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Comment author: Wei_Dai 09 September 2017 04:58:00PM *  0 points [-]

I'm curious if you occasionally unblock your Facebook newsfeed to check if things have gotten better or worse. I haven't been using Facebook much until recently, but I've noticed a couple of very user-unfriendly "features" that seem to indicate that FB just doesn't care much about its public image. One is suggested posts (e.g., "Popular Across Facebook") that are hard to distinguish from posts from friends, and difficult to ad-block (due to looking just like regular posts in HTML). Another is fake instant message notifications on the mobile app whenever I "friend" someone new, that try to entice me into installing its instant messaging app (only to find out that the "notification" merely says I can now instant message that person). If I don't install the IM app, I get more and more of these fake notifications (2 from one recent "friend" and 4 from another).

Has it always been this bad or even worse in the past? Does it seem to you that FB is becoming more user-aligned, or less?

ETA: I just saw this post near the top of Hacker News, pointing out a bunch of other FB features designed to increase user engagement at the expense of their actual interests. The author seems to think the problem has gotten a lot worse over time.

Comment author: paulfchristiano 16 September 2017 03:43:55AM 0 points [-]

I think that Facebook's behavior has probably gotten worse over time as part of general move towards cashing in / monetizing.

I don't think I've looked at my feed in a few years.

On the original point: I think at equilibrium services like Facebook maximize total welfare, then take their cut in a socially efficient way (e.g. as payment). I think the only question is how long it takes to get there.

Comment author: peter_hurford 25 August 2017 08:14:18PM 0 points [-]

Have you thought about Vimium instead of Karabiner?

Comment author: paulfchristiano 30 August 2017 08:40:13PM 0 points [-]

I also use vimium, but there are lots of things it doesn't cover.

Comment author: Dustin 20 August 2017 07:34:25PM 0 points [-]

I'd be really interested in how someone uses (work|vim)flowy day to day.

I've started to use workflowy several times over the years but then just kind of drift away after a week or so...

Also, Ditto is a great clipboard manager for Windows.

Comment author: paulfchristiano 20 August 2017 09:27:17PM 1 point [-]

See here.

Ten small life improvements

16 paulfchristiano 20 August 2017 07:09PM

I've accumulated a lot of small applications and items that make my life incrementally better. Most of these ultimately came from someone else's recommendation, so I thought I'd pay it forward by posting ten of my favorite small improvements.

(I've given credit where I remember who introduced the item into my life. Obviously the biggest part of the credit goes to the creator.)

Video speed

Video Speed Controller lets you speed up HTML 5 video; it gives a nicer interface than the YouTube speed adjustment and works for most videos displayed in a browser (including e.g. netflix/amazon).

(Credit: Stephanie Zolayvar?)

Spectacle

Spectacle on OSX provides keyboard shortcuts to snap windows to any half or third of the screen (or full screen).

Pinned tabs + tab wrangler

I use tab wrangler to automatically close tabs (and save a bookmark) after 10m. I keep gmail and vimflowy pinned so that they don't close. For me, closing tabs after 10m is usually the right behavior.

Aggressive AdBlock

I use AdBlock for anything that grabs attention even if isn't an ad. I usually block "related content," "next stories," the whole youtube sidebar, everything on Medium other than the article, the gmail sidebar, most comment sections, etc. Similarly, I use kill news feed to block my Facebook feed.

Avoiding email inbox

I often need to write or look up emails during the day, which would sometimes lead me to read/respond to new emails and switch contexts. I've mostly fixed the problem by leaving gmail open to my list of starred emails rather than my inbox, ad-blocked the "Inbox (X)" notification, and pin gmail so that I can't see the "Inbox (X)" title.

Christmas lights

I prefer the soft light from christmas lights to white overhead lights or even softer lamps. My favorite are multicolored lights, though soft white lights also seem OK.

(Credit: Ben Hoffman)

Karabiner

Karabiner remaps keys in a very flexible way. (Unfortunately, it only works on OSX pre-Sierra. Would be very interested if there is any similarly flexible software that )

Some changes have helped me a lot:

  • While holding s: hjkl move the cursor. (Turn on "Simple Vi Mode v2") I find this way more convenient than the arrow keys.
  • While holding d: hjkl move the mouse. (Turn on "Mouse Keys Mode v2") I find this slightly more convenient than a mouse most of the time, but the big win is that I can use my computer when a bluetooth mouse disconnects.
  • Other stuff while holding s: (add this gist to your private.xml):
    • While holding s: u/o move to the previous and next word, n is backspace. 
    • While holding s+f: key repeat is 10x faster.
    • While holding s+a: hold shift (so cursor selects whatever it moves over, e.g. I can quickly select last ten words by holding a+s+f and then holding u for 1 second).

I'd definitely pay > a minute a day for these changes.

Keyboard

I find split+tented keyboards much nicer than usual keyboards. I use a Kinesis Freestyle 2 with this to prop it up. I put my touchpad on a raised platform between the keyboard halves. Alternatively, you might prefer the wire cutter's recommendations.

(Credit: Emerald Yang)

Vimflowy

Vimflowy is similar to Workflowy, with a few changes: it lets you "clone" bullets so they appear in multiple places in your document, has marks that you can jump to easily, and has much more flexible motions / macros / etc. I find all of these very helpful. The biggest downside for most people is probably modal editing (keystrokes issue commands rather than inserting text).

The biggest value add for me is the time tracking plugin. I use vimflowy essentially constantly, so this gives me extremely fine-grained time tracking for free.

Running locally (download from github) lets you use vimflowy offline, and using the SQLite backend scales to very large documents (larger than workflowy can handle).

(Credit: Jeff Wu and Zachary Vance.)

ClipMenu [hard to get?]

Keeps a buffer of the last 20 things you've copied, so that you can paste any one of them. Source for OSX is on github here, I'm not sure if it can be easily compiled/installed (binaries used to be available). Would be curious if anyone knows a good alternative or tries to compile it.

(Credit: Jeff Wu.)

Comment author: Wei_Dai 23 June 2017 08:15:27AM 1 point [-]

But in fact almost all s-risks occur precisely because of civilizations that hate suffering

It seems just as plausible to me that suffering-hating civilizations reduce the overall amount of suffering in the multiverse, so I think I'd wait until it becomes clear which is the case, even if I was concerned exclusively with suffering. But I haven't thought about this question much, since I haven't had a reason to assume an exclusive concern with suffering, until you started asking me to.

To be clear, even if we have modest amounts of moral uncertainty I think it could easily justify a "wait and see" style approach. But if we were committed to a suffering-focused view then I don't think your argument works.

Earlier in this thread I'd been speaking from the perspective of my own moral uncertainty, not from a purely suffering-focused view, since we were discussing the linked article, and Kaj had written:

The article isn't specifically negative utilitarian, though - even classical utilitarians would agree that having astronomical amounts of suffering is a bad thing. Nor do you have to be a utilitarian in the first place to think it would be bad: as the article itself notes, pretty much all major value systems probably agree on s-risks being a major Bad Thing

What's your reason for considering a purely suffering-focused view? Intellectual curiosity? Being nice to or cooperating with people like Brian Tomasik by helping to analyze one of their problems?

Comment author: paulfchristiano 26 June 2017 06:18:53AM 1 point [-]

What's your reason for considering a purely suffering-focused view?

Understanding the recommendations of each plausible theory seems like a useful first step in decision-making under moral uncertainty.

Comment author: Wei_Dai 22 June 2017 06:02:17PM *  0 points [-]

If we try to answer the question now, it seems very likely we'll get the answer wrong (given my state of uncertainty about the inputs that go into the question). I want to keep civilization going until we know better how to answer these types of questions. For example if we succeed in building a correctly designed/implemented Singleton FAI, it ought to be able to consider this question at leisure, and if it becomes clear that the existence of mature suffering-hating civilizations actually causes more suffering to be created, then it can decide to not make us into a mature suffering-hating civilization, or take whatever other action is appropriate.

Are you worried that by the time such an FAI (or whatever will control our civilization) figures out the answer, it will be too late? (Why? If we can decide that x-risk reduction is bad, then so can it. If it's too late to alter or end civilization at that point, why isn't it already too late for us?) Or are you worried more that the question won't be answered correctly by whatever will control our civilization?

Comment author: paulfchristiano 23 June 2017 06:53:13AM 0 points [-]

If you are concerned exclusively with suffering, then increasing the number of mature civilizations is obviously bad and you'd prefer that the average civilization not exist. You might think that our descendants are particularly good to keep around, since we hate suffering so much. But in fact almost all s-risks occur precisely because of civilizations that hate suffering, so it's not at all clear that creating "the civilization that we will become on reflection" is better than creating "a random civilization" (which is bad).

To be clear, even if we have modest amounts of moral uncertainty I think it could easily justify a "wait and see" style approach. But if we were committed to a suffering-focused view then I don't think your argument works.

Comment author: Wei_Dai 21 June 2017 10:19:48PM 3 points [-]

Do you think that it's clear/very likely that it is net helpful for there to be more mature suffering-hating civilizations? (On the suffering-focused perspective.)

My intuition is that there is no point in trying to answer questions like these before we know a lot more about decision theory, metaethics, metaphilosophy, and normative ethics, so pushing for a future where these kinds of questions eventually get answered correctly (and the answers make a difference in what happens) seems like the most important thing to do. It doesn't seem to make sense to try to lock in some answers (i.e., make our civilization suffering-hating or not suffering-hating) on the off chance that when we figure out what the answers actually are, it will be too late. Someone with much less moral/philosophical uncertainty than I do would perhaps prioritize things differently, but I find it difficult to motivate myself to think really hard from their perspective.

Comment author: paulfchristiano 22 June 2017 04:36:46PM 0 points [-]

This question seems like a major input into whether x-risk reduction is useful.

Comment author: Wei_Dai 21 June 2017 11:17:20AM *  3 points [-]

I don't recall seeing any argument for s-risks being a particularly plausible category of risks, let alone one of the most important ones.

There was some discussion back in 2012 and sporadically since then. (ETA: You can also do a search for "hell simulations" and get a bunch more results.)

I never saw anyone draw the conclusion that "hey, this looks like an important subcategory of x-risks that warrants separate investigation and dedicated work to avoid".

I've always thought that in order to prevent astronomical suffering, we will probably want to eventually (i.e., after a lot of careful thought) build an FAI that will colonize the universe and stop any potential astronomical suffering arising from alien origins and/or try to reduce suffering in other universes via acausal trade etc., so the work isn't very different from other x-risk work. But now that the x-risk community is larger, maybe it does make sense to split out some of the more s-risk specific work?

Comment author: paulfchristiano 21 June 2017 05:24:53PM 1 point [-]

I've always thought that in order to prevent astronomical suffering, we will probably want to eventually (i.e., after a lot of careful thought) build an FAI that will colonize the universe and stop any potential astronomical suffering arising from alien origins and/or try to reduce suffering in other universes via acausal trade etc., so the work isn't very different from other x-risk work.

It seems like the most likely reasons to create suffering come from the existence of suffering-hating civilizations. Do you think that it's clear/very likely that it is net helpful for there to be more mature suffering-hating civilizations? (On the suffering-focused perspective.)

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 20 June 2017 08:53:09PM 2 points [-]

especially given that suffering-focused ethics seems to somehow be connected with distrust of philosophical deliberation

Can you elaborate on what you mean by this? People like Brian or others at FRI don't seem particularly averse to philosophical deliberation to me...

This also seems like an attractive compromise more broadly: we all spend a bit of time thinking about s-risk reduction and taking the low-hanging fruit, and suffering-focused EAs do less stuff that tends to lead to the destruction of the world.

I support this compromise and agree not to destroy the world. :-)

Comment author: paulfchristiano 21 June 2017 05:20:47PM 2 points [-]

Can you elaborate on what you mean by this? People like Brian or others at FRI don't seem particularly averse to philosophical deliberation to me...

People vary in what kinds of values change they would consider drift vs. endorsed deliberation. Brian has in the past publicly come down unusually far on the side of "change = drift," I've encountered similar views on one other occasion from this crowd, and I had heard second hand that this was relatively common.

Brian or someone more familiar with his views could speak more authoritatively to that aspect of the question, and I might be mistaken about the views of the suffering-focused utilitarians more broadly.

Comment author: cousin_it 20 June 2017 05:20:58PM *  4 points [-]

Paul, thank you for the substantive comment!

Carl's post sounded weird to me, because large amounts of human utility (more than just pleasure) seem harder to achieve than large amounts of human disutility (for which pain is enough). You could say that some possible minds are easier to please, but human utility doesn't necessarily value such minds enough to counterbalance s-risk.

Brian's post focuses more on possible suffering of insects or quarks. I don't feel quite as morally uncertain about large amounts of human suffering, do you?

As to possible interventions, you have clearly thought about this for longer than me, so I'll need time to sort things out. This is quite a shock.

Comment author: paulfchristiano 21 June 2017 05:09:01PM 7 points [-]

large amounts of human utility (more than just pleasure) seem harder to achieve than large amounts of human disutility (for which pain is enough).

Carl gave a reason that future creatures, including potentially very human-like minds, might diverge from current humans in a way that makes hedonium much more efficient. If you assigned significant probability to that kind of scenario, it would quickly undermine your million-to-one ratio. Brian's post briefly explains why you shouldn't argue "If there is a 50% chance that x-risks are 2 million times worse, than they are a million times worse in expectation." (I'd guess that there is a good chance, say > 25%, that good stuff can be as efficient as bad stuff.)

I would further say: existing creatures often prefer to keep living even given the possibility of extreme pain. This can be easily explained by an evolutionary story, which suffering-focused utilitarians tend to view as a debunking explanation: given that animals would prefer keep living regardless of the actual balance of pleasure and pain, we shouldn't infer anything from that preference. But our strong dispreference for intense suffering has a similar evolutionary origin, and is no more reflective of underlying moral facts than is our strong preference for survival.

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