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Kaj Sotala
Works at Machine Intelligence Research Institute
Attended University of Helsinki
Lives in Helsinki
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Kaj Sotala

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I've noticed that some people, if I have discussions with them, are such that we'll pretty frequently end up talking past each other. It doesn't seem to be so much about differing background knowledge, since often we might even have relatively similar backgrounds. Rather it feels like some more fundamental difference in how our brains are wired and how we perceive the world and interpret the meanings of words, with the consequence that we tend to be slightly but frustratingly out-of-sync on an intuitive level. Meaning that we need to resort to a lot of explicit "wait, I think we're talking about past each other, when you said this I thought you meant...".

Does anyone happen to have any tips on increasing the amount of intuitive alignment, particularly ones that also work for online conversations?
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Oh, and respect. Show respect, search for respect. When you show respect, the other side will go the extra distance to understand what you are saying. And v.v. Failure to show respect can lead to subtle, gradual derailments.
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"...since [radar] detector-detectors use a similar superheterodyne receiver, many early "stealth" radar detectors were equipped with a radar-detector-detector-detector circuit, which shuts down the main radar receiver when the detector-detector's signal is detected, thus preventing detection by such equipment. In 1982 the US military funded a project, codenamed R4D (radar detector-detector-detector-detector), in order to develop a device capable of detecting radar detector-detector-detectors."
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Whoa. "It was clear that for most of the parents I spoke to, the idea of [reading a child's text messages or online activity without permission] as a violation had never occurred to them at all."
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I guess that would also have worked for me! My first forays into the online world was via CompuServe, and I think everything I did there I would have been happy to share.

Knowing up front that it is a "shared activity", not a private diary, makes it more in line with "here, have a go at climbing this rock face! But you can only do it while I'm here to secure you with this rope, not on your own when I'm not watching!" ("But you're fine with trees in the garden, that's your own space now!" - not sure how successful this metaphor really is?)
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Social dynamics / criticism / social status / avoiding offense.

> [This has definitely been said before, but if I've never run into it, maybe you haven't either.]

> There's a trick to criticizing someone publicly without starting a flame war.

> Flame wars happen because when Sally points out one of Kyle's flaws publicly, Kyle loses status. When someone loses status, their brain seeks to regain it with the same desperation it devotes to food when starving or sex when horny. It's hard to think about anything but food when you're hungry, and it's hard to think about anything but gaining status when you've lost some. (It's hard to think about anything but gaining status period, in public interactions.) So Sally says Kyle is wrong, and now it's basically as difficult as possible for Kyle to want to do anything besides raise his relative status - which likely means lowering Sally's. He can defend, or he can attack.

> The trick to preventing flame wars when stating criticisms publicly is to always provide an alternative method for regaining status.
By all means, word your criticism in a way that minimizes the status hit if (and only if) you can do so honestly. (Or, obviously, make your criticism privately if that's right for the situation.) But the true art lies in making the highest-status option the option you want the other person to choose.

> For example, if, immediately after pointing out someone's error, you ask a question that they are uniquely qualified to answer, they can regain some status by displaying their knowledge instead of either defending or attacking. This quiets the status-seeking desperation, rendering acceptance of your criticism thinkable.

-- +Brienne Yudkowsky 
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At the root of a lot of this discussion, is the idea that criticism / being wrong / acknowledging when you are wrong causes a loss of status. But that is only true in some subcultures, primarily male ones in the US.

Women are much more likely to see admitting you are wrong as a sign of strength. When we do things that might look to men as if we are helping a criticised person regain status, we are usually really helping them get over feeling embarrassed, showing them that everyone DOES still respect them.

This gender difference in culture is often so difficult to navigate in MF relationships.

She: Why won't he just notice that this policy isn't working, so we can all move on?
He: Why does she want me to grovel?
She: WTF, why is he groveling?!?
HE: What a bad person she is.
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...huh. +Brienne Yudkowsky commented on this article as follows:

> I'm not ace. I can be attracted to people, and I can be sexually excited by certain things. But this article still comes closer than anything I've so far read to describing how I feel about BDSM.

> "In the BDSM scene, sex is often seen as 'just another kink' that is up for discussion."

> I guess you could say I'm not a sex fetishist.

Which, I realized, also describes me to some extent. I'm also not asexual and do find sex enjoyable, but at the same time it's not The Biggest Kink for me. Just one of them, and an intimate encounter can be totally hot and enjoyable even without sex as such.

Huh.
Turns out kink can have nothing to do with sex.​​
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Synopsis of Go professionals analyzing the AlphaGo games. Some interesting bits:

> The first thing that Myungwan Kim noted was that AlphaGo has a Japanese playstyle (this is especially interesting because among the three traditional Go powerhouses, China, Korea, and Japan, the Japanese have been the weakest in international competitions for the past several decades). The commentators don't know, but they suspect it is that the original human data set was biased towards Japanese playstyles. [...]

> AlphaGo has a weakness here, it doesn't seem to understand the value of taking and holding initiative. Complicated to explain, but at its core it's about doing moves which force your opponent to use their turn to react to your move over doing moves which might be equally valuable to you, but leave your opponent free to do whatever they want on their turn. [...]

> Aside from not understanding initiative. Myungwan Kim says AlphaGo betrays itself as a computer in that it sometimes it goes too far in mimicking standard professional play and does the most common move instead of the most optimal move. In other words, it's extremely book smart, but at times fails to notice when it should be ignoring the books because the specific situation in the game makes the less standard move the most optimal one instead. (A bit cliche imo, but Myungwan Kim says "AlphaGo is not creative".) [...]

> In general, I get the sense from Myungwan Kim's explanations that he thinks AlphaGo is stronger at the more concrete parts of Go play, such as territory and life-or-death, and weaker at the more vague concepts, such as influence and uncertainty.
Hi there. Earlier this month I had [a discussion](https://www.reddit.com/r/hearthstone/comments/3zdibn/intelligent_agents_for_hearthstone/cylnbf2)...
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Kaj Sotala

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"Superforecasters" refers to a group of amateurs who, using only public data, manage to do 30% better in predicting important world events than professional CIA analysts using classified information. How do they do it?

> Part of it is just understanding the basics. Superforecasters are less likely to think in terms of things being 100% certain, and – let’s remember just how far left the bell curve stretches – less likely to assign anything they’re not sure about a 50-50 probability. They’re less likely to believe that things happen because they’re fated to happen, or that the good guys always win, or that things that happen will necessarily teach a moral lesson. They’re more likely to admit they might be wrong and correct themselves after an error is discovered. They’re more likely to debate with themselves, try to challenge their original perception, start asking “What could be wrong about this thing I believe?” rather than “How can I prove I’m right?”

> But they’re also more comfortable actively using probabilities. Like my predictions, the Good Judgment Project made forecasters give their answers as numerical probability estimates – for example, 15% chance of a war between North and South Korea in the next ten years killing > 1000 people. Poor forecasters tend to make a gut decision based on feelings that superficially related to the question, like “Well, North Korea is pretty crazy, so they’re pretty likely to declare war, let’s say 90%” or “War is pretty rare these days, how about 10%?”. Superforecasters tend to focus on the specific problem in front of them and break it down into pieces. For example, they might start with the Outside View – it’s been about 50 years since the Koreas last fought, so their war probability per decade shouldn’t be more than about 20% – and then adjust that based on Inside View information – “North Korea has a lot fewer foreign allies these days, so they’re less likely to start something than they once were – maybe 15%”.

> Or they might break the problem down into pieces: “There would have to be some sort of international incident, and then that incident would have to erupt into total war, and then that war would have to kill > 1,000 people. There are about two international incidents between the Koreas every year, but almost none of them end in war; on the other hand, because of all the artillery aimed at Seoul, probably any war that did happen would have an almost 100% chance of killing > 1,000 people” … and so on. One result is that while poor forecasters tend to give their answers in broad strokes – maybe a 75% chance, or 90%, or so on – superforecasters are more fine-grained. They may say something like “82% chance” – and it’s not just pretentious, Tetlock found that when you rounded them off to the nearest 5 (or 10, or whatever) their accuracy actually decreased significantly. That 2% is actually doing good work.
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In the comments, one of the superforecasters claims that the most important part is just getting a reasonable, outside-view base rate. Want to estimate the probability that country X will have a revolution in the next decade? Ignore the diplomatic bluster and instead look at countries similar to X and see how often they actually have revolutions.
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Today's Google voice recognition gem: I meant to say "social anxiety", it put down "circled in fire pit". #TotallyWrongButForgivenBecauseItSoundsCool
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There is a tendency for some people online to conflate introversion and social anxiety. To some extent this makes sense, given that a popular definition of introversion / extraversion is "whether you lose / gain energy from social interaction", and if you are anxious in some particular situation, it's going to leave you feeling drained afterwards.

But these are not the same. You can be a shy extravert with social anxieties. I'm saying this because I think I used to be one - to some extent still am, but I'm gradually shedding that. And for a long time, that made me mistakenly think I was an introvert.

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I am an extremely social person with severe Social Anxiety Disorder. I find places like Second Life very helpful and lately Ingress has provided a way to gently ease into social interaction through a safety cloak of driving and talking about the game. I would talk more when I play poker but haven't had so much success with the talking as with the cards. 
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"I feel like I'm in a brutal arms race to come up with increasingly obscure smiley faces that won't get changed into emojis by any of the social media platforms I use." -- +Rob Bensinger 
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}-P*[

It's a drunken vampire pirate whose toupee is blowing off in the wind.
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The Nordic countries, as they looked like in the 1500's.

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carta_marina
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"we know about a specific guy who lived 4000 years ago, by name, because he was a huge asshole"
antonyjohnston: “ ingdamnit: “ slagarthefox: “ prokopetz: “ thesparkofrevolution: “ blacktyranitar: “ thesparkofrevolution: “ jakovu: “ dama3: “ tastefullyoffensive: “ Babylonian era problems. (photo...
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Education
  • University of Helsinki
    Cognitive Science (BA), 2006 - 2011
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Wrote three non-fiction books
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  • Machine Intelligence Research Institute
    Research Associate, 2013 - present
  • Finn Lectura
    Software Developer, 2013 - 2014
  • Machine Intelligence Research Institute
    Research Fellow, 2012 - 2013
  • Machine Intelligence Research Institute
    Research Associate, 2012 - 2012
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