Richard Hollerith, 15 miles north of San Francisco. hruvulum@gmail.com

rhollerith_dot_com's Comments

Why Rationalists Shouldn't be Interested in Topos Theory

I like Girard. The Rust programming language's borrow checker probably wouldn't've been invented yet if it weren't for Girard's 1987 paper, "Linear logic". (The paper got sustained attention from numerous programming-languages researchers; I read many thousands of papers on programming-language design before the appearance of Girard 1987 and I can recall no exploration of the use of linear types, use-once variables or whatever you want to call them before Girard 1987.)

What happens in a recession anyway?

If I lose my job, but most of the other men in my workplace and in my social environment keep theirs, that tends to have a much worse effect on my self-esteem than if all the men in my workplace lose their job because the government closed the workplace by fiat or if half of the men in my social environment lose their jobs because of a lockdown, so I would expect this recession to cause fewer suicides in the US than a typical US recession did since a persistent sense of not measuring up to the other men in my social environment is according to my understanding a major cause of suicide.

The other major cause of suicide according to my understanding is a breakdown in society: in short people need to feel like they belong -- to know where they belong in the social structure, which doesn't happen during rapid social change (whether the change is "positive" or "negative" in the long term). That explains the huge increase in suicide (and addictive behavior) in Russia in 1991. Although the lockdowns in response to the virus are causing disruptions, men know the disruptions will end and that when they do, most social arrangement will go back to the way it they were -- in sharp contrast to the situation in Russia in 1991. Consequently I wouldn't expect the lockdowns to disrupt society enough to cause a large increase in suicides.

Clarification: I think most men know or will soon enough find out, e.g., through the media that the lockdowns won't persist past the end of next winter (Northern Hemisphere) at the latest.

April Coronavirus Open Thread

If you are wondering what the typical humidity is where you live, note that almost any build that is 10 deg F or more warmer than its surrounding because it is heated will have relative humidity (which is what parent means by "humidity") well below .6.

Relative humidity is expensive to control partly because it is expensive for an automated system to measure. My guess is that on the margin, distributing fresh surgical masks to everyone entering the building would be much cheaper (and more effective) even when we adjust for the fact that an emergency ramp-up of mask production is much more expensive than normal, "peacetime" mask production. (I added "on the margin" to adjust for the fact that surgical masks are most efficiently produced in a facility that can supply many orders of magnitude of buildings.)

How Much is Your Time Worth?

Light physical activity through the day is definitely good for living longer and more importantly staying instrumentally rational longer.

Could we solve this email mess if we all moved to paid emails?
If businesses can simply buy their way around the problem they'll do exactly that. . . . you're forced to wait by PoW

I don't understand. An employee of the business writes the message, then hits send, which causes the provable work to be done by some computer somewhere after which the message is delivered. (The code to do that when a person hits send does not currently exist, but it is only a few lines of code, and if your proposal gets adopted by many people, then such code will come into existence.)

When is this waiting that you refer to? Is the fact that there is a delay between the hitting of the send button and the delivery of the message supposed to act as a deterrent somehow?

If the provable work is something that only a human can do, i.e., cannot effectively be automated, then why did you mention BOINC?

"But It Doesn't Matter"

>The fact that H is interesting enough for you to be considering the question at all means that it must have some relevance to the things you care about .

Even if H came to my attention because I read it in a comment on the internet?

Even if I live in medieval Europe and am surrounding by people who like to argue about how many angels can fit on the head of a pin?

What features of people do you know of that might predict academic success?

I know nothing of RAISE or its strategy, so my answer will address only the broader question of which prospective AI safety workers to encourage or to invest resources in.

Although it is not true of everything worth teaching a prospect, many of the things worth teaching a prospect (including general instrumental rationality skills) can be used both for increasing AI safety and for irresponsible AGI research. The best way I have been able to think of to reduce the likelihood that an investment in a prospect will go on to be used by that prospect for irresponsible AGI research is to choose only female prospects and those few male prospects who show very strong signs of being better investment targets than average.

This is a completely serious suggestion although I might change my mind if I knew about more AGI researchers and AI safety researchers and activists. I know about only about a dozen of them. All the irresponsible ones are male whereas the two women in my sample, Anna Salamon and Katja Grace, are definitely responsible. My basis for that conclusion: in a previous decade I had the distinct pleasure of having long conversations with the two.

Towards a Quieter Life

> I can Sabbath for a bit

OK, but please keep in mind that for you to Sabbath the way that, e.g., Isaac Newton Sabbathed would require almost everyone around you to be Sabbathing, too (if only out of fear of social ostracism or excommunication).

Sabbathing helped in traditional European society probably by making it easier for people to feel connected to those around them (a feeling that contemporary Americans probably sorely lack). This feeling of connection is a relatively weak feeling, easy eclipsed by, e.g., the fear of going hungry or not making rent or the anticipated pleasure of experiencing an increase in status or an improvement in material circumstances.

One of the reasons the art of rationality is not more popular is that most employed adults in the West are not curious because curiosity is a weak drive relative to many other adult drive, and my experience (sample size of about 2, namely me and my best friend) is that the calm joy of feeling a human connection with those around one is even weaker than curiosity.

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