Smaug123

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Support vs Advice & Holding Off Solutions

For some reason I can't find any relevant hits with Google, but I've heard "support vs advice" described as "sympathy or fascism" before. "I want to moan at you" vs "I want you to take over and solve my problem".

How can I spend money to improve my life?

For some years now I have had a Panasonic breadmaker, model SD-ZB2512. It takes less than five minutes in the evening, generating no mess and no washing up (if you use olive oil instead of butter, so as to avoid generating a fatty knife), and you can have hot fresh bread ready-baked as you wake up. The only downside to bread made this way is that you have to slice it. It tastes dramatically better than all but the most expensive shop-bought bread, and the ingredients store in a cupboard for literally months so it's even highly pandemic-proof. Bread that is still hot from the breadmaker is really one of the best foods I know. The breadmaker has literally no cost to upkeep: you don't even need to clean it, as it's basically an oven in a pot.

What confusions do people have about simulacrum levels?

(Posting this in a spirit of self-congratulation: I wrote up a spiel about what I found confusing, and then realised that I'm confused on a much more fundamental level about the nature of the various explanations and how they relate to each other, and am now going back to reread the various sources rather than writing something unhelpfully confusing about a confused confusion.)

Teacher's Password: The LessWrong Mystery Hunt Team

Strong +1 to the idea; I'll be on a different team, but I strongly encourage people to give it a try. I think Hunt 2019 was quite possibly the most fun I have ever had.

When Hindsight Isn't 20/20: Incentive Design With Imperfect Credit Allocation

My immediate reaction is that I remember hating it very much at school when a teacher punished the entire class for the transgression of an unidentifiable person!

Missing dog reasoning

Nitpick: I think there's a minor transcription error, in that "biological-esque risk" should read "biological X-risk".

What's the name for that plausible deniability thing?

You're thinking of "Glomarisation" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glomarization).

See, for example, https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/xdwbX9pFEr7Pomaxv/meta-honesty-firming-up-honesty-around-its-edge-cases and https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/bP5sbhARMSKiDiq7r/consistent-glomarization-should-be-feasible.

Forbidden Technology

I'm a big believer in "the types should constrain the semantics of my program so hard that there is only one possible program I could write, and it is correct". Of course we have to sacrifice some safety for speed of programming; for many domains, being 80% sure that a feature is correct in 95% of the possible use cases is good enough to ship it. But in fact I find that I code *faster* with a type system, because it forces most of the thinking to happen at the level of the problem domain (where it's easy to think, because it's close to real life); and there are a number of ways one can extremely cheaply use the type system to make invalid states unrepresentable in such a way that you no longer have to test certain things (because there's no way even to phrase a program that could be incorrect in those ways).

For a super-cheap example, if you know that a list is going to be nonempty, use a non-empty list structure to hold it. (A non-empty list can be implemented as a pair of a head and a list.) Then you can save all the time you might otherwise have spent on coding defensively against people giving you empty list inputs, as well as any time you might have spent testing against that particular corner case.

For another super-cheap example that is so totally uncontroversial that it probably sounds vacuous (but it is in fact the same idea of "represent what you know in the type system so that the language can help you"), don't store lists of (key, value); store a dictionary instead, if you know that keys are unique. This tells you via the type system that a) keys are definitely unique, and b) various algorithms like trees or hashmaps can be used for efficiency.

Forbidden Technology

I believe the world is this way because of the following two facts:

  • monads are very hard to get your head into;
  • monads are extremely simple conceptually.

This means that everyone spends a long time thinking about monads from lots of different angles, and then one day an individual just happens to grok monads while reading their fiftieth tutorial, and so they believe that this fiftieth tutorial is The One, and the particular way they were thinking about monads at the time of the epiphany is The Way. So they write yet another tutorial about how Monads Are Really Simple They're Just Burritos, and meanwhile their only actual contribution to the Monad Exposition Problem is to have very slightly increased the number of paths which can lead an individual to comprehension.

Forbidden Technology

I'm interested in your comment about "using dynamic-untyped rather than well-typed because it helps you not worry about your own intelligence". I use well-typed languages religiously precisely for that reason: I'm not smart enough to program in an untyped language without making far too many mistakes, and the type system protects me from my idiocy.

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