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It seems that our brains sometimes aren’t wired for a world in which events far into the future are actually pretty predictable, leading us to procrastinate on things like exams, papers, doing our taxes, and the like.

I wonder if there are ways to make future events feel more certain.

I feel like I need to post this somewhere. This is the most ridiculously broad journal article I've ever seen. The paper is Categorical Ontology of Complex Spacetime Structures: The Emergence of Life and Human Consciousness, and here's the abstract:

A categorical ontology of space and time is presented for emergent biosystems, super-complex dynamics, evolution and human consciousness. Relational structures of organisms and the human mind are naturally represented in non-abelian categories and higher dimensional algebra. The ascent of man and other organisms through adaptation, evolution and social co-evolution is viewed in categorical terms as variable biogroupoid representations of evolving species. The unifying theme of local-to-global approaches to organismic development, evolution and human consciousness leads to novel patterns of relations that emerge in super- and ultra-complex systems in terms of colimits of biogroupoids, and more generally, as compositions of local procedures to be defined in terms of locally Lie groupoids. Solutions to such local-to-global problems in highly complex systems with ‘broken symmetry’ may be found with the help of generalized van Kampen theorems in algebraic topology such as the Higher Homotopy van Kampen theorem (HHvKT). Primordial organism structures are predicted from the simplest metabolic-repair systems extended to self-replication through autocatalytic reactions. The intrinsic dynamic ‘asymmetry’ of genetic networks in organismic development and evolution is investigated in terms of categories of many-valued, Łukasiewicz–Moisil logic algebras and then compared with those obtained for (non-commutative) quantum logics. The claim is defended in this essay that human consciousness is unique and should be viewed as an ultra-complex, global process of processes. The emergence of consciousness and its existence seem dependent upon an extremely complex structural and functional unit with an asymmetric network topology and connectivities—the human brain—that developed through societal co-evolution, elaborate language/symbolic communication and ‘virtual’, higher dimensional, non-commutative processes involving separate space and time perceptions. Philosophical theories of the mind are approached from the theory of levels and ultra-complexity viewpoints which throw new light on previous representational hypotheses and proposed semantic models in cognitive science. Anticipatory systems and complex causality at the top levels of reality are also discussed in the context of the ontological theory of levels with its complex/entangled/intertwined ramifications in psychology, sociology and ecology. The presence of strange attractors in modern society dynamics gives rise to very serious concerns for the future of mankind and the continued persistence of a multi-stable biosphere. A paradigm shift towards non-commutative, or non-Abelian, theories of highly complex dynamics is suggested to unfold now in physics, mathematics, life and cognitive sciences, thus leading to the realizations of higher dimensional algebras in neurosciences and psychology, as well as in human genomics, bioinformatics and interactomics.

I can't tell whether these guys solved science or are just really, really confused.

I've been skimming it for ~20 minutes. Every single paragraph or page that I've read made sense to me, although for the non-math parts I have to trust that their citations and references are correct and in context.

I can't yet say what the overarching purpose of the paper is exactly, beyond the general idea of "Hey guys, let's formalise this shit!", but I would put the chances of there actually being meaningful work in the PDF at between 0.6 and 0.7. I will certainly agree that there's a ton of filler in there, but it's quite useful if - as they claim - the target readership for this paper is an ensemble of philosophers, psychologists and scientists with the most diverse backgrounds.

It reminds me a bit of a paper by two of my professors, which took the Kantian philosophy of knowledge and rephrased it in the form of topology, in the process (allegedly) managing to clear away the ambiguity from a few philosophical terms. Though in their case they treated it quite lightly, as little more than LaTeX-ing up some of their coffee chats.


Before looking at the paper: my guess is a Sokal-style hoax, or spoof of some sort.

At least one of the authors appears to be a legitimate mathematician.

After looking: sadly, it seems no "solution of science" is forthcoming:

[W]e do not lay claim to ‘solve’ any major ontological problem in this essay, such as the question of existence of an essence for every ontological item, or indeed how highly complex systems, processes or ‘items’, in general, have come into existence...Instead, we are enquiring here if new methodological tools may be brought to bear...

(from p.225, or p.3 of the PDF). One possible reading of this is: "we're full of you-know-what, and we know it, but in the event that the reader is too clueless to notice, we don't mind getting a publication out of it." But of course the authors may be legitimately confused or deceiving themselves. Or it could be a hoax (a multi-article one, as the authors have apparently published more than one of these things).

The paper presents what appear to be accurate surveys of various topics in mathematics and physics, linked together with buzz-talk. It's basically a work of postmodernism: Sokal, but possibly with sincerity and without the politics. To put it in terms the authors should be able to appreciate: it's locally correct but globally nonsense.

Looks like concentrated confusion to me.

That's probably the most likely answer, but I don't understand it well enough to judge its validity.

Looks like category theory. There seems to be a bunch of weird theory of everything type stuff there, especially systems theory like this, but also people who appear seriously competent. No idea about these guys though.

Maybe if we look into a mirror and say John Baez's name three times, he'll appear here and say this is crackpottery.

Yes, but its not just category theory, it's partially a philosophical theory for "super-complex systems" as well (from what I understand). But the prereqs to understand this paper are far beyond what I'm at right now, so I really don't know what to say about it other than that a theory as broad as that one should have a lot of evidence for its formulation.

Yes -- I remember having an idea recently that I thought was worth posting as an open thread comment, but didn't seem worth making a post on, even here on the discussion section.

Unfortunately, I don't remember what the idea was!

But this experience does suggest that open threads may continue to be useful.


Yes, good idea. There should be an Open Thread each month for items not sufficient for a top-level discussion :-)

I made it to the third round of The Great Designer Search 2!

Wish me luck.

Congrats and good luck!

I have a collection of unpublished card and set ideas on my hard drive, languishing from back when I was into MtG. If you're interested and the rules allow it I could share them. (I'm sure there's a policy one way or the other, given the huge number of card-idea forums that contestants could read through, or could read and then later accidentally repeat without remembering what the source was, but a quick skim didn't find an answer.)

Actually, the rules not only allow people to get outside assistance, they actually require it.

E. Four of the ten cards may not be created by you. These four cards must come from the Magic Wiki. You will list the address on the Wiki of each card you use that is not your own. (How to do this listed below.) Remember that you are allowed to ask the public for cards, but only cards submitted on the Wiki may be used. You may change the name and card type of the card to match your world and may make minor (and I do mean minor—we should be able to tell it's the same card) tweaks to the rules text.

I've refrained from asking for help here because last time I checked, there weren't that many other Magic players here. So, since you are a Magic player, I hereby request your help!

This is the Round 3 assignment. It's due at 11:59 PM on Sunday.

This is the Wiki that was mentioned above. In order to edit pages, you have to make a forums account, log in, and then choose "join group" from the wiki page I linked to. Once you've done that, follow these instructions to add your content.

This links to what I had done before I found the Round 3 test.

So far, the cards I've got in my design submission include a white/blue planeswalker, a tweaked version of a black creature my brother designed, a green creature, a black instant, an artifact, and a land. Which means that the four cards not yet finished need to include an enchantment, a sorcery, and a red card.

Hm, so now we know you didn't make it, but I can't help but notice Deadsands has quite a bit of resemblance to your idea. I wonder if we'll be seeing your ideas mined for a lot of Deadsands cards soon?

My card ideas on the wiki. Looking through my old card ideas, a lot of it was, in hindsight, crap, so that's filtered down quite a bit. I also have a set premise, but it's way too complex to fit in the wordcount requirements of the competition.

(The basic idea was to make it mono-colored, pushing in the opposite direction of Ravnica, then make each color a different type of spellcaster, with very different flavor and mechanics, and something conspicuously missing. For example, red would be an Alchemist, with lots of spells based around combos of opportunity - small-yield combos that're easy to set up, like auras that like to fall off, plus a very high density of linear mechanics; blue would be the D&D wizard with memorization, a morph-like mechanic for 1U without getting a 2/2 out of it; green would be a druid with lots of animal-like creatures, and greatly simplified with instant speed removed entirely; white would be mundane, with nothing magic-flavored whatsoever, and no sorceries, enchantments, or flying (flying replaced by Stealth, "this creature can't be blocked except by scouts and walls", appearing only on scouts)).

Good luck!

You are never too cool to draw a picture.

-- SarahC


Awesome pair of blog posts by Terence Tao:

In the first post he examines such arguments in set theory, logic, computability, game theory, and physics. In the second post he casts these "counterfactual" arguments into more constructive ones.

Are the Sequences collected anywhere in a format that allows for offline reading?

I was just looking for an epub of them the other day. I figured I'd rather re-read them from an e-reader than a terminal. There doesn't seem to be one.

I guess it'd be a matter of figuring the url sequence of pages you want to compile into the book, doing a batch download of the pages and any embedded images, and using some kind of scraper tool to extract the article title and body from the site navigation junk on the html, and then concatenating the resulting pages into an epub.

Eli's Collected OB Posts goes up to March 2008, but I haven't found anything similarly convenient for the rest of them.

Sometimes in my weak moments, I'm really scared about what output the collective volition of all humanity will actually produce.

Is it me or has everybody stopped thinking about molecular nanotech risks in the last couple years?

I was hoping to learn quantum mechanics, what are the recommended text books on the subject? (I can cope with the maths.) I'm sure someone has asked this here before, but my searches were unsuccessful.

This blog post by John C. Wright (atheist-turned-Catholic author of the AI-centric sci-fi trilogy The Golden Age) compares evolution (or fiction's idea of it) to the god Azathoth. It's unclear whether he got the meme from LW, but he's been a click away from it at least once.

Yesterday's Dinosaur Comics discusses extreme brain-dumping, and today's news posts links to an article about Lion Kimbro, someone who tried it (and wrote an online book, How to Make a Complete Map of Every Thought you Think).

Last year [2003] he spent three solid months writing down everything that came into his head. He got so immersed in making notes that the rest of his life was put on hold while he sorted them and understood them.

(...) "It may feel that for the first time in your life, you really have a clear idea of what kinds of thoughts are going through your head."

(...) Lion emerged from his experiment a changed man. As a result of spending months thinking and writing down his thoughts with a pen, his brain had started to work in new ways.

It sounds similar to what one might do to stage a crisis of faith, without necessarily knowing at the start what beliefs they'll question.

The article was partly condensed from this interview (note same author, Giles Turnbull).

"What I *didn't* antipicate was the freezing effect. That's where your mind re-hashes old things and sort of unconsciously avoids new things. (It's real, I've come to understand why it happens much better, through work in wiki, where it can happen as well.)

One reason I love Alloy

Now, my former W3C colleague Dan Connolly pointed out to me a long, long time ago that one can use specification languages like Alloy not just to check software designs, but to test our understanding of things we read. Dan told me once that when he really wanted to understand something, he tried to model it using a specification language and prove at least a few trivial theorems about it.

This is a request for advice. (I hope this is the right place for this. Decided against the discussion area.)

Hello LessWrongers! Well, this is more for those who do/dig AI in particular.

I do an BSc Hons degree in AI at the University of Edinburgh, and I'm in 2nd year. Recently because I have been requesting concessions to take math courses not usually permitted, I have been offered an opportunity to switch my degree to one of AI & Maths (BSc Hons).

Before I entered university, when I decided on BSc AI, I was mainly concerned with course structure. But after reading much Robin Hanson, I realize the importance of signaling. This is not to say it is all signaling of course. There is also the question of signaling what and to who.

The course structure of AI&Maths does look moderately more interesting and fun, now that I have had first hand experience of the math courses for BSc AI students. But how do I weigh this up against signaling considerations?

So what do I want to signal? I'm not entirely sure, but my first choice is to do research, though not necessarily in academia. I want to give off the impression that I can bring deep theory out into hard practice. So perhaps signaling unconventionalism is not too detrimental to my hoped-for prospects, maybe even beneficial. But I also don't want to signal my head being lost in the clouds. First choice of research area is of course AI, but I'm OK with anything that has leverage into increasing our collective problem solving ability.

Should I consider an entirely different degree altogether? Physics for instance, because it conveys ability to just solve any damn problem?

If you have any experience/knowledge that are relevant to this decision, I kindly request your advice! Thanks.

This is not based in experience or knowledge, but I'm suggesting it anyway.

The best signal might be actually doing something cool that takes theory into practice.

It's good to know it's more generally valued as well. Thanks.

Let me underline this. I was guessing. It seems like a very plausible guess, but you might consider other methods of getting information about ways of getting what you want.

Don't worry, I have. I will seek out the the services of a certified medical professional!

The case of this comment makes me a bit worried about LW's sanity. As such, I'm escalating the issue by also linking to it from here. Discuss.

IMO, it's fine to call out unsubstantiated assumptions about convenient technological solutions becoming available in our lifetime as an excuse to avoid planning for problems. I'd guess the tricky part is where you describe the belief as absurd. A less charitable reading will assume that you're writing off the claim as nonsense because you think that biological immortality and uploading are nonsense as concepts, though your follow-up comment written after the downvoting shows that this isn't the case.

The funny thing in this particular case is that spreading memetic noise about the availability of biological immortality in our lifetime can actually make it a more likely outcome by making people more aware of the need for anti-aging research effort.

A less charitable reading will assume that you're writing off the claim as nonsense because you think that biological immortality and uploading are nonsense as concepts, though your follow-up comment written after the downvoting shows that this isn't the case.

I assume people here know me enough not to jump to that conclusion about me, so I don't think it's a plausible explanation for the downvotes (and lack of compensating upvoting).

My leading hypothesis is still that people didn't like the rude nitpicking aspect of the comment, despite its other properties, but given the number of transhumanists on the site, it's very very bad to not be extremely wary of falling into the relevant affective death spirals, so this reason isn't a valid excuse.

On the other hand, maybe too few took notice of the comment for the voting pattern to be informative, hence escalation (I'd like to proceed all the way to a top-level post discussing the problem - not the particular comment of course - if not resolved to my satisfaction, although with all the writing up trouble it's never a guarantee).

The funny thing in this particular case is that spreading memetic noise about the availability of biological immortality in our lifetime can actually make it a more likely outcome by making people more aware of the need for anti-aging research effort.

I don't think it's a reasonable dichotomy (the supposedly better option, which it's probably not, is worse than some obvious third alternatives).

Anyone want to read some anti-libertarian propaganda?

Today's XKCD is particularly relevant to LW in several ways.

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