I reimplemented the game in vanilla Python and managed to simulate it several hundred times with ~10k random species for a total of hundreds of thousands of generations.
Unfortunately, I didn’t read Hylang documentation carefully and thought foragers could simultaneously eat one of every food available, instead of just the most nutritious one...
Only my throwaway locust clone survived under the real rules. :’(
Haven’t played Osu! for many years now unfortunately. I only got into it briefly to practice mouse accuracy for FPS games, but that motivation has dried up. I suspect Osu! would still be damn good fun without it, so I’ll let you know if it gets to the top of my gaming queue. :)
Here are two recentish papers I really enjoyed reading, which I think are fairly reasonable to approach. Some of the serious technical details might be out of reach.
I tried Touhou Perfect Cherry Blossom at one point and never got past any difficulty, so I defer to your expertise here. There’s a general skill of getting better at focusing one’s attention in tandem with getting better at execution and this post is only a first approximation.
Yea, I think there’s some general pattern of the form:
Research is weird and mysterious.
Instead of studying research, why don’t we study the minds that do research?
But minds are equally weird and mysterious!
Ah yes, but you are yourself possessed of a mind, which, weirdly enough, can imitate other minds at a mysteriously deep level without consciously understanding what they’re doing.
I love the film study post, thanks for linking! This all reminds me of a “fishbowl exercise” they used to run at the MIRI Summer Fellows program, where everyone crowded around for half an hour and watched two researchers do research. I suppose the main worry about transporting such exercises to research is that you end up watching something like this.
But then he encounters the rigamarole of the whole process you describe in your post and it stops him from doing what he originally dreamed. He needs to get published. He needs to do original research. He needs to help his advisor and other professors do their research. He needs to do all of that because otherwise he won’t be respected enough to actually have a career in physics research. But doing that kind of work isn’t why he got into physics in the first place!
I’m confused about the claim that the academic process is at all misaligned with his original dream. Isn’t doing original research and getting published the clearest path—though perhaps not the only one—on the way to the goal of restructuring quantum mechanics? Isn’t helping his advisor and other professors do their research one of the best ways of learning the ropes in the meantime? Isn’t acquiring the respect of your colleagues exactly the path to having a whole community and field at your back to effect those paradigm-shifting breakthroughs, instead of going it alone?
We are using the word “coast” differently—what I meant by coasting is that many of the professors I know would have to actively sabotage their own research groups and collaborators to not produce ~five nice papers a year (genuine though perhaps not newsworthy contributions to the state of knowledge). Of course, the state of affairs seriously varies with the quality of the institution.
Right, the structure is quite simple. The only thing that came to mind about finite factored sets as combinatorial objects was studying the L-function of the number of them, which surely has some nice Euler product. Maybe you can write it as a product of standard zeta functions or something?
Are there any interesting pure combinatorics problems about finite factored sets that you’re interested in?
This is great!
I’m interested in the educational side of this, particularly how to do one-on-one mentorship well. I’ve had effective mentors in the past who did anything from [blast me with charisma and then leave me to my own devices] to [put me under constant surveillance until I past the next test, rinse, repeat.] Can you say something about your educational philosophy/methods?
This is fascinating and I’d love to hear more depth on whatever you’d be willing to share.
Regarding the suggestion to start with something small, I think in hindsight it was kind of a manipulation on my part to make the tool seem safer and to try to get more people to try it. In my limited experience, internal conflicts that seem small rarely turn out to be.
When I first tried IDC at CFAR, the initial “small starting point” of “Should I floss?” dredged up a whole complex about distrust of doctors in particular and authority in general. A typical experience with watching myself and others IDC is that regardless of the starting point, one ends up in a grand dramatic battle of angels and demons over one’s soul.
Thanks for reminding me about this talk! I read it one more time just now and was struck by passages that I completely missed the first couple times:
Ed David was concerned about the general loss of nerve in our society. It does seem to me that we’ve gone through various periods. Coming out of the war, coming out of Los Alamos where we built the bomb, coming out of building the radars and so on, there came into the mathematics department, and the research area, a group of people with a lot of guts. They’ve just seen things done; they’ve just won a war which was fantastic. We had reasons for having courage and therefore we did a great deal. I can’t arrange that situation to do it again. I cannot blame the present generation for not having it, but I agree with what you say; I just cannot attach blame to it. It doesn’t seem to me they have the desire for greatness; they lack the courage to do it.
It seems an optimistic note, that some of what one lacks in ability or work ethic, one can make up for with courage, which one can train. And also:
For myself I find it desirable to talk to other people; but a session of brainstorming is seldom worthwhile. I do go in to strictly talk to somebody and say, ``Look, I think there has to be something here. Here’s what I think I see …″ and then begin talking back and forth. But you want to pick capable people. To use another analogy, you know the idea called the `critical mass.′ If you have enough stuff you have critical mass. There is also the idea I used to call `sound absorbers’. When you get too many sound absorbers, you give out an idea and they merely say, ``Yes, yes, yes.″ What you want to do is get that critical mass in action; ``Yes, that reminds me of so and so,″ or, ``Have you thought about that or this?″ When you talk to other people, you want to get rid of those sound absorbers who are nice people but merely say, ``Oh yes,″ and to find those who will stimulate you right back.
In other words, to be a good collaborator you have to contribute to the babble.
Is the following interpretation equivalent to the point?It can be systematically incorrect to “update on evidence.” What my brain experiences as “evidence” is actually “an approximation of the posterior.” Thus, the actual dog is [1% scary], but my prior says dogs are [99% scary], I experience the dog as [98% scary] which my brain rounds back to [99% scary]. And so I get more evidence that I am right.
I’m not totally convinced this is the right way to think about it, any given useful mutation will depend on some constant number of coordinates flipping, so in this high-dimensional space you’re talking about, useful mutations would look like affine subspaces of low codimension. When you project down to the relevant few dimensions, there’s probably more copies of virus than points to fit in, and it takes a long time for them to spread out.
I guess it depends on the geometry of the problem, whether there are a small number of relevant mutations that make a difference, each with a reasonable chance of being reached, or a huge number of relevant mutations each of which is hard to reach.
Adding onto this a little, here’s a toy model of viral genetic diversity based on my high-school level biology.
Suppose the virus’ DNA starts out as 000 (instead of ACTG for simplicity), and it needs to mutate into 111 to become stronger. Each individual reproduction event has some small probability p of flipping one of these bits. Some bit flips cause the virus to fail to function altogether, while others have no or negligible effect on the virus. As time goes on, the number of reproduction events starting from a given bitstring grows exponentially, so the likelihood of getting one more 1 grows exponentially as well. However, each time you jump from 000 to 100, it’s not as if all other copies of 000 turn into 100, so making the next jump takes a while of waiting on lots of copies of 100 to happen. And then some 101 appears, and there’s no jump for a while again as that strain populates.
The upshot is that you imagine the viral population to be “filling out the Hamming cube” one bitflip at a time and the weight of each bitstring is the total number of viruses with that code, and a genuinely new strain only appears when all 3 bits get flipped in some copy. But:
(a) The more total copies of the virus there is, the faster a bad mutation happens (speed scaling linearly).
(b) Assuming that some mutations require multiple independent errors to occur (which seems likely?), the virus population is “making incremental research progress” over time by spreading out across the genetic landscape towards different strains, even when no visibly different strains occur.
re: why are there more scary new strains now:
Have people have already accounted for the fact that the more virus there is in the world, the more likely it is for one of these viruses to mutate? If there’s 5x as many cases of covid floating around right now than in September, a strain as bad as the UK strain will emerge 5x as quickly in expectation.