Recent Discussion

Occasionally I see people doing what I think of as the “Haters Gonna Hate Fallacy”.

The HGHF says something like: “People are going to misinterpret you no matter how carefully you word things. Therefore, there’s no point wasting time wording things carefully.”

An example:

“I think [term X] in your post is going to cause misunderstandings, I’d suggest phrasing it differently.”
“Oh, haters are gonna hate, there’s no amount of rephrasing that’s going to prevent this from being misinterpreted if people want to.”

Now there’s obviously a grain of truth in this. It *is* impossible to phrase something in ... (Read more)

This fall, Ranked Choice / Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) will be on the ballot in Massachusetts. I'm voting for it, but only because it's better than the status quo, not because I think it's a very good voting system.

Massachusetts currently uses traditional majority ("first past the post") voting: whoever gets the most votes wins. Unfortunately, this only works well when you have two candidates. With more candidates, the candidates tend to hurt their allies by competing for the same pool of votes, making it more likely that an opponent wins.

In IRV each voter lists their prefer... (Read more)

A friend observed that fewer people in the effective altruism movement are married than you might expect. I was curious: what are marriage rates like within the EA community? The 2018 EA Survey asked about relationship status, and we can look at how that varies by age:

I'm using "ever married" for people who are currently married or have ever been married, including people who are now divorced, widowed, or separated. Since some of these buckets might be pretty small, let's add sample size information:

The anonymized survey data doesn't have 35-44 data, and the 65+ gro... (Read more)

Last week we learned there is plausibly a simple, cheap and easy way out of this entire mess. All we have to do is take our Vitamin D. In case it needed to be said, no. We are not taking our Vitamin D. There’s definitely some voices out there pushing it, including the nation’s top podcaster Joe Rogan, but I don’t see any signs of progress.

Instead, as school restarts, the outside gets colder and pandemic fatigue sets in, people’s precautions are proving insufficient to the task. This week showed that we have taken a clear step backwards across the country. 

I see three ways for things not to get... (Read more)

[AN #117]: How neural nets would fare under the TEVV framework Alignment Newsletter is a weekly publication with recent content relevant to AI alignment around the world
... (Read more)

Orwell is another game in the discrete-choices-over-time genre. In this case, you are an investigator, and choose which ‘datachunks’ to upload into the system. From there, others will take action.

Like other games in the genre, if you are going to play, play it blind.

I’d rank the game as lower Tier 3 – it’s good at its job, but not essential. It mostly does what it sets out to do, creating an experience and an atmosphere. It has some big frustrations along the way.

Orwell has three problems that prevent it from doing better. It’s also short.

You should play Orwell if and only if the concept of ... (Read more)

By Daniel Kokotajlo

In this post, I distinguish between three different kinds of competitiveness — Performance, Cost, and Date — and explain why I think these distinctions are worth the brainspace they occupy. For example, they help me introduce and discuss a problem for AI safety proposals having to do with aligned AIs being outcompeted by unaligned AIs.

Distinguishing three kinds of competitiveness and competition

A system is performance-competitive insofar as its ability to perform relevant tasks compares with competing systems. If it is better than any competing system at the relevan... (Read more)

Previously: Free Money at PredictIt?

It’s time for another look at PredictIt. Is there free money? What are our best options for free money? 

The short answer is that there is free money if and only if you have available capital at PredictIt. 

There is no free money if your plan is to deposit to make the wager and then withdraw. That hits you with a 5% withdrawal fee, wiping out your profits. 

Let’s look at the major markets first, then scour for minor ones.

As with the last such post, despite the fact that we can’t discuss these prices without discussing the potential for a stolen election, let’s ... (Read more)

Against boots theory
89dShow Highlight

The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

But the thing was

... (Read more)

Normal Ampersand: &

LaTeX Ampersand: 

This post is a much extended version of an LW comment I made about OpenAI’s new paper, “Learning to summarize from human feedback.”

Context: this paper is a direct extension of the work OpenAI published last year about fine-tuning GPT-2 with human preference data.  I hadn’t actually read that one closely at the time, but went back and did so now, so this is really a commentary on both.

—-

IMO there are two almost unrelated ideas going on in OpenAI’s preference learning work.

  • First, the idea of collecting binary preference annotations on LM samples, and (in some way) tuning the LM so its samples ar
... (Read more)
Covid 9/10: Vitamin D
913dShow Highlight

Imagine there is a simple, cheap, safe and effective solution for Covid-19. 

The solution is something known to be safe. It is widely available for reasonable prices. Any patents have long expired. It is something that people need and benefit from anyway. It’s probably worth doing without the pandemic. It just happens to also have a dramatic effect on Covid-19. 

You might think that once the solution was discovered, everyone would shout it from the rooftops. There would rapidly be studies to confirm the solution if it was even considered ethical to not give the solution to everyone. Production w... (Read more)

[AN #116]: How to make explanations of neurons compositional Alignment Newsletter is a weekly publication with recent content relevant to AI alignment around the world
... (Read more)

Transcript of a discussion on a friend's wall on the merits of responding "guillotines" to union text-bankers when asked what the country needs more of:

Me: When you respond "guillotines" what do you expect the campaign volunteer reading the response to think you're advocating for?

Them: Murder.

Me: Whose murder do you expect them to think you are advocating for?

Them: The richest people in the US.

Me: 0.1%, 1%, 5%?

Them: I think billionaires is a good cutoff. There are 540 in the US. So, the richest 0.000164%.

Me: Is executing them your first choice? Or would you prefer to s

... (Read more)

Previously: Unifying the Simulacra Definitions, Simulacra Levels and their Interactions, On Negative Feedback and Simulacra

Simulacra levels are complex, counter-intuitive and difficult to understand.

Thus, it is good and right to continue exploring them partly via story and metaphor.

The metaphor here will be that of the four children from Jewish Passover Seder.

The Jewish Seder tells us of four generations of children: The wise child, the wicked child, the simple child, and the one who does not know how to ask.

The story is profoundly weird and does not, on its face, make much sense. Yet every ye... (Read more)

Shed Wall Plans
817dShow Highlight

Last week I wrote about estimating whether insulation was worth it for our shed if we're going to use it as a home office. While I'm waiting for the carpenter to put a new roof on it, I'm thinking through what finishing the walls would look like.

The Facebook side of the discussion on the insulation post was very helpful, and got me thinking about putting closed cell foam panels directly against the concrete walls. Because it's both a vapor barrier and efficient insulation it reduces the risk of condensation happening between the concrete and the insulation.

I'm less sure about w... (Read more)

Ice
417dShow Highlight

What you’re looking at is a geological formation called Dry Falls, in the Sun Lakes-Dry Falls state park in my home state of Washington. The Dry Falls are a series of escarpments and cliffs near Grand Coulee, deep in Eastern Washington’s channelled scablands region. These are four hundred foot high cliffs in the middle of the desert, how did they get here? What secrets does this terrain hold? What can the strange rock formations and alien landscapes of eastern Washington state tell us about the future of our planet?

During the end of the last ice age, a massive amount of glacial ice in cont... (Read more)

Ice
417dShow Highlight

What you’re looking at is a geological formation called Dry Falls, in the Sun Lakes-Dry Falls state park in my home state of Washington. The Dry Falls are a series of escarpments and cliffs near Grand Coulee, deep in Eastern Washington’s channelled scablands region. These are four hundred foot high cliffs in the middle of the desert, how did they get here? What secrets does this terrain hold? What can the strange rock formations and alien landscapes of eastern Washington state tell us about the future of our planet?

During the end of the last ice age, a massive amount of glacial ice in cont... (Read more)

A few months ago I wrote about trying to decide what to do with our shed. It turns out that not only is our property too small for a tiny house ("backyard cottage"), the only reason we're able to have the shed where it is it's because it is grandfathered in. The shed turned out to have solid footings, so we decided to have it repaired.

I hired a mason to redo the cinderblock and a carpenter to replace the roof. The mason has finished, and I'm waiting for the carpenter to start:

When the carpenter is done, we'll have a weathertight structure, but we still need to figure o... (Read more)

This week’s news all centers around policy decisions. The new data contains few important surprises, so attention shifts to what actions will be taken and how that will affect the path we follow going forward. The CDC’s fall and transformation into an arm of the White House reelection campaign is now complete. Others continue to come up with, suggest and criticize various policies. 

Before we get to all that, let’s run the numbers.

Positive Test Counts

DateWESTMIDWESTSOUTHNORTHEAST
July 9-July 151083955322925007220276
July 16-July 221175065779726522120917
July 23-July 29110219679032406672600
... (Read more)
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