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Comment author: [deleted] 27 April 2014 01:43:22AM *  6 points [-]

Fundamentally the pattern is "I can't do that tedious and thankless job, because I'm just not good at it." Low prestige office jobs are the classic example.

Huh, I think I just realized why I've steadfastly avoided learning how to cook or clean.

Of course, knowing this, I should go ahead and learn and then cite the concept of strategic incompetence when explaining to any housemates / boyfriends why my skills shouldn't obligate me to do a higher proportion of the housework. (As in, "a naive view of comparative advantage in splitting unpleasant tasks leads to all of us developing strategic incompetencies, so we shouldn't use that view.")

In response to comment by [deleted] on Skills and Antiskills
Comment author: JenniferRM 27 April 2014 01:57:01AM *  7 points [-]

Yes. I was wondering if I should compose a response to Metus in a way that could help point out that there could be a lot of other things going on that went into this...

For example, instead of shirking, what might be going on is that the seeming "shirker" is in fact a leader with responsibilities roughly of the sort Metus proposed, who has simply found that it helps with subordinate motivation if the leader pretends to seriously need their subordinate in a domain the subordinate understands (rather than to just have comparative advantage in something else that the subordinate doesn't understand, and then run into inferential distance problems on things like "comparative advantage" and also the other domain).

Or maybe the person is truly world class in something and, as part of the process of leveling up, dropped other skills or let them atrophy without even realizing what was going on necessarily... I've heard that Erdös could be given a one serving carton of milk and seem to be genuinely incapable of figuring out how to open the glued pour spout at the top... someone would need to open it for him so all he had to do was lift and drink, otherwise he would just go without (and presumably work on math instead).

Or maybe other things are going on. Or a mixture. The night is very large, and full of wonders...

I think it might be arguably the case that every skill other than whatever is already your likely long term comparative advantage is an anti-skill?

Comment author: JenniferRM 26 April 2014 08:28:58AM *  28 points [-]

I think one semi-standard response to a common context-based skill incentive pattern is called "strategic incompetence". Fundamentally the pattern is "I can't do that tedious and thankless job, because I'm just not good at it." Low prestige office jobs are the classic example.

A google search against lesswrong turned up no mention of "strategic incompetence" which was something of a surprise to me.

One of the key issues that comes up around strategic incompetence is that it raises ethical complexities relative to egalitarian work norms where "everyone should do their part" and people with cultivated incompetence can "shirk" without it seeming like they are obviously shirking. In programming/scifi/geek contexts the contrasting virtue goes along with the slogan that specialization is for insects. This is one the reasons I like such contexts :-)

(Edited to add: Voting patterns seem tragic here from the perspective of rewarding that which causes good content. I'm saying something that people (currently) seem to think is worth "10" and the only reason I'm saying it is because katydee raised an interesting, more personal, and more general point that I could riff on, but the original article only has "3" and I'm one of those who upvoted it. This seems like evidence that "propagating reward back through the chain of causality that leads to good content" is not how people are voting... hence, the voting seems somewhat tragic. I wish people would up their voting game, because I want this forum to get better over time, not worse.)

Comment author: JenniferRM 02 March 2014 11:14:01PM *  14 points [-]

The most important caveat is that lab studies find much larger effect sizes than in the field, to the extent that the average field effect for the ingratiating tactics is negative. This is probably due to the fact that lab experiments can be better controlled.

The first sentence seems really important and I'm wondering how to interpret the second. One hypothesis that is consistent with the first sentence is that studies show that in lab environments where arbitrary people are thrown into very short term interactions ingratiation works quite well... but that in the iterated environment of real long term working relationships it is detected and causes more problems than it helps with. Call this the hypothesis that "bullshit only works at first".

The second sentence argues against this hypothesis, but I'm not sure how strongly the second sentence is supported. Is it on-the-spot speculation? Is it the considered opinion of most experts in the field?

If the hypothesis that "bullshit only works at first" is the correct one it suggests that ingratiation should be avoided, or at the very least it suggests that ingratiation should be avoided in relationships that are dissimilar from random short term laboratory interactions. Am I off track here? Is the hypothesis (and its implied behavioral upshot) clearly ruled out by the research you explored and are summarizing? Clarification would be useful :-)

Comment author: RichardKennaway 24 February 2014 04:38:58PM 10 points [-]

Perhaps they could be called "errors", errors we have systematic tendencies to make, and when describing them, explain every time why they are errors, why they fail to cut through to the truth. Then people may not find it so easy to interpret "biases" as being like taste in music or clothes.

Disclaimer: I have no experience of trying to teach this stuff to anyone.

Comment author: JenniferRM 25 February 2014 10:22:44AM *  9 points [-]

I had sort of forgotten that "bias" could be taste in music or differential human outcomes based on "biased" treatment. Noticing that collision was helpful to me.

Also, I think there is an interesting quirk in the LW/local usage of the term "bias" and its general stance towards epistemology. The local culture is really really into "overcoming biases" with a zeal and cultural functionality that has echoes in the Christian doctrine of Original Sin.

(Not that this is bad! Assuming that people are in cognitive error by default because of biases is useful for getting people to actually listen with some measure of generosity to inferentially distant third parties and teachers and so on. Also, the "biases" framing powers a pretty good sales pitch for learning about meta-cognition because loss aversion is a known bias that people who need meta-cognitive training probably have. Given knowledge of loss aversion, you should naively expect people who need a rationality upgrade to be about three times more interested in avoiding cognitive downsides as compared to their enthusiasm for cognitive upgrades. The very name of the website "less wrong" is great marketing from this perspective :-P)

In any case, in academic psychology it is generally acknowledged that "biases" and "heuristics" are in some sense equivalent. Specifically, both processes involve leaping from hints to conclusions with locally inadequate justification. When this happens in a way that can be retrospectively determined to be incorrect, it gets negative valence and we call it a "bias". When it comes out well so that it seems like a dandy cognitive labor saving device, it gets positive valence and we call it a "heuristic".

The key insight is that heuristics are heuristics only in limited domains, and no technique that we call a heuristic can be profitably deployed outside it's appropriate context. When someone attempts to deploy a heuristic in a completely generic way, they transport it outside of the context it was tuned for and it becomes a bias. In the meantime, there are distinct techniques that are neither biases nor heuristics, but they generally take much longer to compute, or require more data gathering than busy people with busy competitors have time for.

Cialdini's book Influence has a bunch of great examples of contextually dependent cognitive shortcuts. If you lived in a small social context that had been self contained, poorly mixed, and functional for a long period of time in the past, it would be a pretty great life heuristic to trust and copy people who were benevolent towards you, similar to you, but slightly higher status. Doing the same "trust and copy" routine with people you see on TV, people on random street corners, or with professional modern/urban sales people who have read Cialdini is much less advisable. The heuristic becomes a bias because the social context has changed.

The issue of context and generalization can get really deep, and (so far as I'm aware) is not a solved subject with a widely recognized popular solution. An entry point into substantive literature on what is sometimes called "the foundations of inference" is Wolpert and Macready's "no free lunch theorem" and thematically associated mathematical work having to do with compression and sorting.

A deep (and admittedly somewhat hand-wavy) conclusion that falls out of this work is that for inference or evolution or thinking to ever find any sort of "purchase", there must be substantial structural and/or energetic redundancy in the local "reality". Otherwise it would be be pointless and/or impossible to progressively accumulate things like: (1) knowledge worth remembering or (2) adaptations worth having or (3) heuristics of seemingly generic utility. If physics was pure chaos and noise, there would be no life, no brains, and no point for those brains to be concerned with such abstruse concepts as epistemology in the first place.

This loops back around to the OP's classification of some people as "magical thinkers". Many humans do not seem to feel in their bones that they exist within a logically consistent mesh of redundantly patterned causation. They seem to model the world as being mostly chaos, with some moderately powerful agent(s) that approve or disapprove of various rituals being followed. I think what the OP is asking for is a way to convey "the feeling of existing within a logically consistent mesh of redundantly patterned causation such that various inference techniques are justified" to arbitrary humans via a few thousand words, but (tragically?) at the present time I do not know how to do it.

Comment author: JenniferRM 07 January 2014 10:16:07PM *  10 points [-]

Something to be aware of is that, as with the novel Zendegi (which had the "benign superintelligence bootstrap project" and "overpowering falsehood dot com"), there are likely to be some specific allusions to transhumanist communities, although the visual media supports more allusive mechanisms based on sounds and appearances and emotional/social gestalts. The allusions in Zendegi were quite ungenerous. I'm not sure what kind of critical or positive environment would be good in terms of their expected positive or negative world outcomes, but I imagine that being able to respond to them could be important for the organization and for people.

Off the top of my head I can see stuff just in the trailer and brief summary.

The protagonist's name is "Will Caster" which resonates a bit with the way futurists semi-often give themselves names that can function as priming/identity hacks like Max More, Will Newsome, FM-2030, etc.

There will almost certainly be scenes that try to replicate the vibe of a Singularity Summit. The trailer has some "guy with big wavy hair standing on a stage speaking to a packed audience" visuals but I don't know how much other stuff might come through.

The uploadee's love interest will be played by Rebecca Hall who reminded me a bit of Julia Galef.

I wonder if memes pairing an image from the movie and an image from RL with a caption would tend to be "good" or "bad"?

Comment author: Douglas_Knight 06 January 2014 06:32:04PM 2 points [-]

Yes, some animals (generally predators) have a critical period for developing sight. Unlike language, this is an easy faculty to test in animals. One could try this drug on cats that had been blindfolded during the critical period (a standard experiment).

Comment author: JenniferRM 07 January 2014 01:05:25PM *  1 point [-]

Experiments of this general sort have already been done. I haven't read deeply yet, but exploring the biblio it appears that the novelty here is that something that worked in animal models by a semi-well-understood mechanism was demonstrated to also work in humans via mere oral administration of an already FDA-approved substance.

Epigenetic treatments of adult rats promote recovery from visual acuity deficits induced by long-term monocular deprivation

We found that chronic intraperitoneal administration of valproic acid or sodium butyrate (two different histone deacetylases inhibitors) to long-term monocularly deprived adult rats coupled with reverse lid-suturing caused a complete recovery of visual acuity, tested electrophysiologically and behaviorally. Thus, manipulations of the epigenetic machinery can be used to promote functional recovery from early alterations of sensory input in the adult cortex.

I'd bet the learning effect is quite generic but I suspect that most of the things that would be really useful for humans would take some pedagogic intervention, and designing the post-administration training process is probably a non-trivial task. Something I'd bet would probably work is building up great smell/chemistry associations ("this smells like it has a ring with a sulfur in it") but even collecting a lot of different samples and their chemical structures for paired presentation would take a bunch of work.

I think the smell example sort of illustrates some of the other limits... Just as with Anki, a non-obvious hard part is simply figuring out what things are even worth the effort of tracking down, leaving aside whether they should be acquired, retained, and folded deep into one's neural circuitry.

Comment author: timujin 04 January 2014 07:04:26PM 1 point [-]

I wonder, how much people are there who 'invented' this idea independently? I came up with this idea on my own when I was 15, and I know at least one other person who did. And now you and Tegmark, so this is not unique at all. Is that sort of thing widespread in rationality/math/INTJ/technophile/whatever?

Comment author: JenniferRM 06 January 2014 08:14:46PM *  0 points [-]

Greg Egan's book "Permutation City" was published in 1994. Max Tegmark's paper "Is "the theory of everything'' merely the ultimate ensemble theory?" was published in 1998. It is ironic that the paper gets more formal credit in a lot of writing than the book, even though the book explores more implications and has priority :-)

Based on my reading of Egan's other works, he has a minor sense of rivalry with Tegmark. One possible reading of Egan's Orthogonal Series is that it was an inspired way of pointing out that Tegmark's intuitions about the kinds of math that might contain minds are wrong because Tegmark's intuitions are grounded in thinking that "local physics" is especially privileged, perhaps from too little attention to ideas like "kolmogorov complexity" that are more native to artificial intelligence. The Orthogonal series is set in one of the kinds of physics that Tegmark claimed was probably uninhabited.

Comment author: army1987 03 January 2014 09:37:47AM 2 points [-]

Maybe they're not cracking down on Bitcoin for the same reason China isn't cracking down on free online proxies. (Read the whole post.)

Comment author: JenniferRM 03 January 2014 10:42:57PM 1 point [-]

You sort of seems to be proposing that the US federal government is similar to the government of China, with each using the barrier of trivial inconvenience to forestall otherwise revolutionary processes (non-fiat currency and the free flow of information respectively). Your admonition to "read the whole post" makes me think you're offering a latent suggest that "libertarian paternalism" might be de facto implemented by creating a bitcoin market that sells banned things and is allowed to exist so long as dumb people can't be victimized by it because they aren't smart enough to strategically access it.

I think this is something I'll have to ponder for a while. Thanks :-)

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 03 January 2014 10:30:19AM 7 points [-]

I'd take bets against Bitcoin resulting in any significant restructuring of government. Remember, Warren Buffett pays lower tax rates than his secretary. Criminals around the world are already quite successful at money laundering. And yet society has not collapsed. This won't collapse it either.

Comment author: JenniferRM 03 January 2014 10:41:18PM *  4 points [-]

I have studied "secular/materialist eschatologies" as a reference class, and probably my biggest heuristic-level updates is "catastrophism memes spread fast and wide while being wrong in their catastrophic details and they are harbingers of the existence of a gradualist version of the same theory that is important for quantitative historical models with genuine human implications". Less "zombies", more "soft apocalypse".

And yet society has not collapsed. This won't collapse it either.

This is true, but I don't think it responds to the heart of my concern. I could potentially rewrite this to something I think might be "gradualized" (with links to make it more local and near mode) but which is also potentially false.

And yet society is not stagnating. This won't change the rate of stagnation, just as, for example, the failure of Bretton Woods had no effect on general prosperity.

I don't mean to strawman you and claim you "said" the rewritten version. I'm just trying to show that your statement didn't connect with my reasoning in a way that alleviates concerns, because I don't think that I'm worried in a way that your statements (true as they may literally be) would mollify.

Nornagest proposes property taxes to replace income taxes, which is not too far my suggestion that "Facebook-based estimates of taxes owed would be amusing, but less ironic forms of surveillance could work as well." But if that's the case then it seems to predict that there should be long term arbitrage opportunities between real estate and bitcoins and that kind of insight seems unavailable in the normal ambit of bitcoin discussion... and maybe I need to go looking for such correlations before saying they don't exist? :-P

Izeinwinter proposed that hedge funds were trading in Bitcoins while using government insider contacts to know when to bail out of the bubble in advance of the sheep. This seems not too far from my suggestion that "maybe the private individuals composing the Treasury Department have non-trivial personal stakes in bitcoin and no civic virtue?"

Ygert suggests I turn my point into a top level discussion post, which isn't really my personal style. In the meantime he or she basically accepted that bitcoins threatened status quo government operations and vaulted from there into political theology, with mention of tradeoffs between Democracy and Monarchy themselves. If these kinds of tradeoffs were really on the table, I think I'd expect to see more waves in the mainstream?

I think I remain confused :-(

Comment author: JenniferRM 02 January 2014 11:51:47PM 4 points [-]

This bitcoin conversation has run for almost a week now, and given the site I'd expect the level of reasoning to be quite high, yet when I hit "^Ftax" or "^Fgovern" or "^Fpolitic" almost nothing shows up, which causes me a measure of confusion, because these (much more than "magnitudes") are key nodes in my causal reasoning about the future value of bitcoins.

From my perspective, the plausible socio-political implications of bitcoin are large enough, and different enough from what I see commonly discussed, that it causes me to question the quality of my own thinking and seek education.

In 1789 Benajmin Franklin wrote a letter wherein he said:

Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.

It could be that I'm wrong in my reasoning, but it appears to me that bitcoin allows tax evasion and black markets to function on such a breathtaking scale that if bitcoin persists and expands into common use then I anticipate, like tomatoes in winter, the withering of formal governmental power in its current form (based as it is on tax collection and the ability to regulate the market via indirect oversight) and perhaps even the withering of the public good of reasonably just protection services provided by democratically elected law makers.

Sharply put, it seems moderately plausible to me that either extant governments smash the bitcoin infrastructure, or bitcoin financially strangles modern nation states.

In more detail: If bitcoin turns out to be ineradicable so long as people have access to the untamed Internet (and this seems like an open but fundamentally empirically determinable question) it suggests to me that human communities may collectively face a choice between cutting their wires and jamming their airwaves or else lose the ability to form reasonable transparent organizations with elected officials who manage the local violence monopoly by paying law enforcers better wages than are available to criminals.

Or perhaps I'm underestimating the extent of the revamping that would be necessary? Still, it is hard to see how the IRS, SEC, ATF, or Fed could maintain their status quo operations if bitcoins become the de facto world currency. Traffic in drugs and slaves are relatively limited now, but I'm not sure it would stay so in a bitcoin dominated economy. Ransom payments become significantly more feasible with bitcoin, and the kidnapping market seems likely to grow if bitcoins persist.

Not that payment for protection services would completely disappear forever... Presumably we would switch to tax collectors (either hired by the existing but revamped governments or perhaps the henchmen of whatever violence monopolies replace them) who force people to transfer digital cash in amounts assessed based on visible or statistically inferrable indicators of wealth, or be jailed. Tax evasion in such a world seems likely to take the form of pretending to be poor, which seems to have weird implications for the personal status of the super rich? Facebook-based estimates of taxes owed would be amusing, but less ironic forms of surveillance could work as well. If the super rich were the ones hiring the tax collectors, that could reduce the number of sociologically confusing discrepancies, but it starts sounding somewhat feudal...

The Treasury Department must have people thinking about this? Or maybe the private individuals composing the Treasury Department have non-trivial personal stakes in bitcoin and no civic virtue? Or maybe the problem is international in scope and there's an element of realpolitik where some nation states expect to weather the "bitcoin winter" better than others? Or maybe... I don't know... There are a lot of things that could be going on...

In this family of scenarios, it seems like there would be large changes to many parts of the economy, many of which I expect would take a lot of people, including me, by surprise. Maybe drone-based mass surveillance and law enforcement could patch the gaps by enforcing laws so thoroughly at the physical layer than the digital layer can remain anarchic for a while longer? It seems like the kind of "everything is changing, faster and faster" thing that I might expect to be sprung on people in the lead up to various (somewhat disturbing) versions of an Kurzweil-style "smooth singularity"... Kurzweil did predict runaway deflation after all, and 2014 is the sort of year you'd read about something like this happening in a Stross novel.

So, anyway...

I see people trading in bitcoins. I don't see the government moving to destroy the bit coin markets, or talking about the bitcoin market as though bitcoins were a social scourge that fundamentally disrupts the business model of status quo governments. But I also I don't see people preparing for a profound restructuring of the political economy and everything effected by the current political economy. Thus, I am confused. I don't see other people even talking about these sorts of implications, as though they are important open questions. Thus, I am doubly confused.

My best guess as to my confusion's cause is twofold. I probably lack an adequate understanding of the big picture pragmatics of political economy, also I suspect that the really smart money in the bitcoin market is staying mostly silent so as to harvest money more efficiently. For myself, the political/moral dimension of the bitcoin market has frightened me away from it thus far... whether there is a "bitcoin winter" or a successful smashing of the bitcoin infrastructure, both outcomes seem to suggest that personal and/or political action might be prudent.

The value of information seems high. If anyone could respond here or via PM to help correct my confusion, I would very much appreciate the education!

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