That seems like it could only potentially be a feature in competitive games; yet I see it all the time in single-player games with no obvious nods to competition (e.g. no leaderboards). In fact, I have the vague impression games that emphasize competition tend to be more legible—although it’s possible I only have this impression from player-created resources like wikis rather than actual differences in developer behavior. (I’ll have to think about this some.)
Also, many of these games show an awful lot of numbers that they don’t, strictly speaking, need to show at all. (I’ve also played some games that don’t show those numbers at all, and I generally conclude that those games aren’t for me.) Offering the player a choice between +5 armor and +10 accuracy implies that the numbers “5” and “10″ are somehow expected to be relevant to the player.
Also, in several cases the developers have been willing to explain more of the math on Internet forums when people ask them. Which makes it seem less like a conscious strategy to withhold those details and more that it just didn’t occur to them that players would want them.
There certainly could be some games where the developers are consciously pursuing an anti-legible-math policy, but it seems to me that the examples I have in mind do not fit this picture very well.
In resource management games, I typically have a set of coefficients in my head for the current relative marginal values of different resources, and my primary heuristic is usually maximizing the weighted sum of my resources according to these coefficients.
In combat strategy games, I usually try to maximize (my rate of damage) x (maximum damage I can sustain before I lose) / (enemy rate of damage) x (damage I need to cause before I win).
These don’t seem especially profound to me. But I’ve noticed a surprising number of video games that make it distressingly hard to track these things; for instance, by making it so that the data you need to calculate them is split across three different UI screens, or by failing to disclose the key mathematical relationships between the public variables and the heuristics I’m trying to track. (“You can choose +5 armor or +10 accuracy. No, we’re not planning to tell you the mathematical relationship between armor or accuracy and observable game outcomes, why do you ask?”)
It’s always felt odd to me that there isn’t widespread griping about such games.
As a result of reading this post, I have started explicitly tracking two hypotheses that I wasn’t before: (1) that the value of tracking things-like-these is much less obvious than I think, and (2) that a lot of people lack the spare cognitive capacity to track the things I’m tracking.
Though I’m not sure yet whether they’re going to steal much probability from my previous leading hypothesis, “most players are not willing to do mental multiplication in order to play better.”
I’m not sure if this is helpful, but I tend to think of the term “resources” as referring to things that are expended when used (like dollars or fuel cells). I think of reusable tools (like screwdrivers or light-switches) as being in a different category.
(I realize that approximately all tools will in fact wear out after some amount of use, but these still feel like naturally-distinct categories for most things in my actual life. I do not think of my screwdriver or my measuring tape or my silverware as having some finite number of charges that are being expended each time I use them.)
EDIT: Reworded for clarity.
I was going to comment that this older post might provide insight into this problem, and then realized that you wrote that older post...
Typo: reverse X and Y in one of these.
The agent “prefers” X over Y if it expends resources to get from X to Y.
Rational actors don’t respond to threats
I’m currently reading planecrash, and just today read a scene that could plausibly have prompted this bullet point: Keltham is confused about teachers punishing students, and makes an argument about how if someone threatens to break your arm unless you give them your shoes, you should fight back, even though having your arm broken is worse than losing your shoes.
But my interpretation of this scene was “Keltham has lived all his life in dath ilan, where Very Serious people have done a lot of work specifically to engineer a societal equilibrium where this would be true, and has utterly failed to grasp how the game theory changes for the circumstances in this new world (partly because culture gap, partly because lies).” I don’t think it’s actually true in general that’s it’s irrational to respond to threats (though judging when it’s rational is more complicated than just deciding whether a broken arm is worse than losing your shoes).
(The glowfic characters don’t have cause to directly address this point, because “teachers punishing students” isn’t actually about threats at all; it’s reinforcement, which is a different thing, and they are arguably still doing it wrong but for totally different reasons, so Keltham’s parable about shoes turns out to be irrelevant.)
I...guess I could probably turn my interpretation of the scene into a post, if that has noticeable expected value? Which it probably does if this scene is commonly being interpreted as “Keltham correctly argues that it is never rational to cave to a threat”, but I’m not actually sure if this is the scene you had in mind or if your interpretation of it is common.
When something is a million words long, you should probably be thinking of it like a series rather than a single novel.
But it’s not crazy for a series to be that long; for comparison, that’s about the length of Harry Potter (the original 7-book series, not HPMOR). A Song of Ice and Fire is up to around 1.8 million (and counting).
I agree my line isn’t particularly sharp. This is less of a considered policy and more an attempt to articulate my intuitions.
Ending the discussion would be fair.
I’m glad I eventually understood your commenting model, though. I don’t feel like I often have opportunities to explore conflicts of expectations in detail, so this was valuable evidence for updating my overall Internet-discussions-model. (As well as a reminder that other peoples’ frames are both harder to predict and harder to communicate than my intuitions would suggest.) So thanks.
I don’t think your description of what I want is entirely accurate. I wouldn’t say that I expect sub-comments to never be wider than their parent, but I expect that they’re somehow a response to the parent, rather than just being whatever you happened to be thinking about at the moment you wrote the sub-comment.
For example, if I posted an analogy about how air conditioners are somehow like kittens, then all of these would seem like reasonable responses that could be considered to widen the topic:
I think air conditioners are more like jellyfish because (reasons)
I’ve long thought that alarm clocks are similar to kittens for largely similar reasons; perhaps there’s an unexplored connection between air conditioners and alarm clocks?
That analogy makes sense, but it doesn’t address X, which seems to me like an important consideration
But it seems disconnected to me to post something like:
My cat just had a litter of kittens and I’m trying to find homes for them; anyone want one?
This summer is so hot. I really wish I had a better air conditioner right now.
It’s understandable that you would think of those things right after reading my hypothetical comment, but they’re not really responses to it.
I agree spoken conversations need somewhat different rules; however, even in spoken conversations there’s some etiquette limiting when and how you can change the topic of discussion.
It was never my intention to equate “arguments as soldiers” with “multiple arguments for the same conclusion”, or to say that having multiple arguments is inherently bad. That’s why I described this as being (in context) a warning sign, not an error in itself.
It was also never my intention to dismiss these particular arguments. I believe I said above that they seem like valid discussion points. But my interests are not confined solely to the AC experiment; I am also interested in the meta-project of improving our tools for rationality.
(Though I can imagine some situations where I would dismiss arguments based on how they were generated. For instance, if I somehow knew that you had literally rolled dice to choose words off of a list with no regard for semantic content, and then posted the output with no filtering, then I would not feel that either rationality or fairness required me to entertain those arguments.)
That said, I think you also got a rather different take-away from “arguments as soldiers” than I did. I see it as being about goals, not rules of conduct. If you identify with a particular side, and try to make that side win, then you’re in a soldier mindset. If, while you do that, you also feel a duty to acknowledge the opponent’s valid points and to be honest about your side’s flaws, then you’re a soldier with rules of engagement, but you’re still a soldier.
The alternative is curiosity and truth-seeking. If your goal is to find the truth, then acknowledging someone else’s valid point isn’t a mere duty, it’s good strategy.
You wrote: “Good debate requires adversarial thought”. I might or might not agree, depending on how you define “debate”. But regardless, adversarial thought is NOT a requirement for truth-seeking. You can investigate, share information, and teach others, and even resolve factual agreements without it.
For instance, Double Crux is a strategy for resolving disagreements that doesn’t rely on adversarial thought. I’m also reminded of Aumann-style consensus.
Rules of engagement are certainly better than nothing. Thus is it written:
A burning itch to know is higher than a solemn vow to pursue truth. But you can’t produce curiosity just by willing it, any more than you can will your foot to feel warm when it feels cold. Sometimes, all we have is our mere solemn vows.
But duties are not what you’re ideally hoping for.
Thank you. If I add your model to my hypothesis space, the probability on soldier-mindset does seem a lot less worrying.
I also now feel like I understand why you initially tried to frame this as a disagreement about posting etiquette. Posting the output of your queued work as a reply to a comment that refocused your attention (but is otherwise unrelated) seems weird to me.
I had difficulty translating your comments and my thoughts into a mutually-compatible frame so that I could understand how they bear on each other. Could I get your feedback on this translation attempt?
It seems like you have a model for your commenting behavior that looks something like:
You read a piece.
This generates too much mental work for you to do it in one sitting, so you queue some of it to happen later.
In the mean time, you post comments based on the portion of the mental work you’ve completed so far.
In this case, when you read my reply, this refocused your attention on the general topic and caused you to do another chunk of already-queued work (with the subject of my comment maybe influencing which part of the work you focused on).
Completing this queued mental work generated new thoughts.
You posted these new thoughts as a reply to my comment because my comment triggered them, but you were always going to generate approximately those thoughts when you got around to your queued mental labor, regardless of what I posted.
And then this relates to the points I raised as follows:
My concern could be rephrased as: Generating unrelated arguments for the same side is a likely outcome for someone in a soldier mindset, and unlikely for a curious exploration of the specific argument being discussed. This outcome is therefore Bayesian evidence for soldier-mindset.
According to your model, you’re not doing either of those things; you are instead doing curious exploration of the original post, which was merely prompted by my comment.
Generating these new arguments is not a particularly unlikely outcome for curious exploration of the original post, so it doesn’t lose nearly as much probability from this particular piece of evidence.
Given your strong prior on your existing model, your posterior probability for it is still pretty high.
Does this seem like an accurate translation to you?
I may have over-emphasized the “higher karma” thing. I don’t consider that a warning flag in itself; higher karma further down the thread can happen for various perfectly valid reasons. I consider it a minor supporting point because it seems correlated with a particular pattern I’ve noticed on other sites (mainly reddit).
And apparently I underestimated the degree to which it’s possible for a single voter to generate high karma on LessWrong, so I hereby retract that as supporting evidence.
I entirely believe you that your subjective experience was that you read my comment, thought about how it related to the larger topic, generated some new thoughts, and then posted those. I’m not trying to take a stand against that in general, but I’m concerned about the specific relationship between my comment and your follow-up thoughts, and why/how the one prompted the other.
(Maybe pause here for a moment to think about that, and form your own hypothesis about why my comment sent your thoughts in that particular direction.)
It looks to me like things unfolded something like this:
You read the OP, thought about it, and (I suspect) put some effort into making a list of all the relevant things that occurred to you. One of the things in that list was a concern that the experimental endpoint may be bad because of reason X.
I explained why X was not a concern.
You responded that the experimental endpoint may be bad because of reasons Y and Z.
It looks to me like the connection between my comment and your new thoughts is that the new thoughts are new reasons to continue believing what you already believed. Interesting that my comment would suddenly cause you to think of those? (Whereas reading the OP, which explicitly talked about Y and Z, did not make you think of them.)
(As I write this, it occurs to me that what I’m doing in this very post looks kind of similar: I am giving an explanation for objecting to your comment that is not identical to the reason I gave before. Subjectively, this feels like putting my thoughts into a more coherent order so that I have a stronger grasp on my earlier feelings. But perhaps I’m rationalizing? Or, alternately, perhaps I’m not extending enough benefit-of-the-doubt to you? Does this post feel to you like a clarification of my previous reasons or like a new reason?)
I think that Y and Z are legitimate discussion points within the broader context of the experiment but bringing them up in this particular way kind of feels like an attempt to avoid updating.
And I suppose I’m also feeling a bit awkward because I defended the experimental setup against X, and now this conversation flow makes me feel somehow vaguely obligated to also defend the experimental setup against Y and Z (or else “concede” Y and Z) when, in fact, I don’t necessarily have any opinions about the new arguments one way or the other. I’m definitely not saying that’s a reasonable emotional response on my part, yet it also feels like a somewhat predictable result of this conversational pattern where I objected to the local validity of one argument and you responded with unrelated arguments for the same conclusion.
...I’m going to try making a point that would be generally unacceptable to make in wider Internet culture, but which I think will be considered acceptable on LessWrong. Apologies if I miss.
Meta observation: You’ve just made several points that seem connected to the OP, but not to anything that I said, and in so doing have quickly earned a karma higher than any other comment in this particular comment chain. This seems like a warning sign for arguments as soldiers (i.e. you’re treating any point about the larger topic as being substitutable into a discussion about a narrow sub-topic, and earning more karma because there are a larger number of people who care about the larger topic than the smaller one).
Also, both of the topics you just raised (possible equilibrium below 60 degrees and electrical efficiency vs maximum cooling) are things that were mentioned in the OP. I feel that, ideally, discussion of them should acknowledge and respond to the OP’s position on these points instead of raising them as if they were new.
Gosh, that practically sounds like it was designed to be modified in this way.
As such, the rate of change of heat is reduced. This won’t necessarily result in a different equilibration temperature, however. Instead, I would expect it to affect the rate at which temperature equilibrates.
My impression was that these two things are necessarily linked, in a fairly direct fashion.
Equilibrium means that increases and decreases cancel out. In the absence of an AC, the rate at which heat enters a given building is proportional to the difference between interior and exterior temperature. Therefore, the maximum temperature delta that an AC can maintain should be directly proportional to how quickly it can pump (net) heat out.
I mean, you could choose to think about infiltration as an intensified pressure towards equilibrium instead of as a decrease in the net effectiveness of the pump, and then equilibrium temperature would cease to be a good measure of “pump effectiveness”. But that would effectively be asking to have the one-hose design not be penalized for the infiltration losses that it directly causes.
EDIT: Addendum: Notice that the rate at which the one-hose AC will pump (net) heat out depends on the temperature delta. (Replacing inside air with outside air doesn’t matter if they’re the same temperature, but it matters a lot if there’s a large temperature difference.) So “the rate of change of heat” isn’t actually well-defined until you’ve specified what temperature delta you’re measuring at. (Which is why it’s possible to invent formulas for the official efficiency stats that would favor or disfavor one-hose models.)
I’m confused about how one could modify a one-hose AC into a two-hose AC. If the one-hose model internally splits a single input into two outputs, it seems like this would require modifying the internal structure of the AC, rather than just taping on more hoses?
I got to the part about writing down a prediction, which prompted me to pay closer attention, and it was only at that point I noticed the “fiction” tag.
I no longer believe that I understand what point you are trying to make, but a few remarks that each seem relevant to at least one of those examples:
Slipperiness is a continuum, not a binary trait.
Slipperiness is just one factor that affects your probability of success. For instance, a skilled ice-skater has less chance of falling down than a newbie, but a given patch of ice is equally “slippery” for both. (As I use the word.)
I could buy that slipperiness is a function of two surfaces interacting, rather than something that a single surface can unambiguously be said to possess. (Though knowing just one of the inputs seems to provide a lot of information about the output; e.g. wet soap is unusually slippery when combined with lots of other surfaces, not just a few.)
All of the above seem to me to be fully compatible with my original model of slipperiness as a control problem rather than a modeling problem. Climbing a steep hill is harder than climbing a gentle slope for reasons that have nothing to do with epistemology. Climbing a slippery hill is also harder for reasons that have nothing to do with epistemology.