That Magical Click

Although, Noesis is just the original Greek Philosophy name for That Magic Click, and not an explanation in and of itself. At least, not any more than the "dark matter" or "phlogiston".

However, it seems like if anyone has figured out what actually is in that magic click, Noesis is the magic search term to find that gem of knowledge in the vast ocean of information. It's a Schelling Point for people to discuss possible answers, so if anyone has found an answer, they or someone learning it from them would introduce it to the discussions using that term.

If those discussions are the sort that are especially interested in truth as an end unto itself rather than as a useful tool for winning arguments, then I'd expect the answer to spread broadly and float to the top of things like the Nous Wikipedia article.

That Magical Click
Is that really just it?  Is there no special sanity to add, but only ordinary madness to take away?  Where do superclickers come from - are they just born lacking a whole lot of distractions?
What the hell is in that click?


Why the tails come apart

This post has been a core part of how I think about Goodhart's Law. However, when I went to search for it just now, I couldn't find it, because I was using Goodhart's Law as a search term, but it doesn't appear anywhere in the text or in the comments.

So, I thought I'd mention the connection, to make this post easier for my future self and others to find. Also, other forms of this include:

Maybe it would be useful to map out as many of the forms of Goodhart's Law as possible, Turchin style.

Adult Neurogenesis – A Pointed Review

Sorry; normally I try not to make claims like that without a citation, but I was on my phone at the time and couldn't find the source easily. But here it is:

It's a twin study with 5952 participants. Here's the highlight:

In genetically identical twin pairs, the twin who exercised more did not display fewer anxious and depressive symptoms than the co-twin who exercised less. Longitudinal analyses showed that increases in exercise participation did not predict decreases in anxious and depressive symptoms.
Conclusion Regular exercise is associated with reduced anxious and depressive symptoms in the population at large, but the association is not because of causal effects of exercise.

Maybe everyone's mood still goes up a little from exercise, due to endorphins or whatever? Like, I assume that people with depression can still experience runner's high, just like I'm pretty sure they can still experience a heroine high. Maybe it's numbed or less intense or something, I dono. But neither is going to cure their depression. Or, at least that's my interpretation. (Maybe a permanent heroine high would count as a cure, if it somehow didn't kill you?)

For whatever reason, they display about the same levels of depressive symptoms, regardless of exercise. But, I assume that those symptoms are somewhat independent of moment-to-moment mood, or how you feel about something in particular. So, it seems perfectly possible for the mood effects of exercise to be real, without conflicting with the study.

Personally, I don't think exercise itself has much effect on mood, aside from runner's high, which seems well-documented. Playing a game or sport definitely can, if you let yourself get really into it, but I think that's mostly independent of the physical exertion. But, all I have to back up this particular impression is personal subjective experience, and most of that has been doing fun things that also happened to involve physical activity.

Adult Neurogenesis – A Pointed Review

I’m sure I’ve made some inexcusable mistakes somewhere in the process of writing this.

Found it. :P (Well, kind of.)

And if exercise has antidepressant effects in humans, then the claim that those effects are neurogenesis-mediated must be wrong too.

Apparently exercise correlates with less depression, but isn't causal. That is, depressed people tend to exercise less, but exercising more doesn't cause you to be less depressed.

Unrelated tangent thought: I'd really like to know if the huge correlation with lifespan/healthspan has the same issue. Like, I'm pretty sure VO2 Max is the metric we should be optimizing for, rather than a target weight or muscle mass. Like, once you control for excercise, weight is no longer a strong predictor of health/lifespan.

But maybe exercise has the same problem. If most people have a hard time doing callorie restriction, but can up their metabolism through exercise, then the only benefit of excercise might be avoiding a caloric surplus. Or maybe exercise isn't causal at all, but the sorts of people who exercise also do other things that help, or are just healthy enough to be able to exercise.

April Fools: Announcing: Karma 2.0

I'm loving this new Karma system!

Metaculus (a community prediction market for tech/science/transhumanist things) has a similar feature, where comments from people with higher prediction rankings have progressively more golden usernames. The end result is that you can quickly pick out the signal from the noise, and good info floats to the top while misinformation and unbalanced rhetoric sinks.

But, karma is more than just a measure of how useful info is. It's also a measure of social standing. So, while I applaud the effort it took to implement this and don't want to discourage such contributions, I'd personally suggest tweaking it to avoid trying to do 2 things at once.

Maybe let users link to Metaculus/PredictionBook/prediction market accounts, and color their usernames based on Brier score?

Then, to handle the social side of things, make the font size of their posts and/or usernames scale with social standing. Maybe make a list of people from highest to lowest on the ladder? You could ask users to judge each other anonymously, or ideally use machine learning to detect submissive gestures and whether or not displays of dominance are recognized by other commenter.

As the power of AI improves exponentially, and learns to detect ever more subtle social cues, the social ranking would become more and more accurate! Eventually, it would be able to tell you your precise social standing, to within ±1 person, and predict exactly what concrete advice to follow if you want to get in front of the person ahead of you. You'd know their name, personality, knowledge-base, etc, and could see exactly what they were doing right that you were doing wrong. It would solve social awkwardness, by removing all the ambiguity and feelings of crippling uncertainty around how we're supposed to be acting!

Are you the rider or the elephant?
Have you seen Richard_Kennaway's comment on the circling thread which compares talking with NVC folks to talking with chatbots?

Went digging, and found it here:


The "fish sell" link isn't working - it just takes me to the top of the circling post.

Also, when I search for "fish sell" on Lesser Wrong, I get a result under "comments" of CronoDAS saying:

The "fish sell" link isn't working - it just takes me to the top of the Circling post.

And that link, itself, just takes me to the top of the circling post. And weirdly, I don't see that comment here anywhere. Is this a error on the website, rather than the way the link was formatted? Like, is it not possible to link to comments yet? I'll poke around a little, but I'm not all that hopeful, since that's a guess in the dark.

Tune Your Cognitive Strategies

TL;DR: The core concept is this:


Your brain already has the ability to update its cognitive strategies (this is called "meta-cognitive reinforcement learning"). However, the usual mechanism works with unnecessary levels of indirection, as in:

  • Cognitive strategy -> Thought -> Action -> Reward or punishment
    • You get rewarded or punished for what you do (as measured by your brain's chemical responses). Good thoughts are more likely to be followed by good actions. Good cognitive strategies are more likely to generate good thoughts. On average, your brain will slowly update its cognitive strategies in the right direction.
  • Cognitive strategy -> Thought -> Reward or punishment
    • You have learned to be happy or unhappy about having certain ideas, even when you don't yet know how they apply to the real world. Now your brain gets rewarded or punished for thoughts, and on average good thoughts are more likely to be generated by good cognitive strategies. Your brain can update cognitive strategies faster, according to heuristics about what makes ideas "good".

However, by carefully looking at the "deltas" between conscious thoughts, we can get rid of the last remaining level of indirection (this is the key insight of this whole page!):

  • Cognitive strategy -> Reward or punishment
    • You have learned to perceive your cognitive strategies as they happen, and developed some heuristics that tell you whether they are good or bad. Now your brain can update cognitive strategies immediately, and do it regardless of the topic of your thoughts.
    • Even when you generate a useless idea from another useless idea, you can still track whether the cognitive strategy behind it was sound, and learn from the experience.


(It doesn't look like it's possible to quote bullet points, especially not nested bullet points, and I didn't want to remove more than one layer of bullets because I thought they made the whole thing more clear.)

The rest of the linked post is mostly about how to actually go about implementing this. (And, I feel like that probably deserves a book and regular practice, rather than just a short blog post. So, if you want notice and learn better cognative strategies, reading the full thing is well-worth the time investment.)

The different types (not sizes!) of infinity

I've been keeping 330 browser tabs open with the intention of getting back to each and every one of them some day. And finally one of those tabs comes in handy! This just proves that I should never close anything.

This is a video explaining the distinctions between cardinals and ordinals. This post may be useful in letting people know that there are different types of infinities, but it does nothing for actually explaining them. There are probably other good resources available online for those who want to know, but this is the only one I've ever seen. (Wikipedia is hopeless here.)

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