There’s jquery UI which maybe counts?
Ben Pace has a new post up on LessWrong that’s asking about good exercises for rationality / general LW-adjacent stuff. I think this is a good thing to put up a bounty for, and I started thinking about what makes a good exercise. Exercises are good because they help you further the develop the material; they give you opportunities to put whatever relevant skill to use.
There are differing levels of what you can be trying to assess:
Identifying the correct idea from a group of different ones
Summarizing the correct idea
Transferring the idea to someone else
Actually demonstrating whatever skill it is (if it’s something you can do)
Actually using the skill to deduce something else (if it’s a model thing)
I think there’s a good set of stuff to dive into here about the distinction between optimizing for pedagogy versus effectiveness. In the most stark case, you want to teach people using less potent versions of something, at least at first. Think not just training wheels on a bike, but successively more advanced models for physics or arithmetic. There’s a gradual shift happening.
More than that, I wonder if the two angles are greatly orthogonal.
Anyway, back to the original idea at hand. When you give people exercises, there’s a sense of broad vs narrow that seems important, but I’m still teasing it out. In one sense, you can think of tests that do multiple choice vs open-ended answers. But it’s not like multiple-choice questions have to suck. You could give people very plausible-sounding answers which require them to do a lot of work to determine which one is correct. Similarly, open-ended questions could allow for bullshitting.
It’s not exactly the format, but what sort of work it induces.
At the very least, it’s about pushing for more Generative content. But beyond that, it gets into pedagogy questions:
How can you give questions which increase in difficulty?
What does difficulty correspond to? If something is “hard to figure out”, what is that quality referring to?
If you give open-ended questions, how can you assess the answers you get?
How much of this is covered already by the teaching literature?
I recently wrote about three things you can try with cards to see what your internal calibration feels like. They have some question prompts, but the gist of it is something to do, rather than something with a direct answer.
I see! Thanks for the breakdown for where the pain points are when it comes to performance. Really appreciate the openness into where things could have gone better / what’s happening right now!
Oh, wow! I didn’t realize that could have been tripping things up. Thank you for the formatting help!
The code block editor wasn’t very friendly and ate up all of my tabs. I’m working on better formatting, and this’ll probably end up being a post on my own blog later on, which will hopefully also have things like syntax highlighting.
For sure! To be honest, I got a little lost reading your 3-part series here, so I think I’ll revisit it later on.
I’m newer to deep learning, so I think my goals are similar to yours (e.g. writing it up so I have a better understanding of what’s going on), but I’m still hashing out the more introductory stuff.
I’ll definitely link it here after I finish!
Thanks for writing this series!
I’m working on my own post on NNs that focuses more on deriving backprop from computational graphs. I think that method of doing so also builds up a lot of the Chain Rule intuition, as you can easily see how the derivatives for earlier weights can be derived from those in later weights.
I really like that you’re doing this! I’ve tried to get into the series, but I haven’t done so in a while. Thanks for the summaries!
(Also, maybe it’d be good for future comments about what you’re doing to be children of this post, so it doesn’t break the flow of summaries.)
Your advice about demonstrating that you are capable alone is really interesting. Thanks for the extended examples!
Sometimes I ask myself: “A bunch of cool stuff seems to be happening in the present. So why can’t I move faster and let these things in? Why do I feel stuck by past things?”
Well, experience compounds. One reason childhood events can be so influential isn’t just that they happened when you were at a formative time and developing your models. In addition, the fact that you pick them up early means they’ve had the privilege of being part of your thought processes for longer. They’re more well-worn tools.
Then, there’s also the default answer that each additional year of your life is, relative to the amount of years you’ve lived, a lesser amount. EX: From year 6 to 7, you’ve gained an extra ~15% of your total lifespan in new experiences. Whereas from 26 to 27, you’ve gained closer to 4% of your total lifespan in new experiences.
But, I’d like every year to be measured more equally with one another. I feel like cool stuff is passing by me right now, and I’m just slow on the uptake. I’m not taking it in!
Yes, you can get set in your older ways of thinking, and you will have seen more with each successive year. But experientially speaking I’d like to get my brain to also pay more attention to the recent stuff.
I guess one hacky way to do this would be to spend more time ruminating on the present (which is also harder because if you’ve lived for 30 years, then by the same proportionality argument, there’s just less stuff to think about if you restrict yourself to years 29-30).
I’m confused because there is also:
There’s some sort of cutoff point where I might be able to recall things, but it no longer feels “recent” or directly connected to my identity.
The feeling of recency is quite interesting to me because it seems to imply that important things are going to fade over time. And if you want to preserve certain parts of your identity, there’s some sort of “upkeep” you’ll need to pay, i.e. having more of those sort of experiences consistently so they stay in recent memory.
Anyway, that’s if you equate identity with memory, and that’s definitely an oversimplification. But, whatever.
As new things filter in, older things drop out. I’m unsure how to square this with the theory of compounding experience. Presumably if something has effects, even if it falls out of the window, then things it influenced can continue to resound, ala domino effect, but that feels quite contrived. The obvious answer, of course, is that there are several factors at play.
One common theme that I return to, time and time again, is that of addictiveness. More specifically, what makes something habit-forming in a bad way? I’ve previously talked about this in the context of Attractors. Lately, my thing to hate on is mobile games, or the thing that they represent. Which, yes, is a little late to the game. And I don’t even play games on my mobile phone, so it seems a little out of place.
But I digress. The point here is to talk about the Skinner Box. Or, the application of the same concept to human things. Gamification and notification spam both fall into this category. But maybe not games. But maybe some games. Definitely mobile games. The point here is that there’s this category I want to get some clarity on, and it’s about these things which seem habit-forming and suck you in.
So, what’s clearly a Skinner Box? I think that clicker games are totally Skinner Boxes. Also Clash of Clans, Farmville (i.e. everything Zynga / Zynga-clones). But this line is often hazy; Candy Box was innovative and exciting in certain ways. There was a game a while back about alpacas eating one another that seemed surprisingly deep for an idle game. It’s one thing to put on a sophisticated veneer on a game, but it still seems fine to critique the underlying mechanics.
Lack of a challenge
Despite having progression, idle and clicker games don’t really have anything that forces the player to do anything strategic. They just...click things, and they get reinforcement.
Mobile games often leverage this desire by time-locking content, prompting you to pay in order to get something now. The other thing to pay attention here is if the feedback loop is tight.
Incentives to keep going?
Intermittent rewards / reward schedules
Skill and growth
The more something is like an instrument or a sport, the less it seems like a Skinner Box. Although the many casual LoL players seem to indicate that even something which has a high skill cap can still be addictive.
The more you invoke artistic purpose, narrative, or some other agenda, we seem to be a lot more forgiving about the actual mechanics involved.
When we’re hungry, we eat and eat and eat. And no one bats an eye. The same thing with sleep. Stuff that’s useful isn’t often seen as dangerous.
It feels like there’s been a push towards getting people to start creating their own content. Platforms like YouTube + the Internet make it a lot easier for people to start.
Growing an audience, though, seems hard because there’s not often a lot of free attention. Most of the competition is zero-sum between different content. People only have so much free time, so minutes they spend engaging with your stuff is minutes they don’t spend engaging in other people’s stuff.
There’s a cynical viewpoint here which is something like “If you don’t think you’re creating Good Content, don’t broadcast it! We have enough low-quality stuff as it is, out there.”
I think people often want to create, though. It’s one of the default responses people have if you ask them “Say you could live comfortably without needing to work. What would you do then?” (“Well, I’d write. Or I’d learn to play an instrument...”)
Often, though, implementation takes far more time than coming up with the initial idea. There is an asymmetry across many fields where the actual ideation is done by only a small group of people. This then requires maybe 10X as many people to actually put into practice. (EX: the people who design the look/feel of a piece of software at a company vs those who build it.)
Thus, if you want people to join your project (which is of course great because you came up with it), you’ll need to convince other people to go with you. On the flip side, I think there’s a skill worth practicing where you let go of idea ownership. Stuff is going to get done, and you’re going to be doing it; whoever came up with the idea might be less important than whether or not you want the stuff to happen.
But maybe the desire for individual ideation points to something important. A really large amount of people seem to want to partake in creative endeavors.
Here’s something that feels like another instance of the deontologist vs consequentialist abstraction, except that the particulars of the situation are what stick out to me: When I choose between doing something sane or something that’s endorsed by an official rule, I’ll more-often-than-I-like opt to do the endorsed thing, even when it’s obviously worse-off for me.
Some examples, of varying quality:
Not jaywalking, even when it’s in a neighborhood or otherwise not-crowded place.
Asking for permission to do obvious things instead of just doing them
Focusing on the literal words that someone initially said, rather than their intent, or if they later recant.
Letting harmful policies happen instead of appealing them.
I’m reminded of that study which showed that people following an evacuation robot were led to stay in a room even when there was a fire, even when the robot was observed to be previously faulty. There’s something about rules that overrides appealing to sanity. I’m a little worried that I bias towards this side compared to just doing the thing that works out better.
There are of course benefits to choosing the official option. The biggest one is that if someone questions your judgment later on, you can appeal to the established rules. That gives you a lot of social backing to lean on.
I think there’s also a weird masochistic aspect of craving pity, of wanting to be in a situation that seems bad by virtue of nature, so I can absolve myself of responsibility. Something about how this used to be a play to secure ourselves more resources, through a pity play?
Malcolm Ocean gets it. There’s a terrible thing that happens when you try to encapsulate your essay with a title. Somehow, the label takes on a life of its own, and you sometimes forget the content inside the essay.
This happens to my own essays where I think “Oh, huh, this essay is called ‘Learning from Past Experiences’”. Sounds kinda boring.
And in fact it was not boring and it was good.
I’m thinking of maybe instead transitioning to just numbers + summaries instead.
For example, a format like: Essay 10 [Fading novelty, ways to address it, and a brief digression into typography.]