All of spkoc's Comments + Replies

1. Omega predictors are impossible

They are unstable/impossible not just in practice but in theory as well. It's theoretically not possible for Omega to exist because the decision of 1-2 box is recursive. You're essentially invoking a magical agent that somehow isn't affected by infinite recursion.

"Omega can 'snap' through the infinite recursive loop." No it can't. And if you claim it can you're essentially dropping a nuke inside your logical system that can probably produce all sorts of irrational true=false theorems.

2. Writing on whiteboards, acausal cont... (read more)

Didn't seem to work for me. It still seems to get confused trying to match similar words together even when they shouldn't be. Again quite, dumb/young human.

It tries to continue its dialogue in ways that fit with its previous replies, so prompts like "think step by step" might fail to get it back on track mid-conversation even when they would've worked in the initial prompt. Also, there is some randomness.

WW3 is a suicide pact. The #1 thing that defines modern Russia is cynical self-interest. Putin won't die for his professed ideals(which he does not believe in anyway). If he gives the order the people around him won't be willing to die and they'll just kill him. I view this all as extreme brinksmanship that will ultimately lead nowhere. 

Russia's oligarch billionaires aren't incinerating their Swiss mansions over some dead proles on the Ukrainian front.

Fundamentally wrong mental model, in my opinion. (but upvoted for presenting a well structured one!)

As if saying: "We shouldn't put people in prison because it raises the cost of murder and increases demand to murder." 

Violence is a wildfire, not an auction market. Quantity of violence is zero absent a catalyst, once the catalyst is provided it goes up exponentially until it reaches some saturation point at which point it runs out of fuel and collapses again to zero. 

Supply and Demand for violence form a positive feedback loop. (+ an activation b... (read more)

To take this straight to the nuclear winter dark side.

I've been reading a bit about MAD 101 and I hate it. I'm slowly embracing the idea that the most safe thing to do is to be as explicit and precommitted as possible to massive retaliation if red lines are crossed. Emotionally that sounds nuts and I'd like everyone on every side to just spam we're not using the nukes, calm down.


IF people say that and red lines keep getting crossed, at some point Side A thinks they can push one more boundary and get away with it, but Side B decides this is the limit an... (read more)

3Dumbledore's Army1y
Yes. In a better world, the West would have imposed massive sanctions after the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the current invasion would probably not be happening. But since we can’t change the past, the best we can do is try to learn the right lessons to inform our decisions in the future.

That doesn't seem rational to me, or if it's somehow not irrational on an individual level, makes it a bad idea to model Russia as a rational actor as a whole.


Absent honest, safe, free speech, leadership's map diverges more and more from the territory and then comes crashing back to reality when they drive off a cliff they thought was a highway.

A group of individuals behaving in their own rational self-interest can make very irrational, self-destructive group-level decisions, if the incentives the members have are perverse enough. I guess the idea it... (read more)

These numbers are absurd, in my opinion. 10s of thousands of military dead is massive numbers in a modern context. You cannot compare 1800s warfare to modern war, people literally lined up in a square and shot at each other until half of them were dead/injured back then. And due to crap med tech tons of injured didn't survive. Modern conflicts have MUCH MUCH lower death ratios.

America finished the conquest of Iraq with like 150 dead(granted Iraqi army folded). Over the course of the whole occupation(2003-2011) America lost around 4500 soldiers. If Russia l... (read more)

I can see arguments as to why some people would feel cheated at 20 thousand. I wouldn't agree. People have gotten too used to fake wars, and are too willing to call just about anything total warfare. I don't think the modern warfare thing is enough to change anything. World War two was pretty deadly. Vietnam had millions of deaths. I should be clear I was thinking all deaths caused by the war, on both sides, civilian and military. The question is how hard the Ukrainians will fight, not how effectively. My general perception is that Iraq is not generally considered to have fought hard for Saddam? I even based my 20,000 figure partially on Saddam. In any case, the specific definition isn't that important. I propose that the casualties will be lower than the other side thinks, for reasons of their model being wrong in a way that becomes obvious when looking back on data that does not yet exist.

A lot of people keep saying that Putin feels afraid of NATO. I really dislike this meme. Russia has been an imperial aggressor in Eastern Europe(and beyond) for centuries. The belt of countries from the Baltic to the black sea have been the Russian Empire's victims again and again since the 1700s through to the fall of the USSR.

Now that Eastern European countries are joining a defensive alliance suddenly Putin feels threatened? 

Why? He has nukes. The end. No one is ever invading Russia. It is just impossible. NATO is not going to invade Russia. 

A... (read more)

Russia has nukes with aging delivery mechanisms that are outpaced more and more each year.  If NATO missile defense can change the calculus such that retaliation from a first strike seems survivable, MAD is gone and Russia is vulnerable.  If NATO cyber capabilities could Stuxnet the Russian arsenal, MAD is gone and Russia is vulnerable.  It isn't as simple as "He has nukes, the end." 

I sort of get it and I want to believe it. But it makes no actual sense and that's terrifying. The west would barely care if Putin was doing this in the *stans or Georgia. The only other target to go to after Ukraine is Moldova and then the Baltics.

If he goes in the Baltics that's war with NATO. Nothing about the reaction to Ukraine makes a difference there. It's black and white NATO vs not NATO.

I feel like the most parsimonious explanation is he's not being very rational, rumors about him having terminal cancer are also pushing me towards that belief. It really doesn't seem like anyone on the Russian side saw this coming either, which is extra scary.

The Baltic states are part of NATO, but I doubt it really makes a difference for the average American. Putin saying to the US "don't get involved, or we will send nukes" may be just as effective before invading Estonia than before invading Ukraine.

I think the EU will have to impose heavy sanctions and deal with a refugee crisis. Given German dependence on Russian gas this could lead to a local/global recession. Hopefully, that's the extent of it.

Disclaimer, am Romanian so biased against Russia's geopolitical agenda(which possibly runs through my country in the long run). 

I think short term Ukrainian army folds(how much of it is russophile former soviet officers anyway? arguably same as in a lot of former Eastern bloc countries). 

Short term questions

  1. How big and serious will the insurgency be? I assume civilians are not heavily armed. I assume some organised groups will get some military gear. I assume some western weapons will get smuggled in.
  2. Who will actually fight it? My very limited kn
... (read more)
I think there's a potential plan here of 'establish Galicia-Volhynia* as a puppet' and 'incorporate eastern Ukraine', possibly including a Partition []-esque movement of people in both directions. But this makes more sense if the Ukrainian population is 20-50% in favor of being Russian, and it looks like the number is actually closer to 10%? Besides Crimea and the breakaway regions Russia has recognized, it's not clear there's all that much that will be worth the trouble to govern under protest. *IMO superior to calling it something like "Lvivian Ukraine" in the style of Vichy France []. 

I guess long-time lurkers/new posters like me are part of the problem(though obviously I assume most online only LW members didn't engage with a California drama post). I still think LW is a great place for discussion and just being exposed to new ideas and good feedback, but I'm probably dragging down the sanity level.

Re fear: I think the SSC situation made it clear that LW and rationalist adjacent spaces are more public than users might think, maybe people are hesitant because they don't want to get twitter blasted or show up as a snap in an NYTimes arti... (read more)

3Said Achmiz1y
I think that “attempting to aristocratize/oligarchize the site” might (or might not—I am undecided) have desirable consequences… but I think it would be a mistake to base this on karma scores. (See this old comment of mine [] for reasoning.)

Is the close relation actively killing people? I don't think it's an unreasonable standard to say you should attempt to kill your own child if they're about to go on a spree killing and you definitely have exhausted all other options. I might fail it, but I'd definitely think I was a bad person for it(granted raising a spree killer in the first place is the bigger fault here).

How else are their lives trading so favourably? Organ transfers are pretty 1-1, tho maybe a more general policy encouraging people to donate spare kidneys wouldn't be terrible. Also c... (read more)

No because of the things I say in Claim 3. Like. If I were to do it alone, that would sort of be fine. But if everyone were to live that way, everyone would be miserable(something something Kant's categorical imperative, what if everyone adopted this behaviour, would that work?).

I guess, there's a difference between what is utility maximising for an individual to do in a given society, and what is a utility maximising way for individuals to behave in an ideal society.

Like society should be such that Claim 3 is all you need, localized responsibility + government redistribution. 

If everyone donated income to everyone who needed it at least 10% more (in utility/$ terms), then the equilibrium would be a state where almost everyone gets to keep almost all their income because everyone in bad but fixable situations is now doing a lot better and there are no major utility gradients left. There would still be people who are worse off, but they're worse off in ways that can't be easily remedied by things that money can buy. So no, Kant doesn't have any objections. So if this is the requirement to be ethical, then nearly everyone in the world is unethical. Which isn't a surprising conclusion, but it's surprising for someone to both say "this is ethically necessary" and "no I won't do that".

The internal Ideal Observer is the amalgamated averaged out result of interactions with the world and other people alive and dead. Human beings don't come from the orangutan branch of the primate tree, we are fundamentally biologically not solitary creatures. 

Our ecological niche depends on our ability to coordinate at a scale comparable to ants, but while maintaining the individual decision making autonomy of mammals.

We're not a hive mind and we're not atomized individuals. We do and should constantly be balancing ourselves based on the feedback we g... (read more)

I agree, sort of. I'd argue that in the military example there is already a plan that includes consultation phases on purpose. The rules of engagement explicitly require a slow step. I don't know if this applies in genuinely surprising situations. A sort of known unknown vs unknown unknown distinction. I guess you can have a meta policy of always pausing ANY time something unexpected happens, but I feel like that's... hard to live(or even survive) with? Speeding car coming towards me or a kid in the road. Just act, no time to think. In fairness, this is why you prepare and preplan for likely emergency events you might encounter in life.

Regarding the direct example 

I feel like it's self-subverting. There's an old canard about Given how staggeringly disproportionate the utility losses are in this scenario I think even a 1% chance of my assumption that 'I have 15 seconds to undress' would lead to death means I should act immediately.

In general when thinking about superfast reflex decisions vs thought out decisions: Obey the reflex unless your ability to estimate the probabilities involved has really low margins of ... (read more)

These definitions of shame and guilt strike me as inherently dysfunctional because they seem to rely on direct external reference, rather than referencing some sort of internal 'Ideal Observer' which - in a healthy individual - should presumably be an amalgamate intuition, built on top of many disparate considerations and life experience.
The starcraft advice is really dependent on the problem being speed sensitive. Law of equal and opposite advice applies when that structure is not present. For example in a real army that somebody is infact charge of the group is important enough that rather than jumping into everything people will call in for confirmation/order to do certain stuff. For example peacekeeping during demonstration one would want to quell a rebellion if one is about to start but shooting back when people throw rocks could make for an unneccesary bloodpath. And that call can not be made in advance as there might not be information available.

Of course :D

There's a strain of thought that would say price allocation of society's production itself is only ethical when everyone has the same amount of money, but that's a whole other can of worms.

Actually, if you mandate normal prices (and often if you don't, but the companies don't want to lose customer goodwill) the companies will institute purchase limits on their own. In other words, you've effectively argued for existing anti-gouging laws.

To treacherously switch sides to the pro-price gouging side:

The obvious solution is for shops to jack up prices as soon as an emergency situation occurs, thereby taking the wind out of speculators' sails. Now businesses are not going to want to do this, since it'll ruin their reputation with customers for minor short term gain.

So the actual solution is for the government to mandate price-gouging in emergency situations, this way businesses can do it, without having to bear the public opinion penalty.

If an area is declared a public disaster area, all shops ... (read more)

At best, this would only make sense if everyone had the same amount of money. They don't. Mandatory price-gouging would mean the poor get screwed over. Far better to have normal prices and mandatory purchase limits.

Triple prices or empty shelves is a false dichotomy.

Everyone gets the supply and demand curve. That's not the point. Society exists to counter-balance natural bad luck not to amplify it. Social policies that make a disaster even more disastrous for an individual are going to produce rage. Your house got flooded, you have no heat or electricity, you really need some oil for your generator and now that oil is 10 times more expensive. 

I get that price signals are a good way to coordinate everyone in a community consuming less of a good, but people will f... (read more)

6Daniel V1y
The point economists make is that, on the contrary, price gouging does not "make a disaster even more disastrous," and instead makes a disaster more likely to be addressed quickly. Consider the case of a sudden positive demand shock (COVID toilet paper) - this is not a disaster that is causing individual-level suffering through paying exorbitant prices. Where this causes problems is when people can't get the item. The best way to nip this herding behavior in the bud is to make it costly. Then people for whom the product provides a lot of value will still buy it while those marginal people will think twice and leave it on the shelf. As demand normalizes, prices can come down. This also encourages those "clowns" in Tennessee to buy up hand sanitizer and ship it at great expense to LA to resell it there for high-but-lower-than-without-this-supply prices. In this case, prices still do a great job of ordering preferences and delivering good outcomes, so no wonder pro- and anti-gougers don't usually talk about it. Now consider the case of a sudden negative supply shock (hurricane knocks out a pipeline) - this IS a disaster that is causing individual-level suffering through paying exorbitant prices, but in a shortage like this, what alternative allocation mechanisms exist that could enable people to get the product, and ideally more to the people who have more valuable uses for it? Rationing is one - you can only get X amount of the product and then you're kicked from the market; when there is use-value variability, this is problematic as it means carving out exceptions to the rule (ambulance services get dibs on gas, do nurses trying to get to work also get dibs?). Another is to have the government ship in a bunch from elsewhere so prices don't need to rise, but has the catch that it's basically an implicit subsidy...for this specific group of people at this specific time in this specific place. That's great on humanitarian grounds and helps spread the cost to the rich
A few weeks ago I said the same thing []: And yeah, I also wish the "bikeshed" of price limits stopped being discussed, made into law, etc.

Given that they said we'll spend the money on the NHS instead of on EU, I don't see how that was what Cummings campaign implied.

Thirteen Government ministers and senior Conservatives have today committed that every region, group and recipient of EU funding will continue to get that money after a ‘Leave’ vote in the EU referendum. In an open letter, the signatories - who include Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Priti Patel -  assure those people and organisations

... (read more)
I looked a bit into the actual policy. It's not a question about whether or not there are farming subsidies but for what subsidies are paid. As the forward for the 2021 document []says: The way the money was distributed with the EU rules was having stupid affects on making unheathly food cheaper compared to healthy food. Insteadly, thinking about how farming can happen in a way that produces public goods and organizing subsidy payments to further public goods is much smarter then existing policy. This likely means that some farmers who don't want to change their practices will lose money relatively to what they had before while other farmers gain money.

Cummings' accomplishments are kinda pathetic, actually? He was associated with the successful Brexit effort. OK. So were lots of other people. Cameron was lukewarm on remain and Labour was basically pro-brexit but couldn't talk about it. In retrospect it's not that shocking Remain lost when neither major party was fully campaigning for it. Also this is literally his only meaningful accomplishment.

Then he later gets into government as Johnson's fixer, which given that Johnson is averse to actual work means he can basically do whatever he wants. He then fail... (read more)

Given that they said we'll spend the money on the NHS instead of on EU, I don't see how that was what Cummings campaign implied.  The EU development funds to poor regions are badly thought out systems and part of the point of Brexit was money not flowing that way and instead to priorities like the NHS. There's no point to have farming subsidies for pig farmers. In a society where people on average eat too much meat, pork should cost at the supermarket the economic price it costs to produce pork and not less because of government subsidies. Brexit allowed to get rid of bad policy like that. 

I really liked the post, but I couldn't help ironmanning the so-called fabricated options at every step. Documented below, read at your own peril(or most likely skip the wall of text).

Example 1 

Every time price gouging is brought up online, I see it strawmanned. The proper ironman is something like anti-bank run measures. 

Price gouging measures are meant to ... solve a coordination problem. Supply is ... not necessarily as limited as people might think, if everyone just kept consuming at the same rate or even slightly reduced consumption but not ... (read more)

In the first part, you're saying that price limits have the same intent as withdrawal limits, rationing and so on: to prevent panic and speculation. That's true, but it doesn't matter if the result of price limits is different: empty shelves and not much else. That's what the econ folks have been saying.

(Disclaimer, I mostly agree with your perspective on the world, though I do think ... public perception is pulling the fabric of (some) developed societies apart at an alarming rate. Part of the core cause: reforms to the system don't mean collapse into socialism or anarchy, nor are massive upheavals needed to address lots of present day complaints people have. But reformism is so unfashionable these days :/ )

I see 'debates' like this and they really trigger my solipsism. Every modern society is a mixed system of some capitalist competition with various so... (read more)

  It's interesting that you mention banned heroin, because it's clear today that drug prohibition has caused tens of thousands of casualties (but probably more).  Part of the reluctance to implement new regulation is awareness that given society's complexities it's very dangerous, and it's effect might be unknown even ex-post! You seem to acknowledge that, and then just ignore it.   It is very reasonable to have a prior of "yeah let's better not interfere". If we had that prior for decades with regards to housing policies, we wouldn't have housing shortages today.
I often think of markets in that way and think the broad concept of "Capitalism" (and many other isms) fit well. I think this applies to the OP about explaining harder. While also very market and capital friendly in thought (and action) I do often find the advocates seem to hold (generally implicitly) that somehow capitalism/price markets must be universal and nothing else could displace them. I think that goes too far. I think framing the subject in that social tool allows for some better discussion. Just as we can talk about building tools, or just carpentry tools, tools serve to resolve a specific type of problem and can be used properly and improperly.  Social level tools like markets or capitalism or law are much more complicated than hammers and saws, or even backhoes or cement trucks, or computer systems controlling a large assembly line but still fit into that model well I think. So when having those interactions about "Yes, I get that but it shouldn't be that way." I think the tool framework can help get into the discussion about just what it means to "be that way". What shouldn't be that way -- the problem to be solved or the tool being used for the problem?

These threads are so soothing to me these days. A reminder that most of the world is basically out of the literal mass death phase and just back into the politicians are long-term harmful, short-term irrelevant phase of life.

America's not spicy enough, but don't worry I've got Romania and Bulgaria taking another swing at unintentional herd immunity:

Look at that gorgeous vertical. "But it's OK, like everyone there is vaccinated by now, right?"

"But it's OK the governments are gonna lockdown and take control." Yeah, no nobody cares. Restaurants are as packed ... (read more)

I think this still undersells the mutative capacity of an institution. You're worried about a fairly obvious abstraction that puts you in their target group. But institutions are living organisms, not evolving logical rulesets and can mutate much more radically. 

The organisation is basically training hammers and those hammers will keep looking for nails. This is why means vs ends debates are so central to morality. Humans and organisations are 99% defined by what they do, not why they do it. You might do a terrible what for a good why, but once you achieve your initial goal you'll be looking for other reasons to keep doing the terrible what that you're now an efficient professional at doing.

I'm still so confused(through no fault of your own, I think you're right, it just doesn't fit in my head). Let me try to walk through my thought process.

I assume heritability of SAT score is probably different if you sample across USA, or just upper-mid class suburbs or just South Side Chicago, or just rural Eastern Europe, or just Malawi during a famine. Right? Given that environments are pretty radically different. 

What heritability score are we using to determine if policy interventions matter or not? Is the first step to make sure that the region ... (read more)

But isn't this exactly the mainstream intuition that the OP dissolves? My understanding:

a) Heritability measures don't seem to make sense for really complex traits like intelligence.

b) Heritability measures are not stable outside the environmental conditions in which they were measured. 

For instance, some people have sickle cell anemia, which helps them better survive malaria(but otherwise is slightly harmful). If you measure heritability of infant mortality in environment with malaria and then in environment without malaria you get opposite effects. ... (read more)

The commenter you are replying to is right. Heritability shows how much of the current variation is genetic in origin, which shows whether the variability of nurture matters within that particular culture. If you want to successfully intervene, it needs to be either in something not very heritable, or with an intervention that is not a significant part of the current landscape of the society. (The fact that outside of context interventions may exist means heritability isn't a measure of how genetic it is, but that wasn't Sleeps Furiously's point.) Edit: Note, Sleeps Furiously had not replied to spkoc when I saw this and I wrote my response without refreshing.
4Sleeps Furiously2y
It is not that intuition.  The mainstream intuition is that a high heritability means that variations in the thing that you're measuring (height, SAT scores, infant mortality) is primarily affected by genetics and cannot be influenced by the environment.  A better framing would say that high heritability means that variations in the thing that you're measuring are not well explained by existing variation in the environment.  To reframe, then, what I was going for above, a high heritibility is an upper bound on how much you can expect to improve a specific measure by playing around with existing policy levers, versus having to think outside the box and develop new policy levers. So, again, pretend that SAT scores have a high measured variability in the US.  (I think it's actually closer to 50 than either extreme, but I don't have off-hand an actual example of a measure that we might want to increase/reduce the variance of as a society that does have a high heritability.)  We might look at nutrition, SES and education and ask whether we can manipulate these to significantly reduce the variance in height and/or SAT scores.  Under the high heritability assumption, the answer is that this is very unlikely for both stats. Again, this is without saying that high heritability means the existing policy levers are not having an effect right now.  If we, as a country, stoppd feeding kids at age 5 and left them to fend for themselves, I would expect the survivors to be both shorter and have lower SAT scores than preceding generations.  If we stopped sending kids to school, I would expect average SAT scores to drop and the variance to increase significantly.  And nothing about heritability argues against any of that. It also doesn't mean that there are no policy levers that could have an effect.  I am not biologist enough to know if the application of HGH to children on a large scale would increase average height, but what I can say is that heritability has nothing to say on

Re free speech: Social media is an existential problem to our civilization. The chinese solution of mass censorship, that the west seems to be outsourcing to private corporations' dumb algorithms, is not my preferred solution, but I honestly don't know if it's worse than the status quo.

The amount of misinformation I see forwarded even on my family whatsapp group is awful. Not even the older members of the family really buy it, but it definitely contributes to cynicism. Then there's the Q horror stories, crazy conspiracy crap and so on. This is not sustaina... (read more)

I agree with you that social media is an existential problem to our civilization. In my mind, it is as dangerous as climate change, yet taken far less seriously. However, I think that the west/China dichotomy is a false one -- there is likely a way to evolve the (western/democratic) system as it is into one that continues to allow the free flow of information, and at the same time limits harmful information. It seems easy to discount this because social systems take much longer to develop and implement than, say, a new car design. I hope that, given how fast the Internet evolves, we won't have to wait long for an alternative to appear though.
How many got killed after the population supported invading Iraq based on Colin Powell's very official little lies that Iraq had WMD and was linked to 9/11? According to Wikipedia: U.S. military deaths: 4,576 Iraq excess deaths: aournd 500,000 according to Lancet and PLOS Medicine, including at least 100,000 violent deaths

Good points. I think we should compare the two worlds (China model vs. free speech wild west) more explicitly to see how they fare. My intuition right now is that I'd vastly prefer the free speech wild west to the china model, even if this gets tens of thousands of people killed on the regular because of believing stupid memes. Basically, as bad as that situation is, totalitarianism seems a lot worse... But I'm not sure.

Ooh, this is a fun theory. Possibly causality reversed? Adam Smith's old doozy is "the degree of specialization is limited by the extent of the market" or something like that. If the empire is collapsing and trade becoming more difficult practices switch to more local economies. Some products require a certain scale of market to be viable. Feudal Western Europe was quite fragmented, 100 different toll gates as you went down the Rhine and whatnot, so trade was very reduced, extent of market low and so specialization low and so capital requirements for produ... (read more)

I agree, but keep in mind just the city itself was like twice the size in the later period. Population wise 2nd Punic war Rome was around 3-500k, 410 Rome was around 8-900k. Presumably the greater southern Italian region was also way more populous, tho also less able/interested in coming to the city's aid.

Different comparison: Late Roman armies were crippled by a loss of 75k men, despite similar losses being overcome by just Rome's Southern Italian coalition centuries earlier.

Synthetic 'civilization' scores are unavoidably subjective

Just to be clear, the Ian Morris graph is Western Eurasia vs Eastern Eurasia(since it can't be Western Europe vs colloquial East, as Western Europe was a backwater pre-Rome)? I'm very skeptical of these historical score approaches, they obscure more than they enlighten and depending on how actual data is weighted the author can come up with any conclusion they want. 

For instance, why wouldn't population density be the defining characteristic of a successful society(higher energy density, more e... (read more)

3Richard Horvath2y
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 army. The Imperial armies often rebelled in the late period, trying to promote a new Emperor. To counter this, reforms were introduced that decreased the chance of a successful army rebellion, but they also greatly diminished their effectiveness: "Under the Roman emperors, besides, the standing armies of Rome, those particularly which guarded the German and Pannonian frontiers, became dangerous to their masters, against whom they used frequently to set up their own generals. In order to render them less formidable, according to some authors, Dioclesian, according to others, Constantine, first withdrew them from the frontier, where they had always before been encamped in great bodies, generally of two or three legions each, and dispersed them in small bodies through the different provincial towns, from whence they were scarce ever removed but when it became necessary to repel an invasion. Small bodies of soldiers quartered, in trading and manufacturing towns, and seldom removed from those quarters, became themselves tradesmen, artificers, and manufacturers. The civil came to predominate over the military character, and the standing armies of Rome gradually degenerated into a corrupt, neglected, and undisciplined militia.." Source: []
2HDMI Cable2y
I think another thing that made Alaric successful was that by 410, Rome was not located in Rome. For the most part, the Western Empire was not as rich as the East, and the city of Rome itself was becoming less and less favoured by emperors (especially after the 3rd century crisis). Alaric was able to capture Rome in part because they had lost the culture of warrior-farmers, but also because Rome was like Philadelphia: Once a great city and capital, but now a medium-sized town with no real attractions (except the Pope, but even then, the Patriarchs were more powerful at the time).
I love wild speculation like this. (Appropriately labeled, of course.)

I have a shallow read a few posts about it overview of the post-rationality vs rationality debate, but to me it just seems like a semantic debate.

Camp "post-rationalism isn't a thing" argues that rationality is the art of winning. Therefore any methods that camp "post-rationalism" uses that work better than a similar method used by people in camp "post-rationalism isn't a thing" is the correct method for all rationalists to use.

The rationalist definition is sort of recursive. If you live the ideology correctly than you should replace worse methods with bet... (read more)

I believe this is mostly correct, and the missing part is the "post-rationalism" camp saying: but this is only what you say you would do, but you never actually do it. Talking about the nameless virtue of rationality is not the same as actually practicing it. Like, you preach that a map is not the territory, and then you take your Bayesian map and refuse to look at anything else. You don't even have the ability to seriously consider multiple maps at the same time, a.k.a. the Kegan level 5.

Well, that's the motte. The bailey is that the "post-rationalism" ca... (read more)

I need to read that Huemer book, it sounds very interesting from what you've quoted in this and the other thread here.

You're right, I am being unfair to the actual philosophy. I have a negative emotional reaction to the political movement that uses the name. I have quite a lot of ... sympathy(?) for the actual philosophical movements' conclusions, however I still think it collapses to being a bunch of heuristics on top of utilitarian arguments in the end. Also I think objectivism(libertarianisms' radical grandkid(?)) is ... evil? Not utilitarian compatible... (read more)

5Matthew Barnett2y
Awesome. I should say that I don't agree with all of the book's conclusions. I think I'm pretty much in the same spot here. I think the utilitarian arguments for libertarianism are the strongest, but in the end, I think utilitarians have given good arguments that cast a ton of doubt on the libertarian project. I'm getting a bit off-topic from the post I wrote, but I'll briefly summarize my views below. In my opinion, the strongest argument for libertarianism is that it leads to higher medium-run economic growth. My views here are closely aligned with Tyler Cowen's in his book Stubborn Attachments. Straightforwardly, living standards have gone way up in the last 200 years primarily due to technological progress, and the economic liberalization that has enabled it. Libertarian governance lowers regulatory burden, reduces deadweight loss [] associated with taxation, and provides businesses more financial capital available for investment. These effects arguably raise economic growth more than the downsides of libertarian governance might lower it. However, while economic growth is important on medium timescales, existential risk is far more important in the long-run. Bostrom outlined the fundamental reason why about 20 years ago []. His vunerable world paper [] provides a direct argument for centralized government. Since I don't actually agree with deontological libertarianism, I can't fundamentally defend it against some of the objections you've raised. I could play Devil's advocate for a while, but I don't feel like I know enough about the topic to go much further. Your critique of the actual political movement seems valid to me. FWIW I think it's usually a cheapshot to argue against the median activist for a given cause. In large political movements, it's typical for >90% of the people who identify with the movement to

Before I go off on a rant about "taxation is theft", I want to respond to the actual theme of the post: the fallacy depends on your metric(?) function(not sure what the term is). How do you graph types of events, how do you determine proximity?

For instance, are micro-aggressions just as bad as physical violence? Or at least should we attempt to prevent them with similar amounts of force and regulation?

If your metric is physical damage done then probably not. If the metric is self-reported emotional or physical suffering, then maybe. But the category become... (read more)

4Matthew Barnett2y
I think you may be giving short shrift to the actual philosophical arguments made by libertarians. Michael Huemer responds to your argument that "the state owns the land you are on" in section 2.5.1 in The Problem of Political Authority. I'll quote some of his reply here, Now one may conclude, as you do, that this argument leads to a more general "abolition of private property." After all, many property claims in the world are either the result of conquest and expropriation, or the result of the inheritance of such expropriation. However, this response would ignore two facts. First, the vast majority of property in the world can't actually be traced back to expropriation, except indirectly. For example, the high market market price of a smartphone is driven almost entirely from the actual engineering and construction of its components, rather than the value of the raw materials that make it up. While the raw materials might be stolen property, the labor used to make it arguably isn't (though Marxists famously disagree). Second, it is perfectly consistent to argue for property rights in the abstract while holding that most actual claims to property in the real world are illegitimate. Libertarian Robert Nozick defended what he called the "Lockean proviso" in Anarchy, State, and Utopia, under which property right claims are only valid under a specific set of circumstances. Otherwise, we must forfeit them. One article summarizes [] some radical implications of this view,

I feel like the herd immunity section is overly simplistic given how much IFR varies based on age group. 


The estimated age-specific IFR is very low for children and younger adults (e.g., 0.002% at age 10 and 0.01% at age 25) but increases progressively to 0.4% at age 55, 1.4% at age 65, 4.6% at age 75, and 15% at age 85.

65+ is like 45,000,000 in the US. Half of them get infected, generously let's say 3% die that's 600,000 dead. A big part of the IFR in the spring for NYC and Sweden(and... (read more)

Authorities seem to think the masses are stupid, but then fail to do the bare minimum to educate them on the metrics that matter.

The sad thing is people are definitely smart enough to realize that just raw case numbers don't matter. But then they don't take the additional, and granted fairly tedious step, of figuring out which numbers do matter(hospitalization rates, positive test rates, death numbers, ICU usage rate in their area).

Or maybe it's pure red tribe blue tribe on a global scale(or rather with variations in different countries) and I'm being naive and hopeful.

I've found this to be much worse than just what you're claiming. Like how 'most people claim to be above average', I've noticed a lot of people claiming that most other people are stupid. That's a really weird situation – a significant proportion of people think that almost everyone else can't handle hard truths (about whatever). I think this is true, but in a weird 'fractal' number of dimensions beyond the obvious political coalitions. It's more like many-dimensional culture war than pure { red tribe / blue tribe } conflict, at least based on my own experience and personal observations.

I think he just meant the curves would match, ie. referring to the peak from the previous wave: 

Oh actually, I think he just means they'd get back to that peak level in 25 days, not that it would get better after that. I misunderstood what he was saying. I'll correct my post above.

As a follow up to my previous comment, here's a really amazing Twitter thread breaking down the situation in France: (threadreader version:

The poster also tries to estimate R0 using hospital data(which should be more reliable than case data, since the Spring wave was so undertested). He finds a R0 of 1.2, which means a doubling every 20 days. 

He estimates ICU usage levels will be as high as the spring peak in France within 25 days... (read more)

I saw that earlier. What I didn't understand was how we could predict when the peak would be, unless he's assuming France has now taken countermeasures and things will turn around.®ion=World&casesMetric=true&interval=smoothed&perCapita=true&smoothing=7&pickerMetric=location&pickerSort=asc is the best site for COVID European COVID graphs as far as I know. The UK has excellent breakdowns(including by age group): (read more)

Is the CFR going down because the virus is less deadly in general, or because the virus is infecting younger people? I haven't been able to find a decent study on this.

In the UK( the median age of people testing positive has gone down from 52 to 31:

Annex table 7: median age of people newly tested and newly testing positive for COVID-19 under pillars 1 and... (read more)

Is the space of possible minds really that huge(or maybe really that alien?), though? I agree about humans having ... an instinctive ability to intuit the mental state of other humans. But isn't that partly learnable as well? We port this simulation ability relatively well to animals once we get used to their tells. Would we really struggle to learn the tells of other minds, as long as they were somewhat consistent over time and didn't have the ability to perfectly lie?

Like what's a truly alien mind? At the end of the day we're Turing complete, we can simulate any computational process, albeit inefficiently.

I agree with the simulation aspect, sort of. I don't know if similarity to myself is necessary, though. For instance throughout history people have been able to model and interact with traders from neighbouring or distant civilizations, even though they might think very differently.

I'd say predictability or simulationability is what makes us comfortable with an 'other'. To me the scary aspect about an AI is the possibility that it's behaviour can change radically and unpredictably(it gets an override update, some manchurian candidate type trigger). Humans ... (read more)

Humans think very very similarly to each other, compared with random minds from the space of possible minds. For example, we recognise anger, aggression, fear, and so on, and share a lot of cultural universals []

How are you actually doing this in AI Dungeon? I have Dragon mode enabled, everything else default.

I start a new Single player game. Choose Custom mode(6). Then at the prompt I just paste (using Say mode)

Q: Say I want to sum the items in a list. How would I do this recursively? The answer involves two steps.

 and I get

Q: Say I want to sum the items in a list. How would I do this recursively? The answer involves two steps. First, I need to know how many items there are in total. Second, I need to find out which item is at the top of that list. A: You co... (read more)

4Rafael Harth3y
The approach I've been using (for different things, but I suspect the principle is the same) is * If you want it to do X, give it about four examples of X in the question-answer format as a prompt (as in, commands from the human plus answers from the AI) * Repeat for about three times: * Give it another such question, reroll until it produces a good answer (might take a lot of rolls) At that point it is much better than one where you prompted everything to begin with.
I also have replicating difficulties with AI Dungeon. I think it has weaker version of GPT-3 than API.
5Zachary Robertson3y
You could prompt with “Q:” + (content) and then “A:” I use the default settings on the temperature, but I do cut it off after it finishes an answer. However, you likely won’t get my exact results unless you literally copy the instances. Moreover, if you gave up after the first response I think might’ve given up to quickly. You can respond to it and communicate more information, as I did. The above really was what I got on the first try. It’s not perfect, but that’s the point. You can teach it. It’s not “it works” or “it doesn’t work”. I don’t think there are tutorials, but perhaps in due time someone (maybe me) will get to that. I also feel like ‘trying’ to get it to do something might be a sub-optimal approach. This is a subtle difference, but my intent here was to get it to confirm it understood what I was asking by answering questions.

It would help to add past 5 year averages to make it clear just how unusual the R0-R99 death numbers are. See from my comment on the previous post. These numbers have been at a constant <500/week every week of 2015-2019. They're now at 2800 and seemingly rising. 

It's gone from one of the lowest ranked causes of death to like #4 cause of death.

As to hypotheses why... who determines how deaths are classified? Is it state level? Do states need to send samples to the CDC to get them classified? It's clearly too simple to just assume that it's a pure hospital level process.

This website seems to do the trick and have charts:

The spike in Unclassified... is huge. They're fudging the data, ffs.

1Joshua Goings3y
It's incredible. I tried to compare with the COVID-19 deaths, but the chart provided did not seem to be working and only showed unclassified. I worked up a few states like Florida, AZ, TX, NY, and the US based on the link in a blog post here, maybe it will be helpful to look at []

It seems like as of today deaths are still not spiking. Good news? Do we have stats on hospitalization rates by age group? If it's something like 0.1% of <30 yo infected need ICU care, that suggests everyone(without comorbidities) under 30 could get infected more or less at the same time and we'd still be fine, assuming higher risk groups stay isolated.

Of course this plan is not helped by propaganda being eaten up by old people that the virus is over, masks are evil and other info hazards.

Holiday is messing with reporting so I'd wait 2 days before drawing conclusions. After that... Huge if true. Question in my mind is, do we trust it to be real...

somewhat shackled by trying to fit them all into conflict vs mistake theory

:D Yeah, fair point, I just realised I don't link this at all with my earlier post/comment in which I frame conflict theories as strategies for 0-sum games vs mistake theories as strategies for positive-sum games.

My historical trajectory is a story about ehhh... entities playing ever larger(in dimensions of spacetime, energy used, information contained whatever, number of entities involved, diversity of the entities involved) positive sum games. While not becoming a single clonal

... (read more)

I still haven't read a good steelman of conflict theory(and I doubt I can offer one, though I'll try), but I think it's a bit deeper than just misguided mistake theory.

First of all, conflict theory seems a better fit for 0-sum games:

  • slaves want to be free, slaveholders want to keep their property
  • mongols want territory, current inhabitants don't want to become skull pyramids
  • privileged group wants disadvantaged group policed ruthlessly, since they are not affected by the police brutality but do benefit from the police catching more criminals on the margi
... (read more)
4Donald Hobson3y
In the formal maths of game theory, a zero sum game is one where one players utility is precisely minus the other players utility. This is a very special case and almost never happens in the real world. The alternative is a non-zero sum game, utilities are isomorphic up to scaling and adding a constant. Take the slave and slave owner game. If you add a third option where they both kill each other, then both parties prefer the other two states over both killing each other. The game is no longer zero sum. That doesn't stop it being a conflict in the sense that both parties want to take actions that harm the other. It just isn't pure 100% conflict.
I wrote a defence of conflict theory here [], in case that's of interest. (Also crossposted to LessWrong here []). It has some similarities to your 0-sum/positive-sum framing (which I like) but more focused on historical examples.
The post was about the differences between object-level and evangelistic mistake theory. The examples I gave are just illustrative of that difference. They're not meant as particularly strong arguments in themselves; just examples of two different lines of thinking.

I think you're right when it comes to SC2, but that doesn't really matter for DeepMind's ultimate goal with AlphaStar: to show an AI that can learn anything a human can learn.

In a sense AlphaStar just proves that SC2 is not balanced for superhuman ( ) micro. Big stalker army shouldn't beat big Immortal army. In current SC2 it obviously can with good enough micro. There are probably all sorts of other situations where soft-scissor beats soft-rock with good enough micro.

Does this make AlphaSta... (read more)

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