Recent Discussion

So... what I have often wondered when reading about historical events is that it is very rare to read a story where it is asserted that historical actor A was victorious over actor B due to actor B being a bit of a dumbass, or actor A being smarter.

In fact, one could be forgiven for thinking that this is some sort of taboo; the outcomes of wars might be down to various sins such as pride, ill-advised beliefs about ones superiority or ascribed to the decisive tactics used, but almost no action is ever being attributed directly to cleverness, or any loss to thoughtlessness or just being dumb. No... (Read more)

D0TheMath's answer (which maybe should really be a comment?)

Yeah, sorry. It is more of a comment. Moved to comments section.

1HumaneAutomation1hHmm. Let me elaborate a little bit on the reasons for me asking in the first place :) I have been pondering for some time the whole idea of the common notion that history has a tendency to repeat itself and/or that people seem to have... a measure of difficulty learning from previously made mistakes. I've been doing this due to a sense that "we" are slowly forgetting and in a weird way "discounting" the... attitudes acquired after the many atrocities in WW2 (duly linked to by you); my 13 year old daughter for instance needs some convincing to understand that a Jew in 1930's Europe couldn't "just go somewhere else" and be done with it. The last generation that could tell us the story of what happened is pretty much gone, and at any rate, not many people seem particularly keen on listening to their stories anyhow. It would seem to me that discussing historical events not so much in terms of good or evil but instead in terms of clever or dumb may be a more instructive way to explain the error of certain ideas and movements, with what I suspect would be more effective and enduring ways to prevent such errors being made another time. So - for example, talking about the Gulag in terms of Stalin being a paranoid maniac might not be as useful as elaborating on the rational reasons why such decisions were pretty stupid and greatly hindered the Soviet Union from becoming as great as it could have been if these acts had not been committed. Needless to say Stalin was a paranoid maniac - but by focusing on that as the (only) cause, you potentially leave the door open to others doing something similar while believing they could do so without being crazy; far less people would be inclined to repeat behavior that is universally described as mostly dumb, IMHO. It would be, I think, more useful to talk about how thousands of the people he killed were in fact quite smart and would have made for great scientists and army commanders. How the atmosphere of fear stifled independent thou
2ChristianKl2hWhile it's a possible theory that they negotiate the way they do because of low intelligence, I don't think you provided good reason to believe that this is what's going on over there. Lord Frost has a First-Class degree from Oxford. I would also expect Dommic Cummings and many people he hired to be on average of higher IQ then a lot of the European burocrats at the negotiating table as Cummings was willing to hire unconvential people who are geniuses in a way that other burocracies don't. Most political decisions are made because of domestic politics and not international politics.
3HumaneAutomation2hInteresting examples, and indeed, it does happen, albeit especially for leaders from a very long time ago, those who seem to be particularly wise or especially unusual, yes. Yet, compared to the decisive advantage that intellectual ability confers, I still feel it gets far too little credit and is not ascribed the influence that it actually has on how history unfolds. You'd much sooner read about novel technologies being important, or even the impact of weather (on, for instance, naval battles). There is scant discussion of how historical figures have reasoned or come to their particular decisions, and whether these decisions have been wise and intelligent. For example, I think it is fair to say that the "idea" of Pol Pot to go ahead and literally kill all the smart people can be unambiguously identified as a fantastically dumb idea; yet, it is not framed thus; rather, it is mentioned especially as a cruel and evil act. To be sure, it is definitely both of those things as well, but certainly not only. I guess perhaps the problem is that stating it as "dumb" is seen more as a judgment...? Maybe that's the issue. Or it might be that in most cases it is indeed difficult to ascertain the intellectual capacities and input given and so it would verge on being first and foremost guesswork and/or an opinion...? Though calling something "evil" also isn't exactly strictly sticking to facts...

A friend and I went on a long drive recently and listened to this podcast with Andrew Critch on ARCHES. On the way back from our drive we spent some time brainstorming solutions to the problems he outlines. Here are some notes on the podcast + some notes on our brainstorming.

In a possibly inaccurate nutshell, Critch argues that what we think of as the "alignment problem" is most likely going to get solved because there are strong economic incentives to solve it. However, Critch is skeptical of forming a singleton--he says people tend to resist that kind... (read more)

Trump wishes to register a complaint

He does so within a thread full of clips that have to be seen to be believed but which you are under zero obligation to see either way. 

Here is the central quote, which is real: “Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid, it’s all you ever talk about. A plane goes down, 500 people dead, they don’t talk about it. ‘Covid Covid Covid Covid.’ By the way, on November 4th, you won’t hear about it anymore … ‘please don’t go and vote, Covid!’” 

This is his closing message to the American people. So unfair, we’ve beaten the virus, we’re turning the co... (Read more)

This cost of rules and restrictions seems highly underestimated. Rules and regulations crowd out a lot of private action. When we ask whether rules or private choices are most responsible for keeping us apart, don’t neglect the full extent to which rules crowd out that private action. Even without that, this new study finds private action is mostly responsible. 

From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 

I thought this juxtaposition was interesting. 

The Australian state of Victoria has recently emerged from an 111-day lockdown. On every on... (read more)

1aag8hThe update hasn't made its way here yet, so I'll copy the relevant paragraphs from the updated blog post:
2habryka5hShould be updated now! Looks like I forgot to press the submit button.
8Owain_Evans9hIt's not a news source, but I find the Google and Apple Mobility data for Europe to be a useful measure of "how people are actually behaving on the ground". If people are going to retail/recreation locations (rather than ordering online), they are probably not taking the pandemic that seriously. Much of Europe eased up more than US before it had a rapid growth of cases (starting in August/Sep), and behavior hasn't changed much since this rapid growth.®ion=World []

Somerville has asked its residents not to trick-or-treat:

Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone and the Somerville Board of Health announced Halloween guidance and related updates today. They strongly urge all community members to forgo trick-or-treating in favor of lower-risk activities as defined by the Centers for Disease Control such as at-home activities and holiday crafts.
They link to MA and CDC guidelines.

I have generally supported Somerville's cautious approach, closing more quickly and opening more slowly than surrounding towns, keeping schools remote unti... (Read more)

I agree all around. We're putting a table in front of our house and spreading out a bunch of little bags of candy on it, then off to trick-or-treat!


Yesterday I spoke of the Mind Projection Fallacy, giving the example of the alien monster who carries off a girl in a torn dress for intended ravishing—a mistake which I imputed to the artist's tendency to think that a woman's sexiness is a property of the woman herself, woman.sexiness, rather than something that exists in the mind of an observer, and probably wouldn't exist in an alien mind.

The term "Mind Projection Fallacy" was coined by the late great Bayesian Master, E. T. Jaynes, as part of his long and hard-fought battle against the accursèd frequentists.  Jaynes was of... (Read more)

Kinship, or more accurately the lack of it, is likewise in the mind. That's why it always annoys me to see the parenthetical phrase "no relation" in a newspaper or magazine article.

I don't know how inspiring "no causation without reification" is as a rallying cry. Probably not very. But as a pithy description of an important insight, I think it's quite nice.

There's lots of reason to care about causation. In fact, it's hard to talk about much of anything without causation showing up. We need some way to talk about the fact that stuff happens, then other stuff happens, and that other stuff happens only because the first stuff happened, or so we hope to claim. The idea that one event causes another seems fairly fundamental to how humans perceive the world.

Formally, we often... (Read more)

1Ericf9hWhy is this not a contradiction: "Snorphblats can't be described with words" "Snorphblats don't have a liver" Or, how does the above differ from the statements in my previous comment? Please use a similar analogy, if necessary.
2G Gordon Worley III5hJust that. If Snorphblats can't be described with words, and yet you literally just used words to describe Snorphblats, what you must be doing is some action that is situated within the map. This action is itself in the territory (where else would it be?), but it need not be true that Snorphblats exist in the territory independent of any statements about them such that they can be meaningfully described. This is a small part of a big topic, explored in detail in this classic LW sequence [].
1Ericf4hAt a meta-level, you are hardening my position, not moving me towards your position. While I have stated my objections and questions in, now, five different ways, you have repeated the same point five times. And without either addressing, or even attempting to rephrase my position to show you understand it. To me, this implies that you don't fully understand your thesis. And no, I'm not necessarily describing Snorphblats. If statement 1 is true, then statement two is just mouth noises without truth value. If statement 2 is true, then statement 1 is false. And, of course, they could both be false.

I keep saying the same thing because it's the same issue every time, and as I've already said there's no good faith way for me to respond to some of your more specific points because I disagree with the premise on which they are based. I think you are failing to understand the point being made, but it's in a subtle way that seems to be beyond my ability to convey to you in these comments.

That I don't "fully understand my thesis" is actually closer to hitting near the heart of the thing than much else, but not in the sense of my not understanding some parti... (read more)

This is the third post in the Cartesian frames sequence. Read the first post here.

This post will introduce the standard equivalence relations we'll be using for Cartesian frames. Our primary interest will be in homotopy equivalence, which will allow us to classify frames according to their agents' and environments' effect on possible worlds.


1. Isomorphism

Before defining homotopy equivalence, I want to define isomorphism between Cartesian frames.

Definition: A morphism  is an isomorphism if both  and  are bijective. If there is an isomorphism betwee... (Read more)

3MikkW7hI presume this is supposed to be "is an"?
4Rob Bensinger13hScott's post explaining the relationship betweenC0andC1exists as of now: Functors and Coarse Worlds [].

Tsuyoku Naritai!

The evening sun sets on the horizon. An owl hoots ominously. You stare at the ant hill in disbelief. You’ve checked the data many times, and there’s only one remaining hypothesis without vanishingly small probability. 

Ant colonies are intelligent. Not the individual ants -- but the colony as a whole. They process information in a way metaphorically similar to what brains or GPUs do, without any of the constituent neurons or transistors being intelligent. 

Through a somewhat haphazardly administered battery of tests you’ve determined the colony’s intelligence level to b... (Read more)

To be clear, I wasn't commenting at all on the disqualification of Elizabeth's and Slider's earlier answers. (Except to whatever extent your regretful comments about last week's results related to those answers, which it seems clear they can't have for Elizabeth's since that was in an earlier week and it never occurred to me they did for Slider's.)

I hadn't at all understood that your comment about the tennis player was a reference to your own answer. Rereading what you wrote, it's hard to see how I could have missed that ... aha, it turns out you edited it... (read more)

3Slider16hWouldn't the answer to "What are 50 problems I could solve?" also answer "I have a problem of not having problems, what I can do about it?" With the problem of "I feel aimless" then aquiring an aim is a solution and not a problem in that regard. I get that a listing of simple affordances. Is not disinterest in your own life not a valid problem? Did I not specify clearly enough that I am tackling a psychological problem and not just a neutral affordance listing.
2John_Maxwell20hMaybe a babble for "50 babble prompts that are both useful and not too direct"? :P Seems to me that you want to gradually transition towards being able to babble about topics you don't feel very babbly about. It's the most important, most ugh []-ish areas of our lives where we typically need fresh thinking the most, IMO. Perhaps "50 ways to make it easier to babble about things that don't feel babbly"? ;)

Book review: Age Later, by Nir Barzilai.

Books by serious researchers on how to defeat aging are now coming out almost as fast as I have time to read them.

This one mostly aims to enable us live in good health to 115, preferably via a few simple pills.

Age Later is fairly similar to Sinclair's Lifespan. At least, the differences are small compared to how they differ from Aubrey de Grey's Ending Aging. I'm a bit concerned by this, since anti-aging research has not yet demonstrated enough results to justify converging on a single strategy. Maybe that's just an artifact of who's writing books?

The bo... (Read more)

I give more weight than you do to the variety of species in which calorie restriction has shown benefits.

It does seem quite possible that calorie restriction does worse in high disease environments. But humans in the developed world are exposed to a good deal less infectious disease than what we're evolved for. That suggests that it might be healthy to weaken our immune system slightly (but there's almost certainly an age past which that ceases to be true).

Still, I'm not at all tempted to do continuous calorie restriction. I currently do one or two days pe... (read more)

Four cavalrymen assemble on the banks of the Rhone. 

Two are fools. I have beneath me behemoth, a mountain of flesh and

Tusk. I ought not simply break it like a horse. I will bring it to the tide of

Battle and the beast will find fury and both I and my adversary will be helpless to

Stay it, they say.

The fools charge into battle. The first’s mount balks at the Gaulish pikes and casts him 

To the dirt, and it is his end. The second’s mount glimpses a wolf’s pelt on a pike man 

Before him and mistakes it for a lion and falls 

Into a blood rush. This fool survives two dozen adversarie... (Read more)