Viliam

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How We Failed COVID-19

I wonder whether things could have been different if e.g. one popular TV station compressed the important information into 1-2 minutes, and showed it repeatedly 5 times a day. (10 minutes a day is a rounding error.)

"COVID-19 is transmitted by air in closed environments. Avoid being inside with strangers; and if you must, keep it short, and always wear a face mask."

(Optionally, ending with something positive, which could be different each time. Such as: "If you miss your friends, call them by phone" or "The best way to meet people is a walk in nature" or "Is there a book you wanted to read, or a movie you wanted to see at home? Now is the right time!")

mike_hawke's Shortform

If you can be replaced by someone else, I am almost certain the journalist will simply find another target.

But if the article is going to be about you... this could be interesting. Even if they asked other people to give them quotes about you, I believe there is still the norm of asking you for a quote. And "add this link" seems like a reasonably simple request that would be difficult to deniably refuse. "Mike asked us to include a 20-character URL in the article, but that would go completely against our journalist independence and integrity, so we had to refuse this blackmail" sounds kinda stupid. (You definitely should make the link short and simple.)

I would still expect some passive-aggressive reaction; at the very least, making the link unclickable, but probably also making a typo in it. "We honestly tried to follow his silly request, but hey, mistakes happen."

What Would Advanced Social Technology Look Like?

Unambiguous grammar? Lojban is supposed to have it.

The goal is good, but the implementation is not.

From what I learned briefly, in Lojbal you need to memorize a list of parameters that go with each verb. Parameters are things like "walking home", "walking from school", "walking at 3 PM". Then you need to place the parameters in the right order. Any of those parameters can be a word that itself has parameters, but you know how many, so the parsing is unambiguous (it's a prefix syntax).

Example (fictional, but realistic), the word "walking" has 5 parameters, first is "from where", second is "through where", third is "to where", fourth is "when", and fifth is "with whom"; so the proper way to say "walking home from school at 3 PM" would be: "walking school unspecified home 3 unspecified".

My objection is that the choice of parameters is quite arbitrary. (Why is there "when" and "with whom", but not "in what mood" or "in what weather" or "how fast"?) And you need a way to express "in what mood" or "how fast" anyway, so now you have two different methods to express parameters. Why not have one method only, so that you do not need to memorize the order and meaning of parameters for each verb separately. And now I'm kinda reinventing prepositions...

I think it is worth designing how to make prepositions (or their equivalent) parse unambiguously in complex sentences. But the idea that there is a fixed set of prepositions for each verb seems completely unrealistic.

Viliam's Shortform

I guess in my ontology these new debates simply do not register as proper Culture Wars.

I mean, the archetypal Culture Was is a conflict of values ("we should do X", "no, we should do Y") where I typically care to some degree about both, so it is a question of trade-offs; combined with different models of the world ("if we do A, B will happen", "no, C will happen"); about topics that are already discussed in some form for a few decades or centuries, and that concern many people. Or something like that; not sure I can pinpoint it. It's like, it must feel like a grand philosophical topic, not just some technical question.

Compared with that, with COVID-19 we get the "it's just a flu" opinion, which for me is like anti-vaxers (whom I also don't consider a proper Culture War). To some degree it is interesting to steelman it, like to question when people die having ten serious health problems at the same time, how do we choose the official reason of death; or if we just look at total deaths, how to distinguish the second-order effects, such as more depressed people committing suicides, but also fewer traffic deaths... but at the end of the day, you either assume a worldwide conspiracy of doctors that keep healthy people needlessly attached to ventilators, or you admit it's not just a flu. (Or you could believe that the ventilators are just a hoax promoted by government.) At the moment when even Putin's regime officially admitted it is not a flu, I no longer see any reason to pay attention to this opinion.

Then we have this "lockdown" vs whatever is the current euphemism for just letting people die, which at least is the proper value conflict. And maybe this is about my privilege... that when people have to decide whether they'd rather lose their jobs or lose their parents, I am not that emotionally involved, because I think there is a high chance I can keep both regardless of what the nation decides to do collectively: I can work remotely; and my family voluntarily socially isolates... I am such a lucky selfish bastard, and apparently, so is my entire bubble. I mean, if you ask me, I am on the side of not letting people die, even if it means lower profits for one year. But then I hear those people complaining about how inconvenient it is to wear face masks, and how they just need to organize huge weddings, go to restaurants and cinemas and football matches... and then I realize that no one cares about my opinion how to survive best, because apparantly no one cares about surviving itself.

What else? There was this debate about whether Sweden is this magical country that doesn't do anything about COVID-19 and yet COVID-19 avoids it completely, but recently I don't even hear about them anymore. Maybe they all died, who knows.

Lucky bubble. Or maybe Facebook finally fixing their algorithm so that it only shows me what I want to see.

Viliam's Shortform

Thank you; yes, I already know about it. But the fact that I have to remember, and keep switching when I click on a link found somewhere, is annoying enough already. (It would be less anoying with a browser plugin that does it automatically for me, and I am aware such plugins exist, but I try to keep my browser plugins at minimum.) So, at the end of the day, I am aware that a solution exists, and I am still annoyed that I would need to do take action to achieve something that used to be the default option. Also, this alternative will probably be removed at some point in the future, so I would just be delaying the inevitable.

Can preference falsification be reduced with Ring Signatures?

Uh, maybe I misunderstood it, but reading the Wikipedia article I got an impression that "ring signature" is a signature shared by group of people. Did I miss the point?

Viliam's Shortform

I noticed recently that I almost miss the Culture War debates (on internet in general, nothing specific about Less Wrong). I remember that in the past they seemed to be everywhere. But in recent months, somehow...

I don't use Twitter. I don't really understand the user interface, and I have no intention to learn it, because it is like the most toxic website ever.

Therefore most Culture War content in English came to me in the past via Reddit. But they keep making the user interface worse and worse, so a site that was almost addictive in the past, is so unpleasant to use now, that it actually conditions me to avoid it.

Slate Star Codex has no new content. Yeah, there are "slatestarcodex" and "motte" debates on Reddit, but... I already mentioned Reddit.

Almost all newspaper articles in my native language are paywalled these days. No, I am not going to pay for your clickbait.

So... I am vaguelly aware that Trump was an American president and now it is Biden (or is it still Trump, and Biden will be later? dunno), and there were (still are?) BLM protests in USA. And in my country, the largest political party recently split in two, and I don't even know the name of the new one, and I don't even care because what's the point, the next election is in 3 years. Other than this... blissful ignorance.

And I am not asking you to fix my ignorace -- neither do I try to protect it; I just don't want to invite political content to LW -- just commenting on how weird this feels. And I didn't even notice how this happened, only recently my wife asked me "so what is the latest political controversy you read about online", and it was a shock to realize that I actually have no idea.

OK, here is the question: is this just about my bubble, or is it a global consequence of COVID-19 taking away attention from corona-unrelated topics?

Can preference falsification be reduced with Ring Signatures?

What's missing here is the proposal how specifically you would want to address preference falsification using the ring signatures. I can only guess, and maybe what I guess is not what you had in mind.

If I am afraid that being associated with X may get me fired, I don't want to join a "ring" of people who will once in a while write about X. I might get fired simply for associating with the evil X-ers. Or maybe not fired, just... denied a promotion, or ostracized; punished in a plausibly deniable way. And if the partial anonymity would encourage other ring members to post more taboo topics, that only makes it worse for me.

It might be interesting if you could somehow create involuntary rings. Like, select 10 random people in a country, assigned them to the same ring. Then select 10 more, etc, until everyone is a member of one ring. Then, if someone publishes a horrible opinion using your ring, you can complain about the 9 assholes you don't know and you never met. But at the same time, if e.g. 50% of rings express certain opinion, we know that at least 5% of the population agrees with it.

But I doubt this would work either. First, what is the size of the rings? Too many, e.g. 3 people per ring, make it simple to punish everyone for what their ring publishes. Base probability 33% that they are guilty anyway, and with further clues you can increase it (for example, the other two are too dumb to express the complicated political opinion you wrote). Too much, e.g. 100 people per ring, then even if every ring writes that they endorse X, you can still claim that X is only endorsed by 1% of the population, and can be safely ignored.

Furthermore, most people don't understand technology, so they wouldn't know what to do with the private keys. Some people would publish their key, to protest against this method.

Moderator's Dilemma: The Risks of Partial Intervention

Yeah. Two decisions must be made: Do I want to ban ideology X? Is comment Y an example of ideology X?

So even if you could somehow reach a consensus about which ideologies are banned and which are not, users will continue their wars by arguing whether given comment is an example (or a "dog whistle" for) one of the banned ideologies. If you interpret it too literally, everything you banned will come back, only the users will avoid using certain keywords, sometimes openly mocking the moderation system. Interpreting it otherwise will force you to express opinions on thousand topics, and any decision will seem biased in favor of some side.

AllAmericanBreakfast's Shortform

It just picked back up after about a yearlong hiatus

That's wonderful news, thank you for telling me!

For those who have clicked on the YouTube link in my previous comment, there is no new content as of now, go to the Rationally Speaking podcast.

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