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Comment author: ChristianKl 19 February 2017 07:47:01AM 0 points [-]

By looking, listening, touching etc. in a meditative state of concentration, the mind will naturally process the input and discover more and more nuanced patterns and subtleties.

You can discover new perceptions during meditation but it's good to find names and ways to conceptualize for them. If you don't do that it can be mentally destabilizing.

In Pierget's states of learning you are at accommodation but you don't go to equilibration.

Learning new categories for conceptualization in a way that they become native categories unfortunately takes more time than a 4-day workshop and as such the focus on teaching powerful individual techniques that CFAR does doesn't go deep into it. It's not as easy to demostrate.

If you however actually do practice Gendlin's Focusing a lot, that technique will lead to the acquisition of new categories that will reach the state of equilibration.

Comment author: ChristianKl 19 February 2017 07:24:41AM 0 points [-]

Just to be clear. There's plenty of NLP literature that's pragmatic in the sense of wanting to offer quick fixes or specific tricks. This book is not that kind of book but more meta and how to do modelling.

Comment author: tukabel 19 February 2017 04:21:09AM 0 points [-]

Well, GDP, productivity... so 19th century-ish.

How about GIP?

Gross Intelligence Product?

Comment author: AspiringRationalist 19 February 2017 03:18:09AM 0 points [-]

I don't think whether the group's average output increases or decreases is the right metric. What's important is whether the newly enlarged group's output is higher than what the group and its new members' total output would be if the groups weren't merged - do the immigrants become more productive by immigrating, and do they make the native population more or less productive?

Comment author: korin43 19 February 2017 03:15:54AM 0 points [-]

I'm not insured if I break my own vases, so how does this argue against my point that you should pay other people to move your stuff? If you also want insurance then you should hire a fancier moving company than I do.

Regarding the truck, I always rent my own truck and pay other people to pack it.

Comment author: korin43 19 February 2017 03:08:22AM 0 points [-]

I think you're being too risk averse here. How do you know you hired a competent person? Can you really be sure that they didn't do something stupid? Are you sure you won't need the money you spend on them for something else? Obviously you should do a cost benefit analysis, but in the cases I mentioned, the costs are way too high for basically no benefit besides saving a small amount of time.

Comment author: AspiringRationalist 19 February 2017 02:21:20AM 0 points [-]

Just because something is an easy thing doesn't mean you will know it's an easy thing.

That's pretty much why I made this thread: so that I (and others) could learn that something that we didn't realize are easy actually are.

Comment author: gwillen 19 February 2017 01:11:10AM 0 points [-]

Hm, my fox (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hedgehog_and_the_Fox) and satisficer instincts really really don't the recommendation to 'unwind partial funding'. (I feel like there's a lot of stuff mixed into this post, but I am only talking about partial funding issues.) I thought I had seen something similar to the rough argument I'm about to make in a GiveWell/OPP blogpost, but it's not in the one you're writing about, so I'm not sure whether I did or not. If I did, I am probably partly plagiarizing it, badly.

The argument basically goes this way: I think it's very often the case that a mixed strategy is a good idea in practice, even if you're totally sure that one of two pure strategies must be superior, but you can't tell with any confidence which one it is.

It seems to me that you're arguing it's better to pick whichever of the two pure strategies -- full funding or no funding -- seems more likely than not to be superior, rather than do some of each. (It seems like in reality you think fully funding is a clear winner, but in 'Unwind partial funding' you seem to allow that either is possible -- just not anything in between.) In fact, I see in a longer post you state the notion that "GiveWell thinks that its recommendation underperformed opportunity cost, and therefore did net harm." As far as I can tell from my sense of your meaning, this is a perfectly utilitarian position, but the idea that underperforming opportunity cost is a net harm implies that any possible action that GiveWell takes with imperfect information is doing vast, tremendous, incalculable amounts of net harm. No matter how much good they do relative to the state of the world if they didn't exist, they are doomed to do huge quantities of net harm, relative to the world where they have certainty about what the optimal choices actually are.

This doesn't seem like a very encouraging position to take, in a messy world where human beings with extremely limited knowledge and optimization capacity are slowly groping their way towards doing good.

So I bristle at the idea that, because GiveWell is concerned that Good Ventures fully-funding their charities might cause harm -- but is certain that Good Ventures not funding those charities at all would cause harm -- they should be subject to moral outrage for some sort of dishonesty because they chose to hedge their bets.

In response to comment by gjm on Basic Income. org
Comment author: morganism 18 February 2017 11:51:05PM 0 points [-]

Frontrunning

https://secure.marketwatch.com/story/hsbc-foreign-exchange-executive-charged-with-front-running-order-2016-07-20-151031929

http://www.businessinsider.com/bank-of-america-accused-of-front-unning-2014-1

https://www.quora.com/Is-HFT-basically-electronic-front-running-due-to-differing-latency

Article out this week on the microwave vs. fiber time delay between NY and Chicago, and a new trans-Atlantic cable being laid just for London quote time efficiency.

Algo trading researcher

http://www.nanex.net/NxResearch/

And the SEC doesn't think he is accurate, but...

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-flashcrash-nanex-idUSTRE6935SA20101004

I would like to see a fee imposed on puts, and have a long enough time for those micro-payments to clear, so that an actual, visible quote is available to call them, rather than just a ramping of prices. It doesn't have to be large, but it does have to clear, to stabilize prices a bit.

I also think you should have to buy your shorts, not just borrow them. Some closely held corps don't even have enough outstanding shares to cover what some short sellers are using against them.

Comment author: Erfeyah 18 February 2017 10:17:14PM 0 points [-]

Ah sorry. Didn't get it :)

Comment author: lifelonglearner 18 February 2017 10:05:17PM 0 points [-]

I've done some mindfulness mediation, but I haven't made it into a consistent practice. I was trying to compress the sorts of potential health benefits, general life improvements etc. into a black box of "reasons" (which otherwise might have spiraled into its own discussion) with the capital "Reasons".

Comment author: lifelonglearner 18 February 2017 10:02:54PM 0 points [-]

Seems good. I was trying to gesture at the typical LW definition, but this is helpful too. Thanks!

Comment author: Erfeyah 18 February 2017 08:55:00PM *  0 points [-]

You are still acting with an operating system. What you perceive depends a lot on your mental categories. You can change what you perceive by learning new categories.

I was referring to the identification of the operating system with the internal dialogue that I see in the article. But you are making a further point.

It is true that our perception can be refined by the acquisition of new mental categories. If these categories are presented to us in the form of words then we have to correctly perceive them in our environment. These words are the means by which other people communicate to us what they have discovered through their senses. Our own refinement has to be experiential using their words as a map/guideline. The first person that discovers new refinements though may do it in a different way. By looking, listening, touching etc. in a meditative state of concentration, the mind will naturally process the input and discover more and more nuanced patterns and subtleties. The result can be formulated in intellectual terms and then fed back to the process (I am simplifying a more fluid and complex process here).

Comment author: ChristianKl 18 February 2017 08:36:38PM 2 points [-]

I think the the project of Wikidata is quite important for having this kind of data within easy each.

Comment author: Erfeyah 18 February 2017 08:29:13PM 0 points [-]

Indeed, that is what I am pointing at. I am just not sure lifelonglearner realises that these states are possible.

Comment author: Erfeyah 18 February 2017 08:25:40PM 0 points [-]

Erm, I'm trying to point to the sort of mindfulness where you're thinking about your tasks rather than just doing them. Something like, "Ah yes, now let's go and do this written assignment. Okay, looks like I need to write about post-modernism. What do I know about post-modernism? Huh, I notice I am feeling bored..."

Yes, that is what I thought. If you are thinking in sound/language you are using your internal dialogue. Mindfulness is pausing your internal dialogue and focusing your senses on the current experience. Not talking to yourself about what you are doing. What I think is happening, and this is an assumption on my part, is that you have never experienced the stopping of your internal dialogue as it seldom happens spontaneously.

But I also buy the claim that complete "non-thinking" can be helpful for Reasons, which I assume is not the same thing as the above.

I am not sure what you mean by 'Reasons' but I do believe practising meditation, concentration and contemplation (please avoid, in your mind, associating my use of the terms to religion) are essential. As essential as practising our intellectual skills.

Comment author: ChristianKl 18 February 2017 08:13:23PM *  1 point [-]

The textbook definition of rationality from Thinking and deciding is:

The best kind of thinking, which we shall call rational thinking, is whatever kind of thinking best helps people achieve their goals. If it should turn out that following the rules of formal logic leads to eternal happiness, then it is “rational thinking” to follow the laws of logic (assuming that we all want eternal happiness). If it should turn out, on the other hand, that carefully violating the laws of logic at every turn leads to eternal happiness, then it is these violations that we shall call “rational.” When I argue that certain kinds of thinking are “most rational,” I mean that these help people achieve their goals. Such arguments could be wrong. If so, some other sort of thinking is most rational.

Comment author: lifelonglearner 18 February 2017 08:10:29PM 0 points [-]

Huh, okay. Yeah, I suspect that everything I'm coming to terms with has already been integrated in some form by people across time / communities.

I do like pragmatism, so I'm making a note to check out the Cameron-Bandler book. Thanks for the reference!

Comment author: ChristianKl 18 February 2017 08:09:16PM 0 points [-]

Could you also clarify what you mean with "blank time". When we leave our brain to run on its own the internal dialogue does not stop. We are just flooded with automatic thoughts. No?

There are types of meditation that lead to mental states where the flooding stops.

Comment author: ChristianKl 18 February 2017 07:54:33PM *  0 points [-]

If, for example, you are acting through [3], walking around having only (to the extent it is possible) direct perceptual representations in your mind and no internal dialogue, would you say that you are acting without an operating system?

You are still acting with an operating system. What you perceive depends a lot on your mental categories. You can change what you perceive by learning new categories.

Phonemes in foreign language are interesting. For most native German speakers 'cap' and 'cab' and 'believe' and 'belief' sound the same. Normal acquisition of a foreign language in adulthood doesn't give you the ability to make this distinction. On the other hand I have programmed an Android App that can teach the ability to distinguish the sounds.

The phoneme example is quite simple and easy to explain but the same goes also for more complex categorizations. I learn my anatomy to be able to better perceive human anatomy and this is a standard way of developing finer perceptive skill in the form of bodywork that I am learning.

Comment author: ChristianKl 18 February 2017 07:46:44PM 0 points [-]

A lot of this post sounds like the NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) way of dealing with mental models.

NLP is not without it's flaws but a lot of people invested a lot of time into building it.

If you want to go deeper into modeling mental processes in a pragmatic way I would recommend you to read The Emprint Method by Leslie Cameron-Bandler. The book speaks about how to do modeling of thought processes and presents notation for how to do it.

Comment author: lifelonglearner 18 February 2017 07:25:49PM *  0 points [-]

Just to make sure we are talking about the same things here. What do you mean 'meta-aware'? Could you describe to me your internal experience when you are meta-aware?

Erm, I'm trying to point to the sort of mindfulness where you're thinking about your tasks rather than just doing them. Something like, "Ah yes, now let's go and do this written assignment. Okay, looks like I need to write about post-modernism. What do I know about post-modernism? Huh, I notice I am feeling bored..."

Could you also clarify what you mean with "blank time". When we leave our brain to run on its own the internal dialogue does not stop. We are just flooded with automatic thoughts. No?

I think there's several things I was trying to describe. I've found that leaving my brain to run on its own can be good, but it feels less like there's an internal observer that's speaking. Thoughts just sort of stream in, in wordless impulses and hazy flashes.

But I also buy the claim that complete "non-thinking" can be helpful for Reasons, which I assume is not the same thing as the above.

Comment author: Erfeyah 18 February 2017 07:09:47PM *  0 points [-]

Yes, we don't seem to disagree much. Just to clarify a few points one last time and answer your questions.

So I think that it can feel much the same from the inside; I think we both agree that it's not exactly the same thing, though?

Yes, I agree. They are of much lower clarity. Nevertheless, I do currently believe it is basically the same process. I am basing this on my exploration of the dream state in which without external stimulus I can get perfect realistic (and even hyper-realistic) full sensory experiences.

(sorry, I know this is not really on topic with your post. I was just pointing to the internal dialogue which we now agree on)

If "operating system" isn't the right word, I'm trying to point at "a way of internally representing your mind that gives you increased perspective on how your mind works, which might also cache certain algorithms that are representation dependent." Maybe "abstraction layer" already covers most of this?

My opinion is that there is no need to create a label. 'Belief system' already exists as a term and I think it describes what you are talking about. You became aware of what a 'belief system' is and realised you can change it. It is a powerful realisation. You could use other terms as well as metaphors if you are trying to teach people of what a belief system is, but that is another subject.

I think we're in agreement here as well. I suspect it'd be taxing and suboptimal for people to be meta-aware all of the time, vis a vis the textbook rationality mindset.

Just to make sure we are talking about the same things here. What do you mean 'meta-aware'? Could you describe to me your internal experience when you are meta-aware?

In other cases, things like "blank time" where you're not thinking can be good for letting your brain just run on its own. Or, deliberate "non-thinking" can have helpful effects too.

Could you also clarify what you mean with "blank time". When we leave our brain to run on its own the internal dialogue does not stop. We are just flooded with automatic thoughts. No?

Comment author: Vaniver 18 February 2017 06:30:58PM 1 point [-]

Hanson's answer is that if you know someone is doing this, there's free money to pick up, and so the incentives push against this. (You don't have to specifically know that X is out to spike the market, you just have to look at the market and say "whoa, that price is off, I should trade.") There's still the problem of linking markets of different sizes--if the prediction market is less liquid and much smaller than the stock market, but the stock market is taking signals from the prediction market, then it makes sense to lose a million on the prediction market to gain a billion on the stock market.

(The solution there is to make the prediction market more liquid and bigger, which currently doesn't happen for regulatory reasons.)

Comment author: lifelonglearner 18 February 2017 06:17:45PM 0 points [-]

But it is still a fact that we can mentally reproduce, with varying amounts of skill, any of our senses internally.

I agree that from the sense of my internal experience, I can use solely my brain to conjure up internal states similar to those I'd get from actually having sense experience. So I think that it can feel much the same from the inside; I think we both agree that it's not exactly the same thing, though?

I just think that we should not call it operating system as the brain can operate without the need for constant intellectual input. I believe it is important as it is a kind of blind spot of western culture that considers the internal dialogue as a constant.

My internal dialogue is not always on, and I am aware of this, so I think we're in agreement here too. If "operating system" isn't the right word, I'm trying to point at "a way of internally representing your mind that gives you increased perspective on how your mind works, which might also cache certain algorithms that are representation dependent." Maybe "abstraction layer" already covers most of this?

Also, there are cool things to do with your brain by stopping the intellectual part. Your answer gave me the impression that you would consider walking around (or doing anything else) not thinking as a missed opportunity or a waste of time. If that is so, I can say, from personal experience which you may or may not believe I have, that you are mistaken.

I think we're in agreement here as well. I suspect it'd be taxing and suboptimal for people to be meta-aware all of the time, vis a vis the textbook rationality mindset. I think that rationality is one of several ontologies you can be using, which might be good for achieving certain goals.

In other cases, things like "blank time" where you're not thinking can be good for letting your brain just run on its own. Or, deliberate "non-thinking" can have helpful effects too.

But there are other ways so I am not sure about the 'different' characterisation.

By "different", I just mean how rationality techniques like focusing and precommitment seem to be based off of differing assumptions of how the mind works. I think that's pretty reasonable?

Comment author: Erfeyah 18 February 2017 05:50:50PM *  0 points [-]

Heyo :)

I'm unsure if the sense-reproduction point would be exactly the same, but I'm not a neurologist. (Like, would the same parts of the brain that govern visual perception light up when you ask someone to imagine a dog? What about people with not so great visual imaginations?)

You mean exactly the same as perceiving it? It would not be because in perception the image is continuously updated by the senses. There are practices that purport to reach extremely high levels of visualisation skills but I do not have experience with them. My visualisation skills are not that great either. But it is still a fact that we can mentally reproduce, with varying amounts of skill, any of our senses internally. Notice how good we are with the internal dialogue's sound reproduction which we have been practising all our lives.

I think that if you were walking around with [3], you wouldn't currently be implementing a useful operating system in the sense of allowing you to do cool things with your brain.

I just think that we should not call it operating system as the brain can operate without the need for constant intellectual input. I believe it is important as it is a kind of blind spot of western culture that considers the internal dialogue as a constant. So I instead might refer to it as 'the intellect', parts of which are 'belief systems' and the 'methods of rationality'.

Also, there are cool things to do with your brain by stopping the intellectual part. Your answer gave me the impression that you would consider walking around (or doing anything else) not thinking as a missed opportunity or a waste of time. If that is so, I can say, from personal experience which you may or may not believe I have, that you are mistaken.

To be clear, I don't always think that your brain is under an operating system, but the idea of an ontology seems to be a useful abstraction that explains why rationality techniques seem to be different or why learning them can give people a general mindset boost.

I agree. I consider an 'ontology' to be a 'belief system' and I think there is definitely value in realising that! If you reach that realisation through rationality that is great! But there are other ways so I am not sure about the 'different' characterisation.

Comment author: Jiro 18 February 2017 04:46:27PM 0 points [-]

We have the internet now. You can look up how to do these things.

But where do you get the knowledge to know that you picked the right guide off the Internet and that it isn't going to violate housing codes that don't exist in the area of the person who made the guide? Or how do you know that it isn't going to have a long term chemical reaction with the floorboards because the guy writing the guide didn't have such floorboards and didn't bother to mention the possibility? Or any of many things that could go wrong? You need knowledge in the first place in order to know which source has knowledge you can trust.

And regarding renting from the hardware store: it seems to work out fine for most people

I didn't even know that there is such a thing as renting from the hardware store.

Comment author: Jiro 18 February 2017 04:39:40PM *  0 points [-]

This was about paying people at the price level that requires hiring a random person, not hiring professional movers. I'm pretty sure the $20 guy off of Craigslist isn't insured when he breaks your vases, and there's also a chance that if the move goes bad he'll just disappear (no fixed business address). I'm also pretty sure that there's nothing in practice keeping him from saying "okay, now that it's all on our truck we won't unload unless you pay us $300", at which point you either pay, or sue him while they have physical custody of all your property.

Comment author: korin43 18 February 2017 04:11:59PM 0 points [-]

You generally pay movers when they're done, so the only risk is the status quo (they don't show up and you have to do it yourself).

Comment author: korin43 18 February 2017 04:09:01PM 0 points [-]

We have the internet now. You can look up how to do these things.

And regarding renting from the hardware store: it seems to work out fine for most people, but I got a blower that didn't work right (since hardware stores don't maintain rarely used tools well) and that made it take a lot longer than it should have (mostly driving because I don't live anywhere near a hardware store or tool rental store). The worst case scenario if you make this mistake is that you return your (free) hardware store rental and go to a tool rental store anyway. I'm just trying to save other people time if they try this.

Comment author: korin43 18 February 2017 04:01:03PM 1 point [-]

"It is also well known from a large number of psych studies that people are really bad at integrating base rates into their thinking. Maybe this is why they are so rarely featured in the news? My hope is that by pairing each headline with a bit of base rate information, we can become better informed and address both negativity and get a better sense for trends over time."

The author uses sparklines showing historical data next to headlines to give context. One example is showing number of avalanche deaths per year (total, in controlled terrain, and in uncontrolled terrain) next to a headline about 29 people dying in an avalanche. Another shows how diverse cabinets were (% female, % non white, % non Christian) in 1997 and 2017 for a headline about the first aboriginal Australian cabinet member.

I'm not a fan of how the graphs are indecipherable without hovering but I really like this idea.

Comment author: lifelonglearner 18 February 2017 03:41:51PM *  0 points [-]

Hi Erfeyah,

Thanks for your thoughts!

I agree that your examples give a much broader sense of things that can happen in the mind. There's also things like recalling memories / daydreaming which also don't seem to fall into my category.

I'm unsure if the sense-reproduction point would be exactly the same, but I'm not a neurologist. (Like, would the same parts of the brain that govern visual perception light up when you ask someone to imagine a dog? What about people with not so great visual imaginations?)

I think that if you were walking around with [3], you wouldn't currently be implementing a useful operating system in the sense of allowing you to do cool things with your brain. To be clear, I don't always think that your brain is under an operating system, but the idea of an ontology seems to be a useful abstraction that explains why rationality techniques seem to be different or why learning them can give people a general mindset boost.

(Is that clearer? Unsure if I got the meaning across.)

The Wegner book is new to me. Thanks for pointing it out!

I'm unsure if we're pointing to the same thing when we say "lever", though, as my explanation in this essay was pretty shoddy. By "lever", I mean a mental action that is available to you, like many of the CFAR techniques like Murphyjitsu. Like, it's a mental "motion" you can go through in your brain, a little like a step-by-step algorithm.

Comment author: Erfeyah 18 February 2017 01:46:07PM *  0 points [-]

I agree with a lot of the article but I get the feeling you are putting too much weight on the internal dialogue. I am interested to hear your thoughts.

The human mind has the ability to reproduce constructs that were imported from the senses in the imagination. The reproduction of the sense of hearing in the imagination allows us to use mentally reproduced sounds in the form of language and create the internal dialogue. But we can, in the same way, reproduce any of the senses such as reproducing the image of a dog in our mind. You can do the same (depending on the strength of your imagination) for smell, touch, taste etc. and all their combinations in complex scenes.

So apart from exploring the internal dialogue through the internal dialogue itself you have many other options. A few examples:

  1. Observe the dialogue without manipulation
  2. Stop the stream of the imagination containing the internal dialogue for varied amounts of time
  3. Stop all imaginary activity .... etc.

If, for example, you are acting through [3], walking around having only (to the extent it is possible) direct perceptual representations in your mind and no internal dialogue, would you say that you are acting without an operating system?

It is also worth pointing out that rational 'levers' (rationalisations) are but one and not necessarily the best strategy to use for mental control. For some examples of the complexities involved I recommend Daniel Wegner's wonderful book 'White Bears and Other Unwanted Thoughts: Suppression, Obsession, and the Psychology of Mental Control'.

Comment author: bogus 18 February 2017 01:00:34PM *  0 points [-]

Here you have once again done something that you have done a number of times before, which is to "round off" my meaning to something completely different from what I intended.

That sort of misunderstanding is a risk in any discussion, of course. I have no quibble against either the appreciation of 'ordinary skill', or "the increased ability ... to appreciate someone else doing something as the result of having tried yourself". Both are normal dynamics in a participatory culture. But AIUI it would be wrong to state that 'sensationalistic superstimulus' plays no part at all in the popular appreciation of "top" art-music performers.

...You seem to be uncomfortable with the "messiness" of modernism

I am less concerned about messiness persay than about lost purposes - after all, there is certainly quite a bit of "messiness" in other sorts of music (e.g. in early music, or some current subcultures of mass/popular music)! Regardless, I am quite willing to be convinced otherwise. (I do also agree that some critiques of musical "modernism" are rather off the mark, most clearly when they simultaneously elevate all the 'usual suspects' - starting from Beethoven's music, sometimes even Wagner's - to quintessential and transcendent "landmarks" of Western culture! That attitude is certainly Ra, and I suspect it might be what you're getting at here.)

(1) You enjoy mass-cultural popular music a lot more than I do; but my lack of enjoyment does not particularly result from a lack of understanding of what is going on in the music.

I think it's certainly possible that you don't enjoy mass-cultural popular music at all, which would make the claim true. As it happens my interest in present-day popular music is sort of tangential.

(2) I enjoy modernist art-music a lot more than you do; and some degree of comprehension failure is implicated in your lack of enjoyment.

I certainly don't claim to understand 'modernist art-music' in detail, although I'm abstractly familiar with the basics of what is supposedly going on in that sort of music. (Stated differently, one could also say that my familiarity and even my enjoyment of that kind of music is limited to "far mode", and does not extend to "near mode".) By contrast though, I do fully enjoy some pretty late 19th-c. and early 20th c.composers such as e.g. Richard Strauss, even though I'd say that a full "comprehension" of what that music involves is quite non-trivial.

(It would be interesting to know about your stance towards styles other than contemporary pop or modernist art music. That might help me understand your point of view somewhat better).

Comment author: The_Jaded_One 18 February 2017 10:24:03AM 0 points [-]

I don't believe for one moment that using a Balrog analogy actually makes people understand the argument when they otherwise wouldn't.

I disagree, I think there is value in analogies when used carefully.

It is a fallacy to think of AI risk as like Balrogs because someone has written a plausible-sounding story comparing it to Balrogs.

Yes, I also agree with this; you have to be careful of implicitly using fiction as evidence.

Comment author: gjm 18 February 2017 02:46:59AM 1 point [-]

the frontrunning that algorithmic trading is driving

[citation needed]

it is what causes flash crashes, and huge price spikes

[citation needed]

and also is too easy to game that system by having a faster connection

You can certainly make more money in HFT with a faster connection. Why is that actually a problem for anyone other than (other) would-be high-frequency traders?

Would also be nice to force folks to "buy" their shorts, instead of just "borrowing" stocks to short.

What exactly is your proposal?

Comment author: komponisto 18 February 2017 01:14:52AM 1 point [-]

Not so. Fetishizing extreme 'skill', virtuosity, stardom etc. is a marker of a consumer culture, not a participatory one.

Here you have once again done something that you have done a number of times before, which is to "round off" my meaning to something completely different from what I intended. A skill-level hierarchy is a completely different concept from the fetishizing of extreme skill, to the point where they are almost opposites: extreme skill will tend to be fetishized (as opposed to admired) in situations where ordinary skill is not appreciated -- situations where sensationalistic superstimulus is required for "the audience" to tell that anything interesting is going on at all.

In the early days of video games as a spectator sport, some people wondered how watching someone play a video game could possibly be interesting. The people who wondered that tended to have less experience playing video games themselves than the actual audience did. The increased ability (and, in particular, the detailed ability) to appreciate someone else doing something as the result of having tried to do it yourself is what I am talking about when I talk about there being a hierarchy of skill levels.

Consider something like chess, where enthusiasts who know where they stand via their Elo rating also get more out of watching top masters play than passive audiences do.

But it's quite doubtful to me that even the "anti-populist fortress" of academia (as you put it later in your comment)

You will notice that I said that academia is not an anti-populist fortress. Hence your reversion to far mode to talk about what "most academic composers" seem to be doing or not doing is beside the point. I don't think academia is a healthy system, and I think Babbitt was wrong to expect it to foster his activity. (In fact, it barely did so in his own specific case, as he often complained about, despite the fact that he operated mostly during a time when academia seemed much more promising than it does now.)

Forgive the tu quoque, but I find it interesting that you say

I for one don't think of Ra-worship as especially worthwhile, either artistically or in a broader social sense

given that according to my model, Ra-worship is basically the generating force behind your entire argument. You seem to be uncomfortable with the "messiness" of modernism (which, I claim, is what you're really talking about when you talk about "academia", even though the trend in academia, guided by Ra, is away from modernism and toward promoting people like Part and Saariaho as opposed to people like Babbitt and Ferneyhough), the contrarianness of a stance that says "to heck with mass culture, and the 'trends of our time', I want to be more interesting than that".

It would be interesting to know what you think of the following two claims:

(1) You enjoy mass-cultural popular music a lot more than I do; but my lack of enjoyment does not particularly result from a lack of understanding of what is going on in the music.

(2) I enjoy modernist art-music a lot more than you do; and some degree of comprehension failure is implicated in your lack of enjoyment.

I believe both of these, but am more confident in (1), which is informed directly by your comments (including under a possible alias elsewhere), than (2), where priors are doing most of the work.

Comment author: Zian 17 February 2017 10:54:29PM 0 points [-]

We can only infer that something bad has happened. In the worst case scenario (as HPMOR is so fond of recommending), the company has been taken over by hostile aliens and is now pumping out poisons to destroy as many humans as possible.

In response to comment by gjm on Basic Income. org
Comment author: morganism 17 February 2017 10:51:05PM 0 points [-]

Actually, we really need at minimum, is a put/call fee, just to slow down the frontrunning that algorithmic trading is driving, it is what causes flash crashes, and huge price spikes, and also is too easy to game that system by having a faster connection...

Would also be nice to force folks to "buy" their shorts, instead of just "borrowing" stocks to short. Too easy to force a hostile takeover that way, and causes companies to carry toxic loads of debt to keep em from being ripe targets.

Comment author: Elo 17 February 2017 10:48:10PM 1 point [-]

driving up grocery prices:
flour
salt

lost all credibility to me.

Comment author: morganism 17 February 2017 10:43:13PM *  0 points [-]

yum.

just found some ming beans sprouts that should go in here when you pour/crack the egg in...

http://www.mariespastiche.com/2014/01/around-world-with-pancakes-chinese-jian.html

http://jianbingjohnnys.com/

just a cheap and easy way to counter the "cheap food" meme everyone is talking about

http://247wallst.com/special-report/2017/02/10/20-groceries-driving-up-your-bill-the-most/print/

Comment author: morganism 17 February 2017 10:42:43PM 1 point [-]

Nature news

"Gene drives thwarted by emergence of resistant organisms"

"The Target Malaria team has developed a second generation of gene-drive mosquitoes, hoping to slow the development of resistance, says Andrea Crisanti, a molecular parasitologist at Imperial College London. The researchers plan to test them in their new Italian facility later this year to get a sense of how the mosquitoes might fare in the wild. But molecular biologist Tony Nolan, also at Imperial, expects evolution to throw up some surprises. He says that his greatest worry about gene drives is that they simply won’t work."

http://www.nature.com/news/gene-drives-thwarted-by-emergence-of-resistant-organisms-1.21397

Comment author: gjm 17 February 2017 10:29:33PM 0 points [-]

This assumes that introducing transaction fees sufficient to bring in $300B/year in revenue would not change trading behaviour in a way that (1) substantially reduces that $300B/year figure and/or (2) has other adverse consequences.

(It might, of course, have good consequences. The author seems to think so -- "they'd discourage speculation and help stabilize our financial system". It would have been nice if they'd explained why they think that.)

Comment author: Jiro 17 February 2017 10:09:57PM 0 points [-]

Paying people carries risks. "I paid $20 and it worked great!" just means you took the risk and got lucky. It doesn't mean that taking the risk was a wise thing to do.

Comment author: Jiro 17 February 2017 10:07:35PM 1 point [-]

Just because something is an easy thing doesn't mean you will know it's an easy thing. When you figure out whether it's worth it you need to consider the chance that it may look easy but is not really easy. After all, if you don't know anything about insulation blowing, how would you know if there's some way it could go badly wrong that you haven't heard about? Also, you're ignoring the cost of getting the knowledge to do the easy thing. (Really, I'm supposed to know I have to go to a tool rental store?

Comment author: sleepingthinker 17 February 2017 10:05:57PM 0 points [-]

My opinion is that you body has a limited capacity to do anything. For example if you are weight training, you might improve year by year, but eventually you will hit a limit of what is humanly possible and won't be able to make any gains.

Willpower is probably similar (but in a much shorter timespan). Willpower has to be a limited resource, since by doing different activities you consume energy and thereby have less energy available to do other things. The fact that you have less energy impacts your willpower.

However on the other hand, the human body is capable of much more than you think. That's where the effect of the second wind comes in. At some points you are able to muster up your last amounts of energy and push through, right at the time you thought you were done.

Comment author: Jiro 17 February 2017 10:03:36PM 2 points [-]

I don't believe for one moment that using a Balrog analogy actually makes people understand the argument when they otherwise wouldn't.

It is a fallacy to think of AI risk as like Balrogs because someone has written a plausible-sounding story comparing it to Balrogs. And that seems to be the main effect of the Balrog analogy.

In response to Basic Income. org
Comment author: morganism 17 February 2017 09:50:42PM 0 points [-]

Universal income can come from universal assets"

"modest transaction fees on trades of stocks, bonds and deriva­tives could generate more than $300 billion per year. Such fees would not only generate in­come for everyone; they’d discourage speculation and help stabilize our financial system. Similar fees could be applied to patent and royalty earnings, which are returns not only to inno­va­tion but also to mono­poly rights granted and enforced by society."

"In the game Monopoly, $200 is the amount every player gets for passing Go. Such cash infusions aren’t bad for the game; instead they help all players play the game. The same would happen in our real economy if everyone gets infusions of $200 a month. The extra money would relieve some burdens of working families and heighten their chances for success and satisfac­tion. And it would stimulate our economy without higher debt."

http://evonomics.com/how-to-pay-for-universal-basic-income/

Comment author: WhySpace 17 February 2017 09:33:57PM *  0 points [-]

Agreed. I'd love to see even more of all of these sorts of things, but the low margin nature of the industry makes this somewhat difficult to attack directly, so there isn't anywhere near as much money being invested in that direction as I would like.

I believe NASA has gotten crop yields high enough that a single person can be fed off of only ~25 m^2 of land, (figure may be off, or may be m^3 or something, but that's what I vaguely recall.) but that would have been with fancy hydroponic/aquaponic/aeroponic setups or something, and extremely high crop density. It would be awesome to see fully automated vertical greenhouses pumping out GMO produce for almost 0 cost.

I recently saw someone joke about engineering GMO wheat as an invasive species to out-compete grass. If we wanted to, I suppose we could also replace all the planet's trees with fruit trees, and build ourselves a garden of Eden, with an absurd surplus of food, available for free. That's probably a little extreme, considering that some people are rather attached to nature as it is, but maybe we'll terraform other planets like that?

Just some musings and paradise engineering. It’s interesting to consider various post-scarcity economies where things we work hard for are as common as air.

Comment author: WhySpace 17 February 2017 09:07:07PM *  0 points [-]

A job is a cost

Agreed. When I said the "cost to local jobs" I was being informal, but referring to the (supposed) increase in unemployment as Walmart displaces local, less efficient small businesses.

Paying people to do a job which can be eliminated is like paying people to dig holes and fill them back in. I'd rather just give them the money than pay them to do useless work, but I'll take the second option over them being unemployed.

As an interesting side note, I think this might put me on the opposite side of the standard anti-Walmart argument. The meme argues that, Walmart not paying its workers a living wage and making it difficult to unionize forces the government to step in and provide aid, and that this is in effect subsidizing Walmart.

However, because Walmart sells mainly to the poor, I am in favor of subsidizing them in any way that passes through to the poor and doesn’t get skimmed off the top. Maybe that would mean I’d even be against a law forcing them to pay $10/hr or some such, if the benefits to the employees didn’t outweigh the net drawbacks to the customers.

Mainly I just find it depressing that all current political narratives seem to ignore these complexities, and boil down to “Walmart bad” or “markets good” or whatever. Maybe some more intelligent conversations happen behind closed doors, where no one can hear politicians make sane concessions to the other side.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 17 February 2017 09:06:36PM 2 points [-]

Extra short tl;dr: manage the feedback loops that report problems with your core causal variables. 'Incentives' describes whether or not these signals are propagating through the organization to reach the key people who can pull the correct levers.

Comment author: Lumifer 17 February 2017 08:24:20PM 0 points [-]

through most of history and prehistory, the economic growth rate has been much, much, smaller

True, and I think not many people want a return to those times (some do, though, mostly on environmentalist grounds).

increases in national wealth tend not to translate into proportional increases in purchasing power for [the poor] ... My point is that they aren't 5% better off each year, even though the economic growth rate is about maybe 7.5-ish-percent with maybe 2.5% inflation.

That's the whole growing-inequality debate, a separate highly complicated topic.

outweigh the cost to local jobs

Economically speaking, a job is a cost. If you can produce the same value with fewer jobs, that's a good thing called an increase in productivity.

Comment author: ChristianKl 17 February 2017 07:57:37PM 1 point [-]

Only a tiny fraction of startups are aimed at making rent cheaper or groceries affordable

Selling groceries is a low margin business. There isn't much room for a startup to sell radically cheaper groceries.

At the same time companies like Amazon do invest in optimizing grocery sales. Technology such as self-driving trucks have the potential to lower grocery prices. There are also various companies who work on making farming more efficient. Both GMO and putting more robots on farmland has the potential to make food production more efficient.

Comment author: WhySpace 17 February 2017 07:44:49PM *  0 points [-]

these are called "recessions" and ... "depressions".

Ha, very good point. Our current society is largely built around growth, and when growth stops the negative effects absolutely do trickle down, even to people who don't own stocks. In fact, companies were counting on those increases, and so have major issues when they don't materialize, and need to get rid of workers to cut costs.

I will mention that through most of history and prehistory, the economic growth rate has been much, much, smaller. I haven't read it, so I can't vouch for its quality, but apparently the book The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality suggests that economic growth can't continue indefinitely due to physics limitations, and lays out a framework for transitioning to a post-growth economy. I have no idea how gentle or unpleasant such a transition might actually be. (Also, note that I am hopeful that we can avoid resource limitations by transitioning to a space based economy, and am nowhere near as pessimistic as I think the authors are likely to be.)

China.

China did indeed achieve massive benefits from industrialization. There's a lot of evidence that maximizing economic growth is an excellent way to play catch-up and obtain modern amenities for your population. Perhaps it's even the fastest theoretically possible way, since access to capital is the limiting factor for improved quality of life, and selling cheap stuff gets you lots of capital. I don't think developing countries should try communism or anything like that, unless for some reason they expect it to result in higher economic growth, since the data suggests that free markets are much better for them.

I would, however, suggest that the price of basic amenities appears to me to be a limiting factor in the quality of life of poor people in developed nations, and that increases in national wealth tend not to translate into proportional increases in purchasing power for them, although there is still some gain. (As I said before, I should really look into the details, though.) I see 2 basic classes of solutions:

  1. You can try to funnel more goods and money to them. This might be done through tax structures, aid programs, education, basic income, etc. Either you try and improve their earning potential, or give them things directly, but either way they wind up with more. The end result is that they can purchase more such amenities at the same price, or perhaps a little cheaper due to more economies of scale and more competition for those items.

  2. You can try to funnel more R&D into the sorts of things that the poor want than a free market would otherwise do. Most of the ways of doing this will cut into GDP somewhat, but maybe there are some public good type things that would out-preform the market, but where the benefits are difficult for one company to capture. A dollar spent on specific types of education, for example, may increase GDP by more than 1 dollar. However, since it can be difficult to capture a return on investment,^[1] we have a tragedy of the commons scenario, and government or some powerful entity has to step up and foot the bill for the common good, if we want things like that. (Note that I'm not sure that this is still true on the margin, just that if we cut all funding for education that the GDP would drop by more than the amount saved.)

No one

I was being a bit hyperbolic there, but you'll note that I followed it with 2 examples of startups which might in the future actually be cheaper than what the poor currently use. (3D printing might remove labor costs from construction, and Soylent has aspirations of making food into a utility. I probably should have said so specifically.)

Walmart is a good point. I’m not sure whether the benefits from cheaper goods outweigh the cost to local jobs, but I’m sure we’ve both heard the complaints. That’s getting dangerously close to talking politics, so I’d prefer to avoid getting into details, but I’d be interested if anyone knows of any academic research or cost-benefit analyses.

Uber may be cheaper than taxis, and AirBnB may be cheaper than hotels, but the poor don't use taxis or hotels. I am hopeful that self-driving cars will make transportation cheap enough that the poor benefit, though.

My point wasn't that the poor aren't any better off decade by decade. That appears to be false. My point is that they aren't 5% better off each year, even though the economic growth rate is about maybe 7.5-ish-percent with maybe 2.5% inflation. So, most (but not all) of that growth is going into sectors which don't benefit the poor much.


[1] Interestingly, this appears to be precisely what Signal Data Science's business model is. They teach you in exchange for a fraction of your future salary. However, perhaps due to irrationality, there doesn't seem to be a wider market for this sort of thing.

Comment author: The_Jaded_One 17 February 2017 07:14:01PM 1 point [-]

I think this is more useful as a piece that fleshes out the arguments; a philosophical dialogue.

Comment author: ChristianKl 17 February 2017 06:49:20PM 2 points [-]

When it comes to funding science higher GDP means more tax revenue and thus more science even when GDP/person stays the same.

The same goes for a new TV serial.

Comment author: Fluttershy 17 February 2017 06:19:24PM 4 points [-]

There's actually a noteworthy passage on how prediction markets could fail in one of Dominic's other recent blog posts I've been wanting to get a second opinion on for a while:

NB. Something to ponder: a) hedge funds were betting heavily on the basis of private polling [for Brexit] and b) I know at least two ‘quant’ funds had accurate data (they had said throughout the last fortnight their data showed it between 50-50 and 52-48 for Leave and their last polls were just a point off), and therefore c) they, and others in a similar position, had a strong incentive to game betting markets to increase their chances of large gains from inside knowledge. If you know the probability of X happening is much higher than markets are pricing, partly because financial markets are looking at betting markets, then there is a strong incentive to use betting markets to send false signals and give competitors an inaccurate picture. I have no idea if this happened, and nobody even hinted to me that it had, but it is worth asking: given the huge rewards to be made and the relatively trivial amounts of money needed to distort betting markets, why would intelligent well-resourced agents not do this, and therefore how much confidence should we have in betting markets as accurate signals about political events with big effects on financial markets?

Comment author: Lumifer 17 February 2017 06:16:15PM 0 points [-]

Well, yes, by "you" I meant "all you people" :-D

I think the appropriate word in the context is "plausible".

Making a small step towards seriousness, yes, Ilúvatar suddenly taking interest in Middle Earth isn't terribly plausible, but super-specificity has its place in Tolkien's world: the only way Sauron can be defeated is by dropping some magical jewelry into a very specific place.

Comment author: Fluttershy 17 February 2017 06:13:44PM 2 points [-]

The idea that there's much to be gained by crafting institutions, organizations, and teams which can train and direct people better seems like it could flower into an EA cause, if someone wanted it to. From reading the first post in the series, I think that that's a core part of what Dominic is getting at:

We could significantly improve the decisions of the most powerful 100 people in the UK or the world for less than a million dollars (~£10^6) and a decade-long project on a scale of just ~£10^7 could have dramatic effects.

Comment author: gjm 17 February 2017 06:04:36PM 1 point [-]

It doesn't seem like he's trying to make it not look like a blog post. (If he were, he'd have removed the bits that explicitly say it is one.)

Comment author: gjm 17 February 2017 06:02:27PM 0 points [-]

I'm not using the word at all in this thread, so far as I can recall. FWIW neither of those seems super-realistic to me given Tolkien's premises.

Comment author: gjm 17 February 2017 06:01:00PM 0 points [-]

Pretty poor environmentally too, if you care about that. (I expect plastic plates are recyclable ... if you wash them first.)

Comment author: Lumifer 17 February 2017 05:53:50PM *  1 point [-]

happiness, which is only distantly linked to things like GDP and productivity, at least in developed nations

This implies that no one cares much about periods when the GDP growth turns negative -- and these are called "recessions" and, when the contraction is severe enough, "depressions". Is that so?

economic growth is disproportionately focused on better meeting the desires of those with more money

I don't think that's the case. Take a recent economic growth success story -- China. The major effect was lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.

No one starts startups to make rent cheaper or groceries affordable

I don't think that's the case as well (as long as we are talking about consequences rather than intentions). Uber is cheaper than taxis, AirBnB is cheaper than hotels, etc. And Walmart was a startup before startups were cool :-P

Comment author: WhySpace 17 February 2017 05:29:44PM *  0 points [-]

I'd like to take this a step further, even. If you are a utilitarian, for example, what you really care about is happiness, which is only distantly linked to things like GDP and productivity, at least in developed nations. People who have more money spend more money,^[citation_needed] so economic growth is disproportionately focused on better meeting the desires of those with more money. Maybe the economy doubles every couple decades, but that doesn't mean that the poor have twice as much too. I would be interested to know precisely how much more they actually do have, perhaps as measured by decreasing inflation adjusted rent prices, food cost, utility costs, used car prices, bus fare, etc.

Only a tiny fraction of startups are aimed at making rent cheaper or groceries affordable, although such benefits may sometimes trickle down. I'm somewhat hopeful for things like 3D printed luxury homes for the wealthy or Soylent for techies who want to countersignal.

If the rich really were utility monsters capable of enjoying each dollar of luxury items at least as much as the poor would enjoy the dollar, then there wouldn't be a problem according to a pure hedonic utilitarian. (Although, a desire for Fairness is apparently a human universal, according to moral foundations theory, so actual humans would be uncomfortable with this, even if their Liberty value was stronger, and overrode the concerns with fairness.)

It appears that money really can buy happiness for the poor, and that's still somewhat true for the middle class, but once you get to around upper middle class, it becomes extremely difficult to even measure additional gains in happiness. It's not clear to me that there even are gains beyond that point, but feel free to read the article on Happiness Economics yourself, particularly the sections on the effects of income on individuals, and the GDP/GNP section.

In fact, some countries appear to be much happier than you'd predict just based on knowing their GDP, while others are much less happy. This TED talk makes the case for optimizing for Social Progress Index rather than GDP, but I believe the field of Happiness Economics also uses things like Gross National Happiness, Satisfaction with Life Index, and the World Happiness Report, and I don't really know enough to have a strong opinion between them. I just think something in that general direction is a better metric than GDP or productivity.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 17 February 2017 04:56:06PM 0 points [-]

Is there a directory of the gods and monsters somewhere? If not, I think I'll start one.

Comment author: Good_Burning_Plastic 17 February 2017 04:40:10PM 0 points [-]

Good point. This also helps me guess whether hot-air hand-dryers are more efficient than paper towels.

(I had read "paper towels save energy compared to hot-air driers" and I thought "what about the paper?", or was it "hot-air driers save paper compared to paper towels" and I thought "what about the energy?"? Or both?)

Comment author: Decius 17 February 2017 04:23:42PM 0 points [-]

You assume that balrogs can only be stopped by unmined bedrock. Since the chance of a given balrog being stopped by bedrock but not by the combined efforts of the dwarves is muniscule compared to the chance of a weak one that can be stopped by mithril-clad soldiers or a strong one that can dig through mere stone, the best defense against balrogs is to mine and guard the mines well.

Comment author: g_pepper 17 February 2017 03:58:21PM 1 point [-]

Nice, succinct statement of the Unfriendly AGI argument, and written 53 years ago!

Comment author: Lumifer 17 February 2017 03:57:28PM *  0 points [-]

So you are using the word in the sense that a balrog "realistically" can be killed only by a very specific magic sword, or, say, Ilúvatar "realistically" decides that all this is too much and puts his foot down (with an audible splat!)? X-)

Comment author: Lumifer 17 February 2017 03:50:25PM 0 points [-]

Yeah, both the ergonomics and the hedonics of disposable plates/cups/cutlery are pretty awful, IMHO. And if you cook you need to wash things, anyway.

Comment author: Viliam 17 February 2017 03:49:29PM 2 points [-]

If you are playing a game according to certain rules and set the playing-machine to play for victory, you will get victory if you get anything at all, and the machine will not pay the slightest attention to any consideration except victory according to the rules. If you are playing a war game with a certain conventional interpretation of victory, victory will be the goal at any cost, even that of extermination of your own side, unless this condition of survival is explicitly contained in the definition of victory according to which you program the machine.

While it is always possible to ask for something other than what we really want, this possibility is most serious when the process by which we are to obtain our wish is indirect, and the degree to which we have obtained our wish is not clear until the very end. Usually we realize our wishes, insofar as we do actually realize them, by a feedback process, in which we compare the degree of attainment of intermediate goals with our anticipation of them. In this process, the feedback goes through us, and we can turn back before it is too late. If the feedback is built into a machine that cannot be inspected until the final goal is attained, the possibilities for catastrophe are greatly increased.

A goal-seeking mechanism will not necessarily seek our goals unless we design it for that purpose, and in that designing we must foresee all steps of the process for which it is designed, instead of exercising a tentative foresight which goes up to a certain point, and can be continued from that point on as new difficulties arise. The penalties for errors of foresight, great as they are now, will be enormously increased as automation comes into its full use.

-- Norbert Wiener, God and Golem, 1964

Comment author: sixes_and_sevens 17 February 2017 01:50:28PM 1 point [-]

Here is some colourful language for you: Dominic Cummings makes my memetic immune system want to vomit.

Part of it is because he sets off my Malcolm-Gladwell-o-Meter, but mostly it’s because he’s trying so hard to appear more knowledgeable and well-educated than he actually is. He surrounds himself with the trappings of expertise he obviously doesn’t have. Case in point: this “paper” is clearly a blog post which he converted to PDF via MS Word because he thinks that makes it look more credible.

The effect for me is a bit like receiving an email from a Nigerian prince, asking for your help in getting millions of dollars out of the country. My response is approximately the same.

Comment author: gjm 17 February 2017 01:37:23PM 0 points [-]

I think Houshalter thinks it means "given the premises, is this a way things are likely to turn out?". It might be true that "balrog eats hobbits, destroys Middle-earth" is a realistic outcome given everything up to the release of the balrog as premise.

Comment author: gjm 17 February 2017 01:35:12PM 0 points [-]

Having a place to collect such links seems reasonable. I don't think that place should be a link-post.

Comment author: gjm 17 February 2017 01:33:25PM 6 points [-]

I thought the usual claim was not "immigration increases total GDP" but "immigration increases per-capita GDP". Random example: this paper which, full disclosure, I have not read but only looked at the abstract linked.

I'm not sure any measure of GDP (total or per capita) is a great way of assessing immigration. Consider the following scenarios:

  • A scenario like Phil's: An immigrant moves from a poor country to a rich country. They somehow become less productive when they do this, and earn less than they did before. But their income is positive, so the total GDP of the rich country goes up.
  • A scenario showing the opposite problem: An immigrant moves from a poor country to a rich country. In the rich country they earn less than the average person there, but more than they did before. The immigrant is better off. The other inhabitants of the rich country are (in total) better off. But per capita GDP has gone down.

It seems to me that to avoid Simpson's-Paradox-like confusion what we really want to know is: when some people migrate from country A to country B, what happens to (1) the total "GDP" of just the people who were already in country B and (2) the total "GDP" of just the people who moved from country A? We might also care about (3) the total "GDP" of those who remain in country B. My guess, FWIW, is that #1 and #2 both go up while #3 goes down.

Comment author: Viliam 17 February 2017 01:21:59PM *  1 point [-]

(...continued...)

Configuration management, [...] ‘you define at each stage what you think the design is going to be within your present ability. After you describe it you let everybody know what it is when you change it.’ Contractors could only change things that did not affect anyone else. Only program managers could authorise changes that affected interfaces and other things with effects across the whole system. To those who objected Mueller replied that the first ICBMs built with configuration management were the first delivered within budget and schedule

Mueller pursued concurrent development of some systems. Although this was criticised as wasteful, Mueller always argued that it saved lots of money in the long-term and the real problem is that Congress and politicians do not think long-term. His view was that it would have been cheaper and more productive long-term to use concurrent development more widely than he was able to given his budget constraints. ‘Time is money’, he told people repeatedly: if you save lots of time, you save lots of money.

He also scrapped the conservative and lengthy testing schedule that would test each stage before proceeding to the next. Instead there would be ‘all-up testing’ with all elements active and as close to lunar configuration as possible

The speed and precision of information sharing were rapidly improved. Instead of monthly updates, Mueller wanted daily updates. All data were displayed in a central control room [...] They even spent time building specialised communications systems such as a ‘teleservices network’ to connect the teams and data and provide the ability to hold teleconferencing. Information was updated fast and shared widely [...] He inherited a management council of 14 at the apex of the hierarchy and cut it to 4 (himself and the three centre directors)

Mueller and others had the next stages planned to capitalise on the success of Apollo by building substantial infrastructure in space for science and commerce including: a re-usable space plane to cut the cost per kilogram into orbit dramatically, a system of permanent space stations around the earth and moon serviced by inter-orbital transfer vehicles and lunar landing vehicles ‘like a railroad in space’ (thus also saving huge amounts of money because of not having to escape earth’s gravity each trip), a permanent manned lunar base in the 1970s, a manned trip to Mars in the 1980s [...] These plans would also have involved big investments in computation and software which were a major roadblock for Apollo.

Tragically, after the success in 1969 ambitions were curtailed, funding was slashed [...] NASA slipped back to technical failure, repeated accidents, deaths, and wasteful budgets. It lost institutional memory and the culture that made it a success [...] Part of the reason, according to Mueller himself, is that the successful systems management approach he used for Apollo which came from TRW had to be forced on NASA. It did not grow there organically. [...] After the Challenger disaster, changes such as the ‘faster, better, cheaper’ reforms made many of the problems worse. The lack of integration got so bad that a $125 million Mars probe crashed because two teams did not realise that one of them was using imperial and the other metric units.

One of the strongest complaints from Mueller was the lack of long-term budgeting in Washington which focused on annual budgets and therefore imposed decisions which wasted money in the long-term. [...] Interestingly the scientific community, now so supportive of investment in space, was not in the 1950s and 1960s and they generally opposed many of Mueller’s plans on the foolish assumption that if they stopped money going to space they might get some of it. Scientists have made the same mistake repeatedly in such budget/political battles.

many things regarded by conventional wisdom as very low probability happen when a relatively tiny number of able people decide to change something.

  • Everybody in a large organisation must understand as much about the goals and plans as possible
  • There must be an overall approach in which the most important elements fit together, including in policy, management, and communications. Failures in complex projects, from renovating your house to designing a new welfare system, often occur at interfaces between parts.
  • Extreme transparency and communication, horizontally as well as hierarchically. [...] There is very little that needs to be kept secret in government and different processes can easily be developed for that very small number of things. [...] generally the advantages of communication hugely outweigh the dangers of leaks.
  • There must be a process whereby huge efforts go into the initial design of a complex system then there is a process whereby changes are made in a disciplined way such that a) interdependencies are tested where possible by relevant people before a change is agreed and b) then everybody relevant knows about the change.
  • organisations that have coped well with complexity have built novel control centres to reinforce extreme communication. Spend money and time on new technologies and processes to help spread orientation and learning through the organisation.
  • Long-term budgets save money
  • While overall vision, goals, and strategy usually comes from the top, it is vital that extreme decentralisation dominates operationally so that decisions are fast and unbureaucratic. Information must be shared centrally and horizontally across the organisation — it is not either/or.
  • meetings focused not on ‘reporting progress’ but making clear the problems. Simple as it sounds this is very unusual
  • Spending on redundancy to improve resilience
  • Important knowledge is discovered but then the innovation is standardised and codified so it can be easily learned and used by others
  • Saving time saves money.
  • The ‘matrix management’ system allowed coordination across different departments and different projects.
  • People and ideas were more important than technology.

[As opposed to the standard way government does things, such as...] I doubt a single department has proper orientation across most of the organisation [...] most ministers fail at [...] developing coherent goals — so effective orientation is inherently impossible. [...] keeps information secret that does not need to be secret in order to hide its own internal processes from scrutiny, thus adding to its own management failures and distrust (a vicious circle) [...] it does not put enough effort into the initial design then makes haphazard changes then fails to communicate changes effectively [...] every department lies to the Treasury and provides fake numbers. [...] The Treasury does not have the expertise to evaluate most of what they are looking at. [...] routinely nobody is held responsible for errors and most management works on the basis of ‘give me good news not bad news’. [...] By the time the long-term happens, the responsible people have all moved on to better paid jobs and nobody is accountable. [...] for example, in the Department for Education officials systematically destroyed its own library. [...] The Foreign Office similarly destroyed its own library. [...] its obsession is bullshit process for buck-passing and it fights with all its might against simplification and focus. [...] The system naturally pushes for the longest periods they can get away with to give themselves what they think of as a chance to beat ‘expectations’ but then they often fail on absurdly long timetables [...] it is hopeless at assembling interdisciplinary teams and elevates legal advice over everything [...] IT projects fail repeatedly in the same ways because of failures of management, not ‘lack of investment’, and adding people to flawed projects is not a solution.

Ministers have little grip of departments and little power to change their direction. They can’t hire or fire and they can’t set incentives. They are almost never in a job long enough to acquire much useful knowledge and they almost never have the sort of management skills that provide alternative value to specific knowledge. They have little chance to change anything and officials ensure this little chance becomes almost no chance.

Comment author: Viliam 17 February 2017 01:21:30PM 1 point [-]

The second half of the article contains the specific details.

The government system [...] is a combination of [...] centralisation of power among ministers, officials, and advisers almost none of whom are +3 standard deviations (~1:1,000) on even one relevant dimension (IQ, willpower/toughness, management ability, metacognition etc) because the selection, education, training, and incentives are screwed [...] extremely powerful bureaucracy (closed to outside people and ideas) defined by dysfunctional management incentivised to spew rules rather than solve problems [...] most major elements of the system including political parties are incentivised to focus on trivia, not solve deep problems; [...] a media programmed largely to spread confusion combined with an intelligentsia that even (especially!) at the highest levels is dominated by a political culture of fairy tales and very little understanding about effective action [...] This is a system failure — the political system possesses few error-correcting features seen in markets and the scientific method so it cannot fix itself.

The good news is that we have discovered a lot about high performance teams (HPTs) stretching back thousands of years of recorded history and literature. The bad news is that our evolved nature makes it very hard to accept and apply these lessons and our political institutions are constructed in such a way as to make it practically impossible (and mostly illegal) for them to reach high performance. Even more difficult: HPTs are inherently dangerous and in many areas we must be wary of giving them centralised power.

When high technology projects passed a threshold of complexity post-1945 amid the extreme pressure of the early Cold War, new management ideas emerged. [...] eading to the successful moon landing in 1969 [...] These ideas were known as ‘systems engineering’ and ‘systems management’.

The ‘scientific management’ revolution was introduced by Frederick Winslow Taylor in the early 20th Century. [...] Taylor demonstrated that he could make more steel, faster, and cheaper than anybody else [...] The secret was not a breakthrough technology but a breakthrough management process. He paid extreme attention to the details of each aspect of the manufacturing process and experimented to optimise each part. [...] What had been skilled jobs relying on judgement became less skilled jobs performing simple repetitive tasks. [...] It depended on a rigid hierarchy in which those at the bottom were told not to think but to execute simple tasks in the exact way stipulated. [...] While his approach works for certain sorts of relatively simple operation it cannot be extended to relatively complex operations.

Managers and writers on management such as Drucker had grappled in the 1940s with the issue of how scientists, engineers, and innovation fit with Taylor’s ideas of ‘scientific management’. Their knowledge and skills were beyond almost all normal managers. The insights and innovations they generated could not be routinised as per Taylor’s methods.

A new committee, the ICBM Scientific Advisory Committee, was created and chaired by von Neumann so that eminent scientists could remain involved. [...] Schriever then had to fight to remove endless tiers of the government bureaucracy demanding the right of approval and endless people who could say ‘no’ but not ‘yes’ that immediately stymied progress despite the supposed ‘top priority’. [...] Gardner, skilled in bureaucratic infighting, created a stacked committee that managed to prise almost all the normal bureaucratic hands off the ICBM project [...] Schriever now only needed a single approval of a single document each year. [...] this was a first for the Air Force ‘where the project manager had both technical and budgetary authority’ as previously every project drew funds from several budgets and required separate processes for making decisions. Insiders said later it would have been declared illegal if it had not been a classified project. Almost everybody hated the arrangement.

Armed with his unprecedented authority, Schriever pursued what became known as ‘concurrency’ — pursuing several options in parallel ‘in the interest of compressing time — our most critical commodity’. Groves had done the same on the Manhattan Project. The engineers developed much more rigorous systems for exhaustive testing, component inspection and tracking, and ‘configuration control’. [...] They built new long-distance phone systems including encrypted links and teletype facilities. [...] chedules were standardised across all the different players and coordinated centrally but in such a way that managers could access them and see quickly the status of the project. ‘Black Saturdays’ were monthly days on which the whole project was reviewed and responsibility for all problems assigned to individuals. They were ‘black’ because the purpose was to discuss the bad news. ‘Give me the bad news. I can take it. I will not fire you for giving me the bad news. I will fire you if you don’t give me the bad news’, Schriever said (echoing Warren Buffett: gimme the bad news, the good news can wait). If they hit apparently intractable technical problems, calls would go out to von Neumann’s committee for scientific help.

‘Matrix management’ allowed organisations to manage projects using people spread across different functional departments all reporting to a project manager as well as their department head. ‘Configuration control’ and ‘configuration management’ connected changes to specifications, designs, hardware, and operational and testing procedures within an overall system for scheduling. Engineers were required to give schedule and cost estimates with requests for any technical change, allowing managers to monitor what was happening and who was slipping. All changes had to be notified, approved, and then communicated widely. It allowed the engineers to coordinate subsystems. Before this, said one involved, ‘we didn’t have a record of how we made it successful. So we were having random success, the worst thing that can happen to you because you know you got it right but you can’t repeat it.’ It allowed the accountant and legal experts to see the ties between cost and scheduling documents and contractual documents.

The heart of the idea was the need to ensure that the project was managed with an overall understanding of the whole system so that all the complex parts were properly integrated. Many of the failures came from the failure of integration and problems with technical and schedule compatibility of interfaces. Integrating the system required integrating disparate teams and specialised expertise (scientists, engineers, military officers, managers) and building an organisation-wide orientation so that everybody had an understanding of the whole. All aspects of the organisation therefore had to communicate in much richer, deeper ways [...] so that ‘all of us understand what was going on throughout the program. [...] so many programs fail because everybody doesn't know what it is they are supposed to do

Mueller required the different NASA centre bosses (Florida, Texas etc) to report directly to him. He introduced a ‘matrix management’ system whereby teams in the centres reported both to his HQ and to their centre’s bosses. He then required the different teams, in different NASA centres, to communicate constantly with their functional counterparts at other centres and on other teams. His ‘five box’ structure meant that the five teams at HQ were copied in each centre: program control, systems engineering, testing, reliability, and flight operations. Managers and engineers in each box talked directly to their HQ equivalents outside their centre’s chain of command. One individual was clearly responsible for each key area [...] Daily communications down those five parallel lines is probably the most significant contribution to getting the program done

It is ‘amazing if you can get the CEO to come and see what the total program is and what his group’s problems are, how rapidly those problems get addressed and solved.

Comment author: gjm 17 February 2017 01:20:06PM 1 point [-]

So, the same order of magnitude as spending $1000 on a dishwasher that lasts 10 years. Though of course in that case you also have increased water usage. And time taken to put things in the dishwasher and back on the shelves, versus time to get new disposable things out of their packaging. And space taken up by the dishwasher and your crockery shelves, versus space taken up by boxes of disposable crockery. Etc.

So, I dunno how these things balance out for anyone else, but to me it isn't clear that disposable dinnerware is a win even if we completely ignore the fact that it's less pleasant to eat off/with. For me, the latter is the decisive factor. Disposable cutlery is horrible to use in comparison with real cutlery. Disposable plates are horrible to use in comparison with real plates. Maybe I think these things only because some bit of my brain thinks disposable stuff is low-status, but for what it's worth it doesn't feel at all that way to me. I find disposable cutlery horrible because it flexes and breaks, and because it's usually too small. I find disposable plates horrible because the paper ones flex and the plastic ones break, and because they're usually too small.

Comment author: bogus 17 February 2017 12:11:12PM *  0 points [-]

"Moral facts" (i.e. _facts_ about _morality_) are overall neither objective nor subjective; they're intersubjective, in that they are shared at least throughout a given community and moral code, and to some extent they're even shared among most human communities. (Somewhat paradoxically, when talking about the most widely-shared values - precisely those values that are closest to being 'objective', if only in an everyday sense! - we don't even use the term "morals" or "morality" but instead prefer to talk about "ethics", which in a stricter sense is rather the subject of how different facets of morality might interrelate and balance each other, what it even means to argue about morality, and the practical implications of these things for everyday life.)

Whether "moral facts" are human-independent is an interesting question in itself. I think one could definitely argue that a number of basic moral facts that most human communities share (such as the value of 'protection' and 'thriving') are in fact also shared by many social animals. If true, this would clearly imply a human-independent status for these moral facts. Perhaps more importantly, it would also point to the need to attribute some sort of moral relevance and personhood at least to the most 'highly-developed' social animals, such as the great apes (hominids) and perhaps even dolphins and whales.

Comment author: shanfyr 17 February 2017 09:55:25AM *  0 points [-]

Come on, water is easily renewable and degradable. Plastic is definitely not and even though paper is recyclable, it costs a lot more energy than a fair amount of water and a drop of soap.

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