All of Nic_Smith's Comments + Replies

Meetup : Rescheduled: Chicago Calibration Game

This has been rescheduled as the previous date didn't work for some people.

Amanda Knox Redux: is Satoshi Nakamoto the real Satoshi Nakamoto?

Only slightly; Bitcoin had awareness on Less Wrong when it was still fairly obscure, IIRC, but I have heard it discussed recently by people offline and far removed from LW (a coworker, "random" people on the street).

Amanda Knox Redux: is Satoshi Nakamoto the real Satoshi Nakamoto?

The reporter began with the very questionable assumption that Satoshi Nakamoto was his real name*. Because of this, it is less surprising that they found someone with that name and some resemblance to "The" Satoshi Nakamoto. 0.05.

* "It was only while scouring a database that contained the registration cards of naturalized U.S. citizens that a Satoshi Nakamoto turned up whose profile and background offered a potential match." -- It's possible from this sentence they were doing an unrelated search and just saw the name, but I doubt it.

Rationality Quotes November 2013

Yet, no one has been on the moon in decades. Environmental circumstances cannot be ignored. You can't go to the moon right now -- maybe in some years, most likely not. "What can a twelfth-century peasant do to save themselves from annihilation? Nothing."

That is true. There are some things that we cannot do. There are some things that we cannot do yet. There are some things that we can do, but have not.

The objection to the quote is that it seems to place "moving Mt. Fuji", as an example of some larger class, in the first class not arbitrarily, but in spite of the evidence (the fact that the audience has come up with an answer, if indeed they have). While the surrounding article makes a good point, the quote in isolation smacks of irrational defeatism.

As an alternative to the quote, I propose ... (read more)

Rationality Quotes November 2013

How would you move Mount Fuji?

Take some time. Think about it.

Got an answer?

Good.

Throw it away.

You can't move Mount Fuji.

-- Stefan Kendall

6AndHisHorse8yWhy not?

I bet he believes you can't walk on the moon either.

Rationality Quotes November 2013

Individual (or even social) benefit and reward do not necessarily follow from reproductive fitness; they could be utterly miserable but nonetheless have children* with the same beliefs.

*I am not certain how literally to interpret this from the quote.

November 2013 Media Thread

Anime: Shin Sekai Yori is essentially several layers of unintended consequences placed into a puzzling world. It has three arcs following Saki Watanabe's early life in a society with psychokinesis, lots of hidden rules, and somewhat questionable morality.

In order to prevent humans sebz xvyyvat bar nabgure jvgu gurve cbjref, gurl unir orra trargvpnyyl zbqvsvrq gb frys-qrfgehpg hcba qbvat fb. Juvyr vg znxrf zheqre fbzrjung yrff pbairavrag va-fgbel, vg qbrf abg fgbc gur pbzzvggrrf gung eha gur fbpvrgl sebz ryvzvangvat crbcyr ivn pngf bgure bgure ebhaqnobhg zr... (read more)

Weekly LW Meetups

Chicago will have more Thinking, Fast and Slow meetups on the 24th, Sept 7, and Sept 21.

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August 2013 Media Thread

Strongly agree, especially for "Flip" songs of the third game -- "EXEC_FLIP_ARPHAGE./" "EXEC_COSMOFLIPS/." and "EXEC_FLIP_FUSIONSPHERE/." The startup for my desktop is a small bit of EXEC_CHRONICLE_KEY/. For the most part, they are superbly dramatic.

June 2013 Media Thread

A Hansonian might say that Madoka Magica is not about Madoka!

Three eps in is not really much; give it a bit more time.

Post ridiculous munchkin ideas!

I've personally found playing anime at 1.1x to be a difference which is barely even noticeable, but further speed increases to be somewhat annoying, and 1.5x+ to be unwatchable. It's likely low-hanging fruit for many, but YMMV.

1Baughn8yIt depends a lot on the quality of the speed-up algorithm. One cheap way of speeding up audio is to drop samples, but this significantly reduces audio quality. Personally, I find anything above 1.2x to be annoying, but I still do it - not to save time, but to improve my japanese-understanding capability.
1edanm8yHere's why I think this is something most people can do: I am personally a "native-level" English speaker, having spent 6 years of my childhood in English-speaking countries. I am now in a non-English-speaking country though. A friend of mine who is also doing this is not a native English speaker, and while his English is quite good, it is clearly not native-speaking level. However, he also manages to watch almost all shows at least at 1.5X speed. Of course YMMV, but I would encourage people to at least try this out and see if it hurts their enjoyment of shows or not.
May 2013 Media Thread

Magical Diary -- it has puzzles, although they're only a small part of the game. Ellen reminded me of Less Wrong fairly quickly; I later found out that TV Tropes lists her subplot as a shout-out to Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

1ourimaler6yI played it a few months ago. It was quite fun... and, yes, there's one big shout-out to HPMoR (more specifically, to the Bayesian Conspiracy) in interactions with Ellen.
3Dorikka8ySeconded. Also, the game has a certain amount of replay value due to the different subplots, and being able to rewind is awesome.
Rationality Quotes February 2013

Isn't the point of the article that Boeing may not have actually done at least the first two steps (design cell not to fail, prevent failure of a cell from causing battery problems)?

I am confused.

4Baughn8yIt's the point of the problem, anyway. SInnett is probably a very good designer, but the battery design was outsourced.
Rationality Quotes February 2013

There's something to that, but it's not as if Varian's Microeconomic Analysis is going to have the cover of Spice and Wolf 1.

On the other hand, the method of judging a book's contents by its cover clearly has holes in it considering Spice and Wolf 1 has the cover of Spice and Wolf 1.

Update on Kim Suozzi (cancer patient in want of cryonics)

A small correction: The Society for Venturism has been around for quite a while, although I have a vague impression they've been more active in the last year than in the past. I had a look at their site to see when they were founded (1986), and noticed they're currently raising funds for someone else, Aaron Winborn.

0ahartell9yThanks, updated.
The "Friendship is Witchcraft" expectation test

So... does that mean that Phil saw what he was expecting to in the reactions he got? ;)

October 2012 Media Thread

I have mixed feelings about Casshern Sins, which I watched over the weekend. It has an excellent soundtrack, kind of neat figure-it-out plot, and a surreal dreamlike quality that reminds me (a lot!) of Squall's Dead. That said, the resolution to the puzzles don't really make any sense (it seems halfway plausible at the end that, in-universe, eating Casshern really would grant immortality -- it's certainly no stranger than the ruin being caused by nyy gur qrngu rfpncvat sebz Yhan jura fur jnf xvyyrq), and characters and perhaps the series over all are engure rkcyvpvgyl qrnguvfg, bs gur fvyyvrfg "qrngu tvirf zrnavat gb yvsr" glcr.

Less Wrong Polls in Comments

I was hoping the mode would be 2147483647 (my answer) to at least provide some humor, but 0 has it beat handily.

Weekly LW Meetups: Austin, Berlin, Portland, Urbana-Champaign IL, Vienna

Tomorrow will most likely be the last Chicago meetup on a weekly basis; I've created a calendar for us on Meetup. The Google groups mailing list also remains active.

Open Thread, September 1-15, 2012

A dramatic understatement -- I found this to be far superior to WAitW, as it's more concrete and offers reasonable advice to its readers. By being more systematic, it strikes me as a better illustration of WAitA than the actual WAitA article.

1FiftyTwo9yWAitw = "Worst argument on the world" yes? The acronym is unclear.
Magical Healing Powers

I am reminded of a particular SMBC involving Superman.

Somewhat more seriously, I can't help but think that this post starts with far-mode idealization: would it really be difficult to turn people away for personal reasons if you had magical healing powers? Or is it merely uncomfortable, and perhaps usually bad signalling, to admit you would?

[Retracted] Simpson's paradox strikes again: there is no great stagnation?

The Census Bureau has projects that they do between decades, even though "The" Census is only every decade.

Suggest alternate names for the "Singularity Institute"

The Good Future Research Center

A wink to the earlier I.J. Good Institute idea, it matches the tone of the current logo while being unconfining in scope.

Thwarting a Catholic conversion?

Do you mean theists rather than deists about halfway through?

Open question on the certain 'hot' global issue of importance to FAI

And I trust it has been explained here that non-scientists are best off not trying to second guess the science, but relying on the expert opinion.

Not saying anything directly about the immediate topic, argument screens off authority and we really do have examples of experts getting things terribly off. Even if that weren't the case, "trust the experts" would still be a terrible heuristic as it's likely to be gamed.

Brain shrinkage in humans over past ~20 000 years - what did we lose?

The palaeolithic humans did not seem to do any really insane religious stuff

Why? The first thing I checked has one anthropologist speculating cannibalism might have occurred during the paleolithic for religious reasons, and on the whole doesn't look very encouraging.

The real argument against cannibalism seems to be easy transmission of infection, not held back by species boundary. If this risk is comparatively sufficiently low, I'd say not eating your fellow humans who died anyway when the food is scarce is a failure mode (famine seems to be convincing enough, and probably occurred often in the prehistoric past).

A further quote from the same paragraph, emphasis mine:

Nonetheless, it remains possible that Paleolithic societies never practiced cannibalism, and that the damage to recovered human bones was either the result of ritual post-mortem bone cleaning or predation by carnivores such as saber tooth cats, lions and hyenas.

Just for kicks, I might also assume the (contrarian?) position that cannibalism is by no means unconditionally "really insane," which seems to be what you're holding it out as an example of. Sure, it has its (ups and) downs, but I'... (read more)

-2Dmytry9ySpeculating is the key word. In a harsh environment where humans barely survive, ritual cannibalism would stay just long enough until someone's protein mis-folded and the stupid practice got the well deserved handicap. You need some sort of tropical paradise isolated from competition to sustain Kuru-afflicted population for any time.
Ethics of piracy

Ideas are not rival in consumption and are therefore not private goods, nor does the implementation of an idea prevent re-implementation of it by someone else. They are also of questionable excludability.

Ethics of piracy

Ideas and their implementations, including software, are not private goods. Nonetheless, the current copyright system basically pretends otherwise; that supposing that something that is not nonetheless is leads to absurd results should be unsurprising.

3[anonymous]10yDownvoted for unfounded claim. I can just as easyly assert that ideas and their implementation are private goods.
What are you working on? December 2011

I have been going through 4Clojure problems. My short-term goal is to rank in the top 100; I just made it to 197 today. I had been reading a bit about Lisp and find the style meshes well with my own thinking (e.g. in PHP, I have a tendency to use foreach loops a lot).

Various solutions (spoilers!):

[LINK] SMBC on Confirmation Bias

Upvoted for the spoilers don't spoil stories link -- that is incredibly useful. I can now write reviews without worrying about hiding plot details.

5ArisKatsaris10yPlease have the courtesy of warning in advance of spoilers when you'll be writing a spoiler review. It is extremely obnoxious to not allow the potential readers their own choice of whether they want to be spoiled or not.
8CuSithBell10yPlease don't do that - that is not the correct conclusion to reach from the study.
4Vaniver10yIt's worth pointing out that the study in question was on ironic, mystery, or 'literary' short stories acknowledged to be high quality and subjects had to (pretend to) read the works regardless of whether they were spoiled or not. For works of lesser quality or a different field (say, comedy), those results may not hold. If the only reason to consume a work is to get at the plot payoff, knowing what that payoff is may cause someone to avoid the work. Likewise, timing is a critical part of comedy that spoiling can often ruin.
1DanielLC10yI agree. He should have started a post on that. The SMBC comic isn't nearly as interesting. I wonder if the stories were universally enjoyed more, or just better on average. Perhaps some people do prefer not being spoiled.
0Normal_Anomaly10yPerfection is efficiency.
Planets in the habitable zone, the Drake Equation, and the Great Filter

A thought I've wanted to bounce off of LW for a while -- could clothes be a great filter? They allow and encourage on-planet exploration as individuals are able to survive and thrive in climes they're not innately adapted to, and also allow for quick-switching of adaptation for different weather, which seems to aid long-distance communication and trade. While I think that Wikipedia exaggerates slightly when it says that "The wearing of clothing is exclusively a human characteristic" (hermit crabs?), it is nonetheless much rarer than even intellig... (read more)

8Rob Bensinger8yA more likely Great Filter would be a lack of distinct climates, seasons, etc. altogether. The problem that would raise isn't that the species would be too stupid to come up with the idea of tools-to-put-on-your-body (and yet smart enough to otherwise be capable of reasoning and tool use?), but that a lack of variation over time and space would discourage the evolution of generalist or adaptive intelligence in the first place. Instead, all life-bearing planets would be dominated by highly niche-specific super-effective super-simple organisms with no real competition. This seems like a plausible explanation of the Great Silence to me, because very few planets have seasons. If inhabited planets also tend to be 'boring' (e.g., to have a fairly uniform temperature or terrain, or to be sheltered from major asteroid impacts), that could explain why generalist species, including adaptive reasoners, haven't evolved.
6wedrifid10yI'm going with 'No'. How about "insy winsey filter" that is optional? Or you could just subsume 'clothes' into 'technology' and leave it at that.
Content writing offer

I recall similar talk on the Open Cures mailing list for the related topic of protofection. No idea if this is related somehow or not -- who is "we" for the OP?

What if we make better decisions when we trust our gut instincts? [Link]

if you use a correlated but sufficiently game-able proxy for quality, the market will "game" it and make it uncorrelated.

Goodhart's Law?

3Manfred10yRight, that!
Bayesian exercise

A few people have said things that are similar while I was typing this up, but hopefully this still helps: I think the problem is that you're implicitly assigning a probability of 0 to anything other than that one rate. In usual Bayesian analysis, you could imagine the launches as being analogous to a "biased coin." Often success/failure scenarios are modeled as binomial, with a beta distribution describing our degrees of belief for what the "coin" will do. But for simplicity's sake, let's suppose we know that either 1% or 10% of the la... (read more)

[LINK] Want to Sway Climate Change Skeptics? Ask About Their Personal Strengths (And Show Pictures!)

Two ideas are present here, one good, and one especially bad.

The good: You can be more open minded with self-affirmations before looking at politically controversial issues.

The bad: You can maneuver people into agreeing with you by having them go through self-affirmations and then presenting your argument. Note in the original article where they mention previous research doing this to "both" sides regarding the death penalty*. This is bad because it's a fully generalizable rhetorical technique that relies on filtering arguments (yes, a perfect re... (read more)

5Unnamed10y"Filtering" isn't a problem with an argument technique, it's a problem with argument. Every argument is a filtered argument, which means that anything that makes an argument more persuasive makes the filtering problem worse, whether it involves using self-affirmation or conveying ideas clearly. So the "bad" looks to be fully generalizable to all persuasive communication, making all arts dark.
Prisoner's Dilemma Tournament Results

Sort of. When I wrote it and sent it in, it was exactly as you described. Prase noticed and asked if that was actually what I meant, and I said to keep it that way since it sounded interesting, and I thought it had the potential to be a "good bad bug."

Prisoner's Dilemma Tournament Results

Worried way too much about L, among other mistakes. Then again, since it made the simulation run slowly, maybe it's for the best.

1prase10yI have patience, so the results would be delivered even in case of U's survival. But the 1000-generation simulation took almost one hour now, if Us formed majority, it could be half a day or so.
Hacking on LessWrong Just Got Easier

My kudos! It is persnickety software to get fired up initially.

What is the most rational view of Peak Oil and its near term consequences?

I didn't read the Wikipedia article like you asked; it seemed unnecessary for checking a few numbers

There is some brief discussion on the Wikipedia talk page asking why the article is full of projections from 2005 that haven't been updated. I've removed the contradicted EIA statement from Wikipedia since it'd be strange for someone to claim that the EIA in early 2010 had a better estimate of 2010 production than it did in 2011, and put an update tag at the top for the rest.

.

I don't want to link inside LW, so here's an example from outside of what I'm talking about; the apparant attempt to combine generalising from one example with deduction from first principles, and from this find a theory of relationships.

You're pointing to Curi as an example of LW thought?!

0Larks10yNo, I'm pointing to an article by William Godwin, which Curi quoted, as an it is an example of the mistake LWers make.
Rationality Quotes September 2011

There is actually a pre-split thread about this essay on Overcoming Bias, and the notion of "Keep Your Identity Small" has come up repeatedly since then.

6Will_Newsome10yAnd of course "Cached Selves" [http://lesswrong.com/lw/4e/cached_selves/], and especially this comment [http://lesswrong.com/lw/4e/cached_selves/3av] on that post.
Prisoner's Dilemma as a Game Theory Laboratory

I hope the strategy I wrote in PHP is not too obscure. That was quite fun.

0prase10yAlso hope so. Still haven't gone through.
Call for volunteers: clean up the LW issue tracker

A quick status update -- the tracker is down to 52 open issues right now. Roughly half of these look okay to me, and the other half consists of issues that I can't evaluate at a glance. I'll go over my notes again and see if I can do anything with these to find out if they're still relevant, and tag them somehow if not.

Rationality Quotes August 2011

"[Y]ou should be able to kick your own ass in ten minutes or less." - Diana Hsieh, "Modern Paleo Principles"

In addition to the general interest around here in Paleo-style diets, compare to my similar August 2010 quote.

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