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Comment author: byrnema 29 August 2014 04:21:43PM -1 points [-]

Your comment is well-received. I'm continuing to to think about it and what this means for finding reliable media sources.

My impression of journalists has always been that they would be fairly idealistic about information and communicating that information to be attracted to their profession. I also imagine that their goals are constantly antagonized by the goals of their bosses, that do want to make money, and probably it is the case that the most successful sell-out or find a good trade-off that is not entirely ideal for them or the critical reader.

I'll link this article by Michael Volkmann, a disillusioned journalist.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 29 August 2014 06:21:54PM 1 point [-]

The link is making a different argument-- it says the problem isn't with the journalists or with their bosses, it's that the public isn't paying attention to the stories journalists are risking their necks to get.

Comment author: knb 29 August 2014 10:06:46AM *  7 points [-]

The analogies are much deeper here than merely "he is a guy we don't like, therefore Hitler". Things that happen inside Russia are also very disturbing -- I am trying to ignore politics, and I usually don't care about what happens in Russia, but some news still get to me -- Putin's supporters are openly nationalist, racist, homophobic, pretty much everything you associate with fascism, he has a strong support of the Orthodox Church, journalists who criticize him are assassinated.

All of these things also apply to the other examples I mentioned, and many other countries besides. People said the same things about Saddam, Qaddafi, Assad, etc. Putin is of course saying similar things about his Ukrainian enemies to what you are saying about him. (Admittedly, they make it easy for him.)

There is no shortage of historical examples of historical revanchism, yet the "Hitler in 1939" analogy utterly dominates. So why rely 100% on one analogy. Why insist on using the example that is the closest stand-in for "evil psychopath who cannot be reasoned with, but must be destroyed utterly?"

Probably because you're in the midst of a media driven two-minutes hate. History begins and ends with Hitler, 1939!

(Seriously, your standard for being Hitleresque is being racist, homophobic, and nationalistic? It might be a fun exercise for you to write down a list of 100 historical leaders, determine how many were/were not racist, homophobic, or nationalistic. This will give you your Hitler/non-Hitler ratio. Do you think the ratios of Hitlers : non-Hitlers is greater or less than 1?)

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 29 August 2014 03:29:50PM 0 points [-]

Seriously, your standard for being Hitleresque is being racist, homophobic, and nationalistic?

Not just being nationalistic, not just being expansionist, but actually taking territory.

Comment author: Jurily 27 August 2014 11:10:08PM 1 point [-]

Is there a name for the following pattern?

  • Argument or just noticing confusion
  • "He looks way too confident, he's probably better at the field or has significant information"
  • Catastrophic failure more or less matching my predictions

I seem to run into this a lot lately, but the alternative of assuming I'm correct seems even worse. I'm also often not in a position to ask about the source of their confidence.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 28 August 2014 01:34:46AM 0 points [-]

Would you care to post some predictions?

Comment author: shminux 27 August 2014 11:26:03PM *  3 points [-]

Patrick McKenzie explains a bit more why he hates bitcoin:

My feelings about Bitcoin remind me of a fractal. Its a bad idea, and you zoom in at any part of it and discover new bad ideas, and there is in fact infinite resolution on how bad those ideas get. I have been working on a Why I Dislike Bitcoin For Technical Reasons essay for almost a year and cannot just hit publish because I dont know if ill ever be able to finish it.

Lets talk non-technical reasons.

When will I add support for crypto-currencies? Well, I sell a variety of products and services at price points between $29.95 and $30,000 a week, almost exclusively to professional Americans, with a small portion of the business being B2C and the larger part being B2B. I would accept Bitcoin if it were in demand from my customers. It isnt. It never will be because taking payment for legal products from the global rich is straightforward.

If you, like me, want to sell software, get a Stripe account and youre done. If you cant code sufficiently then use Gumroad or one of the numerous e-commerce systems and youre done. You will, at no point, have to explain to a Kansas schoolteacher (who thinks Internet Explorer is called the blue Googles) what crypto currency is, why she needs to download a new program to pay you, why she needs to give a company shes never heard of which isnt you withdraw access to her bank account to buy Scary Internet Voodoo, or how to process a novel transaction type shes never had to deal with before. You just get her to put in one of the several visa cards she has in her pocket.

But wait Patrick. You routinely transfer tens of thousands of dollars from the US to Japan. Wouldnt Bitcoin make that fast and easy?

No. Wire transfers are fast and easy  annoyingly expensive, to be true ($50 in fees plus the currency slippage), but J->US takes 45 minutes and US->J takes 48 hours. Throwing Bitcoin in the mix introduces numerous sources of risk. The odds-on place to do business for them in Japan  which people told me I should go get a job at (!)  is currently undergoing bankruptcy proceedings after losing about half a billion dollars of depositors money. If one of my $50k transfers had been tied up there, well, thats all she wrote for that, but at least I saved $50 on wire fees?

Asking my clients to acquire Bitcoin and pay me in them, which cuts out Bitcoin exchanges from the value chain, is a poor use of my time. Large companies, like the ones which happily pay $X0,000 invoices, will not do it. Full stop. To the extent that I want to change their minds about processes which are deep in the sinews of their company, it should not be their Accounts Payable department but rather their Marketing department, and after successfully implementing my ideas (which, unlike Bitcoin, will make them a lot of money) I will send in an invoice for a huge amount of money and predictably receive it.

> But Patrick, isnt Bitcoin a great platform for remittances? No, its a terrible platform for remittances because 98% of the problem of remittances is what is called in networks the Last Quarter Mile Problem and Bitcoin has no infrastructure for solving it on either end of the remittance and, even if they did, would not find themselves cost-competitive with Western Union. (The part between the last quarter miles being close-to-free doesnt help. Western Union can transfer money internally for close-to-free. The supermajority of their costs is maintaining an office which someone can go to in abuelitas village. Seriously, check their annual report.)

The above does not apply if you want to acquire nootropics from a questionable source overseas.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 28 August 2014 01:34:00AM 6 points [-]

Most of Patrick's arguments against Bitcoin are actually against offering Bitcoin exclusively rather than against offering Bitcoin as an option, probably with an added fee.

Comment author: cameroncowan 27 August 2014 06:46:57AM 0 points [-]

The actual medical knowledge is still requires but if you know the roots of things you can learn a great deal. The medical knowledge will give you meaning these can be quickly researched. In this day and time the ability to know a great deal of something requires only simple searches. I make a list of things to search all the time regular reading a research is Aristotelian.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 27 August 2014 02:27:03PM *  0 points [-]

Could you unpack that last sentence? I can't make sense of it. Aristotelian?

My procedure for coming up with search terms is to vaguely imagine a boring piece of writing about the subject I'm interested in, and then look for the least common words from it. If that doesn't work, then loosely mull for words inspired by the results that came up in the unsatisfactory searches.

Comment author: cameroncowan 26 August 2014 07:02:41PM 0 points [-]

Why not then just get a working knowledge of those languages? I had classical education and so I took latin and greek. I also speak some german as well as a working and halting conversational knowledge of french. When you have that you can understand the latin root from a word like ambulate or return.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 26 August 2014 08:44:44PM 3 points [-]

A working knowledge of the languages is a much larger project. I'm moderately good at figuring out medical terms, but that doesn't mean I can do more than guessing at translations of text.

Comment author: KnaveOfAllTrades 26 August 2014 01:10:00PM *  5 points [-]

Yep, I find the world a much less confusing place since I learned capitals and location on map. I had (and to some extent still do have) a mental block on geography which was ameliorated by it.

Rundown of positive and negative results:

In a similar but lesser way, I found learning English counties (and to an even lesser extent, Scottish counties) made UK geography a bit less intimidating. I used this deck because it's the only one on the Anki website I found that worked on my old-ass phone; it has a few howlers and throws some cities in there to fuck with you, but I learned to love it.

I suspect that learning the dates of monarchs and Prime Ministers (e.g. of England/UK) would have a similar benefit in contextualising and de-intimidating historical facts, but I never finished those decks and haven't touched them in a while, so never reached the critical mass of knowledge that allowed me to have a good handle on periods of British history. I found it pretty difficult to (for example) keep track of six different Georges and map each to dates, so slow progress put me off. Let me know if you're interested and want to set up a pact, e.g. 'We'll both do at least ten cards from each deck a day and report back to the other regularly' or something. In fact that offer probably stands for any readers.

I installed some decks for learning definitions in areas of math that I didn't know, but found memorising decontextualised definitions hard enough that I wasn't motivated to do it, given everything else I was doing and Anki-ing at the time. I still think repeat exposure to definitions might be a useful developmental strategy for math that nobody seems to be using deliberately and systematically, but I'm not sure Anki is a right way to do it. Or if it is, that shooting so far ahead of my current knowledge was the best way to do it. Similarly a LaTeX deck I got having pretty much never used LaTeX and not practising it while learning the deck.

Canadian provinces/territories I have not yet found useful beyond feeling good for ticking off learning the deck, which was enough for me since I did them in a session or two.

Languages Spoken in Each Country of the World (I was trying to do not just country-->languages but country-->languages with proportions of population speaking the languages) was so difficult and unrewarding in the short term that I lost motivation extremely quickly (this was months ago). The mental association between 'Berber' and 'North Africa' has come up a surprising number of times, though. Most recently yesterday night.

Periodic table (symbol<--->name, name<-->number) took lots of time and hasn't been very useful for me personally (I pretty much just learned it in preparation for a quiz). Learning just which elements are in which groups/sections of the Periodic table might be more useful and a lot quicker (since by far the main difficulty was name<--->number).

I am relatively often wanting for demographic and economic data, e.g. population of countries, population of major world cities, population of UK places, GDP's. Ideally I'd not just do this for major places since I want to get a good intuitive sense of these figures for very large or major places on down to tiny places.

Similarly if one has a hobby horse it could be useful. Examples off the top of my head (not necessarily my hobby horse): Memorising the results from the LessWrong surveys. Memorising the results from the PhilPapers survey. Memorising data about resource costs of meat production vs. other food production. Memorising failed AGI timeline predictions. Etc.

I found starting to learn Booker Prize winners on Memrise has let me have a few 'Ah, I recognise that name and literature seems less opaque to me, yay!' moments, but there's probably higher-priority decks for you to learn unless that's more your area.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 26 August 2014 02:26:57PM *  4 points [-]

What about learning a sense of scale, for both time and space?

planets and stars

replies to most common comments to the previous video

sub-atomic to hypothetical multi-universes-- uses pictures and numbers, no zooming. I hadn't realized how much overlap there is in size between the larger moons and smaller planets, and (in spite of having seen many pictures) hadn't registered that nebulas are much bigger than stars.

I'm going to post this before I spend a while noodling around science videos, but it might also be good to work on time scales and getting oriented among geological and historical time periods, including what things were happening at the same time in different parts of the world.

Comment author: ChristianKl 26 August 2014 01:26:51PM 2 points [-]

Attempting to learn medicine vocabulary without understanding the underlying knowledge base is quite hard. Taking a readymade deck of corresponding vocabulary usually leads to attempting to learn something without understanding. That leads to forgotten cards and is ineffective.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 26 August 2014 01:53:28PM 1 point [-]

How about starting with the Greek and Latin roots for medical terms?

Comment author: RomeoStevens 26 August 2014 06:04:21AM *  1 point [-]

Agreed, GiveWell has mentioned this WRT EA community building. That there seems to be a type EA appeals to and reaching people who are predisposed to be sympathetic to EA memes is a better use of time than trying to convince people who don't much care.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 26 August 2014 06:44:31AM 5 points [-]

Has anyone tried doing EA outreach to Unitarians?

Comment author: fubarobfusco 08 August 2014 05:38:13PM 17 points [-]

It doesn't seem to me that the author's objection to Las Vegas is that it is an inefficient use of resources. He does mention use of resources, but that isn't the main point of that section. (Italics in the original; boldface added.)

Like, by what standard is building gigantic forty-story-high indoor replicas of Venice, Paris, Rome, Egypt, and Camelot side-by-side, filled with albino tigers, in the middle of the most inhospitable desert in North America, a remotely sane use of our civilization’s limited resources?

And it occurred to me that maybe there is no philosophy on Earth that would endorse the existence of Las Vegas. Even Objectivism, which is usually my go-to philosophy for justifying the excesses of capitalism, at least grounds it in the belief that capitalism improves people’s lives. Henry Ford was virtuous because he allowed lots of otherwise car-less people to obtain cars and so made them better off. What does Vegas do? Promise a bunch of shmucks free money and not give it to them.

Las Vegas doesn’t exist because of some decision to hedonically optimize civilization, it exists because of a quirk in dopaminergic reward circuits, plus the microstructure of an uneven regulatory environment, plus Schelling points. A rational central planner with a god’s-eye-view, contemplating these facts, might have thought “Hm, dopaminergic reward circuits have a quirk where certain tasks with slightly negative risk-benefit ratios get an emotional valence associated with slightly positive risk-benefit ratios, let’s see if we can educate people to beware of that.” People within the system, following the incentives created by these facts, think: “Let’s build a forty-story-high indoor replica of ancient Rome full of albino tigers in the middle of the desert, and so become slightly richer than people who didn’t!”

It isn't just that Vegas pours money into a hole in the desert that could be better used on something that makes people a lot better off. It's that Vegas makes people worse off by exploiting a bug in human cognition. And that the incentive structure of modern capitalism — with a little help from organized crime, historically — drove lots of resources into exploiting this ugly bug.

A self-aware designer of ants would probably want to fix the bug that leads to ant mills, the glitch in trail-following behavior that allows hundreds or thousands of ants to purposelessly walk in a loop until they walk themselves to death. But for an ant, following trails is a good (incentivized) behavior, even though it sometimes gets "exploited" by an ant mill.

The point isn't "Vegas is bad because it's not optimal." It's "Vegas is a negative-sum condition arising from a bug in an economic algorithm implemented cellularly. Reflection allows us to notice that bug, and capitalism gives us the opportunity to exploit it but not to fix it."

Ants aren't smart enough to worry about ant mills. Humans are smart enough to worry about civilization degenerating into negative-sum cognitive-bug-exploiting apparatus.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 24 August 2014 04:52:01AM 0 points [-]

The Elua thing about Las Vegas isn't that people can be snagged by intermittent reward, it's that people would like to have some sparkle with their intermittent rewards, so you get the extravagant architecture.

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