Open Thread May 9 - May 15 2016

by Elo1 min read9th May 201685 comments


Open Threads
Personal Blog

If it's worth saying, but not worth its own post (even in Discussion), then it goes here.

Notes for future OT posters:

1. Please add the 'open_thread' tag.

2. Check if there is an active Open Thread before posting a new one. (Immediately before; refresh the list-of-threads page before posting.)

3. Open Threads should be posted in Discussion, and not Main.

4. Open Threads should start on Monday, and end on Sunday.

82 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 10:40 AM
New Comment
Some comments are truncated due to high volume. (⌘F to expand all)Change truncation settings

The swarm intel community picked the Superfecta at the Kentucky Derby, turned 20 bucks into 11k

Some notes from my LW meetup lecture on book of Julian Jaynes: The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Not sure if legible for someone who wasn't there. May serve as a motivation to read the book.

Human brain has two hemispheres, relatively loosely connected, each of them is relatively independent (look up experiments when one hemisphere was disabled by e.g. injecting amytal into neck artery). Both can listen and see, but only the dominant hemisphere can talk. The corresponding part of the non-dominant hemisphere, when stimulate... (read more)

3Lumifer5yThis implies that contemporary hunter-gatherer societies (Amazon Indians, Bushmen, Aboriginals, Andamanese, etc.) did not do this and still are "bicameral". Is there evidence that this is so? Koans originate around IX century AD in China -- the implication is that the Chinese mind before that was mostly bicameral. Again, any evidence of this? In Japan koans were important much later, e.g. Hakuin [] lived in the XVIII century.
1Viliam5yI have no idea if someone made a research about how many members of the contemporary hunter-gatherer societies hear "voices" and see "spirits". But it seems to be a standard trope. The part about koans is just my idea; it's not from the book. Actually, I later realized it could easily be the other way round. High stress induces bicameral thinking, and giving someone an unsolvable puzzle and saying his future incarnations depend on it could be quite stressful. The non-dominant hemisphere is supposed to be the one that matches patterns, so it could just as well be an exercise to activate it. And the "enlightement" could mean activating the inner voice. (In other words, it could be a culturally different way to achieve what charismatic Christians are achieving by "speaking in tongues".) Well, if you can easily argue either way...
2Lumifer5yThe thing is, it's not limited to primitive tribes. Try a Pentecostal church [] in a XXI century first-world country :-)
0Viliam5yYeah, that shows that even a modern mind can be temporarily switched into the bicameral mode under a proper combination of circumstances and beliefs (i.e. a ritual). Ancient Greeks used rituals to initiate illiterate girls into speaking prophecies. Some African tribes use rituals to create zombies (unconscious slaves). Modern Christians use rituals to initiate believers into speaking gibberish, or falling on the floor. Hypnotists use rituals to make volunteers on the stage believe that they are chicken. These are all different cultutal variations of the same thing: high social pressure can activate the bicameral mode in a modern mind. There are differences in how easily a mind will succumb to such pressure; and the difference probably has a biological component. In schizophrenia, the bicameral mode can activate spontaneously.
1Lumifer5yIt seems to me you're putting too many equal signs between things like schizophrenia, religious (in particular, mystical) experiences, altered states of consciousness including the drug-mediated ones, and the bicameral mode of thinking. Not all unusual mind states can be fit into the bicameral mold.
0Viliam5yTo make me understand your model and objections, please tell me which statements specifically you agree or disagree with; or rather how much likely or unlikely you consider them. (So that I don't argue for a statement we both happen to agree with.) * the brain has two hemispheres; * the hemispheres communicate with each other; * each of these hemispheres separately is capable of intelligent behavior; * each of these hemispheres separately is capable of listening and seeing; * the non-dominant hemisphere can send visual or auditory hallucinations to the dominant one; * sometimes hallucination can force people to feel certain way or do certain things; * hallucinations are among the typical symptoms of schizophrenia; * high stress increases the probability of hallucinations. My point is that if we happen to agree on these points, then I think that proposing this mechanism as an explanation for seeing or hearing unusual things or feeling compelled to do things in situations of high social pressure is a reasonable explanation. (Kind of like learning that humans have legs, and then concluding that legs are probably responsible for walking and running and jumping. The accusation of "putting too many equal signs" between walking, running, and jumping doesn't feel fair. And the statement that "not all long-distance movement can be fit into the leg movement" is technically true -- one could also walk on hands, or crawl -- but it still makes sense to consider legs as a prime suspect.)
1Lumifer5yWe agree on these points (in their literal interpretation), but I don't think that proposing this mechanism is a reasonable explanation. For one thing, the causal chain is really weak. For another, you're ignoring all alternate hypotheses. For example let's do this: * Prolonged starvation can cause visual or auditory hallucinations; * sometimes hallucination can force people to feel certain way or do certain things; * hallucinations are among the typical symptoms of schizophrenia; * high stress increases the probability of hallucinations. ...Profit? X-) Have you considered the implications? For example, would you agree that members of stone-age tribes are literally schizophrenics by DSM criteria and would be diagnosed as such by competent psychiatrists? Effective anti-psychotic drugs exists -- would you agree that medicating such people would force their minds into a "contemporary" mode and out of the "bicameral" mode? Is meditation nothing but teaching yourself schizophrenia? Were all mystics throughout the ages just mentally ill people?
0Viliam5yThis reminds me of debates about IQ, whether stone-age tribes would be diagnosed as mentally retarded. Seems like on one hand, if we could use a time machine and somehow convince the stone-age people to do our IQ tests, they would probably score low. On the other hand, they wouldn't be the same kind of people as a random selection of people who have the same value of IQ today. I guess the conclusion is that there are many factors that can lower the IQ, some one of them would be problematic in the ancient environment, and some of them not. Analogically, the idea that the members of stone-age tribes would be diagnosed as mentally ill using today's criteria seems quite unsurprising to me. And analogically, there could be various variants of schizophrenia, some of them widely present among the stone-age tribes, and some of them absent. I have no idea whether the anti-psychotic drugs would target those historic variants. It seems like the goal of the most serious meditators is to have hallucinations of your previous reincarnations, which is supposed to give you the hard evidence that your faith is the true one. (Conveniently ignoring the alternative explanation that your faith may actually have shaped the content of the hallucinations.) But most people in our culture seem to meditate merely as a way of relaxation. That means, not giving it enough time and effort to make the hallucinations appear. (Literature seems to suggests that it is usually necessary to spend weeks meditating several hours daily to achieve the "enlightenment".) Well, unless you believe in the supernatural, I am curious what other explanation there is... (Connotational disclaimer: "Mentally ill" is not the same thing as "dysfunctional at everything". Just because a person has weird hallucinations once in a while, they can still be a great person, even a great scientist.)
0Lumifer5yI'm talking about people living now. Amazon Indian tribes, Andamanese, maybe remote communities of Bushmen, Aboriginals, etc. The question was much more specific: diagnosed with schizophrenia by DSM standards. And should we medicate them? The life of schizophrenics noticeably improves when they take their drugs. I don't know about that. Meditation is not limited to the Hinduist or Buddhist religious context. And, by the way, enlightenment is usually thought to require many years of meditation, not weeks. They are normal :-P
1Viliam5yI remember reading somewhere that Incas received commands from statues when the Spanish conquerred them. Not sure how reliable this information is, but I would count "hearing voices from statues" among the symptoms of schizophrenia, if that's true. The map (even a high-status one such as DSM) is not the territory. Asking "are they schizophrenic according to DSM" and "are they the kind of schizophrenic who is unable to function normally in their daily life" are two different questions. If someone hears voices which are completely benign, I'd say "live and let live". It's only the voices that make people cause harm to themselves and the others that should be treated by medication. In the bicameral era, I can imagine that most people heard the relatively benign voices, and only a few ones heard the harmful voices. In other words, the actual problem of schizophrenia could be not hearing voices per se, but having those voices become dangerous. (Or hearing the voices so often that it makes normal functioning difficult; but how much that is would probably differ in the ancient times and now, especially when it's a social stigma now.) Removing the dangerous voices improves life. Removing rare and benign voices... I am not sure about that one. Actually, I could imagine this being the other way round, for example sometimes hearing the voices could manifest as increased "willpower" (e.g. it's easier to exercise every morning, if an irresistable voice of God keeps reminding you). Maybe akrasia correlates positively with atheism. Then I'd cynically guess that people in those other contexts, if they meditate hard enough, usually receive hallucinations that confirm their contexts (e.g. instead of their previous reincarnation, they will see Jesus Christ or Holy Spirit or Allah coming and speaking to them).
1ChristianKl5yThis theory seems the prediction that you shouldn't get a similar hypnotic effect if the sound get's processed by the left and by the right ear. How strongly do you believe that? Plenty of people I know have internal family systems type hallucinations that speak to them. Given different cultural norms they likely also coud be called "ka" or do you have an argument for why what the Egyptian hallucinate was something different or why you think that their society had more people having those hallucinations? Furthermore internal family systems voices often have a clear direction from which they are coming. When some come from the right and others of the same person come from the left, why should we believe that they come from the "non-dominate hemisphere" (which probably is either left or right). I don't think you get to the purpose of koans. Koans often point to phenonomogical primitives that the student doesn't has access to and provide a tool to learn the new primitives.
1Viliam5yI don't know how the sound is processed in brain. For example in vision, each hemisphere gets half of input from each eye. So "which eye" doesn't matter, but "left or right from where you are looking at" does. This would suggest that inputs from both ears are processed by both hemispheres. If not, then I admit this is a serious argument against Jaynes's theory.
0ChristianKl5yWhere did you get that idea? A quick googling gives me []: Skeptics question : []
2gjm5yIf you look e.g. at the start of the Wikipedia article on the visual cortex [] you will find: Or take a look at this diagram from a book about the visual field []. Or this online book []. I thought this was very widely known -- which I say not in order to make you feel bad (there's no shame in not knowing things) but to suggest why Viliam didn't find it necessary to provide references when he said that each hemisphere gets input from both eyes' view of one half of the visual field.
0ChristianKl5yThanks. I don't ask for reference to claim that it was wrong for Viliam that he didn't provide references. I rather ask because the belief I had in my mind conflict. Likely because sources like the ChangingMinds website making a wrong claim (if I take your link to be trustworthy). But if it's the visual field that's link that doesn't raise my basic confidence in the claim that hypnosis focuses on a single hemisphere. Timeline therapy would be a good example. Some people orient their timeline in a way that if you ask them to visualize an event that happend in the past it will be on the left side and if you ask them to imagine an event of the future it will be on the right side. Different people have a different spatial layout for this but it generally doesn't happen that someone visualize both his past and future in the same direction. Generally entities accessed by hypnosis do have a location and there are effects of moving that location around but they are not all located to one side, and if I would meet a person for whom everything is on one side I would hypnotize that the person has a pathology. I'm personally wary of drawing strong conclusions about underlying neuroscience when thinking about hypnosis, particularly because I'm exposed to hypnotists talking about neuroscience who might have access to empiric experience of what hypnosis does but who don't have real neurosicence knowledge.
0Viliam5yI can't quickly find a source for each hemisphere receiving only a part of the visual field, but the optical nerves coming from each eye cross before reaching the brain, so it's not "one eye, one hemisphere". (That doesn't mean "the left one goes right and vice versa", but "they join, and then they split again".) []
0ChristianKl5yThe nerves cross in the ChangingMind descriptions. That's how the left eye surplies the right hemisphere and vice versa. I don't see how they join in the sense of sharing information while the cross.
0ChristianKl5yHow is dominant hemisphere operationalized?
1Viliam5yIf I remember correctly from school, there are many different criteria, but for right-handed people usually most of them provide the same answer. Example criteria: which hand is more dextrous, which foot is more dextrous, which eye perceives better, where is the speech center... (With left-handed people it's complicated; for some of them the functionality of brain is a mirror image of right-handed people, others are some mix of both.)
0ChristianKl5yBasically you are saying if we have a right handed individual with a dextrous right hand that means his left hemisphere is dominant. Thus for them hypnosis is about activiting the left brain hemisphere? Is that a correct description of your claim?
1Viliam5yIf the left hemisphere is dominant, then hypnosis is about making the right hemisphere comply with the hypnotist's commands; then the right hemisphere will make the left one obey the hypnotic commands.
[-][anonymous]5y 4

This week in big name rationalists on facebook: Wiblin's commenters allege a Trump conspiracy, and EY argues against Wiblin on the social value of voting

Obscure Australian Tax Office document explains how to dodge tax in Australia. Protip: The Netherlands is your friend, the Cayman Islands are for chumps

  1. So, for example, investors who are resident of the United States, or indeed a group of investors who are residents of various jurisdictions, may want to join together in creating an investment entity in the Cayman Islands. If the funds of that entity wer

... (read more)

Here's a simple explanation why quantum entanglement is weird. Imagine that Alice tells you: "I have three numbered fair coins. I can flip one of them, but then the other two will disappear." Bob, who is far away from Alice and can't communicate with her, says: "I have another set of three coins that is mysteriously connected to Alice's and always gives the same outcomes."

1) If you ask Alice and Bob to flip the same numbered coin, their answers always agree.

2) If you ask Alice to flip coin 1 and Bob to flip coin 2, they are different ab... (read more)


[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply
6Lumifer5yThe word "fruitfully" is doing all the heavy lifting here. It is, of course, possible to throw an ML algorithm at a corpus of academic articles. Will the results be useful? That entirely depends on what do you consider useful. You will certainly get some results.
2RomeoStevens5ySomething in a related space, [] is now being used by a few publishers and it is AWESOME. You can rearrange by researcher links (who published with whom), academic area links, citation links, institution, etc.
0RyanCarey5yIf you had a million labelled postmodern and non-postmodern papers, you could decently identify them. You could categorise most papers with fewer labels using citation graphs. You can recommend papers, as you would Amazon books with a recommender system (using ratings). There are hundreds of ways to apply machine learning to academic articles; it's a matter of deciding what you want the machine learning to do.
0Stefan_Schubert5ySure, I guess my question was whether you'd think that it'd be possible to do this in a way that would resonate with readers. Would they find the estimates of quality, or level of postmodernism, intuitively plausible? My hunch was that the classification would primarily be based on patterns of word use, but you're right that it would probably be fruitful to use at patterns of citations.
2RyanCarey5yIf you get a well labelled dataset, I think this is pretty thoroughly within the scope of current machine learning technologies, but that means spending perhaps hundreds of hours labelling papers as a certain amount postmodern out of 100. If you're trying to single out the postmodernism that you're convinced is total BS, then that's more complex. Doable but you need to make the case to me about why it would be worthwhile, and what exactly your aim would be.
0Stefan_Schubert5yThanks Ryan, that's helpful. Yes, I'm not sure one would be able to do something that has the right combination of accuracy, interestingness and low-cost at present.

Which psychological findings have great practical implications, if they are indeed true?

Overjustification comes to mind, as an example.

On a related note: if it is true, does that suggest that, as far as we take the diminishing utility of money for granted, by using extrinsic rewards, we are reducing the number of extreme performers? (in so far as we can't keep giving exponential rewards, and money/tokens/what have you motivates in proportion to their utility) I have seen it argued, that if you are not doing well enough to be expecting a non-interrupted str... (read more)

1Jurily5yPsychology produces useful information at the same rate as Christianity. If you want practical results, learn hypnosis.
0knb5yI think the positional qualities of money compensate for this somewhat. People still work hard because they want to keep ahead of their neighbor/coworker.
0ChristianKl5yPaying people is complex. Companies often pay their employees often market wages and don't pay to optimize motivation. Even when it comes to optimizing motivation fairness perception matters a lot. If stereotype threat is a force that exists there are likely variables that make it stronger or weaker. A HR deparment of a company might want to introduce policies that weaken it's negative effect and use possible positive effects. At Google they got people to cancel training courses instead of no-showing by reminded people of the group image of Google and being googly. They positively used the stereotype of Googlers.
some fun but old reading - Fenyman's review of why the challenger disaster happened. Bonus points if you share what you think the take-away messages are (in ROT13) and how we (and NASA) has learnt from this mistake.

I saw a link in an open thread several months back about an organization in the past that was quite similar to the Rationality movement but eventually fell apart. It was science based self-improvement and people trying to make rational choices back in the 1920s or earlier. I've tried searching for the link again but can't find it. Does anyone know which one I'm referring to?

6ChristianKl5yThe 1920 didn't have the same idea of science that we have today. Maybe you mean General Semantics?
2TheAltar5yThis looks like it. Thank you!
0Douglas_Knight5yHow old is the "idea of science" that we have today and what did they have in 1920?
0ChristianKl5yThe doctrine of evidence-based medicine was proposed in a paper in 1992. The Cochrane Collaboration was founded in 1993 and over time made meta-analysis authoritative papers. The Student's t-test paper was published in 1908 and in the 1920's the statistical signifiance as measured by t-test wasn't central to science the way it is today. In 1920 Freud was considered doing scientific psychology. As far as I know the General Semantics community is like the Freudian community in the regard that they didn't try to back up specific interventions in controlled trials.

In our world, classical mechanics (Newton + Maxwell and their logical implications) holds for most everyday experiences at slow speeds (relative to the speed of light) and at scales larger than the atomic realm.*

Question: Is this necessarily true for every possible world that matches our macroscopic physical observations? Is it possible to construct an alternative set of physical laws such that the world would function exactly as our world does on a macroscopic, everyday level, but that would violate Newton's laws or Maxwell's laws or thermodynamics or the... (read more)

4mwengler5yI may not understand the question's point, because as I read it the answer is a very obvious "Yes." We determined Newton's laws and Maxwell's equations from observations of our world. So the planets in orbit around the sun, the moon around the earth, and an apple falling to the ground all lead to gravitation. The attraction between wires carrying current in the same direction (magnetic), the functioning of transformers (change in magnetic field produces electric field) and radio and light all fit together to give Maxwell's equations. So yes, a world with the macroscopic physical observations as ours does not violate Newton's or Maxwell's laws because our world with those observations doesn't violate those laws. If Newton's or Maxwell's equations were different, the world you saw would necessarily be different. What am I missing here?

Some months ago someone mentioned a chat website that tracked arguments in syllogism form to help people organize their debates. Does anyone remember what it was called?

Is there a public database for math proofs in a form where they can be read by computers?

4bogus5y [] ?

I was reading through a link on an Overcoming Bias post about the AK Model and came across the idea that, " the Social return on many types of investments far exceed their private return". To rephrase this: there are investments you can make such as getting a college education which benefit others more than they benefit you. These seem like they could be some good skills to focus on which might be often ignored. Obvious examples I can think of would be the Heimlich maneuver, CPR, and various social skills.

Do you know of any good low hanging fruit... (read more)

3ChristianKl5yThere are cases where better being able to perceive whether someone else really wants to do what you ask them to or whether they are just saying "yes" because they feel an obligation benefits the other person a lot more.
2username25yWriting educational articles, editing wikipedia, contributing to free software projects.
1Stingray5yI think that parenting skills are a good example of such situation
0Lumifer5yGetting pregnant.
[-][anonymous]5y 1

Is there any recorded evidence of grown daughters of hirsute mothers exhibiting signs of masculinization? Like, in the 2D4D ratio, or body type, or 'character'?

(Brief googling was insufficient. Question arose from looking at the portrait of Magdalena Ventura.)

So I got a bachelor's degree in Aerospace Engineering , but I worked in a non engineering related field since then. I'm preparing to go back and do a Master'\s degree in engineering. Does anyone have any tips for what I can do to regain lost knowledge over the summer? I'm cracking open some old textbooks.

0morganism5yAre you in SoCal? the private space companies out in the Mohave are taking on interns, prob be the best way to see skills in use, and get to be in machine shops too...
0morganism5yAre you in SoCal? the private space companies out in the Mohave are taking on interns, prob be the best way to see skills in use, and get to be in machine shops too...

In the context of religious arguments, some say that the constants of the universe are improbably finely tuned for the existence of life and order. The constants refer to things like the gravitational constant, the strength of the atomic weak force, etcetera.

It is my understanding that the order part is key; most other possible constants wouldn't allow for an alternate form of life, for example, because everything would be so far apart as to never interact, or so close together as to never vary in its state.

Some will respond that there may be a multiverse ... (read more)

2JoshuaZ5yMWI doesn't say anything about other constants- the other parts of our wavefunction should have the same constants. However, other multiverse hypotheses do suggest that physical constants could eb different.
1Viliam5yHow would you explain why Earth is at the correct distance from the Sun so that the life can exist here? I would say there are many planets, most of them are in wrong distances, and Earth happens to be one in the right distance, which is why we have this debate here instead of on Pluto. But this is a similar kind of excuse. It would be even more suspicious excuse if Earth would have a more cloudy atmosphere, so that no one would actually see the sky. And when we can see the sky, it is also suspicious to assume that those tiny dots are actually also Suns, and there is actually a few order of magnitudes more of them than we can see, and they have their own planets that we can't see at all, etc. Just saying that there is a precedent that something suspicious things happen to be true. On the other hand, we do see the stars, we can see other planets through telescope, in other words, these suspicious truths have left some observable footprints. We can even experiment with Everett branches on the microscopic scale. But we have no observable footprint of the Tegmark multiverse. And I am not sure if we ever can have such thing. However, the whole religious argument is "if you cannot explain to me all the details of the universe right now, you must accept the existence of my invisible friend", which is nonsense. Not knowing some laws of physics (yet?) is perfectly normal even in universes without invisible friends, so it cannot be used as an evidence for one.
1OrphanWilde5yAs far as I know, we don't know why we have the physics constants we have now. There are hints that the constants may be a product of the structure of the universe (and that the constants have changed over time as the structure of the universe has developed), in which case MWI would predict universes with different constants. But there are a lot of unknown unknowns in all of this. Insofar as MWI might predict universes with completely different physical laws - I'm unaware of any evidence for this proposition.

a brief history of game AI in three parts...

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

There's a typo in the title ("Open Threat").

0Elo5ywow. I can't believe how I keep being wrong at this. This has to be at least the 10th one I have submitted...
6Error5yI dunno, I liked it better as Open Threat. ;-)
0Good_Burning_Plastic5yWould have liked it even better as Open Treat.
1Arshuni5yAre you in distress?
1Elo5yheh. No, but thank you for your concern.
0[anonymous]5yI like the way you think and feel.
0MrMind5yYeah, it sort of irks me: it should be always "Open thread, mmm dd - mmm dd, yyyy", and yet every time is something different X-D
0root5yI thought Elo submits the open threads via a scripted cron job - am I wrong? (and if I am, would that not be a good suggestion?)
3Elo4ywhat? No. I do them manually. As did MrMind before I realised I was in an earlier timezone for posting them...
0root4yThen yet another feature for LW 2.0: open threads published with cron. (I'm assuming that you're not familiar with wget/curl so there wasn't even a manual script written)[1] [1] You can also use Python or some other language in a similar tier.
3Elo4yit's certainly possible to auto publish them but by removing the manual process you distance the community from self supporting - I definitely hung around more from the day I started creating open threads... I also messaged MrMind and various others since that day.

Why does, written by EY, have "deleted" as the author?

Experiments guided by Bayesian math reveal that the guessing process differs in people with some disorders

Someone might want to start a conversation about this line of psych.

El-cheapo VR headsets from China shipping now.... content still slack, but this could def drive demand.

"Humans are nothing but robots that nature, via Darwinian evolution, happened to produce from self-assembling nano machinery."

"‘natural’ selection involves systems eating each other while ‘artificial’ selection is less violent."

1Viliam5ySounds like a bunch of impressive words randomly thrown together. More of less what you would expect from someone who calls themselves "alpha meme". Recommended reading: The Virtue of Narrowness [], No Evolutions for Corporations or Nanodevices []
8knb5yFor anyone curious about this link, I'll save you some time: It's that type of article.