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[Link] Embracing Metamodernism

0 gworley 18 August 2017 07:23PM

Tabooing Science + an xkcd comic about the eclipse - "Honestly, it's not that scientific."

3 Voltairina 16 August 2017 03:19PM

It occurred to me when I was reading XKCD a moment ago that given that there exists a strain of suspicion of anything 'science' among a certain crowd in this country (fundamentalists, creationists, etc), and a kind of mystique among another crowd (of the "It was in a study so it must be true" variety) that it might be helpful, given that by doing science people are more or less systematizing thinking critically and checking things to be as certain as they can about an idea, to kind of pay attention to and possibly 'play taboo' to an extent when that something-is-a-special-kind-of-a-thing-because-it-is-a-science-thing attitude comes up.

A good example being the xkcd comic I got it from:

We need to think more about Terminal Values

1 [deleted] 16 August 2017 07:50AM

I just sent an email to Eliezer but it is also applicable to everyone on this website. Here it is:



Hi Eliezer,

I'm contacting you directly because I think I have an idea that could get us closer to obtaining our terminal value(s), and you are in a position of influence but also seem like someone I could possibly influence if my idea is correct. If my idea is wrong at least I'd get a lot out of hearing why.

First. I think your definition of Terminal Value is flawed. People don't ultimately want survival or health or friendship. I know that because if I asked you why you want survival, the answer would ultimately be because circuitry and chemistry make us. So it'd appear that our terminal values are  actionable motivations from circuitry and biology. If we stopped our line of questioning there we'd think our terminal value was that, in which case the optimal path of action would be to find a way to hack our circuitry and biology to give us positive signals. But I don't think we should stop there.

If you model humans as optimizers of this terminal value then you'd say to people "you should try to optimize your terminal value" but it's not really a should because that's already what people do to various degrees of effectiveness. Terminal values aren't "should"s, they're "shall"s. The real question here is what do you mean when you say "you."

Let me know if any part of this seems logically unsound but I'm now going to make another argument that I'm still having a hard time processing:

"You" is poorly defined. Evidence:
- That tree over there is just as much a part of "you" as your hand is. The only difference is your conscious mind is better at finely controlling your hand than at controlling the tree, but same as how you can cause your hand to move you can also cause the tree to move by pushing it.
- The "you" some years from now is made of entirely different atoms yet you don't behave as if "you" will be dead when that happens--you still think of that as you. That means "you" is more than your physical body.
- If "you" is more than your physical body then, the first thing I was saying about chemical and electric signals being our terminal value don't make sense.

New model:
- We are a collective system of consciousnesses that is in some sense conscious. Humans are like neurons in a brain. We communicate like neurons. We communicate in various ways, one of them language. The brain might have a different terminal value than the neuron.
- Question: what "should" a neuron in a brain's terminal value be? Its own possibly faultily programmed terminal value? Or the terminal value of the brain? I think it depends on the neurons level of awareness, but once it realizes it's in a brain and thinks of its "self" as the brain, its terminal value should be the brain's.

Possibly the brain is likewise a neuron in a bigger brain but nevertheless somewhere there must be a real terminal value at the end or at least a level to which we are unable to find any more information about it from. I think if we can expand our definition of ourselves to the whole brain rather than our little neuron selves, we "should" try to find the terminal value.

Why do I think that we "should" do that? Because knowing more about what you want puts you in a much better position to get what you want. And there's no way we wouldn't want what we want--the only question here is if we think the expected value of trying to figure out what we ultimately want makes it part of the optimal path for getting what we ultimately want. From my information and model, I do think it's part of the optimal path. I also think its entirely possible to figure out what the terminal value is if we're "intelligent" enough, by your definition of intelligence so the expected value is at least positive.

I think the optimal path is:
- figure out what the "self" is
- figure out what the self's terminal value is
- use science and technology and whatever means necessary to get that terminal value

So this is where I ask:
- Are there any words that I'm using in an unclear way? (Often smart people don't actually disagree but are using different definitions)
- Are there any logical flaws in the statements I've made? (I've kept my message shorter than it probably should've been thinking that this length is enough to get the desired effect but I'm extremely willing to elaborate)
- Do you agree with the conclusion I've drawn?
- If yes what do you think we should do next?
- If no I beg of you please explain why as it would greatly help with my optimization towards my terminal value

Social Insight: When a Lie Is Not a Lie; When a Truth Is Not a Truth - Pt. 2

2 Bound_up 15 August 2017 12:53AM

'"If people have a right to be stupid, the market will respond by supplying all the stupidity that can be sold."'  People misinterpret this as indicating that I take a policy stance in favor of regulation.  It indicates no such thing.  It is meant purely as guess about empirical consequences." - EY (http://lesswrong.com/lw/h2/blue_or_green_on_regulation/)


Try this a few times, and you'll stop thinking you can make "guess[es] about empirical consequences" (or say anything about empirical consequences (or say anything about empirical anything)) and have people hear anything except you showing off your policy stances. Showing off whom you associate with and what virtues you possess.


Once your eyes open to how hard it is to convince people that your sentences about how markets function are meant to describe how markets function, you give up and stop trying.


Well, if you have the time to convince people you're actually trying to say something about how the world works and not just proudly waving a verbal banner in favor of the home team, and you have the ability to make interesting a subject so much less accessible and exciting than politics (we've all seen it, haven't we, how little they care once they realize that we really are trying to describe market functions?), and the time to actually do it properly, all without alienating important people in the process...

Then, yeah, maybe. And those sets of circumstances absolutely happen and I'm glad that we do teach each other things.


But, I really, really understand why most politicians can't do anything remotely like this, and thus, say the words "If people have a right to be stupid, the market will respond by supplying all the stupidity that can be sold" only if they want people to hear "I am taking a policy stance in favor of regulation."


If you do want people to hear that, then this is a very effective way of communicating that. If you know that saying this will lead people to holding that belief about your stance, then saying it is honest, even if you don't believe that markets work that way. You're not saying/they're not hearing anything about markets, so none of your beliefs about markets can be misrepresented by saying these words. You believe something, you want to honestly communicate that belief, so you use symbols. We think of words as our symbols, but whole sentences can be symbols, too. A sentence has no "true" meaning any more than a word does. And if we define that sentence according to the common usage...


Think through some other possibilities. Maybe you don't believe there's a market for stupidity, but you do take a stance in favor of regulation. If you say you don't believe there's a market for stupidity, you'll knowingly deceive a large group of people (the social thinkers) whom you know will hear "I oppose regulation" when you say there's no market for stupidity. In contrast, if you say you do believe there's a market for stupidity, you'll communicate your endorsement of regulation to that group, but will be interpreted as saying something untrue by another group of people who think that you're saying something about market functions and only about market functions and that you've said nothing about your stance on regulation, so wouldn't we be jumping to conclusions to assume anything either way (nerds/empirical thinkers)?


Most people aren't empirical thinkers (and those that are often aren't when it comes to politics), so as a matter of practicality, politics is spoken in the language of social reasoning. Knowing this, you're shooting yourself in the foot if you listen to these people's words as a way of modeling their beliefs. You have to listen to their sentences, and understand their definition according to the common usage. "Blah blah market for stupidity blah blah" is defined as "I endorse regulation" according to the common usage (no matter what you substitute in place of the blah blah's).


There's a whole music to this social language, and if you start to catch the rhythm, you may find that the absolute garbage that is presidential debates (I use to marvel that the apparently top candidates for president never had anything new or interesting to say, surely such people should be a fountain of insight and formidable competence) resolves itself into something interesting after all.

Ah, yes, now I see. First he waves the flag for group X, then he waves the flag for group N. Many people are members of both tribes and feel really connected, while those people who belong to only one are quite tolerant of this particular outgroup. And the members of X who actively oppose group N are disproportionately single-issue voters, so this comes out as an effective appeal as measured by vote-grabbing...


It's also interesting to hear new ways of saying "I'm with them" over and over again about the commonest groups to appeal to ("God bless America") or compete over (How can they say "I support our troops" more strongly than their opponent? It's a real exercise in creativity). And, of course, amid the majority of people, this is the language of power, and you may find it useful to know how to move within this world, to act upon it, to make yourself respected, and to move people.


Most people (citation needed) talk and think like this all the time. They are social thinkers, not empirical thinkers. Everything they "know" about the minimum wage is how to use it as a vehicle for talking about social things, their own status, their group status, and their virtues. Except they don't do so consciously, but automatically. Humans are social creatures, and to think socially, and not in terms of abstract propositions about the function of the world is their first and natural instinct. Always remember, we're the weird ones. Possessors of an inhuman power with a price.


Find some non-nerdy types you may not usually associate much with. Go clubbing and ask all the people wearing something you find appalling their opinions on the minimum wage. After their initial summary of "I'm with them," whichever "them" they might happen to be with, inquire a bit more deeply. Go a little Socratic on them and ask about their reasoning, and ask them to confirm your guesses about which observations they would take as evidence for and against their position. You might want to personally note all the times they (it seems to you) change the subject, contradict themselves, or use any of a thousand flavors of fallacy.


Now, review the conversation (which you carefully recorded, of course), but this time, ask yourself if there's any way to interpret each of their statements (which sound like propositions about the function of markets and the nature of human rights) instead as signals about tribal loyalty, personal status, and personal virtue. Write down what these statements might say about the tribe and the person. Incredibly, you may find that what once was a cacophony of contradiction has resolved itself. In another key, it was all perfectly mainstream, run-of-the mill, straightforward, vanilla, dry, unremarkable clarity. Seen this way, the mystery dissolves into something so ordinary as to face-palmingly obvious in retrospect.


They're just saying how great they are and how great their people are and how awesome they all are and what good people they are. Charming.


My last discussion of this found many respondents thinking that it was mean to think such lowly things of other people. It is curious to me that they seem to take it for granted that it is lowly. Humans are naturally political; why call our native tongue lowly? There are a thousand stories about the plucky hero who cares about the work, and it's all about the work, and they have to jump over the hurdles that are the regular humans who are into office politics and are so shameful as to not care about the work for its own sake (who do they think they are, not being fascinated with blood spatter analysis or awesome architecture?). Why fetishize this work-over-politics bit? Oh, sure it's responsible for everything lasting that humanity has ever created and all, but...well, as hobbies go, politics is humanity's first and natural choice. People enjoy it; they optimize for it. I'm nerdy and happen to fancy the romance of abstract propositions about reality, but I don't begrudge those who don't feel the same way.


Perhaps more importantly, I need to learn their language, the language of social power, if I am to get them to do what is needful regarding reality despite their native disinterest. Tim Urban's the best speaker our community has, probably, and it still takes all of 2 minutes before it's completely obvious he's a nerd and proud of it. Julia Galef's up there, too, but with a similar weakness when it comes to getting non-nerds to get on board with important political movements. Robin Hanson's alright...


But we need a proper Draco. As galling as it is, there is very much a place for a Trumpesque speaker who can get a certain kind of person participating in important things that they...really aren't naturally inclined to care about. We need Steve Harvey and Barack Obama and MLK and someone who can talk to anybody. Or at least who can talk to somebody other than the nerds who are already half-way on our side (and will be more and more as consensus consolidates around the correct answer).


A good map of reality, Knowledge, is power, to bind the universe to our service. But status, respect, prestige. That is the power to move humans. It is, of course, contained within knowledge itself. But the time has come to train the versatile laser focus of knowledge upon social Homo Sapiens and learn how we're really going to get them, all of them (not just the nerds), to save the world.

[Link] [Humor] A Fearsome Rationality Technique

2 SquirrelInHell 14 August 2017 09:05PM

Open thread, August 14 - August 20, 2017

2 Thomas 14 August 2017 07:48AM
If it's worth saying, but not worth its own post, then it goes here.

Notes for future OT posters:

1. Please add the 'open_thread' tag.

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

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

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

Repairing Anxiety using Internal and External locus of control models

3 Elo 12 August 2017 08:05AM

Original post: http://bearlamp.com.au/repairing-anxiety-using-internal-and-external-locus-of-control-models/

I want you to examine your map.  It's the representation you carry around in your head that says, "I am in control of most things" or it says, "most things are out of my control".  Or for very specific things it says, "I am in control" or "I am not in control".

Factually - In the territory - through life things are more and less in your control or shaped by events beyond your control in the external world. Independent of your locus of control, can be noted the way you feel about a problem alongside whether it is internal of external locus of control.   As a separation of cause and effect.  (Of concrete event and their surrounding judgements, evaluations, conclusions or extrapolations)

This might already seem obvious but let's make some examples to play with.  Here are some times that you might feel in control or out of control.

  1. Internal-Good: I am the lead on the project so everything is going to get done my way (the right way).
  2. Internal-Bad: My house is a mess and it's my fault.  It won't get tidy unless I do something about it and it's bothering me.
  3. External-Good: I outsourced my tax to an accountant.  Now I have less to worry about.
  4. External-Bad: I got the flu, how does this keep happening to me?!?

In these examples it's clear what's going on (the concrete) and it's supposed to be clear whether it's an internal or external locus of control, and the feeling is mentioned. Now lets play with them.  Can we shift the concrete experiences to a different locus of control? from the original first example we can shift the event to the 4 quadrants above

  1. Internal-good: I am the lead on the project so everything is going to get done my way (the right way).
  2. Internal-bad: I am the lead on the project.  It's all on me. What if I make a mistake, it will be all my fault.  I don't know if I can handle it.
  3. External-good: I am the lead on the project, I have so much responsibility at work, they must know I can handle it.  
  4. External-bad: I am the lead on the project. I am under so much pressure at work.  It's stressing me out!

But that's not the only example that can shift.

  1. Internal-good: My house is a mess, it's my fault but I don't care.  I am having way too much fun to bother with it.  I will deal with it when it bothers me enough or when I find time
  2. Internal-bad: My house is a mess and it's my fault.  It won't get tidy unless I do something about it and it's bothering me.
  3. External-good: My house is a mess and it's my fault, lucky for me no one cares!  I can get away with it because it doesn't matter.  
  4. External-bad: My house is a mess and it's my fault, what if anyone sees, I can't have friends over, what would they think of me?  I have too much to do, life never gives me enough time to hold myself together

As we try each example...

  1. Internal-good: I outsourced my tax to an accountant.  I am a powerful agent that can decide to not do tasks if I don't want to.  I know my strengths and this is not one of them.
  2. Internal-bad: I outsourced my tax to an accountant.  I am incompetent about finance, it's my fault I have to pay someone to do this for me.
  3. External-good: I outsourced my tax to an accountant.  Now I have less to worry about.
  4. External-bad: I outsourced my tax to an accountant. My tax was too hard, I had no choice but to pay someone to fix it for me
  1. Internal-good: I got the flu.  I had to take care of my sick friends, I knew there was a risk but you gotta live.
  2. Internal-Bad: I got the flu. I hate public transport, so many sick people I always get sick.  I can't help it.
  3. External-good: I got the flu. these things happen.  Better take it easy or I will be sick for longer.
  4. External-bad: I got the flu, how does this keep happening to me?!?

Curious isn't it.  Any concrete experience can be shifted to a good/bad feeling, and any locus of control can be shifted to a internal/external locus of control as well. As a person who has an ego that barely fits in the room, it means that I am very practised at living in that first row of the square.  That means I am looking for a method that either obtains power/control for myself or bestows responsibility to the external locus of control. If you carry anxieties around with you, chances are they have some perspective that can be changed by hanging around in the other part of the square.  Obviously this is not yet a method for getting you into the first row of the square but moving in that direction is the strategy below.


The only method I want to mention in this article is to switch locus of control.  So if you are in Internal-bad try switch to external and see what comes up.  That is; move diagonally in the table. Going from; Internal-bad: My house is a mess and it's my fault.  It won't get tidy unless I do something about it and it's bothering me. To: External-good: My house is a mess and it's my fault, lucky for me no one else cares!  I can get away with it because it doesn't matter to anyone else and no one can see. While avoiding: External-bad: My house is a mess and it's my fault, what if anyone sees, I can't have friends over, what would they think of me?  I have too much to do, life never gives me enough time to hold myself together How exactly? Try:

  1. Write down the problem in concrete form.  Or get clear on what the problem is somehow.  You can talk to a friend or just think about it so long as you lock down what the problem is.  The benefit of writing it down is that once written it's not going to squirm in your head and be the elusive spiralling colour changing problem monster.
  2. Decide which locus of control you are currently in. (or just pick one.  It can't both be "my fault" and "not my problem" at the same time" so start somewhere and switch.)
  3. Try think of ways in which the problem is in the other locus of control.  ("Not my problem" or "I can take charge of this problem")
  4. If 3 seems impossible - ask other people for help.  They will be able to see your situation differently and suggest ways of looking that are in the other locus of control.

It would be very hard for a problem to be both entirely your fault (caused by you) and the world hating you (caused by external forces) at the same time.  It's also remarkably hard to be in control of a problem and have it be not your problem.  What I am saying is that it would have to either be your problem or not your problem.  It would be hard to be both.

Meta: changing your internal models of locus of control is an internal locus of control method.  Unless you propose, "this is the way I am I can't change it" which would be an external locus of control explanation. I don't know how to build on this so it will have to come in another post.  having this out there will help to make it easier to build on later.

Meta: this took around 2.5 hours to put together.

Social Insight: When a Lie Is Not a Lie; When a Truth Is Not a Truth

7 Bound_up 11 August 2017 06:28PM

//The point has already been made, that if you wish to truly be honest, it is not enough to speak the truth.

I generally don't tell people I'm an atheist (I describe my beliefs without using any common labels). Why? I know that if I say the words "I am an atheist," that they will hear the following concepts:

- I positively believe there is no God

- I cannot be persuaded by evidence any more than most believers can be persuaded by evidence, ie, I have a kind of faith in my atheism

- I wish to distance myself from members of religious tribes

As I said, the point has already been made; If I know that they will hear those false ideas when I say a certain phrase, how can I say I am honest in speaking it, knowing that I will cause them to have false beliefs? Hence the saying, if you wish to protect yourself, speak the truth. If you wish to be honest, speak so that truth will be heard.

Many a politician convincingly lies with truths by saying things that they know will be interpreted in a certain positive (and false) way, but which they can always defend as having been intended to convey some other meaning.


The New

There is a counterpart to this insight, come to me as I've begun to pay more attention to the flow of implicit social communication. If speaking the truth in a way you know will deceive is a lie, then perhaps telling a lie in a way that you know will communicate a true concept is not a lie.

I've relaxed my standards of truth-telling as I've come to understand this. "You're the best" and "You can do this" statements have been opened to me, no qualifiers needed. If I know that everyone in a group has to say "I have XYZ qualification," but I also know that no one actually believes anybody when they say it, I can comfortably recite those words, knowing that I'm not actually leading anybody to believe false things, and thus, am not being dishonest.

Politicians use this method, too, and I think I'm more or less okay with it. You see, we have a certain problem that arises from intellectual inequality. There are certain truths which literally cannot be spoken to some people. If someone has an IQ of 85, you literally cannot tell them the truth about a great number of things (or they cannot receive it). And there are a great many more people who have the raw potential to understand certain difficult truths, but whom you cannot reasonably tell these truths (they'd have to want to learn, put in effort, receive extensive teaching, etc).

What if some of these truths are pertinent to policy? What do you do, say a bunch of phrases that are "true" in a way you will interpret them, but which will only be heard as...

As what? What do people hear when you explain concepts they cannot understand? If I had to guess, very often they interpret this as an attack on their social standing, as an attempt by the speaker to establish themselves as a figure of superior ability, to whom they should defer. You sound uppity, cold, out-of-touch, maybe nerdy or socially inept.

So, then...if you're socially capable, you don't say those things. You give up. You can't speak the truth, you literally cannot make a great many people hear the real reasons why policy Z is a good idea; they have limited the vocabulary of the dialogue by their ability and willingness to engage. 

Your remaining moves are to limit yourself to their vocabulary, or say something outside of that vocabulary, all the nuance of which will evaporate en route to their ears, and which will be heard as a monochromatic "I think I'm better than you."

The details of this dynamic at play go on and on, but for now, I'll just say that this is the kind of thing Scott Adams is referring to when he says that what Trump has said is "emotionally true" even if it "doesn't pass the fact checks" (see dialogue with Sam Harris).

In a world of inequality, you pick your poison. Communicate what truths can be received by your audience, or...be a nerd, and stay out of elections.

Prediction should be a sport

10 chaosmage 10 August 2017 07:55AM

So, I've been thinking about prediction markets and why they aren't really catching on as much as I think they should.

My suspicion is that (beside Robin Hanson's signaling explanation, and the amount of work it takes to get to the large numbers of predictors where the quality of results becomes interesting) the basic problem of prediction markets is that they look and feel like gambling. Or at best like the stock market, which for the vast majority of people is no less distasteful.

Only a small minority of people are neither disgusted by nor terrified of gambling. Prediction markets right now are restricted to this small minority.

Poker used to have the same problem.

But over the last few decades Poker players have established that Poker is (also) a sport. They kept repeating that winning isn't purely a matter of luck, they acquired the various trappings of tournaments and leagues, they developed a culture of admiration for the most skillful players that pays in prestige rather than only money and makes it customary for everyone involved to show their names and faces. For Poker, this has worked really well. There are much more Poker players, more really smart people are deciding to get into Poker and I assume the art of game probably improved as well.

So we should consider re-framing prediction the same way.

The calibration game already does this to a degree, but sport needs competition, so results need to be comparable, so everyone needs to make predictions on the same events. You'd need something like standard cards of events that players place their predictions on.

Here's a fantasy of what it could look like.

  • Late in the year, a prediction tournament starts with the publication of a list of events in the coming year. Everybody is invited to enter the tournament (and maybe pay a small participation fee) by the end of the year, for a chance to be among the best predictors and win fame and prizes.
  • Everyone who enters plays the calibration game on the same list of events. All predictions are made public as soon as the submission period is over and the new year begins. Lots of discussion of each event's distribution of predictions.
  • Over the course of the year, events on the list happen or fail to happen. This allows for continually updated scores, a leaderboard and lots of blogging/journalistic opportunities.
  • Near the end of the year, as the leaderboard turns into a shortlist of potential winners, tension mounts. Conveniently, this is also when the next tournament starts.
  • At new year's, the winner is crowned (and I'm open to having that happen literally) at a big celebration which is also the end of the submission period for the next tournament and the revelation of what everyone is predicting for this next round. This is a big event that happens to be on a holiday, where more people have time for big events.
Of course this isn't intended to replace existing prediction markets. It is an addition to those, a fun and social thing with lots of PR potential and many opportunities to promote rationality. It should attract people to prediction who are not attracted to prediction markets. And it could be prototyped pretty cheaply, and developed further if it is as much fun as I think it would be.

[Link] China’s Plan to ‘Lead’ in AI: Purpose, Prospects, and Problems

3 fortyeridania 10 August 2017 01:54AM

Bi-weekly Rational Feed

19 deluks917 08 August 2017 01:56PM

===Highly Recommended Articles:

Skills Most Employable by 80,000 Hours - Metrics: Satisfaction, risk of automation, and breadth of applicability. Leadership and social skills will gain the most in value. The least valuable skills involve manual labor. Tech skills may not be the most employable but they are straightforward to improve at. The most valuable skills are the hardest to automate and useful in the most situations. Data showing a large oversupply of some tech skills, though others are in high demand. A chart of which college majors add the most income.

Something Was Wrong by Zvi Moshowitz - Zvi visits a 'stepford pre-school'. He can't shake the feeling that something is wrong. He decides not to send his son to the place where kid's souls go to die.

Ems Evolve by Bayesian Investor - Will the future we dominated by entities that lack properties we consider important (such as 'have fun' or even 'sentient'). Will agents lacking X-value outcompete other agents. What counter-measures could society take and how effective would they be.

Housing Price Bubble Revisited by Tyler Cowen - "Over the entire 20th century real home prices averaged an index value of about 110 (and were quite close to this value over the the entire 1950-1997 period). Over the entire 20th century, housing prices never once roce above 131, the 1989 peak. But beginning around 2000 house prices seemed to reach for an entirely new equilibrium. In fact, even given the financial crisis, prices since 2000 fell below the 20th century peak for only a few months in late 2011. Real prices today are now back to 2004 levels and rising. As I predicted in 2008, prices never returned to their long-run 20th century levels."

Tyler Cowen On Stubborn Attachments by EconTalk - "Cowen argues that economic growth--properly defined--is the moral key to maintaining civilization and promoting human well-being. Along the way, the conversation also deals with inequality, environmental issues, and education"


Contra Grant On Exaggerated Differences by Scott Alexander - "Hyde found moderate or large gender differences in aggressiveness, horniness, language abilities, mechanical abilities, visuospatial skills, mechanical ability, tendermindness, assertiveness, comfort with body, various physical abilities, and computer skills. Perhaps some peeople might think that finding moderate-to-large-differences in mechanical abilities, computer skills, etc supports the idea that gender differences might play a role in gender balance in the tech industry. But because Hyde’s meta-analysis drowns all of this out with stuff about smiling-when-not-observed, Grant is able to make it sound like this proves his point. It’s actually worse than this, because Grant misreports the study findings in various ways."

Links: On The Site Of The Angels by Scott Alexander - Standard SSC links post.

Mildly Condescending Advice by SlateStarScratchpad - Ten mildly condescending but useful pieces of advice Scott recommends.

Communism by SlateStarScratchpad - Scott thinks he would have been a communist in 1910.

What Are The Median Psychiatrists Scores On The by SlateStarScratchpad - Psychiatrists are very mentally well adjusted on average. "I think you get way more illness in the therapists, counselors, etc, especially the ones that are kind of low-status and don’t require a lot of training." Doctor's recovery rates from alcoholism are very good.

Why Not More Excitement About Prediction Aggregation by Scott Alexander - Prediction markets and aggregation methods work. Superforecasters proved some groups can consistently make good predictions. Why isn't there more interest? Wouldn't investors pay for predictions? Do theories about signaling and prestige explain the situation?

Where The Falling Einstein Meets The Rising Mouse by Scott Alexander - Eliezer/Scott's model of intelligence suggests that the gap between 'village idiot' and Einstein is tiny relative to the difference between 'village idiot' and a chimp. This suggests that once AI reaches human levels it will almost immediately pass the best human. This happened in Go. But in other fields progress was gradual throughout the approximately human level skill range. Scott looks at possible explanations.

Stem vs The Humanities by SlateStarScratchpad - A long and intelligent thread about "STEM" vs "The Humanities". What are the natural categories? Should we consider math part of the humanities? Should we groups careful humanities scholars with careful STEM scholars? So-called-autistics. Other topics.

Gender Imbalances Are Mostly Not Due To Offensive Attitudes by Scott Alexander - Men and women massively differ in terms of interest in things vs people. Libertarians are about 5% women. r/MRAand the gamergate subreddit have twice this percentage. Trump voters are close to gender parity and the Catholic Church has more women than men. Why this matters.

Is It Possible To Have Coherent Principles Around Free Speech Norms by Scott Alexander - The doctrine of the preferred first speaker. Separating having an opinion, signaling a propensity, and committing a speech act. Self selected communities. "Don’t try to destroy people in order to enforce social norms that only exist in your head"

Book Review Raise A Genius by Scott Alexander - Scott quote-mines Polgar's book on raising genius. Many of the quotes are concerned with the importance of instilling a love of learning in children. Polgar gives some detail on how to do this but not as much as Scott hoped. Summary: "Get those four things right – early start, single-subject focus, 1:1 home schooling, and a great parent/teacher – and the rest is just common-sense advice."

Against Signal Boosting As Doxxing by Scott Alexander - Free speech did not come into existence ex nihilo when the First Amendment was ratified. People need to be free from mobs as well as kings.

Open Djed by Scott Alexander - Bi-Weekly public open thread. Meetup Tab. Updates on rationalist houses in Berkeley. Selected comments on Griggs. A comment on Democratic strategy and Georgia.

Why Is Clozapine So Great by Scott Alexander - Clozapine is a very effect anti-psychotic but it has large serious side effects. NDMA agonists and a proposed mechanism for Clozapine. Maybe you could just give patients a normal anti-psychotic plus glycine.

Djoser Joseph Osiris by Scott Alexander - "The other day a few people (including Ben Hoffman of Compass Rose) tried to convince me that Pharaoh Djoser was the inspiration for the god Osiris and the Biblical Joseph. The short summary is that the connection between Djoser and Osiris is probably meaningless, but there’s a very small chance there might be some tiny distant scrap of a connection to Joseph."

Don't Blame Griggs by Scott Alexander - Griggs vs. Duke Power Co is commonly cited as making it prohibitively hard for companies to use intelligence tests in hiring. Scott argues this doesn't explain the rise in credentialism. You can still ask about SAT scores. Fields with easily available test scores (LSAT, MCAT) are still credentialist. Other countries lack equivalents of Griggs vs Duke.

Highlights From The Comment Thread On Meritocracy by Scott Alexander - Real merit vs credentials. Which merits do we reward? Meritocracy causes high ability people to concentrate into one class. Just rid rid of ruler and structural divisions between people. Scott finds the later idea utopian. " The most salient alternative to meritocracy isn’t perfect equality, it’s cronyism."


Why So Few Women In Cs: The Google Memo Is Right by Artir (Nintil) - Sampler: Lots of data and graphs covering multiple countries. "Occupational segregation by gender is stronger in egalitarian countries. This is a fatal blow to the sexism theory." In the 1980s demand for the CS major far outstripped capacity. This lead to severe limits on who could major in CS. These limits occurred at the same time female enrollment percentage dropped.

Double Crux Web App by mindlevelup - Double Crux is a rationalist technique for resolving and understanding disagreements. It involves identifying facts/statements, called cruxes, that would cause you to change your mind if you changed your mind about the crux. The author built software to facilitate double crux during the Google CSSI 3 week web dev camp. Links to the site and an explanation of Double Crux.

Compare Institutions To Institutions Not To Perfection by Robin Hanson - Hanson responds to criticisms of prediction markets. Short term accuracy is always easier to incentivize. Its always easier to find surface as opposed to deep connections.

Thank You For Listening by Ben Hoffman (Compass Rose) - Zvi's post above starts with a reference to a previous Ben Quo post. If you have hurt your child via school you aren't the enemy. Society taught you that you were helping. If you are still sending your child to a harmful system you aren't the enemy either, you are doing what you think is best.

Something Was Wrong by Zvi Moshowitz - Zvi visits a 'stepford pre-school'. He can't shake the feeling that something is wrong. He decides not to send his son to the place where kid's souls go to die.

Inscrutable Ideas by Gordon (Map and Territory) - The author describes 'holonic' thinking and why its hard to explain. Postmodernism as a flawed holonic tradition. Buddhism as a better holonic tradition. Fundamental incompatibility with system-relationship epistemology.

Body Pleasure by Sarah Perry (ribbonfarm) - "As non-human intelligences get more sophisticated, it may be the case that human work remains extremely important; however, it may also be that humans are faced with increasing leisure. If that is the case, the critical problem facing humanity will be how to enjoy ourselves. If that seems silly, consider your favorite dystopian images of the future: only humans who understand how to enjoy themselves can demand living conditions in which they are able to do so."

Erisology Of Self And Will The Need And The Reasons by Everything Studies - "Here in part 6 I discuss the reasons why the traditional view persists when prescientific thinking on other topics often doesn’t."

Confidence And Patience Dont Feel Like Anything In Particular by Kaj Sotala - Being confident doesn't feel like anything. 'Feeling confident' is really just the lack of feeling unconfident.

Foom Justifies Ai Risk Efforts Now by Robin Hanson - Organizations and corporations are already much smarter and more powerful than individuals, yet they remain mostly under control. Despite setbacks (Wars, revolutions, famines) the organization ecosystem is mostly functional. The only reason to be preemptively worried about AI is if AI takeoff will be very fast.

Skills Most Employable by 80,000 Hours - Metrics: Satisfaction, risk of automation, and breadth of applicability. Leadership and social skills will gain the most in value. The least valuable skills involve manual labor. Tech skills may not be the most employable but they are straightforward to improve at. The most valuable skills are the hardest to automate and useful in the most situations. Data showing a large oversupply of some tech skills, though others are in high demand. A chart of which college majors add the most income.

A Tactics by protokol2020 - Why its very hard to argue against the scientific consensus on fields such as Relativity or Quantum Mechanics. The Earth's temperature was hotter when it rotated fast, despite a fainter sun. Many physicists failed to grasp this fact. What does that imply?

Hedonic Model by Jeff Kaufman - "Happiness is having how things are going be closer to how you think things could be going." Some interesting implications including that both inequality and social mobility are bad.

Link Blog: Broadcom Broadpwn Gender Signal by Name and Nature - Links: History of Atheism. Evolution of Trust. Graphics depicting the Fast Fourier Transform. Remotely Compromising Android and iOS via a Bug in Broadcom’s Wi-Fi Chipsets.

Lying On The Ground by mindlevelup - "A rambling look at how rewards, distractions, and attention interact. Starts with the idea of lying on the ground as an interesting break-time activity and goes from there to talk about Saturation and Feeling, two concepts that I’ve been thinking about lately."

Ems Evolve by Bayesian Investor - Will the future we dominated by entities that lack properties we consider important (such as 'have fun' or even 'sentient'). Will agents lacking X-value outcompete other agents. What counter-measures could society take and how effective would they be.

Models Of Human Relationships Tools To Understand People by Elo (BearLamp) - Brief Model descriptions: Crucial Conversations. 4 Difficult Conversations, 4 Behaviors that kill relationships, How to Win Friends and Influence People (Detailed review), Non-Judgmental conversations, Emotional Intelligence. Circling, The Game (PUA), Apologies, Emotional Labor and others.

Inefficiencies In The Social Value Market by Julia Galef - Add liquidity where needed. Solve coordination problems. Pool risks. Provide resource allocation information. Make biases work for you. Remove rent-seeking. Reduce transaction costs.

Erisology Of Self And Will Campbellian Thinking In The Wild by Everything Studies - "In this section I’ll show some examples of casual conversation revealing Campbellian ideas. Comment threads attached to online newspaper articles are excellent sources of such casual conversation. Written down in a neat and accessible form, their existence makes it practical to do this kind of research for the first time."

The Future: Near Zero Growth Rates by The Foundational Research Institute - Moore's law cannot possibly go one for more than ~400 years, we will hit physical limits to computation. At 2.3% growth in energy use we would need to coat the Earth in Solar panels to get enough solar energy in only 400 years. If we captured all the energy from the sun we would run out in 1350 years. The universe can only support so much economic activity. We will in a very unusual part of humanity's timeline in terms of growth rates.

How I Found Fixed The Root Problem Behind My Depression And Anxiety After 20 Years by Kaj Sotala- Finding the root cause: self-concept. How to cultivate lovable self-concepts (ex: bravery). Consider memories where you lived up to the concept of being brave. Also consider cases where you failed. Integrating the positives and negatives into a healthy whole. Positive benefits the author experienced: professional success, emotional landscape improvement, negative emotions disappeared. Expected relationship changes. Lots of personal history details throughout.

Taking Integrity Literally by Ben Hoffman (Compass Rose) - Defending Kant. Fight the murderer or shut the door but don't become the sort of person who considers lying. Honesty is optimal in healthy environments. Thoughts on unhealthy environments. How Ben started to become honest about how late he would be. Not lying to yourself or others.

People Dont Have Beliefs Anymore Than They Have by Bound_up (lesswrong) - Actions are not deduced form goals. Beliefs are not deduced from models of the world. Maybe nerds have real beliefs but most people do not. Less nerdy people will probably interpret in your stated beliefs as social moves and will respond in turn.

Complexity Is Bad by Zvi Moshowitz - People can only think about ~3 things and store ~7 pieces of information in working memory. People will simplify in unexpected ways or fail to engage. Some concepts that help you manage complexity (ex: Resonance, Chunking). A link to the MtG head of R&D's podcast about why complexity is a cost.

Write Down Your Process by Zvi Moshowitz - Writing down your thought process helps you improve. Magic R&D's openness. Zvi's success as a MtG player and writer.


July 2017 Newsletter by The MIRI Blog - News and Links: Open AI, Deepmind, AI Impacts, EA global, 80K hours, etc

Yudkowsky And Miri by Jeff Kaufman - Elizier once wrote an extremely embarrassing article called 'So you want to be a Seed AI Programmer'. A ML researcher showed it to Jeff Kaufman and said it implied Elizier was a crank. Elizier wrote it in 2003, when he was 24. What does this imply about MIRI?


Medical Research Cancer Is Hugely Overfunded by Sanjay (EA forum) - Chart of disease burden vs research share. Six reasons you might disagree with the conclusion including cause tractability and methodology.

Blood Donation Generally Not That Effective On by Grue_Slinky (EA forum) - Having a supply of blood is very important. However the marginal value of blood donation is too low to recommend it as an efficient intervention.

How We Banned Fur In Berkeley by jayquigly (EA forum) - Fur sales banned. Main strategies: cultivating relationships with sympathetic council members, utilizing a proven template for the bill. Background. Strategy Details. Advice

Links: Our Main Goal is to Learn by GiveDirectly - Eight media links on Give Directly, Basic Income, Cash Transfers and Development Aid.

Funding Constraints For Ea Orgs by Jeff Kaufman - Value of direct work vs donation. Jeff argues EA organizations could make use of more resources. For example EA-Global could hire non-EA professional conference organizers.

===Politics and Economics:

Rise And Fall Of Rawlsianism by Artir (Nintil) - "I will introduce street Rawlsianism, a simplified version of Rawls’s Theory of Justice to get an idea of what this is all about. Then, I will explain how that came to be, including some extra details about Rawls’s justification for his theory. This story itself, the development of Rawls’s own philosophical views, is a good enough criticism of his original theory, but I will add at the end what I think are the strongest critiques I know."

Hazlett's Political Spectrum by Robin Hanson - "Not only would everything have been much better without FCC regulation, it actually was much better before the FCC! Herbert Hoover, who was head of the US Commerce Department at the time, broke the spectrum in order to then “save” it, a move that probably helped him rise to the presidency."

Another Point Of View by Simon Penner (Status 451) - The author was raised working class in semi-rural Canada and moved to Silicon valley. He experienced a ton of culture shock and significant cultural discrimination. This causes him to have less sympathy for people who quit software because of relatively minor pressure saying they don't fit in. The author overcame this stuff and so should other people.

Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria Is Bad Science by Ozy (Thing of Things) - Ozy cites two commonly misinterpreted but good studies about suicide rates among transgender individuals. Ozy then discusses a very shoddy study about people rapidly becoming trans after meeting trans friends. However the study got its information by asking the parents of trans teens and young adults. Ozy explains how and why young adults hide much of their feelings from their parents, especially if they are neurodiverse.

Housing Price Bubble Revisited by Tyler Cowen - "Over the entire 20th century real home prices averaged an index value of about 110 (and were quite close to this value over the the entire 1950-1997 period). Over the entire 20th century, housing prices never once roce above 131, the 1989 peak. But beginning around 2000 house prices seemed to reach for an entirely new equilibrium. In fact, even given the financial crisis, prices since 2000 fell below the 20th century peak for only a few months in late 2011. Real prices today are now back to 2004 levels and rising. As I predicted in 2008, prices never returned to their long-run 20th century levels."

Reinventing The Wheel Of Fortune by sam[]zdat - Two definitions of democracy. A key idea: "Lasch is an external commentary using this rough model. At some point, the combined apparatus of American culture (the state, capital, media, political agitation) tried to make things “better”. To better its citizens required new social controls (paternalism). The taylorism employed makes things more focused on image, and this results in a more warlike society. Happened with “authenticity” last time and also [everything below]. To deal with this invasion, society turns to narcissistic defenses. Narcissism is self-centered, but it’s an expression of dependence on others, and specifically on the others’ validation of the narcissist’s image."


Prime Towers Problem by protokol2020 - Prime height towers. From which tower is the most tower tops visible.

The Unyoga Manifesto by SquirrelInHell - Yoga has a sort of 'competitive' ethos baked in. There is alot of pressure to do the postures 'correctly'. Instead you should listen to your body and follow the natural incentive gradients that lead to maintaining one's body well. Four practical pieces of advice.

Clojure The Perfect Language To Expand Your Brain by Eli Bendersky - Clojure will almost certainly change how you think about programming. Clojure is a fully modern and useable Lisp. The designers of Clojure are extremely pragmatic, building upon decades of industry experience. Sequences and laziness for powerful in-language data processing. Right approach to OOP. Built-in support for concurrency and parallelism.

A Physics Problem Once Again by protokol2020 - Discussion of n-dimensional mating. Approximate the sum of all gravitational forces between pairs of atoms inside the earth.

Meta Contrarian Typography by Tom Bartleby - The author is a self-described meta-contrarian. Supporting two spaces after a period. The three reasons for single spaces and why they don't hold up. Double spaces makes writing easier to skim, periods are over-worked in English.

I Cant Be Your Hero Im Too Busy Being Super by Jim Stone (ribbonfarm) - "But people don’t generally take on the burdens of inauthenticity without good reason. Often it’s because they want to occupy social roles that allow them to get their physical and psychological needs met, and other people won’t let them play those roles unless they are the right kind of person. Sometimes people put on masks simply to secure the role of “community member” or “citizen” or “human being”."


Physical Training Dating Strategies And Stories From The Early Days by Tim Feriss - Tim answers viewer questions. Physical training, interview prep, the art of networking, education reform, dream guests on the show.

Living With Violence by Waking Up with Sam Harris - "Gavin de Becker about the primacy of human intuition in the prediction and prevention of violence."

Amanda Askell On Pascals Wager And Other Low Risks Wi by Rational Speaking - Pascal's Wager: It's rational to believe in God, because if you're wrong it's no big deal, but if you're right then the payoff is huge. Amanda Askell argues that it's much trickier to rebut Pascal's Wager than most people think. Handling low probability but very high impact possibilities: should you round them down to zero? Does it matter how measurable the risk is? And should you take into account the chance you're being scammed?"

Tyler Cowen On Stubborn Attachments by EconTalk - "Cowen argues that economic growth--properly defined--is the moral key to maintaining civilization and promoting human well-being. Along the way, the conversation also deals with inequality, environmental issues, and education"

40 Making Humans Legible by The Bayesian Conspiracy - Seeing like a State. Scott and Sam[]zdat's posts. Green Revolution. Age of Em. Chemtrails and invasive species. Friendship is Optimal.

Dave Rubin by Tyler Cowen - "Comedy and political correctness, which jokes should not be told, the economics of comedy, comedy in Israel and Saudi Arabia, comedy on campus, George Carlin, and the most underrated Star Wars installment"

Yascha Mounk by The Ezra Klein Show - Trump's illiberalism is catalyzed by his failures. Recently Trump has been more illiberal. Support for Trump remains at around 40 percent. What does this imply about the risk of an illiberal Trump successor with more political competence.

Alex Guarnasche by EconTalk - Food network star. "What it's like to run a restaurant, the challenges of a career in cooking, her favorite dishes, her least favorite dishes, and what she cooked to beat Bobby Flay."

On Becoming A Better Person by Waking Up with Sam Harris - "David Brooks. His book The Road to Character, the importance of words like “sin” and "virtue," self-esteem vs. self-overcoming, the significance of keeping promises, honesty, President Trump."

Julia Galef On How To Argue Better And Change Your Mind More by The Ezra Klein Show - Thinking more clearly and arguing better, Ezra's concerns that the traditional paths toward a better discourse. Signaling is turtles all the way down, motivated reasoning, probabilistic debating, which identities help us find truth, making online arguments less terrible. Julia heavily emphasizes the importance of good epistemic communities. Being too charitable can produce wrong predictions. Seeing like a State.

Open thread, August 7 - August 13, 2017

1 Thomas 07 August 2017 08:07AM
If it's worth saying, but not worth its own post, then it goes here.

Notes for future OT posters:

1. Please add the 'open_thread' tag.

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

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

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

AI Summer Fellows Program

9 abramdemski 06 August 2017 07:35AM

CFAR is running a free two-week program this September, aimed at increasing participant's ability to do technical research in AI alignment. Like the MIRI Summer Fellows Program which ran the past two years, this will include CFAR course material, plus content on AI alignment research and time to collaborate on research with other participants and researchers such as myself! It will be located in the SF Bay area, September 8-25. See more information and apply here.

[Link] The Unyoga Manifesto

6 SquirrelInHell 04 August 2017 09:24PM

[Link] Inscrutable Ideas

1 gworley 04 August 2017 08:55PM

[Link] Test EA human swarm [Friday 4 Aug - 11 AM PST]

1 remmelt 03 August 2017 08:02PM

[Link] Bridging the Intention-Action Gap (aka Akrasia)

1 lifelonglearner 01 August 2017 10:31PM

Map and territory: Natural structures

1 casebash 01 August 2017 01:53PM

This will be a very short post which simply defines one term which I find useful when discussing the map and the territory.

I find it very useful to have a term that helps clarify that the map is not completely arbitrary and that there are things in the territory that are natural candidates for appearing in the map. For example, for the Ship of Thesus, one natural candidate is the pure, original, unmodified ship; another are the fixed percentages (ie. 50% original); another would be a continuity based measure. If you are asked to create a definition of what counts as the Ship of Thesus, these are some of the first ideas that you would come up with, although you would of course need to define it in much, much more detail to get all the way down to the level of the territory.

Or suppose you are trying to define what is meant by table. Again, the definition is purely arbitrary and whatever you choose, but there are certain natural structures in reality that pop out at you. One might be all four-legged, non-living objects with a flat top, another might relax the four-legged requirement so that it only required four legs at one particular time, ect.

When I'm explaining that a particular concept has been reified, it greatly clarifies my position to explain that I don't believe that the concept is empty, but there is *something* behind it that leads us to want that word. That something is really not a single thing (or else it would be real, not reified), but a collection of closely related 'natural structures'. Each of the definitions provided for the Ship of Thesus or a table corresponds to a different natural structure, while the term itself appears in the map. I hope you find this word useful too, but if you have any suggestions for a better term, please mention it in the comments.

August 2017 Media Thread

2 ArisKatsaris 01 August 2017 08:16AM

This is the monthly thread for posting media of various types that you've found that you enjoy. Post what you're reading, listening to, watching, and your opinion of it. Post recommendations to blogs. Post whatever media you feel like discussing! To see previous recommendations, check out the older threads.


  • Please avoid downvoting recommendations just because you don't personally like the recommended material; remember that liking is a two-place word. If you can point out a specific flaw in a person's recommendation, consider posting a comment to that effect.
  • If you want to post something that (you know) has been recommended before, but have another recommendation to add, please link to the original, so that the reader has both recommendations.
  • Please post only under one of the already created subthreads, and never directly under the parent media thread.
  • Use the "Other Media" thread if you believe the piece of media you want to discuss doesn't fit under any of the established categories.
  • Use the "Meta" thread if you want to discuss about the monthly media thread itself (e.g. to propose adding/removing/splitting/merging subthreads, or to discuss the type of content properly belonging to each subthread) or for any other question or issue you may have about the thread or the rules.

Open thread, July 31 - August 6, 2017

1 Thomas 31 July 2017 02:41PM
If it's worth saying, but not worth its own post, then it goes here.

Notes for future OT posters:

1. Please add the 'open_thread' tag.

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

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

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

Should I study hypnosis?

2 Bound_up 30 July 2017 05:11PM

I was just about to do my best to figure out if hypnosis was worth studying and how.


I trust the judgment around here pretty well. Am I wasting my time, or is this something worth pursuing? If so, what for, and do you have any recommended sources?

Models of human relationships - tools to understand people

13 Elo 29 July 2017 03:31AM

This post will not teach you the models here.  This post is a summary of the models that I carry in my head.  I have written most of the descriptions without looking them up (See Feynman notebook method).  If you have read a book on every one of these points they will make sense, as if you were shaking hands with an old acquaintance.  If you are seeing them for the first time, they won't make very much sense or they will feel like a surface trivial truth.

I can't make you read all the books but maybe I can offer you that the answer to social problems is surprisingly simple.  After reading enough books you start to see the overlap and realise they often are trying to talk about the same thing.  (i.e. NVC + Gottman go together well).

In fact if you were several independent dragon hunters trying to model an invisible beast and all of various people's homemade sensors kept going "ping" at similar events you would probably start to agree you were chasing the same monster.  Models should start to agree when they are talking about the same thing.  The variety of models should make it easier for different minds to connect to different parts of the answer.

All models are wrong, some models are useful.  Try to look at where the models converge.  That's where I find the truth.

1. The book Crucial Confrontations - Kerry Patterson

(without explaining how) If you can navigate to a place of safety in a conversation you can say pretty much anything.  Which is not to say "here is how to be a jerk" but if you know something is going to come across negative you can first make sure to be in a positive/agreeable/supportive conversation before raising the hard thing.

In the middle of a yelling match is maybe not the best time to bring up something that has bugged you for years.  However a few sentences about growth mindset, supporting people being a better person and trying to help (and getting a feel that the person is ready to hear the thing) and you could tell anyone they are a lazy bum who needs to shape up or ship out.

The conversation needs to be safe.  For example - "I want to help you as a person and I know how hard it can be to get feedback from other people and I want to make you into a better person.  I have an idea for how you might like to improve.  Before I tell you I want to reassure you that even though this might come across abrasive I want to help you grow and be better in the future..."

(some people will be easier than others to navigate a safe conversation and that's where there are no hard and fast rules for how to do this.  Go with your gut)

The crux of this model is "have a model of the other person" [15]

2. The partner book "Difficult conversations"


There are 4 types of difficult conversations around communicating a decision:
a. Consultation (Bob asks Alice for ideas for the decision he is going to make on his own)
b. Collaboration (Bob and Alice make a decision together)
c. Declaration (Bob tells alice the decision he has made)
d. Delegation (Bob tells alice to make the decision)

As someone's boss you may sometimes have to pass on bad news in the form of a declaration.  It's up to you which conversation this is going to be but being clear about what conversation this is will be helpful to a person to understand their place in responding or interacting with you.  It becomes difficult where there is a misunderstanding about what is going on.

It's also important when you are on the receiving end to be on the same page about what conversation this is.  (you don't want to be negotiating in a collaborative manner when they are trying to give you a declaration of their decision, and the same when you are leading the conversation).

Among other details in the book.

3. Getting the 3rd story.

linking back to - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamental_attribution_error
(from one of those books [1] or [2])

Bob knows what happened from his perspective and Alice knows her version of events.  Where there is a disagreement of what follows from different versions of events it is possible to construct a 3rd person story.  This may be hard to do when you are involved and an actual 3rd person can help but is not crucial in constructing the story.  If you can step outside of your own story and construct a 3rd version together this can resolve misunderstandings.
Something like; "I thought you said we should meet here, even though I said I wanted ice-cream, you thought that meant we should meet at the ice-cream place next door and we each waited 30mins for the other one to turn up to where we were.".  By constructing a 3rd story it's possible that no one was at fault.  It's also possible that it can become clear what went wrong and how to learn from that or what can be done differently.

(cue business management After-Action-Review activities {what did we do well, what could we have done better, what would we do differently}, now SWOT)

4. The Gottman Institute research (and book)

The 4 horsemen of divorce (but just because that's what the research is about doesn't mean we can't apply it elsewhere) (yes Gottman is limited in value because of bad use of statistics we can't be sure the models are accurate, I still find it's a good model at explaining things).

Don't do these things.  When you see these things, recognise them for what they are and don't engage with them.  If necessary acknowledge people are feeling certain angry feelings and let them get them out (not everyone can efficiently drop how they are feeling and get on with talking about it, especially not without practice).

Each one has an antidote, usually in the form of an attitude or strategy that can leave you thinking about the same thing differently and relating to it differently.

I. Criticism
I would rename to "inherent criticism".  Comes in the form of an inherent descriptor like, "you are a lazy person", "you always run late".  "you are the type of person who forgets my birthday"[see 5].  Try to replace inherent criticism with *[6] concrete descriptions of actions.

To counter this - try descriptions like [6a]:  "I can see you are sitting on the couch right now and I would like you to offer help when you can see me cleaning".  "yesterday I saw you try to do a few extra tasks and that caused us to run late", "you forgot my birthday last year".

The important thing about the change here is that an inherent label comes in the form of an unchangeable belief.  It's equivalent to saying, "you are a tall person".  It's fixed in time, space and attitude.  You don't want to give someone a fixed negative trait.  Not in your head and especially not out of your head either to that person or to anyone else.  You set someone up for failure if you do.  As soon as someone is "the lazy one" you give them the ticket to "always be lazy" and if they are half smart they will probably take it.  Besides - you don't change people's actions by using criticism.  You maybe relieve some frustration but then you have created some open frustration and the problem still exists.

II. Defensiveness
Probably easiest to understand by the description of reactive defensiveness.  It usually comes as a reaction to an accusation.  If two people are yelling, chances are neither is listening.  In response to "you are always making us run late", a defensive reaction would be, "I make us run late because you always stress me out".

It does two things:
1. claim to not be responsible
2. make a second accusation (can be irrelevant to the subject at hand).

First of all if you are bringing up several problems at once you are going to confuse matters.  Try to deal with one problem at a time.  It doesn't really matter which so long as you are not yelling about being late while they are yelling about you forgetting the laundry. (and so long as you deal with all the problems)

The second part is that you can't shift blame.  Absorbing some blame does not make you a bad person.  Nor does it make you inherently terrible.  You can have both done a wrong thing and not be a bad person.  After all you had your reasons for doing what you did.

The antidote to defensiveness is to acknowledge [6] what they have said and move forward without reacting.

III. Contempt
This is about an internal state as much as an external state.  Contempt is about the story we tell ourselves about the other person (see NVC) and is a state of negative intent.  I hold you contemptuously.  For example, "a good person would not run late", "if you were smarter you would just...", "I work so hard on this relationship and you just...", Some examples of displays of contempt include when a person uses sarcasm, cynicism, name-calling, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, and hostile humour [see 7 - emotional intelligence about physiological events].  This overlaps with Inherent criticism and makes more sense with [6 NVC].
Contempt has two antidotes, Teacher mindset and curiosity.  Teacher mindset can change an attitude of, "He should know what he did wrong" to, "I need to explain to him how to do it right".  Curiosity [See NVC, also [3] the 3rd story] can take you to a place of trying to understand what is going on and take you away from the place of the stories we tell ourselves.[10]

IV. Stonewalling
This is a physiological state of going silent.  It is used when you are being lectured (for example) and you go silent, possibly start thinking about everything else while you wait for someone to finish.  It's like holding your breath when you go underwater, waiting for it to pass.  If you are doing this what you need to do is take a break from whatever is going on and do something different, for example go for a walk and calm down.
There was a classic joke, they asked a 110 year old why he lived so long and he said, every time I got into an argument with my wife I used to go for a walk.  I went on a lot of walks in my life.
Because this is a physiological state it's so easy to fix so long as you remember to pay attention to your internal state [see NVC what is most alive in you, and 11. what does that look like in practice]

5. How to win friends and influence people

I always recommend this book to people starting the journey because it's a great place to start.  These days I have better models but when I didn't know anything this was a place to begin.  Most of my models are now more complicated applications of the ideas initially presented.  You still need weak models before replacing them with more complicated ones which are more accurate.
The principles and (in brackets) what has superseded them for me:

1. Don't criticize, condemn or complain. (There are places and methods to do this.  Criticism can be done as [1] from a place of safety or in [4] from a teacher/mentor/growth mindset.  Definitely don't do it from a place of criticism.  Condemnation is more about [10] and is an inherent trait.  Progress doesn't usually happen when we use inherent traits, From Saul Alinsky's rules for radicals - don't complain unless you have the right answer - "I have a problem and you have to figure out how to fix it for me" is not a good way to get your problem solved.)
2. Give honest, sincere appreciation. (so long as you are doing this out of the goodness of your heart good.  If you are using it for manipulation you can just not bother.  NVC supersedes this.  By keeping track of what is most alive in you, you can do better than this)
3. Arouse in the other person an eager want. (Work out what people want, work out how to get both your needs met - superceded by NVC.)
4. Become genuinely interested in other people. (depends what for.  Don't bother if you don't want to.  That would not be genuine.  You need to find the genuine interest inside yourself first.)
5. Smile. (um.  Hard to disagree with but a default smiling state is a good one to cultivate - from [7] physiological states are linked two ways.  Smiling will make you happy just as being happy will make you smile)
6. Remember that a person's name is to that person the most important sound in any language. (I don't know about most important but I would say that anyone can remember names with practice.  http://bearlamp.com.au/list-of-techniques-to-help-you-remember-names/)

7. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves. (NVC - pay attention to what is most alive in you when you do. Make sure you know about the spectrum of )
8. Talk in terms of the other person's interest. (Sure why not.  Sales are a lot easier when you are selling what people want. See [15] and NVC to supersede how and why this works)
9. Make the other person feel important - and do so sincerely. (I guess?  I don't do this actively.)
10 The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it. ([9] if you are in an argument something already went wrong)
11. Show respect for the other person's opinions. Never say, "You're wrong." (NVC, instead of saying no, say what gets in the way.  "here is evidence that says otherwise" can be better than "durr WRONGGG" but I have seen people use "you are wrong" perfectly fine.)
12. If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically. (hard to disagree with, but holding onto grudges and guity things is not useful.  [4] gottman talks about defensiveness, avoid defensiveness and acknowledge the fact that someone feels you are at fault first.  It will satisfy the psychological need arising in an offended person [14])
13. Begin in a friendly way. (as opposed to what?  Sure I guess.)
14. Get the other person saying, "Yes, yes" immediately. (Yes ladders are important and valuable.  You see bits of this creeping into Gottman [4], NVC [6], The game [13] and other practices but no one as yet explains it as well as I would like.  The game probably has the best commentary on it, short of business books that escape my memory right now)
15. Let the other person do a great deal of the talking. (not really important who talks so long as you are on the same page and in agreement.  If you want someone else to do the emotional labour [15] for you, then you can let them.  If you want to do it for them you can.  Implications of EL are not yet clear to me in full.  Some places it will be good to do EL for people, other places they need to do it for themselves to feel ownership of the problems and solutions)
16. Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers. (sure I guess.  A good idea is it's own champion.  Ideas that are obviously better will win out.  You can't make a turd beat a diamond but you can employ tricks to polish certain diamonds over others.  This technique is battling over little bits.  can be useful but I would not rely on it alone.)
17. Try honestly to see things from the other person's point of view. (NVC [6] and EL [15] should help do that better.  Imagining that you are that person in a way that is hard to impart in words because it's about having the experience of being that other person (see http://bearlamp.com.au/zen-koans/) and not "just thinking about it". needs a longer description and is an effective technique.)
18. Be sympathetic with the other person's ideas and desires. (NVC supercedes.  Everyone has basic feelings and needs that you can understand, like the need for safety)
19. Appeal to the nobler motives. (giving people a reputation to live up to is a valuable technique that I would say only works for qualified people - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_facilitation but does not work so well if you put pressure on people who are less skilled.  Probably relates to the things going through our head at the time - see also book - the inner game of tennis, NVC, judgement model)
20. Dramatize your ideas. (I don't know?  Try it.  It could work.  will not work by virtue of it being a good model of things, might work by luck/breaking people out of their habits)
21. Throw down a challenge. (can work if people are willing to rise to a challenge can work against you and create cognitive dissonance https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance if people are not willing.  Need more information to make it work)
22. Begin with praise and honest appreciation. (Don't give people a shit sandwich - slices of compliments surrounding shit.  That's not respectful of them.  Instead using [1] navigate to a place of safety to talk about things)
23. Call attention to people's mistakes indirectly. (there are correct and incorrect ways to do this.  You can be passive agressive about it.  I don't see a problem with being blunt - in private, in safe conversations [1] - about what is going on)
24. Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person. (don't yammer on, but it can help to connect you and them and the problem.  NVC would be better than just this)
25. Ask questions instead of giving direct orders. (socratic method, can be a drain, need more advanced skills and [15] EL to know if this is appropriate )
26. Let the other person save face. (better described in http://lesswrong.com/lw/o4/leave_a_line_of_retreat/ I agree with this, but [15] EL might describe it better)
27. Praise the slightest and every improvement. Be "lavish in your praise." (NVC disagrees, praise only what is relevant, true and valid.  Be a teacher [4] but deliver praise when praise is due.)
28. Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to. (This is 19/26 again.  I agree with it.  I could use it more)
29. Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct. (agree, solve the "problem" for someone else, make it easy to move forward)
30. Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest. (NVC gives a better model of doing what other people want, "with the joy of a small child feeding a hungry duck")

* Giving people a positive reputation to live up to.  "I trust that you won't forget my birthday again".  Don't be silly with this, "I have confidence that you will give me a million dollars" will not actually yield you a million dollars unless you have reason to believe that will work.

6. NVC - Non-Judgemental communication 

I can't yet do justice to NVC but I am putting together the pieces.  Best to watch the youtube talk in the title link but here are some short points.  Also this helps - cnvc.org/Training/feelings-inventory
a. Concrete descriptions - http://bearlamp.com.au/concrete-instructions/
In agreement with Gottman, be concrete and specific -  The objective test of whether the description is concrete is whether the description can be followed by an anonymous person to produce the same experience.  "you are a lazy person" VS "you are sitting on the couch"
b. Acknowledge feelings - http://bearlamp.com.au/feelings-in-the-map/
people have huge psychological needs to be heard and understood.  Anyone can fulfill that need
c. Connect that to a need
See the NVC video.
d.  Making a request
See NVC video.
e. Saying no by passing your goals forward
Instead of saying no, Consider what it is that gets in the way of you saying no and say that instead.  Keep in mind vulnerability [16].  This also allows people to plan around your future intentions.  If someone asks you to buy a new car and you say, "no I plan to save money towards buying a house" they can choose to be mindful of that in the future and they can act accordingly (not offering you a different car for sale next week).
f. Connect with what is most alive in you right now
See video for best description.

7. Emotional intelligence

There is a two way path between physiological states and emotional states.

Try these:
a. Hold a pencil/pen in your mouth and go back and read the joke about the old man [4]. (expect to find it funnier than you did the first time)
b. furrow your brow while reading the first paragraph of this page again (expect to either feel confused or the cognitive dissonance version if you know it very well - "I know this too well")
The two way path means that you can feel better about emotional pain by taking a paracetamol, but more specifically, if you take a break from a situation and come back to it the emotions might have improved.  This can include getting a glass of water, going for a walk, getting some fresh air.  And for more complicated decisions - sleeping on it (among other things).

Everyone can train emotional intelligence, they need practice.  This includes holding an understanding of your own states as well as being able to notice emotional states in other people.

I had an ex who had particularly visible physiological states, it was a very valuable experience to me to see the state changes and it really trained my guessing mind to be able to notice changes.  These days I can usually see when things change but I can't always pick the emotion that has come up.  This is where NVC and curiosity become valuable (also circling).

EI is particularly important when it is particularly deficient.  In the book it talks about anger as a state that (to an untrained person) can cause a reaction before someone knows that they were angry.  Make sure to fix that first before moving to higher levels of emotional management.

8. model of arguments

(see also NVC)

If you view disagreements or misunderstandings as a venn diagram of what you know and what the other person knows.  You have full rights to make comment on anything you know but only have limited rights to make comment on what the other person knows.  Instead you can comment on the information they have given you.  "you said 'X', I know Y about what you said 'X'".  To say X is wrong, is not going to yield progress.  Instead to acknowledge that they described 'X' and their description does not make sense to me, or leaves me feeling confused [6].

9. The argument started earlier

From Gavin: "If I ever find myself in a position of saying - well officer, let me explain what happened...", Something already went wrong well and truly before now.
When you start the journey you will start getting to "Aha" moments about where arguments start.  As you get more and more experience you realise the argument started well and truly earlier than you ever first realised.  When you get really good at it, you can stop and say [6] "I am confused"  well and truly before a yelling match.

10. The stories we tell ourselves

NVC based, Judgement model, There is a lot of people who are thinking in stories.  Related - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamental_attribution_error.

Their entire existence is the story and narrative they tell about themselves (see also Jordan Peterson - maps of meaning).  The constant narrative about how "the world hates me" is going to give you a particular world experience compared to the constant narrative, "I am a lucky person".  You see this in gamblers who are searching for "the prevailing wind" or "winning streaks".

You also see this in social pressure - when people think and get fixated on, "what will people think of me?", sometimes the social pressure does not even have to be there to cause the thoughts and the actions that would be "social pressure".
Several models of thinking advocate removing the story telling in your head to relieve the psychological pain.  See books, "search inside yourself", NVC, Gateless gatecrashers, some information in the Persistent Non Symbolic Experience Article.

I am not sure what is the best practice, but mindfulness seems to help as well, since these thoughts are all theoretical, grounding yourself in the concrete [6a] and observing those thoughts seems to alleviate the anxieties it can cause.  But this can explain a lot of people's actions (they are telling themselves a particular story in their head).

11. Polling your internal states

[related to 6 NVC]. Any time you are disconnected to what is going on, try asking yourself an internal question of "what is going on?" to connect with what is most alive in you right now.  This might be a feeling of boredom.  It could be anything, but if it's not a good and strong connection with what is presently happening you have a chance to fix it.  (See also the book "The Charisma myth")

12. circling (The circling handbook)

[6 built on NVC] is a practice of living in the current and present experience.  You can focus on another person or focus on yourself.  Perpetually answering the question of "what is most alive in you right now?" and sharing that with other people.

Some examples include:I am feeling nervous sharing this experienceI just closed my eyes and put my head back trying to think of a good example.I am distracted by the sound of birds behind me.I can feel air going past my nostrils as I think about this question.

The creators of cicling find it a very connecting experience to either share what is going on inside you or to guess at what is going on inside someone else and ask if that's an accurate guess.  Or to alternate experiences, each sharing one and one.  or each guessing of each other - one and one.

I find it valuable because everyone can understand present experience, and get a glimpse of your current experience in the process of sharing experience with you.  This method can also work as a form of [15] and [7].

13. The game

(From the book The Game) This concept receives equal part condemnation and praise from various parties.

The basic concept of the game is that life is a game.  Specifically social interactions are a game that you can try out.  You can iterate on and repeat until success.  In the book it follows the journey of a pick up artist as he generally disregards other people's agency and works out how to get what he wants (regularly bed people) through some stages of practicing certain methods of interaction, and iterating until he sees a lot of success.

I see a lot of this concept at kegan stage 3[18].  Everything is about social, and the only thing that matters is social relationships.

Most of the condemnations comes from the failure of this model to treat other people as human, worthy of moral weight, thought or anything other than to be used to your own purposes.  If you don't like dehumanising people the book can still teach you a lot about social interaction, and practicing towards incremental improvement.

If you feel uncomfortable with Pick up, you should examine that belief closely, it's probably to do with feeling uncomfortable with people using manipulation to pursue sex.  That's fine, there is a lot to learn about social and a lot of social systems before you turn into "literally the devil" for knowing about it.  There are also other social goals other than sex that you can pursue.

If you are cautious about turning into a jerk - you are probably not likely to ever even get close to actions that paint you as a jerk because your filters will stop you.  It's the people who have no filter on actions that might want to be careful - herein lies dark arts and being a jerk.  And as much as no one will stop you, no one will really enjoy your presence either if you are a jerk.

The biggest problem I have with game and game methodology is that we all play a one-shot version.  With high stakes of failure.  Which means some of the iteration and having to fail while you learn how to not be terrible - will permanently damage your reputation.  There is no perfect "retry" - a reputation will follow you basically to the ends of the earth and back.  As much as game will teach you some things, the other models in this list have better information for you and are going to go further than game.

14. what an apology must do from Aaron Lazare, M.D.- on apology

1. A valid acknowledgement of the offence that makes clear who the offender is and who is the offended. The offender must clearly and completely acknowledge the offence.
2. An effective explanation, which shows an offence was neither intentional nor personal, and is unlikely to recur.
3. Expressions of remorse, shame, and humility, which show that the offender recognises the suffering of the offended.
4. A reparation of some kind, in the form of a real or symbolic compensation for the offender’s transgression.
An effective apology must also satisfy at least one of seven psychological needs of an offended person.
1. The restoration of dignity in the offended person.
2. The affirmation that both parties have shared values and agree that the harm committed was wrong.
3. Validation that the victim was not responsible for the offense.
4. The assurance that the offended party is safe from a repeat offense.
5. Reparative justice, which occurs when the offended sees the offending party suffer through some type of punishment.
6. Reparation, when the victim receives some form of compensation for his pain.
7. A dialogue that allows the offended parties to express their feelings toward the offenders and even grieve over their losses.

These are not my notes from the book but they are particularly valuable when trying to construct an understanding of apologising and making up for misdeeds.  I don't have them in memory but I know when I need to make a serious apology I can look them up.  They fit quite well with [6], but are more specific to apology and not all interactions.

15. Emotional labour

A relatively new concept.  This is roughly the ability to:
I. Model someone else's emotional state
II. Get it right
III. act on their emotional state

For example:
I. I notice my partners eyes are droopy and they do not appear to be concentrating very well.  Is rubbing eyes and checking their watch a lot.
II. I suspect they are sleepy
III. I make them a coffee, or I offer to make them coffee.  (as a downgraded form I mention they look tired and ask if this is the case)

From Erratio:

Emotional labour is essentially a name for a managerial role in a relationship. This takes on a few different concrete forms.

The first is management of the household, appointments, shopping, and other assorted tasks that are generally shared across couples and/or housemates. Sweeping a floor or cooking dinner is not emotional labour, but being the person who makes sure that those things are accomplished is. It doesn't matter whether you get the floor swept by doing it yourself, asking your partner to do it, firing up a Roomba, or hiring a cleaning service; what matters is that you are taking on responsibility for making sure the task is done. This is why people who say that they would be happy to help with the housework if you would just tell them what needs doing are being a lot less helpful than they think. They're taking the physical labour component of the task but explicitly sticking the other person with the emotional labour component.

The second is taking responsibility for the likes, dislikes, feelings, wants and needs of other people who you are in a relationship with (and to be clear, it doesn't have to be a romantic relationship). Stereotypical scenarios that are covered by this kind of emotional labour include: the hysterical girlfriend who demands that her boyfriend drop everything he's doing to comfort her, the husband who comes home tense and moody after a long day at the office and expects to be asked how his day went and listened to and have validating noises made at him, noticing that the other person in a conversation is uncomfortable and steering the conversation to a more pleasant topic without having to be asked, helping a confused friend talk through their feelings about a potential or former partner, reminding your spouse that it's so-and-so's birthday and that so-and-so would appreciate being contacted, remembering birthdays and anniversaries and holidays and contacting people and saying or doing the right things on each of those dates.

This overlaps with [7].  Commentary on this concept suggest that it's a habit that women get into doing more than men.  Mothers are good at paying attention to their kids and their needs (as the major caregiver from early on), and stemming from this wives also take care of their husbands.  While it would not be fair to suggest that all wives do anything I would be willing to concede that these are habits that people get into and are sometimes socially directed by society.

I am not sure of the overall value of this model but it's clear that it has some implications about how people organise themselves - for better or worse.

16. Vulnerability - Brene brown

In order to form close connections with people a certain level of vulnerability is necessary.  This means that you need to share about yourself in order to give people something to connect to.  In the other direction people need to be a certain level of vulnerable to you in order to connect.  If you make sure to be open and encouraging and not judge you will enable people to open up to you and connect with you.
Sometimes being vulnerable will get you hurt and you need to be aware of that and not shut down future experiences (continue to be open with people).  I see this particularly in people who "take time" to get over relationships.  Being vulnerable is a skill that can be practiced.  Vulnerability replaced a lot of my ideas about [13 The game].  And would have given me a lot of ideas of how to connect with people, combined with [15] and [12]. (I have not read her books but I expect them to be useful)

17. More Than Two (book)

This is commonly known as the polyamory bible.  It doesn't have to be read as a polyamory book, but in the world of polyamory emotional intelligence and the ability to communicate is the bread and butter of every day interactions.  If you are trying to juggle two or three relationships and you don't know how to talk about hard things then you might as well quit now.  If you don't know how to handle difficult feelings or experiences you might as well quit polyamory now.

Reading about these skills and what you might gain from the insight that polyamorous people have learnt is probably valuable to anyone.

18. Kegan stages of development


Other people have summarised this model better than me.  I won't do it justice but if I had to be brief about it - there are a number of levels that we pass through as we grow from very small to more mature.  They include the basic kid level where we only notice inputs and outputs.  Shortly after - when we are sad "the whole world is sad" because we are the whole world.  Eventually we grow out of that and recognise other humans and that they have agency.  At around teenager we end up caring a lot about what other people think about us.  classic teenagers are scared of social pressure and say things like, "I would die if she saw me in this outfit" (while probably being hyperbolic, there is a bit of serious concern present).  Eventually we grow out of that and into system thinking (Libertarian, Socialist, among other tribes).  And later above tribalism into more nuanced varieties of tribes.

It's hard to describe and you are better off reading the theories to get a better idea.  I find the model limited in application but I admit I need to read more about the theories to get my head around it better.

I have a lot more books on the topic to read but I am publishing this list because I feel like I have a good handle on the whole "how people work" and, "how relationships work" thing.  It's rare that anyone does any actions that surprise me (socially) any more.  In fact I am getting so good at it that I trust my intuition [11] more than what people will say sometimes.

When something does not make sense I know what question to ask [6] to get answers.  Often enough it happens that people won't answer the first time, this can represent people not feeling Safe [1] enough to be vulnerable [16].  That's okay.  That represents it's my job to get them to a comfortable place to open up if I want to get to the answers.

I particularly like NVC, Gottman, EL, EI, Vulnerability all of them and find myself using them fortnightly.  Most of these represent a book or more of educational material.  Don't think you know them enough to dismiss them if you have not read the books.  If you feel you know them and already employ the model then it's probably not necessary to look into it further, but if you are ready to dismiss any of these models because they "sound bad" or "don't work" then I would encourage you to do your homework and understand them inside and out before you reject them.

The more models I find the more I find them converging on describing reality.  I am finding less and less I can say, "this is completely new to me" and more and more, "oh that's just like [6] and [7]

Meta: this is something around 6000 words and took a day to write ~12 hours.  I did this in one sitting because everything was already in my head.  I am surprised I could sit still for this long.  (I took breaks for food and a nap but most of today was spent at my desk)

Originally posted on my blog: http://bearlamp.com.au/models-of-human-relationships-tools-to-understand-people/

Cross posted to Medium: https://medium.com/@redeliot/models-of-human-relationships-tools-to-understand-people-fd0ac0ad6369

[Link] Game Theory & The Golden Rule (From Reddit)

14 Brillyant 28 July 2017 01:54PM

Type Theory quick question

0 Faustus2 26 July 2017 07:57PM

Just a quick question, does anybody know or recommend any resources to learn type theory? I do a lot of independent study in my spare time and would be appreciative if anyone has any insight into how to approach this topic from the self-study angle.

[Link] How I [Kaj] found & fixed the root problem behind my depression and anxiety after 20+ years

16 Kaj_Sotala 26 July 2017 12:56PM

Sleeping Beauty Problem Can Be Explained by Perspective Disagreement (IV)

1 Xianda_GAO 26 July 2017 01:01AM

This is the final part of my argument. Previous parts can be found here: I, II, III. To understand the following part I should be read at least. Here I would argue against SSA, argue why double-halving is correct, and touch on the implication of perspective disagreement on related topics such as the Doomsday Argument, the Presumptuous Philosopher and the Simulation Argument.



I think the most convincing argument against SSA was presented by Elga in 2000 (although he intended it as an counter to halving in general). He purpose the coin toss could happen after the first awakening. Beauty’s answer ought to remain the same regardless the timing of the toss. As SSA states, an observer should reason as if she is randomly selected from the set of all actual observers (past, present and future ones). If an imaginary selector randomly choose a day among all waking day(s) he is guaranteed to pick Monday if the coin landed on H but only has half the chance if T. From the selector’s perspective clearly a bayesian updating should be performed upon learning it is Monday. A simple calculation tells us his credence of H must be 2/3. As SSA dictates this is also beauty’s answer once she knows it is Monday. However the coin toss could potential happen after this awakening. Now beauty is predicting a fair coin toss yet to happen would most likely land on H. This supernatural predicting power is a conclusive evidence against SSA.

However, if we recognize the importance of perspective disagreement then beauty is not bound to give the same answer as the Selector. In fact I would argue she should not perform a bayesian update base on the new information. This can be explained in two ways.


One way is to put the new information into the frequentist approach mentioned in part I. In Duplicating Beauties, when a beauty wakes up and remembering 1000 repetitions she shall reason there are about 500 of H and T each among those 1000 tosses. The same conclusion would be reached by all beauties without knowing if she is physically the original or created somewhere along the way. Now suppose a beauty learns she is indeed the original. She would simply reason as the original beauty who wakes up remembering 1000 tosses. These 1000 tosses would still contain about 500 of H and T each. Meaning her answer shall remain at 1/2. 


Another way to see why beauty should not perform a bayesian update is to see the agreement/disagreement pattern between her and the selector. It is worth noting that beauty and the selector will be in agreement once knowing she is the original. As stated in part I, one way to understand the disagreement is after T, seeing either beauty is the same observation for the selector while it is different observations for beauties. This in turn causes the selector to enter twice more bets than beauty. However once we distinguish the two beauties by stating which one is the original the selector’s observation would also be different depending on which beauty he sees. To put it in a different way, if a bet is only set between the selector and the original beauty then the selector would no longer be twice more likely to enter a bet in case of T. He and the Beauty would enter the bet with equal chances. Meaning their betting odds ought to be the same, aka they must be in agreement regarding the credence of H. 

To be specific, the disagreements/agreements pattern can be summarized as follows. If the selector randomly chooses one of the two rooms as described by SIA. Upon seeing a beauty in the room the selector’s probability for H will change from 1/2 to 1/3. Beauty’s probability remains at 1/2. The two of them would be in disagreement. Once they learns the beauty is the original, the selector’s probability of H increases back to 1/2 from 1/3 by simple bayesian updating while beauty’s probability still remains at 1/2. This way the two would be in agreement. The selector can also randomly chooses one beauty from all existing beauty(ies) as described by SSA (here the total number of beauties should be shielded from the selector to not reveal the coin toss result). In this case seeing a beauty gives the selector no new information so his probability for H would remain unchanged at 1/2. On the other hand, from beauty’s perspective she is twice more likely to be chosen if there exist only one beauty instead of two. Therefore upon seeing the selector her credence of H would increase to 2/3. The two of them would also be in disagreement. Once they learn the beauty is the original the selector’s credence for H would increase to 2/3 by bayesian updating. Again beauty would not update her probability and it remains at 2/3. This way the two would agree with each other again.

As shown above, for the two to reach an agreement beauty must not perform a bayesian update upon the new information. This holds true in both cases regardless how the selection is structured. 

Beauty’s antibayesianism, just like the perspective disagreement, is quite unusual. I think this is due to the fact that there is no random event determining which beauty is the original/clone. While the coin toss may create a new copy of beauty, nothing could ever turn herself into the copy. The original beauty would eventually be the original beauty. It is simply tautology. There is no random soul jumping between the two bodies. Beauty’s uncertainty is because of the structure of the experiment which is purely due to lack of information. Compare this to the selector’s situation. The event of him choosing a room is random. Therefore learning the beauty in the chosen room is original gives new information about the random event. From his perspective a bayesian update should be performed.Where as from beauty's perspective, learning she is the original does not give new information about a random event, for the simply fact there is no random event to begin with. It only gives information about her own perspective. So she should not performing a bayesian update as the selector did. 


With the above arguments in mind we can clearly see the importance of perspective disagreement in SBP. It does not matter whether the selector follows SSA or SIA, his answer won't always correctly reflect beauty’s. Once beauty switch to selector’s perspective her answers would change. Therefore it is important for us to consciously track our reasoning process to make sure it contains no change of perspective. As shown above, learning she exists does not confirm scenarios with more observers, just as learning she is the first does not confirm scenarios with less observers. Applying the same logic means we should reject Doomsday Argument while disagree with the Presumptuous Philosopher. Not changing perspective also means an observer should never reason as if she is randomly selected (by an imaginary third party) from certain reference class. This also means Simulation Argument should be rejected. (which I will discuss separately)

Another point worth mentioning is that disagreements among beauties are also reasonable. Imagine a beauty has undergone a duplication coin toss and was told the result was T after waking up. She then takes another 9 iterations and woke up remembering 10 tosses in total. At this point she is told out of the two resulting beauties after the first toss, one experienced all Heads in the next 9 rounds. The other one and her clones experienced all Tails in those 9 rounds. Because there is no new information regarding which beauty she was after the first toss, beauty would conclude with 1/2 confidence she is the one experienced 9 heads, even though they are 512 Tail beauties and only 1 Head beauty. We can put all those beauties in the same room and let them communicate freely, since they have the same information none of them would change her answer. Now we have them disagreeing with each other. This disagreement might seems alarming. However it is also valid. As discussed above, in problems involving duplications people with the same information can have different probabilities. The reason this disagreement seems more suspicious is because the resulting beauties appears to be in symmetrical positions thus should not disagree with each other. However this symmetry is only valid from an selector’s perspective. For each beauty's own perspective she is more likely to be the Head beauty than a certain specific Tail beauty. A different problem which is similar to this disagreement was discussed by John Pittard(2013).

[Link] Ignorant, irrelevant, and inscrutable (rationalism critiques)

1 gworley 25 July 2017 09:57PM

What Are The Chances of Actually Achieving FAI?

2 Bound_up 25 July 2017 08:57PM

I get that the shut up and multiply calculation will make it worth trying even if the odds are really low, but my emotions don't respond very well to low odds.

I can override that to some degree, but, at the end of the day, it'd be easier if the odds were actually pretty decent.

Comment or PM me, it's not something I've heard much about.

People don't have beliefs any more than they have goals: Beliefs As Body Language

8 Bound_up 25 July 2017 05:41PM

Many people, anyway.


There is a common mistake in modeling humans, to think that they have actual goals, and that they deduce their actions from those goals. First there is a goal, then there is an action which is born from the goal. This is wrong.

More accurately, humans have a series of adaptations they execute. A series of behaviors which, under certain circumstances, kinda-sorta-maybe aim at the same-ish thing (like inclusive genetic fitness), but which will be executed regardless of whether or not they actually hit that thing.

Actions are not deduced from goals. The closest thing we have to "goals" are inferred from a messy conglomerate of actions, and are only an approximation of the reality that is there: just a group of behaviors.


I've come to see beliefs as very much the same way. Maybe some of us have real beliefs, real models. Some of us may in fact choose our statements about the world by deducing them from a foundational set of beliefs.

The mistake is repeated when we model most humans as having actual beliefs (nerds might be an exception). To suppose that their statements about reality, their propositions about the world, or their answers to questions are deduced from some foundational belief. First there is a belief, then there is a report on that belief, provided if anyone inquires about the belief they're carrying around. This is wrong.

More accurately, humans have a set of social moves/responses that they execute. Some of those moves APPEAR (to the naive nerd such as I) to be statements about how and what reality is. Each of these "statements" was probably vetted and accepted individually, without any consideration for the utterly foreign notion that the moves should be consistent or avoid contradiction. This sounds as tiresome to them as suggesting that their body language, or dance moves should be "consistent," for to them, the body language, dance moves, and "statements about reality" all belong to the same group of social moves, and thinking a social move is "consistent" is like thinking a certain posture/gesture is consistent or a color is tasty.

And missing the point like a nerd and taking things "literally" is exactly the kind of thing that reveals low social acuity.

Statements about individual beliefs are not deduced from a model of the world, just like actions are not deduced from goals. You can choose to interpret "I think we should help poor people" as a statement about the morality of helping poor people, if you want to miss the whole point, of course. We can suppose that "XYZ would be a good president" is a report on their model of someone's ability to fulfill a set of criteria. And if we interpret all their statement as though they were actual, REAL beliefs, we might be able to piece them together into something sort of like a model of the world.

All of which is pointless, missing the point, and counter-productive. Their statements don't add up to a model like ours might, anymore than our behaviors really add up to a goal. The "model" that comes out of aggregating their social learned behaviors will likely be inconsistent, but if you think that'll matter to them, you've fundamentally misunderstood what they're doing. You're trying to find their beliefs, but they don't HAVE any. There IS nothing more. It's just a set of cached responses. (Though you might find, if you interpret their propositions about reality as signals about tribal affiliation and personality traits, that they're quite consistent).

"What do you think about X" is re-interpreted and answered as though you had said "What do good, high-status groups (that you can plausibly be a part of) think about X?"

"I disagree" doesn't mean they think your model is wrong; they probably don't realize you have a model. Just as you interpret their social moves as propositional statements and misunderstand, so they interpret your propositional statements as social moves and misunderstand. If you ask how their model differs from yours, it'll be interpreted as a generic challenge to their tribe/status, and they'll respond like they do to such challenges. You might be confused by their hostility, or by how they change the subject. You think you're talking about X and they've switched to Y. While they'll think you've challenged them, and respond with a similar challenge, the "content" of the sentences need not be considered; the important thing is to parry the social attack and maybe counter-attack. Both perspectives make internal sense.

As far as they're concerned, the entire meaning of your statement was basically equivalent to a snarl, so they snarled back. Beliefs As Body Language.

Despite the obvious exceptions and caveats, this has been extremely useful for me in understanding less nerdy people. I try not to take what to them are just the verbal equivalent of gestures/postures or dance moves, and interpret them as propositional statements about the nature of reality (even though they REALLY sound like they're making propositional statements about the nature of reality), because that misunderstands what they're actually trying to communicate. The content of their sentences is not the point. There is no content. (None about reality, that is. All content is social). They do not HAVE beliefs. There's nothing to report on.

Bayesian statistics as epistemic advantage

0 Dr_Manhattan 25 July 2017 05:07PM

Interesting Talking Machines episode quote about Bayesian stats being used at Bletchley and GCHQ (its successor). Seems like they held on to a possibly significant advantage (crypto ppl would be better to comment on this) for years, owing largely to Turing. (The rest of the episode is about AI safety and also interesting.)



GCHQ in the ’70s, we thought of ourselves as completely Bayesian statisticians. All our data analysis was completely Bayesian, and that was a direct inheritance from Alan Turing. I’m not sure this has ever really been published, but Turing, almost as a sideline during his cryptoanalytic work, reinvented Bayesian statistics for himself. The work against Enigma and other German ciphers was fully Bayesian. …

Bayesian statistics was an extreme minority discipline in the ’70s. In academia, I only really know of two people who were working majorly in the field, Jimmy Savage … in the States and Dennis Lindley in Britain. And they were regarded as fringe figures in the statistics community. It’s extremely different now. The reason is that Bayesian statistics works. So eventually truth win out. There are many, many problems where Bayesian methods are obviously the right thing to do. But in the ’70s we understood that already in Britain in the classified environment.


Transcription Source:




[Link] Tenenbaum et al. (2017) on the computational mechanisms of learning a commonsense moral theory

1 Kaj_Sotala 25 July 2017 01:36PM

Epistemological Implications of a Reduction of Theoretical Implausibility to Cognitive Dissonance

0 common_law 25 July 2017 01:29AM
The Aronsonian re-interpretation of cognitive dissonance as caused by ideas in conflict with self-image forestalled some obvious applications to philosophical issues lying at the border with psychology. As the action-oriented approach suggests, when Festinger's theory is deepened to pertain to the relations between far-mode and near-mode representations, the similarity between cognitive dissonance and theoretical plausibility becomes almost obvious. Implausibility has the same properties and role as cognitive dissonance. It is an aversive state that that can motivate a change in far-mode beliefs, and the change is toward a form of coherence among beliefs. Rival theories can be rated on a single dimension of plausibility in the same way that they evoke different degrees of dissonance.

The reduction of implausibility to cognitive dissonance bears significant philosophical weight. It denies both Bayesian and coherentist theories of knowledge. The fashionable Bayesian interpretation of implausibility is in terms of degrees of rational belief. A theory is implausible according to the Bayesian School when it possesses a low a priori probability. But we don't thereby scale our beliefs for rationality if we scale beliefs by how much dissonance they cause,. Moreover, to scale them by rationality would require that we have some independent reason for thinking, apart from the comparative cognitive dissonance they arouse, that one theory is more rational than is the other. Scaling our beliefs by the cognitive dissonance they arouse cannot itself be justified on a priori grounds, since dissonance reduction often takes us systematically away from the truth, as in fact is the case in most experimental studies of dissonance. (This helps explain why the identity of dissonance and implausibility hasn't previously been noted.)

Regarding the other negative implication of the dissonance account of implausibility - coherentist theories of knowledge haven't arrived at a clear meaning of "coherence," but coherentist theories emphasize logical and explanatory relations among far-mode ideas (although recent versions have included the role of ideas derived directly from perception). The dissonance theory of implausibility holds that dissonance is aroused by pragmatic incompatibility between near-mode and far-mode cognition. However, we don't seem to be immune to conflicts between our far-mode ideas, although the extent to which we are - the extent of the immunity to far-mode hypocrisy - tends to surprise many of us. The resolution of this problem is that the logical analysis of the relations between far-mode ideas is itself a near-mode activity. (Consider that the practice of mathematics is near-mode, as much as its content is abstract.) We are sensitive to inconsistencies in far-mode ideas only to the extent that we draw upon them in our analytical practices - and to the extent that our own activity involves such practices. Those involved in expounding a doctrine or acting in its terms will be subject to dissonance to the extent that far-mode ideas pragmatically conflict with the performance of their analytical performances.

The dissonance theory of plausibility also bears no the mystery of the conjuring up of theoretical terms. We know that scientific theories go beyond the empirical evidence, as in principle there are infinitely many theories consistent with any set of empirical facts. On the dissonance account of plausibility, theory creation and acceptance is driven by dissonance reduction. Far-more theories promote scientific practices by energizing them. They do this by providing the framework in which scientists work. If work is to be systematic, a framework is necessary, but are the declarative propositions the framework expresses true? Do they have a probability of truth?

Scientific Realist philosophers of science have argued convincingly that theoretical propositions in science often purport to be true, but nobody has come close to providing an account of what it means for an abstract theory to be probable, such that we can inquire regarding the epistemic probability that Newtonian physics was true? The notion that we have rational degrees of belief in theories does accord with some intuitions. Plausibility must allow at least ordinal ranking, since dissonance involves choice between different cognitive states according to their plausibility. This in turn means that the laws of probability apply to ordinal relations. For example, the plausibility of Theory A and Theory B will never be greater than the plausibility of Theory A. But let me suggest that even this is a product of dissonance as shaped by theoretical development, as is shown in studies showing that in many situations we empirically find the conjunction fallacy compelling - that is, plausible.

Sometimes the search for dissonance reduction leads to truth, and sometimes it leads away from truth. Rationality is a limiting case of dissonance reduction, but it's one impossible to specify except from within a psyche subject to the laws of cognitive dissonance. Then this problem: how do we even express the expectation that scientific theories get closer to the truth and religious theories do not? We can say that scientific theories depend on experimental and observational practices and therefore have at least the possibility of resting on actual evidence. We can say scientific theories have greater plausibility than religious theories, these both being judgments that are a product of the law of dissonance. But, counter-intuitively (at least for me), we can't say that scientific theories are more probable than religious theories. It isn't, it's important to notice, that we don't know which is more probable. Rather, the whole notion of probability as applied to theories is misbegotten. That a theory is implausible or plausible is a far-mode conclusion, and far-mode doesn't deal in the relative frequencies modeled by the probability calculus.

A simple example might be clarifying in showing the limits of the concept of probability and its closeness to near-mode experience. During the last presidential election, pollsters arrived at estimates of the probability of winning for each candidate. Pollsters use mainly near-mode reasoning to engineer the best predictive formulas. The pollsters substantially agreed, as you would expect when they each applied similar methodologies, all based on simple extrapolation of the near-mode process of sampling and generalizing to a defined population. 

The accuracy of these conclusions, however, depended on certain far-mode assumptions, such as that people taking polls respond honestly. What if this assumption didn't hold? Well, it didn't; Trump won and the main reason the polls got it wrong was (or might have been, if you prefer) that voters polled weren't honest about their preferences. We might ask, what should have been the true probability estimate, given that the pollsters didn't take into account the probability that their model was based on false assumptions. How should they have taken this into account? Probability estimates result from the near-mode operation of fitting observation to a relative frequency model. We can complicate the model to take account of more information, but what we can't do is adjust the probability estimate to take account of the model's own fallibility. (At a deeper level, Bayesian estimates can’t adjust for the probability that the Bayesian methodology itself is invalid—as I contend it is in fact.) If it makes sense to assign a probability to a theory being true, how much belief should be accorded in some idealized rational world, then it should be possible to approximate that probability. Someone can adjust it "intuitively," but my point is that there is nothing appropriate for an intuition to be about. Theoretical plausibility is not probability.

At this point arises a skeptical temptation, for not only is our knowledge not absolute, it isn't even probable. Plausibility can systematically take us away from knowledge. We seem to long for a rationale for doing the rational thing, and such a rationale is supplied when knowledge and rational conduct is represented by Bayesian and decision-theoretic formulas. We see ourselves as free and availed of (mentally) unlimited choice. We are rational because we choose to be, and that entails that the choice itself be rational. But our possibilities aren't unlimited, freely chosen. Our ideas will evolve in accordance with the demands of cognitive dissonance or else moved by receptivity to suggestion. There's no "free will" to seize the initiative, and no direct access to rationality to guide us.

Bi-Weekly Rational Feed

8 deluks917 24 July 2017 09:56PM

===Highly Recommended Articles:

Superintelligence Risk Project Update II by Jeff Kaufman - Jeff's thoughts and the sources he found most useful. Project is wrapping up in a few day. Topics: Technical Distance to AI. Most plausible scenarios of Superintelligence risk. OpenPhil's notes on how progress was potentially stalled in Cryonics and Nanotech.

Superintelligence Risk Project Update by Jeff Kaufman - Links to the three most informative readings on AI risk. Details on the large number of people Jeff has talked to. Three fundamental points of view on AI-Safety. Three Fundamental points of disagreement. An update on the original questions Jeff was trying to answer.

Podcast The World Needs Ai Researchers Heres How To Become One by 80,000 Hours - "OpenAI’s latest plans and research progress. Concrete Papers in AI Safety, which outlines five specific ways machine learning algorithms can act in dangerous ways their designers don’t intend - something OpenAI has to work to avoid. How listeners can best go about pursuing a career in machine learning and AI development themselves."

Radical Book Club The Decentralized Left by davidzhines (Status 451) - The nature of leftwing organizing and what righties can learn from it. An exposition of multiple books on radical left organization building. Major themes are "doing the work" and "decentralized leadership".

Study Of The Week To Remediate Or Not To Remediate by Freddie deBoer - Should low math proficiency students take remedial algebra or credit bearing statistics. The City University of New York ran an actual randomized study to test this. The study had pretty good controls. For example students were randomly assigned to three groups, participating professors taught one section of each group.

Kenneth Arrow On The Welfare Economics Of Medical Care A Critical Assessment by Artir (Nintil) - "Kenneth Arrow wrote a paper in 1963, Uncertainty and the Welfare Economics of Medical Care. This paper tends to appear in debates regarding whether healthcare can be left to the market (like bread), or if it should feature heavy state involvement. Here I explain what the paper says, and to what extent it is true."

Becoming Stronger Together by b4yes (lesswrong) - "About a year ago, a secret rationalist group was founded. This is a report of what the group did during that year."

The Destruction Of American Cuisine by Small Truths - America used to have a tremendous number of regional cuisines, most are dead. They were killed by supermarkets and frozen food. This has been costly both in terms of culture and health (antibiotic resistance, crop monoculture risk)


Targeting Meritocracy by Scott Alexander - Education and merit are different. Programming is one of the last meritocracies, this lets disadvantaged people get into the field. If a job is high impact we want to hire on merit. The original, literal meaning of meritocracy is important.

Classified Thread 2 Best In Classified by Scott Alexander - Scott is promoting a project to accelerate the trend of rationalists living near each other. There are four houses available for rent near Ward Street in Berkeley. Ward street is currently the rationalist hub in the Bay. Commenters can advertise other projects and services.

Url Of Sandwich by Scott Alexander - Standard links post, somewhat longer than usual.

Opec Thread by Scott Alexander - Bi-weekly open thread. Update on Scott and Katja's travels. Salt Lake City Meetup highlight. Topher Brennan is running for Senate.

Can We Link Perception And Cognition by Scott Alexander - SSC survey optical illusions. "So there seems to be a picture where high rates of perceptual ambiguity are linked to being weirder and (sometimes, in a very weak statistical way) lower-functioning." Speculation about fundamental connections between perception and cognitive style. Ideas for further research.

Change Minds Or Drive Turnout by Scott Alexander - Extreme candidates lower turnout among their own party. Is base turnout really the only thing that matters? Lots of quotes from studies.


Learning From Past Experiences by mindlevelup - "This is about finding ways to quickly learn from past experiences to inform future actions. We briefly touch upon different learning models." Model-based and Model-Free reinforcement learning. Practical advice and examples.

How Long Has Civilization Been Going by Elo (BearLamp) - Human agricultural society is only 342-1000 generations old. "Or when you are 24 years old you have lived one day for every year humans have had written records." Human civilization is only a few hundred lifetimes old.

Choices Are Bad by Zvi Moshowitz - Choices reduce perceived value. Choices require time and energy. Making someone choose is imposing a real cost.

Erisology Of Self And Will: The Gulf by Everything Studies - "Part 4 will discuss some scientific disciplines with bearing on the self, and how their results are interpreted differently by the traditional paradigm vs. the scientific."

Philosophy Vs Duck Tests by Robin Hanson - Focusing on deep structure vs adding up weak cues. If it looks like an x... More discussion of whether most people will consider ems people and/or conscious.

Knowing How To Define by AellaGirl - "These are three ways in which a word can be ‘defined’ – the role it plays in the world around it (the up-definition), synonyms (lateral-definition), and the parts which construct the thing (down-definition)." Applications to morality and free-will.

Change Is Bad by Zvi Moshowitz - "Change space, like mind space, is deep and wide. Friendly change space isn’t quite to change space what friendly mind space is to mind space, but before you apply any filters of common sense, it’s remarkably close." A long list of conditions that mean change has lower expected value. Why we still need to make changes. Keep your eyes open.

Meditation Insights Suffering And Pleasure Are Intrinsically Bound Together by Kaj Sotala - The concrete goal of meditation is to train your peripheral awareness. Much suffering comes from false promises of pleasure. Procrastinating to play a videogame won't actually make you feel better. Temptation losses its power once you truly see the temptations for what they truly are.

Be My Neighbor by Katja Grace - Katja lives in a rationalist house on ward street in Berkeley and its great. The next step up is a rationalist neighborhood. Katja is promoting the same four houses as Scott. Be her neighbor?

What Value Subagents by G Gordan (Map and Territory) - Splitting the mind into subagents is a common rationalist model (links to Alicorn, Briene Yudkowsky, etc). However the author preferred model is a single process with inconsistent preferences. Freud. System 1 and System 2. The rider and the Elephant become one. Subagents as masks. Subagents as epicycles.

The Order Of The Soul by Ben Hoffman (Compass Rose) - The philosophy of accepting things vs the impulse to reshape them. Many philosophical and psychological models split the soul into three. Internalized authority vs seeing the deep structure of moral reality. In some sense math is the easiest thing in the world to learn. School poisons the enjoyment of rational thought. Lockhart's lament. Feynman. Eichmann and thinking structurally.

Aliens Merely Sleeping by Tyler Cowen - The universe is currently too hot for artificial life to be productive. Advanced civilizations might be freezing themselves until the universe cools. "They could achieve up to 1030 times more than if done today" [short]

Book Reviews by Torello (lesswrong) - Rationalist Adjacent. Each book has an interesting 'ideas per page' rating. Homo Deus, Sapiens, Super-intelligence, Surfaces and Essences, What Technology Wants, Inside Jokes, A Skeptic's Guide to the Mind.

Geometers Scribes Structure Intelligence by Ben Hoffman (Compass Rose) - "How does spatial reasoning lead to formal, logical reasoning?" Fluid and crystalized intelligence. Some history of Philosophy. How social dynamics lead to the evolution of reasoning. Talmudic and Western law, and their oddities. Universal Grammar and connecting with the divine. FizzBuzz.

High Dimensional Societies by Robin Hanson - In high dimensional space the distance between points varies less. What implications does this have for 'spatial' social science models (ex analogues of 1D spectrums and 2D graphs).

Feelings In The Map by Elo (BearLamp) - Confusion is not a property of the external world. The same holds for many emotions. Non-violent communication and speaking from your own perspective.

Lesswrong Is Not About Forum Software by enye-word (lesswrong) - The best way to increase activity on lesswrong is to get back the top posters, especially Scott and Eliezer.

Explication by mindlevelup - "This essay is about explication, the notion of making things specific. I give some examples involving Next Actions and systematization. This might also just be obvious to many people. Part of it is also a rehash of Act Into Uncertainty. Ultimately, explication is about changing yourself."

Concrete Instructions by Elo (BearLamp) - "The objective test of whether the description is concrete is whether the description can be followed by an anonymous person to produce the same experience." Some examples including the 'paper folding game'.

Human Seems Low Dimensional by Robin Hanson - 'Humanness' seems to be a one dimensional variable. Hence people are likely to consider ems conscious and worthy of decent treatment since ems are human-like on many important factors. Some discussion of a study where people rated how human-like various entities were.

Erisology Of Self And Will: A Natural Offering by Everything Studies - A description of naturalism and it relation to science. Daniel Dennet. Many philosophers are still dualists about the self. The self as a composite. Freedom as emergent.

The Hungry Brain by Bayesian Investor - A short review that focuses on the basics of Guynet's ideas and meta-discussion of why Guynet included so much neuroscience. "Guyenet provides fairly convincing evidence that it’s simple to achieve a healthy weight while feeling full. (E.g. the 20 potatoes a day diet)."

Boost From The Best by Robin Hanson - [Age of Em] How many standard deviations above the mean will be the best em be? How much better will they be than the second best em? How much of a wage/leisure premium will the best em receive.

Becoming Stronger Together by b4yes (lesswrong) - "About a year ago, a secret rationalist group was founded. This is a report of what the group did during that year."

In Praise Of Fake Frameworks by Valentine (lesswrong) - "I use a lot of fake frameworks — that is, ways of seeing the world that are probably or obviously wrong in some important way. I think this is an important skill. There are obvious pitfalls, but I think the advantages are more than worth it. In fact, I think the "pitfalls" can even sometimes be epistemically useful."

Letter To Future Layperson by Sailor Vulcan (BYS) - A letter from someone in our age to someone post singularity. Description of the hardships and terrors of pre-singularity life. Emotional and poetic. ~5K words.


Conversation With An Ai Researcher by Jeff Kaufman - The anonymous researcher thinks AI progress is almost entirely driven by hardware and data. Back propagation has existed for a long time. Go would have taken at least 10 more years if go-aI work had remained constrained by academic budgets.

Openai Baselines PPO by Open Ai - "We’re releasing a new class of reinforcement learning algorithms, Proximal Policy Optimization (PPO), which perform comparably or better than state-of-the-art approaches while being much simpler to implement and tune. PPO has become the default reinforcement learning algorithm at OpenAI because of its ease of use and good performance."

Superintelligence Risk Project Update II by Jeff Kaufman - Jeff's thoughts and the sources he found most useful. Project is wrapping up in a few day. Topics: Technical Distance to AI. Most plausible scenarios of Superintelligence risk. OpenPhil's notes on how progress was potentially stalled in Cryonics and Nanotech.

Real Debate Robots Education by Tyler Cowen - Robots are already becoming part of the classroom. K-12 is an artificially creation anyway. Robots can help autistic or disabled children. Children sometimes trust robots too much.

Robust Adversarial Inputs by Open Ai - "We’ve created images that reliably fool neural network classifiers when viewed from varied scales and perspectives. This challenges a claim from last week that self-driving cars would be hard to trick maliciously since they capture images from multiple scales, angles, perspectives, and the like."

What Is Overfitting Exactly by Andrew Gelman - "If your model is correct, “overfitting” is impossible. In its usual form, “overfitting” comes from using too weak of a prior distribution."

Conversation With Bryce Wiedenbeck by Jeff Kaufman - "AGI is possible, it could be a serious problem, but we can't productively work on it now." AGI will look very different from current technologies. Utility functions are a poor model of human behavior.

Examples Of Superintelligence Risk by Jeff Kaufman - A series of extended quotes describing ways AI with innocent seeming goals can destroy the world. Authors: Nick Bostrom, Eliezer (and collaborators), Luke M, 80K hours, Tim Urban. Jeff finds them unpersuasive and asks for better ones. Lots of interesting comments. Eleizer himself comments describing how 'paperclip maximizers' might realistically occur.

Superintelligence Risk Project Update by Jeff Kaufman - Links to the three most informative readings on AI risk. Details on the large number of people Jeff has talked to. Three fundamental points of view on AI-Safety. Three Fundamental points of disagreement. An update on the original questions Jeff was trying to answer.

Conversation With Michael Littman by Jeff Kaufman - CS Professor at Brown's opinions: Deep Learning is surprisingly brittle in his experience. General Intelligence will require large fundamental advances. The AI risk community isn't testing their ideas so they probably aren't making real progress.


EAGX Relaunch by Roxanne_Heston (EA forum) - The EA global satellite EAGA-X conferences have been low activity. Changes: More funding and flexibility. Standardized formats. Fewer groups approved. Stipends to primary organizers.

Uncertainty Smoothes Out Differences In Impact by The Foundational Research Institute - Many inside view evaluations conclude that one intervention is orders of magnitude more effective than another. Uncertainty significantly reduces these ratios.

Autonomy: A Search For A Measure Will Pearson (EA forum) - "I shall introduce a relatively formal measure of autonomy, based on the intuition that it is the ability to do things by yourself with what you have. The measure introduced allows you to move from less to more autonomy, without being black and white about it. Then I shall talk about how increasing autonomy fits in with the values of movements such as poverty reduction, ai risk reduction and the reduction of suffering."

Eight media articles on GiveDirectly, Cash Transers and Basic Income.- A world where 8 men own as much wealth as 3.6 billion people by GiveDirectly -

More Giving Vs Doing by Jeff Kaufman - EA is moving far more money than it used to and the ramp up will continue. This means direct work has become relatively more valuable. Nonetheless giving money is still useful, capacity isn't being filled. Jeff plans on earning to give based on his personal constraints.

Why I Think The Foundational Research Institute by Mike Johnson (EA forum) - A description of the FRI. Good things about FRI. FRI's research framework and why the author is worried. Eight long objections. TLDR: "functionalism ("consciousness is the sum-total of the functional properties of our brains") sounds a lot better than it actually turns out to be in practice. In particular, functionalism makes it impossible to define ethics & suffering in a way that can mediate disagreements."

Tranquilism by The Foundational Research Institute - A paper arguing that reducing suffering is more important than promoting happiness. Axiology. Non-consciousness. Common Objections. Conclusion.

An Argument For Why The Future May Be Good by Ben West (EA forum) - Factory farming shows that humans are deeply cruel. Technology enabled this cruelty, perhaps the future will be even darker. Counterargument: Humans are lazy, not evil. Humans as a group will spend at least small amounts altruistically. In the future the cost of reducing suffering will go down low enough that suffering will be rare or non-existent.

Arguments Moral Advocacy by The Foundational Research Institute - "What does moral advocacy look like in practice? Which values should we spread, and how? How effective is moral advocacy compared to other interventions such as directly influencing new technologies? What are the most important arguments for and against focusing on moral advocacy?"

An Argument For Broad And Inclusive by Kaj Sotala (EA forum) - "I argue for a very broad, inclusive EA, based on the premise that the culture of a region is more important than any specific group within that region... As a concrete strategy, I propose a division into low-level and high-level EA"

Not Everybody wants a Goat by GiveDirectly - Eight links on GiveDirectly, Cash Transfers, Effective Altruism and Basic Income.

Mid Year Update by The GiveWell Blog - Encouraging more charities to apply. More research of potential interventions. Short operations recap. GiveWell is focusing more on outreach.

===Politics and Economics:

College Tuition by Tom Bartleby - Sticker prices for college have gone up 15K in twenty years, but the average actual cost has only gone up 2.5K. High prices are almost compensated by high aid. Advantage: more equitable access to education. Disadvantages: Not everyone knows about the aid, financial aid is large enough it can seriously distort family financial decisions.

War Of Wages Part 1 Apples And Walmarts by Jacob Falkovich (Put A Number On It!) - The Author thinks minimum wage hurts the poor. Walmart can't afford higher wages. Copenhagan Interpretation of Ethics: Walmart helps the poor and gets blamed, Apple does nothing for the poor but avoids blame.

Links 10 by Artir (Nintil) - Tons of links. Economics, Psychology, AI, Philosophy, Misc.

Pretend Ask Answer by Ben Hoffman (Compass Rose) - A short dialogue about Patriarchy and the meaning of oppression. Defensive actions are often a response to bad faith from the other side. Its not ok to explicitly say you think your partner is arguing in bad faith.

Cultural Studies Ironically Is Something Of A Colonizer by Freddie deBoer - An origin story for Writing Studies. The fields initial methodological diversity. Cultural studies took over the field, empirical work has been pushed out. Evidence that some cultural studies professors really do believe its fundamentally bigoted to do science and empirical research endangers marginalized students. The field has become insular.

The Dark Arts Examples From The Harris Adams Debate by Stabilizer (lesswrong) - The author accuses Scott Adams of using various dark Arts: Changing the subject, Motte-and-bailey, Euphemisation, Diagnosis, Excusing, Cherry-picking evidence.

Study Of The Week Modest But Real Benefits From Lead Exposure Interventions by Freddie deBoer - Freddie reviews a survey he found via SSC. The study had very good controls. Methodology is explained and key graphs are posted and discussed. Scott and Freddie seem to agree on the facts but have a different opinion on how large to consider the effects.

Descriptive And Prescriptive Standards by Simon Penner (Status 451) - Leadership means winning the Keynesian Beauty Contest. Public opinion doesn't exist as a stable reality. Prescribing public opinion. Dangers of social reform and leaders twisting the facts to promote noble outcomes.

A Taylorism For All Seasons by Lou (sam[]zdat) - "Christopher Lasch – The Culture of Narcissism, part 1/X, current essay being more of an overview." A Masquerade where you must act out the mask you choose.

Mechanism Agnostic Low Plasticity Educational Realism by Freddie deBoer - Freddie's educational philosophy. People sort into persistent academic strata. Educational attainment is heavily determined by factors outside of school's control. The mechanism differences in academic ability is unknown. Social and political implications.

Kin Aesthetics Excommunicate Me From The Church Of Social Justice by Frances Lee - A SJ-insider's critical opinion of SJ. Fear of being impure. Original Sin. Reproducing colonial structures of power and domination within social justice. Everyday Feminism's belittling articles. More humility. Bringing humanity to everyone, even those who have been inhumane.

Study Of The Week To Remediate Or Not To Remediate by Freddie deBoer - Should low math proficiency students take remedial algebra or credit bearing statistics. The City University of New York ran an actual randomized study to test this. The study had pretty good controls. For example students were randomly assigned to three groups, participating professors taught one section of each group.

Should We Build Lots More Housing In San Francisco: Three Reasons People Disagree by Julia Galef - For each of the three reasons Julia describes multiple sub-reasons. More housing might not lower prices much. More housing won't help the poor. NIMBY objections might be legitimate.

Kenneth Arrow On The Welfare Economics Of Medical Care A Critical Assessment by Artir (Nintil) - "Kenneth Arrow wrote a paper in 1963, Uncertainty and the Welfare Economics of Medical Care. This paper tends to appear in debates regarding whether healthcare can be left to the market (like bread), or if it should feature heavy state involvement. Here I explain what the paper says, and to what extent it is true."

Thoughts On Doxxing by Ozy (Thing of Things) - CNN found the identity of the guy who made the video of Trump beating up CNN. They implied they would dox him if he continued being racist. Is doxxing him ok? What about doxxing someone who runs r/jailbait? Ozy discusses the practical effect of doxxing and unleashing hate mobs.

On The Seattle Minimum Wage Study Part 2 by Zvi Moshowitz - Several relevant links are included. Seattle's economic boom and worker composition changes are important factors. Zvi dives deep into the numbers and tries to resolve an apparent contradiction.

Radical Book Club The Decentralized Left by davidzhines (Status 451) - The nature of leftwing organizing and what righties can learn from it. An exposition of multiple books on radical left organization building. Major themes are "doing the work" and "decentralized leadership".

On The Seattle Minimum Wage Study Part 1 by Zvi Moshowitz - The claimed effect sizes are huge. Zvi's priors about the minimum wage. Detailed description of some of the paper's methods and how it handle potential issues. Discussion of the raw data. More to come in part 2.


Childcare II by Jeff Kaufman - A timeline of childcare for Jeff's two children. Methods: Staying at home, Daycare, Au pair, Nanny.

Easier Chess Problem by protokol2020 - How many pieces do you need to capture a black queen?

Book Review Mathematics For Computer Science by richard_reitz (lesswrong) - Why the text should be in the MIRI research guide. Intro. Prereqs. Detailed comparisons to similar texts. Complaints.

Information is Physical by Scott Aaronson - Is information is physical a contentful expression? Why 'physics is information' is tautological. A proposed definition. Double slit experiment. Observation in Quantum Mechanics. Information takes up a minimum amount of space. Entropy. Information has nowhere to go.

Book Review Working Effectively With Legacy Code By Michael C Feathers by Eli Bendersky - To improve code we must refactor, to refactor we have to test, making code testable may take heroic efforts. "The techniques described by the author are as terrible as the code they're up against."

The Ominouslier Roar Of The Bitcoin Wave by Artem and Venkat (ribbonfarm) - A video visualizing and audiolizing the bitcoin blockchain. A related dialogue.

From Monkey Neurons To The Meta Brain by Hal Morris (ribbonfarm) - Neurons that only fire in response to Jennifer Anniston. Mirror Neurons. Theory of Mind. The path from copying movement to human-level empathy. Infant development. Dreams as social simulator. Communicating with our models of other people. He rapidly accelerating and dangerous future. We need to keep our mind open to possibilities.

Newtonism Question by protokol2020 - Balancing Forces. Gravity problem.

Short Interview Writing by Tyler Cowen - Tyler Cowen's writing habits. Many concrete details such as when he writes and what program he uses. Some more general thoughts on writing such as Tyler's surprising answer to which are his favorite books on writing.

Unexpected by protokol2020 - Discussion of gaps between primes. "Say, that you have just sailed across some recordly wide composite lake and you are on a prime island again. What can you expect, how much wider will the next record lake be?"

Interacting With A Long Running Child Process In Python by Eli Bendersky - Using the subprocess module to run an http server. Solutions and analysis of common use cases. Lots of code.

4d Mate Problem by protokol2020 - How many queens do you need to get a checkmate in 4D chess.

The Destruction Of American Cuisine by Small Truths - America used to have a tremendous number of regional cuisines, most are dead. They were killed by supermarkets and frozen food. This has been costly both in terms of culture and health (antibiotic resistance, crop monoculture risk)


Sally Satel On Organ Donation by EconTalk - "The challenges of increasing the supply of donated organs for transplantation and ways that public policy might increase the supply." Tax Credits. The ethics of donor compensation.

Podcast The World Needs Ai Researchers Heres How To Become One by 80,000 Hours - "OpenAI’s latest plans and research progress. Concrete Papers in AI Safety, which outlines five specific ways machine learning algorithms can act in dangerous ways their designers don’t intend – something OpenAI has to work to avoid. How listeners can best go about pursuing a career in machine learning and AI development themselves."

88 Must We Accept A Nuclear North Korea by Waking Up with Sam Harris - "Mark Bowden and the problem of a nuclear-armed North Korea."

Triggered by Waking Up with Sam Harris - "Sam Harris and Scott Adams debate the character and competence of President Trump."

Conversation Atul Gawande by Tyler Cowen - The marginal value of health care, AI progress in medicine, fear of genetic engineering, whether the checklist method applies to marriage, FDA regulation, surgical regulation, Michael Crichton and Stevie Wonder, wearables, what makes him weep, Knausgaard and Ferrante, why surgeons leave sponges in patients.

Nneka Jones Tapia by The Ezra Klein Show - The first psychologist to run a prison. 30% of inmates have diagnosed mental health problems. Mental heath view of the penal system, balancing punishment and treatment, responsibility versus mental instability, the tension between what we use jail for and what we should use jail for.

Tamar Haspel by EconTalk - "Why technology helps make some foods inexpensive, how animals are treated, the health of the honey bee, and whether eggs from your backyard taste any better than eggs at the grocery."

From Cells To Cities by Waking Up with Sam Harris - "Biological and social systems scale, the significance of fractals, the prospects of radically extending human life, the concept of “emergence” in complex systems, the importance of cities, the necessity for continuous innovation"

Inside The World Of Supertraining: Mark Bell by Tim Feriss - "Mark’s most important lessons for building strength. How to avoid injury and breakdown. Lesser-known training techniques that nearly everyone overlooks. How Mark became a millionaire by offering his gym memberships for free."

Eddie Izzard by The Ezra Klein Show - 27 marathons in 27 days, process for writing jokes, why he wants to run for parliament, inspiration from Al Franken's, borrowing confidence from his future self. What he learned as a street performer, routines are based on history and anthropology, World War I, 'cake or death?'. His gender identity, and how he integrated it into his act early on, etc.

Martha Nussbaum by EconTalk - "The tension between acquiring power and living a life of virtue. Topics discussed include Hamilton's relationship with Aaron Burr, Burr's complicated historical legacy, and the role of the humanities in our lives."

Rs 188 Robert Kurzban On Being Strategically Wrong by Rationally Speaking - Why Everyone (Else) is a Hypocrite." The "modular mind" hypothesis, and how it explains hypocrisy, self-deception, and other seemingly irrational features of human nature.

Is Altruism Selfish?

0 DragonGod 24 July 2017 07:41AM

Altruism is just a hedonistic desire of people to feel good about themselves.

With the above quote as a prompt, let's discuss.
While I may not express it in such strong terms, I do support the idea expressed in the above prompt. For a brief elaboration: People are only capable of acting upon their own utility function. It is quite possible that this utility function includes others utility function. It is impossible for one to act on another's utility function (without first incorporating it into their own utility function). If the well being of others makes you happy, or you gain pleasure from it, then it grants you positive utility. In order for you to be truly selfless in your altruism, then you must not gain any pleasure from it. Helping others must not make you happy, or uplift you. If helping others doesn't grant you pleasure (in any form whatsoever), then you may be altruistic, but you would be quite alien to our conception of altruism (we don't imagine altruists don't like helping others do we), one might even argue that if you derive n pleasure from helping others, that you are not really altruistic but merely putting on airs.
I posit that altruism—at least as we conceive it—is inherently selfish. However, this is not a problem. Being selfish is not immoral, and some moral philosophies posit that people are only capable of acting in their own self interest. Altruism as a selfish endeavour, only becomes a problem if we operate under the assumption that "selfish = bad"—a grossly unfounded assumption. As a trivial counter example, if I save a loved one because I would be heavily distressed at their loss (an inherently selfish motive), then does my action become immoral? Perish the thought. Selfishness is not inherently immoral. It is merely that some selfish actions may be conceived of as immoral, which gives the whole position a bad reputation. If we accept that selfish actions can be moral, then the position of altruism as a selfish endeavour brooks no inconsistencies.
True selflessness—and true altruism if you demand that altruism is selfless—is the sociopath who decides to help someone else despite feeling no empathy for them (maybe out of moral principles or something).
Selfishness is not a problem. Selfishness is desirable; it is a virtue to be lauded, not a vice to be vilified. Humans should act in their own self-interest—it is the rational thing to do—and if that self interest involves helping others, involves making the world a better place, then go ahead.
What I call "The first commandment":

Be ye selfish.

Selfishness is amoral. Selfishness is moral blind. It is neither inherently good, nor inherently evil. A virtuous person who acts in their self interest wrought good works. An "evil" person who acts in their self interest wrought evil works. The selfishness of the act does not determine the morality thereof—only the character of the agent does.
Similarly also, selflessness isn't inherently good; as a counterexample, consider someone who is blackmailed into committing evil act(s) (the act(s) is/are a lesser evil compared to what would be done to the hostages) via holding his family or his city hostage. The evil act(s) he commits are selfless, yet they are immoral (If you disagree with this, you probably subscribe to a form of deontology, and I suggest we agree to disagree).
Neither selfishness nor selflessness knows morality. Only the character of the agent, and neither the selfishness nor selflessness of the action determines its morality.
I don't think I redefined "selfish". The definition I use is:

Actions that are in the self interest of the agent(s) executing them.

Open thread, July 24 - July 30, 2017

1 Thomas 24 July 2017 07:28AM
If it's worth saying, but not worth its own post, then it goes here.

Notes for future OT posters:

1. Please add the 'open_thread' tag.

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

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

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

What is Intelligence?

0 DragonGod 23 July 2017 12:12AM

As far as Artificial Intelligence is concerned, what is "intelligence"? The definition I see on various sites like Wikipedia:

Intelligence has been defined in many different ways including as one's capacity for logic, understanding, self-awareness, learning, emotional knowledge, planning, creativity, and problem solving

Merriam Webster:

  1. The ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations : reason; also : the skilled use of reason.
  2. The ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one's environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria (such as tests).

etc seem to be a bit broad and nebulous, and not necessarily what I would be thinking of if I wanted to build an AI, or evaluate the intelligence of non human life-forms.

The definition I currently go with is:

General problem solving ability.

However, I'm not sure if this is broad enough to encompass all we think of when we say "intelligence" in the context of AI, or what we would be looking for in "intelligent" life-forms. What's a useful definition of intelligence. Broad enough to encompass all the we consider when we think intelligence, yet narrow enough to exclude particular idiosyncrasies of specific intelligent agents? A universal definition of intelligence applicable to all intelligent agents.

Book Review: Mathematics for Computer Science (Suggestion for MIRI Research Guide)

11 richard_reitz 22 July 2017 07:26PM

tl;dr: I read Mathematics for Computer Science (MCS) and found it excellent. I sampled Discrete Mathematics and Its Applications (Rosen)—currently recommended in MIRI's research guide—as well as Concrete Mathematics and Discrete Mathematics with Applications (Epp), which appear to be MCS's competition. Based on these partial readings, I found MCS to be the best overall text. I therefore recommend MIRI change the recommendation in its research guide.


MCS is used at MIT for their introductory discrete math course, 6.042, which appears to be taken primarily by second-semester freshman and sophomores. You can find OpenCourseWare archives from 2010 and 2015, although the book is self-contained; I never had occasion to use them throughout my reading. 

If you liked Computability and Logic (review), currently in the MIRI research guide, you'll like MCS:

MCS is a wonderful book. It's well written. It's rigorous, but does a nice job of motivating the material. It efficiently proves a number of counterintuitive results and then helps you see them as intuitively obvious. Freed from the constraint of printing cost, it contains many diagrams which are generally useful. You can find the pdf here or, if that link breaks, by googling "Mathematics for Computer Science". (See section 21.2 for why this works.)

MCS is regularly updated during the semester. Based on the dates of revision given to the cover, I suspect that the authors attempt to update it within a week of the last update during the semester. The current version is 87 pages longer than the 2015 version, suggesting ~40 pages of material is added a year. My favorite thing about the constant updates was that I never needed to double check statements about our current state of knowledge to see if anything had changed since publication.

MCS is licensed under a Creative Commons attribution share-alike license: it is free in the sense of both beer and freedom. I'm a big fan of such copyleft licenses, so I give MIT major props. I've tried to remain unbiased in my review, but halo effect suggests my views on the text might be affected by the text's license: salt accordingly.


The only prerequisite is single-variable calculus. In particular, I noted integration, differentiation, and convergence/infinite sums coming up. That said, I don't remember seeing them coming up in sections that provided a lot of dependencies: with just a first course in algebra, I feel a smart 14-year-old could get through 80–90% of the book, albeit with some help, mostly in places where "do a bunch of algebra" steps are omitted. An extra 4–5 years of practice doing algebraic manipulations makes a difference.

MCS is also an introduction to proofwriting. In my experience, writing mathematical proofs is a skill complex enough to require human feedback to get all the nuances of why something works and why something else doesn't work and why one approach is better than another. If you've never written proofs before and would like a human to give you feedback, please pm me.

Comparison to Other Discrete Math Texts


I randomly sampled section 4.3 of Rosen, on primes and greatest common divisors and was very unimpressed. Rosen states the fundamental theorem of arithmetic without a proof. The next theorem had a proof which was twice as long and half as elegant as it could have been. The writing was correct but unmotivating and wordy. For instance, Rosen writes "If n is a composite integer", which is redundant, since all composite numbers are integers, so he could have just said "If n is composite".

In the original Course Recommendations for Friendliness Researchers, Louie responded to Rosen's negative reviews:

people taking my recommendations would be geniuses by-and-large and that the harder book would be better in the long-run for the brightest people who studied from it.

Based on the sample I read, Rosen is significantly dumbed-down relative to MCS. Rosen does not prove the fundamental theorem of arithmetic whereas MCS proves it in section 9.4. For the next theorem, Rosen gives an inelegant proof when a much sleeker—but reasonably evident!—proof exists, making it feel like Rosen expected the reader to not be able to follow the sleeker proof. Rosen's use of "composite integer" instead of "composite" seems like he assumes the reader doesn't understand that the only objects one describes as composite are integers; MCS does not contain the string "composite integer".

In the section I read, Rosen has worked examples for finding gcd(24, 36) and gcd(17, 22), something I remember doing when I was 12. It's almost like Rosen was spoon-feeding how to guess the teacher's password for the student to regurgitate on an exam instead of building insight.

Concrete Mathematics

There are probably individuals who would prefer Concrete Mathematics to MCS. These people are probably into witchcraft.

I explain by way of example. In section 21.1.1, MCS presents a very sleek, but extremely nonobvious, proof of gambler's ruin using a clever argument courtesy of Pascal. In section 21.1.2, MCS gives a proof that doesn't require the reader to be "as ingenuious Pascal [sic]". As an individual who is decidedly not as ingenious as Pascal was, I appreciate this.

More generally, say we want to prove a theorem that looks something like "If A, then B has property C." You start at A and, appealing to the definition of C, show that B has it. There's probably some cleverness involved in doing so, but you start at the obvious place (A), end in the obvious place (B satisfies the definition of C), and don't rely on any crazy, seemingly-unrelated insights. Let's call this sort of proof mundane.

(Note that mundane is far from mechanical. Most of the proofs in Baby Rudin are mundane, but require significant cleverness and work to generate independently.)

There is a virtue in mundane proofs: a smart reader can usually generate them after they read the theorem but before they read its proof. Doing is beneficial, since proof-generating makes the theorem more memorable. It also gives the reader practice building intuition by playing around with the mathematical objects and helps them improve their proofwriting by comparing their output to a maximally refined proof.

On the end of the spectrum opposing mundane is witchcraft. Proofs that use witchcraft typically have a step where you demonstrate you're as ingenious as Pascal by having a seemingly-unrelated insight that makes everything easier. Notice that, even if you are as ingenious as Pascal, you won't necessarily be able to generate these insights quickly enough to get through the text at any reasonable pace.

For the reasons listed above, I prefer mundane proofs. This isn't to say MCS is devoid of witchcraft: sometimes it's the best or only way of getting a proof. The difference is that MCS uses mundane proofs whenever possible whereas Concrete Mathematics invokes witchcraft left and right. This is why I don't recommend it.

Individuals who are readily as ingenious as Pascal, don't want the skill-building benefits of mundane proofs, or prefer the whimsy of witchcraft may prefer Concrete Mathematics.


I randomly sampled section 12.2 of Epp and found it somewhat dry but wholly unobjectionable. Unlike Rosen, I felt like Epp was writing for an intelligent human being (though I was reading much further along in the book, so maybe Rosen assumed the reader was still struggling with the idea of proof). Unlike Concrete Mathematics, I detected no witchcraft. However, I felt that Epp had inferior motivation and was written less engagingly. Epp is also not licensed under Creative Commons.


Epp, Rosen, and MCS are all ~1000 pages long, whereas Concrete Mathematics is ~675. To determine what these books covered that might not be in MCS, I looked through their table of contents' for things I didn't recognize. The former three have the same core coverage, although Epp and Rosen go into material you would find in Computability and Logic or Sipser (also part of the research guide), whereas MCS spends more time developing discrete probability. Based on the samples I read, Epp and MCS have about the same density, whereas Rosen spends little time building insight and a lot of time showing how to do really basic, obvious stuff. I would expect Epp and MCS to have roughly the same amount of content covering mostly (but not entirely) the same stuff and Rosen to offer a mere shadow of the insight of the other two.

Concrete Mathematics seems to contain a subset of MCS's topics, but from the sections I read, I expect the presentation to be wildly different.


My only substantial complaint about MCS is that, to my knowledge, the source LaTeX is not available. Contrast this to SICP, which has the HTML available. This resulted in a proliferation of PDFs tailored for different use cases. It'd be nice, for instance, to have a print-friendly version of MCS (perhaps with fewer pages), plus a version that fit nicely onto the small screen of an ereader or mobile device, plus a version with the same aspect ratio as my monitor. This all would be extremely easy to generate given the source. It would also facilitate crowdsourcing proofreading: there are more than a few typos, although they don't preempt comprehension. At the very least, I wish there were somewhere to submit errata.

Some parts of MCS were notation-heavy. To quote what a professor once wrote on a problem set of mine:

I'm not sure all the notation actually serves the goal of clarifying the argument for the reader. Of course, such notation is sometimes needed. But when it is not needed, it can function as a tool with which to bludgeon the reader…

I found myself referring to Wikipedia's glossary of graph theory terms more than a few times when I was making definitions to put into Anki. Not sure if this is measuring a weak section or a really good glossary or something else.

A Note on Printing

A lot of people like printed copies of their books. One benefit of MCS I've put forward is that it's free (as in beer), so I investigated how much printing would cost.

I checked the local print shops and Kinko's online was unable to find printing under $60, a typical price around $70, with the option to burn $85 if I wanted nicer paper. This was more than I had expected and between ⅓ and ½ (ish) the price of Rosen or Epp.

Personally, I think printing is counterproductive, since the PDF has clickable links.

Final Thoughts

Despite sharing first names, I am not Richard Stallman. I prefer the license on MCS to the license on its competitors, but I wouldn't recommend it unless I thought the text itself was superior. I would recommend baby Rudin (nonfree) over French's Introduction to Real Analysis; Hoffman and Kunze's Linear Algebra (nonfree) over Jim Hefferson's Linear Algebra; and Epp over 2010!MCS. The freer the better, but that consideration is trumped by the quality of the text. When you're spending >100 hours working out of a book that provides foundational knowledge for the rest of your life, ~$150 and a loss of freedom is a price many would pay for better quality.

Eliezer writes:

Tell a real educator about how Earth classes are taught in three-month-sized units, and they would’ve sputtered and asked how you can iterate fast enough to learn how to teach that.

Rosen is in its seventh edition. Epp is in its fourth edition and Concrete Mathematics its second. The earliest copy of MCS I've happened across comes from 2004. Near as I can tell, it is improved every time the authors go through the material with their students, which would put it in its 25th edition.

And you know what? It's just going to keep getting better faster than anything else.


Thank you to Gram Stone for reviewing drafts of this review.

Sleeping Beauty Problem Can Be Explained by Perspective Disagreement (III)

0 Xianda_GAO 22 July 2017 02:50PM

This is the third part of my argument for the importance of perspective disagreement in the sleeping beauty problem.

Different part of the argument can be found here: IIIIIIIV

In this part I would give a simple example to show how two agents can reach to an agreement in a typical probability problem. It would also highlight why such an agreement cannot be reached in the sleeping beauty problem. 

Balls In Urns(BIU):

Suppose there is a urn filled with either 2 blue balls and 1 red ball(BBR) or 2 red balls and a blue ball(BRR) with equal chances. Andy randomly picked 2 balls from the urn and finds one ball of each colour. He correctly conclude the probability of BBR is 1/2, same as the probability of BRR. Afterwards Bob asked for a red ball and was given one, he then randomly picked 1 ball from the 2 remaining balls in the urn and saw a blue one. He correctly concluded the probability of BBR is 2/3. It turns out however Andy and Bob actually saw the exact same 2 balls. The two of them are free to communicate and argue. Suppose both of them are rational can they reach to an agreement? Who should change his answer?


We can use a frequentist approach to solve this problem. Suppose the experiment is repeated many times with equal number of BBR and BRR. We can count the total number of occurrences when they both see the same 1 red and 1 blue balls. The relative frequency of BBR and BRR among these occurrences would indicate the correct probability. Both Andy and Bob should have no problem agreeing with this method. Here it becomes apparent that the exact procedure of the experiment determines whose initial probability is correct and who need to adjust his answer. More specifically how is the red ball given to Bob determined.

Scenario 1: The red ball picked by Andy is always given to Bob. In this case Andy is correct, Bob should adjust his answer of BBR from 2/3 to 1/2. This is because for both BBR and BRR Andy has the same chance to pick a red and a blue ball. Given the same red ball Andy has Bob would have equal chance to pick the same blue ball again regardless the colour of the last ball left. The relative frequency of BBR and BRR given the occurrences (that they both have the same 1 red and 1 blue balls), would be about the same.

Scenario 2: Any red ball in the urn can be given to Bob. In this case Bob’s initial judgement is correct and Andy would have to change his probability for BBR to 2/3. Because all else equal, Bob is twice more likely to have the same red ball as Andy if there is only 1 red ball in the urn. The relative frequency of BBR to BRR with the occurrences would be 2:1.

Since only one out of the two Scenarios can be true Andy and Bob must agree with each other as long as there is no ambiguity about the experiment procedure.

However, if we duplicate Bob (either by cloning or memory wiping) in the case of BRR and give each Bob a different red ball suddenly both Scenarios become true. To Andy the red ball he picked will always be given to Bob. To Bob the red ball given to him can be any one from the urn. Neither person would have reason to adjust his own probability once knowing they have the same balls while fully knowing the experiment procedure. So Andy would stick his probability of BBR to 1/2 and Bob to 2/3. In this case the the two person having exact same information will remain in disagreement even if they are free to communicate. I believe the parallel between this duplication and sleeping beauty problem is obvious enough to show why the selector and beauty, just as Andy and Bob, can be in disagreement.


Next part of my argument discuss why Elga's counter argument to traditional halfers is valid. Which concludes SSA as incorrect. And why by considering the importance of perspective disagreement I must concluded double-halving as the correct answer. 

How long has civilisation been going?

7 Elo 22 July 2017 06:41AM

I didn't realise how short human history was.  Somewhere around 130,000 years ago we were standing upright as we are today.  Somewhere around 50,000 years ago we broadly arrived at:

the fully modern capacity for Culture *

That's roughly when we started, "routine use of bone, ivory, and shell to produce formal (standardized) artifacts".  Agriculture and humans staying still to grow plants happened at about 10,000BCE (or 12,000 years ago).

Writing started happening around 6600BCE* (8600 or so years ago).  

This year is 5777 in the Hebrew calendar.  So someone has been counting for roughly that long.

The pyramids are estimated to have been built at around 2600 BCE (4600 years ago)

Somewhere between then and zero by the christian calendar we sorted out a lot of metals and how to use them.

And somewhere between then and now we finished up all the technological advances that lead to present day.

But it's hard to get a feel for that.  Those are just some numbers of years.  Instead I want to relate that to our lives.  And our generations.

12,000 years ago is a good enough point to start paying attention to.

If a human generation is normally between 12* and 35* years.  Considering that further back the generations would have been closer to 12 years apart and today they are shifting to being more like 30 years apart (and up to 35 years apart).  That means the bounds are:

12,000/35 = 342

342-1000 generations.  That's all we have.  In all of humanity.  We are SO YOUNG!

(if you take the 8600 year number as a starting point you get a range of 717-242.)

Let's make it personal

I know my grandparents which means I am a not-negligible chance to also know my grandchildren and maybe even more (depending on medical technology).  I already have a living niece so I have already experienced 4 generations.  Without being unreasonable I can expect to see 5 and dream to see 6, 7 or infinite.  

(5/1000)->(7/342) = between a half a percent and two percent of human history.  I will have lived through 1/2% - 2% of human generations (ignoring longevity escape for a moment) to date.

Compared to other life numbers:

Days in a year * 100 year = 36,500 days in a 100 year lifespan.

52 weeks *100 = 5200.  Or one week of a 100 year lifespan is equivalent to one generation of humans.

12,000 years / 365 days = 32.8 years.  Or when you are 32 years old you have lived more days than humans have been collecting artefacts of worth.

8600 years/365 = 23.5 years.  Or when you are 24 years old you have lived one day for every year humans have had written records.

Discrete human lives

If you put an olden day discrete human life at 25 years - maybe more, and a modern day discrete life at 90 years and compare those to the numbers above

12,000/25 = 480 discrete human lifetimes

12,000/90=133 discrete human lifetimes

8600/25=344 discrete human lifetimes

8600/90=95 discrete human lifetimes

That's to say the entire of recorded history is only about 350 independent human lives stacked end on end.

Everything we know in history has been done on somewhere less than 480 discrete lifetime runthroughs.

Humanity is so young.  And we forget so easily that 500 lifetimes ago we were nothing.

Meta:  Thanks billy for hanging out and thinking about the numbers with me.  This idea came up on a whim and took a day of thinking about and about an hour to write up

Original post: http://bearlamp.com.au/how-long-has-civilisation-been-going/

Can anyone refute these arguments that we live on the interior of a hollow Earth?

2 Eitan_Zohar 21 July 2017 04:51PM

I found a website run by an interesting fellow called 'Wild Heretic' and it seems incredibly intricate and comprehensive. I've yet to see any other person argue as well for half so radical a claim. Think of this as an opportunity to examine arguments for highly unpopular views.

Wild Heretic believes that we live on the inside of a hollow sphere, lit by a half-light half-dark Sun at its center (he claims that light bends in order to produce the effect of rising and setting), that the moon is an optical illusion, that manmade satellites don't really exist, that the stars are light artifacts produced in the atmosphere and can never be seen above it, and he has a bunch of explanations for the other celestial bodies like comets and galaxies.

It all seems shockingly intelligent (aside from when he insists that the fact that the Earth doesn't move under your feet when you jump disproves heliocentrism). He also has nine main pieces of evidence for his model:

1. Some early modern maps have inversed latitude and longitude
2. Modern polyconic maps show more accurate sizes and shapes
3. 19th century balloon observations (that is, without an intervening medium) gave the impression of a concave surface
4. 4,000 foot plumb lines reportedly were farther away from each other at the bottom of a mine shaft
5. A laser shot between two posts (over water) seems to curve downwards
6. An old rectilineator experiment indicates a concave surface (the experiment has been criticized here)
7. Radar and radio wave horizons cannot be explained on a convex ball
8. Ships disappearing below the horizon are an optical illusion
9. Light bends upwards, which allows for the rising/setting illusion of the sun and moon

I would really like to know what people here have to say about this, since the comments on the site itself are very disappointing. (A lot of it does rely on a massive conspiracy involving scientists of many stripes, but it's probably best to overlook that.)

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