This thread is for asking any questions that might seem obvious, tangential, silly or what-have-you. Don't be shy, everyone has holes in their knowledge, though the fewer and the smaller we can make them, the better.

Please be respectful of other people's admitting ignorance and don't mock them for it, as they're doing a noble thing.

To any future monthly posters of SQ threads, please remember to add the "stupid_questions" tag.

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How would someone donate to GiveWell in an externally verifiable manner? I am permitted to do fundraisers as volunteering projects, and donating or (if online) having customers donate to an EA organization seems like an obvious choice.

Last time I donated to the Against Malaria Foundation, I got a thank-you email that referred to me by name and said the amount of the donation. If you need people to prove to you that they donated, they could forward you the email. GiveDirectly also sends thank-you emails, but they don't say the amount, so pointing the donations at AMF would probably be better for your purposes.
You could use an intermediate step, like Charity Science's fundraisers (I'm sure there are plenty of other places that allow you to do this if Christmas/Birthday/Event doesn't fit your needs) so you can see how much is being donated. Then when you donate the whole lot to Givewell etc. at the end you can ask for a receipt/show it on your bank statement.

A while back I had an odd experience with meditating (something I don't do that often). I started out sitting on my bed with my eyes closed, but at some point opened my eyes. Eventually it was like my consciousness started to recede. Things like reflection and inner narrative weakened or turned off, while my vision continued more or less normally. I felt like I couldn't move my hands anymore. I also started laughing continuously for several minutes. Eventually I "woke up" again. It felt kind of like (part of?) my consciousness had fallen asleep while the rest of my brain stayed awake.

Is this a normal kind of thing to happen while meditating? It was a bit disturbing but overall a positive experience I think.

Weird things can happen, during meditation. Me, I've never experienced anything beyond boredom or relaxation – except this one time I went to a synagogue with my Sunday school class when I was 15-18 years old or so. I wasn't even trying to meditate ( I don't think I even knew meditation existed back then), but I was bored out of my mind since – not knowing any Hebrew – I couldn't follow any of it. So I must've fallen into a meditative state, but what I felt at the time (or rather, just after, because that's all I remember), was a feeling of immense gratitude at having been in the presence of God. I didn't talk about it with anyone and I didn't become Jewish, but really I should have, the experience was that strong. But I was shy, and I didn't want to call attention to myself. (I'm an atheist now, in case anyone wonders.)

Yes, it's normal. There are lots of directions you can go, and the direction (I think) you're talking about is a nice one.

Does anyone here wear makeup regularly? I'm considering starting, but I don't know if it's worth it. If it is, what sort of makeup makes sense as "light makeup"? Does that mean eyeshadow? Eyeliner? Something else?

I tend to use mascara mainly since it can be subtle or more dramatic and since I have glasses, it helps bring out my eyes behind them. Mascara is conveniently easy, not too many colors to choose from, not too much effort required to apply, and it generally looks good on everyone. I've found that my attractiveness increases significantly with just adding mascara, so I find it worthwhile. If there's a feature you want to play up, it's good to find a nice way to enhance it. Light makeup, as far as I can tell, usually refers to a little mascara, a bb cream or light foundation, and maybe a bit of lipgloss or tinted chapstick.
I wear makeup regularly (I am a lady). "Light" makeup usually means natural-looking and easy to apply. The highest-yield stuff would be something to make your skin look smooth and even (foundation, tinted moisturizer or BB creme), something to make your lips pretty (gloss looks natural and is easy to apply although lipstick is longer-lasting and less sticky), and maybe a little eye makeup (this is easier to screw up but not really that hard; start with drugstore mascara and eyeliner pencil and consult Youtube if you want to take it any further). I'm happy to recommend specific products but a lot depends on your complexion. Edit: Forgot to mention, if you have acne at all, spend money on a good concealer that matches you skin, Dermablend is the shit, this is probably worth it for gents as well as ladies
I'm going to second the thing about about acne and add a recommendation that if you have skin problems, see a dermatologist. They might be able to fix your problem and then you won't need acne makeup.
My wife is very minimalist at it, and she is saying the basic rule is, she has a wider mouth and smaller eyes so she wears eye liner and eye shadow and no lipstick to balance their size, and she would do it the other way around if her features were proportioned the other way around. I suggested her foundation as I find the illusion of perfect complexion the most attractive part of make-up illusions but she told me it is not healthy for the pores and suchlike.
This answer here: Lead me to here: I think I saw a subject-blind study somewhere that indicated men prefer light makeup to no makeup despite their claims to the contrary.
Any data on whether women prefer men with light makeup?
Data: pretty much all male Hollywood stars wear (natural-looking) makeup whenever they appear on camera.
I don't think this is a good data point, since the makeup they wear is explicitly designed to counteract visual artifacts (glare, unnatural-seeming skin tones, etc.) that are introduced by the camera. Thus, the makeup does not necessarily have a positive effect on people who see the movie stars in person.
This is a wonderful data point. It moves our model from "if you're a man, don't wear makeup" to "if you're a man, don't wear makeup unless you're going to appear on camera, in which case, wear just enough to counteract visual artifacts." I expect this to be a nontrivially better model for a significant amount of men here.
Anecdotally, I don't know a single (hetero) woman who prefers men with any makeup.
Ask your female hetero friends if Tim Curry was hot in Rocky Horror.
Campy cult movies don't count :-) Perhaps I should express myself more precisely and say that no woman I know prefers a man who wears makeup seriously. Wearing full battle makeup for funsies is perfectly fine.
Is that an expressed preference or a revealed one? I wouldn't be surprised if the median woman would find a guy hotter when he's wearing suitable makeup, but if she discovered that he was wearing makeup, she would dislike that and start to avoid him or whatever. Which might still mean that the median man should not typically wear makeup, but it's less clear-cut than if the median women rates men as less attractive when they're wearing any kind of makeup. (It seems implausible to me that the makeup industry would have found no product at all that could make men look more attractive to the median woman.)
I'm wondering whether two situations should be distinguished-- a man might be viewed more positively if he's wearing a little foundation to make his skin look smoother, but more negatively if a woman touches his face and notices it. This is definitely hypothetical. Anyone have actual information?
Hm, revealed preference is hard to disentangle from other factors. Besides, men with makeup are not all that common outside of TV studios, Burning Man (and the like), and certain areas of town. Speaking of, I think the standard interpretation of makeup on a guy is that it's a signal he is gay or, more generally, not hetero male. I've recently seen expressed preference with respect to a particularly male kind of makeup -- hair "thickener", aka hair fiber spray to cover up a bald spot. That expressed preference was very negative. Oh, and a "median woman" is not a particularly desirable target X-D
Depends on what is meant by 'prefer'. I prefer no makeup too, but not because it looks better. I prefer it because I see makeup as a minor kind of lying and I don't like that. I value honesty. It doesn't mean that I detect all lies. Or not be influenced by them.
How do you feel about flamboyant makeup which is obviously artificial?
I'm trying to read "flamboyant" cheritably but everying I try to imagine is horrible. The more the worse. Artful facepainting might be different though. ADDED: I realize that this argues againt my reasoning that it results from lying - as an obvious makeup is no lie. But then I also don't like exaggerations and maybe this falls into a more general pattern? Hm, sounds suspiciously like rationalizations. Will have to introspect a bit on this.

I regularly see on Reddit and recently around here too ideas like "there is no free will hence nobody deserves anything, good or bad, no merits etc." and I am puzzled by them, because to me it is so that merit or desert or even justice means roughly like incentives that happen to work. If a reward makes people behave the way I want them to, I call the reward merited or deserved. Basically a sound investment. "you deserve punishment" is nothing more than "I think punishing you will make you or others behave the way I want to". ... (read more)

Punishment as moral desert, and punishment as incentive lead to different results in some cases.

Punishment is complicated. As far as I can tell, punishment only works if the person being punished sees themselves as being in the same social system as the punisher. If the person being punished doesn't see it that way, then the "punishment" just looks like an attack.
I think the evolutionary origin of ideas of "deserving punishment" is basically a need to incentivise others not to defect against you, but the actual intuition in most people's heads is just to assign utility to the suffering of "bad people" in some proportion with how bad whatever they've done is. Also the concept of free will as most people use it is pretty confused and gives confusing results if you have it interact with other concepts like "incentives".
Of course, for the incentives to work you need a precommitment to punish, but once the person has defected, that's done and punishing him no longer benefits you. Hence the requirement to assign utility to the suffering of bad people.
Oh, yeah, I see why, tbh I thought /u/DeVliegendeHollander was being weird in not seeing things that way, but I didn't want to typical-mind.
There's a radiolab episode about blame that glances this subject. They talk about, for example, people with brain damage not being blamed for their crimes (because they "didn't have a choice"). They also have a guest trying to explain why legal punishment should be based on modelling probabilities of recidivism. One of the hosts usually plays (is?) the "there is cosmic blame/justice/choice" position you're describing.

I have a nasty hunch that one of the social functions of punishment is to prevent personal revenge. If it is not harsh enough, victims or their relatives may want to take it into their own hands. Vendetta or Girardian "mimetic violence" is AFAIK something deeply embedded into history, and AFAIK it went away only governments basically said "hey, you don't need to kill your sisters rapist, I will kill him for you and call it justice system". And that consideration has not much to do with recidivism. Rather, the point here is to prevent further escalation: his relatives, in turn, cannot try to enact vendetta on the government. So it seems it is at least partially rooted in stopping blood revenge chains by the government actually performing a blood revenge, once. And thus if recidivism stats figure out 3.5 months in prison are enough, we see blood revenge coming back.

The idea that punishment through a legal system exists to deter revenge is an idea I've been hearing for decades.
According to my Criminology courses the judiciary system serves both functions: channeling the vindictive intuitions of the victims (or their families) in a more peaceful direction and reducing future crime (both by scaring possible offenders and by punishing actual offenders).
It's actually fairly explicit in the Torah, specifically in Numbers chapter 35. The Mosaic code there established cities of refuge to which killers were to be allowed to travel and be judged, where they would be free of revenge from those wronged until the priests decided whether their offense was murder, manslaughter, negligence, or accident, and imposed the appropriate penalty.
As well it should. Frankly 3.5 months aren't enough for deterrent, and are almost certainly not enough to prevent recidivism. Let's put it this way: if the stats say 3.5 months are enough to prevent recidivism then the most likely explanation is that the stats are bogus.
To explicitly answer your question: I don't think you're really missing anything. I suspect you just haven't fully internalized the idea that other people are using "merit"/"desert"/"deserve" in a different sense to you. (You believe it, but don't alieve it, in the local jargon.) Edit: for what it's worth, I think your understanding of "merit"/"desert" is the more robust one, precisely because it holds up better in the face of determinism. The lay meaning ("cosmic justice") looks pretty shaky if one starts asking oneself questions like "Why is a paedophile whose paedophilia is caused by a brain tumour intrinsically more deserving of leniency than someone who's just always been a paedophile?".

How do I make a hash? In case I'm using the wrong word, I want to encrypt a message, then put the encrypted message in a public place, then decrypt the message in a way that proves that I actually encrypted a message (I didn't just write a nonsense string and later retcon an encryption scheme that makes it meaningful).

Let's make sure we're talking about cryptographic hashing functions. Let's say I make a prediction that Barack Obama is a werewolf. I don't want anyone to know I've made this prediction, because otherwise the Secret Werewolf Police will come and eat me, but I do want to lord it over everyone after the fact. I take the string "Barack Obama is a werewolf" and I put it through a hashing function, (for purposes of this example, the hashing function MD5). This produces the output 37ecb0a3164e6422bedc0f8db82e45ec. The original string about Barack Obama is not recoverable from this output, because MD5 is a lossy function, but anyone else putting that string through the MD5 hashing function will get the same output. The hash output is like a fingerprint for the original string. So if I put 37ecb0a3164e6422bedc0f8db82e45ec in a public place a year before Barack Obama transforms into a werewolf on live television, after the fact I can give people the original string and they can verify it for themselves against the hash output. I use a Chrome plugin for most tasks that involve basic encoding of text values. (If I'm honest, I mostly use it for rot13, and more exotic uses aren't that common). There are also online hash generators for different hashing functions. Some popular hashing functions for this purpose are MD5 and SHA1. Does this answer your question?
MD5 is a poor choice, though it's probably OK for this sort of very short plain-text prediction. SHA-1 is looking fairly sha-ky too these days, but again is probably fine for this purpose. If you're picking a hash function for actual cryptographic purposes, SHA-256 would be a better choice.
"Barack Obama is a werewolf, and on an unrelated note, here is my favourite block of nonsense text: bVcDvX2JLDLthTNhOeOvBXiETMysmBR5LuuPrgM6nCOIGx i8zomRQXH5RMQjqTtSj8vWDCXIyBH7NrQu96bozpaGo5g7k JeTUeigwK7YBvFJxCIcbmMaAT213sbi8l4TfWmU3BUFNQaM nAudBqKc0vPEBYRIl1TsQYTCLk0jT2EhP8Qx9wOZcxJ1o30w" (ETA: this is for entertainment purposes only, and is not intended as any kind of counterpoint to gjm's entirely sound and valuable comment)
I suggest adding a non-trivial random string to the original text. Otherwise if someone else makes the same prediction, your secret is immediately known to vim, and the information that you two are making the same prediction leaks to everyone. Read on salting for more information.
I encrypt messages for a another, goofier purpose. One of the people I am encrypting from is a compsci professor. I use a Vigenere cipher, which should beat everything short of the Secret Werewolf Police, and possibly them, too. (It is, however, more crackable than a proper salted, hashed output.) In a Vigenere, the letters in your input are moved by the numerical equivalent of the key, and the key repeats. Example: Secret Statement/lie: Cats are nice. Key: ABC New, coded statement: dcwt (down 1, 2, 3, 1) cuf ildg. Now, I recommend using long keys and spacing the output in five letter blocks to prevent easier soliving. You can do this online: This will transmute "It seems unlikely the werewolf police will catch you," with the key "The movie ends the same way for all of us JRM." to: Cbxrt ibzsz mdytd minyzw wxqdt cjeph bfqhr leuqh oxvbg tn. (Letter grouping by me.) Again Vigenere's are potentially crackable, but they are very hard. It's easier for the werewolf police to just come and eat anyone who puts up hashed or Vigenere ciphered predictions.
In the case above, since the key is as long as the plaintext, it's no more Vigenere, it's one time pad.
Unless your text is very short or your key very long, they are much easier than you apparently think. I have written programs that do a pretty good job of it. (As MrMind says, if your key is as long as your text then this is a one-time pad, which indeed is uncrackable provided you have a reliable channel for sharing the one-time pad and don't make operational mistakes like reusing the key. But that's not a very common situation.)
I agree that I made my key too long so it's a one-time pad. You're right. "Much easier"? With or without word lengths?OK, no obligation, but I didn't make this too brutal: Vsjfodjpfexjpipnyulfsmyvxzhvlsclqkubyuwefbvflrcxvwbnyprtrrefpxrbdymskgnryynwxzrmsgowypjivrectssbmst ipqwrcauwojmmqfeohpjgwauccrdwqfeadykgsnzwylvbdk. (Again, no obligation to play, and no inference should be taken against gjm's hypothesis if they decline.)
I finally did get round to taking a look at this, and it isn't yielding to the usual methods. In fact, it's sufficiently unyielding that I am wondering whether it's really the result of Vigenere-ciphering something that resembles ordinary English text with a key of reasonable length. I find the following: * The text is 146 characters long. I would expect that, with "ordinary" plaintext, to be enough to identify a key of at most about 7 characters without too much pain. I actually tried lengths up to 10. * For no key length k does the distribution of { (a-b) mod 26 : a,b are characters at the same position mod k } much resemble the distribution of differences mod 26 of randomly chosen letters with typical English letter frequencies. * For no key length k does the result of the following procedure produce something that looks as if most of the shifts are correct: * For each offset, count letter frequencies, and choose a shift that maximizes the sum of log(typical_prob) where typical_prob are those typical English letter frequencies again. JRMayne, if you happen to be reading this and happen to have either a record or a memory of the message and how you encrypted it: can you confirm that (1) this really is the output of a Vigenere cipher, (2) the plaintext isn't (statistically) outrageously unlike ordinary English, and (3) the key length is at most, let's say, 10? (If the key is much longer than that, there isn't enough information for these simple methods to work with. Perhaps, e.g., doing a more expensive search and looking at digraph frequencies might be worth considering, but I'm too lazy.)
Gah. I don't remember the solution or the key. And I just last week had a computer crash (replaced it), so, I've got lots of nothing. Sorry. I am sure of (1) and (2). I don't remember (3), and it's very possible it's longer than 10 (though probably not much longer.) But I don't remember clearly. That's the best I can do. Drat.
Offsets 10, 8, 25, 6, 6, 14, 21, 11, 12, 13, 11, 12, 15, 21, 1, 7 (that's a key length of 16) yield the following decrypted plaintext: "failurearrivedquicklyatgjmshandsastheirprogramdefeatedmedepressinglyquicklyimustconcedethepointiwasoverconfidentandunderinformedandgjmfreakingwins". The actual process involved manual intervention, though I think a smarter program could have done it automatically. It went like this: * Consider key lengths up to 20. * Instead of picking the single "best" shift at each offset within the key, consider all shifts that come within 1 unit of best. (Meaning a factor of e in estimated probability.) * Display all the decryptions resulting from these options, unless there are more than 300 in which case display 50 random ones. This produced a big long list of candidates. None of them was right, but some of them looked more credible than others. Keylength 16 seemed to let us do the best, so I focused on that and picked one of the better-looking candidates, which looked like this: failhrecorkveefu ickllatigmuhaoss asthrirrooiranse featrdmgaerrethi nglyduiehlaimvht concrdeveeroioii wasoierelnhidfct anduadetfnhorntd andgwmftbaminhli ns which has lots of plausible bits in it. It looks like it should maybe start with "failure", a plausible enough word in this context, so I tweaked the fifth offset (yes! lots of other things got better too), and continued tweaking one by one as likely words and word-fragments jumped out at me. After a few tweaks I had the decryption above. A program clever enough to do this by itself would need to have some inkling about digraphs or trigraphs or something, and then it would need some kind of iterative search procedure rather than just picking best offsets independently for each letter. Not terribly difficult, but it seemed easier to do something simpler-minded. [Edited to add: I think the sequence of giveaway words for the tweaks was: "failure", "quickly" #2, "overconfident", done.]
Fantastic! Well done, sir.
So I think the conclusion is that solving Vigenere ciphers is easier than you thought it was but harder than you thought I thought it was :-).
I won't actually try to crack this since writing the program would take more time than I'm inclined to spend here, but the principle is simple: Do frequency analysis based on assuming the key is a particular length. If taking every 5th character gives you a letter frequency that resembles English, but taking every 4th or 6th character does not, then the key is 5 letters long. Proceed from there.
Yup. (One handy trick is to take message - shift(message,k) mod 26 for candidate values of k, and see which has a histogram that looks most like that of (English text minus other English text). But it's probably actually better to find good candidate shifts for each evenly-spaced subset of the text and look for ones that match up.) JRMayne's latest sample is still pretty short. It might require human cleverness to solve. If I have time tomorrow (and unless someone else has done it first) I may have a go.
(No, didn't have time. Sorry. Probably no time on Monday either...)
You understood my question better than I did. Thank you. Is the following paragraph correct?: If I had unlimited computing power, I could search for all the inputs that return 37ecb0a3164e6422bedc0f8db82e45ec from the MD5 function. Then I could search those inputs and see which ones are meaningful sentences in English, and then make an educated guess at what the message is. But in reality, it would take too much computing power to find even a single string that returns 37ecb0a3164e6422bedc0f8db82e45ec.
It's not quite correct, but you've broadly got the thrust of it. When two different inputs produce the same output from a hashing function, this is called a hash collision. Finding collisions in the SHA256 hashing function is part of how bitcoin mining works. It is very computationally expensive (which is kind of the point, re: bitcoin mining), but it's certainly tractable to find some input that generates the same output as another one. If you were to try and search the space of all possible inputs for MD5, you'd quickly(ish) find an input that collided with the Obama Werewolf input, but it'd be garbage. If you had some system for quickly and reliably generating comprehensible English sentences, and just searched that space, you'd probably find a comprehensible English sentence that collided with it, but it would almost certainly not be the Obama Werewolf sentence. It's worth noting that MD5 will take an input of any length, and the space of possible comprehensible English sentences of unbounded length is basically infinite. For short snippets of text, it's hard to find two comprehensible English sentences that collide under MD5, but in the link gjm provides above, there's a method for forcing the MD5 hash of a PDF by exploiting how MD5 works. For this reason and others, if you're doing any cryptographic heavy lifting, you probably want to use something more robust than MD5.
Really? Last I checked, the best known preimage attack against MD5 was too slow to be practical. Finding collisions is drastically easier, though I don't know any method for doing it with arbitrary plain-text English sentences.
You said you use this for ROT13ing things. How does that work? Suppose I wanted to make a Facebook post that gave my friends the option of knowing Obama is a werewolf, but also gave them the option for them not to know this if they'd rather be surprised later.
The Chrome plugin I linked to lets you carry out basic encoding functions in the browser, which includes stuff like rot13, URL-safe strings, a couple of hashing functions, etc.
I think the correct words are "digital signature", and there is a free program PGP who should be able to do it. There is also an EnigMail extension for the Thunderbird mail client, which automatically signs e-mail and verifies e-mail signatures. Sorry, I don't understand this topic well, so I can only give you these pointers.

Is there some reason to think that physiognomy really works? Reverse causation is probably the main reason, e.g. tall people are more likely to be seen as leaders by others, so they are more likely to become leaders. Nevertheless, is there something beyond that?

Is there some reason to think that physiognomy really works?

It is the case that appearances encode lots of information, because lots of things are correlated. For example, height correlates with intelligence, probably because of generic health factors (like nutrition). Nearsightedness and intelligence are correlated, but whether this is due to different use of the eyes in childhood or engineering constraints with regards to the brain and the skull is not yet clear. The aspect ratio of the face correlates with uterine testosterone levels, which correlates with masculinity. Those are just the particularly famous ones; an expert could keep going for some time.

The question of whether or not people's naive impressions correspond to actual correlations, though, is less clear. Overall, it looks like stereotypes are more likely to be right than not, and it's more likely that the ground fact shifts the impression than the impression shifts the ground fact. (How is thinking that blockier faces are found on more masculine men going to adjust the response of bone growth to testosterone in utero?)

The 2014 LW survey results mentioned something about being consistent with a finger-length/feminism connection. Maybe that counts? Some diseases impact both reasoning and appearance. Gender impacts both appearance and behavior. You clearly get some information from appearance, but it's going to be noisy and less useful than what you'd get by just asking a few questions.
..assuming the replies are truthful.
Why would anyone bother to send in false data about their finger-length ratios?
I meant that as a comment to this: It's easy to lie when answering to questions about your personality on e.g. a dating site. It's harder, more expensive, and sometimes impossible to lie via signaling, such as via appearance. So, even though information obtained by asking questions is likely to be much richer than information obtained from appearances, it is also less likely to be truthful.
Oh, I see, haha. Yes, that makes more sense, and your point is well-taken.

How does aggressively demanding compassion work? I mean, it does, politically, lots of social change was achieved by people going on the street and yelling the equivalent of "fuck you, you are harming us, we suffer, you asshole" but I guess on me it does not really work and I wonder on how it works on others. I am compassionate with people who come accross as harmless and non-threating for me, while when people come accross as aggressive or angry I am in a defensive-hostile, fight-or-flight mood. But apparently, not everybody, for this thing clearly seem to work.

Extrapolating from just the American civil rights movement and Indian independence movements, both of them were accompanied by barely contained violent movements with the same goals. Acceding to the demands of the peaceful protests provided a way to give the status of winning the conflict to the peaceful people while meeting the demands of the violent. Conversely, the recent Occupy movement had no real violent wing to speak of and while a lot of people showed up for the protests and there was a lot of awareness raised, there was no legislative impact at all.
I think the Occupy movement's bigger problem was their insistence on not actually making any demands at all.
I am not talking about violence, I am talking about demanding compassion in a lingo that does not sound harmless and non-threatening, so it is not "pretty please with sugar on top of it", but kind of challenging and angry. Um, Tumblr. I would expect this to create reactions of either fear or anger, fight-or-flight in other people and that is supposed to prevent the feeling of compassion. Yet, it is working, apparently some of this chain is not true, maybe it does not create fight-or-flight or it does but people can feel compassion while feeling that too.
Why do you think that angrily demanding compassion works?
I did not want to give concrete examples to avoid rustling feathers, but I saw this at pro-gay-marriage rallies or slut-walks.
I guess what I mean is how do you know that it was that tactic that worked? How do you know that the people who showed compassion afterwards did so because it was demanded of them and not because people making angry demands made them feel more safe openly showing pre-existing compassion? I tend to agree with your first impression. I certainly don't respond to hostility by handing over control of my emotions to hostile people. I get defensive of my position. Of course this is probably me committing the typical mind fallacy and trying to avoid thinking about the question by finding ways to disqualify it. So, one mechanism that comes to mind is that people who are more prone to guilt may see angry protesting as signaling an issue that their guilt can attach to and then subsequently act compassionately to alleviate their guilt. That's not very charitable since it assumes a kind of mental defect on the part of the compassionate, so maybe people who were not really aware of another groups suffering and don't feel too defensive about it once they're made aware of it and don't have any particular problem with the defining feature of the suffering group might feel that the angry demands are justified and come to feel/act compassionately for that reason.
Through forcing political and/or institutional and/or social changes. It's a slightly masked demand for redistribution of power.
Here's my speculation: By getting really angry about it, you're acting in a way that would make the desirable belief (don't misgender trans people, for example) common sense. Most people would get angry if you openly state stuff like "Women shouldn't be allowed to drive cars because they're stupid." By getting angry about less accepted stuff, you (try to?) give your belief a more mainstream status.
The complication is that you can succeed at getting specific behaviors by showing anger. Compassion and/or full inclusion in one's group is reflected by a much more complex and flexible set of behaviors, and I'm not sure anger is a useful tool for getting that.
Good point! Salemicus convinced me well that anger is an emotion felt over the felt violation of social rules, thus it can also be used to generate consensus and cohesion about social rules: One thing that is working on even me, even though I easily fall into flight-or-fight reflexes shutting down my capabilities to empathize, is "OMG I can't believe you just said that! Must be irony right?" Such a simple "trick" and works on me every time, I instantly wonder "Wait, I just violated a rule most people agree about and I was not even aware of its existence? Better crawl back under a stone, I don't seem to be able to keep up." The "trick" is that censure, judgement given with such a confidence feels like actually having a strong social support behind it, even when it is not the case.

Why does the edge of a shadow sometimes appear to shift when another shadow gets close to it?

Details: I was in front of a window. The edge of a chair cast a shadow on the floor from the window light. When I moved such that the shadow of my arm got very close to the shadow of the chair, part of the edge of the chair's shadow was "pulled towards" the shadow being cast by my arm. The shadow of my arms didn't appear to move. My arm was closer to the sun than the chair.

Interesting! I can see this happening when I wave my hand in front of my window. When the shadow of my hand gets too close to the shadow of my window frame, the shadow of my hand seems to elongate. The window frame is closer to the light than my arm is. It doesn't work if my hand is too close to the wall. It also seems to bend a little, depending on the angles; and if I have my fingers in a /\ shape and bring them together, I can make a shadow grow between them towards the tips, kind of like an A shape. One thing I notice is that shadows don't have hard edges, they fade out. When two penumbras overlap, you might start to perceive shadow where you weren't expecting it. Whatever is closer to the sun will have a wider penumbra, and this might cause the shadow to seem to grow on the other object. My two fingers were the same distance from the sun, so it grew equally from them. Unfortunately the sun went behind a building while I was writing this post, so I can't experiment further. If I'm right, I'd expect this to happen less with lightbulbs and other spot lights, where the penumbra will be smaller. Quick research... isn't very detailed, but it looks like I'm correct?
Yes! I think this is it. The wikipedia article links to these ray diagrams, which I found helpful (particularly the fourth picture). I suspected it had to do with an overlap in the penumbra, or the "fuzzy edges", of the shadow, but I kept getting confused because the observation isn't what you would expect, if you think of the penumbra as two separate pictures that you're simply "adding together" as they overlap.
See also this highly-upvoted question on the Physics Stack Exchange, which deals with your question.

Did anyone predict the sharp drop in oil prices?

Yes, for example Michael Lynch. He wrote a surprisingly modest column here about his predictions. The problem with Lynch, as he freely concedes, is that he absolutely didn't predict other price movements.
For years people have been noting that the entirety of the anemic growth in world oil production has been coming from these high-cost tight oil deposits and tar sands in North America, with all the companies involved going into massive debt resembling a financial bubble because the world economy could not support prices that high. It was no surprise to many that that would fall apart messily.

How does "calmness" work? Calmness in this context means that a person has an easy-going view on life, is likely to be free of stress and whatever you feel when there's chilly wind in a fall evening and you're sitting feeling tranquil (tranquility sounds like a good word)

I'm just like that (although people often tell me they think I'm feeling something else) and I wonder how does it work?

Another point of interest to me is what separates true tranquility from x-induced tranquility? I had a conversation with a coworker and she said that people who ... (read more)

Not stupid and anxiety, even anxiety disorders are a thing. Question: do your upper traps feel panfully tense? For me yes and I have this impression it may be caused by anxiety. IMHO neurotransmitter balance, either naturally or achieved with e.g. meditation. Anxious people are a bit too tuned for fight-or-flight etc. AFAIK cortisol is largely responsible for it. Things that work for me: * L-Theanine, suntheanine, it works really well, people use it reduce social anxiety but it seems to work for all kind * Magnesium with vitamin B! where i live the product is called Magna B6 * less caffeine or none * more sleep * exercise, not necessary boring stuff, actually fun sports * fewer blood sugar spikes
What works for me: relax the muscles; breathe deeply; stop the inner screaming; take time; imagine a larger context. Probably habits. I would guess some people have a habit of doing the things like I mentioned; other people like me have to consciously remind themselves to do it. But it also depends on the environment. It is easier to be calm if you have no real problems (unless you already have strong habits from the past when you had).
Tip for research: In personality psychology, the tendency to experience negative emotions is usually called neuroticism.

One way to control my daily alcohol habit was to switch to beer only, since there is a long standing human experience that more diluted drinks are easier to control. And as my after-work fluid intake is mostly beer, I realized that now my brain cannot tell the difference between thirst and alcohol cravings. Literally, I just managed to train my brain to thirst -> want a beer and cravings -> want a beer and now it does not know the difference.

One idea would be thirst-like feeling -> drink water -> re-examine, but water is not a very good thirst... (read more)

water is not a very good thirst quencher

Water is an excellent thirst quencher, I think your problem is that it's not a good want-a-beer quencher.

Does your at-work brain confuse thirst with alcohol cravings too? So test this by drinking something that isn't beer or water but matches your other criteria for good thirst quenchers. Carbonated water with lemon or lime juice in it will meet the criteria that you listed, but actually staying hydrated with water will just prevent you from getting thirsty in the first place. Seriously - ginger ale, lemon-lime or orange soda, etc. What? You're suggesting that you should train yourself to associate the taste of beer with satisfying your craving for hydration here, so the association that you're trying to de-train is the one between beer and satisfying alcohol cravings? That's crazy, dude. Look at how much energy you've put into thinking about ways to keep drinking beer while avoiding satisfying alcohol cravings and put the same amount into thinking about ways to not drink beer. That will be an easier way to decouple the satisfaction of your cravings for hydration alcohol. I'm an alcoholic and have been sober for about 7 years now so take that into account. My advice is that you quickly try all the ways you can think of to control your drinking. Make notes about what you're trying and how well it works. Track stuff like servings of alcohol consumed, etc. so that you can look at how well your control mechanisms work. Spend some time with no control mechanism in place and just track your consumption for a baseline if necessary (maybe even do this for a week or two in between trials to see if your baseline fluctuates). Make notes about things that trigger cravings. If something works, tweak it or stick with it. If none of them work, consider that you'll either need to abstain entirely from alcohol (and avoid things that trigger cravings for a little while) or that you're just going to slide further into alcoholism and make the necessary adjustments in your life to do those things. Gather information and be honest with yourself.
Thanks, it is good ideas. I got two different kinds of de-training completely mixed up. I decided that if you want to understand yourself you may start first studying others, because you will be more honest and less likely to find excuses, and then applying the lesson to yourself (not allowing new excuses). That is a good idea? I studied my late father and current father-in-law both classical blue-collar guys with classical blue-collar vices i.e. drinking more than healthy and probably being addicted (no textbook alcoholics: they were/are never actually drunk, just elevated "bubbly" every evening). One thing I have noticed is that the basic idea is that you don't enjoy your work and life much. And when the daily work is done you need a quick pick me up, something that quickly makes you feel good, for the blue-collar culture it is booze, for others, it is sugar (contributing to the obesity epidemic), drugs or gambling. They all act fast. Apparently, one reason more intellectual people (typical Silicon Valley types) have less of an addiction problem is that they enjoy their work and thus life enough, they don't need to quickly wash down another suck of a day, so they can have less euphoric hobbies in the evening, say, drawing or painting. I am fairly intellectual but for reasons I don't think I will ever have a very enjoyable job or life. It is mainly a must-do tasks to stay afloat kind of life. So I need to see how to cope better. A) I started studying what healthy "quickly pick me up" other people are using. I found music and socialization. I.e. they put on headphones when riding the subway or Facebook chat with their friends. Neither is to my taste or possibilities. Any other ideas? I.e. not the kinds of enjoyable activities that take investment, but the kinds that are easy as downing a drink or three, calling someone on the phone or putting on music. But it has to be a strong jolt, I am very easily bored. For example something like playing Settlers of Catan
I can't comment on alcohol use, but on recuperative activity: Different types of "burnt out" suggest different remedies. If you just spent 8 hours sitting at a desk, you might get a bump from a game of tennis, or a long walk. If you just spent 8 hours on your feet, that game of tennis might not help. If you just spent 8 hours alone, then socialize. If you were dealing with customers and coworkers and crowds nonstop, maybe do something alone. Anecdote: When I lived in college dorms (4 people in 2 bunk beds in a unit), my idea of heaven was sitting alone in a quiet empty room. The desire evaporated as soon as I moved out. Sometimes people match to the wrong class of remedies: If you're angry (a negative, high-arousal state), you might not want to go out with friends (social activity = further arousal). If you're lethargic and depressed (negative, low-arousal), the long hot bath might makes things worse (hot bath = low arousal).
I may try that, thanks. I hate the idea, that is why I don't talk at work either and consider it a victory when I did not open my mouth, but it still may be necessary. I mean, I gave up the notion of having one single "indivisible" "I" long ago. While one part of me hates it, it may be very beneficial for the other parts.
Reddit is a popular choice among people who are too smart to spend their days on Facebook. The main reason why I don't get drunk after work most days is that I usually do not buy alcohol.
I would probably distinguish between drinking to dull the pain ("The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation") and drinking to ameliorate boredom. I would also be very wary of structuring your life to receive easy, cheap, and fast "jolts" -- that's unlikely to end well. Off-the-top of my head alternatives: Sex. Intense exercise (e.g. parkour instead of jogging). Diving into another world (replace addiction to alcohol with addiction to e.g. Eve or Warcraft). Can your problem be described as "How can I feel alive"?
Perhaps yes. I have intense exercise (boxing) 3 times a week, and don't feel strong urges afterward, although, still use it, interestingly for the opposite purpose: to calm down, mellow out and be able to sleep. To a brain used to boredom a boxing training is so intense in impressions that sleeping for hours afterwards is impossible, as images and sounds go running around and twitches of muscles repeating movements and so on. But on normal days, the feeling alive thing is certainly missing. Our marriage is now largely platonic due to wifey being zombie tired from looking after our toddler, I never tried things like Warcraft, do you know why are they popular or addictive? I have heard they are full of "grinding" or "farming". Why do people like to MMO anyway, as opposed to something like single-player ACOK (a Mount & Blade Warband mod, highly recommended, Warbands mods are the only game I still play regularly, including Brytenwalda, L'Aigle and Anno 1257), is it the social aspect?
It's a complicated question, but a crude answer would be because they provide an easy and convenient activity structured so that you receive (psychological) rewards at a steady clip and because they provide a variety of rewards for people who want different things. Some people are loot-centric (and so they farm), some people are social-centric (and so they do things only with their guild), some people do PvP (some as a sport, and some as an exercise in griefing), some people enjoy exploration of the virtual world, some people like puzzles (e.g. how kill a boss with an underpowered character), etc. The relevant idea here, however, is that you leave the dull mundane world behind and submerge into a rather more exciting virtual world. Social is an important part of it, and not only because of "social" aspects, but also because it makes the environment much more unpredictable, complex, and challenging. In single-player games you are usually in full control. In MMORGs you are not.
I don't think this is exactly right. There is a correlation between intelligence and addiction, but it's not so strong that you won't still find a lot of addicts among the intelligentsia. Chemical addiction is a process whereby you ingest chemicals to stimulate your reward center. Smarter people who are wired in such a way that they can get the same jolt of reward-juice from working hard or whatever may be able to substitute that behavior as their trigger rather than a chemical like alcohol, but it doesn't mean it's not caused by the same kind of chemical deficiency. Also, as pure anecdota, I believe there is a probably a largely unmapped dependence on illegal stimulants (like ADD meds, not cocaine) in cultures like those found in Silicon Valley. I am currently a graduate student in Chemistry and have noticed a large percentage of my fellow students use such stimulants citing their performance enhancing properties despite evidence that such drugs decrease performance for neuro-typicals. With regard to points A) and B) A) There's no non-chemical boost that I can think of that will match the chemical boost. If you're into games on your phone, Minecraft PE is pretty open ended and may provide some of the stimulation you're seeking, but it sounds like you'd like a substitute for whatever fix addiction provides and if there's something like that it may be dependent on your neuro-chemistry. Common substitutes (according to google) include overeating, exercise, and burying yourself with work. B) Whether it's possible to just get used to not having that stimulation may also be dependent on your neuro-chemistry. I have done it and I know several other people who have done it, but I've also met quite a few who haven't been able to do it. I don't know of a foolproof method to stop an addiction. You're saying that you want quick jolts that don't require an investment. I don't have any good ideas for that. Learning to meditate seems to help reduce the importance attached to
Thanks, it is honest and partially useful. Music is an obvious counter-example to it. People who like it, can get completely "crazy" from something like Faithless : Salva Mea or The Prodigy: Firestarter. It is the strongest non-drug drug I know. Parachuting, bungee jumping and motorcylce riding also count. I just don't want to do them. But they do work like that. Meditation is a funny topic. First of all, 99% of the people I know think it means sitting with an empty mind etc. and you should expect some mental effect. However, what I practiced for years was entirely different, in the "red hat" tradition of Tibet it was not about empty minds but using imagination to visualize and also saying mantras, and it was not promised to have any immediate "trippy" effect, and indeed it didn't. The idea was more like long-term improvement. I should also say that in these gompas people tried to sit up straight but did not work very well. At another time I visited a Zen center, and here they made me use a very tall, thick pillow and sitting strictly on the edge of it, which was not so in the other one. This kind of moved my lower hip forward, upper hip back, creating a position where the bottom of the spine could be balanced, and it was easy to balance the upper spine, creating a much more straighter spine position than before. And it was the more common mediatation, just empty mind and watching the breath go out. And this kind instantly had very, very, very trippy effects. However I read stories from people who do not care that much about position, just sit up in bed roughly straight and still have effects.
Bunch of other things work like that as well -- alpine skiing, whitewater kayaking, mountain climbing, etc.
The obvious answer to me seems like "exercise", although that doesn't really fit your category of being something one may as well do on the subway back home (though walking or cycling home instead of getting on the subway might fit). Maybe more relevant to someone with a desk job than someone who's already been moving around all day in some manner for work.
No, exercise is a long-term mood stabilizer / antidepressant, but it does not have any immediate effects. At least my box training and push-ups done at home not. And should it be? Can you imagine an animal running around euphoric just because it is running? What I am looking for is things comparable to downing a few drinks, doing drugs or rocking out to music, I don't think exercise can have that kind of very quickly kicking in and very intense pleasure. And yes desk job. Does something as simple as walking have a mood effect on you? For me walking is something the autopilot does, it does not launch me out of my thoughts into enjoying the here and now.
Have you considered replacing immediate jolts with slower jolts? Just as your brain is ready to get serotonin flowing from exercise, it is also programmed to get it from eating (and cooking), and from hanging out with your children. Using these sources of longer-term positive reinforcement may also have positive feedback in improving your wife's afternoon, which may start an overall positive feedback loop in your family life. Also, you mentioned that you dislike noise. You may want to look into Sensory Integration Disorder - even if you have a mild case, some common coping strategies may improve your life and reduce your need for decompression time after work.
Oh, for me it does. I feel an enormous mood lift from a bit of exercise, especially if it takes place outside on a sunny day, and it kicks in pretty quickly. I agree walking may be not quite intense enough to get much of an effect (though I think it does a bit, for me), but I cycle to and from work (not fast or anything; it's a short distance, though a tiny bit hilly, and I'm a very casual cyclist) and that does give me a little boost most days, and some mental space between work and whatever's next. Of course, it sucks in horrible weather.
Update: the following worked for me for two days in a row now: Friday, a bit too much beer, finally convincing my brain it does not need a drink stronger than that to be sloshed. Being disgusted with myself and sticking to non-A beer for the weekend, thus taking care of the thirst part, without getting an effect. In the meantime, I realized this is very similar to the cigarettes -> e-cigs wit nicotine -> e-cigs without nicotine, just harmless sweet flavoured mist -> nothing progression. Maybe there is a theory behind this progression. Such as "change one variable at a time". Another good advice in the thread was to try to do the opposite of what you do at work after it. Since I tend to not socialize at all at work, and even after only with my wife and child mainly talking about everyday things, I am trying to overcome my slight annoyedness about music (or sounds in general) and will try to listen to music on the way home with interesting lyrics, maybe this works as a talk-simulator. I also upgraded my exercise habit to about 3x, trying to become fanatical in it, because I think another obsessions is as good idea for people with obsessive or addictive personalities, and the trick to it is to keep simple, it must be one very, very simple and repetitive thing so that it gets etched in. I think I will simply become a push-up monster, already 50 in the morning and will try another 50 in the evening, eventually aiming at 1000 a day. By that time if things go well it becomes another addictive obsession and can counter the old one.
That can make it hard to tell thirst from sugar cravings, though.
True enough. Tea or water would definitely be better choices.
Thirst from caffeine cravings! Okay, I'll stop now.

Are there any moral implications of accepting the Many Worlds interpretation, and if so what could they be?

For example, if the divergent copies of people (including myself) in other branches of Multiverse should be given non-insignificant moral status, then it's one more argument against the Epicurean principle that "as long as we exist, death is not here". My many-worlds self can die partially - that is, just in some of the worlds. So I should to reduce the number of worlds in which I'm dead. On the other hand, does it really change anything compared to "I should reduce the probability that I'm dead in this world"?

Nope, not really. With no math, the thing is, the different "branches" take up a fraction of the world. Classically you might say "If eating cake is 2 units of utility and not eating cake is 0 units, then a 50% chance of cake is 1 unit." Quantum mechanically, you'd say "If eating cake is 2 units of utility and not eating cake is 0 units, then 50% of my current measure going to eating cake is 1 unit." See Egan's Law.
I really, really hate the 'many worlds' idea, and I hope it's not true. All those almost-me's in all those worlds –what are they doing? Some of them may be great people, but lots of them are bound to be much worse than me. Every time my flipping imagination comes up with something horrible I could do, does some other Berna in some other world really do it? No, no, no, no – I really, really don't want to even think about that.
If they diverged recently, they're just you under different circumstances. As the point of divergence recedes into the past, the less you should call them 'you'. To the extent that they differ from you, they're different people. You might as well complain that other people are better or worse than you.
Thank you! You're right, of course, and that does make me feel better.

Have there been any rationalists on Jeopardy or similar game shows? It seems like there are a lot of high-IQ, well-educated, high-agency people in the rationality community who could make a good amount of money from such competitions fairly easily, which they could then use at least partially for effective altruism or similar high-utility causes.


I think you need to learn the kind of things for that that many people here would consider a waste of time to learn.

I agree that learning trivia for the sake of learning trivia isn't all that instrumentally useful, but don't a lot of people around here already know enough to generate the necessary trivia, especially since shows with clues like Jeopardy, and also shows with multiple-choice questions like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire are designed to allow deductive reasoning? I anticipate that at least a quarter of the LW population could get most of the clues on a game of Jeopardy right without any further training. One could test his ability to do so by simply watching a show from home and trying to answer all the clues/questions. And besides, if a utilitarian sees a way to save potentially dozens of people by gaining money to donate to effective charities, does it matter if they would have to do things that would be a waste of time if not for the arbitrary but still very real chance of gaining money from doing so? Isn't that reason enough on its own? I'm sure there are plenty of other things to take into consideration than simply the ability to win on game shows, such as potential status loss for appearing and higher potential status loss for losing, personal reasons to not want to go on national TV, etc., but this just seems like such an obvious thing to try to exploit for altruistic or even just personal purposes.
Well, I don't know the difficulty level of American TV quiz, but most European ones are chock full of pop culture and sports stuff and would you really know who won high jumping in the olympics in 1960 or who was the drummer of some silly hair metal band in 1980?
There was a good discussion on LW about Arthur Chu's performance on Jeopardy LINK - especially how he took advantage of regular patterns underlying question selection and "random" events to try and maximise his winnings. The comment thread on that discussion also mentions other "rationalist" practices by other contestants.
Note that Arthur does not consider himself a rationalist, and hates LW.
Specifically, he hates the idea that "politics is the mindkiller". If I understand him correctly (which I probably don't), I would say he believes he can rationally decide which side in a political conflict is "good" and which one is "evil", and then the correct strategy is simply to attack the opponents with everything you have. The whole concept of corrupted hardware and ethical injuctions probably seems to him like a clever excuse for not doing the right thing. If I tried to steelman (what I imagine to be) his position, I would say that today people overestimate their personal importance. Unlike in the ancient tribes, today the political battles have millions "fighting" against millions. Your own input is a very small fraction of the whole, and your probability of becoming a leader of the tribe is almost zero. Therefore your epistemic rationality is not really important in the large scale, but spreading memes that make people better or worse fighters can make a difference. Something like "Your price for joining" taken to the extreme -- your own sanity is the price, if you really care about an issue. If you care about your own rationality more than about the issue, that's your choice, but it is not the one that maximizes human happiness.
So, he was playing almost like Watson?
I seem to remember Roger Craig used a very systematic and rational approach to winning Jeopardy.
Why would it help with trivia?

Is the term 'expected value' interchangeable with the term 'expected utility?'

No. "Expected value" refers to the expectation of a variable under a probability distribution, whereas "expected utility" refers specifically to the expectation of a utility function under a probability distribution. That is, expected utility is a specific instantiation of an expected value; expected value is more general than expected utility and can refer to things other than utility. The importance of this distinction often arises when considering the utility of large sums of money: a person may well decline a deal or gamble with positive expected value (of money) because the expected utility can be negative (for example, see the St. Petersburg paradox).

Is there overwhelming evidence on the safety (not efficacy) of vaccines somewhere, and I've just missed it?

The amount of evidence depends on the vaccine, but the US National Academy of Sciences published a long report on this in 2011.

Are there standard terms for knowing or not knowing that a word covers more things than a particular person has in mind for it? It seems like a variant on the typical mind fallacy, but I think it deserves its own name.

I recently found a case of that sort of thing.

This? "Often the sender has a certain meaning to convey with his message, hoping the receiver will interpret it correctly. This right interpretation can be called the preferred decoding or preferred reading. When the interpretation of the message is different from what was intended, this can be called aberrant decoding." Or maybe this? "Word-sense disambiguation [...] is identifying which sense of a word (i.e. meaning) is used in a sentence, when the word has multiple meanings."

What is a 'critical notice?'

It depends on context. In terms of an academic paper, it basically means a scholarly review of someone else's work or publication. For example this article by Brian Ball is a critical notice of a book by Scott Soames. It discusses the ideas in the book, expands on some of them, casts doubt on others, suggests alternatives. Critical as in literary criticism. In terms of a product, particularly a computer, a critical notice is a warning that there's a severe problem, and normally accompanies steps to remedy the defect. Critical as in acute. There may also be other popular uses that I'm not aware of.
It was the first context. Thanks!

As a non-physicist who has read the non-technical parts of LW discussions on quantum mechanics, I find the argument for MWI over Copenhagen convincing: From what I gather it is uncontested that Copenhagen adds additional complicating assumptions which don't make falsifiable predictions. If that is true, it is certainly a good reason to prefer MWI

My stupid question is as follows: Can someone give an intuitive explanation if why we don't interpret this stochastically? Ie that someone wrote a simulation that selects an Everett branch at random from a dis... (read more)

At which moment do you select the random branch? The equations say that each branch has an "amplitude"; and unlike probabilities, these amplitudes are complex numbers. Which means that two nonzero amplitudes added together can produce a zero outcome. (As in: "yes, it is possible that 'A and X' happens, and it is also possible that 'A and not X' happens, but 'A' is completely impossible".) This effect almost completely disappears at larger scale, because what we define as a "state" on the large level includes zillions of possible states on the small level (for example, the state "the chair is in the middle of the room" corresponds to zillions of possible combinations of particles), and these large states interact just like classical probabilities, because of some mathematical laws about large numbers and complex numbers. So yes, on larger scale we can pretend that the world is randomly selected from all the possible branches. It just doesn't make sense on the small scale... which is exactly how the quantum effects were discovered, because we were originally thinking in terms of probabilities, and then we couldn't explain the double-slit experiment.

Has anyone dug into the numbers related to AGW in connection to the heat content of the oceans? I've seen the graph on this wiki page in several places, and I did a calculation suggesting that the heat capacity of the oceans is about 5e24J/(deg C). Since the graph suggests an increase in heat content of about 1e22J/yr, this calculation implies we'll get about 1 degree of warming in 500 years.

Is my calculation wrong? If so, why? Has anyone else looked into this?

It looks to me as if your calculation * assumes that all the surplus heat due to human activity goes into the oceans, and none into the atmosphere, and then * estimates the change in ocean temperature as opposed to any change in atmospheric temperatures. But when people worry about AGW it usually isn't primarily ocean temperatures they're worried about, it's land temperatures where people live and grow crops, and the mechanism they worry about isn't that human activities make the oceans hotter and everything else follows along, it's that human activities warm the atmosphere which changes human comfort and crop yields and so forth. So, assuming the consensus view on AGW generally, what your calculation suggests is that we should expect to see the atmosphere warming faster than the oceans. (That might have interesting consequences for things like winds but I don't know enough about this stuff for my guesses to be worth much.)
Let's not debate the larger AGW question, just the specific one about ocean temperature. Based on the estimated rate of ocean heat accumulation taken from the graph, as well as my calculation about the heat capacity of the ocean, it appears that we will get 1 degree of ocean warming in 500 years. True or false? If false, what's wrong with the calculation?
Heat content of the oceans is complicated because you can't treat the oceans as a single reservoir -- they have layers and these layers do not mix well. In particular, any warming of the oceans is confined to the upper layers. You can find lots of discussion e.g. here, or, more specifically, here.
Assuming that the simplifications you've made are OK -- which is a question for which you'd need an actual climate scientist or oceanographer -- there's nothing wrong with the calculation. I just don't see why it's a calculation whose answer we should be very interested in. Are you doing it just out of curiosity or is it intended to tell us something important about the impact of AGW?
Unevenly distributed. Most of the warming happens near the poles, the tropics change less.
And near the surface more than deeper.

Why does everybody seem to be so worked up about whether religion is true or not and call it theism or atheism? My Central European experience is that it is largely an institution, custom, habit, social expectation, identity, a way of expressing things and all that, but people did not really believe for 150 years at least, so it is not really something meant to be true for a long time now. I know there are people in the US Bible Belt who still mean it, and they have angry atheist children, but how comes the majority of Internet discussion kinda revolves around them? How many people on LW want to approach the topic from the angle Max Weber and similar scholars did?

I think the "everybody" is really an American-centric thing. As far as I can tell, all of the New Atheist types are non-European, or who focus most of their polemics on American audiences.

I've never lived in Europe, but this was my experience growing up in the US:

  • "You don't believe in Jesus/God? I must not have raised you right"
  • "You've treated me better than all of my previous boyfriends/girlfriends, but you don't believe in Jesus so I'm breaking up with you"
  • "You're new to the area? Where did you move from? Oh, Nowhereville, Alabahoma? I'm from Otherplace, Nevexico. So what church do you go to?"
  • "How come you're not going to the prayer breakfast/luncheon?"
  • "You didn't get the job/your car broke down/lost your wallet/etc.? Don't worry, god has a plan for you"
  • "Can you believe these scientists and their evolution/global warming/sciency science talk? They'll say anything to reject god, right? My pastor says XYZ so therefore it's true"

I've lived in a lot of places in the US and in my experience the places where this sort of stuff doesn't happen are mainly large cities like NYC or San Francisco. And even then, it has to be the parts of those cities that are leaning on the more affluent side of things. It's not just a USA Bible-Belt phenomenon... I've actually never lived in or visited the Bible Belt so it must be a lot worse there.

The funny thing is that everything I read (mainly fiction) or watch (movie) about the "cowboy" culture of rural America does not seem to reflect it much. OK it is clear that religion tends to ebb and flow, have low and high tides and there was a sort of a high one after 1970 ("moral majority"), still. Random example: Axl Rose from Guns'n'Roses. He is such a typical rural guy, in fact, he kind of revolutionized rock fashion by doing away with leathers and chains and basically dressing on stage like like a rural US agricultural tractor driver. There is hardly any reference to either religiousness or atheism in the songs. Just seems to not care. The whole rock and roll culture does not seem to care much and apparently never did, no matter how much I go back in time, Easy Riders, or even further. That matters, because that is the most popular aspect of America over here :) Many an aging Euro guy imitates all this ride choppers, wear cowboy boots and hats, indian jewelry, booorn to be wiiild kind of thing and it is authentic so far that at the very least the American musicians whose songs get listened to really don't seem to care either way. (Although of course there is one confounding factor: all this kind of thing feels very American but is often surprisingly not so, Born to be Wild is actually a Canadian song and so on, these things have a prairie-cowboy-freedom feel, but not really sure to what extent do the reflect actual American experiences or aspirations. This may be a different topic, but I think it is relevant to understanding. There is an America-as-a-concept many an aging Euro guy loves and religion does not seem to play much a role in it. It is based on various things. Like westerns. Who makes the westerns? Surprisingly, Italians like Mario Girotti! Let's test this! I love this shop, and wear some things from here, and it is not out of place at all for an older Euro guy esp. a bit outside cities. How does it look like with American eyes - completely fake?

How does it look like with American eyes - completely fake? Or normal?

It looks like a very exaggerated version of one particular America. There are shops that sell this kind of merchandise in the Western US, but they sell as much to tourists as to folks who actually dress like this.

What you need to understand is that there is more than one distinctively American subculture in the US. In particular, there are at least two major poor, rural, white American cultures: the high-religiosity country music culture, and the low-religiosity rock/metal culture. Though they can often be found side by side in the same trailer park, the same home, or even sometimes the same individual, there is also some real tension between them. Rock/metal appeals more to teenage rebellion, rejection of responsibility and civilization, rootless adventure. Country is more aspirational and its adherents see themselves as salt-of-the-earth folks who love their family, flag, and God. I guess that doesn't go over so much in Europe, so we mostly export rock culture. (Even in the US, urban upper-middle-class people tend to get the two cultures confused since they both equally reject things like suits and liberal arts degrees and clever hipster music.)

(European here. Also an amateur rock musician, FWIW.) It sounds like American urban upper-middle-class culture (you mean the one which Mencius Moldbug calls Optimates, Yvain calls Blue Tribe, Christian Lander calls SWPL, etc., right?) is even more foreign to me than I thought: I'm mildly surprised they find rockers outgroupish enough to lump them with country music folks. I'm also surprised by the association of rock/metal with "rural" -- the first place in the US that springs to my mind when I hear about rock would be somewhere like Los Angeles.
No, it's not that all rockers are poor, rural, and white, it's that one of the poor, rural, white subcultures likes rock and metal more than country music.
There are roughly four prototypical white American regions/cultures, which correspond to fairly clear demographic events. Two of these are distinct white "rural" cultures (crudely: the western cowboy and the southern redneck) but these are often misleadingly combined into a unified "rural" stereotype that doesn't really describe many actual people. This makes about as much sense as combining New York and San Francisco to create the archetypal "urban" American. Alas, the media is based in big coastal cities, and so even many Americans conflate the two. So I think what you've noticed is that the cowboy culture has this individualist current, that leads to fewer public displays of religion, even though the people tended to be privately religious. Whereas the redneck culture has a more group-based history, with an theological approach (Evangelicalism) that requires more public displays of faith. For the immigration element, look at this is map of self-reported ancestry. The huge region of self-identified German ancestry is centered on historically cowboy culture areas, and the Grey region labeled "American" is redneck culture. The "American" self-identification usually means Northern England / Southern Scotland / Northern Ireland, but far in the past. The Grey region is the so-called Bible Belt, sometimes just referred to as "the South", or as Appalachia. The lower-class whites in this area are the basis for the redneck stereotype (see Google images for pictures), but the area really doesn't have the cowboy flavor. The cowboy or frontier rural culture historically spread out over the modern-day-German-ancestry areas in waves. The modern impact of this is complicated, but it's sufficient to say that the rural cultures of the West are rather different from the rural culture of the South. So I'm not too surprised if aspects of cowboy culture appeal more to Europeans today than redneck culture, because the modern areas where cowboy cultural flourished were inhabited by
Why, wouldn't both be "Blue Tribe" ? This is very, very interesting! The romantic interest in the Wild West in Europe was started by a German writer, Karl May, who never even travelled to America... could there be a possible connection i.e. part of that culture is a German import he could observe around him in the original version near Dresden? On the superficial level, clearly no, the whole horse-and-saddle thing is Mexican in the origin and goes back to Spain actually. Its ancestry is still visible in the richly embroidered boots that give up a clearly Mexican vibe. But maybe some kind of a deeper connection? About the South: if it is so distinct from the West, here is what I am wondering. AFAIK the culture of the South was dominated by rather aristocratic, kinda French-styled (esp. in Louisiana) slave-owners and their slaves. Poor whites, as far as I can tell, did not play an important role in the South's economy around, say, 1830. How would that dynamic work out? In the West, the poor white could become an indepenent farmer, shopkeeper, rather quickly, hence the individualistic ethic. In the South, he would always feel playing second, or rather fourth fiddle to the plantation owners. Am I reasoning right and if yes what were its consequences?

Looking at people around me (EDIT: Central Europe), there are not so many hardcore believers (although I have already met a few of those, too), but there are many... I would call them "half-believers". People who believe they believe, and who follow the commands of the religious leaders when doing it is cheap. For example, despite what religion says about sex, they have as much sex as the atheists, only they later ask God to forgive them. They visit church once in a long time, for example only for Christmas, weddings, and funerals. Etc.

But in my opinion, even those half-believers can do a lot of damage. For example, they obey their religious leaders when the cost is paid by someone else. Does my pastor tell me to avoid premarital sex? Uhm, I will pretend I want to avoid it... then I will do it... and then I will confess my sins and ask forgiveness, just like all my friends do. Does my pastor tell me that homosexual marriage offends God? Well, since I am not a homosexual, I will follow God's will at this point.

Church tries to infuence politics, to get money from state, and to teach religion at schools. -- It is especially the last part which makes me extremely angry (as a ... (read more)

This is all true, but to stick to your examples, the don't seem to be working very hard on this kind of thing around here apparently were are almost at full equality already, and the second, if done well, is largely just values and morality education, not much mythology. Now, on the plus side, I do see half-believer churches trying to give people moral education where there is no secular alternative or it does not really motivate them. Look, talking about universalistic ethics based on either rational logic or a generic feeling of universal empathy works only for some people, largely for people who feel they have a surplus, they live in safety, and their upbringing was not very traumatic either. For the rest you need to make it emotionally more motivating and more relatable. Very often, you need to drop the universalistic aspect as it is very, very hard to understand, from that background and angle i.e. why care about someone just because he is human, they find it easier to do it tribal. Very, very often I see people who were raised to care only about themselves, and even the idea to look out for your tribe (fellow compatriots, fellow coreligionists, whatever) is an improvement. All too often I see kids from Budapest or Bratislava having horribly broken values, basically nothing you would realize as ethics, respecting nothing but money and power, having an every man for himself, rob or get robbed view, and I do see religious ethics having an improvement there. One thing that is working fairly well even in America is prison conversions. I do not have stats and hand, but my impression is they do prevent recidivism. The more a whole society looks like deteriorating into gangsta mores, the more useful religion looks like. I have read 50 Cents autobio and basically he was saying in between the lines that in the most desperate black ghettos in America generally only kids from religious families have what it takes to resist the allure of criminality. That many a black mo
Seems to me this happens mostly at dysfunctional families. But there are many of them. Otherwise, there is this "what would my parents think of me?" factor. In a society where families are fragmented, religion can serve a role of a substitute family.
Do you really think that this is currently an issue in the US public schools? If so, what sort of examples have you encountered? My kids are in public schools in a bible-belt state, and I have not seen anything of a religious nature in their schoolwork or materials. If churches are trying to get religion into the classroom, they don't seem to be very successful, as far as I can tell. Edit: as soon as I submitted, I thought of an example, thankfully not from the school district that my kids go to - some school districts require disclaimers in the biology textbooks stating that the theory of evolution is only a theory (or something like that). Is this the sort of thing that you mean? Are there examples other than this?
Sorry, I was speaking about Central Europe, or more specifically Slovakia. Edited the comment. We do not have the bible-belt situation here, but on the other hand, we also never had the official state and church separation. So the boundaries are flexible, and recently the church is gaining power.
Interesting. I think that a lot of people assume that religion is more likely to encroach on public life in the US than in Europe. However, based on your experience, it sounds like that may not be universally true. Even in the bible-belt, US schools are quite free of religious dogma (with the relatively uncommon exception of an evolution disclaimer).
In USA there is a long history of "fight" between religion and state, so the situation seems stable, both sides protect their trenches. In Europe, it totally depends on country. In post-Communist countries, during communism the religion was kinda illegal (unfortunately, atheism doesn't automatically imply rationality), so now people don't have the "antibodies"; but the degree of religiousness varies a lot. For example, Slovakia and Poland are highly religious, while Czech Republic is mostly atheistic. It probably also depends on the political system. When there are multiple political parties, there is usually a larger coalition necessary to win the election. And there is usually one religious political party, which sometimes gets to the parliament, which allows them to make laws favouring the church. (To give you a realistic example, imagine that the political powers at some moment are something like: 40% Communists, 9% Nazis, 5% Catholics, and the remaining 46% are a few small "sane and civilized" political parties together. Communists and Nazis are natural allies. Catholics can go either way, but for the sake of long-term image they would rather associate with the civilized side. However, their price for joining is that the winning coalition must sign a treaty with Vatican, giving various advantages to the church, financial and in education. In situations like this, keeping church and state separate is impossible.)
Just because your closest circle of friends and acquaintances think like what you just described, you should not generalize. Your closest circle does not represent the entirety of society, because it is heavily defined by your profession, political views and other factors.
This bothers me as well. I don't see why rejecting the mythology should be grounds for rejecting the institution and its many social functions that have yet to be replicated in any capacity by secular organisations.
My point is about understanding and analysis, not approval or rejection. But if you mention the rejection angle, there I have a different fear: the general low sanity waterline means destroying other-wordly religion generates this-worldly ones and they are more dangerous. If people need to have wishful thinking, better put it into an other-world box and not apply it to the real world. E.g. I think moderately religious people tend to be politically sane because they not need to invest their wishful thinking, hope, etc. into politics. They have a handy box called afterlife they can invest them into. Thus, they can afford to see politics in a sober way, not expecting much from it. They don't expect political saviors etc.
Some religious social functions are denied to people who do not believe, or are unwilling to lie to their loved ones about their disbelief. It's one thing to attend church services, quite another to participate in a baptism wherein you swear to the best of your ability to raise the baptized child in a belief you think is a flat lie. Some religious social functions may be deemed socially harmful, for instance the inculcation of false material or social beliefs in children. (I don't mean false beliefs of the form "Jesus loves you", but of the form "experiencing lust corrupts your mind", "listening to the Beatles will cause you to join a cult", or "yoga is an occult practice and doing it will cause to become insane".) In many cases, the institution uses its access to members to advocate specific political and social positions which are opposed to humanist values; thus, the atheist humanist may see the organization as a political opponent.
I think this, again, is some kind of a very conservative Bible Belt thing. Outside that area in the Western world very few people do it because of real belief. For example my grandpa (Central Europe) went to church because everybody did, because it was the custom in the village. Nobody cared if he believes or not. How to put it... they were not as egalitarian as to ask a rural blacksmith to ponder about the mysteries of theism and atheism. It was more like, shut up and do the moves, and leave high thoughts to high ranking people. He never spent five minutes thinking if he is theist or atheist. He went to church, then had some kind of fallout with the priest, he disliked drunk people and the priest was drinking or something, and then just did not go anymore, basically withstood the social pressure from that on saying I don't go there that guy is an ass. But beliefs never came into question. They were not exactly expected to think, only to behave as said. He did not think it is lie or truth. He was not supposed to think and did not care about thinking about it at all he literally said "The paternoster is the priest's job. Mine is working with iron." Humanism sounds like a dangerous thing. I am not entirely sure what it entails, however I have seen cases where people who were no longer able to pour their wishful thinking and hopefulness into other-wordly religions have invested them into this Earth and life and thus ended up making utopias and forcing and fighting others to comply to them, replaying the whole crap of religion: fighting heretics and unbeliveres, establishing theocracy etc. the most obvious example is communism. Another issue was that for example when people stopped believing in original sin they started to believe in crap like "human nature is good only society makes us bad" which is obivously hugely unscientific. This went back as far as Rousseau and influenced modern history a lot. So I would not base my values on the explicit rejection of religiou
I think LW participants are probably much more troubled than the average about making public declarations that they believe something that they don't actually believe. (I'm not sure I have very good reason for this, beyond the fact that I'm fairly sure it's true of me and it seems handwavily like I'm fairly typical of LWers in this area.) So if people here -- or others who resemble people here -- are more worked up about (ir)religion than you expect, this may be part of why: the attitude you describe that would make it easier not to get worked up doesn't come naturally to those people.
The exact same thing could be said about secular-humanist organisations - suggesting that there's nothing inherently wrong about such a standard even from your perspective. Sure, they outwardly profess being much more open and accepting than institutions of traditional organised religion, but the overwhelming majority probably wouldn't accept a creationist baptist or a wahhabi, for good reason - and the same goes for religious institutions. I don't think anyone should be forced to associate with people who openly reject and oppose their world-view, which seems to be what you're proposing.
I'd assumed that was a side effect of North American hegemony of the Anglophone Internet. But now I notice I don't actually know how people talk about religion on websites not dominated by Americans or Anglophones. Is there more focus on analysis or on normative judgement? If the latter, do people judge local religious institutions rather than American religion? Or is the target still mainly the Bible Belt and the like? (I could just Google things like "Slovenian atheist forum", run the results through Google Translate, and see what people are posting. But it's probably hard to get a representative view that way.)
An atheist forum would be the same, but the whole point is that mostly they would not debate religion as theism vs. atheism. People would be more likely to be anti-clerical than atheist, hating the church as an institution in society, that spreads conservative ideas and props up authoritarian regimes. On the other side, people would be talking about "Christian values" not about faith or belief. Not even belief in belief (of factual statements), but belief in that the values, the norms, the prescriptions are useful. They would also talk about identity, like a "national christian identity"

Kind of a weird question. I've noticed that when I'm at work, my eye often starts twitching. It typically twitches on and off throughout my workday, and stops whenever I take a break. This only happens when I'm at work. Is this some known psychosomatic thing, or should I talk to a doctor about it?

Why does anyone think BitCoin is going to work when its users aren't mostly BitCoin enthusiasts?

I'm specifically referring to incentives of 51% attacks. The returns on mining seem to increase as computing power eclipses 50%, creating an economy of scale in mining and incentivicing attacks.

I had an arguement with my gilfriend about how on earth golden rock doesn't drop over an edge (

I said there must be scientific explanation of course, that the rock is somehow heavier on the opposite side of the cliff, and that the monks probably knew some math, or just picked up this one trick from unknown piligrim

And she continues to argue that this is magic and it is the legendary Buddha's hair that prevent the Stone from falling...

Show her some pictures
Have you asked her how to test if there is such a hair? Why she favors that hypothesis? Does she think this is magic? Restricted to the premise that some form of Buddhism is correct, how would it fit with the idea that everything is impermanent that Buddha would have a magic hair that delays inevitable falls? I'm not even sure one needs anything as complicated as being heavier on one side, even if the rock were uniform the center of mass would be above the cliff.
Have you got an idea how to test this, without actually raising or destroying the rock? Or maybe you got some other piece of Buddha's hair in your grandma's cellar? Impermanence is the only permanent thing I guess btw it might not be helpful; And you are obviously right about that it is only the center of the mass that matters

Is there any effect that chemical composition of a gase has on its behaviour when it is heated/cooled (in the range where it is a stable substance and not a liquid)? (just popped into my head all of a sudden, sorry.)

This? "Since the ideal gas law neglects both molecular size and intermolecular attractions, it is most accurate for monatomic gases at high temperatures and low pressures. The neglect of molecular size becomes less important for lower densities, i.e. for larger volumes at lower pressures, because the average distance between adjacent molecules becomes much larger than the molecular size. The relative importance of intermolecular attractions diminishes with increasing thermal kinetic energy, i.e., with increasing temperatures. More detailed equations of state, such as the van der Waals equation, account for deviations from ideality caused by molecular size and intermolecular forces."
Thank you, yes. (I always kinda hope they would include some links to experimentally determined parameters for at least some gases, though; would be nice to be able to have a layman's shortcut:)

Is there a reason why we have trouble defining counterfactuals? Does this only apply to defining counterfactuals mathematically?

Intuitively a counterfactual/hypothetical situation seems like a simulation to me. But I've heard a couple times on the site that we don't know how to define counterfactuals in AI, so I feel like I must be missing something.

Could I have some advice on salary/benefit negotiations?

I just got a formal job offer from the company where I interned last summer, and it's about what I expected/think I'm worth. I really want to just take the job, but I don't want to leave money on the table; my understanding is that expected value of trying to negotiate should be positive regardless. On the other hand, the company basically knows I'm going to take the job, so I don' t believe I have much power in these negotiations.

Since the whole reason I want more money is to be able to donate more, ... (read more)


How do you assign probabilities to expected lengths of inferential differencies needed to technically understand clearly 'cascading' issues? I mean, the grass is green. I know it has to do with light being selectively reflected off it, because of photosynthesis, because of the plant needing energy to live. I estimate the ID in the range of c. 5 steps (the level at which I'd feel comfortable in predicting outcomes of adding fertilizers to vegetable garden) to 50 (answering an exam question). Yet, I happen to need knowledge of photosynthesis now and again, a... (read more)

But when it comes to messy gene expression networks, we've already found the hidden beauty - the stable level of underlying physics. Because we've already found the master order, we can guess that we won't find any additional secret patterns that will make biology as easy as a sequence of cubes. Knowing the rules of the game, we know that the game is hard. We don't have enough computing power to do protein chemistry from physics (the second source of uncertainty) and evolutionary pathways may have gone different ways on different planets (the third so

... (read more)

Urrgh, fluctuating priors... Went to work, thought 'I'd rather face some nasty threatened-flowers-sellers than face my Dept. Head'. Declined joining a celebration specifically because I could need 0 alcohol levels if I do have to argue about law. Didn't meet DH, but... Went home and almost got served by 5 NTFS. Updated my priors. But come Tuesday, I just know I'll update them back!..

What do you do when you know you're inconsistent about certain subjects?

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What will "religion" look like in the next 100-300 years?

This comes up in the new Edge discussion between Yuval Noah Harari and Daniel Kahneman;

In terms of history, the events in Middle East, of ISIS and all of that, is just a speed bump on history's highway. The Middle East is not very important. Silicon Valley is much more important. It's the world of the 21st century ... I'm not speaking only about technology.

In terms of ideas, in terms of religions, the most int

... (read more)

Yet she sleeps with a man on the space ship, showing that she practices a liberal morality by traditional christian standards.

About that...

The usage of making a trysting-place of the church by young men and young women was so universal that only moralists were scandalized by it. The virtuous Christine de Pisan makes a lover say in all simplicity: "Se souvent vais ou moustier, / C'est tout pour veoir la belle / Fresche comme rose nouvelle."

The Church suffered more serious profanation than the little love services of a young man who offered his fair one the "pax," or knelt by her side. According to the preacher Menot, prostitutes had the effrontery to come there in search of customers. Gerson tells that even in the churches and on festival days obscene pictures were sold tanquam idola Belphegor, which corrupted the young, while sermons were ineffective to remedy this evil.

As to pilgrimages, moralists and satirists are of one mind; people often go "pour folle plaisance." The Chevalier de la Tour Landry naïvely classes them with profane pleasures, and he entitles one o fhis chapters, "of those who are fond of going to jousts and on pilgrimages.&q

... (read more)
If there are any significant brain changes, all the bets are off. The easiest brain change would be accepting psychedelics as part of religious practice. That wouldn't even take new technology. However, it wouldn't surprise me if there's going to be intelligence increase technology and more sophisticated methods of emotional modification. I assume the desire for religion has something to do with brain chemistry/structure, and brain tech probably isn't going to be tested for how it affects religiosity. Karen Armstrong has a theory that new religions arise (sometimes?) when a culture's methods of doing things are clearly not working. We could be heading into a period of institutional breakdown. If that leads to one or more major new religions, the details are assuredly not predictable.
I am reading Karen Armstrong's The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions now; it is really quite interesting. Armstrong is one of the best writers on religion that I have encountered.
Predicting the future is tricky business. No one's going to disprove the existence of God anytime soon, and besides religion has close ties to culture. Uncertain times have often led people to seek refuge in the old traditions. On the other hand, many of the social pressures to attend the local church have faded now that people can readily find like-minded individuals online and form their own communities. We see religion becoming more popular in some places and less popular in others. Christianity is on the rise in China, for example. Many faithful are incorporating changing social mores into their belief, while many of the secular dabble in Eastern mysticism. Then again, global nuclear war could render the question moot.
I doubt that global nuclear war would wipe out the human race. So far as religion is concerned, I expect that there will mostly be religions derived from religions that exist now.
I'm fairly sure that this is already fairly common among today's Christians. Far from universal, but far from unknown. Needlessly rude, I think.
The options seem to be: * less education, * more complex rationalization, or * more compartmentalization. On the other hand, unless there is some really amazing improvement in education (one that would make people not only better remember the teachers' passwords, but also understand physics and rationality on the gut level), I could imagine the religion in 300 years to be pretty much the same as it is today. If people can imagine Santa Claus and microwave oven existing in the same universe, they can also imagine Santa Claus and quantum teleporter existing in the same universe.
The religious mainline cultural institutions are simply too wealthy to disappear in 300 years, especially if they don't pay taxes. I would assume that they will simply adapt with the times as they always have. I could see world where people consider Islam or Catholicism like we see the Amish today, as outsiders.
Today I see two general and opposite strategies. Some people basically accept the modern world at least as far as technology goes, keep their religious beliefs, but modify the, how to put, aesthethics of it to fit the modern world (but values, politics often not, creating strange mixes) and basically you get the kind of American Protestant churches that have TV screens with preaching recordings going in it or Chick comics for some to me strange reason nobody says "But wait, we are conservatives, we are not supposed to like all these modern things like screens and comics, we should try to keep things old!" This is a strange mix, because it is aesthethically and technologically modern yet the content of beliefs and values/politics can be unmodern and it can come accross as a shock. I cannot predict what will happen with them because this is a mindset very different to me, I always keep my aesthethics and conent in synch. If I want to preach liberalism, I won't wear a medieval robe. Conversely, I cannot imagine preaching 19th century sexual mores without wearing 19th century clothing and so on. I simply cannot predict how minds like this function. Some other people are more like, conservative is conservative. This is more amongst aging European Catholic populations: they try to reject the modern world in a more coherent way, they watch little TV, they go to really old looking churches, they read old poetry, watch operas, go to stage plays not cinemas, wear bow ties, really try to keep things old and shut out modernity. They are not Amish, so they will use technology at work, but kinda need to be dragged into it. These people are at least understandable to me, their worldview is coherent. I used to think this will become extinct, as modernity offers so many advantages. However it seems people don't use those well. People have a smartphone in their pocket they could use to learn things from Wikipedia yet they use it to like jokes on Facebook while they ride the subway.
You seem to be assuming that beliefs, values, and politics progress in the same way that technology does, that saying e.g. "Renaissance values" implies a step forward from e.g. "medieval values" in the absence of some catastrophe. Conservatives of this type don't believe that. That's why they're conservative.
Not everybody believes in technological progress also being a step forward, towards something better either. Luddite atittudes exist and not every elderly grandma is approving of young people being on their smartphones all the time. (Interestingly, the great historian Johan Huizinga wrote in The Twilight of The Middle Ages precisely about this: that, apparently, back then there was not much enthusiasm but more of a mood of a things breaking down.) At any rate, my point is something a bit different. It is closer to fashion than progress. Current technology is fashionable. As an attire. Just like fashionable clothes. It is holding up a sing "I love that it is 2015!". While the idea of religious conservatism should be more like "I want it to be 1900!" and this is why I don't understand how can it wear technology as an attire or accept any other current fashions, like, what I have recently heard about, the "beat mass", doing Catholic Mass as beat music, early rock, like The Beatles. How does this work in people's minds to combine two things from two very different dates. Why don't they hate everything modern.
A fashion model is IMO more reasonable, and closer to what I believe, but I don't see any particular reason for ethical fashions to track closely with aesthetic ones, or for retro taste in one to necessarily align with retro taste in the other. I'm rather fond of Migration Period knotwork designs, for example, but I'm not about to raid my neighbors for cattle.
But that knotwork is just decoration, icing on the cake. Aesthethics, for me, is a much more deeper concept - everything you viscerally like, as a terminal value, everything that presses your 'Aww yiss!" buttons. Do you find the aesthethics of a Migration Period warrior also appealing? Helpful: