Kaj_Sotala

Sequences

Concept Safety
Multiagent Models of Mind
Keith Stanovich: What Intelligence Tests Miss

Comments

I wanted to interview Eliezer Yudkowsky but he's busy so I simulated him instead

It was trained on the Internet (among other sources); I would be unsurprised to find out that it has read most of the Sequences.

GPT-Augmented Blogging

The list of titles reminds me that Tom Scott also had two fun videos on using GPT-3 to generate titles/scripts for his and other people's videos.

GPT-Augmented Blogging
  • I deliberately overplanned my life and everything is going wrong

This one sounds hilarious. :D

I read “White Fragility” so you don’t have to (but maybe you should)

Are claims like "you have been socialised into racism" all that different from claims such as "you are running on corrupted hardware", though?

It's true that such claims can be used in insidious ways, but at the same time some such claims are also going to be true. If you automatically assume that all such claims are to just to get the readers to signal obeisance and discard them just because of that, then you are also going to discard quite a few claims that you shouldn't have.

Three Principles to Writing Original Nonfiction

I don't read Aaron Diaz's webcomic Dresden Codak to learn about transhumanism. I read it because it's a masterwork of visual art with a riveting story. Nonfiction writing is about the ideas, not the experience. Get to the point.

That's a little strong. Nonfiction is about ideas, but we generally care about ideas because they are connected to experiences that matter to us (positively or negatively), and it's hard to convey ideas without conveying any experiences. In fact, this very post occasionally stops to do things that I would call conveying experiences, such as when you relay Etirabys's experience of you at different times. Arguably even you mentioning Dresden Codak in the previous sentences is evoking an experience. :)

Nonfiction conveys information. 

Fiction evokes emotion. [...]

Though the ostensible purpose of nonfiction is the conveyance of information, if that information is in a raw state, the writing seems pedestrian, black-and-white facts in a colorful world. The reader, soon bored, yearns for the images, anecdotes, characterization, and writerly precision that make informational writing come alive on the page. That is where the techniques of fiction can be so helpful to the nonfiction writer. [...]

TRADITIONAL NONFICTION: New York City has more than 1,400 homeless people.

BETTER NONFICTION: The man who has laid claim to the bench on the corner of 88th Street and Park Avenue is one of New York City’s 1,400 homeless people.

(Sol Stein, Stein on Writing)

I read “White Fragility” so you don’t have to (but maybe you should)

It seems to me this book is largely a manual for obedience to a political faction; a long list of the details of how one ought to act in different scenarios in order to signal obeisance. 

I read the sentences just before the one you quoted as explicitly de-emphasizing signaling obeisance:

You should not feel guilty for having been socialized into racismS. That’s just the way it is for all of us. Leave the sackcloth and ashes aside. When you find out you’ve been doing something that perpetuates racismS, the best response is to say “of course I was; I’m glad I finally found out about it so I can change.” 

If I was writing something that was trying to get its readers to signal obeisance, I'm not sure what exactly I would say to get that outcome, but I think that my message would be closer to "you are bad and should feel bad" than "this is the way it is for all of us, so don't feel guilty or make too big of a deal out of it".

I read “White Fragility” so you don’t have to (but maybe you should)

To make your point more stark, if one were to modify the quote to say

When you find out you’ve been doing something that is neither epistemically nor instrumentally rational, the best response is to say “of course I was; I’m glad I finally found out about it so I can change.” 

then it would presumably be better received on LW, even though both are expressing a similar point: if you realize you've been mistaking a mistake, the most effective course of action is not to spend time beating yourself up, but to say "oops", update, and be happy that you noticed in the first place.

Training My Friend to Cook

Glad that we're coming closer to agreement. :)

I think this is quite different from just teaching a friend to the best of your ability

Could you elaborate on this? I agree that if we were talking about teaching a skill in the abstract, it would be different, but I'm not sure where the difference is if we're teaching a habit? Since to me learning a habit is reshaping your motivational system.

Training My Friend to Cook

I think we're talking past each other. 

We seem to be, yes. :)

I guess a difference here is that where you see "manipulation", I see "good pedagogy".

A friend was once trying to teach / encourage me to cook. One of the things she told me to do was to put on some music that I liked as I was doing it, so as to make it feel more enjoyable. I don't know whether she thought about it in those terms, but in making that suggestion she was trying to use conditioning on me - associating the act of cooking with pleasant music. I never thought that this suggestion was manipulation or something that she should have asked my consent for, I just felt that it was her being thoughtful and trying to make my experience as pleasant as possible. 

The article strongly gives the impression that the thing Brittany was excited about acquiring was not just the abstract skill of knowing how to cook, but also the habit of actually cooking regularly ("Brittany wanted tasty food and not to be sick all the time"). And if you want to acquire a habit, then the way that we acquire habits is through conditioning; there isn't any other way. The only question is whether you know enough to help someone (or yourself) to acquire it in a way that's fast and pleasant or slow and less pleasant.

If we strip away cold-sounding terms like "operant conditioning" and look what lsusr actually did, we get things like "I never, at any point, implied that Brittany might be deficient because she didn't know how to cook". The opposite to this would have been... making her feel bad for no reason. I assume that lsusr wouldn't have wanted to make his friend feel bad for no reason anyway, so asking for her consent on this particular point would feel like it amounts to something like "are you okay with me being nice to you while we do this, just as I'd try to be nice to you anyway".

Similar to "I didn't start by bringing Brittany to the store, then teach her to cook and have her eat at the end. I started by feeding her, then I taught her to cook and only at the end did I bring her to the grocery store". If someone wants to learn to cook, then you have to choose some point in the chain to start them out from. If you happen to know that starting out from the end results is both the fastest way to teach and the choice that will produce the most pleasant experience to them, do you need to ask for their consent to choose this point rather than a point that produces a worse experience? I guess it wouldn't hurt to ask for consent, but certainly if I've already told someone that I want them to help me get into a particular habit, then I actively hope that they do everything they can to make the process as pleasant and effective to me as possible!

I guess the intuition that I'm trying to express here is that there's no difference, in this case, between "applying conditioning" and "trying to make sure that your friend has a pleasant time and comes to enjoy the activity that they've expressed wanting to do". The things that we find enjoyable and pleasant to do become habitual to us, and behaviorism is (in part) just the science of figuring out what it is that causes things to become enjoyable and pleasant to us. If you hadn't read anything about behaviorism, but were just motivated by a desire to be nice to your friend and tried to figure out how to have them have an enjoyable time as they tried out cooking, you could still arrive at exactly the same behaviors. So asking for consent on that ends up being basically the same as "do you consent to me trying to be nice to you, rather than me not being nice to you".

The way a similar point was expressed in Don't Shoot the Dog, IIRC, was that we have no choice of whether our actions condition other people or not. Everything that we do conditions other people to like various things either more or less; the question is only whether we let our effects be random and outside our control, or whether we learn enough to try to make our effects beneficial. Once you've learned how to effectively teach someone habit, and they ask you to teach it to them, you don't really have a choice of "not using conditioning" anymore; you know that all of your choices cause some degree of conditioning, and you only have the choice of whether to do it well or poorly.

All of this feels different to me than going on a date and using operant conditioning to make someone fall in love with you faster. (Setting aside the way in which things like dressing up nicely or being good in conversation also involve an element of conditioning the other.) If someone consents to go on a date with you, they haven't consented to you teaching them a habit, they have just consented to spending an evening trying out whether they happen to like you or not. There are certainly manipulative tricks that one could employ there, that would have an effect of clouding their ability to form an accurate judgment, and that would be wrong. But I don't see anything like that happening here: Brittany had already made the judgment that there was an end result she wanted, and lsusr was just doing his best to help her reach that end result.

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