Robert Miles

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Why Do You Keep Having This Problem?

My first impression was that this is much too obvious to be worth talking about, but my second thought is that I've found it very useful to have these language based triggers that act as a "summon sapience" spell. Triggers that make you stop and think. They don't push you to make any particular choice, but just to notice that this is a situation where there is a choice to be made.

I wonder if it would be worth putting together a list of "words and phrases which, when you hear them, should make you stop and think". "Why does this keep happening?" belongs on that list for sure.

On the Chatham House Rule

This makes me think of the Creative Commons Licences. They're neatly named to show what is and isn't allowed. If I see that a piece of work is marked "CC BY-NC", I can easily see that it's published under a creative commons licence (CC), I'm free to share it as long as I give attribution so people know who the work is by (BY), and it's used only for non-commercial purposes (NC). Perhaps we could design a set of rules like that, with the various optional parts separated out and clearly labelled. "This event is CH NA-AL", or whatever.

Criticism as Entertainment

Zero Punctuation is a good contrasting example, but from a different medium. Perhaps Jenny Nicholson is a good example for film criticism?

AI Alignment Open Thread August 2019

Yeah, nuclear power is a better analogy than weapons, but I think the two are linked, and the link itself may be a useful analogy, because risk/coordination is affected by the dual-use nature of some of the technologies.

One thing that makes non-proliferation difficult is that nations legitimately want nuclear facilities because they want to use nuclear power, but 'rogue states' that want to acquire nuclear weapons will also claim that this is their only goal. How do we know who really just wants power plants?

And power generation comes with its own risks. Can we trust everyone to take the right precautions, and if not, can we paternalistically restrict some organisations or states that we deem not capable enough to be trusted with the technology?

AI coordination probably has these kinds of problems to an even greater degree.

Stories of Summer Solstice

My experience of that sudden abrupt silence at the exact instant that the very last sliver of sun dropped below the horizon wasn't a hushed and numinous rapture, so much as it was like "Holy Shit, that WORKED? Did we really all just stop dead silent at the exact same moment?" I've been in orchestras that struggle to do that.

Idea: OpenAI Gym environments where the AI is a part of the environment

The "Whisky and Gold" environment is particularly relevant

The Steampunk Aesthetic

If you would like to see this lifestyle/philosophy lived out fully in real-time, you can watch Jamie Mantzel's YouTube channel:

He is living on an island in Panama, in a concrete building he built single-handedly, using a solar powered bulldozer he designed and built himself, collecting materials and components from the mainland on a solar-powered cargo boat he built himself, etc etc.

set of cards

This idea reminds me very much of Oblique Strategies. I guess the idea of that set of cards is to help with creative work - you draw a card when you're feeling stuck or uninspired, and the cards say something oblique like "not building a wall, making a brick", allowing you to give your thoughts a big shove in a pretty arbitrary direction in thought-space, which can push you out of a local optimum and get things moving again.

Inspired by this, I've thought about trying to do exactly what you're doing, and I can share the list I wrote down (with no claims whatsoever about their quality or suitability):

  • Compare the outside and inside views
  • Has this problem been solved before?
  • Is this the right problem to solve?
  • Have you tried the obvious things?
  • Ask someone else for obvious things to try
  • Your future self visits to tell you your plan failed. What went wrong?
  • Who would be better at this than you? Pick a specific person. What would they do?
  • Stop and make a list or two
  • Consider the opportunity costs
  • What are you avoiding thinking about?
  • Be more specific
  • Name three examples
  • Come up with a concrete example
  • Why are you drawing a card? Ask yourself "why?" to the response, 4 more times.
  • What would convince you that you are wrong?
  • What assumptions are you relying on?
  • What other problem is this most similar to?
  • Do a Fermi calculation
  • Go meta
  • Separate the parts of you that disagree, and let them have a conversation
  • Break the problem into smaller sub-problems
  • Take the contrapositive
Confidence Confusion

Perhaps the principled way is to try representing your probability to the same number of significant figures as a probability, as a log probability, as odds, and as log odds, and then present whichever option happens to fall closest to your true estimate :p

"Just Suffer Until It Passes"
a lot of problems aren't huge problems in-and-of themselves, and it's the flight to distraction and stimulation that compound the problem and create bad ongoing habits

This reminds me of a technique I use sometimes called Doing Nothing, described in this blog post, where instead of what you call 'flying to distraction' , you just don't do anything at all. You say "I don't have to write this paper right now, but I'm also not going to do anything else". You have the freedom to sit there blankly doing nothing at all for as long as you want, and generally it's not long before you stumble upon some new ideas or motivation to carry on.

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