All of Will_BC's Comments + Replies

I suggest this be posted to Main. I go long stretches without checking discussion, and just happened to find the survey here, but I subscribe to the Main RSS feed.

Moved to main and promoted.

I have taken the survey

I was trying not to kick the bees nest too hard, but I agree with you, doing bad things does tend to make people think bad things about you.

Perhaps that connotation is because of the group in question? I dislike playing word games, the words we use should be interchangeable if they refer to the exact same thing. It's kind of like how we went from Negroes to Black to African Americans in an attempt to combat racism, but the racism was the problem, not bad words, and it only gets confusing when you word police. I was talking to some social justice types before the term was used in a derogatory way online and they described themselves that way, and the first place I saw it online was as a self-de... (read more)

Yeah, I've noticed that when the word used for something is intentionally changed, oftentimes it is because the thing being referred to is viewed negatively by many. In addition, once the new word has widespread adoption, use of the old word is a signal that you indeed do view what it refers to negatively. A recent example is some politician who talked about what the NAACP should do if they wanted to help "colored" people; it was widely derided as a racist statement, even though he was simply expanding part of the acronym of the organization he was referring to. Similarly, afaik the word "retarded" was not considered pejorative back when it was in common use (nor was "idiot" a long time before that). The fact that "black" is still perfectly acceptable even after the introduction of "African American" gives me hope that there is a recognition that race relations are markedly improved.
Someone told me yesterday that airline stewards don't want to be called stewards anymore; they want to be called, I think, flight attendants. The funny thing is that "steward" used to mean a very high-ranking individual, the person who ran a great lord's estate. The airline industry used it for their stewardesses to artificially inflate their status. Over time, the role, at least in the opinion of flight attendants, degraded the word, until they didn't want it anymore.
Or, y'know, because people who call themselves these words do bad things.

Regarding the McAfee economics book, the link appears to have changed. I believe this link directs to the appropriate text

Book's homepage: [] There seems to be threeish versions about: 1. The original (the one your link goes to), which McAfee believes may be preferred by the mathematically sophisticated or engineers. This is the one I'm personally using, currently. 2. A second version, meant to improve accessibility, which McAfee expects professors considering the text to prefer 3. Version 2.1, which appears to be a refinement of version 2. Includes solutions to exercises, cosmetic improvements, and "small edits for consistency of notation and for clarity." (I'm vaguely reminded of Debian-Ubuntu-Mint Linux distros. Yay open source?)

You didn't actually do the math on that. According to this paper by the Future of Humanity Institute (Nick Bostrom's group), if life evolved to the point of interstellar travel 3 billion years ago and could travel at 50% of c, then you would expect it to travel not just to this galaxy, but the nearest million. If you go back five billion years and assume travel speeds of 99% of c, it could reach a billion galaxies. 75% of stars in the Milky Way that could support life are older than our Sun. It really is an enigma.

Posts 8 and 9 were really beneficial to me. The illusion of transparency is something that has caused me great distress in the past, and it was really nice to have an explanation for why that was. I always valued my intelligence, and I used to think that when people didn't agree with things that seemed obvious to me it was a sign that they were stupid. I had come across this idea as "people have different experiences", and when I saw things through that lens it helped me to be kinder and less arrogant. These posts really crystallized that idea and made me go "oh, that's why that is".

Not a full article. Discussion-starter. Half-digested ideas perhaps if they had been fully digested this would have been better received? I think I saw what you were getting at, and I liked it for working them out collaboratively, if you are interested. Will edit article with your feedback.

Learning environments

Examples: Less Wrong, martial arts gyms, Toastmasters

I'm not sure how much LW belongs in this category, which leads me to think that that's a major weakness of the site

  • Focused on improving a skill or virtue or ability

  • "we are all here to le

... (read more)
Thank you! Yes, but cannot do more alone. Self-improvement, honesty with confessing weaknesses, non-judgementalism Necessity the mother or invention or how they say it. Competition is similar. Look at [] The linked article, but already becoming a common knowledge: praising children for being smart makes them lazy, praising children for effort works better for development. The issue is, competitions of the kind "the prize goes to those who try hardest to run fast" are rare and difficult. Competitions are typically "prize goes to those who run quickest". This amounts to praising children for being smart. Dojos with belts Compete-in-learning? Simple example, reward the delta, reward the improvement of the score compared to the previous score? Sounds good, but it is so easy to fake a bad first score. Too easily cheated, gamed. Besides, the real world does not care about effort. This is actually the issue. At some level testing needs to reflect the real world, which cares only about results. This is a bit too idealistic I think - showing off money is showing off power, and donating reduces, equalizes power. Having said that, just like Bruce Lee had fights using his left hand only, self-handicapping through donation can be a pretty strong signal indeed, so it may be a good idea.

I choreograph my morning routines to a specific playlist. I know what I'm supposed to be doing during each specific song, and I get things done on time without distractions. I started in highschool when I would occasionally miss the bus and I never missed the bus after I started.

I should try this again. I did it during high school; I would play the song in my head while I was getting dressed. I do need to find a way to do this without waking up my roommate, though.

Have you heard of It sounds a lot like what you'retrying to do with your point system. There's already a LW related guild called the Bayesian Conspiracy.

It's hard to say, since there are confounds to changes in my mental state, but it does seem like I'm calmer and more self-aware, and if I make the connection to meditation I can quickly focus on my breath and change my focus.

Regarding the mediation, I had a professor of Eastern Philosophy speak at one of my clubs, and he led us in a meditation. When I asked him how long it took before he saw results from his meditation practice, he said about six months, so it's not maximally effective immediately. Anecdotally, I can say that I I have noticed my ability to focus during the meditation to have improved, though I haven't maintained it for six months yet.

Thanks. Do you feel like it's had much impact on your mental state when not meditating?

Thank you very much for the offer. I should have a post up in over a week and under a month.

It's in the works. I've got a few ideas, but right now I'm running them by family and friends. I have some ambitious goals but I'll probably start small. I would like to see some big changes happen in the world, and I don't think that working in the most straightforward way towards the Singularity is the only way to bring them about.

When you're ready to share these ideas, please let me know how I can help.

Those posts are 4 years old and 2 years older than CFAR. I do think that LW could and should do better with instrumental rationality.

Note that opinions differ on this topic, e.g. someone recently referred to LW as a "signaling and self-help cesspit" and got upvoted. Personally, I like seeing self-help stuff and I would encourage you to be the change you want to see :)

If you're talking about Brennan's world, it's already driven me a little insane, to the point of having suicidal thoughts. I'm getting better with that now as the rest of your writing is helpful medicine for bad thinking, If I weren't already very receptive to psychiatric treatment and thankfully had a strong skeptical background, it might not have ended well and the thought that that sort of thing might be going on still bothers me greatly. This was the first time I read this particular post, and it helped me downshift the probability of that such a th... (read more)

Perhaps this video will put things in perspective. The other commenter is right, availability bias is at play. But just because we've gone far doesn't mean we should stop, and continuing to raise our standards of what is acceptable is a good thing. My belief is that a great deal of violence is caused by political, economic, and social deprivation and inequality, so if you want to feel like you're working against violence I would recommend working to reduce those. But that's my personal way of dealing with badness in the world. I don't feel totally powerles... (read more)

Yes, I already agree, and am already at least partially trying to integrate this stuff in my daily life. Unfortunately, consciously telling myself "availability bias" does not actually reduce the emotional hit. I dispute that this is a belief rather than a fact ;-).

I think that I remember reading an even better example about publishing scientific results that might have furthered the Nazis ability to produce a nuclear weapon in HPMOR, though I can't recall where it was exactly. I found that example persuasive, but I considered it a distasteful necessity, not a desirable state of affairs. Hence my confusion at Brennan's world, which I thought being set in the future of our world was perhaps post-Singularity, and therefore the epitome of human flourishing. Another commenter asked me if I wouldn't enjoy the thought of b... (read more)

Graphite as a neutron modulator, I believe. Ch. 85 []:

One could make the argument that anything that harms the mission of lesswrong's sponsoring organizations is to the detriment of mankind. I'm not opposed to that argument, but googling censorship of lesswrong did not turn up anything I considered to be particularly dangerous. Maybe that just means that the censorship is more effective than I would have predicted, or is indicative or a lack of imagination on my part.

I'd say that "censorship" (things that could be classified or pattern-matched to this word) happens less than once in a year. That could actually contribute to why people speak so much about it; if it happened every day, it would be boring. From my memory, this is "censored": * inventing scenarios about Pascal's mugging by AI * debating, even hypothetically, harm towards specific people or organization * replying to a downvoted post (automatically penalized by -5 karma) And the options 2 and 3 are just common sense, and could happen on any website. Thus, most talk about "censorship" on LW focuses on the option 1. (By the way, if you learned about the "basilisk" on RationalWiki, here is a little thing I just noticed today: The RW article has a screenshot of dozens of deleted comments, which you will obviously associate with the incident. Please note that the "basilisk" incident happened in 2010, and the screenshot is from 2012. So this is not the censorship of the original debate. It is probably a censorship of some "why did you remove this comment two years ago? let's talk about it forever and ever" meta-threads that were quite frequent and IMHO quite annoying at some time.) Also, when a comment or article is removed, at least the message about the removal stays there. There is no meta-censorship (trying to hide the fact that censorship happened). If you don't see messages about removed comments at some place, it means no comments were removed there.

If something is valuable and powerful, and (big if) it's not harmful, plus it's extremely cheap to reproduce I see no reason not to distribute it freely. My confusion was that Brennan's world seems set in the future, and I got the sense that EY may have been in favor of it in some ways (perhaps that's mistaken). Since it seemed to be set in the future of our world, I got the sense that the Singularity had already happened. Maybe I just need to get to the fun sequence, but that particular future really made me uneasy,

I don't know how he feels about it currently, but in the past he did endorse Brennan's world [] as a better way to organize society post-Singularity. It started as a thought experiment about how to fix the problem that most people take science for granted and don't understand how important and powerful it is, and grew into a utopia he found extremely compelling. (To the point where he specifically did not explain the rest of the details because it is too inefficient to risk diverting effort towards. This was probably an overreaction.) He talks about this in Eutopia is Scary []
Perhaps it's only powerful in the hands of the chosen few. If it's in the open and it looks powerful, then other people try it and see less than amazing success, and it looks less and less cool until it stops growing. But by then it's harder for the special few to recognize its value - or perhaps don't want to associate themselves with it - and potential is wasted. If instead the details are kept secret but the powers known publicly, then the masters of the craft are taken seriously and can suck up all the promising individuals.

I'm relatively new to the site and I wasn't aware of any censorship.I suppose I can imagine that it might be useful and even necessary to censor things, but I have an intuitive aversion to the whole business. Plus I'm not sure how practical it is, since after you posted that I googled lesswrong censorship and found out what was being censored. I have to say, if they're willing to censor stuff that causes nightmares then they ought to censor talk of conspiracies, as I can personally attest that that has caused supreme discomfort. They are a very harmful mem... (read more)

Many websites about conspiracy theories don't care much about the truth. They don't go through the work of checking whether what they are saying is true. On the other hand organisations such as P2 exist or existed. The Mafia exists. To the extend that we care about truth we can't claim that aren't groups of people that coordinate together in secret for the benefits of their members. Italy is a pretty good country to think about when you want to think about conspiracies because there a lot of publically available information. It's actually pretty easy to see flaws in the argument of someone who claims that the US government brought down the twin towers on 9/11 via explosives if you are actually searching for flaws and not only searching for evidence that the claim might be true. The same goes for lizard overlords. Learn to live with not knowing things. Learn to live with uncertainty. Living with uncertainty is one of the core skills as a rationalist. If you don't know than you don't know an wanting to know. We live in a very complex world that we don't fully understand. You found out what was censored in a way where you don't understand the debate that was censored in depth and you took no emotional harm.
To the extent there is censorship of dangerous information on LW, the danger is to the future of mankind rather then to the (very real and I don't mean to minimize this) feelings of readers.

Why do you think EY uses conspiracy in his fictional writing? He seems to use them in positive or at least not clearly negative light, which is not how I think of conspiracies at all. I notice that I am confused, so I'm trying to gather some other opinions.

I would assume the main explanation to be just "conspiracies are cool", the same reason why they pop up in all kinds of other fiction ranging from The X-Files to Babylon 5 to Deus Ex to the Illuminati card game [] to whatever.
A "conspiracy" may be usefully generalised as any group of people trying to get something done.

Conspiracy is the default mode of a group of people getting anything done. Every business is a conspiracy. They plot and scheme within their "offices", anonymous buildings with nothing but their name on the front door. They tell no-one what they're doing, beyond legal necessity, and aim to conquer the world by, well, usually the evil plan is to make stuff that people will want to buy.

No organisation conducts all its business in public, whatever its aims. Even if you find one that seems to, dollars to cents you're not looking at its real processes. There needn't be anything sinister in this, although of course sometimes there is.

Every one of us is a conspiracy of one.

Oh come on. You've never steepled your fingers and pretended to be a Bond villain? Or, let's say it, to be Gendo Ikari? Being an evil conspirator is fun.

The anecdote in this post, about Fermi, Rabi and Szilard considering keeping the possibility of practical nuclear fission a secret, may shed some light on the subject. He thinks that some knowledge is dangerous enough that people who know it may reasonably want to keep it secret.

(much more recently, there has been some controversy about the publication of a way of obtaining a particularily infectious strain of a certain virus, but I can't find any references for that right now)

I'm guessing it's cultural influence from Discordianism, Shea and Wilson's Illuminatus!, or the like. Conspiracies, cults, and initiatory orders are all pretty common themes in Discordian-influenced works. Some are destructive, some are constructive, some are both, and some run around in circles.
EY makes complicated arguments. He's not the person to make arguments about X is good and Y is bad. Fiction is about playing with ideas. As far as I can find the first instance of the term Bayesian conpiracy appear in a 2003 nonfiction article [] by Eliezer: At the time it seems like a fun joke to make and it stayed. There are also a variety of other arguments to be made that it's sometimes not useful to share all information with outsiders.

I think it stems from the Brennan's World weirdtopia, and the idea that making knowledge freely available makes it feel worthless, while making it restricted to members of a secretive group makes it feel as valuable and powerful as it actually is.

For the same reason EY supports the censoring of posts on topics he has decided are dangerous for the world to see. He generalizes that if he is willing to hide facts that work against his interests, that others similarly situated to him, but with different interests will also be willing to work surreptitiously.

HJPEV is a drama queen and likes acting as if he's badass (ignore for the moment whether he is) and sinister and evil: Look at what he calls his army and how he acts around them. Hence calling his thing with Draco the Bayesian Conspiracy. Not everything that takes place in an author's fiction is indicative of something they support.

I'm taking this course, I bought the recommended textbook as well.

With all these options, single choice voting is pretty clearly sub-optimal, Approval or Range Voting would be better.

I've had some success in the past, but I haven't been able to keep with my program long enough to achieve the results I want and I lost motivation. I don't really have a great deal of disposable income right now, so if I derailed a lot I probably would stop using it. I really like the graphs, and by themselves they are a good motivator, so the thought of losing them is a further motivator. Basically I've had a better diet I've been meaning to stick to and an exercise routine that I sometimes did, but this kept me on track and focused on results.

That's a good point, I knew they elected the pope but I wasn't sure about the middle positions, I was thinking more about the size of the groups being an important factor when I compared the other system to the military.. And the Catholic Church is another example of an effective real world analog to a system I was thinking about hypothetically.

What I had in mind was more a hybrid between feudalism and the democratic process originally described. Democratic, bottom up above a certain level, top down below a certain level. But the idea was promoting a single person from a small group to a small group of similarly promoted people and so on ad infinitum, concentrating power by either process. I'm thinking of a system that could be implemented in practice.

I think Catholic Church works like this. The middle level is bishop -- positions higher than this are (at least were at some point of history) more or less democratically voted, functions lower than this are like in the military, they have to obey completely.

Well, the reasons to try hard are to be kind to others and to learn something yourself. Again, I never said it was an example of a voting system, what was asked for was a system of selecting public officials, and militaries are often public officials and it is not uncommon for them to change domains. The value is in taking a hypothetical system whose merits and weaknesses are difficult to evaluate, and comparing it to its closest analog in reality, which was my goal. I had come up with a system quite similar to the original query's idea, and the thought th... (read more)

There are a lot of political system where the power flows from the top down. Monarchies, dictatorships, etc. Your example would be, I guess, a junta?

Yes, Jesus is popular than the military, and more highly regarded in US politics by a majority of people. The opinions of the majority being of significant importance in a democratic political system. And certainly, there are differences. The direction of authority, which is what elections provide, is one. And there are others I'm sure I'm not mentioning, but those related to elections and authority are the biggest. But if you can't see how it's similar at all then you aren't being very charitable and aren't trying very hard. Both systems are hierarchical... (read more)

I am not very charitable and I don't see any reasons to try very hard. Any metaphor can be made to work with sufficient pushing, stretching, and averting eyes, but the question is why. Do you feel that putting up the US military as an example of a certain kind of voting systems provides some insight, some perspective otherwise unavailable? Do tell.

That's probably a more sophisticated view, but I think popular opinion is with the military.

And the original topic was

methods for selecting important public officials from large populations that are arguably much better than the current standards as practiced in various modern democracies

And I think the military is similar in many ways to option two, sans the election part, which is why I brought it up.

Jesus is considerably more popular than the military. So? "Sans the election part", LOL. But I don't see how it's similar at all. Option two is a bottom-up approach where authority flows up. The military is a standard top-down command hierarchy where authority flows down. The privates don't get a say in who their sergeant will be and lieutenants do not recommend majors for promotion.

Well, highly regarded as far as US politics is concerned. A lot of people here like to see military service in a politician, and it's considered to be somewhat above partisan politics. And doing what you're told is a meritorious characteristic to have in the military, although I suppose it's far less meritocratic than some other organizations, it's ideal is that it is. Although you're certainly right, I should have said my statements were framed in the context of the US politics.


There is some incentive to vote strategically, but depending on the range and the other candidate on offer you might be better off voting honestly. If there's a candidate you dislike strongly, and a major candidate you only mildly dislike, you might give your favorite a 10, the mild dislike a 3, and the major dislike a 0, just to reduce the major dislike's chances. The worst case scenario, which you describe, is called bullet voting, and is basically identical to our current system, but if even a small proportion vote honestly it can improve the results. T... (read more)

I read a very interesting book on election systems by William Poundstone called Gaming the Vote. His conclusion was that Score (aka Range) Voting was the best system on offer. A brief explanation can be found at; it's a rather simple and intuitive system. As to idea number 2, I had a similar idea a while back, I called it fractal hierarchy, and a few thoughts occurred to me. First, it need not be democratic at all levels. I was thinking that if you wanted to select for rationality then the entry levels might not be very good at this. This le... (read more)

Huh? The US military is certainly not universally positively regarded and I am not too sure about being meritocratic either. But in any case, it has nothing to do with voting systems, it's a strictly hierarchical organization where you shut up and do what your superior tells you to do.
Interesting. Wouldn't Score Voting strongly incentivize voters to put 0s for major candidates other than their chosen one? It seems like there would always be a tension between voting strategically and voting honestly. Delegable proxy is definitely a cool one. It probably does presuppose either a small population or advanced technology to run at scale. For my purposes (fiction) I could probably work around that somehow. It would definitely lead to a lot of drama with constantly shifting loyalties.

I lost 10 pounds in the last 30 days, and I would like to credit part of that to the LW community for introducing me to Beeminder.

May I know how Beeminder has helped in your weight loss?

I intend to make a discussion post, once my ideas are more polished and I have sufficient karma. Right now, I'm having a biweekly Google Hangout with a few people and trying to set up a Simple Machine Forum, so if anyone is interested in either of those send me a PM and I'll let you know how they're progressing.

There was an RSA clip about this awhile back. Smile or Die

It's a summary of Ehrenreich's Bright-Sided (Smile or Die in the UK), and very good.

I have been mostly lurking for a couple of months, but organizing people is one of my main areas of interest, and I have some practical experience in doing it. I have had thoughts along these lines, and right now I'm having a biweekly Google hangout with some friends and family to discuss the issue and get feedback on my ideas. I'd like to very gradually introduce the topics to the rationalist community. But the core idea that I'm working on right now is that rationality is not interesting to the general public because rationality is too abstract. I would ... (read more)

I am interested to hear more about your ideas. Maybe in a separate article? I think we need some vision of "what next", so those who have a project should describe it. And then it may become true.

Thanks for answering, I did some googling and found a website called that seems to be helping. So far I've been able to gradually increase the wpm from where I was comfortable starting, and it seems like it could be an effective tool.

Where did you learn these speed reading techniques?

I leaned from Matt Fallshaw, who IIRC was using something loosely based on the Evelyn Wood method.

Well, I'm open to increasing the rate, but I'm looking for information on how people do that without harming comprehension.

Any advice on how to increase the amount I read without increasing the time I spend reading? I'm concerned that just trying to up the pace will lower my comprehension.

My experience is that modern speed-reading techniques don't lower comprehension unless you get extremely fast (say, 900-1500 wpm). The exception is the very early stages, so it's good to practice on, e.g., mildly interesting fiction. After a couple of weeks with ~30 minutes of focused practice daily, I was reading at double my previous pace with the same comprehension.
If you're not going to increase the input or the rate, then I think all you have left to modify is the quality.

Hello all! My name is Will. I'm 21 and currently live in upstate New York. A bit about myself:

At an early age, I remember I was thinking in my head, and I caught myself in a lie. I already knew that it was wrong to lie to other people, though I did it sometimes, but I could not think of any good reason to lie to myself. It was some time before I really started to apply this idea.

My parents divorced when I was ten, and my mother discovered that she had a brain tumor around the same time. In the face of this uncertainty and unpleasantness, my mother turned ... (read more)