All of MikkW's Comments + Replies

MikkW's Shortform

In response to my earlier post about Myers-Briggs (where I suggested a more detailed notation for more nuanced communication about personality types), it was pointed out that there is some correlation between the four traits being measured, and this makes the system communicate less information on average than it otherwise would (The traditional notation would communicate 4 bits, my version would communicate ~9.2 if there was no correlation).

I do object to the characterization that it all measures "the same thing", since none of the traits perfectly predic... (read more)

MikkW's Shortform

Random thought: if you have a big enough compost pile, would it spontaneously break into flames due to the heat generated by the bioprocesses that occur therein? If so, at what size would it burst into flames? Surely it could happen before it reached the size of the sun, even ignoring gravitational effects.

(Just pondering out loud, not really asking unless someone really wants to answer)

For a value of "break into flames" that matches damp and poorly-oxygenated fuel, yep! This case in Australia is illustrative; you tend to get a lot of nasty smoke rather than a nice campfire vibe.

You'd have to mismanage a household-scale compost pile very badly before it spontaneously combusts, but it's a known and common failure mode for commercial-scale operations above a few tons. Specific details about when depend a great deal on the composition of the pile; with nitrate filmstock it was possible with as little as a few grams.

MikkW's Shortform

Last month, I wrote a post here titled "Even Inflationary Currencies Should Have Fixed Total Supply", which wasn't well-received. One problem was that the point I argued for wasn't exactly the same as what the title stated: I supported both currencies with fixed total supply, and currencies that instead choose to scale supply proportional to the amount of value in the currency's ecosystem, and many people got confused and put off by the disparity between the title and my actual thesis; indeed, one of the most common critiques in the comments was a reiterat... (read more)

MikkW's Shortform

I learned to type in Dvorak nearly a decade ago, and any time I have typed on a device that supports it, I have used it since then. I don't know if it actually is any better than QWERTY, but I do notice that I enjoy the way it feels to type in Dvorak; the rhythm and shape of the dance my fingers make is noticeably different from when I type on QWERTY.

Even if Dvorak itself turns out not to be better in some way (fx. speed, avoiding injury, facilitation of mental processes) than QWERTY, it is incredibly unlikely that there does not exist some configuration of keys that is provably superior to QWERTY.

Also, hot take: Colemak is the coward's Dvorak.

Final Version Perfected: An Underused Execution Algorithm

I modified this slightly lately: sometimes, there's one task (task A) that I have a strong desire to do on one dimension, but I have a strong desire on another dimension to do not that. In this case, I can have a hard time making good comparisons- once I get to task A, I highlight it, then every comparison afterwards becomes very hard- in one way I would like to do task A, but in another way, I'd rather do the other thing. Since I do a similar comparison multiple times, comparing task A to several other tasks that have a cloudy preference, this puts me at ... (read more)

2willbradshaw7dYeah, I can imagine this being useful. One does sometimes encounter cases where unclear preferences lead to accidentally skipping endorsedly-best tasks.
I'm from a parallel Earth with much higher coordination: AMA

ahh, basic coordinacy to go with their literacy and numeracy. I see.

I like this word. We need more coordinate people, and more widespread coordinacy training

Examples of Acausal Trade with an Alien Universe?

If they have something to trade with those like me, they might deliberately write an AI to control their hypercomputer, in order to make it easy for those like me to prove things.

But this takes us back to where we started. What could we offer them that they can't make themselves, and what can they offer us that we can't do ourselves?

Toward A Bayesian Theory Of Willpower

So this example still seems to support Scott's point of "if they had just listened to their reinforcement/instinctual processes instead of their intellectual/logical ones, they could have avoided that problem".

But my point is that the process that led to them becoming monks was an instinctual process, not an intellectual one, and the "problem" isn't actually one from the point of view of the genes.

3Kaj_Sotala17dActually upon further thought, I disagree with Scott's premise that this case allows for a meaningful distinction between "instinctual" and "intellectual" processes, so I guess I agree with you.
Toward A Bayesian Theory Of Willpower

But maybe that's giving us too much credit. Even today, logical/intellectual processes can be pretty dumb. Millions of people throughout history have failed to reproduce because they became monks for false religions; if they had just listened to their reinforcement/instinctual processes instead of their intellectual/logical ones, they could have avoided that problem.

Becoming a monk isn't as much of a reproductive dead end as you paint it here: yes, the individual won't reproduce, but the individual wasn't spontaneously created from a vacuum. The monk ha... (read more)

4Kaj_Sotala17dI agree with the point of "belief in religion likely evolved for a purpose so it's not that we're intrinsically too dumb to reject them", but I'm not sure of the reasoning in the previous paragraph. E.g. if religion in the hunter-gatherer period wasn't already associated with celibacy, then it's unlikely for this particular causality to have created an evolved "sacrifice your personal sexual success in exchange for furthering the success of your relatives" strategy in the brief period of time that celibacy happened to bring status. And the plentiful sex scandals associated with various organized religions don't give any indication of religion and celibacy being intrinsically connected; in general, being high status seems to make men more rather than less interested in sex. A stronger argument would be that regardless of how smart intellectual processes are, they generally don't have "maximize genetic fitness" [] as their goal, so the monk's behavior isn't caused by the intellectual processes being particularly dumb... but then again, if those processes don't directly care about fitness, then that just gives evolution another reason to have instincts sometimes override intellectual reasoning. So this example still seems to support Scott's point of "if they had just listened to their reinforcement/instinctual processes instead of their intellectual/logical ones, they could have avoided that problem".
Making a Cheerful Bid

I don't have a price for negotiation. If someone has an idea they suspect may provide mutual benefit to both of us, I want to hear it, and I want them to know how willing I am to do that, with boundaries as clear as those of the original proposal. In cases where there may be second order impacts, I will communicate that as part of the conversation of establishing mutual needs and desires.

Selling Attention for Money

Glad to see you joining in on this!

MikkW's Shortform

Thanks for the thoughts.

The main resource needed for life is light (which is abundant throughout the solar system), not land or gravity, so the sparseness of planets isn't actually a big deal.

It's also worth remembering the Moon; it's slightly harder than Mars and even smaller; but the Moon will play an important role in the Earth-Moon system, similar to what the Americas have been to the Old World in the past 400 years.

Interstellar travel is a field where we currently don't have good proof of capabilities yet, but if we can figure out how to safely travel... (read more)

MikkW's Shortform

(not a poem


a formatted sentence)

MikkW's Shortform

Even logarithms

Achieve exponential heights

Long before you reach infinity

1MikkW21d(not a poem only a formatted sentence)
MikkW's Shortform

I'm quite confident that we will successfully colonize space, unless something very catastrophic happens

2Viliam20dI hope you are right, but here are the things that make me pessimistic: Seeing the solar system to the right scale. Makes me realize how the universe is a vast desert of almost-nothing, and how insane are the distances between the not-nothings. Mars sounds like a big deal, but it is smaller than Earth. The total surface of Mars is like the land area of Earth, so successfully colonizing Mars would merely double the space inhabitable by humans. That is, unless we colonize the surface of oceans of Earth first, in which case it would only increase the total inhabitable space by 30%. And colonizing Mars doesn't mean that now we have the space-colonization technology mastered, because compared to other planets, Mars is easy mode. Venus and Mercury, that would double the inhabitable space again... and then we have gas planets and insanely cold ice planets... and then we need to get out of the solar system, where distances are measured in light-years, which probably means centuries or millenia for us... at which moment, if we have the technology to survive in space for a few generations, we might give up living on planets entirely, and just mine them for resources. From that perspective, colonizing Mars seems like a dead end. We need to survive in space, for generations. Which will probably be much easier if we get rid of our biology. Yeah, it could be possible, but probably much more complicated than most of science fiction assumes.
Thirty-three randomly selected bioethics papers

Wouldn't the presence of "bureaucratic junk" be evidence towards a field having problems?

5Sniffnoy21dI suppose so. It is at least a different problem than I was worried about...
MikkW's Shortform

Proof that I have added cards to my deck (The top 3 cards, the other claimed cards are currently being held in reserve; -"is:new" shows only cards that have been given a date and interval for review)

MikkW's Shortform

When I write up the top-level post, I'll mention that you offered this for people who comment on DT discussions, unless you'd prefer I don't

2Chris_Leong22dThat's fine! (And much appreciated!)
MikkW's Shortform

Thanks! I will create a top level post explaining my motivations and inviting others to join.

MikkW's Shortform

I currently have three cards entered, and the other seven are being held in reserve by the buyer (and have already been paid for). They are: "Jeff's Friendly Snek", "Book:  The Mathematical Theory of Communication by Claude Shannon", and "Maximize Cooperative Information Transfer for {{Learning New Optimization}}", where {{brackets}} indicate cloze deletions; these were all sponsored by jackinthenet, he described his intention as wanting to use me as a vector for propagating memes and maximizing cooperative information transfer (which prompted the card).

MikkW's Shortform

Yes, that is allowed, though I reserve the right to veto any cards that I judge as problematic

MikkW's Shortform

In short, I am selling my attention by selling the right to put cards in my Anki deck, starting at the low price of $1 per card.

I will create and add a card (any card that you desire, with the caveat that I can veto any card that seems problematic, and capped to a similar amount of information per card as my usual cards contain) to my Anki deck for $1. After the first ten cards (across all people), the price will rise to $2 per card, and will double every 5 cards from then on. I commit to study the added card(s) like I would any other card in my decks (I w... (read more)

3MikkW22dProof that I have added cards to my deck (The top 3 cards, the other claimed cards are currently being held in reserve; -"is:new" shows only cards that have been given a date and interval for review)
3Chris_Leong22dInteresting offer. If you were someone who regularly commented on decision theories discussions, I would be interested in order to spread my ideas. But since you aren't, I'd pass.
5Mati_Roy22dThat's genius! Can I (or you) create a LessWrong thread inviting others to do the same?
3Mati_Roy22dcan I claim cards before choosing its content?
3wunan22dI'm curious what cards people have paid to put in your deck so far. Can you share, if the buyers don't mind?
MikkW's Shortform

For example, ants or bees can collectively gather resources... but that is only possible because most of them are infertile children of the queen, so they cannot spread their genes better by defecting against the queen.

It's worth noting that the infertility of worker bees is itself (seemingly) a form of genetic sacrifice, so it doesn't really explain why cooperation evolved among bees. The explanation that I'm familiar with is that male bees (this is also true of ants, but not molerats) only have one set of genes, instead of the usual pair, which means ... (read more)

MikkW's Shortform

We're living in a very important time, being on the cusp of both the space revolution and AI revolution truly taking off. Either one alone would make the 2020's on equal historical footing with the original development of life or the Cambrian explosion, and both together will make for a very historic moment.

4Viliam21dIf we succeed to colonize another planet, preferably outside our solar system, then yeah. Otherwise, it could be a historical equivalent of... the first fish that climbed out of the ocean, realized it can't breathe, and died.

Thanks for the post. I find it quite insightful on some of the dynamics of gossip.

This post inspired me to set the following rule for myself:

  • Any conversation I have with someone I know should contain at least one (genuine) compliment from me towards a third party

Note that this doesn't preclude negative gossip, but I don't feel like codifying a symmetrical rule. Some benefits of this rule, even in the absence of negative gossip (which to be clear, I am not necessarily saying I won't engage in):

  • For the receiver: Even in the absence of negative gossip,
... (read more)
3Yoav Ravid23dThanks for this reply, I'm very glad to know you found it helpful and insightful. I think the rule you set to yourself is great, and I agree the reverse doesn't seem like a good idea. It's more that it's important to feel free to be open about negative things than making sure you're saying negative things. I don't know what the right balance of negative/positive gossip, but I guess it is tilted towards the positive (a bit like even vote on forums like LW and Reddit are skewed towards upvotes rather than downvotes). I think I could have made that clearer in the post.
[Book Review] Destiny Disrupted

Interesting read. It almost makes me want to be Muslim, but I still have my reservations about that

MikkW's Shortform

Note that Valued Energy varies from agent to agent

MikkW's Shortform

Three types of energy:

  1. Potent energy
  2. Valued energy
  3. Entropic Energy

(2 + 3), as well as 3 are strictly non-decreasing over time, and generally increase, while 1 + 2 and 1 by itself are strictly non-increasing, and generally decrease.

You want to maximize for Valued Energy, and minimize Potent and Entropic Energy

1MikkW1moNote that Valued Energy varies from agent to agent
How to use hypnagogic hallucinations as biofeedback to relieve insomnia

After listening to this while going to sleep last night (which was a fun experience), I wrote this poetic summary:

You're tossing, turning, no sleep, no resting

I know a trick that will help you sleep; how?

It's meditation, but hypnogogic

Now close your eyes, let the darkness shine in

And see the light that your mind's eye creates

There's blobs and bundles, there's snow before you

Attention! look at it, watch it closely

I know, it's not too relaxing, not yet.

But watch the blobs, like a counting shepard

The blobs will start to cohere, formless still

See shapes in blo... (read more)

How to use hypnagogic hallucinations as biofeedback to relieve insomnia

If you get a chance to write a post communicating the main points from this in 1/5th - 1/10th the length, I would be (genuinely) happy to read it. As it is right now, I find my eyes keep glazing over as I read this. If you do write a shorter version, please let me know, because as someone who often has trouble sleeping myself, this is of interest to me.

5David_Gross1motl;dr: By focusing in a counterintuitively alert way on your hypnagogic hallucinations you can use them as a sort of biofeedback mechanism, following them as they change their characteristics in predictable ways in a direction that leads you out of insomnia into sleep. alternatively: By reading this prolix description of hypnagogia, your eyes will glaze over until you find yourself nodding out.
Even Inflationary Currencies Should Have Fixed Total Supply

I don't think this is an example of definitions changing over time, but just where the same word has always meant two different things in different (closely related) uses. My understanding is that marketers for manufacturers always used the decimal meaning to market drives, while everybody else uses the (slightly larger) binary value

Even Inflationary Currencies Should Have Fixed Total Supply

After reading your response, I notice that I made a mistake in my original post in terms of communicating my thoughts. This was originally written as part of a larger piece about the design of new currencies, in the gestalt of the current thriving cryptocurrency scene, and in that context it was clear that I was not advocating for reforming currently existing currencies along these lines, but rather presenting thoughts that designers of future, non-state-backed digital currencies should take into consideration - a space where experimentation without existing working examples is well-justified - however that context is not provided in this post, which can make it look like I am advocating reforms more extreme than I actually endorse.

Even Inflationary Currencies Should Have Fixed Total Supply

I don't think the typical person arguing for inflation would agree that "Destroying the value of savings over time is not the goal"- this is the reason that I have most commonly heard cited for inflation, since it ensures that people spend their money and engage in trade.

Having done some more reading, I agree that overcoming the cognitive bias where people don't want prices to change is an important use of inflation, and I agree that my proposal does not succeed in addressing this, since the entire point there is that by changing the value of a currency, y... (read more)

Even Inflationary Currencies Should Have Fixed Total Supply

Correct- as I stated in my post, if it's desired to have zero fluctuation in value, the currency should be pegged to a basket of goods, which implies a variable total supply; however in cases where some amount of variance in value (generally less than what currently exists with USD) is acceptable, then a fixed total supply can make sense

Even Inflationary Currencies Should Have Fixed Total Supply

If you want to make bets in a prediction market denoting them in a currency that doesn't inflate might be worthwhile.

I very much agree with this

If you've learned from the best, you're doing it wrong

Yes, although this is the exception rather than the rule- Feynman happens to both be a world-class physicist and a world-class communicator (in addition to being talented at many other things)- I suppose the class Feynman belongs to is that of polymath- he didn't strive to be the singular best at any one thing, but rather to be as good as possible in many different fields

2cistran1moRight, there is a difference between your clone who is a few lessons ahead of you and a really good teacher. So, you don't learn from the best, but try to find the best teacher?
MikkW's Shortform

(Obviously, this would only apply to elections at the end of an incumbent's first term. Elections where the incumbent is already outgoing wouldn't look any different)

MikkW's Shortform

American presidential elections should come in two phases: first, asking if the incumbent should continue in office, and then (if the majority says no), a few months later, deciding who should replace them. This would be a big improvement over how we do things now. Let's make it the 34th amendment.

1Gerald Monroe1moThis and many other improvements will never happen. The founders locked the codebase by requiring 2/3, 2/3, and 75% (of the states). Therefore it is simply not possible to make any meaningful improvements because in order to really change something requires someone to lose or perceive they are losing. Even when they are winning in absolute terms but their relative status is shrinking. (for example, an economic change that grew the economy and reduced wealth inequality) I see 2 future routes where these bugs get fixed: a. Eventually, the United States may fall. It may take decades of slow decay but eventually another power without certain flaws may be able to take over one way or another. The European Union is an example of this - the EU has trumped many incorrect member country laws and policies with their own , hopefully superior versions. b. The problem we have right now is each of us doesn't know the truth, and is being manipulated to act against our own self interests.Maybe AI could solve this problem and give us all a shared, correct, and common worldview again. For most Americans alive, "which government policies maximizes my well being" is a factual question with a shared answer. I am not talking specific politics, just if you have policy A and policy B, most Americans alive will receive more benefit from one of the 2 policies than the other, and it will be the same policy. In addition, while we cannot know the future, all available evidence can be combined to determine the expected values of [A,B] against most people's utility heuristics, and for most people they should do [A or B]. But if the right answer is A, currently endless ads may try to scam people in voting for B, and sometimes B wins.
2Dagon1moMost voters' answer to the first question (should we retain the incumbent) depend heavily on the second (who gets the spot). What's the benefit of separating these? Why not reverse it (vote on best replacement excluding incumbent, then runoff between that winner and the incumbent), or combine it (as we do today, but with instant-runoff or other changes that are unstated but necessary for your proposal).
1MikkW1mo(Obviously, this would only apply to elections at the end of an incumbent's first term. Elections where the incumbent is already outgoing wouldn't look any different)
Borasko's Shortform

>I'm proposing I play [video games] for a fixed amount of time per day as a trade.

I'll suggest doing this as a fixed amount of time on a weekly, not daily basis- some days the quota you set may be too high (because you've gotten really into some productive thing that you want to do more than play video games), other days it may be too low (because you just need time to chill out), and having a weekly quota of video games lets you adjust according to your mood on any given day.

1Borasko1moThat's a good idea, I'll try that.
MikkW's Shortform

This happened, so this prediction comes in at 80% correct, although about 10 minutes after landing, the rocket blew up.

MikkW's Shortform

Prediction: 80% chance that Starship SN10 lands in one piece tomorrow / whenever its first flight is

1MikkW1moThis happened, so this prediction comes in at 80% correct, although about 10 minutes after landing, the rocket blew up.
MikkW's Shortform

I don't think "the same thing" is exactly right, since they are not perfectly correlated, but that is an objection

MikkW's Shortform

Myers-Briggs is often criticized, but my understanding is that each of the four categories tracked are variables that actually do vary from person to person- just the traits are distributed on a unimodal bell curve, instead of being binarily distributed (it is continuous, instead of being a thing that is either-or). But just like how height is a real thing, that matters and is continuous, the Myers-Briggs categories are real things that matter; just as there are short people and tall people, there are extroverts and introverts, and there are thinkers and f... (read more)

3G Gordon Worley III1moThis is fair, but I think the more common objection to MB is that its dimensions are too correlated and thus measuring the same thing. The Big-5/OCEAN model is explicitly designed to not have this problem.
MikkW's Shortform

In absence of geographical distances, we can create social ones.

I like this thought

Isn't this the same thing from a different perspective? I mean, the important thing seems to be how far you can travel on a full stomach. That can be increased by either moving faster or having a greater stomach.

I agree that a bigger stomach allows for a bigger range, but this is not the only effect it has - a bigger stomach also allows for survival long after there are literally no providers left, which means that there can be areas that are rich in selfish characters, and ... (read more)

MikkW's Shortform

I have often heard it pronounced (Including by Eliezer) that group selection is not a thing, that evolution never selects for "the good of the species" - and it is true, in the sense, that if evolution is given the chance to throw the species under the bus for a slight gain to the individual, then it will never hesitate to do so. 

But there is a sense in which a group can be selected for - assume feature A is always bad for whichever species has it, and there are two species which occupy overlapping niches - one group with feature B, which makes featur... (read more)

4Viliam2moEliezer doesn't say that it is impossible, only "pretty unlikely". That is, under usual circumstances, when you do the math, the benefits of being a member of a tribe that benefits from group selection, although greater than zero, are much smaller than the individual benefits of defecting against the rest of the group. This is the norm, in nature. This is what happens by default. The rare situations where this is not true, require special explanation. For example, ants or bees can collectively gather resources... but that is only possible because most of them are infertile children of the queen, so they cannot spread their genes better by defecting against the queen. In your example, are the "groups" different species? In other words, is this about how bees would outperform bumblebees? In that case, the answer seems to be that the feature B itself is almost a miracle -- something that turns a profitable behavior into inprofitable behavior, without being itself selected against by evolution... how would you do that? (So how did bees evolve, if for their pre-bee ancestors, a worker being infertile was probably an evolutionary disadvantage? I have no idea. But the fact that there are only about three known examples in nature where this happened -- ants, bees, naked mole-rats [] -- suggests it was something pretty unlikely.) Then you have humans, which are smart enough to recognize and collectively punish some activities that harm the group. If they keep doing so for generations, they can somewhat breed themselves towards harming the group less. But this is very slow and uncertain process, because the criminals are also smart enough to hide their actions, the enforcement has many loopholes (crimes are punished less if you are high-status, or if you do the thing to enemies), different societies have different norms, social order breaks down e.g. during wars, etc. So we get something like slightly fewer murders after a few c
MikkW's Shortform

I'm tinkering around in NetLogo with a model I made representing the dynamics of selfishness and altruism. In my model, there are two types of agents ("turtles" in NL parlance), red selfish turtles and blue altruistic turtles. The turtles wander around the world, and occasionally participate in a prisoner's-dilemma-like game with nearby turtles. When a turtle cooperates, their partner receives a reward, at the cost of losing some percentage of that reward themselves. When a turtle defects, they keep all their resources, and their partner gains none. The tu... (read more)

3Viliam2moSome people who grew up in a village and later moved to a big city probably feel like this. People who live in a city have a way to deal with this: interact with members of your subculture(s), not with strangers. In absence of geographical distances, we can create social ones. Isn't this the same thing from a different perspective? I mean, the important thing seems to be how far you can travel on a full stomach. That can be increased by either moving faster or having a greater stomach.
How to build common knowledge of rationality and honesty?

There's one idea of how to build common knowledge of honesty from my shortform. I know I got some pushback from it, and I'm too tired right now to address those concerns, but I'll share what I wrote to help get the conversation going:

I’ve been thinking about ways to signal truth value in speech- in our modern society, we have no way to readily tell when a person is being 100% honest- we have to trust that a communicator is being honest, or otherwise verify for ourselves if what they are saying is true, and if I want to tell a joke, speak ironically, or com

... (read more)
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