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In response to Sports
Comment author: [deleted] 27 December 2015 07:32:54AM 2 points [-]

Recreational sports is fun! Unfortunately, for me and perhaps many other people, high school quite ruined that - no real friends, an obligation to play, shouting. I'd rather walk alone for hours. You really are in luck here, that it didn't make it worse for you.

Although badminton with someone you like might be still nice:)

In response to comment by [deleted] on Sports
Comment author: adamzerner 27 December 2015 08:56:19AM *  1 point [-]

You really are in luck here, that it didn't make it worse for you.

It almost did. There was just a moment where I decided that I had enough and that I was going to get good.

In response to Sports
Comment author: Dustin 27 December 2015 12:35:07AM 2 points [-]

I think the difference between playing and spectating sports gets glossed over in lots of "sports are dumb" conversations.

I do not care at all about watching other people play sports. It's super boring.

Playing sports ball with people you enjoy being around is quite rewarding.

In response to comment by Dustin on Sports
Comment author: adamzerner 27 December 2015 03:55:21AM *  0 points [-]

I do not care at all about watching other people play sports. It's super boring.

Playing sports ball with people you enjoy being around is quite rewarding.

I assume you mean that you specifically find it boring/rewarding.


12 adamzerner 26 December 2015 07:54PM

This is intended to be a pretty broad discussion of sports. I have some thoughts, but feel free to start your own threads.

tl;dr - My impression is that people here aren't very interested in sports. My impression1 is that most people have something to gain by both competitive and recreational sports. With competitive sports you have to be careful not to overdo it. With recreational sports, the circumstances have to be right for it to be enjoyable. I also think that sports get a bad rep for being simple and dull. In actuality, there's a lot of complexity. 

1 - Why does this have to sound bad?! I have two statements I want to make. And for each of them, I want to qualify it by saying that it as an impression that I have. What is a better way to say this? 


I love sports. Particularly basketball. I was extremely extremely dedicated to it back in middle/high school. Actually, it was pretty much all I cared about (not an exaggeration). This may or not be crazy... but I wanted to be the best player who's ever lived. That was what I genuinely aspired and was working towards (~7th-11th grade).

My thinking: the pros practice, what, 5-6 hours a day? I don't care about anything other than basketball. I'm willing to practice 14 hours a day! I just need time to eat and sleep, but other than that, I value basketball above all else (friends, school...). Plus, I will work so much smarter than they do! The norm is to mindlessly do push ups and eat McDonalds. I will read the scientific literature and figure out what the most effective ways to improve are. I'm short and not too athletic, so I knew I was starting at a disadvantage, but I saw a mismatch between what the norm is and what my rate of improvement could be. I thought I could do it.

In some ways I succeeded, but ultimately I didn't come close to my goal of greatness. In short, I spent too much time on high level actions such as researching training methods and not enough time on object level work; and with school and homework, I simply didn't have enough time to put in the 14 hour days I envisioned. I was a solid high school player, but was no where near good enough to play college ball.

Take Aways

Intense work. I've gone through some pretty intense physical exercise. Ex. running suicides until you collapse. And then getting up to do more until you collapse again. It takes a lot of willpower to do that. I think willpower is like a muscle, and you have to train yourself to be able to work at such intensities. I haven't experienced anything intellectual that has required such intensity. Knowing that I am capable of working at high intensities has given me confidence that "I could do anything".

Ambition. The culture in athletic circles is often one where, "I'm not content being where I am". There's someone above you, and you want to beat them out. I guess that sort of exists in academic and career circles as well, but I don't think it's the same (in the average case; there's certainly exceptions). What explains this? Maybe there's something very visceral about lining up across from someone, getting physically and unambiguously beaten, and letting your teammates and yourself down.

Confidence. Often times, confidence is something you learn because you have to. Often times, if you're not confident, you won't perform, so you need to learn to be confident. But it's not just that; there's something else about the culture that promotes confidence (perhaps cockiness). Think: "I don't care who the opponent is, no one can stop me!".

Group Bonds. When you spend so much time with a group of people, go through exhausting practices together, and work as a team to experience wins and losses, you develop a certain bond that is enjoyable. It reminds me a bit of putting in long hours on a project and eventually meeting the deadline, but it isn't the same.

Other: There's certainly other things I'm forgetting.

All of that said, there are downsides that correspond with all of these benefits. My overarching opinion is "all things in moderation". Ambition can be poison. So can the habitual productivity that often comes with ambition. Sometimes the atmosphere can backfire and make you less confident. And sometimes teammates can bully and be cruel. I've experienced the good and bad extremes along all of these axes.

Honestly, I'm not quite sure when it's worth it and when it isn't. I think it often depends on the person and the situation, but I think that in moderation, most people have a decent amount to gain (in aggregate) by experiencing these things.


So far I've really only talked about competitive sports. Now I want to talk about recreational sports. With competitive sports, as I mention above, I think there's a somewhat fine line between underdoing it and overdoing it. But I think that line is a lot wider for recreational sports. I think it's wide enough such that recreational sports are very often a good choice.

One huge benefit of recreational sports is that it's a fun way to get exercise. You do/should exercise anyway; why not make a game out of it?

Part of me feels like sports are just inherently fun! I know that calling them inherently fun is too strong a statement, but I think that under the right circumstances, they often are fun (I think the same point can be applied to most other things as well).

In practice, what goes wrong?

  • You aren't in shape. You're playing a pick up basketball game where everyone else is running up and down the court and you're too winded to breathe. That's no fun.
  • Physical bumps and bruises. You're playing football and get knocked around, or perhaps injured.
  • Lack of involvement.
    • You're playing baseball. You only get to hit 1/18th of the time. And you are playing right field and no one ever hits it to you (for these reasons, I don't like baseball).
    • You're playing soccer with people who don't know how to space the field and move the ball, and you happen to get excluded.
    • You're playing basketball where each team has a ball hog who brings up the ball and shoots it every possession.
  • Difficulty-skill mismatch. You're playing with people who are way too good for you, so it isn't fun. Alternatively, maybe you're way better than the people you're playing with and aren't being challenged.
  • Other. Again, I'm sure there are things I'm not thinking of.
For the most part, I feel like the things that go wrong are correctable, and once corrected, I predict that the sport will become enjoyable (some things are inherent, like the bumps and bruises in tackle football; but there's always two-hand touch!).

I even see a business opportunity here! Currently, these are all legitimate problems. I think that if these were corrected, a lot of utility/value would be generated. What if you could sign up and be provided with recreational games, with enough time for you to rest so you're not exhausted, where your teammates and opponents are respectful and considerate, where you're involved in the game, and where your teammates and opponents are roughly at your skill level.


I sense that sports get a bit of an unfair rep for being simple and dull games. Maybe some are, but I think that most aren't.

Perhaps it's because of the way most people experience the game. Take basketball as an example. A lot of people just like to watch to see whether the ball goes in the hoop or not and cheer. Ie. they experience the game in a very binary way. Observing this, it may be tempting to think, "Ugh, what a stupid game." But what happens when you steelman?

I happen to know a lot about basketball, so I experience the game very differently. Here's an example:

Iguodala has the ball and is being guarded by LeBron. LeBron is playing close and is in a staggered stance. He's vulnerable and Iguodala should attack his lead foot. People (even NBA players) don't look at this enough! Actually no, he shouldn't attack: the weak side help defense looks like it's in position, and LeBron is great at recovery. Plus, you have to think about the opportunity cost. Curry has Dellavedova and could definitely take him. Meaning, if Delly plays off, Curry can take a shot, but if Delly plays him more tightly, Curry could penetrate and either score or set someone else up, depending on how the help defense reacts. That approach has a pretty high expected value. But actually, Draymond Green looks like he has JR Smith on him (who is much smaller), which probably has an even higher expected value than Curry taking Delly. But to get Green the ball they'd have to reverse it to the weak side, and they'd have to keep the court spaced such that the Cavs won't have an opportunity to switch a bigger defender on to Green. All of this is in contrast with running a motion offense or some set plays. And you also have to take into account the stamina of the other team. Maybe you want to attack LeBron on defense to make him work, get him tired, and make him less effective on offense (I think this is a great approach to take against Curry and the Warriors, because Curry isn't a good defender and is lethal on offense).

Hopefully you could see that the amount of information there is to process in any given second is extremely high! If you know what to look for. Personally, I've never played organized football. But after playing the video game Madden (and doing some further research), I've learned a good amount about how the game works. Now when I watch football, I know the intricacies of the game and am watching for them. The density of information + the excitement, skill and physicality makes these ports extremely enjoyable for me to watch. Alternatively, I don't know too much about golf and don't enjoy watching it. All I see when I watch golf is, "The ball was hit closer to the hole... the ball was hit closer to the hole... the ball was it in the hole. This was a par 3, so that must have been an average performance."


Comment author: adamzerner 21 December 2015 04:41:37AM *  0 points [-]

If these extreme emotions are indeed useful, then maybe we should look to explicitly seek them out (depending on whether we think we're below the optimal level of the emotion in question).

  • To generate the ups, maybe it'd be a good idea to hang out with friends, get drunk, and dream about ambitious ideas. Only focusing on the happy paths. Well, people already do this but I guess my point is that maybe it should be done more often and more explicitly.
  • I'm not sure how the downs would be generated.

Thoughts on the usefulness of these emotions:

  • I agree that the ups are useful (motivation, communicate your excitement...). There are downsides like overconfidence, but I think these downsides are usually outweighed by the benefits.
  • As for the downs, my impression is that a lot of the time it just makes people lethargic and doesn't really motivate change. But then there are times when they do motivate change. It seems that people experience more than the optimal level of "downs". You could make the point that this is because people don't handle the downs well, but even if they were better handled I'm still bearish on the value of downs.
  • (I spent over a year working on a startup that failed and went through these emotions.)

To anyone who hasn't seen it, Inside Out is a movie that is relevant to this talk about the usefulness of "ups" and "downs".

Comment author: AlexMennen 12 December 2015 12:26:44AM *  14 points [-]

From their website, it looks like they'll be doing a lot of deep learning research and making the results freely available, which doesn't sound like it would accelerate Friendly AI relative to AI as a whole. I hope they've thought this through.

Edit: It continues to look like their strategy might be counterproductive. [Edited again in response to this.]

Comment author: adamzerner 12 December 2015 04:46:36PM 0 points [-]

Maybe the apparent incompetence is a publicity game, and the do actually know what they're doing?

Comment author: ChristianKl 25 November 2015 05:17:18PM -1 points [-]

'Say' is usually a word that refers to verbal experssion.

Are you saying that you do have "X is more likely to be true" as a voice in your head?

Comment author: adamzerner 25 November 2015 08:51:26PM *  0 points [-]

Are you saying that you do have "X is more likely to be true" as a voice in your head?


Comment author: ChristianKl 25 November 2015 03:25:55PM -1 points [-]

I asked what you do and you said something that's not what you do.

In my model most people don't explicitely update at all but let their brains shift beliefs in the way the brain is accustomed to do.

Comment author: adamzerner 25 November 2015 04:48:32PM *  0 points [-]

I asked what you do and you said something that's not what you do.

You asked what mental operation I do. In my head, I do say "X is more likely to be true".

Comment author: ChristianKl 25 November 2015 10:10:31AM -1 points [-]

You mean you move your mouth and those words come out?

Comment author: adamzerner 25 November 2015 02:08:50PM 0 points [-]

(I apologize if I'm not understanding your point/question.)

As for what words I actually speak, sometimes I say something along the lines of along the lines of "It's ok, your intuition still means something".

Comment author: ChristianKl 24 November 2015 10:46:39PM 1 point [-]

I do update

What does that mean in practice? What mental operation do you do?

Comment author: adamzerner 24 November 2015 11:19:37PM 1 point [-]

I say, "X is more likely to be true".

Comment author: ChristianKl 24 November 2015 06:00:17PM 1 point [-]

Do you go through an explicit updating procedure on a regular basis in conversations like that? I don't and I think most people don't.

Comment author: adamzerner 24 November 2015 09:15:56PM 2 points [-]

When someone says that they believe X but can't explain why, I do update. As for how I update, it isn't much more than querying my intuition to see what they're track record is in similar contexts.

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