All of rhollerith's Comments + Replies

Let's reimplement EURISKO!

Let us briefly review the discussion up to now since many readers use the the comments page which does not provide much context. rwallace has been arguing that AI researchers are too concerned (or will become too concerned) about the existential risk from reimplementing EURISKO and things like that.

You have mentioned two or three times, rwallace, that without more advanced technology, humans will eventually go extinct. (I quote one of those 2 or 3 mentions below.) You mention that to create and to manage that future advanced technology, civilization w... (read more)

Reduction in complexity is at least conceivable, I'll grant. For example if someone invented a zero point energy generator with the cost and form factor of an AA battery, much of the complexity associated with the energy industry could disappear. But this seems highly unlikely. All the current evidence suggests the contrary: the breakthroughs that will be necessary and possible in the coming century will be precisely those of complex systems (in both senses of the term). Human level AGI in the near future is indeed neither necessary nor possible. But there is a vast gap between that and what we have today, and we will, yes, need to fill some of that gap. Perhaps a key breakthrough would have come from a young researcher who would have re-implemented Eurisko and from the experiment acquired a critical jump in understanding - and who has now quietly left, thinking Eurisko might blow up the world, to reconsider that job offer from Electronic Arts. I do disagree that AGI research is a fast danger. I will grant you that there is a sense in which the dangers I am worried about are slow ones - barring unlikely events like a large asteroid impact (which is likely only over longer time scales), I'm confident humanity will still exist 100 years from now. But our window of opportunity may not. Consider that civilizations are mortal, for reasons unrelated to this conversation. Consider that environments conducive to scientific progress are even considerably rarer and more transient than civilization itself. Consider also that the environment in which our civilization arose is gone, and is not coming back. (For the simplest example, while fossil fuels still exist, the easily accessible deposits thereof, so important for bootstrapping, are largely gone.) I think it quite possible that the 21st-century may be the last hard step in the Great Filter, that by the year 2100 the ultimate fate of humanity may in fact have been decided, even if nobody on that date yet knows it. I can
Let's reimplement EURISKO!

rwallace has been arguing the position that AI researchers are too concerned (or will become too concerned) about the existential risk from UFAI. He writes that

we need software tools smart enough to help us deal with complexity.

rwallace: can we deal with complexity sufficiently well without new software that engages in strongly-recursive self-improvement?

Without new AGI software?

One part of the risk that rwallace says outweighs the risk of UFAI is that

we remain confined to one little planet . . . with everyone in weapon range of everyone else

The ... (read more)

I've written a more detailed explanation of why recursive self-improvement is a figment of our imaginations: []
rhollerith: "Strongly-recursive self-improvement" is a figment of the imagination; among the logical errors involved is confusion between properties of a program and properties of the world. As for the rest: do you believe humanity can survive permanently as we are now, confined to this planet? If you do, then I will point you to the geological evidence to the contrary. If not, then it follows that without more advanced technology, we are dead. Neither I nor anybody else can know what will be the proximate cause of death for the last individual, or in what century, but certain extinction is certain extinction nonetheless.
If we have uploads we can get off the planet and stay in space for a fraction of the resources it currently costs to do manned space flight. We can spread ourselves between the stars. But an upload might go foom, so we should stop all upload research. It is this kind of conundrum I see humanity in at the moment.
Typical Mind and Politics

I agree that introspection certainly can be a valid tool.

Typical Mind and Politics

I have a strong pain signal from lost money and from lost time. To the extent that I can introspect on the workings of my insula, I think that this is one impulse for me, rather than two as Yvain describes - one for time and one for money.

The most parsimonious explanation of what you observe is that it is human nature to be overconfident of the results of introspection.

I voted that up, because it's an important point, but I want to emphasize that I don't want to encourage the scientistic attitude of rejecting introspection as a valid tool either. Given the community I think that should have been emphasized.
Mate selection for the men here

When I wrote that "it is never in the financial self-interest of any [self-help] practitioner to do the hard long work to collect evidence that would sway a non-gullible client," I referred to long hard work many orders of magnitude longer and harder than posting a link to a web page. Consequently, your pointing out that you post links to web pages even when it is not in your financial self-interest to do so does not refute my point. I do not maintain that you should do the long hard work to collect evidence that would sway a non-guillible clie... (read more)

What you said was: In context, the strong implication was that nazgulnarsil was a "gullible potential client", and that I was preying on him for my financial self-interest. Whether you intended those implications or not, they are nonetheless viable interpretations of your words. I feel I should also point out that you have not yet denied intending those implications. Instead, you are treating my comments as if they are an argument about the simple text of your comment -- which they are not. My objection is to the subtextual insults, not about what studies I should or should not conduct. As I said, if you talk like this all the time, it's really no wonder you get feedback that you're treating people with contempt. If you want to signal less contempt, you might find it useful to pay attention when they point out to you that your implications are insulting, and take pains to separate those implications from your actual position. Otherwise, you imply contempt whether the original implication was intentional or not!
Mate selection for the men here

Previously in this thread I opined as follows on the state of the art in self help: there are enough gullible prospective clients that it is never in the financial self-interest of any practitioner to do the hard long work to collect evidence that would sway a non-guillible client.

PJ Eby took exception as follows:

you ignored the part where I just gave somebody a pointer to somebody else's work that they could download for free

Lots of people offer pointers to somebody else's writings. Most of those people do not know enough about how to produce lasting... (read more)

Regardless of its (in)applicability to pjeby, whose participation on this site I generally approve of, this beautiful rant reinforced and gave reasons for my own similar feelings toward self-help salesmen in general.
Probably true. But if you use those statistical facts about most people as an excuse to never listen to anyone, or even to one specific person, you're setting yourself up for failure. How will you ever revise your probability estimate of one person's knowledge or the general state of knowledge in a field, if you never allow yourself to encounter any evidence? Is that your true rejection? [] If P.J. Eby said "why, yes I have," would you change your views based on one anecdote? Since a randomized, double-blind trial is impossible (or at least financially impractical and incompatible with the self-help coach's business model), what do you consider a reasonable standard of evidence? Given the vigorous dissent from you and others, I don't think "discouraging contributions" is a likely problem! However, I personally would like to see discussion of specific claims of fact and (as much as possible) empirical evidence. A simple assertion of a probability estimate doesn't help me understand your points of disagreement.
If you're going to insult someone, just do it. Don't write insults directed at "lots of people", when it's obvious who you're talking about. Perhaps if you made your attacks more concrete, you would realize that you have an obligation to check your facts first.
You missed the point - I was pointing out there is no financial incentive for me to send somebody to download somebody else's free stuff, when I sell workshops on the same topic. Holy cow, you're confused. To actually refute the huge chain of fallacies you've just perpetrated seems like it would take me all day. Nonetheless, I shall try to be brief: 1. I do not use formal hypnosis. I have recently been interested in the similarities between certain effects of hypnosis and my techniques. 2. I am not aware of any connection between hypnosis, dominance, and hunting parties, and would be very, very surprised if any arose, unless perhaps we're talking about stage hypnotism. The tools I work with are strictly ones of monoidealism and ideodynamics... which are at work whenever you start thinking you're hungry until it becomes enough of an obsession for you to walk to the fridge. That is what monoidealism and ideodynamics are: the absorption of the imagination upon a single thought until it induces emotional, sensory, or physical response. 3. I do not consider my work to be done until someone is surprised by their behavior or their automatic responses, specifically in order to avoid "false placebo" effects. Sometimes, a person will say they think they changed or that something changed a little bit, and my response to that is always to question it, to find out specifically what is happening. A true success nearly always involves something that the person did not expect -- indicating that their S1 behavior model has changed, relative to their S2 self-modeling. 4. A state of submission is not useful to my work; I spend a considerable effort getting clients out of such states, because then they will spend ridiculous amounts of time deprecating themselves, instead of actually answering the questions I ask. Whew. I think that'll do for now. I do not believe I h
Mate selection for the men here

Previously in this thread: PJ Eby asserts that the inability to refrain from conveying contempt is a common and severe interpersonal handicap. Nazgulnarsil replies, "This is my problem. . . . I can't hide the fact that I feel contempt for the vast majority of the people around me (including desirable partners)."

I probably have the problem too. Although it is rare that I am aware of feeling contempt for my interlocutor, there is a lot of circumstantial evidence that messages (mostly nonverbal) conveying contempt are present in my face-to-face co... (read more)

I notice you ignored the part where I just gave somebody a pointer to somebody else's work that they could download for free to help with that, and then you indirectly accused me of being more interested in financial incentives than results... while calling nazgulnarsil gullible, too! If that's an example of your ordinary social demeanor, then it's not in the least bit surprising that people think you hold them in contempt, as it's not even necessary to observe any of your "nonverbal" communication to obtain this impression.
My concerns about the term 'rationalist'

I changed the title of my post from "Mate selection for the male rationalist" to "Mate selection for the men here".

Mate selection for the men here

We differ in that respect, perhaps because I have had more time slowly to shape my emotional responses to women.

Probability distributions and writing style

BTW it would be great to have all my writings subjected to examination by the community to determine whether the writings use probability distributions, utility functions and the language of causality correctly and sensibly.

Mate selection for the men here

HughRistik writes, "I recommend women who are high in Openness to Experience."

My two most personally-useful long-term relationships have been with women high in Openness to Experience. The Wikipedia article says that this trait is normally distributed, so I will add that both women were definitely in the top quartile in this trait and probably at least a standard deviation above the mean.

HughRistik, since we seem to see things similarly, maybe we should talk.

Contact rhollerith

Mate selection for the men here

Yes, but there is a sense of the word "rationalist" that makes HughRistik's quote (and my post) make sense. Something like "strongly motivated to learn science and the art of rationality" or "the kind of person you become if for the last 20 years you have been strongly motivated to . . ."

For the last 20 years???
Mate selection for the men here

This post assumes that the reader wants a long-term relationship.

Post edited to make the assumption explicit.

Probability distributions and writing style

dclayh, I have replied to you privately.

Specifically, the first likely google hit for "dclayh" is a Livejournal user of that name, so I used Livejournal to send a private message to that user.

Contact rhollerith

Thanks for the message. Yes, I believe I'm the only "dclayh" on the internet; at least, all 77 google results are about me.
Mate selection for the men here

The following comments are evidence that female rationality is important to at least some male rationalists. Note that the first comment was upvoted by 7 readers.

I know I would love to have my next girlfriend be a rationalist (if only to avoid my most recent failure mode) by MBlume

But she loves magical thinking, she is somewhat averse to expected-utility calculations, my atheism, etc. . . . We love each other but are scared that our differences may be too great. (read more)

I agree that rationality is a desirable feature, all else equal. But how much facial symmetry, or sexual compatibility, would male rationalists give up for an extra unit of rationality in their partners? Perhaps this is just my personal failing, but I find that my answer is not very much.
Open Thread: June 2009

I am pretty sure that most strong male rationalists are better off learning how the typical woman thinks than holding out for a long-term relationship with a strong female rationalist. Since this point is probably of general interest, I put it in a top-level post.

Converting her to your worldview sounds like a bad idea in general. An additional consideration that applies in your particular situation is that converting a helping professional from deontologism to consequentialism will more likely than not make her less effective at work (because helping pro... (read more)

Thanks very much for your thoughts, and for making a top level post on the topic. Yes, her contribution to social welfare is something I find very attractive, and you help me remember just how important and rare that is.
Image vs. Impact: Can public commitment be counterproductive for achievement?

Status seekers probably greatly outnumber true altruists.

But you should tend to keep the status seekers out of positions of great responsibility IMHO even if doing so greatly reduces the total number of volunteers working on existential risks.

My tentative belief that status seekers will not do as good a job BTW stems from (1) first-hand observation and second-hand observation of long-term personal performance as a function of personal motivation in domains such as science-learning, programming, management and politics and (2) a result from social psycholo... (read more)

4Scott Alexander13y
A lot more people talk about existential risks, often in a very animated way, than do anything about them. I think probably the vast majority of people interested in existential risk want to signify both that they are good caring people, and that they are hard-headed intelligent rationalists and not the sort of muddled peace-and-love types who would go around waving "FUR IS MURDER" signs. Probably doesn't actually work as far as getting friends and lovers is concerned, but it's a good self-signal.
This Failing Earth

I am in tentative agreement with Moldbug's main points. But like patrissimo says, some of his claims are overly sweeping. Unlike patrissimo, I have no significant personal stake in Moldbug's being right aside from the stake we all have in the health of the state and the society in which we live.

Image vs. Impact: Can public commitment be counterproductive for achievement?

Helping to rescue marine mammals is a more effective way for a straight guy to signal high status to prospective sex partners than addressing existential risks is. I always considered that a feature, not a bug, because I always thought that people doing something to signal status do not do as good a job as people motivated by altruism, a desire to serve something greater than oneself or a sense of duty -- or even people motivated by a salary.

Maybe altruists do a better job at the task at hand, but they do a much worse job at survival and reproduction, hence get ruthlessly selected against by evolution, hence are much rarer, hence if your cause only appeals to altruists, it will have far fewer supporters than if it appeals to status signalers too. So if your cause needs many supporters, you just have to suck it up and try to provide status.
But how many altruists can there really be, relative to status seekers?
Willpower Hax #487: Execute by Default

"I get up most easily when I've slept enough. . . Does anyone else have the same experience?"

I am going to go out on a limb and say that most of us have that experience.

Open Thread: May 2009

JGWeissman writes, "I don't see what you gain by this strategy that justifies the decrease in correlation between a comments displayed karma score and the value the community assigns it that occurs when you down vote a comment not because it is a problem, but because the author had written other comments that are a problem."

Vladimir Nesov writes, "If you are downvoting indiscriminately, not separating the better comments from the worse ones, without even bothering to understand them, you are abusing the system."

Anna writes, "This h... (read more)

Open Thread: May 2009

A normally good contributor's having a bad day is not going to be enough to trigger any downvoting of any of his comments under the policy I contemplate. Th policy I contemplate makes use of a general skill that I hypothesize that most participants on this site have: the ability to reserve judgement on someone till one has seen at least a dozen communications from that person and then to make a determination as to whether the person is worth continuing to pay attention to.

The people who have the most to contribute to a site like this are very busy. As El... (read more)

If you are basing your judgment on at least a dozen communications from the commenter, then, as I explained, you have already identified plenty of comments that should be downloaded. If you base your decision on seeing the 10 of the 12 observed comments are problems, then you can dock the bad commenter 10 points. And if you are right, you will not be the only one. You do not need to personally dock the user 20 or 30 points. If a person has excellent judgment to distinguish which comments should be up voted and which person should be down voted, but does not have the time to actually use that judgment, then that person is not going to be a successful protector of this site. Either take the time to do it right, or leave it to those who have the good judgment and the time, who there seems to be plenty of, giving that the system is working.
Open Thread: May 2009

Now, if you have the habit of reading through someone's comments all at one time and judge each comment for its own value

No, that's not what I have been contemplating.

"A commenter's karma means nothing," is a bit of an overstatement because you need 20 karma to post. Also, most commenters are probably aware of changes in their karma. And if I reduce a person's karma by 20 or 30 points, I would send him a private message to explain.

What I propose reduces the informativeness of a comment's point score but more-or-less maintains the informative... (read more)

If you are downvoting indiscriminately, not separating the better comments from the worse ones, without even bothering to understand them, you are abusing the system.
What is it that causes you to believe a commenter should be penalized 20 or 30 karma points at a time? If it is that they make a lot of worthless comments, then you have no shortage of comments to down vote, and there is no need to down vote their comments indiscriminately. If it is the they made an exceptionally worthless comment, it is my experience that these get down vote pretty fast by many people, so they will still lose a lot of karma even though you only contribute one point to their loss. In short, I don't see what you gain by this strategy that justifies the decrease in correlation between a comments displayed karma score and the value the community assigns it that occurs when you down vote a comment not because it is a problem, but because the author had written other comments that are a problem. If a normally good contributor has a bad day and makes some bad comments, it does not make sense to devalue their previous high quality comments.
Open Thread: May 2009

conchis, I have been reading your comments for at least 12 months on Overcoming Bias and have accumulated no negative feeling or opinion about you, so please do not think that what I am going to say is directed at you.

I have been thinking of adopting this strategy of occasionally giving a participant 20 or 30 or so downvotes all at once rather than frequently giving a comment a single downvote because I judge moderation of coment-writers (used, e.g., on SL4 back before 2005 and again in recent months, when a List Sniper has been active, during which times ... (read more)

That makes sense, but removing the negative feedback to a time other than when the comment was made makes it extremely hard for the commenter to improve. If that is not one of your goals, fair enough. A commenter's karma means nothing when reading this site since the karma is not displayed while the karma of a comment means everything. Disagreeing with the way a site uses karma makes sense, but trying to implement a better system by ignoring the purpose of the implemented system is not particularly useful. Now, if you have the habit of reading through someone's comments all at one time and judge each comment for its own value, than what I said here is mostly irrelevant.
Off Topic Thread: May 2009

A system of valuing things is a definition. I have defined a system and said, "Oh, by the way, this system has my loyalty."

It is possible that the system is ill-defined, that is, that my definition contradicts itself, does not apply to the reality we find ourselves in, or differs in some significant way from what I think it means. But your appeal to general relativity does not show the ill-definedness of my system because it is possible to pick the time dimension out of spacetime: the time dimension it is treated quite specially in general rela... (read more)

Off Topic Thread: May 2009

Imagine that you were somehow shown a magically 100% sound, 100% persuasive proof that you could not have permanent effect on reality, and that the entire multiverse would eventually end.

I agree with you, Anna, that in that case the concept of my aims does not cease to be predictively useful. (Consequently, I take back my "then I have no preferences" .) It is just that I have not devoted any serious brain time to what my aims might be if knew for sure I cannot have a permanent effect. (Nor does it bother me that I am bad at predicting wha... (read more)

Would you go into why you only care about permanent effects? It seems highly bizarre to me (especially since, as Eliezer has pointed out, everything that happens is permanent insofar as occupies volume in 4d spacetime).
Off Topic Thread: May 2009

Anna, you are incorrect in guessing that my statement of preference is less than extremely useful for an outside observer to predict my actual behavior.

In other words, the part of me that is loyal to the intellectual framework is very good at getting the rest of me to serve the framework.

The rest of this comment consists of more than most readers probably want to know about my unusual way of valuing things.

I am indifferent to impermanent effects. Internal experiences, mine and yours, certainly qualify as impermanent effects. Note though that internal exp... (read more)

I understand that your stated goal system has effects on your external behavior. Still, I was trying to understand your claim that "If... there really is no way for me or my friends to have a permanent effect on reality, then I have no preference for what happens" (emphasis mine). Imagine that you were somehow shown a magically 100% sound, 100% persuasive proof that you could not have any permanent effect on reality, and that the entire multiverse would eventually end. In this circumstance, I doubt very much that the concept “Hollerith’s aims” would cease to be predictively useful. Whether you ate breakfast, or sought to end your life, or took up a new trade, or whatever, I suspect that your actions would have a purposive structure unlike the random bouncing about of inanimate systems. If you maintain that you would have no "preferences" under these circumstances (despite a model of "Hollerith's preferences" being useful to predict your behavior under these circumstances), this suggests you're using the term "preferences" in an interesting way. The reason I’m trying to pursue this line of inquiry is that I am not clear what “preference” does and should mean, as any of us discuss ethics and meta-ethics. No doubt you feel some desire to realize goals that are valued by goal system zero, and no doubt you act partially on that desire as well. No doubt you also feel and act partially on other desires or preferences that a particular aspect of you does not endorse. The thing I’m confused about is... well, I don’t know how to say what I’m confused about; I’m confused. But something like: * What goes on, in practice, when a person verbally endorses certain sense (1) and sense (2) preferences and disclaims other sense (1) or sense (2) preferences? What kind of a sense (4) system for manipulating oneself then gets formed -- is it distinguished from other cognitive subsystems by more than the xml tag? What kind of actual psychological consequences does the x
I wasn't trying to claim that your stated goal system had no effect on your observable behavior, only that it doesn't have a complete effect. That is, that I would be very surprised if, after you were shown a magically completely certain proof that it is impossible for you to have permanent effect on reality, concepts like "Hollerith's goals" completely ceased to be useful in predicting, say, whether you would eat breakfast.
Off Topic Thread: May 2009

I am worried, Kennaway, that our conversation about my way of valuing things will distract you from what I wrote below about the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder from a surgical procedure. Your scenario is less than ideal for exploring what intrinsic value people assign to internal experience: it is better to present people with a choice of being killed painlessly and being killed after 24 hours of intense pain and then asking what benefit to their best friend or to humanity would induce them to choose the intense pain.

Off Topic Thread: May 2009

I am not completely indifferent to being tortured, so in your hypothetical, Kennaway, I will try to get Ming to let me go because in your hypothetical I know I cannot have a permanent effect on reality.

But when faced with a choice between having a positive permanent effect on reality and avoiding being tortured I'll always choose having the permanent effect if I can.

Almost everybody gives in under torture. Almost everyone will eventually tell an interrogator skilled in torture everything they know, e.g., the passphrase to the rebel mainframe. Since I hav... (read more)

Off Topic Thread: May 2009

The following conclusions come from a book on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) called Waking the Tiger by Peter Levine, who treats PTSD for a living. I have a copy of this book, which I hereby offer to loan to Richard Kennaway if I do not have to pay to get it to him and to get it back from him.

Surgical procedures are in the opinion of Peter Levine a huge cause of PTSD.

According to Levine, PTSD is caused by subtle damage to the brain stem. Since in contrast episodic memory seems to have very little to do with the brain stem, the fact that one has n... (read more)

Off Topic Thread: May 2009

I am not completely surprised to learn that your not getting the point was intentional, Newport, because your comments are usually good.

Do you consider it a "leap of imagination that few are capable of" to ask people here to indicate how much they value internal experience compared to how much they value external reality?

No, but if that's the question the original poster was interested in asking then I don't see any value in posing it in the form of an elaborate thought experiment rather than just directly asking the question, or asking about a more plausible scenario that raises similar issues.
Off Topic Thread: May 2009

Kennaway's reason for asking the questions is probably to get at how much people prefer to avoid negative internal experiences relative to negative effects on external reality, which parenthetically is the main theme of my blog on the ethics of superintelligence. If so, then he wants you to assume that you can trust Ming 100% to do what he says -- and he also wants you to assume that Ming's evil geniuses can somehow compensate you for the fact that you could have done something else with the 24 hours during which you were experiencing the unimaginably intense pain, e.g., by using a (probably imposible in reality) time machine to roll back the clock by 24 hours.

Yes, I assumed that something like that was the reason for posing the question. My answer deliberately 'missed the point' for the kinds of reasons mentioned in Hardened Problems Make Brittle Models [] and No Universal Probability Space []. I am not a fan of what Daniel Dennett calls Intuition Pumps [] - thought experiments in philosophy that ask people to imagine a scenario and then draw a conclusion when the scenario requires a leap of imagination that few people are capable of. The Chinese Room [] thought experiment is a classic example. I don't necessarily think the original question was driving at a particular answer but I'm just getting a little sick of this style of thinking on Less Wrong. I think it is sloppy and not very rational. I'd place any discussions involving Omega, most of the posed utilitarian moral dilemmas (specks vs. torture) and a number of other examples commonly discussed in the same category. I should probably have composed a post explaining that rather than trying to make my point by making a dumb answer to the question though.
Off Topic Thread: May 2009

I am in essential agreement with MBlume. It is more likely than not that the space-time continuum we find ourselves in will support life and intelligence for only a finite length of time. But even if that is the case, there might be another compartment of reality beyond our space-time continuum that can support life or intelligence indefinitely. If I affect that other compartment (even if I merely influence someone who influences someone who communicates with the other compartment) then my struggling comes to more than nothing.

If on the other hand, there really is no way for me or my friends to have a permanent effect on reality, then I have no preference for what happens.

People use the word "preference" to mean many things, including: 1. Felt emotional preference; 2. Descriptive model of the the preferences an outside observer could use to predict one's actual behavior; 3. Intellectual framework that has an xml tag "preference", that accords with some other xml tag "the right thing to do", and perhaps with what one verbally advocates; 4. Intellectual framework that a particular verbal portion of oneself, in practice, tries to manipulate the rest of oneself into better following. I take it you mean "preference" in senses 3 and 4, but not in sense 1 or 2?
*jangling chord* Ming's minions burst in and abduct you to the planet Ming. "So!" smiles Ming the Merciless in his merciless way, "My astronomers and physicists, who have had thousands of years to improve their sciences beyond your primitive level, assure me that all this will pass, yes, even I myself! One day it will be as if none had ever lived! Just rocks and dead stars, and insufficient complexity to ever again assemble creatures such as us, though it last a Graham number of years!" "Tell me, knowing this -- and I am as known for my honesty as for my evil, for see! I have not executed my scientists for telling me an unwelcome truth -- are you truly indifferent as to whether I let you go, or hand you over to my torturers? Does this touch of the branding iron mean nothing?" *sizzle*
Off Topic Thread: May 2009

I choose (b) without hesitation. There is not some counter or accumulator somewhere that is incremented any time someone has a positive experience and decremented every time someone has a negative experience.

EDIT. To answer Kennaway's second question, there is no way to attenuate (a) to make me prefer it to (b). I'd choose (b) even if the alternative was a dust speck in my eye or a small scratch on my skin because the dust speck and the scratch have a nonzero probability of negatively affecting my vision or my health.

To the best of our knowledge, the universe will run down one day, and all our struggling will come to nothing. A meta-ethics which says "nothing temporary can matter" means all utilities come to zero in such a universe.
Open Thread: May 2009

Phil, things like cables and phone lines going to houses are "natural monopolies" in that it costs so much to install them that competitors probably can never get started. In fact, if the technology to deliver video over phone lines were available or anticipated when cable TV was building out in the 70s, the owner of the phone lines (pre-breakup AT&T) could probably have stopped the new cable TV companies from ever getting off the ground (by using the fact that AT&T has already paid for its pipe to the home to lowball the new companies).... (read more)

How does that square with the fact that in places without government-granted monopolies, there are often more than one provider? My apartment building has two separate cable companies, in addition to Verizon fiber. Is there a general argument for how rental houses often end up with two or more separate cable boxes from more than one provider in areas without government suppression of competition, while still holding that it can't happen in the general case?
Fighting Akrasia: Incentivising Action

If I were you, I would not cancel your projects till you have tried having your business partners in the room with you when you are working. (Maybe you have.)

Fighting Akrasia: Incentivising Action

Unlike roland and gworley, my experience is that my current romantic partner helps me substantially in my fight against procrastination.

Specifically, my diet is better than it would be if she did not express her opinions on my diet and if I were not motivated to avoid disappointing her. (Both of us have similar chronic health problems, including food allergies.)

Also, she regularly prods me to start a medical treatment that I have been putting off for the last couple of years. Although I have not yet started the treatment, it is pretty clear that I will s... (read more)

Generalizing From One Example

Molloy did not mention verifying the numbers (by, e.g., calling them) so he probably did not verify them.

Generalizing From One Example

John T. Molloy once paid actors to go into bars and try to get women's phone numbers. One group of actors he asked to act confident. A second group of actors he asked to act arrogant. The actors asked to act arrogant were more successful. (Described in Molloy's 1975 book Dress for Success.)

Of course, as Alicorn says, the population of women who go to bars and talk to strange men might not be representative of all single women.

How exactly did he convey to the actors the difference between arrogance and confidence?

/me wonders what percentage of phone numbers received were fake

Where's Your Sense of Mystery?

I have copies of The Structure of Magic, Volumes I and II (Hardcover, 1975) to give away. If you want them, please contact me privately. Preference given to those who will either travel to my home in San Rafael, CA, to pick them up or who will attend the next OB/LW meetup in the Bay Area (because then I do not have to pay shipping costs).

The fact that I own the volumes should not be taken as endorsement of them. In fact, I tend to suspect that Eliezer and those about as smart, knowledgable and committed to understanding intelligence are better off not wasting their time on NLP and that they should stick to ev psy and hard cognitive science and neuroscience instead.

Where's Your Sense of Mystery?

Agree. And pjeby's comments are long which makes it a little tedious for me to scroll past them.

Programmatic Prediction markets

Intriguing idea, whpearson.

The biggest hurdle to the adoption of such a system is probably the fact that most current traders probably do not have enough programming skill to trade in such a system without incurring significant costs by starting lots of bots and probably do not have enough programming skill to extract more than a small fraction of the information revealed by such a system. One way to get over that hurdle is to target your new market at programmers and allied occupations (like project managers). Programmers and allied occupations could us... (read more)

Whether the market is more informative depends on the type of information people put in the programs. The price may not be better, but the price on its own is not useful to me, if I want to be a trader and put in my information. See my updated intro.
The ideas you're not ready to post

Heck yeah, I want to see it. I suggest adopting Eliezer's modus operandi of using a lot of words. And every time you see something in your draft post that might need explanation, post on that topic first.

Welcome to Less Wrong!

Bongo asks me what is it then that I desire nowadays?

And my answer is, pretty much the same things everyone else desires! There are certain things you have to have to remain healthy and to protect your intelligence and your creativity, and getting those things takes up most of my time. Also, even in the cases where my motivational structure is different from the typical, I often present a typical facade to the outside world because typical is comfortable and familiar to people whereas atypical is suspicious or just too much trouble for people to learn.

Bo... (read more)

Welcome to Less Wrong!

Nesov points out that Eliezer picks and chooses rather than identifying with every shard of his desire.

Fair enough, but the point remains that it is not too misleading to say that I identify with fewer of the shards of human desire than Eliezer does -- which affects what we recommend to other people.

Bayesians vs. Barbarians

I think people exist who will make the personal sacrifice of going to jail for a long time to prevent the nuke from going off. But I do not think people exist who will also sacrifice a friend. But under American law that is what a person would have to do to consult with a friend on the decision of whether to torture: American law punishes people who have foreknowledge of certain crimes but do not convey their foreknowledge to the authorities. So the person is faced with making what may well be the most important decision of their lives without help fro... (read more)

Discuss a hypothetical situation with your friend that happens to match up in all particulars with the real-world situation, which you do not discuss. It isn't actually important here that your friend be fooled, the goal is to give your friend plausible deniability to protect her from litigation.
Welcome to Less Wrong!

Most mystics reject science and rationality (and I think I have a pretty good causal model of why that is) but there have been scientific rational mystics, e.g., physicist David Bohm. I know of no reason why a person who starts out committed to science and rationality should lose that commitment through mystical training and mystical experience if he has competent advice.

My main interest in mystical experience is that it is a hole in the human motivational system -- one of the few ways for a person to become independent from what Eliezer calls the thousan... (read more)

I would be interested to know what it is then that you desire nowadays. And does everyone who gives up the thousand shards of desire end up desiring the same thing?
Not so. You don't assign value to your drives because they were inbuilt in you by evolution, you don't value your qualities just because they come as a package deal, just because you are human [*]. Instead, you look at what you value, as a person. And of the things you value, you find that most of them are evolution's doing [], but you don't accept all of them [], and you look at some of them in a different way from what evolution intended. [*] Related, but overloaded with other info: No License To Be Human [].
Bayesians vs. Barbarians

I agree with every sentence in this post. (And I read it twice to make sure.)

Collective Apathy and the Internet

There are many benefits to surrounding yourself with extremely bright rationalists and scientific generalists. But I wonder if Eliezer has been too successful in sparing himself from the tedium and the trouble of interacting with and observing the common run of scientifically-illiterate irrational not-particularly-bright humanity. If he had been forced to spend a few years in an ordinary American high school or in an ordinary workplace -- or even if he had had lengthy dealings with a few of the many community activists of the San Francisco Bay Area where... (read more)

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