All of phob's Comments + Replies

Are wireheads happy?

This is a really good point. On the other hand, it is a more convincing argument for stronger interventionist policy than it is against charity.

Is it immoral to have children?

I am not average person, you don't look to be one either.

Fair enough, but I still don't think I am very good at predicting whether I'll be happier with children. I also doubt that other people who do think they will be happier are very accurate. Humans are notoriously bad at determining what will make them happy/unhappy. I'm thinking in particular about the study about lottery winners vs. amputee victim from Dan Gilbert's TED talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_gilbert_asks_why_are_we_happy.html.

if your idea of meaningful life is improving the world

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Is it immoral to have children?

There is variance in happiness, yes, but studies have shown that having children does not on average result in higher hedonic happiness, although it does increase a sense of living a meaningful life. If you doubt this, I can dig up the reference; I think it was actually referred to in the Rachaels paper. I said "certainly not", but that wasn't meant to be taken literally; of course it's not certain that you'll be equally or less happy with children.

I think I didn't word the second sentence correctly. I was trying to make the point that having ... (read more)

0Lumifer8yI am not average person, you don't look to be one either. Well, again, it depends. For some people "meaningful life" has nothing to do with improving the world. And if your idea of meaningful life is improving the world, I don't see how you can have a sense of meaning and at the same time be aware that you're not "doing reasonably well".
Is it immoral to have children?

Certainly not if you're trying to maximize your hedonic happiness. But children do not increase hedonic happiness; they increase your sense of living a meaningful life. To maximize the actual meaning of your life, you must use estimates of the impact of your decisions; whether or not this affects your perceived sense of meaning depends on how seriously you take moral arguments.

0Lumifer8yI think both of your statements are true for some people and not true for others. They are not general rules. What is the actual meaning of my life?
Spaced Repetition Database for A Human's Guide to Words

I have the Anki iphone app. Considering the utility and convenience it provides, the price is negligible. For comparison, at a private college, tuition/# of classes ~= $200 / class, so as I use anki for schoolwork, it easily pays for itself.

If you do any sort of utility calculation for products you use, a lot of times convenience will trump price by orders of magnitude. This is one of those cases.

Spaced Repetition Database for A Human's Guide to Words

Thank you! I was planning on setting up a system for piano and guitar and I wasn't really sure what would work. This sounds great =]

1shokwave11yNote that it might work better if you simply play the riff or theme once; my system has this weird time dynamic where some cards can take 5 minutes and be repeated three or four times, where others take 5 seconds and are dismissed first time around. This may not play nice with the spaced repetition algorithms.
Spaced Repetition Database for A Human's Guide to Words
  • Normal flashcards should be all equally difficult: as easy as possible. The idea is to break everything down into atomic facts; this makes it so you can't short-circuit a difficult card by just memorizing the answer; by memorizing all the parts, you still have the whole.

  • If you really want to drill one sub-deck, you can choose "cram mode" , and select the tag of the cards you want to review.

  • I don't use anki for languages, but to learn conjugations of verbs, I would have many example sentences with a "... " where the verb should

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3MikkW1yIn my experience, I've found this to not be as true as it seems. I originally had many of my cards as atomic as possible, based on what Piotr Wozniak suggests, but while I had each individual part memorized, they all seemed to hang loosely connected, without a vivid thread holding it all together. Two clear examples for me are memorizing chess moves and poetry: Originally I'd memorize poems line by line, with each line shown in its surrounding context to prompt me, and chess games move-by-move, prompted by the state of the board at that moment. I later experimented with more coarse chunks, where a single card would represent an entire stanza of a poem, or 10 ply of moves from a high-tier chess game. The cards took longer per interaction, but only a little longer (since I didn't have to switch contexts, increasing short-term flow), and the relativly fewer number of cards needed to represent the information more than made up for the longer reviews. But the most important benefit was that things suddenly became much clearer for me. Instead of being vaguely aware of the contours of the poems, I would find myself reciting them wholesale in the shower, unprompted (even fairly long poems like Tennyson's Ulysses, which clocks in at 70 lines - which, by the way, I shudder at the thought of trying to memorize line-by-line, like I have some shorter poems). Suddenly, I would see an entire series of chess moves as being deeply interconnected, in a way I never noticed trying to memorize those same moves one at a time. The main benefit I thought atomization would provide, namely that each element would be readily available for combination with other, seemingly unrelated ideas, I don't really notice much loss of. While each element is richly situated in an existing context, I can easily pluck that idea out of that context to join it with ideas from another, but the richness of the existing context makes it much easier to get a handle on that idea in the first place

Unconventional decks like having anki cards for a whole piano piece or problem in a textbook might work

I have used Anki for learning bass guitar parts to songs, and I found this method: break a piece up into individual riffs or themes, make flashcards with the "[name of song] [riff or theme sheet music / tablature]". Add in flashcards that use cloze deletion on a list of how the riffs progress (intro -> verse -> ... -> verse -> chorus -> coda, for example, deleting chorus) and you have 10-20 cards, depending on complexity. I als... (read more)

Spaced Repetition Database for A Human's Guide to Words

Thank you so much for posting this! I use anki a lot, and your Mysterious Questions deck has been a great help =]

1marchdown11yCare to share your experiences with Anki? I'm just starting using it, and I have several qualms and questions. First of all, what is the proper way to select a sub-deck with hard cards and drill through them repeatedly? Second, if you are learning languages, what is your approach to grammatical notes and multiple word forms, and, generally, what do you do when you need to have more that just two pieces of information linked, as it is often the case with irregular verbs? Hope you don't mind my asking.
Circular Altruism

Rational yes, if other people know of the decision. If you never find out the result of the gamble, are not held responsible and have your memory wiped, then all confounding interests are wiped except the desire for people not to die. Only then are the irrational options actually irrational.

Circular Altruism

Want to put a time scale on that?

Circular Altruism

So you wouldn't pay one cent to prevent 3^^^3 people from getting a dust speck in their eye?

4Hul-Gil11ySure. My loss of utility from losing the cent might be less than the gain in utility for those people to not get dust specks - but these are both what Ben might consider trivial events; it doesn't address the problem Ben Jones has with the assumption of a continuous scale. I'm not sure I'd pay $100 for any amount of people to not get specks in their eyes, because now we may have made the jump to a non-trivial cost for the addition of trivial payoffs.
Circular Altruism

Would you pay one cent to prevent one googleplex of people from having a momentary eye irration?

Torture can be put on a money scale as well: many many countries use torture in war, but we don't spend huge amounts of money publicizing and shaming these people (which would reduce the amount of torture in the world).

In order to maximize the benefit of spending money, you must weigh sacred against unsacred.

4AndyC8yThere's an interesting paper on microtransactions and how human rationality can't really handle decisions about values under a certain amount. The cognitive effort of making a decision outweighs the possible benefits of making the decision. How much time would you spend making a decision about how to spend a penny? You can't make a decision in zero time, it's not physically possible. Rationally you have to round off the penny, and the spec of dust.
4jeremysalwen9yI certainly wouldn't pay that cent if there was an option of preventing 50 years of torture using that cent. There's nothing to say that my utility function can't take values in the surreals.
Rationality Quotes: December 2010

I suspect the answer is "making as much money as I possibly can", and he's doing much better than all of us. He can convert that to other forms of value later.

Reason as memetic immune disorder

Safest, but maybe not the only safe way?

Why not make a recursively improving AI in some strongly typed language who provably can only interact with the world through printing names of stocks to buy?

How about one that can only make blueprints for star ships?

Eight Short Studies On Excuses

Is that really a bias? The fact that they are allied or not with you is some information about what they are likely to do.

7NancyLebovitz11yIt's some information, but I think it's very tempting (confirmation bias, halo/horns effects) to wildly overestimate how much information you've got.
Metaphilosophical Mysteries

A priori, as intelligent beings, we expect the universe at our scale to be immensely complex, since it produced us. I don't view our inability to explain fully phenomena at our scale as unreasonable non-effectiveness.

5Baughn11yWe should perhaps expect that, but I didn't actually do so until you mentioned it; not for the reasons you stated, at least not as quite that short and obvious a sentence. Bravo.
Torture vs. Dust Specks

People are being tortured, and it wouldn't take too much money to prevent some of it. Obviously, there is already a price on torture.

Torture vs. Dust Specks

So if someone would pay a penny, they should pick torture if it were 3^^^^3 people getting dust specks, which makes it suspect that they understood 3^^^3 in the first place.

Torture vs. Dust Specks

So because there is a continuum between the right answer (lots of torture) and the wrong answer (3^^^3 horribly blinded people), you would rather blind those people?

4Manfred11yNah, he was pretty clearly challenging the use of induction in the above post. The larger problem is assuming linearity in an obviously nonlinear situation - this also explains why the induction appears to work either way. Applying 1 pound of force to someone's kneecap is simply not 1/10th as bad as applying 10 pounds of force to someone's kneecap [http://www.sluggy.com/images/comics/001018a.gif].
Torture vs. Dust Specks

You're avoiding the question. What if a penny was automatically payed for you each time in the future to avoid dust specks floating in your eye? The question is whether the dust speck is worth at least a negative penny of disutility. For me, I would say yes.

One Life Against the World

I don't see why they should be more valuable. From a selfish perspective, it might feel worse to lose someone you know, but from a charitable perspective, I don't value someone merely because I am familiar with them.

One Life Against the World

Utilitarianism to the rescue, then.

3AndyC8yUtilitarianism is unlikely to rescue anyone from the conundrum (unless it's applied in the most mindless way -- in which case, you might as well not think about it). There's an obvious social benefit to being secure against being randomly sacrificed for the benefit of others. You're not going to be able to quantify the utility of providing everyone in society this benefit as a general social principle, and weigh the benefit of consistency on that point against the benefit of violating the principle in any given instance, any more easily than you could have decided the issue without any attempt at quantification.
One Life Against the World

Yes. We just aren't socially condemned for it.

Spaced Repetition Database for the Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions Sequence

This is really useful; thanks! I've been using Anki for little over a year now, and I've found it very useful for classes and learning programming. I really like this application, and I'd love to see any more decks that you happen to make. I'll definitely start my own next time I go back and read through the archives.

July 2010 Southern California Meetup

I can't make this one. Sorry to bail at the last minute. -- Paul Hobbs