I don’t have any formal math for you, but my answer is that trying to not get a refund is a planning question that involves predicting the coming year, whereas trying to maximize your refund is a strategic question about filing your taxes after the year happened. In other words, tax owed or refunded at filing time is a measurement of prediction error about your expectations for the prior year.
At any given time, I can make tax withholding decisions (or estimated tax payments for the self-employed) that I expect will mean I pay the exact right amount in withheld taxes. However, between now and the end of the tax year, lots of things can happen. My income can change, the tax rates can change, I can buy or sell a house or car and both my deductions and tax obligations can change, I could get married or otherwise change my filing status, and so on. There are enough variables outside my direct control that I should not expect to always get this right.
When I file, I have all the information. I know exactly what happened, where reality differed from my predictions. Yes, there may be things I can do even then in how I file that might legally change the outcome, but in general that’s a question of skill in reading legalese and filling out forms.
So, I value having coherent and internally consistent beliefs. Are there any good tools or methods for helping train or test myself on that?
Like, prediction scoring can be helpful for calibrating individual probability estimates over time, but it’d be great to have some tool that would let me put in some probability estimates, then prod me with questions to check for mutually incompatible estimates, like by asking me to also estimate enough conditional combinations to make some inferences for me to sanity check against.
Link to a review article
I don’t know the answer to your question other than “they merged more fully than the genomes of other endosymbionts,” and in any case endosymbiosis is only one proposed explanation for the origin of the nucleus.
Fair enough. I was reaching too far in assuming endosymbiotic events were the limiting factor in that transition.
I suspect all or almost all of these play a role, but I’d also add that the world asks us to make a lot more choices now than in the past, period. We have more options in every area of our lives, our choices are less socially constrained than they used to be, and we have vastly more access to information sources for making choices, but the amount of brainpower and willpower we have access to in order to process that info and divide up among all the choices hasn’t changed.
You’re right, nothing explicitly stated anything about old age, but the study itself has “burials” right up in the headline. IDK if respondents knew those questions were coming when they answered the “lifespan” question, but if they did, I doubt most people automatically assume an increased lifespan meant they’d start being younger than they currently were. That’s all conjecture on my part, but I think it’s similarly plausible as psychological life-weariness as an explanation.
How would computational capacity be infinite in the presence of finite energy?
As I understand it, the theoretical limits on energy efficiency of irreversible computing are a function of ambient temperature (because they involve dumping heat/entropy into the environment). That means if the future universe keeps getting colder as it expands, the amount of computing you can do with a fixed supply of stored energy goes up without bound, as long as you use it slowly enough. That’s basically Dyson’s Eternal Intelligence, though I don’t think anyone knows what the computing architecture would look like. Things like the Omega Point spacetime in a collapsing universe seem more speculative to me but still might be possible.
That linked account seems to assume that people who want to live forever expect to “get old” along the way, in the same way they do now, and I don’t think that’s accurate. I wouldn’t want to live even for centuries, let alone forever, in a 90 year old’s body, in world where most of the people I know and love are gone forever. But many of those same 90 year olds will gladly profess to believe, or at least hope, to be reunited with loved ones in death and remain with them forever. But if you offer me the chance to stay in a 25 or 30 year old’s body/level of health, and everyone else I love would get the same, I’d at least like the chance to see what it’s like and (Ian Banks’ Culture-style) get to choose my lifespan, not all at once but each and every day, based on how well it works out. I have no idea if I would actually want to live for TREE(3) years, but I’d much rather have the choice, and not have to make it within the next 50 years.
it’s impossible to literally live forever.
Are you sure? That seems like a question of physics, and the accessible energy reserves and computational capacity of our light cone (the latter of which may be infinite even if the former is not).
Any survey of this type runs into, not just the nuances of the questions and how they’re asked, but how little most people have really thought about the question, or what the different answers would actually imply.
Ah, I totally missed that! Makes sense :)
For myself, I’m one of the people who, like the writer of that book mentions can happen, accidentally had my A&P experience before I had any meditation practice, back in freshman year of college. Also had several times when I had all the 1st jhana experiences spontaneously, too. All I can say is, my next 12 years (10 before I started regularly meditating) made it very clear to me that the “dark night” is real, and I’m so glad I’m 1) now out of it, and 2) have a name for it.
I agree with the post as far as it goes. Frankly, I think later-Vimes would too, once he finds out how much the *actually* rich people actually make as income from inherited assets without ever lifting a finger.
I think there is some truth to the theory even for the rich, in the context of inherited wealth in an agrarian society (medieval or earlier), for people within a few rungs of each other in the income distribution. Back then all but the very richest still had to be frugal in many ways. Today, not so much, and the rungs are farther apart, and the products the poor and rich buy are much more different. Most people have no idea how rich “the rich” actually are, and even less idea what that actually means in terms of living their lives.
Also: have you read Scott Alexander’s Staying Classy post on some descriptions and discussions of economic and social class in the modern world (including Siderea)? I think the boots theory is basically Vimes applying his Labor thinking in an inappropriate context.
Also also: durability and price in the modern world are very poorly correlated for most things I buy. $500 fashion boots are frequently going to be less durable than ordinary workboots, even if they pretend to be workboots themselves. Discerning durability is quite hard, and if you’re rich enough, not worth the effort. Similarly, yes some laptops are better built than others, but I’ve never had one last longer than 4 years before it was not worth it to maintain or fix it. For desktops, the cycle is slightly longer but not by that much. I do have sneakers I have kept for >5 years, and they are a major brand name, but I bought them (new) at Marshalls for less than 1⁄4 the MSRP. Boots theory in Ankh-Morpork didn’t have to contend with just how complicated modern capitalism can get in terms of setting prices.
There is, and lots of traditions along it, but I think where on that spectrum is best depends as much on the student as anything else. You’re trying to make purely mental moves to shift your mind into a new stable state, but the mind is complicated enough with enough variety in starting states that different techniques are likely to work for different people.
For me, Scott Alexander’s book review that got me to read Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha is what resonated for me and really helped my meditation practice progress. It’s at lot of explanation and description but very insistent about the limits of words anyway.
My take on the argument for the Zen approach is that as you bring in book-length discussions, it’s hard for anyone who doesn’t already understand to judge whether what was written is “right” or useful. So over time you end up with a lot of garbage to parse through which may or may not still make the whole better than the Zen approach.
If something only happened once in our planet’s history, without which we wouldn’t be here, then that doesn’t tell us about how likely it is (anthropic reasoning, we’re only on the planets where it happened). If it happened multiple times on a single planet, then it can’t be TOO unlikely, and probably common enough that a significant fraction of planets with prokaryotic cells anything like ours will eventually end up with eukaryotic cells.
It’s the same kind of argument as if we found life that independently evolved on another world in our own solar system. If life evolved twice independently on two adjacent planets even though those planets differ in significant ways (number and size of moons, geologic history, temperature, light exposure) then abiogenesis must be common enough that it happens on a substantial fraction of all planets, and can’t be the reason we don’t see lots of other civilizations nearby.
Like you said, reading isn’t enough. I think two of the key challenges for such software would be limiting inferential distance for any particular user, and giving practice examples/problems that they actually care about. That’s much easier with a skilled mentor than with software, but I suspect it would be very helpful to have many different types of contexts and framings for whatever you try to have such software teach.
My first semester college physics class, the first homework set was all Fermi problems, just training us to make plausible assumptions and see where they lead. Things like “How many words are there in all the books in the main campus library?” or “How many feathers are there on all the birds in the world?” Even though this was years before the sequences were even written, let alone when I read them, it definitely helped me learn to think more expansively about what kinds of things count as “evidence” and how to use them. It also encourages playfulness with ideas, and counters the sense of learned helplessness a lot of us develop about knowledge in the course of our formal schooling.
Actually—beyond specific skills, it might be helpful to think about trying to foster the 12 virtues. Not just exercises, but anecdotes to motivate and show what’s possible in interesting and real contexts, games that are fun to experiment with, things like that.
I don’t know how many people, if any, are actually going around in daily life trying to assign or calculate probabilities (conditional or otherwise) or directly apply Bayes’ theorem. However, there are core insights that come from learning to think about probability theory coherently that are extremely non-obvious to almost everyone, and require deliberate practice. This includes seemingly simple things like “Mathematical theorems hold whether or not you understand them,” “Questions of truth and probability have right answers, and if you get the wrong answers you’ll fail to make optimal decisions,” or “It’s valuable, psychologically and for interpersonal communication, to be able to assign numerical estimates of your confidence in various beliefs or hypotheses.” Other more subtle ones like “it is fundamentally impossible to be 100% certain of anything” are also important, and *much* harder to explain to people who aren’t aware of the math that defines the relevant terms.
My day job as a research analyst involves making a lot of estimates about a lot of things based on fairly loose and imprecise evidence. In recent years I’ve been involved in helping train a lot of my coworkers. I find myself paraphrasing ideas from the Sequences constantly (recommending people read them has been less helpful; most won’t, and in any case transfer of learning is hard). I notice that their writing, speaking, and thinking become a lot more precise, with fewer mistakes and impossibilities, when I ask them to try doing simple mental exercises like “In your head, assign a probability estimate to everything you claim will happen or think is true now, and add appropriate “likeliness” quantifiers to your sentences based on that.”
Also, I’ve had multiple people tell me that they won’t, or even literally can’t, make numerical assumptions and estimates without numerical data to back them up, sometimes with very strict ideas about what counts as data. The fact they their colleagues manage to make such assumptions and get useful answers isn’t enough to persuade them otherwise. Math is often more likely to get through to such people.
As best we can tell, it only happened a single time in the 3.5 billion year history of life, and from that single ancestor all eukaryotic organisms (plants and animals) are descended.
I have read that chloroplasts, and possibly the nucleus itself, may also have originated as a result of endosymbiosis. Not directly relevant to this post, but relevant to (for example) the strength of claims for the prokaryote-->eukaryote transition as a “great filter” candidate.
I find it likely that Neuralink will succeed with increasing the bandwith speed for “uploading” information from the brain, and I think it will do so with the help of AI. For example you could send an image of something through the Neuralink, an AI would interpret it, fill in the details that are unclear, and then you have an image, very close to what you imagined, containing several hundred or maybe thousands kilobytes of information.
I would be very interested to know if self-reported variation in mental imagery will significantly affect the ability to use such a system. Also, how trainable that is as a skill.
Yes, thanks, and that I think is the difference I was vaguely aiming toward. I was neglecting investment and real assets, and don’t quite know how they fit in (since you can’t spend them without selling them), so I did phrase my question in terms of cash and bank deposits.
Like—does our current monetary system allow for any possible way for both people and the government to not, on average, be in debt for more money than they have in cash and bank savings?
I’m a research analyst, I spend a large portion of my day noticing my own confusion and helping other people resolve theirs ;-)
Thanks, that is exactly the article I needed! I knew my question was at least MMT-adjacent, I never made the accounting identity connection though.
I think a lot of the other comments about communications technology and social media to amplify the loudest voices, without any institutional gatekeepers, are a big part of the problem. The ability to discern what sources are worth trusting is rarer and harder now than ever before. As with the Chinese Robber Fallacy, anyone can now convince a substantial number of people (often including themselves) of almost any even remotely plausible conjecture, and show what looks to most people like a lot of evidence in its support. I see myself still falling for this from time to time, and the only reason I ever catch it feels like some kind of memetic inoculation as a result of reading Scott Alexander’s writings for so long.
Also, since reading the Meaningness post “A bridge to meta-rationality vs. civilizational collapse” a few years ago I’ve started thinking this describes a lot of why people seem to constantly be talking passed each other when it comes to news and politics, instead of to each other. Most of the things we hear on any topic are coming from people who mostly operate in Stage 3 (pre-rational), but know they have been told in many ways not to trust people who try to argue from a stage 4 perspective (rational, systematic). That doesn’t really leave many reliable tools to form a better understanding. Also, this community is one of a very small number of places I’ve ever encountered a significant fraction of people able to operate at stage 5 (meta-rational), which I think is my target for what “raising the sanity waterline” should mean. Without that, there’s no real way to apply even correct rational thinking to the messiness of society.