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Comment author: Viliam_Bur 15 March 2014 10:59:27PM *  14 points [-]

With humans like this, we don't need the Unfriendly AI:

Could we condemn criminals to suffer for hundreds of years? Biotechnology could let us extend convicts' lives 'indefinitely'

Last year, a team of scientists led by Rebecca Roache began exploring technologies that could keep prisoners in an artificial hell. Turning to human engineering as a possible solutions, Dr Roache looks at the idea of life span enhancements so that a life sentence in prison could last hundreds of years. Another scenario being explored by the group is uploading the criminal's mind to a digital realm to speed up the 1,000 year sentence.

She teaches ethics, bioethics, and rationality. Perhaps she could write for us a new Sequence on Hell Theory.

Comment author: AndekN 23 March 2014 12:05:25PM 1 point [-]

This seems to be just another case of journalists exaggerating and misrepresenting a scientists point in order to create attention-grabbing headlines, at least according to Anders Sandbergs blog post about the issue.

Comment author: [deleted] 09 March 2014 06:56:34PM 3 points [-]

And when someone tries to be the wall the stands in your way, you'll have something that will open a hole in them every time: your drill.

(In a related matter, if there's a wall in your way, smash it down. If there isn't a path, carve one yourself.)

In response to comment by [deleted] on Rationality Quotes March 2014
Comment author: AndekN 17 March 2014 10:32:36AM 4 points [-]

if there's a wall in your way, smash it down

BUT keep Chesterton's Fence in mind: if you don't know why there is a wall on your way, don't go blindly smashing it down. It might be there for a reason. First make absolutely sure you know why the wall exists in the first place; only then you may proceed with the smashing.

Comment author: CronoDAS 15 March 2014 09:52:45AM 3 points [-]

"I should do X" sometimes means something a lot closer to "I have an obligation to do X" rather than "I want to do X and am willing to pay the costs associated with doing so"...

Comment author: AndekN 15 March 2014 03:19:48PM 6 points [-]

Exactly. I think almost every "should" statement includes an unspoken "...but I don't want to" in the end.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 06 March 2014 05:50:01PM 0 points [-]

I can't find an appropriate post at the moment, but I'm pretty sure Ferrett Steinmetz writes about him and his wife working to improve each other-- a difficult and contentious process, but useful.

Do you think there's no chance of partners having blind spots in different areas and using this so that eventually both can see more clearly?

Comment author: AndekN 08 March 2014 12:29:43PM *  1 point [-]

Did you mean this post about him and his wife pushing each other into doing things they know the other will like, despite the spouse's initial protests: I Love My Wife Because She Disrespects Me?

Comment author: D_Malik 05 March 2014 10:03:22AM *  18 points [-]

Covert conditioning is an interesting variant of operant conditioning where, instead of using an external stimulus to modify someone's behaviors, you just have them imagine themselves doing things and then receiving rewards or punishments. For instance, an alcoholic could imagine drinking alcohol and then immediately feeling nauseated. Or a student could imagine deciding to do his homework and then suddenly winning a million dollars.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure whether covert conditioning works. The linked Wikipedia article doesn't really give much evidence. If covert conditioning works, it seems like it could be very useful, especially in situations where ordinary reinforcement techniques are hard to use. For instance, one could easily reinforce sociability, which is hard to reinforce through ordinary methods because you don't want to look weird in public. Or one could train oneself to avoid unhealthy food by imagining that it makes one nauseated, precluding the need for actual emetics.

(Not going anywhere in particular with this, just curious what people's thoughts are.)

Comment author: AndekN 08 March 2014 11:03:04AM 8 points [-]

I attended a fire preparedness course, and the instructor told us that actual fire evacuation drills were not necessary. It was enough just to spend a couple of minutes vividly imagining what we would do in case of a fire. Our chances of surviving would greatly increase if we imagined the situation in advance. Unfortunately he gave no references to that claim.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 27 February 2014 05:03:52PM *  18 points [-]

Over the last year I have become dramatically better at instilling habits in myself. I posit two main reasons for this. The first is understanding the habit formation process, as summarized by Kaj Sotala here. The second is learning to create plans that are more robust against random failure. I used to model myself as a coherent agent with some set amount of willpower to expend on the various things I found unpleasant. More recently, I model myself as a bunch of sub-agents with different goals. The subagent that tends to make plans for what I’m going to do this week is NOT the same sub-agent that will actually have to do these things. So now I make plans that can take into account a low motivation sub-agent being in charge. Sometimes this is as simple as a part of your plan that says “IF you don’t want to go to the gym THEN you will go to the gym anyway.” Yes, seriously. Sometimes it is making the activation costs of a particular action easier by removing friction from your process. Sometimes it is modeling my future self as an idiot who can’t stop eating cookies and doing things like preemptively throwing cookies away.

How would I actually go about forming a new habit? Let’s use flossing as an example. Trying to remember to floss after I brushed didn’t work. At all. So I had to start strategizing. My sub-agents didn’t have sufficient motivation to care. So I started reading up on the benefits of flossing and looking at images of flossed vs unflossed surfaces in a mouth. This created enough of an emotional connection that I started feeling like I really needed to floss. But I still forgot. Remembering to floss after I brushed was still not working, so I changed it. I put the floss in my room. That way it was available over a much longer period of time in the evening. IF I forgot to floss THEN I would floss in the morning. I thought about positive things while flossing, longevity and building effective habits and having clean teeth. After a few weeks, flossing was finally a habit. I didn’t have to think about it anymore and was able to start working on a new habit.

Comment author: AndekN 01 March 2014 09:59:00PM *  4 points [-]

Let’s use flossing as an example. Trying to remember to floss after I brushed didn’t work. At all. 

I had the same experience for years. Every six months or so I would read an article like this one reminding how important it is to floss, visit a dentist or something similar. Then I promised to myself that from now on, I'd floss daily. And then I'd forget to actually do it.

After reading The Power of Habit (the book Kaj Sotala summarised in his article linked above) I realised that just trying to remember would never work. Instead, I needed to create a cue. I did this by placing the floss in front of my facial cleanser. Then, every evening when I reached for the cleanser (this already was a habit for me), my hand would hit the floss. That reminded me to floss and only after flossing I would clean my face. And it worked. I don't have to think about flossing anymore: after a month it had become a habit and now, after six months or so it's starting to feel weird that there was a time I didn't floss every day.

Comment author: ChristianKl 17 February 2014 11:24:01PM 0 points [-]

Also, curriculum makes it easier for a beginning teacher to organise her classes, although this could also be arranged by having loose guidelines instead of strict curriculum.

There are many textbooks out there that are easily available for a teacher who wants to use them. A teacher doesn't need a central authority to tell him what to teach to be able to find resources. Not having the central authority even makes it easier for market participants to create textbooks that teacher want to use.

Comment author: AndekN 18 February 2014 08:33:49AM 1 point [-]

I actually agree with you on all points, but I think you are underestimating how overwhelming things can be for a teacher just beginning her career. Without any central curriculum a teacher has to inspect textbooks much more carefully in order to find a book that would suit her needs. It's a lot of extra work.

This is a smaller problem in math and science teaching and a larger one at humanities and social sciences. This problem could be alleviated by having teacher education include classes where you get familiarised with different textbooks and different approaches to teaching your subject.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 15 February 2014 08:24:04AM *  15 points [-]

Uhm, both.

The main ideas of the article -- (1) you must teach the prerequisites first; (2) it could be useful to make an explicit "knowledge tree"; (3) you should test whether the knowledge was properly understood -- are good. But the ideas (1) and (3) are what almost every teacher already knows and does. So you're kinda reinventing the wheel here. It's worth mentioning it explicitly to people who already don't know. But those who teach, already do (which doesn't mean they always follow it; people compartmentalize).

Even the idea (2) is known on an intuitive level; most teachers would probably think about it as a linear sequence, not a directed acyclic graph; or at best case a very simple graph consiting of long linear parts. But that's because in a typical school, you teach linearly. To use the graph structure fully, you would have to allow each student to progress individually... but then you can't have in the same classroom, listening to the teacher. So the full use of the graph requires individual learning, which could be achieved by a web application, as you say. (And the Khan Academy already does this.)

So, the ideas are good, but you are trying to sell them as something new, which they are certainly not.

Then you jump across many topics in a very simplified way. E.g. the part about motivation is... well, do you believe that progressing through a "tech tree" is the thing that makes a real difference between a motivated and unmotivated student? Because you could write such "tech tree" even for things which are taught in schools now. I believe it would be a nice thing to have, but it would make almost zero difference. You ignore other relevant facts, for example the large inferential distances and uncertainty. It's difficult to see how knowing the "2 + 2 = 4" contributes to anyone's dreams. (And even if it does, they may object that it's enough to write that fact on a piece of paper, and they don't have to memorize it. And the only problem with that is that at some moment the heap of such papers would just become too big to handle.) On the other hand, motivation can be created by completely irrational things, e.g. role-playing with small children that they are "pirates, lost in the magical Island of Numbers (and they must solve the problems to get back to their pirate ship)".

If you propose a common project, I applaud the attitude, but you haven't done your homework. Also it seems like you underestimate the size of the project. How long would it take you with, say, 10 volunteers? Twenty years? At least you could outsource the creation of the rationality curriculum to CFAR.

My advice:

  • Start with something smaller. (It is okay to keep in mind the big picture. But focus on one thing at a time.)

  • Research what already exists.

  • Write an article about what you found (focusing on only that topic) and ask for more info. In the discussion people will tell you about dozen other things you missed. Research them, and write another article.

  • If you completed all the parts, and the Singularity is not here yet, start the project. Now you have the necessary information.

Possible starting points: (A) Has someone already created the "tech trees"? Where can I find them? What are their strengths and weaknesses? How could I improve them? When I discuss my ideas of the improvement with a real teacher, what is their first reaction? (B) What web based teaching programs are out there? What are their similarities and differences? What are their successes and failures?

Both of these topics can be interesting on your own, and if you want to do a project, you certainly wouldn't waste your time, because (A) means researching your product, and (B) means researching your competitors and learning from their failures. Which a successful project would have to do anyway.

EDIT: Another thing, be specific. Create a "tech tree" for a selected subject or two you know. (Feel free to steal ideas from Khan Academy.) Maybe you will discover some less obvious issues -- for example that to create a proper tree of knowledge you would have to split the information into too many parts. For example are "solving quadratic equations (without complex solutions)" and "solving quadratic equations (with complex solutions)" two different nodes, or just one? Is "finding rational solutions of quadratic equations" worth creating a separate node? Or is it just a subset of "finding rational solutions of polynomial equations" node?

Comment author: AndekN 17 February 2014 05:39:11PM 0 points [-]

To use the graph structure fully, you would have to allow each student to progress individually... but then you can't have in the same classroom, listening to the teacher

Well, yes and no. There are methods (usually called within-class groups) that allow students to progress at different paces while being in the same classroom. These methods usually depend a lot on small-group instruction and peer helping. So no, they won't be simply listening to the teacher, at least not all at the same time.

In response to Rethinking Education
Comment author: ChristianKl 15 February 2014 08:04:23PM 1 point [-]

I think the whole idea of having a centralized curriculum is flawed and holds education back from developing. Schools should be free to teach whatever they consider to be useful for students.

Diversity is good and if children in different schools learn different useful skills that benefits society as a whole as every student can go on to apply their skills.

If you get rid of the whole idea of a curriculum teachers are suddenly free to innovate.

Comment author: AndekN 17 February 2014 05:08:36PM 2 points [-]

If you get rid of the whole idea of a curriculum teachers are suddenly free to innovate.

They are also free to teach e.g. young-Earth creationism. At least some degree of standardisation is beneficial, since it creates boundaries against worst excesses. Also, curriculum makes it easier for a beginning teacher to organise her classes, although this could also be arranged by having loose guidelines instead of strict curriculum.

Comment author: badger 12 January 2014 11:04:47PM 4 points [-]

Is there a reason why a second account I made recently is unable to post comments? The top-level comment box and the reply buttons on comments are missing. I hope this isn't affecting all new users.

Comment author: AndekN 14 January 2014 11:15:33AM 1 point [-]

I had the same problem couple of months ago. It was about confirming an e-mail address: I received an email asking me to confirm the address I was using, with a link. After that, I could comment normally. Unfortunately I can't remember what I did in order to receive that email: something in preferences, probably.

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