All of meedstrom's Comments + Replies

(To clarify, that's 6% RDI, not 6% by volume, which would be worrying.)

I'm confused. Are you saying 1 cup of organic peas is "half a day's intake of vegetables" for you?

It happens, but you can't exchange complex ideas this way. You know when someone's talking and you nod or say "Yeah" to show you get it without interrupting? There's a number of other short phrases you could say if you wanted, like "I know" or "Impossible" or "Dunno", and that's mostly what we deafies in Sweden do IME. It's rare that hearing people do this, breaks a norm I guess, but it's in principle you could do it. With sign you can also say a bit more complicated things without breaking flow like "That's a misunderstanding" or "You're lying" or so... (read more)

As a deaf person, I'm always teaching people to sign, like when I move into a new house, and I do see a difference between learners. Some people don't know what to do with their hands and end up "tangling their elbows together", as you so vividly describe, while others have a talent as if they'd been waiting to sign all their lives. But this gap mostly closes after 3-5 months of living together. Even people who were pretty bad at the beginning end up being able to interpret a group conversation for me.

Not to diminish the difficulty -- to do anything like... (read more)

I appreciate this timeline!  My emergency plan if I unexpectedly have a deaf baby one day is to find someone fluent in sign language to move in with us and do, if necessary, hardcore sign immersion, and 3-5 months is quick enough that I would not need to worry about the baby acquiring brain damage.

I might have legible argumentation, but I don’t expect it to be understandable without a bunch careful explanation and backtracking to prerequisites

That fits great with my definition of illegibility. This case sounds like you've clarified it enough to make it legible to yourself but not yet enough to cross inferential gaps, thus it remains illegible to other people.

Not knocking your idea, but usually when you want to complain that "no one has upvoted me" it's good to think again whether you really want to blame other people.

I can guess at a reason why people may not have read that post you linked. I found it long-winded, like a page out of your diary where you're still developing the idea, thinking aloud by writing -- which is excellent to do, but it doesn't seem like something you wrote from the start for other people to read, so it's hard to follow. At least, I'm still puzzled about what you wanted to put forward in it.

I’m a pretty slow reader and I really get frustrated and distracted with not-correctly written text, so I see the subsequent editing of the text as something really threatening and time-consuming for me.

I've become a fast reader in recent years, but like you, I also get disturbed by incorrectly written text.

To me it sounds like you will get used to these issues in time. You know it's (1) your own words, (2) dictated by an imperfect program, and (3) mostly meant to be deleted. 1 would help me read faster, and 2 and 3 would help me tolerate the "writing... (read more)

Thank you very much :-)

It was a perfect analogy for me. One carves up new concepts the same way one always does. A decoupler will carve up a concept differently from a contextualizer. Similar analogy: If someone's knowledge can be seen as a massive mind-map, a feminist will structure a hierarchy in that mind-map quite differently from a Mormon, even if the leaf nodes are the same in the end. When you have a hierarchy in place, more knowledge added will tend to follow that hierarchy and thus subtly influence understanding.

But I've had experiences with people who interpret things ... (read more)

Exactly twelve years later--did you ever come up with an example?

To steelman it, maybe he's thinking of how it's commonly seen as a tragedy for a chicken to be alive for only one week, but killing it after some X years is not as much of a tragedy.

Initially, this implied to me that the curve of "value of remaining alive' is higher in the beginning of a lifespan. But thinking about it, that's not the same curve as the curve of "value of being alive", which is lowest in the beginning.

(If that's confusing, it helps to think of the one curve as the mirror image of the other, i.e. if value of being alive is high later, it mea... (read more)

Rereading your comment, I think you're saying that legibility will arise by itself well enough so long as someone is on Simulacrum level 1, caring only about the truth, and if their writing is not legible, they probably have an agenda and you'd better focus on finding out what that is, or just ignore what they said.


  1. This feels unactionable -- it's just a rephrasing of old critical reading advice "find out the writer's agenda and biases so you know where they're coming from". Which is so vague -- even having that info, how do I debias just the right am
... (read more)

As someone who wants to do systematic review (meta-analysis with a certain rigidly prescribed structure), I will love to hear about the mistakes to watch out for!

First off, I like the compilation you made and I'm tempted to memorize it despite all I'm saying.

This 'pluralism' solution does not feel meaty -- your last sentence "Hence the value of pluralism" sounds to me like an applause light. I mean yeah, ultimately you and I build a lot of what we know on trust in the whole collective of scientists. But it's not directly relevant/useful to say so; there should be a halfway good solution for yourself as a solo rationalist, and calibrating yourself against others' beliefs is an extra measure you may apply later. Beca... (read more)

Now I'm glad I recently ordered the older version. (my motivation was that it can run Parabola GNU/Linux + Emacs)

Today, dynomight made an interesting nuance in Observations about writing and commenting on the internet. It seems that just optimizing epistemic legibility may cause people to fail to listen altogether:

Technically, the complaints were wrong. How could I “fix” the problem of not citing any papers when I had already cited dozens? That’s what I thought for months, during which people continued to read the post and have the same damned reaction. Eventually, I had to confront that even if they were “wrong”, something about my post was causing them to be wron

... (read more)

What's your opinion of wet-erase boards? No accidental erasure as with dry-erase boards.

I'm not familiar with them and am curious to learn more. My main concern would be whether they allow for fine-scale writing and erasing, since I am writing in small print with lines close together and erasing line by line. Is there a particular brand that you would recommend?

I'm concerned that getting well-versed in statistics mistakes has the same issues as doing so for biases and fallacies (Knowing about Biases Can Hurt People). When you're analyzing others' studies, you'll find that basically every study has at least one flaw of some kind. So this opens the door for unconsciously applying harsher criticism against studies you disagree with.

1Younes Kamel1y
Yes, for sure. You can still fall for selective skepticism where you scrutinize studies you "like" much more than studies you don't like. You can deal with that by systematically applying the same checklist to every study you read, but that might be time consuming. The real solution is probably a community that is versed in statistics and that have open debates on the quality of studies, perhaps cumulatively, biases will cancel each other if the community has enough diversity of thought. Hence the value of pluralism.

The reMarkable has a surprisingly paperlike writing experience, according to every review I've read.

1Trevor Hill-Hand1y
I need to +1 the reMarkable, especially the older version if you can find one. My wife has spent years looking for the perfect notetaking experience and the reMarkable blew everything else out of the water, especially with the fact they embrace and encourage homebrewing.
Thanks. This is similar to what I'm looking for, but a bit too small. I'd prefer something the size of an 8.5x11 sheet of paper,  but I might give Remarkable a try. 

Typo: "it's short comings" -> "its shortcomings"

Thanks, edited it.

What if the future generations just stop thinking about it because they made a safe enough world that they stop worrying about such things? That's not a doomsday.

On the analogy with fasting,

Even if sleep works the way you suppose, this analogy looks like apples and oranges, so I don't like it.

With fasting, you can infer that it's harmless just by knowing that (1) the average lean human has fat reserves to last three months, (2) total fasters don't go through some calamity like losing lots of muscle protein (if they did, there'd be unambiguous results everyone knew) and (3) in the EEA it was probably common to have periods of scarcity such that you go several days without finding food. In other words, fasting was ab... (read more)

We may be "anthropomorphizing" hunter-gatherers when trying to place anything they do into our category of "work," hence the wide variability of opinions as to how much work they really do. They are either engaged in activity conducive to survival (including things like playing, socializing, dancing, and exploring) or they aren't. Foraging while exchanging information with friends is certainly beneficial for hunter-gatherers. I agree that, through my own lens, this activity appears fairly idle, but that's because my cultural ideal of work is fast, energetic and high output. But if you're foraging, it's more efficient to move slowly so that your brain has time to recognize all the edibles you pass by. And listening and talking doesn't seem to interfere too much with visual processing (or else there would be a lot more car accidents), so why not kill two birds with one stone?

I'm like Alicorn, with the addition that I love disruption at random periods, because it lets me fall asleep again: pure pleasure.

On the issue of flying insects, the people who do "cowboy camping" (sleeping without a tent) have relevant experience. They recommend finding high ground far away from any lake, because still bodies of water attract bugs.

I'm sorry, I did not mean to be clever.

If they will come into existence later, they have moral weight now. If I may butcher the concept of time, they already exist in some sense, being part of the weave of spacetime. But if they will never exist, it is an error to leap to their defense -- there are no rights being denied. Does that make more sense?

1David Hugh-Jones1y
The point is whether they exist conditional on us taking a particular action. If we do X a set of people will exist. If we do Y, a different set of people will exist. There's not usually a reason to privilege X vs. Y as being "what will happen if we do nothing", making the people in X somehow less conditional. The argument is "if we do X, then these people will exist and their rights (or welfare or whatever) will be satisfied/violated and that would be good/bad to some degree; if we do Y then these other people will exist, etc., and that would be good/bad to some degree." It's a comparison of hypothetical goods and bads - that's the definition of a moral choice! So saying, "all these good/bads are just hypothetical" is not very helpful. It's as if someone said "shall we order Chinese or pizza" and you refused to answer, because you can't taste the pizza right now.

There's no need for rhetorical devices like "I'll go out there and say it". Please.

Also the force of norms looks weak to me in this place, it's a herd of cats, so that explanation makes little sense. Also, it's fine to state your understanding of a topic without describing everyone else as "nerd sniped", no one will needle you for your conclusion. Also, there's little point to commenting if you only state your conclusion -- the conclusion is uninteresting, we're looking to learn from the thought process behind it.

It's not a rhetorical device though? The OP said: He wrote as if that was an open-and-shut case that needed no argumentation at all. I simply wrote that I am taking the other side.

I vote for changing the post title, it is clickbait. OP: it may be a factor behind the low upvotes. Also that the body is not well structured. Impossible to skim to get an idea what it's about.

0M. Y. Zuo1y
I have not asked for any ‘votes’ on regards to the title. If you wish to express dissatisfaction the polite way would be to do so directly instead of through clever rhetoric.  For example: “The title dissatisfies me because of xyz reasons.” Whether or not the essay attracts a large audience is irrelevant for me. 

Any decision involves alternative futures involving billions of people who haven’t been born yet. We have to consider their welfare.

This logic holds if it is an unassailable given that they will be born. If you remove that presupposition and make it optional, then these people can be counted as imaginary as jbash says. They become a real part of the future, and thus of reality, only once we decide they shall be. We might not. Maybe we opt for the alternative of just allowing the currently alive human beings to live forever, and decline to make more.

PS: ... (read more)

1David Hugh-Jones1y
I don't think this argument makes sense. Of course the people who will be born are "imaginary". If I choose between marrying Jane and Judith, then any future children in either event are at present "imaginary". That would not be a good excuse for marrying Jane, a psychopath with three previous convictions for child murder. More generally, any choice involves two or more different hypothetical ("imaginary") outcomes, of which all but one will not happen. Obviously, we have to think "what would happen if I do X"? It would be silly to say that this question is unimportant, because "all the outcomes aren't even real!" That doesn't change if the outcomes involve different people coming into existence.  I think the technical term you're looking for is "imagination".

I see that you use/used Roam Research. It must have influenced you into developing the concept? I'm doing something similar with my own zettelkasten, trying to make it help me propagate belief changes and build gears-level understanding, so I started to identify exactly why I believe things. That means maximize Epistemic Legibility.

For example, I used to make the bald statement "carbohydrates cause oxidation". In a Zettel note on carbohydrates, I either expand with a mechanism ("by way of sugar combustion leaving behind reactive oxygen species"), or when I... (read more)

The concept was by and large inspired by starting (but not checking) Against The Grain in 2019, and I wrote it up when I realized I wanted to be able to point it when criticizing articles. There's an unaired podcast recording of me going "this was so great, I sure hope it checks out", and I'm so grateful I hedged now.  I did read ATG within the first few months after discovering Roam. You might be interested in this post I did doing an epistemic spot check [] on the same book with and without Roam, which was only slightly before I read Against the Grain the first time.  I had the concept of epistemic spot check before I used Roam, and don't use nearly as formal a system now as I describe in the linked blog post or contemporaneous ones, but the intermediate period where I was using Roam very formally probably was quite helpful. 

It's true that motivated cognition and such issues are at work; they always are! But this is no ding on demanding epistemic legibility.

Even if the author never was interested in transmitting truth (like the CDC in your example), now you know how to detect a message that's hard to critique / spot check.

Then, please edit! :-) People come back to LW comments years and even decades after the fact.

I think the post disagrees with you:

I expect having a handle with which to say “no I don’t have a concise argument about why this work is wrong, and that’s a fact about the work” to be very useful.

That a work is Epistemically Legible doesn't mean you'll comprehend it: you may be lacking necessary background context, for example. See the section Legibility vs Inferential Distance.

In this case, an E-Legible work will still bless you with the awareness that you were missing background context, so that you didn't understand what was said -- as opposed to g... (read more)

2Stephen Bennett (Previously GWS)1y
To be clear, I do believe that the work itself is a significant contributor to the epistemic legibility. My point was merely that the work can only ever be legible with respect to a particular reader or audience (or even expected audience). In this way, I believe it is similar to inferential distance. An idea is not inferentially distant on its own, it is only inferentially distant from someone's perspective[1]. Where inferential distance deals with the difficulty of understanding a work, epistemic legibility deals with the difficulty of verifying a work. Perhaps an example in which the inferential distance is low but epistemic legibility is low or high depending on the audience will be illuminating: Rajiv writes a well researched book about encryption algorithms, in which he cites various journal articles published on the subject. Carol is a bright computer scientist with poor judgment who phished people for their bank credentials and got caught. As a result, she is imprisoned and due to the nature of her crime forbidden from accessing the internet while serving her time. She receives a copy of Rajiv's book through the prison library system, and enjoys it quite a bit. She understands all of the ideas, but wants to check out some of the journal articles to see if Rajiv relayed the ideas correctly and also to further her understanding. The prison librarian checks the price of getting access to these articles, her eyes briefly widen when Carol informs her that she intends to get about a dozen of these articles, and then the librarian tells her there is no way in which she gets any of these articles. Carol is completely unable to verify any of the claims made in Rajiv's book. A year later, Carol is released from prison, and a couple quick searches reveal the journal articles that Rajiv references, and she is able to verify Rajiv's claims to her heart's content. In this example, the inferential distance is low throughout, but the epistemic legibility of Rajiv's book de
Thanks, should be actually fixed now.

Nice with a female version, but nicer if the artist didn't feel the need to focus on her beauty instead of strength. Makeup, really? Also, with the colored skin I have a hard time identifying her as a statue; she seems to be about to open a bleeding wound with that chisel.

Agreed!  I actually didn't reflect about her having makeup. I recall (but hopefully don't misrepresent in my paraphrasing) Julia Galef discussing that a society where people wear makeup is perhaps a more fair option since the difference between the most and least naturally beautiful people would be smaller then. I haven't thought deeply about this, but in that case, wearing makeup might be the rational thing to do. However, regarding the appraisal that the artwork represents the woman's beauty more than her strength, I can totally see how that reinforces problematic norms. Rationality is in part about taking control, and you have more control over your strength than your beauty. Still, if I could sculpt myself I would probably rather be sculpting myself pretty than musculus (well, I guess they intersect for some people). Beauty probably has more benefits than muscles these days and physical strength is much less important for rationality than mental strength. An unnecessarily muscular body might also be a sign of prioritizing the wrong things. It's hard to get the metaphors perfect and it is easy to rationalize how details make it fit or not. But it's interesting to see which metaphors resonate with the community, and would be even more interesting if more people wrote why as you did. So thanks for your perspective!

There's at least one failure mode here. I've wanted to do what OP describes since 2013, but I got overwhelmed by perfectionism and the scope of the project "Ankify everything", which also made me stop reading insightful blogs in the first place, as I felt guilty for not making SR cards out of what I'm reading.

I'm finally doing it. I started soft with simple mindmapping with zettelkasten (, integrated lots of my old notes into it, gradually found I could Ankify some insights, then decided to skip some grunt work by importing a deck of th... (read more)

It took me a while to understand that the "blue glow" comment was directed at the electric discharges picture in the comment you replied to, and not at your own nuclear reactor picture, which is real Cherenkov radiation.

Not downvoting because it's bad, but it doesn't seem relevant to the topic.

I thought to try adding musical "art" and I find this fitting, but sure, that's up for voting on, definitely! I apologize for the picture coming up twice, by the way, that's just my technical awkwardness, let me try to fix that^^

I've had the rare kind of conversation where it was clear to both that both cared about listening. Sounding cheesy is no concern in this context -- you also sound super genuine because you're putting in real effort.

I agree some/many of us need a systematic approach, and this is a good one for introverts all ready to memorize things, but I figure you could also set up a "natural" improvement gradient via a series of debates, by going to a good debate club.

Why can't you say it word-for-word? "What you said set off alarm bells in my head and I'm not sure why".

just chiming in ten years after the fact to remark that you could flip the page when this happens.

Many ringworld depictions I've seen have primarily been "about" the ringworld, whereas this seems to successfully push the fact into the background and focus more on a "bright future"-feeling. I talk to people who are not very much scientists so this kind of painting can help show why I attach so much positive valence to science's potential, sort of.

”The further from shore, the deeper the ocean.” (shore is pronounced like ’sure’) Not sure if it fits this image but I liked this quote which was mentioned on EconTalk.
Hm. I didn't have anything in particular in mind, and IDK what Yerka was thinking. We could say that the sea has the quality of the Real; a vastness, that one traverses on a very narrow bridge [], which seems opaque and infinitely deep--literally, un-fathom-able. Yet on closer investigation one finds, in some places, scaffolding that cleaves through the depths in thin lines, a heritage deposited by past explorers, who, having traversed inherited pathways and then struck out a bit further, turned around and set up the way for their successors--the next lantern in a line of lanterns leading down into the thoughtmines.

You only notice that anything is off because of the subtle flaws around the edges - much like managing false beliefs.

Surprisingly useful, after cleanup (20% of the notes should be deleted). The link here is broken, but Pablo hosts an archive at

Some of the notes in this deck are "title first", i.e. they just name a concept and invite you to generate an ad-hoc explanation in your head. It's a nonstandard use of SRS, and can take an immense amount of effort per card, but is also immensely useful practice for just being able to explain things. You can always move those to a separate deck called "The Tryhard Deck... (read more)

there is no "decision theory/rationality under ADHD coherence constraints"

That's a nice framing to get us thinking. Could be generalized to "under constraints of suboptimal executive function", since everyone has unique issues with it. Anyway, any progress since last?

I have thoughts on #15:

Computer use is absolutelly necessary, but also extremely risky.

I've had periods of my life when I cut out my computer (just shoving it into my wardrobe and forgetting about it). They lasted a few weeks and I can say they were amazing periods. I was able to "live ... (read more)

For all the Linux-friendliness, it can be easy to miss that it's closed source. only lists nonessential components.

It's not very ironic. One aspect of rationalfic is to load you up with examples of more rational behavior than you've ever seen in fiction so you have better defaults.

That wouldn't work as it looks like you imagine: he'd write the choices without any associated numbers because your probability is your own.

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