Hammertime Day 10: Murphyjitsu

I expanded 'shocked at failure' into:

The plans you make work.

When they fail, it is because of one of the following reasons:

  • a predicted reason (you took a risk / made a tradeoff, saw it as low probability or unavoidable)
  • violation of an explicit assumption (encryption used is secure, won't crash on the way to the airport)
  • a black swan (coronavirus, 9/11, stock market crash)

When they fail for reasons other than these, you are extremely surprised and can point to exactly what about your worldview and anticipations misled you.

Archimedes's Chronophone

I first tried to describe rationality piece by piece, but realized that just comes out as something like: "Enumerate all the principles, fundamentals, and ideas you can think of and find about effective thinking and action. Master all of them. More thoroughly and systematically apply them to every aspect of your life. Use the strongest to solve its most relevant problem. Find their limits. Be unsatisfied. Create new principles, fundamentals, and ideas to master. Become strong and healthy in all ways. "

Non-meta attempt:

<Epistemic status: I would predict most of these are wrong. In fact, I rather recently proved I didn't understand fundamental parts of The Sequences. So I know that my beliefs here are weak and thoroughly misled. So my basis of belief for all of these is broken and weak. I am certain my foundation for beliefs is wrong even if all of my actual beliefs here turn out to be basically accurate. I cannot thoroughly justify why they are right.>

General strategy: collect all the important things you think are true, and consider what it means for each to be false.

Starting with a list of the things most important to you, state the most uncontroversial and obvious facts about how those work and why that is the case. Now assume the basic facts about the things most important to you are wrong. The impossible is easy. The probable is actually not true. Your assumptions do not lead to their conclusions. The assumptions are also false. You don't want the conclusions to be true anyway. The things that you know work, work based on principles other than what you thought. Most of your information about those phenomena is maliciously and systematically corrupted, and all of it is based on wrong thinking. Your very conceptions of the ideas are set up to distort your thinking on this subject.

What if my accepted ideas of civilizational progress are wrong? What if instead of exponential growth, you can basically just skip to the end? Moore's Law is actually just complacency. You can, at any point, write down the most powerful and correct version of any part of civilization. You can also write down what needs to happen to get there. You can do this without actually performing any research and development in between, or even making prototypes. You don't need an AGI to do this for you. Your brain and its contents right now are sufficient. You just need to organize them differently. In fact, you already know how to do this. You're tripping over this ability repeatedly, overlooking the capability to solve everything you care about because you regard it as trash, some useless idea, or even a bad plan. You've buried it alongside the garbage of your mind. You're not actually looking at what is in your head and how it can be used. Even if it feels like you are. Even if you're already investing all your resources in 'trying.' It is possible, easy even. You're just doing it wrong in an obvious way you refuse to recognize. Probably because you don't actually want what you feel, think, and say you do. You already know why you're lying to yourself about this.

You can't build AGI without understanding what it'll do first, so AI safety as a separate field is actually not even necessary or especially valuable. You can't even get started with the tech that really matters until you've laid out what is going to happen in advance. That tech can also only be used for good ends. Also, AGI is impossible to build in the first place. Rationality is bunk and contains more traps than valuable thinking techniques. MIRI is totally wrong about AI safety and is functionally incapable of coming anywhere close to what is necessary to align superintelligences. Even over a hundred years it will be mechanically unable to self-correct. CFAR is just very good at making you feel like rationality is being taught. They, don't understand even the basics of rationality in the first place. Instead they're just very good at convincing good people to give them money, and everyone including themselves that this is okay. Also, it is okay. Because morality is actually about making you feel like good things are happening, not actually making good things happen. We actually care about the symbol, not the substance.

That rationality cannot, even in its highest principles of telling you how to overcome itself, actually lead you to something better. To that higher unnamed thing which is obviously better once you're there. There is, in fact, actually no rationality technique for making it easier to invent the next rationality. Or for uncovering the principles it is missing. Even the fact of knowing there are missing principles you must look for when your tools shatter is orthogonal to resolving the problem. It does not help you. Analogously there is no science experiment for inventing rationality. You cannot build an ad-hoc house whose shape is engineering. If it somehow happens, it will be because of something other than the principles you thought you were using. You can keep running science experiments about rationality-like-things and eventually get an interesting output, but the reason it will work is because of something like brute force random search.

That the singularity won't happen. Exponential growth already ended. But we also won't destroy ourselves for not being able to stop X-risk. In fact, X-risk is a laughable idea. Humans will survive no matter what happens. It is impossible to actually extinguish the species. S-risk is also crazy, it is okay for uncountable humans to suffer forever, because immense suffering is orthogonal to good/bad. What we actually value has nothing to do with humans and conscious experience at all, actually.

Hammertime Day 1: Bug Hunt
Hopefully, you came up with at least 100 bugs; I came up with 142.

I wrote 20,000 words from these prompts. Not all of those bugs, but also my reactions to them. Ended up doing not much else for about three days, but I went over basically my entire life top to bottom. I now have a thorough overview of my errors. I stopped not because I ran out of things I think I need to fix, but because I realized the list would never end. I was still finding MAJOR areas I need to improve even after all that. I see why the exercise is supposed to only be half an hour now: there are about 200 million insects per person!

Lesson learned: sample, not catalog.

Frequently Asked Questions for Central Banks Undershooting Their Inflation Target

I've only taken a really basic economics course, but found the explanations really straight forward and learned a lot. So I don't think the topic is as hard to parse as you'd think.

(Alternatively, I may have misunderstood details, overlooked problems, and simply don't have anything to contrast these statements to. This would make it harder to judge.)

The bank's persona did however fall flat repeatedly and could have been a lot better by having realistic responses.

thought: the problem with less wrong's epistemic health is that stuff isn't short form

High upvote low reply is less bad, but still feels like it is fundamentally broken in some way. Failing to leave a mark maybe? I think I would mostly be confused given such a reaction. There might be specific types of posts that would generate that, but I feel those qualities do not generalize to the set of "authoritative, well researched and obviously correct" posts.

thought: the problem with less wrong's epistemic health is that stuff isn't short form

Moreover, why should there be discussion? If a post is authoritative, well researched and obviously correct, then the only thing to do is upvote it and move on. A lengthy discussion thread is a sign that either the post is either unclear, incorrect, or has mindkilled its readers.

Alternatively, a length discussion could be a sign that the post inspired connections to related topics and events. Additionally, it may have made a critical advance that furthered understanding of the topic for other people. Even though optimizing for engagement yields divergence from what we want doesn't mean we should optimize against engagement. Or that a lack of engagement is somehow good.

If there are a bunch of long-form articles for which the only reasonable response is, “Yep, that’s all true. Good article!” that’s a win condition.

I do believe there is a place for that, but were I to repeatedly make posts which were so thoroughly correct and got essentially no engagement I would take that as a sign that people weren't really interested in it and that I should focus on other topics that have a larger impact.

Less to Greater, Bookmarklet Edition

I independently generated an alternative solution using the redirector extension:


Example URL:

Include pattern: *lesswrong*

Redirect to: $1greaterwrong$2

You should get out example result:

(I am using Firefox and I assume it is the same on other browsers)

UBI for President

I do agree that a graduated UBI (negative income tax) would be cleaner than the current welfare system. A smooth gradient out instead of a sharp cut in benefits. The incentives would align substantially for people seeking to escape the poverty trap.

A major issue for me when I think of this is the incentives for increasing the amount until it is unsustainable. Being able to vote yourself more money is... well. A ticket towards candidates promising to give people more money out of the pockets of others.

This would incentivize brain drain as well as immigration of people in dire straits. It would also incentivize a population boom since people would no longer worry as much about being able to support their family. This in turn makes the problem worse.

Although this applies to any kind of welfare. So it may be strictly easier legally to end the old programs and start on this one. The savings from no longer dealing with red tape, frustration, and bootstrapping from meagre resources may actually be sufficient to counterbalance these negative effects.

I do wonder on the effect of various UBI schemes on people's productivity and life choices.

UBI for President

~300,000,000 US citizens.

$1,000/month/person = 12,000 $/year/person

$12,000*300,000,000 = $3,600,000,000,000/year = 3.6 trillion dollars a year

For reference, the United States takes in a little over 6 trillion dollars a year in taxes.

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