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As we wrap up the 2016 survey, I'd like to start by thanking everybody who took
the time to fill it out. This year we had 3083 respondents, more than twice the
number we had last year. (Source: http://lesswrong.com/lw/lhg/2014_survey_results/)
This seems consistent with the hypothesis that the LW community hasn't declined
in population so much as migrated into different communities. Being the *diaspora*
survey I had expectations for more responses than usual, but twice as many was
far beyond them.
Before we move on to the survey results, I feel obligated to put a few affairs
in order in regards to what should be done next time. The copyright situation
for the survey was ambiguous this year, and to prevent that from happening again
I'm pleased to announce that this years survey questions will be released jointly
by me and Scott Alexander as Creative Commons licensed content. We haven't
finalized the details of this yet so expect it sometime this month.
I would also be remiss not to mention the large amount of feedback we received
on the survey. Some of which led to actionable recommendations I'm going to
preserve here for whoever does it next:
- Put free response form at the very end to suggest improvements/complain.
- Fix metaethics question in general, lots of options people felt were missing.
- Clean up definitions of political affilations in the short politics section.
In particular, 'Communist' has an overly aggressive/negative definition.
- Possibly completely overhaul short politics section.
- Everywhere that a non-answer is taken as an answer should be changed so that
non answer means what it ought to, no answer or opinion. "Absence of a signal
should never be used as a signal." - Julian Bigelow, 1947
- Give a definition for the singularity on the question asking when you think it
- Ask if people are *currently* suffering from depression. Possibly add more
probing questions on depression in general since the rates are so extraordinarily
- Include a link to what cisgender means on the gender question.
- Specify if the income question is before or after taxes.
- Add charity questions about time donated.
- Add "ineligible to vote" option to the voting question.
- Adding some way for those who are pregnant to indicate it on the number of
children question would be nice. It might be onerous however so don't feel
obligated. (Remember that it's more important to have a smooth survey than it
is to catch every edge case.)
And read this thread: http://lesswrong.com/lw/nfk/lesswrong_2016_survey/,
it's full of suggestions, corrections and criticism.
Without further ado,
Our report system is currently on the fritz and isn't calculating numeric questions. If I'd known this earlier I'd have prepared the results for said questions ahead of time. Instead they'll be coming out later today or tomorrow. (EDIT: These results are now in the text format survey results.)
Philosophy and Community Issues At LessWrong's Peak (Write Ins)
Philosophy and Community Issues Now (Write Ins)
CC-Licensed Machine Readable Survey and Public Data
(Note for people looking to work with the dataset: My survey analysis code repository includes a sqlite converter, examples, and more coming soon. It's a great way to get up and running with the dataset really quickly.)
In depth analysis:
Mental Health Stats By Diaspora Community (Including self dxers)
How Diaspora Communities Compare On Mental Health Stats (I suspect these charts are subtly broken somehow, will investigate later)
Improved Mental Health Charts By Obormot (Using public survey data)
Improved Mental Health Charts By Anonymous (Using full survey data)
Political Opinions By Political Affiliation Charts (By anonymous)
More coming soon!
1. FortForecast on the communities section, Bayesed And Confused on the blogs section, and Synthesis on the stories section were all 'troll' answers designed to catch people who just put down everything. Somebody noted that the three 'fortforecast' users had the entire DSM split up between them, that's why.
2. Lots of people asked me for a list of all those cool blogs and stories and communities on the survey, they're included in the survey questions PDF above.
1. Add more in depth analysis, fix the ones that decided to suddenly break at the last minute or I suspect were always broken.
2. Add a compatibility mode so that the current question codes are converted to older ones for 3rd party analysis that rely on them.
If anybody would like to help with these, write to email@example.com
The data forming the background of my analysis of AI timeline predictions is now available online. Many thanks to Jonathan Wang and Brian Potter, who gathered the data, to Kaj Sotala, who analysed and categorised it, and to Luke Muehlhauser and the Singularity Institute, who commissioned and paid for it.
I encourage people to produce their own estimate of the "median date"! If you do so, you should use the second database (the one without my estimates). And you should decide in advance what kind of criteria you are going to use to compute this median, or whether you are going to reuse my criteria. And finally you should inform me or the world in general of your values, whether they are very similar or very different to mine.
My criteria were:
- When a range was given, I took the mid-point of that range (rounded down). If a year was given with a 50% likelihood estimate, I took that year. If it was the collection of a variety of expert opinions, I took the prediction of the median expert. If the author predicted some sort of AI by a given date (partial AI or superintelligent AI), and gave no other estimate, I took that date as their estimate rather than trying to correct it in one direction or the other (there were roughly the same number of subhuman AIs as suphuman AIs in the list, and not that many of either). I read extracts of the papers to make judgement calls when interpreting problematic statements like "within thirty years" or "during this century" (is that a range or an end-date?). I never chose a date other than one actually predicted, or the midpoint of a range.
Incidentally, you may notice that a certain Stuart Armstrong is included in the list, for a prediction I made back in 2007 (for AI in 2207). Yes, I counted that prediction in my analysis (as a non-expert prediction), and no, I don't stand by that date today.
I think I’ve always had certain stereotypes in my mind about research. I imagine a cutting-edge workplace, maybe not using the newest gadgets because these things cost money, but at least using the newest ideas. I imagine staff of research institutions applying the scientific method to boost their own productivity, instead of taking for granted the way that things have always been done. Maybe those were the naive ideas of someone who had never actually worked in a research field.
At the medical research institute where I work one day a week, I recently spent an entire seven-hour day going down a list of patient names, searching them on the hospital database, deciding whether they met the criteria for a study, and typing them into a colour-coded spreadsheet. The process had maybe six discrete steps, and all of them were purely mechanical. In seven hours, I screened about two hundred and fifty patients. I was paid $12.50 an hour to do this. It cost my employer 35 cents for each patient that I screened, and these patients haven't been visited, consented or included in any study. They're still only names on a spreadsheet. I’ve been told that I learn and work quickly, but I know I do this task inefficiently, because I’m not a simple computer program. I get bored. I make mistakes. Heaven forbid, I get distracted and start reading the nurses’ notes for fun because I find them interesting.
In 7 hours, I imagine that someone slightly above my skill level could write a simple program to do the same task. They wouldn’t screen any patients in those 7 hours, but once the program was finished, they could use it forever, or at least until the task changed and the program had to be modified. I don’t know how much it would cost the organization to employ a programmer; maybe it would cost more than just having me do it. I don’t know whether allowing that program to access the confidential database would be an issue. But it seems inefficient to pay human brains to do work that they’re bad at, that computers would be better at, even if those human brains belong to undergrad students who need the money badly enough not to complain.
One of the criteria I looked at when screening patients was whether they did their dialysis at a clinic in my hometown. They have to be driving distance, because my supervisor has to drive around the city and pick up blood samples to bring to our lab. I crossed out 30 names without even looking them up because I could see at a glance that they were a nearby city an hour’s drive away. How hard would it be to coordinate with the hospital in that city? Have the bloodwork analyzed there and the results emailed over? Maybe it would be non-trivially hard; I don’t know. I didn’t ask my supervisor because it isn’t my job to make management decisions. But medical research benefits everyone. A study with more patients produces data that’s statistically more valid, even if those patients live an hour’s drive away.
The office where I work is filled with paper. Floor-to-ceiling shelves hold endless binders full of source documents. Every email has to be printed and filed in a binder. Even the nurses’ notes and patient charts are printed off the database. It’s a legal requirement. The result is that we have two copies of everything, one online and one on paper, consuming trees. Running a computer consumes fossil fuels, of course. I don’t know for sure which is more efficient, paper or digital, but I do know that both is inefficient. I did ask my supervisor about this, and apparently it’s because digital records could be lost or deleted. How much would it take to make them durable enough?I guess that more than my supervisor, I see a future where software will do my job, where technology allows a study to be coordinated across the whole world, where digital storage will be reliable enough. But how long will it take for the laws and regulations to change? For people to change? I don’t know how many of my complaints are valid. Maybe this is the optimal way to do research, but it doesn’t feel like it. It feels like a papier-mâché of laws and habits and trial-and-error. It doesn't feel planned.
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