Nice to have you back Eliezer.
This is by far the silliest part of the sequences for me. Within this blog post, Yudkowsky briefly went insane and decided thought experiments have to be "probable" or "realistic" in order to be engaged with. He then refuses to answer the prompt until the last four sentences, wherein he basically admits that he doesn't have a framework for answering it.
Suppose someone, that someone indeed being a conscious agent, creates a GLUT and then swiftly dies a horrible death so you can stop focusing on the person who made the GLUT or how it got there and answer the damn question. Is the GLUT conscious?
- German Jew, 1920
I think the multi-hour computer hacking gauntlet probably trumps any considerations of account creation in terms of obstacles to new users. Just in considering things we could pare down. We also need some way to prevent computer hackers from scraping all of the exam boxes, and that means either being enormously creative or at some point requiring the creation of an account that we KYC.
I just launched a startup, Leonard Cyber. Basically a Pwn2Job platform.
If any hackers on LessWrong are out of work, here are some invite codes:
And this is why I think people don't naturally do it this way. Lots of arguments have a "common body" of thought that it gets repetitive to include with each comment. Even when they don't, people tend to just not think of arguments as "graphs" of justifications. They think of them like a serial back and forth of people on a podium giving speeches and engaging in "rhetorical battle", and it's more fun and engaging to write them that way on the internet.
This sounds like valuable progress in your thinking! Probably just writing about it has helped you see things more clear. I hope you'll go back to my edited post. I shared some ideas about starting a journaling habit for precisely this reason!
Regarding learning a foreign language, I'm not sure what I can say. I speak Japanese, and I run a company which makes some top selling Japanese language learning products. So I know something about this topic. You're right, learning a foreign language is a big commitment. So isn't it obvious that the longer the required commitment, the most likely it is that people will drop out?
Yes. It's very obvious. Which is why it's that much more unusual that people make these commitments without more consideration than they tend to put forward. People will intuit that they should do some significant (meaning more than a couple hours) hard research into whether or not it's worth it to get their masters, and where to get it; they tend not to realize that successfully learning a language as remote as Mandarin requires similar time investment as getting the masters degree, even though a necessary part of any plan to do so would be to figure that out, and I don't know why. I suspect that many of these people are just going through the motions with no real objectives in mind, and that's a running theme of my OP.
In the case of learning a foreign language, maybe over time the quitter just decided that the effort was no longer worth it. Maybe that want to prioritize other hobbies and interests. Or maybe they just don't enjoy memorizing hanzi. Maybe the idea moving to China or the important of talking to people in Chinese has lost its luster. What's wrong with changing your mind about these things?
As you say, nothing. The problem, at least in hindsight, was the decision to start in the first place. You can say the decision was correct given the information they had, but I'm trying to make the point that much (most?) of the time this is clearly not the case, and people engage in studying habits that will not ensure they learn the language in the next forty years.
Which is not to say that people shouldn't use your product or service. I personally think language acquisition has some pretty significant positive externalities - languages are more useful the more people speak them, after all - but we don't even need to go there. It's just that the way most people set about learning them often implies they're not even trying, to a degree that's difficult to make sense of, at least for me.
Even if you take for granted that what you're pointing out - leadership ability - is the main driver of success above and beyond all other factors in baseball management, and that the correct choice of manager is one selected for this trait to the negligence of all others, I don't really understand why you'd even expect the Mets to succeed regularly in doing this. Are professional baseball teams really that good at identifying leadership ability as you're implying?
Regarding the way Etsy was prioritizing development, it sounds like even their late stage "idea > validate > prototype" cycle is wrong. How can you "validate" before you have a prototype to get feedback on?
You need to be a little creative. I'll give a trivial example that will probably be more enlightening if you went through the proofs C.S. bachelor students have to do of evaluating upper bounds of algorithms.
Lets say you hear about how matrix multiplication is a big problem in ML, and think you have a way to build an algorithm that should give you O(n*sqrt(n)) performance. Your idea happens to be an unusually complicated algorithm and thus a involves a complicated product; you think it will take you around 50 +-20 hours to prototype, and you don't expect to achieve O(n*sqrt(n)) your first try. You could start your project now and build a prototype as quickly as possible, so that you can get a concrete impression of your algorithms viability. Or, you could first sit and consider for a couple hours and see if there are any ways to test or debunk the feasibility of your algorithm. If you choose the first option, you might get twenty hours in and realize your mistake only then. If you choose the second option, you might realize, just by pondering constraints for an hour, that matrix multiplication requires at least O(n^2) reads, and that your algorithm can't in any universe work as fast as you expected it to, so no need to build a prototype without further considering where you're going wrong.
Some ideas aren't very easily validated. Art (I assume though I am not an artist) is an area where you pretty much just have a difficult to convey imagined finished product, and the best way to start validating is to build it and see if people like it. Lots of seed stage startups are founded to build things no one wants. The reason the team got funding anyways is often because the utility of the product they're trying to create is difficult to "debunk" from the outset, or fails in hard-to-anticipate ways that aren't caught by standard sanity checking.
However, outside of a few of those specific cases, most good ideas can be thought about. It might be impossible to completely rule out or in your hunch without building it first. But just by thinking about a proposed solution for the first twelve hours, you can usually establish some sort of probabilistic upper bound on the expected value and lower bound on the cost of implementation/maintenance. For a project that you think is going to take several months, even if you think there's only a small chance you will figure out a flaw in its viability without prototyping, it's worth it to sit down and do that sort of research.
None of this excludes trying to improve the source of your ideas, prototyping, talking to users, or fast iteration. All ideas are validated, though. The reason ideas come to your attention and stay there in the first place, among other things, is because they seem upon reflection plausible enough to be a good bet. The point of adding validation to that iteration process explicitly is to increase the thoroughness of your search for existing information that could encourage or discourage your efforts proportional to the costs associated with attempting.
But just because Etsy lacked some better ideas about how to optimize their product doesn't mean they didn't get important shit done. Within one year of its initial release, Etsy had gained 10,000 artists (craft makers), pitching 100,000 items, and had a market of approximately 40,000 buyers.
I agree, and that's why I clarified with
And clearly they were unimaginably successful anyways. Part of my point in the post is to show how poorly you can do things on the "make sure your decisions are correct" axis and still win hard.
I realize how hyperbolic my criticism of Etsy sounds now that I needed this long ass post to explain their judgement errors, but I really think going into this much detail is making the technique seem much more complex than it really is. If you're planning on spending two months improving the revenue created by feature X by 3%, do the napkin math to see if existing revenue coming from X justifies two months salary. If you're planning on making a widget that improves the experience of furniture purchasers on your site, make sure there are enough furniture purchasers (taking into consideration the new ones you will be enabling by said widget) to justify maintenance/implementation. According to the guy I linked to, those were the kinds of sanity checks that Etsy wasn't doing, which personally seems difficult to imagine for people that are otherwise obviously intensely competent.