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

Comment author: Eitan_Zohar 22 July 2017 04:11:15PM 0 points [-]

Did the Ottoman Sultans invent Islam?

Comment author: AspiringRationalist 23 July 2017 04:07:33AM 0 points [-]

No. The Ottoman Empire started in 1299. Islam, and various very powerful caliphates, had existed for centuries before that.

Comment author: Lumifer 22 July 2017 12:43:33AM 2 points [-]

Ah yes, academia. The bastion of free inquiry and free thought.

However I'm somewhat familiar with the early history of Islam and the idea of a "high level conspiracy" doesn't fit well. When Muhammad started having his revelations, he was basically a nobody and even after that for quite a while his fate was very touch-and-go.

Comment author: AspiringRationalist 23 July 2017 04:04:37AM 0 points [-]

The Qur'an wasn't written down until a while after Muhammad's death, by which time there was an incentive for leaders to edit it for their own benefit.

See also Emperor Constantine I's efforts to quash dissent within the Christian community in order to make it more politically unified.

Comment author: Vladimir_Golovin 10 July 2017 10:09:44AM *  4 points [-]

I’d like to ask LW for feedback on names for my upcoming todo list app.

In summary, I spent the last 2 years developing a todo app to replace Wunderlist because I’ve always been unsatisfied with it. I mentioned the app on LW earlier. Microsoft recently announced that they plan to shut down Wunderlist, which is a one-in-a-lifetime marketing opportunity, so I’m currently in scramble mode preparing everything (site, app, company) for the closure event.

The central idea of the app is that it helps you keep your todo list focused on what you can do right now, at this very moment (the approach is similar to Mark Forster’s Autofocus system and is heavily based on the concept of mental ‘ripeness’ of the task to be done).

So here’s my shortlist of names (all with .com domains I already own):

  • Matterlist
  • LumenList
  • PragmaPad
  • PragmaPlanner
  • Persisto

Which name do you like the most? Which ones sound bad to you?

When giving feedback, consider Paul Graham’s advice on naming: “It turns out almost any word or word pair that is not an obviously bad name is a sufficiently good one.” So if any of the names jumps at you as ‘obviously bad’, please let me know.

Comment author: AspiringRationalist 15 July 2017 08:34:25PM *  1 point [-]

Because I think it would be useful to be able to weigh in explicitly on each option rather than just pick a favorite:


Bad Good


Bad Good


Bad Good


Bad Good


Bad Good


Comment author: Error 26 April 2017 11:34:59PM *  4 points [-]

It seems to me that the form of yak shaving you describe is a maintenance problem. The things in your life that are broken, are broken because they require maintenance that hasn't been performed. Until it suddenly becomes an urgent necessity.

You can fix that by doing all the required yak shaving...maybe. But the most dedicated yak shaving routine will fail if your yak herd has expanded until its maintenance cost exceeds all available time.

Instead, own fewer yaks. Figure out what in your environment requires maintenance. Then automate it, outsource it, or get rid of it. Join a makerspace instead of having your own workbench. Electronicise and (preferably) automate all your bills. Get rid of anything that 1. doesn't see regular use, and 2. is prone to requiring shaving. Hire a housekeeper. Rent an apartment where management is responsible for things that break instead of you -- if you can afford it, rent one that does valet trash and laundry. Get amazon prime and get used to waiting two days for anything you have to buy. Then never go shopping for non-perishables in person again. If you live somewhere that you can get groceries delivered, do that too.

Edit: Use services like Fancyhands for fourth quadrant stuff that you nonetheless still want done.

A great time to do this sort of life-cleaning is when you move -- it's easier to overcome the "but what if I need it?" mental roadblock if you can reply "but if I junk it, it's that much less I have to pack and unpack." Make laziness work for you.

(not coincidentally, I am doing literally this right now)

Comment author: AspiringRationalist 15 July 2017 05:19:13AM 2 points [-]

I'm curious - what have you outsourced to Fancy Hands? I know in theory that I should be outsourcing stuff to services like that, but I really don't know what stuff I can effectively outsource in practice.

Comment author: halcyon 26 June 2017 08:17:52PM *  2 points [-]

Thanks. In my imagination, the AI does some altruistic work, but spends most of its resources justifying the total expenditure. In that way, it would be similar to cults that do some charitable work, but spend most of their resources brainwashing people. But "rogue lawyer" is probably a better analogy than "cult guru" because the arguments are openly released. The AI develops models of human brain types in increasingly detailed resolutions, and then searches over attractive philosophies and language patterns, allowing it to accumulate considerable power despite its openness. It shifts the focus to justifiability only because it discovers that beyond a certain point, finding maximally justifiable arguments is much harder than being altruistic, and justifiability is its highest priority. But it always finds the maximally justifiable course of action first, and then takes that course of action. So it continues to be minimally altruistic throughout, making it a cult guru that is so good at its work it doesn't need to use extreme tactics. This is why losing the AI is like exiting a cult, except the entire world of subjective meaning feels like a cult ideology afterwards.

Comment author: AspiringRationalist 29 June 2017 03:24:36AM 0 points [-]

This could also be a metaphor for politicians, or depending on your worldview, marketing-heavy businesses. Or religions.

Comment author: Vaniver 21 June 2017 10:57:10PM 2 points [-]

The first time I read this poll...


Comment author: AspiringRationalist 22 June 2017 03:39:26AM 4 points [-]

I interpreted "fullscreened" to mean "maximized", though I'm not totally sure whether that was the intent.

Comment author: Wei_Dai 20 June 2017 02:24:40AM *  1 point [-]

Sure, costly signaling has to be a big part of any analysis, but isn't sports also a costly and unproductive way of signaling one's physical and genetic fitness? Sports can also be a fun way of exercising, but some kids find ballet fun and it can also be good exercise. People have claimed various (non-signaling) benefits of learning to play an instrument as well, and that can also be an enjoyable activity for some.

Apparently some parents make their kids take lessons to increase the chances of getting into private school, and eventually an elite college, so another big part of the analysis might be the costs/benefits of private vs public school and elite vs non-elite colleges. (I personally went to public school and a state university.) Another big part is, if you leave a kid a lot of free time, how likely is it they'll eventually find something valuable to do with it? Or alternatively, what are some more valuable activities we should try to guide a child into instead of the standard ones?

Comment author: AspiringRationalist 22 June 2017 03:32:48AM 1 point [-]

Disclaimer: US-centric perspective

Elite colleges generally students who are "genuinely" (insert adjectives here), not yet another honor roll student with a boring essay about how their voluntourism trip to Africa changed their life. In a competitive field like that, you want to stand out, and you stand out a lot more by doing something that both clearly signals being good at things and is different from the signals that other students are sending.

Therefore, doing whatever other students of your socio-economic status do is a bad strategy. Much better to do something impressive and different.

[Link] Why Most Intentional Communities Fail (And Some Succeed)

4 AspiringRationalist 22 May 2017 03:04AM

[Link] How should EAs think about educating high-potential people in poor countries?

0 AspiringRationalist 26 February 2017 09:25PM
Comment author: tukabel 20 February 2017 12:31:51PM 1 point [-]

So Bill Gates wants to tax robots... well, how about SOFTWARE? May fit easily into certain definitions of ROBOT. Especially if we realize it is the software what makes robot (in that line of argumentation) a "job stealing evil" (100% retroactive tax on evil profits from selling software would probably shut Billy's mouth).

Now how about AI? Going to "steal" virtually ALL JOBS... friendly or not.

And let's go one step further: who is the culprit? The devil who had an IDEA!

The one who invented the robot, its application in the production, programmer who wrote the software, designed neural nets, etc.

So, let's tax ideas and thinking as such... all orwellian/huxleyian fantasies fade short in the Brave New Singularity.

Comment author: AspiringRationalist 20 February 2017 10:41:43PM 11 points [-]

Can we please bring back downvoting?

View more: Next