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Searching for consequence-imagining games for children

6 paper-machine 19 February 2013 05:59PM

A friend of mine has a rather precocious daughter with poor impulse control, and asked if I knew any behavior games that encourage children to think out the consequences of actions before they do them.

I'm familiar with the Good Behavior Game and the like, but standard conditioning hasn't been very effective with this child in the past. She's quite clever about subverting rules when possible, and shutting down entirely when subversion fails.

Please, one suggestion per thread so that the karma thing can do its thing.

[LINK] Judea Pearl wins 2011 Turing Award

20 paper-machine 15 March 2012 04:32PM

Link to ACM press release.

In addition to their impact on probabilistic reasoning, Bayesian networks completely changed the way causality is treated in the empirical sciences, which are based on experiment and observation. Pearl's work on causality is crucial to the understanding of both daily activity and scientific discovery. It has enabled scientists across many disciplines to articulate causal statements formally, combine them with data, and evaluate them rigorously. His 2000 book Causality: Models, Reasoning, and Inference is among the single most influential works in shaping the theory and practice of knowledge-based systems. His contributions to causal reasoning have had a major impact on the way causality is understood and measured in many scientific disciplines, most notably philosophy, psychology, statistics, econometrics, epidemiology and social science.

While that "major impact" still seems to me to be in the early stages of propagating through the various sciences, hopefully this award will inspire more people to study causality and Bayesian statistics in general.

[LINK] The Hacker Shelf, free books.

9 paper-machine 14 February 2012 04:52PM

Yes, this a repost from Hacker News, but I want to point out some books that are of LW-related interest.

The Hacker Shelf is a repository of freely available textbooks. Most of them are about computer programming or the business of computer programming, but there are a few that are perhaps interesting to the LW community. All of these were publicly available beforehand, but I'm linking to the aggregator in hopes that people can think of other freely available textbooks to submit there.

The site is in its beginning explosion phase; in the time it took to write this post, it doubled in size. If previous sites are any indication, it will crest in a month or so. People will probably lose interest after three months, and after a year the site will probably silently close shop.

MacKay, Information Theory, Inference, and Learning Algorithms

I really wish I had an older version of this book; the newer one has been marred by a Cambridge UP ad on the upper margin of every page. Publishers ruin everything.

The book covers reasonably concisely the basics of information theory and Bayesian methods, with some game theory and coding theory (in the sense of data compression) thrown in on the side. The style takes after Knuth, but refrains from the latter's more encyclopedic tendencies. It's also the type of book that gives a lot of extra content in the exercises. It unfortunately assumes a decent amount of mathematical knowledge — linear algebra and calculus, but nothing you wouldn't find on the Khan Academy.

Hacker Shelf review, book website.

Easley and Kleinberg, Networks, Crowds, and Markets

There's just a lot of stuff in this book, most of it of independent interest. The thread that ties the book together is graph theory, and with it they cover a great deal of game theory, voting theory, and economics. There are lots of graphs and pictures, and the writing style is pretty deliberate and slow-paced. The math is not very intense; all their probability spaces are discrete, so there's no calculus, and only a few touches of linear algebra.

Hacker Shelf review, book website.

Gabriel, Patterns of Software

This is a more fluffy book about the practice of software engineering. It's rather old, but I'm linking to it anyway because I agree with the author's feeling that the software engineering discipline has more or less misunderstood Christopher Alexander's work on pattern languages. The author tends to ramble on. I think there's some good wisdom about programming practices and organizational management in general that one could abstract away from this book.

Hacker Shelf link, book website (scroll down).

Nisan et. al., Algorithmic Game Theory

I hesitate to link this because the math level is exceptionally high, perhaps high enough that anyone who can read the book probably knows the better part of its contents already. But game/decision theory is near and dear to LW's heart, so perhaps someone will gather some utility from this book. There's an awful lot going on in it. A brief selection: a section on the relationship between game theory and cryptography, a section on computation in prediction markets, and a section analyzing the incentives of information security.

Hacker Shelf review, book.

How much is karma worth, after all?

5 paper-machine 27 August 2011 09:23PM

It's been a couple days since the funding plea, so I thought I'd like to take this chance to compare self-reported donations to short-term karma gains. Naturally, I voted on none of these comments. Note that after posting this, the karma on these posts will almost definitely change; the values here are for 27/8/11 at around 9:00 GMT.

So, the data:

Note: two people (Kaj_Sotala and Rain) reported monthly commitments, but as far as I understand only the yearly pledge is matched, so for the purposes of this informal study I treat them as reporting X*12 USD donations, instead of X/month.

There's not enough data for an honest causal analysis (I tried), but there are a few observations one can make. Intuitively one expects karma to be determined by the donation amount, the duration of time since the posting, and some unknown error.

First observation: the users with the best USD/karma exchange rate made modest contributions early. Nisan came out best, with $6.25/karma — though some of this karma may be due also to the fantastic signal, on their part, that they overcame a rational hazard to make this donation. (Also, EY responded afterward, confounding the karmic flow with his wake.)

In this spirit, we now name "doing the least restrictive, obviously acceptable thing, instead of doing nothing while contemplating alternatives" Nisan's razor, (ニサンの剃刀, perhaps) unless it happens to have a better, previously-existing name.

Second observation: Hyperbolic discounting is alive and well. Those reporting monthly donations have karma below comparable one-shot donations, though both monthly data points did come slightly later than their one-shot counterparts.

Third observation: Large donations are really inefficient at netting karma. pengvado paid $277.48/karma; no one above 1000USD paid less than $50/karma.

Naturally, there's little point to this analysis. If anyone is trying to maximize net karma by donating to SIAI, something is probably wrong with their priorities.