All of Marcello's Comments + Replies

On Need-Sets

I broadly agree. Though I would add that those things could still be (positive motivation) wants afterwards, which one pursues without needing them. I'm not advocating for asceticism.

Also, while I agree that you get more happiness by having fewer negative motives, being run by positive motives is not 100% happiness. One can still experience disappointment if one wants access to Netflix, and it's down for maintenance one day. However, disappointment is still both more hedonic than fear and promotes a more measured reaction to the situation.

On Need-Sets
Are you trying to say that it should work similarly to a desensitization therapy? But then, there might exist the reversed mode, where you get attached to things even more, as you meditate on why are they good to have. Which of these modes dominates is not clear to me.

I think you make a good point. I feel I was gesturing at something at something real when I wrote down the comparison notion, but didn't express it quite right. Here's how I would express it now:

The key thing I failed to point out in the post is that just visualizing a good thing ... (read more)

On Need-Sets
I don't think I get this. Doesn't this apply to any positive thing in life? (e.g. why single out the gratitude practise?)

I expect most positive things would indeed help somewhat, but that gratitude practice would help more. If someone lost a pet, giving them some ice cream may help. However, as long as their mind is still making the comparison to the world where their pet is still alive, the help may be limited. That said, to the extent that they manage to feel grateful for the ice cream, it seems to me as though their internal focus has shifted in a meaningful way, away from grasping at the world where their pet is still alive and towards the real world.

On Need-Sets

1. Yes, I agree with the synopsis (though expanded need-sets are not the only reason people are more anxious in the modern world).

2. Ah. Perhaps my language in the post wasn't as clear as it could have been. When I said:

More specifically, your need-set is the collection of things that have to seem true for you to feel either OK or better.

I was thinking of the needs as already being about what seems true about future states of the world, not just present states. For example, your need for drinking water is about being able to get water when thirsty... (read more)

2alexflint10moSo the solution is for us to give up those "needs" in the need-set that aren't actually needed for us to do what must be done, yes? We might believe that we need a cushy mattress to sleep on, a netflix account to entertain us, and a wardrobe of clothes to wear. If we simply satisfy these needs by acquiring all these things then we don't really become happy because now we're just afraid of losing it all. On the other hand, if we see that these "needs" are not literal needs at all, and we actually deflate our need-set, then we become happy. Would you agree?
Eli's shortform feed

Your seemingly target-less skill-building motive isn't necessarily irrational or non-awesome. My steel-man is that you're in a hibernation period, in which you're waiting for the best opportunity of some sort (romantic, or business, or career, or other) to show up so you can execute on it. Picking a goal to focus on really hard now might well be the wrong thing to do; you might miss a golden opportunity if your nose is at the grindstone. In such a situation a good strategy would, in fact, be to spend some time cultivating skills, and some... (read more)

Marcello's Shortform

"Aspiring Rationalist" Considered Harmful

The "aspiring" in "aspiring rationalist" seems like superfluous humility at best. Calling yourself a "rationalist" never implied perfection in the first place. It's just like how calling yourself a "guitarist" doesn't mean you think you're Jimi Hendrix. I think this analogy is a good one, because rationality is a human art, just like playing the guitar.

I suppose one might object that the word "rational" denotes a perfect standard, unlike p... (read more)

2AllAmericanBreakfast10moI get the point of view that we should be forthright about our goals, practices, and community affiliations. Nothing wrong with using a label to cultivate a sense of belonging. After all, Christians call themselves after their ideal of perfection, so why shouldn't we? I think part of the reason is that just about everybody wants to be rational. Not everybody wants to be a guitarist, Christian, perfectionist, or idealist. Also, most groups have some way of telling whether somebody's "doing the thing" or not. Catholics have the sacrament and you have to call him Jesus, not Frank. Guitarists practice or have chops. Just about everybody tries to think rationally from time to time, even if they fail, so what's the thing that somebody would have to do to not be a rationalist? Why don't we call ourselves epistemologists. At least it's one syllable shorter than "aspiring rationalist." Plus, it comes with the implication that we're interested in rational thought, not experts at doing it. Funnily enough, I feel more trepidation about referring to myself as an epistemologist than as a "rationalist." I think it sounds too much like a professional title. But heck, I'm an author even though I've never published a book. I'm a musician even though I don't play professionally. Why can't I be an epistemologist?
5Ben Pace10moHm, I like this, I feel resolved against 'aspiring rationalist', which was always losing anyway because it's a longer and less catchy phrase.
4Dagon10moI tend not to use "rationalist" for myself - the implication of identity and mix of description and value signaling rubs me the wrong way. For those who are describing actual group membership, part of the "rationalist community", I can see reasons to use "rationalist" and "aspiring rationalist" in different contexts, depending on what you're signaling and to whom. Outside of community identification, "aspiring rationalist" implies a focus on application of rationality to one's personal life, where just "rationalist" is broader, and may only imply an interest in the topic. Note: I should acknowledge that I don't think this is terribly important, and my standard advice for naming and jargon discussions remains "if it matters, use more words".
Decision theory and zero-sum game theory, NP and PSPACE

I agree with some of the other commenters that the term "decision theory" ought to be reserved for the overarching problem of which decision algorithm to use, and that the distinction you're referring to ought to be called something like "adversarial" vs "non-adversarial" or "rival" vs "non-rival". Nonetheless, I think this is an interesting handle for thinking about human psychology.

If we view these as two separate modes in humans, and presume that there's some kind of subsystem that decides whi... (read more)

Ms. Blue, meet Mr. Green

In the link post you're referring to, what Scott actually says is:

I suspect this is true the way it’s commonly practiced and studied (“if you’re feeling down, listen to this mindfulness tape for five minutes a day!”), less true for more becoming-a-Buddhist-monk-level stuff.
LessWrong 2.0 Feature Roadmap & Feature Suggestions

Yes. Google docs does contain a lame version of the thing I'm pointing at. The right version is that the screen is split into N columns. Each column displays the children of the selection from the previous column (the selection could either be an entire post/comment or a span within the post/comment that the children are replies to.)

This is both a solution to inline comments and a tree-browser that lets you see just the ancestry of a comment at a glance with out having to manually collapse everything else.

Also: you replied to my comment and I didn&

... (read more)
2habryka4yAh, notifications actually exist, but they are currently disabled by default. You can subscribe to any comments for which you want to get notifications for by clicking the subscribe button. You can also activate automatically subscribing to your posts and comments on your profile.
LessWrong 2.0 Feature Roadmap & Feature Suggestions

If you want to encourage engagement, don't hide the new comment box all the way down at the bottom of the page! Put another one right after the post (or give the post a reply button of the same sort the comments have.)

5habryka4yHmm, that seems correct, but I am also hesitant to have people post the same comment over and over again because they haven't read the thread. I will think about the tradeoffs here more, and we will see what I come up with. Maybe there is something in between that works best.
LessWrong 2.0 Feature Roadmap & Feature Suggestions

One UI for this I could imagine (for non-mobile wide-screen use) is to have the post and the comments appear in two columns with the post on the left and the comments on the right (Similar to the Mac OS X Finder's column view.) Then when the user clicks on a comment the appropriate bit of the post would get highlighted.

In fact, I could see doing a similar thing for the individual comments themselves to create a view that would show the *ancestry* of a single comment, stretching left back to the post the conversation was originally about. This could

... (read more)
1habryka4yAre you thinking of something similar to what Google docs has? That's how I've been thinking about implementing the general inline-commenting thing.
LessWrong 2.0 Feature Roadmap & Feature Suggestions

Agreed. Also, at some point Eigenkarma is going to need to include a recency bias so that the system can react quickly to a commenter going sour.

Welcome to Lesswrong 2.0

I agree with the spirit of this. That said, if the goal is to calculate a Karma score which fails to be fooled by a user posting a large amount of low quality content, it might be better to do something roughly: sum((P*x if x < 0 else max(0, x-T)) for x in post_and_comment_scores). Only comments that hit a certain bar should count at all. Here P is the penalty multiplier for creating bad content, and T is the threshold a comment score needs to meet to begin counting as good content. Of course, I also agree that it's probably worth weighting upv

... (read more)
Formal Open Problem in Decision Theory

From discussions I had with Sam, Scott, and Jack:

To solve the problem, it would suffice to find a reflexive domain with a retract onto .

This is because if you have a reflexive domain , that is, an with a continuous surjective map , and is a retract of , then there's also a continuous surjective map .

Proof: If is a retract of then we have a retraction and a section with . Construct . To show that is a surjection consider an arbitrary . Thus, . Since is a surjection there must

... (read more)
Formal Open Problem in Decision Theory

"Self-Reference and Fixed Points: A Discussion and an Extension of Lawvere's Theorem" by Jorge Soto-Andrade and Francisco J. Varela seems like a potentially relevant result. In particular, they prove a converse Lawvere result in the category of posets (though they mention doing this for in an unsolved problem.) I'm currently reading through this and related papers with an eye to adapting their construction to (I think you can't just use it straight-forwardly because even though you can build a reflexive domain with a retract to an arbitrary p

... (read more)
Applied Rationality Workshops: Jan 25-28 and March 1-4

A bit of an aside, but for me the reference to "If" is a turn off. I read it as promoting a fairly-arbitrary code of stoicism rather than effectiveness. The main message I get is keep cool, don't complain, don't show that you're affected by the world, and now you've achieved your goal,

I agree that the poem is about stoicism, but have a very different take on what stoicism is. Real stoicism is about training the elephant to be less afraid and more stable and thereby accomplish more. For example, the standard stoic meditation technique of thin... (read more)

Who Wants To Start An Important Startup?

Short version: Make an Eckman-style micro-expression reader in a wearable computer.

Fleshed out version: You have a wearable computer (perhaps something like Google glass) which sends video from its camera (or perhaps two cameras if one camera is not enough) over to a high-powered CPU which processes the images, locates the faces, and then identifies micro expressions by matching and comparing the current image (or 3D model) to previous frames to infer which bits of the face have moved in which directions. If a strong enough micro-expression happens, the u... (read more)

1daenerys9yI did an internship with these guys [] a couple years ago, and one of the teams was already working on the problem. Ekman's ideas were specifically brought up as a basic idea of what they were doing, but expanded beyond just microexpressions and the like. Some other things they were looking at included pore-dilation, and thermal imaging. It wasn't my team, so I don't remember too many details, but I remember a problem being that they had to have the subjects immobile in one place, and surrounded by an array of very expensive cameras and sensors. If you could design a system where you could set up enough sensors to look at everyone in a room, despite the fact that they were moving around, etc, and be able to pick out warning signs for violence (one of their most desired use cases), you'd be in business. They were sponsored by DARPA or AFRL, but the work was public, so might be able to find some info by browsing around. Also, if they were doing it, I would guess that other colleges were too.
1katydee9yI'm skeptical of this because of my general suspicion of the validity of Paul Ekman's research program [], especially since many of the potential applications of this technology seem related to the shakiest area of the research program-- lie detection. Further, even if you assume Ekman's research is entirely valid, I'm not sure that video analysis technology can be reliable or effective enough to be useful at the present stage, especially when we're talking about stimuli that last for such a short period-- typically 40-100 ms. Machine vision isn't my forte either, so I'm not positive, but you would have to be really accurate for something like this to be fully useful, and quite fast as well if you want real-time conversational feedback. It's also important to consider that having a program like this with a substantial error rate would likely be worse than not having a program at all. I do think that-- if possible-- this would be a great idea (indeed, it would represent one of the "killer apps" for Google Glass and similar wearable computing projects if it were effective), but I think both the research behind the idea and the ability to actually implement this in an effective fashion are very shaky at this stage.
9AltonSun9yVersion 0.1 can be for Skype conversations. Imagine the heightened 'super power' ability to discreetly (or not so discreetly) pick up on this during your personal and business Skype chats. I wear a GoPro camera around my neck for a life-logging project, and have tried it with a wifi (EyeFi) card. If you want live video or pics, the battery lasts around 1 hr for 1picture per 5 seconds. If you want video at 30fps at 960p, the interchangeable batteries last about 1.5 hours and records about 5.5 hrs on a 32gb card (max size supported) The files are huge, cumbersome, and do little for me. I have been entertaining the idea of a version that recognizes your mood throughout the day with your webcam, and plots it over time based on what type of tasks you were performing. Over time, your laptop could suggest transitioning from certain tasks to others based on your expressions to optimize for personalized productivity and mood. Affectiva's Affdex is a company to look to for this, and has a great demo that plots your expressions over time while watching commercials: [] Another idea is to make lending out laptops free if the user agrees to having essentially no privacy - you'd sell the information and user expressions as they experience certain sites back to the companies that would pay for this program and reap a healthy profit along the way! (A part of which you'd totally send to me.) This could be a sustainable way to get more internet enabled laptops into more hands and push people to become more contributing, creating members of society rather than the majority passive consumers that we experience today. Version .1 of this laptop program could be lending out old/donated/extra laptops under the condition that the lendees who use the laptops create 1 thing a day of notable worth to themselves (or one project per every x hours). So everyone is held together by incrementall
Quixey - startup applying LW-style rationality - hiring engineers

Quixey is a great place to work, and I learned a lot working there. My main reason for leaving was that I wanted to be able to devote more time and mental energy to some of my own thoughts and projects.

5jhuffman10yIs this code for "burnt out from 80 hour weeks" ?
Working hurts less than procrastinating, we fear the twinge of starting

Offhand, I'm guessing the very first response ought to be "Huzzah! I caught myself procrastinating!" in order to get the reverse version of the effect I mentioned. Then go on to "what would I like to do?"

0Bobertron10yThis makes lot of sense to me. In the kind of meditation I'm trying, you are supposed to concentrate on your breath. Instructions usually say that, if you mind wanders, just put attention back on the breath in a non-judgemental way. Don't put yourself down. What's more, I once read that, when you notice your mind has been wandering, you should be happy because you had a moment of awareness and an opportunity to learn concentration. That's like saying "Huzzah! I caught my mind wandering!"
8Jasen10yI've been able to implement something like this to great effect. Every time I notice that I've been behaving in a very silly way, I smile broadly, laugh out loud and say "Ha ha! Gotcha!" or something to that effect. I only allow myself to do this in cases where I've actually gained new information: Noticed a new flaw, noticed an old flaw come up in a new situation, realized that an old behavior is in fact undesirable, etc. This positively reinforces noticing my flaws without doing so to the undesirable behavior itself. This is even more effective when implemented in response to someone else pointing out one of my flaws. It's a little more difficult to carry out because I have to suppress a reflex to retaliate/defend myself that doesn't come up as much when I'm my own critic, but when I succeed it almost completely eliminates the social awkwardness that normally comes with someone critiquing me in public.
7beriukay10yAnother possibility, accidentally just discovered by me right now, was that simply reading the title of this article in my RSS feed got me to realize that my desk was a total mess (that's been bothering me for months now), so instead of reading it, I cleaned my desk. Then I read it. So just reading the title of this post could be enough to get some things done.
Working hurts less than procrastinating, we fear the twinge of starting

Here's a theory about one of the things that causes procrastination to be so hard to beat. I'm curious what people think of it.

  1. Hypothesis: Many parts of the mind are influenced by something like reinforcement learning, where the emotional valances of our thoughts function as a gross reward signal that conditions their behaviors.

  2. Reinforcement learning seems to have a far more powerful effect when feedback is instant.

  3. We think of procrastinating as a bad thing, and tend to internally punish ourselves when we catch ourselves doing it.

  4. Therefore, the ne

... (read more)
1Yoav Ravid2ymaybe we can (at least at the beginning of getting over it) switch the self-talk that comes after noticing procrastination (and many times just makes us miserable and isn't sufficient at changing our behavior), with a simple coin flip - if heads, i stop procrastinating, if tails, I'm free to continue guilt-free. and make it a TAP []: "When ever i notice that i currently procrastinate, i flip a coin"
2Pablo10yIn the past few years a number of studies have shown that self-forgiveness reduces procrastination [] . You seem to have uncovered the causal mechanism that accounts for these findings.

This sounds reasonable. What sort of thought would you recommend responding with after noticing oneself procrastinating? I'm leaning towards "what would I like to do?"

1steven046111yme too
Outlawing Anthropics: An Updateless Dilemma

Why do I think anthropic reasoning and consciousness are related?

In a nutshell, I think subjective anticipation requires subjectivity. We humans feel dissatisfied with a description like "well, one system running a continuation of the computation in your brain ends up in a red room and two such systems end up in green rooms" because we feel that there's this extra "me" thing, whose future we need to account for. We bother to ask how the "me" gets split up, what "I" should anticipate, because we feel that there's &q... (read more)

AndrewH's observation and opportunity costs

The most effective version of this would probably be an iPhone (or similar mobile device) application that gives a dollar to charity when you push a button. If it's going to work reliably it has to be something that can be used when the beggar/cause invocation is in sight: for most people, I'm guessing that akrasia would probably prevent a physical box or paper ledger from working properly.

AndrewH's observation and opportunity costs

I recently visited Los Angeles with a friend. Whenever we got lost wandering around the city, he would find the nearest homeless person, ask them for directions and pay them a dollar. (Homeless people tend to know the street layout and bus routes of their city like the backs of their hands.)

The Strangest Thing An AI Could Tell You

Yes, we have a name from this, Religion

Agreed, but the fact that religion exists makes the prospect of similar things whose existence we are not aware of all the scarier. Imagine, for example, if there were something like a religion one of whose tenants is that you have to fool yourself into thinking that the religion doesn't exist most of the time.

They say that everybody in the world who knows about "The Game" is playing The Game. This means that, right now, you are playing The Game. The objective of The Game is to forget about its existence and the fact that you are playing for as long as possible. Also, if you should remember, you must forget again as quickly as possible.

The Strangest Thing An AI Could Tell You
  • We actually live in hyperspace: our universe really has four spacial dimensions. However, our bodies are fully four dimensional; we are not wafer thin slices a la flatland. We don't perceive there to be four dimensions because our visual cortexes have a defect somewhat like that of people who can't notice anything on the right side of their visual field.
  • Not only do we have an absolute denial macro, but it is a programmable absolute denial macro and there are things much like computer viruses which use it and spread through human population. That is
... (read more)
1AgentME10moYou awkwardly explain in response that you do know that the homeless person who asked you for change earlier and you ignored was alive, and then the AI explains that it was talking about that the part of your mind that makes moral judgements was in denial, not the verbal part of your mind that has conversations. The AI further explains that another thing you're in absolute denial of is how compartmentalized your mind is and how you think your mind's verbal center is in charge of things more than it is.
8[anonymous]10yI thought about this once, but I discovered that there are in fact people who have little or no visual or spatial reasoning capabilities. I personally tested one of my colleagues in undergrad with a variant of the Mental Rotation Task [] (as part of a philosophy essay I was writing at the time) and found to my surprise he was barely capable of doing it. According to him, he passed both semesters of undergraduate real analysis with A's. Of course, this doesn't count as science.... EDIT: In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that I make something of an Internet Cottage Industry out of trolling people who believe the real numbers are countable, or that 0.9999... != 1, and so on. So obviously I have a great stake in there being no transparent contradictions in the theory of real numbers.
8kragensitaker11yThere seems to be strong evidence that this is true in Haïti [].
8dclayh12yI'm not sure of the mathematical details, but I believe the fact you can tie knots in rope falsifies your first bullet point. I find it hard very hard to believe that all knots could be hallucinated. (All cats, on the other hand, is brilliant.)
7Theist12yFabulous story idea.
2Roko12yYes, we have a name from this, Religion
Harnessing Your Biases

I'm not sure the cost of privately held false beliefs is as low as you think it is. The universe is heavily Causally Entangled. Now even if in your example, the shape of the earth isn't causally entangled with anything our mechanic cares about, that doesn't get you off the hook. A false belief can shoot you in the foot in at least two ways. First, you might explicitly use it to reason about the value of some other variable in your causal graph. Second, your intuition might draw on it as an analogy when you are reasoning about something else.

If our car ... (read more)

0MineCanary12yI'm not sure what the relationship between metaphors propagating in someone's thinking and the causal entanglement of the universe is. I'd argue that people profit from having different ways to look at the world--even though it shares a common structure, this isn't always locally noticeable or important, and certainly things can look different at different scales. I'm equally unsure that it matters whether or not you see an object that is fractal for the scales of relevance to you and assume it is truly fractal or just a repeating pattern on a few scales. I agree with Psychohistorian that it's more important that the mechanic be willing to abandon his belief with greater knowledge of the physics of the universe. But even then, facility with fractal thinking may still offer benefits. That is: The associations in your mind are put to constant test when it comes to encountering the real world. Certainly long-term, serious misconceptions--liking seeing God in everything and missing insights into natural truth--can be quite a thing to overcome and can stifle certain important lines of thought. But for any beliefs you get from reading inadequately informed science journalism--well, the ways of thinking your mind's going to be contaminated with are those that are prevalent in our culture, so you probably encounter them anyway. They're also things that seem plausible to you, given your background, so you again probably already think in these terms, or the interconnectedness with all the other observations of life you've had is too small to distinguish between two alternate explanations--the false one you've just read and the real truth, which is "out there" still. And if scientific results were really so obvious from what we already know about the universe, research would be a lot less important--rather, it is because scientific findings can offer counter-intuitive results, ways of thinking that we DON'T find useful or essential in everyday life, that we find them so
1Psychohistorian12yThis is what I meant by epistemology. It's not the bad beliefs causing bad epistemology (with certain exceptions, like some instances of religion, in which people may mess up their epistemology to retain their beliefs), but the bad epistemology causing the beliefs. I picked a bit too extreme an example to illustrate my point, and made note of alternative examples in the original. If I told the car mechanic, "Actually, the Earth revolves around the Sun, which is one star among billions in one galaxy among billions, and you should believe me because God told me so," and he changes his beliefs accordingly, he's not really any better off than he was. The problem is not his belief, it's his system for validating beliefs. By contrast, if I actually explained why that statement was true and he said, "Well, duh, of course I was wrong! I really should have looked into that!" then I'd say he never had much of a problem to begin with, other than a lack of curiosity.
Rationality Quotes - July 2009

Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either.

-- Albert Einstein

6RobinHanson12yBoth these quotes sound nice, but do we have evidence for them?
Rationality Quotes - July 2009

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.

-- Voltaire

2sark10yBut usually causality doesn't run in that direction. Those who already wish to commit atrocities will go out of their way to seek absurd beliefs. Voltaire, being an ideas person, overestimates the impact of ideas.
-2roland12ySorry, but I was immediately reminded of 9-11 []
Raising the Sanity Waterline

Incidentally, I agree that using the term "spirituality" is not necessarily bad. Though, I'm careful to try to use it to refer to the general emotion of awe/wonder/curiosity about the universe. To me the word means something quite opposed to religion. I mean the emotion I felt years ago when I watched Carl Sagan's "Cosmos".... To me religion looks like what happens when spirituality is snuffed out by an answer which isn't as wonderfully strange and satisfyingly true as it could have been.

It's a word with positive connotations, and w... (read more)

9steven046112yI question whether awe and wonder about this giant mostly-unstructured human-hostile death trap we call a universe is an appropriate emotion for a rationalist. Morbid fascination, maybe -- Lovecraft and Teller [] , not Sagan.
8MBlume12yIf we could do this, if we could really do this, in a way that is genuine, and unforced, if we could show people that religion has hijacked their deepest needs and that there are better ways to fill those needs, I really think that could be the opening move to winning this thing. I think that could be what finally gets people to pull their fingers out of their ears, stop screaming "can't hear you, you can't make me think!" and maybe, just maybe learn something.
Raising the Sanity Waterline

Michael Vassar said:

Naive realism is a supernatural belief system anyway

What exactly do you mean by "supernatural" in this context? Naive realism doesn't seem to be anthropomorphizing any ontologically fundamental things, which is what I mean when I say "supernatural".

Now of course naive realism does make the assumption that certain assumptions about reality which are encoded in our brains from the get go are right, or at least probably right, in short, that we have an epistemic gift. However, that can't be what you meant by &qu... (read more)

LessWrong anti-kibitzer (hides comment authors and vote counts)

Your version is now the official version 0.3. However, the one thing you changed (possibly unintentionally) was to make Kibitzing default to on. I changed it back to defaulting to off, because it's easy to click the button if you're curious, but impossible to un-see who wrote all the comments, if you didn't want to look.

LessWrong anti-kibitzer (hides comment authors and vote counts)

That particular hack looks like a bad idea. What if somebody actually put a bold-face link into a post or comment? However, your original suggestion wan't as bad. All non-relative links to user pages get blocked by the anti-kibitzer. (Links in "Top contributors" and stuff in comments seem to be turned into relative links if they point inside LW.) It's gross, but it works.

Version 0.2 is now up. It hides everything except the point-counts on the recent posts (there was no tag around those.) (Incidentally, I don't have regular expressions bec... (read more)

4matt12yA great way to put your code into the public domain would be to put it up somewhere like (ideally exactly like, because they're very awesome) []. If anyone else wants to modify your code the git (and GitHub) workflow is very good - anyone can fork your repository, and if you want to accept their changes that's easy for you to do. See the GitHub Guides [] if you're interested.
LessWrong anti-kibitzer (hides comment authors and vote counts)

I've upgraded the LW anti-kibitzer so that it hides the taglines in the recent comments sidebar as well. (Which is imperfect, because it also hides which post the comment was about, but better will have to wait until the server starts enclosing all the kibitzing pieces of information in nice tags.) No such hack was possible for the recent posts sidebar.

1Eliezer Yudkowsky12yWell, to kibitz the anti-kibitzing, it looks to me like: would match pretty easily against something that looked for and deleted it, similarly on the Recent Posts but without the , checking for the identity of the two matched strings is optional (I forget how to do this offhand with REs).
Don't Believe You'll Self-Deceive

A phrase like trying to see my way clear to should be a giant red flag. If you're trying to accept something then you must have some sort of motivation. If you have the motivation to accept something because you actually believe it is true, then you've already accepted it. If you have that motivation for some other reason, then you're deceiving yourself.

5theotetia12yI want it because it's beautiful, but I won't take it unless it's true.
Slow down a little... maybe?

It strikes me that it's not necessarily a bad thing if people are, right now, posting articles faster than they could sustainably produce in the long term. One thing you could do is not necessarily promote things immediately after they're written. Stuff on LW should still be relevant a week after it's written.

If there's a buffer of good posts waiting to be promoted, then we could make the front page a consistent stream of good articles, as opposed to having to promote slightly lower quality posts on bad days, and missing out on a few excellent posts on f... (read more)

0Kevin12yFixed it.
Issues, Bugs, and Requested Features

Is there a way to make strike-through text? I'd like to be able to make revisions like this one without deleting the record of what I originally said.

2wmoore12yThere is no way to do this at the moment. I've raised a feature request for it. #123 []
Belief in Self-Deception

well exactly... If the person were thinking rationally enough to contemplate that argument, they really wouldn't need it.

My working model of this person was that the person has rehearsed emotional and argumentative defenses to protect their belief, or belief in belief, and that the person had the ability to be reasonably rational in other domains where they weren't trying to be irrational. It therefore seemed to me that one strategy (while still dicey) to attempt to unconvince such a person would be to come up with an argument which is both:

  • Solid (Fo

... (read more)
5Roko12yMy working model of a religious person such as the above is that they assess any argument first and foremost on the basis "will accepting this argument cause me to have to abandon my religious belief?". If yes, execute "search for least implausible counterargument". As such, no rational argument whose conclusion obviously leads to the abandonment of religion will work. However, rational arguments that can be accepted on the spot without obviously threatening religion, and which lead via hard-to-predict emotional channels to the weakening and defeat of that belief might work. It is my suspicion that persuading someone to change their mind on a really important issue almost always works like this.
Belief in Self-Deception

I stand corrected. I hereby strike the first two sentences.

Belief in Self-Deception

If I had been talking to the person you were talking to, I might have said something like this:

Why are you deceiving yourself into believing Orthodox Judaism as opposed to something else? If you, in fact, are deriving a benefit from deceiving yourself, while at the same time being aware that you are deceiving yourself, then why haven't you optimized your deceptions into something other than an off-the-shelf religion by now? Have you ever really asked yourself the question: "What is the set of things that I would derive the most benefit from falsely ... (read more)

2pre12yI would expect a reply along the lines of: It's precisely because I can't trust my own reasoning when deciding which false beliefs I should have that I accept these which are handed down. I pick Judaism because it's the oldest and thus has shown through memetic competition that it's the strongest set of false beliefs one could have. Or ..." I pick Christianity because it's the most popular and has therefore proven itself memetically competitive." I have a lot of friends who think "it's old therefore it must be good to have survived this long" about Tarot and eastern religions etc. Personally I'd wanna eliminate the false beliefs even if it cost me my mojo, but that's a different set of priorities I guess.
6Eliezer Yudkowsky12yTo be clear, she never did say, "I am deceiving myself" or "I falsely believe that there is a God".
7Roko12y"Disclaimer: I don't actually expect this to work with high confidence, because this sort of person might not actually be able to do a sincere inquiry." * well exactly... If the person were thinking rationally enough to contemplate that argument, they really wouldn't need it. I have never successfully converted a religious person to atheism, but my ex-girlfriend did. I am a more rational person than her, I know more philosophy, I have earnestly tried many times, she just did this once, etc. How did she do it? The person in question was male and his religion forbade him from sex outside marriage. Most people are mostly ruled by their emotions.
Issues, Bugs, and Requested Features

Ah, I didn't know you could embed images because it wasn't in the help. Would it be a good idea to put a link to a Markdown tutorial at the bottom of the table that pops up when I click the help link?

4wmoore12yYes, I've added an task to include a link to more thorough Markdown documentation.
The Most Frequently Useful Thing

The idea that that you shouldn't internally argue for or against things or propose solutions too soon is probably the most frequently useful thing. I sometimes catch myself arguing for or against something and then I think "No, I should really just ask the question."

Issues, Bugs, and Requested Features

Seconded. However, as an interim solution, we can do things like this: the Golden ratio is (1+root(5))/2.

1CannibalSmith12y![](\varphi=\frac{1+\sqrt{5}}{2} [\varphi=\frac{1+\sqrt{5}}{2}])
7wmoore12yThat looks like a reasonable workaround. With Markdown [] you can embed images so your image above can be embedded directly: I've also added a feature request [] for jsMath.
Tell Your Rationalist Origin Story

I think I began as a rationalist when I read this story. (This was before I had run across anything Eliezer wrote.) I had rationalist tendencies before that, but I wasn't really trying very hard to be rational. Back then my "pet causes" (as I call them now) included things like trying to make all the software transparent and free. These were pet causes simply because I was interested in computers. But here, I had found something that was sufficiently terrible and sufficiently potentially preventable that it utterly dwarfed my pet causes.

I le... (read more)

War and/or Peace (2/8)

Vladimir says: "I assumed you agree that increasing the babyeating problem tenfold isn't something you'd expect to be reciprocated"

Aye, not necessarily. But perhaps the gesture of good will might be large enough to get the babyeaters to, say, take a medicine which melts the brains of their children right after they're eaten. They might be against such a medicine, but since they didn't evolve knowing that their babies were being slow-tortured for a month, they might not have desires against the medicine stronger than the desires in favor of havi... (read more)

War and/or Peace (2/8)

Vladimir says: "I assumed you agree that increasing the babyeating problem tenfold isn't something you'd expect to be reciprocated"

Aye, not necessarily. But perhaps the gesture of good will might be large enough to get the babyeaters to, say, take a medicine which melts the brains of their children right after they're eaten. They might be against such a medicine, but since they didn't evolve knowing that their babies were being slow-tortured for a month, they might not have desires against the medicine stronger than the desires in favor of havi... (read more)

War and/or Peace (2/8)

Vladimir says: """Every decision to give a gift on your side corresponds to a decision to abstain from accepting your gift on the other side. Thus, decisions to give must be made on case-to-case basis, cooperation in true prisoner's dilemma doesn't mean unconditional charity."""

Agreed. Obviously (for example) the human ship shouldn't self-destruct. But I wasn't talking about all gifts, I was talking about the specific class of gifts called "helpful advice." And I did specify: "provided that, on the whole, si... (read more)

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