All of Matt_Caulfield's Comments + Replies

Rationality Quotes December 2012

Amateurs talk strategy, professionals talk logistics.

  • David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

Edit: Yup, apparently that's a famous quote by Bradley which I read for the first time in that book. Good catch.

A Google search attributes this to Gen. Omar Bradley.

Rationality Quotes December 2012

But although no ideal obliterates the ugly drudgery and detail of any calling, that ideal does, in the case of the soldier or the doctor, exist definitely in the background and makes that drudgery worthwhile as a whole. It is a serious calamity that no such ideal exists in the case of the vast number of trades and crafts on which the existence of the modern city depends.

  • G. K. Chesterton
4[anonymous]9y.
Rationality Quotes December 2012

Politics, after all, is the art of persuasion; the political is that dimension of social life in which things really do become true if enough people believe them. The problem is that in order to play the game effectively, one can never acknowledge this: it may be true that, if I could convince everyone in the world that I was the King of France, I would in fact become the King of France; but it would never work if I were to admit that this was the only basis of my claim.

  • David Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years
Open Thread, December 1-15, 2012

A couple of days ago, GiveWell updated their top charity picks. AMF is still on top, but GiveDirectly bumped SCI from #2 to #3.

They also (very) tentatively recommend splitting your donation among the three: 70% to AMF, 20% to GiveDirectly, and 10% to SCI. The arguments about this in the blog post and comments are pretty interesting. (But I wouldn't stress too much about it: harder choices matter less).

Open Thread, September 15-30, 2012

Now that I have read your answer, it seems obvious in retrospect. Very nice, thanks!

Open Thread, September 15-30, 2012

Kind of a stupid question:

It's a truism in the efficient charity community that when giving to charity, we should find the most efficient group and give it our entire charity budget; the common practice of spreading donations among groups is suboptimal. However, in investing it's considered a good idea to diversify. But it seems that giving to charity and investing are essentially the same activity: we are trying to get the highest return possible, the only difference is who gets it. So why is diversification a good idea for one and not the other?

1benelliott9yThe difference is very simple. Is it better to have $100,00, or a 30% chance of $1,000,000 and a 70% chance of being homeless. Obviously the former Is it better to save 1 life, or have a 30% chance of saving 10 lives and 70% chance of doing nothing. Obviously the latter.
0Anatoly_Vorobey9yIt seems true that when investing, you're trying to get the highest return possible, in terms of a single value measured in currency. I've never understood why it should also necessarily be true with charity. It seems often to be an unexamined assumption, and may be reinforced by using terminology like "utilons" that appears to be begging the question. Someone who donates both to the mosquito nets effort in Africa, and to the society which helps stray dogs and cats in Michigan, is not necessarily being irrational. They just may be perceiving the two benefits to lie on incomparable axes. They may be caring about helping Africans and helping stray dogs simultaneously, in different ways that are not exchangable to each other. The familiar objection is: "Sure they are exchangable; everything is exchangable into utilons; if you don't see a clear rate of exchange for your own preferences, that just means you still ought to estimate one given your imperfect knowledge, and act on it". But I don't see why that should be true. Certainly most of our spending is done on axes that are incomparable to one another. We have needs along those axes that we do not normally consolidate to one "most efficient" axis, even after the minimal requirements are met. Investing is the activity that's the odd one out, here - and one of the reasons it is is precisely that we don't care much which of the companies we invest in brings us profit. It seems odd that charity should so unequivocally stand along with investing as an exception. If charitable giving is not an exceptional way for us to spend money, the idea of a single currency becomes difficult to support, because if charity must be so streamlined, why not all other activity? In other words, sure, you can criticize someone for helping stray dogs by saying their money could be saving lives in Africa instead; but is that very different from criticizing them for buying a large color TV, when their money could be saving lives in Africa in

It's a truism in the efficient charity community that when giving to charity, we should find the most efficient group and give it our entire charity budget; the common practice of spreading donations among groups is suboptimal. However, in investing it's considered a good idea to diversify. But it seems that giving to charity and investing are essentially the same activity: we are trying to get the highest return possible, the only difference is who gets it. So why is diversification a good idea for one and not the other?

If you are attempting to maximis... (read more)

You've pinpointed it: the only difference is who gets it. When investing, diversification as the receiver of the return is useful because you'd rather gain slightly less than often lose everything. When ... living, diversification as the receiver of the return is useful for the same reason.

When investing, you'd like your buyers to diversify... but there's only one buyer, so that buyer needs to diversify. But when giving charitably, the world would like its buyers to diversify, and there are lots of buyers. Assuming its buyers are sufficiently independent, ... (read more)

The raw-experience dogma: Dissolving the “qualia” problem

A philosophers’ version is the “inverted spectrum”: how do I know you see “red” rather than “blue” when you see this red print?

That's a typo, right? It's blue print.

2Pentashagon9yWhile humorous, this is actually a specious argument. We can agree to call light between 450–495 nm "blue" and light between 620–750 nm "red" and in fact most of us do. The real question is whether, despite our labels, we feel the experience of those wavelengths quite differently, in ways we can't adequately express via language.
The noncentral fallacy - the worst argument in the world?

Operant conditioning through guilt is a supremely effective conversion tactic.

It's worth an NB that conversion is not the only valuable outcome of guilt. Even if an oppressor is not converted outright, guilt-tripping can still make him uncertain, less confident, and less effective at achieving his goals, and since he is an oppressor, this outcome is valuable in and of itself.

It's worth an NB that conversion is not the only valuable outcome of guilt. Even if an oppressor is not converted outright, guilt-tripping can still make him uncertain, less confident, and less effective at achieving his goals, and since he is an oppressor, this outcome is valuable in and of itself.

Another valuable outcome is that instilling chronic, free-floating self-doubt into someone can convince them that oppression directed at them is deserved and proper - in fact, this happens to be a common feature in emotional abuse. It can also inspire them t... (read more)

4Desrtopa9yOn the other hand, attempting to guilt trip others can easily backfire [http://xkcd.com/871/]. The example Eridu gave of a person feeling guilty about engaging in homophobic behaviors after their own brother has come out as gay does not necessarily generalize to cases of deliberate guilt tripping by others, which tends to create an adversarial reaction, and in terms of goals such as, say, getting people to donate to charity, doesn't perform very well.
7David_Gerard9yThat is absolutely amazing, wonderful and heartwarming.
How to deal with someone in a LessWrong meeting being creepy

I would tend to disagree, and if no one had ever argued about identity politics on the internet before, I would be very interested in continuing this discussion. But as it is... I'll bow out here.

How to deal with someone in a LessWrong meeting being creepy

Christina is talking about the atheist movement, not the set of all atheists ("atheist" is used there as a shorthand for "member of the movement;" maybe we need different words?). And if you're talking about a movement, then a call to be more inclusive is not a non sequitur at all. A philosophy cannot be exclusive or inclusive, but of course a movement can.

5V_V9yYes, I think it's a very poor choice of words to conflate a philosophical position with a set of people publicly arguing for it (and for other things as well). And I'm not even sure we can properly say that there is an atheist movement. There are a few prominent atheists (Dawkins, Harris, Myers, etc.), plus various bloggers, who speak at atheist conventions, but atheists as a whole are not organized, and they have a variety of positions on many relevant topics (religious tolerance, personal liberties, etc.) In contrast, IIUC, the LGBT movement is more organized, and, while not universally representative, has more support among the queer people. I suppose that most queer people largely agree on issues such as sexual rights, adoption rights, family rights, etc. After all, being queer refers to pattern of preferences and behaviors, while being an atheist refers to an epistemic state. It's not a non sequitur, but I don't think it's good advice. Intellectual honest discourse should be, IMHO, blind to gender, race, ethnicity, sexual preferences, and other group differences (unless these happen to be the topic of the discourse, of course). Affirmative action has no place in it.
Rationality Quotes September 2012

Just a sidenote: If you are the kind of person who is often worried about letting people down, entertaining the suspicion that most people follow this strategy already is a fast, efficient way to drive yourself completely insane.

"You're doing fine."

"Oh, I know this game. I'm actually failing massively, but you thought, well, this is the best he can do, so I might as well make him think he succeeded. DON'T LIE TO ME! AAAAH..."

6IlyaShpitser9ySometimes I wonder how much of LW is "nerds" rediscovering on their own how neuro-typical communication works. I don't mean to say I am not a "nerd" in this sense :).
How to deal with someone in a LessWrong meeting being creepy

I probably should've just said "I agree" in the grandparent and left it at that. But I would like to plead that I don't want to use power against anyone. I realize I have been treating this whole discussion more like a thought experiment (in which we are free to create and kill 3^^^3 people, tile the universe with paperclips, and negotiate with babyeating aliens) than a real-world issue. Maybe that was insensitive and I'm sorry.

If you can see your way clear to it, please try to take my comments as being the equivalent to saying "Well, it app... (read more)

How to deal with someone in a LessWrong meeting being creepy

I probably was not clear enough. What I mean is: let's assume creeps want to stay and everyone else wants them to leave. Then any argument made by the creeps that tries to dissuade others from evicting them is self-serving. (You say, well of course). The problem is that most arguers in favor of creep-tolerance don't acknowledge those competing interests, instead they try to assert that higher intolerance for creeps would be bad for the group as a whole somehow. I am tentatively of the opinion that these arguments are bullshit, in the Frankfurt sense. Peopl... (read more)

2Eugine_Nier9yWell, most arguers against creep-tolerance aren't acknowledge their competing interests either.
8DanArmak9yThis is all true but doesn't seem relevant. You asked if there was any argument against making creeps go away that wasn't self serving (if made by a creep). The answer is that there isn't and cannot be one, because any such argument made by a creep serves the creep.
How to deal with someone in a LessWrong meeting being creepy

I guess I meant self-serving from the creep's point of view.

It's the worst thing for them, but it's probably the best thing for everyone else.

I agree. It seems to me that the best, most straightforward solution to creepiness is to have very low tolerance for it, and eject anyone who violates with extreme prejudice. A lot of the discussion in this thread is about how to compromise with creepers, which seems a little shameful, like negotiating with terrorists.

2DanArmak9yIf it's better for creeps to not go away, then any argument that they should not go away serves them. This is regardless of the actual argument.

It seems to me that the best, most straightforward solution to creepiness is to have very low tolerance for it, and eject anyone who violates with extreme prejudice. A lot of the discussion in this thread is about how to compromise with creepers, which seems a little shameful, like negotiating with terrorists.

Ugh. Now you're kinda creeping me out.

How to deal with someone in a LessWrong meeting being creepy

I'm not sure, I'm still thinking it through. The point is that it is not immediately obvious to me that we should reject a result just because it seems unattractive. Maybe our intuitions are just wrong. See the Repugnant Conclusion and Torture vs. Specks.

How to deal with someone in a LessWrong meeting being creepy

Yes, but I'm not so much interested (right now) in what are the optimal rules to impose on people; I'm asking what is the right thing to do, which is a subtly different question. Your argument that eviction leads to problems in other places is clearly true. Analogously, it would be a very bad idea to impose a 80% marginal tax rate on top earners to fund the Against Malaria Foundation, because most of them would work less and there would be huge deadweight loss. However, Peter Singer and people like that argue persuasively that very wealthy people should as... (read more)

7[anonymous]9yThe tax rate was 90 percent on them for a long time, in the US -- what's your basis for that claim? It sounds like a cached belief.
6Alicorn9yI wish them to do their part to not run into the people they creep on, and allow other people in the group (if any exist) to continue to extract any available value from their participation. And fix them, if that's doable. (This is if all they are doing is creeping. If they are committing assaults or something I wish them to go away, to a corrections facility.)
How to deal with someone in a LessWrong meeting being creepy

The world. Find highest possible total utility, act accordingly.

Of course that result may not work out great for some particular person, and that's interesting, but that's not the question I'm asking right now.

5drethelin9ySo you think the world would be better off if creepy men all "go away"? A bold point to make. Maybe they should just kill themselves while they're at it?
How to deal with someone in a LessWrong meeting being creepy

And it actually offers a concrete solution to the problem of feeling creepy: hang out with more women.

Even if hanging out with women makes you grow less creepy over time, you're still inflicting your creepy self on them at the beginning. Being willing to do this for your own benefit is... creepy.

I'm still not convinced there's an ethical way out of the creepy trap. Is there any sound (not self-serving) argument against the idea that the best thing for creepy males to do is just go away?

7dspeyer9yIf noncreepiness can be learned fairly quickly under the right circumstances, and the decreepified individual can contribute to people around him significantly, then the benefit to the world at large of decreepification is larger than the cost.
2DanArmak9yIt's the worst thing for them, but it's probably the best thing for everyone else. And what do you mean, non self-serving argument? Who else could it serve except for the people making it? If creeps go away, everyone else benefits, so everyone else is served by the argument that they should go away. That's tautological.
9lucidian9yPresumably some women are less averse to creepiness than other women. Perhaps a socially awkward guy could start by interacting with women who are tolerant of social awkwardness, but who will point out his mistakes so he can improve. Then, he could work his way up to interacting with people who are less and less tolerant of creepiness.

Ceteris paribus, the world where a creepy guy turns into a non-creepy guy is better than the one where the creepy guy ceases to exist. (Marginally, at least, the world needs a whole lot more well-adjusted nerds.)

So a better question is, how does a social group help and encourage creeps to become non-creeps wherever possible (without enabling creepy behavior)?

Best thing for who?

Is there any sound (not self-serving) argument against the idea that the best thing for creepy males to do is just go away?

Maybe. Telling people to go away makes them stop listening to you - and probably not "go away", but "find people who agree with them and hang out there instead". You can move the problem, but making it stop being a problem isn't going to happen through mere eviction unless you can effect very systematic culturewide change.

SIA doomsday

"Were you born on Earth before interstellar spaceflight? Enlist in the Confessor corps today! Service guarantees citizenship!"

Rationality Quotes September 2012

Your contrarian stance against a high-status member of this community makes you seem formidable and savvy. Would you like to be allies with me? If yes, then the next time I go foraging I will bring you back extra fruit.

Rationality Quotes September 2012

But many people do benefit greatly from hoarding or controlling the distribution of scarce information. If you make your living off slavery instead, then of course you can be generous with knowledge.

2CCC9yIf you do not hoard your ideas, and neither do I, then we can both benefit from the ideas of the other. If I can access the ideas of a hundred other people at the cost of sharing my own ideas, then I profit; no matter how smart I am, a hundred other people working the same problem are going to be able to produce at least some ideas that I did not think of. (This is a benefit of free/open source software; it has been shown experimentally to work pretty well in the right circumstances).
Rationality Quotes September 2012

It may be of course that savages put food on a dead man because they think that a dead man can eat, or weapons with a dead man because they think a dead man can fight. But personally I do not believe that they think anything of the kind. I believe they put food or weapons on the dead for the same reason that we put flowers, because it is an exceedingly natural and obvious thing to do. We do not understand, it is true, the emotion that makes us think it is obvious and natural; but that is because, like all the important emotions of human existence it is essentially irrational.

  • G. K. Chesterton

Chesterton doesn't understand the emotion because he doesn't know enough about psychology, not because emotions are deep sacred mysteries we must worship.

Or better, arational.

What are useful skills to learn at university?

You should work in a lab or machine shop, for pretty much the same reasons you give for learning to program. Those skills tend to be under-emphasized in the undergraduate curriculum compared to how useful they are in the real world, so you'll have to seek out opportunities on your own. But if you do, that means you'll be rare and valuable.

[Link] Social interventions gone wrong

So out of this sample, the only two interventions that had positive effects were based on one-on-one relationships. Any wisdom we can draw from this, or is it just a coincidence?

6Benquo9yYeah, I noticed that as well. In fact, I had updated in that direction by about halfway through the exercise (based on weak one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-others evidence), and on that exact basis, decided that of 5, 6, 7, and 8, only #7 was likely to help. Probably one-on-one relationships are just higher-quality inputs. One person interacting with one other person can pay a lot of attention to subtle cues and signs of misunderstanding (and thus adjust the interaction appropriately) in ways that we haven't figured out how to automate yet. In other words, it works for the same reason that we don't have something that can reliably pass the Turing test over a long period of time yet: manipulating people is complicated, and humans are optimized to do that exact task. I remember reading somewhere (does anyone remember where?) that while there's little evidence for one school of psychological or psychiatric therapy over another, there is strong evidence that spending a lot of time with an intelligent, sympathetic listener is good for you. I suppose this means I should look into private lessons/tutors for skills I want to learn, whenever I can afford them.