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A hundred Shakespeares

Новости LessWrong.com - 12 декабря, 2018 - 02:11
Published on December 11, 2018 11:11 PM UTC

In his post on science slowing down, Scott said:

  • "Are there a hundred Shakespeare-equivalents around today? This is a harder problem than it seems – Shakespeare has become so venerable with historical hindsight that maybe nobody would acknowledge a Shakespeare-level master today even if they existed – but still, a hundred Shakespeares?"

I'd argue that there are way more than a hundred Shakespeares around today, and there were several in Shakespeare's time. By Shakespeares, I mean authors who could have produced works of comparable quality to Shakespeare, by some reasonable measure of quality.

This seems surprising; there do not seem to be hundred living authors that are almost universally agreed to be must-reads in the same way that Shakespeare was.

But this lack hints at a resolution of the paradox: we just don't have space for a hundred authors with the same fervour as we make space for Shakespeare. Neither as individuals nor as cultures can we fit these in. Shakespeare was a literary superstar. And superstars are rare, due to network effects and the power law of fame.

So my thesis would be that:

  • There are many non-superstars who could plausibly have become superstars, and if they had done, they would produce works of comparable quality to the superstars.

Part of this is the halo effect: superstars just get judged as better than anyone else.

Also, just by being famous, the interpretation of their work is altered. Bits of Shakespeare have permeated popular culture, and many articles and theories have been created about him. When we watch a Shakespeare play, we don't just see the words; we see the layers of cultural meaning and interpretation that have accumulated on it.

I'd argue that, just by knowing that a play is by Shakespeare, we assume that it's deep and meaningful, and read in deeper interpretations and symbolism than we would otherwise. If we rediscovered two old plays, and they were word for word identical, but one was believed to be by Shakespeare and the other by some forgotten minor playwright, I'd expect that the first one would be a better play, just by what the audience would bring to it.

Apart from those effects, superstars have the unique ability to focus more on their own vision. They have great self-confidence, and they can afford to trust that their audiences will have the patience to follow them where they want to go - rather than expecting immediate literary gratification. This would tend to result in works that are better than the average work of someone of equivalent skill, and more likely to be "deep", "insightful", or "timeless". This effect might be even more obvious with bloggers than with authors.

So, though the number of superstars is severely limited, the number of potential superstars of equivalent skill can and most likely does increase with population.

Superstars in science

I'd argue that there's also a superstar effect in science. But here it combines with Scott's explanation 3: low hanging fruit. Newton did not come up with general relativity; Einstein didn't find quantum field theory; Tesla didn't invent the laser. You can't develop an idea until certain pre-requisites are met.

And, unlike those solitary geniuses, most of science and technology is collaborative. Superstars get to be part of the best teams, interact with the best other scientists, and are more free to focus on the biggest, sexiest problems. I expect that there are many non-superstars who would have developed a certain part of theory, if a superstar hadn't got there first. It seems plausible to me that a single scientific superstar could have done the equivalent of derailing a hundred promising careers, just by getting to the key insight faster - without necessarily being much smarter (if at all) than the ones they preempted.

Then, as discoveries pour in from superstars, and the far less productive non-superstars, the domain of science changes, and new avenues of discovery open up. And these new avenues are going to be claimed by the next generation of superstars, who will get there first. I expect that if we removed every single superstar of science in the last two hundred years, that we'd get roughly comparable scientific progress, with alternate superstars rising to the fore.


Norms of Membership for Voluntary Groups

Новости LessWrong.com - 12 декабря, 2018 - 01:10
Published on December 11, 2018 10:10 PM UTC

Epistemic Status: Idea Generation

One feature of the internet that we haven’t fully adapted to yet is that it’s trivial to create voluntary groups for discussion.  It’s as easy as making a mailing list, group chat, Facebook group, Discord server, Slack channel, etc.

What we don’t seem to have is a good practical language for talking about norms on these mini-groups — what kind of moderation do we use, how do we admit and expel members, what kinds of governance structures do we create.

Maybe this is a minor thing to talk about, but I suspect it has broader impact. In past decades voluntary membership in organizations has declined in the US — we’re less likely to be members of the Elks or of churches or bowling leagues — so lots of people who don’t have any experience in founding or participating in traditional types of voluntary organizations are now finding themselves engaged in governance without even knowing that’s what they’re doing.

When we do this badly, we get “internet drama.”  When we do it really badly, we get harassment campaigns and calls for regulation/moderation at the corporate or even governmental level.  And that makes the news.  It’s not inconceivable that Twitter moderation norms affect international relations, for instance.

It’s a traditional observation about 19th century America that Americans were eager joiners of voluntary groups, and that these groups were practice for democratic participation.  Political wonks today lament the lack of civic participation and loss of trust in our national and democratic institutions. Now, maybe you’ve moved on; maybe you’re a creature of the 21st century and you’re not hoping to restore trust in the institutions of the 20th. But what will be the institutions of the future?  That may well be affected by what formats and frames for group membership people are used to at the small scale.

It’s also relevant for the future of freedom.  It’s starting to be a common claim that “give people absolute ‘free speech’ and the results are awful; therefore we need regulation/governance at the corporate or national level.”  If you’re not satisfied with that solution (as I’m not), you have work to do — there are a lot of questions to unpack like “what kind of ‘freedom’, with what implementational details, is the valuable kind?”, “if small-scale voluntary organizations can handle some of the functions of the state, how exactly will they work?”, “how does one prevent the outcomes that people consider so awful that they want large institutions to step in to govern smaller groups?”

Thinking about, and working on, governance for voluntary organizations (and micro-organizations like online discussion groups) is a laboratory for figuring this stuff out in real time, with fairly low resource investment and risk. That’s why I find this stuff fascinating and wish more people did.

The other place to start, of course, is history, which I’m not very knowledgeable about, but intend to learn a bit.  David Friedman is the historian I’m familiar with who’s studied historical governance and legal systems with an eye to potential applicability to building voluntary governance systems today; I’m interested in hearing about others. (Commenters?)

In the meantime, I want to start generating a (non-exhaustive list) of types of norms for group membership, to illustrate the diversity of how groups work and what forms “expectations for members” can take.

We found organizations based on formats and norms that we’ve seen before.  It’s useful to have an idea of the range of formats that we might encounter, so we don’t get anchored on the first format that comes to mind.  It’s also good to have a vocabulary so we can have higher-quality disagreements about the purpose & nature of the groups we belong to; often disagreements seem to be about policy details but are really about the overall type of what we want the group to be.

Civic/Public Norms

  • Roughly everybody is welcome to join, and free to do as they like in the space, so long as they obey a fairly minimalist set of ground rules & behavioral expectations that apply to everyone.
  • We expect it to be easy for most people to follow the ground rules; you have to be deviant (really unusually antisocial) to do something egregious enough to get you kicked out or penalized.
  • If you dislike someone’s behavior but it isn’t against the ground rules, you can grumble a bit about it, but you’re expected to tolerate it. You’ll have to admit things like “well, he has a right to do that.”
  • Penalties are expected to be predictable, enforced the same way towards all people, and “impartial” (not based on personal relationships). If penalties are enforced unfairly, you’re not expected to tolerate it — you can question why you’re being penalized, and kick up a public stink, and it’s even praiseworthy to do so.
  • Examples: “rule of law”, public parks and libraries, stores and coffeeshops open to the public, town hall meetings

Guest Norms

  • The host can invite, or not invite, anyone she chooses, based on her preference.  She doesn’t have to justify her preferences to anyone.  Nobody is entitled to an invitation, and it’s very rude to complain about not being invited.
  • Guests can also choose to attend or not attend, based on their preferences, and they don’t have to justify their preferences to anyone either; it’s rude to complain or ask for justification when someone declines an invitation.
  • Personal relationships and subjective feelings, in particular, are totally legitimate reasons to include or exclude someone.
  • The atmosphere within the group is expected to be pleasant for everyone.  If you don’t want to be asked to leave, you shouldn’t do things that will predictably bother people.
  • Hosts are expected to be kind and generous to guests; guests are expected to be kind and generous to the host and each other; the host is responsible for enforcing boundaries.
  • Criticizing other people at the gathering itself is taboo. You’re expected to do your critical/judgmental pruning outside the gathering, by deciding whom you will invite or whether you’ll attend.
  • We don’t expect that everyone will be invited to be a guest at every gathering, or that everyone will attend everything they’re invited to. It can be prestigious to be invited to some gatherings, and embarrassing to be asked to leave or passed over when you expected an invitation, but it’s normal to just not be invited to some things.
  • Examples: private parties, invitation-only events, consent ethics for sex

Kaizen Norms

  • Members of the group are expected to be committed to an ideal of some kind of excellence and to continually strive to reach it.
  • Feedback or critique on people’s performance is continuous, normal, and not considered inherently rude. It’s considered praiseworthy to give high-quality feedback and to accept feedback willingly.
  • Kaizen groups may have very specific norms about the style or format of critique/feedback that’s welcome, and it may well be considered rude to give feedback in the wrong style.
  • Receiving some negative feedback or penalties is normal and not considered a sign of failure or shame.  What is shameful is responding defensively to negative feedback.
  • You can lose membership in the group by getting too much negative feedback (in other words, failing to live up to the minimum standards of the group’s ideal.)  It’s not expected to be easy for most people to meet these standards; they’re challenging by design.  The group isn’t expected to be “for everyone.”
  • The feedback and incentive processes are supposed to correlate tightly to the ideal. It’s acceptable and even praiseworthy to criticize those processes if they reward and punish people for things unrelated to the ideal.
  • Conflict about things unrelated to the ideal isn’t taboo, but it’s somewhat discouraged as “off-topic” or a “distraction.”
  • Examples: competitive/meritocratic school and work environments, sports teams, specialized religious communities (e.g. monasteries, rabbinical schools)

Coalition Norms

  • The degree to which one is “welcome” in the coalition is the degree to which one is loyal, i.e. contributes resources to the coalition.  (Either by committing one’s own resources or by driving others to contribute their resources.   The latter tends to be more efficient, and hence makes you more “welcome.”)
  • Membership is a matter of degree, not a hard-and-fast boundary.  The more solidly loyal a member you are, the more of the coalition’s resources you’re entitled to.  (Yes, this means membership is defined recursively, like PageRank.)
  • People can be penalized or expelled for not contributing enough, or for doing things that have the effect of preventing the coalition gaining resources (like making it harder to recruit new members.)
  • Conflict, complaint, and criticism over the growth of the coalition (and whether people are contributing enough, or whether they’re taking more than their fair share) is acceptable and even praiseworthy; criticisms about other things are discouraged, because they make people less willing to contribute resources or pressure others to do so.
  • Membership in the coalition is considered praiseworthy.  Non-membership is considered shameful.
  • Examples: political coalitions, proselytizing religions

Tribal Norms

  • Membership in the group is defined by an immutable, unchosen characteristic, like sex or heredity (or, to a lesser extent, geographic location.)  It is difficult to join, leave, or be expelled from the group; you are a member as a matter of fact, regardless of what you want or how you behave.
  • It’s not considered shameful not to be a member of the group; after all, it isn’t up to you.
  • Since expulsion is difficult, behavioral norms for the group are maintained primarily by persuasion/framing, reward, and punishment, so these play a larger role than they do in voluntary groups.  Important norms are framed as commandments or simply how things are.
  • Examples: families, public schools, governments, traditional cultures

Some comparisons-and-contrasts:

Honor and Shame

Kaizen and Guest group norms say that being a member of the group is an honor and comes with high expectations, but that not being a member is normal and not especially shameful.

Civic norms say that being a member of the group is normal and easy to attain, but not being a member is shameful, because it indicates egregiously bad behavior.

Coalition norms say that being a member is an honor and comes with high expectations and that not being a member is shameful.  This means that most people will have something to be ashamed of.

Tribal norms say that being a member is not an honor (though it may be a privilege), and that not being a member is no shame.


Civic and Kaizen norms say that it’s okay to protest “unfair” treatment by the governing body.  In a Civic context, “fair” means “it’s possible for everyone to stay out of trouble by following the rules” — it’s okay for rules to be arbitrary, but they should be clear and consistent and not so onerous that most people can’t follow them.  In a Kaizen context, “fair” means “corresponding to the ideal” — it’s okay to “not do things by the book”  if that gets you better performance, but it’s not okay if you’re rewarding bad performance and punishing good.

Guest and Coalition norms say that it’s not okay to protest “unfair” treatment; if you get kicked out, arguing can’t help you get back in.  Offering the decisionmakers something they value might work, though.

In Tribal norms, protest and argument can be either licit or taboo; it depends on the specific tribe and its norms.

Examples of debates that are about what type of group you want to be in:

Asking for “inclusiveness” is usually a bid to make the group more Civic or Coalitional.

Making accusations of “favoritism” is usually a bid to make the group more Civic or Kaizen.

Complaining about “problem members” is usually a bid to make the group more Coalitional, Guest, or Kaizen.

Not A Taxonomy

I don’t think these are the definitive types of groups. The idea is to illustrate how you can have different starting assumptions about what kind of thing the group is for. (Is it for achieving a noble goal? For providing a public forum or service open to all? For meeting the needs of its members?)

I suspect these kinds of aims are prior to mechanisms (things like “what is a bannable offense” or “what incentive systems do we set up”?)  Before diving into the technical stuff about the rules of the game, you want to ask what kinds of outcomes or group dynamics you want the “game structure” to achieve.



Quantum immortality: Is decline of measure compensated by merging timelines?

Новости LessWrong.com - 11 декабря, 2018 - 22:39
Published on December 11, 2018 7:39 PM UTC

I wrote an article about the quantum immortality which, I know, is a controversial topic, and I would like to get comments on it. The interesting twist, suggested in the article, is the idea of measure increase which could compensate declining measure in quantum immortality. (There are other topics in the article, like the history of QM, its relation to the multiverse immortality, the utility of cryonics, impossibility of euthanasia and the relation of QI to different decision theories.)

The standard argument against quantum immortality in MWI runs as following. One should calculate the expected utility by multiplying the expected gain on the measure of existence (roughly equal to the one's share of the world’s timelines).  In that case, if someone expects to win 10.000 USD in the  Quantum suicide lottery with 0.01 chance of survival, her actual expected utility is 100 USD (ignoring negutility of death).  So, the rule of thumb is that the measure declines very quickly after series of quantum suicide experiments, and thus this improbable timeline should be ignored. The following equation could be used for U(total) = mU, where m is measure and U is expected win in the lottery. 

However, if everything possible exists in the multiverse, there are many my pseudo-copies, which differ from me in a few bits, for example, they have a different phone number or different random child memory. The difference is small but just enough for not regard them as my copies.

Imagine that this different child memory is 1kb (if compressed) size. Now, one morning both me and all my pseudo-copies forget this memory, and all we become exactly the same copies. In some sense, our timelines merged. This could be interpreted as a jump in my measure, which will as high as 2power1024 = (roughly) 10E300. If I use the equation U(total) = mU I can get an extreme jump of my utility. For example, I have 100 USD and now my measure increased trillion of trillion of times, I supposedly get the same utility as if I become mega-multi-trillioner. 

As a result of this absurd conclusion, I can spend the evening hitting my head with a stone and thus losing more and more memories, and getting higher and higher measure, which is obviously absurd behaviour for a human being - but could be a failure mode for an AI, which uses the equation to calculate the expected utility. 

In case of the Quantum suicide experiment, I can add to the bomb, which kills me with 0.5 probability, also a laser, which kills just one neuron in my brain (if I survive), which - let's assume it - is equal to forgetting 1 bit of information. In that case, QS reduces my measure in half, but forgetting one bit increases it in half. Obviously, if I play the game for too long, I will damage my brain by the laser, but anyway, brain cells are dying so often in aging brain (millions a day), that it will be completely non-observable.

BTW, Pereira suggested the similar idea as an anthropic argument against existence of any superintelligence https://arxiv.org/abs/1705.03078


Bounded rationality abounds, not explicitly defined

Новости LessWrong.com - 11 декабря, 2018 - 22:34
Published on December 11, 2018 7:34 PM UTC

Last night, I did not register a patent to cure all forms of cancer. Even though it’s probably possible to figure such a cure out, from basic physics and maybe a download of easily available biology research papers.

Can we then conclude that I don’t want cancer to be cured – or, alternatively, that I am pathologically modest and shy, and thus don’t want the money and fame that would accrue?

No. The correct and obvious answer is that I am boundedly rational. And though an unboundedly rational agent – and maybe a superintelligence – could figure out a cure for cancer from first principles, poor limited me certainly can’t.

Modelling bounded rationality is tricky, and it is often accomplished by artificially limiting the action set. Many economic models feature agents that are assumed to be fully rational, but who are restricted to choosing between a tiny set of possible goods or lotteries. They don’t have the options of developing new technologies, rousing the population to rebellion, going online and fishing around for functional substitutes, founding new political movements, begging, befriending people who already have the desired goods, setting up GoFundMe pages, and so on.

There’s nothing wrong with modelling bounded rationality via action set restriction, as long as we’re aware of what we’re doing. In particular, we can’t naively conclude that because a such a model fits with observation, that therefore humans actually are fully rational agents. In particular, though economists are right that humans are more rational than we might naively suppose, thinking of us as rational, or “mostly rational”, is a colossally erroneous way of thinking. In terms of achieving our goals, as compared with a rational agent, we are barely above agents acting randomly.

Another problem with using small action sets, is that it may lead us to think that an AI might be similarly restricted. That is unlikely to be the case; an intelligent robot walking around would certainly have access to actions that no human would, and possibly ones we couldn’t easily imagine.

Finally, though action set reduction can work well in toy models, it is wrong about the world and about humans. So as we make more and more sophisticated models, there will come a time when we have to discard it, and tackle head-on the difficult issue of defining bounded rationality properly. And it’s mainly for this last point I’m writing this post; we’ll never see the necessity of better ways of defining bounded rationality, unless we realise that modelling it via action set restriction is a) common, b) useful, and c) wrong.


Figuring out what Alice wants: non-human Alice

Новости LessWrong.com - 11 декабря, 2018 - 22:31
Published on December 11, 2018 7:31 PM UTC

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I’ve shown that we cannot deduce the preferences of a potentially irrational agent. Even simplicity priors don’t help. We need to make extra ‘normative’ assumptions in order to be able to say anything about these preferences.

I then presented a more intuitive example, in which Alice was playing poker, and had two possible beliefs about Bob’s hand, and two possible preferences: wanting money, or wanting Bob (which, in that situations, translated into wanting to lose to Bob).

That example illustrated the impossibility result, within the narrow confines of that situation – if Alice calls, she could be a money-maximiser expecting to win, or a love-maximiser expecting to lose.

As has been pointed out, this uncertainty doesn’t really persist if we move beyond the initial situation. If Alice was motivated by love or money, we would expect to be able to tell which one, by seeing what she does in other situations – how does she respond to Bob’s flirtations, what does she confess to her closest friends, how does she act if she catches a peek of Bob’s cards, etc…

So if we look at her more general behaviour, it seems that we have two possible versions of Alice. First, Am, who clearly wants money, and A♡, who clearly wants Bob. The actions of these two agents match up in the specific case I described, but not in general. Doesn’t this undermine my claim that we can’t tell the preferences of an agent from their actions?

What’s actually happening here is that we’re already making a lot of extra assumptions when we’re interpreting Am or A♡’s actions. We model other humans in very specific and narrow ways, and other humans do the same – and their models are very similar to ours (consider how often humans agree that another human is angry, or that being drunk impairs rationality). The agreement isn’t perfect, but is much better than random.

If we set those assumptions aside, then we can see what the theorem implies. There is a possible agent A′m, whose preference is for love, but that nevertheless acts identically to Am (and the reverse for money-loving A′♡ versus A♡). A′m and A′♡ are perfectly plausible agents – they just aren’t ‘human’ according to our models of what being human means.

It’s because of this that I’m somewhat optimistic we can solve the value learning problem, and why I often say the problem is “impossible in theory, but doable in practice”. Humans make a whole host of assumptions that allow them to interpret the preferences of other humans (and of themselves). And these assumptions are quite similar from human to human. So we don’t need to solve the value learning problem in some principled way, nor figure out the necessary assumptions abstractly. Instead, we just need to extract the normative assumptions that humans are already making and use these in the value learning process (and then resolve all the contradictions within human values, but that seems doable if messy).


Assuming we've solved X, could we do Y...

Новости LessWrong.com - 11 декабря, 2018 - 21:13
Published on December 11, 2018 6:13 PM UTC

The year is 1933. Leó Szilárd has just hypothised the nuclear chain reaction. Worried researchers from proto-MIRI or proto-FHI ask themselves "assuming we've solved the issue of nuclear chain reactions in practice, could we build a nuclear bomb out of it"?

Well, what do we mean by "assuming we've solved the issue of nuclear chain reactions"? Does it mean that "we have some detailed plans for viable nuclear bombs, including all the calculations needed to make them work, and everything in the plans is doable by a rich industrial state"? In that case, the answer to "could we build a nuclear bomb out of it?" is a simple and trivial yes.

Alternatively, are we simply assuming "there exists a collection of matter that supports a chain reaction"? In which case, note that the assumption is (almost) completely useless. In order to figure out whether a nuclear bomb is buildable, we still need to figure out all the details of chain reactions - that assumption has bought us nothing.

Assuming human values...

At the recent AI safety unconference, David Krueger wanted to test, empirically, whether debate methods could be used for creating aligned AIs. At some point in the discussion, he said "let's assume the question of defining human values is solved", wanting to move on to whether a debate-based AI could then safely implement it.

But as above, when we assume that an underdefined definition problem (human values) is solved, we have to be very careful what we mean - the assumption might be useless, or might be too strong, and end up solving the implementation problem entirely.

In the conversation with David, we were imagining a definition of human values related to what humans would answer if we could reflexively ponder specific questions for thousands of years. One could object to that definition on the grounds that people can be coerced or tricked into giving the answers that the AI might want - hence the circumstances of that pondering is critical.

If we assume X="human values are defined in this way", could an AI safely implement X via debate methods? Well, what about coercion and trickery by the AI during the debate process? It could be that X doesn't help at all, because we still have to resolve all of the same issues.

Or, conversely, X might be too strong - it might define what trickery is, which solves a lot of the implementation problem for free. Or, in the extreme case, maybe X is expressed in computer code, and solve all the contradictions within humans, dealing with ontology issues, population changes, what an agent is, and all other subtleties. Then the question "given X, could an AI safely implement it?" reduces to "can the AI run code?"

In summary, when the issue is underdefined, the boundary between definition and implementation is very unclear, and assuming that one of them is solved is very unclear.

How to assume (for the good of all of us)

The obvious way around this issue is to be careful and precise in what we're assuming. So, for example, we might assume "we have an algorithm A, if run for a decade, would compute what humans would decide after a thousand years of debate". Then we have two practical and well defined subproblems to work on: can we approximate the output of A within reasonable time, and is "what humans would decide after a thousand years of debate" a good definition of human values?

Another option, when we lack a full definition, is to focus on some of the properties of that definition that we feel are certain or likely. For example, we can assume that "the total extinction of the all intelligent beings throughout the cosmos" is not a desirable feature according to most human values, and argue whether debate methods will lead to that outcome. Or, at smaller scale, we might assume that telling us informative truths is compatible with our values, and check whether the debate AI would do that.


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Who's welcome to our LessWrong meetups?

Новости LessWrong.com - 10 декабря, 2018 - 16:31
Published on December 10, 2018 1:31 PM UTC

As part of announcing meetups publically, it's good to write in the meetup description about what kind of people would likely be a good match for the meetup. I still haven't gotten a good description myself.

How would you describe the kind of people we are in words that are clear to outsiders?


How Old is Smallpox?

Новости LessWrong.com - 10 декабря, 2018 - 13:50
Published on December 10, 2018 10:50 AM UTC

The conventional view is that smallpox has been around since antiquity, but more recent evidence has suggested it's actually only around 500 years old.

So I have a research/rationality question: how conclusive is the "500 years old hypothesis"? I don't really have the expertise to evaluate it.

The wikipedia entry briefly notes the new findings, but doesn't seem to have rewritten the overall history section:

The earliest credible clinical evidence of smallpox is found in the smallpox-like disease in medical writings from ancient India (as early as 1500 BC),[54][55]Egyptian mummy of Ramses V who died more than 3000 years ago (1145 BC)[56] and China (1122 BC).[57] It has been speculated that Egyptian traders brought smallpox to India during the 1st millennium BC, where it remained as an endemic human disease for at least 2000 years. Smallpox was probably introduced into China during the 1st century AD from the southwest, and in the 6th century was carried from China to Japan.[26] In Japan, the epidemic of 735–737 is believed to have killed as much as one-third of the population.[14][58] At least seven religious deities have been specifically dedicated to smallpox, such as the god Sopona in the Yoruba religion. In India, the Hindu goddess of smallpox, Sitala Mata, was worshiped in temples throughout the country.[59]A different viewpoint is that smallpox emerged 1588 AD and the earlier reported cases were incorrectly identified as smallpox.[60][61]Paper: 17th Century Variola Virus Reveals the Recent History of Smallpox

The paper arguing the 500 years hypothesis is here.


• Variola virus genome was reconstructed from a 17th century mummified child• The archival strain is basal to all 20th century strains, with same gene degradation• Molecular-clock analyses show that much of variola virus evolution occurred recently


Smallpox holds a unique position in the history of medicine. It was the first disease for which a vaccine was developed and remains the only human disease eradicated by vaccination. Although there have been claims of smallpox in Egypt, India, and China dating back millennia [1, 2, 3, 4], the timescale of emergence of the causative agent, variola virus (VARV), and how it evolved in the context of increasingly widespread immunization, have proven controversial [4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]. In particular, some molecular-clock-based studies have suggested that key events in VARV evolution only occurred during the last two centuries [4, 5, 6] and hence in apparent conflict with anecdotal historical reports, although it is difficult to distinguish smallpox from other pustular rashes by description alone. To address these issues, we captured, sequenced, and reconstructed a draft genome of an ancient strain of VARV, sampled from a Lithuanian child mummy dating between 1643 and 1665 and close to the time of several documented European epidemics [1, 2, 10]. When compared to vaccinia virus, this archival strain contained the same pattern of gene degradation as 20th century VARVs, indicating that such loss of gene function had occurred before ca. 1650. Strikingly, the mummy sequence fell basal to all currently sequenced strains of VARV on phylogenetic trees. Molecular-clock analyses revealed a strong clock-like structure and that the timescale of smallpox evolution is more recent than often supposed, with the diversification of major viral lineages only occurring within the 18th and 19th centuries, concomitant with the development of modern vaccination.


Why should EA care about rationality (and vice-versa)?

Новости LessWrong.com - 10 декабря, 2018 - 01:03
Published on December 9, 2018 10:03 PM UTC

There's a lot of overlap between the effective altruism movement and the LessWrong rationality movement in terms of their membership, but each also has many people who are part of one group and not the other. For those in the overlap, why should EA care about rationality and rationality care about EA?


Measly Meditation Measurements

Новости LessWrong.com - 9 декабря, 2018 - 23:54
Published on December 9, 2018 8:54 PM UTC

A few months ago, I decided to start meditating regularly, around an hour a day. It seemed like a good opportunity to measure possible effects, so I asked for advice on what to measure. This post summarizes the results. In short, while the subjective effects of meditation were strong, the measurements didn't show anything. This is a fine place to stop reading; I'm mostly posting this because I promised to.

What I Measured What I Measured
  • My performance on the tasks looked entirely random. It wasn't better or worse after meditating, and it didn't get better or worse over time.
  • I have no idea how to do experience sampling. I understand that some people have moods. I'm almost always in a neutral mood, and so wasn't sure what to put most of the time. Also, I'm apparently often away from my phone, and missed many (most?) pings.
What I Learned
  • The Mind Illuminated is as good of a guide as I hoped it would be.
  • A few measly months of meditation isn't going to change anything like your performance on reaction-time-like tasks.
  • A few measly months of meditation will give you a fascinating look into your own mind. It's not what you think. I'd say more, but I'm deeply confused and don't have a good model.
  • Meditation retreats are great. I went on a two-day one, whose format wasn't particularly well-suited for me, and even this had a large effect on my practice.


Review: Slay the Spire

Новости LessWrong.com - 9 декабря, 2018 - 23:40
Published on December 9, 2018 8:40 PM UTC

Epistemic Status: Many hours played

Spoiler-Free Bottom Line: Slay the Spire is an amazing single-player roguelike deckbuilding game. When I wrote that Artifact was the most fun I’ve had gaming in a long time, the only alternative to give me pause was Slay the Spire. Each game, you work your way up the spire, with each room an opportunity to improve your deck, either with rewards from battle or other opportunities. Each turn of each battle, you see what the enemy is going to do, and by default you have three energy to spend on any combination of five drawn cards, to prepare to block their attacks while dealing damage back. If you die, that’s it, time to start over.

Early plays ideally involve discovery of what cards are out there, what decks are possible to assemble, what enemies there are and what they do, and everything else the spire has to offer. As you gain in skill and experience, you play it on additional levels and in new ways.

I highly recommend playing the game, and I highly recommend not learning more or reading further before doing so. Figuring the game out is half the fun.

My Mostly-Spoiler-Free Journey Through the Spire

I started off knowing the basics above, but nothing else. The game was in (earlier) early access, so a bunch of the details were different, but aside from missing the third class (The Defect) the game was largely the same as it is now.

I played my first few games as The Ironclad. At first things were tough, but a little experience went a long way. My first run ended on the Act I boss. My second run ended on the Act II boss. In my third run, I managed to get all the way through and win.

That surprised me quite a bit. Rogelike games are supposed to be way harder than that! I put it up to a lot of luck and a lot of deckbuilding game experience, and moved on to the second character class, The Outcast.

Once again, there was a learning curve, but once again it didn’t seem that hard, and on my second try I got all the way through. I assumed I was fortunate to win so fast, but it seemed powerful things would come my way reasonably often.

At that point, I stopped playing. What more was there to do? I saw some talk of trying to win *more consistently*, and there was the option to use ‘Ascension’ to make the game harder, but I did not see the appeal in either approach. When The Defect became available, I tried it and won on the third try. So after eight games, I had won with all three classes. It had been fun. At $20 I felt I’d had more than my money’s worth, but I figured that was it.

Later articles on the wesbite Rock Paper Shotgun, which I use as my main source of computer gaming news, convinced me to give the daily climb a shot. In each daily climb, all players are given the same random seed, which contains the contents of the spire and a bunch of modifications to spice things up. Then you compete for the high score, as determined by whether you made it the whole way but also by how elegantly you did it. You get rewards for killing extra elite monsters, for not taking damage, for building a bigger deck and so forth. With points to maximize, there’s a constant balance between going for more points, strengthening yourself for later on, and not dying. I spent a few weeks playing the daily climb each day, but after a while that too started to feel repetitive, and once again I was ready to move on.

Then, a few weeks ago, the game released the ending. Five games later I had won with each of the three characters again, and it was time to start gathering keys on my climb to the final boss. On my second try, I reached the fourth and final act… and promptly got completely destroyed. I’d brought a relatively poor deck that was fortunate to get that far, so I tried again. Two games later I was back with a much stronger deck… and I got completely destroyed again.

Finally, we had a challenge I could get behind. If you came with a relatively normal deck, it was clear you were going to have a bad time.

Further games were not about the first three acts. The first three acts contained checkpoints, and ways you could die if you got too aggressive, but they were not the point. The point was to win that final fight. A third try did a little better, but was still not close. A fourth had a lot going for it, I thought I had it, and then I had to use one card too many on the last turn, couldn’t find what I needed, and died to exact damage the turn before I was going to win.




Several tries later, and after several important lessons learned, the plan came together and the heart died in a barrage of Static Lightning.


Two attempts later, The Outcast too was victorious, thanks to a truly absurd amount of poison damage.


I still haven’t quite won with the Ironclad. I actually should have, but I forgot that the heart had an artifact, chose the wrong attack, and came up exactly two points short on the last turn. The Ironclad has the toughest path, but there are doubtless still ways.


Perhaps I’ll try some games in ascension mode. Interestingly, the first ascension level is more likely to kill you, but arguably makes it easier to kill the heart, since you end up with extra relics.

What Makes Slay the Spire Work

The player has all the fun.

Even when you are first discovering the game, it is easy to understand what is about to happen and why. You get a steady stream of meaningful choices. If you choose wisely, you get to do lots of cool things.

Slay the Spire’s central innovation is enemy intents. Giving the player all the fun is its genius. Each turn, you can see what each enemy is planning to do – attack you for some amount, defend, use a buff, inflict a status. At first actions other than attacking and blocking can be mysterious, but you still have a general idea of what is happening, and in time you learn the patterns of each enemy and how they tick.

At first, I thought lack of enemy diversity was a fatal flaw. There were only so many fights, so I would quickly tire of them. Later, I came around to this lack of diversity being actively good. Consider the difference between planning for a wide-open Magic metagame, where you could face anything at all, and planning for a particular metagame with a handful of opponents. Both are interesting in their own way. You get to enjoy both, with a wide open and unknown metagame early on, then a known set of enemies to target later on.

Slay the Spire offers the same. In your first explorations anything can happen, then later on you are planning for the exact enemies and patterns you will face. Your own deck is constantly changing, it is good, once you have enough experience to use the information, to know exactly what you are up against and must do. That is why the game shows you, at the start of each act, which final boss you will face at the end of that act, to allow you to plan and prepare. Later plays of Slay the Spire are all about having a plan, getting what you need to face down exactly the challenges coming your way, and pushing yourself as far as you can but no farther. In my recent playthroughs, there was be a laser focus on what my deck must do to claim victory in the final fight, knowing exactly the attack patterns and challenges I will face.

Another huge advantage of Slay the Spire is simplicity. The game could be simpler, but not without sacrifice. Every bit of complexity counts. You draw five cards a turn, you can play three energy worth of cards (most cost one, some zero or two, a few cost more or scale with what you spend), they mostly do damage or stop the enemy from doing damage, and the complexity is added slowly from there by the cards and relics.

Slay the Spire also lets you do tons of good, powerful things all the time. You start with a basic deck, and every move makes you stronger. Relics give you special abilities and advantages, cards are upgraded at forges, you get a new card after each battle and so on, and there is no attempt whatsoever to balance those cards. The good cards are already a welcome relief compared to the starting cards. The great cards are fantastic.

You get a mostly random set of relics, and can choose what path to take and which of a few options or cards to take at other junctures. You have enough customization to have a ton of influence over how your deck develops, but you are also at the mercy of events and forced to make the most of what you are offered. Again, there is zero attempt to balance things other than to make them fun, so often you’ll face a choice between the more powerful thing and the thing you actually want. Other times, you’ll be handed a huge gift, and other times still you’ll have no use for the relics and cards you’ll find and even sometimes intentionally pass them up (which you are allowed to do). In one recent playthrough I chose not to take a boss relic from the Act 2 boss, which is a huge kick in the nuts, but that’s the way it goes. Building your deck around the relics you are granted is a huge part of what keeps Slay the Spire interesting and fresh.

This general idea of ‘give you lots of choices, each a randomized multiple choice’ pays big dividends. You get a choice of three cards, or a dozen things for sale at the merchant, or which of your fifteen cards to upgrade. Random events usually give you two or three choices. The story of the sum of these random choices becomes the story of the climb. So is the general story of figuring out how to get super powerful things out of your deck when you get the chance.

Hearthstone’s Arena pioneered a similar simplified form of drafting, giving only three choices at a time and not forcing you to adjust to what others around you are doing. It lacks the richness of Magic booster drafts or Artifact drafts, but is much richer and more interesting than it first appears. There is likely much room to enrich such formats while retaining this simple essential nature. Even in Magic booster draft, you still are choosing one from up to fifteen options, so the difference there is mostly in degree – the lack of dynamic opponents is the bigger fundamental distinction.

Slay the Spire also does a great job giving you lots of goals each climb. If you’re not sure if you will beat the Act 3 boss, that’s the goal. If you know you can’t, you can try to get as high as you can. If you know you’ll beat the Act 3 boss, you can try to score more points, or later to set up for the finale. It’s up to you and I found all the goals and the battles satisfying. More than anything, the game does a great job of making the battles fun, and not giving you too many with any one deck or against one type of opponent, before the game ends.


Slay the Spire is highly recommended. It shows how to use simple choices and abilities that combine in unique ways to create varied, interesting and fun puzzles. Its emphasis on letting the player have all the fun, and ensuring there is lots of fun to be had, is even more central than I had previously realized. Slay the Spire offers lots of lessons and innovations that can be used by other games, including multiplayer customizable card games. This is especially true in their limited formats, and for the creation of unique and interesting leagues and special events.

I have strategic thoughts on the game as well, but have cut them from this review. I may or may not choose to write them out at another time.


Kindergarten in NYC: Much More than You Wanted to Know

Новости LessWrong.com - 9 декабря, 2018 - 18:36
Published on December 9, 2018 3:36 PM UTC

Kindergarten in NYC: Much More than You Wanted to Know

My son is turning five next year, which means one of the most important transitions in his childhood and potentially his life: starting Kindergarten. I always thought New York City moms who obsessed over this were clearly crazy.

Now I am one of those moms.

Why do we do this to ourselves? It’s not the one year of kindergarten. It’s securing that spot in the school where you want them to stay until middle school and potentially high school, and probably send your other kids to as well. It’s all of the social and class insecurities that come with choosing a school and its associated peer group. It’s the fear that if you choose poorly, your child will age 100 years and his face will melt off in front of you.

Not quite that severe. Still, you worry you’ll mess up their life and they’ll become drug addled sociopaths living on your couch until you kick them out when they bring back that prostitute.

Maybe going overboard again. They’ll go to State College, move to the suburbs, and work in retail.

Wo wo wo, lets not be unrealistic. Retail won't be around in 10 years. Your kid will be horribly miserable for the next 14 years, go through depressive episodes, and blame you for all of it. That’s what I’m actually worried about. Both my husband and I had horrible elementary school experiences. We still carry scars. We don’t want that for our sons.

So why not home school? All the cool kids are doing it. We have personal reasons why this would not work for our family. Our son has some social deficits, but is extremely bright. Literally everyone we’ve spoken to who knows our son agrees that he would do better in a structured environment with peers. We have observed his profound social-emotional growth upon starting the school year. We saw back-sliding over the summer when he lacked structure or regular peer interactions. He will not listen to us when we teach him. He is a different child in the school setting, soaking up knowledge.

People can rant all they like about how horrible school is philosophically, but that does not negate what we’ve personally witnessed in our own child. Philosophy aside, home-schooling is a lot of work and coordination. We both work full-time. While we would pick home-school over the horrid elementary school experiences we had, we hope we can do better and find a school where he will be happy.

That is much easier said than done. Especially for unique children. Our son has done well in a private preschool with 15 children and 3 teachers. A public kindergarten in NYC has a class of 26 children and one teacher. This goes up to as high as 32 in first grade. That is a lot of kids in a small space. It presents two options. Either you get a very noisy and unruly class, or a strictly controlled group which conforms precisely with everyone sitting quietly and doing the same thing at the same time. We have seen both. Neither is pretty. Our son has sensory issues, and will not tolerate a very noisy classroom. We expect he also would not tolerate a conformist one. Him tolerating it would scare us even more.

If he went to public school, we might well be pressured to put him into a resource room, with children much worse off than himself. Children with emotional disturbance, severe autism, retardation and other severe problems. My mother has worked in such classrooms and what she describes is unacceptable. Those are her stories to tell, but I would not put him there. Ever.

So what can we do? Sue the city! That’s what everyone told us to do. Say the public schools can’t meet your kid’s needs, since they clearly cannot do so. Find a nice, private special needs school, and sue for tuition.

So we saw some special needs schools. Like public schools, they varied a fair bit and we liked some more than others. What they all had in common was a severely impaired peer group. He would be one of the most functional students in the class. We don’t want that for him. We want him to be challenged and learn from peers who can be models for him.

So what next? Private school! Private schools also vary a lot, but have one thing in common. They are expensive.

I’m not sure you understand how bad this situation is. I spent time looking around. The average private elementary school charges about $45,000 per year.

Yup. You saw that right, $45,000. That’s more than most students' college tuition. Before aid or loans. And it’s post-tax income. And we have more than one child.

With two (and perhaps more) children, that would be most if not all of my post-tax income as a psychiatrist.

People have the audacity to say “But you can afford it.” Don’t get Zvi started on that phrase.

Even if you want to send your kid to private school, you have to apply and be accepted. Most good private schools are selective. Most do not want to deal with a child with special needs.

We have been lucky to find one nearby private school that charges considerably less (though still far from cheap) and happens to have an educational philosophy we think would suit our son. It’s a Waldorf school. It emphasizes practical skills such as cooking, gardening, carpentry, foreign language, and trade. Since we believe our son is gifted academically, being less academic does not concern us. He will learn that stuff at home whether we want him to or not. Thus, we wait with baited breath for his trial period there to see if they’ll accept him. We don’t have a back-up option that comes close at present.

What’s been really interesting to me through this process is how vastly schools differ from each other. Often people speak about ‘school’ as if it is one thing. Either you agree with sending kids to ‘school’ or you don’t. This is not the case. One reason New York City moms go berserk over this is that there are *vast* differences between schools even a few blocks away from each other. Within the public schools, class is everything. Most children go to their ‘zoned' school, and so people will pay higher rents near the ‘good’ schools to get their kids in. One of the public schools we saw looked and felt like a prison, had no music or art program, and only let the kids outside for 20 minutes a day. Another 10 blocks north in the neighboring district collected $500K/yr from the PTA and had full music and art programs, book fairs, a large library, and extra in-classroom assistants.

We live in a district which has weird rules about admissions. Instead of having a zoned school, you make a rank-list of schools in the district and apply to all of them. In an attempt to ingrate the schools more, the city has imposed rules about who can be admitted by class. The schools are required to accept 67% of ‘diversity’ applicants who qualify either for low income, English as second language, or living in shelters (i.e. homeless). There is a lot of evidence supporting that peer group is a major factor in child development and life outcome. Political incorrectness aside, this is not a wonderful peer group. It also far reduces the chances that your child will get into the particular school you want them to go to. Since priority is first given to siblings, the ‘nice’ school in this district (that we would have previously been zoned for) now only has four ‘non-diversity’ spots open for admission this year. Even if we were willing to send him there, he probably wouldn’t get in. Because of this, many better-off families are moving out of the district entirely. This is reflected in the rents within our community – rent jumps considerably right at the district line. People respond to incentives. If we sent our kids to public school we would be forced to do the same. If you have any money at all, you go to the district where the PTA funds the nice art program, not the one with the metal detector in the lobby.

Going private for education hopefully means you avoid true disaster, and the peer group is relatively wealthy and educated. But even private schools differ vastly in their philosophy towards education. Some are super academic, drilling kids to get high SAT scores and become doctors and lawyers. Some are more laid back. Some hardly seem to teach anything at all. There are small schools with one class per grade, others that are much larger. Religious and secular schools. Science schools and arts schools. If you’re willing to pay for it odds are there is some school that you would like. That’s a big if though.

My practical advice: If your only option is public school, move to an area that has a nice school at least one full school year before you intend to apply. You can tour schools just by saying you have a kid in the district, and they don’t force you to prove it. Once you find a school you like, you can move to that school’s zone, and you will have a high chance of admission. To be safe, you should make sure there are 1-2 back up schools you find acceptable in the district. If you cannot afford to live any places with reasonable public schools, you should seriously consider leaving the city. I am told of reasonable schools in NJ…

If you can’t stand public school, because at the end of the day they all follow common core, take those tests, and have 32 kids in a class, then you have to consider what you can afford. Home school has no tuition, but will require all-day child care, any educational materials/classes you want to use, and a large coordination effort on your part. If you’re a stay at home parent this might appeal to you anyway. For the most part the people who choose to do it are happy with it.

Private school is expensive, but requires less advance planning, since they don’t care what district you’re in as long as you can pay. You might still need to consider moving for private school if you don’t want your child to have an infinitely long commute. The city will pay for busing to private schools for bus routes which are 0.25 – 2.0 miles. Keep in mind that they are measuring distance along bus routes and not geographically. Even if you are physically within 2 miles of the school, the bus route might be over 2 miles and you will be out of luck. To be fair, if you’re willing to spend $50,000/year on a school, then what’s another $40/day to hire someone to take them to school?

I am now going to write some school reviews. I will leave out specific names, but if you are interested you can message me privately, and I will let you know which is which. Zvi saw some schools I did not, which I haven’t written about, and we still have some tours planned at local public schools.

Public Schools:

District 1 (our district – the one with the integration)

Public School A:

I was pleasantly surprised by this school’s philosophy of education. They were laid back and progressive. Kids sit at tables instead of desks. Group conversations and creative expression was encouraged. No mandatory homework. Starting in 1st grade, kids learn chess and have the opportunity in 3rd and 4th grade to compete in tournaments. In 3rd grade the kids learn basic computer programming. There is a year of free music lessons. They have a theater and a roof-top garden. Gym is non-competitive until 4th grade. 45 minutes of daily outdoor time. I really liked everything they *said* and the principal was super cool. However, the actual classrooms were tiny and crammed full of students. It was loud. I felt claustrophobic there, and I don’t have sensory issues in general. Plus, the district just implemented the diversity criteria this year, so the students I was seeing are not the peer group my son is going to have if he went. And, of course, they only have four non-sibling, non-diversity spots available.

Public School B:

This place is a prison. There is an angry security guard at the entrance to the grime-encrusted orange walls. Multiple signs above the guard state ‘theft is a crime.’ The slit-like windows at the top of the rooms let in thin beams of daylight to an otherwise flickering-fluorescent landscape. This is hell. There is no music or art program – no room in the budget. So ‘we do that within our lessons’. 20 minutes of yard time a day. Everything is centered around standardized tests. The only white faces were part of a special program. No one with any choice would ever let their kid set foot in this place unless they were in the special program. Not worth it. It’s social control of minorities. Straight up. If SJWs want a cause, here’s one for you. And no, forcing white or wealthy children to go there is not going to work. They won’t.

District 2 (the nice one)

Public School C:

The platonic ideal of school. When you think school, you think this school. The people who designed it thought ‘what is school?’ and then based the design off of every trope and meme about school, ever. Charts of everything on the walls. ‘Task leaders.’ Bulletin boards. Window decals. Those weird cartoon people you only see in school ever. Worksheets, worksheets, worksheets. Chalk boards. White boards. This place has it all! The place felt nice. Larger rooms, more light. Nice enrichment activities. A music and art program. A nice library and computer lab. Several outdoor spaces and playground equipment. The place gets $500k/yr from the PTA to keep the place great. Mostly white faces sitting quietly in circles while the teacher spoke to them in exaggerated tones with big faces while pointing to a white board.

Looked like the children of the corn. Completely conformist. But conformists at least a year ahead academically. It is disturbing to see kindergarteners completing reading worksheets and pushing papers around, but they were able to do it. This is the place for upper-middle class white people who move into the ‘good’ part of the neighborhood.

Private Schools:

Private School A: Preparatory School

EXPENSIVE. Beautiful school and facility. It is a ‘Quaker’ school, but mostly secular. Has a beautiful chapel where kids have ‘community assembly and quiet time’ once a week. Other parents were very well dressed – a lot of suits and jewelry. Academically rigorous without being oppressively conformist. Perhaps because the class size is 20 instead of 30, so there is more room to maneuver. A fine school as schools go, but not that much of an upgrade from PSC given the price. Also difficult to get into and unwilling to accommodate special needs.

Private School B: Jewish School

I loved this school! I really did. It’s a progressive, laid-back atmosphere that is still academically oriented. It is very Jewish. The boys wear keepas and the curriculum is fully bilingual with one teacher speaking English and the other speaking Hebrew. They have all the usual stuff such as music and art. They go outside for 1 hr/day. They are willing to work with special needs. They know how to work with gifted and talented kids and make special assignments for children who are ahead. LOVE IT. Problem was, it is about 1 hour away by bus and it’s a 7.5 hr day. Not doing that to my kid. Not willing to move close enough to make it work. At least not this coming year.

Private School C: Waldorf School

This is a very unique nearby school that happens to be less expensive than the others. It has a unique education philosophy (a Waldorf school) which emphasizes embodiment and practical skills over academic ones. The curriculum includes foreign languages, cooking, washing, gardening, carpentry, and trade. The kindergarten is entirely non-academic and includes copious time for free play and an hour of outdoor activity. The later grades teach traditional academics, but do so in somewhat unusual ways, which I don’t have a strong opinion on at present. Since the main reason we are sending our son to school is for socialization, and since he’s already brilliant, I’m less worried about academics, especially in the younger grades. The school requested a drastic reduction in our child’s screen time, which at first freaked me out (who are they to tell me what to do in my own home), but I kind of understand. It’s a very small school (only 1 class per grade) and they are currently considering whether or not they can accommodate his needs. This is our top choice at present.

Special Needs Schools:

SNS A: Social Justice Away!

This school is an ‘integrated’ private school – meaning it’s a private school for regular kids which also accepts children with learning disabilities and has services for them. This means you can get the tuition paid by the city, unlike regular private schools, with a relatively normal peer group. It’s a great idea. The school itself is beautiful and has All The Things.

However there is a catch. The school has an agenda. It’s a social justice school. In the sense that other schools are reading and math schools. They call themselves ‘Advocates for Social Justice’ in their opening lines. I wouldn’t have thought this mattered for elementary age children. Sure, loving each other is wonderful! Accepting your neighbors is wonderful! But this is not where they draw the line. Social Justice is taught in every aspect of the curriculum. There are 7 year olds discussing their ‘identities’, an 8 year old talking about how his hero is Colin Kaepernick, that guy who keeled for the national anthem. The teachers then praise his 'activism' for writing about it. The other sample lesson is on how Christopher Columbus was a white colonialist oppressor. And the children absorb this. The school is accepts all kinds – unless you happen to be a *gasp* Republican. No diversity of thinking. If you don’t fully swallow the SJW philosophy in all its forms, or don't want them forced down your child's throat, this is not the place for you.

SNS B: Soothing Gardens…

Beautiful place. Therapeutic environment. Has the things. Didn’t want us to see the children – which was strange. When we peaked in at them, they were, well, very special. Seems like a great place for very special kids. If I have one that needed all that, I’d consider sending him there.

SNS C: Jews with learning problems

While not specifically a Jewish school, there were clearly a lot of Jewish children and teachers. I actually liked this place a lot. It was very laid back and gave the kids a lot of lee-way to be who they are. It didn’t feel at all oppressive. They group kids into separate reading and math groups not by age, but by reading and math level, which I liked. The kids seemed less special than at SNS B, but still clearly special. The school didn’t have its own outdoor space and so kids only go outside twice week with a bunch of parent-volunteers, since they want one adult per kid when crossing the streets. What was particularly disappointing was that they were clearly quite academically behind. The classes were so laid back that there didn’t seem to be a challenge, and the teachers were fine with whatever they produced. I can imagine certain children this would be very good for. I have vastly higher hopes for our son.


Ненасильственное общение. Тренировка

События в Кочерге - 9 декабря, 2018 - 15:20
Четверг, 13 декабря, 19:30

Клуб чтения цепочек

События в Кочерге - 9 декабря, 2018 - 15:20
Пятница, 14 декабря, 19:30

Уличная эпистемология. Тренировка

События в Кочерге - 9 декабря, 2018 - 14:10
Вторник, 11 декабря, 19:30

New Ratfic: Nyssa in the Realm of Possibility

Новости LessWrong.com - 9 декабря, 2018 - 08:00
Published on December 9, 2018 5:00 AM UTC

For NaNoWriMo, I decided to do a rationality themed pastiche of the Phantom Tollbooth. It is complete and serializing at http://nyssa.elcenia.com on Saturdays and Wednesdays. There are three chapters up as of this posting.


What precisely do we mean by AI alignment?

Новости LessWrong.com - 9 декабря, 2018 - 05:23
Published on December 9, 2018 2:23 AM UTC

We sometimes phrase AI alignment as the problem of aligning the behavior or values of AI with what humanity wants or humanity's values or humanity's intent, but this leaves open the questions of just what precisely it means for an AI to be "aligned" with just what precisely we mean by "wants," "values," or "intent". So when we say we want to build aligned AI, what precisely do we mean to accomplish beyond vaguely building an AI that does-what-I-mean-not-what-I-say?


What is "Social Reality?"

Новости LessWrong.com - 8 декабря, 2018 - 20:41
Published on December 8, 2018 5:41 PM UTC

Eliezer's sequences touch upon this concept but I'm not sure they actually use the phrase. Much of my understanding of it came from in-person conversations. Various comments and posts have discussed it but to my knowledge there isn't a clear online writeup.



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