# All of jimrandomh's Comments + Replies

Air Quality and Cognition

One methodological worry I have with some (but not all) of these studies is: suppose some kinds of air pollution interact with a slow-adjusting homeostatic mechanism. In that case, the results on short-term intervention tests wouldn't generalize to long-term effects.

Some athletes will spend time at higher altitudes, because the reduced air pressure causes their body to produce additional red blood cells to compensate, which they can keep for awhile when they return to sea level. Suppose increasing CO2 or particulate concentration worked the same way as increasing altitude. Then all the studies which worked by manipulating the air in a room for the duration of a single exam would be misleading.

Is January AI a real thing?

It looks like this is a software product; they aren't making CGMs, they're reselling the Freestyle Libre. There's nothing wrong with writing data-analysis software for CGM data, but this kind of software is a fairly commoditized, low-value high-competition market, especially in comparison to the CGM hardware market, which makes billions of dollars a year in revenue. Their marketing presentation seems like it's trying to obfuscate this distinction.

There Is No Control System For COVID

I think vitamin D deficiency might be the hidden factor that determines vulnerability. Reasons for thinking this:

• Vitamin D is an immune modulator, so there's a clear mechanism.
• Vitamin D deficiency is about the right fraction of the population, 29-41% depending where you set the threshold, which approximately matches the household secondary attack rate and the infection rate at superspreading events.
• It varies over time with random variation in diet and indoor/outdoor activity patterns.
• It correlates with season, latitude, race and BMI.

I think there's a reaso... (read more)

5MichaelLowe5dThis is an interesting hypothesis, but I find it implausible that there is large temporal variation in vitamin D levels. Seasonal variation which might be even the biggest factor affects everybody the same, and it just does not seem to match my experience that the majority of the population changes their diet in such random ways that they could become Vitamin d deficient by chance. Same with indoor/outdoor activities, most people's life is not that variable that they are spending each day outside one month, but not the next. Besides, Vitamin D deficiency is correlated very strongly with various commodities, which definitely do not randomly fluctuate. I would also bet that the secondary household attack rate is similar across different age groups (except children) while it is known that Vitamin D deficiency is much likelier in older people.

This is occupying a weird place half-way between satire, and a real thing that could be useful. As a piece of mildly offensive satire, it works as-is; as a thing that could go on a real website, it doesn't.

On one hand: enforcing high standards can make for much better spaces, and impartial standards are great. There are some kinds of forums where requiring new users to solve a tricky math problem would be really good. There's a real, major problem with people entering and dragging down conversations that require knowledge they don't have, and flooding what... (read more)

The tweet example indicated as “blocked” also points way past “offensive satire” to me; the description of “I can't use this shampoo” is charitably read as pointing toward a real difference in hair-care needs which isn't being covered by a business, plus some vent-driven/antagonistic emotional content. That's not “unintelligent”, that's more like “exhibiting conflict or cultural markers in a way that makes you uncomfortable”, and it aligns with culture war in an alarming way. (Of course, there can exist sites where posting such things is off-topic or other... (read more)

Jimrandomh's Shortform

Some people have a sense of humor. Some people pretend to be using humor, to give plausible deniability to their cruelty. On April 1st, the former group becomes active, and the latter group goes quiet.

This is too noisy to use for judging individuals, but it seems to work reasonably well for evaluating groups and cultures. Humor-as-humor and humor-as-cover weren't all that difficult to tell apart in the first place, but I imagine a certain sort of confused person could be pointed at this in order to make the distinction salient.

5Yoav Ravid9dI'm not sure that's true. I think the second kind also uses April 1st as a way to justify more cruelty than usual.
April drafts

Looking at your list of objects, used to estimate how much hardware will be needed to create AGI, I am worried that there may be a problem, related to something I've heard of but didn't quite understand, called "reference class tennis". To address the problem, I suggest adding a tennis racket, a tennis ball, and a tennis court to the list of objects. This should also help to make the result more statistically significant, by increasing the sample size.

A new acausal trading platform: RobinShould

Will it be able to infer my desired username and password from public data sources, or will I have to make an account?

For you, our patented superintelligent prediction algorithm anticipated that you would want an account, so we already created one for you. Unfortunately, it also predicted that you would make very bad investments in literal galaxy-brain hot takes. Therefore, we decided to terminate your account.

Where can one draw the line between sentience and the state of being just a random bunch of quarks? At what point is the 'conscience' generated?

Rob Bensinger wrote a pretty good summary of consciousness for the LW wiki/tag page. The short version is: When the quarks are arranged in a way that implements an algorithm, and that algorithm has certain properties (though the exact details of those properties are somewhat difficult to pin down, since we don't understand intelligence all that well yet).

Could billions spacially disconnected "Boltzmann neurons" give rise to consciousness?

(Mod note: I moved a duplicate of this post back to drafts. I chose which of the two duplicates to move based on which one had comments. The other difference between them was that the other one was a question-post. I can convert this copy into a question post if that seems better.)

1Szymon Kucharski9dIt is good. Thank You and sorry for the trouble
Should I advocate for people to not buy Ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19 in the Philippines for now?

To the question of whether Ivermectin is useful as a treatment: I don't know. A skim through Google Scholar certainly suggests it has some promise, and the side-effect profile is mild enough that the risk-reward seems likely to work out.

This question has gotten far too little attention from good intellectuals. A good distillation of the research would be very valuable.

To the question that was asked, about whether you should do advocacy on this topic (in either direction): No. You are not ready.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a long string of incidents where ... (read more)

Eric Raymond's Shortform

I remember David Stove's What Is Wrong With Our Thoughts (1991) being discussed on early-LW, and being influenced by it. I don't really know whether this was an outlier-unusually-good essay, or the tip of an iceberg of good pre-LW less-wrongness.

Jimrandomh's Shortform

In a comment here, Eliezer observed that:

OpenBSD treats every crash as a security problem, because the system is not supposed to crash and therefore any crash proves that our beliefs about the system are false and therefore our beliefs about its security may also be false because its behavior is not known

And my reply to this grew into something that I think is important enough to make as a top-level shortform post.

It's worth noticing that this is not a universal property of high-paranoia software development, but a an unfortunate consequence of using the C... (read more)

7Zac Hatfield Dodds18dI disagree. While C is indeed terribly unsafe, it is always the case that a safety-critical system exhibiting behaviour you thought impossible is a serious safety risk - because it means that your understanding of the system is wrong, and that includes the safety properties.
Jimrandomh's Shortform

It's looking likely that the pandemic will de facto end on the Summer Solstice.

Biden promised vaccine availability for everyone on May 1st. May 1st plus two weeks to get appointments plus four weeks spacing between two doses of Moderna plus one week waiting for full effectiveness, is June 19. The astronomical solstice is June 20, which is a Sunday.

Things might not go to plan, if the May 1st vaccine-availability deadline is missed, or a vaccine-evading strain means we have to wait for a booster. No one's organizing the details yet, as far as I know. But with all those caveats aside:

It's going to be a hell of a party.

3Measure1moMy understanding was that the May 1st date was "Everyone's now allowed to sign up for an appointment, but you may be at the end of a long queue." How long after that do you think it will take to get a vaccine to everyone who wants one?
How do you run a fit-test for a mask at home when you don't have fancy equipment?

N95s with a thick edge, like the 3M 8210Plus, seem more likely to fit than the tent-style KN95s. P100s with a rubber interface have had a pretty good (but not perfect) success rate, conditional on the straps being tight enough to bend the rubber a little. A Narwall mask can be checked for fit without using a fit test kit, by covering the input vent with your hand, breathing in and felling the pressure (but that kind of mask is incompatible with glasses).

Sherrinford's Shortform

I don't expect to win an edit war with David Gerard.

Now might be a good time to revisit that belief. He just got a topic ban on "editing about Scott Siskind, broadly construed". I make the case on the LessWrong article talk page that this topic ban could be construed as extending to the LessWrong article, and also that there is a separate case against him editing that article based on similar behavior to the behavior that he got a topic ban for.

1Sherrinford1moI had to sigh when I read "it can be hard to find editors who don't have a strong opinion about the person. But this is very far from that, likely one reason why the NYT actually used David Gerard as a source".
1Sherrinford1moIt would probably really take a lot of time to even understand what is and what is not considered to be in accordance with wikpedia rules. I note that, as in any other volunteer organization, a lot depends on who wants to put more time and effort into fighting for his/her convictions.
Jimrandomh's Shortform

There is a rumor of RSA being broken. By which I mean something that looks like a strange hoax made it to the front on Hacker News. Someone uploaded a publicly available WIP paper on integer factorization algorithms by Claus Peter Schnorr to the Cryptology ePrint Archive, with the abstract modified to insert the text "This destroyes the RSA cryptosystem." (Misspelled.)

Today is not the Recurring Internet Security Meltdown Day. That happens once every month or two, but not today in particular.

But this is a good opportunity to point out a non-obvious best pra... (read more)

1Gerald Monroe1moWhile this sounds cool, what sort of activities are you thinking you need to encrypt? Consider the mechanisms for how information leaks. a. Are you planning or coordinating illegal acts? The way you get caught is one of your co-conspirators reported you. b. Are you protecting your credit card and other financial info? The way it leaks is a third party handler, not your own machine. c. Protecting trade secrets? The way it gets leaked is one of your coworkers copied the info and brought it to a competitor. d. Protecting crypto? Use an offline wallet. Too much protection and you will have the opposite problem. Countless people - probably a substantial fraction of the entire population, maybe the majority - all their credit and identity records were leaked in various breaches. They have easily hackable webcams exposed on the internet. Skimmers trap their credit card periodically. And...nothing major happens to them.
How do you run a fit-test for a mask at home when you don't have fancy equipment?

I don't know the physics of what happens in an instant pot very well, but probably not; I would expect any heat-based method for producing mist is probably going to be leave the solutes behind. But this is easy to test; just saturate some water with saccharin, turn it on, and see if (without a mask) you can taste saccharin in the air.

4ChristianKl1moI tested it and you are right, the mist produced had no effect.
How do you run a fit-test for a mask at home when you don't have fancy equipment?

You do need fancy equipment, but not quite that fancy. The one thing you absolutely can't do it without is a nebulizer. This is a sort of modified spray bottle which converts liquid into aerosol. A regular spray bottle won't work, because the droplets it produces are too large. The nebulizer I have works by having a channel which pulls liquid up and suspends a drop of it in the path of bursts of air, which you produce by squeezing a rubber bulb. This is an expensive item because it's in short supply, but it's a simple plastic part that would be very cheap ... (read more)

1Owain_Evans1moDo you have tips on how to not fail without having one of these test kits? Which N95s work best? Do rubber P100s tend to fit better?
2ChristianKl1moI have an instant pot that can usually do a good job of turning water into mist. If an atomizer doesn't work, how about simply creating steam with my instant pot?
The feeling of breaking an Overton window

And I'm not yet sure what the analog of "avoid falling" is, that this reaction is actually triggered by cues of

"Falling" might be "acknowledging a truth which someone really wants to keep hidden"? Some related examples:

• A totalitarian ruler is trying to maintain a narrative that their country is prospering, by punishing anyone who calls attention to problems
• A manager worried about legal liability for a problem, who is trying to avoid the creation of evidence that they knew about the problem
• A criminal organization, which punishes anyone who draws atte
Overconfidence is Deceit

In one sense, this is straightforwardly true: there is an incentive in some (but not all) circumstances to project more confidence than you'd have if you were reasoning correctly based on the evidence, and following that incentive means emitting untrue information. But there are two pushbacks I want to give.

First, a minor pedantic point: There are environments where everyone is both signaling overconfidence all the time, and compensating for it in their interpretation of everyone else's communication. You could interpret this as dialects having certain con... (read more)

This seems self-aware and accurate, and means you have a decent chance of being able to intervene and avoid going into a depressive state. The two things that sound particularly high leverage (and I believe tend to feature prominently in standard advice, because they tend to be key elements of self-reinforcing spirals) are sleep and diet.

https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/a6PMaSrfG9KYWL9tL/how-to-improve-your-sleep. Especially the bit about checking for sleep apnea, if you haven't already.

Eating more sweets/carbs is a common depression failure mode, and peopl... (read more)

3Viliam2moWhen I checked the list, I was like: well, most of this applies to me to some degree, too... except the part about nightmares... which I used to have a lot in the past, but I don't remember having them recently... probably since the time I took care of my sleep apnea. Correlation is not causation, but it is a hypothesis worth exploring. In hindsight it seems obvious: lack of oxygen -> heart beats faster -> dreaming brain "rationalizes" this as fear.
1Borasko2moThose are good to know! Thanks!
Heuristic: Replace "No Evidence" with "No Reason"

Relevant Sequences post: Scientific Evidence, Legal Evidence, Rational Evidence. I think this may be a byproduct of the leadership of governmental organizations having too many lawyers (and legal culture); the "only a published peer-reviewed study counts as evidence" thing seems like a natural result of hybridizing the legal notion of evidence (something admissible in court) with the scientific notion of evidence (something produced via the scientific method).

2jaspax2moTo pick a nit: science accepts (or should accept) evidence which is not produced "via the scientific method". Ordinary everyday experience, anecdotes from friends, historical records, intuitive arguments about "beauty" or "naturalness", inferences from causal models, and pure math all contribute to scientific knowledge. The reason for privileging scientific experiment over most of these is not that the others cannot be evidence, but that rigorous experiment allows us to more thoroughly rule out alternate explanations and establish causation. You probably already know this, but it's worth reiterating given the context of the above.
We Need Browsers as Platforms

There are a few places where the install-from-repository model fundamentally works better than the web model, or could work better if the repositories did a little better. One of the big ones is: when I download software (or load a webapp), I want to be sure I'm getting the same software/webapp as everyone else is. A webpage with a sandbox-escape vulnerability can serve malicious code to high-value target users, and avoid serving it to security researchers; whereas with something like apt-get or the Play Store, that sort of thing is much more difficult.

Is the influence of money pervasive, even on LessWrong?

LessWrong has a team of six (which includes site development and support, the Alignment Forum in collaboration with MIRI and the EA Forum in collaboration with CEA, plus some assorted smaller projects). We get some funding from small donors, but the majority of funding is from a few large donations. We chose which donations to pursue in part based on which donors would best preserve our independence, and don't talk to them about site directions and decisions very much. We are currently adequately funded and not actively seeking more donations.

8habryka2moYep, for more context, most of our funding comes from the Survival and Flourishing Fund and the Open Philanthropy Project.
2019 Review: Voting Results!

My subjective experience voting on these posts was "aaaaah these are all too good I can't not-upvote any of them". Being eligible to be voted on required two nominations and a review, and apparently the nominators/reviewers were picking from a pretty excellent pool this year. The top posts in this list are really excellent, and the bottom posts are... still really excellent.

6ryan_b2moI feel like the posts at the bottom also being good is a sign of a healthy and productive community; if shortly outside the top posts quality fell off a cliff that would be a terrible sign.
Jimrandomh's Shortform

Lack-of-adblock is a huge mistake. On top of the obvious drain on attention, slower loading times everywhere, and surveillance, ads are also one of the top mechanisms by which computers get malware.

When I look over someone's shoulder and see ads, I assume they were similarly careless in their choice of which books to read.

8Said Achmiz2moNote that many people don’t know about ad blockers [https://www.gwern.net/Ads#they-just-dont-know]: (I highly recommend reading that entire section of the linked page, where gwern describes the results of several follow-up surveys he ran, and conclusions drawn from them.)
5plex2moOne day we will be able to wear glasses which act as adblock for real life, replacing billboards with scenic vistas.

I did the first 20 from each column of your spreadsheet, and got a different result. I hid your answers before writing mine. My rubric was different; instead of focusing on social value, I focused on what type of business relations a company has. You can see my answers here. These are all very noisy, and I'm not entirely confident I didn't have rating-drift between when I did the YC ones and when I did the S&P ones, but I got a slightly higher score for S&P companies.

In my rubric, things that mean low scores:

• You have a Compliance department
• A signif
2jacobjacob2moNice, this is interesting! I don't understand what this means and what it's measuring.
1LeeR_Sync3moThanks, that's helpful. I was also thinking a creative prediction could be cool. My response isn't limited to quotes.
The True Face of the Enemy
jimrandomh3moModerator Comment4

We detected a cluster of sockpuppet accounts from VPN IP addresses, all upvoting comments by piwo and nothing else. We can't definitively prove that this was piwo upvoting themself, but given that there was already a moderator warning, I think this is enough to ban.

John Vervaeke

I think I'd feel much better about this page if it was oriented around the thesis rather than around the person; ie, if the page were named "Crisis of Meaning", with an intro paragraph which cited Vervaeke's writing on the subject.

Jimrandomh's Shortform

What those drug-abuse education programs we all went though should have said:

It is a mistake to take any drug until after you've read its wikipedia page, especially the mechanism, side effects, and interactions sections, and its Erowid page, if applicable. All you children on ritalin right now, your homework is to go catch up on your required reading and reflect upon your mistake. Dismissed.

(Not a vagueblog of anything recent, but sometimes when I hear about peoples' recreational-drug or medication choices, I feel like Quirrell in HPMOR chapter 26, discussing a student who cast a high-level curse without knowing what it did.)

A highly abusive LW moderator endangered dozens of people with COVID dishonesty

[I am a moderator, but not the moderator that this post is about.]

This came up a little while before it was posted to LW (the same person posted a similar thing on Twitter) and I looked into it then. After reading accounts from both sides, it looked to me like the accusation was basically false. I also heard that another organization's designated abuse reporting person had already looked into it, and declined to take any action (though I didn't talk to them directly). We (myself and the other moderators) also don't want LW to be a place people go for socia... (read more)

This is indeed one of the things the Frontpage vs Personal Blog distinction is meant to handle; people are attracted to Criticize The Outgroup and Interpersonal Conflict posts, in ways they wouldn't endorse given a bit of distance and which don't seem to be reliably handled through the karma system.

The Great Karma Reckoning

Note that even things where the scores aren't affected directly may still change score, because the vote-strength of users who voted on them have changed. The karma-change notifier (the star icon in the top-right corner of the page) won't notify you of these changes, as it works by looking at the recent votes themselves rather than at computed scores.

Gears-Level Models are Capital Investments

There is a joke about programmers, that I picked up long ago, I don't remember where, that says: A good programmer will do hours of work to automate away minutes of drudgery. Some time last month, that joke came into my head, and I thought: yes of course, a programmer should do that, since most of the hours spent automating are building capital, not necessarily in direct drudgery-prevention but in learning how to automate in this domain.

I did not think of this post, when I had that thought. But I also don't think I would've noticed, if that joke had crosse... (read more)

Excerpts from a larger discussion about simulacra

I think this points to a mismatch between Benquo and Baudrillard, but not to a problem with the version of the concept Benquo uses. Given how successful the (modified, slightly different) concept has been, I consider this more of a problem with Baudrillard's book than a problem with Benquo's post.

Noticing Frame Differences

I continue to think this post is important, for basically the same reasons as I did when I curated it. I think for many conversations, having the affordance and vocabulary to talk about frames makes the difference between them going well and them going poorly.

Forum participation as a research strategy

I think that, among those who've done serious thought about how intellectual progress happens, it was pretty well known that in some domains a lot of research is happening on forums, and that forum participation as a research strategy can work. But in the broader world, most people treat forums as more like social spaces, and have a model of research works that puts it in distant, inaccessible institutional settings. Many people think research means papers in prestigious journals, with no model of where those papers come from. I think it's worth making common knowledge that getting involved in research can be as simple as tweaking your forum subscriptions.

Mental Mountains

I observe: There are a techniques floating around the rationality community, with models attached, where the techniques seem anecdotally effective, but the descriptions seem like crazy woo. This post has a model that predicts the same techniques will work, but the model is much more reasonable (it isn't grounded out in axon-connections, but in principle it could be). I want to resolve this tension in this post's favor. In fact I want that enough to distrust my own judgment on the post. But it does look probably true, in the way that models of mind can ever be true (ie if you squint hard enough).

Excerpts from a larger discussion about simulacra

This is not the clearest or the best explanation of simulacrum levels on LessWrong, but it is the first. The later posts on the subject (Simulacra and Subjectivity, Negative Feedback and Simulacra, Simulacra Levels and Their Interactions) are causally downstream of it, and are some of the most important posts on LessWrong. However, those posts were written in 2020, so I can't vote for them in the 2019 review.

I have applied the Simulacrum Levels concept often. I made spaced-repetition cards based on them. Some questions are easy to notice and ask, in simula... (read more)

Avoid Unnecessarily Political Examples

I think there's one more piece to the story of how the Politics Is the Mindkiller post morphed into the distorted four-words version of itself, which is: sometimes someone wants to talk about politics but they're clearly not ready, rationality-wise. Telling them "politics is the mindkiller" (in general, across all people) is more polite than saying "you-in-particular are not rational enough to talk about politics". Unfortunately, I suspect this sort of doublespeak reduced the amount of attention people paid to other peoples' skill levels, and contributed to some failures of gatekeeping.

This brings up a broader issue of "good norms for telling someone 'you aren't smart enough', 'you are lacking key skills' are a key missing coordination tool."

Unfortunately, I suspect this sort of doublespeak reduced the amount of attention people paid to other peoples' skill levels, and contributed to some failures of gatekeeping.

I am curious about the specifics of the dynamics you're thinking of. Can you think through a few examples and what concretely was going wrong?

Jimrandomh's Shortform

For reducing CO2 emissions, one person working competently on solar energy R&D has thousands to millions of times more impact than someone taking normal household steps as an individual. To the extent that CO2-related advocacy matters at all, most of the impact probably routes through talent and funding going to related research. The reason for this is that solar power (and electric vehicles) are currently at inflection points, where they are in the process of taking over, but the speed at which they do so is still in doubt.

I think the same logic now a... (read more)

Matt Goldenberg's Short Form Feed

If you're going to do this, I would suggest getting a few DEXA scans to make sure you aren't losing muscle mass. Also, you may need to replenish salt during the fast, and your salt needs may change with the weather, so watch out if heat or exercise makes you sweat.

4Matt Goldenberg3moYeah. Currently I can just tell from body makeup and strength gains when weightlifting that I've actually been gaining muscle mass, but this may just be "regaining" and not sure if I'll begin losing when I hit my previous point. I have been trying to drink water throughout the day, every other glass I include a bit of salt in. One thing I wondered about was electrolytes, do you know if I should be adding those?
Collider bias as a cognitive blindspot?

I call this subcategory of Berkson's paradox issues the conservation of virtue effect: when there is a filter somewhere for something like a sum of good qualities, then all good qualities are negatively correlated. Another major subcategory is the "if you observe something which has multiple possible explanations, those explanations are negatively correlated" effect. I don't think these two subtypes cover all the instances, but they do seem to cover a large fraction, and they aren't too difficult to internalize.

In software engineering, what are the upper limits of Language-Based Security?

The C-style "oops I used an object after freeing it and now anyone can execute arbitrary code" style of vulnerabilities is confined to a fairly narrow set of programming languages, most notably C and C++, which unfortunately happen to be popular and to have some interoperability advantages. One of the key requirements of a security-amenable language is that it can never tempt its users into writing parts of their project in C, which happens if the language is too slow (eg Python) or can't otherwise interoperate with important systems (most languages, unfor... (read more)

100 Tips for a Better Life

It seems obviously correct, just too specific; a more general policy like "be extra careful before signing up for anything with a recurring fee" would prevent this mistake, and also many others.

1jmh3moGym membership anyone?
Secular Solstice 2020

Not highly confident. Maybe it was only the audio?

Secular Solstice 2020

This may have failed for some subset of attendees, but it played successfully for me, and I remember it as a highlight of the solstice.

2jacobjacob4moThe first 5 min (that actually played, whereas the second half didn't) where also among my highlights.
5Raemon4mowut
6gwillen4moWait, really? Are you highly confident you're thinking of this video, and not the similarly-styled Beautiful Tomorrow video? As far as I knew, this video didn't play for anybody -- I don't think it loaded for any of the organizers.
[Meta?] Using the LessWrong codebase for a blog

How hard is it to setup the sys admin side of things ? Deploying a prod server behind an nginx with a non-sqlite db and pointing it to your own cdn

It's pretty poor, and also in flux. We use Meteor and mup-aws-beanstalk, but are dissatisfied with them (due to slow client-side Javascript initialization, slow development-cycle build time, and extremely slow server deploy time), so I'm converting it to esbuild and a yet-to-be-chosen deploy/CI setup. So if you deploy an instance of the LW codebase today, you will probably find that the recommended deployment me... (read more)

3George4moWhy not use something like https://github.com/meilisearch/meilisearch [https://github.com/meilisearch/meilisearch] ? I had to use it for a project (completely unrelated) and integrating it into a website is a sub-hour task, it's also silly portable since with rust you can just get a statically compiled version of packages that just need a dynamically linked libc.