Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 21 September 2014 05:38:13AM -2 points [-]

"The spatial anomaly has interacted with the tachyonic radiation in the nebula, it's interfering with our sensors. It's impossible to get a reading."

"There's no time - we'll have to take the ship straight through it!"

"Captain, I advise against this course of action. I have calculated the odds against our surviving such an action at three thousand, seven hundred and forty-five to one."

"Damn the odds, we've got to try... wait a second. Where, exactly, did you get that number from?"

"I hardly think this is the time for-"

"No. No, fuck you, this is exactly the time. The fate of the galaxy is at stake. Trillions of lives are hanging in the balance. You just pulled four significant digits out of your ass, I want to see you show your goddamn work."

"Well, I used the actuarial data from the past fifty years, relating to known cases of ships passing through nebulae that are interacting with spatial anomalies. There have been approximately two million such incidents reported, with only five hundred and forty-two incidents in which the ship in question survived intact."

"And did you at all take into account that ship building technology has improved over the past fifty years, and that ours is not necessarily an average ship?"

"Indeed I did, Captain. I weighted the cases differently based on how recent they were, and how close the ship in question was in build to our own. For example, one of the incidents with a happy ending was forty-seven years ago, but their ship was a model roughly five times our size. As such, I counted the incident as having twenty-four percent of the relevance of a standard case."

"But what of our ship's moxie? Can you take determination and drive and the human spirit into account?"

"As a matter of fact I can, Captain. In our three-year history together, I have observed that both you and this ship manage to beat the odds with a measurable regularity. To be exact, we tend to succeed twenty-four point five percent more often than the statistics would otherwise indicate - and, in fact, that number jumps to twenty-nine point two percent specifically in cases where I state the odds against our success to three significant digits or greater. I have already taken that supposedly 'unknowable' factor into account with my calculations."

"And you expect me to believe that you've memorized all these case studies and performed this ridiculously complicated calculation in your head within the course of a normal conversation?"

"Yes. With all due respect to your species, I am not human. While I freely admit that you do have greater insight into fields such as emotion, interpersonal relations, and spirituality than I do, in the fields of memory and calculation, I am capable of feats that would be quite simply impossible for you. Furthermore, if I may be perfectly frank, the entire purpose of my presence on the bridge is to provide insights such as these to help facilitate your command decisions. If you're not going to heed my advice, why am I even here?"

"Mm. And we're still sitting at three thousand seven hundred to one against?"

"Three thousand, seven hundred and forty five to one."

"Well, shit. Well, let's go around, then.

Leftover Soup

Comment author: Salemicus 11 March 2014 06:14:13PM 8 points [-]

But we are working less and less due to vastly increased productivity, and it's very clear in any graph of hours worked over time. And the effect is even bigger than the statistics show, because of the big shift from non-market to market labour - don't tell me that doing the laundry by hand, or being a subsistence farmer, isn't work, just because it's hard for government statisticians to measure! People today have far more leisure than at any time since the dawn of agriculture.

What is true is that hours worked haven't fallen as much as some people predicted (e.g. Keynes in "Economic Possiblities for our Grandchildren"). The reason for that seems pretty obvious - innovation doesn't just make us better at making the same old things, it also creates new things we want, and people have a pronounced tendency to underestimate the latter.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 21 September 2014 05:29:32AM 1 point [-]

It seems to me that there's a tremendous amount more fiction available in various media, and people are finding time to consume quite a lot of it.

Comment author: Salemicus 12 March 2014 04:42:28PM *  0 points [-]

I had not seen that paper; it is interesting and I will look over it more fully at another time. I should note that

  • They aren't measuring work, they are measuring leisure. For example, they count the big increase in time spent in education as eating into our leisure, which is true, but irrelevant to the question of whether we are working more.
  • Even those authors agree that per capita leisure increased by 4 hours per week over the past century in the USA.
  • Some of their claims are hard to believe. For example, they claim

Home-production time averaged over the population ages 14 and older decreased by only half an hour per week from 1900 to 2005.

Really? Despite the gas oven, the washing machine, the dishwasher, etc? They claim that the typical 25-54-aged woman worked 50.4 hours per week in home production in 1900, and 31.1 hours per week in 2005. This change is way too small to be plausible. I think, frankly, that all kinds of activities are now being classified as home production work that would not have been so classified in 1990, and that their broad categories ("childcare", etc) are unable to measure this.

You can see a general overview of the subject for the US here:


A nice blogger put together a graph over hours worked over time in US history here:


Data from various developed countries here:


Comment author: NancyLebovitz 21 September 2014 05:28:00AM 1 point [-]

More Work for Mother argues that the most of the physical labor was taken out of housework, but the amount of time required stayed high because standards went up.

Comment author: SaidAchmiz 12 March 2014 07:12:22AM *  5 points [-]

They don't have jobs in the traditional American sense of working for an employer for money. But I'd argue that their lifestyle is no less arduous than someone who does have a job. They still have to make arrangements for food, clothing, shelter and travel, and presumably they're doing something of value to earn those resources. That's work, even if it isn't a job, as traditionally defined.

I disagree with "presumably they're doing something of value to earn those resources". All that we know is that they are acquiring the resources somehow. They could be doing so in various clearly-unethical ways, like theft, con artistry, or what have you.

Of course, the more likely scenario is that these people simply are good at convincing people to hand them things basically for free, or in any case in exchange for substantially less value than they're receiving. There are some people who have this talent.

As far as the lifestyles being arduous, well, I'll let the author of this Leftover Soup comic handle that one:

Cheryl could very well put in 110% effort and learn how to cook expertly, and very well might still be immediately fired, in much the same way that working hard in school and getting straight As does not entitle one to a six figure job. One earns paychecks in exchange for the provision of value, not the expenditure of effort.

(emphasis mine)

In other words: their lifestyle is arduous? So what? That doesn't ethically entitle them to a damn thing.

I, for one, am glad for my job. It provides me the resources by which I carve out a tiny bubble of relative certainty in an uncertain world.

Wholeheartedly agreed.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 21 September 2014 04:50:20AM 1 point [-]

One earns paychecks in exchange for the provision of value, not the expenditure of effort.

Actually, one gets paychecks for the perception of the provision of value.

The boss (whether business, government, or non-profit) may be wrong about who's providing what, even though there are some pressures on bosses to get things right.

Also, the organization may be going under even if some of the people in it are providing value.

Comment author: ChristianKl 16 September 2014 12:00:17PM 3 points [-]

I think most people who suffer from back pain suffer from back pain because their muscles do something they shouldn't do. RSI is probably also an illness that has to do with muscles engaging in patterns of activation that's aren't healthy.

I personally had to relearn walking after 7 weeks of being in bed in the hospital. You need an amazing number of different muscles to walk and if you don't use a bunch you are walking suboptimally.

These days you can use approaches such as Feldenkrais to relearn how to use all your muscles but Feldenkrais isn't really science-based. A real science of movement that would have equipment that measures human movement very exactly and then runs machine learning algorithms over those measurements is likely yield a science-based version of Feldenkrais that's more efficient and where you can diagnose issues much better to be able to say beforehand whether Feldenkrais will help a person.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 20 September 2014 02:58:16PM 1 point [-]

I think I've found a scientifically-based system. It's based on anatomy, and uses pressure plates to establish how people move their weight when they stand and walk.

Unfortunately, the book costs $60, and is a book of principles and facts, not methods. Even though it's directed toward body-workers rather than people in general, it still doesn't include the exercises for activating the appropriate movement patterns to improve walking.

Nonetheless, I'm experimenting cautiously with what I can get out of it-- gently shifting the weight transfer patterns in my feet while walking toward what's recommended, for example. This may be doing some good, but I'll do more of a report later.

Author's blog

Comment author: ChristianKl 18 September 2014 09:43:49AM 2 points [-]

When speaking about battling ISIS, the alternatives for the West seems to be either air strikes or boots on the ground. Boots on the ground means actual personal. Why isn't there a version of boots on the ground that's completely robot based? Why are human bodies still needed for waging intercity warfare?

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 18 September 2014 10:17:24AM 1 point [-]

Because warfare is complicated? Are you talking about drone robots?

Comment author: hyporational 18 September 2014 04:34:30AM 3 points [-]

Accumulation of fat to vital organs like the liver could be a better predictor. Fatty liver can be diagnosed via ultrasound, which is cheap.

Being fat is a risk even if you get sick for other reasons. Rehabilitation suffers.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 18 September 2014 10:11:56AM 2 points [-]


Comment author: Tyrrell_McAllister 17 September 2014 05:43:42PM 1 point [-]

Thanks. I missed that.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 17 September 2014 06:28:32PM 4 points [-]

On the other hand, it didn't get any comments on the open thread, and it's getting some discussion here.

Comment author: Konkvistador 17 September 2014 05:40:53PM *  -1 points [-]

I should probably update this prediction. Considering Yudkowsky's recent pwnedness and pieces like this becoming common it is at least 10%.

Moldbug in 2008.

There is a very easy resolution to this problem: adopt the principle that no person is illegal. This rule is perfectly consistent with "applied Christianity." It is taught at all our great universities. It is implied every time a journalist deploys the euphemism "undocumented." And I'm sure there are dozens of ways in which it could be incorporated into our great Living Constitution. There is only one problem: the people are not quite ready for it.

But perhaps in thirty years they will be. Perhaps? I would bet money on it. And I would also bet that, by the time this principle is established, denying it will be the equivalent of racism. Us old fogeys who were born in the 1970s will be convulsed with guilt and shame at the thought that the US actually considered it ethically acceptable to turn away, deport, and otherwise penalize our fellow human beings, on the ridiculous and irrelevant grounds that they were born somewhere else.

So the Cathedral wins coming and going. Today, it does not suffer the political backlash that would be sure to ensue if the Inner Party endorsed opening the borders to... everyone. Still less if it actually did so. (Unless it let the new Americans vote as soon as they set foot on our sacred soil, which of course would be the most Christian approach.) And in 2038, having increased North America's population to approximately two billion persons, none of them illegal, and all living in the same Third World conditions which it has already inflicted on most of the planet, our blessed Cathedral will have the privilege of berating the past with its guilt for not having recognized the obvious truth that no person is illegal. Ain't it beautiful?

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 17 September 2014 06:26:05PM 4 points [-]

I'm dubious about borders getting opened that soon, considering how long it's taking to make moderate moves towards drug legalization.

Comment author: Lumifer 16 September 2014 03:49:45PM 1 point [-]

Well, technically the term "wireheading" comes from experiments which involved inserting an electrode (a "wire") into a rat's pleasure center and giving the rat a pedal to apply electric current to this wire. So yes, in the narrow sense wireheading is just the direct stimulation of the pleasure center.

However I use "wireheading" in the wide sense as well and there it means, essentially, the focus on deriving pleasure from externally caused but internal experiences and the lack of interest in or concern with the outside world. Wireheading in the wide sense is, basically, purified addiction.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 16 September 2014 04:28:35PM 2 points [-]

If we're living inside an FAI, "outside world" might be getting a little vague. This might even be true if we're still living in our DNA-based bodies.

Do you think an FAI would let people have access to anything it isn't at least monitoring, and more likely controlling?

View more: Next