Tao Lin


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The Best Software For Every Need

I agree keyboard remapping is huge, and I use AHK, but I'm annoyed every time I mess with it - the service crashes sometimes, the config syntax sucks.

Implication of AI timelines on planning and solutions

What I'm trying to say is that it's much harder to do AI alignment research while models are still small, so TAI timelines somewhat dictate the progress of AI alignment research. If I wanted my 5 year plan to have the best chance at success, I would have "test this on a dog-intelligence-level AI" in my plan, even if I thought that probably wouldn't arrive by 2036, because that would make AI alignment research much easier.

Implication of AI timelines on planning and solutions

I think that if we saw the working AI alignment solution used in 2050 in a paper written in 2026, we wouldn't be confident it would work. That's because there are a lot of uncertainties about how hard the AI alignment problem is in the first place, how ML behaves when it's scaled up, ect. I think most plans for AI safety need to go like "we make the theory now, then we keep working on it as ML scales up and adapt accordingly".

Implication of AI timelines on planning and solutions

Here is an argument I've heard for why we shouldn't try to solve AI alignment super early:

If you aren't one of the top few AI safety researchers in the world, then you are far more likely to solve AI alignment if you spend some years to develop your skills first. Therefore most people in AI alignment should forsake some early timelines (like anything before 2040) and optimize for their impact once they're a senior researcher.

This would be false if either less experienced AI safety researchers were able to contribute to completing AI alignment in 5 years, or if they can develop skills nearly as well working on a 5 year alignment plan as they could just optimizing for learning. I think both of these are somewhat true, which weakens the argument for me.

Torture vs Specks: Sadist version

If consequences are completely ignored, I lean towards the torture, but if consequences are considered I would choose no torture out of hope it accelerates moral progress (at least if they had never seen someone who "aught to be tortured" get away, the first one might spark change. which might be good?). In the speck case, I choose torture.

Tao Lin's Shortform

I've noticed that a lot of blogs in the rationalist diaspora lack favicons. This often makes it difficult to navigate tabs for different blogs, PDFs, ect. A favicon takes <15 minutes to make, saves your readers time, and improves your appearance. A win-win-win.

Maybe people think it's cool to have no favicon, or they want to stay on the down-low, or are ultra-minimalist, but, like, seriously?

Do we have a term for the issue with quantifying policy effect Scott Alexander stumbled on multiple times?

We could dub this "Long Tail Externalities" - the idea that most of the impact comes from a few indirect effects, and sometimes the more indirect the bigger - for instance, most policies might impact the future mainly through AI safety.

Working in Virtual Reality: A Review

I've been reading / light working in virtual reality for ~2 hours/day for a few months. My setup is a bit different than Ozzie's, so I thought I'd share that here.

I use a Windows gaming laptop with the Oculus Quest 2, connected via Virtual Desktop instead of Immersed. Virtual Desktop has far lower latency, and slightly higher resolution than Immersed, but only shows you one screen at a time. The latency is low enough to be practically unnoticable (smaller than latency differences between similar computers, https://danluu.com/input-lag/) . A few months ago, it was Windows only, but since added Mac support. I don't think the GPU on my laptop is important for my setup. 


The main reason I use Virtual Desktop is to get out of my chair, either to lying down or standing up. When I hava a stomachache, headache, or soreness, I get a significant productivity benefit from being able to work lying down. By default my VR productivity is a bit lower than normal, but more enjoyable.


The biggest downside I've found is that VR definitely gives me myopia, due to vergence problems. Whenever I take off the headset, my distance vision gets blurrer for a few hours until my eyes adjust to focusing different distances. I think this gradually leads to long term myopia if not offset by vision exercises or something, but will be sovled in future headsets. I've tried placing my virtual screen at the focal distance of my headset, 1.3 meters, but that didn't help.

Virtual Desktop takes many seconds to connect, and sometimes needs to be restarted, which is a significant flow-disruptor.


Overall, I'll continue to use VR the same as I do now, and hopefully up my VR time/other screen time when better headsets come out.

Potential Bottlenecks to Taking Over The World

I definitely agree with Pinky on the nanobots. Biology is already highly optimized nanobots, and it has a lot of limitations. I don't expect self-replicating nanobots that far exceed life using ordinary chemistry/physics type stuff.

Reply to Nate Soares on Dolphins

"Is Soares perhaps suffering from the common misconception that words can only have a single definition?"

Personally I like words with single definitions. For example, I'd rather the mathematical objects Set, Group, Category, ECT had their own made up names than borrow words used for other things.

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