All of Richard Horvath's Comments + Replies

I think I did experience something like that. When learning new skills to change positions, I found myself eager to learn even after a long and tiring day or week if I concentrated on my dissatisfaction with the job I had that time. When contemplating about the phenomenon I kind of described it how a Sith is supposed to work, using his negative emotions to channel energy into the task. And indeed, by using this "passion" to "gain strength/power", I did "gain victory", so it worked out, as the Sith code preaches:)


Slightly off topic, but I like how use... (read more)

Russian military might. They have been hearing it all their lives:
learning about historical victories, watching movies about it on the TV, seeing the victory parade every 8th of May...

And they can point to the map, and show that Russia being the largest country by territory is proof enough.
Hell, even most of the world believed it until March.

Oh, I just realized I was answering a different question: why might someone with my knowledge consider Russia a superpower. But the question was about why Russians would... That makes it much easier. I assume that an average Russian does not know many things. Such as, what is it like to live in EU or USA. Or the fact that Soviet Union defeated Nazi Germany in WW2 only because it received a lot of help from the West. (Quite likely, they never heard about Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact [].) I tried to find information how many Russians speak English (as a proxy for "can talk to foreigners online") but everyone gives a different number. I assume that most of them get some introductory lesson at school, but only a few achieve fluency. Notice how Russia has their own search engine (Yandex), and social network (VKontakte). I suspect that communication with foreigners is probably quite rare for most Russians. So, I guess, if you spend all your life in Russia, and if your information about Russia and its relative position in the world mostly comes from government-approved TV channels and news... then it is quite easy to assume that Russia is a superpower in all possible dimensions! Only its military is merely the second strongest in the world, otherwise you couldn't explain why you still haven't defeated USA.

"Objection against "out of desperation". How is it desperation to lose something that you didn't own yesterday, just tried to take from someone and failed. (Yes, I am sure that Russia will spin it as desperation, but it is not.)"

I would make a comment here:

Losing a couple of provinces in Ukraine that just become part of the Russian Federation recently should not make "Russia" desperate. However, I believe we have a principal-agent problem here:
Russia can afford to lose this war, but the current Russian leadership does not. I think they believe there is a g... (read more)

We are currently at this spot: 47,5214910, 19,0456420

We have a blue and a red umbrella.

Thinking through my history of improvements, what seems to have worked for me:

1. Realizing I am dissatisfied with something.
2. Describe the problem and the desired outcome.
3. Search for solutions, compare multiple options.
Most techniques might require some tinkering/experimenting before they actually become useful. The longer feedback loop makes it is easier for snake oil salesman to enter such fields. To avoid these, check if the people promoting the solution are actually far above average in the ability the solution is supposed to grant, and if it is act... (read more)

Kaj_Sotala provided a good answer, but I want to give an intuitive example:

If you could decide whether:
A: a single person lives on Earth, supported by aligned AGI, its knowledge and all resources of the planet in service of nothing but his welfare, living in abundance not even the greatest emperors ever dreamed of.
B: a civilization of tens of billions living on Earth, supported by aligned AGI, thanks to which all of them have at least the living standard of a current upper-middle class American.

I believe most people would choose option B. Of course, this i... (read more)

Probably my strangest bugfix was realizing that sometimes I get too immersed in an activity and go to bed hours after I planned to. This still happened even after I setup alarms/reminders for specific hours. I would just turn them off and continue browsing/playing/watching "just for another 15 minutes", which would sometimes turn to hours.

The solution was to set an alarm with a title and decision that I am not allowed to turn it off, unless I temporarily stop what I am doing for a minute, during which I change my location to another room, and talk to one o... (read more)

Richard, I am so going to try this technique.  I read it at 1:30 this morning/last night and promptly created and set an alarm with a very long title including the rule that I have to go into another room.  Here's hoping! also thanks for the shoulder advisor link, off down that rabbit hole too with much to think about. 


Paraphrasing is useful because it forces you to check the parts of the concept (elements and their relations) you are about to explain. While just giving something back word-by-word could hide the lack of understanding, if you understand the concept, you should be able to give back the details in a different order/point of view. If you understood the main parts, and how they are connected, you can give a different explanation (changing the order/showing different sides, replace parts etc), while also retaining the meaning of the content. While try... (read more)

It would be nice to collect examples on such things (e.g., studying X in the long term helped me with Y problem through concept Z). It could help people decide what to study and insipre them to keep doing it.

This might be useful in relatively young fields (e.g. information theory) , or ones where the topic itself thwarts any serious tower-building (e.g. archaeology), but in general I think this is likely to be misleading. Important problems often require substantial background to recognize as important, or even as problems.  A list of applications of sophisticated math to physics which is aimed at laymen is going to end up looking a lot like a list of applications of sophisticated math to astrophysics, even though condensed matter is an order of magnitude larger, and larger for sensible reasons. Understanding topological insulators (which could plausibly lead to, among other things, practical quantum computers) is more important than understanding fast radio bursts (which are almost certainly not alien transmissions). But a "fast radio burst" is literally just a burst of radio waves that appeared and disappeared really fast. A neutron star is a star made of neutrons. An exoplanet is a planet that's exo. A topological insulator is ... an insulator that's topological? Well, A: no, not really, and B: now explain what topological means.  Once people can ask well-posed questions, providing further motivation is easy. It's getting them to that point that's hard. 

I would add that often automating the task is way more fun than doing the task itself. Once I spent a lot of time automating something that was so mind numbing (simple, boring, but required constant focus as a small mistake would have had negative consequences) that I thought I rather shoot myself than do it again.

Although it turned out to also have saved a lot of time in the long run (it was not clear during that time how many times I would have had to do the task), I would have still chosen automation for the mental health benefits.

This is definitely a good reason and I've been in this exact situation before too.

I agree. I think it is more likely that "real" meat will be mixed into lab-grown, to dilute the cost/keep up with the demand.

I think it is more likely that some wholesalers and retailers will be faking the lab-grown meat without the knowledge of the original producer, selling in similar boxes.

"An AI programmed to maximize utility will tile the Universe with tiny copies of Eliezer Yudkowksy."

This one aged well:

Reporting on the exercise:

First the exercise itself caused me to have thoughts on what "reflection" actually is. Would a shiny metal metal roof, reflecting a lot more sunlight than its neighbours be "reflection"? In the end, I focused mostly on surfaces that reflect enough light to enable the identification of a non-light-emitting object that is being reflected (mostly windows). There were many of these, but the point of view influenced the outcome: if you walk a bit further, you may see a reflection on a surface you did not see before.

But what is more imp... (read more)

As part of exercise #2, I hereby record my pledge to carry out this training regime, by completing one article each day (including the exercises) over the next ~ 30 days. Furthermore, I plan to write a comment detailing my experiences after completing the whole regime.

Okay, so my take on this:

Applied rationality is the conscious method of selecting the best way for reaching the desired goal, including the use of a different method in cases where other methods are superior.


  • An A. I. controlling a space ship will follow generally the best route it rationally calculates, but in a new, complex zone an otherwise inferior human pilot (or neural network) which is already well trained in that domain will be the better, hence it will rationally transfer control
  • It makes sense to calculate the trajectory of a ballistic missile before launching, but do not try to do the same when playing basketball

Thank you.

I understand the key issue with the Fed (and correspondingly other actors) misjudging inflation while being highly leveraged, and I do see it as a very good point in the current situation. If we were to see inflation going back to levels expected by the Fed (2-3% I suppose?) how would that change your forecast?

When you wrote "The main thing I’m worried about is increased savings" did you mean what you described in the previous paragraph (e.g. zero-NPV assets investing and alike), or was it something else?

Great question. So my view is that there could be a few potential triggers for a sell-off cascade (via some combination of margin calls and panic selling), leading to a large drop. There’s also a few triggers for increasing interest rates, not just inflation: The Fed doesn’t have a monopoly on rates. When they buy fewer bonds, they shift the demand curve left, decreasing the price, leading to higher effective interest rates. I’m kind of baffled that they speak about “tapering” as if it’s possible to do so without increasing interest rates. The particular problem with persistent inflation is that the Fed is less able to increase the cash supply in the event of a large crash. So while I think that inflation isn’t necessary for a 30 percent drop (I’d say it’s over half of my credence), I expect it to magnify the downside if it is higher than normal right before a crash. Interestingly, the Fed itself was (and probably still is) concerned about the current high valuations. [] When I say zero-NPV assets, I mean anything that doesn’t pay out future cash flows to investors, like gold, silver, bitcoin, and NTFs. Certain stocks are being traded as if they were these assets too (AMC, GameStop). I think investment in these things is indicative of mania. I’m worried that the Fed has flooded the market with so much cash that the new normal for the CAPE ratio and PS ratio are close to what they are now. If it is, then margin-debt-to-GDP isn’t the relevant ratio anymore, margin-debt-to-total-market-cap is, which is not at as high of a level as margin-to-GDP. Basically, supposing we have a smooth exponential curve for the S&P 500, I’m worried about a one-off discontinuity in the graph. I’m also worried about people investing more of their income and net worth, which would have the same effect.

No, it is certainly not the most efficient, but it is the easiest to execute: if you have a brokerage account, you can just buy an inverse ETF and you are in a (leveraged) short position.

I think an easiest way to short SP500 is via inverse ETFs: 
These move in opposite direction compared to the particular index (times 1/2/3 depending on type).


A counter point could be that due to cheap index ETFs and the prevalence of passive investing it is possible that in general a lot of metrics will have a higher base level. This has happened before, e.g. before the 90s, CAPE of 20 was quite high, but since that time it seems more of a base level (we haven't been below 20 since 2010). In particular... (read more)

I completely agree. I made that point in the post (“Note that there could be reasons why the CAPE and PS ratios might not return to their historical average, e.g. increased savings chasing investments, which are not perfectly elastic. There may be risk of persistent inflation, which stocks hedge against.”) I’m not basing this off of any one indicator. When inflation rose, that made every indicator I was looking at go bearish. I have this position because of the combination of all of these things, plus some other things I didn’t write down (indications of mania, like investment in zero-NPV “assets”). Price to sales [] ratios, which don’t have the same problems as PE ratios, are about 50 percent higher than it’s ever been. Margin-to-debt was 3 percent, yes, and now it’s nearly 4 percent, which is 33 percent higher. The main thing I’m worried about is increased savings. (Second is persistent inflation without a corresponding increase in interest rates, but the Fed would have to be insane to do that, even if they are “overly optimistic” about future inflation.) As I said, 65 percent chance, not a guarantee. I could be wrong for some reason. Good question, essentially you’re asking for backtesting. If it helps, I didn’t short the market back then. I’d have a much lower credence because those indicators that I’ve mentioned weren’t at record levels across the board. Except in exceptional circumstances, go long on the market.
I’m fairly sure that’s not the most efficient way to bet on this belief. The payoff is linear. So if I bet on the market going down 99 percent, I’d make 99 percent (or 3x that if the ETF is 3x leveraged), whereas the options bet payoff would probably be over a billion to 1.

I love how Jean-Luc Picard was selected to be one of your advisors. He is also among my best candidates :).


What is the largest number of advisers you have known people to actively use? I am a bit reluctant to cut it down to four or five.

8[DEACTIVATED] Duncan Sabien2y
At any one time (i.e. in any one specific situation) the most I've ever seen anyone juggle is about six.  Like, I have sometimes actively booted up 5-7 advisors over the course of a ten-minute introspection, and have seen others do the same, and sometimes those advisors "talk to" each other directly without me feeling like the Duncan-personality is doing anything other than watching. But as for my overall cast of shoulder advisors—it's well over thirty?  Essentially anyone I get to know past a certain level becomes emulable, and many many people might pop onto my shoulder only once or twice a year, or only once ever.  But there are at least thirty people (maybe fifteen real and fifteen fictional) who I regularly emulate. Recommendations to cut things down were solely for the purpose of "if you've never done this/have no experience, don't try to do too much at once."

Interesting idea. I wonder if you could actually do that in a single step: take a bulldozer (or some special machinery like that), fell the trees and cover them with earth on the spot. The route of these could be based on satellite imagery, and different equipment may be used for different areas (e.g. if only smaller plants are to be covered)

1. You can think of a learning mind as a tool for mapping cause and effect relationships by being affected by them.
If you live among speakers of a language you experience a lot of interactions (e.g. people refer to an object with the same sound) ---> these change your mind (associations created via neurons) ---> better knowledge of language (better mapping between variables in this domain)

2. However, when you move a mind to a space with more data of a subject, other variables can also change, which might have a negative impact and can disable th... (read more)

I think being status-blind should make you impertinent by default.

This is probably the best example I have seen of "Joy in the Merely Real".

I would like to slightly argue with this proposition regarding the fall of Rome.

It is indeed true that the direct reason for the fall was the weakness of the late Roman armies compared to barbarian forces.
But Rome moved away from using farmer soldiers as the  backbone of the army with the Marian reforms in 107 BC. This did not stop the expansion of the empire nor weakened the army for several centuries. Q.E.D.

However, I think your speculation in the second part (transition of power) is actually a really good explanation for this decline of the Roman a... (read more)

I agree that often the best don't rise to the top, but you have bad examples here.

You are confusing expertise in different domains: just because one is exceptional in something, it does not follow they are good at teaching it or making videos of it.
This is especially apparent in Bottura's channel. He might be the best chef in the world, but his youtube content is mediocre.

2Adam Zerner2y
I agree about there being different domains, that each is important, and that expertise in one does not imply expertise or even competency in another. What I was trying to get at is that all things considered, if you encapsulated all of that in some one-number metric of quality, a) IMO all of the examples I gave were very high quality, and 2) in general, I have a strong impression that very high quality frequently doesn't lead to success.

I like the bird-plane analogy. I kind of had the same idea, but for slightly different reason: just as man made flying machines can be superior to birds in a lot of aspects, man made ai will most likely can be superior to a human mind in a similar way.

Regarding your specific points: they may be valid, however, we do not know at which point in time we are talking about flying or AI: Probably a lot of similar arguments could have been made by Leonardo da Vinci when he was designing his flying machine; most likely he understood a lot more about birds and the ... (read more)

4Daniel Kokotajlo2y
That depends on how close we are to having the key variables at the human-equivalent level. I think the key variables are size and training time, so the relevant milestone is the HBHL. We are currently just a few orders of magnitude away from the HBHL milestone, depending on how you calculate it. GPT-3 was about three orders of magnitude smaller than the human brain, for example. Given how fast we cross orders of magnitude these days [], that means we are in the era of the Wright brothers.

Almost all of these could have been said 50 years ago with no or minor (e.g. change Trump to Nixon) change with pretty much the same emphasis. Even those that not (e.g. Pandemic), could be easily replaced with other things similar in nature in absolute outcome (famine in China, massive limitation of mobility (and other freedoms) in the Eastern Block etc.).

Even 100 years ago you could make similar cases for most things (except A.I., that is a newer concept, yet there could have been similar issues in those times for which people had the same hope for that I am not aware of).

Yet, here we are, better off than before. Was this the expected outcome?

I think it would have been way less popular to say "Western Civilization is declining on the scale of half a century"; I think they were clearly much better off than 1920. I think they could have told stories about moral decline, or viewed the West as not rising to the challenge of the cold war or so on, but they would have been comparing themselves to the last 20-30 years instead of the last 60-100 years.

Generally I am quite wary with explanations of evolutionary psychology, but I think a good point can be made that going to war oversees is very similar to going out to hunt mammoth for the tribe: a dangerous travel-adventure to kill things to help the tribe. I suppose people with such tendencies were more likely to reproduce.

"Something that I hadn't considered before: would it be possible to move people into target areas (before attacks) or radiated areas (afterwards) by using conventional and/or area denial weapons?"

I don't think so. Generally if you want to increase casualties you would want to have people concentrated as much as possible, so move people into already large cities. However, people during wartime (and pandemics) usually tend to move out from such places, this is shown both by historical experience and to me seems to be the logical way to act (as cities are tar... (read more)

I travel back in time to the 1170s and shoot Temüjin, aka Genghis Khan, before he could establish his empire.

Although there had been good policies he promoted (e.g., religious tolerance, trade), the probable upsides vastly outweigh this.

Just to name a few that I consider to be most important:

1. During the Mongol conquest tens of millions perished. This had been the approximately third bloodiest "conflict" in all human history. However, unlike e.g. the World Wars, where several large  belligerents existed without a single pivotal person (e.g., even wit

... (read more)

I did not find a designated page, so I am going to test the spoiler function here.


test spoiler 123


1[comment deleted]3y
1[comment deleted]3y
1[comment deleted]3y
1[comment deleted]3y

This reminds me of Seneca.

Your modern parables give a better frame for some of his advises:

"Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: “Is this the condition that I feared?”"

Good idea, I might actually try this one.

Some questions on implementation:

When do you set your daily goals? Are you doing this exercise each morning of the particular day, or are you setting these on the evening before?

Do you have specific time slots set to update the tracking or do you do that each time you complete a task?

Did you change something in the process since you started using it (e.g., something that seemed too arduous or ineffective)?

I do it first thing every morning, Monday-Friday. This is of course a personal preference, but generally I have trouble with establishing habits in evenings, due to reduced executive function. I like to immediately tick a task as completed when done (small dopamine boost), but check when setting new goals, whether there are any unresolved goals from other days. The main change I have made is separating goals into different time categories. before that, missing a daily goal had as much impact as quarterly goals. Other than that, I haven't changed much to the whole routine.
  1. Climate change is only negative insofar as it causes negative change in human welfare.
    1.  Human welfare in this framework is a function of natural environment (which includes climate) and all improvements added to this environment by human effort (e.g. roads, houses, electricity network etc.), which I will refer to as "capital".
    2. If the climate of an area changes to one that is better suited for human welfare (e.g. allows better crop yields, lessens the need of energy consumption for heating or cooling etc.), climate change has a positive effect.
    3. As capital
... (read more)

Well, integrating all our best knowledge of social sciences for SciFi is hard. I am not sure if I can judge if it was successful or not in most cases. What I can point out instead is a couple of works where something like this had been attempted, as the author gave serious thought on how different technology and environment would affect society:

  1. Moon Is A Harsh Mistress by Heinlein
    I think the elaboration on how family structure is changed due to low female:male ratio and dangerous environment makes sense (
... (read more)

Some comments:

  • Social systems are also part of reality and they influences economic and technological environment just like the other way around. E.g. the social change caused by modern contraception greatly influenced consumption habits, therefor causing changes in investments into research and production
  • I don't know if " technology/science have slowed down", this is hard to measure. Yet if it did I believe it is due to reaching a plateau in most fields where the returns are strongly diminishing. That is: no more low hanging fruits, loads of
... (read more)

I think you made a very good point on why Paul Graham's example in itself is not as strong as it may seem: there are already investors and founders who are paying something similar in the form of inflation and capital gains tax.

I think you also made a not entirely fair comparison: founders of companies and stock investors are not in the same position.

For a stock investor it might not be a such a great difference if you pay your tax in one portion after 15 years or if you pay the same distributed to 15 distinct tax years.*

However, for a founder of a no... (read more)

If everyone knew that this was how things worked, then in raising money from investors the startup founders would put aside a small amount of the investment round to pay wealth taxes. VCs would not object, because unlike a startup founder pulling a massive salary, this isn't any sort of bad sign.

Thanks for these great ideas.

I am quite confused by the concept of willpower, which is, as you put it, "fuzzy". On one side, I encounter a lot of advice like yours, where we are urged to preserve it, like a limited resource. On the other hand, there are other advice out there that supposedly help us increase our willpower, using the same concepts that we increase our physical fitness with. These usually involve doing uncomfortable tasks, like having cold showers or focusing on specific objects.

If I assume willpower works the same way as muscles, ... (read more)

1Neel Nanda3y
Hmm, my intuition leans strongly towards preserving willpower over practicing, but that's mostly an intuition formed from personal experience, rather than based in anything robust. One of the reasons I find thinking in systems super useful is that my willpower is highly variable with time (as a function of mental health, general stress levels, sleep, health, etc). So if I don't have systems then at those times a lot of things in my life break, and I lack the willpower to fix them. So systems don't matter too much during high-willpower times when I could mostly do the right thing anyway, but are basically a way to smooth out that curve, and make low-willpower times much better. And I would be very surprised if practicing using willpower removed those low-willpower periods. I imagine the case is less obvious if you don't have periods of relatively low willpower?
I recently read this Psyche article [] related to your question. While not an academic paper, they do cite them throughout the article. Here's the text most relevant to the preserve vs. develop willpower debate:

Hi Scott,

First of all, thanks for the article. It's a great demonstration of how thorough investigation can falsify myths of simplistic explanation, such as attributing the creation of great minds to a single teacher or educational institution.

I do have some hypothesis regarding this topic:

1. Luck: Such extraordinary minds as Teller, Neumann and Wigner are produced by chance. We were just lucky that we got so many in that era and we are just fooled by randomness and our eagerness to find causal relationship everywhere.

2. Easier problems: I do not kn... (read more)