All of VipulNaik's Comments + Replies

I added logs of two further ChatGPT sessions, one of which repeated many of the prompts I used here, tested against the 2023-01-09 version of ChatGPT:

I had originally been thinking of formatting these into a blog post or posts, and I might still do so, but probably not for the next two months, so just sharing the raw logs for now so that people reading the comments on this post see my update.

Somewhat related, though different in various ways, is this post by Bryan Caplan:

I'm curious to hear examples of other worthwhile things in the direction that you have in mind!

eg tracking where desires come from and where they go to. Figuring out the underlying tangle of multiple intents behind a desire, and figuring out how holding that desire makes you feel, what actions it suggests etc.

Thanks -- good points and well-presented with precision and flair!

Good point! It could be that both kinds of mental exercise (excess stimulation and lack of stimulation) are important for building mental strength; modern society provides the former in abundance (and particularly so for LessWrong readers!), so the form of exercise we're constrained on is the lack-of-stimulation kind (and that's where meditation helps). How far-fetched does that sound?

An anonymous friend to whom I sent this post writes:

He has a good point that most people just want to do the universal “safety” precautions. I think a big reason that he doesn’t mention is that reasonable precautions are how all businesses defend themselves from lawsuits (e.g. sexual harassment and DEI training); as long as they take the reasonable precautions, then they are immune from lawsuits. But I don’t buy “safety” as an explanation for what policies are possible. It sounds like a just-so story for why we are in the mess that we are in. Vaccines ar

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1Mike Harris1y
I think it is plausible that simple ventilation (open a window) could have been a common precaution like masks were. However there are a few reasons why serious ventilation (like HEPA filters) could not have been subsidized like vaccines were. 1. Everybody agreed at the start that vaccines were the ultimate goal, ventilators would have needed to build consensus at a time when they were unavailabile. 2. Vaccines only needed money from the government, ventilation would require much more infrastructure (approving ventilation plans on a per building level) 3. Universal ventilation is much more expensive than vaccines, and for the reasons described in the post non-universal solutions weren't of interest. I think there is a potential path where it could have happened but i think any such plan to implement would need to address these challenges head on. The reason no government could subsidize ventilation is not because of stupidity but because these pressures were too strong.

I just got my booster dose today (December 24) and intend to monitor closely. I'll be regularly updating with temperature readings and subjective details of my experience.

I did similar logging after the second dose, that you can see here:

By "this way" do you mean the way I wrote it or the way Alexei would have preferred?

Sorry, yeah, that was unclear. I think I prefer the way you wrote it.

Thanks for the feedback! It seems like you're saying I should first have done "negotiation techniques" then "do these negotiation techniques have a place in rational discourse?" as separate sections. So if we make a table with rows as techniques and columns as lenses, then I should have traversed it column major instead of row major.

Did I misunderstand or miss an angle to what you're saying?

I think I prefer it this way, fwiw.
That’s correct.

Good point! Voss talks a bit about how many of these techniques feel odd. Two points he makes:

  • Practice in low-stakes situations to get more comfortable with it. Don't try any negotiation technique in a high-stakes situation that you don't have practice with!
  • In many cases the discomfort you experience saying it isn't noticed by others. Voss gives examples related to mirroring as well as to the calibrated question "How am I supposed to do that?" People feel apprehensive asking the question but it usually works despite their apprehension.

I would also add... (read more)

2Adam Zerner2y
That all makes sense, thanks for clarifying.

We cover a larger period in the overall summary and full timeline. The summary by year starts 2013 because (it appears that) that's around the time that enough started happening per year. Though we might expand it a little further to the past as we continue to expand the timeline.

3Alexander Gietelink Oldenziel2y
Ah! Excuse me for my drive-by comment, I should have clicked the link.

<describe lockdowns as social engineering>

Did you intend to expand this?

<Michael Mina stuff here>

Did you intend to expand this?


I did some rewording of the post that made it a little more wordy, but fingers crossed that that part has now become less confusing.

Thank you for the feedback (and also for discussing this at length which gave me better understanding of the nuances). I modified to a more clumsy but hopefully a more what-you-see-is-what-I-mean term:

Thank you for the feedback. I agree with Lukas Gloor's reply below that the choice of term is confusing as it differs from what people may intuitively think "true cases" means. I also agree with his remark that setting terminology that is consistent with reality isn't bad in and of itself.

I have therefore changed "true cases" to "true currently-or-eventually-symptomatic cases". I think that provides the level of precision needed for our purposes. I haven't found a better term after some searching (though not a lot); however, I'm happy to change to a more concise and medically accepted term if I get to learn of one.

What I wrote there was assuming that the number of new true cases drops to a fairly low level. Whether that happens now or a week or two or three later is unclear; if the 2 -> 3 backlog is growing. then resolving that backlog will add more delay.

I posited us already being at this point as the "optimistic" scenario.

I'll reword the post to clarify this.

I did some rewording of the post that made it a little more wordy, but fingers crossed that that part has now become less confusing.

Directly visiting gives an ERR_NAME_NOT_RESOLVED. Can you make it so that redirects to

Will do soon, thanks.

That's a normal part of life :). Any things that I decide to do in a future day, I'll copy/paste to over there, but I usually won't delete the items from the checklist for the day where I didn't complete them (thereby creating a record of things I expected or hoped to do, but didn't).

For instance, at I have two undone items.

There is some related stuff by Carl Shulman here: that largely agrees with what I said.

My understanding is that Against Malaria Foundation is a relatively small player in the space of ending malaria, and it's not clear the funders who wish to make a significant dent in malaria would choose to donate to AMF.

One of the reasons GiveWell chose AMF is that there's a clear marginal value of small donation amounts in AMF's operational model -- with a few extra million dollars they can finance bednet distribution in another region. It's not necessarily that AMF itself is the most effective charity to donate to to end malaria -- i... (read more)

There is some related stuff by Carl Shulman here: that largely agrees with what I said.
If Gates Foundation is actually funding constrained I guess that explains most of my confusion, although it still seems a bit weird not to "top it off" since it seems within spitting distance.

I tried looking in the IRS Form 990 dataset on Amazon S3, specifically searching the text files for forms published in 2017 and 2016.

I found no match for (case-insensitive) openai (other than one organization that was clearly different, its name had openair in it). Searching (case-insensitive) "open ai" gave matches that all had "open air" or "open aid" in them. So, it seems like either they have a really weird legal name or their Form 990 has not yet been released. Googling didn't reveal any articles of incorporation or legal... (read more)

As I said, their 2016 From 990 is not yet available (so their 2017 one definitely isn't) and I have already asked them so there can be no confusion on the matter.

In my experience, writing full-fledged, thoroughly researched material is pretty time-consuming, and if you push that out to the audience immediately, (1) you've sunk a lot of time and effort that the audience may not appreciate or care about, and (2) you might have too large an inferential gap with the audience for them to meaningfully engage.

The alternative I've been toying with is something like this: when I'm roughly halfway through an investigation, I publish a short post that describes my tentative conclusions, without fully rigorous b

... (read more)
9Matt Goldenberg6y
This is similar to the idea of an MVP in the startup world. It makes me think of a sentiment from Ryan Holiday's book on writing perrenial sellers: Ideas should become comments, comments should become conversations, conversations should become blog posts, blog posts should become books. Test your ideas at every stage to make sure you're writing something that will have an impact.

FWIW, my impression is that data on Wikipedia has gotten somewhat more accurate over time, due to the push for more citations, though I think much of this effect occurred before the decline started. I think the push for accuracy has traded off a lot against growth of content (both growth in number of pages and growth in amount of data on each page). These are crude impressions (I've read some relevant research but don't have strong reason to believe that should be decisive in this evaluation) but I'm curious to hear what specific impressions you have that are contrary to this.

If you have more fine-grained data at your disposal on different topics and how much each has grown or shrunk in terms of number of pages, data available on each page, and accuracy, please share :).

In the case of Wikipedia, I think the aspects of quality that correlate most with explaining pageviews are readily proxied by quantity. Specifically, the main quality factors in people reading a Wikipedia page are (a) the existence of the page (!), (b) whether the page has the stuff they were looking for. I proxied the first by number of pages, and the second by length of the pages that already existed. Admittedly, there are a lot more subtleties to quality measurement (which I can go into in depth at some other point) some of which can have indirect, long

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(c) whether the information on the page is accurate. Except not all topics and not all information are of equal interest to people.

Great point. As somebody who has been in the crosshairs of Wikipedia mods (see ANI) my bias would push me to agree :). However, despite what I see as problems with Wikipedia mod culture, it remains true that Wikipedia has grown quite a bit, both in number of articles and length of already existing articles, over the time period when pageviews declined. I suspect the culture is probably a factor in that it represents an opportunity cost: a better culture might have led to an (even) better Wikipedia that would not have declined in pageviews so much, but I do

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You seem to be conflating quantity and quality.

Great points. As I noted in the post, search and social media are the two most likely proximal mechanisms of causation for the part of the decline that's real. But neither may represent the "ultimate" cause: the growth of alternate content sources, or better marketing by them, or changes in user habits, might be what's driving the changes in social media and search traffic patterns (in the sense that the reason Google's showing different results, or Facebook is making some content easier to share, is itself driven by some combinati

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That seems very plausible to me; this kind of cyclical interest seems pretty common for social sites. This would also explain Facebook's eagerness to acquire up-and-comers like Instagram and Snapchat. Somewhat interested, although I'm also not super clear on what relevance we think Wikipedia traffic has in the grand scheme of things.

The Wikimedia Foundation has not ignored the decline. For instance, they discuss the overall trends in detail in their quarterly readership metrics reports, the latest of which is at The main difference between what they cover and what I intend to cover are (a) they only cover overall rather than per-page pageviews, (b) they focus more on year-over-year comparisons than long-run trends, (c) related to (b), they don't discuss the long-run causes.

... (read more)

They still show up in the total comment count :).

For all the talk about the "decline" of LessWrong, total pageviews and sessions to LessWrong have stayed 5-10 times higher than those to the Effective Altruism Forum (the EAF numbers are documented in my post).

The 2017 SSC Survey had 5500 respondents. Presumably this survey was more widely visible and available than mine (which was one link in the middle of a long link list).

Varies heavily by context. Typical alternatives:

(a) Google's own answers for simple questions.

(b) Transactional websites for search terms that denote possible purchase intent, or other websites that are action-oriented (e.g., Yelp reviews).

(c) More "user-friendly" explanation sites (e.g., for medical terminology, a website that explains it in a more friendly style, or WikiHow)

(d) Subject-specific references (some overlap with (c), but could also include domain Wikias, or other wikis)

(e) When the search term is trending because of a recent news item, then links to the news item (even if the search query itself does not specify the associated news)

Interesting. I suspect that even among verbal elites, there are further splits in the type of consumption. Some people are heavy on reading books since they want a full, cohesive story of what's happening, whereas others consume information in smaller bits, building pieces of knowledge across different domains. The latter would probably use Wikipedia more.

Similarly, some people like opinion-rich material whereas others want factual summaries more. The factual summary camp probably uses Wikipedia more.

However, I don't know if there are easy ways of segmenti... (read more)

Good idea, but I don't think he does the census that frequently. The most recent one I can find is from 2014:

The annual LessWrong survey might be another place to consider putting it. I don't know who's responsible for doing it in 2017, but when I find out I'll ask them.

It's not too late, if I do so decide :). In other words, it's always possible to spend later for larger samples, if that actually turns out to be something I want to do.

Right now, I think that:

  • It'll be pretty expensive: I'd probably want to spend using several different survey tools, since each has its strengths and weaknesses (so SurveyMonkey, Google Surveys, maybe Survata and Mechanical Turk as well). Then with each I'd need 1000+ responses to be able to regress against all variables and variable pairs. The costs do add up quickly to over a thousand do

... (read more)

I've published a new version of this post where the takeaways are more clearly highlighted (I think!). The post is longer but the takeaways (which are summarized on top) should be quick to browse if you're interested.

It's at

Good point! Something I thought a bit about but didn't get around to discussing in this post. The Slate Star Codex audience returned a total of 618 responses. I don't have a very good idea of how many people read the SSC blog carefully enough to go through all the links, but my best guess is that that number is in the low thousands. If that's the case the response rate is 15% or higher. This is still low but not that low.

Another way of framing this: how low would the response rate have to be for the true SSC readership to be like the SurveyMonkey Audience ... (read more)

The 2017 SSC Survey had 5500 respondents. Presumably this survey was more widely visible and available than mine (which was one link in the middle of a long link list). []
It might be possible to get Scott to include the "number of Wikipedia pages read per week" into his next census. That would give more accurate base rates.

Per the suggestion at Improve comments by tagging claims, here is a comment to collect discussion of the third takeaway:

The gap between elite samples of Wikipedia users and general United States Internet users is significantly greater than the gap between the different demographics within the United States that we measured. It is comparable to the gap between United States Internet users and Internet users in low-income countries.

I'm still a little surprised at the low effect sizes of demographic differences within the United States. Still, a lot of q... (read more)

Do you think you should've spent more for larger samples? $325 is really not that much money, especially considering how much time it takes to set up and analyze anything.

Per the suggestion at Improve comments by tagging claims, here is a comment to collect discussion of the second takeaway:

we’ve revised upward our estimate of the impact per pageview, and revised downward our estimate of the broad appeal and reach of Wikipedia.

A lot of this comes down to whether the indicators we've identified for heavy Wikipedia use actually are things to be optimistic about. Is the typical SSC or LessWrong reader better able to use information gleaned from Wikipedia?

And what about the alleged downside that Wikipedia is being read by f... (read more)

My guess is there is a huge spread in how much people read. SSC and the LessWrong sequences are indigestible if you cannot comfortably stomach 20000 or more words in a day. Lots of people read way less than that! I suspect this is a big part of the reason we're such a high IQ crowd: you have to be super verbal to absorb this stuff! Map and Territory, Consequentialism and even AI risk aren't actually terribly complicated ideas, but we have a tradition of transporting them in long blog posts, and generally a culture of communication that optimizes for precision at the cost of conciseness. I think you've discovered that Wikipedia is similarly more a "verbal elite" thing. My prediction would be that number of books read this year is very highly correlated with Wikipedia use, and number of academic papers read even higher. And both of those I would expect are also highly correlated with SSC / LW readership. I've sat through quite a number of academic presentations that were obviously heavily based on Wikipedia articles (this can be easy to tell in humanities subjects and if you're the person who wrote that article) but not mentioned to be so. I therefore suspect Wikipedia is the most-plagiarized source of information in the world. So I don't think it is that important whether people get information from Wikipedia directly. If they can get information from somebody who got it from Wikipedia, that should be enough.

On a related note, one of famous LessWronger Carl Shulman's research suggestions mentions Wikipedia:

Try to get datasets (Wikipedia lists, World Bank info, USDA, etc.) as a primary step in thinking about a question.

From his research advice document

Per the suggestion at Improve comments by tagging claims, here is a comment to collect discussion of the first takeaway:

Wikipedia consumption is heavily skewed toward a profile of “elite” people, and these people use the site in qualitatively different ways.

I didn't talk about it much in the post since it would be too speculative, but I'm interested in more concrete thoughts on predicting what websites or online communities would have a high degree of Wikipedia use. The SurveyMonkey Audience and Google Surveys results plausibly show that crude demograp... (read more)

On a related note, one of famous LessWronger Carl Shulman's research suggestions mentions Wikipedia: From his research advice document []

I like the spirit of the suggestion here, but have at least two major differences of opinion regarding:

  • The automatic selection of venue: I think that blogs are only a place of "last resort" for facts and not the goto place. I would suggest venues like Wikipedia (when it's notable enough and far enough away from original research), wikiHow and Wikia (for cases somewhat similar to Wikipedia but suited to the specifics of those sites), and domain-specific sharing fora as better choices in some contexts.
  • The filtering out of opinion and biased sour
... (read more)

Whoops, sorry for missing that. Upvoted, hopefully it gets to zero and resurfaces.

It could also be a good way for the Internets to give up on trying to talk in a forum where you are around.

According to 538's survey [] more people reported that they comment to fix errors than anything else. This doesn't mean that you're wrong, though, because it doesn't seem 538 asked why people stop commenting (based on my skim of the article; feel free to correct me).
Why would teh internets be scared by the presence of lil' ol' me? I am very ignorable and have no desire to sealion. Not wanting to talk to me is perfectly fine.

The impression I form based on this is that the main blocker to LessWrong revitalization is people writing sufficiently attractive posts. This seems to mostly agree with the emerging consensus in the comments, but the empirical backing from the survey is nice. Also, it's good to know that software or interface improvements aren't a big blocker.

As for what's blocking content creators from contributing to LessWrong, here are a few hypotheses that don't seem to have been given as much attention as I'd like:

  1. Contributing novel content becomes harder as people
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Sometimes that's deliberate. It it well known that the best way to get teh internets to explain things to you is not to ask for an explanation, but to make a confident though erroneous claim.

I compiled some previous discussion here, but the troll downvoted it below visibility (he's been very active in this thread).

Crazy idea to address point #2: What if posts were made anonymously by default, and only became nonymous once they were upvoted past a certain threshold? This lets you take credit if your post is well-received while lessening the punishment if your post is poorly received.

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