Welcome to Less Wrong!

by MBlume1 min read16th Apr 20092003 comments

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If you've recently joined the Less Wrong community, please leave a comment here and introduce yourself. We'd love to know who you are, what you're doing, or how you found us. Tell us how you came to identify as a rationalist, or describe what it is you value and work to achieve.

If you'd like to meet other LWers in real life, there's a meetup thread and a Facebook group. If you've your own blog or other online presence, please feel free to link it. If you're confused about any of the terms used on this site, you might want to pay a visit to the LW Wiki, or simply ask a question in this thread.  Some of us have been having this conversation for a few years now, and we've developed a fairly specialized way of talking about some things. Don't worry -- you'll pick it up pretty quickly.

You may have noticed that all the posts and all the comments on this site have buttons to vote them up or down, and all the users have "karma" scores which come from the sum of all their comments and posts. Try not to take this too personally. Voting is used mainly to get the most useful comments up to the top of the page where people can see them. It may be difficult to contribute substantially to ongoing conversations when you've just gotten here, and you may even see some of your comments get voted down. Don't be discouraged by this; it happened to many of us. If you've any questions about karma or voting, please feel free to ask here.

If you've come to Less Wrong to teach us about a particular topic, this thread would be a great place to start the conversation, especially until you've worked up enough karma for a top level post. By posting here, and checking the responses, you'll probably get a good read on what, if anything, has already been said here on that topic, what's widely understood and what you might still need to take some time explaining.

A note for theists: you will find LW overtly atheist. We are happy to have you participating but please be aware that other commenters are likely to treat religion as an open-and-shut case. This isn't groupthink; we really, truly have given full consideration to theistic claims and found them to be false. If you'd like to know how we came to this conclusion you may find these related posts a good starting point.

A couple technical notes: when leaving comments, you may notice a 'help' link below and to the right of the text box.  This will explain how to italicize, linkify, or quote bits of text. You'll also want to check your inbox, where you can always see whether people have left responses to your comments.

Welcome to Less Wrong, and we look forward to hearing from you throughout the site.

(Note from MBlume: though my name is at the top of this page, the wording in various parts of the welcome message owes a debt to other LWers who've helped me considerably in working the kinks out)

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[-][anonymous]9y 34

Wow. Some of your other posts are intelligent, but this is pure troll-bait.

EDIT: I suppose I should share my reasoning. Copied from my other post lower down the thread:

Hello, I expect you won't like me, I'm

Classic troll opening. Challenges us to take the post seriously. Our collective 'manhood' is threatened if react normally (eg saying "trolls fuck off").

dont want to be turned onto an immortal computer-brain-thing that acts more like Eliezer thinks it should

Insulting straw man with a side of "you are an irrational cult".

I've been lurking for a long time... overcoming bias... sequences... HP:MOR... namedropping

"Seriously, I'm one of you guys". Concern troll disclaimer. Classic.

evaporative cooling... women... I'm here to help you not be a cult.

Again undertones of "you are a cult and you must accept my medicine or turn into a cult". Again we are challenged to take it seriously.

I just espoused, it'll raise the probability that you start worshiping the possibility of becoming immortal polyamorous whatever and taking over the world.

I didn't quite understand this part, but again, straw man caricature.

I'd rather hang around a

... (read more)

You've got an interesting angle there, but I don't think AspiringKnitter is a troll in the pernicious sense-- her post has led to a long reasonable discussion that she's made a significant contribution to.

I do think she wanted attention, and her post had more than a few hooks to get it. However, I don't think it's useful to describe trolls as "just wanting attention". People post because they want attention. The important thing is whether they repay attention with anything valuable.

[-][anonymous]9y 12

I don't have the timeline completely straight, but it looks to me like AspiringKnitter came in trolling and quickly changed gears to semi-intelligent discussion. Such things happen. AspiringKnitter is no longer a troll, that's for sure; like you say "her post has led to a long reasonable discussion that she's made a significant contribution to".

All that, however, does not change the fact that this particular post looks, walks, and quacks like troll-bait and should be treated as such. I try to stay out of the habit of judging posts on the quality of the poster's other stuff.

4NancyLebovitz9yI don't know if this is worth saying, but you look a lot more like a troll to me than she does, though of a more subtle variety than I'm used to. You seem to be taking behavior which has been shown to be in the harmless-to-useful range and picking a fight about it.
[-][anonymous]9y 10

Thanks for letting me know. If most people disagree with my assessment, I'll adjust my troll-resistance threshold.

I just want to make sure we don't end up tolerating people who appear to have trollish intent. AspiringKnitter turned out to be positive, but I still think that particular post needed to be called out.

Well Kept Gardens Die By Pacifism.

6NancyLebovitz9yYou're welcome. This makes me glad I didn't come out swinging-- I'd suspected (actually I had to resist the temptation to obsess about the idea) that you were a troll yourself. If you don't mind writing about it, what sort of places have you been hanging out that you got your troll sensitivity calibrated so high? I'm phrasing it as "what sort of places" in case you'd rather not name particular websites.
[-][anonymous]9y 11

what sort of places have you been hanging out that you got your troll sensitivity calibrated so high?

4chan, where there is an interesting dynamic around trolling and getting trolled. Getting trolled is low-status, calling out trolls correctly that no-one else caught is high-status, and trolling itself is god-status, calling troll incorrectly is low status like getting trolled. With that culture, the art of trolling, counter-trolling and troll detection gets well trained.

I learned a lot of trolling theory from reddit, (like the downvote preventer and concern trolling). The politics, anarchist, feminist and religious subreddits have a lot of good cases to study (they generally suck at managing community, tho).

I learned a lot of relevant philosophy of trolling and some more theory from /i/nsurgency boards and wikis (start at partyvan.info). Those communities are in a sorry state these days.

Alot of what I learned on 4chan and /i/ is not common knowledge around here and could be potentially useful. Maybe I'll beat some of it into a useful form and post it.

6Vaniver9yFor one thing, the label "trolling" seems like it distracts more than it adds, just like "dark arts." AspiringKnitter's first post was loaded with influence techniques, as you point out, but it's not clear to me that pointing at influence techniques and saying "influence bad!" is valuable, especially in an introduction thread. I mean, what's the point of understanding human interaction if you use that understanding to botch your interactions?
4wedrifid9yThere is a clear benefit to pointing out when a mass of other people are falling for influence techniques in a way you consider undesirable.
4NancyLebovitz9yThat's interesting-- I've never hung out anywhere that trolling was high status. In reddit and the like, how is consensus built around whether someone is a troll and/or is trolling in a particular case? I think I understand concern trolling, which I understand to be giving advice which actually weakens the receiver's position, though I think the coinage "hlep" from Making Light [www.nielsenhayden.com/makinglight] is more widely useful--inappropriate, annoying/infuriating advice which is intended to be helpful but doesn't have enough thought behind it, but what's downvote preventer? Hlep has a lot of overlap with other-optimizing. I'd be interested in what you have to say about the interactions at 4chan and /i/, especially about breakdowns in political communities. I've been mulling the question of how you identify and maintain good will-- to my mind, a lot of community breakdown is caused by tendencies to amplify disagreements between people who didn't start out being all that angry at each other.
6AspiringKnitter9yWow, I don't post over Christmas and look what happens. Easiest one to answer first. 1. Wow, thanks! 2. You're a little mean. You don't need an explanation of 2, but let me go through your post and explain about 1. Huh. I guess I could have come up with that explanation if I'd thought. The truth here is that I was just thinking "you know, they really won't like me, this is stupid, but if I make them go into this interaction with their eyes wide open about what I am, and phrase it like so, I might get people to be nice and listen". That was quite sincere and I still feel that that's a worry. Also, I don't think I know more about friendliness than EY. I think he's very knowledgeable. I worry that he has the wrong values so his utopia would not be fun for me. Wow, you're impressive. (Actually, from later posts, I know where you get this stuff from. I guess anyone could hang around 4chan long enough to know stuff like that if they had nerves of steel.) I had the intuition that this will lead to fewer downvotes (but note that I didn't lie; I did expect that it was true, from many theist-unfriendly posts on this site), but I didn't think consciously this procedure will appeal to people's fear of the hivemind to shame them into upvoting me. I want to thank you for pointing that out. Knowing how and why that intuition was correct will allow me to decide with eyes wide open whether to do something like that in the future, and if I ever actually want to troll, I'll be better at it. Actually, I just really need to learn to remember that while I'm posting, proper procedure is not "allow internal monologue to continue as normal and transcribe it". You have no idea how much trouble that's gotten me into. (Go ahead and judge me for my self-pitying internal monologue if you want. Rereading it, I'm wondering how I failed to notice that I should just delete that part, or possibly the whole post.) On the other hand, I'd certainly hope that being honest makes me a sympatheti

Note that declaring Crocker's rules and subsequently complaining about rudeness sends very confusing signals about how you wish to be engaged with.

6Crux9yExcellent analysis. I just changed my original upvote for that post to a downvote, and I must admit that it got me in exactly every way you explained.

"Only one of those is really a reason for me to be nervous, and that's because Christianity has done some pretty shitty things to my people."

Oh, don't be such a martyr. "My people..." please. You do not represent "your people" and you aren't their authority.

The point has been missed. Deep breath, paper-machine.

Nearly any viewpoint is capable of and has done cruel things to others. No reason to unnecessarilly highlight this fact and dramatize the Party of Suffering. This was an intro thread by a newcomer - not a reason to point to you and "your" people. They can speak for themselves.

To the extent that you're saying that the whole topic of Christian/queer relations was inappropriate for an intro thread, I would prefer you'd just said that. I might even agree with you, though I didn't find paper-machine's initial comment especially problematic.

To the extent that you're saying that paper-machine should not treat the prior poor treatment of members of a group they belong to, by members of a group Y belongs to, as evidence of their likely poor treatment by Y, I simply disagree. It may not be especially strong evidence, but it's also far from trivial.

And all the stuff about martyrdom and Parties of Suffering and who gets to say what for whom seems like a complete distraction.

6[anonymous]9yWhy berate him for doing just that, then? He's expressing his prior: members of a reference class he belongs to are often singled out for mistreatment by members of a reference class that his interlocutor claims membership with. He does not appear to believe himself Ambassador of All The Gay Men, based on what he's actually saying, nor to treat that class-membership as some kind of ontological primitive.
5Bongo9yI wonder how this comment got 7 upvotes in 9 minutes. EDIT: Probably the same way this comment got 7 upvotes in 6 minutes.

LW has a bunch of bored Bayesians on Mondays. Same thing happened to your score, mate.

Hi, I am Alyssa, a 16-year-old aspiring programmer-and-polymath who found her way to the wiki page for Egan's Law from the Achron forums. From there I started randomly clicking on links that mostly ended up leading to Eliezer's posts. I was a bit taken aback by his attitude toward religion, but I had previously seen mention of his AI Box thing (where (a) he struck me as awesome, and (b) he said some things about "intelligence" and "wisdom" that caused me to label him as an ally against all those fools who hated science), and I just loved his writing, so I spent about a week reading his stuff alternately thinking, "Wow, this guy is awesome" and "Poor atheist. Doesn't he realize that religion and science are compatible?" Eventually, some time after reading Religion's Claim to be Non-disprovable, I came to my senses. (It is a bit more complicated and embarrassing than that, but you get the idea.)

That was several months ago. I have been lurking not-quite-continuously since then, and it slowly dawned on me just how stupid I had been -- and more importantly, how stupid I still am. Reading about stuff like confirmation bias and overconfidence, I gra... (read more)

4lukeprog10yWelcome, Alyssa! Finding out how "stupid" I am is one of the most important things I have ever learned. I hope I never forget it! Also, congrats on seriously questioning your religion at your age. I didn't do so until much later [http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=12].

It's not that I'm having trouble communicating; it's that I'm not trying to.

So it is more just trolling.

The contents of my comments are more like expressions of complexes of emotions about complex signaling equilibria.

Which, from the various comments Will has made along these lines we can roughly translate to "via incoherent abstract rationalizations Will_Newsome has not only convinced himself that embracing the crazy while on lesswrong is a good idea but that doing so is in fact a moral virtue". Unfortunately this kind of conviction is highly resistant to persuasion. He is Doing the Right Thing. And he is doing the right thing from within a complex framework wherein not doing the right thing has potentially drastic (quasi-religious-level) consequences. All we can really do is keep the insane subset of his posts voted below the visibility threshold and apply the "don't feed the troll" policy while he is in that mode.

That's some interesting reasoning. I've met people before who avoided leaving an evaporatively cooling group because they recognized the process and didn't want to contribute to it, but you might be the first person I've encountered who joined a group to counteract it (or to stave it off before it begins, given that LW seems to be both growing and to some extent diversifying right now). Usually people just write groups like that off. Aside from the odd troll or ideologue that claims similar motivations but is really just looking for a fight, at least-- but that doesn't seem to fit what you've written here.

Anyway. I'm not going to pretend that you aren't going to find some hostility towards Abrahamic religion here, nor that you won't be able to find any arguably problematic (albeit mostly unconsciously so) attitudes regarding sex and/or gender. Act as your conscience dictates should you find either one intolerable. Speaking for myself, though, I take the Common Interest of Many Causes concept seriously: better epistemology is good for everyone, not just for transhumanists of a certain bent. Your belief structure might differ somewhat from the tribal average around here, but the actual goal of this tribe is to make better thinkers, and I don't think anyone's going to want to exclude you from that as long as you approach it in good faith.

In fewer words: welcome to Less Wrong.

Turns out LW is a Chesterton-esque farce in which all posters are secretly Wills trolling Wills.

people who only want me to hate God

I don't think there are any of those around here. Most of us would prefer you didn't even believe in gods!

My name's Normal Anomaly, and I'm paranoid about giving away personal information on the Internet. Also, I don't like to have any assumptions made about me (though this is likely the last place to worry about that), so I'd rather go without a gender, race, etc. Apologies for the lack of much personal data. I can say that my major interest is biology, although I am not yet anything resembling an expert. I eventually hope to work in life extension research. I’m an Asperger’s Syndrome Sci Fi-loving nerd, which is apparently the norm here.

I used to have religious/spiritual beliefs, though I was also a fan of science and was not a member of an organized religion. I believed it was important to be rational and that I had evidence for my beliefs, but I was rationalizing and refusing to look at the hard questions. A couple years ago, I was exposed to atheism and rationalism and have since been trying to make myself more reasonable/less insane. I found LW through Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality a few months ago, and have been lurking and reading the sequences. I'm still scared of posting on here because it’s the first discussion forum where I have known myself to be intellectual... (read more)

6shokwave10yI have found that some of the time you can make up for a (perceived) lack of intellect with a little work, and this is true (from my own experience) here on LessWrong: when about to comment on an issue, it pays big dividends to use the search feature to check for something related in previous posts with which you can refine, change, or bolster your position. Of the many times I have done it, twice I caught myself in grievous and totally embarrassing errors! For what it's worth, commenting on LW is so far from normal conversation and normal internet use that most intellects haven't developed methods for it; they have to grind through mostly the same processes as everyone else - and nobody can actually tell if it took you five seconds or five minutes to type your reply. My own replies might be left in the comment box for hours, to be reread with a fresh mind later and changed entirely. tl;dr Don't be afraid to comment!
5NancyLebovitz10yThis is interesting-- LW seems to be pretty natural for me. I think the only way my posting here is different from anywhere else is that my sentences might be more complex. On the other hand, once I had a choice, I've spent most of my social life in sf fandom, where the way I write isn't wildly abnormal, I think. Anyone who's reading this, do you think what's wanted at LW is very different from what's wanted in other venues?
5Emile10yI find writing on LW pretty 'normal', on par with some other forums or blog comments (though with possibly less background hostility and flamewars). I suspect the ban on discussing politics does more to increase the quality of discourse here than the posts on cognitive bias.
5shokwave10yWow, that is interesting ... conditional on more people feeling this way (LW is natural), I might just have focused my intellect on rhetoric and nonreasonable convincing to the point that following LW's guidelines is difficult, and then committed the typical mind fallacy and assumed everyone had too.

Actually, I've come to notice that rhetoric and other so-called Dark Arts are still worth their weight in gold on LW, except when the harder subjects (math and logic) are at hand.

But LessWrong commenters definitely have plenty of psychological levers, and the demographic uniformity only makes them more effective. For a simple example, I guesstimate that, in just about any comment, a passing mention of how smart LessWrongers are is worth on average 3 or 4 extra karma points - and this is about as old as tricks can get.

5Alicorn10yDo you have a preferred set of gender-neutral pronouns?

I'm Ellen, age 14, student, planning to major in molecular biology or something like that. I'm not set on it, though.

I think I was browsing wikipedia when I decided to google some related things. I think I found some libertarian or anarchist blog that then had a link to Overcoming Bias or Lesswrong. Or I might've seen the word transhumanism on the wiki page for libertarianism and googled it, with it eventually leading here somehow. My memory is fuzzy as it was pretty irrelevant to me.

I'm an atheist, and have been for a while, as is typical for this community. I wasn't brought up religiously, so it was pretty much untheism that turned into atheism.

My rationalist roots... I've always wanted to be right, of course. Partly because I could make mistakes from being wrong, partly because I really, really hated looking stupid. Then I figured that I couldn't know if I was right unless I listened to the other side, really listened, and was careful. (Not enough people do even this. People are crazy, the world is mad. Angst, angst.) I found lesswrong which has given me tools to much more effectively do this. w00t.

I'm really lazy. Curse you, akrasia!

It should be obvious how I came up with my us... (read more)

4Eliezer Yudkowsky11yWelcome on board! You're a key segment of my target audience, so please speak up if you have any thoughts on things I could have done better in my writing.

WHO I AM: I have 24 years of existence. I give math, chemistry and physics lessons to high school students since 17. I am pretty good at it and I never announced anywhere on planet that I give lessons - all new students appear from recommendations from older students. On the end of 2016 I already had 38 months going to the university, trying to get mechanical engineering credentials. I wasn't interested on the course - I really liked the math and the subjects, but the teachers sucked and the experience was, in general, terrible. I hated my life and was doing it just to look good for my parents - always loved arts and I study classical music since 14. I heard about "artificial intelligence" just once, and I decided all my actions in life should be towards automate the process of learning. I started a MIT Python course and then dropped out university. I am completely passionate about learning.

WHAT I'M DOING: (short-term) I am currently learning and doing beautiful animations with the python library called MANIM (Mathematical ANIMations). I am searching for people to unite forces to transform tens of posts in The Sequences into video content with this library. I h... (read more)

4habryka9moWelcome! Your story sounds exciting and I am looking forward to seeing you around!

Erm. I can't say that this raises my confidence much. I am reminded of the John McCarthy quote, "Your denial of the importance of objectivity amounts to announcing your intention to lie to us. No-one should believe anything you say."

The boring explanation is that Laoch was taught as the feet of PZ Myers and Hitchens, who operate purely in places open for debate (atheist blogs are not like dinner tables); talk about the arguments of religious people not to them, but to audiences already sympathetic to atheism, and thus care little about principles of charity; and have a beef with religion-as-harmful-organization (e.g. "Hassidic Judaism hurts queers!") and rather often with religious-people-as-outgroup-members (e.g. "Sally says abortion is murder because she's trying to manipulate me!"), which interferes with their beef with religion-as-reasoning-mistake (e.g. "Sadi thinks he can derive knowledge in ways that violate thermodynamics!").

The reading-too-much-HPMOR explanation is that Laoch is an altruistic Slytherin, who wants Knitter to think: "This is a good bunch. Not only are most people nice, but they can swiftly punish jerks. And there are such occasional jerks - I don't have to feel silly about expecting a completely different reaction than I got, it was because bad apples are noisier.".

8MarkusRamikin9yI would have thought there ain't no such critter as "too much MoR", but after seeing that theory... ;)

Hello.

I've been reading Less Wrong from its beginning. I stumbled upon Overcoming Bias just as LW was being launched. I'm a young mathematician (an analyst, to be more specific) currently working towards a PhD and I'm very interested in epistemic rationality and the theory of altruist instrumental rationality. I've been very impressed with the general quality of discussion about the theory and general practice of truth-seeking here, even though I can think of places where I disagree with the ideas that I gather are widely accepted here. The most interesting discussions seem to be quite old, though, so reviving those discussions out of the blue hasn't felt like - for lack of a better word - a proper thing to do.

There are many discussions here of which I don't care about. A large proportion of people here are programmers or otherwise from a CS background, and that colors the discussions a lot. Or maybe it's just that the prospect of an AGI in recent future doesn't seem at all likely to me. Anyway, the AI/singularity stuff, the tangentially related topics that I bunch together with them, and approaching rationality topics from a programmer's point of view I just don't care about. Not ... (read more)

6SoullessAutomaton11yI appreciate your honest criticisms here, as someone who participated (probably too much) in the silly gender discussion threads. I also encourage you to stay and participate, if possible. Despite some missteps, I think there's a lot of potential in this community, and I'd hate to see us losing people who could contribute interesting material.
6orthonormal11yUpvoted for this in particular.
4[anonymous]11yInteresting. You provide one counterexample to my opinion that the biased language wasn't driving away readers. I now have reason to believe I might have been projecting too much.

I should probably point out at this point that Wiccans (well, at least those whom I'd met), consider this point of view utterly misguided and incredibly offensive.

That's a bizarre thing to say. Is their offense evidence that I'm wrong? I don't think so; I'd expect it whether or not they worship demons. Or should I believe something falsely because the truth is offensive? That would go against my values-- and, dare I say it, the suggestion is offensive. ;) Or do you want me to lie so I'll sound less offensive? That risks harm to me (it's forbidden by the New Testament) and to them (if no one ever tells them the truth, they can't learn), as well as not being any fun.

No one likes to be called a "demon-worshiper",

What is true is already so, Owning up to it doesn't make it worse. Not being open about it doesn't make it go away.

especially when one is generally a nice person whose main tenet in life is a version of "do no harm".

Nice people like that deserve truth, not lies, especially when eternity is at stake.

flat-out calling a whole group of people "demon-worshipers" tends to inflame passions rather quickly,

So does calling people Cthulhu-wo... (read more)

I like your post (and totally agree with the first paragraph), but have some concerns that are a little different from Bugmaster's.

What's the exact difference between a god and a demon? Suppose Wicca is run by a supernatural being (let's call her Astarte) who asks her followers to follow commendable moral rules, grants their petitions when expressed in the ritualistic form of spells, and insists she will reward the righteous and punishes the wicked. You worship a different supernatural being who also asks His followers to follow commendable moral rules, grants their petitions when expressed in the ritualistic form of prayer, and insists He will reward the righteous and punish the wicked. If both Jehovah and Astarte exist and act similarly, why name one "a god" and the other "a demon"? Really, the only asymmetry seems to be that Jehovah tries to inflict eternal torture on people who prefer Astarte, where Astarte has made no such threats among people who prefer Jehovah, which is honestly advantage Astarte. So why not just say "Of all the supernatural beings out there, some people prefer this one and other people prefer that one"?

I mean, one obvious answe... (read more)

4occlude9yYou're doing it wrong. The power of the Litany [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Litany_of_Gendlin] comes from evidence [http://lesswrong.com/lw/jl/what_is_evidence/]. Every time you applying the Litany of Gendlin to an unsubstantiated assertion, a fairie drops dead.

Welcome to LessWrong!

You guys really hate Christians, after all. (Am I actually allowed to be here or am I banned for my religion?)

Do we? Do you hate Hindus, or do you just think they're wrong?

One thing I slightly dislike about "internet atheists" is the exclusive focus on religion as a source of all that's wrong in the world, whereas you get very similar forms of irrationality in partisan politics or nationalism. I'm not alone in holding that view - see this for some related ideas. At best, religion can be about focusing human's natural irrationality in areas that don't matter (cosmology instead of economics), while facilitating morality and cooperative behavior. I understand that some Americans atheists are more hostile to religion than I am (I'm French, religion isn't a big issue here, except for Islam), because they have to deal with religious stupidity on a daily basis.

Note that a Mormon wrote a series of posts that was relatively well received, so you may be overestimating LessWrong's hostility to religion.

Hi, I'm Zoe. I found this site in a round-about way after reading Dawkin's The God Delusion and searching some things related to it. There was a comment in a forum mentioning Less Wrong and I was interested to see what it was.

I've been mainly lurking for the past few months, reading the sequences and some of the top posts. I've found that while I understand most of it, my high-school level math (I'm 16) is quite inadequate, so I'm working through the Khan Academy to try and improve it.

I'm drawn to rationalism because, quite simply, it seems like the world would be a better place if people were more rational and that has to start somewhere. Whatever the quotes say, truth is worthwhile. It also makes me believe in myself more to know that I'm willing and somewhat able to shift my views to better match the territory. Maybe someday I'll even advance from 'somewhat' into plain ol' 'able'.

My goals here, at this point, aren't particularly defined. I find the articles and the mission inspiring and interesting and think that it will help me. Maybe when I've learnt more I'll have a clearer goal for myself. I already analyze everything (to the point where many a teacher has been quite annoyed), so I suppose that's a start. I'm looking forward to learning more and seeing how I can use it all in my actual life.

Cheers, Zoe

Sorry - I used "Astarte" and the female pronoun because the Wiccans claim to worship a Goddess, and Astarte was the first female demon I could think of. If we're going to go gender-neutral, I recommend "eir", just because I think it's the most common gender neutral pronoun on this site and there are advantages to standardizing this sort of thing.

The difference would be that if worship of Jehovah gets you eternal life in heaven, and worship of Astarte gets you eternal torture and damnation, then you should worship Jehovah and not Astarte.

Well, okay, but this seems to be an argument from force, sort of "Jehovah is a god and Astarte a demon because if I say anything else, Jehovah will torture me". It seems to have the same form as "Stalin is not a tyrant, because if I call Stalin a tyrant, he will kill me, and I don't want that!"

Not quite. I only believe in "multiple factions of supernatural beings" (actually only two) because it's implied by Christianity being true.

It sounds like you're saying the causal history of your belief should affect the probability of it being true.

Suppose before you had any mystical experience, you h... (read more)

8Multiheaded9ySpeaking of mystical experiences, my religion tutor at the university (an amazing woman, Christian but pretty rational and liberal) had one, as she told us, in transport one day, and that's when she converted, despite growing up at an atheistic middle-class Soviet family. Oh, and the closest thing I ever had to one was when I tried sensory deprivation + dissociatives (getting high on cough syrup, then submersing myself in a warm bath with lights out and ears plugged; had a timer set to 40 minutes and a thin ray of light falling where I could see it by turning my head as precaution against, y'know, losing myself). That experiment was both euphoric and interesting, but I wouldn't really want to repeat it. I experienced blissful ego death [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ego_death] and a feeling of the universe spinning round and round in cycles, around where I would be, but where now was nothing. It's hard to describe. And then, well, I saw the tiny, shining shape of Rei Ayanami. She was standing in her white plugsuit amidst the blasted ruins on a dead alien world, and I got the feeling that she was there to restore it to life. She didn't look at me, but I knew she knew I saw her. Then it was over. Fret not, I didn't really make any more bullshit out of that, but it's certainly an awesome moment to remember.
  • Cousin it's comment doesn't leave much room for doubt.
  • Baiting and switching by declaring Crocker's rules then shaming and condescending when they do not meet your standard of politeness could legitimately be considered a manipulative social ploy.
  • I didn't consider Crocker's rules at all when reading nyan's comment and it still didn't seem at all inappropriate. You being outraged at the 'vulgarity' of the phrase "damsel in distress crap" is a problem with your excess sensitivity and not with the phrase. As far as I'm concerned "damsel in distress crap" is positively gentle. I would have used "martyrdom bullshit" (but then I also use bullshit as a technical term).
  • Crocker's rules is about how people speak to you. But for all it is a reply about your comment nyan wasn't even talking to you. He was talking to the lesswrong readers warning them about perceived traps they are falling into when engaging with your comment.
  • Like it or not people tend to reciprocate disrespect with disrespect. While you kept your comment superficially civil and didn't use the word 'crap' you did essentially call everyone here a bunch of sexist Christian hating bullies. Why would you expect people to be nice to you when you treat them like that?

That doesn't sound right. Here's a quote from Crocker's rules:

Anyone is allowed to call you a moron and claim to be doing you a favor.

Another quote:

Note that Crocker's Rules does not mean you can insult people; it means that other people don't have to worry about whether they are insulting you.

Quote from our wiki:

Thus, one who has committed to these rules largely gives up the right to complain about emotional provocation, flaming, abuse and other violations of etiquette

There's a decision theoretic angle here. If I declare Crocker's rules, and person X calls me a filthy anteater, then I might not care about getting valuable information from them (they probably don't have any to share) but I refrain from lashing out anyway! Because I care about the signal I send to person Y who is still deciding whether to engage with me, who might have a sensitive detector of Crocker's rules violations. And such thoughtful folks may offer the most valuable critique. I'm afraid you might have shot yourself in the foot here.

Easiest first: I introduced "dark arts" as an example of a label that distracted more than it added. It wasn't meant as a reference to or description of your posts.

In your previous comment, you asked the wrong question ('were they attempting to persuade?') and then managed to come up with the wrong answer ('nope'). Both of those were disappointing (the first more so) especially in light of your desire to spread your experience.

The persuasion was "please respond to me nicely." It was richly rewarded: 20 welcoming responses (when most newbies get 0 or 1), and the first unwelcoming response got downvoted quickly.

The right question is, what are our values, here? When someone expressing a desire to be welcomed uses influence techniques that further that end, should we flip the table over in disgust that they tried to influence us? That'll show them that we're savvy customers that can't be trolled! Or should we welcome them because we want the community to grow? That'll show them that we're worth sticking around.

I will note that I upvoted this post, because in the version that I saw it started off with "Some of your other posts are intelligent" and then show... (read more)

But pointing this out to you doesn't change your mind because you value having most people be willing to engage in casual sex (am I wrong here? I don't know you, specifically)

I can't speak for Emile, but my own views look something like this:

  • I see nothing wrong with casual sex (as long as all partners fully consent, of course), or any other kind of sex in general (again, assuming fully informed consent).
  • Some studies (*) have shown that humans are generally pretty poor at monogamy.
  • People whose sex drives are unsatisfied often become unhappy.
  • In light of this, forcing monogamy on people is needlessly oppressive, and leads to unnecessary suffering.
  • Therefore, we should strive toward building a society where monogamy is not forced upon people, and where people's sex drives are generally satisfied.

Thus, I would say that I value "most people being able to engage in casual sex". I make no judgement, however, whether "most people should be willing to engage in casual sex". If you value monogamy, then you should be able to engage in monogamous sex, and I can see no reason why anyone could say that your desires are wrong.

(*) As well as many of our most prominent politicians. Heh.

7AspiringKnitter9yI'm glad I actually asked, then, since I've learned something from your position, which is more sensible than I assumed. Upvoted because it's so clearly laid out even though I don't agree.

Hi, Aspiring Knitter. I also find the Less Wrong culture and demographics quite different from my normal ones (being a female in the social sciences who's sympathetic to religion though not a believer. Also, as it happens, a knitter.) I stuck around because I find it refreshing to be able to pick apart ideas without getting written off as too brainy or too cold, which tends to happen in the rest of my life.

Sorry for the lack of persecution - you seem to have been hoping for it.

9AspiringKnitter9yVery glad not to be persecuted, actually. Yay!

Downvoted, by the way. I want to signal my distaste for being confused for you. Are you using some form of mind-altering substance or are you normally like this? I think you need to take a few steps back. And breathe. And then study how to communicate more clearly, because I think either you're having trouble communicating or I'm having trouble understanding you.

Point of curiosity: if you took the point above and rewrote it the way you think AspiringKnitter would say it, how would you say it?

8Will_Newsome9y(ETA: Something like this:) What I'm saying is that most people who write a Less Wrong comment aren't totally stressing out about all the tradeoffs that inevitably have to be made in order to say anything at all. There's a famous quote whose gist is 'I apologize that this letter is so long, but I didn't have very much time to write it'. The audience has some large and unknown set of constraints on what they're willing to glance at, read, take seriously, and so on, and the writer has to put a lot of work into meeting those constraints as effectively as possible. Some tradeoffs are easy to make: yes, a long paragraph is a self-contained stucture, but that's less important than readibility. Others are a little harder: do I give a drawn-out concrete example of my point, or would that egregiously inflate the length of my comment? There are also the author's internal constraints re what they feel they need to say, what they're willing to say, what they're willing to say without thinking carefully about whether or not it's a good idea to say, how much effort they can put into rewriting sentences or linking to relevant papers while their heart's pumping as if the house is burning down, vague fears of vague consequences, and so on and so forth for as long as the author's neuroticism or sense of morality allows. People who are abnormally reflective soon run into meta-level constraints: what does it say about me that I stress out this much at the prospect of being discredited? By meeting these constraints am I supporting the proliferation of a norm that isn't as good as it would be if I met some other, more psychologically feasible set of constraints? Obviously the pragmatic thing to do is to "just go with it", but "just going with it" seems to have led to horrifying consequences in the past; why do I expect it to go differently this time? In the end the author is bound to become self-defeating, dynamically inconsistent. They'll like as not end up loathing their audience

Let's try that! I got a Bad signal on the Koran and a website explaining the precepts of Wicca, but I knew what both of those were. I would be up for trying a test where you give me quotes from the Christian Bible (warning: I might recognize them; if so, I'll tell you, but for what it's worth I've only read part of Ezekiel, but might recognize the story anyway... I've read a lot of the Bible, actually), other holy books and neutral sources like novels (though I might have read those, too; I'll tell you if I recognize them), without telling me where they're from. If it's too difficult to find Biblical quotes, other Christian writings might serve, as could similar writings from other religions. I should declare up front that I know next to nothing about Hinduism but once got a weak Good reading from what someone said about it. Also, I would prefer longer quotes; the feelings build up from unnoticeable, rather than hitting full-force instantly. If they could be at least as long as a chapter of the Bible, that would be good.

That is, if you're actually proposing that we test this. If you didn't really want to, sorry. It just seems cool.

9TheOtherDave9yUpvoted for the willingness to test, and in general for being a good sport.

Stick around. Your contributions are fine. Not everyone will be accusatory like nyan_sandwich.

Read through the Sequences and comment on what seems good to you.

OK.
FWIW, I agree that nyan-sandwich's tone was condescending, and that they used vulgar words.
I also think "I suppose they can't be expected to behave any better, we should praise them for not being completely awful" is about as condescending as anything else that's been said in this thread.

7AspiringKnitter9yYeah, you're probably right. I didn't mean for that to come out that way (when I used to spend a lot of time on places with low standards, my standards were lowered, too), but that did end up insulting. I'm sorry, nyan_sandwich.

Sorry, where does God say this? You are a Christian right? I'm not aware of any verse in either the OT or NT that calls for monogamy. Jacob has four wives, Abraham has two, David has quite a few and Solomon has hundreds. The only verses that seem to say anything negative in this regard are some which imply that Solomon just has way too many. The text strongly implies that polyandry is not ok but polygyny is fine. The closest claim is Jesus's point about how divorcing one woman and then marrying another is adultery, but that's a much more limited claim (it could be that the other woman was unwilling to be a second wife for example). 1 Timothy chapter 3 lists qualifications for being a church leader which include having only one wife. That would seem to imply that having more than one wife is at worst suboptimal.

That is a really good point. (Actually, Jesus made a stronger point than that: even lusting after someone you're not married to is adultery.)

You know, you could actually be right. I'll have to look more carefully. Maybe my understanding has been biased by the culture in which I live. Upvoted for knowledgeable rebuttal of a claim that might not be correct.

7MixedNuts9yIs that something like "Plan to take steps to have sex with the person", or like "Experience a change in your pants"? (Analogous question for the "no coveting" commandment, too.) Because if you think some thoughts are evil, you really shouldn't build humans with a brain that automatically thinks them. At least have a little "Free will alert: Experience lust? (Y/n)" box pop up.

I sometimes feel discriminated against here for not being autistic enough.

Do you really think it's only a bit overstated? I mean, has anybody been banned for being religious? And has anybody here indicated that they hate Christians without immediately being called on falling into blue vs. green thinking?

Okay, ready to be shouted down. I'll be counting the downvotes as they roll in, I guess. You guys really hate Christians, after all. (Am I actually allowed to be here or am I banned for my religion?) I'll probably just leave soon anyway. Nothing good can come of this. I don't know why I'm doing this. I shouldn't be here; you don't want me here, not to mention I probably shouldn't bother talking to people who only want me to hate God. Why am I even here again? Seriously, why am I not just lurking? That would make more sense.

From her other posts, AspiringKnitter strikes me as being open-minded and quite intelligent, but that last paragraph really irks me. It's self-debasing in an almost manipulative way - as if she actually wants us to talk to her like we "only want [her] to hate God" or as if we "really hate Christians". Anybody who has spent any non-trivial amount of time on LW would know that we certainly don't hate people we disagree with, at least to the best of my knowledge, so asserting that is not a charitable or reasonable expectation. Plus, it seems that it would now be hard(er) to downvote her because she specifically said she expects that, even given a legitimate reason to downvote.

If it helps, I've read Nagel, and would have gotten the bat allusion. (Dan Dennett does a very entertaining riff on "What is it like to bat a bee?" in response.)

But I consider the physics of qualia to be kind of irrelevant to the conversation we're having.

I mean, I'm willing to concede that in order for a computer program to be a person, it must be able to feel things in italics, and I'm happy to posit that there's some kind of constraint -- label it X for now -- such that only X-possessing systems are capable of feeling things in italics.

Now, maybe the physics underlying X is such that only systems made of protoplasm can possess X. This seems an utterly unjustified speculation to me, and no more plausible than speculating that only systems weighing less than a thousand pounds can possess X, or only systems born from wombs can possess X, or any number of similar speculations. But, OK, sure, it's possible.

So what? If it turns out that a computer has to be made of protoplasm in order to possess X, then it follows that for an upload to be able to feel things in italics, it has to be an upload running on a computer made of protoplasm. OK, that's fine. It's just an engineer... (read more)

Hello everyone,

My name is Allison, and I'm 15 years old. I'll be a junior next year. I come from a Christian background, and consider myself to also be a theist, for reasons that I'm not prepared to discuss at the moment... I wish to learn how to view the world as it is, not through a tinted lens that is limited in my own experiences and background.

While I find most everything on this site to be interesting, I must confess a particular hunger towards philosophy. I am drawn to philosophy as a moth is to a flame. However, I am relatively ignorant about pretty much everything, something I'm attempting to fix. I have a slightly above average intelligence, but nothing special. In fact, compared to everyone on this site, I'm rather stupid. I don't even understand half of what people are talking about half the time.

I'm not a science or math person, although I find them interesting, my strengths lie in English and theatre arts. I absolutely adore theatre, not that this really has much to do with rationality. Anyway, I kind of want to get better at science and math. I googled the double slit experiment, and I find it.. captivating. Quantum physics holds a special kind of appeal to me, but unfortunately, is something that I'm not educated enough to pursue at the moment.

My goals are to become more rational, learn more about philosophy, gain a basic understanding of math and science, and to learn more about how to refine the human art of rationality. :)

hi everybody,

I'm 22, male, a student and from Germany. I've always tried to "perceive whatever holds the world together in its inmost folds", to know the truth, to grok what is going on. Truth is the goal, and rationality the art of achieving it. So for this reason alone lesswrong is quite appealing.

But in addition to that Yudkowsky and Bostrom convinced me that existential risks, transhumanism , the singularity, etc. are probably the most important issues of our time.

Furthermore this is the first community I've ever encountered in my life that makes me feel rather dumb. ( I can hardly follow the discussions about solomonoff induction, everett-branches and so on, lol, and I thought I was good at math because I was the best one in high school :-) But, nonetheless being stupid is sometimes such a liberating feeling!

To spice this post with more gooey self-disclosure: I was sort of a "mild" socialist for quite some time ( yeah, I know. But, there are some intelligent folks who were socialists, or sort-of-socialists like Einstein and Russell). Now I'm more pro-capitalism, libertarian, but some serious doubts remain. I'm really interested in neuropsychological research of mystic exp... (read more)

4Swimmer96310yI can personally support this. I've never taken LSD or any other consciousness-altering drug, but I can trigger ecstatic, mystical "religious experiences" fairly easy in other ways; even just singing in a group setting will do it. I sing in an Anglican church choir and this weekend is Easter, so I expect to have quite a number of mystical experiences. At one point I attended a Pentecostal church regularly and was willing to put up with people who didn't believe in evolution because group prayer inevitably triggered my "mystical experience" threshold. (My other emotions are also triggered easily: I laugh out loud when reading alone, cry out loud in sad books and movies, and feel overpowering warm fuzzies when in the presence of small children.) I have done my share of reading "absurb and useless" books. Usually I found them, well, absurd and useless and pretty boring. I would rather read about the neurological underpinnings of my experience, especially since grokking science's answers can sometimes trigger a near-mystical experience! (Happened several times while reading Richard Dawkins' 'The Selfish Gene'.) In any case, I would like to hear more about your story, too.
[-][anonymous]11y 11

Hi, I'm Sarah. I'm 21 and going to grad school in math next fall. I'm interested in applied math and analysis, and I'm particularly interested in recent research about the sparse representation of large data sets. I think it will become important outside the professional math community. (I have a blog about that at http://numberblog.wordpress.com/.)

As far as hobbies go, I like music and weightlifting. I read and talk far too much about economics, politics, and philosophy. I have the hairstyle and cultural vocabulary of a 1930's fast-talking dame. (I like the free, fresh wind in my hair, life without care; I'm broke, that's Oke!)

Why am I here? I clicked the link from Overcoming Bias.

In more detail, I'm here because I need to get my life in order. I'm a confused Jew, not a thoroughgoing atheist. I've been a liberal and then a libertarian and now need something more flexible and responsive to reason than either.

Some conversations with a friend, who's a philosopher, have led me to understand that there are some experiences (in particular, experiences he's had related to poverty and death) that nothing in my intellectual toolkit can deal with, and so I've had to reconsider a ... (read more)

5mattnewport11yI don't know if it will help you, but the concept of comparative advantage [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparative_advantage] might help you appreciate how being valuable does not require being better than anyone else at any one thing. I found the concept enlightening, but I'm probably atypical...

Hello! I'm a first-year graduate student in pure mathematics at UC Berkeley. I've been reading LW posts for awhile but have only recently started reading (and wanting to occasionally add to) the comments. I'm interested in learning how to better achieve my goals, learning how to choose better goals, and "raising the sanity waterline" generally. I have recently offered to volunteer for CFAR and may be an instructor at SPARC 2013.

I didn't exactly realize it, but I reduced the probability. My goal was never to make a bet, my goal was to sockblock Will. But in the end I found his protestations somewhat convincing; he actually sounded for a moment like someone earnestly defending himself, rather than like a joker. And I wasn't in the mood to re-run my comparison between the Gospel of Will and the Knitter's Apocryphon. So I tried to retire the bet in a fair way, since having an ostentatious unsubstantiated accusation of sockpuppetry in the air is almost as corrosive to community trust as it is to be beset by the real thing. (ETA: I posted this before I saw Kevin's comment, by the way!)

Hi, AspiringKnitter!

There have been several openly religious people on this site, of varying flavours. You don't (or shouldn't) get downvoted just for declaring your beliefs; you get downvoted for faulty logic, poor understanding and useless or irrelevant comments. As someone who stopped being religious as a result of reading this site, I'd love for more believers to come along. My impulse is to start debating you right away, but I realise that'd just be rude. If you're interested, though, drop me a PM, because I'm still considering the possibility I might have made the wrong decision.

The evaporative cooling risk is worrying, now that you mention it... Have you actually noticed that happening here during your lurking days, or are you just pointing out that it's a risk?

Oh, and dedicating an entire paragraph to musing about the downvotes you'll probably get, while an excellent tactic for avoiding said downvotes, is also annoying. Please don't do that.

6AspiringKnitter9yUh-oh. LOL. Normally, I'm open to random debates about everything. I pride myself on it. However, I'm getting a little sick of religious debate since the last few days of participating in it. I suppose I still have to respond to a couple of people below, but I'm starting to fear a never-ending, energy-sapping, GPA-sabotaging argument where agreeing to disagree is literally not an option [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aumann's_agreement_theorem]. It's my own fault for showing up here, but I'm starting to realize why "agree to disagree" was ever considered by anyone at all for anything given its obvious wrongness: you just can't do anything if you spend all your time on a never-ending argument. Haven't been lurking long enough. In the future I will not. See below. Thank you for calling me out on that.

Talk of Aumann Agreement notwithstanding, the usual rules of human social intercourse that allow "I am no longer interested in continuing this discussion" as a legitimate conversational move continue to apply on this site. If you don't wish to discuss your religious beliefs, then don't.

5AspiringKnitter9yAh, I didn't know that. I've never had a debate that didn't end with "we all agree, yay", some outside force stopping us or everyone hating each other and hurling insults.

You guys really hate Christians, after all. (Am I actually allowed to be here or am I banned for my religion?)

Technically, it's "Christianity" that some of us don't like very much. Many of us live in countries where people who call themselves "Christians" compose much of the population, and going around hating everyone we see won't get us very far in life. We might wish that they weren't Christians, but while we're dreaming we might as well wish for a pony, too.

And, no, we don't ban people for saying that they're Christians. It takes a lot to get banned here.

I shouldn't be here; you don't want me here, not to mention I probably shouldn't bother talking to people who only want me to hate God.

Well, so far you haven't given us much of a reason to want you gone. Also, people who call themselves atheists usually don't really care whether or not you "hate God" any more than we care about whether you "hate Santa Claus".

Why am I even here again? Seriously, why am I not just lurking? That would make more sense.

Because you feel you have something you want to say?

9Alicorn9yDo you want a pony [http://lesswrong.com/lw/58u/specific_fiction_discusion_april_2011/3xkg]?

Greetings, LessWrong!

I'm Saro, currently 19, female and a mathematics undergraduate at the University of Cambridge. I discovered LW by the usual HP:MoR route, though oddly I discovered MoR via reading EY's website, which I found in a Google search about Bayes' once. I'm feeling rather fanatical about MoR at the moment, and am not-so-patiently awaiting chapter 78.

Generally though, I've found myself stuck here a lot because I enjoy arguing, and I like convincing other people to be less wrong. Specifically, before coming across this site, I spent a lot of time reading about ways of making people aware of their own biases when interpreting data, and effective ways of communicating statistics to people in a non-misleading way (I'm a big fan of the work being done by David Spiegelhalter). I'm also quite fond of listening to economics and politics arguments and trying to tear them down, though through this, I've lost any faith in politics as something that has any sensible solutions.

I suspect that I'm pretty bad at overcoming my own biases a lot of the time. In particular, I have a very strong tendency to believe what I'm told (including what I'm being told by this site), I'm particularly... (read more)

5[anonymous]9yWelcome! I wouldn't necessarily call that a failing in and of itself -- it's important to notice the influence that tone and eloquence and other ineffable aesthetic qualities have on your thinking (lest you find yourself agreeing with the smooth talker over the person with a correct argument), but it's also a big part of appreciating art, or finding beauty in the world around you. If it helps, I was raised atheist, only ever adopted organized religion once in response to social pressure (it didn't last, once I was out of that context), find myself a skeptical, materialist atheist sort -- and with my brain wiring (schizotypal, among other things) I still have intense, vivid spiritual experiences on a regular basis. There's no inherent contradiction, if you see the experiences as products-of-brain and that eerie sense that maybe there's something more to it as also a product-of-brain, with antecedents in known brain-bits.

Hey everyone,

My name is Jennifer Davies. I'm 35 years old and am married with a 3 year old daughter. I live in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.

Originally a computer programmer, I gave it up after spending a year coding for a bank (around 1997). Motivated by an interest in critical thinking, I earned a BA in Philosophy.

Currently, I'm completing a one year post-grad program to become a Career Development Practitioner. I plan to launch a private practice in 2012 to help people find and live their passions while providing them with the tools to do so.

A friend introduced me to Harry Potter: Methods of Rationality and Less Wrong. I have never enjoyed a piece of reading more than that fanfic -- I even saved a PDF version to introduce to my daughter once she's able to benefit from it.

My main motivations (that I'm aware of) for becoming a member of this community are to: improve my thinking skills (and better understand/evaluate values and motivations), help clients to think more rationally, better encourage independent, critical thought in my daughter.

Although it can be painful at times (for my ego) to be corrected, I appreciate such corrections and the time put into them.

Any tips for teaching young children rationality? I'm at a loss and wonder if I need to wait until she's older.

4beoShaffer9yHi Jennifer. There's been quite a bit written about teaching children rationality. Unfortunately, the relative newness of LW and the low percentage of parents means its all somewhat speculative. The following links cover most(but probably not all of what LW has on the subject). * http://lesswrong.com/lw/25/on_the_care_and_feeding_of_young_rationalists/ [http://lesswrong.com/lw/25/on_the_care_and_feeding_of_young_rationalists/] * http://lesswrong.com/lw/2q/on_juvenile_fiction/ [http://lesswrong.com/lw/2q/on_juvenile_fiction/] * http://lesswrong.com/lw/3c/rationalist_storybooks_a_challenge/ [http://lesswrong.com/lw/3c/rationalist_storybooks_a_challenge/] * http://lesswrong.com/lw/63f/rational_parenting/ [http://lesswrong.com/lw/63f/rational_parenting/] * http://lesswrong.com/lw/3i/little_johny_bayesian/ [http://lesswrong.com/lw/3i/little_johny_bayesian/] * http://lesswrong.com/lw/4uw/preschoolers_learning_to_guess_the_teachers/ [http://lesswrong.com/lw/4uw/preschoolers_learning_to_guess_the_teachers/] * http://lesswrong.com/lw/70b/raise_the_age_demographic/ [http://lesswrong.com/lw/70b/raise_the_age_demographic/] (You have to go down to the comments section for this one)

Hello, Less Wrong.

I suppose I should have come here first, before posting anything else, but I didn't come here through the front door. :3 Rather, I was brought here by way of HP:MOR, as I'm sure many newbies were.

My name is Anthony. I'm 21 years old, married, studying Linguistics, and I'm an unapologetic member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Should be fun.

Good day I'm a fifteen year-old high school student, Junior, and ended up finding this through the Harry Potter & MOR story, which I thought would be a lot less common to people. Generally I think I'm not that rational of a person, I operate mostly on reaction and violence, and instinctively think of things like 'messages' and such when I have some bad luck; but, I've also found some altruistic passion in me, and I've done all of this self observation which seems contradictory, but I think that's all a rationalization to make me a better person. I also have some odd moods, which split between talking like this, when usually I can't like this at all.

I'd say something about my age group but I can't think of anything that doesn't sound like hypocrisy, so I think I'll cut this off here.

  • Aaaugh, just looking at this giant block of text makes me feel like an idiot.

Hello, Less Wrong.

My name is Zachary Vance. I'm an undergraduate student at the University of Cincinnati, double majoring in Mathematics and Computer Science--I like math better. I am interested in games, especially board and card games. One of my favorite games is Go.

I've been reading Less Wrong for 2-3 months now, and I posted once or twice under another name which I dropped because I couldn't figure out how to change names without changing accounts. I got linked here via Scott Aaronson's blog Shtetl-Optimized after seeing a debate between him and Eliezer. I got annoyed at Eliezer for being rude, forgot about it for a month, and followed the actual link on Scott's site over here. (In case you read this Eliezer, you both listen to people more than I thought (update, in Bayesian) and write more interesting things than I heard in the debate.) I like paradoxes and puzzles, and am currently trying to understand the counterfactual mugging. I've enjoyed Less Wrong because everybody here seems to read everything and usually carefully think about it before they post, which means not only articles but also comments are simply amazing compared to other sites. It also means I try not to post too much so Less Wrong remains quality.

I am currently applying to work at the Singularity Institute.

4Paul Crowley11yHi, welcome to Less Wrong and thanks for posting an introduction!
  • Persona: Rain
  • Age: 30s
  • Gender: Unrevealed
  • Location: Eastern USA
  • Profession: Application Administrator, US Department of Defense
  • Education: Business, Computers, Philosophy, Scifi, Internet
  • Interests: Gaming, Roleplaying, Computers, Technology, Movies, Books, Thinking
  • Personality: Depressed and Pessimistic
  • General: Here's a list of my news sources

Rationalist origin: I discovered the scientific method in highschool and liked the results of its application to previously awkward social situations, so I extended it to life in general. I came up with most of OB's earlier material by myself under different names, or not quite as well articulated, and this community has helped refine my thoughts and fill in gaps.

Found LW: The FireFox add-on StumbleUpon took me to EY's FAQ about the Meaning of Life on 23 October 2005, along with Max More, Nick Bostrom, Alcor, Sentient Developments, the Transhumanism Wikipedia page, and other resources. From there, to further essays, to the sl4 mailing list, to SIAI, to OB, to LW, where I started interacting with the community in earnest in late January 2010 and achieved 1000 karma in early June 2010. Previous to the StumbleUpon treasure trove, I had been ... (read more)

Ignoring the more obvious jokes people make in introduction posts: Hi. My name is Robin. I grew up in the Eastern Time Zone of the United States, and have lived in the same place essentially all my life. I was homeschooled by secular parents - one didn't discuss religion and the other was agnostic - with my primary hobby being the reading of (mostly) speculative fiction of (mostly) quite high quality. (Again, my parent's fault - when I began searching out on my own, I was rather less selective.) The other major activity of my childhood was participation in the Boy Scouts of America.

I entered community college at the age of fifteen with an excellent grounding in mathematics, a decent grounding in physics, superb fluency with the English language (both written and spoken), and superficial knowledge of most everything else. After earning straight As for three years, I applied to four-year universities, and my home state university offered me a full ride. At present, I am a graduate student in mechanical engineering at the same institution.

In the meantime, I have developed an affection for weblogs, web comics, and online chess, much to the detriment of my sleep schedule and work ethic.... (read more)

4Alicorn11yWhat gave you the idea that anyone cares about age and experience around here? ;)
  • Handle: thoughtdancer
  • Name: Deb
  • Location: Middle of nowhere, Michigan
  • Age: 44
  • Gender: Female
  • Education: PhD Rhetoric
  • Occupation: Writer-wannabe, adjunct Prof (formerly tenure-track, didn't like it)
  • Blog: thoughtdances Just starting, be gentle please

I'm here because of SoullessAutomaton, who is my apartment-mate and long term friend. I am interested in discussing rhetoric and rationality. I have a few questions that I would pose to the group to open up the topic.

1) Are people interested in rhetoric, persuasion, and the systematic study thereof? Does anyone want a primer? (My PhD is in the History and Theory of Rhetoric, so I could develop such a primer.)

2) What would a rationalist rhetoric look like?

3) What would be the goals / theory / overarching observations that would be the drivers behind a rationalist rhetoric?

4) Would a rationalist rhetoric be more ethical than current rhetorics, and if so, why?

5) Can rhetoric ever be fully rational and rationalized, or is the study of how people are persuaded inevitably or inherently a-rational or anti-rational (I would say that rhetoric can be rationalized, but I know too many scholars who would disagree with me here, either explici... (read more)

5MBlume12yI rather like Eliezer's description of ethical writing given in rule six here [http://www.acceleratingfuture.com/tom/sl4wiki/SingularityWritingAdvice.html]. I'm honestly not sure why he doesn't seem to link it anymore.

I freely admit that I have one sockpuppet, who has made less than five comments and has over 20 karma.

I have a private message, dated 7 October, from an account with "less than five comments and [...] over 20 karma", which begins, "I'm Will_Newsome, this is one of my alts." (Emphasis mine.)

Will, I'm sorry it's turning out like this. I am not perfect myself; anyone who cares may look up users "Bananarama" and "OperationPaperclip" and see my own lame anonymous humor. More to the point, I do actually believe that yo... (read more)

4Will_Newsome9yI have those! E.g. I spend a lot of time with Steve, who is the most rational person in the entire universe, and I hang out with folk like Nick Tarleton and Michael Vassar and stuff. All those 3 people are way smarter than me, though arguably I get around some of that by way of playing to my strengths. The point is that I can play intellectualism with them, especially Steve who's really good at understanding me. ETA: I also talk to the Black Belt Bayesian himself sorta often.

Not as far as I know, but you seemed pretty confident in that hypothesis so maybe you know something I don't.

How would gwern, Alicorn or NancyLebowitz confirm that anything I said by phone meant AspiringKnitter isn't Will Newsome? They could confirm that they talked to a person. How could they confirm that that person had made AspiringKnitter's posts? How could they determine that that person had not made Will Newsome's posts?

Against a Biblical literalist, this would probably be a pretty good attack -- if you think a plausible implication of a single verse in the Bible, taken out of context, is an absolute moral justification for a proposed action, then, yes, you can justify pretty much any behavior.

However, this does not seem to be the thrust of AspiringKnitter's point, nor, even if it were, should we be content to argue against such a rhetorically weak position.

Rather, I think AspiringKnitter is arguing that certain emotions, attitudes, dispositions, etc. are repeated often e... (read more)

5CronoDAS9yYou have a good point there. Then again, there are plenty of times that Jesus says things to the effect of "Repent sinners, because the end is coming, and God and I are gonna kick your ass if you don't!" -- Sam Harris [http://www.salon.com/2006/07/07/harris_24/]
[-][anonymous]9y 9

Hello. I expect you won't like me because I'm Christian and female and don't want to be turned into an immortal computer-brain-thing that acts more like Eliezer thinks it should.

I don't think you'll be actively hated here by most posters (and even then, flamewars and trolling here are probably not what you'd expect from most other internet spaces)

it'll raise the probability that you start worshiping the possibility of becoming immortal polyamorous whatever and taking over the world.

I wouldn't read polyamory as a primary shared feature of the poster... (read more)

I'm going to scoop TheOtherDave on this topic, I hope he doesn't mind :-/

But first of all, who do you mean by "an em" ? I think I know the answer, but I want to make sure.

If it thought it was me, and they thought it was me, but I was already dead, that would be really bad.

From my perspective, a machine that thinks it is me, and that behaves identically to myself, would, in fact, be myself. Thus, I could not be "already dead" under that scenario, until someone destroys the machine that comprises my body (which they could do with my b... (read more)

8AspiringKnitter9yThat's a REALLY good response. An em would be a computer program meant to emulate a person's brain and mind. If you create such a mind that's just like mine at this very moment, and take both of us and show the construct something, then ask me what you showed the construct, I won't know the answer. In that sense, it isn't me. If you then let us meet each other, it could tell me something. Because this means I could believe that Bugmaster is comfortable and able to communicate with the world via the internet, but it could actually be true that Bugmaster is in an alien jail being tortured. The machine also doesn't have Bugmaster's soul-- it would be important to ascertain whether or not it did have a soul, though I'd have some trouble figuring out a test for that (but I'm sure I could-- I've already got ideas, pretty much along the lines of "ask God")-- and if it doesn't, then it's useless to worry about preaching the Gospel to the replica. (It's probably useless to preach it to Bugmaster anyway, since Bugmaster is almost certainly a very committed atheist.) This has implications for, e.g., reunions after death. Not to mention that if I'm concerned about the state of Bugmaster's soul, I should worry about Bugmaster in the alien ship. And if both of them (the replica and the real Bugmaster) accept Jesus (a soulless robot couldn't do that), it's two souls saved rather than one. That's a really good question. How many grains of sand do you need to remove from a heap of sand for it to stop being a heap? I suppose what matters is whether the soul stays with the body. I don't know where the line is. I expect there is one, but I don't know where it is. Of course, what do we mean by "inhuman machine" in this case? If it truly thought like a human brain, and FELT like a human, was really sentient and not just a good imitation, I'd venture to call it a real person. And who does the programming and encrypting? That only one person (who has clearly not respected my wishes t
5Kaj_Sotala9yUpvoted for dismissing the inclination to respond sarcastically after remembering the inferential distance.
4Bugmaster9yThat's what I thought, cool. Agreed; that is similar to what I meant earlier about the copies "diverging". I don't see this as problematic, though -- after all, there currently exists only one version of me (as far as I know), but that version is changing all the time (even as I type this sentence), and that's probably a good thing. Ok, that's a very good point; my example was flawed in this regard. I could've made the aliens more obviously benign. For example, maybe the biological Bugmaster got hit by a bus, but the aliens snatched up his brain just in time, and transcribed it into a computer. Then they put that computer inside of a perfectly realistic synthetic body, so that neither Bugmaster nor anyone else knows what happened (Bugmaster just thinks he woke up in a hospital, or something). Under these conditions, would it matter to you that you were talking to the replica or the biological Bugmaster ? But, in the context of my original example, with the (possibly) evil aliens: why aren't you worried that you are talking to the replica right at this very moment ? I agree that the issue of the soul would indeed be very important; if I believed in souls, as well as a God who answers specific questions regarding souls, I would probably be in total agreement with you. I don't believe in either of those things, though. So I guess my next two questions would be as follows: a). Can you think of any non-supernatural reasons why an electronic copy of you wouldn't count as you, and/or b). Is there anything other than faith that causes you to believe that souls exist ? If the answers to (a) and (b) are both "no", then we will pretty much have to agree to disagree, since I lack faith, and faith is (probably) impossible to communicate. Well, yes, preaching to me or to any other atheist is very unlikely to work. However, if you manage to find some independently verifiable and faith-independent evidence of God's (or any god's) existence, I'd convert in a heartbeat. I con
4Prismattic9yI realize that theological debate has a pretty tenuous connection to the changing of minds, but sometimes one is just in the mood.... Suppose that tonight I lay I minefield all around your house. In the morning, I tell you the minefield is there. Then I send my child to walk through it. My kid gets blown up, but this shows you a safe path out of your house and allows you to go about your business. If I then suggest that you should express your gratitude to me everyday for the rest of your life, would you think that reasonable?.... According to your theology, was hell not created by God? I once asked my best friend, who is a devout evangelical, how he could be sure that the words of the Bible as we have it today are correct, given the many iterations of transcription it must have gone through. According to him, God's general policy of noninterference in free will didn't preclude divinely inspiring the writers of the Bible to trancribe it inerrantly. At least according to one thesist's account, then, God was willing to interfere as long it was something really important for man's salvation. And even if you don't agree with that particular interpretation, I'd like to hear your explanation how the points at which God "hardened Pharaoh's heart", for example, don't amount to interfering with free will.
6Dreaded_Anomaly9yAlso: transcranial magnetic stimulation [http://www.ted.com/talks/rebecca_saxe_how_brains_make_moral_judgments.html], pharmaceuticals and other chemicals, physical damage...

He's the only person I know of who wants to build an AI that will take over the world and do what he wants. He's also smart enough to have a chance, which is disturbing.

Have you read his paper on CEV? To the best of my knowledge, that's the clearest place he's laid out what he wants an AGI to do, and I wouldn't really label it "take over the world and do what [Eliezer Yudkowsky] wants" except for broad use of those terms to the point of dropping their typical connotations.

Don't worry. We are in good hands. Eliezer understands the dillemas involved and will ensure that we can avoid non-friendly AI. The SI are dedicated to Friendly AI and the completion of their goal.

4Bugmaster9yI can virtually guarantee you that he's not the only one who wants to build such an AI. Google, IBM, and the heads of major three-letter government agencies all come to mind as the kind of players who would want to implement their own pet genie, and are actively working toward that goal. That said, it's possible that EY is the only one who has a chance of success... I personally wouldn't give him, or any other human, that much credit, but I do acknowledge the possibility.
4AspiringKnitter9yThank you. I've just updated on that. I now consider it even more likely that the world will be destroyed within my lifetime.
4Bugmaster9yFor what it's worth, I disagree with many (if not most) LessWrongers (LessWrongites ? LessWrongoids ?) on the subject of the Singularity. I am far from convinced that the Singularity is even possible in principle, and I am fairly certain that, even if it were possible, it would not occur within my lifetime, or my (hypothetical) children's lifetimes. EDIT: added a crucial "not" in the last sentence. Oops.

Wow, thanks! I feel less nervous/unwelcome already!

Let me just apologize on behalf of all of us for whichever of the stains on our honor you're referring to. It wasn't right. (Which one am I saying wasn't right?)

Yay for not acting like EY wants, I guess. No offense or anything, EY, but you've proposed modifications you want to make to people that I don't want made to me already...

(I don't know what I said to deserve an upvote... uh, thanks.)

9Icehawk789yI'm curious which modifications EY has proposed (specifically) that you don't want made, unless it's just generically the suggestion that people could be improved in any ways whatsoever and your preference is to not have any modifications made to yourself (in a "be true to yourself" manner, perhaps?) that you didn't "choose". If you could be convinced that a given change to "who you are" would necessarily be an improvement (by your own standards, not externally imposed standards, since you sound very averse to such restrictions) such as "being able to think faster" or "having taste preferences for foods which are most healthy for you" (to use very primitive off-the-cuff examples), and then given the means to effect these changes on yourself, would you choose to do so, or would you be averse simply on the grounds of "then I wouldn't be 'me' anymore" or something similar?
5AspiringKnitter9yBeing able to think faster is something I try for already, with the means available to me. (Nutrition, sleep, mental exercise, I've even recently started trying to get physical exercise.) I actually already prefer healthy food (it was a really SIMPLE hack: cut out junk food, or phase it out gradually if you can't take the plunge all at once, and wait until your taste buds (probably actually some brain center) start reacting like they would have in the ancestral environment, which is actually by craving healthy food), so the only further modification to be done is to my environment (availability of the right kinds of stuff). So obviously, those in particular I do want. However, I also believe that here lies the road to ableism. EY has already espoused a significant amount. For instance, his post about how unfair IQ is misses out on the great contributions made to the world by people with very low IQs. There's someone with an IQ of, I think she said, 86 or so, who is wiser than I am (let's just say I probably rival EY for IQ score). IQ is valid only for a small part of the population and full-scale IQ is almost worthless except for letting some people feel superior to others. I've spent a lot of time thinking about and exposed to people's writings about disability and how there are abled people who seek to cure people who weren't actually suffering and appreciated their uniqueness. Understanding and respect for the diversity of skills in the world is more important than making everyone exactly like anyone else. The above said, that doesn't mean I'm opposed in principle to eliminating problems with disability (nor is almost anyone who speaks out against forced "cure"). Just to think of examples, I'm glad I'm better at interacting with people than I used to be and wish to be better at math (but NOT at the expense of my other abilities). Others, with other disabilities, have espoused wishes for other things (two people that I can think of want an end to their chronic

Welcome!

IQ is valid only for a small part of the population and full-scale IQ is almost worthless

This directly contradicts the mainstream research on IQ: see for instance this or this. If you have cites to the contrary, I'd be curious to read them.

That said, glad to see someone else who's found In My Language - I ran across it many years ago and thought it beautiful and touching.

8AspiringKnitter9yYes, you're right. That was a blatant example of availability bias-- the tiny subset of the population for which IQ is not valid makes up a disproportionately large part of my circle. And I consider full-scale IQ worthless for people with large IQ gaps, such as people with learning disabilities, and I don't think it conveys any new information over and above subtest scores in other people. Thank you for reminding me again how very odd I and my friends are. But I also refer here to understanding, for instance, morality or ways to hack life, and having learned one of the most valuable lessons I ever learned from someone I'm pretty sure is retarded (not Amanda Baggs; it's a young man I know), I know for a fact that some important things aren't always proportional to IQ. In fact, specifically, I want to say I learned to be better by emulating him, and not just from the interaction, lest you assume it's something I figured out that he didn't already know. I don't have any studies to cite; just personal experience with some very abnormal people. (Including myself, I want to point out. I think I'm one of those people for whom IQ subtests are useful-- in specific, limited ways-- but for whom full-scale IQ means nothing because of the great variance between subtest scores.)
4juliawise9yHer points on disability may still be valid, but it looks like the whole Amanda Baggs autism thing was a media stunt [http://autismfraud.blogspot.com/2009/12/amanda-baggs-controversy.html]. At age 14, she was a fluent speaker with an active social life.

By the middle of the second paragraph I was thinking "Whoa, is everyone an Amanda Baggs fan around here?". Hole in one! I win so many Bayes-points, go me.

I and a bunch of LWers I've talked to about it basically already agree with you on ableism, and a large fraction seems to apply usual liberal instincts to the issue (so, no forced cures for people who can point to "No thanks" on a picture board). There are extremely interesting and pretty fireworks that go off when you look at the social model disability from a transhumanist perspective and I want to round up Alicorn and Anne Corwin and you and a bunch of other people to look at them closely. It doesn't look like curing everyone (you don't want a perfectly optimized life, you want a world with variety, you want change over time), and it doesn't look like current (dis)abilities (what does "blind" mean if most people can see radio waves?), and it doesn't look like current models of disability (if everyone is super different and the world is set up for that and everything is cheap there's no such thing as accommodations), and it doesn't look like the current structures around disability (if society and p... (read more)

But in a cooperative endeavor like that, who's going to listen to me explaining I don't want to change in the way that would most benefit them?

Those of us who endorse respecting individual choices when we can afford to, because we prefer that our individual choices be respected when we can afford it.

I am not in principle opposed to people having all the strengths and none of the weaknesses of multiple types [..] I don't think that in practice it will work for most people

If you think it will work for some people, but not most, are you in principle opposed to giving whatever-it-is-that-distinguishes-the-people-it-works-for for to anyone who wants it?

More broadly: I mostly consider all of this "what would EY do" stuff a distraction; the question that interests me is what I ought to want done and why I ought to want it done, not who or what does it. If large-scale celibacy is a good idea, I want to understand why it's a good idea. Being told that some authority figure (any authority figure) advocated it doesn't achieve that. Similarly, if it's a bad idea, I want to understand why it's a bad idea.

6AspiringKnitter9yWhatever-it-is-that-distinguishes-the-people-it-works-for seems to be inherent in the skills in question (that is, the configuration that brings about a certain ability also necessarily brings about a weakness in another area), so I don't think that's possible. If it were, I can only imagine it taking the form of people being able to shift configuration very rapidly into whatever works best for the situation, and in some cases, I find that very implausible. If I'm wrong, sure, why not? If it's possible, it's only the logical extension of teaching people to use their strengths and shore up their weaknesses. This being an inherent impossibility (or so I think; I could be wrong), it doesn't so much matter whether I'm opposed to it or not, but yeah, it's fine with me. You make a good point, but I expect that assuming that someone makes AI and uses it to rule the world with the power to modify people, it will be Eliezer Yudkowsky, so whether he would abuse that power is more important than whether my next-door neighbors would if they could or even what I would do, and so what EY wants is at least worth considering, because the failure mode if he does something bad is way too catastrophic.
5[anonymous]9yYeah, this is Eliezer inferring too much from the most-accessible information about sex drive from members of his tribe, so to speak -- it's not so very long ago in the West that female sex drive was perceived as insatiable and vast, with women being nearly impossible for any one man to please in bed; there are still plenty of cultures where that's the case. But he's heard an awful lot of stories couched in evolutionary language about why a cultural norm in his society that is broadcast all over the place in media and entertainment reflects the evolutionary history of humanity. He's confused about human nature. If Eliezer builds a properly-rational AI by his own definitions to resolve the difficulty, and it met all his other stated criteria for FAI, it would tell him he'd gotten confused.
5Emile9yLook at it this way - would you agree to trade getting a slightly higher sex drive, in exchange for living in a world where rape, divorce, and unwanted long-term celibacy ("forever alone") are each an order of magnitude rarer than they are in our world? (That is assuming that such a change in sex drive would have those results, which is far from certain.)
7Alicorn9yThis is an unfair question. If we do the Singularity right, nobody has to accept unwanted brain modifications in order to solve general societal problems. Either we can make the brain modifications appealing via non-invasive education or other gentle means, or we can skip them for people who opt out/don't opt in. Not futzing with people's minds against their wills is a pretty big deal! I would be with Aspiring Knitter in opposing a population-wide forcible nudge to sex drive even if I bought the exceptionally dubious proposition that such a drastic measure would be called for to fix the problems you list.
4Cthulhoo9yI would be very interested in reading your opinion on this subject. There is sometimes a confirmation effect/death spiral inside the LW community, and it would be nice to be exposed to a completely different point of view. I may then modify my beliefs fully, in part or not at all as a consequence, but it's valuable information for me.
[-][anonymous]9y 9

Hey everyone.

I'm Jandila (not my birth, legal or even everyday name), I'm a 28-year old transgendered woman living in Minnesota. I've been following EY's writings off and on since many years ago on the sl4 mailing list, mostly on the topic of AI; initially I got interested in cognitive architecture and FAI due to a sci-fi novel I've been working on forever. I discovered LW a few years ago but only recently started posting; somehow I missed this thread until just recently.

I've been interested in bias and how people think, and in modifying my own instrument... (read more)

Hello fellow Less Wrongians,

My name is Josh and I'm a 16-year-old junior in high school. I live in a Jewish family at the Jersey Shore. I found the site by way of TV Tropes after a friend told me about the Methods of Rationality. Before i started reading Eliezer's posts, i made the mistake of believing I was smart. My goal here is mainly to just be the best that I can be and maybe learn to lead a better life. And by that I mean that I want to be better than everyone else I meet. That includes being a more rational person better able to understand complex i... (read more)

Hi, I'm Lincoln. I am 25; I live and work in Cambridge, MA. I currently build video games but I'm going to start a Ph.D program in Computer Science at the local university in the fall.

I identified rationality as a thing to be achieved ever since I knew there was a term for it. One of the minor goals I had since I was about 15 was devising a system of morality which fit with my own intuitions but which was consistent under reflection (but not in so many words). The two thought experiments I focused on were abortion and voting. I didn't come up with an answe... (read more)

HI, I'm GDC3. Those are my initials. I'm a little nervous about giving my full name on the internet, especially because my dad is googlible and I'm named after him. (Actually we're both named after my grandfather, hence the 3) But I go by G.D. in real life anyway so its not exactly not my name. I'm primarily working on learning math in advance of returning to college right now.

Sorry if this is TMI but you asked: I became an aspiring rationalist because I was molested as a kid and I knew that something was wrong, but not what it was or how to stop it, a... (read more)

Yup, our only flaw is modesty.

[-][anonymous]10y 9

[Hi everyone!]

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply

I've existed for about 24 years, and currently live in Boston.

I regard many of the beliefs popular here - cyronics, libertarianism, human biodiversity, pickup artistry - with extreme skepticism. (As if in compensation, I have my own unpopular frameworks for understanding the world.) I find the zeitgeist here to be interestingly wrong, though, because almost everyone comes from a basically sane starting point - a material universe, conventionally "Western" standards of science, reason, and objectivity - and actively discusses how they can regulate... (read more)

5Blueberry10yWelcome to Less Wrong! I'd love to hear more about this: I also like exposing myself to alternative points of view expressed in a non-crazy way, and I'm interested in your unpopular frameworks. Specifically: cryonics is highly speculative, but do you think there's a small chance it might work? When you say you don't believe in human biodiversity, what does that mean? And when you say you don't believe in pickup artistry, you don't think that dating and relationships skills exist?

Hi all, I'm Jen, an Australian Jewish atheist, and an student in a Computer Science/Linguistics/Cognitive Science combined degree, in which I am currently writing a linguistics thesis. I got here through recommendations from a couple of friends who visit here and stayed mostly for the akrasia and luminosity articles (hello thesis and anxiety/self-esteem problems!) Oh and the other articles too, but the ones I've mentioned are the ones that I've put the most effort into understanding and applying. The others are just interesting and marked for further proce... (read more)

  • Handle: Alicorn
  • Location: Amherst, MA
  • Age: The number of full years between now and October 21, 1988
  • Gender: Female

Atheist by default, rationalist by more recent inclination and training. I found OB via Stumbleupon and followed the yellow brick road to Less Wrong. In the spare time left by schoolwork and OB/LW, I do art, write, cook, and argue with those of my friends who still put up with it.

I was thinking more along the lines of "going to hell is a natural consequence of worshiping Astarte", analogous to "if I listen to my peers and smoke pot, I won't be able to sing, whereas if I listen to my mother and drink lots of water, I will; therefore, my mother is right and listening to my peers is bad". I hadn't even considered it from that point of view before.

To return to something I pointed out far, far back in this thread, this is not analagous. Your mother does not cause you to lose your voice for doing the things she ad... (read more)

I'm confused. What happened overnight that made people suddenly start appreciating Will's advocacy of his own trolling here and the surrounding context? -5 to +7 is a big change and there have been similar changes to related comments. Either someone is sockpuppeting or people are actually starting to appreciate this crap. (I'm really hoping the former!)

Edit: And now it is back to -3. How bizarre!

One of my optimization criteria is discreditable-ness which I guess is sort of like optimizing for downvotes insofar as my audience really cares about credibility. When it comes to motivational dynamics there tends to be a lot of crossing between meta-levels and it's hard to tell what models are actually very good predictors. You can approximately model the comment you replied to by saying I was optimizing for downvotes, but that model wouldn't remain accurate if e.g. suddenly Less Wrong suddenly started accepting 4chan-speak. That's obviously unlikely but the point is that a surface-level model like that doesn't much help you understand why I say what I say. Not that you should want to understand that.

How do I insult thee? Let me count the ways.
I insult thee to the depth and breadth and height
My mind can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the lack of Reason and the craft of Bayes.

5J_Taylor9yTurning and turning in the narrowing spiral The user cannot resist those memes which are viral; The waterline is lowered; beliefs begin to cool; Mere tribalism is loosed, upon Lesswrong's school, The grey-matter is killed, and everywhere The knowledge of one's ignorance is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.

What about when information is obscured by deliberate impoliteness?

Basically, no. If you want to criticize people for being rude to you just don't operate by Crocker's rules. Make up different ones.

someone's attempt to convey information to me has obvious room for improvement

Do you mean improvement of the information content or the tone? If the former, I think saying "your comment was not informative enough, please explain more" is okay, both publicly and privately. If the latter, I think saying "your comment was not polite enough" is not okay under the spirit of Crocker's rules, neither publicly nor privately, even if the other person has declared Crocker's rules too.

Crocker's rules don't say "explain things in an insulting way", they say "don't soften the truths you speak to me". You can optimize for information-- and even get it across better-- when you're not trying to be rude.

A lot of intelligent folks have to spend a lot of energy trying not to be rude, and part of the point of Crocker's Rules is to remove that burden by saying you won't call them on rudeness.

I know Will Newsome in real life. If a means of arbitrating this bet is invented, I will identify AspiringKnitter as being him or not by visual or voice for a small cut of the stakes. (If it doesn't involve using Skype, telephone, or an equivalent, and it's not dreadfully inconvenient, I'll do it for free.)

You write stream-of-consciousness run-on sentences which exhibit abnormal disclosure of self while still actually making sense (if one can be bothered parsing them). Not only do you share this trait with Will, the themes and the phrasing are the same. You have a deep familiarity with LessWrong concerns and modes of thought, yet you also advocate Christian metaphysics and monogamy. Again, that's Will.

That's not yet "extremely obvious", but it should certainly raise suspicions. I expect that a very strong case could be made by detailed textual comparison.

AspiringKnitter's arguments for Christianity are quite different from Will's, though.

(Also, at the risk of sounding harsh towards Will, she's been considerably more coherent.)

I think if Will knew how to write this non-abstractly, he would have a valuable skill he does not presently possess, and he would use that skill more often.

8[anonymous]9yWow, is that all of your information? You either have a lot of money to blow, or you're holding back.

In addition to what APMason said, I think that many Christians would disagree with your second statement:

I doubt it'd be useful to go around trying to police people's morals.

Some of them are campaigning right now on the promise that they will "police people's morals"...

the possibility of becoming immortal polyamorous whatever and taking over the world.

I think I just found my new motto in life :-)

You guys really hate Christians, after all.

I personally am an atheist, and a fairly uncompromising one at that, but I still find this line a little offensive. I don't hate all Christians. Many (or probably even most) Christians are perfectly wonderful people; many of them are better than myself, in fact. Now, I do believe that Christians are disastrously wrong about their core beliefs, and that the privileged position that... (read more)

4AspiringKnitter9yIf you can call down hurricanes, tell me and I'll revise my beliefs to take that into account. (But then I'd just be in favor of deporting gays to North Korea or wherever else I decide I don't like. What a waste to execute them! It could also be interesting to send you all to the Sahara, and by interesting I mean ecologically destructive and probably a bad idea not to mention expensive and needlessly cruel.) As long as you're not actually doing that (if you are, please stop), and as long as you aren't causing some other form of disaster, I can't think of a good reason why I should be advocating your execution.
5CronoDAS9yCalling down hurricanes is easy. Actually getting them to come when you call them is harder. :)
5Bugmaster9ySadly, I myself do not possess the requisite sexual orientation, otherwise I'd be calling down hurricanes all over the place. And meteorites. And angry frogs ! Mwa ha ha !

EY has read With Folded Hands and mentioned it in his CEV writeup as one more dystopia to be averted. This task isn't getting much attention now because unfriendly AI seems to be more probable and more dangerous than almost-friendly AI. Of course we would welcome any research on preventing almost-friendly AI :-)

Hello, Less Wrong!

I'm Bill McGrath. I'm 22 years old, Irish, and I found my way here, as with many others, from TVTropes and Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

I'm a composer and musician, currently entering the final year of my undergrad degree. I have a strong interest in many other fields - friends of mine who study maths and physics often get grilled for information on their topics! I was a good maths student in school, I still enjoy using maths to solve problems in my other work or just for pleasure, and I still remember most of what I lear... (read more)

Hi, I'm Taryn. I'm female, 35 and working as a web developer. I started studying Math, changed to Comp Sci and actually did my degree in Cognitive Science (Psychology of intelligence, Neurophysiology, AI, etc) My 3rd year Project was on Cyberware.

When I graduated I didn't see any jobs going in the field and drifted into Web Development instead... but I've stayed curious about AI, along with SF, Science, and everything else too. I kinda wish I'd known about Singularity research back then... but perhaps it's better this way. I'm not a "totally devoted... (read more)

I suppose it's high time I actually introduced myself.

Hullo LW! I'm Elizabeth Ellis. That's a very common first name and a very common last name, so if you want to google me, I recommend "relsqui" instead. (I'm not a private person, the handle is just more useful for being a consistently recognizable person online.) I'm 24 and in Berkeley, California, USA. No association with the college; I just live here. I'm a cyclist, an omnivore, and a nontheist; none of these are because of moral beliefs.

I'm a high school dropout, which I like telling people... (read more)

4Alicorn10yUpvoted for the amusing phrase "electric meatball".

My name is Laural, 33-yo female, degree in CS, fetish for EvPsych. Raised Mormon, got over it at 18 or so, became a staunch Darwinist at 25.

I've been reading OvercomingBias on and off for years, but I didn't see this specific site till all the links to the Harry Potter fanfic came about. I had in fact just completed that series in May, so was quite excited to see the two things combined. But I think I wouldn't have registered if I hadn't read the AI Box page, which convinced me that EY was a genius. Personally, I am more interested in life-expansion than F... (read more)

I also found this blog through HP:MoR.

My ultimate social value is freedom, by which I mean the power of each person to control their own life. I believe in something like a utilitarian calculus, where utility is freedom, except that I don't really believe that there is a common scale in which one person's loss of freedom can be balanced by another person's gain. However, I find that freedom is usually very strongly positive-sum on any plausible scale, so this flaw doesn't seem to matter very much.

Of course, freedom in this sense can only be a social valu... (read more)

Hello everyone!

Name: Tuesday Next Age: 19 Gender: Female

I am an undergraduate student studying political science, with a focus on international relations. I have always been interested in rationalism and finding the reasons for things.

I am an atheist, but this is more a consequence of growing up in a relatively nonreligious household. I did experiment with paganism and witchcraft for several years, a rather frightening (in retrospect) display of cognitive dissonance as I at once believed in science and some pretty unscientific things.

Luckily I was able... (read more)

  • Handle: Zvi
  • Name: Zvi Mowshowitz
  • Location: New York City
  • Age: 30
  • Education: BA, Mathematics

I found OB through Marginal Revolution, which then led to LW. A few here know me from my previous job as a professional Magic: The Gathering player and writer and full member of the Competitive Conspiracy. That job highly rewarded the rationality I already had and encouraged its development, as does my current one which unfortunately I can't say much about here but which gives me more than enough practical reward to keep me coming back even if I wasn't fascinated ... (read more)

Hi. This is my first time to this website, and my third comment today. I've been listening to the show "Bayesian Conspiracy" and made some posts to the subreddit. So I guess I'm not a good lurker.

I was intrigued by Arandur's article entitled "The Goal of the Bayesian Conspiracy" which was essentially,

(1) eliminate most pain and suffering and inequity.

(2) develop technologies for eternal life.

The ordering here, that Arandur suggested, I thought, was quite wise. I recently saw the series "Dollhouse" and I fel... (read more)

Hi everyone, I've been reading LW for a year or so, and met some of you at the May minicamp. (I was the guy doing the swing dancing.) Great to meet you, in person and online.

I'm helping Anna Salamon put together some workshops for the meetup groups, and I'll be posting some articles on presentation skills to help with that. But in order to do that, I'll need 5 points (I think). Can you help me out with that?

Thanks

Mike

Is that surprising? ... Don't people on this site rail against how low the sanity waterline is? I mean, you don't disagree that I'm more rational than most Christians and Muslims, right?

No, I suppose it's not surprising. I guess I misread the connotations of your claim. Although I am still not certain I agree: I know some very rational and intelligent Christians, and some very rational and intelligent atheists (I don't really know many Muslims, so I can't say anything about them). At some point I guess this statement is true by definition, since we can ... (read more)

Yeah. Thing is, we're dealing with an entity who created the system and has unbounded power within it. Respect for free will is a pretty good excuse, but given that it's conceivable for a soul to be created that wouldn't respond with permanent and unspeakable despair to separation from the Christian God (or to the presence of a God whom the soul has rejected, in the other scenario), making souls that way looks, at best, rather irresponsible.

If I remember right the standard response to that is to say that human souls were created to be part of a system with God at its center, but that just raises further questions.

I should probably point out at this point that Wiccans (well, at least those whom I'd met), consider this point of view utterly misguided and incredibly offensive.

I object to the use of social politics to overwhelm assertions of fact. Christians and Wiccan's obviously find each other offensive rather frequently. Both groups (particularly the former) probably also find me offensive. In all cases I say that is their problem.

Now if the Christians were burning the witches I might consider it appropriate to intervene forcefully...

Incidentally I wouldn't hav... (read more)

Yes, I all are!

The cereal thing is comically mild. The impulse to wish bad things on others is a pretty strong one and I think it's moderated by having an outlet to acknowledge that it's silly in this or maybe some other way

Calling nyan a jerk in that context wasn't ok with me and nor was any joke about wanting harm to come upon him. It was unjustified and inappropriate.

  • I'd rather people publicly wish me to run out of milk than privately wish me dead.

I don't much care what MixedNuts wants to happen to nyan. The quoted combination of words constitutes a status ... (read more)

4TheOtherDave9yThis is admirably compelling.

Well, as best I can tell my maintainer didn't install the religion patch, so all I'm working with is the testaments of others; but I have seen quite a variety of such testaments. Buddhism and Hinduism have a typology of religious experience much more complex than anything I've seen systematically laid down in mainline Christianity; it's usually expressed in terms unique to the Dharmic religions, but vipassanā for example certainly seems to qualify as an experiential pointer to Buddhist ontology.

If you'd prefer Western traditions, a phrase I've heard kicke... (read more)

I appreciate Will's contributions in general. Mostly the insane ones.

They remind me of a friend of mine who is absolutely brilliant but has lived his whole life with severe damage to vital parts of the brain.

7Jack9yI often appreciate his contributions as well. He is generally awful at constraining his abstract creativity so as to formulate constructive, concrete ideas but I can constrain abstract creativity just fine so his posts often provoke insights-- the rest just bumps up against my nonsense filter. Reading him at his best is a bit like taking a small dose of a hallucinogenic to provide my brain with a dose of raw material to hack away at with logic.
6Will_Newsome9yThat's interesting. Which parts of the brain, if you don't mind sharing? (Guess: qbefbyngreny cersebagny pbegrk, ohg abg irel pbasvqrag bs gung.)

Okay good, it took awhile for this to get downvoted and I was starting to get even more worried about the local sanity waterline.

I suspect that the reason for this is that the comment tree of which your post was a branch of is hidden by default, as it originates from a comment with less than -3 karma.

Um, on another note, could you just be less mean? 'Mean' seems to be the most accurate descriptor for posting trash that people have to downvote to stay hidden, after all.

5Will_Newsome9yNo, I ran an actual test by posting messages in all caps to use as a control. Empiricism is so cool! (ETA: I also wrote a perfectly reasonable but mildly complex comment as a second control, which garnered the same number of downvotes as my insane set theory comment in about he same length of time.) Re meanness, I will consider your request Dorikka. I will consider it.

THANKS FOR TELLIN ME BRAH

5LoudFarts9yNewsome FTW!

My experience of LW is that:

  • the baseline interaction mode would be considered rude-but-not-insulting by most American subcultures, especially neurotypical ones
  • the interaction mode invoked by "Crocker's rules" would be considered insulting by most American subcultures, especially neurotypical ones
  • there's considerable heterogeneity in terms of what's considered unacceptably rude
  • there's a tentative consensus that dealing with occasional unacceptable rudeness is preferable to the consequences of disallowing occasional unacceptabl
... (read more)
4[anonymous]9yYES! There seem to be a lot of new people introducing themselves on the Welcome thread today/yesterday. I would like to encourage everyone to maybe be just a tad bit more polite, and cognizant of the Principle of Charity [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principle_of_charity], at least for the next week or two, so all our newcomers can acclimate to the culture here. As someone who has only been on this site for a month or two (also as a NT, socially-skilled, female), I have spoken in the past about my difficulties dealing with the harshness here. I ended up deciding not to fight it, since people seem to like it that way, and that's ok. But I do think the community needs to be aware that this IS in fact an issue that new (especially NT) people are likely to shy away from, and even leave or just not post because of. tl;dr- I deal with the "rudeness", but want people to be aware that is does in fact exist. Those of us who dislike it have just learned to keep our mouths shut and deal with it. There are a lot of new people now, so try to soften it for the next week or two. (Note: I have not been recently down-voted, flamed, or crushed, so this isn't just me raging.)

Well, for any given conversation about religion, yes. (Obviously, I expect different things if I post a comment about HP:MoR on that thread.)

I expected the last one, since mostly no matter what I do, internet discussions on anything important have a tendency to do that. (And it's not just when I'm participating in them!) I considered any conversions highly unlikely and didn't really expect the interaction to be stopped.

My expectations have changed a lot. After a while I realized that hateful insults weren't happening very much here on Less Wrong, which is ... (read more)

What do you aspire to knit?

5AspiringKnitter9ySweaters, hats, scarves, headbands, purses, everything knittable. (Okay, I was wrong below, that was actually the second-easiest post to answer.) Do you like knitting too?

What possible proof could I offer you? I can't take you up on the bet because, while I'm not Newsome, I can't think of anything I could do that he couldn't fake if this were a sockpuppet account. If we met in person, I could be the very same person as Newsome anyway; he could really secretly be a she. Or the person you meet could be paid by Newsome to pretend to be AspiringKnitter.

5shokwave9yWell, I don't know what proof you could offer me; but if we genuinely put 500 dollars either way on the line, I am certain we'd rapidly agree on a standard of proof that satisfied us both.
4Alicorn9yNope, plenty of people onsite have met Will. I mean, I suppose it is not strictly impossible, but I would be surprised if he were able to present that convincingly as a dude and then later present as convincingly as a girl. Bonus points if you have long hair.
4TheOtherDave9yExcellent question. One way to deal with it is for all the relevant agents to agree on a bet that's actually specified... that is, instead of betting that "AspiringKnitter is/isn't the same person as WillNewsome," bet that "two verifiably different people will present themselves to a trusted third party identifying as WillNewsome and AspiringKnitter" and agree on a mechanism of verifying their difference (e.g., Skype). You're of course right that these are two different questions, and the latter doesn't prove the former, but if y'all agree to bet on the latter then the former becomes irrelevant. It would be silly of anyone to agree to the latter if their goal was to establish the former, but my guess is that isn't actually the goal of anyone involved. Just in case this matters, I don't actually care. For all I know, you and shokwave are the same person; it really doesn't affect my life in any way. This is the Internet, if I'm not willing to take people's personas at face value, then I do best not to engage with them at all.

Approving of something in principle doesn't necessarily translate into believing it should be mandatory regardless of the subject's feelings on the matter, or even into advocating it in any particular case. I'd be surprised if EY in particular ever made such an argument, given the attitude toward self-determination expressed in his Metaethics and Fun Theory sequences; I am admittedly extrapolating from only tangentially related data, though. Not sure I've ever read anything of his dealing with the ethics of brain simulation, aside from the specific and r... (read more)

I just lost my comment by hitting the wrong button. Not being too tired today, though, here's what I think in new words:

Oh, I see, and the idea here is that the evil spirit would not be able to actually say "Jesus is Lord" without self-destructing, right ? Thanks, I get it now; but wouldn't this heuristic merely help you to determine whether the message is coming from a good spirit or an evil one, not whether the message is coming from a spirit or from inside your own head ?

Yes. That's why we have to look into all sorts of possibilities.

I h

... (read more)

Acts 10:9-16:

On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:
And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance,
And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending upon him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth:
Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, a... (read more)

The same way we do, but faster? Like, if you start out thinking that scandalous-and-gross-sex-practice is bad, you can consider arguments like "disgust is easily culturally trained so it's a poor measure of morality", and talk to people so you form an idea of what it's like to want and do it as a subjective experience (what positive emotions are involved, for example), and do research so you can answer queries like "If we had a brain scanner that could detect brainwashing manipulation, what would it say about people who want that?".

So t... (read more)

Hello LessWrong!

My name is Michelle. I am from the United States and am entering college this August. I am a graphic design student who is also interested in public speaking. I was lead to this site one day while browsing fanfiction. I am an avid reader and spend a good percentage of my life reading novels and other literature. I read HPMOR and found the story intriguing and the theories very interesting. When I finally reached the end, I read the author's page and realized that I could find more information on the ideas presented in the book. Naturally, ... (read more)

I'm interested in ... winning arguments ...

Ack, that won't do. It is generally detrimental to be overly concerned with winning arguments. Aside from that, though, welcome to LW!

Hi, my handle is gscshoyru (gsc for short), and I'm new here. I found this site through the AIBox experiment, oddly enough -- and I think I got there from TVTropes, though I don't remember. After reading the fiction, (and being vaguely confused that I had read the NPC story before, but nothing else of his, since I'm a fantasy/sci-fi junkie and I usually track down authors I like), I started reading up on all of Eliezer's writings on rationality. And found it made a lot of sense. So, I am now a budding rationalist, and have decided to join this site because... (read more)

Hello, I'm Jeff, I found this site via a link on an XKCD forum post, which also included a link to the Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality fan-fic. I read the book first (well, what has been written so far, I just couldn't stop!) and decided that whoever wrote that must be made of pure awesome, and I was excited to see what you all talked about here.

After some perusal, I decided I had to respond to one of the posts, which of course meant I had to sign up. The post used keyboard layouts (QWERTY, etc.) as an example of how to rephrase a question ... (read more)

[-][anonymous]10y 7

Greetings, fellow thinkers! I'm a 19-year-old undergraduate student at Clemson University, majoring in mathematics (or, as Clemson (unjustifiably) calls it, Mathematical Sciences). I found this blog through Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality about three weeks ago, and I spent those three weeks doing little else in my spare time but reading the Sequences (which I've now finished).

My parents emigrated from the Soviet Union (my father is from Kiev, my mother from Moscow) just months before my birth. They spoke very little English upon their arrival, ... (read more)

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply

I've been an egoist for as long as I can remember

No offense intended, but: If you could take a pill that would prevent all pain from your conscience, and it could be absolutely guaranteed that no one would ever find out, how many twelve-year-olds would you kill for a dollar?

(Perhaps you meant to say that you were mostly egoist, or that your deliberatively espoused moral principles were egoistic?)

PS: Welcome to Less Wrong!

8[anonymous]10yEliezer, I've been thinking about this a lot. When I backed up and asked myself whether, not why [http://lesswrong.com/lw/vk/back_up_and_ask_whether_not_why/], I realized that 1) I'm no longer sure what "I am an egoist" means, especially given how far my understanding of ethics has come since I decided that, and 2) I derive fuzzies from repeating that back to myself, which strikes me as a warning sign that I'm covering up my own confusion.

Hello!

I work in a semi-technical offshoot of (ducks!) online marketing. I've always had rationalist tendencies, and reading the material on this website has had a "coming home" feeling for me. I appreciate the high level of discourse and the low levels of status-seeking behaviors.

I am female, and I read with interest the discussion on gender, but unfortunately I do not think I can contribute much to that topic, because I have been told repeatedly that I am "not like other women." I certainly don't think it would be a good idea to genera... (read more)

I originally wrote this for the origin story thread until I realized it's more appropriate here. So, sorry if it straddles both a bit.

I am, as nearly as I believe can be seen in the present world, an intrinsic rationalist. For example: as a young child I would mock irrationality in my parents, and on the rare occasions I was struck, I would laugh, genuinely, even through tears if they came, because the irrationality of the Appeal to Force made the joke immensely funnier. Most people start out as well-adapted non-rationalists; I evidently started as a malad... (read more)

Greetings, all. Found this site not too long ago, been reading through it in delight. It has truly energized my brain. I've been trying to codify and denote a number of values that I held true to my life and to discussion and to reason and logic, but was having the most difficult time. I was convinced I'd found a wonderful place that could help me when it provided me a link to the Twelve Virtues of Rationality, which neatly and tidily listed out a number of things I'd been striving to enumerate.

My origins in rationality basically originated at a very, ... (read more)

Hi all.

I found this site through Methods of Rationality (as I suspect many have, of late). I've been reading through the sequences and archives for a while, and am finally starting to feel up to speed enough to comment here and there.

My name is Sam. I'm a programmer, mostly interested in writing and designing games. Oddly enough, my username derives from my much-neglected blog, which I believe predated this website.

I've always relished discovering that I'm wrong; if there's a better way to consistently improve the accuracy of one's beliefs, I'm not aware o... (read more)

4RobinZ10yHello! I like your blog. I have a bit harsher filter than a number of prolific users of Less Wrong, I think - I would, pace Blueberry, like to see discussion of polyamory here only if you can explain how to imply the insights to other fields as well. I would be interested in the material, but I don't think this is the context for the merely interesting.

I'm Valerie, 23 and a brand new atheist. I was directed to LW on a (also newly atheist) friend's recommendation and fell in love with it.

Since identifying as an atheist, I've struggled a bit with 'now what?' I feel like a whole new world has opened up to me and there is so much out there that I didn't even know existed. It's a bit overwhelming, but I'm loving the influx of new knowledge. I'm still working to shed old patterns of thinking and work my way into new ones. I have the difficulty of reading something and feeling that I understand it, but n... (read more)

I go by Clarisse and I'm a feminist, sex-positive educator who has delivered workshops on both sexual communication and BDSM to a variety of audiences, including New York’s Museum of Sex, San Francisco’s Center for Sex and Culture, and several Chicago universities. I created and curated the original Sex+++ sex-positive documentary film series at Chicago’s Jane Addams Hull-House Museum; I have also volunteered as an archivist, curator and fundraiser for that venerable BDSM institution, the Leather Archives & Museum. Currently, I'm working on HIV mitigat... (read more)

Hello.
My name is Dan, and I'm a 30 year old software engineer living in Maryland. I was a mostly lurking member of the Extropian mailing list back in the day and I've been following the progress of the SIAI sporadically since it's founding. I've made a few donations, but nothing terribly significant.

I've been an atheist for half my life now, and as I've grown older I've tended more and more to rational thinking. My wife recently made a comment that she specifically uses rational argument with me much more so than anyone else she has to deal with, even ... (read more)

Hi, I'm Hrishi, 26, male. I work in air pollution modelling in London. I'm also doing a part-time PhD.

I am an atheist but come from a very religious family background.

When I was 15, I once cried uncontrollably and asked to see God. If there is indeed such a beautiful supreme being then why didn't my family want to meet Him? I was told that their faith was weak and only the greatest sages can see God after a lot of self-afflicted misery. So, I thought nevermind.

I've signed up for cryonics. You should too, or it'll just be 3 of us from LW when we wake up on... (read more)

  • Handle: arthurlewis
  • Location: New York, NY
  • Age: 28
  • Education: BA in Music.
  • Occupation: Musician / Teacher / Mac Support Guy
  • Blog/Music: http://arthurthefourth.com

My career as a rationalist began when I started doing tech support, and realized the divide between successful troubleshooting and what most customers tried to do. I think the key to "winning" is to challenge your assumptions about how to win, and what winning is. I think that makes me an instrumental rationalist, but I'm not quite sure I understand the term. I'm here because OB and ... (read more)

This community is too young to have veterans. Since this is the first such post, I think we should all be encouraged to introduce ourselves.

Thanks for doing this!

I'm a 24 year old PhD student of molecular biology. I arrived here trying to get at the many worlds vs copenhagen debate as a nonspecialist, and as part of a sustained campaign of reading that will allow me to tell a friend who likes Hegel where to shove it. I'm also here because I wanted to reach a decision about whether I really want to do biology, if not, whether I should quit, and if I leave, what i actually want to do.

Hello. I've been browsing articles that show up on the front page for about a year now. Just recently started going through the sequences and decided it would be a good time to create an account.

[-][anonymous]9y 6

While I agree with some of your other points, I'm not sure about this:

It's hard to imagine anything more like the definition of a petty tyrant than wiping out nearly all of humanity because they didn't act as expected

We shouldn't be too harsh until we are faced with either deleting a potentially self-improving AI that is not provably friendly or risking the destruction of not just our species but the destruction of all that we value in the universe.

The general impression of the Book of Job seems to be to lower people's opinion of God rather than raise their opinion of trolling.

5MileyCyrus9yAnd it was an atheist philosopher [http://www.logicien.fr/rhetorique.html] who first called trolling a art.

The impression I have is that calling Crocker's rules being never acting offended or angry at the way people talk to you, with the expectation that you'll get more information if people don't censor themselves out of politeness.

Some of your reactions here are not those I expect from someone under Crocker's rules (who would just ignore anything insulting or offensive).

So maybe what you consider as "Crocker's rules" is what most people here would consider "normal" discussion, so when you call Crocker's rules, people are extra rude.

I would... (read more)

Wikipedia and Google seem to think Eliezer is the authority on Crocker's Rules. Quoting Eliezer on sl4 via Wikipedia:

Anyone is allowed to call you a moron and claim to be doing you a favor.

Also, from our wiki:

The underlying assumption is that rudeness is sometimes necessary for effective conveyance of information, if only to signal a lack of patience or tolerance: after all, knowing whether the speaker is becoming angry or despondent is useful rational evidence.

Looking hard for another source, something called the DoWire Wiki has this unsourced:

... (read more)

I suppose either I'd become an atheist or everyone here would convert to Christianity.

8Prismattic9yThe assumption that everyone here is either an atheist or a Christian is already wrong.
5AspiringKnitter9yGood point. Thank you for pointing it out.
5NancyLebovitz9yThere are additional possibilities, like everyone agreeing on agnosticism or on some other religion.

that post wasn't using dark arts to persuade anything

Son, I am disappoint.

I left it alone because I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. Dubstep? Will likes, dislikes and/or does something involving dubstep? (Google tells me it is a kind of dance music.)

7katydee9yExplanation: Will once (in)famously claimed that watching certain dubstep videos would bolster some of your math intuitions. [http://lesswrong.com/lw/7k2/dubstep_and_algorithmic_information_theory/]
7Will_Newsome9y(Er, well, math intuitions in a few specific fields, and only one or two rather specific dubstep videos. I'm not, ya know, actually crazy. The important thing is that that video is, as the kids would offensively say, "sicker than Hitler's kill/death ratio".) newayz I upvoted your original comment.
7thomblake9yDo we count assists now?
[-][anonymous]9y 6

Being honest and having reasonable expectations of being treated like a troll does not disqualify a post from being a troll.

Hello, I expect you won't like me, I'm

Classic troll opening. Challenges us to take the post seriously. Our collective 'manhood' is threatened if react normally (eg saying "trolls fuck off").

dont want to be turned onto an immortal computer-brain-thing that acts more like Eliezer thinks it should

Insulting straw man with a side of "you are an irrational cult".

I've been lurking for a long time... overcoming

... (read more)
4DSimon9yI don't follow how indicating that she's actually read the site can be a mark against her. If the comment had not indicated familiarity with the site content, would you then describe it as less trollish?

I admit to being surprised that this is a Christian writing.

These are valid points, but you said that there still exist several cultures where women are considered to be more sexual than men. Shouldn't they then show up in the international studies? Or are these cultures so rare as to not be included in the studies?

Also, it occurs to me that whether or not the differences are biological is somewhat of a red herring. If they are mainly cultural, then it means that it will be easier for an FAI to modify them, but that doesn't affect the primary question of whether they should be modified. Surely that question is entirely independent of the question of their precise causal origin?

So... hm.

So if I'm parsing you correctly, you are assuming that if an upload of me is created, Upload_Dave necessarily differs from me in the following ways:
it doesn't have a soul, and consequently is denied the possibility of heaven,
it doesn't have a sense of smell, taste, hearing, sight, or touch,
it doesn't have my hands, or perhaps hands at all,
it is easier to hack (that is, to modify without its consent) than my brain is.

Yes?

Yeah, I think if I believed all of that, I also wouldn't be particularly excited by the notion of uploading.

For my own part, thou... (read more)

More sex does not have to mean more casual sex. There are lots of people in committed relationships (marriages) that would like to have more-similar sex drives. Nuns wouldn't want their libido increased, but it's not only for the benefit of the "playahs" either.

Also, I think the highest-voted comment ("I don't think that any relationship style is the best (...) However, I do wish that people were more aware of the possibility of polyamory (...)") is closer to the consensus than something like "everyone should have as many partners ... (read more)

This obviously invites the conclusion that cryonics is a terrible idea in the same sense that democracy is the worst form of government.

Makes sense enough.

For my own part, two things:

  • I entirely agree with you that various forms of mistaken and fraudulent identity, where entities falsely claim to be me or are falsely believed to be me, are problematic. Indeed, there are versions of that happening right now in the real world, and they are a problem. (That last part doesn't have much to do with AI, of course.)

  • I agree that people being modified without their consent is problematic. That said, it's not clear to me that I would necessarily be more subject to being modified without my con

... (read more)
[-][anonymous]9y 6

Every LW comment has its own RSS feed. You can find it by going to the comment's permalink URL and then clicking on "Subscribe to RSS Feed" from the right column or by adding "/.rss" to the end of the aforementioned URL, whichever is easier for you. The grandparent's RSS feed is here.

Welcome to LessWrong. Our goal is to learn how to achieve our goals better. One method is to observe the world and update our beliefs based on what we see (You'd think this would be an obvious thing to do, but history shows that it isn't so). Another method we use is to notice the ways that humans tend to fail at thinking (i.e. have cognitive bias).

Anyway, I hope you find those ideas useful. Like many communities, we are a diverse bunch. Each of our ultimate goals likely differs, but we recognize that the world is far from how any of us want it to be,... (read more)

Not everyone agrees with Eliezer on everything; this is usually not that explicit, but consider e.g. the number of people talking about relationships vs. the number of people talking about cryonics or FAI - LW doesn't act, collectively, as if it really believes Eliezer is right. It does assume that there is no God/god/supernatural, though.

(Also, where does this idea of atheists hating God come from? Most atheists have better things to do than hang on /r/atheism!)

7AspiringKnitter9yI got the idea from various posts where people have said they don't even like the Christian God if he's real (didn't someone say he was like Azathoth?) and consider him some kind of monster. I can see I totally got you guys wrong. Sorry to have underestimated your niceness.

For my own part, I think you're treating "being nice" and "liking the Christian God" and "hating Christians" and "wanting other people to hate God" and "only wanting other people to hate God" and "forcibly exterminating all morality" and various other things as much more tightly integrated concepts than they actually are, and it's interfering with your predictions.

So I suggest separating those concepts more firmly in your own mind.

To be fair, I'm sure a bunch of people here disapprove of some actions by the Christian God in the abstract (mostly Old Testament stuff, probably, and the Problem of Evil). But yeah, for the most part LWers are pretty nice, if a little idiosyncratic!

Azathoth (the "blind idiot god") is the local metaphor for evolution - a pointless, monomaniacal force with vast powers but no conscious goal-seeking ability and thus a tendency to cause weird side-effects (such as human culture).

7CronoDAS9yWell, if there were an omnipotent Creator, I'd certainly have a few bones to pick with him/her/it [http://www.utilitarian-essays.com/suffering-nature.html] ...
7kilobug9yAzathoth is how Eliezer described the process of evolution, not how he described the christian god.
5MarkusRamikin9yShe's possibly thinking about Cthulhu [http://lesswrong.com/lw/169/the_sword_of_good/].

You guys really hate Christians, after all.

The ten people I care about most in the world all happen to be Christians - devout, sincere Christians at that.

Hello, Less Wrong.

I am Russian, atheistic, 27, trying to be rational.

Initially I came here to read a through explanation of Bayes theorem, but noticed that LessWrong contains a lot more than that and decided to stay for a while.

I am really pleased by quality of material and pleasantly surprised by quality of comments. It is rare to see useful comments on the Internet.

I am going to read at least some sequences first and comment if I have something to say. Though, I know I WILL be sidetracked by HP:MoR and "Three worlds collide". Well, my love for SF always got me.

Hello Less wrong.

I've been reading Yudkowsky for a while now. I'm a philosophy major from NJ and he's been quite popular around here since I showed some of my friends three worlds collide. I am here because I think I can offer this forum new and well considered views on cognition, computability, epistemology, ontology, valid inference in general and also have my views kicked around a bit. Hopefully our mutual kicking around of each others views will toughen them up for future kicking battles.

I have studied logic at high levels, and have an intricate und... (read more)

Hello my name is Zachary Aletheia (when my wife and i got married we decided to choose a last name based on something that had meaning to use aletheia means truth in greek and we both have a passion for finding out the truth). Looking back on my journey to being a rationalist i think it was a 2 step process (though given how i've repeatedly thought about it i probably have changed the details in my memory quite a bit). I think the first step was during a anthropology class i watched this film about "magic" (i was a neo-pagan at the time who beli... (read more)

Hi

Didn't realise that this thread existed, so this 'hello' is after 20 or so posts. Oh well! I found Less Wrong because my brother recommended TVtropes, that linked to Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, and THAT led me back here. I've now recommended this site to my brother, completing the circle.

I've always been interested in rationality, I guess: I wouldn't identify any particular point of 'becoming a rationalist', though I've had times where I've come across ideas that help me be more accurate. Including some on here, actually. There's a secon... (read more)

Hi everyone!

I found this blog by clicking a link on Eliezer's site...which I found after seeing his name in a transhumanist mailing list...which I subscribed to after reading Ray Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near when I was fifteen. I found Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality at the same time, and I've now successfully addicted my 16-year-old brother as well.

I'm 19 and I'm studying nursing in Ottawa. I work as a lifeguard and swim instructor at a Jewish Community Centre. (I'm not Jewish.) I sing in a girls' choir at an Anglican church. (I'm not C... (read more)

Hi, I've been hanging around for several months now and decided to join. My name is John and I found the site (I believe) via a link on CommonSenseAtheism to How to actually change your mind. I read through many of those posts and took notes and resonated with a lot. I loved EY's Twelve Virtues and the Litany of Gendlin.

I'm a graduate in mechanical engineering and work as one today. I don't know that I would call myself a rationalist, but only because I haven't perhaps become one. In other words, I want to be but do not consider myself to be well-versed in... (read more)

[-][anonymous]10y 6

You're right! I've been so caught up (for years now) with explaining to people that mathematics was not a science because it was not empirical (although, as I've since learned from Eliezer, "pure thought" is still a physical process that we must observe in order to learn anything from it), that I've totally failed to actually think about the issue.

There goes another cached thought from my brain; good riddance, and thanks for the correction!

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply

Okay. Demographics. Boring stuff. Just skip to the next paragraph. I’m a masters student in mathematics (hopefully soon-to-be PhD student in economics). During undergrad, I majored in Biology, Economics and Math, and minored in Creative Writing (and nearly minored in Chemistry, Marine Science, Statistics and PE) … I’ll spare you the details, but most of those you won’t see on my resume for various reasons. Think: Master of None, not Omnidisciplinary Scientist.

My life goal is to write a financially self-sustainable computer game… for reasons I’ll keep secre... (read more)

Er. For example, it is really hard to communicate here without being totally literal! And people don't get my jokes!:-)

I wasn't complaining. I was trying to point out that the risk of being discriminated against for having Aspergers Syndrome here was very low given the high number of autism spectrum commenters here and the general climate of the site. I thought I was making a humorous point about the uniqueness of Less Wrong, like "We're so different from the rest of the internet; we discriminate against neurotypicals! Take that rest of the world!&quo... (read more)

My name's Axel Glibert. I'm 21, I just finished studying Biology and now I'm going for a teaching job. I found this wonderful site through hp and the methods of rationality and it has been an eyeopener for me.

I've been raised in a highly religious environment but it didn't take very long before I threw that out of the window. Since then I had to make my own moral rules and attempts at understanding how the universe works. My firsts "scientific experiments" were rather ineffective but it caused me to browse through the science section of the local... (read more)

G'day LW Im an Aussie currently studying at the Australian National University in Canberra. My name is Sam and i should point out that the 'G'day' is just for fun, most Australians never use that phase and it kinda makes me cringe.

At at this very moment i'm trying to finish my thesis on the foundations of inductive reasoning, which i guess is pretty relevant to this community. A big part of my thesis is to translate a lot of very technical mathematics regarding Bayesianism and Sollomonoff induction into philosophical and intuitive explanations, so this wh... (read more)

I recently found Less Wrong through Eliezer's Harry Potter fanfic, which has become my second favorite book. Thank you so much Eliezer for reminding my how rich my Art can be.

I was also delighted to find out (not so surprisingly) that Eliezer was an AI researcher. I have, over the past several months, decided to change my career path to AGI. So many of these articles have been helpful.

I have been a rationalist since I can remember. But I was raised as a Christian, and for some reason it took me a while to think to question the premise of God. Fortunately a... (read more)

4Vladimir_Nesov10y* AGI is death [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Paperclip_maximizer], you want Friendly AI [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Friendly_artificial_intelligence] in particular and not AGI in general. * "Life" is not the terminal value, terminal value is very complex [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Complexity_of_value].
[-][anonymous]10y 6

Hello! I'm Sam. I'm 17, a newly minted high school graduate, and I'll be heading off to Reed College in Portland, Oregon next month.

I discovered Less Wrong through a link (whose origin I no longer remember) to "A Fable of Science and Politics" a couple of months ago. The post was rather striking, and the site's banner was alluring, so I clicked on it. The result, over the past couple of months, has been a massive accumulation of bookmarks (18 directly from Less Wrong at the time of this writing) accompanied by an astonishing amount of insight. ... (read more)

Hi there,

My name is Lachlan, 25 years old, and I too am a computer programmer. I found less wrong via Eliezer's site; having been linked there by a comment on Charles Stross's blog, if I recall correctly.

I've read through a lot of the LW backlog and generally find it all very interesting, but haven't yet taken the time and effort to try to apply the useful seeming guidelines to my life and evaluate the results. I blame this on having left my job recently, and feeling that I have enough change in my life right now. I worry that this excuse will metamorphose... (read more)

4Alicorn10yLove the username!

Hi, everyone, you can call me Gigi. I'm a Mechanical Engineering student with a variety of interests ranking among everything from physics to art (unfortunately, I know more about the latter than the former). I've been reading LW frequently and for long sessions for a couple of weeks now.

I was attracted to LW primarily because of the apparent intelligence and friendliness of the community, and the fact that many of the articles illuminated and structured my previous thoughts about the world (I will not bother to name any here, many are in the Sequences).

Wh... (read more)

My name is Taiyo Inoue. I am a 32, male, father of a 1 year old son, married, and a math professor. I enjoy playing the acoustic guitar (American primitive fingerpicking), playing games, and soaking up the non-poisonous bits of the internet.

I went through 12 years of math study without ever really learning that probability theory is the ultimate applied math. I played poker for a bit during the easy money boom for fun and hit on basic probability theory which the 12 year old me could have understood, but I was ignorant of the Bayesian framework for epi... (read more)

Hi everyone!

I'm graduating law school in May 2010, and then going to work in consumer law at a small firm in San Francisco. I'm fascinated by statistical political science, space travel, aikido, polyamory, board games, and meta-ethics.

I first realized that I needed to make myself more rational when I bombed an online confidence calibration test about 6 years ago; it asked me to provide 95% confidence intervals for 100 different pieces of numerical trivia (e.g. how many nukes does China have, how many counties are in the U.S., how many species of spiders a... (read more)

Name: Karl Smith

Location: Raleigh, North Carolina

Born: 1978

Education: Phd Economics

Occupation: Professor - UNC Chapel Hill

I've always been interested in rationality and logic but was sidetracked for many (12+) years after becoming convinced that economics was the best way to improve the lives of ordinary humans.

I made it to Less Wrong completely by accident. I was into libertarianism which lead me to Bryan Caplan which lead me Robin Hanson (just recently). Some of Robin's stuff convinced me that Cryonics was a good idea. I searched for Cryonics and found ... (read more)

Hi all, my name's Drew. I stumbled upon the site from who-knows-where last week and must've put in 30-40 hours of reading already, so suffice to say I've found the writing/discussions quite enjoyable so far. I'm heavily interested in theories of human behavior on both a psychological and moral level, so most of the subject matter has been enjoyable. I was a big Hofstader fan a few years back as well, so the AI and consciousness discussions are interesting as well.

Anyway, thought I'd pop in and say hi, maybe I'll take part in some conversations soon. Looks like a great thing you've got going here.

However intelligent he is, he fails to present his ideas so as to gradually build a common ground with lay readers. "If you're so smart, how come you ain't convincing?"

The "intelligent design" references on his Wikipedia bio are enough to turn me away. Can you point us to a well-regarded intellectual who has taken his work seriously and recommends his work? (I've used that sort of bridging tactic at least once, Dennett convincing me to read Julian Jaynes.)

5Cyan11y"Convincing" has long been a problem for Chris Langan. Malcolm Gladwell relates a story about Langan attending a calculus course in first year undergrad. After the first lecture, he went to offer criticism of the prof's pedagogy. The prof thought he was complaining that the material was too hard; Langan was unable to convey that he had understood the material perfectly for years, and wanted to see better teaching.

I don't think it's in-group bias. If anything, people are giving mni extra latitude because he or she is seen as new here.

If an established member of the community were to make the same points, that much of the discussion is uninteresting or bullshit, that the community is failing and maybe not worth "wasting" time for, and to claim to have interesting things to say but make excuses for not actually saying them, I bet there would be a lot more criticism in response.

  • Handle: HughRistik (if you don't get the joke immediately, then say "heuristic" out loud)
  • Age: 23
  • Education: BA Psychology, thinking of grad school
  • Occupation: Web programmer
  • Hobbies: Art, clubbing, fashion, dancing, computer games, too many others to mention
  • Research interests: Mate preferences, sex differences, sex differences in mate preferences, biological and social factors in homosexuality, and the psychology of introversion, social anxiety, high sensitivity, and behavioral inhibition

I came to Less Wrong via Overcoming Bias. I heard a ta... (read more)

I've notice time and time again that, if you ask a teacher a lot of questions, most people will assume you're incompetent.

Interesting -- my experience was that they (the class, but sometimes also the teacher) found me annoying, instead.

During my (brief) venture in college, taking a beginning calculus class, I tended to run way behind the teacher, trying to figure out why he'd done some particular step, and would finally give in and ask about it.

Invariably, he would glance at that step, and go, "Oh, you're right. That's wrong, I should have done...... (read more)

This is the first group I've been in where Vladimir is the most common name.

  • Name: Edwin Evans
  • Location: Silicon Valley, CA
  • Age: 35

I read the "Meaning of Life FAQ" by a previous version of Eliezer in 1999 when I was trying to write something similar, from a Pascal’s Wager angle (even a tiny possibility of objective value is what should determine your actions). I've been a financial supporter of the Organization That Can't Be Named and a huge fan of Eliezer's writings since that same time. After reading "Crisis of Faith" along with "Could Anything Be Right?" I finally gave up on objective value; the... (read more)

OK, let's get this started. There seems to be no way of doing this that doesn't sound like a personal ad.

As well as programming for a living, I'm a semi-professional cryptographer and cryptanalyst; read more on my work there. Another interest important to me is sexual politics; I am bi, poly and kinky, and have been known to organise events related to these themes (BiCon, Polyday, and a fetish nightclub). I get the im... (read more)

4Alicorn12yWhat would it look like to apply rationalist techniques to sexual politics? The best guess I have is "interesting", but I don't know in what way.

Hey everyone,

My name is Owen, and I'm 17. I read HPMOR last year, but really got into the Sequences and additional reading (GEB, Thinking Fast and Slow, Influence) around this summer.

I'm interested in time management, with respect to dealing with distractions, especially with respect to fighting akrasia. So I'm trying to use what I know about how my own brain operates to create a suite of internalized beliefs, primers, and defense strategies for when I get off-track (or stopping before I get to that point).

Personally, I'm connected with a local environme... (read more)

ugly little lump.

Will is good-looking, normal-sized, and not at all lumpy. If you must insult people, can you do it in a less wrong way?

It's not exactly rigorous, but you could try leaving bagels at Christian and Wiccan gatherings of approximately the same size and see how many dollars you get back.

"Ish," yes. I have to admit I've had a hard time navigating this enormous thread, and haven't read all of it, including the evidence of demonic influence you're referring to. However, I predict in advance that 1) this evidence is based on words that a man wrote in an ancient book, and that 2) I will find this evidence dubious.

Two equally unlikely propositions should require equally strong evidence to be believed. Neither dragons nor demons exist, yet you assert that demons are real. Where, then, is the chain of entangled events leading from the s... (read more)

What did they win money for?

Betting money. That is how such things work.

It's not often that I laugh out loud and downvote the same comment! ;)

If you know any rationalists that are better than Steve then please, please introduce me to them.

I hope you're not seeing the options as "keep up with all the threads of this conversation simultaneously" or "quit LW". It's perfectly OK to leave things hanging and lurk for a while. (If you're feeling especially polite, you can even say that you're tapping out of the conversation for now.)

(Hmm, I might add that advice to the Welcome post...)

Sorry, wait, maybe there's some confusion? Did you interpret me saying "convert" as meaning "convert them to Christianity"? 'Cuz what I meant was convert people to the side of reason more generally, e.g. by occasionally posting totally-non-trolling comments about decision theory and stuff. I'm not a Christian. Or am I misinterpreting you?

I'm not at all trying to signal that I need help, if I seem to be signaling that then it's an accidental byproduct of some other agenda which is SIGNIFICANTLY MORE MANLYYYY than crying for help.

Please don't consider this patronizing but... the writing style of this comment is really cute.

I think you broke whatever part of my brain evaluates people's signalling. It just gave up and decided your writing is really cute. I really have no idea what impression to form of you; the experience was so unusual that I felt I had to comment.

Thanks to your priming now I can't see "AspiringKnitter" without mentally replacing it with "AspiringKittens" and a mental image of a Less Wrong meetup of kittens who sincerely want to have better epistemic practices. Way to make the world a better place.

my default state matches the negative symptoms of schizophrenia..."happiness" as such is not an emotion I experience very much at all

Have you sought professional help in the past? If not, do nothing else until you take some concrete step in that direction. This is an order from your decision theory.

Well, here's me doing my part: I don't declare Crocker's rules, and am unlikely to ever do so. Others can if they wish.

Was I downvoted for meta-humor or carrying the joke too far?

This is the internet. Nothing anyone says on the internet is ever going away, even if some of us really wish it could. /nitpick

You would be surprised... If it weren't for the internet archive much information would have already been lost. Some modern websites are starting to use web design techniques (ajax-loaded content) that break such archive services.

[-][anonymous]9y 5

Uh...uhm...hello?

Tabooing "slavery": "You committed crimes and society has deemed that you will perform task X for Y years as a repayment" seems significantly different (to me) from "You were kidnapped from country Z, sold to plantation owner W and must perform task X for the rest of your life". I can see arguments for and against the former, but the latter is just plain evil.

Yes, where names need to be changed. [God] will be sufficient to confuse me as to whether it's "the LORD" or "Allah" in the original source material. There might be a problem with substance in very different holy books where I might be able to guess the religion just by what they're saying (like if they talk about reincarnation or castes, I'll know they're Hindu or Buddhist). I hope anyone finding quotes will avoid those, of course.

IMO, most Christians unconsciously concentrate on the passages that match their preconceptions, and ignore or explain away the rest. This behavior is ridiculously easy to notice in others, and equally difficult to notice in oneself.

For example, I expect you to ignore or explain away Matthew 10:34: "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword."

I expect you find Mark 11:12-14 rather bewildering: "On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing in the distan... (read more)

And? Does that mean forcing you to be emulated?

7AspiringKnitter9yGood point.

"I see that you're trying to extrapolate human volition. Would you like some help ?" converts the Earth into computronium

Could you elaborate on this point a bit ?

Yeah. You could feel unhappy a lot more if you take the pills usually prescribed to schizophrenics because side-effects of those pills include mental fog and weight gain. You could also be a less helpful person to others because you would be less able to do thinks if you're on a high enough dose to "zombify" you. Also, Erving Goffman's work shows that situations where people are in an institution, as he defines the term, cause people to become stupider and less capable. (Kudos to the mental health syste... (read more)

7lavalamp9yI seem to be collecting downvotes, so I'll shut up about this shortly. But to me, anyway, this still sounds like No True Scotsman. I suspect that nearly all Christians will agree with your definition (excepting Mormons and JW's, but I assume you added "divinity" in there to intentionally exclude them). However, I seriously doubt many of them will agree with your adjudication. Fundamentalists sincerely believe that the things they do are loving and following the teachings of Jesus. They think you are the one putting the emphasis on the wrong passages. I personally happen to think you probably are much more correct than they are; but the point is neither one of us gets to do the adjudication.
6AspiringKnitter9yI think this is missing the point: they believe that, but they're wrong. The fact that they're wrong is what causes them distress. If you'd like, we can taboo the word "Christian" (or just end the conversation, as you suggest).
5[anonymous]9y.
6AspiringKnitter9yI have never before had someone disagree with me on the grounds that I'm both morally superior to other people and a genius.
5[anonymous]9y.
8AspiringKnitter9yI wouldn't go disagreeing with him; I'd try performing a double-blind test of his athletic ability while wearing different pairs of socks. It just seems like the sort of thing that's so simple to design and test that I don't know if I could resist. I'd need three people and a stopwatch...
5TheOtherDave9yAnd a nontrivial amount of time and attention. I suspect that after the third or fifth such athlete, you'd develop the ability to resist, and simply have your opinion about his or her belief about socks, which you might or might not share depending on the circumstances.
5wedrifid9yDon't forget the spare pairs of socks!
4AspiringKnitter9yYes, thanks for reminding me. I'd also need pencil and paper.
4[anonymous]9y.
8AspiringKnitter9yUh-oh, that's a bad sign. If someone on LessWrong thinks something like that, I'd better give it credence. But now I'm confused because I can't think what has given you that idea. Ergo, there appears to be evidence that I've not only made a mistake in thinking, but made one unknowingly, and failed to realize afterward or even see that something was wrong. So, this gives me two questions and I feel like an idiot for asking them, and if this site had heretofore been behaving like other internet sites this would be the point where the name-calling would start, but you guys seem more willing than average to help people straighten things out when they're confused, so I'm actually going to bother asking: 1. What do you mean by "basic premise" and "can't question" in this context? Do you mean that I can't consider his nonexistence as a counterfactual? Or is there a logical impossibility in my conception of God that I've failed to notice? 2. Can I have specific quotes, or at least a general description, of when I've been evasive? Since I'm unaware of it, it's probably a really bad thinking mistake, not actual evasiveness-- that or I have a very inaccurate self-concept. Actually, no possibility seems good here (in the sense that I should revise my estimate of my own intelligence and/or honesty and/or self-awareness down in almost every case), except that something I said yesterday while in need of more sleep came out really wrong. Or that someone else made a mistake, but given that I've gotten several downvotes (over seventeen, I think) in the last couple of hours, that's either the work of someone determined to downvote everything I say or evidence that multiple people think I'm being stupid. (You know, I do want to point out that the comment about testing his lucky socks was mostly a joke. I do assign a really low prior probability to the existence of lucky socks anywhere, in case someone voted me down for being an idiot in
4[anonymous]9y.
4AspiringKnitter9yNot how I would have put that, but mostly ADBOC this. (I wouldn't have called him a man, nor would I have singled out the sky as a place to put him. But yes, I do believe in a god who created everything and loves all, and ADBOC the bit about the 12-year-old-- would you like to get into the Problem of Evil or just agree to disagree on the implied point even though that's a Bayesian abomination? And agree with the last sentence.) I'd ask you what would look different if I did, but I think you've answered this below. You think I'm one of those [http://lesswrong.com/lw/i4/belief_in_belief/] people. Let me begin by saying that God's existence is an empirical fact which one could either prove or disprove. I worry about telling people why I converted because I fear ridicule or accusations of lying. However, I'll tell you this much: I suddenly became capable of feeling two new sensations, neither of which I'd felt before and neither of which, so far as I know, has words in English to describe it. Sensation A felt like there was something on my skin, like dirt or mud, and something squeezing my heart, and was sometimes accompanied by a strange scent and almost always by feelings of distress. Sensation B never co-occurred with Sensation A. I could be feeling one, the other or neither, and could feel them to varying degrees. Sensation B felt relaxing, but also very happy and content and jubilant in a way and to a degree I'd never quite been before, and a little like there was a spring of water inside me, and like the water was gold-colored, and like this was all I really wanted forever, and a bit like love. After becoming able to feel these sensations, I felt them in certain situations and not in others. If one assumed that Sensation A was Bad and Sensation B was Good, then they were consistent with Christianity being true. Sometimes they didn't surprise me. Sometimes they did-- I could get the feeling that something was Bad even if I hadn't thought so (had even been inter

If one assumed that Sensation A was Bad and Sensation B was Good, then they were consistent with Christianity being true. Sometimes they didn't surprise me. Sometimes they did-- I could get the feeling that something was Bad even if I hadn't thought so (had even been interested in doing it) and then later learn that Christian doctrine considered it Bad as well.

This would be considerably more convincing if Christianity were a unified movement.

Suppose there existed only three religions in the world, all of which had a unified dogma and only one interpretation of it. Each of them had a long list of pretty specific doctrinal points, like one religion considering Tarot cards bad and another thinking that they were fine. If your Good and Bad sensations happened to precisely correspond to the recommendations of one particular religion, even in the cases where you didn't actually know what the recommendations were beforehand, then that would be some evidence for the religion being true.

However, in practice there are a lot of religions, and a lot of different Christian sects and interpretations. You've said that you've chosen certain interpretations instead of others because that's the i... (read more)

9DSimon9yI don't think the conclusion that the morality described by sensations A/B is a property of the universe at large has been justified. You mention that the sensations predict in advance what Christian doctrine describes as moral or immoral before you know directly what that doctrine says, but that strikes me as being an investigation method that is not useful, for two reasons: 1. Christian culture is is very heavily permeated throughout most English-speaking cultures. A person who grows up in such a culture will have a high likelihood of correctly guessing Christianity's opinion on any given moral question, even if they haven't personally read the relevant text. 2. More generally, introspection is a very problematic way of gathering data. Many many biases, both obvious and subtle, come into play, and make your job way more difficult. For example: Did you take notes on each instance of feeling A or B when it occurred, and use those notes (and only those notes) later when validating them against Christian doctrine? If not, you are much more likely to remember hits than misses, or even to after-the-fact readjust misses into hits; human memory is notorious for such things.
8[anonymous]9yYou were not entirely clear, but you seem to be taking these as signals of things being Bad or Good in the morality sense, right? Ok so it feels like there is an objective morality. Let's come up with hypotheses: You have a morality that is the thousand shards of desire left over by an alien god. Things that were a good idea (for game theory, etc reasons) to avoid in the ancestral environment tend to feel good so that you would do them. Things that feel bad are things you would have wanted to avoid. As we know, an objective morality is what a personal morality feels like from the inside. That is, you are feeling the totally natural feelings of morality that we all feel. Why you attached special affect to the bible, I suppose that's the affect hueristic: you feel like the bible is true and it is the center of your belief or something, and that goodness gets confused with a moral goodness. This is all hindsight, but it seems pretty sound. Or it could be Jesus-is-Son-of-a-Benevolent-Love-Agent-That-Created-the-Universe. I guess God is sending you signals to say what sort of things he likes/doesn't like? Is that the proposed mechanism for morality? I don't know enough about the theory to say much more. Ok now let's consider the prior. The complex loving god hypothesis is incredibly complicated. Minds are so complex we can't even build one yet. It would take a hell of a lot more than your feeling-of-morality evidence to even raise this to our attention. A lot more than any scientific hypothesis has ever collected, I would say. You must have other evidence, not only to overcome the prior, but all the evidence against a loving god who intelligently arranged anything, Anyways, It sounds like you were primarily a moral nihilist before your encounter with the god-prescribes-a-morality hypothesis. Have you read Eliezers metaethics stuff? it deals the with subject of morality in a neutral universe quite well. I'm afraid I don't see why you call your reward-signal-from-god
8cousin_it9yThere are two problems with this argument. First, each individual god might be very improbable, but that could be counterbalanced by the astronomical number of possible gods (e.g. consider all possible tweaks to the holy book), so you can argue apriori against specific flavors of theism but not against theism in general. Second, if Eliezer is right and AI can develop from a simple seed someone can code up in their garage, that means powerful minds don't need high K-complexity. A powerful mind (or a program that blossoms into one) could even be simpler than physics as we currently know it, which is already quite complex and seems to have even more complexity waiting in store. IMO a correct argument against theism should focus on the "loving" part rather than the "mind" part, and focus on evidence rather than complexity priors. The observed moral neutrality of physics is more probable if there's no moral deity. Given what we know about evolution etc., it's hard to name any true fact that makes a moral deity more likely. I'm not sure that everything in my comment is correct. But I guess LW could benefit from developing an updated argument against (or for) theism?
4AspiringKnitter9yA really intelligent response, so I upvoted you, even though, as I said, it surprised me by telling me that, just as one example, tarot cards are Bad when I had not even considered the possibility, so I doubt this came from inside me.
8[anonymous]9yWell you are obviously not able to predict the output of your own brain, that's the whole point of the brain. If morality is in the brain and still too complex to understand, you would expect to encounter moral feelings that you had not anticipated.
8TimS9yIn a world entirely without morality, we are constantly facing situations where trusting another person would be mutually beneficial, but trusting when the other person betrays is much worse than mutual betrayal. Decision theory has a name for this type of problem: Prisoner's Dilemma [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iterated_prisoner%27s_dilemma#The_iterated_prisoner.27s_dilemma] . The rational strategy is to defect, which makes a pretty terrible world. But when playing an indefinite number of games, it turns out that cooperating, then punishing defection [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tit_for_tat] is a strong strategy in an environment of many distinct strategies. That looks a lot like "turn the other cheek" combined with a little bit of "eye for an eye." Doesn't the real world behavior consistent with that strategy vaguely resemble morality? In short, decision theory suggests that material considerations can justify a substantial amount of "moral" behavior. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Regarding your sensations A and B, from the outside perspective it seems like you've been awfully lucky that your sense of right and wrong match your religious commitments. If you believed Westboro Baptist [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westboro_Baptist_Church] doctrine but still felt sensations A and B at the same times you feel them now, then you'd being doing sensation A behavior substantially more frequently. In other words, I could posit that you have a built-in morality oracle, but why should I believe that the oracle should be labelled Christian? If I had the same moral sensations you do, why shouldn't I call it rationalist morality?
4dlthomas9yI would say tit-for-tat looks very much like "eye for an eye" but very little like "turn the other cheek" [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turning_the_other_cheek], which seems much more like a cooperatebot.
6Bugmaster9yJust to echo the others that brought this up, I applaud your courage; few people have the guts to jump into the lions' den, as it were. That said, I'm going to play the part of the lion (*) on this topic. How do you know that these sensations come from a supernatural entity, and not from your own brain ? I know that if I started experiencing odd physical sensations, no matter how pleasant, this would be my first hypothesis (especially since, in my personal case, the risk of stroke is higher than average). In fact, if I experienced anything that radically contradicted my understanding of the world, I'd probably consider the following explanations, in order of decreasing likelihood: * I am experiencing some well-known cognitive bias. * My brain is functioning abnormally and thus I am experiencing hallucinations. * Someone is playing a prank on me. * Shadowy human agencies are testing a new chemical/biological/emissive device on me. * A powerful (yet entirely material) alien is inducing these sensations, for some reason. * A trickster spirit (such as a Kami, or the Coyote, etc.) is doing the same by supernatural means. * A localized god is to blame (Athena, Kali, the Earth Mother, etc.) * An omniscient, omnipotent, and generally all-everything entity is responsible. This list is not exhaustive, obviously, it's just some stuff I came up with off the top of my head. Each next bullet point is less probable than the one before it, and thus I'd have to reject pretty much every other explanation before arriving at "the Christian God exists". (*) Or a bobcat, at least.
5juliawise9yAspiringKnitter, what do you think about people who have sensory experiences that indicate that some other religion or text is correct?
5Prismattic9yGod does not solve this problem [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euthyphro_dilemma] .
5lavalamp9yUpvoted for courage.
4[anonymous]9y.
4TheOtherDave9yI can understand your hesitation about telling that story. Thanks for sharing it. Some questions, if you feel like answering them: * Can you give me some examples of things you hadn't known Christian doctrine considered Bad before you sensed them as A? * If you were advising someone who lacks the ability to sense Good and Bad directly on how to have accurate beliefs about what's Good and Bad, what advice would you give? (It seems to follow from what you've said elsewhere that simply telling them to believe Christianity isn't sufficient, since lots of people sincerely believe they are following the directive to "believe Christianity" and yet end up believing Bad things. It seems something similar applies to "believe the New Testament". Or does it?) * If you woke up tomorrow and you experienced sensation A in situations that were consistent with Christianity being true, and experienced sensation B in situations that were consistent with Islam being true, what would you conclude about the world based on those experiences? ** EDIT: My original comment got A and B reversed. Fixed.

Welcome! And congratulations for creating what's probably the longest and most interesting introduction thread of all time (I haven't read all the introductions threads, though).

I've read all your posts here. I now have to update my belief about rationality among christians: so long, the most "rational" I'd found turned out to be nothing beyond a repetitive expert in rationalization. Most others are sometimes relatively rational in most aspects of life, but choose to ignore the hard questions about the religion they profess (my own parents fall i... (read more)

4AspiringKnitter9yI think I've gotten such a nice reception that I've also updated in the direction of "most atheists aren't cruel or hateful in everyday life" and "LessWrong believes in its own concern for other people because most members are nice". The wish on top of that page is actually very problematic... Oh, and do people usually upvote for niceness?

Suppose the multiple words interpretation is true. Now I flip a fair quantum coin, and kill you if it comes up heads. Then in 50% of the worlds you still live, so by your reasoning, nobody has died. All that changes is the amplitude of your existence.

Well, maybe. But there is a whole universe full of people who will never speak to you again and are left to grieve over your body.

I think I might be too tired to give this the response it deserves. If this post isn't a good enough answer, ask me again in the morning.

I have to admit that I'm not familiar with Paul's heuristic -- what is it ?

That you can tell whether a spirit is good or evil by whether or not it says Jesus is Lord.

I have heard this sentiment from other theists, but I still understand it rather poorly, I'm ashamed to admit... maybe it's because I've never been religious, and thus I'm missing some context.

Well, right here I mean that if you've narrowed it down to... (read more)

Isn't a computer a machine, generally made of circuits, that runs programs somebody put on it in a constructed non-context-dependent language?

I personally believe that humans are likewise machines, generally made of meat, that run "programs". I put the word "programs" in scare-quotes because our programs are very different in structure from computer programs, though the basic concept is the same.

What we have in common with computers, though, is that our programs are self-modifying. We can learn, and thus change our own code. Thus, I... (read more)

And I would never have dreamed of the stupidity until someone did it, but someone actually interpreted metaphors from Proverbs literally and concluded that "her husband is praised at the city gates" actually means "women should go to the city limits and hold up signs saying that their husbands are awesome"

As a semi-militant atheist, I feel compelled to point out that, from my perspective, all interpretations of Proverbs as a practical guide to modern life look about equally silly...

... I'd rather hang around and keep the Singularity from being an AI that forcibly exterminates all morality and all people who don't agree with Eliezer Yudkowsky.

Upvote for courage, and I'd give a few more if I could. (Though you might consider rereading some of EY's CEV posts, because I don't think you've accurately summarized his intentions.)

You guys really hate Christians, after all.

I don't hate Christians. I was a very serious one for most of my life. Practically everyone I know and care about IRL is Christian.

I don't think LW deserves all the credit for my deconversion, but it definitely hastened the event.

Thank you! I am still enjoying the site - there's so much good stuff to get through. I've read most of the sequences and top posts now, but I'm still in the (more important, probably) process of compiling a list of all the suggested activities/actions, or any I can think of in terms of my own life and the basic principles, for easy reference to try when I have some down-time.

5thomblake9ySuch a list should be worth at least posting to discussion, if you finish it.

It stands for evaporative cooling and I'm not offended. It's a pretty valid point.

(Laoch: I expect God not to abuse his power, hence I wouldn't classify him as a whimsical tyrant. And part of my issue is with being turned into a computer, which sounds even worse than making a computer that acts like me and thinks it is me.)

I can't decide which of MixedNuts's hypotheses is more awesome.

I'd be interested to hear more about your understanding of what a computer is, that drives your confidence that being turned into one is a bad thing.

Relatedly, how confident are you that God will never make a computer that acts like you and thinks it is you? How did you arrive at that confidence?

There are places for this debate and they're not this thread. You're being rude.

6Laoch9yMy apologies. Interesting questions none the less.

Welcome to Less Wrong.

I don't think much people here hate Christians. At least I don't. I'll just speak for myself (even if I think my view is quite shared here) : I have a harsh view on religions themselves, believing they are mind-killing, barren and dangerous (just open an history book), but that doesn't mean I hate the people who do believe (as long as they don't hate us atheists). I've christian friends, and I don't like them less because of their religion. I'm a bit trying to "open their mind" because I believe that knowing and accepting th... (read more)

[-][anonymous]9y 5

Hello Lesswrong

I am a nameless, ageless, genderless internet-being who may sometimes act like a 22 year old male from canada. I have always been quite rational and consciously aiming to become more rational, though I had never read any actual discussion of rationality, unless you count cat-v. I did have some possibly wrong ideas that I protected with anti-epistemology, but that managed to collapse on its own recently.

I got linked to lesswrong from reddit. I didn't record the details so don't ask. I do remember reading a few lesswrong articles and thinking ... (read more)

Salutations, Less Wrong.

I'm an undergraduate starting my third year at the University of Toronto (in Toronto, Ontario, Canada), taking the Software Engineer specialist program in Computer Science.

I found Less Wrong through a friend, who found it through Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, who found that through me, and I found HP: MoR through a third friend. I'm working my way through the archive of Less Wrong posts (currently in March of 2009).

On my rationalist origins: One of my parents has a not-insignificant mental problem that result in subtl... (read more)