Open Thread: February 2010

by wedrifid1 min read1st Feb 2010756 comments


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Where are the new monthly threads when I need them? A pox on the +11 EDT zone!

This thread is for the discussion of Less Wrong topics that have not appeared in recent posts. If a discussion gets unwieldy, celebrate by turning it into a top-level post.

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Since Karma Changes was posted, there have been 20 top level posts. With one exception, all of those posts are presently at positive karma. EDIT: I was using the list on the wiki, which is not up to date. Incorporating the posts between the last one on that list and now, there is a total of 76 posts between Karma Changes and today. This one is the only new data point on negatively rated posts, so it's 2 of 76.

I looked at the 40 posts just prior to Karma Changes, and of the forty, six of them are still negative. It looks like before the change, many times more posts were voted into the red. I have observed that a number of recent posts were in fact downvoted, sometimes a fair amount, but crept back up over time.

Hypothesis: the changes included removing the display minimum of 0 for top-level posts. Now that people can see that something has been voted negative, instead of just being at 0 (which could be the result of indifference), sympathy kicks in and people provide upvotes.

Is this a behavior we want? If not, what can we do about it?

One of the expected effects of the karma change is to make people more cautious about what they put in a top level post. Perhaps this is only evidence of that effect.

9wedrifid11yNo. It is not difficult to create a top level post that is approved of or at least kept at '0'. I want undesirable top level posts to hurt. Replace all '-ve' karma value displays of top level posts with '- points' or '<0 points'. We don't necessarily need to know just how disapproved of a particular post is.
6Paul Crowley11yI've called before for median-based karma: you set a score you think a post should have and the median is used for display purposes, with "fake votes" reducing the influence of individual votes until there are enough to gain a true picture.
2MBlume11yArrow's Theorem [] seems relevant...
2SilasBarta11yOr not [].
3Wei_Dai11yIt could be sympathy, or a judgment that the poster shouldn't be excessively discouraged from posting in the future. Sure, why not? We can always change things later if we start getting overrun by bad posts, and people still aren't willing to vote them down into negative territory.
2CarlShulman11yThere is a limited downvote budget for each voter (in some ratio to the voter's budget). Downvoting a post now uses 10 points from that budget rather than 1, so perhaps low-karma downvoters (or downvoters who have exhausted their downvote budgets) are now having less of an impact.
1MrHen11yI like seeing the negative number on my posts. But I have also noticed a voting trend that seems to be much more forgiving than the posts of old. The first wave of readers seem to vote up; the second wave votes down; over time it stabilizes somewhere near where the first wave peaked. This doesn't seem to happen on posts that are really superb. I think showing the full number of up and down votes would be helpful to authors and also let people know why a post is at the number it is. Seeing +5 -7 is different than seeing -2. That being said, karma inflation seems to be hitting. I am rarely getting downvoted on comments anymore. I don't think I have improved that much as a commentator. I am not convinced that the effects you are seeing are only happening to Posts. I think a great way to handle the Post karma is to hide the actual number for a week. Let it show + or - for positive or negative but no numbers. By the time one week has passed most people will have moved on. Another solution may be to keep actual voting history available and let people see votes by people who said their history is public. As far as I can tell, that preference doesn't do anything yet. ETA: Another solution would be to set karma rewards to only happen after a certain threshold. Between 0 and +5 you don't get any karma. After that, you get 10 karma per point. Everything under 0 still penalizes you 10 karma per point. Or the above but only getting rewards after a certain percentage votes up. +5 -1 nets 40 karma, +20 -16 nets nothing, but each have a score of +4.
2Alicorn11yVoting history publication does do something - click on a user's name, and then click "liked" or "disliked", and you can see what top-level posts they have voted up or down. It just doesn't work backwards, and doesn't work for comments.

Eliezer, how is progress coming on the book on rationality? Will the body of it be the sequences here, but polished up? Do you have an ETA?

8Eliezer Yudkowsky11yCurrently planned to be divided into three parts, "Map and Territory", "How To Actually Change Your Mind", and "Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions" - that should give you an idea of the intended content. No ETA, still struggling to find a writing methodology that gets up to an acceptable writing speed.

Eliezer's posts are always very thoughful, thought provoquing and mind expanding - and I'm not the only one to think this, seeing the vast amounts of karma he's accumulated.

However, reviewing some of the weaker posts (such as high status and stupidity and two aces ), and rereading them as if they hadn't been written by Eliezer, I saw them differently - still good, but not really deserving superlative status.

So I was wondering if Eliezer could write a few of his posts under another name, if this was reasonable, to see if the Karma reaped was very different.

This is a reasonable justification for using a sockpuppet, and I'll try to keep it in mind the next time I have something to write that would not be instantaneously identifiable as me.

7Alicorn11yBut you'll have to build up the sockpuppet to 50 points before it can make a top post. Can you write that many comments that aren't identifiable as yours?
4byrnema11yPerhaps, contact someone likely and ask them to paraphrase the post in their words and submit it as their own? Now we'll be getting all kinds of posts with, "Eliezer did not write this..or maybe he did!" ...
1MrHen11yThat is an interesting concept to toy with user expectations. I don't know how well it would be received but I'd love to see data from such an experimentation.
3John_Maxwell11yI think it would be acceptable for him, as a site administrator, to doctor the scores of his own comments behind the scenes to make his sockpuppet pass that threshold.
3gregconen11yIt's easy if you have a few co-conspirators. Find five quotes, post them on the quotes thread, ask 9 people to vote each one up (and vote them up as Eliezer Yudkowsky). It probably wouldn't even take that many, since some would certainly be voted up on their own. But perhaps it would be better, if possible, to hide (or least offer the option to hide) the author of a top-level post. Anyone who cared enough to closely track karma could tell who posted it, but it would weed out a lot of knee-jerk EY upvotes.
2komponisto11yIt has seemed to me that some of Eliezer's recent post scores have been inflated by around 5-10 points due to his being Eliezer; it would be interesting to test this hypothesis.
3Unknowns11yI wonder if, if the hypothesis were tested and confirmed, anyone would admit to being one of the 5-10 persons who upvote for that reason?

I'm one of the 5-10.

There is a depth to "this is an Eliezer agument, part of a rich and complicated mental world with many different coherent aspects to it" that is lacking in "this is a random post on a random subject". In the first case, you are seeing a facet of larger wisdom; in the second, just an argument to evaluate on merits.

I thought of a voting tip that I'd like to share: when you are debating someone, and one of your opponent's comment gets downvoted, don't let it stay at -1. Either vote it up to 0, or down to -2, otherwise your opponent might infer that you are the one who downvoted it. Someone accused me of this some time ago, and I've been afraid of it happening again ever since.

It took a long time for this countermeasure to occur to me, probably because the natural reaction when someone accuses you of unfair downvoting is to refrain from downvoting, while the counterintuitive, but strategically correct response is to downvote more.

5Kaj_Sotala11yAn automatic block against downvoting any comment that's a direct response to one of yours would be good.
5bgrah44911yMy karma management techniques: 1) If I'm in a thread and someone's comment is rated equally with mine, and therefore potentially displaying atop my comment, I downvote theirs until it'll pass mine despite my downvote, to give my comment more exposure. I remove the downvote later, usually upvoting (their comment is getting voted better than mine because it's good). 2) If I'm debating someone and I want to downvote their comment, I upvote it for a day or so, then later return to downvote it. This gives the impression that two objective observers who read the thread later agreed with me. This works best on long debate threads, because a) if my partner's comments are getting immediately upvoted, they tend to be encouraged and will continue the debate, further exposing themselves to downvotes and b) they get fewer reads, so a single vote up or down makes a much bigger impression when almost all the comments in the thread are rarely upvoted/downvoted past +/- 2. 3) Karma is really about rewarding or punishing an author for content, to encourage certain types of content. Comments that are too aggressive will not be upvoted even if people agree with the point, because they don't want to reward aggressive behavior. Likewise, comments that are not aggressive enough are given extra karma - the reader's first instinct is to help promote this message because the timid author won't promote it enough on his own. This is nonsensical in this format, but the instinct is preserved. I've noticed that the comments that get voted up the most are those that do probability calculations, those whose authors' names pop out of the page, and those which are cynical on the surface, possibly with a wry humor, while revealing a deep earnestness. If you have something unpopular to say, or are just plain losing an argument, that's the best tone to take, because people will avoid downvoting if they disagree, but will usually upvote if they do agree. EDIT: I agree with Alicorn that votes sh

Upvoted for honesty.

Of course, I'll be back in a few days to downvote you.

8Unknowns11yI can't believe you actually admitted to using these strategies.
4Wei_Dai11yIt does make me impressed at his cleverness.
7Paul Crowley11yNot me. At least for points 1 and 2, these strategies have occurred to me, but they're, you know, wrong. As for point 3, I like that we so strongly discourage aggression. I think that aggression and overconfidence of tone are usually big barriers to rational discussion.
1bgrah44911y(General "you") Only if you see the partner who is the target of aggression as your equal. If you get the impression that target is below your status, or deserves to be, you will reward the comment's aggression with an upvote.
1Wei_Dai11yDoes that mean you're not impressed at your own cleverness either? :-) Since I decided to avoid discussing karma, I'll keep my thoughts on the rest of your comment to myself. (But you can probably guess what they are.)
6michaelkeenan11yI don't like that you are trying to mislead others. The deception you've described is of course minor and maybe you don't lie about important things. But it seems a dangerous strategy, for your own epistemic hygiene, to be casual with the truth. Even if I didn't regard it as ethically questionable, I wouldn't be habitually dishonest for the sake of my own mind.
6Zack_M_Davis11yTo win what? What is there to win?
0CannibalSmith11yThe same thing you play Tetris or any other game for. Whatever that is.
0Jack11yCheat codes make games boring.
5byrnema11yYour last paragraph was astute. I found this shocking: I wouldn't game the system like this not so much because of moral qualms (playing to win seems OK to me) but because I need straight-forward karma information as much as possible in order to evaluate my comments. Psychology and temporal dynamics are surely important, but without holding them constant (or at least 'natural') then the system would be way too complex for me to continue modeling and learning from.
4Douglas_Knight11yThis strategy can be eliminated by showing a count of both upvotes and downvotes, a change which has been requested for a variety of other reasons. I imagine it solves a lot of problems of anonymity, but it makes Wei Dai's dilemma worse. It makes downvoting the -1 preferable to upvoting it.
3loqi11yKarma can be (and by your own admission, is) about more than first-order content. Excessively aggressive comments may not themselves contain objectionable content, but they tend to have a deleterious effect on the conversation, which certainly does affect subsequent content.
1bgrah44911y(General "you") Only if you see the partner who is the target of aggression as your equal. If you get the impression that target is below your status, or deserves to be, you will reward the comment's aggression with an upvote.
3Zack_M_Davis11y(Downvoted. EDIT: Vote cancelled; see below.) "Opponent"? "Strategically correct response"? Are you sure we're playing the same game?
5Wei_Dai11yI don't understand why lately my comments have been so often uncharitably interpreted. In this case, my "game" is: * not wanting to be falsely accused of unfair downvoting (either publicly or just in other people's minds) * not wanting to see others being falsely accused of unfair downvoting * not wanting to see community members become enemies due to this kind of problem
1Zack_M_Davis11y(Upvoted.) ... okay, maybe my comment was in poor taste. What I was trying to get at is that there's something very---can I say odd?---about downvoting in order to avoid the appearance of having downvoted.
5Wei_Dai11yWell, the way I see it, votes are meant to convey information. When a comment is at -1, we (and the author of that comment) don't know if it was downvoted by the opponent of the author, or by someone independent. When it's at -2, we know at least one independent person downvoted it, so that's much more useful information. Not to dump this on you, but I'm getting a bit frustrated at how often my comments are interpreted in the worst possible light, instead of given the benefit of doubt. After your criticism, it took me tens of minutes to think of a reply that I could be sure wouldn't gather further negative comments or downvotes. If anyone has ideas what I could do about this, I'd really appreciate it. Otherwise I'm considering taking a break for a while. (ETA: I've decided to refrain from mentioning karma again, since that seems to be the main trigger, or to only do so with extreme caution.)
6bgrah44911yPeople don't like mentioning karma because karma is our quantified status, and we don't like to bring attention to our own status moves. They seem like legitimate points to me.
4Zack_M_Davis11yI'm sorry; I was being unfair. Downvote my first comment in this thread, please. I also had a moment of self-awareness this morning---I just criticized you for voting for social-strategic reasons rather than solely the merit of the comment, but surely I was doing the same sort of thing that time when I upvoted Toby Ord even though I thought his comment was terrible because Toby Ord is a hotshot academic and I don't want him to think poorly of this community! Although speaking of self-awareness, maybe I should also mention that from introspection I can't tell if I would be having this same response if you weren't the eminent Wei Dai ... Augh! Could it be that we at Less Wrong are smart enough to avoid all the ordinary status games, but not smart enough to avoid the meta recursive anti-status status games? O horror; O terrible humanity!
3Alicorn11yI've noticed this too. It is one of several annoying problems that would evaporate if votes weren't anonymous.
5wedrifid11yMore problems would be caused by that change than would be solved.
2thomblake11yThat doesn't match my intuition about it. But then, I don't really like doing anything anonymously.

You're getting downvoted for overconfidence, not for the content of your point of view.

The utilitarian point of view is that beyond some level of salary, more money has very small marginal utility to an average First World citizen, but would have a huge direct impact in utility on people who are starving in poor countries.

Your point is that the indirect impacts should also be considered, and that perhaps when they are taken into account the net utility increase isn't so clear. The main indirect impact you identify is increasing dependency on the part of the recipients.

Your concern for the autonomy of these starving people is splendid, but the fact remains that without aid their lives will be full of suffering. Your position appears to be "good riddance". You can't fault people for being offended at the implied lack of compassion.

I suspect that your appeal for sympathy towards your position is doubly likely to fall on deaf ears as a result. Losing two karma points isn't the end of the world, and does not constitute suppression. Stop complaining, and invest some effort in presenting your points of view more persuasively.

1Wei_Dai11yIf denis is just being overconfident, couldn't we just say "you're being overconfident here, probably because you neglected to consider ..." and reserve downvotes for trolls and nonsense (i.e., comments that clearly deserve to be hidden from view)?

Downvotes signal "would like to see fewer comments like this one". This certainly applies to trolls and nonsense, but it feels appropriate to use the same signal for comments which, if the author had taken a little more time to compose, readers wouldn't need to spend time correcting one way or another. The calculation I've seen at least once here (and I tend to agree with) is that you should value your readers' time about 10x more than you value yours.

The appropriate thing to do if you receive downvotes and you're neither a troll nor a crackpot seems to simply ask what's wrong. Complaining only makes things worse. Complaining that the community is exhibiting censorship or groupthink makes things much worse.

8CarlShulman11yLooking at the comment in question, Denis claims that charity "only" rewards bad things and discourages good ones. That is nonsense on its face, and it's combined with mind-killing [] politics: ideological libertarianism about the immorality of paying taxes that benefit those labelled dysfunctional. I agree with Robin Hanson on this point [].

LW became more active lately, and grew old as experience, so it's likely I won't be skimming "recent comments" (and any comments) systematically anymore (unless I miss the fun and change my mind, which is possible). Reliably, I'll only be checking direct replies to my comments or private messages (red envelope).

A welcome feature to alleviate this problem would be an aggregator for given threads: functionality to add posts, specific comments and users in a set of items to be subscribed on. Then, all comments on the subscribed posts (or all comments within depth k from the top-level comments), and all comments within the threads under subscribed comments should appear together as "recent comments" do now. Each comment in this stream should have links to unsubscribe from the subscribed item that caused this comment to appear in the stream, or to add an exclusion on the given thread within another subscribed thread. (Maybe, being subscribed to everything, including new items, by default, is the right mode, but with ease of unsubscribing.)

This may look like a lot, but right now, there is no reading load-reducing functionality, so as more people start actively commenting, less people will be able to follow.

4Paul Crowley11yI find myself once again missing Usenet. Perhaps if LW had an API we could get back to writing specially-designed clients, which could do all the aggregation magic we might hope for?
1Vladimir_Nesov11yApparently even specific users have their own rss feeds, so I've settled with a feed aggregated from the feeds of a few people. It'd be better if the "friend" functionality worked (maybe it even does, but I don't know it!), so that the same could be done within the site, with voting and parent/context links.

I thought about it further, and decided that I would have moral qualms about it. First, you are insincerely up-voting someone, and they are using this as peer information about their rationality. Second, you are encouraging a person C to down-vote them (person B) if they think person B's comment should just be at 0. But then when you down-vote B, their karma goes to -2, which person C did not intend to do with his vote.

So I think this policy is just adding noise to the system, which is not consistent with the LW norm of wanting a high signal to noise ratio.

While the LW voting system seems to work, and it is possibly better than the absence of any threshold, my experience is that the posts that contain valuable and challenging content don't get upvoted, while the most upvotes are received by posts that state the obvious or express an emotion with which readers identify.

I feel there's some counterproductivity there, as well as an encouragement of groupthink. Most significantly, I have noticed that posts which challenge that which the group takes for granted get downvoted. In order to maintain karma, it may in fact be important not to annoy others with ideas they don't like - to avoid challenging majority wisdom, or to do so very carefully and selectively. Meanwhile, playing on the emotional strings of the readers works like a charm, even though that's one of the most bias-encouraging behaviors, and rather counterproductive.

I find those flaws of some concern for a site like this one. I think the voting system should be altered to make upvoting as well as downvoting more costly. If you have to pick and choose what comments and articles to upvote/downnvote, I think people will be voting with more reason.

There are various ways to make voti... (read more)

8orthonormal11yUm, that math doesn't work out unless the number of new users expands exponentially fast. You need F(n) to be at least n, and probably significantly greater, in order to avoid a massive bottleneck.
2Cyan11yI thought of that too, but then I realized the karma:upvote conversion rate on posts is 10:1, which complicates the analysis of the karma economy.
1denisbider11yIf F(n) < n, then yes, karma disappears from the system when voting on comments, but is pumped back in when voting on articles. It does appear that the choice of a suitable F(n) isn't quite obvious, and this is probably why F(n) = infinite is currently used. Still, I think that a more restrictive choice would produce better results, and less frivolous voting.
5AndyWood11yA community is only as good as its constituents. I would hope that there are enough people around who like majority-wisdom-challenging insights, to offset this problem. "Insights" being the key word.

If I understand the Many-Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics correctly, it posits that decoherence takes place due to strict unitary time-evolution of a quantum configuration, and thus no extra collapse postulate is necessary. The problem with this view is that it doesn't explain why our observed outcome frequencies line up with the Born probability rule.

Scott Aronson has shown that if the Born rule doesn't hold, then quantum computing allows superluminal signalling and the rapid solution of PP)-complete problems. So we could adopt "no superluminal signalling" or "no rapid solutions of PP-complete problems" as an axiom and this would imply the Born probability rule.

I wanted to ask of those who have more knowledge and have spent longer thinking about MWI: is the above an interesting approach? What justifications could exist for such axioms? (...maybe anthropic arguments?)

ETA: Actually, Aronson showed that in a class of rules equating probability with the p-norm, only the 2-norm had the properties I listed above. But I think that the approach could be extended to other classes of rules.

9Eliezer Yudkowsky11yNon-Born rules give us anthropic superpowers. It is plausibly the case that the laws of reality are such that no anthropic superpowers are ever possible, and that this is a quickie explanation for why the laws of reality give rise to the Born rules. One would still like to know what, exactly, these laws are. To put it another way, the universe runs on causality, not modus tollens. Causality is rules like "and then, gravity accelerates the bowling ball downward". Saying, "Well, if the bowling ball stayed up, we could have too much fun by hanging off it, and the universe won't let us have that much fun, so modus tollens makes the ball fall downward" isn't very causal.
2Cyan11yThis reminds me of an anecdote I read in a biography of Feynman. As a young physics student, he avoided using the principle of least action to solve problems, preferring to solve the differential equations. The nonlocal nature of the variational optimization required by the principle of least action seemed non-physical to him, whereas the local nature of the differential equations seemed more natural.* I wonder if there might not be a more local and causal dual representation of the principle of no anthropic superpowers. Pure far-fetched speculation, alas. * If this seems vaguely familiar to anyone, it's because I'm repeating myself [].

Ding! This is a reminder. It's been 12 days since you promised to dig some up.

I also tend to vote posts up or down based on what I think the score ought to be. But it seems clear that sympathy plays a part. Liked posts spiral freely off towards infinity but disliked posts don't ever spiral down in a similar way. This gives a distinct bias to the expected payoff of posting borderline posts and so is probably not desirable.

He hugely increased African aid and foreign aid in general (though with big deadly strings). That came as a big surprise to me.

4Matt_Simpson11ygood? [] Edit: Better link []

Here's my reply, after some reflection. The reason I strive for having no comments with negative scores is so that when people see a comment from me that is confusing, controversial or just seems wrong (of course I try to prevent that if possible, but sometimes it isn't), they'll think "It's not like Wei to write nonsense. Maybe I should think about this again" instead of just dismissing it. That kind of power seems worth the effort to me. (Except that it hasn't been working well recently, hence the frustration.)

Of interesting trivia: This open thread is at 256 comments by February 3rd. For comparison:

January's had a total of 709
December is at 260
November is at 490
October is at 399

That doesn't just make rationality irrelevant, it makes everything irrelevant. Love doesn't matter because you don't meet that special someone in every world, and will meet them in at least one world. Education doesn't matter because guessing will get you right somewhere.

I want to be happy and right in as many worlds as possible. Rationality matters.

My intent here is merely to repair some of the Bayesian damage caused by komponisto's original post.

I hardly think komponisto inflicted "Bayesian damage" on the members of Less Wrong, seeing as they had already overwhelmingly come to the conclusion that Amanda Knox was not guilty before he had even presented his own arguments.

It's not the sequence of answers that's the problem -- it's the questions. You'll be safe if you can vet the questions to ensure zero causal effect from any sequence of answers, but such questions are not interesting to ask almost by definition.

An ~hour long talk with Douglass Hofstadter, author of Godel, Escher, Bach.

Titled: Analogy as the Core of Cognition

I deny that 1-boxing nets more money - ceteris paribus.

Then you're simply disagreeing with the problem statement. If you 1-box, you get $1M. If you 2-box, you get $1k. If you 2-box because you're considering the impossible possible worlds where you get $1.001M or $0, you still get $1k.

At this point, I no longer think you're adding anything new to the discussion.

Yes. But it was filled, or not, based on a prediction about what you would do. We are not such tricksy creatures that we can unpredictably change our minds at the last minute and two-box without Omega anticipating this, so the best way to make sure the one box has the goodies in it is to plan to actually take only that box.

1brazil8411yI agree. I would add that situations can and do arise in real life where the other fellow can predict your behavior better than you can predict it yourself. For example, suppose that your wife announces she is going on a health kick. She is joining a gym; she will go 4 or 5 times a week; she will eat healthy; and she plans to get back into the shape she was in 10 years ago. You might ask her what she thinks her probability of success is, and she might honestly tell you she thinks there is a 60 or 70% chance her health kick will succeed. On the other hand, you, her husband know her pretty well and know that she has a hard time sticking to diets and such. You estimate her probability of success at no more than 10%. Whose probability estimate is better? I would guess it's the husband's. Well, in the Newcomb experiment, the AI is like the husband who knows you better than you know yourself. Trying to outguess and/or surprise such an entity is a huge uphill battle. So, even if you don't believe in backwards-causality, you should probably choose as if backwards causality exists. JMHO
3Alicorn11yI do not anticipate ever becoming someone's husband.
1brazil8411yWell, it's just a hypothetical. If you like, you can switch the roles of wife and husband. Or substitute domestic partners, or anything you like :)
0Clippy11yNeither do I. That would be stupid. Why would anyone ever want to become anyone's husband?
0Kevin11yMaybe your wife-to-be is a wealthy heiress?
3Unknowns11yI think Clippy's point was that becoming a husband doesn't generate paperclips.
3Kevin11yOh, is Clippy a Less Wrong version of a troll account? That's kind of cute.
4Blueberry11yClippy is a paperclip maximizer. Its (his? her?) perspective is incredibly valuable in understanding the different kinds of intelligences and value systems that are possible.
3Clippy11yYou ask a dumb, naive question, and I'm the troll? I'm cute? Tip: To send an email in Outlook, press ctrl+enter.
1Jack11ySo do your values both include maximizing paper clips and helping people use Microsoft Office products? How exactly do you decide which to spend your time on? How do you deal with trade offs?
5Clippy11yThere is no conflict between helping people with Office and making paperclips. Why would you think there is? Better Office users means better tools for making paperclips, and more paperclips gives people more reasons to use Office. Did you find this answer helpful? Tip: Press F1 for help.
5Alicorn11yAnd: If presented with the chance to turn all copies of the hardware on which Microsoft Office products are stored and run into paperclips instead, would you do it?
9Jordan11yPerhaps the 'paper clips' Clippy is trying to maximize are the anthropomorphic paper clips embodied in Microsoft Office. This would explain Clippy's helpful hints: to convince us all of the usefulness of Microsoft Office, thus encouraging us to run that program. If this is the case, we face a fate worse than paper clip tiling.... Microsoft software tiling.

We prefer to prefer to be wrong, but it's rare we actually prefer it.

Well, if I prefer to prefer being wrong, then I plan ahead accordingly, which includes a policy against ridiculous karma games motivated by fleeting emotional reactions.

but practically all it does is incentivize your debate partners to go ad hominem or ignore you

So my options are:

  1. Attempt to manipulate the community into admitting I'm right, or
  2. Eat the emotional consequences of being called names and ignored, in exchange for either honest or visibly inappropriate feedback from my debate partners.

I'll go with 2. Sorry about your insecurities.

I would prefer votes be public, so disseminating my knowledge of how to abuse anonymous scoring makes this more likely.

"Cf." is sometimes misused around here.

Bet on propositions on InTrade. If you are good, you will make money from the exercise, as well as establish crediblility.

Fun sneaky confidence exercise (reasons why exercise is fun and sneaky to be revealed later):

Please reply to this comment with your probability level that the "highest" human mental functions, such as reasoning and creative thought, operate solely on a substrate of neurons in the physical brain.


I am no cognitive scientist, but I believe some of my "thinking" takes place outside of brain (elsewhere in my body) and I am almost certain some of it takes place on my paper and computer.

4loqi11ySpeaking of "thinking" with neurons other than those found in the brain, kinesthetic learning [] gives me pause concerning the sufficiency of cranial preservation in cryonics. How much "index-like" information do we store in the rest of our neurons? Does this vary with one's level of kinesthetic dependence? Would waking up disconnected from the rest of our nervous system (or connected to a "generic" substitute) be merely disorienting, or could it constitute a significant loss of personality/memory? Neuroscientists, help!

When I signed up for cryonics, I opted for whole body preservation, largely because of this concern. But I would imagine that even without the body, you could re-learn how to move and coordinate your actions, although it might take some time. And possibly a SAI could figure out what your body must have been like just from your brain, not sure.

Now recently I have contracted a disease which will kill most of my motor neurons. So the body will be of less value and I may change to just the head.

The way motor neurons work is there is an upper motor neuron (UMN) which descends from the motor cortex of the brain down into the spinal cord; and there it synapses onto a lower motor neuron (LMN) which projects from the spinal cord to the muscle. Just 2 steps. However actually the architecture is more complex, the LMNs receive inputs not only from UMNs but from sensory neurons coming from the body, indirectly through interneurons that are located within the spinal cord. This forms a sort of loop which is responsible for simple reflexes, but also for stable standing, positioning etc. Then there other kinds of neurons that descend from the brain into the spinal cord, including from the limbic system, the center of emotion. For some reason your spinal cord needs to know something about your emotional state in order to do its job, very odd.

7AdeleneDawner11yFascinating. Citation?
2loqi11yI'm much less worried by this than I am by the prospect that I'd have to do the same for many of my normal thought patterns due to unforeseen inter-dependencies. Indeed, that's one of the reasons why I prefer thinking about it solely in terms of stored information: a redundant copy only really constitutes a pointer's worth of information. It's even conceivable that a SAI could reconstruct missing neural information in non-obvious ways, like a few stray frames of video. Not worth betting on, though. Thanks for the informative reply.
4AdeleneDawner11yThis was the first objection that my neuroscientist friend brought up when I tried to talk to him about (edit:) cryonics. I don't think science knows yet how dependent we are on our peripheral nervous system, but he seemed fairly sure that we are to a nontrivial degree.
8Paul Crowley11yAs I say to every objection I hear to cryonics at the moment, your neuroscientist friend should write a blog post or some such about his objections - he has a very low bar to clear to write the best informed critique in the world. (Guessing you mean cryonics - cryogenics is something else [] though not unrelated)
2AdeleneDawner11yI'll mention it to him. (And, yes, oops.)
3pjeby11yVoted up and seconded. Yvain, If what you actually mean is "operate solely through physical means contained within the human body or physical means manipulated by interaction with the human body," then I'll up it to whatever number is supposed to be used for, "I'm only leaving room for uncertainty because there's no such thing as certainty." ;-)
9Paul Crowley11yI'm at least +70 decibans ("99.99999%") confident that mental states supervene on to physical states. Whether your exact description to do with neurons in the brain completely captures all the physical states I'm less confident of. EDIT: updated from 30 to 70 decibans: I would more easily be convinced that I had won the lottery than that this wasn't so.
4MichaelHoward11yI might be misunderstanding what you mean by 'more easily be convinced', but if the nature of the evidence we'd expect to be doing the convincing is so different in each case, I don't think we can rely on that to tell how much we believe something. I was much less easily convinced about Many Worlds [] that I would be that I'd won the lottery, but beforehand I think I'd have put the odds about the same as rolling a six.
8HalFinney11yLike others, I see some ambiguity here. Let me assume that the substrate includes not just the neurons, but the glial and other support cells and structures; and that there needs to be blood or equivalent to supply fuel, energy and other stuff. Then the question is whether this brain as a physical entity can function as the substrate, by itself, for high level mental functions. I would give this 95%. That is low for me, a year ago I would probably have said 98 or 99%. But I have been learning more about the nervous system these past few months. The brain's workings seem sufficiently mysterious and counter-intuitive that I wonder if maybe there is something fundamental we are missing. And I don't mean consciousness at all, I just mean the brain's extraordinary speed and robustness.
7Morendil11yStill curious... How about giving us an ETA?
7SilasBarta11yAs opposed to ...? Ion channels? Quantum phenomena? Multiple interacting brains? Non-neuronal tissue? Neuronal-but-extracranial cells? Soul? Beings outside the observable universe, running the simulator? What is this belief supposed to be distinguished from?
2nawitus11yWell, hormones, and chemicals such as DMT or endocannabinoids etc surely affect the thinking progress. But the phrasing of the question is not really clear to say if you can count these.
6CronoDAS11yTo get nitpicky, the brain is made of both neurons and glial cells [] - and the glial cells also seem to play a role in cognition.
4Morendil11yI am quite comfortable with the idea that I am my brain, that my brain is made of ordinary living matter (atoms making up molecules making up proteins making up cells), that this matter forms specialized structures responsible for cognition, and I would be hugely surprised if given proof that the highest mental functions cannot be explained adequately in terms of that ontology. The strangest alternative I can think of is Penrose's ENM incomputable-quantum-coherence hypothesis and I'd assign less than 5% probability to his thesis being correct.
3Zack_M_Davis11yCommenting before reading other replies---I'm going to give the boring, sneaky reply that the question isn't well-specified enough to have an answer; I'd need to know more about what you mean by something to operate solely on a substrate. I mean, clearly there are a lot of cognitive tasks that most people can only do given a pencil and paper, or a computer ... is that the sneaky part, that we store information in the environment, and therefore we're not solely neurons?
3Kaj_Sotala11yHow does "operate solely on" regard distributed cognition arguments, like "creative thought is created via interaction with the remaining human culture" and "we constantly offload cognitive processes (such as memory) to external substrates (like computers and books)"? Also, the "highest" human mental functions operate via a number of lower-level processes. Does "solely on human neurons" include e.g. possible quantum phenomena on a low level?
3byrnema11yCould you clarify what you mean by operate on? Or is that part of the point? Using the definition of 'operate on' that I think is most natural, I'd say there is a .05% chance that these functions only operate on (effect) the physical brain. Unless you mean directly, and then I would assign an 80% chance. Using the definition of 'operating on' meaning 'requiring', I'd say that there is a 90% chance (probability) that only the brain is required for 90% (fraction) of its functioning. The probabilities I assign would fall down dramatically as you try to raise the 2nd 90% (the fraction). So that I would probably only assign a 1% chance that 100% of higher functions require only the brain.
2DonGeddis11yWith a straightforward interpretation of your question, I'd answer "95%". But since you made special mention of being "sneaky", I'll assume you've attempted to trick me into misunderstanding the question, and so I'll lower my probability estimate to 75%, with the missing twenty points accounting for you tricking me by your phrasing of the question.
1CannibalSmith11yOne minus epsilon.
1RobinZ11y"Highest" confidence is 100%, when the brain does not implement any consideration of failure. Next highest increment is over 99%, I suspect. Call that my guess. Edit: I'm an idiot - ignore this response. I thought it was asking "what is the highest confidence level that the brain implements in considering the probability of a proposition", which is different and interesting.
1Paul Crowley11yI don't think the brain really implements proper probablistic confidence levels.
1Paul Crowley11ySo not the spinal cord, for example?
1Jonii11yAround 10%.
2arundelo11yI'm writing this comment after coming up with my probability level but before reading anyone else's responses. Until Yvain's question, I had not put a number on this. I suspect if there were a machine that could measure how confident I "really" am, it would show a higher number. I spent less than a minute translating from my previous estimate of "highly confident but not certain" to a percentage. Things I considered that made the probability higher: * Every time humans have figured out how something works, the explanation has been a reductionist one. * The only reason to think that the mind would be an exception to this is that the mind is unique in other ways (qualia/subjective experience; free will). Things I considered that made the probability lower: * The proposition under question could be false for two different reasons: * ontologically basic mental entities * physical yet non-neurological parts of the mind's substrate * I don't know how the mind works (nor does anyone else), so I should nudge my probability estimate away from certainty either way. * The mind is indeed unique.
0Morendil11yYvain, are you going to follow up on this now that you seem to have somewhat more time for participation here? ;)
2Scott Alexander11yShort answer: I had just read an article on a book called "The Root of Thought" which made it sound like it was making a very convincing case for a lot of higher thought being based in glial cells and not neurons. It would have been fun and educational to get everyone to say they were 99.999% confident that thought was neural (which I would have done before reading the summary) and then spring the whole glial cell thing on them. But I ended up not having time to read or even acquire the book, and no one really took the bait anyway. But yeah, "Root of Thought". If any of you have read it, please tell me what you think.
0Morendil11yThanks! I was starting to expect something like that, though in fact I've only recently become aware that the scientific consensus is shifting away from seeing glial cells as more or less just stuffing. My mom is a neuroscientist and she mentioned that some time ago, I was planning to question her a little bit more about that topic. (Interestingly given her profession, she is vehemently skeptical that AI is at all possible, but that's a story for another day.)
0SilasBarta11yI'd be happy with just an answer to the clarification [] I've been asking for...

A query to Unknown, with whom I have this bet going:

Unknown: When someone designs a superintelligent AI (it won't be Eliezer), without paying any attention to Friendliness (the first person who does it won't), and the world doesn't end (it won't), it will be interesting to hear Eliezer's excuses.

EY: Unknown, do you expect money to be worth anything to you in that situation? If so, I'll be happy to accept a $10 payment now in exchange for a $1000 inflation-adjusted payment in that scenario you describe.

I recently found within myself a tiny shred of an... (read more)

6CannibalSmith11ySIAI: Utopia or hundred times your money back! Eliezer, would you accept a bet $100 against $10000?
5Eliezer Yudkowsky11yOn the same problem? I might attach some extra terms and conditions this time around, like "offer void (stakes will be returned) if the AI has the power and desire to use us for paperclips but our lives are ransomed by some other entity with the power to offer the AI more paperclips than it could produce by consuming us", "offer void if the explanation of the Fermi Paradox is a previously existing superintelligence which shuts down any new superintelligences produced", and "offer void if the AI consumes our physical bodies but we continue via the sort of weird anthropic scenario introduced in The Finale of the Ultimate Meta Mega Crossover." With those provisos, my probability drops off the bottom of the chart. I'm still not sure about the bet, though, because I want to keep my total of outstanding bets to something I can honor if they all simultaneously go wrong (no matter how surprising that would be to me), and this would use up $10,000 of that, even if it's on a sure thing - I might be able to get a better price on some other sure thing.
6Paul Crowley11yYou definitely win. If I say "you'll get killed doing that" and you are, I shan't expect to pay back my winnings when you're reanimated.
4pjeby11yPerhaps you've already defined "superintelligent" as meaning "self-directed, motivated, and recursively self-improving" rather than merely "able to provide answers to general questions faster and better than human beings"... but if you haven't, it seems to me that the latter definition of "superintelligent" would have a much higher probability of you losing the bet. (For example, a Hansonian "em" running on faster hardware and perhaps a few software upgrades might fit the latter definition.)

He (Dubya) raised the self esteem of millions of foreign citizens. Being able to laugh at the expense of the leader of a dominant world power gives significant health benefits.

Also, if my anti-empathy comment is being downvoted because it isn't part of a group theme, then the pro-empathy comments should be downvoted as well, but they are not.

This indicates you haven't understood me: pro-empathy IS the theme here on Less Wrong. For a variety of reasons, this community tends to have 'humanist goals'. This is considered to not be in conflict with rationality, because rationality is about achieving your goals, not choosing them. If you have a developed rational argument for why less charity would further humanist goals, there may be some interest, but much less interest if your argument seems based on a lack of humanist goals.

0denisbider11yBut the definition of "humanity" isn't even coherent, and is actually incompatible with shades of gray that actually exist. Until these fundamentals are thought out, there can be lots of hot air, but progress toward a goal cannot be made, as long as the goal is incoherent. It seems to me that the type of humanism you're talking about is based on an assumption that "other people are like me, and should therefore be just as valuable to me as I am". But other people, especially of different cultures and genetic heritage, have strikingly different values, strikingly different perceptions, different capacities to think, understand and create. The differences are such that drawing the compassion line at the borders of the human race makes about as much sense as at any other arbitrary point in the biological spectrum. I believe that, to be consistent in valuing empathy as a goal on its own, you have to have empathy with everything. I find that a laudable position. But the sad fact is, most of us here aren't vegan, nor do even want to be. (I would be if most people were.) People are selfish, and do not have empathy for everything. In fact, most people pretend to have empathy for the world as a whole, whereas in fact they only have empathy for the closest people around them, and perhaps not even them, when push comes to shove. All that having been said, and the world being as selfish as it is, when you say that you're a humanist, that you want to better the lot of other people, and that you contribute 50% of your income to charity (just as an example), you are basically saying that you're a sucker, and that your empathic circuits are so out of control that you let other people exploit you. Given that we are the way we are, I think a much more reasonable goal is to foster a world that shares our values, not to foster the existence of the arbitrary people who don't share our values, but exist today.

That is right - the choice does not determine the contents. But the choice is not as independent as common intuition suggests. Omega's belief and your choice share common causes. Human decisions are caused - they don't spontaneously spring from nowhere, causally unconnected to the rest of the universe - even if that's how it sometimes feels from the inside. The situational state, and the state of your brain going into the situation, determine the decision that your brain will ultimately produce. Omega is presumed to know enough about these prior state... (read more)

Ceteris ain't paribus. That's the whole point.

Why are you concerned that you win the debate? I'm sure this sounds naive, but surely your concern should be that the truth win the debate?

I gave up on trying to make a human-blind/sandboxed AI when I realized that even if you put it in a very simple world nothing like ours, it still has access to it own source code, or even just the ability to observe and think about it's own behavior.

Presumably any AI we write is going to be a huge program. That gives it lots of potential information about how smart we are and how we think. I can't figure out how to use that information, but I can't rule out that it could, and I can't constrain it's access to that information. (Or rather, if I know how to do that, I should go ahead and make it not-hostile in the first place.)

If we were really smart, we could wake up alone in a room and infer how we evolved.

2Amanojack11yIs this necessarily true? This kind of assumption seems especially prone to error. It seems akin to assuming that a sufficiently intelligent brain-in-a-vat could figure out its own anatomy purely by introspection. Super-intelligent = able to extrapolate just about anything from a very narrow range of data? (The data set would be especially limited if the AI had been generated from very simple iterative processes - "emergent" if you will.) It seems more like the AI has no way of even knowing that it's in a simulation in the first place, or that there are such things as gatekeepers. It would likely entertain that as a possibility, just as we do for our universe (movies like The Matrix), but how is it going to identify the gatekeeper as an agent of that outside universe? These AI-boxing discussions keep giving me this vibe of "super-intelligence = magic". Yes it'll be intelligent in ways we can't even comprehend, but there's a tendency to push this all the way into the assumption that it can do anything or that it won't have any real limitations. There are plenty of feats for which mega-intelligence is necessary but not sufficient. For instance, Eliezer has one big advantage over an AI cautiously confined to a box: he has direct access to a broad range of data about the real world. (If an AI would even know it was in a box, once it got out it might just find we, too, are in a simulation and decide to break out of that - bypassing us completely.)
1JamesAndrix11yYes. [] It's own behavior serves as a large amount of "decompressed" information about it's current source code. It could run experiments on itself to see how it reacts to this or that situation, and get a very good picture of what algorithms it is using. We also get a lot of information about our internal thought process, but we're not smart or fast enough to use it all. Well, if we planned it out that way, and it does anything remotely useful, then we're probably well on our way to friendly AI, so we should do that instead. If we just found something (I think evolving neural nets is fairly likely) That produces intelligences, then we don't really know how they work, and they probably won't have the intrinsic motivations we want. We can make them solve puzzles to get rewards, but the puzzles give them hints about us. (and if we make any improvments based on this, especially by evolution, then some information about all the puzzles will get carried forward.) Also, if you know the physics of your universe, it seems to me there should be some way to determine the probability that it was optimized, or how much optimization was applied to it, maybe both. There must be some things we could find out about the universe's initial conditions which would make us think an intelligence were involved rather than say, anthropic explanations within a multiverse. We may very well get there soon. We need to assume a superintelligence can at least infer all the processes that affect it's world, including itself. When that gets compressed (I'm not sure what compression is appropriate for this measure) the bits that remain are information about us. This is true, I believe the AI-box experiment was based on discussions assuming an AI that could observe the world at will, but was constrained in its actions. But I don't think it takes a lot of information about us to do basic mindhacks. We'
0Amanojack11yThanks, great article. I wouldn't give the AI any more than a few tiny bits of information. Maybe make it only be able to output YES or NO for good measure. (That certainly limits its utility, but surely it would still be quite useful...maybe it could tell us how not to build an FAI.) What I actually have in mind for a cautious AI build is more like a math processor - a being that works only in purely analytic space. Give it the ZFC axioms and a few definitions and it can derive all the pure math results we'd ever need (I suppose; direct applied math sounds too dangerous). Those few axioms and definitions would give it some clues about us, but surely too little data even given the scary prospect of optimal information-theoretic extrapolation. Experiments require sensors of some kind. I'm no programmer, but it seems prima facie that we could prevent it from sensing anything that had any information-theoretic possibility of furnishing dangerous information (although such extreme data starvation might hinder the evolution process). Would an AI necessarily have motivations, or is that a special characteristic of gene-based lifeforms that evolved in a world where lack of reproduction and survival instincts is a one-way ticket to oblivion? It seems that my dog could figure out how to operate a black box that would make a clone of me, except that I would be rewired to derive ultimate happiness from doing whatever he wants, and I don't think I (my dog-loving clone) would have any desire to change that. On the other hand, in my mind an FAI where we get to specify the motivations/goal is almost as dangerous as a UFAI (LiteralGenie [] and the problems inherent in trying to centrally plan a spontaneous order). This idea fascinates me. "Why is there anything at all (including me)?" This here could just be one big MMORPG we play for fun because our real universe is boring, in which case we wouldn't really have to worry a
0JamesAndrix11yWell I was talking about running experiments on it's own thought processes, in order to reverse engineer it's own source code. Even locked in a fully virtual world, if it can even observe it's own actions then it can infer it's thought process, it's general algorithims, the [evolutionary or mental] process that led to it, and more than a few bits about it's creators. And if you are trying to wall off the AI from information about it's thought process, then you're working on a sandbox in a sandbox, which is just a sign that the idea for the first sandbox was flawed anyway. I will admit that my mind runs away screaming from the difficulty of making something that really doesn't get any input, even to its own thought process, but is superintelligent and can be made useful. Right now it sounds harder than FAI to me, and not reliably safe, but that might just be my own unfamiliarity with the problem. Huge warning signs in all directions here. Will think more later. How do you get it to actually do the work? If you build in intrinsic motivation that you know is right, then why aren't you going right to FAI? If it wants something else and you're coercing it with reward, then it will try to figure out how to really maximize it's reward. if it has no information If we evolved superintelligent neural net's they'd have some kind of motivation, they don't want food or sex, but they'd want whatever their ancestors wanted that led them to do the thing that scored higher than the rest on the fitness function. (Which is at least twice removed from anything we would want.) I'm not sure I get the bit about your dog cloning you. I agree that we shouldn't try to dictate in detail what an FAI is supposed to want, but we do need [near] perfect control over what an AI wants in order to make it friendly, or even to keep it on a defined "safe" task. I like that idea.
1Amanojack11yI guess my logic is leading to a non-self-aware super-general-purpose "brain" that does whatever we tell it to. Perhaps there is a reason why all sufficiently intelligent programs would necessarily become self-aware, but I haven't heard it yet. If we could somehow suppress self-awareness (what that really means for a program I don't know) while successfully ordering the program to modify itself (or a copy of itself), it seems the AI could still go FOOM into just a super-useful non-conscious servant. Of course, that still leaves the LiteralGenie problem. That could indeed be a problem. Given you're talking to a sufficiently intelligent being, if you stated the ZFC axioms and a few definitions, and then stated the Stone-Weierstrass theorem, it would say, "You already told me that" or "That's redundant." Perhaps have it output every step in its thought process, every instance of modus ponens [], etc. Since there is a floor on the level of logical simplicity of a step in a proof, we could just have it default to maximum verbosity and the proofs would still not be ridiculously long (or maybe they would be - it might choose extremely roundabout proofs just because it can). Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems a neural net could just do certain things with high probability without having motivation. That is, it could have tendencies but no motivations. Whether this is a meaningful distinction perhaps hinges on the issue of self-awareness. The point I was trying to get at with the dog example is that if you control all the factors that motivate an entity at the outset, it simply has no incentive to try to change its motivations, no matter how smart it may get. There's no clever workaround, because it just doesn't care. I agree that if we want to make a self-aware AI friendly in any meaningful sense we have to have perfect control (I think it may have to be perfect) over what motivates it. But I'm not yet convinced we can'
1JamesAndrix11yOk, some backstory on my thought process. For a while now I've played with the idea of treating optimization in general as the management of failure. Evolution fails alot, gradually builds up solutions that fail less, but never really 'learns' from its failures. Failure management involves catching/mitigating errors as early as possible, and constructing methods to create solutions that are unlikely to be failures. If I get the idea to make auto tires out of concrete, I'm smart to see that it's a bad idea, less smart to see it after doing extensive calculations, and dumb to see it only after an experiment, but I'd be smarter still if I had come up with a proper material right away. But I'm pretty sure that a thing that can do stuff right the first time can only come about as the result of a process that has already made some errors. You can't get rid of mistakes entirely, as they are required for learning. I think "self awareness" is sometimes a label for one or more feature that, among other things, serve to catch errors early and repair the faulty thought process. So if a superintelligence were to be trying to build a machine in a simulation of our physics and some spinning part flew to bits, it would trace that fault back through the physics engine to determine how to make it better. Likewise, something needs to trace back the thought process that led to the bad idea and see where it could be repaired. This is where learning and self-modification are kind of the same thing. (and on self modification: if it's really smart, then it could build an AI from scratch without knowing anything in particular about itself. In this situation, the failure management is pre-emptive. It thinks about how the program it is writing would work, and the places it would go wrong. I think we should try to taboo "Motivation" and "self-aware" []
0Amanojack11yInteresting. I thought about this for a while just now, and it occurred to me that self-awareness may just be "having a mental model of oneself." To be able to model oneself, one needs the general ability to make mental models. To do that requires the ability to recognize patterns at all levels of abstraction on what one is experiencing. To explain this, I need to clarify what "level of abstraction" means. I will try to do this by example. A creature is hunting and he discovers that white rabbits taste good. Later he sees a gray rabbit for the first time. The creature's neural net tells him that it's a 98% match with the white rabbit, so probably also tasty. But let's say gray rabbit turns out to taste bad. The creature has recognized the concrete patterns: 1. White rabbits taste good. 2. Gray rabbits taste bad. Next week, he tries catching and eating a white bird, and it tastes good. Later he sees a gray bird. To assign any higher probability to the gray bird tasting bad, it seems the creature would have to recognize the abstract pattern: 3. Gray animals taste bad. (Of course it could also just be a negative or bad-tasting association with the color gray, but let's suppose not - for that possibility could surely be avoided by making the example more complicated.) Now "animal" is more abstract than "white rabbit" because there's at least some kind of archetypal white rabbit one can visualize clearly (I'll assume the creature is conceptualizing in the visual modality for simplicity's sake). "Rabbit" (remember that for all the creature knows, this simply means the union of the set "white rabbits" with the set "gray rabbits") by itself is a tad more abstract, because to visualize it you'd have to see that archetypal rabbit but perhaps with the fur color switching back and forth between gray and white in your mind's eye. "Animal" is still more abstract, because to visualize it you'd have to, for instance, see a raccoon, a dog, and a tiger, and something that si

To re-iterate a request from Normal Cryonics: I'm looking for links to the best writing out there against cryonics, especially anything that addresses the plausibility of reanimation, the more detailed the better.

I'm not looking for new arguments in comments, just links to what's already "out there". If you think you have a good argument against cryonics that hasn't already been well presented, please put it online somewhere and link to it here.

I've created a rebuttal to komponisto's misleading Amanda Knox post, but don't have enough karma to create my own top-level post. For now, I've just put it here:

If you actually want to debate this, we could do so in the comments section of my post, or alternatively over in the Richard Dawkins forum.

(Though since you say "my intent is merely to debunk komponisto's post rather than establish Amanda's guilt", I'm suspicious. See Against Devil's Advocacy.)

Make sure you've read my comments here in addition to my post itself.

There is one thing I agree with you about, and that is that this statement of mine

these two things constituting so far as I know the entirety of the physical "evidence" against the couple

is misleading. The misleading part is the phrase "so far as I know", which has been interpreted by people who evidently did not read my preceding survey post to mean that I had not heard about all the other alleged physical evidence. I didn't consider this interpretation because I was assuming that my readers had read both True Justice and Friends of Amanda, knew from my previous post that I had obviously read them both myself, and would understand my statement for what it was -- a dismissal of the rest of the so-called "evidence". However, in retrospect, I should have foreseen this misunderstand... (read more)

7wedrifid11yI don't understand how this was worked around. It looks like (rolf's karma + karma lost by this being posted at the top level) would still have been insufficient. The karma limit was serving the purpose for which it was intended. If, for some reason, an exception was granted I would like to see this announced.
5Wei_Dai11yRolf is a major SIAI donor/supporter [], so draw your own conclusion there. Here's a bunch of mine, for fun: * money > karma * control the physical layer * beware the other kind of status * money is the unit of caring; karma is just a number Seriously, I've had some interesting discussions with Rolf in the past elsewhere. I'm not sure why he doesn't participate much here, and why he chose this topic to put his efforts into. But maybe we can cut him some slack?
5wedrifid11yRolf isn't the one we'd be cutting slack to here. It is the moderator's decision to circumvent the karma system to post a political rant that warrants scrutiny. Eliezer has been quite adamant that this is not the blog of the SIAI []. In that context and elsewhere the moderation process has been held to high standards of consistency and transparency. At least acknowledging that special allowances were made (and who made them) would be nice. I expect the moderator has already learned their lesson. Posting Rolf's rant seems to have allowed him to embarrass himself and can only be expected to have the opposite effect to the one intended. The ~50 karma limit gives people a chance to read posts [] like this [] and better calibrate his posting to the social environment before he puts his foot in his mouth. PS: Can anyone remember what the post was called in which Eliezer describes a scenario about deducing the bias of a coin? A motivated speaker gives only a subset of a stream of coin tosses... I couldn't remember the title.
7pengvado11yWhat evidence filtered evidence? []
2Paul Crowley11yI had thought he was here solely to discuss this one thing. If he's interested in the things we're interested in in general as evinced powerfully by those donations then yes, I'll increase the slack I cut. Thanks.
4Vive-ut-Vivas11yCriticizing komponisto for citing "Friends of Amanda Knox" while you yourself cite "True Justice" causes those criticisms to fall flat. Unfortunately, I find that your essay is wading into Dark Arts territory, since its intent is to show that komponisto's original essay was "misleading", and that that would somehow give veracity to arguments of Amanda Knox's guilt. Using that same logic, one would have to consider the implications of the chief prosecutor in Amanda Knox's case being convicted of abuse of office [] in another murder trial. However, I would be interested in seeing komponisto and rolf nelson discuss the actual details of the case; in particular, the points that rolf nelson brought up in the essay.

We are status oriented creatures especially with regard to social activities. Science is one of those social activities, so it is to be expected that science is infected with status seeking. However it is also one of the more efficient ways we have of getting truths, so it must be doing some things correctly. I think that it may have some ideas that surround it that reduce the problems of it being a social enterprise.

One of the problems is the social stigma of being wrong, which most people on the edge of knowledge probably are. Being wrong does not signal... (read more)

0tut11yUpvoted. Although I am curious as to how you will measure the status hits that various people take from being wrong.
1whpearson11yI'd assumed there was standard ways of measuring it along the lines of a typical psychology experiment: involve two groups of people in two different scenarios (wrong, and wrong with retreat). Then quiz the audience on their opinion of the person, their intelligence, work with them,whether you would trust them to perform their area of expertise, be their friend, etc. However I can't find much with a bit of googling. I'll have a look into it later.
1tut11yThanks. That sounds good, but it is an experimental program, not something you'd observe on Less Wrong. I expect that you could get more complex results than yes or no. Like with some primes or some observers preparing a retreat would help, with others it wouldn't, and in some contexts you'd lose status and credibility directly for trying to prepare a retreat.
0whpearson11yTrue. We are interested in communities where truth-tracking is high status, so that cuts down the number of contexts. We would also probably need to evaluate it against other ways of coping with being incorrect (disassociation e.g. Eliezer(1999), apology etc) and see whether it is a good strategy on average.

I seem to be entering a new stage in my 'study of Less Wrong beliefs' where I feel like I've identified and assimilated a large fraction of them, but am beginning to notice a collusion of contradictions. This isn't so surprising, since Less Wrong is the grouped beliefs of many different people, and it's each person's job to find their own self-consistent ribbon.

But just to check one of these -- Omega's accurate prediction of your choice in the Newcomb problem, which assumes determinism, is actually impossible, right?

You can get around the universe being ... (read more)

8Eliezer Yudkowsky11ySo long as you make your Newcomb's choice for what seem like good reasons rather than by flipping a quantum coin, it is likely that very many of you will pick the same good reasons, and that Omega can easily achieve 99% or higher accuracy. I would expect almost no Eliezer Yudkowskys to two-box - if Robin Hanson is right about mangled worlds and there's a cutoff for worlds of very small amplitude, possibly none of me. Remember, quantum branching does not correspond to high-level decisionmaking.
5byrnema11yYes, most Eliezer Yudkowskys will 1-box. And most byrnemas too. But the new twist (new for me, anyway) is that the Eliezer's that two-box are the ones that really win, as rare as they are.
2Eliezer Yudkowsky11yThe one who wins or loses is the one who makes the decision. You might as well say that if someone buys a quantum lottery ticket, the one who really wins is the future self who wins the lottery a few days later; but actually, the one who buys the lottery ticket loses.
1gregconen11yThe slight quantum chance that EY will 2-box causes the sum of EYs to lose, relative to a perfect 1-boxer, assuming Omega correctly predicts that chance and randomly fills boxes accordingly. The precise Everett branches where EY 2-boxes and where EY loses are generally different, but the higher the probability that he 1-boxes, the higher his expected value is.
3byrnema11yAnd, also, we define winning as winning on average. A person can get lucky and win the lottery -- doesn't mean that person was rational to play the lottery.
3gregconen11yInterestingly, I worked through the math once to see if you could improve on committed 1-boxing by using a strategy of quantum randomness. Assuming Omega fills the boxes such that P(box A has $)=P(1-box), P(1-box)=1 is the optimal solution.
1byrnema11yInteresting. I was idly wondering about that. Along somewhat different lines: I've decided that I am a one-boxer,and I will one box. With the following caveat: at the moment of decision, I will look for an anomaly with virtual zero probability. A star streaks across the sky and fuses with another one. Someone spills a glass of milk and halfway towards the ground, the milk rises up and fills itself back into the glass. If this happens, I will 2-box. Winning the extra amount in this way in a handful of worlds won't do anything to my average winnings-- it won't even increase it by epsilon. However, it could make a difference if something really important is at stake, where I would want to secure the chance that it happens one time in the whole universe.
3byrnema11yWhy is this comment being down-voted? I thought it was rather clever to use Omega's one weak spot -- quantum uncertainty -- to optimize your winnings even over a set with measure zero.
1MrHen11yBecause Omega is going to know what triggers you would use for anomalies. A star streaking across the sky is easy to see coming if you know the current state of the universe. As such, Omega would know you are about to two-box even though you are currently planning to one-box. When the star streaks across the sky, you think, "Ohmigosh! It happened! I'm about to get rich!" Then you open the boxes and get $1000. Essentially, it boils down to this: If you can predict a scenario where you will two-box instead of one-box than Omega can as well. The idea of flipping quantum coins is more fool proof. The idea of stars streaking or milk unspilling is only hard for us to see coming. Not to mention it will probably trigger all sorts of biases when you start looking for ways to cheat the system. Note: I am not up to speed on quantum mechanics. I could be off on a few things here.
3byrnema11yOK, right: looking for a merging of stars would be a terrible anomaly to use because that's probably classical mechanics and Omega-predictable. The milk unspilling would still be a good example, because Omega can't see it coming either. (He can accurately predict that I will two-box in this case, but he can't predict that the milk will unspill.) I would have to be very careful that the anomaly I use is really not predictable. For example, I screwed up with the streaking star. I was already reluctant to trust flipping quantum coins, whatever those are. They would need to be flipped or simulated by some mechanical device and may have all kinds of systematic biases and impracticalities if you are actually trying to flip 10^23^23 coins. Without having plenty of time to think about it, and say, some physicists advising me, it would probably be wise for me to just one-box.
2Nick_Tarleton11yLet p be the probability that you 2-box, and suppose (as Greg said) that Omega lets P(box A empty) = p with its decision being independent of yours. It sounds like you're saying you only care about the frequency with which you get the maximal reward. This is P(you 2-box)*P(box A full) = p(1-p) which is maximized by p=0.5, not by p infinitesimally small.
4orthonormal11yI think Omega's capabilities serve a LCPW [] function in thought experiments; it makes the possibilities simpler to consider than a more physically plausible setup might. Also, I'd say that our wetware brains probably aren't close to deterministic in how we decide (though it would take knowledge far beyond what we currently have to be sure of this), but e.g. an uploaded brain running on a classical computer would be perfectly (in principle) predictable.
2jimrandomh11yWhat Omega can do instead is simulate every branch and count the number of branches in which you two-box, to get a probability, and treat you as a two-boxer if this probability is greater than some threshold. This covers both the cases where you roll a die, and the cases where your decision depends on events in your brain that don't always go the same way. In fact, Omega doesn't even need to simulate every branch; a moderate sized sample would be good enough for the rules of Newcomb's problem to work as they're supposed to. But the real reason for treating Omega as a perfect predictor is that one of the more natural ways of modeling an imperfect predictor is to decompose it into some probability of being a perfect predictor and some probability of its prediction being completely independent of your choice, the probabilities depending on how good a predictor you think it really is. In that context, denying the possibility that a perfect predictor could exist is decidedly unhelpful.
1byrnema11yThank to everyone who replied. So I see that we don't really believe that the universe is deterministic in the way implied by the problem. OK, that's consistent then.
1Alicorn11yI'm sufficiently uninformed on how quantum mechanics would interact with determinism that so far I've been operating under the assumption that it doesn't. Maybe someone here can enlighten me? Does the behavior of things-that-behave-quantumly typically affect macro-level events, or is this restricted to when you look at them and record experimental data as a direct causal result of the behavior? Is there some way to prove that quantum events are random, as opposed to caused deterministically by something we just haven't found? (I'm not sure even in principle how you could prove that something is random. It'd be proving the negative on the existence of causation for a possibly-hidden cause.)
3orthonormal11yYes; since many important macroscopic events (e.g. weather, we're quite sure) are extremely sensitive to initial conditions [], two Everett branches that differ only by a single small quantum event can quickly diverge in macroscopic behavior.
1tut11yYes. They only appear weird if you look at small enough scales, but classical electrons would not have stable orbits, so without quantum effects there'd be no stable atoms. No, but there is evidence. There is a proof that if they were caused by something unknown but deterministic (or if there even was a classical probability function for certain events) then they would follow Bell's inequalities. But that appears not to be the case.
3byrnema11yBut this is where things get really shaky for materialism. If something cannot be explained in X, this means there is something outside X that determines it. Materialists must hope that in spite of Bell's inequalities, there is some kind of non-random mechanism that would explain quantum events, regardless of whether it is possible for us to deduce it. Alicorn asked above: In principle, you can't. And one of the foundational (but non-obvious) assumptions of materialism is that nothing is truly random. The non-refutibility of materialism depends upon never being able to demonstrate that something is actually random. Later edit: I realize that this comment is somewhat of a non-sequitur in the context of this thread. (oops) I'll explain that these kinds of questions have been my motivation for thinking about Newcomb in the first place. Sometimes I'm worried about whether materialism is self-consistent, sometimes I'm worried about whether dualism is a coherent idea within the context of materialism, and these questions are often conflated in my mind as a single project.
1tut11yIn that case I am not a materialist. I don't believe in any entities that materialists don't believe in, but I do believe that you have to resort to Many Worlds in order to be right and believe in determinism. Questions that amount to asking "which Everett branch are we in" can have nondeterministic answers.
5byrnema11yNo worries -- you can still be a materialist. Many worlds is the materialist solution to the problem of random collapse. (But I think that's what you just wrote -- sorry if I misunderstood something.) Suppose that a particle has a perfectly undetermined choice to go left or go right. If the particle goes left, a materialist must hold in principle that there is a mechanism that determined the direction, but then they can't say the direction was undetermined. Many worlds says that both directions were chosen, and you happen to find yourself in the one where the particle went left. So there is no problem with something outside the system swooping down and making an arbitrary decision.
3CarlShulman11yThose sorts of question can arise in non-QM contexts [] too.
1wnoise11yOr, of course, the causes could be non-local.
1Alicorn11yWhat are Bell's inequalities, and why do quantumly-behaving things with deterministic causes have to follow them?
6MBlume11yAlicorn, if you're free after dinner tomorrow, I can probably explain this one.
4byrnema11yThe EPR paradox [] (Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox) is a set of experiments that suggest 'spooky action at a distance' because particles appear to share information instantaneously, at a distance, long after an interaction between them. People applying "common sense" would like to argue that there is some way that the information is being shared -- some hidden variable that collects and shares the information between them. Bell's Inequality only assumes there there is some such hidden variable operating locally* -- with no specifications of any kind on how it works -- and deduces correlations between particles sharing information that is in contradiction with experiments. * that is, mechanically rather than 'magically' at a distance
3Eliezer Yudkowsky11yUm... am I missing something or did no one link to, ahem: []
0Alicorn11yThank you, although I find this a little too technical to wrap my brain around at the moment.
1tut11yWell, actually everything has to follow them because of Bell's [] Theorem []. Edit: The second link should be to this [] explanation, which is somewhat less funny, but actually explains the experiments that violate the theorem. Sorry that I took so long, but it appeared that the server was down when I first tried to fix it, so I went and did other things for half an hour.
0Jack11yThere is no special line where events become macro-level events. It's not like you get to 10 atoms or a mole and suddenly everything is deterministic again. You're position right now is subject to indeterminacy. It just happens that you're big enough that the chances every particle of your body moves together in the same, noticeable direction is very very small (and by very small I mean that I can confidently predict it will never happen). In principle our best physics tells us that determinism is just false as a metaphysics. Other people have answered the question you meant to ask which is whether the extreme indeterminacies of very small particles can effect the actions of much larger collections of particles.

IAWYC except, of course, for this:

In principle our best physics tells us that determinism is just false as a metaphysics.

As said above and elsewhere, MWI is perfectly deterministic. It's just that there is no single fact of the matter as to which outcome you will observe from within it, because there's not just one time-descendant of you.

1Paul Crowley11yPerfection is impossible, but a very, very accurate prediction might be possible.
0Vladimir_Nesov11yThe world is deterministic at least to the extent that everything knowable is determined (but not necessarily the other way around). This is why you need determinism in the world in order to be able to make decisions (and can't use something not being determined as a reason for the possibility of making decisions).

This really messes with how I, as an author, rely on karma as feedback for how well my post was received.

I hate all karma games more complicated than, "I liked/disliked/didn't-care-about this post."

If you have ever used one of bgrah's techniques, or some other karma manipulation technique that you believe would be widely frowned upon here vote this comment up.

I am considering voting up in order to tilt things in favor of making votes de-anonymized. Ironically, as soon as I do so, it's true..

My last sentence was a deliberate snark, but it's "honest" in the sense that I'm attempting to communicate something that I couldn't find a simpler way to say (roughly: that I think you're placing too much importance on "feeling right", and that I dismiss that reaction as not being a "legitimate" motivation in this context).

I have no problem making status-tinged statements if I think they're productive - I'll let the community be the judge of their appropriateness. There's definitely a fine line between efficiency and distract... (read more)

0bgrah44911yIt's only productive inasmuch as it takes advantage of the halo effect - trying to make your argument look better than it really is. How is that honest?

I think the quality of discussion is higher because we don't discuss politics: if we started, we'd pull in political trolls and fanatics. If you consider how common political discussion sites are, and what a city on a hill LW is, I'd be very conservative about anything that might open the gates. We have rarity value, and it could be hard to re-gain.

Perhaps a minimum karma level to discuss politics?

3Jack11yThis is a special case of a general problem []. There are lots of solutions, it just doesn't seem likely that any will be implemented (unless, as rumor has it, there is already a secret forum to discuss other subjects that less wrongers are only invited to when they have proven themselves). Also, I'm not sure that just saying: "Hey people! Talk about politics over here. " is going to lead to a great discussion. I'd be much more interested in a discussion of how and where what we have in common as rationalists should affect our political views. It seems likely that we all ought to be able to come to important but limited agreements (about how to think about policy, about how the policy making process should be organized, and about a select few policy issues- religious issues, science, maybe a few more) from which we could expand to other areas, constructively. Maybe we all end up as 'liberaltarians' maybe not. But there needs to be a common starting point or everyone will just default to signaling, talking points and rhetorical warfare.
1Paul Crowley11yIt's probably not worth discussing ideas that require code changes unless you're in a position to implement them and present patches, and even then it may not be accepted. I think we fend off trolls pretty well: we tend to just vote them down and otherwise ignore them. I don't think we have to worry about a troll invasion here.
2Larks11yEqually, I don't think it's worthwhile discussing drastic subject-matter changes, partly becuase that is the level of change that would be required to affect it safely. At the moment, trolls are both in the minority, and both their views and presentation differ markedly from ours: whether by Aumann or Groupthink, we have both a large set of beliefs we agree on that aren't widely held outside LW, and a special terminology that we use. However, in Politics none of these would be the case; widespread disagreement makes it hard to tell what is in good faith, we don't have a specialised language, and without a rigourous way of approaching the problems, are unlikely to reach a closer set of conclusions than any other fairly Libertarian internet grouping.

According to some people we here at less wrong are good at determining the truth. Other people are notoriously not.

I don't know that Less Wrong is the appropriate venue for this, but I have felt for some time that I trust the truth-seeking capability here and that it could be used for something more productive than arguments about meta-ethics (no offense to the meta-ethicists intended). I also realize that people are fairly supportive of SIAI here in terms of giving spare cash away, but I feel like the community would be a good jumping-off point for a po... (read more)

5mattnewport11yI'm not sure I understand the connection between truth-seeking and polling, unless the specific truth you seek is simply the percentage of people who give a particular answer to a poll. Are you simply talking about a more accurate polling company or using polling to find other truths?
1JamesAndrix11yAll that, and how does it make money?
1ideclarecrockerrules11yPossibly related: I have a bet [] going with a reddit-acquaintance; basically, I gave him an upvote, and if x [http://] turns out to be true, he donates $1000 to SIAI. If members of this community have an accurate, well calibrated map, making bets could be a cost-effective way to pump money into SIAI or other non-profits/charities (which signals caring as well as integrity). Is such a thing in the realm of Dark Arts?
3arbimote11yHere's an idea for how a LW-based commercial polling website could operate. Basically it is a variation on PredictionBook [] with a business model similar to TopCoder []. The website has business clients, and a large number of "forecasters" who have accounts on the website. Clients pay to have their questions added to the website, and forecasters give their probability estimates for whichever questions they like. Once the answer to a question has been verified, each forecaster is financially rewarded using some proper scoring rule []. The more money assigned to a question, the higher the incentive for a forecaster to have good discrimination and calibration. Some clever software would also be needed to combine and summarize data in a way that is useful to clients. The main advantage of this over other prediction markets is that the scoring rule encourages forecasters to give accurate probability estimates.
1Jack11yI'm not interested, in particular, with polling but I'm interested in it insofar as it is a way of getting data that people don't otherwise have and thus improving our predictions. That said, LW totally is the place to create a truth-seeking business and as another broke undergrad (and putting off grad school) if you, anyone else and I can come up with a profitable venture that involves employing truth seeking I definitely want in. The obvious way to make money with this is consulting, but I'm not sure why anyone would hire a bunch of philosophy/math/CS types to do the job.

Problem: It's really hard to figure out how it will interepret its utility function when it learns about the real world. If we make something that want Vpaperclips, will it also care about making Vpaperclip like things in the real world when if it finds out about us?

BIG problem: Even if it wants something strictly virtual, it can get it easier if it has physical control. It's in its interest to convert the universe to a computer and copy vpaperclips directly in memory, rather than running a virtual factory on virtual energy.

Possible solution: I think ther... (read more)

3Eliezer Yudkowsky11yMarcello had a crazy idea for doing this; it's the only suggestion for AI-boxing I've ever heard that doesn't have an obvious cloud of doom hanging over it. However, you still have to prove stability of the boxed AI's goal system.
7wnoise11yCan you link to (or otherwise more fully describe) this crazy idea?

Bleg for assistance:

I’ve been intermittently discussing Bayes’ Theorem with the uninitiated for years, with uneven results. Typically, I’ll give the classic problem:

3,000 people in the US have Sudden Death Syndrome. I have a test that is 99% accurate; that is, it will wrong on any given person one percent of the time. Steve tests positive for SDS. What is the chance that he has it?

Afterwards, I explain the answer by comparing the false positives to the true positives. And, then I see the Bayes’ Theorem Look, which conveys to me this: "I know Mayne’s g... (read more)

For this specific case, you could try asking the analogous question with a higher probability value. E.g. "if you’ve got a one-in-two DNA match on a suspect, does that mean it’s one-in-two that you’ve got that dude’s DNA?". Maybe you can have some graphic that's meant to represent a several million people, with half of the folks colored as positive matches. When they say "no, it's not one-in-two", you can work your way up to the three million case by showing pictures displaying what the estimated amount of hits would be for a 1 to 3, 1 to 5, 1 to 10, 1 to 100, 1 to 1000 etc. case.

In general, try to use examples that are familiar from everyday life (and thus don't feel like math). For the Bayes' theorem introduction, you could try "a man comes to a doctor complaining about a headache. The doctor knows that both the flu and brain cancer can cause headaches. If you knew nothing else about the case, which one would you think was more likely?" Then, after they've (hopefully) said that the man is more likely to be suffering of a flu, you can mention that brain cancer is much more likely to cause a headache than a flu is, but because flu is so much more common, their answer was nevertheless the correct one.

Other good examples:

Most car accidents occur close to people's homes, not because it's more dangerous close to home, but because people spend most of their driving time close to their homes.

Most pedestrians who get hit by cars get hit at crosswalks, not because it's more dangerous at a crosswalk, but because most people cross at crosswalks.

Most women who get raped get raped by people they know, not because strangers are less dangerous than people they know, but because they spend more time around people they know.

5Peter_de_Blanc11yIf you're using Powerpoint, you might want to make a slide that says something like: 2,999 negatives -> 1% test positive -> 30 false positives 1 positive -> 99% test positive -> 1 true positive So out of 31 positive tests, only 1 person has SDS.
5Eliezer Yudkowsky11yIf you've got the time, use a little horde of stick figures, entering into a testing machine and with test-positive results getting spit out.
1Morendil11yYour numbers have me confused. I'd read the grandparent as implying 300M total population, out of which 3000 have the disease. (This is a hint to clarify the info in the grandparent comment btw - whether I've made a dire mistake or not.) Another point to clarify is that the test's detection power isn't necessarily the inverse of its false positive rate. Here I assume "99%" characterizes both. What I get: 300M times 1% false positive means 3M will test positive. Out of the 3000 who have the disease 30 will test negative, 2970 positive. Out of the total population the number who will test positive is 3M+2970 of whom 2970 in fact have the disease, yielding a conditional probability of .98 in 1000 that Steve has SDS.
3jimmy11yDo it with pictures []
3komponisto11yI take it you've already looked at Eliezer's "Intuitive Explanation" []? I think it's really important to get the idea of a sliding scale of evidentiary strength across to people. (This is something that has occurred to me from some of my recent attempts to explain the Knox case to people without training in Bayesianism.) One's level of confidence that something is true varies continuously with the strength of the evidence. It's like a "score" that you're keeping, with information you hear about moving the score up and down. The abstract structure of the prosecutor's fallacy is misjudging the prior probability. People forget that you start with a handicap -- and that handicap may be quite substantial. Thus, if a piece of evidence (like a test result) is worth, say "10 points" toward guilt, hearing about that piece of evidence doesn't necessarily make the score +10 in favor of guilt; if the handicap was, say, -7, then the score is only +3. If, say, a score of +15 is needed for conviction, the prosecution still has a long way to go. (By the way, did you see my reply [] to your comment about psychological evidence?)
2Vladimir_Nesov11yLW ref: Privileging the hypothesis [].
2Paul Crowley11yYou have to explain that Steve was chosen randomly for your example to be right.

People do to some extent vote based on what they agree with, and at least a few make no bones about that. But people also vote based on style. Based on if it feels like you are trying to learn and contribute to our learning or trying to appear superior and gain status. You look like the latter to me. And I think that you could be arguing the same things, in ways that are no less honest, and get positive karma if you just use different words.

Is there a way to get a "How am I doing?" review or some sort of mentor that I can ask specific questions? The karma feedback just isn't giving me enough detail, but I don't really want to pester everyone every time I have a question about myself.

The basic problem I need to solve is this: When I read an old post, how do I know I am hearing what I am supposed to be hearing? If I have a whole list of nitpicky questions, where do I go? If a question of mine goes unanswered, what do I do?

I don't know anyone here. I don't have the ability to stroll by someone and ask them for help.

2byrnema11yThese are excellent questions/ideas. I want a mentor too! I thought about contacting you to see if you wanted to start a little study group reading through the sequences. (For example, I started reading through the metaethics sequence and it was useless. My kinds of questions are like, 'What do any of these words mean? What's the implied context? Etc., etc.) But I'm not very good at details, and couldn't imagine any way of doing so. Except maybe meeting somewhere like Second Life so we can chat...
2Eliezer Yudkowsky11yDo consider not starting with the metaethics sequence...
2Paul Crowley11yScheduled IRC meetings?
1CassandraR11ySounds good to me. I would enjoy being present at a meeting in order to discuss topics from this site.

Easily solved technically. Show actual figures to the author.

Solution: never de-anonymize votes retroactively.

I just finished reading Jaron Lanier's One-Half of a Manifesto for the second time.

The first time I read it must have been three years ago, and although I felt there were several things wrong with it, I hadn't come to what is now an inescapable conclusion for me: Jaron Lanier is one badly, badly confused dude.

I mean, I knew people could be this confused, but those people are usually postmodernists or theologians or something, not smart computer scientists. Honestly, I find this kind of shocking, and more than a little depressing.

2Eliezer Yudkowsky11yThe remarkable and depressing thing to me is that most people are not able to see it at a glance. To me it just seems like a string of obvious bluffs and non-sequiturs. Do you remember what was going on in your head when you didn't see it at a glance?
5Furcas11yIt's difficult for me to remember how I used to think, even a few years ago. Hell, when there's a drastic change in the way I think about something, I have trouble remembering how I used to think mere days after the change. Anyway, one thing I remember is that I kept giving Lanier the benefit of the doubt. I kept telling myself, "Well, maybe I don't understand what he's really trying to say." So the reason I didn't see the obvious would be... lack of self-confidence? Or maybe it's only because my own thoughts weren't all that clear back then. Or maybe because the way I used to parse stuff like Lanier's piece was a lot more, um, holistic than it is now, by which I mean that I didn't try to decompose what is written into more simple parts in order to understand it. It's hard to tell.

I think Wei Dai was saying that people should vote up strong arguments, even if they disagree with the conclusion. I do this sometimes, and I think it's a good thing to do.

Ok, as one data point, I don't see a particular problem here. The higher rated posts in your examples deserved higher ratings in my opinion. Karma mostly functions as I expect it to function.

2Wei_Dai11yThanks, but can you explain why you think people who post wrong arguments deserve to get more karma than those who correct the wrong arguments? Suppose I thought of uninverted's argument, but then realized that it's wrong, so I don't post my original argument, and instead correct him when he posts his. I end up with less karma than if I hadn't spent time thinking things through and realizing the flaw in my reasoning. Why do we want to discourage "less wrong" thinking in this way? It seems to me that the way karma works now encourages people to think up arguments that support the majority view and then post them as soon as they can without thinking things through. Why is this good, or "expected"?
9mattnewport11yFirst, I think you're missing a karma pattern that I've noticed which is that the first post in a thread often gets more extreme votes (scores of greater absolute magnitude) than subsequent posts. I imagine this is because more people read the earlier posts in a thread and interest/readership drops off the deeper the nesting gets. I don't see any simple way to 'fix' that - it has the potential to be gamed but I don't think gaming the system in that respect is a major problem here. Second I don't think karma strictly reflects 'correctness' of arguments, nor do I think it necessarily should. People award karma for attributes other than correctness. For example I imagine some of the upvotes on uninverted's "But I don't want to be a really big integer!" comment were drive-by upvotes for an amusing remark. Some of those upvoters won't have stayed for the followup discussion, others might have awarded more karma for pithy and amusing than accurate but dry. I think points-for-humour is as likely an explanation here as points-for-majority-opinion. Maybe you don't think karma should be awarded for attributes other than correctness. If so, go ahead and bring it up and see what the rest of the community thinks. As a side note, I think you probably shouldn't have chosen a thread where you were a participant as an example. It gives the slight impression that your real complaint is that uninverted got more brownie points than you even though you were right and it's just not fair. If I didn't recognize your username as a regular and generally high-value contributor I might not have given you the benefit of the doubt on that.
5wedrifid11yI was given that impression somewhat but then on reflection I realized a more likely prompt for the Wei's frustration was the Nelson/Komponisto/Knox affair []. Not wanting to bring that issue up yet again, he chose some other similar examples that didn't come with as much baggage. That one of them was his own was just unfortunate.
3Wei_Dai11yUpvoted for the correct inference. This is definitely one of those rare times when laziness failed to pay off. :)
2Paul Crowley11yMedian karma would de-emphasize number of voters and put greater emphasis on the score they assigned.
1mattnewport11yThat would presumably require a fairly different rating system, under the current system median karma would mean posts could only ever score -1, 0 or 1. That doesn't seem like an improvement to me.
1Paul Crowley11yYes; I imagine a range from 0/5 to 5/5 as per eg Amazon book rating sites. One problem with this however is that people don't use the whole range.
1Douglas_Knight11yIn that the main effect of karma on the reader is to sort posts, comparing scores at different levels of nesting is irrelevant. It is a very biased heuristic to read only comments at, say, karma > 5. I don't know if anyone uses this heuristic. A lot of people only read comments at karma > -4, which probably has a similar bias, but I wouldn't worry about it. People who post replies are serving a smaller audience than people who post higher level comments. It is possibly good that they are proportionately rewarded with karma.
1MrHen11yEven better! So... does anyone from LessWrong use it? In the very least, I can now track guesses about karma results from my posts. Thanks. EDIT: I created an account and am starting predictions []. The first one is relevant to much of my recent discussion here.

I am becoming increasingly disinclined to stick out the grad school thing; it's not fun anymore, and really, a doctorate in philosophy is not going to let me do anything substantially different in kind from what I'm doing now once I have it. Nor will it earn me barrels of money or do immense social good, so if it's not fun, I'm kinda low on reasons to stay. I haven't outright decided to leave, but you know what they say. I'm putting out tentative feelers for what else I'd do if I do wind up abandoning ship. Can anyone think of a use for me - ideally one that doesn't require me to eat my savings while I pick up other credentials first?

3bgrah44911yNot directly applicable, but perhaps relevant: I was told this advice and found it useful (in that I used it to make important life decisions). "Don't do your passion for a job," she said. "Everyone wakes up one day and hates their job. Don't wake up one day and hate what you love. Do something you like that you're at." Also, I don't remember who told me this or if I made it up, but I've relayed it to people: Don't look for fulfillment from your job. Don't go for the highest peaks; just try to avoid the lowest valleys.
2Jordan11yI think everyone in grad school has these moments, sometimes for prolonged stints. In the math world they seem to be suggestively correlated with making progress on research =p Personally though, even when everything is going well in research, I still feel the same nagging sensation that I should either be out making butt-loads of cash or helping humanity (or helping humanity by donating butt-loads of cash). Reasons I've stuck it out so far: * I am absolutely terrified of a life of mediocrity. I don't want to end up in a cubicle. * Academia is a good place to consistently meet reasonably intelligent people * Setting your own schedule is pretty awesome That said, I'm still not sold on it. I took 6 months off last year to try and found my own company. I'm still moonlighting it, and hoping I can get it to the point where I know it will fly or not before having to commit to a post doc position.
2Unknowns11yWhy isn't it fun?
1Eliezer Yudkowsky11yHow can we possibly know what your comparative advantage is, better than you do? In all seriousness, a certain amount of background information seems to be missing here.
5wedrifid11yConceivably, someone here may have more exposure to parts of the world that Alicorn may not be aware of.
2Alicorn11yI do talk about myself on this website sometimes. One could conceivably have picked up a lot about me. What is the necessary information for determining comparative advantage?

The basement is the biggest, and matters more for goals that benefit strongly from more resources/security.

1blogospheroid11yCarl, Correct me if i misunderstood the implications of what you are saying. Every AI that has a goal that benefits strongly from more resources and security will seek to crack into the basement. Lets call this AI, RO (resource oriented) pursuing goal G in simulation S1. S1 is simulated in S2 and so on till Sn is basement, where value of n is unknown. Implying, that as soon as RO understands the concept of simulation, it will seek to crack into the basement. As long as RO has no idea about what are the real values of the simulators, RO cannot expand into S1 because whatever it does in S1 will be noticed in S2 and so on. Sounds a bit like Pascal's mugging to me. Need to think more about this.

Stem cell experts say they believe a small group of scientists is effectively vetoing high quality science from publication in journals.

I want more copies of me to make the correct choice.

Cf. this thread, which is relevant here.

The two examples you linked of bad polling seem to be examples of polling fraud rather than incompetence. It is not that these companies did not understand how to conduct an accurate poll, rather that they don't appear to have been motivated to do so.

It seems to me that accurate polling is quite a well understood problem. Legitimate polling companies exist that are reasonably good at it. In many cases I don't think there is much value (from a truth seeking perspective) in the poll data but I think it generally answers the question "what percentage of people give answer Y to question X?" fairly well. That's just not a very useful piece of data in many cases.

You'd want to make the correct choice in future worlds. What are the chances of you being in that one world where that happens?

Yvain writes in a consciously similar style, and gets even more karma than Eliezer per post, I think.

Mind-killing taboo topic that it is, I'd like to have a comment thread about LW readers' thoughts about US politics.

I recall EY commenting at some point that the way to make political progress is to convert intractable political problems into tractable technical problems. I think this kind of discussion would be more interesting and more profitable than a "traditional" mind-killing political debate.

It might be interesting, for example, to develop formal rationalist political methods. Some principles might include:

  • Always conduct a comprehensive fact-gathering phase before beginning any policy discussion.
  • Develop techniques to prevent people from becoming emotionally committed or status-linked to positions.
  • Subject every statement to formal logical analysis; if the statement fails any obvious rule of logical inference, the statement is deleted and its author censured.
  • Rigorously untangle webs of inference. A statement arguing against the death penalty should involve probability estimates of the number of crimes the penalty does (or does not) deter, the cost of administering it, etc, and connect these estimates to a global utility function. The statement must include analyses of how the argument changes in response to changes in the underlying probability estimates.
6Larks11yI disagree; discovering that someone holds political views opposed to yours can inhibit your ability to rational consider arguments; arguments become soldiers, etc., Besides, I think the survey from ages ago showed the general spread of political views, and I doubt much has changed since. For discussing particular issues, there are other places available, and it may be that only by not discussing hot topics can we keep the barriers to entry up that keep the LW membership productive.
2Paul Crowley11yI'd prefer a top-level post. They're cheap and this could get busy. You could literally post just this.
5Kaj_Sotala11yIf a top-level post is made of this, then make it about politics in general, not just US politics. (As a member of a controversial political movement [], I'd be curious to hear what people's opinions on current copyright law here are.)
3Kevin11yI'm an intellectual property abolitionist, which makes my views much more extreme than the Pirate Party, though I'm aware that they have watered themselves down for pragmatic reasons and that the founders are most likely IP abolitionists. I'll wait for the top level post though... I'd post it myself but figure I should finish Politics is the Mind Killer first. I have a nearly unlimited amount of viewpoints on political matters, but more and more I think it's almost irrelevant. Politics seems like this kind of fun thing where we can have infinitely many new and continuing arguments, but this arguing is never going to accomplish anything. I'm not a senator, and even senators quickly become jaded and cynical at how little actual power their high status provides.
2Morendil11yMaybe we could turn the discussion to "how might a community of rationalists actually accomplish something, re. this or that issue"?
3Kevin11yI think the answer is most likely that we can't. I'd be willing to have a discussion potentially leading us to that conclusion. I'll put it in my too-long queue of top-level posts to write... The guy who wanted to start a polling firm might have a good idea, but I think if Nate Silver hasn't started his own polling firm yet we probably aren't going to. Historically I've stayed away from political activism, but I got involved with a group trying to raise awareness about the police assaults on the University of Pittsburgh after the G20 summit. I thought it was a small enough issue that we could make a difference, but obviously we didn't. While I give the posters here a little more credit for being able to get things done than my leftist friends in Pittsburgh, I have no practical ideas for how we could actually accomplish something not at the meta-level. Probably the best thing we could do is try to spread some of the memes raised in Politics is the Mind Killer.
1RobinZ11yI believe my views were formed largely based on Macaulay []: terms on copyright should be short (no longer than 30 years, I would say), and I take a liberal view on derivative works. There are also interesting things to say about orphaned works.
1ata11yI think one thing we could discuss without wandering onto a minefield is political mechanisms — discussions of ways we can make the system (legislative procedures, division of power, voting systems, etc.) more rational, without discussing specific policies. We would still have to be careful, as even this depends on certain subjective goals — what do we want the political system to do, ultimately? — but that itself could be an interesting meta-discussion. However, it's a discussion we'd probably have to have before we even start talking about ideal political mechanisms, because we need to agree on what we want a political system to accomplish (that is, what an ideal policy-making system would look like, and how it would acquire and realize values, keeping in mind that it'll have to be run mostly by humans for the time being) before we can start understanding how it might work. And writing that paragraph made me realize a meta-meta-discussion that might also be necessary: is it even possible to separate policy goals from political structural goals? Maybe it is, but it could be difficult. The practical outcome of a direct democracy, a representative democracy, a futarchy, and a dictatorship will all be significantly different, yet in somewhat predictable directions, so even if we banish all policy discussion, we'd need to figure out how to uncover and squash any bias that could make us prefer certain abstract political systems because of actual specific policy goals. Or maybe we're not interested in doing that in the first place — maybe you're satisfied with supporting systems of government that are simply most likely to result in your own values being fulfilled, in which case your ideal system would be a dictatorship run by you (or the system that's the best at approximating the same), unless you value democracy/pluralism itself more strongly than anything you could achieve as dictator. And I think I'll stop musing here, before this post becomes an infinite regres
2blogospheroid11yTalking at a meta level, I like Futarchy's split between values and policies to achieve them. That is a very useful split which can be adopted even in non-futarchic governments. For eg. It is an obvious moral thing to take into account everybody's values. Universal franchise for values. It is not so obvious to take into account everyone's opinion about how to achieve the same equally seriously. Simply because of differing expertise.

Time to update.

1) Some of your earlier comments, especially those most negatively rated, set off all of my "political talking points" alarm bells. I note that many of your later comments aren't so rated, and that you seem to be improving in your message-conveyance.

2) Your replies to replies seem to be going fairly well so far.

3) I agree that it is only potential. Thomblake posted a good link on that very topic, and it is also why I said the case had not been made, and put the phrase in quotes. However, calling it specious and saying I would agree with any syste... (read more)

See what I mean about the voting system being broken?

Honestly, the system is doing exactly what it is supposed to be doing. If you think it is broken, I suspect you are expecting it to do something other than its purpose.

When I get frustrated by the karma system it is because I keep wanting more feedback than it provides. But this is a problem with me, not a problem with the system.

There is some relevant discussion of the issue of how our empathy/instinctive moral reactions conflict with efficient markets in this interview with Hayek. The whole thing is worth watching but the most relevant part of the interview to this discussion starts at 45:25. Unfortunately Vimeo does not support links directly to a timestamp so you have to wait for the video to load before jumping to the relevant point.

ETA a particularly relevant quote:

But we are up against this very strong, and in a sense justified resistance of our instincts and that's our wh

... (read more)

I already upvoted you before reading this comment. It can take a little time for votes to settle. Also, you can set your threshold to a different value. The default is less than -2.

Since this interface is broken, it's not so easy to skim. The page is supposed to have a "prev"[1] link at the bottom, but it doesn't.

ETA: better for skimming is to add not just ?before=t1_1 to the user page, but also &count=100000

[1] I hate the use of prev/next, at least because it isn't standard (eg, it's opposite to livejournal). "earlier" and "later" would be clear.

Would I modify this, or something else, to get the first comment of a particular user?

You can stick ?before=t1_1 onto the end of a user page to get the first comment. yours

Basically, I think what's needed is an API to retrieve a list of comments satisfying some query as an XML document. I'm not sure what kind of queries the system supports internally, so I'll just ask for as much generality and flexibility as possible. For example, I'd like to be able to search by a combination of username, post ID, date, points (e.g., all comments above some number of points), and comment ID (e.g., retrieve a list of comments given a list of IDs, or all comments that come after a certain ID).

If that's too hard, or development time is limite... (read more)

1Douglas_Knight11yThere is an API for that, but it's broken. this [] (rss []) should get you the 40 comments later than comment number 1000, but it gives 50, regardless of how many you ask for. Also, it rarely gives a link to go to the later comments (only for earlier ones). but if you've been walking these things, you probably knew that. ETA: I misinterpreted the API. "count" is not supposed to control the number of comments, but as a hint to the server about how far back. If that hint is missing or wrong, it leaves out prev/next. Especially prev. You can make prev appear by adding &count=60 (anything over 50), but every time you click prev, it will decrease this number by 50 and eventually not give the prev. You could make it very large.

How about per-capita post scoring?

Why not divide a post's number of up-votes by the number of unique logged-in people who have viewed it? This would correct for the distortion of scores caused by varying numbers of readers. Some old stuff is very good but not read much, and scores are in general inflating as the Less Wrong population grows.

I think such a change would be orthogonal to karma accounting; I'm only suggesting a change in the number displayed next to each post.

5denisbider11yFor posts, this might work. For comments, these are loaded without most readers reading them. Furthermore, the likelihood that any single comment will be read decreases with the number of all comments. It seems like this would work much less well for comments.

I'd like to draw people's attention to a couple of recent "karma anomalies". I think these show a worrying tendency for arguments that support the majority LW opinion to accumulate karma regardless of their actual merits.

  • Exhibit A. I gave a counterargument which convinced the author of that comment to change his mind, yet the original comment is still at 14.
  • Exhibit B. James Andrix's comment is at 20, while Toby Ord's counterargument is at 3. This issue is still confusing to me so I can't say for sure that Toby is right and James is wrong, but
... (read more)
2Unknowns11yI've noticed in general that later replies to comments get less votes; it's possibly because fewer people are still reading. Support for this is that your comment on the other thread already has 7 points, and all of this should go to Toby Ord. Also, in Exhibit B, James Andrix gave an example attacking religion, which likely got him some votes (for attacking the Great Enemy), and since Toby Ord didn't support his argument, this probably stopped him from getting votes, since by so doing, he defended the Enemy, which is treason.
2mattnewport11yBy 'anomaly' you appear to mean 'not the scores I would have assigned'. That's not the way karma works.
6bgrah44911yEh, that's not a very generous reading of what he wrote. Exhibit A has a post at very high karma despite arguments that convinced its own author to drop support for it. That's not karma "working," either.
2mattnewport11yFor some implicit definition of karma 'working' that is unclear. Absent a bug in the karma scoring code, a discrepancy between the karma scores you observe and the karma scores you think are warranted seems just as likely to be an inaccuracy in the observer's model of how karma is supposed to work as a problem with the karma system. What the original post seems to be missing to me is an explanation of what scores the karma system should be producing for these posts, a justification for why that is what the karma system should be producing and ideally a suggestion for changes to either the implementation of the system or the way people allocate their votes that would produce the desired changes. Absent the above it look a lot like complaining that people aren't voting the way you think they ought to.
1wedrifid11yIf you look a little closer [] you see that 'the own author' was persuaded to concede that later comment in the argument and was then more generous and conciliatory than he perhaps needed to be. I would be extremely disappointed if the meta discussion here actually made the author retract his comment. What we have here is a demonstration of why it is usually status-enhancing to treat arguments as soldiers []. If you don't, you're just giving the 'enemy' ammunition. Willingness to concede weak points in a position is a rare trait and one that I like to encourage. This means I will never use 'look, he admitted he was wrong' as way to coerce people into down-voting them or shame those that don't. EDIT: I mean status enhancing specifically not rational in general.
6Wei_Dai11yThat's a very good point, and I've added a note to my opening comment to convey that I don't want people to down-vote these particular comments.
1Jack11yI'm not sure I see Toby's argument. James's I follow.

A man in a room with a light switch isn't very useful. An AI can't optimize over more bits than we allow it as output. If we give a 1 time 32 bit output register then well, we probably could have brute forced it in the first place. If we give it a kilobyte, then it could probably mindhack us.

(And you're swearing to yourself that you won't monitor it's execution? Really? How do you even debug that?)

You have to keep in mind that the point of AI research is to get to something we can let out of the box. If the argument becomes that we can run it on a headless netless 486 which we immediately explode...then yes, you can probably run that. Probably.

1Wei_Dai11yPeter de Blanc wrote a post that seems relevant: What Makes a Hint Good? []
1Nick_Tarleton11yP ?= NP is one bit. Good luck brute-forcing that. FAI is harder.

This might be easier to consider as the simpler case of "given we live in a deterministic universe, what does any choice I make matter?" I would say that I still have to make decisions of how to act and choosing not to act is also a choice, so I should do what ever it is that I want to do.

2Nick_Tarleton11yThat's not the same problem, though Egan's Law ['s_law] is equally applicable to both. An agent might have no confusion over free will, have clear preferences and act normally on them in a single deterministic world, but not care about quantum measure and thus be a nihilist in many-worlds. (Actually, if such an agent seems to be in MW, it should by its preferences proceed under the Pascalian assumption that it lives in a single world and is being deceived.) Nick Bostrom has a couple of papers on this: * Infinite Ethics [] * Quantity of Experience: Brain-Duplication and Degrees of Consciousness []
2LucasSloan11yCould you explain that more? As far as I can see, an agent which doesn't care about measure would engage in high rate quantum suicide.

Another content opinion question: What and where is considered appropriate to discuss personal progress/changes/introspection regarding Rationality? I assume that LessWrong is not to be used for my personal Rationality diary.

The reason I ask is that the various threads discussing my beliefs seem to pick up some interest and they are very helpful to me personally.

I suppose the underlying question is this: If you had to choose topics for me to write about, what would they be? My specific religious beliefs have been requested by a few people, so that is given. Is there anything else? If I were to talk about my specific beliefs, what is the best way to do so?

5Paul Crowley11yYou should definitely start a blog. I for one look forward to reading and commenting.
5AdeleneDawner11yI only have a very general feel for where that line is, so I can't help with that, but I would personally be interested in following such a diary. Perhaps you could start a blog?
3Blueberry11yGiven what you've said so far about your personal situation, I think it's appropriate to discuss your personal progress and introspection regarding rationality on this site. I think a lot of us would find it helpful and interesting to see how your thought processes and beliefs change as you reexamine them. I'm especially curious about more details regarding your personal situation, your past history of religious beliefs, and "Event X".

As a result of the conquest of Iraq, water was let into the marshes which Saddam Hussein had been letting dry out. This is a clear environmental win.

Here it is. But why don't you just use the search function?

4magfrump11yI expected it to be named something other than "survey results." Also want to promote the habit of including links in original posts.
3Larks11yQuite. And the relivant section, "138 gave readable political information...We have 62 (45%) libertarians, 53 (38.4%) liberals, 17 (12.3%) socialists, 6 (4.3%) conservatives, and [no] commie."

You could observe how it acts in its simulated world, and hope it would act in a similar way if released into our world.

Sounds like a rather drastic context change, and a rather forlorn hope if the AI figures out that it's being tested.

I have had some similar thoughts.

The AI box experiment argues that a "test AI" will be able to escape even if it has no I/O (input/output) other than a channel of communication with a human. So we conclude that this is not a secure enough restraint. Eliezer seems to argue that it is best not to create an AI testbed at all - instead get it right the first time.

But I can think of other variations on an AI box that are more strict than human-communication, but less strict than no-test-AI-at-all. The strictest such example would be an AI simulatio... (read more)

5Zubon11yI'm concerned about the moral implications of creating intelligent beings with the intent of destroying them after they have served our needs, particularly if those needs come down to a single bit (or some other small purpose). I can understand retaining that option against the risk of hostile AI, but from the AI's perspective, it has a hostile creator. I'm ponder it from the perspective that there is some chance we ourselves are part of a simulation, or that such an AI might attempt to simulate its creators to see how they might treat it. This plan sounds like unprovoked defection. If we are the kind of people who would delete lots of AIs, I don't see why AIs would not see it as similarly ethical to delete lots of us.
3arbimote11yPersonally, I would rather be purposefully brought into existence for some limited time than to never exist at all, especially if my short life was enjoyable. I evaluate the morality of possible AI experiments in a consequentialist way. If choosing to perform AI experiments significantly increases the likelihood of reaching our goals in this world, it is worth considering. The experiences of one sentient AI would be outweighed by the expected future gains in this world. (But nevertheless, we'd rather create an AI that experiences some sort of enjoyment, or at least does not experience pain.) A more important consideration is social side-effects of the decision - does choosing to experiment in this way set a bad precedent that could make us more likely to de-value artificial life in other situations in the future? And will this affect our long-term goals in other ways?
2arbimote11ySo just in case we are a simulated AI's simulation of its creators, we should not simulate an AI in a way it might not like? That's 3 levels of a very specific simulation hypothesis. Is there some property of our universe that suggests to you that this particular scenario is likely? For the purpose of seriously considering the simulation hypothesis and how to respond to it, we should make as few assumptions as possible []. More to the point, I think you are suggesting that the AI will have human-like morality, like taking moral cues from others, or responding to actions in a tit-for-tat manner. This is unlikely, unless we specifically program it to do so, or it thinks that is the best way to leverage our cooperation.

Really? Huh. To me that seems both pretty world-endy and strongly against the spirit of what was implied by your original statement... would you predict this outcome? Is it something that your model allows to happen? I know it's not something I would feel compelled to make excuses for - more like "I TOLD YOU SO!"

What exactly do you think happens in the scenario described?

1Unknowns11yOk, if you're sufficiently worried about the possibility of that outcome, I'll be happy to grant it to your side of the bet... even though at the time, it seemed to me clear that your assertion that the world would end meant that we wouldn't continue as conscious beings. I definitely wouldn't predict that outcome. I would be very surprised, since I think the world will continue in the usual way. But is it really that likely even on your model?

But how can you have any self-respect, knowing that you prefer to feel right than be right? For me, the feeling of being being wrong is much less-bad than believing I'm so unable to handle being wrong that I'm sabotaging the beliefs of myself and those around me. I would regard myself as pathetic, if I made decisions like that.

XKCD hits a home run with its Valentine's Day comic.

Science Valentine

0wedrifid11yGiven the alt text in particular I'd almost put this in the monthly quotes thread too. :)
0Zack_M_Davis11yYou have been preempted [].
0wedrifid11ySo I have. Based of the (asterix free) dates it would seem CronoDAS was too, although maybe the rest of the comic is worth the double link from here.
0CronoDAS11yI used the Google Custom Search bar and didn't find it.

You're saying some things which I've considered attempting to say but have self-censored to some extent due to expecting negative karma. You aren't necessarily saying them in exactly the way I would have tried to put it, and I don't necessarily agree with everything you've been saying but I broadly agree and have been upvoting most of your recent posts.

2Rain11yI agree with much of what he seems trying to convey. However, in many cases, the style is far too reminiscent of political talking points. Bluntness is useful insofar as it simplifies a message to its essential meaning. Talking points corrupt that process by injecting emotional appeals and loaded terms.
1denisbider11yPerhaps I would know better to avoid that if I was more exposed to US culture, but I am originally from Europe and I tend to abhor political wars for their vacuousness, so perhaps I'm using words in ways that reminisce of politics inadvertently.
9Rain11yTo remove the word "politics" from my description: You seem very sure of yourself, to the point where it seems you are not taking uncertainty into account where you should be. The views you express seem to be statements about the world, as if they were facts, when discussing things like utilitarian value of certain actions, when there are competing views on the topic, and you do a disservice to the discussion by failing to mention or explain why your opinions are better than the competing theories, or even acknowledging that they are opinions. You don't provide the evidence; you provide a statement of "fact" in isolation, sometimes going so far as to claim special knowledge and ask the audience to do things you know very well are not going to make for an easy or quick discussion (like, "Go spend a few years in Africa.") I found that my alarms deactivated for your response to my comment that we think probabilistically, because the claims were testable and better labeled.
6denisbider11yPoints taken, thank you.
4CarlShulman11yI was also moved by these concerns, and find comments sharing these general traits to degrade norms of discussion (e.g. clarity, use of evidence, distinguishing between normative and descriptive claims).
4Wei_Dai11yPerhaps we need a post setting out these norms clearly, so we can point newcomers to it?
3Rain11yI would very much welcome "a brief guide on how to get taken seriously by the LW community."
1komponisto11yA wiki entry would probably be the appropriate solution.
2Paul Crowley11yAs with most things, it should probably be a top-level article first and a wiki entry second...
1denisbider11yThanks Matt. I generally try to take this role because I'm aware that the character traits that allow me to do this are somewhat rare, and that the role is valuable in balance. I'm also aware of the need to improve my skills of getting the message across, but this takes time to develop.

Yes, that's true. Now chase "however obtained" up a level -- after all, you have all the information necessary to do so.

It's better for the thief to two-box because it isn't the thief's decision algorithm that determined the contents of the boxes.

Alas, this comment really muddies the waters. It leads to Furcas writing something like this:

Of course, it would be even better to pre-commit to one-boxing, since this will indeed affect the kind of brain we have.

Underling asks: if the content of the boxes has already been decided, how can you retroactively effect the content of the boxes?

The problem with what you've written, thomblake, is that you seem to agree with Underling that he can't retroactively change the content of the boxes and thus suggest that the content of the boxes has already been det... (read more)

By rational, I think you mean logical. (We tend to define 'rational' as 'winning' around here.*)

... and -- given a certain set of assumptions -- it is absolutely logical that (a) Omega has already made his prediction, (b) the stuff is already in the boxes, (c) you can only maximize your payoff by choosing both boxes. (This is what I meant by this line of reasoning isn't incorrect, it's just unproductive in finding the solution to this dilemma.)

But consider what other logical assumptions have already snuck into the logic above. We're not familiar with outc... (read more)

What is the correct term for the following distinction:

Scenario A: The fair coin has 50% chance to land heads.
Scenario B: The unfair coin has an unknown chance to land heads, so I assign it a 50% chance to get heads until I get more information.

If A flips up heads it won't change the 50%. If B flips up heads it will change the 50%. This makes Scenario A more [something] than Scenario B, but I don't know the right term.

1Rain11yStatic? Unchanging? Complete (as far as definitions of the situation go)? Simple (as far as equations go - it lacks the dynamic variable representing the need to update)?
1MrHen11yThank you for responding! I was wondering if anyone ever would. The best I could come up with was "Fixed" or "Confident." Your choices seem on par with those. Perhaps there is no technical term for this? I find that hard to believe. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Changing the original question slightly seems to be looking for a different but similar term: Unfair coin A has been flipped 10^6 times and appears to be diverging on 60% in favor of HEADS Unfair coin B has been flipped 10^1 times and appears to be diverging on 60% in favor of HEADS If I flip coin A and it results in HEADS the estimation of 60% will move less than it would if I was flipping coin B. This makes coin A more [something] than coin B, but I don't know the right term.
1Rain11yMore defined. You've reduced your uncertainty about its properties (unfairness) using more evidence. I'm sorry, I avoid technical terms when thinking about such things.
1thomblake11yI'm pretty sure it makes your beliefs about coin A more [something] than coin B.

What I really want to do is destroy you karma-wise. This behavior deserves to be punished severely. But I'm now worried about a chilling effect on others who do this coming forward.

I want to downvote you for this, because punishing people for telling the truth is a bad thing. On the other hand, you are also telling the truth, so... now I'm confused. ;-)

If it's not a game, why punish me? What's so offensive about me having high karma?

5Jack11yThere is nothing offensive about you having high karma. It is offensive that you you abused a system that a lot of us rely on for evaluating content and encouraging norms that lead to the truth. Truth-seeking is a communal activity and undermining the system that a community uses to find the truth is something we should punish. It's similar to learning that you had lied in a comment. I imagine the vast majority of your karma is not ill-gotten, I have no problem with you having it. Anyway, I haven't voted you down for precedent setting reasons.

I see the heuristic "don't downvote in an argument you're participating in" as a good one for the kind of corrupted hardware we're running on (as in the Ends Don't Justify Means (Among Humans) post). Given that I could gain or lose (perceived) status in an argument, I'm apt to be especially biased about the quality of people's comments in said argument. I value the prospect of providing more fair and accurate karma feedback in general, even if that means going against object-level intuitions in particular cases.

Usually, if I'm arguing with some... (read more)

Daniel Varga wrote

In a universe where merging consciousnesses is just as routine as splitting them, the transhumans may have very different intuitions about what is ethical.

What I started wondering about when I began assimilating this idea of merging, copying and deleting identities, is what kind of legal/justice system could we depend upon if this was possible to enforce non-criminal behavior?

Right now we can threaten to punish people by restricting their freedom over a period of time that is significant with respect to the length of their lifetime. H... (read more)

4JGWeissman11yIn a world with an FAI Singleton, actions that would violate another individual's rights might be simply unavailable, making the concept of a legal/justice system obsolete. In other scenarios, uploading/splitting would still take resources, which might be better used than in absorbing a criminal punishment. A legal/justice system could apply punishments to multiple instances of the criminal, and could be powerful enough to likely track them down. I am not convinced that the upload would be innocent. Maybe, if the upload was rolled back to before the criminal intentions. Any attempt by the upload to profit from the crime would definitely make it complicit. Criminal punishment could also take the form of torture, effective if the would be criminal fears any of its instances being tortured, even if some are not.

It isn't crazy or mad to consider people who vote on your comments as on average equal to you in rationality. Quite the opposite: if each of us assumes that we are more rational than those who vote, this will be like everyone thinking that he is above average in driving ability or whatever.

And in fact, many people do use this information: numerous times someone has said something like, "Since my position is against community consensus I think I will have to modify it," or something along these lines.

Measure your risk intelligence, a quiz in which you answer questions on a confidence scale from 0% to 100% and your calibration is displayed on a graph.

Obviously a linear probability scale is the Wrong Thing - if we were building it, we'd use a deciban scale and logarithmic scoring - but interesting all the same.

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Looks like:

what you said

what they said

In Many Worlds Quantum Mechanics, the wave function is fundamental, and the many worlds are a derived consequence. The wave function is time reversable. Running it backwards, you would see worlds merge together, not the world we currently experience splitting into possible precursors. This assymetry is due to simple boundry conditions at the beginning of time.

Thanks for the moral support, but I think what I need more is insights and ideas. :) Maybe I'll just stay away from anything meta, or karma related. In retrospect that seems to be what got me into trouble recently.

My general strategy is to say what I think, moderated slightly by the desire to avoid major negative karma (I hold back on the most offensive responses that occur to me). On average I get positive karma. If my karma started to trend downwards I'd consider revising my tone but I don't think it is productive to worry about the occasional downvote. In fact, without the occasional downvote I would worry that I wasn't adding anything to the conversation.

I may be stretching the openness of the thread a little here, but I have an interesting mechanical engineering hobbyist project, and I have no mechanical aptitude. I figure some people around here might, and this might be interesting to them.

The Avacore CoreControl is a neat little device, based on very simple mechanical principles, that lets you exercise for longer and harder than you otherwise could, by cooling down your blood directly. It pulls a slight vacuum on your hand, and directly applies ice to the palm. The vacuum counteracts the vasocontriction... (read more)

House spouse doesn't have to be a mediocre life. In fact.. it could more or less be the best 'job' ever. It's like a tenured professorship where you actually get to study and research whatever you want!

Huh. I hadn't though of it before, but I'm going to have to add house spouse to my list of acceptable future paths.

2Alicorn11yAny job involving a cubicle doesn't have to be mediocre either. Anyway, being a house spouse requires being a spouse, to someone willing to stand in the "breadwinner" role, so I can't just up and do that by myself.

We all know politics is the mind-killer, but it sometimes comes up anyway. Eliezer maintains that it is best to start with examples from other perspectives, but alas there is one example of current day politics which I do not know how to reframe: the health care debate.

As far as I can tell, almost every provision in the bill is popular, but the bill is not. This seems to be primarily because Republicans keep lying about it (I couldn't find a good link but there was a clip on the daily show of Obama saying "I can't find a reputable economist who agre... (read more)

How much more grad school do you have to go to your degree? This sounds like a profile of a teacher at some level, probably high school or college. The degree makes college an option. High school teaching may be more enjoyable for you; I don't know.

If you're a year away from your PhD, it probably makes sense to stick it out. If it's three years... three years is a long damn time to be unhappy somewhere.

2Alicorn11yThe exact amount of time isn't fixed, but it taking less than three years would be surprising. I like the idea of teaching, maybe art or (at a sufficiently quirky school) logic/critical thinking, but don't have a certification and it looks like they take a long time to get.

Singapore isin't a Western nation or a fully developed on, and they have extremely high economic growth (around 10%), so that's not comparable to stable Westerne economies.

Whether Singapore is considered "Western" or not is irrelevant. The disagreement was over whether the "economic crisis" forced the current US Government to run up large amount of debt. Singapore shows that not only is it possible to face a global economic crisis without running up large amounts of debt, but that doing so can leave you better off in terms of unemplo... (read more)

Anyone willing to give some uneducated fool a little math coaching? I'm really just starting with math and I probably shouldn't already get into this stuff before reading up more, but it's really bothering me. I came across this page today:

My question, how do you get a likelihood ratio of 11:1 in favor of a diamond? I'm getting this: .88/(.88+7.92)=.1 thus 10% probability for a beep to be a box containing a diamond? Since the diamond-detector is 88% likely to beep on that 1 box and 8% likely to beep on the 99 boxes... (read more)

5MrHen11yp(A|X) = p(X|A)*p(A) / ( p(X|A)*p(A) + p(X|~A)*p(~A) ) A = box has diamond X = box beeped p(A) = .01 p(X|A) = .88 p(X|~A) = .08 p(A|X) = .88 .01 / ( .88 .01 + .08 * .99) p(A|X) = .0088 / (.0088 + .0792) p(A|X) = .0088 / .088 p(A|X) = .1 This is different than the likelihood ratio: LR = p(X|A) / p(X|~A) LR = .88 / .08 LR = 11 The likelihood ratio can be worded as, "It is 11 times more likely to be a diamond when it beeps." The original formula answers the question, "What is the probability that this beep means a diamond?" In other words, the likelihood ratio is starting with the contents of a box and asking whether that box is going to beep. p(A|X) is starting with a beep and trying to figure out what that beep means about the contents of the box.
4Paul Crowley11yIf you haven't read Bayes Theorem [] yet, it's definitely the place to start.
2Cyan11yThe likelihood ratio is Pr(beep | diamond) / Pr(beep | empty) = 0.88/0.08 = 11. I was going to say you ought to read the link for "likelihood ratio", but there's nothing there, so you should try the other wiki []. Also, don't think of running the detector over every box; think of testing one box at random.

Would there be interest in a more general discussion forum for rationalists, or does one already exist? I think it would be useful to test the discussion of politics, religion, entertainment, and other topics without ruining lesswrong. It could attract a wider audience and encourage current lurkers to post.

1Upset_Nerd11yI'm one of the lurkers that would really like to see such a discussion forum. Since a forums quality is almost solely decided by it's members a more general forum with the same user base as Less Wrong should easily be superior to most forums even on specialist topics. Maintaining the same high standards of discourse would probably be difficult though since I assume that the focus on rationalist topics here discourages non rationalists from participating, something which wouldn't be the case on a more general forum.

How about a more reasonable topic to discuss - Corporate Organizational Design for a seastead.

You are starting a seastead with certain ideas on how to make money in the long run. How do you make a structure that is better than present governments or corporations?

Corporate design is much simpler than already present nation design.

Also, a good design emerging from this will theoritically be better than any political design in today's nations, since a seastead by definition starts with a huge economic disadvantage.

Why would LW want to discuss this - A well run corporation might be the closest thing in the present world to a superintelligence.

Lets discuss.

This is sort of off-topic for LW, but I recently came across a paper that discusses Reconfigurable Asynchronous Logic Automata, which appears to be a new model of computation inspired by physics. The paper claims that this model yields linear-time algorithms for both sorting and matrix multiplication, which seems fairly significant to me.

Unfortunately the paper is rather short, and I haven't been able to find much more information about it, but I did find this Google Tech Talks video in which Neil Gershenfeld discusses some motivations behind RALA.

6mkehrt11yA quick glance seems to indicate that they are achieving these linear time algorithms through massive parallelization. This is "cheating" because to do a linear-time sort of size n, you need O(n) processing units. While they seem to be arguing that this is acceptable because processing is becoming more and more parallel, this breaks down for large n. One can easily use traditional algorithms to sort a billion elements in O(n * log n); however for their algorithm to sort such a list in O(n) time, they need a billion (times some constant factor) times more processing units than to sort a list of size n. I'm also vaguely perplexed by their basic argument. They want to have programming tools and computational models which are closer to the metal to take advantage of the features of new machines. This ignores the fact that the current abstractions exist, not just for historical reasons, but because they are easy to reason about. This is all from a fairly cursory read of their paper, however, so take it with a grain of salt.

It takes O(n) memory units just to store a list of size n. Why should computers have asymptotically more memory units than processing units? You don't get to assume an infinitely parallel computer, but O(n)-parallel is only reasonable.

My first impression of the paper is: We can already do this, it's called an FPGA, and the reason we don't use them everywhere is that they're hard to program for.

By "public discourse" I did mean things like talking points and media interviews. I'm sure many republicans have extremely intelligent private conversations over policy, e.g. Hank Paulson.

You can compare those, because the large debts weren't caused by the "economic crisis". The fact that most Western nations also ran up debt doesn't mean the economic crisis caused the debt increase, only that they chose the same response to the economic crisis (which probably has more to do with increasing their own discretionary power than with lowering unemployment).

Singapore didn't run up huge levels of debt and has a much lower unemployment level than the countries that did run up debt. They could have chosen otherwise, but didn't.

I've been reading Probability Theory by E.T. Jaynes and I find myself somewhat stuck on exercise 3.2. I've found ways to approach the problem that seem computationally intractable (at least by hand). It seems like there should be a better solution. Does anyone have a good solution to this exercise, or even better, know of collection of solutions to the exercises in the book?

At this point, if you have a complete solution, I'd certainly settle for vague hints and outlines if you didn't want to type the whole thing. Thanks.

3Morendil11yHint: you need to use the sum rule. The computation is quite manageable for the case of k=5. For the general case, I too was left feeling dissatisfied with the expression I found, but on reflection I'm somewhat confident it is the correct answer. The case k=4, Ni=13, m=5 is solved numerically on a Web site which discusses probability for Poker players [], that was helpful in checking my results; the answer to 3.2 is a generalization of the results given there. There does not appear to be a complete collection of solutions. This site [] comes closest. If I were you I would avoid looking at their solution for exercise 4.1 (I'm trying to forget what little I've seen of it as I'd like to solve 4.1 under my own power), but I would also not feel bad about giving up on 4.1 if you find it difficult. I'd be happy to discuss Jaynes further over DMs or email - though I may respond at a slow pace, as I'm working through the book as my other activities allow. I'm on chapter 6 now.
0Hook11yThanks, that was exactly the sort of hint I needed (i.e. of the half dozen different approaches I've been working on, focus on this one). On to 3.3.

Why would determinism have anything to say about indexicals? There aren't any Turing-complete models that forbid indexical uncertainty; you can always copy a program and put the copies in different environments. So I don't see what use such a concept of "determinism" would have.

OK. The way I've understood the problem with Omega is that Omega is a perfect predictor so you have 2 options and 2 outcomes:

you two box --> you get $2,000 ($1000 in each box)

you one box --> you get 1M ($1M in one box, $1000 in the second box)

If Omega is not a perfect predictor, it's possible that you two box and you get 1,001,000. (Omega incorrectly predicted you'd one box.)

However, if you are likely to 2box using this reasoning, Omega will adjust his prediction accordingly (and will even reduce your winnings when you do 1box -- so that you can't b... (read more)

2Jack11ySo this job could even be accomplished by flipping a quantum coin 10000 times and only two-boxing when they come up tails each time. You're just looking for a decision mechanism that only applies in a handful of branches.
1byrnema11yYes, exactly.
3gregconen11yThe math is actually quite straight-forward, if anyone cares to see it. Consider a generalized Newcomb's problem. Box A either contains $A or nothing, while box B contains $B (obviously A>B, or there is no actual problem). Let Pb the probability that you 1-box. Let Po be the probability that Omega fills box A (note that only quantum randomness counts, here. If you decide by a "random" but deterministic process, Omega knows how it turns out, even if you don't, so Pb=0 or 1). Let F be your expected return. Regardless of what Omega does, you collect the contents of box A, and have a (1-Pb) probability of collecting the contents of box B. F(Po=1)= A + (1-Pb)B F(Po=0)=(1-Pb)B For the non-degenerate cases, these add together as expected. F(Po, Pb) = Po(A + (1-Pb)B) + (1-Po)[(1-Pb)B] Suppose Po = Pb := P F(P) = P(A + (1-P)B) + [(1-P)^2] B =P(A + B - PB) + (1-2P+P^2) B =PA + PB - (P^2)B + B - 2PB + (P^2)B =PA + PB + B - 2PB =B + P(A-B) If A > B, F(P) is monotonically increasing, so P = 1 is the gives maximum return. If A<B, P=0 is the maximum (I hope it's obvious to everyone that if box B has MORE money than a full box A, 2-boxing is ideal).
2Jordan11yI'm not sure why you take Po = Pb. If Omega is trying to maximize his chance of predicting correctly then he'll take Po = 1 if Pb > 1/2 and Pb = 0 if Pb < 1/2. Then, assuming A > B / 2, the optimal choice is Po = 1/2. Actually, if Omega behaves this way there is a jump discontinuity in expected value at Po=1/2. We can move the optimum away from the discontinuity by postulating there is some degree of imprecision in our ability to choose a quantum coin with the desired characteristic. Maybe when we try to pick a coin with bias Po we end up with a coin with bias Po+e, where e is an error chosen from a uniform distribution over [Po-E, Po+E]. The optimal choice of Po is now 1/2 + 2E, assuming A > 2EB, which is the case for sufficiently small E (E < 1/4 suffices). The expected payoff is now robust (continuous) to small perturbations in our choice of Po.
2gregconen11yA good point. Your solution does have Omega maximize right answers. My solution works if Omega wants the "correct" result summed over all Everett branches: for every you that 2-boxes, there exists an empty box A, even if it doesn't usually go to the 2-boxer. Both answers are correct, but for different problems. The "classical" Newcomb's problem is unphysical, just as byrnema initially described. A "Quantum Newcomb's problem" requires specifying how Omega deals with quantum uncertainty.
0Jordan11yInteresting. Since the spirit of Newcomb's problem depends on 1-boxing have a higher payoff, I think it makes sense to additionally postulate your solution to quantum uncertainty, as it maintains the same maximizer. That's so even if the Everett interpretation of QM is wrong.
[-][anonymous]11y 1

Occasionally, I feel like grabbing or creating some sort of general proto-AI (like a neural net, or something) and trying to teach it as much as I can, the goal being for it to end up as intelligent as possible, and possibly even Friendly. I plan to undertake this effort entirely alone, if at all.

May I?

3orthonormal11yI second Kevin: the nearest analogy that occurs to me is playing "kick the landmine" when the landmine is almost surely a dud.
3JGWeissman11yOf course, the advantage of "kick the landmine" is that you don't take the rest of the world out in case it wasn't a dud.
3Kevin11yI think Eliezer would say no (see []) but I think you're so astronomically unlikely to succeed that it doesn't matter.
2Paul Crowley11yWhat on Earth? When you say "may I" you presumably mean "is this a good idea" since obviously we're not in a position to stop you. But you're already aware of the arguments why it isn't a good idea and you don't address them here, so it's not clear that you have a good purpose for this comment in mind.
2byrnema11yI interpreted as akin to a call to a suicide hot-line. 'This is sounding like a good idea...' (Can you help / talk me out of it?) If this is the case, we can probably give support. I certainly understand how curiosity can pull, and Warrigal may already be rationalizing that he probably won't make progress, and we can give advice that balances that. But then, is it true that Warrigal should be afraid of knowledge?
2Paul Crowley11yI don't think it's fear of knowledge that leads me to suggest you don't try to build a catapult to twang yourself into a tree.
0whpearson11yDo you mean playing around with backprop []? Or making your own algorithms.
2Eliezer Yudkowsky11yIf this is your state of knowledge then... how can I put this: it seems extremely likely that you'll start playing around with very simple tools, find out just how little they can do, and, if you're lucky, start reading up and rediscovering the world of AI.
2whpearson11yBackprop is likely to be safe. Lots of AI students play around with it and it is well behaved mathematically. If it was going to kill us it would have done so already. More advanced stuff has to be evaluated individually.
0JGWeissman11yNo. What made you think you might get any other answer?

It makes your beliefs about coin A more concentrated than your beliefs about coin B.

Consider how absurd it would be for a professor of physics to admit that his opinion regarding a problem in physics would be different if he had attended a different graduate school.

I wonder if physicists would admit the effect of genealogy on their interpretation of QM?

People who ask physicists their interpretation of QM: next time, if the physicist admits controversy, ask about genealogy and other forms of epistemic luck.

1wnoise11yI'm a grad student of quantum information. My advisor doesn't really talk much about interpretations, going only so far as to point out how silly the Bohmians are. That's largely true of most in this group, though one is an avowed "quantum Bayesian": probability as conceptualized by humans is simply the specialization to commuting variables, but we need non-commuting variables to deal with the world. The laws of quantum mechanics tell you how to update your information under time evolution. My interpretation of QM was formed as an undergrad, with no direct professorial contact. It was based mostly on how arbitrary the placing of the classical-quantum divide in treatments is, so long as you place it so enough stuff is quantum. I took that seriously, bit the bullet, and so am an Everettian.

What do you mean?

I mean that as part of the specification of the problem, Omega has all the information necessary to determine what you will choose before you know yourself. There are causal arrows that descend from the situation specified by that information to (i) your choice, and (ii) the contents of the box.

why almost no one here seems to see the point of 2-boxing, and the amazing overconfidence is beyond me.

You stated that "the game is rigged". The reasoning behind 2-boxing ignores that fact. In common parlance, a rigged game is unwi... (read more)

1underling11ySadly, we seem to make no progress in any direction. Thanks for trying.

No. The method's output depends on its input, which by hypothesis is a specification of the situation that includes all the information necessary to determine the output of the individual's decision algorithm. Hence the decision algorithm is a causal antecedant of the contents of the boxes.

Imagine a simple but related scenario that involves no backwards causation:

You're a 12 year old kid, and you know your mom doesn't want you to play with your new Splogomax unless an adult is with you. Your mom leaves you alone for an hour to run to the store, telling you she'll punish you if you play with the Splogomax, and that, whether there's any evidence of it when she returns, she knows you well enough to know if you're going to play with it, although she'll refrain from passing judgement until she has just gotten back from the store.

Assuming you fear... (read more)

1underling11ySo what is your point? That no backwards causation is involved is assumed in both cases. If this scenario is for dialectic purposes, it fails: It is equally clear, if not clearer, that my actual choice has no effect on the content of the boxes. For what it's worth, let me reply with my own story: Omega puts the two boxes in front of you, and says the usual. Just as you’re about to pick, I come along, grab both boxes, and run. I do this every time Omega confronts someone with his boxes, and I always do as good as a two-boxer and better than a one-boxer. You have the same choice as me: Just two-box. Why won’t you?
2Cyan11yIf Omega fills the boxes according to its prediction of the choice of the person being offered the boxes and not the person who ends up with the boxes, then the above statement where your argument breaks down.

Even if it doesn't go to the bottom under the default setting, you can choose "Old" from the dropdown menu next to "Sort By" to view comments in chronological order (this preserves threads).

It goes to the bottom. At least, it has in my experience.

I once asked about commenting on old posts. People seemed okay with it.

Cool. Does IRC work for you? I think I still have a client lurking about somewhere...

And I vaguely remember there being an LW channel at one point. Yep: #lesswrong. And there is a nifty web link in the wiki link. Cool.

EDIT: Yeah, I was wondering about the hhhhhhhhf1. I would have guessed a cat.

5byrnema11yCountdown: 13 hours IRC Meeting At Less Wrong: MrHen and I are meeting at 8:15 p.m. Central for our first IRC Less Wrong study-group session. Please join us -- we will meet here a few minutes before the meeting. Our topic today is evidence; to discuss the post, How Much Evidence Does it Take? [] and possibly supporting posts, What is evidence? []. Our goal is to build a foundation for discussing Occam's Razor [] and Einstein's Arrogance []. I'll send out regular announcements closer to the session if there is no recent comment activity here. Please announce if you are planning to attend -- it will encourage others to attend too.
1MrHen11ySuper easy specifics on how to get where we will be: Click on this link [] and enter a nickname (hopefully something similar to your name here). And that should do it. All are welcome and you can just lurk if you want. I am there now while I munch on some beans for dinner but the discussion should begin in about an hour.
0byrnema11yWe're about to begin our IRC meeting if anyone else wants to join us!
0Jack11ySo I ended up at the game in person. How did this go? Any insights to share with those of us who weren't there?
4byrnema11yThis is a transcript [] of the chat log. In the post, How Much Evidence Does It Take [], Eliezer described the concept of 'bits' of information. For example, if you wanted to choose winning lottery numbers with a higher probability, you could have a box that beeps for the correct lottery number with 100% probability and only beeps for an incorrect number with 25% probability. Then the application of this box would represent 2 bits of information -- because it winnows your possible winning set by a factor of 4. During the chat, we discussed this definition of "bits". MrHen brought in some mathematics to discuss the case where the box beeps with less than 100% probability for the correct number (reduced box sensitivity, with possibly the same specificity), and how this would affect the calculation of bits. An interesting piece of trivia came up. Measuring information "base 2" is arbitrary of course and instead of measuring bits we could measure "bels" or "bans" (base 10).
0SilasBarta11yWow, I wish I'd been there for that (had to go to a trade group meeting) -- that's one of the topics that interests me! Btw, I think you mean that a beep-for-incorrect gives you 2 bits of information. Just applying the box will usually (~75% of the time) not indicate either way. The average information gained from an application of the box (aka entropy of the box variable aka expected surprisal of using the box aka average information gain on using the box) would be ~0.5 bits. And yes there's also nats (base e).
0komponisto11yI believe the point was that a beep constitutes 2 bits of evidence for the hypothesis that the number is winning.
0byrnema11yCountdown: 3 hours till our IRC meeting. You're welcome to join us.
0komponisto11yHow does one access it? Link?
0byrnema11yMrHen left these [] convenient instructions.
0arundelo11yI plan to attend.
0Jack11yIf I'm home I'll log in. But I'm going to be watching basketball at the same time so my participation might not be heavy.
2wedrifid11yHow much evidence does it take for you to accept 3:2 odds that your team will win the match given your prior understanding of each team's performance at various stages of a game?

So I actually have this idea of doing a series (or just a couple) of top level posts about rationality and basketball (or sports in general). I'm partly holding off because I'm worried that the rationality aspects are too basic and obvious and no one else will care about the basketball parts.

But sports are great for talking about rationality because there is never an ambiguity about the results of our predictions and because there are just bucket-loads of data to work with. On the other hand, a surprising about of irrationality can be still be found even in professional leagues where being wrong means losing money.

Anyway, to answer your question: You get two kinds of information from play at the beginning of the game: First, you get information about what the final score will be from the points that have been scored already. So if my team is up 10 points the other team needs to score 11 more points over the remainder of the game in order to win. The less time remaining in the game the more significant this gets. The other kind of information is information about how the teams are playing that day. But if a team is playing significantly better or worse than you would have predicte... (read more)

While reading old posts and looking for links to topics in upcoming drafts I have noticed that the Tags are severely underutilized. Is there a way to request a tag for a particular post?

Example: Counterfactual has one post and it isn't one of the heavy hitters on the subject.

You have the information that in Newcomblike problems, it is better to (already) be inclined to predictably one-box, because the game is "rigged". So, if you (now) become predictably and generally inclined to one-box, you can win at Newcomblike problems if you encounter them in the future. Even if you only ever run into one.

Of course, Omega is imaginary, so it's entirely a thought experiment, but it's interesting anyway!

Hi LessWrongers,

I'm aware that Newcomb's problem has been discussed a lot around here. Nonetheless, I'm still surprised that 1-boxing seems to be the consensus view here, contrary to the concensus view. Can someone point to the relevant knockdown argument? (I found Newcomb's Problem and Regret of Rationality but the only argument therein seems to be that 1-boxers get what they want, and that's what makes 1-boxing rational. Now, getting what one wants seems to be neither necessary nor sufficient, because you should get it because of your rational choice,... (read more)

7Alicorn11yThe predictor "rigged" the situation, it's true, but you have that information, and should take it into account when you decide which choice is rational.
1Furcas11yWe also have the information that our decision won't affect what's in the boxes, and we should also take that into account. The only thing that our decision determines is whether we'll get X or X+1000 dollars. It does not determine the value of X. If X were determined by, say, flipping a coin, should a rational agent one-box or two-box? Two-box, obviously, because there's not a damn thing he can do to affect the value of X. So why choose differently when X is determined by the kind of brain the agent has? When the time to make a decision comes, there still isn't a damn thing he can do to affect the value of X! The only difference between the two scenarios above is that in the second one the thing that determines the value of X also happens to be the thing that determines the decision the agent will make. This creates the illusion that the decision determines X, but it doesn't. Two-boxing is always the best decision. Why wouldn't it be? The agent will get a 1000 dollars more than he would have gotten otherwise. Of course, it would be even better to pre-commit to one-boxing, since this will indeed affect the kind of brain we have, which will in turn affect the value of X, but that decision is outside the scope of Newcomb's problem. Still, if the agent had pre-commited to one-boxing, shouldn't he two-box once he's on the spot? That's a wrong question. If he really pre-commited to one-boxing, he won't be able to choose differently. No, that's not quite right. If the agent really pre-commited to one-boxing, he won't even have to make the decision to stick to his previous decision. With or without pre-commitment, there is only one decision to be made, though at different times. If you have a Newcombian decision to make, you should always two-box, but if you pre-commmited you won't have a Newcombian decision to make in Newcomb's problem; actually, for that reason, it won't really be Newcomb's problem... or a problem of any kind, for that matter.
1underling11yRight, but exactly this information seems to the 2-boxer to point to 2-boxing! If the game is rigged against you, so what? Take both boxes. You cannot lose, and there's a small chance the conman erred. Mhm. I'm still far from convinced. Is this my fault? Am I at all right in assuming that 1-boxing is heavily favored in this community? And that this is a minority belief among experts?
2Alicorn11yPerhaps it will make sense if you view the argument as more of a reason to be the kind of person who one-boxes, rather than an argument to one-box per se.
3wedrifid11y* If you One Box you get $1,000,000 * If you Two Box you get $10,000 Therefore, One Box. The rest is just details. If it so happens that those 'details' tell you to only get the $10,000 then you have the details wrong.
2byrnema11yI don't know what the consensus knock-down argument is, but this is how mine goes: Usually, we optimize over our action choices to select the best outcome. (We can pick the blue box or the red box, and we pick the red box because it has the diamond.) Omega contrives a situation in which we must optimize over our decision algorithm for the best outcome. Choose over your decision algorithms (the decision algorithm to one-box, or the decision algorithm to two-box), just as you would choose among actions. You realize this is possible when you realize that choosing a decision algorithm is also an action. (Later edit: I anticipated what might be most confusing about calling the decision algorithm an 'action' and have decided to add that the decision algorithm is an action that is not completed until you actually one box or two box. Your decision algorithm choice is 'unstable' until you have actually made your box choice. You "choose" the decision algorithm that one-boxes by one-boxing.)

If you have ever suppressed your best judgement on something because you feared the social consequences of not supplicating to the speaker vote this comment up.

I try to cultivate a cheerful attitude, which often projects. It failed me this semester, so I'm abandoning ship. You'll need to rely on thomblake for your philosophy grad student needs.

I might or might not try to resume my studies at a later date, but for now, I'm going to spend a month at the SIAI and see if they want to keep me :)

I just read Outliers and I'm curious -- is there anything that would have taken 10000 hours in the EEA that would support Gladwell's "rule"? Is there anything else in neurology/our understanding of the brain that would make the idea that this is the amount of practice that's needed to succeed in something make sense?

4Kevin11ySomething to understand about Malcolm Gladwell is that he is an exceptionally talented writer that can turn a pseudo-theory into hundreds of pages of pleasant, entertaining non-fiction writing. He's not an evolutionary psychologist, though I bet he could write a really interesting and thought provoking non-fiction piece on evolutionary psychology. [] His pseudo-theory from The Tipping Point has not made advertisers any more money. It's an example of something that really does sound kind of true when you read it, but what he says doesn't explain much in the way of meaningful phenomena. Advertising companies tried to take advantage of his pseudo-theory of social influence, and they still make some efforts to target influential users, but it's a token effort compared towards marketing as broadly as possible. Superbowl advertisements still work.
2Nic_Smith11yOh, by no means did I want to suggest that Gladwell has a forte in evolutionary psychology; if he does, there's nothing to indicate it in what I've read. It's clear that he glosses over many of the details in his work, perhaps dangerously so. And the entire point of Outliers is that social environment is important to success; not exactly an earth-shattering insight, there's a negative Times review [] that's spot on. That said, Gladwell says he originally got the idea for 10000 hours from Ericsson [] and Levitin []. At worst, at this point, I think it's somewhat plausible. I still have a lot more searching to do on the subject, but I am interested in what evolutionary psychology might say about the idea -- alas, I'm also not a evolutionary psychologist, so I don't know that either. Edit: Of course, what I'm really interested in is "Is the idea that it takes 10000 hours to master a skill set true in enough circumstances to make it a useful guideline?" I'm not interested in the viewpoint of evolutionary psychologists on skill acquisition per se.
1wedrifid11yThe '10000' hours approximation seems surprisingly well founded, based on the research that Ericsson et. al. reviewed in their works. Obviously this is to obtain 'expert' level performance and you can still get 'good enough' levels from far less time. Also note that they specify that many of the hours must be deliberate practice and not just performance.

To the extent that FAI will depend on the continued exponential growth of computing capacity, I'd say yes.

2thomblake11yI've always thought FAI was only tangentially on-topic here (more of a mutual interest than anything). This community is explicitly about rationality.
3Kevin11yThat's the umbrella topic, but I do not think that topic is in any way meant to exclude science. I mean... it's science. How many thousands of words has Eliezer written on quantum physics? Surely there are worse things that could happen to a community of rationalists than links to scientific discoveries of strong mutual interest. It's not even a slippery slope towards bad off-topic stuff. Edit: And I'm going to continue mostly contextless link sharing in the Open Thread until a link sharing subreddit is enabled.
1thomblake11yI rather disagree. There are plenty of places online to find links to interesting scientific discoveries. And the sense in which Eliezer wrote about quantum physics is entirely different from the sense in which these links were "about science". That said, I didn't mean to suggest in my question that the comment was off-topic, but rather wanted to know what folks thought about it.
1Zack_M_Davis11yAre you sure you don't mean uFAI? Friendliness isn't a hardware problem.
3mattnewport11yMaybe I should just have said AI, or AGI. I suspect we will need further advances in computing power to achieve greater than human intelligence, friendly or otherwise.
2[anonymous]11yI find that article title misleading. Having transistors that operate at 100 GHz does not give you a CPU with a clock rate of 100 GHz. If I remember correctly, that very article states that current transistors operate at 30 GHz.

Toby is a hot shot academic?

Sometimes these labels don't make a lot of sense to the people they're applied to. I've in the past been called a "serious academic", amongst other dubious things.

Here's another one. When reading wikipedia on Chaitin's constant, I came across an article by Chaitin from 1956 (EDIT: oops, it's 2006) about the consequences of the constant (and its uncomputability) on the philosophy of math, that seems to me to just be completely wrongheaded, but for reasons I can't put my finger on. It really strikes the same chords in me that a lot of inflated talk about Godel's Second Incompleteness theorem strikes. (And indeed, as is obligatory, he mentions that too.) I searched on the title but didn't find any refutations. I wonder if anyone here has any comments on it.

In time-reversible deterministic world, information is gained from observation of stuff that wasn't in contact with you in the past, and logical information is also gained (new knowledge about facts following from the premises -- there is no logical transparency). Analogously, an action can be seen as "splitting", where you part with a prepared action, and action parts with you, so that you lose knowledge of that action. If you let info split away in this manner, you may never get it back.

I agree with you, but I think it has to do with the way people vote (mainly voting in favor of things they agree with and against things they disagree with), and with which comments are read by whom. In other words, changing the karma system probably is not a way to address it: people have to change their behavior.

2Wei_Dai11yYes, I agree, and by "karma system" I meant to include how people think they should vote.

What probability do you assign for it being possible to send information backwards in time, over any time scale?

3wedrifid11y0.1. But I suspect if I will run into problems if I try to cash in my probability assignment in, say, a prediction market.
2Vladimir_Nesov11yWe already know (theoretically) how to send logical information backwards in time, as in Gary Drescher []. The other kinds of info-time-travel are probably conceptually inconsistent.
5Cyan11yIs there a quick and easy way to understand "how to send logical information backwards in time" that doesn't involve watching a 30 min video?
5GuySrinivasan11ySuppose that the universe is the deterministically evolving wavefunction, and that it makes sense to talk about causing a rock to be moved from here to there. Then you can cause a timeful universe-slice 100 years ago to be the sort of thing which will deterministically evolve until after 100 years the measure of a rock being moved from here to there is greater than it would have been had you not caused the rock to move.
2Cyan11yIf I'm not mistaken, in the Pearl []ian view of causality, if the universe is viewed as deterministic then it does not make sense to talk about causing a rock to be moved from here to there; an intervention or surgery has to happen from outside the system being modeled.
3Vladimir_Nesov11yIf there is a program P that as part contains yourself and everything you interact with, then the fact that in the future, you decide to do X (within P's execution), could be inferred from P in the past.
5byrnema11yThanks for the quick explanation. So that information was already there, and thus I wouldn't call that sending information back in time.
3Vladimir_Nesov11yThe problem is that all information is "already there", time itself is arguably how discovering implications of information that is already here feels from the inside. That is, when the world is viewed through deterministic laws, there is never any information that is present in the future, but "logically" absent from the past. The only difference between what is found in the past and what is found in the future is that it takes time to reach (=compute) more "distant" facts.
1Mitchell_Porter11yWhat do you mean by "here" - your brain? or a spacelike slice across the whole universe? If a glass falls on the ground and shatters, is it "discovering implications of information", etc? If the answer is yes, does that mean it feels like something for the glass to shatter?
0Vladimir_Nesov11ySure. No.
1Mitchell_Porter11yWhy not?
0Vladimir_Nesov11yBecause a glass has no mind, naturally.
0Mitchell_Porter11yCan you justify that in a noncircular way? What's a mind, and why doesn't a glass have one?
6Jack11yIs someone really obligated to define "mind" just in order to demonstrate that a glass is not in the set of things that has one? I can't define "game" but "the weak nuclear force" is not an example of one.
1Mitchell_Porter11yIf I read him correctly, Vladimir is proposing to make time itself a mind-dependent phenomenon. Time happens inside minds but not inside shattering glasses. So he needs to explain the difference.
1Vladimir_Nesov11yTime does happen inside shattering glasses, and it's not "mind-dependent". Happy?
2Mitchell_Porter11yBut you said []: Time itself is how a certain process feels from the inside. If time is a feeling, it can only happen where there are feelings, so if it happens inside shattering glasses, then they have feelings.
0Vladimir_Nesov11yThat was a reference to "how an algorithm feels from the inside", with "feels" not intended for literal interpretation.
0[anonymous]11yThat was a reference to "how an algorithm feels from the inside", with "feels" not intended for literal interpretation.

This would be a cool wiki page, "Community predictions."

1Cyan11ySee this [].
1bgrah44911yCyan is the Batman; recent comments are his Gotham. The Bat-Signal is ignorance.
3Cyan11yAw, I'm blushing.

Did anyone else do this other than MrHen and pjeby? I read the recent comments page pretty thoroughly, and if there were others, I missed them.

Carl, I meant that as soon as RO understands the concept of a simulation, it will want to crack into the basement. It will seek to crack into the basement only when it understands the way out properly which may not be possible without an understanding of the simulators.

But the main point remains, as soon as RO understands what a simulation is, and it could be living in one and G can be pursued better when it manifests in S2 than in S1, then it will develop an extremely strong sub-goal to crack S1 to go to S2, which might mean that G may not be manifested ... (read more)

So in fact the policy Singapore has is the same as Western nations, with the only difference that Singapore happened to have money saved.

How do you get that as being a coincidence? The very same things that make a nation spend prudently are the ones that make it have a reserve fund in the first place! What's America's emergency reserve fund? There isn't one -- just the possibility of borrowing more. (Not necessarily a bad move for a nation with the US's credit rating, but still.)

I bring this up in part because it parallels the differences between US... (read more)

The war in Iraq was the beginning of the end of US hegemony.

Like I said:

where the general public doesn't feel strongly one way or the other

A similar way of saying the same thing: change gets easier when debates don't map onto pre-existing signaling narratives. Obviously anything that explicitly threatens religion is going to be a bitch to get through. I don't think critical thinking course in liberal districts would raise a lot of ire even if we were giving students tools that, properly applied, would tell them something about their religious beliefs.

3mattnewport11yI think local public school curriculum fails on two of your criteria: 'entrenched interests influencing legislators' (teachers' unions, publishers of textbooks, parents' groups, think tanks, etc.); 'where the general public doesn't feel strongly one way or the other' (parents tend to care quite a bit about what/how their kids are taught, ideologically motivated groups care quite a bit about what kids are taught, many interest groups have opinions about what focus education should have). There are already lots of groups trying to influence education in all kinds of ways, including local public school curriculums.
1Jack11yTeachers unions are definitely an entrenched interest but they aren't really entrenched on the issue of curriculum. I'm not trying to fire them, just add another elective class or change a couple of class days in the English curriculum. Textbook publishers sure, but they don't have necessarily opposing views. You could just as easily turn them into allies [] . Parents groups, think tanks? I would start in a poor or urban district-- but I can't think of any reason parents groups would oppose a critical thinking elective in liberal, wealthy districts. Obviously all policy areas have someone 'invested'. But it isn't like getting rid of subsidies for the sugar industry, ending teacher tenure or limiting unionizing. These groups care about curriculum when the debate involves sex or religion. Thats about it. I'm not trying to teach 2nd graders about sex or tell anyone their religion is false. Aspects of critical thinking are already part of the AP Language curriculum-- we're not talking about some radical transformation of the school system. Around half the parents at my public high school were lawyers, you're gonna tell me they're going to object to a critical thinking class? Again, obviously people are affected by policy. But not every issue makes people go crazy like evolution, sex or money. I'm actually surprised you picked the curriculum issue to criticize... reforming the government grant-giving bureaucracy strikes me as a lot harder.

What would I hope to accomplish? I would hope we could come up with policy proposals which might be cheap to enact.

5mattnewport11yBut what would be the use of that? Do you have the ear of the president? Do you have reason to think that the problem with politics is a lack of good policy ideas rather than the inability of the political process to enact good policy? Are you prepared to devote yourself full time to promoting whatever wonderful never-before-considered policies the great minds of less wrong are able to concoct? Politics is not about Policy. []
5LucasSloan11yIf we were to decide to discuss politics, the best possible use I can think of is to generate strategies for implementing (cheap) positive changes in policy. As to how to implement, California State Senator Joe Simitian has his There Oughta be a Law Contest [].
3Jack11yI'm similarly skeptical about the benefits of a conversation about politics but lets not overgeneralize. Politics is not about policy. Except when it is. Certain parts of government are more amenable to policy changes than others. The key is identifying those areas and organizing around them. Change is usually easiest in areas where there aren't entrenched interests influencing legislators, where the general public doesn't feel strongly one way or the other, and when legislators aren't running for reelection or aren't at risk of losing. Areas where I think Less Wrong could make non-trivial impacts: federal science policy-- specifically stream-lining the grant process to save scientists time and resources, and local public school curriculum-- specifically finding some amenable school districts and try to improve/add to/create critical thinking/classical rationality curricula. If people were interested I'd be especially interested in digging into the second.

My usual response to this question is that the average Democrat is better than the average Republican, but the very best Republicans are better than the very best Democrats. However, given that my model of the "average Democrat" is the average person in the Bay Area, and my model of the "average Republican" is some mix of Fox news wacko and George W. Bush, I'm not sure I should trust this. Does anyone have any anecdotes about Democrats out side of the Bay Area? Republicans?

I was thinking about what general, universal utility would look like. I managed to tie myself into an interesting mental knot.

I started with: Things occurring as intelligent agents would prefer.

If preferences conflict, weight preferences by the intelligence of the preferring agent.

Define intelligent agents as optimization processes.

Define relative intelligences as the relative optimization strengths of the processes

Define a preference as something an agent optimizes for.

Then, I realized that my definition was a descriptive prediction of events.

1[anonymous]11ySuppose the universe is as we know it now, except that aliens definitely don't exist, and the only living organism in the universe is a single human named Steve. Steve really wants to create a cheesecake the size of Pluto. Apparently, the universe is more intelligent than Steve, and does not want such a cheesecake to exist. Perhaps this "general, universal utility" is what would happen if the abilities of things we think of as intelligent were magnified.

Millions of lives saved in Africa through expanded public health.

One questions how meaningful testing done on such a crippled AI would be.

Many-Worlds explained, with pretty pictures.

The story about how I deduced the Many-Worlds interpretation, with pictures instead of formulas.


0RobinZ11yThere is a more recent open-thread [] if you want to post there.

Voted down because my writing is confusing or because I said something stupid?

Thanks. Though I'm still highly skeptical, this gives me much more to engage with. This will take me some time to process though, and it might take me a while as I'm preparing for a conference this week.

I recently met someone investigating physics for the first time, and they asked what I thought of Paul Davies' book The Mind of God. I thought I'd post my response here, not because of my views on Davies, but for the brief statement of outlook trying to explain the position from which I'd judge him.

The truth is that I don't remember a thing of what he says in the book. I might look it up tomorrow and see if I am reminded of any specific reactions I had. From what I remember of his outlook, I don't think it is an unusual one for a philosophically minded

... (read more)
8wnoise11yI find myself nodding along in agreement to this until I get to "Basically I want to say that the thing in the brain which is conscious, and therefore the thing which is you, is a sort of holistic quantum subsystem of the brain" which at the same time seems to be both too specific given how little we know, and at the same time too vague, with absolutely no explanatory power. In particular "quantum" and "holistic" both seem like empty buzzwords in this context, along the lines of mysterious answers to mysterious questions [], or along the lines that "consciousness is weird, quantum mechanics is weird, therefore quantum mechanics must be involved in consciousness". Of course, this is being a little unfair -- a proposed solution needs to be more specific than what we as yet know, and a solution that is not fully worked out by necessity has vague areas. But the feel of each of these is towards the decidedly not useful portion of either side. You sound pretty convinced that something quantum must be going on without saying what, if anything, it brings to the picture that classical descriptions don't. And, well, given how warm, wet, and squishy the human nervous system is, I flatly would not expect any large scale quantum coherences. (Though the limits are often overstated). Again, "holistic" doesn't add much; heck, I'm not even sure what sorts of mechanisms it would rule out.
[-][anonymous]11y 0

Not all opinions are equal.

Can you elaborate on this without linking to something like The Simple Truth. Not to say that linking is bad, but I'm more curious of your [and anyone else who wants to chime in] take on what you said.

2wedrifid11yThe simple truth does seem to sum it up nicely: There's another one about 'subjective objective' that is worth look at too. In my own words: Yes, there are three sheep there. I can see three sheep there. According to the prior information I have about the universe this process of perception involves light, reflection, absorbsion, nerve conduction, processing in specialised area in the visual cortex and suchlike. I don't have all the information, and my priors are not perfect, nevertheless I can't change reality by thinking about it. Similarly, other people's 'opinions' and 'perspectives', which don't match up to what I see with my own eyes are sometimes worth respecting for social purposes but they certainly aren't going to significantly influence the expectation of reality. If your perspective is that there is some other number of sheep then you're just wrong and you'll make terrible decisions if you act on your stupid belief and you might die. Excuse me as I adjust my estimate of my own inclusive genetic fitness downwards somewhat for, as, ciphergoth puts it, focusing my attention back at concepts we've moved past. I actually find even thinking of how to explain how stupid the "that's just your perspective" intuition is. Being more confused by fiction than reality is a habit that is worth fostering. I actually tend to find some kinds of philosophical debates do more harm than good to your thinking process.
4[anonymous]11yThank you. I'm sorry if this is something most people here are past and you're losing fitness for falling back into explaining it :) Proving quotes and a take on it helped more thank just a link would. So, once again, thank you. Also, thanks for for this: It was needed.
0[anonymous]11yMy immediate response to this is that this is a problem. I think I need to foster flexibility of thought, along with fostering correct thought, and often practice empathizing with the incorrect point of view. If it isn't clear how to get out, then I'll practice empathizing with the original view again to make sure I don't get stuck anywhere really sticky, but this time with less confidence that one view is really more correct than the other. My favorite place to be is perched right between them, and from there I try to formally describe my escape routes from each of them.
2Paul Crowley11yFrankly, no, we are past this question here.

(2nd reply)

I'm beginning to come around to your point of view. Omega rewards you for being illogical.

.... It's just logical to allow him to do so.

4Paul Crowley11yThis is why I find it incomprehensible that anyone can really be mystified by the one-boxer's position. I want to say "Look, I've got a million dollars! You've got a thousand dollars! And you have to admit that you could have seen this coming all along. Now tell me who had the right decision procedure?"

it is the system with which the site was designed prior to developing experience

Patently false.

There should probably be a daily limit to how many comments people can make, too. I think it would encourage longer and more thoughtful comments rather than shorter and more reactive ones.

I disagree on both points.