Another month has passed and here is a new rationality quotes thread. The usual rules are:

  • Please post all quotes separately, so that they can be upvoted or downvoted separately. (If they are strongly related, reply to your own comments. If strongly ordered, then go ahead and post them together.)
  • Do not quote yourself.
  • Do not quote from Less Wrong itself, HPMoR, Eliezer Yudkowsky, or Robin Hanson. If you'd like to revive an old quote from one of those sources, please do so here.
  • No more than 5 quotes per person per monthly thread, please.
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The market doesn't give a shit how hard you worked. Users just want your software to do what they need, and you get a zero otherwise. That is one of the most distinctive differences between school and the real world: there is no reward for putting in a good effort. In fact, the whole concept of a "good effort" is a fake idea adults invented to encourage kids. It is not found in nature.

--Paul Graham (When I saw this quote, I thought it had to have been posted before, but googling turned up nothing.)


I disagree with this quote. In the real world, many things are't all or nothing. The equivalent of a good effort isn't not producing any software, it's producing software that's marginally worse than the best software you could produce. That software will sell marginally less well than the best software you could produce, and produce marginally less profit, but it will still sell.

This doesn't say software is all-or-nothing. Not producing the best software you can gets you money only if it (to some extent) still does what the customer needs. Besides misinformed customers, if it doesn't do what the customer needs, you do get nothing. If it is not-quite-perfect, it's the result that gets you your not-quite-what-it-could-have-been profit. Not the effort.
Completely wrong. As a software engineer at a company with way too much work to go around, I can tell you that making a "good effort" goes a long way. 90% of the time you don't have to "make it work or get a zero". As long as you are showing progress you can generally keep the client happy (or at least not firing you) as you get things done, even if you are missing deadlines. And this seems very much normal to me. I'm not sure where in the market you have to "make it work or get a zero". I'm not even convinced that exists.
The essay is about startups. Perhaps they are different from your company. Also, getting things done but not in time for deadlines is not the same as not getting them done but making a good effort.
The quote refers to the (end) market and users, not the internal workings of a software development firm.
But eventually you do have to make sure that things are done and work.
The closest you can come to getting an actual "A for effort" is through creating cultural content, such as a Kickstarter project or starting a band. You'll get extra success when people see that you're interested in what you're doing, over and beyond as an indicator that what you'll produce is otherwise of quality. People want to be part of something that is being cared for, and in some cases would prefer it to lazily created perfection. I'd still call it though an "A for signalling effort."
A good effort doesn't result in valuable software, but it could result in you learning to program better, increasing your human capital.

That's not necessarily false, but it's a dangerous thing to say to yourself. Mostly when I find myself thinking it, I've just wasted a great deal of time, and I'm trying to convince myself that it wasn't really wasted. It's easy to tell myself, hard to verify, and more pleasant than thinking my time-investment was for nothing.

It sure seems like a step up from when your time is really wasted, and you spent it all playing on the computer.

It's a continuum. I certainly wouldn't call a time when you're having fun and training your reflexes or pattern matching ability wasted. Or sleep. Or even sitting around anywhere where you can think stuff and meditate. The only wasted time is the one spent in to much pain to even think.
Mmm, no, whether you like it or not people who live off rent-seeking do exist.
True, but no obviously opposed to the quote. Rents are not a reward for a good effort.

We often like to think of World War II as a triumph of freedom over totalitarianism. We conveniently forget that the Soviet Union was also one of the winners.

Paul Graham


From the same article:

I do it because it's good for the brain. To do good work you need a brain that can go anywhere. And you especially need a brain that's in the habit of going where it's not supposed to.

Also worthwhile from it: ("them" refers to labels like "x-ist" or "y-ic" used to tar positions by association, rather than demonstrating their falsity.)
I'm not sure I'd call Russia winner in this war. It seems like having been unlucky enough to have been involved is already some flavor of losing. I respect the insight though, that Team A, characterized by quality a, defeating Team B, characterized by quality b, is not a story of a beats b, especially when you're wrong in the first place about Team A not also being characterized (in part) by quality b. I liken this kind of talk to "fall of the Roman Empire" talk - modern humans have an eerie tendency to try to explain the past in ways that support their current viewpoints, and wilfully ignore evidence that tells them their explanations are not very fit.
So you're saying it had no winners? That doesn't seem right. We need a word to for the huge difference in outcome between Germany and the USSR. Also, the USSR and the US both gained a lot from the war on net - territory, military power, international political power, domestic control. If Stalin had been offered in 1939 the choice between WW2 (knowing the eventual outcome) and eternal peace while Germany conquered the rest of Europe, he would have likely chosen war. The same goes for the US.

Him: We can't go back. We don't understand everything yet.

Her: "Everything" is a little ambitious. We barely understand anything.

Him: Yeah. But that's what the first part of understanding everything looks like.

Randall Munroe - Time

Followed by:

Him: We walked along the sea for days and we didn't learn anything. Up here we're learning lots.

Her: We haven't learned why the sea rose.

Him: But maybe we were never going to.

Him: There's food and water here. I don't want to go all the way back down, walk along the sea for a few more days, then have to turn around.

Him: Maybe the sea is too big to understand. We can't answer every question.

Her: No, But I think we can answer any question.

That last part is the most important.
Cool, what is an accurate proof of P=NP?
Is there a finite proof for or against? If so, we will most likely find it. Is there a finite proof that there is no such proof? That would be weird and unfortunate, but then the answer is "Mu". Is there an infinite proof? Well, um. In this case I'd probably argue that the proof doesn't matter, and you can't tell anyway.

A majority of life's errors are caused by forgetting what one is really trying to do.

-Charlie Munger

If we narrow the domain to software desgin and slap on some rigourous type systems and big unit testing suites it starts looking better for this statement.
On reflection, 'forgetting' is the wrong word here. We don't default to being definite about anything, least of all our aims. Clear awareness has to be built and maintained, not merely uncovered.

“Whenever serious and competent people need to get things done in the real world, all considerations of tradition and protocol fly out the window.”

Neal Stephenson - "Quicksilver"


Whenever a group of subcompetent people get together to do something, they assume they are competent enough to throw tradition and protocol out the window...

Well designed traditions and protocols will contain elements that cause most subcompetent people to not want to throw them out.

Well designed traditions and protocols will contain elements that cause most competent people to not want to throw them out.

No. If an organization contains sub-competent people, it should take this into account when designing traditions and protocols.
Corollary: all organisations eventually contain sub-competent people. Design protocols accordingly.
If an organization contains sub-competent people, it's traditions and protocols need to ensure those people are quickly and reliably thrown out themselves.
Therefore, a reliable method for evaluating competency needs to be part of the traditions and protocols. Otherwise it's just a question of time...
Not necessarily, sub-competent people can still be useful, e.g., unskilled labor is a thing.
Unskilled and sub-competent are not synonyms in this context; even a ditch-digger can be competent, it just means they dig quickly regularly and with a minimum of fuss. And not arbitrarily throwing out protocols for momentary convenience is a matter of both maintaining regularity and minimizing fuss, so I shouldn't have to worry about the ditch-digging committee making a mess of things so long as they all have their heads screwed on straight.

I suspect that many traditions and protocols promote competent decision making. Do you think that, say, the U.S. military would do better in Afghanistan if President Obama issued an order declaring "when in battle ignore all considerations of tradition and protocol"? Group coordination is hard, organizations put a huge amount of effort into it, and traditions and protocols often reflect their best practices.

"The Navy is a master plan designed by geniuses for execution by idiots. If you're not an idiot, but find yourself in the Navy, you can only operate well by pretending to be one." -Herman Wouk, The Caine Mutiny

That quote seems to be very good in making idiots who think they are not (the majority) to behave like idiots.
Dunning–Kruger effect?
Yes, the quote is best modified to: "Whenever a small group of competent people..."

What strikes me most about this quote is how well Stephenson understands the psychology of his audience.

Having just listened to much of the Ethical Injunctions sequence (as a podcast courtesy of George Thomas), I'm not so sure about this one. There are reasons for serious, competent people to follow ethical rules, even when they need to get things done in the real world. Ethics aren't quite the same as tradition and protocol, but even so, sometimes all three of those things exist for good reasons.

the mass of an object never seems to change: a spinning top has the same weight as a still one. So a “law” was invented: mass is constant, independent of speed. That “law” is now found to be incorrect. Mass is found to increase with velocity, but appreciable increases require velocities near that of light. A true law is: if an object moves with a speed of less than one hundred miles a second the mass is constant to within one part in a million. In some such approximate form this is a correct law. So in practice one might think that the new law makes no significant difference. Well, yes and no. For ordinary speeds we can certainly forget it and use the simple constant-mass law as a good approximation. But for high speeds we are wrong, and the higher the speed, the more wrong we are.

Finally, and most interesting, philosophically we are completely wrong with the approximate law. Our entire picture of the world has to be altered even though the mass changes only by a little bit. This is a very peculiar thing about the philosophy, or the ideas, behind the laws. Even a very small effect sometimes requires profound changes in our ideas.

Richard Feynman Lectures on Physics

"I didn't go spiralling down. Because there is no abyss. There is no yawning chasm waiting to swallow us up, when we learn that there is no god, that we're animals like any other animal, that the universe has no purpose, that our souls are made of the same stuff as water and sand."

I said, "There are two thousand cultists on this island who believe otherwise."

Michael shrugged. "What do you expect from moral flat-Earthers, if not fear of falling?"

-- Greg Egan, "Distress".

You can't trust your intuitions [in this domain]. I'm going to give you a set of rules here that will get you through this process if anything will. At certain moments you'll be tempted to ignore them. So rule number zero is: these rules exist for a reason. You wouldn't need a rule to keep you going in one direction if there weren't powerful forces pushing you in another.

Paul Graham

Note: this isn't always right. Anyone giving advice is going to SAY it's true and non-obvious even if it isn't. "Don't fall into temptation" etc etc. But that essay was talking about mistakes which he'd personally often empirically observed and proposed counter-actions to, and he obviously could describe it in much more detail if necessary.

header: funtime activity: casually accusing people of machiavellianism.

man: i’m hungry. we should buy lunch.

woman: OH, so you’re saying THE END JUSTIFIES THE MEANS?

--Zack Weinersmith, SMBC rejected ideas

I am so stealing that for my next job interview.

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving fr

... (read more)

You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do.

-- Henry Ford

You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do.

I wonder if that is true. I suspect a sufficiently competent personal marketer would be able to pull it off. Of course, it may be just as easy for them to build an equally positive reputation from absolutely nothing.

So they are building their reputation on their marketing skills, not on the future.

Which is to say, causality goes only one way.
It may, however, be possible to build a reputation on what you are preparing to do.

A number of isolated facts does not produce a science any more than a heap of bricks produces a house.

Alfred Korzybski - Science and Sanity Page 55

While this is true, it's often the case that you have to start by collecting the isolated facts, just as you'd start building a house by buying some number of bricks.

Arguably you'd start building a house by deciding what kind of house do you want and then making architectural plans and drawings...
Arguably, an early step in building a brick house will consist of gathering a bunch of bricks together. Arguably, that was obvious enough in the earlier comment to not benefit from correction.
The original quote was sufficiently meta that I think Lumifer's point stands.
Please name a science (not math, not philosophy) that did NOT start as a bunch of bricks. We don't have to ignore the real world when we go meta, do we?
Science is a way, a method -- it neither started as, nor is a collection of facts. The world is full of bricks/facts -- they are everywhere you look and the problem is not finding some, but finding the ones you need. And to figure out which ones you need you require some plans and ideas about how to go about things.
So while you are there staring at your navel, trying to come up with a plan in the complete absence of any knowledge of the world, some other guy is fascinated by a smoking stump left over from a lightning strike and screwing around with it a bit discovers fire. Science is a human activity that arose from human activity and stayed around and was refined because it filled human needs. Scientific method did not arise from a plan it arose from contemplation of piles of facts. Chemistry and physics arose from different contemplations of different piles of facts. You need to look at the world full of bricks and facts to have some idea how you are going to go about triage, you don't figure out how to triage facts until you know a bunch.
That's only once pre-engineering has been shown to be successful in building houses, which is a nontrivial proposition.
Sure, but who claims/acts as if isolated facts do produce a science? This seems to be taking down a strawman. Also, the analogy is misleading. A heap of bricks arranged in the right way with the right sorts of mutual connectors does produce a house. However, even an appropriately arranged and connected set of facts does not produce a science. At best, it produces a theory, which is a product of a science, but not a science itself. Science is more akin to architecture than to a house.
Science classes, especially before high school level, are often taught as though science is just a collection facts about trees or dinosaurs or whatever. Anyone who hasn't had the benefit of a good science program in their school might continue to think that science is just experiments to generate facts.
Korzybski is not here arguing against anything, but making an exposition. I won't type in the whole passage (which is only a Google search away anyway), but the quotation is from the beginning of chapter 4, entitled "On Structure", which is the first chapter of the second section of Science and Sanity, entitled "General on Structure". The first section, of three chapters, was introductory, an overture. He begins the main opera by drawing attention to two clear trends in the development of science: the increasing reliance on experiments, and the increase of verbal rigour. "The second tendency has an importance equal to that of the first; a number of isolated facts does not produce a science any more than a heap of bricks produces a house. The isolated facts must be put in order and brought into mutual structural relations in the form of some theory. Then, only, do we have a science."

...I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.

Abraham Lincoln, Letter to Horace Greeley

The reason that testability is not enough is that prediction is not, and cannot be, the purpose of science. Consider an audience watching a conjuring trick. The problem facing them has much the same logic as a scientific problem. Although in nature there is no conjurer trying to deceive us intentionally, we can be mystified in both cases for essentially the same reason: appearances are not self-explanatory. If the explanation of a conjuring trick were evident in its appearance, there would be no trick. If the explanations of physical phenomena were evident in their appearance, empiricism would be true and there would be no need for science as we know it. The problem is not to predict the trick's appearance. I may, for instance predict that if a conjurer seems to place various balls under various cups, those cups will later appear to be empty; and I may predict that if the conjurer appears to saw someone in half, that person will later appear on stage unharmed. Those are testable predictions. I may experience many conjuring shows and see my predictions vindicated every time. But that does not even address, let alone solve, the problem of how the trick works. Solving it requires an explanation: a statement of the reality which accounts for the trick's appearance.

David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity

I disagree with Deutsch, I think prediction is much more important to science than he makes it out to be. The issue is the questions (about the future) you ask. Deutsch says and, of course, that is true, but these are "uninteresting" questions to ask. Let me ask for different predictions: please predict what will happen to the balls if the cups are transparent. Please predict what will happen to the person being sawed in half if we take away three sides of the box he's in. Given the proper questions one will have to understand "how the trick works" to produce correct forecasts. Science is about predictions, provided you ask to predict the right thing.
Deutsch's point (made in greater length in the book) is that predictions are lower level than the true target of science- explanations- not that they aren't valuable. One of the main ways to test explanations is to get predictions from them, and then check out the predictions, and getting too many predictions wrong is fatal for an explanation. Your example of "interesting" predictions highlights his point: the explanation of how the trick work can readily generate a prediction of what would happen if the cups were transparent, but the prediction that the cups would later be empty does not readily generate a prediction of what would happen if the cups were transparent. By focusing directly on explanations, he makes it obvious which predictions are the interesting ones. Indeed, I'd even speculate that someone who didn't have and couldn't acquire the concept of explanations would have trouble grasping the idea that some predictions are more 'interesting' than others and that there's a reliable way to determine which predictions those are.
Oh, I don't think so. If you're a medieval farmer, a prediction of the optimal time to plant is of extreme interest to you regardless of what kind of explanation is behind it. The Ptolemaic epicycles produced good predictions of much interest for a long time even though the explanation behind them was wrong. Think about it this way: would you rather have a good prediction without an explanation or would you rather have an explanation that is unable to make successful predictions? However I acknowledge that this is a "what's more important -- the chicken or the egg?" discussion :-)
I believe we have switched uses of the word "interesting." This comparison, to me, maps on to "Would you rather have bricks that aren't arranged as a house, or a house made out of nothing?" Well, it's better to have the bricks than not, but the usefulness of a house depends on what it is made from, and a house made from nothing is useless (and very possibly harmful, if it prevents me from seeking out superior shelter). That's what I meant by 'lower level'- a prediction is related to an explanation like a brick is related to a house. The statement "construction is about houses" does not mean that construction is not about bricks- but it does mean a focus on bricks for bricks' sake is not construction.
Not really, but it's my fault for not specifying better that I used "interesting" in the meaning elongated towards "useful" and not towards "fucking awesome". Well, not the mapping for me. I view predictions as useful/consumable/what-you-actually-want/end result and I view explanations as a machine for generating predictions. So the image in my head is that you have a box with a hopper and a lever, you put the inputs into the hopper, pull the lever, and a prediction pops out. Now sometimes that box is black and you don't know what's inside and how it works. This is a big minus because you trust the predictions less (as you should) and because your ability to manipulate the outcome by twiddling with the inputs is limited. However note that you can still empirically verify whether the (past) predictions are any good just fine. Sometimes the box is transparent and you see all the pushrods and gears and whatnot inside. You can trace how inputs get converted to outputs and your ability to manipulate the outcome is much greater. You still have to empirically test your predictions, though. And sometime the box is semi-transparent so that you see some outlines and maybe a few parts, the rest is fuzzy and uncertain.
Yeah, it's not a very good one- the other one I was thinking of was "financial stability" and "money in your pocket", which better captures that the interactions go both ways- if you're financially stable, a symptom of that is that you can get money to put into your pocket, but you can have money in your pocket without being financially stable. But the issue here is it does make sense to think about financial stability when you have no money, whereas it doesn't make sense to think of a house made out of nothing- and I want an explanation which makes no predictions to not make sense. (Or maybe not- the null explanation of "I know nothing and acknowledge that I know nothing" might be worthwhile to explicitly include.) Maybe it is better to just look at it as levels of 'methodological abstraction'- a prediction is a fortune cookie, an explanation is a box that generates fortune cookies, science is a process that generates boxes that generate fortune cookies.
This might be relevant (on the distinction between prediction and explanation): starting at time point 20:34.
"Testability" is not precisely defined, but most people agree that it can involve RCTs. That is to "test" something can mean "to give some causal account (explanation)."
Wow, I didn't realize how far gone Deutsch is.

When philosophers use a word—"knowledge", "being", "object", "I", "proposition", "name"—and try to grasp the essence of the thing, one must always ask oneself: is the word ever actually used in this way in the language-game which is its original home?—What we do is to bring words back from their metaphysical to their everyday use. You say to me: "You understand this expression, don't you? Well then—I am using it in the sense you are familiar with."— As if the sense were an atmosphere accompanying the word, which it carried with it into every kind of application.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations 116-117

Since English isn't Sound and like 90% of English words simply don't have real definitions, I'm not sure I want to tangle with this guy's work. It's either going to be tenuous logic with an exploration in equivocation, or a baffling/impressive display of linguistics. Which was it?
Well he did write it in German.
I've heard German is bad too. Probably In the very same philosophy of logic class where I heard the name Wittgenstein and was told about his work but which I have completely failed to retain any memory of.
Philosophical Investigations is closer to the latter. (There's a big difference between Late and Early Wittgenstein - basically two completely different authors)
There is also a fair bit of continuity between the two--he retains one of the main theses of his earlier work: that much of our confusion about so called 'philosophical problems' is caused by people abusing language.

[Death] does not add up. All you can say is that: no. No, these books do not balance. Not even in Newtonian terms. The only terms in which they make sense are Darwin’s, and no one wants to go there. There are no protagonists in Darwin, and everybody wants to be a protagonist.

John Dolan, of all people.

dolan pls. I'm sory; I couldn't resist.

Because of the way evolution operates, the mind consists of many, many parts, and these parts have many different functions. Because they're designed to do different things, they don't always work in perfect harmony.

Why Everyone Else Is A Hypocrite, by Robert Kurzban, p. 6.

The CS people screamed that the problem was NP-hard, computationally intractable, etc. But we didn't know what any of that meant, so we got it working.

A reply to the request in The Register for programmers to share their experiences working on computationally intractable tasks.

For the particular problem that comment is discussing (automatic code generation), I suspect that the CS people were describing about a general automatic code generation problem, and the engineers solved a relaxation to that problem which was not in fact intractable.

In general, I don't know how much I like the P-NP distinction. I hear from people who have been in the metaheuristics field for a while that until that became common knowledge, it was basically impossible to get a heuristic published (because you couldn't provably find the optimal solution). But it seems like that distinction leads to an uncanny valley of ignorance, where a lot of people avoid problems that are NP hard instead of looking in their neighborhood for problems that admit polynomial-time algorithms. (For example, instead of "find a tour that is not inferior to any other tour" use "find a good tour" for the TSP.)

Right, I wanted to mention in the original comment that good-enough solutions to NP-hard problems are not, in fact, NP-hard to find. This is, of course, well known. But it detracts from the impact of the quote, so I left it out.

There is solemn satisfaction in doing the best you can for eight billion people.

-Robert Heinlein, Double Star

I have to confess this sounds creepy to me. I have a strong prior that the one who says something like this is about to do something horrible.
How is this a rationality quote, as opposed to simply a statement about a personal preference?

Human consciousness isn't optimized for anything, except maybe helping feral hominids survive in the wild.

-Charles Stross, "Rule 34"

I'm guessing that's not referring to rule 34 of the internet. Why maybe? Evolution is clearly an optimization process, which optimizes for something along the lines of survival in the wild.
You are mistaken, it is referring to the rule 34 of the Internet.
The title of the book refers to the internet rule, but I don't think the quote does.
Actually, it does refer to rule 34 of the internet. The novel involves a character who works for a police squad tasked with investigating nasty porn related stuff appearing on the internet. Stross writes some darkly funny shit.
It is. One of the major plot points is strange or dangerous memes spreading through the internet.
Consciousness could be a side effect in some way, although I'd rate that as quite unlikely.

It is entirely reasonable to believe that Obamacare is terrible policy that will hurt more people than it helps. Your inability to grasp that anyone has this belief does not mean that everyone who disagrees with you is a venal, amoral wretch; it means that you have been blinded by confirmation bias and your own lack of empathy...

Similarly, it is entirely reasonable to believe that Obamacare is good policy that will help more people than it hurts. The fact that you think otherwise does not mean that the law’s supporters are too stupid to be allowed near sharp objects. It means that they are valuing different things -- expanded coverage over innovation, for instance -- or else that their assessment of the probability that various things will go wrong is different from yours.

Megan McArdle

Either of those two things can be sufficient to make it advisable to prevent access to sharp objects. While the language sounds nicer, "valuing different things" and "assessment that various things will go wrong is different" would seem to incorporate "evil" and "stupid" quite comfortably.
IME, the latter are subsets of the former, and therefore require more evidence to pick out reliably.
So both work. But they have such different effects on the person you are debating with, and for most of us, they have a different effect on ourselves and how we see reality. Choose the "evil" and "stupid" labels, and you close off rational discussion, or at least you do your part in closing it off, you may well have help from the other people in the discussion. If the goal of policy debate is to settle on good policies, you do not want to choose the "evil" and "stupid" labels.
The problem that I am alluding to is that the quote attempts to persuade via an implicit false dichotomy and also subtly equivocates between the concepts "don't use excessively judgemental language" and "do not exercise judgement" for the purpose of catchy persuasiveness. While this quote is an interesting quote, and one that argues for a position I probably approve of, it is not an especially rational quote. The reasoning is not especially impressive. It's also far too free with "it is entirely reasonable to believe". That usage relies on and conveys a norm that actively sacrifices epistemic rationality for the purpose of signalling egalitarian 'level headed' attitudes.
The quote gets straight to the point about how many many MANY people treat the debate between Obamacare and not-Obamacare. I have personally heard and read writers on BOTH sides accusing the opposite side of obvious and blistering stupidity, in fact I have seen both stated just today. I have been accused of immorality because of my position in this debate and have wanted to accuse those I argued against of immorality. The quote addresses a very real situation that brings out the irrational in us, that in my opinion, helps us all to be "more wrong." Meanwhile, only someone who has succumbed to the partisanship, which in my opinion is easy to succumb to, would be unable to recognize the intelligence and general competence of those they disagree with. Neither Michelle Bachman nor Barack Obama would benefit at all from being kept away from sharp instruments, yet that is the kind of language this question brings out even on a board dedicated to making us "less wrong." For these reasons I think the quote is right on target, where the target is encouraging people to choose to be more rational about something which is virtually a basilisk in its ability to bring out the irrational in people.
I wouldn't know, beyond my expectation that the behaviour patterns match the political behaviour I expect of humans. I would certainly expect some of the humans to execute the behaviours that the author of the quote opposes. I understand that there is a government shutdown in the US prompted by political conflict over a proposed healthcare-related redistribution of wealth. Neither of these things are especially familiar to me. Coming from one of the countries with publicly funded universal health care it is a little harder to see what the fuss is about. The US government shutdown was something of a surprise when my facebook started talking about it. If the analogous situation occurs here ('supply' is repeatedly blocked) it triggers a double dissolution and everyone gets sent back to the polling booths to elect some politicians who can make a functioning government. I can at least imagine (and predict) that when the legislative process has resulted in a stand-off with a touch of brinkmanship the polarization on the issue would become more pronounced and the 'other side' would accused of additional immorality for not submitting this side's power play as they clearly ought to. (Did that last addition happen by the way? I have more or less assumed that it would but my curiosity seeks calibration.) To reiterate, I don't disagree with the motivation of the author of the quote. I can also see the value of using details of the quote for their persuasive purpose with a political-but-redeemable target audience. It remains irrational political rhetoric but it is at least political rhetoric that is a level or two closer to the surface. At very best it can be said to be advocating a new irrationality that is both less irrational and more palatable than the one being opposed. I suppose encouraging people to believe "Pi = 3" is an improvement over them continuing to believe "Pi = 4"... it's approximately 6 times less wrong! I still wouldn't call it exemplary mathematics.
If the polarization has become more pronounced, I haven't noticed, but I'm not really sure what that would even look like at this point. But, yes, there's a lot of the predictable "this situation is your fault for refusing to accept the conditions we've set for relaxing this situation!" going on.
I suspect that for this situation to develop as it has, polarization must be very near saturation in the first place.
Confirmation bias is an odd choice. I think I can see where she's coming from -- people assume members of their respective political outgroups to be inherently malicious, and form their judgments of specific actions accordingly -- but the assumption of malice does all the work there. Hostile attribution bias seems like a better fit to me, maybe with a dash of outgroup homogenity.
In what way does expanding coverage reduces innovation? If anything more coverage means a bigger market for innovations.
I suspect innovation gets shifted more than it gets reduced, and there are forces pushing innovation up. To the extent Obamacare subsidizes medicine more than it is already subsidized, and if it has a net cost > 0, then it does, it should encourage innovation. Some of the shift and/or additional innovation will be how to game the system more effectively, which is presumably a low-value outcome for society. But some of it will be how to provide care that this system will pay for, perhaps more innovation towards the afflictions of those who will gain access to medical care that did not previously have as much access, and so on. If it shifts money away from drug makers, but it puts in more money on net, then there is lower innovation on the drug side and higher innovation where the new profits are to be made.
This will only happen if being innovative is favored by the subsidies and the people deciding who gets subsidies can tell improvements apart from change for the sake of change.
By lowering prices for drugs, for example, more people can afford them but pharmaceutical firms have lower profit incentives to find new drugs. The medical device tax, furthermore, will help fund Obama care but also reduce incentives to develop new medical devices.
Depends on the price elasticity of demand. If you widen the access to the thing by lowering the price, it's possible that you might make more profit than someone who has fewer customers who they make a lot more profit per customer off of.
In situations where this is the case, the company in question doesn't need to be ordered by the government to do this.
Setting a price isn't necessarily a decision made with respects to the interests of one company. Not knowing precisely how the marketing groups for medical goods in the US are set up, beyond that they're pretty abusive, I don't care to argue that one way or the other though.
Expanding coverage and lowering prices are two different issues. You can be in favor of one and not the other. Big Pharma was in favor of Obamacare. The made a deal. Obama didn't choose to implement effective price cutting policies such as allowing reimportation of drugs. Then Big Pharma spend millions for advertisements to promote Obamacare.
Two possible reasons: (1) Blackmail--Obamacare harmed them, but big Pharma was told by Democrats that if they didn't support it the Democrats would pass something that harmed them even more. The medical device industry didn't support Obamacare and as a result they got hit with a special tax in the final bill. (2) Reduced competition--Obamacare makes it harder for other firms to enter the pharmaceutical industry.
As far as the medical device tax goes, I agree that it's worth repealing it. In total it's however zero sum for spending on healthcare. The tax pays for tax rabates for health insurance. Money payed into the health insurance system gets spend on medicial expenditures.
While true, people who are too stupid to be allowed near sharp objects have preferences and make choices that are not quite random. It is often (but not always) the case that given several alternatives, one can reliably predict towards which one most stupid people will gravitate.
Citation, or at least a clear example, needed. I can probably construct two policy alternatives, and predict which will be attractive to people who identify with a given political tribe. Then I suppose I get to call one of those options the "stupid" one based on my own value system. Please tell me that isn't the sort of thing you mean. I have met people with what I consider to be very irrational political views (in that they are little more than clusters of rote debating points never subjected to analysis). Outside of the well-worn habitual responses their politics would dictate they regurgitate, I have no idea how they would choose on an issue they had never encountered before. Maybe stupidly (because they aren't in the habit of reflective thought), but maybe less so (because without a knee-jerk political reaction ready to hand, they might take a few seconds to think). I will go so far as to agree that in too many cases, simple answers will be favoured over complex questions, and instant gratification will be favoured over longer-term advantage.
Your wish is my command! No, that isn't the sort of thing I meant. I meant this quite literally and without a preference for the Magenta party or the Cyan party. Given two alternatives and the way they are presented in the popular media, it is often (but not always) possible to predict the preferences of the low-IQ crowd. The end. That issue is different from political tribalism. Having said that, I haven't run any reasonably controlled experiments so at this point it's just my opinion without data to support it.
This is the exact opposite of what I've observed in various true-lift models I've done for various purposes. Lower IQ tends to correlate more with lower-informedness, and low information voters are highly susceptible to noise, which makes predicting them a pain. Things like the order of the names on the ballot can have an effect on their vote. Generally, higher information voters are much easier to predict, especially if you have any indications of their voting history.
Depressing but plausible :( I suspect "the way they are presented in the popular media" is crafted with that in mind.
The whole well-established and rather large field of marketing is preoccupied with predicting and manipulating the preferences of people. There doesn't seem to be much difference between persuading people to buy a particular brand of shampoo and persuading people to support a particular political issue (or vote for a particular candidate).

Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you'll realize how much harder it is to change someone else

  • Anonymous quote from Facebook
Scott Alexander
Assuming the spell was keyed on "gender identity" and not any more objective aspect of gender/sex.
Well, being a princess is socially constructed more than one way!
Powerful doesn't mean easy.
Most certainly it doesn't. I just wanted to add some positive spin to your quote.
Pretty sure this is a repeat, but not sure from where.

Mu means "no thing." Like "quality" it points outside the process of dualistic discrimination. Mu simply says, "no class: not one, not zero, not yes, not no." It states that the context of the question is such that a yes and a no answer is in error and should not be given. "Unask the question" is what it says.

.... [Somewhere later]

That Mu exists in the natural world investigated by science is evident. […] The dualistic mind tends to think of Mu occurrences in nature as a kind of contextual cheating, or irrelevance,... (read more)

That Mu exists in the natural world investigated by science is evident.

That's a bad way of phrasing it. "Mu" is about maps, not territories. What is "evident" is that some models do not result in testable predictions (answerable questions). The rest of the quote is pretty good.

Agreed. I always skimmed over that claim and never wondered why. The map vs territory analogy makes a lot of sense. After all the 'Mu' is an answer to a question. And the question is based on some map of the territory. Thanks for triggering that series of clicks in my mind. :)
You only need one > character at the beginning of a paragraph (but you do need another one at the beginning of the next paragraph). If you'd like to have a quote as many lines, you need to make each its own paragraph by hitting return twice in between lines of text.

“For the sin of the idolater is not that he worships stone, but that he worships one stone over others.”

-Scott Bakker

This is actually just a chapter opener in a fantasy story, but I like it as a sort of short hand for the de-mystifying rainbows sequence. Everything is connected and that's ok.

Which story might that be?
I don't recall which book, the trilogy is called The Prince of Nothing.

The hedgehog and the Fox: Hedgehogs "know one big thing" and have a theory about the world; they account for particular events within a coherent framework, bristle with impatience toward those who don't see things their way, and are confident in their forecasts. They are also especially reluctant to admit error. For hedgehogs, a failed prediction is almost always "off only on timing" or "very nearly right". They are opinionated and clear, which is exactly what television producers love to see on programs. Two hedgehogs on... (read more)

Fox News: brought to you by a bunch of Hedgehogs.
All TV reporting is hedgehog-style: nuance is too confusing for the common people.
Is the animal metaphor helpful? I don't think of either stereotype when I hear "fox" or "hedgehog". For that matter, is the dichotomy real?
The metaphor comes from an essay by Isaiah Berlin, who in turn got it from an ancient Greek poet. You're right that the metaphor doesn't match our animal stereotypes, but it has become pretty entrenched.
Agree the animal metaphor doesn't help very well. I have some stereotype for fox (cunningness, slyness, trickster etc...), but draw a blank for hedgehog. As to whether the dichotomy is real, well I think it's a useful model to question one's judgement. A better question would be is it more useful than say "system1 vs system2 " model (or pick another model.).

If you find yourself with mind control powers and tempted to do something evil, you can probably get more of what you want by working on yourself and being good.

jimmy, the resident non-evil cognitive engineer.

Nullius in verba. (On the words of no one.)

Motto of the Royal Society.

I prefer the translation: "Take no one's word for it."

Same here, I just decided to go with the most literal one.

Umm…well this is going to sound silly, but I was actually not terribly well-trained as a scientist in college; I was much more of the social science type, so I actually never took any chemistry or physics in college and don't have a very good fundamental grounding. So I am easily panicked in my science and I think thus I can easily imagine more readily than most people in my position how somebody else can be. I think sort of pedagogically where that came about: during grad school I wound up in a grad school that didn’t have an undergraduate college—it was

... (read more)
I read that whole quote twice through and even thought about it for a few minutes as well, but I have no idea what I'm supposed to get out of it. Could anyone help me out?
"Clear communication is good"?

And yet the quote fails to communicate clearly.

That's because the transcriber has done a very poor job of going from speech to text. If you quote somebody, you should delete the Likes and Ums, add commas and periods, etc. (With the added constraint of not knowingly changing meanings.) I would be highly annoyed if I were transcribed thus.
Ironic, ain't it?
Writing for the general public is hard. Intrinsic motivation matters.

The only way to truly know a person is to argue with them. For when they argue in full swing, then they reveal their true character.

Anne Frank

(h/t Jonas Muller)

Nice! I realize now that I've internalized this to some extent (which is sometimes off-putting to others but usually much more fun).

My business is to teach my aspirations to conform themselves to fact, not to try and make facts harmonize with my aspirations.

Thomas Huxley

But history always moves in a progressive direction.

We know this because history always gets rewritten to attribute all the progressive notions that failed to other people.


Ducard: Are you ready to begin?

Bruce Wayne: I… I can barely stand...

Ducard: Death does not wait for you to be ready!! Death is not considerate, or fair! And make no mistake: here, you face Death.

Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan, 2005

One does not have to see something to know that it is there

-- Havelock Vetinari, Going Postal, Terry Pratchett

At first James thought they were joking because, "You know, Hidden Object Games". But then, after a moment, James realised they were absolutely right. Why hadn't we done a show on Hidden Object Games?

Extra Credits react to their surprise.

I think there's some missing context here.

One of my professors, in a lecture covering compulsory cache misses and prefetching:

Well... the engineers won't give up that easily, just because you called it "compulsory." The competitors are climbing on Moore's Law Ladder, we better do something!

Unrelated to the rationality content of this quote, he thinks Moore's Law is a self-fulfilling prophecy, because how fast chip manufacturing improves depends on how hard engineers work, which depends on how hard they think their competition will work, which is an interesting idea that I hadn't heard before him.

The interesting part of Moore's Law is the fact that it's even possible. If there was a Moore's Law for the speed of motor vehicles it would soon fail regardless of how hard anyone tried to make it true.

That's because we're already at to the limits. There was a Moore's Law for the speed of transatlantic ships for about two centuries, and one for transatlantic flights for about half a century. (And I kind-of doubt Moore's Law will last for much longer.)

EDIT: though if you measure them in doubling times rather than in years, I agree that those for vehicles weren't anywhere near as impressive.

It's possible for a while, anyway; we're already reaching certain physical limits, and I suspect Moore's Law in the sense of shrinking silicon transistor sizes will be over in the near-ish future (order ~10 years). It may just be that we started much further away from the optimum in this case than we did with things like motor vehicles (where there are fairly low limitations based on safety and human reaction times).

Sometimes I think that I'm surrounded by idiots everywhere. Then I remind myself that that's exactly what an idiot would think.

Abstruse Goose (alt text)

The few times I have been in large groups of people objectively smarter than myself, I did not think anything remotely similar.

Any fool can know. The point is to understand.

Maybe Einstein, maybe not.

This ought to be embedded deeply in the minds of everyone involved in education. Most regrettably, it is not.

What makes a mind powerful--indeed, what makes a mind conscious--is not what it is made of, or how big it is, but what it can do. Can it concentrate? Can it be distracted? Can it recall earlier events? Can it keep track of several different things at once? Which features of its own current activities can it notice or monitor? When such questions as these are answered, we will know everything we need to know about those minds in order to answer the morally important questions. These answers will capture everything we want to know about the concept of cons

... (read more)

Moral courage doesn't reside in "doing good" so much as in fighting the bad.

Nassim Taleb

I think he got it backwards? :P
I think I more or less agree with Taleb, so I will try to make it more plausible. * Doing good is hard (cf Givewell. "Famine? Let's send free food! Oops, we bankrupted local food producers. Oh well, our hearts were in the right place.") * Consider the infinite Platonic set of Interventions (in an economy, person... whatever). Throw a dart inside that set - are you more likely to hit a useful intervention, or a useless/harmful one? * Further problem: a lot of harmful or useless interventions LOOK useful, or are useful for some parties but very harmful for the rest of us. * Further problem: many harmful interventions are harmful on a truly spectacular scale, even - or especially - if they are really popular and seem really beneficial and are totally going to change the world for the better. (Fat tails.) * Further problem: humans love power, and a great way to get power is via some grand intervention. The people in charge of such an intervention probably don't have skin in the game, so they aren't incentivized to care very much about REALLY getting it right. This suggests the HEURISTIC that there is more to be gained from stopping people shooting themselves (or each other) in the foot than there is from promoting people's happiness. I'm pretty sure Taleb would agree it is only a heuristic, and that bednets are a legitimate counterexample & are in fact pretty great.
Sure. I just think that “fighting the bad” looks like a very unclear way to put that out of context.
You could read it as saying that fighting people from building UFAI is more important than getting FAI theory right and bringing betnets to Africa.

I suggest a new rule: the source of the quote should be at least three months old. It's too easy to get excited about the latest blog post that made the rounds on Facebook.

I never am really satisfied that I understand anything; because, understand it well as I may, my comprehension can only be an infinitesimal fraction of all I want to understand about the many connections and relations which occur to me, how the matter in question was first thought of or arrived at, etc., etc

Ada Lovelace

In all our eons, we've seen continents frozen and the sun blotted out by ash—and we're still here. A decade after K-Day, and we're still here. I've never believed in the end times. We are mankind. Our footprints are on the moon. When the last trumpet sounds and the beast rises from the pit—we will kill it!

Stacker Pentecost, Pacific Rim: Tales from Year Zero

This use of bold lettering to show spoken emphasis is nonstandard in most contexts, but it is standard in comics and I would kind of like to see it come into broader use. (Also: s/contients/continents/.)
It is, in fact, from comics. Another nonstandard habit is the frequent use of italics I've picked up from Eliezer Yudkowsky, along with other writing habits that would be qualified as "passionate" by some and "histrionic" by others. I myself find it quite practical in properly conveying emotional intensity.
There's only a certain amount of emphasis to go around. The more things you italicize, the less important each italicized word seems, and then when something's really important it doesn't stand out. It's like swearing---if I swear every time I spill a glass of water, then it loses its effect and when I drop a hammer on my toe there is nothing I can think of that will express the strength of my feelings. In comics, the difference in weight between bold and standard is much less than in typical fonts. I think it works well in comics but here it makes me read things out of order in a distracting way.
I keep trying to tell my mom exactly this, every time we need to design some kind of print materials for the family business. She just doesn't get that emphasis is about the relative share of a reader's attention to different parts within a text, a positional good of sorts.
Oh, I keep getting that argument and I disagree completely. Swearing does not add nor substract emphasis; it is punctuation, placeholder words that might as well be onomatopeias. For an example of a character who swears constantly and still manages to highlight quite well differences in emotional intensity, I would suggest you look at Malcolm Tucker from british political satire The Thick Of It. For another who never swears yet also conveys utter fury, anger, frustration, pain, and so on impeccably, I would suggest having a look at any of the latest Doctors from Doctor Who. An angry David Tennant is a frightening frightening sight to behold. In the case of the hammer on your toe, I believe a heartfelt ARGH! does the trick nicely, with an extra hiss afterwards is you feel like it.
I personally find that part of the relief from swearing comes from breaking a taboo, and that this weakens over time. But perhaps watching The Thick Of It will reveal to me a more sustainable way. As for italics, in the limit case where everything is in italics you surely would not conclude that THE WHOLE THING IS EXTRA SUPER IMPORTANT. So there's some crossover point; we just disagree on where it is. I believe my view is common at least for more formal (book-type) writing.
You don't need to study the entire population to extrapolate a result. Here's a [ ]representative sample .
At least for my own speech, profanity is primarily a way to add emphasis. This seems to also be true for a significant fraction of the people I've known. Of course, profanity is not the only available source of emphasis. There are still lots of ways to convey emphasis with the level of profanity held constant. There's absolute emphasis ("Listen up, because I will only say this once" draws extra attention to the entire statement that follows), and relative emphasis (the word "constantly" in "...a character who swears constantly and still..." is emphasized more than its neighbors, regardless of the level of passion it is read with). You can get someone to pay more attention in general, but attention paid to one thing is still attention not paid to something else.
Again, it depends on how the things relate to each other. Example: you are kissing your beloved. The heat, the smell, the touch, the beat, the movement... can you really say that focusing your attention on any of those elements means you'll lose sight of all the others? Example: a movie scene. If the music, the visuals, the dialogue, all support and underline each other, focusing on one will not make you pay less attention to the rest. Key word: synergy.
I suppose this is scoped to the statement "if I swear every time I spill a glass of water, then it loses its effect and when I drop a hammer on my toe there is nothing I can think of that will express the strength of my feelings?" Because the overall point that emphasis must be conserved stands quite well.
Not really. Watch any opera or musical, listen to any speech; there's enough emphasis around to go on for hours and days, as long as you keep it varied and well-executed. Heck, just marathon Gurren Lagann and tell me when you actually think the emphasis wears thin. My bet is, never.
In all of your examples, there are down times. Even Lagann.
I never said there never need to be any down times, I said there was no such thing as conservation of emphasis. Even in Lagann, the down times were tense, emotional affairs; at their lightest, they were deeply contemplative; that is hardly a lack of intensity.
On second thoughts, there is no particular minimum to emphasis, so it clearly isn't conserved. There is an issue of diminishing returns.
Phrased that way, I have to agree. Of course, diminishing returns can be streched with proper technique, but they are there nonetheless.
Well before the time skip, and the last episodes were just plain irritating.
That is an unusual perspective. The only parts that are left are the parts most people complain about. Nia's Awakening and the Deep Space arcs.
Is there some research that investigates the effect in a more detailed fashion?
9Eliezer Yudkowsky
I've been deitalicizing a bit lately.

We all grow old, don't we?

Nostalgic note: I remember back when I used to resent you for calling religion 'insanity'. Nowadays, I find it costs me strenuous effort to summon the very memory of a mindset where I could see it as anything but.

There was a time when I was very rude to religious people because I thought that made me wise. Then there was a time when I was very polite because I thought equity in consideration was wise. Now I'm just curt because I have science to do and no time to deal with fools.
Ah, yes :-D
Similar here. I used to have some respect for the views of religious people, but it becomes more and more difficult to understand the way of thinking "some savages thousands of years ago had an imaginary invisible friend (usually telling them to kill everyone else), and despite all the knowledge and experience we have now, we should treat this invisible friend as a serious source of knowledge and morality (of course, avoiding those parts that are just too absurd and pretending they never happened)". But I guess that's just human mind as usual. The more time I spend with people who believe in the fantasy land, the less silly the fantasy land seems. The more I think about what we know about reality, the more crazy it seems when someone comes and says, essentially, "but my invisible friend says so and so". Now I wonder if I spend enough time without reading LessWrong and came back, which parts of LessWrong would seem crazy. -- I am not saying the situation is the same; I was impressed by LessWrong when I saw it for the first time; with religion I had to have religious friends for years just to move it from the "total craziness" category to "worth considering" category. But it is still possible that some parts of LessWrong would seem crazy.
2Swimmer963 (Miranda Dixon-Luinenburg)
I've actually just broken an italics-using habit when writing fiction. I used to use italics all the time for emphasis and making it clearer how the text would sound if read out loud (it felt clearer to me, at least.) A reader commented that the software I used to convert my MS Word draft to an epub converted all italics to bold, and that he found it disruptive, and had tried mentally reading the lines with and without the bold and having the emphasis didn't seem to make anything clearer. I used select-all on my MS Word document and removed all the italics in order to make him a new epub. Rereading scenes later, it turned out that my friend was right, and the lack of italics hardly seemed to make a difference. Now I don't use them period. (Once I stopped using italics constantly, it felt odd to use them occasionally.)
Italics are not a matter of clarity, they are more like a poor man's musical annotations. While it is often said that punctuation is a matter of placing pauses where you would if you spoke the sentence out loud, I believe that this is false; when reading out loud for an audience, whether it be a conference, a speech, a narration, one finds oneself placing pauses and emphasis in places where it would be awkward to do so by italics, bolds, points, commas, colons, semicolons, or m-dashes. Sure, when one is sufficiently attuned to a culture, to its turns of phrase and the ways people habitually emphasize things, one can use wording and phrasing to suggest the right way of reading. Being an amateur actor, I had to work with a scriptwriter who deliberately avoided doing that. You wouldn't believe how hard it was to give it emotional consisntency and proper flow; one practically had to build the character from scratch!
As an amateur director, part of my process with every play is to type up the script, stripping out all the stage directions and line-reading notes, precisely because I want to build the characters from scratch. But I do typically put in my own notes for the benefit of my actors who don't wish to do so (while encouraging them to ignore those notes and try different things if they feel right)

If you agree that God wouldn't have a human-like personality and human-like needs and ambitions, you end up with a God who is indistinguishable from the sum of the laws of physics.

Scott Adams arguing that "that human personalities are nothing but weaknesses and defects that we romanticize" and that God would have no weaknesses and therefore no personality.

Since the local idea of a superintelligence implies that a foomed AGI would have no human weaknesses (and likely a goal system that is so incomprehensible to humans as to be indistinguishable... (read more)

No, "incomprehensible" doesn't imply "invisible". That's like saying that impersonal laws of physics are indistinguishable from having no laws of physics at all. Gravity is impersonal, yet it is personally observable. In a similar way, we could observe an appearance of mountains of paperclips, even if we had no clue about why the AGI is doing that (assuming we would still exist and had an access to the AGI's code and data). Provided it decided to keep humans around in their original environment. Otherwise we would notice a change in the environment, even if we couldn't discover its cause.
Science of Mind hypothesizes a god with no personality. While this god goes much less far beyond the laws of physics, it goes a bit beyond them in that the hypothesis is of an infinite intelligence underlying the universe, of which human intelligences are a part or manifestation, like a drop of water in the ocean. For me, this leads me to the idea that there may be laws of consciousness that are part of the laws of physics, but which we just haven't figured out yet, just as radiation and quarks and so on were all there long before they were investigated well enough to have their laws categorized. When I attended such a "church," I referred to it as my atheist church. The pastor seemed a little uncomfortable with this, but contained himself. The idea that personality is weaknesses and defects, I think is wrong. It seems more like a mental illness than a hypothesis to me. But there seems some useful content. Personality is part of how we manage a very finite model of a very large world. We need to do this to be effective because our minds are finite. And so Adams is right that an infinite intelligence, an intelligence whose horsepower had not run out before it comprehended the entire universe, would not need a model of the universe which was less complex than the universe itself. WHen I attended this "church," I conceived the Universe as a gigantic intelligence, running a simulation of the universe. In fact it seems that it must be conceived this way, or rather that it can be. How does the electric field KNOW to evolve the way it does? The universe in some sense has been built to produce that result, just as we might build a specialized computer to simulate the electric field if we wanted a very fast highly detailed simulation. The universe has been built exactly as complex as it needs to be to simulate all the laws of physics, but no more complex. And all it does is simulate them. We are Hanson's ems, except it is not only our minds that are emulated, it is everyth

To function as a Human being, you are forced to accept a minimum level of deception in your life. The more complex and challenging your life the higher this minimum. At any given level of moral and intellectual development, there is an associated minimum level of deception in your life. If you aren't deceiving others, you are likely deceiving yourself. Or you're in denial

You can only lower the level of deception in your life through further intellectual and moral development. In other words, you have to earn higher levels of truth in your life.

--- VGRao (Be Slightly evil)

I can't find a specific meaning in this. What does "accept deception" mean: to lie to others, to pretend inability to see through specific lies of others, or to just be generally aware that more information on average contains more false information without know specifically which parts are false?

Ok May be that misses context. Further down in the text he categories 5 types of deception: 1. Outright lying and fabrication of evidence 2. Misdirection 3. Withholding of information 4. Equivocation or sharing information in ambiguous ways 5. Not-correcting others. Hope that helps
Oh Dear Lord
Being wrong on the internet is vastly more impersonal than being wrong in person, as it were. The urge to correct is similar in both cases, but in the in-person case you can suffer clear consequences from others' wrong beliefs (eg. if they are family). There's some overlap with #3 -- consider the common case of the presumption that you are heterosexual and cisgender. There are also people who say things they know are wrong in order to see what you're made of, if you're a pushover or not. Unlike the online equivalent (trolling), ignoring them is often not effective. It seems pretty clear to me that not-correcting others can be a self-deceiving behaviour, at minimum.
This reminds me of a previous rationality quote:
Fascinating, very interesting. It seems clear enough that public morality is a scheme to make more powerful the collective efforts of humans at the expense of their individual interests. Studies show smarter people take morality less seriously and tolerate more personal hypocrisy, which is what you would suppose would happen if the moral system is just another part of the environment which the organism must learn to exploit with the talents it has. It is important that we not be seen to be too immoral, but the smarter you are, the more room you have for deviance without detection. To paraphrase another old quote: Telling the truth to Imperial Storm Troopers is no virtue. Lying to Imperial Storm Troopers is no vice. (My apologies for not using evil characters from Harry Potter, I am not familiar with the œuvre.)
Public morality, probably. Personal morality (which may be quite different), not likely.

The needs of the many...outweigh...the needs of the few."

-Mr Spock, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

In a less regular, or low-validity, environment, the heuristics of judgement are invoked. System 1 is often able to produce quick answers to difficult questions by substitution, creating coherence where there is none. The question that is answered is not the one that was intended, but the answer is produced quickly and may be sufficiently plausible to pass the lax and lenient review of System 2. You may want to forecast the commercial future of a company, for example, and believe that this is what you are judging, while in fact your evaluation is dominated... (read more)

The love of complexity without reductionism makes art; the love of complexity with reductionism makes science.

--E.O. Wilson

Whenever I have a philosophical conversation with an artist, invariably we end up talking about reductionism, with the artist insisting that if they give up on some irreducible notion, they feel their art will suffer. I've heard, from some of the world's best artists, notions ranging from "magic" to "perfection" to "muse" to "God." It seems similar to the notion of free will, where the human algorithm must always insist it is capable of thinking about itself on level higher. The artist must always think of his art one level higher, and try to tap unintentional sources of inspiration. Nonreductionist views of either are confusions about how an algorithm feels on the inside.
I don't think that this is an artist problem- I think this is a human problem, which a few scientists and philosophers have been forced to overcome in pursuit of truth. Too many people have straw-vulcan notions of reductionism. (tvtropes warning)
Elizabeth Gilbert presents a reasonably practical justification for the use of such a concept. See [here] ( Warning: TED talk and generous use of "reasonable"
What about artists who think that reducing things to their bare essentials is the essence of art? Or styles like - well, broadly speaking, anime (or caricatures in general) - that are based on the emphasis of certain basic forms? Or writers like Eric Hoffer - "Wordiness is a sickness of American writing. Too many words dilute and blur ideas. [...] If you have nothing to say and want badly to say it, then all the words in all the dictionaries will not suffice." ?
It's worth noting that Wilson's comment is A->B, C->D, not A=B, C=D. Does that sound like a love of complexity to you?
Yeah, I know. It's just not clear that you have to love complexity and not like reductionism to get art. It's not A <-> B. If it's not A <-> B then it's A -> B but even that seems sketchy. Lots of people love spouting, sketching, whatever, complex nonsense without doing anything I'd describe as art. Of course, it'd help in this situation to be able to point at art - but the whole thought seems very muddled and imprecise, and the issues seems far from the blank assertion it's presented as. No.
I don't think it is complexity that makes art. I think it is emotion/feeling. Emotion/feeling may look like complexity to the rational mind because it does arise from a complex system which can be figured out bit by bit by the rational mind. But the essence of art is not to love anything that is complex and hard for the rational mind to figure out, but rather to focus on the feelings produced, the gestalt, the irrational, emotional connections and reactions.

A heroine needs a more supple courage. She must negotiate: with her emotions, with her adversaries, with her family, with hypocrisies. But not, if she can help it, with her ambition.

-Rahul Bhattacharya on Humaira Bachal

I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.

-- Oliver Cromwell

Previously posted two years ago. I'm curious if some things bear repeating. Is there any accepted timeframe for duplicates?

Currently, no. It seems worthwhile to keep old quotes visible, but I suspect that would be better accomplished by automatically generating a database of rationality quotes from these threads (like DanielVarga's best of collections), and then displaying a random one on each LW page with frequency related to the number of upvotes they received, say. I don't think that duplicating quotes in quote threads is a good idea, because this focuses effort on finding new quotes and material to incorporate into a growing body of knowledge rather than rehashing previously found knowledge.
I endorse (with the possibly-expected caveat about Wilson score ranking). Unfortunately, I can't (don't know how to?) hack the LW backend. Is that something I can look into?
This and this are the primary resources I am aware of, as well as the Google Code page. I recommend contacting someone personally involved for more as well as poking around on your own (the source is here, for example).
I'm not keen on this one. It has a sensible reading as an injunction to keep the support of one's prior wide, and if that is what one is reminded of by the maxim, that is fine. But too often I see in everyday discourse people saying "you've made your mind up!" as a criticism. The argument becomes a bodyguard to support a belief that has no other support. Some Wikipedia scholarship indicates that the real situation behind the quote is unpromising for a clear moral about rationality. Cromwell made this appeal on the occasion of the Scots proclaiming Charles II their king instead of accepting Cromwell's rule. Being rebuffed, he conquered them, and it appears from this biography, p184ff that he would have had an easier job of it had he not taken the time to first invite their surrender. On the other hand, the Scots handcapped themselves by too strict an attention to the religious correctness of their generals and soldiers, at the expense of numbers in the field, and might even have benefitted from the lesser fervour that Cromwell suggested to them.
Does this idiom make sense to native English speakers?
Not especially. I sort of skip over it and the meaning "probably some shoddy translation of something that means to convey emphasis" appears in my head without me bothering to notice the words.
It's archaic. The modern variant would be like "Please, for goodness's sake, consider that you could be mistaken," or "Please, for fuck's sake", or "Please, for the love of God," or so on.
Yes, but do people actually read it as that without looking it up, instead of just thinking of the quite different modern meaning?
I read it as a flowery, archaic way of saying something along the lines of "in the name of God", without needing to map it away from a modern meaning, so that's one data point for you. I don't recall hearing the phrase elsewhere, but there are lots of religious invocations along similar lines from various eras, and I may unconsciously be drawing an inference between them. (My favorite might be "God's teeth!", although that conveys shock rather than supplication.)
In Henry V, Shakespeare has the Duke of Exeter say: So it seems to have been a fairly common idiom in 17th C English.
When I say the quote I use "in the bowels of Christ" and go directly to the concept/emotion I believe Cromwell wanted to evoke without going through another phrase first. But I have far more familiarity with English works written in Cromwell's time than the average person, so I can't say. (Similarly, "beseech" is a word rarely used undeliberately in modern times, but I don't feel a need to translate it.)
There is a modern meaning? Once you drew attention to it above it occurred to me that the closest literal interpretation would be to "Holy Shit!" but that's not a euphamism I've ever actually heard...
It reads fine to me.

“By poet, I mean that farmer who plows his field with a plow that differs, however little, from the plow he inherited from his father, in order that someone will come after him to give the new plow a new name; I mean that gardener who breeds an orange flower and plants it between a red flower and a yellow flower, in order that someone will come after him to give the new flower a new name; or that weaver who produces on his loom patterns and designs that differ from those his neighbors weave, in order that someone will give his fabric a new name. By poet, I... (read more)

By poet I would mean someone who writes poems.

Eh, probably. But given how we normally think about poetry and Middle Eastern culture, at least in Khalil Gibran's era (1900-1930), it's nice to see someone from that background talking about how awesome it is to build better boats. I like finding hints of modernism in unexpected places.
4Eliezer Yudkowsky
You can't call them 'inventors' though, because that's not as high-status as 'poet'.

You can't call them 'inventors' though, because that's not as high-status as 'poet'.

It isn't? That's... broken.

6Eliezer Yudkowsky
Yes, that was my attempted point.
(In that vein my attempted point in reply approximately translates to "I agree with your point that it would be broken if true, am startled to hear that it actually is true but take your word for it".)
It isn't? That hasn't been my experience, quite the opposite. Is this a cultural difference between Scandinavia and America, or am I missing something?

Did you mean innovator?

"That which can be destroyed by the truth should be." - P. C. Hodgell

Love survives the truth.

Sam Harris

(I am aware that the first would be inappropriate alone, but I felt it provided the correct setup for the Sam Harris, which he said at the Festival of Dangerous Idea in the questions)

Added: The context of Harris was a questioner asking 'If contra-causal free will doesn't exist, then do our decisions to love people not exist?' Harris was saying his argument forced us to give up false beliefs and the false emotions that followed from them (hatred), but our belief that love exists is still correct.

So why specifically does hatred not survive when love does?

2Ben Pace
Er, well, you should listen to the talk. I was going to summarise it, but it's a really great talk, and I'm preparing a LessWrong post on it (although I've been thinking of doing that for about a year). The general idea that I thought was relevant though, was the idea of stripping away all false beliefs and emotions, and that love is still a part of the world.
Is there a transcript anywhere? I can read much more quickly than I can listen, and the talk is pretty long. I have to say that I'm skeptical though, that hatred would inherently be any more "false" than love.
I'd guess the talk is mostly a slightly inferior version of Harris' short ebook Free Will.
Due to fundamental attribution bias, understanding people's motivations deeply is likely to make you love them more and hate them less.
Well, statistically yes, but necessarily no. I've certainly encountered situations where the reverse was true.
0Ben Pace
I'm afraid I know of no transcript. I would recommend the talk.
Because Light carries energy but Dark does not. What is the speed of dark, anyway?
This seems false. Love survives (and should survive) some truths but not others. There are some things that people can do which will cause other people to stop loving them. Revealing the truth about such things will tend to kill love.
2Ben Pace
Yeah, I added a note explaining the context of his words.

Great damage is usually caused by those who are too scrupulous to do small harm.