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Request for advice: high school transferring

Biases/my history: I went to a good public high school after indifferent public elementary and junior high schools. I attended an Ivy League college. My life would have been different if I had gone to academically challenging schools as a youth. I don't know if it would have been better or worse; things have worked out pretty well.

You come off as very smart and self-aware. Still, I think you underrate the risk of ending up as an other-person at the public high school; friends may not be as easy as you expect. Retreating to a public high school may also require explanation to college recruiters.

I also think your conclusion that you would study better with more friends may be a self-persuading effort that there are scholastic reasons to switch. But there don't have to be scholastic reasons: Being unhappy for two more years in your teens is a big deal, and if you are satisfied that your happiness will increase substantially by switching, you should switch. Long view is nice, but part of that view should be that two years of a low-friend existence sounds no fun, and the losses of switching are likely to be minimal.

Finally, commuting is a life-killer. Adults very commonly underrate the loss of quality of life for commuting (I commute 10 minutes each way; I have had jobs with one-hour commutes.) I'd suggest it's even more valuable time lost for a teenager.

Finally finally, I'm confident you'll get this right for you. Take a look at these responses, talk it out, then rock on. Be good, stay well.

Stupid Questions March 2015


Well done, sir.

Stupid Questions March 2015

Gah. I don't remember the solution or the key. And I just last week had a computer crash (replaced it), so, I've got lots of nothing. Sorry.

I am sure of (1) and (2). I don't remember (3), and it's very possible it's longer than 10 (though probably not much longer.) But I don't remember clearly. That's the best I can do.


How my social skills went from horrible to mediocre

I think it is worse than hopeless on multiple fronts.

First problem:

Let's take another good quality: Honesty. People who volunteer, "I always tell the truth," generally lie more than the average population, and should be distrusted. (Yes, yes, Sam Harris. But the skew is the wrong way.) "I am awesome at good life quality," generally fails if your audience has had, well, significant social experience.

So you want to demonstrate this claim by word and deed, and not explicitly make the claim in most cases. Here, I understand the reason for making it, and the parts where you say you want good things to happen to people are fine. (I have on LW said something like, "I have a reputation for principled honesty, says me," in arguing that game tactics were not dishonest and should not apply to out-of-game reputation.) But the MLK thing is way-too-much, like "I never lie," is way-too-much.

Second problem:

As others have said, the comparison is political and inapt. You couldn't find anyone less iconic? Penn Jillette? Someone?

And MLK is known for his actions and risks and willingness to engage in non-violence. I read somewhere that ethnic struggles sometimes end badly. In a world where the FBI was trying to get him to kill himself, he stood for peace. Under those circumstance, his treatment of other humans was generally very good. That's not a test you've gone through.

Third problem:

The confidence of the statement is way, way out of line with where it should be. You have some idea of MLK's love and compassion for other people, but not all of it. Maybe MLK thought, "Screw all those people in government; hope they die screaming. But I think that war leads to more losses for black people, so despite my burning hatred, I'm putting on a better public face." (I admit this is unlikely.) He certainly had some personal bad qualities. Maybe you love people more than MLK. (This also seems unlikely, but stay with me.)

We cannot measure love and compassion in kilograms. We also do not know what people are like all the time. I realize that we can put people into general buckets, but I'd caution this sort of precision for others and yourself to a point where you can call people equivalent by this measure. And if we could measure it, there are no infinite values.

Fourth problem:

As infinite love for all humans is not possible... well, it's not even a good idea. You shouldn't have compassion and love for all people. The guy who just loves stabbing toddlers needs to be housed away from toddlers even though we're ruining his life, which was so happy in those delightful toddler-stabbing days. And if you're using your love and compassion on that guy, well, maybe there are other people who can get some o' that with better effect.

Because love and compassion isn't really a meaningful construct if it's just some internal view of society with no outward effects. Love and compassion is mostly meaningful only in what's done (like, say, leading life-risking marches against injustices.)

OK, that's it. Hope it helps.

Stupid Questions March 2015

I agree that I made my key too long so it's a one-time pad. You're right.

"Much easier"? With or without word lengths?OK, no obligation, but I didn't make this too brutal:

Vsjfodjpfexjpipnyulfsmyvxzhvlsclqkubyuwefbvflrcxvwbnyprtrrefpxrbdymskgnryynwxzrmsgowypjivrectssbmst ipqwrcauwojmmqfeohpjgwauccrdwqfeadykgsnzwylvbdk.

(Again, no obligation to play, and no inference should be taken against gjm's hypothesis if they decline.)

Stupid Questions March 2015

I encrypt messages for a another, goofier purpose. One of the people I am encrypting from is a compsci professor.

I use a Vigenere cipher, which should beat everything short of the Secret Werewolf Police, and possibly them, too. (It is, however, more crackable than a proper salted, hashed output.)

In a Vigenere, the letters in your input are moved by the numerical equivalent of the key, and the key repeats. Example:

Secret Statement/lie: Cats are nice. Key: ABC

New, coded statement: dcwt (down 1, 2, 3, 1) cuf ildg. Now, I recommend using long keys and spacing the output in five letter blocks to prevent easier soliving.

You can do this online:


This will transmute "It seems unlikely the werewolf police will catch you," with the key "The movie ends the same way for all of us JRM." to:

Cbxrt ibzsz mdytd minyzw wxqdt cjeph bfqhr leuqh oxvbg tn.

(Letter grouping by me.)

Again Vigenere's are potentially crackable, but they are very hard. It's easier for the werewolf police to just come and eat anyone who puts up hashed or Vigenere ciphered predictions.

Innate Mathematical Ability

I did it even more simply than that: Count things. Most have four iterations. Some have three iterations. The ones with three, make four. Less than 10 seconds for me. Same answer as the rest of everyone.

Memes and Rational Decisions

Nitpick: Asimov was a member of Mensa on and off, but was highly critical of it, and didn't like Mensans. He was an honorary vice president, not president (according Asimov, anyway.) And he wasn't very happy about it.

Relevantly to this: "Furthermore, I became aware that Mensans, however high their paper IQ might be, were likely to be as irrational as anyone else." (See the book "I.Asimov," pp.379-382.) The vigor of Asimov's distaste for Mensa as a club permeates this essay/chapter.

Nitpick it is, but Asimov deserves a better fate than having a two-sentence bio associate him with Mensa.

Is arguing worth it? If so, when and when not? Also, how do I become less arrogant?

It's almost always a good thing, agreed.

Smart people's willingness to privilege their own hypotheses on subjects outside their expertise is a chronic problem.

I have a very smart friend I met on the internet; we see each other when we are in each others (thousand-mile-away) neighborhood. We totally disagree on politics. But we have great conversations, because we can both laugh at the idiocy of our tribe. If you handle argument as a debate with a winner and a loser, no one wins and no one has any fun. I admit that it takes two people willing to treat it as an actual conversation, but you can help it along.

xkcd on the AI box experiment

Oh, for pity's sake. You want to repeatedly ad hominem attack XiXiDu for being a "biased source." What of Yudkowsky? He's a biased source - but perhaps we should engage his arguments, possibly by collecting them in one place.

"Lacking context and positive examples"? This doesn't engage the issue at all. If you want to automatically say this to all of XiXiDu's comments, you're not helping.

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