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Comment author: ChristianKl 02 December 2014 11:23:56AM 6 points [-]

There no good reason to believe that at present tech levels you can simply create synthetic disease by having control of the computers and synthesing equipment of a biotech company.

Comment author: Jack 03 December 2014 04:14:51AM 1 point [-]

If you could you might as well just register for the service and use it legally. It's not like any of those biology-as-a-service companies evaluate what their customers synthesize for pathogenicity.

Comment author: Jack 05 June 2014 05:22:35AM 3 points [-]

I'd say readers of Less Wrong are at least a standard deviation better off in life expectancy then what you get by just looking at age and sex (consider zip codes, income, race, substance abuse, risk-seeking etc.)

Comment author: Psy-Kosh 16 May 2014 06:57:28PM 0 points [-]

Hey there, I'm mid application process. (They're having me do the prep work as part of the application). Anyways,,,

B) If you don't mind too much: stay at App Academy. It isn't comfortable but you'll greatly benefit from being around other people learning web development all the time and it will keep you from slacking off.

I'm confused about that. App Academy has housing/dorms? I didn't see anything about that. Or did I misunderstand what you meant?

Comment author: Jack 05 June 2014 05:03:29AM 0 points [-]

Hey. You might have had this question answered already but just in case: they don't have housing or dorms. But they do have room and allow you to put up a cot or inflatable mattress and sleep there for the duration.

Comment author: Jack 06 May 2014 07:15:55AM 4 points [-]

Truth-telling seems clearly overrated (by people on Less Wrong but also pretty much everyone else). Truth-telling (by which I mean not just not-lying but going out of your way and sacrificing your mood, reputation or pleasant socializing just to say something true) is largely indistinguishable from "repeating things you heard once to signal how smart or brave or good you are. "

Truth-seeking as in observing and doing experiments to discover the structure of the universe and our society still seems incredibly important (modulo the fact that obviously there are all sorts of truths that aren't actually significant). And I actually think that is true even if you call it information gathering, though 'information gathering' is certainly vastly less poetic and lacks the affective valence of Truth.

Comment author: ChristianKl 05 May 2014 12:42:43AM *  4 points [-]

Edit: For the following clicking agree is supposed to mean that you consider a statement heretical

"Some truths don't matter much." sounds heretical

Disagree completely Agree completely

"People often have legitimate reasons for not wanting others to have certain truths." sounds heretical

Disagree completely Agree completely

"The value of truth often has to be weighed against other goals." sounds heretical

Disagree completely Agree completely

"Information can be perfectly accurate and also worthless." sounds heretical

Disagree completely Agree completely

"People often have legitimate reasons for not wanting other people to gain access to their private information. " sounds heretical

Disagree completely Agree completely

"A desire for more information often has to be weighed against other goals." sounds heretical

Disagree completely Agree completely

Submitting...

Comment author: Jack 06 May 2014 07:00:14AM *  2 points [-]

What is meant by heretical?

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 09 April 2014 06:02:06AM *  0 points [-]

I've got one year of a CS-program under my belt (so, basically some maths and Java) and am currently teaching myself Ruby via online tutorials.

Comment author: Jack 10 April 2014 11:08:37PM *  0 points [-]

Chris covered a lot of things. Re getting accepted, I think you'll be okay. You're ahead of where I was and I can tell you're smart. Do the prep work they give you, do some project Euler problems. I don't think you have to do the challenges in Ruby, but knowing at least one language well will help.

If you are accepted I strongly recommend a) Going to SF, not NY. The job market is better and I suspect the instruction is as well. B) If you don't mind too much: stay at App Academy (2016 edit: they no longer allow this). It isn't comfortable but you'll greatly benefit from being around other people learning web development all the time and it will keep you from slacking off. Remember that this isn't college. You don't get a certificate or degree. So the point isn't to get through the program. The point is to learn as much as you possibly can while you're there.

Also, If you're still on the edge about doing it, I strongly recommend it. App Academy easily had a bigger beneficial impact on my life than anything else I've done. Let me know if you have any specific questions.

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 08 April 2014 06:06:03PM *  11 points [-]

App Academy has been discussed here before and several Less Wrongers have attended (such as ChrisHallquist, Solvent, Curiouskid, and Jack).

I am considering attending myself during the summer and am soliciting advice pertaining to (i) maximing my chance of being accepted to the program and (ii) maximing the value I get out of my time in the program given that I am accepted. Thanks in advance.

EDIT: I ended up applying and just completed the first coding test. Wasn't too difficult. They give you 45 minutes, but I only needed < 20.

EDIT2: I have reached the interview stage. Thanks everyone for the help!

EDIT3: Finished the interview. Now awaiting AA's decision.

EDIT4: Yet another interview scheduled...this time with Kush Patel.

EDIT5: Got an acceptance e-mail. Decision time...

EDIT6: Am attending the August cohort in San Francisco.

Comment author: Jack 09 April 2014 05:28:27AM 1 point [-]

Hey Jayson. What's your programming background?

Comment author: satt 26 March 2014 03:52:48AM *  5 points [-]

A lot of industries are going to look really bad if you only score one side of the ledger.

Absolutely. However.

Given that a huge number of people continue to smoke

While that's obviously true...

and enjoy it,

...I think that's misleading. While smokers like and presumably enjoy the relief cigarettes provide from cravings, I doubt that at reflective equilibrium they'd want to be smokers, or would approve of their smoking. When samples of smokers in Canada, the US, the UK, and Australia were surveyed, about 90% agreed with the proposition that if they could live their lives again they would not start smoking, and a clear majority (67% to 82%, depending on the country) reported an intention to quit within the next year. In Gallup polls, most US smokers say they believe they're addicted to cigarettes, and most say they'd like to give up the habit. The CDC reports that in 2010, 43% of US adults who usually smoked cigarettes daily actually did stop smoking for multiple days because they were trying to quit.

despite knowing the negative implications for their health

Not true in general. Another paper based on data from that four-country survey tells us that "[a]bout 10% or more of smokers did not believe that smoking causes heart disease. Over 20% and 40% did not believe smoking causes stroke and impotence, respectively."

it seems reasonable to assume that tobacco companies supply the world with a great deal of utility, in addition to the lung cancer.

I remain extremely sceptical, not only because of the evidence I summarize above, but also because of economic, philosophical & cognitive considerations of the sort LW likes:

  • Tobacco manufacturers, in effect, value a life at ~$10k. This is far less than other estimates of the monetary value of a life, at least in developed countries. Is everybody else effectively over-valuing lives, or are tobacco companies effectively under-valuing them?

  • I can apply the reversal test by asking myself whether humanity would be better off if many more people smoked. Or: would humanity be worse off if cigarettes had never been invented? Or: if cigarettes had only just been invented, would it be a good idea to subsidize their production & distribution to get them into the public's hands faster? Intuitively, a "yes" answer to these questions seems strange to me.

  • Cognitive bias is ubiquitous, and people's preferences over time are often muddles that don't cohere. In light of this, the fact that many people use/enjoy something isn't proof that it gives them positive net utility; and when that something dispenses an addictive chemical, it's weaker evidence still. Various cues can trigger a craving for a cigarette, which is why people giving advice on quitting smoking routinely recommend avoiding cues that engender desires to smoke; that advice would not be necessary if people decided to light up on the basis of level-headed ratiocination.

All in all, there is a lot of evidence that revealed preference theory gives us the wrong answer when applied to smoking. Most smokers say they regret taking up the habit, are addicted to it, would like to quit, or intend to quit; many have already tried to quit; many smokers cannot identify all of smoking's potential health implications; applying revealed preference theory to tobacco manufacturers instead of smokers suggests manufacturers value customers' lives suspiciously cheaply; calling on intuition by imagining counterfactual scenarios suggests that cigarettes aren't a boon to humanity; and people's actions are known to correlate imperfectly with their goals, and indeed their desires & decisions to smoke are influenced by sensory cues which would not enter into a rational cost-benefit calculation.

The most parsimonious explanation of these observations, in my judgement, is the mainstream one: the downsides of cigarettes massively outweigh the upsides; people typically begin to smoke cigarettes because of a temporary failure to adequately weigh costs against benefits; and people continue smoking because they become addicted to nicotine, and condition themselves to associate the paraphernalia & physical motions of smoking with nicotine self-administration.

Comment author: Jack 27 March 2014 06:22:25AM 3 points [-]

...I think that's misleading. While smokers like and presumably enjoy the relief cigarettes provide from cravings, I doubt that at reflective equilibrium they'd want to be smokers, or would approve of their smoking. When samples of smokers in Canada, the US, the UK, and Australia were surveyed, about 90% agreed with the proposition that if they could live their lives again they would not start smoking, and a clear majority (67% to 82%, depending on the country) reported an intention to quit within the next year. In Gallup polls, most US smokers say they believe they're addicted to cigarettes, and most say they'd like to give up the habit. The CDC reports that in 2010, 43% of US adults who usually smoked cigarettes daily actually did stop smoking for multiple days because they were trying to quit.

There is a lot of moralizing around smoking and I suspect those numbers are inflated. It's like if you call people up and ask them if they recycle or plan on voting. People give answers that they think others want to hear: that's not the same as reflective equilibrium. Also, the fact that people are interested in quitting doesn't have anything to do with whether or not it is pleasurable. It's very pleasurable, which is why people start and continue. They often want to stop because they know that it causes cancer. But they still derive pleasure from it.

Not true in general. Another paper based on data from that four-country survey tells us that "[a]bout 10% or more of smokers did not believe that smoking causes heart disease. Over 20% and 40% did not believe smoking causes stroke and impotence, respectively."

So up to 90% of smokers know some of the less well-publicized health risks? The numbers for lung cancer and emphysema must approach 100%. Don't cherry pick your evidence.

As to the rest of your comment: I'm not claiming cigarettes are a boon to humanity. The question was what ways of making a profit cause the largest loss of utility and I was objecting to an answer that failed to consider the actual value created by an industry.

Comment author: lmm 25 March 2014 08:34:28PM 7 points [-]

Enjoy it? Or want it because they're addicted? What we want and what we enjoy are not guaranteed to be aligned.

Comment author: Jack 27 March 2014 06:09:30AM 3 points [-]

As someone who occasionally smokes while not being addicted to it: it is definitely enjoyable for people.

Comment author: A11AF82 25 March 2014 08:01:57AM *  5 points [-]

This would likely be true of many other (hard) drugs if there had been a history of legally selling them instead of nipping their markets in the bud. In fact, this would probably be true of wireheading too if it was practical, and ultimately, orgasmium. Willing to bite that bullet?

Comment author: Jack 27 March 2014 06:07:35AM *  1 point [-]

Yes, other drugs are not unmitigated evils either. I've heard heroin is a 1000 times better than sex. The fact that it will eventually kill you and likely ruin your family life doesn't change that. I think alcohol and caffeine probably come out on the positive side of the ledger while most don't. But it is hard to say.

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