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

Comment author: passive_fist 07 December 2015 08:24:33PM *  5 points [-]

Interesting article on vox (not a new one, but it's the first time I've seen it and I thought I'd share; apologies if it's been featured here before) on 'how politics makes us stupid': http://www.vox.com/2014/4/6/5556462/brain-dead-how-politics-makes-us-stupid

tl;dr: The smarter you are, the less likely you are to change your mind on certain issues when presented with new information, even when the new information is very clearly, simply, and unambiguously against your point of view.

Comment author: Dias 08 December 2015 12:22:18AM *  1 point [-]

Unfortunately in writing the article Vox themselves seem to have fallen prey to some of the same stupidity; if you're familiar with Vox's general left-wing sympathies you'll be unsurprised that the examples of stupidity used in the article are overwhelmingly from right-wing sources. If you really want to improve people's thinking, you need to focus on your own tribe at least as much as the enemy tribe.

I previously wrote about this here.

The Triumph of Humanity Chart

23 Dias 26 October 2015 01:41AM

Cross-posted from my blog here.

One of the greatest successes of mankind over the last few centuries has been the enormous amount of wealth that has been created. Once upon a time virtually everyone lived in grinding poverty; now, thanks to the forces of science, capitalism and total factor productivity, we produce enough to support a much larger population at a much higher standard of living.

EAs being a highly intellectual lot, our preferred form of ritual celebration is charts. The ordained chart for celebrating this triumph of our people is the Declining Share of People Living in Extreme Poverty Chart.

Share in Poverty


However, as a heretic, I think this chart is a mistake. What is so great about reducing the share? We could achieve that by killing all the poor people, but that would not be a good thing! Life is good, and poverty is not death; it is simply better for it to be rich.

As such, I think this is a much better chart. Here we show the world population. Those in extreme poverty are in purple – not red, for their existence is not bad. Those who the wheels of progress have lifted into wealth unbeknownst to our ancestors, on the other hand, are depicted in blue, rising triumphantly.

Triumph of Humanity2

Long may their rise continue.


Comment author: Lumifer 08 October 2015 07:38:42PM 9 points [-]

I am not terribly comfortable with the idea of people being bound by contracts they didn't sign.

Comment author: Dias 08 October 2015 11:10:34PM 5 points [-]

I am bound by many contracts signed by Congress and they didn't even have well-aligned incentives.

Comment author: Douglas_Knight 08 October 2015 12:01:37AM 0 points [-]

Keep in mind that modafinil has a half-life of ~16 hours. You might want to allow a day in between samples. If you don't, plan to take this into account in the analysis.

Whatever test you do, try it a bunch before starting the experiment to get through a lot of the learning period.

Comment author: Dias 08 October 2015 11:09:28PM 0 points [-]

Thanks for the suggestions!

  • My plan was to include a 1-day lag of the independent variable as a control variable in some of the regressions and see what effect that had.

  • Yep, plan to do that, and then also add a 'date' control variable as well.

Comment author: Dias 05 October 2015 11:06:33PM *  7 points [-]

repeat, as I posted at the end of the last Open Thread, probably too late in its life for comments.

I'm planning on running an experiment to test the effects of Modafinil on myself. My plan is to use a three armed study:

  • Modafinil (probably 50mg as I am quite small)
  • B12 pill (as active control) or maybe Vitamin D
  • Passive Control (no placebo)

Each day I will randomly take one of the three options and perform some test. I was thinking of dual-n-back, but do people have any other suggestions?

Comment author: Dias 03 October 2015 09:52:58PM 3 points [-]

I'm planning on running an experiement to test the effects of Modafinil on myself. My plan is to use a three armed study:

  • Modafinil (probably 50mg as I am quite small)
  • B12 pill (as active control) or maybe Vitamin D
  • Passive Control (no placebo)

Each day I will randomly take one of the three options and perform some test. I was thinking of dual-n-back, but do people have any other suggestions?

Comment author: shminux 24 June 2015 08:54:14PM 0 points [-]

TL;DR: Let life- and health-insurance companies, which are interested in minimizing insurance claims, not maximizing health-related sales, set the health research agenda.

Hmm, I wonder how well this would work?

Comment author: Dias 27 June 2015 09:17:19PM 0 points [-]

You've misunderstood Jacob's suggestion. Under his system there are no 'claims' - the health insurer simply pays for whatever healthcare it thinks will extend promote your health, up to the value it gets from your prolonged health (presumably around $100k / QALY )

Comment author: TheAncientGeek 25 June 2015 11:08:01AM 6 points [-]

encode health into a market utility function, first we create financial contracts with an expected value which captures long-term health.  We can accomplish this with a long-term contract that generates positive cash flow when a human is healthy, and negative when unhealthy - basically an insurance contract. 

That's broadly the structure of taxpayer supported public healthcare system. The government is incentivised to keep people alive and paying tax, and disincentivised to treat people unnecessarily. I can vouch that under that kind of system, the authorities aren't shy about promoting preventative measures.

Comment author: Dias 27 June 2015 09:15:33PM 0 points [-]

The government is incentivised to keep people alive and paying tax, and disincentivised to treat people unnecessarily.

Unfortunately I don't think that's true:

Many Californians - most Californians - are assets. That is: productive citizens, or children who will grow up and become productive citizens. Their place is the left side of the balance sheet. Their presence in California increases California's productive power, and thus its value as a financial asset.

As the King begins the transition from democracy, however, he sees at once that many Californians - certainly millions - are financial liabilities. These are unproductive citizens. Their place on the balance sheet is on the right. To put it crudely, a ten-cent bullet in the nape of each neck would send California's market capitalization soaring - often by a cool million per neck.

And we are just getting started. The ex-subject can then be dissected for his organs. Do you know what organs are worth? This is profit!

If we claim to derive the responsibility of government from mere financial prudence, we must explain why the business strategy of culling unwanted subjects for their organs is not viable. Most would not find this profitable strategy consistent with responsibility. Yet, since a sovereign is sovereign, no higher sovereign can exist to outlaw or preclude it. The design must solve this problem on its own.


Comment author: gjm 13 June 2015 11:56:02PM *  1 point [-]

The "Let overwrite, let override" thing is a reference to this and this (see also). (And this, not the code, is what Sagebrysh is saying was enlightening.)

The Lisp code (more specifically, Scheme code) doesn't altogether make sense, and I suspect (1) was posted mostly because "let" is a keyword in Scheme as well as a prominent part of the meme trigger phrase in those books and (2) is as much a comment on the brief thing it's replying to as to the original story. I'll say a few words about it anyway, but what follows is likely to be unsatisfying.

The code uses what's possibly Scheme's most confusing feature, namely call-with-current-continuation (commonly abbreviated call/cc) but unless I'm missing something it does so completely unnecessarily. The code posted is equivalent to this:

(let (overwrite override)
(meme? (overwrite it))
(else it)))

[EDITED to add: eww, the indentation is messed up and I don't know how to fix it; please imagine that line 2 is indented a little relative to line 1, and lines 3 and 4 a bit further relative to line 2.]

at which point it may be worth mentioning that Scheme is an "expression-oriented" language where every language construct is an expression that has a value. In this case, let establishes a local scope (i.e., a region of the program in which particular names have values assigned to them). The particular form used here isn't strictly legal Scheme, but by analogy with Common Lisp I believe it's intended to create the names overwrite and override and make them both nil or something of the kind.

cond is like "if" in other languages (it's actually a bit more powerful, but it's used here in a way equivalent to an "if"). There had better be, as a result of code not shown here, something called meme? in existence. If it's true (which actually means "any value other than the special one meaning false") then the value of the let-expression will be the result of calling (overwrite it); otherwise it will be the value of it.

So it had also better have been given a value by something not shown here. But, regardless of that, this won't work when meme? is true, because (overwrite it) will fail, because the value of overwrite at this point is nil or undefined or something of the sort.

There may be some further clever idea that I'm missing (perhaps because I haven't actually read the Meme Wars books) and that makes it obvious what eaglejarl meant about the "overarching lambda" (lambda is used to make anonymous functions, which can be bound to variables to make onymous functions; presumably this code is meant to be wrapped up in a lambda, which perhaps gives values to meme? and it; but I have the feeling there's a joke I'm not getting somewhere in this vicinity.

Comment author: Dias 17 June 2015 02:34:38AM 0 points [-]

Thanks very much, this is very helpful. I had never heard of the books that I guess it looked like I was writing fanfic for!

Comment author: Dias 17 June 2015 02:30:55AM 6 points [-]

In a small attempt to help, I cross-post all my high-quality LW-relivant posts to LW.

View more: Next