All of MathiasZaman's Comments + Replies

Becoming stronger together

They mean the language used by the majority of where they live, not the language used in the group. Even if all the members are native English speakers, this is still some way of keeping plausible deniability in terms of location.

Edit: reading the OP more cautiously, I think it's unlikely the group lives in a place where English isn't the majority language so the phrasing is vague for not reason. Plausible deniability went out of the window given all the information available.

3Lumifer5yWe're guessing, but I disagree. I think this group is not from an English-speaking country.
Stupid questions thread, October 2015

Disclaimer: I've been diagnosed with ADHD.

difficulty concentrating

This XKCD is a fair visualization of what difficulty concentrating feels like. I can be doing an activity (even a pleasurable one), but I get a lot of other stimuli coming in that link to different activities that also need doing or would also be fun or pleasurable. Or while doing an activity or trying to think about one specific thing, my mind jumps to other (often related) topics and this has a tendency to escalate. Think about the way people describe going to tv-tropes. You start out ... (read more)

Stupid questions thread, October 2015

There's no real way to enforce that. Even with those guidelines you'll mostly end up with an intuitive system that's maybe influenced by the guidelines.

Stupid questions thread, October 2015

Answer the question the interviewer means, not the question as you'd break it down on Less Wrong. Or more broadly: adapt your communication to the intended argument and goal.

In this particular example, you should know the values of the company before you end up at the interview, so this answer should be: Yes, followed by one or two examples show that your values match those of the company.

Stupid questions thread, October 2015

Is retributive downvoting on other forums, or is it just a LW thing?

Reddit also had it. I don't frequent other forums that use voting, but a forum I used to be part of had a user that would delve into the history of people he disagreed with and report year-old comments to get those people banned.

Given that it's an easy way to hinder "opponents" I very much doubt it's LW exclusive.

Can anyone think of some relationship between rationality and vindication?

Apart from willingness to use tools others would think immoral, no. I also don't think w... (read more)

0[anonymous]6yYa know the funny thing is, I instinctively came here to upvote your reply. I suspect I would have done that even if you're reply was of poor quality. Perhaps that could be construed as a form of retributive upvoting, in gratitude for the courtesy of replying. In that case, I would intuit that it is not of good practice, since it would equally skew the karma system (unless everyone is doing it, I suppose). Though, karma isn't ahhh...can't remember the economic term...replaceable by another unit of karma. There is a marginal value to karma and very different signals for negative/positive karma.
Stupid questions thread, October 2015

(Is "Are big societies optimal for human happiness/quality of life," a fair rephrasing of your question?)

I've been asking myself similar questions lately. As pointed out "made to live" implies things that never happened, in that humans weren't created, nor were the current societies/civilizations ever consciously designed or created. They just sort of happened.

Since both humans and societies got to where they are through mostly unthinking processes, it's easy to see how things didn't end up optimal.

Humans were hunter-gatherers for most... (read more)

-2ChristianKl6yThat's again a pretty trival answer. No society isn't optimal. We don't live in utopia. Nation states are created via human made law and a lot of the ways humans interact with each other socially in modern society got thought up by humans as well. What does that mean? That modern humans have a lower lifespan than they would have in a hunter-gatherer life? That happiness is higher?
-1Fuglinnavon6yThank you for your answer i was thinking the same way ! And yes it was the meaning of my question thank you !
3SilentCal6yI like your post, but I'd reverse your punchline: humans were indeed not made for big societies, but big societies were made for humans. The problem is that our societies are a retrofit to try to coordinate humans at scales we were never meant for, hence the non-optimality.
Stupid questions thread, October 2015

UBI means every citizen gets a sum of money in their account each month. Current government programs means people need to jump through multiple hoops in order to get food. I don't think UBI is a panacea, but I don't think it's a stretch to say it'll reach people who aren't being helped by the current welfare systems.

Open thread, Oct. 12 - Oct. 18, 2015

What I'm saying is that humans aren't wrong in trading off some amount of comfort so they can have jokes, fiction, art and romantic love.

Open thread, Oct. 12 - Oct. 18, 2015

Does the story actually says the Superhappies really know humanity's utility function better? As in, does an omniscient narrator tell it, or is it a Superhappy or one of the crew that says this? That changes a lot, to me. Of course the Superhappies would believe they know our utility function better than we do. Just like how the humans assumed they knew what was better for the Babyeaters.

Similarly, the Superhappies are moral, for their idea of morality. They were perfectly willing to use force (not physical, but force nonetheless) to encourage humans to se... (read more)

0cousin_it6yUm, that's the opposite of how utility functions work. They don't have sacred components. You can and should trade off one component for a larger gain in another component. That's exactly what the super happies were offering.
Emotional tools for the beginner rationalist

This would be a good place to start looking. It's a list that holds most of the (self-proclaimed) rationalists on tumblr, although I can't guarantee the quality or level of activity of each tumblr. Notable absences are Scott's tumblr and theunitofcaring.

Emotional tools for the beginner rationalist

The rationalist tumblr sphere helped me a lot. It's a lot more approachable for newcomers than this site is and has a very low barrier for making low-effort, high emotion posts, which is something I could totally use assistance on at the time. It also helped that I could see rationalist practices and the results in (more-or-less) real time, which were highly available examples (I've always learned better with good, tangible examples) and showed me that rationality could be practised by "real" people, rather than mythical figures like Jeffreyssai,... (read more)

0[anonymous]6yI didn't know that there was a rationalist tumblr sphere. I should look into that.
0Gleb_Tsipursky6yGood idea about the Tumblr sphere and the fiction, thanks!
Emotional tools for the beginner rationalist

To be fair, the LW census also shows an average IQ that is significantly larger than the baseline and we know intelligence and depression to be correlated.

But intuitively (e.g. without any evidence) I can understand why this community could have a higher-than-baseline level of depression, apart from the intelligence issue. Stuff like: "If you aren't winning, you aren't being rational?", "If you are rational, than why aren't you sitting on a giant pile of utility/money," and "heroic responsibility" (everything wrong with the w... (read more)

0Gleb_Tsipursky6yGood points, and that's why I highlight the benefits of orienting toward improvement instead of perfectionism and having a supportive community.
Ideas on growth of the community

Whenever you post an idea, you might get a few upvotes, but you'll also get a lot of comments saying that something else is a better idea instead.

Not just that, but you also get a lot of comments nitpicking a minor detail that hardly affects the main points. For me, at least, that sort of response discourages to post anything that isn't perfect (which nothing ever is).

we need someone crazy like Scott Alexander who will solo producing huge amounts of content 2

You don't necessarily need one person. The Sequences started due to a conversation between Yudkwosky and Hanson.

Crazy Ideas Thread

Justice departments notably have trouble keeping up with modern technology. Where I live, it's still impossible to get a digital copy of your file (leading to a case where someone ate an important document and was able to go free on a technicality).

Not just that, but smartphones are not quite ubiquitous yet. Either you require the person to purchase one, or have the state purchase one, neither of which is ideal.

I suspect there are also legal and human right problems, since ankle monitors are already used as a form of punishment, but have never been used (as far as I know) as a parole/probation measure.

Crazy Ideas Thread

Ankle monitors are surprisingly annoying to wear. It would be a big, long-term punishment that would probably come on top of a prison sentence.

0Illano7yI'm surprised no one has pushed through a cell-phone tracking app as a replacement for the ankle monitors. Sure, its not as secure, and may be left somewhere/forgotten/etc. but if you included it as a condition for parole/probation, you could probably get pretty high usage rates, with little added cost and annoyance.
Crazy Ideas Thread

Are there examples of interventions like this working out well?

0Thomas7ySure. Camels in Australia. Dingo in Australia. Especially hippos in South America, where they were introduced by the late drug cartel lord Pablo Escobar. See [] Hippos are ideal for South America. They were almost missing there. So I guess is the case about polar bears and Antarctica.
A Federal Judge on Biases in the Criminal Justice System.

Your link is a 42 page document. It's probably very interesting and it's certainly an area that interests me in particular, but summary would have been nice to see alongside the link. I doubt you're going to see much discussion here, because of that reason.

0Dorikka7yMight be a case where posting a summary reduces the chance people will read the article sufficiently that it's best not to post a summary.
9gudamor7yLet's cut to the reforms, listed below with their headers. 1. Require open file discovery. 2. Adopt standardized, rigorous procedures for dealing with the government’s disclosure obligations 3. Adopt standardized, rigorous procedures for eyewitness identification. 4. Video record all suspect interrogations. 5. Impose strict limits on the use of jailhouse informants. 6. Adopt rigorous, uniform procedures for certifying expert witnesses and preserving the integrity of the testing process. 7. Keep adding conviction integrity units. 8. Establish independent Prosecutorial Integrity Units. C. Judges 1. Enter Brady compliance orders in every criminal case. 2. Engage in a Brady colloquy. 3. Adopt local rules that require the government to comply with its discovery obligations without the need for motions by the defense. 4. Condition the admission of expert evidence in criminal cases on the presentation of a proper Daubert showing. 5. When prosecutors misbehave, don’t keep it a secret. D. Miscellaneous 1. Abandon judicial elections. 2. Abrogate absolute prosecutorial immunity. 3. Repeal AEDPA § 2254(d). 4. Treat prosecutorial misconduct as a civil rights violation. 5. Give criminal defendants the choice of a jury or bench trial. 6. Conduct in depth studies of exonerations. 7. Repeal three felonies a day for three years.
Open Thread, Jun. 29 - Jul. 5, 2015

One is for signalling, another is to get a martial arts training partner without the awkwardness of physical intimacy with a non-intimate partner, another is for sexual, emotional and social fulfilment and a final one is for a fitness partner, person to share chores with and life coach.

Signalling what, exactly? Sexual desirability? Competent adultness? Showcasing your ability to have a girlfriend? I understand that having a sexual and romantic partner has signalling value, I just don't think it's very useful to have signaling as a major goal. (Unless I ... (read more)

Effectively Less Altruistically Wrong Codex

It might but most redditors don't really click links. I find it more useful to ignore them, occasionally skimming the arguments and upvoting the non-stupid comments.

Effectively Less Altruistically Wrong Codex

/r/Futurology is also really annoying because people keep having the same arguments over and over again.

1John_Maxwell7yCould creating comprehensive overview pages for the arguments and linking people to them whenever the arguments came up be useful?
Surprising examples of non-human optimization

Slime mold can be used to map subway routes.

Edit: Markets can also be seen as a non-human optimizing actor, even if the smallest parts are human.

9Jan_Rzymkowski7yI am more interested in optimizations, where an agent finds a solution vastly different from what humans would come up with, somehow "cheating" or "hacking" the problem. Slime mold and soap bubbles produce results quite similar to those of human planners. Anyhow, it would be hard to strongly outperform humans (that is find surprising solution) at problems of the type of minimal trees - our visual cortexes are quite specialized in this kind of task.
2Gunnar_Zarncke7yI'm not sure smile mold counts - or in general where the border is to pysical processes like soap bubble optimization [] .
Open Thread, Jun. 8 - Jun. 14, 2015

Maybe the lowest-hanging fruit was already picked. If someone tried to write Sequences 2.0, what would it be about? Cognitive biases that Eliezer skipped?

Something I feel Yudkowsky doesn't really talks about enough in the Sequences is how to be rational in a group, as part of a group and as a group. There is some material in there and HPMOR also offers some stuff, but there's very little that is as formalized as the ideas around "Politics is the Mindkiller/Spiders/Hard Mode," or "the Typical Mind Fallacy."

Something Yudkowsky also men... (read more)

4Dahlen7yI've been working on a series of posts centered around this -- social rationality, if you will. So far, the best source for such materials remains Yvain's writings on the topic on his blog; he really nails the art of having sane discussions. He popularised some ways of framing debate tactics such as motte-and-bailey, steelmanning, bravery debates and so on, which entered the SSC jargon. I'm interested in expanding on that theme with topics such as emphasis fights ("yes, but"-ing) or arguing in bad faith, as examples of failure modes in collective truth-seeking, but in the end it all hinges on an ideally shared perception of morality, or of standards to hold oneself to. My approach relies heavily on motives and on my personal conception of morality, which is why it's difficult to teach it without looking like I preach it. (At least Eliezer didn't look too concerned about this one, though, but not everyone has the fortune to be him.) Besides, it's a very complex and murky field, one best learned through experience and examples.
Open Thread, Jun. 8 - Jun. 14, 2015

Preventing illness also falls under the umbrella of health care, at least where I live.

And even if it didn't, it's still clear what (most) people mean with the word even if the word doesn't mean what you want it to mean.

1ChristianKl7y"Preventive medicine" get's you doctors who do a lot of mammograms and then operate people who don't really need an operation. If the word had no meaning there wouldn't be much gained by abolishing it.
Lesswrong, Effective Altruism Forum and Slate Star Codex: Harm Reduction

If you want, I can help with the tumblr part of this. If you don't need help with the tumblr part, but want to be pointed in the right direction, I host the Rationalist Masterlist with most of the tumblr rationalists on it.

Also keep in mind that tumblr tends to have a very low signal-to-noise ratio.

Lesswrong, Effective Altruism Forum and Slate Star Codex: Harm Reduction

Agreed. This is, for me, one of the main advantages of posting on tumblr. You still get the feedback you want from clever people and criticism, but that criticism doesn't feel quite as bad as it would here, because everyone realizes that tumblr is a good space to test and try out ideas. Less Wrong feels, to me, more like a place where you share more solidified ideas (with the Open Thread as a possible exception).

Open Thread, Jun. 8 - Jun. 14, 2015

Everything is math, but that doesn't mean that the word "biology" isn't useful. Even if healthcare isn't a perfect word or even a perfect concept, it helps us in everyday conversations and discussions about the way the world works and should work.

1ChristianKl7yThe question is whether that's true or whether the word creates more confusion than it helps. In particular the context of health care is that it's about making sick people normal again.
Open Thread, Apr. 06 - Apr. 12, 2015

In case no-one has mentioned this to you yet, we have a list. If you want on, just send me (Yxoque) a message.

Open Thread, Apr. 06 - Apr. 12, 2015

The lack of up- and down-voting and the limited threading kills it value for me, personally.

4Artaxerxes7yCross post the ones you want to discuss here.
4closeness7yYes, who's going to go through hundreds of comments to find the good ones. And based on the content they're replying to, there's probably some really good stuff in the comment section that's relatively unseen because of this.
Stupid Questions April 2015

Knowing about the placebo effect doesn't stop the placebo effect from kicking in.

Anyway, I'd say that there are moments when comforting lies may be worth it, but I don't trust my ability to know when those moments are happening and it would raise my overall believability if I was found out.

1Squark7yEspecially if you know that knowing about the placebo effect doesn't stop the placebo effect from kicking in.
Open thread, Apr. 01 - Apr. 05, 2015

Oh yes, absolutely. That's the main reason I'm not in law enforcement right now. Just wanted to point out that the analogue position exists and that it seems likely that such coordination positions exist within other (sorta similar) organizations.

Open thread, Apr. 01 - Apr. 05, 2015

Those jobs exist in the police force and I would be very surprised if most countries didn't have something like what you describe.

0[anonymous]7yBut even the police can be ethically problematic in a way that the fire service isn't. It is debatable if all laws are worthy of enforcement. The fire service (and related, disaster mitigation services etc.) does not really have such dilemmas, I think they clearly accumulate so much positive karma that even if some aspects of their acitvities are questionable they are still having a very positive sum.
How has lesswrong changed your life?

The biggest change, I think, is that I no longer feel alone. Not in the sense of not having anyone in my life, but rather that I now know people who think in roughly the same way I do about roughly the same things I do. To put it in jargon, I have, for the first time, an in-group, a tribe. This is not an effect you should underestimate.

I have also changed my life in some ways and my outlook on the world has grown more realistic, I think. I think about things differently and am more willing to make trade-offs rather than just be paralyzed with indecision. I... (read more)

3Viliam_Bur7yAlmost the same for me (just replace Python with Android or Unity, and "playing videogames I don't really enjoy" with "reading websites I don't really enjoy").
Feedback on promoting rational thinking about one's career choice to a broad audience

Caveat: my current self absolutely hates my smug-ass teenage self that I used to be so I may be a bit pessimistic about other teenagers :)

I think you are. I agree that some teenagers love to feel smarter than other people (not necessarily their parents), but I hypothesize that this is more because no-one is offering teenagers the actual tools to be genuinely smart/intelligent. I think that there's a number of teenagers who, if they knew it was an option, would want to actually think hard and be smart without being smug about this. I'm not a huge fan of ... (read more)

Open thread, Apr. 01 - Apr. 05, 2015

If someone throwing fireballs (or otherwise messing with real physics) is enough to stop your suspension of disbelief, it's probably just badly-written fantasy. In fiction, the author (often implicitly) decides the rules of the world, up to and including the rules about physics. A competent author writes in such a way that (most) readers accept their rules.

If the problem exists on your end, rather than the author's, I'd advice you to either tell yourself that your laws of physics are not their laws of physics or to try to enjoy the work on a more emotiona... (read more)

1Gunnar_Zarncke7yI can enjoy fantasy sure. But it was easier when I was younger. Nowadays I can't stand magic that has insufficient structure ("you the reader haven't studied magic so I have to explain it in laymans terms" doesn't cut it for me). I liked Rothfuss' Name of the Wind as there is logic and depth in it and clearly understood limitations - and not just a deus-ex-machina if needed by the author.
Open thread, Mar. 23 - Mar. 31, 2015

I'm a bit skeptical that this is true. I sense that the majority of people don't actually believe that art is reducible.

Yes, you might very well be right. What I meant to say is that I think "system one, not system two" is the general sort of idea that people want to convey, not that it was the exact same thing.

Open thread, Mar. 23 - Mar. 31, 2015

In LW jargon I'd phrase it as: "It's a system one thing, not a system two thing." I think this is what most people do mean when they use "it's an art, not a science." When something is considered an art and not a science it's something that can't be done well by "just" following a set of instructions. Keep in mind that the popular view on science (when it's positive) is seen as strictly adhering to the scientific method (form hypothesis-->test hypothesis-->adjust hypothesis) and that this is something that anyone can do.... (read more)

1adamzerner7yI think that's a great way to phrase it! I'm a bit skeptical that this is true. I sense that the majority of people don't actually believe that art is reducible.
Open thread, Mar. 16 - Mar. 22, 2015

Getting used to "medieval" scripts is surprisingly easy. I've learned it before (and have mostly forgotten due to not using it) and the script of a specific age can be decrypted in about 30 minutes (faster with practice). Understanding the words is definitely a bigger barrier than being able to read it.

Open thread, Mar. 16 - Mar. 22, 2015

I'd like it as well, if you still have any. (email:

7Ixiel7yAll set. Enjoy.
Open thread, Mar. 16 - Mar. 22, 2015

I move my fingers (and hands or a prop wand if I'm carrying one) to "write" stuff in the air when I'm doing serious thinking. The way that helps me is that I can keep more thoughts in my head. This doesn't (just) apply to math problems (since I hardly know any math and can't do much calculations in my head). My current hypothesis for why this works is that it couples certain actions to certain ideas and repeating the action makes it easier to recall the idea. If I'm right about that it might be learnable and useful, to a similar extent as mind palaces. By coincidence, I've been thinking about trying to formalize this technique in some way since Saturday.

Open thread, Mar. 16 - Mar. 22, 2015

I think the thought-process of AI is expected to be alien by anyone who take AGI seriously. It's just not all that relevant to discussions about the threats and possibilities about it.

Open thread, Mar. 16 - Mar. 22, 2015

I think it would be wrong to generalize from that example, so I'd like to report the opposite. My mother would also ask me to do specific, clearly defined task when she wanted them done and ask again when I forgot. My dad, on the other hand, would just get angry when things weren't done according to his requirements without making those requirements clear.

Open thread, Mar. 16 - Mar. 22, 2015

On the other hand, Chappie (despite what other flaws it might have) has a surprisingly sane take on death.

[FINAL CHAPTER] Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, March 2015, chapter 122

Something like that, yeah, although that particular example does little for me. As additional data points: The Sword of Good, the Humanism arc, the short "There is light in the world..." speech and I Shall Wear Midnight (by Terry Pratchett) were things that incited that sort of emotion in me.

[FINAL CHAPTER] Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, March 2015, chapter 122

With Dementors out of the way, the cost of telling people the secret of the True Patronus becomes a lot lower.

[FINAL CHAPTER] Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, March 2015, chapter 122

Does it really nullify the criticisms of sexism? The Self Actualization arc remains mostly the same, Hermione is one of the characters that gets the least "upgrades" compared to canon for most of the story, so is McGonagall she's still fridged for the sake of Harry's quest (although I don't think that fridging is a good criticism), she ends up awesome through no actions of her own and her future is steered by Harry. People who criticized HPMOR for being sexist won't change their mind because of this ending.

[FINAL CHAPTER] Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, March 2015, chapter 122

It's not that i dislike the ending. I just don't think it's as emotionally moving as it should be/as I predicted it would have been. I was expecting something that would make me go "Yes, goddammit, yes!" while I start planning to improve my life and be a better person.

Instead I got an ending that was a completely functional ending for this story with some jokes in it.

2dxu7ySomething like, say, the ending of Chapter 27? (Just trying to get a feel for your position here.)
[FINAL CHAPTER] Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, March 2015, chapter 122

(copy-pasted from my tumblr)

The ending to HPMOR isn’t bad. It fits the story and, while open-ended still gives a lot of closure.

It just doesn’t measure up to, like, the rest of the book. Part of it is probably the hype. The final chapters probably fell a bit flat just in comparison to what people expected. But even correcting for that, I still find that it’s slightly disappointing. The best parts, for me, where the buildup to the “there is light in the world” speech and the Stanford Prisoner Experiment arc. They are both intense emotional moments. I litera... (read more)

2SilentCal7yThis is pretty exactly how I feel. The closest I get to that emotional peak is when Hermione starts optimising, but even that feels a bit abrupt. Maybe it's because we're only seeing Hermione from the outside; my brain is not content to just interpolate her journey from being eaten by a troll to reinventing heroic responsibility in more humble language.
4Manfred7yWelp, different strokes I guess. I didn't like the Azkaban arc so much, and I quite like the ending. On the one hand, I agree that if a substantial fraction of readers are unsatisfied, there's probably something Eliezer could fix. On the other hand, I got mine, mwahahaha.
Pratchett, Rationality, and Winning

I feel that part of the problem is that, on average, "try to be a better student and find a well-paying job early on" is good advice. One of the main things I'd like to tell past!me is that I should develop better study habits and go into IT whatever anyone else said. I can't say with absolute certainty it would have made my life better/easier but it probably would have.

For some people (and I won't guess about the proportion of this group relative to the population), "study hard and find a well-paying job" isn't the optimal advice. For ... (read more)

[LINK] Terry Pratchett is dead

His publishers say he died of natural causes surrounded by his family with his cat on his lap.

2Baughn7yIt's a suspiciously pleasant way to go, but I see no reason to look more closely at this. Let's just be happy he got the end he wanted.
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