All of Randaly's Comments + Replies

($1000 bounty) How effective are marginal vaccine doses against the covid delta variant?

This, and the Bahrain/UAE cases, seem more likely to be driven by concerns about whether/how well the Chinese vaccines work?

Notes on War: Grand Strategy

On the other hand, look at the US wars in Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan. The outcomes of these wars were determined much more by political forces (in both of the relevant countries) than by overwhelming force.

Insurgencies aren't a good comparison for conventional wars like the Nagorno-Karabakh war.

Notes on War: Grand Strategy

The overall thrust here seems like an application of Clausewitz's maxim that "war is the extension of politics by other means". However, the specific politics suggested seem very unrealistic.

  • You suggest ways to impact Azerbaijan's internal politics by targeting harm to specific groups. I see no reason to believe that Armenia had any substantial ability to deal much harm to Azerbaijan at all, so this isn't relevant. In general, it would be much harder for Armenia to advance to deal significant damage to Azerbaijan's homeland than it would be to defend.
  • Assas
... (read more)
6Jay3moSo how should Armenia have retained Nagorno-Karabakh? Use the Iraqi playbook. In the kinetic phase of the war, Armenia is probably hopeless. So make only a token show of resistance. Before Azerbaijan takes over NK, scatter weapons caches to your co-ethnics. Train NK locals as insurgents. Make sure your border is permeable to insurgents; give them a place to rest, recover, and prepare. Don't let Azerbaijan consolidate its control. Use ambushes, snipers, and IEDs to discourage Azerbaijani troops from leaving their compounds. When the invaders make an enemy (and they will, lots of them), give that enemy a weapon. When the invaders make a friend, give that friend and his entire family a hideous death. Let people know that collaborators get closed-casket funerals (and then bomb the funerals). Provoke the invaders into heavy-handed response, then put videos of the massacres on YouTube (CNN, if you can). Make their allies pay in lives and embarrassment. Portray your freedom fighters as heroes standing tall against brutal oppression. It's a horrible project. War usually is, and insurgency is worse than most kinds of war. But it could be done. Eventually Azerbaijan would probably leave, simply because nobody sane wants to stay in the hellhole you've created. Victory!
7johnswentworth3moI generally agree with most of this, in the context of that particular conflict. It was a very smart war to invest in from the perspective of Azerbeijani leadership; Armenia really didn't have a realistic approach to defend. Th one part I object to is "Pretty much all of these plans are underspecified outcomes, not realistic plans.". The title of the post is "Grand Strategy"; the whole point is to talk about general approaches, not specifics. Realistic plans would be the domain of strategy.
Covid 1/28: Muddling Through

The source article is here. The numbers are not how much of the total the subgroups make up, they are how quickly each subgroup is growing. The text continues:

The number critically ill with covid-19 in that age group grew by about 30% in the week before January 2nd, and also in the following week—but by just 7% in the week after that (see chart 2). By contrast, among those aged between 40 and 55 (who were vaccinated at a much lower rate at the time) the weekly change in the number of critically ill remained constant, with a 20-30% increase in each of those three weeks.

Covid 1/14: To Launch a Thousand Shipments

I have no idea why Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the head of Operation Warp Speed, was asked to resign and transition things over to someone else. Seems like if someone does their one job this effectively you’d want to keep them around.

While it's possible that Moncef Slaoui's resignation was caused by the Biden transition's request, he'd been publicly clear for months that he would resign in late 2020 or early 2021, as soon as 2 vaccines were approved. Here's a news article of him saying this from November.

Plausibly the Biden transition just wanted him to resign at a... (read more)

Covid 9/17: It’s Worse

Blade Runner 2045 movie

2049, not 2045.

Trump continues to promise a vaccine by late October. The head of the CDC says that’s not going to happen. Trump says the head of the CDC is ‘confused.’ The CDC walks the comments back. On net, this showed some attempt by the CDC to not kowtow to Trump, but then a kowtow, so on net seems like a wash.

This is missing the last step, which is that the CDC then walked back its walk back (?!?). See here:

The CDC scrambled to explain; by about 6 p.m., the agency was claiming Redfield had misunderstood the original question and

... (read more)
Lessons on AI Takeover from the conquistadors

I don't really have a great answer to that, except that empirically in this specific case, Spain was indeed able to extract very large amounts of resources from America within a single generation. (The Spanish government directly spent very little on America; the flow of money was overwhelming towards Europe, to the point where it caused notable inflation in Spain and in Europe as a whole.) I don't disagree that running a state is expensive, but I don't see why the expense would necessarily be higher than the extracted resources?

1Pongo1yOK, so maybe the idea is "Conquered territory has reified net production across however long a period -> take all the net production and spend it on ships / horses / mercenaries"? I expect that the administrative parts of states expand to be about as expensive as the resources they can get under their direct control. (Perhaps this is the dumb part, and ancient states regularly stored >90% of tax revenue as treasure?). Then, when you are making the state more expensive to run, you have less of a surplus. You also can't really make the state do something different than it was before if you have low fidelity control. The state doing what it was doing before probably wasn't helping you conquer more territory.
Lessons on AI Takeover from the conquistadors

(1) Local support doesn't end after the first stages of the war, or after the war ends. I mentioned having favored local elites within one society/ethnicity continue to do most of the direct work in (2); colonizers also set up some groups as favored identities who did much of the work of local governance. For example, after the Spanish conquest, the Tlaxcala had a favored status and better treatment.

(2) Not sure why you'd expect low fidelity control to imply that it ends up as a wash in terms of extracting resources, can you clarify?

1Pongo1y(2) It seems expensive to run a state (maintain power structures, keep institutions intact for future benefit, keep everything running well enough that the stuff that depends on other things running well keeps running). Increasing the cost by a large factor seems like it would reduce the net resources extracted. It seems even more expensive if the native population will continue intermittently fighting you for 400 years (viz your rebellion fact)
Lessons on AI Takeover from the conquistadors

I feel like there's two points causing the confusion:

(1) The assumption that natives are an undifferentiated mass. There were a variety of mutually hostile indigenous peoples, who themselves sough out allies against each other; and, in particular, who sought to balance the strongest local powers. Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest, page 48:

The search for native allies was one of the standard procedures or routines of Spanish conquest activity throughout the Americas. Pedro de Alvarado entered highland Guatemala in 1524 not only with thousands of Nahua all

... (read more)
2Pongo1yThanks for sharing this data. The lesson I draw from (1) is that in fact I should not think that conquering some areas help you conquer others. Rather, when entering some area, it is possible to draw local support in the first stages of a war. This updates me back towards thinking it's costly to control a newly conquered area. The lesson I draw from (2) is that you can continue to make use of some of the state capacity of the native power structures. But it seems like you have fairly low fidelity control (at least in the language barrier case, and probably in all cases, because you lack a lot of connections to informal power structures). This seems like mostly a wash? Are these the same as the lessons you draw from this data?
2Daniel Kokotajlo1yWell said. The implications for AI takeover are interesting to think about.
Lessons on AI Takeover from the conquistadors

[Like, it's not for nothing that the Aztecs told the Conquistadors that they thought the latter group were gods!]

It is unlikely that the Aztecs actually believed that the Conquistadors were gods.  (No primary sources state this; the original source for the gods claim was Francisco Lopez de Gomara, writing based on interviews with conquistadors who returned to Spain decades later; his writing contains many other known inaccuracies.)

Claims that are related to, but distinct from, the Aztecs believing that the Conquistadors were gods:

  • The Aztecs, and other
... (read more)
Lessons on AI Takeover from the conquistadors

On Diamond and writing, see previous discussion here. It is highly unlikely that writing was critical:

  • Pizarro was illiterate
  • The Aztecs had writing, yet didn't beat the Spaniards (or avoid having their leader kidnapped)
  • Cortes' conquests were only a decade or so before- a short enough period that writing wasn't necessary to communicate the lessons. Pizarro was physically present in the Americas at the time.
  • There's not actually any clear pathway from "have writing" -> "Atahualpa refuses to leave his army to meet with Pizarro". Writing did not make all
... (read more)
Authorities and Amateurs

The specific evidence you’ve cited is weak. (1) You write that “The argument that we should be listening to experts and not random people would make a lot of sense if the "armchair" folks didn't keep being right.” It is extremely easy to be right on a binary question (react more vs less). That many non-experts were right is therefore more-or-less meaningless. (I can also cite many, many examples of non-experts being wrong. I think what we want is the fraction of experts vs non-experts who were right, but that seems both vague and unobtainable.)

(Note that t

... (read more)

The posts I'm referring to made claims that were much stronger than "we should be reacting more". If you look through and, and the follow-up they're making detailed claims about how the world is and how it will soon be.

Cortés, Pizarro, and Afonso as Precedents for Takeover

That quote seems to provide no evidence that the 'literate tradition' mattered. Cortes' conquest was only 14 years before; Pizarro had arrived in the New World 10 years before that; Cortes' conquest involved many people and was a big/important deal; even if the Spanish had no writing at all, Pizarro would likely have known the general outline of Cortes' actions.

It's strictly speaking impossible to rule out Pizarro indirectly being influenced by writing; but I don't think it would be possible for stronger evidence against the importance of writing in this specific case to exist.

2Daniel Kokotajlo2yAgreed. I think literacy or "literate tradition" had nothing to do with it, but learning from Cortes' experience (and earlier Spanish experiences in the canary islands, etc.) was crucial.
Cortés, Pizarro, and Afonso as Precedents for Takeover
The Portuguese presumably were reasonably educated

Pizarro was illiterate.

4Matthew Barnett2yI don't think that specific fact really disputes that they "had access to a deep historical archive." From Jared Diamond's Guns Germs and Steel,
Jan Bloch's Impossible War

That is not true; the CSA had worse railroads, but they were still important throughout the war. Some of the most important Union offensives late in the war- the Atlanta campaign and the siege of Petersburg- were intended to sever the South's railroads; and the war ended almost immediately after the Union cut off the railroad routes to the CSA capital of Richmond at the Battle of Five Forks. Both sides were heavily reliant on railroads for supply, and also used railroads to move troops (for the CSA, e.g. moving Longstreet's corps to fight at Chickamagua).

5ESRogs2yNitpick -- for replies like this, it's helpful if you say which part of the parent comment you're objecting to. Obviously the reader can figure it out from the rest of your comment, but (especially since I didn't immediately recognize CSA as referring to the Confederate States of America) I wasn't sure what your first sentence was saying. A quote of the offending sentence from the parent comment would have been helpful.
A new, better way to read the Sequences

Homepage seems to lack links to the last two books.

1Said Achmiz4yYep, books V and VI aren't up yet, as the post says :) Soon!
The engineer and the diplomat

Now, imagine you’re a diplomat, at a diplomatic conference. You see a group of diplomats, including someone representing one of your allies, in an intense conversation. They’re asking the allied diplomat questions, and your ally obviously has to think hard to answer them. Your intuition is going to be that something bad is happening here, and you want to derail it at all costs.

Source? I feel very, very confident that this is false. You would only want to break things up if you felt very confident that your ally would screw up answering the questions; otherwise, having lots of people paying careful attention to your side's proposals would be a very good sign.

I've had it with those dark rumours about our culture rigorously suppressing opinions

Literally every sentence you wrote is wrong.

The worst crimes of the holocaust were a conspiracy within the Nazi government.

This is not true. The Holocaust was ordered by the popular leader of the German government; they were executed by a very large number of people, probably >90% of whom actively cooperated and almost none of whom tried to stop the Holocaust. (see e.g. Christopher Browning's Ordinary Men) German society as a whole knew that their government was attempting genocide; see e.g. What We Knew for supporting details, or Wikipedia for a s... (read more)

Philosophy professors fail on basic philosophy problems

All of these are plausibly true of art departments at universities as well. (The first two are a bit iffy.)

If you can see the box, you can open the box

As I understand it, the mainstream interpretation of that document is not that Bin Laden is attacking America for its freedom; rather, AQ's war aims were the following:

  • End US support of Israel (also, Russia and India)
  • End the presence of US troops in the Middle East (especially Israel)
  • End US support for Muslim apostate dictators

See, e.g., this wikipedia article, or The Looming Tower. Eliezer is correct that AQ's attacks were not caused by AQ's hted of American freedoms.

Compartmentalizing: Effective Altruism and Abortion

The argument doesn't understand what the moral uncertainty is over; it's taking moral uncertainty over whether fetuses are people in the standard quasi-deontological framework and trying to translate it into a total utilitarian framework, which winds up with fairly silly math (what could the 70% possibly refer to? Not to the value of the future person's life years- nobody disputes that once a person is alive, their life has normal, 100% value.)

What false beliefs have you held and why were you wrong?

No I'm not. The Fizzbuzz article cited above is a wiki article. It is not based on original research, and draws from other articles. You will find the article I linked to linked to in a quote at the top of the first article in the 'articles' section of the wiki article; it is indeed the original source for the claim.

3Jiro7yThe wiki article uses as a source for the FizzBuzz statement the article at [] . The wiki does not use as a source the article you just gave me a link to, which is [] and contains the "We get between 100 and 200 [resumes] per opening" quote. What you describe is neither the source for the statement, nor the first link in the articles section, but the second link in the article that is the first link in the articles section. It is a stretch to claim that this is the wiki's source when the statement directly contains a source which is not the article you point to. Furthermore, if you follow through the chain of articles, you find that because writers are playing a game of telephone with articles, the separate claims that people 1) cannot solve FizzBuzz (at a rate of 50% over computer science graduates) and 2) cannot program (at a rate of 99.5% over resumes) have been morphed into the Frankenstein-like [] claim that 99.5% cannot solve FizzBuzz as an interview question, which is not what either source says and which spuriously combines the two and changes from the plausible resume to the implausible interviewee. That combined statement is the one that I said doesn't fit a basic sanity check. And it doesn't.
What false beliefs have you held and why were you wrong?

The quote does not claim there has been no filtering done before the interview stage. If you read the original source it explicitly states that it is considering all aplicants, not only those who make it to the interview stage: "We get between 100 and 200 [resumes] per opening."

0Jiro7yYou are confusing two different sources, the one that mentions FizzBuzz and the one in your link. Although both sources use the number 200, they are using it to refer to different things. It is the former (which uses it to refer to interviewees) which I object to, not the latter (which uses it to refer to resumes), except insofar as the latter is used to try to prove the former.
What false beliefs have you held and why were you wrong?

You seem to be confusing applicants with people who are given interviews. Typically less than half of applicants even make it to the interview stage- sometimes much, much less than half.

There's also enough evidence out there to say that this level of applicants is common. Starbucks had over a hundred applicants for each position it offered recently; Proctor and Gamble had around 500. This guy also says it's common for programmers.

0Jiro7yNo, I'm not. From shminux's link:
What false beliefs have you held and why were you wrong?

unless you believe more than 100 people on the average get interviewed before anyone is hired

This is accurate for the top companies- as of 2011, Google interviewed over 300 people for each spot filled. Many of these people were plausibly interviewed multiple times, or for multiple positions.

4Jiro7yThe job market isn't just Google. Is it really true that anyone who can program FizzBuzz will immediately get snapped up by the first place they apply to, if they are not applying to someplace like Google which receives such large numbers of applications? I find it hard to believe that the average accounting company or bank that needs programmers has to do 100 interviews on the average every time it hires one person. (Furthermore, multiply by how many competent programmers they go through. If they hire on the average 1 out of every 4 competent programmers who applies, that makes it 400 interviews for each new hire.)
What false beliefs have you held and why were you wrong?

Maybe, but this is the exact opposite of polymath's claim- not that fighting a modern state is so difficult as to be impossible, but that fighting one is sufficiently simple that starting out without any weapons is not a significant handicap.

(The proposed causal impact of gun ownership on rebellion is more guns -> more willingness to actually fight against a dictator (acquiring a weapon is step that will stop many people who would otherwise rebel from doing so) -> more likelihood that government allies defect -> more likelihood that the government... (read more)

1V_V7yI didn't claim that fighting a government is simple. My claim is that the hardest part of fighting a government is forming an organized militia with sufficient funds and personnel. If you manage to do that, then acquiring weapons is probably comparatively easy.
What false beliefs have you held and why were you wrong?

The Syrians and Libyans seem to have done OK for themselves. Iraq and likely Afghanistan were technically wins for our nuclear and drone-armed state, but both were only marginal victories, Iraq was a fairly near run thing, and in neither case were significant defections from the US military a plausible scenario.

3V_V7yThey are organized paramilitary groups who buy military-grade weapons and issue them to their soldiers, not random gun toters who fight with personally owned handguns and shotguns. It seems to me that the main issues in setting up a militia are organization, recruitment and funding. Once you sort that out, acquiring weapons isn't much difficult.
2Vulture7yI think it's usually written with spaces, though.
Open thread, Sept. 29 - Oct.5, 2014

We can know that other amphibious assaults probably had lower or neglible friendly fire rates, because some other landings (some opposed) had absolutely lower rates of casulaties- e.g here, here, and here.

4Gunnar_Zarncke7yThings look a bit more complex than the parent and OP make it. The first one on Kiska island resulted from Canadian and American detachment taking each other for the enemy. Agreed this is friendly fire - but among sub-optimally coordinated detachment - not within on single force. The second one on Woodlark and Kiriwina which had less casualties was not only unopposed, it was known to be unopposed, so expectations were differnt. The other opposed landings are more difficult to read.
Depth-based supercontroller objectives, take 2

Thanks for your response!

1) Hmmm. OK, this is pretty counter-intuitive to me.

2) I'm not totally sure what you mean here. But, to give a concrete example, suppose that the most moral thing to do would be to tile the universe with very happy kittens (or something). CEV, as I understand, would create as many of these as possible, with its finite resources; whereas g/g* would try to create much more complicated structures than kittens.

3) Sorry, I don't think I was very clear. To clarify: once you've specified h, a superset of human essence, why would you apply... (read more)

Depth-based supercontroller objectives, take 2

Note: I may have badly misunderstood this, as I am not familiar with the notion of logical depth. Sorry if I have!

I found this post's arguments to be much more comprehensible than your previous ones; thanks so much for taking the time to rewrite them. With that said, I see three problems:

1) '-D(u/h)' optimizes for human understanding of (or, more precisely, human information of) the universe, such that given humans you can efficiently get out a description of the rest of the universe. This also ensures that whatever h is defined as continues to exist. But ... (read more)

3sbenthall7yThanks for your thoughtful response. I'm glad that I've been more comprehensible this time. Let me see if I can address the problems you raise: 1) Point taken that human freedom is important. In the background of my argument is a theory that human freedom has to do with the endogeneity of our own computational process. So, my intuitions about the role of efficiency and freedom are different from yours. One way of describing what I'm doing is trying to come up with a function that a supercontroller would use if it were to try to maximize human freedom. The idea is that choices humans make are some of the most computationally complex things they do, and so the representations created by choices are deeper than others. I realize now I haven't said any of that explicitly let alone argued for it. Perhaps that's something I should try to bring up in another post. 2) I also disagree with the morality of this outcome. But I suppose that would be taken as beside the point. Let me see if I understand the argument correctly: if the most ethical outcome is in fact something very simple or low-depth, then this supercontroller wouldn't be able to hit that mark? I think this is a problem whenever morality (CEV, say) is a process that halts. I wonder if there is a way to modify what I've proposed to select for moral processes as opposed to other generic computational processes. 3) A couple responses: * Oh, if you can just program in "keep humanity alive" then that's pretty simple and maybe this whole derivation is unnecessary. But I'm concerned about the feasibility of formally specifying what is essential about humanity. VAuroch has commented that he thinks that coming up with the specification is the hard part. I'm trying to defer the problem to a simpler one of just describing everything we can think of that might be relevant. So, it's meant to be an improvement over programming in "keep humanity alive" in terms of its feasibility, since it doesn't req
Calibrating your probability estimates of world events: Russia vs Ukraine, 6 months later.

I, and presumably shminux as well, though that you were claiming that there's actually a good chance that Obama actually does want to see the American 'empire' collapse, not that Putin thought that he would.

1NancyLebovitz8yAny thoughts about what to conclude from this? It might imply that success in business is mostly luck.
Why don't more rationalists start startups?

You're taking a very inside-view approach to analyzing something that you have no direct experience with. (Assuming you don't.) This isn't a winning approach. Outside view predicts that 90% of startups will fail.

Startups' high reward is associated with high risk. But most people are risk averse, and insurance schemes create moral hazard.

0FiftyTwo8yI suspect the better someone's self assessment skills are the less likely they are to assume they are better than 90% of people (reduced succeptibility to Dunning Kruger etc.). So you would expect less rationalists to start start-ups due to reduced self delusion.
5gwern8yAgreed. Some hard numbers, like from the Startup Genome [] would help, and undermine some of OP's claims - the high failure rate certainly implies substantial risk since you can only roll the dice once or twice, and the constant pivoting of startups suggests minimal value to planning.
5Curiouskid8yMost people say that 90% of start-ups fail, but they don't mention how many start-ups entrepreneurs attempt on average. If: 0.most founders only attempt one startup (and first-time startups have a 90% chance of failing), 1. But, founders who found multiple startups have a better chance of success. Then, the inside view that (you should be able be able to succeed at a startup if you do a lot of them in your 20s) and the outside view of (90% of startups fail) can actually be compatible. You could make your model a bit more precise by noting: Chance of all your startups failing (during life-time) = P(1st startup is a failure) P(2nd-startup is a failure) ETC. If: 1. each start-up is independent of each other. (A pretty big assumption. I would expect people to get better over time. You can gauge how much.) 2. Each startup takes 2 years. (You can obviously change this number around). Then, if somebody just did 6 startups consecutively, their probability of success would be 1-.9^6 = .47. There's certainly room for a healthy amount of optimism in this model. If you model it more like 1-(.9.7.6*.6) = .73, then those seem like pretty good odds to do lots of startups. I'd like to see people play around with numbers like these. It's an outside view model. You can use your inside view to predict more specific things (how long a start-up takes, how much you learn from your failures, etc). This is better than having a model: P(Devise an idea for a product that creates demand.) = .90 P(Build it) = .90 p(Market and sell it) = .90 P(Things run smoothly (some might call this luck) ) = ? P(success) = .9.9.9*? = higher than what's actually true. (Though, you could contend that plenty of people can't devise an idea for products that creates demand, and that if you can do this, then you have a much better chance than the average start-up). Paul Graham said something like "Startup founders are / (have to be) optimists". I'm wondering how accurate people
1adamzerner8yI'm not sure what you mean by inside-view. It seems like you're moving up the ladder of abstraction though, which isn't productive. If you disagree, please move down the ladder, and explain why. And for the record, I am starting a startup now, have read a lot about them, but haven't had any actual experience before this past summer.
Open Thread for January 8 - 16 2014

re: public speaking: There are in person groups like Toastmasters. Alternately, you can record yourself speaking about something and try to give yourself a self-critique.

Here's an exercise I've run before: Person 1 picks a word at random; Person 2 immediately starting speaking about something relevant. At 15 second intervals for 1-2 minutes, Person 1 throws out new words; Person 2 needs to keep speaking about the new words, and to flow smoothly between topics. (You can substitute Wikipedia's random article button for Person 1.)

Rationality Quotes December 2013

Most of the ancients that people pay attention to these days are ... well-fed

You mean well-fed in the sense of "not starving," but that doesn't imply "well-fed" in the sense of eating a healthy diet. There's reason to think that upper-class Romans would have been even more damaged by lead poisoning than the poor, and there's good evidence that even emperors were deficient in iodine.

I have a historian standing next to me right now who says the lead poisoning story is BS and people who propagate it should be shot/severely eye-rolled at. He says that:

-Romans did drink lead-sweetened wine but
-only lower class romans did so because they could not afford better
-lead-sweetened wine continued to be drunk up until the 18th century
-While some people undoubtedly died, saying it caused the fall of the Roman Empire is a ridiculous just-so story
-particularly because the sweetener was used centuries before and after the fall with no increasing usage leading up to the fall
-and the eastern Roman empire continued to exist for another thousand years anyway.

1Eliezer Yudkowsky8yBut they weren't consuming huge amounts of unstable polyunsaturated fats from vegetable oils, either.

The obvious way to pull the rope sideways on this issue is to advocate for replacing conventional nuclear devices with neutron bombs.

Yes, Virginia, You Can Be 99.99% (Or More!) Certain That 53 Is Prime

It seems, I dunno, kind of a frequentist way of thinking about the probability that I'm wrong.

There are numerous studies that show that our brain's natural way of thinking out probabilities is in terms of frequencies, and that people show less bias when presented with frequencies than when they are presented with percentages.

1Lumifer8yThinking about which probabilities? Probability is a complex concept. The probability in the sentence "the probability of getting more than 60 heads in 100 fair coin tosses" is a very different beast from the probability in the sentence "the probability of rain tomorrow". There is a reason that both the frequentist and the Bayesian approaches exist.
Rationality Quotes November 2013

His claim was:

(a) Everybody knew that different ethnicities had different brain sizes (b) It was an uncomfortable fact, so nobody talked about it (c) Now nobody knows that different ethnicities have different brain sizes

Rationality Quotes November 2013

His stated point is about telling things that everybody is supposed to know.

No, that was absolutely not his point. I don't understand how you could have come away thinking that- literally the entire next paragraph directly stated the exact opposite:

Graduate students in anthropology generally don’t know those facts about average brain volume in different populations. Some of those students stumbled onto claims about such differences and emailed a physical anthropologist I know, asking if those differences really exist. He tells them ‘yep’ – I’m not sur

... (read more)
-2ChristianKl8yI don't think that the following classes are the same: (1) Facts everyone should know. (2) Facts everyone knows. I think the author claims that this is a (1) fact but not a (2) fact.
Rationality Quotes November 2013

Source is here. SD for Asians and Europeans is 35, SD for Africans was 85. N=20,000.

What's wrong here? 4 degrees of accuracy for brain size and no error bars? That's a sign of someone being either intentionally or unintentionally dishonest. Why in the world would he present error bars? The numbers are in line with other studies, without massive uncertainty, and irrelevant to his actual, stated and quoted, point.

His stated point is about telling things that everybody is supposed to know.

If you have an SD of 35 for an average of 1362 you have no idea about whether the last digit should be a 2. That means either you do state an error interval or you round to 1360.

Human height changed quite a bit over the last century. . Taking data about human brainsize with 4 digit accuracy and assuming that it hasn't changed over the last 30 years is wrong.

European gained a lot of bodymass over the ... (read more)

Rationality Quotes November 2013

I also dispute this- obvious cases include partial disagreement and partial agreement between parties, somebody who is simply silent or who says nothing of substance, and someone who is themself trying to learn from you/the other side.

(In particular, consider a debate between a biologist and the Pope on evolution. I would expect the Pope to be neither offensive nor defensive- though I'm not totally clear on the distinction here, and how a debater can be neither- but I would expect to learn much more from the biologist than the Pope.)

Why officers vs. enlisted?

Actually, one of the sources you just linked (Wikibooks) states that officers were usually promoted from the ranks:

They were generally moved up from the ranks, but in some cases could be direct appointments from the Emperor or other higher ranking officials.

For further sources saying the same thing, see here, here, here, or here. See also this:

The most significant step in any successful army career of a Roman plebeian was the promotion to the centurionate. To become a centurion meant having become an officer. The main supply for the centurionate of t

... (read more)
Why officers vs. enlisted?

Historically, the distinction was based on social classes, but that doesn't explain why every army follows this arrangement, including those in very different societies.

The claim that all societies use this model is inaccurate. The counterexample that springs to mind is the Roman army; I'm fairly certain that there are plenty more.

5JoshuaFox8yInteresting. I foiund a couple [] of pages [] which say that there was an officer/non-officer model. But perhaps those pages are just shoehorning the historical Roman army into modern forms. Do you have a reference to the contrary?
The best 15 words

I endorse Lumifer's reason. Other reasons would include less patriotism (as I understand, loyalties in much of Africa are to tribes/clans/families rather than a nationstate, religion, or ideology, so bringing your family abroad of going abroad to look for money would be less of a shift) and less perceived safety (e.g. apparently 75% of Ethiopia's skilled laborers moved abroad during its famines).

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