Wiki Contributions


The (not so) paradoxical asymmetry between position and momentum

It's also possible that the symmetry just vanishes completely in a relativistic setting (this is where actually knowing QFT would come in handy). But even then, I would also expect an explanation on a classical level because I have the intuition that you could have minds in a classical universe that perceive position and momentum differently.

Hmm, I think this expectation is actually on the wrong track? Admittedly I pretty much don't know QFT at all, but when it comes to the relevance of relativity:

A finite speed of light provides a limit on how fast causality can travel. So it probably plays a key part in guaranteeing locality. The intuitions about classical mechanics might be misleading because we get our classical experience from a relativistic universe which does contain a finite speed of light? Whereas an imaginary classical universe without a finite speed of light would be less local and therefore more symmetric?

Taking Clones Seriously

It should be noted that these sorts of studies likely underestimate heritability, due to measurement error. See e.g. this for more info.

Apparently winning by the bias of your opponents

I got a response from another person preferring to be anonymous, who brought up to points:

  • That trans women tend to feel that autogynephilia does not explain much of their feelings;
  • Whether Blanchardianism can properly account for asexual trans women.

Here's my responses to each of the points:

When it comes to whether autogynephilia explains most of trans women's gender feelings, I think there are several aspects to this that I eventually want to write about. I can only go briefly into them here, but:

  • Most autogynephiles don't transition, don't develop serious gender dysphoria, etc.., so clearly there must be something distinguishing those who do from those who don't. So actually yes, it's not the only thing going on (though I think it is one of the biggest ones, but that's another discussion). Some Blanchardians try to focus on hypothesizing moderators which influence the effect of autogynephilia on gender issues, but I see no reason that the distinguishing factors couldn't just be different causes entirely unrelated to autogynephilia.
  • I think the methods people use for causal inference on their individual life don't necessarily become relevant on the population level. For instance, if you see some sort of problem with being a man, but most cis men also see the same problem, then it may be a cause of gender dysphoria in the sense of being something that explains why one would rather want to be a woman than be a man, but it's not a cause of your gender dysphoria in the sense of being something that explains why you, compared to other AMABs, would rather want to be a woman than be a man.

When it comes to asexual trans women, a lot of people seem to think asexual trans women are very hard to account for and need strange contortions when applying Blanchardianism. But it's fairly consistently found that asexual trans women self-report similar levels of autogynephilia (usually measured by transvestic fetishism, having ever experienced sexual arousal while wearing women's clothes) to gynephilic trans women. See this post for details. I think this is actually one of the strengths of Blanchardianism; there's this highly counterintuitive phenomenon which Blanchardianism acknowledges and attempts to explain, and which is so counterintuitive that critics tend to just dismiss Blanchardianism because it acknowledges it.

Apparently winning by the bias of your opponents

It is true that autogynephiles have a tendency to date trans women. However, this is not what I am talking about when I am talking about homosexual autogynephiles. I am talking about autogynephiles who are attracted to ordinary masculine men. For instance I know an autogynephilic transsexual who got married to a man before she transitioned.

Anyway, addressing this:

Transsexuals end up with other transsexuals of the same biological sex at a much higher rate than do regular males or females.

Autogynephiles' tendency to date trans women exists before they transition; there's a whole stereotype of "trans chasers" who eventually transition, and if you ask people whether they are attracted to trans people, then autogynephilic cis men are much more likely to answer yes, and if you measure erections while showing different kinds of pornography, then autogynephilic men are much more likely to get erections to porn depicting trans women.

So autogynephiles date trans women because they are much more likely to be attracted to trans women. Not due to "their high levels of eroticism and inability to find suitable female partners", or "their desire to be with a woman, but being unable to do so".

So observing autogenyphiles getting into gay relationships doesn't need to imply an inherent attraction to men, which cuts against the idea of autogenyphilia.

If autogynephilia definitionally needs to be an inverted form of gynephilia, then diagnosing autogynephilia becomes a difficult causal inference problem, and there is little-to-no evidence of its existence. In practice people do talk about autogynephilia without worrying about this, and from this we can infer that attraction to men does not cut against the idea of autogynephilia.

Apparently winning by the bias of your opponents

One early response I got, by someone who preferred to be anonymous, had some objections to this part:

But it relies strongly on the notion that taboo things become erotic, and while this is a popular idea, I've yet to see any convincing evidence for it, nor have the various people I've seen advocate for the theory been able to provide much.

The response was:

I agree the argument you're criticizing doesn't strike me as all that strong, but "taboos are sexy (to a non-negligible number of people, sometimes)" doesn't seem as unreasonable as you're painting it to me. As far as evidence goes: racialized porn searches are more common in deep south states with (presumably) more overt racism, incest porn is definitely a thing with a market, etc. The thing you may be missing is that taboo stuff is often sexy for people to think about, but taboos are taboo for a reason and so they are often a bad idea to actually do, so people mostly don't.

Autogynephilia mostly happens, in the blanchardian model, in the autogynephile's head, so it'd be more like watching incest porn than actually trying to sleep with a genetically related family member.

As I understand it, the deep south also has a higher prevalence of black people, which seems to me to be a much better explanation of the search prevalence than taboos.

When it comes to incest porn, I think there are several layers to this. One is actually that it can be counterintuitively hard to estimate the prevalence of something without systematic studies; this almost seems like it deserves its own post, but for now I will address it in this comment. I think the main way people guess the amount of interest in incest porn is via things like how often it appears in highly rated videos on porn sites, or how high it ranks among search terms.

But incest is taboo, so presumably incest porn production is lower than what would be implied by the demand. As a result, presumably the demand that does exist gets concentrated on fewer videos. (This depends on the relative degree that incest taboos reduce porn production vs porn consumption.) But this means that those fewer videos would, on average, get more views; which would make them more likely to appear high in the porn rankings.

To test this theory, I made a script to scrape PornHub videos for metadata, and then I looked at whether the prevalence of incest themes depended on the view distribution. The results, badly graphed, are here. Basically, the above idea turned out to be right; if you consider the most popular videos, you overestimate the popularity of incest porn.

I think some similar things might happen with search terms. A search term can be highly popular, while still making up only a small fraction of the search volume.

Also, the theory I'm criticizing isn't "taboos are sexy to a non-negligible number of people, sometimes". In order for taboos to consistently cause autogynephilia in the way Veale describes, it has to be "taboos are sexy to most people". Otherwise, it would only predict that a "non-negligible number" of trans women are autogynephilic.

(I guess an alternative could be to argue that trans women are particularly likely to find taboos sexy, and so even if most people don't, most trans women would. I don't think this is an argument that Veale would forward, but of course the entire point of this post is that one can't necessarily rely on critics to forward those arguments....)

Also, I think it's worth distinguishing between "finding something that happens to be taboo sexy" and "finding things sexy because they are taboo". Simply observing that some people are into incest is not that strong of an argument; if it's because of the taboo, one would expect them to also find other taboo things erotic.

There is indeed some evidence that a subset of people finds taboos sexy (I call it the taboo/disgust factor of sexuality; a variety of sexual interests, including incest, pedophilia, coprophilia, zoophilia, murdersex, etc., all appear to be correlated, at least in self-reports - though this could also be accounted for taboos being unsexy to most but not all people - further research is needed).

Why Study Physics?

I think the use of symmetries for causal inference is an important insight in physics. Without constraints, there are an enormous amount of possible causal theories that can explain any given set of observations. But adding symmetries can often pin down the theory uniquely, and in a testable way (because the symmetry would fail for almost all the ways the theory could be false).

It also turns out that there's an obscure method in the causal inference literature that I think can be analogized to this. If you've got two variables  and , then the causal relationship  or  can be hard to figure out, just from their distribution . However, if you can embed them into a family  and  which have sufficiently different distributions, but which all share the mechanisms, then likely precisely one of  and  will be constant as a function of , with the constant one being the one that encodes the direction of causality. I think this is a special-case of the physics method of requiring theories to respect symmetries, where in this case the symmetry group is the group of permutations on .

Almost everyone should be less afraid of lawsuits

But the total value of medical malpractice claims is around $5 billion per year in the US

You shouldn't compare things to the current cost of medical malpractice claims, you should compare it to the counterfactual cost where people did less to avoid lawsuits.

Christiano, Cotra, and Yudkowsky on AI progress

I don't know much about chess, so maybe this is wrong, but I would tend to think of Elo ratings as being more like a logarithmic scale of ability than like a linear scale of ability. In the sense that e.g. probability of winning changes exponentially with Elo difference, so a linear trend on an Elo graph translates to an exponential trend in competitiveness. "The chances of an AI solving the tasks better than a human are increasing exponentially" sounds more like fast takeoff than slow takeoff to me.

French long COVID study: Belief vs Infection

Is there a simple way to assess whether COVID causes the symptoms in the study? Yes, just run the logistic regression with serology results as the only predictor. Fortunately for us the study includes this model – model 2.

This makes the assumption that people are equally likely to get infected with COVID regardless of health. What evidence is there for this assumption?

AI Safety Needs Great Engineers

I'm an engineer, but the positions seem to tend to require living in specific locations, so I cannot apply.

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