All of seez's Comments + Replies

RE the NY site, in my experience from living in upstate NY for a time, an hour (or 75min) to Grand Central doesn't seem to match what people think of when they think of "an hour+ to NYC"; it's much worse. When I hear "an hour to NYC" I think "an hour to get to my destination", but if it's "an hour (or 75min) to Grand Central" it's likely at least 1.5-2hrs to my destination, perhaps even 2-2.5, with additional subjective hassle from getting to the train upstate, getting out of Grand Central, and transferring to the subway + walking or uber.  Plus, you are limited to making the trip while trains are running (so, no late-night hangouts then sleeping in your own bed). 

8Tyler Alterman2y
It might make sense for MIRI to just rent an apartment in NYC

+1, I had a similar experience when living upstate in a place that was "an hour+". I did visit the city a few times, but it was a pretty big hassle. Definitely try out the exact commute before drawing conclusions.

Great point. And this matches my experience as a Long Islander who was "only an hour" away from the city. When someone proposes, "Hey, we should go into the city!", I recall it being met with hesitation more proportional to a hectic 2-2.5 hour trip than an easy hour long ride.

If the nearness to the city is a big factor for MIRI, and it sounds like it is, I think it'd make sense to get more data points on this subjective feeling of how big the hassle is. As well as data points on how long the trip actually takes, because adding up subway + walking + whateve... (read more)

Do you have recommendations for commercially-available probiotics to buy? 

Isn't male-male homosexual sex illegal in Singapore? And I get the sense it's generally quite conservative. Seems like a bad deal for a lot of rationalists. 

5Daniel Kokotajlo3y
Mmm, didn't know about that. Yeah.

You could sign up for one of these human challenge trials, then your exposure might help with vaccine development, and you'd probably be safer because they'd probably give you a low dose and do close monitoring after.

This post seems like an overly brief and vague description compared to what I was hoping for and would guess the community would be interested in.

Hmm, I had that feeling too, but wasn't sure what else to add. I'm happy to answer specific/vague questions.

Pinker indicates that a number of factors were important. You think technology is the most powerful. Why?

Also, just because technology has had the greatest absolute impact on human wellbeing (hasn't done much for non-humans, yet) doesn't mean it's the most efficient. In fact, I think it's very likely that it isn't the most efficient. Because it's often a win-win, many people will contribute to creating and using it, unlike the sacrifices many EAs advocate for. They might contend that through sacrifice, a given individual can achieve far more that ey could by focusing on technology, although those altruistic individuals may (or may not!) remain rare enough that technology has a great overall impact.

I certainly also recognize there are other factors, but I think they pale when compared against our technological advancements. Technology in terms of general human betterment is unparalleled. This planet can not sustain a population of 7 billion without technological means of food production. Refrigeration another huge boon for food. Advances in medicine mean more people survive childhood and general illness as well. Technology enables most of our sanitation efforts which is also massive towards the betterment of human life. None of this can be duplicated with non-technological means. We can't pray our way to better sanitation. We can't even sacrifice our way to better sanitation on any meaningful scale. But pumps and plumbing do the job magnificently. I then think all of this contributes to lower violence and now I'm trying to tease out how much the other factors contribute. One of the possible other factors is cooperation and/or easier empathy. Can either of these do more good for a group of people than improved plumbing? I personally, don't think so but I want to see if anyone has any good data that shows otherwise.

Could someone explain or link to an explanation of the significance of the feminism-digit ratio connection? Why is it exciting?

I was imagining a ritual where a devoted feminist cuts off an end of their finger, as a symbolic castration of the internalized patriarchy. But the official version is that digit ratios are influenced by sex hormones. So if something correlates with the digit ratio, it suggests that it could correlate with the sex hormones. Essentially, the question seems to be: "Are our political opinions about feminism influenced biologically by our sex hormones?" Of course, even if we see a correlation, it wouldn't immediately prove that feminism is determined biologically... but it is a piece of data that is interesting and easy to collect, so we collect it.
2Baisius8y []

Can you provide a link to the article, if you remember it?

In case I wasn't clear, I see nothing wrong with seeking a personal assistant for Bostrom amongst EAs and LessWrongers. Obviously, many people in those groups might be very interested in the job. I'm sure it will be an interesting opportunity for whoever gets it. My objection was to the tone. I'm glad if people didn't find it as alarming as I did, but I was aware of some additional controversy, expressed both publicly in the comments and privately. And of course, there is no downvote on Facebook.

I can see how it could come across as 'hero worshi

... (read more)

I think this ad makes LW and EA look cultish, because this ad sounds like hero worship and sexual innuendo. I was especially troubled to see this link on the EA Facebook page, where many potential/new EAs who don't know who Bostrom is, have lower weirdness tolerance, and have still-forming understanding of effective altruism, could see it.

Conscientious and discreet... Able to keep flexible hours (some days a lot of work, others not much)...Has a good personality 'fit' with Bostrom... Willing to do some tasks that are not high-status... Willing to help B

... (read more)
Thanks for the feedback. Note it was also the most popular post on the Facebook group (as measured by likes) in almost two weeks, so clearly some other members thought this was a sensible proposal. I can see how it could come across as 'hero worship', except that Bostrom is indeed a widely-recognised world-leading academic at the highest ranked philosophy department in the world. There are sound reasons to be respectful of his work. "sexual innuendo" I can assure you the intended level of sexual innuendo in this ad is less than zero.

Thank you for voicing your worries. It's important we discuss this aspect as well, and I hadn't taken that into account when I posted the comment about "sidekicks".

The "sexual innuendo" part was surprising to me - I (female, 24y) didn't get that impression from reading the post and neither did any of the smart, young people I showed it to. Maybe we were talking with people in different social circles (my friends are already EAs for the most part). You're right that phrasing it as "sidekick" makes it look more cultish. I'm not ... (read more)

Definitely getting her HPMOR for her 10th birthday :)

A conversation between me and my 7-year-old cousin:

Her: "do you believe in God?"

Me: "I don't, do you?"

Her: "I used to but, then I never really saw any proof, like miracles or good people getting saved from mean people and stuff. But I do believe in the Tooth Fairy, because ever time I put a tooth under my pillow, I get money out in the morning."

Interesting that she seems to mentally classify God and the tooth fairy in the same category.
Definitely getting her HPMOR for her 10th birthday :)

The original had a typo. It's fixed now. To clarify, I am concerned that especial attention is paid to tech skills and how they can be used. I would like to see greater focus on other diverse skills.

There a lot of movement building activities that don't need tech skills. At the Community Camp in Berlin Jonas Vollmer for example said that they got the permission to hold a TEDx Rationality but at the moment don't have the manpower to organize the event as they focus the energy on other projects. A lot of movement building activities don't depend on being able to program.

Some questions I'd love to see addressed in posts:

How much can we raise the sanity waterline without transhumanism (i.e. assuming current human biology is a constant)?

Is the sanity waterline rising?

What is the best way to introduce rationality to different groups of people/subcultures?

Does LW and other rationality reading material unnecessarily signal nerdiness so strongly that it limits its effectiveness and ability to spread?

What are the best things someone with very low tech skills can do for the rationality movement, and for the world?

If LW is declinin... (read more)

I have been mostly lurking for a couple of months, but organizing people is one of my main areas of interest, and I have some practical experience in doing it. I have had thoughts along these lines, and right now I'm having a biweekly Google hangout with some friends and family to discuss the issue and get feedback on my ideas. I'd like to very gradually introduce the topics to the rationalist community. But the core idea that I'm working on right now is that rationality is not interesting to the general public because rationality is too abstract. I would like to form a community where the main outreach is "Success Clubs" or something like that, basically a support group for improving your life designed by rationalists. I would also like to create a currency that people earned by attending the meetings and participating in the broader organization. I think the success of cryptocurrencies, video games, and karma systems is evidence that this could be a very useful motivator.
As phrased, the parenthetical assumes that biological improvement is the only or primary cause of raising the sanity line. That is not necessarily true - I personally suspect it is false.
The question presupposes mind body dualism. Biology get's changed through mental interventions and it's not at all clear how many interventions are possible.

If LW is declining/failing

I like the idea in general, I just recommend caution in evaluating whether the LW is declining. I mean, it's obvious from the context of this thread that many people feel so, however...

There was a time when Eliezer wrote a new article every day, for a year. And I loved reading those articles, but writing them was not how Eliezer wanted to spend the rest of his life, so it is natural that he gradually stopped. This feels like a decline from the "less new cool stuff to read every day" point of view. But on the other han... (read more)

Probably depends very much on the other skills the person has. I don't see how tech skills are central.

It wasn't my first time, but it was my first time having to work that hard for someone's attention professionally. He not only had power, he also had incentives not to take me on (not enough time, high-risk low-reward, sets a precedent of accepting younger students, etc.). Dr. C has definitely become friendlier to me recently, although I still find him harder to charm than most of the people I work with. I think part of that is that yes, it works for him to make people a nervous and concise. I think he's also just socially awkward as well.

In Silicon Valley. With a group of people who know about LessWrong but are dubious about its instrumental value.

Seriously! I just overheard someone say "wow, maybe all that rationality stuff actually does help them do better."

That's cool. Where did you hear that?

Getting my first adviser, Professor C, was a nightmare that made me miserable for a month. I really wanted him as my adviser because I think he is one of the only good scientists in my field and my department. I also had long-term plans to ask him to advise my later degree. I met with him once, and showed him a vague, decent research proposal. I focused more on being charming than on the research, because this had been working well for me with the other professors I knew. Unfortunately (and fortunately!) C is more focused on the science. He told me h... (read more)

Thank you, this is helpful information, and reinforces my notion that for reasons I can't figure out, emails are never useful for communicating anything other than practical matters with superiors. Was this your first time having a boss? / generally being in a position where a stranger was in a position of formal power in this way? The first time I had a boss I kept getting this impression that he thought I wasn't doing enough...but then I realized that he actually thought I was pretty great and that people in dominant positions are often sort of aloof and curt towards those underneath them, and this is behavior is more-or-less independent of how much they like you. Sometimes I wonder if there is a selection effect (where people who succeed in making minions a bit nervous, intentionally or not, get harder-working minions and therefore climb ranks faster)

Oh, yeah. I thought you meant you put it on the LessWrong Facebook group, not the MIRI Facebook page.

Ooh, I misread that. I didn't even know there was a LW Facebook group! I've just requested access and will post momentarily.
That's weird . . . Do you see it here []?

And ask people to bump it so it stays near the top.

In addition, and in case people forget, you may want to post this on the LW Facebook page, both now-ish and right before the event starts.

Done [] :) Also boosting it with some ad dollars to increase the reach.
And ask people to bump it so it stays near the top.

I got the two top scientists in my field to both agree to be my advisers. One of them, not an effusively friendly person, said my research proposal was extremely interesting, new, and important. I cried a little, but luckily I don't think he saw.

Could you tell about your research proposal? What was the key reason you got those great advisers? The quality of your proposal alone may not have been wnough.

If you're really struggling, you might try looking over some emails that have been sent to you by a well-liked successful person of similar status that you admire and know well. Then, you can emulate zir tone until you get habituated to it and do it naturally.

Yeah, sounds nervous and self-effacing to me. Also overly emotionally loaded for a simple message. Good test though!

This thread should be getting more comments and upvotes. It seems vastly more original, useful, and central to the core mission of LW than many recent discussion posts that have gotten more attention, including my own. What's up with that?

I agree... I don't really see why anyone would have problems with their utility functions if they e.g. knew they were going into liver and kidney failure and going to die in the next 24-72 hours.

Not just extreme cases like that, but if you're pretty sure you've got a sort of dementia which is a steady downhill slide.

I'm interested in suicide cryonics (not personally, just conceptually). Why do you say that's inadvisable? Would you recommend it for someone who had e.g. a deadly illness that would kill them in the next few weeks?

Putting aside the question of one's competence to decide, engaging in suicide cryonics would surely tempt the authorities to insist on thawing and autopsying you.
Personally, it seems like a pretty rational decision to me (excluding autopsy problems, which I talk about somewhere else). The reason I advise against it is because I don't believe anyone could possibly know their utility function - and life expectancy - well enough to make a sensible decision about when the right time was to begin the process. This is true even if you exclude the fact that there are good reasons to think that many people do not approach death rationally, and if you consider that an ostentatious decapitation would likely be distressing for those left behind (insofar as you care about the utility of people after your death). But in a purely hypothetical case - where there was a bomb in my heart that was going to go off in ten seconds and I happened to be standing next to a big vat of cryopreservant - I would highly recommend freezing yourself before dying naturally.

I understand that this wasn't the focus of the post, but wouldn't the best Monopoly strategy be to keep always winning until no one ever wants to play Monopoly with you again? Because you goal isn't to end this game without losing friends, it's to minimize total Monopoly-playing time without losing friends/

Unfortunately my friends would probably see winning too often as a good reason to collude against me. Although collusion would lower the average length of a game, it would probably raise the chance any individual friend wanted to play with me (because they would be winning more often, on average). Although I agree with you that that's a strategy I hadn't considered, which is quite an oversight given the content of the post! Khoth has correctly identified that surely the best strategy is to convince my friends to play a similar but superior game, although this isn't always possible. For example with the horse-traders I try to play Catan and with the roll-and-movers I play Pirates. Unfortunately if there are too many of both groups then the only thing they can compromise on is Monopoly, and I don't have the persuasive skills to overcome the inertia. However the fact there are a whole bunch of superior games to Monopoly sort of breaks the analogy I was driving at so I left it out of the main body of the post.
An even better strategy might be to bring along a better game and convince people to try it.

Can you explain more about how you do this?

Join social networks of various sorts, offline and on. Get to know as many people as you can and interact with them. Have fun interacting with these lovely people. Consider it a task, as you would if you'd just moved to a new city and had to find friends afresh. But mostly it's something I just do 'cos I'm like that.

There's a significant difference in income between the average high-IQ person who tries to be an investment banker vs. a politician or professor. The figure I saw was the average for people who made it that far, not people in the news, who make far more than that (the richest investment bankers have a net worth of over a billion). The other two professions are also extremely competitive at the top (most people who try never become professors or congresspeople. I would guess that becoming a member of congress is the most competitive.

It is compared to other careers that are available to smart people who test well. The average pay of a college professor is around 81k. Congresspeople get around 174k. Junior hedge fund portfolio managers make upwards of 600k, including their bonuses. Third year investment banking associates make 250-500k. And of course, they make more as time goes on, so these people are usually way younger than your average professor or congressperson.

No, they don't. You're succumbing to huge survival bias. Some, successful, junior hedge fund portfolio managers make north of $600K and so make the news. A lot make much less or blow up and go out of business, but you don't hear about them and so assume they don't exist. And, of course, just being smart and testing well does not automatically get you an invitation to Wall Street. In any case, if "comparatively low-paying" means compared to Goldman Sachs managing partners, well...

I wonder if students at the top elite schools are more likely to go into comparatively low-paying jobs like academia, philanthropy, or politics, compared to more students at second tier schools going into high-earning careers. I'd be very interested to see the % in each sector breakdown for differently ranked schools.

Politics is not a low-paying job, academia (if you can get tenure) isn't either. Otherwise I think that this is likely because a lot of these students come from wealthy families.

I meant more like a study that showed this? Because if you are mimicking confident body language effectively, you should begin to both feel and look confident. Also, copying someone can signal empathy and good listening, not that they are the leader. Complementing body language can be more damaging (i.e. if someone is displaying aggression, you complement with submission, or vice versa). I think the danger of mimicking is accidentally mimicking low status body language, but this might be unlikely since we usually pay more attention to confident, success people with attractive body language.

Historically the idea of going and mirroring people's bodylanguage comes from NLP. Formulated roughly 20 years before someone in psychology got around to testing it. The idea might even be older and was popularized in NLP. In therapy context it makes sense. At the start people like pickup people like Ross Jeffries who preached speech seduction used NLP ideas like that. After a lot of practice and trying different things the pickup crowd came to the conclusion that it's a bad idea to mimick the body language of a girl that one wants to seduce. The girl might like the guy because he's a good listener but she's not interested on a sexual level. Pickup people than speak about how nice guys don't get laid but end up in the friend zone. In not saying that everyone should take the pickup paradigm as his default roadmap to social interaction, but be aware what you are doing. Context is important for communication. If you simply want to be accepted into a group than using bodylanguage that shows that you follow others in the group is alright. If you go into a job interview signaling that the person you are talking to is the boss makes sense. Different rules apply when you want to be a leader. Looking at body language from a perspective of a study like the one you point towards that misses the point of language. We use language to react differently in different situations. The idea of walking around and constantly saying: "I'm confident. I'm confident" would be silly. If your mental attention is on mimicking body language I think there's a fairly good chance that you won't feel completely confident. If you already feel confident, why mimick the body language of another person to make them like you? The high status person doesn't need to change his body language to make the other person like them but rather wait for the other person to change their body language to their own. Expecially for someone not used to it, it will also drain a lot of attention that's better used

Can you give an example or evidence of how mimicking is a low status signal (besides when their body language shows low status)? I hadn't heard this before.

If you mimick another person you are following them. They are leading. If you observe a bunch of friends who have strong rapport with each other you can tell which person has the highest status in the group by seeing who leads the body language and who follows. If you sit in a meeting or university seminar and are bored it can be interesting to just observe how different people are reacting to the body language of each other.

If social skills are best learned through observation, then why are they so unevenly distributed amongst people who aren't hermits?

Or rather, I think they are learned as a child the way language is learned. It's a subconscious process that occurs naturally when those skills are observed by a young child. However, with social skills at least, different people seem to plateau in their development at different places, and further observation doesn't always lead to further improvement.

Most people know someone with excellent social skills, yet that person ... (read more)

Often that's true. Mimicking body language is about imposing intimicy with the other person. It's possible that the other person doesn't want that intimicy and then you can trigger resistance. It's like physical intimicy. There are studies that suggest a woman is more likely to say yes when asked to dance when the person doing the asking touches her. If you take that as a lesson to touch woman as much as possible to make them like you, you are going to creep out a few women. Furthermore mirroring someone else's body language is a low status signal. For that reason most of the pickup folks don't do it. I would not recommend that someone who doesn't really know what he's doing starts making a conscious effort to mirror other people's bodylanguage in the wild based on internet or book advice. It's a useful tool for doing hypnosis but it takes some calibration to know when to use it and when not.
Interesting feedback. When I said that it is learnt observationally, I mean that if someone simply tells you something, eg. that you should use social touching ( []), it doesn't give you enough information to be able to integrate it into your habits. You'd want to actually see other people using that technique, then you might be confident enough to try it yourself without worrying that you were doing something inappropriate. Now you could try and write a description of what situations it works and what situations it doesn't - but that would be very hard to enumerate and the instructions would be very hard to follow. But if you just show someone a few situations, they'll probably be able to figure it out. So, I was talking about observation vs. description - I wasn't talking about the trade-off between time spent observing and time spent practising.

Taking AP's on your own is totally doable. My school didn't offer any and I took six. In my experience, as nydwracu said, AP Psych is easy. So is Environmental Science and English Lit (if you do well on the english sections of the SAT). World History is interesting, and easy if you like memorization. I've heard Human Geography is easy too. The AP exams of languages that are commonly spoken as first languages in the US (Spanish, Chinese) tend to be harder than the ones that aren't (Latin, German) because native speakers drive the average up (it's not ... (read more)

I would say REMEMBER THE SUNK COST FALLACY (in fact, get it tattooed on your hands so you're forced to look at it whenever you're typing some boring paper you don't care about). If a subject is surprisingly uninspiring, college is a great time to realize that isn't what you want to be doing for the rest of your life.

The majority of my best friends and I ended up in suboptimal majors, even though we realized they were suboptimal in time to switch. What's sad is that we all knew about the sunk cost fallacy, and even discussed it, but didn't take our real... (read more)

It can, but we at least find procrastination more problematic for finishing assignments well than overly hasty or shoddy work.

Some of my friends and I have started betting on our productivity, with smaller prizes for the person who starts the bet. We will be working together, and Friend A will say "I bet I can write the next 500 words of this essay in less than 20 minutes." Friend B replies "no way, this essay is too hard." Then A will say "Bet you I can. Let's set a timer, and if I fail, I'll buy you dinner, but if I succeed, you'll buy me a coffee."

We also race on assignments for prizes.

Are you sure you're rewarding the right thing? What if quality suffers in favor of speed?

You should be precise with your language. You can tell little old ladies to walk faster. "Should" and "can" mean different things. How about we just enjoy our abilities and use our words correctly?

Here are some examples of mistakes that intelligent people make

Looks like you mean "here are some examples of mistakes people on LessWrong still make."

Highly intelligent people such as great artists and writers, successful politicians and lawyers and drug kingpins, often depend on continued popularity, value social signaling extremely highly, know most people aren't rational, and don't rigidly follow rules.

However, I think it is interesting to consider whether there are qualities that are associated with intelligence, either biologically o... (read more)

Rather than A causing B, I reckon it's more that A & B have a common cause, C: psychological traits that make someone more interested in thinking rationally tend to make them less interested in popularity.

Posts that are not meetup spam should be encouraged if they add value. I'm not saying this post doesn't, I'm saying there are worse things than meetup spam.

I've heard claims that engaging in activities that are neither interesting nor important has intrinsic value -- it helps build character, makes one grow as a person, or it just might turn out to be important.

If it builds character, makes you grow, or turns out to be important, then it is important, its importance is just surprising.

What people might actually be doing is operating with the knowledge that they are not good at distinguishing important information from unimportant information. Thus, it seems safer to try to learn as much as possible, in the hopes that that will include the important things.

Is 145 the right IQ threshold to be looking at? What about IQ ~130 people (98th percentile)?

What do you mean by this? The right threshold for defining someone as high-IQ? Maybe there is a correlation but it plateaus at a certain point.

Also, I'm curious, do you believe you can increase your mentees' IQ?

Also also:

Bill Gates famously scored 1590 on the SAT, at a time when many fewer people scored 1600 than people did in subsequent years. He also solved a notable problem in combinatorics as a a college sophomore.
Jeff Bezos graduated summa cum laude from

... (read more)
It seems like you are responding to a stronger claim than is actually being made. "Is consistent with" is not the same as "proves."

Unless your idea is very obvious, most people will absorb it better if you offer examples.

Personally, I like long posts because I need time to an idea things through, and do that more efficiently while I am also reading about that idea, instead of reading it through then finishing and becoming vulnerable to the distractions of the internet again.

The other reason to contain as much of the arguments and counter-arguments as you can in the original is that people are far more likely to read the post than the comments and comment responses.

Also, if you don't include objections and counter-arguments, you run the risk that someone will read your post, think of an objection, fail to think of a counter-objection, and dismiss the idea, where s/he might have accepted it if you had included more.

True. Perhaps some posts should include separate "anticipation of objections" parts. These could be skipped by people who prefer terse posts but would have to be read by anyone who wishes to comment.

Interesting. Anecdotally, I got my father (who works in politics) interested specifically in "politics is the mindkiller." I think it spoke to his experiences and concerns more than other sequences.

HPMOR will probably be more effective with youngish people who a) have read Harry Potter, b) are familiar with the concept of fanfiction and c) feel comfortable reading long documents on the internet. Seems a bit limiting, although still a very good tool.

Targeted quick reads are great! That's one reason I like the quote threads so much--almost anyone will be fond of a few good rationality quotes, and that's a good way to introduce them to specific LW material.

I think I see what you mean, but I would not consider that proselytizing. Or a sacrament. That seems more like really liking to signal that you care about the environment, and really not liking to feel guilty about drinking your cup of coffee.

When intense "tree-hugger" types tell them to throw away their cars and buy a cabin in the woods to save the environment, or lie down in the road in front of the trucks going to build the Keystone Pipeline, they usually nod awkwardly then go back to their lattes. Prosthelytizing and evangelism takes fervency and the commitment of resources. That's not what I've seen from wealthy liberals so far.

And wearing a cross is signaling that you really love Jeebus, and going to confession and doing penance for your sins is really not liking feeling guilty about your sins. Commitment of resources? No way. Besides time, proselytizing and evangelism only takes flapping your gums. That's one of the reasons it's such a popular past time - talk is cheap.
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