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In response to comment by Eddie_T on Why truth? And...
Comment author: Jiro 11 July 2017 08:15:18PM 1 point [-]

Remember that that's a 11 year old post you're replying to.

In response to comment by Jiro on Why truth? And...
Comment author: Duncan_Sabien 15 July 2017 08:12:04PM 1 point [-]

Hey, eleven year old posts are just posts that lack life experience.

Comment author: math_viking 05 June 2017 05:10:20AM *  1 point [-]

What statement, specifically, would we be betting on? It's certainly plausible that I'm underestimating the difficulty in getting an entire group to above these standards in comparison to getting one person. Though, I think the main issue may be a difference in what we perceive as average, rather than a model of how hard learning these skills is.

Comment author: Duncan_Sabien 05 June 2017 01:25:13PM 0 points [-]

I spent five minutes trying to operationalize, but I couldn't come up with anything that seemed workable. For now, we'll just proceed knowing that at least one of us is wrong. =)

Comment author: math_viking 04 June 2017 08:48:04PM 1 point [-]

. And while competence does tend to cluster (e.g. "G"), so the picture's not quite as bleak as the second half of this sentence, once you've got a dozen different domains and shooting to be above the 50% mark in all of them, you're looking at a person who's approximating one in four thousand,

I don't think these skills are anywhere near independent. It's also not obvious that they're normally distributed. And, being above the 50% mark in a dozen skills by coincidence being unlikely does not at all tell you how hard it is to gain skills if you put in some deliberate work.

I generally am sympathetic to the argument that stuff can be harder than one assumes, but I also am generally cynical about the "average" level of most of these skills. Most people probably don't even know what "calibration" means precisely enough to test their own level of calibration. I'm not trying to be arrogant here, I pretty much have only heard about the idea of writing down your confidence level of a bunch of predictions and seeing what comes true from the rationalist community and rationalist-adjacent ones.

For the sake of avoiding this issue, and because rather than using terms like "above-average," I would attempt to pin down ahead of time requirements that are as specific as possible to measure progress in each of the areas you care about.

For instance, you note that many of these skills require only a few weeks, but I don't know if you added up all of those weeks, compared them to the time commitment, and noted that they're all being practiced off-hours and people have their own jobs and lives as well.

I don't think it should take a few weeks each to exceed average in most of these skills. I expect it to take a few weeks total (or 1 day a week for a few months).

Comment author: Duncan_Sabien 04 June 2017 11:39:34PM 0 points [-]

I'm plausibly interested in betting a few hundred dollars against you, especially if (as seems likely, given your confidence) you were to bet $1000 against my $250 or something like that. If I imagine the hundred closest people I know uttering the above, I think all but one or two of them are wrong/overconfident.

Comment author: Mirzhan_Irkegulov 04 June 2017 04:56:29PM 0 points [-]

I want to know why you consider Diego Caleiro is evil.

Comment author: Duncan_Sabien 04 June 2017 05:49:12PM *  1 point [-]

Er. It's a bit awkward, given that I'm at least somewhat sympathetic to the claim about Diego, and it's not valid or justified to put me in the same category, but the side of the story that claims Diego is evil primarily cites his conduct within romantic relationships (including courtship and breakup), financial relationships (such as sharing a lease with housemates), and some bits about his willingness to cooperate or defect in social interactions. The details and their interpretations belong somewhere other than this thread.

Comment author: math_viking 04 June 2017 03:48:22AM *  3 points [-]

I do somewhat agree with your objections to the list of specific skills attained after a year. I had hoped that the large word DRAFT at the top, plus the repeated statements that the whole plan was to iterate, and that I didn't expect to be able to figure out the right stuff on the first try, would've clued you in to the fact that I, too, am aware that the list is inadequate. Do you have specific suggestions for replacements? Keep in mind, the hard problem is to balance things-that-will-be-generally-useful-for-a-medium-sized-group-of-people against the fact that everyone involved has their own specific career and expertise already. Part of the impetus here is social, part of it is becoming well-rounded, part of it is practicing the skill of gaining/improving skills, and all of that is trying to avoid skating into trivial irrelevancy. Got any ideas?

I'm not the originator of this thread, but that part did resonate with me. I don't think there's anything wrong with those skills, but the combination of choice of skills and the desired level of competency does seem to be decidedly mediocre given the effort and people involved.

1) Above-average physical capacity

What is average? In the US, you could probably be somewhat overweight with no strength, speed, endurance, or agility to speak of and still be "above average."

(2) Above-average introspection

I would expect almost all of the people who volunteer to be part of a rationalist group house to be there or pretty close to there already.

(3) Above-average planning & execution skill (4) Above-average communication/facilitation skill (5) Above-average calibration/debiasing/rationality knowledge

I think my previous comment applies here as well. Perhaps you have a different conception of "average" than I do, but I think if you're going to establish a long-term mini-dictatorship of a group house, you should be aiming for quite a bit higher than "above average."

(6) Above-average scientific lab skill/ability to theorize and rigorously investigate claims

I don't really understand this one. Is your group house actually going to have the ability to practice conducting laboratory experiments? That's a very high overhead endeavor.

(7) Average problem-solving/debugging skill (8) Average public speaking skill (9) Average leadership/coordination skill (10) Average teaching and tutoring skill

Average? Your goals are to reach average, after a year of dedicated effort? Getting into the 80th percentile of anything numbered 1-10 on this list should require a minimum of effort on the part of dedicated individuals following strict rules, unless you have some specific medical condition interfering.

(11) Fundamentals of first aid & survival

How fundamental is fundamental? This also shouldn't take very long if you are willing to put in the effort and practice a bit (2 weeks, at the outside, though you could the true basics in a long weekend). I don't know how it's related to the rest of the goals, though, or why it's important enough to be on the rest of the list. Also, you should practice many of these skills in the actual wilderness, which means time away from everything else.

(12) Fundamentals of financial management

Again, I'm not sure what's "fundamental." You could spend 2 days on this, or the entire year.

(13) At least one of: fundamentals of programming, graphic design, writing, A/V/animation, or similar (employable mental skill) (14) At least one of: fundamentals of woodworking, electrical engineering, welding, plumbing, or similar (employable trade skill)

Do you have the ability to teach/practice trade skills at the house? I would expect leaning any of these things, to an employable level, within a year, would require spending time similar to a full-time job somewhere that has infrastructure, in addition to a significant investment of money (at least a few thousand dollars). (I checked some local welding and plumbing classes at community colleges, which is where I'm getting those numbers).

Someone who already has one of these skills (I'm guess you'll have a few coders at least) is going to be at a tremendous advantage in terms of time and possibly money compared to someone who is not. 13 and 14 are going to each represent a greater time investment than the others combined, unless you already have them.

As a meta note, I think that people who cower behind anonymity don't deserve to make concrete claims about their skill sets without backing them up, so until further notice and on a policy level, I'm treating your claim that you meet 11 out of 14 criteria as a flat-out lie (despite its plausibility overall). You're currently nothing and nobody and have no skills; that will change as soon as you a) reveal yourself or b) demonstrate credibility under this pseudonym.

I don't know if you care, but I would say I already meet a similar number of these criteria. The only one I definitely don't meet is 14. I'm willing to tie this account to my real name and explain/prove why I meet them (though some of them would be quite difficult to really prove, I could only argue).

Comment author: Duncan_Sabien 04 June 2017 01:22:56PM 4 points [-]

The problem seems to be to be the tradeoff between going deep and going wide, with the added complexity that going deep on the wrong thing seems strictly worse than going wide, and so we're defaulting to going wide where there's uncertainty.

Put another way, it's unlikely that any of those specific skills are going to be particularly important to any of our longest-term goals, but it also seems counterproductive to just sit there thinking about which direction to go in. I'm usually not the biggest expert in the room, but I usually am the most generally competent in terms of being able to fill holes or solve whatever problem crops up, and it's because I have a habit of just constantly churning and picking up new skills and methods and heuristics wherever I go. I suspect that others would benefit from a similar habit, in particular because once "the right skill" does come along, you have both the affordance to start learning it and a variety of experiences allowing you to learn quickly and efficiently.

That's a claim. Not necessarily supported, but reasonable, I think, and worth trying out.

I note that I disagree that it's easy to break averages in all of these things at once. People who don't actually check their abilities against a standard tend to be wildly overconfident, and people tend to underestimate how long it will take them to learn X or accomplish Y; these things are solidly documented. And while competence does tend to cluster (e.g. "G"), so the picture's not quite as bleak as the second half of this sentence, once you've got a dozen different domains and shooting to be above the 50% mark in all of them, you're looking at a person who's approximating one in four thousand, and when you try to get a whole group to hit that mark, the challenge is pretty real. I wouldn't be surprised if most people have most of this easy, but I think you're not fully grokking the difficulty of making everybody baseline competent in all of these domains. For instance, you note that many of these skills require only a few weeks, but I don't know if you added up all of those weeks, compared them to the time commitment, and noted that they're all being practiced off-hours and people have their own jobs and lives as well.

It's a floor, though, not a ceiling—we're aiming at "world class skill," we're just not naively expecting that getting there is going to be easy, and initial expectations are meant to be exceeded.

Various additional points ... - The trade skill goal got scaled back in response to another comment; it was the hardest/sketchiest one to begin with. - We will have some ability to practice trade skills at the house, and are adopting a norm of going and seeking professional instruction outside from time to time. - I buy that you meet a large number of these criteria; I meet most of them myself. But the ones I don't have are sticky/tricky.

Comment author: gwern 03 June 2017 07:24:12PM *  9 points [-]

Personally, I don't think that the military helps. The claim is implausible as personality traits are pretty stubborn things. Anecdotes are definitely confounded as militaries these days can be selective (literally administering IQ tests), and young men who enlist will mature as a simple matter of time. Military-style boot camps are one of the juvenile justice interventions we can say don't work well or maybe at all ("Preventing future offending of delinquents and offenders: what have we learned from experiments and meta-analyses?", Mackenzie & Farrington 2015) despite being aimed at the 'youngsters' who ought to most benefit from not being 'fuckups' and being aimed much more explicitly at that goal with a lower bar of success. And the natural experiments I know of like the Vietnam War draft lottery show permanent large harms to income from being drafted (most famously, Angrist 1990), which is certainly not what one would expect from a magical organization which turns fuckup civilians into reliable soldiers and explains why super-competent soldiers have such difficulty comporting in & reintegrating into a civilian life of tragic incompetence everywhere.

Comment author: Duncan_Sabien 03 June 2017 08:38:00PM *  2 points [-]

Some confounds/conflations in the above? Like, I agree with the truth value of the specific examples you've cited, but I think I disagree with the implicit claim that they're necessarily entangled with the thing Kaj is quoting.

e.g. yes, juvenile military institutions don't prevent people from being deliquent or discourage future criminality, but that's not to say that they don't cause those people, while embedded, to be reliable for object-level tasks and deadlines.

Similarly, the absolute horror and chaos that was Vietnam War combat, and the subsequent shredding of the psyches of people who didn't volunteer to be there, seems fundamentally different from e.g. modern duty on an aircraft carrier or WWII quartermastering. It doesn't seem incoherent or contradictory to say both [military culture promotes reliability] and also [being drafted in Vietnam screws you up, military schools don't fix teenage delinquency].

I also note that both examples cited talk about people who don't self-select in, which—if relevant—wouldn't surprise me.

I think "implausible because personality traits are pretty stubborn" is an overconfident statement—personality traits are pretty stubborn, but being thoroughly embedded in a culture that forces you to practice certain skills and surrounds you with coherent social pressures is also pretty stubborn. And in point of fact, while within that context, culture clearly dominates over personality traits, whatever else happens afterwards.

If I've misunderstood your claims, please forgive and correct—I feel like I might've missed your crux.

Comment author: taygetea 03 June 2017 09:02:11AM 2 points [-]

I think people tend to need a decent amount of evidence before they start talking about someone looking potentially abusive. Then the crux is "does this behavior seem normal or like a predictive red flag?". In those cases, your lived experience directly influences your perception. Someone's actions can seem perfectly fine to most people. But if some others experience spooky hair-raising flashes of their questionably abusive father or a bad ex, that's evidence. The people who didn't think anything was weird brush off the others as oversensitive, risk averse, or paranoid. Then those raising alarms think of everyone else as callous, imperceptive, or malicious. It's not just people who don't alieve the correct base rates. Certainly those people exist, though they're much more plentiful on Tumblr than in person or on LW. It's very non-obvious whether a strong reaction is correct.

Neither side can truly accept the other's arguments. It's a bad situation when both sides consider the other's reasoning compromised beyond repair. That brings politics and accusations of bad faith on all sides. But there is a fact of the matter, and the truth is actually unclear. Anyone thinking at enough of a distance from the issue should have honest uncertainty. I suspect you're particularly prone to refusing to let the conflicting experience of others be seen by your deep internal world-models, to strongly underestimating the validity and reliability of that type of evidence. That would cause what you say to be parsed as bad faith, which other people then respond to in kind. That would cause a positive feedback loop where your prior shifts even further away from them having useful things to say. Then you'd end up a frog boiled in a pot of drama nobody else is experiencing. I'm not sure this is what's happening, but it looks plausible.

Comment author: Duncan_Sabien 03 June 2017 01:55:08PM 1 point [-]

Strong endorsement of all of this.

Comment author: Jacobian 31 May 2017 03:24:42PM 10 points [-]

And one final point of support for DA: while I was living in a closed barracks, with five girls, a huge workload, strict rules and significant barriers to exit, I read Ender's Game and thought "this is exactly like my life, and it's awesome".

I agree with some of the critics here that Duncan is overconfident in his ability to make this work. I also agree that there's a limit to how much you can learn from a work of fiction about space monkey superchildren. But a lot of the criticism here is even more overconfident, and it comes from people who never lived in DA-like situation in their lives so all the evidence they're basing their criticism on is fictional.

Comment author: Duncan_Sabien 03 June 2017 04:15:55AM *  0 points [-]

It's especially worth noting that the group is highly competent and self-selecting for the environment, too, so we're likely to respond in the same way you did (i.e. if we want to say that your experience "beat outside view," then we're pretty well set up for ours to beat outside view similarly, even if that outside view is somewhat unpromising).

Comment author: MaryCh 02 June 2017 03:58:52PM *  5 points [-]

First, thank you for writing the post so fully and readably - it is really impressive! And I wish you would go to do this, in whatever way you would decide upon. But even if I thought full well the setup was safe (which I do) and the results were exactly as intended, in the most useful and generally good way, I wouldn't join.

Because I think that when people become parents, they suddenly find themselves in a world that is much more uncertain. You can't reliably say that you will sleep through the night, for example, even when the kid mostly does. And this is already hard enough to get used to - I know from experience - and it is also hard to begin anew (though this might be less so for men.) Imagine having actually trained yourself to be 100% in control of what you do, or even letting other people know that you are such kind of person. It's just not robust.

Comment author: Duncan_Sabien 02 June 2017 05:37:06PM 2 points [-]

Thanks for the comment. This is unique among perspectives given so far, and I liked seeing it a lot.

Comment author: username2 02 June 2017 03:55:09PM 0 points [-]

If the supreme commander of the Dragon Army is inclined to spend so much energy against a few abrasive critics on LW, imagine how much energy will have to be exerted once the War begins in earnest. Or will the Barracks be a secret location?

Comment author: Duncan_Sabien 02 June 2017 05:36:03PM *  0 points [-]

I think the answer is "all the energy."

More seriously, a major driving force behind both the post and the comments is transparency—people who are interested in refining their model of me have a much better model now than they might've two weeks ago, including where I draw the line and several of my different modes when dealing with things I think are unfair (e.g. quite different styles of response to 182blargl and handoflixue). I'm pretty "pro" being able-to-be-predicted, and I generally endorse my stands even though there are 3-6 places where I think I got marginally too heated, so this is decent data.

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