All of Kaj_Sotala's Comments + Replies

Testing The Natural Abstraction Hypothesis: Project Intro

Oh cool! I put some effort into pursuing a very similar idea earlier:

I'll start this post by discussing a closely related hypothesis: that given a specific learning or reasoning task and a certain kind of data, there is an optimal way to organize the data that will naturally emerge. If this were the case, then AI and human reasoning might naturally tend to learn the same kinds of concepts, even if they were using very different mechanisms.

but wasn't sure of how exactly to test it or work on it so I didn't get very far.

One idea that I had for testing i... (read more)

4johnswentworth1dOn the role of values: values clearly do play some role in determining which abstractions we use. An alien who observes Earth but does not care about anything on Earth's surface will likely not have a concept of trees, any more than an alien which has not observed Earth at all. Indifference has a similar effect to lack of data. However, I expect that the space of abstractions is (approximately) discrete. A mind may use the tree-concept, or not use the tree-concept, but there is no natural abstraction arbitrarily-close-to-tree-but-not-the-same-as-tree. There is no continuum of tree-like abstractions. So, under this model, values play a role in determining which abstractions we end up choosing, from the discrete set of available abstractions. But they do not play any role in determining the set of abstractions available. For AI/alignment purposes, this is all we need: as long as the set of natural abstractions is discrete and value-independent, and humans concepts are drawn from that set, we can precisely define human concepts without a detailed model of human values. Also, a mostly-unrelated note on the airplane example: when we're trying to "define" a concept by drawing a bounding box in some space (in this case, a literal bounding box in physical space), it is almost always the case that the bounding box will not actually correspond to the natural abstraction. This is basically the same idea as the cluster structure of thingspace [] and rubes vs bleggs []. (Indeed, Bayesian clustering is directly interpretable as abstraction discovery: the cluster-statistics are the abstract summaries, and they induce conditional independence between the points in each cluster.) So I would interpret the airplanes exampe (and most similar examples in the legal system) not as a change in a natural concept, but rather as humans being bad at formally defi
Internal Family Systems

Yeah, subagents is the general idea of modeling the mind in terms of independent agents, but IFS is a more specific theory of what kinds of subagents there are. E.g. my sequence has a post about understanding System 1 and System 2 in terms of subagents, while IFS doesn't really have anything to say about that.

What Do We Know About The Consciousness, Anyway?

But this idea - self-consciousness is a model trained to predict other such models and generalizing to itself - seems both extremely obvious (in retrospective) and as mentioned before, with one small exception I can’t remember ever hearing or reading about it.

The idea feels familiar enough that I didn't feel surprised to see you suggest it, but I'm not sure where exactly I might have first encountered it. Learning to be conscious seems like a somewhat similar model, at least:

Consciousness remains a formidable challenge. Different theories of consciousness

... (read more)
1VirtuaLyric9dI really like Graziano's Attention Schema Theory. Even more because it's essentially an illusionist theory.
3alex_lw9dThanks a lot for the links! I didn't look into them yet, but the second quote sounds pretty much exactly like what I was trying to say, only expressed more intelligibly. Guess the broad concept is "in the air" enough that even a layman can grope their way to it.
How do we prepare for final crunch time?

Does any military use meditation as part of its training? 

. Yes, e.g.

This [2019] winter, Army infantry soldiers at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii began using mindfulness to improve shooting skills — for instance, focusing on when to pull the trigger amid chaos to avoid unnecessary civilian harm.

The British Royal Navy has given mindfulness training to officers, and military leaders are rolling it out in the Army and Royal Air Force for some officers and enlisted soldiers. The New Zealand Defence Force recently adopted the technique, and military forces o

... (read more)
7Daniel Kokotajlo10dHmmm, if this is the most it's been done, then that counts as a No in my book. I was thinking something like "Ah yes, the Viet Cong did this for most of the war, and it's now standard in both the Vietnamese and Chinese armies." Or at least "Some military somewhere has officially decided that this is a good idea and they've rolled it out across a large portion of their force."
Rationalism before the Sequences

I think this comment would make for a good top-level post almost as it is.

This post of mine feels closely related: 

  • I have come to believe that people's ability to come to correct opinions about important questions is in large part a result of whether their social and monetary incentives reward them when they have accurate models in a specific domain. This means a person can have extremely good opinions in one domain of reality, because they are subject to good incentives, while having highly inaccurate models in a la
... (read more)
7Eric Raymond11dAgreed.
Rationalism before the Sequences

I was slightly surprised, mostly because I had the expectation that if you've known about LW for a while, then I would have thought that you'd end up contributing either early or not at all. Curious what caused it to happen in 2021 in particular.

I don't really have an interesting answer, I'm afraid. Busy life, lots of other things to pay attention to, never got around to it before.

Now that I've got the idea, I may re-post some rationality-adjacent stuff from my personal blog here so the LW crowd can know it exists.

Rationalism before the Sequences

I also quite liked both the Jargon File (which I found before or around the same time as LW) and Dancing With the Gods (which I found through LW).

What Happens To Your Brain When You Write?

Similarly, if I'm writing something original, then if I'm typing I can type relatively close to the speed of my thought - it feels like my words are only somewhat trailing behind the shape of what I'm about to say. But if I'm writing by hand, there's more "lag", with it feeling like it takes much longer for my writing to catch up to the thought.

On the other hand, this feels like it has positive consequences; the words taking longer to write out, means that I also spend more time processing their content, and maybe the writing is a little better as a result... (read more)

1kithpendragon10dYeah, that echoes my experience too. Also, I notice that writing on my phone is partway between the two: a bit more thoughtful than typing on a keyboard, a good bit faster than pen and paper. Screen size is a big downside, though.
Voting-like mechanisms which address size of preferences?

What kind of election do these governments use?

Mostly, I think, voting systems designed to ensure that parties get a share of seats that's proportional to their number of votes ("party-list proportional representation" is what Wikipedia calls it). E.g. the D'Hondt method seems pretty popular (and is used in Finland as well as several other countries).

As for whether it's actually better overall - well, I grew up with it and am used to it so I prefer it over something that would produce a two-party system. ;) But I don't have any very strong facts to present... (read more)

Toward A Bayesian Theory Of Willpower

Actually upon further thought, I disagree with Scott's premise that this case allows for a meaningful distinction between "instinctual" and "intellectual" processes, so I guess I agree with you.

Toward A Bayesian Theory Of Willpower

I agree with the point of "belief in religion likely evolved for a purpose so it's not that we're intrinsically too dumb to reject them", but I'm not sure of the reasoning in the previous paragraph. E.g. if religion in the hunter-gatherer period wasn't already associated with celibacy, then it's unlikely for this particular causality to have created an evolved "sacrifice your personal sexual success in exchange for furthering the success of your relatives" strategy in the brief period of time that celibacy happened to bring status. And the plentiful sex sc... (read more)

3MikkW13dBut my point is that the process that led to them becoming monks was an instinctual process, not an intellectual one, and the "problem" isn't actually one from the point of view of the genes.
Toward A Bayesian Theory Of Willpower

But this works a lot better in therapy books than it does in real life.

I'm still confused by you having this experience, since my (admittedly) anecdotal one is that actually all of that stuff does work roughly as well as the therapy books suggest it does. (Different worlds, I guess. :)) Though with some caveats; from my own experience doing this and talking with others who do find it to work:

  • Often an initial presenting symptom is a manifestation of a deeper one. Then one might fix the initial issue so that the person does get genuine relief, but while that
... (read more)
Raemon's Shortform

David Chapman says that achieving a particular level means that the skills associated with it become logically possible for you, which is distinct from actually mastering those skills; and that it's possible for you to e.g. get to stage 4 while only having poor mastery of the skills associated with stage 3. So I would interpret "skipped stage N" as shorthand for "got to stage N+X without developing any significant mastery of stage N skills".

Toward A Bayesian Theory Of Willpower

Also, you:

I think this theory matches my internal experience when I'm struggling to exert willpower. My intellectual/logical brain processes have some evidence for doing something ("knowing how the education system works, it's important to do homework so I can get into a good college and get the job I want"). My reinforcement-learner/instinctual brain processes have some opposing argument ("doing your homework has never felt reinforcing in the past, but playing computer games has felt really reinforcing!"). These two processes fight it out. If one of them

... (read more)
Toward A Bayesian Theory Of Willpower

Interestingly there was a recent neuroscience paper that basically said "our computational model of the brain includes this part about mental effort but we have no damn idea why anything should require mental effort, we put it in our model because obviously that's a thing with humans but no theory would predict it":

Unlike the principles of hierarchy and world models, a cost principle was introduced into ACC models primarily for empirical rather than computational reasons. Empirically, the deployment of high-level control over task-execution appears to incu

... (read more)
3Archimedes12dUnder the bidding system theory, if the non-winning bids still have to pay out some fraction of the amount bid even when they lose, then bidding wars are clearly costly. Even when the executive control agent is winning all the bids, resources are being drained every auction in some proportion to how strongly other agents are still bidding. This seems to align with my own perceptions at first glance and explains how control wanes over time.
Toward A Bayesian Theory Of Willpower

I've come to disagree with all of these perspectives.

I'm not sure whether your model actually differs substantially from mine. :-) Or at least not the version of my model articulated in "Subagents, akrasia, and coherence in humans". Compare you:

I've previously quoted Stephan Guyenet on the motivational system of lampreys (a simple fish used as a model organism). Guyenet describes various brain regions making "bids" to the basal ganglia, using dopamine as the "currency" - whichever brain region makes the highest bid gets to determine the lamprey's next acti

... (read more)
5Kaj_Sotala15dAlso, you: Me, later in my post:

Expanding a bit on this correspondence: I think a key idea Scott is missing in the post is that a lot of things are mathematically identical to "agents", "markets", etc. These are not exclusive categories, such that e.g. the brain using an internal market means it's not using Bayes' rule. Internal markets are a way to implement things like (Bayesian) maximum a-posteriori estimates; they're a very general algorithmic technique, often found in the guise of Lagrange multipliers (historically called "shadow prices" for good reason) or intermediates in backpropagation. Similar considerations apply to "agents".

How You Can Gain Self Control Without "Self-Control"

Thanks for engaging, and glad to hear you find my comments interesting :) I forgot to say that I do really like the little "flashcards" interspersed in the essay - great device for increasing recall. (I immediately started wondering whether to implement them for some of my own upcoming articles.)

If we agree on these strategies not being useful for becoming like Ty internally, then I guess there are two separate questions:

  • Is it useful to lump these strategies together as counteractive
  • Are they useful in general (regardless of whether they're counteractive or
... (read more)
4spencerg15dThanks for this very thoughtful reply Kaj, I really appreciate the time you took to break down your thoughts on each strategy! :)
Voting-like mechanisms which address size of preferences?

An election system which encourages many relatively small parties getting seats

In systems where many small parties need to form a coalition in order to create a government, something like this happens organically. Since no party can get enough seats to pass a decision just by their own votes, they need to bargain with other parties: in the upcoming year, we will support your position X which is unimportant to us, in exchange to you supporting position Y that we care about. 

The amount of demands that a party may require is roughly proportional to their... (read more)

4abramdemski11dInteresting, thanks! A big part of the motivation for this question was that I've had a longstanding anti-two-party stance, due to the apparent dysfunction of two-party politics in America. But I was talking with some people about it recently, who were of the opinion that many-party systems in other countries were not much more sane/effective. This got me thinking about ways in which my ideal could be compromised. Although my question mainly talked about a two-party scenario, the real motivation was to "avoid shenanigans" more generally. The time-traveler example, in particular, was motivated by a claim that coalition governments of the sort you describe can give minority groups too much of a voice, if the minorities end up being tie-breakers for divisive issues. So a very pertinent question, which I have little information on, is: do many-party systems have any statistically demonstrable benefits over two-party? Another question I have: what primarily determines which places have many-party vs two-party systems, in reality? In theory, plurality voting and instant runoff both create two-party dynamics in the long run (for different reasons). But I'm not familiar with the practical differences in governments which have actually managed to sustain many parties in power. What kind of election do these governments use?
How You Can Gain Self Control Without "Self-Control"

I very much like the idea of this article, but it feels like it's internally dissonant.

We open with an example of Ty and how he's naturally motivated to exercise, implying that the article will teach us how to be like Ty. Then we get a review of the traits that help Ty be so motivated, which basically all boil down to "have a lot of motivation and energy and no strong aversions"; we're told "Ty exercises so much because he happens to like it and to lack the things that would make him dislike it".

Then when we get to the part of the strategies that could hel... (read more)

6spencerg16dHi Kaj, thanks for your comments, I find them really interesting! I was not intending the article to be about how to become Ty (internally). I think Ty has a bunch of traits that are difficult to replicate (note: Ty is a real person, but Ty is not their real name - they agreed with everything I said about them in the article and I used their details with permission). I do, however, think it is feasible to behave in ways that are more like Ty, through other means (e.g., by applying specific strategies). So I agree that the strategies aren't about making one "be like" Ty by I do think they can help you behave like Ty if that is a goal. You suggest almost all of the 12 strategies I list are "counteractive" and say that "Counteractive strategies tend to be of limited effectiveness and easily subject to relapse." I disagree with this way of lumping them together, and I also disagree with the claim that these strategies are not effective. Obviously different strategies are effective for different people, and it's hard to talk about what works "on average" but I think most of these strategies are very helpful for at least some people (and also, that any individual should try a bunch to figure out which work best for them). On a personal level, I use the majority of the strategies I listed and find them very helpful (especially "Sidestepping temptation" for healthier eating, "Making goals more desirable" for exercise, "Associations and farming" for eating behaviors, "Temptation bundling" also for exercise, "Habits" for a healthy morning routine, "Plunging ahead" for stressful work tasks, and "Accountability" for important but non-urgent tasks). Of course you might not believe these help me (even though I am quite convinced they do) or you might say that even if they help me that doesn't mean they help others (to which I'd say" fair enough, but I also think they help a lot of others too."). It would be really cool if a person could use memory consolidation approaches like
How You Can Gain Self Control Without "Self-Control"

I liked it. The Ty thing made for a very vivid image, if I forget everything else from the article I'll probably still remember that.

4seed16dI actually thought Ty was a real person. :)
Thirty-three randomly selected bioethics papers

Yeah, I might have spent a bit too much time on Twitter recently so my comparison point was around 2-3. 

More specifically, I think I got the reaction while reading abstract #4, comparing commercially-assisted and physician-assisted suicide. What I felt so strongly was the contrast of 

1) seeing a paper calmly working through all the relevant facts and concluding that if you think physician-assisted suicide is okay, you should also consider commercially-assisted suicide okay 


2) my mental image of the Twitter mob you might summon if you even considered the possibility that commercially-assisted suicide might be okay 

2Rob Bensinger17dSounds like we need a social media site where all top-level posts must just be links to papers, and you can only reply to top-level posts, not to other replies. :)
Why is rhetoric taboo among rationalists?

and the only way to change type1 processes is with rhetoric

Type 2 processes are implemented on top of Type 1 processes, so anything that affects Type 2 processes also affects Type 1 processes.

Thirty-three randomly selected bioethics papers

Assuming that we weren't clear on the answers to those hypothetical questions, they do seem like they'd be important to address? You could fairly argue that trying to address all of them was packing too much content into a single paper, but then even raising them for the purpose of drawing attention to them could be useful.

6aphyer18dI do think that packing five separate questions into one paper is too much, but also going through those questions one at a time: (a) What is the difference between practice and research? This question seems...obviously stupid? It might be intended as a Socratic lead-in of some sort, I suppose. (b) What is the relationship between research ethics and clinical ethics? This question seems extremely vague. I can imagine related sub-questions that could be meaningful: e.g. 'does research need to use different ethical standards than clinical ethics' (like (d) below), 'does research need separate ethical regulations from clinical treatment, or can it use the same ones', 'should clinicians be worried about the ethics of researchers who give them treatments/vice versa', but in the absence of a more specific question I'm not clear on what this means or what an answer would be. (c) What is the ethical relevance of the principle of clinical equipoise? I hadn't heard of this. Per Christian's answer above it might be a reasonable question, although it seems a bit tautological asking for the ethical relevance of a principle if the principle itself is an ethical principle. Still willing to accept it as a probably-okay question. (d) Does participation in research require a higher standard of informed consent than the practice of medicine? This is a good question. If it were the only question in the paper I would like it. (e) What ethical principle should take precedence in medicine? We take a kind of abrupt turn here into a very high-level meta-question. It's weird to combine this with a bunch of lower-level questions, and even weirder to put it at the end - surely if you need to decide what ethical principle to use that needs to be the first thing you do? So I think we've got either 2 or 3 reasonable questions muddled together into one paper along with some silly/poorly defined ones. Then, looking at the ending, the main thrust of their conclusion appears to be 'our ap
Thirty-three randomly selected bioethics papers

I had an interesting emotional experience of a sense of relief: after getting used to so many shouting-matches about controversial topics on social media, I'd almost forgotten what it's like to witness a community of people actually doing careful and nuanced ethical thinking. "Had my faith in humanity restored" is a bit of a silly cliché but for a moment it did feel like that.

Thirty-three randomly selected bioethics papers

26. I have no idea what this paper is about.  I don't think the authors do either.

That sounds a little harsh. From trying to read it, I felt like the main difficulty was that the authors assumed the reader to know what "the ethical and conceptual framework (ECF)" and "a learning health‐care system (LHS)" were. But they did open with a pretty clear list of questions they said the article was about:

(a) What is the difference between practice and research? (b) What is the relationship between research ethics and clinical ethics? (c) What is the ethical r

... (read more)
5ChristianKl18dIn case anybody else doesn't know the definition []seems to be "Clinical and personal equipoise exists when a clinician has no good basis for a choice between two or more care options or when one is truly uncertain about the overall benefit or harm offered by the treatment to his/her patient." If that principle holds you are not allowed to run replication trials because in a replication trial you already have a good basis for believing that one of the groups gets a better treatment.
3aphyer18dI'll agree that I worded it pretty harshly, but I do think I'll stand by it not being a useful paper. Imagine a science paper that claimed to be about the following list of questions: a) What is the difference between iron and xenon? b) What is the relationship between solid matter and gaseous matter? c) What is the practical relevance of the principle of least action? d) Does investigating radioactive materials require different experimental procedures than investigating other physics? e) What kind of statistics should be used in physics papers?
Is RL involved in sensory processing?

Maybe. :) I don't have much of a position on "which part of the brain is the sensory processing-related reinforcement learning implemented in", just on the original claim of "we shouldn't expect to find RL involved in sensory processing".

4Steven Byrnes23dThat's fair; the first sentence now has a caveat to that effect. Thanks again!
Is RL involved in sensory processing?

I’m biased: I have a strong prior belief that reinforcement learning should not be involved in sensory processing in the brain. The reason is simple: avoiding wishful thinking.

If there’s a positive reward for looking at beautiful ocean scenes, for example, then the RL solution would converge towards parsing whatever you look at as a beautiful ocean scene, whether it actually is or not!

That seems like a strong argument for why RL should not be the only mechanism for sensory processing, but a weaker one for why it shouldn't be involved at all?

Without looking... (read more)

5Steven Byrnes23dThanks! My current model is that 1. The frontal lobe does involve RL, and this is used to think high-value thoughts and take high-value actions; 2. One reason that thoughts / actions can be high-value is by acquiring valuable information, and one way they can do this is by directing saccades and attention towards parts of the visual field (or other sensory input) where valuable information is at; 3. That corresponding sensory input processing area is still doing predictive learning, but it uses a higher learning rate [] when it is the focus of top-down attention, and therefore tends to develop a rich pattern-recognizing vocabulary that is lopsidedly tailored towards recognizing the types of patterns that carry valuable information from the perspective of the RL-based frontal lobe. So RL is involved, just a step removed. (Maybe my post title was bad. :-P ) Do you think that's an adequate involvement of RL to explain those and other examples?
Open loops in fiction

Yeah, I've been mightily disappointed by some books which I thought were going to close some major loops but then never did.

[Lecture Club] Awakening from the Meaning Crisis

This sounds like what the buddhists did.

What some Buddhists did. :-) While there are branches of Buddhism that take renunciation as the primary goal, there are also those who just consider it one tool among others (e.g.).

4Yoav Ravid25dYes, thanks for adding precision to that statement :) I only have a small familiarity with Buddhism.
Open loops in fiction

People at least recommend closing loops in your life in general as a way to reduce stress. Seems plausible to me that high anxiety/neuroticism would cause one to open more loops and feel more stressed about them; personally one of the benefits of meditation for me has been that it makes it easier to ignore open loops that I can't currently do anything about anyway.

Open loops in fiction

Hmm, somehow "enemies" felt like it raised my curiosity more than "admirers", though I also didn't notice the "enemies" until someone else saw an earlier draft and pointed that out. I guess for these ones, it's a little subjective whether they count as open loops or not - whether you feel like the sentences are self-explanatory on their own or whether you feel like you want to know more.

Trapped Priors As A Basic Problem Of Rationality

Somewhat anecdotally, Internal Family Systems also seems effective for trauma/phobia treatment, and the model in this post would help explain why. If you access a traumatic memory in a way where the experience is explicitly framed as you empathetically listening to a part of your mind that's distinct from you and has this memory, then that foregrounds the context of "I'm safe and doing trauma treatment" and makes the trauma memory just a sensation within it.

This is also interesting to compare with this account of what it is like to be enlightened. The way ... (read more)

4warrenjordan1moScott's post reminded of memory reconsolidation. It seems to me that a "trapped prior" is similar to an "emotional schema" (not sure if that's the right term from UtEB). If one can be aware of their schema or trapped prior, then there seems to be a higher chance of iterating upon it. However, it's probably not that simple to iterate even if you are aware of it.
How can we stop talking past each other when it comes to postrationality?

Chapman has also specifically said that he does not understand LW:

I frequently emphasize that by “rationalism” I am specifically NOT referring to the LW usage, and that is not the target of my critique. I gave up on trying to understand LW rationalism ~5 years ago.

Where does the phrase "central example" come from?

I've always assumed it's a reference to the prototype theory of concepts, which holds that for each concept, there's some instance of it that feels more typical or "central" than others. E.g. dogs and cats feel like more central members of the category "pet" than alligators do. Wikipedia (emphasis added):

Prototype theory is a theory of categorization in cognitive science, particularly in psychology and cognitive linguistics, in which there is a graded degree of belonging to a conceptual category, and some members are more central than others.

4Alex_Altair1moI see. I just searched for "central example" on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and it pops up there in tons of results too. Although there still isn't e.g. a page called "Central Example".
Seven Years of Spaced Repetition Software in the Classroom

Looks like it, thanks! I'd have had no idea of how to re-find it.

Seven Years of Spaced Repetition Software in the Classroom

I recall reading someone who applied spaced repetition principles to the math homework they assigned. Instead of doing the normal thing where each week would introduce new content and have homework on that content, the homework for each week was 1/3 that week's content, 1/3 previous week's content, 1/3 content from any of the previous weeks. Claimed that it significantly boosted people's retention and exam scores.

5lejuletre1moIs this [] the post you're thinking of ?
[Lecture Club] Awakening from the Meaning Crisis

I've been having this lecture series recommended me by lots of different people, but so far haven't gotten farther than reading through Valentine's summaries. Maybe I'll get around watching some of it now.

I've watched some of Vervaeke's lectures, but they just seem to go on and on without ever reaching whatever his goal is. Likewise Jordan Peterson. Having just read through Valentine's document (mainly the lecture summaries, rather than the detailed notes), I am still disappointed. Vervaeke just breaks off at the end, just as it seemed it might get interesting. It goes to lecture 26, the last of which suggests there are more to come. I look forward to summaries of them, but more with hope than with expectation.

Seven Years of Spaced Repetition Software in the Classroom

This meant I could show students what I do as a writer in real time, thinking out loud and watching their reactions as I typed. This could easily bore them, of course, but with strong energy-fu, old-school touch typing speed, and face-to-face interaction, I can pull it off more often than you might expect. On a good day, they find it fascinating. On one very special occasion each year, I do it for the full period, writing a 400+ word essay from scratch in 40 minutes with no prior knowledge of the prompt. Students have to hold their questions that day,

... (read more)
9tanagrabeast1moOh, wow. Yes. That. Looks like there's another book I don't need to write. The fact that the concept was so fleshed out thirty years ago kind of pisses me off. My teacher training was so the opposite of that (a bunch of student group work nonsense). And I'm not finding apprenticeship familiar to new teachers currently, though strong veterans often seem to have at least a half-baked version they've derived from experience. I get a lot of wide-eyed "Yes!" when I share it with them.
We should not raise awareness

My understanding of the intent behind the phrase is "the first step of fixing a problem is realizing that it exists, so we should make people aware of the problem so that they can do something to fix it". I don't think in simulacrum levels much so maybe I'm misapplying them, but I would think of this as being on level 1 - an object-level problem with a concrete approach towards solving it?

Of course, like any other phrase, it can also be co-opted by the higher levels, and it definitely also does get used in the sense of all the higher ones.

What are the most powerful lotuses?

The "a UBI would make people spend time in ways that made them feel miserable" argument has always felt a little odd to me. It's essentially claiming that

  • People who could get jobs where they feel good
  • will either quit their jobs or just not get jobs in the first place
  • and feel miserable as a result
  • but will nevertheless choose to stay unemployed

But if that's the case, why wouldn't those people just... recognize that they are feeling bad, so get jobs and feel better?

I think there's an implication of something like "they will be so badly addicted to lotuses tha... (read more)

What are the most powerful lotuses?

At least the most typical result of the UBI trials that have been conducted so far seems to be that they neither increase nor decrease the employment rate (though they sometimes get cancelled because people think they make people less likely to work).

Above the Narrative

Scholar's Stage would agree with the "does not hate you, nor does it love you" bit, but has a somewhat different take on it; the space of possible narratives would be limited even in the case that the writer didn't care about advertising revenue at all 

[The] need to reduce reality to a simple mental model is an inherent feature of human cognition. For the most part it is done automatically without much thought. We cannot avoid simplification—we speak of London doing this or China doing that not because such simplifications are true (there is no unitar

... (read more)
2Jacob Falkovich1moI agree that advertising revenue is not an immediate driving force, something like "justifying the use of power by those in power" is much closer to it and advertising revenue flows downstream from that (because those who are attracted to power read the Times). I loved the rest of Viliam's comment though, it's very well written and the idea of the eigen-opinion and being constrained by the size of your audience is very interesting.
How do people become ambitious?

I was reminded of this anecdote of how the US Marines train agency. The part about encouragement from superiors in areas where the recruits are the weakest, sounds somewhat similar to your theory of mysterious old wizards.

"... some people’s sense of self-determination gets suppressed by how they grow up, or experiences they’ve had, and they forget how much influence they can have on their own lives."

“That’s when training is helpful, because if you put people in situations where they can practice feeling in control, where that internal locus of control is r

... (read more)
4Raemon2moThanks! This seems quite relevant!
Mentorship, Management, and Mysterious Old Wizards

My experience of attending a CFAR workshop was that Mysterious Old Wizardness was its primary function. Yes, there were various skills and techniques taught, but that they were tools for making you see that hey, you can actually improve your life and Think Big.

Though maybe that was just the message that happened to resonate the most for me, whereas others had different takeaways? Curious to hear thoughts about that.

9Neel Nanda1mo+1 I went a CFAR camp for high schoolers a few years ago, and the idea that I can be ambitious and actually fix problems in my life was BY FAR the biggest takeaway I got (and one of the most valuable life lessons I ever learned)
Support vs Advice & Holding Off Solutions

This was an interesting read, because my first thought was "the problem-oriented mode isn't a third mode, it's just what the advice mode looks like when it's done right"... until I came across your list of issues and thought that huh, I guess that it is a distinct mode after all.

Come to think of it, the problem-oriented mode seems similar to coaching, and coaching manuals do explicitly say that coaching is not about offering solutions, but rather it's about asking clarifying questions that help the other person figure out a solution themselves. So then the... (read more)

4abramdemski2moWell, to clarify, I meant that you can still eventually propose solutions because you don't have to be stuck in the problem-oriented mode forever rather than that my definition of problem-oriented mode allows proposing solutions. I would want to clarify what "support" is, since part of my idea here is that asking clarifying questions can itself provide some emotional support. Some concrete actions which might constitute support: * Validating the other person's feelings as legitimate. * Verifying that their response to the situation makes logical sense. * Verifying that what they are feeling isn't weird (that it is "normal") * Stating that their feelings are legitimate * Telling a similar story about yourself, to show that you have experienced similar things * Asserting support for the person. * Stating that you are there for them, want to help, care about them, etc. * Concrete reassurances, EG "I will never ____" * Showing social allegiance by denigrating "the other side" (if applicable) * Showing that you understand. * "That must feel ____" (correctly describing the other person's state) * Talking about a similar experience you've had. * Making sympathetic satements, EG, "Yeah, that person is just awful" Lots of these things feel like they could easily be the wrong thing, depending on the situation; this makes me think "support" is this complicated thing which can't really be described by concrete conversational moves too well.
What's your best alternate history utopia?

I think in Europe at least, Chernobyl had a bigger impact than Three Mile did.

4G Gordon Worley III2moUpdated to just say that a "major nuclear power plant accident" doesn't happen.
What's your best alternate history utopia?

Technically this breaks the rule of "Same level of technology as today" but I feel it should count on the grounds that I am personally inventing this technology using off-the-shelf infrastructure.

Yeah I think that "something that's perfectly doable with today's technology without requiring novel breakthroughs, nobody has just bothered putting that particular application together" is within the spirit of "same level of technology". 

Bedtime reminiscences

Probably not, this feels like the type of thing where I get lots of ideas easily and if one doesn't work out then that's fine, I'll just come up with half a dozen more. :)

2[comment deleted]2mo
2Gunnar_Zarncke2moAh yes. And the kids also come up with two dozen more. I have a set of diaries full of those. That's actually the more interesting part of parenting. Discovering together how human development actually works.
“PR” is corrosive; “reputation” is not.

As a counterpoint, one writer thinks that it's psychologically harder for organizations to think about PR:

A famous investigative reporter once asked me why my corporate clients were so terrible at defending themselves during controversy. I explained, “It’s not what they do. Companies make and sell stuff. They don’t fight critics for a living. And they dread the very idea of a fight. Critics criticize; it’s their entire purpose for existing; it’s what they do.”

"But the companies have all that money!” he said, exasperated.

"But their critics have you,” I said

... (read more)
4ryan_b2moThis is very interesting; I am going to add this to the list, but just from the quoted section I am reminded of the position that companies are too risk-averse when it comes to lawsuits, which leads to the baroque CYA verbiage which covers everything, and hospitals overpaying for malpractice insurance. The law is also a case where the company relies on experts unrelated to their core competency with an overwhelming focus on just making the bad thing go away.
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