Srdjan Miletic

Wiki Contributions



So when I read this post I initially thought it was good. But on second thought I don't think I actually get that much from it. If I had to summarise it, I'd say

  • a few interesting anecdotes about experiments where measurement was misleading or difficult
  • some general talk about "low bit experiments" and how hard it is to control for cofounders

The most interesting claim I found was the second law of experiment design. To quote: "The Second Law of Experiment Design: if you measure enough different stuff, you might figure out what you’re actually measuring.". But even here I didn't get much clarity or new info. The argument seemed to boil down to "If you measure more things, you may find the actual underlying important variable", which is true I guess but doesn't seem particularly novel and also introduces other risks. e.g: That the more variables you measure the higher the chance that at least some of them will correlate just due to chance. There's a pointer to a book which the author claims sheds more light on the topic and on modern statistical methods around experiment design more generally, but that's it.

I think I also have a broader problem here, namely that the article feels a bit fuzzy in a way that makes it hard to pin down what the central claims are.

So yeah, I enjoyed it but on reflection I'm a bit less of a fan than I thought.

Answer by Srdjan Miletic50

The fact that the the latest release was in 2018 suggests to me that answer is probably no.

That being said, I don't think there's much significant difference between the original sequences and the published version aside from some copy editing. You can always find the blog posts the books are comprised of at

I believe there's also an epub/mobi version of the whole sequences floating around somewhere which you can easily sideload onto your EReader of choice.


I find this super interesting, but as always I worry about selection effects.

There are many famous, successful and influential people in history. My question would be what % of those people had tutoring, cognitive apprenticeships etc...

This post chooses a number of famous people. Presumably the selection process goes something like this:

  • look at a list of famous people
  • look which ones have something written about their education
  • writes about those one

The problem is that those with unusual educations are more likely to have written about them. What if there are many famous/successful people who mostly had normal education

I think the general claim this post makes is

  • incredibly important
  • well argued
  • non obvious to many people

I think there's an objection here that value != consumption of material resources, hence the constraints on growth may be far higher than the author calculates. Still, the article is great

I'm in two minds about this post.

On one hand, I think the core claim is correct Most people are generally too afraid of low negative EV stuff like lawsuits, terrorism, being murdered etc... I think this is also a subset of the general argument that goes something like "most people are too cowardly. Being less cowardly is in most cases better"

That being said, I have a few key problems with this article that make me downvote it.

  • I feel like it's writing to persuade, not to explain. It's all arguments for not caring about lawsuits and no examination of why you maybe should care. (Is the entier medical industry + pretty much every newspaper just randomly irrational in the same direction? Are we really sure we know better than the market what the risk of being sued actually is?)
  • I also think there's quite a bit of fairly questionable argumentation as pointed out in the comments. e.g: comparing the current cost of claims against current $ spent on mitigation when the comparison should be with the cost of lawsuits in a no mitigation counterfactual, the fact that legal stats referenced are about cases that go to court, not out of court settlements which is 99% of cases etc...

I think this post does two things well:

  • helps lower the internal barrier for what is "worth posting" on LW
  • helps communicate the epistemic/communication norms that define good rationalish writing

I think this post presents a plausible explanation for why Europe colonised the world. I think my problem is that there are numerous other explanations with a great deal of supporting literature and argumentation and I don't see much if any engagement with the alternative explanations in this post. In other words, I feel this post is trying to convince me of a certain answer without acknowledging the existence of other answers.

A few more specific thoughts:

Your model of why Europe wins:

  • Europe could choose when to fight by virtue of having long range ships = fights China.India at the most opportune times
  • Industrialisation => geographically separated empire => more industrialisation due to labour shortages and cheap raw resources
  • Christopher columbus = discovery of the new world = colonisation begins

I think there are a few problems with this model. First, long range ships and being able to devote enough resources to fight and win wars half way around the world are stupendous technological feats other civilizations were not capable of. I think you need an explanation for why Europe was first able to do these things while China/Arab states were not.

Secondly, the idea that a colonial empire speeds up industrialisation may or may not be true but a few things don't line up:

  • European states without empires also industrialised rapidly
  • Britain started industrialising well before it had a substantial empire. in 1740, the "empire" was basically some parts of the US and Canada with negligible economic output compared to the mainland.

Finally, the idea that Columbus was necessary for colonisation to happen is something I'm skeptical of. Yes no discovery of America = no colonization of America but I don't quite see why European colonization of other parts of the world was contingent on columbus.

Also, a few other popular explanations of why Europe pulled ahead:

  • Many competing states with a natural geography full of barriers stopping any single empire from forming and dominating = more competition/experimentation = more progress
  • Property rights and a strong trader/merchant class with a large degree of influence on government vs religious+millitary rule in the arab world. (Note this doesn't apply to all of europe, more to the UK and netherlands. Doesn't explain the success of other European nations)
  • Unique geographic features such as minimal natural disasters, large amounts of arable land, good climate, lots of large animals and good crops => higher pop density => more innovation and growth
  • European christianity being in a better state, somewhat de to the reformation, and that having ripple effects throughout society in terms of norms etc...

I don't think the conclusion "stateless societies are not in a Hobbesian state of constant war" is warranted here. With stateless societies or those in a weak state, the war isn't between members of the group/family/clan/tribe. It's between different groups. Within a group people are still subject to rules, sanctions for bad behaviour etc...

I'm not sure I agree.

Some class of errors/problems are due to taking the wrong approach. Trying harder here is indeed not effective and is bad advice.

Another class of errors are due to giving up too early, not putting in enough effort or not really caring about doing something well/properly. For this class of errors, "try harder" is legitimate feedback because the problem is indeed the amount of effort being put in.

An example from my time at secondary school. Some people would try to study but take the wrong approach and as a consequence not do that well. Telling them to study harder or longer would not have been good advice. Other people didn't really care, didn't study or pay attention in class and when they did it was only the bare minimum to avoid punishment. For the second group, telling them to try harder is good advice.

There's another question here over whether telling someone to try harder is often effective. The implicit assumption of the post is that no, its not. My experience in the real world is that in many situations you can motivate people to exert substantially more effort in an activity with "try harder" advice framed in the right way and with the right relationship with the person you're talking to.

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