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Non-standard politics

3 NancyLebovitz 24 October 2014 03:27PM

In the big survey, political views are divided into large categories so that statistics are possible. This article is an attempt to supply a text field so that we can get a little better view of the range of beliefs.

My political views aren't adequately expressed by "libertarian". I call myself a liberal-flavored libertarian, by which I mean that I want the government to hurt people less. The possibility that the government is giving too much to poor people is low on my list of concerns. I also believe that harm-causing processes should be shut down before support systems

So, what political beliefs do you have that don't match the usual meaning of your preferred label?

Weird Alliances

5 sixes_and_sevens 24 October 2014 12:33PM

In the recent discussion on supplements, I commented on how weird an alliance health stores are. They cater for clientèle with widely divergent beliefs about how their merchandise works, such as New Agers vs. biohackers. In some cases, they cater for groups with object-level disputes about their merchandise. I imagine vegans are stoked to have somewhere to buy dairy-free facsimiles of everyday foods, but they're entering into an implicit bargain with that body-builder who's walking out of the door with two kilos of whey protein.

In the case of health stores, their clientèle have a common interest which the store is satisfying: either putting esoteric substances into their bodies, or keeping commonplace substances out of their bodies. This need is enough for people to hold their noses as they put their cash down.

(I don't actually know how [my flimsy straw-man model of], say, homoeopathy advocates feel about health stores. For me, it feels like wandering into enemy territory.)

I've been thinking lately about "allies" in the social justice sense of the word: marginalised groups who have unaligned object-level interests but aligned meta-interests. Lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transfolk and [miscellaneous gender-people] may have very different object-level interests, but a very strong common meta-interest relating to the social and legal status of sexual identities. They may also be marginalised along different axes, allowing for some sort of trade I don't have a good piece of terminology for. The LGBT([A-Z]).* community is an alliance. Not being part of this community, I'm hesitant to speculate on how much of a weird alliance it is, but it looks at least a little bit weird.

This has led me to think about Less Wrong as a community, in particular the following two questions:


To what extent is Less Wrong a weird alliance?

On paper, we're all here to help refine the art of human rationality, but in practice, we have a bunch of different object-level interests and common meta-interests in terms of getting things done well (i.e. "winning"). I explicitly dislike PUA, but I'll have a civil and productive discussion about anki decks with someone who has PUA-stuff as an object-level interest.


Is there scope for weird, differently-marginalised trade?

Less Wrong celebrates deviant behaviour, ostensibly as a search process for useful life-enhancing interventions, but also because we just seem to like weird stuff and have complicated relationships with social norms. Lots of other groups like weird stuff and have complicated relationships with social norms as well. Is this a common meta-interest we can somehow promote with them?

question: the 40 hour work week vs Silicon Valley?

4 Florian_Dietz 24 October 2014 12:09PM

Conventional wisdom, and many studies, hold that 40 hours of work per week are the optimum before exhaustion starts dragging your productivity down too much to be worth it. I read elsewhere that the optimum is even lower for creative work, namely 35 hours per week, though the sources I found don't all seem to agree.

In contrast, many tech companies in silicon valley demand (or 'encourage', which is the same thing in practice) much higher work times. 70 or 80 hours per week are sometimes treated as normal.

How can this be?

Are these companies simply wrong and are actually hurting themselves by overextending their human resources? Or does the 40-hour week have exceptions?

How high is the variance in how much time people can work? If only outliers are hired by such companies, that would explain the discrepancy. Another possibility is that this 40 hour limit simply does not apply if you are really into your work and 'in the flow'. However, as far as I understand it, the problem is a question of concentration, not motivation, so that doesn't make sense.

There are many articles on the internet arguing for both sides, but I find it hard to find ones that actually address these questions instead of just parroting the same generalized responses every time: Proponents of the 40 hour week cite studies that do not consider special cases, only averages (at least as far as I could find). Proponents of the 80 hour week claim that low work weeks are only for wage slaves without motivation, which reeks of bias and completely ignores that one's own subjective estimate of one's performance is not necessarily representative of one's actual performance.

Do you know of any studies that address these issues?

Is this paper formally modeling human (ir)rational decision making worth understanding?

9 rule_and_line 23 October 2014 10:11PM

I've found that I learn new topics best by struggling to understand a jargoney paper.  This passed through my inbox today and on the surface it appears to hit a lot of high notes.

Since I'm not an expert, I have no idea if this has any depth to it.  Hivemind thoughts?

Modeling Human Decision Making using Extended Behavior Networks, Klaus Dorer

(Note: I'm also pushing myself to post to LW instead of lurking.  If this kind of post is unwelcome, I'm happy to hear that feedback.)

Meetup : The Design Process

1 Anders_H 24 October 2014 03:37AM

Discussion article for the meetup : The Design Process

WHEN: 29 October 2014 07:00:00PM (-0400)

WHERE: 98 Elm Street Somerville MA

Ben Sancetta, a mechanical engineer, will discuss the process of designing a new product, such as when it's appropriate to do testing, get user feedback, or list product requirements. Following this, we'll have a discussion of our own processes for designing new things. Cambridge/Boston-area Less Wrong Wednesday meetups are once a month on the last Wednesday at 7pm at Citadel (98 Elm St Apt 1 Somerville, near Porter Square). All other meetups are on Sundays. Our default schedule is as follows: —Phase 1: Arrival, greetings, unstructured conversation. —Phase 2: The headline event. This starts promptly at 7:30pm, and lasts 30-60 minutes. —Phase 3: Further discussion. We'll explore the ideas raised in phase 2, often in smaller groups.

Discussion article for the meetup : The Design Process

What supplements do you take, if any?

10 NancyLebovitz 23 October 2014 12:36PM

Since it turns out that it isn't feasible to include check as many as apply questions in the big survey, I'm asking about supplements here. I've got a bunch of questions, and I don't mind at all if you just answer some of them.

What supplements do you take? At what dosages? Are there other considerations, like with/without food or time of day?

Are there supplements you've stopped using?

How did you decide to take the supplements you're using? How do you decide whether to continue taking them?

Do you have preferred suppliers? How did you choose them?

2014 Less Wrong Census/Survey

35 Yvain 23 October 2014 12:48AM

It's that time of year again.

If you are reading this post and self-identify as a LWer, then you are the target population for the Less Wrong Census/Survey. Please take it. Doesn't matter if you don't post much. Doesn't matter if you're a lurker. Take the survey.

This year's census contains a "main survey" that should take about ten or fifteen minutes, as well as a bunch of "extra credit questions". You may do the extra credit questions if you want. You may skip all the extra credit questions if you want. They're pretty long and not all of them are very interesting. But it is very important that you not put off doing the survey or not do the survey at all because you're intimidated by the extra credit questions.

It also contains a chance at winning a MONETARY REWARD at the bottom. You do not need to fill in all the extra credit questions to get the MONETARY REWARD, just make an honest stab at as much of the survey as you can.

Please make things easier for my computer and by extension me by reading all the instructions and by answering any text questions in the simplest and most obvious possible way. For example, if it asks you "What language do you speak?" please answer "English" instead of "I speak English" or "It's English" or "English since I live in Canada" or "English (US)" or anything else. This will help me sort responses quickly and easily. Likewise, if a question asks for a number, please answer with a number such as "4", rather than "four".

The planned closing date for the survey is Friday, November 14. Instead of putting the survey off and then forgetting to do it, why not fill it out right now?

Okay! Enough preliminaries! Time to take the...


2014 Less Wrong Census/Survey


Thanks to everyone who suggested questions and ideas for the 2014 Less Wrong Census/Survey. I regret I was unable to take all of your suggestions into account, because of some limitations in Google Docs, concern about survey length, and contradictions/duplications among suggestions. The current survey is a mess and requires serious shortening and possibly a hard and fast rule that it will never get longer than it is right now.

By ancient tradition, if you take the survey you may comment saying you have done so here, and people will upvote you and you will get karma.

A quick calculation on exercise

5 Elo 23 October 2014 02:50AM

The question is - am I doing enough exercise?

I intend to provide a worked example for you to work alongside with your own calculations and decide if you should increase or decrease your exercise.

The benefits of physical activity are various and this calculation can be done for one or all of them; some of them include:

  • longevity of life
  • current physical health (ability to enrich your current life with physical activity)
  • happiness (overall improved mood)
  • weight loss
  • feeling like you have more energy
  • better sleep
  • better sex
  • fun while exercising
  • reduce stress
  • improve confidence
  • prevent cognitive decline
  • alleviate anxiety
  • sharpen memory
  • improves oxygen supply to all your cells

I am going to base this reasoning on "longevity of life" and "everything else"

expected life span:
I am a little lazy; and so I am happy to work with 100 years for now.  For bonus points you can look up the life expectancy for someone born when you were born in the country that you were born in.  If both of those numbers are not good enough make your own prediction of your life expectancy.

amount of exercise needed to produce optimum benefits:
I believe that any exercise above two hours per day will not do much more to improve my longevity that I could not get out of the first two hours.  If the benefits of exercise are something like a power law; then the minimum amount required to get the most exercise can be calculated by taking a graph like this; and drawing your own lines on it as I have.

I think the most benefit can be gotten out of exercise between 30 mins and 2 hours per day.

Just how much longevity do I think I will get?
Oh its hard to say really...  Some sources say:
  • 3 years for the first 15 minutes a day and a further 4% reduction in mortality for every 15minutes after that
  • every minute of exercise returns 8 minutes of life
  • being normal weight and active conveys 7.2 years of extra life expectancy
  • 75mins/week of brisk activity = 1.8years of greater life expectancy with more activity giving upwards to 4.5years of longevity
on top of longevity there is all the other benefits I have not counted very well.  For my 100 years; adding an extra 4-7 years is worthwhile to me...

And finally; the disadvantage: opportunity cost
there are 168 hours in a week.  With most people spending 1/3 of that asleep (56hrs, 8hrs/night), 20 hours on lesswrong per week, 40hours in an average work week, before we take two hours out of each day to spend exercising (14hours); what are we taking those hours away from?  Can you do what you were doing before without the time spent exercising here?

I'm not going to tell you how to exercise or how to fit it into your life.  I am telling you that its damn well important.

I was going to throw in some bayes and prediction but I have now realised I am pretty bad at it and took it out.  Would love some help compiling that sort of calculation.  (personal prediction that 30minutes of exercise will increase my life expectancy by 4 years)

Blackmail, continued: communal blackmail, uncoordinated responses

9 Stuart_Armstrong 22 October 2014 05:53PM

The heuristic that one should always resist blackmail seems a good one (no matter how tricky blackmail is to define). And one should be public about this, too; then, one is very unlikely to be blackmailed. Even if one speaks like an emperor.

But there's a subtlety: what if the blackmail is being used against a whole group, not just against one person? The US justice system is often seen to function like this: prosecutors pile on ridiculous numbers charges, threatening uncounted millennia in jail, in order to get the accused to settle for a lesser charge and avoid the expenses of a trial.

But for this to work, they need to occasionally find someone who rejects the offer, put them on trial, and slap them with a ridiculous sentence. Therefore by standing up to them (or proclaiming in advance that you will reject such offers), you are not actually making yourself immune to their threats. Your setting yourself up to be the sacrificial one made an example of.

Of course, if everyone were a UDT agent, the correct decision would be for everyone to reject the threat. That would ensure that the threats are never made in the first place. But - and apologies if this shocks you - not everyone in the world is a perfect UDT agent. So the threats will get made, and those resisting them will get slammed to the maximum.

Of course, if everyone could read everyone's mind and was perfectly rational, then they would realise that making examples of UDT agents wouldn't affect the behaviour of non-UDT agents. In that case, UDT agents should resist the threats, and the perfectly rational prosecutor wouldn't bother threatening UDT agents. However - and sorry to shock your views of reality three times in one post - not everyone is perfectly rational. And not everyone can read everyone's minds.

So even a perfect UDT agent must, it seems, sometimes succumb to blackmail.

Meetup : East Coast Solstice Megameetup

3 Raemon 22 October 2014 07:01PM

Discussion article for the meetup : East Coast Solstice Megameetup

WHEN: 20 December 2014 03:00:00PM (-0700)

WHERE: 851 Park Place, Brooklyn NY 11216

The weekend of December 20th will be the East Coast Solstice Megameetup. Rationalists and EA folk are invited to visit our group-house, Highgarden. We can provide crash space Friday night through Sunday night, although you're encouraged to fill out this form so we know how many people to expect:


Official activities begin at 2:00pm on Saturday, with an unconference running for 2 hours. At 7:00pm there'll be the Solstice concert. Tickets are still available on the kickstarter (ending 4:00pm on Sunday), here:


Discussion article for the meetup : East Coast Solstice Megameetup

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