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

Open Thread May 16 - May 22, 2016

6 Post author: Elo 15 May 2016 11:35PM

If it's worth saying, but not worth its own post (even in Discussion), 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 be posted in Discussion, and not Main.

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

Comments (121)

Comment author: DataPacRat 16 May 2016 05:10:57AM *  13 points [-]

Wrote Something Story-like

Living in Weirdtopia: Week One

Comment author: RolfAndreassen 17 May 2016 06:07:32AM 3 points [-]

This is awesome. Please write Week Two.

Comment author: DataPacRat 17 May 2016 08:12:09AM 1 point [-]

I'm currently out of decent ideas to keep Weirdtopia appropriately weird, so I'm focusing on other writing projects until such time as I can write a sequel that does justice to Week One. I can't promise it'll ever happen, but it's not out of the realm of possibility.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 19 May 2016 12:30:06AM *  0 points [-]

Liking it a lot. Have you read Return from the Stars?

Comment author: DataPacRat 19 May 2016 11:56:56AM 0 points [-]

Indeed I have, along with many other "Portal Fantasy" style SF stories in which a protagonist from a relatively recognizable culture is thrust by the authour into a less recognizable one. :)

Comment author: RomeoStevens 19 May 2016 11:14:37PM 0 points [-]

highlights? I'm a fan of the sub-genre but haven't encountered many likeable instances, probably mostly because I haven't spent much time searching for short stories rather than novels.

Comment author: DataPacRat 20 May 2016 02:14:25AM 1 point [-]
Comment author: MockTurtle 18 May 2016 10:00:16AM 0 points [-]

I really enjoyed this, it was very well written! Lots of fun new concepts, and plenty of fun old ones being used well.

Looking forward to reading more! Even if there aren't too many new weird things in whatever follows, I really want to see where the story goes.

Comment author: WalterL 17 May 2016 07:08:36PM 0 points [-]

I enjoyed this. Please let LW know if you ever write a chapter 2.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 20 May 2016 02:42:47PM 7 points [-]

I made a new blog on Tumblr. It has photos of smiling people! With more to come!

Why? Previously I happened to need pictures of smiles for a personal project. After going through an archive of photos for a while, I realized that looking at all the happy people made me feel happy and good. So I thought that I might make a habit out of looking at photos of smiling people, and sharing them.

Follow for a regular extra dose of happiness!

Comment author: username2 21 May 2016 08:40:55PM 2 points [-]

I remember seeing a study where clicking pictures of happy people improved their happiness but I can't find it now.

Comment author: harshhpareek 16 May 2016 02:57:20AM *  7 points [-]

Are there any newbies wandering these parts? Leave a comment here! I want to know if there's any interest in a weekly/fortnightly/monthly newbie thread?

By newbie, I mean that you've found LessWrong somewhat recently and are getting exposed to many ideas like those in the Sequences but you don't post because you wonder if the things you would talk about get discussed later or might have already been discussed somewhere.

LW has a reputation of being very harsh on newbies, so maybe a newbie thread where we can discuss things without annoying those critical people would give people a place to hang out.

Comment author: [deleted] 16 May 2016 10:15:49PM 7 points [-]

I signed up a few years back then left, slightly intimidated by the community (though I enjoyed reading the Sequences and discovered HPMOR through this site, which I then recommended to friends).

I also held back on posting from thinking regs would tire of rehashing old-to-them, new-to-me topics. The reason I just recently came back was from showing HPMOR to my boyfriend. I think a newbie thread would bring out some lurkers and help people better integrate into the community.

Great idea. :)

Comment author: Viliam 17 May 2016 08:26:59AM 5 points [-]

Okay, here is the Welcome Thread.

Comment author: Pimgd 17 May 2016 12:15:40PM 8 points [-]

This thread made me sign up because it is a big enough sign that you apparently care about new people - you're willing to go to that length to get people to sign up, so I'll guess I could create an account. Maybe that ought to lower the barrier for me to participate.

Comment author: gwern 16 May 2016 12:25:35AM *  6 points [-]

Some people here may be amused by my recent series of insomnia-inspired tweets, what if light novel titles were about statistics and children's series vs SF/horror movies.

Comment author: username2 16 May 2016 07:33:57AM 13 points [-]

I know anecdotes are not a statistically significant form of argument, but perhaps they do convey emotional ramifications. With that in mind, I'd like to share a rather extreme anecdote explaining one aspect of what is wrong with political discourse where the people making the arguments are attacked, rather than the arguments themselves.

Years ago, I knew this girl - lets call her Alice. We were very good friends, but that changed. I don't know why for certain - I cannot read minds - but I think it started when I disagreed with one of her feminist opinions. I didn't say anything particularly offensive, I didn't say all feminists are 300 pound whales (which is not true) nor did I say that women should not be allowed to vote. She said that in the US, the only legal way for a woman to defend herself against rape was by sticking her fingers up her assailants nose, with the implication that the US legal system does not care whether women get raped. I disagreed, saying that there are reasons why Americans have so many guns, and the biggest one is self defence. I said that lethal force is allowed to defend against much lesser crimes such as trespass, at least in some states, and that I couldn't imagine that any US state would have such strong restrictions on self-defence.

There were a few similar cases where I disagreed with her arguments for clear logical reasons, never attacking her or anyone else. And I think this flipped a switch in her brain, from friend to enemy, because from then on whenever I opened my mouth she would ridicule me.

We still hung out, but only because we were in the same circle of friends. One day, I said "You know this new drug you guys are doing? I've looked it up, and wikipedia says its more addictive than heroin." Alice looked at me as if I was something she'd stepped in. "Don't be ridiculous" she sneered. I shrugged and wandered off.

I didn't hear from them for a few months, for various reasons, not least that I wanted some distance from her and from drugs. The next time I heard from them, it was a phone call explaining that Alice's boyfriend - a really nice guy who I had known for years - had fatally overdosed on the drug I had tried to warn them about, and that one of my other friends was probably going to prison for supply or even manslaughter.

In situations such as this, it is some comfort to know that at least I tried to help. I did what I could, but if people ridicule me I cannot force them to take me seriously. In my head it was the saddest 'I told you so' ever, although I obviously did not mention this to anyone else.

It would be an exaggeration to say that if Alice hadn't shouted me down then this guy would still be alive. I'm not great at convincing people of things at the best of times, and I think other friends of mine had tried to warn about the dangers too. But I think the probability (that if Alice hadn't shouted me down then this guy would still be alive) is nontrivial.

Perhaps I should have shouted Alice down, told her to stop being a &^%$%$$. But I've always tried to follow the advice that the best way to deal with conflict is to calmly walk away, if possible.

Maybe its crass to make a political point of this, but if there is a point, then point I am trying to make is that when people criticise social justice warfare it might not be because we hate 'justice' or because we are evil cis white men (tm), but its the warfare we object to, because a group of people at war with themselves over ideology is so much weaker in every way. Is it so much to ask that arguments are debated, rather then by ridiculing, censoring, silencing the people who make the arguments?

So I'd like to say that regardless of whether you are a progressive or conservative, communist or an-cap or neoreactionary, I will engage with your arguments rather than trying to attack you, and even if I disagree with your politics I will take non-political arguments seriously. I hope you do so too.

Comment author: TimS 22 May 2016 04:09:04PM 0 points [-]

But I think the probability (that if Alice hadn't shouted me down then this guy would still be alive) is nontrivial.

I urge you to consider why you think this is true. You say that many other people warned this couple about the risks and all were blown off. If they had listened to your (or anyone's advice), there is a non-trivial chance of a different outcome. But was there a non-trivial chance you would persuade them differently?

(I'm also skeptical that your political disagreement had any effect on your persuasiveness regarding the danger of these drugs.)

Comment author: username2 01 June 2016 09:39:41PM 0 points [-]

I said I think other friends brought it up, but I'm not certain. What I meant is that while the chance of my talking them out of it, or at least talking them into some kinda moderation, is low, when the stakes are high even low probabilities are non-trivial in terms of expected value.

Why are you skeptical that political disagreements can break friendships? It can be worse - sometimes people get beaten up for supporting the wrong party.

Comment author: TimS 02 June 2016 02:12:34AM 0 points [-]

Why are you skeptical that political disagreements can break friendships?

Of course political disagreement can break friendships. But I'm urging you to consider that maybe you weren't friends, so that the likelihood that you could effect outcomes was negligible to the point that Pascal's Mugging considerations mean that your feelings of moral responsibility do not benefit you and might instead be some sort of Just-World distorted thinking.

Comment author: entirelyuseless 22 May 2016 04:28:04PM -1 points [-]

Whether it's true in that case or not, it frequently happens that someone will start to act like they disagree with you about everything, because they happen to disagree about a few issues. And that definitely can cause them to do things that they otherwise wouldn't do, just because you suggest that doing them is a bad idea.

Comment author: TimS 22 May 2016 09:48:52PM 2 points [-]

Alternatively, the causal arrow goes in the other direction. People don't give your practical opinions much weight, but you don't realize the gulf until you have a flare up about ideological disagreement.

I agree that ideological disagree can lead to lower weight to opinions, but if the gulf is as large as OP described, then I suspect the blow up was a symptom, not a cause.

Comment author: entirelyuseless 23 May 2016 01:34:36PM 0 points [-]

I know at least a few people who have >90% chance of agreeing with basically anything I say, if they happen to be in a good mood, and almost the same chance of disagreeing, if they happen to be in a bad mood.

Comment author: Lumifer 23 May 2016 03:14:49PM 1 point [-]

Do they actually mean anything by their (dis)agreement, or it's just content-free social noises indicating "good, good" or "bad, bad"?

Comment author: protostar 17 May 2016 01:04:02PM 0 points [-]

This sounds like the type of attitude I hope to encounter every time I navigate to a lesswrong page. Yes it's a basic version, but you felt you should post it, so maybe it's not obviously instantiated.

You say also "I've always tried to follow the advice that... if possible." Is it really that you're trying to do this, or is it just what you seem to do? Maybe you just do it, and when you think about it you can also come up with some reasons why it might be a good thing.

Comment author: username2 17 May 2016 08:31:07PM 0 points [-]

Well, I was heavily socialised to walk away from conflict, but I think it was more than that. It seemed like the rational thing to do, getting into arguments being the emotional and atavistic thing. In retrospect, this seems like straw vulcanism.

Comment author: ChristianKl 19 May 2016 05:49:11PM 2 points [-]

To be fair talking a group of drug addicts out of taking a specific drug isn't easy. If you don't have strong social skills and therefore the expectancy of success is low, it's not that necessarily bad to avoid a fight.

Comment author: username2 17 May 2016 07:40:11AM -2 points [-]

But I've always tried to follow the advice that the best way to deal with conflict is to calmly walk away, if possible.

Wow that is quite possibly the worst advice I have ever heard, without exaggeration. Walking away is a 'solution' that will literally never solve the problem. Now there are times when the best strategic move is to not engage, but that is a statement of priorities and/or timing. But never, not once do you solve a problem by ignoring it. Walking away is not a solution. I hope at least that lesson was learned from this tragic accident :(

Comment author: Lumifer 17 May 2016 02:22:29PM 7 points [-]

But never, not once do you solve a problem by ignoring it.

Some problems are not for you to solve. Don't just do something, stand there.

Comment author: Pimgd 17 May 2016 12:22:34PM 3 points [-]

Walking away from problems in traffic (like when you have a near miss because someone else made a steering mistake) is usually a lot better than getting into a heated argument about what an <expletive> this other person is for not noticing you even although you had your lights on and everything. Walking away works if you're not likely to interact with the other person in the future. Walking away also works if you're not likely to interact in the context of X with the other person in the future.

As always, there is a middle path where sometimes walking away is good and some times it isn't, but "that will literally never solve the problem" is only correct if you see "the problem" as "the grievance that has just occurred".

Comment author: username2 17 May 2016 08:40:31PM 0 points [-]

Well, sometimes things have gone wrong from my not walking away from drunk angry people, and instead arguing back, escalting the situation to the point at which I have needed to use physical violence to defend myself.

But in this case, yes I should not have walked away, as there was too much to lose by walking away.

Basically I agree with Pimgd - walk away only if you don't need to interact with that person again, and there is nothing at stake, or if you certainly can't win the conflict.

Comment author: username2 16 May 2016 02:46:34PM 4 points [-]

A repost from an earlier open thread.

I am looking for sources of semi-technical reviews and expository weblog posts to add to my RSS reader; preferably 4—20 screenfuls of text on topics including or related to evolutionary game theory, mathematical modelling in the social sciences, theoretical computer science applied to non-computer things, microeconomics applied to unusual things (e.g. Hanson's Age of Em), psychometrics, the theory of machine learning, and so on. What I do not want: pure mathematics, computer science trivia, coding trivia, machine learning tutorials, etc.

Some examples that mostly match what I want, in roughly descending order:

How do I go about finding more feeds like that? I have already tried the obvious, such as googling "allintext: egtheory jeremykun" and found a couple OPML files (including gwern's), but they didn't contain anything close. The obvious blogrolls weren't helpful either (most of them were endless lists of conference announcements and calls for papers). Also, I've grepped a few relevant subreddits for *.wordpress.*, *.blogspot.* and *.github.io submissions (only finding what I already have in my RSS feeds — I suspect the less established blogs just haven't gotten enough upvotes).

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 27 May 2016 08:54:23AM 1 point [-]

Would Andrew Gelman's blog count? (Author of recommended textbook on Bayesian statistics.)

Maybe it would be useful for you to share the entire blogroll you've accumulated thus far and just ask people to recommend more blogs like the ones you already have. For example, I'm guessing you found Gelman already since he's present in Robin Hanson's blogroll--but I could think of a way you would have plausibly found lots of potential recommendations.

You could even create a "show us your blogroll" discussion post, in order to harvest OPMLs to mine through.

Comment author: [deleted] 22 May 2016 10:00:55AM 2 points [-]

A stupid question... If I ask people (n = several hundreds to thousand) to put a coin down on the table such that it wouldn't roll away, heads or tails up... I expect the overall results to be near 1:1 ratio of heads to tails... But it wouldn't be as random as when I (or they) just tossed the coin on the table, right?

Comment author: [deleted] 27 May 2016 10:09:12AM 2 points [-]

This is an interesting case. If people are free to place the coins as they wish, I wouldn't be surprised if P(heads)>P(tails) due to biases about which way is "right side up". When a face appears on a coin many people seem to think of this as the front of the coin, and in numismatic circles, the obverse is typically "heads" if a head appears on only one side (although no surprise that there are contentious debates about obverse/reverse in specific circumstances).

Comment author: MrMind 24 May 2016 07:38:51AM 1 point [-]

"Random", in objective Bayesianism, just means that you have no information privileging one alternative or the other.
In this case, the reasons why you don't know which outcome each single experiment will have are different, but the end result is the same.
There are possibly differences in their Ap distributions though, depending on how you model human behaviour...

Comment author: Good_Burning_Plastic 23 May 2016 09:43:52AM 1 point [-]

"Random" doesn't mean anything but "unpredictable", and a possibly relevant question is "unpredictable by whom?".

But yes, probably. (If you ask 1000 people for a number from 1 to 10 many more than 100 of them will say "7" etc.)

Comment author: gjm 23 May 2016 02:02:26PM -1 points [-]

I think "random" does mean something more than "unpredictable". It means something more like "independent of things you care about". More precisely, that's what it should mean in most places where it's used.

(I'm not quite satisfied with this formulation; e.g., a "random" thing that always takes the same value is independent of everything, but you wouldn't usually want to call it random. What we're really trying to get at is "statistically indistinguishable from idealized randomness" but it would be nice to find a way of saying it that doesn't appeal to an existing notion of randomness. Perhaps something like "incompressible, on average, given the accessible state of all the other things we care about".)

Imagine, if you will, a lottery that works as follows. Each lottery ticket bears a SHA-256 hash of (the ticket's lottery numbers + a further string); the further string is not revealed until the time of the draw. When drawing time comes, the winning numbers and the further string are revealed on national TV, and if you think you might have a winning ticket you can bring it to have the hash checked.

In Scenario 1, the winning numbers are chosen "at random". In Scenario 2, you (and only you) have the magical power to make the winning numbers be the ones hashed onto your ticket. You don't know the further string. You also don't know what your ticket's numbers are. You just know that after you perform your magical ritual the numbers drawn will match the numbers on your ticket.

The numbers drawn are still unpredictable. No one knows what numbers are on your ticket. (Let's suppose that the tickets are made by some process that after making each ticket erases all evidence of what numbers have been hashed onto it.) But something is predictable, namely that the numbers drawn will match yours and you will win the lottery.

The lottery numbers in Scenario 2 are still "random" in some sense, but this is exactly the kind of situation you're trying to avoid when you deliberately randomize things.

So, the answer to Romashka's question is: those results would be less random-in-my-sense because they might correlate with interesting properties of the people in the experiment, which could be a problem if e.g. you were using these coin "tosses" to control something you're doing with the people (e.g., which ones to use for the next phase of the experiment, or which of two things to ask them to do). They might well also diverge somewhat from the 1:1 ratio you'd expect from theoretical unbiased coin tosses (e.g., maybe most people prefer to put coins with their "heads" face upwards).

Comment author: Lumifer 23 May 2016 03:26:43PM 1 point [-]

It means something more like "independent of things you care about".

I don't understand what that means. It sounds like something I would call "noise" (="variation which I do not care about") which is a quite a different concept from "random".

There is also "true" randomness, e.g. radioactive decay, which doesn't seem to be related to whatever I might care about. And if you put yourself into the paws of Schrodinger's cat, you might care a great deal about that trigger which breaks the poison vial, but does that make it not random?

What we're really trying to get at is "statistically indistinguishable from idealized randomness"

As you yourself point out that's entirely circular and, besides, I have no idea what "idealized randomness" is.

Imagine, if you will, a lottery that works as follows.

You're basically talking about randomness as that which lies beyond the limits of (current) knowledge. Didn't you just come back to randomness meaning "unpredictable"?

Comment author: [deleted] 25 May 2016 08:52:13AM 0 points [-]

Wouldn't idealized randomness mean utter lack of causality?

Comment author: Lumifer 25 May 2016 03:48:19PM 1 point [-]

Well, there is what is usually called quantum randomness. While many common kinds of randomness represent just lack of knowledge, contemporary physics says that quantum randomness (e.g. how much time will pass before a particular unstable atom decays) is different because it is impossible in principle to predict it. You can probably call it "utter lack of causality".

As to "idealized", I don't know. Depending on which framework you pick, the notions of "idealized randomness" might well differ.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 23 May 2016 04:01:58AM 1 point [-]

I'm not exactly sure what you mean by "as random."

It may well be that there are discernable patterns in a sequence of manually simulated coin-flips that would allow us to distinguish such sequences from actual coinflips. The most plausible hypothetical examples I can come up with would result in a non-1:1 ratio... e.g., humans having a bias in favor of heads or tails.

Or, if each person is laying a coin down next to the previous coin, such that they are able to see the pattern thus far, we might find any number of pattern-level biases... e.g., if told to simulate randomness, humans might be less than 50% likely to select heads if they see a series of heads-up coins, whereas if not told to do so, they might be more than 50%.

It's kind of an interesting question, actually. I know there's been some work on detecting test scores by looking for artificial-pattern markers in the distribution of numbers, but I don't know if anyone's done equivalent things for coinflips.

Comment author: [deleted] 23 May 2016 07:24:42AM 0 points [-]

Thank you. I realized, as soon as I posted it, that the method of obtaining the sequence would not matter (as the previous commenter rightly said), but somehow, the 'feeling of a question' remained. I was not thinking of showing them part of 'the sequence so far'... But it might be fun to determine whether there is any effect on the subject's choice of knowing this 'flip' is a part of a pattern (or not knowing it), of the composition of the revealed pattern, and maybe - if there is an effect - the length of the washout period...

I mean, it's only a coin flip! The preceding choices should have no bearing on it. It's, like, the least significant choice you can ever make...

Comment author: Dagon 22 May 2016 04:34:57PM 1 point [-]

If none of the participants can predict or influence the 50/50 outcome, then it's random. The procedure for generating the state doesn't matter - only that the individual events cannot be predicted and the aggregate converges toward a distribution.

Comment author: morganism 17 May 2016 09:47:40PM 2 points [-]

What to do with billions of useless humans ?

Yuval Harari, author of “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind


Comment author: gjm 18 May 2016 05:00:26PM -1 points [-]

useless, from an economic perspective

(Emphasis mine.) The article gives no reason to think that AI will make billions of humans actually useless. Only that it will make them unable to earn enough money to live on by selling their labour. These are not the same thing.

Comment author: Lumifer 18 May 2016 05:07:54PM 2 points [-]

I am sure one can come up with a... modest proposal to do something about those billions X-)

Comment author: morganism 19 May 2016 08:17:35PM 0 points [-]

I have been thinking about this a bit along with the basic minimum wage.

It would also seem that we would need a universal "kickstarter" type clearinghouse to vote on projects that should get done. You would have to login and vote on a project say, once a week to get your basic funding, and you could volunteer of build things or do research to earn credits for travel.

Comment author: Lumifer 19 May 2016 08:54:14PM 0 points [-]

we would need a universal "kickstarter" type clearinghouse to vote on projects that should get done


Comment author: morganism 20 May 2016 10:23:34PM -1 points [-]

Well, there will be plenty of motivated people wanting to do medical research, space exploration, maths and physics projects, etc.

But how will we prioritize other new and ongoing research and development projects?

We will prob end up micro-voting projects that are within our sphere of interests, hence a kickstarter type of R-D, instead of a venture capital based, or top down Govt mandated system. Neither of the above have proved very effective or even that profitable, might as well try a different model...

Comment author: Lumifer 20 May 2016 11:39:57PM 2 points [-]

there will be plenty of motivated people wanting to do medical research, space exploration, maths and physics projects, etc.

What do you mean, "will be"? There are now.

But how will we prioritize other new and ongoing research and development projects?

In the usual way? The way we do it now?

What is the problem that you're trying to solve?

Comment author: morganism 19 May 2016 08:33:05PM -1 points [-]

These guys seem to think that there will only be a 10% displacement of workers


Comment author: Gleb_Tsipursky 18 May 2016 06:39:58AM 0 points [-]

I'm going to the CFAR workshop that starts May 18th, and want to ask anyone who went to previous workshops about what you would have recommended to your pre-workshop self to do before and during the workshop? What would you have done differently? Thanks for any advice, and I'll convey it to fellow workshop attendees.

Comment author: TheAltar 18 May 2016 02:49:56PM 4 points [-]

Normally I say get plenty of sleep, but I think you asked a bit late to get that answer.

Comment author: Gleb_Tsipursky 18 May 2016 05:17:11PM -1 points [-]

I'm worried about missing out on conversations with other interesting people - what do you think about that tradeoff?

Comment author: [deleted] 20 May 2016 08:20:36AM 1 point [-]

Oxford economists: 'day-to-day weather variation impacts life satisfaction by a similar magnitude to acquiring a mild disability'

Closer inspection reveals that the author's believe this has to do with biases in reporting life satisfaction rather than authentic comparisons of interpersonal wellbeing.

We find robust evidence that day-to-day weather variation impacts life satisfaction by a similar magnitude to acquiring a mild disability. Utilizing two sources of variation in the cognitive complexity of satisfaction questions, we present evidence that weather bias arises because of the cognitive challenge of reporting life satisfaction. Consistent with past studies, we detect a relationship between long-term climate and life satisfaction without individual fixed effects. This relationship is not robust to individual fixed effects, suggesting climate does not directly influence life satisfaction.

Comment author: Lumifer 19 May 2016 09:04:32PM *  1 point [-]

Quotables from Nate Silver:

our early estimates ... weren’t based on a statistical model. Instead, they were what we [call] “subjective odds” — which is to say, educated guesses. In other words, we were basically acting like pundits, but attaching numbers to our estimates. And we succumbed to some of the same biases that pundits often suffer, such as not changing our minds quickly enough in the face of new evidence. Without a model as a fortification, we found ourselves rambling around the countryside like all the other pundit-barbarians, randomly setting fire to things.

Comment author: username2 20 May 2016 11:15:13AM 2 points [-]

This SSC post is slightly related

Comment author: morganism 20 May 2016 11:44:32PM 0 points [-]

World War Zero, a switch of loyalties in ancient Turkey, manifested as an international excursion force. Attacks on Egypt, Cyprus, and the Hittites changed ancient Anatolia.



Comment author: Ixiel 19 May 2016 07:00:40PM 1 point [-]

Is there any precedent of a state going from direct election to something more like the electoral college for selection of a governor?

Comment author: Douglas_Knight 23 May 2016 12:37:30AM 4 points [-]

Venice introduced an electoral college system in 1172. I believe that their earlier system was direct elections, but I've never seen a very clear claim. This seems to claim so.

Comment author: Ixiel 25 May 2016 08:01:09PM 0 points [-]

Thanks, I'll check that out. I live in a mostly rural state that elected - let's just say a governor for whom most of the state did not vote - because of the cityots in a couple districts. I don't actually think I could make it happen, but it'll aid my fantasy ;)

Comment author: Lumifer 25 May 2016 08:48:57PM 1 point [-]

a governor for whom most of the state did not vote

Most of the people in the state did vote for him. Your basic problem is that a lot of people live in NYC and suburbs and not a lot live upstate. To overcome this just an electoral college won't be sufficient -- you will need something equivalent to the Senate election system where the number of people in a political unit is ignored.

Comment author: Ixiel 26 May 2016 01:01:07AM 0 points [-]

Well quite. I don't even think it's necessarily a good idea (unlike making NYC part of NJ. They have nothing in common with New Yorkers, but full disclosure I am in the only profitable county in the state so it's my tax dollars getting funneled down there.), it's just fun to think about. My grandpa said it best - okay maybe not but at least well - "We live in one of the best parts of one of the worst states in one of the best countries in the world."

Comment author: Lumifer 26 May 2016 02:55:21PM 1 point [-]

You think Manhattan (which is, technically speaking, a county) doesn't pay its own way?

Comment author: Ixiel 10 June 2016 01:21:34PM *  1 point [-]

Update: Gov's office didn't dig up the study. On facts in evidence, including a closer look at whatall is included in Manhattan, my most plausible explanation is that the study results were not what I remember, whether that was misdirection or misremembering. Even though I could see a case for the tax draws being even bigger, it doesn't overcome the prima facie implausibility.

Thanks for the update; "it ain't what you don't know but what you know that ain't so that kills ya," as I've seen attributed to Twain (but every quote has been attributed to Twain so grain of salt)

Comment author: Lumifer 10 June 2016 02:32:06PM 1 point [-]

On facts in evidence, including a closer look at whatall is included in Manhattan, my most plausible explanation is that the study results were not what I remember

One more possible explanation. NY state is not the most coherent organization and I've seen sets of statistics for NY counties that just did not include NYC boroughs. Evidently, even though they are counties, they are considered a special enough case to just ignore them on occasion. So maybe your study just said in a small footnote somewhere "Oh, we'll pretend NYC does not exist".

By the way, you might find this report interesting.

Comment author: Ixiel 10 June 2016 04:18:46PM *  0 points [-]

Yeah, even scrolling up to my own comment, referring to NY as a "mostly rural state" only works since in most cases with which I interact, the NYC residents don't count as TRUE Scottsmen... ;)

Edit to comment on link also: Wow, that is definitely NOT the data I remember. Older, but still. Thanks for that. It all started in a stockholders' meeting for my family's business (employing 2500-7500 people largely in what this report calls the capital district depending how you count) so motivation for bad data is not hard to identify. This year's meeting is in a few weeks and I'll definitely be bringing this up. Thanks as usual.

Comment author: Ixiel 26 May 2016 09:34:44PM *  -1 points [-]

I have no real knowledge of the subdistricts of NYC, I just know that it is a net loss as a whole (Edited to add: Lum hadn't stated in above post that NYC bureaus were counties when I wrote this, it was edited in, so don't think I'm ignoring it). I would not be surprised if one could slice out a profitable part of any county or cetera. Heck, as an extreme, draw a circle around the one richest guy and (maybe...) you've got a subset that's profitable. But any surplus in one city subdistrict is outweighed by the costs in the others, as of I think 2010 so might have changed.

I'll see if I can dig up the study; it was sent to me by the governor's office but not created by them so it might take a bit to remember for what to search. I know Saratoga county was (and had been but we're starting to rely more heavily on my memory than I'm comfortable doing) the only county that generated more tax dollars than it consumed.

Comment author: Lumifer 27 May 2016 12:43:19AM 0 points [-]

The five boroughs of NYC are all bona fide New York state counties. Manhattan is its own county named "New York county" :-/

Comment author: Ixiel 27 May 2016 12:39:35PM -1 points [-]

Huh, thanks for that, I didn't know. In that case, no, it turns out it draws more tax dollars than it generates. I know the study was county by county.

I've only been to NYC a half dozen or so times, and just thought of it as NYC. I know there are bureaus, but I really don't know Manhattan from Long Island or Haarlem from Poughkeepsie (okay, ignorance exaggerated for comedic hyperbole; I know the last isn't TECHNICALLY NYC but for most of my intents and purposes I treat it thus), though from context I assume Manhattan includes Wall Street. Depending how much else it includes, my confidence in the study drops.

I wanted to get ahold of it for you, and now I want to get it for me too :) Google fu failed but I asked Gov's office if they remember so I'll let you know when they get back to me.

Comment author: Douglas_Knight 14 June 2016 05:02:12AM 1 point [-]

Another example: France. The Second Republic had a directly elected President, while the Third Republic had the President chosen by the Senate. France returned to direct elections early in the Fifth Republic. It did not go directly from direct election to electoral college because it did not go directly from Second to Third. But I believe that the decision against direct election was motivated by the experience of the Second Republic and the memory of the prescient arguments Jules Grévy made at the drafting of its Constitution; indeed, Grévy himself was a leading figure of the Third Republic.

Comment author: morganism 17 May 2016 12:26:01AM 1 point [-]

Source code depository for complex models in Astrophysics


Comment author: Daniel_Burfoot 16 May 2016 07:06:15PM *  1 point [-]

One very important question a moral system has to answer is: how do you deal with people who won't adopt the moral system? Here are three basic answers:

  • Indifference - leave people who don't adopt the system alone. Let them do their own thing.
  • Compulsion - require people to adopt the moral system, using varying degrees of coercive power (social shaming, jail, financial penalties, etc)
  • Fences - build a fence, allow people who follow the system inside, and exclude everyone else.

Are there others? Which one of these options seems the best to you?

Comment author: username2 16 May 2016 08:13:47PM *  4 points [-]
  • Interacting with those people in limited settings. Using different systems in different settings. A system doesn't have to encompass all human interactions.

  • Use rewards instead of punishments. Similar to your second point, but feels differently.

By the way, your third point is a special case of your second one.

Comment author: Daniel_Burfoot 17 May 2016 01:37:14PM 1 point [-]

your third point is a special case of your second one.

I feel strongly that there is a qualitative difference between fence-building and compulsion, especially if the fenced area is small.

Your first suggestion seems like fence-building in different domains (social, financial, etc).

Comment author: TimS 22 May 2016 05:00:25PM *  0 points [-]

That's a weird definition of compulsion in this context. Others want to make choices. Sometimes those choices impact things you value. Sometime they doesn't.

But preventing people from acting on choices seems like the common thread. Privileging whether things you value are effected seems relevant to whether the prevention is morally justified, but from point of view of preventing the implementation of another's choice, the idea of compulsion seems identical.

In short, I assert the morally neutral description of an action ought not to vary based on moral judgment about the action.

Comment author: Lumifer 17 May 2016 02:19:00PM 0 points [-]

I feel strongly that there is a qualitative difference between fence-building and compulsion

I agree. In crude terms, compulsion is forcing other people to change; fence-building is yourself withdrawing.

Comment author: Stingray 17 May 2016 04:54:13PM *  1 point [-]

This distinction is blurry. Which side do boycotts fall on?

Comment author: Lumifer 17 May 2016 06:33:08PM 2 points [-]

Public, organized boycotts are compulsion since they have the clear goal of changing the others' behaviour. If you just quietly stop buying products from Acme without telling everyone (including Acme) about it, that's withdrawal.

Comment author: Lumifer 16 May 2016 08:21:23PM 1 point [-]

Another one is (non-compulsive) persuasion.

Note that compulsion requires you to have governmental (or quasi-governmental) power and exclusion ("fences") requires a certain degree of autonomy and, basically, property rights.

However the question as asked is too high-level. Moral systems' responses critically depend on how acceptable the other moral belief is. Minor things are usually tolerated and major things are subject to compulsion or exclusion (given sufficient power). For example the US government doesn't care about the Mormons' conversion of deceased (indifference) but does care about polygamy (compulsion).

Comment author: ChristianKl 16 May 2016 09:26:31PM 1 point [-]

Note that compulsion requires you to have governmental (or quasi-governmental) power and exclusion ("fences") requires a certain degree of autonomy and, basically, property rights.

Specialized vocabulary and language in general can work well as a fence without needing property rights. Our community is perceived to do this via using terms not used outside of LW.

The Esperanto community does this and Esperanto speakers are more likely to do favors for fellow Esperanto speakers than for other stangers.

Comment author: Lumifer 17 May 2016 01:46:07AM 0 points [-]

Specialized vocabulary and language in general can work well as a fence without needing property rights.

They certainly can help with exclusion, but they are not very useful for including people with specific morals and excluding people with different morals.

Comment author: ChristianKl 17 May 2016 11:32:11AM 0 points [-]

Language creates a barrier to entry. Willingness to learn the language then filters for certain values. To the extend that you can control the teaching of the language you can also add additional filters.

Comment author: Viliam 18 May 2016 10:07:46AM *  0 points [-]

To the extend that you can control the teaching of the language you can also add additional filters.

There are free online resources for Esperanto such as http://lernu.net/ or http://purl.org/net/voko/revo/ so now it can spread beyond control mwahahaha...

Comment author: ChristianKl 18 May 2016 01:50:57PM 0 points [-]

It's true that there are free resources, but for example you can't take the Duolingo course without also getting at least a bit indoctrinated with veganism.

That factor likely isn't strong enough to turn someone by itself into a vegan but having many of such prompts does nudge the community in a certain direction and people who are really opposed to it won't have as much fun learning the language through those resources.

Comment author: MrMind 17 May 2016 09:24:49AM 0 points [-]

Are there others?

Yes, e.g.:

  • submit and cooperate - this is one of the staple of Christianity in its concept of martyrdom, also hinted in the Sermon of the Mount, when Jesus talked about turning the other cheek;

  • submit but do not cooperate - for example in the doctrine of non-violence.

Comment author: Elo 16 May 2016 08:50:25PM *  0 points [-]


  • convert - try to sign them up to the system i.e. the way religions used to do it. Reason with them and tell them they want to join because it's better.
  • kill them - historic wars happened.
  • bind them explicitly - society today binds adults to legal responsibility to their own rights. children are not bound in the same way until we say they are capable of being responsible, in a way they are people who won't adopt the system (sometimes because it's too complicated for them). Our solution is to bind others to the responsibility and eventually bind them when they are old enough to adopt the system (18 years old is usually an adult in most countries)
  • (an instance of compulsion) threaten them with being cast as an entity with less rights within your system than other entities if they do not join your system.
Comment author: ChristianKl 16 May 2016 09:25:55PM -1 points [-]

I think you mean ethics and not morals.

There are many ways to persuade people. You can control information flow. You can nudge people and optimize the nudging.

There are physical changes that affect moral behavior. A lot of variables from temperature to diet have effects on moral decision making in certain instances.

You can convince people through arguments.

Comment author: blacktrance 17 May 2016 07:11:50AM 1 point [-]

I think you mean ethics and not morals.

Those terms are synonymous under standard usage.

Comment author: Lumifer 17 May 2016 02:21:18PM -1 points [-]

Those terms are synonymous under standard usage.

Depends on your standards. Under my standard usage they are not synonyms. Morals specify the value systems (what you believe) and ethics specify practical decisions in real life (what you do).

Comment author: bogus 17 May 2016 04:36:54AM *  0 points [-]

I think you mean ethics and not morals.

Morals is definitely the right word here! The generally-recognized difference between morality and ethics is that the first implies either some kind of inner tendency in individuals (a 'moral core') or an expressly-given 'moral code'. By contrast, ethics refers to the problem of how moralities can play out in practical settings and even interact with each other - ethics does not pit "right versus wrong", but balances "right versus right", as Rushworth Kidder would put it. Although people will also use "ethics", or more properly "normative ethics", as an easy way of referencing values that are so widely shared among human societies that they can be considered near-universal - such as the values of honesty, fairness, good knowledge and a fully thriving life. But this is a derivative meaning and theoretically a less important one. (Anyway, yes, ethical argument is definitely one key way of balancing values, so you're on the right track there.)

Thus, OP's question is itself one of the key problems in ethics; on a larger scale, it also explains the origin of politics itself, as dispute resolution in complex societies becomes reliant on government-like institutions and broadly-acknowledged formal rules of 'fairness'.

Comment author: morganism 21 May 2016 11:46:30PM 0 points [-]

Public Good theory sure looks a lot like cancer dynamics


that's a good thing , right?

Comment author: harshhpareek 16 May 2016 12:27:51AM *  0 points [-]

I've been having digestive trouble recently and have started wondering if I've developed a new allergy/intolerance (Known: milk, cashewnuts, chocolate). Does anyone have a recommendation for tests to check for these?

Apparently, "Eight foods account for 90% of all food-allergic reactions: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (e.g., walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, pecans), wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish." (source: http://www.foodallergy.org/file/facts-stats.pdf). However, nuts are good for you (eg. https://examine.com/faq/how-can-i-best-ensure-cardiovascular-health-and-longevity/). So what do you do?

I imagine allergies are bad for your body, even apart from the digestive issues. So, do you take any supplements for nuts? The only one I am aware of here is Omega-3, which is common to various nuts.

Sidenote: If you are willing to put a "nuts without allergies" supplement together, I might buy it from you. See https://www.reddit.com/r/Supplements/comments/3ptsz8/i_am_a_supplement_caffeineenergy_pill_company/cw9gwht for business advice.

Comment author: ShardPhoenix 16 May 2016 03:46:13AM *  3 points [-]

FODMAP sensitivity is one source of digestive troubles. This causes sensitivity to garlic, onion, pears, apples, beans, among other things. If you seem sensitive to those things you can get a hydrogen breath test to test it further.

Comment author: Elo 16 May 2016 01:10:27AM 1 point [-]

Does anyone have a recommendation for tests to check for these? if you are searching, the word "allergy" is usually reserved for life threatening instances of the condition. the words, "intolerance" or "sensitivity" are usually used for conditions that are discomforts, i.e. digestive, rashes, red eyes, itchy skin etc.

WRT allergies: Consider plants; things you are drinking; washing powders (although more relevant for skin irritations); pets (more relevant for respirator problems).

As your problem is digestive it's probably safe to look at things you are consuming.

I would suggest eliminating things; or running self-tests. i.e. eat nothing for a few hours then eat a slice of bread - if you are fine to eat that you are probably not sensitive to wheat.

This can either be done by writing out your full diet and testing each part, or by testing the top 8 as mentioned above.

Comment author: PECOS-9 31 May 2016 02:15:23AM 0 points [-]

Aside from allergies, also consider whether the digestive trouble could be due to anxiety or other psychological issues.

Comment author: AspiringRationalist 16 May 2016 01:52:53AM 0 points [-]

Flax and chia seeds are both very good sources of omega 3 (but flax seeds need to be ground for your body to absorb it, and once you grind them, you should store them cold), as are fish (especially salmon).

Comment author: Lumifer 16 May 2016 02:45:38AM 2 points [-]

Omega-3 is a group of several different fatty acids and flax seeds do not provide the ones you actually want.

Comment author: AspiringRationalist 17 May 2016 02:53:27AM 0 points [-]

Very good to know. Thanks for linking to that.

Comment author: morganism 22 May 2016 10:03:43PM 0 points [-]

A Complete Tutorial to work on Big Data with Amazon Web Services (AWS)


Comment author: morganism 20 May 2016 10:01:47PM -1 points [-]
Comment author: Lumifer 20 May 2016 11:38:37PM 0 points [-]