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Redshift sleep experiment - Gwern.net
Redshift does influence my sleep.

One belief - that Redshift helped avoid bright light retarding the sleep cycle and enabling going to bed early - was borne: on Redshift days, I went to bed an average of 19 minutes earlier. (I had noticed this in my earliest Redshift usage in 2008 and noticed during the experiment that I seemed to be staying up pretty late some nights.) Since I value having a sleep schedule more like that of the rest of humanity and not sleeping past noon, this justifies keeping Redshift installed.

But I am also surprised at the lack of effect on the other aspects of sleep; I was sure Redshift would lead to improvements in waking and how I felt in the morning, if nothing else. Yet, while the exact effect tends to be better for the most important variables, the effect estimates are relatively trivial (less than a tenth increase in average morning feel? falling asleep 2 minutes faster?) and several are worse - I’m a bit baffled why deep sleep decreased, but it might be due to the lower total sleep.

So it seems Redshift is excellent for shifting my bedtime forward, but I can’t say it does much else.
ratty  gwern  data  analysis  intervention  effect-size  lifehack  quantified-self  hypothesis-testing  experiment  sleep  rhythm  null-result  software  desktop 
december 2019 by nhaliday
Ask HN: Favorite note-taking software? | Hacker News
Ask HN: What is your ideal note-taking software and/or hardware?: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13221158

my wishlist as of 2019:
- web + desktop macOS + mobile iOS (at least viewing on the last but ideally also editing)
- sync across all those
- open-source data format that's easy to manipulate for scripting purposes
- flexible organization: mostly tree hierarchical (subsuming linear/unorganized) but with the option for directed (acyclic) graph (possibly a second layer of structure/linking)
- can store plain text, LaTeX, diagrams, sketches, and raster/vector images (video prob not necessary except as links to elsewhere)
- full-text search
- somehow digest/import data from Pinboard, Workflowy, Papers 3/Bookends, Skim, and iBooks/e-readers (esp. Kobo), ideally absorbing most of their functionality
- so, eg, track notes/annotations side-by-side w/ original PDF/DjVu/ePub documents (to replace Papers3/Bookends/Skim), and maybe web pages too (to replace Pinboard)
- OCR of handwritten notes (how to handle equations/diagrams?)
- various forms of NLP analysis of everything (topic models, clustering, etc)
- maybe version control (less important than export)

candidates?:
- Evernote prob ruled out do to heavy use of proprietary data formats (unless I can find some way to export with tolerably clean output)
- Workflowy/Dynalist are good but only cover a subset of functionality I want
- org-mode doesn't interact w/ mobile well (and I haven't evaluated it in detail otherwise)
- TiddlyWiki/Zim are in the running, but not sure about mobile
- idk about vimwiki but I'm not that wedded to vim and it seems less widely used than org-mode/TiddlyWiki/Zim so prob pass on that
- Quiver/Joplin/Inkdrop look similar and cover a lot of bases, TODO: evaluate more
- Trilium looks especially promising, tho read-only mobile and for macOS desktop look at this: https://github.com/zadam/trilium/issues/511
- RocketBook is interesting scanning/OCR solution but prob not sufficient due to proprietary data format
- TODO: many more candidates, eg, TreeSheets, Gingko, OneNote (macOS?...), Notion (proprietary data format...), Zotero, Nodebook (https://nodebook.io/landing), Polar (https://getpolarized.io), Roam (looks very promising)

Ask HN: What do you use for you personal note taking activity?: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15736102

Ask HN: What are your note-taking techniques?: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9976751

Ask HN: How do you take notes (useful note-taking strategies)?: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13064215

Ask HN: How to get better at taking notes?: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21419478

Ask HN: How do you keep your notes organized?: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21810400

Ask HN: How did you build up your personal knowledge base?: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21332957
nice comment from math guy on structure and difference between math and CS: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21338628
useful comment collating related discussions: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21333383
highlights:
Designing a Personal Knowledge base: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8270759
Ask HN: How to organize personal knowledge?: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17892731
Do you use a personal 'knowledge base'?: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21108527
Ask HN: How do you share/organize knowledge at work and life?: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21310030
Managing my personal knowledge base: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22000791
The sad state of personal data and infrastructure: https://beepb00p.xyz/sad-infra.html
Building personal search infrastructure for your knowledge and code: https://beepb00p.xyz/pkm-search.html

How to annotate literally everything: https://beepb00p.xyz/annotating.html
Ask HN: How do you organize document digests / personal knowledge?: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21642289
Ask HN: Good solution for storing notes/excerpts from books?: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21920143
Ask HN: What's your cross-platform pdf / ePub reading workflow?: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22170395
some related stuff in the reddit links at the bottom of this pin

https://beepb00p.xyz/grasp.html
How to capture information from your browser and stay sane

Ask HN: Best solutions for keeping a personal log?: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21906650

other stuff:
plain text: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21685660

https://www.getdnote.com/blog/how-i-built-personal-knowledge-base-for-myself/
Tiago Forte: https://www.buildingasecondbrain.com

hn search: https://hn.algolia.com/?query=notetaking&type=story

Slant comparison commentary: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7011281

good comparison of options here in comments here (and Trilium itself looks good): https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18840990

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_note-taking_software

stuff from Andy Matuschak and Michael Nielsen on general note-taking:
https://twitter.com/andy_matuschak/status/1202663202997170176
https://archive.is/1i9ep
Software interfaces undervalue peripheral vision! (a thread)
https://twitter.com/andy_matuschak/status/1199378287555829760
https://archive.is/J06UB
This morning I implemented PageRank to sort backlinks in my prototype note system. Mixed results!
https://twitter.com/andy_matuschak/status/1211487900505792512
https://archive.is/BOiCG
https://archive.is/4zB37
One way to dream up post-book media to make reading more effective and meaningful is to systematize "expert" practices (e.g. How to Read a Book), so more people can do them, more reliably and more cheaply. But… the most erudite people I know don't actually do those things!

the memex essay and comments from various people including Andy on it: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:1cddf69c0b31

some more stuff specific to Roam below, and cf "Why books don't work": https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:b4d4461f6378

wikis:
https://www.slant.co/versus/5116/8768/~tiddlywiki_vs_zim
https://www.wikimatrix.org/compare/tiddlywiki+zim
http://tiddlymap.org/
https://www.zim-wiki.org/manual/Plugins/BackLinks_Pane.html
https://zim-wiki.org/manual/Plugins/Link_Map.html

apps:
Roam: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21440289
https://www.reddit.com/r/RoamResearch/
https://twitter.com/hashtag/roamcult
https://twitter.com/search?q=RoamResearch%20fortelabs
https://twitter.com/search?q=from%3AQiaochuYuan%20RoamResearch&src=typd
https://twitter.com/vgr/status/1199391391803043840
https://archive.is/TJPQN
https://archive.is/CrNwZ
https://www.nateliason.com/blog/roam
https://twitter.com/andy_matuschak/status/1190102757430063106
https://archive.is/To30Q
https://archive.is/UrI1x
https://archive.is/Ww22V
Knowledge systems which display contextual backlinks to a node open up an interesting new behavior. You can bootstrap a new node extensionally (rather than intensionally) by simply linking to it from many other nodes—even before it has any content.
https://twitter.com/michael_nielsen/status/1220197017340612608
Curious: what are the most striking public @RoamResearch pages that you know? I'd like to see examples of people using it for interesting purposes, or in interesting ways.
https://acesounderglass.com/2019/10/24/epistemic-spot-check-the-fate-of-rome-round-2/
https://twitter.com/andy_matuschak/status/1206011493495513089
https://archive.is/xvaMh
If I weren't doing my own research on questions in knowledge systems (which necessitates tinkering with my own), and if I weren't allergic to doing serious work in webapps, I'd likely use Roam instead!
https://talk.dynalist.io/t/roam-research-new-web-based-outliner-that-supports-transclusion-wiki-features-thoughts/5911/16
http://forum.eastgate.com/t/roam-research-interesting-approach-to-note-taking/2713/10
interesting app: http://www.eastgate.com/Tinderbox/
https://www.theatlantic.com/notes/2016/09/labor-day-software-update-tinderbox-scrivener/498443/

intriguing but probably not appropriate for my needs: https://www.sophya.ai/

Inkdrop: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20103589

Joplin: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15815040
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21555238

MindForgr: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22088175
one comment links to this, mostly on Notion: https://tkainrad.dev/posts/managing-my-personal-knowledge-base/

https://wreeto.com/

Leo Editor (combines tree outlining w/ literate programming/scripting, I think?): https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17769892

Frame: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18760079

https://www.reddit.com/r/TheMotte/comments/cb18sy/anyone_use_a_personal_wiki_software_to_catalog/
https://archive.is/xViTY
Notion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18904648
https://coda.io/welcome
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15543181

accounting: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19833881
Coda mentioned

https://www.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/ap437v/modified_cornell_method_the_optimal_notetaking/
https://archive.is/e9oHu
https://www.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/bt8a1r/im_about_to_start_a_one_month_journaling_test/
https://www.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/9cot3m/question_how_do_you_guys_learn_things/
https://archive.is/HUH8V
https://www.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/d7bvcp/how_to_read_a_book_for_understanding/
https://archive.is/VL2mi

Anki:
https://www.reddit.com/r/Anki/comments/as8i4t/use_anki_for_technical_books/
https://www.freecodecamp.org/news/how-anki-saved-my-engineering-career-293a90f70a73/
https://www.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/ch24q9/anki_is_it_inferior_to_the_3x5_index_card_an/
https://archive.is/OaGc5
maybe not the best source for a review/advice

interesting comment(s) about tree outliners and spreadsheets: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21170434
https://lightsheets.app/

tablet:
https://www.inkandswitch.com/muse-studio-for-ideas.html
https://www.inkandswitch.com/capstone-manuscript.html
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20255457
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october 2019 by nhaliday
Zettelkästen? | Hacker News
Here’s a LessWrong post that describes it (including the insight “I honestly didn’t think Zettelkasten sounded like a good idea before I tried it” which I also felt).

yeah doesn't sound like a good idea to me either. idk

the linked post: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:7a49d1d287f5
hn  commentary  techtariat  germanic  productivity  workflow  notetaking  exocortex  gtd  explore-exploit  business  comparison  academia  tech  ratty  lesswrong  idk  thinking  neurons  network-structure  software  tools  app  metabuch  writing  trees  graphs  skeleton  meta:reading  wkfly  worrydream  stay-organized  structure  multi 
october 2019 by nhaliday
Overcoming Bias : What’s So Bad About Concentration?
And occurs to me to mention that when these models allow “free entry”, i.e., when the number of firms is set by the constraint that they must all expect to make non-negative profits, then such models consistently predict that too many firms enter, not too few. These models suggest that we should worry more about insufficient, not excess, concentration.
ratty  hanson  economics  industrial-org  contrarianism  critique  models  GT-101  game-theory  examples  market-power  rent-seeking  regulation  increase-decrease  signum  error  markets  biases  efficiency 
september 2019 by nhaliday
Overcoming Bias : How Idealists Aid Cheaters
I’ve been reading the book Moral Mazes for the last few months; it is excellent, but also depressing, which is why it takes so long to read. It makes a strong case, through many detailed examples, that in typical business organizations, norms are actually enforced far less than members pretend. The typical level of checking is in fact far too little to effectively enforce common norms, such as against self-dealing, bribery, accounting lies, fair evaluation of employees, and treating similar customers differently. Combining this data with other things I know, I’m convinced that this applies not only in business, but in human behavior more generally.

We often argue about this key parameter of how hard or necessary it is to enforce norms. Cynics tend to say that it is hard and necessary, while idealists tend to say that it is easy and unnecessary. This data suggests that cynics tend more to be right, even as idealists tend to win our social arguments.

One reason idealists tend to win arguments is that they impugn the character and motives of cynics. They suggest that cynics can more easily see opportunities for cheating because cynics in fact intend to and do cheat more, or that cynics are losers who seek to make excuses for their failures, by blaming the cheating of others. Idealists also tend to say what while other groups may have norm enforcement problems, our group is better, which suggests that cynics are disloyal to our group.

Norm enforcement is expensive, but worth it if we have good social norms, that discourage harmful behaviors. Yet if we under-estimate how hard norms are to enforce, we won’t check enough, and cheaters will get away with cheating, canceling much of the benefit of the norm. People who privately know this fact will gain by cheating often, as they know they can get away with it. Conversely, people who trust norm enforcement to work will be cheated on, and lose.

When confronted with data, idealists often argue, successfully, that it is good if people tend to overestimate the effectiveness of norm enforcement, as this will make them obey norms more, to everyone’s benefit. They give this as a reason to teach this overestimate in schools and in our standard public speeches. And so that is what societies tend to do. Which benefits those who, even if they give lip service to this claim in public, are privately selfish enough to know it is a lie, and are willing to cheat on the larger pool of gullible victims that this policy creates.

That is, idealists aid cheaters.
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september 2019 by nhaliday
Treadmill desk observations - Gwern.net
Notes relating to my use of a treadmill desk and 2 self-experiments showing walking treadmill use interferes with typing and memory performance.

...

While the result seems highly likely to be true for me, I don’t know how well it might generalize to other people. For example, perhaps more fit people can use a treadmill without harm and the negative effect is due to the treadmill usage tiring & distracting me; I try to walk 2 miles a day, but that’s not much compared to some people.

Given this harmful impact, I will avoid doing spaced repetition on my treadmill in the future, and given this & the typing result, will relegate any computer+treadmill usage to non-intellectually-demanding work like watching movies. This turned out to not be a niche use I cared about and I hardly ever used my treadmill afterwards, so in October 2016 I sold my treadmill for $70. I might investigate standing desks next for providing some exercise beyond sitting but without the distracting movement of walking on a treadmill.
ratty  gwern  data  analysis  quantified-self  health  fitness  get-fit  working-stiff  intervention  cost-benefit  psychology  cog-psych  retention  iq  branches  keyboard  ergo  efficiency  accuracy  null-result  increase-decrease  experiment  hypothesis-testing 
august 2019 by nhaliday
The Existential Risk of Math Errors - Gwern.net
How big is this upper bound? Mathematicians have often made errors in proofs. But it’s rarer for ideas to be accepted for a long time and then rejected. But we can divide errors into 2 basic cases corresponding to type I and type II errors:

1. Mistakes where the theorem is still true, but the proof was incorrect (type I)
2. Mistakes where the theorem was false, and the proof was also necessarily incorrect (type II)

Before someone comes up with a final answer, a mathematician may have many levels of intuition in formulating & working on the problem, but we’ll consider the final end-product where the mathematician feels satisfied that he has solved it. Case 1 is perhaps the most common case, with innumerable examples; this is sometimes due to mistakes in the proof that anyone would accept is a mistake, but many of these cases are due to changing standards of proof. For example, when David Hilbert discovered errors in Euclid’s proofs which no one noticed before, the theorems were still true, and the gaps more due to Hilbert being a modern mathematician thinking in terms of formal systems (which of course Euclid did not think in). (David Hilbert himself turns out to be a useful example of the other kind of error: his famous list of 23 problems was accompanied by definite opinions on the outcome of each problem and sometimes timings, several of which were wrong or questionable5.) Similarly, early calculus used ‘infinitesimals’ which were sometimes treated as being 0 and sometimes treated as an indefinitely small non-zero number; this was incoherent and strictly speaking, practically all of the calculus results were wrong because they relied on an incoherent concept - but of course the results were some of the greatest mathematical work ever conducted6 and when later mathematicians put calculus on a more rigorous footing, they immediately re-derived those results (sometimes with important qualifications), and doubtless as modern math evolves other fields have sometimes needed to go back and clean up the foundations and will in the future.7

...

Isaac Newton, incidentally, gave two proofs of the same solution to a problem in probability, one via enumeration and the other more abstract; the enumeration was correct, but the other proof totally wrong and this was not noticed for a long time, leading Stigler to remark:

...

TYPE I > TYPE II?
“Lefschetz was a purely intuitive mathematician. It was said of him that he had never given a completely correct proof, but had never made a wrong guess either.”
- Gian-Carlo Rota13

Case 2 is disturbing, since it is a case in which we wind up with false beliefs and also false beliefs about our beliefs (we no longer know that we don’t know). Case 2 could lead to extinction.

...

Except, errors do not seem to be evenly & randomly distributed between case 1 and case 2. There seem to be far more case 1s than case 2s, as already mentioned in the early calculus example: far more than 50% of the early calculus results were correct when checked more rigorously. Richard Hamming attributes to Ralph Boas a comment that while editing Mathematical Reviews that “of the new results in the papers reviewed most are true but the corresponding proofs are perhaps half the time plain wrong”.

...

Gian-Carlo Rota gives us an example with Hilbert:

...

Olga labored for three years; it turned out that all mistakes could be corrected without any major changes in the statement of the theorems. There was one exception, a paper Hilbert wrote in his old age, which could not be fixed; it was a purported proof of the continuum hypothesis, you will find it in a volume of the Mathematische Annalen of the early thirties.

...

Leslie Lamport advocates for machine-checked proofs and a more rigorous style of proofs similar to natural deduction, noting a mathematician acquaintance guesses at a broad error rate of 1/329 and that he routinely found mistakes in his own proofs and, worse, believed false conjectures30.

[more on these "structured proofs":
https://academia.stackexchange.com/questions/52435/does-anyone-actually-publish-structured-proofs
https://mathoverflow.net/questions/35727/community-experiences-writing-lamports-structured-proofs
]

We can probably add software to that list: early software engineering work found that, dismayingly, bug rates seem to be simply a function of lines of code, and one would expect diseconomies of scale. So one would expect that in going from the ~4,000 lines of code of the Microsoft DOS operating system kernel to the ~50,000,000 lines of code in Windows Server 2003 (with full systems of applications and libraries being even larger: the comprehensive Debian repository in 2007 contained ~323,551,126 lines of code) that the number of active bugs at any time would be… fairly large. Mathematical software is hopefully better, but practitioners still run into issues (eg Durán et al 2014, Fonseca et al 2017) and I don’t know of any research pinning down how buggy key mathematical systems like Mathematica are or how much published mathematics may be erroneous due to bugs. This general problem led to predictions of doom and spurred much research into automated proof-checking, static analysis, and functional languages31.

[related:
https://mathoverflow.net/questions/11517/computer-algebra-errors
I don't know any interesting bugs in symbolic algebra packages but I know a true, enlightening and entertaining story about something that looked like a bug but wasn't.

Define sinc𝑥=(sin𝑥)/𝑥.

Someone found the following result in an algebra package: ∫∞0𝑑𝑥sinc𝑥=𝜋/2
They then found the following results:

...

So of course when they got:

∫∞0𝑑𝑥sinc𝑥sinc(𝑥/3)sinc(𝑥/5)⋯sinc(𝑥/15)=(467807924713440738696537864469/935615849440640907310521750000)𝜋

hmm:
Which means that nobody knows Fourier analysis nowdays. Very sad and discouraging story... – fedja Jan 29 '10 at 18:47

--

Because the most popular systems are all commercial, they tend to guard their bug database rather closely -- making them public would seriously cut their sales. For example, for the open source project Sage (which is quite young), you can get a list of all the known bugs from this page. 1582 known issues on Feb.16th 2010 (which includes feature requests, problems with documentation, etc).

That is an order of magnitude less than the commercial systems. And it's not because it is better, it is because it is younger and smaller. It might be better, but until SAGE does a lot of analysis (about 40% of CAS bugs are there) and a fancy user interface (another 40%), it is too hard to compare.

I once ran a graduate course whose core topic was studying the fundamental disconnect between the algebraic nature of CAS and the analytic nature of the what it is mostly used for. There are issues of logic -- CASes work more or less in an intensional logic, while most of analysis is stated in a purely extensional fashion. There is no well-defined 'denotational semantics' for expressions-as-functions, which strongly contributes to the deeper bugs in CASes.]

...

Should such widely-believed conjectures as P≠NP or the Riemann hypothesis turn out be false, then because they are assumed by so many existing proofs, a far larger math holocaust would ensue38 - and our previous estimates of error rates will turn out to have been substantial underestimates. But it may be a cloud with a silver lining, if it doesn’t come at a time of danger.

https://mathoverflow.net/questions/338607/why-doesnt-mathematics-collapse-down-even-though-humans-quite-often-make-mista

more on formal methods in programming:
https://www.quantamagazine.org/formal-verification-creates-hacker-proof-code-20160920/
https://intelligence.org/2014/03/02/bob-constable/

https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/questions/375342/what-are-the-barriers-that-prevent-widespread-adoption-of-formal-methods
Update: measured effort
In the October 2018 issue of Communications of the ACM there is an interesting article about Formally verified software in the real world with some estimates of the effort.

Interestingly (based on OS development for military equipment), it seems that producing formally proved software requires 3.3 times more effort than with traditional engineering techniques. So it's really costly.

On the other hand, it requires 2.3 times less effort to get high security software this way than with traditionally engineered software if you add the effort to make such software certified at a high security level (EAL 7). So if you have high reliability or security requirements there is definitively a business case for going formal.

WHY DON'T PEOPLE USE FORMAL METHODS?: https://www.hillelwayne.com/post/why-dont-people-use-formal-methods/
You can see examples of how all of these look at Let’s Prove Leftpad. HOL4 and Isabelle are good examples of “independent theorem” specs, SPARK and Dafny have “embedded assertion” specs, and Coq and Agda have “dependent type” specs.6

If you squint a bit it looks like these three forms of code spec map to the three main domains of automated correctness checking: tests, contracts, and types. This is not a coincidence. Correctness is a spectrum, and formal verification is one extreme of that spectrum. As we reduce the rigour (and effort) of our verification we get simpler and narrower checks, whether that means limiting the explored state space, using weaker types, or pushing verification to the runtime. Any means of total specification then becomes a means of partial specification, and vice versa: many consider Cleanroom a formal verification technique, which primarily works by pushing code review far beyond what’s humanly possible.

...

The question, then: “is 90/95/99% correct significantly cheaper than 100% correct?” The answer is very yes. We all are comfortable saying that a codebase we’ve well-tested and well-typed is mostly correct modulo a few fixes in prod, and we’re even writing more than four lines of code a day. In fact, the vast… [more]
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july 2019 by nhaliday
The Law of Leaky Abstractions – Joel on Software
[TCP/IP example]

All non-trivial abstractions, to some degree, are leaky.

...

- Something as simple as iterating over a large two-dimensional array can have radically different performance if you do it horizontally rather than vertically, depending on the “grain of the wood” — one direction may result in vastly more page faults than the other direction, and page faults are slow. Even assembly programmers are supposed to be allowed to pretend that they have a big flat address space, but virtual memory means it’s really just an abstraction, which leaks when there’s a page fault and certain memory fetches take way more nanoseconds than other memory fetches.

- The SQL language is meant to abstract away the procedural steps that are needed to query a database, instead allowing you to define merely what you want and let the database figure out the procedural steps to query it. But in some cases, certain SQL queries are thousands of times slower than other logically equivalent queries. A famous example of this is that some SQL servers are dramatically faster if you specify “where a=b and b=c and a=c” than if you only specify “where a=b and b=c” even though the result set is the same. You’re not supposed to have to care about the procedure, only the specification. But sometimes the abstraction leaks and causes horrible performance and you have to break out the query plan analyzer and study what it did wrong, and figure out how to make your query run faster.

...

- C++ string classes are supposed to let you pretend that strings are first-class data. They try to abstract away the fact that strings are hard and let you act as if they were as easy as integers. Almost all C++ string classes overload the + operator so you can write s + “bar” to concatenate. But you know what? No matter how hard they try, there is no C++ string class on Earth that will let you type “foo” + “bar”, because string literals in C++ are always char*’s, never strings. The abstraction has sprung a leak that the language doesn’t let you plug. (Amusingly, the history of the evolution of C++ over time can be described as a history of trying to plug the leaks in the string abstraction. Why they couldn’t just add a native string class to the language itself eludes me at the moment.)

- And you can’t drive as fast when it’s raining, even though your car has windshield wipers and headlights and a roof and a heater, all of which protect you from caring about the fact that it’s raining (they abstract away the weather), but lo, you have to worry about hydroplaning (or aquaplaning in England) and sometimes the rain is so strong you can’t see very far ahead so you go slower in the rain, because the weather can never be completely abstracted away, because of the law of leaky abstractions.

One reason the law of leaky abstractions is problematic is that it means that abstractions do not really simplify our lives as much as they were meant to. When I’m training someone to be a C++ programmer, it would be nice if I never had to teach them about char*’s and pointer arithmetic. It would be nice if I could go straight to STL strings. But one day they’ll write the code “foo” + “bar”, and truly bizarre things will happen, and then I’ll have to stop and teach them all about char*’s anyway.

...

The law of leaky abstractions means that whenever somebody comes up with a wizzy new code-generation tool that is supposed to make us all ever-so-efficient, you hear a lot of people saying “learn how to do it manually first, then use the wizzy tool to save time.” Code generation tools which pretend to abstract out something, like all abstractions, leak, and the only way to deal with the leaks competently is to learn about how the abstractions work and what they are abstracting. So the abstractions save us time working, but they don’t save us time learning.

https://www.benkuhn.net/hatch
People think a lot about abstractions and how to design them well. Here’s one feature I’ve recently been noticing about well-designed abstractions: they should have simple, flexible and well-integrated escape hatches.
techtariat  org:com  working-stiff  essay  programming  cs  software  abstraction  worrydream  thinking  intricacy  degrees-of-freedom  networking  examples  traces  no-go  volo-avolo  tradeoffs  c(pp)  pls  strings  dbs  transportation  driving  analogy  aphorism  learning  paradox  systems  elegance  nitty-gritty  concrete  cracker-prog  metal-to-virtual  protocol-metadata  design  system-design  multi  ratty  core-rats  integration-extension  composition-decomposition  flexibility  parsimony  interface-compatibility 
july 2019 by nhaliday
Links 3/19: Linkguini | Slate Star Codex
How did the descendants of the Mayan Indians end up in the Eastern Orthodox Church?

Does Parental Quality Matter? Study using three sources of parental variation that are mostly immune to genetic confounding find that “the strong parent-child correlation in education is largely causal”. For example, “the parent-child correlation in education is stronger with the parent that spends more time with the child”.

Before and after pictures of tech leaders like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Sergey Brin suggest they’re taking supplemental testosterone. And though it may help them keep looking young, Palladium points out that there might be other effects from having some of our most powerful businessmen on a hormone that increases risk-taking and ambition. They ask whether the new availability of testosterone supplements is prolonging Silicon Valley businessmen’s “brash entrepreneur” phase well past the point where they would normally become mature respectable elders. But it also hints at an almost opposite take: average testosterone levels have been falling for decades, so at this point these businessmen would be the only “normal” (by 1950s standards) men out there, and everyone else would be unprecedently risk-averse and boring. Paging Peter Thiel and everyone else who takes about how things “just worked better” in Eisenhower’s day.

China’s SesameCredit social monitoring system, widely portrayed as dystopian, has an 80% approval rate in China (vs. 19% neutral and 1% disapproval). The researchers admit that although all data is confidential and they are not affiliated with the Chinese government, their participants might not believe that confidently enough to answer honestly.

I know how much you guys love attacking EAs for “pathological altruism” or whatever terms you’re using nowadays, so here’s an article where rationalist community member John Beshir describes his experience getting malaria on purpose to help researchers test a vaccine.

Some evidence against the theory that missing fathers cause earlier menarche.

John Nerst of EverythingStudies’ political compass.
ratty  yvain  ssc  links  multi  biodet  behavioral-gen  regularizer  causation  contrarianism  education  correlation  parenting  developmental  direct-indirect  time  religion  christianity  eastern-europe  russia  latin-america  other-xtian  endocrine  trends  malaise  stagnation  thiel  barons  tech  sv  business  rot  zeitgeist  outcome-risk  critique  environmental-effects  poll  china  asia  authoritarianism  alt-inst  sentiment  policy  n-factor  individualism-collectivism  pro-rata  technocracy  managerial-state  civil-liberty  effective-altruism  subculture  wtf  disease  parasites-microbiome  patho-altruism  self-interest  lol  africa  experiment  medicine  expression-survival  things  dimensionality  degrees-of-freedom  sex  composition-decomposition  analytical-holistic  systematic-ad-hoc  coordination  alignment  cooperate-defect  politics  coalitions  ideology  left-wing  right-wing  summary  exit-voice  redistribution  randy-ayndy  welfare-state 
march 2019 by nhaliday
“Give Anything” | An Algorithmic Lucidity
As a freshman on my high school's cross country team, our captain told me that to be a good runner, you needed to love pain.

I objected: a great runner could love to race, I said, and endure the pain only for the sake of competing and winning.

It's only fifteen years later (practically one foot in the grave), that I now see that I was wrong and he was right.
ratty  techtariat  aphorism  running  fitness  stoic  impetus  ends-means  biases  emotion  endurance  cost-benefit  tradeoffs 
march 2019 by nhaliday
Manifold – man·i·fold /ˈmanəˌfōld/ many and various.
https://infoproc.blogspot.com/2019/01/a-grand-experiment.html
Silicon Valley (Big Tech and startups and VC)
Financial Markets
Academia (Good, Bad, and Ugly)
The View from Europe
The View from Asia (Life in PRC? Fear and Loathing of PRC?)
Frontiers of Science (AI, Genomics, Physics, ...)
Frontiers of Rationality
The Billionaire Life
MMA / UFC
What Millennials think us old folks don't understand
True things that you are not allowed to say
Bubbles that are ready to pop?
Under-appreciated Genius?
Overrated Crap and Frauds?
podcast  audio  stream  hsu  scitariat  science  frontier  interview  physics  genetics  biotech  technology  bio  interdisciplinary  spearhead  multi  genomics  sv  tech  finance  academia  europe  EU  china  asia  wealth  class  fighting  age-generation  westminster  censorship  truth  cycles  economics  people  realness  arbitrage  subculture  ratty  rationality 
march 2019 by nhaliday
Lateralization of brain function - Wikipedia
Language
Language functions such as grammar, vocabulary and literal meaning are typically lateralized to the left hemisphere, especially in right handed individuals.[3] While language production is left-lateralized in up to 90% of right-handers, it is more bilateral, or even right-lateralized, in approximately 50% of left-handers.[4]

Broca's area and Wernicke's area, two areas associated with the production of speech, are located in the left cerebral hemisphere for about 95% of right-handers, but about 70% of left-handers.[5]:69

Auditory and visual processing
The processing of visual and auditory stimuli, spatial manipulation, facial perception, and artistic ability are represented bilaterally.[4] Numerical estimation, comparison and online calculation depend on bilateral parietal regions[6][7] while exact calculation and fact retrieval are associated with left parietal regions, perhaps due to their ties to linguistic processing.[6][7]

...

Depression is linked with a hyperactive right hemisphere, with evidence of selective involvement in "processing negative emotions, pessimistic thoughts and unconstructive thinking styles", as well as vigilance, arousal and self-reflection, and a relatively hypoactive left hemisphere, "specifically involved in processing pleasurable experiences" and "relatively more involved in decision-making processes".

Chaos and Order; the right and left hemispheres: https://orthosphere.wordpress.com/2018/05/23/chaos-and-order-the-right-and-left-hemispheres/
In The Master and His Emissary, Iain McGilchrist writes that a creature like a bird needs two types of consciousness simultaneously. It needs to be able to focus on something specific, such as pecking at food, while it also needs to keep an eye out for predators which requires a more general awareness of environment.

These are quite different activities. The Left Hemisphere (LH) is adapted for a narrow focus. The Right Hemisphere (RH) for the broad. The brains of human beings have the same division of function.

The LH governs the right side of the body, the RH, the left side. With birds, the left eye (RH) looks for predators, the right eye (LH) focuses on food and specifics. Since danger can take many forms and is unpredictable, the RH has to be very open-minded.

The LH is for narrow focus, the explicit, the familiar, the literal, tools, mechanism/machines and the man-made. The broad focus of the RH is necessarily more vague and intuitive and handles the anomalous, novel, metaphorical, the living and organic. The LH is high resolution but narrow, the RH low resolution but broad.

The LH exhibits unrealistic optimism and self-belief. The RH has a tendency towards depression and is much more realistic about a person’s own abilities. LH has trouble following narratives because it has a poor sense of “wholes.” In art it favors flatness, abstract and conceptual art, black and white rather than color, simple geometric shapes and multiple perspectives all shoved together, e.g., cubism. Particularly RH paintings emphasize vistas with great depth of field and thus space and time,[1] emotion, figurative painting and scenes related to the life world. In music, LH likes simple, repetitive rhythms. The RH favors melody, harmony and complex rhythms.

...

Schizophrenia is a disease of extreme LH emphasis. Since empathy is RH and the ability to notice emotional nuance facially, vocally and bodily expressed, schizophrenics tend to be paranoid and are often convinced that the real people they know have been replaced by robotic imposters. This is at least partly because they lose the ability to intuit what other people are thinking and feeling – hence they seem robotic and suspicious.

Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West as well as McGilchrist characterize the West as awash in phenomena associated with an extreme LH emphasis. Spengler argues that Western civilization was originally much more RH (to use McGilchrist’s categories) and that all its most significant artistic (in the broadest sense) achievements were triumphs of RH accentuation.

The RH is where novel experiences and the anomalous are processed and where mathematical, and other, problems are solved. The RH is involved with the natural, the unfamiliar, the unique, emotions, the embodied, music, humor, understanding intonation and emotional nuance of speech, the metaphorical, nuance, and social relations. It has very little speech, but the RH is necessary for processing all the nonlinguistic aspects of speaking, including body language. Understanding what someone means by vocal inflection and facial expressions is an intuitive RH process rather than explicit.

...

RH is very much the center of lived experience; of the life world with all its depth and richness. The RH is “the master” from the title of McGilchrist’s book. The LH ought to be no more than the emissary; the valued servant of the RH. However, in the last few centuries, the LH, which has tyrannical tendencies, has tried to become the master. The LH is where the ego is predominantly located. In split brain patients where the LH and the RH are surgically divided (this is done sometimes in the case of epileptic patients) one hand will sometimes fight with the other. In one man’s case, one hand would reach out to hug his wife while the other pushed her away. One hand reached for one shirt, the other another shirt. Or a patient will be driving a car and one hand will try to turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction. In these cases, the “naughty” hand is usually the left hand (RH), while the patient tends to identify herself with the right hand governed by the LH. The two hemispheres have quite different personalities.

The connection between LH and ego can also be seen in the fact that the LH is competitive, contentious, and agonistic. It wants to win. It is the part of you that hates to lose arguments.

Using the metaphor of Chaos and Order, the RH deals with Chaos – the unknown, the unfamiliar, the implicit, the emotional, the dark, danger, mystery. The LH is connected with Order – the known, the familiar, the rule-driven, the explicit, and light of day. Learning something means to take something unfamiliar and making it familiar. Since the RH deals with the novel, it is the problem-solving part. Once understood, the results are dealt with by the LH. When learning a new piece on the piano, the RH is involved. Once mastered, the result becomes a LH affair. The muscle memory developed by repetition is processed by the LH. If errors are made, the activity returns to the RH to figure out what went wrong; the activity is repeated until the correct muscle memory is developed in which case it becomes part of the familiar LH.

Science is an attempt to find Order. It would not be necessary if people lived in an entirely orderly, explicit, known world. The lived context of science implies Chaos. Theories are reductive and simplifying and help to pick out salient features of a phenomenon. They are always partial truths, though some are more partial than others. The alternative to a certain level of reductionism or partialness would be to simply reproduce the world which of course would be both impossible and unproductive. The test for whether a theory is sufficiently non-partial is whether it is fit for purpose and whether it contributes to human flourishing.

...

Analytic philosophers pride themselves on trying to do away with vagueness. To do so, they tend to jettison context which cannot be brought into fine focus. However, in order to understand things and discern their meaning, it is necessary to have the big picture, the overview, as well as the details. There is no point in having details if the subject does not know what they are details of. Such philosophers also tend to leave themselves out of the picture even when what they are thinking about has reflexive implications. John Locke, for instance, tried to banish the RH from reality. All phenomena having to do with subjective experience he deemed unreal and once remarked about metaphors, a RH phenomenon, that they are “perfect cheats.” Analytic philosophers tend to check the logic of the words on the page and not to think about what those words might say about them. The trick is for them to recognize that they and their theories, which exist in minds, are part of reality too.

The RH test for whether someone actually believes something can be found by examining his actions. If he finds that he must regard his own actions as free, and, in order to get along with other people, must also attribute free will to them and treat them as free agents, then he effectively believes in free will – no matter his LH theoretical commitments.

...

We do not know the origin of life. We do not know how or even if consciousness can emerge from matter. We do not know the nature of 96% of the matter of the universe. Clearly all these things exist. They can provide the subject matter of theories but they continue to exist as theorizing ceases or theories change. Not knowing how something is possible is irrelevant to its actual existence. An inability to explain something is ultimately neither here nor there.

If thought begins and ends with the LH, then thinking has no content – content being provided by experience (RH), and skepticism and nihilism ensue. The LH spins its wheels self-referentially, never referring back to experience. Theory assumes such primacy that it will simply outlaw experiences and data inconsistent with it; a profoundly wrong-headed approach.

...

Gödel’s Theorem proves that not everything true can be proven to be true. This means there is an ineradicable role for faith, hope and intuition in every moderately complex human intellectual endeavor. There is no one set of consistent axioms from which all other truths can be derived.

Alan Turing’s proof of the halting problem proves that there is no effective procedure for finding effective procedures. Without a mechanical decision procedure, (LH), when it comes to … [more]
gnon  reflection  books  summary  review  neuro  neuro-nitgrit  things  thinking  metabuch  order-disorder  apollonian-dionysian  bio  examples  near-far  symmetry  homo-hetero  logic  inference  intuition  problem-solving  analytical-holistic  n-factor  europe  the-great-west-whale  occident  alien-character  detail-architecture  art  theory-practice  philosophy  being-becoming  essence-existence  language  psychology  cog-psych  egalitarianism-hierarchy  direction  reason  learning  novelty  science  anglo  anglosphere  coarse-fine  neurons  truth  contradiction  matching  empirical  volo-avolo  curiosity  uncertainty  theos  axioms  intricacy  computation  analogy  essay  rhetoric  deep-materialism  new-religion  knowledge  expert-experience  confidence  biases  optimism  pessimism  realness  whole-partial-many  theory-of-mind  values  competition  reduction  subjective-objective  communication  telos-atelos  ends-means  turing  fiction  increase-decrease  innovation  creative  thick-thin  spengler  multi  ratty  hanson  complex-systems  structure  concrete  abstraction  network-s 
september 2018 by nhaliday
Why read old philosophy? | Meteuphoric
(This story would suggest that in physics students are maybe missing out on learning the styles of thought that produce progress in physics. My guess is that instead they learn them in grad school when they are doing research themselves, by emulating their supervisors, and that the helpfulness of this might partially explain why Nobel prizewinner advisors beget Nobel prizewinner students.)

The story I hear about philosophy—and I actually don’t know how much it is true—is that as bits of philosophy come to have any methodological tools other than ‘think about it’, they break off and become their own sciences. So this would explain philosophy’s lone status in studying old thinkers rather than impersonal methods—philosophy is the lone ur-discipline without impersonal methods but thinking.

This suggests a research project: try summarizing what Aristotle is doing rather than Aristotle’s views. Then write a nice short textbook about it.
ratty  learning  reading  studying  prioritizing  history  letters  philosophy  science  comparison  the-classics  canon  speculation  reflection  big-peeps  iron-age  mediterranean  roots  lens  core-rats  thinking  methodology  grad-school  academia  physics  giants  problem-solving  meta:research  scholar  the-trenches  explanans  crux  metameta  duplication  sociality  innovation  quixotic  meta:reading  classic 
june 2018 by nhaliday
Dividuals – The soul is not an indivisible unit and has no unified will
Towards A More Mature Atheism: https://dividuals.wordpress.com/2015/09/17/towards-a-more-mature-atheism/
Human intelligence evolved as a social intelligence, for the purposes of social cooperation, social competition and social domination. It evolved to make us efficient at cooperating at removing obstacles, especially the kinds of obstacles that tend to fight back, i.e. at warfare. If you ever studied strategy or tactics, or just played really good board games, you have probably found your brain seems to be strangely well suited for specifically this kind of intellectual activity. It’s not necessarily easier than studying physics, and yet it somehow feels more natural. Physics is like swimming, strategy and tactics is like running. The reason for that is that our brains are truly evolved to be strategic, tactical, diplomatic computers, not physics computers. The question our brains are REALLY good at finding the answer for is “Just what does this guy really want?”

...

Thus, a very basic failure mode of the human brain is to overdetect agency.

I think this is partially what SSC wrote about in Mysticism And Pattern-Matching too. But instead of mystical experiences, my focus is on our brains claiming to detect agency where there is none. Thus my view is closer to Richard Carrier’s definition of the supernatural: it is the idea that some mental things cannot be reduced to nonmental things.

...

Meaning actually means will and agency. It took me a while to figure that one out. When we look for the meaning of life, a meaning in life, or a meaningful life, we look for a will or agency generally outside our own.

...

I am a double oddball – kind of autistic, but still far more interested in human social dynamics, such as history, than in natural sciences or technology. As a result, I do feel a calling to religion – the human world, as opposed to outer space, the human city, the human history, is such a perfect fit for a view like that of Catholicism! The reason for that is that Catholicism is the pinnacle of human intellectual efforts dealing with human agency. Ideas like Augustine’s three failure modes of the human brain: greed, lust and desire for power and status, are just about the closest to forming correct psychological theories far earlier than the scientific method was discovered. Just read your Chesterbelloc and Lewis. And of course because the agency radars of Catholics run at full burst, they overdetect it and thus believe in a god behind the universe. My brain, due to my deep interest in human agency and its consequences, also would like to be religious: wouldn’t it be great if the universe was made by something we could talk to, like, everything else that I am interested in, from field generals to municipal governments are entities I could talk to?

...

I also dislike that atheists often refuse to propose a falsifiable theory because they claim the burden of proof is not on them. Strictly speaking it can be true, but it is still good form to provide one.

Since I am something like an “nontheistic Catholic” anyway (e.g. I believe in original sin from the practical, political angle, I just think it has natural, not supernatural causes: evolution, the move from hunting-gathering to agriculture etc.), all one would need to do to make me fully so is to plug a God concept in my mind.

If you can convince me that my brain is not actually overdetecting agency when I feel a calling to religion, if you can convince me that my brain and most human brains detect agency just about right, there will be no reason for me to not believe in God. Because if there would any sort of agency behind the universe, the smartest bet would be that this agency would be the God of Thomas Aquinas’ Summa. That guy was plain simply a genius.

How to convince me my brain is not overdetecting agency? The simplest way is to convince me that magic, witchcraft, or superstition in general is real, and real in the supernatural sense (I do know Wiccans who cast spells and claim they are natural, not supernatural: divination spells make the brain more aware of hidden details, healing spells recruit the healing processes of the body etc.) You see, Catholics generally do believe in magic and witchcraft, as in: “These really do something, and they do something bad, so never practice them.”

The Strange Places the “God of the Gaps” Takes You: https://dividuals.wordpress.com/2018/05/25/the-strange-places-the-god-of-the-gaps-takes-you/
I assume people are familiar with the God of the Gaps argument. Well, it is usually just an accusation, but Newton for instance really pulled one.

But natural science is inherently different from humanities, because in natural science you build a predictive model of which you are not part of. You are just a point-like neutral observer.

You cannot do that with other human minds because you just don’t have the computing power to simulate a roughly similarly intelligent mind and have enough left to actually work with your model. So you put yourself into the predictive model, you make yourself a part of the model itself. You use a certain empathic kind of understanding, a “what would I do in that guys shoes?” and generate your predictions that way.

...

Which means that while natural science is relatively new, and strongly correlates with technological progress, this empathic, self-programming model of the humanities you could do millenia ago as well, you don’t need math or tools for this, and you probably cannot expect anything like straight-line progress. Maybe some wisdoms people figure out this way are really timeless and we just keep on rediscovering them.

So imagine, say, Catholicism as a large set of humanities. Sociology, social psychology, moral philosophy in the pragmatic, scientific sense (“What morality makes a society not collapse and actually prosper?”), life wisdom and all that. Basically just figuring out how people tick, how societies tick and how to make them tick well.

...

What do? Well, the obvious move is to pull a Newton and inject a God of the Gaps into your humanities. We tick like that because God. We must do so and so to tick well because God.

...

What I am saying is that we are at some point probably going to prove pretty much all of the this-worldy, pragmatic (moral, sociological, psychological etc.) aspect of Catholicism correct by something like evolutionary psychology.

And I am saying that while it will dramatically increase our respect for religion, this will also be probably a huge blow to theism. I don’t want that to happen, but I think it will. Because eliminating God from the gaps of natural science does not hurt faith much. But eliminating God from the gaps of the humanities and yes, religion itself?

My Kind of Atheist: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/08/my-kind-of-athiest.html
I think I’ve mentioned somewhere in public that I’m now an atheist, even though I grew up in a very Christian family, and I even joined a “cult” at a young age (against disapproving parents). The proximate cause of my atheism was learning physics in college. But I don’t think I’ve ever clarified in public what kind of an “atheist” or “agnostic” I am. So here goes.

The universe is vast and most of it is very far away in space and time, making our knowledge of those distant parts very thin. So it isn’t at all crazy to think that very powerful beings exist somewhere far away out there, or far before us or after us in time. In fact, many of us hope that we now can give rise to such powerful beings in the distant future. If those powerful beings count as “gods”, then I’m certainly open to the idea that such gods exist somewhere in space-time.

It also isn’t crazy to imagine powerful beings that are “closer” in space and time, but far away in causal connection. They could be in parallel “planes”, in other dimensions, or in “dark” matter that doesn’t interact much with our matter. Or they might perhaps have little interest in influencing or interacting with our sort of things. Or they might just “like to watch.”

But to most religious people, a key emotional appeal of religion is the idea that gods often “answer” prayer by intervening in their world. Sometimes intervening in their head to make them feel different, but also sometimes responding to prayers about their test tomorrow, their friend’s marriage, or their aunt’s hemorrhoids. It is these sort of prayer-answering “gods” in which I just can’t believe. Not that I’m absolutely sure they don’t exist, but I’m sure enough that the term “atheist” fits much better than the term “agnostic.”

These sort of gods supposedly intervene in our world millions of times daily to respond positively to particular prayers, and yet they do not noticeably intervene in world affairs. Not only can we find no physical trace of any machinery or system by which such gods exert their influence, even though we understand the physics of our local world very well, but the history of life and civilization shows no obvious traces of their influence. They know of terrible things that go wrong in our world, but instead of doing much about those things, these gods instead prioritize not leaving any clear evidence of their existence or influence. And yet for some reason they don’t mind people believing in them enough to pray to them, as they often reward such prayers with favorable interventions.
gnon  blog  stream  politics  polisci  ideology  institutions  thinking  religion  christianity  protestant-catholic  history  medieval  individualism-collectivism  n-factor  left-wing  right-wing  tribalism  us-them  cohesion  sociality  ecology  philosophy  buddhism  gavisti  europe  the-great-west-whale  occident  germanic  theos  culture  society  cultural-dynamics  anthropology  volo-avolo  meaningness  coalitions  theory-of-mind  coordination  organizing  psychology  social-psych  fashun  status  nationalism-globalism  models  power  evopsych  EEA  deep-materialism  new-religion  metameta  social-science  sociology  multi  definition  intelligence  science  comparison  letters  social-structure  existence  nihil  ratty  hanson  intricacy  reflection  people  physics  paganism 
june 2018 by nhaliday
Contingent, Not Arbitrary | Truth is contingent on what is, not on what we wish to be true.
A vital attribute of a value system of any kind is that it works. I consider this a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for goodness. A value system, when followed, should contribute to human flourishing and not produce results that violate its core ideals. This is a pragmatic, I-know-it-when-I-see-it definition. I may refine it further if the need arises.

I think that the prevailing Western values fail by this standard. I will not spend much time arguing this; many others have already. If you reject this premise, this blog may not be for you.

I consider old traditions an important source of wisdom: they have proven their worth over centuries of use. Where they agree, we should listen. Where they disagree, we should figure out why. Where modernity departs from tradition, we should be wary of the new.

Tradition has one nagging problem: it was abandoned by the West. How and why did that happen? I consider this a central question. I expect the reasons to be varied and complex. Understanding them seems necessary if we are to fix what may have been broken.

In short, I want to answer these questions:

1. How do values spread and persist? An ideology does no good if no one holds it.
2. Which values do good? Sounding good is worse than useless if it leads to ruin.

The ultimate hope would be to find a way to combine the two. Many have tried and failed. I don’t expect to succeed either, but I hope I’ll manage to clarify the questions.

Christianity Is The Schelling Point: https://contingentnotarbitrary.com/2018/02/22/christianity-is-the-schelling-point/
Restoring true Christianity is both necessary and sufficient for restoring civilization. The task is neither easy nor simple but that’s what it takes. It is also our best chance of weathering the collapse if that’s too late to avoid.

Christianity is the ultimate coordination mechanism: it unites us with a higher purpose, aligns us with the laws of reality and works on all scales, from individuals to entire civilizations. Christendom took over the world and then lost it when its faith faltered. Historically and culturally, Christianity is the unique Schelling point for the West – or it would be if we could agree on which church (if any) was the true one.

Here are my arguments for true Christianity as the Schelling point. I hope to demonstrate these points in subsequent posts; for now I’ll just list them.

- A society of saints is the most powerful human arrangement possible. It is united in purpose, ideologically stable and operates in harmony with natural law. This is true independent of scale and organization: from military hierarchy to total decentralization, from persecuted minority to total hegemony. Even democracy works among saints – that’s why it took so long to fail.
- There is such a thing as true Christianity. I don’t know how to pinpoint it but it does exist; that holds from both secular and religious perspectives. Our task is to converge on it the best we can.
- Don’t worry too much about the existence of God. I’m proof that you don’t need that assumption in order to believe – it helps but isn’t mandatory.

Pascal’s Wager never sat right with me. Now I know why: it’s a sucker bet. Let’s update it.

If God exists, we must believe because our souls and civilization depend on it. If He doesn’t exist, we must believe because civilization depends on it.

Morality Should Be Adaptive: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2012/04/morals-should-be-adaptive.html
I agree with this
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april 2018 by nhaliday
Surveil things, not people – The sideways view
Technology may reach a point where free use of one person’s share of humanity’s resources is enough to easily destroy the world. I think society needs to make significant changes to cope with that scenario.

Mass surveillance is a natural response, and sometimes people think of it as the only response. I find mass surveillance pretty unappealing, but I think we can capture almost all of the value by surveilling things rather than surveilling people. This approach avoids some of the worst problems of mass surveillance; while it still has unattractive features it’s my favorite option so far.

...

The idea
We’ll choose a set of artifacts to surveil and restrict. I’ll call these heavy technology and everything else light technology. Our goal is to restrict as few things as possible, but we want to make sure that someone can’t cause unacceptable destruction with only light technology. By default something is light technology if it can be easily acquired by an individual or small group in 2017, and heavy technology otherwise (though we may need to make some exceptions, e.g. certain biological materials or equipment).

Heavy technology is subject to two rules:

1. You can’t use heavy technology in a way that is unacceptably destructive.
2. You can’t use heavy technology to undermine the machinery that enforces these two rules.

To enforce these rules, all heavy technology is under surveillance, and is situated such that it cannot be unilaterally used by any individual or small group. That is, individuals can own heavy technology, but they cannot have unmonitored physical access to that technology.

...

This proposal does give states a de facto monopoly on heavy technology, and would eventually make armed resistance totally impossible. But it’s already the case that states have a massive advantage in armed conflict, and it seems almost inevitable that progress in AI will make this advantage larger (and enable states to do much more with it). Realistically I’m not convinced this proposal makes things much worse than the default.

This proposal definitely expands regulators’ nominal authority and seems prone to abuses. But amongst candidates for handling a future with cheap and destructive dual-use technology, I feel this is the best of many bad options with respect to the potential for abuse.
ratty  acmtariat  clever-rats  risk  existence  futurism  technology  policy  alt-inst  proposal  government  intel  authoritarianism  orwellian  tricks  leviathan  security  civilization  ai  ai-control  arms  defense  cybernetics  institutions  law  unintended-consequences  civil-liberty  volo-avolo  power  constraint-satisfaction  alignment 
april 2018 by nhaliday
High male sexual investment as a driver of extinction in fossil ostracods | Nature
Sexual selection favours traits that confer advantages in the competition for mates. In many cases, such traits are costly to produce and maintain, because the costs help to enforce the honesty of these signals and cues1. Some evolutionary models predict that sexual selection also produces costs at the population level, which could limit the ability of populations to adapt to changing conditions and thus increase the risk of extinction2,3,4.
study  org:nat  bio  evolution  selection  sex  competition  cost-benefit  unintended-consequences  signaling  existence  gender  gender-diff  empirical  branches  rot  modernity  fertility  intervention  explanans  humility  status  matching  ranking  ratty  hanson 
april 2018 by nhaliday
Complexity no Bar to AI - Gwern.net
Critics of AI risk suggest diminishing returns to computing (formalized asymptotically) means AI will be weak; this argument relies on a large number of questionable premises and ignoring additional resources, constant factors, and nonlinear returns to small intelligence advantages, and is highly unlikely. (computer science, transhumanism, AI, R)
created: 1 June 2014; modified: 01 Feb 2018; status: finished; confidence: likely; importance: 10
ratty  gwern  analysis  faq  ai  risk  speedometer  intelligence  futurism  cs  computation  complexity  tcs  linear-algebra  nonlinearity  convexity-curvature  average-case  adversarial  article  time-complexity  singularity  iteration-recursion  magnitude  multiplicative  lower-bounds  no-go  performance  hardware  humanity  psychology  cog-psych  psychometrics  iq  distribution  moments  complement-substitute  hanson  ems  enhancement  parable  detail-architecture  universalism-particularism  neuro  ai-control  environment  climate-change  threat-modeling  security  theory-practice  hacker  academia  realness  crypto  rigorous-crypto  usa  government 
april 2018 by nhaliday
The Hanson-Yudkowsky AI-Foom Debate - Machine Intelligence Research Institute
How Deviant Recent AI Progress Lumpiness?: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/03/how-deviant-recent-ai-progress-lumpiness.html
I seem to disagree with most people working on artificial intelligence (AI) risk. While with them I expect rapid change once AI is powerful enough to replace most all human workers, I expect this change to be spread across the world, not concentrated in one main localized AI system. The efforts of AI risk folks to design AI systems whose values won’t drift might stop global AI value drift if there is just one main AI system. But doing so in a world of many AI systems at similar abilities levels requires strong global governance of AI systems, which is a tall order anytime soon. Their continued focus on preventing single system drift suggests that they expect a single main AI system.

The main reason that I understand to expect relatively local AI progress is if AI progress is unusually lumpy, i.e., arriving in unusually fewer larger packages rather than in the usual many smaller packages. If one AI team finds a big lump, it might jump way ahead of the other teams.

However, we have a vast literature on the lumpiness of research and innovation more generally, which clearly says that usually most of the value in innovation is found in many small innovations. We have also so far seen this in computer science (CS) and AI. Even if there have been historical examples where much value was found in particular big innovations, such as nuclear weapons or the origin of humans.

Apparently many people associated with AI risk, including the star machine learning (ML) researchers that they often idolize, find it intuitively plausible that AI and ML progress is exceptionally lumpy. Such researchers often say, “My project is ‘huge’, and will soon do it all!” A decade ago my ex-co-blogger Eliezer Yudkowsky and I argued here on this blog about our differing estimates of AI progress lumpiness. He recently offered Alpha Go Zero as evidence of AI lumpiness:

...

In this post, let me give another example (beyond two big lumps in a row) of what could change my mind. I offer a clear observable indicator, for which data should have available now: deviant citation lumpiness in recent ML research. One standard measure of research impact is citations; bigger lumpier developments gain more citations that smaller ones. And it turns out that the lumpiness of citations is remarkably constant across research fields! See this March 3 paper in Science:

I Still Don’t Get Foom: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2014/07/30855.html
All of which makes it look like I’m the one with the problem; everyone else gets it. Even so, I’m gonna try to explain my problem again, in the hope that someone can explain where I’m going wrong. Here goes.

“Intelligence” just means an ability to do mental/calculation tasks, averaged over many tasks. I’ve always found it plausible that machines will continue to do more kinds of mental tasks better, and eventually be better at pretty much all of them. But what I’ve found it hard to accept is a “local explosion.” This is where a single machine, built by a single project using only a tiny fraction of world resources, goes in a short time (e.g., weeks) from being so weak that it is usually beat by a single human with the usual tools, to so powerful that it easily takes over the entire world. Yes, smarter machines may greatly increase overall economic growth rates, and yes such growth may be uneven. But this degree of unevenness seems implausibly extreme. Let me explain.

If we count by economic value, humans now do most of the mental tasks worth doing. Evolution has given us a brain chock-full of useful well-honed modules. And the fact that most mental tasks require the use of many modules is enough to explain why some of us are smarter than others. (There’d be a common “g” factor in task performance even with independent module variation.) Our modules aren’t that different from those of other primates, but because ours are different enough to allow lots of cultural transmission of innovation, we’ve out-competed other primates handily.

We’ve had computers for over seventy years, and have slowly build up libraries of software modules for them. Like brains, computers do mental tasks by combining modules. An important mental task is software innovation: improving these modules, adding new ones, and finding new ways to combine them. Ideas for new modules are sometimes inspired by the modules we see in our brains. When an innovation team finds an improvement, they usually sell access to it, which gives them resources for new projects, and lets others take advantage of their innovation.

...

In Bostrom’s graph above the line for an initially small project and system has a much higher slope, which means that it becomes in a short time vastly better at software innovation. Better than the entire rest of the world put together. And my key question is: how could it plausibly do that? Since the rest of the world is already trying the best it can to usefully innovate, and to abstract to promote such innovation, what exactly gives one small project such a huge advantage to let it innovate so much faster?

...

In fact, most software innovation seems to be driven by hardware advances, instead of innovator creativity. Apparently, good ideas are available but must usually wait until hardware is cheap enough to support them.

Yes, sometimes architectural choices have wider impacts. But I was an artificial intelligence researcher for nine years, ending twenty years ago, and I never saw an architecture choice make a huge difference, relative to other reasonable architecture choices. For most big systems, overall architecture matters a lot less than getting lots of detail right. Researchers have long wandered the space of architectures, mostly rediscovering variations on what others found before.

Some hope that a small project could be much better at innovation because it specializes in that topic, and much better understands new theoretical insights into the basic nature of innovation or intelligence. But I don’t think those are actually topics where one can usefully specialize much, or where we’ll find much useful new theory. To be much better at learning, the project would instead have to be much better at hundreds of specific kinds of learning. Which is very hard to do in a small project.

What does Bostrom say? Alas, not much. He distinguishes several advantages of digital over human minds, but all software shares those advantages. Bostrom also distinguishes five paths: better software, brain emulation (i.e., ems), biological enhancement of humans, brain-computer interfaces, and better human organizations. He doesn’t think interfaces would work, and sees organizations and better biology as only playing supporting roles.

...

Similarly, while you might imagine someday standing in awe in front of a super intelligence that embodies all the power of a new age, superintelligence just isn’t the sort of thing that one project could invent. As “intelligence” is just the name we give to being better at many mental tasks by using many good mental modules, there’s no one place to improve it. So I can’t see a plausible way one project could increase its intelligence vastly faster than could the rest of the world.

Takeoff speeds: https://sideways-view.com/2018/02/24/takeoff-speeds/
Futurists have argued for years about whether the development of AGI will look more like a breakthrough within a small group (“fast takeoff”), or a continuous acceleration distributed across the broader economy or a large firm (“slow takeoff”).

I currently think a slow takeoff is significantly more likely. This post explains some of my reasoning and why I think it matters. Mostly the post lists arguments I often hear for a fast takeoff and explains why I don’t find them compelling.

(Note: this is not a post about whether an intelligence explosion will occur. That seems very likely to me. Quantitatively I expect it to go along these lines. So e.g. while I disagree with many of the claims and assumptions in Intelligence Explosion Microeconomics, I don’t disagree with the central thesis or with most of the arguments.)
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april 2018 by nhaliday
Eternity in six hours: intergalactic spreading of intelligent life and sharpening the Fermi paradox
We do this by demonstrating that traveling between galaxies – indeed even launching a colonisation project for the entire reachable universe – is a relatively simple task for a star-spanning civilization, requiring modest amounts of energy and resources. We start by demonstrating that humanity itself could likely accomplish such a colonisation project in the foreseeable future, should we want to, and then demonstrate that there are millions of galaxies that could have reached us by now, using similar methods. This results in a considerable sharpening of the Fermi paradox.
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march 2018 by nhaliday
[1410.0369] The Universe of Minds
kinda dumb, don't think this guy is anywhere close to legit (e.g., he claims set of mind designs is countable, but gives no actual reason to believe that)
papers  preprint  org:mat  ratty  miri-cfar  ai  intelligence  philosophy  logic  software  cs  computation  the-self 
march 2018 by nhaliday
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