All of jamesf's Comments + Replies

Some of the weird suns are into postrationality, as I would define it, but most of them aren't. (That, or, they keep their affiliation with postrationality secret, which is plausible enough given their commitment to opsec.)

I would add The Timeless Way of Building to the list of primary texts, Chistopher Alexander has been a huge influence for many of us.

It's pretty much exactly what it looks like; multicolored pseudonymous suns that tweet funny and strange and sometimes-insightful stuff to each other, relying heavily on rationalist memes. I think the original was Instance Of Class, then other people made a bunch of similar ones because it's fun, and now it's a whole Thing. The real identities of the suns aren't made public.

Reminder that Weird Sun Twitter exists.

(Edited link because Unit Of Selection is apparently deactivated)

Can you explain what this is, or who is doing it?
Noun phrases that are insufficiently abstract.

I think I've been doing something like this for a long time, but imagining the simulated decision-maker as a "Ghost of Agency and Making Things Better" rather than an idealized version of myself. People seemed to find that a lot more confusing than this, though, so I'm going to start describing it this way instead.

"checking the name of the writer Ooookay, this article about appearance is written by a woman. As was expected. It's probably not worth to read it..."

The best way to get me to actually throw charity out the window, is to imply that I'm likely to throw charity out the window because I explicitly thought a dumb thing relating to your personal characteristics.

This looks like an example of the Pygmalion effect - you read less charitably because the expectations are low.

It gave me mostly psychological and physiological correlates. I'm interested more in behavioral and social/economic things. I suppose you can get from the former to the latter, though with much less confidence than a directly observed correlation.

Your answer is exactly as glib as it should be, but only because I didn't really specify what I'm curious about.

Suppose you wanted to find out all the correlates for particular Big Five personality traits. Where would you look, besides the General Social Survey?

Would 'Google Scholar' be too glib an answer here?

Meta: I don't think questions need to have "[QUESTION]" in the title. That's what the question mark does.

It's to indicate that the post is not too substantive in and of itself, and is mostly a bleg. Sort of like people put LINK: in front of posts that are basically just for sharing a link.

I've pretty much hated it in college, but this might just be because of the way the courses are taught.

This was sort of my experience. Buy the right books and build interesting projects in the time you would be spending on classes, and you'll probably enjoy it a lot more. You don't need a degree in computer science to get a job as a software engineer; some experience/projects and the broad, shallow knowledge required to do well in typical interviews (and all those other interviewing skills I suppose) are enough.

You sound like you might enjoy Hacker School, by the way.

The only writing sample of Dorian Nakamoto I've seen (an email about model trains) is a mismatch

The writing may have been done by another person. The original story was that Satoshi Nakamoto is an unknown, positive number of people; is that a worse hypothesis now?

Drexler's Nanosystems is very technical and very fun. The first ~half of the book is interesting physics, and the rest is mind-blowing systems design (molecular manufacturing and nanomechanical computers!).

Great - added to my reading list!

What does brevity offer you that makes it worthwhile, even when it impedes communication?

Predicting how communication will fail is generally Really Hard, but it's a good opportunity to refine your models of specific people and groups of people.

improving signal to noise, holding the signal constant, is brevity when brevity impedes communication, but only with a subset of people, then the reduced signal is because they're not good at understanding brief things, so it is worth not being brief with them, but it's not fun

A very good post on Ribbonfarm recently: From Cognitive Biases to Institutional Decay.

In totally unrelated news, distributed autonomous economic agents are becoming a Real Thing with Market Capitalization.

Peter Norving was a resident at Hacker School while I was there, and we had a brief discussion about existential risks from AI. He basically told me that he predicts AI won't surpass humans in intelligence by so much that we won't be able to coerce it into not ruining everything. It was pretty surprising, if that is what he actually believes.

Most people are primarily interested in things that won't go very far in making money, and basically everyone likes to do a lot of things they won't ever get paid for; both are undeniable. "Be interested only in things that do nothing to increase your ability to earn money" is a very good way, indeed just about the best way, to not make money.

Your sarcasm is appreciated :-)

Many of these seem false to me, generally the ones that claim understanding things and curiosity will help you not make money. I think more than half of my free-time reading in the last several years has increased my money-making ability in my expected career (software) to some extent, and a sizable portion of that was probably pretty close to optimal among things I could realistically be doing with that time (admittedly, that is a factor in what I choose to read; practicality appeals to me). My infovorism has made me a good technical communicator, and my ... (read more)

(keeps sarcasm sign lifted): Yeah, well, you can't win all the time right? If you happen to be curious not in general, but about the very few things that actually help you make money, then maybe, if you are lucky, over the long run, this may end up helping you make some money. Now think about the things you are curious when you are 15, or things you'd be curious even if you had 13 million dollars... Most people would take no interest in the things that would provide money to them if they didn't have the 13 million. If you are one of the exceptions, as maybe Buffet (a notable exceptional human being in general) try to focus on the other things, and you'll be able to not make money in no time! Finally consider this basic argument against making money, which may help you in your quest: For things that enough people know about and want to do badly enough (going to waterfalls, bikeriding, reading great fiction, taking the subway) there is no incentive to pay people to do it. Money is invested to make sure people are coerced into doing something they would not have done otherwise. Wages are the way in which we coerce people to do things that not enough others were willing to do, but need being done by someone. Because humans share much of their historic, cultural and genetic profiles, and thus interests, it is very likely that the sort of thing people would pay John Smith to do does not coincide with the sort of thing John Smith would be doing without the finantial coercion. If there was a twin earth in which this trend is reversed, where I would be paid to read intellectually stimulating stuff like LessWrong, date the most incredible people, design the coolest projects and have others implement them, hike to waterfalls where the sun is perfect and the water fresh. If such place existed, then maybe I'd be writing a "how to make money" internet blog post, like is everyone else in this universe. But who'd find the irony there?

That's kind of the idea. I'm more interested in correlations involving self-perceived attractiveness, particularly the holistic one, than correlations involving measured physical attractiveness. It's a nice proxy for self-esteem.

Anonymity is a bit of a problem, though I suppose a pool of people that are as likely as your average human to know anyone who uses LW could be wrangled with some effort.

I'd be interested in seeing how the relationship among less wrong users between self perceived attractiveness and attractiveness as perceived by others compares to the relationship in the general population.

I might be willing to call either of those self-quantifying activities. Definitely the first one, if you actually put most activities you do on there rather than just the ones that aren't habit or important enough to definitely not forget. I think the question could be modified to capture the intent. Let's see...

Have you ever made an effort to record personal data for future analysis and stuck with it for >1 month? (Y/N)

That sounds like a good question. Hopefully we remember when the time comes up.

Quantified Self examples:

  • Have you attempted and stuck with the recording of personal data for >1 month for any reason? (Y/N)
  • If so, did you find it useful? (Y/N)

Social media example:

  • How many hours per week do you think you spend on social media?

Asking about self-perceived attractiveness tells us little about how attractive a person is, but quite a bit about how they see themselves, and I want to learn how that's correlated with answers to all these other questions.

Maybe the recreational drug use question(s) could be stripped from the public data?

Having a calendar with time of when you do what actions is recording of personal data and for most people for timeframes longer than a month. Anyone who uses Anki gets automated backround data recording of how many minutes per day he uses Anki.

Next survey, I'd be interested in seeing statistics involving:

  • Recreational drug use
  • Quantified Self-related activities
  • Social media use
  • Self-perceived physical attractiveness on the 1-10 scale
  • Self-perceived holistic attractiveness on the 1-10 scale
  • Personal computer's operating system

Excellent write-up and I look forward to next year's.

I'd also like to see time spent per day meditating, or other form of mental training
While I don't remember the precise level, I would note that there are studies suggesting a rather surprisingly low level of correlation between self perceived attractiveness and attractiveness as perceived by others, and if we could induce a sufficient sample of participants to submit images of themselves to be rated by others (possibly in a context where they would not themselves find out the rating they received,) I think the comparison of those two values would be much more interesting than self-perceived attractiveness alone.
I thought quite a bit about this and couldn't decide on many good questions. The Anki question is sort of a result of this desire. I thought of asking about pedometer usage such as Fitbit/Nike Plus etc but I'm not sure if the amount of people is enough to warrant the question. Which specific questions would you want? By what metric? Total time investment? Few people can give you an accurate answer to that question. Asking good questions isn't easy. I personally don't think that term is very meaningful. I do have hotornot pictures that scored a 9, but what does that mean? The last time I used tinder I click through a lot of female images and very few liked me back. But I haven't yet isolated factors or know about average success rates for guy's using Tinder. There interested in not gathering data that would cause someone to admit criminal behavior. A person might be findable if you know there stances on a few questions. There also the issue of possible outsiders being able to say: "30% of LW participants are criminals!" I agree, that would be nice question.

I'd like:

  • Estimated average self-perceived physical attractiveness in the community
  • Estimated average self-perceived holistic attractiveness in the community

Oh, we are really self-serving elitist overconfident pricks, aren't we?

* Are you Ask or Guess culture?

Hacker School is totally free (with living expenses paid if you're a woman). I believe five rationalists including myself have done it. Unlike most bootcamps it has basically no official structure--you and all the other hackers/aspiring hackers think of cool stuff to do and then do it. They will help you become a better programmer and find a job. The community is great.

One option would be to make a new account and not publicly acknowledge it's a successor to this one, if you're okay with everything that entails. I've done it before (to change my username) and the reset to zero karma and loss of my precious posting history really didn't affect me at all.

That doesn't really suit me very well; I've made a prior commitment to myself to stand by everything I've said (even if that means publicly acknowledging and retracting it); this is just a rather infuriating cost of that that I'm hoping to mitigate politically, if possible.

This is an awful lot of words for talking about something that I don't get to play with yet.

I'm skeptical of the implicit dichotomy between a successful career and a meaningful life (especially for academics!). I may very well just think that because I'm also from the US. As for my n=1, I live in New York and get to enjoy the rationalist and tech communities here and generally don't interact with any other demographic.

[the US] isn't that far away from a survival-traditional oriented society

America contains multitudes; by living in the right place and exposing yourself to the right information, you don't really have to be aware of all the people who determined its World Values Survey results. (I suspect this is also true in Brazil...)

the fact [New Zealand] is in the freaking middle of nowhere is very discouraging.

Why? You haven't expressed that living somewhere with high population density or lots of popular nearby attractions is important to you.

Finally, note tha... (read more)

Expanding on this: When comparing different countries, it can be useful to imagine "normalizing" large countries by breaking them into chunks the size of Norway. Many aspects of day-to-day experience depend only on local conditions.
Yes, certainly. But it is still the case World Values Survey results are relevant. I do not know exactly the people I will come about when I move to another country. All of them are expected to be biased towards academic values. Still, the values of the survey predict each country specific bias. I have met academics from USA on my area, and they are all very clearly much more obsessed with their careers (survival and traditional value) than with having a meaningful life. But I reckon my sample is very small. No. Brazil is so screw up that during 26 years I have found only one intelligent person with my set of values. Meet diegocaleiro. He is also leaving the country, by the way. In fact, most really smart people are. Note I live in Brazil's largest metropolitan area (and world's 7th), and I have visited 20 out of 27 states. No, I haven't. I will address the "isolated country" factor on my reply to Kaj and then add that to the post afterwards. Fixed.

The market provides a continuous and generally valid test of engineering principles. I think it's more scientific than peer review, in the most meaningful sense of the word "science".

Not all engineering is about developing products to sell to consumers. Engineers also design bridges and rockets. I don't think these are subject to the open marker in any meaningful sense.

I'm not sure. If you're comfortable sharing your data, PM me a link to the contents of your /data folder.

I'd rather not, but I reproduced the problem with some sample data here []. It's just six days of "example1-6", and two predicates. example1 is a {0,1,2}, example2-4 are non-negative, example5-6 are boolean; example7 is defined as "example4 on day-1", example8 is defined as "example3 >= 20". I've filled them in so that example8 generally implies example1=2, and example6 implies example1=2, with one exception as noise (with example6 && example8 and example1=1). Generates the same error.

It's an H2 database saved inside /data in your Familiar directory. You can make SQL queries into it with other programs. Exporting to JSON or CSV or something will happen eventually.

Two, technically, I suppose, but I'd probably collect data for a couple of months before I started seriously interpreting correlations involving variables with a resolution of one day. This will be a topic in the more extended documentation.

Ah. Well, (correlations enough-sleep true), for example, just gives me "That didn't work" - what am I doing wrong?

There is, though it's not implemented as a neat API function (yet), so if you're using the official release from when this was first posted you can't do it. It looks like this:

(update variable (where {:name "cats"}) (set-fields {:unit "encountered" :fn "non-negative?"}))

This will break preexisting data if the prior validator wasn't a strict subset of the new validator. Converting variables into a new representation sanely and easily is something I plan to add in.

You want

(change-time (days -1))

if the active time is on the wrong day. The active time being wrong but on the correct day doesn't matter yet since only day-resolution variables are supported. A time zone setting will be added along with variables of arbitrary time resolution.

For percentage variables, use

(num-interval 0 100)

as the validator for a variable. (I will add "percent" as a built-in validator.)

Besides the built-in documentation for all the API functions, the readme on GitHub is the most comprehensive existing documentation. Of course ... (read more)

Yeah, this is what I need. I'm planning to do most of my data-input at 2am-ish, and it'd be nice to not have to remember to mentally subtract a day from the existing data. And thanks for making this!

At the end of the day, go through the things you did. What did you do and why? How did you feel while you did it? Doing it in writing can be helpful (this is what journaling is). Or even get scientific and quantify things so you can analyze your data later!

cough this software I write for that last thing cough

She had cardiac arrest and they cooled her down to prevent organ damage. Now that I research it more, probably not enough to completely stop brain activity, though that was the premise of the question and they seemed to understand that part.

I've wondered if that sort of dramatic cooling is more of an optimal path to cryonic preservation than the current method of waiting for "natural" death and then immediate perfusion. E.g. since it's an official medical treatment, get cooled significantly "to prevent organ damage" and kept in that state until some measure of clinical death occurs, at which point it may be more likely to avoid ischemia. I looked into cold-water drownings for similar reasons but it appears to me that what actually happens is just a preservation of oxygen in the brain and heart and lungs by the mammalian diving reflex and not necessarily any reduction in risk from ischemia during subsequent cryonic suspension. But being pre-cooled may still have some advantages.

A few days ago I was talking with two people who had "experienced" total brain inactivity for some period of time before (one for a few days on ice!). I tried asking what they thought about the discontinuous experience/identity and associated philosophical issues that e.g. cryonics or other forms of not-being-alive for a while entails, but I couldn't get them to interpret the question as anything besides "what do you think of the personality changes that might happen from such an event?".

I found this miscommunication highly informative.

This sounds exceedingly interesting. Please clarify on the "few days on ice," does that mean they were cryogenically frozen, or...

The description starts at "Section 4.2. Tube" on page 24.

That would be a good component of an answer to "what have you been doing for the last seven years?", yes.

The competitive Magic scene may not be your best bet. If it looks like you're not going to make a name for yourself in it, but that's what it would take for you enjoy it, you might be much better off playing with local amateurs and trying to focus on that world instead. Also, it's probably a better way to make friends. I've never stood a chance at playing competitive Team Fortress 2, but finding a public server and carrying the team every now and then is still very fun for me; I pretend pros don't exist and temporarily relish in my superiority over 23 rand... (read more)

If I need an excuse for a resume gap, does "I was taking care of elderly relatives" work? (My last job was in 2006, and that was officially an internship.)

Rutgers is a better university than mine. Studying engineering in the honors program I still felt very alone. I'm glad it (sounds like?) you felt like you fit in there somewhat. Still, it's very possible to underestimate the size of the minimum-sized pond you'll be able to flourish in. "Lonely at the top" and all that.

Anecdote time!

I had the high school resume to get into highly selective universities. For financial reasons, I instead went to my flagship state university. I expected the big fish in small pond effect to play to my advantage, and I did develop a reputation as "(one of) the smartest student(s) in the room" (which I'll at least admit was a boon to my romantic desirability), but the most salient result was extreme loneliness. I wasn't able to find many people I could have stimulating conversation with, and while I did make a few friends, none of th... (read more)

Catharsis Warning: I made a similar trade-off, and was surprised by the social and academic downsides. I took a full-ride to a large party-school in a small town. I've tried really hard to fit in, but I've either failed to be socially accepted, or been socially accepted but failed to self-modify enough to enjoy it. It feels like crap to suck at making friends in an environment that's explicitly optimized for making friends. I do great one-on-one over coffee, (which I think is why I've been fairly successful romantically), but there's little social oxygen left over for that, and it's been an uphill battle to make any friends at all. I hope this isn't arrogance or a refusal to affiliate. I've started going to religious groups to ward off loneliness, and I'm not even religious. Academically, there are benefits to being one of the best students, but learning isn't one of them. Everything is slow. You can study independently to challenge yourself and minimize the inefficiency of sitting in class and starting at the ceiling, but there are still overhead costs to be paid if you actually want a degree: Showing up for quizzes, taking prerequisites that you don't need to take, completing assignments you didn't need, etc. If you want to push yourself, you have to implement your own carrot and stick, because the reinforcements provided by the normal structure are too easy to control. And you can never talk about any of this, because it's arrogant and ungrateful, and because admitting that you think you're above-average sounds like saying you think you're above everyone, which you don't think at all because you're not stupid and because you go online and meet all the people at MIT who've been writing papers and doing research while you've been skipping as much class as possible because you can get away with it. If you're so smart... On a happy note, the upside is free time and money, which is totally worth it if you spend them wisely, (especially the free time). But I seco
I also went to a state university (Rutgers). I was in an Honors program (in engineering) with plenty of other smart students, but I was still often one of the best academically in the room. I didn't feel much of a "small pond" effect there; when I drifted away from the friends I made in my first year, it was for other reasons.

I plan on addressing false positives with a combination of sanity-checking/care-checking ("no, drinking tea probably doesn't force me to sleep for exactly 6.5 hours the following night" or "so what if reading non-fiction makes me ravenous for spaghetti?"), and suggesting highest-information-content experimentation when neither of those applies (hopefully one would collect more data to test a hypothesis rather than immediately accept the program's output in most cases). In this specific case, the raw conversation and bodily state data wo... (read more)

Or, I mean, just use Facebook and other social media activity to identify the formation, strengthening, and slow or abrupt end of friendships and relationships. Many of us do basically already live in that world.

Hooray, people with credentials! Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

This was my most convincing reason to try to bother implementing the statistical guts myself in the first place; it was pretty easy to put together a little naive Bayes classifier that calculates the maximum likelihood estimate for all your other variables/predicates given the value of one variable/predicate intended to be minimized or maximized, and I'm pretty sure it works mostly correctly, and I'm pretty sure the additional return from using virtually any of the existing more sophisti... (read more)

It's possible to track 1000 different variables with your model. If you do so, you will however get a lot of false positives. I think about QS data like it gives you more than your five senses. In the end you still partly rely on your own ability of pattern matching. Graphs of data just gives you additional input to understand what's going on that you can't see or hear.
Or, I mean, just use Facebook and other social media activity to identify the formation, strengthening, and slow or abrupt end of friendships and relationships. Many of us do basically already live in that world.

I'm hesitant to use software licensed under the GPL in my own program, as convenient as that sounds. I'd like to release it under a (even) less restrictive license.

I'm researching that right now. Recommendations are welcome.

That seems extremely sane in retrospect; thankfully I haven't done very much work on the statistics side, and sunk costs are therefore comfortably low if I were to take that path. I'm also not worried about glamour at all in that case, since I'm the one doing the work of "make it something people will actually want to use and that is useful". There are indeed many of them--do you have a specific recommendation?

Hello, thanks for your reply. I am mostly on the supply side of the aforementioned "statistical guts," so I am not sure I am the best person to ask. The two big questions (which I am sure are obvious to you as well) are (a) language used, and (b) what functionality do you want in the "guts"? For instance Kevin Murphy's BNT has a lot of stuff, but is written in Matlab and not R. The fact that lots of people have to pay for Matlab will hinder adoption. SAMIAM is not open source, I think.
@jamesf - which one of the programs will you be picking?

Yes, I'm pretty sure this is currently the most significant hurdle to getting people to want to use it (this isn't the '80s!). Adding some kind of browser-based GUI is my current task.

Maybe some of this is a little far fetched but god would it be fun to dig into.

My sentiment exactly! This seems like the sort of thing that would enable people to seriously improve their lives in a lot of different ways, but there are also many more ways to use it that probably wouldn't help much or at all. That's why I'm trying to focus on ease of use--the more people out there experimenting with measuring different things in combination, the sooner everyone gets to benefit from those methods and combinations of measurements that actually do help.

All the ones I've found so far have some combination of the following traits:

  • Proprietary and expensive
  • Steep learning curve/assumes the user will be a technical professional
  • Not designed to use data from other services

I think a program that avoids all of those things simultaneously will be able to fill a useful niche for many people. If you know of a free program that an intelligent layperson could learn to use with minimal effort, and that's made to collect data from a variety of existing Quantified Self apps and devices (or at least be easily amenable to such extension), I'll happily stop development and use that instead.

There are lots of open source research programs for graphical model stuff. I think it is a better (if less glamorous) use of time to put a user friendly UI around one of these, and write glue code to use data formats you want than to re-implement the statistical guts from scratch. Academics have lots of incentive to have very smart "guts," but not a lot of incentive to interoperate with data sources and have user friendly UIs.

It looks like getting editline to talk with my Clojure code would be somewhat non-trivial. Using the Clojure REPL is probably the better alternative for serious use until I get a GUI working.

Reading CSVs is now on the todo list.

Get rlwrap. Wrap the program in a script that runs 'rlwrap program'. All the benefits of readline with no code. You're welcome. ;-)

It can take command line arguments and therefore be put into a shell script, if that's what you mean. Here's an example:

java -jar familiar-0.1.0-SNAPSHOT-standalone.jar "(open! some-other-experiment)" "(new-var herons boolean? false)" "(data herons true)"

Just reading its documentation has been very helpful so far. Thank you!

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