All of rogersbacon's Comments + Replies

Huh, whatever it was, it appears to have been solved; the link works like it should now. I haven't changed anything on my end.

Huh, you might want to get your virus-checker checked - it's just a link to a substack page

Today when I allowed the site in the viruschecker, Firefox said: >Secure Connection Failed >An error occurred during a connection to Peer received a valid certificate, but access was denied. >Error code: SSL_ERROR_ACCESS_DENIED_ALERT    >The page you are trying to view cannot be shown because the authenticity of the received data could not be verified.    >Please contact the website owners to inform them of this problem. and I could only choose Retry, which didn't work. After telling the viruschecker to allow  too, I got the same message, but this time Firefox allowed me to go there anyway, and of course there doesn't look to be any problem. Maybe there is a wrong setting somewhere...

Very interesting, and yes I think I'm getting at something like that here as well. 

No I think it does - almost like free-range foraging vs. being spoon-fed information (wild animal vs. domesticated) - in the former you learn how to quickly discriminate between good/useful food and bad and develop a kind of intuition for how to efficiently find the good stuff whereas in the latter you do not. 

then read it again but non-ironically 

ughh you are right, missed opportunity 

Fair enough, but as I said not all writing has to be aimed at maximum concision and clarity (and insisting that it should be is bad for our collective creativity). One may choose to write in a less direct manner in order to briefly present numerous tangentially related ideas (which readers may follow up on if they choose) or simply to provide a more varied and entertaining reading experience. Believe it or not, there are other goals that one can have in writing and reading besides maximally efficient communication/intake of information. 

So there is really no purpose to every read something non-fiction besides efficient intake of information? Is that what we really believe? 

It can make sense to read non-fiction for pleasure. Making something hard to read doesn't help with that either. 

I could not care less whether or not any reads this. 

Non-fiction content that's not optimized for being efficient to take in gives out bad vibes. It makes it harder to critically evaluate the content and thus easier for the content to manipulate. 
I didn't downvote. The desire to read your post is equally valid as my desire not to read it. If you would like to convince me of the truth or importance of something that you conveyed in your post, I warmly welcome it, though DMs are most comfortable for me. :)

Efficient communication/intake of information is not the only reason that people write or read... 

2the gears to ascension1y
upvote; perhaps not, but if you want to accelerate, clarity is important

there is no main idea and I'm not trying to convince anyone of anything. It is nothing. 

"probably wrong" thank you so much for this

I got the article now. The advantage of defining suffering as one end of the valence scale (and presumably joy as the other end) is that it creates a scale. It doesn't define anything really though.

To be clear, I am not the author - this is an article that was submitted to the journal. If you want to read the article just reach out the email above (if you want to take a look without registering to be a gardener that is okay). 

I'll just post a twitter thread here that I wrote in response to criticism. Maybe this will clarify my goals/intentions

I want “nerds” to realize that we are not above performative attention-seeking behavior, that we can really easily slip into a failure mode of “write a blog post that embraces some high-minded ideal that no one disagrees with and then propose some law/policy/program that will supposedly increase this thing and then pat yourself on the back and move on”. I wanted to expose my own emotions and insecurities around really caring about science/... (read more)

Being a little tongue-in-cheek with this one, but I think recent US history shows racial preferences are more malleable than we might think. Will there be a tipping point when everyone is either mixed or has a close relative that's mixed where it will seem a little more silly to argue about race? I don't know about Brazil and would be curious to hear more like Ben Pace. 

Thanks! Yup, just finished and enjoyed DoE :)

A good reminder, I'll start getting worried when discussion of these heresies moves beyond niche internet message boards. 

I don't think anything - this is a heresy not something I believe in (I would argue your question is evidence that this view is a modern heresy). "politicians were generally older".... the average age of senators is 57 for example. 

I hope it goes without saying that this is a heresy and not something I actually believe. A recent article in the Journal of Controversial Ideas makes the case for animal-rights terrorism. 

"There is widespread agreement that coercive force may be used to prevent people from seriously and wrongfully harming others. But what about when those others are non-human animals? Some militant animal rights activists endorse the use of violent coercion against those who would otherwise harm animals. In the philosophical literature on animal ethics, however, thei... (read more)

I hope it goes without saying that this is a heresy and not something I actually believe.

Oh, that was not transparent to me. After reading this sentence I interpret the post as "here are 20 thoughts you are not allowed to think", but previously I had more probability mass on "these are 20 ideas that I believe are true and that are heretical in nature".

Interesting. I guess in some ways yes because it's giving people access to another form of identity but it's also kind of orthogonal in that the identity is only used in virtual environment and it's pseudonymous. The argument in this heresy is that we being less attached to our names IRL would cause a shift of some kind in cognition/consciousness. 

7Ben Pace2y
I recently met an internet pseudonymous person in real life (who's very successful on the internet) and they just went by their internet name and it was really cool. They were so the person that I knew on the internet, very integrated.

Yea that's fair, I didn't write this with LW in mind but I should have considered dropping/trimming introduction as it's not as necessary for this audience.... Interesting, I've heard similar thoughts to yours regarding music from quite a few people. This makes me think that the ubiquity of art in the modern world is affecting us more than we may realize. Curious what research exists on long-term effects of music/art consumption, although this would be hard to study I guess (which is why I'm suspicious that there is something we haven't yet appreciated).&n... (read more)

This is an uninformative answer. If you mean a combination of both, could you please state so, and ideally ballpark in what proportions?

Sure, I don't deny that there are some ideas which should be kept secret for at least some time so that you can better capitalize on them. But I think for most people this category of ideas is much smaller than they think and that it would serve them better in the long run to be less stingy with their ideas. This kind of gets to the crux of my thesis - if you have a scarcity mindset with ideas than they probably will be scarce for you. Maybe you will end up losing out on an opportunity or some concrete short-term benefit, but there are more intangible, long-term benefits to be had by being open with your ideas - the difficulty is that these benefits are inherently more nebulous/illegible and therefore easier to discount. 

You are right about the use of impact as a metric, definitely not perfect, and I think both of those sources probably oversell how poor scientific evaluation is in general. Some of the problem is that people are not incentivized to really care that much and they don't specialize in grant/paper evaluation, the idea of having "professional reviewers" is interesting, but not sure how practically achievable it is. 

I hadn't heard about the idea of depth first search but it is exactly what I am talking about and you explained it very well, thank you for sharing. 

"We often observe that the solutions found by genetic algorithms, or NNs, or cats, are strange, perverse, unexpected, and trigger a reaction of 'how did it come up with that?'; one reason is just that they are very thorough about exploring the possibility space"

Do you have any specific examples in mind here that you are willing to share? None are coming to mind off the top of my head and I'd love to have some examples for future reference.

6gwern2y wasn't really intended to compile funny cat stories, but should help you out in terms of perverse creativity like the famous radio circuits.

I'm a little confused by what you are referring to here so if you are willing to spell it out I would appreciate it but no worries either way. Many very fascinating ideas in your other comment, I'll try to respond in a day or two. 

And he disclosed his name because the New York Times published it -

I've also discussed the paper with him and he didn't seem to have an issue with it. 

Thanks for clarifying!

Ha I like the Einstein example! I think about the "bold leaps" thing a lot - we may be in kind of "epistemic hell" with respect to certain ideas/theories i.e. all small steps in that direction will seem completely false/irrational (the valley between us and the next peak is deep and wide). Maybe not perfect but I think the problem of inheritance as you describe in the Bakewell article fits as an example here. Heredity was much more complex than we thought and the problem was complicated by the fact that we had lots of wrong but vaguely reasonable ideas tha... (read more)

I believe you do make one substantial error in this post. It isn't that academics can't do it, it's that they won't. You see, if you say can't, you are inherently supposing the incentives can't be changed, but the structure of these incentives is not fixed as they are now. They can change, and they will change, though likely not in a useful way anytime soon.

Thanks for catching the grammar mistake - fixed! These are interesting extensions of the basic idea of using more randomness in science, thanks for sharing. Your last point makes me think about the use of prediction markets to guess which studies will replicate, something that people have successfully done.

Your point is well taken, and we should definitely keep in mind that randomness can also create perverse incentives and can easily be overdone. However, I would argue that there is virtually no randomness in science now and ample evidence that we are bad at evaluating grants, papers, applicants and are generally overly conservative when we do evaluate (see Conservatism in Science for a review). In rare cases, I might advocate for pure randomness but, like you suggest, I think some kind of mixed strategy is probably the way to go in most cases. For example,... (read more)

I admit that the details of how science works these days is far from my area of expertise. I am neither in science, nor a dedicated layman. I informally experiment with things all the time (as do most intellectual types, I imagine), but not in a rigorous way. I agree that people tend to be bad at evaluating things, but it isn't just biased thinking; there is true randomness in a number of the decisions that go into an evaluation. Both bias and randomness are noise in the signal. I don't believe impact is a good metric for actual quality (widely cited does not mean that each of those references was actually valuable.), though I don't have something better to replace it with. As far as inter-rater reliability goes, 0.2 does seem quite low, but I'm sure it could be substantially improved (perhaps with teams of professional reviewers instead of simply other scientists in the field? That does, of course, have it's own sources of bias, but you can use both.) I don't think you can eliminate the spamming problem by only allowing a single entry. They can enter into many different lotteries as they like if the lotteries become popular, with minimal effort, and you wouldn't want to rule out a person participating in multiple sequential lotteries of yours (unless you knew they were making garbage proposals . . . which the limited review would be much less likely to catch.) Sometimes random noise is good, such as in simulated annealing (is simulated annealing widely known?), but they make sure to tamp down the noise quite a bit before doing most of the search for solutions. This is precisely what the solution I suggested would do if you still want randomness. Additionally, this search could be run through a number of times by separate processes, to have greater chance of finding the signal while still using the noise. Another thing that could be borrowed from computer science  for science in general is the idea of a depth first search. This is what I think you are really loo

One good question would be what kinds of randomness are useful. "Greatness cannot be planned", but there's still a lot of different plans going on. Obviously, there are countless ways to 'add randomness to science', differing in how much randomness (both in distribution and size of said distribution - do we want 'randomness' which looks more like normal noise or is heavy tails key?), what level the randomness is applied at (inside an experiment, the experiment, the scientist, theories of subject, the subject, individual labs or colleges, community, country... (read more)

Great post -  similar to Adam Shai's comment, this reminds of a discussion in psychology about the over-application of the scientific paradigm. In a push to seem more legitimate/prestigious (physics envy) , psychology has pushed 3rd-person experimental science at the expense of more observational or philosophical approaches.

(When) should psychology be a science? -

You wouldn't have got this at all from what I wrote but, we are definitely not saying that it will be easy to integrate "blind spot" research into academia or that it will happen overnight. A significant portion of the paper is spent providing examples of amateur psychology work (from the past and the present, we reference some of the work on LW), discussing why it is difficult to integrate this knowledge into modern academia, how academia might benefit from doing so, and how we might actually accomplish this over the long run. Certainly we are under no il... (read more)

When it comes to actually producing valuable work I think it's important to distinguish amateur work from non-academic work. Academia is not the only knowledge community nor the only professional one. For many questions in the psychological domain I don't think they are even the people with the most insight. A while ago I was reading Roy Baumeister's Willpower and the sillyness that went into the reasoning around the nature of willpower was amazing. Take a paragraph like: Let's apply that to the Willpower discourse. There are plenty of people outside of academia that spent a lot of time in practice to motivate themselves and others. Some people even have 24/7 glucose monitors. They problem wasn't that there weren't experts with special knowledge that could have told people like Roy Baumeister that they weren't on the right track but that there was little interest to talk to anyone who understands the subject and more interest in p-hacking.  If you see a discourse like this and see the academic blindspots there's little you can do as an outsider. If you actually want to create valuable knowledge you have to think about for what the goal of your inquiry is. Do you want to gain knowledge for yourself to act better? Do you want to produce it as part of a knowledge community? There's certainly a lot in the blind spots in academia but a lot of it will neither be of value to yourself nor of a knowledge community that you want to contribute to.

I just don't really see it as that problematic if a small percentage of scientists spend their time thinking about and working on the paranormal/supernatural because (1) scientists throughout history did this and we still made progress. Maybe it wasn't necessary that Newton believed in alchemy/theology but he did and belief in these things is certainly compatible with making huge leaps in knowledge like he did, (2) I'm not sure if believing in the possibility of ghosts is more ridiculous than the idea that space and time are the same thing and they can be ... (read more)

certainly the authoritarian link is highly speculative, but I think in general we underestimate how politics/culture/psychology influence what we care about and how we think in science. A more extreme version of the question is: how similar would we expect alien science to be to ours? Obviously it would be different if they were much more advanced, but assuming equal levels of progress, how would their very different minds (who knows how different) and culture lead them to think about science differently? In an extreme version, maybe they don't even see an... (read more)

So little actual knowledge that almost everyone was a "Renaissance man" (and so they literally all shared the same sources)”

Interesting thought - now everyone has to specialize, there are less people who have different combinations of know in a given discipline. Like i talked about with education, i think its worth thinking more about how our education systems homogenize our mental portfolio of people. 

Re: tenure - its a good point and certainly we do have some diversity of scientific niches. Its an open question whether we have enough or not, i think... (read more)

So we need Anathem? ^^

One point of confusion that I think is running through your comments (and this is my fault for not being clear enough) is how I am conceiving of "mind". In my conception, a mind is the genetics and all of the environment/past experiences but also the current context of the mind. So for example, yes you would still have the same mind in one sense whether you were doing science in a university or were just an independent scientist, but in another sense no because the thoughts you are willing and able to think would be different because you are facing very different constraints/incentives. Hope this helps.

Hum, okay. But thinking about the equivalent classes of such minds would be more relevant, no? Like if two different combinations leads to basically thinking the same ideas, we would want to mix them. Then the crux of this debate would be whether almost all modern scientists where in the same equivalence class, and if science could benefit from the inclusion of more equivalence classes. If this hypothetical scientist was able to actually get a job in a university, I would expect next to no difference between the two. First because it's still a job, but also just because science is not a random personal exploration, it's a shared endeavor. And so you care about communities or specific people finding your work interesting and/or important. That's the most relevant incentive IMO, and I don't see how it changes between these two settings.

I actually would disagree with your last point. Certainly cultural/political diversity will matter more for psych/social sciences but I think it will have an effect on what kinds of topics people care about in the first place when it comes to harder sciences and math. I can imagine a culture which has a more philosophical bent to it leading to more people doing theoretical work and a culture which has a greater emphasis on engineering and practicality doing more applied work. I could also imagine a more authoritarian culture leading to people doing physics... (read more)

So your point is something like "political inclinations and culture in general are systemic biases in the search algorithms of researchers, even in pure science"? That's an interesting take; I just don't know how to go about checking it. Certainly, we see many example of both theoretical and applied work in many sciences, showing that in this regard the diversity is enough. About the unifying theory of physics, I'm not that sure about the link with authoritarian culture. But once again, in actual science, there are so many viewpoints and theories and approaches that it would take days to list them for only the smallest subfield of physics. So I'm not convinced that we are lacking diversity in this regard.

Hmm yea I see your point. I guess what I was saying is that there are certain thought patterns and styles of cognition which may be more likely to stumble on the kind of ideas or do the kind of work that can potentially lead to paradigm shifts. Whether or not we are less able to think in this way now is definitely an open question but I think one we should worry about. 

Agreed that it matters a lot to have people working on new paradigms. I guess the reason I'm absolutely not worried about lacking people like that in today's scientific climate is that I don't expect scientific education can get that out of someone. From my experience, there's a small category of science students who care a lot about asking weird questions and questioning everything, and they almost never end up doing normal science.

Glad you liked it! I certainly think there is a lot of room for disagreement, I'll respond to a few of your comments

Yea that's the idea. Not saying that the scientific community in the past was better, but there were some ways in which it allowed for more diversity of thought than our current system. All else being equal (which it never is) a scientific community which is 100% people working at modern universities and competing for the same jobs/journals is worse than a community which has some niches where people can work with very different motivations and approaches 

Good idea to point this possible confusion. I brought it on myself by saying "white". :p Yet I wonder if there isn't also a confusion in considering the past community more diverse. My point was that at least between the 1600s and the 1800s, many aspects of the scientific community were pushing heavily for similarity of thought. * Very few scientists (especially when compared with the number now) * Virtually all scientist from a handful of very similar backgrounds (noble or rich merchant family in one of a couple of big European countries) * So little actual knowledge that almost everyone was a "Renaissance man" (and so they literally all shared the same sources) * Even if they didn't have to work on science for a living, they still cared immensely about their reputation and how their work was seen. I mean, Newton spend the end of his life battling over the invention of calculus against Leibniz! None of this tells us that scientific diversity was less then than now, but in my mind it makes the proposal that it was way better than far less obvious. That statement makes a lot of sense. But I feel there is a big confusion if you think this is actually how science happens. There are many journals and conference for many different niches. And almost all countries (especially the US that you take as a measure of everything else) have a tenure mechanism that allows researchers to literally do whatever they want. In France we even have tenure by default. (This doesn't completely deal with the need to get money and funding to do cool things -- going to conferences or hiring PhD students -- but it leavens a lot the urgency in them).

Orion's Arm sounds cool! Thanks for sharing, I'll check it out. 

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