qbolec

Posts

Sorted by New

Alternative to Bayesian Score

Book review: "Feeling Great" by David Burns

I also have difficulties in applying this techniques on adults, of the "Me mad?No shit Sherlock!" kind. I'm not fluent with it yet, but what I've observed is that the more sincere I am, and the more my tone matches the tone of the other person, the better the results. I think this explains big chunk of "don't use that tone of voice on me!" responses I've got in my life, which I used to find strange [as I personally pay much more attention to the content of the text/speech, not the tone/style/form], but recently I've realized that this can be quite a rational response from someone who reads the cues from both content AND form, and seeing a mismatch, decides which of the two is easier to forge, and which one is the "real" message [perhaps based on their experience, in which controlling emotions is more difficult].

Also, I agree that the "paraphrase the emotions" only maps to the "positive reframing" part. In my eyes the analogy extended also beyond this single step into the pattern of using this discharge step as a necessary step to use some other rationally obvious thing, which you really think should work on its own in theory (like the “Classic CBT”-ish self-talk), but in practice you need to prepare the ground for it.

Indeed there seems to be no analog of "Magical dial" in the "How to talk.." approach. There are some fragments of the book though which teach how to extract the goals/needs/fears of the child and then help them construct a solution which achieves those goals/needs, but this is more like a part of the analog of "classic CPT-ish self talk"-step I think. (In particular I don't recall the book saying things like "do the same stuff just less intensively", so yeah, this part is new and interesting). For example today I told my son, that "So you get mad each time we come to pick you up from your friend right in the moment when you've finally figured out some cool way to play with each other, and this is mega-frustrating, I know. Sure, one way to handle this would be to find yet another way to express anger which doesn't hurt mommy, say punch a pillow, stump, or tear paper, BUT I think that your feeling of being mad is actually trying to tell you something important: that you like your friend very much, like spending time with him, like playing, and hate to be surprised by abruptly having to stop. I don't think we should expect you to feel this each time over and over again each day we pick you up, and try to somehow manage this - how about instead we give you a handwatch, teach you how time works, and let you know in advance when we gonna pick you up? That should eliminate the root cause, not just the effect.".

Book review: "Feeling Great" by David Burns

There's a wonderful book "How to talk so kids will listen & listen so kids will talk", which teaches that if you want your crying&shouting child to actually solve some problem/change behavior/listen to your advice at all, you must realize that there are actually two different personas in them (say: the reptile part of the brain and the neocortex) and you have to first address the first one before you can even start talking with the other: so for example when a child is having a tantrum, what you see is perhaps more like a frightened lizard, than a reasonable person you can persuade, so first you have to calm it down. And the trick to disarm this emotional alert is to actually acknowledge the message it tries to send you - usually by paraphrasing the emotional content ("Oh, I see you have a terrible day, you are angry that we have to finish playing...") [which is even more important in case of children which don't know how to verbalize the emotional state as they lack the words/introspection skills]. There are subtleties to it, like for example: you don't have to copy/inhabit the same emotional state (you don't have to be angry that the play is over yourself) but you need to match the tone and choice of words to the emotion you talk about so that the child believes you are really treating it seriously, not just impassionately describe/condescending/mocking it. So "I see you are angry" delivered in too robotic tone and poker face can backfire and restart the tantrum, but said with harsher tone and grim face can work much better - obviously this is much easier if you simply truly mean it and honestly try to convey that you accept the feelings of your child. It's much more difficult when you are yourself struggling to learn empathy/figure out how to talk about emotions/etc. So I guess it's more natural for some people than others.

Crucially, only when you calm down this part of the brain which was overwhelmed by emotions, you can move forward to reason with the child and explain anything/exchange arguments/plan solution etc. And often this second stage is not even needed, as the child will be able to fix the problem themselves once they're calmed down. OTOH if you start to reason with the child too early, while it's still nervous, it will not lead anywhere except escalating the conflict. In some sense: there's no one to answer your call, until you answer theirs.

I'm saying all this, because I've found these techniques surprisingly helpful in other contexts, like talking to my grown up family members. In some sense an analogue of this is useful in the Internet debates too: you first should be able to paraphrase the stance of your opponent and demonstrate you understand where they're coming from, before you say even a word of critique or argumentation - otherwise they'll immediately label you as outsider who doesn't know a shit and is not worth listening to.

And your post made me realize, that the technique from the book you describe is somewhat like this, if you look through "subagents model of the brain" perspective: there is a part of you which is having emotional crisis, and it's terrified by some problem it needs to solve, but this part is not ready to listen for solution/change, as long as it's in the busy loop waiting for an ACK packet confirming someone got the S.O.S. signal. So you first need to emphatically talk with this part, describe what it feels, acknowledge its good intentions etc. and only then you can move on to actually persuade/negotiate/change anything. This also reminds me a bit the Focusing technique - where the analogue to the child which doesn't know how to name their own emotions, so is stuck in demonstrating them until you guess the keyword for them seems even better. This all starts to look to me as communication problems, not unlike communication problems between people, but within various parts of the brain.

Your Dog is Even Smarter Than You Think

I'm a bit confused by people in the comments entertaining the idea that priors should influence how we interpret the magnitude of the evidence, even though when I look at the Bayes' rule it seems to say that the magnitude of the update (how much you have to multiply the odds) is independent of what your prior was. I know it's not that simple because sometimes the evidence itself is noisy and needs interpretation "pre-processing" before plugging it to the equation, but this "pre-processing" step should use a different prior then the one we try to update. I'm not sure how exactly this "multi-stage Bayesian update rule" should work, and I was trying to describe my struggle in my https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/JtEBjbEZidruMBKc3/are-dogs-bad

Covid 4/29: Vaccination Slowdown

I'm unable to find the source for
> (which Pfizer already said they wouldn’t enforce)

Instead I found some articles about Moderna doing so. Is it a typo?

Impact of delaying vaccinations on the total number of deaths

Thanks for the feedback :) Let me know if you find better answers.

Impact of delaying vaccinations on the total number of deaths

Indeed I wasn't fair to politicians - indeed there are valid arguments in favor of "caring about safety" and "signaling care about safety" like the one about impact on public fear of vaccination. Thanks for pointing it out. Similarly, there might be valid arguments in favor of "withholding data, model and analysis even if one was made", so a politician not sharing them doesn't mean it wasn't made. Still, this suggests that words of politicians serve too much as signalling, to be easily interpreted by me verbatim as statements about reality. It's more like Simularca Level 2: their phrase "There's a lion on the other side of the river" perhaps means that there is tiger on the other side, or that perhaps we might drawn in the river, and perhaps indeed going to the other side of the river is not the best idea for us all to do, however I'm less and less certain that there is an actual lion over there, and that whatever really should affect for me personally (perhaps I know how to swim, and perhaps I like tigers). In my post I accuse the politicians of Simularca Level 3 (perhaps they just want to show that they care) or even Simularca Level 4 (perhaps they just want to appear that they care). After your comment I now more seriously consider it could be just Simularca Level 2, thanks. Still, I'd love to see some proof of that.

Lifestyle interventions to increase longevity

Why do you think exercise improves health? Is it just an educated guess (if so, then what is the reasoning behind it), or is there actually some study establishing causality? I found https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/52/14/890 which says:
> As presented by Kujala, RCTs, the gold standard in epidemiology for inferring causality, have failed to provide conclusive evidence in this context (eg, Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders,8 Look Action for Health in Diabetes,9 Heart Failure: A Controlled Trial Investigating Outcomes of Exercise Training10 and other large-scale meta-analyses).

OTOH I've found https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2018/04/finding-a-causal-relationship-between-exercise-and-longevity-in-human-data-is-more-challenging-than-one-might-imagine/ claiming that
> It is straightforward enough to prove that exercise extends healthy (but not average or overall) life span in studies of mice. (...). It is felt that these correlations likely reflect causation because of the extensive animal studies and the essential similarities of biochemistry between the mammalian species involved, but that isn't the same thing as a rigorous determination.

Were the Great Tragedies of History “Mere Ripples”?

It feels somewhat tribal and irrational to me that this gets downvoted without any comments presenting critique. I think it would be beneficial to everyone if thesis of the book were addressed. My best guess for why there are downvotes but no comments is that this is n-th iteration of the interchange between author and the community and community is tired of responding over and over again to the same claims. If that's the case, then it would be beneficial to people like me of there was at list a link to a summary of discussion, so far. I think the book is written in quite clear way which should make critiquing it directly quite easy. And the subject matter is very important regardless if you agree to thesis (then you fear genocides etc.) agree with "longtermism" as defined in the book (then you fear the book can stand on the way to floorishing of posthumans) or you don't think the definition matches the actual rules you and your community live by. I bet it's the third case, but IMHO downvoting looks like a reaction typical for someone accepting the description but not liking the thesis (so more typical for second case) while comments could help explain why the critique does not apply. The are of course other possibilities beyond the three. For example: accepting that "longtermism" correctly caputres the assumptions, but the conclusions the author is coming to do not logically follow, or perhaps do follow, but the final judgment of the outcome is wrong, etc. I think it would be beneficial to me to learn what is the exact case and counterargument.

How could natural language look like if it hadn't evolved from speech?

My thoughts immediately went to various programming languages, file formats, protocols, DSLs which while created by pressure-changing apes, at least optimized for something different. Here are my thoughts:

Assembly language - used to tell CPU what to do, seems very linear, imperatively telling step by step what to do. Uses very simple vocabulary ("up-goer 5"/"explain me like I'm five"). At least this is how CPU reads it. But if you think about how it is written, then you see it has a higher-order form: smaller concepts are used to build larger like blocks, functions, libraries etc. So, it's less like giving someone a long lecture, and more like giving someone a wikipedia full of hyperlinks, where they can jump between definitions, perhaps recursively, etc.
But the linearity, even if you have the branches of jumps, and trees of function definitions, is still there from the perspective of CPU, and seems to be rooted in the axis of time- the time needed to perform computation, the time which orders the already computed before that which is to be computed later. So, to break this constraint, my thoughts immediately jumped to multithreading. How do people create languages for multithreading?

Erlang - if you don't care that much about order of execution and more about conveying the goal of them, then a declarative language like Prolog or Erlang seems a nice idea. You just define what each concept means in terms of others, but not necessarily explain how to achieve the goal step-by-step, rather focusing on (de)composition, and hoping that coordination and executing will be figured out by the listener. This is even more like "here, this is Wikipedia, just make me a sandwitch"-style of communication.

LZW and similar compression methods - while thinking about the "time ordering" and "directed acyclic graph" and "dereferencing"  you've mentioned, I recalled that a common way to compress a stream is to often use phrases like "here copy paste the 33 bytes I've told you 127 bytes ago". We sometimes do that (see paragraph 3 on page 4), but it's not the building block of our language as in LZW.

Variables - Also "dereferencing" is something nicely solved by using named, scoped, variables instead of a fixed set of pronouns like "this" and "it". We do that to some degree, but it's not like our language is build around defining lots and lots of local references for other stuff like in C++ or Javascript.

Ok, but programming languages will always be somewhat constrained to be "linear" because their goal is to communicate description of some action, and actions are performed over time, which suggests that some form of "happens-before" will have to slip into them. So I thought, about data file formats, which are more time-invariant.

PNG - also in compression, and in relation to 2D you've mentioned, it's common to make some kinds of references cheaper to express. Like in a 1D language it's cheap (2 bytes) to use the word "it" as a shorthand for most recent noun, in 2D image compression it's natural to refer to the color of the pixel above you or the one just before you. So, we might see more kinds of pronouns in 2D or 3D language corresponding to other directions.

3DS meshes - AFAIR you specify list of vertices' coordinates first, then you specify how to connect them into triangles. It's somewhat like: here's a list of nouns, and here are the verbs connecting them. Or maybe: Chapter 1. Introduction of Heros. Chapter 2. The Interactions between Heros. But this linearity between Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 is not really forced on you - you could read it in a different order if you want just to render a fragment of the mesh, right?

Progressively compressed images - you first get a low-resolution sketch of the concept, and then it gets refined and refined and refined until you are satisfied. Like in Scrum! The unrealistic constraint here is that there is no back-and-forth between sender and recipient so you'll just get all the details of everything, not just what you care about/don't know already. Well you can stop listenning at some point (or set the video stream bandwidth), but you can't selectively focus on one part of the image. This could be fixed with some interactive protocol, for sure. And again: you don't have to read the file in the same order it was written, right?

Excel - perhaps one of the most interesting pieces of psycho-technology: you have a grid (it actually doesn't seem so important it's 2D) of concepts and you can make them depend on each other so that you show how information flow between them. Actually this concept can be used to describe the world quite nicely. There's https://www.getguesstimate.com/ which lets you do something similar, but with random variables distributions, so you can show your mental model of reality.

Fractally compressed images - something like Progressive Compression coupled with a strong prior that things are really similar at lower scales to things you've already saw at larger scales. How would that look in language? Perhaps like metaphors we already use in our languages. Like the one in previous sentence? So what new could it bring? Perhaps more precision - our metaphors seem to leave a lot wiggle room for interpretation to the listener, it's not like "listen, you are really supposed to model this part of reality as a clone of the structure I've already told you happens in that portion of reality" and more like "light is like waves" - now, go figure, if it's wet, or uses cosine function somewhere, or what.

JPEG - a language in which you describe the world is not necessarily the way you see it, but rather from some different perspective which captures the most important details, which are the only details you could perceive anyway. I mean: in some sense it feels quite natural to talk about RGB values pixels aligned in a grid, or about Y-axis value of wave at moment t. But once you realize your brain prefers to process sound in terms of frequencies then MIDI or MP3 seems more "natural", and same once you realize that convolution neural networks for image processing care about some '2D-wavy' aspects of the picture [perhaps because convolution itself can be implemented using Fourier Transform?], JPEG with it's transforms seem "natural". I think MP3 and JPEG are like brain-to-brain protocol for telepathy, where we care more about representation-of-concept-in-actual-brain more than about "being able to look at the words and analyze the words themselves". MIDI seems to strike nice balance, as it talks about notes (frequencies and duration) without going too far. (I mean: it's a language you can still talk about, while I find it difficult to talk about entries in DFT matrix etc.)

HTML - I've already mentioned Wikipedia, and what I really cared about was hyperlinking, which gives more power to the recipient to navigate the discussion as they see most useful for them. Perhaps it would be interesting to figure out what would a symmetric protocol for that look like: one in which the sender and recipient have more equal power to steer the conversation. I guess this is REST, or Web as we know it.

SQL / GraphQL - here I don't mean just the language to query the data, but more the fact that the owner of the data in some sense wants to communicate the data to you, but instead of flooding you with the copy of all they know, they give you an opportunity to ask a very precise question so you'll get what you need to know. People in some sense try to do that, but first, they don't use very precise questions, second, don't "run the question inside my head" in the sense a server is running the query. I could imagine some alien brains communicate this way, that they send a small creature inside the brain of the other alien, to gather the info, and there are some rules which govern what is allowed for this creature to do while inside the host. This is a quite different way of communicating than the one where we just exchange words, I think, because for one thing, it let's you ask many questions in parallel, and questions can "mutate their internal state" while "being asked".

Rsync - when trying to think about network protocols, all of them seemed "linear" in that you have to order response with question, and patiently read/write characters of the stream to understand their meaning. The nice exception (at some level) is the rsync protocol, where one computer tries to learn what's new from another, by probing recursively smaller and smaller ranges, searching for disagreement. It's like a conversation in which we first try to establish if we agree about everything, and if not, then try to find a crux, and drill down etc. This could be parallelized, and perhaps made more passive for the server, if it just made "the Merkle of my knowlege about the world" publicly available, and then anyone could navigate it top-down to learn something new. In some sense Wikipedia is such a tree, but, first, it's not a tree (not clear what's the starting point, the root) and second, it tries to describe the one and only territory, not one of the many subjective maps of particular alien.

BitTorrent - the strange language in which to learn the answer you must exactly know the right question. Like the hash of what you need is the key, literally, and then you can get it from me. So, I'm willing to tell you anything, but only if you prove you would know it anyway, from someone else, and in fact, yes, you can ask the same question to several aliens at once, and get stitch pieces of their answers, and it just matches. Could be combined with the Merkle tree idea above. Well, actually what you'll get looks like... Git. A distributed repository of knowledge (and random stupid thoughts).

Lisp - a language in which you not only can introduce new nouns, verbs, and adjectives on the fly, as humans sometimes do, but also whole new grammar rules, together with their semantic. I'm not entirely sure what it would even mean/feel like to talk this way, perhaps because I'm a time-oriented ape.

Thanks for very interesting question! :)