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Comment author: Lumifer 10 August 2015 03:48:49PM 12 points [-]

if I could give them back just ten minutes of their lives, most of them wouldn’t be here.

He's wrong about that. He would need to give them back 10 minutes of their lives, and then keep on giving them back different 10 minutes on a very regular basis.

The remainder of the post actually argues that persistent, stable "reflexes" are the cause of bad decisions and those certainly are not going to be fixed by a one-time gift of 10 minutes.

Comment author: Emile 11 August 2015 07:32:11AM 4 points [-]

if I could give them back just ten minutes of their lives, most of them wouldn’t be here.

He's wrong about that. He would need to give them back 10 minutes of their lives, and then keep on giving them back different 10 minutes on a very regular basis.

I disagree. Let's take drivers who got into a serious accident : if you "gave them just back ten minutes" so that they avoided getting into that accident, most of them wouldn't have had another accident later on. It's not as if the world neatly divided into safe drivers, who never have accidents, and unsafe drivers, who have several.

Sure, those kids that got in trouble are more likely to have problematic personalities, habits, etc. which would make it more likely to get in trouble again - but that doesn't mean more likely than not. Most drivers don't get have (serious) accidents, most kids don't get in (serious) trouble, and if you restrict yourself to the subset of those who already had it once, I agree a second problem is more likely, but not certain.

[Link] The Much Forgotten and Ignored Need to Have Workable Solutions

5 Emile 03 August 2015 10:02PM

I ran across this article: The Much Forgotten and Ignored Need to Have Workable Solutions, that might interest some, either for the Rationality or the Effective Altruism aspects.

For a very rough summary: Academia (more specifically, the humanities) gives too much credit to describing problems (i.e. complaining) and not enough on thinking about good solutions, which is the difficult and important part.

Some quotes if you don't want to read the whole thing:

Of course the biggest assumption of all that is being shown to be inconsistent with actual behaviour is that of rationality – Richard Thaler’s Misbehaving and other behavioural research is showing that people are subject to various biases and often do not make rational decisions. This is especially scary for theoretical economists, whose entire universe pretty much depends on the rational representative household.

If their assumptions are rather strict and may not hold up in real-life, their call for a policy response is technically null and void. A good example is with auctions, where previously designers (economists) would rely heavily on the Revenue Equivalence Theorem in creating the rules of auctions. Yet, many of them forget that the assumptions of Revenue Equivalence aren’t always satisfied, for example the possibility of collusion, which can prove to significantly reduce the revenue of the seller.

The best paper on a time economists forgot about ECON 101 has to be this review of European 3G auctions. What was most clear for me from Klemperer’s work is that you can get all up in complex auction theory and mechanism design, but if you forget how very basic concepts in economics work in conjunction with that, you can get easily derailed. They basically put the cart before the horse – they forgot that they had to satisfy their own assumptions before applying their model to reality.

More questions: is the policy they suggest cumbersome, intangible and unable to be monitored for success? This is another pet peeve of mine – my blood boils when people say “We need to fix gender stereotypes! We need to create awareness! We need to change societal attitudes!” without suggesting how it should be done, how this monumental task will be measured for good performance and how they propose regulating all the sources of these things.

Also, how would they justify that spending? Have they thought about the parameters which would determine success or failure? What kind of campaign or agency are they suggesting to carry out these monumental tasks? What are the conditions for success?

Last is that sometimes when people chuck the words “Policy Implications” around, they often have no idea what a deep and complicated field policy design actually is. To be fair, I’m still learning about it and I don’t expect university students or even researchers not involved in related areas to have a full understanding of it.

However, it’s not like economists don’t have a basic understanding of incentives, principal-agent relationships, transaction-cost economics and externalities. Those four areas should be enough to at least attempt a more rigorous analysis of possible policies, rather than simply providing an offhand description of the policy based on a single relationship.

At the end of the day, there’s just a lot of arrogance among some researchers who like to imply that their research necessitates action – yet they haven’t put any meaningful or strategic thought whether the research truly necessitates action in the first place (especially in comparison to cost-equivalent policies in similar areas, or dealing with similar problems), whether the action will actually lead to the desired outcome (checking if assumptions are realistic/addressing relevant design issues) or whether there will be any undesirable externalities or further implications of the policy.

[...]

Maybe the worst thing about all of this is that when I was growing up, I always looked up to people who were aware of issues outside themselves, especially if the issues didn’t necessarily affect them. They seemed so cool and aware and intelligent. I’d watch these people with great admiration for their insight.

Now a lot of that is gone. The people about whom once I thought, wow, this person is so aware and intelligent, I now realize aren’t actually that intelligent. They’re just pretending to be. They’re just better at vocalizing some of the things that anyone can see and turning them into long spiels about what’s wrong with the world. They haven’t really thought about it.

(ironically (intentionally?), the post is mostly complaining about a problem, without offering a workable solution, but I still liked it)

Comment author: TheAncientGeek 11 July 2015 02:26:20PM 0 points [-]

don't think there's a meaningful difference between "the real world" and a perfect simulation of it (at least seen "from the inside") -

What's the meaning of meaningful? Do you mean that you literally cannot understand the opposite of simulationism? Or are using "meaningful" to mean "empirically confirmable"? The empirical indetectability of a simulation follows from simulations premises, right enough....but it cannot be used to argue for them.

Comment author: Emile 13 July 2015 08:48:38AM 1 point [-]

I mean, roughly, that not only are the two empircally indistinguishable, but that I don't even see a reason to care about whether I'm "in a simulation" or not, and it's not even clear what would qualify as a simulation...

Meetup : Paris Meetup: Saturday, July 11

1 Emile 06 July 2015 09:42PM

Discussion article for the meetup : Paris Meetup: Saturday, July 11

WHEN: 11 July 2015 02:00:00PM (+0200)

WHERE: 51 Rue de Turbigo, 75003 Paris, France

The irregular-and-last-minute-schedule Paris Meetup! (as usual, we discuss it on the mailing list first, lesswrong-paris@googlegroups.com) So meet us in front of the Arts & Metiers this Saturday!

Discussion article for the meetup : Paris Meetup: Saturday, July 11

Comment author: Emile 01 July 2015 06:11:18PM *  1 point [-]

A bug breaks it for me now:

I'm on iPad, any topic I click on redirects me to http://www.omnilibrium.com/topic_mobile.php, which doesn't exist. So I can't even read anything but the titles.

...edit: aaand it's been fixed, thanks Cleonid, that was quick :)

Comment author: sixes_and_sevens 21 April 2015 04:17:53PM 1 point [-]

"Statisticians think everything is normally distributed" seems to be one of those weirdly enduring myths. I'd love to know how it gets propagated.

Comment author: Emile 21 April 2015 09:51:15PM 0 points [-]

I can't say I ran into it before (whereas "economists think humans are all rational self-interested agents", jeez...)

Comment author: Emile 07 April 2015 04:33:26PM 1 point [-]

Pretty neat website you got there!

Knocking through a bunch of exercises every day feels efficient but it's not exactly fun and I put in less time than I should.

I've been reviewing Anki pretty much daily for the past couple of years, and I put in enough time to have all my cards reviewed. What helps:

  • Doing it on my smartphones at times were I can't do much else anyway (in public transport, waiting in a queue); the most "productive" thing I could be doing with that time is reading a book, and even then, reading a book standing up is more of a hassle than looking at my smarphone.
  • All the stuff in it is stuff I added myself and considered worth learning, and if I have doubts about something (a card or a whole deck), i'll often suspend or delete it
  • "Finish today's cards" is a reachable, definite, objective (more so than "a bunch of exercises") but I still don't put big pressure on myself, since if I'm too busy to review today, I'll review a bit more tomorrow, and eventually catch up (I don't need to explicitly decide "I'll review some more to compensate", I just will have more due cards tomorrow).
  • I only add new cards if I don't feel overwhelmed by the daily review schedule

(and yes, I've been using this to learn Japanese and to review my Mandarin and German)

Comment author: Emile 02 April 2015 03:05:10PM 0 points [-]

Alternative implementation: an android widget that posts a "snitch" message somewhere online if ever your phone is unlocked in certain time frames; such that other people can easily see online whether you unlocked your phone in the "forbidden" timeframe.

In response to Learning by Doing
Comment author: imuli 24 March 2015 03:12:55AM 2 points [-]

I think the learn to program by programming adage came from a lack of places teaching the stuff that makes people good programmers. I've never worked with someone who has gone through one of the new programming schools, but I don't think they purport to turn out senior-level programmers, much less 99th percentile programmers. As far as I can tell, folks either learn everything beyond the mechanics and algorithms of programming from your seniors in the workplace or discover it for themself.

So I'd say that there are nodes on the graph that I don't have labels for, and are not taught formally as far as I know. The best way to learn them is to read lots of big well written code bases and try to figure out why everything was done one way and not some other. Second best then maybe is to write a few huge code bases and figure out why things keep falling apart?

In response to comment by imuli on Learning by Doing
Comment author: Emile 24 March 2015 12:22:40PM 0 points [-]

As far as I can tell, folks either learn everything beyond the mechanics and algorithms of programming from your seniors in the workplace or discover it for themself.

... or from Stack Overflow / Wikipedia, no? When encountering a difficult problem, one can either ask someone more knowledgeable, figure it out himself, or look it up on the internet.

Comment author: adamzerner 24 March 2015 01:04:43AM *  3 points [-]

Calling things "an art, not a science" has always been a pet peeve of mine. And I've heard people say things like, "there's no best way to do it'. In particular, I'm taking a Responsive CSS course on Udacity and the guy said these things (if you listen closely, you could hear me cringe).

And then there's the idea that art is like inherently intuitive, whereas science isn't. I want to focus on the "art is inherently intuitive and not about breaking things down into components like science" part. My thought is that these people who say this are confusing their map for the territory. They may not know how to deduce what the perfect painting would look like, but that doesn't mean that it's not possible.

I know that there are different versions of these beliefs, and that I may be misunderstanding them. If so, please correct me. Anyway, what do you guys think?

Comment author: Emile 24 March 2015 08:57:42AM 3 points [-]

One charitable interpretation is "it's something you learn by doing, not something you learn by reading".

"Art" has a bit of a double meaning, there's the "something that's pretty/pleasing/aesthetic/original/creative", but there's also the "craft" meaning, as in "the art of XXX".

I want to focus on the "art is inherently intuitive and not about breaking things down into components like science" part. My thought is that these people who say this are confusing their map for the territory. They may not know how to deduce what the perfect painting would look like, but that doesn't mean that it's not possible.

Two reactions to this:

1) If someone says something can't be broken into component parts, a more charitable reading is that they think that trying to do so is a waste of time and less likely to bring progress than just a lot of practice. Even if it's possible in theory, that doesn't mean it's actually a good idea, so warning people against it can be totally reasonable, and isn't "confusing their map for the territory".

2) HOWEVER, in the case of art, most forms of art I can think of - drawing, painting, storytelling, animations, etc. - most definitely CAN be broken into component pieces, and often those component pieces can be broken into component pieces too, etc. - just check out the right section in any library.

You can't learn to draw by reading a book, but a good book on drawing can tell you what individual skills you should practice, and how to do so.

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