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  • 4:54 pm on March 2, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    slatestarscratchpad Reading Worm is depressing because I feel… 


    Reading Worm is depressing, because I feel like I’ll never be as good as Wildbow at most facets of writing.

    I console myself by remembering my comparative advantages. For example, I wouldn’t write about a team of mass murderers called the Slaughterhouse Nine without at least considering taking away four members and calling them the Slaughterhouse Five.

    I … didn’t … isn’t it implied that they started out as the Slaughterhouse Five and adopted more members?

    Maybe that was just my headcanon.

  • 7:39 pm on March 1, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    slatestarscratchpad Okay so since su3 is gone and… 


    Okay, so since su3 is gone and we can talk about this politely now – what is going on with MIRI’s research output?

    Explanations I won’t accept – MIRI isn’t hardworking (I’ve seen them, they are), MIRI isn’t smart or well-credentialed enough (they’ve hired a lot of math PhDs, former math professors, etc, all of whom have written good papers on their original subjects), MIRI is a scam (come on…)

    Explanations that seem plausible:

    1. MIRI are among the only people addressing a complicated problem and aren’t sure where to start.

    2. People who said their research output was unusually low were comparing apples to oranges in some way or another.

    3. MIRI feels like publishing their results is a waste of their time, they’re happy enough to just have them and share them privately with the relevant people.

    4. There’s been some kind of delay in getting publications but it will start happening any time now.

    5. Everyone else optimizes for publish-or-perish least-publishable-unit type of things and MIRI doesn’t do that, so they unfairly look like slackers.

    Note that this isn’t an attempt to justify/apologize for MIRI or an attempt to attack it, it’s me trying to figure out something that doesn’t seem to fit given what I know.

    @nothingismere, @yudkowsky, any thoughts? If this conversation gets interesting enough I’ll try to get info from Nate too.

    I feel that the comparison of MIRI against a university research group is not appropriate.

    Since the su3 debacle is making it clear that the rationalsphere cares deeply about credentialism, I’ll note that during my PhD studies I produced 3 first-author journal papers, 7 first-author conference papers and 14 nth-author papers. I was an unusually productive student in my department. I was in a practical engineering field, not CS or math.

    And my God were those papers a waste of my resources.

    University research groups operate within a truly terrible incentives framework. The imperative to publish X papers of Y “significance” per Z years squanders resources that could and should be used to push the work forward.

    If I could do my graduate school career over, and if I were optimizing for actually-making-progress rather than appearing-super-productive, then I would refuse to publish more than maybe three or four papers (of any kind) overall. Papers and conferences are a TREMENDOUS timesink. I at least harbor a hope that the people at MIRI know this. And even if they don’t think in those terms, the fact remains that they aren’t trapped in the awful incentives framework that prizes number of publications and IMPACT FACTOR.

  • 9:54 pm on February 25, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Image Post 

  • 6:10 pm on February 11, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    inconstancyisaconstant https twitter com jamieabrew status 695060640931549184 


  • 5:38 pm on January 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    The 37 best websites for learning a new skill


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    Honestly, what are you waiting for?

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  • 5:21 pm on November 6, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    ozymandias271 theungrumpablegrinch hunterstheorem I’ve been practicing meditation lately… 




    I’ve been practicing meditation lately.  It’s really hard for me–distraction comes naturally.  But I’m slowly, slowly getting better, and it’s starting to have effects.  One thing my guide (Headspace) talks about a lot is noting–that if you’re anxious, you should just (by trying to remain, well, present and mindful) notice, say so internally, accept that it’s there, and move on.

    Last night, after some drama involving my dogs, I had a lot of anxiety.  I was practically shaking while driving to rehearsal (real safe, Andrew.)  After ten minutes of this–see what I mean about being bad it?–I suddenly “noticed” it, and like a shot, the panic seemed to go away.   I’m stunned how weirdly effective this was: I need to get better at noticing (eat your heart out, Steve Sailer.)

    Here’s the weirdest thing though, which I truly don’t understand: sometimes I note unpleasant thoughts–usually self-hatred, the sort of negative spiral of “you’re useless and worthless and it’ll never get better” that characterize depression for me.  I note them, I note they’re unpleasant…but instead of moving on, I–or some part of me–WANTS to focus on them.  Like, I know they’re making me unhappy and are useless, but there’s some part of my brain that has a perverse need/desire to have them.  Note that I’m specifically not describing having thoughts pop up and refuse to stop popping up, I’m describing an intense _desire_ to _keep having thoughts_ that are actively unpleasant.  Externally to my brain, I’ve noticed the same thing reading things I hate about how bad I am–Gawker posts about how I’m evil, etc. I notice that I am reading this, I hate it, it scares me, there’s nothing of value there, I should stop….but part of me desires to keep going.

    What the hell is up with that? This happen to other people too?  Is there a way to note, accept, dissolve, and move on with these thoughts?

    This happens to me also.

    Recognizing the pattern and its outcomes and tagging it as self-destructive helps me somewhat.

    This happens to me. If you find a cure, do tell me, I feel very stupid about it. 

    “Self-critical thoughts.”

    THINKING! Bring attention to the meditation object.

    “Hm, those self critical thoughts didn’t go away – ”

    THINKING! Bring attention to the meditation object.

    “Err, I’m continuing to think about how my thoughts aren’t – ”

    THINKING! Bring attention to the meditation object.

    “I seem to want to be having these thoughts, why would that – ”

    THINKING! Bring attention to the meditation object.

    “What an annoying meta-cognitive – ”

    THINKING! Bring attention to the meditation object.


    It’s perfectly ok for those thoughts and feelings to just keep on spinning in the background, btw. You don’t need to crush or extinguish those thoughts. You’re not controlling your thoughts. You’re controlling your ATTENTION. Where you allocate your attention tells your brain what’s important. By repeatedly telling your brain that your self-criticism and the incipient meta cognitive spiral isn’t important, it gradually down-weights the valence of those thoughts until they eventually (ideally) stop happening.

  • 3:16 am on November 6, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    theverge This 3D printed walking tank is the… 


    This 3D-printed walking tank is the world’s ultimate toy.

    The HMS Boudicca is a 20-inch tall scale model from a world war that (thankfully) never happened. 

  • 3:11 pm on November 5, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    Developing ethical, social, and cognitive competence



    So @slatestarscratchpad linked to this in his latest post. Which, I’ve read it, and now I think I understand much of why disagree with him so much (beyond simple object-level stuff). It is this: he is very concerned about the conflict between stages 3 and 4, whereas I’m mostly looking at what happens between 4 and 5 – not that everyone I support is at that level.

    Which okay, basically this post is me saying “I’m at a higher level,” which is pretentious as fuck. So if someone wants to say, “Geeze veronica, you’re being pretentious as fuck,” I can only shrug and plead guilty.

    Anyway, moving on.

    I see things as a social dialectic between groups struggling within whatever system they find themselves. Furthermore, I don’t see any principled way to decide between these groups. Any codified set of rules, in my view, is another set of constraints that someone will push against.

    And round and round it goes.

    So we get a social dialectic, where people struggle for the right to define meaning.

    Like, what is gender? What should it be? How should all of this work? What is race? Should we be colorblind, but what does that actually entail?

    You can answer those, and thus build a system that will be terribly wrong from the point of view of someone else, and then they will fight you.

    And round and round it goes.

    “But there need to be rules,” someone cries out (but does not go on to say “and they need to be mine, cuz {concepts}”).

    But people are going to fight you over your rules. Likewise, they’ll fight you over your basic conceptualization. And you can’t “meta rule” your way out of this, because there is no meta. We’re all in the system all the way down.

    So yeah.

    You may be right, based on my reaction to that Kegan piece being “stage 5 makes no sense”.

    Like, suppose you’re able to switch fluidly between moral systems. You must switch based on some specific criteria, ie “I will use moral system A here, but moral system B there”. Then it seems that criteria is your real moral system.

    A concrete example: suppose you’re utilitarian on the trolley problem, because utilitarianism returns your intuitively preferred answer of “flip the switch”. But you’re deontological on the fat man problem, because deontology returns your intuitively preferred answer of “don’t push the man”.

    In that case, your real morality is neither utilitarianism nor deontology. It’s “follow my intuitions and prejudices, then cite whatever moral system agrees with me as an excuse”. This is supposed to be the highest possible stage of morality?

    So if you’re always switching between systems, it either means you have some underlying moral system beneath the switches (stage 4) or that you’re a total opportunist. I expect I’m missing something, but can’t figure out what, which probably means I’m not at stage 5 yet.

    Also, lately Leah’s been pushing the following quote: “Above all, if we wish to protect the poor we shall be in favour of fixed rules and clear dogmas. The rules of a club are occasionally in favour of the poor member. The drift of a club is always in favour of the rich one.”

    It seems about right to me.

    Additionally, I find that talking about “stages” is entirely too abstract.

    If somebody tells me that their ethical system demands that some children be tossed into the volcano to placate the Volcano God, I’m not going to shrug and mutter about how all worldviews are truly fluid and amorphous constructs and I need to respect this person’s meta-systematic explorations. I should hope that, whatever “stage” I’m at, I will know that sacrificing children to the Volcano God is just plainly and simply wrong. I have conviction in the “child murder = bad” perspective. I want to have that conviction. I want to want to have that conviction.

    It’s possible that I’m missing the point. Stage 5 just smells like garden variety moral relativism. I wonder if Stage 6 is endorsing the view (that I got from Eliezer but probably has antecedents) that, yeah, there probably isn’t any objective moral truth, but that understanding won’t really help guide my actions, and I still need to behave in a way that lets me look at myself in the mirror, and it seems like I should find some kind of internally consistent ethics that aesthetically appeals to me and just act like that one is true.

  • 2:34 pm on October 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    slatestarscratchpad I am on call Halloween and will… 


    I am on call Halloween and will be spending the night at the hospital.

    I am planning to put a bucket of candy out on a chair on my porch with a sign saying TAKE ONE.

    Do you think people will steal all the candy? Do you think they will steal the bucket? Do you think they will steal the chair?

    (if it matters, my neighborhood is somewhere between middle class and lower-middle-class)

    I have had people steal double-handfuls of candy out of a bucket I was holding, while looking me in he eye, then run away, so, yes.

  • 1:37 pm on October 12, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    slatestarscratchpad heavilyarmedvirtue slatestarscratchpad heavilyarmedvirtue It’s time to introduce… 





    It’s time to introduce tumblr to the #AmericanNations. For this subject given the treatment it deserves, I refer you to

    I’ve been wondering – if we’re supposed to believe that the South and Appalachia are violent/uneducated/poor because they’re Scots-Irish, how come neither Scotland nor Ireland is either of those things (to the same degree)?

    I can answer this! The Scots-Irish population was not a general sample of the Scottish population, but came from a specific group living on the Anglo-Scottish border, who were neither English or Scottish in particular, but shared a common culture of lawlessness, clannishness and blood feuds, and repeated raids and invasions by the government on both sides, which all resulted in a heritage of extreme militarism and general inability to engage in the usual civilisational norms of both countries, alongside various forms of fundamentalist Protestantism. Their migration to Northern Ireland during the Plantation of Ulster resulted in the current Ulster Protestant population, with people like Ian Paisley and the violence of the Troubles being the long-term outcome. On the other side of the Atlantic, Andrew Jackson and George Patton were the result, as well the genocide of the Native Americans of the South.

    That’s really interesting. Is the theory that this is a stable cultural factor, or that the Borderers had time to evolve genes separate from the main Scottish population?

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