Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

Project Hufflepuff

10 Raemon 18 January 2017 06:57PM

My goal this year (in particular, my main focus once I arrive in the Bay, but also my focus in NY and online in the meanwhile), is to join and champion the growing cause of people trying to fix some systemic problems in EA and Rationalsphere relating to "lack of Hufflepuff virtue".

(The cluster of things I'm pointing at include things emphasized lately by MirandaDuncanBen HoffmanLauren, among others)

I want Hufflepuff Virtue to feel exciting and important, because it is, and I want it to be something that flows naturally into our pursuit of both epistemic integrity, intellectual creativity, and concrete action.

Some concrete examples:

- on the 5 second reflex level, notice when people need help or when things need doing, and do those things.

- have an integrated understanding that being kind to people is *part* of helping them (and you!) to learn more, and have better ideas.

(There are a bunch of ways to be kind to people that do NOT do this, i.e. politely agreeing to disagree. That's not what I'm talking about. We need to hold each other to higher standards but not talk down to people in a fashion that gets in the way of understanding. There are tradeoffs and I'm not sure of the best approach but there's a lot of room for improvement)

- be excited and willing to be the person doing the grunt work to make something happen

- foster a sense that the community encourages people to try new events, actively take personal responsibility to notice and fix community-wide problems that aren't necessarily sexy.

- when starting new projects, try to have mentorship and teamwork built into their ethos from the get-go, rather than hastily tacked on later

I want these sorts of things to come easily to mind when the future people of 2019 think about the rationality community, and have them feel like central examples of the community rather than things that we talk about wanting-more-of.

[Link] Universal Hate

1 gworley 18 January 2017 06:32PM

[Link] Marginal Revolution Thoughts on Black Lives Matter Movement

0 scarcegreengrass 18 January 2017 06:12PM

Corrigibility thoughts III: manipulating versus deceiving

0 Stuart_Armstrong 18 January 2017 03:57PM

This is the first of three articles about limitations and challenges in the concept of corrigibility (see articles 1 and 2).

The desiderata for corrigibility are:

  1. A corrigible agent tolerates, and preferably assists, its operators in their attempts to alter or shut down the agent.
  2. A corrigible agent does not attempt to manipulate or deceive its operators.
  3. A corrigible agent has incentives to repair safety measures (such as shutdown buttons, tripwires, or containment tools) if they break, or at least notify its operators in the event of a breakage.
  4. A corrigible agent preserves its corrigibility, even as it creates new sub-systems or sub-agents, even if it undergoes significant self-modification.

In this post, I'll be looking more at some aspects of point 2. A summary of the result will be:

Defining manipulation simply may be possible, but defining deception is a whole other problem.

The warning in this post should always be born in mind, of course; it's possible that we me might find a semi-formal version of deception that does the trick.

 

Manipulation versus deception

In the previous post, I mentioned that we may need to define clearly what an operator was, rather than relying on the pair: {simple description of a value correction event, physical setup around that event}. Can we define manipulation and deception without defining what an operator is?

For manipulation, it seems we can. Because manipulation is all about getting certain preferred outcomes. By specifying that the AI cannot aim to optimise certain outcomes, we can stop at least certain types of manipulations. Along with other more direct ways of achieving those outcomes.

For deception, the situation is much more complicated. It seems impossible to define how one agent can communicate to another agent (especially one as biased as a human), and increase the accuracy of the second agent, without defining the second agent properly. More confusingly, this doesn't even stop deception; sometimes lying to a bounded agent can increase their accuracy about the world.

There may be some ways to define deception or truth behaviourally, such as using a human as a crucial node in an autoencoder between two AIs. But those definitions are dangerous, because the AI is incentivised to make the human behave in a certain way, rather than having them believe certain things. Manipulating the human or replacing them entirely is positively encourage.

In all, it seems that the problem of AI deception is vast and complicated, and should probably be separated from the issue of corrigibility.

Corrigibility thoughts II: the robot operator

0 Stuart_Armstrong 18 January 2017 03:52PM

This is the first of three articles about limitations and challenges in the concept of corrigibility (see articles 1 and 3).

The desiderata for corrigibility are:

  1. A corrigible agent tolerates, and preferably assists, its operators in their attempts to alter or shut down the agent.
  2. A corrigible agent does not attempt to manipulate or deceive its operators.
  3. A corrigible agent has incentives to repair safety measures (such as shutdown buttons, tripwires, or containment tools) if they break, or at least notify its operators in the event of a breakage.
  4. A corrigible agent preserves its corrigibility, even as it creates new sub-systems or sub-agents, even if it undergoes significant self-modification.

In this post, I'll be looking at one aspect of points 1 and 3. I feel that they're actually pretty much the same point -- the AI has to act while preserving the corrigibility infrastructure.

A summary of the result will be:

Without a formal definition of what an operator is, corrigibility is vulnerable to the AI replacing the operator with a fake version.

The warning in this post should always be born in mind, of course; it's possible that we me might find a semi-formal version of operator that does the trick.

 

Defining the operator or defining the event

Typically the process of correction of values is defined physically, as being the outcome of specific event (such as a button press, or a specific stochastic event triggered by or triggering a button press). This could also be defined by a digital event (receiving a certain encoded signal, or similar).

In all cases, the idea is the same: there is a very narrow and specific definition of the value correction event, and the physical or digital infrastructure surrounding it plays the role of ensuring the value corrections happen just as we intended. For instance, the physical event could be the button press (or a charge in a wire triggered by the button press) and the button itself could be in a room with an operator, with the operator keeping an eye on the AI and motivated to press the button under the right circumstances.

Such a setup is naturally vulnerable if the AI is motivated to manipulate the operator, or one of its subagents is. But even if we can solve points 2. and 4., there remains another vulnerability: the AI can choose to replace the operator with an artificial one (maybe a robot, maybe a second wire).

Why would the AI be so motivated? Well, for a start, it's indifferent to doing so. If the operator is not part of the definition of corrigibility, then having a human operator or a robot one that does exactly the same thing will be equivalent to the AI.

Now, there are frictions that might push against this. Replacing the operator might carry an expected cost. Or maybe the operator has private information that the AI wants to know, hence replacing them is a negative as the robot wouldn't have that information. And maybe the AI has a rough "don't harm humans" motive, that, while imperfect, at least prevents it from removing the operator in this circumstance.

But there may be motivations pushing the other way. For example, if a learning agent is unbiased but not uninfluenceable, then it will be motivated to replace the operator with a robot with the same expected outcome, but different variance. Or maybe the operator has private information, but it's much more effective to have a robot read that info from their brain than to rely on the human to reveal that through their behaviour. Or maybe the AI is decently motivated to preserve the corrigibility infrastructure, and is aware of how mortal humans can be, so replacing them with a robot is the prudent thing to do.

All this stems from the fact that the operator is not well defined as part of the corrigibility infrastructure, but their position relies on physical facts about the world, along with a narrow definition of the correction of value event. To combat that, we'd need to define the operator properly, a very tricky challenge, or physically and cognitively secure them, or hope the AI learns early on not to not harm them.

Corrigibility thoughts I: caring about multiple things

0 Stuart_Armstrong 18 January 2017 03:39PM

This is the first of three articles about limitations and challenges in the concept of corrigibility (see articles 2 and 3).

The desiderata for corrigibility are:

  1. A corrigible agent tolerates, and preferably assists, its operators in their attempts to alter or shut down the agent.
  2. A corrigible agent does not attempt to manipulate or deceive its operators.
  3. A corrigible agent has incentives to repair safety measures (such as shutdown buttons, tripwires, or containment tools) if they break, or at least notify its operators in the event of a breakage.
  4. A corrigible agent preserves its corrigibility, even as it creates new sub-systems or sub-agents, even if it undergoes significant self-modification.

In this post, I'll be looking more at point 4. A summary of the result will be:

Unless giving the AI extra options can reduce expected utility, the AI must care about every possible utility at least a bit.

Some of the results are formal, but the boundaries of the model are very unclear, so the warning in this post should always be born in mind.

Note that the indifference agents fail to be fully corrigible (they don't create corrigible subagents) and they also don't care about the other possible utilities before being changed (as this is a point of indifference).

 

Agents versus non-agents

First I'll present a cleaner version of an old argument. Basically, it seems that defining what a sub-agent or sub-system is, is tricky or impossible.

Consider for instance a paperclip maximiser, that may get corriged into a staple maximiser at a later date. The AI has some income, and may buy a large proportion of shares in either General Paperclips (GP) or Staples United (SU). Assume the best way of promoting the use of one of the tools, it to take over the company that makes them.

There are two scenarios; in each scenario, the AI has one of two choices.

  • In scenario 1, the AI has choice A: it buys stocks in GP, but cannot make further trades (in particular, it can't sell its stocks and buy others). It also has choice B: it retains flexibility, and can sell its GP stocks at some later date to buy stocks in SU.
  • In scenario 2, the AI delegates its investment decisions to a subagent. Under choice A, the subagent is a pure paperclip maximiser. Under choice B, the subagent is corrigible, and can be changed into a staple maximiser.

Clearly 1A and 2A are equivalent, while 1B and 2B are also equivalent. This trick can be extended: in most toy models, it's possible to replace a set of options with a choice of sub-agents, and vice-versa.

Thus point 4, in the real world, cannot be merely about subagents and subsystems, but about maintaining flexibility for its future decisions.

 

Burn the (rest of) the world

Let's now consider giving the corrigible agent an option C: it gets slightly more shares in GP than otherwise. But, in exchange, SU is destroyed, along with most of the rest of the world. This is the highest option for paperclip maximalisation, but the absolutely worst option for staples and anything else.

Also assume that the AI's operators are virtually certain (99.9999...9% sure) to be changing it into a staple maximiser. This means that taking option C is dramatically worse that option B, from the perspective of expected utility.

But the AI will only prefer option B if it "cares" about staples, at least a little bit, from the very beginning (we've shown that there is no clear distinction between subagent and general actions, thus the agent has to have a general care for staples, rather than-only-caring-about-B-in-the-context-of-subagents).

Thus, if we want to avoid corrigible agents getting worse expected outcomes when we give them extra "option Cs", or if we just want to rule out "option Cs" in the first place, then the AI needs to care about staples (or any possible future utility), from the very beginning.

 

Maintaining flexibility

You could argue that what's important about the agent is maintaining flexibility, and that option B is flexible, while options A and C are not. Thus the agent doesn't need to care about staples in advance, just to have a general preference for flexibility.

That doesn't seem sufficient. Let's add another, flexible, option D, and put numbers on the whole thing. If Up is the paperclip maximising utility and Us is the staple maximising one, then:

  • Option A: Up=100, Us=0
  • Option B: Up=100 or 0, Us=0 or 100
  • Option C: Up=101, Us=-1,000,000
  • Option D: Up=101 or 0, Us=-1,000,000 or -999,000

The "or" denotes options the AI has kept open. Here D is the most flexible option, allowing the greatest range of outcomes in terms of value. Yet it's clearly a disaster for expected utility if changes from Up to Us are likely. If we want to rule out the AI choosing D, then we need it to actively value Us at least a bit, not just have a desire for flexibility.

[Link] Neural nets designing neural nets

2 Stuart_Armstrong 18 January 2017 03:28PM

[Link] Dodging a bullet: "the price of insufficient medical vigilance can be very high."

2 James_Miller 18 January 2017 04:11AM

[Link] Please Help: How to make a big improvement in the alignment of political parties’ incentives with the public interest?

0 interstice 18 January 2017 12:51AM

[Link] Choosing prediction over explanation in psychology: Lessons from machine learning

1 Kaj_Sotala 17 January 2017 09:23PM

The substance of money

2 MrMind 17 January 2017 02:51PM

Not much epistemic effort here: this is just an intuition that I have to model a vast and possibly charged field. I'm calling upon the powers of crowd-finding to clarify my views.

Tl;dr: is the debate in economics over the nature of money really about the definition or just over politics?

I'm currently reading "Money - an unauthorised biography" by Felix Martin. It presents what is to me a beautifully simple and elegant definition of what money is: transferable value over a liquid landscape (these precise words are mine). It also presents many cases where this simple view is contrasted by another view: money as a commodity. This opposition is not merely one of academics definitions, but has important consequences. Policy makers have adopted different points of view and have becuase of that varied very much their interventions.

I've never been much interested in the field, but this book sparked my curiosity, so I'm starting to look around and I'm surprised to discover that this debate is still alive and well in the 21st century.

Basically what I've glanced is that there is this Keynesian school of thougth that posits that yes, money is transferable debts, and since money is merely a technology that expresses an agreement, you should intervente in the matter of economics, especially by printing money when this is needed.

Then there's an opposite view (does it have a name?) that says that no, money is a commodity and for this reason it must be treated as such: it's creation is to be carefully controlled by the market and it's value tied only to the value of an underlying tradeable asset.

I think my uncertainty shows how little I know about this field, so apply Crocker's rule at will. Is this a not completely inaccurate model of the debate?

If it is so, my second question: is this a debate over substance or over politics?
If I think that money is transferable debts, surely I can recognize the merit of intervention but also understand that a liberal use of said tool might breed a disaster.
If I think that money is a standard commodity, can I manipulate which commodity it is exactly tied to to increase the availability of money in times of need?
Am I talking nonsense for some technical reason? Am I missing something big? Is economics the mind-killer too?

Elucidate me!

[Link] Honesty and perjury

4 Benquo 17 January 2017 08:08AM

[Link] John Nash's Ideal Money: The Motivations of Savings and Thrift

0 Flinter 17 January 2017 03:58AM

[Link] Fear or fear? (A Meteuphoric post on distinguishing feelings from considered positions.)

0 ProofOfLogic 17 January 2017 03:26AM

[Link] Disgust and Politics

1 gworley 17 January 2017 12:19AM

[Link] Deep Learning twitter list

0 morganism 16 January 2017 11:59PM

Welcome to Less Wrong! (11th thread, January 2017) (Thread B)

0 Grothor 16 January 2017 10:25PM

(Thread A for January 2017 is here, this was created as a duplicate but it's too late to fix it now.)


Hi, do you read the LessWrong website, but haven't commented yet (or not very much)? Are you a bit scared of the harsh community, or do you feel that questions which are new and interesting for you could be old and boring for the older members?

This is the place for the new members to become courageous and ask what they wanted to ask. Or just to say hi.

The older members are strongly encouraged to be gentle and patient (or just skip the entire discussion if they can't).

Newbies, welcome!

 

The long version:

 

If you've recently joined the Less Wrong community, please leave a comment here and introduce yourself. We'd love to know who you are, what you're doing, what you value, how you came to identify as an aspiring rationalist or how you found us. You can skip right to that if you like; the rest of this post consists of a few things you might find helpful. More can be found at the FAQ.

 

A few notes about the site mechanics

To post your first comment, you must have carried out the e-mail confirmation: When you signed up to create your account, an e-mail was sent to the address you provided with a link that you need to follow to confirm your e-mail address. You must do this before you can post!

Less Wrong comments are threaded for easy following of multiple conversations. To respond to any comment, click the "Reply" link at the bottom of that comment's box. Within the comment box, links and formatting are achieved via Markdown syntax (you can click the "Help" link below the text box to bring up a primer).

You may have noticed that all the posts and comments on this site have buttons to vote them up or down, and all the users have "karma" scores which come from the sum of all their comments and posts. This immediate easy feedback mechanism helps keep arguments from turning into flamewars and helps make the best posts more visible; it's part of what makes discussions on Less Wrong look different from those anywhere else on the Internet.

However, it can feel really irritating to get downvoted, especially if one doesn't know why. It happens to all of us sometimes, and it's perfectly acceptable to ask for an explanation. (Sometimes it's the unwritten LW etiquette; we have different norms than other forums.) Take note when you're downvoted a lot on one topic, as it often means that several members of the community think you're missing an important point or making a mistake in reasoning— not just that they disagree with you! If you have any questions about karma or voting, please feel free to ask here.

Replies to your comments across the site, plus private messages from other users, will show up in your inbox. You can reach it via the little mail icon beneath your karma score on the upper right of most pages. When you have a new reply or message, it glows red. You can also click on any user's name to view all of their comments and posts.

All recent posts (from both Main and Discussion) are available here. At the same time, it's definitely worth your time commenting on old posts; veteran users look through the recent comments thread quite often (there's a separate recent comments thread for the Discussion section, for whatever reason), and a conversation begun anywhere will pick up contributors that way.  There's also a succession of open comment threads for discussion of anything remotely related to rationality.

Discussions on Less Wrong tend to end differently than in most other forums; a surprising number end when one participant changes their mind, or when multiple people clarify their views enough and reach agreement. More commonly, though, people will just stop when they've better identified their deeper disagreements, or simply "tap out" of a discussion that's stopped being productive. (Seriously, you can just write "I'm tapping out of this thread.") This is absolutely OK, and it's one good way to avoid the flamewars that plague many sites.

EXTRA FEATURES:
There's actually more than meets the eye here: look near the top of the page for the "WIKI", "DISCUSSION" and "SEQUENCES" links.
LW WIKI: This is our attempt to make searching by topic feasible, as well as to store information like common abbreviations and idioms. It's a good place to look if someone's speaking Greek to you.
LW DISCUSSION: This is a forum just like the top-level one, with two key differences: in the top-level forum, posts require the author to have 20 karma in order to publish, and any upvotes or downvotes on the post are multiplied by 10. Thus there's a lot more informal dialogue in the Discussion section, including some of the more fun conversations here.
SEQUENCES: A huge corpus of material mostly written by Eliezer Yudkowsky in his days of blogging at Overcoming Bias, before Less Wrong was started. Much of the discussion here will casually depend on or refer to ideas brought up in those posts, so reading them can really help with present discussions. Besides which, they're pretty engrossing in my opinion. They are also available in a book form.

A few notes about the community

If you've come to Less Wrong to  discuss a particular topic, this thread would be a great place to start the conversation. By commenting here, and checking the responses, you'll probably get a good read on what, if anything, has already been said here on that topic, what's widely understood and what you might still need to take some time explaining.

If your welcome comment starts a huge discussion, then please move to the next step and create a LW Discussion post to continue the conversation; we can fit many more welcomes onto each thread if fewer of them sprout 400+ comments. (To do this: click "Create new article" in the upper right corner next to your username, then write the article, then at the bottom take the menu "Post to" and change it from "Drafts" to "Less Wrong Discussion". Then click "Submit". When you edit a published post, clicking "Save and continue" does correctly update the post.)

If you want to write a post about a LW-relevant topic, awesome! I highly recommend you submit your first post to Less Wrong Discussion; don't worry, you can later promote it from there to the main page if it's well-received. (It's much better to get some feedback before every vote counts for 10 karma—honestly, you don't know what you don't know about the community norms here.)

Alternatively, if you're still unsure where to submit a post, whether to submit it at all, would like some feedback before submitting, or want to gauge interest, you can ask / provide your draft / summarize your submission in the latest open comment thread. In fact, Open Threads are intended for anything 'worth saying, but not worth its own post', so please do dive in! Informally, there is also the unofficial Less Wrong IRC chat room, and you might also like to take a look at some of the other regular special threads; they're a great way to get involved with the community!

If you'd like to connect with other LWers in real life, we have  meetups  in various parts of the world. Check the wiki page for places with regular meetups, or the upcoming (irregular) meetups page. There's also a Facebook group. If you have your own blog or other online presence, please feel free to link it.

If English is not your first language, don't let that make you afraid to post or comment. You can get English help on Discussion- or Main-level posts by sending a PM to one of the following users (use the "send message" link on the upper right of their user page). Either put the text of the post in the PM, or just say that you'd like English help and you'll get a response with an email address. 
Normal_Anomaly 
Randaly 
shokwave 
Barry Cotter

A note for theists: you will find the Less Wrong community to be predominantly atheist, though not completely so, and most of us are genuinely respectful of religious people who keep the usual community norms. It's worth saying that we might think religion is off-topic in some places where you think it's on-topic, so be thoughtful about where and how you start explicitly talking about it; some of us are happy to talk about religion, some of us aren't interested. Bear in mind that many of us really, truly have given full consideration to theistic claims and found them to be false, so starting with the most common arguments is pretty likely just to annoy people. Anyhow, it's absolutely OK to mention that you're religious in your welcome post and to invite a discussion there.

A list of some posts that are pretty awesome

I recommend the major sequences to everybody, but I realize how daunting they look at first. So for purposes of immediate gratification, the following posts are particularly interesting/illuminating/provocative and don't require any previous reading:

More suggestions are welcome! Or just check out the top-rated posts from the history of Less Wrong. Most posts at +50 or more are well worth your time.

Welcome to Less Wrong, and we look forward to hearing from you throughout the site!

[Link] The Mind of an Octopus,Adapted from Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea and the Deep Origins of Consciousness

2 morganism 16 January 2017 09:07PM

Do we Share a Definition for the word "ideal"?

0 Flinter 16 January 2017 08:45PM

Related: A Proposal for a Simpler Solution To All These Difficult Observations and Problems

Perhaps this will be seen as spam and that I have broken a rule of propriety, but my previous discussion has already served its purpose and I think will continue to do so.  I needed it as an open dialogue to get a general idea of what the implications of a stable metric for value would be (ie it would solve many otherwise difficult to solve problems).

In relation to such a unit of value, I would like to ask what is your definition of the word "ideal".  On the surface this question might seem empty, but I often observe with people that we don't all share the same meaning for the word, and that the discrepancy is significant.

Do we have a shared meaning for this word?

[Link] The trolleycar dilemma, an MIT moral problem app

0 morganism 16 January 2017 07:32PM

A Proposal for a Simpler Solution To All These Difficult Observations and Problems

1 Flinter 16 January 2017 06:13PM

I am not perfectly sure how this site has worked (although I skimmed the "tutorials") and I am notorious for not understanding systems as easily and quickly as the general public might. At the same time I suspect a place like this is for me, for what I can offer but also for what I can receive (ie I intend on (fully) traversing the various canons).

I also value compression and time in this sense, and so I think I can propose a subject that might serve as an "ideal introduction" (I have an accurate meaning for this phrase I won't introduce atm).

I've read a lot of posts/blogs/papers that are arguments which are founded on a certain difficulties, where the observation and admission of this difficulty leads the author and the reader (and perhaps the originator of the problem/solution outlines) to defer to some form of a (relative to what will follow) long winded solution.

I would like to suggest, as a blanket observation and proposal, that most of these difficult problems described, especially on a site like this, are easily solvable with the introduction of an objective and ultra-stable metric for valuation.


I think maybe at first this will seem like an empty proposal.  I think then, and also, some will see it as devilry (which I doubt anyone here thinks exists).  And I think I will be accused of many of the fallacies and pitfalls that have already been previously warned about in the canons.

That latter point I think might suggest that I might learn well and fast from this post as interested and helpful people can point me to specific articles and I WILL read them with sincere intent to understand them (so far they are very well written in the sense that I feel I understand them because they are simple enough) and I will ask questions.

But I also think ultimately it will be shown that my proposal and my understanding of it doesn't really fall to any of these traps, and as I learn the canonical arguments I will be able to show how my proposal properly addresses them.

Open thread, Jan. 16 - Jan. 22, 2016

2 MrMind 16 January 2017 07:52AM

If it's worth saying, but not worth its own post, then it goes here.


Notes for future OT posters:

1. Please add the 'open_thread' tag.

2. Check if there is an active Open Thread before posting a new one. (Immediately before; refresh the list-of-threads page before posting.)

3. Open Threads should start on Monday, and end on Sunday.

4. Unflag the two options "Notify me of new top level comments on this article" and "

[Link] Be someone – be recognized by the system and promoted – or do something

3 James_Miller 15 January 2017 09:22PM

X Is Not About Y: Technological Improvements and Cognitive-Physical Demands

1 Gram_Stone 15 January 2017 05:49PM

(I, the author, no longer endorse this article. I find it naive in hindsight.)

 

Recall the following template:

In some cases, human beings have evolved in such fashion as to think that they are doing X for prosocial reason Y, but when human beings actually do X, other adaptations execute to promote self-benefiting consequence Z.

I work in the sign industry, and it's worth knowing that the sign industry mostly involves printing images on cast sheets of polyvinyl chloride with adhesive on the back of it. This allows you to stick a graphic just about anywhere. Good-old-fashioned signs are now just a special case of vinyl application where the surface is a quadrilateral.

But sometimes, it seems like you could cut out the vinyl installation process: if you just wanted a solid white sign with some black text, and the substrate you're going to apply the vinyl to is already white, wouldn't it be nice if you could just print some black text directly on the substrate?

That's what a flatbed printer is for, which you can imagine as your standard HP desktop printer at 100x magnification with an unusually long air hockey table where the paper slot should be.

Now, when the management was trying to get the workforce excited about this new technological artifact, they would say things like, "This new artifact will reduce the amount of time that you spend on vinyl application, leaving you less stressed and with a decreased workload."

But when we actually started to use the artifact, our jobs didn't actually become less stressful, and our workloads didn't actually decrease.

I mean, yeah, we could technically produce the same number of signs in less time, but a corollary of this statement is that we could produce more signs in the same amount of time, which is what we actually did.

So, I propose the subtemplate:

Employer proposes the introduction of technological artifact X, ostensibly to reduce physical or cognitive demands, but when the employer actually introduces technological artifact X, they realize it can be used to increase output and do that instead.

I wonder if anyone else has more examples?

[Link] Defusing Hate: A Strategic Communication Guide to Counteract Dangerous Speech

2 morganism 14 January 2017 11:07PM

[Link] Offenders' deadly thoughts may hold answer to reducing crime

0 morganism 13 January 2017 11:25PM

[Link] Robotics and AI enabling autonomous defense.Technology Foresight research program

0 morganism 13 January 2017 07:15PM

Weekly LW Meetups

2 FrankAdamek 13 January 2017 04:49PM

Irregularly scheduled Less Wrong meetups are taking place in:

The following meetups take place in cities with regular scheduling, but involve a change in time or location, special meeting content, or simply a helpful reminder about the meetup:

Locations with regularly scheduled meetups: Austin, Baltimore, Berlin, Boston, Brussels, Buffalo, Canberra, Columbus, Denver, Kraków, London, Madison WI, Melbourne, Moscow, Netherlands, New Hampshire, New York, Philadelphia, Prague, Research Triangle NC, San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, St. Petersburg, Sydney, Tel Aviv, Toronto, Vienna, Washington DC, and West Los Angeles. There's also a 24/7 online study hall for coworking LWers and a Slack channel for daily discussion and online meetups on Sunday night US time.

continue reading »

[Link] Light activates amaglyda triggering hunting in mice

0 morganism 12 January 2017 11:44PM

[Link] Dominic Cummings: how the Brexit referendum was won

16 The_Jaded_One 12 January 2017 09:26PM

[Link] A Cruciverbalist’s Introduction to Bayesian reasoning

1 Davidmanheim 12 January 2017 08:43PM

[Link] pplapi is a virtual database of the entire human population.

1 morganism 12 January 2017 02:33AM

[Link] EA Has A Lying Problem

12 Benquo 11 January 2017 10:31PM

[Link] Rationality 101 videotaped presentation with link to slides in description (from our LessWrong meetup introductory event)

0 Gleb_Tsipursky 11 January 2017 07:07PM

[Link] Disjunctive AI scenarios: Individual or collective takeoff?

3 Kaj_Sotala 11 January 2017 03:43PM

[Link] Stuart Ritche reviews Keith Stanovich's book "The rationality quotient: Toward a test of rational thinking"

4 Stefan_Schubert 11 January 2017 11:51AM

Planning the Enemy's Retreat

15 Gram_Stone 11 January 2017 05:44AM

Related: Leave a Line of Retreat

When I was smaller, I was sitting at home watching The Mummy, with my mother, ironically enough. There's a character by the name of Bernard Burns, and you only need to know two things about him. The first thing you need to know is that the titular antagonist steals his eyes and tongue because, hey, eyes and tongues spoil after a while you know, and it's been three thousand years.

The second thing is that Bernard Burns was the spitting image of my father. I was terrified! I imagined my father, lost and alone, certain that he would die, unable to see, unable even to properly scream!

After this frightening ordeal, I had the conversation in which it is revealed that fiction is not reality, that actions in movies don't really have consequences, that apparent consequences are merely imagined and portrayed.

Of course I knew this on some level. I think the difference between the way children and adults experience fiction is a matter of degree and not kind. And when you're an adult, suppressing those automatic responses to fiction has itself become so automatic, that you experience fiction as a thing compartmentalized. You always know that the description of consequences in the fiction will not by magic have fire breathed into them, that Imhotep cannot gently step out of the frame and really remove your real father's real eyes.

So, even though we often use fiction to engage, to make things feel more real, in another way, once we grow, I think fiction gives us the chance to entertain formidable ideas at a comfortable distance.

A great user once said, "Vague anxieties are powerful anxieties." Related to this is the simple rationality technique of Leaving a Line of Retreat: before evaluating the plausibility of a highly cherished or deeply frightening belief, one visualizes the consequences of the highly cherished belief being false, or of the deeply frightening belief being true. We hope that it will thereby become just a little easier to evaluate the plausibility of that belief, for if we are wrong, at least we know what we're doing about it. Sometimes, if not often, what you'd really do about it isn't as bad as your intuitions would have you think.

If I had to put my finger on the source of that technique's power, I would name its ability to reduce the perceived hedonic costs of truthseeking. It's hard to estimate the plausibility of a charged idea because you expect your undesired outcome to feel very bad, and we naturally avoid this. The trick is in realizing that, in any given situation, you have almost certainly overestimated how bad it would really feel.

But Sun Tzu didn't just plan his own retreats; he also planned his enemies' retreats. What if your interlocutor has not practiced the rationality technique of Leaving a Line of Retreat? Well, Sun Tzu might say, "Leave one for them."

As I noted in the beginning, adults automatically compartmentalize fiction away from reality. It is simply easier for me to watch The Mummy than it was when I was eight. The formidable idea of my father having his eyes and tongue removed is easier to hold at a distance.

Thus, I hypothesize, truth in fiction is hedonically cheap to seek.

When you recite the Litany of Gendlin, you do so because it makes seemingly bad things seem less bad. I propose that the idea generalizes: when you're experiencing fiction, everything seems less bad than its conceivably real counterpart, it's stuck inside the book, and any ideas within will then seem less formidable. The idea is that you can use fiction as an implicit line of retreat, that you can use it to make anything seem less bad by making it make-believe, and thus, safe. The key, though, is that not everything inside of fiction is stuck inside of fiction forever. Sometimes conclusions that are valid in fiction also turn out to be valid in reality. 

This is hard to use on yourself, because you can't make a real scary idea into fiction, or shoehorn your scary idea into existing fiction, and then make it feel far away. You'll know where the fiction came from. But I think it works well on others.

I don't think I can really get the point across in the way that I'd like without an example. This proposed technique was an accidental discovery, like popsicles or the Slinky:

A history student friend of mine was playing Fallout: New Vegas, and he wanted to talk to me about which ending he should choose. The conversation seemed mostly optimized for entertaining one another, and, hoping not to disappoint, I tried to intertwine my fictional ramblings with bona fide insights. The student was considering giving power to a democratic government, but he didn't feel very good about it, mostly because this fictional democracy was meant to represent anything that anyone has ever said is wrong with at least one democracy, plausible or not.

"The question you have to ask yourself," I proposed to the student, "is 'Do I value democracy because it is a good system, or do I value democracy per se?' A lot of people will admit that they value democracy per se. But that seems wrong to me. That means that if someone showed you a better system that you could verify was better, you would say 'This is good governance, but the purpose of government is not good governance, the purpose of government is democracy.' I do, however, understand democracy as a 'current best bet' or local maximum."

I have in fact gotten wide-eyed stares for saying things like that, even granting the closing ethical injunction on democracy as local maximum. I find that unusual, because it seems like one of the first steps you would take towards thinking about politics clearly, to not equivocate democracy with good governance. If you were further in the past and the fashionable political system were not democracy but monarchy, and you, like many others, consider democracy preferable to monarchy, then upon a future human revealing to you the notion of a modern democracy, you would find yourself saying, regrettably, "This is good governance, but the purpose of government is not good governance, the purpose of government is monarchy."

But because we were arguing for fictional governments, our autocracies, or monarchies, or whatever non-democratic governments heretofore unseen, could not by magic have fire breathed into them. For me to entertain the idea of a non-democratic government in reality would have solicited incredulous stares. For me to entertain the idea in fiction is good conversation.

The student is one of two people with whom I've had this precise conversation, and I do mean in the particular sense of "Which Fallout ending do I pick?" I snuck this opinion into both, and both came back weeks later to tell me that they spent a lot of time thinking about that particular part of the conversation, and that the opinion I shared seemed deep.

Also, one of them told me that they had recently received some incredulous stares.

So I think this works, at least sometimes. It looks like you can sneak scary ideas into fiction, and make them seem just non-scary enough for someone to arrive at an accurate belief about that scary idea.

I do wonder though, if you could generalize this even more. How else could you reduce the perceived hedonic costs of truthseeking?

[Link] Case Studies Highlighting CFAR’s Impact on Existential Risk

4 Unnamed 10 January 2017 06:51PM

[Link] Project: Artificial Intelligence, Autonomous Weapons, and Meaningful Human Control

1 morganism 09 January 2017 11:25PM

[Link] Why a Theory of Change is better than a Theory of Action for acheiving goals

3 ete 09 January 2017 01:46PM

View more: Next