philh

philh's Comments

Could someone please start a bright home lighting company?

I don’t have a robust way of estimating ambient light

Did you consider buying a lux meter?

I've ordered one of these, so I hope I'm not missing something.

Is daily caffeine consumption beneficial to productivity?

I read him as making additional claims, not just entirely different ones.

Explaining why false ideas spread is more fun than why true ones do

I think I'd expect to find chapters like that even if the book was written by an adherent of the religion or of communism. If I'm right, that seems to somewhat point away from "if it's true, we don't feel the need to explain it".

Possible complicating factors there are belief-in-belief effects, the knowledge that other people don't believe the thing, and desire to evangelize.

In Defense of Kegan

So this is "replies to some objections to Kegan", and not "positive reasons to think Kegan is useful", yes? That is, it won't convince anyone that they should pay attention to Kegan, but if they've been previously convinced that they shouldn't, it might change their mind.

I confess I had been hoping for the positive reasons, but if it's not what you were going for, then fair enough.

Basically everyone trusts experts in math because it’s far from lived experience and we agree that mathematicians are the math experts even though we can only easily validate the veracity of the simplest mathematical claims without training.

Note that people do have some mathematical intuitions, and are willing to argue with experts on them. See the Monty Hall problem, or the question of whether 0.999... = 1.

it feels easy to reject what doesn’t feel true when it’s something we have a lot of experience with and can easily gather data on.

This heuristic seems basically correct, to me. I would expect people's gut instincts to be more accurate when they have a lot of experience and can easily gather data.

(I feel weird making this comment after you said you probably weren't going to defend the article. But not making this comment because you had said that, would seem like a mistake. Obviously, don't feel obliged to respond.)

Is this info on zinc lozenges accurate?

Huh, yeah. Thanks for pointing that out.

Annoyingly, "the stearate isn't a problem" doesn't answer the question, which is about stearic acid. I assume he meant to say that stearic acid is fine too, but I've posted a comment there to clarify.

Units of Action

My point is that "men" do seem to me like a unit of action. In the sense that - sometimes - you can usefully think of "men" as a group and make decisions based on considerations like "if we do this, men will do that".

but… well, nor does ev­ery mem­ber of an agency sue a com­pany to­gether.

It is also true that ev­ery­one in the com­pany didn’t do some­thing worth get­ting sued over. The in­tu­ition here is that the peo­ple that make up the agency are not a vi­able way to an­a­lyze what the agency is do­ing, even where it is tech­ni­cally fea­si­ble; they are the wrong unit of anal­y­sis.

To clarify my intent here: the bit you quoted wasn't "and here's why an agency isn't a unit of action", it was a "that proves too much" reply to one possible answer you might give for why "men" aren't a unit of action. But it seems you aren't giving that answer.

Where do you see value be­ing lost?

I feel like the value of an abstraction is that you can think about fewer objects. If you can only work with an abstraction by taking its component objects and breaking them down to their component objects, then it's not clear in what sense you're actually abstracting.

Units of Action

I feel like the range of useful abstractions is wider than you give credit for.

So, a government agency sues a company for breach of regulations. In many ways it acts as a unit; in others not. For example, the company may decide to blackmail (the head of the agency) into pressuring (the leader of the team pursuing the case) into dropping it or flubbing the investigation or something. You won't get very far thinking of the agency as a unit, if that happens.

(I don't think you would disagree with that, but it seemed worth making explicit.)

Going in the other direction... I think broad demographics sometimes can be usefully thought of as units. Someone making a movie might (correctly) say "if we include this aspect, then more men will see the film". It's true that "men" don't all watch a movie together, but... well, nor does every member of an agency sue a company together. If the agency can still be a unit, why not "men"?

(Because there's no explicit coordination between them as a group? But if you have to consider internal communication, the abstraction seems to lose value. Because the action "watch a movie" is performed by individuals? But the action "spend $x million on Cinema tickets" is performed by a group; and the action "submit a document to the court" is performed by an individual.)

How to Improve Your Sleep

Do not use your bed for anything except sleep; that is, do not read, watch television, eat, or worry in bed. Sexual activity is the only exception to this rule. On such occasions, the instructions are to be followed afterward when you intend to go to sleep.

I have trouble parsing that last sentence. Could you clarify?

Why is sexual activity an exception, and what counts as sexual activity? E.g. does masturbation?

Two explanations for variation in human abilities

Do you have a citation for this?

I've heard a similar story, but different in some details, and in that story the second group did not end up competent programmers. And I think I've also heard that the story I first heard didn't replicate or something like that. So I don't know what to think.

Door Ideas

I'm not sure how feasible this is, but could you have a hinge on the middle of the door that's locked in place until something puts pressure on a point near the hinge? Then that pressure could be supplied by (something jutting out from?) the corner the door is meant to be bending around. It acts like a single solid door until it reaches full swing, and only then the annoying extra bit separates to fold around.

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