I started posting on Less Wrong in 2011, learned about effective altruism, and four years later landed in the Bay Area. I do direct work in operations, and write for fun.

You can find my fiction here: https://archiveofourown.org/users/Swimmer963


Book review: The Checklist Manifesto

This in fact varies a lot! Whether it's ink or paper versus a computer screen depends on what a given hospital uses for charting; I've done both ways. A lot of major procedure checklists (the central line one, surgical checklists) are filled out by a separate person whose job is basically just observing and documenting (and, of course, calling people out for skipping items!) Whereas checklists for smaller, more routine tasks are done by a single person in a less formal way – e.g. the Five Rights of med administration, where you double-check at the bedside, against the chart, that you have the right patient, right med, right dose, right time, and right route of administration. 

Gawande does make a distinction in the book between, basically, whether you read off a checklist item, do it (or have someone else do it), and then check it off, versus whether you carry out the task and then review the checklist to make sure you did everything. 

I do think it helps on the absentmindedness front that medical tasks are very concrete and...pretty memorable? Even if I was half zoned out at the time, it's a lot easier for me to remember whether I cleaned a patient's pubic area with iodine than "wait did I cc person X on that email?" And, of course, in that case the effects are also visible, because now the patient's pubic area is yellow! Items like checking a patient's bracelet and the name of a med are, in a lot of modern hospitals, automated via using a bar code scanner linked to the patient's digital chart, leaving a lot less room for error.  

Kids Learn by Copying

Something else I've noticed with very young children, usually starting between 18 months and 3 years old, is how much they love pretend play – and how this is often clearly pointed at practicing basic skills. Small children love to imitate what adults around them are doing: pretending to cook, to work on a laptop, to make phone calls, etc. (I've seen toddlers who can't actually talk in sentences yet make "phone calls" and babble into the phone.) At a slightly older age, kids start bringing stories from media they're exposed to into their pretend play. 

My impression is that many mammals do play, and that this is an important learning method, but that human children have much more sophisticated pretend play, which broadens what kinds of skills they can imitate and practice. 

What is operations?

Good reminder! It's been...quite a year for me, and I was unclear at the time on how much people were engaged with and getting out of this post, but I still have my planning notes for further content. 

Is Success the Enemy of Freedom? (Full)

Hmm, it seems maybe relevant that I don't think of my various skill-acquiring periods in the past as about "success"? Or maybe that the thing my brain parses internally as success isn't very defined by what society considers to be winning. When I moved from ICU nursing to operations work, it did involve going from somewhere I was acknowledged by my colleagues to be pretty good at and where I felt a lot of mastery, to somewhere where I was much more often making mistakes and getting criticism for them, and this was sometimes frustrating and hard. Still, my overall sense was still one where learning to be a good nurse gave me a ton of generalizable skills that transferred to ops and meant I could skill up a lot faster there. Possibly it helps that I picked nursing for reasons unrelated to its prestige, and in fact got a bunch of flak from people (including people in the rationalist community) about choosing this field.

Aside: the experience I've had that feels the most to my S1 like having "made it in life", is participating in glowfic, a very niche online collaborative-rp-writing community. Writing fiction and having a couple of dozen people as avid fans of it is utterly maxing out my monkey brain's metric for feeling high-status. I do think it'll be a bit of an adjustment going back to full-time work of one sort or another (I've been doing a lot of this as a hobby while recovering from a serious medical issue, but will at some point be recovered enough to be productive on other things and will cut back substantially.) Possibly because it's so niche and only involves a subset of my social circle, though, I don't expect it to make learning different new skills feel like "losing." 

Is Success the Enemy of Freedom? (Full)

Uh, I haven't strongly had that experience, I think mainly because my life hasn't contained that much in the way of competitive games with very legible winning metrics? One of the "switching skills" cases I'm thinking of is when I was hired for an operations role, and most of my previous experience was in volunteer event logistics, but for a bunch of contingent reasons I ended up instead focusing on finance work (largely because the person previously doing that was now spending most of their time on other work, and the team already had a person with a lot of skill at event-running.) This did mean I was going from an area where I felt comfortable and had a sense of mastery to one where I felt very inexperienced and sometimes overwhelmed, and made more mistakes as a result, but I don't think it parsed to me or anyone else on the team as "losing"? There was work that needed doing, it was my comparative advantage if not absolute advantage, and me doing it imperfectly was much better than it not happening. 

Is Success the Enemy of Freedom? (Full)

This feels to me like the result of very specific/narrow criteria for "success" and personal ambition, which haven't applied to most people I hang out with. (Except for becoming more risk-averse about things that have high tail risk or might destabilize one's life once you have kids, which seems very reasonable to me and a worthwhile tradeoff for the category of person who values having children a lot.) In particular, the nurses I worked with didn't come off to me as feeling constrained-by-success in this way. 

I currently both feel pleased with my life trajectory, and also like I have a lot of freedom to go in a completely different direction this year if I want. My original undergraduate degree and job were in ICU nursing, I later pivoted to nonprofit operations & finance work, and then left that to work on writing a novel. I'm considering whether I want to continue with writing or do a programming or data science bootcamp (both of which I have minimal background in), and both of these feel like very viable options. It's...honestly kind of hard for me to imagine what it would be like to be reluctant to start learning a new skill I know very little about, and I'm definitely not worried about being judged by my peer group for it. I do think I'm pretty lucky in what peer group I have, and also in having a background that doesn't lend itself to people having those expectations of me. 

Lawful Intelligence

Talk:Lawful intelligence

This page needs to be broken down into components.

But carefully, into useful concepts that should be included in the narrative of the summary of this article, so that taking out the links won't break the sequence. The same goes for Bias and Bayesian and some other pages I don't recall. --Vladimir Nesov 15:01, 17 July 2009 (UTC)


Eliezer, I hope your thoughts aren't as vague as this article would suggest. The phrase "is a manifestation of" is extremely vague (trumped only by "is associated with"?), and the capitalization of "Order" and "Chaos", and the terms "heresy" and "religion", make me wonder what's going on. If we removed the meaningless or emotional bits of this and replaced them with what we actually mean, would it look something like this?

Lawful intelligence is the notion that intelligence is produced mainly by the application of useful rules rather than randomness. Even creativity and outside-the-box thinking are essentially orderly.

While this contradicts mainstream Silicon Valley beliefs, there are some good mathematical reasons for believing it.

--Warrigal 22:03, 12 February 2010 (UTC)

Likelihood Ratio

Talk:Likelihood ratio

Wikipedia article Wikipedia:likelihood ratio is overly broad, and it starts with "In the frequentist statistics method of statistical hypothesis testing, the likelihood ratio...". I think including a link there is misleading for this concept. Maybe there is a subsection or another article on Wikipedia that fits better. --Vladimir Nesov 20:41, 12 June 2009 (UTC)



It was suggested that this term is a bad idea, but the concept is salient, so suggest better names for it (I like the term as it is). --Vladimir Nesov 01:29, 15 May 2009 (UTC)

Expected Value

Anyone objects to deleting this page? There seems to be no significance to it, it's even not linked from anywhere. --Vladimir Nesov 23:03, 8 July 2009 (UTC)

Video to demonstrate how to NOT think about expected value


George Gervin (NBA Legend) says that the 3-point shot is the worst shot in basketball. His argument is basically that 3-point percentages are almost always lower than 2-point percentages. He seems to not give any weight to the fact that 3-point shots provide you with one extra point...

Perhaps the example should include probabilities

The example with the 6-sided die doesn't explicitly show how probabilities are part of the calculation. Perhaps the example should do this.

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