Fact just isn't an epistemological category that I have, and it's not one that I find useful. There are only models.

So how you choose between different models, then? If there are no facts, what are your criteria? Why is the model of lizard overlords ruling the Earth any worse than any other model?

You use expressions like "because it's always been true in the past", but what do you mean by "true"?

My primary criterion is consistency. On a very basic level, I am an algorithm receiving a stream of sensory data. I make models to predict what I think that sensory data will look like in the future based on regularities I detect/have detected in the past. Models that capture consistent features of the data go on to correctly control anticipation and are good models, but they're all models. The only thing I have in my head is the map. I don't have access to the territory.

And yet I believe with perfect sincerity that, in generals my maps correspond to reality. I call that correspondence truth. I don't understand the separation you seem to be attempting to make between facts and models or models and reality.

aspect of the climate system that consistently and frequently chnages between glacial and near-interglacial conditions in periods of less than a decade, and on occassion as rapidly as three years

I am not sure this interpretation of the data surivived -- see e.g. this:

Neat. Thanks.

The article you link seems to go out of its way to not be seen as challenging my basic claim, e.g. "Having said this, it should be reemphasised that ice-core chemistry does show extremely rapid changes during climate transitions. The reduction in [Ca] between stadial to interstadial conditions during D-O 3 in the GRIP ice-core occurred in two discrete steps totalling just 5 years [Fuhrer et al., 1999]."

Indeed it the success of the human species that I would cite as evidence for my assertion that human behavior is more closely linked to genetic self-interest than to personal self-interest. Cultural and social success is a huge factor in genetic self-interest.

I haven't been following the subject closely, but didn't the idea of group selection ran into significant difficulties? My impression is that nowadays it's not considered to be a major evolution mechanism, though I haven't looked carefully and will accept corrections.

I'm not sure how group selection is related to material you're quoting. Cultural success and social success refer to the success of an individual within a culture/society, not to the success of cultures and societies.

If you don't consider the opinions of experts evidence, what qualifies?

Opinions are not evidence, they are opinions. Argument to authority is, notably, a fallacy. I call things which qualify "facts".

I mean, it's sort of a fallacy. At the same time when I'm sick, I go to a doctor and get her medical opinion and treat it as evidence. I'm not an expert on the things that humans value. I don't have the time or energy to background to perform experiments and evaluate statistical and experimental methods. Even trusting peer review and relying on published literature is a series of appeals of to authority.

On a very basic level, I am an algorithm receiving a stream of sensory data.

So, do you trust that sensory data? You mention reality, presumably you allow that objective reality which generates the stream of your sensory data exists. If you test your models by sensory data, then that sensory data is your "facts" -- something that is your criterion for whether a model is good or not.

I am also not sure how do you deal with surprises. Does sensory data always wins over models? Or sometimes you'd be willing to say that you don't believe your own ey... (read more)

Why people want to die

by PhilGoetz 1 min read24th Aug 2015175 comments


Over and over again, someones says that living for a very long time would be a bad thing, and then some futurist tries to persuade them that their reasoning is faulty.  They tell them that they think that way now, but they'll change their minds when they're older.

The thing is, I don't see that happening.  I live in a small town full of retirees, and those few I've asked about it are waiting for death peacefully.  When I ask them about their ambitions, or things they still want to accomplish, they have none.

Suppose that people mean what they say.  Why do they want to die?

The reason is obvious if you just watch them for a few years.  They have nothing to live for.  They have a great deal of free time, but nothing they really want to do with it.  They like visiting friends and relatives, but only so often.  The women knit.  The men do yardwork.  They both work in their gardens and watch a lot of TV.  This observational sample is much larger than the few people I've asked.

You folks on LessWrong have lots of interests.  You want to understand math, write stories, create start-ups, optimize your lives.

But face it.  You're weird.  And I mean that in a bad way, evolutionarily speaking.  How many of you have kids?

Damn few.  The LessWrong mindset is maladaptive.  It leads to leaving behind fewer offspring.  A well-adapted human cares above all about sex, love, family, and friends, and isn't distracted from those things by an ADD-ish fascination with type theory.  That's why they probably have more sex, love, and friends than you do.

Most people do not have open-ended interests the way LWers do.  If they have a hobby, it's something repetitive like fly-fishing or needlepoint that doesn't provide an endless frontier for discovery.  They marry, they have kids, the kids grow up, they have grandkids, and they're done.  If you ask them what the best thing in their life was, they'll say it was having kids.  If you ask if they'd do it again, they'll laugh and say absolutely not.

We could get into a long argument over the evolution of aging, and whether people would remain eager to have kids if they remained physically young.  Maybe some would.  Some would not, though.  Many young parents are looking forward to the day their kids leave.

A lot of interests in life are passing.  You fall in love with a hobby, you learn it, you do it for a few years, then you get tired of it.  The things that were fascinating when you were six hold no magic for you now.  Pick up a toy soldier and try to play with it.  You can't.  Skateboarding seems awesome for about five years, and then everyone except Tony Hawk gets tired of it.

Having kids might be like that for some people.  Thing is, it's literally the only thing humans have evolved to be interested in.  Once you're tired of that, you're done.  If some of you want to keep going, that's an accidental by-product of evolution.  And there was no evolutionary pressure to exempt it from the common waning of interest with long exposure.

The way to convert deathists isn't to argue with them, but to get them interested in something.  Twist them the way you're twisted.