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Open thread, Nov. 7 - Nov. 13, 2016

5 Post author: MrMind 07 November 2016 08:01AM

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

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Comments (123)

Comment author: MrMind 09 November 2016 09:56:56AM *  10 points [-]

The most important quality for a rationalist is to admit that you were wrong and change your mind accordingly: so I will say, as an excercise in strength and calibration, that I was totally wrong.

I thought, with a high degree of probability, that Clinton was going to be the next POTUS. Instead it's Trump. My model of the world was wrong, and I'll adjust accordingly.

Comment author: CellBioGuy 10 November 2016 02:24:41AM *  11 points [-]

I, for one, called it months ago. And found myself unable to tell all but 2 people in my social circle my conclusions because if I did they seemingly mistook my assessment of the likely outcome for endorsement and reacted quite unplesantly with incredulity and offense especially whenever I tried to tell them they were living in an echo chamber. Thus I quickly learned not to try.

Interestingly the people who actually listened were an immigrant from Armenia and an expat rather than domestic American citizens, I wonder if that means anything.

('Called it' meaning calling that true support was higher than most thought especially in the greater rust belt plus extremely low enthusiasm for the other party leading to high chances of an electoral victory and that most of what most people around me thought was weakening the campaign was actually strengthening it or completely neutral.)

Comment author: Pfft 10 November 2016 05:53:37PM 4 points [-]

Eh, elections seem hard to update on though. Before the election, I thought Clinton was 70% likely to win or so, because that's what Nate Silver said. Then Trump won. Was I wrong? Maybe, but it's not statistically significant at even p = 0.05.

So just looking at U.S. presidential elections, you'll never have enough data to see if you're calibrated or not. I guess you can seriously geek out on politics, and follow and make predictions for lots of local and foreign elections also. At that point, it's a serious hobby though, I'm much more of a casual.

Comment author: MrMind 11 November 2016 08:25:28AM *  1 point [-]

No intentions on leaning heavily on US politics, since I've already hairy Italian politics that is more relevant to me...
I'll just change a couple of parameters in my model of US, as per answer to Gunnar.

Comment author: WalterL 09 November 2016 06:30:33PM 4 points [-]

I literally wrote a post to my buds holding forth on why the race went as it did. It included what we (conservatives) had gained, and what they (liberals) had done, and what that implied. Long and detailed.

But to look like a smarty pants I wrote it yesterday. And I wrote it assuming that Clinton had won.

You are far from alone, MrMind.

Looking back, there were things that should have clued me in. Most notably, when people were scoffing at a "phantom" Trump vote I was shifting uneasily in my chair, because three of my liberal buds had confided in me that they'd be voting Trump this year, but couldn't admit it because their social circle viewed that as a mortal sin.

I told myself that anecdote != data, that websites can't be wrong.

Comment author: Lumifer 09 November 2016 06:59:13PM 4 points [-]

Brexit was the biggest clue. The Trumpocalypse is basically, just a repeat of the Brexit voting patterns.

Comment author: Gunnar_Zarncke 10 November 2016 09:58:50PM 1 point [-]

I'm curious how in particular you want to update.

Comment author: SithLord13 13 November 2016 11:47:52AM 5 points [-]

Personally, I think the update most people should be making is the one getting the least attention. That even a 30% chance means 3 out of 10 times. Things far more unlikely than 3 out of 10 happen every day. But because we assign such importance to the election, we assign a much greater confidence to our predictions, even when we know we're not that confident.

Comment author: username2 15 November 2016 10:14:49PM *  0 points [-]

Except that the chances weren't 30%. That was a number generated by Nate Silver based on polling methodology that was not calibrated to the reality on the ground. I think you can find much deeper lessons here than that, especially given it seems to be a repeat of the Brexit phenomenon. Fool me once, fool me twice...

Comment author: MrMind 11 November 2016 08:13:45AM 1 point [-]

In two directions: on one side, I thought that the proportion of progressives in US was larger than it has shown to be; on the other, I had a tenet that "things that menace status quo don't happen", so I'll lower the probability on that and change what the current status quo is.

Comment author: username2 15 November 2016 10:15:26PM 0 points [-]

Not all progressives would vote for Hillary (even over Trump).

Comment author: knb 09 November 2016 01:53:06PM 1 point [-]

I too was wrong. I gave him a 45% chance on this site several months ago and my estimate had hardly changed by yesterday (in fact my estimate got slightly worse, down to 40%.)

Comment author: Lumifer 09 November 2016 03:45:19PM 7 points [-]

I gave him a 45% chance

That's actually better than most (all?) pollsters including Nate Sliver.

Comment author: knb 12 November 2016 11:40:29AM 2 points [-]

Part of the reason I estimated the chance being that high was because I thought (at that time) we were fairly likely to have a recession or major terror attack, which would swing the election to Trump. Neither of those happened, but Trump still won. More recently, II did think the big media company polls were systemically biased by at least a few points in Clinton's favor, so I give myself some credit for that.

Comment author: niceguyanon 09 November 2016 08:08:23PM *  5 points [-]

Are you really that wrong though, if you gave him a 40-45% chance? Am I making an error to say that based on the real results, someone who was 60%+ sure of a Trump win is more wrong than you are?

If I truly believed 538, and that is what I told myself, I shouldn't have been surprised – and yet I was. So what is happening here? I'm not usually surprised by anything that I assign a probability of greater than 10% of happening, why do I feel the way I feel? Perhaps my true probability was <10%.

Comment author: Gunnar_Zarncke 10 November 2016 10:00:28PM 3 points [-]

Maybe the surprise is more related to your emotions regarding the outcome than to the objective numbers you assigned.

Comment author: MattG2 11 November 2016 05:33:56PM 0 points [-]

Are you tracking your calibration with something like prediction book? You may be generally calibrated And this could have just been an instance of a low probability event happening

Comment author: MrMind 14 November 2016 08:03:29AM 0 points [-]

Normally I don't, but that's a good idea.

Comment author: MrMind 11 November 2016 09:44:30AM 0 points [-]

Also next time I'll use log-odds instead of percentage: having 538 giving 60% to Hillary is psychologically different from saying 0.4 evidence for her.

Comment author: hedges 09 November 2016 05:57:44PM 13 points [-]

Has anyone else been disgusted by how partisan and mindkilled many "rationality figureheads" have been during this election?

I've stopped supporting 80,000 Hours because of their employees' writings and lost trust in CFAR; I now see them as political think tanks that are possibly even more biased and broken than the average organization.

Comment author: Ishaan 10 November 2016 08:29:54PM *  4 points [-]

Is there any 80,000/CFAR statement on Trump or are you just talking about the personal writings of individual people who happen to work in these organizations?

(Also, did you consistently think it was wrong for them to fervently espouse the AI-as-existential risk narrative?)

Comment author: hedges 10 November 2016 09:04:46PM 5 points [-]

No, I don't think that either organization has taken an official stance, and I respect them for that. I've also talked with some people within 80,000 Hours who are clearly not mind-killed; who have been very reasonable and convincing instead. I was maybe a bit too harsh and do not mean this as a recommendation that everyone should stop supporting these organizations.

(Very rarely - that's a good point. If you imagine people fighting between two different friendly AI approaches with the same fervor, though..)

Comment author: btrettel 09 November 2016 06:12:50PM 3 points [-]

Can you give some examples? I haven't paid much attention to this.

While we're on the topic, "politics is the mind-killer" isn't sufficiently broad in my opinion. People can frequently are "mind-killed" in other areas, especially when conflicts of interest are involved. My experience suggests certain topics like diet tend to go just as poorly as politics.

Comment author: hedges 09 November 2016 06:39:58PM 13 points [-]

Claiming Trump as the most significant current existential risk, and prioritizing political activism over all other charity work, are the two that I was most offended by. These were usually not backed by any rigorous analysis or explanation, just the assumption that the reader conforms to the beliefs.

But I think ultimately, it was the frequency and amount of emotion and hostility that was shown that made my mind image these people as mind-killed.

Comment author: btrettel 09 November 2016 07:20:19PM 2 points [-]

Thanks. I agree that those examples are problematic. Do you have the link for Trump being the most significant current existential risk? I think he's a major risk, but relatively less important than many other things.

The biggest risk from him is starting a major war and/or using nuclear weapons, but as I recall from speaking with Vaniver, not everyone thinks he's a higher risk than Clinton would be in that area.

Comment author: ChristianKl 09 November 2016 09:01:06PM -2 points [-]

Outside of Trump's family the person who knows Trump best said “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization”, as a significant X-risk makes sense.

In contrast to an X-risk like UFAI, it was a lot of tractable and thus there were rational arguments to exert more resources on it.

The political aspect can as well mean that you misjudge the risk posed.

Comment author: hedges 10 November 2016 04:56:21PM 9 points [-]

A statement made by a lifelong liberal writer, who was offended by Trump's lifestyle. Trump has short attention span, and doesn't read books - therefore he will use nukes!

Predicting one person's proclivity to cause nuclear war is an incredibly complicated prediction problem, and one flimsy and tribally motivated statement has almost zero predictive power. If I see a reasonable analysis, which considers both candidates and what kind of scenarios could actually lead to nuclear war; I'm ready to change my beliefs.

Comment author: ChristianKl 10 November 2016 07:06:55PM -2 points [-]

Why do you call a statement made in a long article and based on spending over a year studying Trump while listing in to his calls 'flimsy'?

On his facebook EY describes having taken part in a scenario planning exercise that ended up with nuclear war simply because the players miscalculated their moves. Having a short attention span and not listening to experts who study the possible moves leads to miscalculated moves. Nuclear war happens when other wars escalate because no side is willing to make move that look like a local loss or concessions to the other side.

The US basically has undeclared wars with most countries including Nato countries like Germany that are under cyber attacks by the US (the US considers cyber attacks to be acts of war). At the same time the NSA doesn't use their powers to the maximum.

When the Obama administration or Clinton administration runs cyber attacks against German targets there's less pressure on German political leaders to retaliate then when a Trump administration does so.

You also forget the lying. Lying to his ghostwriter about the size of his business deal is illustrative. Trump is going to lie to various people inside his administration. That's going to make it a lot harder for that administration to make effective moves.

Clinton on the other hand listens to experts when making geopolitical calcuations and that matters.

Trump already said that he's okay with Saudi Arabia getting nukes. That move alone might produce nuclear war but it would be a mistake to focus at the moment on any specific scenario, because the problem is the decision making.

Comment author: MrMind 10 November 2016 09:12:24AM 3 points [-]

Rationality is not Kolinahr: if a hot iron is traveling towards your face, the rational reaction is not "huh!" but getting the hell out of the way.
To mean that it is possible to talk about politics, and to talk passionately, and still being rational. Not to defend 80k or CFAR, but "being partisan" is most definitely NOT "being mindkilled". They travel on two orthogonal dimensions. On the other hand, it is totally possible that those figureheads were indeed mindkilled.
I have followed only what Yudkowski said: what are examples of being mindkilled? Have they acknowledged such behaviour afterwards?

Comment author: James_Blair 09 November 2016 07:22:16PM *  3 points [-]

I fully agree with this.

edit: someone may think this comment doesn't contribute at all. the someone that did also took the additional step of downvoting the OP, so make of that what you will.

Comment author: MrMind 10 November 2016 09:06:00AM 0 points [-]

A datapoint is better than nothing. I haven't downvoted you, but a couple of sentence more explaining your reasons are always appreciated.

Comment author: James_Blair 10 November 2016 06:17:59PM *  3 points [-]

As I'm waiting to watch the Trump Obama meeting, I'm changing my mind to elaborate. I've never really been an active participator in the LW community and if I'm going to distance myself further so be it. As an example, compare this to this and this. If Eliezer actually believed that politics is the mind killer and had any interest in intellectual honesty, he would admit he was hoodwinked by that live action roleplay game of his. He won't, hence my disgust.

Comment author: username2 15 November 2016 10:09:50PM 2 points [-]

I don't see anything in those posts that point to mindkilled partisanship. (And I'm very anti-EY on many points, so I'm not giving him any handicap here.)

The first was a statement of confusion about the behavior of the equity markets surrounding the US election. This seems a very reasonable observation to make.

The second was a long article pointing out that politics does sometimes have real world consequences, things you have to pay attention to even if you'd rather ignore politics in general. It explicitly mentions the difference between political partisanship theater (the mind-killing stuff), and the business of running the world. Most of the article is actually about when politics should be relevant to a rationalist and when it should be ignored. Also I'm not sure why you think he was hoodwinked by the live action simulation? I've participated in one of these before as a corporate training event and in university (both under different circumstances), and I have to say they are very effective educational tools.

The third is literally a single sentence.

What exactly do you find hypocritical about these posts?

Comment author: MrMind 11 November 2016 08:08:32AM 0 points [-]

I'm writing a post about it.

Comment author: username2 10 November 2016 01:34:43PM 1 point [-]

I'm very pessimistic about this. Basically, a single person, with very few exceptions, cannot influence politics in any meaningful way. Therefore there is no motivation, no utility to be gained from actions themselves. The only way to extract any utility from a political discussion is by bonding with similarly minded people, making new friends and having fun. And for that purpose, the more echo-chamber-y your environment is, the better. And most people use political discussion that way - very few are interested in small scale local politics, where they could have some influence, and most attention is being paid to the presidential elections because they are the most entertaining, even though their influence on them is negligible.

Comment author: morganism 10 November 2016 07:10:44PM *  -2 points [-]

I agree completely here, and Bernies supporters are likely to stay highly motivated, and actually try and get elected to local positions.

But the most useful political structure i have seen is actually from the Occupy movement. Their participatory democracy is a pretty useful model.


Comment author: ChristianKl 10 November 2016 07:22:04PM *  2 points [-]

Their participatory democracy is a pretty useful model.

Why do you think it's useful? How many congressman have they elected? I think the tea party was much more successful.

Comment author: morganism 10 November 2016 07:33:33PM *  -2 points [-]

As a local decision making model, they figured out how to get everyone involved, but still not get logjammed.

A well structured town hall model.

I am not too enamored of the single vote method anyway, the "pick 1,2,3" model has been shown to work, I think Australia is going to try that model soon.


Hate, fear, and prejudice is always effective in making people act as if in mob mode, but I havn't seen the Tea Party folks accomplish anything other than obstruction. But they did get elected, and in a large enough block to make an impact, they just havn't.

Let's see if those Bernie folks stay engaged, they may yet get involved in local, if not national politics.

Comment author: ChristianKl 10 November 2016 09:35:56PM 3 points [-]

As a local decision making model, they figured out how to get everyone involved, but still not get logjammed.

They frequently did get logjammed. They lost power compared to a year ago. They didn't get policy changes.

I don't think they even got them via state legislatures.

but I havn't seen the Tea Party folks accomplish anything other than obstruction.

Public spending would be less without the sequester the caused. They also prevent tax increases.

They are likely to get more laws passed with Trump in the White House.

Comment author: Viliam 11 November 2016 09:18:26AM *  2 points [-]

I only have third-hand information, but I heard that in Occupy the constant "privilege checking" and "you came here to fight the rich 1%, but now we will educate you that the true enemy is patriarchy, and the first step is that the white cis het males must shut up" actually drove away many participants.

Comment author: ChristianKl 09 November 2016 06:34:41PM 0 points [-]

Do you think that everybody who takes a political stance is automatically mindkilled? Do you have more complains than just that certain people found it important that Hillary wins?

Comment author: hedges 09 November 2016 07:27:02PM 5 points [-]

No, of course not. There are many situations where one can be reasonably certain that one political stance is better than another. My feeling of disgust was not caused by them supporting Hillary, but by the fervor and conviction displayed. It felt like at some point they had good reasons to choose a political stance, but then took it to the extreme and forgot all caution.

Comment author: ChristianKl 09 November 2016 09:33:53PM -2 points [-]

Signaling caution might not be effective if the goal is to motivate people to vote.

Comment author: Dagon 10 November 2016 01:27:57AM 7 points [-]

The goal of motivating people, as opposed to truth-seeking, is exactly the objection. They may or may not be mind-killed, but seeing them turn so easily toward the dark arts makes me value them a lot less as allies in rationality.

Comment author: hedges 10 November 2016 04:25:36PM 4 points [-]

In my case, not signaling any caution was enough to make me think that they're mind-killed. I also understand well what kind of strategies may be more effective in influencing the general public; which is part of the problem. I doubt their behavior and writings convinced anyone who hadn't already decided.

There were other writings which were much more persuasive, Scott's writings for example. The people I'm referring to, just spent the last year doing tribal screaming. And they're still doing it. Freaking out because their foretold doomsday came (and went).

Comment author: username2 15 November 2016 09:48:18PM 1 point [-]

I've stopped supporting 80,000 Hours because of their employees' writings and lost trust in CFAR

Can you point to examples? Genuinely curious.

Comment author: ChristianKl 12 November 2016 02:34:51PM 7 points [-]

Peter Thiel made it to be one of the 16 people of Trump's transition team. The transition team in turn will have a large role in choosing the makeup of the cabinet and thus what the Trump administration will do.

Let's hope Peter Thiel is good at having his voice heard in the team and choosing good people for the positions.

Comment author: MrMind 14 November 2016 08:08:55AM 0 points [-]

What's Thiel thought about AGI?

Comment author: ChristianKl 14 November 2016 10:55:55AM *  2 points [-]

There's a good chance that LW wouldn't exist without Thiel funding. Peter Thiel is the primary funder of MIRI. He's also involved in funding OpenAI.

Comment author: MrMind 14 November 2016 02:00:27PM -1 points [-]

Unfortunately, there might be other reasons to support MIRI besides caring for an UFAI, such as, for example, getting a hold on promising AI research. Indeed OpenAI, if I recall correctly, has a laxer approach to such matters.
Let me rephrase my question: has Thiel explicitly voiced any concern regarding AI (in both directions, research being too slow / too fast)?

Comment author: ChristianKl 18 November 2016 10:09:21PM 1 point [-]

I think Peter Thiel suggest that FAI research is generally underfunded and thus warrants more funding and that's why he gives it money.

Comment author: CellBioGuy 16 November 2016 07:03:52AM -2 points [-]

Given his statements in recent years I highly doubt he will be good at choosing good people.

Comment author: ChristianKl 18 November 2016 10:07:39PM *  1 point [-]

Which statements do you mean? Do you think decisions like funding Vassar for MetaMed or Eliezer to research AGI suggest bad judgement?

If you don't look at the decisions about how to fund with his own money, do you think the CEOs that funders fund chose in the last years were bad picks?

Comment author: Lumifer 16 November 2016 03:52:40PM 1 point [-]

"Good people" by your standards or by his?

Comment author: ChristianKl 09 November 2016 09:43:49PM 8 points [-]

What have we learned from this election? The political scientists who say that you can't buy elections with money are right. Mainstream media lost it's power.

There's a power vacuum to be filled.

Comment author: siIver 10 November 2016 01:26:06AM *  2 points [-]

The claim that money buys elections in its correct form is not totalitarian, but rather a claim about percentage. Moreover, two things that trigger exceptions are a) Name Recognition and b) Free coverage. This election had both. Presidential elections in general are most likely not to follow this rule quite as closely.

Comment author: Douglas_Knight 15 November 2016 03:46:42AM *  1 point [-]

Also, consider the declining marginal value of campaign spending.

Even Trump spent a quarter of a billion dollars. That's a lot of money that even he thought was useful. (His affiliates spent another quarter billion dollars, but they're probably old-fashioned politicians with poor judgement about campaign spending.) I think that was comparable to the 2000 campaign. So if Trump is our judge of the value of money, maybe politicians are spending too much today, but maybe they weren't just a few years ago.

Clinton spent half a billion dollars and her affiliates spent another half a billion. Much of this money was probably badly spent. And Clinton seems to have spent a lot of time raising money, while it may have been better for her to campaign. But she spent only twice as much money as Trump, or 4x if you count her affiliates and not his.

Comment author: WalterL 10 November 2016 01:58:29PM 1 point [-]

I definitely agree with your first paragraph. When a dude with a hat and a twitter account outmessages a zillion dollar operation something about how those zillion dollars are being spent is not quite right.

On the other hand, I'm not sure that the vacuum exists. It feels like the internet has brought people closer together, and a traditional middleman has been squeezed out. I'm not sure the space is still there for a new person to fill.

Comment author: Viliam 11 November 2016 09:25:06AM 3 points [-]

something about how those zillion dollars are being spent is not quite right

The proper way to spend the money today is to buy the right people in the media, so they will manufacture spontaneous outrage against your opponents.

Some people have not updated yet, and are spending money the ways that used to work better in the past.

Comment author: ChristianKl 10 November 2016 07:20:40PM 0 points [-]

I don't think that fast traveling blog articles equate to "people are closer together". It's very cheap to start new memes that are adopted by large amounts of people.

Comment author: WalterL 10 November 2016 08:40:02PM 1 point [-]

I feel like you are agreeing with me?

I'm saying that there isn't a space between dudes and dudes they want to talk at. No power vacuum. Technology filled the gap. You can just tweet or facebook to all the people who follow you.

Comment author: ChristianKl 10 November 2016 09:37:35PM *  1 point [-]

The fact that a new person can come to power tomorrow suggests that there's a power vacuum. The status quo is not powerful to prevent new people from taking power.

Comment author: WalterL 11 November 2016 03:15:13PM 1 point [-]

Oh, I misunderstood you. I agree with what you actually meant.

Comment author: morganism 10 November 2016 07:52:45PM 2 points [-]

Cloud computing needs coders, for now. Looks like the hottest ticket other than machine learning and data analysis.


and know who has the keys to your cloud


Comment author: JohnReese 08 November 2016 09:41:53PM 2 points [-]

Any LWers attending Envision 2016?

Comment author: btrettel 09 November 2016 06:17:18PM *  -2 points [-]

I would have liked to, but they rejected my application. (Edit: I imagine I'm getting downvoted because I mentioned this. Note that this is not complaining. I tend to view application processes as close to lotteries, so I don't take this personally.)

The topics of the conference interest me greatly. Right now I'm planning on hosting some futurist related discussions through the Austin LessWrong group while coordinating with a local futurist group.

If you will attend and have the opportunity, I'd be interested in seeing a summary of your experiences at the conference.

Comment author: btrettel 10 October 2017 01:47:57AM 0 points [-]

Amusingly enough, I got into the conference this year early. This seems to be a small piece of evidence for my hypothesis that these sorts of applications often work as lotteries.

Comment author: JohnReese 10 November 2016 12:28:04AM 0 points [-]

Hiya!, Oh ok. Sorry to hear that. I will be attending - yes. That's a great idea, let me post a summary of what it was like and what I learnt from it in Dec. Thanks for the suggestion. All the best with your futurist group. Any themes you find interesting in particular?

Comment author: btrettel 11 November 2016 04:03:16AM *  -2 points [-]

I'm interested in predicting future events to prioritize technology research. I've been thinking about getting speakers with expertise in the future of computing, trends of resource availability and utilization, climate change, and clean energy to start.

Previously I thought futurism was all about making optimistic predictions, but since then I've found more futurists who make predictions I think are credible. I track my own on PredictionBook and am going to start using Metaculus and GJOpen soon.

And despite working on a PhD in engineering, I'm actually quite skeptical of technology. Technological solutions to problems don't have as good a track record as most believe, and I think this influences where I should focus my research. For example, I used to think clean energy research was very important, but I've since come to the conclusion that energy and climate change are social/economic, political, or even aesthetic problems, not so much technical problems. That's not to say technology won't play a role, but due to things like the Jevons paradox, technology's role isn't as obvious as people think it is. Improving efficiency can increase usage, not that even maximally efficient systems will necessarily solve the problem. You should get some idea of what the actual effect of the research will be rather than assuming the effect will be what you want. Similar things are frequently said about starting a business: Check if the market exists before starting the business.

Comment author: morganism 12 November 2016 09:20:57PM 0 points [-]

I like the way biological systems use waste streams from upstream to produce their own fuel.

There are some good projects to condense CO2 directly from the atmo , and convert to methanol and hydrogen. If placed next to manufacturing fuel cells and pipelines, these become economic leverages, and others will quickly implement them to pick up cost savings.

A lot is also regulatory, like electric co's restrictions against re-using the waste heat from processing ,

Comment author: btrettel 12 November 2016 11:28:32PM *  -2 points [-]

Good point about regulatory issues. I've been thinking a lot about working on standards committees and whatnot as they actually have influence and many standards/regulations/codes are bad.

Using waste streams is one of the more basic efficiency engineering approaches, and at this point I think if large gains were to be had from those, we'd have them already.

As for condensing CO2, there are tons of ideas along those lines, but I'm not sure carbon capture is worthwhile. I'd need to see more economic analysis of those ideas, or better yet, test implementations. That's more or less my point. There are a ton of ideas, many of which could work technologically, but which would work economically/socially/etc. as well?

Let's go back to biological systems. Even assuming that most people driving is a good idea (I don't assume this), cars are somewhat irrational for that purpose. You can cut down drag (and consequently increase efficiency) a lot with relatively basic (and well known) modifications, e.g., boat tailing. It seems to me that cars aren't built that way in the first place because even though people say they want fuel economy, etc., cars built that way won't sell.

There used to be a really interesting interview along those lines with Bob Lutz (a well known car company executive) here, but it seems to have since gone offline. Here's what I have quoted in my notes:

AlixPartners: I would love to hear your point of view on design. Is it becoming even more important or not?

Bob Lutz: If you look at the [auto] companies that are really successful today, they are heavily design-focused.

In an era of levelness in almost everything else—fuel consumption, safety (which is all mandated anyway), cost, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera—the one thing that sticks out that can give you a huge competitive advantage is design.

AlixPartners: There's always a trade-off between the design side and the engineer. What are some of the key lessons you might want to pass on about that give and take?

Bob Lutz: Well, my key lesson learned, and I pass on to anybody who is in any position of responsibility in the automobile business, is if you look at the automobile as a collection of rational traits, like fuel economy, shoulder room, elbow room, hip room, rear H-point to dash, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera--and you get all that down on paper and the car is totally defined dimensionally, and then you hand it to the designers and say, “Put a wrapper on this, please,” you're going to get a car that meets every rational, stated desire on the part of a potential customer—but nobody's going to buy it! Because it is a fundamental mistake to look at cars and their attributes in a rational way.

We're all rational people. but looking at cars as fulfilling rational needs and then designing to that is about as smart as designing men's wristwatches for function only. They're just not going to sell.

And it's the same with cars. Tumblehome, side sloping in, fast windshield, roof height—[it was usually a] struggle to get what the designers wanted, in terms of not having a very stiff-looking car. And [the engineers would often] say, “Well, but what you're doing is it's going to deteriorate head swing lateral [if we] go down another half inch in roof height.”

And I would say, “Have you ever seen people in a showroom with tape measures, where the husband and wife are in there measuring and finally one of them says, ‘You know honey, this Chevrolet has a half inch less [room] than the Toyota Camry we saw before. Let's go buy it.’”

That's just not the way people behave. People won't even be in the showroom unless the car fascinates them visually from ads or as seen on television or seen in the street, or whatever.

Comment author: Bound_up 07 November 2016 11:32:01PM 2 points [-]

Can anyone point me towards resources about the rationality technique of trying to correct for bias/motivated reasoning by imagining your ideas and words as being presented by someone else, and then trying to nitpick their ideas for flaws?

Also appreciated would be anything about related techniques about disassociation, correcting for your own motivated reasoning, etc...

Comment author: James_Miller 07 November 2016 11:31:45PM 2 points [-]

Is the EMDrive looking more probable? What order of magnitude should our prior be (before looking at any tests) of the EMDrive working?

Comment author: Manfred 08 November 2016 12:53:55AM 0 points [-]

Lrf, zber cebonoyr. Gurfr grfgf znxr vg zhpu zber yvxryl gung n erny sbepr vf orvat cebqhprq va gur yno, ohg rira vs n erny sbepr vf orvat cebqhprq vg pbhyq fgvyy or r.t. chfuvat bss bs gur ovt fgrry jnyy bs gur inphhz punzore.

Fb V'q thrff znlor fbzrguvat yvxr rvtugl-svir creprag fher gung gurer'f n sbepr va gur yno, naq znlor n uhaqerqgu bs n creprag fher gung guvf guvat jbhyq npghnyyl cebcry n fcnprfuvc.

Comment author: arunbharatula 10 November 2016 06:59:16AM 1 point [-]


Comment author: niceguyanon 10 November 2016 12:52:26PM 0 points [-]
Comment author: Manfred 10 November 2016 08:49:11AM 0 points [-]

Simple rot-13 cipher so people have a chance to think for themselves before reading what other people think.

Comment author: Pfft 10 November 2016 05:57:19PM 0 points [-]

Apart from the question about whether it produces any thrust, there is also the question of whether it will lead to any interesting scientific discoveries. For example, if it turns out that there was a bit of contaminating material that evaporated, the thrust is real but the space-faring implications are not...

Comment author: scarcegreengrass 07 November 2016 05:25:01PM 2 points [-]

Are there any heuristics for distinguishing a rumored (but not real) scientific discovery from a discovery that seems implausible but will later turn out to be true? If i'm a remote, non-expert observer and the specialists disagree about the test results, are there any clues i can look for that hint at whether the discovery is real or not?

This is inspired by, but more general than, the current EM / microwave propulsion controversy.

An example of a discovery that later turns out to be real would be nuclear fission, which the theoretical physics community found implausible at the time.

Comment author: Manfred 07 November 2016 06:02:21PM 2 points [-]

If you are not an expert, but can distinguish at least some collection of trustworthy experts, then I think you're best off tracking them - even if this means you're occasionally wrong about e.g. the ability to harness the power of the atom. If you have trouble distinguishing experts from fakers in this field, then I guess you have to resort to the outside view of "things like this have been claimed before and have turned out mostly right so far, so I'll believe it," etc.

Comment author: WhySpace 08 November 2016 03:58:45PM 0 points [-]

Credentials like having a PhD are reasonably good ways of "distinguishing experts from fakers" quickly, if not always accurately. (Watch out for Type II errors)

Look at the credentials of the person with the novel claim. If an engineer is making a claim about particle physics, it is less likely to be true than if a particle physicist is making a claim about particle physics.

Usually it is possible to find the author’s PhD online somewhere. If they are an academic, their university usually lists a small bio, which mentions their current field of study along with their masters/PhD subfield.

Of course, no one is sticking their neck out for the EM drive, so there’s not a prominent advocate to look up. Obviously this isn’t perfect. If it were 1905, Einstein’s career would have consisted of work at a patent office. He would have just been awarded a PhD, but have almost no experience in academia. He would have only published a few papers, although 1 was in a prestigious journal. His groundbreaking work on the photoelectric effect would look plausible, but hardly certain from such a new graduate, especially given how radical the claims were.

Comment author: username2 15 November 2016 10:26:12PM 1 point [-]

Ask yourself: what if this were true? What other implications would the underlying phenomenon have?

Often times, especially with regard to physical phenomenon, you can find predictions that would be true somewhere in the universe for which there already exists experimental evidence. Maybe there is some theory about quantum gravity that is supposed to explain dark matter, dark energy, and produce some weird microwave propulsion tech. Well ask youself: if this were true, what would it say about neutron stars, black hole collisions, etc.? This rules out most forms of crackpot theory.

Comment author: morganism 07 November 2016 09:09:37PM 0 points [-]

I agree, need a model that works when the experts in a field all flat out say "its highly unlikely".

EmDrive is tough, but you could literally build it yourself.

What is really hard is when Mitsubishi found transmutation of elements when studying the nickel fusion made infamous by Rossi.

and now, all the way back to Fleiscmann/Pons

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency; or DTRA, issued a report entitled Investigation of Nano-Nuclear Reactions in Condensed Matter.

“The Pd/D co-deposition process has been shown to provide a reproducible means of manufacturing Pd-D nano-alloys that induce low energy nuclear reactions (LENRs),” the report states. Pd stands for palladium, a metal widely used in some LENR processes.

I ended up all the way back to a different table of elements to account for it, which was fun and cool.



I have the same trouble in astrogeology and planetary science. All those folks have the same answers, because they have all memorized the same things, from the same teachers, who wrote all the class texts. Self reinforcement isn't helping science with actual truths.

Comment author: morganism 07 November 2016 10:40:05PM 1 point [-]
Comment author: scarcegreengrass 08 November 2016 04:58:41PM 0 points [-]

The idea that it might move by exerting force on an unobserved set of particles is new to me. Intriguing ...

If that were true then it almost makes me wonder whether one should learn from Marie Curie's death and suspect the EM drive to have strange side effects, like the then-unknown radiation of her time.

Comment author: morganism 10 November 2016 07:24:18PM 0 points [-]

some homework. at first they believed that the EM was quantum tunneling out, but that has been revoked. Microwave cavity design work has been going on for a while, to use water as steam thrusters for attitude control.




Comment author: Pfft 10 November 2016 05:58:15PM *  0 points [-]

I mean, you can literally build an EmDrive yourself, but you definitely can't measure the tiny thrust yourself. You still need to trust the experts there, no?

Comment author: morganism 07 November 2016 09:27:41PM 0 points [-]

and more weirdness

"Martin Fleischmann Memorial Project October 2 ·

Why care about excess heat, if you can have excess metal... in the tons...

C.R. Narayanaswamy has decided to go public with extraordinary data observed between 1985 and 1999 since the company at which the observations were made, Silcal Metallurgic Ltd., has since ceased trading. He is interested to see if any other Ferro Silicon alloy manufacturers have observed similar anomalies.

In the submitted abstract he says:

"The author had been observing puzzling anomalous excess metal yields in the range of 200 Kg to 400 Kg right from 1985 onwards."

"During a eleven week period in early 1995, the furnace was operated at a rating of about 8.75 MVA with corresponding daily power consumption of around 1,68,000 kWh per day, sustaining an average daily production of 24.75 tons of Ferro-Silicon alloy of 73.8 - 74% Si content. The typical daily consumption of raw materials during this period was (a) Quartz 32.955 tons; after accounting for its purity of 98.73%, and the chemical composition of Quartz (Si02) the Silicon metal component in the input works out to 15.379 tons. (b) Daily iron consumption was 5.1 tons. Thus the total weight of daily input of Si and Fe was 20.479 tons. However throughout the 11 week period the average daily production of Fe-Si alloy was 24.75 tons, indicating a daily "excess metal" production of 4.25 tons. The product alloy was found to consistently contain 73.8% to 74.1 % of Silicon. A corresponding reduction of the quantum of C02 released to the atmosphere was also noted."

Comment author: DataPacRat 07 November 2016 11:04:16AM 2 points [-]



Main goal: Resume habit of writing narrative daily. Secondary goal: Explore a future I wouldn't want to live in. Have managed a week of meeting word-count goal. Am making much up as I go, with a few particular points I'd like to hit. Comments/ideas/suggestions appreciated.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 09 November 2016 07:24:07PM *  1 point [-]

Hold off on proposing solutions.

Do not propose solutions until the problem has been discussed as thoroughly as possible without suggesting any.

The problem: There are a number of folks in the LW-diaspora (and adjacent circles) who live in the U.S. and are living with disabilities and chronic medical conditions. Many of these people have benefited from increased access to health care in the past few years due to the Affordable Care Act. This increased access may very well be going away soon, putting these folks' health, well-being, and in some cases lives at rather increased danger.

What are other aspects of this problem?

Comment author: Lumifer 09 November 2016 07:43:13PM *  3 points [-]

Are you looking for solutions at the "how healthcare should work in this country" level or at the personal "this person should do that" level?

If the former, we are not policy makers and there's little point in coming up with amateur solutions that won't be implemented. If the latter, there is a rather severe lack of information as to what will happen to Obamacare and what will the post-Obamacare landscape look like.

One data point: the Colorado single-payer proposal was decisively crushed (~80% against, I think). And Colorado is a blue state.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 09 November 2016 08:15:38PM *  -1 points [-]

Are you looking for solutions at the "how healthcare should work in this country" level or at the personal "this person should do that" level?

I'm not looking for solutions right now. I'm looking to describe a problem, specifically at the individuals-in-our-community level rather than the national or state policy level.

Comment author: ChristianKl 10 November 2016 07:10:52PM -1 points [-]

If the latter, there is a rather severe lack of information as to what will happen to Obamacare and what will the post-Obamacare landscape look like.

It's likely worth reading how the current contracts of different insurance companies differ and whether some might provide more guarantees for the future that would also hold under post-Obamacare scenario's.

Comment author: MrMind 10 November 2016 09:04:46AM 1 point [-]

Not an expert on any facets of the situation, so my only contribution will be an outside view:

  • what are the probabilities assigned to that level: decreasing, staying the same, increasing?
  • What are the conditions granting access to health care?
  • What and how much impact said program has on those who access it?
  • How could it been improved / worsened?
Comment author: HGTV 11 November 2016 09:40:49PM *  0 points [-]
Comment author: ChristianKl 12 November 2016 11:33:43AM 2 points [-]

Please add more information to your post.

Comment author: siIver 11 November 2016 04:52:00PM 1 point [-]

Is there any good material on the concept of willpower out there? I'm struggling to understand how it works, what can be done about it, and whether it's even consistent enough to make general claims that are useful. Or if it even makes sense as a concept and isn't just a term for a bunch of misunderstood mechanisms. The usual motivational stuff etc. that I've seen doesn't really qualify.

Comment author: ChristianKl 12 November 2016 11:34:52AM 2 points [-]

We don't have a good scientific theory about how willpower works.

Comment author: MrMind 14 November 2016 08:10:28AM 1 point [-]

The prevaling hypothesis is "we have a finite reserve of willpower more or less mirrored by glucose in the blood", but it has recently failed to replicate. So we're kind of back to square one.

Comment author: ernestdezoe 09 November 2016 02:51:53PM -2 points [-]

Also are there any online polls/exit polls regarding women? I suspect that in the privacy of the booth the high status alpha male personality of Donald Trump might have had some not accounted for effect , online polls could still have people lying about their vote and age/gender/race , but eliminate the shy voter variable which I suspect was pretty big with a character like DJT

Comment author: Lumifer 09 November 2016 03:46:57PM 0 points [-]

Also are there any online polls/exit polls regarding women?

Yes, 538 had posts during the night on the gender gap and I'm sure they will publish a full analysis.

tl;dr women voted against Trump by large margins with some exceptions (notably, Florida).

Comment author: ernestdezoe 09 November 2016 03:59:45PM *  0 points [-]

But are they taken online or not? Some women , especially self proclaimed feminists who voted for Trump would never tell that in front of a microphone

Comment author: Lumifer 09 November 2016 05:06:54PM 1 point [-]

The numbers, I believe, are from exit polls. Definitely not online.

Comment author: ernestdezoe 09 November 2016 01:43:30PM *  -2 points [-]

Prediction : Trump will channel public money through his companies in order build "public" infrastructures , I honestly can't say if he's gonna move forward and build the great wall of the americas though

Comment author: turchin 09 November 2016 04:14:05PM *  -2 points [-]

I think he is more interested in world domination

Comment author: ernestdezoe 09 November 2016 04:15:43PM 4 points [-]

Isn't that a bit excessive reaction for a rationality forum?