All of JenniferRM's Comments + Replies

What are some beautiful, rationalist artworks?

Part of why I like this one is that I was confused by some of it, and did some research, and thus learned that the big hazy blue/white thing isn't like... a rocket's glow from near and close to the camera, but rather it is a wispy but vast object that "exists out there"!

It is the Phoebe Ring, which was predicted to exist by Steven Soter in 1974 and first observed in 2009. It is made from the ejecta dust of Phoebe which formed far from the sun, probably had water on it while it was radioactively hot, and only later was captured by Saturn in the inner system... (read more)

Why haven't we celebrated any major achievements lately?

The standing ovation at Wimbledon stands out to me as hopeful... like maybe someone with influence over the PA system at a big sporting event had a coherent theory of optimistic credit assignment and managed to use it to let a hopeful crowd show respect for good actions in a relatively selfless way? 

I found the video and it is interesting how they announced numerous people and things, like various categories of NHS employees, and then some random social media fundraising stunt was the the "final name" they announced (like in an "end on a good note" mo... (read more)

Why haven't we celebrated any major achievements lately?

It is interesting to read this for the first time while far enough in the future to know how some things turned out using The Power Of Retrospection to associate things that were potentially relevant but not yet obviously so...

This was written on August 11, 2020 (emphasis not in original)...

How will we greet the COVID-19 vaccine, when it arrives hopefully in the next year or two? Will people “ring bells, honk horns, blow whistles, fire salutes, drink toasts, hug children, and forgive enemies”? Will they “name schools, streets, hospitals, and newborn infant

... (read more)
4jasoncrawford4dI collected a few examples of honors/awards here: [] * BioNTech founders Türeci & Şahin received the Order of Merit, Germany’s highest honor * Various media profiles of folks like Karikó * Professor who helped design the Astra-Zeneca vaccine got a spontaneous standing ovation at Wimbledon * Karikó & Weissman awarded 2022 Breakthrough Prize Doesn't feel like as much as Salk got.
The Liar and the Scold

I regret that I cannot explore the archive of Justis's other contributions (because they are few) but appreciate that you shared credit :-)

The Liar and the Scold

Yeah! <3

At one point I assigned myself the homework of watching all of black mirror so as to understand "what cultural associations would be applied to what ideas by default"... 

...and most of the episodes had me suppressing anger at the writers for just writing characters who violate the same set of very basic rules over and over and over again with no lessons ever learned by anyone (lessons like "never trust something that talks until you know where it keeps its brains" and "own root on computing machines you rely on or personally trust the human... (read more)

Postmortem on DIY Recombinant Covid Vaccine

I can respect consciously prescriptive optimism <3

(I'd personally be more respectful to someone who was strong and sane enough to carry out a relatively simple plan to put dangerous mad scientists in Safety Level 5 facilities while they do their research behind a causal buffer (and also put rogue scientists permanently in jail if they do dangerous research outside of an SL5)... though I could also respect someone who found an obviously better path than this. I'm not committed to this, its just that when I grind out the math I don't see much hope for any other option.)

The Liar and the Scold

I was expecting there to be another layer of mirroring related to "the scold".

What might have happened is that some flaw would seem "too crazy" and then after the "initial detection of the true flaw" the narrator would start to suspect that he himself was a self-aware subprocess in a GAN (but not self-aware about being a subprocess in a GAN) whose role was to notice some implausibility in his environment.

The "childhood memory and sarah detection experience" process might have been a narrative prefix that implies the kind of person who would be suspicious i... (read more)

3Maxwell Peterson5dThat’s an interesting reading! Thanks for sharing it. Spoilers for a Black Mirror episode, in ROT13 []: Vg erzvaqf zr bs gur Oynpx Zveebe rcvfbqr, Unat gur QW, nobhg gur fvzhyngvba qngvat ncc. I personally prefer the reading where the protagonist is a human in a different universe where AI is a little more advanced than now, because I like the feeling of him being corrupted in a way that’s world-dooming but beautiful-to-him at the same time.
The Liar and the Scold

I noticed something was wrong when Kathleen was introduced in excruciating detail. True love is something no one actually brags about to third parties in that way. If real then it is too blessed/braggy to share, and if not real... well... fiction is a lie told for fun, basically, so such things can occur in fiction <3

With suspicion already raised, the double punch of "The Machine" and "Joseph Norck" caused me to google for someone named Norck involved in computer science, and no such professor exists.

Then I leaned back and enjoyed the story :-)

A one-question Turing test for GPT-3

The language model is just predicting text. If the model thinks an author is stupid (as evidenced by a stupid prompt) then it will predict stupid content as the followup. 

To imagine that it is trying to solve the task of "reasoning without failure" is to project our contextualized common sense on software built for a different purpose than reasoning without failure.

This is what unaligned software does by default: exactly what its construction and design cause it to do, whether or not the constructive causes constrain the software's behavior to be help... (read more)

3A Ray5dI think this broadly makes sense to me. There are many cases where "the model is pretending to be dumb" feels appropriate. This is part of why building evaluations and benchmarks for this sort of thing is difficult. I'm at least somewhat optimistic about doing things like data-prefixing to allow for controls over things like "play dumb for the joke" vs "give the best answer", using techniques that build on human feedback. I personally have totally seen GPT-3 fail to give a really good answer on a bunch of tries a bunch of times, but I spend a lot of time looking at it's outputs and analyzing them. It seems important to be wary of the "seems to be dumb" failure modes.
Postmortem on DIY Recombinant Covid Vaccine

If you know of someone working on a solution such that think we're lucky rather than doomed, I'm curious whose work gives you hope?

I'm pretty hopeless on the subject, not because it appears technically hard, but because the political economy of the coordination problem seems insurmountable. Many scientists seem highly opposed to the kinds of things that seem like they would naively be adequate to prevent the risk.

If I'm missing something, and smart people are on the job in a way that gives you hope, that would be happy news :-)

4caffemacchiavelli5dHm, most of the people I'm thinking of are rather technical, e.g. Kevin Esvelt's research [] on distributed secure research. Coordination and incentive problems are of another nature and I only manage to be prescriptively [] optimistic. I've been interested in algorithms for decentralized economic planning for a while, plan to specialize in that area and am working with a local left-acc group to organize a think tank that works on these questions. Thanks to mechanism design taking off as a discipline and crypto hype fueling a lot of work on trustless computing, there's actually a surprising amount of relevant research.
Use Normal Predictions

When I google for [Bernoulli likelihood] I end up at the distribution and I don't see anything there about how to use it as a measure of calibration and/or decisiveness and/or anything else.

One hypothesis I have is that you have some core idea like "the deep true nature of every mental motion comes out as a distribution over a continuous variable... and the only valid comparison is ultimately a comparison between two distributions"... and then if this is what you believe then by pointing to a different distribution you would have pointed me towards "a diff... (read more)

3Ericf16dThere is a new game currently sold at Target that is about calibration and estimation. Each round has two big numbers, researched from things like "how many youtube videos were uploaded per hour in 2020?" Or "how many pounds does Mars weigh?" Each player guesses how much larger one is than the other (ie 2x, 5x. 10x, 100x, 1000x), and can bet on themselves if they are confident in thier estation.
Use Normal Predictions

Yes, thanks! (Edited with credit.)

Internet Literacy Atrophy

Subtracting out the "web-based" part as a first class requirement, while focusing on the bridge made of code as a "middle" from which to work "outwards" towards raw inputs and final results...

...I tend to do the first ~20 data entry actions as variable constants in my code that I tweak by hand, then switch to the CSV format for the next 10^2 to 10^5 data entry tasks that my data labelers work on, based on how I think it might work best (while giving them space for positive creativity).

A semi-common transitional pattern during the CSV stage involves using c... (read more)

Uncontroversially good legislation

I just want to second something you said, and provide background on how good the choice of the issue was in a larger context.

(2) Let us buy glasses: We can’t buy glasses or contact lenses if our eye prescription is over 1-2 years old. This means that every 1-2 years, glasses-wearers need to pay $200 to optometrists for the slip of paper (and stinging eyeballs). Seems like it’s probably a racket and the benefit from detecting the odd eye cancer is outweighed by the costs, although see the debate here.

This seems highly reasonable to me, but then again I didn... (read more)

The judiciary is not the maker of law. And the level of scrutinity varies. If all laws required "strict scutinity" then the law maker would be quite impotent. In this kind of setting passing laws would be pointless as people would just rely on connections to basic rights on what official acts actually are left standing (a kind of common law scheme). If you have lost representation in the law maker and don't like its doing, declaring it "corrupt" is not a valid way to circumvent it.

A jury has wide latitude to find the facts of a single case. In order to ove... (read more)

Uncontroversially good legislation

I have lately been using FDA delenda est as a sort of "you must be at least <this> sane about governance for me to think that your votes will add usefully adequate information to elections". (Possible exception: if you just figure out if your life is better or worse in a high quality way, and always vote against incumbents when things are getting worse, no matter the incumbent's party or excuses, that might be OK too?)

The problem with "FDA delenda est" is that while I do basically think that people who defend or endorse the FDA are either not yet edu... (read more)

3Bezzi14dYou'd be surprised. Doing a quick search, it seems that people are already trying to close the slavery loophole [] : If we trust this data, the hidden implication is that approximately 20% of those Utah voters are indeed in favor of slavery (at least in principle). Also this: []

To make your point more viscerally, here's a photo from 2011 of the still operating Angola Plantation in Louisiana:

Use Normal Predictions

One of the things I like about a Brier Score is that I feel like I intuitively understand how it rewards calibration and also decisiveness.

It is trivial to be perfectly calibrated on multiple choice (with two choices being a "binary" multiple choice answer) simply by throwing decisiveness out the window: generate answers with coin flips and give confidence for all answers of 1/N.  You will come out with perfect calibration, but also the practice is pointless, which shows that we intuitively don't care only about being calibrated.

However, this trick ge... (read more)

1GWS17dWas this meant to be a high (or poor) Brier score?
3tailcalled18dRather than using z-scoring, one can use log probabilities to measure prediction accuracy. They are computed by(μ−xσ)2−log(σ)−12log(2π). A downside is that they are not scale invariant, but instead the unit you measurexin leads to a constant offset. I don't know whether one can come up with a scale invariant version. (I think no, because changing the scale is symmetric with changing the prediction accuracy? Though if one has some baseline prediction, one can use that to define the scale.)
4Jan Christian Refsgaard19dNote 1 for JenniferRM: I have updated the text so it should alleviate your confusion, if you have time, try to re-read the post before reading the rest of my comment, hopefully the few changes should be enough to answer why we want RMSE=1 and not 0. Note 2 for JenniferRM and others who share her confusion: if the updated post is not sufficient but the below text is, how do I make my point clear without making the post much longer? With binary predictions you can cheat and predict 50/50 as you point out... You can't cheat with continuous predictions as there is no "natural" midpoint. The insight you are missing is this: 1. I "try" to Convert my predictions to the Normal N(0, 1) using the predicted mean and error. 2. The variance of the unit Normal is 1: Var(N(0, 1)) = 1^2 = 1 3. If my calculated variance deviate from the unit normal, then that is evidence that I am wrong, I am making the implicit assumption that I cannot make "better point predictions" (change μ) and thus is forced to only update my future uncertainty interval by σz. To make it concrete, If I had predicted (sigma here is 10 wider than in the post): * Biden ~ N(54, 30) * COVID ~ N(15.000, 50.000) then the math would give ^σz=0.17. Both the post predictions and the "10 times wider predictions in this comment" implies the same "recalibrated" σcovid: 50.000×0.17=5.000×1.73=8.650 (On a side note I hate brier scores and prefer Bernoulli likelihood, because brier says that predicting 0% or 2% on something that happens 1% of the time is 'equally wrong' (same square error)... where the Bernoulli says you are an idiot for saying 0% when it can actually happen)
Brain Efficiency: Much More than You Wanted to Know

There is a minor literature on the evolution of brain cooling as potentially "blocked in early primates and then unblocked sorta-by-accident which allowed selection for brain size in hominids as a happy side effect". I'm unsure whether the hypothesis is true or not, but people have thought about it with some care and I've not yet heard of anyone figuring out a clean kill shot for the idea.

Brain Efficiency: Much More than You Wanted to Know

I think a keyword here (if you want to google on your own) is "selective brain cooling (SBC)". In practice this might be on a continuum, but this might be an area where humans have some unique adaptations

The basic mechanisms tend to involve things like a "plexus" of veins/arteries for heat exchange, dynamic blood routing based on activity, and then trying to set up radiators somehow/somewhere on the body to take hot blood and push the heat into the larger world. Many mammals just have evaporative cooling in their mouth that runs on saliva, but human... (read more)

6jacob_cannell22dFascinating! I'm going to link this in to the main article. I was aware of the whole "humans adapted to long distance running" thing, and how sweat is optimized for that, but I hadn't considered the related implications for brain cooling. Human brains are about 3x larger, and thus require/output 3x more energy and surface power density, than our similar-ish sized primate relative with similar-ish sized skulls. Brain tissue also has a 10x higher power density than the rest of the body. This does suggest the need for significant evolutionary optimization towards cooling.
A Cautionary Note on Unlocking the Emotional Brain

If some conscious activations the process of consolidating is itself causing "one idea to win... sometimes the wrong one", then trying consolidation on "the feelings about the management of consolidation and its results" seems like it could "meta-consolidate" into a coherently "bad" result.


It could be that the author of the original post was only emitting their "help, I'm turning evil from a standard technique in psychotherapy that I might or might not be using slightly wrongly!" post in a brief period of temporary pro-social self-awareness.

If we are be... (read more)

2Matt Goldenberg1moCan you give an example of how this would happen? Do you have examples of it? I think the only way that the process of consolidating can cause one idea to win in the way described is through suppression of a higher level concern. At some point as you keep going meta there's nowhere left to suppress it.
Where can one learn deep intuitions about information theory?

I came here to suggest the same book which I think of as "that green one that's really great".

One thing I liked about it was the way that it makes background temperature into a super important concept that can drive intuitions that are more "trigonometric/geometric" and amenable to visualization... with random waves always existing as a background relative to "the waves that have energy pumped into them in order to transmit a signal that is visible as a signal against this background of chaos".  

"Signal / noise ratio" is a useful phrase. Being able to... (read more)

There is essentially one best-validated theory of cognition.

The flashcard and curriculum experiments seem really awesome in terms of potential for applications. It feels like the beginnings of the kind of software technology that would exist in a science fiction novel where one of the characters goes into a "learning pod" built by a high tech race, and pops out a couple days layer knowing how to "fly their spaceship" or whatever.  Generic yet plausible plot-hole-solving super powers! <3

LessWrong discussed in New Ideas in Psychology article

Here are other terms that might be used in place of (or combined with?) "Amateur" that have different shades of meaning...

"Self-funded" - Connecting to a relatively long tradition going back long before Vannevar Bush set up what I personally think of as "Vannevarian Science" during a period proximate to WW2 (with the NSF and so on). There were grants before then, from what I can tell, but many fewer, and a lot of science from before that point was performed by what seem, through a modern lens, to perhaps be just "semi-retired geeks with a hobby in experime... (read more)

There is essentially one best-validated theory of cognition.

I wonder if extremely well trained dogs might work?

Chaser seems likely to have learned nouns, names, verbs... with toy names learned on one trial starting at roughly 5 months of age (albeit with a name forgetting curve so additional later exposures were needed for retention). 

Having studied her training process, it seems like they taught her the concept of nouns very thoroughly. 

Showing "here are N frisbees, after 'take frisbee' each one of them earns a reward" to get the idea of nouns referring to more than one thing demonstrated very thoroughly... (read more)

3terry.stewart2moI think that sort of task might be modellable with ACT-R -- the hardest part might be getting or gathering the animal data to compare to! Most of the time ACT-R models are validated by comparing to human data gathered by taking a room full of undergraduates and making them do some task 100 times each. It's a bit trickier to do that with animals. But that does seem like something that would be interesting research for someone to do!
There is essentially one best-validated theory of cognition.

The idea of the physical brain turning out to be similar to ACT-R after the code had been written based on high level timing data and so on... seems like strong support to me. Nice! Real science! Predicting stuff in advance by accident! <3

My memory from exploring this in the past is that I ran into some research with "math problem solving behavior" with human millisecond timing for answering various math questions that might use different methods... Googling now, this Tenison et al ACT-R arithmetic paper might be similar, or related?

With you being an ex... (read more)

8terry.stewart2moYes, that Tenison paper is a great example of arithmetic modelling in ACT-R, and especially connecting it to the modern fMRI approach for validation! For an example of the other sorts of math modelling that's more psychology-experiment-based, this paper gives some of the low-level detail about how such a model would work, and maps it onto human errors: - "Toward a Dynamic Model of Early Algebra Acquisition" [] (that work was expanded on a few times, and led to things like "Instructional experiments with ACT-R “SimStudents”" [] where they made a bunch of simulated students and ran them through different teaching regimes) As for other cool tasks, the stuff about playing some simple video games is pretty compelling to me, especially in as much as it talks about what sort of learning is necessary for the precise timing that develops. [] Of course, this is not as good in terms of getting a high score as modern deep learning game-playing approaches, but it is very good in terms of matching human performance and learning trajectories. Another model I find rather cool a model of driving a car, which then got combined with a model of sleep deprivation to generate a model of sleep-deprived driving: [] One other very cool application, I think is the "SlimStampen" flashcard learning tool developed out of Hedderik van Rijn's lab at the Universit
There is essentially one best-validated theory of cognition.

I think I remember hearing about this from you in the past and looking into it some. 

I looked into it again just now and hit a sort of "satiety point" (which I hereby summarize and offer as a comment) when I boiled the idea down to "ACT-R is essentially a programming language with architectural inclinations which cause it to be intuitively easy see 1:1 connections between parts of the programs and parts of neurophysiology, such that diagrams of brain wiring, and diagrams of ACT-R programs, are easy for scientists to perceptually conflate and make anal... (read more)

As for mapping ACT-R onto OpenWorm, unfortunately ACT-R's at a much much higher level than that.  It's really meant for modelling humans -- I seem to remember a few attempts to model tasks being performed by other primates by doing things like not including the Goal Buffer, but I don't think that work went very far, and didn't map well to simpler animals.  :( 

As someone who can maybe call themselves an ACT-R expert, I think the main thing I'd say about the intentional module being "not identified" is that we don't have any fMRI data showing activity in any particular part of the brain being correlated to the use of the intentional module in various models.  For all of the other parts that have brain areas identified, there's pretty decent data showing that correlation with activity in particular brain areas.  And also, for each of those other areas there's pretty good arguments that those brain areas ... (read more)

6Vaniver2moWhy do they separate out the auditory world and the environment?

This lines up fairly well with how I've seen psychology people geek out over ACT-R. That is: I had a psychology professor who was enamored with the ability to line up programming stuff with neuroanatomy. (She didn't use it in class or anything, she just talked about it like it was the most mind blowing stuff she ever saw as a research psychologist, since normally you just get these isolated little theories about specific things.)

And, yeah, important to view it as a programming language which can model a bunch of stuff, but requires fairly extensive user in... (read more)

Omicron Post #4

Thank you for this high quality response! The numbers were helpful and I had to stop and grind out some of the math and parse your sentences carefully.

assume that symptomatic people are less likely to transmit the disease than asymptomatic people because they know to quarantine thanks to the symptoms.

Making this part of the model more quantitative might reveal a crux? 

I think we agree here directionally (symptomatic people change behavior in a way that has pro-social results, exposing fewer people "out in the world") but if the effect was very large (... (read more)

4Daniel V2moGood job looking for cruxes! I agree with you that quantifying a differential in exposures would help nail down how much we should favor vaccination (or not), but the idea behind the probabilities I laid out was getting at the risk of inducing asymptomatic-spread. At the most unfavorable to vaccination (like how I also assumed vaccination leads to only asymptomatic disease), asymptomatics generate N infections from N exposures with p=1 and symptomatics generate exposures with p=0 (because they quarantine), so we can just look at the risk of inducing asymptomatic-spread without additional layers of calculation. Though that does indeed depend on the key probabilities going into calculating the risk. If p>>5%, then additional calculation would be warranted, and calibrating the probabilities better would be more important. For example, it's clear just looking at the conditional probabilities that the turning point is when the relative risk of infection depending on vaccination equals the reciprocal of the relative risk of being asymptomatic conditional on infection depending on vaccination - that is, if vaccinateds are twice as likely to be asymptomatic conditional on infection than unvaccinateds (wow, the RR is a little under 2, but let's call it 2, Fig 3 [] ), we prefer vaccination as long as vaccination cuts the risk of infection by at least half (vaccine effectiveness >= 50%). Any less than half, and then we can't just prefer vaccination out of hand and have to go through and calculate. And then figuring out the actual differential in exposures (and viral loads!) would be relevant too. I agree with you that the probabilities I'm focusing on are in a much narrower time frame and that widening it out, p will lift off from the rate estimated in the clinical trials (about a 2 month window). As the vaccine effectiveness rate approaches 0%, then indeed we can't prefer vacc
The Rationalists of the 1950s (and before) also called themselves “Rationalists”

Yeah. The communist associations of past iterations of "rationalist" schools or communities is one the biggest piles of skulls I know about and try to always keep in mind.

Wikipedia uses this URL about Stalin, Wells, Shaw, and the holodomor as a citation to argue that, in fact, many of them were either duped fools or worse into denying the holodomor. Quoting from the source there:

Shaw had met Stalin in the Kremlin on 29 July 1931, and the Soviet leader had facilitated his tour of Russia in which he was able to observe, at least to his own satisfaction, that

... (read more)
4ChristianKl2moIt might also have been the case that a tour of Russia organized by Stalin indeed showed Shaw a bunch of towns that got extra food delieveries right before Shaw entered the town. Shaw then neither spoke Ukranian nor Russian and was likely dependend on a Soviet translator to talk with the peasants. His problem might have been that he believed the evidence that Stalin carefully selected for him to be representative of the situation. The holodomor denialism seems very similar to lab leak denailism. Lab leak denailism is also about trusting in certain authorities because you agree with them in your philosophical worldview and then accepting their cherry-picked and manipulated evidence. With Omicron potentially escaping from South African []labs, the lab leak denailism might even be more deadly. Avoiding holodomor denialism in the West wouldn't have prevented or ended it. On the the other hand getting rid of lab leak denialism would have increased biosafety protocols.
8Viliam2moYour concern makes a lot of sense. From my perspective, the lesson is "wannabe rationalists easily get politically mindkilled". Whether you are woke, or alt-right, or libertarian, political allegiance always pushes you towards denying some politically inconvenient parts of reality. (Different parts of reality are inconvenient for different political tribes; so you can still ignore one part of reality and feel intellectually superior to those differently politically mindkilled people who ignore a different part of reality. I suppose this is how Shaw felt.) Or more generally, contrarians are also gullible as fuck, only about different things than the majority. For example, my sympathies are roughly on the libertarian side, but I obviously notice it is often libertarians talking nonsense on topics like global warming or covid. Because those are exactly the parts of reality that are inconvenient for libertarians: where an isolated individual effort achieves practically nothing, and a collective action is needed to solve the problem. How inconvenient! (And similarly, it is inconvenient for a socialist when Soviet Union... or Venezuela turns out to be a disaster. Oh wait, this is not true [] socialism, because nothing ever is. Similarly, North Korea is inconvenient for a neoreactionary; but don't worry, North Korea is not a true family-owned state, because nothing ever is. Heredity of traits is inconvenient for the woke. Evolution is inconvenient for the religious. Etc.) Yes, it is possible. But I believe there is a middle ground where FDA is not destroyed completely, only the rules are changed, so that something not being approved by FDA (yet) is not a complete obstacle, or perhaps there are different levels of "approval" and some of them are granted rather quickly. But whatever you do (whether you call yourself a rationalist or not), you should keep looking at the reality, evaluating new data, and sometimes changing yo

I'm interested to know how much the prominent figures in these past Rationalist groups cared about rationality itself rather than its bedfellows (science, atheism, socialism or communism etc.). A related question is whether these groups sometimes functioned as a fig leaf for a certain kind of political association (e.g. scientifically-minded socialists).  

 From reading the J. B. S. Haldane biography linked in the OP, I got the sense that Haldane cared most about science and the status of scientists in society. He seems to care less about rational... (read more)

The Rationalists of the 1950s (and before) also called themselves “Rationalists”

That quote is metal as hell <3

It might not be actually true, or actually good advice... but it is metal as hell :-)

Omicron Post #4

I think I'm in that 2% slice, and my feeling is that this position arises from:

  1. Having a moderately coherent and relatively rare theory of "benevolent government and the valid use of state power" that focuses on public goods and equilibria and subsidiarity and so on.
  2. Having a relatively rare belief that vaccinated people seem much more likely to get asymptomatically infected and to have lower mortality BUT also noting that vaccines do NOT prevent infectiousness and probably cannot push R0 below 1.0.

Thus, I consider covid vaccines primarily a private good tha... (read more)

9Daniel V2moYour POV really turns on (emphasis added): Much more likely than what? It would seem the relative comparison you want to make would be vs. the unvaccinated, but that's obviously false (and that's the important part). It's true they are more likely to be asymptomatically vs. symptomatically infected (yay mild COVID), but so what? Most of the work is done on any infection at all, e.g. (making up numbers but illustrating the point): P(infected | unvaccinated) = .50, P(asymptomatic | infected for unvaccinated) = .50, and then assume that symptomatic people are less likely to transmit the disease than asymptomatic people because they know to quarantine thanks to the symptoms. So that's a 25% chance of getting asymptomatically infected feeding into a decision generating a negative externality. P(infected | vaccinated) = .05, P(asymptomatic | infected for vaccinated) = 1.0, let's assume there are no symptomatic cases of infections among the vaccinated (hahaha), that's a 5% chance of getting asymptomatically infected feeding in. Again, most of the work is done on any infection at all, so having a higher chance of symptomatic (vs. asymptomatic) infection doesn't really matter (at the level of vaccine effectiveness and rate of asymptomatic infection we've seen). Do vaccines prevent infectiousness? I remember seeing CDC data over the summer about how symptomatic vaccinateds are as infectious (in viral load) as symptomatic unvaccinateds, so that's conditional on showing symptoms. But let's assume asymptomatics in each group are also equally infectious - then we can still favor vaccines because, see above, most of the work is done on any infection at all. To conclude, I think it's extremely clear that your (2) is wrong. There is public good value to vaccination.
Speaking of Stag Hunts

Yeah! This is great. This is the kind of detailed grounded cooperative reality that really happens sometimes :-)

Speaking of Stag Hunts

Mechanistically... since stag hunt is in the title of the post... it seems like you're saying that any one person committing "enough of these epistemic sins to count as playing stag" would mean that all of lesswrong fails at the stag hunt, right?

And it might be the case that a single person playing stag could be made up of them failing at even just a single one of these sins? (This is the weakest point in my mechanistic model, perhaps?)

Also, what you're calling "projection" there is not the standard model of projection I think? And my understanding is that... (read more)

5tomcatfish2moI am confused by a theme in your comments. You have repeatedly chosen to express that the failure of a single person completely destroys all the value of the website, even going so far as to quote ridiculous numbers (at the order of E-18 [1]) in support of this. The only model I have for your behavior that explains why you would do this, instead of assuming something like Duncan believing something like "The value of C cooperators and D defectors is min(0,C−D2)" is that you are trying to make the argument look weak. If there is another reason to do this, I'd appreciate an explanation, because this tactic alone is enough to make me view the argument as likely adversarial.
4Duncan_Sabien2moNo, and if you had stopped there and let me answer rather than going on to write hundreds of words based on your misconception, I would have found it more credible that you actually wanted to engage with me and converge on something, rather than that you just really wanted to keep spamming misrepresentations of my point in the form of questions.
Speaking of Stag Hunts

This word "fucky" is not native to my idiolect, but I've heard it from Berkeley folks in the last year or two. Some of the "fuckiness" of the dynamic might be reduced if tapping out as a respectable move in a conversation.

I'm trying not to tap out of this conversation, but I have limited minutes and so my responses are likely to be delayed by hours or days. 

I see Duncan as suffering, and confused, and I fear that in his confusion (to try to reduce his suffering), he might damage virtues of lesswrong that I appreciate, but he might not. 

If I get v... (read more)

1Duncan_Sabien2moIf your goal is to somehow help Duncan, you could start by ceasing to relentlessly and overconfidently proceed with wrong models of me.
Speaking of Stag Hunts

If you look at some of the neighboring text, I have some mathematical arguments about what the chances are for N people to all independently play "stag" such that no one plays rabbit and everyone gets the "stag reward".

If 3 people flip coins, all three coins come up "stag" quite often. If a "stag" is worth roughly 8 times as much as a rabbit, you could still sanely "play stag hunt" with 2 other people whose skill at stag was "50% of the time they are perfect".  

But if they are less skilled than that, or there are more of them, the stag had better be v... (read more)

5Duncan_Sabien2moCoin flips are an absolutely inappropriate model for stag hunts; people choosing stag and rabbit are not independent in the way that coin flips are independent; that's the whole point. Incentives drive everyone toward rabbit; agreements drive people toward stag. All of the reasoning descending from the choice to model things as coin flips is therefore useless.
Speaking of Stag Hunts

I see that you have, in fact, caught me in a simplification that is not consistent with literally everything you said. 

I apologize for over-simplifying, maybe I should have added "primarily" and/or "currently" to make it more literally true.

In my defense, and to potentially advance the conversation, you also did say this, and I quoted it rather than paraphrasing because I wanted to not put words in your mouth while you were in a potentially adversarial mood... maybe looking to score points for unfairness?

What I'm getting out of LessWrong these days is

... (read more)
9Said Achmiz2moHere is a thng I wrote some years ago (this is a slightly cleaned up chat log, apologies for the roughness of exposition):
9Duncan_Sabien2moIf a person writes "I currently get A but what I really want is B" ...and then you selectively quote "I currently get A" as justification for summarizing them as being unlikely to want B... ...right after they've objected to you strawmanning and misrepresenting them left and right, and made it very clear to you that you are nowhere near passing their ITT... ...this is not "simplification." Apologizing for "over-simplifying," under these circumstances, is a cop-out. The thing you are doing is not over-simplification. You are [not talking about simpler versions of me and my claim that abstract away some of the detail]. You are outright misrepresenting me, and in a way that's reeeaaalll hard to believe is not adversarial, at this point. It is at best falling so far short of cooperative discourse as to not even qualify as a member of the set, and at worst deliberate disingenuousness. If a person wholly misses you once, that's run-of-the-mill miscommunication. If, after you point out all the ways they missed you, at length, they brush that off and continue confidently arguing with their cardboard cutout of you, that's a bad sign. If, after you again note that they've misrepresented you in a crucial fashion, they apologize for "over-simplifying," they've demonstrated that there's no point in trying to engage with them. I find this unpromising, in light of the above.
Speaking of Stag Hunts

Thank you for this great comment. I feel bad not engaging with Duncan directly, but maybe I can engage with your model of him? :-)

I agree that Duncan wouldn't agree with my restatement of what he might be saying. 

What I attributed to him was a critical part (that I object to) of the entailment of the gestalt of his stance or frame or whatever. My hope was that his giant list of varying attributes of statements and conversational motivations could be condensed into a concept with a clean intensive definition other than a mushy conflation of "badness" a... (read more)


my model of Duncan predicts that there are some people on LW whose presence here is motivated (at least significantly in part) by wanting to grow as a rationalist,


I think that it is likely that neither Duncan nor I likely consider ourselves in the first category.

Duncan, in the OP, which Jennifer I guess skimmed:

What I really want from LessWrong is to make my own thinking better, moment to moment. To be embedded in a context that evokes clearer thinking, the way being in a library evokes whispers. To be embedded in a context that anti-evokes al

... (read more)
Speaking of Stag Hunts

"Black and white thinking" is another name for a reasonably well defined cognitive tendency that often occurs in proximity to reasonably common mental problems.

Part of the reason "the fallacy of gray" is a thing that happens is that advice like that can be a useful and healthy thing for people who are genuinely not thinking in a great way. 

Adding gray to the palette can be a helpful baby step in actual practice.

Then very very similar words to this helpful advice can also be used to "merely score debate points" on people who have a point about "X is go... (read more)

5Slider3moThere is another phenomenon that also gets referred to as "black and white thinking" that has more to do with rigidity of thought. The mechanisms of that are different. I am bit unsure whether it has a more standard name and wanted to find fact information but only found an opinon piece [] where at number 5 there is a differential between that and splitting. I do recognise how the text fills recognition criteria for splitting and the worry seems reasonable but to me it sounds more like splitting hairs. The kind of thing were I would argue that within probability zero there is difference between "almost never" and "actually never" and for some thing it would make or break things.
Speaking of Stag Hunts

Yeah, my larger position is that karma (and upboats and so on) are brilliant gamifications of "a way to change the location of elements on a webpage". Reddit is a popular website, that many love, for a reason. I remember Digg. I remember K5. I remember Slashdot. There were actual innovations in this space, over time, and part of the brilliance in the improvements was in meeting the needs of a lot of people "where they are currently at" and making pro-social use of many tendencies that are understandably imperfect.

Social engineering is a thing, and it is a ... (read more)

Speaking of Stag Hunts

On epistemic grounds: The thing you should be objecting to in my mind is not the part where I said that "because I can't think of a reason for X, that implies that there might not be a reason for X". 

(This isn't great reasoning, but it is the start of something coherent. (Also, it is an invitation to defend X coherently and directly. (A way you could have engaged with is by explaining why adversarial attacks on the non-desired weeds would be a good use of resources rather than just... like... living and letting live, and trying to learn from things yo... (read more)

If you think I'm irrational, please enumerate the ways. Please be nuanced and detailed and unconfused. List 100 little flaws if you like.

I'm having a hard time doing this because your two comments are both full of things that seem to me to be doing exactly the fog-inducing, confusion-increasing thing.  But I'm also reasonably confident that my menu of options looks like:

  • Don't respond, and the-audience-as-a-whole, i.e. the-culture-of-LessWrong, will largely metabolize this as tacit admission that you were right, and I was unable to muster a defense bec
... (read more)

[Obvious disclaimer: I am not Duncan, my views are not necessarily his views, etc.]

It seems to me that your comment is [doing something like] rounding off Duncan's position to [something like] conflict theory, and contrasting it to the alternative of a mistake-oriented approach. This impression mostly comes from passages like the following:

You're sad about the world. I'm sad about it too. I think a major cause is too much poking. You're saying the cause is too little poking. So I poked you. Now what?

If we really need to start banning the weeds, for

... (read more)
Speaking of Stag Hunts

This post makes me kind of uncomfortable and I feel like the locus is in... bad boundaries maybe? Maybe an orientation towards conflict, essentializing, and incentive design?

Here's an example where it jumped out at me:

Another metaphor is that of a garden.

You know what makes a garden?


Gardens aren't just about the thriving of the desired plants.  They're also about the non-thriving of the non-desired plants.

And weeding is hard work, and it's boring, and it's tedious, and it's unsexy.

Here's another:

But gardens aren't just about the thriving of th

... (read more)

And why would a good and sane person ever want to impose costs on third parties ever except like in... revenge because we live in an anarchic horror world, or (better) as punishment after a wise and just proceeding where rehabilitation would probably fail but deterrence might work? 

This paragraph sounds to me like when you say "costs" you are actually thinking of "punishments", with an implication of moral wrongdoing.  I'm uncertain that Duncan intended that implication (and if he did, I'd like to request that both of you use the more specific te... (read more)

Please don't make this place worse again by caring about points for reasons other than making comments occur in the right order on the page.

I wish this statement explaining what goal your advice is designed to optimize had appeared at the top of the advice, rather than the bottom.


My current world-model predicts that this is not what most people believe points are for, and that getting people to treat points in this way would require a high-effort coordinated push, probably involving radical changes to the UI to create cognitive distance from how poin... (read more)

Like... this is literally black and white thinking? 

This is written in a way that seems to imply that if it is black and white thinking that would be bad. It also doesn't read as a question despite having a question mark.

People whos neurotype makes them default to black and white thinking can get really good when a concept does apply or doesn't apply. It has strengths and weaknesses. You are taking the attitude that it is widely known for its weaknesses. Demonstrating what is being glossed over or what kinds of things would be missed by it. I guess la... (read more)

5Ruby3moFor the record, as "arch-moderator", I care about karma for more reasons than just that, in line with Oli's list here [] .

Like... this is literally black and white thinking?

Yes, because there is in fact a difference between "stuff that promotes individuals' and groups' ability to see and think clearly" and stuff that does not, and while we have nowhere near a solid grasp on it, we do know some of it really well at this point.  There are some things that just do not belong in a subculture that's trying to figure out what's true.

Some things are, in fact, better than others, especially when you have a goal/value set/utility function. 

And why would a good and sane perso

... (read more)
[Book Review] "The Bell Curve" by Charles Murray

I'm glad you are unharmed and that my well wishes were welcome :-)

Feature Selection

This natural thought naturally leads you to wonder just how much python is actually available to you, and... also... probably it is somewhat safe to simply ask... what year is it?

def peep_at_time_itself():
   failure_message, year = None, None
           import time
           t = time.time()
           year = int(1970 + (t / (365 * 24 * 3600)))
       except ImportError as err:

... (read more)
[Book Review] "The Bell Curve" by Charles Murray

I read the book years ago "to find out what all the fuss was about" and I was surprised to find that the book was only about white America for the most part.

After thinking about it, my opinion was that Murray should have left out the one chapter about race (because that discussion consumed all the oxygen and also) because the thing I was very surprised by, and which seemed like a big deal, and which potentially was something that could be changed via policy, and thus probably deserved most of the oxygen, was the story where:

the invisible migration of the t

... (read more)
5lsusr3moI'm totally unharmed. I didn't even lose my phone. There is absolutely nothing you can do but appreciate the offer and the well wishes.

(3) tax businesses for hogging up all the smart people, if they try to brain drain into their own firm?

Due to tax incidence, that's the same as taxing smart people for getting together. I don't like that for two reasons. First, people should be free to get together. Second, the freedom of smart people to get together could be responsible for large economic gains, so we should be careful about messing with it.

9Said Achmiz3moSee also: “The Problem Isn’t the ‘Merit,’ It’s the ‘Ocracy’” [] (The Scholar’s Stage).
What are fiction stories related to AI alignment?

I've been rereading old books that might have been unduly influential on my young mind and thus returned to Heinlein's "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress". The protagonist is an apolitical computer programmer who befriends his computer and gets sucked into plotting a coup against the prison/government system for its failure to be adequately benevolent when a crisis arises that requires the role of "government" be filled by a regime able to do something other than "pure benign neglect + stealing shit sometimes".

The model of "computing" is very retrofuturistic (a... (read more)

My experience at and around MIRI and CFAR (inspired by Zoe Curzi's writeup of experiences at Leverage)

I lived in a student housing cooperative for 3 years during my undergrad experience. These were non-rationalists. I lived with 14 people, then 35, then 35 (somewhat overlapping) people.

In these 3 years I saw 3 people go through a period of psychosis.

Once it was because of whippets, basically, and updated me very very strongly away from nitrous oxide being safe (it potentiates response to itself, so there's a positive feedback loop, and positive feedback loops in biology are intrinsically scary). Another time it was because the young man was almost too auti... (read more)

6TekhneMakre3moThanks for this account. Feels like there's more to the story here. Two of the cases you gave do sound like they had some mental thing (Christianity, social fear) that precipitated the psychosis, even if the psychosis itself was non-mental.
My experience at and around MIRI and CFAR (inspired by Zoe Curzi's writeup of experiences at Leverage)

Seeing as how you posted this 9 days ago, I hope you did not bite off more than you could chew, and I hope you do not want to scream anymore.

In Harry Potter the standard practice seems to be to "eat chocolate" and perhaps "play with puppies" after exposure to ideas that are both (1) possibly true, and (2) very saddening to think about.

Then there is Gendlin's Litany (and please note that I am linking to a critique, not to unadulterated "yay for the litany" ideas) which I believe is part of Lesswrong's canon somewhat on purpose. In the critique there are sec... (read more)

Covid 10/21: Rogan vs. Gupta

If you can find someone who wrote a coherent article whose central pro-seatbelt argument is based on how seatbelts protect third parties from being struck by the catapulting bodies of idiots who didn't wear their seatbelt, I'm happy to change my mind.

Covid 10/21: Rogan vs. Gupta

I think this will be my last response. I can see VAERS and hypothetically I could download it and do some datascience on it, perhaps? 

However, until just now I didn't know that that system existed... and then I had to search for it (not follow a helpful link from you) and probably someone else has done datascience on that already...

So since you know about such things, why aren't you teaching me? Why aren't you linking to helpful stuff to tell me exactly how and why vaccines are safe making a positive case from these data sources you know about and tru... (read more)

2cistrane3moWhen people start doing their own data science on VAERS database, the result sometimes looks like this document [] . Do you want to explain why covid vaccines appear to be 100 times less safe than flu vaccines?
Covid 10/21: Rogan vs. Gupta

I assume you mean this table?

From page 7 here.

Speaking to the table above: I don't see numbers in the table or a methods section in the document.

This appears to be a legal compliance document, or maybe technical marketing, but it doesn't seem like science or like an example rigorously adequate quality engineering.

From a legal perspective, all those "Not known" cells look like wiggle room for a legal defense to me in case things go sideways and lots of people get one of those side effects?

This does not bother me exactly. 

My general model of the vaccine... (read more)

2cistrane3moIf there is significant systematic data censorship than we are all reduced to Rogan's level of data, namely, observation of people in our immediate circle and their immediate contacts, so one degree of separation. This is 17th century science. It is not likely to give us a strong enough signal to update in any direction. VAERS data used to be sufficient to ascertain vaccine safety in the past. Can you trust VAERS data for covid vaccines? When it comes to death reports closely following vaccination it gives a signal which is 200 times stronger than for flu vaccines. Can this signal be explained by FDA urging medical professionals to report literally every death occurring after vaccines? If VAERS is broken, what other sources can we use to estimate just how and in what direction VAERS is broken? For example, can we compare the number of anaphylactic allergic reactions compiled by sources other than VAERS and the number of these reactions reported in VAERS?
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