All of wgd's Comments + Replies

Stupid Questions (10/27/2014)

This is an extremely clear explanation of something I hadn't even realized I didn't understand. Thank you for writing it.

Open Thread for February 3 - 10

Note that the original question wasn't "Is it right for a pure altruist to have children?", it was "Would a pure altruist have children?". And the answer to that question most definitely depends on the beliefs of the altruist being modeled. It's also a more useful question, because it leads us to explore which beliefs matter and how they effect the decision (the alternative being that we all start arguing about our personal beliefs on all the relevant topics).

Open Thread, September 30 - October 6, 2013

This sounds like a sufficiently obvious failure mode that I'd be extremely surprised to learn that modern index funds operate this way, unless there's some worse downside that they would encounter if their stock allocation procedure was changed to not have that discontinuity.

0ChristianKl8yBeing an index fund is fundamentally about changing your portfolio when the index changes. There no real way around it if you want to be an index fund.
1Lumifer8yThey do because their promise is to match the index, not produce better returns. Moreover, S&P500 is cap-weighted so even besides membership changes it is rebalanced (the weights of different stocks in the portfolio change) on a regular basis. That also leads to rather predictable trades by the indexers.
The genie knows, but doesn't care

I think the important insight you may be missing is that the AI, if intelligent enough to recursively self-improve, can predict what the modifications it makes will do (and if it can't, then it doesn't make that modification because creating an unpredictable child AI would be a bad move according to almost any utility function, even that of a paperclipper). And it evaluates the suitability of these modifications using its utility function. So assuming the seed AI is build with a sufficiently solid understanding of self-modification and what its own code is... (read more)

Participation in the LW Community Associated with Less Bias

Could someone explain the reasoning behind answer A being the correct choice in Question 4? My analysis was to assume that, since 30 migraines a year is still pretty terrible (for the same reason that the difference in utility between 0 and 1 migraines per year is larger than the difference between 10 and 11), I should treat the question as asking "Which option offers more migraines avoided per unit money?"

Option A: $350 / 70 migraines avoided = $5 per migraine avoided
Option B: $100 / 50 migraines avoided = $2 per migraine avoided

And when I di... (read more)

0ChristianKl9yThe costs that get payed per prevented migraine in option B are irrelevant. The value of a prevented migraine isn't determined by the price that you pay to prevent a migraine. The difference between option A and option B is that A prevents 20 additional migraines a cost of 250$. This means $12.50 per migraine. What kind of migraine are we talking about? A duration of 3 hours and involve intense pain, nausea, dizziness, and hyper-sensitivity to bright lights and loud noises. $4.16 per hour of suffering migraine is lower than minimum wage. Normal minimum wage happens at a time that you can shedule in advance. You can't shedule your migraines in advance. They are likely to happen during the times where you have the most stress. Being occupied with the migraine however isn't the only thing. Intensive pain also matters. You don't want people suffering intensive pain without good reason. Letting someone else suffer intensive pain is morally torture if you are a utilitarian.
0Unnamed9yThe logic behind the question is that there is no correct answer, but Option B is more likely to be reflective of the decoy effect. Consider these 3 decisions: Decision 1: Option A: $350 / 70 migraines avoided Option B: $100 / 50 migraines avoided Decision 2: Option A: $350 / 70 migraines avoided Option B: $100 / 50 migraines avoided Option C: $100 / 40 migraines avoided Decision 3: Option A: $350 / 70 migraines avoided Option B: $100 / 50 migraines avoided Option D: $500 / 70 migraines avoided There is no right or wrong answer to Decision 1, but if you choose A on Decision 1 then you should also choose A on Decisions 2 & 3 (since A & B are the same options, and C & D are clearly not better options). Similarly, if you choose B on Decision 1, you should choose B on Decisions 2 & 3. So responses to all 3 questions should be the same. But it turns out that people who get Decision 2 are more likely to choose B than if they'd gotten Decision 1, because the presence of C (which is easily comparable to B, and clearly worse) makes B look better. And people who get Decision 3 are more likely to choose A than if they'd gotten Decision 1, because the presence of D (which is easily comparable to A, and clearly worse) makes A look better. This is called the decoy effect [] (or the attraction effect, or asymmetric dominance). The ideal way to test this would be to divide people into three groups, and give each group one of these 3 decisions. But, failing that (with everyone taking the same survey), we can also just give everyone Decision 2 and guess that, if one subset of people is more likely than another to choose B, then they are more susceptible to the decoy effect. (Or, we could just give everyone Decision 3 and guess that, if a subset of people is more likely to choose A, then they are more susceptible to the decoy effect.) It's not a perfect design, but it is evidence. (It's also possible that the difference arose because pe
4Desrtopa9yI think it's a pretty questionable assumption that the utility difference between 0 and 1 migraines a year is significantly greater than that between 10 and 11. Both are infrequent enough not to be a major disruptor of work, and also infrequent enough that the subject is used to the great majority of their time being non-migraine time. Headaches avoided per unit money isn't a very good metric; by that measure, a hypothetical medicine D which prevents one headache per year, and costs a dollar, would be superior to medicines A-C. But medicine D leaves the patient nearly as badly off as they were to start with. A patient satisfied with medicine D would probably be satisfied with no medicine at all. The metric I used to judge between A and B was to question whether, once the patient has already paid $100 to reduce their number of headaches from 100 to 50, they would still be willing to buy a further reduction of 60 hours of headaches at a rate of about 4.16 dollars per headache-hour. My answer was indeterminate [], depending on assumptions about income, but I chose "yes" because I would have to assume very strict money constraints before the difference between A and B stops looking like a good deal.

You're answering the wrong question. "Which of these fixes more migraines per dollar" is a fast and frugal heuristic, but it doesn't answer the question of which you should purchase.

(If the first three wheels of your new car cost $10 each, but the fourth cost $100, you'd still want to shell out for the fourth, even though it gives you less wheel per dollar.)

In this case, the question you should be asking is, "is it worth another $250 a year to prevent another 20 migraines?", which is overwhelmingly worth it at even a lower-class time-money tradeoff rate. (The inability to do anything for several hours costs them more than $12.50 in outcomes- not to mention the agony.)

0[anonymous]9yLook at it on the margin: A costs $250 more than B, and prevents 20 migraines. That could be a good deal. There's no reason to look at the ratio for each treatment. Note that doing so would recommend B over A even if A cost 35 cents and B cost 10 cents; that can't be right.
How to incentivize LW wiki edits?

My understanding is that it was once meant to be almost tvtropes-like with a sort of back-and forth linking between pages about concepts on the wiki and posts which refer to those concepts on the main site (in the same way that tvtropes gains a lot of its addictiveness from the back-and-forth between pages for tropes and pages for shows/books/etc).

A Probability Question

I think we're in agreement then, although I've managed to confuse myself by trying to actually do the Shannon entropy math.

In the event we don't care about birth orders we have two relevant hypotheses which need to be distinguished between (boy-girl at 66% and boy-boy at 33%), so the message length would only need to be 0.9 bits#Definition) if I'm applying the math correctly for the entropy of a discrete random variable. So in one somewhat odd sense Sarah would actually know more about the gender than George does.

Which, given that the original post said


... (read more)
0JMiller9yPragmatist is correct, I did not realize that the way I stated the problem was different than the original. I full understand the solution to this problem. However, lets look at the original problem. John only knows that one of the man's children is a boy: 1) B, G | 0.33 2) G, B | 0.33 3) G, G | 0.00 4) B, B | 0.33 P(B)|(4) = 1 P(G)| (1,2) = 1 P(B)= .33 P(G) = .66 So lets say that now the woman tells John that the boy is also the eldest: 1) B, G | 0.5 2) G, B | 0.0 3) G, G | 0.0 4) B, B | 0.5 P(B)|(4) = 1 P(G)| (1) = 1 P(B)= .5 P(G) = .5 At first I saw a problem because John obviously knows more given the second piece of information, so the fact that his estimate is worse seemed really weird. What I think is going on here is that his learning more really does decrease his ability to predict the gender of the other child: Before, he had 3 options, 2 of which contained a girl-answer. Now, one of those 2 answers are taken away, so he currently has 2 options, 1 of which contains a girl-answer. As he becomes more informed about the total state of the world, his ability to predict this particular piece of information decreases.
A Probability Question

The standard formulation of the problem is such you are the one making the bizarre contortions of conditional probabilities by asking a question. The standard setup has no children with the person you meet, he tells you only that he has two children, and you ask him a question rather than them revealing information. When you ask "Is at least one a boy?", you set up the situation such that the conditional probabilities of various responses are very different.

In this new experimental setup (which is in very real fact a different problem from eithe... (read more)

1JMiller9yThat makes a lot of sense, thank you.
A Probability Question

I agree that George definitely does know more information overall, since he can concentrate his probability mass more sharply over the 4 hypotheses being considered, but I'm fairly certain you're wrong when you say that Sarah's distribution is 0.33-0.33-0-0.33. I worked out the math (which I hope I did right or I'll be quite embarassed), and I get 0.25-0.25-0-0.5.

I think your analysis in terms of required message lengths is arguably wrong, because the purpose of the question is to establish the genders of the children and not the order in which they were b... (read more)

1pragmatist9yGood point. I was treating the description of Sarah's encounter with the man as a proxy for "Sarah knows one of the man's children is a boy, but not which one." That seems to be the way it's usually intended when the problem is presented, but you're right that in the problem as described, Sarah has an additional relevant piece of information -- that the man is out with a boy. I think this is an unintended artifact of the way the problem is presented, though. The people presenting the problem are usually trying to get at something different. The usual intent of the puzzle is captured by "Sarah knows that one of Brian's two children is a boy, and George knows that his eldest child is a boy. What are the probabilities according to Sarah and George that Brian's other child is a boy?". Again, I think this is an unintended artifact of the way the puzzle is stated. The fact that Sarah sees one of the kids and doesn't see the other one gives her a way of individuating the kids other than their birth order. If we don't assume she has this method of individuation (as in the restated puzzle above) then the birth order is relevant.
A Probability Question

I'll just note in passing that this puzzle is discussed in this post, so you may find it or the associated comments helpful.

I think the specific issue is that in the first case, you're assuming that each of the three possible orderings yields the same chance of your observation (the son out walking with him is a boy). If you assume that his choice of which child to go walking with is random, then the fact that you see a boy makes the (girl, boy) possibilities each less likely, so together they are equally likely to the (boy, boy) one.

Let's define (imaginin... (read more)

1JMiller9yThanks. I see why the probability of H1|o and H2|o need to be taken as 25% each. In that case, it seems like Sarah can say that it is 50% likely a boy and 50% likely a girl (at home). Why is the answer to the question then given as 66%?
Group rationality diary, 11/13/12

The Shangri-La diet has been mentioned a few times around here, and each time I came across it I went "Hmm, that's cool, I'll have to do it some time". Last week I realized that this was in large part due to the fact that all discussions of it say something along the lines of "Sugar water is listed as one of the options, but you should really do one of the less pleasant alternatives". And this was sufficient to make me file it away as something I should do "some time".

I'm not in any population which is especially more strongly... (read more)

Value Loading

Maybe "value loading" is a term most people here can be expected to know, but I feel like this post would really be improved by ~1 paragraph of introduction explaining what's being accomplished and what the motivation is.

As it is, even the text parts make me feel like I'm trying to decipher an extremely information-dense equation.

6RichardKennaway9yIt's the first time I've seen the term, and the second it has appeared at all on LessWrong. It may be more current among "people who are on every mailing list, read every LW post, or are in the Bay Area and have regular conversations with [the SI]" (from its original mention on LW [] ).
Open Thread, October 16-31, 2012

Actually, I don't think oxygen tanks are that expensive relative to the potential gain. Assuming that the first result I found for a refillable oxygen tank system is a reasonable price, and conservatively assuming that it completely breaks down after 5 years, that's only $550 a year, which puts it within the range of "probably worthwhile for any office worker in the US" (assuming an average salary of $43k) if it confers a performance benefit greater than around 1.2% on average.

These tanks supposedly hold 90% pure oxygen, and are designed to be us... (read more)

0gwern9yOh, that is interesting. I was sort of assuming that you would have to pay for each refill and that a recharger wouldn't be just <$3k. Also, interesting links. Connecting psychometric tasks to actual monetary value is always tricky, but those studies certainly suggest there might be meaningful benefit (but the benefit will be weaker at 30% oxygen - the links seem to all be at 40%). One big problem there is that $3k is a lot to pay up front. But on the upside, if you can change the flow rate, I suspect it wouldn't be too hard to blind the oxygen content...
Open Thread, October 16-31, 2012

The self-modification isn't in itself the issue though is it? It seems to me that just about any sort of agent would be willing to self-modify into a utility monster if it had an expectation of that strategy being more likely to achieve its goals, and the pleasure/pain distinction is simply adding a constant (negative) offset to all utilities (which is meaningless since utility functions are generally assumed to be invariant under affine transformations).

I don't even think it's a subset of utility monster, it's just a straight up "agent deciding to become a utility monster because that furthers its goals".

What's the best way to rest?

When in doubt, try a cheap experiment.

Make a list of various forms of recreation, then do one of them for some amount of time whenever you feel the need to take a break. Afterwards, note how well-rested you feel and how long you performed the activity. It shouldn't take many repetitions before you start to notice trends you can make use of.

Although to be honest, the only conclusive thing I've learned from trying that is that there's a large gap between "feeling rested" and "feeling ready to get back to work on something productive".

Low Hanging Fruit in Computer Hardware

I realized upon further consideration that I don't actually have any evidence regarding keyboards and RSI, so here are the most relevant results of my brief research:

  • Effects of keyboard keyswitch design: A review of the current literature
    The abstract states that "Due to the ballistic nature of typing, new keyswitch designs should be aimed at reducing impact forces." This is a task which mechanical keyboards can potentially achieve more effectively than membrane ones because you can stop pushing on the key before it bottoms out. Later on in the
... (read more)
Low Hanging Fruit in Computer Hardware

I'm going to disagree with the weakness of your recommendation. I may be falling prey to the typical mind fallacy here, but I feel that everyone who types for a significant fraction of their day (programming, writing, etc) should at least strongly consider getting a mechanical keyboard. In addition to feeling nicer to type on, there's some weak evidence that buckling-spring keyboards can lower your risk of various hand injuries down the line, and even a slightly lessened risk of RSI is probably worth the $60 or so more that a mechanical keyboard costs, even ignoring the greater durability.

2Dustin10yI have no idea if I'm a special snowflake or not, but FWIW, I do spend a significant fraction of my day typing...and have no preference between a good membrane or mechanical keyboard. I would be interested in reading more of the evidence about RSI reductions, though.
Open Thread, June 1-15, 2012

I'm not particularly attached to that metric, it was mostly just an example of "here's a probably-cheap hack which could help remedy the problem". On the other hand, I'm not convinced that one post means that a "Automatically promote after a score of 10" policy wouldn't improve the overall state of affairs, even if that particular post is a net negative.

3vi21maobk9vp10yWell, if the general idea that Main-blog posts are a good read per se, even without reading comments or any Discussion threads, I'd say that of 13 posts in the list, there are: Information-coveying medium-length posts liked by community Very relevant in Discussion, out of context in Main Discussion of low-level strategy. Will be useful for general audience after we know how it turned out, maybe; currently it is a status update that is shown to those who are interested in the inner workings of community. Questions, not blog posts. Between question and strategy discussion An interesting external link A set of external links All in all, I would say that 3 of 13 clearly match my perception of idea of "Main" and 2 more match my perception of supposed reading pattern of "Main". For majority of posts, their moving to Main means somewhat redefining Main. I don't have an opinion if it is a good or a bad idea (I read both for fun and don't believe in LW core values), but I do think that majority of high-voted Discussion posts cited had a respectable reason to be in Discussion.
Open Thread, June 1-15, 2012

I feel like the mechanism probably goes something like:

  1. People are generally pretty risk-averse when it comes to putting themselves out in public in that way, even when the only risk is "Oh no my post got downvoted"
  2. Consequently, I'm only likely to post something to main if I personally believe that it exceeds the average quality threshold.

An appropriate umeshism might be "If you've never gotten a post moved to Discussion, you're being too much of a perfectionist."

The problem, of course, is that there are very few things we can do to... (read more)

5maia10yI'd be concerned about posts like "the rational rationalist's guide" being moved to main. It's an amusing post, but I really don't think it meets the standards I would want for the main blog. And it is quite highly upvoted. I think this shows that just going by upvotes may be insufficient.
I Stand by the Sequences

I disagree. From checking "recent comments" a couple times a day as is my habit, I feel like the past few days have seen an outpouring of criticism of Eliezer and the sequences by a small handful of people who don't appear to have put in the effort to actually read and understand them, and I am thankful to the OP for providing a counterbalance to that.

If we can only tolerate people criticising the sequences, and no one saying they agree with them, then we have a serious problem.

7John_Maxwell10yIt degrades the quality of discussion to profess agreement or disagreement with such a large cluster of ideas simultaneously. Kind of like saying "I'm Republican and the Republican platform is what our country needs", without going into specifics on why the Republican platform is so cool. I think it would have been fine for Grognor to summarize arguments that have been made in the past for more controversial points in the Sequences. But as it stands, this post looks like pure politics to me.
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 16, chapter 85

Has there been any serious discussion of the implications of portraits? I couldn't find any with some cursory googling, but I'll be really surprised if it hasn't been discussed here yet. I can't entirely remember which of these things are canon and which are various bits of fanfiction, but:

  • You can take someone's portrait without them explicitly helping, as evidenced in canon by at least one photograph of someone being arrested, whose picture in the newspaper is continually struggling and screaming at the viewer. I don't remember which book this was or an
... (read more)
2Eugine_Nier10yI was under the impression that portraits were sort of like the sorting hat.
[SEQ RERUN] The Failures of Eld Science

I think you may be misinterpreting what he means by "takes five whole minutes to think an original thought". You may well have to sit thinking for considerably longer than five minutes before you have an original thought, but are you truly spending that whole interval having the thought, or are you retracing the same patterns of thought over and over again in different permutations?

I think the implication is that, since the new thought itself only takes a few minutes, training for and expecting better performance could cut down the amount of "waiting for a new thought" time.

0Aharon10yYes, your interpretation makes more sense. When the teacher said "Assume,..." I noticed that I don't share that assumption, and decided to comment on this. I missed the part about how the student decided how to think - which supports the implication you saw.
Optimizing your Social Network

All that means is that you have a different definition of value for your friendships. It's important to focus on what exactly you want from your friends, but I see no reason that definition of value would be incompatible with trying to consciously cultivate stronger and better relationships.

So let's run with that. What can one do to intentionally try and grow those sorts of strong bonds with people? I'm reminded of a quote from HPMoR:

"One of my tutors once said that people form close friendships by knowing private things about each other, and the reason most people don't make close friends is because they're too embarrassed to share anything really important about themselves."

1Dorikka10yOr he has different preferences than you do, but is using the word "value" in roughly the same way that you are.
Defecting by Accident - A Flaw Common to Analytical People

Since the topic of this post is on sub-optimal communication, I thought I'd point out that

I think you'd be more convincing if you learned about brevity.

reads as rather more condescending than I think you intended from the tone of the rest of your comment. Specifically, it implies not just that he needs to practice revising for brevity, but that he doesn't even know what it is.

[META] Alternatives to rot13 and karma sinks

I'm using the stock browser that comes with Cyanogenmod 9, so in principle I can open links in a new window but in practice the interface is annoying enough that I rarely use it. I've tried Firefox mobile but the white-and-grey "not yet rendered" texture makes the browser feel much slower due to its obviousness. Dolphin looks interesting, I'm surprised I haven't heard of it before.

I guess my complaint isn't that I can't open a link separately, it's just that it's annoying enough to do so that I find myself running into the question of "do I ... (read more)

[META] Alternatives to rot13 and karma sinks

I often read LW on my phone and for that use case rot13 is the best spoiler method by far. It prevents immediately seeing words that would give away spoilers, but I can generally decode a given phrase in my head given the word lengths, punctuation, topic of conversation, and position of common words like 'gur', 'na', 'bs', 'vf', or 'gb'.

Using reddit-style CSS spoiler tags means that I can't access the spoilered content at all AFAICT, and linking me to a decoder, while nice in theory, isn't very helpful because if I click it I will lose the nice highlighting of new posts. This is a Big Deal on long-running threads like the HPMoR discussions.

0Wei_Dai10yDoes your phone browser allow you to open links in new tabs? (If you're not sure, try doing a long press on a link.) If not, you should switch browsers. I use Dolphin on Android. Opera Mini also has this feature and is available for virtually all phones, I think. Now if someone could tell me how to avoid accidentally voting someone up or down on my phone (or worse, accidentally banning a comment) when I'm trying to scroll...
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 16, chapter 85

As far as I can tell from my limited research, it appears to be a combination of the SCP Foundation's "Object Classes" with a hypothetical new object class "Roko" which I believe to be named for an LW user who appears to no longer exist, but made a post at some point (the best I can establish is that it had to be prior to December 2010), presenting some idea which later came to be called a "basilisk", because the very knowledge of it was judged by some to be potentially harmful and unsettling. The post was deleted, although it... (read more)

-2[anonymous]10ySpot on. Edit: Downvotes? Please explain.
-2[anonymous]10ySpot on. Though it helps the joke to know that the response to Roko's post and its censorship was huge and blew the entire incident way out of proportion. Several things happened, included Roko leaving the site (a top 10 contributor at the time) and deleting all his posts and comments. And there was a post by a guy who threatened to raise existential risk by 0.0001% everytime a Lesswrong post in censored [], which as some people pointed out was equivalent to killing ~6,000 people. Which, at the same time as causing a huge uproar on the site, actually helped to spread the basilisk. Eliezer and Alicorn both think it's a dangerous idea, and say that people with OCD tendencies are especially at risk. Personally it doesn't bother me, but I can see how it could mess some people up. I will say it has little practical value, so my advice is that it's not really worth the effort to track it down. So yes, Object Class: Roko Containment Protocol is deletion, actively preventing a resurfacing, and has the SCP connotations of a large-scale mobilization of resources to stop a potential disaster.
0wedrifid10yThis seems likely. The user in question was a top contributor and made a lot of creative and speculative posts along similar lines. More precisely he made a post presenting a different clever game-theoretic solution which could, among other things, be used to counter the thing that became called a "basilisk".
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 12

Other than the "external database" option, the only other sources of name information I can think of are:

  • The mind of the person being mapped
  • The mind of the person reading the map
  • A sort of consensus of how everyone in Hogwarts knows someone

I feel that picking someone's name from their own mind seems the most elegant and consistent. It doesn't handle babies (Before the parents choose a name, can a baby even be said to have one? Babies would have to be special-cased regardless), but it does allow arbitrary people to be mapped (multiple strange... (read more)

5Normal_Anomaly10yI'm not saying this is true. But I hope it is because it would be awesome.
6glumph10yIn Quirrell's case, he may be a powerful enough Occulumens to prevent the Map from reading his mind and so learning his name (if your theory is correct).

And to respond to your question about Pettigrew in the great-grandparent, I would assume that the map skips over animals entirely, which would probably include animagi.

A large part of the plot of Prisoner of Azkaban hinges on the fact that Lupin noticed Pettigrew on the Map while he was in rat form.

Suggestions on tech device/gear purchasing?

I don't remember what post it was in response to, but at one point someone suggested "optimal" as a much better substitute for "rational" in this type of post, partly to reduce the use of "rational" as an applause light, and partly because it better describes what these posts are generally asking.

0jwhendy10yAgreed with respect to the substitution. That describes what I'm getting at. In using "rational," I simply meant, "What's the best way to go about deciding on a purchase of this class of thing?"