Individuals matter (Dan Luu)

A pattern I’ve repeatedly seen during the roadmap creation and review process is that people will plan out the next few quarters of work and then assign some number of people to it, one person for one quarter to a project, two people for three quarters to another, etc. Nominally, this process enables teams to understand what other teams are doing and plan appropriately. I’ve never worked in an organization where this actually worked, where this actually enabled teams to effectively execute with dependencies on other teams.

What I’ve seen happen instead is, when work starts on the projects, people will ask who’s working the project and then will make a guess at whether or not the project will be completed on time or in an effective way or even be completed at all based on who ends up working on the project. “Oh, Joe is taking feature X? He never ships anything reasonable. Looks like we can’t depend on it because that’s never going to work. Let’s do Y instead of Z since that won’t require X to actually work”. The roadmap creation and review process maintains the polite fiction that people are interchangeable, but everyone knows this isn’t true and teams that are effective and want to ship on time can’t play along when the rubber hits the road even if they play along with the managers, directors, and VPs, who create roadmaps as if people can be generically abstracted over.

I find it interesting that so many people in senior management roles persist in thinking that they can re-direct people as easily as opening up the city view in Civilization and assigning workers to switch from one task to another when the senior ICs I talk to have high accuracy in predicting when these kinds of moves won’t work out.

Type Checking GiveWell’s GiveDirectly Cost Effective Analysis - EA Forum

In physics, this is such a powerful tool in finding incorrect equations, that it’s possible to derive many equations by looking at the units of the parameters alone. I was particularly blown away by an example of deriving the range equation from the units of its parameters on Wikipedia .

So, is GiveDirectly’s CEA physical? Does it abide by the laws of Dimensional Analysis? The model is scale invariant for money, households and people but not time. The reason for this is because there’s two implied parameters that are not included in the model. Those parameters are:

  • Time for which the recipient consumption is increased from funds not invested
  • Time for which the recipient consumption is increased from the funds returned from the investment when benefits end

The Big Misconception About Electricity

Modules Matter Most (Bob Harper slides)

About the work of Dave MacQueen. See modules section of Standard ML History

The ML Module System

  • A great improvement on most of its successors.
  • A standard against which other designs are compared.
  • Not easily improved upon (and rather easily worsened). Like the λ-calculus itself, a profound influence on all that follows.

A module with a type component is already a family of modules indexed by types! There is no need for a separate concept of family; it is definable already from hierarchy and interpretation. Hierarchies are Σ types. Types are propagated from substructure to rest of signature. Parameterized modules are Π types. Types are propagated from argument to result signature.

There is a fundamental conflict between separate compilation and higher-order modules that has yet to be resolved. There is a fundamental conflict between recursive modules and separate compilation that has yet to be resolved.

“What next?”

After memory safety, what do you think is the next big step for compiled languages to take?

Porkchop plot - Wikipedia

In orbital mechanics , a porkchop plot (also pork-chop plot) is a chart that shows contours of equal characteristic energy (C3) against combinations of launch date and arrival date for a particular interplanetary flight. [image:68185CFB-383B-4556-B629-0EEB01DE9C12-67902-0000118FBD02610F/1024px-Porkchop_plot.gif]

Collection of Emacs Development Environment Tools (CEDET)


  • project management
  • smart completion
  • smart help / jump
  • symbol references
  • code generation
  • UML diagrams
  • “advanced code browsing” ECB - Emacs Code Browser

Underrated reasons to be thankful

That private life exists and that markets, while we all (some?) appreciate their power to allocate resources, don’t permeate every single part of life, that there are moments of beauty and grace that aren’t best understood as competition and harnessed selfishness.

That due to some combination of nitrogen fertilizer, pensions, women’s rights, education, birth control, etc., an overpopulation calamity hasn’t yet happened and we might coincidentally stabilize at a level that’s somewhat close to what maximizes average utility , and without (mostly) needing to use gruesome methods of coercion.

That some unknown miracle blend of circumstances happened to arrive in Athens in 500 BC leading a tiny city of 250k people to produce Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Archimedes, Euclid, Hippocrates, Pythagoras, Thucydides, Herodotus, Aesop, Solon, Pericles, Aristophanes, and Sophocles, and that it might be possible to intentionally recreate such conditions today around the world and spur incredible human flourishing, and why aren’t we working on this?

That we happen to live in a world where ideas are both non-rivalrous and hugely valuable allowing us to create things like small molecule drugs and no-knead bread recipes and semiconductor manufacturing techniques which are a gift to our descendants at least unless/until civilization collapses, and which makes the average utility of human life a concave function of world population rather than some monotonic decrease, giving us another tool to fight evolution’s greedy hand trying to drag us back into the mud.

The HoTT Game

EfficientZero: How It Works - LessWrong

The goal of this essay is to help you understand EfficientZero , a reinforcement learning agent that obtains better-than-human median performance on a set of 26 Atari games after just two hours of real-time experience playing each game. Specifically, it gets 116% of human median performance on the data-limited Atari 100k benchmark. The previously-best algorithm only reached about 41% of median human performance, so this is a reasonably large leap.

soft question - Visually stunning math concepts which are easy to explain - Mathematics Stack Exchange

Why Do Long Options Start with Two Dashes?

Long options needed a prefix that wouldn’t clash with the Unix conventions, so programs could support both types of options without ambiguity. Richard chose +, since logically if - (for a small number mathematically) is for short options then + would be for long options, and it’s no additional typing. We created an extended interface called getopt_long() to support specifying long options.

But when the IEEE POSIX shell and utilities standard was published in 1992, the + syntax was disallowed. GNU developers discussed what to do over email. We considered -+ as the long options prefix, but that was hard to type, so we settled on --, which wouldn’t violate POSIX or Unix compatibility and wasn’t hard to type.

52 things I learned in 2021 by Tom Whitwell

10% of US electricity is generated from old Russian nuclear warheads. Most ransomware is designed not to install on computers that have Russian or Ukrainian language keyboards.

The Principia Rewrite

We are taking Whitehead and Russell’s original Principia proof, which is really a proof sketch omitting a lot of steps, and filling out the missing steps. For this we are using the interactive theorem prover Coq to ensure each proof step is a valid step according to Principia’s axioms and that no steps are skipped, even by accident. Finally, we are using the Coq encoding to typeset the full, gapless proof as it would appear in Principia’s notation.

On having kids

Alexander Berger On Philanthrophic Opportunities And Normal Awesome Altruism

Before we got married, my now-wife knew she wanted to have kids, and if I didn’t want to have kids, we would not end up together, so I had fairly strong motivated reasons to get to yes on wanting kids. I used to have more person-affecting population ethics and was more skeptical about the goodness of creating people, and I really wanted to deny that the goodness of having a kid was analogous to the goodness of saving a life, which is what total utilitarianism would roughly be inclined to say. I had wanted to deny that because it seemed weird to think that all these parents walking around are like moral heroes, akin to people who do costly or dangerous life-saving things. (Of course, on deeper reflection, praise-worthiness and moral goodness don’t have to track, but at the time, the relationship seemed important to me.)

And then as I was thinking of whether I wanted to have kids, I was reflecting on my relationship with my own parents, and frankly, how little narrowly selfish value they get from having invested a ridiculous amount of care and love in me, and how the relationship is, at least partially, one of very deep altruism on the part of my parents. Not that my parents, or other parents, would necessarily agree! It seems like (a) people mostly become parents for selfish or at least self-regarding reasons; (b) parents typically report having kids being one of the most meaningful things in their life, and rarely regret it; (c) the evidence on life satisfaction seems to suggest that being a parent lowers it modestly, though it’s mixed. When I say little “narrowly selfish” value I’m not trying to deny the meaningful psychological benefits in (b) or the satisfaction of the desires in (a) but to refer to the combination of (c) and the way in which (it seems to me!) parents invest a lot in their kids and reap limited /purely private/selfish/ benefits. Another argument for the limited purely private/selfish benefits would be the rareness of adoption - it’s not like raising a child is so independently fun and selfishly valuable that most people are leaping at the prospect. (Side note: I actually think that having and raising kids is a way bigger cost than donating a kidney, though it probably typically also has much bigger personal benefits!)