Rationality Quotes September 2012

by Jayson_Virissimo1 min read3rd Sep 20121114 comments


Rationality Quotes
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"Wait, Professor... If Sisyphus had to roll the boulder up the hill over and over forever, why didn't he just program robots to roll it for him, and then spend all his time wallowing in hedonism?"
"It's a metaphor for the human struggle."
"I don't see how that changes my point."

Well, his point only makes any sense when applied to the metaphor since a better answer to the question

"Wait, Professor... If Sisyphus had to roll the boulder up the hill over and over forever, why didn't he just program robots to roll it for him, and then spend all his time wallowing in hedonism?"


"where would Sisyphus get a robot in the middle of Hades?"

Edit: come to think of it, this also works with the metaphor for human struggle.

I thought the correct answer would be, "No time for programming, too busy pushing a boulder."

Though, since the whole thing was a punishment, I have no idea what the punishment for not doing his punishment would be. Can't find it specified anywhere.

I don't think he's punished for disobeying, I think he's compelled to act. He can think about doing something else, he can want to do something else, he can decide to do something else ... but what he does is push the boulder.

The version I like the best is that Sisyphus keeps pushing the boulder voluntarily, because he's too proud to admit that, despite all his cleverness, there's something he can't do. (Specifically, get the boulder to stay at the top of the mountain).

My favorite version is similar. Each day he tries to push the boulder a little higher, and as the boulder starts to slide back, he mentally notes his improvement before racing the boulder down to the bottom with a smile on his face.

Because he gets a little stronger and a little more skilled every day, and he knows that one day he'll succeed.

In the M. Night version: his improvements are an asymptote - and Sisyphus didn't pay enough attention in calculus class to realize that the limit is just below the peak.

5DanielLC8yOr maybe the limit is the peak. He still won't reach it.
8MixedNuts8yIn some versions he's harassed by harpies until he gets back to boulder-pushing. But RobinZ's version is better.
8Alejandro18yBorrowing one of Hephaestus [http://www.allonrobots.com/ancient-robots.html]', perhaps?

Now someone just has to write a book entitled "The Rationality of Sisyphus", give it a really pretentious-sounding philosophical blurb, and then fill it with Grand Theft Robot.

Answer: Because the Greek gods are vindictive as fuck, and will fuck you over twice as hard when they find out that you wriggled out of it the first time.

Who was the guy who tried to bargain the gods into giving him immortality, only to get screwed because he hadn't thought to ask for youth and health as well? He ended up being a shriveled crab like thing in a jar.

My highschool english teacher thought this fable showed that you should be careful what you wished for. I thought it showed that trying to compel those with great power through contract was a great way to get yourself fucked good an hard. Don't think you can fuck with people a lot more powerful than you are and get away with it.

EDIT: The myth was of Tithonus. A goddess Eos was keeping him as a lover, and tried to bargain with Zeus for his immortality, without asking for eternal youth too. Ooops.

Don't think you can fuck with people a lot more powerful than you are and get away with it.

I'm no expert, but that seems to be the moral of a lot of Greek myths.

Do unto others 20% better than you expect them to do unto you, to correct for subjective error.

-- Linus Pauling

Citation for this was hard; the closest I got was Etzioni's 1962 The Hard Way to Peace, pg 110. There's also a version in the 1998 Linus Pauling on peace: a scientist speaks out on humanism and world survival : writings and talks by Linus Pauling; this version goes

I have made a modern formulation of the Golden Rule: "Do unto others 20 percent better than you would be done by - the 20 percent is to correct for subjective error."

4Caspian8yDid you take "expect" to mean as in prediction, or as in what you would have them do, like the Jesus version?

“A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is ‘merely relative,’ is asking you not to believe him. So don’t.” ― Roger Scruton, Modern Philosophy: An Introduction and Survey

5simplicio8yI am sympathetic to this line, but Scruton's dismissal seems a little facile. If somebody says the truth is relative, then they can bite the bullet if they wish and say that THAT truth is also relative, thus avoiding the trap of self-contradiction. It might still be unwise to close your ears to them. Consider a case where we DO agree that a given subject matter is relative; e.g., taste in ice-cream. Suppose Rosie the relativist tells you: "This ice-cream vendor's vanilla is absolutely horrible, but that's just my opinion and obviously it's relative to my own tastes." You would probably agree that Rosie's opinion is indeed "just relative"... and still give the vanilla a miss this time.

The person who says, as almost everyone does say, that human life is of infinite value, not to be measured in mere material terms, is talking palpable, if popular, nonsense. If he believed that of his own life, he would never cross the street, save to visit his doctor or to earn money for things necessary to physical survival. He would eat the cheapest, most nutritious food he could find and live in one small room, saving his income for frequent visits to the best possible doctors. He would take no risks, consume no luxuries, and live a long life. If you call it living. If a man really believed that other people's lives were infinitely valuable, he would live like an ascetic, earn as much money as possible, and spend everything not absolutely necessary for survival on CARE packets, research into presently incurable diseases, and similar charities.

In fact, people who talk about the infinite value of human life do not live in either of these ways. They consume far more than they need to support life. They may well have cigarettes in their drawer and a sports car in the garage. They recognize in their actions, if not in their words, that physical survival is only one value, albeit a very important one, among many.

-- David D. Friedman, The Machinery of Freedom

There is something about practical things that knocks us off our philosophical high horses. Perhaps Heraclitus really thought he couldn't step in the same river twice. Perhaps he even received tenure for that contribution to philosophy. But suppose some other ancient had claimed to have as much right as Heraclitus did to an ox Heraclitus had bought, on the grounds that since the animal had changed, it wasn't the same one he had bought and so was up for grabs. Heraclitus would have quickly come up with some ersatz, watered-down version of identity of practical value for dealing with property rights, oxen, lyres, vineyards, and the like. And then he might have wondered if that watered-down vulgar sense of identity might be a considerably more valuable concept than a pure and philosophical sort of identity that nothing has.

John Perry, introduction to Identity, Personal Identity, and the Self

He bought the present ox along with the future ox. He could have just bought the present ox, or at least a shorter interval of one. This is known as "renting".

If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being, and who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?


But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being, and who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

If only it were a line. Or even a vague boundary between clearly defined good and clearly defined evil. Or if good and evil were objectively verifiable notions.

6simplicio8yYou don't think even a vague boundary can be found? To me it seems pretty self-evident by looking at extremes; e.g., torturing puppies all day is obviously worse than playing with puppies all day. By no means am I secure in my metaethics (i.e., I may not be able to tell you in exquisite detail WHY the former is wrong). But even if you reduced my metaethics down to "whatever simplicio likes or doesn't like," I'd still be happy to persecute the puppy-torturers and happy to call them evil.
3beberly378yI think the intermediate value theorem covers this. Meaning if a function has positive and negative values (good and evil) and it is continuous (I would assume a "vague boundary" or "grey area" or "goodness spectrum" to be continuous) then there must be at least one zero value. That zero value is the boundary.
3shminux8yIt would indeed cover this if goodness spectrum was a regular function, not a set-valued map [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multivalued_function]. Unfortunately, the same thoughts and actions can correspond to different shades of good and evil, even in the mind of the same person, let alone of different people. Often at the same time, too.

But the line dividing Kansas and Nebraska cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to grow corn on his own heart?

— Steven Kaas

4gjm8yDuplicate [http://lesswrong.com/lw/aha/rationality_quotes_march_2012/5ydd].

A problem well stated is a problem half solved.

Charles Kettering

5thomblake8yA problem sufficiently well-stated is a problem fully solved.

Nobody is smart enough to be wrong all the time.

Ken Wilber

"But I tell you he couldn't have written such a note!" cried Flambeau. "The note is utterly wrong about the facts. And innocent or guilty, Dr Hirsch knew all about the facts."

"The man who wrote that note knew all about the facts," said his clerical companion soberly. "He could never have got 'em so wrong without knowing about 'em. You have to know an awful lot to be wrong on every subject—like the devil."

"Do you mean—?"

"I mean a man telling lies on chance would have told some of the truth," said his friend firmly. "Suppose someone sent you to find a house with a green door and a blue blind, with a front garden but no back garden, with a dog but no cat, and where they drank coffee but not tea. You would say if you found no such house that it was all made up. But I say no. I say if you found a house where the door was blue and the blind green, where there was a back garden and no front garden, where cats were common and dogs instantly shot, where tea was drunk in quarts and coffee forbidden—then you would know you had found the house. The man must have known that particular house to be so accurately inaccurate."

--G.K. Chesterton, "The Duel of Dr. Hirsch"

Lol, my professor would give a 100% to anyone who answered every exam question wrong. There were a couple people who pulled it off, but most scored 0<10.

I'm assuming a multiple-choice exam, and invalid answers don't count as 'wrong' for that purpose?

Otherwise I can easily miss the entire exam with "Tau is exactly six." or "The battle of Thermopylae" repeated for every answer. Even if the valid answers are [A;B;C;D].

4MugaSofer8yUnless it really was the battle of Thermopylae. Not having studied, you wont know.
7Daniel_Burfoot8yAn interesting corollary of the efficient market hypothesis is that, neglecting overhead due to things like brokerage fees and assuming trades are not large enough to move the market, it should be just as difficult to lose money trading securities as it is to make money.

Lady Average may not be as good-looking as Lady Luck, but she sure as hell comes around more often.


Not always, since:

The average human has one breast and one testicle

Des McHale

In other words, the average of a distribution is not necessarily the most probable value.

In other words: expect Lady Mode), not Lady Mean.

8sketerpot8yDon't expect her, either. In Russian Roulette, the mode is that you don't die, and indeed that's the outcome for most people who play it. You should, however, expect that there's a very large chance of instadeath, and if you were to play a bunch of games in a row, that (relatively uncommon) outcome would almost certainly kill you. (A similar principle applies to things like stock market index funds: the mode doesn't matter when all you care about is the sum of the stocks.) The real lesson is this: always expect Lady PDF [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Probability_density_function].
4simplyeric8yNot to be a bore but it does say "Lady Average" not "Sir or Madam Average".

In my high school health class, for weeks the teacher touted the upcoming event: "Breast and Testicle Day!"

When the anticipated day came, it was of course the day when all the boys go off to one room to learn about testicular self-examination, and all the girls go off to another to learn about breast self-examination. So, in fact, no student actually experienced Breast and Testicle Day.

7Plubbingworth8yMuch to their chagrin, I'm assuming.
4Luke_A_Somers8yRather: chagrin and relief.

...beliefs are like clothes. In a harsh environment, we choose our clothes mainly to be functional, i.e., to keep us safe and comfortable. But when the weather is mild, we choose our clothes mainly for their appearance, i.e., to show our figure, our creativity, and our allegiances. Similarly, when the stakes are high we may mainly want accurate beliefs to help us make good decisions. But when a belief has few direct personal consequences, we in effect mainly care about the image it helps to project.

-Robin Hanson, Human Enhancement

I feel like Hanson's admittedly insightful "signaling" hammer has him treating everything as a nail.

Your contrarian stance against a high-status member of this community makes you seem formidable and savvy. Would you like to be allies with me? If yes, then the next time I go foraging I will bring you back extra fruit.

I agree in principle but I think this particular topic is fairly nailoid in nature.

8zslastman8yI'd say it's such a broad subject that there have to be some screws in there as well. I think Hanson has too much faith in the ability of evolved systems to function in a radically changed environment. Even if signaling dominates the evolutionary origins of our brain, it's not advisable to just label everything we do now as directed towards signaling, any more than sex is always directed towards reproduction. You have to get into the nitty gritty of how our minds carry out the signaling. Conspiracy theorists don't signal effectively, though you can probably relate their behavior back to mechanisms originally directed towards, or at least compatible with, signaling. Also, an ability to switch between clear "near" thinking and fluffy "far" thinking presupposes a rational decision maker to implement the switch. I'm not sure Hanson pays enough attention to how, when, and for what reasons we do this.

I think he's mischaracterizing the issue.

Beliefs serve multiple functions. One is modeling accuracy, another is signaling. It's not whether the environment is harsh or easy, it's which function you need. There are many harsh environments where what you need is the signaling function, and not the modeling function.

Infallible, adj. Incapable of admitting error.

-L. A. Rollins, Lucifer's Lexicon: An Updated Abridgment

"He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his candle at mine, receives light without darkening me. No one possesses the less of an idea, because every other possesses the whole of it." - Jefferson

But many people do benefit greatly from hoarding or controlling the distribution of scarce information. If you make your living off slavery instead, then of course you can be generous with knowledge.

“The goal of the future is full unemployment, so we can play. That’s why we have to destroy the present politico-economic system.” This may sound like the pronouncement of some bong-smoking anarchist, but it was actually Arthur C. Clarke, who found time between scuba diving and pinball games to write “Childhood’s End” and think up communications satellites. My old colleague Ted Rall recently wrote a column proposing that we divorce income from work and give each citizen a guaranteed paycheck, which sounds like the kind of lunatic notion that’ll be considered a basic human right in about a century, like abolition, universal suffrage and eight-hour workdays. The Puritans turned work into a virtue, evidently forgetting that God invented it as a punishment.

-- Tim Kreider

The interesting part is the phrase "which sounds like the kind of lunatic notion that’ll be considered a basic human right in about a century, like abolition, universal suffrage and eight-hour workdays." If we can anticipate what the morality of the future would be, should we try to live by it now?

If we can anticipate what the morality of the future would be, should we try to live by it now?

Not if it's actually the same morality, but depends on technology. For example, strong prohibitions on promiscuity are very sensible in a world without cheap and effective contraceptives. Anyone who tried to live by 2012 sexual standards in 1912 would soon find they couldn't feed their large horde of kids. Likewise, if robots are doing all the work, fine; but right now if you just redistribute all money, no work gets done.

8[anonymous]8yLack of technology was not [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_condoms] the reason condoms weren't as widely available in 1912.
6shminux8yRight idea, not a great example. People used to have lots more kids then now, most dying in childhood. Majority of women of childbearing age (gay or straight) were married and having children as often as their body allowed, so promiscuity would not have changed much. Maybe a minor correction for male infertility and sexual boredom in a standard marriage.

You seem to have rather a different idea of what I meant by "2012 standards". Even now we do not really approve of married people sleeping around. We do, however, approve of people not getting married until age 25 or 30 or so, but sleeping with whoever they like before that. Try that pattern without contraception.

7Desrtopa8yStrong norms against promiscuity out of wedlock still made sense though, since having lots of children without a committed partner to help care for them would usually have been impractical.
6Alicorn8yNot if they were gay.

How do you envision living by this model now working?
That is, suppose I were to embrace the notion that having enough resources to live a comfortable life (where money can stand in as a proxy for other resources) is something everyone ought to be guaranteed.
What ought I do differently than I'm currently doing?

9RichardKennaway8yNot if the morality you anticipate coming into favour is something you disagree with. If it's something you agree with, it's already yours, and predicting it is just a way of avoiding arguing for it.
8Viliam_Bur8yIf you are a consequentialist, you should think about the consequences of such decision. For example, imagine a civilization where an average person has to work nine hours to produce enough food to survive. Now the pharaoh makes a new law saying that (a) all produced food has to be distribute equally among all citizens, and (b) no one can be compelled to work more than eight hours; you can work as a volunteer, but all your produced food is redistributed equally. What would happen is such situation? In my opinion, this would be a mass Prisoners' Dilemma where people would gradually stop cooperating (because the additional hour of work gives them epsilon benefits) and start being hungry. There would be no legal solution; people would try to make some food in their free time illegally, but the unlucky ones would simply starve and die. The law would seem great in far mode, but its near mode consequences would be horrible. Of course, if the pharaoh is not completely insane, he would revoke the law; but there would be a lot of suffering meanwhile. If people had "a basic human right to have enough money without having to work", situation could progress similarly. It depends on many things -- for example how much of the working people's money would you have to redistribute to non-working ones, and how much could they keep. Assuming that one's basic human right is to have $500 a month, but if you work, you can keep $3000 a month, some people could still prefer to work. But there is no guarantee it would work long-term. For example there would be a positive feedback loop -- the more people are non-working, the more votes politicians can gain by promising to increase their "basic human right income", the higher are taxes, and the smaller incentives to work. Also, it could work for the starting generation, but corrupt the next generation... imagine yourself as a high school student knowing that you will never ever have to work; how much effort would an average student give
4Legolan8ySystems that don't require people to work are only beneficial if non-human work (or human work not motivated by need) is still producing enough goods that the humans are better off not working and being able to spend their time in other ways. I don't think we're even close to that point. I can imagine societies in a hundred years that are at that point (I have no idea whether they'll happen or not), but it would be foolish for them to condemn our lack of such a system now since we don't have the ability to support it, just as it would be foolish for us to condemn people in earlier and less well-off times for not having welfare systems as encompassing as ours. I'd also note that issues like abolition and universal suffrage are qualitatively distinct from the issue of a minimum guaranteed income (what the quote addresses). Even the poorest of societies can avoid holding slaves or placing women or men in legally inferior roles. The poorest societies cannot afford the "full unemployment" discussed in the quote, and neither can even the richest of modern societies right now (they could certainly come closer than the present, but I don't think any modern economy could survive the implementation of such a system in the present). I do agree, however, about it being a solid goal, at least for basic amenities.
5Viliam_Bur8yTo avoid having slaves, the poorest society could decide to kill all war captives, and to let starve to death all people unable to pay their debts. Yes, this would avoid legal discrimination. Is it therefore a morally preferable solution?
5Eugine_Nier8yOne of these things is not like the others.
4DanArmak8yYes, no state has ever implemented truly universal suffrage (among minors).
4Jayson_Virissimo8yIn Jasay [http://www.dejasay.org/default.asp]'s terminology, the first is a liberty (a relation between a person and an act) and the rest are rights {relations between two or more persons (at least one rightholder and one obligor) and an act}. I find this distnction useful for thinking more clearly about these kinds of topics. Your mileage may vary.
3thomblake8yIf we can afford it. Moral progress proceeds from economic progress.
4TimS8yMorality is contextual. If we have four people on a life boat and food for three, morality must provide a mechanism for deciding who gets the food. Suppose that decision is made, then Omega magically provides sufficient food for all - morality hasn't changed, only the decision that morality calls for. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Technological advancement has certainly caused moral change (consider society after introduction of the Pill). But having more resources does not, in itself, change what we think is right, only what we can actually achieve.
4[anonymous]8yThat's an interesting claim. Are you saying that true moral dilemmas (i.e. a situation where there is no right answer) are impossible? If so, how would you argue for that?
3DanielLC8yIf we had eight-hour workdays a century ago, we wouldn't have been able to support the standard of living expected a century ago. I'm not sure we could have even supported living. The same applies to full unemployment. We may someday reach a point where we are productive enough that we can accomplish all we need when we just do it for fun, but if we try that now, we'll all starve.

If we had eight-hour workdays a century ago, we wouldn't have been able to support the standard of living expected a century ago.

Is that true? (Technically, a century ago was 1912.)

Wikipedia on the eight-hour day:

On January 5, 1914, the Ford Motor Company took the radical step of doubling pay to $5 a day and cut shifts from nine hours to eight, moves that were not popular with rival companies, although seeing the increase in Ford's productivity, and a significant increase in profit margin (from $30 million to $60 million in two years), most soon followed suit.

After I spoke at the 2005 "Mathematics and Narrative" conference in Mykonos, a suggestion was made that proofs by contradiction are the mathematician's version of irony. I'm not sure I agree with that: when we give a proof by contradiction, we make it very clear that we are discussing a counterfactual, so our words are intended to be taken at face value. But perhaps this is not necessary. Consider the following passage.

There are those who would believe that every polynomial equation with integer coefficients has a rational solution, a view that leads to some intriguing new ideas. For example, take the equation x² - 2 = 0. Let p/q be a rational solution. Then (p/q)² - 2 = 0, from which it follows that p² = 2q². The highest power of 2 that divides p² is obviously an even power, since if 2^k is the highest power of 2 that divides p, then 2^2k is the highest power of 2 that divides p². Similarly, the highest power of 2 that divides 2q² is an odd power, since it is greater by 1 than the highest power that divides q². Since p² and 2q² are equal, there must exist a positive integer that is both even and odd. Integers with this remarkable property are quite unlike the integers

... (read more)
5DanArmak8yThe two examples are not contradictory, but analogous to one another. The correct conclusion in both is the same, and both are equally serious or ironic. 1. Suppose x² -2=0 has a solution that is rational. That leads to a contradiction. So any solution must be irrational. 2. Suppose x² +1=0 has a solution that is a number. That leads to a contradiction. So any solution must not be a number. Now what is a "number" in this context? From the text, something that is either positive, negative, or zero; i.e. something with a total ordering. And indeed we know (ETA: this is wrong, see below) that such solutions, the complex numbers, have no total ordering. I see no relevant difference between the two cases.
4The_Duck8yYou can work the language a little to make them analogous, but that's not the point Gowers is making. Consider this instead: "There are those who would believe that all equations have solutions, a view that leads to some intriguing new ideas. Consider the equation x + 1 = x. Inspecting the equation, we see that its solution must be a number which is equal to its successor. Numbers with this remarkable property are quite unlike the numbers we are familiar with. As such, they are surely worthy of further study." I imagine Gowers's point to be that sometimes a contradiction does point to a way in which you can revise your assumptions to gain access to "intriguing new ideas", but sometimes it just indicates that your assumptions are wrong.

"There are those who would believe that all equations have solutions, a view that leads to some intriguing new ideas. Consider the equation x + 1 = x. Inspecting the equation, we see that its solution must be a number which is equal to its successor. Numbers with this remarkable property are quite unlike the numbers we are familiar with. As such, they are surely worthy of further study."

Yes, yes they are.

Qhorin Halfhand: The Watch has given you a great gift. And you only have one thing to give in return: your life.

Jon Snow: I'd gladly give my life.

Qhorin Halfhand: I don’t want you to be glad about it! I want you to curse and fight until your heart’s done pumping.

--Game of Thrones, Season 2.

Reminds me of Patton:

No man ever won a war by dying for his country. Wars were won by making the other poor bastard die for his. You don't win a war by dying for your country.

I especially like the way he calls the enemy "the other poor bastard". And not, say, "the bastard".

7Ezekiel8yAlso effort, expertise, and insider information on one of the most powerful Houses around. And magic powers.

My brain technically-not-a-lies to me far more than it actually lies to me.

-- Aristosophy (again)

[-][anonymous]8y 35

We're talking about a person who, along with her partner, gives to efficient charity twice as much money as she spends on herself. There's no way she doesn't actually believe what she says and still does that.

6prase8yThat she gives more than most others doesn't imply that her belief that giving even more is practically impossible isn't hypocritical. Yes, she very likely believes it, thus it is not a conscious lie, but only a small minority of falsities are conscious lies.

Yeah, but there's also a certain plausibility to the heuristic which says that you don't get to second-guess her knowledge of what works for charitable giving until you're - not giving more - but at least playing in the same order of magnitude as her. Maybe her pushing a little bit harder on that "hypocrisy" would cause her mind to collapse, and do you really want to second-guess her on that if she's already doing more than an order of magnitude better than what your own mental setup permits?

9prase8yI am actually inclined to believe Wise's hypothesis (call it H) that being overly selfless can hamper one's ability to help others. I was only objecting to army1987's implicit argument that because she (Wise) clearly believes H, Dolores1984's suspicion of H being a self-serving untrue argument is unwarranted.

The first step is to measure whatever can be easily measured. This is OK as far as it goes. The second step is to disregard that which can’t easily be measured or to give it an arbitrary quantitative value. This is artificial and misleading. The third step is to presume that what can’t be measured easily isn’t important. This is blindness. The fourth step is to say that what can’t easily be measured really doesn’t exist. This is suicide.

Charles Handy describing the Vietnam-era measurement policies of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara

The following quotes were heavily upvoted, but then turned out to be made by a Will Newsome sockpuppet who edited the quote afterward. The original comments have been banned. The quotes are as follows:

If dying after a billion years doesn't sound sad to you, it's because you lack a thousand-year-old brain that can make trillion-year plans.

— Aristosophy

One wish can achieve as much as you want. What the genie is really offering is three rounds of feedback.

— Aristosophy

If anyone objects to this policy response, please PM me so as to not feed the troll.

The following quotes were heavily upvoted, but then turned out to be made by a Will Newsome sockpuppet who edited the quote afterward. The original comments have been banned. The quotes are as follows:

Defection too far. Ban Will.

5Armok_GoB8yWill is a cute troll. Hmm, after observing it a few times on various forums I'm starting to consider that having a known, benign resident troll might keep away more destructive ones. No idea how it works but it doesn't seem that far-fetched given all the strange territoriality-like phenomena occasionally encountered in the oddest places.

Will is a cute troll.

I've heard this claimed.

This behavior isn't cute.

Hmm, after observing it a few times on various forums I'm starting to consider that having a known, benign resident troll might keep away more destructive ones. No idea how it works but it doesn't seem that far-fetched given all the strange territoriality-like phenomena occasionally encountered in the oddest places.

This would be somewhat in fitting with findings in Cialdini. One defector kept around and visibly punished or otherwise looking low status is effective at preventing that kind of behavior. (If not Cialdini, then Greene. Probably both.)

Edited how?

If I remember correctly the second quote was edited to be something along the lines of "will_newsome is awesome."

[-][anonymous]8y 11

I do find some of Will Newsome's contributions interesting. OTOH, this behaviour is pretty fucked up. (I was wondering how hard it would be to implement a software feature to show the edit history of comments.)

3Incorrect8yIf only the converse were true...

The only road to doing good shows, is doing bad shows.

  • Louis C.K., on Reddit

Unfortunately, doing bad shows is not only a route to doing good shows.

“Why do you read so much?”

Tyrion looked up at the sound of the voice. Jon Snow was standing a few feet away, regarding him curiously. He closed the book on a finger and said, “Look at me and tell me what you see.”

The boy looked at him suspiciously. “Is this some kind of trick? I see you. Tyrion Lannister.”

Tyrion sighed. “You are remarkably polite for a bastard, Snow. What you see is a dwarf. You are what, twelve?”

“Fourteen,” the boy said.

“Fourteen, and you’re taller than I will ever be. My legs are short and twisted, and I walk with difficulty. I require a special saddle to keep from falling off my horse. A saddle of my own design, you may be interested to know. It was either that or ride a pony. My arms are strong enough, but again, too short. I will never make a swordsman. Had I been born a peasant, they might have left me out to die, or sold me to some slaver’s grotesquerie. Alas, I was born a Lannister of Casterly Rock, and the grotesqueries are all the poorer. Things are expected of me. My father was the Hand of the King for twenty years. My brother later killed that very same king, as it turns out, but life is full of these little ironies. My sister married the new king and

... (read more)

I'm surprised at how often I have to inform people of this... I have mild scoliosis, and so I usually prefer sitting down and kicking up my feet, usually with my work in hand. Coming from a family who appreciates backbreaking work is rough when the hard work is even harder and the pain longer-lasting... which would be slightly more bearable if the aforementioned family did not see reading MYSTERIOUS TEXTS on a Kindle and using computers for MYSTERIOUS PURPOSES as signs of laziness and devotion to silly frivolities.

I have a sneaking suspicion that this is not a very new situation.

9ArisKatsaris8yI think the quote could be trimmed to its last couple sentences and still maintain the relevant point..

I disagree, in fact. That books strengthen the mind is baldly asserted, not supported, by this quote - the rationality point I see in it is related to comparative advantage.

8ChrisHallquist8yOh, totally. But I prefer the full version; it's really a beautifully written passage.

Discovery is the privilege of the child, the child who has no fear of being once again wrong, of looking like an idiot, of not being serious, of not doing things like everyone else.

Alexander Grothendieck

7Fyrius8y...screw it, I'm not growing up.
6bbleeker8yI remember being very much afraid of all those things as a child. I'm getting better now.

Inverted information is not random noise.

...a good way of thinking about minimalism [about truth] and its attractions is to see it as substituting the particular for the general. It mistrusts anything abstract or windy. Both the relativist and the absolutist are impressed by Pilate's notorious question 'What is Truth?', and each tries to say something useful at the same high and vertiginous level of generality. The minimalist can be thought of turning his back on this abstraction, and then in any particular case he prefaces his answer with the prior injunction: you tell me. This does not mean, 'You tell me what truth is.' It means, 'You tell me what the issue is, and I will tell you (although you will already know, by then) what the truth about the issue consists in.' If the issue is whether high tide is at midday, then truth consists in high tide being at midday... We can tell you what truth amounts to, if you first tell us what the issue is.

There is a very powerful argument for minimalism about truth, due to the great logician Gottlob Frege. First, we should notice the transparency property of truth. This is the fact that it makes no difference whether you say that it is raining, or it is true that it is raining, or tr

... (read more)
9Alejandro18yThe pithiest definition of Blackburn's minimalism I've read is in his review of Nagel's The Last Word: It is followed by an even pithier response to how Nagel refutes relativism (pointing that our first-order conviction that 2+2=4 or that murder is wrong is more certain than any relativist doubts) and thinks that this establishes a quasi-Platonic absolutism as the only alternative:

"Nontrivial measure or it didn't happen." -- Aristosophy

(Who's Kate Evans? Do we know her? Aristosophy seems to have rather a lot of good quotes.)


"I made my walled garden safe against intruders and now it's just a walled wall." -- Aristosophy

Attachment? This! Is! SIDDHARTHA!

Is that you? That's ingenious.

For more rational flavor:

Live dogmatic, die wrong, leave a discredited corpse.

This should be the summary for entangled truths:

To find the true nature of a thing, find the true nature of all other things and look at what is left over.

how to seem and be deep:

Blessed are those who can gaze into a drop of water and see all the worlds and be like who cares that's still zero information content.

Dark Arts:

The master said: "The master said: "The master said: "The master said: "There is no limit to the persuasive power of social proof.""""

More Dark arts:

One wins a dispute, not by minimising potential counterarguments' plausibility, but by maximising their length.


Have you accepted your brain into your heart?

7Alicorn8yNo, I'm not her. I don't know who she is, but her Twitter is indeed glorious. (And Google Reader won't let me subscribe to it the way I'm subscribed to other Twitters, rar.)

She's got to be from here, here's learning biases can hurt people:

Heuristics and biases research: gaslighting the human race?


"Are you signed up for Christonics?" "No, I'm still prochristinating."

I'm starting to think this is someone I used to know from tvtropes.

It is now clear to us what, in the year 1812, was the cause of the destruction of the French army. No one will dispute that the cause of the destruction of Napoleon's French forces was, on the one hand, their advance late in the year, without preparations for a winter march, into the depths of Russia, and, on the other hand, the character that the war took on with the burning of Russian towns and the hatred of the foe aroused in the Russian people. But then not only did no one foresee (what now seems obvious) that this was the only way that could lead to the destruction of an army of eight hundred thousand men, the best in the world and led by the best generals, in conflict with a twice weaker Russian army, inexperienced and led by inexperienced generals; not only did no one foresee this, but all efforts on the part of the Russians were constantly aimed at hindering the one thing that could save Russia, and, on the part of the French, despite Napoleon's experience and so-called military genius, all efforts were aimed at extending as far as Moscow by the end of summer, that is, at doing the very thing that was to destroy them.

  • Leo Tolstoy, "War and Peace", trans. Pevear and Volokhonsky

"Possibly the best statistical graph ever drawn" http://www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/posters

You know those people who say "you can use numbers to show anything" and "numbers lie" and "I don't trust numbers, don't give me numbers, God, anything but numbers"? These are the very same people who use numbers in the wrong way.


"If your plan is for one year plant rice. If your plan is for 10 years plant trees. If your plan is for 100 years educate children" - Confucius

...If your plan is for eternity, invent FAI?

3Eliezer Yudkowsky8yDepends how you interpret the proverb. If you told me the Earth would last a hundred years, it would increase the immediate priority of CFAR and decrease that of SIAI. It's a moot point since the Earth won't last a hundred years.
5[anonymous]8ySorry, Earth won't last a hundred years?
5MugaSofer8yNanotech and/or UFAI.
3Mitchell_Porter8yThe idea seems to be that even if there is a friendly singularity, Earth will be turned into computronium or otherwise transformed.
3TheOtherDave8yI am surprised that this claim surprises you. A big part of SI's claimed value proposition is the idea that humanity is on the cusp of developing technologies that will kill us all if not implemented in specific ways that non-SI folk don't take seriously enough.

Nothing can be soundly understood
If daylight itself needs proof.

Imām al-Ḥaddād (trans. Moṣṭafā al-Badawī), "The Sublime Treasures: Answers to Sufi Questions"

6siodine8yRichard Carrier on solipsism, but not nearly as pithy:

I think that's actually a really terrible bit of arguing.

There are only two logically possible explanations: random chance, or design.

We can stop right there. If we're all the way back at solipsism, we haven't even gotten to defining concepts like 'random chance' or 'design', which presume an entire raft of external beliefs and assumptions, and we surely cannot immediately say there are only two categories unless, in response to any criticism, we're going to include a hell of a lot under one of those two rubrics. Which probability are we going to use, anyway? There are many more formalized versions than just Kolmogorov's axioms (which brings us to the analytic and synthetic problem).

And much of the rest goes on in a materialist vein which itself requires a lot of further justification (why can't minds be ontologically simple elements? Oh, your experience in the real world with various regularities has persuaded you that is inconsistent with the evidence? I see...) Even if we granted his claims about complexity, why do we care about complexity? And so on.

Yes, if you're going to buy into a (very large) number of materialist non-solipsist claims, then you're going to have trouble making a case in such terms for solipsism. But if you've bought all those materialist or externalist claims, you've already rejected solipsism and there's no tension in the first place. And he doesn't do a good case of explaining that at all.

5Jay_Schweikert8yThis also made me think of the aphorism "if water sticks in your throat, with what will you wash it down?"

Subway ad: "146 people were hit by trains in 2011. 47 were killed."

Guy on Subway: "That tells me getting hit by a train ain't that dangerous."

  • Nate Silver, on his Twitter feed @fivethirtyeight

This reminds me of how I felt when I learned that a third of the passengers of the Hindenburg survived. Went something like this, if I recall:

Apparently if you drop people out of the sky in a ball of fire, that's not enough to kill all of them, or even 90% of them.

Actually, according to Wikipedia, only 35 out of the 97 people aboard were killed. Not enough to kill even 50% of them.

[-][anonymous]8y 16

Wait, 32% probability of dying “ain't that dangerous”? Are you f***ing kidding me?

[-][anonymous]8y 29

If I expect to be hit by a train, I certainly don't expect a ~68% survival chance. Not intuitively, anyways.

I'm guessing that even if you survive, your quality of life is going to take a hit. Accounting for this will probably bring our intuitive expectation of harm closer to the actual harm.

5[anonymous]8yHmmm, I can't think of any way of figuring out what probability I would have guessed if I had to guess before reading that. Damn you, hindsight bias! (Maybe you could spell out and rot-13 the second figure in the ad...)
6DanielLC8yI can't help but think: Subway ad: "146 people were hit by trains in 2011. 47 were killed." Guy at Subway: "What does that have to do with sandwiches?"

"In a society in which the narrow pursuit of material self-interest is the norm, the shift to an ethical stance is more radical than many people realize. In comparison with the needs of people starving in Somalia, the desire to sample the wines of the leading French vineyards pales into insignificance. Judged against the suffering of immobilized rabbits having shampoos dripped into their eyes, a better shampoo becomes an unworthy goal. An ethical approach to life does not forbid having fun or enjoying food and wine, but it changes our sense of priorities. The effort and expense put into buying fashionable clothes, the endless search for more and more refined gastronomic pleasures, the astonishing additional expense that marks out the prestige car market in cars from the market in cars for people who just want a reliable means to getting from A to B, all these become disproportionate to people who can shift perspective long enough to take themselves, at least for a time, out of the spotlight. If a higher ethical consciousness spreads, it will utterly change the society in which we live." -- Peter Singer

As it is probably intended, the more reminders like this I read, the more ethical I should become. As it actually works, the more of this I read, the less I become interested in ethics. Maybe I am extraordinarily selfish and this effect doesn't happen to most, but it should be at least considered that constant preaching of moral duties can have counterproductive results.

I suspect it's because authors of "ethical remainders" are usually very bad at understanding human nature.

What they essentially do is associate "ethical" with "unpleasant", because as long as you have some pleasure, you are obviously not ethical enough; you could do better by giving up some more pleasure, and it's bad that you refuse to do so. The attention is drawn away from good things you are really doing, to the hypothetical good things you are not doing.

But humans are usually driven by small incentives, by short-term feelings. The best thing our rationality can do is better align these short-term feelings with out long-term goals, so we actually feel happy when contributing to our long-term goals. And how exactly are these "ethical remainders" contributing to the process? Mostly by undercutting your short-term ethical motivators, by always reminding you that what you did was not enough, therefore you don't deserve the feelings of satisfaction. Gradually they turn these motivators off, and you no longer feel like doing anything ethical, because they convinced you (your "elephant") that you can't.

Ethics without understanding human nature is just a pile of horseshit. Of course that does not prevent other people from admiring those who speak it.

xkcd reference.

Not to mention the remarks of Mark Twain on a fundraiser he attended once:

Well, Hawley worked me up to a great state. I couldn't wait for him to get through [his speech]. I had four hundred dollars in my pocket. I wanted to give that and borrow more to give. You could see greenbacks in every eye. But he didn't pass the plate, and it grew hotter and we grew sleepier. My enthusiasm went down, down, down - $100 at a time, till finally when the plate came round I stole 10 cents out of it. [Prolonged laughter.] So you see a neglect like that may lead to crime.

7NancyLebovitz8yIt might be worth taking a look at Karen Horney's [http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karen_Horney] work. She was an early psychoanalyst who wrote that if a child is abused, neglected, or has normal developmental stages overly interfered with, they are at risk of concluding that just being a human being isn't good enough, and will invent inhuman standards for themselves. I'm working on understanding the implications (how do you get living as a human being right? :-/ ), but I think she was on to something.

I wasn't abused or neglected. Did she check experimentally that abuse or neglect is more prevalent among rationalists than in the general population?

Of course that's not something a human would ordinarily do to check a plausible-sounding hypothesis, so I guess she probably didn't, unless something went horribly wrong in her childhood.

5NancyLebovitz8ySecond thought: Maybe I should have not mentioned her theory about why people adopt inhuman standards, and just focused on the idea that inhuman standards are likely to backfire, Viliam_Bur did. Also-- if I reread I'll check this-- I think Horney focused on inhuman standards of already having a quality, which is not quite the same thing as having inhuman standards about what one ought to achieve, though I think they're related.

Judged against the suffering of immobilized rabbits having shampoos dripped into their eyes, a better shampoo becomes an unworthy goal.

I'm not at all convinced that this is the case. After all, the shampoos are being designed to be less painful, and you don't need to test on ten thousand rabbits. Considering the distribution of the shampoos, this may save suffering even if you regard human and rabbit suffering as equal in disutility.

[-][anonymous]8y 25

To use an analogy, if you attend a rock concert and take a box to stand on then you will get a better view. If others do the same, you will be in exactly the same position as before. Worse, even, as it may be easier to loose your balance and come crashing down in a heap (and, perhaps, bringing others with you).

-- Iain McKay et al., An Anarchist FAQ, section C.7.3

Tropical rain forests, bizarrely, are the products of prisoner's dilemmas. The trees that grow in them spend the great majority of their energy growing upwards towards the sky, rather than reproducing. If they could come to a pact with their competitors to outlaw all tree trunks and respect a maximum tree height of ten feet, every tree would be better off. But they cannot.

Matt Ridley, in The Origins of Virtue

[-][anonymous]8y 25

Neither side of the road is inherently superior to the other, so we should all choose for ourselves on which side to drive. #enlightenment

--Kate Evans on Twitter

9roystgnr8yDon't we all choose for ourselves on which side to drive? There's usually nobody else ready to grab the wheel away from you...
6DaFranker8yHave successfully quoted this to counter a relativist-truth argument that was aimed towards supporting "freedom of faith" even in hypothetical scenarios where the majority of actors would end up promoting and following harmful faiths. While counterintuitive to me, it was apparently a necessary step before the other party could even comprehend the fallacy of gray that was being committed.

Julia Wise would disagree, on the grounds that this is impossible to maintain and you do more good if you stay happy.

Oh, right, Senjōgahara. I've got a great story to tell you. It's about that man who tried to rape you way back when. He was hit by a car and died in a place with no connection to you, in an event with no connection to you. Without any drama at all. [...] That's the lesson for you here: You shouldn't expect your life to be like the theater.

-- Kaiki Deishū, Episode 7 of Nisemonogatari.

Does the order of the two terminal conditions matter? / Think about it.

Does the order of the two terminal conditions matter? / Try it out!

Does the order of the two previous answers matter? / Yes. Think first, then try.

  • Friedman and Felleisen, The Little Schemer
5RomanDavis8yCould you unpack that for me?

Sure. The book is a sort of resource for learning the programming language Scheme, where the authors will present an illustrative piece of code and discuss different aspects of its behavior in the form of a question-and-answer dialogue with the reader.

In this case, the authors are discussing how to perform numerical comparisons using only a simple set of basic procedures, and they've come up with a method that has a subtle error. The lines above encourage the reader to figure out if and why it's an error.

With computers, it's really easy to just have a half-baked idea, twiddle some bits, and watch things change, but sometimes the surface appearance of a change is not the whole story. Remembering to "think first, then try" helps me maintain the right discipline for really understanding what's going on in complex systems. Thinking first about my mental model of a situation prompts questions like this:

  • Does my model explain the whole thing?
  • What would I expect to see if my model is accurate? Can I verify that I see those things?
  • Does my model make useful predictions about future behavior? Can I test that now, or make sure that when it happens, I gather the data I need to confirm it?

It's harder psychologically (and maybe too late) to ask those questions in retrospect if you try first, and then think, and if you skip asking them, then you'll suffer later.

6RomanDavis8yYou know, I've seen a lot on here about how programming relates to thinking relates to rationality. I wonder if it'd be worth trying and where/how I might get started.
4cata8yIt's certainly at least worth trying, since among things to learn it may be both unusually instructive and unusually useful. Here's the big list of LW recommendations. [http://lesswrong.com/lw/cpz/computer_science_and_programming_links_and/]

The problem with any ideology is that it gives the answer before you look at the evidence.

Bill Clinton

This is why I think it's not too terribly useful to give labels like "good person" or "bad person," especially if our standard for being a "bad person" is "someone with anything less than 100% adherence to all the extrapolated consequences of their verbally espoused values." In the end, I think labeling people is just a useful approximation to labeling consequences of actions.

Julia, Jeff, and others accomplish a whole lot of good. Would they, on average, end up accomplishing more good if they spent more time feeling guilty about the fact that they could, in theory, be helping more? This is a testable hypothesis. Are people in general more likely to save more lives if they spend time thinking about being happy and avoiding burnout, or if they spend time worrying that they are bad people making excuses for allowing themselves to be happy?

The question here is not whether any individual person could be giving more; the answer is virtually always "yes." The question is, what encourages giving? How do we ensure that lives are actually being saved, given our human limitations and selfish impulses? I think there's great value in not generating an ugh-field around charity.

I've always thought of the SkiFree monster as a metaphor for the inevitability of death.

"SkiFree, huh? You know, you can press 'F' to go faster than the monster and escape."

-- xkcd 667

There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.

Ernest Hemingway

9wedrifid8yExcellent. A shortcut to nobility. One day of being as despicable as I can practically manage and I'm all set.
4WingedViper8yIt does not state which (!) former self, so I would expect some sort of median or mean or summary of your former self and not just the last day. So I'm sorry but there is no shortcut ;-)
[-][anonymous]8y 22

"If at first you don't succeed, switch to power tools." -- The Red Green Show

Julia Wise holds the distinction of having actually tried it though. Few people are selfless enough to even make the attempt.

When we were first drawn together as a society, it had pleased God to enlighten our minds so far as to see that some doctrines, which we once esteemed truths, were errors; and that others, which we had esteemed errors, were real truths. From time to time He has been pleased to afford us farther light, and our principles have been improving, and our errors diminishing.

Now we are not sure that we are arrived at the end of this progression, and at the perfection of spiritual or theological knowledge; and we fear that, if we should once print our confession of faith, we should feel ourselves as if bound and confin'd by it, and perhaps be unwilling to receive farther improvement, and our successors still more so, as conceiving what we their elders and founders had done, to be something sacred, never to be departed from.

Michael Welfare, quoted in The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us." - Sagan

Rorschach: You see, Doctor, God didn't kill that little girl. Fate didn't butcher her and destiny didn't feed her to those dogs. If God saw what any of us did that night he didn't seem to mind. From then on I knew... God doesn't make the world this way. We do.

EDIT: Quote above is from the movie.

Verbatim from the comic:

It is not God who kills the children. Not fate that butchers them or destiny that feeds them to the dogs. It's us.
Only us.

I personally think that Watchmen is a fantastic study* on all the different ways people react to that realisation.

("Study" in the artistic sense rather than the scientific.)

If a thing can be observed in any way at all, it lends itself to some type of measurement method. No matter how “fuzzy” the measurement is, it’s still a measurement if it tells you more than you knew before.

Douglas Hubbard, How to Measure Anything

[-][anonymous]8y 19

Erode irreplaceable institutions related to morality and virtue because of their contingent associations with flawed human groups #lifehacks

--Kate Evans on Twitter

5simplicio8yI was ready to applaud the wise contrarianism here, but I'm having trouble coming up with actual examples... marriage, maybe?
3arundelo8yI don't know if this is what she was thinking of but church [http://lesswrong.com/lw/5v/church_vs_taskforce/] is what I thought of when I read it.

It may be of course that savages put food on a dead man because they think that a dead man can eat, or weapons with a dead man because they think a dead man can fight. But personally I do not believe that they think anything of the kind. I believe they put food or weapons on the dead for the same reason that we put flowers, because it is an exceedingly natural and obvious thing to do. We do not understand, it is true, the emotion that makes us think it is obvious and natural; but that is because, like all the important emotions of human existence it is essentially irrational.

  • G. K. Chesterton

Chesterton doesn't understand the emotion because he doesn't know enough about psychology, not because emotions are deep sacred mysteries we must worship.

Or better, arational.

5[anonymous]8yThat is an incredible term. Going to use it all the time.

Let us together seek, if you wish, the laws of society, the manner in which these laws are reached, the process by which we shall succeed in discovering them; but, for God's sake, after having demolished all the a priori dogmatisms, do not let us in our turn dream of indoctrinating the people...let us not - simply because we are at the head of a movement - make ourselves into the new leaders of intolerance, let us not pose as the apostles of a new religion, even if it be the religion of logic, the religion of reason.

Pierre Proudhon, to Karl Marx

When a precise, narrowly focused technical idea becomes metaphor and sprawls globally, its credibility must be earned afresh locally by means of specific evidence demonstrating the relevance and explanatory power of the idea in its new application.

Edward Tufte, "Beautiful Evidence"

4simplicio8y* Evolution * Relativity * Foundational assumptions of standard economics ...what else?
6RichardKennaway8y* Bayes' theorem * Status * Computation * Utility * Optimisation

...the 2008 financial crisis showed that some [mathematical finance] models were flawed. But those flaws were based on flawed assumptions about the distribution of price changes... Nassim Taleb, a popular author and critic of the financial industry, points out many such flaws but does not include the use of Monte Carlo simulations among them. He himself is a strong proponent of these simulations. Monte Carlo simulations are simply the way we do the math with uncertain quantities. Abandoning Monte Carlos because of the failures of the financial markets makes as much sense as giving up on addition and subtraction because of the failure of accounting at Enron or AIG’s overexposure in credit default swaps.

Douglas Hubbard, How to Measure Anything

As far as I know, Robespierre, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot were indeed unusually incorruptible, and I do hate them for this trait.

Why? Because when your goal is mass murder, corruption saves lives. Corruption leads you to take the easy way out, to compromise, to go along to get along. Corruption isn't a poison that makes everything worse. It's a diluting agent like water. Corruption makes good policies less good, and evil policies less evil.

I've read thousands of pages about Hitler. I can't recall the slightest hint of "corruption" on his record. Like Robespierre, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot, Hitler was a sincerely murderous fanatic. The same goes for many of history's leading villains - see Eric Hoffer's classic The True Believer. Sincerity is so overrated. If only these self-righteous monsters had been corrupt hypocrites, millions of their victims could have bargained and bribed their way out of hell.

-- Bryan Caplan

5MixedNuts8yHitler was at least a hypocrite - he got his Jewish friends to safety, and accepted same-sex relationships in himself and people he didn't want to kill yet. The kind of corruption Caplan is pointing at is a willingness to compromise with anyone who makes offers, not any kind of ignoring your principles. And Nazis were definitely against that - see the Duke in Jud Süß.
6Stuart_Armstrong8y? Please provide evidence for this bizarre claim?

Spared Jews:

  • Ernst Hess, his unit commander in WWI, protected until 1942 then sent to a labor (not extermination) camp
  • Eduard Bloch, his and his mother's doctor, allowed to emigrate out of Austria with more money than normally allowed
  • I've heard things about fellow artists (a commenter on Caplan's post mentions an art gallery owner) but I don't have a source.
  • There are claims about his cook, Marlene(?) Kunde, but he seems to have fired her when Himmler complained. Anyone has Musmanno's book or some other non-Stormfronty source?

Whether Hitler batted for both teams is hotly debated. There are suspected relationships (August Kubizek, Emil Maurice) but any evidence could as well have been faked to smear him.

Hitler clearly knew that Ernst Röhm and Edmund Heines were gay and didn't care until it was Long Knives time. I'm less sure he knew about Karl Ernst's sexuality.

9TimS8yWittgenstein paid a huge bribe [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_Wittgenstein#Professor_of_philosophy] to allow his family to leave Germany. Somewhere I read that this particular agreement was approve personally be Hitler (or someone very senior in the hierarchy). That doesn't contradict the general point that Nazi Germany was generally willing to kill and steal from its victims (especially during the war) rather than accept bribes for escape.
4DanArmak8yThis may have happened some of the time, but everything I read suggests it was the exception and not the rule. The reason Jews did not emigrate out of Germany during the 30s was that Germany had a big foreign balance problem, and managed tight government control over allocation of foreign currency. Jews (and Germans) could not convert their Reichsmarks to any other currency, either in Germany or out of it, and so they were less willing to leave. And no other country was willing to take them in in large numbers (since they would be poor refugees). This continued during the war in the West European countries conquered by Germany. (Ref: Wages of Destruction [http://www.amazon.com/Wages-Destruction-Making-Breaking-Economy/dp/0143113208], Adam Tooze) Later, all Jewish property was expropriated and the Jews sent to camps, so there was no more room for bribes - the Jews had nothing to offer since the Nazis took what they wanted by force.
[-][anonymous]8y 17
The Perfect Way is only difficult
           for those who pick and choose;

Do not like, do not dislike;
               all will then be clear.

Make a hairbreadth difference,
              and Heaven and Earth are set apart;

if you want the truth to stand clear before you,
              never be for or against.

The struggle between "for" and "against"
              is the mind's worst disease.

-- Jianzhi Sengcan

Edit: Since I'm not Will Newsome (yet!) I will clarify. There are several useful points in this but I think the key one is the virtue of keeping one's identity small. Speaking it out loud is a sort of primer, meditation or prayer before approaching difficult or emotional subjects has for me proven a useful ritual for avoiding motivated cognition.

3Emile8yFor the curious, it's the opening of 信心铭 (Xinxin Ming) [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xinxin_Ming], whose authorship is disputed (probably not the zen patriarch Jiangzhi Sengcan). In Chinese, that part goes: (The Wikipedia article [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xinxin_Ming] lists a few alternate translations of the first verses, with different meanings)

I particularly like the reminder that I'm physics. Makes me feel like a superhero. "Imbued with the properties of matter and energy, able to initiate activity in a purely deterministic universe, it's Physics Man!"

-- GoodDamon (this may skirt the edge of the rules, since it's a person reacting to a sequence post, but a person who's not a member of LW.)

4RobinZ8y...and, more importantly, not on LessWrong.com.

Er... actually the genie is offering at most two rounds of feedback.

Sorry about the pedantry, it's just that as a professional specialist in genies I have a tendency to notice that sort of thing.

6wedrifid8yRather than a technical correction you seem just to be substituting a different meaning of 'feedback'. The author would certainly not agree that "You get 0 feedback from 1 wish". Mind you I am wary of the the fundamental message of the quote. Feedback? One of the most obviously important purposes of getting feedback is to avoid catastrophic failure. Yet catastrophic failures are exactly the kind of thing that will prevent you from using the next wish. So this is "Just Feedback" that can Kill You Off For Real [http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/KilledOffForReal] despite the miraculous intervention you have access to. I'd say "What the genie is really offering is a wish and two chances to change your mind---assuming you happen to be still alive and capable of constructing corrective wishes".
7Morendil8yOne well-known folk tale [http://bit.ly/NHpmQC] is based on precisely this interpretation. Probably more than one.
4Eliezer Yudkowsky8y0 feedback is exactly what you get from 1 wish. "Feedback" isn't just information, it's something that can control a system's future behavior - so unless you expect to find another genie bottle later, "Finding out how your wish worked" isn't the same as feedback at all.

so unless you expect to find another genie bottle later

...or unless genies granting wishes is actually part of the same system as the larger world, such that what I learn from the results of a wish can be applied (by me or some other observer) to better calibrate expectations from other actions in that system besides wishing-from-genies.

9wedrifid8yI think it was clear that I inferred this as the new definition you were trying to substitute. I was very nearly as impressed as if you 'corrected' him by telling him that it isn't "feedback" if nobody is around to hear it [http://lesswrong.com/lw/np/disputing_definitions/], or perhaps told him that oxygen is a metal [http://lesswrong.com/lw/ecf/open_thread_september_115_2012/7bg4].

I bet that you can't write a question for which "Tau is exactly six." and "The battle of Thermopylae" are both answers which gain any credit...

"Write a four word phrase or sentence."

6Decius8yYou win.
4shminux8yJudging by this and your previous evil genie comments, you'd make a lovely UFAI.
4Jay_Schweikert8yI hate to break up the fun, and I'm sure we could keep going on about this, but Decius's original point was just that giving a wrong answer to an open-ended question is trivially easy. We can play word games and come up with elaborate counter-factuals, but the substance of that point is clearly correct, so maybe we should just move on.
4Decius8yThat was exactly the challenge I issued. Granted, it's trivial to write an answer which is wrong for that question, but it shows that I can't find a wrong answer for an arbitrary question as easily as I thought I could.
[-][anonymous]8y 16

He had bought a large map representing the sea, / Without the least vestige of land: / And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be / A map they could all understand.

“What’s the good of Mercator’s North Poles and Equators, / Tropics, Zones, and Meridian Lines?" / So the Bellman would cry: and the crew would reply / “They are merely conventional signs!

“Other maps are such shapes, with their islands and capes! / But we’ve got our brave Captain to thank: / (So the crew would protest) “that he’s bought us the best— / A perfect and absolute blank!”

-Lewis Carroll, The Hunting of the snark

[-][anonymous]8y 16


4Armok_GoB8y"Do you want 1111 1111 0000 0000 1111 1111 or 1111 1101 0000 0100 1111 1111? "

Proceed only with the simplest terms, for all others are enemies and will confuse you.

— Michael Kirkbride / Vivec, "The Thirty Six Lessons of Vivec", Morrowind.

5Ezekiel8yAm I the only one who thinks we should stop using the word "simple" for Occam's Razor / Solomonoff's Whatever? In 99% of use-cases by actual humans, it doesn't mean Solomonoff induction, so it's confusing.

Conspiracy Theory, n. A theory about a conspiracy that you are not supposed to believe.

-L. A. Rollins, Lucifer's Lexicon: An Updated Abridgment

Major Greene this evening fell into some conversation with me about the Divinity and satisfaction of Jesus Christ. All the argument he advanced was, "that a mere creature or finite being could not make satisfaction to infinite justice for any crimes," and that "these things are very mysterious."

Thus mystery is made a convenient cover for absurdity.

  • John Adams

Jesus used a clever quip to point out the importance of self-monitoring for illusory superiority?

[-][anonymous]8y 14

For a hundred years or so, mathematical statisticians have been in love with the fact that the probability distribution of the sum of a very large number of very small random deviations almost always converges to a normal distribution. ... This infatuation tended to focus interest away from the fact that, for real data, the normal distribution is often rather poorly realized, if it is realized at all. We are often taught, rather casually, that, on average, measurements will fall within ±σ of the true value 68% of the time, within ±2σ 95% of the time, and within ±3σ 99.7% of the time. Extending this, one would expect a measurement to be off by ±20σ only one time out of 2 × 10^88. We all know that “glitches” are much more likely than that!

-- W.H. Press et al., Numerical Recipes, Sec. 15.1

"You're very smart. Smarter than I am, I hope. Though of course I have such incredible vanity that I can't really believe that anyone is actually smarter than I am. Which means that I'm all the more in need of good advice, since I can't actually conceive of needing any."

  • New Peter / Orson Scott Card, Children of the Mind

.... he who works to understand the true causes of miracles and to understand Nature as a scholar, and not just to gape at them like a fool, is universally considered an impious heretic and denounced by those to whom the common people bow down as interpreters of Nature and the gods. For these people know that the dispelling of ignorance would entail the disappearance of that sense of awe which is the one and only support of their argument and the safeguard of their authority.

Baruch Spinoza Ethics

We're talking about morality that is based around technology. There is no technological advance that allows us to not criminalize homosexuality now where we couldn't have in the past.

People respond to incentives. Especially loss-related incentives. I do not give homeless people nickels even though I can afford to give a nearly arbitrary number of homeless people nickels. The set of people with karma less than five will be outright unable to reply - the set of people with karma greater than five will just be disincentivized, and that's still something.

If you don't, you're really going to regret it in a million years.

I believe Peter Singer actually originally advocated the asceticism you mention, but eventually moved towards "try to give 10% of your income", because people were actually willing to do that, and his goal was to actually help people, not uphold a particular abstract ideal.

8fubarobfusco8yAn interesting implication, if this generalizes: "Don't advocate the moral beliefs you think people should follow. Advocate the moral beliefs which hearing you advocate them would actually cause other people to behave better."
7Matt_Caulfield8yJust a sidenote: If you are the kind of person who is often worried about letting people down, entertaining the suspicion that most people follow this strategy already is a fast, efficient way to drive yourself completely insane. "You're doing fine." "Oh, I know this game. I'm actually failing massively, but you thought, well, this is the best he can do, so I might as well make him think he succeeded. DON'T LIE TO ME! AAAAH..."
6IlyaShpitser8ySometimes I wonder how much of LW is "nerds" rediscovering on their own how neuro-typical communication works. I don't mean to say I am not a "nerd" in this sense :).

“The real purpose of the scientific method is to make sure nature hasn’t misled you into thinking you know something you actually don’t know.”

― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

"Even in a minute instance, it is best to look first to the main tendencies of Nature. A particular flower may not be dead in early winter, but the flowers are dying; a particular pebble may never be wetted with the tide, but the tide is coming in."

G. K. Chesterton, "The Absence of Mr Glass"

Note: this was put in the mouth of the straw? atheist. It's still correct.

Wait actual humans are afraid of losing karma?

Actual humans are afraid of being considered obnoxious, stupid or antisocial. Karma loss is just an indication that perception may be heading in that direction.

5Luke_A_Somers8yAttempts to avoid karma loss by procedural hacks are a stronger indication...
9Kindly8yThis is how lost purposes form. Once you've figured out that karma loss is a sign of something bad, you start avoiding it even when it's not a sign of that bad thing.

That sounds to me like exactly the sort of excuse a bad person would use to justify valuing their selfish whims over the lives of other people.

Is it justified? Pretend we care nothing for good and bad people. Do these "bad people" do more good than "good people"?

Linus's take fits my aesthetic better, and "beautiful" language is often unclear.

I definitely expect nanotech a few orders of magnitude awesomer than we have now. I expect great progress on aging and disease, and wouldn't be floored by them being solved in theory (though it does sound hard). What I don't expect is worldwide deployment. There are still people dying from measles, when in any halfway-developed country every baby gets an MMR shot as a matter of course. I wouldn't be too surprised if everyone who can afford basic care in rich countries was immortal while thousands of brown kids kept drinking poo water and dying. I also expect longevity treatments to be long-term, not permanent fixes, and thus hard to access in poor or politically unstable countries.

The above requires poor countries to continue existing. I expect great progress, but not abolition of poverty. If development continues the way it has (e.g. Brazil), a century isn't quite enough for Somalia to get its act together. If there's a game-changing, universally available advance that bumps everyone to cutting-edge tech levels (or even 2012 tech levels), then I won't regret that $100 much.

I have no idea what wars will look like, but I don't expect them to be nonexistent or nonlethal. Given no gam... (read more)

This is my home, the country where my heart is;

Here are my hopes, my dreams, my sacred shrine.

But other hearts in other lands are beating,

With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,

And sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine.

But other lands have sunlight too and clover,

And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.

-Lloyd Stone

6Alicorn8yDuplicate, please delete the other.
5V_V8yobviously he never visited the British Isles :D
[-][anonymous]8y 12

If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change.

-- Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama

According to Wikipedia, the 2005 elections in germany did cost 63 million euros, with a population of 81 million people. 0,78 eurocent per person or the 0,00000281st part of the GDP. Does not seem much, in the grander scheme of things. And since the german constitutional court prohibited the use of most types of voting machines, that figure does include the cost to the helpers; 13 million, again, not a prohibitive expenditure.

Let's go one step back on this, because I think our point of disagreement is earlier than I thought in that last comment.

The efficient market hypothesis does not claim that the profit on all securities has the same expectation value. EMH-believers don't deny, for example, the empirically obvious fact that this expectation value is higher for insurances than for more predictable businesses. Also, you can always increase your risk and expected profit by leverage, i.e. by investing borrowed money.

This is because markets are risk-averse, so that on the same expectation value you get payed extra to except a higher standard deviation. Out- or underperforming the market is really easy by excepting more or less risk than it does on average. The claim is not that the expectation value will be the same for every security, only that the price of every security will be consistent with the same prices for risk and expected profit.

So if the EMH is true, you can not get a better deal on expected profit without also accepting higher risk and you can not get a higher risk premium than other people. But you still can get lots of different trade-offs between expected profit and risk.

Now can you ... (read more)

... which one wish, carefully phrased, could also provide.

"I wish for the result of the hypothetical nth wish I would make if I was allowed to make n wishes in the limit as n went to infinity each time believing that the next wish would be my only one and all previous wishes would be reversed, or if that limit does not exist, pick n = busy beaver function of Graham's number."

New ideas are sometimes found in the most granular details of a problem where few others bother to look. And they are sometimes found when you are doing your most abstract and philosophical thinking, considering why the world is the way that it is and whether there might be an alternative to the dominant paradigm. Rarely can they be found in the temperate latitudes between these two spaces, where we spend 99 percent of our lives.

-- Nate Silver, The Signal and the Noise

Stealing food is clearly evil if you have no need but the victim has need for the food. If the needs are opposite, then it is not clearly evil. So there is no clear boundary, but what would a vague boundary require?

You are pointing to different actions labeled stealing and saying "one is good and the other is evil." Yeah, obviously, but that is no contradiction - they are different actions! One is the action of stealing in dire need, the other is the action of stealing without need.

This is a very common confusion. Good and evil (and ethics) are situation-dependent, even according to the sternest, most thundering of moralists. That does not tell us anything one way or the other about objectivity. The same action in the same situation with the same motives is ethically the same.

8disinter8yThank you for pointing out my confusion. I've lost confidence that I have any idea what I'm talking about on this issue.

How is it a critique? The quote is an adequate expression of Eliezer's own third virtue of rationality, and I daresay if anyone had responded as uncharitably as that to his "Twelve Virtues", he would have considered 'dur' to be an adequate summary of that person's intellect.

The critique is of the phrase "but to be of no mind whatsoever."

The uncharitable interpretation is that something without a mind is a rock; the charitable interpretation is to take "mind" as "opinion."

I ended up downvoting the criticism because it doesn't apply to the substance of the quote, but to its word choice, and is itself not as clear as it could be.

The criticism is that a martial artist or scientist is actually trying to attain a highly specific brain-state in which neurons have particular patterns in them; a feeling of emptiness, even if part of this brain state, is itself a neural pattern and certainly does not correspond to the absence of a mind.

The zeroth virtue or void - insofar as we believe in it - corresponds to particular mode of thinking; it's certainly not an absence of mind. Emptiness, no-mind, the Void of Musashi, all these things are modes of thinking, not the absence of any sort of reified spiritual substance. See also the fallacy of the ideal ghost of perfect emptiness in philosophy.

And this critique I upvoted, because it is both clear and a valuable point. I still think you're using an uncharitable definition of the word "mind," but as assuming charity could lead to illusions of transparency it's valuable to have high standards for quotes.

I'm amazed how you guys manage to get all that from "dur". My communication skills must be worse than I thought.

5katydee8yI agree that the response was not particularly charitable, but it's nevertheless generally a type of post that I would like to see more of on LessWrong-- I think that style of reply can be desirable and funny. See also this comment [http://lesswrong.com/lw/ecp/dragon_balls_hyperbolic_time_chamber/7cf0].

It's really mean to say someone isn't cute

Alternately, it is toxic to describe trolling behavior as 'cute' when it isn't, and hasn't been either cute or particularly witty or intelligent in a long time. This. Behavior. Is. Not. Cute.. It is lame.

[-][anonymous]8y 11

Widespread circumcision.


A related Sherlock Holmes quote:

“Beyond the obvious facts that he has at some time done manual labour, that he takes snuff, that he is a Freemason, that he has been in China, and that he has done a considerable amount of writing lately, I can deduce nothing else.”

Mr. Jabez Wilson started up in his chair, with his forefinger upon the paper, but his eyes upon my companion.

“How, in the name of good-fortune, did you know all that, Mr. Holmes?” he asked. “How did you know, for example, that I did manual labour. It’s as true as gospel, for I began as a ship’s carpenter.”

“Your hands, my dear sir. Your right hand is quite a size larger than your left. You have worked with it, and the muscles are more developed.”

“Well, the snuff, then, and the Freemasonry?”

“I won’t insult your intelligence by telling you how I read that, especially as, rather against the strict rules of your order, you use an arc-and-compass breastpin.”

“Ah, of course, I forgot that. But the writing?”

“What else can be indicated by that right cuff so very shiny for five inches, and the left one with the smooth patch near the elbow where you rest it upon the desk?”

“Well, but China?”

“The fish that you have tattooed immediatel

... (read more)

The quote, phrased in a less tortuous way, says that mathematics contains true statements that cannot be proven, and is unique in being able to demonstrate that it does. So far, so good, although the uniqueness part can be debated.

But the quote also states that mathematics therefore contains an element of faith, that is, that there exist statements that have to be assumed to be true. This is not the case.

Mathematics only compels you to believe that certain things follow from certain axioms. That is all. While these axioms sometimes imply that there exist statements whose truth will never be determined, they do not imply that we should then assume that such-and-such a statement is true or false.

That is why it should be downvoted. Because not knowing something doesn't mean having to pretend that you do.

So, how many lives did he save again?

Clever guy, but I'm not sure if you want to follow his example.

[-][anonymous]8y 11

Do you live a life of extraordinary, desperate asceticism? If not, why not? If so, are you happy?

But since miracles were produced according to the capacity of the common people who were completely ignorant of the principles of natural things, plainly the ancients took for a miracle whatever they were unable to explain in the manner the common people normally explained natural things, namely by seeking to recall something similar which can be imagined without amazement. For the common people suppose they have satisfactorily explained something as soon as it no longer astounds them.

(Baruch Spinoza)

[-][anonymous]8y 10

the fact that ordinary people can band together and produce new knowledge within a few months is anything but a trifle

-- Dienekes Pontikos, Citizen Genetics

Intelligence about baseball had become equated in the public mind with the ability to recite arcane baseball stats. What [Bill] James's wider audience had failed to understand was that the statistics were beside the point. The point was understanding; the point was to make life on earth just a bit more intelligible; and that point, somehow, had been lost. "I wonder," James wrote, "if we haven't become so numbed by all these numbers that we are no longer capable of truly assimilating any knowledge which might result from them."

Michael Lewis, Moneyball, ch. 4 ("Field of Ignorance")

The use of Fashions in thought is to distract the attention of men from their real dangers. We direct the fashionable outcry of each generation against those vices of which it is least in danger and fix its approval on the virtue nearest to that vice which we are trying to make endemic...Thus we make it fashionable to expose the dangers of enthusiasm at the very moment when they are all really becoming worldly and lukewarm; a century later, when we are really making them all Byronic and drunk with emotion, the fashionable outcry is directed against the dangers of the mere "understanding". Cruel ages are put on their guard against Sentimentality, feckless and idle ones against Respectability, lecherous ones against Puritansm; and whenever all men are really hastening to be slaves or tyrants we make Liberalism the prime bogey.

CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Well, Jeff and I give about a third of our income, so I'd say we're not Sunday Catholics but Sunday-Monday-and-part-of-Tuesday Catholics.

Seriously, though, I advocate that people do what will result in the most good, which is usually not to try for perfection. Dolores1984, you've said before that rather than fail at a high standard of helping you'd rather not help at all. (Correct me if that summary is wrong). I'd rather see people set a standard in keeping with their level of motivation, if that's what will mean they take a stab at helping.

Example 54084954 of that fact that true-seeking and politeness are not correlated.

Also, a little fallacy of gray. Someone could be zero on the cute/disgusting scale, if even if it were so awful to label them disgusting.

Mathematics is a process of staring hard enough with enough perseverance at the fog of muddle and confusion to eventually break through to improved clarity. I'm happy when I can admit, at least to myself, that my thinking is muddled, and I try to overcome the embarrassment that I might reveal ignorance or confusion. Over the years, this has helped me develop clarity in some things, but I remain muddled in many others. I enjoy questions that seem honest, even when they admit or reveal confusion, in preference to questions that appear designed to project sophistication.

-- William Thurston

This is the easiest, most handholdy experience possible: http://learnpythonthehardway.org/book/

A coworker of mine who didn't know any programming, and who probably isn't smarter than you, enjoyed working through it and has learned a lot.

Programming is hard, but a lot of good things are hard.

Not quite so! We could presume that value isn't restricted to the reals + infinity, but say that something's value is a value among the ordinals. Then, you could totally say that life has infinite value, but two lives have twice that value.

But this gives non-commutativity of value. Saving a life and then getting $100 is better than getting $100 and saving a life, which I admit seems really screwy. This also violates the Von Neumann-Morgenstern axioms.

In fact, if we claim that a slice of bread is of finite value, and, say, a human life is of infinite value in any definition, then we violate the continuity axiom... which is probably a stronger counterargument, and tightly related to the point DanielLC makes above.

8The_Duck8yIf we want to assign infinite value to lives compared to slices of bread, we don't need exotic ideas like transfinite ordinals. We can just define value as an ordered pair (# of lives, # of slices of bread). When comparing values we first compare # of lives, and only use # of slices of bread as a tiebreaker. This conforms to the intuition of "life has infinite value" and still lets you care about bread without any weird order-dependence. This still violates the continuity axiom, but that, of itself, is not an argument against a set of preferences. As I read it, claiming "life has infinite value" is an explicit rejection of the continuity axiom. Of course, Kaj Sotala's point in the original comment was that in practice people demonstrate by their actions that they do accept the continuity axiom; that is, they are willing to trade a small risk of death in exchange for mundane benefits.
4DanielLC8yYou could use hyperreal numbers [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperreal_number]. They behave pretty similarly to reals, and have reals as a subset. Also, if you multiply any hyperreal number besides zero by a real number, you get something isomorphic to the reals, so you can multiply by infinity and it still will work the same. I'm not a big fan of the continuity axiom. Also, if you allow for hyperreal probabilities, you can still get it to work.

Eh. What irritates me is his implicit claim that the ideas there are original or exclusive to Jesus.

With the amount of censorship, deliberate credit-stealing, and other failures of memetic replication in the ancient world, the chance is pretty slim that the earliest instance you've heard of of a moral or religious idea is actually its earliest invention. We should expect that the earliest extant sources for an idea do not correctly attribute its origin: there are so many more ways to be wrong than right, and the correct attribution of an idea (or an entertaining story, for that matter) is not under selection pressure to stay correct as the idea itself is.

(Consider that until the 1853 discovery of the Epic of Gilgamesh, a European scholar might well have believed that the story of Noah's Flood originated with the Bible. We similarly know that much of the mythos of Jesus echoes earlier salvific gods and demigods — Mithras, Dionysus, Osiris, etc. — whose cults were later suppressed as pagan.)

So thinking of the moral teachings of Jesus as originally Christian seems problematic. For instance, given the extensive contact between the Near East and India since the time of Alexander, it's r... (read more)

[-][anonymous]8y 9

We'll still have shoes? And terrorists? I'm disappointed in advance.

A noble man compares and estimates himself by an idea which is higher than himself; and a mean man, by one lower than himself.

Marcus Aurelius

6simplicio8yMeh, there are worse things to be than a mean man.
5MinibearRex8yThere are considerably more worse things to be than a noble one.

Never do today what you can put off till tomorrow if tomorrow might improve the odds.

— Robert A. Heinlein

5Legolan8yI think that quote is much too broad with the modifier "might." If you should procrastinate based on a possibility of improved odds, I doubt you would ever do anything. At least a reasonable degree of probability should be required. Not to mention that the natural inclination of most people toward procrastination means that they should be distrustful of feelings that delaying will be beneficial; it's entirely likely that they are misjudging how likely the improvement really is. That's not, of course, to say that we should always do everything as soon as possible, but I think that to the extent that we read the plain meaning from this quote, it's significantly over-broad and not particularly helpful.

That arguably counts as LW/OB.

4lukeprog8yIf HPMoR isn't allowed, that should be specified in the rules.

You don’t have to know all the answers, you just need to know where to find them.

Albert Einstein (maybe)

Cf. this and this.

Wikiquote (http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Tenzin_Gyatso,_14th_Dalai_Lama) quotes this as

My confidence in venturing into science lies in my basic belief that as in science so in Buddhism, understanding the nature of reality is pursued by means of critical investigation: if scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.

I like that. It is a bit careful, but better than everything else I saw from other religions.

8shminux8yFortunately for him, Buddhism is cleverly designed to contain no scientifically falsifiable claims. Well, maybe some of the 14 (really only 4) unanswerable questions [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourteen_unanswerable_questions] can be answered some day. Cosmologists might prove that the universe is finite (current odds are slim), AI researchers might prove that self is both identical with the body and different from it by doing a successful upload. Would it make Buddhists abandon their faith? Not a chance.

Fortunately for him, Buddhism is cleverly designed to contain no scientifically falsifiable claims.

A Buddhist friend told me that at a class in a temple, the teacher mentioned four types of creation, of which one was spontaneous generation- like maggots spontaneously generating in meat. My friend interrupted to say that, no, that's not actually what happens, and that people did experiments to prove that it didn't happen. (My friend was too polite to mention that the experiments were 350 years old.) If I remember correctly, the teacher said something like "huh, okay," and went on with the lesson, leaving out any parts relevant to spontaneous generation.

7Desrtopa8yI'd say "careful" would be the other way around, not believing doctrines that make complex claims about reality until he has good evidence that those beliefs are true. Giving up hard-to-test beliefs only in the extreme case where scientific research conclusively proves them wrong is just a small concession in the direction of being epistemically responsible.
3Larks8yChristians have given up virtually all of the bible on the basis of science. Whether or not they are still christians is another issue.
7Nornagest8yThat's a bold claim. The Old Testament historical narrative post-Genesis is still controversial-to-accepted; anthropology hasn't for example turned up any evidence that I know of for Hebrew slavery under Pharaonic Egypt, but it's still presented as fact in many Christian circles that are not Biblical literalists. Deuteronomy and Leviticus have largely been rejected, but for cultural rather than scientific reasons. Psalms still seems to be taken in the spirit it was intended. On the New Testament side of things, the Gospels still generally seem to be taken as, well, gospel, miracles and all. Acts is mostly accepted. The epistles are very short on supernaturalist claims, concerning themselves mostly with organization and ethics. Revelation's supernaturalist as hell but it's in prophecy form, and interpretations of it vary widely anyway. Really, aside from scattered references like that odd pi == 3 thing, about the only parts of the Christian Bible that mainstream churches have widely dropped on scientific grounds are in Genesis -- and these days it's got to be pretty hard for any religion to maintain a literalist interpretation of its creation myth, if it has any regard for science whatsoever.
3Larks8yOk, I guess I underestimated how many people believe in miracles. [http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124007551]

Lady Mode is the most fashionable.

It seems clear that intelligence, as such, plays no part in the matter-that the sole and essential thing is use.

--Oliver Sacks regarding patients suffering from "developmental agnosia" who first learned to use their hands as adults.

A scientific theory

Isn't just a hunch or guess

It's more like a question

That's been put through a lot of tests

And when a theory emerges

Consistent with the facts

The proof is with science

The truth is with science

They Might Be Giants

It's hard to say, really.

Suppose we define a "moral dilemma for system X" as a situation in which, under system X, all possible actions are forbidden.

Consider the systems that say "Actions that maximize this (unbounded) utility function are permissible, all others are forbidden." Then the situation "Name a positive integer, and you get that much utility" is a moral dilemma for those systems; there is no utility maximizing action, so all actions are forbidden and the system cracks. It doesn't help much if we require the utility... (read more)

This one isn't that bad. (For utter, words-don't-work-that-way confusion, see Debord. Or good ol' Hegel.)

Whatever its political, pedagogical, cultural content, the plan is always to get some meaning across,

That bit is straightforward.

to keep the masses within reason;

"The masses" has a standard denotation but various connotations. Freddy Nietzsche talks about enthusiastic young people, which is more specific.

What's "to keep within reason"? What this evokes is talking someone down, preventing outbursts. Applied to the masses, doe... (read more)

"I wish for this wish to have no further effect beyond this utterance."

Overwhelmingly probable dire consequence: You and everyone you love dies (over a period of 70 years) then, eventually, your entire species goes extinct. But hey, at least it's not "your fault".

[-][anonymous]8y 8

Sick people for some reason use up more medicine and may end up talking a lot about various kind of treatments.

Users always have an idea that what they want is easy, even if they can't really articulate exactly what they do want. Even if they can give you requirements, chances are those will conflict – often in subtle ways – with requirements of others. A lot of the time, we wouldn't even think of these problems as "requirements" – they're just things that everyone expects to work in "the obvious way". The trouble is that humanity has come up with all kinds of entirely different "obvious ways" of doing things. Mankind's model of the universe is a surprisingly complicated one.

Jon Skeet

By that same argument murder is cute, rape is cute, arson is cute, genocide is cute -- and you prefer to live in a world where people call these things cute than in a world where they call them non-cute.

You're using the word "cute" wrongly.

[-][anonymous]8y 8

Your life has a limit, but knowledge has none. If you use what is limited to pursue what has no limit, you will be in danger. If you understand this and still strive for knowledge, you will be in danger for certain.

--Zhuangzi, being a trendy metacontrarian post-rationalist in the 4th century BC

First, Spinoza is not using infinite in its modern mathematical sense. For him, "infinite" means "lacking limits" (see Definition 2, Part I of Ethics). Second, Spinoza distinguished between "absolutely infinite" and "infinite in its kind" (see the Explication following Definition 6, Part I).

Something is "infinite in its kind" if it is not limited by anything "of the same nature". For example, if we fix a Euclidean line L, then any line segment s within L is not "infinite in its kind" ... (read more)

As I wrote, it depends on many things. I can imagine a situation where this would work; I can also imagine a situation where it would not. As I also wrote, I can imagine such system functioning well if people who don't work get enough money to survive, but people who do work get significantly more.

Data point: In Slovakia many uneducated people don't work, because it wouldn't make economical sense for them. Their wage, minus traveling expenses, would be only a little more, in some cases even less than their welfare. What's the point of spending 8 hours in w... (read more)

3jbeshir8yThis is interesting, particularly the idea of comparing wage growth against welfare growth predicting success of "free money" welfare. I agree that it seems reasonably unlikely that a welfare system paying more than typical wages, without restrictions conflicting with the "detached from work" principle, would be sustainable, and identifying unsustainable trends in such systems seems like an interesting way to recognise where something is going to have to change, long-term. I appreciate the clarification; it provides what I was missing in terms of evidence or reasoned probability estimates over narrative/untested model. I'm taking a hint from feedback that I likely still communicated this poorly, and will revise my approach in future. Back on the topic of taking these ideas as principles, perhaps more practical near-term goals which provide a subset of the guarantee, like detaching availability of resources basic survival from the availability of work, might be more probably achievable. There are a wider range of options available for implementing these ideas, and of incentives/disincentives to avoid long-term use. An example which comes to mind is providing users with credit usable only to order basic supplies and basic food. My rough estimate is that it seems likely that something in this space could be designed to operate sustainably with only the technology we have now. On the side, relating to generation Facebook, my model of the typical 16-22 year old today would predict that they'd like to be able to buy an iPad, go to movies, afford alcohol, drive a nice car, go on holidays, and eventually get most of the same goals previous generations sought, and that their friends will also want these things. At younger ages, I agree that parental pressure wouldn't be typically classified as "peer pressure", but I still think it likely to provide significant incentive to do school work; the parents can punish them by taking away their toys if they don't, as effectively
8Viliam_Bur8yI have heard this idea proposed, and many people object against it saying that it would take away the dignity of those people. In other words, some people seem to think that "basic human rights" include not just things necessary for survival, but also some luxury and perhaps some status items (which then obviously stop being status items, if everyone has them). In theory, yes. However, as a former teacher I have seen parents completely fail at this. Data point: A mother came to school and asked me to tell her 16 year old daughter, my student, to not spend all her free time at internet. I did not understand WTF she wanted. She explained to me that as a computer science teacher her daughter will probably regard me an authority about computers, so if I ask her to not use the computer all day long, she wil respect me. This was her last hope, because as a mother she could not convince her daughter to go away from the computer. To me this seemed completely insane. First, the teachers in given school were never treated as authorities on anything; they were usually treated like shit both by students and school administration (a month later I left that school). Second, as a teacher I have zero influence on what my students do outside school, she as a mother is there; she has many possible ways to stop her daughter from interneting... for instance to forcibly turn off the computer, or just hide the computer somewhere while her daughter is at school. But she should have started doing something before her daughter turned 16. If she does not know that, she is clearly unqualified to have children; but there is no law against that. OK, this was an extreme example, but during my 4-years teaching carreer I have seen or heard from colleagues about many really fucked up parents; and those people were middle and higher social class. This leads me to very pesimistic views, not shared by people who don't have the same experience and are more free to rationalize this away. I think tha

I didn't specify promiscuous homosexuality. Monogamously inclined gay people are as protected from STDs as anyone else at a comparable tech level - maybe more so among lesbians.

[...] Three years later a top executive for those same San Diego Padres would say that the reason the Oakland A's win so many games with so little money is that "Billy [Beane, the general manager] got lucky with those pitchers."

And he did. But if an explanation is where the mind comes to rest, the mind that stopped at "lucky" when it sought to explain the Oakland A's recent pitching success bordered on narcoleptic.

Michael Lewis, Moneyball, Chapter Ten, "Anatomy of an Undervalued Pitcher".

Someone who claims that faith is a good thing should not also use it as an accusation of impropriety.

The creationist does not claim — before cowans, gentiles, and the unwashed — that Darwinism is the wrong religion; rather, he claims that it is "a religion" as if to say that this is condemnation enough. To fellow creationists he may well say that Darwinism is Satanism, or a rival tribe to be vanquished by force or deception. But he does not expect that argument to fly with outsiders. With them he merely asserts that the (straw-)Darwinist is a hyp... (read more)

Someone who claims that faith is a good thing should not also use it as an accusation of impropriety.

I get the impression that that argument is used more to undermine claims that darwinism is a science than anything else.

Physics is a clear science; you can use the right equations and predict the motion of the Earth about the Sun, or the time a barometer will take to fall from a given height. This gives it a certain degree of credibility. The theory of evolution (and how the creationists love to remind everyone of that word, 'theory'!) is also science; but they would deny it, on the basis that accepting it suggests that it is as credible as physics or mathematics. If they insist that darwinism is a religion, then both alternatives start from the same basis of credibility; the creationists can then point out, quite accurately, that their version is older and has been around for longer, and therefore at least claim seniority.

There's a short story by Asimov that gives a very nice view of the whole argument.

4RobinZ8yThat is a quintessentially Asimovian story. +1.

I don't get it.

Cultural critics like to speculate on the cognitive changes induced by new forms of media, but they rarely invoke the insights of brain science and other empirical research in backing up those claims. All too often, this has the effect of reducing their arguments to mere superstition.

Steven Johnson, Everything Bad is Good For You

(His book argues that pop culture is increasing intelligence, not dumbing it down. He argues that plot complexity has increased and that keeping track of large storylines is now much more common place, and that these skills mani... (read more)

3gwern8yReally? I thought it was very short and not in depth at all; yeah, his handful of graphs of episodes was interesting from the data visualization viewpoint, but most of his arguments, such as they were, were qualititative and hand-wavey. (What, there are no simplistic shows these days?)

For nothing ought to be posited without a reason given, unless it is self-evident (literally, known through itself) or known by experience or proved by the authority of Sacred Scripture.

-William of Ockham

4wedrifid8yThis is an interesting quote for historical reasons but it is not a rationality quote.
6Eliezer Yudkowsky8yIt makes a very important reply to anyone who claims that e.g. you should stick with Occam's original Razor and not try to rephrase it in terms of Solomonoff Induction because SI is more complicated.
3JulianMorrison8yHumans and their silly ideas of what's complicated or not. What I find ironic is that SI can be converted into a similarly terse commandment. "Shorter computable theories have more weight when calculating the probability of the next observation, using all computable theories which perfectly describe previous observations" -- Wikipedia.
4Jayson_Virissimo8yI read this as a reminder not to add anything to that map that won't help you navigate the territory. How is this not a rationality quote? Are you rejecting it merely because of the third disjunct?
5wedrifid8yThe quote doesn't say that, this is (only) a fact about your reading. I'm not especially impressed with the first two either, nor the claim to be exhaustive (thus excluding other valid evidence). It basically has very little going for it. It is bad epistemic advice. It is one of many quotes which require abandoning most of the content and imagining other content that would actually be valid. I reject it as I reject all such examples.

Among other things, you would suffocate due to that four-minute no-breathing-allowed Martian word in paragraph nine.

Under American law, you basically can fire an employee "on a whim" as long as it isn't a prohibited reason.

"How many lives do you suppose you've saved in your medical career? … Hundreds? Thousands? Do you suppose those people give a damn that you lied to get into Starfleet Medical? I doubt it. We deal with threats to the Federation that jeopardize its very survival. If you knew how many lives we’ve saved, I think you’d agree that the ends do justify the means.”

Luther Sloan to Juilian Bashir in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, “Inquisition”, written by Bradley Thompson and David Weddle, created by Rick Berman and Michael Piller

"How many lives do you suppose you've saved in your medical career? … Hundreds? Thousands? Do you suppose those people give a damn that you lied to get into Starfleet Medical? I doubt it.

Presuming that Starfleet Medical has limited enrollment, and that if he hadn't lied, a superior candidate would have enrolled, then that superior candidate would have saved those hundreds or thousands, and then a few more.

He was lying about having had gene therapy. He was a superior candidate by virtue of same but it would have kept him out because Starfleet is anti-gene-therapy-ist. (At least I assume so - I remember the character had the therapy and had to hide it, but not whether it came out in that episode or something else did.)

He was lying about having had gene therapy.

That is much more justifiable than the standard case of lying on applications.

He was a superior candidate by virtue of same but it would have kept him out because Starfleet is anti-gene-therapy-ist.

I can imagine Star Robin Hanson writing an angry blog post about what this implies about Starfleet's priorities.

I can imagine Star Robin Hanson writing an angry blog post about what this implies about Starfleet's priorities.

Have you seen any Star Trek? Star Robin Hanson would have a lot of angry posts to write.

7Alicorn8yThere was a (flimsy) historical reason - there had been wars about "augments" in the past; the anti-augments won (somehow), determined the war was about "people setting themselves above their fellow humans", and discouraged more people augmenting themselves/their children in this way by (ineffectively) making it a net negative.

How is that different from pointing out that you're not allowed to sell yourself into slavery (not even partially, as in signing a contract to work for ten years and not being able to legally break it), or that you're not allowed to sell your vote?

Spinoza held that God and Nature are the same thing.

His reasoning in a nutshell: an infinite being would need to have everything else as a part of it, so God has to just be the entire universe. It's not clear whether he really thought of God as a conscious agent, although he did think that there were "ideas" in God's mind (read: the Universe) and that these perfectly coincided with the existance of real objects in the world. As an example, he seems to reject the notion of God as picking from among possible worlds and "choosing" the best... (read more)

5kilobug8yThat doesn't hold in maths at least. N, Z, Q have the same size, but clearly Q isn't part of N. And there are as many rational numbers between 0 and 1 (or between 0 and 0.0000000000000000000001) than in Q as a whole, and yet, we can have an infinity of such different subsets. And it goes even worse with bigger sets. It saddens me how much philosopher/theologists speak about "infinity" as if we had no set theory, no Peano arithmetic, no calculus, nothing. Intuition is usually wrong on "infinity".
[-][anonymous]8y 16

Baruch Spinoza: 1632-1677 Isaac Newton: 1642-1727 Georg Cantor: 1845-1918 Richard Dedekind: 1831-1916 Guiseppe Peano: 1858-1932

IAWYC, but the claims that most of the economic costs of elections are in political spending, and most of the costs of actually running elections are in voting machines are both probably wrong. (Public data is terrible, so I'm crudely extrapolating all of this from local to national levels.)

The opportunity costs of voting alone dwarf spending on election campaigns. Assuming that all states have the same share of GDP, that people who don't a full-state holiday to vote take an hour off to vote, that people work 260 days a year and 8 hours a day, and that nob... (read more)

4Eliezer Yudkowsky8yCorrection accepted. Still seems like something a poor society could afford, though, since labor and opportunity would also cost less. I understand that lots of poor societies do.


"Low electoral costs, approximately $1 to $3 per elector, tend to manifest in countries with longer electoral experience"

. In Italy where they are still paper based they have to hire people to count the ballots (and they have to pay them a lot, given that they select people at random and you're not allowed to refuse unless you are ill or something

That's a somewhat confusing comment. If they're effectively conscripted (them not being allowed to refuse), not really "hired" -- that would imply they don't need to be paid a lot...

Now I am the mightiest of your children?

Note for the unfamiliar: this exchange occurs in the Temple of False Thinking.

In a world of uncertainty, numbers between 0 and 1 find quite a bit of use.

3[anonymous]8yI understand what it means to believe that an outcome will occur with probability p. I don't know what it means to believe this very strongly.

I understand what it means to believe that an outcome will occur with probability p. I don't know what it means to believe this very strongly.

It means that many kinds of observation that you could make will tend to cause you to update that probability less.

7Vaniver8yConcretely: Beta(1,2) and Beta(400,800) have the same mean.
[-][anonymous]8y 6

No. I'm claiming this helps me avoid it more than I otherwise could. Much for the same reason I try as hard as I can to maintain an apolitical identity. From my personal experience (mere anecdotal evidence) both improve my thinking.

4TimS8yRespectfully, your success at being apolitical is poor. Further, I disagree with the quote to extent that it implies that taking strong positions is never appropriate. So I'm not sure that your goal of being "apolitical" is a good goal.
4[anonymous]8ySince we've already had exchanges on how I use "being apolitical", could you please clarify your feedback. Are you saying I display motivated cognition when it comes to politically charged subjects or behave tribally in discussions? Or are you just saying I adopt stances that are associated with certain political clusters on the site? Also like I said it is something I struggle with.
4TimS8yMy impression that you are unusually NOT-mindkilled compared to the average person with political positions/terminal values as far from the "mainstream" as your positions are. You seem extremely sensitive to the facts and the nuances of opposing positions.
3[anonymous]8yNow I feel embarrassed by such flattery. But if you think this an accurate description then perhaps me trying evicting "the struggle between 'for' and 'against'" from my brain might have something to do with it? I'm not sure I understand what you mean by this then. Let's taboo apolitical. To rephrase my original statement: "I try as hard as I can to maintain an identity, a self-conception that doesn't include political tribal affiliations."
3simplicio8yI disagree with the quote too. On the other hand, the idea of keeping one's identity small is not the same as being apolitical. It means you have opinions on political issues, but you keep them out of your self-definition so that (a) changing those opinions is relatively painless, (b) their correlations with other opinions don't influence you as much. (Caricatured example of the latter: "I think public health care is a good idea. That's a liberal position, so I must be a liberal. What do I think about building more nuclear plants, you ask? It appears liberals are against nuclear power, so since I am a liberal I guess I am also against nuclear power.")

yeah, it's not obvious from this quote, but having read the book, I know what he means. The utility function of the tree is the sum, over all individuals, of the fraction of genes that each other individual has in common with it. He constantly talks as if plants, chromosomes, insects etc. desire to maximize this number.

I think it works, because when an organism is in its environment of evolutionary adaptation, finding that a behavior makes this number bigger than alternative behaviors would explains why the organism carries out that behavior. And if the organism does not carry out the behavior, then you need some explanation for why not. Right?

A scientist, like a warrior, must cherish no view. A 'view' is the outcome of intellectual processes, whereas creativity, like swordsmanship, requires not neutrality, or indifference, but to be of no mind whatsoever.

Buckaroo Banzai

[-][anonymous]8y 6

so long as we're all going to be bad people

Fallacy of grey much? We're all going to be bad people, but some of us are going to be worse people than others.

If that's true, then there could be no use in finding a place because you would then follow the quote's advice and never return again!

Per Bohr's advice we can identify this as a meaningless 'profound truth' by reversing it:

If you are lost, then you are at a place no one has found before... What's the use of being in unmapped territory?

It helps to remember that the Hindenburg was more or less parked when it exploded... I think it was like 30 feet in the air? (I'm probably wrong about the number, but I don't think I'm very wrong.) Most of the passengers basically jumped off. And, sure, a 30 foot drop is no walk in the park, but it's not that surprising that most people survive it.

"Having few parts" is what Occam's razor seems to be going for. We can speak specifically of "burdensome details," but I can't think of a one-word replacement for "simple" used in this sense.

It is a problem that people tend to use "simple" to mean "intuitive" or "easy to understand," and "complicated" to mean "counterintuitive." Based on the "official" definitions, quantum mechanics and mathematics are extremely simple while human emotions are exceedingly complex.

I th... (read more)

The former is computationally far more feasible.

It sounds to me like a goofy language game, akin to "How many legs does a dog have if we call a tail a leg?"

5RichardKennaway8yThat conundrum, to which the correct answer is "four", is not a goofy language game. It is making the point that you cannot change the truth of a proposition by changing the meanings of the words in it. When you change the meanings of the words, you are creating a different proposition. It looks like the original one, because it consists of the same string of words, but it is not. Its truth need have nothing to do with the truth of the original one. Would you still be able to see these words if we called black white?

I always hated that question due to its ambiguity. Those who state the answer is four legs seem to interpret the question as asking: "Labeling our current language as Language-A, and mentioning a different language Language-B in which 'leg' also refers to tails, and keeping in mind that we do not speak Language-B, how many legs does a dog have?"

However, for some reason I first interpreted the question as asking: "Labeling our current language as Language-A, and mentioning a different language Language-B in which 'leg' also refers to tails, what is the answer to 'how many legs does a dog have?' in Language-B?"

I apologies for both the brevity and ambiguity of these interpretations. However, I doubt that I am the only person who interprets the question in something along the lines of my fashion.

(Upvoted so someone can explain it without Karma cost.)

Downvoted because feeding Will when he is speaking this kind of pretentious drivel is precisely the kind of thing that the cost is intended to penalize. It is an example of the system working as it should!

(Note that my own earlier reply would be penalized if I made it now and that too would be a desirable outcome. If I was confident that Will's claim about the Sermon on the Mount would be dismissed and downvoted as it has been then I would not have made a response.)

It is an example of the system working as it should!

Really, it's an example of the system backfiring,causing someone to upvote a comment that deserved a downvoting it would probably otherwise have received.

"Is this a victory or a defeat? Is this justice or injustice? Is it gallantry or a rout? Is it valor to kill innocent children and women? Do I do it to widen the empire and for prosperity or to destroy the other's kingdom and splendor? One has lost her husband, someone else a father, someone a child, someone an unborn infant... What's this debris of the corpses?" -- Ashoka

[-][anonymous]8y 5

Serial Experiments Lain.

Aside from spiders. Those can just burn.

But.. but.. they just want to give you a hug.

That would be much more convincing coming from literally anyone other than Kanazawa. It takes very little charity to interpret his critics as saying, not "Your theories are inherently racist" but "Your theories are only some of many compatible with your findings; you are privileging them because you are biased in favor of hypotheses that postulate certain races naturally do worse than others".

I don't know what to learn from the quote. It's literally true, but it's also clearly unhelpful, since Kanazawa writes this while following non-tr... (read more)

If I say of myself that it is only from my own case that I know what the word "pain" means -- must I not say the same of other people too? And how can I generalize the one case so irresponsibly?

Now someone tells me that he knows what pain is only from his own case! Suppose everyone had a box with something in it: we call it a "beetle". No one can look into anyone else's box, and everyone says he knows what a beetle is only by looking at his beetle. -- Here it would be quite possible for everyone to have something different in his box.

... (read more)

I'll risk a bit of US politics, just because I like the quote:

While some observers might find his lack of philosophical consistency a problem, I see it as a plus. He's a pragmatist. If he were running for the job of Satan he would say he's in favor of evil, at least until he got the job and installed central air conditioning in Hell. To put it more bluntly, it's not his fault that so many citizens are idiots and he has to lie to them just to become a useful public servant.

Scott Adams on one of the two presidential candidates being skilled at the art of winning (with some liberal use of dark arts).

No, the claim is that a scientific proof is sufficient from him to feel the need to change his beliefs. It isn't that it's necessary.

9Sophronius8yTechnically true, but nice though that is, saying that scientific proof would force you to change your beliefs still isn't a very impressive show of rationality. It would be better if he had said "Whenever science and Buddhism conflict, Buddhism should change". I know, it is good to hear it from a religious figure, but if it were any other subject the same claim would leave you indifferent. "If it were scientifically proven that aliens don't exist I will have to change my belief in them." Sound impressive? No? Then the Dalai Lama shouldn't get any more praise just because it's about religion.
3ChristianKl8yWhen would you say that science and X is in conflict when there isn't scientific proof that X is wrong? Science is a method. In itself it's about doing experiments. It's not about the ideology of the scientist that might conflict with X even if there's no proof that X is wrong.

This reasoning merely requires that the correlation exist and be positive.

It might not be a technical problem. It might merely be that most augments are raised by people who keep telling them that they're genetically superior to everyone else and therefore create in them a sense of arrogance and entitlement. Which is only made worse by the fact that they actually are stronger, healthier and smarter than everyone else (but not by as big a margin as they tend to imagine).

I'd rather live in a world where even if we disagree with each other, annoy each other, or waste each other's time we still don't say anybody isn't cute.

There is a difference between rejecting a "Will is a cute troll" meme being used to justify sock-puppet bait-and-switch abuse---by specifically referring to the behavior being not-cute---and simply saying that someone is not cute apropos of nothing. Your equivocation is either disingenuous or just silly.

6Alicorn8yI have begun to suspect that Incorrect is a Will sockpuppet. Please cease to feed.
8wedrifid8yThe thought crossed my mind when the edit to the ancestor [http://lesswrong.com/lw/ece/rationality_quotes_september_2012/7dtu] made it clear that Incorrect was trolling rather than well meaning yet confused. I clicked "close" rather than "comment" on the "It looks like Incorrect is Will, I'm not going to feed him here or elsewhere", for obvious reasons. Please exterminate.
5Incorrect8yHere's a conversation I had with Will a while back: http://lesswrong.com/lw/cw1/open_problems_related_to_solomonoff_induction/6rlr?context=1#6rlr [http://lesswrong.com/lw/cw1/open_problems_related_to_solomonoff_induction/6rlr?context=1#6rlr]
3khafra8yBut surely you agree that tricking people into saying "I think Will is Incorrect" is exactly the sort of thing that would amuse him?
7Kindly8yThis had better not start a trend of suspecting people with adjectival usernames to be sockpuppets.
3Alicorn8yYours could also be interpreted as an adverb.

they have to pay them a lot, given that they select people at random and you're not allowed to refuse unless you are ill or something

Why so? Usually when people can't refuse to do a job, they're paid little, not a lot.

I'd say each of the three can be said to be unlike the others:

  • abolition falls under Liberty
  • universal suffrage falls under Equality
  • eight-hour workdays falls under Solidarity
[-][anonymous]8y 5

I thought eight-hours workdays were about employers not being allowed to demand that employees work more than eight hours a day; I didn't know you weren't technically allowed to do that at all even if you're OK with it.

8fortyeridania8y1. You are allowed to work more than eight hours per day. It's just that in many industries, employers must pay you overtime if you do so. 2. Even if employers were prohibited from using "willingness to work more than 8 hours per day" as a condition for employment, long workdays would probably soon become the norm. 3. Thus a more feasible way to limit workdays is to constrain employees rather than employers. To see why, assume that without any restrictions on workday length, workers supply more than 8 hours. Let's say, without loss of generality, that they supply 10. (In other words, the equilibrium quantity supplied is ten.) If employers can't demand the equilibrium quantity, but they're still willing to pay to get it, then employees will have the incentive to supply it. In their competition for jobs (finding them and keeping them), employees will be supply labor up until the equilibrium quantity, regardless of whether the bosses demand it. Working more looks good. Everyone knows that; you don't need your boss to tell you. So if there's competition for your spot or for a spot that you want, it would serve you well to work more. So if your goal is to prevent ten-hour days, you'd better stop people from supplying them. At least, this makes sense to me. But I'm no microeconomist. Perhaps we have one on LW who can state this more clearly (or who can correct any mistakes I've made).

There's a new "feature" that replies to sufficiently negative karma posts instantly lose 5 karma.

At the Princeton graduate school, the physics department and the math department shared a common lounge, and every day at four o'clock we would have tea. It was a way of relaxing in the afternoon, in addition to imitating an English college. People would sit around playing Go, or discussing theorems. In those days topology was the big thing.

I still remember a guy sitting on the couch, thinking very hard, and another guy standing in front of him saying, "And therefore such-and-such is true.

"Why is that?" the guy on the couch asks.


... (read more)
7CCC8yI've heard it said that "Trivial" is a mathematics professor's proof by intimidation.

I use "hypocrisy" to denote all instances of people violating their own declared moral standards, especially when they insist they aren't doing it after receiving feedback (if they can realise what they did after being told, only then I'd prefer to call it a 'mistake'). The reason why I don't restrict the word to deliberate lying is that I think deliberate lying of this sort is extremely rare; self-serving biases are effective in securing that.

Downvoted since HPMoR is or should be included in the "Do not quote comments/posts on LW/OB" rule.

5lukeprog8yBut it's not. Kinda mean to downvote somebody for breaking a rule that doesn't exist (yet), don't you think?