All of MikkW's Comments + Replies

The Learning System

In 1841, a British parliamentary commission reported that they had found citizens who had never heard of a city called London. Meeting a group of working-class boys in the street, a commission member had asked if they knew who the Queen of England was.

“Yes, sir,” said the boys, “her name is Prince Albert.”

Of course I can't tell for sure, but I get the feeling that this is the sort of thing, that to the extent it's true, those boys were screwing with the researchers.

4Gunnar_Zarncke3dYou mean it is the Lizardman Constant [https://slatestarcodex.com/2013/04/12/noisy-poll-results-and-reptilian-muslim-climatologists-from-mars/] ?
MikkW's Shortform

Recently I was listening to a podcast with Scott Kelly on Tim Ferris's show, and Scott said something along the lines of "if you want to see what it's like to live on Mars, try living on Antarctica – it's relatively temperate compared to where you want to go". But this misses the key reason people don't live in Antarctica - it's not the harsh climate, though it is indeed harsh; it's that it gets very little sunlight. Even during the summer, which is when the sun is present, the sunlight is much weaker than the sunlight received in more equatorial locations... (read more)

1Zac Hatfield Dodds11dInteresting question! It turns out that the Canadians are checking whether there's enough light to grow tomatoes on Mars [http://tomatosphere.letstalkscience.ca/Resources/library/ArticleId/5421/is-there-enough-light-on-mars-to-grow-plants.aspx] . Apparently mean insolation at the equator of mars is about equal to that at 75° latitude, well inside the (ant)arctic circle... and while Earth has winters where the sun is fully below the horizon, Mars has weeks-to-months long dust storms which block out most light. So it's probably a wash; Antarctica is at least not much worse than Mars for light while retaining all the other advantages of Earth like "air' and" water" and "accessibility".
MikkW's Shortform

It has increasingly come to the US public's attention that the current voting system isn't providing results that are as good as we can hope for, and groups such as Andrew Yang's Forward Party have called to adopt ranked choice voting, a family of methods where voters can indicate their order of preferences for multiple candidates, not just their favorite. However, most people, when they hear "Ranked Choice Voting", have been trained to think of Instant Runoff Voting, which is one of the worst RCV methods known, and arguably even worse than the plurality s... (read more)

How Many of Me Are There?

Suicide is considered more sinful than killing outsiders because suicide always reduces the size of the Meta-Person that the suicidee belonged to.

Huh.

1PositronicEntity1moHey, I'm currently finalizing my pipeline. I will contact Richard till end of this week. I hope to deliver a first sketch with two or three famous post nicely formatted and an idea of how to structure the curation process efficiently.
Humans are the universal economic bottleneck

I am not convinced of the statement in the title based upon the argument presented in the text. For one, I expect that very soon, trucks will be self-driving, and even if not, there is not enough generally applicable logic or variety of specific examples to support a claim of universality.

1Dach2moSelf-driving technology is advancing and will soon(ish) allow us to move cars without humans being directly involved, except in terms of maintenance and management. This will be a major boon because it will partially remove humans from the equation- the bottleneck is partially removed. This has no real bearing on the title statement- I even remark about this in my post. The "universality" here is trivial- here is a copy-paste of part of my response to a similar comment: Imagine if every area of economic activity was automated- humans were fully removed. This would look very sci-fi: think of von Neumann probes. In this situation there is no practical limit- the probes will expand and convert our entire light cone. Assuming constant population, per capita wealth would approach 50 billion stars [https://arbital.greaterwrong.com/p/cosmic_endowment/] , I guess.
MikkW's Shortform

Glancing at Jason Crawford's latest post "In the shadow of the great war", I was pondering about the hypothesis that people are less optimistic about the effects of technological growth – which seems like a very reasonable change in perspective considering the many negative side effects that have occurred from technological growth in the past century or so. 
 

This gets me thinking about how we can restore people's optimism in technological growth, and eliminating negative externalities seems vital to create an environment where people can be safe ... (read more)

If you don't know what you expect future / counterfactual versions of you want, it will be hard to co-operate, so I recommend spending time regularly reflecting on what they might want, especially in relation to things that you have done recently. Reflect on what actions you have done recently (consider both the most trivial and the most seemingly important), and ask yourself how future and counterfactual versions of you will react to finding out that (past) you had done that. If you don't get a gut feeling that what you did was bad, test it out by trying ... (read more)

Xylitol's Shortform

You can surround text with two asterisks (*) on each side to bold text, at least in the Markdown editor. With the rich-text editor, you can just click on the bold button.

1irarseil2moFixed. Thank you.
MikkW's Shortform

I want there to be a way of telling time that is the same no matter where you are. Of course, there's UTC, but it uses the same names as the traditional locality-dependent clocks, so it can only be used unambiguously if you explicitly state you're using UTC, or you're in a context where it's understood that times are always given in UTC (in the military, "Zulu" is a codeword indicating UTC time; I wouldn't mind if people got in the habit of saying "twenty-two thirty Zulu" to refer to times, though I do worry it might seem a little weird to non-familiar peo... (read more)

2Dagon2mohttps://xkcd.com/927/ [https://xkcd.com/927/] Telling time by specifying the timezone (3:12pm Pacific Time) or ISO8601 is pretty much usable anywhere, and as precise as you need. It's going to be more universal to get competent at timezone handling than to (try to) convince everyone to use UTC.
MikkW's Shortform

An update on my goal of daily writing, there have been a good number of days when I have neither posted a shortform nor worked on an essay. Many (not all) of these days I have been working on an adjacent project which is higher-priority for me. Starting from today, these count towards the daily goal.

I will probably revisit the daily goal at some point, I suspect it's not perfectly tuned for my needs & goals, but that will be a decision for a later time.

Bayeswatch 11: Parabellum

The six ancillaries would be the six people who previously took part in the (hijacked) mind-melding process. Presumably they are not related to eachother, but have decided to undergo a process of merging their minds into a collective.

MikkW's Shortform

On the topic of state-level electoral reform in the US, particularly regarding the representation of states in Congress: It was pointed out to me that while it is true that states have a large amount of leeway in determining what method they use to elect their representatives, Section 2c of Title II of the US Code does impose one big restriction: states must appoint their House representatives using only single-member districts. The relevant text reads:

> Representatives shall be elected only from districts so established, no district to elect more than ... (read more)

MikkW's Shortform

In Scott Alexander's post "Wither Tartaria", Scott contrasts a popular modern æsthetic - with clean edges and simple textures - with an æsthetic popular in days of yore - with detailed patterns and lifelike minutiae. Scott implicitly takes the position that the older style is better than the newer, but has inexplicably fallen out of fashion.

I am of a different mind- I genuinely like the æsthetic that Scott bemoans, and in particular, I find that it evokes feelings of futurism, utopia, and techno-optimism. For me, there is no mystery why the newer æsthetic ... (read more)

MikkW's Shortform

A good procedure for legislatures to choose premiers and their speakers would be to first use a secret approval vote, where each member may approve or dissaprove of each candidate for the position, and then to have an non-secret confirmation of the most approved candidate, requiring 50% confirmation to be appointed.

This will prevent party leaders from coercing members to vote in a specific way in choosing which person is nominated, but ensures accountability by making it known whether a member voted to confirm the nominated candidate.

Raj Thimmiah's Shortform

I've made an iOS app using Swift before, though I am far from competent with it.

MikkW's Shortform

I often find myself wishing that nutritious food was an order of magnitude cheaper; that, and housing (although I'm not paying rent in my current situation). With Huel drinks and Vite Ramen, I spend roughly ~$300 per month if I eat only that, which is a substantial amount of money, and in Central California, housing often costs ~$800 per month.

At my sallary, that's a large portion of what I make each month going towards keeping me fed and sheltered. But with a 1 OOM improvement, that drops to $100 between the two, which would free up a lot of money for other pursuits.

1Jan Czechowski2moI'm not really sure if food shakes are the cheapest nutrition possible. They are optimized for time and convenience. Yeah they are probably cheaper than eating out, but I'm not sure how low you can get with cooking yourself from basic products, theoretically scaling up for a larger group of people. I guess thinks like armies and monasteries might have it figured out. Maybe interesting to check what's the average price of feeding a soldier / monk?
MikkW's Shortform

(I know poetic style isn't very popular on LessWrong. But I'll write however I damn well please; trust me not because I transcribe my thoughts in truncated trochees, but trust me because I try to say what is true- the wordly tricks are a treat for myself)

MikkW's Shortform

There's a useful pattern everybody knows about, but which I only noticed in my gut these last few years. If you want to not forget the North, the South, where's East, where's West, then watch the sky. You will find the Sun each morning laying low in the same direction in the sky. This is East, and every evening, Helios will go to rest opposing where it rose. This is West; now, in the tropics when it's noon the Sun is overhead; in the northern lands the sun will watch you from the south. Can you guess its noonly perch in southern lands?

Pay attention to this pattern every day - with time, on all the days you'll know the compass's directions well.

1MikkW2mo(I know poetic style isn't very popular on LessWrong. But I'll write however I damn well please; trust me not because I transcribe my thoughts in truncated trochees, but trust me because I try to say what is true- the wordly tricks are a treat for myself)
MikkW's Shortform

Some people have been suggesting that the Petrov Day button excercise should be an opt-in (rather than opt-out as it is now) event. I disagree with this: to get value from Petrov Day, we must entrust as many people as possible, and still succeed in not pressing the button; opting-in pushes against both of these constraints by providing a much smaller pool of candidates to choose from, resulting in a smaller (therefore much less impressive) group of trustees, that is simultaneously more likely to fail the exercise (due to fewer high-quality candidates being... (read more)

MikkW's Shortform

One potential criticism of this method is the appeal to precedence: while using party lists (modulo the similarity scores, which seems like a straightforward and uncontroversial improvement) in this way has been used to much success in the Nordic countries, approval voting is (somewhat surprisingly IMO) not well established. As far as governments go, I only know of St. Louis and Fargo, ND using approval- that is, two municipalities. One could observe the concern that we don't have much empirical data on how approval works in the real world.

One response is ... (read more)

MikkW's Shortform

When a republic is considering reforming the way it elects holders of power, there are certain desirable criteria the chosen method should have: officeholders should be agreeable to all citizens, not just to a fraction of them, since maximizing agreeableness will select for competence and the desire to do right by the people; in bodies with many members (e.g. a legislature, but not a singular executive such as a president or prime minister), the various view points of the voters should be proportionately represented by the various members of the body; and ... (read more)

1MikkW2moOne potential criticism of this method is the appeal to precedence: while using party lists (modulo the similarity scores, which seems like a straightforward and uncontroversial improvement) in this way has been used to much success in the Nordic countries, approval voting is (somewhat surprisingly IMO) not well established. As far as governments go, I only know of St. Louis and Fargo, ND using approval- that is, two municipalities. One could observe the concern that we don't have much empirical data on how approval works in the real world. One response is simply to respond that experiments have to be done, otherwise we will never know what works. Perhaps it is ideal to do experiments starting small (e.g. Fargo and St. Louis) and building up towards larger results; but I also have a sense of urgency that voting reform in the US matters greatly, and the faster it can be implemented, the less likely the world is to go in a bad direction v within the next {5, 10, 20, 50} years. The other response is to observe that while we lack empirical data, the theoretical case for Approval is very solid and promising (I don't have time to further substantiate this right now)
MikkW's Shortform

A commonly given reason for why Nordic countries tend to rank highly as desirable places to live, is because the people there are supported by a robust welfare system. In America, I've often heard it said that similar systems shouldn't be implemented, because they are government programs, and (the argument goes) government shouldn't be trusted.

This suggests the government as a potentially important point of comparison between the Nordic countries and the US. Are there features that differ between the American and Nordic governments (keep in mind that there... (read more)

MikkW's Shortform

Widdershins is from a different root according to Wiktionary. I was not aware of those before, but I do still prefer my made-up terms.

MikkW's Shortform

For a long time, I found the words "clockwise" and "counterclockwise" confusing, because they are so similar to each other, and "counterclockwise" is a relatively long word at 4 syllables, much longer than similarly common words.

At some point in time, I took to calling them "dexter" and "winstar", from the Latin »dexter« and Middle English »winstre«, meaning "right" and "left", respectively. I like these words more than the usual "clockwise", but of course, new words aren't worth much of others don't know them, so this is a PSA that these are words that I ... (read more)

1Taleuntum3moIs it that intuitive to you that you should name the rotating object's direction using the movement of the top of the object? I think I would get confused with your words after a while. I just use "positive" and "negative" direction.
4gwern3moAre you aware that "deasil" [https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/deasil] and "widdershins" [https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/widdershins#English] mean those from those roots already?
MikkW's Shortform

There is probably overlap between the matter of aligning AI and the matter of aligning governments

MikkW's Shortform

Gotcha. My main explanation is just that the American political framework is old, having been around since the start of the modern democracy movement, and voting theory wasn't a thing people thought about back then; that, plus the particular historical reasons many countries adopted proportional representation didn't play out to the same degree in the US.

MikkW's Shortform

It occurs to me that this is basically Babble & Prune adapted to be a writing method. I like Babble & Prune.

MikkW's Shortform

Do not both the resources needed to run a government and the resources a government can receive in taxes grow linearly with the size of a country? Or do you have different size dynamics in mind?

2Pattern3moI was thinking that 'size dynamics' seem like 'a more obvious reason for delay' than 'diverse ethnic makeup'. Not 'this dynamic makes a lot of sense' but 'this other dynamic would make more sense'.
MikkW's Shortform

This post was written in 5 blocks, and I wrote 4 (= 2^2) branches for each block, for 5*2 = 10 bits of curation, or 14.5 words per bit of curation.

As it happens, I always used the final branch for each block, so it was more effects of revision and consolidation than selection effects that contribute to the end result of this excercise.

MikkW's Shortform

This Generative Ink post talks about curating GPT-3, creating a much better output than it normally would give, turning it from quite often terrible to usually pround and good. I'm testing out doing the same with this post, choosing one of many branches every few dozens of words.

For a 4x reduction in speed, I'm getting very nice returns on coherence and brevity. I can actually pretend like I'm not a terrible writer! Selection is a powerful force, but more importantly, continuing a thought in multiple ways forces you to actually make sure you're saying thin... (read more)

1MikkW3moIt occurs to me that this is basically Babble & Prune adapted to be a writing method. I like Babble & Prune.
1MikkW3moThis post was written in 5 blocks, and I wrote 4 (= 2^2) branches for each block, for 5*2 = 10 bits of curation, or 14.5 words per bit of curation. As it happens, I always used the final branch for each block, so it was more effects of revision and consolidation than selection effects that contribute to the end result of this excercise.
MikkW's Shortform

A personal anecdote which illustrates the difference between living in a place that uses choose-one voting (i.e. FPTP) to elect its representatives, and one that uses a form of proportional representation:

I was born as a citizen of both the United States and the Kingdom of Denmark, with one parent born in the US, and one born in Denmark. Since I was born in the States with Danish blood, my Danish citizenship was provisional until age 22, with a particular process being required to maintain my citizenship after that age to demonstrate sufficient connection ... (read more)

2Pattern3moAt first glance, the obvious difference would be size. (But voting, so that the office of vital records is staffed properly and does not take years ...does seem the obvious answer.)
MikkW's Shortform

The following is a mantra I have decided to install, and will likely be the basis of my yearly theme for 2022:

Say no to everything, decuple down on what is most important

MikkW's Shortform

I was considering methods that are well-suited for electing groups of 3 or 5 candidates (for example, choosing regional representatives in a larger body, or appointing a small city coucil). I know of Single Transferrable Vote, which uses a ranked ballot; but I know ranked ballots in single-winner elections are inferior to score-based ballots, due to Arrow's Theorem. This made me consider cardinal (i.e. score-based) multi-winner elections.

Wikipedia names "proportional approval voting" and "sequential proportional approval voting" as such methods, but both c... (read more)

1Measure3moI think you mean a queue rather than a stack.
MikkW's Shortform

Recently here I have been mentioning the idea of using California as a nucleation point for encouraging electoral reform in the USA. Beyond state-level change, a potentially easier target than amending the US constitution is to change the ways that one or both of the major parties chooses its candidates, particularly in the presidential race. This can help address some of the scarier problems we've been seeing in national-level politics, without requiring all the effort and activation energy needed for constitutional change; but it will likely be harder than and downstream of state-level change.

MikkW's Shortform

I think that used to also be the case in Denmark, that a vote for candidate within the party was also a vote for the party, but that was changed for the reasons I mentioned above to the current system where one can vote for a different party than the chosen candidate's party.

MikkW's Shortform

One aspect that drives my curiousity in this matter, is to see how this information can be used to implement a better system in my home state, California (I know I mentioned I want to leave California and the States, but even if I do leave, laying the groundwork for a better system here will be a good thing for California itself, America as a whole, and even the entire course of the history of humanity, and I care deeply about that).

One difference that stands out to me is that Finland's Parliament is much larger (at 200 members) than any of California's re... (read more)

MikkW's Shortform

One common point of feedback I received from my recent posts is that perhaps I'm a little too grounded in theoretical aspects, and not focused enough on what's actually going on. As part of my plan to address this, I am digging in deeper into what the actual systems are; another path that will be worth taking to address this is to look deeper into the reality of the situations in the countries I am looking at, and try to illustrate why their systems are leading to better or worse outcomes (without denying cultural factors, of course; but 1) I have a better... (read more)

MikkW's Shortform

How Parliamentary Elections Work in Finland

(These are my notes after skimming the Finnish Election Law)

For purposes of electing the Finnish Parliament, the country is divided up into 13 regions. Åland elects one representative, and the rest elect multiple (between 6 and 35) representatives. All representatives are elected through regions; there are no supra-regional representatives.

Candidates are generally grouped together into parties, joint lists, or electoral alliances. The distinction is not relevant to my notes here; in each, multiple candidates are n... (read more)

2Measure3moI hadn't previously heard of this method of combining candidate-within-party and party-level preferences into a single vote. Seems like a nice, simple system.
3MikkW3moOne aspect that drives my curiousity in this matter, is to see how this information can be used to implement a better system in my home state, California (I know I mentioned I want to leave California and the States, but even if I do leave, laying the groundwork for a better system here will be a good thing for California itself, America as a whole, and even the entire course of the history of humanity, and I care deeply about that). One difference that stands out to me is that Finland's Parliament is much larger (at 200 members) than any of California's representative bodies - The State Senate has only 40 members, the State Assembly is larger at 80 members, and our delegation to the US House is 52 members large. While the state-level bodies could be made bigger (and maybe even the State Senate could be abolished? It's not clear to me that it has any real purpose), the delegation to the US House is fixed, at least on the scale of effort I'm focusing on; and getting real change to happen will require the support of the people, and the fewer things that have to be changed, the more easy that will be to get, so I'd rather not try to change the size of the state legislatures unless it's really needed. Adopting a system similar to Finland, while holding the size of the bodies constant, will require either much smaller regions than in Finland, which would introduce substantial distortions, or will require a big reduction in the number of electoral districts, which I worry will not be popular in California (while I personally suspect regional representation is overrated, particularly in the context of proportional representation, people are used to electing regional representatives, and reducing regional representation is a criticism / concern I have heard mentioned seriously by people who don't support proportional representation). That causes me to suspect that while Finland's system works well over there, it would be better to focus on systems that work well with dis
1MikkW3moOne common point of feedback I received from my recent posts is that perhaps I'm a little too grounded in theoretical aspects, and not focused enough on what's actually going on. As part of my plan to address this, I am digging in deeper into what the actual systems are; another path that will be worth taking to address this is to look deeper into the reality of the situations in the countries I am looking at, and try to illustrate why their systems are leading to better or worse outcomes (without denying cultural factors, of course; but 1) I have a better grasp on how to change constitutions than how to change cultures - in California, the former is actually quite straightforward as long as there's public support, and 2) I suspect that culture is largely downstream of constitutions, with constitutions shaping incentives, and the incentives then shaping people's beliefs and values; more aligned constitutions will ultimately lead to more aligned culture).
Gradient descent is not just more efficient genetic algorithms

I suspect the thesis is true and can be valuable to appreciate, but I'm left feeling that this doesn't explore the thesis nearly as much as I want. You give one example where there might be a divergence, but I would be more satisfied if you provided more examples where they diverge. I also found myself wanting to read more thoughts on cases where the difference can impact things in a way that I would care about. Where would descent be more useful, and when would there be benefits from using evolution? I think there are examples of both, but this post doesn't touch on those.

MikkW's Shortform

Many countries that use a form of proportional representation where the national proportion of representation is ensured to be proportional to the national level of support (as opposed to doing so on a regional level) have a cutoff where parties that don't reach a certain level of support (usually 2.5 - 10% of the vote) don't receive representation in the governing body, at least not through non-regional means.

This helps filter out extremist parties and single-issue parties, and instead encourages parties that are able to build a broad base of support. (Th... (read more)

steven0461's Shortform Feed

Huh. I am curious to hear explanations if anyone has one.

MikkW's Shortform

I dreamt up the following single-winner voting system in the car while driving to Eugene, Oregon on vacation. I make no representation that it is any good, nor that it's better than anything currently known or in use, nor that's it's worth your time to read this.

Commentary and rationale will be explained at the bottom of this post

The system is a 2-round system. The first round uses an approval ballot, and the second round asks voters to choose between two candidates.

([•] indicates a constant that can be changed during implementation)

Round One:

  1. Tally all a
... (read more)
2Pattern3moAlternative: Something like condorcet voting, where voters receive a random subset of pairs to compare. For a simple analysis, the number of pairs could be 1. (Or instead of pairs, a voter could asked to choose 'the best'.)
MikkW's Shortform
  1. I'm updating my daily shortform / post goal to better optimize for quality of content created. I do value quantity and speed, and also have a capacity for daily habits that I don't have a capacity for other kinds of tasks, but I'm unhappy with the level of quality of my recent output.

My new goal is to either post a shortform, or make substantial progress towards a top-level post (which may be downgraded to a shortform at my discretion), with the caveat that it must be published after 4 days of active work on it (shortforms may be interspersed, but no fl... (read more)

MikkW's Shortform

I want to preregister the following predictions before I dig into the data:

Of democratic (non-subsidiary) nations (as judged by having a EIU Democracy Index rating of at least "flawed democracy"; Hong Kong and similar are excluded due to not being sovereign), I expect for both the World Happiness Report and the Index of Economic Freedom, the median among nations that have at least one house of the national legislature elected via a form of proportional representation directly by the people, will be higher than the median for nations that do not, with 85% confidence

I further expect the median among PR democracies will be higher than the 75th percentile best rating for non-PR democracies with 60% confidence.

MikkW's Shortform

I see, thanks for the correction. Australia is #11 in the 2020 report (the same as I was referring to above), so if anything, that further illustrates what I am saying.

MikkW's Shortform

But it won't make everything better - some things will be surprisingly worse.

Based on the 1 1/2 years I spent living in Denmark, that doesn't really ring true to me. The few bad things that do stand out, stand out precisely because so much else seemed so much better in Denmark than in the US (Specifically, I live in California, but my main problems feel more like national problems than state-level problems). There are a lot of differences, of course, that I could approximately go either way on.

2Dagon3moI love Denmark, and can easily imagine that living there is better than California, for many people. For me, the language difference would weigh pretty heavily after awhile, but that's less important for some. More importantly, my work and career likely would take a bit of a hit outside of US coastal cities - that'll be worth it at some point, but it's real. And most importantly, I do have social and family connections that matter, and living abroad made that enough harder to maintain that the other differences in location weren't worth it.
MikkW's Shortform

Seems to me that you put too much emphasis on how the country works in theory. I believe you could have two countries with the same constitution and yet a quite different life experience. Because of different history, different neighbors, etc.

My recent posts have been focusing a lot on the theoretical side of things. I do plan on exploring less theoretical aspects in later posts, but since I'm trying to write a post every day, each post will inevitably be very zoomed in on a particular facet, and right now, I am focused on constutional factors. Part of ... (read more)

Load More