months time it will be sufficiently clear for the market if the new virus strains have a heavy impact - writing from a German/European perspective where I anticipate a prolonged hard lockdown if the virus is as infectious as feared. The US reaction is much harder to anticipate for me.

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.

4kareemabukhadra3y
I think there's a relevant question of ethics here. If I learn that these competitors offer a product / service equal to mine or better, I'd feel obligated to change the business model or innovate my product / service in some way. Still exploring that question.

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.

5DirectedEvolution3y
One interesting feature of the OP's pitch is that he's offering not to help the client find more/better options, but to accelerate them finding any job. It's not clear to me what happens if the client rejects the offers OP finds, but that seems critically important. I'd have to assume that as you say, these are clients who aren't in-demand enough to go through recruitment agencies or headhunters, or to find a job themselves. If he's made $25,000 from 5 clients, then assuming he got 11.5% of each of their salaries, his clients are on average starting at around $25,000/5/.115 = $43,000/year, or around $22/hour. Jacobian, what is the alternative to a service like the OP's for someone in this income bracket? My sense is a temp agency, but that they're typically placing people into jobs paying roughly minimum wage.
1digital_carver3y
This is true, but also often overrated, especially when it comes to individual customers. If you're selling to businesses, do consider that they'd be willing to shop around and optimize to some extent, so differences from your competitors matter a lot. Individual customers however really hate having to search around, compare options, and risk choice overload; if they've found OP as a provider of this service, they'd really prefer to be able to choose them. At this point, OP is not in equal footing with the rest of the competition, and thinking so would lose them income. I run a similar kind of business to OP, and what I've learnt over the years is that unless your prices are outrageously higher (as in an order of magnitude or more), pricing higher than your competition doesn't significantly affect your business, and often results in higher earnings (i.e. what you lose in raw customer numbers, you more than earn back with the larger individual revenues).

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)

6pjeby3y
Note that this is not evidence in favor of being able to unlearn judginess, unless you're claiming you were previously at the opposite end of the spectrum, and then unlearned it somehow. If so, then I would love to know what you did, because it would be 100% awesome and I could do with being a lot less judgy myself, and would love a way to not have to pick off judgmental beliefs one at a time. If you have something better than such one-off alterations, and it can be taught and used by persons other than yourself, in a practical timeframe, then such a thing would be commercially quite valuable. I am aware of many self-help approaches for eliminating specific judgments. However, apart from long-term meditation, or a sudden enlightenment/brain tumor/stroke, I am not aware of any methods for globally "unlearning" the capacity for judginess. If you know how to do such a thing, please publish! You will be revolutionizing the field. Define "it". ;-) I think perhaps we're talking past each other here, since I don't see a "complex" moral brain, only several very simple things working together, in a possibly complex way. (Many of these things are also components shared by other functions, such as our purity-contamination system, or the "expected return calculation" system described by prospect theory and observed in various human and animal experiments.) For example, we have emotions that bias us towards punishing things, but we can certainly learn when to feel that way. You can learn not to punish things, but this won't remove the hardware support for the ability to feel that emotion. Both you and the woman you mentioned are capable of feeling outrage, even though you've learned different things to be outraged about. That animals raised in captivity, and pre-verbal human children can both be observed expressing outrage over perceived unfair treatment or reduced rewards without first needing an example to learn from is highly suggestive here as well. I think it's safe t

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.

4pjeby3y
I'm curious what the objection to the "moral brain" term is. As used in this article, it's mainly shorthand for a complex interaction of social learning, biases, specialized emotions, and prospect theory's notion of a baseline expectation of what one "ought" to have or be able to get in a specific circumstance or in exchange for a specific cost. (Or conversely what some specific thing "ought" to cost.)

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)

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