I’m Gavin Leech, a PhD candidate in AI at Bristol. I like technical solutions to philosophical problems.
Technically an EA blog, though I don’t consider this a blog. (Blogging is more speech than writing.)
If you want to talk, get in touch by email, or anonymously, or extremely privately via PGP.
I'm working on:
- Tensors for fast sampling in big latent variable models.
- Emotion-like behaviour in ordinary RL agents.
- Better ways to communicate preferences to RL agents.
Change my mind
- $1 for nitpicks (ambiguities, misreadings, exceptions, technicalities).
- $10 for an error which falsifies a sentence.
- $50 for an error which invalidates a post.
I suppose this should all be multiplied by the confidence level of the post. If no confidence level is set, then "100%". Factual and logical errors are most likely to resolve cleanly; I probably won't cough up if you just tell me I'm an idiot for believing or not believing in e.g. Meinongianism. That would get a smile.
I'm not sure how to handle claims that have changed truth-value since I made them; half of this blog might be false if you return in 30 years. Leaning towards $1 to $5.
Also, if I make a claim you want to bet against, get in touch for odds.
|About||Was unclear about the required size of error for a bounty, leading to a prima facie contradiction.||Loki Sempere||$10 to EA Funds|
|/psych||Overstated the consensus against Milgram. It's still shaky, and not really about obedience, but it's wrong to say there's no evidence, just that the original experiments were terrible.||Matt Edwards||$5|
|/gists||I said "constant time" instead of "constant time complexity". The function in question takes 3x more time to process 2^64 than it does 2^0, hence the intermediate payout between nitpick and falsehood.||Loki Sempere||$5|
|Jan 2016: Trump finishes term.||CR||1:1. Nice bottle of whisky.||To me.|
|June 2020: Biden wins election.||CR||1:1. Nice restaurant dinner.||To me.|
I am cause-neutral (in the sense that I will support whatever is highest value, to the extent that objective evaluation is possible) and cause-sceptical (in the sense that we don't really know what the best thing to do is).
Most book reviews are vacuous, blocklike expressions of approval or disapproval. There is nothing in them except the reviewer, their squeals. I do some of those, but I try to do some of the other kind too.
|Air Guitar: Essays on Art and Democracy (1997) by Dave Hickey|
|Tell Me No Lies: Investigative Journalism and its Triumphs (2004) by John Pilger|
|Hitler's Uranium Club: The Secret Recordings at Farm Hall (1995) by Jeremy Bernstein|
|Selected Essays of Michel de Montaigne (1592) by Michel de Montaigne|
|Bad Science (2008) by Ben Goldacre|
|Meditations (180) by Marcus Aurelius|
|The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (2007) by Nassim Nicholas Taleb|
|Whereabouts: Notes on Being a Foreigner (1987) by Alistair Reid|
|The Oxford Companion to Philosophy (1995) by Ted Honderich|
|How to Actually Change Your Mind (Rationality: From AI to Zombies) (2018) by Eliezer Yudkowsky|
|Ficciones (1944) by Jorge Luis Borges|
|Oxford Book of Essays (1991) by John Gross|
|Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921) by Ludwig Wittgenstein|
|A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments (1997) by David Foster Wallace|
|Rationality: From AI to Zombies (2015) by Eliezer Yudkowsky|
|What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions (2014) by Randall Munroe|
|Stories of Your Life and Others (2002) by Ted Chiang|
|The Will to Battle (Terra Ignota, #3) (2017) by Ada Palmer|
|The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant (2005) by Nick Bostrom|
|The Hedonistic Imperative (2015) by David Pearce|
|The Age of Em: Work, Love and Life When Robots Rule the Earth (2016) by Robin Hanson|
|Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think (2018) by Hans Rosling|
|Mortal Questions (1979) by Thomas Nagel|
|Doing Good Better: How Effective Altruism Can Help You Help Others, Do Work that Matters, and Make Smarter Choices about Giving Back (2015) by William MacAskill|
|Library of Scott Alexandria (2015) by Scott Alexander|
|Famine, Affluence, and Morality (1972) by Peter Singer|
|Save Yourself, Mammal!: A Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal Collection (2011) by Zach Weinersmith|
|Incerto 4-Book Bundle: Antifragile, The Black Swan, Fooled by Randomness, The Bed of Procrustes (2011) by Nassim Nicholas Taleb|
|The God That Failed (1949) by Richard Crossman|
|Brewer's Rogues, Villains & Eccentrics: An A-Z of Roguish Britons Through the Ages (2002) by William Donaldson|
|Guards! Guards! (Discworld, #8; City Watch #1) (1989) by Terry Pratchett|
|The New Penguin Book of Scottish Verse by Robert Crawford|
|What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire (1999) by Charles Bukowski|
|Tales from Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle, #5) (2001) by Ursula K. Le Guin|
|Map and Territory by Eliezer Yudkowsky|
|Computing machinery and intelligence (1950) by Alan Turing|
|Watchmen (1987) by Alan Moore|
|Beyond Good and Evil (1886) by Friedrich Nietzsche|
|The Penguin Book of English Verse (2000) by Paul Keegan|
|Lolita (1955) by Vladimir Nabokov|
|Psychotic Reactions And Carburetor Dung (1987) by Lester Bangs|
|Blindsight (Firefall, #1) (2006) by Peter Watts|
|Small Gods (Discworld, #13) (1992) by Terry Pratchett|
|Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (1999) by David Foster Wallace|
|Right Ho, Jeeves (Jeeves, #6) (1934) by P.G. Wodehouse|
|The Book of Disquiet (1982) by Fernando Pessoa|
|The Patrick Melrose Novels (2012) by Edward St. Aubyn|
|Bartleby the Scrivener (1853) by Herman Melville|
|Infinite Jest (1996) by David Foster Wallace|
|The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life (2017) by Kevin Simler|
|Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West (1985) by Cormac McCarthy|
|The Wind's Twelve Quarters (1975) by Ursula K. Le Guin|
|Poems of the Late T'ang (1965) by A.C. Graham|
|What Should We Be Worried About? Real Scenarios That Keep Scientists Up at Night (2014) by John Brockman|
|Iain Crichton Smith: Selected Poems (1986) by Iain Crichton Smith|
|Collected Poems (1988) by Czesław Miłosz|
|Conquest of the Useless: Reflections from the Making of Fitzcarraldo (2004) by Werner Herzog|
|Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts (2007) by Clive James|
|Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings (1962) by Jorge Luis Borges|
|Reliable Essays: The Best of Clive James (2001) by Clive James|
|Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened (2013) by Allie Brosh|
|Travels With Myself and Another (1979) by Martha Gellhorn|
|Collected Poems (1988) by Philip Larkin|
It is equally fatal to the spirit to have a system and to not have one.
So you must combine the two. 1
...there is in men and women a motivation stronger even than love or hatred or fear. It is that of being interested — in a body of knowledge, in a problem, in a hobby, in tomorrow’s newspaper.
The title is an Iain Banks allusion: his powerful protagonists tease pompous people by taking names with as little gravitas as possible. To take the arg min of something is to find the thing which results in its lowest value.
Conflicts of interest
- I am funded by UKRI and so really by the British government.
- I won an Emergent Ventures grant via Tyler Cowen.
- ex: I used to work at AXA, a big insurer.
- My mask paper used compute donated by Microsoft.
Political: Few. Never a member of any party.
- Family: 17 / 100 (vs population mean 70)
- Group: 28 / 100 (vs pop. mean 66)
- Reciprocity: 53 / 100 (vs pop. mean 73)
- Heroism: 48 / 100 (vs pop. mean 67)
- Deference: 3 / 100 (vs pop. mean 59)
- Fairness: 52 / 100 (vs pop. mean 66)
- Property: 37 / 100 (vs pop. mean 64)
Oxford Utilitarianism Scale
- Impartial Beneficence: 33 out of 35
- Instrumental Harm: 21 out of 28
Intrinsic Values Test
The Big Five
Myers-Briggs Type: FOAD.
It is some career. So far I have worked on a precision methadone pump, a website generator for bed & breakfasts, secure off-site credit card storage, procurement streamlining for e.g. 'aerospace' companies, a metre-precise 3D model of Britain's rivers, a performance dashboard for use by secondary school teachers, medical risk scoring models, countermeasures against machine-learning model extraction...
I have written production code in
- Python (raw, SciPy/Pandas, PySpark): 9
- C# 11
- Typescript 12
- nodeJS 13
- Pig Latin 14
- bash 15
- Oozie XML 16
- PHP 17
- Java : All my Master's degree work: Game of Life, Vigenere cipher, .
- Scala : Just Project Euler so far.
- Rust : Just Project Euler so far.
- Powershell: e.g. a web scraper (before Python was provisioned).
- bash : An archiver for hyperlinks.
- Jekyll : this itself.
Frameworks, tools, stacks, hardware
DQ: A very nice website - links to the original papers, including participant numbers and number of citations... effect sizes and replications effect sizes.- Dan Quintana & James Heathers
JH: Very interesting, for a variety of reasons - and not just because it's fun to trawl through the wreckage... of 'those silly social scientists'. This [post] is a big old thing... much more comprehensive than anything I ever did... Not a lot of people would have the commitment to even try and organise something like this... You do get a sense of the enormity of [the replication crisis] which isn't really available through other documents...
DQ: What are the implications for how we actually teach first year psych?
JH: TEACH THEM THIS!
The best mask-wearing study so far?- Tyler Cowen
This was a great EAG. I love how excited everyone was, like this guy. (If you're in the audience, sorry Gavin, didn't get your permission [to show that photo]).– Will MacAskill
Utterly charming. In the nature of such lists, one does not expect to agree with every, single one---of course not. But the lists exhibit a lively and critical mind, unwilling to follow the usual party lines.– Deirdre McCloskey 6
I'm honoured to be on your list [of favourite books].– Robin Hanson 7
Nice image, young man. You may be a writer.– Will Self 8
Also, my mum says I'm cool.
Anyway I'm not as sure as I sound: there's a comment box under every piece, call me out.
Why so many quotations?
I sometimes regret my instinctual distrust of Twitter: a lot of contemporary aphorists must be whiling away the years on there.
over time amateurs blow their lead by focusing less and relying on easier, more direct methods. They rely more on informal conversation as analysis method, they prefer personal connections over open competitions in choosing people, and they rely more on a perceived consensus among a smaller group of fellow enthusiasts. As a result, their contributions just don’t appeal as widely or as long.
What's with all these accordions?
It also sort of simulates a dialogue with the reader: I plant a question, and then they prompt for the response.
Es ist gleich tödlich für den Geist, ein System zu haben, und keins zu haben. Es wird sich also wohl entschließen müssen beides zu verbinden.
- (or an equivalent value of my labour.)
If you count SAS. (If you do, I was employed to code before I learned to Code.)
Note that just being 'employed to code' says surprisingly little about your ability. And almost nothing about your possession of the spiritual advantages of technical life.
- Comment on my "vade mecum" book list including Age of Em.
- Here, 21/11/14.
e.g. a computational linguistics wrapper
e.g. a full notebooked ML pipeline, from sparse raw csvs to GBM to policy implications.
- e.g. An ironclad medicine pump controller with WPF.
- e.g. A CRUD procurement app with Angular and .NET.
- e.g. a secure pharmacy record ("Rx") system.
- e.g. Various YARN batch jobs, processing a few TB then emailing out regular tabular summaries.
- e.g. Debugging HDFS schema issues with Avrotools.
- e.g. chaining Shell and Pig scripts to crunch and mail reports.
- e.g. fairly complex websites, Laravel prototyping, a cURL handler for a credit card storage API.