All of Pablo's Comments + Replies

Answer by PabloJan 08, 202442

To my knowledge, there is currently no method that will generate a reasonably exhaustive list of all the languages a given book has been translated into. I use a combination of Worldcat, Wikipedia, Amazon and Google.

Greg Lewis discusses this at length here.

Metaculus generates lots of valuable metrics besides the "meaningless internet points" about which Zvi and others complained. If Yudkowsky had predicted regularly, he would have been able to know e.g. how well-calibrated he is, how his Brier score evolved over time, how it compares to the community's, etc.

There is no need to create a Flashcards tag when we already have Spaced repetition.

Keynes's view of Leninism seems similar to Russell's, and may have been influenced by it. Here's a quote from The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism (published in 1920):

Bolshevism is not merely a political doctrine; it is also a religion, with elaborate dogmas and inspired scriptures. When Lenin wishes to prove some proposition, he does so, if possible, by quoting texts from Marx and Engels. A full-fledged Communist is not merely a man who believes that land and capital should be held in common, and their produce distributed as nearly equally as possible. H

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Thanks for the explanation.

Speaking personally, I would much prefer that contributions judged to make an article net worse be reverted than downvoted, both because this gives the contributor much clearer feedback and because it improves the quality of the article, relative to the opinion of the user deciding whether to downvote or revert. If other users disagree with that assessment, the karma system can perhaps then be used to resolve the disagreement, or to at least contribute to a resolution by conveying a signal whose meaning is now much easier to disc... (read more)

I'm not sure how to interpret the downvoting of a recent edit I made. I simply clarified a sentence and replaced a dead link with the version archived by the Wayback Machine. Downvoting substantive posts without providing an explanation is often justified given the difficulty associated with pinpointing the nature of a complex disagreement, or because the signal the downvote is meant to convey is relatively clear from the context. But with a simple, atomic edit that seems unambiguously (very mildly) positive, at least from a commonsense perspective, such unexplained downvotes are apt to leave an editor puzzled and unable to draw any valuable lessons, except perhaps that they should simply abstain from contributing in the future.

The change feels to me like it made the page slightly worse. You added verbosity that's relevant to Overcoming Bias, but not to Robin Hanson, which dilutes the article (or just that sentence). This is way below the cutoff for what I would revert, so the downvote is a weaker signal than that. The voting volume on wiki edits is unfortunately too low, so any vote is likely to stay as it is, without reflecting a wider attitude of the readership. One use case where such downvoting becomes productive is if an edit gets significantly downvoted (which should sort it to the top, not hide it, I'm not sure how it's currently implemented), and that prompts someone to revert or re-edit. I was using the heuristic of only being careful with downvoting new users, which you are not, but it's a good point that wiki editing should be considered on its own, and there's currently almost no wiki editing going on, so one should err on the side of encouraging more activity. You also don't have many recent comments, maybe such things should also generally be taken into account, though it requires opening the user page to check. Some sort of "low recent activity, be welcoming" indicator in the mouseover popup on the usernames for those with less than N posts/comments in the last M months might help.


This week, I’ll spend 40–50 hours in Virtual Reality (Immersed), like I did last week and every (work) week for the last 2½ years. It’s not just fun and games — there are plenty of those, along with exercise, meditation, creativity, socializing, etc. — but for this article, I’m only focusing on (and counting) the work.

Yes, really: 8–10 hours a day strapped in. I’ve encountered a fair amount of skepticism about both the technology and the general premise, many nit-picks about the software, or how it fails to match some preconception about how things “should” work.

I decided to switch to Emacs 1.5 years ago, and I feel it's the most important computing decision I made since... starting to use a computer? I may write a more detailed post on what things I use Emacs for, but here I just wanted to endorse the above recommendation, including its caveats ("Don't bother with it though if you don't have some time to invest in learning it"), and emphasize that Emacs can fulfill many needs besides "code editor" (I am not a programmer myself).

Thanks, but this post is no longer updated and the link is not broken on my website. (If you think that's confusing, despite the notice at the top, I may consider replacing its contents with just a link, though retaining the content may make it more discoverable.)

Thanks for the update!

chaotic History of Economic Analysis

The word 'chaotic' was an adjective I chose to describe the book's content, rather than part of the book's title. :)

1Yoav Ravid3y
whoops, fixed it :)

Related to the ReplicationMarkets example: on Metaculus, there is an entire category of self-resolving questions, where resolution is at least in part determined by how users predict the question will resolve. We have seen at least one instance of manipulation of such questions. And there is even a kind of meta-self-resolving question, asking users to predict what the sentiment of Metaculus users will be with regard to self-resolving questions.

Looks pretty fun!

The probability I would assign to #8 intuitively is about 0,41. Math based on my other three predictions yields (doing the calculation now) 0.476. I am going to predict the math output rather than my intuition.

I think the correct response to this realization is not to revise your final answer so as to make it consistent with the first three. It is to revise all four answers so that they are maximally intuitive, subject to the constraint that they be jointly consistent. Which answer comes last is just an artifact of the order of presentation, so it isn't a rational basis for privileging some answers over others.

4Adam Zerner3y
I think this question needs clarification. It's one thing to have a button that basically links to Ought (perhaps with some text explaining how it works; or perhaps Ought would have a specific landing page for LW that explains how it works). It's another thing for the the experience to be self-contained inside of LW, eg. where you wouldn't have to leave and go to I'd say 90% likelihood for the former since it is simple and I sense that the LW team would judge it to be worth it, but maybe 20% for the latter since a) it is complex, b) I sense that there are other high priority things they'd like to get to, and c) I worry that usage of this feature will fizzle out due to my reasoning in the parent comment, and with usage fizzling out I expect that it'd fall down the LW team's priority list.
Community once again seems too optimistic, prior is just very heavily that most possible features never ship.

The contracts are denominated in USD, and they pay in that currency. But you trade on margin, and the collateral can be in any currency (crypto or fiat). In your example, you get back the BTC plus 15% of what that BTC was worth in USD when you made the trade. 

Incidentally, TRUMPFEB is now trading at 0.16 (i.e. implied 16% chance that Trump is president next February). This looks insane to me (and I have bet accordingly). I'd be curious if you or others have further thoughts on what might be going on.

What were (or are now) the best places for US persons interested in betting significant crypto sums?

I'm not sure I understand your argument, given that FTX allows traders to keep balances in both USD and BTC, but in any case historically FTX prices have been in line with Betfair/PredictIt prices, so I doubt this consideration is relevant.

I haven't used FTX because illegal in USA slash usual worries. So you could deposit BTC, bet on the election, and if you win always get back your BTC+15%? Or not?

I'm too lazy to look it up, but I did research this a couple of weeks ago and found that 538 had indeed outperformed the markets both in 2008 and 2016 (I wasn't able to find data for 2012). This is not very informative, though, since it's just a couple of cases. Much better is to look at the state-level predictions and use brier scores as a measure of forecasting performance.

9Alex K. Chen (parrot)3y
538 totally outperformed in 2012 on intrade - it seems like there were whales pushing up the romney price on intrade.
And this year too. I agree about the small sample size if we're just asking "Who will be president?" We should use every one of 538's predictions that could have been used to make a bet in a liquid betting market. If a profitable set of Kelly/Markowitz bets (under all election orderings) has a worse Brier score than the market's Brier score, I'd be more interested in the profit of the bets, since we're talking about betting money.

man do I wish that there was just one large market with minimal fees

Such a market exists, though unfortunately it is restricted to countries where most LW users are not citizens of.

Only the first article in the comment is by Silver, on whose expertise the original poster is basing his recommendation. That article doesn't discuss mail-in ballots or voter suppression, and in fact his main point is that the time remaining until election day (almost three months when the article was written) combined with uncertainties due to Covid-19 meant that the race was still open back then. Those considerations have much more limited force at present, when only 16 days remain, and Biden's lead has widened considerably. 

If you've been at all li... (read more)

2Liam Donovan3y
This model seems reasonable, but I think bettors should mostly ignore the possibility of rejected mail in ballots, because the effect is extremely uncertain and around the same magnitude as many other idiosyncratic factors that should mostly wash out. For example, if there's severe weather or an outbreak of COVID on election day in a crucial swing state, that will hurt Trump much more than Biden because a much greater proportion of his voters are voting by mail (essentially the "rejected in person ballots" effect you mention). 
1Randomized, Controlled3y
The 538 distribution currently has Biden falling between... <squints> ~255 - 440 electoral votes 80% of the time (47% - 82%). Updating your guesstimate sheet with those ranges give a mean proportion to Trump of .38 with a range of .17 - 0.54

The book is dedicated "for Peter, who convinced me". Maybe that mysterious Peter is the ultimate cause of Christian's interest in Al alignment and his decision to write a book about it?

Seems like you were right, and the Peter in question is Peter Eckersley. I just saw in this post: That post did not link to a source, but I found this tweet where Brian Christian says:

Makes sense! Thanks for the explanation.

a frustratingly well-paywalled, yet exhaustive, complete and informative overview of the IARPA's FOCUS tournament

Since you quote from a section that is behind the paywall, I assume you have access to the article. If so, could you make it available? Or just send it to me ( and I'll upload it to my site and post a link to it here and on LW. Thanks!

I got sent it to me by the author of the article with the explicit request not to do that. I tried to check whether I could access it through any of my usual methods (disabling javascript, looking in the internet archive, using various extensions etc.), but realized I couldn't. I thought about not adding it to the newsletter at all, but realized that in this case, I actually respect their monetization model, and I liked the piece. In particular, this piece doesn't seem particularly clickbaity, a la SSC's Problems With Paywalls; instead it's a pretty good and lengthy feature article which took someone maybe a week (?) to write (the pdf version of the article is 16 pages). In contrast, other non-paywalled news media (I'm thinking of Forbes here) sometimes/usually cover forecasting questions so, so terribly. So that's my starting point. If you or other readers prefer not to see this kind of thing, I'm all ears.

Thanks for writing this—just a couple of days ago I thought it might be a good idea to get food pedals.

Since you use Karabiner, have you considered using goku to create "complex modifications"? It might help you make your keyboard more ergonomic and hence ease your wrist pain. I personally like to use the spacebar as a modifier key, and control the arrow keys with spacebar-j / k / l / i. You can also set spacebar-a / s / d / f to delete letter/word forward/backward. I actually have hundreds of modifications, but these are amongst the most ... (read more)

Answer by PabloAug 10, 202010


Also it is good that you had here an example of something that a lot of people would view as a negative case (making the invention of the hydrogen bomb faster).

There's also the example of a work without which the Russian Revolution, and the subsequent deaths of tens of millions of people in famines and mass killings, may not have occurred. But until you mentioned it, I hadn't realized that fiction appears to be more often credited with having a positive than a negative influence, whereas for philosophy the reverse seems to be the case. Would be interesting to move beyond impressions and come up with a more rigorous way of testing this.

Some examples (I'm considering fiction generally and not just written fiction):

  • The film The Day After was seen by 100 million Americans and was instrumental in changing Reagan’s nuclear policy.
    • «President Ronald Reagan watched the film several days before its screening, on November 5, 1983. He wrote in his diary that the film was "very effective and left me greatly depressed," and that it changed his mind on the prevailing policy on a "nuclear war". The film was also screened for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A government a
... (read more)
3Timothy Underwood4y
Thanks for those examples. I have been looking for cases of movies also. Also it is good that you had here an example of something that a lot of people would view as a negative case (making the invention of the hydrogen bomb faster). What surprised me and conflicted with my intuitions is the way that works of art pushing already highly familiar ideas that already had lots of artistic works about them are capable of still having a huge effect if they catch the public imagination in either a way previous works hadn't, or that this particular generation of movie goers hadn't been affected. Obviously The Day After and The Holocaust were not the first movies about those subjects, nor even the first hugely popular and successful movies about those successes (or even in the case of The Day After the first movie that is credited with substantially improving popular awareness on the subject). But despite the fact that it would seem like something which had already been done, there seems to be a clear argument that each had an important effect on the margin. I'm pretty sure it is actually the same case with the classic slavery example of Uncle Tom's Cabin. I mean, I don't know much of anything about the history, but on reflection it would be very surprising to me if it was the first popular novel focused on the theme of slavery being terrible. And there had at that point been a century of abolitionist activity as a central theme of political life. But it still plausibly had an important marginal influence. This makes me update away from my view that writing books pushing specifically an AI safety angle wouldn't be useful because it has already been done and people are aware of the ideas. Though I still think that ideas about how to make sure that there is a decent distribution of resources that can make a post human labor society an actually good thing for almost everyone are far more neglected.

To reasonably conclude that PredictIt's limits are "limits of prediction markets"—as your title asserts—you need to show either that the other existing prediction markets also exhibit these limits, or that there is a fundamental theoretical reason for expecting such limits to be exhibited by any prediction market. As far as I can tell, you do neither. (You do say that «similar analysis is applicable to any [prediction market]», but you never justify this assertion. In fact, of the six problems you note, I think the only one that may be plausibly claimed to be inherent to prediction markets is #4, and even that one may be potentially solvable.)

Agreed - 4/ is solved by allowing margin. (Although margin is trickier if the event can suddenly resolve to 0 or 1 at any time, I think there are even solutions to this)

Of course genetics isn't everything. This is recognized in the third law of behavioral genetics. Researchers who rely on twin studies do not assume otherwise.

The post addresses this worry:

you might worry about a correlation/causation problem with that kind of statement. However, there have also been several twin studies that help eliminate this bias.

There is, however, another worry unaddressed by those studies, which wolajacy raises in their comment. This is the debate between the 'human capital' and 'signaling' theories of education, covered extensively in Bryan Caplan's book, The case against education. Even if years of education cause—rather than correlate with—increase... (read more)

1Brendan Long4y
I don't think twin studies entirely answer this since genetics isn't everything. I've known several genetically-identical twins and none of them had identical personalities.

Thanks for answering my question. I'd personally assign a ~5% chance [EDIT: on reflection, perhaps closer to 10%] to that hypothesis. If you can think of a way to operationalize our disagreement, I'd be interested in arranging a bet.

By "operationalize our disagreement," do you mean agreeing on what wou. I'm now more confident in my position. He's evidently volunteered to be a champion of the cause and take the heat, and the interview suggests he's thought a lot about the issue and how it works. So he would know how to "game" it. But it's evident he's not taking responsibility for the letter and probalby never will--it's not like Literally as I'm writing this, I just saw that Pinker did an interview. I'm now more confident in my position. He's evidently volunteered to be a champion of the cause and take the heat, and the interview suggests he's thought a lot about the issue and how it works. So he would know how to observe it and "game" it, and he's not afraid. But it's evident he's not taking responsibility for the letter and probably never will if he was behind it--it's not clever enough to brag about. But it would have given him reason to step in to the fray and highlight certain things, which he obviously wants to do. He says that “It’s important that there be a public voice, a focal point to break what is sometimes called a spiral of silence." ETA: I should clarify that this is technically a different position---I was lumping them together under "he is in on it," but I no longer think it is mostly about inoculation. More about the other possibility I suggested: "Or perhaps it was a plan by him and others to send the debate in a specific direction that they could more easily address."
The one that seems most likely to me is Pinker preemptively canceling himself to inoculate against future attempts. I don't think it's outlandish. And I think it is quite possible that Pinker has some Machiavelli in him.

What's your credence in this hypothesis?

I assume you are asking me to give a probability....maybe 40%. The last few months have been so weird that it's harder for me to assess this than it normally would be---I have a feeling I'm not tracking the full range of plausible motives now in operation. I also don't follow Pinker very closely so I don't have a great sense of his behavior, tactics, and values. But the information given in this post seems to me strong evidence that this isn't what it appears to be, and Pinker seems by far the person with the most to gain from it (and the most to lose from not trying to preempt it.) It would almost certainly involve cooperation by others who want to see if the technique works and think Pinker is a good trial balloon (his steady, optimistic personality is ideal for this, and he has prominent detractors rising to his defense, which gives momentum), but it wouldn't work without his active participation.
That would be because they disagree with the consensus in EA about what constitutes 'the most impactful,' 'the greatest welfare,' and/or 'rigorous reasoning.'

I said that the belief must be reached from welfarist premises and rigorous reasoning, not from what the organization believes are welfarist premises and rigorous reasoning.

If they were sufficient, any NPO that could identify as an EA-aligned organization would do so.

I'm not sure what you mean by this. And it seems clear to me that lots of nonprofit orgs would not classify as EA orgs given my proposed criterion (note the clarification above).

I think it would be correct to classify it entirely as an x-risk org and not as an EA org. I don't think it does any EA-style analysis of what it should work on that is not captured under x-risk analysis, and I think that people working to do things like, say, fight factory farming, should never expect support from BERI (via the direct work BERI does).

I think it's worth noting that an org can be an EA org even if it focuses exclusively on one cause area, such as x-risk reduction. What seems to matter is (1) that such a focus was chosen because in... (read more)

What seems to matter is (1) that such a focus was chosen because interventions in that area are believed to be the most impactful, and (2) that this belief was reached from (a) welfarist premises and (b) rigorous reasoning of the sort one generally associates with EA.

This seems like a thin concept of EA. I know there are organizations who choose to pursue interventions based on them being in an area they believe to be (among) the most impactful, and based on welfarist premises and rigorous reasoning. Yet they don't identify as EA organizations. That ... (read more)

4Ben Pace4y

Another example I just discovered: Wikipedia classifies Quillette as an unreliable source; by contrast, Vox, The Nation, Mother Jones are all considered reliable sources. I don't often read Quillette, but my sense is that a criterion that generates this classification can't be defended as unbiased.

Whether a source is classified as reliable or unreliable can shape the content of Wikipedia articles in major ways, because only statements backed up by sources deemed reliable are admissible. If the list of reliable sources is skewed in a particular direction, so will be the articles.

There's also a similar question on Polymarket, a new prediction market. (Note that the Metaculus question is conditional on the NYT publishing a story on Scott, whereas the Polymarket is unconditional.)

When Eliezer and others talk about "civilizational inadequacy", they generally refer to something much broader than the United States. Eliezer mentions the example of Japan's monetary policy, for instance. He also contrasts the civilizational inadequacy thesis with "the view that in general, on most issues, the average opinion of humanity will be a better and less biased guide to the truth than my own judgment." (emphasis added) And he relies (I think) on that thesis to draw conclusions about how he expects humanity to handle AI ri... (read more)

I'm not sure I understand your response. Yes, the series of updates is clearly focused on the United States, but your claim is that "civilization" explains why the US handled Covid-19 so poorly. Since human civilization is a factor present in all countries in the world, the fact that other countries handled Covid-19 very differently constitutes evidence against the "civilizational inadequacy" hypothesis. That your post wasn't focused on these other countries seems irrelevant.

The claim is not that civilization itself is inadequate. It's that a particular civilization is inadequate. The "civilizational inadequacy" hypothesis is not that civilization = bad. It's that a particular civilization is not living up to the standard of what you would expect from a well-functioning civilization. Maybe it seems odd to describe different countries as different civilizations, but the fact that different countries have different outcomes seems very much in line with the "civilizational inadequacy" hypothesis, as I understand Zvi to be using the term.

Thanks. I'm not sure how to implement those suggestions on Wordpress, but I'll add them to the list of possible improvements.

Yeah, Wordpress isn't the best platform for this. I could imagine clear ways of doing this by having, say, python scripts to ingest the data, running, say, hourly on cloud servers, and then producing RSS for that could then be used in Wordpress - but I'm guessing there are people on here who would have far better ideas for how to engineer this.

I maintain EA Blogs. Although this is tangential to the original question, if anyone has suggestions on either additional blogs to include or possible general improvements, please contact me or leave a comment below.

Given OP's question, an obvious, if perhaps annoying / difficult idea to implement, is to have an expandable [+] next to each post which allows seeing it on that site, and a nested expandable button to see comments. I'm unsure how happy or unhappy people who are indexed would be with this for non EA Forum / LW blogs.
There's also a similar question on Polymarket, a new prediction market. (Note that the Metaculus question is conditional on the NYT publishing a story on Scott, whereas the Polymarket is unconditional.)
I think that even if the NYT doesn't dox Scott in a first article, his identity is now part of the story, and he'll be doxed in various major media, probably including a second article from the NYT.
8Matt Goldenberg4y
Woah, that's fancy. When did that happen?

As a side note, I strongly recommend the uBlacklist extension Mati mentions for preventing toxic websites from appearing on your search results (e.g. a certain "rational" wiki that writes cruel stuff about people they dislike).

1Rudi C4y
Can you give me a headsup on RationalWiki? It did not shout "unfair bullshit" to me. Are their facts wrong or are they just mean?

Great post.

Gwern points to expert opinion that visual thinking ability might be second only to IQ in terms of intellectual importance.

Do you happen to remember the source for this? A quick Google search didn't help.

EDIT: Found it (I think):

an emphasis on spatial reasoning & visualization ability was one of the reasons behind SMPY choosing to use SAT-M for screening, as one of the theses is that, after general intelligence, visuospatial reasoning (as opposed to the more academically-prized glibness & verbal ability) may be the next most importa
... (read more)
Yep that's the one!

This is my anecdotal impression as a long-time Wikipedia editor (I started contributing in 2003). I can't offer concrete evidence other than my testimony, because this impression was formed in the course of observing subtle instances of bias on countless occasions, rather than encountering any one egregious incident. (Though on reflection I can cite two not-so-subtle examples illustrative of the phenomenon I have in mind: first, the labelling of cryonics as "quackery"; and secondly, the blacklisting of Econlib.)

The biases I noticed are in the left-wing and... (read more)

Another example I just discovered: Wikipedia classifies Quillette as an unreliable source; by contrast, Vox, The Nation, Mother Jones are all considered reliable sources. I don't often read Quillette, but my sense is that a criterion that generates this classification can't be defended as unbiased. Whether a source is classified as reliable or unreliable can shape the content of Wikipedia articles in major ways, because only statements backed up by sources deemed reliable are admissible. If the list of reliable sources is skewed in a particular direction, so will be the articles.
Answer by PabloJun 11, 202015

I just found that such a resource exists for philosophy, in case it is of interest to others: Meta-Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

On reflection, I guess it makes sense that the philosophers would be among the first to "go meta".

Red Pen Reviews does something like this for health and nutrition books. I am not aware of similar initiatives for books in other scientific fields.

I like FiveThirtyEight, but it's not the sort of publication you can refer to for "what happened in the past 3 days" (except for very specific events like 'how much Trump's popularity changed in the intervening period').

I second the Financial Times recommendation.

This argument has long been known, and much discussed. See e.g. Jacob Ross, Rejecting ethical deflationism and William MacAskill, The infectiousness of nihilism.

Recurring Freedom session across all my devices (laptop, phone, tablet) set to disable all apps and most websites (including messaging, news, and discussion sites) 30 minutes before bedtime every night.

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