Sorted by New


2014 Less Wrong Census/Survey - Call For Critiques/Questions

The "with family" option in the "living with" question is ambiguous for those of us with children. I suggest changing it to "with parents or guardians[1]", changing the partner/spouse option to "with partner/spouse (and children if applicable)", and adding an "other" option for less traditional living arrangements.

Questions in the mental health section are inconsistent about whether they're referring to whether you have ever suffered from a condition ("have you ever been diagnosed...") or whether you are currently suffering from it ("...I personally believe I have it"). Some are lifelong conditions, but others like depression are temporary.

Questions on feminism / social justice / human biodiversity don't distinguish between what you think of the concept itself and what you think of the movement around it. (Or is this the point?)

[1] Is this a Britishism? Feel free to change it to the equivalent in US English.

Open thread, 14-20 July 2014

"Tower of Babylon" by Ted Chiang. It's a novelette that's part of his compilation "Stories of Your Life and Others". To quote Wikipedia, "the story follows a young miner from the town of Elam who ascends the tower of Babylon to help break through the vault of heaven. Along the way he sees many wonderous sights, uncovers mysteries of heaven and earth, and in the end finds them as inscrutable as ever."

Open thread, 14-20 July 2014

The main flaw I can think of is that insurance is a money-loser on average - otherwise the people selling it wouldn't make any money, so they wouldn't offer it at that price. I can't immediately find average ratios for life insurance, but typical payouts for medical insurance are 80% of premiums while the figure for property insurance is more like 50%.

In other words, the expected net cost of taking out the insurance policy, if you never decide to redirect it to cryonics or loved ones, is going to be somewhere between 20% and 50% of the premiums. Is that worth it for the extra flexibility it gives you? That's something only you can decide.

Open thread, 3-8 June 2014

Here's a quick-and-dirty batch file I made to add a reminder to the task scheduler. Copy it into Notepad and save it as something.bat , then make a link to it on your desktop or wherever.

@echo off
set /p MESSAGE=What do you want to be reminded of?^

set /p ALERTTIME=When do you want to be reminded (hh:mm:ss)?^

set TASKNAME=%DATE:/=_%_%TIME::=_%
schtasks /create /sc once /tn %TASKNAME% /tr "msg * %MESSAGE%" /st %ALERTTIME%

EDIT: I can't figure out how to make LessWrong put a blank line in a code block. There needs to be an extra blank line before each ^>

It prompts you for the text and the time to pop up the alert. It does have some limitations (you need to specify the exact time rather than e.g., "alert me in 30 minutes", and will only work for the same day), but if people think it's useful I can improve it.

It also needs you to enter your password to schedule the task. It's possible to avoid this by putting your username/password into the batch file, but that's obviously a security risk so I wouldn't recommend it. If you want to do so anyway you can modify the second-to-last line of the file to add the following text (replacing 'username' and 'password' with your actual username and password):

/ru username /rp password
Open Thread, May 19 - 25, 2014

"Those who want to distinguish themselves from the masses - who want to consume conspiciously - will also be affected, since they will have to spend less to stand out from the crowd" - maybe I've misunderstood this, but surely it would have the opposite result? Let's say rents are ~$20/sqm (adjust for your own city; the principle stays the same). If I want my apartment to be 50 sqm rather than 40 sqm, that's an extra $200. But if 40 sqm apartments were free, the price difference would be the full $1000/month price of the bigger apartment. You've still got a cliff, just like in the means-tested welfare case; it's just that now it's on the consumption side.

In practice this would probably destroy the market for mid-priced goods - who wants to pay $1000/month just for an extra 10 square meters? Non-subsidized goods will only start being attractive when they get much better than the stuff the government provides, not just slightly better.

Also, if you give out goods rather than money, you're going to have to provide a huge range of different goods/services, because otherwise there will be whole categories of products that people who legitimately can't work (elderly, disabled etc) won't have access to. And if you do that, the efficiency of your economy is going to go way down - not just because the government is generally less efficient than the free market, but also because people can't use money to allocate resources according to their own preferences.

Moving on from Cognito Mentoring

This was Lukeprog's suggestion in the linked post, but they seem to have rejected it based on the difficulty of picking up motivated clients that way. Jonah phrased it as "teenagers and young adults are often rebellious and don't want to do what their parents tell them to". I think that this is something of an exaggeration - kids take test prep seriously after all - but it's true that the value of the service is more difficult for teenagers to see than something like exam tutoring.

Is it worth spending time mentoring kids that aren't interested and so won't get much out of the service, in order to get to the x% of students that will take it seriously? I would have thought so, but from this post it seems they've concluded that the answer is no, at least after you take into account the switch in focus (more personal advantage, less effective altruism) needed to get parents to pay for the service.

AI risk, new executive summary

I saw the same error, but assumed it should have been "we can not hope" (as in, we can't just hope it works out, we have to do something about it).

0.5% of amazon purchases to a charity of your choice (opt-in)

Are you thinking of SwipeGood ( I don't know of any credit cards that do that, but several banks have a "save the change" option that rounds up purchases and puts the extra pennies into a nominated savings account. As far as I understand it (the "FAQ" link just sends me back to their homepage), SwipeGood links into those systems to donate the money to charities instead, minus a 5% commission.

Variables in Arguments as a Source of Confusion

It seems to be known under the name of the equal treatment fallacy in various blogs and articles, although none of them are from particularly respectable sources. Other examples are the right of homosexuals to marry a member of the opposite gender, the right of soviet citizens to criticize the president of the USA, and Anatole France's famous statement that "in its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets, and steal loaves of bread".

[Link] Bet Your Friends to Be More Right

I agree to an extent, but if taken to the level described in the linked article I think it would have a net negative effect because it creates an incentive to conceal information. To take an example from the link, two friends are discussing whether a certain restaurant is/isn't open, and one (let's call him "A" and the other "B") has previously visited the same restaurant at the same time of day. "A" is better off not revealing that fact, so that "B" will give better odds (or agree to take the bet). An environment where you're betting against each other all the time could quickly change from "put your money where your mouth is" to "take advantage of inside information".

Load More